photo by Jim Ladesich

JERRY SCHLEICHER
Kansas City, Missouri
About Jerry Schleicher
 

1946-2015

With sadness, we learned of the death of Missouri writer and poet Jerry Schleicher on February 16, 2015.

 

 

 

The Gambler and the Dairyman

A gambler took a seat at the counter, in a crowded casino cafe
And got talkin' to the next feller over, who'd just arrived that day.
The old man was a dairyman, said he milked two hundred head.
His wife was in the casino, but he'd rather sit and drink coffee instead.

"What's yer game?" the gambler asked. "Poker, or dice, or roulette?"
"I do all my gamblin' at home," he replied. "Cause every day I bet
On the price of hay and soybean meal, and how much I'll owe the vet
To cure my herd of mastitis and scours, and other illnesses they get.

"I gamble on the price for milk ever time the bulk truck drives in.
And whether my hired man will show up for work, or call in sick again.
I gamble that storms won't ruin my crops, or knock the power lines down
And spoil the milk in the cooler before that blamed bulk truck rolls around.

"I'm always gamblin' on the price of beef when it's time to cull my herd.
I've never sold on the high end yet, on that you have my word.
I don't need poker to spice up my life, I get my excitement for free.
Like the mad cow scare at Christmas, back in two thousand and three.

"I'm too tired to stay and play cards all night. I set my alarm for four.
Cause at five o'clock in the mornin', the cows line up at the parlor door.
And when I'm done milkin', there's stock to feed and crops to cultivate.
Then we milk again in the evenin', that's why I can't stay up too late.

"But if you really want to gamble, friend, I dare you to guess my age.
You'll win my gold pocket watch if you get it right, that's a fair day's
wage.
But miss my age by five years, then you owe me a hundred-dollar bill.
Now there's a challenging wager for you, if gamblin' gives you a thrill."

The gambler noted the farmer's gray hair, and the worry lines in his face.
He figured the old man was sixty, then added five years just in case.
"I'll take your bet and guess sixty-five," he said, laying his money down.
He was pretty sure he'd won the bet when he saw the dairyman frown.

"Milkin' cows is a hard life," said the farmer, "and as you can plainly see
The gambles I've taken as a dairyman have put extra years on me.
But I'll be glad to pocket your money while you examine my i.d.
I know I look to be sixty-five, but fact is, I'm just forty-three."

2005, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Catchin' The Local News

Folks today can get news 'round the clock, if they got cable or a satellite dish
And see what's happenin' in Baghdad or London, if that's the news they wish.
They can tune to C-SPAN to see the guv'ment in action ever minute of the day.
But if I had my druthers, I'd get my news face-to-face, the old-fashioned way.

There used 'ta be a little country store, about five miles from the Wyoming line
Where local folks would go to buy the things they'd need from time to time.
But that gen'ral store served a whole lot more than savin' a trip to town.
It's where farmers and ranchers got their news. It's why they came around.

The news wuz delivered from battered old chairs near a propane stove by the door.
Where the coffee pot wuz always hot, and there wuz butt cans on the floor.
Fellers would pull out a chaw, or light up a smoke, and the news report would start.
It was localized, untelevised news, and delivered in multiple parts.

Each newscast started with a weather report, it wuz always too hot or too dry.
If a drought hadn't wiped the crops out yet, the heat would surely make 'em fry.
It wuz a damned poor climate fer crops or stock, some philosopher would opine
And ever one in the county would surely go broke, somwhars down the line.

The farmers would moan about crop diseases, and the bugs in their wheat and hay.
About the cost of buyin' equipment, and how they couldn't get a hired man to stay.
Ever one of 'em figgered the more ground they farmed, the faster they'd go broke.
And the guv'ment programs intended to help? Hell, most of 'em wuz just a joke.

Then the ranchers would chime in, and start gripin' about the sad price of beef
And how the property taxes on their grazin' land would bring 'em all to grief.
They'd bitch about their stock wells goin' dry, and about their poor calvin' rates
And how them damned trespassers from town wuz always leavin' down the gates.

When the bitchin' wuz done, it wuz time fer reports on local and regional affairs.
They'd start in on how the county commissioners had fouled up the road repairs.
And chew on game wardens and brand inspectors, and officials left and right
Then criticize the poor showin' the high school team had made on Friday night.

After the sports and weather reports, the entertainment news would commence.
The mud that wuz slung in that country store wuz better'n gossipin' over a fence.
They'd jaw about who wuz losin' the farm fer not keepin' the bank payments up
And who wuz sellin' out, or movin' to town, or who'd bought a new huntin' pup.

Sometimes thar wuz idle speculation about whose wife had been slippin' around.
Or who'd been seen comin' drunk out of a bar, last time they'd been to town.
As one newscaster left, another arrived, there seemed to be a reg'lar rotation
Of news correspondents in that country store and news reportin' station.

It must be near thirty years or more, since they tore that old store down.
I reckon the fellers who hung around then must now get their news in town.
At the Stockmen's Cafe, where they still bitch about squeezin' a livin' from the land
When your pasture's full'a thistles, and the stock well's clogged with sand.

2005, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Jerry told us: In the years I was growin' up in western Nebraska, the Stegall Store was a one-room general store about 20 miles west of Scottsbluff, Nebraska where local farmers and cattlemen would come in daily for a cold bottle of pop or a hot cup of coffee, and the chance to swap gossip and gripe about just about anything under the sun. It's long gone now, but you can still find the same crowd chewin' the fat at the cafe in town.

