Honored Guest

Jeff Streeby

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

About Jeff Streeby

A Few Poems
Sunday Creek

Books
Contacting Jeff Streeby

 

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About Jeff Streeby

We thank poet and musician Debra Coppinger Hill for suggesting that we invite Jeff Streeby to be an Honored Guest, and for the photos on this page, which she took in February, 2000, when they both performed in Lewiston, Idaho.

Jeff Streeby, photo by Debra Coppinger Hill, February, 2000

Click for larger version

Photo by Debra Coppinger Hill
taken in Lewiston, Idaho, February, 2000

Debra Coppinger Hill says that this is Jeff Streeby's "Teddy Roosevelt" pose, and he is wearing the Red Sash presented to him by the Charley Russell Western Heritage Association (CRWHA).  The award was the Western Vision Founders Award, presented to Streeby and Charlie Camden for their vision in starting the CRWHA and for their efforts in Preserving and Promoting the Spirit of the West.

Jeff Streeby grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, an historic terminal market for Western beef, and worked for Waitt Cattle Company while he attended college. Later, he went to Minnesota and Florida where he worked as a groom and stableman for dressage and A-Circuit hunter-jumper trainers. He has worked on the thoroughbred racetracks of Nebraska and Montana as both a groom and an assistant trainer. After several years of teaching in El Paso, Texas, working a few odd seasonal jobs on several ranches near Sierra Blanca, and boarding horses at his little New Mexico place, Jeff and his family now reside in Yucaipa, California. Jeff teaches at Perris High School in Perris, California.    

Streeby is formerly the editor/compiler of the From Texas to Montana series of books published by Great Falls High School's Dallywelter Press. He is a charter member and past-president of the Charley Russell Western Heritage Association and an active member of Western Writers of America. His work has been published in Western Horseman, Cowboy Gazette, Rope Burns, and Countryline magazines and Cattlecall, Cowboy Poetry Corral, American Western Magazine, and Cowboypoetry.com. Jeff performs at cowboy poetry gatherings around the state.

Read excerpts from Jeff Streeby's work in progress, Sunday Creek, here.

A Few Poems

The Wild Crew
Scatter the Mare
Learnin' to Rope
Johnny Has Gone for a Cowboy
John Siversten the Farrier's Horse

 

Selections from:

a work-in-progress of a collection of about one hundred
 "posthumous monologues" by the inhabitants of Sunday Creek
 spanning about 150 years,
is posted here

 

 

The Wild Crew

As I rode out just this morning,
There were Four Riders I did see
There in the clouds above Square Butte,
And They come ridin' straight at me.

One Rider forked a chestnut colt
that reared and squealed and blowed.
A buckskin mare, just hide and bones,
a Second Rider rode.

A Third bestrode a haggard black,
Gaunt, sick, and hollow-eyed,
And He used him hard with quirt and word,
And He spurred him, too, besides.

The Fourth One sat a pale horse,
And He seemed the One to note,
And when He looked me in the eye,
The bile rose in my throat,

For then I knowed each sev'ral one
That rode with that Wild Crew
And like They rode at me today,
Some day They'll ride at you.

And a killer rides the red horse
And the horse's name is War.
That buckskin mare, she's Famine,
That the Second Rider bore.

The Third, He topped Black Pestilence,
Vile sickness and disease.
The Pale Rider on the fleabit gray
Pinched Death between His knees.

And if that Rider speaks your name,
Your blood will turn to ice,
For the wages of your sins is Death
And Eternity's the price

To ride the Waste behind Them
And to wear the Devil's brand
For when you wear a heart so black,
You can't make God a hand.

Well, They rode on by and let me be
So's I could bring this tale to you,
But I know dang well I won't ride out
From a second rendezvous.

But when They come, you'll know Them now
They're outlaws- gallows bait.
They're somewheres, a-doggin' our back trail-

And don't you think They ain't.

Jeff Streeby
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

"The Wild Crew" has recently been released as a song entitled "Ride, Cowboy, Ride" on CD by Grammy-nominated Western singer/songwriter Ken Overcast of Chinook, Montana, under the Bear Valley Records label.

 

 

Scatter the Mare
(Shesahighroller, AQHA)


Ol' Scatter the mare is a fancy ol' jade.
She's a big, strappin' sorrel, an' prettily made.
From the tip of her muzzle to the back of her croup,
From foretop to plates, she sure is a beaut'.

