Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

Shawnee, Oklahoma
About Francine Roark Robison


One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

Recognized for her poem, America's Heroes

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



America's Heroes

"Our heroes have always been cowboys"
But what does that really mean?
Is it Vince, or George, or John Wayne,
In a white shirt and tight blue jeans?

Is it Saturday morning serials,
Where Tim and Hoppy rode?
Is it Tom and B-Grade Westerns
Where the hero was never throwed?

Could it be the Lone Ranger lunchbox,
Or paper dolls of Roy and Dale,
Or the rodeo at the fairgrounds,
Or shaking hands with Gene at the rail?

Could it be lessons from Daddy?
"Carry your load and beyond."
"Share a meal with a traveler."
"Let your word be your bond."

Could it be that it's all the above?
With other things thrown in, too--
Like grandpas and daddys standing tall,
Showing us what to do.

The movies and toys and music
Remind us of days long ago
When men were honest, truthful, and just,
So kids knew which way to grow.
Those cowboys are America's heroes,
And lived the Cowboy Code-
Loved God and Mama and horses,
Proud of the trail they rode.

But the greatest hero of all
At least that I've ever knowed
Was the man who was my daddy--
He lived the Cowboy Code.

He never talked to be talking,
Just when he'd something to say.
He never took without asking,
Always wanted to pay.

His handshake was good as a contract--
His word he wouldn't break;
He knew a man's name's important
When his reputation's at stake.

He always worked harder than most--
Earned his day wages fair;
Knew how to get along with the boss
And treat his partners square.

Never let a man go away
Hungry outside the door--
He'd feed him first, then let him work,
Then pay him something more. 

He asked no questions of the strays--
Expected honest work.
He knew each one could have been him
Had God not been at work.

Married his sweetheart and loved her
Through years of good and bad;
Corn and cattle won't make you rich--
They did with what they had.

He raised his fam'ly trusting God
For food and health and rain--
When he saw strength was running out,
He'd pray and not complain.

Throughout the years as pain increased,
He smiled and loved us more;
Remembered not the times I'd failed--
He'd not been keeping score.

So this man's always my hero;
Gave wisdom to the end--
He'd led in the right directions
And always been my friend.

Yes, I grew up with a cowboy
And learned the Code of the West;
I gauge my heroes next to him--
Make sure they pass the test.

2002,  Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked Francine about her inspiration for "America's Heroes" and s he replied: 

My poetry is truly a gift from God and I have to give Him the credit—I just provided the paper for this one.  It tells about my dad with great accuracy.  He was always one to live the example, not just talk about it.
My dad, Charlie Roark, was born in 1905, Indian Territory, 2 years before Oklahoma's Statehood (1907). He was one of 11, the first one born "out West" rather than in North Carolina.  There were 4 younger than he was.  His dream was to follow a cattle drive up the trail "north to Abilene" but actually he was born a few years too late for that.  He was a farmer/rancher all his life and made sure that my brother and I grew up right and got a good education. He would have been so proud of my "cowboy poetry." 

Evidently, he has been a big influence on my values and beliefs and is probably one reason I write cowboy poetry.  At least, he provides many of the stories.

This poem is included in our collection of
poems about Cowboy Dads and Granddads.


Francine Roark Robison was also previously

one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

recognized for her poem, Lonely


The bleak and barren land stretched out
As far’s a man could see—
The icy fingers of the wind
Foretold his destiny.

The years had not been kind out here;
He’d busted his last plow—
The banker’d spurned his humble ‘quest
Though he’d always paid somehow.

The crops were poor and spindly, ‘cause
There hadn’t been much rain;
The topsoil’d gone to Texas, or
The open Kansas plain.

He’d lost a wife and baby girl—
Their graves were marked in stone;
He’d took his grief and worked it out
And stayed there, all alone.

The tumbleweed’s a lonely weed
That drifts before the wind—
It dances free across the heart
And leaves a hurt to mend.

He’d thought of leaving lots of times
But was rooted to the land.
Just one more year, he’d always say—
This corn will make a stand.

He hadn’t many groceries
But always tried to share—
God provided just enough and
No load too great to bear.

The tumbleweeds went rolling by
Before the driving wind—
Symbols of the loneliness that
Only love could mend.

At times he’d see a traveler
There in the sunset’s glow
Who’d bring some news and maybe mail
‘Cause messages traveled slow.

They’d sit around at supper,
Drinking coffee by the pot—
They’d laugh and share tobacco
And speak of what was what.

The stranger now no stranger more
Continued on his way
But left behind a wealth of thoughts
To ponder every day.

