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Leroy Watts, photo courtesy of Mr. Watts
 

LEROY WATTS
Ozark Cowboy Poet
Verona, Missouri
About Leroy Watts

1923-2011

 

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

 

Special Mention

In recognition of Leroy Watts' efforts to encourage cowboy poets, promote cowboy poetry, preserve the history of the West, and in particular for his excellent poem, Gateway to the West.

 

Gateway to the West

In the river city of St. Louis
On the bank of the Mighty Miss
There stands a giant archway
A symbol of "The Gateway To the West."

For Missouri was the gateway
Through which the settlers came
And this is the story
Of how Missouri got the name.

John Sutter ran a general store
In the Missouri city of St. Jo’
Then he moved to California
To a place called Sacramento.

There on the American River
Sutter built his famous lumber mill
Then he hired a Missouri carpenter
And James Marshall filled the bill.

It was there in the sawmill tail race
Where the mill driving waters ran
James Marshall found a bit of gold
In the American River sand.

When the story reached St. Joseph
The news was printed as it was told
And that story in the St. Joseph paper
Spurred the rush for California gold.

Then many came to seek their fortunes
Others came looking for new land
Where they might find a brand new start
And Missouri is where it all began.

Some came up the Mississippi
From the town of New Orleans
Some came down the Great Ohio
Searching for their land of dreams.

Some, who hired the river boats
With the likes of Mickey Finn
Headed up the Wide Missouri
And were never seen ag’in.

St. Louis was the river port
Where the crowded steamboats came
With families seeking new beginnings
As the wild, wild West was tamed.

They debarked there at St. Louis
Bought supplies, a horse, and wagon
Then pushed on toward the sunset
Women walkin’, skirts a’dragin’.

Drawn to the west Missouri border
To the towns of Westport, and St. Jo’
Where the wagon trains were gathered
And headed westward, movin’ slow.

But for some the search had ended
When they found their land of dreams
On these wide Missouri prairies
And on the Ozark mountain streams.

This caused a brand new problem
Of getting mail from here to there
As families divided by the savage miles
Sought for answers to their prayer.

Then William Russell, of St. Joseph
Ran a newspaper "ad" one morn
For young, hard riding horsemen
And the "Pony Express" was born.

Binding East and West together
By couriers riding hard, and fast
Just to bring some welcome word
From family, and friends at last.

And so, the West was settled
By those just passing through
The land they called Missouri
To the dream-land rendezvous.

That, my friends is how Missouri
Became "The Gateway To The West"
Where settlers moving westward
Came to start their westward quest.

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

 


Prairie Scene

There is something about the prairie
That brings a misting to my eyes
The lure of distant mountains
The deep blue, cloudless skies
And the smell of purple sage brush
Where the crafty coyote cries.

The mesquite, and prickly cactus
The endless, hot, dry, desert sand
I am filled with awe, and wonder
At the awesome beauty of the land
Somehow, it's all bound together
By the touch of the Master's hand.

I seem to hear the Indians crying
From a wild, and distant, lonely place
A wail that echos from the barrens
Where they were driven in disgrace
Still hurting for their homeland
And wrongs that history cannot erase.

Now, the land is oddly quiet
Lonesome for the days long gone
When the Indian and the buffalo
Roamed the prairie and beyond
Where the forests and the mountains
Rise up to greet the dawn.

As the sun comes up each morning
To bless the start of another day
Bringing forth a brand new world
Less the dregs of weathered yesterday
To enhance the beauty of the earth
That God displays in fresh array.

So, join with me, and hearken
To the shades of all of nature's mein
From the mountains to the deserts
With your senses tuned to glean
All of the beauty of God's creation
And the enchanting Prairie Scene.

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

 


Cowboys an' Hosses

When I ride out on the range today
I see some changes, - and there's a'plenty
Instead of ridin' my old hoss - "Danny"
I'm ridin' my old pick-up, - "Jimmy."

While I helped Curley, a'stringin' fence
Curley bragged 'bout his brand new Dodge
He'd bought a quad cab, with big wide duels
Now, Curley's buildin' a brand new garage.