She'as bred fer the racetrack, to break from a gate.
If'n you wants to git somewheres, you don't have to wait.
She's quick an' she's handy.  She's sturdy an' tough.
When you put her to work, you cain't give her enough.

Her heart-girth is deep, an' her chest it is wide,
Her ribs is well sprung, an' she's got a long stride.
She's a little white star an' a little white sock.
Her gaskins an' forearms is hard as a rock.

She's a well-muscled shoulder an' a good length of hip
An' just enough withers so's a saddle won't slip.
Her laigs on four corners is straight as kin be
With good solid hocks an' a big blocky knee.

Her pasterns slope perfect an' she's got sturdy feet.
Her neck is some cresty an' her throatlatch is neat.
Her head is real girlish with ears that are small
An' at sixteen hands one, she's leggy an' tall.

She ain't got a flaw an' she ain't got a vice.
Her nostril is big an' her jaw is real nice.
Her kind eyes is big an' set well apart.
All stacked up at halter, she's a pure work of art.

She'as bought off a cowgirl who chases the cans
Fer I thought she might make a good horse for a man,
'Cause I seen her performance.  She sure was a hoot!
That mare was greased lightning--she could dig, dive, an' scoot!

So I give the young lady what she ast fer a price,
An' I didn't dicker, an' I didn't think twice,
I just jumped her right up in the back of my rig
An' rattled hocks out o' there, jiggety jig.

I knowed that I'd hafta contend with the wife
An' figgered I'as a-facin' some marital strife
'Cause that mare weren't no bargain-- I'd paid out top dollar
An' I guessed purty accrit that Mother would holler.

"Hey, you fool cowboy!  Where in Blazes you bin?!
I waited yer supper, an' you missed it agin!
An' I heard that ol' trailer when you pulled in the yard!
If'n you hauled in a horse, you best be on yer guard!"

Well, I did some fast thinkin', right there on my feet--
"Oh, Honey," says I, real sugary sweet,
"I know that our hard life kin make a gal blue,
So come out here an' lookit what I brung home fer you!"

An' I backed up the trailer to the mercury light
An' off-loaded the mare in the warm summer night,
An' Mother, she's a-cooin' an' a-purrin' with glee,
"Oh, Darling, you mean that she's really fer me?"

'Bout now I figgers I'm ahead in the battle--
When the June bugs start in to buzz an' to rattle.
Then them kind eyes went wild an' them nostrils flared wide
An' her ears flapped real funny an' she sucked back a stride.

An' for I could figger there'as somethin' the matter
She gathered herself an' she earned her name "Scatter."
She rolled to the left as she spun to the right!
She swapped ends both directions with all of her might!

Her legs was a blur as she cycloned around!
She took off all directions, really goin' to town!
She bucked an' she snorted!  She bolted an' shied!
She twisted and rared up purtnur out of her hide!

She charged an' then wheeled then would skid fer a space!
I'm hung in the shank in orbit 'round her face!
She ducked and she dodged in her terrible fright!
It was over in seconds but it seemed like all night.

The mare in a lather an' me on the ground
With pieces an' bits of us scattered around

With both of us shakin' an' weak in the knees
An' Mother a-watchin' as smug as you please.

"Oh, Hon, she's a treasure an' a sight to behold
An' so quick an' athletic an' undeniably bold.
She's sure on her feet; she's tough an' she's handy;
I'll tell you right now, she's sure a jim-dandy,

But she's an arena-broke outfit, don't you agree?
You'll probably hafta school her fer me.
You know, out on the trails in the hills an' the rocks
Past rabbits an' sage-hens an' other natural shocks
'Til she's a quiet an' sensible lady-broke mare
Fit to ride in parades or to show at the Fair,"
Says Mother to me as she's a-knottin' the sutures.
"Ol' Scatter, my mare, figgers large in yer future."

Well, fortune is fickle an' justice is swift
An' what you cain't duck, accept like a gift
An' nothin' destroys like suspicion an' rumor
An' Hell's best cain't match a smart wife's sense of humor.

Jeff Streeby
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Learnin' to Rope

One time, when I was young an' green,
I couldn't o' bin above thirteen,
Me an' Dick an' Everett thought we'd try
To rope some calves an' git 'em tied
Just like in the Rodeo.

So we sneaked across the neighbor's fence
An' dang near run 'is calves to death,
But we got one ketched an' got 'im tied.
It were a source o' towerin' pride.
We'as a dandy Wild West Show!