The West was big and mighty, but
He’d faced its harsh demand,
And so on rolled the tumbleweeds
Across the drifting sand.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Francine Roark Robison was also previously

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

Second Lariat Laureate Runner Up

Recognized for her poem, Fixin' to Get Excitin'



Fixin' to Get Excitin' 

Th' brandin' irons were ready
On thet cloudless summer day,
While Lester an' th' other boys
Looked on with some dismay.

Ol' Reb had built hisself a loop
An' picked him out a stray--
He swore thet little critter
Would wear his brand today.

Th' hoolihan had settled sweet
Aroun' thet snowy head,
But Baby wouldn't have it--for
He'd seen them irons was red!

So a beller'n an' a bawlin'
He cut roun' an' in between
Th' hind legs of Reb's horse--an'
Took off towards Abilene.

"It's fixin' to get excitin'"
Said Lester, "I'll be bound"
Then Will got tangled in his spurs
An' tumbled to th' ground.

"Look out," says Andy, cautious-like,
As Buster took a jump,
Cause Mama cow was a-aimin'
Those horns at Buster's rump.

Th' prickly pears was waitin' there
As Buster made his leap,
An' Reb found new disaster
With pears an' cowpies--deep.

Then Lester dropped his cigarette
He'd took so long in makin'--
Still had th' pouch-string in his mouth
When he saw the turn they'd taken.

Now Buster still is runnin' with
Thet cow attached behind,
An' Reb's still holdin' on th' rope,
Somewhat all entwined.

Reb's chaps were cut to ribbons
An' his shirt was all askew,
An' where he'd fin'lly lost his hat
Nobody ever knew.

But when all th' dust got settled,
Reb shook his head once more--
He found he'd branded Lester,
An' Les was mighty sore!

Th' cavvy butted 'gainst his ma
An' give th' boys a glare--
His little tail still held its arch;
His little hide, its hair.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Rusty Spur

Those rusty spurs over there on the shelf
Have quite a tale to tell;
They used to belong to a friend of mine,
Someone I knew quite well.

He'd bought those spurs at an auction
When he was just a pup--
Visions of bein' a "cowboy"
Had him sayin' "ma'am" and "yup."

He practiced on some mangy steers,
Feet near draggin' the ground,
Then moved on up to the big-time--but--
Got throwed in the short go-round.

Yet still he stayed and his mama prayed
And he never did get hurt,
Till that fateful day when she was away,
And he got yanked down in the dirt.

That bull had exploded out from the chute--
Head down, tail to the sky,
Twistin', snortin', and slingin' snot
Like he was tryin' to fly.

The boy heard the crowd start to rumble
As that devil hit the ground,
But then the cheers turned silent as
The cowboy lay face down.

I watched it all from back in the stall--
Saw him ride wild and free.
They took him away on a stretcher that day,
And they brought his spurs to me.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




The Prodigal Cowboy

Long summer days into twilight,
Lightnin' bugs flickered and flew;
Emma's kisses tasted sweeter
Than anything else I knew.

But Emma, those times were deceivin'
To a young girl with stars in her eyes;
You wanted to go on believin'
That a kiss was love in disguise.

And Emma, I had other yearnin's--
A rainbow in places unknown,
And before you were a grown woman
I had already gone.

You walked me down to the corner
Where we caught the school bus that fall,
Then you waved me down that dusty trail
When the trees weren't nearly this tall.

The sun was risin' right at your back
As you clung to the split rail fence;
It made a halo around your head
That I've remembered ever since.

Your blue dress was whippin' round your legs,
Long hair blowin' wild and free;
It broke my heart to leave you behind,
The way you were lookin' at me.

Now, Emma, I see you standin' here--
You're close enough to touch;
You've been the only girl for me--
Tell me, am I presumin' too much?

Emma cut blue eyes my direction,
One eyebrow lifted askance;
She glanced at the hand that I offered--
Reluctant, agreed to the dance.

Somehow we still fit together
As through the two-step we flew;
Emma laid her head on my shoulder
For she had been waitin' too.

We danced the long night until morning
And still I wanted to linger,
But Emma had something to show me--
It was that big diamond ring on her finger!

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Roll On

Tumbleweed rollin' 'cross th' plain
Pullin' my soul along,
Loneliness achin' deep within--
Sometimes I don't belong.

Tumbleweed rushin' before th' wind,
You take my hopes an' fears--
Could be th' next time you pass by,
You'll also take my tears.

Tumbleweed snaggin' ag'in th' sage,
Looks like you're waitin' for me--
Take my hurtin' an' roll it away--
Leave my heart empty but free.

Tumbleweed desolate in th' field,
Hearts all tied up with string,
Full of desires an' promises broke--
What will th' tumbleweed bring?

