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See the Art Spur 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 inspire their poetry.

Our fifth piece offered to "spur" the imagination is by Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot), "At the Jollification."


At the Jollification
by Dee Strickland Johnson

Dee Strickland Johnson grew up on Arizona's Navajo and Hualapai Indian reservations, in Flagstaff and at Petrified Forest National Monument. She and her husband John live in Arizona. They ranched in the Arkansas Ozarks in the 1970's, where Dee and her children performed regularly at the Ozark Folk Center. 

"At the Jollification" depicts Ozark musician Leslie Walls. Dee comments that he was "... a small man who played with the Rackensack at Mountain View, Arkansas.  I was always fascinated by his face and the way he played guitar in a big figure eight pattern."  A colorful oral history interview on the Arkansas Folk Festival and Ozark Folk Center web site describes Leslie Walls as "... a diminutive man in overalls and a little hat..." and also mentions he "... played the guitar and, with his right hand, did a sort of a figure eight roll playing the guitar..."

Dee has taught history, drama, English and art at secondary level. She has published three self-illustrated books of western poetry and has three recordings of her cowboy music and poetry as well as one of British folk ballads. Her book, Arizona Herstory: Tales from Her Storied Past, received the Will Rogers Medallion Award. Her three dance folk operas have been performed in Tucson, Phoenix, California, and Texas.

As "Buckshot Dot", she is an Academy of Western Artists' Female Cowboy Poet of the Year and has performed in fifteen states and British Columbia. She has been named an Arizona Historical Foundation Culture Keeper, an Academy of Western Artists' Female Cowboy Poet of the Year, and has opened for Lyle Lovett.

Read more about Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot) in our feature here and at her web site.  "At the Jollification" and a companion piece are available as notecards from her site.

Below are poems inspired by "At the Jollification"

Submissions are closed for this Art Spur.  Stay tuned for the next.  We welcome your art suggestions.

 



At the Jollification
by Dee Strickland Johnson

 

Poems

 

Waco and the Old Guitar Player by Hal Swift of Nevada

Our Song by Pat Richardson of California

At the Jollification by Rod Nichols of Texas

My Favorite Old Guitar by Yvonne Hollenbeck of South Dakota

The Memory by Slim McNaught

The Music of Memories by Glen Enloe

Guitar Player by Clark Crouch of Washington

Western Jollification by Harold Roy Miller of Nevada


 

Waco and the Old Guitar Player 

The long summer's heat has got everyone down.
There ain't a smile to be seen.
Even ol' Shorty, who owns Shorty's Place,
is walkin' around, lookin' mean.

Shorty tells Waco, "We need some help here,
this place is so dull that it's flat."
Waco says, "Yeah, it's real quiet, all right,
you sure got a handle on that."

Sioux's at the pie-anna, and playin' tonight,
to pay off a couple of debts.
Waco is sippin' a big sasparilla,
when a stranger walks in and sets.

He holds a guitar, clutched tight to 'is chest
like he thinks that it may disappear.
Waco offers to pour 'im some sasparilla,
but he acts like he doesn't quite hear.

He gets up and stands there, not speakin' a word.
Waco asks if he's feelin' okay.
He says, "What? Who me? Oh, I'm hunky-dory,
but I'm lookin' for somewheres to play."

"The pie-anna player's my friend," says Waco.
"I'll ask if she'll let you set in."
Sioux says, "Of course, I'll be glad for the help.
"But tell 'im I'm quittin' at ten."

The guitar player tells 'em his first name is Les,
and Ar-kansas is where he comes from.
Waco brings the old feller a wood foldin' chair,
and he sets down and starts in to strum.

In the key of G, they play "Camptown Races,"
next is "Wait for the Wagon" in C.
Folks're dancin' and singin', and havin' a ball,
just as happy as happy can be.

Les fingers left-handed, and picks with 'is right,
in a kind of a figure-eight move.
When the folks gather 'round, all clappin' their hands,
Sioux tells 'im, "I knew they'd approve.

Forget about ten, this continues till dawn,
it's hard to describe what it's like.
Les says, "One more, 'fore I head for the door,
my favorite, 'Sweet Betsy from Pike'."

