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Dennis Gaines


About Dennis Gaines
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photo by Jeri Dobrowski

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


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About Dennis Gaines

I consider everyone a friend until proven otherwise; a philosophy that would go a long way toward solving the world’s ills if everyone thought likewise.

That sentence written by Dennis Gaines probably says it all, but here's his official bio:

Dennis Gaines calls himself a cowboy poet, humorist and storyteller, a vocation that rates with bawdy house piano player in terms of prestige and respectability. Nevertheless, having survived an epic childhood which found his parents playing hide-and-seek all over the world, and Dennis always finding them, he was allowed to matriculate to the seventh grade, after which he found himself seeking ungainful employment in the oilfields of the world and ranches of the West.

He frequents assorted gatherings and may be spotted at conventions, private parties, banquets, gunfights, chili cookoffs, hangin's, hitchin's, trail drives, campfires, rodeos, soup kitchens, dude ranches, horse sales, casinos and dogfights. He has never been seen in the company of lawyers, politicians or other such outlaws.

Through all of it, he has tried to preserve some of what is good about cowboy culture and its heritage, with an emphasis on humor, tradition and perhaps even a little bit of nostalgia.

Gaines was a Texas State Representative Poet at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, in 1990 and returned in 1991, 1992, and 2007.


In July 2004, Dennis Gaines received the Academy of Western Artists' Will Rogers Award for Best Cowboy Poetry CD, for Son of a Gun Stew


In July 2000, Dennis Gaines received the Academy of Western Artists'
Will Rogers Award award for Cowboy Humor

Possibly Dennis Gaines' greatest accomplishment is noted on page two.


Read about Dennis Gaines' A Cowboy for the Cure Tour in our feature here.




This page:

Bungee Buckaroo
Trouble's a Bruin
A Different Point of View
Ty Murray, Eat Your Heart Out
The Spandex Cowboy
The Undisputed, Heavyweight, Calf-Rasslin' Champeen of the World
Song of the Brasada


A Life Well Lived


On page 2:

To a Friend
A Saddle and a Dream
The Journey of Three-Fingered Jake
The Centaur's Better Half


Jim Quarternight's Gift (posted with other holiday poems)



Bungee Buckaroo

There’s certain aggravations that a cowhand can’t abide.
Weak coffee, gunsels, dudes and whiny women chap my hide,
But of all the banes and pestilence this cowboy’s life has wrought,
What truly ups my dander is a horse that won’t be caught.

A hand who’s taught a horse to come to feedbag or to grain,
Or halter up his muzzle slick without a lick of strain,
Is a man who should be toasted with the finest barley malt,
While an hombre should be skinned alive and rolled in picklin’ salt

For learnin’ some ol’ outlaw bronc to shun and fear the noose,
‘Til he kinda grows accustomed to the feel of runnin’ loose,
An’ he’ll tear plumb through yer catch rope when it settles ‘round his neck,
So the nylon burns yer grabbers an’ yer bootheels snap; a wreck

You knew was comin’ when you set back on yer stompers.
Now you’re face down in the catchpen, spittin’ horse poop through yer chompers.
I rue the day I met the bay the cowboss called Ol’ Boomer,
For God made me a thinkin’ man; God has a sense of humor.

Every hoss is good for somethin’; that’s a natcherl, solid fact,
Be it packin’, cuttin’, ropin’ or some other handy act.
Ol’ Boomer was a night horse, best that run beneath the moon;
That is, when I could catch him, ‘cause I’d have to start at noon,

‘Cause he’d duck an’ dodge an’ roll back on his hocks like Peppy San,
While I’m snaggin’ air an’ fence posts with my handy hooleyann,
An’ if by chance he tripped my snare, he’d rear an’ pitch an’ paw,
An’ leave me plowin’ furrows with my nose an’ bottom jaw.

But I’m a cogitatin’ cuss, as I have often said,
An’ a sorter brilliant notion kinda moseyed through my head,
Concernin’ laws of physics, higher math an’ other dope,
An’ a clever apparatus that we know as rubber rope,

Or bungee cord or lashin’ straps, dependin’ on yer roots.
For tarpin’ hay or pipes or posts, there ain’t no substitutes.
I’ve seen fellers jump off bridges, from a blimp or big balloon;
With fifty foot of bungee, Boomer’d play a different tune!

It ain’t easy bein’ brilliant; or so I tell myself.
Though some may claim my ladder don’t quite reach the upper shelf.
So I throwed a great big double jugline, Chinese bola knot
Around my legs an’ chest an’ struck out for the waterlot,

To battle with this devil so deceptively disguised
As a common, wranglin’ ranch horse. Oh, Lord, he’d be surprised
At the fiendish, wicked genius of my calibrated plan.
It shore ain’t fair that brains like mine belong to just one man.

Well, he never seen it comin’; he was sleepin’ in the shade
When my perfect, slashin’ hooleyann cut through the air an’ made
A lovely, little loop that cleared his ears an’ latched his throat,
Causin’ him to wake an’ flatulate a parting note,

Of impolite indignity that echoed off the wall
Of the barn into the ozone as I gave a mighty squall
An’ swung my hat an’ chunked a rock to agitate his rear.
Though I’d factored in velocity, he caught another gear!

The effect of twice a hundred pounds upon a horse’s neck
At the anchor of a rubber rope should instigate a wreck
Rarely seen before by human eyes or offered for display,
Like a herd of Baptist preachers at a free-for-all buffet!

Ol’ Boomer was acceleratin’ out towards the end
Of a thousand feet of rubber, disappearin’ ‘round the bend
Of the barn towards his freedom while I set back on the deck,
An’ chuckled kinda sinful at the up an’ comin’ wreck

That would jerk his tonsils through his tail an’ break him of the habit
Of skitter-daddlin’ free an’ fancy like a bloomin’ rabbit.
Folks, there oughtta be a formula for estimatin’ stretch
An’ the devastatin’ impact that it has upon a wretch

Who would lash himself to half a ton of motivated nag,
While calculatin’ angles, wind and coefficient drag.
‘Cause bungee cords are used by men who might shun parachutes;
A circumstance that wet my pants and sucked me from my roots

With a soberfyin’ speed that kinda peeled an’ crossed my eyes,
As I flashed by poor Ol’ Boomer, to his horror an’ surprise.
He was sailin’ ‘cross the prairie, aimin’ for the open gate,
But if he thought to beat me, boys, he was runnin’ late,

‘Cause I rung the pipes an’ panels like a midway carny gong,
An’ a thousand squirrels an’ birdies started singin’ me a song,
While Boomer set back on his tail an’ fairly plowed the ground,
Then loaded up both barrels for to fire another round!

By now the other boys had gathered ‘round to watch the show,
An’ pass the hat an’ tote the odds on which way I would go.
They factored in collision speeds as buildings flew on by,
An’ come away concludin’, folks, that I was gonna die!

Boomer raced for the horizon; I was gainin’ on him fast.
Screamin’ now was useless, as I fired acrost his mast,
‘Cause I’d breached the sonic barrier an’ couldn’t hear a sound,
While I passed my shadow twice an’ left it gasping on the ground.

I violated gravity and laws that God had made,
Like a monkey in a Stetson on a helicopter blade.
I caromed off the barn an’ knocked the privy off its stand.
Got a glimpse of Pete inside it an’ the parts where he ain’t tanned.

Tore plumb through the chicken coop an’ scattered hens an’ chicks,
An’ thanked the Lord that it was made of wood, an’ not of bricks,
Like the bunkhouse fast approaching as I hit the passing lane,
Where no doubt I’d make an imprint or a cowboy-colored stain.

