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Welcome to our eleventh annual Christmas at the BAR-D!

We keep Christmas throughout the season, with continual additions of news, poetry, songs, and more. 

Along with the poetry and more, we post holiday news and features below.

"Cowboy Santa" copyright 2010 Sue Taylor Perez

Christmas poem and song submissions were welcome through December 10, 2010. Submissions are now closed and selections are being posted daily, below.

There's a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur—a painting by Western artist Richard Galusha. Submissions were welcome through December 16, 2010 and are now closed. Selected poems are posted here.

An Important Year-end Message

This past year, did you find something at CowboyPoetry.com that interested you? Did you visit for poetry, news, event information, features? Was your own poem included at the BAR-D? Was your local gathering announced, or were you a part of a gathering report? Did we share your news with our many readers?

Your support is vital to the existence of CowboyPoetry.com and the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry.

If you enjoy features such as Christmas at the BAR-D,  there's no better time to show your support.

All that happens at the BAR-D is made possible by the essential contributions of generous supporters: CowboyPoetry.com; Cowboy Poetry Week and its annual Western art poster; The BAR-D Roundup compilation CD; and the Rural Library Project that distributes posters and CDs to rural libraries. We've received generous donations of $10 and donations of $1000; and we are grateful for them all. 

Please become a supporter with a tax-deductible donation, perhaps in memory of someone who treasured our Western Heritage: Make a difference.

Read some of our supporters' comments here,  visit the Wall of Support, and donate!

Read all about our history, the Center, and about how you can be a part of it all right here.

You can make a donation by check or money order, by mail (please use the form here for mail to PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133) or by a secure, on-line credit card payment through PayPal (a PayPal account is not required):

CowboyPoetry.com is a project of The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, a tax-exempt non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Act. Contributions to the Center are fully deductible for federal income tax purposes.

As in all journalistic endeavors, no editorial preference is given to financial sponsors or supporters.

 

Your support is essential to CowboyPoetry.com.
Be a part of it all here at the BAR-D.

Join with others on our Wall of Support 

 




 

Poetry, Songs, Stories, Links and More, below    

Christmas News   

Western Christmas Books and Music (separate page)   


Find holiday events on our Events calendar


 


Poetry and Songs, Classic and New and Old Favorites

See our 2010 Christmas Cowboy Poetry, Songs, and links below

Find a complete list with links to all the holiday poems posted starting in 2000 here.

"Cowboy Santa" copyright 2010 Sue Taylor Perez
"Cowboy Santa"
Pastel
Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"Cowboy Santa" © 2010 Sue Taylor Perez

"Cowboy Santa" by Nebraska artist Sue Taylor Perez is a part of her Art Cards, Editions and Originals (ACEO) series. 

From her bio here: ".....Currently her work can be seen at the North Platte Art Gallery in Nebraska. A member of the North Platte Art Guild she has served as President since 2006. Perez teaches drawing classes, workshops and 4-H Seminars....Taylor has had showings at the Noyes gallery in Lincoln, Thedford Art Gallery, Comstock Art gallery and Ptarmigan Arts in Homer, Alaska....Perez works in various medium with her favorites being color pencil, pastels, and acrylic. Animals and still life are preferred subjects, but her varied lifetime experiences are often reflected in the art work presented. Sue is working on a series of paintings and color pencil drawings featuring historical themes, the homeless population ("Invisible Society") and a lighthearted series on the imagination of children ("Through the Eyes of a Child")...."

Find more of her work and more about her at Etsy, Ebay, and on Facebook.


 


  Winter / Christmas Art Spur

 


 
"Moonlight Gathering"
Oil
Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"Moonlight Gathering" © Richard Galusha, www.wildhorsegallery.com

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...we know many that are worthy of a poem. In Art Spur, we invite poets to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry.

Our twenty-third piece offered to "spur" poets' and songwriters' imaginations is "Moonlight Gathering," an oil painting by Richard Galusha of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Richard Galusha grew up on his family’s ranch in West Texas where, his bio tells, "...he developed a love and understanding for horses, which he has expressed in his art from a very early age." He's also captured scenes from around the world in his art. See our feature here for more about him and some additional examples of his work.

 Art Spur has featured the works of Tim Cox, Bill Owen, Joelle Smith, and others.

Submissions were welcome from all, through December 16, 2010. Submissions are now closed. Find more about "Moonlight Gathering" here. Selected poems are posted here.

Find more about Art Spur and links to all of the previous subjects here.

 

Christmas Poems and Songs


Poets and songwriters were welcome to submit one Christmas poem or song for consideration. Submissions were welcome through December 10, 2010. Submissions are now closed.

Selected poems and songs were posted during the season. Find poems below.

 


Christmas News

"Cowboy Santa" copyright 2010 Sue Taylor Perez

 

See the Events calendar for Christmas events and find some individual announcements here.


  Find a large selection of selected Cowboy Christmas books and recordings here.


 
Christmas releases new in 2010 are announced in our news here.


  Jeri Dobrowski's Cowboy Jam Session columns for December and November feature great Christmas picks for music, cowboy poetry, books, and more.

Read Cowboy Jam Session columns here.

[photo by Jen Dobrowski]


  Andy Nelson and Jim Nelson present their annual Clear Out West (C. O. W.) radio Christmas show on syndicated radio stations the week of December 20, 2010. The show is available on the internet starting the week of December 27, 2010, and available in the C.O.W. archives after that.

A "Best of C.O.W. 2010" special show airs on the radio on December 27, 2010 and is available on line the following week, January 3, 2011, and in the C.O.W. archives after that.

Listen to Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio here.

[photo by Stuart Johnson]


The show is available on demand for a week after the live broadcast here.

[photograph by Lori Faith Merritt, www.photographybyfaith.com]
 


    Charley Engel ("Chuckaroo the Buckaroo") presents the Calling All Cowboys radio annual Christmas special, airing December 23-29. The show includes "two solid hours of Cowboy Christmas including a number of exclusives available only to Calling All Cowboys.

Listen to Calling All Cowboys radio here.


  Joe Baker writes:

Joe Baker's Backforty Bunkhouse Radio Show on December 25th will feature the regular format of Classic Country, Western Music, Cowboy Poetry, Western Swing and Texas Honky Tonk. Cowboy and Classic Country Christmas songs will increase on this special Christmas Day show.

We will again feature the Backforty Bunkhouse Show on 100,000 watt KWMW, 105.1FM-Real Country W-105, 100,000 watt KNMB, 96.7FM-The Bear and 25,000 watt KRUI, 1490AM-News-Talk-Tourism.

This show will be archived for listening on demand at www.backfortybunkhouse.com.

 

  Totsie Slover's Real West from the Old West radio Christmas show airs Wednesday, December 22, 2010 from 10-12 noon (Mountain).  December 22 from 10:00 AM 'til 12 noon on AM1230 KOTS, Deming, NM.




 

Poems, Songs, and More

"Cowboy Santa" copyright 2010 Sue Taylor Perez

Something most every day, along with selected classic and 
contemporary favorites from past years' celebrations

Newest and final selections below.

