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

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008)

emporary cowboy poetry. A wide range of voices present tales that express this venerable art form, words that uncover "the heartbeat of the working West."

This third annual edition of The BAR-D Roundup showcases contemporary and traditional works, including Robert Service's vintage recording of "The Cremation of Sam McGee"; the poetry of past Texas Poet Laureate Red Steagall, National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Wallace McRae, and Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature recipient Paul Zarzyski ; noted reciters Randy Rieman, Ross Knox, and  Jerry Brooks presenting classic poems by Henry Herbert Knibbs, D.J. O'Malley, and Badger Clark; a third annual selection from Grass, the master work of the late Buck Ramsey, an NEA National Heritage Fellow, recognized as the modern spiritual leader of the genre.

There are eighteen additional offerings from today’s top poets and reciters, including Joel Nelson, Ken Cook, Doris Daley, DW Groethe, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Paul Kern, Linda Kirkpatrick (reciting a Bruce Kiskaddon poem), Deanna Dickinson McCall, Andy Nelson, Susan Parker (reciting an A.V. Hudson poem), Pat Richardson, Georgie Sicking, Bill Siems (reciting a Curley Fletcher poem), Jay Snider (reciting a Luther A. Lawhon poem), Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Hal Swift (reciting a James Barton Adams poem), Mick Vernon (reciting an S. Omar Barker poem), and Smoke Wade.

The CD cover is a photo of Perry Preston ("P.P.") Dickinson, circa 1912, Texas cowboy. Perry Preston was the grandfather of Deanna Dickinson McCall, and great grandfather of poets and reciters Rusty McCall and Katie-McCall Owens.


Inside, there's a photo of South Dakota rancher Glen Hollenbeck, husband of poet Yvonne Hollenbeck.

Poems and permissions were generously donated by poets, musicians, families, and publishers.

Joe Baker of the Backforty Bunkhouse distributes the CD to his extensive network of nearly 200 western radio disc jockeys.

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three CD includes a radio Public Service (PSA) Announcement by Francie Ganje, radio broadcaster and director of the Heritage of the American West show.

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

On the previous page:

About The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008)

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 Three (2008) and Cowboy Poetry Week 2008

How to submit images and poems for consideration for future compilations 

Support CowboyPoetry.com


The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008) is a compilation of vintage and contemporary recordings of some of yesterday's and today's best classic and contemporary cowboy poetry. A wide range of voices present tales that express this venerable art form, words that uncover "the heartbeat of the working West."


This third CD opens with a firm stand in the present, with respected Texas horseman, and poet Joel Nelson reciting his poem, "Shadow on the Cutbank," from his Grammy-nominated CD, The Breaker in the Pen. Baxter Black commented that the CD, "raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years."  


Next, rancher and poet Jay Snider  casts a look back at the cowboy life, reciting "The Good Old Cowboy Days," by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922), one of the founding members of the Trail Drivers Association, a poem included in the Trail Drivers of Texas (1920). 


Noted packer, reciter and poet Ross Knox, keeping in the past, weighs in with a cowboy's wry observation of his way of life, with "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler," written by cowboy and chronicler D.J. O'Malley (1867-1943).


Alberta poet Doris Daley offers her timeless, humorous poem, "Bones," that could describe cowboys of any era, who conversely "love the life 'cause it's so darn healthy."


The inimitable Pat Richardson takes listeners to another place altogether, in his amusing and inventive tale of a cowboy and his unlikely companion, "Bigfoot."


There is a return to the reality of cowboy and ranching life in the next poems. Beloved octogenarian, cowboy (a term she prefers), and poet Georgie Sicking tells what it takes "To Be a Top Hand." Fifth-generation rancher Deanna Dickinson McCall (her grandfather is pictured on the CD's cover) has some "Advice" for a one of the family's cowboys. Another sort of family perspective comes in "Urban Daughter," the exceptional poem by Montana rancher, poet, and National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Wallace McRae. Wyoming poet, humorist, emcee, and popular radio host Andy Nelson touches on another family connection in his poem, "The Old Crockett Spurs."


Cowboys and horses are explored in master reciter and horseman Randy Rieman's recitation of Henry Herbert Knibbs' (1874-1945) classic, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink." Montana ranch hand, songwriter and poet DW Groethe's moving "My Father's Horses" limns the the bond between man and horse. Utah rancher and poet Paul Kern's poem, "At Codding's Place," continues with the wistful and bittersweet theme. South Dakota rancher and poet Ken Cook has something as meaningful to say, with a bit of humor, in "Bloodlines."


There's a return to the past, in respect and sentiment in "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk," by past Texas Poet Laureate, multiple Wrangler Award winner, singer, songwriter, and poet Red Steagall. The subject is further explored by South Dakota ranchwife, champion quilter, and top poet Yvonne Hollenbeck in her moving story of "Prairie Patchwork." (Yvonne's husband, Glen Hollenbeck, represents today's ranchers with his photo that is inside the CD.) Working cowgirl, writer, and poet Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns enjoins, "Step lightly, this is holy ground...made so by those who've gone before..." in her "Fiddleback Headquarters."


Bill Siems—scientist, musician, editor, and chief collector of the stories and poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)gives life to the classic bucking horse story, "The Strawberry Roan," by Curley Fletcher (1892-1954). It's the perfect introduction to "Luck of the Draw," a stirring salute to rodeo, by the incomparable Paul Zarzyski, the self-described "Polish-hobo-rodeo-poet," recipient of the Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature.


Top reciter and former miner Jerry Brooks  brings her impressive interpretation to "The Free Wind," by Charles "Badger" Clark (1883-1957). That notion of freedom underlies Grass, the master work by the late Buck Ramsey. In a third annual excerpt from that book, "Chapter Two," the story of a cowboy's life continues. Buck Ramsey, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, is 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." The 2007 edition of The BAR-D Roundup includes "Chapter One.")


Ranch-raised poet and writer Smoke Wade bridges the past and present in his "A Change of Season," which introduces a group of classic poems. California writer and poet Susan Parker presents "The Homemade Cigarette" by rancher and poet A.V. Hudson (1873-1949). A bit of politics—timely in this year of political of history—finds its way into that poem and into "Bill's in Trouble," a light piece written by James Barton Adams (1843-1918) and recited by Nevada poet Hal Swift. "Jack Potter's Courtin'" by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985) continues the fun mood, recited by California poet and musician Mick Vernon, who is also the Artist Director of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival. Ranch-raised Texas poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick brings the classic selections to a close with a reverent recitation of "The Bronco Twister's Prayer," by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1878-1950).


