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Jane Morton

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

 

Lariat Laureate

of Colorado Springs, Colorado and Mesa, Arizona

Recognized for her poem

The Cottonwoods

Named
Academy of Western Artists' (AWA)
Top Female Poet
2007

About Jane Morton:

I grew up on the plains of eastern Colorado in the midst of the drought and the depression. My father taught school and helped his father with the family farm near Fort Morgan. This farm had been in the family since 1911 when my great-grandfather bought the original 320 acres.  They owed the bank, and there was little money coming in, so the whole family had to pitch in and help if we were to keep our land.

During the '40s the debt was paid off, and the family went into the cattle business.  As the financial situation improved we bought more land.  By the late sixties we had acquired 14,000 acres, the herd had grown to 800 head of Herefords, and the "farm" had become a ranch.

When I married, my husband and I, besides being educators were involved in the ranch and ranch activities including branding, round-ups, and cattle sales.  Dad had one man on the payroll and farmed out some of the big jobs, such as cutting corn for silage.  Otherwise the family did it all.

After attending my first cowboy poetry gathering  in Colorado Springs, I began to write and recite poems about our family and the ranch. Now retired, my husband and I live near Colorado Springs on the edge of the Black Forest part of the year and in Mesa, Arizona the other part.  We participate in cowboy poetry gatherings throughout the western United States.

Jane Morton was named
Top Female Poet
2007
by the Academy of Western Artists' (AWA)
 

See information about Jane's books below.

We asked Jane why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she replied: Because I have to. Writing is as necessary for me as breathing. Stories inside of me are clamoring to be told, and cowboy poetry seems the perfect medium for my telling. During the depression when my father taught school, we moved from place to place in eastern Colorado. Sometimes we moved from one house to another in the same area.  Although I changed neighborhoods, schools, lost old friends and made new ones, things at the farm were always the same. The farm gave me a sense of place and a feeling of security and stability, because no matter where we were, "we" had a farm.  I want to convey those feelings through my poems.  Instead of writing a family history, I am writing cowboy poetry.  I think it is important for every family to tell their stories. Someone asked me how long it took me to write a poem.  I thought a minute, and then I knew.  All my life. Everything I have ever experienced has gone into my poems.  I love reciting at the gatherings, because these seem to be stories people want to hear.

Read about Jane Morton's book, Turning to Face the Wind, below


2004


You can email Jane Morton.  Here's her award-winning poem:

 

The Cottonwoods


Most all my memories of the ranch involve those huge old trees--
The cottonwoods with bright green leaves a rustling in the breeze.

Those trees were big when I was small, at least they seemed to be.
I couldn't reach the lowest branch or hug the smallest tree.

A settler planted seedlings when he filed a timber claim.
That had to be some twenty years before my family came.

He moved on after proving up, before the trees were grown,
But left a legacy for us on land we came to own.

A small dirt irrigation ditch flowed by longside the trees,
Which stood like sentinels on the banks, limbs waving in the breeze.

Though years and seasons passed away, trees seemed immune to time.
They weathered storms and lived through drought, indifferent to the clime.

Those trees had always been there, and we thought they'd always be.
We didn't count on happenings that we could not foresee.

The tenant leasing cropland was burning weeds one morn,
When high winds set the fence afire, and sparks became airborne.

Firefighters came to fight the fire from every nearby town.
By battling flames into the night they kept the damage down.

Tree fellers, also on the scene,worked felling cottonwood,
Which were endangering the house because of where they stood.

Some trees succumbed to heat and fire, some to the fellers' saw.
It wasn't just the acrid air that made my throat feel raw.

Corrals and fences, old red barn, all burned down to the ground,
The house was spared yet not the same without the trees around.

The rest of the family has gone on, just Bill and I are left.
The fire that burned our history has left us both bereft.

Just Bill and I remember now the way things were back then.
We know the time that we two shared will never come again.

And like the trees, our roots go deep. They're sunk into that earth.
They reach back over ninety years, to time before our birth.

Five family generations walked beneath those huge old trees--
The cottonwoods with bright green leaves a rustling in the breeze.

I stand and listen for a sound.  It's quiet here this spring.
No leaves will rustle in the breeze.  No birds will chirp and sing.

Though nothing lasts forever, still, it hurts to let it go.
And so I've tried to deal with this the only way I know.

In secret corners of my mind, the cottonwoods stand tall.
The barn's out back by the corral, and nothing's changed at all.

© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


We asked Jane about her inspiration for this poem, and she replied: Unfortunately, my inspiration for this poem was the fire we had at our ranch April 18, 2002.  My brother called to tell me the trees and the outbuildings had burned and my husband Dick and I, my brother and some of his family met there to assess the damage. Some of the family didn't want to come, because they didn't want to see. I didn't want to see either, but I had to. The remains of the barn still smoldered, and the acrid smell of smoke hung in the air. I felt the loss in the pit of my stomach, for things there would never be the same.  It wasn't until I wrote the poem that I could come to terms with my feelings, but it still hurts.  For us it was the end of an era.

 


Jane Morton was previously one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
recognized for her poem, Connected

in the Sixth Lariat Laureate Competition

 

Connected

My father loved his cattle ranch.
His life was centered there.
And so, connected to that earth
Knew who he was and where.

He knew about its history,
And its geology,
And how his land had lain beneath
A once vast inland sea.

"The bottom land is rich," he said,
"Where rivers used to run.
The best land in the world," he said.
"This soil is next to none."

He knew each inch of pasture land
And every cow by sight.
He knew how good his corn crop looked
In early morning light.

He'd frozen in the winter cold
On truck beds forking hay.
He'd sweltered in the summer sun
Out looking for a stray.

He'd branded cattle in the spring,
Cut silage in the fall.
He seldom took on extra help,
But tried to do it all.

He'd seen the drought go on and on,
And grass turn brittle-dry.
He'd seen the price of cattle drop,
Expenses go sky-high.

The weather and the price of beef
Were things he couldn't change.
He couldn't keep a grass-fed fire
From burning up his range.

Beyond that, though, there wasn't much
That he could not control
Except the years that went too fast,
And age that took its toll.

Dad never would have left his ranch,
For he had been ground-tied,
Connected to that place of his
Until the day he died.

Although his body may be gone,
His spirit's still out there
Astraddle his old buckskin horse,
He's workin' cows somewhere.

© 2001, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

When we asked Jane about her inspiration for "Connected," she replied:

I was inspired to write "Connected" because I have such vivid memories of my dad and his love for the land.  He knew it intimately in all weather, all seasons, all times of the day.  He knew it in good times and in bad.  He earned his living on the land and from the land.  He never did anything that would hurt it.  He balked at leasing for oil because he feared the rigs would tear it up. He said the scars would be there 100 years later.  He
always told us, "Take care of the land, and it will take care of you."

This poem is also included in our collection of poems about 
Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 

 

Jane Morton was also one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
recognized for her poem, Branding

in the Fifth Lariat Laureate Competition

 

Branding 

The time for branding calves rolled 'round, and Dad was short a crew.
My brother said, "Don't worry Dad, I'll find some help for you."

Bill went around the neighborhood recruiting here and there.
His neighborhood was Country Club, and they said, "Do what? Where?"

"I know that you'll have lots of fun," he told those city folks.
"The ranch is like Bonanza where you all can be cowpokes."

He promised them a beer or two and food fit for a king
If they'd agree to go along and do the branding thing.

Bill could have earned a living selling ice to Eskimos,
So when he took a final count, the yeses beat the nos.

The Greyhound stage that Bill engaged left town at 5
A.M.
Though some did grouse this mid-night roust came much too soon for them.

They reached their destination in an hour and a half,
And those on board were ready to go out and brand a calf.

Dad met them at the pasture gate, and he laid down the rules.
He clearly didn't trust his cows to all these city fools.

"We'll start by walking cattle from the pasture to the pen."
He emphasized the "walking" part, repeating it again.

"Don't get the cows excited now," he warned the eager group.
"This isn't any John Wayne show. We will not shout or whoop."

They fin'lly got the bunch corralled and cows and calves apart.
The calling and the bawling meant the time had come to start.

Les Hoff, a neighbor, branded while the greenhorns held 'em still.
But when they got both hot and tired, they cursed my brother Bill.

Les quickly burned the CU brand onto the calves left side,
While hands inhaled the dust and smoke that smelled of hair and hide.

They struggled with the calves they held, and some of them were tough.
No matter how they did it though, Dad thought they were too rough.

"Now take it easy with those calves," he told them with a frown.
"I don't want you to stress 'em none.  Watch how you take 'em down."

"Hey, get your butt down in the dirt."  He came on pretty strong.
I figured, whew, his new cow crew just might not last that long.

These bankers, brokers, businessmen weren't used to such abuse,
But Dad went right on yelling if they gave him an excuse.

Bill fin'lly couldn't stand it, so he took our Dad aside.
"You cannot talk to folks like this.  These people have their pride."

"I think you should remember, Dad, they came as volunteers.
You'll never get them back again, not in a hundred years."

So dad kept quiet 'till he saw a fellow on his knees.
"Hey, get your butt down in the dirt!" Then he remembered..."Please."

Now in this world of haves and nots, these people were the haves.
Dad didn't think it mattered when it came to branding calves.

They broke for lunch and feasted on baked beans and bar-b-que,
On apple pie and chocolate cake and bowls of chili stew.

'Course balls and shots and horns and ears were also done that day.
By time hands held 300 head, no calves hurt worse than they.

It was a quiet bunch that rode the bus toward home that night,
And those bone-weary cowpokes were a sad depressing sight.

The calves had kicked and stepped on them.  Their every muscle ached.
New jeans were smeared with mud and blood, new boots manure-caked.

As they departed for their homes when that long day was through,
They told Bill, "Pardner, don't call us.  The next time we'll call you."

And every time that whole year long they needed something done,
Guess who they called.  You're right, my friend.  My brother was the one.

But next year when the days warmed up, Bill did receive some calls.
"We'd like to help on branding day.  Please tell us when it falls."

And when the crowd became so large that things got out of hand,
You had to be invited if you wanted to help brand.

