Hank has written for the Guardian Newspaper for a number of years. You can read some of his travel articles by clicking the menu on the left.
OUT ON HANK'S TRAILS
The greatest piece of Cowboy literature is from Argentina, written in the 1870's as a farewell to the mythic freedoms of the Gaucho. Martin Fierro was an epic poem in an ancient 12th Century Troubadour style. Here's a couple of verses about horse breaking beautifully translated by Walter (not Wilfred) Owen:
The breaker in with a lissom stride
Unbarred the stockyard gate
And while he was fresh, picked the wildest flesh
And threw him deft with the lasso's mesh
And the colt would thrash in the swirling dust
Like a thing of living hate.
And there the gaucho edged him in
And pinned the plunging head
They saddled him quick and gave him a lick
And the breaker swung to the saddle slick ~
Ah, those were the times when the gaucho showed
The craft that is in him bred.
And through the gap of the open gate
Went thundering horse and man
A batter of hoofs and a cloud of dust
A flurry of fight and rage and lust
And thrashing leather and raking spurs ~
Till he stretched his neck and ran.
And here's another, finishing with a guitar battle challenge. Gauchos would sing each other into the ground, battling in poetry rhythm and song, instead of using a knife ~
I sit me here to sing my song
To the beat of my old guitar
For the man whose life is a bitter cup
With a song may yet his heart lift up
As the lonely bird on the leafless tree
That sings neath the gloaming star.
With my mellow guitar across my knee
The flies even give me room
And the talk is stilled and the laugh and jest
As I draw the notes from its sounding breast
The high string sighs and the middles weep
And the low strings mourn and boom.
In a grassy hollow I'll sit me down
And sing of the days long done
Like the ancient wind that sighing goes
Through the prairie grass I will sing my woes
The hands I held and the cards I played
And the stakes I lost and won.
I am the best of my own at home
And better than best afar
I have won in song my right of place
If any gainsay me ~ face to face
Let him come and better me song for song
Guitar against guitar.
I rode across the Great Divide of the Andes near Bariloche in Argentina with a great horsewoman called Carol jones, grand daughter of a Texan cowboy pioneer Jared Jones. In Argentina they call her Jon-ess. The ride, camping out in the mountains, eating fresh beef barbied over the fire by Carol's gaucho chum, was mind blowing. Best ride of my life.
I wrote about her in "Lost Cowboys" which you can still buy if you scour the web. Amazon in the US and the UK both have copies.
You can get in touch with her and book your own rides - Cabalgatas - on her website http://www.caroljones.com.ar. So when you go to Argentina for the trip of your life, as well as going to Salta, Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires, head for Bariloche a wierd town built in the 19th century by chocolate loving Swiss. Carol will take you away from the chocolate and up into the hills for as long or short a ride as you like.