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



Short Cut

Short Cut is a bucking horse,
and about as mean as anything you've ever seen.
He always starts and he stays the course
totally rank and every second in the saddle obscene.
Side winding sucker'll switch to pile driving and then go spinner,
separating you from saddle and proving you're no gold buckle winner.
Laying there, all those stars floating around,
you getting real intimate with that rodeo ground,
knowing you're at least half dead,
and wondering if they can reattach your head,
then you hear the bull fighters start to pray
cause old Short Cut is coming back your  way
to stomp you into the fairground sod
and put you up face to face with God.
At first you think it's just a nightmare you're dreaming
that is 'til you hear the buckle bunnies screaming
and last you saw of that horse he was up in the saddle with the pickup man.
Though you've been dusted and everything is busted, you can stand!
And run!  No one in the stands would've believed you could run.
And fly!  Over the fence an eye blink ahead of that son of a gun.
No moral tales.  No tales of gold buckle glory.
Just simple description and simple prescription:
You draw Short Cut and the story gets gory.
Listen up lad! My advice is worth trusting.
Give 'em back that number and throw in for the mutton bustin'.

June 2000, “Doc” Dale Hayes, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

The challenges and circumstances confronting the women who went with their cowboy husbands into the west before the turn of the 20th century demanded a quality of human being worthy of respect then and now.  This poem is based on words from an old timer at the Rawlings, Wyoming Gathering.

The Woman's Side of the Story

She had tended the fire but now it burned low
As the oil lamp in the window reflected the snow.
Six times now she had sat there 'til late in the night
And each morning she had awakened with first light.
He said he would return seven days now gone by
and with each passing hour she struggled not to cry.
The snows were early and so much was to be done,
Her help so little she being so big with their first one.
She'd begged him not to go,
what with the dark skies, the sprinkles of snow,
but he'd said they needed the meat
so he'd kissed her, said "... stay warm and sweet".
An elk or two was needed to get them through
and he rode off after piling up extra firewood
and doing all he could
to be sure she would be O. K.
Sleeping in the chair as the seventh dawn came,
waking when she thought he'd called her name,
She threw the door open onto a bright sunny day.
There under the shed roof stood his old bay,
reins dragging, saddle empty, all covered with snow.
Her heart broke as her vision dropped to below,
seeing the boot, spur snagged tight in the cack,
she knew then that he would never be coming back.
How would she survive?
How could she keep herself and her baby alive?
What would she do?
Her body told her soon she'd be fending for two.
She looked up into the Big Horns and on into the sky
and knew, that in God's Grace, she must get by.
She persevered, not one day did she ever quit,
She hung on and kept  on and stuck to it,
Battered by life and circumstances til she was worn,
never giving up as her lonely journey started the day my Grandpa was born.

2000 D.Hayes/All Rights Reserved/Assigned to Alberta Cowboy Poets
Association for publication in ACPA Poetry Anthology II to be published by
Hancock Publishing.
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


In winter, 1969, two friends and I were hunting grizzlies on the south shore of the Lesser Slave Lake in Northern Alberta. We rode down off of a ridge and through what remained of an abandoned ranch.  The barn was tumbled in, the fences down and the old log style house stood open to those winds that never cease.  One of my hunting partners had ranched near there for a number of years.  He told us the story of the family that had homesteaded there many years before.  This is their story.

Blowing Snow

On the Lesser Slave I froze. I'm here to tell you how I froze.
You know you just can not believe how cold that wind blows.
At 45 below the moaning of the wind becomes a living mournful noise.
Elizabeth Anne left me and she took the the little girl and the boys.
And our cabin became a cold and dead thing,
As cold and as lonely as when the wolves sing
The news of the death of a rider on the ice whose horse has broken through
Or when starvation takes another Indian at the reserve on the Louchoux.

On the Lesser Slave, I froze.  Oh let me bear witness how I froze.
The cheap whiskey took my mind and the ice took my fingers and toes.
I forgot about my cattle and I drove my horses away.
I was drunk through each night and slept through most of each day,
My lips frost bit and the cold sealed up my mouth
While I laid in my buffalo robes and ached for the woman who'd gone south.

I guess I would have died wrapped in self pity and buffalo hide
Except Rupert Broken Leg Wolf and his new Hobema wife
Came by, looking for a place to get warm, and they saved my life.
They started up the fires and they pulled me back into my head,
Though now I curse them when the memories flood back and I'm almost dead
For want of that woman, when the wind blows,
And the memory of her drifts about me like the blowing snows.