All selections:

"Christmas Waltz" by Buck Ramsey
"Empty Saddles at Christmas" by S. Omar Barker
"Desert Cowboy's Christmas by Carole Jarvis
"Sleds" by Kip Sorlie
Video link: "Christmas for Cowboys" by Wylie Gustafson

"The Old Time Christmas" by Bruce Kiskaddon
"A Christmas Prayer" by Doris Daley
"The Wrangler's Christmas" by Jack Burdette
Audio link: Texas Playboys Western Swing Christmas

"A Journey in Search of Christmas" by Owen Wister (story)
"The Language of Christmas" by Hal Swift
"Deer Hay " by Robert Dennis (illustrated)
"The Longest Trail Home" by Robert C. Atkin


"Busted Cowboy's Christmas" by D.J. O'Malley
"Memories of Place" by Jane Morton
"Virginia, I Believe" by Yvonne Hollenbeck
"Christmas Greetings" by Dale Page
"Cowboy Christmas" by Lawrence N. DiCostanzo

Audio link: Yvonne Hollenbeck's "The Christmas Quilt"

Art Spur poems by Glen Enloe, Bette Wolf Duncan, Susan Matley,
Joyce Johnson, Merv Webster, and Del Gustafson

"The Cowboy's Christmas Ball" by Larry Chittenden
Video link:  Michael Martin Murphey's "The Cowboy Christmas Ball"


"Christmas Serenade" by J.W. Beeson
Blog link:  Teresa Jordan's "All I Want for Christmas … is a Truce in the War On Christmas"
Audio link:  Gary McMahan's "Christmas Ballet"


"Page's Christmas Socks" by Jerry Schleicher
"Merry Christmas 2010" by Van Criddle
"Santa is a Cowboy" by Bill Hickman
"Bunkhouse Christmas" by Tamara Hillman

Image: Frederic Remington's "Cowboys Coming to Town for Christmas"
Audio link:  Gary McMahan's "Christmas Ballet"

"A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer" by S. Omar Barker
Audio link: Jimmy Dean's recitation of S. Omar Barker's "A Cowboy Christmas Prayer"

"Rudolph's Night Off" by Baxter Black
Audio link: Baxter Black's "Cows in the Manger"  
Audio link: Baxter Black's "First Christmas, Cowboy Style"

"Christmas at a Snowed-in Cow Camp" by Ron Gale
"Big Jake's Christmas" by C.W. (Charley) Bell
"A Cowboy Christmas Lament" by C.R. Wood
"A Cowboy's Christmas Ponderings" by J.D. Siebert

Audio link: Gene Autry's "Merry Texas Christmas You All"
Audio link: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans' "Christmas on the Plains"
Riders in the Sky "Christmas Yodel"

Blog link: Kent Rollins' "The Christmas Lesson"

Bruce Kiskaddon's "Merry Christmas"

Stephanie Davis' "The Gift"
Stephanie Davis' "The Gift"

Deanna Dickinson McCall's "Gifts in the Hay"
Curly Musgrave's "Prairie Silent Night"
Virginia Bennett's "Sermon on the Mount"
Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")'s "The Star and a Humble Cowboy"

Badger Clark's "The Christmas Trail"


Merry Christmas All!

Special thanks to our supporters and Sponsors for their commitment to our
shared mission to promote and preserve cowboy poetry and the life and arts
of the West.

 They keep CowboyPoetry.com available every day of the year and
make Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible.

 


 

Contemporary classic: from the archives

It is our Christmas tradition to launch Christmas at the BAR-D with the modern classic, Christmas Waltz, by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998).

Buck Ramsey, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, is often referred to as "the spiritual leader of modern cowboy poetry." Chapters from his epic poem, Grass, are included on each edition of The BAR-D Roundup.

photo of Buck Ramsey by Scott Braucher

Christmas Waltz

The winter is here and the old year is passing,
The sun in its circle winds far in the south.
It's time to bring cheer to a cold, snowbound cow camp,
It's Christmas tree time of the year for the house.

Go ride to the cedar break rim of a canyon,
Down by where the river takes creek water clear,
And saddle-sleigh home us a fine shapely evergreen
Picked out while prowling the pasture this year.

While Fair strings the berries and popcorn and whatnots
And Ty braids the wreaths out of leather and vines,
Old Dunder, he whittles and whistles old carols
And fills them with stories of fine olden times.

He talks of a baby boy born in a cow shed,
All swaddled in tatters and laid in a trough,
Who, growing up, gave away all he could gather
And taught us that what is not given is lost.

It's morning of Christmas and long before dawning
The camp hands are risen to ready the feast.
But with the fires glowing they don warm apparel
And go out to gaze on the Star of the East.

They cobbler the plums they put up back in summer,
They bake a wild turkey and roast backstrap deer,
They dollop the sourdough for rising and baking,
And pass each to each now the brown jug of cheer.

The dinner is done and they pass out the presents,
Their three each they open with handshakes and hugs,
Then Ty gets his guitar and Fred gets his fiddle
While Dunder and Fair laugh and roll back the rugs.

The tunes that they play melt the chill from the winter
As Dunder and Fair waltz and two-step along.
They play, sing and dance till the next morning's dawning
Then all of the their slumbers are filled with this song.

© 1996, Buck Ramsey, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

Find more about this poem here in our feature about Buck Ramsey.

 

 

Elsewhere on the web

View a YouTube video here of Wylie Gustafson of Wylie & the Wild West singing Christmas for Cowboys from his acclaimed Christmas for Cowboys album. The music video was made  by Julian Sterbick-Myers from Cable 8 Productions at Washington State University featuring Wylie Gustafson on his ranch.

See our feature about Wylie Gustafson here and visit www.wyliewebsite.com for much more about him and his music.


 

Classic: from the archives

S. Omar Barker's (1894-1985)  Empty Saddles at Christmas was the winner of a 1967 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and was printed in Western Horseman magazine December, 1966, illustrated by Brummett Echohawk.

Empty Saddles at Christmas

The junipers whiten with snow softly fallin';
Somewhere down in the draw there's an ol' cow a-bawlin'.
There ain't nothin' ails her—we're plumb sure of that,
For grass has been good and the stock is all fat.
And yet, driftin' in on the snow-feathered breeze,
The sound brings a feelin' of wishful unease
To us old hands settin' here cozy and warm,
Snug-sheltered and safe from this Christmas Eve storm:
A strange, lonesome feelin' we can't push away,
Rememberin' tomorrow will be Christmas day;
Rememberin' it's Christmas and wonderin' when
Them two empty saddles will be rode again.

There's two pairs of spurs and two hats on their pegs,
And two pairs of chaps meant for young cowboy legs
A-hangin' unused on the old bunkhouse wall—
But the boys they belong to ain't hearin' cows bawl.
They're hearin' machine guns, the whine of a shell,
And all them strange sounds of a war that's plain hell;
The sea waves a-slappin' the side of a boat,
The ominous roar from a big bomber's throat;
The strange, alien language of little brown men—
The same sounds all over and over again,
While deep in their hearts what they're longin' to hear
Is wind in the cedars, the bawl of a steer.

Us oldsters, we set here this Christmas Eve night
A-thinkin' of cowboys that's gone off to fight.
If our thoughts could reach 'em, here's what we would say:
"We're doin' our best, boys, since you went away.
The ranch is still here and the cattle well-tended.
Your horses are fed and the fences are mended.
Looks like a white Christmas will show up at dawn.
We hope it's the last one you boys will be gone.
There's an old cow a-bawlin'—she claims her calf's missin'—
Sure wish that you boys was here with us to listen.

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

 

Read about S. Omar Barker and find more of his poetry here.