Tumbleweed blowin' wild in th' wind,
What other lives will you touch?
Take my dreams an' deliver them
Tied up with ribbons an' such.

Tumbleweed tumblin' once again
Across th' empty sky--
My love is like th' tumbleweed,
Sayin' a sad goodbye.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ride, Little Cowboy 

Th' cowboy rode, hard an' fast,
Eyes squintin' from th' sun;
Unfurled his rope an' built a loop--
Got th' rustlers on th' run.

Hat pulled down tight an' spurs dug in,
He never slowed his pace--
With a yippee yi O, an' a giddy-up,
He knew he'd win this race.

Th' cattle's bawlin', runnin' wild--
A mass of horns an' dust--
He's gotta turn th' herd before
They reach th' river bluff.

To his left he sees th' Duke,
An' Roy's on his right--
They're ridin' with him all th' way
To help him win th' fight.

He's throwed a shoe an' lost his hat--
Now rides in just his stockin's--
Keeps his eye on th' TV screen
An' keeps that horse a-rockin'!

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Growin' Up Cowboy – and Cowgirl!

Got mud in your eye and sand in your craw,
Ridin’ that horse till your backside is raw.
You’re stickin’ it out in spite of the pain;
You’ve practiced in sunshine, heat, cold, and rain.

Gotta get it right ’cause someone else will—
Get back on the horse for another spill.
Sundown finds you draggin’—dog-tired—inside,
Been out since daylight perfectin’ the ride.

You’ve had it with horses, with calves, and with bulls,
Your rope’s in a knot and you made some bad pulls.
Mom calls out “supper” but no time to rest—
You head down the road on another quest.

You pay your entry and make your draw—
Dad parks the rig and you look for clean straw.
You meet some old friends and some that are new—
No one believes how fast this year flew.

It’s another show with no time to rest.
Another time you gotta do your best.
All the family’s glued to the rail—
There’s no pressure here—just don’t ever fail.

Missed the first loop and the second one, too—
Had the reata ready but the calf ran on through.
Piggin’ string’s bitter as you ride out slow
But you shake that off before the next go.

Sure enough, the next loop’s settlin’ down sweet—
You bail off the horse and land on your feet.
The calf is bawlin’ as you flank him down—
Two wraps and a smooch to keep those legs bound.

Checkin’ the time, there’s another event—
The sun is sure hot; it’s makin’ you squint.
You’ve paid good money to get on this stage
With two thousand pounds of thunder and rage.

With feet on the fence, you ease yourself down—
Waitin’ out there is the rodeo clown—
You fix your eyes ’tween the ears and the hump,
Give a quick nod and you’re braced for the jump.

That bull is a spinner; you’re in the well—
It’s eight long seconds of bull-ridin’ hell.
He’s twistin’ and snortin’ and slingin’ snot—
You’re just hangin’ on tight with all you’ve got.

Finally the buzzer releases your hold
But gettin’ off, now your knees want to fold.
The clown’s a distraction; your feet are quick—
You scale the fence just ahead of the kick.

Disappointments and heartaches, bruises and breaks—
High School Rodeo has pretty high stakes—
Might get that scholarship at OSU,
A saddle, belt buckle, prize money, too.

And back in your mind, in the depths of your soul,
You know that you’ve got an ultimate goal—
Always one goal—makin’ the cut for the
National Finals Youth Rodeo.

So you tape the sprains and bandage the cuts,
Straighten your back and cowboy up.
The long hours of work and trainin’ will pay
As you ride out there, a winner, today!

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




Dear Lord, I thank You for this day
With flowers fresh and new-mown hay,
With cattle lowing in the draw
And healthy kids back home with Ma.

I thank You for the greening wheat,
A solid roof, enough to eat;
The baler’s fixed and bills are paid,
And I’m real happy with what the cotton weighed.

You sent the rain in the nick of time
Else we wouldn’t have made a dime.
Ponds were dry and so was the well;
Hauling water to stock sure was hell.

You broke the drought and opened the sky,
Don’t think I’d ever seen it so dry--
Poured rain and blessings across the land--
That field of hay will be a record stand.

Forgive me when I have these doubts,
Help me to trust You to work it out;
You’ve blessed me with enough to share,
So, Lord, I thank You for all Your care.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




"Have you kissed the Aussie yet?"-
Is the question that was met
As we sat around the table eatin' steak-

Don't know what it is about 'im
That the women's all about 'im
Like the honey bees around a chocolate cake.

What is it 'bout these strangers?
Don't these women know the dangers
Of kissin' Aussies more than we allow?

