CowboyPoetry.com    Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

BYRL KEITH CHADWELL
Baker City, Oregon
About Byrl Keith Chadwell
Byrl Keith Chadwell's web site

 

Recognized as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "Cowboy Credentials"

 

 

Cowboy Credentials

The "wrecks" that they weather
           I would sorta suppose
Are cowboys' credentials
           Not the look of their clothes

If you've ridden for long
            On a range fit for snakes
When you're movin' cattle
            In those rim rocks and breaks

Your horse he might stumble
             Spurrin' down off a rim
to turn that ol' lead cow
             Now things start lookin' grim

Somersault with your horse.
            Some folks call it "a wreck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

"There she is...cut her back...
            That wild eyed ol' brindle"
She starts facin' you down
            And her fire is a' kindle

You sure are mistaken
            When you call her last bluff
Because she's had enough
            Of your horse and your guff

So she sticks her ol' head
            Way up under your horse
In the twink' of an eye
            You've got cowboy remorse

Advanced education.
            Some folks call it "a wreck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

When the trail's dark and steep
            And no moon lights your way
Got a pack string of mules
            You hear one of them bray

You'd figured by midnight
            Sure enough you'd be back
Now a mule's in the creek
            Upside down on her pack

A schedule adjustment.
            Some folks call it "a wreck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

You know that big Paint colt
            That you've started to ride
Thinks big rocks eat horses
            Still...you take him outside

You've got to work cattle
             Not just go for the ride
You're pushin' his limits
            All along with your pride

If you can stay with him
            Each time "rocks" eat your horse
You'll build up credentials
            And your tall tales' resource

But if'n he dumps you?
            It's OK "what the heck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

And yes...you're a "cowboy"
            By the look of your clothes
But now... with "credentials"
            Would you sorta suppose??

© 2006,  Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Keith told us about his inspiration for this poem: There are questions that come up from time to time, about cowboy poetry and cowboy poets. What is cowboy poetry? Just who is a cowboy poet? Should cowboy poetry be; verse in rhyme and meter or freestyle?

This poem reflects my belief that cowboy poetry should be…“poetry” but it also should be…“credible,” no matter who writes the stuff or what technique they use.    

"Cowboy Credentials" is based on some of my own real life experiences over the years. So, I am poking a little fun at my own credentials as a cowboy and a cowboy poet.

In the final analysis, the knowing nod of a grey old head, under a cowboy hat, perched above a pair of bowed legs, will always be the best meter to certify a “cowboy poem” or a “cowboy poet.

 

We asked Keith why he writes cowboy poetry and he told us

Honestly?  I can't remember when I didn't want to be a cowboy. The first cowboy poem I ever remember hearing was a favorite of my Mother's and she was the first to read it to me when I was just a lad. I found a worn copy of it in her diary after her death in 1971. It was the S. Omar Barker poem titled "He Takes it Straight." I have always been a black coffee drinker. (Is that a bit of coincidence or perhaps a bit of cowboy poetry influence?)

My life has been enriched by a family heritage of pioneer ranching, timber, mining and farm people who came West and scratched out a living in this great Northwest country. My Grandfather Chadwell came west with a cattle drive on the Oregon Trail and stayed to homestead in Eastern Oregon. Our ranch was also along parts of the old Oregon Trail.  

I guess I could say my appreciation for the cowboy way of life has been a huge factor in the formation of all that I am, including my desire from time to time to write about those things that move me emotionally, and spiritually. 

To be so blessed to have been even a small part of this heritage and this life has no doubt inspired me to write some...cowboy poetry.


You can email Byrl Keith Chadwell: rucklescreekranch@hotmail.com


 

Twenty Dollar Spurs

Ol' Don he was a cowboy
Many a horse ol' Don had rode
It used to take a real bronc
To get ol' Donny throwed

But time is kind of funny
When as the years go by
And things up close get blurry
To once perceptive eyes

and spur rowels on old cowboy's boots
Do ever slower roll
'Cause on all things that once were sharp
Time always takes its toll

So Donny bought a nice green mule
When Don was past his prime
'cept in his heart and in his mind...
"The Cowboy" was just fine

By now he'd gave away... or sold
'bout all his cowboy tack
'cept of course his saddle...
(he'd figured he'd be back)