And when, them two, ol' Les and Sioux,
start playin' that old-time waltz,
the folks dance slow, and are hummin' along,
till finally the music halts.

Shorty offers to pay 'im, but ol' Les declines.
"No need for remuneration.
The music," he says, "is payment enough
for my part in this jollification."

Then Les stands up, his guitar held tight,
and bows like an old country gent.
Next thing y'know, he just aint' there.
and nobody knows where he went.

"Sioux," says Waco," this whole thing is weird.
Was that ol' boy, Les, really here?"
"It's strange," says Sioux, "and I know what you mean,
but I think that ol' Les is still near.

"This little guitar man who just wandered in
I don't think was here on vacation.
Whatever his reason, there's a lesson to learn
from our part in this jollification."

Waco says, "Yeah, I suspect that you're right.
The smiles that I see on folks' faces
are the widest and happiest I think that I've seen,
since last summer's wild burro races."

Shorty says, "Les just couldn't of left,
his hat is still there on the rack."
"Oh, he left," says Waco, "but I'll give you odds,
when we need 'im, ol' Les'll be back."

© 2005, Hal Swift 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Our Song

They're playing our old song again, the one I play no more
I never thought it would be this way
the song they were playing when you first walked in the door
...we used to sing it almost every day

I'd play it on my old guitar, we'd sing that song for years
and while you sang I'd try to harmonize
it's funny how a song means just what each person hears
as I try to hide the teardrops in my eyes

It calls back times when we were young and life was going well
back then you had me and I had you
now life's hardly worthwhile living, all alone this way is hell
I'll be glad when this old song is through

I can't say how much I miss you, never thought I'd be alone
you're the only one who really understood
I was certain you'd outlive me, and I loved you to the bone
...I'd like to come and join you if I could

© 2005, Pat Richardson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

At the Jollification

I just got in from Arkansas
way out in Mountain View.
I'm goin' back
and that's a fact
the last dang thing I do.

They know the way to celebrate
make no mistake my friend
the music sings
the Ozarks ring
Lord love them mountain men.

And did I mention fiddle tunes
the best you ever heard
a mandolin
a dobro then
and banjoes  on my word.

The pickin' and the grinnln' boys
infected one and all
but when it came
to guitar fame
here came ol' Leslie Walls.

He might play Darlin' Cory
or maybe Liza Jane
he'd sit and make
a figure eight
them strings just fairly sang.

A little man in overalls
a-playin' his guitar
From Rackensack
a-layin; tracks
well known both  near and far.

And when he'd rest close to his chest
he'd hold that guitar boys
a nat'ral part
of his own heart
a source of pride and joy.

But rest was just a breath or two
then off he'd go once more
a precious gift
his Ozark rift
the crowd would clap and roar.

Ain't many folks I'd say this of
the truth be none a-tall
but on my soul
his weight in gold
were cheap for Leslie Walls.

I just got in from Arkansas
way out in Mountain View.
I'm goin' back
and that's a fact
the last dang thing I do.

© 2005, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

My Favorite Old Guitar 

Those darned kids say I’ve got too old to stay there on the farm;
they say I need a watchful eye to keep myself from harm.

They’ve sold my goods and pickup and my good old Plymouth car,
but by God, they are not to sell my favorite old guitar!

 There’s other folks in this strange place that just might sing along
as I tune up and take my pick and break into a song

 like “Little Joe the Wrangler” or the “Rose of San Antone.”
With my guitar here with me, I will never be alone.

 The kids think they were justified to put me in this home;
my mind is not dependable and often tends to roam.

 But soon I plan to move again, then I will be a star.
I will play my way to heaven on my favorite old guitar.

© 2005, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

The Memory

His face is somber, the features aged,
time has taken its toll.
But the guitar held in his gnarled hands
tells of music still in his soul.
His youth was spent in besting the best,
his mountains lay flattened behind him.
His life was filled with work and sweat,
his faith never shattered or dim.

To the hurried throngs he's just a man,
work-worn, unknown, and old.
Some would marvel if they only knew
what treasures his memories hold.
No one knows of the family he raised
with muscle and sweat of his brow,
Nor how he aches for his chosen mate,
gone these long years now.

