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Welcome to our twelfth 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.

"Wilbur's Gift" by Scott Nelson,  www.scottnelsonart.com

There's a special Christmas Art Spur—a painting by North Dakota rancher and artist Scott Nelson. Submissions were welcome through December 19, 2011 and are now closed. Find the selected poems  here.

"Cowboy Kris" © 2011 Shelly Pagliai, www.prairiemoonquilts.com

Christmas poem and song submissions were welcome through December 10, 2011 and submissions are now closed. Find selected poems below.

 

 The perfect gifts: The BAR-D Roundup CDs

Find information about each of the acclaimed collections of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry here.

There are also special offers for bundles, including a deeply discounted price for all five of the available CDs (Volumes One and Two are sold out):

 


 

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 visitors?

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,  if you care, if you can, 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.

 

Visit our Sponsor 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 2011 Christmas Cowboy Poetry, Songs, and links below

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

 


 

"Cowboy Kris" © 2011 Shelly Pagliai, www.prairiemoonquilts.com
"Cowboy Kris"
Fabric
Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"Cowboy Kris" © 2011 Shelly Pagliai, www.prairiemoonquilts.com
prairiemoonquilts.etsy.com
 

"Cowboy Kris" is by quilt designer Shelly Pagliai of Prairie Moon Quilts. Shelly and her husband ranch in Missouri.

From her bio here: ".....Prairie Moon Quilts gets its name from Prairie Moon Ranch, where I live with my favorite cowboy, lots of cattle, several horses, and many many dogs and cats. I operate out of a studio in our ranch shack, admittedly the fanciest room in the house...."

Read about "Cowboy Kris" here, where Shelly describes the stocking:

This year’s stocking is called “Cowboy Kris”, because I just know if Kris Kringle were a cowboy, he’d absolutely LOVE to have boots like this! Not too fancy, but still oozing with style, and in a red that would match his suit perfectly.

...the pattern is for sale in my Etsy shop right now, and I also have a limited number of kits available. The kits come complete with everything needed to make the stocking exactly as pictured, but I only have a few, and they go fast, so don’t delay if you really want one.

Read more about Shelly Pagliai and Prairie Moon Quilts at her blog and find her work at Etsy.

 

 


Christmas Art Spur

 

Wilbur's Gift" by Scott Nelson,  www.scottnelsonart.com
© 2000, Scott Nelson; this image should not be reposted or reproduced  without
permission; www.scottnelsonart.com; image from Wilbur's Gift (2000) by Rodney Nelson
Acrylic wash
"Wilbur's Gift"
 

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

Our twenty-eighth piece offered to "spur" the imagination is the work of North Dakota artist and rancher Scott Nelson. The piece is from North Dakota rancher, writer, and poet Rodney Nelson's (no relation) book, Wilbur's Christmas Gift, a heartwarming book-length poem, the story of a cowboy and his gift to the children of a rural country school.

Find more about Scott Nelson and his art in our feature here.

Submissions awere welcome from all, through December 19, 2011, and submissions are now closed.  Find the selected poems here.

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

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

 


Christmas News


See the Events calendar for Christmas events.

Your Christmas news is welcome; email us

 

  Western Horseman ends its year of Western art covers—in celebration of its 75th anniversary—with Jack Sorenson's "Cowboy Christmas Eve" on its December, 2011 issue. Inside the magazine, Senior Editor Jennifer Denison profiles the popular artist, formerly a working cowboy. The painting is his 19th depiction of Santa Claus, and his third Christmas painting to appear on the magazine's cover.

Also of Christmas interest: a review of Sleigh Belles by the Sweethearts in Carhartts (Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jean Prescott, and Liz Masterson).

Find more about what's in the December issue in our news here.


  Western radio celebrates Christmas:

Jim and Andy Nelson's Clear Out West (C.O.W) radio Christmas show is broadcast on radio stations December 19-25 and then available on the web site, December 26; clearoutwest.com

 Totsie Slover's Real West from the Old West radio has Christmas selections throughout the season, with Christmas poems and song making up half of the show broadcast the week of December 21. The weekly show is available on demand; realwestoldwest.com

Charley Engel's Calling All Cowboys radio has Christmas selections throughout the season, with its annual "Christmas blowout" on the show broadcast the week of December 21. The weekly show is available on demand; Calling All Cowboys stream

Waynetta Ausmus' has Christmas music, poetry, and stories on her Storytime show and on Waynetta's Roundup throughout the season; Waynetta's Roundup

Hugh McLennan has Christmas music and poetry on his weekly Spirit of the West radio show; www.hugh-mclennan.com

  Graham Lees' Western Hour has Christmas poetry and music on his monthly show and his weekly shows throughout the season; Western Hour

 Jim Thompson's Live! with Jim Thompson daily radio show has Christmas poetry throughout the season and the "Good Stuff" link on the site includes Christmas  stories, poems, and more; livewithjt.com

(Information about radio shows is welcome. Email us.)


