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Below are track descriptions, an introduction to The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two, and additional references for the poems included on the CD.

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two (2007) is a compilation of contemporary recordings of some of today's best classic and contemporary cowboy poetry.

This second annual CD includes Badger Clark's vintage recording of his first published poem, "Ridin'"; recent poems considered modern classics, recited by their authors, including "Breaker in the Pen" by Joel Nelson and "The Horse Trade" by the late Sunny Hancock; noted reciters Randy Rieman and Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks performing classic poems by Bruce Kiskaddon and Katherine Fall Pettey; Gail I. Gardner’s famous “The Sierry Petes” recited by the late J. B. Allen, and “Hail and Farewell,” by Delia Gist Gardner, delivered by Gail Steiger, songwriter, filmmaker, rancher, and the Gardners’ grandson; and a second selection of poetry from “Grass,” cowboy poetry’s masterwork by the late Buck Ramsey, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, recognized as the modern spiritual leader of the genre.

There are many additional tracks (27 total), most from poets who frequently delight audiences from contemporary gathering stages, including: Doris Daley, Elizabeth Ebert, Paul Zarzyski (reciting S. Omar Barker's "Hosses vs. Horses"), Jay Snider, Smoke Wade, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Peggy Godfrey, Ken Cook, Darrell Arnold, Pat Richardson, DW Groethe, Don Kennington, Kent Rollins, Virginia Bennett, Janice Gilbertson, Rod Nichols, Diane Tribitt, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Jim Thompson (reciting
Arthur Chapman's classic, "Out Where the West Begins").


The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two CD includes a radio Public Service (PSA) Announcement by poet, humorist, and radio host Andy Nelson (listen below). Andy Nelson engineered and co-produced both the 2006 and 2007 editions of The BAR-D Roundup.


Read more about the The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two on the previous page, here.  

On the previous page:

About The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two (2007)

Order Information

What They're Saying ...

Listen to the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry Public Service Announcement

About the cover art and inside photo

About The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two (2007) and Cowboy Poetry Week 2007

How to submit images and poems for consideration for future compilations 

Support CowboyPoetry.com


Cowboy poetry is the voice of the working West—as alive today as it has been for over 125 years—telling the stories of ranching life. Its enduring popularity is celebrated at CowboyPoetry.com.

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two (2007) is a compilation of outstanding contemporary recordings of some of today's best classic and contemporary cowboy poetry.


This second CD includes South Dakota Poet Laureate Badger Clark's vintage recording of his first published poem, "Ridin'." The poem is in his 1915 book, Sun and Saddle Leather, a volume that has never gone out of print.

Two more recent poems, both considered modern classics, are recited by their authors. Joel Nelson recites "The Breaker in the Pen," from his Grammy-nominated CD of the same name, said to have "raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years."  The late Sunny Hancock's poem, "The Horse Trade" is included.


Two classics are in the hands of the the top practitioners of their craft: Master reciter Randy Rieman renders a flawless performance of Bruce Kiskaddon's "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall."  Noted reciter Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks delivers the evocative "Mornin' on the Desert," a poem long attributed to "Anonymous" (the rightful author was uncovered in research for this CD: Katherine Fall Pettey).


Gail I. Gardner’s peerless classic, “The Sierry Petes” is recited by the late J. B. Allen. Gardner's wife, Delia Gist Gardner, also wrote poetrya fact discovered after her death. Her moving poem, “Hail and Farewell,” is delivered in a singular performance by Gail Steiger, songwriter, filmmaker, rancher, and the Gardners’ grandson.


The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two includes the first chapter of Grass, cowboy poetry’s masterwork by the late Buck Ramsey, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, recognized as the modern spiritual leader of the genre. (The 2006 edition of The BAR-D Roundup includes the well-known and widely known Prologue to Grass, "Anthem," a poem that has been called "the finest contemporary piece of writing in this tradition.")

Popular Canadian poet Doris Daley's poem, "A Letter to Mr. Russell," addresses the famous cowboy artist, bringing him up to date on current parlance in her own artistic words that weave in the titles of some of his best-known paintings.


Baxter Black has praised Elizabeth Ebert's extraordinary poem, "He Talked About Montana," saying "If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all.

Paul Zarzyski, the self-described "Polish-hobo-rodeo-poet," recites S. Omar Barker's "Hosses vs. Horses," a recording from the award-winning Spurrin' the Words, a Cowboy Poetry Project from the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development. 


Oklahoma rancher and gathering audience favorite Jay Snider combines talent and wisdom in his tale of "Tyrone and Tyree."


Smoke Wade draws on his experience in the days of trailing large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River, times that are "gone now, along with the cattle ranches in Hell's Canyon," in his poem, "Trailing the Herd."


Native Utahn Jo Lynne Kirkwood explores the labor and rewards of ranching life in her lyrical, four-part poem,  "A Cowboy Season."


Colorado's Peggy Godfrey delivers ranching reality in "A Country Graft," a poem from a recent film about her life, Cowboy Poetry: A Woman Ranching the Rockies.


South Dakota rancher Ken Cook honors his late grandfather and the generations of cowboys in his family, with his poem, "Grandpa."


Tracks by Darrell Arnold, Pat Richardson, and DW Groethe present the lighter side of today's cowboy poetry scene. Darrell Arnold pokes fun with "Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'"; the irrepressible Pat Richardson observes a cowboy poet from his dog's point of view; and quirly DW Groethe's "A Bunny Poem" is a tale of road-weary cowboy poets.


Beloved veteran poet and farrier Don Kennington, recites one of his most-requested poems, "The Last Nail" and rancher, poet, humorist, and famous chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins pays respects to another farrier, in his poem, "Horseshoes and Heaven." 


Poems by friends and horsewomen Virginia Bennett and Janice Gilbertson complement each other: Virginia Bennett's wistful and reflective "As You Ride," sets the scene for Janice Gilbertson's life-affirming poem about horses and friendship, "Night Time's Promise."


Rod Nichols, Diane Tribitt, and Yvonne Hollenbeck speak to the spirit. Texan Rod Nichols' poem, "Talent," is about sometimes-hidden virtues, and a hope to be blessed with "just half of such talent to shine as a light before men." In Minnesota rancher Diane Tribitt's poem, "Prayer Under the Northern Lights," a widow rancher's calls on her faith. Lauded South Dakota poet Yvonne Hollenbeck speaks of a reverence that is a part of a way of life in "Nature's Church," with a touch of Jean Prescott's "In the Garden" echoing behind the meaningful poem.


Popular broadcaster, poetry lover and booster, and seasoned reciter Jim Thompson  creates a perfect ending, with a flourish, with the recitation of Arthur Chapman's classic, "Out Where the West Begins." In its day, the poem was known throughout America. It hung in the office of the Secretary of the Interior, was quoted in Congress, used as Western governors' campaign material, was found on cards and postcards, printed in magazines and advertisements, and turned into a popular song.


The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two CD includes a radio Public Service (PSA) Announcement by poet, humorist, and radio host Andy Nelson. Andy Nelson engineered and co-produced both the 2006 and 2007 editions of The BAR-D Roundup.

