Featured at the Bar-D Ranch


Endiang, Alberta
About Bj Smith
Bj Smith's web site





Rock Lake

The horses were all saddled, packs were screwed down tight
Ten days of trail ahead of us through Rockies crowned in white
I’d saddled up the thoroughbred, an ornery kind of bay
Ignored his disposition ‘cause he had to earn his hay 

But just before we headed out that mean and grumpy cuss
Decided he would steal the show and raise a little fuss
I heard the slap of horse’s hoof, my wife soared through the air
One moment she was by his side the next she wasn’t there

When I was sure my darl’n would survive that horses toss
I took that thoroughbred out back to show him just who’s boss
He braced himself and trembled expecting something bad
While I swung to the saddle bent on being mad 

Before my little lesson even had a chance to start
He bogged his head and launched me and then he came apart
Around the staging area he bucked and squealed and blew
As if it was the stampede and he’d show what he could do

Some might have said I bucked off and never made the count
I’d prefer to tell it as a premature dismount
The horses with their packs on seemed to enjoy the show
Heads tied to tails they started a circle rodeo

Well since I was already flat down upon my back
I leaped for pack horse lead shanks and tried to pull some slack
This is when I noticed when slip knots aren’t just right
The horses just keep jerk’n and pull you in the fight

They didn’t seem to bother to listen to my begs
Our gear pitched in the panniers among nine dozen eggs
Well things they finally settled, every hair got back in place
Nine days plus half that followed had nothing worse to face

The trip is now a memory of alpine circumstance
We’re making plans for next time, but that thoroughbred’s in France!

© Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Rock Lake is the name of the equine staging area in the Wilmore Wilderness of Northern Alberta where a pack trip I took with several others began. It was a 10 day trip along the northern boundary of Jasper National Park. The events described in the poem are as factual as rhyme would permit.



The Snag

Some days are just about perfect, a ninety point eight second ride
Or hitch’n a team of percherons with the double tree even each stride
Mountain trails traveled with horses fill days that rank with the best
But every so often a mishap can put a good smile to the test

And just when you never expect it, sound plans can turn for the worse
One moment yer whistling trail tunes, the next yer tempted to curse
We were leaving the Brazeau drainage, my trail partners numbering six
Winding our way through the lodgepole when we got in a bit of a fix

I was leading a mare with a pack on when her load gave a definite sag
What looked like a fine double diamond had run into a bit of a snag
A branch just above stirrup level no bigger than a man’s thumb
Was putt’n the halt on the pack string and the mare couldn’t figger how come

Instead her solution was simple when motion got slowed from the rear
She revved up all of her muscles and shifted to the next gear
In no time the top pack and panniers slid all the way back to her croup
The britchen slung down to her fetlocks and circled one hoof in a loop

Both cinches were snugged up nicely like a buck’n rig high on her flank
While much of the tarp from the top pack was wrapped plum around her lead shank
The first to let loose was a pannier, the one that was full of camp gear
The lantern light high in a spruce bow and whoa must have sounded like cheer

The swede saw was promptly ejected and twirled like a boomerang
While the old coffee pail got punted in search of a new place to hang
Next was the bucket and wash pan with dish rag and soap close in tow
The sack full of dishes unraveled, it looked like a juggling show

By then the saddle had settled to a spot just ahead of her knees
Like bloomers with no time for hoisting on the run from an outhouse with bees
The top pack that held all our bedding spread nicely all over the trail
Marking the path of the stampede and in trees like a ship in full sail

The mare did a mighty fine striptease, for try I can’t hardly fault her
With a little more time I reckon she’d a even have bucked off her halter
I s’pose it took most of an hour to round up all of our stuff
Scrap leather and twine patched the rig’n when the mare figured she’d had enough

Then I thought of the closing of barn doors too late for a vagabond nag
When I went over before we mounted and broke off that little pine snag.

© 2008, Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Bryan told us this poem was  "inspired while I watched all my worldly effects flung about the forest on a pack trail in the Canadian Rockies one summer recently.  I have had my share of experience picking up the leftovers from a wreck resulting from a disgruntled horse..."


Park'n the RV

Was in this RV campground not all that long ago
What I saw was better than any TV show
You see this fifth wheel trailer and a dually diesel Dodge
Rumbled through the front gate to find a place to lodge

Then down the lane they idled, the Mrs. by his side
West coast mirrors all focused, the trailer eight feet wide
Years of driving tractor was etched upon his face
But he looked some uneasy, the farm was more his pace

For he was plenty handy at backing up a Massey
To where the draw bar lined up a cultivator chassis
And he could run a combine sitt'n up there high
Pick'n swaths up centered while unloading on the fly

But park'n this here RV, with strangers 'round to watch
Made backing up a night mare he didn't want to botch
The Mrs. always helpful, got out of the truck
And without hesitation marched straight to his blind spot

Then mak'n tiny gestures as if it were in Braile
She motioned him to back up, with her he couldn't fail
Except that she had vanished completely from his sight
So he uttered a frustration that put her on the fight

