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

Cartersville, Georgia
About Pat Stephenson




Just Another Day, I

he saddled the old paint and then he heaved a sigh
up for this trip...he aint, then he looked at the sky
and licked dusty lips, "sorry boy, my reg’ler ride
has got a hitch in his hips and sores on his hide"

"we got to check the fence as two old cows is gone
though it don’t make sense for us to break a leg bone"
They could break a leg if they fell in the canyon
"please don't make me beg my sweet piebald companion"

"so now let out yer breath and I’ll tighten this girt
I wont ride you to death...I swear that it wont hurt
a cowboy has gotta do what a cowboy duz
and so I need fer you to help me out here... cuz"

"so pick up tham thar ears and unclamp that thar tail
we’ve had this job fer years, ever’day is pure hell
don’t make it any wuss than it already tis
and please don’t make me cuss 'afore the sun has riz"

the old paint hunker'd down, and snorted out his nose
this cowboy was just a clown in his slept-in clothes
"..its shore 'nuff gonna be a fight 'twixt me and you"
he snugged that girt up tight, and then spat out his chew

he screwed down his hat and jumped into the saddle
old paint jumped like a cat and made his teeth rattle
the cowboy could ride, waren’t near about to quit
he put his spurs to the side, and yelled..."LEZ DO IT!"

the paint had some spunk, baring long teeth in a grin
but he soon got drunk, he couldn’t buck in a spin then it was done and they both needed to rest
they trot away as the sun comes over the crest

© 2008, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day II

Old paint settled on a gait, that was easy on the spine
He’d come to terms with his fate, ambling along the fence line
The man and the spotted horse, facing into the east wind
Both were as hardened and coarse as this land that had no end

Rhythm of hoofbeats on cracked soil, mixed with creak of leather
Cries of saddle needing oil, sighs of earth for wet weather
A strange music without words, they doggedly plod along
Not even chirps from the birds, lend joy to this prairie song

Grass was sparse on the dry ground, the cattle had stript it bare
Cacti was all that could be found, ‘cause rain had been so rare
Drought had chased off the deer, leaving sidewinders and lizards
Snakes the only life here, that survive these dusty blizzards

Thoughts of selling the cattle, to a ranch farther upstate
He might just lose this battle, for the rain might come too late
At last they reached the wash, that was dried to just a trickle
The water in that rocky gash, not worth a plugged nickel

He gave the old paint his head, and letting the reins go slack
Trusting him barely a shred, to follow the narrow track
The deep crevice across this land, was carved by a spring flood
Like a lifeline in a giant hand, now only filled with mud

They found the cows among the rocks, switching flies in the sun
Standing in mud to their hocks, waiting for reasons to run
Reason was that spotted hoss, coming at them in a lope
A whoop from the hoss’s boss, sent them scrambling up the slope

As they trotted along the fence, low clouds were blowing in
Thunder off in the distance, sounded like a long lost friend
They knew their way to the ranch, and headed across the plain
And then by the oddest chance, the sky had begun to rain

© 2008, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day III

The ranch was coming in sight, with dry shelter from the rain.
Those old cows were still in flight, tearing hard across the plain.
Warm rain was coming down sidewise, tiny eye-stinging drops,
no use for any hopes to rise, too late to save the crops.

Funny how critters will hurry, to get out of the rain,
everything gets in a flurry, as if it caused pain.
Reaching the barn together, steaming hides plumb soaking wet,
thankful that the weather, had washed off their dust and sweat.

“Well Ol’ Paint, a job well done!” as he took off the wet gear,
“Didja enjoy thet little run, I tolja, hev no fear,
hev some oats my ornery fren”, brushing the spotted hide.
“Ol’ boy we must do this again, I did enjoy our ride.”

Mutual respect was born, sarcasm lost in humor,
The trouble of the morn, was now just considered rumor.
The pinto nudged his hand, with odd gentleness in his eyes,
an action so unplanned by the pied devil in disguise.

“That shore is a welcome sign,” with his whiskered face smiling.
The old horse was now benign, with manner so beguiling.
“We both know yore not a saint, but I’m gonna find a name,
Somethin’ besides Ol’ Paint, maybe somethin that is more tame.”

After the stock was all fed, the pied pony in the stall,
the cowboy closed the shed, life wasn’t so bad after all,
One thankful for the gentle rain, blessedly coming down,
one thankful for a cup of grain, life might just turnaround.

Life here on the range is rough, not made for the meek at heart.
A cowboy has to be tough, hard times can tear him apart.
He lit the oil lamp at sunset and closed his eyes to pray,
“Lord don’t let me soon forget that I was blest on this day”

© 2008, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Just Another Day IV

Night passes all too quickly, away out here on the plain.
He was feeling sorta sickly, head filled with throbbing pain.
Pulling on his muddy boots, afore his butt quit the bed,
sore plumb down to his roots, downright dizzy in the head.

Coffee stale from yesterday, with a biscuit hard and dry,
"there must be a better way, this hardtack is a bit wry"
When his pa passed away, with him being the only son,
he felt that he had to stay, tho the ranch life wasn’t fun.

Ma died almost two years ago, from some sort of bad flu,
her folks may not even know, with no reply coming through.
Sitting there is pa’s old chair, ma’s black kettle on the stove,
he'd found a way not to care, allowing his mind to rove.

