photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland,


About Elizabeth Ebert
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About Elizabeth Ebert

Elizabeth Ebert was a strictly a closet poet until 1989. Since then, she has been featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko many times, received the Academy of Western Artists' Best Female Poet award and other honors, including the Della Johns Scholarship and "The Badger...Excellence in Cowboy Poetry" award from the Heritage of the American West Performance Series. (South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds proclaimed February 24, 2005 as Elizabeth Ebert Day.  Read more below.) 

A South Dakota native, she still lives on the the home place near Thunder Hawk, South Dakota, where she lived with her late husband, S.J. She has three children, Jonni, John, and Jayne and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck 
(see a report on the Arvada gathering which tells how the pictured quilt, with 187 friends' signatures, hand stitched by Yvonne Hollenbeck, was presented to Elizabeth and S. J. Ebert)

Among her current publications and recording are two books, Prairie Wife and Crazy Quilt; and a CD, Live from Thunder Hawk. She is also part of the acclaimed CD, Where the Buffalo Rhyme, which was recorded with her friends, poets Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rodney Nelson, and Jess Howard.  Her poetry is included in many anthologies, including Cooling Down, Cowgirl Poetry, Humorous Western Verse, and Graining the Mare. Information about Elizabeth Ebert's book and recordings is below.  

From the back cover of Crazy Quilt:

To say that I admire Elizabeth's writing seems meager comment on her talent. She writes from inspiration with such graceful force it's like her pen has power steering.  There are so many first class pieces in her books, most contemporary cowboy poets would covet even just one so good in their armory.  If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all:  Before war and wife and whiskey/ Had bent him out of shape/ Now the war and wife were history/ And the whiskey was escape.                     Baxter Black


Cowboy Courtin' Time

Spring Thaw

He Talked About Montana

For Howard (for Howard Parker) separate page

Bringing Along a Spare separate page

Leading a Spare

Ode to Tofu


Cowboy Courtin' Time

When Romeo went courtin'
     He climbed a balcony,
And some men serenade you
     Upon their bended knee.

Leander swam the Hellespont
     To reach his lady's side,
But when a cowboy comes a-courtin'
     You get a pickup ride.

Sometimes the pickup's even washed
     (Will wonders never end?)
But like as not he's brought along
     His trusty cowdog friend.

The dog will bark a welcome
     (And you know what that means)
There'll be paw prints and dog hair
     Upon your new black jeans.

The cowboy'll open up the door
     And hold it while you enter.
You know he's gettin' serious
     'Cause he sits you in the center.

The cowboy's reeking of cologne,
     Half a bottle, you can tell,
You wish he'd shared it with his friend
     Who has that doggy smell.

A hairy face on one side
     A mustache on the other,
And both of them are squeezin' in
     'Til you think you're gonna smother.

You sit there in the middle
     Like a rabbit in the hole.
The one is merely droolin'
     While the other's droolin' Skoal.

Makes a body sometimes ponder
     On the strange queer twists of fate
Makes you sometimes even wonder
     Which one really is your date.

The cowboy'll put his arm around
     And hug you 'til you hurt.
And then he starts to pawin'
     (The dog, that is) your shirt.

They've got you snuggled there between
     Just a pawn within their game.
I doesn't matter where you turn
     'Cause they kiss about the same.

Long years have passed since courtin' time
     Changed me from Miss to Mrs.
And I'll admit, I've grown to like
     Those cowboy-cowdog kisses.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, and included in Crazy Quilt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Somewhere in between a 40-below blizzard and 100 in the shade, we will have that one glorious day that is known as spring in South Dakota.

Spring Thaw

I noticed just this morning
     There's a difference in the air.
Can't quite put my finger on it
     But I know that it is there.

Wind is blowing, brisk, as usual,
     Weatherman's predicting snow,
Yet I sense a subtle changing,
     Soft, unspoken, and I know

Snowbanks soon will be retreating
     Bare spots spreading in between,
And the southern slopes will shimmer
     With that first faint hint of green.