...I believe it was built in the '20s or '30s, long before the road that became Highway 26 leading west from Scottsbluff to Lyman, and on to Torrington, Wyoming, was paved. It was a true general store, stocking everything from canned goods, work gloves and straw hats to tobacco, candy, overalls, rubber irrigating boots and bags of seed corn.. There was a single gas pump out front, and an old chest-style pop cooler and propane stove inside. When I started high school in town, the store was the closest place I could catch the school bus, so my mother drove me to and from the store every school day until I was old enough to drive myself. Hangin' around the store gave me a craving for Cherry Mash candy bars and the chance to hear the local fellers "broadcastin'
the local news" on a regular basis.

 

The Chigger Blues

I ain't a'feered of snakes ner spiders, and ticks don't make me twitch.
I kin roll around nekked in a poison ivy patch and never even itch.
I ain't skeered much of lions ner tigers, or other carnivores much bigger.
The only critter that gives me the chills ... is the cold-hearted chigger.

They ain't no bigger than a dot. Most folks have never seen one.
You don't even know they bit ya', till they've already et' and gone.
And drilled yer skin with a bitin' end that's part needle and part digger.
Pound fer pound, the baddest bug around ... has got to be the chigger.

They crawl inside yer pants and socks, and creep into yer underdrawers.
And commence to have a feast, while yer doin' yer gardenin' chores.
It seems their spit dissolves yer hide, which they then consume with vigor.
Fer an arachnid version of the vampire ... I nominate the chigger.

I still got scars up 'n down my carcass that I reckon I'll bear fer years.
 From clawin' at the welts they've left, from my toes up past my rear.
The itch they leave behind lasts much longer than you'd figger.
If you want to drive a man insane ... jist feed him to a chigger.

I've tried that nail polish myth, and doused myself with lotion.
But nuthin' seem to keep 'em off. There ain't no magic potion.
And steppin' out into my own back yard only seems to trigger
A fresh attack by my worst nightmare ... the man-eatin' chigger.

Most folks love the summer season, and fer most it's all good news.
Of flower gardens, fresh-mowed lawns, and backyard bar-be-cues.
But if you invite me to yer outdoor games, I'll respectfully refuse.
Cause you don't want to hear me wailin', as I sing the chigger blues.

2005, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Jerry told us: I been stung by wasps in Nebraska and bees in New Mexico, bit by blackflies in Minnesota, bled by mosquitoes in Texas, and chewed up by horseflies in Colorado. Ain't none of 'em can hold a candle to the Missouri chigger. New Yorker magazine columnist Calvin Trillin once wrote that amputation may the only cure for the itch from a chigger bite. He wasn't exaggerating a bit.

 

The Road Hunters

Some farmers git kinda' nervous, when pheasant season rolls around.
It's not local folks who scare 'em, but the road hunters out from town.
With shotguns stickin' out their windows, they prowl the gravel roads,
Primed to shoot whatever moves, in violation of the huntin' codes.

I recall the fall that Leonard Hall went out to check his corn.
(It was gittin' close to harvest, on a beautiful October morn.)
It seems a load of city hunters had come drivin' past just then,
And seen a pheasant run into the field (it might'a been a hen).

They hit the brakes and bailed out with fingers on the trigger.
They was primed to bag a bird or two, and full of nervous vigor.
When somethin' rustled in the stalks, they commenced to open fire.
And peppered ol' Leonard in the butt, which immediately roused his ire.

They only grazed ol' Leonard, but he biled out'a that cornfield HOT.
Ready to wreak revenge on the fool who'd made that careless shot.
The shooter, meanwhile, wuz pumpin' another round into the chamber,
And fixin' to wander into the stalks to retrieve the bird's remainder.

Leonard busted in the clear and snatched the gun from the feller's grasp.
Then beat it to death against his new SUV, while the hunter gave a gasp.
"Whatta' ya' doin!" the feller yelped, his emotions runnin' raw.
"You've ruined my gun and dented my car. I'm gonna' call the law!"

"I'm the man you tried to kill," Leonard said, his voice cracklin' like ice.
"Call the sheriff if that's what you want. But I'd be thinkin' twice.
Keepin' a loaded gun in yer car is a violation of the law around here.
And shootin' a man's a felony. I'd say who wronged who is clear.

"Mebbe you can't read that sign I got nailed to that wooden post.
It says 'No Huntin' Allowed.' That's plain-enough language fer most.
Mister, you're plum lucky it's only yer gun and car that got bent.
If you and yer pards don't skedaddle, I'll file charges of reckless intent."

Them road hunters didn't say a word as they piled back into their car.
Just fired up that high-dollar rig, and sprayed gravel gittin' out'a thar.
Leonard went back to the house a'cursin them road-huntin' geezers,
While his wife picked buckshot out'a Leonard's rump ...
     ... with a pair of eyebrow tweezers.

2005, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jerry told us: Growin' up on a place with good pheasant huntin', I never did stoop to road huntin'. I will confess, however, that early one mornin' I awoke to see a rooster pheasant atop a pile of ear corn directly behind my bedroom window. I carefully loaded my 410, opened the window, bagged the bird, and got in serious trouble with my mother for discharging a shotgun inside the house.

 

An Inch or Two of Rain

Dry times like these are the worst, when cattle ranchers are cursed
With too little grass to make it through the year.
When the meadow's too short to mow, and the creek's runnin' low,
And there ain't enough hay to winter a single steer.