  Each year, Jeri Dobrowski's Cowboy Jam Session columns for December and November feature great Western Christmas picks.

Read the Cowboy Jam Session columns here.

[photo by Jen Dobrowski]


Baxter Black has a new Christmas book and CD, Rudolph's Night Off, described as "strange & wondrous."

See more in our news here, find Rick Huff's review here, and visit www.BaxterBlack.com for more.


Popular singer and songwriter Eli Barsi's newest release, her twelfth album, is A Merry Prairie Christmas.  Eli will be touring during the season, "ending the tour back in her hometown of Kennedy, Saskatchewan for two Christmas shows. The shows will feature Eli's long time friend, former Saskatchewanite and Canadian legend, Gary Fjellgaard."

Find information about A Merry Prairie Christmas in our news here and visit www.EliBarsi.com for more.


  Texas poet, reciter, writer, and local historian Linda Kirkpatrick's most recent article at the Leakey Star (Texas) is a grisly one, "Christmas 1883, McDade, Texas." She comments, "The Christmas incident in McDade was always interesting to me, and when I found this first-hand account written by an extended family member I really got excited."

Read the new article here at the Leakey Star.


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


more news to come...




 

Poems, Songs, Stories and More

New poems and songs along with selected classic and contemporary favorites
from past years' celebrations and audio and video links to poetry and music,
 with posts throughout the season.

Final selections below.

Selections:

"Christmas Waltz" by Buck Ramsey
 
Audio link: Yvonne Hollenbeck's "The Christmas Quilt"


"Mary, Merry Christmas" by Doris Daley
"The Wise Man" a story by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (part one)

 
Audio link: Gary McMahan's "Christmas Ballet"

"Christmas (A Poem" by DW Groethe
"The Cowboy's Christmas Ball" by Larry Chittenden
 Video link: Michael Martin Murphey and "The Cowboy's Christmas Ball"

"Empty Saddles at Christmas by S. Omar Barker
"The Wise Man" a story by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (part two)
"Christmas Swappin'" by Terry Nash
"Christmas in the Badlands" by Blanche Evridge

Video link: "Christmas for Cowboys" by Wylie Gustafson

  "Merry Christmas" by Bruce Kiskaddon
"Rudolph's Night Off" by Baxter Black
"Winter Plantings" by Kip Sorlie
"The Night Rider" by Steve Draper
"A Horsewoman's Christmas" by Ginger Karns
"Rosie's Western Christmas" by
Charles (C.W.) Bell
 "The Wise Man," a story by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (part three)
Audio and web site link for Paul Zarzyski's "A Christmas Triptych."

"Busted Cowboy's Christmas" by D.J. O'Malley
"Ranch Christmas" by Jane Morton
"Christmas Tree Hunting" by David Carlton
"Cowboy Night Before Christmas" by Jim Olson
"Reindeer Proof" by Bill Hickman
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Dave Fiebert
Video links: a dozen Christmas tunes by singing cowboy Gene Autry

"A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer" by S. Omar Barker
Video link to Jimmy Dean's recitation of "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer"
"Christmas Serenade" by J.W. Beeson
"A Child's Gift" by Jean Mathisen Haugen
"The Christmas Reminder" by Mike Moutoux
"A Cowboy Christmas Eve" by Buck Helton
 "The Wise Man," a story by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (part four)

"The Old Time Christmas" by Bruce Kiskaddon
"Christmas Poem" by Bob Petermann
"Luke's Story" by Jo Lynne Kirkwood"

Art Spur poems:
"Ain't Nothin' Quite So Lonely" by Bette Wolf Duncan of Iowa
"Ranch Country Christmas" by Ken Cook of South Dakota
"McGroot and the Kid" by S.D. Matley of Washington
"A Good Christmas Deed" by Jean Mathisen of Wyoming
"Our Christmas Tree" by Joyce Johnson of Washington
"A Tree for Toby" by Marleen Bussma of Utah
"The Christmas Tree" by Victoria Boyd of California

 "The Wise Man," a story by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (part five, final installment)
"A Journey in Search of Christmas," a story by Owen Wister
Story link to "Santa Claus Comes to the Reservation" by Henry Real Bird
Audio link to Baxter Black's "Cows in the Manger"

"A Crayon-Colored Santa" by Mike Puhallo
Audio link to Bodie Dominguez' song, "A Crayon-Colored Santa"
"The Christmas Trail" by Badger Clark

A message: Gratitude from the BAR-D



Final selections below here.