That worked as in the story of Tom Sawyer and the fence.
Folks vied for invitations to the branding day events.

From Canada and Cayman Isles they came by car and plane.
Some came by bus from Littleton.  Some came to entertain.

They even came to like our Dad.  They said that he was real.
I guess that being tactless was a part of his appeal.

All those who helped year after year had gotten pretty good,
Although in the beginning nobody thought they would.

It doesn't happen anymore. Dad's gone.  The ranch is leased.
But this is how it used to be before the brandings ceased.


© 2001, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is also included in our collection of poems about 
Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 

The 2008 Old West, New West: Grabbing the Future by the Horns DVD from the Western Folklife Center's Deep West Videos project includes Jane Morton's film, "Branding," made with Bob Luttrell, who also created and performs the music. Jane recites her "Branding," while rich, well-selected vintage photos bring the story to life. 

Jane Morton also contributed a film to the 2007 Deep West Video DVD, "Turning to Face the Wind," a film about her family's ranch and the effects of "progress."  Read about her award-winning book by the same name, below. A photo from Jane's ranch adorns the cover of the DVD, and you can see that photo and read more about it here in our Picture the West feature.

 

 

Grandma's Roses  

The men cut grandma's roses down.  They said they  blocked the view.
Where driveway met the county road, a mishap might ensue.

And then they sprayed the roots and ground so plants cold not regrow.
It was the Harison's yellow rose she'd planted long ago.

They could have left the bushes there and cut them back a bit.
Had Grandma been alive today, she would have had a fit.

I wasn't there when it was done or would have stayed their  hand.
At least I could have saved some shoots had I known what they planned.

I guess they didn't know that rose had come by wagon train.
Well wrapped in dampened gunny sacks, it crossed the western plain.

Gram painted blooms on china plates and pictures for the wall.
The yellow hue spread color through the ranch house I recall.

Those roses were our heritage as much as was the land.
It didn't matter to the men.  They didn't understand.

Though antique roses could be bought, they wouldn't work for me.
They wouldn't be my heritage or speak my history.

Dad said you couldn't kill the things.  I thought that he was wrong.
I knew that little rose was tough, but probably not that strong.

Those plants withstood the wind and cold, the hail and searing heat.
But in the face of this attack, they went down to defeat.

The sight of roses dying there had torn me up inside.
I felt as wasted as the leaves on canes they'd tossed aside.

For when they sprayed the roses' roots, they got some of my own..
A part of me died back that day.  My heart weighed many stone.

Come spring I saw a little shoot the far side of the fence.
The Harison's rose was coming back, and here was evidence.

I've come to think my family was something like that rose,
A tough and prickly people who had weathered many blows.

They gener'ly weren't people who could give in graciously,
But struggled through hard times and debt and clung tenaciously.

And when they seemed most down and out, and all their hope 'bout gone,
They drew strength from the land they loved and managed to hang on.

© Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(Posted also in our collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms)

 

His Tractor

My father's Massey-Ferguson went back to Adam's time.
At any rate it had been years since it had seen its prime.

The neighbors always joked about the bailing wire and gum
That held the thing together and that really made it hum.

Though Dad had fixed it many times, replaced it part by part,
He couldn't get it working right.  In fact, it wouldn't start.

We said, "Why don't you give it up?  It's time to let it go.
You can buy a new one Dad, we know you've got the dough."

He took off his old DeKalb cap and scratched his balding head.
He squinted in the noonday sun.  "Well, I heard what you said."

"But if I bought a new one, then I'd have to fix that too,
Which when the thing broke down someday, I wouldn't know how to do."

He took no break despite the heat--'twas ninety in the shade.
The sweat was dripping from his brow by time repairs were made.

And so he went on driving the tractor he knew best.
He used it for the smaller jobs and farmed out all the rest.

For all I know it might have been a valuable antique,
Except for all the different parts that made it too unique.

And when he died they hauled it to the ranch dump where it lies,
Half hidden by the sage and sand behind a little rise.

Now no one else can make it work.  No one will even try.
Times have changed, and as they did, they passed that tractor by.

It is a monument of sorts to those who could make do.
They used it up and wore it out instead of buying new.

© Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is also included in our collection of poems about 
Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 


Teddy

"I ever tell you 'bout my dog?" And that's how he'd begin.
We all had heard that story, heard it time and time again.

"Yes, Dad, you've told it many times.  We know it all by heart."
Course nothing would have stopped him, but we knew that from the start.

I must have been 'bout four years old.  I had this dog you see.
I called her Teddy, don't know why, cause Teddy was a she.

We lived out on a country road.  No kids lived close to me.
My Teddy was my only friend.  She kept me company.

I loved my Teddy.  She loved me.  I loved her pups as well.
I played with Teddy all the time.  That dog was something swell.

One morning we were in the yard, and it was hot that day.
Another dog came down the road--a mangy looking stray.

We were near the woodpile then, so Mother grabbed an axe,
And as that dog came closer said, "In case that dog attacks."

But Teddy jumped in front of us, and Teddy fought our fight.
While going for the stranger's throat, my Teddy got a bite.

Well, Teddy hurt the other dog and drove him from the place,
But Teddy had been bitten, and the bite was on her face.

A neighbor came to tell us that the the other dog was mad.
I wasn't sure just what he meant, but knew that mad was bad.

When Dad came home, he shot my dog, because she had been bit,
And then he had to shoot her pups.  I hurt like I'd been hit.

I went right out and found a rope and started from the yard.
I said, "I'll find another dog."  I didn't.  That was hard.

I've thought about that dog of mine for all these many years."
He said it very quietly, as he blinked back his tears.

I can't help think he hurt so much, the day that Teddy died,
He never fully loved again, his children or his bride.

© Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is also included in our collection of poems about 
Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 

Yoo-hoo

My mother always called, "Yoo-hoo," so we would look her way.
She did it at the sale barn one cattle auction day.

Dad brought his cows to market there, as he did every spring.
He liked to watch the auction and his cattle in the ring.

Some Hereford cows were milling round, and others bawling loud.
The auctioneer was trying hard to stir the morning crowd.

My folks were in their usual seat where they had said they'd be,
And I had started toward them when my mother spotted me.

She jumped up quick and called, "Yoo-hoo," and then she waved her hand.
She'd bid on thirty Herefords with our own CU brand.

The auctioneer looked toward my mom and gave a little nod.
A feedlot buyer raised her bid, and I was thanking God.

I didn't dare to signal her for fear they'd think I'd bid,
And Mom had no idea at all of what she almost did.

So needing to get down there fast, I headed for the stair.
Then came another, "You-hoo Yo-ooooo," that caught me unaware.

I'd almost closed the distance when my mother waved once more.
The auctioneer acknowledged her, the way he had before.

I watched the feedlot buyer as I slipped into my seat,
And when the fellow didn't bid, my heart near ceased to beat.

My dad sat focused on the ring completely unaware
Of all the action going on right there beside his chair.

From up in back there came a bid, and I could breathe again.
I prayed the field had narrowed down to real cattle men.

I took Mom's hand soon as I could and held it tight in mine.
I said, "How are you doin', Mom?"  She said, "I'm doin' fine."

Now Mom had been to auctions, and she knew what not to do. 
Of course a real no no would have been to call, "Yoo-hoo."

But Mom forgot herself that day and learned to her chagrin
How close she came to buyin' back the cows that Dad brought in.

When Dad caught on he realized, as he had not before,
That thanks to Mom his cattle brought a buck a hundred more.
 
© 2008 revised, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(Posted also in the collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms)

 

 

Bijou View 


On Colorado's eastern plains on family cattle land,
Are sites where homestead shanties stood, midst waves of shifting sand.

The one shack left is 'bout to go.  The roof is caving in.
Wind whistles through the ruined walls and rattles loosened tin.

It's listing like a sinking ship aground on sandy shore.
The pigeons roost on rafters now, and mice live 'neath the floor.

The ranchers hauled the others off, or else they used the wood.
A stranger here would never know where once these shanties stood.

The small close-knit community was known as Bijou View.
Folks seldom saw the river, though, for all the dust that blew.

The government had them plow and plant to prove up on their land.
And so they plowed the native grass that held the soil and sand.

The railroad said the rainbelt zone was ever moving west,
And folks believed that railroad talk. They figured they knew best.

"You plow and rain will follow sure," another expert said.
What followed were the dust storm years and terrible drought instead.

The corn they planted never grew. Cows died of dust and thirst.
The 'hoppers chewed the fence posts up. Folks thought that they were cursed.

When settlers crops and stores were gone, they ate jackrabbit stew,
Until starved out they moved away to try it somewhere new.

Now more than 90 years have passed, but plowing scars still show.
Out here on semi-arid land, the grass is slow to grow.

The cattle graze the prairie now as buffalo used to do.
Providing they don't overgraze, they help the earth renew.

By pressing seeds into the ground, they're planting as they go,
While manufacturing nutrients that help the grasses grow.

The grazing herds don't hurt the land, the way some people think,
For in the natural scheme of things, they are a vital link.

© Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 Bijou View was published in the Fence Post Magazine, May 2001

 

 

Antelope Estates

The ranch across the road from us grazed cattle on the slope.
That ranch was home to fox and deer and bands of antelope.

And then one day to our dismay we learned the ranch had sold.
The owner had no living heirs, and he was getting old.

First came a few surveyors with their tripod and their flag,
But when the big equipment came, I felt my spirits sag.

They bulldozed scrub oak thickets where the oriole used to nest.
They felled woods rose and sumac bush and laid wild plum to rest.

Huge tires rolled over coyote dens and terrified the fox.
The clouds of dust and diesel fumes disoriented hawks.

Machines wiped out the native grass that fed the buffalo,
The grass that fed plains animals ten million years ago.

They leveled, scraped, contoured the land to squeeze more houses in,
'Til God himself could hardly tell what once that land had been.

Developers cared for wildlife.  We were assured of that.
I tell you we believed them when we saw their well-laid plat.

They have a Coyote Circle, Bobcat Court and Eagle Place,
But where are birds and animals who occupied that space?

Fox Lane goes through the pasture where the foxes used to run,
Yet since they started building homes, we haven't seen a one.