The last moisture we got was May, and only a trace that day.
This endless drought has placed a dreadful strain
On cattle, horses and men, and left the grazin' awful slim.
Lord, we sure could use an inch or two of rain.

I open the door for Hank, and we drive out to the windmill tank
To make sure there's still some water for the stock.
It's been dry as a bone all season, and I've flat run out of reason
To think this drought will break it's bony lock.

In the cab it's a hundred degrees, and there ain't a ghost of a breeze
Except for a whirlwind spinnin' over the brow of the hill.
What grass that's left is brown, and mostly grazed right to the ground.
It's been a while since the herd could eat their fill.

As I pull through the gate and park, I spy a thunderhead growin' dark.
Hank's ears pick up, he's behavin' kind of tense.
And now a freshening breeze stirs the leaves on the cottonwood trees,
As tumbleweeds start rollin' up against the fence.

Then the wind blows in a chill, and I catch a whiff of chlorophyll.
That storm must have dropped a streak of hail.
As the front draws closer still, lightning strikes just past the hill,
Hank crowds my leg, tryin' to hide his tail.

The first drops raise puffs of dust, then the heavens seem to bust
As a downfall moistens the cracked and thirsty ground.
But it only lasts a minute or two, before the sky turns back to blue,
And the meadowlarks resume their cheerful sound.

The rain gauge on the post shows we only got an inch at most.
Not quite enough to erase the season's pain.
But that inch restores my hope, and sometimes that's all it takes to cope.
So, thank you, Lord. I do appreciate the rain.

2005, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jerry told us: The idea for this piece came to me about three years ago, as I was driving past dried up, burnt up, grazed off rangeland in the Sandhills of western Nebraska. Anyone who's ever lived through a High Plains drought knows you can't be a rancher or a farmer without a sense of optimism. When the dry times come, even an inch of rain is cause for celebration ... and  for thanking your Maker.

 

 

Stackin' Hay Ain't Fer Sissies

Stackin' hay ain't the best of jobs, if you ain't drivin' the tractor.
Especially when temperatures are hot, and humidity is a factor.
And yer up on top with a pitchfork, with hay dust up yer nose.
While bugs of all descriptions are a' burrowin' into yer clothes.

There's no spare space atop the stack, so stand close by the edge.
Or the sweep is liable to knock you off that twenty-foot alfalfa ledge.
Be mighty careful with that pitchfork, don't jab it through yer boot.
Like you done a couple days ago, when you hit that pigweed root.

Thar's a surprise in ever load of hay, jist like a box of Cracker Jacks.
You don't know what's come aboard while yer up there buildin' stacks.
It could be a mouse, or a gopher, or occasionally a live rattlesnake.
That survived the mower and the sweep, and got caught up in the rake.

"Say, Slim, can you tie the water jug to the next load you raise up?
It's gettin' mighty dry up here, and I sure could use a cup.
I think thar's a cricket crawlin' somewhar's down in my BVDs.
And sumpin is stingin' me in the neck. I think it's a swarm of bees!"

The job's complete when the field's replete with stacks straight and true.
That won't collapse in the first windstorm, or let the rains seep through.
Then you finally head to the bunkhouse, to wash the hay dust from yer eyes.
And drop yer drawers in private, so you can dig out yer cricket surprise.

2005, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jerry told us: When I was about 13, I got my first-ever payin' job off the farm, stackin' hay for a neighbor for the princely sum of 25 cents an hour. Nowadays, most alfalfa hay is put up in big round or square bales, but in those days, it took a certain amount of skill to build a straight stack that would stand up to all kinds of weather. It was a skill I learned from my dad, who'd worked on a horse-powered haying crew in northern Colorado during the Depression years.

Livin' in Hail Alley


There ain't a lot of shelter handy, when you live out on the plains.
And the clouds are throwin' lightnin' bolts, and sheets of drivin' rain.
So when the thunderheads start roilin', and the clouds turn black n' green,
You best head fer the cellar, cause the weather's fixin' to turn mean.

If you catch a whiff of chlorophyll as it blows in with the wind
You best drop whatever yer doin', and git the kids and livestock in.
Cause them clouds are brewin' hailstorms that kin eradicate yer crops.
You'll know it's close to hittin' when the temperature suddenly drops.

The updrafts in them thunderheads toss frozen ice balls up 'n down
That keep addin' layers like an onion, before they hit the ground.
They can grow tall as a whiskey barrel, and twice as big around.
And make a noise like a howitzer when they come crashin' down.

"How big?" you say in disbelief. You think this might be a windy tale?
I've been known to stretch the truth some. But I wouldn't lie about hail.
Man, I seen stones the size of melons knock the horns right off a moose.
And hail so thick in Wyoming it plucked the feathers from a goose.

I've witnessed hailstorms in western Nebraska that left ice drifts six feet all.
The ranchers use 'em fer fencing, cause they don't ever melt till fall!
The farmers in South Dakota have taken to wearin' Kevlar coveralls.
And cowboys have switched to hardhats for protection from them frozen balls.

There's a bowling alley in Colby that offers a hailstorm specialty.
Just bring your biggest ice ball in, and they'll drill the holes for free.
And nobody needs an ice maker, just pick up your cubes off the grass.
Although you'll need to melt 'em down by half to fit inside your glass.

So when the thunderheads get roilin', and the clouds turn black n' green
You'd best park yer pickup in the hayshed, when it's fixin' to turn mean.
Cause it's hard to buy hail insurance, since the agents started keepin' a tally.
Seems for every premium dollar they earn, they pay out ten in Hail Alley.