He just smiles like he's entitled
As to the next he's sidled-
Look!  There's another one kissin' Miltie now!

She's just set her lips on hisn
Without delay or quizzin'-
Breathin' in all that intoxicatin' charm.

The rest of us just watches
As he cuts a few more notches
With our women as they around him swarm.

Yes, I know he's charmin', darn it,
And a little kiss won't harm it
But we Yankee cowboys want some action, too.

They all stand in line a-doting
And he looks like he is gloating
And loves to see them making much ado.

The attention that he's drawin'
With the waves of women pawin'
Seems unwarranted with every passin' hour.

So when's the Aussie leavin'?-
Half the women have stopped breathin'
And all the men just sit around and glower.

Have you kissed the Aussie yet?
Oh, you have, I'll make a bet,
'Cause it seems to be the current thing to do.

But next Wednesday he'll be leavin'
And the girls will all be grievin'
As their hearts go on believin' his love's true.

Wait-what's this wrenching, puking feelin'
That is now just o'er me stealin'-
My vision's blurred and I am feelin' weak!

My head is hurtin' badly
And the bathroom rush is madly
As we race in yonder quick relief to seek-

What decisions now we're facin'
With our innards quickly racin'-
Should we sit - or hang our head and let it go?

Could it be there's too much kissin'?
Where is Milton?  Is he missin'?
Has he kissed us all and left us to our woe?

But the men will still be smirkin'
As they wait around still lurkin'
For these hearts to stop bouncin' like a 'roo

When the breathin' gets more steady
And the pulse is not so thready
Then-they'll remember Milton fondly-like the flu!

Francine Roark Robison Jan. 17, 2001
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bull Rider's Lament 

Ridin' bulls is a lonely life
With bruises and sprains and breaks-
You follow the rodeo circuit
And ride though every bone aches.

A kiss for Mom and a hug for Dad-
They watch you pack for the trip-
Hoping the tires last a hundred more miles,
You head down that asphalt strip.

You eat, if at all, on the run, and
Live in the back of the truck
You scrape up the entry fee dollars
And hope for a run of good luck.

Turn up the radio; listen to Merle
Through wind and rain and sun-
Got to make the next rodeo-
A new day's just begun.

Hope for a judge that's watching you out
A draw that will buck for a win
Check the bull rope and stretch out the kinks
You're ready to go it again.

Set him just right with friends on each side-
Nod and they open the gate:
There's two thousand pounds of mean ornery hide;
"Blow the whistle-it's bound to be eight!"

Eight seconds ain't much but it never ends
When you're sitting on top of a bomb
An explosion of fury, of passion, of hate,
Indignant that you're so calm.

And the parting of ways that comes at last
Discovers no word of regret
The fury that rages in those unfocused eyes
Contains wild emotions unmet.

But the cowboy don't concern himself
With psychological bulls
He's on his way to the pay window
Cause now his pocket's full!

Francine Roark Robison, Feb. 8, 2001
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



North To Abilene

From Texas up to Abilene
Th' Chisholm Trail had run
As we pointed longhorns northward
An' cattle drives begun.

We crossed th' open prairie
With prickly pear an' chips-
We crossed th' Colorado
An' th' Brazos on these trips.

We rode into th' Territory
From Texas 'cross th' Red;
Th' cattle grazin' 'long th' way,
Three thousand longhorn head.

Th' dust hung high in th' summer air-
For endurance they were bred;
Two miles to th' south, another bunch
Followed where this one led.

Th' tallgrass tickled th' bellies
As great herds plodded an' grazed-
It made up for bone-dry prairies
When they were thirsty, an' crazed.

We rode through sunny weather
An' storms while lightnin' flashed-
We held th' herd together
As 'round us thunder crashed.
For hours that night we had circled
Cattle unwillin' to bed-
Th' bawlin' an' beller'n incessant
From th' whole three thousand head.

We sang "O bury me not" an'
"Yippy ki yo, ki ya"-
We sang to soothe the longhorns an'
To keep th' night at bay.

Th' river crossin's cost a few-
But mav'ricks evened the score;
Then Trail Cutters dropped in casual-like
An' cut out sev'ral more.

We saw th' silent Plainsmen
Who watched th' white man pass;
Th' Red Man sensed disaster-
His culture could not last.

Th' Government in Washington
Made treaties 'bout th' herds,
But th' Kiowa an' Comanche
Knew they were empty words.

We saw th' moon when th' coyotes howled
An' heard th' wind blow free;
We saw th' rustlers gettin' hung
From a lonely cottonwood tree.
We smelled th' coffee boilin'
In Cookie's blackened pot-
Still had th' dent where he'd throwed it
When Jake an' him had fought.

