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The Christmas Tree

They've been to get their Christmas tree, they hadn't far to go.
They live in that high country where young timber starts to grow.
The day is cold the snow is new, there's not so many tracks.
The dad has got the Christmas tree, the kid he has the ax.

You  notice by the chimney that the fire place is wide.
They have their house built strong and low, it's plenty warm inside.
They've got a good set of good corrals besides a stable too;
They are fixed up pretty handy fer a place to winter through.

And when they put the candles on it's easy to believe
How that tree will look by fire light this comin' Christmas eve.
There won't be any carols sung, there won't no organ play
But they'll have a happy Christmas in them hills so far away.

I'll bet the old man's thinkin' back to when he was a kid.
How folks would spend their Christmas and the things he got and did.
Of course the kid, he looks ahead, he don't think of the past,
But he'll soon have Christmas memories that he'll keep until the last.


Read more classic poetry from Bruce Kiskaddon here.


The Reason for Dead Deer

The antelope's a country guy, whose relatives are goats,
He lives with cows and sage and grass, and far away from folks.

He's no desire for society, or ladies dainty roses --
'Cause they dislike the smell of him, and just turn up their noses.

He likes the breaks and creeks and hills, he's got no use for roads --
He's just a common country guy, whose relatives are goats.

The deer, upon the other hand, has kin who work for Santa . . .
He hangs around the urban scene, from Bismarck to Atlanta.

He has a taste for garden truck, found in the yards of houses,
And being of nocturnal stock, he don't care who he rouses

As he sets the dogs to yappin' and gets housewives' dander up;
In fact, the deer disdains the noise of a common, barkin' pup!

Three crossed the street in front of me, this very afternoon,
In the midst of town!  And did I frown -- my, they are so rude!

I think it's pride those deer can't hide, 'cause Rudolph is their cousin
They come in from the country, just to set the city buzzin'!

Check out the Christmas lights my friend, and tell me with great care,
If you can find, in all those lights, an ANTELOPE anywhere?

Of course you can't - the point is moot - that's why he's not affected
With city ways to gardens graze, because he's not connected

In any way to Santa Claus, who stops in all the towns,
Accompanied by his reindeer, all light as eiderdown!

But there's the deer, where'ere you turn, oft' tripping crost' a roof;
Or there between a couple trees . . . He flies! That's surely proof!

So if they're prone to suicide, along our nation's highways,
Excuse the deer - he has no fear - he thinks he's in the flyways!

2004, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Rhonda explained that "Jim Thompson who has a live talk radio show across our part of the country got on the subject today of why you see so many dead deer along the highway and people are always hitting deer, but rarely is an antelope involved...He wrote a few of us who do cowboy poems and asked the question why, which got me untracked and this silly thing came to me..." 

Live With Jim Thompson! is on the air daily, and Jim often reads Cowboy Poetry and has poets as guests.  His Christmas Eve program will be full of Christmas poetry.  On December 23rd, they'll be "broadcasting from the North Pole." You can listen live on the web, from 1 PM - 3 PM Central, daily.  You can participate by phone and email. See our feature about the show here.  