 

 

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). A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Buck Ramsey has been called "the spiritual leader of modern cowboy poetry."

Find a sample of the song here at Smithsonian Folkways, where it is included in  Hittin' the Trail," a collection of his music and poetry. The song, recorded in 1995 is introduced:

Buck's "Christmas Waltz" became an instant cowboy Christmas classic. Peregrine Smith Books published it in a small book format in 1996. Buck grew up in a singing family, and his sisters were well known for their gospel singing. We can hear the Primitive Baptist shaped note singing roots of the Ramsey family as Buck is joined on this beautiful recording by his sisters Wanda, Ellen, and Sylvia, and his younger brother Charles.

Find the entire liner notes here at the Smithsonian Folkways site.

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 permission.
 

Find more about Buck Ramsey in our feature here.

 


Elsewhere on the web:

  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. Listen to the program here.

"The Christmas Quilt" is included in Yvonne Hollenbeck's 2010 book,
Christmas on the Range and other poems, which you can read about here.

She recites the poem on the 2010 CD, Sleigh Belles, from the Sweethearts in Carhartts, with singers Liz Masterson and Jean Prescott, which you can read about here.
 

 Find more about Yvonne Hollenbeck in our feature here and at www.YvonneHollenbeck.com.
 


New:

Top cowgirl poet Doris Daley recited her moving lyrics, "Mary, Merry Christmas" at December's Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival.

She introduces the piece in her recent book, West Word Ho!

My good friend, Texas singer-songwriter Jean Prescott, called to tell me about her neighbor, Mary, who has taken to wishing everyone Merry Christmas no matter the time of year. While it's true that confusion might be dimming the edges of Mary's mind, Jean figured there was a song...and a great message...in Mary's daily Christmas greetings. Here are the lyrics; Jean set it to music.

Mary, Merry Christmas

Verse 1
My friend Mary was a pistol in her day
She kept her eye on Jesus and she kept the wolves at bay.
She never let her troubles get her down.
Now Mary's kids have moved her into town.
The doctor says her mind will just get worse
And no matter what the season, she sings a Christmas verse.
At church last week she gave a little wink,
And wished me Merry Christmas and it made me think...

Chorus
If we said Merry Christmas every day.
If we thought about a baby in the manger when we pray.
If we spread good cheer
Every week of the year
What if Christmas filled our hearts the whole day through?
It's a crazy notion I suppose.
And just what Mary's thinking, only Mary really knows.
Still, I think that I
Might give Mary's plan a try.
So Mary: Merry Christmas back to you.

Verse 2
I saw her at a picnic on the 4th of July
With a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye.
Dressed in red and green, her hair was freshly curled
Sipping lemonade, humming "Joy to the World."
There's some who say that Mary's past her prime.
But Mary's words sound wiser all the time.
Joy is what this world could use more of.
All Mary wants to do is spread God's love.

© 2010, Doris Daley
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.
 

Find more about Doris Daley in our feature here and at www.DorisDaley.com.

 

New:

  Greg Scott, editor of the acclaimed book, Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, shared a 1922 Christmas story uncovered in his research, "The Wise Man," by Badger Clark.

We're presenting the story in installments throughout the season. See the first part in our feature here.
 


 

Elsewhere on the web:

Find cowboy poet, storyteller and songwriter Gary McMahan's humorous and irreverent audio story, "Christmas Ballet," at his web site, www.singingcowboy.com (find it under "Happenings").

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

 

New:

  Montana ranch hand, poet, picker, and songwriter DW Groethe shares his 2011 Christmas poem, "Christmas (A Poem)":


Christmas (A Poem)

When the hectic rush of summer
dwindles off and fall is on,
after harvest, after weaning,
after calves are shipped and gone,
and once again the hunter strides
across the skies from dust 'til dawn...
          Christmas comes to mind.

