Featured at the Bar-D Ranch


by Dee Strickland Johnson 
("Buckshot Dot")


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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.

Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through December 17, 2007. Poems are posted daily below  during the season.

Our twelfth piece offered to "spur" the imagination is by Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot), "A Cowboy's Christmas Eve."

A Cowboy's Christmas Eve
by Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")

Dee Strickland Johnson grew up on Arizona's Navajo and Hualapai (Walapai) Indian reservations, an Idaho farm, and at Petrified Forest National Monument (now Park). 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. 

"A Cowboy's Christmas Eve" depicts Dee's son, Tim Johnson. Dee comments, "Tim posed for that scratch board picture of the campfire cowboy. I had him standing there with his back to me for quite some time—took awhile to get those rivets on the Levi’s."

As the Johnsons' many friends know, Tim was seriously injured in an accident on August 5, 2002. He is being cared for in Payson. The family welcomes visits, cards, or emails. You can write to Tim in care of:

Buckshot Dot
7852 N. Toya Vista Drive
Payson, AZ 85541

"A Cowboy's Christmas Eve" is available as a Christmas card, with her companion poem, at Dee's web site

Dee has published two self-illustrated books of cowboy poetry and two historical books. Both Arizona Herstory: Tales from Her Storied Past, and Arizona Women Weird Wild and Wonderful received the Will Rogers Medallion Award.

She has made three recordings of cowboy music, two which include poetry. Buckaroo Bonanza includes the song “Old Hank Morgan’s Place.” which was recorded by Jean Prescott as well. Another CD is now in the pressing process, One More Dance, with songs written by well-known cowboy artists. 

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

Dee's art has been featured previously in Art Spur, when "At the Jollification" was a subject.

Read more about Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot) in our feature here and at her web site



Thanks to all who submitted poems.


The artist's poem:

A Cowboy's Christmas Eve by Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")

Selected submitted poems:

Cowboy Christmas Eve by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Star of Wonder by Al Mehl
A Campfire Christmas Eve by Diane Tribitt
Christmas Out Here by David Althouse
A Cowboy's Christmas Eve by Mag Mawhinney
A Cowboy's Guiding Star by Jan Price
Journey's End
by Clark Crouch

A Cowboy Christmas Eve by Wildwood Slim
A Cowboy's Christmas Eve by Joyce Johnson
Night Thoughts by Jerry Schleicher
 Star So Bright by Van A. Criddle

A Cowboy Christmas Eve by John R. Yaws
Campfire Christmas Eve by Glen Enloe
Thank You for the Company by Merv Webster
A Cowboy's Christmas Eve by Rod Nichols

more to come....



A Cowboy's Christmas Eve
by Dee Strickland Johnson

After the candles are lighted,
After the bells have been rung,
After the story from Luke is read
And the carols have all been sung,

After the flames are extinguished,
Except in the eyes of love,
I ride alone in the desert
And gaze at the stars above.

Those glittering specks celestial
That reflect the glorious light
That God imparts to a cowboy's heart
In the cold calm holy night...

Then the spirit sings in the silence,
A gentle, yet powerful surge
To awe struck shepherds—and cowhands
And mystery and miracles merge.

© 1999, Dee Strickland Johnson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Cowboy Christmas Eve

I’d planned to be home for Christmas,
Started out in plenty of time,
But got hung up in Panguitch. Stopped in to visit
a pard, A good friend of mine
from those days down in Houserock.
That was twenty years back.
Gosh. Seems like yesterday.
Funny how time slips away like that,
how the years all bunch up that way.

So now I’m still south of Clear Creek
and it’s Christmas eve, with night coming on.
There’s a deep chilling coldness that’s come with the haze
and the mist, now that daylight’s most gone.
So I think I’ll just take me a breather.
Build a fire, and warm up my hands.
Brew some coffee and thaw out my innards,
Fore I mount up my pony again.

