A SYMMETRICAL MAN
Farmer 10 per cent, teacher 8 per cent, lawyer 14 per cent, editor 18 per cent, poet 22 per cent,
historian 28 per cent; total 100 per cent, of symmetrical manhood; such is our analysis of Doane
Robinson, our present state historian.
He was born on a farm, near Sparta, Wisconsin, October 19, 1856. There he spent his boyhood years
and his teens, remaining with his father as boys of the former generation were wont to do, until he had
reached his majority. Then he struck westward and filed on a hometsead in Lyon county, Minnesota.
Here again he became a tiller of the soil.
Robinson's experience and observations on the farm, while a boy, ripened his judgment concerning
crops, so that today he is regarded as an authority on prospective grain yields, not only in South
Dakota but throughout the west; indeed the grain markets of Minneapolis fluctuate according to his
Our Subject was but five years of age when the Civil war broke out. Facilities in the wilds of
Wisconsin at that time were not the best for securing an education. Young Robinson worked on his
father's farm, and attended a country school for a few months now and then during the winter. Still,
his studious habits found reward, and he finally fitted himself for a teacher. During the five years
spent on his Minnesota homestead he taught school during the winter months.
While yet a young man Mr. Robinson saw that if he got ahead in life it would be through strenuous
efforts on his own part, owing to the lack of educational advantages in his early years Therefore, during the time spent holding down his homestead, and while he was teaching school he
spent his evenings reading law. In 1882-3, he took the senior year in the Wisconsin law school. Leaving
the school he struck west again, going farther than he did the first time, and settled at Watertown, S. D.,
where he established himself in the practice of law.
After a few .years, tiring of his chosen professionlaw, he gave it up to enter the editorial
field. For several years he edited the "Monthly South Dakotan," a magazine devoted to a spicy review of
the early history of the Dakotas. He finally sold the magazine to the Educator School Supply Company
But Robinson, the poet, is far the most fascinating of all. In this field he launched out more than
in any of the others, except history. But the latter is limited by the facts it records, and the former
has no limitations whatsoever, except in the ability of the author.
His best poetical productions were published in the "Century Magazine;" later they were gathered
together and published in a neat little volume called "The Coteaus of Dakota."
In his poetry, Robinson confines himself mostly to various dialects. He is always spicy and
entertaining; always original and terse. His poem entitled "About Sunrise," is brim full of good
things and causes one to live over again the joyous spring mornings in Dakota when the dew is on
the young grasses, and when in the distance you can hear the prairie chicken sounding his solemn
notes, DingDillDoo." We quote only the last stanza:
"The soft sunlight
Comes flashin' out,
And 'fore you know
What makes your singer go,
You join the happy shout
The song without the words
Sung by the mockin'-birds.
I ain't got no ear for singin',
So I jest keep on a-flingin'
Clods up in the apple-tree,
Until 1 couldn't nowhere see
A bird within a mile of me."
His "Plowin'","Morning in Galilee", "Helpin' Hay," and several other choice selections are equally
Several years ago we remember reading, of cutting out and preserving, a little ditty of his entitled
"Consistency." The thing about it which caught our attention then, and which engages it yet, is the
wonderful amount of suggestion contained in those few poetical words. It follows:
Reproach me not, though it appear,
While I true doctrines teach,
I wholly fail in my career
To practice as I preach.
Yon guide-post has through countless days
"To London" pointed on,
Nor once has quit the angled ways
And up to London gone.
When we were young, twenty-seven years ago, we rode a bare-backed, western-fed donkey, and on him
herded cattle on Dakota prairies, ten miles south of Huron, along the Jim river. Anything about herding
always distresses us, except Doane Robinson's poem:
No end of rich green medder land
Spiked out with ever' kind of poseys.
Es fer as I kin understand
They's nothin' else on earth so grand
Es just a field of prairy roseys.
Mixed up with blue, gold-beaded plumes
Of shoestring flowers and peavey blooms.
Take it a warm, sunshiny day,
When prairys stretch so far away
Ther' lost at last in smoky gray,
And hulkin' yoke-worn oxen browse
Aroun' the coteaus with the cows,
The tipsy, stag'rin day-old calf,
Mumbles a bleat and slabbers a laugh
And yearlin' steers, so round and slick,
Wade in the cool and sparklin' creek
While cute spring bossies romp and play
With Ponto in the tall slough hay.
Ye picket out the gentle Roany,
Yer knowin,' faithful herdin' pony.
And tumblin' down upon yer back
Wher' gray sweet-smellin' beauties bide
In posey beds, three counties wide,
You take a swig of prairy air,
With which old speerits ken't compare.
And think and plan, and twist and rack
Yer brains, to work some scheme aroun'
To get a week to spend in town.
Recently Mr. Robinson issued a pamphlet containing only four-lined poems, entitled "Bits of Four."
From it we culled the following:
EACH HATH SOME GIFT
Nor envy thou thy neighbor's gift;
He covets thine in vain;
The eagle through the azure drifts,
The salmon threads the main.
THE PRAIRIE MIRAGE
To thirsty lands, where once in rhythm rolled
Foam crested waves, to fret the rock girt coast,
There comes to frolic in the sea path old
The perished water's insubstantial ghost.
ONLY A FEW
Only a few are the friends I have won;
Hearts of my heart in Love's cement set;
Trusting me, spite of the ill I have done
Thanks be to God, I hold all of them yet.
Youth pleads,God taught his children so
"0 give me joy; my happines asure."
Age prays,God teaches men to grow
"All peace be thine; 0 may thy joys be pure."
THE SCANDALMONGER'S PLEA
Ye curse me, but for fear of me
A man and maid from sin are free
Why, e'en the priest is more discreet
Because I wander in the street.
Robinson is the only state official who didnt' get his job by popular vote, nor as an appointee of
the Governor. He was chosen by the State Historcial Society, after the position of State Historian and
Collector of Vital Statistics had been created by legislative enactment. In all probability he will
continue to hold down the job as long as he may care to.
He is the author of "History of South Dakota," published by Bowen & Co , Indianapolis; of a
"Brief History of South Dakota," published by the American Book Co.; a "History of the Sioux Indians,"
and dozens of miscellaneous historical articles.
ROBINSON, THE MAN
Doane is a jolly good fellow, with an even, happy temperament, always delightful to meet and hard to
break away from. One feels as though he had met his brother and you somehow hate to part. When a
sight-seer reaches Pierre and inspects our new capitol, after treading on that cuss-ed, dis-cussed-ed
$1,200 rug in the governor's office, which refused to remain on the floor during the recent primary
campaign. if he desires to know the significance of those weird high-priced Indian pictures painted on
the walls of the rotunda, all he has to do is to ask for Doane Robinson, and he will receive an hour's
lecture, gratis, that will keep him assimilating for several months to come. Try it! and be convinced.
While practicing law at Watertown in 1884, Doane was married to Miss Jennie Austin, of Leon,
Wisconsin. Their wedded life brought into being two sonsHarry, aged 24, and Will, aged 19. But
Mr. Robinson's life, like that of all the rest of us, has had its thorns. Mrs. Robinson was suddenly
snatched awayfrom him by the Grim Reaper, January 23, 1902. Hereunto related are the words of Taylor:
|"Life is just a little
Of the good and of the bad,
Of things that make us happy
And the things that make us sad."