Photo by Lloyd Shelby from 2002 AWA Awards show

Dallas, Texas
About Charles Williams


The Swamper

Old Billy was the swamper for the Double Eagle Saloon,
He worked hard, all the time humming an off-key tune.
Now swamper ain't a job that gets much respect,
An' a lot of jokes and remarks had Billy as their object.

The menial jobs was his, and he did them pretty well,
Moppin', polishin', emptin', burnishin' - all to him fell.
When he was younger, he'd cowboyed, soldiered, and more,
But all that was left was shabby clothes and memories galore.

His worldly goods didn't amount to much, as worn as was he,
But his little room off the store room was warm an' free.
He only owned only two things in which he took pride -
A Schofield Smith and Wesson .44, and an old coat of buffalo-hide.

The latter he had won with a pair of deuces, bluffing and callin',
While the former he'd found along a railroad, where it'd fallen,
From some soldier's holster while he was on track patrol.
They'd brought him luck, and they were his only bankroll.

One frosty night the bartender sent him to get coal oil,
To fill the lamps, just another part of his daily toil.
But while pushin' back through the swingin' doors,
He accidentally jostled a customer, an' it was Vidor.

Vidor - a name to sent fear through the bravest man.
Gunfighter, killer, bully, bad tempered, from whom most ran.
Cursing, he grabbed Billy by the lapels of that old coat,
Which promptly split in two, further angerin' the evil coyote.

He threw one half of Billy's pride into the gutter, and poured a can of oil on it,
Then rasped a Lucifer against a thumb and threw on the coat so both were lit.
He turned a sneering grin to Billy and, lighted by the flames' dancin' red,
"Now, Swampy, you got some light to see who you're bumpin' into," he said.

The little man said not a word in reply, but walked across the crowded floor,
To his tiny room - and came back with one thin hand holdin' that old .44.
Vidor had come back in and, holdin' a gill of liquid courage, grinned an' spat.
He guffawed, "What now, you little runt?  Figure on gunnin' me with that?"

"No," came Billy's soft reply, "But let be show you what would happen if I wanted to."
He flicked the hammer to full cock, raised the gun, squeezed the trigger, and smoke flew.
And the calendar on the wall showed a new hole, dear center in the picture frame.
"Now," said the little man,"I've got a bet for you, if you're game."

"I'll bet you this Schofield agin' that new alpaca coat that you've got on,
That I can put the rest of the slugs in this gun in the same place that bullet's gone."
"It's a bet, Swampy - shoot!" and the five shots rang out almost as one.
All eyes were on the calendar as the smoke cleared to see the end of this fun.

There was but one neat hole, and later, as the barkeep watched Billy in his new coat,
He said, "Billy, when it comes to wonderful shooting, that sure gets my vote!
Where did you learn to handle an iron like that?"  Billy replied, "Well, I'd to say thanks,
But shucks, it was nothin'.  I only fired one bullet - all the rest was blanks!"

© 2002, Charles Williams
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Cowbarn Cowboy 

   He grew up dreamin' every American boy's hope,
   To be a cowboy, ridin' across the prairies at a lope.
   To be the sidekick of Hoppy, Gene, or Roy,
   But he was born just a dairy farmer's boy.

   Still, he dreamed the life of his heroes on the screen,
   Fightin' outlaws, killin' bad men, an' other deeds he'd seen.
   But you've got to play the hand you're dealt,
   And life went on, no matter how he felt.

   The cows he cared for he secretly scorned,
   'Cus they were Holsteins, not the mighty Longhorns,
   Like those the Duke and Clift drove up the trail in "Red River,"
   An' there's nothing about a dairy cow that sets your heart aquiver.

   He learned to get them from place to place,
   Tho "drivin'" seemed too big a word for that case.
   He'd faced down an' turned many a thousand pound cow,
   Did it all on foot, an' got through it all somehow.

   All the time thinkin' that to be a real cowboy would be bliss,
   'Cus in all his movies, he'd never seen Roy do this.
   He'd love to live the life of Hoppy, Gene, and Roy,
   But he was stuck just bein' a cowbarn cowboy.