I saw ole Grizz at the stock yards friday
Showin' off his fancy new Japanese Toyota
But when your critter's computer talks to you
You're ridin' more hoss than a cowboy ought'a.

Cooky, over at the Gordon ranch
Came to meetin' ridin' a brand new Ford
His one ton duely even has four doors
That old Cooky went plumb overboard.

Don got a new truck for the "T bar E"
An' he's sure proud of that Chevrolet
But I'll bet that big work hoss duely
Don't get eight miles to a gallon of hay.

Now, Richard, at the "Turtle Ranch"
Got hisself a little miniature Chevy
It takes three jobs to make ranchin' pay
So, Richard was just a'bein' thrifty.

Why, even ole Slim, at brandin' time
Was wheelin' 'round on his ATV Honda
An that was a plumb ridiculous sight
Slim, chasin' calves from here to yond'a.

Slim's pard, Charley, rode in for the tally
An' Slim was ridin' a four wheel Jeep
Seein' those old timers ridin' motor kacks
It's enough to make any cowboy weep.

Now, when I look 'round at my old pards
I'm feelin' a distressin' kind of loss
I see those pokes a'ridin' range today
But not one of them, - is a'ridin hoss.

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

 

Pal

My Pa said every lad needs a dog,
   And every dog needs a lad.
Pal was my dog when I was a boy,
   The best pal a boy ever had.

We hunted the hills together
We fished the lakes and streams,
We camped in the woods at night fall
And slept under bright moonbeams.

With the warmth of a campfire before me
And my Pal curled up at my toes,
I dreamed the dreams of boyhood
In that peace an adult never knows.

In my dreams we chase the rabbit
Through the brush, and prickly briers,
   Just like other yesterdays,
And other camps, and other campfires

Only one who has been there
Can know the sweet content
Of a boy, with a dog, and a campfire,
   Alone in their own element.

Now Pal is gone and I’ve grown old
But I am blest with the fond memories,
   Of other camps, and other campfires
And of my Pal, - of other yesterdays.

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

  

Keep Whistlin'

When you walk the trail at midnight
With the ghostly spirits of the dark,
When the cares of the day abide you,
When the dawn breaks cold and hard.

Let come what may, just greet the day
With a merry whistle and a smile
Just stroll along with a happy song
To add some cheer to each lonely mile.

Whistle in the early morning
Or during the bright noon day.
You’ll find most any happy tune
Will drive your blues away.

Whistle when you’r lonely
Whistle when you’r sad
Whistle when you’r happy
To show the world you’r glad.

For life is worth the living
No matter what the price,
And any happy whistled tune
Can cut your worries down to size.

If you want the secret to be happy
     Just keep on a’listenin’
Just pucker up your whistler
     And keep on a’whistlin’.

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

Whiskers or Kisses

Once I grew a lovely beard
She called it a Brillo pad.
She liked my face the way it was
When I was just a lad.

Oh, for a whle she humored me
But then there came the day
She told me that I had my choice
The beard could go,— or stay.

The choice was whiskers or lovin'
There was no in between
There would be more lovin' an' kisses
When my face was clean.

Now, a feller does what he has to do
When he has a lovin' lover like mine
And when it comes to whiskers or kisses
I'll take the lovin' an' kisses — any time.

So, I lathered up that prickly beard
And I stropped my razor agin'
Then I shaved up, an' I shaved down
'Til my face was like baby skin.

So, now I've started a brand new year
With a face that is smoooth to the touch.
Expectin' more kisses an' lovin'
'Cause you can never love too much.

But, oh the shock, when she looked at me
And the worse cry I ever heard
With tears in her eyes she said to me,
"My dear, I really loved your beard."

Leroy Watts

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

   

 

Dad's Old Boots

I still remember my mother, when I was just a lad,
Then I would often hear her, gently scold my dad.
    "Harley, how often must I remind you,
    Leave those filthy boots outside the door?
    Don't rack half the corral into this house,
    I've just mopped the kitchen floor."