 

 

Modern: from the archives

  Desert Cowboy's Christmas by Arizona poet Carole Jarvis is included in her book, Time Not Measured by a Clock:

Desert Cowboy's Christmas

The bells this cowboy's hearin',
     aren't off of any sleigh.
They're 'round the necks of the old milk cows
     comin' in for their mornin' hay.

There've been other times and places,
     where there weren't snowflakes fallin',
But he can't remember a Christmas,
     when there weren't cattle bawlin'.

The desert air is chilled,
     as daylight tints the sky.
It's plenty cold enough for frost
     but the air is just too dry.

Against the graying pre-dawn
     there's a darker silhoutte.
A remuda horse has just come in,
     but he can't tell which one yet.

The faint scent of creosote brush
     drifts on the mornin' breeze,
And prob'ly because of the day
     makes him think of Christmas trees.

Pausing, he watches the sunrise
     break the hold of the night.
Objects begin to emerge from the dark
     changing form in the light.

Saguaro, arms reaching skyward,
     cottonwood trees, bare limbed.
A rooster up on the big corral fence
     sittin' there crowin' at him.

An old cow begins to bawl,
     knowin' it's time for feed.
He breaks the bales and scatters the hay,
     and the others follow her lead.

Cattle and man have a bond,
     they've always been his life.
Over the years they've taken the place
     of a family and a wife.

As seasons follow seasons,
     he's never changed direction.
Horses, cattle, and wide-open spaces,
     the "cowboy connection."

 "Merry Christmas, Girls," he calls,
     "here's a little extra hay.
An old cowboy likes to do his part
     to make this a special day!"

His Christmas seldom means presents,
     or bright lights on a tree,
More a time to pause and reflect
     on the way a man ought to be.

Some folks don't understand this,
     but it really isn't so strange.
It's what a cowboy's life's all about,
     to a shepherd of the range. 

© Carole Jarvis, from Time Not Measured by a Clock

 

Read about Carole Jarvis and find more of her poetry here.

New in 2010:

  South Dakota poet Kip Sorlie's poem Sleds starts the season with a reflective tone:

Sleds

The house sat silent now
     Four kids had grown and gone.
Heavy, yellowed curtains
     Had long ago been drawn.
 
The barn stood empty, too.
     It once held calf and foal,
But, without a purpose,
     Time would soon claim its soul.

.....

Find the entire poem here and read Kip Sorlie's comments on the poem.

Read about Kip Sorlie and find more of his poetry here.

Classic: from the archives

  Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950) The Old Time Christmas first appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1934. It was included in his Western Poems collection in 1935.

The Old Time Christmas

I liked the way we used to do,
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.
The people gathered frum far and near, and
they barbacued a big fat steer.
The kids tried stayin' awake because,
they reckoned they might ketch Santa Claus.
Next mornin' you'd wake 'em up to see,
what he'd been and put on the Christmas tree.

It was Christmas then fer the rich and pore,
and every ranch was an open door.
The waddy that came on a company hoss
was treated the same as the owner and boss.
Nobody seemed to have a care,
you was in among friends or you wasn't there.
For every feller in them days knew
to behave hisself as a man should do.

Some had new boots, which they'd shore admire
when they warmed their feet in front of the fire.
And the wimmin folks had new clothes too,
but not like the wimmin of these days do.
Sometimes a drifter came riding in,
some feller that never was seen agin.
And each Christmas day as the years went on
we used to wonder where they'd gone.

I like to recall the Christmas night.
The tops of the mountains capped with white.
The stars so bright they seemed to blaze,
and the foothills swum in a silver haze.
Them good old days is past and gone.
The time and the world and the change goes on.
And you cain't do things like you used to do
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.

Bruce Kiskaddon, 1934
 

Read about Bruce Kiskaddon and find more of his poetry here.

Modern: from the archives

  Alberta poet Doris Daley yearns for home in A Christmas Prayer:

A Christmas Prayer

Sure is pretty here tonight, there's excitement in the air
Busy shoppers hustle home through Central Park.
The tree must be ten stories tall in Rockefeller Square
A million lights are sparkling in the dark.

It's a fast-paced life I'm living; it's first class all the way.
Fancy office, fancy parties, fancy things.
"I'm shooting for the works" is what my friends all heard me say,
And now I dine with presidents and kings.

Oh, it's glamorous all right, success and all the rest.
And maybe it's this little skiff of snow.
But tonight I'm kind of lonesome for a little place out west,
And a cowboy down the road I used to know.

I bet an opal moon shines on the Eastern Slopes tonight,
The hills lie still beneath a snowy shawl.
Chores are done, the porch light's on, a fire crackles bright,
Maybe Ian's singing at the Longview Hall.

It's the symphony for me tonight, Champagne and caviar.
Oh, the swirl and sway and sparkle of this place!
But you know, I kind of long to hear a cowboy's soft guitar
And to feel a warm Chinook upon my face.

Where'd she go-that little girl who used to live in cowboy boots,
Made sure each year the reindeer got some hay.
She's not gone far-just dresses now in silk designer suits
And is living life the New York City way.

Sure is pretty here tonight, there's excitement in the air.
A dab of French perfume—my cab is here.
In the swirl and sway and sparkle, I say a Christmas prayer:
"May it be Christmas in Alberta for me next year."

© 2003, Doris Daley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Read about Doris Daley and find more of her poetry here.

 

BobWills.com offers ten songs from the Original Texas Playboys Western Swing Christmas album. Listen here to "Cotton-Eyed Jingle Bells," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Here Comes Santa Claus," "White Christmas," "Let it Snow," "Cowboy Christmas," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Blue Christmas," "Swingin' Around the Christmas Tree," and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

New in 2010:

  Arizona poet Jack Burdette writes about The Wrangler's Christmas:

The Wrangler's Christmas

A stand of aspen near a stream,
  just as I’ve run out of daylight.
There’s grass in the bottom below.
  Reckon this will be camp tonight.
Now bare, the aspens’ final leaves,
  have fluttered gently to the ground
And wrapped the world in a blanket,
  as if to hush her every sound.
.....

Find the entire poem here and read about Jack Burdette and find more of his poetry here.

Classic: from the archives

  

Classic Western writer Owen Wister (1860-1938), best known as the author of The Virginian, wrote a story we posted serially in a past Christmas at the BAR-D, A Journey in Search of Christmas. The story includes illustrations by Frederic Remington.

Find the entire story here.
 


Modern: from the archives

  Nevada poet and writer Hal Swift (it's his birthday today, December 17) tells about The Language of Christmas:

The Language of Christmas
a fable

Charlie Walker's an old cowpoke I know,
who has lots of stories to tell.
There's a tale he tells about Christmas one year,
and he remembers it all quite well.

Charlie says it happened when he was young,
and tryin' to make it back home.
He hadn't spent Christmas with family for years,
since the day that he started to roam.

He's the first who'll tell you, his timin' was off,
when him and his horse got caught
in one big snow storm up in the hills,
with all of the presents he'd bought.

He says, at first, he wasn't upset,
he figured he'd just ride through.
But when it got dark, and he couldn't see,
he knew what he needed to do.

He needed to find a place to make camp,
somewhere that's out of the wind.
But he kept on going, and would you believe,
found a cabin around the bend?

As he got closer, he blessed his luck,
for  it looked like somebody's there.
He had plenty of grub amongst his stuff,
and he'd be happy to share.

Maybe they'd let him sleep by the fire,
but the stable would be okay.
Of course, it wouldn't be the first time
that he'd had to sleep in the hay.

