About Don Kennington
Poems
Books and Recordings
 


1931-2015

His many friends mourn the passing of cowboy poet, farrier, and all-around nice guy Don Kennington on January 1, 2015.

An obituary here tells that Don was born in 1931 in a two-room cabin Star Valley, Wyoming, the second of six children. He became a farrier shoeing over 33,000 horses in his 37-year career. Don was a popular performer at cowboy poetry gatherings, often accompanied by his wife Arlene and often performing with his brother, Phil.

A January 4, 2015 article here in the Standard Examiner, "Friends honor, remember legendary Utah cowboy poet," quotes his long-time friend, Stan Tixier, "The thing most impressive about Don is he didn't know how much he was well known, well liked, and famous locally. He was a humble kind of guy."

 

About Don Kennington 

Don Kennington's official biography is predictably humble:

Don was born and raised on a Idaho/Wyoming cow ranch where he herded cattle 20 years for the Bear Lake Cattle Association. He moved to Ogden, Utah where he was a horseshoer for 40 years, shoeing over 33,000 horses. He has been a Cowboy Poet 25 years, writing and performing his own poetry from coast to coast.

Few men can claim as many friends.  He is one of the best-loved and most talented poets in the West.  

He has been a sought-after performer at gatherings, has won numerous awards, and has been featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

We are pleased to have some of his most-requested poems.

Poems

Shoeing Ol' Rivet

The Last Nail

Woman of the West

 

Shoeing Ol' Rivet

I thought I'd shoe Ol' Rivet
    and save a little dough.
At the price they charge for shoeing
    that's the smartest way to go.

But when I told the wife my plan
    she got plumb agitated.
She said that me and part of Rivet
    are probably related.

But those other doggone shoers,
    they charge forty bucks or more.
So, I'm going to shoe Ol' Rivet
    'cause it makes me kind of sore.

They way they strut and carry on,
    like they're the hero of the earth.
And then they charge you forty bucks.
    Why that's more than shoeing's worth.

It really can't be too hard.
    I'll just get a shoeing book
that shows you how to trim the foot
    and lists the tools it took.

Boy, those tools are sure expensive
    but I'll earn the money back.
I'll shoe some nags for other folks
    so I can pay for all this tack.

I tied Ol' Rivet in the shade
    and laid my tools in a line.
Folks could pay out forty dollars
    but I'd investing mine.

The wife said, "Don't let Rivet hurt you,
    and be careful what you say.
I've put the paramedics on alert
    and sent the kids away.

I'll park the car out by the road
    so that if anything goes wrong.
We can get you to a doctor
    without taking very long.

I'll take a roll of pictures
    of you shoeing Rivet's foot
for your obituary
    or Mr. Ripley's record book."

I said, "No need to worry dear.
    If you look you'll see a man.
And I can shoe Ol' Rivet
    as good as any shoer can."

Then I picked Ol' Rivet's foot up
    just like the pictures showed me to
and clamped my knees around it
    just like  real shoers do.

Then Ol' Rivet, he starts leaning
    right flat down on me.
And sweat starts running in my eyes
    until I can hardly see.

My arms are getting tired
    and my old knees start to shake.
I feel a hernia coming on
    and I think my back will break.

Ol' Rivet's legs are awful short.
    I have to lift him up real high
And in about a half a minute
    I think I'm goin' to die.

I finally had to drop his foot
    so that I could get my wind.
But I said "Ol' Rivet's tired
    so I'm just sort of resting him."

I started nailing once again.
    Oh, my back was aching bad.
Then I realize I'm holding
    all the weight Ol' Rivet has.

And boy that horse is heavy.
    He must weigh at least a ton.
He's got four legs sticking down
    but he's got all his weight on one.

While the wife is taking pictures
    She said, "I'd like a happy one.
Look up at me and smile
    like you're having lots of fun".

I said, "I ain't got time to pose.
    Can't you see I'm busy here?
If you want to make me smile
    go kick Ol' Rivet in the rear."