Hawk Avenue was named for hawks that used to hunt those hills
And Rabbit Road for rabbit prey that made up most their kills.

As tombstones in a graveyard tell of those who have passed on,
The street signs name the wildlife there, and all of it is gone.

Street signs imply wildlife nearby--a clever sales device.
In truth the only wildlife left appear to be the mice.

The biggest irony of all--the subdivision name
And image carved on sandstone rock to advertise the same.

We don't see any antelope around there any more,
But antelope estates is selling houses by the score.

© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Prairie Fire

"Dry lightning sparked a fire, and your pasture is ablaze!"
The call came from a neighbor who lived down the road a ways.

"The fire department has been called, the neighbors notified.
Flames leaping high's a pick-up truck are burning one-mile wide.

Fire's movin' fast across the grass, it just now topped the hill.
I've no idea what  you can do, but you'd best get here, Bill."

"I'm pulling on my pants right now," he told the gal who phoned.
He worried 'bout the horses and  the cattle that he owned.

Where was the fire burning in relation to the stock?
He wished that he had asked her, but there was no time to talk.

He sped toward the orangey glow.  His heart lodged in his throat.
He couldn't breathe.  He couldn't think.  He functioned on remote.

When he caught sight of fire truck lights, he settled down a bit.
His horses, cows one pasture north of where the lightning hit.

The firemen and the neighbors were working at the scene.
The firemen had their tanker trucks, the neighbors their machines.

The neighbors on their tractors knew exactly what to do.
They'd started plowing fire guards so's the fire could not break through.

The firemen hosed the ditches down while sparks flew overhead.
What if the fire should jump the road?..The thought filled Bill with dread.

It wasn't grass that burned like this but yucca plants and sage.
They fed the flames that leapt so high and made the wildfire rage.

Bill felt near helpless as he stood and watched his pasture burn,
But there was nothing he could do.  It made his stomach churn.

He hoped his cows would be all right.  No way to get them out.
It wasn't safe to use the road.  There was no other route.

Thick smoke and ashes in the air brought tears to watcher's eyes,
As lightning in the distance flashed and pierced the nighttime skies.

In spite of many lightning strikes, no rain felt on the land
The storm was all electrical, air dry as desert sand.

Flames raced toward the barriers like antelope in flight...
Once there the fire ran out of fuel and died around midnight.

Next morning Bill returned 'fore dawn and waited for the sun.
As soon as rays first hit the earth, he saw the damage done.

What looked to be a shadow cast by huge clouds overhead,
In truth was his scorched pastureland and all too real instead.

He noted barbed-wire fencing down where big machines went through.
He'd need reseed the firebreaks soon, replace burned posts with new.

About four-thousand acres burned, and that was no small thing.
"We'll have to buy some feed," he said, "to see us through 'til spring.

We need some moisture bad," he said looking at the sky.
Eventually the rains will come, but Lord this land is dry.

I'd like to see a gentle rain that soaks down through the roots.
If we get rain it won't be long 'fore grass puts out new shoots.

Meantime we'll make the best of it.  We've seen hard times before.
I thank the Lord our livestock's safe, and that's what matters more."

© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Pot Luck  


Another side of branding days that I must yet relate
Concerns the aunt who cooked and served the food our work crews ate.

This branding plan of brother Bill's upset her terribly.
She wanted branding done the way the brandings used to be.

She didn't have an accurate count.  Crew numbers grew and grew
Until they peaked and leveled off somewhere 'round eighty-two.

Since Aunt was three score years and ten, he'd asked too much of her.
Bill said he'd hire a caterer, but she would not concur.

Then friends suggested pot luck, said they'd bring a dish to share.
But  Auntie wouldn't hear of it.  She said she'd serve the fare.

She feared if she gave in to age, well, that's when things would change.
And she'd be out to pasture 'stead of cookin' on her range.

She didn't mind the aging, but she dreaded being told
She couldn't do the branding meal because she was too old.

But when the day of branding came, pent up resentment showed.
She liked to feed the normal crews, but not a whole bus load.

She stomped around the kitchen, and she tromped out through the yard.
She banged the pots and pans around and slammed the screen door hard.

Though many offered her their help, she stubbornly refused.
She'd rather do it all herself, and then act much abused.

She went about her duties with a grim look on her face.
Most chose to stay out of her way and not invade her space.

The few who tried to come inside the kitchen where she reigned
Were met with such a hostile stare they wished that they'd refrained.

Like shooing flies off of a pie, she waved them all away.
"Get out!  Get out!  Get out!" she'd shout.  That's all she had to say.

She had her way of doing things which she could not explain.
It took just too much energy and caused her mental strain.

By time the crew came in to eat, well, Aunt was in a state.
She wasn't ready for them yet.  She'd hoped that they'd be late.

Although she'd told folks, "no" before, they helped out none-the-less.
She couldn't tell them what do.  Instead they had to guess.

They helped her carry out the food and helped to serve it too,
Then helped her put the food away and worked as clean-up crew.

And as they praised her flower beds and raved about her food,
Her face lit like florescent lights each time they "aah'd and "ooo'd."

She did go through the garbage can when other work was done
To pull out plastic cutlery and wash each one by one.

Of course, some thought that rather strange, but it was just a quirk..
She couldn't bear to throw away a thing that might still work.

And so they learned to deal with her--that this was just her way,
While she learned she must suffer them and pot luck was okay.


© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(Pot Luck is a sequel to Branding, which was  one of the 8 Seconds in the Lariat Laureate competition.)

 

 

Horse Thieves

I have to think that eastern folks,
They just don't know the West,
Else how could they have stole the brand
That says Wyoming best.

I'm talking 'bout the stamp design
They gave to old Montan,
The state where Texas cowboys went
To throw the houlihan.

The logo of Wyoming U--
Wyoming's license plate,
Both feature bronc and rider as
The symbol of the state.

And when Wyoming's guard was called,
They carried it to war.
It is Wyoming's trademark,
Their heritage and more.

Who was the one responsible
For giving it away?
I wouldn't be at all surprised
If they don't want to say.

© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


(In October, 2001, The United States Postal Service released a series of stamps recognizin' each state, Greetings from America.  Seems some folks, includin' the great state of Wyoming, weren't completely pleased with its neighbor's stamp carryin' its state's trademark design.) 

 

 

Old Reddy

Old Reddy, one big shorthorn cow, was mother of our herd,
But unlike most the cows today, she wasn't registered.
When moving from Arvada to the beet farm on the plain,
Dad's family moved Old Reddy in a boxcar on a train.

The railroad offered emigrants the cars at reduced rate.
As farmers went to farming land, the road would ship their freight.
Old Reddy's calf had had a calf, and they were squeezed in too.
Along with Reddy's other calf, the one that was quite new.

When household goods were loaded as were implements and tools,
Then Dad and Grandpa climbed aboard despite the railroad's rules,
Which said that people couldn't ride in boxcars with their things.
They had to go as passengers and sit on seats with springs.

When they arrived they had no bull.  A neighbor lent them his,
And thirty she-stock later they were in the dairy biz.
They milked the cows and sold the cream to pay living expense.
They fed the skim to pigs and calves.  Back then that plan made sense.

The family bought two Hereford bulls in l922,
But it wasn't 'till the '30s that their milking days were through.
Then Dad decided they'd raise calves and let them milk the cows.
The family'd go to raising beef.  Be simpler anyhows.

They sold all but some white-faced cows in l948,
And bought some more big Hereford bulls who helped them propagate.
My Dad maintained the cows they kept, the ones that were his picks,
Were from old Reddy's lineage and were stronger for the mix.

© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(Posted also in the collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms)

 


A Real Cowman

My dad was not the cowman
The western films portray
Instead he simply lived the life,
And worked it day by day.

The only time he looked the part
Was at the cattle sale.
Around the ranch the rest the time,
It was another tale.

At sale Dad wore his western hat,
The Stetson with a brim,
Instead of faded DeKalb cap,
So much a part of him.

At sale Dad wore his snap-front shirt,
The one he saved for good,
And looked the way most people thought
A Real Cowman should.

The shirts he wore most everyday
Were practically threadbare
Neat patches covered elbow holes,
And hid a barbed wire tear.

At sale he wore his "rancher" pants,
Taupe-colored gabardine.
They came from J.C.Penney's store,
And not from L.L. Bean

He worked in his bib overalls,
So out of fashion now.
The grease stains, dirt, and cow manure
Lent character somehow.

At sale he wore his bolo tie
With polished agate stone,
One half of all the jewelry
My dad would ever own.

He usually wore no ornament.
"Too dangerous," he said.
It could get caught in some machine,
Then he'd be maimed or dead.

Dad was a cowman through and through,
Not eager to impress.
His herd of cows spoke for themselves,
No need for fancy dress.

The reason he dressed up at all
Was 'cause Mom would insist.
He had to bend some now and then
So they could co-exist.

© 2002, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is also included in our collection of poems about 
Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 

 

Summer '34

Dust swirled across the plains that year of 1934.
My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.

Mom hoped she'd have a son this time, July of '34,
As there was nothing in this world Dad might have wanted more.

My dad taught math and science then and coached boys basketball
In Platner, Colorado when the rain refused to fall.

"We'll move down to the farm," he said, "when school lets out in May."--
The farm down near Fort Morgan, nearly fifty miles away.

They'd gone there every summer since they started married life.
Mom did not know this was the plan when she became his wife.

Dad felt obliged to help his folks, who needed him he knew.
They had no means to hire more help.  They owed, and notes came due.

My mother dreaded going there. She knew how it would be--
Living with her mother'n law out of necessity.

My mother and my grandmother were never very close.
Mom worried more togetherness might be an overdose.

The heat was unrelenting during summer '34
My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.

Dad's family worked out in the fields from dawn to dark each day.
While Mother stayed back at the house and supervised my play.

Alone all day, except for me and I was not yet three,
Mom missed small talk, companionship, and fun occasionally.

She didn't know a single soul that she could go to see,
And summer at the family farm dragged on interminably.

Each time she tried to go outdoors and take me for a walk,
She'd be assailed with barnyard stench that comes with raising stock.