                                                                                                                                                                                             Margo Metegrano, April 2007

Track Descriptions



  1. Charles Badger Clark, Jr., "Ridin" 1:38
  2. Randy Rieman, "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall" (Bruce Kiskaddon)
  3. Doris Daley, "A Letter to Mr. Russell"
  4. Joel Nelson, "The Breaker in the Pen"
  5. Sunny Hancock, "The Horse Trade"
  6. Paul Zarzyski, "Horses vs. Hosses" (S. Omar Barker)
  7. Jay Snider, "Tyrone and Tyree"
  8. Elizabeth Ebert, "He Talked About Montana"
  9. Smoke Wade, "Trailing the Herd"
10. Jo Lynne Kirkwood, "A Cowboy Season"
11. Peggy Godfrey, "Country Graft"
12. Ken Cook, "Grandpa"
13. Darrell Arnold, "Cowboy Poultry Gatherin"
14. Pat Richardson, "Shep's Poetry"

Page Two:

15. DW Groethe, "The Bunny Poem" 1:59
16. J.B. Allen, "The Sierry Petes" (Gail I. Gardner)
17. Don Kennington, "The Last Nail"
18. Kent Rollins, "Horseshoes and Heaven"
19. Buck Ramsey, "The Story: One"
20. Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks, "Morning on the Desert" (Katherine Fall Pettey)
21. Gail Steiger, "Hail and Farewell" (Delia Gist Gardner)
22. Virginia Bennett, "As You Ride"
23. Janice Gilbertson, "Night Time's Promise"
24. Rod Nichols, "Talent"
25. Diane Tribitt, "Prayer Under the Northern Lights"
26. Yvonne Hollenbeck, "Nature's Church"
27. Jim Thompson, "Out Where the West Begins" (Arthur Chapman)
28. Andy Nelson, Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry (PSA)


All rights are reserved by the artists and owners of the included tracks.
Poems and permissions were generously donated by poets, musicians, families, publishers, and filmmakers.
The BAR-D Roundup is produced by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, with generous funding support from sustaining donors

Most biographies were supplied by the poets and reciters.

Track 1:  Charles Badger Clark, Jr., "Ridin"



About the track, "Ridin'"
About the poet, Badger Clark
The poem, "Ridin'"
Additional links

About the track, "Ridin'"

"Ridin'" is from a recording loaned by the Badger Clark Memorial Society.  It was the first poem written by Badger Clark. According to Jessie Sundstrom, who heads the Badger Clark Memorial Society, the recitation is from a circa 1956 78 rpm album, Dakota Voices, recorded by the University of South Dakota Zeta Phi Eta. Permission was granted to the Badger Clark Memorial Society to record the poem, and it was included on a cassette they issued in 1987, and later on a CD in 2003.

Jessie Sundstrom notes that "Ridin'" was read at the 1927 Roundup in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, which was attended by President Calvin Coolidge.

An August 27, 1927 article in the New York Times, "President Visits Disabled Veterans," reports on President Coolidge's visit to the Battle Mountain Soldiers' Sanitarium and his tour of Hot Springs, South Dakota. The article states:

A drive around the grounds and the town of Hot Springs was followed by the drive to the Country Club, where the Battle Mountain Band gave a concert...At its close President Coolidge send for Badger Clark, a cowboy poet. Mrs. Coolidge told Mr. Clark that she had been reading his verses and enjoyed them, as they brought a true picture to her of Western life.

"Ridin'" was included in Badger Clark's first poetry collection, Sun and Saddle Leather, in 1915, a book that remains in print today.

In addition to "Ridin'," the original Dakota Voices recording includes Badger Clark reading "The Legend of Boastful Bill," "A Border Affair," "The Cat Pioneers," "A Cowboy's Prayer," and "The Job." There are three additional poems and one story by Badger Clark, read by Morton B. Miller. The 2003 CD from the Badger Clark Memorial Society has 26 tracks, those included on the original recording; a speech excerpt by Badger Clark; and 15 additional poems by Badger Clark, recited by Martin Busch.

About the poet, Badger Clark

Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957) was a South Dakota native. He lived there most of his life and he became that state's poet laureate. He spent time as a young man in the southwest, and his cow-tending experiences there informed much of his poetry. Many of Clark's poems have been put to music, including "A Border Affair (Spanish is a Loving Tongue)."

Clark first collected his poetry in Sun and Saddle Leather in 1915, which has remained in print, some nine editions later. Later editions of Sun and Saddle Leather include Clark's second book of poetry, Grass Grown Trails. He published Sky Lines and Wood Smoke in 1935. Some of his short stories were collected in a "novel" called Spike, the Biography of an Arizona Cowboy, published in 1925. A number of reprints and some posthumous collections of his work have been published by the Badger Clark Memorial Society. 

Several contemporary biographies have been written about Clark, including one by Jessie Y. Sundstrom of the Badger Clark Memorial Society in 2004, and another by Helen F. Morganti in 1960, commissioned by the South Dakota State Historical Society. In 2005, Arizona historian Greg Scott edited Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, a book that includes all of Badger Clark's short stories and some of his poetry, including more than two dozen previously unpublished or long out-of-print poems.


bcsuntitlj.JPG (9010 bytes)   

[photo of Badger Clark from Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, used with permission]

The poem, "Ridin'"


There is some that like the city—
    Grass that's curried smooth and green,
Theaytres and stranglin' collars,
    Wagons run by gasoline—
But for me it's hawse and saddle
    Every day without a change,
And a desert sun a-blazin'
    On a hundred miles of range.

    Just a-ridin', a-ridin'—
        Desert ripplin' in the sun,
    Mountains blue among the skyline—
        I don't envy anyone
            When I'm ridin'.

When my feet is in the stirrups
And my hawse is on the bust,
With his hoofs a-flashin' lightnin'
From a cloud of golden dust,
And the bawlin' of the cattle
Is a-comin' down the wind
Then a finer life than ridin'
Would be mighty hard to find.

    Just a-ridin', a-ridin'—
        Splittin' long cracks through the
    Stirrin' up a baby cyclone,
        Rippin' up the prickly pear
            As I'm ridin'.

I don't need no art exhibits
    When the sunset does her best,
Paintin' everlastin' glory
    On the mountains to the west
And your opery looks foolish
    When the night-bird starts his tune
And the desert's silver mounted
    By the touches of the moon.

    Just a-ridin', a-ridin'—
        Who kin envy kings and czars
    When the coyotes down the valley
        Are a singin' to the stars,
            If he's ridin'?

When my earthly trail is ended
    And my final bacon curled
And the last great roundup's finished
    At the Home Ranch of the world
I don't want no harps nor haloes
    Robes nor other dressed up things
Let me ride the starry ranges
    On a pinto hawse with wings!

    Just a-ridin', a-ridin'—
        Nothin' I'd like half so well
    As a-roundin' up the sinners
        That have wandered out of Hell,
            And a-ridin'

by Charles Badger Clark Jr.

Additional links

Visit the Badger Clark Memorial Society web site, where you can also order books and recordings.

See features and links about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com in our features here.

Track 2:  Randy Rieman, "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall," by Bruce Kiskaddon



About the track, "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall"
About the reciter, Randy Rieman
The poem, "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall"
Additional links

About the track, "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall"

The "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall" track is from Randy Rieman's 2003 CD, Old Favorites. In the track notes, he writes, "Perhaps the best comment on this poem is a line from another of Bruce's poems, "...and whenever I get lonely I just hold a grand review, of the people, and the places, and the horses that I knew."  (The poem he refers to is "Cow Boy Days.")

The poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) are widely recited. A writer with cowboying experience, his poems have retained their popularity since they were first published, many of them appearing in the Western Livestock Journal during the 1930s and 1940s.

Kiskaddon wrote over 400 poems and published four books of poetry: Just As Is (1928), Rhymes of the Ranges (1924), Western Poems (1935), and Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems (1947).

Three modern editions of his poetry are valuable resources: Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (2007); Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon (1997); Rhymes of the Ranges: A New Collection of Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (1987).  Shorty's YarnsWestern Stories and poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (2004), was edited by Bill Siems, editor and compiler of Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, a comprehensive collection of Kiskaddon's poetic works.

Our version of "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall" above is from Kiskaddon's 1924 Rhymes of the Ranges. In Siems' Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, he notes that in later versions of the poem, that "Changes from the 1924 edition occur in 17 other lines..." and those are detailed in a Variants chapter of Open Range that compares versions of some of the poems that are in Kiskaddon's 1924 and 1947 books.