He climbed off Virgil, his Morgan stud,
and led him right up to the door.
The man who answered was an old Pah-ute.
You could tell by the clothes he wore.

The old boy said that his name was Bill
and took Charlie around to the back.
In the stable there, they tended to Virgil
then went inside of the shack.

Another old man was already there,
who said that he was a German.
He said, "Welcome!" and then told Charlie,
"You can just call me Herman."

So Charlie brought in his sack of supplies,
and started a meal to cookin'.
Then a cold young man came knockin' at the door,
and boy, he was hungry-lookin'!

He had long dark hair and a close-cut beard,
and the old boys took him right in.
Charlie went to the stable and got Christmas gifts,
and passed them around to the men.

Then they felt bad, 'cause they had none for him,
but Charlie said, "Don't feel low."
The young man said, "Many thanks for the present.
Today is my birthday, you know."

They sang Happy Birthday, and Christmas carols, too,
and stayed up half of the night.
But when morning came, the young man was gone,
disappeared by the dawn's early light.

While the men ate breakfast, they tried to figure
who the nice young man might have been.
Charlie said, "He's a Texan--and the way I can tell is
he talked like my Texas kin."

Herman said, "Nein, the boy spoke German.
I marveled you all understood!"
"If he had," said Bill, "I wouldn't of missed it,
there's just no way that I could.

"I figured the kid's from out in Nevada,
he spoke pure Pah-ute to me."
The room got quiet while all tried to figure
who the nice young man might be.

"Well," said Charlie, "He said it's his birthday."
And Herman said, "Ya, that's right."
They were quiet for a while, then old Bill whispered,
"And this was on Christmas night!"

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

[photo of Hal Swift by Johnny Gunn]

Read about Hal Swift and find more of his poetry here.

 

New in 2010:

  South Dakota rancher Robert Dennis shares his 2010 Christmas poem, Deer Hay,  illustrated by Lee Stevens:

Deer Hay

One year I had went pert’ ‘neer broke
Way up north of the Medicine Line
So I was lookin’ for work of the cowboy type
Just bummin’ and still doin’ fine

I kept ridin’ north, a lookin’ for a job
Followin’ up on a real good lead
Country started changin’ in looks as I rode
I’s travelin’ slow not makin’ much speed
....

Find the entire poem here and read about Robert Dennis and find more of his poetry here.



© 2010, LE Stevens,
reproduction prohibited without express written permission

Find more of Lee Stevens' art here.


[photo of Robert Dennis by Jeri L. Dobrowsk]



New in 2010:

New to the BAR-D, Kansas poet Robert C. Atkin shares his poem, The Longest Trail Home (A Christmas Mystery):

The Longest Trail Home
(A Christmas Mystery )

The whispering white crept through the night
The cold gnawed right to the bone
The eerie hue of cobalt blue
Gave shadows a life all their own

The rider 'n' horse stayed their course
Ice drooped from bridle and brim
While waves of snow continued to grow
Making trails heavy and dim
....
 

Find the entire poem here and read about Robert C. Atkin here.
 

Classic: from the archives

  Montana cowboy D.J. O'Malley (1867-1943) wrote Busted Cowboy's Christmas:

Busted Cowboy's Christmas

I am a busted cowboy
   And I work upon the range,
In summertime I get some work,
   But one thing which seems strange,
As soon as fall work's over
   I get it in the neck
I get a Christmas present
   Of a neatly written check.

I come to town to rusticate,
   I've no place else to stay
When winter winds are howling hard
   Because I don't eat hay.
A puncher's life's a picnic?
   It is one continual joke.
But there's none more anxious to see spring
   Than the cowboy who is broke.

The wages that a cowhand earns
   In summer goes like smoke,
And when the snow begins to drift 
   You bet your neck he's broke.
You may talk about your holidays,
   Your Christmas cheer and joy,
They're all the same to me, my friend.
   Cash gone, I'm a broke cowboy.

My saddle and my gun in soak,
   My spurs I've long since sold,
My rawhide and my quirt are gone,
   My chaps, no. They're too old.
My outfit's gone, I can't e'en bum
  A cigarette to smoke.
For no one cares what happens 
  To a cowboy who is broke.

Just where I'll eat my dinner
   This Christmas, I don't know,
But you can bet your life I'll have one
   If I get but half a show.
This Christmas holds no charms for me,
   On good things I'll not choke,
Unless I get a big handout
   I'm a cowboy who is broke.

D. J. O'Malley, 1893


Read about D.J. O'Malley and find more of his poetry here.

Modern: from the archives

  Colorado poet Jane Morton often writes about her pioneering ranching family. She wrote Memories of Place in 2006:

Memories of Place

Our Christmas tradition
   brought family together.
We homed to the ranch house
   regardless of weather.

Some family's passed on,
   and the rest of us scattered,
But memories of place
   take us back to what mattered.

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

 

Read about Jane Morton and find more of her poetry here.

Modern: from the archives

  South Dakota poet Yvonne Hollenbeck, who has a new book of Christmas poems and a Christmas CD, created Virginia, I Believe:

Virginia, I Believe
 

Yes, Virginia, I believe there is a Santa Claus;
but I don't think he is a man...the reason is because

all the men I've ever met have never liked to shop;
and would never watch commercials to find out what is hot.

He'd have the lists of children's wants all over the darned house,
jotted down on envelopes, then be angry with his spouse

for moving them or losing them, and he could never find
half of all the presents...and they'd get left behind.

He'd have to ask directions so he'd not lose his way,
or have the Missus go along to back-seat drive his sleigh.

(Why, even Lewis & Clark, who we honor yet today,
had to get a woman to guide them on their way.)

And did you ever meet a man who'd wear a suit of red
trimmed in fur all fluffy, with that hat upon his head?
 
Virginia, please don't take me wrong, he's been real good to me;
but I'm convinced he's not a man...that Santa is a she!

© 2003 Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Read about Yvonne Hollenbeck and find more of her poetry here.

 

A podcast from the Western Folklife Center features Yvonne Hollenbeck's poem, "The Christmas Quilt." The poem was recorded at the 2004 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
 Read about the podcast and listen to program here.

 


New in 2010:

  Indiana poet Dale Page offers Christmas Greetings:

Christmas Greetings

I’ve checked off, pert near, all the days of the year
From the calendar there on the wall.
Outside here, it’s snowing, and winter is showing
That it’s close on the heels of the fall.
.....
 

Find the entire poem here and read about Dale Page here.
 

New in 2010:

  Lawrence N. DiCostanzo, new to the BAR-D, shares Cowboy Christmas, which he wrote for his granddaughter's first Christmas:

Cowboy Christmas

He's riding out while it's still dark.
The creak of leather makes
A dry-sweet song, the only mark
Against black mountain shapes.
....

Find the entire poem here and read about Lawrence N. DiCostanzo here.


 

 

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...we know many that are worthy of a poem. In Art Spur, we invite poets to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry.