The fuzzy little crocus buds
     Will then come bursting forth,
And the wind will cease its bluster,
     Cold and constant, from the north.

The creeks will start their singing,
     Making music through the night,
And the clear blue sky will echo
     With the honk of geese in flight.

The cows are growing heavy,
     Calving soon will be begun,
But today they're standing lazy
     Soaking up the noonday sun.

Tomorrow it may snow again
     And the sun may disappear
But I feel a thawing deep within
     And I know that spring is near.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, and included in Crazy Quilt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


He Talked About Montana

He talked about Montana
     For he'd worked there in his youth,
And you somehow got the feeling
     That most of it was truth.
Talked about the things he'd done there,
     Memories from a happy past.
Talked about Montana rivers
     Running cold, and deep and fast,
About pines upon a hillside
     And mountains rising high,
About the endless reaches
     Of a blue Montana sky.

Said he left there at the war's start,
     Went to tell his folks good-bye.
Then there was a wartime wedding
     To a girl who got his eye.
Said she'd keep the home fires burning,
     'Til the war was past and won,
Wrote her love to him in letters,
     Sent him pictures of their son.
And the letters and the pictures
     Helped him bear the death and blood.
And he'd dream about Montana
     As he slogged through foreign mud.

They would buy a little ranch there,
     And he'd teach the boy to ride.
It would be a bit of heaven,
     With his family at his side.
But he came home to discover
     Someone else was in his place.
She had found another lover.
     It was more than he could face
For he was tired of fighting,
     So he merely let them go.
It was then he started drinking,
     Just to ease the pain, you know.

He'd work a month cold sober,
     And then he'd draw his pay,
He was headed for Montana;
     But the booze got in his way,
And he never made it out of town,
     'Fore the money all was spent
And he was busted flat again,
     And he didn't know where it went. 
So he'd come back asking for his job.
     And he'd hope you'd understand.
And you always hired him on again
     For he was a darned good hand.

And he'd talk about Montana.
     And you'd get a glimmer then,
Of the cowboy that he used to be,
     And the man he might have been
Before the war and wife and whiskey
     Had bent him out of shape.
Now the war and wife were history
     And the whiskey was escape.
But he swore that he was going back
     And he'd do most anything
For Montana sure was pretty
     When it greened up in the spring.

Then he finally got an offer
     To tend a band of sheep.
It was just for winter wages,
     Barely paid his board and keep.
But it was in Montana,
     So he was on his way,
He could stand to winter woollies,
     He would work for little pay,
For he'd be there in the springtime
     When the sky turned clear and blue,
And he'd go back to punching cattle
     When his winter job was through.

Don't know why he left the sheep camp,
     Started walking into town,
Maybe he just needed whiskey
     To wash the lonely down.
Quick come Montana's blizzards.
     Deep falls Montana's snow.
And unforgiving are the winds
     When they once begin to blow.
He'd come looking for his Paradise,
     He hadn't come to die.
But he froze upon a lonely road
     'Neath a cold Montana sky.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, and included in Crazy Quilt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Baxter Black has said about Elizabeth Ebert, "If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all: Before war and wife and whiskey/ Had bent him out of shape/ Now the war and wife were history/ And the whiskey was escape.




Leading the Spare

          We saw the horse a-comin'
               Just dustin' down the road
          Broken rein and empty saddle.
               'Twas the sorrel that Barney rode.
          I caught him up and told the boys
               "Ol' Barn's fell off agin
          I'll saddle up and take a spare
               And go and fetch him in."

          Now Barn and I've been best of friends
               Though some folk wouldn't know
          'Cause we're always pullin' silly pranks
               And we rag each other so.
          And he's no slouch at ridin'
               'Bout the best hand on the place.
          It's a joy to watch him ropin', though
               I wouldn't tell that to his face.