So we drove to Baker City
Where they sell bronc ridin' stuff
And he bought a bunch of cowboy gear
Until he had enough

~~~

he bought... headstalls, bits and bronc reins
And ropes and lines and such
Enough to break that Molly mule
That we couldn't even touch

And in that pile of cowboy truck
Unknowing as we were
Was that ol' cowboy's undoing...
...a pair of "Twenty Dollar Spurs"

It's not polite to bore folks
With long and tedious prater
When tellin' truthful stories
So I'll cut the chitter-chatter

I'll cut right to the chase
To tell of Don's undoin'
At the bronc corral on Ruckles Creek
The mule...the spurs...his ruin

He wore the spurs that mornin'
Never gave 'em any thought
As he stepped up on that Molly mule
And clucked her to a trot

Now Don had never urged her...yet
Into a gentle lope
So today he thought he'd pop her
With the tail end of his rope

~~~

But lope was not the thing she did
She kept on with the trot
Which spawned a cowboy reflex...
...Don's toes began to drop

And as his toes began to drop
His heels began to raise
It was about as natural...
...As cattle on the graze

I watched...it seemed slow motion
As a spur rowel disappeared
In the hair on the ribs of that molly mule...
Then the action shifted gears

I'v give consideration since
With this head on top my neck
How them "Twenty Dollar Spurs"
Created such a WRECK

Now a wreck in other quarters
Brings cars and trucks to mind
But a WRECK down in the bronc corral's
Much harder to define

When cowboys talk of equine WRECKS
They may speak in hallowed tones
Of broncs and ropes and ol' cowpokes
And all their broken bones

~~~

And so in most capitual tones
I speak of things that were...
When Donny gouged that molly mule
With his "Twenty Dollar Spurs"

When Molly finally made her move
I think I'm seein' double
A blur went by and...my-oh-my...
Ol' Donny's got big trouble...

Cause Molly mule had bogged her head
When first the spurs did bite
And humped ol' Donny o'er them swells...
It was an awkward sight

But he got his self collected...
(I thought he had her rode)
When that mule "sun-fished" and went straight up
Like a jumpin' horny  toad

Ol' Don... in all the fracas
Had let go... toooo much rein
And was frantically collecting it...
HIGH above her mane

By now that Molly mule
had stretched out... straight and tall
With her belly perpendicular
And her nose above the wall

Ol' Donny's feet and stirrups
Were high up on her withers
But his head was pointed toward the dirt
...it was given' me the shivers

~~~

So Don succumbed to gravity
In a heap beside the wall
And Molly stopped three feet away
To just...survey it all

And as the rowels on Donny's spurs
Rolled slowly to a stop
He started speaking harshly
In ways he ought have not

Seemed he wasn't mad at Molly...me...
 or other  things that were.
Just at "HIS -SELF"  for wearing...
 them "Twenty Dollar Spurs"

..so when those bunkhouse tales are told
We'll tell of Don's undoin'
At the bronc corral on Ruckles Creek...
 The mule...the spurs... his ruin

©  2006, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Keith told us: Don Nagy, my brother in law and good friend, is the old cowboy in the poem. We broke a bunch of mules together and some horses back in the 60's near his
home in Western Montana.  During a recent visit to our ranch, he bought one of my un-broke mules. The rest of the story is described in "Twenty Dollar Spurs."

 

Lodge Pole Pine

We took a li’l trip… up the North Fork way

We were packing in on a sky blue day

     The air it was clear and the sun did shine

     I caught me a whiff of that Lodge Pole Pine

 

We saddled the horses and we packed the mules

Goin’ to… Dutch Flat Lake and the Dutch Flat pools

     We took a little bacon and we took some beans

     A dry pair of skivvies and a dry pair of jeans

 

I’d mantied a chain saw on top of a mule

With a nifty container of chain saw fuel

     It had a twelve inch bar it was small and light

     For to cut some firewood at the lake that night

 

Now the wind’s a thing you can never see

But It’d been there…that was clear to me

     To the left and to the right and stacked real high

     Was Lodge Pole Pine…horizontal to the sky

 

I’d read in the paper a while ago

That the Forest Service was out of dough

     And when they announce a dollar decline

      Guess who…Clears the trails of that Lodge Pole Pine ??

 

Never bothered me…no sir… not one whit

Brought my cruiser ax with a double bit

     Plus my “ace in the hole” on top of the pack

     We would whittle out the trail… both up and back

 

The trail was plumb full….it wasn’t just a branch

And we were just not…goin’ back to the ranch

     I was off’a that mare in a single bound

     'bout a minute now, Tom… be a chain saw sound”

 

I grabbed my li’l chain saw off the top of that pack

Started workin’ up a sweat…( runnin’ down my back)

     From the top of his horse I heard Tom say…

     “ Start that thing, Keith… wann’a be here all day”?

