Christmas Week in Sagebrush
It is Christmas week in Sagebrush, and the old town's only store
Never had, sence it was opened, such a run o' trade before.
Ev'ry rancher is a-blowin' his "dinero" full and free,
Buyin' gim-cracks for the young'uns to put on the Christmas tree.
The cowboys ride in muffled in their wolf-skin coats and chaps,
And the rancher's wife is wearin' all her extry furs and wraps;
'Cuz nobody takes no chances on a norther breakin' loose,
Fer a blizzard on the prairy's purty apt to raise the deuce.
The ponies that are standin' all a-shiver at the rack,
Champ their bits, and paw and nicker for their riders to come back;
Ev'ry poker joint is runnin', and there's faro and roulette,
And the booze-joints are a-grabbin' all the punchers they can get.
The picter show is crowded full o' riders off the range
Who are watchin' actor cowboys doin' stunts that's new and strange;
Ev'ry film brings groans and hisses, 'cuz the guys upon the screen
Go through lots o' monkey bizness that a cow ranch never seen.
From the dance halls comes the echoes of a squeaky violin,
Where the painted dames are ropin' all the gay cowpunchers in;
For it's Christmas week in Sagebrush, and there won't a puncher go
Back to ride the wintry ranges when he has a cent to blow!
E. A. Brininstool, from Trail Dust of a Maverick, 1914
Read more poetry by E. A. Brininstool here
The Christmas Story
The kerosene lamp burned brightly all night in the window that faced to the south.
A blue norther blew through the cracks in the door; the rain would soon end the drought.
He left her early that morning to search for that black baldy cow,
That cow always had trouble calving; he must sell her someday, somehow.
His wife, she would not worry until sunset as the wind still blew up the draw.
It would not warm the entire day and the water in the trough wouldn't thaw.
She'd be up all night waiting for him while the lamp flickered and the wind blew cold.
She'd lay the Bible on the rickety old table to again read the story of old.
They had always read it together, the story of the first Christmas Eve,
But tonight she would read it without him, as she tried very hard not to grieve.
Then the creak of his saddle awoke her, as he put the stray cow in the pen.
She raised her head from the Bible and wondered where in the world he'd been.
She built up the fire in the old wood stove and brewed coffee in the old porcelain pot.
She heard him merrily call her name as he came to the house at a trot.
He bounded up the steps of the weathered old porch, as he tried to forget the cold.
He could hardly believe the events of the night, a night he would forever behold.
He'd left out early on that Christmas Eve morn, headed out towards the Rio Grande.
That old blue norther chilled him to the bone as he rode cross this barren cold land.
He rode all day in search of that cow, no telling where she could be,
And then at dusk he found her and her calf, sheltered neath an old mesquite tree.
As the sun set slowly in the west, "Let's head on home," he said.
But they hadn't gone but a mile or two when they came to an abandoned old shed.
They'd best stop here and camp for the night and get out of this howling gale.
He knew that she'd be worried, and that sad old wind did wail.
But wait, what was that noise he heard? The wind was now only a sigh.
The stars lit the heavens and desert below as he opened the shed door wide.
"Por favor, Senor," the young Mexican said. "We are lost and don't know the way.
Could we please shelter in your shed tonight? You see mi esposa needs a place to stay."
"Seguro que si, yes, you can!" the cowboy replied. "I'd be honored to have you stay.
We'll stoke the fire and warm you up. It's been a long, cold, dreary day."
"My name is Jose and this is Maria," the young Mexican said with pride.
"Tonight I fear the babe will come; Maria has had a long, long hard ride."
The donkey she rode stood quite still, as they helped Maria to the ground.
"Gracias, gracias!" he thanked him again. His words rang with a heavenly sound.
They fixed Maria a bed made of hay, then soon they all went to sleep.
But they awoke to the voice of a shepherd, calling softly to his sheep.
The norther outside had stopped blowing, the stars were shinning bright.
And there in the manger, a baby, born on this holiest, holiest of nights.
Then thundering hooves broke the silence they were unable to say a word.
As out of the darkness came cattle, a ghostly stampeding herd.
The herd was followed by cowboys, apparitions all clothed in white.
Their saddles were laden with silver; they were such a heavenly sight.