Grandpaw's Elf

With hands all brown and gnarly, yet gentle as could be
Grandpa lifted Bucky up to hold him on his knee.
Pride was written 'crost his face in every krinkly line,
Lines that softened when he smiled, yet showed the wear of time.
"Let's set here, sonny, where it's warm, and gaze upon the tree
Yer daddy hauled in from the woods - ain't it dandy as can be?"
"This boy's the one that's dandy," he mused all to himself;
The boy's thoughts ran to Christmas, and he asked about the elf,
In bright green clothes an' pointy shoes, an' fur upon his hat -
An ornament, dangling from a limb, to tantalize the cat.
The old man's eyes grew misty to hear the little voice
Bring up the very ornament that would've been his choice
To lift off that tree and cuddle, an' let the mem'ries run
Of when he was a little boy, his daddy's only son..
"Well, tell me Grampaw," Bucky urged, all impatiently -
While Grampaw struggled in his mind with painful memories.
"Son, that was mine when I's yer size", the old man softly said,
"My Momma bought it for me, with hair from off her head.
See, times wuz tough, my folks wuz poor - 'er broke's a better word -
They had no money for Christmas, but then somewhere they heard
Mom could sell her long dark hair, an' money would be paid;
She cut an' sold it to buy food - an' that elf - for me that day.
Dad brought in a drought-bound tree, all scraggly, with few limbs
Mom an' me made paper chains an' strung popcorn for trim.
An' as we worked Mom laughed with me an' even sung a song
'Bout the Savior an' His greatest gift - freeing us from wrong.
On Christmas morn' as I awoke, the tree was all aglow
With candles twinklin' 'mongst the limbs - jest here an' there they'd show.
Then I spied somethin' else there, hung way up near the top -
It was this very elf, my boy - an' my eyes nearly popped
When Momma reached an' took it down an' pressed it in my hand
An' said it wuz my very own, the best elf in the land!
I asked her what an elf was, an' she said they wasn't real,
But that they represented things that we could only feel.
She said 'There's no way to see God, the Giver of all good,'
But when I'd see an' hold my elf I'd know I really could,
Depend upon the things He said, an' know He cared for me
An' that my life would turn out good in this "land of the free."
She said I shouldn't ever fear, no matter what befell
'Cause God knew all about it - an' He was the one to tell
If I had special needs or wants, or dreams within my heart
He'd be right there, just like this elf, an' always take my part!
My Momma died that winter, so me an' Dad wuz left alone;
Except I always had my elf, an' her words to let me know
That God was there though I couldn't see, an' so wuz Momma's love
An' that's been true all through my life, sure as stars above!
I've lived good on this ol' land, with friends and plenty health,
Had a home and love an' fam'ly - the better part of wealth!
Sure, there's been droughts and blizzards, but they always made me grow
In faith an' strength an' grit an' try, 'cause boy, I always knowed
The very truth my Momma taught that long ago Christmas Eve,
That everything is possible if we will just BELIEVE!
There's soldier boys an' soldier girls an' people of all kinds
In places far away from here, with no Christmas tree tonight;
I just hope they've got some elves an' somethin' they set stock in."
Bucky said "I wish they were here, so they could hear you talkin'!"
Then Bucky said, "Why Grampaw, now yer elf is here with me,
An' I feel sure that God is too, although I cannot see . . .
So what y'r Momma said was true, 'bout things we only feel
'Cause you an' me are certain that Christmas time is REAL!
So, Grampaw, let's tell all the world - they surely ought to know -

2004, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more poetry from Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns here.


The Language of Christmas
a fable

Charlie Walker's an old cowpoke I know,
who has lots of stories to tell.
There's a tale he tells about Christmas one year,
and he remembers it all quite well.

Charlie says it happened when he was young,
and tryin' to make it back home.
He hadn't spent Christmas with family for years,
since the day that he started to roam.

He's the first who'll tell you, his timin' was off,
when him and his horse got caught
in one big snow storm up in the hills,
with all of the presents he'd bought.

He says, at first, he wasn't upset,
he figured he'd just ride through.
But when it got dark, and he couldn't see,
he knew what he needed to do.

He needed to find a place to make camp,
somewhere that's out of the wind.
But he kept on going, and would you believe,
found a cabin around the bend?

As he got closer, he blessed his luck,
for  it looked like somebody's there.
He had plenty of grub amongst his stuff,
and he'd be happy to share.

Maybe they'd let him sleep by the fire,
but the stable would be okay.
Of course, it wouldn't be the first time
that he'd had to sleep in the hay.

He climbed off Virgil, his Morgan stud,
and led him right up to the door.
The man who answered was an old Pah-ute.
You could tell by the clothes he wore.

The old boy said that his name was Bill
and took Charlie around to the back.
In the stable there, they tended to Virgil
then went inside of the shack.

Another old man was already there,
who said that he was a German.
He said, "Welcome!" and then told Charlie,
"You can just call me Herman."

So Charlie brought in his sack of supplies,
and started a meal to cookin'.
Then a cold young man came knockin' at the door,
and boy, he was hungry-lookin'!

He had long dark hair and a close-cut beard,
and the old boys took him right in.
Charlie went to the stable and got Christmas gifts,
and passed them around to the men.

Then they felt bad, 'cause they had none for him,
but Charlie said, "Don't feel low."
The young man said, "Many thanks for the present.
Today is my birthday, you know."

They sang Happy Birthday, and Christmas carols, too,
and stayed up half of the night.
But when morning came, the young man was gone,
disappeared by the dawn's early light.

While the men ate breakfast, they tried to figure
who the nice young man might have been.
Charlie said, "He's a Texan--and the way I can tell is
he talked like my Texas kin."

Herman said, "Nein, the boy spoke German.
I marveled you all understood!"
"If he had," said Bill, "I wouldn't of missed it,
there's just no way that I could.

"I figured the kid's from out in Nevada,
he spoke pure Pah-ute to me."
The room got quiet while all tried to figure
who the nice young man might be.

"Well," said Charlie, "He said it's his birthday."
And Herman said, "Ya, that's right."
They were quiet for a while, then old Bill whispered,
"And this was on Christmas night!"

