photo courtesy of Sue Wallis
The cowboy poetry world mourns the loss of poet, rancher, and Marine veteran
Rod McQueary, who died December 29, 2012.Known for his thoughtful and deeply moving poems that came from his Vietnam war experience as well as for his often humorous pieces, Rod McQueary was a part of the cowboy poetry community from its earliest days.
From Sue Wallis via Facebook:
Beloved husband of Sue Wallis; treasured father of Porter, Cecile, Ian, and Justine McQueary, stepfather of Isaac Wallis, Megan Kruse, and Rys Martin; Boppa of Ezra, Cora, and Maddox Kruse; son of Eloise, and brother of Lyle and Neil McQueary; who has touched the lives of so many, many family, friends, compadres, and like-minded souls who appreciated his articulate wit…has followed his father Howard over that Last Great Divide. He was the epitome of kind.
A memorial service will be held at the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada at 2 pm on Wednesday, January 2nd. Instead of flowers, please send generous contributions to the Western Folklife Center for the support of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the center of the art and the culture that Rod defined his life by, and the gathering place of his far flung friends. 501 Railroad Street, Elko, Nevada, 89801.
If you can make it to Elko on Wednesday, please come ready to share stories, songs, poems, and especially jokes. After a short service in the G Bar Three, we will have a potluck dinner in the Pioneer Saloon, please bring something to share. Rod’s daughter Ceci is putting together pictures and videos…if you have images of Rod that we can include please send them to email@example.com, or share them with her on Facebook.
Family and friends will gather again on the full moon of July in Ruby Valley to scatter his ashes over the mountains and ranches that he rode for the majority of his life.
Please feel free to forward, share, and post, call each other and hold each other close…he loved you all so much.
About Rod McQueary:
Originally from Nevada's Ruby Valley, third-generation rancher Rod McQueary is known for his poetry's expansive range. He's a master of traditional Cowboy Poetry—both serious and humorous—and a pioneer in more experimental forms. His work can be found in many anthologies, including New Cowboy Poetry: A Contemporary Gathering; Cooling Down; Buckaroo, Visions and Voices of the American Cowboy; Cattle, Horses, Sky, and Grass, Cowboy Poetry of the Late Twentieth Century; Between Earth and Sky : Poets of the Cowboy West; and Maverick Western Verse. Some of his most interesting work appears in Dry Crik Review, a periodical edited by John Dofflemyer from 1991-1994.
Rod McQueary and his wife, poet Sue Wallis, were involved with the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko from its earliest days. Together and in cooperation with the Western Folklife Center, in 1995 they edited the Whole Cowboy Catalog, an entertaining guide to everything Western, that profiles more than 600 products and sources, including art, spurs, books, boots and more. In their introduction they explain it is a "...cattle-log for cattle-people. Between these covers you can find darn near anything (and we mean anything!) you ever wanted, needed, or hoped for that has to do with living or dreaming about life on the range." This interesting book is full of facts, lore, and humor. It is out of print but widely available from used book sources.
In 1993, McQueary and Bill Jones combined their talents in Blood Trails, poems from their Vietnam experiences. The book is published by Dry Crik Press, and in an editor's note, John Dofflemyer writes "Blood Trails is a celebration of the process which they have dared to relive and write about."
Blood Trails is available for $14.50 postpaid from:
Dry Crik Press
P.O. Box 44320-BT
Lemon Cove, CA 93244
Elsewhere on the web:
Vietnam Generation Journal includes several poems from Blood Trails
Echo includes two poems from Blood Trails (and two poems by co-author Bill Jones)
A December 30, 2012 poem by John Dofflemyer, "Laughing at the Sun," for Rod McQueary, at Dry Crik Journal
Mad Jack's Dog
The Chicken Outfit
lander evening (from Blood Trails)
From the snowdrifts in the canyons,
behind the granite and the pinion
Past the trout and the beaver,
where the young quakies crowd to share;
From the icy plaster caked
across the mountain goat's dominion,
Comes the lifeblood of our valley,
as it tumbles down from there.
How it gurgles, sometimes chuckles
past the boulders and the gravel.
Cheerfully, it detours
through the ditches man might make.
With only gravity, its master,
it always knows which way to travel;
Warm and foamy, ever downward,
through the sloughs toward the lake.
There, the bullrush stops the ripples,
where the sheets of ice are dying.
