Featured at the Bar-D Ranch


photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller, kevinmartinifuller.com

 

KEN COOK
Martin, South Dakota
About Ken Cook
Ken Cook's web site
Cowboy Culture...South Dakota Style web site
On Facebook:
Passing it On
 

 


 

Lariat Laureate


Recognized as Lariat Laureate for his poem, "The Conversation"

 


Ken Cook was named
Top Male Poet, 2010
by the Academy of Western Artists

About Ken Cook

Poems
below...
The Conversation
Grandpa
"Dad, we'll rope today"
Bloodlines
I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy
Fill 'em Up To Overflowin'
Best for Now
Shadow Demons
Lived It
Grandpa's Spurs
 Thirty Five Foot is Just Enough Rope

Nine Lives and Counting

Poems on other pages:

Ranch Country Christmas  
Our Battle Cry

Home  
Not Waitin' On Someday  
Cowhand 
Ridin' With Georgie...I wish
 
Revel in the Journey
 
Come with Me
 
Remote Control Wife 
Brothers Stay Together
Company
 

YouTube

Picture the West

Book and CDs

 

About Ken Cook:
photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller, kevinmartinifuller.com

Ken Cook is courageously ranching and writing in the great state of South Dakota. He has gathered cattle out of tough country, saddled up on many a dark morning, and been run over by an embarrassing number of mama cows. The Cook crew—Ken and his four ranch-raised cowhands—worked and played side by side through diapers to adults. With his wife, Nancy, by his side for over a quarter-century, the cowhands are grown and gone.

Now, Ken's sharing his poetry on stages across the West. He's been privileged to entertain folks in several states, invited to perform at  regional gatherings in Colorado, Nebraska, and North Dakota. He has also appeared at the Badger Clark and Western Heritage Centers in South Dakota, and was selected to appear at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada....(read more below

To learn more about Ken and his poetry visit his website, www.kencookcowboypoet.com.


Ken and Nancy Cook, 2011


We asked Ken why he writes cowboy poetry and why he thinks it is important.

Cowboying, for a hundred different reasons, is a way of life folks are drawn to. There's no better way to share this life I live than through poetry. Besides, my singing is terrible and I couldn't play a guitar on a bet!

Over the years I've ridden 'longside men three times my age, and kids green as spring grass. Old and young alike have a story to tell, and if I can "steal" just a little from each one of them, a poem will find its way to the surface of a piece of paper. After hearing a poem of mine, someone will ask "Is that true, or did that really happen?" I tell them it's all true...except for the parts I made up.

I write because I get the same adrenalin rush from writing as I do from punchin' cows, roping and ridin' good horses.  It's just what I do.


This is Ken Cook's winning poem:


The Conversation

What has not changed ol' cowboy friend
Since you was young and men were men?

When horse not broke till nearly five?
Cow's horns intact kept calf alive!

What has not changed in all your days,
Is nothin' left of cowboy ways?

The wagon was your only home
And blackest eve Nighthawk did roam,

To hold 'em quiet with lullaby
And ride the ridge where coyotes cry.

What has not changed in all your days,
Is nothin' left of cowboy ways?

When fences held a garden tight
And grass for miles a wondrous sight,

With horse and rope to branding fire
You burned the hide with one desire,

To live a life on Sandhills grass.
Tell me cowboy, has all that passed?

I'll tell you boy what still remains
Of cowboy ways here on the plains.

By God you ride the same as me
And cows are cows near's I can see.

I'll tell you son what still survives
Of cowboy ways shines in your eyes.

Few teams are left and fence appeared
So Nighthawk sleeps but over years,

By God you rope and do it grand
'Cause it's your life, you've made your stand,

Which has not changed in all the days
You've kept alive a cowboy's ways.

You fight back change to keep old ways
That every year make ranching pay,

So generations yet to come
Might live this life that we've begun.

They'll saddle horse to work a cow
Here on this ranch like we do now.

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

Ken tells about the inspiration for his poem:

On February 1st, 2007, I did an interview at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Deep West Sheep Camp with Laura Marcus.  I spent nearly the entire interview talking about my Grandpa Frank Buckles and my kids and the changes in the cattle industry that have occurred over three generations. Laura asked the question, "Ken, what has not changed?"  I thought for a moment then replied, "Cows."  The one thing that has not changed is the fact that cows are still...just cows. As I left the sheep camp I pulled my pad and pen out of my pocket and wrote down the line "cows are cows."  And those three words prompted the creation of the dialogue between a grandpa and his grandson that I call "The Conversation."

For me, the poem has become ageless, with the passing of my Grandpa, my kids growing up, and now a grandchild of my own. This thing we call "life on the ranch" has a way changing with the seasons.

