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See the ArtSpur introductory page here

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...we know many that are worthy of a poem.

In Art Spur, we invite poets to let selections of Western art and photography inspire their poetry.

Our first piece offered to "spur" the imagination is "Dust 'n Tails," by Julie Rogers of Glendale, Utah, posted below.  This painting is our 2004 Cowboy Poetry Week poster.

Read more about Julie Rogers and see more of her work here.

Below are poems inspired by "Dust 'n Tails," which we started adding during Cowboy Poetry Week.  Read all about the rest of our Cowboy Poetry Week celebration here.



"Dust 'n Tails" by Julie Rogers of Glendale, Utah



Headin' 'em Home by Yvonne Hollenbeck
On the Trail by Pat Richardson
Dust 'n Tails by Jeff Hildebrandt
Dust by Rod Nichols
Drag by Michael Henley
Waterin' Hole by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Ride the Light by Lincoln Rogers
Dust and Tails and Trails by Glen Enloe
I'll Never Ride Drag Again by Hal Swift
Movin' High to Low by Ed Myers
Hold'n On by Jo Lee T. Riley
Cattle Call by Harold Roy Miller
Damn Dust by Gregg Norman


Headin' 'em Home

I'm ridin' the roan, as we're headin' 'em home
   and they're darn sure deservin' a rest;
the work that they've done since the spring work begun,
   sure sets them apart as the best.

Old Red over there and that Leo-bred mare
   sure saved us that night in the storm;
they both had the speed to get in the lead
   and we got 'em all back before morn.

And I'll never forget how I lost that bet
    with old Shorty, the cook, on the day
that they had the big race...my horse didn't place;
    Shorty won the whole thing on his bay.

But soon we'll be home and the dust'll be gone
   ...just as soon as we go 'round the bend;
it's sure a good thing they can rest until spring
   then we'll head out together again.

2004, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written


On the Trail

Horses kickin' dust up on a little canyon trail
it makes this ridin' drag no welcome task
I ain't complainin' mind you, just sayin' how it is
and I just take my turn here when I'm asked

Conditions ain't that drastic, 'ceptin for the dust we make
I fear that folks can spot it quite a ways
shoulda brought 'em through here in the night time I s'pose
night's a whole lot safer than the days

I reckon wouldn't matter, if the brands were better healed
it wouldn't cause them long, suspicious stares
The owner's prob'ly lookin' for this fifty some odd head
of what sure looks like mighty well bred mares

but we gotta keep 'em movin', an' hope our luck'll hold
if we make it 'cross the border we'll be fine
Down there they ain't that fussy, if the brands are peelin' still
all we need is luck and lottsa time

But behind us I see dust trails, there's some fellers ridin' hard
you can tell they've cut our tracks now sure enough
So we gotta quit the band we got, an' ride hard for the line
'cause gettin' caught an' hung'd sure be rough

2004, Pat Richardson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written



Dust 'n Tails

There's beauty in the range land
where the grassy prairies roll
and the glistening dew of morning
sends a smile right through your soul.
There's beauty in the azure sky
when the sun begins to rise
and the scope of God's great glory
brings a tear to cowboy's eyes.
It's wonderful they tell me
while trying not to brag
cause all I see are dust 'n tails
from back here riding drag.

2004, Jeff Hildebrandt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written




There's nuthin' more gospel
than this you can trust,
if a man's herdin' cattle
he's bound to eat dust.

I've been there, believe me,
my face in a rag,
trailin' them critters
while ridin' at drag.

'fore the first cup of coffee
or first mornin' cuss,
my teeth are grit-coated
from breathin' that stuff.

My gear is so covered
it powders my roan,
it's there on my saddle
and the duds I have on.

I pan-wash my face
'fore I sit down to chow,
but that only 'tracts it
like flies to a cow.

I ain't had one biscuit
that don't taste of grit,
there's no way an hombre
can git used to it.

I've heard that old sayin'
"We're part of the land"
I know that's the truth
'cause I'm half-full of sand.

There's prob'bly as much
as I've swallowed inside,
as all of the rest
that still blankets my hide.

It gits neath my skin boys,
it stings in my eyes,
it grinds at me fellers
and that ain't no lie.

Ain't no way in heaven
I'll ever get clean,
til I give up this cattle
and cowpunchin' thing.

I reckon that some day
this all has to end
and I'll have to own up
to all kinds of sin.

That dust-to-dust sermon
jest save if you please,
I'll come ready-made
with a whole pile on me.

2004, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Boss says there's sixteen hundred head, but I can only see a dozen.
count of all this chokin' dust and them filthy flies a buzzin'
I shift my weight to the cantle first and then back to the horn
and curse the day that every single one of 'em was born.

