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The Kid from Victor's Switch
Crosby, Texas
About Gene O'Quinn




A Texas Teenager's Week-end Education

Growing up in Texas in the Fifties, oh man what a thrill,
Wishing I lived on a farm or ranch, 'stead of Moonshine Hill.
Chasing cows, clearing brush, branding calves or even building fence,
The life longed for, but some said I didn't have any sense.

Oh, I had a horse alright, just kept her in a lot next door,
Saturdays you could find me working at the Purina store.
Unloading boxcars, stacking sacks, muscles hurt like the dickens,
Deliv'ring feed to those out of town who raised broiler chickens.

Now the cowmen, they are the ones that always caught my eye,
Stetson hat, cowboy boots, white shirt and some maybe a necktie.
Some would look my way "How you doing son?" they might ask.
"If you ain't doing anything tomorrow, have a little task."

And I'd jump at the chance to work, if was an open date;
If it wasn't, they'd usually tell me,  "That chore can wait."
Most Sundays would find me up and gone before the hour of six,
Working cows, branding their calves, or maybe a pen to fix.

Mowing pastures, stringing wire, replacing posts that were rotten.
An education you could call it, one never forgotten.
One of the boys in town I knew, said he couldn't understand,
Why the farmers and ranchers wanted to hire me as a hand.

A shrug was my only answer, but a man heard the question;
He spoke up, looked the boy in the eye "Have a suggestion;
Next time you're asked to work, don't ask what's it pay?
Just show up on time and be willing to work the entire day."

A philosophy that I tried to follow when full grown;
Then tried to teach to my kids and I hope they pass it on.

© November 2001, Gene O'Quinn

Uncle Hub's Saddle Horse

I was working cows on my mare,
And she stepped in a burrow.
With her swollen leg, I declare,
Could not ride 'til she's thorough.

Man I worked for on the side,
We just called him Uncle Hub,
He said "do not worry about a ride
There are plenty of horses, Bub,"

"There are three horses in the pen son,"
You know I wanted to rejoice,
"There's Coal, Ol Tip, and the Dun.
Go ahead just make your choice."

Now Coal, he was narrow of hip,
Could see ribs in that black hide.
Only a white snip on his top lip,
And a Bar K on his right side.

No, that is not the horse for me,
Just then the dun got my 'tenshun,
He had approached me silently,
Bit a place I do not care to mention.

Buck was a sure 'nuf quarter horse,
Four black stockings, tail and mane;
His conformation above remorse.
But with that nip, I just thought him insane.

Tip's thick neck and broad hip,
This really caught my eye.
A small head, blazed to the lip,
Pretty? Yessir, I will not lie.

His Foxlike ears were poised and alert,
Each hoof neatly trimmed and shod.
Chest that'll stretch a saddle girt,
I just gave that horse the nod.

Got some bottom to him, heard that before,
And this horse sure fit the description.
Then I walked to the tack room door,
Got a bridle that would fill the prescription.

That gelding stood calm as could be,
Just watching my slow walk.
Kind of keeping his eye on me,
Ears twitching at my soft talk.

I slipped the reins 'round his neck,
Led him to my saddle by the fence.
Cinched it tight and thought what the heck,
Don't need a bit, this horse has some sense.

So I put my hackamore on his head,
Placed my boot in the stirrup.
Stepped up with nothing to dread,
Just a VOLCANO about to erup'.

Ol' Tip, left the ground, in a big hurry,
Sunfished, Crow hopped and met himself coming back;
Really don't know what else, twas all kind of blurry;
And when it was over I lay there in his track.

Uncle Hub, he hurried out of the house,
Coffee cup in hand, a grin on his face.
"Shudda told you, 'bout that old mouse;
After saddlin', wait awhile, just leave him in place."

He said, "I bought that sonofagun,
From a rodeo a short time ago;
And when you first put a saddle on,
He just thinks its time for a show."

I rode that horse, many times after our little talk,
He had a smooth rocking chair gait;
As he covered ground in a running walk.
But I never got on-board again, without a little WAIT.

