Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

"She's a Hand"
by Joelle Smith



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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 twenty-second piece offered to "spur" the imagination—in celebration of the National Day of the Cowboy—is "She's a Hand," a painting by notable Western artist Joelle Smith (1958-2005). The painting was inspired by Oregon cowgirl Mindy Kershner's participation in the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo

"She's a Hand" was the image selected for the 2009 "Cowboy Keeper Award" from the National Day of the Cowboy organization. Director Bethany Braley tells that Joelle Smith's work inspired the award, which is given to "organizations and individuals who have made a significant contribution to the preservation of Western heritage."

Joelle Smith's painting, "Heading Home," was the official poster for Cowboy Poetry Week, 2006; the cover art for The BAR-D Roundup CD; and an Art Spur subject.

Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through July 20, 2010. 

Poetry submissions now closed; find selected poems below.

"She's a Hand"
Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"'She's a Hand" © 1993 by Joelle Smith, www.joellesmith.com

Joelle Smith's work is familiar to many in the posters she has done for Cowboy Poetry and Music Gatherings, including the Santa Clarita Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, the Visalia Roundup; for the Cowgirl Hall of Fame; and for Western music albums, including those for Don Edwards, Lorraine Rawls, and Wylie and the Wild West.

Joelle got her first pony, George, when she was ten. This was not the start of her love of horses, but was the first real horse that came into her life. She even chose the college she attended because they had a school pasture where she could keep her horse.  

Joelle's life revolved around her love of horses, both in her work and in the rest of her life.  She lived with her mother, Sally, on twenty acres in Alfalfa, Oregon, along with seven horses. Sally contributes as secretary for Joelle's business, as well as chief cookie baker. She has become known as "Cookie Mom" at Joelle's shows for the cookies that she brings.

Joelle spent her mornings with the horses and painted in the afternoons and evenings.  The horses came first in her life just as they came first in her daily schedule.

Her favorite subject was horses, and these she painted with true passion.  "The art came from the horses," she explained. The love of horses was always there and so was the art, but the horses came first."

All of Joelle's subjects were real horses, real places and real people. She did not pose them for her paintings, but tried to capture a slice of life in a documentary style. Many of the horses in her paintings are her own, as they were close by.  She made at least two trips out of the area a year to gather material.

Joelle's work is a reflection of her experiences on ranches throughout the West.  Her paintings are records of contemporary Western life, her legacy to future generations.

Joelle was invited to display her work at the 2006 Prix de West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, an accomplishment she strived for during her entire career.

On August 5, 2005, Joelle lost her valiant three year battle with cancer.  Though her physical presence here on earth is and will always be greatly missed, her legacy of work will live on.  

Read more about Joelle Smith and see more of her work in our feature here.

Visit the Joelle Smith web site for more information and more of her art, including originals, open and limited editions, posters, sculpture, and more.



Events across America celebrate the sixth annual National Day of the Cowboy, July 24, 2010. 

The National Day of the Cowboy is celebrated each year on the 4th Saturday of July.

American Cowboy magazine launched the National Day of the Cowboy in 2004. The magazine continues to mark the event, as does the active National Day of the Cowboy organization, headed by Bethany Braley.

 Visit these sites for more about the annual event:

National Day of the Cowboy

National Day of the Cowboy: My Space

National Day of the Cowboy: Facebook


National Day of the American Cowboy



Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"'She's a Hand" © 1993 by Joelle Smith, www.joellesmith.com


Poetry in Motion by Slim McNaught of South Dakota
Not Waitin' On Someday by Ken Cook of South Dakota
She's a Hand by Yvonne Hollenbeck of South Dakota
 She Talked with Horses by Bette Wolf Duncan of Iowa
She's Wrangler, Boys by Al "Doc" Mehl of Colorado
The Life of a Hand by Susan Matley of Washington

and also see Tom Nichols' poem, Hey! We're Ranchin' Here!

Poetry in Motion

Horse and rider move as one
Tracking critter has begun
Loop is swingin’, full and smooth
Dust is spurting under hooves
Now the trap is perfect laid
Double hocker catch is made
Slack is taken, haunches set
Dally smooth, resistance met
Header reaches end of run

Flag goes down, their time is done

Perfect timing, perfect catch,
Horse and rider perfect match.
Hoof and hand give the notion,
“There’s poetry in motion.”

© 2010, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Not Waitin' On Someday

"Someday Daddy" is all she said,
One precious want surged 'round her head.
Tiny hands caressed my saddle,
Big blue eyes cried out it's time for cattle.