A special vintage recording of Robert Service (1874-1958) reciting his classic poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee," is introduced by Gene Kern, the Washington radio host who discovered the fragile recording and saved it and others from disintegration by transferring them to a modern medium. Service hired on as a cowboy for a short time and some of his tales  were colored by that experience. The strong rhyme and meter of his poetry have inspired many cowboy poets.


The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three CD includes a radio Public Service (PSA) Announcement by Francie Ganje, radio host and director of South Dakota's Heritage of the American West show.


The 2008 CD's striking cover is a photo of of Perry Preston ("P. P.") Dickinson, circa 1912, Texas cowboy, rough-string rider, Marshall, and Texas Ranger special agent. Perry Preston was the grandfather of Deanna Dickinson McCall, and great grandfather of poets and reciters Rusty McCall and Katie-McCall Owens.

Andy Nelson engineered and co-produced the 2006, 2007, and 2008 editions of The BAR-D Roundup.

Joe Baker of the Backforty Bunkhouse distributed the 2006, 2007, and 2007 CDs to his extensive network of western radio stations.

Poems and permissions were generously donated by poets, musicians, families, publishers, and filmmakers.

The Center's Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—is held each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, The BAR-D Roundup CD and the celebration's poster (by top Western artist William Matthews in 2008) are offered to libraries in the Center's Rural Library Project. The outreach program is a part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

Special thanks for the 2008 edition go to Andy Nelson, the McCall family, the Hollenbeck family, Bette Ramsey, Steve Green, the Western Folklife Center, Jeri Dobrowski, Jo Baeza, Stuart Spani, Joe Baker, Alf Bilton, and to all the poets, reciters, families, publishers, and organizations who lent poetry and permissions.

The BAR-D Roundup CDs are produced by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, made possible by generous funding support from sustaining donors

The BAR-D Roundup CDs are dedicated to all those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition. 

                                                                                                                                                                                             Margo Metegrano, April 2008

Track Descriptions



  1.  Joel Nelson, "Shadow on the Cutbank"  1:26
  2.  Jay Snider, "The Good Old Cowboy Days" (Luther A. Lawhon) 
  3.  Ross Knox, "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler"  (D.J. O'Malley) 
  4.  Doris Daley, "Bones"
  5.  Pat Richardson, "Bigfoot"
  6.  Georgie Sicking, "To Be a Top Hand"
  7.  Deanna McCall, "Advice"
  8.  Wallace McRae, "Urban Daughter" 
  9.  Andy Nelson, "The Old Crockett Spurs" 
10.  Randy Rieman, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink"  (Henry Herbert Knibbs)
11.  DW Groethe,  "My Father's Horses" 
12.  Paul Kern,  "At Codding's Place"
13.  Ken Cook, "Bloodlines"

Page Two:

14.  Red Steagall, "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk" 3:19
15.  Yvonne Hollenbeck, "Prairie Patchwork"
16.  Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, "Fiddleback Headquarters" 
17.  Bill Siems, "The Strawberry Roan" (Curley Fletcher)
18.  Paul Zarzyksi, "Luck of the Draw"
19.  Jerry A. Brooks (Brooksie), "Free Wind" (Badger Clark)
20.  Buck Ramsey, "Chapter Two" from Grass 
21.  Smoke Wade,  "A Change of Season"
22.  Susan Parker, "The Homemade Cigarette" (A.V. Hudson)
23.  Hal Swift, "Bill's in Trouble"  (James Barton Adams)
24.  Mick Vernon, "Jack Potter's Courtin'"  (S. Omar Baker)
25.  Linda Kirkpatrick, "The Broncho Twister's Prayer" (Bruce Kiskaddon)


26.  Introduction to  "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Gene Kern  2:00
27.  Robert Service, "The Cremation of Sam McGee" 

28.   Francie Ganje, Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry Public Service Announcement (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:  Joel Nelson, "Shadow on the Cutbank"



About the track, "Shadow on the Cutbank"
About the poet, Joel Nelson
Additional links

About the track, "Shadow on the Cutbank'"

"Shadow on the Cutbank" 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 2:  Jay Snider, "The Good Old Cowboy Days," by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922)



About the track, "The Good Old Cowboy Days"
About the reciter, Jay Snider
The poem, "The Good Old Cowboy Days"
Additional links

About the track, "The Good Old Cowboy Days"

Jay Snider recorded "The Good Old Cowboy Days" for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three.

The poem was written by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922) and is included in The Trail Drivers of Texas, best described by its subtitle, "Interesting Sketches of Early Cowboys and Their Experiences on the Range and on the Trail during the Days that Tried Men's Souls—True Narratives Related by Real Cowpunchers and Men Who Fathered the Cattle Industry in Texas." The book, with over a thousand pages, was originally published by the Old Time Trail Driver's Association, where Lawhon served as Secretary. An article by Lawhon, "The Men Who Made the Trail," is also included in the book.

There were at least four editions of the book published before a 1925 edition that was reprinted in 1992 by the University of Texas Press and includes an introduction by B. Byron Price and a full index. The early editions of the book are rare, as are copies of Lawhon's other collections, which include Songs and Satires (1901) and Cactus Blossoms (1905). You can read more about the University of Texas edition of The Trail Drivers of Texas, and read B. Byron Price's introduction and view the table of contents at the university's site here. 

"The Good Old Cowboy Days" is also posted on the White Mountains Roundup web site. Our thanks to gathering organizer Jo Baeza, who helped research the copyright status of the poem (it is in the public domain).

About the reciter, 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 granddad 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.

Jay has been nominated for Male Poet of the Year by the Western Music Association and the Academy of Western Artists (AWA). His first album, Cowboyin', Horses and Friends was nominated for the AWA's Best Poetry Album for 2001. Jay's second cowboy poetry CD, Of Horses and Men (2006), received Album of the Year from the AWA.

Jay has 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 feature 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. He was awarded the "Best of the Best" trophy at Kanab, Utah's Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and appears at the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival (2008). He was invited to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada in 2006 and 2007.

