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Our column about cowboy poetry and Western music collaborations, "Before the Song," was included in several issues of  The Western Way, the official publication of the Western Music Association (WMA), published quarterly.


The complete, current Western Way magazine is available to all for reading on line, at the WMA web site.



Spring 2009: Yvonne Hollenbeck and Jean Prescott, "Dining Out"

Winter 2009:  Dave Stamey and Les Buffham, "Spin That Pony

Fall 2008: Doris Daley and Eli Barsi, "Shades of the West"

Summer 2008: Robert "Bob" Fletcher and Cole Porter, "Don't Fence Me In"

Spring 2008:  Les Buffham and Mike Fleming, "Below the Kinney Rim"

Winter 2008:  Don Edwards and Joel Nelson, "Here's Looking at You"

Fall 2007:  Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail, and Virginia Bennett's "El Fuego"

Summer 2007:  Wylie Gustafson of Wylie & the Wild West and Charles Badger Clark, Jr.'s "To Her"

Spring 2007:  Yvonne Hollenbeck and Jean Prescott, winners of the WMA's first Best Collaboration of Poet and Musician Award


The Western Way is sent to WMA members as a benefit of membership. For more about membership and other information, visit the Western Music Association (WMA) web site. Subscriptions are also available for non-members, and it is sold at retail outlets.




Spring, 2009


Suggestions and submissions are welcome:  CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133


Good songs about today’s West aren't necessarily about “cowboys, horses, and men.” Works that find the greatest success seem to have one thing in common: they tell the real stories of the working West. Standing alongside the men of the West, the “other half” have much to tell about their Western lives. Two of them in particular— top artists and collaborators Texas singer and songwriter Jean Prescott and South Dakota poet Yvonne Hollenbeck— like to quote what their friend Red Steagall has said, "Women are the cement that holds the West together and have helped make it what it is today."  

Delivering their perspectives with freshness, sincerity, and often with no small amount of humor, Jean and Yvonne’s collaborations are well received by their audiences and their peers. They were the first-ever recipients of the Western Music Association’s Best Collaboration of Poet and Musician Award in 2006, and in 2008, they again received the award for “Dining Out,” a song that might easily run away with any “audience-appreciation award” as well.

The song’s tale strikes a chord with many. Yvonne, who describes herself as a “ranchwife,” explains how the story, and her poem, came about. “My husband and I stopped at a farm store in Valentine, Nebraska, to get some supplies. I noticed my friend, Bessie Gallino, sitting in her pickup, so I walked over to say hello, and asked her how she was. She said, ‘Not very good!  I'm not in a very good mood! Bill told me he was going to take me out for supper so I got all dressed up to go  out to eat and you know what it was?  It's free hot dogs and Pepsi here at the farm store!’ I thought it was rather funny and was typical of something my own husband would do. He took me to Mathis Implement in Winner, South Dakota for a free pancake feed one day.”

Jean tells how the poem became a song: “I was reading Yvonne's book, From My Window and other poems [itself a WMA Best Cowboy Poetry Book Award winner] and came across the poem. I loved it instantly and could just hear the melody as I was reading it. I worked out a chorus to go with the verses and then Yvonne and I tweaked the wording and got it the way we liked it… I realized that our song needed another verse to round it out. Another call was put in to Yvonne. She has a great sense of humor and is an incredible wordsmith, so the last verse came quickly and easily for her.”

Yvonne jokes about the last verse, “It just happened that my husband's birthday was the next week and the final verse came almost automatically.” She added the lines to her poem:

Dining Out

When you live out in the country, it's really quite a treat
when, maybe once or twice a year, you might go out to eat.

It happened once last summer after helping put up hay,
my husband asked me if I would like to eat in town that day.

Well, I was quick to answer "Yes," then hurried to prepare;
I bathed and changed to better clothes and fixed my windblown hair.

In nothing flat, our pickup truck was headed down the lane;
a dinner date with hubby was like lighting an old flame!

I'm visualizing candlelight as music softly plays.
Imagining the kindly things that he would probably say!

And as the pickup bounced along, I dreamed of even more;
when soon we pulled into the town up to the old feed store.

I told him I would wait outside while he picked up some feed;
as the guy that usually waits on him don't have a lot of speed.

Besides my shoes were killing me, I thought I'd rest my feet.
He said: "You'd better come on in, if you would like to eat."

He pointed to a banner on the door that I could read,
For the annual pancake supper at the local Feed and Seed!

With headlights shining out, we went back to the ranch,
and we both laughed and talked about our evening of romance.

But next week is his birthday and instead of grilling steaks,
I'm gonna have his buddies out and fix 'em all pancakes!

© 2005, Yvonne Hollenbeck, All rights reserved.

Though the two are often geographically separated when collaborating, Jean comments, “We have a way of bringing out the best of each other’s skills when we're sitting at the table working on a song and we tend to stay focused on the writing better than when we do it by phone and email. With Yvonne's musical background, she naturally writes poetry with great meter which just draws the melody out of me as I read the poem. She is great to work with because she understands that a piece cannot always be sung the way it is recited. So, removing or changing words to allow the melody to flow correctly is not a problem for her. Most of the time these days when we are co-writing she writes with the song— not a poem— in mind.”

Yvonne adds, “My favorite method of collaboration in songwriting is to spend some time with Jean, either at my house or hers, and just relax, visit, and brainstorm.  On several occasions Jean has had an idea or theme for a song and I’ll start working on the words.  Jean often ‘puts her two-cents’ in on the wording, but I also like to do the same with the music and composition of the tune.  Once we have a draft, we start fine-tuning it.”

 Yvonne’s poetic and musical abilities have led her to collaborations with other Western songwriters, including Kip Calahan, Curly Musgrave, Sid Hausman, Juni Fisher, and the late Kyle Evans. Jean’s appreciation of poetry is reflected in her many collaborations with Western poets, including Carole Jarvis, Linda Kirkpatrick, Jay Snider, Debra Coppinger Hill, Pat Richardson, Doris Daley, and others.

“Dining Out” appears on Jean Prescott’s Sweethearts in Carhartts album, a collection of songs that celebrate ranching women of the West. Many of the album’s songs are co-written with top female poets, but a representative of “the other other half” is responsible for the album title. It comes from an included song written by poet, singer, songwriter and Montana ranch hand DW Groethe ("The Carhartt Song"). The song’s chorus begins “My sweetheart's the gal in the Carhartts, she's a one-of-a-kind kind of gal…”

That song and concept inspired a new sort of collaboration for Jean, Yvonne, and Colorado singer and songwriter Liz Masterson. The three have come together as the “Sweethearts and Carhartts,” and take their show to gatherings and events across the West. And yes, “Dining Out” is often on the program.

Jean comments about the song’s success and how their audiences relate to it: “It is a story in song that everyone understands. The lyrics are simple and the story plays out with little surprises which some see coming and others don't. And most rural couples have had a similar experience.  

“Another reason the song has been successful is because it's just plain fun. It's a little piece of the reality of ranch life that gives folks a chuckle, and with the difficulties of ranching often overshadowing the humorous parts, a good laugh is always good medicine. 


“We knew that we had something special in ‘Dining Out.’ But, we didn't know how special and personal the song would be until I started performing it on stage.  When singing it I notice wives nudge their husbands in the ribs and there are always lots of heads nodding and laughter as the story plays out in song. The most memorable time that I sang the song was in Valentine, Nebraska, during Old West Days a couple of years ago. Bessie and Bill were both in the audience that night and Bill took quite a ribbing from Bessie and their friends.”


So maybe women do write a lot about “cowboys, horses, and men.” After all, when it comes to writing, the old advice, “Write what you know,” is probably the best advice. Writing about their Western world has proved to be a winning formula for Jean Prescott and Yvonne Hollenbeck, and they have the awards and enthusiastic audiences—and two great-guy husbands, rancher Glen Hollenbeck and singer/songwriter Gary Prescott, good sports and often the sources of some great material—to back them up.


Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are some of the recent releases with cowboy poetry received at CowboyPoetry.com in recent months:


Mixed Cowboy Poetry and Music Recordings

Celebrating 25 Years: National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a 2-CD set celebrates the 25th anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and captures its history in a must-have collection that features one outstanding song and poem from each of the past 25 years. Available for $25 plus postage from www.westernfolklife.org.

Song of Wyoming from Kansas poet and singer/songwriter Roger Ringer includes 7 songs and three original poems. The CD is available for $18.00 postpaid from Roger Ringer, 1374 NE Goldenrod, Medicine Lodge, KS, 67104 or bunkhouse@havilandtelco.com.

A Cow Camp Christmas from top singer, songwriter, and Texas Poet Laureate Red Steagall is a keeper for  many the holiday seasons to come. It includes seven songs and three poems, including the late Ray Owens’ "When the Parson Went to Church," and S. Omar Barker's "Cowboy's Christmas Prayer." The CD is available for $16.95 plus postage from Red Steagall's mercantile, www.redsteagall.com.

Cowboy Poetry Recordings

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Four (2009) is the latest annual compilation of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry issued by CowboyPoetry.com and the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. There are 27 tracks by today’s top poets and reciters, along with vintage classics including a rare recording of Gail I. Gardner’s recitation of his “The Sierry Petes or Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail.” The CD goes to libraries in the Center’s outreach Rural Library Project as a part of Cowboy Poetry Week activities. The CD is available for $20 postpaid from CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133; www.cowboypoetry.com.


Cowboy Poetry Books and Publications

 A Prairie Prayer is the latest collection of poems from North Dakota rancher and writer Bruce Roseland, whose previous book, The Last Buffalo, received the Wrangler award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City for “outstanding poetry book of 2006.”  The book is available for $12 from the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies at the North Dakota State University in Fargo, where you can order by mail or phone 701-231-8338 and from Barnes & Noble.com.

The Changing of the Guard and Lisa King’s Cowboy Poetry from California rancher and poet Lisa King chapbooks, each with sixteen pages of poetry and photos or sketch art drawings. Each book is $7.00 each postpaid, from Lisa King, anoldcowhand@gmail.com.


   Yvonne Hollenbeck

  From My Window

Read more about Yvonne Hollenbeck in our feature here.



  Jean Prescott
photo: Shelly Kay Studios


Sweetheartscoverjsm1.JPG (7168 bytes)  Sweethearts in Carhartts

Read more about Jean Prescott in our feature here.