          And I thought of what I'd say to him
               As I rode out with that spare
I'd say: "Barney, see the horse I brought,
               It's that old gentle mare
          We always let the greenhorns ride
               You can stick her like as not
          If I help you on and lead her
               And we don't go past a trot."

I'd say: "Now since you're tired of ridin'
               And walkin's what you choose
          You ought to trade those fancy boots
               For a pair of hikin' shoes.
          And if folks ask what dumped you
               When you're limpin' stiff and sore
          I'll tell them 'twas that 'quarter' horse
               Kids ride down at the store."

I'd say: "If only you was pretty
               I wouldn't have took the trouble
           To bring along an extra horse
               We could have rode home double.
           With two soft arms around my waist
                And a body snuggled near
           But I wouldn't find much romance
                In your whiskers 'round my ear."

           I knew he'd be expectin' me
                He'd be sittin' waitin' there
           I'd pretend I didn't see him
                'Cause I like to hear him swear.
           It was sundown when I found him
                Just where I knew he'd be
            Where the trail dips to the river
                 Where the lightnin' struck that tree.

           He lay there still and peaceful
                  In the last rays of the sun
           But I knew before I touched him
                  Barney's waitin' time was done.
           So I led the spare back to the ranch,
                  Thought that trail would never end
           For tied across the saddle
                   Was the body of my friend.

          © 2006, Elizabeth Ebert
               This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem was inspired by the Art Spur project photo of South Dakota rancher Robert Dennis.  

Ode to Tofu

The gentle cows upon our plains
    Who feed upon the grass,
And then, in turn, expel methane
    In manner somewhat crass,
Are being blamed for making
    Our atmosphere less dense.
They say someday we'll die because
    Of bovine flatulence.

Does the answer lie in planting
    Our range lands all to soy?
If we abstain from eating beef
    Will life be filled with joy?
Let's not accept this premise
    'Til we check behind the scenes,
Just how much gas will people pass
    When they're only eating beans?

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, and included in Crazy Quilt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


This poem was put to music in a collaboration with Curly Musgrave on his Cowboy True CD.


"Nationally acclaimed poet Elizabeth Ebert joined Dakota Air in Valley City, ND, Saturday, March 4 to delight audiences with her cowboy-ranching-western poetry in honor of the ND Winter Show's 75th anniversary...." Listen to the archived broadcast here.

Jessica Brandi Lifland (, the official photographer for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, has been working on a project documenting the lives of cowboy poets. Currently, her photoblog includes images of Elizabeth Ebert and other poets.

Read Elizabeth Ebert's Mitten Christmas posted with other 2006 Christmas poems


  Bringing Along a Spare in our Art Spur project


Book and Recordings   

Prairie Wife

Esteemed South Dakota poet Elizabeth Ebert's book, Prairie Wife, includes over 60 new poems. The book's endorsements by two other respected poets, friends, and fellow ranch folk speak volumes about her and her work. Montana "poet, picker, and cowhand" DW Groethe comments: 

Elizabeth Ebert, truly, is one of the few in the "cowboy poetry" world that has lived the life they write about. Her poems, from the humorous to the downright heartbreaking, have an intimacy that can only be found by having been there. When she speaks, words dance. You want to know what life out here is really all about?  Read Elizabeth's poems. You will never regret it. She has taken our thoughts and given them say.

Award-winning poet Yvonne Hollenbeck, who ranches with her husband in South Dakota writes:

One comment often heard is "Western South Dakota seems to be a hot spot for excellent cowboy poetry." I believe that is because some of the world's best cowboy poetry has been generated in that area by the number of great poets, including the late Badger Clark and the current Elizabeth Ebert. Known in the western entertainment world as "the grand dame of cowboy poetry," Elizabeth has an eloquent style of writing about a lifestyle that most everyone, especially those of us living on ranches, understands and identifies with. Her choice of words and perfect meter have set a standard for modern day cowboy poets and her work is envied and admired by many. She is certainly the one I look up to and I am proud to call her my friend. 