Then I got a bright idea
    about something I can do
to make his legs seem longer
   So they'd be easier to shoe.

I went and got some cinder blocks
    and stood him up on them
Then bowed my aching back
    and started nailing once again.

But he'd hop off the cinder blocks
    while I was nailing on a shoe.
So I was trying to think of
    something else that I could do.

Then from the corner of my eye
      I saw Mama's big strong maple tree.
And suddenly a great idea reached out 
       and grabbed a-hold of me.

And so I got a tow rope
    from the trunk of Mama's car
and threw it over that big limb
    that stuck out pretty far.

I tied Rivet to the maple tree
    underneath that big strong limb.
And went and got those cinder blocks
    and stood him up on them

I tied the rope around Ol' Rivet
    and the limb of that big tree.
If  he steps off those cinder blocks
 he ain't a-goin' to fall on me.

And then I picked a foot up and
   and started nailing on a shoe.
While Rivet's trying to figure
    something stupid he can do.

I got three shoes nailed on him
    when he starts to shift around.
But with the rope and cinder blocks
    he can't even reach the ground.

But the cinder blocks tipped over,
    left Rivet hanging in the air
And I'm wondering if he's eligible
    to file for medicare.

Cause he's  having trouble breathing
    and I ain't sure just what to do.
I hope he ain't a dyin'.
    He'd be wasting three new shoes.

Then I got a great idea.
    I put the nails in a shoe
And I slid it under his bare foot
    and cut the rope in two.

When Rivet fell down from the limb
    he landed squarely on the shoe.
The nails stuck right up through his
     foot just like they were supposed to do.

I hunkered over then and there
    And clinched the nails tight
and Rivet had his brand new shoes.
    And I had finally won the fight.

Next time I'll call the shoer.
    Heck, forty bucks ain't much.
It ain't half of what they charge you
    for a cat scan and a crutch.

Mama's got a yard sale going on.
    She's got shoeing tools cheap.
Why they've only been used once.
    They were brand new just last week.

1995, Don Kennington
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

The Last Nail

There's pain a throbbing in my back.
Sometimes my knees are stiff and sore.
Guess I'd better see the doctor
Don't get around good any more.

But, I know just what he's going to say,
"You've got to quit that shoeing Don.
I know it's something you enjoy
But you've been doing it too long.

But he just doesn't understand
That it's the center of my life.
I love it more than anything
Except the kids and my dear wife.

'Cause when I'm under that ol' hoss,
I'm just as good as any one.
Those folks think that I'm important
We laugh and joke a-having fun.

I've been out there shoeing horses
And making friends  o'er thirty years.
And when Doc says, I ought to quit
I start a fighting back the tears.

'Cause I love a shoeing horses.
Yeah, I suppose that sounds kind of dumb
But then I feel good inside
That's when I really am someone.

My shoeing friends don't laugh at me
And they don't call me stupid names.
They treat me like I'm one of them.
They act like we're all just the same.

And when I see them somewhere else
They usually honk and wave at me.
And so I grin and wave them back
Then I feel good inside you see?

We're supposed to tend God's creatures.
But some folks get a little rough.
That's when some of God's creatures
Live a life that's pretty tough.

Like when you walk up to a pony
And he's a-shaking like a leaf.
You whisper and you scratch him,
Ain't hard to tell he's had some grief.

And you keep scratching and a-whispering
'Cause you're trying to be a friend
And that pony starts to relax
And he starts to comprehend.

Finally that pony licks his lips
And you can feel him settle down.
Then you won't have any trouble
Working his feet up off the ground.

And when that pony walks away
His legs are swinging straight and true.
And it really is amazing
At what a little love can do.

Oh, it hasn't been all roses,
But for the most part it's been fun.
I've met a lot of real, nice folks
And come to love near everyone.

Yeah, I've been kicked and knocked around
By horses been abused a lot.
That's when you've gotta keep yer cool,
Use all the patience that you've got.

So let me drive just one more nail
And snug that shoe down good and tight.
My back is hurtin some
But I've just got to do it right.