This is the final "Before the Song" column.


Winter, 2009


Suggestions and submissions are welcome:  CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133

Strong traditions underlie Western music and cowboy poetry, and works written in the standard styles satisfy a large and varied audience. Both genres are also rich with a sturdy vein of those who "don't run with the herd," writers who tell unique stories, with singular style. They respect the tradition, and move it forward with their own brands of innovation. The listener can rarely anticipate the next line or the next rhyme from these renegades, some of whom are our most successful and admired artists.

Singer, songwriter, and musician Dave Stamey and poet and songwriter Les Buffham epitomize such talents. Their work is stamped, unmistakably, by their fresh, distinct approaches. It's unlikely that any other two collaborators could have created the uncommon, nearly hypnotic, modern classic, "Spin That Pony."

And, they are unlikely collaborators. One appears serious, studious, meticulous, disciplined, and the other overflows with unbridled enthusiasm, humor, and an admirable lack of inhibition. Dave has commented, "I really haven't collaborated with very many folks; Les is about the only poet I've ever worked with. There should be a sign under my picture, 'Doesn't play well with others.'  I find that most poets do not have a clear idea of the difference between a poem and a song, which are different elementally. The poem is meant to be read, and the song of course is meant to be sung, and in essence exists only in space, and not on the page. In the poets' defense, they aren't required to know what a song is; their art is brutally demanding enough in itself, if done right.”

So how did they create one of today’s most memorable Western songs?  Both artists have captivating powers of expression, so why not let them tell their own stories about how the poem came about, and then the song.

Les Buffham relates, "The subject of the song was an old California vaquero who was probably born many years before his time. His name was Mike Hernandez and when I first met him it never registered with me what a unique individual he was.  He was an older, rather large man who lived in an old shack up the road a ways and had no running water...

"My wife and I were newlyweds and staying with her mother near Arroyo Grande, California. Mike rented some pasture on the backside of her place where he ran a few cows. He rode through her property to check on those cows every day and one thing I did notice right away was the quality of his horses and tack. His tack wasn't real fancy with a lot of silver but it was sure enough a touch above the average and his horses were all top notch. I found out later that he was dedicated to those horses and treated them like family."

Many years later, Les was staying with Dave Stamey while recording in a studio in Arroyo Grande, and one day they passed the road where he and his wife had stayed. Les says, "When we passed by, all that was left was the old barn and a story came to mind about old Mike that my wife had told me.

"She was thirteen at the time and she and her two younger sisters were playing in that barn one day. Mike was passing by and they came out to admire his horse and visit with him. They were all horse crazy and were quizzing him extensively about his horse. There was a piece of rope lying on a pile of hay just inside the barn... he rode into the barn, stood high in his stirrups and tied the rope to one of the rafters. Then he sat back down in the saddle holding to the rope or 'reata' as high as he could with one hand, then, with just a gentle nudge of his knee and a light touch of the reins, he spun the horse in place a few turns then reversed and did it again."

A few weeks later, Les sent Dave a poem inspired by the incident, and asked him if he thought he could put it to music.

Dave recalls, "Les brought the Mike Hernandez story to me, and I knew it had great potential. Les has said some kind things about me, but I'll let the cat out of the bag:  I am not an easy guy to collaborate with.  I am very finicky and picky, very opinionated, a sucker for form and structure, and I do not work fast.

"When Les brought me the poem it had as its tag line, 'He'd spin a spade pony.'

"'Les,' I said, 'you can't sing that.'

"'You cain't?  Why cain't ya?'  he asked.  (This is how Les talks, if you haven't met him.  Think of Festus Hagen from 'Gunsmoke' with little round glasses.)

"’There's too many S's, and P's.  It doesn't flow. It sputters and pops. And there are too many syllables here, too many words.  And too many stanzas, Les.  This might work as a poem, or a novel. A big novel. With lots of pages.’"

Les replied, "Lemme sing it for ya.  I got a little melody I been working on."

Dave continues, "I stopped him there.  I have written a couple of things with Les. I have had him sing me things, new and old, over the telephone. He's done this many times. Sometimes he will call at 7 AM Sunday mornings—because he knows this is when he can usually catch me—and sing things to me. All of the melodies he has been 'working on,' are all the same melody.  It's always in the key of D. He is not an instrumentalist, not a musician, yet he sings, perfectly in pitch, I will add, always in the key of D.

"I explained to Les what had to be done to make it a workable song lyric. The syllabic content, the number of lines in each stanza had to be the same, and so on. I don't mean to sound like I told him how to write a song—I certainly didn't. But sometimes Les gets over exuberant with his subject matter. And he is an artist, and one is always careful about taking somebody else's work and—as Les likes to refer to my methods—'gutting it like a fish.'  I just made some suggestions.

"When he sent it back to me, it was damn near perfect.  I had to change very little, and could leave my fillet knife in the drawer."

"The lag time between receiving it and getting the melody done was big. Months. Nothing would come, and then one day, driving back in the pickup from the ranch, it just presented itself to me. The rest is pretty much as Les has told it.  Except that he called the very day I had the melody finished. I had played it through for the first time on the guitar just before he called me.

 "Les Buffham is a gem. Often a gem in the rough, but that's why we all love him.  He is important because he is probably the foremost of the artists out there who is working very hard to tell the little unknown, quiet stories of the people who, just by living, are seeing the West through its transition from old to new. What Les brings to the table in his poems and stories and song lyrics, are almost always true stories."

Les says, "When Dave finished playing it for me I have to confess there were big old horse apple tears running down my face. It was a wonderful moment and I have been so thankful many times that he was able to come through on the song. I just know that no one else on this earth could have done as fine a job on it as he did. He devised an intro that tells a little of the story so the average layman can better understand it. The song has been very good to us."

And to us, the audience, too. The poet and songwriter—both lauded by their peers as multiple Western Music Association award-winners—carry on the tradition and celebrate the transition. They’re looking back, but just as intently looking at today’s West. Dave says it best in his standout song, "It's the West":  "It may not be what you were looking for/ But it's here in what you find/And it's all these things/ It's the West.

Spin That Pony


Old Mike Hernandez was a bueno vaquero

Rode some good horses Californio style

I watched him for hours and he showed me a little

Of the old California he knew for a while


He started young horses in bosal y fiador

Onto the two rein; the old Spanish spade

Brought them along with two hands that were gentle

Some fine reining horses as ever were made


And he’d spin that pony holding onto the riata

He’d hung from a rafter in the willow creek barn

And I’d watch and I’d wonder man, how could he do that

Then he’d change direction and spin him some more

Round and round…


Had them big spurs that came from Chihuahua

Never had ever raked hide nor hair

They had a nice jingle and when he rode by

They made pretty music that danced on the air


Lived in a shack with his wife named Juanita

She cooked on a wood stove tortillas and beans

After we’d eaten he said, “Come I show you

What the word ‘handle’ on a good cow horse means.”




He never did shout, he never did whisper

He had his own lingo that they understood

With the touch of a knee or the lift of a rein

His horses all gave him the best that they could


An old tin-roofed shed out behind his adobe

I helped him to hang up his bridles and gear

That’s where I discovered and old tarp that covered

Three trophy saddles won back many years




Round and round…

And round

Round and round

And round


By Dave Stamey & Les Buffham

© 2000, HorseCamp Music BMI 

Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are some of the recent releases with cowboy poetry received at CowboyPoetry.com in recent months:


Books and Publications

RATTLE, a widely-read poetry journal "celebrates the poetry of the Western range" in its Winter, 2008 issue, with work by 24 cowboy and Western poets. Among those included are J.V. Brummels, Thea Gavin, DW Groethe, Al "Doc" Mehl, Rod Miller, Red Shuttleworth, Jeff Streeby, Larry D. Thomas, and Paul Zarzyski. Rod Miller contributes a far-reaching and provocative essay, "A Brief Introduction to Cowboy Poetry, or, Who's the Guy in the Big Hat and What is He Talking About?” The Winter, 2008 issue is available for $10 from www.rattle.com.

Book of Grass by rancher and educator JV Brummels is a satisfying collection of his unique, vivid poems. Respected poet Paul Zarzyski comments, "…call it 'cowboy poetry' and/or call it 'cosmos poetry'… [it] guides us, moves us, physically, emotionally, spiritually—east, west, north, south, outward and, especially 'within'—through country we’ve seldom, if ever, covered…” Available for $14 postpaid from www.loganhousepress.com, Amazon, and by mail from Logan House, Route 1, Box 154, Winside, NE  68790.

The World According To Baxter Black: Quips, Quirks, & Quotes, by top cowboy poet and humorist Baxter Black is described as "...a collection of mental pictures, slippery alliterations, verbal hors d’oeuvres and a trail of broken consonants that may miss the point, but still lead you on to the next page…” Available for $19.95 plus shipping from www.BaxterBlack.com, Amazon, and other bookstores.


Lost Trails by Nebraska rancher and writer Willard Hollopeter is "108 pages of original poetry, some humorous, some serious and some tear jerkin' sad…” Available for $15.00 plus $2.00 postage from: Willard Hollopeter, HC 68 Box 13 Wood Lake, NE 69221.

Cowboy Poetry Recordings

Reminiscin’ from South Dakota’s Slim McNaught includes eleven tracks of cowboy poetry written and recited by Slim McNaught, with background music by Joel Gothard. Available for $18.50 postpaid from www.SlimsCustomLeather.com, CDBaby, or by mail from Slim McNaught, P.O. Box 274, New Underwood, SD 57761; 605-754-6103.

Cows are People Too from Colorado’s Slim Farnsworth includes 17 tracks of cowboy poetry, including "Directions," "The Big City Cattle Buyer," "The End of the Trail," "Little Green Men at the Bar T Ranch," "Bovine CPR," "The Toast," "Cowboy Math," and more. Available for $18 postpaid from West Elk Cowboy Company, 199 SW 12th Street, Cedaredge, CO 81413, 970-856-3690, www.slimfarnsworthcowboypoetry.com


Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth—Volume #2, from Arizona’s Mike Dunn includes twelve original poems, accompanied by the music of Ken & Lyn Mikell. Available for $18 postpaid from Linda's Letters & Publications, 3045 N. Lemon, Mesa, Arizona, 85215.