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

The poem, "The Good Old Cowboy Days"

The Good Old Cowboy Days

My fancy drifts as often, through the murky, misty maze
Of the past—to other seasons
to the good old cowboy days,
When the grass wuz green an' wavin' an' the skies wuz soft and blue,
And the men were brave an' loyal, and the women fair an' true!
The old-time cowboy
here's to him, from hired hand to boss!
His soul wuz free from envy and his heart wuz free from dross,
An' deep within his nature, which wuz rugged, high and bold,
There ran a vein uv metal, and the metal, men, wuz, gold!

He'd stand updrunk or sober'gin a thousand fer his rights;
He'd sometimes close an argument by shootin' out the lights;
An' when there was a killin', by the quickest on the draw,
He wern't disposed to quibble 'bout the majesty uv law,
But a thief
a low down villainwhy, he had no use for him
An' wuz mighty apt to leave 'im danglin' from a handy limb.
He wuz heeled and allers ready
quick with pistol or with knife,
But he never shirked a danger or a duty in his life!

An' at a tale uv sorrow or uv innocence beguiled
His heart wuz just as tender as the heart uv any child.
An' woman
aye, her honor wuz a sacred thing; and hence
He threw his arms around her
in a figurative sense.
His home wuz yours, where'er it wuz, an' open stood the door,
Whose hinges never closed upon the needy or the poor;
An' high or low
it mattered notthe time, if night or day,
The stranger found a welcome just as long as he would stay.

Wuz honest to the marrow, and his bond wuz in his word.
He paid for every critter that he cut into his herd;
An' take your note because he loaned a friend a little pelf?
No, sir, indeed! He thought you wuz as worthy as himself.
An' when you came and paid it back, as proper wuz an' meet,
You trod upon forbidden ground to ask for a receipt.
In former case you paid the debt (there weren't no intres' due),
An' in the latter
chances wuz he'd put a hole through you!

The old-time cowboy had  'is faults; 'tis true, as has been said,
He'd look upon the licker when the licker, men, wuz red;
His language weren't allers spoke accordin' to the rule;
Nor wuz it sech as ye'd expect to hear at Sunday school.
But when he went to meetin', men, he didn't yawn or doze,
Nor set there takin' notice of the congregation's clothes.
He listened to the preacher with respect, an' all o' that,
An' he never failed to ante when they passed aroun' the hat!

I call to mind the tournament, an' then the ball at night;
Of how old Porter drawed the bow and sawed with all his might;
Of how they'd dance
the boys an' girls; an' how that one wuz there
With rosy cheeks, an' hazel eyes, an' golden, curly hair;
An' I
but here I'm techin' on a mighty tender spot;
That boyhood love, at this late day, had better be forgot;
But still at times my heart goes back agin' and fondly strays
Amidst those dear remembered scenes
the good old cowboy days!

The old-time cowboy wuz a man all over! Hear me, men!
I somehow kinder figger we'll not see his like agin.
The few that's left are older now; their hair is mostly white;
Their forms are not so active, and their eyes are not so bright
As when the grass wuz wavin' green, the skies wuz soft an' blue,
An' men were brave, an' loyal, and the women fair an' true,
An' the land wuz filled with plenty, an the range wuz free to graze,
An' all rode as brothers
in the good old cowboy days.

by Luther A. Lawhon from The Trail Drivers of Texas

Additional links

Jay Snider's feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Jay Snider's web site

The Trail Drivers of Texas at Amazon

Track 3:  Ross Knox, "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler, by D.J. O'Malley (1867-1943)



About the track, "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler
About the reciter, Ross Knox
The poem, "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler
Additional links

About the track, "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler"

"The 'D2' Horse Wrangler" is from Ross Knox' 2007 CD, Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day.

The poem was written by D.J. O'Malley (1867-1943). Lyndel Meikle, Ranger at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
in Deer Lodge Montana, writes about O'Malley in
Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, (2000, Cowboy Miner Publications) and reprinted with permission:

His career as a cowboy poet began in 1889 when he penned "To the Memory of Wiley Collins" about a chuck wagon cook who was killed by lightning. Over the next half century, he wrote many poems and stories about the men and the work he knew, often using the pen name N Bar N Kid White. Some, such as "When the Work's All Done This Fall," (which was originally called "After the Round-up") were popularized in song. As they worked their way around the ranges from Montana to Texas, they were often changed or added to, and their origin might have been lost. 

Thankfully, O'Malley also published them in newspapers, notably the Miles City Stock-Growers Journal, and when later would-be poets claimed his work, he could haul out the originals with the date right on the page. He was proud to have been a "rep" representing the N Bar N during the roundups. He would have admitted to being a cowboy and a poet, but never seems to have thought of himself as an historian. His work, whether poem or prose, did record history, though: the history of the men, the work, the humor, and the loss of the open range.

John I. White, cowboy singer and student of cowboy songs, wrote about "The 'D-2' Horse Wrangler" in the introduction to D.J. O'Malley's 1934 book-length manuscript, Reminiscences and Poems of Early Montana and the Cattle Range:

The humorous poem which Mr. O'Malley calls "D-2 Horse Wrangler" is now found in printed collections under the titles "The Horse Wrangler" or "The Tenderfoot." This very lively bit of verse which depicts the adventures of a greenhorn with ambitions to become a cowhand, is signed R. J. Stovall in the Stock Growers' Journal. Mr. O'Malley explains that he, himself, wrote the lines but, because an acquaintance who was the subject of the yarn wished to surprise his wife in Denver by blossoming out as a poet, the latter was allowed to sign his name. There was one consideration, a $5 hat, which, incidentally, was the most that Mr. O'Malley ever got for a poem.

"The 'D-2' Horse Wrangler" was first published in 1894 in the Miles City Stock Grower's Journal. In a 1967 article in the Journal of American Folkore, John I. White writes:

The most persistent contributor of original verses to the Journal was Dominick J. O'Malley ( 1867-1943), who, at the age of fifteen, following the disappearance of his soldier-stepfather from Fort Keogh adjacent to Miles City, had gone to work as a horse wrangler for the Home Land & Cattle Company, operated by the Niedringhaus Brothers. In a very short time the young wrangler with a flair for versifying had become proficient at the cowpuncher's unique and often dangerous trade, which he followed for nearly twenty years. Three trips up the trail with Texas cattle bound for northern ranges, the last in 1891, were among his unusual experiences.