Married 60 years, Elizabeth Ebert and her husband S. J. still live on their original place near Thunder Hawk, South Dakota.  

Prairie Wife is illustrated by Elizabeth Ebert's granddaughter Jodie Ebert.


Red Boots by Jodie Ebert
Strip Tease
New Year
Prairie Woman's Song
Things in Common
Cowboy Up
The Cowboy
Antique Auction
Winter Fashions
Prairie Religion
She Rode a Spotted Pony
Dakota Winter
Ranch Wife
Wagons West
The Salty Tongue
In the Lobby of a Small Hotel
No Cause for Alienation
Lessons Learned on Reading Esther
Song for Spring
Prairie Painters
Poem for Howard
New Age Cowboy
A Windy Montana Tale
Breached Mariner
Tribute to Roy Rogers
Baking Cookies
When Father Carved the Bird
Bringing Along a Spare
Prairie Princess
Behold Old Men
Soda Pop Morning
She Loved Her Horses
New Year's Eve--2005
The Day After Christmas
Christmas Program at a Country School
Bread and Soup
Fifty-eighth Anniversary
Twenty-first Anniversary
Victoria's Christmas Secret
Raindrop Horses
Dedicated to the Bad River Ap Ranch
Perfect Pioneer
Rich Man's Lady
It's a Pickup, Stupid
The Viking Cowboys
Spring Song for the Mature Woman
Maternity Ward
And Old Ranch Wife Reads Genesis 2:18
A Valentine's Day Celebration
The Kite
We Spent an Angry Hour
When I Leave This Life


Crazy Quilt

(This book includes the contents of three earlier books, 
Grand River Tales and Other Poems
, Trails to Thunder Hawk, and The Pickup Cowgirl)


I Know the Prairie
I Used to Love Cowboys
Why I Married Grandpa
Introduction to Grand River Tales
The Swamper from Trail's End Bar
Straight Country
You Make Me So Darned Mad
Caking First-Calf Heifers
An Ordinary Morning
If I Were Blind
Heavenly Music
True Grit
High School Rodeo
Questions for a Ranch Wife
Two Viewpoints at Weaning Time
Long Joe Taylor Baines
I Wondered
Old Blue and the Pickuo Cowgirl
West By Wagon
The Last Great Rabbit Hunt
Owl's Omen
Some Women Get Roses
Free Land
Mitten Christmas
Collar's Hill
Going Through Calgary
Dakota Wind
Indian Scout
Old Cowman
Store Candy
Riding Free
It Takes Real Love
Four-Letter Words
Tears Are for Kids and Women
Molly's House
The Coming of Age of Billy Braddock
Lady in the Corral
I Want an Old-Time Christmas
Jack of the Double J
An Old Cowboy's Prayer
Tomorrow's the Day
Adult Education
Ballad of the Pasture Gate
Spring Thaw
Old John
The Trip
Ode to Tofu
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone
Crazy Quilt
First Robin
Moving the Bulls
Free Verse --Untitled
Romance of the Range
He Talked About Montana
Make Me a Windmill
Love Story
A Gourmet's Seasons
The Car
The Story of Cyclone Creek
Baler Twine
Cowboy Vulgarity
Grandpa's Plane
Song from the Day the Pump Broke
Saga of the Rancher's Son
A Windy Tale
On Staying Married
Old Jake
The Cemetery
The Hunter
Veterinarian's Assistant
Soup's On
Santa Claus and the Cowboy
Requiem for an Old Cowboy
The Tea Set
And Then Comes Spring
Cowboy Courtin' Time
Real Cowboys Do Brush
No One Ever Wrote Me a Love Poem


Live from Thunderhawk (CD)