   He'd learned the basic tenet of the stock owner's creed,
   That you take care of the stock before your mouth you feed,
   An' clean the machines as soon as the milkin's through,
   Even though that's something Lash LaRue never had to do.

   Oh, to be born a cowboy would have been the best of luck,
   'Cus Randolph Scott never had to push a cow on to a truck,
   An' how you had to care for them cows each and every day,
   Not like a real cowboy, such as Johnny Mack Brown, say.

   And the horses that he used were just an old work team,
   As he drove them of cowponies he would dream.
   The horse leather he knew the most about were harnesses,
   Not glamorous saddles like Tim Holt's or James Arness's.

   He learned that when you give your word, to it you must be true,
   An' around ladies is not the place to make the air turn blue.
   Oh, to live the free life of Hoppy, Gene, and Roy.
   Too many rules and gotta's when you're a cowbarn cowboy.

   But he knew for sure he could never be a cowboy,
   When the only gun and holster he could strap was a toy.
   Oh, he'd learned early what guns were really for,
   An' first had pulled a trigger when he was three or four.

   They were to bring meat to the table, an' every little while,
   To dispatch a varmint er a pest in the most efficient style.
   But he'd never carried a pistol like the Lone Ranger every day,
   You used 'em when you had to, but otherwise they're in the way.

   So he grew a thinkin' that his dream would not come true,
   An' the closest he'd get to cowboyin' was to hear the cattle moo.
   He wouldn't get to ride the range with Hoppy, Gene, or Roy,
   He'd have to be content just bein' a cowbarn cowboy.

   He thought he knew the land, every rock an' hole an' tree,
   But when it came to cavin', he found how wrong that could be,
   For them old cows would find some brand new hidin' place,
   That was somethin' that Joel McRay had never had to face.

   An' strainin' to help a heifer have it's first calf,
   An' if you had bad luck, how it could even tear in half.
   That never happened to Stewart er Fonda er the rest,
   He sure wanted to live upon their ranches in the west!
   An' Heston an' Peck had never had to treat fer flies,
   Nor have a manure-laden tail switch across their eyes.
   It was a whole lot better to ride with Hoppy, Gene, and Roy,
   Than to struggle in the mud an' blood when you're a cowbarn cowboy.

   But as he got a little older, things began to change,
   An' he learned a little more about life upon the range,
   He found the things he'd been taught, an' the lessons that he'd learned,
   Were really all along the things for which he'd yearned.

   No, his life would never be written by Kelton or L'Amour,
   But he'd gotten what he'd dreamed of, an' then a little more.
   No, he'd never ride the range with Hoppy, Gene, or Roy,
   But he'd become a man and was proud to be a cowbarn cowboy.
© 2002, Charles Williams
   This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


You Were There

Once I was young an' bold an' strong,
I knew my life would be prosperous an' long,
An' I could do anythin', without a care or heed,
I lit the candle on both ends, went at life full speed.

Work hard, play hard, drink hard, an' ride the rodeo,
Only old geezers an' fools would ever take it slow.
But that life grows stale,  its joys an empty snare,
An' when I looked for a post to snub on to, you were there.

From the very first, I knew you were the one,
There was somethin' else beneath the laughter an' the fun,
You were as pretty as a slick new calf on a field of soft green,
But beneath the cute, there was deep, abiding beauty to be seen.

'Course, I didn't see it at first, just sensed that it was there,
Like a meadow waitin' for the rain to bring the grass an' flowers fair.
What you ever saw in this wild young cowboy, so full of fight an' dare
Is more than I can understand, yet when I was ready, you were there.

Those first few years were partly fun an' partly pain,
Learnin' to give an' take an' live together is a strain,
Growth is never easy, an' we sure had a lot to do,
But by carin' and sharin' an' listenin', we made it through.

It's never easy to open up, even to someone you love,
But you listened an' accepted what my dreams were made of.
We planned together, kept everything open an' on the square,
An' when I needed a place to rest my heart an' soul, you were there.