We figgered as how we hadn't got caught,
We might as well go back as not.
So we did. Agin an' agin an' agin.
We got so's we could gag an' flank 'em under ten,
After we got 'em on the go.

Once Dick an' Everett was gone away,
An' I din't have nothin' to do all day,
So I saddled Ol' Joker an' we hit us a lope
A-huntin' up that neighbor's calves to rope.
I wore a cocky little grin.

I had a ol' soft-wore Maguey
That my Uncle Bud had give to me.
I had 'er tied on hard an' fast.
That gol-dang knot'as meant to last
Through thick an' thin.

We jumped a calf in a little draw.
A trickier hide I'ad never saw,
But we follered, I throwed, an' my first loop hit,
An' I'as out o' the saddle, off, an on top o' it
In fine Rodeo fashion.

I run up the rope an' flanked 'im down
An' I'as a-gittin' 'is laigs all swung around--
Two wraps an' a huey an' we'd be through
An' I'd have to find somethin' else to do--
When I heard the brush a-crashin'.

That mama cow'as plumb on the fight!
She'as a-pawin' left an' a-snortin' right!
Her tail stood up jus' like a poker!
I sorely feared fer me an' Joker.
We'as in a hurt.

I heard 'er beller an' turned to skedaddle,
But 'er calf'as still necked off to my saddle.
The calf run off around the horse
An' my rope slapped Joker's tail, o' course,
Jus' like a quirt.

Well, he quit the country quick as a flash,
A-draggin' that calf like a bag o' trash!
I follered Ol' Joker with that cow on my tail,
A-runnin' like sixty, a-burnin' the trail.
I near out-run my shirt.

I leapt over washouts an' vaulted mesquite,
I ducked around rock-piles-- I'as quick on my feet,
With that cow right behind me fer over a mile,
But she tired an' I distanced her, after a while.
My Gosh! Was I spent!

But way up ahead, I seen Joker's retreat.
That calf bounced in the air 'bout ever' ten feet.
I headed Ol' Joker when he fin'ly slowed down,
An' looked back at that calf all piled up on the ground.
These doin's I'as quick to repent!

Ol' Joker was registered-- my brother's prized horse.
My pa had ferbid me to ride 'im, o' course.
Now he'as liable to founder,  I had a calf was drug dead,
An' a run-to-death cow a-hangin' over my head.
I'as wounded in my pride.

I thought mebbe I'd run away to Rock Springs
Er join up with a circus er some other such thing--
Then the ol' cow, a-wheezin', walked up an' she bawled
An' the calf picked 'is head up an' answered 'er call.
My whole personality sighed.

I hand-walked Ol' Joker clear back to 'is stall
An' give 'im a bran-mash an' a rub-down an' all.
An' I hoped in the mornin' he wouldn't be dead,
An' I shut up the barn an' went in to bed.

"Whatcha bin doin'?"
Pa asked  me from where he set by the fire.
"Oh, nuthin'," I answered, like a natural liar.

Jeff Streeby
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Johnny Has Gone for a Cowboy

She sits alone in her rocking chair,
a Spanish comb in her golden hair,
the gift of a lover so fine and fair.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

He came to her on a summer's day.
She knew at once that he would not stay.
She rued the hour he would ride away.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She pledged her troth and she pledged her soul.
She pledged herself, entire and whole.
Her heart, it paid a shameful toll.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She gave to him a love untold.
He took from her the silver and gold
to buy a mount full strong and bold.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

He spoke her soft and he spoke her fair.
He gave her a comb for her golden hair.
He rode away on a nightblack mare.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She begged him stay but to no avail.
Her heart was lorn in her sad travail.
She lost her love to the cattle trail.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

'Neath the prairie sun and the prairie rain,
these long, long years her love is lain
in an unmarked grave on a grassy plain.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She sits alone in her rocking chair,
a Spanish comb in her silver hair,
the gift of a lover so fine and fair.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

2000 Jeff Streeby
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jeff tells us: "This is based on a 15th century Irish widow's lament called "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier."  It has been set to music by Harry Wolf on his CD, This Ain't No Bull.

"Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" is known by other names, including "Buttermilk Hill" and "Shule Aroon." One version is posted, with audio, here: http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer/johnny.html .