Ken has written about his grandfather in poems such as "Grandpa," and has shared photos and stories about him in Picture the West. You can see those photos and read more here, on page two.

You can email Ken Cook: kencookpoet@gmail.com

 


First Spring branding, 2010

 

Ken Cook was previously recognized as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "Grandpa"

Grandpa

This tale's about my Grandpa sittin' tall up in the saddle.
He's a tough old bird, a cattleman, dang he's hard to rattle.

I've seen him stand his ground with men who had the upper hand,
He'll prove his point, make them think, and then they'll feel their stand

Was off a bit, perhaps he's right.  The words he says are true.
The gate will close, the trucks will leave, Grandpa's gained a dime or two.

Don't get me wrong, he's family, the first to visit for a spell.
But he's constantly a thinkin' 'bout the cattle and the sale.

Money in the bank to Gramps is money layin' dead.
Buy some stock, a cow, some calves, then work to get' em fed.

Be it winter, spring, or summer, don't fret the grass will grow.
If it's short, we'll sell' em early, gotta buy back 'fore the snow.

The snows come each year to Dakota Territory.
Calves are weaned, the trucks are here, the boughten calves are all the story.

Grandpa says treat' em right, get' em on that feed real fast,
Perhaps a bale, or maybe not, gotta make that baled hay last.

The cows will need the hay 'fore the grass begins to grow.
Cows and calves, steers and feed, round and round we go.

© 2006, Ken Cook, from I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Ken told us about his inspiration for the poem:

During the 1980's at Buckles Ranch we sold yearlings right off the place. Grandpa Buckles and I moved thousands of steers from holding pens to the scales to be weighed over the years. Cattle buyers would nervously pace from the scale house to the door watching the cattle, the weights, and the number of head. Grandpa would always have the final word on the sale of the cattle and the price. More than once I watched him 'gain a dime or two.' No matter what time of year it was and regardless of our feed supply or grass conditions...cattle needed bought or sold according to my Grandpa.


Read more about Ken Cook's "Grandpa Buckles" on page 2, which includes photos.

 

"Dad, we'll rope today"

Wish you could have been there it was quite a sight to see.
So I'll tell it like it happened and I'm sure that you'll agree.

There's nothing can compare to the fun we had that day
When the Cook kids went to doctor calves and said, "Dad, we'll rope today."

Now my crew was much excited, I could tell they'd give their all,
Late into the night they roped that dummy, promised to be up first call.

Ma woke to rustle breakfast then back she came to say,
"Your kids are saddled up and waiting, best be on your way."

Now the plan was down right simple, ease through the pairs & then,
Softly drop a loop or two and ride back home again.

But, Lordy, I misjudged them kids; their springs were wound too tight.
And their approach to docterin' sick ones put them cows and calves to flight.

I figure Kork began the ruckus when he built himself a loop,
And Blondie went to buckin' and them calves began to spook.

I grabbed a rein and whoaed him up just in time to see,
Bugs & his horse C.J. lined out on a red baldie.

I left Kork to tend to business, seems nature had made an urgent call,
And a cowboy must do what he just can't put off, when there isn't a tree or a stall.

Now Bugs had that calf in his sights, set to rope, and his horse was tracking him grand,
But he checked him up and stepped on down, this I couldn't understand.

"Hey, why'd ya bail, you had him," Bugs was kneeling on the ground.
Scared me at first, I figured the worst, but he smiled and said, "Look what I found.

It's a bird's nest, Dad, and a couple of eggs. Why's she got 'em out here on this slope?"
"I got no idea, but if you're finished down there, where's the calf you were plannin' to rope?"

"Well, the cows were all runnin', and most of the calves, guess I lost him up over the hill.
But Kiel said he'd find him and Jo said she'd help. They both headed south to the mill."

Now the cows and the calves had all settled, 'cept that one that was laggin' behind.
Kiel could slip up and rope him plum easy, but easy was far from him mind.

At the speed of light his horse fired by that critter, the calf kinda watched as he passed,
Kork turned to me with a smile on his face and said, "Gee, Dad, ain't Kiel's horse fast!"

Deep into the bunch he was headed, the herd scattered again on the run,
Two cows through the fence, one calf followed suit and the rest just erupted for fun.

"That's it! Everybody get up here, Bugs, Kiel, Korey, and Jo.
We're gonna doctor at least one of these calves before we cash in, so let's go.

Stay beside me, don't take off a runnin'. Keep your horse calm, let's do this job right.
Ease by them there calves, take a good look at each, no sense in a pace that's too tight.

Shag a loop on that red with the scours," Kork roped him and flanked him real quick.
"We'll give him a pill and mark him for sure, that way we can tell he's been sick."

