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"While a flood of cowboy fantasy swept over American popular culture from the 1920s through the 1940s, a Los Angeles bellhop who had been a real cowboy, quietly and persistently wrote poetry. The eager consumers of Western entertainment would have found the elements of these poems familiar— booted men on horseback, cattle and horse herds, desert sun and rock, shadow-dappled canyons and windswept high country. But, chancing upon one of the poems, an urban Western dreamer might have been puzzled by its close focus on detail, disappointed by its apparent lack of drama, and might well have missed its point altogether. However, the audience of the popular media was unlikely to encounter these poems in the first place, for they were placed in cattlemen’s publications where they would be seen by those whose nostalgia for a less modernized West cut closer to the bone.... "

                                                                                               From Bill Siems' Introduction to Open Range

Surely the most important contemporary cowboy poetry book publication in recent times, Bill Siems' monumental, 600-page Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon includes Bruce Kiskaddon's entire poetic output (481 poems); extensive illustrations (including 323 line drawings by Katherine Field, Amber Dunkerley, and others); biographical and historical introductions; prefaces by Hal Cannon, Waddie Mitchell, and Lynn Held; rare photographs, and more. 

Open Range was published in 2007, in a numbered, limited edition of 300 copies and a limited edition of 26 leather bound books. The book is now out of print.

With the kind cooperation of Bill Siems, we're pleased to have excerpts from the book below.

Below:

The Poetry and Life of Bruce Kiskaddon
excerpt from the Introduction to Open Range

About Bruce Kiskaddon
excerpt from the Introduction to Open Range

Photo and Illustrations

"A Good Cowboy," poem by Bruce Kiskaddon

Table of Contents and Chapter Descriptions

About the Editor, Bill Siems and Designer, Dawn Holladay

 

About The Educated Fellers

Old-time cowboy music by Bill Siems and Ted Hensold

shortybk1.jpg (9386 bytes)
See our feature about Shorty's Yarns, Bruce Kiskaddon's short stories, edited by Bill Siems.

See more information and more of Bruce Kiskaddon's poems in a separate feature, here.

 


From Shorty's Yarns, reproduced from Western Livestock Journal, November 24, 1932

 


The Poetry and Life of Bruce Kiskaddon
excerpt from the Introduction to Open Range

While a flood of cowboy fantasy swept over American popular culture from the 1920s through the 1940s, a Los Angeles bellhop who had been a real cowboy, quietly and persistently wrote poetry. The eager consumers of Western entertainment would have found the elements of these poems familiar—booted men on horseback, cattle and horse herds, desert sun and rock, shadow-dappled canyons and windswept high country. But, chancing upon one of the poems, an urban Western dreamer might have been puzzled by its close focus on detail, disappointed by its apparent lack of drama, and might well have missed its point altogether. However, the audience of the popular media was unlikely to encounter these poems in the first place, for they were placed in cattlemen’s publications where they would be seen by those whose nostalgia for a less modernized West cut closer to the bone. At the highbrow end of the cultural scale, a professional appreciator of poetry from that era, encountering one of the bellhop’s compositions, would probably have consigned it to the doggerel heap with barely a glance – written in Western vernacular, insistent in its rhythm and rhyme, more humor than angst in its atmosphere, and generally maintaining a respectful distance from the ultimate mysteries that would have preoccupied a serious poet of the day.

Bruce Kiskaddon wrote of the mundane and the momentous in the lives of ranchers and the animals they raised and rode, and created hundreds of examples of what writer and scholar Scott Preston has called “some of the most defiantly demystifying, unromantic poems of the cowboy experience.”1  Now that the mid-century tide of Western romance has receded, beached remnants of that era can seem quaint, even silly, depending upon the strength of their art. But Kiskaddon’s poetry stands up well, just as our national love of the West seems to have survived the romance. And academic and literary professionals are more kindly disposed than they once were to the humbler manifestations of culture—roots music is generally conceded to be musical, and folk poetry to be truly poetic.  Perhaps it is time for a broader audience to appreciate a man considered by many ranchers of his and of the present day “the best cowboy poet who ever wrote a cowboy poem.”2

Although Kiskaddon wrote and published few poems until the early 1920s, when he was in his mid-forties and most open range had been fenced, his poetry is strongly connected back to his young manhood in the decades straddling 1900. He holds a position with respect to the open range era of the Southwest much like Andy Adams does in reation to the trail driving days— a bona fide participant who created high quality literature painting a realistic portrait of his era.  Frank Dobie once said of Adams’ Log of a Cowboy, “If all other books on trail driving were destroyed, a reader could still get a just and authentic conception of trail men, trail work, range cattle, cow horses, and the cow country in general…” from the book.3  Substitute “open range” for “trail driving,” and the statement could be justifiably applied to Kiskaddon and his poetry. As a record of bedrock experience, as unpretentious art, and as history, the poetry retains its relevance as we try again to understand and maintain our connections to the earth.

