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

Winfred, South Dakota
About Kip Sorlie


Recognized as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "Rope"



He finished building camp,
     Then wagoned up his gear.
Cold weather turning damp
     Said snow was nearly here.
He stopped and thought awhile,
     Then, hung the rope inside.
He rode off with a smile,
     "That rope will save his hide!"
Someday his son would need,
     For purposes unknown,
A good rope and a steed,
     Long after he had grown.
The son, now grown and gray
     Had laid his dad to rest,
But Bob would tend each stray,
     Till his son fledged the nest
A cold chill on his neck
     Bespoke the first alarm.
Bob watched each little speck
     That settled on his arm.
As the flakes descended,
     Like tiny flecks of sand,
Lightly they portended
     Seduction of the land.
A calm disguised the cold,
     Suggesting it was warm.
It was deception bold
     That gave no hint of storm.
His old horse, Toby, knew
     Before they reached the camp
And apprehension grew,
     When Bob set match to lamp.
The light would show the way
     Through snow to shack and bed.
Sleep would conclude his day,
     Once Toby had been fed.
Disturbed from sleep he grinned,
     Then staggered to the door,
Blown open by the wind
     That woke him with a roar.
It blew and grew for days
     And still it had no end.
He had no hope for strays.
     The dead, his dad would tend.
The stove burned branch and bow,
     That gave scant heat or light,
But hay forked from a mow
     Warmed Toby day and night.
The long rope to the shed
     Was anchored to the shack.
It took Bob where it led.
     It took him there and back.
Erected by his dad,
     Out where the cattle ranged,
The camp still found Bob glad
     Whenever seasons changed.
Fresh chinking every Fall
     Held back the wind and rain.
When snowflakes raked a wall,
     All efforts proved but vain.
In through the smallest crack,
     They mounded on the floor,
With little drifts in back
     And more inside the door.
Eleven days the gale
     Had battered shack and shed.
The twelfth, born calm and pale,
     Cleared as the gray clouds fled.
Just bitter cold remained,
     Each flake reflecting sun,
But nature seemed restrained,
     Now that the storm had run.
Bob's son, from far below,
     Left home before daylight,
To challenge fallen snow
     And brave a world turned white.
The taxing trek was slow,
     With powder to his knees.
As sweat began to flow
     He felt his mustache freeze.
They told of his advance,
     The skis deep tracks of course,
But little was the chance
     Of finding dad or horse.
He found stove ashes cold,
     The wood box empty, too.
His boot tracks, looking old,
     Did not provide a clue.
The frayed rope, white with frost,
     Sagged loosely to the shed.
He feared, "If dad was lost,
     Then Toby, too, was dead!"
Out to the shed he strode,
     Resigned to withered hope.
Out to the horse abode,
     He followed weathered rope.
The young man, in despair,
     Saw Toby on the ground.
In the hay, lying there,
     His father, too, he found.
He stood there with bowed head,
     In overwhelming grief.
Then, Toby stood, not dead,
     A sight beyond belief!
His father, slow to rise,
     Before the son dismayed,
Appeased his son's surprise
     With the smile he displayed.
Bob leaned across the rail
     Embracing a grown lad,
Who traveled up a trail
     That led him to his dad.
The storm, so long and cold,
     Had kept them far apart,
But in their thoughts, untold,
     Each knew the other's heart.
Downing snow-melt coffee
     Bob told of his ordeal.
Listening intently,
     His son prepared a meal.
"The blow came slowly on!
     It woke me in the night.
I thought it would be gone
     When dark gave way to light!"
"That first night as I slept,
     A vivid dream I had
About the snow, wind-swept,
     A rope and your granddad."
"The storm intensified
     As feeble daylight grew.
I woke to find, outside,
     An old rope that I knew."
"Off through the blowing snow
     I glimpsed a fading form.
With a rope to follow,
     It vanished in the storm!"
"I did not string that line!
     It was another's deed!
Did grandpa pull that twine?
     Had he foreseen the need?"
"It bound the shed and shack
     And Toby needed care,
But with the storm's attack
     I'd not have gotten there!"
"My dad said long ago,
     An old rope held my fate,
But little did I know
     It led to Toby's gate!"
"For when the stove died out
     I stoked the horse instead!
We'd both have died, no doubt,
     With Toby left unfed!"
Once again together,
     The two sat down to eat.
Old rope was the tether
     That made the day complete.
A new rope on a nail,
     Where once an old one hung
Is there above a rail,
     Just waiting to be strung.
A rope, the snow and shed
     Are truly intertwined,
For they bind those ahead
     To those not far behind!

2009, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


When we asked Kip about the poem's inspiration, he provided this comment and an epilogue: My earliest memories contain vivid pictures of a long rope tied to the house for the barn. It was a long rope and strung every winter. Storms were frequent, intense and could last for many days at a time. I grew to depend on it, but took it for granted. Though not in use any more, it still hangs in a barn away from the weather, retired. I'm sure it would perform once again, if asked too.

I swear this tale is true!
     But I've embellished it,
As storytellers do
     To make the pieces fit!
Of men who lived this tale,
     Two have long departed.
The third awaits a trail,
     The fourth has not started.
A son may sometimes spurn
     A dad, too proud to hope,
But in the end they learn
     From withered, weathered rope.
The first rope wagoned in 
     Was fated on to me.
It's tied to where I've been
     And where I hope to be.

We asked Kip why he writes cowboy poetry and why he thinks it is important and he commented:

My life's purpose was raising five children to stand on their own two feet and deal with whatever life would toss at them. I was partially successful. When they left home, my purpose disappeared.

My life requires purpose, something more important than myself. With my children gone, I found purpose once again in cowboy verse. It is an honest, straight-forward handshake with honest, straight-forward people who, even if they do not live the life style, carry the values with great pride. It is for them that I hope to be, at least partially, successful.

