Hands Across Texas

Programs on Native Americans, Buffalo Soldiers, Cowboy Poetry, Ethnic Characters in Texas History, Dance, Music with Siyotanka and Harmonica, Storytelling, and Mountain Men

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Key to the Highway

Stand By Me

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Buffalo Soldier Song

From a celebration of Black History Month at Schreiner University in February 2007

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Museum of Western Art

Go West, youngsters
By Carlina Villalpando, The Daily Times, Published November 07, 2005

Six-year-old Curtis Deans was wide-eyed as he watched a demonstration Sunday on laundering done the old-fashioned way.

“I’ve never seen clothes washed like that,” Curtis said. “I wasn’t born then.”

Denise Harris of The Texas Lone Star Rangers, dressed as a pioneer, explained to kids how pioneers on the wagon trail once used river water, a campfire and a washboard and tub to keep their clothes clean. This was just one of the many chores pioneers had to do while en route west, Harris explained.

“Life on the wagon was hard work,” she said.

That exactly was what kids learned Sunday afternoon at the opening of the new Journey West Children’s Gallery at the Museum of Western Art. The first visitors to the gallery experienced the many challenges of life on the wagon train.

At each station inside the gallery, kids found interactive exhibits and real artifacts that they were encouraged to touch and hold. They packed trunks full of supplies, boarded a realistic wagon and took part in campfire entertainment.

Kids who visited Sunday got a special surprise. At each station in the gallery, pioneers and/or Indians where there. They role-played, explained each exhibit and interacted with kids without using scripts.

At a station that illustrated life around the wagon, Harris served up dinner on tin plates while answering questions about what life was like for women. Middle school Texas history teacher Clifton Fifer dressed as an Indian and manned a station explaining the many challenges that could threaten pioneers’ lives.

He talked with kids about pioneers’ first interaction with Indians, explaining that Indians and pioneers probably were equally apprehensive about one another. Indians, however, weren’t all pioneers feared, he said. Treacherous weather, wild animals and the possibility of getting sick all threatened life on the wagon train, he said.

Fifer also displayed a variety of artifacts, including instruments, which he played to show kids how pioneers entertained themselves around the campfire. Fifer said he hopes to plan field trips to the museum for his own students and use the gallery as a backdrop for teaching Texas history.

“I think it’s an amazing environment,” Fifer said. “Everything in here is dealing with the Old West. Not only can you see everything in here, but you can feel and touch it.”

“Anytime you can get (students) out of the classroom and let them experience what they’re learning it’s a good thing,” he added.

Shawn Gelsone, the museum’s new coordinator of children’s programs, said she encourages local educators to use the gallery. She said the museum invites classes to come on field trips to tour the gallery or to use it as a setting to offer their own programs, presentations or history lessons.

“We already have three school groups scheduled,” Gelsone said, adding that the response she saw from kids Sunday was reassuring.

“It was a huge success — being able to see the looks on the kids’ faces, watching them enjoy the museum,” she said. “They actually got out of it what we’d hoped they would.”

Numerous families brought their kids, wanting to be some of the first visitors into the gallery on Sunday. Jeanne Kyle and her granddaughter Kiersten Nelson, 8, said the opening provided them a fun afternoon outing.

“It was really cool,” Nelson said, adding that she most enjoyed the music and flute playing.

“I thought it was fabulous,” Kyle said. “It shows the kids how hard it was to travel with so much less that what they’re use to. It was very interesting.”

The children’s gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday or whenever the Museum for Western Art is open. For information about scheduling a group field trip or about the museum’s children’s programs, contact Gelsone at 896-2553, ext. 231.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Living History Day 2005

Clifton Fifer teaching at the Living History Day 2005 at Schreiner University 0n 23 September 2005, sponsored by the Texas Heritage Music Foundation.

Kathleen Hudson, Executive Director of the Texas Heritage Music Foundation, introduces Clifton Fifer to students.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

About Clifton Fifer

Clifton Fifer presents programs on many aspects of history in Texas, including Black Cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers, and Native Americans.

Use the Contact link to find out more information on scheduling and fees for programs. All poems reproduced here are typical of poems he might present in a program. All written works here are © 2005 by Clifton Fifer. Permission to reprint may be obtained by contacting Clifton Fifer. Excerpts may be used under the "Fair Use" provision for purposes of promotion and review.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Clifton Fifer Biography

Clifton is a teacher in the Kerrville Independent School District. He's in his 29th year of teaching Social Studies, and was a football, basketball and track coach. He won the first Golden Apple Award as Teacher of the Month in Kerrville, presented by the Kerrville Daily Times, and was Daughters of the Republic of Texas Teacher of the Year for 2000-2001. In December 2001 he won the Earnest T. Player Award for Best Actor in a Drama for his role as Hoke the driver in the Playhouse 2000 staging of Driving Miss Daisy. In 2003 he won the Mirabeau B. Lamar Award for excellence in teaching history; and in 2005 won the Region 20 Teacher of the Year award. For his performance as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird for Playhouse 2000 he won his second Earnest T. Player Award as Supporting Actor in a Drama. He has also starred recently in Big River where his gorgeous voice, coupled with Austin Owen's tenor in the Huck role to Clifton's Jim won critical raves.

--tony gallucci

Programs by Clifton Fifer

A) Presentations of Black Cowboy Poetry and stories

B) Arts and Crafts teaching

C) Native American Songs and Stories

D) Stories of the Buffalo Soldiers

E) The Legend of Alamo Survivor "John"

F) "Twas the Night Before Christmas in the Ghetto"

G) Performances on Harmonica and Siyotanka (Native American Flute)

H) Country and Western Dancing

I) African Cultural Dances

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A History of Black Cowboy Poetry

So little has been written in the history books about the contributions of the African-American in the old West, and even less has been written in the form of poetry. This is an attempt to bring out the heroics of the African-American cowboy through the form of rhythm and rhyme.