Jo rode up and gave me the mark stick, her voice was as soft as a mouse,
"Just mark him today, Dad, and we'll pill him tomorrow, 'cause the pills are still back at the house."

© 2005, Ken Cook, from "Dad we'll rope today"
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Ken told us: This poem is closer to the way it really happened than I care to admit.  Let me put it this way, it was an adventure!

All four of the kids learned to ride when they were little guys and the three boys (Kiel, Korey, Kelly) would rather rope than eat. Kasey Jo is the oldest and the only girl and a good hand but never did do any roping. What started as a routine day riding through the cows and calves to check for sick ones soon escalated to looking like a circus with no tent.  All of my "top hands" plum forgot what they'd learned about handling cattle and I can't say I did much better after the chaos was in full swing. The best part wasn't that we forgot the medicine, it was after Kork's horse finished bucking and Kork had a nature call. 

Hope you enjoy the poem. Back in 1987 when Waddie Mitchell released his Waddie Mitchell's Christmas Poems, Nanc and I received a signed copy. In it he wrote, "Ken & Nancy, Please enjoy this but do read it aloud."  If I may be so bold, please follow his advice.  



The Cook kids, 1996


The Cook kids, 1999

 

Bloodlines

Our horses aren't the kind whose bloodlines run real deep,
More often ours are horses that we acquired cheap.

There's been Shetlands, nags, and colts the kids have rode for free,
Geldings saved from the killer's truck by a cowboy poor, and that's me.

"Dad please buy us this one, we'll feed him every day."
I kid you not, on the drive home that dang horse passed away.

Mounts borrowed from an uncle, grandpa, and the boss,
A one-eared stud by Satan's Pet that bucked his bridle off.

Bid to buy a well bred one, I'm a Son of Peppy San.
Cash was scarce so passed him over for Catch Me If You Can!

A pin-fired jug-head off the track, that horse could flat out run,
Problem was, he had no whoa, so stoppin' wasn't fun.

Owned several that were rope shy, cinchy, hard to load.
A paint that wouldn't move at all, the children named him Toad.

That cribber who needed a muzzle, a thin one, we got his teeth floated,
Still couldn't eat hay, so my girl fed him oats, six bags later that night, poor thing bloated.

A sorrel, a gray, oh yes and a black, can't say color was ever to blame.
More often than not, if I told you the truth, I'm bettin' I bought em all lame.

Now over the years, our horses improved 'cause me and my crew did the same.
Gosh I enjoy, horseback in the sand with cowboys who share my last name.

No matter the job, or which neighbor we help, very seldom we'll be poorly mounted.
As their Dad, I'm amazed, by the kids that we've raised our blessings are gratefully counted.

Still our horses aren't the kind whose bloodlines run real deep,
But the cowboys who are ridin' them, their bloodline is mine to keep.

© 2005, Ken Cook, from "Dad we'll rope today"
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ken Cook and his three sons

 

 

I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy

We were calvin' on the LT snow began to fall
Hard wind from the east's no good, no protection there at all

No doubt we're needin' moisture but the calves weren't lookin' good
Figured if we saddled up we could hold'em like we should

Calves were chillin' down and cows began to stray
I bed them down with one more stack so's maybe they would stay

Kiel had our horses caught and rushed'em all he could
For a boy of only 13 years my top hand's pretty good

I had two calves in the pickup, not just to save their ears
Dyin' calves don't suit me and the chance of that was clear.

Met Kiel there at the barn and we had ourselves an eye to eye
"This here won't be easy son." And this was his reply

"I know just what needs doin' Dad and you can bet on that
I'm gonna be a cowboy," then he pulled his hat down flat.

Didn't want my son at risk but was sure that's what I'd done
We couldn't see the barn no more I feared the storm had won

"There's two in the southwest corner can ya bring'em through the snow?
I'll keep these from headin' south then meet you when you show."

My cows settled by the trees thank God, so I got off for just a spell
Still couldn't see him comin' cause this storm was now white hell

I knelt down to try and clear my head and get my bearings straight
Said myself a prayer I guess. Good lord I've sealed his fate.

Now wait, that's him, with a new born on his saddle
Movin' slow and easy so the mama not to rattle

Yep that calf was on his saddle, back legs tied just like I'd do
"The cow's a comin' Dad, brought her like ya showed me too

Wish Great Grandpa coulda been with me, we'd a got'em both I know
That other cow's a calvin' Dad, we're wastin' time let's go

If she's had him, you just hand him up, ol' CJ'll buck the snow
I can bring her calf with me. you bring the cow real slow

Then we'll ride the rest of them, make sure their on the hay
Cause Dad that's what I was born to do and grandpa did it that way."

I no longer had to wonder, as we rode south I knew
My top hand was a cowboy, doin' what he loved to do.