White tells that "The 'D-2' Horse Wrangler" was written to be sung to the tune of "an old Irish-American ballad called 'The Day I Played Baseball,'" which started:

My name it is O'Halloher,
I'm a man that's influential,
I mind my business, stop at home,
My wants are few and small.
Some blackguards 'tother day did come,
They were full of whiskey, gin and rum
An' they took me out in the broilin' sun,
To play a game of ball.

It was a common practice to set poems to the tunes of popular songs. "The 'D-2' Horse Wrangler" begins:

One day I thought I'd have some fun,
And see how punching cows was done;
So, when the roundup had begun,
I tackled a cattle king.
Says he: "My foreman is in town,
He's at the MacQueen, his name is Brown,
Go over, and I think he'll take you down."
Says I: "That's just the thing."

White explains that, "The MacQueen mentioned in the opening stanza was Miles City's leading hostelry and headquarters for stockmen. Its Journal advertising of the day played up its electric lights, electric bells, and steam heat. A news item on November 18, 1893, read: 'The bathrooms at the MacQueen have recently been renovated, and to those who bathe, Mr. Tracy will be pleased to explain the valuable properties of the artesian water used for that purpose.' The old landmark went up in smoke in 1897."

He also comments on two other words in the original poem:

"Cavard" (third stanza) is a corruption of a Spanish word meaning a herd of horses. A "set fast" (fifth stanza) was a saddle sore that never quite healed.

About the reciter, Ross Knox

Ross Knox—cowboy, horseshoer, and mule packer—was raised on a small cow outfit in Central Oregon, and left home when he was about 16, headed to Northern Nevada and later to Yellowstone. His recent CD liner notes tell that he was inspired by Gail Gardner's "The Sierry Petes" and "The Dude Wrangler, and "began writing poetry as a young ranch hand because it was a way to occupy his time when he was alone for three months at the Juniper line camp of Idaho's YP ranch." He has cowboyed across the West and spent 15 years as head packer at the Grand Canyon, longer than any other packer (an estimated more than 40,000 miles into and out of the Grand Canyon) mainly to supply the Phantom Ranch. He now works for the Saguaro National Park packing supplies into the Manning Camp for the fire and trail crews.

Ross Knox has one hundred-plus poems committed to memory. He was an invited performer to the Western Folklife Center's first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985, and been featured at almost every gathering since.

The poem, "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler"

The "D2" Horse Wrangler

  One day I thought I'd have some fun,
  And see how punching cows was done;
  So, when the roundup had begun,
  I tackled a cattle king.
  Says he: "My foreman is in town,
  He's at the MacQueen, his name is Brown,
  Go over, and I think he'll take you down."
  Says I: "That's just the thing."

  We started for the ranch next day,
  Brown talked to me 'most all the way;
  He said cowpunching was only fun,
  It was no work at all; 
  That all I had to do was ride,
  It was just like drifting with the tide,
  Geemany chimany, how he lied;
  He surely had his gall.

  He put me in charge of a cavvy-yard
  And told me not to work too hard,
  That all I had to do was guard
  The horses from getting away.
  I had one hundred and sixty head,
  And oft' times wished that I were dead,
  When one got away Brown got red,
  Now this is the truth, I say.

  Sometimes a horse would make a break
  Across the prairies he would take
  As though he were running for a stake,
  For him it was only play.
  Sometimes I couldn't head him at all
  And again my saddle horse would fall
  And I'd speed on like a cannon ball
  Till the earth came in my way.

  They led me out an old gray hack
  With a great big set fast on his back,
  They padded him up with gunny sacks
  And used my bedding all.
  When I got on he left the ground,
  Jumped up in the air and turned around,
  I busted the earth as I came down,
  It was a terrible fall.

  They picked me up and carried me in
  And rubbed me down with a rolling pin;
  "That's the way they all begin,
  You are doing well," says Brown,
  "And tomorrow morning, if you don't die,
  I'll give you another horse to try."
  "Oh! won't you let me walk?" says I,
  "Yes," says he, "into town."

  I've traveled up and I've traveled down,
  I've traveled this country all around,
  I've lived in city, I've lived in town,
  And I have this much to say: 
  Before you try it go kiss your wife,
  Get a heavy insurance on your life,
  Then shoot yourself with a butcher knife,—
  It's far the easiest way.

 Reprinted with permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.

Additional links

D.J. O'Malley feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Ross Knox feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Track 4:  Doris Daley, "Bones"


About the track, "Bones"
About the poet, Doris Daley
The poem, "Bones"
Additional links

About the track, "Bones"

"Bones" is from Doris Daley's CD, Good for What Ails You. She comments, "I wrote this one after sitting around the kitchen table listening to three cowboys moan about how dangerous and unhealthy it was to visit the city."

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.  


The poem, "Bones"


Three cowboys sit on a split rail fence,
Long on bruises, short on sense.
Put 'em together and what do you get—
Besides three pairs of jeans and a pile of debt.

Add 'em all up and the sum of their parts
Is 27 fingers and three broken hearts.
30 pretty toes, only 2 of them broke,
Hide more scarred than the bark of an oak.

Five good eyes, one made of glass,
Three bum knees and a bad case of gas.
Three strong backs—but all of them achin,
And three mustached smiles filled with Copenhagen.

A bottle of pills for a bad tick-tocker
And a half-full prescription from Dr. Johnny Walker.
A surgeon's nightmare sits on that rail,
But they're married to the range and bonded to the trail.

They'll never be famous, they'll never be wealthy
But they love the life-cause it's so darn healthy!

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

Additional links

Doris Daley feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Doris Daley's web site

Track 5: Pat Richardson, "Bigfoot"



About the track, "Bigfoot"
About the poet, Pat Richardson
The poem, "Bigfoot"
Additional links

About the track, "Bigfoot"

"Bigfoot," by Pat Richardson, is from his 2007 CD, Pat Richardson Strikes Again with Duckin' the Law and Many More.

The poem is also included in Pat Richardson's book, and is also included in his award-winning book,
Pat Richardson Unhobbled.

About the poet, Pat Richardson

Pat Richardson was born and raised with livestock, he rode colts, rodeoed, and cartooned for The Pro Rodeo Sports News, besides working on ranches in several different states.

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.

Pat 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.


