Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

Vilas, North Carolina
About Keith Ward
Keith Ward's web site




He don’t really like a crowd, and he don’t ever laugh out loud,
He just shakes his head and grins and walks away.
Clay’s a quite sorta feller, kinda straight and kinda proud,
And I ain’t never seen him cry, until today.

I guess you’d say we’re pretty close, and I know him more than most.
He is the kind that does his share and then some more.
He knows his job and knows it well, although he would never boast,
And I ain’t never seen him shirk a chore.

I recall some years ago, when we were riding in the snow
And found that filly stuck there in that drift.
Why she took his heart that way, I guess I’ll never know,
But ole Clay sure seemed to think she was a gift.

I said I think your wasting time, but to him she was sublime,
And he gave me a look that said where I should go.
Well I’d learned well not to argue, when he’d made up his mind
So we set to work and pulled her from the snow.

You should a seen that filly, all spindly legged and chilly.
And you should a seen the way she took to Clay.
And I don’t think I’ve ever seen him act so down right silly
As he rubbed her down and they began to play.

Oh I thought it really funny, when he called that filly honey,
Said “I guess you found yourself a girlfriend.”
Well he’s disposition changed, and it wasn’t quite so sunny,
So I thought it best my own business to attend.

We tried hard to find the mare, but we found not hide nor hair,
So Clay guessed we ought to take that filly home.
There was a storm coming in, and a chill in the air
And we knew she’d never make it on her own.

I ain’t never seen ole Clay; take to anything that way,
And ain’t never seen a mare with that much brain.
He put her on a schedule, and he worked her every day.
Twas a pleasure and a thrill to watch em train.

Drifty s’ what he named her, for that snow bank where he clamed her,
And him and Drifty never seemed to be apart.
She wouldn’t never question, she’d go anywhere he aimed her.
You’ll rarely to find a horse with that much heart.

Well them two they made a team. She s’ number one in ole Clay’s string,
And he could always count on her to take the heat.
It was her that he was ridin, the only time I heard him sing.
It seemed to me she sorta made his life complete.

But the years don’t hesitate, no matter how you wish they’d wait,
And Drifty, she begin to show her age.
Clay knew her work was done; he could feel it in her gait.
He knew that it was time to turn the page.

So during roundup time that fall, ole Clay finally made the call,
And sadly left that mare out of his string.
He turned her out on grass, where it was green and tall,
So she could take it easy till the spring.

Clay was prickly half the day; we just stayed out of his way.
It seemed he couldn’t catch his on two feet.
Oh he cussed that bay he’s ridin, said he wasn’t worth his hay.
I recon he was feeling pretty bleak.

But that day at dinnertime, you never heard such a shine.
Old Drifty’d brought herself in off that grass.
It was as if to say, retirement she’d decline,
Thank ye but she reckoned she’d just pass.

Ah you should a seen Clays eyes, and seen his spirit rise,
When he saw her standing proudly with the rest,
Waiting for her turn to work, like it was no surprise,
And acting kinda like she’d been transgressed.

You should a seen the way he petted, and you could see that he regretted
Knowing he’d just have to turn her out again.
And when he walked away, you should a seen the way she fretted
Like she knew things weren’t the way they’d always been.

She weren’t the only one confused, and I was getting some amused
As I watched him move his hat and scratch his head.
Then ole Clay he just got mad, for the kindness she’d refused,
Said he guessed he’d ride the nag till she dropped dead.

Ah we knew he didn’t mean it, said we’d believe it when we seen it,
And he did go strip his saddle off that bay.
But he was anything but mad, as to the mare we watched him bring it.
There ain’t never been a prouder man that Clay.

He brushed her down real gentle, acting kinda sentimental.
Then he eased the saddle up there on her back.
He ruffled up her topknot. Oh he liked her just a little,
Talking easy as he tightened up her tack.

And then we all went back to work, and the way Clay seemed to perk,
Well it just seemed to make all our spirits raise.
When his rope settled on the horns, and he give his slack a jerk,
You could see the beaming in his eyes.