The first purpose of this collection is to preserve and make more available the totality of Kiskaddon’s scattered poetic output.  Kiskaddon published four books in his lifetime—Rhymes of the Ranges, Just as Is, Western Poems, and Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems. The latter two books are quite scarce, and the first two are rare. Besides the 217 poems contained in the four published books, about 250 others appeared originally only on monthly advertising calendars issued by the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards and in the pages of Western Livestock Journal, a cattlemen’s weekly newspaper. In recent years two anthologies of Kiskaddon’s poetry have appeared, Rhymes of the Ranges: a New Collection of the Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (Gibbs Smith, 1987, Hal Cannon, ed., 68 poems) and Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon (Cowboy Miner, 1998, Mason and Janice Coggin, eds., 108 poems). Even combining the two anthologies with the four published books, there remain about 225 poems which until now could only be found in scattered library runs of Western Livestock Journal or scarce collections of the ephemeral Stock Yards calendars.

Approximately 325 of the Kiskaddon poems published in Western Livestock Journal or by the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards originally appeared with illustrations by Katherine Field or Amber Dunkerley. This unique form of artistic collaboration combined a short, direct poem, typically 16–24 lines, with a drawing illustrating the subject of the poem. Katherine Field’s drawings are especially fine, with a solid, consistent, realistic style that captures rangeland moods and the lives of humans and animals in a perfect complement to Kiskaddon’s verse. The drawing and poem comment on one another, and produce a kind of cowboy flash card that proved irresistible to the ranching audience. Across the West favorite examples were nailed to bunkhouse walls, pasted in family scrapbooks, or hoarded in shoe boxes. This savers’ testimony to the significance and usefulness of the illustrated poems is also largely responsible for the ability to recover these ephemeral materials at this late date.  It is unfortunate that prior collections of Kiskaddon’s poems, including his own books, have often separated poems and drawings— reprinting a poem without its drawing, or using a drawing to illustrate a poem other than its original mate. The economic and logistic problems which hampered finding and reproducing the drawings even as recently as the 1990s, have been largely overcome by the internet and the latest scanners and computer software, so the second purpose for this book is to rejoin and preserve the illustrated poems as they were originally created.

1 Scott Preston, "'The Rain is the Sweat of the Sky': Cowboy Poetry as American Ethnopoetics." in David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher, eds., Cowboy Poets & Cowboy Poetry (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 48.

2 Frank M. King, in Western Livestock Journal, 14, no. 1 (26 November 1935: 17.

3 J. Frank Dobie, Life and Literature of the Southwest (Dallas: SMU Press, 1952), 94.

© 2006, William F. Siems, from the Introduction to Open Range. All rights reserved.

...continued in Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon


 


About Bruce Kiskaddon
excerpt from the Introduction to Open Range

photo courtesy Utah State University Press
Kiskaddon's portrait from the title page of the editor's copy of Rhymes of the Ranges
and Other Poems;
from our feature on Shorty's Yarns
photo courtesy Utah State University Press

Bruce Harvey Kiskaddon was born November 25, 1878 in Foxburg, Pennsylvania, the second of four children of James S. and Caroline Kepler Kiskaddon.4  By the time Bruce was ten years old the family had moved west, first to rural southwest Missouri, then by 1898 on to Trinidad, Colorado. An undersized child who grew into a small man, Kiskaddon by his own account had a quick temper in his teens and young manhood, counterbalanced by unusual physical strength, endurance, and natural athletic ability.  Dick Crow, the second publisher of Western Livestock Journal, recalls that as a youngster he saw Kiskaddon, close to his 60th birthday, perform a back somersault at a staff picnic. Although Kiskaddon’s formal schooling included nothing beyond the grammar years, he was an avid lifelong reader, broadly self-educated, and adept at verbal as well as written communication. With the highly developed, understated sense of humor characteristic of range and ranch, he always had many friends and a rich social life.  Kiskaddon loved song and music, and learned to play a variety of stringed instruments, including mandolin and ukulele. His poems and stories were generally written in creatively misspelled Western slang, the result not of ignorance, but of a desire to convey informal speech. Kiskaddon’s more formal nonfiction articles, and his letters, show an awareness of and ability to adopt correct usage and, to a lesser extent, standard spelling.

4 Many of the available details of Kiskaddon's life come from an autobiographical sketch in the Western Livestock Journal 16, no, 28 (31 May 1938): 34-37. This sketch is contained in Shorty's Yarns, 3-6, and other biographical information is included in the introduction of this book, Shorty's Yarns ix-xxi.

