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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 ninth piece offered to "spur" the imagination, as part of Christmas at the BAR-D is poet, writer, and teacher Jo Lynne Kirkwood's drawing, "Bringing Home Christmas." 

Read the resulting poems below.

© 2005, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Bringing Home Christmas

Jo Lynne Kirkwood is a high school teacher in a rural high school. Rural teachers are expected to cover multiple curriculum areas, and Jo divides her day between a variety of art and English/speech/debate classes. A writer herself, Jo is also known for her mentoring of younger poets and often accompanies her Dogie Wranglers to regional cowboy poetry gatherings and events. Jo Lynne serves as a member of the executive committee of the Cowboy Poets of Utah.

She told us, "The drawing, 'Bringing Home Christmas,' was a demonstration sketch showing kids how to draw trees with snow on them. The rest filled itself in, and the drawing ended up as one of last year's Christmas cards.

Read more about Jo Lynne Kirkwood and some of her poetry here.

See previous Art Spur projects here.


Poetry Submissions

Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through December 1, 2006. Submissions are now closed.


© 2005, Jo Lynne Kirkwood

"Bringing Home Christmas"


The Kissin' Tree, by Slim McNaught
Bringing Home Christmas, by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Bringing Home Christmas, by Robert Dennis
Bring 'Er Home, by Paul Kern
A Cuttin' Horse, by Al Mehl
Bringing Christmas Home, by Don Hilmer
Christmas Blew In
, by Clark Crouch
Stopping by Woods, by Rod Miller
Bringing Home Christmas, by Diane Tribitt
Bringing Home Christmas, by Joyce Johnson
Bringing Home Christmas, by Rod Nichols
The Promise, by Michael Henley


Mesquite Magi, by Jo Lynne Kirkwood, who created "Bringing Home Christmas."


The Kissin' Tree

Now, Opie was a ranchin' man,
but like some cowboys we know,
He had some feelins' way down deep
he don't know how to show.
This Opie had a neighbor gal,
a widow young and fair,
And Opie loved that widow gal
with her pretty flaxen hair.

The widow had a boy and girl
that she nurtured by her side,
Them kids thought sure that Opie could
walk on water if he tried.
And Opie spent a lot of hours
doin' things to teach those two
'Bout raisin' horses, cows and calves,
and what makes a cowboy true.

Now Christmas time's a comin' 'round
but Opie don't have much
So he gathers up some leather straps,
some wood, some quills, and such.
He made a little rockin' cradle
for the girl's small dolly dear
Then carved a whistle for the boy
he could blow so all could hear.

But gifts to give the mother, now,
that has Opie fairly stuck,
Without a place to go and shop
he's really outta luck.
So he braids a leather necklace mixed
with white horsehair and quills,
But he's afraid this paltry gift
may not give her any thrills.

So one day while he's visitin' there
he asks what he could do
To bring a little Christmas joy
and raise their spirits, too.
And the widow had an answer quick,
she would love a Christmas tree
All green and thick with needles long,
what a blessing that would be.

Now, Opie had a good sized range,
one that covered many mile,
He knows in one far corner there
grow trees that make him smile.
So he saddled up when mornin' dawned,
stuck his axe there in his bag,
And figured with the size he wants
this ol' tree he'll have to drag.

Now, Opie's luck is holdin' out,
'cause it snowed about a foot
And a tree will drag plumb smooth on snow
with no needles ruined to boot.
When he gets home it's into night,
and his horse is tuckered out,
But he smiles with satisfaction knowin'
she'll be happy, there's no doubt.

Now, that tree, it nearly reached the roof,
transformed that old log shack,
The kids both squealed and danced around
while mother's tears hold back.
Then decoratin' on that tree
with paper chains and flakes,
Strung popcorn on some long white strings,
hung stockin's by the grates.

Now, the boy is just a little tot,
he's not learned to form his words,
And when he spoke of "Christmas tree"
"Kissin' tree: is what you heard.
Then the kids dance 'round and hug that pair
and the girl laughs out with glee,
"We're havin' us a merry Christmas
gathered 'round this kissin' tree."

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bringing Home Christmas

He was going home for Christmas,
     it had been so many years
since he'd been there for the holiday
     ...seems like time just disappears.