When things go wrong, an' bad luck hits, to laugh is the cowboy way,
An' you were able to smile with me through tears an' skies of gray.
Sometimes the news was good, with prices up an' cattle fat,
Sudden rich is as hard as poor, but you helped me weather that.

Always talkin', dreamin', workin' together, sharin' those new days,
Friendship grows as "you and I"  became "we" in the important ways,
Love helps build, as do shared values an' common cares,
An' when only a friend would do, you were there.

Family came along, an' we built a home out on the range,
Things came an' went, but the important things never change
You never tried to make me into someone I couldn't be,
An' I learned that love is in the details so small to hardly see.

It's the little things that say "I love you," even when words come hard,
The hot coffee in the morning, late meals hot, flower seeds for the yard,
Your favorite little soaps, the kind words, the courtesies that show you are,
Whatever the job that had to be done, without complaint, you were there.

We didn't always see eye to eye, an' some times we fought the bit,
But we never stopped talkin', an' made the best of it.
All the times you were mad at me, I never had to guess why,
Some things we learned to put up with, maybe with a little sigh.

Marriage is a darn sight harder work than fencin' or cuttin' hay,
It don't come automatic - you got to work at it day by day.
But the rewards are worth it, as two lives together you share,
When it was time to ride the river, you were there.

The load's much lighter when two are harnessed up,
An' every good cow dog starts out a bumblin' pup.
Now that life we dreamed and planned about,
Seems possible despite the debt an' drought an' doubt.

Work is a habit, but so are fun an' faith an' fidelity,
There's been hard times, but there's been good a-plenty.
An' now in our peaceful twilight on comfortable rockin' chair,
I reach out a gnarled hand and find that you are still there.

© 2002, Charles Williams
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


All Trails Lead Home - Texas Version

He didn't want to be there, standing on that hill,
A long way from his home, feeling winter's chill,
His heart was in the south, where the sun still shone hot,
He had grown up down there, his childhood's happy spot.

Those wonderful days of old were lost as time's river rolled,
And now around him cold swirled in winter harsh and bold,
Gone the tamale and chili piquine, their heat was just a dream,
This north range seemed so mean, the ice and snow a bad dream.

He thought about the trail he'd traveled from his childhood haunt,
It had aged and hardened him, turned his eyes wary and gaunt,
The rivers that he's crossed, the dust and stampedes wild,
Always moving on, driven by some urge that kept him riled.

His Maria was so far away now, but her memory creased his brow,
He remembered and made a vow that he'd return someday somehow.
Longing filled his heart for days gone by, for warmer climes and sunny sky,
For her home cooked meals and apple pie, for sleepy times and places dry.

He was tired of chuck that tasted like grass, and trail beans gave him gas,
And the foreman was so hard and crass, his orders were a pain in the .rear.
Wyoming was not what it was cracked up to be, warmer places he'd rather see,
Texas was on his mind, his constant silent plea, for only there could he be free.

The trail was long and not well marked, it's end hidden in time,
Yet he knew he had to take it, to stay here would be a crime.
So he set out, traveling miles alone, and made it, at last, never more to roam,

For Sancho, the traveling Texas Longhorn, all trails did indeed lead home.

© 2005, Charles Williams and Doc Stovall
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the authors' written permission.

This poem tied for first place in the 2005 Academy of Western Artists 2nd Annual Cowboy Poetry/Songwriting Team Penning Challenge

The Legend of The Christmas Mountains

Charles Williams introduces his poem:

There are a couple of things that need to be stated up front:

1. The physical descriptions are all true, including Ben's Spring.
2. The Christmas Mountains were mined for Fluoride, which does fluoresce.
3. How did the Christmas Mountains, deep in Big Bend country, get their name? This is as good a story as any......

The old man resettled himself, as old men are wont to do,
And surveyed his audience with eyes of faded blue.

"The Christmas Mountains, you say, why that name?
There's many that have the true story, or so they claim.

"They'll say Indian uprisings or Mexican raids across the border,
Or lost mines or Spanish gold or some other wild tale they'll aver.