"I aim to name that old hoss, as everthang needs a name,
he don't like havin a boss, and I kinda feel the same"
To himself he was talking, words echoing in the room,
except for ghosts walking, the house was empty as a tomb,

Brushing crumbs from the table, he rose and set down his cup,
If that paint hoss is able, guess I need to saddle up.
Might make a trip to town, I kinda miss a human voice,
been months since I been around, didn’t have no other choice.

The screen door slammed behind him, he slogged through the stinking mud
The sun peeked over the rim, the new day was starting good
Old paint was peaceable, nothing like just a day ago,
former act unthinkable, but he still had far to go.

"Mornin’ my frien’ how are you, we aint proper innerduced,
My Christian name is Andrew, I’m so happy that we’ve truced.
I think I’ll call you Dandy, welcome to a bran’ new life,
we’re goin’ to buy some candy, ‘cause I need bait fer a wife.

© 2008, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day V

Andrew's Wife

Her name was Julianne, hardly a pretty girl,
a figure that wasn’t grand, manners like a squirrel.
She’d never had a suitor, old maid at twenty-one,
might just as well shoot her, her life was all but done.

The proposal came by mail, envelope in tatters,
gritty from the trail, brown with mud stained spatters.
A poorly written note, sent more than two months back,
setting spirits afloat, thoughts on another track.

The note began “Dear Julie” its only words endearing,
It ended with “yours truly” leaving her eyes tearing.
Andrew was her cousin, but not that close in kin,
the years had been a dozen, they were kids back then.

He wanted her to marry, said he has need of a wife.
She wouldn’t have to carry much stuff to her new life.
The house was full supplied, with all his parents’ things,
as they both had died, he even had their rings.

The note was signed “Andy” with a blurred childish script,
he also sent some candy, but the wrapping was ripped.
Her answer was easy, she’d do best to get away,
but she felt a bit queasy, what would her folks say.

She'd tell them at supper, she was a woman grown,
they could hardly whup her, time to get out on her own.
Her mama started crying, her pa just fell quiet,
“It aint like she’s dying, we should let her try it.”

Julie packed her clothes, and put them in a satchel.
In the morning she rose, as if all was natural.
She took the noonday stage, left in a cloud of dust,
skimming across the sage, leaving that town to rust.

© 2009, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day VI

Julianne’s Journey

Horseback is smoother than coaches, the rhythm of terrain
has unexpected lurches, with the roads rutted by rain.
After that first rapid leaving, the pace became slower,
length of time so deceiving, emotions sinking lower.

She was leaving her place of birth, heading toward the west,
traveling across the earth’s girth, her departure not blessed.
The tether to her childhood, like a giant elastic band,
snapped with a resounding thud, and echoed across the land.

What sort of man awaits her, to what future and what fate.
The doubt inside berates her, as misgivings come too late.
A small bible in her pocket, helped to assuage her fears,
with one hand upon her locket, the other wiped her tears.

They stopped at each waystation, with few meager bites to eat,
foregoing her small ration, appetite matching clay feet.
The land all looked the same, the only changes were the teams,
fresh horses that weren’t lame, to take her toward her dreams.

Big rivers were often ferried, smaller ones just forded.
The pace was much less hurried, some of the nights were boarded.
When the smoother roads allowed, she found some peace by sleeping,
her heart was now avowed, she was at last past the weeping.

With the stagecoach atilt, awaking to a colder air,
tugging at the lap quilt, eyes blinking in bewildered stare.
A sight so beautiful and strange, within her plain’s born eyes,
The mighty Rocky Mountain range, snow-capped against the skies.

They lurched through a snowy pass, with the horses blowing steam,
where fir and aspen amass, along sparkling icy streams.
Stopping in a little town, kept alive by the goldmine,
the stage driver came around, “ma’am, this is end of the line.”

© 2009, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day VII

She had never felt scared, until stepping down off that stage.
Her squirrelly strength soon flared, with a fiery inner rage.
The journey had been hard, the worst possibly yet to be,
"Folks wont see me as a retard, not one single soul knows me."

She set about to find a room, tomorrow she’d buy a horse;
a room with bed above the saloon, was her only recourse.
The rabble went on half the night, sleeping was off and on,
drunken miners high on fight, silenced only by the dawn.

Breakfast was served in a lean-to, by a girl with almond eyes,
who saw that she was seen to, with eggs and chicken stir-fries.
She traded her locket for a horse, and bought some men’s pants;
they helped her plot a course, thinking she had little chance.

"Follow the creek down the valley, then south at the small river"
Not knowing she was an O’Malley, true grit in her liver.
When she had ridden away, they said, "she must be crazed,
She'll never find her way, 'cause her eyes seemed sort of glazed."

Julie had a way with horses, but hadn’t ridden a lot,
she had no remorses, with this little bay mare she’d got.
She hardly had to steer her, almost like she knew the way,
hope began to cheer her, wondering what Andy would say.

Riding for most of the day, she came to that flooded creek,
practicing along the way, the words that she would speak.
The fence led her there, seeing his smoke for the last five mile,
she clucked to her bay mare, and her face broke into a smile.