Our twenty-third piece offered to "spur" poets' and songwriters' imaginations is "Moonlight Gathering," an oil painting by Richard Galusha of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Find selected poems here by:

Bette Wolf Duncan, "Christmas Gathering"

  Glen Enloe, "The Third Horse by the Trees"

Joyce Johnson, "Moonlight Gathering"

Susan Matley, "Grand-Dad's Moonlit Ride"

Merv Webster, "When Her Three Sons Came Home"

  Del Gustafson, "Moonlight Vigil"

 



See previous Christmas Art Spur poem collections for more Christmas poetry:

  Tim Cox' "Hicks' Hereford Heifers," 2009


  Joelle Smith's "Bringing Home the Tree," 2008

  Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot)'s  "Cowboy's Christmas Eve," 2007

  Jo Lynne Kirkwood's "Bringing Home Christmas," 2006

  Mick Harrison's "Christmas Tale," 2005

  Charley Russell's "Seein' Santa," 2004

 


Classic: from the archives

  Larry Chittenden (1862-1934) is responsible for one of the best-known cowboy Christmas songs, The Cowboys' Christmas Ball. He wrote the poem in 1890 after attending a dance in Anson, Texas. That celebration that continues today.

The Cowboys' Christmas Ball 
To the Ranchmen of Texas

'Way out in Western Texas, where the Clear Fork's waters flow,
Where the cattle are "a-browzin'," an' the Spanish ponies grow;
Where the Northers "come a-whistlin'" from beyond the Neutral Strip;
And the prairie dogs are sneezin', as if they had "The Grip";
Where the cayotes come a-howlin' 'round the ranches after dark,
And the mocking-birds are singin' to the lovely "medder lark";
Where the 'possum and the badger, and rattlesnakes abound,
And the monstrous stars are winkin' o'er a wilderness profound;
Where lonesome, tawny prairies melt into airy streams,
While the Double Mountains slumber, in heavenly kinds of dreams;
Where the antelope is grazin' and the lonely plovers call—
It was there that I attended "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The town was Anson City, old Jones's county seat,
Where they raised Polled Angus cattle, and waving whiskered wheat;
Where the air is soft and "bammy," an' dry an' full of health,
And the prairies is explodin' with agricultural wealth;
Where they print the Texas Western, that Hec. McCann supplies
With news and yarns and stories, uv most amazin' size;
Where Frank Smith "pulls the badger," on knowin' tenderfeet,
And Democracy's triumphant, and might hard to beat;
Where lives that good old hunter, John Milsap, from Lamar,
Who "used to be the Sheriff, back East, in Paris sah!"
'T was there, I say, at Anson with the lovely "widder Wall,"
That I went to that reception, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The boys had left the ranches and come to town in piles;
The ladies—"kinder scatterin'"—had gathered in for miles.
And yet the place was crowded, as I remember well,
'T was got for the occasion, at "The Morning Star Hotel."
The music was a fiddle an' a lively tambourine,
And a "viol came imported," by the stage from Abilene.
The room was togged out gorgeous-with mistletoe and shawls,
And candles flickered frescoes, around the airy walls.
The "wimmin folks" looked lovely-the boys looked kinder treed,
Till their leader commenced yellin': "Whoa! fellers, let's stampede,"
And the music started sighin', an' awailin' through the hall
As a kind of introduction to "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The leader was a feller that came from Swenson's ranch,
They called him "Windy Billy," from "little Deadman's Branch."
His rig was "kinder keerless," big spurs and high-heeled boots;
He had the reputation that comes when "fellers shoots."
His voice was like a bugle upon the mountain's height;
His feet were animated an' a mighty, movin' sight,
When he commenced to holler, "Neow, fellers stake your pen!
"Lock horns ter all them heifers, an' russle 'em like men.
"Saloot yer lovely critters; neow swing an' let 'em go,
"Climb the grape vine 'round 'em—all hands do-ce-do!
"You Mavericks, jine the round-up- Jest skip her waterfall,"
Huh!  hit wuz gettin' happy, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The boys were tolerable skittish, the ladies powerful neat,
That old bass viol's music just got there with both feet!
That wailin', frisky fiddle, I never shall forget;
And Windy kept a-singin'—I think I hear him yet—
"Oh Xes, chase yer squirrels, an' cut 'em to one side;
"Spur Treadwell to the centre, with Cross P Charley's bride;
"Doc. Hollis down the middle, an' twine the ladies' chain;
"Varn Andrews pen the fillies in big T Diamond's train.
"All pull yer freight together, neow swallow fork an' change;
"'Big Boston,' lead the trail herd, through little Pitchfork's range.
"Purr 'round yer gentle pussies, neow rope 'em! Balance all!"
Huh!  hit wuz gettin' active—"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The dust riz fast an' furious; we all jes' galloped 'round,
Till the scenery got so giddy that T Bar Dick was downed.
We buckled to our partners, an' told 'em to hold on,
Then shook our hoofs like lightning, until the early dawn.
Don't tell me 'bout cotillions, or germans. No sire 'ee!
That whirl at Anson City just takes the cake with me.
I'm sick of lazy shufflin's, of them I've had my fill,
Give me a frontier break-down, backed up by Windy Bill.
McAllister ain't nowhar: when Windy leads the show,
I've seen 'em both in harness, and so I sorter know—
Oh, Bill, I sha'n't forget yer, and I'll oftentimes recall,
That lively gaited sworray—"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball." 

Lawrence "Larry" Chittenden, 1890


Read more about Larry Chittenden and more of his poetry here.

Read more about the poem's history and the ball at the Handbook of Texas Online.

Video



photo courtesy of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Top cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey has important connections to the "Cowboy Christmas Ball." He stars in the annual National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's "Cowboy Christmas Ball Event. Read more about that here.

View a video performance
here on YouTube of a 2006 "Cowboy Christmas Ball" performance by Michael Martin Murphey and the Texas State Symphony Orchestra at Texas State University.
 


 

Modern: from the archives

An annual BAR-D favorite is Texas saddlemaker and songwriter J.W. Beeson's Christmas Serenade:

Christmas Serenade

It's 15 below on the prairie
   the wind chill's down near 42
and I'm watchin' a Texas blue norther blow in
   and I'm not sure what I'm gonna do.

'Cause the tanks are froze pretty near solid
   and the handle broke off my best ax
and the feed's gettin' wet from a hole in the roof
   where it's leakin' all over the sacks

And I'm feedin' more hay than I planned on
   'cause the snow covered up all the grass
the tractor's broke down and the pickup won't start
   and it's cold as a well digger's...shovel

It's the 24th day of December
   and the sagebrush is covered with ice
and I think that a hot cup of coffee
   or a good shot of rye would be nice

'Cause my feet are so cold I can't feel 'em
   and my fingers are purty near froze
and there's icicles hung off my moustache
   from the drip drippin' off of my nose

I was hopin' I'd get to quit early
   and be back at the house Christmas Eve
but these baldies are cryin' and hungry
   and there's no one to feed if I leave

And there's one little motley-faced heifer
   who somehow got in with the bull
and she's just too little to leave by herself
   'cause the calf's gonna have to be pulled

And there's one other thing I might mention
   a fact that is painfully clear
I'm so broke that I can't pay attention
   so I guess I'll spend Christmas out here

But it's pretty out here on the prairie
   where the stars light the cold winter sky
and though I can't remember when things were much worse
   I guess I'm still a right lucky guy

'Cause I've got a good woman who'll love me
   no matter what time I come home
and my young 'un is happy and healthy
   though I wish he weren't quite near so grown

And I've got that new 3-year-old filly
   who's better than I even dreamed
and my old spotted gelding as good as they come
   so things ain't all as bad as they seem

I've got no cause for being ungrateful
   and to gripe and complain isn't good
'cause there's people all over this country
   who'd trade places with me if they could

So I know that I'll have a good Christmas
   in spite of my problems somehow
I'll just watch as this Texas blue norther blows in
   and sing "O Holy Night" to the cows.