There was feathers in my gullet, toilet paper in my hair,
And thirty pounds of gravel in my boots and underwear.
I’d lost my pride and dignity, my shirt and all my lunch.
My nose was honkin’ Dixie, and I had a sneakin’ hunch

That I’d rearranged my eyeballs, ‘cause the feelin’ in my gut
Said there ain’t no natcherl way for me to stare at my own butt!
I begged the Lord to spare me, though it may seem quite absurd,
Like the coyote in the cartoon that can never catch the bird.

By now Ol’ Boomer must have guessed resistance was a chore,
When dealin’ with an intellect he’d never met before.
So amazed was he, in fact, that he just squatted on his haunch
An’ put the quick extinction on another rocket launch

Of a cowhand who’d outsmarted him at every twist an’ turn.
There’s lots of ways to skin a cat an’ lots of ways to learn.
Some thirty passes back an’ forth, I’d wrapped him up an’ then
I’ll guarantee Ol’ Boomer never ran from me again!

An’ so the story’s told in cowboy circles, with a hush.
It ain’t easy bein’ brilliant, as I claim with modest blush.
Remember all your days this tale I tell to you as true:
It’s a bird, it’s a plane; no, it’s Bungee Buckaroo!

© February 18, 2000, Dennis Gaines 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Trouble's A Bruin

We were hunkered at the wagon warmin' up the evenin' air
When ol' Cussy Lee allowed he'd tell a story 'bout a bear.
So I poured some more jamoca an' I settled on my roll,
For when Cussy blows a windy, pard, the Devil pays the toll.

"Boys, I'm gray an' grim an' grizzled an' my fangs are long an' keen,
An' I've howled the whole world over from the Pole to Argentine.
Oh, the Reaper's done his damndest, but the worst for raisin' hair
Was a consecratin', Christianizin' ruckus with a bear.

"Well, the scene was high an' lonesome in the Spring of Ninety-Nine.
Winter's tough in old Montana, choppin' ice an' ridin' line.
When beans are daily vittles an' a rabbit is a treat,
Then a ganted wolf's a puppy dog to punchers cravin' meat.

"Boys, my belly button's gettin' mighty friendly with my spine,
An' a roast of bear or venison would suit me mighty fine.
So with Henry in the scabbard an' a six-gun at my side,
I packs my rig on Punkin for to take a little ride.

"But, if I had known what was waitin' down the trail,
I'd just stayed home an' you'd never hear the tale.
Good Lord, fellas,
I mean to tell ya,
I ain't yella,
But I would turn tail.

"Well, the bloom was on the meadow an' the bees was dancin' 'round,
When ol' Punkin pricked his ears an' pointed like a settin' hound.
So I hitched 'im to a willer with a noose around his neck,
An' I primed an' powdered Henry for to raise a little heck.

"Stack me up a thousand Bibles or my name ain't Cussy Lee.
There's the hugest silver grizzly that I ever hope to see,
But I'm a locoed proposition contemplatin' on a wreck,
An' the itchin' lust for killin' swelled the wattles on my neck.

"Drawed a bead between his blinkers, then I cocked the hammer back,
An' like David rocked Goliath, boys, I dropped 'im in his track.
Screamed a wild Comanche war whoop, peeled the skinner from my belt,
Then commenced to confiscatin' Mr. Bruin of his pelt.

"But the bear rared up, bigger than a tree.
The bear rared up, there for all the world to see.
The ball that cut 'im down
Had only creased his crown.
He was lookin' all aroun'
And then the bear seen...me!

"Well, my single-shot was empty an' I hadn't time to load.
I was busy burnin' bridges, boys, an' buildin' me a road.
All the birds and forest critters I left swirlin' in the wind.
If the bear had fired a bullet, boys, it wouldn't break my skin!

"Say, I never touched a stirrup; I just gave a mighty bound.
When I hung the hooks in Punkin, boys, we left the grazin' ground.
Lord, a monkey on a missile never stood a sacred hope
Of catchin' me an' Punkin...if I'd only cut the rope!

"That riater snapped an' popped my tail an' busted my balloon;
While ol' Punkin turned a somerset, a comet shot the moon.
With a howlin', hairy locomotive thirty feet behind,
That willer whomped the grizzly bear an' slapped 'im black an' blind!

"If you think a hawk can split the breeze, you should've seen me roam!
I was huntin' safer residence from Panama to Nome.
With my ears a-touchin' in the back, my spurs were spittin' sparks.
Boys, I redefined velocity since Noah built the Ark!

"With my chaps an' vest a-flappin' in the wind like angel wings,
Lord, I cleared them cliffs an' canyons like a kangaroo with springs.
Neither rivers, lakes nor waterfalls could cause my boots to fret.
Took a lesson from the Bible, boys, an' never got 'em wet!

"I defied the laws of physics, fleein' frantic from the beast,
For my shadow passed me wheelin' west, while I was sailin' east!
Scaled a mountaintop to look around, and there upon my track
Was my faithful pony Punkin...with the grizzly on his back!

"He was whippin' with the leather; he was wearin' my ol' hat.
He was hookin' with his grabbers; Punkin whizzin' like a bat.
Boys, I threw the brake an' cracked the whip an' started pullin freight,
But that hairy puncher passed me like I never left the gate.

"Oh, a bronco bustin' bruin is a seldom sight to see,
An' I swallered hard for Punkin, pards, but what the heck, better him than me!
So I thanked the Lord an' lucky stars that I had been so blessed.
Then I crawled into a cave an' lay my weary bones to rest.

"But the cave was dark as I nestled for my nap.
The bear was there an' I snuggled in his lap!
The bed was mighty furry;
I begun to fret an' worry;
Then I reckoned I should hurry
When I heard him SNAP!

"Hard to figger who was scareder, was it me or Mr. Bear?
We was jawin', pawin', clawin' an' my teeth was full o' hair.
Such a sanctifyin' tussle as we tumbled to the light;
Mr. Bruin, with my pistol, was a-squintin' down the sight!

"I was wobbled, whipped, an' wounded; I was needin' some relief,
An' right then an' there I plumb forgive the brute who caused me grief.
But he must have shared my sentiments, 'cause much to my surprise
He spun the gun around an' took a ball between the eyes!

"Say, compadres, here's the lesson: if ya crave a bear for meat,
Leave yore boots at home an' wear them runnin' shoes upon yore feet.
An' if huntin' Mr. Grizzly constitutes yore brand of fun,
Then be shore that you...or the bear, at least...knows how to shoot a gun!"

© March 7, 2002, Dennis Gaines 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


A Different Point of View

"What a satisfying life you have," said the blue-haired matron,
Who'd bestowed her gracious company upon the wagon patrons.
The punchers stood politely by and listened to her spiel,
Which she delivered ardently with city-woman zeal.

"The clean, fresh air, the open skies, in touch with Nature's charms,
Arid nurturing God's creatures while preserving them from harm.
What joy is yours to birth a calf and watch him grow to health!
Your rewards are so much greater than the tawdry trap of wealth."

But she twisted diamond rings upon her fingers as if vexed,
And posed a careful question in a voice that was . . . perplexed.
"How can you dedicate your lives to keeping harm at bay,
Yet bring yourselves to dine on beef three times or more a day?"

The boys all cut their eyes, and with unanimous acclaim
They threw it to the wagon boss; Turk Harney was his name.
Harney wasted little time declarin' he'd consider
That there ain't no greater misery than tendin' bovine critters.

"There's just two things they're meant to do: that's die an' run away,
And I won't pretend to like 'em 'til my bones are in the clay.
They'll drool an' puke an' defecate an' cause undue distress,
An' cause heathens just like me to get religion an' confess."

"So it should come as no surprise what I'm about to tell,
An' if it's a mortal sin I know I'll gladly burn in Hell.
There's no monumental mystery like them boulders at Stonehenge.
Ma'am, I don't even like the stuff- I eat it for revenge!"

© May 20, 1990, Dennis Gaines 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Ty Murray, Eat Your Heart Out

You've seen 'em in the big shows from Cheyenne to San Antone,
Sittin' straight and spurrin' bulls or broncs atop the leather throne.
Jim Shoulders, Casey Tibbs and Larry Mahan ran the race;
Now a youngster named Ty Murray sets the rough-stock riders' pace.