The history of Black cowboy poetry is derived from the readings of stories, articles and essays of and about African-American men and women who rode the range, braved the weather, fought rustlers and outlaws, blazed new trails, and protected the Western frontier.

Through rhythm and rhymes, a history is told of a proud people's heritage that has been denied a rightful place in the annals of the collections of writings we call history.

This presentations of poetry, prose, short stories, and legends is dedicated to those pioneers, who by the sweat of their brow, the sacrifice of life, the hard worl of their hands, their discipline, dedication, insight and investments into a future that promised a better way of life. Their efforts blazed new trails for those who were coming even generations behind them. For this love and effort, and inspiration we thank you.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Poem One


As a child I sit in a muddy street
playing in the mud that covers my feet

not ever knowing if I'd be slave or free
sitting there playing, my mudman and me

Off in the distance, there arose a sound
of fifty swift horses coming to town

Lifting up my little eyes in time to see
black men, looking like my mudman and me

They toted guns, with black hats on their heads
Folks in town running 'round like they're scared

My mudman and me we are as proud as a pup
'cause them black folks, they are one of us

I stood up with mudman in hand
and one saluted me, and gave me a big old grin

As they made their way through our little town
things disturbed sort of settled back down

I just stood there a while in that muddy street
with my mudman's family covering my feet

We were both feeling proud as a pup
'cause those black men were a part of us

They were Buffalo Soldiers

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Poem Three



A lone wolf howls
The wind flapper meets the sky
A grizzly forages by moonlight
The pronghorn prepares to die

Life and death is inevitable
All return to Good Mother Earth
Our journey begins at the cradle
Will end with the new birth

Grandfathers know us
Grandfathers show us
Grandfathers hear us
Grandfathers see us

You made me the eyes of the people
yet I am blind
You tell me to lead but your path
I cannot find

Our souls soar abouve our happy hunting grounds
searching to be free
In a land filled with emptiness
that once yielded plenty

Grandfathers show us the way
Lead us to that land
where we will be judged as brothers
not by color of skin

Grandfathers know us
Grandfathers show us
Grandfathers hear us
Grandfathers see us

And show us the way


Poem Two

MY LIFE (Will Pickett)

Roping steers
through the years
has taken a toll
on this old soul
But I press on
from dusk 'til dawn
This is my life
In this profession I was the best
crowned by the jewel of the West
Thrilled them from England to Colorado,
Texas to Mexico
Gave them their money's worth
not a penny less
In the beginning, and in the end
I've had my share of friends
like Will Rogers and Tom Mix
But Hollywood had their pick
I couldn't make it in
because of the color of my skin
Still, I pressed on
Life for me hasn't been bad
Have more now than I ever had
living in and on God's grace
sharing his time in this place
So I will press on
from dusk 'til dawn
This is my life

Friday, August 26, 2005

Poem Five


I've swum the raging waters looking for a friend.
I've searched in greener pastures with a million other men.
I've been to the Mountaintop, with my staff and my rod.
I've flown through distant galaxies, in search of my God.
I've seached the eyes of a Mother, as she toiled with her child.
I've been to far away places, they covered a million miles.
I've desperately spoke with intelligent men without even getting a nod!
When I only asked them one question.
Where is God?
At last I came home, and someone dear to me
Said, "My Son, you'll not find him in the lands across the sea."
Then she took my mind, and carefully guided me to the part
That said, "The Lord is not found in worldly things, but found in my heart."

Poem Four


Twas the night before Christmas, in the ghetto you know,
like we wanted a Christmas without any snow.
The lanterns were burning, the children uptight,
singing I'm dreaming of a Black Christmas by candlelight.
Finally the little ones retired to bed in a pack,
dreaming of the angels in that little old shack.
When outside their window a dark figure appeared
it had a groovy natural and a tiny little beard.
I paid it no mind as I blew out the lanterns,
then a sleigh appeared pulled by eight black panthers.
I knew at a moment, I knew it off hand,
that that was none other than Santa Soul Man.
Not wanting him to see me, I split like a flash.
I broke for the bedroom, like it was the forty-yard dash.
Then I dashed for the door and looked down the hall,
as he came down the chimney, with his bags and all.
His hair was curly, his eyes were bright,
lit up like a Christmas tree on Christmas night.
His face how round, his smile how merry,
his lips how large, his nose like a blackberry.
As he filled our tree with gifts galore,
he noticed there wasn't room for more.
So with a nod of his head, and a stomp of his foot,
up the chimney he went, straight to the roof.
As he shouted out one last command,
away the panthers flew, with Santa Soul Man.
And I heard him scream, as he split the scene,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all Sweet Dreams.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Booking and Contact Information

Programs can be arranged for any time during the year. Fees include travel and meals. Special arrangements can be made for multiple day programs. In addition to Black Cowboy Poetry, Clifton Fifer does programs on Native American stories, Arts and Crafts, and Texas History.

Contact Clifton Fifer at:


815 Webster
Kerrville, Texas 78028

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Recent Performances

Buffalo Soldiers Re-enactments in Austin

Kerrville Independent School District classes

Native American Weddings

Living History Day at Schreiner University, Kerrville

Outdoor Education Programs for several school districts

Cowboy Artists Museum programs

Cowboy of Color Rodeo tour

LBJ National Historical Park Pioneer Days

Playhouse 2000 performance of Driving Miss Daisy, To Kill a Mockingbird and Big River

Performances on Harmonica and Siyotanka -- Native American Flute