Mixed Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Recordings

Beneath a Western Sky from award-winning Alberta poet Doris Daley includes “A Baxter of Blacks,” “'Average Girl,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Firefighters,” “100 Years from Now,” plus many more, including two guest appearances from her songwriting partner Eli Barsi." Available for $20 (Canadian) and $15 (US), plus postage. Order from www.DorisDaley.com, ddaley@telusplanet.net; (403) 933-4434.

Paul Harris, from Oklahoma/Arkansas cowboy, bootmaker, and entertainer Paul Harris includes four poems and seven songs, accompanied by his impressive bluegrass-based picking. Available for $18 postpaid from www.myspace.com/tmf3ph, and by mail from Wood Western Music, HC 63 Box 18C, Saratoga, WY, 82331.

Joe Green, Texas Original Live presents cowboy poetry, stories and songs in 23 tracks from Joe Green, original pieces and standards such as "Don't Fence Me In" and "Miles and Miles of Texas" and a special appearance by Western Swing’s Carolyn Martin on “Vaya con Dios.” Available for $15 from www.TenGallonRecords.com, www.BackFortyBunkhouse.com, and CDBaby.


   Les Buffham  Photo by Jack Hummel

 Read more about Les Buffham here.

   Photo by Jeri Dobrowski;

Find more about Dave Stamey at www.DaveStamey.com.




Fall, 2008


Suggestions and submissions are welcome:  CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133

The tuneful lilts of a fine glass harmonica, bodran, bass, and acoustic guitar haunt Eli Barsi’s recording of “Shades of the West (Rainbows).” There’s a certain Celtic magic in the way the tune, the tempo, the lyrics, and the voice meld. However, the images conjured are unmistakably the West. Under the irresistible spell of the artful words, it’s easy to imagine yourself as “royalty riding the range, with a kingdom of grass at your feet.” 

The words were crafted by a sort of magician, Albertan poet Doris Daley, celebrated for her word wizardry. The song comes from her original poem, “Rainbows.” She tells about the poem’s inspiration, “I wrote this piece one summer when I came back from a seven-day pack trip in the bush. I had been offered a tempting job in Winnipeg but my week in the Rockies only intensified my love affair with Alberta. Yet I wasn’t living ‘out West’—I was living in Calgary and trying to figure out how to make my life more rural and less urban. I wanted to write a love poem to the places and lifestyle I loved the most, knowing that how I felt about the West would never change, no matter where I lived or what job I held. ” 

Daley says she often writes a poem “the way a builder constructs a house.” In this poem, her “scaffolding” was the colors in a rainbow, “the 2x4’s, and the descriptive verses became the walls and roof.” She tells that she had a forthcoming writers’ workshop in mind as she wrote, “I tried a little extra hard on the figures of speech in this poem… I absolutely love to be surprised/shocked/startled by a good figure of speech in cowboy poems by other writers and I didn’t want to let the team down. If there’s one verse in the whole poem I’m proud of, it’s: 

Violet is crocus and lupines. Violet tastes saskatoon sweet.
Violet is royally riding the range with a kingdom of grass at your feet.

The alliteration and the symbolism (associating the color purple with royalty/the kingdom of grass) was the result of several rewrites and much, much serendipity during the writing process.”

Eli Barsi heard Doris Daley recite “Rainbows” at a Canadian cowboy festival and was immediately impressed. She says, “I was taken by the beautiful, vivid picture it painted as she rolled through her delivery… I especially did not want the music to drag down or take away from the descriptive bouncy flow …I went with a three-quarter time Celtic/Western Roots sound that just seemed to lend itself naturally to the lyrics...we used acoustic guitar, bass, glass harmonica and a bodran for percussion, keeping the instrumentation sparse, which really let the song breathe.” Barsi adopted the last line of the poem for the song title and used it as the title of an acclaimed album as well.

Eli Barsi, a Saskatchewan native now living in Branson, has been writing songs since she was child. She says, “ I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve spent writing songs on my own, however,  the opportunities I’ve had throughout the years to work with other writers has been especially rewarding and worthwhile.”

Canada has given the world countless exports, as Doris Daley tells in her poem, “North of the Medicine Line”:  “ I come from the land that gave you zippers/ Gingerale and Alberta clippers./Labatts for the inside of your neck/ Raymond Burr and Alex Trebek….”

Count Eli Barsi and Doris Daley as two more of Canada’s contributions to life in our Western world—right up there with zippers.

Shades of the West

Out where the wind sweeps the prairie
Out where the wild eagles fly
When God sends a rain to scrub the world clean
A rainbow gets hung in the sky

But look and you might see another
And you'll find yourself doubly blessed
It's a rainbow you see with your heartstrings
Painted in shades of the west.

Red is a hot iron flaming
Red is a cow on the prod
Red is a ribbon of paint in the sky
Brushed on by the hand of God

Orange is Indian Summer
With leaves twirling gold somersaults
Orange is whirling in three quarter time
When the band plays the harvest moon waltz

Yellow is slickers on saddles
Yellow is spuds with the roast
Yellows a golden October sun
That butters the prairie like toast

Indigo lights up the heavens
Indigo night shrouds the trees
Indigo flaps on the clothesline in spring
When Levi’s blow stiff in the breeze

Violet is crocus and lupines
Violet tastes saskatoon sweet
Violet is royalty riding the range
With a kingdom of grass at your feet

Blue is the mist in the valley
Blue is a sapphire dome
Blue is the worry and lonesome you feel
When riders are late getting home

Green is the sweet smell of April
Green is the frost in the ground
Green is the jingle and jig in your step
When beef brings a dollar a pound

Out where the wind sweeps the prairie
Out where the wild eagles fly
When God sends a rain to scrub the world clean
A rainbow gets hung in the sky

But look and you might see another
And you'll find yourself doubly blessed
It's a rainbow you see with your heartstrings
Painted in the shades of the west.

©  2005, Eli Barsi/Doris Daley, CopperStar Publishing/Fiddle DD Enterprises, Socan
All rights reserved

Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are some of the recent releases with cowboy poetry received at CowboyPoetry.com in recent months:


Jonah, a collaboration by cowboy poet Andy Nelson and photographer Nikki Mann, “offers a unique look into a small section of desert in western Wyoming where wildlife, ranching, history and industry (gas drilling) all come together.” The impressive large-format hardcover includes historic and geographic information, a "roughneck glossary," and a "cowboy dictionary." Available for $38 postpaid from Andy Nelson, PO Box 1547, Pinedale WY 82941; (307) 367-2842; www.cowpokepoet.com

Sometimes, in the Lucias, is a gem of a collection of poems from Californian Janice Gilbertson, with a foreword by respected poet Virginia Bennett. The softcover book also includes Janice Gilbertson’s photos and drawings. Available for $17 postpaid from Janice Gilbertson, 43345 Canyon Creek Rd., King City, CA 93930;  www.cowboypoetry.com/jgilb.htm

Cowboy Poetry Recordings

The Missouri Matador from poet and writer Jerry Schleicher includes “15 humorous cowboy and country poems that revel in the funny side of rural life.” Available for $15 postpaid from Jerry Schleicher, 8515 Lakeview Drive, Parkville, MO 64152; www.cowboypoetry.com/jerryschleicher.htm

Cowboy Poetry from California poet J.D. Seibert includes 15 new, original poems “accompanied by sound effects and original music." Available for $15 postpaid from J. D. Seibert, 35417 Anthony Rd., Agua Dulce, CA 91390, (661) 904-3958;  www.jdseibertcowboypoet.com

Mixed Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Recordings

Spirits Still Remain from New Mexico cowboy, poet, singer and songwriter Mike Moutoux includes 8 poems and 4 songs. Available for $17 postpaid from Mike Moutoux, PO Box 53114, Pinos Altos, NM 88053; www.enchantingcowboy.com 

Passin' it On from Canadian poet and songwriter Mag Mawhinney includes her recitation of 27 original poems and 4 original songs performed by her award-winning singer and co-writer, Abe Zacharias. Available for $20 postpaid from Mag Mawhinney, 835 Chapman Rd., Cobble Hill, B.C., Canada V0R 1L4;  www.magmawhinney.com


  Doris Daley photo by M. Knowler

Read more about Doris Daley here and visit her web site:  www.DorisDaley.com

  Eli Barsi

Visit Eli Barsi's web site: www.EliBarsi.com



Summer, 2008


Suggestions and submissions are welcome:  CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133

“Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, don't fence me in” are words that some Westerners would rank right up there with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in their own declaration of independence.


Recorded by many—from Roy Rogers to David Byrne, with hundreds in between—“Don’t Fence Me In” was written by the unlikely Cole Porter, who was inspired by a poet’s words. Porter is known for his Broadway and Hollywood musicals and his contributions to the era of the “Great American Songbook.”  


Porter purchased a poem in 1934 for $250, as the basis of a song for a musical (Adios Argentina) that was never produced. Ten years later, “Don’t Fence Me In” was sung by The Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby in the movie Hollywood Canteen, and the following year, by Roy Rogers in the film Don't Fence Me In. The Bing Crosby recording sold over a million copies.

The poem that caught Porter’s attention was “Open Range,” by Montana engineer, writer, poet, and cattleman’s son, Robert "Bob" Fletcher (1885-1972). The poem is included in Fletcher's 1934 book, Corral Dust:

Open Range

Western land was made for those
Who like land wild and free,
For cattle, deer, and buffalo,
For antelope and me;
For those who like a land the way
That it was made by God
Before men thought they could improve
By plowing up the sod.

I want the rivers running clean,
I want a clear, blue sky,
A place to draw a good, deep breath
And live, before I die.
I want the sage, I want the grass,
I want the curlew's call,
And I don't want just half a loaf,—
I've got to have it all.

These cities seem to ear me down
And I can't stand their roar,
They make me have the itching foot
To get back West once more.
I hate the milling herds in town
With all their soot and grime,
I wouldn't trade a western trail
For Broadway any time.

Just give me country big and wide
With benchland, hills and breaks,
With coulees, cactus, buttes and range,
With creeks, and mountain lakes,
Until I cross the Great Divide,
Then, God, forgive each sin
And turn me loose on my cayuse
But please don't fence me in.

Initially, Cole Porter's music publishers did not credit Fletcher as a co-writer. Through legal action, Fletcher's name was eventually added, but not until 1954.