She saw him by the fence, mending a broken-down gate,
now with a anxious sense, she saw the man who was her fate,
dirty, but handsome truly, reflecting a rancher's life.
She said, "My name is Julie, I’ve come to be your wife."

© 2009, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Just Another Day VIII

Andrew took off his hat, wiping sweat that beaded his brow,
then he said, “pardon me, what wuz that you said jes’ now?
Julie swung down off her horse, Andrew squinted at her face,
He took a step back of course, defending his personal space.

“I’m your cousin Julie,” as she offered him her hand.
These words finally got through, “Lordy, I thought you’uz a man”
Her laughter broke the ice, “I guess it’s the way I’m dressed,”
while I may not look too nice, do I at least pass the test?

He spat out his terbacky; gave her a quizzical look,
“I hope this don’t sound tacky, do you know how ta cook?”
They walked to the barn together, to take care of her mare,
truly birds of a feather, with years of stories to share.

“The history of the old men, how does th’ story go,
jest how is it we are kin, that is, if you even know?”
She told it the best she knew, their grandpas had been brothers.
Cousins, yes, it was true, they did resemble each other.

Julie plundered in the kitchen, placing canned goods in rows.
“Some of these’ll need a stitchin,” as she dressed in his ma’s clothes.
Folks might think it distasteful, shameful and common at best.
To toss them would be wasteful, way out here in the west.

No church to carry gossips, she had no neighbors to know,
not worried about loose lips, she had her own rows to hoe.
The nearest town was forty mile, hard to make in a day,
seclusion that made her smile, no one would get in her way.

The house no longer echoed, with the footfalls of old ghosts,
words between them flowed, they talked until dawn almost.
They spoke of days to come, excited about their new life.
Julie had found a new home, Andrew had found himself a wife.

© 2009, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day IX

Daylight soon came creeping, the start of another day.
Julianne was still sleeping, snoring loudly as she lay.
Andrew noting her features, she sure looks a lot like me.
Both were homely creatures, mutual flaws they failed to see.

Neither was blessed with beauty, they were flip sides of the coin,
with faces dark and ruddy, a bit of devil in their groin.
Centuries past ancient trials, when famine came to Aberdeen,
the O’Malley clan left their isle, when hunger made them mean,

Freckled skin and piggish eyes, pointy heads with flaming hair,
dark leprechauns in disguise, with the Irish blood they share.
Their eyes burned with Gaelic fire, too bright and intensely blue,
with power to spot a liar, what you speak had best be true.

Julianne’s voice was sharp, with tones that’d make ears tingle,
not suited for flute nor harp, no wonder she was single.
Andrew was serenely cool, from years of living alone,
best not judge him for a fool, he was bad down to the bone.

His temper was slow to flare, he stewed in silent wrath,
folks froze in his stony stare, no one dared to cross his path.
King and queen of this wide valley, strangers best stay away,
Andrew and Julie O’Malley— fireworks would rule the day!

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


Just Another Day X

The ranch house sat on a rise, with its porch facing the west;
a place for viewing the skies, when sunsets are at their best.
Julie managed to do her chores, she'd rather be mending fence.
She claimed woman’s work just bores, with words that didn’t mince.

He was glad to have her help, she could work just like a man,
When she got hurt she didn’t yelp, giving up not her plan.
She grew strong and wiry, Andrew’s match in every way,
with a passion that was fiery, when rolling in the hay.

Summer soon turned to fall, and changes were coming soon.
Their worries had all been small, nothing much out of tune.
Julie started looking paler, breakfast wouldn’t stay down,
She cussed just like a sailor, calling Andrew a bloody clown.

Not knowing female trouble, he didn’t know what to do;
her belly had became a bubble, “Julie what’s wrong with you?”
Tears brimming from her eyes, with a look that was half-wild,
she haltingly surmised, she was pregnant with a child.

Near stunned with confusion, how did she manage that,
he was under the illusion that she was just getting fat.
They'd never spoken of love, romance never entered their heads,
but now push had come to shove, it was time to go get wed.

"Guess we need to ride to town, we can find a preacher there."
circuit riders seldom came 'round, missionaries were rare.
Julie dried her eyes and sighed, relief flooding her heart,
"I’ve grown too big to ride, can you hitch my mare to the cart?"

She pinned up her auburn hair, put on his mama’s dress,
he hitched the gentle bay mare, hugged Julie to ease her stress.
He said, "Don't look so sad and grim, as she was strangely quiet.
She climbed on the seat beside him. "Everything will be all right."

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


Just Another Day XI

It was late afternoon, when their wagon rolled into town.
Julie was trying not to swoon, while her mood sunk lower down.
They stopped at the gen’ral store, Andrew went in to inquire,
as he clomped across the floor, his face was red as fire.

“I need a marriage license, and where can I find a church?”
The silence was so intense, his guts gave a twisted lurch.
Heads were turning around, while his question hung in the air.
“Go to the north side of town, you can find the pastor there.”

Meanwhile out in the wagon, Julie huddled there in a daze.
Her self-esteem was draggin’, as she shunned the townfolk’s gaze.
They found the little manor, and the man called Preacher John,
He was sitting down to dinner, he would be with them “anon.”