The garbage set out for the pigs and piles of cow manure
Emitted nauseating smells she found hard to endure.

Day after day the clouds came up, and folks all prayed for rain,
But clouds dropped only topsoil that the wind sucked off the plain.

Flypaper hung from light fixtures attracting buzzing flies
Who died while struggling futilely to flap their wings and rise.

Mom felt as if she too were trapped that summer '34.
My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.

She hungered for a piece of steak, or even thin beef stew,
But ate baloney sandwiches, the only meat they knew

They wouldn't butcher their own beef while tryin' to build a herd.
In this, as in so many things, their own needs were deferred.

Due to drought and hoppers both, the garden didn't thrive.
By using up last year's canned goods they kept themselves alive.

The heat, the sameness, and the wind all played upon her mind.
Never in her life 'til now had she been so confined.

She tried to tell Dad how she felt, but he could not relate.
"Well, make the best of it," he said.  "Now go to sleep.  It's late."

Aunt said that Mom could piece a quilt, and she would show her how.
Mom had her doubts and voiced them as a frown cut cross her brow.

My mother wasn't handy with a needle and a thread.
She liked outdoor activities and active sports instead.

But now she was so desperate that she'd try anything.
So she began to piece a quilt, a double-wedding ring.

Aunt pulled out scraps of calico that Mom could cut and use.
It'd cost her next to nothing for a quilt of many hues.

Mom pieced and pieced and pieced some more, that summer '34.
My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.

I prize that quilt which she gave me. It speaks of many themes.
Her love, frustration, loneliness are stitched into the seams.

When she gave birth to brother Bill, July of '34,
Dad got the son he wanted, and my mother pieced no more.

© 2003, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The poem is included in Jane Morton's first, multi-award-winning collection,
Turning to Face the Wind. In that book, in a description of the dust storms of 1935, she writes, "Fine wind-driven silt sifted into the house through hairline cracks, coating the windowsills, the furniture, the dishes, and even the butter in the cupboard. It was in the air we breathed."

 


Hand in Hand

When Mother's sister Frances married true love Douglas Brown
They chose a mountain setting fairly close to Denver town.

Hand in hand beneath the flag the youthful couple stood.
Asked, "Will you pledge your love for life?' they promised that they would.

Doug Brown, a veterinarian, who'd just earned his degree,
Had planned to treat small animals and raise a family.

So Doug, a handsome fellow, determined, young and strong,
Soon opened up a practice, but the timing was all wrong.

Although it seemed he did all right with customers enough,
There came a day some couldn't pay, for times were getting tough.

They had a son in '3l and named him Douglas too.
Then as depression deepened, their financial problems grew.

Doug fin'lly closed the practice, took a job with government
Down near the Texas border where the drought was evident.

This country'd seen dry spells before, but this one wouldn't quit.
For people well as cattle, it was bad as it could get.

Way out to the horizon far as human eye could see
Lay dead and dying animals--no small calamity.

Most cattle not already dead were suffering by degrees.
Screwworm, anthrax, Bang's disease would take their toll of these.

The government put those cattle down and paid the ranch a fee.
A program Doug, a DVM, was paid to oversee.

There in the midst of dying cows and in the dust and heat,
Doug worked a job he didn't like.  His family had to eat.

Wind blew and blew and blew some more.  It moved the soil around
Along with deadly anthrax spores imbedded in that ground.

Doug went to work one morning, but came home by afternoon
Supported by two friends from work.  Could he be sick so soon?

"Fran," he gasped, "I'm going to die.  I've waited way too long.
I should have seen a doctor, but I didn't.  I was wrong."

"Oh no," she said, "You can't be right.  I know it isn't true."
But Doug had seen his nails turn blue.  He had no doubts.  He knew.

"Hand in hand beneath the flag.  Do you remember, Fran?"
She thought he was delirious.  She didn't understand.

They called it dust pneumonia. Four days from then Doug died.
But no one there did anthrax tests, so how did they decide?

And Frances left with two small kids, the youngest four months old,
Did not know how she'd manage now or what her future'd hold.

How could he go and leave her here alone to raise two tots?
She wished that God would take her too, but pushed away those thoughts.

Her father came to take her back to fam'ly and to friends.
She worked to pack her life away and box up odds and ends.

"Now don't you cry," her father said.  "You have to carry on.
You have two children you must raise, now that your Doug is gone.

He was her father after all.  Perhaps he did know best,
But she could hardly breathe right then for tightness in her chest.

Frances had not realized 'til settled on the train
How Doug had tried to reach her through his fever and his pain.

"Hand in hand beneath the flag." Her eyesight became blurred.
Of course it was their wedding day to which he had referred.

Doug's body on that very train was taking its last ride.
She thought she couldn't stand it, but she held it all inside.

She felt like screaming out to all her anguish and her fears,
But grieved her loss internally, not shedding any tears.

Come fall she got a teaching job--a one room country school.
When big boys threatened trouble there, she made it clear she'd rule.

Two summers she went back to school and finished her degree,
Then signed on with Fort Morgan schools, which meant more salary.

Alone she brought up two fine kids and went on teaching youth.
She taught them skills and love of books, integrity and truth

She never did remarry, for she loved Doug all her life.
As much as when beneath the flag she had become his wife.

I think of them together now, as Frances knew they'd be.
Their spirits joined by boundless love through all eternity.

© 2003, Jane Morton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jane Morton adds:  Doug died in April of 1935, Frances was 27 years old at the time. I think of how difficult his death must have been for her.  Her father, stoic that he was, always believed in keeping a "stiff upper lip" an expression of the time. We never knew how much she grieved until she was in her eighties.  Sometimes her mind wandered then and she would cry out.  "I can't stand it.  Mama, I can't stand it." We were sure she was remembering Doug and still grieving his death. She told me she believed this life wasn't the end. She believed souls went on, but she worried that Doug might not know her, because she thought he would still be young, and she would be an old woman.

 

Turning To Face The Wind

I hear the windmills creak and squeak
As wheels turned toward the wind.
Those mills pumped water for the stock
On which our hopes were pinned.

The sucker rods moved up and down
While wheels spun round and round.
They sucked the fossil water up
For use above the ground.

The windmills made life possible
On flat and dry terrain.
They kept the stock tanks well-supplied
Despite infrequent rain.

To us those wooden windmills were
The pyramids of the plains
More monumental than the ones
That held pharos' remains.

My family, too, faced winds head on--
The winds of chance and change,
The winds that blew with blizzard force
And howled across the range.

And like the windmills on our ranch,
We anchored to that place
Until the winds became so strong
They ripped us from our base.

© 2003, Jane Morton; revised January 2010, January 2012
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

deepwestvideo07.jpg (19401 bytes)

The 2007 Deep West Video DVD from the Western Folklife Center's Deep West Videos project includes Jane Morton's film, "Turning to Face the Wind," about her family's ranch and the effects of "progress." A photo from Jane's ranch adorns the cover of the DVD, and you can see that photo and read more about it here in our Picture the West feature.

The 2008 Old West, New West: Grabbing the Future by the Horns DVD from the Western Folklife Center's Deep West Videos project includes Jane Morton's film, "Branding," made with Bob Luttrell, who also created and performs the music. Jane recites her "Branding" poem while rich, well-selected vintage photos bring the story to life. 

The 2009 Deep West Video DVD includes Jane Morton and Bob Luttrell's "At the Edge of the Aquifer," about a cowboy living on the Ambrose ranch in Colorado and the water issues he faces.

The films are all available for viewing at the Western Folklife Center web site area for the Deep WestVideo project.

 

 

Grazin' Rights

Compared to the rancher's investment in land,
And all of the work that range cattle demand,
Despite regulations, restrictions and such,
Our ranchers raise beef that does not cost us much.

Though bad-mouthin' grazin' rights seems to be in,
Historically, grazin' land is what it's been.
Some say that our grazin' land ought to grow crops,
We've heard dumb ideas, but that one is tops.

If that land could grow crops, they'd be growin' there now,
Instead of the grass that tastes good to a cow.
The cattle are like an efficient machine,
Turning grass into meat full of healthy protein.

Some say they are worried 'bout damage cows do.
If they aren't overgrazed, that is simply not true.
It isn't the ranchers who've torn up the earth,
And developed the land to increase their net worth.

And they aren't to blame for the superfund sites,
Or dredgin' the streams in huge bucket sized bites.
It isn't the ranchers pollutin' the air,
Or clear-cuttin' forests 'till hillsides are bare.

I think of the families who've leased land for years.
They're still raisin' cattle same place it appears.
If land was so ruined, then why would they stay?
They would have to move on to some place that would pay.

The ain't-broke-don't-fix-it rule seems to apply,
But knowin' the bureaucrats, probably they'll try.
They'll pass some darned law they dreamed up in the East
That won't make things better for man or for beast.

The government break up of AT&T
Had adverse effects that they did not forsee.
Soon after, our phone bills began their ascent,
And customers wondered where phone service went.

So now if the grazin' fees climb to the sky,
And new rules put and end to our cattle supply,
We could substitute soy beans in place of our beef,
But it might not be long 'fore we're feelin' some grief.

Once ranchers are gone, some might soften their tone,
And wish that they'd left what worked well 'nough alone.

© Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Cowboy Poetry

The round-ups, the brandings,
The calvings are done,
As ranchers sell out
And move on one by one.

We must tell the stories,
So memories live on,
Past time when the tellers
Themselves are long gone.

© 2004,  Jane Morton 
written for Cowboy Poetry Week, 2004
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is also posted with our Poems About Cowboy Poetry

 

Way Of Life

Like snowflakes in blizzards,
   change comes thick and fast,
Obliterates landmarks
   that link to the past.

We need tell our stories,
   share memories amassed,
To help those who follow
   ride out the storm's blast

© 2007,  Jane Morton 
written for Cowboy Poetry Week, 2007 
 

 

 

Adrenaline Rush, Matt's Story

I hung with the bullriders when I was young,
Then I took my first ride, and the trap had been sprung.

As soon as I felt that adrenaline rush,
I became as addicted as any poor lush.

