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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.



A Christmas Journey

The fall drive, now over, the crew sat around
just joshin' and jawin' 'bout where they were bound.
"I'm thinkin'," said G.B, "'bout headin' back home.
It's been  quite a spell since I left on my own."

"It's a long way to Texas," said the trail boss, Big Jim.
"You might change your mind when the weather turns grim."
"Could be," replied G.B.,"this time of the year,
but, I'd like to get home, boss, 'fore Christmas is here."

And so, with a "Goodbye" he left the next morn,
a-headin' for Texas and the town he was born,
Bethlehem, Texas, he thought with a smile,
the place of his birth and his years as a child.

He thought of his fam'ly,  the mem'ries of home,
his life as a cowboy, the places he'd gone.
He pondered the reasons for leavin' back then,
the warnin' of Big Jim, the raw, bitter wind.

Days, now, seemed longer and colder and slow.
The trail became harder and covered by snow.
He'd crossed into Texas from out the Northwest.
Now, caught in  a snow storm, he needed some rest.

In a stand of scrub cedar a wagon was down:
the axle had busted, a wheel on the ground.
No team could be sighted, just canvas in wind.
G.B. raised one corner and took a peek in.

The scene he beheld, there, most wondrous on Earth:
a woman in labor, about to give birth.
His heart nearly failed him; he knew at a glance,
he'd have to act quickly to give them a chance.

The hour that followed seemed more like a year.
The cry of that baby like music to hear.
The woman was restin', a fire goin' strong.
A stranger with horses came stragglin' along.

It didn't take long for the stranger to say,
"I owe you a debt I can never repay."
That niño's  our first-born; that woman's my wife.
Señor you have brought us the gift of new life.

I'd take it an honor, my fam'ly and me,
to bestow your name on our son, if you please.
Ol' G.B. just smiled, "Little Jesus will do.
You couldn't want better when you've thought it through."

The wagon repaired, now, G.B. rode away,
toward Bethlehem, Texas, that far ahead lay
For, just like the Magi,, his journey, the same:
Gaspar Balthazar Melchior was his name.

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

Read more poetry by Rod Nichols here.

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


The Christmas Miracle

Only child on lonely outpost,
Not a soul to share his play.
Every night he kissed his parents,
Went off to his room to pray.

"Little prairie dogs, dear Father,
Play together, all the day,
Prong-horns too all have each other,
Could You send a child my way?"

Sighing deeply, little Robert,
"Fishes splash and have such fun!
Even eagles soar together -
Must I be an only one?"

"Mama says it soon is Christmas,
And I've been a real good boy!
If You just could send a brother,
I'd not ask for any toy."

"I have prayed a long time, Father,
And I hope You hear me still -
Send me soon someone to play with,
Father, if it be Thy will"

While he slept, a winter blizzard
Filled the world with whirling white,
Hid from view a silent struggle
Taking place that storm-tossed night..

Lost among the billowed snowdrifts,
Dark Wing clutched her child and cried;
Far away, the reservation,
Where her warrior brave had died.

Dark Wing held her bundle closely,
Weary, shaking from the cold,
Knew that she must keep on moving,
Struggling while the night grew old.

Far off, then, she saw a flicker,
Glowing dimly through the night.
Dark Wing whispered to her small one,
Staggered on toward the light.

From his warm cocoon of blankets,
Tuk-Wat-Se gazed at the star;
Wondered why they'd left the fire,
Why they had to go so far?

Round black eyes stared at the window,
While his mother stumbled on,
Little knowing that the candle,
Like her life, would soon be gone.

With a final desperation,
Dark Wing reached the cabin door,
Fell against it with a clatter,
Then lay dying on the floor.

Christmas Eve held three unlikely
Miracles before the dawn:
Dark Wing free, now and forever,
Going where her love had gone.

Tuk-Wat-Se gained home and parents,
Far from reservation's care,
And, as Christmas dawn awakened,
Robert got an answered prayer.

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

Tuk-Wat-Se = Buffalo Calf in Shoshone


Read more poetry by LaVonne Houlton here.


Santa's Helper

Santa's checkin' through his list
The elves are workin' overtime
Rudolph's shined his nose up bright
The sleigh is lookin' fine

Mrs. Santy's been acookin'
For ole' Santy and the boys
Cause Santy needs his nourishment
While spreadin' Christmas joys

Ole' Santy checks his schedule
And studies through his map
That Mrs. Santy plotted out
While Santy took his nap

The Mrs. stayed up half the night
Sortin' presents shoulder deep
Cause Christmas is acomin' soon
And ole' Santy needs his sleep

Christmas Eve, she's up 'fore dawn
It's sourdough biscuits for the boys
While Santy eats his breakfast
She's out loadin' all the toys

She helps to harness up the teams
And hitch 'em to the sleigh
While Santy drinks his coffee
She's out loadin' feed and hay

Then she helps him in his longjohns
After pressin' out his suit
Helps him fasten his suspenders
Spit shines both his boots

In  a twinkle, Santy's on his way
Yuletide duties he'll not shirk
How come Santy gets the glory
When Mrs. Santy does the work

© 2001, Jay Snider  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more poetry by Jay Snider here.

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



Visit our Art Spur project for poems 
inspired by Charlie Russell's "Seein' Santa."

"Seein' Santa" 
by Charles M. Russell, 1910
C. M. Russell Museum
Great Falls, Montana
reproduced with permission




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