Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

2009 photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski


With great sadness, we learned of the death of poet and 1970 NRCA Saddle Bronc champion Jess Howard on February 22, 2016. Jess was a popular performer at Western events. A great friendly guy with a wry sense of humor, he and his brother Pat Richardson often wrote together and recited each others' poems. They each would call the other the "best brother ever."

An obituary tells:

Jesse Lee Howard, age 79, of Wibaux, Montana passed away Monday, February 22, 2016 at his home. A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 P.M. on Friday, February 26, 2016 at the Wibaux County Fairgrounds with Reverend Larry Phalen officiating...

...Jess was born on October 3, 1936 in Merced, California to Edmund and Violette (Jones) Howard. After growing up and graduating in California, he joined the Army before he turned eighteen and spent the next two years stationed in Hawaii.

Jess worked odd jobs and rodeoed with many great friends, including his brother Pat, over the next several years...In 1970, Jess became the NRCA Championship Saddle Bronc Rider, winning a saddle and his favorite buckle. In 1971, his daughter
Jody was born and Jess began an almost thirty five year horseshoeing career. In 1975, they moved to Fallon, Nevada where
he shod horses ... Jess lived and gathered friends in California, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico and
Nevada over the years.

In 1994, Jess and Judy moved closer to family in Montana and North Dakota. Jess began to overcome his lifelong stage fright in order to share his cowboy poetry, singing and guitar skills. Many more great friendships were created during these travels and gatherings....

Read the entire obituary here.


About Jess Howard


About Jess Howard:

I rodeo'd for a number of years in the northern part of the country.  In 1970 I was the N. R. C. A. saddle bronc champion.

I moved to a warmer climate and shod horses for 20 years in Fallon, Nevada.

Now, I run a few cows on a ranch south of Marmarth, North Dakota, shoe a few horses and drive a truck.

I have been what you might call a "closet poet" for many years, but have gone public for the past six years or so.

I have been the featured poet at gatherings in Medora, North Dakota; Lewistown, Montana; Durango, Colorado; Heber City, Utah; and Valentine, Nebraska, among others.

I was one of the featured performers at Elko, Nevada for five years.

I and my brother Pat Richardson from California write poetry with each other and about each other.

Truth is not a necessary ingredient.

Pat Richardson offers his own version of his brother Jess's bio:

Jess Howard (full brother, long seemingly pointless story) was the 1970 N.R.C.A. Saddle Bronc Champion. He and I rodeo'd many years together, and wrote quite a few poems together. He has been a horseshoer since he quit riding broncs. His daughter Jody was the National High School Rodeo Queen one year, and 3 times Nevada state High school Barrel racing champion. His son Jeff team ropes and runs a bunch of cows up in Montana. And his wife Judy also is a barrel Racer. Jess is also a great singer, and lately has begun singing some at the gatherings he goes to. He's fairly honest, has quite a few bad habits (he mostly got from me), he's pretty easy to get along with ('long as things go his way) as a kid he wet the bed and chewed his fingernails, but I notice lately he's stopped chewing his nails, (not sure about the bedwetting).  He doesn't have a computer so he can't check on his site (that's why I'm so brave writing his bio).


The Ol' Cowboy

Shoein' Johnson's Pet

The Environment

Duckin' the Law



The Ol' Cowboy

 He wore a tailored western suit, a Stetson, an' a tie
An' the boots that he was wearin' were the best a man could buy

His normal mode of dress was faded shirt an' denim pants
As he tended to the livestock on his little mountain ranch

Sometimes for recreation he would load his horse an' go
To the neighbors for a ropin' or some nearby rodeo

But he'd come from Arizona, several hundred miles away
To say "Goodbye" to Charlie, an ol' friend who'd passed away

When the services were over he decided he would stop
For some coffee an' a donut at the local coffee shop

The locals looked him over from his footwear to his lid
Drawin' pictures in their minds of who he was an' what he did

He might be some wealthy banker that had come from out of town
Servin' notice of foreclosure on the luckless Widow Brown

Or might be some politician walkin' both sides of the fence
Stuffin' dollars in his pockets at the working' mans expense

Or perhaps he sold insurance to the old, infirmed, an' grey
That proclaimed in tiny print that there was nothing' they would pay
But the thing left unconsidered as he left their town behind
That he might truly be a cowboy never even crossed their mind

© 1996, Jess Howard
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Shoein' Johnson's Pet

I've thought about it often 'bout how horses think an' do
An' no matter what you say they make a liar out of you

If you brag about his slidin' stop, he'll probably run away
If you say," We gotta rope him." He'll stand right there in the way

If you say," He's broke to death." He'll likely buck your saddle off
If you say," He's had all his shots." He'll start to wheeze an' cough

So you see why I tensed up when ol' man Johnson sez to me,
" Why he's gentle as a kitten son, he wouldn't hurt a flea."