 

 

John Siversten the Farrier's Horse

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse stood restive in the file,
Fighting the gnats that plagued him, weary from many a mile
On a furtive, frantic passage toward a dim, uncertain end,
A mute reluctant witness to the purposes of men.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse had advanced without respite
Up the drainage of the Rosebud in a black and cheerless night,
And when, at dawn, the scouts brought word the foe had come in view,
Bore mute reluctant witness as the march was then renewed.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse traveled on and on
As the troop of horse around him grew wearied, gant, and drawn;
And he heard the horses stumble and falter in their gaits
And bore mute, reluctant witness that Custer never waits.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse in Reno's small command
Kicked at flies and chewed his bits as Custer, bold and grand,
Appointed for reconnaissance and counseled with his aides,
A mute reluctant witness as the fateful plans were laid.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse saw Benteen turn aside
To scout a barren landscape that was empty, far and wide.
He heard stridence in the orders and the words of Yellow Hair,
A mute, reluctant witness to the deep resentments there.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse watched Custer split his force
And send Major Reno off the bluff and up the water course.
The salt-rime caked his quarters and the saddle chafed his back
As he bore mute, reluctant witness to the prelude of attack

 John Sivertsen the farrier's horse at the river drank his fill
And that much restored his vigor and renewed his flagging will.
He heard the Major's orders and he heard his rider sigh
And bore mute, reluctant witness as the men prepared to die.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse pawed the yellow earth
When Sivertsen reclinched his shoes and tightened up his girth
And checked his arms and equipage and climbed across the back
Of a mute, reluctant witness to the doomed and damned attack.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse bore well his rider's weight
And, though he fought against the bits, he fairly kept the rate
At the walk, then trot, then canter, then he charged against the foe
To bear mute reluctant witness to immeasurable woe.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse swept across the plain.
His driving legs and heaving lungs, brave heart and might and main
Delivered Reno's farrier to the forefront of the fray
And bore mute, reluctant witness to the carnage wrought that day.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse heard now the terse command,
"Dismount and form as skirmishers!" in the contest for the land.
He felt his rider leave his back. He smelled the powder smoke
As Sivertsen knelt in the firing line and his big-bore carbine spoke.

He felt the pain upon his mouth as the holder yanked his reins
And he raced with the soldier willingly across the dusty plains
Toward a scanty line of timber that stood, hardby, to the right,
Where they halted in a clearing, taking shelter from the fight.

As the other holders gathered with their charges safe in hand
And horses milled and called and snorted, a wild and fractious band,
Above the noisy gather, he could hear the volley fire
Growing nearer, ever nearer, as the skirmishers retired.

Then from the right the firing came and bullets hit the ground
Like hail among the horses, they cracked and sizzled all around
And panic seized the horses and they bucked and reared and shied
And the holders couldn't hold them all though they very gamely tried.

And bridle leather sundered and buckles broke apart
When John Sivertsen the farrier's horse took a bullet near his heart.
No man to bear into the fight, his weapons their to wield,
John Sivertsen the farrier's horse was loose upon the field.

He bolted for a river bend using nearly all his strength.

Other horses followed him. He led by half a length.
He pounded through the underbrush. Across the stream he fled
And with every hopeless step he took, his hot lifeblood he bled.
The pink foam from his muzzle dripped as he ran his race with death

And on the farther riverside, he tried to catch his breath.
His great sides heaved as he fought for life, alone among the trees,
Shuddering in every limb and weakening in the knees,
His flanks all slick with sweat and gore-

Gasping one breath-

Then one breath more-

Then he heard the riders coming hard, like thunder close at hand.
In wild career toward the ford, the last of the soldier band
Rode desperately for safety in a mad and reckless rush,
And he saw their fierce pursuers come crashing through the brush,

So he wheeled about and joined his troop as they fled the field that day.
In a staggering, stumbling, clumsy trot, he made his awkward way
Trailing along their retreating flank
Through a storm of fire toward the riverbank.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse lay dead upon the ground
As the battle swirled above him and eddied all around;
And when the sounds of conflict had all about him ceased,
Night fell on this tragedy for God and man and beast.

Four hundred thirty seasons passed above the bloody place
Where the brave horse gave his life up in the grim and hopeless race.
The grass has grown, the flowers bloomed and days have disappeared
And winters come and winters go into the swell of years.

John Sivertsen the farrier's horse now stands parade today.
What remains of him is with us, though his spirit's far away.
His bones and gear remind us of our certain common end,
An eloquent indictment of the purposes of men.