They'll never know the old time songs
that came from that old flat top
Nor feel the joy that was shared by all
who listened and danced 'till he'd stop.
His fingers still pick and caress that 'ol box
but the lively tunes are gone
And in their place are melodies strummed
that bring wistful memories along.

As he holds that guitar close to his chest
he can see her face in his mind
And remembers the babes she bore for him,
remembers how loving and kind.
So now he stands for the world to see,
his tears and pains well hidden.
But behind the face, that somber face,
comes memories, winging, unbidden.

© 2005, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

The Music of Memories

A gray and black life sketch--small man in overalls--
Somber as his guitar, lifted high all those times--
Playing Ozark tunes with those wild figure-eight squalls--
Glasses glint raw reason as that happiness chimes.

Oh, play to us softly those songs of our fathers--
The tales of the Old West and those last cattle drives--
Oh, play for us gently, the sons and the daughters--
The music of memories that molded our lives.

Music rests in remembrance and lingers on winds--
It wasn't merely one--it was many guitars--
Whispering that bright music like long scattered friends--
Quilting its melodies in our lives and the stars.

Oh, play to us softly those songs of our fathers--
The tales of the Old West and those last cattle drives--
Oh, play for us gently, the sons and the daughters--
The music of memories that molded our lives.

Reunions bring photographs with smudges and frays:
Dad and his first cousin in that photo still clear--
They strummed and they fiddled all those songs of past days--
As we cherished our friends and held family near.

Oh, play to us softly those songs of our fathers--
The tales of the Old West and those last cattle drives--
Oh, play for us gently, the sons and the daughters--
The music of memories that molded our lives.

© 2005, Glen Enloe
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

See the photo of Glen Enloe's father that was also part of his inspiration for this poem.

 

Guitar Player

He was just an old and sad cowboy
living in town in the old folks home...
sorta living there within himself,
knowing that he would never more roam.

He was a small man, short and slim,
spending most of his days all alone
with a far away look in his eye,
remembering the times he had known.

He never smiled or spoke very much
and his eyes'd sorta cloud over,
capturing images of the past
when he had been a cattle drover.

He was sitting on the porch one time,
day-dreaming like he did every day,
when some folks stopped their car out in front
and set out some stuff and went away.

The old man's eyes opened really wide
'cause there on the top of that big heap
was an old battered and worn guitar,
one that he really wanted to keep.

He hugged that old guitar to his chest,
as a tear ran down his rugged cheek,
and memories just kept coming back.
He just sat there unable to speak.

After a bit he tuned the guitar
and strummed a real simple cowboy tune.
A smile lighted up his rugged face
as he sat playing all afternoon.

'Course, they let him keep that old guitar.
He smiled and so did the other folk
as he played his tunes and hummed along...
this guitar-playing old-time cowpoke.

Then one day he just didn't show up
and they found him then, still in his bed,
hugging that old battered instrument...
that retired old cowboy was dead.

They buried him with his old guitar,
still a'hugging it there to his chest,
and folks smiled, remem'brin his playing
all the songs of his beloved west.

© 2005, Clark Crouch 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 



Western Jollification


I went to a dance down at the town square.
Every cowboy in the county was there.
It was the annual 4th of July celebration
and it sized up to be a western jollification. 
 
On stage was a singer from the Ozark hills
who amazed every one of us with his picking skills.
He could play most anything on his fiddle or guitar
and was just about as good as any country/western star.

 He was dressed in a pair of brand new blue overalls
and he sang melodious in one of those twangy southern drawls.
He was a bespectled man, sort of wiry and small
but at this musical merriment, he stood ten feet tall.
 
When he played Cotton-Eyed Joe or Ol' Rocky Top,
our feet would start moving and we couldn't make them stop.
Young and old alike would jump up out of their seat,
ten-stepping in time with the rhythmic beat.
 
We all danced for hours as he played and sang
and then Independence Day finished with a bang.
Fireworks shot skyward and lit up the square,
a patriotic tribute to this gala affair.
 
I never personally got to meet the music man,
but more than likely I am still his biggest fan.
I'll always remember this special night in my life,
because it was at this dance I first met my wife.

© 2005, Harold Roy Miller
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

  

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