The waxing sun shows promise
that the winter's lost its sting.
Overhead, the floating regiments
of geese formations, flying,
Driven northward to their nesting grounds,
by instinct, every spring.
In one pasture by the water,
tired pension horses wander.
They wait for my alfalfa,
and the sun to conquer cold.
In the middle ground, 'tween
active duty, and the promised yonder,
They don't think about the scenery.
They are thin, and tired and old.
Last among these pensioners,
one sorrel gelding stumbles,
With swollen joints and seedy toe,
you see why he's so lame.
He's lost his youth, but not his dignity.
He would die before he humbles.
He was my Dad's top saddle horse,
and Woody is his name.
I never cared for Woody,
He's not the kind of horse I cling to.
He was hard to catch and fussy,
He would never make a pet,
But he would jump at cattle,
this is one thing he would do.
And he had the heart of giants,
I can still recall it -- yet.
We were bringing calvy heifers
from a close and handy pasture,
Bus rode bronco Woody,
'cause he had a lot to learn.
One heifer broke, they ran to head her,
stood their ground, and stopped disaster.
With dewclaws cutting circles,
they beat that cow at every turn...
So she ran blind for the willows;
Bus and Woody had to race her,
Nose to nose, and pushing shoulders,
As she made this frantic try,
And they pushed her in a circle,
till she quit, and they could face her.
Because Buster wouldn't weaken,
and Woody -- did not let her by.
And now, I watch him strain to shuffle.
I touch my rifle, 'neath the seat.
A friend to suffering horses.
At this range, I could not miss.
He'd find green pastures in an instant.
For my Dad, I do it neat,
He'd never hear the whisper.
Never feel the Nosler's kiss.
But the cranes have come. They're dancing,
as the spring sun melts the snow.
Oh, I know I'll need that rifle,
on some cold, November day.
But for a sorrel colt, who beat
that wringy heifer, long ago,
I'll just go about my business,
till this feeling -- goes away.
© Rod McQueary, All rights reserved
Virginia Bennett has written about this poem in our Favorite Poem Project:
Rod McQueary's "For Woody" is a poem that graces the page and takes up residence within the heart. A piece that begins with a rivulet of water high in the mountains, gaining volume and speed until it reaches the field where an old horse named Woody grazes. The writer knows Woody will suffer through another winter because of his advanced age, but then he remembers the proud, brave horse as he was in the past, faults and all, and he puts his gun away as he notices the onset of Spring. McQueary's presentation of the poem remains in my memory as classic and priceless. What a gift of literature!
Mad Jack's Dog
It was a short and squatty cabin
Thick dirt roof and round corral
From the distance, it looked interesting,
I stopped to rest my horse a spell.
From around behind this cabin
This wild-eyed old-timer came
Said his name was Mad Jack Hanks,
I shook his hand, told him my name.
Said he was up there trapping beaver,
And that he had the lonesome blues,
Soon, he offered bed and breakfast,
If I would share the latest news.
I agreed to his proposal
He seemed glad to have me stay,
He was rustling up some tableware,
While I put my horse away.
He had some supper going,
I hauled in a load of wood.
I shared the latest current events,
-and things were going good...
'Till I reached down to pet his damned old dog,
I truly meant no harm,
But before you know it, that old wolf had bit me on the arm.
"Mad Jack," I said, "why does your dog just glare at me with hate?"
"Oh, it's nothin', he's just cranky cause—
You're eatin off his plate.
© 1991, Rod McQueary, All rights reserved
This poem is included in our Who Knows? project.
The Chicken Outfit
It might have been the supper,
Gee, this bachelor cooking's great.
Or, it might have been the quantity,
I knew I overate.
It was just an average evening,
I don't recall now what was said,
But from the warm fire and the darkness
Soon I toddered off to bed.
This evil, gruesome nightmare
Started off polite enough,
I was standing by my mailsack
Just sorting out some stuff...
One letter said I had an extra uncle,
And that my Grandfolks had all lied
This rich and roguish uncle
Longed to see me, 'fore he died.
So I hurried down to see him
But when I got there, he was dead.
But his lawyer soon informed me,
I'd inherited his spread—
About a hundred-Zillion acres,
And I thought, "This dream is great,
There'll be no haying, and no farming,
There's no need to irrigate."
So I asked what breeds were in the stock
Of which I'd now be boss,
Cause I figured Coriente
Or maybe Brahma cross—
Then the lawyer said, "Rhode Island Red,
Banty," and some more...