About the reciter, Randy Rieman

Randy Rieman is a master reciter and poet who often performs at gatherings. In 2007, he made his fourteenth appearance as an invited performer at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

From Randy Rieman's official biography:

Randy has made his living as a working cowboy and a horse trainer for the last 30 years.  He started his cowboy career in Montana, and  then moved to Nevada and California, spending time in each state for several years . He left California in 1993 to work for the Parker Ranch on the big island of Hawaii. Randy spent the next  nine years starting colts and training stock horses for Parker Ranch.

In the summer of 2001, Randy met and married his wife Kim and moved to Lamy, New Mexico where the two lived for five years.  In the summer of 2006 Randy and Kim moved to a ranch north of Dillon, Montana  where they are partners with the owners in a horse business.

Randy Rieman has two CDs, Old Favorites and Where the Ponies Come to Drink. CDs are available for $20 each, postpaid,  from Randy Rieman,  P.O. Box 270, Dillon, MT  59725 


Randy Rieman photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.

The poem, "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall"

When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall

Though you're not exactly blue,
Yet you don't feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
For your feelin's and the weather
Seem to sort of go together,
And you're quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;
And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin'
To the home ranch with  the wagon—
When they've finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin'
On the job for winter brandin',
And your pardner, he's a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin',
But you never hear him speakin',
And you feel it's goin' to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother—
He is friendly but he's quiet, that is all;
For he' thinkin' while he's draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin'
At an easy walk a swingin'
In behind the old chuck wagon movin' slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they've waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin' sporty,
Not a hoss is actin' snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they 're gentle, when they're draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled 'way down furr'wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
'Cept his old cob pipe is smokin'
As he lets his team go pokin',
Hittin' all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin'—
He's just settin' there and thinkin'
'Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin'
And two little clouds a sailin',
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you're lonesome when you're draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin' bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin'
Up there in the soft blue linin'
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin'
As your memory starts driftin'
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you're far away and draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue—
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin' but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did—
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done—
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
'Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede—
'Twas away up north, you helped 'em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn't reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his'n—
Boy that killed him's still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he's rich and livin' high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances—
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead 'em down the middle
Jest a prancin' to the fiddle—
Never thought of goin' home till the break of day.
No! there ain't no chance for sleepin',
For the memories come a creepin',
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

From Kiskaddon's 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges.  

Additional links

Randy Rieman feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Bruce Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com

Randy Rieman recites "Where the Ponies Come to Drink" by Henry Herbert Knibbs at the Western Folklife Center web site

Track 3:  Doris Daley, "A Letter to Mr. Russell"


About the track, "A Letter to Mr. Russell"
About the poet, Doris Daley
The poem, "A Letter to Mr. Russell"
Additional links

About the track, "A Letter to Mr. Russell"

"A Letter to Mr. Russell" is from Doris Daley's CD, Good for What Ails You. The "Mr. Russell" in the title is the renowned Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926).

In her introduction to "A Letter to Mr. Russell," Doris Daley writes:

Here's a poem that contrasts our "new and improved" times to when the west was new in the 1880s and 90s. The first italicized line in every verse is the title of a Charlie Russell painting.

About the poet, Doris Daley

Doris Daley has been an emcee and featured performer at every cowboy festival in Canada as well as several in the United States, including Texas, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Oregon. In 2004 she was named Best Female Cowboy Poet in North America by the Academy of Western Artists, the first time any Canadian, male or female, has won the cowboy poetry category. In 2001 she was among a small group of cowboy entertainers chosen to perform at a command performance for Canada’s Governor General, and during Alberta’s centennial year, she was one of the artists selected to represent Alberta cowboy culture in Ottawa.

Born and raised in Southern Alberta ranch country, Doris Daley writes cowboy poetry that celebrates the humour, history and way of life of the west. Her great grandfather came west with the North West Mounted Police in the 1870s; her family has been ranching in the Alberta foothills for five generations.

Doris comes from a gene pool that includes ranchers, cowboys, Mounties, good cooks, sorry team ropers, Irish stowaways, bushwhackers, liars, two-steppers and saskatoon pickers.

“You’ll soon forget she’s a performer,” says Gary Brown of Monterey, California, “and feel like she’s one of the family.” While she is chasing rhymes and building poems, her husband Bob Haysom, a fly-fishing guide and outfitter, snags brown and rainbow trout out of Alberta’s world-renowned Bow River.

Doris Daley has three recordings, Three Babes on a Bale, Poetry in Motion, and Good for What Ails You. She has published two books, No Bum Steer, and Rhyme and Reason. See her web site for ordering information.


The poem, "A Letter to Mr. Russell"


A Letter to Mr. Russell
Here's a poem that contrasts our "new and improved" times to when the west
was new in the 1880s and 90s. The first italicized line in every verse is
the title of a Charlie Russell painting.

Dear Charlie,
Well I guess they call it progress and progress ain't all bad.
For sure I have advantages that Grandma never had.
But lately I can scarce keep up
With all the lingo in my cup.
It's a chowder I don't want to sup.
It's sad.

I know it weren't all roses back before they strung the wire.
But each new "improvement" sends us from the fat into the fire.
We soldier on, regroup, take stock,
We've still escaped the chopping block
But Charlie, you should hear us talk.
It's dire.

When the land belonged to God
No SUVs where bison trod
No ATMs or ATVs
No Enron run by SOBs
No NAFTA and no GST.

When you waited for a Chinook,
No HBO or Selfhelp book.
No PCBs or toxic spill
No BLM or Dr. Phil.
No I-15 or Y2K

When the Judith was plumb hog wild
No Eminem or Destiny's Child
No Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.
No GPS when cows got loose
No HP Sauce or V8 Juice.

Before the whiteman came,
Big Brother didn't run the game.
No CNN on 24/7
No 7-up or 7-11
No dub dub dub dot west.com

Please send a bronc to breakfast soon
And kick this nonsense to the moon.
Charlie, here's my fervent plea:
When my time is up may I R.I.P.
Till then, a prayer for this world and me:
May we get a grip ASAP
                     Signed, DD

© 2004, Doris Daley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Additional links

Doris Daley's feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Doris Daley's web site

The C. M. Russell Museum web site

Track 4:  Joel Nelson, "The Breaker in the Pen"


About the track, "The Breaker in the Pen"
About the poet, Joel Nelson
Additional links

About the track, "The Breaker in the Pen"

"The Breaker in the Pen is from Joel Nelson's 1999 CD, The Breaker in the Pen. The CD, produced by Gail Steiger, is the only Cowboy Poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that it "raised the bar for Cowboy Poetry for 1000 years."  

  About the poet, Joel Nelson

Joel Nelson, one of today's most respected poets and reciters, resides in Alpine, Texas.  He is a frequent participant at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada; the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona; the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Alpine, Texas; and other gatherings.  

In 1999, he was invited to Rothbury, Northumberland, as a poet-in-residence, sponsored by the Mid-Northumberland Arts Group of the United Kingdom's Poetry Society. An article in Poetry Review, about his visit, comments, in part:

Joel Nelson proved to be a remarkable man. He is a very experienced horse-trainer and one of his first visits was to a horse breeder in Thropton. He got up onto a horse straightaway and cut a figure against the Simonside Hills, perfectly at ease, completely in control of his steed. His poetry displays the same composure. He is a man, also, of quiet but great charisma, infinitely courteous and gracious. At every public event he appeared in--the back room of the pub at Alwinton, the young farmers meeting in Thropton, the final show at Alnwick, he completely captivated his audience. His voice, of course, was pure Texan and he was recognisable in any crowd by his large black cowboy hat, which he never, ever takes off (except when eating at table). As an inspirational force for poetry he is incomparable.