They wear them shiny rainbow shirts and leggins bright and bold,
With fringe and stars and dollar signs of silver, green and gold,
And they rock in perfect rhythm, scratchin' Hell to thunderation,
But I'd like to offer my opinion, as a declaration.


There's an art to entertainin', fellers, take it from a pro.
If you wanna leave 'em talkin, boys, you've gotta make a show
And keep the tourists guessin' what your next move's gonna be.
Listen up, you'll get your money's worth, 'cause this advice is free.

When Ol' Black John, the wagon boss, tells me to fork a nag,
He knows I'm gonna screw down tight to fortify my brag.
At breakfast time the boys make bets, at supper they're delighted
As they pow-wow 'bout my hang-time and if I've yet alighted.

'Cause I've built my reputation on the bosom of my pants.
Hell, I know that I can't ride the brutes, but they all get the chance
To slam me in a waterhole or toss me off a cliff,
For hope still beats within my chest, that maybe, someday, if . . .
If I can fit a ride upon the rankest brute that walked,
I could hold my head up high and justify the talk I've talked.
Then one day I found my prospect, meaner than an alligator
With the scours and a toothache, and they called him Terminator.

Fast Floyd, the local gent who deals in horses, hides and glue,
And who knew my aspirations, said  "I've got a bronc for you.
Look yonder in the waterlot."  My hackles caught on fire
At a lone cayuse a-grazin' there on gravel, snakes and wire.

Seedy-toed, with quarter-cracks on hooves the size of platters,
Made me choke and wonder just how many men he'd thrown and splattered.
A backbone like a razor blade from withers to his hips
Had me sore just lookin' at it, and that loose and danglin' lip
Curled back from shiny tiger's teeth. I thought to myself, "Dennis,
You'd probably be safer lobbin' hand-grenades for tennis."
But, cowboy-like, I bragged to Floyd, "I'll beat your ace's trump,
If you'll tell me what's them twenty X's burned acrost his rump?"

His snake-eyes glowed. "They mark the punchers Terminator's killed."
"Twenty men?" I squeaked through tremblin'  lips before my voice was stilled.
"I don't think you understand," he hissed. "You're just one cowboy more;
Each X marks a dozen at the undertaker's door."

Something snapped! My cowboy pride had rudely been insulted,
And I take the blame and guilt for all the carnage that resulted.
"Tomorrow, then, at dawn," I vowed, "a duel like none before."
Midnight oil was burned in preparation for the war.

Word spread through the grapevine, folks showed up from miles around.
The schools were closed and convicts tunneled up from underground.
Charter buses clogged the roads and choppers filled the skies.
Saddam Hussein showed up in drag and Gorbachev sent spies!

Giraffes were brought from local zoos; folks perched upon their necks.
Government shut down for lack of people wantin' checks!
Bets were placed in Vegas; civil war inflamed the band
Of folks who yelp for critters' rights and them that work the land.

Amidst the roil and ruckus, standin'  proud and brave and free
Was the center of attention, folks; that's right, you guessed it . . . me!
The Terminator's fire was stoked: it took a dozen men
With ropes tied hard to saddle-horns to choke him down, and then
To wild applause, I swaggered with my 'Sociation kack
And laced it in the middle of that humpy camel's back.
The cinches, pads and blankets I'd filled up with cockleburrs,
And blue flames lit the mornin' where I'd 'lectrified my spurs.

A double six-gun holster complemented my attire
With 50,000 volts of Franklin's motivatin' fire.
A bob-wire bit in Terminator's jaws he gnawed like hay.
With hat pulled tight and hunkered deep, I whispered "Make my day."

Lightning crashed and thunder rolled across the cloudless skies.
I reached with spurs and marked that Devil-spawn between the eyes,
Then polarized that pony with a jolt beneath the tail.
Experts claim the blast was measured on the Richter scale!

Terminator climbed the ladder, kickin' out the rungs.
The crowd commenced to waller 'round and speak in furrin tongues.
Scratched a hell-stick on my whiskers, lit the makin's of a smoke;
As regards the fabled killer, boys, I claimed him for a joke.

The cock-eyed world sat hypnotized on satellite TV.
A hundred million women named their first-borns after me!
The Terminator lost his mind; I matched him stroke for kick.
Them Energizer batteries just never missed a lick.

For that fleeting, famous instant then, I'd not have traded places
With a sultan for his harem, or a poker hand of aces.
With an eye for reputation, I waved off the pick-up man.
I shudder to recall it, but the horse-turd hit the fan!

The saddle-horn collided with the buckle of my pants.
Though I hadn't chewed my breakfast well, I got a second chance.
I kept a constant cadence as my noggin slapped his rear,
And punished him severely when my chin bounced off his ears.

He launched me like a missile, not a Patriot, a Scud.
No tellin' where I'd land or if I'd blow or be a dud.
I lit atop the saddle-horn; it made an awful thud,
And with surgical precision made a geldin' from a stud.

I melted in the saddle-seat and slipped into a coma.
I thought I'd died and gone to Hell or maybe Oklahoma.
That saddle-horn had fingers! Lord, I swear it came alive
And grabbed my off-suspender when the Terminator dived.

There's certain laws of physics, folks, that cannot be denied,
And action breeds retraction when elastic fouls the ride.
At the zenith of my orbit I was dodgin' asteroids;
Half a heart-beat later I was countin' hemorrhoids.

The saddle slipped to left and right, then underneath the brute.
The sun was burnin' blisters on the bottoms of my boots.
He bucked right through the riggins, shucked the saddle off his head;
My oratory blasphemies are better left unsaid.

My feet was in the stirrups and my buns was in the seat;
With a death-grip on the bridle-reins, I'd not concede defeat.
Rockin' like a metronome, he slapped me back and forth,
North, then South, then North, then South, then North, then South, then North.

Centrifugal convulsions caught the early mornin' light.
Seven hundred tourists died from nothin' more than fright.
The Terminator's afterburners fortified his motor;
I was sailin' like a monkey on a helicopter rotor!

I wound up in a stock tank 'midst the mud and tulie plants.
It shorted out the batteries and wirin' in my pants.
I cursed the day of bornin' of that Terminator critter,
While I lay there in the slime and muck, fryin' like a fritter.

Doctors fixed the parts they could, but others they just can't.
They told me what I needed was a total brain transplant.
But this story happened just the way I've told it here to you.
Why, the National Enquirer turned me down because it's true.

So, Ty Murray, eat your heart out; I'm the top dog of the breed,
And history will long record the glory of my deed.
But there's one consolation, and I'll tip my hat to you.
Congratulations, pardner, you are the very best at what you do.

© December 20, 1991, Dennis Gaines
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 



The Spandex Cowboy

"Hey, Gaines, you're up. We paid yer fee; the first man in the chute."
As I dribbled chili on my pants and mustard on my boot,
From the hot dog I was scarfin' at the travelin' circus show
Known as Colonel Potter's Big Top Tent and Wrestlin' Rodeo.

Ol' Slim Bodine, the Chisos Kid and Ikie Bob and me
Had left the ranch and gone to town to see what we could see.
We had come to ride the elephant and watch the dancin' bear,
But such a tribe of freaks could melt yer bones and curl yer hair!

There was oddities and marvels that most eyes have never seen.
He had giants, midgets, leprechauns and Martians, blue and green.
There was ladies sproutin' whiskers and a gent with twenty toes,
And a man who gapped his gulper wide and gobbled his own nose!