Then Dad would smooth her ruffled feathers,
- That was his daily trial.
And soon he'd win her over
- With his charming, tender smile.

Ah, but that was many years ago,
    And father has taken his last ride.
Though years have passed, the memories last,
    - But tears are hard to hide.

Now, mother sits at the kitchen window
Just staring, out beyond the pasture gate.
Then I hear her softly whisper,
        "I'd best warm over supper,
        It looks like Harley might be late."

I wonder if she really knows he's gone,
- Or is she just pretending?
To hide the hurt she feels inside,
From a broken heart that's slowly mending.

But Dad's old boots are still resting there,
- Just outside the kitchen door.
Again, I hear my mother whisper,
        - "I wonder what's keepin' Harley,
        He's never been this late before?"

Then, on the other side of that Great Divide
I see my father smiling there,
And I see a pair of golden boots
At the top of that Golden Stair.

But, some old habits just never die,
- And to that I can relate,
For I see those boots are resting there
- Just outside, - that Golden Gate.

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

 

 

Cowboy Talk 

The chuckwagon was closed, the campfire had burned down
The cows were all bedded, - lyin' quiet all around.
We had just settled down, for another night camp
While night bugs danced 'round the old kerosene lamp.

I lay on my bedroll, - just a'watchin' the sky,
And listenin' to Charley, and Slim, on the sly.
Those two old cowboys were discussin' their past,
The times that were slow, and the times that were fast.

They had ridden together, since heck was a pup,
Both back in their teens, when they first signed up.
For forty odd years they had stuck through it all,
From calvin' in the spring, to the round-up in the fall.

Slim was a'talkin', - just like he most always was,
With Charley just listin', an' with good reason because,
You can't get a word in, when Slim's on a roll,
He'll save up for days, an' then just let 'em all go.

"Charley", said Slim, when he commenced to begin,
"It's shorly a wonder all the places we've been,
When we first started out on th' ol' Circle-Bar-Jay,
Would ja' ever hav' thought, we'd still be a'ridin' today?

"Remember that wreck on th' old Chisholm Trail,
When th' cattle got spooked by a lone coyote's wail?
I'd shorly got trampled, if it hadn't been fer you.
Now, what more could ja' ask, from a real Buckaroo?

"Then, that time down in Rio, at th' Blue Moon Saloon,
We started out on friday, an' woke up in jail monday noon.
That drunk was a humdinger, an' I'll never ferget that.
I lost a whole months wages, an' my best four beaver hat.

"Now, that skunk in th' privy really wuzn't sumpthin' I did,
An' I wuz sorry that he got cha', when you lifted th' lid.
Th' boys wouldn't let ya', in th' bunkhouse that night,
But I couldn't help laughin', - you wuz such a sorry sight.

"We've had lots of good times, an' maybe some of th' bad,
All th' pranks that we pulled, an' th' fights that we had.
Yes, we've had a few bad times, but we've had lots of fun,
An', I'll tell ya' old Pardner, I've shor enjoyed every one.

"All in all, Charley, It's been a hell'uv'a good life,
But it's time I got me a home, - an' found me a wife.
I've done my share of ridin', an' punchin' cows all a'round,
Now, I'd like a gal I can talk to, an' then jus' settle down.

"I'd like a real purdy young woman , to keep me good company,
An' a real feather bed to sleep in, - no more bunkbeds fer me.
I'd like to raise me some boys, an' teach 'em good cowboy ways,
An', maybe some girls, to cheer up, th' rest of my days.

"I'll git an' old rockin' chair, an'then rest in th' shade,
Jus' a'soakin' up interest, fer all th' dues that I've paid.
When yor young ya' can dream, 'bout that home on th' range,
But there's a time on th' trail, when yor due fer a change.

"I've had it with cowboy life, an' I'm jus' plumb wor out,
An' it's time I found out, what th' rest of life is about.
When this drive is over, I'll pick up my pay then I'm thru,
But I want ya' to know, Charley, it shor ain't 'cause of you."