I broke my thumb on the Llano when I dallied like a kid
but Cookie set it best he could and I's shore proud he did.
The I came off in the prickly pear a gatherin' fools that strayed.
Most of 'ems festered out by now but for a day or two I paid.

It rained from sundown yesterday until I took the last guard
cussin' my wet gear a wonderin', 'why's this got to be so hard?'
Then the stars started slippin' out as the clouds began to part
and my spirits sorta lifted as I commenced to sort things out.

What would town folk pay jest to see the parts I've seen?
Them mountains and deserts and the sweet grass 'long the streams.
If the cattle weren't so stupid and the trail not half a rough
they could trail 'em north with women, no need for punchers true and tough.

So tomorrow when we hit Abilene and f1nally shove 'em in the pen,
before I take my saddle and start the trip back home again,
we'll surely cut the badger loose makin' noise like punchers do,
then in the spring we'll trail 'em back up north, cause that's what cowboys do.

2004, Michael Henley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Waterin' Hole

Three miles from the crossin' their noses start twitchin'
Sniffin' wind and tastin' the air
And they tuck in their shirttails, retie bandanas
And run broken combs through their hair.

The ends of mustaches mysteriously curl
Though they'd drooped, sad and doleful for days
But a new festive mood's come over the crew,
And they're mendin' their woebegone ways.

No slovenly cowpoke will ride into town
They'll be rip-roaring heroes tonight
And near every buck has surely thunk through
Where they'll drink, and who they're goin' to fight.

There's rumors a piano's been hauled into Bessie's,
Though no one there knows how to play,
And they say there's some gals at the Diamond Bar D
Come in on the stage yesterday.

There's deep speculations 'bout poker hands drawn,
Some will win, some bound to fail,
On this desperate hold over at the waterin' spot
'fore they head up that long dusty trail.

2004, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ride the Light

The dust of earth came from the Trail,
To rise and mingle with the light.
Amid its haze I heard the sounds,
Of many horses out of sight.
Their footfalls ring as iron hooves,
Thunder across the Milky Way,
And Cowboys sing the old songs,
From the Chisholm Trail today.
El vaquero mi amigo,
I sense our years are passed and done,
And feel the sadness of the land,
On our long journey towards the sun.
But there's no grief among our party,
Not this close to Heaven's sight.
We've been transformed to Cowboy Spirit,
Forever more we'll ride the Light.

2004, Lincoln Rogers
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Dust and Tails and Trails 

We're headin' out these ol' horses like a bunch of punch-drunk snails
Mid the soft glow of the mornin' light through dust and tails and trails.
Windin' watercolors of prairie dew and the mornin' muck
Make us wonder why we're trailin' tails of horses out of luck.

Be it horses, be it cattle, seems we're always right behind,
Drawin' low cowboy wages over range and mountain sublime.
Oh, there' s jobs back in town, but not like this one out of doors--
We rise and sleep with the sun and never seem to finish chores.

Each soft sunrise and red sunset we spend upon God's blue earth,
We count simple blessin' silently and thank Him for our birth.
We're burdened with them brown beans, jerky and salt pork soon gone bad,
But ridin' with your pards and nature, we know the good we've had.

Yet though we be complainin' 'bout the hot sun, snow, rain and hails,
We'd not give up this good life midst all the dust and tails and trails.

2004, Glen Enloe
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

I'll Never Ride Drag Again

I was settin' and havin' some sarsaparilla
in Drytown at Shorty's Place.
When a friend comes in, that it had been
a while since I'd seen his face.

This was along toward the end of Summer,
about three years ago.
I offered a drink, and he says, "The same.
I quit the booze, y'know."

Well, we set and jawed, and lied a bit
till' time come around for dinner.
And while we et, m'friend told a tale
that I consider a winner.

My friend, Big Ed, says he was hired
and signed on to drive a herd
from Drytown down to Gardnerville,
but was drunk when he got the word.

He understood he'd join the outfit
at dawn on the south of town.
He was up all night, but managed all right
to get some breakfast down.

When he left Shorty's, he could see the dust
of a herd on the town's east side.
He figures the trail boss had changed his plans,
so he mounts up to ride.

The outfit's movin' when he catches up,
and he's told to just ride drag.
Now this was one of them real dry years,
with dust that'd make you gag.

But Ed, he figures, well, he's come late,
so he'll just do what he's told.
He don't like ridin' at the back of the herd,
but he can use that twenty in gold.

They ride all day, and camp when it's dark,
and he's told to ride circle that night.
Which means he still won't get no sleep,
but he says he can do it all right.

So he circles the herd the whole night long,
and sees no one he knows.
He figures he's drunk when he hires on,
so this is just how it goes.