At times we passed a soddy
Carved from unyielding earth-
Alone, with no one to help her,
A woman might die, or give birth.

A woman had an arduous life
Out on th' endless plains:
Desolation claimed her heart, while
Loneliness twined its chains.

We sang "Yippy yi yo, cattle"
An' watched th' tumbleweeds roll-
We sang to fill th' empty nights
An' spaces in our soul.

Past th' Washita, Canadians,
An' Cimarron we drove;
Those horns went clackin' through th' air
An' threads of history wove.

Across th' Arkansas now to
Th' railhead just beyond,
A market for Texas cattle-
An era newly dawned.                 
We loaded on th' cattle cars,
Those horns poked through th' rails-
Our pay had been collected, an'
We'd twisted our last tail.

North an' South had sacrificed an'
Lived on War-time ration-
Texas beef was makin' history
An' now would feed th' Nation.

With no regrets, we sent 'em East
By steam locomotion-
Th' lonely whistle in th' air
Hung on our emotion.

We'd sung "Git along little dogies"-
Survived th' heat an' hail;
We'd moved 'em all, an' lost but few
Along th' Chisholm Trail.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Trail Makers

From Texas to Montana
the ladder of rivers stretched
across the open trail
each rung signifying another step
another marker on the way north. 
Essential for survival   
the rivers dictated the path  
of the herd
A life-force but also
death by drowning
as quiet sluggish streams
became rivers of rushing
churning roaring vengeance
after a storm.

Watering holes were shared
with the mountain lion
and the buffalo,
and his brother, the Indian.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



My mother was used to getting up just in time to eat a light breakfast and then going off to teach school all day.  When she married the handsome young farmer, her hours and daily schedule changed drastically.

Rude Awakening

"Breakfast?  At this hour?  It must be a joke!"
But she knew better, even as she spoke.

"Get up," said new hubby, the light of her life,
"Time you get started as a model farm wife.

I've milked and shoveled and moved lots of hay;
It's 4 a.m.--gettin' up in the day."

"4 a.m.?--in the mornin'?--that's the middle of night!
I can't cook yet--it's dark out--not even daylight!"

But hubby, relentless, pulled her out of the sack,
Wanted biscuits, and sausage, and coffee--black.

She managed those breakfasts, one after another,
Till the in-laws moved out (that meant his mother!)

After that she said, "Honey, your household I'll keep,
But please, before daylight, just let me sleep!"

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



She did manage those early mornings, but then when my brother and I came along, she seemed to think we wanted to participate!

Home Cookin'

The sun would not yet peek his head
Above the fields of corn
When Mom would have the coffee on
And sleep from us was torn.

We'd hear the screen door clatter shut
As Daddy went to work;
He'd start the pickup, pull the choke,
And we'd hear the old Ford jerk.

Our eyes would meet across the room
Then we'd pull the covers high;
We'd hear the footsteps down the hall
And for our dreams we'd sigh.

With hair on end and sleepy eyes
We'd stagger to the table,
Prop up our chin and find our plate
Was all that we were able.

Pork sausage lying in its fat,
The smell of burning bread,
Cold oatmeal set up in our bowls
Would thus assail our heads.

But still we ate it, thought it good,
And then went on to class.
We studied hard, grew up too soon,
But breakfast now we pass.

And Mom can't understand it, cause
"You just can't miss that meal,"
But thoughts of grease and biscuits black
No longer have appeal.

So Pop-Tarts and Granola bars
Are staples on our shelf--
The microwave and toaster have
Replaced maternal chefs.

Yet many winter mornings now
I cover up my head
And wish I'd hear my mother
Frying meat and burning bread.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Farmer's Wife

My mama was a farmer's wife
And also she taught school;
In those two jobs she spent her life
And lived the Golden Rule.

She washed our clothes and gathered eggs,
And I helped shell the peas;
She read me books and told me tales
About our family trees.

She played piano at the church,
The choir sang "What A Friend"
And then the preacher preached--too much!
(I thought it'd never end!)

She picked the berries, grapes, and plums,
Made jelly for our bread;
She'd hear me read and do my sums,
Then send me off to bed.

I learned to read and write just fine
Yet saw how some kids fared;
They didn't have a mom like mine
To show them that she cared.
They didn't come to school well dressed
Or washed, or even fed;
They just came, and sat, and looked depressed,
But nothing could be said.

She took those children one by one
And taught them things with love.
She gave so much, when she was done
She'd showed them God above.

She smoothed their hair--and feelings, too--
Her hands were soft and cool;
She knew you couldn't treat a child
Like Daddy would a mule.

