Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

image by Trace Frost, www.tracefrost.com
Spring, 2010 on the 4W Ranch near their brandin' pen

Academy of Western Artists' (AWA)
Top Female Poet

About Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
Some Poems
Rodeo Roots; rodeo history
Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns' web site: 

About Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

Ranch-reared in northeastern Wyoming, Rhonda has spent most of her life in the ranching industry.  She has been riding since she was 2-years-old and began rodeoing at age 8.  She has been actively involved with breeding, training and exhibiting both Quarter Horses and Appaloosas on a national scale.  A trainer, horsemanship instructor and judge, Rhonda is a longtime member of the Girls Rodeo Assocation (GRA, now WPRA) and is a Gold Card member of the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA, now PRCA).  She was Wyoming Girl's Barrel Racing Association champion for 1964 and 1965.

In high school rodeo she qualified for four NHSFR's (1959-1962) and competed in three.  State titles include All Around Cowgirl, Pole Bending and Barrel Racing champion three consecutive years. National titles include Queen in 1960 and Pole Bending in 1961 and 1962.  Rhonda and her gelding General Leo set a national record in that event in 1961 which was never equaled, 15.7 seconds on five poles.

In addition to state and national high school queen titles, Rhonda was Miss Rodeo Wyoming 1963 and won the Horsemanship division of Miss Rodeo America competition.   She was Runner Up for National Appaloosa Queen in 1966, and served as Wyoming Ambassador for the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association in 1995 and 1996.  As a queen judge she has officiated at state pageants in Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado, at the Miss Rodeo American Pageant in 1985 and the National High School Rodeo Queen competitions in 1993 and 1998.

Rhonda is a professional rodeo organist featured at major pro rodeos across the nation since 1966, including National Finals of high school, college and senior pro rodeo.  Since 1977 she's been writing for horse publications, writes a weekly horse news column, and has four books and thousands of published articles to her credit.

As a writer and performer of cowboy poetry, she's been featured at cowboy culture events in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming.

Rhonda announces rodeos and horse shows and co-hosts the Double Spear Ranch Radio Show heard across the intermountain west.  She's recorded a tape of cowboy poetry and piano music, and in 2000 published a book of cowboy poetry, and had a poem chosen for the Cowgirl Poetry book recently released by Gibbs Smith Press.  She makes most of her living doing ranch day-work with her husband.

She and her husband Will Stearns have published a booklet of cowboy parables titled THE GOOD WORD, and she's well-known across the region for her work in cowboy evangelism.

Rhonda is featured in such biographical works as The World Who's Who of Women, International Register of Personalities, Community Leaders of America. Directory of Distinguished Americans, Personalities of Americas and many others.  She was inducted as a Cowgirl Honoree to the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1977 and received the All-Around Cowboy Culture Award at the 2000 National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration in Lubbock, Texas.  She was the first woman to receive that prestigious award.

You can write to Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns at: 1159  Hwy 450, Newcastle, WY 82701 or email her.


Rhonda, Will, and Women's World Champion Trick Roper and Hall of Fame honoree Joan
Wells of Lincoln, Nebraska; taken inside the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall
of Fame at Fort Worth during the Grand Opening in 2002

Academy of Western Artists' (AWA)
Top Female Poet

Rhonda receiving the award from Jeff Hildebrandt of the Westerns Channel


A Few Poems

Love Song to Wyoming
Ode to the Snubbin' Post
Pullin' Leather
Perfection in Art (for Kyle Evans)
Givin Thanks
Rodeo Stock
Shippin' Points
Livin' Free
Two Cowboys
Our Dear Friend Homer
Born to Ride (for Mattie Goff Newcombe)
Fiddleback Headquarters

Cowboy Heroes
Is We Is or Is We Ain't
Christmas Magic?
The Devil's Own Invention


Poems posted with Rhonda's Howdy from the Double Spear column:

Born to Ride
The Jing-Jangs  
Our Jack
A Size-able Quandry 

And ...

The Rest of the Story posted with Holiday poems
The Explanation
posted with Holiday poems
The Reason for Dead Deer posted with Holiday poems
Grampaw's Elf posted with Holiday poems

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
 at the 
Cheyenne Cowboy Symposium & Celebration


Love Song to Wyoming 

What is it, my Wyoming, that makes me love you so?
You seem just like my mother, as precious as pure gold.

You beckoned my ancestors, from homelands here and there
They found you unforgiving, yet always fair and square.

You honed their independence, and taught them skills all new,
Through blizzard, drought  and sunshine, you showed them nature's truth.

Upon your spacious grasslands they learned the cowman's ways,
They bred the horse for pleasure -- and sheep to make it pay.

They made a little whiskey, in stills with cunning  hid;
Although it was illegal, it helped to feed the kids.

They practiced "Love your neighbor," and other commandments, too;
They learned from you, Wyoming, to be brave and strong and true.

And thus you came, Wyoming, to be a part of me,
My heritage, my homeland, my life, my destiny.

I grew up in a saddle, with a horse between my knees,
You tanned my hide with sunshine, refreshed me with your breeze.

You showed me little mercy, whil'st raising me your way,
I guess it was your purpose to teach me how to pray.

At two you gave me frostbite; heat stroke when I was three,
I've met your terra-firma, took bark off of your trees -

All this was only part of your teachin' me to ride,
You had lots more devices to help control my pride.

And yet, you give me good times that far outweigh the bad,
You reach out and enfold me at times when I'm most sad.

Raw gashes cut you deeply each time death breaks my heart,
And only when you hold them can both our healings start.

Puppies, horses, Dad and Mom -- all spirits free above -
After we honor their earthbound clay, you fold them close with love.

Then, surely as your scars heal, the grief subsides in me;
And when, some Spring,  full grass grows, I've peace in memory.

I've lived upon your prairies, and learned to read your sign,
I know I'm at your mercy, but most times you're benign.

Your mountain grandeur thrills me, I love your game and fish-
My banker sure can't tell it, but, 'cause of you, I'm rich!

