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This poem was inspired by the 2007 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur subject, Tim Cox' "At His Own Pace"


This is a little story told by life-long rancher, cowboy, mentor and good friend, Lee Jacobsen. Lee rode into Island Park as a kid and started cowboying on the Railroad Ranch, owned by the Harrimans (Union Pacific Railroad) and the Guggenheims (Anaconda Copper, Art Museums etc.) this is a true story about the S.R. Guggenheim as told by Lee that I set to rhyme. Lee always had a little twinkle in his eye when he hit the punchline ...

I'll Just Have to Pay Myself!

The Harrimans and Guggenheims used to congregate.
On their Idaho ranch
a jewel of the old Gem State.
Lee was a workin' cowboy there on the Railroad Ranch,
A simple man, good rider too
decked out in blue jean pants.

One evenin' S. R. Guggenheim had made it clearly known,
That on the morn he'd bring down a herd a ridin' out alone.
Deep furrows then plowed over Mrs. Harriman's brow,
For S. R. just barely knew to tell horseflesh from a cow.

She pulled Lee over tellin' him to take care of old S. R.
Have him ride her blondy mare
don't let him get too far.
Take care of him
not hard for Leefor as the day dawn broke,
S. R. still had not appeared for he still had not awoke.

Lee rode out early on and gathered up a bunch,
Settled 'em down nicely, and then returned for lunch.
S. R. by then was up and ready
to ride on out somewhere,
They rode out both together
S. R. on the blondy mare.

Lee pointed to a place where cattle just might be,
And told S. R. to take a look, he'd wait there by a tree.
S. R. took off all alone astride that gentle mare,
And found to his delight Lee's bunch just a waitin' there.

He hazed 'em down to the pole corral with a little help from Lee,
And got 'em in at their own pace
as easy as could be.
S. R. was proud as any peacock on this earth had ever been,
And quite oblivious to the fact that pride's an awful sin.

Lee came ridin' over just to check on S. R.'s fun,
Do you think they'll pay me for the work that I have done?
Lee said that Guggenheim didn't need much more wealth,
To which S. R. replied
Then I'll just have to pay myself!

© 2007, Paul Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Paul notes: More info is available on the ranch, now a state park at:

Here is a nice shot of Lee. Even from an angle, you can see the grin on his face.


[Lee Jacobsen died December 31, 2010. Find words from Paul and his poem, "So Long—So Long Lee," here.]

Paul also shared this picture of S. R. Guggenheim from the National Archives. He writes, "He is the subject of my poem and one-time partner in the Railroad Ranch."



Paul Kern shared the following in our Picture the West feature:


March 19, 2007


About the photo:

Rancher and poet Paul Kern shared this 1924 photo of his grandfather, Alfred Kern. Paul writes:

This vintage photo is of my grandfather, Alfred Kern, with his mule team and rural mail route carriage near Mink Creek, Idaho in Franklin County, Idaho. He is the one to the right  Note the sheep camp in the background. Grandpa used to go through a team of mules every three years.

Among other occupations common at the time my grandfather worked as a rural mail carrier to the ranches and farms between Preston, Idaho and Mink Creek. He had two teams, one based in Preston that took him the sixteen miles to Riverdale, where he switched teams to continue on to Mink Creek, up higher in the mountains and about another sixteen miles further on.  On the return trip, he would trade teams again at Riverdale and return home.  Each team went 32 miles each day.  At that rate the animals lasted only three years.

It's hard to appreciate the work of these beasts of burden from our perspective today—but they gave it all they had during their short lives of servitude. Through my entire life I have seen horses and mules give everything they have until they drop— literally.  And what do they get from it?  Some good treatment along the way - maybe - but not always.  They don't even get much recognition or remembrance once they're gone.  

Here in Utah we are surrounded by pioneer museums that tend to present the human side of things—but leave out the role that the beasts of burden played in the opening of the west.  One day, walking out of one of the largest ones in Salt Lake, the following poem just
struck me.  Though the names of the mules in our family picture are long forgotten - they themselves are not - and live on in the lore of my family. At least we have the photograph along with inherited appreciation and memories.

Nary a Track

The horses are gone and so are the oxen,
The mules are too—all long forgotten,
Within the walls of the pioneer museum,
There's nary a track or even a trace of 'em.

But there are dishes and hats and spectacles,
Goods hauled west in horse-drawn vehicles.
They even have lots of photos of those,
Who stared unsmiling in a photographic pose.

The musty smell of days since passed,
Lingers on saddles and an old boot last.
A single and a double-tree,
Cracked harness and a chair for three.

There's a prairie schooner by the wall,
And a surrey and sleigh just down the hall,
Covered with pictures of those now dead,
They didn't all walk—it has been said.

Most of those things as a general rule,
Were pulled out here by horse or mule.
It's odd how humans so quickly forget,
And take for granted the things they get.

What they have and what they've got,
Came through creatures of a lesser lot,
You'd think a horse photo or maybe two,
On the walls of the halls would be just due.

But the horses are gone and so are the oxen,
The mules are too—all long forgotten,
Within the walls of the pioneer museum,
There's nary a track or even a trace of 'em.