That’s better. I like a good campfire
flickerin’. The flames glowing bright,
and that sweet smell of freshly burned piñon
like a perfume enfolding the night.
There’s one star in the sky that seems brighter
than the others. It’s right there, hanging low.
And it makes my mind wander back two thousand years
To another star, long, long ago,

And a night not so different from this one,
And some fellers, who were out watching sheep
when a star shown above them so big and so bright
It amazed them, interrupted their sleep.
Then a whole host of angels appeared in the sky
Singing, and pointing the way
to a far distant village where a small little boy,
our Savior, lay asleep in the hay.

There were wise men, they say, who came calling,
Angels, who stopped by to sing,
And those shepherd, who knelt to pay homage
to that baby, who’d become a king.
I’ve got presents right here in my bedroll
Necklace for mom, got dad a new rope,
But they can’t hold a candle to the gifts that He gave
to us all, with His message of hope.

But there are folks who expect me for Christmas.
So I’ll douse this fire, and end my reprieve.
Hunker down and turn up my collar,
And night-ride home, this cold Christmas eve.
But I’ll think as I ride, of that Christmas,
long ago, when Peace on the Earth
Reigned, for a moment, that first silent night,
The night of our dear Savior’s birth.

© 2007, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Star of Wonder

Some make their livin’ tendin’ cattle, me I’ve always tended sheep.

Sometimes we’re judged both by the friends and by the livestock that we keep.

Still, over time, I’ve always found that sheep have got a gentle manner,

And they’ll do their master’s bidding, if the man’s a decent planner.


O’er the years, I’ve tried to pass along the lessons that I’ve won,

And I take pride in sharin’ all the skills I’ve garnered with my son.

He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he works as hard as me,

He’s overdue to have a break…and so tonight I set him free.


I let him meet a couple buddies once their sheep had bedded down,

And I was glad to tend our flock alone as they walked into town.

The night was calm, the air was still, the sun long set, the moon was low,

And so the stars above were sparklin’ with a special winter’s glow. 


One in particular was brighter than I’d say I’ve ever seen,

And on the distant stables, seems this star had cast a silver sheen.

Now when you work out in the open, you begin to know the sky,

And when a star is shinin’ brighter, makes you kinda wonder why.


But as I rested by the fire, it seems a weight was slowly lifted,

And a youthful energy restored, my attitude was shifted,

And my outlook on the future was so gradu’lly renewed,

I realized an inner peace had found its way into my mood.


And resting there, I kinda lost track of how long my son was gone,

And when he fin’lly wandered into camp, the night was near to dawn.

He was approachin’ in the distance, th’other two had gone their way,

And as he came in by the fire, he had an awful lot to say.


He kinda stared off in a daze, like he had met up with a ghost,

And then he mumbled somethin’ crazy ‘bout an angel’s heav’nly host.

He stammered on about a couple, ‘bout three learned scholars, maybe,

And he seemed a bit confused as he went on about a baby.


Seems he wasn’t makin’ sense, and he could tell what I was thinkin’,

And he swore to me he’d seen it, that he hadn’t been out drinkin’.

Then he come up nose to nose with me and looked me in the face,

And then with arms held out he gathered me within his firm embrace.


And in that moment, I could tell this son of mine was overcome,

And I could feel a mighty presence turnin’ both our senses numb.

A night of wonder and enlightenment had come without a warnin’,

And we settled in, agreein’ that we’d talk more in the mornin’.


Was it really something spiritual that happened in the night,

Or just an optical illusion with a star’s refracted light?

Did I become a new believer as my proud defenses fell,

Or will I wake to find myself unchanged?  I s’ppose that time will tell.


But if two other shepherds witnessed it, I’m sure we’ll all agree it

Was a miracle; if so, I’m glad my son was there to see it.

As a witness, he’s articulate, not prone to foolish prattle,

So it’s good it was three shepherds… ‘stead of men who work with cattle.

