Page Seven



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



Christmas Beneath the Stars

The cattle were bedded down on the hill,
It was a peaceful sight that I saw.
The winter moon hung high in the sky
Casting shadows on the side of the draw.

The Christmas lights on the ranch house below
Sparked a thought of a night gone by.
When shepherds, watching over their flocks
Heard the message from the sky.

I stopped and looked at the stars above
And listened where all was quiet,
Then into my heart came the message
The angels delivered that night.

I stepped from the saddle, whispering aloud,
"Shepherds watching over their flocks."
My mount rubbed his head on my shoulder
As he shifted his feet on the rocks.

The horse held his breath while we listened,
I could almost hear the heavenly choir.
Then the spirit bore witness once again
And burned in my heart like a fire.

Yes, the ranchers, herders and cowboys
Who work beneath the wide open sky,
Can understand how the shepherds felt
When they heard the voice from on high.

Let the rich and the powerful pity me,
Let the city folk think I am strange;
My silent prayer shall continue to be,
"Lord, thanks for my home on the range."

1996, Colen H. Sweeten Jr.
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Read more of Colen Sweeten's poetry here.


Angels Aren't the Only Ones Playing Harps

A flicker of light in the distance.
A beacon amidst the bluster.
A promise of warmth on a cold winter's night

Loud talk and laughter echo in the dark.
The cattle are lowing
as the night guard circles.

Harmonica melodies buoyed by the north wind
bring memories of fresh cut pines,
penny candy and mom.

Silent Night and campfire light;
both compass and comfort
for cowboys at Christmas.

2005, Jeff Hildebrandt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of Jeff Hildebrandt's poetry here.




Christmas Voices

When I look around our table,
   I see those who are not there.
I hear my Uncle Fenner, who
   most always said the prayer.

"We thank Thee for our blessings,
   and we thank Thee for our care.
Please bless this food before us, Lord
   and all folks everywhere."

Then as we pass the dishes 'round,
   I hear my mom entreat,
"Don't gulp your food, take little bites.
   Let's chew the food we eat."

I guess because big family meals
   took hours to prepare,
She wanted us to slow down some
   and taste the special fare.

We paid no heed, but went ahead,
   and ate the way we pleased.
Some gulped their food fast as they could,
   as if it might be seized.

"We need more moisture, need it bad,"
   Dad said that every year,
Except in Nineteen forty-nine
   When he wished skies would clear.

"Please send the mashed potatoes and
   the gravy down this way."
At least three times we sent them down
   his way on Christmas day.

Gramps mostly ate in silence
   saying nothing I can quote,
But when the subject turned to cows,
   he sat up and took note.

The adults talked of government
   and failed policy,
Expenses up and cattle down
   each year, perpetually.

My grandma usually told us of
   some purty thing she'd seen.
The purties in her life out there
   were few and far between

Time for dessert, and Aunt brought forth
   her pies, which were a sight.
When we exclaimed, she humbly said,
   "I hope they'll taste all right."

When family remembers me
   on Christmases to come,
I wonder what they'll say I said
   that went beyond hum-drum.

2005, 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



The Silver Spurs

Joe was runnin'  his trap line when he took one heck of a spill.
The ice gave way and swallered him up, he come down with quite a chill.
It wasn't gettin' drenched and cold that partic'rly bothered him,
But he lost his silver plated spurs gettin'  loose from an old tree limb.

As he was warmin' by the stove he was thinkin' about the date,
"By golly, today is Christmas Eve, and I ought to celebrate."
But all Joe had was one glass ball his sister had sent years ago
Etched all 'round with sleigh and reindeer, and Santa sayin' "HoHoHo."

Outside the cabin he cut a branch on which he could hang the ball.
Then he took out some biscuits and coffee, leaned the "tree" up against the wall.
Well, directly he got pretty sleepy, while gazin' upon his tree
And he dreamed about his silver spurs; younger days; 'n' bein' free.

"Hi!  My name is Reuben!" came an impish, high-pitched voice.
And standing there - not three feet tall - was an elf making lots of noise.
He wore a red hat with a "Gus" crease!  A wild rag, tucked under his nose.
His chaps were green and fuzzy, his boots curled up at the toes!

"I've come to ask your assistance," said the jolly cowboy elf.
"You look like a real  buckaroo to me - and Santa's in bad need of help.
He's got so much work to do, you see, he's gettin' almost mean!
But only a real buckaroo will do to break a new reindeer team!"

Joe said, "I ain't never broke no reindeer, and I'll gladly give it a whirl.
But I lost my silver spurs today, over there where the water swirls."
"Oh...that's okay",  little Reuben said, and he slipped him a brand new pair.
"These are magic spurs, as you will see, only real buckaroos can wear."

So Buckaroo Joe put on the spurs; felt the magic right away.
All it took was a gesture or thought and the reindeer would obey.
"You've done a fine job, partner!" said his little elfin friend.
"So you shall keep the silver spurs, as Christmas Eve comes to an end."

The wind and snow began to blow.  The stove light cast out it's rays.
Joe woke to find the Christmas gift, silver spurs engraved with "B. J."

2005, Sue Jones 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more of Sue Jones' poetry here.


Cowboy Christmas Time

I recall when growing up
away out on the range
I was young, was just a pup
and now it seems so strange.

We'd gather in the bunkhouse
when all the chores were through
we'd sit there quiet as a mouse
and listen to the cowboy crew.

When Christmas time would come around
it was the coldest time of year
in the bunkhouse we'd be found
spreading lots of cheer.

We'd listen to the old hands
tell of Christmas tales and rhythm
it sure was fun out on the ranch
'twas a Cowboy Christmas time.

There's nothing like Cowboy Christmas
it's the best time of the year
we'd gather 'round the old wood stove
and spread our Christmas cheer
there's nothing like Cowboy Christmas
with their spurs that jingle and chime
I sure do miss those bygone days
of Cowboy Christmas time.
We'd always feed some extra
to the cows on Christmas Day
then give our horses extra oats
cuz in the snow they'd play.
It always made my ol' heart swell
to see my pony's face
when he bowed his head, was he thanking me
or was he saying grace.
Then we'd gather 'round the Christmas meal
and thank the Lord above
for giving us our daily bread
and showing us His love.
I sure do miss those good old days
the friendship and the rhythm
nothing like Christmas on the ranch
It's a Cowboy's Christmas time.

2005, Tj Casey 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of TJ Casey's poems and songs here.


The Lord's Own Prayer? 

It's a verbal tradition fer patience attrition, bequeathed any unwary dad
Follows His way past light o' day ... an' has the same trouble He had.

"Well, durn it, an' darn it, an' dang!" He 'claimed, "They's gotta be other ways
Fer ta, conjunctify, all the pieces here an', not end up with strays!
I've left-over ears fer the foxes here, an' not enough tails fer rats.
... Last o' the wings is leathery things ... I reckon they's gonna git bats."

So, "Durn it, an' darn it, an' dang!" we pray, even those that say it's myth,
When the world don't seem to conjunctify, or we're peeved with those we're with.
It's the chant  an' rant of a giftin' dad that shoulda bin long retired,
Tamin' a box that blithely talks o' some, "User Assembly Required."

2005, Alf Bilton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more of Alf Bilton's poetry here.



Visit our Art Spur project for a growing collection of poems inspired by 
"A Christmas Tale" by Mick Harrison. 



See a complete list of all the holiday poems from 2000-2004 here.

See the links here for holiday news and more.



Page Seven



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