My friend, Jimmy, was hooked 'bout as bad as I was.
We were hell-bent to ride 'till the ride-ending buzz.

No matter what happened we went back for more
While rackin' up injuries hard to ignore.

The bulls lured us on when we knew we should quit,
But adrenaline rush told us broken bones knit.

We'd been stepped on and stomped on, and chased to the fence.
The pleasure we found in it didn't make sense.

Though adrenaline rush brought us bullridin' thrills,
The little we won hardly paid doctor's bills.

I'd had breaks and concussions, and some so severe,
Even now I have spells when my mind's not so clear.

Jimmy broke jaw and ribs and had back surgery.
I'd have to guess Jimmy'd been hurt worse 'n me.

But we kept on a ridin'; we just couldn't stop.
We almost believed that we'd come out on top.

"You becha," we'd say.  That expression proved true.
Turned out we bet lives, and a  payment came due.

We'd no sense of death lurkin' the night Jimmy died,
His chest crushed by the bull he'd been tryin' to ride.

Grandstanders who'd cheered only moments before,
Now sat in stunned silence, both sick and heartsore.

I knew in the moments that followed the hush
That at age twenty-one I was done with the rush.

Jimmy's buried in Texas a long ways from here.
When I think of him now I can't hold back a tear.

Is adrenaline rush ever worth what it cost?
No, not when you're grievin' a person you've lost.

What bothers me most 'bout this whole tragedy--
I held our two tickets.  He drew his from me.
                                              
© 2004,  Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Partners

For Heather and Matt it was love at first sight
When the two met at Cowboy's that fateful fall night.

They'd gone there line-dancing, but neither one knew
That the love of his life would be line-dancing too.

When friends introduced them, Matt's heart picked up speed
'Til it pounded like hoofbeats caught up in stampede.

He¹d ridden bad bulls, taken many a chance,
Yet he was afraid to ask Heather to dance.

He hemmed and he haawed, but he'd lost all his words.
She probably thought him the king of the nerds.

Then grabbing a phrase that popped into his head,
He stuck out his hand, "Pleased to meetcha," he said.

He couldn't 've impressed her much more if he'd tried.
She knew other boys who talked sweet and they lied.

The hand that gripped hers felt work-callused and rough.
She sensed a firm strength in it, gentle but tough.

She looked in his eyes, and she read his true worth,
And  Matt came off honest as sky and the earth.

Her bright sparkling eyes and her mischievious grin
Told of beauty that bubbled from springs deep within.

They stared at each other 'lectricity flowed,
And Matt, the bull-rider knew he had been throwed.

That night each had chosen a partner for life,
Now they'll partner together as husband and wife.

© 2004,  Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This poem was written for Dick and Jane Morton's granddaughter Heather's wedding; it's the true story of  of Heather and Matt's meeting.  The happy couple were married July 16, 2005 in the park near the Morton's house in Colorado's Black Forest.


Cody was born to Heather and Matt in 2007

 

Wild Horses

I've seen wild horses running free
   across Nevada plains.
The duns and bays, blacks, sorrels, roans,
   with flying tails and manes.

Coat colors true to Spanish roots,
   glistened in the sun.
My heart beat faster as I watched
   those mustangs on the run.

Descended from the horses
   conquistadores rode,
The mustangs have been traced to them
   through their genetic code.

But some will soon be going, gone,
   and taken off the range,
Because a bill became a law,
   the horses' fate will change.

Tacked onto a spending bill,
   and hidden out of sight
A rider aimed at wild horse herds
   was passed without a fight.

The old and the unwanted ones
   held in captivity
would be sold off to packing plants,
   their meat shipped 'cross the sea.

These ponies ran across the West,
   expressing U.S. mails.
They carried Texas cowboys North,
   trailed longhorns to the rails.

With stamina and courage they
   helped settle western plains.
They worked the roundups, cattle drives,
   accompanied wagon trains.

The herds are living legends.
   Our past lies in their genes.
The symbol of the West, no less,
   is what this law demeans.

Once horses marked for slaughter have
   been cut out from the herd,
Herd numbers on our public lands
   will decrease by a third.

If we deplete the gene pools now,
   then blood lines could be lost,,
And future generations will
   be those who count the cost.

While economic impact may
   be practically nil,
The impact on our souls is such
   we can't afford this bill.

Though there's a problem to be sure,
   this rider's no solution.
The end result might be, in fact,
   the horse herds' dissolution.

© 2004,  Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Bryce's Canyon

"Heck of a place to lose a cow,"
   said Ebenezer Bryce,
Whose cattle grazed behind his house,
   through scenery most called nice.

But scenery made it difficult
   to round up cattle strays,
For part of it was canyon land,
   where paths became a maze.

Positioned on the canyon floor,
   Hoo-doos stood silent guard,
And watched the cowboys chasing cows
   through land erosion scarred.

The Hoo-doos thwarted all attempts
   to chase a cow straight through.
Not only did they block the paths,
   they spoiled a cowboy's view.

Frustrated cowboys rode and rode
   and chased around the place.
Invariably they circled back,
   and came out face to face.

Bryce didn't comment on God's work,
   or tell how sunbeams play
On sandstone rock formations
   each unique in its own way.

Nor did he say that sunset tones
   time layered in the rock
Were worth at least a second look
   while rounding up the stock.

So Bryce's thoughts on canyon views
   remain a mystery,
But words about his grazing land
   went down in history.

Like other cowmen I have known,
   Bryce had a one-track mind.
A cow gone missing in that place,
   would sure be hard to find.

© 2005,  Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jane told us that this poem was inspired by a comment by Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon homesteader and cattleman, the first white rancher in the area that is now Bryce Canyon National Park.  The park's visitor center has information about Bryce, which includes his comments that the area was "A heck of a place to lose a cow."  Jane said that it sounded so much like something her dad would have said, that she just had to write a poem about it.

 

Dick's Story
     Or How Cowboy Poetry Saved My Life

I went into the hospital
    the middle of July
Where I lay flat upon my back
   as six long weeks went by.

But I brought cowboy poems with me,
   stored in my memory.
I said them over many times.
   They saved my sanity.

I told my horse "So Long, Chinook,"
    I breathed the "Trail Dust."
I sat around "Your Camp Fire," Bruce,
    as my case was discussed.

I started learning one new poem
    I hoped I'd live to share.
Out "Where The Ponies Come To Drink,"
   transported me elsewhere.

I shared "A Cowboy's Prayer," which
   I'd say's my favorite poem.
Staff read it on the intercom,
   Some took a copy home.

I credit cowboy poetry,
   which helped me look ahead,
To getting back to family
   and my own little spread.

I think that cowboy poetry
   might well have saved my life.
These are the thoughts I've had on this,
   as written by my wife.
                                  

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


Dick Morton tells more about his experience in the track notes to The BAR-D Roundup, here, as an introduction to his recitation of Badger Clark's "A Cowboy's Prayer," included on the CD.

 

Mom's Job

Mom's fight to keep Dad's clothes in shape
   near drove her to despair,
Especially in the days before
   she knew of wash and wear.

She worked to keep him lookin good,
   his clothes all neat and clean.
She battled 'gainst manure and mud,
   and grease from some machine.

Clothes faded in the wash and sun.
    Barbed wire would snag and tear.
He wore the buttons off his shirts
   and lost them who knew where.

When Mom replaced a button, which
   "had been put on with spit."
She looped strong thread through all the holes,
   and firmly anchored it.

She never sat to rest her feet,
   but what she had to mend,
Or darn his socks, a thankless job,
   that never seemed to end.

Mom never would have understood
   kids torn and ragged jeans.
She would have thought the wearers came
   from families without means.

Mom felt the way her husband looked
   reflected on her care,
And  "tacky" was the kind of look
   my mother couldn't bear.

He had his job, and she had hers.
   It was her source of pride.
She did it almost sixty years,
    until the month she died.

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


 

Steamboat—1896-1914

From a Percheron stallion and Mexican mare,
Came a feisty black foal who drew first breaths of air

On a Wyoming ranch where he ran wild and free
'Til the boss sold him off to Swan Land Company.

Swan hands went to geld him the year he turned three.
He reared when they neared, and he neighed frantically.

He'd lived on the range, didn't know ways of men,
And they'd pretty much left him alone until then.

He tried to break free, but instead he was thrown.
His nose slammed the ground. Impact loosened a bone,

Which foreman Sam Moore then cut out with a knife.
Pain enveloped the colt. Trauma scarred him for life.

The bone dangling loose had been easy to spot,
The damage to psyche most likely was not.

A breathin' result that they didn't intend
Left him whistlin' like steamboats a roundin' the bend.

So Danks named him Steamboat, but couldn't know then
He'd be blowin' that whistle on dozens of men.

Cowboys thought he'd work cattle once they had him trained,
But he wouldn¹t be ridden, nor would he be reined.

In the process they learned that this bronco could buck.
Plus that he had power, endurance  and pluck.

They saddled him up, and he took no offense,
Yet when riders climbed on him, they felt him grow tense.

Soon's the blindfold came off, he would crouch 'fore he'd spring,
Then take off for the clouds like a bird on the wing.

Crowds 'round the arena had reason to gawk,
When they saw this big horse flyin' up with the hawk.

Steamboat zigged and he zagged like a black lightning bolt,
Before landing stiff-legged to jar and to jolt.

If that didn't do it, he twisted and turned,
While enhancing the rep which he honestly earned.

He got down to work with a gleam in his eyes,
As he went 'bout his business--denyin' the prize

Steamboat spilled the best riders and spilled them so fast,
Few more than a handful stayed put 'til the last.

Voted worst bucking bronco two years in a row,
His performance thrilled fans at the Frontier Days show.

Though he raised his technique to a state-of-the-art,
The greatest thing 'bout him, they said, was his heart.

Steamboat had no quit in him.  He never gave in.
Even mired in the mud, he'd keep tryin' to win.

Steamboat modeled the logo for Wyoming U,
And the sculpture on campus
well, that's Steamboat too.

The state of Wyoming identifies still
With the bronc who'd not bend to do any man's will.

The Hall of Fame people knew what he could do,
For he's one of five buckers whose name is on view.