 

Nothin’ ever finer that I ever knew

Than a saw that’d start with a pull or two

     But I’ve handled some saws…(and so have you)

     That you could pull …and pull… for quite a few

 

Then when you’d rested and sputtered around

You’d pull some more… then… throw it on the ground

     Well I pulled and I pulled and I sputtered around

     But I never even once got a chain saw sound

 

Now somewhere t’ward the North Fork … off the trail not far

Is a rustin’ li’l chain saw with a twelve inch bar

     We continued on… we were never lax

     Whackin’ out the trail with …my cruiser ax

 

A Lodge Pole Pine had fell across the trail

‘Bout two feet through with a sixty foot tail

     No way ‘round with a bluff on the right

     The down hill side near dropped out of sight

 

I gauged it from the front… Tom eyed it from the rear

Then he yells up to me… “the saddle horn’ll clear!”

     So I led her up high… got her head down low

     “We’ll get under this snag… if we take it slow”

 

But she didn’t much like that snag o’er head

So she made a big jump and like Tom said…

     The saddle horn cleared… we got over that fear

     Now we got BIG trouble in the rear view mirror

 

I’d dallied the chain saw mule…hard and fast

To the ol’ mare’s saddle horn… that just went past

     The mule had his head up… waay too high

     So he and that snag met …EYE to EYE

 

The mule was bein’ “Mule”… he’d had enough of that snag

Started jerkin’ back big time on the edge of that crag

     The ol’ mare was pullin’ like a Belgian team

     She’s throwin’ dirt and rocks like a dragster’s dream

 

I  sure got’a tell ya…there’s been a time or two                                                

I was a tenant on earth when the rent came due

     This was …”one of them times” … and this durn fool

     Got caught in between… the horse and that mule

 

I thought for sure… the rope would bust

Relieve the tension…… settle the dust

     Nope… the rope don’t break… it’s just getting’ thin

     Popin’ and a snappin' right under my chin

 

With that mule a jerkin’ back and thrashin’ around

My ol’ buckskin mare puts her belly to the ground

     And in the twink of an eye we’re all… “just fine

     As the mule skidded under that Lodge Pole Pine

 

A hundred miles up (map says ten miles…max)

We just whacked it out with… my cruiser ax

     Never did fish or even wet a line

     We just cleared the trail of that Lodge Pole Pine

 

Back at the trail head… been four days… (or more?)

We slipped the saddles… put our gear in store

     But wait…”Tom, what is this, on the pickup’s glass?

    “A FOREST SERVICE TICKET… .NO TRAIL PARK PASS !!!”

 

© 2006,  Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Keith told us that this poem, "results from a couple of pack trips my friend, Tom Keaton and I, made into the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon. At that time the Forest Service was just beginning to introduce the requirement for 'trail park passes.'  Some of us 'old timers' got a bit wrinkled about the whole idea. Paying for a trail park pass or even registering to use trails which folks had used and helped to maintain for several generations didn’t get a very warm reception.  However, a good laugh at yourself always seems to help smooth things out."


 

Grand Canyon Mule Guide’s Dilemma

I was bringin’ up a group out’a  Phantom just last fall                                       

An hour ‘till we “rim out”…. this ol’ gal’s about to bawl                                                      

I get’s her down at Cedar Ridge...her mule… his name was “John”

The challenge now… the “get back up”… with all her “get up” gone                       

 

A simple righteous “push up” woulda surely done the trick

Yet I’m strivin’ to be... “noble”…. not to be a backwoods hick

Her foot’s up in the stirrup… but what’s left is on the ground             

Like… sack feed with no handles… she’s sure plenty big around   

 

She weighs about one ninety eight … yet only five foot three            

She’s a mighty wore out lady…. this “get up’s” up to me

I try to be polite… discreet… and oh so careful too                                         

But… it ain’t always easy when a dude has gained a few           

 

I’m runnin’ out of aces …in my searchin’ for a hold

To help her with her “get up” so that she won’t think I’m bold           

And then from somewhere up above I hear this angel say…

“Just push up on my fat ol’ butt…cause that’s the only way”

 

© 2007, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Keith told us: The inspiration for this poem is from an incident that occurred while I was guiding a group of dudes on the last leg of the South Kaibab trail, coming out of the Grand Canyon’s famous “Phantom Ranch.” Only the mules name and the lady’s height and weight have been changed to protect the mule, the lady and… me. The rest of the story is pretty near the truth. I can tell you… I was laughing so hard after she told me “ where to push,” I nearly dropped this gracious lady. This two day trip ended well and everyone, while tired and sore, insisted they had a great time.