The Turtle Boy was in his shell; the Human Crocodile
Was swallerin' live chickens with their feathers, all the while
That the bear was swattin' baseballs, and the Flyin' Cossack Boys
Was jugglin' bowlin' balls and flamin' swords and livin' toys,

Like bunnies, kittens, puppy dogs and circulatin' saws,
As the lion tamer stuck his head between the mighty jaws.
There was fortune tellers guessin' weights and calculatin' luck,
And Ikie paid four bits to see a seven-legged duck.

A feller set himself on fire and jumped into a trunk
With poison Gila monsters and a hydrophoby skunk.
A monkey in a kiltie jigged a Highland country dance,
Then showed the crowd that Scottish monks don't wear no underpants!

The hoochie-koochie gals was squirmin' in another tent,
And the barker told me, "Cowboy, you look like the kind of gent
That would 'preciate the finer things, so have a peek inside."
If the preacher seen what I could see, he'd shorely tan my hide!

They was wearin' mostly nothin', down to here and up to there,
So I give 'em each a dollar and said, "Buy some underwear."
When I told the other fellers what I'd seen and what I'd done,
They all agreed the circus show was shorely lots of fun.

I ate my weight in circus grub, from cones to car'mel corn,
Cotton candy, roastin' ears and shore as I was born,
When I'd had my share of chuck, from beans to chocolate goo,
The boys said, "Gaines, it's time to go and show what you can do."

For months and months we'd heard the brag from Colonel Potter's camp,
'Bout a wrestlin' phenomenon he claimed to be the champ.
A thousand bucks went to the gent who'd stay three rounds or more,
So natcherly the boys had drafted me to beat the score,

In tribute to my title as the Champeen of the Land,
For rasslin' bawlin' calves in dusty pens to wear the brand.
I could flip four hundred pounds of hide and hair and slingin' snot,
Serve him up for shish-kebobs or tie him in a knot.

"There's only three tough hombres in this world," I told my pards.
"And them other two, I'll guarantee ya, send me Christmas cards.
We'll take their money first and then we'll run 'em out of town.
The big galoot will rue the day he tried to take me down."

The poster said the victim of my wrath was named Attila,
The mutant offspring of a man and African gorilla.
A whisper circled through the crowd and stirred up quite a whirl.
"Good Lord," said Slim Bodine, "it seems Attila . . . is a girl!"

"Ha, ha, my boys, we're rich, we're rich. I'll take this gal to school.
Gallant, though, my cowboy ways, I'll be nobody's fool.
I'll bounce her like a sucklin' calf; hooray for womens' lib!
She'll curse the day she thought to stray away from Adam's rib."

 The band struck up the drums and pipes, and folks had gathered 'round,
When a total solar eclipse cast its shadow on the ground.
The earth begun to rumble with an awesome, crackin' noise.
The hair stood straight up on my neck, and on the other boys.

The Chisos Kid was paralyzed, his vocal cords was broke.
Ikie Bob had wet his pants, and Slim begun to choke
At the fearsome female specimen displayed before our eyes.
A gal should have a zip code when she gets to be that size!

 Her mammoth girth wrapped 'round the Earth as far as I could point!
A smarter man than me would say, "It's time to blow this joint."
Ikie said, "There's bigger gals; at least that's what I hear,
But all of them are pullin' plows or wagons full of beer."

Colonel Potter told me, "Son, them duds has got to go.
There's rules that we must follow at the Wrestlin' Rodeo.
You keep your hat, you keep your boots; a cowboy's got his pride,
You'll have to wear a diff'rent outfit there upon your hide."

They stripped me down, they togged me up, they turned me inside out.
They took my shirt, my britches, too; the crowd begun to shout.
They brought me out a wrestlin' rig that really made me blink.
It was tight and it was shiny; it was spandex, it was pink.

Attila loomed above me with a glaring, evil eye.
A voice more like a hippo's belch said, "Cowboy, now ya die!"
"No holds barred, and to the death," the ref was heard to say.
The buzzards started circlin', and I begun to pray.

My plan, it was to psyche her out, and that would save the day.
I flexed my pecs, I struck a pose, I leaped the grand jetè.
Croisè devant, the arabesque, I limbered down and up.
I drank my fill of Gatorade and crushed the Dixie cup!

I circled in, I circled out, I feinted left and right.
 I darted in and grabbed a leg and heaved with all my might.
 My strategy worked mighty well; she landed with a thud.
 A ton of lard in a leotard squashed me in the mud!

 My ears was full of gumbo and my mouth was full of sod.
She heaved me high enough for me to pay respects to God.
She had a grip in places where she shouldn't oughtta grab.
If I should ever walk again, I'd waddle like a crab!

She tightened up her grip until my voice begun to soar.
I'd shorely sing soprano if she'd squeeze a little more!
She whirled me like a helicopter revvin' up to fly.
Snot flew from my nostrils as the world went sailin' by.

She changed the game to basketball; she dunked me in the goo.
She bounced me to the hippo pen and chunked me in the poo.
She mopped me through the mud and muck 'til I begun to squish;
Grabbed my ankles, snatched me up and told me, "Make a wish."

She tied my legs behind my head; it was an awful scene.
My eyeballs spun like cherries in a Vegas slot machine.
I saw stars and little birdies as she cracked me like a nut.
'Twas then I realized that I was starin' at my butt!

Colonel Potter offered me a job he had in mind.
He'd bill me as "The Cowboy Who Could Kiss His Own Behind."
I figgered there was safer ways to earn a thousand bucks,
Like standin' up to cannonballs or tractor-trailer trucks!

I lay there in the slime and slop, with not much cause for glee.
My bones was broke, my joints was popped; I'd lost the entry fee.
At least I had my cowboy pards, no better could I choose.
"Don't worry 'bout it, Gaines," they said. "We bet on you to lose."

© December 14, 2000, Dennis Gaines
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 



The Undisputed, Heavyweight, Calf-Rasslin' Champeen of the World

I wanted to be a wild puncher and a hand from when God flung the chunk,
But I was the essence of ignorance, never knowin' nor would I have thunk
That catchin' bullets barehanded is safer, or skydivin' minus a chute,
Compared to the strife and the fear for my life from a four-legged, snotty-nosed brute.

Come with me now to the brandin' pen, where cowboys are made, not born,
Where the truest test of the hair on your chest is that bundle of hooves and horn.
Three thousand, five thousand, ten thousand, ad nauseam, ad infinitum;
Rope 'em and cut 'em, burn and de-nut 'em, but the toughest will rassle and fight 'em.

The cowboss growled at me, "Gunsel, get ready to rassle the curs.
Any ol' hand can rope and brand, but here's where you'll earn your spurs.
Ante up, you mealy pup, while I'm layin' a trap at the heels,
For if swingin' a rope is yer fondest hope, let's cut the deck and deal.

I drew me a line in the dirt with my boot and spat in my calloused palm.
"How tough could it be?", I says to me, but the storm always follows the calm.
The cowboss wheeled away from the herd, and a faunchin' piece of Hell
On a thirty-foot twine sent chills up my spine, and the rest is hard to tell.

I followed the lead of my pardner and went down the rope for my chance,
When three hundred pounds of baby ground round jobbed his feet down inside of my pants!
I knew that there must have been easier trails to ride on my way to riches,
And the thought crossed my mind as he kicked me blind, "There's a weed-eater loose in my britches!"

I was whirlin' around in a hairy ball with a slobberin' fiend from the pit.
"Ahhh!", I'm dead! "Muhhh!", it said, as we rolled through the grass and the. . . cowpies.
The rest of the boys and the cowboss was havin' a helluva laugh,
But I wasn't grinnin'; I thought I was sinnin' when I was French-kissed by that calf!

He tangoed on my toenails and he waltzed upon my crown.
My rasslin' pard laughed so dang hard I thought he'd choke and drown!
My belt was busted with my pride, my pants around my knees;
The cowboss and his cowhoss both ignored my wretched pleas!

They drug me through the slime and snot, despite my screams and howls,
While that bovine spawn of Frankenstein fired salvos from his bowels.
I prayed in song, I prayed in rhyme, I prayed in grunts and groans,
But Bully just kept dancin' and a-prancin' on my bones.