© 1996, J. W. Beeson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



This poem appeared in Western Horseman in December, 1996
 


Read about J.W. Beeson and more of his poetry here.




Blog

Teresa Jordan's recent blog entry, here—one of many thoughtful and eloquent entries is "All I Want for Christmas … is a Truce in the War On Christmas."

From her blog, "Teresa Jordan is an author and visual artist whose books include the ranching memoir, Riding the White Horse Home; the classic study of women who work on the land and in the rodeo, Cowgirls: Women of the American West [....] She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, musician and public radio producer Hal Cannon [who is also the Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center, home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering].


Audio

In possible case of beauty (Teresa Jordan, above) and "the beast," enjoy cowboy poet, storyteller and songwriter Gary McMahan's humorous and irreverent audio story, "Christmas Ballet," at his web site. (Find it under "Happenings.")

Read about Gary McMahan and see some of his work in our feature here.


New in 2010:

  Jerry Schleicher shares Page's Christmas Socks:

Page's Christmas Socks

Page was the resident curmudgeon amongst our bunkhouse crew.
And whenever Christmas rolled around, Page always claimed he knew
It was nothin' but myths behind Christmas socks, mistletoe and such.
The rest of us just let him grumble, though we didn't listen to him much.
....

Find the entire poem here and read more of his poetry here.
 

New in 2010:

  Van Criddle offers Merry Christmas 2010:

Merry Christmas 2010

The tree’s all dressed up and the lights all aglow
The breeze has grown still and it’s startin’ to snow.
The skies are all clear and the stars shine so bright
It’s sure got the feel of a great Christmas night.
....
 

Find the entire poem here and more of his poetry here.
 

New in 2010:

  Bill Hickman's poem is Santa is a Cowboy:

Santa Is A Cowboy

‘Twas the night before Christmas somewhere way out in the West,
The cowboy was checking his herd before he laid down to rest.
Oh the winter air was crisp, clear sky; the stars were shinning bright,
He smiled broadly; he really loved when it was Christmas Eve night.
....

Find the entire poem here and more of his poetry here.

 


New in 2010:

  Tamara Hillman writes about Bunkhouse Christmas:

Bunkhouse Christmas

I ain’t got no family,
so my buddies fill the gap
of a pretty wife who loves me,
an’ kiddies on my lap.
....

Find the entire poem here and more of her poetry here.
 

 

Frederic Remington's "Cowboys Coming to Town for Christmas"



Image from the Library of Congress LC-USZ62-94301 
Harper's Weekly, December 21, 1889


Image courtesy of R. A. Schenck, mistercrew.com
 

Visit the Frederic Remington Museum here.
 

Classic: from the archives

S. Omar Barker's (1894-1985) A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer was his most widely published work:

A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer

I ain't much good at prayin',
   and You may not know me, Lord—
For I ain't much seen in churches,
   where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me 
   out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin' after cattle, 
   feelin' thankful when it rains.

Admirin' Thy great handiwork.
   the miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit,
   in the way it comes to pass 
That hired men on horseback
   and the livestock that we tend 
Can look up at the stars at night,
   and know we've got a Friend.

So here's ol' Christmas comin' on,
   remindin' us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will
   into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain't a preacher, Lord,
   but if You'll hear my prayer,
I'll ask as good as we have got 
   for all men everywhere.

Don't let no hearts be bitter, Lord.
   Don't let no child be cold.
Make easy the beds for them that's sick
   and them that's weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride,
   no matter what we're after,
And sorter keep us on Your side,
   in tears as well as laughter.

I've seen ol' cows a-starvin'—
   and it ain't no happy sight;
Please don't leave no one hungry, Lord,
   on Thy Good Christmas Night—
No man, no child, no woman,
   and no critter on four feet
I'll do my doggone best 
   to help you find 'em chuck to eat.

I'm just a sinful cowpoke, Lord—
   ain't got no business prayin'
But still I hope you'll ketch a word
   or two, of what I'm sayin':
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord—
   I reckon You'll agree—

There ain't no Merry Christmas
   for nobody that ain't free!
So one thing more I ask You, 
   Lord: just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom 
   for the future Sons of Man!

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


Read more about the poem here and read about S. Omar Barker and find more of his poetry here.
 

 

Listen to Jimmy Dean's recitation of S. Omar Barker's "A Cowboy Christmas Prayer" here on YouTube.

 

Modern: from the archives

  Baxter Black, poet, cowboy philosopher, and great ambassador of cowboy poetry to the world, has a tale about Rudolph's Night Off:

Rudolph's Night Off

'Twas the night before Christmas and Rudolph was lame!
The vet from the North Pole said
, "Foot-rot's to blame,
I'll give him some sulfa, it's the best I can do
But stall rest is needed the next week or two."

"Great Scott!" cried old Santy, he turned with a jerk.
"I won't git through Pierre if my headlight don't work!
On Interstate 40 I'll surely get fined
And lost in Montana if I'm flying blind!"

"No cop in his right mind would give any clout
To a geezer who claimed that his reindeer went out!"
He gathered the others, ol' Donner and Blitzen.
Were any among 'em whose nose was tranmitzen?

They grunted and strained and sure made a mess
But no noses glowed brightly or ears luminesced.
"It's bad luck in bunches," cried Santy, distressed.
"We'll fly Continental, the Red-Eye Express!"

"I'll just check the schedule." Hhe put on his glasses,
When up stepped ol' Billy, the goat from Lampasas.
He shivered and shook like a mouse on the Ark,
But his horns were a beacon...They glowed in the dark!

Santy went crazy! He asked "Why?" With a smile

"I just ate a watch with a radium dial!
Where I come from in Texas we don't have thick hide
So my skin is so thin it shines through from inside."

"If that's true then let's feed him!" cried Santy with glee,
"Gather everything burnin' and bring it to me!"
So Billy ate flashbulbs and solar collectors,
Electric eels and road sign reflectors,

Firecracker sparklers, a Lady Schick shaver
And Lifesavers, all of 'em wintergreen flavor,
Jelly from phosphorescellous fish,
Day-Glow pizza in a glittering dish,

Fireflies and candles and stuff that ignites,
Then had him a big bowl of Northering Lights!
He danced on the rug and petted the cat,
And after he'd finished and done all of that

To store up the static 'lectricity better,
They forced him to eat two balloons and a sweater!
Then he opened his mouth, light fell on the floor
Like a fridge light comes on when you open the door!

His Halloween smile couldn't be better drawn
When he burped accidently, his high beams kicked on!
Hitch him up!" cried ol' Santy, and they went on their way.
I remember that Christmas to this very day.

The sky was ablaze with the stars shining bright.
They were shooting and falling all through the night.
And I realize now, though my fingers are crossed
What I really was seein'... was ol' Billy's exhaust!

© 1997, Baxter Black, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 

Read more about Baxter Black and more of his poetry here.

 


Read Baxter Black's weekly column at his web site is "Cows in the Manger."

Western Horseman has an audio story from Baxter Black, "First Christmas, Cowboy Style."
 