You can email Kip Sorlie: 


Kip Sorlie was recognized previously as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "In Living Memory"


In Living Memory

The ones to admire
Still sit by the fire
     Of a camp, a days ride from town.
In the snapping blaze
They recall old days
     In stories, to be written down.

No smell of burnt hair
Remains in the air,
     Branding done by late afternoon.
The ropes are all slack
And hang with the tack,
     As irons are chilled by the moon.

With camp chatter gone,
An infrequent yawn
     Lightly stirs the quiet that grows.
The sounds of the night
Are always polite
     And partner with men as they doze.

From the shrinking fire
Shadows rise higher,
     Silhouetting each sleeping hand.
There is little doubt,
When the flame dies out,
     These cowboys will still ride the land.

With grub before dawn
And coffee all gone,
     The horses are saddled to ride.
Stubborn coals glow red
In a fire not dead,
     Fueled by the memories inside.

If I had my way
I would sit all day
     Gazing intently at embers,
Recalling the tale
We lived on the trail,
     Hoping that each man remembers.

One day there will be
A written memory
     Of life that we lived with the herd,
To spark the desire
Of boys by a fire,
     From a man who lived every word.

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


Kip told us about his inspiration for the poem:

Kip told us about the inspiration of this poem: Look into the eyes of an old trail hand, as he tells a story by a campfire's light. Look into the eyes of a young boy listening to the story being told. What can be more inspiring than witnessing the connection of the past to the future?

We asked Kip why he writes Cowboy Poetry:

How do I interpret the expression in the eyes of a 4-year-old riding with grandpa, to find the herd and bring it home? How do I equate that expression to the seeds of honor, trust, respect and perseverance that are being planted? Who, if not an old cowboy, can nurture the sprout that grows? I will continue to plant and nurture! It is an imperative worth pursuing and preserving.

Choosing the right words, the words that reach down into your chest and rip your heart out, is a difficult task. I can splice a bunch of words together and rhyme the lines of verse, but if they do not trigger an emotion, heat up your blood or prompt a tear, then I will have failed in my efforts. More often than not, I fall short of my goals. Fortunately, there are many who will fulfill this calling far better than I. THEY are my hero's! They will interpret the expression seen in another's eyes.

You can email Kip Sorlie.



Not Yet

Sitting on the porch,
     Shaded from the sun,
He thought to himself,
    "Round-up has begun".

Off in the distance
     Rolling hills well grassed
Would tomorrow roar,
     As the cattle passed.

He was getting old,
     There was little doubt,
But he found it hard
     Sitting round-up out.

Summing up his life,
     He missed only five,
When he was to young
     To ride on the drive.

He had ridden drag
     For many a year
And learned every cow,
     By sight, from the rear.

With his great-grandson
     Saddled up and gone,
He would miss the drive
     That would start at dawn.

Two generations
     Would work with the herd,
Each one with the task
     To break in a third.

Rounded up for night,
     After beans and bread,
One would ride the watch,
     The rest, find a bed.

Morning sun would break
     On the bedroll camp.
Grumbles would be heard
     In the cold and damp.

To ribs of a boy
     The nudge of a toe
Told a great-grandson
     It was time to go.

"I am passed my prime,
     But I have to see
How you handle dust
     Riding drag with me!"

They rode by the house
     As the night drew near,
Four generations,
     The porch to the rear.

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


Kip told us the story behind the poem: "Bob Woodruff and his son, Rick, have a ranch near the small Montana town of Charlo, South of Flathead Lake. Rick has occupied top friend position with me for a lot of years. His dad has ridden drag through most of them. No disrespect is intended here and this poem is a tribute to him. In his 80's, with all his productive years seemingly relegated to fond memory status, he found more time to sit on the porch and let the 'young men' take over. However, Bob's undying determination and resilience provided the fodder for this story. The porch will have to wait. Great Grandpa still has a purpose." He dedicates the poem, "To Bob with respect."



Remembering Fathers

A squeak in the saddle,
     Morning sun in his eyes,
The path twisted and turned
     Toward the crest of the rise.

His granddad and father
     Had each treasured the spot
And resided there still,
     In the old family plot.

A ritual joining,
     In a place close to God,
His ride neared completion,
     On the path that he trod.

To share time with fathers,
     He could never repay
And recall fond memories
     On this, their special day.

As he gained to the ridge,
     In the crisp morning air,
He saw in the distance
     That somebody was there.

He rode up in silence,
     Quite surprised by the sight.
A horse was unsaddled.
     Someone had spent the night.

A campfire still burning,
     An old bedroll laid out,
And smell of hot coffee
     Had removed any doubt.

From behind an old mare
     Appeared a face, smile clad.
A young lady spoke out,
    "Happy Father's Day.....Dad!"

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


Kip told us about his inspiration for this poem:

In the spring of 1996 I had the opportunity to visit a large ranch in eastern Montana. The ranch had prospered and grown under the ownership  of a rancher who was, also, a successful banker. The small homesteads surrounding the young ranch were acquired over many years. In time, the holdings would total nearly 80 sections.  I was privileged to be allowed access to the 1,000's of acres that comprised the ranch.

Spending some time exploring the land, I discovered several of the old homesteads, in various stages of decay. Each special place demanded investigation. Each place laid its history at my feet. Each place spread its story for my eyes to survey. I hoped that my curiosity could be satisfied by my imagination. Unfortunately, Imagination is not a substitute for the real stories that played out in each special place.

One homestead dated to 1971, by a calendar still hanging in the kitchen. Some distance from the house stood a gnarled old cottonwood tree, which shaded a family plot. The site was enclosed by a white picket fence, freshly painted. The ground within the enclosure had been tended and some
bright red flowers, recently planted, added a touch of color to the fence on each side of the wooden gate. I was surprised by the condition of the small patch of ground.  A sense of mystery evolved when I noted the most recent marker was, also, dated 1971.