They waited by the alter, and spoke in whispery tones—
heartbeats tending to falter, anxiety in their bones.
Preacher John brought the paper, writing down their last name,
“Y’all must be pulling a caper!” when both were the same.

In the laws of God, I can’t marry brother and sister!
Andrew said, “it may seem odd, it’s not quite like that pastor,
it’s sort of a long story, and it goes way back in years,”
by this time poor Julie, collapsed in a flood of tears.

When she was able to stand, hit hard with all these things.
Andrew took out his mama’s band-- when asked if they had rings.
As he slipped it on Julie’s hand, she shivered as if cold,
it was thin, but still round and true, purer than Klondike gold.

“Julianne and Andrew, I pronounce you man and wife,
may God’s blessings shine on you, as you enter married life”
Mr. and Mrs. O’Malley, they were finished with this town,
heading back to their valley, as that evening sun went down.

© 2012, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XII

The little bay mare suddenly stopped, frozen in her tracks.
Up ahead a wild band cropped, late sun golden on their backs.
A stallion stood in silhouette, framed in the evening light,
back-lit by the sunset; they were spellbound by the sight.

The stallion then snorted a warning with his head high in the air,
sending them quickly scrambling, every foal and mare.
After stirring them to run, he led them in their flight—
dust rising in the sinking sun, they thundered toward the night.

The newly wedded husband took the hand of his pregnant wife—
first signs of love between them, in this chapter of their life.
“if we’uns have a boy, kin we name ‘im after muh paw?”
first stirrings of pride and joy, with the sight he just saw.

“A sire pertects whut’s his’n, an’ watches out fer his little herd.”
Julie smiled, her spirits risen, they rode without another word.
Their progress became much slower, as fading light would allow,
emotions not felt before, thoughts of home were different now.

A home built by his father’s hands, every stick and stone,
scraping a life from these harsh lands, hard to believe he’s gone.
“Ma would have been so proud, to have a little grandchild.”
He had spoken these words aloud, in a voice suddenly mild.

This man as tough as whit-leather, surprised to be gone soft,
coulda knocked him down with a feather, he cleared his throat and coughed.
“A cowboy has to do what it is a cowboy duz,
so I need fer you to help me out here “cuz.”

Speaking these words to Julie, the same as he'd spoke to his horse,
on that day the paint was unruly, before he changed his course.
This had been an eventful day for the O’Malley clan,
Julie in the family way—Andrew becoming a man.

© 2012, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XIII

Morning came bright and clear, but they were late arising.
Andrew greeted her with cheer, which she found a bit surprising.
“Good morning Miz O’Malley” he said, fetching her robe and shoes.
She moaned, I think I’ll stay in bed, I feel I’ve got the blues.

He started for the barn lot, intending to feed the stock.
His tracks led to the burial plot, where stood a crude rock.
“Ma and Pa” was the only thing scratched deep upon its face,
a fact that made his eyes sting there in that lonely place.

“Ma, if you can hear me, I miss you every day.
Pa, you’re always near me, is all that I can say.
I may never be half the man, that you were in your prime,
now I think I understand an’ I wish we’d had more time.

I have a lot to learn an’ I wish I’d listened better,
Ma, it makes my heart burn that you never met her,
‘cause now I have a wife, we’re gonna have a little child,
I’m still just a kid myself, I know it’s gonna be a trial.”

"I hope you both are listenin’ help me if you can.”
Tears on his face were glistenin’ “I want to be a stronger man.”
Andrew saddled Ol’ Dan and rode off along the fence line.
“It might not have been my plan, but all of this is mine.”

He rode his land north to south, to the east and back to west.
He found a spring to quench his mouth, then started home to rest.
A peaceful mood came over him, he whistled along the way-
glad he rode off on a whim even if it took all day.

Taking off his chaps and boots, he knocked dust off his brim,
tired down to his roots, when Julie’s voice drifted out to him.
“Where have you been all day, there are chores to be done.”
As he stepped into the doorway, “Andrew, meet your son.”

© 2012, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XIV

A red-faced, red-haired baby, a swaddled creature so small,
could be half coyote maybe, judging its high-pitched squall.
Julie gazed upon him with pride, in the way all mothers will,
feeling a burst of love inside, his every gurgle a thrill.

Allowing Andrew to hold him, wrapped in a pillow case
edged with a crocheted trim, pulled over his little red face.
“We hev to get this boy some clothes, I know where some are at,
I think he has my daddy’s nose, what do ye think ‘bout that!”

“My old stuff is in the loft, Ma never throwed nothin’ away,
they may be old but still soft, I’ll go get ‘em down today.”
They felt they were truly blest, as they watched the child with awe,
its wee mouth against her breast, as it filled its little craw.

Andrew strolled out to the shed, as October’s sun went down,
the world aglow in gold and red, soon winter would come around.
His small herd had fattened up some way, on late season grass,
but he’d have to buy extra hay, when short days came to pass.

Spring calves were ready for sale, maybe he could make a trade.
A good calf was worth a few bale, most of them were top-grade.
So many things have changed he thought, he had a family now,
time to expand the garden plot and break old Dan to the plow.

Now there’s a job to dread, an old horse is like an old hound,
to change what’s in their head, no solution can be found.
Egg-sucking hounds, will likely suck eggs until they die,
that spotted bronc plowing ground—when pigs learn how to fly.