 

 

Scratcher Bell

Folks ‘round knew he worked the bad ones

            When no one could …or would

Just a Baker County cowboy

             Folks ‘round then understood            

 

If you possessed a horse or two

            That had an ornery quirk

“Just get a hold of Scratcher Bell

            ‘Cause he could make ‘em work”                 

 

It really didn’t matter none

            If saddle horse or team

 He always had some cowboy trick

To redirect their steam

 

I suppose that there were those

 Were quick to judge him “rough”

And yes with spoiled horses

            He knew when to be tough                                              

 

He knew when to be gentle too

            Beneath external gruff

A gentle side with colts and kids

            Unless they called his bluff                                 

 

He could rope and doctor cattle…

             In the winter feedin’ hay

He would break a team of horses

             To a Wagon or a sleigh  

 

He was “a hand” out on the ranch

 And Folks ‘round always knew

When “Scratcher” worked those saddle colts

They’d turn out… tried and true

                                               

He was a horseman sure enough

 I marveled at his skills

 But he was an old time cowboy…

            Without the fancy frills

 

I doubt if there’s a person now

            Who recollects his fame

We buried him just North of Haines

            A stone… some words… his name        

 

© 2007, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

                                           

        

The inspiration for “Scratcher Bell”:

 

 

 

Willard W. (“Scratcher”) Bell

Baker County, Oregon       

Sept.  1913  - Aug.  1989

Sgt. U.S. Army World War II

 

In respectful memory of my uncle and my mentor.

 

 

 

Trail Blazers

I followed lots of old time trails

When I was just a lad

 Old timers marked the easy way

 I learned that from my Dad

 

Dad just called e’m blazes

He said… “Son, look at that tree,

You can tell there was a trail here,

            By that scar there you can see”…

 

They found a way… by horse and mule

With trusty ax and gun

To blaze those trails from there to here

And somehow…“get’er done”

 

The ways thru life we try to find

The trails may not seem clear     

But if we’ll pause and… look awhile

A way just might appear    

 

 Through the lessons to be learned  

            From those who’ve gone on through

Their blazes point ”the way to go

            For folks like me and you

 

We might take for instance…

            The way to train a horse

If we’re not plumb rock headed

            We’ll learn about brute-force

 

And that learnin’ I will wager

Will come with warning tones  

From some of those who’ve blazed those trails

             With sweat and broken bones

 

So we may build on old foundations

It can be lots of fun

And we may go ahead and do

What no one else has done

 

 But if we’re wise we’ll… look awhile

And learn a thing or two

From folks who’ve blazed those trails before

For folks like me and you    

© 2007, Byrl Keith Chadwell
            This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Keith told us:

The inspiration for this poem comes from my ever growing appreciation of all my old time cowboy mentors.  Most of them have gone on over the great divide by now.

 

It is wonderful to see what some deem as “modern” horse and mule training methods being so widely accepted.   However, I hope we never forget that what we now know about horse and mule training came at a price. Our “trail blazers” paid the price with fatalities, bruises, blood, broken bones, endless hours of sweat, and little recognition.   

 

I tire of those who say without qualification that; “old time cowboy horse and mule breaking methods were cruel and used only by the uneducated.”  

 

Many are the unheralded “masters” of days gone by. 

 

“But if we’re wise we’ll… look awhile

And learn a thing or two

From folks who’ve blazed those trails before

            For folks like me and you”       

 

 

 

 

Columns of Two

It is paramount when we pair up to mount
          The pairs of mounts which we pare out
Must be pairs of mounts upon which we can count
          It is paramount there’s no doubt

For if we go out in a column advance
          On some mounts not well broken to ride
We all take this stance, there’s a dead even chance
          We would skin up our hairy ol’ hide

The pairs that we pair for our columns of two
          Must become most reliable hosses
Trained, grained, well maintained, able to hold the shoe
          Good ole’ hosses that knows who the boss is

And when introduced to our columns of force
          They should not give rise to our ire
These may make of course the good cavalry horse
          That’s ready to work under fire

For we must go out on good cavalry horses
          They gave us this job to do
To subdue hostile forces with small resources
          They call us “the boys in blue

Fort Bowie’s our home, as a home it will count
          We will ride out from “home” ‘till we’re through
One thing’s paramount when we pair up to mount
          We will ride out in columns of two 

© 2008, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Keith told us:

South of Wilcox, Arizona off of Highway 186, along the old Butterfield stage route, is a place called Apache Pass. Here is a little water source called “Apache Spring”. The Butterfield trail was constructed through Apache Pass only because of this water source. A detachment of 96 California volunteers came under attack near this spring by Cochise, Mangas Coloradas and between 140 and 160 of their warriors in July of 1862. A raging battle ensued around the spring until the volunteers finally prevailed. On a hill just above this spring is where “Old Fort Bowie” was then hastily built....