1975 D. Hayes, All rights reserved renewed 2001
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


The Modern Day Value of the Tom Mix Ranch

Down at the Prescott Gathering, summer of '98
I met a right decent feller with an interesting tale to tell
Of the practical jokes played by Old Lady Fate.
He's an Eastern feller, who had done right well
but the life he figured would be best
was to own a ranch somewhere in the West.
So, he packed up and moved to Prescott, in Arizona, you know.
Up there out of the desert and below the real heavy snow.
Bought the ranch built by the olden day cowboy hero named Mix
and started painting and fixing what was needed to fix.
It went fine, except for Tom's old barn, a real tumble down eye sore.
So the Easterner picked up his sledgehammer and waded into the chore.
One day, he was hammering when a delivery fellow came out from town,
dropped off some boxes and stayed on looking around.
"You really want that old barn down, Mr. K?"
"Darn right!  In the worst way!"
"Tell you what." the young feller said, "I need old wood,
So, I'll tear it down and not one penny will you pay.
I'll haul it off and clean it up good."
My friend said, "Sound's good!" and soon the barn was gone
and Mr. K. had an unrestricted view and a beautiful lawn.
He felt a little guilty on how easily he had gotten it down,
Or, at least he did, until a year later on a trip into town.
He'd stopped, just for something to do,
In a Western Art gallery to look for a picture or two
to hang on his ranch house wall.
There was a big beauty with trees, cows, riders and all
with a little sign that said "Western Scene" by J. B. McCall.
Framing from the barn built by "...great western movie star
and member of the Rodeo Hall of Fame..."
Picture $400.00   $800 for the frame.  

2001, D. Hayes, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Like Water and the Duck's Back

"This past year, we pastured a young bull we nicknamed 'Dumb-Cluck'.
Thinking back on it, I think he thought he was grandson to a mallard duck,
'Cause he was always doing things that a bull doesn't usually do.
Like wading out in to our hard bottomed slough
And settling down in it 'til all you could see was his head.
First time I saw him out there I thought he was drowned and dead.
All his ladies were collected there on the bank
Watching him soak up water like a gold fish in a big tank.
I didn't know he was only in there taking a bath
And that in an hour or so he'd wander off up the path
To the high pasture and the deep sweet brome grass
Where he would stretch out with his ladies and just watch time pass.
I believed fully young Dumb-Cluck was truly in deep distress,
Mired down, sinking fast and my responsibility to get him out of that mess.
So I grabbed some twine and headed for the gate
To save young Dumb-Cluck from his watery fate.
Now, you've got to see the picture and keep it in your mind
'Cause if you look closely, I'm sure there's humour you'll find
In one dumb bunny racing to save a Dumb-Cluck
By pulling him out of the water with just a little Ford truck.
However, when I hit the barn all the vehicles were gone but the Honda Big Bear.
The vehicle remuda was empty. There was nothing there
And no time for saddle or halter.
I had to get out there and save that poor bull from drowning in that water.
So, the Honda and I roared down the road and through the pasture gate,
Our pressing mission to save a young bull from a watery fate.
It was clear the heifers were most disconcerted over their impending loss
But I had no time for them and I scattered them Angus cross
As I dismounted that Honda on the run,
Twirling my loop getting ready to save that son of a gun,
I settled it down right over his head.
There was no way I'd let him drown and go belly up dead.
The moment my string hit his horns he went in to motion,
Like some old Greek god rising up out of the ocean.
He was right 'ticked-off' at me disturbing him in his tub
And came after me like a wolf after a sheep
Or a Momma bear after a critter messing with her cub.
Fortunately, I had waded out just a little way, only hip deep,
And had left the Honda setting there at idle
So when I hit the saddle, with the bull on my tail,
I let the Big Bear have it's bridle
And we hit the wrangler retreat trail,
That bull and us scattering flies and tramping down the brome.
So I was mighty fortunate to stay alive and be here to write this poem.
Get the picture: a dumb bunny on a Big Bear being chased by a "Dumb-Cluck,"
Observed closely by a crew of hefty heifers glad their boy friend was unstuck.
We went up and down that grass three or four times 'til his energy began to fade
And I am telling you pard, that was the wildest ride I ever made.
So, now when I go past and old Dumb-Cluck is neck deep in that slough
I just thumb my nose and yell "Go ahead and drown and to heck with you!"

2001, D. Hayes, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Accuracy in the Medium

"He said he was a cowboy poet and I guess he looked the part.
He walked the walk and he talked the talk,
'Cause when he recited it came from down deep in the heart.
He thrilled the crowds and gloried in the thunderous applause,
Whether he was roping the bear or pulling the thorn out of the cougar's claws.
He excelled at heading the herd and doing all that
While his wild rag flapped in the wind and he waved his Stetson hat.
He was "cowboyed up" and he swore he could put the bacon in the pan.
I believed him, until I heard him orating on
About the renegade steer that was untouched by human hand!"

  2001, D.Hayes, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


In Spite of All!