That could wait on toward the spring, by then he’d have a ploy,
right now, above ever’thing, choosing a name for that little boy.
He wiped his boots, hung his coat, as the sun sunk in the west.
Of all his days this one would float, far above all the rest.

© 2012, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XV

They named the boy Augustus, but Red became his nickname,
‘cause when he’d fret and fuss, his face and hair were the same.
Winter came on strong, with freezing rain and knee-deep snow,
those cold nights were long, they fed the fire, snuggled in its glow.

Julie busied herself, weaving yarn, in the bleak light of day.
Andrew made daily trips to the barn, rationing out the hay.
His hands were tough as leather, but his face was chapped and raw,
weary of sub-zero weather, they prayed for an early thaw.

They would remember this as the worst winter they’d ever seen,
With ears froze off from Jack Frost’s kiss, the cattle became lean.
Andrew trapped a jackrabbit that Julie turned into stew—
so tough that he swore, “Dag nabbit! did ye boil a shoe?”

It came gently in the night, a welcome warming breath,
snow was melting by first light, as they witnessed winters death.
Hanging there for weeks, fingers of ice fell from the eaves,
and the old rafters creaked as their burden was relieved.

Though he hated slushy mud, dirt was a sight for sore eyes,
weak sunlight warming his blood, he harnessed up to fetch supplies.
His list included coffee, sugar, flour, and pinto beans,
he added “toffee” before folding the list into his jeans.

At last he was ready to go, worried that the sky was gray,
this trip would be slow, taking the better part of the day.
He took a heavy coat, hoped it wouldn’t snow anymore,
a lump caught in his throat as Julie and Red waved from the door.

He kept glancing behind, until the ranch house was out of sight,
It preyed upon his mind, he wouldn’t return ‘til near midnight.
No doubt he would make it fine, with that trusty little mare,
a lamp was lit as a sign, they’d be waiting for him there.

© 2012, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Just Another Day XVI

Spring came early, calves came late, and some didn’t calve at all.
Andrew blamed last year's drought, spanning spring throughout fall.
Expanding their garden was the plan foremost in his mind,
if he could make a deal with old Dan, to pull Pa’s plow behind.

He drove him without the plow at first, the horse clearly confused.
When Andrew thought he’d seen the worst, Dan started to feel abused.
Running sideways, snorting foam, kicking at the single-tree,
rope-burned, he headed home, thinking “That aint the job for me.”

Old Dan beat him to the shed, standing there, shaking in his stall.
Andrew removed the gear from his head, and hung it on the wall.
“We’ll take this up some other day, ye ornery spotted fool,
meantime, I will find a way to go and buy myself a mule.”

He stomped off in a huff, heading up to the ranch house.
Knowing he’d had enough, mumbling “Am I a man or a mouse”
He jerked open the screen door, so hard he broke the spring.
Embarrassed even more, Julie and the boy saw the whole thing.

She was too afraid to laugh, until he started laughing first,
“That old horse has got some chaff, I guess I coulda faired worse.
I reckon he laid the law down, he’s too rank to go to school,
tomorrow let’s all ride into town, to fetch us up a mule.”

Those trips into Leadville, were indeed few and far between,
but necessary still to buy seed, feed and kerosene.
It was time to show little Red other folks lived in this land,
more’n two, instead, he would see for himself first-hand.

They rose and packed at dawn, preparing for their ride.
That trail didn’t seem half long, with family by his side.
Townfolks’ heads turned around, alerting others as they did.
“O’Malley is back in town, look at his red-headed kid!”

© 2012, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XVII

Saturday in town was busy, miners trading in their ores,
excitement made them dizzy, with people in and out of stores.
Red continually wet his pants from all the sights and thrills.
Andrew found a quiet place and counted his coins and bills.

Over the backs of rangy bulls, he spotted the mule pen,
where he looked over some mining culls, the sick, thick and thin.
Julie and little Red, their shopping through, found a storefront bench;
they had a street-side view, away from the mud and stench.

Julie held her head high, but Red acted shy and pouty.
The town-folk strolled by, they nodded and muttered “Howdy.”
Ladies pinched his dimpled cheek” when they could coax a smile
and they’d give his hair a tweak, “he’s such a handsome child.”

Meantime Andrew eyed a creature—a black mule, very bony;
black its best feature, “I’ll take her, if you throw in that pony”
He led them proudly down the street, pleased with his good deal.
When Red saw that shaggy treat, he let out a feral squeal.

Too young to be a cowpoke, they both would need some time;
that scrub wasn’t even broke, that’s why he was only a dime.
They spent the night in town, leaving early that bright Sunday.
Church bells were the only sound, as they went on their way.

As they neared the ranch, Dan whinnied as they were spotted.
At first sight of that black wench, he was instantly besotted,
but the heart of the long-eared lady was already absconded,
because she and that mine pony were already bonded.

Andrew was well aware that critters have hearts that feel,
love betwixt the three of them was deep and very real.
That summer as they toiled, their eyes followed her every row,
He chuckled and enjoyed it all, watching his garden grow.