New in 2010:

Alberta's Ron Gale wrote Christmas at a Snowed-in Cow Camp in the mid '40s "...when I was a young kid working for a South Eastern Alberta rancher feeding his cattle at a cow camp and a snow storm suddenly came up on a Christmas Eve":

Christmas at a Snowed-in Cow Camp

In an old line shack, in the trees out back,
I'm dreamin’ of Christmas chuck,
out where there is gals and the Christmas bells,
but snowbound right here I’m stuck.
....


Find the entire poem here and more of his poetry here.

 

New in 2010:

  California's C.W. (Charley) Bell shares Big Jake's Christmas, which he says "...is a loose derivation from a story told to me by a good friend, Mike DeJong, about his father."

Big Jake's Christmas

Big Jake was a tough and mighty man, 'till an accident struck him down.
He was badly injured in his head; he was hospitalized in town.
The ranch was in serious straits, for the cattle sale hadn't brought
Much money to support the family, Jake was a lot distraught.
....


Find the entire poem here and more of his poetry here.

 

New in 2010:

  Utah's C.R. Wood, new to the BAR-D, shares A Cowboy Christmas Lament:

A Cowboy Christmas Lament

At the North Pole, cold and frozen, Santa’s Saddle Shop is closing,
          Two old saddle-maker elves will now retire.
Or, because of Santa’s kindness, stick around to mend some harness.
          One would like to be the Christmas Village Crier.

 

Find the entire poem here and more about C.R. Wood here.
 

New in 2010:

  California's J.D. Siebert writes about A Cowboy's Christmas Ponderings:

A Cowboy's Christmas Ponderings

When I’m high atop this lonesome ridge
And I survey the land below
I’m convinced that there are certain things
God didn’t intend for me to know
....

Find the entire poem here and more of his poetry here.
 

 

A few fun Christmas audio pieces on YouTube:

Gene Autry's "Merry Texas Christmas You All"
 

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing "Christmas on the Plains"

Riders in the Sky "Christmas Yodel"

 

Chuckwagon cook, poet and storyteller Kent Rollins has a recent blog post, "The Christmas Lesson." Don't miss the blog's front-page Christmas chuckwagon photo.

Read more about Kent Rollins and some of his poetry here.

 

 

Classic: from the archives

  Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950) Merry Christmas is one of the poems he wrote annually for the Chuck Wagon Trailers, a group organized in 1931 "by old-time cowboys who were Hollywood's first stunt men and western stars." It was also printed in the Western Livestock Journal

Merry Christmas

We was whistlin', we was singin' on a winter afternoon;
The hobble chains and fryin' pans was jinglin' to the tune.
Fer we knew the day was Christmas and the line camp was in sight,
No, it wasn't much to look at but it suited us all right.

We onpacked and we onsaddled, then we turned our hosses out;
We cooked lots of beef and biscuits and we made the coffee stout.
We et all we could swaller, then we set and took a smoke,
And we shore did work our memory out to find a bran new joke.

No, it wasn't like the Christmas like the folks have nowadays—
They are livin' more in comfort, and they've sorter changed their ways—
But I sorter wish, old pardner, we could brush the years away,
And be jest as young and happy, as we was that Christmas Day.

Bruce Kiskaddon, 1933; courtesy of Bill Siems, Open range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon


Read about Bruce Kiskaddon and find more of his poetry here.

Modern: from the archive

  Montana singer, musician, poet, and songwriter Stephanie Davis' song, The Gift, has been translated into many languages and sung by a number of artists, including Garth Brooks (who also sings Stephanie's "The Wolves" and "We Shall Be Free").

The Gift

A poor orphan girl named Maria was walking to market one day
She stopped for to rest by the roadside where a bird with a broken wing lay
A few moments passed ‘till she saw it, for its feathers were covered with sand
But soon, clean and wrapped, it was traveling in the warmth of Maria’s small hand

She happily spent her last peso on a cage made of rushes and twine
She fed it loose corn from the market and watched it grow stronger with time

Now the Christmas Eve service was coming, and the church shone with tinsel and light
And all of the townfolk brought presents to lay by the manger that night
There were diamonds and incense and perfumes in packages fit for a king
But for one ragged bird in a small cage, Maria had nothing to bring

She waited till just before midnight so no one would see her go in
And crying, she knelt by the manger, for her gift was unworthy of Him

Then a voice spoke to her through the darkness: “Maria, what brings you to me?”
“If the bird in the cage is your offering, open the door—let me see!”
Though she trembled, she did as He asked her, and out of the cage the bird flew
Soaring up into the rafters on a wing that had healed good as new

Just then the midnight bells rang out and the little bird started to sing
A song that no words could recapture, whose beauty was fit for a king

Now Maria felt blessed just to listen to that cascade of notes sweet and long
As her offering was lifted to heaven by the very first nightingale song

© Stephanie Davis, Recluse Music (BMI), All rights reserved
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


photo of Stephanie Davis by Clark Marten
 

Read about Stephanie Davis and find more of her work here.



Listen to "The Gift" by Stephanie Davis here at her web site, where there are also backing tracks and sheet music. The song is included on her Home for the Holidays CD.

Read about Stephanie Davis and find more of her work here.

 

Modern: from the archive

Fifth-generation rancher Deanna Dickinson McCall writes about Gifts in the Hay:

Gifts in the Hay

On the long trek to the barn snow crunches under my feet
From somewhere in the trees an old horned owl hoots
The sweet smell of hay greets me as I open the door
The new calf is up and nursing, a worry no more.
As I step back out my breath appears in a cloud of steam
It's a night of beauty, a moment to dream.
Stars twinkle in a clear crisp sky
Prompting me to wonder once again why, why
God chose to have His Holy Son born in a barn, laid in hay
When He with such divine power had the choice of any way
Did He plan that the keepers of lowly cattle and sheep
Be the first believers of the Gift of the babe asleep?
For the angels led the herdsmen on their way
To the precious child cuddled in rags and hay.
I begin to hum "Silent Night" as I follow the pathway
So thankful for all of God's gifts born in the hay.

© 2006, Deanna Dickinson McCall
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

photo of Deanna Dickinson McCall by Kevin Martini-Fuller


Read about Deanna Dickinson McCall and find more of her poetry here.

 

Modern: from the archive

  Curly Musgrave (1943-2010), much-loved and much-missed singer, songwriter, and poet, wrote Prairie Silent Night:

Prairie Silent Night

It's a silent night out on the prairie 
All the cattle are millin' around
There's a bright prairie star
Oe'r the mountains afar
In the wind there's a heavenly sound

And I know that some nightherder long years ago
Followed that star to the Savior's abode
It's a silent night out on the prairie
In the stars I see Heaven's decree
On this cold Christmas night
I am warmed in his light
Now that babe's ridin' nightherd with me

(Poem inserted into song)
It's Christmas Eve and I'd have bet my best spurs
I wouldn't be chasin' cows tonight
But at least there's a full prairie moon lights my way
And that star in the East's sure a sight
It's so cold I'm nearly froze to this saddle
But the boys fed an' so I let 'em go
To wherever a Christmas might take 'em
So I'm headin' these strays all alone 

An' feelin' a bit of self pity out here
Not home by the fire and the tree
Amidst all the gifts and the laughter
That this season's come to be
But if these cows had stayed put
I'd have missed that bright star
Can't help wondrin' if it's not the same
That signaled the season's gift given to all
Who would take on that sweet baby's name

Now the night's cold no longer surrounds me
As I remember I'm no longer alone
An' these cows, well they move a mite faster
With a glimpse of the warm lights of home
Guess I just need remindin'
Of the gifts that are mine from above
My kids, my good wife and this cowboy life
And the gift of that sweet baby's love

(End of Song)
And I know that some nightherder long years ago
Followed that star to the Savior's abode
It's a silent night out on the prairie
In the stars I see Heaven's decree
On this cold Christmas night
I am warmed in his light
Now that babe's ridin' nightherd with me

Words and Music by Curly Musgrave, recorded on Cowboy True

© 2003, Curly J Productions All Rights Reserved
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

photograph of Curly Musgrave © Lori Faith Merritt/Photography By Faith®
 

Read about Curly Musgrave and find more of his work here.