After 25 years someone still visited the site. Someone still tended the memories of times and family long passed. I felt a deep sense of admiration for the stranger who still bound this family together, past to the present and on into the future.

That afternoon I returned to the ranch headquarters. Approaching the barn and corral area I encountered A lady in her thirties with a boy in his teens, perhaps a son. They had unloaded horses from a small trailer and were about to ride off as I arrived. We nodded and exchanged greetings as we
passed. Each saddle carried a bed roll. One carried a shovel, the other, a bundle of bright red flowers.

"Remembering Fathers" was an attempt to recapture the intensity of the feeling that flooded through my veins from that extraordinary experience.  I hope that I have been, at least partially, successful.



Who We Are

All across our country
    From town and ranch and farm
We come for the feeling
    And good old fashioned charm.

With our friends and neighbors,
    Our families all converge,
As light-hearted laughter
    And cheerful grins all merge.

At the sight of our flag,
    None hesitate to stand.
Respect it is given
    With cowboy hats in hand.

Singing of the anthem,
    Our tribute finds a voice,
Giving thanks for freedom
    That was our parents choice.

A prayer is often said
    As every head is bowed,
Contestants standing tall
    In blessings from the crowd.

Then erupts the cheering,
    As multitudes await,
The first of all the brave
    To explode from the gate.

Traditions that we hold
    Are really why we go.
They tell us who we are,
    At every rodeo.

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


Kip commented on his inspiration for this poem:

Rodeo is a demonstration of the values of a people. In the heart of our land beats the traditions and customs that provide us our strength. Rodeo stands for all the subjective qualities that we feel inside; Our love of family, of country, of God, and a competitive spirit. Rodeo turns these qualities into an objective, tangible display, almost like fireworks on the 4th. of July. The celebration of Rodeo confirms the existence of a people who, with humble, or not so humble pride, show no inhibitions in acknowledging who they are.



And Still the Story Grows

The boy imagined tales
     That would not come again,
But stubbornly he clung
     To stories from old men.
"Ben! Do you remember
     When Cookie beat his pan?
The herd went sraight to Belle,
     Instead of to Cheyenne!"
Ben nodded that he did
     And countered, with a grin,
"Or when we made him walk,
     Cause he got sick on gin!"
"I did deserve to walk,
     But you were mean recruits!
The lesson that I learned,
     I learned without my boots!"
"But I did get even!
     Before the morning dawn
I said I burned two boots.
     Wear one! The other's gone!"
"Thrown into the wagon,
     You never took a peak,
But learned to cope quite well
     And both survived a week!"
Whiskered up and balding,
     Wrinkled hands and faces,
Each spoke of adventures,
     Death alone erases.
The boy had listened close
     To old men tell their tales,
But fell asleep, forlorn,
     To dream about THEIR trails.
He awoke to shadows
     And breakfast almost done.
He scrambled for his boots,
     But he found only one!

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


Kip told us,  "My grandfather was a gifted story teller. On cold winter evenings, after the chores were done, He would ensnare me in the tales of his youth. He'd build a loop, of words, and pull me in as his catch. He reconstructed places and events, with words, that would become as real as any that I would ever see with my eyes. He would pull me into those scenes and make me feel as if I were a part of each story. 'And Still the Story Grows' is an attempt at recapturing that childhood connection. I hope he would approve."




Along the meadow's edge
     The green grass rings appear.
They tell of olden times,
     When cowboys gathered here.
They would collect the fuel
     From dead and fallen trees,
To ready evening camp
     Against a sudden freeze.
Their bedrolls on the ground,
     Their horses tended too,
They'd quickly fall asleep,
     Expecting crystal dew.
As they awoke to stars,
     All fading with the night,
The sky off to the East
     Would glow in gentle light.
A frosty morning calm
     Would grip their aging bones.
Perked ears of the horses
     Would hear their murmured moans.
To a nest of tinder,
     A striking flint and steel
Would offer up in birth
     A spark that would anneal.
Old eyes would see inside
     The smoldering within
And in a quiet puff
     They'd see the flame begin.
A helpless babe at first,
     But slowly it would grow,
Igniting twig and branch,
     To set the camp aglow.
Creation of a child
     From mating steel and stone
Portended tender care
     For a flame, not yet grown.
Spreading through the kindling,
     Both arrogant and proud,
A youthful blaze, enticed,
     Would pop and snap aloud.
Heat it generated
     Would defend from the cold
And warm the wrinkled hands
     Of cowboys growing old.
Towards larger logs they'd watch
     The adolescent race,
Bigger chunks resisting
     A growing fire's embrace.
They'd drink steaming coffee,
     Poured from a boiling pot,
As flames turned wood to coal,
     With embers glowing hot.
Replaced by steady heat,
     More comforting and tame,
The arrogance and pride
     Would decrease with the flame.
In time, each hand would pause
     To silently admire
How much like life it was,
     The slowly dying fire.
From dead and fallen trees
     A homage had been made,
Assuring next year's green,
     Where once just ashes laid.
This ritual unplanned
     Was once performed each Spring.
The birth and death they found
     Were both bound to a ring.
The cowboys, old, are gone.
     Their blazing flames have died,
But somewhere in their young
     The stone and steel reside.
Along the meadows edge
     The green grass rings appear.
They tell of recent times,
     As cowboys gather here.

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


Kip Sorlie comments on his inspiration for this poem:

The memories of my father are strong.
They influence me daily.
He died years ago.
I miss him.
Upon learning of the loss of Rod Nichols, similar thoughts and familiar emotions returned.
A man is little more than what he leaves behind.  That said, both men will impact the balance of my years.
The writing of "Rings" was an attempt to honor his passing and the future he left us to extend.
Perhaps he would approve, perhaps not.
Thank you, Rod!
You will be missed at the campfire, but your rings will persist.