Though it's been many years since Old Steamboat passed on,*
As a bucking horse icon, he'll never be gone.

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



*Young Steamboat, half brother to Old Steamboat, was a top bucker too, but it is generally conceded that Old Steamboat was the best of all time.

Coloring the Horses

George Armstrong Custer had an eye
   for color and for show.
Buckskin breeches, bright red tie,
   on him seemed apropos.

He turned that eye on horses
   of the 7th Cavalry,
Deciding to regroup them all
   for uniformity.

One troop commander wrote that he*
   was bitterly opposed,
And troops were none too happy once
   the plan had been disclosed.

Some thought it wrong to make this change
   before a big campaign.
If carried out when garrisoned,
   it might have caused less pain.

But Custer had commanders pick
   the color they preferred,
Then troops brought all the horses out,
   and color-grouped the herd.

They'd picked in order of their rank.
   The junior troop picked last.
They got mixed colors and the roans,
   for those had been by-passed.

While blacks and browns, the bays, the grays,
   the sorrels, chestnuts, roans,
Were taken to new picket lines,
   men swore in muffled tones.

Most troopers didn't care at all
   for Custer's color scheme,
Which forced a man to trade his horse
   and cruelly split a team.

Old veterans likely felt as if
   flint arrows pierced their hearts
When they saw pardners handed off
   to cocky young upstarts.

But Custer thought appearances
   had markedly improved.
Soon troopers wouldn't mind at all,
   their old friends being moved.

Men knew this was the army way.
   They knew they must comply.
Yet it was hard to understand
   "appearance sake," was why.

But when they marched out on parade,
   they were a splendid sight.
And Custer was convinced once more
   that what he'd done was right.

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

 

*Troop commander Albert Barnitz bitterly opposed the plan. See a photo of Barnitz, who was also a poet, at a University of West Virginia site here. Life in Custer's Cavalry Diaries and Letters of Albert and Jennie Barnitz, 1867-1868, was first published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1977. The book is also available through Amazon.

Custer describes the plan in Chapter 9 of his book, My Life on the Plains, and you can read his words about the plan on a couple of web sites, including Kansas Collection Books, which has the full text of the book posted, and at Wyoming Tales and Trails, which has the two pertinent paragraphs posted.

 

The Men Who Rode With Custer
 
Dakota Territory, May 1876


The men who rode with Custer
  camped Dakota's short-grass plain.
A few miles from Fort Lincoln where
 they readied for campaign.

The campers stirred afore the dawn,
 which never came that day,
To break camp in fog-shrouded light
 the seventeenth of May.

The expedition started out,
 despite the heavy fog,
But due to rain the past few days,
 the march became a slog.

The men who rode with Custer were
 detoured into the fort.
While they bid loved ones last good-byes,
 the bandsmen lent support.

They switched from "Gary Owen" to
 "The Girl I Left Behind..."
And women couldn't see for tears
 which rendered them half-blind.

When Custer's men rejoined the train,
 dense fog hid them from view.
The families strained for one more look,
  as then the sun broke through.

On down the trail went cavalry
 and infantry with gear.
then scouts, pack mules, artillery,
 with wagons in the rear.

But something going on above,
 soon caught onlookers eye.
The rarest of phenomenons
 moved troops across the sky.

Sun shining through clouds overhead
 lit Custer's men below,
And like a glass, mist mirrored back
 those caught up in the glow.

Near half the line of cavalry
 miraged in mist cloud-high,
And marched a little distance seen
 on earth and in the sky.

Mud slowed down progress on the ground.
 It sucked at hoof and wheel,
But forms moved freely through a sky,
 now vaporously surreal.

The crowd grew still as if it sensed
   the tragedy to come,
While, unaware, the 7th Cav
   marched on towards martyrdom.

Five troops who rode with Custer,
   those who basked in golden light,
Went with him to the Little Horn
   and perished in the fight.

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

 

This poem is inspired by an account by Custer's wife, Elizabeth, in her book, "Boots and Saddles": Or Life in Dakota with General Custer. In the book, she tells:

From the hour of breaking camp, before the sun was up, a mist had enveloped everything. Soon the bright sun began to penetrate this veil and dispel the haze, and a scene of wonder and beauty appeared. The cavalry and infantry in the order named, the scouts, pack-mules, and artillery, and behind all the long line of white-covered wagons, made a column altogether some two miles in length. As the sun broke through the mist a mirage appeared, which took up about half of the line of cavalry, and thenceforth for a little distance it marched, equally plain to the sight on the earth and in the sky.

The future of the heroic band, whose days were even then numbered, seemed to be revealed, and already there seemed a premonition in the supernatural translation as their forms were reflected from the opaque mist of the early dawn. "

You can read more of Elizabeth Custer's account, which appears in the book's final chapter, "Our Life's Last Chapter," on line at the Electronic Text Center of the University of Virginia Library.

 

 

Trail Driver

He spit the trail dust from his mouth.
He wiped it from his eyes.
He rinsed it from his hands and face
and slapped it from his thighs.

But that old cowboy never could
Leave trail dust behind.
He carried it the rest his life
Embedded in his mind.

Years after, he still talked about
Trail driving days of youth.
Young listeners who'd not seen the herds,
Suspected he¹d stretched truth.

They later wished they¹d realized
The stories told were true.
They¹d heard of life out on the trails
From lips of one who knew.

That special time in history
Will never come again,
When cattle moved across the plains,
And boys came back as men.

© 2007, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jane told us: My great-grandfather, Harry, had played many roles in the early West. He was a homesteader, freighter, prospector, and registered some of the first cattle brands in Weld County, Colorado. I asked my dad if Harry told his stories. He said that he'd had, but he'd heard them so many times that he got tired of listening and went outside to get away. Now he didn't remember any of them well enough to tell them to me.


 

Ranching Tales

Before Con Ag Conglomerates
or on-line cattle sales.
Each family ranch had horses, cows,
and their own ranching tales.

But now machines do most the work.
The ranch is mechanized.
Folks round up cows on ATVs,
data's computerized,

While global trades are taking place
on internet TV
Instead of livestock auction barns
where grandchildren can see.

So if one day computers crash,
wreak havoc with our lives,
How will we pass on memories,
recorded on those drives?

© 2008, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




 

Mom's Birthday

As a child I picked sand lilies
for Mom’s birthday, first of May.
Small white flowers, our first bloomers,
usually blossomed by that day.

Ring the doorbell, leave a basket,
turn around and run away—
Giving baskets was the custom
way back then the first of May.

My construction-paper basket
held sand lilies and a note
pencil-printed on lined paper,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM, I wrote.

Mom picked up the basket left her,
voiced surprise and her delight.
Her excited exclamations
made me think my gift was right.

As I walk the prairie, searching,
I feel Mom out there with me
Looking for sand lilies blooming.
No one loved them more than she.

© 2008, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

When the Grass Greens Up This Spring

Let me be in Colorado
when the grass greens up this spring.
Let me see blue sky above me
and the hawks a’circling.

Let me ride out through the pastures
and across the low-slung hills.
Let me see sand lilies blooming,
thrill to hear lark buntings’ trills.

Let me find an Easter daisy
near as pretty as its name.
Let me see the orange-red paintbrush
light the prairie like a flame.

Let me smell the rain-drenched sagebrush,
breathe in air that’s clear of smog.
Let me see the whitefaced babies
with their amber eyes agog.

Let me watch a herd of pronghorn
flowing over sunlit plains.
Let me listen for the swallows
and the cries of sandhill cranes.

In a world of many wonders,
nothing beats spring on the plain
And the greening of the grasslands
in this land of little rain.

© 2008, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

We asked Jane about the inspiration for the poem and she told us, "In the winter of my dad's seventieth year he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which at that time was almost a death sentence. He had surgery, and the surgeon told  him he wouldn't have to have radiation, because he was sure he got it all. Dad wasn't so sure, but he said if he lived until the grass greened up in spring, then he'd know he was going to be all right. For a long time I tried to do the poem in his voice, but it sounded more like me than it did like him, so I finally went ahead and put it in my voice. He did live to see the grass green up that spring and for twenty more springs after that."

 

Ground Tied

I left the prairie long ago,
     but she did not leave me.
She’s in my heart, my blood, my soul.
     She’ll never let me be.

My need for space and solitude
     originated there.
The prairie wisdom I absorbed
     has served me well elsewhere.

From her I learned the difference
     between the real and sham
Those prairie days and prairie ways
     account for who I am.

I watched wildflowers bud and bloom
     clouds gather north and west,
ground-nesting birds a’ dragging wings
     to lure me from their nest.

I heard the ‘hoppers buzz like saws,
     the crickets chirp refrains.
frogs croaking near the Bijou Ditch
     soon after springtime rains.

She tugs at me emotionally
     And I respond to her.
A coyote’s howl, the scent of sage,
     Still sets my heart astir.

My roots lie deep beneath that soil.
     I’m grounded in that land.
I’m part of her; she’s part of me
     like wind and skies and sand.

© 2010, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 


 

Bachelor (1892-1910)

Ten thousand and five hundred feet
above sea level lies
the Bachelor town site, peaceful now,
years after its demise.

It had been a natural park,
a grassy mountain lea—
flat enough to build upon
beyond the mine debris.

The working mines were located
the far side of the hill
where men could walk from Bachelor town
to work in mine or mill.

More bachelors than married men
each day strode to and fro,
and thus the name described the place,
which seems most apropos.

The building went on night and day.
Men hammered, sawed, and jawed.
Log cabins, shanties, businesses
sprang up above the sod.

A thousand people at its peak—
One eighty-acre site.
Perhaps close quarters may have caused
hot tempers to ignite.

This new town generated noise.
It partied through the night,
carousing, drinking, gambling
until the sky turned light.

Fist fights broke out in the saloons,
attracting quite a crowd,
which soon moved out into the street,
and turned unruly, loud.

Occasional horses galloped by.
Freight wagons lumbered in.
Loud gunshots went off anytime
to sleepless folks’ chagrin.

This hustling, bustling mining town
thrived during mines’ heyday.
Men spent their off-shift hours there,
along with hard-earned pay.