We executed somersaults and twirled with airy grace,
While that ox befouled my boots and socks and drooled upon my face.
I cinched him snug around the goozle 'til he suffocated.
I thought, by heck, I'd break his neck; then he regurgitated!

He spilled his mornin' grazin's in my ears and up my nose,
Then that baby beef baloney tapped a tune on my cojones with his toes!
I reckoned I was just about a step or two from dead.
If I lost, I knew the whole durn crew would brand on me instead!

Feats of strength are oft conceived from sheerest desperation;
The how and why, the do or die begot by provocation.
I'd had enough; I reared straight up, the critter reared up, too,
And we pawed the ground and danced around and skipped a beat or two.

Then I slammed him over back'ards and we crumpled in a heap.
The other boys, with cries of joy, descended on the creep.
They marked his ear and scorched his hide and bragged how good I did,
While I modified his bullish pride with a rusty tin-can lid.

"Oh, say," said I, "I done so well. Perhaps another chore?"
But that horse's rear, with deafened ear, just kept on draggin' more.
That day will haunt my sleep at night until I grace the grave.
'Twas then I vowed (but not too loud) my honor for to save.

I crawled into my sack that night, a bruised and bloodied shell,
With righteous indignation at the foul humiliation I'd befell.
Next day and hence and all that Spring I watched with eagle eye
To spy the slick and secret tricks the waddies would apply

To bust a bawlin' critter 'til it quivered like a fish.
To be the best in all the West was my desire and wish!
I delved through esoteric tomes of ancient cowboy lore;
With frenzied mind and eyes burned blind, I searched and studied more!

I practiced calisthenics, dianetics, ballroom dance-­-
In my psychosis, thought hypnosis just might put 'em in a trance!
I burnt offerings to pagan gods, abstained from sex and liquor.
Suppressed desire would fan the fire to learn my lessons quicker!

I perused forgotten disciplines, forbidden martial arts,
All methods meant, with dire intent, to squash the little . . . fools.
I mastered lethal systems and invented one or two,
Like Tae-Kwon-do and Nintendo, Kung-fu and Dung-on-yu.

I became a Fiend Incarnate when a calf would stretch the rope;
By head or heels, their fates were sealed, I gave 'em nary hope.
I 'stonished all them punchers; why, they cheered and heaped the praise
When I slam-dunked the snotty punks a thousand different ways!

I was buildin' reputation as I flipped the hairy snides
With arcane tricks of leverage while I sipped my favorite beverage on the side.
The boys all threw their hats and squalled; no king in any castle
Could be as proud as when they 'llowed that I could really rassle!

My buttons popped with manly pride, for I had stood the test.
I knew the boss upon his hoss was suitably impressed.
Surely now my time had come to swing the dragger's rope,
But hopes and dreams and grander schemes are bubbles made of soap.

The cowboss rode up to me, and with patronizing eye
Said, "I've seen the rest, but you're the best I'll see until I die.
You've learned your lessons well, my boy, and thanks a mighty heap,
But I've got ropers plenty, son, and though this rasslin' ain't much fun --
the job is yours to keep!"

© March 15, 1991, Dennis Gaines
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Song of the Brasada

The brasada (Spanish for brush country) is a vast, dark, and sometimes
mysterious region of South Texas. It has been said that every living thing
there, whether plant or animal, has a sticker, stinger or fangs. It is a
hard land that has destroyed those who could not cope with its demands and
has shaped and embraced those who learned to love it in kind.

He felt it then, and shivered.
Not, as he imagined, the pointed, grasping fingers,
But the smooth covering of a cold-hot river,
Passing over while the dampness lingers.

"Not yet, damn you, not yet;
I still have one more play.
It's nearly done, and you've won the bet,
But I'll have the final say."

The chill and empty darkness held him near
And brought the ring of spurs upon the floor.
A pleasing sound, but not the one he needed now to hear,
And then the gentle rapping on the door.

"Señor Tom, you are awake?" He heard the solemn query
Of his caporal, Francisco, whose life made him a brother.
Who stood beside his fading friend, now wasted, weak and weary,
One proud man in mourning for another.

Frank, my fine compadrè, bow your old gray head
And hear these words that fight for precious breath.
Too long I've been a prisoner of this damned infernal bed.
Grant to me one favor, that I might rest with Death."

Old Francisco crossed himself, the sign of Holy Trinity,
And swore he'd do what Tom O'Quinn might ask.
To ease the other's painful journey to infinity,
No consequence or danger would sway him from the task.

Said Tom, "Bring to me the wild ones, man, all the cimarrones
That range along the Lago del Cruzada.
Where the Gato Negro waters join the San Leones,
Take your brave vaqueros, man, into the dark brasada!

"Ride into the chaparral that hides the orejanos;
Leave only hair on the wicked coma thorns.
Sweep the broad senderos, the deep arroyos and the llanos,
And leave no shadows wearing twisted horns.

"Bring to me the shelly king that casts the inbred seed,
The cow that eats the pear in dappled light,
The calf that never felt the clutch of la reata's greed,
And the mossy-horns that only walk at night."

"Ah, mi Madre," prayed Francisco, and again he made the sign;
His boots spoke soft Amens upon the floor.
With hat in hand, he asked for guidance from the Great Divine,
While Tom O'Quinn did battle with the grim, impatient Whore.

Again he felt the presence like a weight upon his chest;
Its foul, decaying breath caressed his face.
He wondered if his dying strength was equal to the test,
And wished Francisco "Godspeed" on his race.

The soothing morning breeze stirred the window's skirts,
And rosy ribbons of growing eastern light
Played upon his vision as a faithless woman flirts,
While day's uncertain promise slowly closed the door on night.

Left alone with nothing more than memories and ghosts,
For eighty years he ran against the wind.
Scorned the world's conventions, proved up every boast,
Touched with man's nobility and marked by common sin.

He ran the Spanish cattle in the year of '42,
Still a boy by any estimation.
Breathed the air of freedom when the Lone Star proudly flew
In the sky of a bold and sovereign nation.

They caught the beasts and sold 'em for the tallow and the hides,
But it was all a game to Tom O'Quinn.
He wore his youthful armor with enthusiastic pride,
And thoughts of danger only made him grin.

Lived upon the monte in the days before the War,
Broke his bread with Dons and campesinos.
Drank the blood of bullocks in the ways of ancient lore,
And rode into his manhood on the backs of wild ladinos.

Fought to save the Union while his brothers wore the gray,
A wolf where others followed like the sheep.
The strength of his convictions took him through the darkest days,
And he never swore an oath he didn't keep.

Felt the drover's glory with the herds he pointed North,
But his heart remained below the green Nueces,
Where Longhorns by the millions roamed, and brave men sauntered forth
To test their nerves against the brute in hard and hidden places.

And then he felt the choking rush, with quick and cunning speed,
That stole his breath and filled the air with dread.
Not because he feared the clutch of Death's impatient greed,
But there was one task yet to do and words he'd left unsaid.

The heady scent of huisache blooms and honeysuckle vine
And dust upon the beams of morning sun
Swirled inside his fevered brain like agarita wine,
And again he dreamed of all the things he'd done.

Fought the flood and hurricane and droughts that scorched the earth,
Poverty and plague and prairie fires.
With horse and heart and hungry loop and snugged-up saddle girth,
He roped and tied and branded an empire.

Rode beside the Rangers for to civilize the land,
Made lust and murder yield to law and order.
Thieving whites, banditos brown, or red Comanche bands;
They knew his righteous wrath would give no quarter.

Like any man who ever breathed, he smelled the stink of shame,
For he lived his life in hard and desperate years.
There was that time on the Brazos when he used another name,
But those who know are buried now, and the river has shed her tears.