© 2006, William F. Siems, from the Introduction to Open Range. All rights reserved.

...continued in Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon


 


Photo and Illustrations

 


A photo from Open Range:
Kiskaddon on a stuffed horse at Knott's Berry Farm from a postcard sent by Byron Duncan
photo courtesy
Timothy Taplin Whitaker; reproduction prohibited without express written permission

 


Katherine Field illustration

 


Amber Dunkerley illustration

 


"A Good Cowboy," by Bruce Kiskaddon

One of the "incidental poems" collected in the "Strays" chapter of Open Range:

A Good Cowboy

Did you ever see a cow hand ridin' peaceful like and slow
With his saddle hoss and bed hoss, like he had no place to go?
He travels at an easy jog or mebby so a walk,
But he's lookin' at the country and he notices the stock.

He figgers grass and water like a man that understands
And any stuff that's close enough he reads the marks and brands.
He recollects the ones that's strays, and where they can be found.
And all the time he's doin' that he's lookin' at the ground.

He sees a couple places where a snake has crossed the trail.
He finds the tracks of foxes or a coyote and some quail.
And in among the hoss tracks, in the sand or on the sod,
He cuts another rider's trail. At least the horse was shod.

At some corral or water hole he camps along the way.
He brushes out the cattle tracks. He'll have a look next day.
He is up again and stirrin' just as soon as it is light
He knows about how many head came there to drink that night.

He studies wind and weather: in fact most every thing.
The buzzards in the distance round some water hole or spring.
When he gets to where he's goin' he turns his hosses out.
He meets the boss or foreman. There's a heap to talk about.

He has seen a lot, this cow hand that was travelin' peaceful slow
With his saddle hoss and pack hoss like he had no place to go.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, published in The Cattleman, 1948
reprinted with permission from Open Range; this poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

 


Table of Contents and Chapter Descriptions

 

 


CONTENTS

(Chapter descriptions are excerpts from the chapter introductions, many of which are lengthy in the book and accompanied by notes. All excerpts are copyright 2006, William F. Siems, with all rights reserved.)
 

Bruce Harvey Kiskaddon, 1904 
Snow Storm by Katherine Field
Prefaces 
Kiskaddon’s Published Poetry, 1919 - 1959
Introduction – the Poetry and Life of Bruce Kiskaddon
A Rimmy's Glossary
Editor’s Statement and Acknowledgments 


1. RHYMES OF THE RANGES

The Time to Decide

Bruce Kiskaddon returned from two years as an army mule skinner in France during World War I determined that he was done working outdoors.  But three years in the cities, and perhaps a marital rift, rekindled a longing for ranch life. In the summer of 1922 he went to Arizona for a two week working vacation on the Diamond Bar, owned by his old friend and boss, G. T. “Tap” Duncan. Those two weeks turned into two years back at the strenuous life of a cow hand. But Kiskaddon’s 43 year old body was no longer keeping up with the demands he made on it. A small man of considerable wiry strength, Kiskaddon had relied on quick responses to manage the inevitable crises of handling livestock, and his incremental losses of speed and coordination were clear and unsettling. His eyes, so important for effective action in the arid vastness of the southwest, were also failing, weakened by years of sun, wind, and dust. Punching cattle is not an old man’s job, and Kiskaddon was facing the choice of every aging cow hand who has not reached the level of ownership....continued in Open Range

Title page, Rhymes of the Ranges, 1924
The Time to Decide
Introductory
When They’ve Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall 
The Midwinter Bath
The Willow Creek Wedding 
The Parson’s Shot Gun Chaps
The Cow Boy’s Dream
The Old Moss Back
The Air That They Breathe Out West 
When to Get Tough 
The Adventurer 
Our Sweetheart 
When You’re Throwed 
The Muley Steer
The Gray Wolf 
The Parada Shark
The Discovery
The Old Night Hawk
A Character 
An Experiment 
The Disaster 
The Time to Decide 
The Lost Mines 
Our Boss 
The Dark Horse 
The Long Eared Bull 
Bonnie 
Between the Lines 
Who Told the Biggest 
The Stampede 
The New Mexico Stray
The Cow-Boy’s If
 

2. JUST AS IS

In the Cities

Beginning in 1906 after a serious injury from a fall, Kiskaddon’s vagabond existence included long periods of urban work, most frequently as a bell hop. According to a story that appeared in Western Livestock Journal just after Kiskaddon’s death in December 1950, it was the prospect of generous tips that drew him to this work. As the story goes, while staying at the Hayward Hotel in Los Angeles, where he later worked, Kiskaddon learned that bell hops could make $50 a week at a time when cowboys earned $30 per month! This pat account may have been Kiskaddon’s formula for deflecting curiosity about his livlihood, for his hotel work was already under way in 1910, long before he settled in Los Angeles in the 1920s....continued in Open Range