Shifting snows soft cover stubble
in the chilling late November,
and in the day what once rode high
is now a lowly, waning ember
fading fast. We wend our way
through the deepening December...
          As Christmas comes to mind.

Yet, through it all you know the need,
the need for rest, the need for night,
as bales roll and straw is spread
in this bleak and frost-shot sight.
When winter chores come slow and sure
awaiting the approaching light...
         Christmas comes to mind.

For what is Christmas, but a flame
that the darkness cannot sway.
Like a love that never left
but simply hid itself away,
to be found among the shadows,
keeping promise of the day...
         Christmas.

© 2011, DW Groethe
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.
 

The image above is his photograph, which he titles "The Spring in Winter."

Find more about DW Groethe in our feature here.
 

Classic, from the archives:

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 in our feature here.

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

 

Elsewhere on the web:

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 and find ticket information 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.

  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.

Find information about his Christmas Tour at his web site, michaelmartinmurphey.com .

[photo courtesy of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum]


Classic, from the archives:

S. Omar Barker (1894-1985) wrote some of best-known cowboy Christmas poems.

"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.
 


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

Find more poetry and more about S. Omar Barker here at the BAR-D.

 

New:

  Greg Scott, editor of the acclaimed book, Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, shared a 1922 Christmas story uncovered in his research, "The Wise Man," by Badger Clark.

We're presenting the story in installments throughout the season. See part two in our feature here.

 

New:

  Colorado rancher Terry Nash's "Christmas Swappin'":

Christmas morning at our winter camp began early this year.
I’m snuggled in my soogans when Kathy hollers in my ear,

“Wake up! There’s a prowler! I hear someone outside!”
I stumbles to the closet; startled, sleepy, bleary-eyed,
....

Find the poem and more about Terry Nash here at the BAR-D.


Minnesota poet and novelist Blanche Evridge's "Christmas in the Badlands"

Where the Buttes reach to the Heavens,
and the Badlands cut through Hell,
It’s Christmas on the Prairie…
because of “Cowboy” Belle.
....

Find the poem, more poetry, and more about Blanche Evridge here at the BAR-D.

 

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 words and music are by Steve Weisberg, who played with John Denver. Listen to John Denver singing a version recorded live and hear the original version at Steve Weisberg's site here. Weisberg talks about the song here.

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


 

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.

Contemporary, from the archives:

Baxter Black, poet, storyteller, cowboy philosopher, and great ambassador of cowboy poetry to the world, has a new Christmas book and CD, Rudolph's Night Off, described as "strange & wondrous." Last year he shared the poem for Christmas at the BAR-D:

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 permission.

 

Read more about Baxter Black and more of his poetry here and visit www.BaxterBlack.com.

 

New:

  South Dakota's Kip Sorlie's Winter Plantings:

I save thoughts of Christmas,
Like saving seeds for spring.
....
 

Find the poem and more about Kip Sorlie here at the BAR-D.


Utah's Steve Draper's The Night Rider:

T’was the night before Christmas, least I thought it was,
Give or take I reckon a day.
....
 

Find the poem and more about Steve Draper here at the BAR-D.


Indiana's Ginger Karns' A Horsewoman's Christmas:

Bert’s words hit hard, and I hung up the phone.
Time to get dressed for a drive to the farm.
....

Find the poem and more about Ginger Karns here at the BAR-D.


  Utah's Charles (C.W. Bell)'s Rosie's Western Christmas:

'Twas the middle of October when Rosie came to town;
Single, with four kids in tow, and car about broke down.
....
 

Find the poem and more about Charles (C.W.) Bell here at the BAR-D.
 

New:

  Greg Scott, editor of the acclaimed book, Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, shared a 1922 Christmas story uncovered in his research, "The Wise Man," by Badger Clark.

We're presenting the story in installments throughout the season. See part three in our feature here.
 

Elsewhere on the web:

  Montana poet and songwriter Paul Zarzyski's "A Christmas Wish Triptych" at his web site is from his recent book, 51. It includes prose, a lyric ("The Christmas Saguaro Soiriee" with Betsy Bell Hagar), and a poem ("Watching the Sun Set over Santa Fe-City of Holy Faith").

Listen to Betsy Bell Hagar sing "The Christmas Saguaro Soiree" here.

Find more about Paul Zarzyski here at CowboyPoetry.com and at www.PaulZarzyski.com.
 