© 2006, Ken Cook, from I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Ken told us, "My son Kiel (rhymes with Kyle) and I were headed out in a snow storm during calving to bring a few heavy cows in where there was some protection to calve. We calve early in the spring up here...too early some years according to Mother Nature. The snow and wind was blowing in our faces as we rode out. I looked at my boy and hollered above the wind, "So you wanna be a cowboy huh?"  I'll never forget the look of determination on that boy's face as he said "Yes I do, Dad." 


Photo of Kiel Cook by Carl Johnson

 

 

Fill 'em Up to Overflowin'

There's nothin' forged by mortal man,
Can measure full the gain,

When God swings wide ol' heaven's gate,
And sorts a day of rain.

No vessel on a sun-baked ranch,
Not dog dish, gauge or pail,

Can hold the flow and endless worth,
A soaker can unveil.

You'd barter with the devil sure,
If rain 'gainst soul was bet,

'Cause on both knees you've prayed for months,
With not an answer yet.

More natural than breathin' air,
See every drop's a gift,

All creatures livin' feel the change,
When clouds begin to shift,

And thunderheads show in the west,
The breeze turns damp, not burned.

Your soul might be the devil's toy,
But for now the sky has turned,

As lightning flashes, thunder screams,
Most cattle bunch to hide.

The horses race the barbed wire south,
They feel it deep inside.

Anticipation, same as you,
Heaven's gate blows back,

A gully washer's on its way,
The drought's under attack.

So fill 'em up to overflowin',                     
Each gauge and pail and dish,

The devil may have gained a soul,
But cowboy, you got your wish.                                       

© 2007, Ken Cook, from Cowboys Are Like That
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Best for Now

We are the head and not the tail,
  Hold scant respect for concrete trail,
We choose to ride with engines quiet,
  Breath by breath outside the riot,

Consumin' man and caged beast,
  Freedom for us to love at least,
Workin' horse and punchin' cow,
  We damn sure like that best for now.

We are the head and not the tail,
  Respect for all life bred female,
We race to dance with heart in hand,
  Cheek to cheek we face the band,

Consumin' whiskey, dancin' straight,
  Pressed close to one, the night grows late,
Freedom for us is love or fight,
  We damn sure live for Friday night.

We are the head and not the tail,
  Respect the boys who carved the trail,
We rise to cast our days behind,
  Hoof by hoof, the horseback kind.

Consumin' all to which we're bound,
  We are the cowboy men now found,
Working' horse while punchin' cow,
  We damn sure like that best for now.

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

 

Ken comments: My cousin Buck Buckles was born and raised in the Sandhills of Nebraska, by far
one of the best hands I have ever known. He will turn seventy years old this year and on more than one occasion Buck has been quoted as sayin, "All I ever wanted to do was work horses and punch cows." I stole the line...Buck doesn't know yet.

His parents, Jim and Ester Buckles, were the first to dance at Nanc and my wedding. Buck and Joan love to dance. Nanc and I love to dance. The stanzas written about females and dancing are very special to me.



 

Shadow Demons

There's a demon dwells in the shadow,
Breathes winter long deep and tough,
Darin' a puncher to pack up and quit,
Or stick 'cause he ain't had enough.

There's a demon casts a long shadow,
Each moment a cowboy must choose,
Twixt pitchin' his rope 'fore the darkness,
Or face one more wrap and refuse.

There's a demon hides in that shadow,
Waits on a hand not to care,
'Bout tyin' one down needin' tending,
Or ride on, pretend she's not there.

There's a demon carries his shadow,
'Till a man becomes what he should,
Worth every second he's horseback,
Or lost in dark shadows for good.

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

 

Ken comments: The creation of "Shadow Demons" was triggered by something Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said about his past and how some things in his life 'carry a long shadow'....The poem grew into a piece about that age-old, written-to-death saying "ride for the brand." We all make choices that ground us to who we become. And there will always be that little devil on one shoulder and angel on the other waiting for us to choose.

 

 

Lived It

He’s too stove up to swing a ketch rope,
Still waddles out amongst the crew,
And seldom starts in ‘bout the old days,
Unless some snot-nosed kid asks him to.

He “gathers” now days with the youngsters,
Lets them rope his boots for the heels.
While boys dream of jerk slack and dally,
He’s already lived how that feels.

Breathed deep through thousands of sunsets,
Tied on to most breeds of a cow.
Cheated death with a good horse and saddle,
While keeping his fingers somehow.

Must confess I’ve heard every story,
Each chapter that makes up his life.
From ropin’ the milk cow some evenings,
Through the months spent courtin’ his wife.