But then ole Drifty stumbled some, and we knew her work was done.
We knew that was the last catch she would make.
Ole Clay led her back to camp, a feeling pretty glum.
It was enough to make cowboy’s old heart ache.

But Drifty wouldn’t go away; she’d show up each and every day.
No matter where Clay was she’d hunt him down.
He never rode her none, He’d just pet and play,
And she became a legend all around.

She’d just hang out with the string, eating treats that we would bring
Then at night she’d just wander off and graze.
She just kept a getting fatter; she was living like a queen.
I’m telling you them were some blissful days.

Well work was hard today; there weren’t no time to play,
We was focused on the task at hand.
When I got time to breath, and looked around for Clay,
He was gazing out across the land.

Been awhile since Drifty’d showed, and I guess that we all knowed
That something bad had surely come about.
The boss he looked at Clay, and then up to us he rode,
Said “Boys lets wrap her up and have a scout.”

Well we split up every way, except for me and Clay.
I thought I’d better stick a little close.
He was worried sick, and silently I prayed,
“Lord it just ain’t time to say adios.”

“Help us find her God, this mare we all adore,
And Lord please let ole Drifty be okay.
It ain’t for me Dear God, but for Clay that I implore.
Please help us find this ole mare that’s gone astray.”

Well we topped out on a rise, and much to our surprise,
There’s old Drifty munching grass beside a pond.
We took a closer look, and could not believe our eyes,
A little felly kicking heels up just beyond.

Well I just knew that she was dead, never dreamed that she was bred.
I figured she’s just fat from all our treats.
I breathed another prayer, “Thank you Lord” I said
You sure know how to make this ole life sweet.”

Clay eased in nice and quite, but much to his delight,
That little filly trotted up without a fear.
Then old Drifty moseyed over, and everything was right,
When I heard Clay call that little filly Dear.

Today I heard him laugh out loud, oh he was mighty proud.
And it was a sight to watch that little filly play.
Then Clay took me by surprise, when he took off his hat and bowed,
And I ain’t never seen him cry until today.

© 2009, Keith Ward; revised 2012
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


A New Career

My neighbors down the way, called my wife the other day
Said they sure could use a little help from me.
“Well of course,” was my reply. There ain’t nothing I won’t try
It’s amazing just how helpful I can be.

I got a tractor and a truck and one horse that doesn’t buck.
I’m stout and pretty handy and plumb smart.
So just you tell me what you need, and what tools to proceed
And what time do you reckon we should start.

“It ain’t labor we desire or your tools that we require,”
They said, and then went on to explain.
“We like the way you look and we need some pictures took
We reckon you’ll set off the whole campaign.”

You see they run a little mart, sell some clothes and knives and art
And I reckon they were launching some new line.
Well there was turning of the wheels. I was full of big ideals.
I figured the modeling life would suit me fine.

Now it’s all what it appears and I’ve been this way for years
Boots and hats and jeans is all I know.
And I saw myself out West, modeling Western’s best
In Las Vegas at the Finals Rodeo.

But the day before the shoot they gave my dream the boot
When my wife calls me up and reports,
“I hope you ain’t appalled but the lady has just called.
They’re taking pictures of you wearing shorts.”

Well you can imagine all my fears; my legs ain’t seen the sun in years.
They’re bent and bowed and scarred and spindly some.
Though my picture they’ll still take, the big time I want make
And thinking I can sell some shorts is pretty dumb.

I got home about six thirty and I’s a felling pretty dirty.
Thought I’d better have myself a little shower.
Well I stripped off my pants and my wife she took a glance
At me a standing in my underwear.

She said, “Honey, that wont do but I got a cure for you,
Spread this on them spindly legs you got.”
Then she handed me a bottle that would surly help me model.
And I thought, “Heck I’ll give this stuff a shot.”