In climbing every mountain, he sometimes slipped and fell,
But he knew there only lived one perfect Man.
And he believed that life is Heaven in the shade of Hell,
The way it's been since mortal time began.

Then he felt the limits of his fading mortal strength
And saw the grinning Death's-head at his feet.
He knew his fragile human life had nearly run its length,
But Tom O'Quinn could not permit defeat.

And old Francisco split the brush and rang the distant trees;
His good vaquero band would prove their trust,
And not a creature left behind but ticks and flies and fleas,
And nothing else but tracks and sifting dust.

Tom O'Quinn held tightly on his last and toughest ride,
And dreamed of sweet Dorinda, Rose of Santillana.
Smiled because he stole the girl he wanted for a bride,
Took her from the house of Don Saldaña.

Don Carlos Saldaña was a name that most men feared,
But Tom O'Quinn was quite another breed.
He strode into the lion's den and pulled the old one's beard,
And plucked the fairest flower of his seed.

Don Carlos swore vengeance and a bounty on his head;
They robbed and burned and fought their bloody feud.
But that was finished long ago; now Don Carlos is dead,
And the life of Tom O'Quinn would soon conclude.

But fair Dorinda loved him and lay down by his side;
Lord, and that was sixty years ago!
Bore him two fine children; Tom bowed his head and cried,
The memories coming painfully and slow.

Sarita of the raven hair was still a virgin maid,
A coming woman's blush upon her cheek.
The damned Apaches took her in a swift and killing raid,
And Tom lived for the vengeance he would seek.

A tale is told in Texas of a fierce and burning quest,
The hunter and the hunted on the run.
A man gone mad who rode for days and nights without a rest,
And buzzards picking bones in the blazing sun.

Young Sarita felt no pain, her mind forever lost;
Her spirit soon escaped its broken cage.
His precious child had paid the price, a cruel and heartless cost,
And the wild brasada echoed with his rage.

"And Lucas, oh dear God, Luke, I see you standing straight and tall;
The picture in my mind is sharp and clear.
The bones of gray and brittle brush, when winter meets the fall,
Now thirty years ago, it seems so near!

"Your Spanish pony racing in the way of cowboy fun;
With quick and searching loop and reckless skill
You snagged your prize and laid the trip on half a wicked ton,
While I was watching proudly from the hill.

"And then, in silent horror, saw him turn and hook and drag,
And son, I couldn't reach in time to save.
Cut your shattered body loose and shot the killer stag,
With nothing left to do but dig the grave.

"Oh, Dorie girl, how could you leave?
For ten long years I've hurt and cried,
And no one here to comfort and console me when I grieve.
I wish you'd took me with you when you died."

This dark brasada gave so much and took so much away;
He'd lost as much as he would ever win.
And he knew then in the final moments of his dying day,
That all he'd leave were ashes on the wind.

He'd heard it said that men could see their lives in just a flash.
If that was true he must have done it wrong.
It seems that all he'd ever done was ramble, fight and crash,
And he knew, if he'd admit it, that he'd lived far too long.

This land he helped to settle was a strange and hostile place;
Men like him were outcasts, in a way.
To bankers, preachers, ribbon clerks and others of their race,
He was just an echo of the old, forgotten days.

As if in silent affirmation of his waning thoughts,
The beast returned and filled the air with gloom.
And Tom resigned his earthly soul, his struggles come to naught,
When old Francisco strode into the room.

"Señor Tom," again the words, "I have returned at last.
For you I rode through Hell's eternal fires.
My fine and noble horsemen have made a mighty cast,
And we await the word of your desires."

From deep within the shadowed realm where Tom O'Quinn had slipped,
A single, cooling ember caught and flamed.
Before it claimed another soul the shroud of Death was ripped,
And Tom returned to finish out the game.

"Frank, my faithful friend," his lips could barely form the spoken words.
"Just hold them while I'm dying, man; let the beauties sing."
Francisco shook his head and smiled at what his ears had heard,
Turned upon his booted heel and never said a thing.

And the sweet and earthy music that a cowman holds so dear,
Wafting on the breeze into the night,
Danced around Tom's fevered brow and played upon his ears,
And from his eyes shone restful peace and light.

The coughs and bawls and bellers and the bleat of wayward calves
Searching for their mothers in the mill,
Caught him up and gave to him a strength he didn't have,
A fit and lasting testament to one man's pride and will.

And in the shining twilight of his final day on Earth,
Tom O'Quinn in loud and lusty tones
Spoke a fond farewell to the land he'd loved from birth:
"Mi amor, mi corazon: Dorie, darlin', I'm comin' home."

© May 20, 1990, Dennis Gaines
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


caporal - cowboss
cimarrones - outlaw, wild animal
Lago del Cruzada - Lake of the Crusade
Gato Negro - blackjack, black cat
vaquero - cowhand
orejanos - long-eared (unmarked) cattle
arroyo - draw or gully
Ilano - plains
la reata - lariat, catch rope
monte - mountain
Don - title of respect
Campesino - peasant, man of the camp
ladino - sometimes refers to outlaw horses
Nueces - river in South Texas - marks the northern edge of the brasada
huisache - pronounced wee-satch
mi amor, mi corazon - my love, my heart




First of all, let me state unequivocally that I never lie. I am a cowboy. I have great reverence for the truth, and I simply improve upon it every chance I get.

            Been there, done that. I'm the hombre that line was written about. Heck, most of what I've seen and done ain't even happened yet, but that's another story. There's only been one like me, and even when I'm gone, I'll still be here. Webster's Dictionary gave up on definitions, just put my picture under every word that applies, includin' Tough, Salty, Proud, Hard, Bodacious, Courageous and Downright Contagious.

I come from a bad town, a mean neighborhood and the roughest street on both sides of the tracks. The farther back you go, the rougher it gets, and I live two houses past the very last one. I've only been hit one time in my life, and I made sure right then and there that that doctor never slapped another baby. There ain't but three other fellas in the world you could call really tough, and they never forget to send me birthday cards. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep, he checks his closet for me. If you can't find Waldo, just who the heck do you think he's hidin' from?

I can beat a brick wall in a game of tennis, throw a baseball farther than you can point, dive deeper, swim farther and come up drier than anybody who ever lived. I am amphibidextrous, which means I can swim underwater in both directions at the same time. I've rode anything with hair on it, and been everywhere, in or out of orbit, includin' a few places that don't exist anymore, like the Sahara Forest. Yeah, I know what you're thinkin', but that's because my daddy gave me a hatchet for my third birthday. Don't tell me about George Washington and his cherry tree.

I donate blood regularly. They don't use a needle. I just ask for a chainsaw and a bucket. Other men eat nails for breakfast. All my groceries come from Home Depot - except when I want sushi. Personally, I think a Great White Shark tastes like chicken, and so does a Komodo dragon. Just wring his neck and you got a right fine Sunday dinner.

The building trades association has honored me by changing the name of a key piece of construction equipment. From now on, when you remodel a house, you will not use a stud finder; you will use a Dennis Detector.

Those nice folks in Pamplona, Spain have invited me over to the Running of the Bulls for the past fifteen straight years. I always walk. Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Dennis Gaines pajamas.

I sailed solo around the world three times. First two were kind of boring, so the last time I sailed against the wind, just because I can. I can slam a revolving door, play the Minute Waltz in thirty seconds, calculate pi to the last digit, divide prime numbers evenly by two, and solve a Rubik's cube while simultaneously setting fire to an anthill with a magnifying glass - in the dark. I have counted to infinity - twice, and I have built the better mousetrap. Las Vegas doesn't let me gamble any more, because nobody else can hit a Blackjack with just one card. I always win at Solitaire, no matter how many cards are in the deck. I shoot dice on the telephone, and have never lost. I have won a staring contest against the tag team of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. It only takes me three games to win a best-of-seven tournament. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, I can hear the sound it doesn't make. I only cast a shadow when it suits me, and I do not perspire. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I know which came first, the chicken or the egg, and why the chicken crossed the road. Colonel Sanders got his eleven herbs and spices from me. He couldn't handle Number Twelve.