The boarding houses, bordellos,
saloons and general stores,
strived to meet the needs of those
whose lives involved the ores.

As went the mines, so went the town.
In eighteen-ninety-three
the Sherman Silver Act repeal
near wrecked the industry.

It didn’t touch Creede mines so much,
at least not right away,
Within the year, though, mines cut back
The jobless moved away.

Then in the bowels of the mines
the water rose too high.
Since pumping wasn’t feasible,
they gave tunnels a try.

But when it wasn’t profitable
to keep producing ore.
Mines had to shut production down,
and Bachelor was no more.

Now smoke stacks rust down near the mines.
No blasting breaks the spell.
Amid huge piles of fractured rock
ground squirrels and marmots dwell.

The wind blows down the Bachelor streets
and crosses vacant lots.
It dusts off old foundation stones.
What’s left of boardwalk rots.

The town itself has disappeared,
its structures razed for wood,
or else moved down to Creede below
from lots on which they stood.

The townsfolk who were left behind
are sleeping on the hill.
They sleep beneath the aspen trees,
and all is peaceful, still.

© 2010, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jane Morton, who has written most often about her family's ranching roots, told us that recently she has been drawn to writing "mountain" poems.

She says that the inspiration for "Bachelor (1892-1910) came from a poetry evening of the Creede (Colorado) Historical Society, where mining poems were featured. She writes, "Creede is a mining town which didn't stop mining silver and other metals until 1985. The Bulldog mine up on the hill is going to start mining again soon. Bachelor is 1500 feet above Creede at the head of Windy Gulch. There is virtually nothing left of Bachelor today except the town site." She tells that a local artist, "...nationally known Steve Quiller, unveiled the mural for the new Creede theatre, and it turned out to be the 360 degree view from Bachelor....not one of the writers who wrote about Bachelor in the 1900s, ever mentioned the spectacular view. I suppose the residents were too busy earning their living to take time to notice. Actually many of the residents worked all day and partied all night."

(See Steven Quiller's etching, "Bachelor Cabin" here, in his "Crede Suite" at the Quiller Gallery web site, www.quillergallery.com.)

 

Mountain Christmas

 A mountain Christmas used to mean
            a program at the school.
The whole community turned out
            to celebrate the Yule.

One day the rancher’s son, aged eight
            came home from school with news.
He had been picked to speak a piece.
            Tom practiced lines and cues.

Two cowboys wintering over in
            the bunkhouse near the barn,
heard him inside reciting it,
            and they spun him a yarn.

“That’s great, Tom, we’re glad for you,
            but we know one that’s funny,
If you say ours instead of yours
            We’ll give you spending money.”

They talked him into doing theirs,
            and asked him not to tell.
They said that he’d surprise the crowd,
            and told him he’d do well.

Well, every seat was full that night.
            The families came en masse.
It was a while before time came
            for Tom’s small third grade class.

Then Tom’s turn came, and he began
            the cowboy’s little ditty...
“They hired a fool to teach this school,
            oh Lordy what a pity..”

That’s all Tom had a chance to say,
            he had no time for more,
before his father grabbed his arm
            and marched him toward the door.

A cowboy stood, and he spoke out.
            “Stop!  We’re the ones to blame
We spoiled the Christmas program,
            and that’s a real shame.

We made Miss Lucy feel bad,
            we made Tom’s mother cry.
We put this idea in his head,
            and we’ve no alibi.

We’d say we’re very sorry, but
            that wouldn’t make it right,
so we’ll make you some promises
            here in this room tonight.

We promise we’ll chop all the wood
            the school will need this year,
and we’ won’t play another trick
            like this one we played here.

So Tommy, go ahead recite
            Miss Lucy’s poem now.
We know you practiced real hard,
            so you’ll remember how.”

The show went on and Tom did well.
            The crowd applauded him,
 and cowboys kept the wood box full
 all winter rim to rim.

© 2012, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Jane told us that her inspiration came from "...a story that a friend of ours told me about ten years ago. He said it was a true story, and that Tom was his cousin. Our friend is about ninety-five now..."

Memories

Memories like sunsets
are slipping away
as colors fade out
by end of the day.

Photographs capture
a sunset in place,
but memories dim,
and time will erase

Ancients left paintings
on walls of the cliffs
or pecked them on stones
we call petro-glyphs.

We’ve pencils and pens,
computer keyboard.
We don’t need stone tools
with which to record.

Tell of your era,
events, other’s lives.
Get words down on paper,
create your archives.

Families will treasure
the stories you leave
much more than you know,
more than you believe.

This window of time—
twilight until dark
closes down quickly,
commit, leave your mark.

© 2013, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Savers

My family saved most everything,
old rubber bands and bits of string,
Post Toasties boxes, coffee cans,
and chipped enamel cooking pans,
wing nuts, lug bolts, assorted screws,
old harnesses too worn to use.

Root cellar jars, lids rusted tight
held contents which could kill outright.
They saved used ribbons, bows, gift wraps.
Christmas tinsel, fabric scraps.
They boxed old games with missing parts
and decks of cards, less spades or hearts.

They saved milk bottles, paper ferns,
kept bills, receipts and tax returns,
filled crates with books the mice had chewed.
Year after year the stuff accrued.
They couldn’t throw one thing away
in case they needed it someday.

Perhaps the times that they went through—
depression, drought, and World War II—
influenced them to store and hoard,
until they just went overboard,
but folks will do what they will do,
they do not need a reason to.

It took me hours to sort it out
and find something to shout about.
Inside a box of bric-a-brac
I found a journal dating back
to eighteen-hundred-thirty-four,
some years before the Civil War.

In flowing script with ink and pen
My great-great grandpa wrote it then.
Because some saver stashed away,
our history’s here with us today.

© 2013, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Jane comments:  I started writing "Savers" a few years ago, because of my experience of going through things the family had stashed away. I was inspired by the number of things I found that they must have known they would never use again. However, I do remember finding the journal and how much it meant. It pays to sort carefully.

 

Arizona Christmas

We're here in Arizona
          where the snowbirds congregate.
Colorado's still our home;
          we didn't emigrate.

We're here in Arizona
          where the skies are mostly blue.
Once in a while it happens that
          we see a cloud or two.

The fairy duster's blooming,
          and honey bees buzz round.
Though it's winter in the mountains,
          our flowers still abound.

Turkey vultures riding currents
          are circling in the sky.
Miles above the desert floor,
          they know when creatures die.

They are the homeliest of birds,
          but part of His great plan.
They've been the desert cleaning crew
          since earthly time began

White contrail streaks criss-cross the sky,
          as southbound planes fly in.
Folks like to spend their Christmas here
          and visit kith and kin.

We'll celebrate our Christmas
          the way we usually do,
with thanks to God and his dear Son,
          and thoughts of all of you.

© 2012, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 




 

Jane Morton shares two poems written for poet Rusty Calhoun, who died in July, 2013. She introduces the poems:

Rusty Calhoun wrote a number of poems about her family, their ranch near Evergreen, Colorado, and about the West in general. She performed at gatherings in Arizona, Colorado and other western states. Many times she turned her sense of humor toward herself. Her poems could make us laugh or make us cry, but they always made good listening. I hear her voice when I read her poems, and I miss her smile and her hearty laugh.

She passed away last summer. She had surgery for brain cancer, and passed away, not from cancer, but from side effects of the chemo. She will be missed.

Rusty and Her Horses

Rusty left the hospital
though she was gravely ill.
her chances of recovery
were on the verge of nil.

She loved her horses, always had,
but she'd be far beyond
where she and these five steeds of hers
had forged a special bond.

She was wheeled into the pasture
where the largest horses grazed,
but what happened after that
left onlookers amazed.

The horses quit their grazing and
moved toward her wheelchair
and formed a circle 'round her
in hot dry summer air.

For moments nothing broke the spell,
no whinny or no neigh.
They stood as if they'd turned to stone,
no testing nor horseplay.

The biggest horse closed in on her,
the huge Hilco Von Ness.
Onlookers worried, held their breath.
He had complete access.

He kept on coming till he stopped
right there in front of her.
No person dared to make a move.
Who knew what might occur?

He slowly lowered his big head
down into Rusty's lap.
She leaned forward in her chair,
and that narrowed the gap.

The landscape quivered in the sun
while Rusty sick and weak
cupped her had around his jaw
and brought them cheek to cheek.

Then one by one the others came
across the desert floor
and dropped their heads as Von Ness had.
They'd not done that before.

The horses sensed it was goodbye,
that Rusty must take leave.
They let her know it was all right,
least that's what I believe.

© 2014, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Rusty Calhoun

Her parents named her Julie Ann,
a gentle flowing name.
Her family name was Emerson.
She found that all too tame,

So after she had come of age,
she changed what didn't fit.
She named herself Rusty Calhoun
and loved the sound of it.

"Rusty" alluded to her hair,
a lovely reddish-brown,
"Calhoun" came from her ancestry
one of some renown.

The name she picked had some pizzazz,
like riding wild and free
through the meadows and the woods
up in the high country.

It had the verve and vibrancy
she wanted to project
She wrapped the name around her
and felt it take effect

She didn't change it legally,
but here in Arizona
she chose to use the pseudonym
which suited her persona.

© 2014, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Find some of Rusty Calhoun's poems and more about her here at CowboyPoetry.com.

Rusty Calhoun

Read Jane Morton's tribute to her mother, which includes her poems The Cows Came First, and Mom Thought She Married a Teacher, and others, which are also posted above on this page.


 

Read Jane Morton's tribute to her father, which includes her poems No Bull, Cows and Kids, and Childhoods along with stories and additional poems that are also posted above on this page.

Read Jane Morton's essay, "Suggestions for Wordsmithing Better Poetry.

 

 

Read about Jane Morton's family ranch history, including the poems When Grandpa Bet the Farm and Straw Barn in our Western Memories collection.