"But the real story has nothing to do with any of that, that's all bosh,
Strange imaginings that's all those tales are, a bunch of hogwash.

"No, the real story starts with a party of prospectors at the World's end,
They was headed for the Chisos Mountains, down around Big Bend,

"It was just before the War Between The States, and the area was empty,
'Cept for a few poor Indians and a Mexican herdsman or two or three.

"Comanche came through on raiding parties, so they had to be careful,
But they were sure they could hit pay dirt, their cup o'confidence was full.

"Their guide was an old half-breed who'd grown up down there named Ben,
And they were all experienced prospectors and frontiers men.

"They got stated in early winter, after the heat of summer was well past,
They were well mounted and at first, their progress was pretty fast.

"But they ran into bad luck, in the form of a Comanche war band,
Who stole their horses, most of their supplies, and left graves in the sand.

"The hills they escaped to had no name, they were barren and dry,
Covered with scrub and big and little rocks an' plenty of cacti-

"Rough country, and their guide was hurt bad an' out of his head.
They was desperate, hungry, thirsty and more than half dead.

"There is water," Old Ben said, "A spring that lasts year 'round,
You can see the mountain's corazone on the way where it is found.

'Then he took a shuddering breath, which proved to be his last.
And three men were alone in a barren wilderness, silent and vast.

'They struggled onward, lost and growing more desperate by the day,
Game was scarce, rabbits were about as big as they could find and slay,

'It turned cold and windy, occasionally spit snow from those skies of gray.
That little moisture helped, even if they had to lick the rocks and wet clay.

'They wandered, more dead than alive, a common enough story, I suppose,
An' by all rights, they should have perished, starved and dry and froze."

The old man stopped and fiddled with his pipe, as old men are wont to do,
Checkin' to see if his audience was listenin', and they were stuck like glue.

Satisfied, he leaned back and continued his tale, "Now where were we?
"Oh, yeah - what was left of the party was in pretty sad shape, you can see.

"But what happened next was what saved them and gave the mountains their name,
You see, it was on Christmas Eve that their prayers were answered an' salvation came."

They all thought that they were dreamin' or delirious, but they all saw the same thing,
Old Ben, pointin' toward water, and saying, "Follow the ground stars to the spring."

And sure enough, scattered there on the ground, sort of glowing in the moon light,
Little points of light that seemed to mark a path to lead them in their plight.

Well, they followed it as best they could, and came upon a miracle in that hostile land,
A fresh water spring running clear and cold - nothing had ever tasted so grand.

Enough game came by so they were able to regain their strength and finally leave,
Came back to civilization, and it was hard even for them their tale to believe.

But later, men found Ben's Water Hole, just where they said it would be,
It's still there today, as any of you who want can travel to it and see,

And the name they put on those hills- Christmas Mountains - stuck as well,
"Tho they's only a few of us left who know the true story to tell."

He stopped and leaned back with a satisfied smile, as old men are wont to do,
When one of his listeners burst out, "Ground stars? How do we know that's true?"

The old man looked at him gravely, them fumbled in his blue jeans pocket,
"This is one of those ground stars- it was picked it up that night so's not to forget."

In the old man's hand was a rough crystal with a faintly purple hue,
"Now, you can believe or not - that's pretty much up to you,

"But I know that it's true and that this rock will glow when light hits it fair,
"Ya see, it was my great grandpa that gave this rock to me, an' he was there."

© 2013, Charles Williams and Doc Stovall
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the authors' written permission.


Read Charles Williams' Starry Night, posted with other Holiday poems.

See A Cowboy Knows, by Doc Stovall and Charles Williams

from the Academy of Western Artists 1st Annual Cowboy Poetry/Songwriting Team Roping Challenge

Above is 

All Trails Lead Home - Texas Version

which tied for first place in the 2005 Academy of Western Artists 2nd Annual Cowboy Poetry/Songwriting Team Penning Challenge

About Charles Williams

Packages, poetry and pottery - Charles Williams has been involved with all three.  His day job was with Texas Instruments troubleshooting the placing of those electronic devices our lives have become so dependant on in the little bug-like packages they come to us in.  TI thought so much of him they elected him a Member of The Group Technical Staff and hired him back as a consultant after he retired.  Amongst his many accomplishments plowing the technical fields were the granting of 14 patents to him by your US Government.  He is by training a Ceramic Engineer (comes from a misspent youth playing in the mud), and for several years his craft of choice was thrown pottery.  His work won awards at judged shows, and is highly sought after among a small circle of admirers.  There is no accounting for taste. 