Classic, from the archives:

 Montana cowboy and poet D.J. O'Malley (1867-1943) wrote "Busted Cowboy's Christmas" under the pen name of Iyam B. Usted, and the poem was printed in December, 1893 in the Stock Growers' Journal.

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


Find more about D.J. O'Malley and more of his poetry
here at the BAR-D.
 

 

Contemporary, from the archives:

  Award-winning Colorado writer and poet Jane Morton has written much about her pioneering ranch family, including Christmas poems such as "Ranch Christmas":

Ranch Christmas

I think of our Christmases out on the ranch,
When snow lay along every cottonwood branch.

The men went out early to tend to the chores
While temperature hovered 'round zero outdoors.

My gramma got up the same time as the men.
She had to make dressing to stuff tom or hen.

She mixed up her bread dough and set it to rise,
And then she got busy and rolled crust for pies.

Gramps carried the bird to the oven to bake
Before he went out where the cold made him ache.

Gram steamed suet pudding on top of the stove.
All day we smelled fragrance of nutmeg and clove.

Dad got the truck started and drove out to feed,
For even on Christmas the cows had a need.

He shoveled the silage off back of the truck.
Conveyer belts helped, but ours usually got stuck.

Most all the equipment had some kind of quirk.
It always took tinkerin' to get it to work.

Meanwhile dinner cooked, and we settled to wait,
For dinner on Christmas--invariably late.

Adults didn't know that a child could be starved
While biding the time 'til the turkey was carved.

We opened the presents in late afternoon,
The prelude to dinner we hoped would come soon.

The presents were usually some little thing,
But Aunt had them wrapped as if meant for a king.

The tree would be bright with the tinsel and lights,
For sunsets came early those old winter nights.

We sat down to dinner as dark settled in.
We'd all come together, ourselves and our kin.

Came time to ask blessing and Fenner's the one.
The job fell to him as a minister's son.

When dinner was over, folks lay all around
On sofas and floor where some space could be found.

We did nothing special, it now seems to me,
But we were together, our own family.
                  
My mem'ries date back to when I was a kid.
We had our tradition.  This was what we did.

When Bill and I grew and moved further away
We brought our own families to share in this day.

Now our children's mem'ries are part of it too.
For bonding a family, tradition's the glue.

© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.                       
 

Find more about Jane Morton and more of her poetry here at the BAR-D.
 


 

New:

Floridian David Carlton's Christmas Tree Hunting:

Daddy saddled our horses
Then he tied on an axe
....

Find the poem and more about David Carlton here at the BAR-D.


  Arizonan Jim Olson's Cowboy Night Before Christmas:

Onward came the cowboy, came from afar, curiously following the glow of a star.
Arrived at the livery, place for his horse. Bit of extra oats on a chilly night of course.
....

Find the poem and more about Jim Olson here at the BAR-D.

  Texan Bill Hickman's Reindeer Proof:

My little grandson came to visit with us during the hot summer days,
He was right by my side when feeding animals and putting up the hay.
....

Find the poem and more about Bill Hickman here at the BAR-D.

   Pennsylvanian Dave Fiebert's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas:

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the stable,
....

Find the poem and more about Dave Fiebert here at the BAR-D.

Elsewhere on the web:

  From the familiar to the not so, singing cowboy Gene Autry (1907-1998) recorded some great Christmas tunes. (He also wrote "Here Comes Santa Claus.") Find the following dozen songs on YouTube:

"Merry Texas Christmas You All"

"32 Feet—8 Little Tails"

"Here Comes Santa Claus"

"Santa Claus in Coming to Town"

"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"

"Frosty the Snowman"

"Sleigh Bells"

"Up on a House Top

"Silver Bells"

"An Old Fashioned Tree"

"Freddie the Little Fir Tree"

"Silent Night"
 

Visit www.GeneAutry.com for more about Gene Autry.
 

Classic, from the archives:

S. Omar Barker (1894-1985) wrote one of the best-known and most enduring cowboy Christmas poems, "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer":

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

 

S. Omar Barker earned more from the publication and uses of his "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer" than from any other poem. A December 23, 1998 article by Ollie Reed Jr. in the Albuquerque Tribune, "Church on the Range," comments on the poem:

In November 1962, New Mexico author S. Omar Barker received a telegram asking permission for his poem "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer" to be read on the Lawrence Welk TV show.