2006, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Ode to Road Hogs

A fellow I know believes farmers must be the worst drivers on the road.
Especially when they're transporting equipment, or towing a heavy load.
"Don't farmers know time is money?" he asks. "Going slow is a waste of time.
As for driving a combine down a blacktop road, why, it ought'a be a crime!

"If tractors and balers can't go the limit, then make 'em stay out in the field.
That highway belongs to the public. Farmers should be required to yield.
To people like me who have places to go, instead of gawking at the crops.
Next time a farmer slows me down, I may be tempted to call the cops.

"And one of my biggest complaints is when livestock are allowed to roam.
Farmers should be forced to keep them in pastures, or in the corrals at home.
I've seen cows standing in the middle of the road, as I crested the top of a hill.
It's a good thing I was just doing eighty. If I'd hit 'em, I might'a been killed!"

Truth is, a country road is a farmer's front yard. It's not an Interstate Highway.
When you drive past a farm home, you should expect to see children at play.
And livestock, God bless 'em, can't read highway signs. They don't have better sense,
Than to cross the road to the nearest cornfield when they find a break in the fence.

Farmers don't work in an office. They move equipment between fields all year long.
Taking a shortcut through a neighbor's farm and ruining his crops would be wrong.
And a John Deere's not nearly as fast as a sports car, although it probably cost more.
If you think that's a line of BS, just check the prices at the farm equipment store.

If you still believe farmers are bad drivers, a survey conducted across the nation.
Shows that farmers have fewer driving accidents than nearly any occupation.
And who would you guess has the most accidents, as they speed from place to place?
Why, it's doctors and lawyers and real estate agents, the folks always in a race.

Next time you pass through the countryside, try slowin' down to enjoy the view.
You'll still reach your destination, and a slower pace might do wonders for you.
And if you see a slow movin' tractor, I'd recommend that you hit your brakes.
Cause those roadside crosses you see now and then ...
Are a testament to driving mistakes.

2006, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jerry adds:  I've done it myself. Grumbled about farmers gawking at the neighbor's crops as they drive down the road. But the fact is, farmers have far fewer driving accidents than their urban counterparts. Maybe there's something about living in the country that makes you more contemplative...and respectful... of the time you're allotted.

 

Bad News Bearers

The forecast today called for sleet and snow. It's already comin' down steady.
The cattle markets have fallen again, just as my steers in the feedlot are ready.
And the fella on the radio says the price of fuel is goin' up around the nation.
Seems like nothin' but bad news comin' from that gol durned radio station.

The newspaper is filled with scandals and crime, and this week's obituaries.
Reports on foreclosures and bankruptcies, and ads from the mortuaries.
The front page story gives a full account of the county's latest tax increase.
And inside is a report on how my nephew got pulled over by the police.

There's nothin' but bills in my mailbox, from the propane company and the vet.
And a flyer from my insurance man, tellin' me what a good deal I can get
On life insurance, if I sign up right now, before my age becomes a barrier.
My attitude would be much improved, if it weren't for that blamed mail carrier.

The neighbor stopped my to let me know one of my cows got through the fence.
Same thing happened a month ago, and I ain't seen that old cow since.
"By the way," he added, "your dog bit my kid. My attorney's sendin' a bill."
I don't mean to sound unneighborly, but of neighbors I've about had my fill.

Preachers say life ain't easy, that you have to take the good with the bad.
But for everything that makes me smile, seems there's two that make me mad.
The world seems awash with folks who never tire of pointing out my errors.
I'd sure like to see just one day that's free ... of all the bad news bearers.

2006, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Hopper Invasion
They blew in from the west, carried east by a demon breeze.
First they consumed the grass, and then they attacked the trees.
They ate the garden right to the ground, and chewed off all my wheat.
Then they gnawed the cushions off my padded tractor seat.
 
They chewed the paint right off the house, then ate the mailbox post.
And the bedsheets hangin' on the line? Hell, by now they're toast.
I'm afraid some got in the house. I can hear the sounds of crunching.
I hope it's just a box of crackers, and not my wife they're munching.
 
I think I'll take along a shotgun when I go out to check the stock.
Though they'd probably demand my surrender, if I could understand their talk.
Now it sounds like they're after the dog, cause I hear a frightened yelp.
Maybe I should call the sheriff's office, and ask that they send help.
 
Instead, I call the county agent to report an invasion right here on earth.
"They're six foot tall, at least," says I. "And you won't believe their girth.
They must be some kind'a mutants, cause they've attained a gigantic size.
There's one lookin' in the window now, and it's starin' me right in the eyes!"
 
"I've heard the hoppers are bad," he agreed. "But that's a dreadful case.
I've never heard of hoppers big as horses overrunning a rancher's place.
I'm truly sorry for your problems, but now there's nothing you can do.
You should have sprayed 'em when they were small. Like I TOLD you to."

2007, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jerry comments: Eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska has long been known as the epicenter for grasshopper outbreaks. My grandfather, who homesteaded there in the 1920s, tried fighting them with coal oil and fire. Today, modern pesticides provide excellent grasshopper control as long as you spray early, while the hoppers are still small. But if you let the hoppers get any size, you can't hardly kill 'em with two bricks and a two-by-four. This one is for the county agents whose good advice sometimes falls on deaf ears.