 Old Blue & The Pickup Cowgirl
 Where Have All The Cowboys Gone
She Loved Her Horses
The Last Great Rabbit Hunt
The Prairie Princess
Things in Common
True Grit
Caking First Calf Heifers
The Tea Set
New Age Cowboy
Tribute to Roy Rogers
Raindrop Horses
Crazy Quilt
He Never Called Her Darling
Cowboy Courtin' Time
He Talked About Montana
An Ordinary Morning
Rich Man's Lady



Where the Buffalo Rhyme (CD)

What's inside is just as good as the cover. Where the Buffalo Rhyme (named by Baxter Black) was recorded live in October, 2003 at the Boss Cowman Cowboy Opry in Lemmon, South Dakota, and features four top poets, all Honored Guests: Elizabeth Ebert, Jess Howard Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Rodney Nelson.  Jim Thompson, of Live With Jim Thompson! and Heritage of the West is the emcee.  

Included poems are:

Elizabeth Ebert
     It Takes Real Love
     The Last Great Rabbit Hunt
     An Ordinary Morning
     Ranch Romance
     The Cemetery
     Ode to Tofu
Cowboy Courtin' Time

Jess Howard
Duckin' the Law
    Big Bad John, Part II
    Matter of Minds
    Old Henry

Yvonne Hollenbeck
     What Would Martha Do
     Poor Old Geezer Dames
     Why His Ears are Swollen
     The Waitress
     Rebel Rouser
     Best Gift I've Had in Years

Rodney Nelson
     Auction Sale
     Getting Started
     Good Clean Fun
     Not Enough Stuff
     Cowboy Laundry

See a review here.



South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds proclaimed February 24, 2005 , as  Elizabeth Ebert Day:


Executive  Proclamation
State of South Dakota
Office of the Governor


Whereas, Elizabeth Ebert was born on February 24, 1925 ; and

Whereas, Birthdays commemorate the first day of our lives, and we celebrate the birthdays of those we love as we recognize the joys and sorrows we have shares, the strength we have gained from the obstacles and hardships we have conquered, and the small daily pleasures life offers; and,  

Whereas, Elizabeth Summers married S. J. Ebert on March 20, 1946, at Calvary Lutheran Church in Lemmon, and to this union three children were born:  Jonni, Jayne and John, who in turn blessed them with six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; and,  

Whereas, Elizabeth’s home is on a ranch South of Thunder Hawk where she has found her spirit for writing cowboy poetry and the ranch has been the subject of most of her works; and,  

Whereas, Elizabeth now only carries on the American tradition of cowboy poetry through her writings and personal performances, but she was honored to be selected the “Cowgirl Poet of the Year” in 2001 by the Academy of Western Artists .  She has traveled the United States as one of the nation’s most sought after poets, published four books of poetry, and has made several tapes and CDs; and,

 Whereas, Elizabeth will observe her 80th Birthday with all the good wishes, fanfare, and celebration such a milestone warrants, as her friends and family gathered to honor and celebrate her life and the camaraderie of the day; and it is fitting and proper for the Governor to make note of this milestone in the life of a woman who has lived an exemplary life for all to emulate:  

Now, Therefore, I, M. Michael Rounds, Governor of the state of South Dakota , do hereby proclaim February 24, 2005 , as  


 in South Dakota , and I join her friends and relatives in wishing her a very happy birthday, good health, and great happiness.

                                                                 In Witness Whereof,  I have hereunto set my hand and
caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the state of South
                (SEAL)                                 Dakota, in
Pierre , the Capital City , this Third Day of February
                                                                in the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Five.  

                                                                /s/ M. Michael Rounds                                                                               

                                                                M. Michael Rounds, Governor


                                                               /s/  Chris Nelson                                                                                            

                                                                Chris Nelson, Secretary of State


Elizabeth Ebert's friends collected poems, pictures, and messages in an album presented to her on her 80th birthday, and they included this one from poet Doris Daley:



Thanks to Yvonne Hollenbeck for her help with this feature.



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