And so, my dear Wyoming, I thank you for all this -
I rode up on this hilltop, in hopes you'll catch this kiss

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


Ode to the Snubbin' Post 

You tool of man, you ally of the cowboy,
Once just a pine, a'growin' on Elk Mountain --
You've been a part of the history of a family,
Who left their marks indelibly while workin'. . . havin' fun.

Grandfather chose you, cut you, set you firm there,
In that quakie-pole round corral with creaky gates --
You never guessed the role you'd play, within his chosen life,
Of breakin' broncs for work, for pay, or just to suit his taste.

How many ropes smoked, and sung their songs of pow'r,
As you held fast and made the man the master?
You lost a little hide each time, as did both hand an' bronc;
Older, ranker brutes, you learned, would cut their grooves much faster.

As you stood, both time an' weather took their toll,
Twice in your life you fell, and they re-set you --
Strong sons of the patriarch who'd cut and planted you first,
Cowboys, who followed his footsteps in all they chose to do.

You were a part of  life important to them,
Dependable an' strong, they counted on you;
True an' constant as the wind, or Elk Mountain to the West,
You were ready each time they had horse breakin' work to do.

Now, after three-quarters of a century,
Your ancient, tired old root once more lost its grip.
Venerable, revered mute witness, you can now retire --
At last enshrined.  In your scars, all that's gone before is kept.

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

NOTE:  I salvaged this treasure -- bearing three deep rope grooves because of
changing height when it was re-set -- and put it on a heavy base.  Along with
a collection of 50-year-old photos of it, and this poem, it became my
husband's 2000 Christmas gift.  It now proudly presides over our den - my
cowboy's "family tree."



Did ya' ever contemplate, my friend,
Those spurs on yer heels --
Who started this trend?

Reckon brawny Moor -- or Gengis Khan?
Or some unkown lad,
From a lesser clan?

Course, his mounts response meant death or life,
Wading through the gore,
Dodging deadly knife.
Full control, with instant leap, or stop,
War horse, strong -- yet fleet
Savage man atop.

Wars were frequent as ages rolled by,
Rider must be skilled,
Or he'd not survive.

How could the rider alert his steed
To instant action,
At moment of need?
Well, some wise soul invented the spur,
To fit on his heel,
Get action for sure.

The blacksmith became a hero then,
With hammer and forge,
Hot metal to bend.

'Crost the centuries they made diff'rent styles,
To see some today
Would sure make you smile.

Yet they're only a tool of our trade,
Whether for hard work,
Or simply parade.

So as you buckle that strap next time,
Stop to give thanks for
Bright metal that shines.

Thanks for the help of rowels that sing -
Thanks, to that ancient,
Wise peasant  -- or  king!

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

This poem was written, at the artist's request, to accompany the Tom Ford bronze, life-and-a-half-size, which stands in front of the CamPlex in Gillette, WY.  Tom wanted to dedicate it to the men and women who settled the Great Basin area, from the Platte to the Black Hills; from the Big Horns to the Missouri.  Having been reared on the "never pull leather" traditions, I cast about to discover a way to make it ok for the fella' on the bronc in the statue...this is the result....

Pullin' Leather

You bet, he's pullin' leather,
But it goes against his grain;
Just like a lot'ta other things
Since he settled on these plains.

This sin is for his woman,
Home alone out on the range;
He knows she's feelin' anxious
'Bout the sudden weather change.

He knows he has to sit this bronc --
An' reach their soddy on time;
'Cause night, alone with howlin' wolves,
Could drive her 'crost the line.

Only for her sake is he breakin'
This much of his cowboy code,
'Cause pullin' leather is pure disgrace --
Any hand would rather get throwed!

He never dreamed he'd be so soft --
What happens to a man?
When he looks his own child in the eye,
Or holds those tiny hands?

At times he frets about it,
Fearin' the changes time has wrought;
Rememberin' how he loved his freedom --
Is it too late, to count the cost?

This cowboy was born a son of Cain,
Though now he's actin' more like Abel --
Was the life he always dreamed of
Nothin' but a childhood fable?

He was destined to be a nomad,
Followin' cattle wherever they'd stray;
Instead of putting roots down
And takin' a vow to stay.

But deep inside he feels the pull
Of generations yet unborn;
The notion that he's breakin' their trails --
Makes his duty less forlorn.

He gave up shiftin' with the wind,
To search out streams an' grass;
Now he's buildin' fence an' diggin' wells --
Carvin' their future from his past.

Like the red man an' the bison,
He's felt the chill winds of change;
Does he dream, or just see visions
Of years to come upon this range?

*  *  *  *

How well did he meet the challenge --
An' face the calling of his time?
What impact did his presence here
Have upon your life, an' mine?

The value of his sacrifice
Can neither be measured nor told --
But what he did for you an' me
Is far more precious than gold.

You see, he braved the dreaded,
Evil, fearsome thing called "change,"
An', like a wild bronc that's been broke,
Surrendered his freedom on this range.

He gave his cowboy ways a threshin',
Like the farmers do with wheat;
Painfully decidin' what was chaff,
An' what was good enough to keep.

While weighing pride an' pleasure
'Gainst the duty that he felt,
Ageless wisdom rose to guide him
When here beneath the stars he knelt.

With lowered head, he surrendered pride --
(Just the willful, shameful part).
The good part rose to spur him on
As he vowed to follow his heart;

Down duty's path, however hard,
Whichever way it turned --
To do what was best for the children;
He didn't know how, but he'd learn.

He rose, determined, to the task,
And never once looked back --
She stood beside him, proud an' strong,
Of love an' courage they knew no lack.

Together, over time, they broke new trails,
For law an' decency took  their stand;
And imposed their Western hospitality
On a hostile, unforgiving land.

Their land we know now as Wyoming -
(In the red tongue, "end of the plains,")
It has been -- and is -- and means -- so much,
Because of their sacrifice and pain.