Rod Nichols

(This poem is added to tributes to Rod Nichols, here.)



He sat there on the ground
     Anticipating dawn,
But memories would abound
     Until the stars were gone.
He camped here every year
     Next to the aging pen,
Where bronc's once sensed the fear
     Of boys becoming men.
He had been a greenhorn,
     A lad who had no tales,
But men would watch one morn
     And judge him from the rails.
Into the pen he strode,
     To face a beast untamed,
A horse, as yet, unrode,
     As all the cowboys claimed.
The youth confronted rage,
     Bound by bit and saddle,
Inside a man made cage,
     Crazed from recent battle!
A milk stool in his hand,
     Three legs were all it had,
But strategy was planned
     That might assist the lad.
Anger watched him enter.
     It tensed the horse for war.
Stepping towards the center,
     He heard the cowboys roar.
"The last milk horse has died!
     The saddle cows are gone!
But if we really tried,
     Their pictures could be drawn!"
The laughter of the men
     Grew quiet to his rear,
When he sat in the pen
     And showed no sign of fear.
He showed a strength of will
     As crazy eyes grew calm.
Then, with untested skill,
     He offered up a palm.
Flared nostrils bravely dared
     The steady outreached hand.
The simple offer bared
     Was empty of demand.
Then came a soothing word
     And calm hand to the nose.
A friendship born, was heard,
     As the boy slowly rose.
From where the cowboys sat
     They saw the two connect.
Each cowboy tipped a hat,
     It spoke of their respect.
He claimed the unbroke stud
     And they rode many years,
Through snow and dust and mud.
     When he died, there were tears.
All the pain and glory
     That bound the two as friend,
Started with this story,
     But still it has no end!
A wooden marker made
     Is tended every Spring,
A friendship, yet displayed,
     That wrinkled hands still bring.
He watched the morning sky,
     It's blackness turning gray,
But wanted to deny
     The coming of the day.
As he recalled the tale,
     He glanced baked to the pen
And there upon the rail
     He thought he saw the men.
He claimed the unbroke stud
     And they rode many years,
Through prairie dust and mud,
     Befriending all their fears.
All the pain and glory
     That bound the two as friend,
Started with this story,
     But still it has no end.
A wooden marker made
     Is tended every Spring,
A friendship, yet displayed,
     That wrinkled hands still bring.
He watched the sunset die
     As stars began to glow.
Against a darkened sky,
     The moon and Mars would show.
As he recalled the tale
     He looked back to the pen
And there upon the rail
     He thought he saw the men.

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


Kip comments: Every once in a while I am struck by a notion that should have been obvious from my childhood, or at least my early adulthood.

Children crave acknowledgement and approval from their elders. The coming of age, the earning of the spurs, the bestowal of honor for a job well done will be remembered for a lifetime. The old and wise will always be watching, from where ever the old and wise watch.

"Judgment" is dedicated to all the young and old who have been fortunate enough to have received or given the honor of recognition, and to those who will.


From an Old Wood Chair?

Upon the ranch house porch
     There sat an old wood chair.
The greying, sway-backed barn
     He contemplated there.
Behind its weathered doors
     Laid memories ignored.
To find them once again,
     It had to be explored.
Eccentric was its voice.
     It spoke of years alone,
From struggles with the breeze
     That made its timbers groan.
Beckoned by the calling,
     He headed for its doors,
To capture once again
     His years of boyhood chores.
He swung them open wide
     To hear the barn's lament,
But as he stepped inside
     The sounds of sadness went.
The damp and darkness fled
     As daylight galloped in
And memories long hid
     Were touched by warmth again.
It once was filled with hay
     And countless sacks of grain,
Beneath a well shaked roof,
     Protected from the rain.
Its pens held doctored foals
     And horses trimmed for shoes.
It held half-frozen calves
     Dad did not want to lose.
Rough, cobweb covered beams,
     Were swept down every spring,
But in a week the cobs
     Would reclaim everything.
Mangers all were emptied
     By stock that wanted more.
Old musty, matted hay
     Still laid upon the floor.
Several broken rungs,
     That laddered to the loft,
Could not access the hay,
     He still imagined soft.
The pens and stalls below
     Had served their purpose well.
They told of past events
     That would take years to tell.
Twin cowhide saddle bags
     Lay draped across a rail,
Beneath old spurs and chaps,
     Still hanging on a nail.
The nearest leather bag,
     He opened for a look.
The note he found attached,
     He pulled out for a look.
Inked on the yellowed sheet,
     In letters plain but bold,
Were words of wisdom won
     By someone growing old.
"These words are my journey!
     I write them down because
Someday my son should know
     The man I hope I was."
A hand-bound leather book
     Showed entries through the years.
Some stained by water drops
     From rain, or maybe tears.
He sat down in the straw
     To read a page or two,
But as the daylight faded,
     He'd read the pages through.
Each had been a chapter
     Straight from a father's heart.
Most spoke of times recalled
     Or grief from years apart.
He closed the book he read
     And savored its content,
But he'd reread the words
     To seek out what they meant.
He put the book back in
     And fastened down the strap.
Tending to the second,
     He lifted up the flap.
There laid another book,
     With yellowed note attached!
Instructions written down,
     His dad had sharply scratched.
"This is for your journey,
     For stories you begin!
Empty, unstained pages
     Are yours for filling in!"
"The old chair on the porch
     Was there for every yarn.
From there I watched my son
     Climb rungs inside the barn."
"Your journey brought you home
     To pen your journal here.
It may have been my task
     To just provide a tear."
"So, sit down on the porch
     And write of what you can!
Tell stories of your son
     As he grows to a man!"
He walked back to the house
     With book and note in tow,
Hoping for the magic
     That makes a story grow.
The verse he wrote was short.
     It held not many lines,
But he would know, in time,
     If practicing refines.
With journal on the chair
     He headed off for bed,
Hoping that tomorrow
     Held better words instead.
With the dawn came breakfast
     And many things to do.
He'd find the chair and write
     When all his chores were through.
He hauled out matted hay,
     Cleaned cobwebs from the beams
And repaired all the rungs
     Up to the loft and dreams.
His work unveiled a charm
     Just weighted down by time.
Perhaps the barn could be
     Remembered in a rhyme!
Tomorrow they would come,
     His wife and baby boy
And stories would evolve,
     For his son to enjoy.
When evening came along
     He settled in to write,
But found his first verse stained,
     From droplets in the night.

