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      A group of jolly cowboys discussed their plans at ease,
      Said one, "I'll tell you something, boys, if you please --
      See, I'm a puncher, dressed most in rags;
      I used to be a wild one and took on big jags.
      I have a home, boys, a good one you know,
      But I haven't seen it since long, long ago.

from After the Roundup (When the Work's All Done This Fall)


With the kind permission of publisher Janice Coggin of Cowboy Miner Productions (which ceased to operate in 2009), we're pleased to excerpt a selection of material, poems and prose, from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White. This book was published with the the cooperation of the Dallywelter Press and the Montana Historical Society, which holds D. J. O'Malley's book-length manuscript, Reminiscences and Poems of Early Montana and the Cattle Range.

This feature includes additional poems and information about D.J. O'Malley.

D. J. O'Malley was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1868, and put in nearly a score of years on the open range. He started cowboying in Montana in 1884.

His career as a cowboy poet began in 1889 when he penned "To the Memory of Wiley Collins" about a chuck wagon cook who was killed by lightning. Over the next half century, he wrote many poems and stories about the men and the work he knew, often using the pen name N Bar N Kid White. Some, such as "When The Work's All Done This Fall," (which was originally called "After the Round-up") were popularized in song. As they worked their way around the ranges from Montana to Texas, they were often changed or added to, and their origin might have been lost.  Continued...

About D. J. O'Malley by Lyndel Meikle

 Foreword to the Original Manuscript by John White (1934)

Preface to the Original Manuscript by D. J. O'Malley

Poems by D. J. OMalley
A Cowboy's Soliloquy
The "D2" Horse Wrangler
After the Roundup (When the Work's All Done This Fall)

A Busted Cowboy's Christmas

Prose excerpts by D. J. OMalley
The Experiences of the F U F Roundup Crew Caught in the Cloudburst of June 1891
Crow Rock, Deadman Creek, Blaisdale Butte
Where Custer Fell

The Book's Table of Contents

More D. J. O'Malley references and others' recordings

Thankfully, O'Malley also published them in newspapers, notably the Miles City Stock-Growers Journal, and when later would-be poets claimed his work, he could haul out the originals with the date right on the page. He was proud to have been a "rep" representing the N Bar N during the roundups. He would have admitted to being a cowboy and a poet, but never seems to have thought of himself as an historian. His work, whether poem or prose, did record history, though: the history of the men, the work, the humor, and the loss of the open range.   

Lyndel Meikle, 
Ranger at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
 in Deer Lodge Montana  (from the inside cover):

Reprinted with permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.

An Afterword in Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White by Lyndel Meikle includes much additional interesting information.

photo courtesy of Cowboy Miner


Foreword to the Original Manuscript by John White (1934)

Many poets have written of the cowboy. Only a few have seen their verses become a part of the folklore that has grown up around him and the period in American frontier history that he typifies. Because Mr. D. J. O'Malley has been accorded this distinction, it is a great pleasure to be able to present here a short sketch of his life:

D. J. O'Malley's earliest recollections are of two frontier outposts -- Fort Dodge and Fort Larned, both in Kansas. His step-father, Charles White, served there in the 19th Infantry. White completed his enlistment with the foot soldiers at Lamed in 1875, then went to Fort Sanders, Wyoming, and joined the 2nd Cavalry, Troop E. In October, 1877, the regiment and the White family moved to Fort Keough, near Miles City, Montana, not many miles from the scene of the Custer fight, which had taken place in the summer of the previous year.

As Indian warfare continued intermittently for the next few years, the fort at the junction of the Yellowstone and Tongue Rivers was an exciting place for a boy just entering his teens. Young O'Malley, who with his mother and sisters, lived at Keough until 1881, naturally heard and saw many things that left lasting impressions. He knew many of the famous scouts and recalls the names of more than one young officer who has since made a reputation on other battlefields. 

Many a time he listened to the tales and songs of buffalo hunters and trappers who came to the post to lay in supplies and get the news of the day.

In a series of articles prepared for Montana newspapers several years ago, he tells of some of the incidents that took place in and around the fort in those days when frontier history was being made. One of the unusual events that he describes very vividly is the removal of 4,000 Indians from Fort Keough to reservations in Indian Territory and Dakota, an act that ended the Indian troubles of the settlers in eastern Montana and opened up the country for cattle and sheep raising. Mr. O'Malley recalls that the transfer was accomplished by the use of the old stern-wheel steamers that were a common sight on the Yellowstone in the early days.