Barker, a sunup-to-sundown, every-day-of-the-week professional writer for much of his more than 90 years, telegraphed back that for $100 they had a deal.

Back again comes a telegraph from the TV show's agent asking if Barker would settle for $50.

"Fifty bucks no steak. Beans," Barker wired in response on Nov. 26, 1962. "But will accept anyway to help TV poor folks."

Jodie Phillips, wife of Barker's nephew Bob Phillips, smiled as she pointed out copies of the telegrams pasted in a thick scrapbook put together by Barker himself....


Pictured: Some of S. Omar Barker's scrapbooks, books, and photographs, photographed at the home of his grandniece, daughter of Jodie and Bob Phillips, November 2007.  Photo by Jeri Dobrowski, www.JeriDobrowski.com.


"If he didn't sell a poem, he didn't eat," Jodie Phillips said of Barker, who died in Las Vegas, N.M., in April 1985, just a couple of months shy of his 91st birthday.

Apparently the Welk show decided not to use the poem.

That was a rarity. Tennessee Ernie Ford and sausage king-country singer Jimmy Dean read it on national television, and it has been reprinted much more than 100 times in collections of Barker's works, anthologies, magazines and Christmas cards.

Leanin' Tree cards of Boulder, Colo., has used the Barker verse...more years than not for more than two decades.

....

Jodie Phillips said she never heard Barker talk about what inspired him to write the Christmas prayer, but she thinks it's based on his own brand of theology."

"There were no churches where Omar grew up," she said. "He believed in God, and I think he had a very strong religious conviction. But he belonged to no sect. He never went to church services."

Elsewhere on the web:

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

Contemporary, from the archives:

 Texas cowboy and saddlemaker J.W. Beeson's fine "Christmas Serenade" appeared in Western Horseman in December, 1996:

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 permission.

 

Find more about J.W. Beeson and more of his poetry here at the BAR-D.
 

New:

  Wyoming's Jean Mathisen Haugen shares A Child's Gift:

....
In Wyoming, it's real dry,
only snow is 'way up high.
....

Find the poem and more about Jean Haugen here at the BAR-D.

New Mexico's Mike Moutoux shares The Christmas Reminder:

....
He scratched his chin and searched his mind for words that would somehow
Give Christmas a sort of clarity that was sorely needed now
....

Find the poem and more about Mike Moutoux here at the BAR-D.
 

Texan Buck Helton shares A Cowboy Christmas Eve:

....
An old-time high-backed buckboard, drawn there by an 8-mule team
With an extry one a-perched up front, his bright nose all a-gleam
....

Find the poem and more about Buck Helton here at the BAR-D.
 

New:

  Greg Scott, editor of the acclaimed book, Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, shared a 1922 Christmas story uncovered in his research, "The Wise Man," by Badger Clark.

We're presenting the story in installments throughout the season. See part four in our feature here.
 

Classic, from the archives:

 Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950) "The Old Time Christmas" is at the top of our list for classic cowboy Christmas poems. It 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.

 

New:

Montana rancher, singer, songwriter and poet Bob Petermann shares his Christmas poem for 2011:

It’d been a long cold Christmas eve and Santa needed rest.
   He was headin North, a-goin home, from somewhere way out West.
He was over the big Montana Plains, where the ranches are scattered and few,
   When he saw a yard light twinkling from a cow ranch that he knew.
He’d stopped at this place in the past to let his reindeer blow,
   There’s a shed to hide em under, to get em out of the snow.
The old couple had gone to their grand-kids, they told him they’d be gone,
   But they said “That don’t matter, you just make yourself at home.
There’s grain and hay to feed your deer, the doors don’t have no locks,
   There’s a pot of coffee on the stove, and firewood in the box.”
So Santa landed there and fed his deer, and he went on inside,
   To warm his feet, and relax a bit, before he finished up his ride.
He found some Christmas cookies and a pot of coffee, like they said,
   Then as he looked around, some things he saw, warmed his heart and filled his head,
With thoughts about these ranch folks, that old cowman and his wife,
   How they were blessed with what they have, and how they lived their life.
He saw some Christmas cards on the table, that came from all their friends.
   Showing manger scenes, and Angels, and “Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.”
Then he saw a Bible opened to Luke –Chapter 2, and the story of a Savior
   Sent to save the World and make it new.
The tale of the first Christmas, and how it all began,
   And the greatest gift of all, that came from GOD to man.
Then it was time for Santa to leave and get home before break of day
   The sky way over in the East was already turning gray.
He got his reindeer headed out, then leaned back in the sleigh.
   Like good old saddle horses, those reindeer knew the way.
Santa let his thoughts drift back to all those folks who live out on the land,
   And he said “Those folks have got it right, and they sure do understand.
They all go help each other, no matter what the task,
   And how they’re going to get paid back, they never even ask.
They’ll help a stranded traveler, and send him on his way
   They’ll feed a hungry stranger, and never ask for pay.
If everyone around the World, lived by their cowboy code,
   It would make my job lots easier, and lighten up my load.
I could concentrate on orphaned kids and folks with real need
   And not be just delivering stuff, to satisfy people’s greed.
Now I know tomorrow, Christmas will be safe again,
   Not because of toys and Santa Claus, but from what’s in the hearts of man.”