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


Kip comments: I write to and for my children. I try to build stories that will entertain, benefit and include them.  Frequently, I try to make the stories multigenerational.  Connecting the past to the future is a challenge.  I hope my attempts are successful.  My father did not write a journal.  I have.  Perhaps my children will read it one day, while sitting on a bale of hay inside the barn.  Perhaps it will entice them to write in the blank journal that accompanies it while sitting on an old wood chair out on the porch. Perhaps they will sense the droplets that bless its pages.

A Broken Pain

The winter sun hung low
     As it approached midday.
The old, slow plodding dun
     Had still recalled the way.
A dust filled memory
     Chafed, painful, through his mind.
Light haloed, to his rear,
     The faded path behind.
The long abandoned road
     He traveled towards its end
And with him came a past
     That he could not rescind.
He saw far up ahead,
     The old homestead still stood.
Reluctant, he approached
     The house of weathered wood.
Dismounting he observed
     That time had been at work,
Withering the places
     Where memories might lurk.
The graying homestead palled,
     In anguished disrepair.
Long seasons had passed by
     Since he had bedded there.
Its single lonely sash
     Survived next to the door.
Its one remaining pane
     Was once a set of four.
The plank door that decayed
     Surrendered long ago,
A fate the single pane
     Refused to undergo.
Broken into pieces,
     But still bound by the frame,
It stubbornly defied
     The years it overcame.
He gazed into the glass.
     Beyond its cracks there grew
Forgotten memories,
     In glass that looked brand new.
Behind his aging face
     Sweet images appeared.
Through dissipating dust
     His searching blue eyes peered.
His daughter, on the dun,
     Bore long and flowing hair
And backlit by the sun,
     He could not help but stare.
Her hair, a gift to him,
     He saw it in her eyes,
Before a distance came
     That bordered on demise.
Three sons had saddled up
     And faced their fates alone.
They left behind the sash,
     As men all fully grown.
Then, he lost his daughter!
     The sun set to her rear.
Sitting in her saddle
     He watched her disappear.
With increasing sadness
     His pain, yet, plodded on,
But through his burning tears
     The dust he'd seen was gone.
Then, to the broken pane
     His daughter's face returned.
A smile came from her eyes
     To dry the tears that burned.
He could not bear the sight
     And turned away to leave,
But recoiled from a glow
     That he could not believe.
What the glass reflected
     Now faced him on the dun,
Sitting in the saddle,
     Hair backlit by the sun.

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


Kip comments: I did not prepare myself for the departure of my children.  Unfortunately, I think many parents do not.  For me, with each departure, the pain grew and the emptiness increased. The rush of adrenaline, the racing of the heart, the flood of emotion that follows the unexpected return of a child is beyond uplifting.  No words can adequately describe the feeling. 


A threaded metal cap
     Screws tightly to the tin.
The slender tube keeps dry
     The single match within.
The match tip, dipped in wax,
     Contains a spark inside,
Protected in the tin
     It has long occupied.
Stories told by cowboys,
     Who have survived the cold,
Allude to a magic
     The little tin might hold.
Those cowboys tell of times
     When wailing blizzards roared,
Of opening the tin
     To use the match it stored.
Reluctantly withdrawn
     They'd hesitate and grin,
Then, slide the unused match
     Into the tin again.
They'd tough out raging storms
     And challenge every drift,
Refusing to ignite
     Their treasured little gift.
The match was always there,
     Each frigid dusk and dawn,
But if it had been struck,
     The magic would be gone.
The match resides there still,
     Inside that simple tin.
It's fate?  To be unstruck!
     It's magic, dry within!
Cowboys are the magic!!!
     But humbly they admit,
"The magic's in the tin,
     Not those who carry it!"

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


Kip comments: I think that all men are given the chance to be good and honorable. I believe the cowboy has been chosen as the standard by which all others are judged. I believe that humility is one of the foundation stones upon which that standard rests. His image will survive as long as there remains a single match to be carried.

The Rhyme Survives

They rhymed their words
While pushing herds
     Or riding watch at night.
Most verse was wrought,
With words not bought,
     By those who could not write.
Sometimes at night,
Beneath starlight,
     On ground that served as bed,
They'd close their eyes
And memorize
     Words that were lived, not read.
The words they said
Were often spread
     At round-ups, fall and spring,
Then, spread again
By other men,
     In poems that some might sing.
A rhyming string
Of words could ring
     And echo far and clear.
In words quite plain
That entertain
     They'd calm both man and steer.
Now, from the rear,
Rhymes reappear,
     Retrieved from long ago.
They tell us tales
Of riding trails
     That cowboys, old, still know.
The ropes they'd throw
Still cast a glow
     And span the test of time.
Those cowboys knew
Just what to do!
     They put their lives to rhyme!

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


Kip comments: This particular poem was written for my daughter. She took on the task of researching the origins of cowboy music and how it evolved, for a senior paper in college. John Lomax, Badger Clark and Jack Thorp provided an almost endless supply of references and information. Don Edwards consented to a long interview, over the phone, providing her with some insight and direction. Her paper received an A+. Her dad could not have been prouder.

This poem is also posted in our collection of poems about cowboy poetry.