In 1882 O'Malley went to work as horse wrangler for the Neidringhaus bothers of the Home Land and Cattle Company, owners of the N Bar N brand. When he started in, the youngster was offered wages of $45 by his boss, John Quarrels, and was promised at least seven months' work. The Niedringhaus brothers soon were running one of the biggest outfits in Montana and their young wrangler had become an all-around cowhand. He remained with the company until the business was sold out fourteen years later.

Mr. O'Malley is just a mite proud of the fact that while working for the N Bar N he served a long term as "rep," a sort of cowpuncher-at-large who often worked outside the home range, keeping track of cattle and otherwise looking after the interests of the company he represented. A "rep" had to have a good character coupled with good judgment because his word was law with respect to calves branded, beef shipped, and many other, matters. He had to be a good mixer, and he had to know brands. The big outfits were always buying up cattle carrying all kinds of brands and throwing them on the range where they often scattered over a wide area. A "rep" with his string of horses was sometimes away from the home ranch during the entire summer.

Three trips over the trail with southern cattle destined for the northern ranges are among the many incidents that Mr. O'Malley recalls as he reviews his nineteen years of cowboy life. The last trail drive in which he took part was in 1891.

Mr. O'Malley says that when the Home Land and Cattle Company sold out in 1896, he realized that stock-raising on a grand scale was about over in the northwest, but he remained in eastern Montana and rode for other outfits, among them the Bow and Arrow, the U Diamond, the Half Circle L, and the L U Bar. He also worked as deputy stock inspector for the Stock Growers' Association under Billy Smith, the famous stock detective.

 In 1904 he served as special deputy sheriff at Rosebud under John Gibb, sheriff of Custer County. A few years later he was employed as guard in the state penitentiary at Deer Lodge. In 1909 he went east to Wisconsin, got married, and has lived there ever since, with the exception of one other period, 1921 to 1924, as guard at Deer Lodge. He considers that he played somewhat of a practical joke on the younger of his two daughters when he allowed her to be born at the penitentiary.

It was early in his career as a cowboy that O'Malley discovered he had a knack for writing verse. His companions in camp and the trail put their stamp this stamp of approval on his efforts and he was encouraged to send in a piece or two to the Stock Growers' Journal, the local weekly at Miles City. The editors, too, considered his poems worthy. As a consequence he was a frequent contributor for a good many years.

At least four of the O'Malley poems are well-known wherever there is an interest in native American balladry. These are "Cowboy's Sweet By-and-By," "A Cowboy's Death," "After the Roundup" [currently known under the title "When the Work's All Done This Fall"], and " D-2 Horse Wrangler."  The last three have been located in early copies of the Stock Growers' Journal. Of the first named, there is unfortunately no record except a clipping in Mr.O'Malley's scrapbook which has neither signature nor date.

Mr. O'Malley recalls that "Cowboy's Sweet By-and-By" was one of his earliest attempts at verse making. He believes it probably was the third or fourth poem of the forty or more that he wrote while riding the range.  The original, which he says appeared in the Journal during the middle 80's, is a rather crude set of verses, only five in number. These apparently furnished the foundation for the ballad often called "The Cowboy's Dream," which has been given a place in nearly every collection of American frontier songs. 

Most of O'Malley's poems were signed D. J. White, the cowboy poet, having gone by his father's name at the time. Many of his old friends in Montana still know him as Dominick or Kid White.

The poem "A Cowboy's Death" has gained a fairly wide circulation among cowboy ballad singers under the title "Charlie Rutledge". Mr. O'Malley relates that Rutledge, a Texan, was killed in the Spring of 1891, during a general round-up on the north side of the Yellowstone in what is now Rosebud County. He was "repping" for the X I T and at the time of his death was riding with the N Bar N wagon. He was attempting to take a steer out of the general herd for his own cut when his horse stumbled and he was thrown. It was at once apparent that the cowboy was badly injured. One of his fellow punchers rode sixty miles to Miles City for a doctor, but Rutledge died before medical aid could reach him.

The humorous poem which Mr. O'Malley calls "D-2 Horse Wrangler" is now found in printed collections under the titles "The Horse Wrangler" or "The Tenderfoot." This very lively bit of verse which depicts the adventures of a greenhorn with ambitions to become a cowhand, is signed R. J. Stovall in the Stock Growers' Journal. Mr. O'Malley explains that he, himself, wrote the lines but, because an acquaintance who was the subject of the yarn wished to surprise his wife in Denver by blossoming out as a poet, the latter was allowed to sign his name. There was one consideration, a $5 hat, which, incidentally, was the most that Mr. O'Malley ever got for a poem.