Well I came to some deductions, after reading the instructions
This stuff would surely give my legs a tan.
Just use daily for two weeks, and don’t leave any streaks
Then I would dang sure be a modeling man.

The only problem with the plan, was the time it took to tan
This stuff had to work really quick.
It had to work tonight to get my legs looking right
So I thought I’d spread it on good and thick.

Well at first it felt right good, like any lotion would
But then I felt a little tingle on my skin.
Then my legs were plumb on fire, they was felling plumb bizarre*
And I wished I’d spread that stuff a little thin.

Well to make a long one short, after taking me a snort
I took a rag and washed off that burning mess.
I guess these spindly legs will do, with their veins a-poking through
As long they don’t put me in a dress.

Well thanks to Photoshop the pictures weren’t a flop
And though I put myself through a lot of strife.
You wouldn’t really think it, but with a picnic on a blanket
I looked plumb sexy laying there beside my wife.

© 2012, Keith Ward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

*If you've ever heard Keith recite, you know that when he says "fire" and "bizarre," the words rhyme.

At first Keith just emailed us the poem for fun reading, and said he thought it might not be "cowboy" enough for the BAR-D. But we thought it definitely included something that is probably common to most cowboys.

The advertisement below, courtesy of the Mast General Store (; established in 1883), ran in June, 2012:

image courtesy of Mast General Store, 

See some great photos and read the history of the original Mast General Store here at the store's web site. There are locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and in Knoxville, Tennessee.

My Heart Beats Free

Oh how I loved them TV shows and the stories I’d read,
About the cowboys and their horses free and brave.
Heroes to us young boys, a rare and special breed.
Taught us how true men should behave.

And I dreamed about someday and I dreamed about the west.
And I dreamed about the man that I would be.
And I felt that man’s heart beating inside a boy’s chest,
And I knew that heart would die if not set free.

I’d saddle up ole Sugarfoot and I’d hit a mountain trail,
And time and place and boredom were no more.
I was Little Joe or Blue, riding the High Chaparral.
There were fights to fight and new worlds to explore.

There were outlaws and Indians behind every tree,
But I was savvy to their wild and wily schemes.
Sometimes we would fight em off, sometimes we would flee,
But we were always heroes in my cowboy dreams.

And I’ve live the life I’ve chose, and I’ve lived it every day.
And I’ve fought them fights and I’ve seen new places grand.
I’ve learned to laugh and learned to cry and when to just ride away,
And the best of times are usually ones unplanned.

Years pass by so quickly and living takes its toll,
And these old bones are broken, tired and sore.
But deep inside I’m peaceful, in my heart and soul,
Though the time is coming, when I’ll ride no more.

And I dream about yesterday and I dream about the west,
And I dream about that boy I used to be,
And I feel that boys heart beating inside this man’s chest,
And I thank God that young boy’s heart was set free.

© 2012, Keith Ward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Keith told us, "Sugarfoot was my first mount. He was a little bay pony horse my Dad got for me when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I have very fond memories and good stories about him. I still have that first saddle too."


The Makings of a Cowboy

The stranger stops to water, at the trough outside the pen.
The farmer’s son is watching, but the boy can only grin.

He takes in every detail though. Studies every single line
Of this horseback man he envies. Man and mount almost divine.

The stranger is a Cowboy, there’s not a shadow of a doubt.
The boy has read and studied pictures since he was a little sprout.

He envies hands that hold the reins, never knowing plow or hoe.
He envies places that they’ve been, and he dreams of where they’ll go.

He’d sets astride his plow horse; And he can see the world wide.
Ever conscious of the restlessness, that is growing deep inside.

He spends his days behind the horse; hours that moved so slow,
And his only destination, just the ending of the row.

But he can dream… and he does dream, and he can vision someday soon,
When he’ll see the world over, when the time is opportune.

Restless in his bed, he often contemplates the day.
When he’ll kiss his Maw and Paw goodbye, then he’ll ride away.