The house sat silent now
     Four kids had grown and gone.
Heavy, yellowed curtains
     Had long ago been drawn.
The barn stood empty, too.
     It once held calf and foal,
But, without a purpose,
     Time would soon claim its soul.
Although the roofs of both
     Still held back snow and rain,
Some not so distant blow
     Would make their efforts vain.
Beyond their graying shapes
     Wood gates embraced a lean
And hand split, weathered posts
     Held sagging rails between.
Two old, but steady, eyes
     Surveyed the memory,
Which still defied the years
     And warmed him pleasantly.
December was the time
     He felt the most alone,
But here, he saw a tree
     And all his kids, not grown.
A skiff of powdered snow
     Whisk through the scene he saw,
Between the house and barn,
     Then vanished up the draw.
His kids climbed up that draw
     When winter brought the snow.
Their path led to a ridge,
     Then down, on sleds, they'd go.
As he recalled his kids,
     Each speeding down the hill,
Wispy winds went silent
     And crispy air grew still.
Through disbelieving eyes
     He thought he saw a track.
Up the draw went footprints
     With sled marks coming back.
Fresh tracks led to the house
     And sleds stood by the door,
With footprints up the steps,
     He had not seen before.
With yellowed curtain gone,
     His steady eyes could see
That memories inside
     Returned to trim a tree.

2009, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Kip comments: With age I have found that looking back becomes easier. Sometimes those reflections lead to unanticipated events which provide thrills unachievable, except through surprise. Expectation can never be a substitute for the excitement of surprise.

I attempted to touch that idea, in a small way, in "Sleds."

This poem is also included in the 2010 Christmas at the BAR-D collection.


Winter Plantings

I save thoughts of Christmas,
    Like saving seeds for spring.
Each one of them are sown
    Before the harvesting.
Spring rains will sprout the seed
    And they will grow, if warm.
But Christmas thoughts are grown
    When cold white crystals form.
As flakes float gently down
    A purpose can be seen.
Their fertile sparkles bring
    A crop of white, not green.
The time for Christmas thoughts
    Is bound to falling snow
And in the lights of night
    They positively glow.
They slow my pace a bit.
    And ease my tension some.
The sprouts in sequin flakes
    Are memories to come.
Christmasses are special.
     I treasure those I've known
And I hope to harvest
    The new one I have grown.
Perhaps your Christmas thoughts
    Were planted with a prayer.
Priceless are the harvests
     Of snowflakes families share.

2011, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


This poem is a part of Christmas at the BAR-D, 2011


Night and Day

Off on the horizon
     His silhouette appeared.
Back lit by the sunset,
     He threw his head and reared.
His flaunt was bold and proud,
     But further boasts would wait.
He seemed to quell the strut
     To ponder dusk...and fate.
Blood from generations
     Had passed down from his kin.
In pursuit of honor,
     He'd claim their ground again.
The last to loose the light
     That flees the evening skies.
The first ground warmed by dawn,
     He'd hold the grassy rise.
The autumn day had passed
     And daylight rushed to bed.
As if chased by demons,
     The waning daylight fled.
Day's end had lost the strength
     To keep the night at bay.
Retreating from the dark,
     The sunlight slipped away.
Alone he would defend
    The ground once grazed by kin
And he'd not cede the rise
    Till they returned again.
In afterthought he hooved,
    As dark consumed all things
And as it seized control
    It brought what darkness brings.
The stillness of an end
     Came camouflaged as night,
Companioned by a chill
     That also chased the light.
Beneath a broad brimmed hat,
     That blocked the sunset's glare,
Were two unflinching eyes
     That stared from under there.
The cowboy rolled a smoke
     And looked on with intent.
He struck a match and puffed,
     As waning daylight went.
He longed for those he'd known,
    The cowboys of the past,
But ceded, there alone,
     He would not be the last.
Watching from a distance,
     The silhouette's display,
The cowboy sensed resolve
     As daylight dimmed away.
Had he seen defiance
    That reared to make a stand?
Or was if fearless kin
     Just passing on their sand?
Some virtue felt....not seen?
     A pride that would not die?
Perhaps, ancestral blood
    Compelled him to defy!
The shadow steed then turned
     To face advancing night.
There, too, stood the cowboy,
     Perhaps to join the fight.
The cowboy blew a ring,
     A smoky lariat.
It told of his intent
     To side the silhouette.
It was not just the horse!
     It was the cowboy too!
Their complementing blood
     Had bound the glue.
Warm breath, from nostrils flared,
     Steamed from the silhouette
And neither stood alone
    As steam and smoke ring met.
Through their unflinching eyes
     Cowboy and horse could see
That even in the dark
     The two were meant to be
Vapors merged their purpose
    And both would stay the course,
In pursuit of honor,
     The cowboy...and the horse.
They will NOT disappear!!
     They've stubborned up to stay!!
Both will defend the rise,
     Awaiting signs of day.

2011, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Kip comments:  The cowboy and the horse are almost the two sides of a coin. They are more than companions or associates. Their relationship borders on a symbiosis, each benefiting from the presence of the other. Each possesses a strength that provides us comfort and a vision of what was, of what is. The feelings they instill are almost contagious. They have each been diminished, but together they will persist. They will survive! They will not fade into oblivion. They shall accompany Old Man Time on his journey, right into the future.