Tales about critters he laced as a youth,
One ‘bout this pig and a skunk on a bet,
Covered hundreds of miles mostly horseback,
Not one day's ride from the ranch as of yet.

Joked of grass stirrup deep…at the neighbors!
Heard him cuss at rains long overdue,
But smiled when he spoke of fall roundups,
Till before long…you wished it was you.

Couple fights between owners of cattle,
Drown out over women and booze,
Laughed about hours in the garden,
Even though his dear wife let him choose!

Christmases, weddings, and dances,
The outhouse…and a snow storm for days,
You’d think after all of that livin’,
A few facts would get lost in the haze.

Not him though, his memory is vaulted,
Priceless treasures locked safely inside,
Just open his vault with a question,
Then hang on, ‘cause you’re in for a ride!

A tear comes when he mentions his friend,
Life cut short before takin’ a wife.
That memory most days ends his talkin’,
And Ma says pert near ruined his life.

That stove-up old cowboy’s my idol,
Those rug rats are all his grandkids.
And from the first time I roped his boot heels,
I’ve been tryin’ to live like he did.

© 2011, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ken comments:  I "stole" moments from conversations with my Grandpa Buckles about his older brother Jim and his younger brother Ben to inspire this piece of work. I added some notes I'd taken while enjoying the company of Grandpy Art Risse (my children have always called him "Grandpy Art," though he has plenty of real grandkids to do that). The wonderful stories told by my Grandma Buckles and Mom, Betty Cook, helped to bring this poem to life.



 

Grandpa's Spurs

Boots, Tony Llamas, all I ever saw him wear.
Boots, not what I valued, it was the spurs strapped on down there.

Fifteen years, and most days I heard them rowels sing out,
Fifteen years and never once did I see him ride with doubt.

Twice, he pounded rivets in, old ones worn near through,
Twice, but only once with me… proud to help him too.

Holes the size of pennies, in the center of them rowels,
Holes that circled every year my grandpa worked a cow.

Seldom, did I see him give them spurs a second thought,
Seldom, ‘cept to send me for them spurs that he’d forgot.

Never took ’em off no matter where we’d go,
Never wore’ em but for work…never just for show.

Once, I do recall he was horseback without ’em on,
Once, was one to many, now his riding days are gone.

Natural as puttin’ on his long johns ‘fore his pants,
Natural was watchin’ when he made an old steer dance.

Spur straps matched when purchased new.
Spur straps did not when he was through.

Chose to hand ’em down to me, Easter Day Two Thousand Four,
Chose me ‘cause he was certain I knew what his spurs were for.

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


 

 Thirty Five Foot is Just Enough Rope

Ed got bucked off and planted,
Laid there gasping on the ground.
His "well broke" steed of two whole days,
Went buckin' high eastbound.

A blue sky full of fresh air,
Gently whispered "take a hit."
The strength to muster one deep breath,
Escaped him when he lit.

Whimpered the grass looked softer,
From his perch up in the sky.
Two thoughts circled 'round his head,
"Can't breathe…but didn't die!"

Found one boot in a stirrup,
Beneath his saddle, up a tree.
That bugger hung his rig up there,
Like an ornament to see.

Ed's rope got half-hitched 'round the trunk,
And imagine our surprise.
The horse was at the other end,
With fire in both his eyes.

He bellered, charged, and stretched Ed's twine,
Then pulled back and kissed the ground.
Ed kept one eye on that knot-head,
Tried to work his saddle down.

'Cause once, and this is gospel truth,
Real close so Ed could see.
The crazy horse took his best shot,
At climbing up that tree.

Ed fanned him with his slicker,
Spurred him…with his sock.
then climbed a whole lot faster,
Like Jack on his beanstalk.

On this ranch we live by the code,
Unwritten 'tween horses and men.
If you get bucked off and you're breathin',
Got to get up and crawl on again.

But Ed tallied up his losses,
Figured his odds of livin' through,
A wreck like this twice in one day,
Might be more than he could do.

He snugged his belt, pulled up that sock,
Yanked his Stetson past both ears.
And gave that horse one training course,
I've not seen in all my years.

From exactly forty feet,
Ed faced that demon…eye to eye.
Stepped it off to be real sure,
He wasn't about to die.

Old Evil came a chargin',
Ed's noose around his neck.
As a witness I can tell you boys,
That horse produced a wreck.

Rope flipped him over backwards,
Rattled all his cage,
Which seemed to make him madder,
How much madder's hard to gauge.

I asked Ed, 'You gonna ride him,
One more time?' He muttered, "Nope.
But for what it's worth, I have decided,
That dang horse can keep my rope."

© 2011, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


© 2011, Shawn Cameron, "Mornings on Horseback"

Ken was doubly inspired by Shawn Cameron's painting in a 2011 Art Spur, "Mornings on Horseback." His first poem, "Our Battle Cry," appears here with the other selected Art Spur poems.