 

 

The Scotts Bluff County Fair

It was the day before the kick-off of the Scotts Bluff County Fair.
The grounds was buzzin' with activity, with trucks parked everwhere.
They was bringin' in prize vegetables, and homemade pies and jams.
And weighin' in the 4-H steers, and Poland China pigs, and lambs.

An old red Chevy truck pulled up, with one mirror and a windshield crack.
There was dents in every fender, and a home-made stockrack on the back.
Then a skinny farm kid led an Angus steer down the loadin' chute.
And over to the weighin' scales, near the end of the alleyway route.

There was a couple'a yardbirds sittin' there, just gawkin' at the events.
Squattin' on the splintered top rails of that county fairgrounds fence.
One of them fools slapped that calf, just as the scale gate swung wide.
And that black steer's eyes got big as pies. That calf was TERRIFIED.

Man, that calf took off like a bottle rocket, with the farm kid hangin' on.
And dashed smack through the garden show displayed there on the lawn.
Punkins and squash went flyin', along with dozens of prize tomaters.
Leavin' in their wake a salad tossed with lettuce, beets, and taters.

The quiltin' show was next to go as they made a beeline through the door.
Leavin' Prairie Star and Wild Rose quilts scattered on the floor.
Then they demolished the baked goods show, flingin' cakes and pies galore.
And splattered the walls with chokecherry jam, so it looked like a paintgun war.

That farm kid was scraped and bruised, but still holdin' on to the halter rope.
When that calf tore through the carnival, between a gallop and a lope.
Past a pretty girl by the Tilt-A-Whirl, and through a cotton candy stand.
Straight to where they was warmin' up the high school marchin' band.

The cheerleaders fled in a chorus of screams. The drummer ducked his head.
The bandleader said a Hail Mary or two, cause he figured he was dead.
Majorettes were scattered like quail, but the brass section was slow to react.
That's when that calf mashed on a tuba, and the kid acquired a drum major hat.

By now that calf's tongue was hangin' out, his panic attack near done.
They was limpin' to the livestock barn when a stranger called out, "Son?
The judgin' begins tomorrow mornin'. Do you think your calf will be okay?"
"Sure hope so," the farm kid gasped. "I just got him halter-broke today."

2007, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jerry told us this poem is "based in part on a true story." He explains, "I did have some problems getting my first 4-H calf halter broke, and I came home without a ribbon. But the years I spent in in 4-H gave me the opportunity to raise and train my own project animals, learn how to compete in the show ring, and appreciate the time and effort our volunteer club leader invested in helping me and the other club members succeed. In the decades since I was a 4-H kid, the organization has continued to grow larger and more responsive to a changing population.  Today more than 6 1/2 million 4-H members can choose from more than 4,000 4-H projects, ranging from crop and livestock projects to rocketry, GPS mapping, even DNA analysis. It's a great organization and a valuable experience for every kid ... whether they come from a farm or a ranch, from a small town or a major city."


 

Where Spring Comes Late

The first thaws of spring bring hints of green
for folks living in the valley below.
When clusters of crocus emerge into focus,
and the daffodils put on their show.

The last traces of snow seem to quickly go
as the sun climbs higher in the sky.
Disclosing new grass ... and an iced tea glass ...
still waiting where the kids left it lie.

But spring's pace is slow when you're not down below,
but two thousand feet above.
Where the snow stays long, and the sun's not strong
enough to give it a final shove.

Winter's harsh lock means no grass for the stock,
so we're still feeding hay instead.
The stock tank still freezes, and night's cold breezes
mean an extra quilt on the bed.

But degree by degree, spring sets the land free
of the traces of winter's embrace.
As the drifts shrink by inches, a flurry of finches
alight in the pines 'round our place.

Now the creek hastens its flow to the valley below,
and the aspens have started to bud.
And as the final drift goes, the receding snows
reveal moose droppings in the mud.

2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jerry comments, "I wrote 'Where Spring Comes Late' as a tribute to folks who live in the high country, where winter comes early and seems to linger on forever. My wife's cousins grew up on a ranch outside of Dubois, Wyoming, where their father, Mike Scheer, was ranch foreman. A Christmas letter we received from her cousin, Sandy, inspired me to write this poem. Her letter described random events from each of the preceding twelve months, and one of her entries read 'Found moose droppings in the yard again this morning.'"

 

 

Headquarters Motel

We'd driven clear across three states, on our way to a cowboy poetry affair.
I was worn down to a frazzle, just glad to get from here to there.
We found the event organizers, then went to check in at our motel.
I thought I'd pull my boots off, lie down and rest a spell.

"I won't stay there!" said my missus, as she eyed the dingy place.
There was hostility in her attitude, and defiance in her face.
"It's just for two nights, sweetheart. How tough can two nights be?
And look on the bright side. You'll be spendin' time ... with me!"

"That dirty, worn-out carpeting," she said, "reeks of a thousand dirty feet.
And I can hear the noise from here, from that bar just down the street.
The bathroom's too small to turn around, and the mattress has a sag.
And these threadbare sheets and towels are just one step short of rags."

"But consider the location, hon. We're just a block from the antique mall.
And the decor is kind'a homey. They got a jackalope on the lobby wall.
We're right across from the town cafe, where they serve a great buffet.
Why, it's the finest motel in town. Cause there ain't no place else to stay."

2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jerry comments, "If you've ever spent the night in a small town where the only motel was built in the 40's or 50's, you'll recognize this description. Worn green carpeting that may have been new during the Eisenhower administration, one tiny bar of soap, two flimsy plastic glasses wrapped in cellophane, venetian blinds that will go neither up nor down, and towels so thin you can read through them. After my friend, Abe Reddekopp, a cowboy singer and songwriter, talked about staying at a "dingy old motel," I wrote this for the 2008 annual gathering of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association."