My old buddy and I have been pards for over 50 years.
Back then, we rode out as young waddies together.
Wintered in the mountains, brush busted for renegade steers,
And hunkered down long term in line shacks in rugged weather.
Rodeo'd together and visited one another in the ICU.
Hunted, fished, and chased pretty women in little towns.
It was, and is,  a good friendship, strong and true.
Why, we even finished up together as rodeo clowns.
Now sitting here in this retirement home playing cards
We've got much to remember and jaw about.
Just two old cowboys who are long term pards
One kind of skinny and the other going stout.
But I must admit I am feeling a deep kind of shame,
For darn my hide, no matter how hard I try,
I can not remember my old pard's name.
"Amigo, I am embarrassed as a man caught in a lie.
I can not think of what you are called!"
My mind has gone blank and there's just nothing there
To get it started.  It is just plain stalled!"
So my old friend just sits there giving me an awful glare
And responds: "You old dingle berried crow!
That's an awful thing to do, considering all we've been through!
And for that matter, how soon do you need to know?"

With thanks to Bill Morse for the idea.
2001, D. Hayes, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



Your First Ride on a One Man Merry Go 'Round
(The Sloan's Liniment Archives)

Remember first you ever held a horse's head while your pard tended to the"kack"
and found yourself swinging in circles like a one man merry go round,
coming loose, coming down and coming to think of a broken back?
Pulling yourself up, swaying, wondering what was moving the ground
But knowing your job and knowing you had to get to it
You grabbed him once again, held on 'til your pard was able to do it.
There that horse stood, shivering all over, and shaking like a leaf.
Saddled for the first time, eyes glaring, hating you boys for putting it on
Promising you in that moment how he was going to give you grief.
In that glare, you knew he was wishing you to Hell and gone.
Your pard caught him, and then, with silent prayer, you swung up in the saddle
And raked hard, scratching tracks from neck to rump and back to neck.
Pile driving, spine crunching ride that caused your bones to rattle.
And ended in a dust cloud and an awe inspiring example of a goodly wreck,
That horse down on his side, hard, your leg pinched deep in the corral dirt.
You weren't dusted. You rode him down. You were bruised but not really hurt.
He staggered up and trotted, you can still see that trot, saddle dragging, blowing snot,
Trying to bite them on the rails and stopping over to the other side of that pen.
Glaring back, same as telling you "Come on, Cowboy! You ain't got it to do it again!"
That night, in your bunk, you contemplated the stink of Sloan's Liniment and a thousand aches,
You pushed past your pain and thought: "Horse you were wrong. I got what it takes!"
And you still remember what the foreman said, 'fore he blew out the coal oil light.
"You did a good job, kid, with that horse today. Yep! You did all right!"

  Dale "Doc" Hayes 4/2002. All Rights Reserved
(Dedicated to Sunny Hancock)
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

Doc told us: "Back when I was a young feller in Flagstaff, Arizona in the mid '40s, my Dad used to do business with the Kellum Ranch near there.  I used to ride along with him and that is where I got my first interests in cowboy stories and poetry.  Many years later, when I was first getting into cowboy poetry, I was introduced to Sunny Hancock, by way of Chris Isaacs. In talking with Sunny I found he had started out with the Kellums and as Sunny and Chris have been two of my main inspirations, I occasionally run a poem for one or the other of those two fine poets and great examples of what this trade is all about.  This poem is a reflection on some of my own experiences many, read that many/many, years ago, before I settled in and became a university professor but it really reflects on the generation just before me and is written as a tribute to those cowboys I used to dream of becoming when I was a young feller." 


Summer Pasture

Old catamount lies up a top a granite rock and casts a hungry eye on that summer stock
Out there in the summer pasture.

Mares with foals and the herd boss' crew gives him pause as he knows what they can do
Out there in that summer pasture.

Once in younger life he'd been kicked and struck and he remembers his big cat's luck
Out there in a summer pasture.

When a herd boss and crew caught him cold when he tried to take a pinto foal
Out there in a summer pasture.

He still bears scars from when twelve to one, those mares and stallion put him on the run
In that summer pasture.

Thinks about what he can do up there high where the mountain scrapes the sky,
Way above the summer pasture.

So he takes his scarred and scraggly hide and goes up where no cowhand can ride,
Far from the summer pasture.

The herd grazes content in tall green grass, getting fat and watching time pass,
Living good in the summer pasture.

I take my eye off the rifle scope and watch that old cat move away at a lope,
Away from the summer pasture.

My Savage slides back in the leather and I look to the West to check the weather
Moving toward the summer pasture.

Better get up my lean to and collect some sticks, stir up a fire and see what I can fix
For supper above the summer pasture.

First I'll feed and water Ranger and Old Bob, good old horses for a hard old job,
Checking the summer pasture.

I'll fix some bacon and biskits and some coffee and enjoy as good as it gits,
Minding the summer pasture.