Kiskaddon at his typewriter 
In the Cities

Your Dog 
True Love 
The Lady Driver
Try and Get It [1]
The Old Master
The Barber Shop
A Matter of Tastes
A Woman’s Love
The Hotel Detective
Catalina
Her Man
But It Ain’t Like That Any More
How Many Chauffeurs Had Jack?
The Shakedown
Paying the Fiddler


3. WESTERN POEMS

Livestock Journal and Stock Yards Calendars

Frank M. King had an inspiration in the summer of 1932. The Depression was ravaging cattle country, and the Associate Editor of the weekly Western Livestock Journal had convinced Nelson Crow, the Journal’s energetic founder and publisher, that a monthly special section with reminiscences of early, less-troubled days in the West would be popular with subscribers and boost circulation. In some way King knew of Bruce Kiskaddon’s abilities as a poet and storyteller, perhaps through Chuck Wagon Trailers, an old-time cowboy’s association to which both belonged. King engaged Kiskaddon to produce some poems and short prose articles for the new feature section, to be called “The Longhorn.” By an additional stroke of genius or good fortune, it was determined that the first poem to appear would be illustrated by a line drawing created in ink by Katherine Field, the daughter of a New Mexico rancher friend of King’s....continued in Open Range

Title page, Western Poems, 1935
Livestock Journal and Stock Yards Calendars
That Little Blue Roan [1935]
That Little Blue Roan [1947]

WLJ 1932 - 1933

Cow Sense
The Chuck Wagon
The Cuttin’ Hoss
The Long Horn Speaks 
Christmas at the Home Ranch
That Letter
The Cow Boy’s Shirt Tail
The Marking Knife

1933 CALENDAR

Turnin’ the Summer Hosses Out to Graze 
Savin’ the Baby Calf 
When Winter’s Nigh Done
Springtime
Matchin’ Wits 
Flankin’ [1] 
High an’ Wicked
Challengin’ the Trail 
Movin’ to Winter Range 
Cuttin’ Out the Calves 
After the Fall Roundup 
The Cowboys’ Christmas Dance 

WLJ 1933 - 1934

He Found a Home 
Headin’ fer the New Deal
The Changin’ Times

1934 CALENDAR

The Purebred Bull 
All Dressed Up
New Boots
The New Cook
Sellin’ Cattle
The Thoroughbred
The County Fair
Wet Boots
The Livestock Show
The Old Time Christmas

1935 CALENDAR

The Rope Hoss 
Shoveling the Ice Out of the Trough 
When the Grass Is Short and the Old Cows Die 
Ridin’ Fence 
Pullin’ Bog 
Colts [1] 
The Brandin’ Corral 
Thinkin’ 
Lockin’ Horns 
Caught Nappin’
A Calf’s Troubles 
The Cow and the Calf
 

4. THE HOLADAY & HAMPTON POET

In High Gear

By the end of 1935, with Western Poems newly published and beginning to sell well at $1 per copy, Kiskaddon and Field were at the height of their popularity. The two were also busy with family life and day jobs. On May 7, 1930 Kiskaddon had married Margaret Amelia “Mellie” Larsen, a widowed woman with two children that were probably both still living with the couple in their south-central Los Angeles bungalow in 1935. Kiskaddon had his hotel job, by now probably as a bell captain, and was committed to producing a short story about once a month for Western Livestock Journal and the monthly poem for the Union Stock Yards and the Journal to share. In 1935 Field had married John Guerro, a Navaho who had worked for her father the previous year, and by the end of the year she was pregnant with the first of their two children....continued in Open Range

Holaday & Hampton Advertisement
In High Gear 

WINTER 1936

Shoein’ a Hoss
Down Hill 
How He Drinks 
The Bell Mare [1] 
Winter
The Rain
The Varmints
On Foot [1]
Come and Get It! 
The Dog Hole

SPRING 1936

Feedin’ Grain 
The Cowboy’s Mount
On the Prod
The Wire Gate
Rollin’ Him 
That Gal 
The Mule 
The Cook [1] 
The Trail Drivers
Microbes
Back Home
Hot Day 
Stringing Along
Throwin’ the Circle

SUMMER 1936

The Pest
On the Job
On Their Way 
The Old Days 
Figgerin’ It Out!
The Salt Box
One of the Last
A Tough Pull
The Last Rest!
Saddle and All
Ketchin’ Out
A Good One If You Do It
The Owl