© 2013, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XVIII

Since Augustus “Red” O’Malley was an only child,
he reigned over the valley, he and the pony ran wild.
Unschooled, uncombed, he seldom slowed except to eat,
or when he'd ride to town with Pop, high on the wagon seat.

He broke that pony to saddle, with Andrew’s help of course.
When rounding up stray cattle, two of them were a force.
Mimicking his dad, the valley echoed with their laughter.
Wherever they rode, that little black mule went running after.

Red attempted to ride the mule, which turned into disaster,
she might bend to Andrew’s rule, yielding to Red was past her.
She threw him off in the brush then brayed as if to mock.
He dusted off his tush and crowned her with a rock.

This swarthy skinny lad didn’t know the meaning of quit;
a mirror image of his dad and he had his mama’s grit.
This made Julie smile, while his Pop just shook his head.
Full of Irish guile, this wiry boy of theirs called ‘Red’.

The day would come soon, he’d try Pop’s old spotted hoss.
His next birthday was high noon, time to show him who was boss.
The paint would test him without fail, Andrew knew the horse’s habit,
He’d grab the bit and clamp his tail, hopping like a rabbit.

The paint went into action quick, trying to break in half,
circling the pen using every trick, bawling like a calf.
He foamed and frothed, rolled his eyes and tried to bite.
Little Red just laughed, and stayed in the saddle tight.

A horse must lose some dignity being mastered by a kid.
He planted a foot on the boy’s hat, for Red had lost his lid.
Full of vinegar salt and sap—this kid he couldn’t throw;
Red stepped down as Andrew clapped, ‘Now thet wuz quite a show!’

© 2013, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XVIX

How the years fly by, when a man works from sun to sun.
Blessings were never in short supply, they counted every one.
They had food, they had clothes, a house that kept them dry.
Times were good—heaven knows, change comes in the blink of an eye.

Red’s peach fuzz turned to stubble, he had grown up overnight,
he looked like Andrew’s double, eyes burning with the same light.
Strong and wild, slight of build, his hair down to his shoulder,
but their son’s heart was filled with something that ran colder.

When he seemed restless they let him make the ride into town;
he returned excited and breathless with a flyer he had found.
“Looking for a few cowboys for Will Cody’s Wild West Show,
who can ride broncs and bulls.” ‘Pop, you know I have to go!’

Andrew couldn’t hold him back—if ranching wasn’t his call;
watching him pack, grief came on them like a funeral pall.
They knew this day would come, it was only a matter of when.
Reality made them numb, it’d be just the two of them…again.

Does an eagle grieve her hatchling when it leaves the nest?
or eager to see it leave—winging toward its own quest.
Julie recalled feeling free when she left her homeland,
Did her parents feel like she—now it was on the other hand.

They turned to face each other as he waved and rode away,
For the first time Andrew noticed Julie’s hair tinged with gray.
Both their eyes had teared, Julie’s mirroring his own.
Their hearts felt raw and seared, their little hatchling had flown.

Months went by and then a year—a letter finally came,
it read: ‘Mom I love it here, the whole world will know my name.
I love the fights, I love the lights, we perform at every stop,
I wish that you could see the sights…say hello to Pop.’

© 2013, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Just Another Day XX

There were changes in the country, they heard talk of war,
glad their son enlisted instead to be a rodeo star.
He sent letters now and then, Julie kept them in a stack,
he never once mentioned when he might be coming back.

Andrew let the garden go, they lived on biscuits and beans,
waiting to read Red’s account of changing city scenes.
They’d sit quietly in the evening when the chores were done,
reading the letters that he wrote, treasuring every one.

Some were postmarked in Chicago during the World’s Fair.
“I guess I owe some credit to my flaming mop of hair,
excitement never lulls, I get to play the part of Custer,
as well as ropin’ bulls and being a bronc buster.”

“The only bad part is, I have to die with every show,
but the good part is, there’s purty girls wherever I go.”
The last lines of this letter brought a smile to their face,
the boy was faring better than he would have in this place.

Julie noticed Andrew had become slower in his step,
she left the house more often to see if she could help.
Normally a strong man, he was getting puny and weak;
he welcomed her helping hand, without needing to speak.

It happened in the fall, when Andrew was sorting steers,
hemmed against the barn wall, the worst of Julie’s fears.
For the first time since being born, Andrew was too slow;
a rogue caught him with a horn—bright blood began to flow.

She ran and got the hayfork, wishing she had a gun,
jabbing and screaming, she put the steer on the run.
She rocked slowly back and forth holding Andrew’s head.
Their eyes met in goodbye, and then her husband was dead.

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


Just Another Day XXI

Red stepped upon the porch, everything seemed smaller;
in truth, it hadn’t changed much, it’s just that he’d grown taller
than when he told his folks he meant to ride the rodeo.
They thought it was a joke, until they watched him go.

It had broken his mom’s heart, but Pop was full of pride.
staunchly taking his son’s part, “I know th’ boy kin ride,
so let th’ boy hev his chance, hit’s lonely way out here,
we kin handle this ranch, th’ rodeo is his career.”

And so the years had flown, passing like a breath.
His father had passed on, a steer gored him to death.
Mama had been bereft, grieving here all by herself.
She’d sold the stock and left, leaving a note on the shelf.