© 2007, Paul Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Here is a photo of Alfred Kern in 1917:

My grandfather served as a US Army conscript in France together with millions of American mustangs.  Note the riding pants, boots and gaiters. 


In another example of the connectedness of cowboy culture, Paul Kern shared the poem below, Under a Montana Moon

The story behind that has a number of nice connections:  When Montana ranchers TJ and Nate Wald learned that the painting "Heading Home" by Joelle Smith (1957-2005) was selected as our 2006 Cowboy Poetry Week poster art and the cover art for The BAR-D Roundup, TJ wrote to us and told us that she and her husband were the models for the painting (read her touching words about the painting and Joelle Smith here). 

Paul Kern immediately recognized the Walds in the painting. He wrote, "Under a Montana Moon [is] all about the Victorian Ball hosted in Virginia City, Montana, about 90 miles from my place in Idaho - T.J. Wald is the proctor, Nate is her sidekick.  T.J. is a very talented dancer and dance instructor.  Their event has become one of the highlights of the year for our family (three generations attend).  My poem even mentions T.J. about half way down..." 



Under a Montana Moon


Late in the summer just before fall in Montana's Virginia City,

They put on a dance and call it a ball and the ladies sure dress up pretty.


It's hard to believe the garb they wear as town folk gather and gawk,

Manifestin' their Victorian flair as they promenade down the boardwalk.


Back at the dance hall there on the hill they make a right joyful noise,

The Grand March plays on until it plays out with much bravado and poise.


Soldiers decked out in Union blues commingle Confederate grays.

Boots keep time with fine buckled shoes as the fiddler stands up and plays.


With T.J Wald a callin' the moves to a shimmerin' sea of hoop skirts,

Scoundrels and scallywags pick up their hooves and dance until it hurts.


The crowd glides through the Tom Sargent Waltz then fires up a Virginia Reel.

The tempo is fast 'til the fiddler halts and all present have kicked up a heel.


Circles are formed for a comely dance as the Spanish Waltz they play,

Demurrin' debutants wait for their chance as couples swing as they sway.


The waltz is a polka played out slow - how they're related has got me treed,

But this here polka is quite a show as hoop dresses swirl at high speed.


Four couples comprise the French Quadrille and deftly show off their grace,

Across the hollow from Old Boot Hill, the quick are a smilin' face to face.


The dance preferred by all of the men - the Schottische - they stomp on the floor,

With a hop of the boot and a skip and again – hey, can the fiddlers play more?


A dance comes down that's relished by all - it must be the real McCoy,

The crown of the ball - a jewel of a jig – they call it the Soldiers Joy.


It's the Grand Ball of 1864 at full roar under a Montana moon.

Who could dare to request more as the fiddlers from Dillon strike up a tune?

© 2004, Paul Kern 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Photos by Paul Kern:

 TJ, Nate and their son


The boardwalk promenade with TJ and Nate crossing the street

The ball


My parents - Reese and Rae Kern

Erika my daughter and Kathie my wife

The Kerns - Paul, Kathie, Erika, Peter


The Fiddlers from Dillon


Read Paul Kern's reports on the 2006 events, The Grand Ball of 1864 and The Grand Ball of Peace.



Seldom Seen in Town

There drums a rainy torrent now,

As my roof echoes the sound,

Of water falling fast to earth—

On prairies parched and thirsty ground.


I thank thee Lord for blessings,

Poured out on me like rain,

It seems for most I have to wait—

To know the loss before the gain.


I thank thee Lord for grassland,

For the cattle that survived,

I thank thee Lord for horses—

And the talent they have inside.


I thank thee for their willingness

To work for feed for wages,

For the good they've done for man—

Today down through the ages.


I thank thee for the gift of growth,

It's something man can't give,

For increase in both crop and herd—

Thou—Giver of life to live.


I can plant, harvest and graze,

And stack and store and sell,

But I can't give the growth—

That springs from thy eternal well.


I thank thee Lord for family,

For those long past before,

That loved this land as I do now—

Could they have loved it more?


I stop and pause and wonder,

As the rain is slowing down,

At blessings from thy gentle hand,

That are seldom seen in town.

© 2007, Paul Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Paul told us: The poem's inspiration came in 2007 at my small ranch in Island Park, Idaho, I had lost calves due to late season snow storms and then a drought ensued for a good part of the growing season. That fall I was lucky enough to break even when I sold off to the feed yard. I remember coming back to the cabin during a long awaited rain storm feeling like I had been somehow rescued. Sitting down in the rocking chair by the fireplace, I wrote "Seldom Seen in Town," which is an expression of my thanks for tender mercies during a tough season.

Listen to a recitation of the poem here. Find the poem also here at Paul's web site.


This poem is included in our Thanksgiving poems.


Paul Kern shared the following, here, in our Picture the West feature.

July 28, 2008

Utah poet and rancher Paul Kern shared photos, a poem, and more about the late Utah rancher Joe Mascaro. 