© 2007, Al Mehl
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


A Campfire Christmas Eve

Oh, the lure of the West is callin’!
          And the haunting mem'ries of yore
                    of mesas where cattle are bawlin’
                               are stronger than ever before

I ain't made to be in this city!
          With skylines of mortar and brick
                    and cold streets with nary a pity
                              fer a guy who's country-homesick

How I yearn fer wide open spaces!
          Where radiant stars of the night
                     Kiss the canyon’s old weathered faces
                               Near a hemlock campfire’s light

Just an old-fashioned cowboy Christmas!
          Where this cowpoke could ponder and pray
                    With naught but the Lord as my witness
                             In honor of this hallowed day

I would ride to the top of a canyon!
          Just to thank Him afore I leave
                    fer being a cowboy’s companion
                               at my campfire Christmas Eve

© 2007, Diane Tribitt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Christmas Out Here  

Christmas Eve out here is, to me, complete,

Not many green Christmas trees, but lots o’ mesquite;


No, not many reindeer choose this as home,

But mulies and antelope stay here to roam;


There ain’t twinklin’ lights like fill cities at night,

Just a billion stars that shine down bright;


I won’t hear carolers singin’ in a park,

Just the yappin’ o’ coyotes fillin’ up the dark;


There’ll be no crowded malls to give me holiday cheer,

I’ve got great crowds o’ doggies that need me right here;


And I probably won’t see the fallin’ o’ snow,

But that was probably true o’ Bethlehem a long time ago.

© 2007,  David Althouse
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


A Cowboy's Christmas Eve

A cowboy for hire stood alone by the fire
to wait out another long day.
He was losing control of his restless soul
till something now urged him to stay.
A festering plight followed him this night
when his thoughts wandered back to his home.
Mesmerized by the flame, he remembered the shame
that had caused his desire to roam.
It was three years ago, just before winter snow,
he'd packed up and stomped out the door,
shouting, "Pa, go to hell!", then turned 'round to yell,
"And I ain't comin' back here no more!"
Soon his eyes filled with tears, recalling lost years,
holding back what he'd wanted to say.
Overcome with remorse, he saddled his horse
and then knelt by the fire to pray.
The sparks from the fire, rising higher and higher,
made the cowboy look up to the sky.
His guilt-ridden pride somehow softened inside
and his heart sang a sweet lullaby.
On this Christmas Eve, no more would he grieve,
for the burden he'd carried was lifted.
Since this glorious night, he could now travel light
to the home from whence he had drifted.

© 2007, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


A Cowboy's Guiding Star

Another Christmas will soon be here,
it's been a long and lonely trail.
Standin' here in the shadows of night,
I pray... " Lord, don't let me fail."

This campfire sure does warm me some
but I feel a tear from my eye,
as I glance toward a single star,
shinin' there, so brightly, in the sky.

I've been ridin' camp for sev'ral months
and Lord,  missed my dear family so.
My intention is, to be home this year,
but this, they can't possibly know.

As I stand here pond'rin' this Christmas Eve
and reflect on the miles I've come,
I hear the words, whispered softly to me,
"I'm the star sent to guide you on home."

© 2007, Jan Price
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Journey's End

As the western eve'nin' turned to night
and star light glistened on the snow,
a cowboy stood beside his fire
baskin' in its glow.

He stood alone on this Christmas Eve
surrounded by the memories
of his fam'ly and his friends…
standin' there at ease.

'Twas a quiet time of remembrance…
thoughts of his life and Christmas past,
anticipating tomorrow,
the trail's end at last.

The fire burned down to embers
as he thought of tomorrow's ride;
home for Christmas once again
at his fam'ly's side.

© 2007, Clark Crouch
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 A Cowboy Christmas Eve

I don't know what it is tonight,
But it's so quiet here by the fire;
Seems the stars are extry brite,
With no city lights to tire.

An the coyote's call got a special ring,
Brings a lonesome ache in the heart;
Wonderin' why the herd blew up,
An' tore the fence apart.

But I reckon I'll hit the ranch come noon,
With the wires taut as a gitar string;
But hey, what the bright star shinin' there,
And a song, like angels mite sing?

Reckon a trick thet my mind is playin',
Nothin more, I do believe;
But look at the tally book, would you know
That tonight it's Christmas Eve?