 

Read Jane Morton's

New Year Toast posted with other toasts to 2009

and

Plains Blizzard, posted with other 2008 Christmas poems

and

Christmas Memories and Cody's Christmas Present, posted with other 2007 Christmas poems

and

Memories of Place, posted with other 2006 Christmas poems

and

Christmas Voices, posted with other 2005 Christmas poems

and

Drought Time Along The Santa Maria

posted with other 2004 Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering poster poems

and

  Seein' Santa in our Art Spur project

and

Christmas Love, posted with other Holiday 2004 poems,

and

Robert May's Story posted with other 2003 Holiday poems

and

Ranch Christmas, posted with other 2002 Holiday poems,

and

Montgomery Wards and Christmas Turkeys, posted with other 2001 Holiday poems,

and

Spellbound, a poster poem from the 2002 Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.

  

 

 

Jane Morton Records Her Poems of the Old West and the New


2015

  Includes:

  Rusty Calhoun
The Horses Knew
Oriental Poppies
Ground Tied
The Ambrose Place
Those Who Came Before
Trail Driver
What Would I Have Done
Connected
Phyllis
Savers
High Plains Grassland
Voices from the Past
Childhood
Memories

Jane Morton is one of our most dedicated recorders of ranching and rural life. Her latest CD, Jane Morton Records Her Poems of the Old West and the New, comprises stories of her family, their ranch, and friends, from the time of her homesteading grandfather to today. In her stories with their observations of connection, hardships, and friendships she preserves stories that are personal and unique and, at the same time, universal. Among the highlights on this project are the poignant and candid story of the family ranch being sold, "What Would I Have Done"; "Connected," a look at her complex father and his fierce attachment to his ranch; and the final track, "Memories," with its urgent message of the importance of recording family histories, which ends with her wise counsel, "This window of time—/twilight until dark/closes down quickly,/commit, leave your mark." That said, every track is worth a listen.
 

See Rick Huff's review here.


Jane Morton Records Her Poems of the Old West and the New is available for $13 postpaid from:

Jane Morton
12710 Abert Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80908
719-495-9304
janemortonpoet@gmail.com

 

 

 

In This Land of Little Rain


2010


2004
Will Rogers Medallion Award

 

Discover stories of the old West and the new West through poems of its people, its places, and its history. Enjoy more than fifty poems and many photographs spanning ninety years of a family ranch and eighty years of western living on the high plains of northeastern Colorado.

Jane Morton's observations gathered through a lifetime of western living, look into our changing West at previously undiscovered horizons. Some will amuse, others will touch hearts, and all will shed new light on rural life in the West.

Jane Morton writes, in her book's Introduction, "My poems tell about my family, the grasslands of northeastern Colorado, and our ranch seven miles southwest of Fort Morgan, which has been in the family since 1915." The ranch, inherited by her brother, was sold in 2007. She says of her family's legacy, "For ninety years, they were stewards of the land. When my grandparents died, they left little money. They could have sold the ranch in their later years and retired in town, but they weren't looking for short-term gain. They were trying to build a heritage. Money wasn't as important as the land. The land meant security. 'Take care of the land, and it will take care of you,' was the creed they lived by, and it served them well."

Poet and writer Rod Miller writes in the Foreword, "...her work emerges from the Western Plains like a song or sea of grass. She writes of the land and the people who love it—often her own people and the family ranch, now gone, but not forgotten....The Western plains made an indelible impression on the poet, and her poems will do the same for you...."

Contents:

Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
In This Land Of Little Rain
When the Grass Greens Up This Spring


GROUND TIED

Ground Tied
High Plains Grasslands
Native Grasses
Bringing in the Cows
Working Cows With Dad
Mom's Job
Home for Christmas
Christmas Love
Christmas Voices
The Windmill Song
Phyllis
Long Distance
Winter Veggies 
Those Who Came Before
The Ambrose Place 
Voices from the Past


RIDING THE TRAILS

Campfire Contemplation
To the Cowboys 
Trail Driver
Busting Loose
Adrenaline Rush: The Bull Rider’s Story
All in a Name
Partners
Steamboat—1896-1914 Wyoming's Iconic Bucking Bronc
Colorado River
Cody’s Christmas Present
 

WESTERN POETRY

Seein’ Santa
Wild Horses
Inspiration
Coloring The Horses
The Men Who Rode With Custer
Dakota Territory, May 1876


THE HAWK AND THE SNAKE

The Hawk and the Snake, Dick's Story
How Cowboy Poetry Saved My Life More of Dick’s Story
Patterns
Cowboy Poetry
A Recipe for Poems or Bread
Spring of ’52
Invaders
Mom’s Birthday
Mackerel Skies
Christmas Wishes
Spirit of Christmas
Plains Blizzard
Bryce’s Canyon


WINDS OF CHANGE

Way of Life
Sentinels of the Plains
Who Will Speak?
Country Dark
The Story of a Song (A Sonnet)
Welcome
A Different World
Childhoods
My Father, William Ernest Ambrose
My mother, Eva Wolowsky Ambrose


AT THE END OF THE ROAD

Our Land on Bijou Creek
The Edge of the Aquifer
Bill Mari
What Would I Have Done?
At the End of the Road

In This Land of Little Rain is available for $13.95 plus $4.50 for shipping and handling from:

Jane Morton
12710 Abert Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80908
719-495-9304
janemortonpoet@gmail.com

 


 

Turning to Face the Wind (CD)

 


Turning to Face the Wind
Jane Morton
poems from her award-winning book

Turning to Face the Wind includes 19 tracks of Jane Morton's original poetry, poems included in her award-winning book, Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind.

includes:

Turning to Face the Wind
Old Reddy
Straw Barn
Summer '34
Root Cellars
Make the Best of It
 Christmas Turkeys
   Ranch Christmas
Montgomery Ward
Bijou View
Faults and Foibles
His Tractor
Yoo-hoo
Branding
The Apricot Tree
The Cows Came First
Teddy
Grandma's Roses
City Folks

 Poems are accompanied by music composed
and played by Wayne Richardson ( www.waynerichardson.com).

 

Turning to Face the Wind is available from Jane Morton for $18 postpaid.

For orders, contact Jane Morton by email.


 

Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind


2004
Will Rogers Medallion Award


2005
Arizona Book Publishers' Glyph Award


2005
Willa Literary Award Finalist

Jane Morton's Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind includes over 75 poems and photographs that tell the story of her family's Colorado ranch.  She writes:

"When my grandfather died in 1958, my father became the rancher, and I the rancher's daughter. At the time I don't think I realized how the ranch affected my outlook and my life. It was so much a part of our lives that we believed it would go on forever. As it turned out, it didn't.

"Some of my ranch memories are bittersweet. I am aware of the sacrifices that went into making it what it became and of lives changed because of it. The ranch history and the family history are intertwined. These stories have been inside me for a long time, and finally they came out as poems. Someone asked me how long it took me to write a poem. I thought a moment, and then I knew. All my life."

The book drew advance praise:

"Reading Jane Morton's book was like spending time with a family photo album.  I walked away with a visual image of the people and the country she writes about.  I got a better understanding of the ethics, philosophy, and code that the people in her stories had adhered to.  The honesty of these well-formed verses touched my heart."  Waddie Mitchell, Cowboy Poet, Elko, Nevada

"Jane Morton, author of ten children's books as well as Dyer, Dynamite and Dredges, has come up with another winner. This book will take you back in verse to cowboy days and ways.  It is the story of a Colorado ranch family who toughed it out despite drought, fire, blizzards, and mercurial beef prices."  Tom "Dr. Colorado" Noel, Professor of History, CU-Denver

"Jane Morton's clear and candid chronicle of her family's ranching roots embodies the history of America's westward expansion, exploring the hardships, hard-taught lessons, and hard-earned rewards of settlement. With her sure guidance, hearts and souls are acutely revealed in these sensitive but unsentimental poems and stories. The tales also afford a thoughtful examination of family bonds and unflinchingly confront the realities of ranching's endangered future. Morton's writing is important. It belongs in schools and libraries, and in the hands of all who value Western heritage and the ranching tradition."  Margo Metegrano, CowboyPoetry.com.

janemortonturnface.jpg (24552 bytes)

Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind includes:

Turning to Face the Wind

Early Years
     Old Reddy
     Straw Barn
     Dog Saves His Master
     "Skip" May Get Gold Medal
     When Grandpa Bet the Farm (separate page)

The Thirties
     Summer '34
     Hand in Hand
     Was it Anthrax
     Dust Storms of 1935
     Summer of '36
     Doug and I on the Fourth of July, 1936
     Letter from Doug, July 7, 2002
     Precious Gems
     Root Cellars
     Make the Best of It

Christmas
    
Montgomery Ward
    
Robert May's Story
    
Christmas Turkeys
    
Ranch Christmas
     Family Album
     Faults and Foibles

When the Farm Became a Ranch
     When the Farm Became a Ranch
     When Dad Bought the Mellen Place
     Bijou View
     The Apricot Tree
     How Was It?
     The Herefords

Ranch Life
     A Real Cowman
    
No Bull
     His Tractor
     Yoo-hoo
     The Average Housewife
    
Cows and Kids
     The Talker
     Smells Like Money
     Brother Bill's Stories
     Robert Young

Branding
     Reading the Brands
     Branding
     Washing Up
     Pot Luck
     Cowboy Dan
     The Facility

On the Lighter Side
     Cowboy Culture
     Mutton Bust'n
     Colorado Rivers
     Midnight Cowboy
     Horse Sense
     Cowboy From Wyoming
     Horse Thieves

Coping "Playing the Hand You're Dealt"
     Prairie Fire -- August 1986
     After the Fire
     Jaws
     Teddy
    
The Cows Came First
     Grandma's Roses
     The Old Cowboy

Changes in the Wind
     Antelope Estates
     City Folks
     Grazin' Rights
     Burrowing Owl

The End of an Era
     Mother
    
Mom Thought She Married a Teacher
     Amanta
     Y2K
     Dad's Dream

Connected
     Connected
     My Father's Face
     The Cottonwoods
     A Special Place
     City Kid (by Dick Morton)

 

janemortonturnface.jpg (24552 bytes)

See a review here

Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind (Hardcover,6x9, illustrated, 232 pages)
 is now out of print. Copies may be available from used book sources.

Jane Morton
12710 Abert Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80908

email

 

 

 

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