FALL 1936

Movin’ Beef 
A Cow in Distress 
The Twister 
Team Work [1]
Gettin’ ‘Em Out
The Difference 
Strays [2] 
Bring Him In 
The Roper
The Killers 
Tailin’ ‘Em Up
They Get By 
Up Against the Wire 

WINTER 1937

Lettin’ Off Steam 
He Pulled Away
Wolves 
The Cook [2] 
Tangle Foot Johnny’s Bear 
A Gentle Hint 
The Surprise
The Stage Coach [1]
Panicky
Abandoned 
By the Dust 
Cow Geography 
Stuck 

SPRING 1937

Bull Ridin’ 
The Wreck [1]
The Trail Herd 
Busted 
Mistrust
Up and Over 
Colts [2] 
White Man’s Cattle
Chuck Time [1] 
The Buffalo
The Dogie
The Cook’s Revenge
Round Up Time 

SUMMER 1937

The Scattered Pack
The Old Buckboard
Be Careful!
Chuck Time [2]
Wearin’ Him Down
Night Guard
Early Morning Call
Warmin’ One Side
The Man From the East
Thinnin’ ‘Em Out
The Range Fight
The Hacamore Colt


5. FIELD AND KISKADDON

"Famous Western Artist is a Genuine Cowgirl"

Frank M. King wrote the following article about Katherine Field and her art, and the way she and Kiskaddon worked together. The article appeared in the July 12, 1938 issue of Western Livestock Journal, accompanied by the top photograph on the facing page.

A heap of folks are interested in the pictures that are drawn by Kath­erine Field, our famous little cow­girl artist, and want to know something about her. Well, folks, Katherine is the youngest of nine girls that Mr. and Mrs. Nelson A. Field raised up there in high mountains of Northwest So­corro County, New Mexico and she has never been very far away from the ranch where she was born, except the four years the family lived at Santa Fe, during the father’s term as State Land Commissioner for New Mexico  Nelse Field is known to New Mexicans as “Navajo” Field on account he has conducted an Indian trading store on his ranch since he established it in 1889....continued in Open Range


Katherine Field Guerro
Horseback Katherine
“Famous Western Artist Is a Genuine Cowgirl”
Young Katie and family members

1936 CALENDAR

Strays [1]
When You Cheek Him
Ridin’ School
The Quitter
A Green Hoss
On Foot [2]
The Summer Storm
The Bargain
The Gentle Hoss
The Arroyo
The General Store
There’s a Difference

1937 CALENDAR

Cold Mornin’s
Tracks [1]
March
The Wrangler
Chargin’ ‘Em
The Artist
More Weather
Not So Slow
Alone
The Meat Eater
The Spill
Range Brandin’ [1]
The Stock Hoss

1938 CALENDAR

The Old Cow Pony 
The Coyote’s Call 
The Running Fight
Bulls and Bears 
Bustin’ Cows
A Cowboy Funeral
Lost
Drinkin’ Water
Shelter
Pullin’ Leather
The Drouth [1]
“Lobos”

1939 CALENDAR

The Other Feller’s Beef
Helpin’ Himself
Try and Get It [2]
Daddy’s Boots
The Stage Coach [2]
The Tangle
The Young ‘Uns
Decidin’ Who’s Who
Learnin’
The Early Worm
Hog Wild
In the Snow

1940 CALENDAR

January
A Friend in Need 
The Orphan 
An Easy Meal
The Finish 
The Rope Corral [1] 
Wranglin’
The Silk Shirt
Workin’ It Over
Ants in His Pants
A Spill
Figger It Out

1941 CALENDAR

Snow in the Collar
Startin’ Out [1]
Feedin’ Time
Cow Milkin’
Range Brandin’ [2]
A Busted Rope
Lookin’ Back
Restin’
Scatterin’ Camp
The Old Timers
Turnin’ ‘Em
Winter Work

1942 CALENDAR

Then and Now
News
Startin’ Out [2]
Going to Summer Camp
Her Neighbor’s Kids
A Surprise
A Tangle
The Coming Change
Sidin’ His Dad
They Can Take It
Summer Time
Winter Hosses

6. DUNKERLEY AND KISKADDON 

Commercial Artist for an Old-Time Cowboy

By the end of 1942 Katherine Field’s family situation left her unable to continue illustrating Kiskaddon’s poems. Both her parents were in poor health and in need of constant care, and her two children were of school age. She had moved to Albuquerque to be near doctors and schools, and her husband John worked on the ranch during the week and drove to the city on the weekends.