The fact that he has received little or no credit for his work from those who have been singing or publishing his poems during the past forty years has not been resented by Mr. O'Malley. He can understand how his name could easily have become lost from his verses as they were copied by small town newspapers or handed on from one singer or another. What he does resent, and that most emphatically, are the efforts of others to claim his poems and collect royalties on them. 

Mr. O'Malley is very emphatic on one other point in connection with cowboy songs and cowboy singing. He wishes to go on record as saying that during all of his long experience in the Montana cattle country he never knew a cowboy who could or would yodel.

John White
Westfield, New Jersey
May, 1934

Reprinted with permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.

Preface to the Original Manuscript by D. J. O'Malley

In compiling this book, only articles have been used that are records of actual occurrences.  Not one has been overdrawn or dilated upon.

The majority of the incidents herein set forth are ones which the writer was an actual participant, an eye-witness, or had conclusive knowledge of their occurrence save one or two where proper credit is given.

The collection of poems is original with the writer save where due credit is given to the proper writer.

This collection of poems and incidents dealing with the cattle range is offered to the public with the full assurance as to their truthfulness.

D. J. O'Malley
N Bar N Kid
Eau Claire, Wisconsin


Reprinted with permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.

Poems by D. J. O'Malley 


A Cowboy's Soliloquy

The "D2" Horse Wrangler

After the Roundup (When the Work's All Done This Fall)

A Busted Cowboy's Christmas



A Cowboy's Soliloquy

    I am a cowpuncher
       From off the North side,
    My horse and my saddle
       Are my bosom's pride;
    My life is a hard one,
       To tell you I'll try,
    How we range-herded "dogies"
       Out on the Little Dry.

    The first thing in the morning
       We'd graze upon the hill,
    Then drive them back by noontime
       On water them to fill,
    Then graze them round till sundown
       And I've heaved full many a sigh
    When I thought "two hours night guard,"
       After night fell on the Dry.

    The next day was the same thing
       And the next the same again,
    Day-herding those same dogies
       Out on the Dry's green plain;
    Grazing them then bedding them,
       One's patience it does try
    When you think "Now comes our night guard,"
       After night falls on the Dry.

    They're all right in the daytime,
       But our Autumn nights are cold
    And the least scare will stampede them,
       And then they're hard to hold.
    How many times I've "darned" my luck
       When dusk I would see nigh,
    And say, "I wish you were turned loose
       E're night falls on the Dry."

    For a large bunch of cattle
       Is no snap to hold at night,
    For sometimes a blamed coyote howl
       Will jump them in a fright,
    Then a man will do some riding,
       O'er rocks and bad-lands he will fly;
    A stampede is no picnic
       After night falls on the Dry.

    Then should my horse fall down on me
       And my poor life crush out,
    No friendly hand could give me aid,
       No warning voice would shout;
    They'd hardly give a thought to me
       Or scarcely heave a sigh,
    And they'd bury me so lonely
       When the night fell on the Dry.

Reprinted with permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.


The "D2" Horse Wrangler

  One day I thought I'd have some fun,
  And see how punching cows was done;
  So, when the roundup had begun,
  I tackled a cattle king.
  Says he: "My foreman is in town,
  He's at the MacQueen, his name is Brown,
  Go over, and I think he'll take you down."
  Says I: "That's just the thing."

  We started for the ranch next day,
  Brown talked to me 'most all the way;
  He said cowpunching was only fun,
  It was no work at all; 
  That all I had to do was ride,
  It was just like drifting with the tide,
  Geemany chimany, how he lied;
  He surely had his gall.

  He put me in charge of a cavvy-yard
  And told me not to work too hard,
  That all I had to do was guard
  The horses from getting away.
  I had one hundred and sixty head,
  And oft' times wished that I were dead,
  When one got away Brown got red,
  Now this is the truth, I say.

  Sometimes a horse would make a break
  Across the prairies he would take
  As though he were running for a stake,
  For him it was only play.
  Sometimes I couldn't head him at all
  And again my saddle horse would fall
  And I'd speed on like a cannon ball
  Till the earth came in my way.

  They led me out an old gray hack
  With a great big set fast on his back,
  They padded him up with gunny sacks
  And used my bedding all.
  When I got on he left the ground,
  Jumped up in the air and turned around,
  I busted the earth as I came down,
  It was a terrible fall.

  They picked me up and carried me in
  And rubbed me down with a rolling pin;
  "That's the way they all begin,
  You are doing well," says Brown,
  "And tomorrow morning, if you don't die,
  I'll give you another horse to try."
  "Oh! won't you let me walk?" says I,
  "Yes," says he, "into town."