The poem, "Bigfoot"


I ran a little trap line up in Idaho one year;
one night I heard a tapping on the door.
I looked out and there stood Bigfoot, holding up his off hind leg,
acting like his foot was kind of sore.

So I let him come on in, it was mighty cold outside,
and offered him a bowl of beans to eat.
He acted mighty hungry, and as he scarffed them down
I made a close inspection of his feet.

Seems he'd run a jagged splinter in-between two hairy toes
and I thought, "I better pull that if I can."
I got my shoeing nippers and pulled that splinter out,
and that's how our relationship began.

He did up all the dishes just to show his gratitude
and soon had things as clean as they could get.
As he stood there looking 'round for something more that he could do
I realized he hadn't spoken yet.

I asked him 'bout his childhood, and he just made slurping sounds,
seems like talking wasn't something he could do;
I thought of all the stories that I'd have to tell my kids
if I could teach old Sasquatch something new.

So I'd hold up a simple object, and tell him what it was
and I soon found his mind was sharp and crisp;
and with exact pronunciation he'd repeat each word I said
though I noticed he was hindered by a lisp.

Mississippi gave him problems with all the esses it contained,
and he'd dribble little spitballs on his fur;
I tried tongue depressors, enemas, and books by Baxter Black,
But I never seemed to come up with a cure.

As the winter days passed quickly, I taught him how to cook,
sweep the floor, make the beds, and check the traps;
and with him to help me out it sorta took the pressure off
and for once I had some time to just relax.

I taught him several card games just to while the time away
and at first I think old Bigfoot liked them all;
but if I'd paid more attention, I'd've seen the warning signs
'cause as time wore on he favored Five Card Draw.

At first we played for matches, or see who'd warm the beans,
sweep the floor, make the beds, and get the wood.
'Fore you know it, seems I'm doing all the chores around the place,
and our relationship is going none too good.

Pretty soon I'm betting beaver pelts I can't afford to lose,
they're the only thing of value on the place;
and I still think he bluffed a lot, but it was hard to tell
'cause old Bigfoot really had a poker face.

Well, by spring he had me busted, everything I owned was his,
he had my rifle, wore my parka and my cap.
He held title to my cabin and the land I built it on,
he had all my beaver pelts and owned the traps.

They say gambling's an addiction that can only be controlled
if you recognize the problem runs real deep.
Well, I can recognize my problem from half a mile away
'cause he weighs eight hundred pounds and drives my Jeep.

© 2004, 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 6:  Georgie Sicking, "To Be a Top Hand"



About the track, "To Be a Top Hand"
About the poet, Georgie Sicking
The poem, "To Be a Top Hand"
Additional links

About the track, "To Be a Top Hand"

 "To Be a Top Hand" is from Georgie Sicking's 2007 CD, To Be a Top Hand.

About the poet, Georgie Sicking

A real cowboy, Georgie Sicking earned the title and the respect with hard work and unflagging determination. Born on an Arizona ranch in 1921, she was riding on her own by age two, breaking horses before she was ten. She has cowboyed, ranched, and worked cattle on many different types of ranges in Arizona, Nevada, and California, before, during, and after she raised a family with a her husband of 34 years.

She was invited to the Western Folklife Center's first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985 and has returned many times. She is a frequent featured guest at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, and is a Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honoree. Georgie is renowned for her colorful stories of her full life, and she tells about her earliest days in her most recent book of poetry, Just More Thinking (read an excerpt here).

 Ridin' & Rhymin', a documentary about Georgie Sicking from Far Away Films, LLC, received the Big Sky Award (Best Film about the American West).

Georgie Sicking's poetry is included in many anthologies, and in addition to her most recent book of poetry, Just More Thinking (which includes her previous book, More Thinking), a current biography includes poems and stories, A Mare Among Geldings by Glorianne Weigand.  

Her 2007 CD, To be a Top Hand, was produced by Andy Nelson, Wyoming poet, humorist, radio host, and also the co-producer of each volume of The BAR-D Roundup.


      randr06smj.JPG (8031 bytes) 


photo of Georgie Sicking from Elko, 2008, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.

The poem, "To Be a Top Hand"

To Be a Top Hand

When I was a kid and doing my best to
     Learn the ways of our land,
I thought mistakes were never made by
     A real top hand.

He never got into a storm with a horse
     He always knew
How a horse would react in any case and
     Just what to do.

He never let a cow outfigure him,
     And never missed a loop.
He always kept cattle under control
     Like in a chicken coop.

He was never in the right place at the wrong time,
     Or in anybody's way.
For working cattle he just naturally knew,
     When to move and when to stay.

I just about broke my neck tryin',
     To be and to do,
All those things a good cowboy,
     Just naturally knew.

One day while riding with a cowboy,
     I knew was one of the best,
For he had worked in that country for a long time,
     Had taken and passed the test.

I was telling of my troubles,
     Some bad mistakes I made.
That my dreams of being a top cowboy,
     Were startin' to fade.

This cowboy looked at me and said,
     With a sort of a smile,
A sorry hand is in the way all the time,
     A good one just once in a while.

Since that day I've handled lots of cattle,
     And ridden many a mile.
And I figure I'm doin' my share if I get in the way,
     Just every once in a while.

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

Additional links

Georgie Sicking feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Ridin' & Rhymin' feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Ridin' & Rhymin' at Far Away Films' web site 

Track 7: Deanna McCall, "Advice"


About the track, "Advice"
About the poet, Deanna McCall
The poem, "Advice"
Additional links

About the track, "Advice"

"Advice" is from Deanna McCall's CD, Hot Iron. Deanna comments, "I wrote this poem for my son-in-laws. It made a good introduction to the family."

About the poet, Deanna McCall

deannamccallj.jpg (32147 bytes)

Deanna Dickinson McCall is a fifth-generation rancher who was raised in the northern California foothills.  She spent 22 years ranching and raising her family on a remote Nevada ranch and is currently ranching in New Mexico. She writes from the view of daughter, hand, wife and mother.  Her daughter, Katie-McCall Owens and son, Rusty McCall, both write and recite cowboy poetry.

Poet Audrey Hankins has compared her writing to "to jerky, fat dried out by the land leaving lean lines dried to the essence of verbal nutrition."

She has been featured at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, and at other gatherings and events throughout the West. Her poems and prose are included in anthologies, including Cowgirl Poetry and CowboyPoetry: The Reunion, and she has a recording, Hot Iron.