In 1866 regular soldiers relieved the volunteers and built a new Fort Bowie where it functioned to protect travelers and commerce near Apache Pass for another 26 years. 

In graves nearby are soldiers who died in the line of duty while serving at Fort Bowie. Men such as; John Brownley, “killed by Apaches, May 1868”; A.J. Bice, J. Petty and T. Donavan, “killed by Indians in Apache Pass, January 1872”;  O. O. Spence, “killed by Indians April 1876, age 25, Medal of Honor winner.”  Here we find these and others who rode out from Fort Bowie in “columns of two.

 

The photo is a composite of an old picture of troops coming out of Ft. Bowie, and a recent picture Keith took of the same area. 

 

 

 

 

The Prodigal Cowboy

 

My Dad owned a ranch on the breaks of the Snake

With cows on a hundred hills

I had an inheritance much more than I knew

And Dad was payin’ the bills

 

But I just couldn’t stand not to be in control

I wanted to run wild and free

The lessons I’d learned how to stay in the middle

Were too straight and narrow for me

 

So I went to my Dad and demanded my share

With a heavy heart he bade me go

I cut all the strings and I took everything

I was off to the world’s rodeo

 

A new pick-em up truck

With cab lights and all

A big diesel engine

And “Onstar” on call

 

A brand new horse trailer

To haul the ol’ mare

I’d win the world

With aces to spare

 

I sure did look fine in that black hat of mine

I’d be “top of the heap” I was certain

In my vest and my spurs, with “old pride” and some “Coors”

And no thoughts for the folks I’d be hurtin’

 

I knew what to do… I would spend and make money

As I rose to the “top of the heap

I would rope it or ride it and what’s even more

I could do it without any sleep

 

So I wallowed around near the top of the world

On the hump of that ol’ “cowboy pride

“Like spit’n int’a the wind” my Dad always said

“Pride’s a horse that a man should not ride”

 

When I spent all the anti and couldn’t ride pride

All the wrong ways I knew I had turned

Sick and ashamed I longed to go home

Though my bridges I thought I had burned

 

But…I spit out my chew and I swallowed my pride

Or maybe ‘twas just the reverse

I can tell you for sure whatever I swallowed

The effects could not have been worse

 

When I showed at the ranch on that cold Sunday morn’

I knew I must look like sin

But you reap what you sow… so I gritted my teeth

My crop was fast comin’ in

 

I thought if my Dad would even consider

All winter I would work feedin’ hay

Maybe ‘till spring and the calvin’ was done

Then he’d surely make me go away

 

But… Like the prodigal’s father in the Biblical story

My Dad also came on the run

With tears in his eyes he opened his arms

And then he said…welcome home son”

 

As we talked and laughed late into the night

I knew then that Dad spoke it true…

“Love suffers long… it is not filled with pride

And always will be there for you"

 

© 2008, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Keith told us: I used to have the worst case of the ugly kind of “cowboy pride” that anybody could ever have. In my case, I found that the cowboy way can get perverted and ugly if left unchecked. On the other hand, the cowboy way can be good, honorable, enviable and awesome. This poem is a product of my own reflections and observations over the years in that regard. This poem is not about anyone in particular.

 

 

 

It's Different Than it Sounds

We were camped out on the Snake, near the head of the Creek McGraw,
when a stranger showed up on the ridge and came on down the draw.
But he looked a little sheepish as he flashed a toothy grin,
he was totin’ up a saddle and he looked a little thin.

So I asked if he’d had breakfast and how come he had no steed.
Said, he hadn’t et since yesterday and his mare had slipped her lead.
Said he’d spent the night a searchin’ but he reconed she was gone
and could he bum  a hoss …’cause he sure needed to move on.

We opened up the kitchen box, and fixed him up a feed
and yes we could… spare a horse, to help him with his need.
We was plumb up front and honest, and we told him all the truth,
the only pack stock ever rode was the one that we call “Ruth.”

He said he understood and beggars couldn’t choose
and that he would try to ride her… he had nothing else to lose.
So RE grabbed a lead rope and he led ol’ Ruthie in.
She was a dandy pack horse, But…. she could buck and spin.

She stood there half asleep as he drug his saddle ‘round.
I rigged him up a bridle from some extra tack I’d found.
He got his self collected and his saddle screwed down tight.
Said he’d send along some money …he’d sure like to treat us right.