Then he praised her efforts to soften up the tensions
While mumbling some other things out loud he didn't mention
Then a neighbour uninvited, a stranger to them yet
Waved his arms resembling the guy who parks a jet

And as they faced each other, since he looked in the mirror
Left and right were backwards and made it tough to steer
'Bout then the Mrs.'s motions commenced to come in view
Signals not in one mirror now but visible in two

And now enthusiasm danced upon her face
Her hands waved like a metronome, her version of erase
Well to him all her waving just meant that she approved
So he didn't see the hydrant that his trailer just removed

Along about the forth try he gave a hardy yelp
Which cleared the space behind him of uninvited help
Then driving off indignant like farmers sometimes do
He headed for the designated sites marked JUST PULL THROUGH

© 2010, Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Bj told us, "There is an event that takes place over and over again where ever a crowd of people are witness to an RV being parked in its designated stall at a RV campground. It seems to require quite a few people all waving and calling instructions to the poor driver, many of whom are not visible in the mirrors. Usually it is a husband/wife team and the bonds of holy matrimony can be seriously tested. Although often the driver is a retired farmer who could skillfully park huge pieces of farm equipment and back a tractor to within an inch of its required spot, that skill seems to be completely disregarded by all the unsolicited helpers when he is trying to park the RV."


My Cowboy Church

I often go to church and sit a leather-covered pew
there isn't any place I think that has a better view
of mother nature's bounty, free of false pretense
where life is full of meaning because it all makes sense

I like to take communion then of waters pure and clear
and taste the fruit of faithfulness that's unpolluted here
then linger in the garden intertwined among the rock
blushing forth in color of the blue forget-me-not

There's monkey pods and kitten tales and yellow butter cup
neatly spread at table settings where disciples sup
massive granite spires hazing fountains tumbling down
past the lofts where angels perch adorned in choir gown

The path is tenuous that leads me to this tabernacle
half obscure and full of burdens that I must unshackle
trails are blazed by pioneers that ventured here before
guiding me past obstacles where no one's keeping score

The steps along the way consume tenacity and grit
exhaustion tries to change the course that's set upon the bit
for dead fall, bog and rocky scree protect this sacred alter
from those whose moral compass, slowly slips its halter

The world's great cathedrals of glass and wood and mortar
created by fine artisans to me seem somewhat shorter
in stature to the place I pray in solitary fate
worship wants not only those who choose to congregate

Maybe you are wondering of where it is I search
to find my place of sacrament that is my precious church
I do not peer through sifted light of tinted window panes
but rather where it's open to the sky on guided reins

It's when I ride among the peaks on rocky mountain high
or from my bedroll gaze upon the stars that fill the sky
I feel so insignificant, a speck upon this earth
and marvel how it is that even I might have some worth

But maybe since this sacred place is there for me to see
a purpose flooding in my heart is what inspires me
to understand that greatness isn't always in the show
goodness done is often something only God will know

Just like the timid fairy slipper shaded by the spruce
its beauty hidden far beneath the need of human use
where mankind in its arrogance purports to rule the hour
ignoring what a miracle there is in just one flower

There is no competition here for foolish mortal man
who argue one another which religions they should ban
confusion has no sanctuary, selfish pride no rest
there is no I am better, there is no I am best

And this is not a welcome place to comfort faint of heart
exposed to nature's elements could tear a soul apart
slashing wind and biting cold will drive me to the timber
where gnarled juniper protect me 'til my legs are limber

It's on these peaks and ridges that I learn of compromise
and know that our redemption begs for us to harmonize
suffer not our fellow man both modern day and tribal
has always been the message that is bursting from the bible

For from an alpine pulpit, how could we preach of hate
nature in tranquillity gives pause to hesitate
and see the devil down below promoting false temptation
envy, greed and disrespect that's blinding our salvation

So it is on misty slopes I am a clergyman
astride my faithful partner, that is equestrian
I know that I am blessed more than a week has days of seven
for I'm among the lucky ones that's rode the steps of Heaven
And so it is on misty slopes, I am a clergyman.

© 2010, Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


When asked if he would like to comment on the poem's inspiration, Bj responded, "I think I will let the poem speak for itself [and] send a picture appropriate to where such a poem would be hatched..." 




Nada, she's my GPS, she rides up on the dash
Guides me down the highway so I won't have a crash
She seems to know what's up ahead before it comes in sight
And tells me when it's timely to turn left or turn right
She knows how far I have to go and when I will arrive
And maybe when to merge a bit on highways that I drive

Then she shows me pictures of roads and streets and zones
Her voice is sort of digital, it never changes tones
I thought that she'd be handy with me on the trail
Especially at the skinny spots way up there in the shale
She'd keep me on the straight and narrow, never get me lost
And I'd be glad to have her no matter what she cost

So I taped her on my saddle horn, on I turned her switch
'Cause they told me at that gadget store she'd work without a glitch
Now it could be the colt I rode was maybe green a tad
But I figured that with Nada, how could this ride go bad
That's when that unfamiliar unexpected female sound
Caught that colt's attention and he promptly left the ground