When he asked her what she needed
     she just answered, "not a thing,"
'cause my gift will be your presence
      and the joy that it will bring.

Then she started reminiscing
     about how Christmas used to be
when the kids would make the trimmings
     for a fresh-cut cedar tree.

How dad would saddle up his horse
     and soon would disappear;
then come dragging in the "perfect tree"
     ...he'd do that every year.

On Christmas Eve they'd go to church
      to celebrate the birth
of that precious babe, our Savior,
      that came to live on earth.

Then early Christmas morning
      the kids would always find
a special gift for each of them
     ...of course the homemade kind
'cause they didn't have much money
      and she couldn't spare a dime
but it didn't seem to matter
     and they had a real good time.

Then after chores the relatives
     would come to spend the day;
they all would eat and visit
     and outside the kids would play. 

But time?  It waits for no one;
     how fast the years have flown.
She's been widowed many years now
      and the children are all grown,
with their busy lives and families;
      but her heart was filled with cheer
when she learned that they'd be coming
      for the holidays this year.
He'll saddle up his horse
      and go cut a perfect tree
as the other kids and grandkids
      learn how Christmas used to be—

'cause he's bringing home Christmas.

© 2006, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bringing Home Christmas

It's gettin' to be that time of year again
To be think of ol' Santy and such
To be thankful for what all we've received
I sometimes wonder how we got so dang much

Oh, I know that Thanksgiving is over for this year
and it's Christmas that's right around the bend
No, I ain't got my seasons mixed up
You must think I've lost my mind, ol' friend

See, some folks think Christmas is all about recievin'
and maybe that's true for some
But for me Christmas is a lot more about givin'
and bein' thankful for where I come from

Out here in cow country we've sure got some problems
But they ain't nuthin' we ain't faced before
But drought, low prices and politics are the usual
'Course this time, we got folks off to war

Them soldiers are fightin' for all of us
and so others might have what we've got
Democracy, it's about the greatest gift we can give
and the price has sure cost us a lot

So I cut this ol' tree and I'm draggin' it in
When I stand it up and look at it, I'll pause
I'll reflect on all them fine soldiers over there
Passin' out this gift, playin' Santy Claus

© 2006, Robert Dennis
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bring 'Er Home

Along about December,
On a western mountain slope,
When the snow is deep an' crusted,
An' yer head is full of hope.

When each breath crystallizes,
An' clings a moment to the air,
Then falls upon yer horse's mane,
An' hangs—jest like a curtain there.

Night breezes shuffle southward,
The sky is clear and cold,
Ya' pick a star an' tell yerself,
An old story you were told.

Of a baby in a lowly barn,
Well—I reckon jest a shed,
For unto you is born this day...
Those words dangle in yer head.
An' live jest like an evergreen,
On that frigid mountain slope.
So ya' cut a pine that'll do ya',
An' dally tie it with yer rope.
The sun will soon start climbin',
The mornin' star has jest blinked out,
That tree yer draggin' on yer horse,
Recalls what He's about.
It's jest a little evergreen,
To spread some Christmas cheer,
So bring 'er home to remember Him,
As we celebrate this year!

© 2006, Paul Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


A Cuttin' Horse

"What's it take to make a cuttin' horse,"
           a neighbor asked of me,
I guess he meant to try to test
          my equine sensibility.

I paused to think before I answered,
          'cause he'd prob'bly want my reason,
And I fashioned my reply
          to match the spirit of the season:

"First, he prob'bly should be calm," I said,
          "to kinda set the mood."
Says he, "I think he should be jumpy,
          like he's two days with no food."
He said that he prefers a horse who's blessed
          with lightnin' fast reflexes.
"No," I said, "Just slow and steady,
          like the rivers of East Texas;
And I'd take one strong of shoulder,
          like for pushin' through the snow."
And then he countered that he likes one
          full of giddyup-and-go.
He said, "A horse that knows who's master,
          and commits to do his labor."
I replied, "I'd choose a cuttin' horse
          who b'lieves in 'Love Thy Neighbor;'
Mine's a horse who stands for principle,
          and good will toward all men;
A horse who's sharin' of his bounty,
          and forgives us when we sin;
A horse who's tolerant of others,
          every beggar, every fool,
A horse whose path is always governed
          by a shinin' 'Golden Rule;'
A horse who's never known of hunger,
          'twould be witnessed by his girth,
A horse who, ever filled with wonder,
          rides a trail toward 'Peace on Earth.'"
He said to me, "You're talkin' crazy,
          all these thoughts you're puttin' forth;
Those ain't the features that I'd ask for
          in a top notch cuttin' horse."
"Well, if you're talkin' 'bout a horse
           for workin' calves, then I'd agree...
But me, I'm talkin' 'bout a horse
          for cuttin' down a Christmas tree!"