  I've traveled up and I've traveled down,
  I've traveled this country all around,
  I've lived in city, I've lived in town,
  And I have this much to say: 
  Before you try it go kiss your wife,
  Get a heavy insurance on your life,
  Then shoot yourself with a butcher knife,--
  It's far the easiest way.

 Reprinted with permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.

"The D-2 Horse Wrangler was" first published in 1894 in the Miles City Stock Grower's Journal. In a 1967 article in the Journal of American Folkore, John I. White writes:

The most persistent contributor of original verses to the Journal was Dominick J. O'Malley ( 1867-1943), who, at the age of fifteen, following the disappearance of his soldier-stepfather from Fort Keogh adjacent to Miles City, had gone to work as a horse wrangler for the Home Land & Cattle Company, operated by the Niedringhaus Brothers. In a very short time the young wrangler with a flair for versifying had become proficient at the cowpuncher's unique and often dangerous trade, which he followed for nearly twenty years. Three trips up the trail with Texas cattle bound for northern ranges, the last in 1891, were among his unusual experiences.

White tells that "The D-2 Horse Wrangler" was written to be sung to the tune of "an old Irish-American ballad called 'The Day I Played Baseball,'" which started:

My name it is O'Halloher,
I'm a man that's influential,
I mind my business, stop at home,
My wants are few and small.
Some blackguards 'tother day did come,
They were full of whiskey, gin and rum
An' they took me out in the broilin' sun,
To play a game of ball.

It was a common practice to set poems to the tunes of popular songs. "The D-2 Horse Wrangler" begins:

One day I thought I'd have some fun,
And see how punching cows was done;
So, when the roundup had begun,
I tackled a cattle king.
Says he: "My foreman is in town,
He's at the MacQueen, his name is Brown,
Go over, and I think he'll take you down."
Says I: "That's just the thing."

White explains that, "The MacQueen mentioned in the opening stanza was Miles City's leading hostelry and headquarters for stockmen. Its Journal advertising of the day played up its electric lights, electric bells, and steam heat. A news item on November 18, 1893, read: 'The bathrooms at the MacQueen have recently been renovated, and to those who bathe, Mr. Tracy will be pleased to explain the valuable properties of the artesian water used for that purpose.' The old landmark went up in smoke in 1897."

He also comments on two other words in the original poem:

"Cavard" (third stanza) is a corruption of a Spanish word meaning a herd of horses. A "set fast" (fifth stanza) was a saddle sore that never quite healed.

Master reciter Ross Knox includes "The D-2 Horse Wrangler" on his CD, Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day, and that recording is included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008).


After the Roundup (When the Work's All Done This Fall)

      A group of jolly cowboys discussed their plans at ease,
      Said one, "I'll tell you something, boys, if you please—
      See, I'm a puncher, dressed most in rags;
      I used to be a wild one and took on big jags.
      I have a home, boys, a good one you know,
      But I haven't seen it since long, long ago.
      But I'm going back home, boys, once more to see then all;
      Yes, I'll go back home, boys, when work's all done this fall.

      After the roundup's over, after the shipping's done,
      I'm going straight back home, boys, ere all my money's gone.
      My mother's heart is breaking, breaking, breaking for me, that's all;
      But with God's help I'll see her when the work is done this fall.

      When I left my home, boys, for me she cried,
      Begged me to stay, boys, for me she would have died.
      I haven't used her right, boys, my hard-earned cash I've spent,
      When I should have saved it and to my mother sent.
      But I've changed my course, boys, I'll be a better man
      And help my poor old mother, I'm sure that I can.
      I'll walk in the straight path; no more will I fall;
      And I'll see my mother when the work's done this fall."

      That very night this cowboy went on guard;
      The night it was dark and 'twas storming very hard.
      The cattle got frightened and rushed in mad stampede,
      He tried to check them, riding at full speed;
      Riding in the darkness loud he did shout,
      Doing his utmost to turn the herd about.
      His saddle horse stumbled and on him did fall;
      He'll not see his mother when the work's done this fall.

      They picked him up gently and laid him on a bed;
      The poor boy was mangled, they thought he was dead.
      He opened up his blue eyes and gazed all around;
      Then motioned his comrades to sit near him on the ground:
      "Send her the wages I have earned.
      Boys, I'm afraid that my last steer I've turned.
      I'm going to a new range, I hear the Master call.
      I'll not see my mother when the work's done this fall.

