Page Three



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 permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker 



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.

"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.


Draggin' the Tree

The cowboy ain't no lumberjack,
   an' if you want the facks,
One thing he ain't the fondest of
   is choppin' with an axe.
But when December snow has got 
   the range all wrapped in white,
There is one job of choppin'
   that he seems to like all right.
A sharp ax on his shoulder,
   he will ride off up the draw
Until he finds an evergreen
   without a single flaw.
A spruce, a fir, a juniper
   that's shaped just to a T
To set up in a corner
   for the ranchhouse Christmas tree.

As like as not, last summer
   while a-ridin' after cows
He noticed just the tree he wants,
   with green and graceful boughs
That's stout enough to ornament
   without no droop nor saggin',
But still a tree that ain't too big
   to fetch without a wagon.
It may be that he picked it out
   when August sun was hot,
But he knows where to find it,
   For his mind has marked the spot.

It ain't no chore to chop it down,
   an' if the snow is deep
He drags it in behind his horse.
   It warms him up a heap
To see them rancher kids
   run out a-hollerin' with glee
To watch him an' admire him
   when he's bringin' the tree.

Them kids may not belong to him,
   but that don't matter none—
His boss' brood, a nester's brats—
   It's still a heap of fun
To some ol' lonesome cowpoke,
   an' it sets his heart aglow
To come a-draggin' in the tree
   across the Christmas snow.
Sometimes when there's a schoolmarm
   an' she wants a tree at school,
She gets half a dozen.
   for you'll find that as a rule
At least that many cowboys,
   in sweet education's cause,
Will somehow get to feelin'
   That they're kin to Santy Claus!

Sometimes the rangeland's lonesome
an' sometimes it's kind o' grim,
But not when every ranchhouse
has a Christmas tree to trim.
An' though the wild cowpuncher
ain't no hand to swing an ax,
Across the white December snow
you'll often find his tracks
A-leadin' to the timber,
then back out again once more,
A-draggin' in the Christmas tree—
his purt near favorite chore!

© S. Omar Barker
reprinted with the permission from Cowboy Miner Productions' Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.


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Read more of S. Omar Barker's poetry here.



Santa Comes Calvin'

I rode off the ride on my pony
At the start of a cold winter night
I had trouble a keepin' old Roany
Huntin' cows that had calved in the white.

The north wind had blowed through my carcass.
As only a true northern can.
The frost on our ears 'spired to mark us,
With a "crop" known to horse more than man.

My hoss was sure pleased to turn homeward
And I slipped off his gear at the farm.
The oats he turned busily inward,
While I packed my light on my arm.

In the comfort and heat of my cabin,
With my head now beginning to nod
And the pleasant, sweet dreams that I'm havin'
Are as warm as talkin' to God.

I know not how long I had drifted
'Neath the gold of the glimmering moon;
From the depth of my trance I was lifted,
By a din like the song of the spoon.

'Twas out of my bunk in a fervor,
Than peek through the frost on the pane;
In the bloody red garb of a hunter,
Driving a team down my lane.

A chubby old goat with white whiskers,
And packin' a bag on his back;
Dressed as the red lips of sisters,
His sleigh hardly leavin' a track.

The ire in my heart getting bigger,
I lifted my gun from its rack,
The carefully squeezing the trigger,
I aimed where his pants show some slack.

The line of my fire I directed,
By pointing "Old Bess" just so so.
At the moment my buckshot connected
He'd ripped off a might HO HO!

His pitch, in an instant, got higher,
Then turned to a shriek in the night.
The sleigh, then, became a high flyer
And showing much haste in its flight.

While I turned then back to my blanket,
Proceeding to finish my Zees,
As snug as a bee in a bonnet,
And dreaming sweet dreams as I please.

© Bob Schild, from Spur Tracks & Buffalo Chips
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more of Bob Schild's poetry here.



Here's to the Cowboys

Here's to the cowboys I've known in my lifetime,
all the tough hands that lived on the fringe.
They weren't much to look at, and darn hard to open
'cause it seems most were just hung with one hinge.

I know you're thinkin', "They're too hard to handle,"
but pardner that's where you are all wrong.
They'll come to getcha come Hell or high water
and you're dang glad that they happened along.

When the going got tough, they loved the excitement
though they never quite knew what was in store.
They'd make some joke, "Put your oars in the water
and by God don't you be rowing for shore."