Fletcher knew well of what he wrote, from firsthand knowledge (his father lost all of his cattle along the lower Yellowstone during the harsh winter of 1886-1887), and from the stories he collected from early settlers and others he met while working on engineering projects. Those stories and experiences inspired another notable pursuit.

While working for the Montana Department of Highways, Fletcher came up with the idea for detailed roadside historical markers. A good number of the lively-written markers still stand, including one in Broadus, titled “Big Sky Country,” which displays the lyrics to “Don’t Fence Me In.” The original signs are collected in a 1938 book, Montana's Historical Highway Markers, which has been reprinted several times in expanded editions.

Fletcher wrote other books and pamphlets, including Free Grass to Fences: The Montana Cattle Range Story, published in 1960 and illustrated with Charles M. Russell sketches, L. A. Huffman photos, and additional art and photography.

Many of Fletcher's publications featured the art of his friend, Montana native Irvin "Shorty" Shope (1900-1977), a member of the Cowboy Artists of America. Charlie Russell admired Shope’s work  and gave him this advice about studying art "back East": “Don’t do it. The men, horses, and country you love and want to study are out here, not back there.”

Hollywood made “Don’t Fence Me In” famous, but its message came from “out here,” out West, from a poet who had experienced land that was still “wild and free…the way that it was made by God / before men thought they could improve / by plowing up the sod.”


Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are just some of the recent cowboy poetry releases received at CowboyPoetry.com in recent months:




Somewhere in the West by Texas poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick is the third in a semi-annual chapbook series (Volume 2, No. 2, June 2008). Carrying on the title from her popular collection of stories and poems, the chapbooks’ topics are devoted to “the history of the West and those who played an important role in making it." This volume's feature story, "A Pig’s Tale, Feral Hogs of the Frio Canyon," is accompanied by the poetry of the late Texas Poet Laureate Carlos Ashley and Montana’s DW Groethe. The chapbooks are available for $10.00 postpaid each ($25 for the set of three) from Frontier Books, P.O. Box 128, Leakey, Texas 78873; www.lindakirkpatrick.net

Poems from Dry Creek is John Dofflemyer's tenth collection of poems, all deeply rooted in place, a place where his family has ranched since soon after the California gold rush. A frequent participant at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, he writes in the book's notes, “After forty years of harvesting grass with cattle, what I know most of all are the things I have learned within this watershed, watching for weather harbingers and observing and inspecting intertwined relationships that beg to be personified.” The book is available for $17 postpaid from John Dofflemyer, P.O. Box 44320, Lemon Cove, CA 93244.

Book of Grass is Nebraska rancher and Wayne State University teacher JV Brummels’ fourth collection. The vivid, often close-to-the-bone works are described by poet Paul Zarzyski as “…the gospel of unfenced ground, of the wireless wide-open.” Featured in the past at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Brummels has published a novel and short fiction and edited several anthologies and the literary magazine Nebraska Territory. The book is available for $14 postpaid from Logan House, Route 1, Box 154, Winside, NE  68790; www.loganhousepress.com.

New and Selected Poems by current Texas Poet Laureate Larry D. Thomas is the fourth volume in the Texas A&M University Press Consortium Texas Poets Laureate Series (one of which is past Poet Laureate Red Steagall’s works). The publisher comments, "... Thomas explores the natural world of Texas…the larger-than-life geography, which is the stuff out of which legends are made..." The book is available for $15.95 from the publisher and other book sources; www.larrydthomas.com.

Words Turn Silhouette from fourth-generation Wyoming rancher, writer and poet Echo Klaproth is a compelling, inspirational collection of clear and honest prose and poetry, reflections on her life’s experiences. It is available for $17 postpaid from Sagebrush Echoes, 12233 Hwy 789 #64, Shoshoni, WY 82649; ricknechoR@wyoming.com; 307-857-5811.

Cowboy Poetry Recordings 


Lazy SB Poetry by Bob Schild, Idaho poet, saddle maker, and former rodeo champion, includes "poems of humor, heartache and horse sense, based on a life in ranch, rodeo and roughhouse and polished by half a century in cowboy poetry." The CD is available for $18 postpaid from B Bar B Leather, P.O. Box 478, Blackfoot, Idaho 83221; www.bbarbleather.com.

Robert Service in Person; The Bard of the Yukon includes Robert Service reciting "The Spell of the Yukon," "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," and "The Cremation of Sam McGee." The 1948 recordings were discovered by radio broadcaster Gene Kern, who introduces the recordings on the CD and tells how they came to be. (One of the poems is included on the 2008 edition of The BAR-D Roundup from CowboyPoetry.com). The CD is available from www.reason-for-hope.com for $18 postpaid; see CowboyPoetry.com here for a special $10 offer. 

Bunkhouse Poems and Tall Tales; Campfire Poems and Twilight Tales; Goin' fer the Mail; Holiday Poems; Waco Walmsley, Cowboy Curmudgeon; and What Was it Like Back Then are Nevada poet Hal Swift’s six CDs of themed poetry. Each is available for $10 postpaid from Hal Swift at: 632 #1 Pine Meadows Drive, Sparks, NV 89431. 


Mixed Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Recordings


The Golden Spike Festival compilation CD includes cowboy poetry and Western music by artists who took part in the May, 2008 event. Included are tracks by Don Kennington, Jan Erickson, Bob Christensen, STAMPEDE!, Bob Urry, Blue Sage, Stan Tixier, Richard Olsen, Sam DeLeeuw, Latigo, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Coyotee Moon, Fall River Boys, Robin Arnold, Kortnee Urry, Saddlestrings, Jerry Brooks, Matt Urry, Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail, Smoke Wade, and Phil Kennington. The CD is available for $12 postpaid from Vaneta Stephens, Enable Industries Inc., 2640 Industrial Drive, Ogden, UT 84401.

Passin’ it On from Canadian poet and songwriter Mag Mawhinney is, in her description, “an expression of my western roots and experiences I’ve had along the trail.” Original poetry (27 tracks) is accompanied by four original songs performed by award-winning singer and co-writer, Abe Zacharias. The CD is available for $20 postpaid from Mag Mawhinney, 835 Chapman Rd., Cobble Hill, B.C., Canada V0R 1L4; www.magmawhinney.com.

Old Cowboys Never Die by Steven Spalding is a CD of country gospel music and cowboy poetry of faith and humor. Spalding, a country pastor and family therapist, earned three CMA award nominations in 1979 for Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist, and Single Record of the Year. The CD is available for $17 postpaid from Circle S Ministry, 25569 Highway 32, Lebanon, MO 65536; www.circlesministries.org.

The Canyons of My Heart from Arizona poet, songwriter, and singer Sally Harper Bates includes 14 new cowboy songs, 3 gospel songs, and 8 poems. She comments, "Most of the songs are family history or stories about friends and personal incidents. Canyons of My Heart seems to hold what has been hidden in the canyons of my heart until it found its way into this album." The CD is available for $18.85 postpaid from Sally Bates, P.O. Box 2814, Chino Valley AZ 86323.

The Storyteller from Australian poet and award-winning balladeer Merv Webster includes ballads, cowboy poetry and bush verse. He comments on this sixth album, “This collection of poems and songs reflect the laughter and tears of life today.” It is available for $25 (AUS) postpaid from Merv Webster; www.users.tpg.com.au/thegrey.


 Read more about Robert Fletcher here.


Spring, 2008


Suggestions and submissions are welcome:  CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133

To borrow a phrase: "'Covering' is the sincerest form of flattery." Les Buffham and Michael Fleming have certainly been flattered by the number of people who have covered their song, "Below the Kinney Rim," including New West, Craig Chambers, Belinda Gail, Butch Falk, George Dickey, Trails and Rails, STAMPEDE!, and others. "Below the Kinney Rim" received the Western Music Association's 1997 "Song of the Year" award and the Academy of Western Artists’ 1998 “Song of the Year” award.

Les Buffham has received numerous other awards and tributes, and is the current WMA Male Poet of the Year. That poetic talent has led him to many collaborations with other top songwriters and singers. His recent album, Writes & Co-Writes, showcases the results with selections such as "Spin That Pony" (Dave Stamey), "Queen of Diamonds" (Jean Prescott), "Eyes of a Windmill Man" (Kip Calahan), "Woman of the Wind" (the late Paul Hendel), "Amigo" (Belinda Gail), and others.


Michael Fleming, one of today's most respected songwriters, is known for his incisive, innovative compositions. He's a popular performer, most recently associated with the group, New West, and just back from solo performances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Mike's songwriting has earned him awards from the Western Music Association and the Academy of Western Artists. He also heads the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.


Conversations with Les and Mike uncovered some of the unique ingredients that account for their success in collaborating in general, and for the popularity of "Below the Kinney Rim" in particular. Since both are articulate and engaging storytellers, it's a pleasure to let them tell their own stories.


Les describes what inspired the piece: "'Below the Kinney Rim' was conceived in 1993 when I was traveling to Montana to see my daughter and my first grandchild. I had just left the old ranch in Colorado where I grew up. I'd stopped for a visit with my aunt and uncle, who were running the ranch at that time.


"I was passing through Wyoming, headed north on Highway 430, about ten miles past the Colorado line, when I noticed a high mesa far to the east. Immediately, I knew it was the Kinney Rim, and it began to bring back memories. One in particular was from when I was about five, on a trip to Wyoming with my parents and Uncle Kirk. 


"My uncle was getting up in years and had a severe hearing problem and he spoke rather loudly at times. He had been gazing intently out the passenger window when he suddenly raised himself up over the front seat, pointed to the east and declared to my folks, 'There's the Kinney Rim!'  Well, I went to lookin' for it, but when Mom and Dad didn't pay him any attention, he reared up over the seat and this time he really bellered it out, 'THERE'S THE KINNEY RIM!'  I don't know why but that sure struck me funny and I had a laughin' fit.


"That's what I was remembering that day some fifty years later. Then I began to wonder what my uncle, who had been quite a wild horse runner in his day, would think if he could see that range, now devoid of the wild horses it had held some years before. My Dad told me stories about how Kirk would strike out with salt and pepper and rice and beans and get on the trail of those wild ones and stay with them for days. He would rope a few, hobble them, or tie them to a tree if there was one available. After he had captured what he figured he could handle, he would back track and pick them up.