So, stranger, pause a moment here,
To be thankful for the price they paid --
In homage to your forbears, vow,
To honor their memory as you go your way.

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

Givin Thanks

There's lots'a things to be thankful for
When you grow up in the West --
Now, cowgirl Mom's and cowboy Dad's
Are two of the very best.

I'm thankful for the clean, pure air,
An' the beauty of this land;
Thankful for ancestors who broke the trails
And in Wyoming took their stand.

I'd haf'ta include the meadowlarks' call
And the weather that's never boring;
An' praise the Lord for healthy eyes
To watch an eagle soaring.

Praise Him for hearing, to enjoy the sound
Of thunderstorms, coyotes an' cows;
Thank Him for makin' this land so dry
That it -- mostly -- escaped the plow.

Thank Him for horses, both good an' bad,
An' for savvy to help me train 'em;
For cowboy lore and cowboy ways,
An' whatever time I've got remainin'.

But, most of all, what I'm thankful for
Is the gift of God's own Son,
Who's branded me for Heavens' range
When my time in Wyoming is done.

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

Rodeo Stock

Their ancestors crossed the wide seas from Spain,
Bred from Bedouins' tough desert racers
Pride and endurance coursed through their veins
Along with strength from Flemish war pacers.

Abandoned to either survive or die
They just perpetuated their specie;
Red men found them and wanted to ride
But discovered that wasn't so easy!

To master the horse took brav'ry and skill
But the Plains Indian rose to the task,
Selective breeding  improved their steeds
Which grew stronger climbing rough, mountain paths.

Draft horse and Thor'bred bore Westering hordes,
To the plains, where they crossed with the Mustang,
Resulting in big, tall, stronger stock
Which challenged the cowboys time after time.

Wild-West-ing an' rodeo came along,
So the un-rideable horses were sought -
Those with toughness and meanness were prized,
Many of their get and produce were bought

By people with foresight, like ol' Feek Tooke
(Men who envisioned the breeding of broncs,
With simply the worst dispositions,
So 'crost arenas they'd bawl, buck an' stomp.)

That's the his'try of the rodeo bronc,
Cultivated an' selected with care
To give each cowboy the perfect chance
To test his skill, at rodeos an' fairs.

Within our region have been other men
Who strove to perpetuate the best broncs -
Korkows, Longbrakes an' McInerneys,
Birch an' Holloway - with horses that honk.

Thats cowboy heritage an' tradition,
Keepin' the bloodlines of Gray Wolf alive,
Hope to spawn a Midnight or Steamboat;
To own 'Bronc of the Year,' everyone strives

Great broncs are descended from all these roots,
Cross-bred with sagebrush an' cactus and sand -
Raised rough an' tough an' strengthened by storms.
While they show off, you should give 'em a hand!

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


When shippin' time rolls around each fall
We always go help the neighbors,
To kind'a pay back for all the times
They've done us the same kind'a favors.

We crawl out a long time 'fore daylight,
Load up an' drive quite a ways,
Be at the backside of the small holdin' pasture
By the time it's breakin' good day.

Get ever' calf up, give em' time to nurse
Move 'em easy an' handle 'em right,
'Cuz the scales'll be tallyin' money hard-earned,
An' these neighbors should smile tonight.

This time of year the mornin's are brisk,
So I'm wearin' most all'a my duds -
An' because of the rush to get loaded up,
All I did to my face was suds.

Once we get 'em corralled the real work begins,
'Cuz these folk sort 'em a'foot,
Too warm now I sweat; soon this re-cycled manure
Makes me look like I'm covered with soot!

I wore my ol' Scotch cap, with the earlops down
To ward off the pre-sunup chill,
So my hair's all sweat-plastered, except for the part
That's stickin' straight out, like a frill.

Green crap on my coat, I smell like a goat,
My red eyes are plumb full'a dirt,
After peelin' off several layers I find
There's a big ol' hole in my shirt.

When who should drive up, all coiffured an' suave
Dressed up for a meetin' in town,
But this neighbor's good wife, the joy of his life -
                'Spose she wonders why I wear a frown?!

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


Shippin' Points

On Western railroad lines you'll find 'em,
Silent sentinels, now forlorn;
Mutely guarding rangeland hist'ry,
Of times they rang with hoof and horn.

All prairie trails once led toward 'em,
During fast-fading yesterdays,
When long cattle cars un-numbered,
Filled,  unceasing . . . a dusty maze.

The din of cattle, dogs, an' trail hands
Made sweet music, now near forgot;
Swan song of  vanishing eras,
Livin' now only in old men's thoughts.

Ranch produce bound for city markets,
Wool an' mutton, leather an' beef;
Full years' fruit of rangeland labor -
Marked for the bank - an' note relief.
Their names are known where cowboys gather -
Dodge, Magdalena, Abilene,
Wichita, Dewey, Spear Siding   -
Each hand knew one he thought was queen.

Here, it was Dewey, South Dakota,
She topped most for livestock numbers;
Grandad, Dad, my Father-in-law
Each worked cattle there. . . and loved her.

I grew up list'nin to all their tales -
How they painted her like magic!
Seein' her crumblin' state today
Brings quick tears . . . an' seems plumb tragic.

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


Livin' Free

Just me, a horse, my dog and the wind
Ride to earn our daily fee.
Hard life perhaps, but we love it, 'cause
We're really livin' free.

The whole eternal scheme of things
Is too much to understand,
But I'm blessed to live where I can feel
The heartbeat of the land.

The dust and din of mans' endeavors,
Thank God, are not too near me
My chosen work offers special times
To be alone - and free.

Just me, a horse, my dog and the wind,
We've been through much together;
They're proven, loyal comrades and friends,
Any time - or weather.

The breeze bears scent of sage and cedar
Where vistas are wide and bold
Around each bend, we glimpse some wildlife,
Just as in days of old.