An' the truth is, he is gentle, if you pet him while he eats
Just don't make plans to ride him, or try pickin' up his feet

'Cause he don't care much for saddles, or you nailin' on a shoe
An' gets savage when it's something' that he doesn't wanna do

Ol' man Johnson held the lead rope, but give him too much slack
When I grabbed a foot he bit the lowest portion of my back

I slapped him an' he struck, he filled my mouth an' ears with dirt
Missed my hide but pawed the pockets off my cleanest dirty shirt

I got a cotton rope an' jacked one hind foot off the ground
He reared straight up an' turned himself completely upside down

Ol' man Johnson got upset about the language that I used
makin' cockamamie comments that his horse had been abused

Horse abuse? I'm five foot eight, a hundred fifty's what I weigh
Squarin' off in all out war with half a ton of Casius Clay

So I sez," The way I see it, an' the way it's gonna be
Is one of us has got to go, you decide on you or me."

Well he knew he couldn't shoe him so he turns an' heads for home
As those sweaty spots on Dobbin had begun to turn to foam

He fought just like a tiger, he was skinned from end to end
Then he'd stop an' catch his air a bit, then start it all again

Wearin' down he finally got to where he'd stand for just a bit
Restin' up an' gainin' strength to throw another wall eyed fit

He got shod in bits an' pieces as he fought an' thrashed around
'till ol' Johnson's horse corral was layin' mostly on the ground

I was sweatin' like a slave an' thought, "He must be shod at last
'cause I've nailed a shoe on each an' everything I saw go past."

© 1997, Jess Howard
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.



The Environment

Those environmental wizards that decide how things should be
Have made a lengthy list of things worth more than you an' me

Lizards, weeds, an' bushes, these learned scholars think
Should now become a ward of state lest they become extinct

They scold us like a wayward child for makin' such a fuss
When we find that bugs an' barnrats have more civil rights than us

Mice that curse our homesites, an' who's names we take in vain
Can sue, if you call in the cat, to trap him's inhumane

We can't cut trees for lumber 'cause the owl's out on a limb
An' I wonder, are they gonna let us bunk up there with him?

An' when man becomes endangered by environmental laws
Who will gird their loins in battle in the name of human cause?

'Cause if man keeps doin' business with this type of protocol
The bugs, the rats, an' mice will have the last laugh on us all

© 1997, Jess Howard
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Duckin' the Law

I rodeo'd with Sparky Watts in nineteen fifty-two
We'd win a bronc-ride here and there and then we'd lose a few
The pendulum of fortune, swaying gently to and fro
would let us know on Sunday how our whole next week would go

I'd won four hundred dollars on a horse called Major Lou
Sparky came in second, but he'd won the barebacks too
And this was when a hundred bucks was ransom for a king
You'd never have to eat the neck, the gizzard back or wings

But just let Lady Luck decide to frown a while at you
and you'd be boiling beaks and feathers, making gunsel stew
And such was this the case a little farther down the line
We'd both drawn bad and missed some out, and hadn't won a dime

When we'd called into Oakdale we were cocky as you please
but by the time we got there all we had was entry fees
Our budget wouldn't let us eat but God bless Lady Luck
'cause right there at the edge of town was someone's hand-fed ducks

We'd bought some bags of popcorn two weeks back, at Murphy's Bar
and quite a bit was scattered on the floor of Sparky's car
We each scooped up a handful—it was all we had for bait
the menu read "Fresh duck tonight" and I couldn't hardly wait

Cause I'm getting awful hungry and I've got to catch me one
and I wonder, as I bait the trap, how fast a duck can run
But my fears were all unfounded they were tame as they could be
They flocked around like children gathered at their Mother's knee

We both grabbed double handfuls of these walking duck fillets
and shoved them in the trunk of Sparky's beat-up Chevrolet
Those ducks all quacked like crazy as we drove off down the street
but with entry fees and supper—cowboy living can't be beat

All at once Watts said "Dad-gummit, what now, pardner, it's a cop"
while those red lights plainly told us, what we'd better do is stop
Sparky finally managed curbside by some run down skid row bar
and the biggest cop I've ever seen walked up beside the car

He said "You've got a brake light out and need to get it fixed
There's a Chevron station open and they don't close up till six"
Well, Sparky said he'd get it fixed, no problem that he saw
And that his first and foremost aim was strict compliance of the law

The cop said "mighty fine" and starts to bid us fond farewell
when the ducks in Sparky's trunk decide to start in raising hell
Sparky stuttered like a sailor coming off a three day drunk
when the cop said "What was that? Let's have a peek inside your trunk"

In my mind I saw my life flash past—especially supper plans
when I heard Watts tell the cop "The belt is slipping on the fan"
The cop said "I distinctly heard it coming from the back.
And if I'm not mistaken I believe I heard it quack"

"That must have been my Gramma's ducks" my shifty partner said,
We're hauling them to Delhi to a stud to have them bred"
"They're some exotic purebred ducks, they're costly, frail and rare—
and I'd like to let you see them but I don't believe I dare.