© 2011, Bob Petermann
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.
 

Find more about Bob Petermann and his poems and songs in our feature here.

New:

Utah teacher and poet Jo Lynne Kirkwood shares a Christmas poem, "Luke's Story":

Luke's Story

It must have been well after midnight.   Two a.m., maybe closer to four
When the torment of wind took on a new cadence, as though a desperate fist banged on the door.
Luke eased himself out of his blankets.  The stove was low and the ranch house was chill
And the knock at the door in this dark hour of Christmas seemed to bode neither peace nor good will.
“I sorry to wake you,” said a stranger.   His accent was Mex and his English was poor
He was probably illegal, and hadn’t much cash, from the look of the clothes that he wore.
“But my truck, it is gone off the road.  It is cold, and the snow it is deep,
 And it is so late,” he queried.  I can use your barn for to sleep?”

Luke spat.  “I ain’t running’ no damned hotel,” he said.  “That barn is for my stock.
It’s not five miles from here to town.  I figure you can walk.”
Luke latched the door shut then went back to bed. He was just on the edge of sleep
When from out of the walls a voice seemed to call with a sound that was steady and deep.
I am but a humble innkeeper.  My name is known no more.
Two thousand years have come and passed since I turned the stranger from my door.
I sealed my fate.  When the stranger came I said he could not stay.
But he found shelter in my stable, in a manger filled with hay.

Luke sat back up. That guy must be in the barn.  It would take a dad-blamed fool
To stay outdoors on a night like this.  Still, there never was no rule
Some Mex would think the way Luke thought.  And even in the barn
The cold would come through the rafters and walls.  It wouldn’t be that warm. 
My penance is to wander, twenty centuries and more
And plead with men.  When the stranger comes, don’t turn him from your door.
That voice seemed to eat at Luke’s conscience.  He flung off the quilts in frustration
And shoved his feet into the legs of his Carhartts, cursing his imagination.   

Some voice coming out of the woodwork.  Of course no one was really there.
But it wouldn’t hurt to check on that feller.  He had some blankets he could spare.
The thin path of footprints marked a clear steady line from the house to the barn’s double door
But the feller’s had been joined by some others.  Smaller tracks, looked like two or three more.
The hinges squealed as Luke pushed the door open.  Luke stood looking until he made out the forms
Of some kids, with their mama there with them, huddled together to try and stay warm.
Luke let out a breath, shoved his fists in his pockets then scowled as he peered through the gloom.
“You might as well come on inside, he said.  There’s a fire in the living room. 

You just all pack up on the sofa there.  If you want it’ll make into a bed.
No sense in staying out here in the cold on Christmas eve,” he said.
Slowly the small group unfolded, then they moved toward Luke single file,
Two little kids just as bright as new pennies, and a mamma with a sweet gentle smile
And that feller who’d had the guts to come knocking.  Luke nodded as the man met his gaze.
“We’ll dig out your truck in the morning,” he said.  “After breakfast.   Then you can get on your way.”
Now this may seem an unlikely story.  And most folks wouldn’t bring strangers in.
But Luke did.  And this is Luke’s story.  And it turned out just fine for him.


© 2011, Jo Lynne Kirkwood 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Find more of Jo Lynne Kirkwood's poem and more about her in our feature here.
 


Art Spur:

  We're pleased to have selected poems inspired a special Christmas Art Spur, which features the work of North Dakota artist and rancher Scott Nelson. The piece is from North Dakota rancher, writer, and poet Rodney Nelson's (no relation) book, Wilbur's Christmas Gift. The heartwarming book-length poem is the story of a cowboy and his gift to the children of a rural country school.