"I let those words, 'the Kinney Rim,' roll off of my tongue a few times. I liked the ring of them and began to put the lyrics together. The next spring, I showed them to Mike Fleming. He grabbed on to them and the rest is history."


Mike Fleming met Les at a California music festival in the early 1990s. Mike tells, "At that point I hadn't been collaborating with anyone, but I immediately liked his poetry and afterward made a point of speaking with him. We decided to get together and exchange ideas. It proved to be a great writing partnership.”


Mike has collaborated with others, but tends to be a solitary writer. He says, "I tend to lock myself in an emotional room and write alone, but Les is one person I feel comfortable working with. In later collaborations, I would write melodies and partial lyrics and Les would come in and finish the ideas, many times put the winning touch to the lyrics. In retrospect, I think we did some good work together and I'm proud of it.


"Les is humble enough to allow the songwriter to change or edit his words. That's not an easy thing to do. He also has a gift for storytelling that is hard to match. He knows poetic structure. He writes in a conversational style that lends well to songs. I've always felt that song lyrics should be conversational. You should be able to speak them and have them flow naturally.

"Another talent Les has is something I've always tried to achieve, and that's economy of words. With songwriting, it's important to leave a little room for the listener to fill in the blanks. You don't necessarily have to give every detail. You can paint in broad strokes and let the music and the listener's imagination complete the story."


"Below the Kinney Rim" has a chicken-and-egg aspect. Which came first, the poem or the song?  Mike Fleming says that it was a complete poem when Les first brought it to him. He comments,  "There were very few actual changes. When I write melodies I tend to follow a musical pattern, stretch it, and see how it comes out on the other end. With 'Below the Kinney Rim,' I just flipped some phrases to fit the melody I was creating, especially in the last two lines of the chorus, which took it out of rhyme and meter, but worked. Sometimes you get lucky."


Les says that he conceived the words as a song, and after Mike set it to music he began to think of it also as a piece to be performed as a poem. He has recorded it in that form on his album of the same name, Below the Kinney Rim (produced by Dave Stamey). Each singer who has covered the song has his own interpretation, and the lyrics have the expected, slight variations across renditions.


Below is the version that Les Buffham performs as a poem. The captivating story, the poem's careful crafting, and the economy of words confirm Michael Fleming's comments about Les Buffham's talents, and the powerful poem makes clear the reasons for the popularity of the award-winning, often-covered piece.



Below the Kinney Rim

Hey Sam, do you remember a long time ago
when we rode together where the Wyomin' winds blow
set high on a ridge top, there just you and me
and watched the wild horses that were runnin' free

When it was jerky and coffee about half alkali
and a biscuit or two that we downed on the fly
Oh that old mustang fever sure ran in our veins
and it seemed liked the devil was a-holdin' the reins

Now I'm chasin' old memories o'er trails that's grown dim
through the cedars and
piñons below that old Kinney Rim
when it was just you and me and them mustangs
there in the blue shadows below that old Kinney Rim.

We'd rope them old broomies and hobble them fast
and then back on the trail until the very last
of our daylight had faded and then bed on the ground
get up before daybreak, and go one more round

Now Sam them old ponies are just about gone
there's a few left like us that are still holdin' on
One of these days well they'll catch the last one
I reckon by then we'll have finished our run.

And it'll just be those memories and trails grown dim
through the cedars and
piñons below that old Kinney Rim
where it was just you and me and them mustangs
there in the blue shadows below that old Kinney Rim

© 1993, Les Buffham, All rights reserved 




Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are just some of the recent cowboy poetry releases received at CowboyPoetry.com in recent months:


The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three  is the latest annual compilation of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry issued by CowboyPoetry.com and the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. There are 26 tracks by today’s top poets and reciters, along with vintage classics by the late Buck Ramsey and by Robert Service (a rare 1948 recording of his “The Cremation of Sam McGee”). The CD goes to libraries in the Center’s outreach Rural Library Project as a part of Cowboy Poetry Week activities. The CD is available for $20 postpaid from CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133; www.cowboypoetry.com.

Rimrock—Where Memories Rhyme is Utah poet and rancher Paul Kern’s “hopelessly romantic cowboy poetry.” The serious and humorous autobiographical poems are arranged starting with his earliest memories on horseback, and accompanied by music performed by Shaun Harris Studios, with Crawford Gates’ arrangement of "As Evening Sets on the Yellowstone" sung by Cliff Cole. The CD is available for $12 plus postage; www.paulkern.com.

Blazin’ Bloats & Cows on FIRE! is a double-CD set from America's best-known cowboy poet, Baxter Black. Filled with cowboy poetry and tall talessome taken from his book by the same name and some never-before-recorded Baxter Black classicsthe publisher notes, “The title should give you a clue that it's not about the lonesome pine, the Red River Valley or the cattle call, unless they are on fire, flooded or stampeding like lemmings!” The CD is available for $24.95 plus postage; www.baxterblack.com.


Poems from the Porch Swing from Texas poet Bob Upchurch is described as "country poetry with a spiritual twist."  Bits of wisdom, "more truth than poetry," are sprinkled between the ten original poems. The CD, recorded and produced by Waynetta Ausmus, is available for $15 postpaid from Bob Upchurch, 2288 County Road 2998, Windom, Texas 75492; www.boisdarcacres.com.



Somewhere in the West by Texas poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick is the second in a semi-annual chapbook series (Volume 2, No. 1, January 2008). Carrying on the title from her award-winning collection of stories and poems, the chapbooks’ topics “ are devoted to the history of the West and those who played an important role in making it," This volume includes a feature story, "The Mysterious Yellow Rose of Texas," which explores the history of the famous song and its place in Texas history, with engravings and a bibliography. The chapbook is available for $7.00 postpaid each from Linda Kirkpatrick at Frontier Books, P.O. Box 128, Leakey, Texas 78873; www.lindakirkpatrick.net

My Father’s Horses by Montana ranch hand, poet, songwriter, and singer DW Groethe is a chapbook collection of 30 recent poems A frequent participant at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, he has performed his poetry and songs at events across the West, and at the Library of Congress and Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. His previous book, West River Waltz, received the Will Rogers Medallion Award. The chapbook is available for $15 postpaid from D. W. Groethe, PO Box 144, Bainville, MT 59212; 406/769-2312; www.cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm.

Tracks That Won’t Blow Out, the collected poetry of the late, respected poet Ray Owens (1934-2007) also includes illustrations and photographs. Poets Rolf Flake, Red Steagall, and Joel Nelson add their endorsements for their friend Ray Owens' work. The book is available for $25 plus postage by mail from Verna Owens, 1305 E. Castleberry Road, Artesia, NM 88210; or phone 575-746-3694; or on line from www.cowboyminer.com.


   Les Buffham  Photo by Jack Hummel

 Read more about Les Buffham here.

  Michael Fleming  Photo by Jeri Dobrowski;

 Read more about Michael Fleming here.





Winter, 2008


Suggestions and submissions are welcome:  CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133

It’s no surprise that one of the best recent anthems to cowboy life, “Here’s Looking at You,” comes from a man who has spent most of his life in the saddle.  How it came to be recorded did involve a few surprises.

A stirring paean to the trail-driving cowboy, “Here’s Looking at You,” recorded by Don Edwards on his Saddle Songs II, Last of the Troubadours, was written by top poet and respected horseman Joel Nelson. With that rare, timeless quality of taking the listener back in time while staying firmly rooted in the present, the song only enhances the sweep of the cowboy heritage. Like Michael Burton’s “The Night Rider’s Lament,” it resonates with so many of today’s cowboys’ shared sense of having been born more than a hundred years too late, and leaves no question about what inspires a modern cowboy to follow the challenging, iconoclastic trail.

While “Here’s Looking at You” came from the pen of an extraordinary poet,  it emerged as a song, not a poem. No one was more surprised than Don Edwards, who tells of his friendly skepticism when Joel Nelson told him he had written a song that he wanted Don to hear. Don admits he was thinking “A song? Joel’s a poet,” and before he knew it, Joel had another surprise:  he pulled out his guitar. Don says, “I’ve known Joel for twenty-five years, and I didn’t know he played the guitar.” His expectations weren’t high. He went from skeptic to believer quickly.

What followed was what Don describes as a song of “marvelous purity, akin to the works of Don Hedgpeth, JB Allen, Badger Clark, Bruce Kiskaddon,” writers able to make words with “a hundred years wrapped into now.”  Don says that he couldn’t get the song out of his mind, and he soon was in touch with Joel to talk about working with the song, saying that he didn’t want to do anything to take away from the near-perfect words.  Don's skillful arrangement makes it impossible to imagine any other tune working with the inspired lyrics.

Known for his care in all of his work--with horses as well as words--Joel Nelson had honed the lyrics before Don heard them.  His original title was “The Prototypes,” and the handwritten first draft, written on a manila envelope, gives a telling view into how much of his own life and experiences are a part of the song. The first line in the recorded song is “You rode the Goodnight-Loving.” On the original draft, it is written first as, “I rode the …” and then penciled in as “We rode the..”  But, as the lyrics go on, even in the first draft, fewer of them are changed. You can see that once the idea took hold, the story flowed. And it flows, likewise, from the voice and guitar of Don Edwards, gripping listeners and leaving them with the lasting echoes of its rich message, strong and true.

Joel says that he began working on the song right after the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada in 2001. He said that “As often happens, I leave Elko full of inspiration. It is the catalyst that makes inspiration come into fruition.”  He says that he wanted to pay tribute to and to recognize writers such as Charlie Siringo, Andy Adams, “Teddy Blue” Abbott, and Larry McMurtry.

The last lines of the song were inspired by the passage by T. K. Whipple that introduces Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, “All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”

The song reflects Joel Nelson’s working life, expressing his spirit and that of the many others who’ve taken their individual stand as cowboys and ranchers, choosing a life that might be hard to explain to many in today’s world, but never to those who live it:

It was a poor way to make a living
And you threatened to quit—but then
When the herd bedded down at the shank of evenin’
You knew you’d do it over ag’in
    Through the thick and the thin
    You’d do it ag’in

To all those keeping that life alive and sharing their stories in poetry and music, here’s looking at you.