Then Slim stopped for breath, and that gave Charley a chance,
To speak in his fashion, how he felt 'bout this new circumstance.
"Ol' Pardner", said Charley, "All that ya said might be true,
But Slim, there jus' ain't no woman, that could ever put up with you."


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

 

Blacky

When I first got Blacky, I was only ten
And I thought it was mighty strange
That tears streaked the dust on my fathers face
When he brought the foal in from the range.

He had found him there, down by the creek
Where his mare had birthed and died
The foal was struggling for his life
Sucking a teat that was cold and dried.

Now, father said, it would be my job
And that he had lots of faith in me
To keep that little foal alive
And be the colt that he could be.

At times it seemed that there was just no way
That he could make it through the night
But my prayers, and tender loving care
Always made things turn out right.

Both day and night I cared for him
And I watched him slowly grow
From the weakling father had given me
Into the colt that I could show.

At the show he won the Blue Ribbon
And he seemed as proud as he could be
Then the pride I saw in my fathers eyes
Just meant the world, and all to me.

As time flew by my pony had grown
The finest in all the world it seemed
And the joys that we shared together
Was more than a boy could have dreamed.

For thirty years Blacky was my pard
A bond that only a cowboy, and horses know
Then he passed to that great green pasture
Where the best of all good horses go.

There's another cross now, by the creek
That was carved with most loving care
Where his mother died to give him birth
And Blacky too, is now resting there.

Now, each day I ride, down by the creek
Just to sit and dream of days gone by
And wonder if Blacky and I shall ride again
In those great green pastures in the sky.
                                   

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

 

 

The Nether Land

I dreamed, that when I died the other night
I found Heaven's gate was closed up tight
And lo, when I was directed down to Hell
Found Hell's own gate to be closed as well
And so, I wander that nether, nether land
A barren, lonely place, of stone and sand
Without another soul like myself as well
Not good enough for Heaven
  - Nor bad enough for Hell.

Now, here is the wonder, I am bound to say
Why, was I spared to live, for another day
Is there something yet that has to be done
And wonder of wonders, am I the chosen one
Perhaps to make some lives a little better
By my Sprite's gifts of words, and letters
That some may be spared my Devilish spell
Not good enough for Heaven
  - Nor bad enough for Hell?

If such be the case, then my Lord, I pray
Please bless my Sprite with words to say
To touch my soul, and those of others too
When I write my rhymes in praise of You
And when at last I am again called home
That I shall never return to You alone
But shall bring to You others as well
Now good enough for Heaven
- Not bad enough for Hell.

October 3, 2000  Leroy Watts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



                        


The Prophet

A professor from the great white University
On a quest to the Western Indian land
Was appalled at the state of their diversity
And mores that he could not understand.

Then he chanced upon an ancient hogan
A hovel an Indian had once called home
A place of dreams that now lay broken
A shell for memories now long since flown.

- A force there seemed to summon him
Like the lure of the ancient sirens call
- By something strange that lay within
He was drawn by spirits of the aboriginal.

He stooped and peered into the hogan's gloom
- And was struck with a ghostly fear
By a form that sat in the dim lit room
- A foreboding presence most austere.

An old Indian sat on the adobe floor
- On a woolen rug dyed of earthen hue
A withered hand beckoned to the visitor
- "Come in, I have a message for you.

The plight that you see of our people
Is no different from that of your own
Though we are indeed a sad spectacle
You also have much you must atone.

We too were once a great proud nation
And our land was a most sacred place
Then white men came with forked tonque
And our sacred land was soon defaced.

You cruelly drove us from our homeland
With wanton slaughter of both man and beast
Then took it all for your own land
And condemned us to barrens of worth the least.

Oh, you had your lofty goals for living
A place to worship your God as you pleased
You thought your God was all-forgiving
But now your God is most displeased.

Yes, you can see our deplorable condition
And heap blame upon us for our sad dispair
But give some pause upon your own reflection
And see the prophetic disaster lurking there.