About the above poem's inspiration, Ken comments, "The farther one gets from the actual moment of impact...the easier it is to stretch the truth and laugh about it!"

 

 

Nine Lives and Counting

He's lived on borrowed time since that horse wreck in forty six,
rode a big stout sorrel gelding, brand new spurs deep in the mix.

A catch rope confiscated off dad's saddle one dark night,
wide open leaned out past the mane one dry cows tail in sight.

Like a redwood slamming bedrock that's the sound a young boy makes,
when the tumbling and the prairie takes the place of needing brakes.

Used up one kitty life line in a bar in fifty two,
when a red haired married barmaid fed him both ends of a cue.

He remarked about her "sweater" so she knocked out his front pegs,
while her husband and big brother broke one of two bowed legs.

They flung him out the backdoor with the bottles, cans and trash,
the gravel scraped his ear off so he never heard the crash.

His demise looked almost certain late spring of eighty two,
the cow was down the calf was backwards but he knew just what to do.

Looped them chains deep in his palms then firmly tugged the beast,
the cow declined his offer … got up and headed east!

Two circles round the pasture peeled the hide off most his front,
for hours he searched for fingers, kind of like a treasure hunt.

One last wreck was averted in the old folks home this year,
when a portly blue haired widow whispered gently, "You can steer."

Riding double on a scooter off the dock to load a truck,
was sure to put a coffin lid on his lifetime of good luck.

But right before their liftoff he just tucked and rolled away,
local paper spared the details… just said her funeral was Tuesday.

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

 

Ken comments, "I know a few old cowboys who have lived through some terrible wrecks. Horse wrecks, cow wrecks, woman wrecks! It's like they have nine lives like an old tom cat, and are trying to get to number ten unscathed! Very seldom, if ever, does a title to a piece pound in my head trying to get me to write. 'Nine Lives and Counting' may be the first."

 

 

More Than Just a Horse

More than just a horse, Grandpa said he'd be
and his words echoed loud as the corral disappeared.

More than just a horse, first time we parted ways and I touched the sky.

More than just a horse every time I swung a loop
and we tied on to less fight than he had heart.

More than just a horse because my granddaughters told me so.

More than just a horse sorting cattle
and when trust meant getting home.

More than just a horse over whiskey drank and spilled.

More than just a horse as tired and old consumed us both
and those words echoed louder than the shot.

More than just a horse. That's why I dug the hole.

© 2016, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Ken comments, "This poem is not written in traditional cowboy poetry style, but it does say something in a new way about an animal I have trusted with my life, and the lives of those I love."
 

 


Watch Ken Cook on YouTube:

"I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy"

"Diet and Exercise"

"Revel in the Journey" (written by Ken Cook, performed by Robert Dennis)
 

Read Ken Cook's

Progression in our Art Spur project

and

Ranch Country Christmas in our Art Spur project

and

Our Battle Cry in our Art Spur project

and

Home in our Art Spur Project

and

Not Waitin' On Someday in the 2010 National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur project

and

Cowhand in the 2010 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur project

and

copyright 2009 by Lori Faith Merritt ( www.photographybyfaith.com) "Heading In"
© 2009, Lori Faith Merritt
 www.photographybyfaith.com

Ridin' With Georgie...I wish in our Art Spur project

and

Revel in the Journey in our Art Spur Project

and

Come with Me in our Art Spur project

and

Remote Control Wife posted with 2007 Christmas poems

and

Brothers Stay Together in our Art Spur project

and

Company in our Art Spur project

 

 

Ken has shared  interesting Picture the West photos, including:

  The fifth generation

  Branding with Cook sons, 2010

  The "tail end" of 2007

 Branding, 2007
 
kcFrankBucklesBabeand_Dolly.jpg (73113 bytes)  "Grandpa Buckles"

Family photos in the very first Picture the West


 

About Ken Cook:
          
(provided by Ken Cook in 2010)

Ken Cook is courageously ranching and writing in the great state of South Dakota. He has gathered cattle out of tough country, saddled up on many a dark morning, and been run over by an embarrassing number of mama cows. The Cook crew—Ken and his four ranch-raised cowhands—worked and played side by side through diapers to adults. With his wife, Nancy, by his side for over a quarter-century, the cowhands are grown and gone.

Now, Ken's sharing his poetry on stages across the West. He's been privileged to entertain folks in several states, invited to perform at regional gatherings in Colorado, Nebraska, and North Dakota. He has also appeared at the Badger Clark and Western Heritage Centers in South Dakota, and was selected to appear at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. "The poetry of Ken Cook keeps an audience alternately in stitches or tears," says Heritage of the American West Performance series producer Francie Ganje, "He is a special performer."