Joel Nelson has a degree in Forestry and Range Management. He served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. He has worked as a custom saddle maker and is known for his horse training skills, which he has practiced in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Hawaii.   

The Breaker in the Pen is available for $18.50 postpaid from Joel Nelson, PO Box 1021, Alpine, TX 79831.

Joel Nelson photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

Additional links

Joel Nelson feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

Listen to Joel Nelson recite his poem "Equus Caballus" in a National Public Radio feature

Track 5: Sunny Hancock, "The Horse Trade"



About the track, "The Horse Trade"
About the poet, Sunny Hancock
The poem, "The Horse Trade"
Additional links

About the track, "The Horse Trade"

"The Horse Trade," by Sunny Hancock (1931-2003) is from his CD, Sunny. The CD was produced in 2005, from cassette tapes of Sunny Hancock's work.

The poem is also included in Sunny Hancock's book, Horse Tracks Through the Sage, which also includes poetry by Jesse Smith. Introducing the poem, Sunny Hancock writes, "This poem needs no introduction. Everyone understands it, and seems to think it's OK. I get requests from all over the United States for copies or permission to use it.

Horse Tracks Through the Sage received the Will Rogers Medallion Award and the Buck Ramsey Best Poetry Book Award from the Academy of Western Artists.

SunnyHancocksmj.jpg (7513 bytes)  About the poet, Sunny Hancock

Sunny Hancock was in the vanguard of the cowboy poetry movement, starting with the first gathering in Elko in 1985 (now the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, sponsored by the Western Folklife Center). He performed poetry all over the United States, including at the Library of Congress and at the Smithsonian. He received several awards, including the Gail Gardner Award, presented at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona, and the Cowboy Poet of the Year award in 2001 from the Academy of Western Artists.

Sunny Hancock was known mostly for his humorous poetry, but did an occasional tearjerker as well. He cowboyed all over the western U. S. and settled, in retirement, with his wife Alice on a little place outside Lakeview, Oregon with a house and five acres where they raised a few beef steers in the summer to supply meat for the table and to help pay the taxes.

The CD, Sunny, is available for $18 postpaid from: Alice Hancock, 93509 Leehmann Lane, Lakeview, OR 97630. 


The poem, "The Horse Trade"

The Horse Trade

I traded for a horse one time,
   he wouldn't take no beauty prize;
A great big long-eared, blue roan gelding,
   not too bad for weight or size.
I had to make some tough old circles
   and this trader guaranteed
This horse would show me lots of country
   and not need too much rest or feed.

He said "Now this here ain't no kids' horse
   but he'll pack you up the crick,
He will bump up on some occasions
   and he has been known to kick.
I wouldn't trade him to just anyone
   without having some remorse
But if you're a sure enough cow puncher,
   mister, he's your kind of horse.

I stepped on that horse next mornin';
   he began to buck and bawl.
That trader maybe hadn't lied none,
   but he hadn't told it all.
Because we sure tore up the country
   where he throwed that equine fit
And I almost ran out of hand holds
   by the time he finally quit.

I guess that musta' set the pattern;
   things just never seemed to change,
Although I showed him lots of country,
   every corner of the range.
But every time I'd ride that booger,
   why, he'd keep me sittin' tight.
I knew I'd make at least three bronc rides
   'fore he'd pack me home that night.

Which woulda been OK
   with lots of horses that I knowed.
But that old pony had my number;
   I'd just barely got him rode.
And the thing that really spooked me
   and put a damper on my pride
Was he was learning how to buck
   faster than I was learnin' how to ride.

I pulled into camp one evening;
   it was gettin' pretty late.
I see this grey horse in the corral
   and there's a saddle by the gate.
I looked that grey horse over
   and I sure liked what I seen,
Then this kid showed up around the barn;
   he musta been about sixteen.

He said he'd lamed that grey that morning
   coming down off the granite grade,
And he wondered if I had a horse
   I'd maybe like to trade.
He said he didn't have the time to stop
  and rest and let him heal,
And since that beggars can't be choosers,
   he'd make most any kind of deal.

When a feller's tradin' horses,
   why, most anything is fair,
So I traded him that blue roan
   for his grey horse then and there.
But them my conscience started hurtin'
   When I thought of what I did,
To trade a "fly blown" dink like that
   off to some little wet-nosed kid.

So next mornin' after breakfast,
   why, I tells him, "Listen lad,
If you want to know the truth,
   that trade you made last night was bad.
That old blue horse is a tough one,
   bad as any one you'll see.
He'll kick you, strike you, stampede.
   He's a sorry SOB.

"It's all I can do to ride him
   and I'll tell it to you straight,
I think you'll be awfully lucky
   just to ride him past the gate.
There's two or three old horses
   out there in the saddle bunch.
They ain't got too much going for 'em
   but I kinda got a hunch

"They'll probably get you where you're going
   if you just don't crowd 'em none,
But damn, I hate to see you ride
   that blue roan booger, son!"
He said, "I told you there last night
   I'd make most any kind of trade,
And I appreciation your tellin'
   what a bad mistake I made.

"But my old daddy told me when you're tradin'
   that no matter how you feel,
Even if you take a whippin'
   that a deal is still a deal.
That horse, you say has lots of travel,
   and he's not too bad for speed.
Well, sir, I'm kinda' in a tight
   and that's exactly what I need.

"I traded for him fair and square
   and damn his blue roan hide,
When I pull outta' here this morning,
   that's the horse I'm gonna ride."
I watched him cinching up his saddle
   and he pulled his hat way down,
Stepped right up into the riggin'
   like he's headed straight for town.

Stuck both spurs up in his shoulders,
   got the blue roan hair a-flyin'
Tipped his head straight back and screamed
   just like a hungry mountain lion.
You know, I've heard a lot of stories
   'bout the bucking horse ballet.
I've heard of poetry in motion,
   but the ride I saw that day

Just plumb complete defied description
   though I can see it plain,
Like it had happened in slow motion
   and was branded on my brain.
I don't suppose I could explain it
   to you even if I tried.
The only thing that I can say is,
   by the saints, that kid could ride.

He sat there plumb relaxed
   like he was laying home in bed,
And every jump that pony made,
   that kid's a-half a jump ahead.
When it was over I decided
   I could learn a few things still,
And I said, "Son, I'm awfully sorry
   I misjudged your ridin' skill."

He just said, "Shucks, that's OK, mister,"
   as he started on his way,
"But if you think this horse can buck,
   don't put your saddle on that grey."

© 2002, Sunny Hancock, reprinted with permission from Horse Tracks Through the Sage
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

Additional links

Sunny Hancock feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Listen to Sunny Hancock recite Bruce Kiskaddon's "An Old Western Town at the Western Folklife Center site.


Track 6:  Paul Zarzyski, "Horses Versus Hosses, " by S. Omar Barker



About the track, "Horses Versus Hosses"
About the reciter, Paul Zarzyski
The poem, "Horses Versus Hosses"
Additional links

About the track, "Horses Versus Hosses"

"Horses Versus Hosses" is recited by Paul Zarzyski, from the recording that accompanies the popular, award-winning Spurrin' the Words, a Cowboy Poetry Project from the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development. The Spurrin' the Words CD includes additional recordings by Wallace McRae, Gwen Petersen, and Mike Logan.