© 2001, Gene O'Quinn


Mickey and the Week-old Calf

 “I do not understand,” the rancher said,
“Why you want to work the calves on foot.
Ya’ know we have a squeeze chute instead,
As we brand, those calves will stay put.”

Just three teenagers working for the brand,
There was only Griff and Mickey and me.
All three earning wages as a cowhand,
But truthfully we’d done it for free.

We split the herd, the calves in a pen,
And our horses deserved a rest.
We would throw our loops with a spin,
Wrestled the calves and gave our best.

We started with the yearlings first and then,
Worked our way to the newest born.
There only remained about two or three,
Looking at us sad eyed and forlorn.

All crossbred calves called Brangus,
Stout little rascals and near black as coke,
Their mama would be nearby eyeing us,
If they could get to us, was not a joke.

Mick said, “they’re too small for a loop,
Just back them in a corner and grab one.”
He was after the last calf in the coop,
A baby bull that did not like our fun.

With lowered head he charged ahead,
Hit Mickey in the middle of his gut,
Mick let out a big wheeze instead,
Tumbled backwards onto his butt.

We were laughing at him sitting on dirt,
That calf readied for another attack.
We thought that Mickey might be hurt,
That calf left him flat on his back.

Mickey jumped up his face a red hue,
Then lunged toward the calf in a run.
Mick’s cusses turning the air blue,
But that little calf was not nearly done.

Front feet in Mick’s pockets, how is a riddle,
His little head caused another big wheeze,
Mick went down, holding the calf’s middle,
And those jeans were ripped to his knees.

Mickey hung on and we sprung to our task,
The rancher told Mick he looked real cute.
As we drew our pay Mickey said “don’t ask,
Next time we’ll use the blamed squeeze chute.”

© 2002, Gene O’Quinn

Mickey stood 6'1" and weighed about 265. He played defensive middle guard on the high school football team. But a week old Brangus calf turned him every which way but loose.


A Ranger's Ranger

Gather round boys and listen to some history,
How one man could do so much is a mystery.
The story told across Texas by many men,
On the plains and the coast and out in the Big Bend;
Of the deeds and exploits in one lifetime done,
by the Ranger Ira Aten, the Parson's son.

Destiny that was formed at an early age,
Now is recorded and told from the printed page.
Although he was born in the state of Illinois,
He came to Texas when he was just a small boy.
The second son of a circuit riding preacher,
Whoever taught him to shoot was a fine teacher.
While in Round Rock the hanging of Sam Bass he saw,
Impressed on him to try and uphold the law.

A crack shot, enlisted at the age of twenty,
Before long his story was told among plenty.
Judd Roberts who rode with Butch was his first kill,
And Dick Duncan executed because of his skill.
He made sergeant after he arrested Rube Boyce,
a Kimble County rustler who made a bad choice.
His fame among rustlers was widely spread,
When he entered a county, the rustlers fled.

In Navarro County they needed a Ranger,
The "fence cutter war" was putting folk in danger.
He wrote his boss he hoped life could be spared,
But he was the man that would shoot if they dared.
Ira Aten made famous the "fence bomb" of late,
When the wire was cut the device would detonate.
He did not have to use the bomb as he planned,
The rumor was enough for the "cutters" band.

The "Jayhawks and the Woodpeckers" soon disagreed,
Sul Ross sent Ira to Fort Bend to intercede.
He did the job and they appointed him sheriff,
and as the collector of the county tariff.
Shortly thereafter over in the town of Vance,
The dangerous Odle brothers took their last chance.
Ira and two others shot Will and Alvin to death,
And by their campfire they both drew their last breath.

He resigned from the Frontier Battalion,
And up to the Panhandle he rode his stallion.
He volunteered to be a Special Ranger,
and trained his brother to help face the danger.
At Dimmitt he and his new bride started their ranch,
But Judge Gough wanted a sheriff that would not blanch.
Ira took the job and his wife the jail keeper,
And he used cowboys 'fore trouble got deeper.