Mule deer, wild turkey, a bobcat too—
Bunch of pronghorn antelope;
Coyote, meadowlark, prairie sage grouse,
Jackrabbit on the slope.
An me, this horse, my dog and the wind
Know we're each part of the whole,
As all we see and hear and smell
Exists in our own soul.

Horizons reach infinity,
Or some such faraway place.
We recognize buttes, creeks and canyons
Like lines in some friends' face.

Beneath all this there thrums in our ears,
Like some drummer in a band,
The mighty, unchanging sound we love—
The heartbeat of the land.

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



Two Cowboys

How is it, ridin' an' ropin' together now?
You never did much of that down here,
The one bein' too young an' the other too sick
Durin' the years your earthly lives overlapped.

I'm curious 'bout just what it's like -
Is it true the wind never blows up there?
An' do the horseflies really never bite,
An' it never gets dark while you're ropin?

Are the cattle always fresh an' honest,
An' the ground's never too deep nor too hard?
The dust never whips up in your eyes,
An' you can enter anywhere, without a card?

Do Cowboy Mike an' Squirrel still work the rope so well;
An' ol'Blue still nicker at ya' when you've pulled the hooey?
Ryan was anxious to start ropin' calves,
But his remuda didn't hold a mount that would do it.

Speakin' of that, I'll be ol' Shiner
Sure was glad to see him,
An' find out all the things he's learned
Since they rode herd on the home ranch yard together.

I know you haven't had much time, as yet,
But have you let him try the others -
Like Sailor, an' Rusty - the ones he's heard
So many stories about?

An' what does Cecil think of him,
As a progeny of the Donaldson line?
Has he met your Texas grandpa yet,
To compare notes about their wrecks?

An' I know the dogs were plumb ecstatic,
To see their friend again;
Amy, who watched after him from birth,
Plus little Tina, an' Elvis, too.

We miss ya' both a lot down here,
But thinkin' of ya' ridin' an' ropin' together
Kind'a seems to soothe the hurt -
So keep right on a'ropin', an' never spill one in the dirt!

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


Written July 7, 1993, in memory of Ryan Christopher Donaldson who rode to glory, forever 12-years-old, on July 5, 1993; And of his grandfather, R.C. Donaldson, my brother, who was laid to rest from his earthly life on July 5, 1986. Cecil was R.C.'s dad, and his father was also killed in a horse wreck, in Texas in the 1800's.


Our Dear Friend Homer

He was just a fuzzy puppy whoses hair was mostly gray,
He'd slop y' up with kisses in the sweetest sort o' way.
His tail was long an' bushy, all white an' speckled black
My cowboy called it "handy", in the dark fer keepin' track

Of "Homer" as he called him, his young Blue Heeler pard
Who lived in style in a strawbale house, out there in the yard.
They were a pair of batchelors an' sure set in their ways
When they welcomed me among 'em an' told me I could stay.

They'd sit an' visit by the stove as evenin' shadows fell
Bemoanin' how this "roommate" turned their happy home to "L" . . .
Will said he couldn't find a thing after she had cleaned,
She'd kicked poor Homer off the couch - wimmen sure was mean!

Yet both of 'em came runnin' each time I rattled pans
An' seemed to have no prejudice 'gainst cakes or pies or jams!
Homer grew to love me too, but "Dad" was always first
'Cause women get cantank'rous when a pup is at his worst.

All through his happy puppyhood, his three best friends were kittens,
He never knew Blue Heelers ought'a set those cats to spitten';
Instead he loved an' cared for them, an' shared his bed an' board
An' people always marveled how the fightin' he forebore.

He'd sit up on the jump-seat in our Ford extended cab
A lookin' out the window, actin' smart as some ol' Lab.
He really loved to rodeo an' was the first to load up
When the bronc saddle, spurs an' rein were piled into that old truck.

He'd sit quietly in the grandstand, right beside of Mom
Intently honed in on the chutes, 'cause rough stock turned him on!
If someone walked in front of him it really made him mad,
'Cause missin' some'a the action made Homer feel real sad.

When it come to workin' cattle, why, Homer was the best -
No matter how they'd fight him, he always stood the test.
An' when the dust had settled, ol' bossy had learned respect
For this gray an' black an' speckled thing that caused her such a wreck.

She'd bawl an' fetch her calf up, an' head off down the trail
A'coverin' ground an' frownin', with a kink there in her tail.
But cows an' calves were diff'rent, an' Homer understood
That baby things were fragile, an' you had to treat them good.

We always took him huntin', an' he learned the scent of elk
Just speak that word an' he was glad as if you'd offered milk!
If snow was deep an' tracks were muddled we never had to guess -
Just let ol' Homer sniff 'em out an' he'd tell ya' "No" or "Yes".

We knew we wanted "Homer blood" in new dogs to carry on
So he took a wife; we claimed the "runt" when the litter came along.
The first cute daughter was "Callie", an' later we got "Maude"-
The three of 'em worked together so well we gave thanks to God

For all the work they saved us; an' the horses were thankful, too.
But dogs just don't live long enough, an' gosh, it makes y' blue
When y' haft'a tell your pal "Goodbye" at a partin' of the ways;
We always need a little more time . . . a chance for him to stay..

But he'd served his time an' done his work an' respite he deserved
So when diabetes set in we both knew it was his turn
To retire to Cowdog Heaven, an' be healed, an' run an' play;
Just a happy, fuzzy puppy, who's hair is mostly gray..

© 2005, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



A drought is darkness, all consuming—
The land is powder, sere and dead
Arift on winds in wild abandon
The only moisture, tears we shed . . .

As hopes and dreams fall dead around us.
Fathers, grandpa's . . . our great-grand's too
Somehow withstood this ageless challenge.
Winds whisper, "They did this for you!"

The homes, the barns, the fences, the graves....
Yet always heritage passed on
Some small remnant living . . . saved . . . restored,
To give us hope for future dawns.

Our only option is persevere -
Else all their struggles were for naught!
We cannot break so sacred a trust
Or let the world think we forgot

The sacrifices they made for us.
To hold the ranch in fam'ly name
They paid with their tears, their sweat, their blood
To give up now would bring them shame!