I have been Caller Number Nine and won the all-expenses paid vacation. I once ate three seventy-two ounce steaks at the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo. It took me an hour, only because I spent the first forty-five minutes flirting with the waitress.

I have been known to recite the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, while singing all four verses of the National Anthem simultaneously. I have wrangled reindeer for Santa Claus, skinny-dipped Niagara Falls, taught Pecos Bill the proper form for ridin' cyclones, and took the last chicken leg off the plate at a lumberjack convention. Been in places so hot a Gila monster would crawl into my campfire to shade up underneath the skillet. Heck, Satan tried to sneak into my shadow to cool down. He only did it once. Seen it so cold I had to snap off frozen lightnin' bolts to thaw out for cattle prods. Earthquake in California? I belch bigger than that, and Mt. St. Helens is a popgun compared to me passin' gas. Bigfoot mamas tell their babies bedtime stories about the tracks I laid in the woods.

I can lead a horse to water and make it drink. I cannot legally be tried by a jury; I have no peers. My bedroom eyes are registered as lethal weapons in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. I am the reason the Tower of Pisa leans, Texas chili has no beans, and the Chicago Cubs will not win the World Series until I say they can. I can build a barn, bake a cake, castrate a bull calf and perform neurosurgery without anesthesia, on myself, all with the same knife. I play concert level "Chopsticks" on the piano. That is, I play Brahms, Beethoven and Bach with chopsticks. Women swoon to my sensuous and Godlike riffs on the bagpipe and accordion.

I am the Undisputed, Heavyweight Calf-Rasslin' Champeen of the World, finest Acapulco style cowboy singer of all time, seventh grade spelling bee champ, two-time winner of the Rio Medina Ice Cream Crank-Off, Kerr County Fair Blue Ribbon Biscuit Baker, and the perennial master of the George West Storyfest Cakewalk. My prowess as a bronc rider for entertainment purposes is legendary, as are my innovative horse training techniques utilizing bungee cords. In the course of my illustrious career, I have broken broncs, palpated cows, wrestled bulls and romanced wild cowgirls, always heeding the Gaines family motto - Never let ignorance stand in the way of doing a job well . . . or badly.

I am the only person in history to receive a perfect score and extra credit on my SAT test. I am never Politically Correct: I am simply correct. The only mistake I have ever made is the one time when I thought I was wrong, but then it turned out that I was right in the first place, after all.

Children love me, dogs trust me, women want me. Mona Lisa started smiling after she met me. My picture is on a Wheaties box.

A rattlesnake wouldn't dare to bite me. If I spit on him, he dies. However, if I so choose to spit on you, you may rise up and cast off your infirmities. My saliva has been scientifically proven to cure whatever ails the human condition. Yay, verily, though you suffer from tuberculosis, anaplasmosis, coccidiosis, leptospirosis, halitosis, histoplasmosis, trichinosis or thrombosis, arthritis, bursitis, cystitis, dermatitis, fibrositis, mastitis, myelitis or prostatitis, toxemia, anemia, bulimia, tularemia, baldness, infertility, dropsy, scurvy, rabies, scabies, scrofulous organs, excessive flatulence, enlarged buttocks, acne, boils, hemorrhoids, blisters, wicked stepsisters, homeliness, stupidity, measles, mumps, chicken pox, smallpox, diseases of the glands, liver spots on the hands, shingles, tingles, dingleberries, dysentery, hangnails, ingrown toenails, devil's tail, forked tongue or the evil eye, this is the potion for you. My spit can make the blind walk, the lame to talk and the deaf to see.

Having delivered to you good folks my credentials, I must issue a disclaimer. Everything I say from here on out is the unvarnished truth. There has only lived one perfect man, and I am not Him, although we share a common aspect. On the day of Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Roman soldiers saw that the boulder had been rolled away from the Tomb. They peered inside, and as one voice proclaimed these words: "Behold, the Lord is gone!" And so am I! 

© Dennis Gaines, October 31, 2006
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 



A Life Well Lived

It's a blessin' and a curse to always be the restless one
Never knowin' where to bed down with the setting of the sun.
A tumbleweed keeps rollin', and a cowboy does the same,
'Cause a drifter don't take roots just by the changin' of his name.

And the long days stretch to longer nights, with just the lonesome breeze
That stirs the dust in faded tracks and ripples through the trees
Where the line shack stands a beacon and the distant memories roam,
And a cowhand's restless slumber takes him back again to home,

Where his mama waits with patient smile to greet her wayward boy.
And though her heart is aching, still she claims her greatest joy
Is the knowing that her ramblin' son is running strong and free.
And this, my friends, is what my gentle mother gave to me.

The strength and pluck to face the trials that make a boy a man,
The pride I've known from never quittin' any race I ran.
The grit and gravel in my craw when luck is hard to find,
And grace and heart and charity towards all humankind.

In the ovens of the tropics where the Devil bakes his prey,
I've stood the test and took his best and never backed away.
Tied hard to the bad ones, and I've rode the hurricane
On pitchin' beasts no man would ride if he had half a brain.

I've stood upon the bowsprit, and I've braved the Arctic gales,
And tripped the long-eared outlaw bull on rocky canyon trails,
Where a stumble is a lifetime flashing swift before your eyes,
And the brave men and the foolish know the truth and tell their lies.

I've trod this whole world over, and I've sailed the bounding main,
Broke my bread with strong and true, in desert sun and rain.
And every grand adventure, born of Bible or of sword,
Is a tribute to my mother, who lies sleeping with the Lord.

A tomboy who was more at home in jeans than in a skirt,
And she worked beside her daddy in that red West Texas dirt.
A true born native daughter of a hardy Texas line
That helped to build this rugged state; I'm proud to call them mine.

But, oh, I've heard the stories of my mother's sassy ways,
For it's said she was a beauty in her young and fancy days.
And she tantalized the schoolboys with her crinolines and lace,
But she remained a lady, walking hand-in-arm with grace.

When country called, she never shirked; she served this nation well.
She was proud to wear the uniform, and I am proud to tell
Anyone who'd care to listen that my mother did her duty,
And placed all others first. My friends, that was her greatest beauty.

She raised four sons and raised them well, and sacrificed her dreams,
Her hopes of grand adventure giving way to common themes,
Of home and church and school and toil with every breaking dawn,
And a husband who was always there, but just as quickly gone.

But never did she break her stride; she ran the worthy race
Through years of work and worry, and she kept a steady pace
And sweat and prayed and cried to keep her precious family fed,
Then pawned the heirloom silverware to buy our milk and bread.

She paid the fiddler when he played, and gave me every chance,
And when her heart had sung its tune, too quickly left the dance.
She left no strife or enemy upon this mortal sod.
And I am sure she's resting in the tender arms of God.

A cowhand is a lonesome critter, born and bred to roam,
Though a cowboy with a loving mother always has a home.
But it's a long trail and a hard one; it's a sweet and bitter story,
When a cowboy keeps on ridin' . . . and his mother's gone to glory.

Dedicated with love to the memory of my mother, 
Betty Lou Caton Gaines, 
a true daughter of West Texas


© Dennis Gaines, October 30, 2001 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


(This poem was the inspiration for our collection of poems
about Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms


On page 2:

To a Friend
A Saddle and a Dream
The Journey of Three-Fingered Jake
The Centaur's Better Half



SON-OF-A-GUN STEW:  A Texas Cowboy's Gather (CD)

(original cover art by D. L. Frazier)

In July 2004, Son of a Gun Stew won the
Academy of Western Artists' Will Rogers Award for Best Cowboy Poetry CD


This long-awaited CD includes a generous 70 minutes of of poems, stories, songs and more ("some sentiment and tradition and a whole lot of fun and outrageous humor," as described by Dennis).