      Bill, take my saddle; George, take my bed;
      Fred, take my pistol after I am dead.
      Think of me kindly when on them you look—"
      His voice then grew fainter, with anguish he shook.
      His friends gathered closer and on them he gazed.
      His breath coming fainter, his eyes growing glazed.
      He uttered a few words, heard by them all:
      "I'll see my mother when the work's done this fall."

© 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.
Reprinted with permission from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White 


The words appeared in the Miles City Stock-Growers Journal in 1893, with the title, "After the Roundup," and under O'Malley's pen name, D.J. White.

Some, including J. Frank Dobie, did not accept the words as O'Malley's. In his 1975 book, Git Along, Little Dogies, John I. White includes a meaty chapter about D.J. O'Malley, along with many photos and stories about the history of "When the Work's All Done This Fall" and other songs and poems. White was convinced of O'Malley's authorship, and he writes about Dobie, "...In spite of O'Malley's having published a stack of verses and having written many more that never saw print, Dobie maintained that he could not have composed the songs under discussion here, that they were much older. And to him, a cowboy song as genuine as 'When the Work's All Done This Fall' could have originated in only one place—Texas."

In Glenn Ohrlin's 1973 book, The Hell-Bound Train, a footnote tells how White and O'Malley became acquainted: "The January 23, 1932 issue of Street and Smith's Western Story Magazine printed a letter from O'Malley complaining about the claims of R.O. Mack, who had copyrighted O'Malley's song 'When the Work's All Done This Fall' in 1929. John I. White saw O'Malley's letter and investigated. White's diligent research confirmed that O'Malley wrote 'When the Work's All Done This Fall,' as well as other well-known cowboy songs.."

See John I. White's 1934 foreword (above) to D. J. O'Malley's book-length manuscript, Reminiscences and Poems of Early Montana and the Cattle Range.

Carl T. Sprague recorded "When the Work's All Done This Fall" in 1925 and sold over 900,000 copies (hear a recording here). A Wikipedia article here comments, "The image of the singing cowboy was established in 1925 when Carl T. Sprague of Texas recorded the first cowboy song, 'When the Work's All Done This Fall.'"

Find a 1927 recording by Vernon Dalhart here. The song has been recorded by artists as diverse as Michael Martin Murphey, Kyle Evans, Cowboy Celtic, STAMPEDE!, Harry Jackson, and Marty Robbins. Many variations appear in the song versions.

A Busted Cowboy's Christmas

I am a busted cowboy
   And I work upon the range,
In summertime I get some work,
   But one thing which seems strange,
As soon as fall work's over
   I get it in the neck
I get a Christmas present
   Of a neatly written check.

I come to town to rusticate,
   I've no place else to stay
When winter winds are howling hard
   Because I don't eat hay.
A puncher's life's a picnic?
   It is one continual joke.
But there's none more anxious to see spring
   Than the cowboy who is broke.

The wages that a cowhand earns
   In summer goes like smoke,
And when the snow begins to drift 
   You bet your neck he's broke.
You may talk about your holidays,
   Your Christmas cheer and joy,
They're all the same to me, my friend.
   Cash gone, I'm a broke cowboy.

My saddle and my gun in soak,
   My spurs I've long since sold,
My rawhide and my quirt are gone,
   My chaps, no. They're too old.
My outfit's gone, I can't e'en bum
  A cigarette to smoke.
For no one cares what happens 
  To a cowboy who is broke.

Just where I'll eat my dinner
   This Christmas, I don't know,
But you can bet your life I'll have one
   If I get but half a show.
This Christmas holds no charms for me,
   On good things I'll not choke,
Unless I get a big handout
   I'm a cowboy who is broke.

D. J. O'Malley, 1893

The University of Arizona's Cowboy Songs and Singers: of Lifeways and Legend site comments on this poem: "This was written on a winter night after Mr. O'Malley had been parted from $2 by a fellow with a long spiel. He says that at that time there were many 'summer hands' or 'mail order cowboys.' They were only good enough to fill in as herders or extras during roundup time, but when they told it around the stove in winter they were all 'top hands.' The poem appeared in the Stock Growers' Journal on December 23, 1893. It was signed Iyam B. Usted."

See their collection of poems about D.J. O'Malley and commentary about him by John I. White here.

This 1942 photo by John Vachon (1914-1975) from the Library of Congress is captioned, "Madison County, Montana. Cowhands, who ride the range in the summer, feed cattle in the winter":

Part of Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)



Prose excerpts by D. J. O'Malley


The Experiences of the F U F Roundup Crew Caught in the Cloudburst of June 1891

Crow Rock, Deadman Creek, Blaisdale Butte

Where Custer Fell


The Experiences of the F U F Roundup Crew Caught in the Cloudburst of June 1891

Forty five years ago (1891), while on their annual horse roundup, the F U F roundup crew had the memorable experience of being caught in one of the worst cloudbursts ever known in Montana....