He climbed up in the saddle and sat there for a spell.
We chewed the fat a little while, before he said farewell.
Ole Ruthie stepped right out, when the stranger gave the cue,
about a dozen yards or so  …before her boiler blew.

Now I know that folks have tried with eloquence and gloss,
to tell about them contests ‘tween a cowboy and a hoss.
There’s pages, upon pages and… cowboy poetry abounds,

but even if  we tell the truth…
it’s different than it sounds.

There’s the buckin’ and the gruntin’ it’s hard to write about.
If you don’t see it or don’t hear it … it’s hard to figure out.
Them words us poets use, to help you visualize …
won’t take the place of ears to hear or take the place of eyes.

I get a little chuckle when some try to tell the tale,
of “the poetry in motion” when a hoss ride starts to fail.
And why we conjure up a bronc ride… across some even plain,
when in real time,  it’s more likely… in a rockslide in the rain.

So should I write of see’n rim rocks, beneath her every jump?
Is that “poetry in motion”, when Ruth bucked across that stump?
The truth is hard to come by… but if the truth be writ,
the true romance of the “cowboy”…. is his character and grit.                                       

Well, the stranger finally rode her…..but it was an ugly fight.
Unlike “poetry in motion”… it was not a pretty sight.
It was a mighty ragged ride, that ended (sort of)…in a draw.
But the stranger rode ol’ Ruthie out … from the head of the Creek McGraw.

© 2008, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Keith told us:

Like a lot of folks, I enjoy, so much, the poetry of old which extols the virtue of the old time bronc rider. Poems and song such as “The Cowboy In The Continental Suit” or “The Zebra Dunn.” They are the best, and depict the best of the old time bronc riders. However, I like to acknowledge that such songs and poems represent the most ideal. Most every cowboy will tell you that even the best, have their moments of truth. The truth is; everyday cowboying is very often punctuated with the unexpected bronc ride, at the most inopportune times and places, which may result in some ugly rides and or wrecks. It is a fact, not so romantic, but a true part of the cowboy life.

A pack trip with my old packing partner, R.E. Sharp in the early spring of 2008 to the breaks of the Snake River and experiencing another of those inopportune rides/wrecks brought me around to this poem. 

 

The Last Buffalo      

I'd spied him in a draw just off the Old Oregon Trail

where it crossed the ridge 'tween Alder Creek and the Virtue swale.

With two plus years of searchin' I was always on the ride

I musta' rode five hundred miles...and never seen his hide.

 

The last time that I'd seen him was the fall of '93.

"Two year buffalo bull"...not so impressive...not to me.

But boy's, I gotta tell ya, when I jumped him in that draw,

his shiny horns and massive hump.... the best I'd ever saw.   

 

It had happened sort of sudden, the way things sometimes do,

when cowboys get snowed in and then get cabin fever too.

We were sittin' swappin' bull...which gets serious with Rock

when he speaks up and sez: "let's buy buffalo breedin' stock".

 

So... along in the springtime when the snow had melted down,

Rocky bought a herd of buffalo...then... took off for town.

Oh...sez he, "we're partners in this buffalo enterprise.

I'll pay the feller for 'em and.... the rest is your surprise".    

 

I thought for sure a cowboy would just...automatic know

how to transfer all his cow sense... straight through to buffalo. 

But...for sev'ral years thereafter I fenced...then...re-paired fence

and learned lots of buffalo stuff... that made no cowboy sense.

  

Of course we made no money, we was ranchin'...didn't I say,

workin' to support the ranch at another job by day.

I never was a quitter, but I'd tallied time and  pay

and I finally figured out...the buffalo couldn't stay.

 

My day job, the fencin' and ridin'...took a lot of time,

with little left for me....to even pen a cowboy rhyme. 

So we rode hard and rounded up, until one week was done,

then we sorted and shipped buffalo...all except for one. 

 

We all just called him "Rodney," Rocky named him that one day

(some neighbor kid he used to know, that always ran away).

And so it came as no surprise the day we were to ship,

the tally showed, one more time, Rodney'd given us the slip. 

 

Neighbors rarely saw him, yet they was always on the look.

He'd grown a lot in stature and..."purely wild" in my book.       

 I rode the hills most every week but he was plenty slick

So...he became a legend on the range 'round Ruckles Creek.

 

The mornin' that I spied him...I pulled back to make some plans

and then gathered up two cowboys I considered real hands.

We all was freshly mounted up, I thought that day we'd win

and reckoned when  the sun went down...ol' Rodney would be in.

 

Rodney didn't know that day, when I jumped him up the draw,

he'd cross that famous trail and meet my niece's cowboy pa.    