 

The Parts Run

She pulled up in front of the dealership, sprayin' rocks and dust.
In a battered old pickup truck that was mostly dents and rust.
"Could you help her, Bill?" said Dan. "I just ain't got the heart
To deal with one more farm wife sent to town to fetch a part."

She slammed the door on that old Chevy and fished around in back.
And picked up somethin' heavy, wrapped in a greasy gunnysack.
Then she kicked our front door open, and stomped her way inside.
I looked around for our parts man, Dan ... but Dan had gone to hide.

She dumped her parcel on the counter with an extra-heavy "thud."
Then fixed me with a hostile look that suggested ... fire and blood.
"My fool husband broke the baler, and he needs this part today.
There's rain forecast this afternoon. He says that could ruin the hay.

"I got a load of laundry in the wash, cause he's run plumb out of socks.
I'm tryin' to get dinner started, and the kids are down with chicken pox.
But since I had NOTHIN' ELSE to do, he asked ME to run to town.
Now, you think that you can help me? I ain't got time to stand around."

I mustered up my courage, and smiled and nodded, real polite.
"Yes, maam," I responded, meekly. I wanted no part of this fight.
While I unwrapped the busted baler part, I overheard her say,
"And you better not be out of stock. That'll just MAKE my day!"

I eyeballed the distance to the exit, judged how quickly I could flee,
Before she jumped the counter and swung that busted part at me.
"I wish that I could help you, ma'am," my voice betrayed my fear.
"But, see, this here part is painted red. And all we sell ... is Deere."

2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jerry comments, "I believe whoever invented the phrase 'multi-tasking' was referring to farm and ranch wives. A country wife can pilot a farm truck in perfect synchrony with a silage chopper, run a baler, or drive the tractor pulling the feed wagon. She can mend fence, doctor sick calves, trim horse hooves, and kill, singe and clean a chicken. In her SPARE time she prepares the family's meals, does the laundry, keeps the house clean, handles the bookkeeping, mends skinned knees, repairs torn jeans, helps the kids with their homework ... and de-worms the dog. But the one phrase that gives a cold chill to most farm and ranch wives is 'Honey, could you run to town for a part?'"

 

The Old Walking Plow

The old walking plow sits idle now,
Its useful days long gone.
It rests, instead, in a flower bed,
Beside a farmhouse lawn.

It's a hundred years old, so I'm told,
An old homesteader's tool.
That busted sod, clod by clod,
Behind a lop-eared mule.

Each plowed pass turned prairie grass
To disclose the virgin soil.
Where, with timely rain, a crop of grain
Might reward the hours of toil.

The furrows made by that cast iron blade
Could have reached from sea to sea.
Now it's an object d'art, an immobile part
Of old West history.

The calloused hands that tilled these lands
Live on in our memories.
Recalled, somehow, by the walking plow
That rests beneath the trees.

2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jerry comments, "In 1919, my grandfather broke sod on a Nebraska homestead with a walking plow and a team of horses. According to my mother, one of the work horses, a old mare called Maude, discovered how to open the gate latch and let herself out of the corral."

They Grew Into Their Hats

Jobs were scarce in the thirties, and school held no charm.
So they'd left home at fourteen, two green kids off the farm.
They thought to be cowboys, rope and ride horses and such.
They knew what they wanted, but they didn't know much.

An old Sandhills rancher said he might give 'em a try,
If they could sit a rough horse, and rope cows on the fly.
But of course they couldn't, till the old man showed 'em how
To mend fences, ride geldings, and lasso a cow.

That rancher had cattle scattered all through the hills.
So once them two kids had acquired a few basic skills,
He sent Little Mike and Earl out to check on the bunches.
Just two teenaged cowboys, survivin' on hunches.

They learned to avoid rattlers, and mama cows on the fight.
And what coyotes could do to new calves late at night
They learned to mend fence, thirty miles of barbed wire.
Just two teenaged cowboys, camped at night by the fire.

First time they drew wages, the boss took 'em to town.
Where they bought themselves outfits, and strutted around.
Two matinee idols, reflected in the store's window panes.
Just two teenaged cowboys, holdin' another man's reins.

At the roundup that fall they learned to castrate and brand.
And how to cut grass hay before snows covered the land.
They swept out the bunkhouse and chased out the rats.
Just two teenaged cowboys, with new boots and new hats.

That first year flew by, then one year became three.
They were drawin' forty a month, and eatin' for free.
But cowboys get lonely in the bunkhouse some nights.
Those two teenaged cowboys began missin' the sights.

They'd grown into their hats, the boss would say with a smile.
He'd become fond of the boys, hoped they'd stay on awhile.
But one day they gave notice, and hitchhiked back home.
Just two teenaged cowboys, tired of bunkin' alone.

They married, raised families, each went separate ways.
Little Mike ranched in Wyoming till the end of his days.
While Earl turned to farmin.' But they and their wives
Would remain best of friends for the rest of their lives.

It's been eighty years since them boys lived their dreams.
They've been gone now for years, but sometimes it seems
That I can hear those two hands still poundin' leather.
Just two teenaged cowboys, once more ridin' together.