....The worst experience I ever went through was in 1891 when the F U F roundup crew was caught in the terrible cloudburst in June of that year, Schmidt recalls. The F U F at that time was the largest horse outfit in
Montana, having thousands of horses on the range. The territory in which they ran was from the Rosebud River on the east to the Big Horn River on the west, and from Yellowstone River on the north to the Indian Reservation on the south.

T. W. Longley, foreman of the outfit, about the middle of June, received word from the Indian Agent at the Crow Indian Reservation to gather F U F horses off the Crow Reservation at once. In those days the Crow Reservation was open range.

The roundup crew was then at the old West Fork Ranch on the west fork of Emmels Creek. Longley sent word to Red Carolan, who was the wagon boss at the time, to move down to the old cow camp on lower Emmels Creek. When we got there Longley was waiting for us and told me to take the mess wagon into Forsyth and load up with enough grub for a two or three weeks trip to the Crow Reservation. After getting a load of provisions I drove back to camp and the next day, June 20, we moved back to the west fork, and on the following day started for Cottonwood Creek, intending to camp where that creek empties into Talleck Creek.

After working the range in the vicinity in which we were, we left West Fork and followed the old Custer Trail over the divide, and as the F U F did not have a bed wagon, I had provisions for three weeks' trip—eight beds, two tents, and all cooking utensils on the mess wagon. All in all, it was a heavy load, and it was impossible to make fast time. We got to Sarpy Creek for dinner  and by the time we moved on after dinner it was hot and sultry and beginning to cloud up in a threatening manner. However, we reached the old camping ground on Cottonwood at five o'clock. A good spring of water made this place a favorite camping ground for all the roundups. As soon as we had camp set up I started supper and in about thirty minutes it began to thunder and lightning heavily. One crash of thunder after another, and the lightning splitting the clouds until all the men in the crew were shaky. This kept up through the supper hour.  With every earsplitting crash of thunder and blinding flash of lightning, I expected to see it strike into the one hundred and fifty head of saddle horses that were in the rope corral about fifty feet from the mess wagon.  It was the worst electrical storm I
ever saw in my life.

After we got the mess tent up, my bunkie, Harry Smith, better known as Big Harry, made our bed down, but before the storm was over, the water began to run under the bed, so Harry rolled the bed up and put it in the wagon. After the storm quit, the air was quite chilly and the boys were all sitting around the cook stove to keep warm. Jordan Bean got on his horse and rode up the creek about two miles, only to return with the word that we were going to have high water. He said there was a loud noise up the creek, which he thought was caused by water coming into the main creek. Several of the boys stepped outside of the tent to listen, but decided that the noise was only the wind in the pines and all took their places around the stove again. By this time I had the dishes washed and had begun to get things ready for breakfast. I had placed a ham on the mess box table to slice for breakfast and there was two hundred pounds of ham in the mess wagon. I stepped out of the tent for something, and as I did I looked up the creek. I saw the water coming down the creek like a solid wall about five feet high, headed straight for the wagon. I yelled to the boys and some of them made a run for their horses which they had tied to a big cottonwood log about the camp, and some of them made a run for the bed tent and the beds in it. They had just got in the clear with the beds when the first rush of water struck the cook stove, the steam shot out of the pipe until it looked like a sinking steamboat.

By this time the body of water was widening out pretty fast and I told Harry Smith I thought he had better ride in and get out bed out of the wagon. He thought it would be a good idea as the water by now was full three feet deep all over the first bench of the creek. He got about halfway to the wagon, maybe twenty yards, when old Roan Charlie, the horse he was riding, stepped in a stump hole and fell down with him. There sure was some scrambling in that swift running water and when Roan Charlie got to his feet again Harry had decided that he didn't want any bed after all, for by that time the mess wagon was headed straight downstream notwithstanding the heavy load it helped and the fact that the brakes were set as they always are when a wagon is in camp. It stood the force of the water until it got to the top of the hind wheels, when all of a sudden it moved off downstream and was lost to sight ....

...continued in Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.

Crow Rock, Deadman Creek, Blaisdale Butte

....A large creek emptying into Crow Rock Creek is known as White's Creek.

In the spring of 1885 the roundup was working up Crow Rock from Little Dry and made camp on this creek. The N Bar N wagon was camped at a spring by the creek and when the horses were run in for the riders to change their mounts, the horse wrangler, who was known as Kid White, got into difficulty with his saddle horse which had taken a sudden notion to get rid of its rider and began to buck.