S. Omar Barker (1895-1985) included the poem in his 1954 collection, Songs of the Saddlemen.

Kirk Astroth, Director of the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development, told us how the track became a part of the CD. He said he hadn't planned to include the poem, because it is not included in the curriculum. But, after Paul Zarzyski finished recording the planned poems, ".... he came out of the recording booth, and I said—"Well, that's a wrap.  But I wish we had one more poem because that makes 13 for the CD—and that's not a lucky number."  He tells how Paul immediately suggested "Horses Versus Hosses," and "... in the end, he was brilliant—recalling it exactly and doing it with panache. It was definitely a keeper."

pzPortraitHiRes1.JPG (3550690 bytes)  About the reciter, Paul Zarzyski

From Paul Zarzyski's official biography:

Paul Zarzyski, the recipient of the 2005 Governor's Arts Award for Literature, has been spurring the words wild across the open range of the page and calling it Poetry for 33 years. In the early '70s, he heeded Horace Greeley's "go west young man, go west" advice and received his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from The University of Montana, where he studied with Richard Hugo. In the same breath, he took up a second "lucrative" vocation – bareback bronc riding. He rode both the amateur and the ProRodeo circuits, hung his hooks up in his late 30s, then cracked back out, after turning 40, for a couple more years on the senior circuit or, as Paul prefers to call it, The Masters. On the lee side of his rodeo roughstock years, these days he "makes his living" (to borrow the title of a James Dickey essay) BARNSTROMING FOR POETRY.

Paul has been a featured performer at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the last 20 years, has toured Australia and England, and has recited at the National Book, Folk, and Storytelling Festivals, The Santa Clarita and Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festivals, The ProRodeo Hall of Fame, The Library of Congress, and with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also featured, in June 1999, on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, aired from The Mother Lode Theater in Butte, Montana.

His recent publications include WOLF TRACKS ON THE WELCOME MAT (OreanaBooks, 2003), winner of The Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, BLUE-COLLAR LIGHT (Red Wing Press, 1998) and ALL THIS WAY FOR THE SHORT RIDE (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1996), which received The Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Two recordings—WORDS GROWING WILD (1998) and THE GLORIOUS COMMOTION OF IT ALL (2004)—both produced by Jim Rooney in Nashville, offer poems with accompaniment by Duane Eddy, John Hartford, Rich O'Brien, and other fine musicians.

Of his "Roughstock Sonnets" collection—ALL THIS WAY FOR THE SHORT RIDE—the March 16, 1997 New York Times Book Review proclaimed:

"Mr. Zarzyski alternates between bluster and lyricism. For the former, he uses lopingly metered stanzas and punch-drunk, self mythologizing bravura... But he proves equally adept at meditative free verse..."

Paul also has collaborated on song lyrics with Ian Tyson, (Rodeo Road, Jerry Ambler, and Whispering Hope), Tom Russell (Bucking Horse Moon and All This Way For The Short Ride), Dave Wilkie of Cowboy Celtic (Black Upon Tan and Flying, Not Falling, In Love With You), Don Edwards (West of the Round Corral), Wylie Gustafson (Saddle Broncs And Sagebrush and Rodeo to the Bone), and Betsy Hagar (Home Chest, The Christmas Saguaro Soiree, Star Light Star Bright, and others).

Born and raised in Hurley Wisconsin, Paul now lives west of Great Falls, Montana.

Paul Zarzyski has a number of books and CDs to his credit, including the 2006 recordings, Collisions of Reckless Love and Rock 'n' Rowell, available exclusively from the Western Folklife Center for $15.99 each plus shipping and handling.

CDs can also be ordered online at www.westernfolklife.org or phone 775-738-7508, ext 2.  

pzcoll.jpg (14856 bytes)  pzrock.jpg (25832 bytes)

Paul Zarzyski photo Gordon Stevens

The poem, "Horses Versus Hosses"

Horses Versus Hosses

I heard an oldtime cowboy swappin' off some drawlin' talk
About them nags men used to ride, who didn't like to walk.
He spoke of them as hosses, so I up and asked him way
He didn't call them horses.  Well, a gleam come in his eye,
And here is what he told me
—be it right or be it wrong—
Some salty information that I'd like to pass along:

"You go out to the race track or some modern ridin' school,
And what you'll find 'em ridin' there is horses, as a rule.
You'll see 'em wrapped in blankets when they raise a little sweat,
And bedded in warm stables so they won't git cold or wet.
Their saddle is a postage stamp; they're combed and curried slick:
Their riders bobble up an' down like monkeys on a stick.
Them purty tricks are horses, son, but that there ain't the word
We used to call them shaggies that we rode behind the herd.
They might not be so purty, but they stayed outdoors at night.
They maybe weighed 900 pounds
—all guts an' dynamite.
They took you where you had to go an' always brought you back,
Without no fancy rations that you purchase in a sack.
They loped all day on nothin' but your two hands full of grass.
On a Stetson full of water they could climb a mountain pass.
They swum you through the rivers an' they plowed you through the sand—
You an' your heavy saddle, an' they learned to understand
Which end of the cows the tail was on, till all you had to do
Was set up in the saddle while they did the cow work, too!
Sometimes they sorter dodged your rope, sometimes they bucked you high,
But they was sure the apple of the oldtime cowhands eye!
These stable-pampered critters may be horses sure enough,
But them ol' cow range hosses, they was born to take it rough.
So that's the way they took it, till they earned a tougher name
Than these here handfed horses, all so delicate an' tame.

So you can have your horses, with their hifalutin' gloss
I'll take four legged rawhide—or in other words, a hoss!"

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

Additional links

 Spurrin' the Words features at CowboyPoetry.com

S. Omar Barker feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Paul Zarzyski feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Paul Zarzyski's web site


Track 7: Jay Snider, "Tyrone and Tyree"



About the track, "Tyrone and Tyree"
About the poet, Jay Snider
The poem, "Tyrone and Tyree"
Additional links

About the track, "Tyrone and Tyree"

Jay Snider's "Tyrone and Tyree" is from his CD, Of Horses and Men.

About the poet, Jay Snider

Jay Snider was born and raised in the southwest Oklahoma and calls Cyril, Oklahoma home. Born to a ranching and rodeo family, his dad a top roper and rodeo cowboy and his grandad a brand inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He rodeoed throughout most of his early years and now stays busy raising ranch horses, cattle, and team roping. Jay continues to judge a few amateur rodeos around home and hosts the annual Invitational Rafter S Ranch Cowboy Reunion.

Some of his recent performances include the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering; the Chisholm Trail Stampede in Duncan, Oklahoma; the Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas; and the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas. Jay is a six-time nominee for male poet of the year by the Academy of Western Artists. His album Cowboyin', Horses and Friends was nominated for best poetry album for 2001. 

Jay recently appeared on Country Music Television's, Christmas in Cowboy Country hosted by Clint Black. He was a Silver Buckle winner at Kanab, Utah's Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in 2004 and was a featured cowboy poet at the Ozarks Fall Roundup Cowboy Gathering hosted by Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Theater in Branson, Missouri. Jay also was a featured cowboy poet in 2005 at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival in Kamloops, British Columbia and at Cal Farley's Youth Poetry Gathering near Amarillo, Texas. Recently, Jay was awarded the "Best of the Best" trophy at Kanab, Utah's Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. Jay released his second cowboy poetry recording, Of Horses and Men, in 2006.