The horses they rode were translucent, from their hooves lightening did spark.
They came in a luminous whirlwind, they made the night no longer seem dark.
They dismounted and approached the manger and left their cache on the ground.
They remounted and rode off in silence; no one made a sound.
The cowboy finally caught his breath, while Jose and Maria did pray.
They thanked the Lord for the baby and the gifts they were given this day.
They covered the babe with a poncho, even though it was tattered and old.
They knew that it would protect him from the wind and the bone chilling cold.
The cowboy awoke the next morning; in the night the fire had gone out.
But where was Jose and Maria? As silently he looked about.
"Guess I must a been dreaming," he said as he carefully looked around.
He poured the last of his coffee on an amber coal on the ground.
He picked up his saddle and blanket and as he prepared to go
He noticed lying in the manger a tattered and old poncho.
He folded it gently to put in his pack, took his saddle and went to the door,
He then saw the note that was tacked to a post, "Muchas, gracias, forever, Senor."
He thought of his life here in Texas, he thought of his wife at home,
He knew she was worrying about him; he knew she was cold and alone.
He pointed the cow and calf north, if he hurried he could make home soon.
If they didn't have any problems, he could be at his table by noon.
The lamp in the window would welcome him and happily he called her name.
The wind was beginning to die down then he noticed the flickering flame.
He told her of his wondrous night and when her doubts began to show,
He opened his pack on the table and unfolded the tattered poncho.
They knew a miracle had happened as it had many years before.
They opened the Bible before them and read the story again, once more.
© 1996, Linda Kirkpatrick
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Read more poetry by Linda Kirkpatrick here
The Freight Musher's Tale
The old Dawson run wasn't very much fun, when winter bit down hard;
When an icy death begrudged each breath of man or canine pard.
And if she blew, the trail-wise knew they'd best just camp and wait;
So they'd not be lost in the swirling frost, and mush past Heaven's gate.
I recall one storm, even worse than norm, that blew out Christmas Eve.
It died so late I thought I'd wait... for dawn, before I'd leave.
By a nice warm fire, I'd soon retire to rest like my sleeping team...
Then my eye was caught, by a bright red dot... No, it wasn't a dream!
Out there all alone so far from home, thinking no one else around;
I'd no inkling yet just... who I'd met; though by now I heard the sound.
How he cussed and swore hauling back and forth, untangling harnessed deer;
One with a nose that, simply glowed, up front where he could steer.
I rebuilt the fire, piled wood on higher... called out; "Fetch your cup!"
When he'd tied his deer and... did come near; we were ready to coffee up.
He'd a long white beard looked... kind of weird, tangled and, full of sticks;
A torn red suit with scuffed-up boots, and... the look of a man near licked.
He flipped a lip and, took a sip, from his blue enameled mug;
Brushed a log to sit and, paused a bit... then gave that beard a tug.
"Been trying for years to mush beyond here, without using noisy dogs.
Tried moose and some hares... a caribou pair... all left me sitting on logs.
When we get to the trees they... tangle you see. The tree line's the thing has me humped.
Now I know even deer can't get me past here. Tonight, the whole sleigh has been dumped.
They'll not pull as one and... it's really no fun going nine different ways all at once.
And that lead reindeer, I now greatly fear is naught but a... gilded dunce!
So I guess that's that; goll-durn and drat!...Now I'll have to hoof it again."
Then his breath caught, "Well, I'd better trot but; thanks for the coffee, friend."
"But wait!" said I, inspired to try and... help him if I could.
"Why don't you fly? Once in the sky you'd... sail right over the woods.
I've a sled full of beans and... to me it would seem, hot gas being lighter than air;
A flatulent deer might. fly out of here; if stuffed with a big enough share."
I'll keep the tale short, no details report... suffice to say, launch was a go;
Though... hitched nose to tail, those deer got so pale they couldn't be seen in the snow.
Now on a cold night, folk not knowing right, think freezing pops trees apart;
But that cracking sound that we hear around, is really just... reindeer fart.
© 2004, Alf Bilton
This poem and illustration 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 poems
inspired by Charlie Russell's "Seein' Santa."
by Charles M. Russell, 1910
C. M. Russell Museum
Great Falls, Montana
reproduced with permission
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