        Your squaws have no time for the hogan
        And your children have no fathers there
        You have spurned your Nation's slogan
        There is no "In God We Trust" in prayer.

        You have no statesmen for your leaders
        - When their character is flawed
        There is no respect for your elders
        And there is no respect for your God.

        Your people are steeped in moral decay
        You are slaves to the pleasures you seek
        But soon you shall return to the clay
        Your souls to the Great Judgement Seat.

The Great Spirit will soon lift His hand
His vengeance will strike like the sword
Then a great curse will cover the land
And corruption will reap it's grim reward.

        - No nation can endure forever
        When morals are trampled roughshod
        - There must always Godly endeavor
        For no nation can survive without God."

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

 

Rattler

    There ain't nothin like a rattler
    To make yor hoss shy high
    Then you find yorself upon yor back
    Just a'lookin' at th' sky!

    But there ain't no time to worry
    'Bout whut happened to yor hat
    'Cause you cain't he'p but wonder
    Jus' where that rattler's at.

    You bounce up off th' ground
    Like you had springs on yor backside
    And never even stop to think
    'Bout th' cactus a'stickin' to yor hide.

    But now you got a'nother problem
    'Cause yor hoss has galloped off alone
    And left you with that rattler
    To ride ol' shank's mare home.

    Now cowboy boots with high slung heels
    Wuzn't made fer prairie walkin'
    An' bullhide chaps in Texas sun
    Soon gits yor legs to gallin'.

    Oh, you can cuss that danged ol' pony
    An' swear to take th' hide off him
    But when he shys from a'nother rattler
    You'll have it all to do agin!

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


The Elk Hunt

 Out in Durango, Colorado,  where I had a little spread,
 I met a mighty hunter, and this is what he said:
 "I've heard the tales that's told about the Elk you have up here,
 They say that every morning you can hear 'em bugle, loud and clear.
 I sure am glad I met you, friend; you ain't heard the last of me,
 And I owe that guy a favor who said that you were the one to see.
 I've always wanted a big, bull Elk head, to hang upon my wall.
 I'm gonna get my kit together, and I'm a'comin' back next fall."

 Now, I'd sure like to see the guy that sent that dude my way
 An' I'd sure like to let him know just what I have to say.
 But I guess it's just as well that I never knew his name
 'Cause if he was a friend, the feelin' would never be the same.
 I've never had such a sorry season as I had that time in sixty-eight.
 That dude, with a friend, in a motor-home, came honkin' at my gate.
 Behind him was his  wrangler, drivin' a brand new pick-up truck,
 Pullin' an 8 hoss trailer rig, all packed high with huntin' ruck.

 That was just the beginnin' of how we "roughed" it out that fall,
 But my memory just escapes me, 'cause I'm ashamed to tell it all.
 Before that hunt had started I thought that it would never end,
 Driven to distraction by that dude, his wrangler, an' his friend.
 After a long hard day of ridin' those San Juan Mountain trails,
 When you're ridin' an' you're talkin'  all you see is critter's tails.
 A day that starts out early, an' ridin' trails until it's dark,
 Is another day of huntin' wasted, when it's just a sportin' lark.

 One time I had stopped above a canyon, just a'sittin' on Old Dan
 With the pack-hoss right behind me, an' the lead rope in my hand.
 I was checkin' out that canyon, an' hopin' for some Elk to find,
 When that wrangler ridin' up the trail pushed my pack-hoss 'round behind.
 Now, anyone that's packed some hosses knows what's comin' in this tale,
 That lead rope rode up Dan's backside, an' sawed a'cross beneath his tail.
 Old Dan hunched up tight, then he come unglued, a'buckin' up an' down.
 The cinch hot slack, then me an' the saddle both went slidin' 'round.