"There now.  That's a little better.
That pony's ready for the trail.
But I won't be coming back
'Cause I've just driven my last nail."

1998, Don Kennington
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Woman of the West

With two young boys riding the pack horse
  and the younger one clinging behind
She led them off down the long canyon
  while memories raced through her mind.

Her cowboy was out working cattle,
  he'd be back in a couple of days.
But groceries were short at the cabin
  and town was off quite a long ways.

So she'd caught and saddled the horses
  and turned the calf out with the cow.
She had learned to solve her own problems,
  and she'd managed right well up to now.

Her dads' ranch was down this long canyon,
  they'd stay with her folks there tonight.
Then tomorrow she'd ride in for groceries
  and return to his ranch before night.

She said, "Boys, we're about out of groceries,
  so we're going to town for some more.
We'll stay down at Grandpas' tonight,
  and tomorrow I'll ride to the store.

Next day we will load up the horses
  Phil and Donald can ride on the pack.
LaVell can ride up here behind me,
  dad might be here before we get back.

The trail is easy to follow,
  except where it crosses the creek.
But you boys are pretty grown up now,
  you're four and you're five and you're six."

Then she thought of her cowboy out yonder,
  she wondered what he's doing now.
She hoped someday things would get better,
  they could have their own cow ranch somehow.

She was only sixteen when she met him,
  but magic was there from the start.
This cowboy that lived on his homestead
  had kindled a fire in her heart.

She was helping to cook for a hay crew
  when this cowboy rode up to the door.
They felt as they looked at each other
  something they'd not felt before.

He asked her if he could come calling,
  she nodded and looked at the ground.
He knew that this raven haired beauty
  was the girl that he wanted around.

But the season had faded so quickly,
  soon the frost and the cold stung the air.
She moved with her family to Bear Lake
  and left him alone way up there.

When spring finally came to the mountains
  and her dad moved them back to his ranch,
Her cowboy was still there a waiting
  and they knew this might be their last chance.

So they knelt at the altar together
  and they pledged to each other their love.
They asked for a sealing from heaven
  with the blessing of Him up above.

She moved with her man to the homestead,
  where they worked, they prayed and they tried.
But their ranch was too small for a living,
  their homestead too small to provide.

So they leased it out to her father,
  whose ranch was just off to the west.
And took a job back in the mountains,
  cowboying was what he did best.

They moved up there into a cabin
  with a bubbling spring in the trees,
And snow covered peaks in the distance
  and a warm gentle, soft, summer breeze.

Soon three children were born of this union,
  three boys born just short months apart.
And the cabin was filled with their children,
  the family they'd planned from the start.

They stayed at her parents that evening
  and talked 'round the coal oil light.
But she was off riding at sun up
  so she'd be back before it was night.

She went to the store for the groceries
  and loaded them on the pack horse.
Then headed on back toward the mountains
  that pulled like a magnetic force.

She got back to her dads' about sundown.
  She was glad to get out of the town.
That's where she had finished her schooling,
  but there were too many people around.

Next morning she caught up the horses
  and they waved her parents goodbye,
and started back up the long canyon
  fighting the tears in her eyes.

When they got back in sight of the cabin,
  she smiled and she patted her hair.
There was smoke curling out of the stove pipe
  and she knew that her cowboy was there.

Those three boys were me and my brothers.
  That old cabin is still there today.
Thought it's weathered and broken and crumbling
  and our mother has since passed away.

We revere the things that she taught us
  and the heritage that we possess.
We cherish and honor our mother,
  a real woman of the west.

1992, Don Kennington
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Read Don Kennington's Preparation, posted with other Christmas 2004 poems

and

read Only a Cowboy Knows, by Don Kennington and Andy Nelson

from the Academy of Western Artists' Cowboy Poetry/Songwriting Team Roping Challenge

 

Books and  Recordings

You can email your orders.