Deanna McCall's grandfather's image (circa 1912) is featured on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three cover. Perry Preston ("P. P.") Dickinson was a Texas cowboy, rough-string rider, Marshall, and Texas Ranger special agent. 


cpreunionbk.jpg (25377 bytes)   

The poem, "Advice"


The corrals were full enough to bust,
And we’d all had our share of dust.
But, we’d got all the pairs in
And the separating was about to begin.
Our new son-in-law was working the gate
Trying hard to discriminate
When an angry mama came charging up
Mad over the hold up.
Hearing the commotion I rode through the dust
And shared some advice he could trust,
“Son, don’t crowd her, whatever you do,
When her head is held high she’ll take the fence or you.”
Better off to just let stand, cool down a bit
She’s not afraid of horse or man, let her have her fit.
It’s nature way to attack or run, fear and anger is part of life.
I know it’s not exactly fun, but, remember she is your wife.”

© Deanna Dickinson McCall
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

Additional links

Deanna Dickinson McCall feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Track 8: Wallace McRae, "Urban Daughter"



About the track, "Urban Daughter"
About the poet, Wallace McRae
The poem, "Urban Daughter"

Additional links

About the track, "Urban Daughter"

"Urban Daughter" was recorded at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2007, and the track is courtesy of the Western Folklife Center. The poem appeared on the back cover of the 2005 Gathering program.

Wallace McRae comments:

Our ranching culture is noted for being "Hell on horses and women." Our sons are expected to take over the ranch, while our daughters are encouraged to get an education, marry a non-cowboy and get the hell away from the ranch. Our oldest daughter, Allison, did just that. While she was back for visits, I began really listening to her as she reviewed her life, past and present. She is the writer of this poem. I just put it in meter and rhyme.

 About the poet, Wallace McRae

Wallace McRae is a third-generation rancher, with a 30,000 acre cow-calf ranch in Forsyth, Montana. He is has been a part of nearly every National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He was the first cowboy poet to be awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a recipient of the Montana Governor's Award for the Art, and has served on the National Council of the Arts.

Wallace McRae has four collections of his poetry, Cowboy Curmudgeon (1992), Things of Intrinsic Worth(1989), It's Just Grass and Water (1986), and Up North is Down the Crick (1985) and a video, Wally McRae, Live (More or Less).


photo of Wallace McRae from Elko, 2008, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.

The poem, "Urban Daughter"

Urban Daughter

She says:

"I miss the sound the gate makes in the heifer calving lot.
'Til I was grown and gone, I didn't know it made a noise.
I guess I never realized that horses smell so good. I suppose
I was distracted by dolls, play-clothes and toys.

"The currants and the wild plums have such sweet scents when they blossom.
There are no cottonwoods that rustle where we live.
In the mornings in Tacoma the two-year-olds don't summon
Babies with their bawling. Sometimes I think I'd give

"A month's good city wages just to wander once again
On the creek bank as I gather a wild rosebud bouquet
For the table, Did you know that each rose has five frail petals?
I forgot about the curlews until I heard one call today.

"Maggie saw some antelope. She looked at me and them and whined.
She's too old to chase them now, I would suppose.
She reminded me of Angela. Antelope were her downfall.
She just vanished. Disappeared. And no one really knows

"I guess, what happened to her. Or did you know and never tell?
My job is going great. We've lots of friends.
You wouldn't think I miss that butte. We've got Mount Rainier,
But here you have horizons; the sky here never ends.

"I should get Mom's recipes, although I seldom cook much now.
Oh, the seafood's great. We ought to barbeque
More often. We both drive so far to work that it's
Hard to do the things we really want to do.

"My old bed seems so small. Where's my high school letter jacket?
Our first just keeps expanding. We've opened the new branch.
I may get another raise!...Oh, God! I miss you guys,
I miss Montana. Most of all, I miss the ranch."

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

Additional links

Wallace McRae feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Wallace McRae recites his poem, "Things of Intrinsic Worth," at the Western Folkife Center web site.

Wallace McRae is a part of a 2006 audio, video, and print feature on the PBS Online NewsHour, which also includes a profile and his poem, "Maggie."

Wallace McRae is the subject of a YouTube video by Joel Vetch, in which he recites his poem, "Things of Intrinsic Worth."


Track 9:  Andy Nelson, "The Old Crockett Spurs"



About the track, "The Old Crockett Spurs"
About the poet, Andy Nelson
The poem, "The Old Crockett Spurs"
Additional links

About the track, "The Old Crockett Spurs"

"The Old Crockett Spurs" was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three.

Andy Nelson comments;

My big brother Jim and I were talking about 'cowboy collectibles' and it was mentioned that some priceless pieces are only priceless to the owner and not to a potential collector. They hold a sentimental—not a monetary—value that could rarely be comprehended by the average person off the street. It is in this way that I treasure my relationship with Jim.

The poem was featured in the program for the 18th Annual Durango Cowboy Gathering (see the image here).

About the poet, Andy Nelson

Andy Nelson is a modern day cowboy with a somewhat twisted funny bone. His original writings combined with his unusual facial expressions and body language leave audiences holding their sides and trying to catch their collective breath. Andy Nelson travels the west goofing off for everyone from poetry gatherings, to old west celebrations, to lunch room lady conventions. He is in great demand as an emcee.

Andy grew up in the small town of Oakley, Idaho, where he spent most of his formative years learning to shoe horses at the hand of his father, Jim. Traveling all over southern Idaho, northern Nevada, and northern Utah plying the farrier trade with his father allowed Andy the best education possible in the cowboy school of hard knocks. Now living in Pinedale, Wyoming with his wife Jaclyn and their children, he no longer makes his living as a farrier, but the cowboy way of life is forever branded on his hide.

Andy Nelson and his brother Jim Nelson  broadcast their award-winning weekly radio program, Clear Out West (C. O. W.), throughout the West, bringing "news and entertainment of the cowboy culture" to a wide audience.  

Andy Nelson has three recordings, Full Nelson Shoeing, Harvey's Moon and Land Mines, and a book of his poetry and illustrations, RU Lazy 2?, includes a companion CD. Andy Nelson was named the 2006 Top Male Poet by the  Western Music Association, and he and his brother Jim were named the 2006 Top Disk Jockeys by the  Western Music Association.