Along about the seventh or the eighth leap in the air
Nada's voice got muffled, by my derriere
Now straddling a saddle horn is never that much fun
So I scouted out a landing spot for where my ride was done
But the colt went right on bucking with Nada in the dance
Instructing him to make a U turn when he got a chance

Then everything when silent sort of in a hesitation
So Nada could inform us we were at our destination
Oh don't get me wrong I wouldn't bad mouth Nada just because
I'm short a bit of hide and the noise my rib cage does
But I thought that she was pouty as my pain began abating
To tell me quite sarcastically, she's recalculating

© 2012, Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Bj comments:
I wrote this one sort of a tribute to an old gal who packed in the mountains between Banff and Jasper years ago. She was pretty handy on the trail and I figured if this new fangled gadget knew half as much as she did, I'd never get myself lost.



An Aggie's Thanksgiving

Hand in hand they stand beneath the wild western sky
The bins are full, the hay is up and harvest heaves a sigh
A chill is in the air that has a winter like persona
Makes the RV wish that it was parked in Arizona

Horseback at a job they jingle back to trucks and trailers
The bulls and strays all tallied now no longer tardy sailors
A frosty frame of snowy white adorns the west horizon
The bounty of the grass recalls when it was kind to bison

The price of grain is set by someone other than yourself
No different than the T Bone steak upon the butcher's shelf
The fuel truck left the yard last week, another hefty bill
That swather needs replacing 'cause it's been through the mill

With PTO's and branding irons and power lines above
Safety practiced every day protects the ones you love
The kids are on the school bus for an hour and a half
They learn responsibility from this years 4H calf

Well this is not a business that everyone would choose
At Mother Natures mercy with everything to loose
But isn't it adversity that makes the calling sweet
Knowing you're the reason that there's sizzle in the meat

A life in Agriculture on the place just down the road
Yields itself no equal, a good fortune mother load
With harvest far exceeding the food upon the table
The staff of life supporting a country strong and stable

In country halls roasting turkey wafts upon the air
The spuds are mashed, gravy browned, an annual affair
Where neighbors being handy is the way we all behave
And never pass each other without a friendly wave

So weather it be cattle, horses, sheep or corn
The stock you raise is reason to want to blow your horn
And though it's true an Aggie has to got be half tough
If you're blessed enough to be one, then you are blessed enough.

© 2014, Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

This poem is also included in our collection of Thanksgiving poems.


Eye of the Artist

Have you noticed your horse's ear move
As you step for the stirrup to mount
Admired his conformation
And muscles to plenty to count

Can you vision a horse's foot fall
As he breaks from the jog to the lope
Anticipate action exploding
As a bronc rider measures his rope

The eye of the artist that captures
The essence of Nature's plan
Is a gift given from the creator
So mortals like us understand

The mountains and motion and music
Are magic for artists to note
Whose song of the west may vanish
If we don't get 'er down someone wrote

The sculptor, the painter, the poet
Recording the west in its glory
The balladeer putting to music
The makings of a good story

Of cowboys and eight-second flurry
The blur of the hooley-ann wrist
When time turned its back on the bison
Grazing away in the mist

As we scurry in modern existence
Leaving little or no time for pause
To admire the flight of an eagle
Searching supper in grasp of its claws

Our preoccupation with fortune
Insuring there's nothing we lack
Needs to include the artist
Who hands us our heritage back.

© 2014, Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Bj Smith comments,
 "It seems to me that the thing that distinguishes Master Artists from the rest is the talent to see tiny details that only genuine knowledge can reveal. Charlie Russell paintings, Robert Scriver sculptures, S. Omar Barker poems and Ian Tyson ballads exemplify true art which is a valuable part of our Western culture."


Some of Bj Smith's photos were featured in Picture the West in May, 2008


  About Bj Smith:

Bryan (Bj) Smith is an experienced horse trainer, riding coach, packer, guide, clinician, survival expert, and Canadian Ski Patrol instructor. He has taught equine wilderness topics at the university and college level.

Following a full career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, where he experienced years of service in the arctic, Bj supervised criminal investigations for the Government of Alberta, instructed for the Lethbridge College and sat as the President of the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association.

He routinely guides groups of wilderness travellers horseback through the Rockies, often on week long trips of a hundred miles or more.His skill and knowledge as a packer and horseman has been recognized by the Alberta Trail Riders Association and private equestrian clubs who have enjoyed his clinics. He consults with Rafter Six Ranch Resort near Banff, Alberta to facilitate their back country overnight horse business. He developed and instructs "The Wilderness Wrangler" at Olds Agricultural College, which focuses on back country horsemanship skills.

President of  the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association, recipient of the Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers Award and National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo Silver Buckle Division winner, his performances have been featured at Cowboy Poetry
gatherings and festivals across western Canada, the USA and on cruise liners.

Bj is the author of three books, a CD and is often featured on radio and television.

Visit Bj at www.BjSmith.ca.












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