Find selected poems here:

Ain't Nothin' Quite So Lonely by Bette Wolf Duncan of Iowa

 Ranch Country Christmas by Ken Cook of South Dakota
 McGroot and the Kid by S.D. Matley of Washington
A Good Christmas Deed by Jean Mathisen of Wyoming

   Our Christmas Tree by Joyce Johnson of Washington

A Tree for Toby by Marleen Bussma of Utah

The Christmas Tree by Victoria Boyd of California

See the selected poems and more about the Christmas Art Spur here.

[image: "Wilbur's Gift," © 2000, Scott Nelson, www.scottnelsonart.com; image from Wilbur's Christmas Gift (2000) by Rodney Nelson]
 

New:

  Greg Scott, editor of the acclaimed book, Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, shared a 1922 Christmas story uncovered in his research, "The Wise Man," by Badger Clark.

We're presented the story in installments throughout the season. See the final part five in our feature here.
 

Classic:

     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.
 

Elsewhere on the web:

Enjoy the full text of "Santa Claus Comes to the Reservation," written and illustrated by Henry Real Bird, past Montana Poet Laureate here (pdf file). The 1977 book is a part of the "Indian Reading Series: Stories and Legends of the Northwest," a "collection of authentic material cooperatively developed by Indian people from twelve reservations."

Find more about Henry Real Bird and some of his poems in our feature here.


 

Elsewhere on the web:

  Western Horseman magazine has a collection of audio clips by Baxter Black, including Christmas offerings: "Cows in the Manger" and "First Christmas, Cowboy Style."

Find the audio clips here.

Contemporary, from the archives:
 

Mike Puhallo, photo rustled from his web site

This year we mourned the loss of British Columbia's Mike Puhallo, popular poet, cowboy, artist, Kamloops Cowboy Festival organizer, and friend to so many. Mike was one of the first poets with work at CowboyPoetry.com, and he shared many of his syndicated weekly "Meadow Muffins" and a number of Christmas poems, including "A Crayon-Colored Santa":

A Crayon-Colored Santa

A red crayon-colored Santa,

And a rumpled paper dove

Memories of Christmas past,

made with paper, paste and love. 

 

Amid the lights and tinsel

That adorn our Christmas tree,

It's these simple family treasures

That mean the most to me

 

Sometimes in all the the clutter

we fail to see the gift of love.

A red crayon colored Santa,

And a rumpled paper dove.

© 2007, Mike Puhallo
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

Mike's friend, musician Bodie Dominguez, put the poem to music and you can hear the song here.

See many poems by Mike Puhallo and more about him in our feature here.

Mike Puhallo

1953-2011


 

Classic:

  Whether we can really be there, or be there only in our hearts, Badger Clark's I'll-be-home-for-Christmas message in "The Christmas Trail" represents that timeless wish:


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.
Yes 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.

Badger Clark 

 



 

Merry Christmas to all.

We end this year with much gratitude: to the poets, songwriters, journalists, artists, photographers, and others who share their words, their images, their news, and more; to those who work to bring Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project to many in their communities; and so importantly to the generous individuals and organizations whose vital support makes possible CowboyPoetry.com and the other projects of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. You make it all happen. From the BAR-D to you: Thank you.

 




 

 

In remembrance of those who left us this year...

Bob Huff, Tom Ryan, Bill Horn, Marvin Lee Brown Jr., Lynn Owens, Kell Robertson, Rene Heil, James R. Davis, Ronald Haugen, Ben Buckles, Ken Graydon, Don Atkinson, Lloyd M. Gerber, Mike Puhallo, Steffi Davis, Woody Woodward, Barbara Jean Franks Nelson, Harry Jackson, Locke Hamilton, Wayne Richardson, Tom Munn, Leroy Watts, Kathleen "Kay" Mary Puhallo, and Sarah Eulalia (Stitt) Polk, and the many who gave their lives in military service.


2005 photo by Air Force photographer Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi
Arlington National Cemetery

Find the Arlington story and more at Wreaths Across America.

(thanks to Chris Isaacs for the first view of the photo)

 



See a 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: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 , 2004, 2003 ,  2002, 2001, and 2000.

 


 

A Special 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.

We need your support to be able to keep bringing you the features you value.

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. 

Become a supporter, make 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.

Read some of our supporters' comments here,  
visit the Wall of Support, and join in and be a part of it all!


 

 

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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