© 2007, Wildwood Slim
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


A Cowboy's Christmas Eve

A cowboy's Christmas is lonely
when he's left pretty much on his own
to look after the ranch and the cattle
with the aid of his spirited roan.
He remembers his childhood behind him
when Christmas would bring a surprise
and his mama and daddy beside him
with love and delight in their eyes.
He recalls the stories they told him
of Mary and her baby son
and of how old Herod had feared Him
and caused them to pick up and run.
A cowboy alone on the prairie
in his 21st century attire
has time to ponder and wonder
as he throws some more brush on the fire.
He thinks of how God sent his own son
to bring love and peace to the Earth.
No modern media to announce it,
the marvelous news of his birth.
The story, not dying with next day's news,
has traveled with man through the years.
He thought how the story of Jesus
could bring a young wrangler to tears.
With a sky full of stars above him
and a head that's beginning to nod,
a cowboy alone on a Christmas Eve
can feel very close to his God.

© 2007, Joyce Johnson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Night Thoughts

It's a thoughtful time of night, as I stand beside the firelight
and contemplate the vastness of the universe.
I see distant galaxies of stars. And there's Jupiter, and Mars.
I gaze, awestruck, at heavens so diverse.
To use "big bang" nomenclature, did a random act of nature
create the cosmos I see spiraling in the sky?
Was it just a fluke of fate, like an unlatched cattle gate,
that made the stars that fill this cowboy's eye?
Or was it by divine design, meant to give us folks below a sign
that a greater power created all we see?
Not an accidental whim, but a world created just by Him,
to give purpose to the lives of men like me?
When you're livin' on the land, you can see the Maker's hand
in every cow and horse and cowboy on the place.
We're not here by accident. I figure ever one of us was sent
to work the herd with the good Lord's tender grace.

© 2007, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Star So Bright

Tonight I stand here by this fire
staring at that star so bright,
My thoughts fly back across the ages
To that first new Christmas night.

Livestock sensed something wonderful
In their own peculiar way,
Now the lowing of the cattle
Make me sorta want to pray.

The world was changed that starlit night
Now so very long ago
When shepherds watched, and Angels sang
‘bout things most folks didn’t know.

Twas humble born and humble raised
By loving parents dear,
And watched by His own Father, God,
Who was always bending near.

That star is one reminder that
The Savior was born and lives
And that our lives sure are better
When they’re intertwined with His.

© 2007, Van A. Criddle
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




A Cowboy Christmas Eve

Standing by a campfire,

Gazing at a star—

A cowboy's mind goes wandering—

And, friend, it wanders far.


Cowboy life is lonesome,

Out there on the plain…

And tends to lean to lonesome,

But memories remain.


Of years gone by, and childhood.

And Sunday school and such.

His parents always made him go—

But he never liked it much.


You know, it would surprise you

What a youngun’s mind retains.

Of Bible stuff and sermons—

As well as growin’ pains.


Tonight the star seems brighter—

Than ought he’s seen before.

And sets the man to thinkin’

Of an ancient stable door.


That night was cold, he reckoned—

When Joseph and his spouse,

Were lookin’ for a shelter…

There was no room in the house.


Born there in a manger—

There was no room at the inn.

The King of all creation—

Came to ransom fallen men.


He finds his eyes are burnin’

Why, Lord, could those be tears?

He’s kinda been a hardcase—

He hasn’t cried in years.


Can it be the season?

Tomorrow’s Christmas Day.

It surely ain’t religion—

That makes him want to pray?


No, friend, it is a Shepherd—

Who wanders near and far,

Seeking out the wayward,

No matter where they are.


Yon star is but a beacon—

To touch a puncher’s heart.

And draw him to a Savior—

Who’s already done His part.


So now the tears flow freely-

But such relief they leave…

As Christ brings in a wandering soul,

This Cowboy Christmas Eve.

© 2007, John R. Yaws
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Campfire Christmas Eve

Oh, bright stars this night are a flickering
On the cold, clear eve of the Christ child’s birth,
As one lone star calms all the bickering
And for a brief time there’s peace on this earth.

One young cowboy stands by the gold campfire
And ponders what lay ahead for him then—
He marvels at God’s talent to inspire
The goodness and love in the hearts of men.