 

Modern: from the archive

  Writer, poet, and editor Virginia Bennett wrote Sermon on the Mount:

Sermon on the Mount

I sit here on my steadfast horse
  while the moon begins its nightly course
I'm ridin' nightherd, so I guess there's time
  to reflect upon this life of mine.

My right leg is crooked over the saddle horn
  as I wait for signs of the imminent morn'.
It's not hard for a cowboy's thoughts to dwell
  upon his Creator, and the Lord's words, as well.

The wind carries the sound through the night air
  of the grazing remuda, and the belled mare.
My horse would like to join them, I can imagine,
  and I'd like to be sleeping, like the others, by the wagon.

But, instead, I'm here, and I'm wonderin' how
  anyone who's ever worked with a cow
Could disbelieve that there is a God
  who put us upon this wonderful sod.

Ain't it amazin' how an old mama cow
  will go off by herself, away from the crowd
And for the most part, calve out, without hardly coughin',
  tho' we take it for granted, we see it so often.

And what about those geese I saw fly by today?
  Who tells them to fly southward, and which is the right way?
And my horse's winter coat, now that's a strange thing,
  and who tells him he should shed it when winter turns to spring?

A cowboy might think that an eclipse is a mystery,
  tho' we've seen them many times, all down through posterity.
But, ain't it something how the sun and moon have their charted courses?
  And how a mighty river springs from the smallest of mountain sources?

This manger scene before me reminds me of my Saviour's birth,
  and that God would give His only Son to die for all the earth.
I'll never understand it all, I can only believe...
  just like I'll never savvy how a spider learns to weave.

My horse stomps his forefoot, and champs at his curb bit.
  Our job tonight is over and I'm right glad of it.
I believe there is a God, if my opinion you would count,
  and I hope that you will pardon...this sermon on my mount.

© Virginia Bennett
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Read about Virginia Bennett and more of her poetry here.

 

Modern: from the archive

  Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot") wrote The Star and a Humble Cowboy and illustrated it, with her son Tim Johnson as her model:

The Star and a Humble Cowboy

Lord, you cared so much for the shepherds,
     you sent the glad news first to them—
Before the kings and the wise men,
    so you might just speak again

To some other humble herdsman
    out here on the range abiding
A brilliant star, an angel choir
    proclaiming "Peace!  Glad tidings!"

The shepherds were common people
    who slept in the fields near their flocks;
Their clothes might be dirty and ragged
    and rugged and rough their talk.

So, Lord, I needn't apologize
    for my appearance or my words.
I know you're right here beside me,
    and it seems that I've just heard

The shepherds hastening, excited,
    Extolling the star they had seen,
A baby born in a manger;
    Not to some great king and queen,

But to people who do the menial tasks
    That housewives and carpenters do,
And farmers and desk clerks and waitresses
    Just people like me and you.

But famous rich men brought presents,
    Which should prove what I know to be true
Christ came for shepherds and wise men
    And kings and cowboys too.

© 1996, Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Illustration by Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")

Read about Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot") and more of her poetry here.


  We wrap up the 11th annual
Christmas at the BAR-D with a favorite classic, Charles Badger Clark, Jr.'s (1883-1957) The Christmas Trail:

The Christmas Trail

The wind is blowin' cold down the mountain tips of snow
   And 'cross the ranges layin' brown and dead;
It's cryin' through the valley trees that wear the mistletoe
   And mournin' with the gray clouds overhead.
Yet it's sweet with the beat of my little hawse's feet
   And I whistle like the air was warm and blue
For I'm ridin' up the Christmas trail to you, 
                  Old folks,
   I'm a-ridin' up the Christmas trail to you.

Oh, mebbe it was good when the whinny of the Spring
   Had weedled me to hoppin' of the bars.
And livin' in the shadow of a sailin' buzzard's wing
   And sleepin' underneath a roof of stars.
But the bright campfire light only dances for a night,
   While the home-fire burns forever clear and true,
So 'round the year I circle back to you, 
                   Old folks,
   'Round the rovin' year I circle back to you.

Oh, mebbe it was good when the reckless Summer sun
   Had shot a charge of fire through my veins,
And I milled around the whiskey and the fightin' and fun
   'Mong the mav'ricks drifted from the plains.
Ay, the pot bubbled hot, while you reckoned I'd forgot,
   And the devil smacked the young blood in his stew,
Yet I'm lovin' every mile that's nearer you,
                   Good folks,
   Lovin' every blessed mile that's nearer you.

Oh, mebbe it was good at the roundup in the Fall,
   When the clouds of bawlin' dust before us ran,
And the pride of rope and saddle was a-drivin' of us all
   To stretch of nerve and muscle, man and man.
But the pride sort of died when the man got weary eyed;
   'Twas a sleepy boy that rode the nightguard through,
And he dreamed himself along a trail to you,
                    Old folks,
   Dreamed himself along a happy trail to you.

The coyote's Winter howl cuts the dusk behind the hill,
   But the ranch's shinin' window I kin see,
And though I don't deserve it and, I reckon, never will,
   There'll be room beside the fire kep' for me.
Skimp my plate 'cause I'm late.  Let me hit the old kid gait,
   For tonight I'm stumblin' tired of the new
And I'm ridin' up the Christmas trail to you,
                     Old folks,
   I'm a-ridin' up the Christmas trail to you.

Charles Badger Clark, Jr. from Sun and Saddle Leather, 1915
photo of Badger Clark from Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, used with permission

 

Read more about Charles Badger Clark, Jr. and more of his poetry here.
 

 

Merry Christmas All!
 

 

Thanks to all who participated in the 11th annual Christmas at the BAR-D and to all who visited.


Special thanks to our supporters and Sponsors for their commitment to our
shared mission to promote and preserve cowboy poetry and the life and arts
of the West.

 They keep CowboyPoetry.com available every day of the year and
make Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible.

 

See a complete list with links to all the holiday poems posted starting in 2000 here.

You can view the yearly collections of classic and modern Christmas Cowboy Poetry from previous years: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 , 2004, 2003 ,  2002, 2001, and 2000.

 




 

 

With special, fond remembrance of those who left us this year...

Jack Schild, Gene Snider, Trisha Pedroia, Edna Jean Hornecker Irvine, Gary Lundblad, Gordon Peterson, Flavis Bertrand, V. June Blevins Collins, Joe Baer, Earl Longo, Walt LaRue, Lee Thompson, Dan Jarvis, Ruth Hanson, Marie Smith, William E. Jacobson, and Teresa Dobrowski.

And remembrance also of DW Groethe's Buster Tomson and Charley Engel's Spunky and Cruz.
 


 

A Special Year-end Message

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See the links above for holiday news and more; our regular News Since the Last Newsletter is here.

See a complete list of all the holiday poems and songs posted since 2000 here.

Find the list of all the poems at the BAR-D here.

 

 

 

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