“My son, if you’ve found this note, it was high time to go.”
A lump came in his throat, “I miss you and Andrew so,
I’ve gone back to Kansas City, I can’t bear this anymore."
Not one for self-pity, she'd purchased a little store.

"Should you need to find me there, simply ask around,
I’ll look for you, Dear, If your rodeo comes to town.”
This was his first visit back here, since his pop had died,
the first time he’d shed a tear; Red stood there and cried.

Folding the note in his pocket, he hung the key on a nail.
Closing the door—no need to lock it, he leaned on the rail.
His eyes swept the valley, from the north side to the south.
Augustus “Red” O’Malley felt a dryness in his mouth.

He walked to the family plot, humming a childish tune.
There in that shady spot, his fingers traced letters hewn,
as if he etched them, one by one, into his lonesome soul,
‘til the sun sank down beyond this dusty forsaken bowl.

Red brushed off his jeans, made his way back to his truck.
A tree falls the way it leans, a man makes his own luck.
Somehow he was changed, as he went on his way;
destiny re-arranged—the dawning of another day.

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


Just Another Day XXII

O’Malley’s shop for women--she’d painted her own sign.
The shamrock is an omen, and business has been fine.
She lives in a room above the store, dines at a small café.
Greeting ladies at her door, "evenin’ ma’am, how are you today."

She sells crocheted doilies and dolls, scented soaps and cloths,
along with aromatic oils for getting rid of moths.
Seamstresses and tailors come in droves to buy sewing thread;
her shop smells of cloves and fresh-baked cinnamon bread.

Her cracked hands are recovered, her step blithe as spring,
laughter rediscovered, like tinkling bells, she rings.
No longer the sunburned snarl from trying to mend a gate,
she may have been an ugly girl, her beauty has bloomed late,

Her hair is completely gray, eyes still intensely blue
and to this day, she can still look a dagger through you.
At times she does go blank, twisting her small gold ring;
reality gives her a yank, as the counter bell goes ping.

Then she’ll smile at customers with exaggerated joy,
all the while thinking of Andrew and her long lost boy.
Somewhat distracted with hustle of busy days,
but rail tracks of memory tend to run both ways.

She is lost in a daydream, preparing to close the store
when in the gaslight’s gleam, she sees a poster on her door.
She holds it to the light, thinking that she may swoon,
her chest feels tight—a wild west show is coming soon.

Europe’s reviews were raves, from all reports and accounts,
of Sitting Bull and his braves on their painted mounts.
She places the poster where she can touch it with her hand
—beneath her bolster, then she dreams of Custer’s last stand.

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



Just Another Day XXIII

People were milling around her, stepping on her feet,
faces were just a blur as she finally found a seat.
There was a flurry of flags and then the show began,
fancy cowgirls and showy nags, the entrance was grand.

She couldn’t spot her son in the opening parade.
They circled the arena, then the anthem was played.
Cowboys doffed their hats and placed them on their chest.
She saw him then, his red hair glowing among the rest.

Her heart was swelling with pride, tears welling with joy,
she poked the people beside her and said ‘That’s my boy.’
Each event was without flaw, she followed his every move,
From the set of his jaw, she knew he was in his groove.

Bulls and broncs churned up the dirt, it sifted over the crowd.
Lucky that no one was hurt, the cheers and applause were loud.
The rodeo was done, then he played Custer in the finale.
This red-haired son had come far from that remote valley.

Far from the half-wild child to the showman that was now
rising from his last stand and taking a sweeping bow.
Playing his part just as he did for royalty’s whim,
Not knowing his ma was in the stands watching him.

She made her way to the arena, her knees had grown weak.
Confronting him, she found that she was unable to speak.
Who was this old lady who suddenly blocked his way?
He stopped and squinted as her face turned ashen gray.

He caught her in his arms as she sank down to her knees.
She hoarsely whispered, “Augustus, take me home please.”
A mother and child reunion after too many years,
the both of them sat and rocked, wiping each other’s tears.

© 2015, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Just Another Day XXIV

Red knew that something was wrong, her fingers had turned blue.
This woman who’d been so strong was slurring her words too.
She couldn’t stand on her feet, she’d suddenly grown weak.
Things had changed in a heartbeat, he said, “Don’t try to speak.”

The stroke would steal the best of her, recovery took a while.
Confusion made the past a blur, it twisted like her smile.
She sometimes called him ‘Andrew’, grief almost made him smother,
But there were times when she knew that she was his mother.

They had to close up her shop, all they kept was the sign.
He felt his heart drop when she wept, “I’ve lost all that was mine.”
In that moment she grew old, holding the sign to her breast,
Shaking as if cold, a lost bird fallen from the nest.

He looked into her face and said “Ma I’ve got a plan,
we still have a home place, we can go back there again.”
Seeing a flash of cognition, then her eyes opened wide,
“Can we go back to the time when I was Andrew’s bride?”

“Mama, that was another day, so many years ago,
you’ll hate what I’m bout to say, Papa died you know.”
It was like reasoning with a child, wizened with silver hair.
She cried and then she smiled, “I remember, I was there.”

There sometimes comes a day when a parent needs a hand,
a debt we can repay when a twist of fate’s unplanned.
He would be leaving behind, the show ring and the lights,
the laughter, the applause,  wild women and carefree nights.