What is that sound, 'mid our restless sleep . . .
So soothing, so nearly forgot?
That liquid, dripping, repeating sound,
Bringing joy that can not be bought?

The dawn comes dim, and dank, and drippy,
Phenomenon that lasts all day
And thru the night and then the 'morrow,
All we can do is kneel and pray -

In thankfulness, and joy, and wonder
For the greening magnificence!
The drought has broke—all things live again . . .
And RAIN made all the difference

© 2005 Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

Rhonda sent along her friend Doug Krogman's painting, "Rememberin' Rain," a perfect match for her poem.

Rememberin' Rain
© 2005, Doug Krogman, used with permission

oug told us he painted the scene from a photograph, "Actually my Dad, Clarence Krogman was 94 years young when I took that photograph of him and his horse, Silver, in September 2004.  He lives in south central South Dakota and  has been on his ranch for almost 70 years. South Dakota was almost ready to dry up and blow away with dams going dry and herds being sold off....Dad was indeed, rememberin' rain...And it did rain this spring!  The stock dam where he stood in the painting is now full of water!"

You can see more of Doug Krogman's work at his web site, www.dakotapokes.com.

Tribute to Mattie Goff Newcombe


Born to Ride

"I was born to ride," this cowgirl says,
(She started when she was three!)
Horses have carried her through the years,
Brought her fame, and sights to see.

It began on her parents' homestead
On the wide Dakota plains,
But she has seen a lot of the world
Since she first picked up the reins.

Melvin Tivis (her cousin, you know),
Started her riding broncs.
This Meade County girl, not quite fifteen,
Found rodeo quite a romp!

Once in the saddle, she knew no fear,
But she wanted glamour, too -
Determined to learn trick riding skills,
Many stunts she learned to do.

Seeking nothing less than perfection
She studied with Leonard Stroud;
Colorful, daring and fearless, she
Never failed to thrill the crowd!

Oklahoma Curly Roberts said,
"Speed up and do tricks faster."
Mattie took this advice to heart
And soon no one surpassed her.

They called her "The fastest trick rider
On the fastest horse around!"
With Frazier saddle and leather skirt
She thrilled fans in many towns.

Towns in Illinois, Indiana,
Kentucky and Iowa, too;
In Minnesota and Wisconsin,
She toured with Gardner's troupe.

Mattie rode quadrille, and Roman raced,
And the relays she could win -
Sometimes leaping from horse to horse, a
Feat that would make your head spin!

She was stranded in Kentucky
When the show went belly-up;
But with cowgirl ingenuity
She got home - and thanked her luck!

Mattie rode for President Coolidge
At the Black Hills Round-Up show.
Called to the stands to visit with him,
She found him quiet - nice to know.

Mattie's horses - Bob, Pal and Buster -
Were the pride of her young life.
She knew if you wanted a good horse
You must feed and "treat him right."

In the winter of 'Twenty-seven
Mattie became a wife.
She married rancher Maynard Newcombe
An' left the rodeo life.

For some sixty years they worked the ranch
Building it with hard labor.
Through Depression, drought and good times, too,
The Newcombe's were good neighbors.

Mattie was injured by angry bulls,
But cowgirl grit pulled her through.
She lay, unconscious, eleven days,
Yet came out near good as new.

Mattie and Sissy were left alone -
Maynard crossed the Great Divide -
She's carried on as she knew he'd want,
Relyin' on cowgirl pride.

She's South Dakota's "Cowgirl Sweetheart,"
Named to many Hall's of Fame;
She still loves glamour an' cowboy clothes -
Born To Ride - Mattie Goff, that's her name!!

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


Written in tribute to National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honoree, Mattie Goff Newcombe, who died  July 26, 2005 at the age of 98.  The Rapid City Journal article, "Cowgirl makes her last ride: Famous 1920s trick rider dies at age 98 in Sturgis" by Steve Miller tells about her remarkable life.  


Tribute to Kyle Evans


Perfection in Art
A Tribute to Kyle Evans, South Dakota's Centennial Troubadour, 
killed in a motorcycle accident July 4th, 2001)

Some illustrate with brush and paint
While others work in bronze -
Kyle Evans produced his great art
With voice and string, through song.

Dakota's fav'rite troubadour,
A patriot through and through,
Permanently etched July Fourth,
In tones of red, white and blue,

Across these broad Dakota lands
He loved and lauded so -
Crashin' his bike through Heaven's gate
'Cause God said it was time to go.

Now he's "In Heaven On A Horse,"
His life left no regrets;
We get to keep his legacy,
Rich ballads of the West.

Though I knew Kyle only slightly,
I took those songs to heart -
If anyone asks, I'll tell them,
"I've heard perfection in art!"

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



There's a fine Kyle Evans web site here and there are additional poems to his memory here at the BAR-D.



Fiddleback Headquarters

Step lightly, this is holy ground...made so by those who've gone before...
Don't you feel their aura, when you step in through that door?
Can't you sense their kinship?  Feel their appraisal, and know that they're here?
Why would you laugh? Or act like they are somethin' to fear?

This Fiddleback Ranch home was built more than a hundred years ago,
Back in the eighteen-eighties, when life was hard...an' "slow"...
By that word I speak of how long it took to get a day's work done;
An' the way they always "found" a little time for fun.

Thousands of head of cattle, along with ten thousand's more of sheep
Wore the brand "Fiddleback"; an' their hands were short on sleep.
My husband's godmother cooked here, while her husband was the top hand
Who snapped out the Fiddleback rough string; all for the brand.

My mom's dad was a camp tender, drivin' miles of Fiddleback trail,
Packin' supplies to scattered herders, he could not fail.
Neither balky mules nor runaway teams deterred him from his chore . . .
Ridin' each ridge an' crick today, I recalled his lore.