"Their eyes can't stand the sunlight, so they're covered with duct tape
and if I open up the trunk, there's just a chance they might escape."
"I'm paid for taking chances" said the big cop, with a frown,
so open up that trunk before I haul you both downtown"

It's hard to put in words the scene that met our wondering eyes
as Sparky popped the lid and I'm rehearsing several lies
Duck crap mixed with feathers blotted out the morning sun
as some ducks tried to fly away while others tried to run

One duck had the scours judging by the load it dropped
and just as luck would have it—it all landed on the cop
The cop jerked out his pistol and he screamed at them to freeze
but Sparky said "They're purebreds and you'll have to ask them please"

The cop slipped off the edge as me and Sparky hit the ground
and blinded by duck crap and rage he squeezed off several rounds
He shot the bank and drug-store and he winged a local bar
while blowing most the windows out of Sparky's poor old car

The local people panicked as they screamed and ran in fright
while one of "Oakdale's finest" shot at everything in sight
One poor old crippled lady was out hobbling in the park
and she achieved a record land-speed, with her walker throwing sparks

When the cop ran out of bullets, Oakdale looked a little strange
He'd defoliated half the trees and bushes in his range
The cop was in another world attempting to reload
we both jumped in our wounded car and tore off down the road

Sparky picked up second as a bullet whistled past
I hit the squeaky floorboard and ol' Sparky hit the gas
the ducks walked home, no worse for wear, except their feet were swollen
but they still won't talk to strangers from a fear of being stolen

The rookie cop is undergoing psychiatric care
but he still hates anybody with a duck-tail in their hair
So cowboy if you're broke and getting gant around the girth
Don't steal a duck for dinner—they're more trouble than they're worth!

© Jess Howard
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


If your steak and fried potatoes, and your corn and ripe tomatoes
just don't seem to have much flavor anymore
If it really doesn't matter if your pork chops 'r plain or battered
it still tastes like something swept up off the floor.

If your supper's not delicious, then you'd oughta get suspicious
it's not poor cooking, that's not it at all
You just need to change your habit, here's your chance you better grab it
come and help us gather cattle in the fall

If it's cowboy hours you're keeping when you think you should be sleeping
and you're up to see the darkness fall behind
If it's cool there in the stillness all the better for your illness
when the fresh air wraps its arms around your mind

When the sweat runs off your body and cool water is your toddy
and you learn what overtime is all about about
All the food tastes so much better when they holler "Come 'n get 'er."
'cause it's appetite that brings the flavor out.

© 1997, Jess Howard
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.





Live in Elko


Duckin' the Law
Leonard's Breath
Big Bad John Part 2
Missing Person
Ol' Frosty
Cowboy Banker
Zeke and the Bull
Cowboy's Mind
Ol' Shep
The Flower Show
Hoppy the Coyote
Cowboy Poets
Old Grey
The Sweepstakes
Calvin' Time
Cowboy Crossword/Cost of Living
Curin' the Hiccups
The Racehorse
Queen of North Dakota
Singin' Cowboy
Cowboy and the Lady
This High
Until Then
The Vanishing Breed
Uncle Ned
Benny's Dedication Aversion to the Truth
Half and Half
The Appraisal
Second Thoughts
Ol' Henry
The Airplane Wreck
The Vetinary


Live in Elko is an audio collection of Jess Howard's live performances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where he has appeared many times.

The brother of notorious poet Pat Richardsonyou'll have to ask them about their surnames—the wonderfully odd and hilarious family humor shines through in the generous 36 tracks. The CD cover notes, "Jess and his brother Pat write most of their poetry together and never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

Live from Elko is available for $18 postpaid from:

Jess Howard
 PO Box 145
Wibaux, MT 59353



Pat & Jess

Four tapes of brothers Pat Richardson and Jess Howard  

$10.00 each, postpaid

Available from:

Pat Richardson
562 Breeze Avenue
Merced, California 95348


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

Included poems are:

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

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

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

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

The CD is available from any of the four poets for $15.

See a review here.


Contacting Jess Howard:


Jess Howard
PO Box 145
Wibaux, Montana 59353
(406) 796 - 6680






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