Here’s Looking at You

You rode the Goodnight-Loving
Went up the Chisholm too
You trailed three thousand to Kansas City
And you wintered with Teddy Blue
     Here’s looking at you
     Here’s looking at you

You rode with Ranger Goodnight
You helped him tame the land
You learned the Llano Estacado
Just as well as the back of your hand
     When you rode for the brand
     You rode for the brand

You’ve been three times to Sedalia
With a cook and six-man crew
You came dang near losing the herd and your hair
To a passel of renegade Sioux
     But you saw it through
     You saw it through

And you courted the dancehall beauties
‘Till they picked your pockets clean
If it happened once you let it happen twice
Up in Dodge and Abilene
     And places between
     Every place in between

From a heat wave in Palo Pinto
To the frostbite on Raton Pass
You looseherded cattle through a Southwestern drought
In the quest for water and grass
     Alack and alas
     Huntin’ water and grass

Then you trailed home the fittest survivors
When the word came of late summer rain
And you reveled in respite for weary riders
And three pounds a day in gain
     The respite of rain
     And three pounds of gain

You drove ‘em up to Montana
Over rivers swollen outta the bank
You started out helping the wrangler’s helper
But you rise right up through the rank
     Through the dark and the dank
     You rose through the rank

It was a poor way to make a living
And you  threatened to quit—but then
When the herd bedded down at the shank of evenin’
You knew you’d do it over ag’in
    Through the thick and the thin
    You’d do it ag’in

Now a half-dozen generations
Have mourned your passin’ on
But you were just startin’ what still isn’t over
And your spirit saddles up in the dawn
     For you are not gone
    No you are not gone

We see you in the Steeldust
In the spark flyin' offfa the show
Maybe we are here livin' what you never dreamed of
But you lived what we never know
     Here's looking at you
     Here's looking at you

     Here's looking at you—Cowboy
    Here's looking at you.


©  Copyright 2001, Joel Nelson, Night Horse Songs, BMI, All Rights Reserved

Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are just some of the recent cowboy poetry releases received at CowboyPoetry.com in recent months:


Pieces of the Past, from South Dakota's Yvonne HollenbeckWMA Top Female Poet for 2006 and 2007--pays tribute to the lives of pioneer women. Songs from award-winning Texas singer and songwriter Jean Prescott are interwoven with the poetry, including "How Far is Lonesome" (from a poem by Yvonne Hollenbeck) which won them the 2006 WMA Best Collaboration of Poet and Musician award.  The CD is available for $18.50 postpaid from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291st Street, Clearfield, South Dakota 57580, 605/557-3559; www.YvonneHollenbeck.com.

Pat Richardson Strikes Again with Duckin' the Law and Many More is the latest from Pat Richardson, the wildly popular “bad bay of cowboy poetry,” a collection of 16 previously unrecorded original poems (including two by his brother, Jess Howard, and one of the brothers’ collaborations). The CD is available for $18 postpaid from Pat Richardson; 562 Breeze Avenue; Merced, California 95348; 209/722-4612; www.PatRichardson.com.

Ranchin’ Rhymes is Minnesota rancher Diane Tribitt’s second CD, with 16 tracks (14 originals as well as two recited classic poems by James Whilt) as well as one song track as an introduction to a cowboy friend( Paul Larson) from South Dakota performing “The One I Never Could Ride” by R. W. Hampton. The CD is available for $18 postpaid from Diane Tribitt, 38034 193rd Street, Hillman, MN  56338, 320-277-3389; www.DianeTribitt.com.

Five Silver Dollars is Californian Jim Cardwell’s "music, poetry, and opinion." The CD, his second, includes six songs (five original) and five original poems. The CD is available for $14 postpaid from Froggie Lane Productions, PO Box 5282, Oroville, CA 95966; onecowboypoet@dcsi.net.

Potbellied Pete & Luley Belle from Colorado poet Nona Kelley Carver is a series of 17 poems about the bunk house cook and the local school marm, which was originally printed as a serial story in the Plateau Valley Times. When the Cowboys Came for Christmas, her inspirational Christmas CD has 17 poems of faith.  Each CD is available for $16 postpaid from Carver Country Poetry, P.O. Box 115, Mesa, CO 81643.


Rancher: Photographs of the American West is a collection of striking photographs by Carl Corey, accompanied by the poetry of South Dakota rancher Robert Dennis, with an introduction by respected writer, editor, poet, and ranchwoman Linda Hasselstrom. View some of the book's images at www.vpphotogallery.com/corey_rancher.htm and find order information at the publisher's web site, www.bunkerhillpublishing.com.

Poems Across the Big Sky: An Anthology of Montana Poets, edited by Lowell Jaeger, includes cowboy poets Paul Zarzyski, Wallace McRae, Gwen Petersen, and Henry Real Bird.  The diverse collection is available for $16 from Flathead Community College Bookstore, 777 Grandview Drive Kalispell, Montana 59901; www.fvccbookstore.com.

Twisted Vignettes: Poems and Photographs by Montana poet, songwriter, and photographer John Reedy collects his work in a companion volume to his CD by the same name, which showcases his fresh Americana music, with  original songs and renditions of songs by Merle Haggard, Tom Russell and Paul Zarzyski and others. The book is available for $13.00 postpaid (and a Limited Edition Set of the CD and book is available for $25.00 postpaid) from www.TwistedCowboy.com.

Old Trees ‘n Tumbleweeds, Texas poet Rod Nichols’ third book of poetry, includes both thoughtful and humorous poems about cowboys and cowboy life, with a foreword  by South Dakota broadcaster Jim Thompson. The book is available for $16.95 postpaid from www.geocities.com/rodnichols.geo/cover.html or from Rod Nichols, P.O. Box 215, 6140 Hwy. 6, Missouri City, TX 77459.



   Don Edwards  Photo by Donald Kallaus

 Read more about Don Edwards here.

  Joel Nelson  Photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

 Read more about Joel Nelson here.


Fall, 2007


It's hot.


In their sizzling electric performances of "El Fuego," Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail ignite the passion of poet Virginia Bennett's poetry. The result of this collaboration goes beyond words, music, and instruments. Listeners experience something intense, and "other-worldly," as they are held under the spell of stunningly powerful and skillful instrumentals and forcefully delivered lyrics. Steamy words are set afire. 


A great collaboration between a poet and a songwriter transcends "art" and "craft," and the best go beyond a good combination of story and talent. In the case of "El Fuego," the exceptional result was blessed by the writers' special bonds of friendship and respect for each other's work. And, there was another ingredient: an inexplicable magic.


Poet Virginia Bennett and songwriter Curly Musgrave reveal some of the magic and their friendship as they comment on their collaboration that resulted in the heralded song, which is nominated by the Western Music Association in 2007 as the Best Collaboration Between a Poet and Musician.


Noted writer and horsewoman Virginia Bennett tells how she wrote the poem some years ago while working on a ranch in Twisp, Washington. She explains, "I listened to a recording of passionate music from a Mexican guitar. The music seemed to pulse through my pen as I wrote. Easily recognizable in the back of my mind somewhere was my childhood dream horse, "Fury"...It didn't take much to imagine a mare who would be his equal. Not a mare who would bend to his will, but one who also demanded that her own desires 'would not be denied.'"

She adds, "I always wanted a true musician to try and find a song within these lyrics. I played and sang this song for years as something slow, sexy, with simple music, 3/4 time and two chords. Possibly seven years after I wrote 'El Fuego,' I thought of my friend Curly Musgrave and his ability to create intellectual music, his grace with the Spanish language, and his partnership with Belinda Gail. For if anyone is perfect to play and sing the part of the palomino mare, 'La Luz de Oro,' it is Belinda."


Here's Virginia Bennett's original poem:




Each night he comes to the ridgetop
     Overlooking the rancho below.
Sparks fly from his hooves, dark and flashing,
     And lightning reflects in the blaze of his coat.


The hot wind carries his summons
     To the mare of the wife of the rancho's patron.
With wild eyes, she paces the fenceline
     As her answers ring off that rocky caňon.


He's on fire, and the Mexican sunset
     Gleams in the sweat of his chestnut hide.
Ann they call him El Fuego de Sonora.
     For they know his desires will not be denied.


His sire escaped Pancho Villa
     And his dam once served in Zapata's band.
He was born on el Cinco de Mayo
     Never once has he known man's cruel, iron brand.


And the mare of the wealthy Seňora
     Has won all the races down Fiesta's lanes
Warhorses of the conquistadores,
     Their blood courses through her hot, royal veins.


She's on fire, and the Mexican sunrise
     Gleams in the sweat of her golden hide
And they call her La Luz de Oro
     For they know her desires will not be denied.


On the eve of the summer solstice
     El Fuego calls to that palomino mare.
And she flies to obey his every command
      No corral on earth could hold her down there.


Now, on cool nights, out on the desert,
     He races the wind with the mare at his side.
With blood-soaked flanks, their teeth slashing,
     They're out there tonight for the angels to ride.


They're on fire, and the Mexican sunset
     Gleams in the sweat of his chestnut hide.
And they call him El Fuego de Sonora
     For they know his desires will not be denied.


 © Virginia Bennett, All rights reserved


Curly Musgrave shares his experience in working with Virginia Bennett's words and comments on the resulting song being "... a wonderful model of what poet/musician/performer collaborations are capable of.”


He comments, “ There are certainly other models around, but I think 'El Fuego' is as good as any.  An intriguing notion for me to entertain is that neither of us, individually, could have produced the sum total of what the song is. Like Virginia said, she'd played it with her melody for a few years...I've written some good songs with good melodies and performed them...Belinda and I have had some dynamic songs to sing and been recognized for that...


"I had a sense of the potential when Virginia sent me the poem but wasn't sure if I was the one to pull it off.  I put something together at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko for her to hear as a starting point (with me singing as El Fuego) and she liked it, but even as I read the poem, Belinda came to mind as an embodiment of the mare and I knew we could do something impressive with it, but again wasn't sure what the evolution would look like.  With a minor tweak or two, the poem was set up as the personification of El Fuego and La Luz De Oro and it just fell into place. 


"Both Belinda and I busted our butts with our respective guitar parts in live performance, but putting that 'sweat' into it, brings the musical passion the horses inspire. I think Virginia might have been a bit concerned that the personification might put it 'over the top' for some listeners, but when she heard it, I think those concerns disappeared and it evolved into what it is, a phenomenally passionate and articulate piece."