I wonder...did he take off his hat, an' step 'crost this same threshold?
Look forward to the meal served up... taste the water cold...
Or did he maybe pump it, out there, where this bucket I just filled?
Did any hand who'd set at this table, in a horse wreck get killed?

Did they respect the quicksand? An' the sink holes, the way we do?
Dread badger holes...slipp'ry banks... an' snakes that rattle,  too?
Don'cha think they cursed the bovines, so danged determined to run free?
Didn't they fight heat an' drought...an' the wind...constantly?

Bet'cha countless numb ol' fingers—an' frosted toes that burnt like sin—
Bunched, like us, 'round this ol' wood stove...thankful to be in,
From gatherin' an' movin' cows...that snow an' wind in their faces...
Glad like us to edge in...At table, take their places...

Reckon they've raced along the River, with the lightning crackin' wild?
Then, when they'd turned the bunch, were they happy as a child?
Did they fight their broncs to face that wind, when small hail come stingin' down?
Ride like hell to some cut bank...'fore the big stuff did pound?

Did they know the blessed comfort, to stretch out upon the warm sand...
Rare respite from constant tension, ridin' for the brand?
Did they give their all to stick some bronc, while dodgin' cottonwood limbs?
Don't it kind'a cross over...their world, an ours, my friends?

Haven't their horses jolted them, jumpin over a whitetail fawn...
All bedded down an' hidin', just before break of dawn?
Did they love to hear elk bugle, as the sun sank beyond the rim,
That bordered their world? Did they think of God...and thank Him?

Sci-fi folk talk of "time warp"...an' sometimes I'm sure I have been there...
When sittin' around this table...eatin' cowboy fare...
Reckon I've earned their approval? That would be the greatest of all
Honors, awards or trophies, given by some famed Hall...

Each time I ride for the Fiddleback, I hope to please these "old ones"...
Unworthy though I am...alongside of such bold ones...
What a priv'lege...to step inside this door, an' tread their holy ground...
Please...let 'em sense my rev'rence, Lord...as they gather 'round...

© 2007, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Rhonda told us:

We do ranch daywork for the Fiddleback, a lot of it. They use this old headquarters house (on the banks of the headwaters of the Cheyenne River) as a camp some times of year, when the cows are in that area. 

photo courtesy of Nicky Groenewold

They feed us there sometimes, some of the guys sleep there (Will and I pitch our cowboy tepee outside) and we've used the old wood stove to thaw us out in bad weather. We pump water from an ancient hand pump out front to drink and wash up with, and to heat for doin' dishes.

photo courtesy of Nicky Groenewold

The first time I set foot in that old house I was overwhelmed by a deep, spiritual feeling of awe and reverence for the countless, unknown cowboys and ranch hands who had done the same. I knew they had ridden the very same trails, done the same work, in the same way...felt the same tired, suffered the same elements.

Will battled a rank bronc through the cottonwoods near there one day, and we've met all the perils and joys I speak of in the poem as we work that area. The continuity of the cowboy life is what I love most about it, and I feel this poem encompasses some of my feelings.


Cowboy Heroes

I haf’ta thank my momma for teachin’ me to love the old,
An’ hope they had a warm place, when winter’s winds whipped cold...
She said, they had no fam’ly, to love an’ care for them,
If our trail should chance to cross with one, why, we’d be nice to him.

Cleanliness was a problem most of ‘em weren’t afflicted with,
An’ right up close an’ pers’nal, they just might smell like “pith”;
But Mom said they didn’t know, an’ had no one to tell
Them it was time to bathe, change clothes, or do somethin’ ‘bout that smell.

Daddy knew all the old cowboys, and how much they loved to talk...
If he saw one on the street in town, he’d always walk
To where they were, “Howdy” them, an’ shake ‘em by the hand

Then ask ‘em to go eat with us
an’ they sure thought that was grand!

Now I was only two, or three...or maybe I had turned four
When I acquired my memories of their cowboy lore...
Stories that my Daddy told, an’ things I heard them say;
Oh, how I wished I’d been born in time to live their wild old way!

There was Snowden Dixon, Jack Daniels, an’ old 4W Bill,
Billy Reagan, Charlie McEndeffer
what a thrill
To hear them get to yarnin’, of horses, cows an’ such...
But I was such a little kid I cannot remember much….

Yet I still see their faces, an’ hear their voices in my head,
But well over fifty years ago...most of them were dead.
If I make that great big Roundup, way up in the sky,
Talkin’ for years to all those guys will make a great “by and by.”

Only one thing could be better
it’d be Heaven for real
To ride an’ work cattle with ‘em...Wow...heck’uva deal!
So all you old cowboy heroes, save a place for me
An’ I’ll look forward to eternity...ridin’ wild an’ free!

© 2007, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Rhonda told us: Men who cowboyed all their lives accumulated very little. They lived for and in the moment, and had few needs; so when they had an opportunity to go to town, they usually spent all the money they had on "recreation."

Most of them had no families.  Many of the ranches they served faithfully for most of a lifetime had no place for them when old age or infirmity slowed them down. Others drifted around so much they never took root anywhere or became close to any who might've helped them when that time came. Today we'd probably call them "homeless people."

They were proud, dressed in the best boots and hats they could afford, and never asked for or took "charity."  They lived in shacks and hovels, on short rations.  Many younger cowboys, like my Dad, found ways to give a lift
now and again, and my recollections of Dad's and Mom's attitudes are reflected in this poem.


Is We Is or Is We Ain't

Now—Is we is?—Or is we ain’t? 
It’s that time of year again . . .
When makin’ plans or keepin’ a schedule
Is a battle you rarely win! 

The spring works are on in ranchland,
There’s always much to be done—
Like gatherin’, brandin’, spayin’ an’ such;
For cowboys, it’s usually fun.

A time to see all your neighbors,
A chance to showcase your skills . . .
So, markin’ those dates on your calendar
Starts ya’ lookin’ forward to thrills.

Wond’rin how that colt will handle . . .
Will your shoulder take the stress
Of ropin’ . . . draggin’ . . . for hours on end?
(Yer’ hopin’ it won’t end a mess!)