Now lots of times those grown-up kids
While just a-passing through,
Stop to visit and talk a bit
And say, "We've thought of you."

So I grew up by watching her,
The way she dealt with life;
I hope I've had just some success
Like my dad's farmer wife.

Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


When I Grow Up 

When you grow up, what will you be? -- was
The question often brought--
I want to be a cowboy,
I said without a thought--

I want to ride my horses and
Round up cows that stray;
I want to mend the fences and
Cut and bale the hay.

I want to live out on the farm
Without the city noise;
I want the peace and solitude
That city life destroys.

I want to see the stars at night
And hear the coyote howl
And watch the lazy circling hawk
And hear the hooting owl.

Well, I grew up a teacher and
Lived in town instead,
But heart and life's ambition
Have long defined the thread

As midnight oil still sputters and
Ink-stained fingers show it--
I never was a cowboy, but
I am a Cowboy Poet!

2001, Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Use caution when choosing your pets . . . .

Roger and the Rattlesnake

Now Roger was the rattlesnake king
Way back in his younger days.
He made all the big hunts and roundups--
Never got ahead of the strays.

They'd break through a den and hear rattles
And they'd know they'd found a nest,
But one day Roger found him a snake
That was better than all the rest.

He took it home and made it a pet
And started training that snake.
He gave up on the rattlesnake hunts-
A novelty act he'd make!

He named the snake "Jack," after his wife
(I'm not sure she was flattered)
And developed lots of reptile tricks
'Cause this is where it mattered.

For safety's sake, Jack's mouth was wired shut--
So's he'd be handled with ease:
"Hold the live snake--just five bucks a pop"--
The crowds were easy to please.

This went on for a year, with profit,
Then interest waned and grew cold
But Roger and Jack were still buddies,
Though the missus wasn't sold.

Jack lived in a glass aquarium--
Picture windows all around.
They'd take long walks through the neighborhood
Discussing new things they found.

Jack seemed to like the attention that
Came from the romps in the grass;
Most people were friendly, but wary--
Stood back, and let them both pass.

Roger had a foolproof method of
Nabbing the snake by the neck--
He'd let him run out on the lead rope
Then hang on and wait for the wreck.

He'd pin the head with a crescent wrench,
Then grab him right about-there,
Slip on that little hamster harness
And go for a bit of air.

Remember, he still had his mouth wired,
With irritation building fast--
He thought of the wide open spaces
Where he'd been free in the past.

Now and then, you could catch a glimpse of
Repressed and bitter venom,
And we wondered if, way down deep, Jack
Carried a grudge agin 'em.

It was time for the yearly feeding--
Three mice were to end the drought,
So Roger clipped wires holding danger--
Those fangs folded back in the mouth.

Now, lately, Jack had been brooding with
Frown lines formed deep on his face.
He sulked for a bit, then exploded--
There was snake all over the place!

Jack was thrashin' and writhin' about,
Across that cold concrete floor--
He'd just had enough of this nonsense--
In fact, he was mighty sore!

To have your mouth wired up tight
And strangers strokin' your hide
And wearin' that little harness was
More'n any snake could abide.

"Jack, what's the matter-you're actin' strange,"
Said Roger in great alarm.
Jack had had enough of fame--he was
Headed back out to the farm.

But before he left, he gave a nip
To the hand that held the leash,
And the fearless one was rather stunned
That their relationship had ceased.

The hand swelled up like a big balloon
And some desperate hours occurred.
When he finally healed, Jack's fate was sealed,
And since then he hasn't stirred

'Cause Jack's hide is now tanned and mounted
To a board above the door--
A reminder to snake intruders
That Roger is keeping score.

And so any snake who wanders in
Lookin' for a place to rest
Sees the remains of Jack on the wall
And feels like an unwelcome guest.

So now Roger has some new advice
If your common sense is laggin'--
You don't have to pet a rattlesnake
Just because his tail's a-waggin'!

6/8/02, Francine Roark Robison                     
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


When Daddy Came Home from the Field

Mama, I wish we were young again
And waitin' for Daddy to come home.
He'd be out in the fields a-plowin'
And the collie'd go out there to roam,

And you'd cook a big meal for dinner
And then we'd pack it all in the car
With a cotton cloth from the table
And iced tea with lemon in a jar.

We'd drive to the place he was workin'
And you'd spread out the cloth on the ground--
He'd stop at the end of the furrow
And show us a young rabbit he'd found.

I'd hold it and pet it and love it
And then we'd let it go free
And Daddy would look at you proud-like
With faith in the way things would be.

After eatin' he'd lie down a moment
For a rest, before startin' once more,
And we'd pack dishes and fold up the cloth
And go home to continue our chores.