The wrangler did his best to stay in the saddle but just as the horse had bucked close to the creek the wrangler lost his place in the saddle and was thrown into a mud hole. When the men were eating their dinner one of them named Tom Phelps spoke to the wrangler and said, "Well Kid, I see you have taken up a claim on water anyhow."  Several of the cowboys later on referring to this creek spoke of it as White's Creek and the name struck and the creek became known as White's Creek—and to the spring was given the name White's Creek Springs.

...excerpted from Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.

Where Custer Fell

In 1999, a rare book catalog came out listing over 1,200 Custer items. The battle and his death have always been and will continue to be controversial. Everyone from alleged eyewitnesses to reputed psychics have come up with the "truth" about the battle, and O'Malley's version has the advantage of being only "twice removed" from an eyewitness account. (p. 213, Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White)

....My step-father, Charlie White, known to the Indians as "Big Knife," who was a private of E Troop of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry, was on the expedition under Terry, and, in 1876, was one of the party that buried the bodies of Gen. Custer and his men ....

Eau Claire, Wisconsin Leader
June 26, 1936

There seems to be a growing movement, lately, among the many writing on the historical events of eastern Montana, to create a discussion as to the spot where General Geo. A. Custer fell on the day of that memorable battle on the Little Big Horn River, June 25, 1876, between the Allied Indian forces of the Northwest, under command of Chief Gall, an Ogalalla Sioux, and a force of the U. S. Cavalry (the 7th) under the command of General G. A. Custer, which resulted in the complete annihilation of the troops.

Every so often someone comes forth with an article on the battle and finds a new spot where Custer fell. Not one of them seems to be satisfied with the location of the marker as it was placed by the party of U. S. soldiers who buried the bodies of that ill-fated command, burying the bodies as they were found on the battleground, to indicate where the body of Custer lay.

A few years ago many newspapers of the U. S. carried an article as an interview with an aged Sioux warrior named Foolish Elk, as to where, how, and by whom, Custer was killed.  Foolish Elk was quoted as saying that he was an eye-witness to the actual killing of Gen. Custer and that he recognized both Custer and the Indian who killed him, to whom is given the name of White Calf. He (Foolish Elk) said he had been wounded a few days previous in an engagement between the Sioux and a body of soldiers and was unable to take part in the big fight (as he termed it) and that he was sitting in front of his teepee on the bank of the river about a mile away from the ridge where the troops were and was watching the fight. In the midst of the fight he saw an officer (who he recognized as Custer) and three or four other men all mounted on horses, detach themselves from the bunch of fighting troops and ride off in the direction that Reno and his command (who were also engaged by the Indians) were supposed to be. Then he saw a number of mounted Indians start in pursuit of the fleeing officer and soldiers. When they had gone about one half a mile he saw one Indian whom he recognized as White Calf, a Sioux, urge his pony up close to the horse ridden by Custer and saw Custer struck twice on the head with tomahawk in White Calf's hands. On receiving the second blow, Custer fell to the ground, dead. The other three or four soldiers with Custer were killed a minute or so later. Then he saw the Indians return and resume their part in the big fight. So much for Foolish Elk's story. In it, I think, there are several discrepancies that would bear explaining.

Foolish Elko says he was sitting in front of his teepee on the bank of the river watching the fight. From accounts given by various Indians who were really in the fight and who were afterward captured and brought into Fort Keogh, what few tepees that could be seen from where the battle took place were empty. Not an Indian was in them; in fact, the camp was a blind put up by the cunning Chief Gall to lead Custer into the belief that he had only a small bunch of Indians to attack (and the strategy worked). The main camp of the Indians numbering nearly a thousand tepees was pitched along the river, the lower end of the camp being nearly two miles above the empty camp that Custer saw when he brought his troops down the ridge to attack it. He did not, could not, see the main camp till he was within about one quarter mile of the empty camp. When he did see the main camp he seemed to realize the trap he had ridden into and gave the command to his troops to retreat back on top of the ridge whence they had come.

In the meantime, the Indians who were waiting on both sides of Custer's men as they rode to the rim moved across behind them and cut them off from any possible connections with Major Reno, who was about four miles from there also busy fighting a large force of the Indians. I have for authority on the above a statement to my mother and I at Fort Keogh in 1876 by two Indians who were prominent in battle—Two Moons, who was chief in command of the Northern Cheyenne in the fight, and Wolf Voice, a Gros Ventre who had married a Cheyenne girl and was living with the Cheyenne.  If this camp was empty as Two Moons and Wolf Voice said it was, what was Foolish Elk doing there alone when the wounded, the old men, and women were all up the river in the main camp with the other women and children. It seems odd that he should be there all alone....