In an essay, "Fine Lines," at CowboyPoetry.com, respected poet and writer Rod Miller comments that the poem "...demonstrates its writer’s expertise with sensuousness...Virginia Bennett forces you to fan yourself to ward off the heat, squint in the glare of the searing light, even wrinkle your nose at the stench of sizzling sulphur..."   


Curly comments, "If it were just my own composition and performance, I certainly wouldn't put the words, 'Western masterpiece' to it, but as the collaboration it has become—in my view as a life-long songwriter—it lays down about as well as a song can, from its inspired poem through the music and the performance. I'm so delighted and proud to be connected to it and honored that Virginia would entrust me with her wonderful poem. She certainly deserves to be recognized for her work with it as well as for the body of work she has contributed to the genre. I think history will see it, and her, as very significant."

An American Cowboy magazine CD review by Mark Bedor pronounced “El Fuego” a "standout." "El Fuego" is on Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail's  Red Rock Moon  CD ($17 postpaid from Curly J. Productions, PO Box 512, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352).  "El Fuego" is in Virginia Bennett's most recent poetry collection, In the Company of Horses ($18.95 postpaid from Virginia Bennett, PO Box 268, Goldendale, WA 98620). 


Read more about Virginia Bennett and Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail at CowboyPoetry.com (see links below). 



Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are some of the recent cowboy poetry releases received at CowboyPoetry.com in past months:


To Be a Top Hand from Georgie Sicking, cowboy (a term she prefers), rancher, poet, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee, and Western treasure, includes fifteen of her original poems, and Gail I. Gardner's classic, "Moonshine Steer." Now 86, Georgie Sicking was invited to the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and returns there in 2008, having made many appearances in between. The CD, produced and recorded by Andy Nelson, is available for $18 postpaid from Georgie Sicking, PO Box 11, Kaycee, WY 82639.


Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day from poet, traditional reciter, and storyteller Ross Knox'  includes classics and his original poetry, an impressive showcase of the best of his enormous repertoire. Cowboy, farrier, and mule packer Ross Knox was an invited performer to the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985, has been featured over twenty times since, and returns there in 2008. The CD is available from Ross Knox, 3693 South Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, AZ 85730 520-260-9121.


Montana Legacy by Sandy Seaton  includes 13 original poems, some accompanied by her vocals. She has cowboyed, driven four-up stagecoaches in Yellowstone, and now she and her husband run a wilderness and ranch outfitting business and raise and train hound dogs, horses, and mules.  Sandy has been an invited to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering many times and will return in 2008. The CD is available for $17 postpaid from: Sandy Seaton, P.O. Box 117, Emigrant, MT 59027; (406) 222-7455;  www.blackmountainoutfitters.com 


Spreadin’ Sunshine from popular Utah poet Brenda “Sam” De Leeuw includes 16 original poems. The CD's photography is by Lori Faith Merritt. Sam is nominated in 2007 as Best Female Poet by the Western Music Association. The CD is available for $18 postpaid from Sam DeLeeuw, 510 West 500 South, Manti, Utah 84642; 435-835-8662. 

A Country Kid Looks Back by Monty Moncrief Teel includes his recitation of poetry co-written by James Terry. An additional CD by the same name includes the soundtrack from the poetry CD, which includes top musicians Dave Alexander, Ginny Mac, Devon Dawson, and others. Each CD is available for $20 postpaid from Monty Moncrief Teel, PO Box 992, Euless, TX 76039.



Somewhere in the West, by Texas poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick is the first in a series of semi-annual chapbooks "dedicated to the history of the West." Each includes a feature story accompanied by a bibliography and vintage photos; original and classic poetry, and a list of rare, old, and out-of-print books and more available from her Frontier Book Store. Linda Kirkpatrick makes her first invited appearance at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2008. The chapbook is available for $7.00 postpaid from Linda Kirkpatrick at Frontier Books, P.O. Box 128, Leakey, Texas 78873. 

There…Just Over the Ridge from poet Byrd Woodward includes 18 original poems, most inspired by the Idaho cow ranch where she grew up, and from the stories of her parents and their pioneering forebears. The chapbook is available for $8.00 postpaid from Byrd Woodward, 17412 Bob White Rd., Mayer, AZ 86333.

Cowboy Dust from Jack Griner includes poetry that is "...a city boy's rendition with a cowboy's point of view" about his experiences as a young man doing farm and ranch work in Iowa and South Dakota. The book is available for $17.99 plus postage from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Incomplete Works of Woody Woodruff, World-Wide Unknown Poet from Woody Woodruff includes over 20 original poems, and a poem from the family's next generation of writers, his granddaughter Alexia Woodruff.  In 2005, Woody was named Cowboy Poet of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. The book is available for $14.95 postpaid from Woody Woodruff, 983 Pike Lane, Centerville, TN 37033.


An abbreviated version of the above article appeared previously in the Backforty Bunkhouse newsletter.


  Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail  Photo by Lori Faith Merritt, photography by Faith

Read more about Curly Musgrave here.

Read more about Belinda Gail here


  Virginia Bennett

vbcompbk.jpg (12582 bytes)

Read more about Virginia Bennett here.


Summer, 2007



There’s hardly a superlative that hasn’t been used to describe singer, songwriter, and the leading force of Wylie & the Wild West, Wylie Gustafson: “best,” “finest,” “coolest.” His songs start with tradition and span to “way out there” Western tunes, from ballads to flat out rock and roll. His famous “Yahoooooooo...” yodel is recognized worldwide.

Wylie’s acclaimed for his cut-loose, wildly energetic shows in which he seems to defy the laws of human physics. When he performs, he uses all the space on stage and above it, propelled by those legs that seem long enough and springy enough to catapult him into outer space.

But Wylie’s far beyond “all show.” A deeply serious, studious foundation informs his talent, and he keeps an unwavering faithfulness to his ranching heritage. Behind the dazzle is a man who cares deeply about every word and every note that he writes and sings.

Poets’ words are one of his songwriting inspiration sources. As might be anticipated, the iconoclastic songwriter often chooses the unexpected. He has drawn on the classics by writers such as Badger Clark, born 1883 (“To Her”) and Will Ogilvie, born 1869 (“Hooves of the Horses”), and on the works of the top contemporary poets, including Joel Nelson (“Equus Caballus”) and Paul Zarzyski (“Rodeo to the Bone,” “Saddle Broncs and Sagebrush,” and others in conjunction with songwriters Ian Tyson and Tom Russell).

Wylie comments, “I look for poems that sing themselves. ‘Hooves of the Horses’ is a good example of that. I also look for a strong message given in a unique way. It seems to me the language of America in the late 1800s and early 1900s was at its peak; just read some of the letters from the Civil War that were written by common civilians and you'll know what I mean. Also, the quality of poetry from that era has been rarely matched. That is why I often look backward for lyrics for songs.”

His choice of Badger Clark’s little known, complex and quirky “To Her” resulted in an extraordinary romantic song, included on Wylie & the Wild West’s Paradise album. Hardly a word is changed from Clark’s poem:

To Her

Cut loose a hundred rivers,
Roaring across my trail,
Swift as the lightning quivers,
Loud as a mountain gale.
I build me a boat of slivers;
I weave me a sail of fur,
And ducks may founder and die
But I
Cross that river to her!

Bunch the deserts together,
Hang three suns in the vault;
Scorch the lizards to leather,
Strangle the springs with salt.
I fly with a buzzard feather,
I dig me wells with a spur,
And snakes may famish and fry
But I
Cross that desert to her!

Murder my sleep with revel;
Make me ride through the bogs
Knee to knee with the devil,
Just ahead of the dogs.
I harrow the Bad Lands level,
I teach the tiger to purr,
For saints may wallow and lie
But I
Go clean-hearted to her!

From Sun and Saddle Leather, 1915

Wylie tells, “What drew me to this poem of Badger’s was his theme of love where he described his feelings in such a cowboy kind of way. Badger was always so in touch with his natural surroundings. It is apparent to me that he appreciated and noticed all the little things in nature which are so easy to overlook if you aren't paying attention.”

A number of Badger Clark’s works have been set to music. Most notably, he wrote the words to “A Border Affair (Spanish is a Loving Tongue)”—Michael Martin Murphey’s rendition could melt the coldest heart. Other of Clark’s poems that are often sung include “The Bunkhouse Orchestra” and “Roundup Lullaby.” Clark’s “A Bad Half Hour,” recited by Waddie Mitchell as Don Edwards sings “Annie Laurie,” is a frequently-requested duet.

Innovative songwriters and fine poets old and new have much to offer Western music. In acknowledging the continuation of the traditional collaboration, Wylie adds, “Paul Zarzyski and Joel Nelson are two modern day poets that have, in my mind, reached the same quality of writing of the poets of the past. They have both been given a gift and have used it well. They have also taken the cowboy poetry and gracefully presented it to modern ears without betraying the art form or spirit of the cowboy.”

Learn more about Wylie Gustafson and Wylie & the Wild West at www.wyliewebsite.com. See more about Badger Clark here at CowboyPoetry.com.



Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are just some of the recent cowboy poetry releases received at CowboyPoetry.com in past months:


Thanks for the Poems; a Commemorative Collection for the 20th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, edited by Sally Harper Bates, Nika Nordbrock, and Mary Abbott, contains nearly 100 poems by a stand-out list of poets who have appeared at the respected gathering. Available for $20 postpaid from the Sharlot Hall Museum, 415 West Gurley Street, Prescott, Arizona 86301928-445-3122, www.sharlot.org.

JB—the circle is an impressive volume of poetry by the late, notable J. B. Allen with 65 poems and heartfelt commentary from his friends Joel Nelson, Chuck Milner, Randy Rieman, Red Steagall, Gail Steiger, Tom Sharpe, Waddie Mitchell, Duward Campbell, and others. Throughout, noted artist Duward Campbell's striking paintings and drawings complement the well designed book. Available for $25 postpaid from Duward Campbell, 2515 Second St, Lubbock, TX 79415.

Tales from Across the Fence by Sue Jones includes 26 poems, illustrated with artwork by Sue Jones and Grace Cooper. Sue Jones’ poems are drawn from the day work she and her husband do on cattle ranches on the west side of New Mexico. Available for $13.95 postpaid from: Sue Jones, P O Box 115, Glenwood, NM 88039.