A cowboy can stand a whole lot more than most:
lump jaws, hoof rot, and orn'ry old critters,
but when it comes time, to reel in your line,
the thing they can't stand are the quitters

So here's to the cowboys I've known in my lifetime
that could handle a horse, a rope or a steer
I'd drink to their health if they had any left—
"So Merry Christmas, cowboys, and Happy New Year."

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

Read more of Pat Richardson's poetry here.



Two Burros

The burro was the last one left, the adoption pen was bare.
The men were not surprised, for he looked the worse for wear.
But the youthful couple wanted him, no matter how he looked.
The longer they looked at him the better they were hooked.

The forms were signed, the money paid, they put him in the truck.
To get him back to the ranch, they needed lots of luck.
This burro was pretty wild and scared, and fresh from Nevada range.
And back at the ranch they wondered if he would ever change.

The couple worked to tame him, and October came and went,
But he had a mind of his own, his spirit was unbent.
November was no better for whenever the folks came near,
The burro fussed and kicked and trembled from the fear.

December came and with it cold, the taming process slowed.
Each time they tried to work him, the doggone weather snowed.
And as the Christmas time approached, the mother's time came too,
For she was about to have a child and soon the birth was due.

The father had to go to work on the day of Christmas Eve;
While he was gone it began to snow, a storm not to believe.
As he was driving home from work, the snow began to lift
For just a moment—he saw the road was blocked by a giant drift..

He trudged the quarter mile to home, through the blowing snow.
When he arrived he found his wife just pacing to and fro.
Her pains of birth had started to come, her nerves beginning to wear.
The truck was just too far away—he couldn't carry her there.

(As soon as he began to pray, a mem'ry came at last—
Of a woman great with child so many years in the past
Riding a burro to Bethlehem just before a birth,
The birth of baby Jesus about to come to earth.)

He bundled up and then went out to the burro's snowy yard,
And whispered to the beast, "What I ask is hard,
I know you're scared and so am I, but I need help from you
To get my frightened wife to town before the birth is due.

The burro came over to the man, softly nuzzled his face,
As if to say, "Yes, I'm afraid, but I will take your place.
Carefully I will carry your wife through this blowing snow.
You and I will get her to where she needs to go."

So then the father placed a halter on the burro's head,
And led him to the house and helped his wife from bed,
He lifted her to the burro's back and with a prayer he led
The burro with its precious load, the mother filled with dread.

Through the drifts they struggled on and with a little luck
At last they found the place in the road, arriving at the truck.
He lifted his wife onto the seat, and turned around to face
The burro heading down the trail back to the old home place.

Soon the couple found the clinic in the snowy town,
And while she labored he just paced, walking up and down,
But then he thought about two burros, years apart, in his mind,
Two humble burros which took part in miracles, in kind.

© 2005, Charles W. Bell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Read more poetry by C. W. (Charles) Bell here.



He was tired, and worn and worried;
They had come such a very long way.
And his eyes filled with weary frustration
At the close of this troublous day.

He had searched through the town for a lodging,
For somewhere to shelter his spouse;
But the doors of them all closed against him,
Every hostel, and hovel and house.

Then he came at last to a stable
And carried his Mary within.
So the Christ Child was born in a manger,
Since there had been no room at the inn.

And this Babe was the Lord of the lowly,
The gentle, the meek and the mild;
But Joseph, that moment, thought only
That this little mite was his child.

And he smiled at the Infant before him,
Lying sweetly asleep on the hay,
While the star in the east had already
Marked the spot for the world, with its ray.

While the shepherds came down from the hillsides,
And the Magi drew near through the night,
Gentle Joseph watched silently over
His son, with a father's delight.

And he dreamed on a bit, of the future,
In his mind saw the boy growing tall,
Then his weariness gathered about him,
And he rested his head on the stall.

Sweet sleep, gentle Joseph, befall you,
With your plans for your child all unfurled;
You will find soon enough that this Infant
Belongs for all time to the world.

© 1959, LaVonne Houlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more poetry by LaVonne Houlton here.



Art copyright Buckshot Dot, used with her mighty kind permission 
Illustration by Dee Strickland Johnson 
("Buckshot Dot")


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")
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Read more poetry by Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot") here.

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