Just look there—that’s the month of May—
Most ever’ day is taken!
First on one ranch, and then on another . . .
‘Till ya’ find ya’ were mistaken!

Mistaken to do such plannin’
An’ figure it might work out,
Without the weather jest boggin’ her head

Now jest notice all those “cross out’s,”
Scatterin’ clean down the page—
Each one represents well-laid plans put off . . .
Plus some rancher (an’ ranch-wife) rage!

She’d done cooked a meal for forty . . .
booked men, real hard to get;
Then when a downpour forces a cancel
They just might roar,
“HO-LY . . . . I QUIT.”

‘Course that’s not really an option . . .
They’ll haf’ta go to “Plan B”
Except . . . what if too many have cancelled?
Could “Plan B” turn into
“Damn me!”

Some ranch spouses would’ve agreed—
While tryin’ to feed the crew—
That pulled in to brand, then got “mudded in” . . .
Well, what would you think she should do?

Three days later  . . . finally brand….!
It’s hap’nin’ again this year!
The calendar’s marked . . . people have promised . . .
But the boss is filled with fear—

 Lookit that forecast!  What a mess!
Now, you bet, we need the rain . . .
If it’d just wait ‘till the brandin’s done,
Well, it sure could save some pain!

People’ll show up on this day . . .
Oh gosh, what a scary thought . . .
Should it come a toad-strangler . .  . mud ‘em in,
World War III may soon be fought….

In many a happy ranch home!
Well, seldom do ranch wives pout . . .
But when she’s been cookin’ for three days straight,
Then the crew gets “mudded out”

Her disposition is challenged,
Knowin’ her salads will spoil
‘Fore anyone can show up to eat’ ‘em . . .
That’s a FINE waste of her toil!

Now, part of the meal she can freeze,
To thaw out when it is needed . . .
Yet even at best it won’t taste as good
As fresh!  SURE —she’s conceited –

Concernin’ her reputation,
“Best cook in the neighborhood!”
So tell me, IS WE IS? OR IS WE AIN’T?
Neighbor, it would sure be

 If we could out-guess the weather . . .
Do our work, then take our ease . . .
So, soon as you conjure a remedy . . .
Let me know FIRST, won’t you

© 2011, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Rhonda told us, "By way of introduction, the weather totally controls what ranchers can and cannot do across these Western prairies, and when they can and cannot do it...no matter how many plans they make or how important it is to do it a certain day! The situations mentioned in the poem have happened repeatedly to us and people we work for...and will again no doubt. It was just last spring that somewhere between 30 and 40 people arrived at the Fiddleback Ranch with pickups and horse trailers and tents and motor homes and campers just in time for torrential rains to make the 20-40 miles of dirt roads in and out of the place completely impassible. Furthermore, it was way to muddy to brand...for about three days. We sure ate a lot of great food, and played a lot of cards, and had a lot of fun...but for the ranch wife trying to feed and bed down the crew it was something less than fun!

"I've helped other ranch wives cook and prepare that huge meal to feed 40 or so and seen the rains "mud out" the crew ...nobody shows up, nor can they for days. That's when everything that can't be frozen just spoils and goes to waste... the 4 people at headquarters sure can't eat it!"

And she told the day before her poem was posted in May, 2011, "History repeats itself, and we are to be 50 miles from here at the 4W Ranch at 6:30 tomorrow morning, ready to ride for a day of gathering and branding. But from the looks of the heavy, leaden clouds and the feel of the wind that's rising right now, who knows if there's even any need to gather the horses this evening! We were on another job from 9 to 5 today, riding, sorting, and working cattle about 25 miles from home, and it was one of the most perfect days anyone could imagine or plan...so that's the way it goes."



They say folk are livin longer
Since we turned this century;
We marvel at the things they
ve witnessed,
All the change they
ve lived to see.

They started out with horse an cart—
Watched men walk upon the moon—
Read by candle—oil—gas—electric—

Felt each change had “come too soon!”

The same thing s true here on the plains,
has been forced to change,
things Usually cause a rumble
In these homes upon the range.

Jest take, fer instance, brandin calves
How common a thing is that?
s been done more 'n a hundred years,
Yet change'll surely cause a spat!

Cowboys have always "roped and drug”
those calves to the brandin' fire;
Whether to dally or tie on hard
has def
nitly raised some ire!

Then an invention” rocked the West,
’s never been the same!
horrible, hateful, mean contraption—
the calf table is its name!

Crazy thing sets cowboys afoot,
stealin' all their dignity!
stead of practicin fancy loops,
They get kicked upon the knee...

Bruised down the shin bone, tromped on toes...
Their levis covered in crap!
Each long day
s burdened with ugly work...
Iinventors should get a slap

from ev'ry man, woman and child
that's been forced to lose some hide—
busted their back tippin' that thing—
Been denied their right to ride!

Then there s the matter of the fire...
Aaah, that cedar smoke was sweet!
till an inventor ciphered that gas
Was the only way to heat

Those brandin irons all day long—
“Save that hard work cuttin
Gas burners bust your ears with a roar,
ruinin' days that should be good.

Only liars call it "progress”
cowboys know that's not the case
usin' such unnatural means is
detrimental to our race!

Then some fool invented “implants”
In the ear, with a bulky gun;
First it was ralgro—now synovex,
either is no fun!

Old, steel vaccine guns sure were fine
till some smart guys changed them, too;
Plastified, bulky, with tanglin
Just to sell us “somethin
new” !

Makes me feel like ol Badger Clark ,
this change  ever one does...
Like him, I
m thankful I wasn t born
No later than I was!!!

© 2011, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


In the last verse, Rhonda is referring to Charles Badger Clark Jr.'s (1883-1957) poem, "The Old Cow Man," which ends:

Oh it's squeak! squeak! squeak!
And they pen the land with wire.
They figure fence and copper cents
Where we laughed 'round the fire.
Job cussed his birthday, night and morn,
In his old land of Uz,
But I'm just glad I wasn't born
no later than I was!