  Jay Snider's "Cowboyin', Horses and Friends"

The poem, "Tyrone and Tyree"

Tyrone and Tyree

I've learned lots of lessons
'Bout cowboyin' up
Cause I've been a cowboy
Since I was a pup
And my dad taught me
Just like his dad taught him
Rewards without effort
Come seldom and slim
And if workin' for wages
Or bossin' a crew
A job left half finished
Reflects upon you
And good leaders of men
Who while bossin' the crew
Won't ask of their men
What they wouldn't do
Cause men are just men
And it's by God's design
We all pull on our britches
One leg at a time
But some men are leaders
While others hold back
They stray off the trail
And are hard to untrack
But with proper persuasion
Will likely fall in
Cause that's just the nature
Of hosses and men
Which put me to thinkin'
'Bout Tyrone and Tyree
The best team of Belgium's
You ever did see
Why they'd lay in those collars
And pull stride for stride
Work sunup to sundown
'Till the day that they died
But Tyree would get balky
Not pull like he should
So Tyrone would reach over
And scold him right good
Then the load they were pullin'
Would even right out
That's the lesson in life
That I'm talkin' about
Cause some hosses are leaders
While some will pull back
They'll stray off the trail
And are hard to untrack
But with proper persuasion
Will likely fall in
See, that's just the nature
Of hosses and men
Which put me to thinkin'
'Bout what dad had said
And a couple of visions
Then danced in my head
In my mirror, while shavin'
Which one will I see
Could I be Tyrone
Or would I be Tyree
And to leaders of men
Let's all raise a cup
Here's to pullin' your weight
And to cowboyin' up

© 2005, Jay Snider, All Rights Reserved             
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Jay Snider's feature at CowboyPoetry.com
Jay Snider's web site

Track 8: Elizabeth Ebert, "He Talked About Montana"


About the track, "He Talked About Montana"
About the poet, Elizabeth Ebert
The poem, "He Talked About Montana"
Additional links

About the track, "He Talked About Montana"

Elizabeth Ebert's "He Talked About Montana" is from her CD, Live from Thunderhawk and included in her book, Crazy Quilt.

She comments, "Some forty years ago, a man worked for us off and on for several years. He was about the best help with cattle that we ever had. And he thought that Big Timber, Montana was the most wonderful place in the world."

 Baxter Black has commented about Elizabeth Ebert, her writing, and this poem, "If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all: Before war and wife and whiskey/Had bent him out of shape,/Now the war and wife were history/And the whiskey was escape."

About the poet, Elizabeth Ebert

Elizabeth Ebert was a strictly a closet poet until 1989. Since then, she has been featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko many times, received the Academy of Western Artists' Best Female Poet award and other honors, including the Della Johns Scholarship. (South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds proclaimed February 24, 2005 as Elizabeth Ebert Day.  Read more below.) 

A South Dakota native, she and her husband S. J. live on the the home place near Thunder Hawk, South Dakota.


The poem, "He Talked About Montana"

He Talked About Montana

He talked about Montana
     For he'd worked there in his youth,
And you somehow got the feeling
     That most of it was truth.
Talked about the things he'd done there,
     Memories from a happy past.
Talked about Montana rivers
     Running cold, and deep and fast,
About pines upon a hillside
     And mountains rising high,
About the endless reaches
     Of a blue Montana sky.

Said he left there at the war's start,
     Went to tell his folks good-bye.
Then there was a wartime wedding
     To a girl who got his eye.
Said she'd keep the home fires burning,
     'Til the war was past and won,
Wrote her love to him in letters,
     Sent him pictures of their son.
And the letters and the pictures
     Helped him bear the death and blood.
And he'd dream about Montana
     As he slogged through foreign mud.

They would buy a little ranch there,
     And he'd teach the boy to ride.
It would be a bit of heaven,
     With his family at his side.
But he came home to discover
     Someone else was in his place.
She had found another lover.
     It was more than he could face
For he was tired of fighting,
     So he merely let them go.
It was then he started drinking,
     Just to ease the pain, you know.

He'd work a month cold sober,
     And then he'd draw his pay,
He was headed for Montana;
     But the booze got in his way,
And he never made it out of town,
     'Fore the money all was spent
And he was busted flat again,
     And he didn't know where it went. 
So he'd come back asking for his job.
     And he'd hope you'd understand.
And you always hired him on again
     For he was a darned good hand.

And he'd talk about Montana.
     And you'd get a glimmer then,
Of the cowboy that he used to be,
     And the man he might have been
Before the war and wife and whiskey
     Had bent him out of shape.
Now the war and wife were history
     And the whiskey was escape.
But he swore that he was going back
     And he'd do most anything
For Montana sure was pretty
     When it greened up in the spring.

Then he finally got an offer
     To tend a band of sheep.
It was just for winter wages,
     Barely paid his board and keep.
But it was in Montana,
     So he was on his way,
He could stand to winter woollies,
     He would work for little pay,
For he'd be there in the springtime
     When the sky turned clear and blue,
And he'd go back to punching cattle
     When his winter job was through.

Don't know why he left the sheep camp,
     Started walking into town,
Maybe he just needed whiskey
     To wash the lonely down.
Quick come Montana's blizzards.
     Deep falls Montana's snow.
And unforgiving are the winds
     When they once begin to blow.
He'd come looking for his Paradise,
     He hadn't come to die.
But he froze upon a lonely road
     'Neath a cold Montana sky.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Additional links

Elizabeth Ebert's feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Elizabeth Ebert recites her poem, "An Ordinary Morning," on the Western Folkife Center web site.


Track 9:  Smoke Wade, "Trailing the Herd"



About the track, "Trailing the Herd"
About the poet, Smoke Wade
The poem, "Trailing the Herd"
Additional links

About the track, "Trailing the Herd"

"Trailing the Herd" is from Smoke Wade's CD, Smoke Wade, A Legend in His Own Mind.

Smoke comments about the poem, "I was trying to re-capture the memory of the days when we used to trail large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River as the herd followed the seasons. Those days are gone now along with the cattle ranches in Hells Canyon."

About the poet, Smoke Wade

Smoke Wade was born and raised on a Snake River cattle ranch in Hells Canyon, Oregon, where he rode horseback 6 miles to a one-room school house through the 6th grade. He is a fourth generation Wallowa County, Oregon, cowboy and range land manager.

Smoke has written cowboy poetry and western nostalgia for 15 years and has been performing since 2001. His poetry and stories reflect the memories of a lifestyle that once flourished in the Snake River canyon country along the Idaho-Oregon border.


The poem, "Trailing the Herd"

Trailing the Herd

They moved often then,
From warm winter grounds by the river's mouth;
Where mothers gave birth,
On rocky hillsides facing the sunny south.

Up steep trails, they moved,
Over low saddles bathed in late spring showers;
Through canyons with pine,
To mountain meadows with purple flowers.

By green ponds, they moved,
Past huckleberries on the summit high;
Down old Indian trails,
Across barren land with an endless sky.

Through dry hills, they moved,
Down dusty lanes under hot August sun;
To pasture with room,
For mother cows to rest and calves to run.

Behind fences, they moved,
There they fatten with ample time to graze;
No more winter grounds,
It is modern times with different ways.

They moved often then,
Past sumac gullies and high mountain streams;
Before trailing the herd,
Became part of our memories and dreams.

© 1991, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Smoke Wade's feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Track 10: Jo Lynne Kirkwood, "A Cowboy Season"



About the track, "A Cowboy Season"
About the poet, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
The poem, "A Cowboy Season"
Additional links

About the track, "A Cowboy Season"

"A Cowboy Season" is from Jo Lynne Kirkwood's CD, Until You Know Them by Heart.

About the poet, Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Jo Lynne Kirkwood is from the "Colorado Strip" part of northern Arizona, where her grandfather was one of the original settlers of the area. She lives in central Utah central Utah with her husband and four kids, and they raise hay and calves. She also teaches English and art.

The poem, "A Cowboy Season"

A Cowboy Season

Part I
(Spring - in the Pastures)

In March, when the calves started comin'
the ground was still covered in snow.
That night twenty gave birth the temperature hovered
somewhere around three below.

By mornin' six calves were near frozen
and ten never lurched to their feet.
They lay stiff in their membranes of ice and placenta,
and the live ones were tremblin' and weak.

Then when the sun broke over the mountain,
After that night when so many were lost,
The snow hollows crusted, the ground turned to ooze
and you started to long for the frost.