© 2006, Al Mehl
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bringing Christmas Home

     There's a lot to say 'bout Christmas
          Some is truth and some is tale
     It can have a powerful meaning
          It can be a happy trail

     There's a part not worth the bother
          If ya let it be your guide
     There also is the other part
          That's darn'd sure worth the ride

     It's the part that makes you ride at dawn
          Just to have an early start
     Makes 'ya peaceful in the saddle
          Cause you're peaceful in the heart

     You can find it in the morning stars
         It lasts the whole year long
     You'll set your mind on doin' good
          And fill the world with song

     If Christmas means these things to you
          You need not be alone
     I'd join your crew and ride with you

     © 2006, Don Hilmer
      This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.       


Christmas Blew In

It was a treeless landscape
where the tumbleweeds came dancin' across the field of snow,
leavin' their strange impressions where the winds forced them to go.

Ma stood there beside the house
watchin' the tumbleweeds as the cold wind pushed them past her.
Then she saw the right one, shaped much like a real tree, a fir.

She stepped out into its path
standin', with both arms outstretched, just waitin' to intercede,
then it was there and she caught it, stoppin' that dancin' weed.

Takin' the weed by its stem,
she shook it to remove the snow, it's roamin' days now done,
and took it in the house, it's life as a tree had begun.

It became our Christmas tree,
all decorated up then and draped with strings of popcorn,
that tumblin' weed had found a new role and was now reborn.

'Though our tree was just a weed,
our holiday was happy, thanks to Ma's inventive way...
creatin' a tree from a weed to brighten Christmas day.

© 2006, Clark Crouch
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.       

(See an interesting and related article here from the Billings (Montana) Gazette, coincidentally sent during the season by Jeri Dobrowski)



Stopping by Woods

Roping pretty is pretty darn rough
When spruce is what you're chasing-
Even swinging a loop is tough enough
When through snowy woods you're racing.

You cut and dodge, turn and duck,
Tangle your coils and miss your throw;
Swear at that evergreen, curse your luck,
Reel out a fresh loop, spur and go. 
You keep after them trees, filled with hope,
Then realize your first catch might be your last
When you jerk your slack to dally your rope, 
And remember you're tied-off, hard-and-fast.
But after the wreck you patch things up
With rawhide, pine gum, and wire;
Take up the reins, swing into the stirrup,
And drag that sapling you caught to the fire.

© 2006, Rod Miller  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.       

Bringing Home Christmas

They quietly sat at the end of the road
Envisioning life in this country so vast
The man and his wife each reliving their past
Both dreaming of ranching again at long last
Their ten year old daughter sat back in despair
She hated the ranch and the cows and the view
She longed for the city and life she once knew
Her tender heart cried with each breath that she drew
The woman rode pastures to check them for strays
Like daddy had taught her those years long ago
She didn't want cows calving at twenty below
In faraway pastures in this freezing snow
She rode out the morning of Christmas Eve day
Her husband and daughter would meet her at three
Near the woods at the line shack to cut their first tree
For the Savior who died to set sinners free
She scowled at the blizzard as she rode the line
Their truck ahead covered in fast-drifting snow
But soon the three set off with their axe in tow
And felled their tree singing "Noel" soft and low
Not one of them saw the old cow standing there
 For she turned and left without making a sound
So they were amazed when they looked down and found
a little white bull calf plumb froze to the ground
They huddled together to keep the calf warm
The girl laid by the calf on its icy bed
Her hands worked to warm him, for soon he'd be dead
She rubbed his whole body and cradled its head
The man tied the fir tree behind their ranch horse
As the woman and girl laid the calf in the truck
If they left for the ranch they would risk getting stuck
and the line shack was closer, so they tried their luck
The storm was still raging with drifts now knee-high
As they entered the shack on that holy night
The family of three and the calf of snow white
Warmed up to a wood stove that glowed with soft light
Their tree was brought in, for it was Christmas Eve
They made garland of rope, then the man reached above
To set a star fashioned from his leather glove
While his daughter's heart filled with God's peaceful love
A bottle of canned milk was fed to the calf
They wrapped him in Carhartts to keep him content
They knew the Lord's ways, and just what this night meant
For bringing home Christmas was His true intent