 Now, there I was a'hangin' up-side down on Old Dan's bottom side,
 With that dude an' his friends a'laffin' at the bustin' of my pride.
 Oh, that was just one story, an' I could go on for quite a while
 There's stuff to make a strong man weep, but cryin' ain't my style.
 Why, at night there was no campfire, just a motor-home kitchen mess,
 And I didn't even have the chance to get a really good night's rest.
 That wrangler had his banjo, an' he picked 'till his fingers bled
 While I snuggled in my bedroll with my coat piled on my head.

 Then one mornin' as we rode out, I was feelin' plumb ornery in my mind
 I let them all ride out ahead, while me an' Old Dan rode slow behind.
 For five long days I'd worried  - 'bout how to get some Elk for them
 An'  swore that I would never act as guide for a bunch of dudes agin'.
 They was actin' kind'a sore at me, 'cause the hunt had turned out rotten,
 So, I took 'em over to Big SOB Canyon; it's ten miles down to the bottom.
 I told 'em since the Elk ain't up here, they'd be way down there in that thing.
 Then me an Dan rode off for home. Maybe  we'll go fetch 'em out next spring.

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

 

Old Pard

An old cowboy stood by a crude wooden cross
That marked the new grave of his old Pard
And while tears betrayed the grief of his loss
Spoke these words that came from his heart.

"Today I have lost another old friend
Who used to ride the trails with me
And now I have almost reached the end
Of the old friends that used to be.

Of old friends I've known for many years
Who staunchly through both thick and thin
Through times of laughter, and times of tears
Stood by my side, when I needed them.

And I in turn was bound to greet
Their call for any of their needs
For friendship is a two-way street
That's paved with constant, friendly deeds.

Now, with the passing of the years
I too, it seems, have older grown
And wander back with smiles and tears
Through joys and sorrows we had known.

But memory blocks out the bad times
To recall the joys, that we shared always
And dwells only on the good times
-- When we dream of our yesterdays.

So, now I mourn for the one I've lost
And pledge to seek, and find another
With whom I can share at any cost
The bond that makes of man, a brother.

So here's to my old and my new friend
-- To all friendships, tried and true
And to this friend I knew to the very end,
-- Old Pard, I'll always  -- remember you."

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

 

Old Bill Grahm

I first met Bill Grahm on an Elk hunting trip up above Junction Creek when we lived out in Durango, Colorado. That was the beginning of an interesting friendship, with one of the most unforgettable, comical, characters that I have ever met. He was a bewhiskered, toothless old codger that was as close to a modern day mountain man as you will ever find anywhere. I do not mean that Bill was some kind of clown, but he was a very funny guy to be around. He had a way of telling a story that could make you laugh 'til your sides hurt. He could make a hunt with a bunch of greenhorns, sound like an African Safari. The real life stories that he told around the camp fire would often keep us laughing half the night.

I shall never forget the first very short night in camp, when we first met. Bill had kept us up quiet late with his funny stories, but then he was up again by four o'clock in the morning getting ready for the opening day hunt. Bill had brought along his old mule, "George", for his pack horse, and he had awakened  us all with his morning confrontation with George. Our camp was pitched on the closest thing  that we could find to a "level" area on a very steep mountain ridge. George was tied with a loose rope looped around a pine tree at the edge of camp. Bill had put out a flake of hay, and George was enjoying his breakfast as Bill prepared to place the pack saddle on George's back. When Bill raised the saddle and took a step toward George. George took a little side step away from him. Again Bill lifted the saddle, and took a step toward George. Again George took his little side step away. Bill started yellin' at George to stand still or he was goin' to "get his attention". About the third trip around the tree Bill tried to surprise George by throwing the pack saddle upon his back. Unfortunately the surprise was on Bill. When Bill threw the saddle George did his little side step, and the saddle went tumbling down the side of the mountain.

Now Bill's "Grahm" temper flared, and in desperation he tried to kick a knee into George's belly in retaliation, but George just did his sidestep. 'Round and 'round the tree they went. Bill's knee kept swingin', and George kept doin' his side steppin', with Bill yellin' at the top of his voice, "Dang you George, you stan' still or I'm goin'a get yor 'tention."
"George, I'm goin'a  get yor 'tention, George." "George, I'm goin'a  get me a two by four an' get yor 'tention" "Now George, you stop thet an' stan' right there, fore I hav'ta get yor 'tention."