They helped keep the peace out on the plain,
And plowed fire breaks when there wasn't any rain.
Andy McClelland and Ira had a shoot-out,
Where to put the county seat seemed to be in doubt.
Albert Boyce made Ira an X I T boss then,
foreman of the Escarbada Division men.
He helped start a bank in County of Deaf Smith,
But then had all o'Texas he could put up with.

Took his family to the great desert southwest,
He ranched and farmed, doing what he knew best.
He helped the Imperial Valley land boom,
as irrigation and power made the desert bloom.
Helped develop the All-American Canal,
and to build the town of Dixieland with a pal.
California remembered his name quite complete,
When it was chosen and placed upon a street.

His name is in The Texas Rangers Hall of Fame,
The people of Texas are mighty proud to claim;
He was almost ninety when Ira Aten died,
But not from a bullet, though many had tried.

Yes, Old Ira was a Ranger's Ranger you'll agree,
It took old age and pneumonia, to do him in, you see.

© Gene O'Quinn, April, 2002

For more about Texas Ranger Ira Aten, see the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.


Tools of the Trade

All the hands stood around smoking,
        The morning mist rising slowly,
Some were joshing and some joking,
        Ramrod strode, while humming lowly.

A good foreman and a top hand,
        Followed by a younger man.
He spat his chaw into the sand,
        Announced, "This fellow is Dan."

"Old Ike, can show him all he knows,
        Reckon that will not take too long."
He grinned, then he blew his nose,
        The boys chuckled knowing him wrong.

"Son, dumbest here, knows more than you.
        You just watch Ike, how he does it.
Just maybe, when old Ike is through,
        Make a hand, if you do not quit."

"Boys, prepare for the Spring battle,
        We will give the wild bunch a go.
There's nothing like bottom cattle,
        That can run faster than a doe."

"What is he talking about Ike?"
        Questioned the rookie cowhand.
Ike was fighting instant dislike,
        As he looked at the young man.

"Two distinct herds here on the ranch,
        Those tame graze out on the prairie,
The bottom cows across the branch,
        They are wild ones and plumb scary.

Have to work hard to flush them out,
        The whole herd will try to stay hid."
And then as he whirled about,
        He commanded, "Follow me kid."

Dan took note as old Ike walked,
        His legs bowed, right arm was bent.
A sagging mouth when he talked,
        Missing thumb, wonder where it went?

Ike went into the tool shed first,
        Chose pliers and a fine tooth saw;
A canteen in case of thirst,
        Double bit axe in his right paw.

Then he took down his Harvey spurs,
        His leggings for Palmetto thorn.
Released six Catahoula Curs,
        Then chose a carved calling horn.

Double rigged Harmon saddle,
        Bosal and thirty foot lasso.
Plaited quirt used to paddle,
        Brush jacket was not for show.

Buckled a Colt on his hip,
        Put on his hat that was dirty,
Coiled his ten foot bullwhip,
        Picked up his thirty-thirty.

"Dang Ike, are we going to war?"
        "No, only the tools of the trade,
You have not missed it by far,
        Always buy the best that are made."

The ramrod and owner Bob came,
        They were discussing the cattle.
Then Dan said, "Tired of this game,"
        Reached, picked up his saddle.

Ike asked, "What is wrong with you,
        Are you a dumb and crazy fool?"
"No, I am only Bob's nephew,
        And I am going back to school."

 "My trade tools are the law books,
        I only thought law school was tough."
Ignoring all the hands hard looks,
        Retrieved the rest of his stuff.

Bob grinned, winked at the boys,
        Then shook hands and he said, "Thanks, Ike."

© Gene O'Quinn, February, 2002



Toast the Texas Longhorns

An article in The American Brahman, July 1952 stated: "The foundation stock of cattle in Texas, which once was Longhorn, had been eliminated by 1927.  The bloodline of the Longhorn existed only in crosses.  From the late 1920's until the late 1970's most Longhorn cattle were found in zoo's."

And poet Franklin Reynolds penned "Longhorn" which was published in The Cattleman back in 1948, expressing the demise of the Texas Longhorn cattle.

A quick 2002 survey on the wild web found Longhorn breeders and pictures of Longhorns on National Refuges in Oklahoma and Nebraska, and farms and ranches in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming and Australia.