Eight of the ten tracks are original works by Dennis Gaines: 

 1.  The Spandex Cowboy
 2.  New and Improved
 3.  Showdown in Matador
 4.  Settin' the Record Straight
 5.  Buck, the Musican Mule
 6.  Ernesto Galvan (Don Cadden)
 7.  Bungee Buckaroo
 8.  I'd Like to Be in Texas for the Roundup in the Spring (traditional)
 9.  A Life Well Lived
10.  Bueno Suerte

Celebrated as a top storyteller and poet, Dennis Gaines has a kind of disclaimer about his singing style, as he explains in his liner notes (titled "Ponderin's"): "...my authentic singing style, which is pure cowboy and done in the 'Acapulco' Style.  Some folks have claimed that the correct term is a cappella, which is Latin and means 'to sing without benefit of musical accompaniment.'  That may be true, but no cowboy of my acquaintance ever took any of his workin' vocabulary from the Latin language.  Most all of our gear, workin' methods and language was taken from the old Mexican vaqueros and Californios.  When old Sid told me that he liked my singing Acapulco, he actually meant that he wanted me to do my singing in Acapulco, or anywhere else besides the bunkhouse.  He told me that true cowboy singing is only done by 'them fellers that's swallered too much campfire smoke and trail dust,' and that 'Acapulco' is a corrupted version of a cappella and means 'to sing off-key and out of tune.' I am generally acknowledged as the finest 'Acapulco' singer in the world."

Dennis says: For those of you who might be interested in a new collection of stories or maybe just a fancy coaster for your drinks, here's the tally.  The CD sells for $15.00 plus state sales tax for Texas residents, plus $3.00 shipping and handling.  That's a total of $19.20 for Texas residents, and $18.20 for all others.  There is no additional postage for orders of 2-10 CDs.  included.  You can order directly from TeePee City Productions (details below).


Our April, 2003 review:

In one of his poems addressed to Ty Murray, Dennis Gaines writes "...I'll tip my hat to you. Congratulations, pardner, you are the very best at what you do."  And that's exactly what you'll feel like saying to Gaines himself after listening to his new CD, Son-of-a-Gun-Stew: A Texas Cowboy's Gather. Nobody does it better.

A natural-born storyteller and audience charmer, his complex and entertaining long rhymed poems and convoluted stories get you in his grasp from the start and leave you thinking that you were there, taking part in or at least observing the many hilarious and outrageous situations he creates.

In "The Spandex Cowboy," where the action takes place at Colonel Potter's Big Top Tent and Wrestling Rodeo, you'll have no problem visualizing the giants, midgets, dancing girls, and the "wrasslin' phenomenon" and "fearsome female specimen" Attila ("her mammoth girth stretched 'round the earth") who takes on cowboy Gaines. The completely satisfying listening experience makes
you wonder how much of what seems physical in his stage performances is really owed to his acrobatic wordsmithing.

Gaines creates an electricity with his sizzling rhymes and zany ideas. Texas A&M "aggies" are targeted more than once in this collection, and never better than in "New and Improved," which comes up with innovative ideas for genetic engineering for "customizin' critters."  "We'll do away with brandin' fires, just mark the chromosomes/ that brand will show up on her hide no matter where she roams."  "The steers will weigh six thousand pounds and thrive on cedar trees/ with testicles that grow in pods, just snap 'em out like peas."

There is no safety net, no clown, no protective headgear, and there's never any telling what Gaines has in store around the next corner of his verse. "Showdown in Matador" is an uproarious windy without a roadmap. It follows the exploits of an escaped steer as he weaves a riotous path of destruction through town, chased enthusiastically by hapless cowboys who thrill to the perfect combination of "a loose steer, a license to rope, and an audience."

Those poems, along with other side-splitting selections such as "Buck, the Musical Mule" and "Bungee Buckaroo" have you wondering if Gaines should really be allowed to run loose.

Gaines has heart as well.  His beautiful tribute, "A Life Well Lived," honors his mother who understood his cowboying ways: "It's a blessin' and a curse to always be the restless one/ Never knowin' where to bed down with the setting of the sun...A cowhand is a lonesome critter, born and bred to roam,/ Though a cowboy with a loving mother always has a home."  This poem and its back-up music, which never resort to a single sentimental cliché, will pull the heartstrings of the crustiest cowboy. Likewise, the final "Bueno Suerte" track shows his sensitive and serious side, impressive for its sincerity.

Carefully chosen music complements many tracks, and Gaines shows off his a cappella talents (his liner notes claim "I am generally acknowledged as the finest 'Acapulco' singer in the world."). The non "Acapulco" musical parts of the CD include Danny Hubbard on acoustic guitar; Milo Deering on fiddle, mandolin, and jew's harp; Tim Harris on harmonica; and Ron Dilulio on banjo.

Now here's a real cowboy who can spin stories, write humorous and serious poetry, sing (pretty well), honors his parents, loves his wife....maybe Texas A&M has been looking at the wrong genetic engineering subjects. On the other hand, the world may not be big enough for more than one talent the size of Dennis Gaines'.

Fans have been waiting for a new recording ever since the release of Gaines' celebrated Hapless Trails to You video. Son-of-a-Gun-Stew: A Texas Cowboy's Gather will certainly satisfy them, and also leave them waiting eagerly for the next offering from this master storyteller. 


We first got to know Dennis Gaines through his hilarious Hapless Trails to You, recorded live from the Diamond W.  It remains one of the most impressive performances we've seen. "Trouble's A Bruin" and "Ty Murray, Eat Your Heart Out" are included (reading them can't give an idea of what a pleasure it is to see this cowboy's show). Gaines says he worksto "expand the definition of cowboy entertainment to include full-fledged, colorful cowboy short stories" and his performance shows how he has mastered this art.  The original video version is just about out of print.  The 85-minute DVD is $19.20 for Texas residents, $18.20 for others, postage included.  You can order directly from TeePee City Productions (details below).

Dennis Gaines, TeePee City Productions, Hapless Trails to You


Ty Murray, Eat Your Heart Out
The Roundup
Trouble's A Bruin
The Undisputed, Heavyweight, Calf-Rasslin' Champeen of the World
Cowboy Coonhunt
Fleeting Glory
Palpatation Altercation


This audiotape includes a mixture of serious and humorous original poems and one traditional favorite, with musical scores on some of the cuts. It is 60 minutes in length. Total cost, including shipping and handling and state sales tax, is $11.12 for Texas residents, $10.50 for others.  You can order directly from TeePee City Productions (see below)


This 1990 book (TeePee City Publishing, Matador, Texas) is out of print and hard to find (we've seen it listed for well over $100 by used booksellers). It includes 35 poems and 28 works of art in pen-and-ink by Teresa Whitaker.  The cover art is by Windy Rainey Shannon.  Poems included are:

New Tradition
A Different Point of View
T. J., The Cowboy Kid
Silver Lady
Charlie Talks to God
Second Thoughts
Parson Braddock (Part 1 of 3)
No Second Chance
Cowboy Carousel
Dem Buckin' Bronco Blues
A Price to Pay
Attitude Adjustment
The Day I Met Einstein
Old Settlers
The Journey of Three-Fingered Jake
Saturday Reflections
The Centaur's Better Half
Scorpion Dance
Old and Honored (for Rosie)
Buzzard Buffet
Shufflin' Sam McGraw
The Preacher and the Man Who Wouldn't Talk
No Stayin' Sense
Howard and the Snake (A Puncher's Peril)
Yes Ma'am, I Ride Horses
Song of the Brasada
Cowpunchin' for Kodak
A Saddle and a Dream
Nasty Jack and Ol' Nuthin'
Where Do You Ride Now, Old Cowboy?
Angels Could Do No More
Settin' the Record Straight
For God and Katie






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