This cowboy does not know what life will hold,
But that shepherd’s star makes him want to cry—
They say real men don’t weep so we are told—
Just must be the campfire smoke in his eye.

So we trace our fate in dawn as we leave—
Cherish His gifts this cowboy Christmas Eve.

© 2002, Glen Enloe
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Thank You for the Company


It’s been a long hard year LORD with the dry still hanging ‘round

and with the rains eluding us there’s no grass to be found.

We used up all the supplements that one could find about,

 along with all the hay we stored to help us through this drought.


We’ve sold off all the stock we could to help us make ends meet,

still keeping up with creditors sure runs you off your feet.

With all our options running out there was just one last straw;

I‘ve put the mob out on the roads, a rather lonely chore.


For months now I’ve been driving herd and LORD I have to say

I’m thankful for your company each night and through the day.

One sure gets tired of talking to the cows and my old horse

and having you as sidekick it sure helps me keep on course.


I’ve read there in the Bible how your son came to the earth

and how the angels all rejoiced the night his mum gave birth.

You see … the thing I find the hardest … is my dear and sweet wife Clare

has given birth to our first son and LORD I wasn’t there.


It kind of leaves you empty, but what helps me to endure

is knowing that she’ll seek you out.  I know that Sir for sure.

So comfort her throughout this time and please be by her side;

just as you’ve been with me dear LORD, throughout this lonely ride.


I sense you must have been quite proud to see your newborn son,

well knowing that he’d teach mankind how your will might be done.

And reading of his life on earth, it wasn’t hard to tell

the years you shared a foretime shows my LORD you taught him well.


This dry can’t last forever and rains will come some day

and taking this mob home again won’t be too far away.

So thank you LORD for sparing time to be a while with me

and may the years spent with my son soon take priority.


© 2007, Merv Webster
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 A Cowboy's Christmas Eve

Ol' Ebb was settlin' in to rest,
the cattle bedded down.
The coming of another night
soon brought old evenin' sounds.

He'd left the warmth of cabin then
to stay close by the herd.
The loneliness of life back there
had played upon his nerves.

A cowboy left to tend the stock,
he'd done alright at first,
but winter has a way sometimes
of making matters worse.

He missed the talk and goin's on,
the give and take of men.
He came to loathe that cabin caught
in winter's wailin' wind.

He'd almost closed his eyes at last,
his head began to nod,
when suddenly he came awake
at something mighty odd.

He thought he heard another's voice
and turning to his right,
a stranger sat close by the fire
all bathed in embered light.

"I hope I didn't startle you,
it's not a bit like me.
I saw your camp and figured that
you might like company. "

Ol' Ebb just sat there lost for words.
Where had the man come from.
He tried his best to answer back
but sat there stiff and dumb.

"Don't fret yourself at seein' me,
a stranger here, but try,
cause seein' how you were tonight
I couldn't pass you by."

"You see twas on a night like this
so many years ago.
A child was born, the "Prince of Peace,"
but many didn't know. "

"So we were given one great task
to bring the news to men.
We started out that Holy night.
It's still our job my friend. "

"For God so loved the world you see
He sent His only Son,
and though it seems forever pard,
our work is hardly done. "

"That's why as I was ridin' by,
I stopped to let you know,
there's someone, pard, who cares for you.
The Bible says it's so. "

Ol' Ebb began a-thawin' out.
There was no cause for fear.
He started in to thank the man,
"I'm sure right glad you're here."

"I'm truly proud you came along."
Ol' Ebb began to smile.
"You're right about the company.
Why don't you stay awhile? "

"I gotta go, " the stranger said,
and mountin' on his steed.
"Remember what I told you Ebb,
and to my words give heed."

Then Ebb awoke a second time,
and found himself alone.
His eyes were drawn above at last
to where a star now shone.

He packed his gear and headed in
to reach his old line camp.
The Good Book he had left behind
was waiting neath a lamp.

And so it chanced to one cowboy
upon a midnight clear,
an Angel came to bring him peace,
on Christmas Eve that year.

© 2007, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.








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