© 2006, Diane Tribitt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Bringing Home Christmas

Ma had started Christmas early,
The way she always did;
Knitting a pretty sweater
For every last grandkid.
Our own were all growed up, of course
So they got hats or mitts.
The careless ways they dressed these days
Just nigh on gave her fits.
She packed her gifts and sent me off
To get them in the mail.
Her cheeks which had been rosy
Were looking rather pale.
I asked if she was ailin' and
She eyed me with a frown.
She said, "Christmas isn't Christmas
With no young ones around.
I said I reckoned she was right
And I would miss them too,
But they had wives and other lives
And a million things to do.
The days crawled on and Christmas
Was just around the bend.
I truly tried to please her and
Her aching heart to mend.
Then Ma got all excited
When our youngest called by phone.
He was coming home for Christmas and
He wouldn't come alone.
He said, "She wants to meet you
And it's what I'm wanting too."
Well, you should have seen Ma jump up
As she started in to do
All the fancy  things for Christmas
That she'd done in the past.
She said,  "There's  things to get done
And we've gotta do them fast."
Then one by one the others called;
Said they were coming too.
We'd have the kind of Christmas that
We always used to do.
As each one called, her eyes lit up
And Ma began to smile.
She seemed prettier and younger
Than she'd been for quite a while.
She gave me a long list of jobs.
Among them was the tree.
She said,  "I want a pretty one,
As big as it can be."
So I went out and chopped one down
And drug it through the snow.
I was glad to see her pink cheeks back,
Not wanting her to know
I'd had anything to do with
All her loved ones coming home
To this ranch where they had growed up
Before starting into roam.

© 2006, Joyce Johnson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Bringing Home Christmas

The wind seemed to cut in wherever it could,
a-ridin' out there in the snow covered wood.
"A man ought to know not to be here at all,"
the old hand half muttered as now he recalled.

They'd argued 'bout Christmas and some had exclaimed
it might be for young'uns but not for us plain.
There wasn't no presents or holiday tree,
no reason a-tall for a man to believe.

That hadn't set well with Ol' Badger that day:
the grumblin' and doubtin' and jawin' that way.
So bein' the man who had argued them down
he'd come out to bring back a tree he had found,

He'd  hoped  that a Yule tree might somehow restore
the spirit of Christmas they'd all had before.
But now in the grip of a sub-zero gale,
a Blue Norther snow storm had covered the trail,

Ol' Badger was doubtin' the reason he'd come;
at worst he'd be dead and at best he'd look dumb.
"you got a big mouth," he derided his choice,
but somewhere inside came a comfortin' voice.

"The spirit of Christmas is not in the tree:
by doin' for others you're doin' for me.
I came here for goodwill and peace on this Earth,
the Father's own love was my reason for birth.

The trimmin's, the tinsel, the presents exchanged
must never take place o'er the reasons I came.
The meanin' of Christmas is not in the gift:
it's found in the givin'  if you get my drift."

But now it was over and yieldin' to cold,
Ol' Badger was fallin' and losin' his hold.
In a world of deep darkness he drifted to sleep,
his thoughts of the failure his promise to keep.

It wasn't til mornin' he opened his eyes,
awoke in the bunkhouse and to a surprise:
the tree he had dragged out that snow covered wood
was now decorated and on a base stood.

"You gave us a scare badge. You nearly was lost
We'd never have known son except for that hoss.
He come in a-draggin' that tree for a fact.
We found you then pardner by checkin' his track.

I guess we was wrong about Christmas ol' son,
considerin' the thing that you went out and done.
That tree is a fine one and it will endure,
but the gift of your life was a miracle, sure.

Old Badger just lay there. He'd made the right choice,
and gave a quiet, "Thanks," to that Heaven sent voice.
"The spirit of Christmas' is not tin the tree:
by doin' for others you're doin' for me."