The Longhorn breeders now profess that there are seven distinctive bloodlines and over 250,000 Longhorns registered in the U.S. Now, what is all of this talk about the Dying Breed???


Toast the Texas Longhorns

Listen up you cowboys as we stand 'round this fire,
To offer up a toast, 'tis my heart's desire.
Here's to the Longhorn, a critter so bold and strong,
Once the disdain of many since proven very wrong.

First brought to the new world five hundred years ago,
Then faced extinction last century or so.
Considered worthless, or int'resting at best,
The lowly old Longhorn surely passed the test.

They can birth their babies without use of mid-wife,
Cows are very fertile, calving throughout long life.
They are hardy you see, they tolerate drought,
And survive in pastures with poor grass all about.

To ease nutrition fears their meat is very lean,
And all the predators, know horns 'n hooves are mean.
Tho' their number dwindled now found many places,
They would not be replaced by those with white faces.

Lift your glasses high to Texas Longhorn cattle,
And to the Longhorn breeders, those who fought the battle.

© June 2002, Gene O'Quinn 


The Cowman's Question

His face deep-lined and leathery,
evidence of the West Texas wind;
his deep-set eyes pale and twinkling
and he wore a perpetual grin.

His tanned face shaded by his Stetson
and his arms stretched across the top wire,
studying the cattle in the pasture
and the calves by his blue ribbon sire.

He was just a hired man on horseback
when my Mom had invited him in,
the only father I had ever known,
he was Dad as well as being my friend.

He squinted up at me in the saddle
then he sprayed a thin stream of brown
said, "Son, now I ain't one fer meddlin'
but there's a rumor spreadin' in town.

"Th' gal you been seein' says she'll marry
And that the intended groom is you,
Son I have but few words of wisdom,
and on these I'd like fer you to chew."

He asked, "Will she help you feed in Winter,
will she help the cows calve in the Spring?
Will she doctor and water in Summer,
will she be happy with what Fall prices bring?"

                *              *              *              *
'Twas long years ago when we married,
now its my son in the saddle with a rope.
It's his heart full of passion and love,
and his head filled with dreams and high hopes.

I said, "Son, I ain't one fer meddlin'
but there's a rumor spreadin' aroun'
that little gal that you've been seein'
has been shoppin' fer her weddin' gown.

"I don't have many words of wisdom
but these you can do with what you will,
it's something fer you to think about
when you're holdin' her close and still.

"Do you think she'll help feed in Winter,
and will she help the cows calve in Spring?
Will she doctor and water in Summer,
will she be happy-with what Fall prices bring?"

© 2003, Gene O'Quinn

Gene tells us that Gordon Snidow’s painting of “A Cowman" inspired this poem.       

This poem is included in our collection of 
Poems About Cowboy Dads and Granddads



'Nuther Lean Winter Comin'

"I'll say it right here, that this is the year
When cowboyin' will finally pay."
I started out you see full of vinegar and pee,
At least optimistic you could say.

Now I'm saddle sore and a whole lot more
One leg is stove up a mite;
A toe is blue and one ear too
That calf ran over me for spite.

My very best hat was mashed real flat
When the herd scattered like quail,
Before we'us done I'd dallied my thumb
Tryin' to get a yearlin' up the trail.

My hip is scabbed where it was grabbed
By a surly App'loosa stud,
My shirt is torn and my jeans all worn
And my chaps are covered with mud.

There's a cut in my boot from a nail in the chute
A rowel is gone from a spur,
My hands are raw and so is my jaw,
And I can't find my favorite Cur.

Now my money's all gone and I'm headin' for home
Guess I'll pay the banker a call,
But I'm tellin' you son we had some fun
Working cattle at the round-up this Fall.

I'll say it right here, 'nuther lean winter year,
Cowboyin' just ain't gonna pay;
The work is real hard but that's O K pard,
I wouldn't have it any other way.

© 2004, Gene O'Quinn


Something Special

There is something about having
a blooded horse between your knees;
That makes a man sit proud and erect,
in anticipation if you please;
Of the raw power released
when rowelled heels lightly goad,
Midst swirling dust and flying
clods gouged from a country road.