Taking over Field’s work of illustrating poems for the Stock Yards calendars and Western Livestock Journal was Amber Dunkerley, a trained commercial artist about fifteen years older than Field....continued in Open Range

“Sam Jones”
Commercial Artist for an Old-Time Cowboy

1943 CALENDAR

Gettin’ It Settled
A Wet Rope
Range Brandin’ [3]
The Army Mule
The Troop Hoss
Leaving the Wreck
Old and Foxy
The Veiled Rider
The Bunk House Mirror
The Pensioner
Not Welcome
A Cow Boy Race

1944 CALENDAR

The Tinker
Hosses and Flies
A Lazy Hoss
The Drag Driver
He Didn’t Belong
The Washed Out Trail
Her Colt
Makin’ a Break
Turnin’ ‘Em In
Layin’ for Him
Doing Her Best
The Buggy Shack

1945 CALENDAR

A Tough Start
To a Finish
The Serenade
Retired
A Fast Start
A Farmer’s Troubles
Curiosity
They Don’t Thank You
Team Work [2]
Be Careful [1]
The Stage Driver
Winter Past’er

1946 CALENDAR

Winter Time
The Good Old Days
A Habit
The Take-Off
Takin’ It Easy
The Drouth [2]
The Cook [3]
The Cat
The Roller Towel
It Can Happen
Dog Holes
Christmas Again

1947 CALENDAR

On Their Own
Next Year’s Beef
Why They Keep a Hoss
Ropin’
The Wreck [2]
A Cow Boy’s Hat
The Joshua Shade
The Old Time Folks
Rough Work [1]
The Rope Corral [2]
When a Pony Slips His Pack
The Water Hole

1948 CALENDAR

The Brahma Steer
A Good fer Nothin’ Dog
The First Lesson
The Skull and Horns
The Buckboard
Lookin’ for a Beef
The Old Family Buggy
The Old Hunter
Grand Pa’s Saddle
Something Wrong
The Frozen Pump
The Old Bob Sled

1951 CALENDAR

Short Reins
It Blows Around
The Line Camp [2]

7. … AND OTHER POEMS

Poet's Legacy

As his seventieth birthday approached, Kiskaddon, like anyone of similar years, would have reflected on what evidence of his life would survive him and how his place in the family economy would be filled. His first book, containing some of his most powerful poems, had been out of print for over twenty years and had never been widely available in the first place.  After the collection of forty items in Western Poems, hundreds of shorter poems had been written and published but never gathered in book form. Also, over the years he had accumulated dozens of other poems, both long and short, which had never been published anywhere. Mellie was a dozen years his junior, and might survive long after him. Mellie’s daughter Mildred had recently fled an abusive husband and returned to Bruce and Mellie’s home with her infant daughter. How would the women fare with Bruce not around and only Mildred to earn money?....continued in Open Range

Title page, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947
Poet’s Legacy

THE OLD TIMER SPEAKS

The Trinidad Boy
Women Drivers
The Old Shot Gun
A Boy’s Friend
Your First Saddle
Out of Turn
Ridin’ In
Your First Trip
The Creak of the Leather
You’d Better Not Try It Again
His Old Clothes
When You Buried Your Face in the Alkali Drink
You Never Tell That
Cow Boy Days
Looking Backward
To Those Who Have Gone Before

YARNS AND LEGENDS

A Cowboy’s Brains
Bill the Snake Charmer
Honest John’s Five Aces
The Duel
A Bad Grizzly
How They Made the Royal Gorge
Moccaison Mick
Alkali Ike’s Zippers
Where the Saddles Galled
When the Stove Didn’t Draw
Pack Saddle Dan
The Lost Flannins
He Knew His Goat
John Greer’s Points
The Ladies’ Rifle Team
Stan
When Connors Rode Rep for the Lord
Judgement Day
Ghost Canyon Trail
The Ghosts at the Diamond Bar
Was It Scare

SONGS

Just Set and Let Your Feet Hang Down
Cow Boy’s Pants
Hoof Beats
Graves by the Side of the Trail
I Don’t Have to Meet the Wagon
Waiting for the Cars
When the Morning Star Fades into Dawn
I’m Hittin’ the Trail Tonite

SHORT SUBJECTS

They Don’t Change
Augerin’
The Running Iron
The Man That Chaws
Spittin’
Over Loaded
The Dutch Oven
The Sour Dough Bucket
The Line Camp [1]
The New Man Takes His Turn
Git Him Slicker Broke
The Pet Hoss
When He Cold Jaws
The Bell Mare [2]
Forgotten
Turning ‘Em Out
Hook ‘Em Cow
Flankin’ [2]
When the Old Cow Kicks
The Mexican Mule
Ants
Them Store Clothes
The New Gun
The Panther Track
Second Guard
The Homesteader
Progress