Chapter I
His thinning hair had grayed.
     It showed beneath his brim,
Complimenting whiskers
     That made his face less grim.
He tacked against the wind,
     Astride old Bobby's back
And braved the blowing snow
     As they made for the shack.
He called the place his home
     And had for several years,
A hired hand who tended
     Wayward cows, calves and steers.
Pushing them to cover
     Before the storm arrived,
He recalled the blizzards
     When few of them survived.
As cold wind whipped the snow
     The memories chilled his soul.
He pictured in his mind
     Those storms that took their toll.
His mustache sickles grew
     And Bobby's mane turned white.
They would not reach the shack
     Till well into the night.
An evening scoop of oats,
     To keep old Bobby warm,
Would be late in coming,
     Thanks to the growing storm.
The years had grayed his hair
     And grayed the old man's too!
Winter storms accounted
     For more than just a few.
A team they were, those two!
     For years they'd been a pair.
A bond from hardships faced
     Showed proud in weathered hair.
This storm he sensed untamed,
     A savage, unbroke beast.
He felt it's stern resolve
     As winds built from the east.
Bobby lost his footing,
     Then slowed his pace a bit.
He stumbled once again.
     He tensed, but would not quit.
The old man reined him in,
     Dismounting to the snow.
He comforted old Bob.
     "Come on, we'll take it slow!"
Chapter II
Behind a patch of brush
     A horse and rider shared
The leeward from a storm
     That caught them unprepared.
They'd hunkered down to wait
     When the storm's wind rose,
But greenhorn boy and horse
     By morning would have froze.
A stranger from the dark
     Shouted out a warning;
"This place will be your end
     If you stay till morning!!"
He stood up with a start,
     Surprised someone was there
And even more surprised
     That some old man might care.
The old man leaned ahead
     And spoke as he drew near.
His words, above the roar,
     Proved difficult to hear.
"There is a shack ahead,
     A fair piece off the trail.
If your mount can make it,
     You might survive this gale!"
"Pack up your gear and get,
     But keep my tracks in sight"
I would not dally long
     Or you will die tonight!"
The old man, in a rush,
     Looked weathered, cold and gray.
He turned and disappeared,
     But fresh tracks led the way.
As quickly as he could
     He saddled up and packed,
While savage wind and snow
     Relentlessly attacked.
He hurried from behind,
     In fear the tracks would fade.
The young boy could not know
     That Death's hand had been stayed.
Although the shifting snow
     Erased tracks to his rear,
He looked ahead, confused,
     For all the tracks were clear.
The tracks were confident
     And almost seemed to glow,
Refusing to be filled,
     Defying wind and snow.
Then through the screen of white
     An outline took on form,
A little building's shape
     Stood bravely in the storm.
The tracks led to it's door
     Which stood there, open wide.
The shelter had been found,
     Thanks to his gray haired guide.
Chapter III
Autumn brought a wagon,
     Supplies before it snowed.
A barrel filled with oats
     Was always in the load.
Stored safely in the shack
     From mice and weather too'
Old Bobby got his oats
     Each night when chores were through.
With saddle set inside
     And back removed of sweat,
He'd anxiously await
     The scoop of oats he'd get.
Bob's oats were well deserved,
     As was a curried hide,
Rewarded, with respect,
     For each completed ride.
Repeated every day
     Their tasks became routine,
Until a storm approached
     That had not been foreseen.
The dusk just disappeared
     And sunrise never came.
Until their tasks were done
     They'd have no oats to claim.
The caring of the stock
     Was not a task supposed.
Their duty was the herd,
     Inclemently exposed.
The old man took to heart
     The charge he'd been assigned,
But knew Bob's need for oats
     Would build before he dined.
Determined in their search
     They gathered all they found,
Pushing them to safety,
     To more protected ground.
The two then turned about,
     For they had done their best
And headed for the shack,
     A rubdown, oats and rest.
The cost in time was dear.
     The night had settled in.
An old man's silent thought
     Was that the storm might win.
Chapter IV
The wind and snow built drifts
     That blocked the path ahead,
But even in the dark
     They both knew where it led.
With Bobby close behind
     The old man struggled on.
The storm refused to ease.
     Their strength was almost gone.
Behind a patch of brush
     They stopped to catch their breath.
The leeward air seemed warm,
     But was the breath of Death.
Protected from the wind
     Old Bobby would not leave.
The old man knew full well
     It was a false reprieve.
He dared not to depart,
     But knew he could not stay.
With courage, loathed to claim,
     He turned and trudged away.
The minutes seemed like hours
     And, maybe, could have been.
He labored through the storm.
     He would not let it win.
In time he reached the shack
     And bagged the oats inside.
Then raced back through the storm,
     Before his old friend died.
He found old Bobby down,
     His breathing really rough.
He offered up the oats
     And hoped he'd brought enough.
Old Bob could hardly eat.
     With every bite he sighed.
And there, beneath the wind,
     The old man thought he died.
Covered with his bedroll,
     To keep the wolves at bay,
He laid by Bobby's side.
     He would not leave till day.
The old man and the horse
     Were years beyond best friends.
Perhaps, inside they knew
     That friendship never ends.
The night went duly on,
     Until the storm was spent,
But even Nature's wrath
     Lost to a friend's intent.
There are no hero's left,
     Just old men and horses,
With bonds that will not break,
     Braving Nature's forces.
Chapter V
He tugged his horses reins
     And pulled him through the door,
Where wispy, dust-like drifts
     Lay virgin on the floor.
Although the room was dark
     He found a lamp to light,
From which the darkness fled
     Into the stormy night.
The old man was not there!!
     He had not come inside.
There were no recent signs
     Of being occupied.
He searched about confused,
     But did not find a track.
No whiskered, gray haired man
     Had refuged in the shack.
Draped cob webs claimed the bunk.
     The wood stove's ash was cold.
The chinking of the logs
     Was cracked and clearly old.
There were no fresh made signs.
     It seemed abandoned now.
Who was it then that cared
     For steer and calf and cow?
But there, inside the door,
     Against the outside wall,
A coopered barrel sat,
     For oats brought in each Fall.
The barrel's head ajar,
     Inside he saw no seed.
Perhaps they'd been a treat
     Earned by some anxious steed.
The lid looked freshly moved
     And there upon the floor
A scattering of seeds
     Still laid inside the door.
The scent of oats was strong.
     It charged the cabin's air.
Where had the old man gone
     And all the oats once there??
A restless night he spent,
     With dreams of tracks and oats
And of distant howling,
     The sounds of wolves, not coyotes.
Chapter VI
Slowly they diminished,
     Both restlessness and storm
And with the wood stove stoked
     The little shack grew warm.
By morning all was calm.
     The angry storm had run.
The cold and drifted snow
     Lay sparkling in the sun.
As he prepared to leave
     He appraised conditions.
The ripples in the snow
     Had confirmed suspicions.
Depressions etched a path
     That disappeared from sight,
Of footprints, not quite filled,
     Made sometime in the night.
He followed faded tracks
     Across the drifts ahead
And spared his horse's back
     To find out where they led.
In time they reached the brush
     Where their lives had been spared,
Rescued from a blizzard
     By some old man who cared.
Dead wolves were strewn about,
     Half covered by the snow.
Bloodied up and broken,
     They'd fallen to a foe.
The old man dead and froze,
     Lay prostrate on the ground,
Revolver tightly held,
     But he'd not shot a round.
Old Bob's head filled his lap,
     Hooves bloodied from a brawl
And, too, an empty sack
     That had held oats from Fall.
He honored both of them
     And burned their bodies there,
So future wolves would find
     No flesh or graying hair.
The boy and horse returned
     To ride the line in Spring
And where the flames had been
     Oats edged an ashen ring.
Perhaps some graying ghost
     Brought in some spirit seed.
Perhaps a dying man
     Thought only of his steed.
Perhaps he cheated Death
     By trading young for old.
Perhaps he could not leave
     A friend out in the cold.