There is something special about
a blooded horse between your knees,
Pigging string in your teeth and
elbow tucking your loop with ease;
Then a calf catapults beneath
the gate and in loose dirt races
Across the arena's floor
as the horse and rider chases.

There is something special about
a blooded horse between your knees,
The windblown tears generated
as horse and rider splits the breeze;
To return that old renegade
back into the herd just once more,
As it crashes through the brush
as it has many times before.

There is something special about
a blooded horse between your knees,
When you target a yearling calf
and then your horse's focus freeze;
Then cutting that calf out of the herd
and the gentle waltz proceeded;
While keeping it separated
and added reining was un-needed.

You bet there is something about
a blooded horse between your knees,
That makes a cowboy feel special,
so very special, yes indeed

© 2002, Gene O'Quinn


Gene adds: This poem was inspired by a quote from Texas Ranger George Durham: "Clinking silver dollars in my pocket has always done something for me--sorta like having a blooded horse between my knees."



The Reciter

The backdrop was darkened
on the barren platform stage,
Then a spotlight focused
on a cowboy bent with age.

The old man walked slowly
a grin on his grizzled face,
Then he began to recite--
his deep voice filled the place.

He told of the cowboy past
through poems about the range,
Classics like the "Zebra Dun" and
"The Strawberry Roan" wasn't changed.

Those tales bro't the crowd to their feet
With applause and calls for more!
Then that cowpoke made them cry
When "Lasca" was brought to the fore.

"Little Joe the Wrangler" and
then "Little Joe's Sister Nell,"
When that old man left the stage
The crowd continued to yell.

Then he limped back to the mic
And slowly spoke to the throng,
Recalling a young man's life
Then he thrilled them with a song.

He sang the "Cowboy's Lament,"
Badger Clark's "Bad Half Hour,"
Closed with "Passing of the Wrangler"
with feeling and with power.

Then encore after encore,
Followed by more requests,
I left the gathering that night
knowing I'd heard the best...

Then the buzzing alarm clock
Pen'trated my fuzzy brain,
I re'lized I was dreaming--
of performing once again.

© 2004, Gene O'Quinn


Read Gene O'Quinn's

Cowboy Verse, in our ArtSpur Project




About Gene O'Quinn (The Kid from Victor's Switch)

Gene O'Quinn is a fifth generation Texian.  His great-great-great grandfather arrived in the Mexican State of Coahuila y Tejas shortly after serving in the Louisiana Militia during the War of 1812.  Gene's introduction to Cowboy Poetry came by way of Western author and poet Kirby Jonas of Pocatello, Idaho.

The Gift of Joseph T is Gene's first attempt at Cowboy Poetry and the tale is mostly true.  The young'n that stopped by to visit old "Joseph T." was Gene's grandfather and Gene has lived to see the prophecy of the clear cutting of the Big Thicket come true.  As a teenager, Gene worked cattle in the thickets of Southeast Texas where the use of the Catahoula Cur was a necessity.

Gene's second poem, A Texas Teenager's Week-end Education is an account of lessons learned outside of the classroom while Gene was growing up near Houston. Gene recently retired from the petrochemical industry and he and his wife Mamie call Crosby, Texas home, while the kids and grandkids are scattered across the United States.



Rod Nichols and Gene O'Quinn have collaborated on a wonderful CD, Cowboy Christmas Mem'ries. The recording "invites the listener to travel back to a simpler time and observe Christmas with the Cowboy as written by Rod Nichols and read by Gene O'Quinn."  

Poems included are:

Christmas Mornin' Coffee
Christmas Round the Campfire
A Cowboy Christmas Carol
Christmas at the Bunkhouse
The Storekeep's Christmas
Christmas at Miz Mary's
Christmastime in Texas
A Christmas Mem'ry
The Christmas Story
Cutter Bill's Bar
Ol' Ebb
Christmas Without Snow
Christmas at Line Camp
Rockin' Horse Cowboy

with Billy Curtis on guitar and John Pickul on harmonica

   See a review here



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