I'll be in my soogan, rolled up tight, sound asleep before the rain falls tonight,
On the summer pasture.

Tomorrow, if things go the way they should I'll ride through the aspen wood
To the next summer pasture.

There we built a little tar paper shack and it'll be good to be getting back
To that summer pasture.

There I'll sleep on an old army bed and on goose down pillow I'll rest my head
Tomorrow night in a summer pasture.

Next morning, I'll check to make sure the cows and calves haven't come to grief
In that summer pasture.

How can you explain how good it is, living this way?
Out there, you and your horse, at the break of day,
Tending the summer pasture.

Blessed of God in a most uncommon and special way,
Free as it is possible to be in this modern day,
Tending the summer pasture.

  2004, Dale "Doc" Hayes. All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


The Day Old Ned Learned to Fly

It was a hot August, late summer, 1899,
and things on the 2BarH were going right fine.
My father was a young feller just pushing nine years
And getting his first learning about horses and steers.
The 2BarH, truth be told, was more farm than ranch
As grandpa ploughed 400 acres on Codeaway Branch.
That Saturday afternoon, grandma was using a wooden spoon
To stir up an apple pie when grandpa shouted, pointing up to the sky,
As it turned black and a roaring twister touched down
And where outhouse had stood was just a hole in the ground.
2 hired hands, six kids, grandpa and wife in the storm cellar
listening to the big whirlwind rip, snort, shreik, and beller.
My Dad put his eye to a crack in the storm cellar door
to watch the barn fly away leaving nothing but plank floor.
In the corral, riding horses and the Percherons Nell and Ned
Had watched the storm a coming with terror and dread.
Old Ned, a placid, gentle fellow weighing up near a ton,
Had got kind of owly when he saw what the twister had done
And started off at a Percheron trot when the wind made a decision
To pick him up gently and with studied simple precision
Teach Old Ned the basics of introductory flight.
First it was level flying and then gentle turns to the right.
As he made a trip around what had been barnyard,
With the wind keeping it simple, nothing really hard,
And then came basics of rapid ascent and up Old Ned went
Like a bottle rocket as gently he spun in the tornado's pocket.
The twister observin' closely how well Ned had done
Next taught him spins and a hundred feet off the ground he spun.
Then with practiced ease that twisted ornery wind
Decided that it was about time for the lesson's end
But first Old Ned needed to learn about acrobatic flight
So a simple barrel roll, a loop the loop and a hard wing over to the right
Followed by inverted-that's upside down-descent to just off the ground
And an approach stall that left Ned deposited gently on a mound
Of barn shoveling and stable sweepings flat on his back
All four feet in the air and leaning against the tool shack.
Well that feisty wind had rearranged the 2BarH just a might
But the house was untouched and the cattle were all right.
It took grandpa quite a while to get Ned upright;
Even with Nell comin' over and helpin' with a nip and a bite.
In a week or two Ned was pretty much him self once again,
That is until he was pulling a wagon and it started to rain.
When the wind proceeded to blow and frisk up quite a bit
He simply laid down and started blowing bubbles and spit.
To Ned it was obvious it was same as that August day
And he was convinced the wind was coming back to say
He was slated for advanced flight training, to ascend like before
So Old Ned laid down. He didn't want to fly any more.
He laid there 'til the rain and the wind were past, shivering
And 'til his dying day, when rains came, he was a short ton of quivering
Great big gentle horse who, against his will, had learned to fly
Four years before the Wright brothers made their first try.

2004, Dale "Doc" Hayes. All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

Doc told us what inspired this poem: "It is based on my father's viewing of a flying lesson given to a Percheron, owned by my grandfather, when a tornado tore their ranch apart in 1899."

Read "Doc" Hayes' A Gift for Mary Lou, posted with other Holiday 2000 poems.



About "Doc" Hayes:

"Doc" Hayes is a professor at a public university in Manitoba, Canada.  He runs a small grazing operation for cattle of relatives and neighbors back in the bush near Nesbitt, Manitoba and, each year travels to different gatherings and poetry festivals around North America.  Way back when, he tried rodeoing for a while but a blindbucker convinced him he was a school teacher and so since those many years ago his non-job focus has been on studying and recording tales of the cowboy way. He came by his love of western storytelling and cowboy poetry as a result of sitting in on bunk house bull sessions in Northern Arizona back in the late '40s.  For over forty years he has collected cowboy stories and remembrances of Canadian and American cowboys that often serve as a basis for his poetry.  He has had several books of poetry, academic and western, published and his recent cd-rom Conversations With an Old Horse is made up of his own original poetry and several selected stories of the "Old West," backed up by several good traditional western musicians.  He can be reached at or at

A video, Cowboy Poets-Minstrels of the West features "Doc" Dale Hayes and our Honored Guest Mike Puhallo  along with other talented folks.  Read all about it here.




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