Joe Mascaro

Paul told us:

A while ago, a fellow named Clayton Mascaro wrote and asked me to write a poem for his deceased father, Joe. The Mascaro family was a very prominent ranching and rodeo stock family in the Salt Lake valley for many years. Clayton's uncle Jim, who recently passed away as well, ran the rodeo stock, to include bucking horses. I remember one afternoon, I was out in Herriman looking to buy horses and stopped in at the Mascaros'. I noticed a corral full of well tended healthy and very athletic horses that quite simply caught my eye. I just had to stop out of curiosity and spent the next twenty minutes or so with Jim Mascaro just talking about his horses, their bucking talent and rodeo. A nicer more affable cowboy you could never meet. I was honored when Clayton responded to my poetry and asked me to write something for his Dad. This is what he wrote:

My name is Clayton Mascaro. I have been reading your poems and thought they were very good. My father passed away in January of this year. He was born in 1933 in and grew up in Rose Canyon, in Herriman, Utah. This was a family ranch that raised cattle, goats, and rodeo stock. He owned his own trucking business for 42 yrs. He ran a large herd of sheep. He farmed and loved his family. He was my employer, friend, confidant, and father for 55 years. We rode horses together, ran the trucks together, repaired them together. Chased horses, sheep, etc. together. His passing has left a great void in my life. He is greatly missed.

Would it be possible to write a poem about Joe Mascaro for me to be displayed at his grave site every year in lieu of flowers? How much would the cost be to do such a thing? There is no intention of publishing it for any reason. I just think that he would appreciate such a jester as this, being so personal, just for him, one of a kind.

Thank you for your consideration.
Clayton Mascaro

Joe Mascaro

This is the resulting poem in honor of Joe Mascaro:

Of Kith and Kin
In MemoriamJoe Mascaro

I know that you're not down there,
In the willows of the Yellow Fork,
In the shallows of the Canyon of the Rose—
Where quakies stand and trails there bend and twist,
As they snake up to the air.

The long years flew on by somewhere,
In the squinting of a sunburned eye,
In hearts of kin who knew both horse and tack,
Where we ranched and rode and rattlers hissed,
And our mounts kicked up the air.

I know you know that it's still here,
Your kith and kin and your old ways,
You passed them on before you passed away—
Where we roped and rode and rodeoed,
And the sand blew in our hair.

The years went drifting by somewhere,
In the sifting dust of my mind's eye,
In souls of kith and kin who can't forget,
Where cowboys go beyond the great divide,
As they ride off in thin air.

It seems at times that you're still up there,
In the cedars of the grease-rock rim,
In the sagebrush of the Canyon of the Rose—
Where it's slick and steep I feel you by my side,
And it trails me out somewhere.

© 2008, Paul R. Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Clayton responded:

Thank you very much for the poem. I really do like it and appreciate it very much. It fits him perfectly. If there is anything that I can do for you don't hesitate to call on me. Again, thank you.

(There was no charge.)

Joe Mascaro at work

Mascaro Ranch

The following was posted in Picture the West in April, 2011:

April 18, 2011

When we saw the cover photographs on the new CD from the Cowboy Poets of Utah (, Symposium 2011, we asked the producer of the CD, rancher and poet Paul Kern, if he would like to share the images for Picture the West.

Paul provided the cover photo and additional photos, all of which were taken by Kathie Kern. The liner notes describe the setting, "...the Quarter Circle K during an early morning roundup in the fall with mist rising on Henry's Fork of the Snake River."

Jinglin' in the Horses


Saddling Up

Ridin' Out

Startin' the Gather

Steam Rising on Henry's Fork

The Herd

Paul comments, "One of my favorite shots is the one labeled 'Ridin' Out' where we were all together. Kathie caught the spirit of the day in such magnificent imagery. This set of stunning photos has come to mean for me that light follows darkness and that life is very good. The river, the mist and the morning sky were the inspiration for my poem, 'A Pinto a Paint and a Palomino.'"

A Pinto a Paint and a Palomino

The morning hues of red, orange and white,
All run together trailing the night,
It’s an overo daybreak as the minutes fly,
Then tobiano patterns lighten up the sky.

A pinto and a paint gallop over the hills,
East of the Snake just where she spills,
Thundering foam over a precipice,
Where seagulls dive and the rattlers hiss.

As the river courses on to the sea,
Like clockwork it flows away from me,
Rushing away as the sun climbs high,
The river reflects a big mountain sky.

The horses of color trot off on their way
As a palomino sun bursts in for the day,
Rearing up high right about noon,
As fast as it came it’ll be gone soon.

The palomino charges away on its course,
Its gallop is swift for an old aging horse,
To the horizon through the dust of the day,
It’ll return tomorrow a while for to stay.

There as the sun sinks into the west,
The sunset glows in her colorful best,
Vespers blaze bright in that old by and by,
The pinto and paint color back up the sky.

The evening hues of red, orange and white,
All flow together to awe and delight,
It’s a tobiano sunset as eight seconds fly,
Then overo patterns darken up the sky.

At dawn and dusk with horses so bold,
To the palomino as the day grows old,
As the day came, let the day go,
With a pinto, a paint and a palomino.

© 2011, Paul Kern 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The poem is on Paul's recent CD, Morning after Rain.



This is Page 3 of Paul Kern's poetry

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