Everyone was holding their sides laughing, and even George seemed to have a glimmer in his eye, and a smile on his muzzle. Bill never did get his retaliation, and after he retrieved his saddle George had finished his snack. Then he stood as gentle as a pony while Bill properly fitted him with the pack saddle, all the while scolding George in his typical old mule skinner vernacular.

Another time Bill and I were hunting together, and he had followed some deer tracks over a ridge. I heard a shot and a while later he came back to where we were to meet with a little field dressed buck slung over his shoulder. He had cut a slice off of the haunch of the deer and was eating big bites of the raw meat.

Now you have to understand that Bill didn't have a tooth in his head, but there he was trudging along, and thoroughly enjoying chewing on that piece of raw venison.

I said, "Bill where's your teeth."

He said, "I ain't got no teeth."

I told him that I thought I had seen him in town when he had lots of teeth. Again Bill said, "Ain't got no teeth. Never did have no teeth. I went to th' dentist an' he pulled 'em all out. He told me to come back in 'bout thirty days and he'd make me some teeth. 'Bout a year later I ran into him down on the street, an' he said, Bill when 're you comin' in an' get yor teeth. I told him, I ain't got time. Why don't you come on over to th' house? I said, "Bill, how in the world can you eat that raw meat without any teeth?" He said, "I can eat anythin' 'cept peanuts."

"How come you can't eat peanuts?"

"'Cause I caint catch 'em."

Makes sense to me.

One day my wife, LaVern, was shopping in Durango with her sister-in-law, Marr Matthews, and they ran into Bill's wife, Dorothy, whom LaVern had never met.. When Marr introduced them, LaVern said, "Oh, so you're George's wife?" Dorothy rather cooly replied, "Not George, -  Bill." Somehow they never did get to be as close friends as me an' Bill.

Old Bill Grahm

Old Bill Grahm was a mountain man
It seemed that time had passed him by
The tales he spun when day was done
Who could tell what was truth or lie?

Bill always seemed to have the knack
To enhance a simple story for you or me
How a hunt with a bunch of greenhorns
Was an adventure like an African Safari.

Bill had a pal that he called "George"
That could drive old Bill to distraction
George was a shrewd old Missouri mule
It was hard to get that mule's attention.

Then there would  be a bit of discussion
Maybe the threat of a "two by four"
But George never paid any attention
He'd heard that empty threat before.

Bill never had a single tooth
In that wrinkled old grizzly jaw
But he'd cut a chunk of venison
Then eat the whole dang thing raw.

How could he eat those great big bites
Without any teeth at all to mash 'em?
"I can eat anythin', but peanuts", he said
"But peanuts? - I jus' 'caint catch 'em."

You had to smile when you looked at Bill
'Cause Bill had a comical kind of a look
Like a character from one of his stories
Lurking in his ever comical story book.

There are many tales that could be told
About Bill and his old mule pal
But when others tell the stories
It's just never the same somehow.

Now there's a hole of empty silence
Around the old campfire tonight
Bill Grahm has taken his long ride
Over 'cross that Great Divide.

We miss those stories 'round the campfire
That we had come to love so well
Such tales of wonderful adventures
That only old Bill Grahm could tell.

But I hear a ghostly kind of laughter
That seems to echo from the hill
Where Old Bill Grahm crossed over
And over there they're laughin' still.

So, it's quiet here at the bunkhouse
And we miss the tales he used to share
God needed some laughter up in Heaven
Now Bill is tellin' his tales up there.

Again I hear that ghostly laughter
And there I know Bill's found old friends
Gathered 'round that Heavenly campfire
Where Bill Grahm's stories will never end.

2002, Leroy Watts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Welcome Cowboy Wanta-be's

There's a story goin' 'round 'bout the wanta-be's
Horning  in on the cowboy  poets gathering show
Why a city dude would ever want to be a cowboy,
Is something that I really don't know.