2013, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



  About Kip Sorlie:

I am not a cowboy, ranch raised and trail hardened before being able to walk. In my case the condition was entirely adult onset.

More than half of my sixty years were spent on Drummond Island, in the far north of Lake Huron. In the fifties we would boat across to the mainland of the Upper Peninsula twice a year for necessities.  We had neither power nor plumbing. We filled our ice house in winter, made maple syrup in the spring and put up next year's firewood in the fall.  My father and grandfather taught me to hunt, fish and trap. Surviving 6+ months of snow covered ground required developing multiple techniques for staying alive.  It was a hard life, but I did not know that until power and plumbing found our island by the early sixties.

The balance of the sixties and the seventies found the island transformed into a tourist destination. In the early eighties a large corporation created an executive retreat on the island, which destroyed the fabric of our small community. Reluctantly, I packed up my family and headed west. We settled on a ranch in Sanders County, Montana. It was a fine place to raise both kids and cows, without power and plumbing, for a time.

The writing of verse began in high school.  It wandered in many directions for a lot of years. I found that writing poems of my experiences to by immensely satisfying. Rural and cowboy ballads just sort of evolved, as my family learned, adjusted and blended into the ranching community of the area.

When our children grew and settled in South Dakota, my wife and I exchanged our ranch for a hay farm near them. Today I write poems and look out over some mighty fine hay ground, with cows off in the distance, waiting for the third cutting to be removed.

I would suggest to anyone that they write down their stories, pass them to their children's' children and watch as the bonding takes place.


Cowboys Are the Magic


The book's jacket states:

I am a Vietnam veteran, college graduate, stone mason, furniture maker, carpenter, rancher, husband of 37 years and a father of five children. I am proud of the successes and the failures that each has brought. I would not change any of them for an alternative. Each poem in this book is accompanied by a short note; most are snapshots of my family or myself.

Kip Sorlie writes:

I would like to think that the verse contained in this book's pages has some quality which exceeds the true talents of the author. I would like to believe that my stories are perfectly executed, filled with enlightenment and hold your attention from beginning to end. We each have a dream or two. This is mine!  However, if my simple verse is found only to be entertaining, I will be pleased.
It truly is the reader who determines the success of the writer! Thank you for your interest. I hope you find the journey through the book's pages a pleasant one.

The 130+ page hardcover volume is available for $30 postpaid from: 

Kip Sorlie
24327 446th Ave.
Winfred, SD 57076


In October, 2010, Kip received a Gold Medal: Solo Patriotic Poetry award for his poem, "A Hug," from the Veteran's Administration's Creative Arts Council. He was invited to the annual event, which took place this year in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The program is described: "This annual program is the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans treated in the VA's national health care system. Each year, approximately 130 Veterans exhibit their artwork or perform musical, dance, dramatic or original writing selections in a gala variety show. A professional orchestra accompanies the performance. All Veterans invited to participate are selected winners of year-long, national fine arts talent competitions in which thousands of Veterans enter, from VA medical facilities across the nation." A pdf file here includes more information about Kip and his award.

Here is his award-winning poem:

A Hug

My dad is coming home!
     He has been long away!
It seems like forever,
     But he'll be home today!
The plane is touching down!
     My dad is almost back,
Back from Afghanistan
     And some place called Iraq.
With gangway rolled in place,
     The doorway opens wide.
I hold my breath and watch
     As shapes appear inside.
Excitedly I watch
     The line of soldiers grow
Returning from a war,
     Back to the homes they know.
There he is!  I see him!
     I wave for him to see!
As if I'm all there is,
     He's looking straight at me!
Kneeling down he beckons.
     He knows it's been awhile,
But I rush to his arms
     With reassuring smile.
He squeezes really hard,
     Not like he did before.
His hugs were not so long
     Before he went to war.
Perhaps, down deep inside,
     He's worried and upset,
But I will show him, now,
     That I did not forget!
I saw him every night
     In vivid dreams I had
And now he's back with me.
     I really missed my dad!

2019, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Kip comments, "I  am the father and the son of the poem.  My father served in the Medical Corp. of the U.S. Army in W.W. II, Korea and Viet Nam. Our service overlapped in Viet Nam. My youngest son is pursuing a career in the U.S. Navy in the SeeBees."



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