And somehow you'd finish the housework
And still have time to sit down with me
And read about Little Brown Koko
Or just watch the clouds blowin' free.

How I wish we were all young again
With the summer's long days and warm nights,
Waitin' for Daddy to come home from the field,
Wash up for supper, and kiss me good night.

Now those tree-lined hayfields are empty
And so's Daddy's cane-bottomed chair,
But sometimes in quiet evenin's
I can almost see him over there.

And he's rearin' back on the hind legs
With his back propped against the wall
And he's watchin' Mama cookin'
And outside the whippoorwill calls.

And they talk mostly about their day,
All the things they've seen and heard,
While I play with dolls in the corner
And listen, with never a word.

Then the kerosene lamplight would flicker
As problems seemed to be healed--
That's how it was when we were all young,
And Daddy came home from the field.

10/17/02, Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



When Summer Days Have Shortened

When summer days have shortened
And the geese are heading south-
The air is kind of crackly
And rains have eased the drought.

The leaves have stopped their turning, all
The yellow gold and red,
And now they're mostly on the ground
Or skipping on ahead,

While fall winds whisk them merrily
As capture they would mock-
Till drifted in a brownish bank
Or lodged beneath a rock

And early morning ponds show just
An edging line of white
Left from plunging arctic air
That came in overnight.

We kids found boots and jackets with
Deep pockets for our hands
And watched our breath make puffs of smoke
As we walked the pastureland.

Then the days of summer planting
And time spent in the fields
Seem dreamlike in our memories-
How we worried 'bout the yield!

But we provided labor
And God the sun and rain
And the haying finally ended
'Midst back and muscle strain.

And now the fields have been laid by
With sweat from days we toiled-
The plows have been re-sharpened,
The balers cleaned and oiled.

Now we'll sing of mighty hunters
And snowdrifts ten feet tall
And remember when the Angus bull
Knocked down the north barn wall.

We'll sing of love and honor and
Of those who've gone before,
Whose gentle ways are surely missed,
And voices heard no more.

We'll spend winter days in telling
Of wild horses running free-
With friends and family round the fire-
Those tales of "used-to-be,"

When the summer days have shortened
And geese have headed south-
And the air is kind of crackly . . .
And rains have eased the drought.

2003,  Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



I See Wild Horses Running Free

At the top of every mountain, and
Beside every gurgling stream,
I see wild horses running free there
Though I know it's just a dream.

These painted ponies fill my thoughts with
Flowing manes that whip the wind--
A ghost horse image thunders past that
Seems to be from mem'ry kenned.

And side by side as one we race them,
Unbound by earth's restraining hand--
With youth and joy in wild abandon
The future seems at our command.

Then daylight brings a call familiar,
And broom-tail colts will fade from sight--
Though freedom's full release is tempting,
There's no regret in doing right.

Seasons pass and you're still with me, and
Every day's a gift, you see--
So we will sit and dream together
Of more wild horses running free.

2003,  Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Francine told us in September, 2004: As some of you know, I have gone from being a single, independent, partially-retired person (did I mention independent?) to a 24/7 caregiver for my mom who had a stroke in February, and I think that is reflected in the poem.  I didn't have anything significant in mind when it started--the first line just came to me and it went from there.  I know
it was quite emotional to write it, and I didn't know why at first; however, now that I look at it, I can see my current situation in there.

By the way, she is doing very well, improving daily, and loves to attend poetry gatherings with me.  She will be 89 in October. 

New-born Baby Calf

Did you ever chance to come upon
A new-born baby calf?
His struggles on his spindly legs
Can only make you laugh.

His mama's tongue keeps licking him
And nearly knocks him down
As he staggers, sometimes to his knees,
And makes a bleating sound.

Then Mama nudges to her flank
And he begins to dine,
And that little tail with tufted end
Keeps bovine-baby time.

Her udder butts, as wanting more,
He switches liquid source
And empties each with great delight
And very slight remorse.

He looks around, his dinner done,
And sees he's not alone—
The barnyard crew: six ducks, a ewe,
A mule, and Jimmy's roan

Take interest in this one small calf
And make him feel at home.

2010,  Francine Roark Robison
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Francine told us: I had a newborn calf in my mind, Black Angus—the kind we always had, and watched that mental image of him stagger around until he got to his mama's dinner, and I just wrote about what I saw. Not really a story, or anything profound, just a word picture.



Read Francine Roark Robison's The Cowboy Christmas Ball, posted with other Holiday 2002 poems


A Cowboy Christmas, posted with other Holiday 2000 poems.