A "workin' cowboy life", is a hard old life
And there sure ain't no romance in it
Just  nothing but work, no time for a wife
And you can bet she'd dang sure resent it.

You're up before dawn, work till daylight is gone
And most likely you'll miss your noon meal
So, don't get the idea that some poetry or song
Can explain all of the feeling's you feel.

I don't see any cow pie on those Ostrich-skin Tony's
And no hard rope calluses on those lily white hands
Those typical signs of the city dude phonies
Why they'd want to be a cowboy I don't understand.

We all know the feeling, for that life of our dreams
The cowboy way we thought would never change
But urban sprawl has driven the cowboys
From off of their home on the range.

So, now we have our cowboy poetry gatherings
With friends and guardians of old cowboy times
To relive the memories of our cowboy past
And sing cowboy songs, and spin tales in rhymes.

So come, hop on the wagon, in your cowboy clothes
Sing a cowboy song, or recite a cowboy poem
Although you're a wanta-be, as your trapping shows
Today we're all wanta-be's, so you'll be right at home.

2003, Leroy Watts
 Revised 06/03/03
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

The Old Farm

I had driven by it so many times,
Another blight on the landscape today
An old farm house and weathered barn
Now steeped in such neglected decay.

The old man sat in an old rocking chair
As I had seen him there most every day
So I stopped by to spend some time
Just to see what he might have to say.

"Son," he said, "You're most welcome.
I don't see my old friends any more.
They're all gone like my wife, Libby
All together on that Heavenly shore.

"Now I wait for that day when I'll join them
And recall the good times we shared together
For this modern world is much different,
The good times seem to be gone forever.

"This old farm was part of the old open range
There were springs, and good streams galore
Now both the springs and streams have dried
Even the old mill can't reach water anymore.

"The rivers and streams that survive now
And continue to fulfill the intended use
Are so sick with their human pollution
No life can exist in such wanton abuse.

"This land supported a host of families
When the people loved the land
But folks today have an attitude
That I simply can not understand.

"There is no thought to preserve the land
They are blind to the destruction they see
They have covered the earth with concrete
And refreshing rain waters rush to the sea."

The old man smiled at me kindly
Then he said, "I'm so sorry, son
I did not mean to dampen your visit
With evils that society has done.

"These are idle thoughts of an old man
Who has lived in a more wonderful time
When families lived by the word of God
And kept only His truths in mind.

"Please come again when you are able
To spend some more time with me
For I really do appreciate your visit,
And I promise to be better company."

I passed that old farm again today
Surprised to find the old man gone
Now the plan is to develop the land
Today there is no one to carry on.

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

 

 

Read Leroy Watts' A Cowboy Christmas Gathering, posted with other Christmas 2004 poems.

 

See Johnny Kendrick's poem, Keener Than a Briar
written for Leroy Watts.

 

 

About Leroy Watts

Leroy Watts, is one of the founders of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association.

He was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1923, but spent many years of his life in the western states as an engineer, precious metals refiner, and silversmith.

Leroy began to write poetry when he was sixteen years old, and he has been writing ever since. His interest in cowboy style poetry only increased after attending his first cowboy poetry gathering in Prescott, Arizona in 1991, and he has been a welcome performer in similar cowboy poetry gatherings for the past eight years.

Although he makes no claim of having been a bona fide working cowboy, he is devoted to the preservation of the traditional cowboy life style, and his writings reflect the observations of one who has been intimately involved with those surroundings. His connotation of "Ozark Cowboy" is his private little inside joke, as according to his "filosofee," a traditional "Western" style cowboy is about as common in the Ozarks as the Spotted Owl. Although Missouri is second only to Texas in the production of beef cattle, our cowboys are more traditional Missouri family farm type "cowboys".

Many of Leroy’s stories in poem are drawn from his early Ozark boyhood memories of experiences and family history. His insight into the lives of individuals and situations of those experiences, revives those events into poetic stories that is readily relived by the reader.

1923-2011

 

 

 

 

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