Find the poem here.



Christmas Magic?

Christmas is a magic time . . . of miracles they say . . .
An’ somethin’ of that sort, I guess, caught me the other day;
Shadows were long, an’ frosty haze, rose from snow covered plain
As Nate an’ Nell rushed hay sled an’ me . . . homeward . . . for their grain.

That frozen feed trail snakes us, ‘round the head of the breaks,
There where Grandpa’s saggin’ homestead house, causes me heartaches . . .
But wait . . . Can it be? . . . There’s hum . . . of fiddles on the air!
Nate an’ Nell stop . . . they prick their ears – all I can do is stare!

Grandpa’s house ain’t saggin’ . . . there’s a lantern by the door!
An’ golden light is spillin’ there . . . ‘crost Grandma’s bleached wood floor!
Nate an’ Nell ain’t fonchin’, ‘gainst these lines here in my hand . . .
Fact is, their heads are droopin’, like their eyes are full’a sand!

The kind Ol’ Sandman brought us, when we was little lads,
Keen to sit up on Christmas Eve, just like our mom’s and dad’s;
It seemed like that ol’ Sandman came to me, then an’ there,
As fiddles droned an’ laughter rang, across the cold night air.

Tell me – did he make me sleep, an’ dream of days of yore?
Or was I plumb transported . . . to some distant, mystic shore?
To the joy of Grandma’s kitchen . . . ‘midst their dancin’ glee . . .
Me, warm behind their wood stove . . . starin’ at their Christmas tree?

Did I listen to the “auld tongue”, music to my ears . . .
Loving those faces, and voices, ‘till I was moved to tears?
Did I watch ‘em dance a schottische . . . see my Grandpa wink?
Did Santa shore slip thru that door – or did I maybe blink?

Did he look me in the eye . . . an’ press a candy cane
Into my hand? Then disappear, so swiftly down the lane . . .
Where Grandma’s yellow roses bloom . . . in each summer’s sun?
Tell me, am I crazy? Or did I really see him run,

And jump quite high, to catch a sleigh, as it left the ground?
If not, then how come these echoes, of jingling sleighbell’s sound?
Did I watch Grandma, cut and serve, fruitcake by the slice?
Did Grandpa grin, and squeeze her arm, because she served him twice?

Did my ears hear his deep voice, read from that Bible page . . .
The ancient tale of a Virgin’s babe, stepping on the stage
Of Earth – as a helpless infant – manger for a bed . . .
Tell me . . . was it the words of Luke . . . that my Grandpa read?

While good folk of his neighborhood, stood, with heads bowed low . . .
Some Swede, some Dane, some Norski . . . all close friends, as neighbors go . .
The Polak in the corner, the Russian by the tree . . .
And ‘crost the room, the Englishman . . . still sipping on his tea?

A gust of wind . . . I seem to wake . . . to stamp of horse’s hoof . . .
When Nate and Nell snort, and move off, I catch a glimpse of roof . . .
A roof of rotted timbers, all sagging in the mist . . .
A roof the job of shoring up, ranks highest on my list,

Of things to do for “next year” . . . the one that’s coming soon!
I shake my head and rub my eyes, then stare at Mister Moon
Who’s risen now . . . from the dark . . . I wonder, did he see?
That golden, lamplit cabin . . . friends . . . family . . . the tree?

Here’s our gate . . . “Whoa Nell and Nate!” . . . I start to wrap the lines,
When something clatters to hay sled floor . . .? ‘Neath the moon now, shines,
A candy cane . . . white and red . . . yet . . . bigger than today’s!
I raise my eyes . . . I see that Star . . . my heart wells up in praise . . .

Of ancestors . . . and pioneers . . . those who gave us life . . .
Of our great God . . . this great land . . . of our neighbors – man and wife.
Those things bring “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”, to ev’ry hearth and home –
May they richly bless you, and yours, . . . wherever you may roam!

© 2007, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Devil's Own Invention

Did'ja ever get jerked down real hard
An' made to rue the day
By a sneaky, sodded-in remnant
Of that stuff made to bind up hay?

Did'ja ever hit a sudden "whoa"
An' plummet to the sod
With jolt of teeth an' spine an' pride
From not lookin' where you trod?

As ya bite your lip to not cry out
Till you can check the scene
If eyes will focus, neck will turn...
Oh! Praise God! You've not been seen!

Ya felt like a hapless ropin' steer
Front foot plumb snatched away
The pain's come now, an' that ain't fun
An' once more ya rue the day

That some damn fool, inspired by Satan
Went an' invented balin' twine!

© 2016, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




Read Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns' poem for Charlie Hunt, Charlie, along with her tribute to him here.



Read Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns'

Cowboy True, Thru and Thru posted with 2015 Cowboy Poetry Week poems


Satisfaction posted with 2011 National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur poems


When Creaky Spawns Cranky in our Art Spur project


Christmas Way Out West, posted with Holiday 2003 poems

Wyocpbk.jpg (7975 bytes) 

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearn's poetry is included in Wyoming's Cowboy Poets. The 201-page book contains brief profiles of 28 Wyoming cowboy poets, their photos and samples of their poetry. The introduction is written by Montana humorist/poet Gwen Petersen.  The editor, Jean Henry-Mead, is a novelist and award-winning photojournalist, founder of the Western Writers Hall of Fame, and former teacher in the Wyoming Poetry in the Schools Program with Peggy Simson Curry. Read more about the book and at Jean Henry-Mead's Sagebrush and Sleuths web site, where you can order the book.  Wyoming's Cowboy Poets is also available by check or money order from Medallion Books, 8344 Shady Lane, Evansville, WY 82636 for $19.95 postpaid (paperback) or  $27.45 postpaid (hardcover). Please add 5% sales tax if ordered within Wyoming. 


Rhonda and her cowboy, Will



writings by Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns about her cowgirl life 





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