Read Francine Roark Robison's It's Saddlin' Up Time, posted with our feature about the Cowboy Cancer Crusade.




frr2.jpg (6579 bytes)  About Francine Roark Robison

After a long career of teaching high school English and humanities, Francine Roark Robison took retirement seriously by trading in a high school classroom to go on the road with Cowboy Poetry.  However, retirement didn't last long, and she is now an adjunct teacher at Oklahoma Baptist University.  She has taught in Oklahoma as well as summer sessions in Mexico and China.

Francine's background includes a farmer dad and a schoolmarm mom.  She writes from personal experience or from family stories passed down from her parents, with most of the settings in southern Oklahoma and the Arbuckle Mountains.  Farm life included a horse, a collie dog, and numerous cats.  She didn't walk five miles in the snow to school, but she did walk down to the cattle guard to catch the school bus, carrying her homework and Roy Rogers lunch box. 

She has performed at several gatherings, including the Oklahoma and Texas State Fairs; the Red Steagall Gathering in Ft. Worth; Cowboys, Heroes, and Friends in Branson; the Chisholm Trail Festival in Yukon; the Poetry Society of Tennessee in Memphis; the Farm and Ranch Heritage Gathering in Las Cruces; Festival of the West in Scottsdale; Echoes of the Trail in Ft. Scott; National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City; Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas; Bookfest 2000 in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and many others, as well as a couple of pig roasts. 

Francine has been designated Oklahoma's Cowboy Poet Laureate and is endorsed by West Quest.

She has a book and CDof original poetry. 


We asked Francine why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she replied: 

Why do I write cowboy poetry?  I think it provides a link to the past, providing ties to a family's traditions, values, and memories.  The West is an important part of our history, and people should be reminded of the hopes and dreams, as well as the sacrifices and courage, of our ancestors as they settled new lands and raised families.   And we need to remember that as the older generations leave us, the stories that they told will also be gone, unless we make the effort to preserve them.  Cowboy poetry is a way to keep those stories alive.

You can email Francine Roark Robison.



Books and Recordings 


Prairie Tales from the Heart


Francine Roark Robison describes her CD:

Prairie Tales from the Heart includes 20 poems and a longer story at the end, written by the author, except for "Mama" by Janet McBride. You will laugh, sigh, and possibly get a tear in your eye as you listen to a variety of poems about farm and ranch life in the 1950s, plus some in a frontier setting.

Prairie Tales from the Heart is available from Francine Roark Robison at 510 South 9th Street, Tecumseh, OK 74873.  $16 includes tax and postage.  Can also email ( or call (405-598-2654).


The Quilt and Other Pieces

In 2004 Francine Robison published  a collection of original stories and poems, The Quilt and Other Pieces.

This book, dedicated to her mother "who told the stories" and with a cover from a quilt made by her grandmother, captures family stories and other writings from her personal experience, with most of the settings in southern Oklahoma and the Arbuckle Mountains.


What's in Your Trunk?
Early Memories (prose)
When Daddy Came Home from the Field
Licking the Icing Bowl
Storm Cellar
The Farmer's Wife
Gold Medal Flower and Prince Albert in a Can
Sunday Morning
Baby Chicks
When Coffee Was a Nickel
America's Heroes
My Father's Hands (prose)
Childhood Memories
Ride, Little Cowboy
Children's Games
Rooster Roundup
A "Current" Affair
Aussie Envy
The Rusty Spur
Moonshine Magic
The Quilt
Mary Lelia
Assisted Living Arrangement
A Boy's Dream
James Lee
First Day
Cleaning Frenzy
A Spider Poem
Yard Sale
Seasons of Friendship
A Star is Born (prose)
Hello, Santa?
A Special Christmas (prose)
The Master's Hands
Birthday Party
God's Eternal Love
The Light in the Window
OKC, April 19, 1995
What Matters Most
Winter Feeding (prose)

The Quilt and Other Pieces is available for $15 plus postage. Contact her by email or phone 405-273-0776 or 405-226-6342 (cell)




Night of the Cowboy and Other Poems

Night of the Cowboy and Other Poems is available as a book and tape. Francine says "They aren't EXACTLY the same, but pretty close.   Book is $5; tape $10, plus $2 postage, whether one or 25.  (Hey, for 25, I'll pay postage!!)   Contact me by email." 



The Bell Does Not Dismiss You

In late 2002 Francine Robison published  a collection (about 85 pages) of stories, anecdotes, opinions, photos, and a few poems about teaching and teachers.  It's called The Bell Does Not Dismiss You (and Other Myths of Teaching) and is available for postpaid from Francine for $12 Contact her by email or phone 405-273-0776 or 405-226-6342 (cell)



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