Then just in case that Rodney bull should  give ol' Don the slip...

I'd posted Ty, my son-in-law, to guide him on his trip.

  

I jumped him up the draw, whip and spur were in a tizzy...

I was yellin' up at Don..."get ready to get busy."

Rodney crossed that Oregon Trail...his tail straight in the air

Don raced in behind him...over and under'n on his mare.

 

Rodney headed for the line fence...Ty spurred up on the run,

These all were sights I'll cherish, when I think of things I've done.

Then Ty pulled up short as Rod...lightly vaulted o'er the fence,

a mile from any line gate...things were start'n to get tense.

 

Every cowboy worth his salt never ventures out to ride

without a pair of cutters hangin' somewhere by his side.

We cut the fence, put horses thru, along with us three men,

then we mended back the fence, just the way it should'a been.

 

But then it was a horse race just to beat ol' Rodney's flight

and to get him down to Ruckles Creek before we lost day light.

Ty McPherson  up on Sam, who we knew came off the track

and this we never doubted because...speed he didn't lack.

 

I watched him runnin' rock slides, clearin' rim rocks every jump.

Ty's chinks looked more like wings while Ty was thumpin on Sam's rump.

He was gainin' on ol' Rodney, until he hit the flat...

disappeared in horse high sage...then lost Rodney...and his hat.

 

We took our turns, first me then Don, then Ty...and on we went,

but Rodney...never waivered once, until we all were spent.

Late in the day we all were done, and Rodney was ahead,

Now, he'd turned back up Second Creek, that's all that needs be said.

  

There's more to tell...we often talk...how Rodney later dies.

But a question that is hidden here...I should summarize;

Was Rodney..."the last buffalo "... to raise a lofty tail,

like used to be, runnin' free, across the Oregon Trail?

 

© 2009, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Keith told us:

The truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.

I knew that, someday, I would have to write this poem. For years now, when we get together and all around, the family has been telling this story and a multitude of others from memories of those "buffalo years" on Ruckles Creek ranch. While we only had the buffalo a few short years, they became the grist for the stories...a lot of laughs, and a few tears too.

That being said, Don, Ty and I truly believe that we may well have been the last cowboys to chase a "wild" buffalo across the Old Oregon Trail.

Anyway...that's the way we tell it.

 

 

 

 

God's Back Yard

You stand the first time on the rim and gaze across this span
Your eyes take in some “awesome sights that sure ain’t made by man
Now “awesome” is a dandy word and brings some thoughts to mind
But awesome’s not enough my friend, you're startin’ out behind

Your widest lens ain’t wide enough and words we use as tools
Are sadly lacking to describe these seven wonders jewels
The widest lens and herds of words will just not cut it pard
This canyon grand, not made by man… perhaps is Gods’ backyard

In all your days you never dreamed you’d find a place like this
And looking down from high above just seems a bit remiss
So, you make a reservation, it’s scary but it’s cool
You’ll ride down below the rim on a big Grand Canyon mule

Up early on that mornin’ you stand facin’ Casey Murph
You made a deal to ride his mule… you’re standin’ on his turf
He explains to you, and others, in no uncertain words
The things you will encounter looking down on flying birds

The ride will be to Plateau Point, way down below the rim
Your guide said... “It’s no pony ride”… mule riders call him… “Jim
He said… “These mules will track the trail, close along the edges
And you should not be worried about those straight off ledges”

Mule riders are a gawkin’ as they’re ridin’ nose to tail
There’s OOO’n and there’s AAAH’n on that ol’ Bright Angel Trail
You ride down switchbacks miles and miles, awestruck all the way
Down the red wall’s “Jacob’s Ladder” that takes your breath away

At last you stand on Plateau Point, and peer across this span
Your senses are on overtime…they’re doin’ the best they can
Condors circle just below… and one thousand feet straight down
Unnumbered mountain snow drifts roll and tumble mucky brown

You turn your gaze up river, after that, on down her flow
As you ponder over places, where she won’t let you go
They call her…“Color-rojo”…in the Spanish… “color, red
Some say she’s worked ten million years to carve herself this bed

Yes…“awesome is a dandy word and brings grand thoughts to mind
But awsome’s still “inadequate”…and lags far out behind
Your herds of words and widest lens will just not cut it pard
This canyon grand’s not made by man and… it is Gods’ back yard!!

© 2010, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

Keith told us:

After we sold the ranch ...we supposedly retired, It wasn't long 'til I realized that this ol' cowboy couldn't get away from a lifetime of workin' with horses, mules and livestock.