His conscience prodded him to make this sacrifice for her,
This decision wasn’t a whim and it hurt like a cactus burr.
Red had a way of knowing, she’d be going home to die.
And soon they were going, bidding Kansas goodbye.

© 2015, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Just Another Day XXV

New roads seemed unfamiliar, progress had changed the land.
Their old ranch house was still there, far off the beaten strand.
When he saw the sagging porch depression settled in.
He’d have to jack it up but didn’t know where to begin.

Where he’d left it long ago, the key was in its place,
the door was unlocked though and stale air met his face.
His Ma thumped around poking at things with her cane.
A dead sparrow was found ‘neath a broken windowpane.

What stressed her most was finding her kitchen coated with dust,
cleaning up would cost ‘cause the well pump was seized with rust.
They’d watch the sunset’s glories, without needing to speak
because the house whispered stories with every sigh and creak.

Sometimes Ma would ramble on ‘bout that pony he once had.
She caught him up on those years that he’d missed with his dad.
When her recollection was good, they’d talk for hours it seemed,
but sometimes her memories were mixed with what she dreamed.

His hopes had certainly changed, ever growing shallow,
as fruitless as the weeds in the garden laying fallow.
He wasn’t meant to work a farm or make a ranch hand,
he lacked the charm that it took to love this piece of land.

But he had a love of horses, at least that was in his blood,
he asked his mama, “What happened to Pop’s old paint stud?”
At mention of Andrew’s horse, she answered with a smile,
“Durn his spotted hide!” and frowned for a little while.

“After your daddy died, that old horse would stand and gaze
across the valley where the wild ones come to graze.
It was hard to let him go, but he was of no use to me,
one night I just went out and set the old fool free.

© 2015, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Portrait of a Balladeer

Tumbleweeds keep drifting across Sonora sand
A golden sun still sinks beyond the Rio Grand
Lending a harmony with notes of desert sage
Blending ancient voices from the westward age

Lonesome dusty trails and cool clear water pools
The blues of bygone days, and broken-hearted fools
Times that made him glad, dark days that made him sad
Horses that were good, women that were bad

Across the grassy plains and canyons of his mind
Trace the timeworn tracks that others left behind
Where shadows of the Rockies touch the ground
Memories of old sweethearts lost and found

Sketch the lines of living on his weathered face
For the canvas of his soul has a special place
Where another way of life has its roots
He walks those same old trails in his boots

He’s a balladeer with the heart of a poet
Name a old song, you can bet he will know it
His fingers strum the melody from the strings
His voice surrounds the lyrics as he sings

Tributes to western life that his voice graces
Along those “happy trails” that he retraces
The gleam in his eye—proof he found some joy
This is my portrait of a singing cowboy

© 2008, Pat Stephenson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


© 2008, Pat Stephenson; reproduction prohibited without the artist's permission

Pat told us about how her poem—and her impressive paintingcame about, through her work at the Booth Western Art Museum:

I have become a volunteer docent leading school groups and the public on tours through the beautiful works of western inspirational for a writer or a painter.

It was there that I met the old singing cowboy Doc Stovall, who works with the local schools to round up poetry submissions for the yearly poetry celebration coming in March...No one could sit through his band's rendition of "Cool Clear Water" that he and the New Tumbleweeds do in the style of the Sons of the Pioneers, and not be touched by the harmony.

My poem and accompanying painting is in tribute for what he does, reminiscent of those heroes of yesteryear; my heroes have always been cowboys, perhaps a far cry from the heroes of today. (When I ask the school children "who are your heroes?" they are mostly blank, except for Spiderman, Ironman, or a rapper, etc.)

My art instructor from college days referred to me a "double edged blade" when he saw the painting and the accompanying poem. I presented them both as a gift to Doc Stovall.

Sadly, Doc Stovall died in March, 2012.

Doc Stovall organized two gatherings each year at the Booth Western Art Museum, as well as a successful and growing youth poetry event. Read more about Doc Stovall and his music along with tributes in our feature here, and about the Booth Western Art Museum gatherings and events in our feature here.


  About Pat Stephenson:

Born just after World War II, I grew up in north middle Tennessee in the Appalachian foothills along the Cumberland River.

Always drawn to the tales of the west and growing up with stories of Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy, I sometimes felt like I belonged to another time. I fell in love with the Maverick brothers and Sugarfoot, and felt like Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty were family. We had a set of Zane Grey books in our home so I rode with the outlaws and the ladies of the purple sage, pretending that I was on horseback even when riding a bicycle. In my life, I have owned a couple of horses and felt a kinship with them.  I participated in local quarter horse events. This is as close to the west as I have dared, other than one road trip to the southwest.

My work in life included garment factories and aircraft production and detergent production. I did manage to acquire an associate degree in art; which allowed for some creativity and work in that field. I have recently begun attempts to write poetry and consider myself a green student at this ripe age. I enjoy writing different types of poetry but prefer rhyme.

I feel that I owe any gifts or talents that I have to my mother who was an artist and a writer also. She was limited to means of publicizing her work but did win a golden poet award in 1982. I hope to continue to learn more of proper poetic form, and write meaningful stories and poetry. Even though I have not lived the events that I write about, I dream of them.



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