2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jerry told us, "In the 1930s, as the Great Depression swept across the nation, two 14-year-old kids from northeast Nebraska quit school and hitchhiked their way into the Nebraska Sandhills, seeking jobs as working cowboys. All they knew about cowboying was what they'd seen in the Saturday matinees, but an old Sandhills rancher decided to give 'em a chance. For the next three years, they lived lives as working cowboys, riding horses, spending nights with the herd, and mending miles of fence. Earl Koenig would someday become my father-in-law, and Mike Sheer was his best friend. When they returned home, each married his best friend's sister, thus tightening the bonds of friendship that had been forged during their years in the saddle."


 

 

Ol' Blue's Bath

The day started goin' sour the minute I headed out for chores.
And smelt an odor sharp and biting that seemed to fill the whole outdoors.
Sulfur fumes was my first guess, or perhaps a smolderin' pile of junk.
But as it burned my eyes, I recognized the distinctive smell...of skunk!
 
It was then that Blue, our cowdog, come slinkin' round the shed.
His eyes was red and watery, and he was pawin' at his head.
The aroma of skunk enveloped him like a dank and putrid fog.
It seemed a black and white civvy cat had done perfumed our dog.
 
"Blue needs a bath," said Sonny. "But it's gonna take you and me
To hold him down and soak him good in my special recipe.
I guarantee it'll quell the smell, and kill ticks and fleas to boot.
Whyn't you go and catch him while I fetch my rubber raincoat suit."
 
Sonny grabbed Blue by the head, and I snagged him by the tail.
And we drug him towards a sheep dip tub, where we'd filled a pail
With tomato juice, a can of snoose, and a bar of strong lye soap.
And topped it off with some chilli powder, and half a cantaloupe.
 
With our eyes burnin' and guts churnin', we dunked Blue in the vat.
But when we commenced to hose him down, he howled like an alley cat.
Betwixt the washin' and the sloshin', I got soaked clear through.
And I'd acquired a certain fragrance that reminded me ... of Blue!
 
When the neighbors heard the commotion, they called the rescue crew.
They figured one of us was hurt, or else we'd butchered a pig or two.
Why, they heard Blue's wailin' clear to town, at least four miles away.
That's when the volunteer fire department headed out our way.
 
Every spectator had a recommendation. The advice flew fast and free.
"You should'a soaked him in vinegar first," claimed a sheriff's deputy.
The insurance man suggested bakin' soda, another suggested bleach.
That's when Blue bolted from his bath, just a little past my reach.
 
Blue shook off the skunk dip mix and went runnin' for the pasture.
With me and Sonny in hot pursuit. But 'ol Blue was a little faster.
There he found a pile of fresh cow flop, and rolled from head to toe.
I reckon he thinks he smells better now. But only a dog would know.

2010, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 


Page's Christmas Socks

Page was the resident curmudgeon amongst our bunkhouse crew.
And whenever Christmas rolled around, Page always claimed he knew
It was nothin' but myths behind Christmas socks, mistletoe and such.
The rest of us just let him grumble, though we didn't listen to him much.

Page didn't hold with Christmas cheer. He said he'd been raised poor.
Even if there'd been a real Saint Nick, he'd never found Page's door.
"Christmas is jist another day," he'd say, "with stock to feed and tend.
And when we git the chores all done, I got wore-out socks to mend."

After hearin' Page harrumph and grump, our crew cooked up a scheme
To give him a brand-new outlook on what Christmas really means.
We'd open his eyes with a holiday surprise that he would long remember.
So one by one, we slipped into town in the early weeks of December.

I bought Page five pairs of socks, with reinforced heels and toes.
Billy Hanna found a fancy bandanna decorated with a bright red rose.
Jake added to the stake with a new jackknife, a real bone-handled dandy.
And Jack brought back a paper sack filled with hard ribbon candy.

Christmas Eve night, with Page out like a light, we tiptoed outta' bed.
To retrieve the gifts we'd hidden, and stuff 'em in the socks, instead.
There was a bolo tie with a tiger eye, and a book of cowboy poetry.
And a shiny new harmonica that played a tune in the key of 'C.'

We was all awake before daybreak, jist waitin' fer Page to rouse.
"Git up, boys," somebody hollered. "Let's eat before we tend the cows."
When Page opened his eyes, to his surprise, he found us starin' back.
And then he spotted them Christmas socks, heaped there in a stack.

With a puzzled frown, Page stared down at the presents on display.
"Must be a joke ..." but then his voice broke, and he quickly looked away.
"I might'a been wrong all along about Christmas jist bein' another day.
Ol' Sant Nick played a mighty fine trick, bringin' such good pals my way."

2010, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

A Merry Heifer Christmas

'Twas the day before Christmas and the cattle were bawlin'.
They'd just caught sight of the bales I was haulin'
From the stackyard to the corrals not too far away.
Cows think the best part of winter is summer-cut hay.

I'd begun loadin' the feeders with big round bales
When I found myself boxed between the cows and the rails.
The steers was pushin' and buttin' their way to the feed.

And I was about to get trampled tryin' to satisfy their need.
'Twas the day before Christmas and the cattle were bawlin'.
They'd just caught sight of the bales I was haulin'
From the stackyard to the corrals not too far away.
Cows think the best part of winter is summer-cut hay.

I'd begun loadin' the feeders with big round bales
When I found myself boxed between the cows and the rails.
The steers was pushin' and buttin' their way to the feed.
And I was about to get trampled tryin' to satisfy their need.

Down Dasher! Down Dancer! Back off Comet and Cupid!
Hey, gimme some space and stop actin' stupid!
You can eat all you want once I finish my chore.
And get off my foot! Dang, that's gonna' be sore!