But when the mist rose off from the pasture
clouds gathered, and then the rains come.
And a deep chillin' drizzle damped the back of your neck,
and your hands were so cold they turned numb.

Then the calvin' became a true nightmare,
what with heifers just plain built too small,
calves comin' backwards, that had to be pulled,
and you wondered if it was worth it at all.

You were gruntin' and gaspin' and covered in sweat,
cussin' to drown out the pain,
Neck deep in muck and cursin' the sky,
though you knew in July you'd need rain.

Then a little feller you'd thought was left dogie
answered the bawl of his ma,
and thrustin' his head 'gainst that cow's achin' udders
he sucked life from that muddy spring thaw.

And awareness come hard, like the thunder,
with that power that deep knowin' has.
There was no other place you would rather be
than right here, in the spring, birthin' calves.

Part II
(Summer-West Desert Range)

In July, the muck turns to powder.
Waterin' holes crackle like shards
of ceramic, the grass shrivels up,
and livin' just downright gets hard.

You're haulin' water sometimes sixty miles,
buyin' feed when the prices are high,
cursin' the heat and chewin' on devils
spinnin' dust 'cross a cobalt blue sky.

But at night your world fills with shadows,
and the splendor of moonlight and wind.
And evenin's coyotes pass you like ghosts,
and when they hear you singin', join in.

And together your voices will chorus,
low and mournful into that night sky,
like a dirge, or an anthem, with memories entwined
of the words to a child's lullaby.

And it's there, with the starlight and music,
and the clean smell of sage on the wind,
You remember, again, just who you are.
And you know there's  no way you'd cash in.

Part III
(October - The Pasture Corrals)

In late autumn gnarled branches remember
their youth, and know they must die,
and at night they moan, and creak and cry out,
and bare tremblin' limbs to the sky.

And in those lost hours 'til the dawnin'
hoot owls hunt, and predators roam,
and out riding nighthawk you look over your shoulder,
feelin' fearful, and longin' for home.

But a coyote's been doggin' your late season calves,
and near the tank a bear print was found,
and the fences need mending, better get to that soon,
'fore your cattle stray off of your ground.

The wind stirs dry leaves in the shadows.
Is that a bruin, a hidin' in there?
Or could be a cougar, warily watchin' -
Or nothin' but restless night air.

"Aw, Come on," you mutter, and shake at your shoulders.
"Grab hold, man.  This ain't no big deal."
It's just that October's got you feelin' spooked,
and out here the demons are real.

Part IV
(Winter - High Country Line Camp)

In those long hollow days of late autumn
when the cold is gathering strength
like a lariat coiled 'round the horn of a saddle
suppressing the power of its length,

Then you pull down your hat 'gainst the chillin',
hunch your shoulders to ward off the wind
and wrap up in lonesome, 'cause you'll face this alone,
and lock up your dreams, burrow in,

to wait out the long cold winter.
You'll tell time by the length of the day,
the duration needed for a piñon elbow
to burn to a powdery gray.

And you'll store up the things that you'll ponder,
sift the chaff and tune your heart strings,
sort out the worthy, discard the waste,
and make room for significant things

To hold on to, mull over, sustain you,
give repose through the long winter day,
A core to come home to, an essence to trust
when you're lonely, and long miles away

From the peg where your hat finds a welcome,
the hearth where your boots long to stand,
That place you will go when the winter and snow
have drawn back from this high country land.

© 2001, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Jo Lynne Kirkwood's feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

Track 11:  Peggy Godfrey, "Country Graft"


About the track, "Country Graft"
About the poet, Peggy Godfrey
The poem, "Country Graft"
Additional links

About the track, "Country Graft"

"Country Graft" is from a documentary about Peggy Godfrey, Cowboy Poetry, A Woman Ranching the Rockies, by Kent Gunnufson.

About the poet, Peggy Godfrey

Peggy Godfrey has been ranching in the high desert next to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado for the past 32 years. In this country "cowboy" is a verb. Since 1991 she has been performing for a wide variety of audiences. Composting disasters into poems and stories is her version of value-added agriculture.

Cowboy Poetry: A Woman Ranching in the Rockies, is a warm and insightful portrait of Peggy Godfrey by award-winning filmmaker Kent Gunnufson.

Her recent CD is Write 'em, Cowboy. She's the author of several books, including Stretch Marks and Extra 'n' Ordinary.


The poem, "Country Graft"

Country Graft

Babies needing Mamas or the longing for a child
It happens here in Moffat, it happens in the wild.

Animal adoption on a ranch is called a graft
There's not a baby shower for the little lamb or calf.

For the best in bovine chemistry, take a cow whose calf has died
If she stands around and moos, you skin the little hide.

Then take an orphan baby or a lonesome starving tyke
You drape the skin and tie it snug, so the calves will smell alike.

I've hung black skins on red calves, a tiny red skin on a tan
Hereford's red and white on black, you do the best you can.

Some legs fit through like jackets, and I tie with baling twine
Those orange knots hanging front and back on this bovine Frankenstein.

The cow sniffs out this critter sporting funny wisps of twine
That little hide will help decide both futures on the line.

Sometimes it won't seem worth it, 'cause this grafting makes a mess
But when those mother instincts win, it's mighty sweet success.

The mother gets a grateful child, the baby gets a mother
And this rancher won't have to bottle-feed, unless she gets another.

© Peggy Godfrey
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Peggy Godfrey feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Cowboy Poetry, A Woman Ranching the Rockies feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Cowboy Poetry, A Woman Ranching the Rockies at Mountain Magazine

Track 12: Ken Cook, "Grandpa"

About the track, "Grandpa"
About the poet, Ken Cook
The poem, "Grandpa"
Additional links

About the track, "Grandpa"

"Grandpa" is from Ken Cook's CD, "I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy."

Ken Cook comments on the poem:  "During the 1980's at Buckles Ranch we sold yearlings right off the place. Grandpa Buckles and I moved thousands of steers from holding pens to the scales to be weighed over the years. Cattle buyers would nervously pace from the scale house to the door watching the cattle, the weights, and the number of head. Grandpa would always have the final word on the sale of the cattle and the price. More than once I watched him 'gain a dime or two.' No matter what time of year it was and regardless of our feed supply or grass conditions...cattle needed bought or sold according to my Grandpa."

About the poet, Ken Cook

Ken Cook ranches in South Dakota with his wife, Nancy. Together they have raised a daughter and three sons, and Ken helped to show them the cowboy way. He has worked cattle in all kinds  of weather and fed them in the same. Ken's grandpa, Frank Buckles, is responsible for teaching him which end of a cow means business... depending on the season. Ken's family, his grandpa, and the day-to-day life of a rancher, are the inspirations for most of his poems.

Read more about Ken Cook's "Grandpa Buckles" (1909-2007) here, which includes photos.

Ken Cook has two CDs, "Dad, Well Rope Today," and "I'm Gonna be a Cowboy."


Ken Cook photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.

The poem, "Grandpa"


This tale's about my Grandpa sittin' tall up in the saddle.
He's a tough old bird, a cattleman, dang he's hard to rattle.

I've seen him stand his ground with men who had the upper hand,
He'll prove his point, make them think, and then they'll feel their stand

Was off a bit, perhaps he's right.  The words he says are true.
The gate will close, the trucks will leave, Grandpa's gained a dime or two.

Don't get me wrong, he's family, the first to visit for a spell.
But he's constantly a thinkin' 'bout the cattle and the sale.

Money in the bank to Gramps is money layin' dead.
Buy some stock, a cow, some calves, then work to get' em fed.

Be it winter, spring, or summer, don't fret the grass will grow.
If it's short, we'll sell' em early, gotta buy back 'fore the snow.

The snows come each year to Dakota Territory.
Calves are weaned, the trucks are here, the boughten calves are all the story.