© 2006, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Promise

Mr. Service said it plain,
and I read it as a sprout,
"A promise made is a debt unpaid,"
'n' that's what this is all about

A 10 year old with gumption,
a livin' on this ranch with me.
Who never once complained about
where it is she has to be.

She surely didn't choose to be
a lonely puncher's child,
twenty miles from the nearest farm,
in a country, coarse and wild.

She's always been so cheerful,
and filled our every day with joy.
I never once regretted
that she wasn't borned a boy.

These last ten years have been so hard.
It really wasn't fair.
She smiled through every real bad day
when she didn't get her share.

But she asked me in the fall,
when we brought the cows down from the lease,
if I'd make her a promise.
She said, "Daddy, would you please?"

"I saw a picture in book
of a bright green Christmas tree.
Would you cut one from the mesa,
just for you and mom and me?"

Last week the brood mare lost her foal
and this week my best dog died.
I couldn't reach them stranded calves
in the storm, but God I tried.

But it's settled down to this O' Lord,
if this whole place falls apart.
I'll bring my girl a Christmas tree,
'n' I'll not break her heart.

So "Dillon," just a few more mile,
and soon we'll see the light.
"A promise made is a debt unpaid."
let's bring Christmas home tonight!

May the season of His birth shine on us all.

© 2006, Michael Henley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Mesquite Magi
    (Bringin' Home Christmas)

"Remember Tom?" Dove asked. "Was with us last autumn?"
Bucky shrugged.  Tom hadn't stayed long.
Got hurt early on when a steer took him down.
Buck figured he'd gone to where he was from.

"He's got kids," Dove continued.  "Two.  And a wife.
But he's still stove up pretty bad.
There was help from the boss, some money he'd saved,
But the doc has used most all that he had."

Bucky asked Dove how come he knew this.
"I run into Liz, " Dove said.  'Tom's wife.
She's was workin' midnights at the crossroads gas-station.
Which ain't safe.  And a heck of a life

for a mama with kids.  But then the pick-up wore out
and Billy Spendlove went and hired someone else.
So now they ain't got no income, and with Christmas comin' on
I'm kinda of worried 'bout those kids, myself. "

When Renzo came in Bucky told him the story.
Renzo said, "Well, I got some funds tucked away.
I don't use my paychecks, got all I need.
Let's give those folks Christmas Day."

Sal, Dove's blue healer, had a litter of pups
and they picked out the best of them all,
and Renzo was a hand with a whittlin' knife,
so he carved out a small baby doll.

There was oranges in a box in the storehouse,
packaged goods bought over in town,
nothin' fancy, just things a feller could use
if times were tight, and his luck had been down,

And it was coming on Christmas and he had two little kids
and a missus, and no cash coming in,
Weather getting colder and shelves growing bare
clothes wearing out and shoes wearing thin.

Dove put some bills in the kitty,
Buck added a dollar or two,
Then they rode out on the ridge and chopped down a piñon
Like when they were kids, they used to do.

Then headed down to the shack where Dove said Tom lived.
Unpainted, newspaper stuffed in a pane
where the glass was broke out.  The roof patched with cardboard
and tar to keep out the rain.

But inside was tidy, with a fire in the stove
and those three cowboy stayed well into night
While Tom and Liz snugged the kids in some blankets
and read the Christmas story, by a lantern's soft light.

And, though they'd never admit it if you was to ask,
they joined in on some old Christmas songs,
munched on some popcorn and felt right at home
with the family, as though they belonged.

And who's to say who got the best of that bargain,
Tom and Liz, or those wranglers whose lives
had held little room for Christmas
until it caught them, stared them right in the eye.

Were they wise men?  Well, most folks wouldn't say so.
Good men.  Big hearted.  And kind.
And if caring and grace don't make wisdom
it's still closer than most folks will find.

But for a six-year old boy with a pup dog,
and a little girl with a doll carved from wood,
and a young mother, fighting to save hearth and home,
Wise plays second fiddle to good.

© 2006, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Our thanks to Jo Lynne Kirkwood, who created the drawing for this Art Spur, "Bringing Home Christmas." Read more about Jo Lynne Kirkwood and some of her poetry here.

© 2005, Jo Lynne Kirkwood

"Bringing Home Christmas"



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