Western Images by Washington state’s Clark Crouch, is a book of western and cowboy poetry about “both the humorous and serious aspects of life in the west." Western Images (ISBN 0-9624438-5-9) is available for $11.95 from any bookseller; www.ClarkCrouch.com

A Mano, by California poet Vince Pedroia earns high praise from top poet Paul Zarzyski. The book includes 20 original poems, vintage photos, family photos, and contemporary photos by Vince Pedroia and his wife Trisha and others. Available for or $20 postpaid from Trisha Pedroia, 13799 Occidental Rd., Sebastopol, CA 95472, vpedroia@monitor.net. A companion CD (read about that below) is available for $20 postpaid. You can order the book and CD together for $25 postpaid.


Full Nelson Shoeing by WMA Cowboy Poet of the Year Andy Nelson is a perfect showcase of his talents: poetry, "politically incorrect short poems," and some of the humorous commentary that keeps him in demand as an emcee. Some poems are backed up by the prodigous musical talents of Rich O'Brien. Available for $18 postpaid from www.CowpokePoet.com, PO Box 1547, Pinedale, WY 82941

She Rode a Wild Horse by California’s Susan Parker includes her original poetry; recitations of poems by contemporary poets including Virginia Bennett, Dee Strickland Johnson, Elizabeth Ebert, and Sally Bates; and recitations of classics by S. Omar Barker and Henry Herbert Knibbs. Produced by Gordon Stevens’ Open Path Studios, an excellent stable of musicians add to each track. Available for $18 postpaid from Susan Parker, PO Box 865, Benicia, CA 94510 (707) 745-3768.

First Light by Audrey Hankins has 17 tracks of original poetry by this real-deal Arizona poet, who has received the prestigious Gail I. Gardner Award and was named AWA Poet of the Year. Jim Jones’ music accompanies the poetry. Available for $17 postpaid, from Audrey Hankins, PO Box 688, Congress, AZ 85332

A Mano, by Vince Pedroia is a companion CD for his recent book, A Mano. (Read more about the book above). The A Mano CD is available for $20 postpaid from Trisha Pedroia, 13799 Occidental Rd., Sebastopol, CA 95472, vpedroia@monitor.net. The book is also $20 postpaid; you can order the book and CD together for $25 postpaid.

Also of Note

2005 Best of Event CD from The Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival is filled with top performances from the popular event. The CD includes 16 tracks featuring Dave Stamey and poet Virginia Bennett performing together; other poets, storytellers and reciters Paul Zarzyski, Chris Isaacs, Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot), Waddie Mitchell, Henry Real Bird, Oscar Auker, and the late Charley Hendren; and music from Don Edwards, R. W. Hampton, Valerie O'Brien, Riders in the Sky, Richard Chon, Rich O'Brien, Cowbop. and Prickly Pair. Available for $20 plus postage from www.MontereyCowboy.com.

A Cowboy's Prayer from Alberta singer-songwriter Barry Hertz features lyrics from Badger Clark’s Sun and Saddle Leather, including "Jeff Hart," "The Trails a Lane (The Passing of the Trail)," "My Own (Plains Born)," "The Song of the Leather," "A Cowboy's Prayer," "Red's Saloon (The Piano at Red's)," "The Bunkhouse Orchestra," "To Her," "The Wind is Blowin'," "Ridin'," and "A Roundup Lullaby." Available from CD Baby or by mail, $17.50 US/ $20 Canadian, postpaid, from Barry Hertz, 132 Bracebridge Cres. SW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2W 0Y7.



  Wylie Gustafson


Read more about Wylie Gustafson in our feature here.

  Read more about Badger Clark in our feature here.


Spring, 2007


Many great songs were inspired by poems, and Jean Prescott's "How Far is Lonesome" is no exception. That song won the Western Music Association's first-ever Best Collaboration of Poet and Musician award in 2006 for Jean and her co-writer, Yvonne Hollenbeck.

Jean was inspired by Yvonne's poem by the same name, which she first saw in Yvonne's book, Where Prairie Flowers Bloom, recipient of the Will Rogers Medallion Award.

How Far is Lonesome

My mama got a letter from Aunt Jessie yesterday
   and she said that it is lonesome where she's at;
and you know, I really miss her since she up and moved away;
   mama showed me where she went on her new map.

Aunt Jessie married Hiram and he took her far from me
   and it really made me sad she moved away,
'cause she told me I was special and she played with me a lot
   but I told her I'd come visit her someday.

I can ride my little pony and I'll take along my doll
   so I won't have to make the trip alone;
we will go and visit Jessie and I know that she won't care
   if we spend a week or two in her new home.

Mama said her home's a soddy, whatever that might be,
   and Jessie don't have neighbors where she lives,
and Hiram's busy working so she spends her days alone
   and she always seemed to like us little kids.

So if you'll kindly tell me just how far 'way Lonesome is
   I will saddle up and head there yet today;
I'll be riding off to Lonesome where my dear Aunt Jessie lives
   and I sure hope Lonesome isn't far away.

© 2002, Yvonne Hollenbeck, All rights reserved

Yvonne tells about the poem's inspiration: "I wrote the poem while thinking about a story my mother told me. When she was a little girl, she had an Aunt Jessie, who was her mother's only sister and a few years older  than her mother. Jessie moved away and my mother really missed her. Later,  Jessie died in childbirth and my mother never got to see her again."

Jean comments, "The thing that really hooked me on it was first of all the title.  It just drew me in right away. And, then the innocence and emotion in the piece just got me right in the heart. Yvonne is a master painter of word pictures."

In the best collaborations, something more than a song results. Jean tells of that extra "something" she finds working with Yvonne: "Being a musician herself, Yvonne has great rhyme and meter in her poetry, and that's one of  the reasons that we work so well together. Writers all have their own styles of writing and Yvonne and I really click in that area. We have similar writing styles and we don't have any ego problems when it comes to changing lines or re-writing something to make a song the best it can be. And, the best thing about writing with Yvonne has been getting to know her and building a wonderful relationship"

"How Far is Lonesome" is included on Jean Prescott's CD, Embers of Time. On Jean's more recent CD, Sweethearts in Carhartts, she and Yvonne collaborated on five songs. Visit their web sites for more information about their works: www.JeanPrescott.com; www.YvonneHollenbeck.com


Cowboy Poetry Books and Recordings Roundup

Following are just some of the recent cowboy poetry releases received at CowboyPoetry.com in past months:


Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, edited by Bill Siems, perhaps the most important cowboy poetry book publication in recent times, this monumental 600-page work includes Bruce Kiskaddon's entire poetic  output (481 poems). Limited edition, $150 (leatherbound, $300) from Old Nighthawk Press, 2521 S Hatch Street, Spokane, WA 99203; 509-868-8402 www.oldnighthawkpress.com

Prairie Wife,  esteemed South Dakota poet Elizabeth Ebert's book  includes 130 new poems. $18 postpaid from Elizabeth Ebert, 10930 208th Ave., Lemmon, SD 57638 www.cowboypoetry.com/elizabethebert.htm

Trail Mix by Minnesota rancher Diane Tribitt, with original cowboy  poetry, cowboy lingo, working-ranch pictures, and more. $17.95 postpaid from Diane Tribitt, 38034 193rd Street.
Hillman, MN  56338; 888-410-7774  www.dianetribitt.com

Blazin' Bloats & Cows on Fire! or It's Hard to Blow Out a Holstein, top cowboy poet  Baxter Black's latest collection of tall tales and poems about “the real life of cowboys in the 21st century." $19.95 plus postage from Coyote Cowboy Company, P.O. Box 2190, Benson, AZ 85602; 800-654-2550  www.BaxterBlack.com.

Reflections of a Cowboy Poet, poems by ranch-raised South Dakota poet and leatherworker Slim McNaught. $7.50 postpaid from Slim McNaught, P.O. Box 274, New Underwood, SD 57761; 605-754-6103  www.slimscustomleather.com

Drover Diaries by popular Texas poet Rod Nichols, with 76 previously unpublished poems. $16.95, order by email: rodnichols@hotmail.com  

As Twisted as Bob Wire, Ken Whitecotton's second book of poetry,  published by Cowboy Miner, with 104 poems and 3 stories. $18 postpaid at www.thelazyo.com


South Dakota rancher Ken Cook’s I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy CD includes 12 original poems. $12 postpaid from Ken Cook, 23154 Teal Lane, Martin, SD 57551-6601; 605-685-6749  www.kencookcowboypoet.com

 WMA Female Poet of the Year, Yvonne Hollenbeck’s  What Would Martha Do? and other poems CD includes 14 original poems. $18 pospaid from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291st Street, Clearfield, South Dakota 57580; 605-557-3559  www.YvonneHollenbeck.com.

 Montana's popular "Polish-hobo-rodeo poet" Paul Zarzyski has two new CDs of poetry and music, Collisions of Reckless Love and Rock 'n' Rowel. $15.99 each plus shipping from 775-738-7508,  www.westernfolklife.org

Utah poet Stan Tixier's An Average Lookin' Mule CD contains 20 original poems. $10 postpaid from Stan Tixier, 5538 E. 2300 N., Eden, Utah 84310; 801/745-4121  http://www.cowboypoetry.com/stantixier.htm

Nevada poet Hal Swift's Holiday Poems CD includes  24  poems, celebrating 11 holidays. $10 postpaid from Hal Swift, 632 #1 Pine Meadows Drive, Sparks, NV 89431  http://www.cowboypoetry.com/halswift.htm

Colorado’s Tom and Donna Hatton present songs and poems in their new Silver
  CD.  $15 postpaid from White Owl Productions,  230 Ute Trail, Woodland Park, CO 80863  http://www.cowboypoetry.com/donnahatton.htm

The  2-disc CD, Giving Back, from the non-profit Giving Back Foundation--originally formed to help ranchers and farmers affected by the 2006 blizzards, drought, and  fires--has tracks donated by Western poets and musicians. $24.95 from the Giving Back Foundation, c/o Montana  Stockgrowers Association, 420 North California St., Helena, MT 59601; 406-442-3420   www.ranchersandfarmers.org



   Yvonne Hollenbeck

  Where Prairie Flowers Bloom

Read more about Yvonne Hollenbeck in our feature here.



  Jean Prescott
photo: Shelly Kay Studios


  Embers of Time

Read more about Jean Prescott in our feature here.





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