...continued in Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White, © 2000, Cowboy Miner Publications.



The Book's Table of Contents

Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White

Foreword to the Original Manuscript

Poetry of D. J. O'Malley

An Old Cowboy's Letter
The Death of Charlie Rutledge
A Cowboy's Soliloquy
The Cowboy's Reverie
To the Memory of Wiley Collins
The Old Gray Mule Saloon
The Sheriff's Posse and the Cow
Busted Cowboy's Christmas
A Dance at Cree's Ranch
Elegy to an Old Saddle
In Memory of My Mother
The Cowboy
An Old Cowboy's Musings
Fifty Years Ago
The Dying Rustler
An Old Cowhand's Longing
The Little Old Log Shanty
Powder River
Longing for the Old Range Days
The Roundup
Found on a Sheep Herder's Mess Box
The Old Cowboy Talking
The Would-Be Cowboy
The Cowboy's Kick
A Cowboy's Carol
The "D2" Horse Wrangler
Where the Sage Brush Grows
The Would-Be Cowboy's Plaint
The Hunyocker
A Cowboy's String
A Rejected Cowboy's Farewell
A Sheepherder's Advice
After the Roundup (When the Work's All Done this Fall)

Photos of D. J. O'Malley and Friends

Prose by D. J. O'Malley

The Coming of the Second U. S. Cavalry to Fort Keogh, Montana Territory
The Conley Brothers
Killing of Women and Children at Wounded Knee a Shameful Chapter in Western Indian
Fort Keogh in 1879
The Experiences of the F U F Roundup Crew Caught in the Cloudburst of June 1891
Crow Rock, Deadman Creek, Blaisdale Butte
Chief Joseph's Own Story
Gathering of Indian Tribes Before the Battle of the Little Big Horn
Where Custer Fell
The Cattle Trail from Texas to Montana Often Called the National Trail
Charles Binion's Life was Epic of Early Day Western Cattle Trails
Miles City's Regrettable Tragedy
The War Between the Cattlemen and Rustlers in Wyoming -- 1892
The Lynching of H. Hoefner at Forsyth, Montana
John X Beidler Montana's Famous Vigilante

Alphabetical Index of Poetry & Prose
About the Illustrator


More D. J. O'Malley References and Others' Recordings

D.J. O'Malley (1867-1943) was a cowboy for the N Bar N Ranch, the Montana Cattle Company's 79 Ranch, and other cattle ranches around Montana. His papers consist primarily of cowboy poetry and other writings reflecting his experiences as a cowboy; a small amount of correspondence (1887-1939); and miscellany, including a few items concerning his father Dominick O'Malley's Civil War military career.

Ordering information

(Cowboy Miner Productions ceased operations in 2009; this book may be available from booksellers and used book outlets.)

Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White

Published in 2000 by Cowboy Miner Productions

ISBN: ISBN 0-9645626-5-0

Published with the the cooperation of the Dallywelter Press and the Montana Historical Society, which holds D. J. O'Malley's book-length manuscript, Reminiscences and Poem.

Illustrated by Paul Hudgins
Foreword by Charlie Seemann
Afterword by Lyndel Meikle
Edited by Janice & Mason Coggin


From the back cover:

This volume brings to light a little known author whose work survived the scrutiny of the cowboy's oral tradition. The poems are simple and fun' the wonderful stories read, as they were meant, like old-time newspaper articles. This is an important chronicle of a cowboy "who was there." I'm proud to have this book in my collection.
                                                        Waddie Mitchell, Cowboy Poet, Elko, Nevada




More about Cowboy Miner

(Cowboy Miner Productions ceased operations in 2009.)


Cowboy Miner Productions published award-winning classic Cowboy and mining poetry, contemporary Cowboy Poetry, Arizona history, and more.  

Other features at CowboyPoetry.com on other classic Cowboy Poets Badger Clark, Bruce Kiskaddon and Henry Herbert Knibbs are based on Cowboy Miner books, made possible by their kind cooperation. We're pleased to have the poetry of many of the contemporary poets they've published, including Chris Isaacs, the late Larry McWhorter, the late Sunny Hancock, Linda Kirkpatrick,  Dee Strickland Johnson, Carole Jarvis, Jane Morton, and others.


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Mason Coggin  1938-2000
See a tribute to Mason Coggin here.






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