And he thinks of that sweet girl that he likes to call his own
He reckons it’ll break her heart when he leaves her all alone

He goes to sleep a dreaming ‘bout the places that he’ll see,
The horses that he’ll ride and the cowboy that he’ll be.

The makings of a cowboy, that’s how it seems to start.
A farmer’s son with restless mind and romance in his heart.

© 2013, Keith Ward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Keith told us, "This poem, like the last one, "My Heart Beats Free," is me at about 7 or 8 years old. A farmers little ole son, growing up in the head of a holler in the mountains of North Carolina. I kind of hate to admit just how much of my life has revolved, and is still revolving around that little boy’s dream of being a cowboy. It’s just been on my mind a lot lately and that usually births poetry.


It Wasn't Just a Barn

It wasn’t just a barn you know
Not just a storage bin
Not just a place to feed the cows
Or park the tractor in

It wasn’t just a barn you know
When a little boy was there
Fact is, it was never barn
But villains best beware

It was castle to my knighthood
Silo turret rising high
Where damsels could be rescued
Or I could keep a weather eye

The milk room was my office
If I was Sherriff for the day
It was fort when I soldiered
Keeping enemy at bay

It was livery for my stick horse
Villains' stronghold when I spied
Old hay made cushioned landing
If they got me and I died

It wasn’t just a barn you know
Back when kids knew how to play
It became, as if by magic
What was needed for the day

It wasn’t just a barn you know
As I was soon to understand
For it became a school house
For the making of a man.

Skills learned in that old school house
Would prove to serve me well
But skill ain’t all that makes a man
My professors didn’t tell

How a boy should treat his father
How a father treats his son.
Watching Dad and Granddad
As they got the day’s work done

How a man should treat his wife
How a man should treat his Lord
How men should treat each other
All these lessons we explored.

It wasn’t just a barn you know.
Not just shelter form the wind
Sometimes a place of privacy
When seeking counsel from a friend.

Sometimes a place of solitude
When needing time to pray
Sometimes a place to steal a kiss
When she’s checking on your day

It wasn’t just a barn you know
Not just wood and tin
Always adapting to the need
Of the work to do within

The wooden silo long since gone
Milk room no longer used
Wooden stanchions hanging
From their duties now excused

Adapted through the years
But still and always grand
The memories now awakened
Will sure forever stand

I now can see the life it gave me
In the ash and twisted tin
It wasn’t just a barn you know
When a little boy stepped in

© 2015, Keith Ward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Keith told us, "The fire got a new born calf and her mother that my dad had just put up because it was so cold. It got our best and biggest John Deere tractor and it got all Grandmother’s chickens. They were banty chickens, and she had some rare breads. It got a lot of Granddaddy's tools and stuff that were of no value to anybody else, but ... Anyway, my Granddaddy, Baker Ward, built that barn. He got an old wooden silo somewhere in Tennessee and attached it. I still have one of the doors from it. I can remember well cutting and blowing silage into it when I was a boy. They tore down the silo several years ago, after Granddaddy died."


  About Keith Ward:

From Keith Ward, 2009:

I grew up on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina near Boone. We raised beef, hay, tobacco, pepper and various other vegetable crops. We also sawmilled. Horses have always been a part of my life although we didn't have much time for "pleasure horses" as my Daddy called them. Just about everybody around had work horses or mules used for working the crops. After I was grown and had married that pretty little red head, I quit farming and went to work in law enforcement. I kept cattle and horses as a supplement to my income (policemen don't get paid much around here) but mostly because I love them. (Cattle and horses don't pay much around here either.) I quit police work after twenty years and now make my living as a "dude wrangler." I own and operate a guided trail ride business called Dutch Creek Trails (

I have been writing poetry since my childhood. My background has given me lots of inspiration for my poems. Some are purely fictional and some are based on true events that have happened to me. I think I like the fictional ones best because I am always surprised by the ending. As in "The Day I Saw Clay Cry," I didn't know why he was crying till I was writing the last four or five verses.



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