2004, Hal Swift
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more poetry by Hal Swift here


A Prairie Christmas

It was Christmas eve at last...
a time to be together
there in the warmth of home
sheltered from the weather.

Outside, the night was clear.
Drifts of snow, stark and white,
covered the land all 'round
and stars lighted up the night.

The evening was crisply cold.
Your breath hung in the air
and snow creaked beneath your feet
as you walked the path out there.

But inside, paper garlands...
rings linked in alternation...
of holiday green and red
were hung in decoration.

Popcorn, too, strung on thread
and hung around the room
made contrasting garlands
to brighten winter's gloom.

Candles lighted the room
as a small tree's piney scent
and that of new-baked pies
wafted to those present.

The family, there for Christmas,
enjoying the holiday,
communed in quiet ease
as winter had its way.

2004, Clark Crouch 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more poetry by Clark Crouch here



Cowboy Christmas Carol

For a hard-bitten ol' cowpoke like me a Christmas ain't always merry;
I've spent most of 'em  a-ridin' fences, a-sleepin' in line cabins out on the prairie.
So for most a my hard life the spirit of Christmas did not abide within my heart.
How I come to possess the spirit is the story I hafta impart.

Tha year was '87 and I was a-follerin' doggie trails,
A-drinkin' rot gut whiskey to forget about my life's travails.
Ih was two days from the line cabin, at a far off lonely place,
A-roundin' up some strays, the snow whippin' crost my face.

Night came of a-suddin' so's I bedded down to rest,
A tin can full o' hot coffee a-restin' crost my chest.
Of a-suddin' I heard somthin' a-flutterin' down from the skies.
I taken a closer look an I couldn't believe my eyes.

It looked to be some kind o' Christmas Angel from the first I did suspect,
What with all the sugar plums a-hangin' 'round 'er neck.
Holly laced 'er halo an' lustrous pearls adorned 'er wings,
An' 'er sweet little silver bell voice was a-trillin' little ting-a-ling-a-lings.

"Cast away your fears, cowboy," she says,  "I'm an Angel sent from on High,
And I'm here to do the bidding of the Great Trail Boss in the Sky."
Dadgumit she talked! She's a bonafide Angel fer shore!
Was I'a-goin' feral or was it that bad hooch I drank the night afore?

"It isn't the whiskey," she says, a-readin' my mind.
"You don't even know it cowboy, but it's Christmas time."
She had me dead to rights on that one, an' it caused me much chagrin,
Causin' the last time Ih partook a Christmas was back in ... heck, I don't know when.

"Why, thar ain't no time fer Christmas out 'ere Angel," I says. "It's absolut' absurd.
I've got fences to mend an' orn'ry doggies to git back to the herd!"
She says, "You've sunk lower than the wild beasts, lower than a longhorn steer,
For even the furry animals keep Christmas once a year."

"Critters a-keepin' Christmas?" I says. "Now this I gotta see!"
"Very well, cowboy," she says. "Come fly the night sky with me."
Well my eyes got as big as poker chips when flyin' she did suggest.
 "Just take hold of my arm, cowboy,"  she says, "and I'll do the rest."

To a quiet faraway meadow we flew, to a lonely stand o' pines,
An' when I looked down a'neath them trees I was in fer a big surprise.
Fer a-layin' thar a'neath them trees all cuddled up on the ground,
Was ever' kind o' furry critter anywhere to be found.

Rabbits, squirrels, birds and deer all a-layin' in one spot,
With a coyote, wolf and mountain lion a-standin' guard over the entire lot.
She says, "They're huddled together because the spirit of Christmas fills the air."
"Mebbe so," I says, "But them smaller critters should be a-scampin' outa thar!"

"They've nothing of which to worry," she says. "Peace fill their hearts upon this night."
"Whatever ya thank," I says, " but they'd best make dust afore first  light."
Yet, as I beheld this miracle, I recollect I shed some tears,
A-rememberin' all the wasted Christmases of my long-gone yesteryears.

I vowed I'd do thangs different, that I'd make another start,
That ever' day I had left I'd keep Christmas merry in my heart.
Then I gave thanks to this 'ere Angel fer a-savin' me from my demise.
She just smiled an angelic smile then she a-fluttered back up to the skies.

A-many a year has passed since I beheld that angelic sight,
An' I've tried to keep the promise I made to her upon that night.
Now I'm proud to herd these doggies, an watch over 'em  with all I know --
Like extry hay fer the runt calves, when it's a-freezin' an' a-blowin' snow.

And now I'm thankful that I'm a cowboy, a-roamin' the trails a-wild an' free,
A-watchin' over these orn'ry doggies like the Great Trail Boss a-watches over me.

2004, David Althouse
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more poetry by David Althouse here


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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