I finally finished my task, then climbed through the fence,
To observe a food fight like I ain't never seen since.
Though there was plenty of space for each cow to chow down,
They was fightin' for bits that had been tossed to the ground.

Then I seen two little heifers standin' apart from the bunch.
New replacements, patiently waitin' for their alfalfa lunch.
I grabbed an armload of hay and let 'em each eat their fill.
And there on the spot, I named 'em Peace and Goodwill.

2012, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Read Jerry Schleicher's



Twenty Years in our Art Spur project

and

When Harvest's Through in our Art Spur project

and

The Last Bouquet, a poem written for his mother's funeral

and

Decoratin' with Memories in the 2008 Christmas Art Spur project

and

In Time for Christmas posted with other 2008 Christmas poems

and

White-on-white in our Art Spur project

and

The Legend of the Missouri Mule in our Art Spur project

and

Night Thoughts in the 2007 Christmas Art Spur project

and

The Schoolhouse Christmas Tree with other 2007 Christmas poems

and


Moonlight Spectre in the 2005 Christmas Art Spur project

 

About Jerry Schleicher:

I grew up on a crop and livestock farm on the banks of Kiowa Creek in western Nebraska, about four miles from the Wyoming border, where my grandfather homesteaded. I earned a degree in journalism at the University of New Mexico, where Tony Hillerman, the internationally acclaimed author of the Navajo tribal police  novels, was my professor. I've spent the last 35 years in magazine journalism, advertising and public relations, writing about farming, livestock and dairy technology. Although I grew up riding horses, branding cattle, milking cows and stacking hay, I consider myself more of a "rural lifestyle poet" than a cowboy poet. My poetry mostly takes a humorous, sideways look at how farm and ranch life continues to be changed by things like satellite dishes and cell phones, the consolidation of rural schools, environmentalists and road hunters during pheasant season. I've lived and worked in Denver, Minneapolis, Yakima and now Kansas City for the last 25 years, and am looking forward to the day my wife and I can move back west and get away from Missouri's humidity, chiggers and ice storms.

 

Tales from Chute #1

"Mostly humorous" cowboy and country poetry from Missouri humorist and poet Jerry Schleicher. The 46-page chapbook contains 39 original yarns, tales and poems, divided into ranch, farm and Christmas sections, and includes illustrations by Kansas City cowboy cartoonist Ted Foulkes. 

includes:

RANCH RHYMES

Caught Dead
A Great Day to be a Cowboy
The Horse Creek Station
Cowboy Bug Tales
The Caveman's Rodeo
Where Spring Comes Late
All Girl Poker Band
The Missouri Matador
Tastes Like What?
An Inch or Two of Rain
A Dog with a Job

DOWN ON THE FARM

Gimme Caps
The Parts Run
Leadin' the Tour
Alien Invasion
Kitty Farmer
Stackin' Hay Ain't for Sissies
The Last Country Cafe
The Chigger Blues
Livin' in Hail Alley
The Gambler and the Dairyman
The Scotts Bluff County Fair
The Road Hunter
Renting Space
What Good's a Small Town?
Legend of the Missouri Mule
Rural Aroma Therapy
The Old Walking Plow
Bad News Bearers
Old Iron and Wood

A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS

The Schoolhouse Christmas Tree
Christmas in the Feedlot
Moonlight Spectre
Decoratin' with Memories
In Time for Christmas
New Year's at the Lariat Saloon
Evening Thoughts
A Farmer's Christmas List
White-On-White
 

Tales from Chute #1 is available for $10 postpaid from:

Jerry Schleicher
8515 Lakeview Drive
Parkville, MO 64152

gschleicher1@kc.rr.com
 


 

The Missouri Matador

Missouri cowboy poet and humorist Jerry Schleicher has released The Missouri Matador, his debut CD introducing 15 humorous cowboy and country poems that revel in the funny side of rural life.

The CD opens with the title track, "The Missouri Matador," a hilarious tale about a Missouri cattleman and an old range bull that falls in love. "Gimme Caps" explains the real reason farmers don't dress like ranchers, and "Leadin' the Tour" shows what can happen when a busload of school kids visit a dairy farm. The CD also contains laugh-out-loud poems about country dogs,
barnyard cats, 4-H calves on the loose, cowboy bug tales, women poker players, and more.

A member of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association who performs at events across Nebraska, Missouri and Texas, Jerry is also a magazine journalist and PR consultant, and writes a country humor column for GRIT magazine. His humorous poetry frequently draws on his experiences growing up on a crop and cattle operation in western Nebraska.

"I like to take a cockeyed look at the funny side of farming and ranching and rural life," says Jerry. "Instead of writing poetry about ropin' and ridin' and roundups, I write about country cafes, road hunters, washboard county roads, reluctant milk cows and mutant grasshoppers.

"I had the good fortune to work with some highly talented folks to produce this CD," he adds. "The producer was Jeff Schiller at SoundTrek Studios in Kansas City, who recorded CW McCall's smash country album, Convoy,"in the  1970's. Ted Foulkes, a Kansas City graphic designer and current president of Cowboy Cartoonists International, did great job of designing the CD. And Jim Ladesich, a local writer and photographer, shot the photography on location at the Agricultural Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas."

The Missouri Matador is available for $15 postpaid from:

Jerry Schleicher
8515 Lakeview Drive
Parkville, MO 64152

gschleicher1@kc.rr.com


 

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