Ken's poetry has been featured in IM Cowgirl and Open Range magazines. It is played on radio stations across the West, including Joe Baker's Backforty Bunkhouse from New Mexico and Ralph's Back Porch, which originates in Texas. His is an authentic voice, bringing a deep respect for past generations to cowboy poetry. Award-winning cowboy poet and rancher Yvonne Hollenbeck calls him "a master poet, a great entertainer, and a real cowboy."

Rick Huff, Western entertainment critic, has this to say: "You do tend to hang on Ken's words, both because of the way they come at you and the quality of their order."

In 2007, at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Ken's serious poetry earned him a silver buckle. Smoke Wade, NCPR emcee and poet stands firm in his belief that "Ken Cook is a real working cowboy who writes real working cowboy poetry. Cook has helped bring cowboy poetry back to its roots: poems of the cowboy written by the cowboy."

In June 2009, Ken was named Lariat Laureate in a global competition at CowboyPoetry.com, a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. His work is featured on four Bar-D Roundup compilation albums produced by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. His poetry has also been written about and featured online at the prestigious Poetry Foundation.

Ken has recorded three spoken-word CDs: Dad We'll Rope Today, I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy, and his latest, Cowboys Are Like That. "Cowboys Are Like That is receiving grand reviews and radio airplay around the world" according to Joe Baker, AWA disc jockey of the year. "Ken is the real deal cowboy poet."



Book and Recordings

 

Passing it On

Of Horses and Men

A book and CD with Jay Snider

Illustrations by Tyler Crow (tylercrow.com) and Roger Archibald (westernpencilart.com)

Book includes:

"Dying Breed," by Jay Snider
"The Conversation," by Ken Cook
"Cowhand," by Ken Cook
"Four Little Words," by Jay Snider
"Heroes," by Jay Snider
"Burning Daylight," by Jay Snider
"Grandpa's Spurs," by Ken Cook
"I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy," by Ken Cook
"Bloodlines," by Ken Cook
"Kill This Cow," by Ken Cook
"Minor Adjustments," by Jay Snider
"Of Horses and Men," by Jay Snider
"Home," by Ken Cook
"Come with Me," by Ken Cook
"Cowboyin', Horses, and Friends," by Jay Snider
"Rainy Day Prayer," by Jay Snider
"The Broncho Twister's Prayer," by Bruce Kiskaddon
"The Ranch Up Yonder," by Ralph G. Coole

On the CD:

"Dying Breed," by Jay Snider
"The Conversation," by Ken Cook
"Cowhand," by Ken Cook with Robert Dennis
"Four Little Words," by Jay Snider
"I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy," by Ken Cook
"Bloodlines," by Ken Cook
"Of Horses and Men," by Jay Snider
"Rainy Day Prayer," by Jay Snider
"The Broncho Twister's Prayer," by Bruce Kiskaddon, recited by Jay
Snider
"The Ranch Up Yonder," by Ralph G. Coole, recited by Ken Cook


From the back cover:


It seems I've always known Ken Cook. I know that can't be true, yet each time we meet it seems as if we're old friends who are catching up. His poetry is theater of the mind, igniting a screen in my mind. When he recites, the lights go down and the picture comes on. Ken speaks as someone who's been there: saddling up on a cold spring morning, hurrying home with a sick calf to tend to. Personally, Ken is a bit of a paradox: unassuming, yet filled with enthusiasm and excitement for life. His friendship is heartfelt and real and worth living up to. Jim Thompson

Ken and Jay—two of my favorite poets and two of my favorite people—belong to the hard-working, real-deal variety of cowboy, not the shiny millionaire kind. That works to the advantage of discerning poetry fans, because these two cowboys spend words like they spend hard-earned dollars: wisely, frugally, creatively. Each metaphor is an investment in the bigger picture. Each verb does a job. Every rhyme is cinched up just right. Like their fences and their gear, they take care with their poems and build 'em to last. Plus, they know when to let loose and splurge just for the heck of it. I'm a millionaire for counting these two fine men among my friends. We're all the richer for a book from not one, but two of the West's best contemporary writers. This collection proves what every Westerner already knows: some things in life are priceless.  Doris Daley


Passing it On (book and CD) available for $20 postpaid from:

Ken Cook
29581 218 Ave.
Martin, SD  57551
(605) 685-6749

www.kencookcowboypoet.com

Passing it On on Facebook

Cowboys Are Like That



2009

Includes:

Come with Me
Brothers Stay Together
Grandpa's Spurs
Cowboys Are Like That
Buck Ramsey's Grass: from Chapter 3
Buck Ramsey's Grass: from Chapter 7
 From Town by Badger Clark
  Fill 'em up to Overflowin'
  Calling for a Cowboy
The Ranch up Yonder by Ralph Garnier Coole
Buck Ramsey's Grass: A Ponder
The Conversation

Available for $15.00 postpaid.