I was puzzled, cause I had not heard
Of those cow breeds before.
And then he told me they were chickens,
and I knew the dream was bad,
'cause I'd agreed to run the stock
My crazy uncle had.
But I've got some decent horses,
Figured I could ride and rope.
So if I just treated them like two-legged cows
Then maybe I could cope.
It was ten straight days of sweaty work
Before I was content.
I had pastures built, bunches worked
For my Chicken Management.
Soon, I was riding my first-egg pullets
When I heard an awful squawk...
Then I beheld a nasty sight,
My very first "egg-lock."
From all you chicken raisers,
This information I would beg—
How do you keep your chick-chain
From just slipping off the egg.
Well I knew she was in trouble,
So I really gave her Hell.
Was the egg delivered backwards?
God, I really could not tell.
So then I had a stifled "first-egg-pullet,"
That looks like it must surely hurt,
Cause when you sling a chicken by the hips
Her little face goes in the dirt.
I figured I'd better cull some roosters,
They were sleek and round and fat,
But when I tried to measure scrotums...
-- I didn't have much luck with that.
But soon I had some chicken families
And it didn't seem so strange
To bunch them easy in the corner,
And work out pairs to match my range.
Mama hens have lots of babies.
And that's a handy thing, it's true
Cause when you cut them out on horseback
You always stomp a few.
This one poor little bugger,
By Gosh, it sure was weird,
I told my dog to get him,
And "Poof!" he disappeared.
I swear I did my darndest,
I used up all my tricks.
But when I finished cutting chickens,
I had lots of "leppy" chicks.
These few surviving leppies—
(Boy this is hard to tell)
I hauled them to my nurse hen
Back in the home corral.
—And this one poor little devil
Had been in there for a week
And I knew he wasn't sucking.
There was no foam on his beak.
So stretched out that old nurse hen
And that was sure the pits
God, I fumbled there for hours
To unplug her chicken teats.
So I just threw them in together,
And I'm taking all your bets—
He still follows that old hen around
But I know "Chick-Manna's" all he gets.
Now to doctor these wild range chickens,
I'll share with you this trick...
Start with a strong and healthy chicken,
Cause by the time they're caught, they're sick.
To rope and stretch these chickens
(If by now you haven't retched)
It's a many a team-roped chicken died
From being over-stretched.
Oh, it's many a hapless chicken
At my hands ran out of luck
With my feet on his chicken chest
To get my balling gun unstuck.
It seemed each night at supper,
We'd try some new, fantastic way
To cook and eat the chickens
Who died from doctoring that day.
But then I missed a payment—
And gee, it sure seemed sad,
The Dream-Land Bank foreclosed
Upon the place my uncle had.
The sheriff was a Christian soul
But he gave me quite a shock.
He said just the land was mortgaged
And I had to keep the stock.
So I loaded up my horses,
Coming home I spared no speed.
I was sick of chicken trouble,
And to work for chicken feed.
And here I stand, a wiser man.
But humbled, that is true...
I might be good at other things,
But I was a damn poor
© Rod McQueary, All rights reserved
This poem is also cited by Virginia Bennett in our Favorite Poem Project.
from Blood Trails:
Bill used to mention
Snippets of story
I heard but never
He might have been describing
It was an untouchable
Part of his past.
Our Pastor told the Bishop
About Bill's poetry.
While he was here, he
Bill did his funny ones
Two or three
And mentioned in passing
He had written some
About his war.
The Bishop asked to hear one, so
Bill went away and came
"Body Burning Detail."
Halfway through it,
He broke down.
I just remember him
Pouring down his face
It was real.
I could feel
with my heart
What he could never
I began to
from the Bishop
I have a natural connection
My Great-Aunt was born
near the ranch where
I like cowboys
enjoyed his story
about coming to Lander
He recited some funny poems,
We laughed and laughed.
It's all great
Then Bill said
There is something I've never
Read before I wonder
If it would be all right.
He took it out
began to read.
It became quiet
By the time he had to stop
We all were weeping.
When it was over,
We sat and talked
I have used Bill's poem
and I carry it with me.
I almost couldn't get through
"Body Burning Detail."
But I couldn't
The Bishop said
I'm so sorry
You don't have to
and I said
Yes I do
© 1993, Rod McQueary, All rights reserved
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