 

CDs

The Last Nail, recorded in 2004 with 31 poems:

 

includes:

Shoeing Ol' Rivet
Home-made Appy
Indian Rock
My Reverie
For a Dime
A New Friend
Sophistication
"Oops"
Thanks
The Breakdown
Cowbonics
Angel Dust
Primal Cowboy
Ol' Buck
The Runaway
Deception
Clip & Clop
6 Minutes 45 Seconds
Happy New Year Darlin'
Moving Down
Preparation
Harv, My Dad
The Rescue
Dreaming
The Lesson
Drought of '94
Conclusions
Roast Pork
Son-In-Law
Education
The Last Nail

 

 

Tales of Whoa, recorded in 2003 with 35 poems:

includes:

The Apparatus
Them Cows
Priority
Cindy
Spring Creek Roundup
Thief
Ol' Dobbin
Billy Boy
New Jersey
Monster
Trigger
Ol' Stupid
Jack and Jill
Modern Miracles
Fly Spotters
Teaching
Shopping
Amy
Payback
The Gate
Ol' Darling
Ol' Bunnion
Quills
Fair Trade
Good Things
Cowboy Futures
Real Heroes

 

Books

  Don Kennington's poetry is included in many anthologies and he and his brother Phil Kennington have co-authored five books.  The books are called Trail Dust, and volumes II, III, IV and V are available for $10 each plus $1 postage per book.  

Trail Dust V includes:

By Don Kennington:

Son-in-Law
The Mugwump
Home Made Appy
Cowbonics
The Vote
Deaming
The Lesson
A New Friend
For a Dime
Moving Down
The Break Down
The Alteration Altercation
Preparation
Happy New Year Darlin'
Passing On
Sophistication
Thanks
Confession
Angel Dust
Baiting Your Trap
Fences
Education
Deer Me
Roast Pork
Subtle Senses
Real Cowboys
Mervin's Boots
Primal Cowboy
Freedom?
Oops
Ol' Buck
The Runaway
Hammer Blows
Communication
Your Hero?
Harv, My Dad
Things of Worth
Goodby My Friend
Solution
The Last Nail

 

By Phil Kennington:

Shortcut Man
Buryin' Ole Betsy
Bubba Got on TV
A Cowboy's Last Airplane Ride
Cowboy's On a Fox Hunt
Four Way By-Pass
The Old Timer
Camp Cook
Friends, Thank You Kindly
Cowboy Fix-it Man
Cowgirls Keep Score
Christmas in Pickleville
Please Hurry
Aunt Mavis
Springtime in Wyoming
Texas Tornado
Bad Eyes and Calving
Rodeo Queen
Family Reunion
Don't Go Ropin' Cows With Bob
The Enforcer
The Old Days and the New Ways
The Talkin' Mule
Timed Events
Sleepin' in the Desert
Last Week
The Old Hereford Cow
Good Ole Balin' Twine
New Wranglers
Cowboy's Care


 

  Yarns and Rhymes of Cowboy Times by Don Kennington and Phil Kennington is long out of print. It was their first book published together, in 1988. It includes:

Homemade Bread
Stinking Skunk
The Manure Spreader
Things are Hitting Close to Home
The Cowboy Hat
Horseshoer's Union
New Boots
Where Oh Where
The Old Hayrake
Cowboy Friend
Impossible Dream
Jake & the Bear
Horseshoe Brand
Farriers Lament
"Bobbed War"
Answering Machine
Riding Drag
Bully Slade
The Cowboy
Old Fashioned Chair
Cowboys Dream
The Skunk & the Parrot
Long Enough Day
Drugstore Cowboy
Smokey & the Blue Spotted Steer
Silver Tongue
The Cowboy at the Beauty Contest
A Miracle
Refund Check
Holstein Yearlings
Appy Colt
Emmy Lou's Signature
Think it Over


 

Tapes

  Don Kennington has six tapes, each called Horseshoers Pen, and numbers I, II, III, IV and V; and Tales of Whoa. Each is available for $10 plus $1 postage per tape.   


You can email your order.

 

 

Contacting Don Kennington

 

email

 

 

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