You're gonna make a hand Kasey,
Not waitin' on someday.
Nothin's lived by watchin',
We're gonna ride today.

From that day on we rode through life,
Ranch work, a man, our dance, his wife.
Now her first born craves cowboy ways,
And I will ride inside her days.

She's gonna make a hand that girl,
Not waitin' on someday.
No cowgirl lags back at the house,
We're gonna ride today.

Memories explode, her Mom and I,
Swallowed hard and felt her anxious eye.
"Someday Grandpa" she clearly said,
I'll catch her horse...for what lies ahead.

You're gonna make a hand Shyanne,
Not waitin' on someday.
Nothin's lived by watchin',
We're gonna ride today.

© 2010, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem was written about Ken and Nancy Cook's daughter Kasey and granddaughter Shyanne.


She's a Hand

Whether you’re calving a herd in the spring
or weaning off calves in the fall,
sometimes the hand that is best for the job
may not be a cowboy at all.

It happened last week when the pastures were prime,
‘twas time to take pairs to the range;
the boss had lined up a crew to help out
but there’s one thing he rather would change.

A little ol’ gal with a pony of sorts
had offered to help ‘em that day.
He couldn’t see how he could cast her aside
‘though he figured she’d be in the way.

The big day arrived and the weather turned cold,
the wind blowing hard from the North.
No dirtier place than to be in that pen
when you had to move pairs back and forth.

Two hands failed to show, so the crew was cut short,
but the little gal said, “That’s OK.
We can cowboy-up and work extra hard
and we’ll get ‘em all sorted today.”

She never slowed up as she cut off the pairs
and brought them to where they belong;
it didn’t take long ‘till the boss was convinced
that to doubt her was where he went wrong.

Over three hundred pairs had been sorted that day
and much sooner than what had been planned;
it mostly was due to that little ol’ gal
and the boss sure found out she’s a hand!

© 2010, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem was written about Glen and Yvonne Hollenbeck's granddaughter, Jaydn


She Talked with Horses

"She talks with horses," folks would say.
Hyperbole, I guessed.
Yet, when it came to handling them,
she ranked among the best.
For many years I’d watched her
racing in the rodeo.
When it came to handling stock,
this gal was quite a pro....
and more than just a barrel racer
out a’ Abilene.
She interacted with the stock
like few I’d ever seen.

She talked with horses like few folks.
She knew each word they said.
Her mind met theirs and they communed;
two kindred souls instead.
She talked to them with heart in hand.
They heard each word she spoke.
They heard it in her gentle hands;
and knew each word she’d stroke.
Her heart had ears that listened;
and the words were plain and clear.
Their was no word the horses spoke,
her heart’s ears didn’t hear.

She often thought about the scope
of God’s eternal plan;
and she was never one who thought
that God just favored man.
God must have loved them too, she thought,
the same way he loved her;
and God in his benevolence
blessed both with souls, for sure.
She talked with horses, soul to soul;
and cared what horses thought.
That’s why she talked with horses,
when other folks could not.

© 2010, Bette Wolf Duncan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


She's Wrangler, Boys

She’s wrangler, boys, she knows the land,

She knows the coyote’s cry;

When first you see that pretty face,

Me thinks she’ll have your eye.


She’s drover, boys, but truth be told,

Do b’lieve I’ve come to fear

That when you hear that angel voice,

Me thinks she’ll have your ear.


She’s puncher, ties the fiador,

Braids fancy rawhide knots;

And when the sun is bearin’ down,

Me thinks she’ll have your thoughts.


She’s rider, works the longest day,

And holds her own, it seems;

Unwind that lonely bedroll, boys,

Me thinks she’ll have your dreams.


She’s cowboy, wakes before the sun,

She’ll push an early start;

Boys, keep a measured distance, or

Me thinks she’ll have your heart.


She’s wrangler; still, her casual smile,

’Twould tame an angry mob.

But e’er you keep your mind on her,

            Me thinks…  she’ll have…  your job!

© 2010, Al "Doc" Mehl
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

The Life of a Hand

Never shy to raise some dust
The cowgirl and her horse must
Be one in concentration,
One in goal.

Her loop comes second nature
Her eyes trained on the creature:
That stubborn, lone young doggie
Feels the pull.

It was her closest-held dream
To make it on this ranch team
She lives and breathes the hard life
Of a hand.

The foreman came to trust her,
Knew that she could pass muster
And make a good addition
To his band.

Heat and sun and dust beat down
On decades-battered felt crowns;
The life of a hand is all
That she holds.

© 2010, S.D. Matley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


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