To place an order:

Ken Cook
29581 218 Ave.
Martin, SD  57551
(605) 685-6749

www.kencookcowboypoet.com

 

Ken comments: The original poems included on this album have stayed hidden where only cow punchers ride until now. They are some of my best work. Poetry by Buck Ramsey, Ralph Garnier Coole, and Badger Clark is included
because I admire their work. May their gift of poetry never be hidden, but always shared for generations to come.
The album is a journey beginning with an invitation to "Come With Me" and ending with a cowboy's legacy entitled "The Conversation." I invite you to cinch up and ride along.


From Rick Huff's Best of the West Reviews:

In his commanding style that tells the story first and the rhyme in proper time, Ken Cook presents an exceptional new CD.

Cowboys Are Like That is one of Cook's original poems, but the title very much presents the brogan for this collection to bed down in. His lines fit just fine with excerpts from Buck Ramsey's epic "Grass," or Badger Clark's "From Town," or Ralph Coole's "The Ranch Up Yonder." The crafted words from those noted poets and the increasingly sought after Mr. Cook masterfully illustrate how "cowboys are like that!" But like the very best of Cowboy Poetry will do, they extend beyond hoof, horn and saddle to embrace more universal themes and truths.

In an enclosed cover letter, Ken provided some insight into the extra effort he put into the creation and the rendering of this album. It shows. If he hadn't done so before now, with "Cowboys Are Like That" Ken Cook has cemented his place among the modern "A-listers" of the genre.

© 2009, Rick Huff

 

"I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy"

Includes:

Loaded Pair of Coots
Vern's Saddle Holds the Memories
A Cowboy's Advice to the Foreman (on the risks of fencing)
I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy
Diversification
The Branding Not Done
Grandpa
Grandpa's Spurs
Bring Her Back to the Home Range
Good Company
Twelve Days of Ranching
So Here's How I've Been Raised

Available for $12.00 postpaid.

To place an order:

Ken Cook
29581 218 Ave.
Martin, SD  57551

(605) 685-6749

www.kencookcowboypoet.com
 

"Dad, we'll rope today"


"Hope you enjoy the CD as much as I enjoyed living what's on it."

Includes:

Kill this Cow
Calving
Let the Hammer Down
"Dad, we'll rope today"
A Ride for the Fiddler
Joy is a Choice
The Reckoning
Bugs' Good Advice
The Renegade
Gone are the Days
Exercise
Bloodlines

Available for $12.00 postpaid.

To place an order:

Ken Cook
29581 218 Ave.
Martin, SD  57551
(605) 685-6749 

www.kencookcowboypoet.com

 

Review by Marvin O'Dell of Around the Campfire, May 2006:

If you've never visited a ranch, or you don't think you'll get to visit one in the near future, then you need to pick up Dad, We'll Rope Today, Ken Cook's latest CD.  And by the time you're through listening to this string of cowboy poems, you'll feel like you've not only visited a ranch but spent the day working while you were there. I mean, this CD almost tires you out—in a good way.  It's a compendium on a day in the life of a cowboy.  More often than not, it's a humorous presentation of how NOT to cowboy.

Ken will have you laughing when you first start out on your visit to his ranch.  Then he'll sober you up with some poetry that makes no bones about his love and admiration for his calf-ropin' kids, the attitudes that get a cowboy through the day, and the disaster that a cowboy can suddenly meet during his day's work.

"Gone are the Days" is a wonderful tribute poem in which Ken expresses his appreciation for those who have gone before and those who taught him how to handle a rope.  If you've ever been a parent, you'll not be able to keep from smiling as you listen to the title cut.  Remember the first time you "gave in" and let your kids help?  And the theme of the proud parent continues as Ken presents "Bloodlines."

I think what I enjoy most about this CD, though, is the trip it takes me on.  I feel like I've spent the day riding with Ken by the time the last poem has played. And I think that's what good cowboy poetry should be about. Not just cowboys reciting poetry or poets writing poems about cowboys— but cowboys sharing their life experiences with me in such a way that I can't wait to climb up on a horse and ride again. Even if I've never sat a horse in my life! Ken Cook's Dad, We'll Rope Today leaves you with exactly that feeling.

So put this CD on, lay back and close your eyes, and take in the noise and smells and excitement of a day at the ranch.  I promise Ken Cook will make sure you have a good time.

© 2006, Marvin O'Dell, host of Around the Campfire on Classic Heartland
Reprinted with permission

 


 

photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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