His passion is cowboy poetry and storytelling.  He has been telling stories for nearly forty years, the last half of it professionally.  He has achieved a surprising degree of notoriety with his poetry and has published in an anthology and has a tape, "Up the Trail."  He is much in demand at various Cowboy poetry gatherings, usually when it's time to clean up.  He has been seen hanging around the Texas State Fair and the Ft. Worth Stock Show, and there's a rumor he handles the gatherings at both those venues.  His fellow poets thought so much of him they elected him president of the Texas Cowboy Poets Association, a post he held until he could rig another election and pass it off.  He has been hooked up with the Academy of Western Artists since its inception - he holds membership card #2.  By virtue of dedication, hard work, and bein' the next to last one standing, he has been elevated to the rank of Executive Vice President of that august group.  Course, it also helps that he lives where the Award Show is held.   So cinch 'er down tight, because you're in for a wild ride when he takes the microphone.

Come Sit a Spell on the Back Porch

And Listen While

 Uncle Charlie

Spins Yarns, Tall Tales, Poems and Vignettes of 
The Old West “The Way It Used To Was.”





Let noted storyteller and Cowboy Poet Charles Williams, better known to his friends and multitude of fans as “Uncle Charlie”, take you on a trip through Texas and the West the way it was, the way we think it was and the way it should have been.  Uncle Charlie uses original and traditional cowboy poetry, tall tales and campfire stories, literary tales and real life vignettes to weave a colorful tapestry of the West of the imagination and history.  Audiences of all ages will come away not only hugely entertained but a little more knowledgeable about The Real West.

Liven up your next Meeting, Event, Banquet or Camp

With Uncle Charlie!!

Charles Williams   7506 Silver Lake Drive, Rowlett, TX, 75089




Smoke from Distant Campfires

Trail Campfire
music: Old Paint
Night in Dodge City
music: Girl I Left Behind Me
The Swamper
Skull of De Vargas
music: El Burro de las Montanas
Roping a Bear
music: Rose of San Antone
Old Truthful, Old Rip, and Old Coosie
music:  Rye Whiskey
Jim Red
music: Barbara Allen
The Line Rider
music: Barbara Allen
The Piano Player at McGarrity's Saloon
music: Lorena/When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Faded Love
music: Faded Love

with Ginny Mac on accordion and Glen McLaughlin on guitar

$18 postpaid from $18 postpaid from Charles Williams,

506 Silver Lake Drive, Rowlett, TX, 75089



Fly Leaf Cooking
the collective recipes from the Williams and Parker Family Cookbooks

Charles Williams has put together an interesting and attractive cookbook, Fly Leaf Cooking, the collective recipes from the Williams and Parker Family Cookbooks.  He tells that "This cookbook is a collection of hand written recipes found in the fly leaves of various cookbooks that my mother, Oletha Davenport Williams, my wife's mother, Roberta "Meem" Parker, and Vee and I have collected over the years..."  Filled with vintage photos, line art, and recipes for everything from "Spotted Pup/Horse Thief Rice" to "Mrs. Macdonald's Chocolate Cake," it's available for $18 postpaid from Charles Williams, 506 Silver Lake Drive, Rowlett, TX, 75089, (214)750-1362



 What's New | Poems | Search

 Features | Events  

The BAR-D Roundup | Cowboy Poetry Week

Poetry Submissions 

Subscribe | Newsletter | Contact Us

  Join Us!


Authors retain copyright to their work; obtain an author's
permission before using a poem in any form. is a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc., a Federal and California tax-exempt non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.  


Site copyright information