Andy was a featured poet at the 2008 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Andy has co-produced each volume of The BAR-D Roundup, and the 2007 edition includes the Public Service Announcement (PSA) that he recorded.

    anlandminessmj.jpg (14200 bytes) 

photo of Andy Nelson, 2007, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.

The poem, "The Old Crockett Spurs"

The Old Crockett Spurs

As long as I can remember,
The Crockett spurs belonged to Jim;
They’re modest, yet very complex,
And remind me a lot of him.

Tempered through hard work and labor,
Engraved with years of bad weather;
Forged from the iron of turmoil,
Thick in the skin and the leather.

Perfectly balanced in function,
Dependable when called on to work;
Precise when applied to the trade,
Dangerous when used by a jerk.

Both may appear harsh at first sight,
But are subtle when put into use;
The hard edges have worn down some,
Polished by the years of abuse.

Not very flashy to look at,
Don’t make a whole lot of noise;
Often overlooked by most folks,
Except for real working cowboys.

As progress replaces tradition,
An emotion within me stirs;
My heritage is a priceless gift,
Like Jim...and those old Crockett spurs. 

© 2007, Andy Nelson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Andy Nelson feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Clear Out West feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Andy Nelson's web site

Clear Out West web site

Andy Nelson's 2007 PSA: The 30-second public service announcement from the CD and an expanded 60-second version.

Track 10: Randy Rieman, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink," by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)



About the track, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink"
About the reciter, Randy Rieman
The poem, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink"
Additional links

About the track, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink"

"Where the Ponies Come to Drink" is from Randy Rieman's CD, Where the Ponies Come to Drink.

The poem is included in Henry Herbert Knibbs' 1914 book, Songs of the Outlands. Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945) is one of the few respected "classic" poets who did not have experience as a working cowboy. He published five books of collected poems, thirteen novels, and many articles.

About the reciter, Randy Rieman

Randy Rieman is a respected horseman, rawhide braider, and master reciter and poet who often performs at gatherings. In 2008, he made his fifteenth 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



The poem, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink"

Where the Ponies Come to Drink

Up in Northern Arizona
   there's a Ranger-trail that passes
Through a mesa, like a faëry lake
   with pines upon its brink,
And across the trail a stream runs
   all but hidden in the grasses,
Till it finds an emerald hollow
   where the ponies come to drink.

Out they fling across the mesa,
   wind-blown manes and forelocks dancing,
Blacks and sorrels, bays and pintos,
   wild as eagles, eyes agleam;
From their hoofs the silver flashes,
   burning beads and arrows glancing
Through the bunch-grass and the gramma
   as they cross the little stream.

Down they swing as if pretending,
   in their orderly disorder,
That they stopped to hold a pow-wow,
   just to rally for the charge
That will take them, close to sunset,
   twenty miles across the border;
Then the leader sniffs and drinks
   with fore feet planted on the marge.

One by one each head is lowered,
   till some yearling nips another,
And the playful interruption
   starts an eddy in the band:
Snorting, squealing, plunging, wheeling,
   round they circle in a smother
Of the muddy spray, nor pause
   until they find the firmer land.

My old cow-horse he runs with 'em:
   turned him loose for good last season;
Eighteen years; hard work, his record,
   and he's earned his little rest;
And he's taking it by playing,
   acting proud, and with good reason;
Though he's starched a little forward,
   he can fan it with the best.

Once I called him—almost caught him,
   when he heard my spur-chains jingle;
Then he eyed me some reproachful,
   as if making up his mind:
Seemed to say, "Well, if I have to—
   but you know I'm living single..."
So I laughed.
   In just a minute he was pretty hard to find.

Some folks wouldn't understand it,—
   writing lines about a pony,—
For a cow-horse is a cow-horse,—
   nothing else, most people think,—
But for eighteen years your partner,
   wise and faithful, such a crony
Seems worth watching for, a spell,
   down where the ponies come to drink.

by Henry Herbert Knibbs, from Songs of the Outlands, 1914

Additional links

Randy Rieman feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Henry Herbert Knibbs feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Track 11:  DW Groethe, "My Father's Horses"


About the track, "My Father's Horses"
About the poet, DW Groethe
The poem, "My Father's Horses"
Additional links

About the track, "My Father's Horses"

The recording of "My Father's Horses" is from the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, courtesy of the Western Folklife Center.

DW comments, "Among the many things I inherited from my father was a box of items from his office desk. In it there was a handful of pens and pencils and a small pocket notebook (stapled, not spiral-bound). On the first page he'd written the names of sixteen horses...the horses he'd grown up with back in the twenties and thirties. I wish I could remember all the stories he had about them. As it is, all I have is a page in an old worn notebook and a poem to honor their memories."

The poem is included in DW Groethe's 2008 chapbook, My Father's Horses.

About the poet, DW Groethe

DW Groethe, grandson of Norwegian pioneers and homesteaders, was raised on the Northern Great Plains by parents who instilled in him a deep appreciation for place and heritage. A University of North Dakota alumnus, he holds a fine arts degree in theatre.

Since 1991, Groethe has called Bainville, Montana (population 139) home. He doesn't own a television, reads with a voracious appetite and happily spends his days associating with cows.

He is a poet and a songwriter and has been invited to appear at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Library of Congress and The Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C., and the National Folk Festival.

DW Groethe's recordings include Tales from West River, and What Ever it Takes. He has a book of collected poems and lyrics, Western Poetry: West River Waltz, recipient of the Will Rogers Medallion Award, and a 2008 chapbook, My Father's Horses.



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

The poem, "My Father's Horses"

My Father's Horses

It must've been a day
for peace an' reverie
When my father took a pencil in his hand
an' scribed upon his notebook,
all the horses that he'd had
when growin' up in West Dakota land.

I can see him sittin', thoughtful,
soft smile in his eyes,
As the ponies pranced before him, once again.
Then he jotted each one down,
with a slow an' careful hand.
Sometimes, horses, can count right up with kin.

Tobe, Frank an' Muggins,
Daisy I an' Daisy II,
(his mem'ry felt a breeze that stirred their manes.)
Charlie, Chub an' Pearl
found their way up to the front
an' back once more upon the dusty plains.

Prince I an' II an' Mike
come lopin' lightly into view,
he penned their mem'ries, gentle on the page...
a-waitin' an' a thinkin',
he was missin'...just a few
when Queen an' May neared, nickerin' thru the sage.