So....Barb and I took off in our RV for Arizona and I took a job as a Grand Canyon Mule Guide, where I could work with lots of mules, ride a lot every day and guide nice folks into one of the most “awesome” places in God's creation.

From this perspective came the inspiration for “Gods’ Back Yard.”

 


Plateau Point from the top of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (photo by Barbara Chadwell)

 

 

 

Sourdough Range

The evening's chores were always done, just before her day was through,

with sourdough set, water pails full... and the wood box was full too.

She's up early in the summertime, to start the day out right                     

With a cow to milk and bread to bake...she's up before day light.

 

Alladin's lamp on oil clothed table...its base a pretty green, 

gives light to her placing kindlin' and... a smidge of kerosene.  

She starts the fire with kitchen match, then opens the damper bail,

the fire roars as she aprons up and dips hand wash from a pail.
 

Her kitchen range...in winter's welcome, it's stoked up then... all day,

but baking bread in the summertime ... there's just no other way. 

So, she fired it up real early, just to beat the summer's heat,

to get sourdough in the oven... and cook other things to eat.
 

She'd stir up a pan of biscuits, then knead out a batch of bread,

made up last night... from the starter crock and secrets in her head.

That mystery crock of sourdough starter, sitting on the shelf...

how she made this taste bud twister was known only to herself.
 

If us cowboys were real lucky when she put the lunches up,

we'd get left over biscuits... sometimes... she fed 'em to the pup.

She'd put up several lunches... in some cotton sugar sacks,

we would tie 'em up with leather strings behind our high back kacks.


It was a time of my beginnings, on the Burnt River's Break's,

a time of learnin' how to cowboy and to give what it takes....

A time when Mom was cookin' for "the brand"... before times would change,

a time when sourdough, beef and biscuits... came off that "sourdough range."

 

© 2010, Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

He told us about the poem's inspiration, and we asked him if he had a photo to share. That led to several interesting photos featured in Picture the West (January 16, 2012).

About the poem, he writes:

This poem is a tribute to my mother; Beulah Bell Chadwell.

She cooked on woodstove ranges most of her life, in often remote cabins or boarding houses made of logs or rough sawn lumber. She made a home for her family and cooked for; Loggers, sawmill crews, miners, farmers and cowboys. She was a true Eastern Oregon pioneer.

She, like a lot of other pioneer women, knew how to keep food without refrigeration. They knew how to cook from scratch with groceries raised, purchased or perhaps bartered for in the fall; enough to last an entire isolated, snowed in winter, if need be. Many, rarely, if ever, had access to commercial electricity.

Then there were those baking powder biscuits and always that ever present crock of "secret recipe" sour dough starter to make hotcakes, hot rolls, bread and pie dough. My...oh my...I remember my mother had a way with sour dough. We ate it nearly every day and never tired of it. I can smell her sour dough, if I think about it, to this day.

The photos include the Bell family sawmill (about 1920) on Antone Creek, north and west of Baker City, Oregon, in the Blue Mountain foothills; the lumber wagon and team ready for delivery, driven by Keith's grandfather; and a photo of his grandfather with his work horse.

 

 

 

  Byrl Keith and Barbara Chadwell share photos
and commentary about the Grand Canyon and its mules in Picture the West...

 

 

 

 

 

This photo is included in our 2007 Christmas at the BAR-D:

 



Byrl Keith Chadwell, coming out of Dutch Flat Lake
 in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon in the late fall of 1993. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

  About Byrl Keith Chadwell:

Byrl Keith Chadwell was born in a Colorado mining town in the late 1930s. Keith started to cowboy, as a youngster, on his grandfather’s homestead on the breaks of the Burnt River in Eastern Oregon.

Keith has spent a lifetime working with livestock which has included breaking and training a lot of horses and mules.  Keith and His wife Barbara owned and operated their own stock ranch for over 14 years before retiring in 2005.

Keith is also a 10 year U. S. Marine Corps veteran and later worked in Human Resources management and  Safety/Risk Management Consulting with various companies.  

Keith and Barbara, his wife of over 50 years, recently sold their ranch and did some RV traveling. They ended up working at the Grand Canyon for a couple of seasons where Keith worked as a mule guide. 

With roots that run deep into the ranching, mining and timber history of the Northwest, Keith has a rich and colorful background from which he writes Western Gospel songs, and Cowboy poetry. Keith recently finished his first cowboy poetry CD, titled Tales and Trails.

You may contact Keith and Barbara at: rucklescreekranch@hotmail.com.  Visit Byrl Keith Chadwell's web site.

 

 

 

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