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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.


See our feature about Buck Ramsey here.

  "Christmas Waltz" was printed in a small gift edition by Gibbs-Smith Publishers in 1996.  It is out of print but copies are available from the Western Folklife Center.

A recording of Buck Ramsey singing "Christmas Waltz" was made in 1995.  Buck Ramsey tells about his family's shape-note singing and talks about the setting for his piece, which can be found on the award-winning Voices of the West's "A Cowboy Christmas" tape produced by Hal Cannon and Mary Beth Kirchner. The tape is available from the Western Folklife Center.

Bette Ramsey comments about the recording: "Buck grew up in a singing family, and his sisters were well known for their gospel singing. We get a sense of what the Ramsey family sounded like as Buck is joined on this beautiful recording by his sisters Wanda, Ellen and Sylvia, and his younger brother Charles." 

The recording is also on the 2-CD set, Buck Ramsey, Hittin' the Trail, released by Smithsonian Folkways Records in 2003.


See our feature on the 2005 book and recording:

Buck Ramsey’s Grass: with Essays on His Life and Work.  




The Winter Camp



".... Christmas comes as just another day, and as the year dies out and the town folks are celebrating the coming of the new year, the rider is apt to be in some draw figgering ways to get around snowbanks with some little bunch of weak stock he's bringing in to camp."

by Will James (1892-1942) from his  1927 book, All in a Day's Riding


The originally posted prose excerpt and art were used with limited permission by the copyright holder, Will James Art Company, Billings, Montana who extended permission for posting only through January 15, 2007.


Mitten Christmas

We called them "Mitten Christmases"
   Back there when we were young,
For when the presents all were wrapped
   And stockings all were hung,
There's be no big surprises
   For we knew that in each box
Were things we need—like mittens,
   And underwear, and socks.
Through grateful for the warmth and love
   We longed for some surprise,
Some super-special gift that would
   Bring wonder to our eyes.

I thought that growing older
   Would be "mitten Christmas" too,
I'd settle for necessities
   As people often do.
I'd draw my circle closer
   Be grateful for old friends,
Forget about the dreams of youth,
   Make do with what life sends.
But a gracious heavenly Santa Claus
   Gift-wrapped some verse for me,
And I am like the child who finds
   A bike beneath the tree.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, from Crazy Quilt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more of Elizabeth Ebert's poetry here.


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.


The Spirit of Christmas

"Did you find what you looked for while shopping the mall?"
"No, the thing that I looked for was nowhere at all."

They've gismos and gadgets and robotic dogs,
Electronic games and expensive new togs.

They've DVD players, and remote-controlled cars.
They've cell phones, camcorders, electric guitars.

The've icicle lights and they've lifelike fake trees—
Pre-lit, fiber optic, assembling's a breeze.

Instead of sleigh bells, it's the cell phones that ring,
Or is it my head going ding-a-ling-ling?

They've been playing music since last Halloween,
While real live carolers aren't to be seen.

The thing that I want can't be packaged and sold—
The spirit of Christmas, the spirit of old.

It's family and friends and it's doing for others,
It's treating all peoples as sisters and brothers.

It's bonding with nature and wonders of earth,
Especially this season when Mary gave birth.

It's finding the glory in new-fallen snow
When sun strikes the surface and snow-diamonds glow.

It's looking at starlight that fills the night skies,
It's mother cow calling her calf who replies.

It's Christmas, it's Christmas out here on the range.
May God's peace prevail and His love bring us change.

Inside my own self is the best place to start
My search for the spirit which lives in my heart.

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


Read more of Jane Morton's poetry here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of



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 more of Doris Daley's poetry here.




Winter Range

The gauge measured four below zero
with a dustin' of snow on the ground.
We bounced through the meadows in a flatbed truck
to a lake with a fence all around.

Sittin' on the truck was a big water drum,
a shovel and four ranch dogs.
When the pump started up, all the dogs ran off,
sniffin' tracks through the bush and the bogs.

We rattled on past a big rail gate
and sidled up to the water trough tanks,
with a dog runnin' point, another on drag
and two closin' in on our flanks.

Ice was scooped out and the tanks topped up
from the drum on the back of the rig,
while the dogs played about with their tongues hangin' out,
flappin' 'round like four whirligigs.

Then the cows and the calves were all counted
as they grazed on the rich meadow grass
and pretty horses with thick, heavy coats
turned their heads to watch as we passed.

It was a scene of Christmas card beauty
that can't be expressed in a word

happy dogs in a snow-covered meadow
and a cowboy out waterin' the herd.

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

Read more of Mag Mawhinney's poetry here.





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

See the links here for holiday news and more.




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