Jeff Streeby. All rights reserved.
This poem was published previously in Western Horseman and on ReadtheWest.com
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jeff Streeby writes: In 1992, field archaeologists located a previously undiscovered casualty of Major Marcus Reno's "Valley Fight" at the battle of the Little Bighorn. 

A U.S. Cavalry horse killed in the action had remained undisturbed and undetected by relic hunters since the day he fell. From the contents of the horse's saddlebags (which included a pair of spectacles, an alarm clock, a toothbrush incised with the initials "J.S.," 50 rounds of .45 caliber rimfire ammunition, 100 rounds of ammunition for the Army-issue carbine, a farrier's hammer, rasp, and two new horseshoes), it was reasonable to determine that the horse was ridden into the fight that day by Pvt. John Sivertsen, a recent immigrant from Norway and a farrier for M Company who was one of the lucky ones to survive the valley conflict and the siege of Reno Hill. 

The round ball in the horse's body cavity and the round ball in the brain cavity indicate that the horse was killed by hostile fire. The lack of a bit with the horse's remains suggests that the horse broke away from the horse-holders when they came under fire at the beginning of the "Timber Fight." The axis and orientation of the horse's remains show that it is likely that he was following the soldiers' retreat toward Reno Hill when he was killed. 

The remains of the horse and his recovered equipments are on display at the Reno Battlefield Museum in Garryowen, Montana.

 

Horses

I growed real fond of horses when I was just a pup.
when Dad led out ol' Ribbon, grabbed me, and put me up.
I had both hands wrapped in the mane, and a leg on every side,
and Dad led Ribbon around the yard -- a first-class, first-time ride.

I've had good rides since Ribbon, and bad ones, quite a few.
I've owned some ringy, fuzztail nags and a Thoroughbred or two.
And I've taken time to sort things out while I'm with my cavvyad,
about many sundry kinds of things, especially horses, me, an' Dad.

And it occurs to me about horses that God really done them right--
of all things on this dusty earth, there's just no prettier sight.,
Thank a liver-colored chestnut, red roan, or dappled gray,
a buckskin, or a grulla, a brown, or a standard bay.
A leopard Appaloosa, blue roan, or line-back dun,
an overo-painted pony, or a tobiano one.
Blood bays, claybanks or sorrls, palominos, rosy grays--
some with flashy markings, maybe bald-faced, starred or blazed.

They're of a million colors and a million states of mind
and a million shapes and sizes and a hundred different kinds.
But the best one that you'll ever know and the best of all by far,
is one your daddy put you on and led around the yard.

Jeff Streeby. All rights reserved.
This poem was published previously in Western Horseman 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Read Jeff Streeby's The Ghost of Christmas Past posted with other Christmas 2004 poems

 

 

 

Books

Jeff Streeby is the editor/compiler of the series From Texas to Montana (ISSN 1079-977X) published by Dallywelter Press, campus press of the Great Falls High School Rodeo Club (where much of his work is available under the various titles).

Many of the poems above appear in the book The Wild Crew, published in 1998.  



The Dallywelter Press has published three anthologies in a series called From Texas to Montana (see our index here):

Harvey's Handlebars,T.L. Thompson featured (currently out of print).

Reminiscences and Poems of Early Montana and the Cattle Range, introducing serial publication of DJ O'Malley's (1867-1943) unpublished book and featuring "Cactus Jack" McCarty.

The Buckaroo Fiddle, Dennis Fischer featured.  This book was a finalist for book of the year "Buck Ramsey Award" from the Academy of Western Artists in 1999.

All books are softcover and retail for $10.00 + $1.50 s&h and are available from Great Falls High School Rodeo Club (a CRWHA Charter Member), 1900 Second Avenue South, Great Falls, Montana 59405


They are currently readying O'Malley's complete book for publication in a limited-edition hardbound volume, in cooperation with the Charley Russell Western Heritage Association, Cowboy Miner Productions (Phoenix, AZ) and the Montana Historical Society. The book will be illustrated by Paul Hudgins, well-known Western illustrator. [Note: the book has been published; see details at Cowboy Miner Productions here.]

Read excerpts from Jeff Streeby's work in progress, Sunday Creek, here.

 

 

Contacting Jeff Streeby

 

You can contact Jeff Streeby at:

35497 Ivy Street
Yucaipa, California,92399
(909)797-6296
email


 

 

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