An' finally, down the draw,
come Thunder, Buck an' Bill
a'flyin' like the wind an' they was one.
then he eased back in his chair,
contemplatin' all that's there,
his gatherin' of the old bunch was all done.

Yeah...it must've been a day
of peace an' reverie,
in his office, at a desk of metal gray,
when the ol' man made a tally
a-gatherin' up his cavvy,
One last time, a-fore they slipped away.

© 2007, DW Groethe
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

DW Groethe feature at CowboyPoetry.com

DW Groethe's appearance at The Kennedy Center, archived video broadcast

DW Groethe's "The Coffee Song" on Ranch Rhymes from the Western Folklife Center Archives


Track 12: Paul Kern, "At Codding's Place"

About the track, "At Codding's Place"
About the poet, Paul Kern
The poem, "At Codding's Place"
Additional links

About the track, "At Codding's Place"

"At Codding's Place" was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three. It is also included on Paul Kern's 2007 CD, RimrockWhere Memories Rhyme.

Paul commented on the poem in 2003:

"At Codding's Place" is an intensely personal piece about how my father handed down his knowledge of horses to me.  Although Codding's farm no longer has horses on it, my father now 82 years old, still keeps two head alternating between Colorado and Idaho.

About the poet, Paul Kern

Paul Kern comments:

I grew up on the western edge of Idaho Falls, Idaho where among other things I worked on local farms and ranches for many of my formative years.  I went on to receive two masters degrees—one in languages and the other in business.

I inherited a love of the west and all that includes from my parents.  Some of my earliest memories are of pack trips into the Tetons with our horses and other good friends--many of the human variety. Much of the material for my poems comes from the impressions of those early experiences, which I now have the luxury of reliving, retelling and repainting with a more romantic hue than what I know was actually the case. 

The influence of my family is a significant factor in my poetry. Even now in their eighties, my father still enjoys back country horse trips and working cattle and on the ranches in Island Park, Idaho. My mother will still go out on a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the winter with us.

Some of my poetry is based on experiences I have had with my three sons and daughter as we have worked together on our horse farm in Utah and our small ranch in Island Park, Idaho.  I learned the importance of good livestock from my mother, how to shoe horses from my father and how to live and love from my wife Kathie and our four children.

The livestock trade is only a small part of what I currently do.  I have been in business of one kind or another all of my working life.

Paul Kern's web site includes frequent additions, which usually consist of related stories, poems and photographs.The site includes a link to Paul's interesting, occasional podcasts, Cowboy Poetry at the Corral of the Rafter J, which include his works and the poetry and music of others. Paul Kern has a CD, RimrockWhere Memories Rhyme.

The poem, "At Codding's Place"

At Codding's Place

For just a moment I thought I saw,
Our brood mare lying in the straw,
Foaling a colt in the early morn.
Now the weeds grow tall where he was born.

The tack shed with the sagging gate,
Is where I learned to sit and wait,
As my father caught his horses at dawn.
It's quiet now—the horses are gone.

For just a moment I could smell it again,
That good horse smell in the old catch pen,
Same warm smell on both young and old.
You can't go back—the horses are sold.

It was the scene of a trailer fight,
Between Dad and Slippers—oh what a sight,
The rope took off part of his thumb.
Just maybe now, I should not have come.

At Codding's place was my first ride,
My father walking close beside,
He carved out memories for me his son.
Where he kept horses now there are none.

Those boyhood horses each had a hole,
That left a mark upon my soul.
At Codding's Place was my first ride,
My father walking close beside.

In another place and another time,
On a different farm that I call mine,
We keep our horses on that place,
A paint, a pinto and a bally face.

© 2003, Paul R. Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Paul Kern feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Paul Kern's web site

Track 13: Ken Cook, "Bloodlines"

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

About the track, "Bloodlines"

"Bloodlines" is from Ken Cook's CD, "Dad, We'll Rope Today."

About the poet, Ken Cook

From Ken Cook:

Ken ranches in southeast Bennett County, South Dakota. His wife Nancy has all four of their kids pert near raised. Ken. on the other hand will probably never grow up!

Ken's cowboy poetry cuts a wide path, from the humorous "who'd a thunk it" mishaps involving kids, cattle and horses, right down an emotional trail reliving the years he spent horseback with his grandpa, Frank Buckles. He has had the privilege of entertaining folks in several states including a trip to the 23rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada as a featured performer. January 2008 found him entertaining at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Ken has recorded two CD's of original poetry, "Dad We'll Rope Today" and "I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy." He is currently working on his third.


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

The poem, "Bloodlines"


Our horses aren't the kind whose bloodlines run real deep,
More often ours are horses that we acquired cheap.

There's been Shetlands, nags, and colts the kids have rode for free,
Geldings saved from the killer's truck by a cowboy poor, and that's me.

"Dad please buy us this one, we'll feed him every day."
I kid you not, on the drive home that dang horse passed away.

Mounts borrowed from an uncle, grandpa, and the boss,
A one-eared stud by Satan's Pet that bucked his bridle off.

Bid to buy a well bred one, I'm a Son of Peppy San.
Cash was scarce so passed him over for Catch Me If You Can!

A pin-fired jug-head off the track, that horse could flat out run,
Problem was, he had no whoa, so stoppin' wasn't fun.

Owned several that were rope shy, cinchy, hard to load.
A paint that wouldn't move at all, the children named him Toad.

That cribber who needed a muzzle, a thin one, we got his teeth floated,
Still couldn't eat hay, so my girl fed him oats, six bags later that night, poor thing bloated.

A sorrel, a gray, oh yes and a black, can't say color was ever to blame.
More often than not, if I told you the truth, I'm bettin' I bought em all lame.

Now over the years, our horses improved 'cause me and my crew did the same.
Gosh I enjoy, horseback in the sand with cowboys who share my last name.

No matter the job, or which neighbor we help, very seldom we'll be poorly mounted.
As their Dad, I'm amazed, by the kids that we've raised our blessings are gratefully counted.

Still our horses aren't the kind whose bloodlines run real deep,
But the cowboys who are ridin' them, their bloodline is mine to keep.

© 2005, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Additional links

Ken Cook feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Ken Cook's web site


Track Descriptions are continued on page two...



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