Grandpa says treat' em right, get' em on that feed real fast,
Perhaps a bale, or maybe not, gotta make that baled hay last.

The cows will need the hay 'fore the grass begins to grow.
Cows and calves, steers and feed, round and round we go.

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

Additional links

Ken Cook feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

Track 13: Darrell Arnold, "Cowboy Poultry Gatherin"


About the track, "Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'"
About the poet, Darrell Arnold
The poem, "Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'"
Additional links

About the track, "Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'"

"Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'" by Darrell Arnold was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup Volume 2. It is included in Darrell Arnold's book, Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'.

Darrell Arnold comments about "How 'Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'" Happened":

My interest in cowboy poetry began when I was a kid, reading great cowboy poems in Western Horseman magazine. Many years later, I went to work as an associate editor at Western Horseman, and one of my jobs, to my great joy, was editing poetry to be published in the magazine.

On many occasions, the publisher or the editor would bring me correspondence from someone. On the envelopes they would write "Pome" or "Poultry." It was our little internal joke.

Around 1986 or 1987, I attended my first gathering at Elko, and, as happens to so many, I came back from that great event inspired to crank out poems.When the editor handed me another envelope on which he had penned "poultry," inspiration struck, and the poem was born.


About the poet, Darrell Arnold

Darrell Arnold was born and raised in the town of La Veta, in southern Colorado. At the time of his birth, in 1946, that region of the state was primarily ranching country. Though Arnold did not grow up on a ranch, all his friends and neighbors were ranchers, and his own family raised cattle, hogs, rabbits, and chickens, and used horses for calf roping, barrel racing, trail riding, and hunting trips. Arnold had frequent opportunities to day-work with the many neighboring ranches.

After completing a college education in wildlife biology and serving four years in the United States Air Force, Arnold tried many occupations before finding his way into journalism. He became a staff writer for The Texas Longhorn Journal and an associate editor at Western Horseman magazine.

In 1990, Darrell Arnold started Cowboy Magazine, a publication dedicated to ranching and the working ranch cowboy. The quarterly magazine published its 60th issue in 2005.

Darrell Arnold has Arnold has published six books, including: In the Shadow of the Peaks, Cowboys und Ranches Huete, Cowboy Poultry
, The Cowboy Kind, Good Medicine: Humorous Stories and Poems from Cowboy Magazine, and Tales from Cowboy Country: Stories  from Cowboy Magazine.


The poem, "Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'"

Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'

I learned about this gatherin'
When a neighbor passed the word,
And it struck me as the dumbest thing
That I had ever heard.

He said a bunch of cowboys
Had been comin' here for years
For a great big poultry gatherin'.
I could not believe my ears.

Now, gatherin' cows is somethin'
That I know they always do,
And some will even gather sheep
Believe me folks, it's true.

I know they gather horses
Off the wild Nevada range,
But this gatherin' all these chickens
Really sounded kinda strange.

I imagined some ol' cowpoke
Jobbin' spurs into his steed,
Chasin' chickens through the sagebrush,
Colonel Sanders in the lead.

Just how do you rope a chicken?
On that I wasn't clear,
Or brand four sixes on his hide
Or swaller-fork his ear?

And when you've got 'em gathered,
Do you bed 'em down at night?
Do you cut out those bull chickens
If they're mean and on the fight?

I could hear the trail boss holler,
"Get 'em up, Boys, move along,
Take these hens to Ogallala."
Well it sure did seem all wrong.

So I came here to Elko
'Cause I had to check it out
And find out what this poultry stuff
Was really all about.

Well, now I feel foolish.
It's not poultry after all.
It's po-et-ry, with rhymin' words
And other folderol.

A bunch of tongue-tied punchers
With manure stuck to their heels
Are tellin' rhymin' stories 'bout
The way a cowboy feels.

But callin' this stuff poetry
Would make ol' Shakespeare howl.
I b'lieve it's poultry after all,
'Cause most of it is fowl!

© 1993,  Darrell Arnold
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Additional links

Darrell Arnold feature at CowboyPoetry.com
Cowboy Magazine web site

Track 14:  Pat Richardson, "Shep's Poetry"

About the track, "Shep's Poetry"
About the poet, Pat Richardson
The poem, "Shep's Poetry"
Additional links

About the track, "Shep's Poetry"

Pat Richardson's Poem, "Shep's Poetry," is from his CD, B. Y. O. S. (Bring Your Own Sheep) and is also included in his award-winning book, Pat Richardson Unhobbled

About the poet, Pat Richardson

PatRichardsonsm04aj.jpg (11055 bytes)

Pat Richardson was born and raised with livestock, he's rode colts, rodeoed and cartooned for The Pro Rodeo Sports News, besides working on ranches in several different states.  He and his brother Jess Howard are frequently-invited performers at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and other gatherings across the West.

Baxter Black has said about Pat's poetry, "If you boiled cowboy poetry down to what's worth savin', this is what the stew would smell like."

Pat Richardson has a number of recordings, including Pull My Finger and B. Y. O. S. (Bring Your Own Sheep). His book of poetry, Pat Richardson Unhobbled, received the 2004 Will Rogers Medallion Award. He was named Male Cowboy Poet of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists.



The poem, "Shep's Poetry"


Shep's Poetry

Ben sat at his kitchen table—an' his mind had drawn a blank
his creative juices wouldn't seem t' flow
"I need some new material." he muttered t' his dog
"Fer th' annual, upcomin', Horsemans show."

"So do somethin' funny." Ben snarled at his dog
an' was rewarded with a cold an' icy stare
That got Shep t' thinkin'—"Man if I could only write
I'd do a classic on his constant loss a' hair."

"Always cussin' me fer sheddin', an' in truth I sometimes do
but he ain't got a whole lot left t' shed
'Cause 'ceptin' fer them eyebrows, an' th' hair that's in his ears
hair is gettin' scarce on that ol' head."

"He's got some vulgar habits, he performs from time t' time
that'd really make some poetry," Shep smiled
"A constant inspiration, Man! I could write some stuff
that'd have th' folks just rollin' in th' aisles."

Ol' Shep eyed up Bens' computer, an' thought," By God I can!"
an' he snickered as his mind began t' race
"It'd take a little practice, but what's time t' a dog?
I sure could have some fun around this place."

When Benny left next mornin', ol' Shep went right t' work
Shucks! He'd watched Ben, a thousand times
By ten o'clock he'd mastered, everything he had t' know
then he really settled down, an' wrote some rhymes

He didn't pull no punches, he was precise an' t' th' point
an' some of it wasn't all that kind
Skeletons in Bens' closets, got drug out in th' light
Shep thought," Long as they're funny, Ben won't mind."

When Ben got home that evenin', he was in fer quite a shock
why there was poems piled everywhere
"I wonder where these come from?" Shep hid a sneaky grin
as Ben grabbed 'em up, an' settled in his chair.

Ol' Bens' heart begin t' hammer, as his secrets were revealed
an' sez," Whoever wrote these sure can't spell
But th' bugger must be psychic, how else would he know?"
This really had Ben puzzled, sure as hell

"I'm gonna kill whoever wrote these!" Ben screamed almost in tears
"Why if this gets out, I can't show my face.
It can't be my neighbors, 'cause they don't know this stuff,
it must be comin' from some other place."

Ol' Shep begins t' easin', over towards th' door, an' once outside,
he played th' runnin' game
"If it wasn't fer my ego," Shep thought," I'd be safe—but damnit!
I went an' signed my name."

He ran down through th' canyons, under cover of th' brush
an' thought," He'd be even madder yet,
if he knew th' full extent, of th' damage that I done,
'cause I sent it out across th' internet!"

© 2000, Pat Richardson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Pat Richardson feature at CowboyPoetry.com
Pat Richardson's web site


Track Descriptions are continued on page two...



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