NARRATIVES

The Old West
The Rifle
An Old Western Town
The Balky Hoss
The Livery Stable
The Medicine Show
Catalogues
Goin’ to Town
The Hoss Round Up
Bad Luck
The Long Ear
The Hoss That Can Run on the Hobbles
What a Shame
Swimmin’ the Herd
Watch Him Drink
How a Cow Puncher Rode
Old Greenie
Liz
Rain
Blizzard
The Fight in the Dark
The Broncho Twister’s Prayer
The Law Steps In
Old Frosty
It Might Have Been Me or It Might Have Been You
The Drifter
The Man on the Fence
The Bundle Stiff

8. BACK TO THE HOME RANCH

At Ease

After compiling the manuscript of Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems and having it printed in late 1947, Kiskaddon’s literary work reverted to the once-a-month pattern of Union Stock Yards calendars. Within the next year or so he finally retired from the hotel, and settled into comfortable domesticity in the gray two-bedroom bungalow on West 53rd Street. Over in New Mexico, some of the postwar prosperity trickled down to the Field Ranch, and Katherine Field Guerro and John Guerro were also able to relax a bit, even invest in the future through increasing the quality of their herd. As the demands on Katie’s attention by parent and child care became less pressing, she began to think of returning to her illustration work. Some time in 1948 Kiskaddon and Field arranged to renew their partnership, and their published collaborations resumed with the January 1949 Stock Yards calendar. This section contains the last thirty illustrated poems that Kiskaddon and Field created together.....continued in Open Range

Final Kiskaddon-Field calendar
At Ease

1949 CALENDAR

Back to the Home Ranch
Doin’ Her Best
Slow Work 
Lookin’ the Country Over
He Better Be Right
Touchy
At the Water Hole
Be Careful [2]
Gettin’ ‘Em Settled Down
Half Broke
On a Stand
It’s in the Bag

1950 CALENDAR

Thinkin’ It Over
Information
Puttin’ On a Show
Rough Work [2]
Tracks [2]
A Visitor
Tie Him Outside
Burrs in Her Tail
Staked to a Chunk
Stringin’ Along
The Race for the Wagon
The Christmas Tree

1951 CALENDAR

Alfalfa Bloat
Your Camp Fire
Coyote Bounty
The Ranch Wood Pile
When He Pulls Away
That Smoke

9. STRAYS

Breathing in Rhyme

Frank King once remarked that Kiskaddon thought in rhyme. Certainly he seems to have made up poems with the constant rhythm of breathing. He wrote poems for special occasions of his family and friends, served as “poet lariat” for the Chuck Wagon Trailers, sent poems to magazines, earned money from banging out advertising jingles, and apparently composed sentimental couplets for “hotel guests in need of something more convincing than an ordinary prose love letter.” ....continued in Open Range

Kiskaddon on a stuffed horse
Breathing in Rhyme
[Cowboy Car Trouble]
A Good Cow Boy
The First Shoes 
Things John Hendrix Writes 
Merry Christmas [1933]
Christmas Greetings [1948]
Christmas Greetings [1949]
Christmas Greetings [1950]
The First We Heard from Rosalie
Jockie’s First Round Up

VARIANTS 

NOTES

INDEX OF TITLES

 


About the Editor, Bill Siems and Designer, Dawn Holladay
From the Editor's Statement and Acknowledgments, Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon
 

In the spring of 2002 I got lucky, several times. After more than fifteen years of searching, I had been able to purchase a copy of Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges. This collector’s jewel went on the shelf beside my treasured copies of Western Poems and Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, books I had eagerly hunted down when Kiskaddon’s words first seized my attention from the pages of Hal Cannon’s 1985 general anthology, Cowboy Poetry: a Gathering. Excited by having the shadowy poet’s first book in my hands, I started to follow up on other leads to Kiskaddon material accumulated over the years. Janice Coggin had once told me that Brown University owned a copy of Just as Is, so I obtained a photocopy of this rare book through the Interlibrary Loan service at my home institution, Washington State University. And I recalled from Cannon’s fascinating introduction to his 1987 anthology, Rhymes of the Ranges: a New Collection of the Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, that many of Kiskaddon’s poems had been published in a cattleman’s magazine called Western Livestock Journal. So on an idle lunch hour in the stacks of our science library, I thumbed through Volume 15 of Western Livestock Journal and discovered that the cowboy poet I liked so much had also written short stories. It took about twenty minutes of looking and reading to hatch the idea of making a book of these funny, forgotten tales. As a rank beginner at the making of books, it was my beginner’s luck that John Alley, executive editor of Utah State University Press, liked the idea and started us on the project that culminated with publication of Shorty’s Yarns in 2004.

My stepdaughters Marcelle and Zoё Heimdal have been unfailingly loving and supportive, but my biggest debt is to Dawn Holladay, my wife. She has contributed to the Bruce Kiskaddon projects in countless ways over many years, as a musician, as a reader and listener, as a graphic designer, as a source of encouragement.  After all these years she still greets Shorty warmly, even lets him wear his boots in the living room.