Bein' a new hand, he keeps to his self,
and tries not to make no fuss.
But when they head out, he's again ridin' drag,
and is almost ready to cuss.

"But well," he says, "I guess it seemed right
for showin' up late for the job."
He covers his face, and he makes a noise,
that's maybe a laugh or a sob.

They ride into Gardnerville late that night,
the dust settles and the trip is through.
When he gets to the front of the line to be paid
the trail boss says, "Who're you?"

Big Ed says, "My mouth dropped open,
'cause I'd never met this man."
I says, "Where's Jack Kelly, who hired me on
before this ride began?"

The trail boss says, "Why Kelly's bunch
is still about thirty miles out.
If you was supposed to be ridin' with him,
you missed 'im without a doubt."
Ed says, "I swallered, and says, well, sir,
I admit no deal was made.
But I done ever'thing that I was told,
and I really would like to get paid."

The trail boss says, "This is one for the books!"
And he's laughing like he's fit to bust.
"How come you missed Kelly and rode with us?"
And I says, "It's that dad-blamed dust!"

Ed says he took the half-pay offered,
'cause he had too much to lose.
But he says that then's when he took the oath
to give up drinkin' the booze.

We set there quiet, sippin' sasparilla,
till Ed stands up and then
says, "I didn't give up the drivin' of cattle,
but I'll never ride drag again."

2004, Hal Swift  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Movin' High to Low

In the dust of day I ponder,
saddle sweatin' 'neath my seat:
this life of mine's a wonder;
this life of mine's a treat.

With miles before us windin',
through passes on the way;
evenin' light will be a findin'
us left with once more day.

Sam at point's a leadin',
Pete 'n Slim are in the sag;
and me just intercedin'
with Charlie  in the drag.

A hundred head a travelin'
from the high ground to the low;
with dark clouds a ravelin'
into threat of early snow.

It's a Godly sight befallin'
them of us who trail the herd;
when darkness comes a callin',
and dead of night is shared.

Got to move with speed a steady,
rollin' down these rocky slopes;
pointed toward corrals a ready
to accomodate our hopes.

Seein' bunkhouse smoke a curlin'
in our minds like some reprieve,
we settle in the night herd,
takin' turns 'til mornin' leave.

When daylight comes a breakin',
and our leathers creak and groan;
the mind sets to takin'
our final push for home.

There ain't nothin' like a roundup,
over land still void and free;
and there ain't nothin' like the sound of
this horse a trotin' under me.

And I wouldn't trade one campfire
for all the houses ever raised;
this old cowboy stays in hire
'til he's rode out his last day.

2004, Ed Myers 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Hold'n On

Dust 'n tails, the year's been awfully dry
Worn out and tired we've still got'a try
To keep it together cuz that is our way
Ranchers trust the Maker for a better day.

Surely this winter we'll get rain or snow
The dams will fill and the creeks they'll flow.
Spring will bring on the grass near belly deep
A good crop of calves, replacements to keep.

If the snow's not too deep and hay will last
Next year the drou't is a thing of the past.
Family stays healthy and bank don't for'close
We'll stay in the buggy 'n smell like a rose.

Winter was long and the fall calves got sick
Old Arthors visit was darn hard to lick.
Grass is a grow'n, new calves hit the ground
Spring's on the way, it's all come'n round.

Start'n the colts and fix'n the ditches
Watch'n the young'uns keeps us in stitches.
As always we're made to answer the call
We're hold'n on till we trail home this fall.

2004, Jo Lee T. Riley 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Cattle Call

We took time by the forelock
as we pushed on the rangy stock.
The knot-haired tails and swirling dust
were enough to make a preacher cuss.

I rode drag, bringing up the rear
to round up any straggling steer.
I was riding one of the big red roans
who's accustomed to heading up rawbones.

Dirt and grime permeated our clothes.
I tied a bandana over my mouth and nose.
My chaps and duster were fully covered
as the suspended particles hovered.

The gritty powder hung everywhere.
Anxiety increased to inhale fresh air.
My breath was like an asthma wheeze
as I failed to suppress sneeze after sneeze.

The incessant wind blew blustery gusts,
sending up funnels of whirlwind dust.
I'm wondering what I am doing here,
following a bunch of ornery steers.

In retrospect, why did I contrive
to even make this cattle drive?
The reasoning behind this long haul
is the ageless lure of the cattle call.

2004, Harold Roy Miller
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Damn Dust

The damn dust gets in everything,
In hair and teeth and eyes,
On jeans and hats and boots and spurs,
But it makes you realize
At day's end when you broom it off
Before you go inside
To hunt a bowl of water
For to wash it off your hide
That dust is just another sign
Of a day's work now complete
And it means you got the job done
And it means you didn't cheat.
2004, Gregg Norman 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.








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