...more in Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon



photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.
Dawn Holladay and Bill Siems at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, 2007


Bill Siems is a member of the chemistry faculty at Washington State University.


shortybk1.jpg (9386 bytes)

"Fifty years after his death, Kiskaddon's poetry remains alive in new anthologies and oral tradition, but his prose has been virtually forgotten. This is unfortunate, for his stories are worth saving. Less polished and more broadly humorous than the poems, filled with spectacular misspellings to mimic western ranch speech, the stories are a loosely tied string of old-timers' yarns, in which Kiskaddon himself appears as the character "Shorty." As a common waddy with a small man's feistiness and a young man's mischief, Shorty encounters the wicked world with a succession of companions: Bill, high-headed and a bit of an outlaw; Rildy Briggs, untamable and unstoppable young cowgirl; and Ike, an old-fashioned dandy and "a very fortunate person." More or less in the background is "the Boss"—actually a series of bosses—generally affectionately respected as long as he remains democratic in his dealings with the waddies..."

                                                            From Bill Siems' Introduction to Shorty's Yarns


See our feature about Shorty's Yarns, Bruce Kiskaddon's short stories, edited by Bill Siems.


 

Bill Siems is also a performer of old-time music, including cowboy songs, and a reciter of classic cowboy poetry. In 2007, a CD, The Educated Fellers, featuring Bill Siems and Ted Hensold was released.

The title comes from the traditional poem and song, "The Zebra Dun," which was first published as "Educated Feller" in Jack Thorp's 1908 Songs of the Cowboys. "The Zebra Dun" is among the CD's 16 generous tracks of poetry and song (see the entire track list here), along with Badger Clark's "The Glory Trail"; Gail Gardner's "The Sierra Petes"; Curley Fletcher's "The Strawberry Roan" (recited by Bill Siems, included in The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008)); "The Man on the Fence," and others by Bruce Kiskaddon, some set to music; the traditional "Goodbye Old Paint," and other traditional gems, including several obscure, interesting pieces.

One of the top cuts, "Dry and Dusty/Railroad Corral," with its spirited harmonica and guitar music, exemplifies the quality of the entire project. The liner notes for each track are informative, and will send anyone seriously interested in Western history, poetry, and music, on happy tangents to follow up on all  that is included.  Bill Siems' notes for "Dry and Dusty/Railroad Corral" are no exception: "I found the words and music for this trail driving story in Songs of the Open Range, by Ina Sires (Boston, 1928).  Later I learned  from John White's book, Git Along Little Dogies (Chicago, 1975)  that the verses were written by Joseph Mills Hanson of South Dakota in 1904. The dusty cattle drive described in the song suggested the fiddle tune we start off with."

Bill Siems quips that he wanted to add to the notes, "'For best results, play in a moving truck' but I thought of it too late."  The CD is available for $14.99 plus postage from Old  Night Hawk Press, 2521 S Hatch Street, Spokane, WA 99203, 509-868-8402.


The Educated Fellows includes:

"John Garner's Trail Herd/Robinson County"  traditional
"Santa Fe Trail"  traditional
"Just Set and Let Your Feet Hang Down"  Bruce Kiskaddon
"The Glory Trail"  Badger Clark
"Alkali Ike's Zippers"  (poem)  Bruce Kiskaddon
"The Strawberry Roan" (poem)  Curley Fletcher
"I'd Like to be In Texas/Sally Ann Johnson"  traditional
"The Zebra Dunn" traditional
"Ways of the World/Chisholm Trail/Grey Eagle"  traditional
"Dry and Dusty/Railroad Corral"  traditional/Joseph Mills Hanson
"The Man on the Fence"  (poem) Bruce Kiskaddon
"When Bob Got Throwed" (poem)  traditional
"Goodbye Old Paint"  traditional
"The Sierry Petes"  Gail Gardner
"Saddle Old Paint/The Cowboy" Allen McCandless
"D-2 Horse Wrangler/Garryowen" D. J. O'Malley/traditional



Ordering and Contact Information

 

Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon
2006, William F. Siems; Old  Night Hawk Press
 300 numbered copies, 638 pages bound in tan cloth
ISBN: 0977777308
Out of print

 

Bruce Kiskaddon's entire poetic output (481 poems); extensive illustrations (including 323 line drawings by Katherine Field, Amber Dunkerley, and others); biographical and historical introductions; prefaces by Hal Cannon, Waddie Mitchell, and Lynn Held; rare photographs, and more. 

 

March, 2012:  Open Range is sold out, no longer available from the publisher.

 


 

 


 

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