Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

About Sally Harper Bates



  From the 2011 Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering program, where her poem, "Farewell to the Horses," is featured on the program cover:

"...Her poetry and music speak clearly of her roots in the livestock industry, being raised and working on cow outfits in the Manzanita and Malapai of Yavapai County. Her roots reach deep into Arizona sod for five generations on both sides of her family tree. She's been on board with production of the Prescott Gathering since its inception."




Arizona Winds
Mixed Blessings
From an Old Ranch Wife
Ridin' Drag
What a Ride We've Had
A Leap of Faith
They're Comin' in to Water
When Granny Wore an Apron
Generic Titles


Arizona Winds

It looks like half the real estate
In Northern Arizona
Has "slipped the surly bonds of earth"
And blown into the sky
Like some dark, angry entourage
Was workin' overtime
To stir the lifeless desert soil
And laugh as it blows by.
The wind is tearin' blossoms
From the swaying apple tree
And after several hours
Of it's wailing, haunting voice
My soul is dry and brittle
While I wait for rain or calm
But a higher call than my own mind
Will make that final choice.
The windmill groans with longing
As it strains against the brake
While that pushing, pressing, wind insists
That it must bend and turn
Like people, who believe they're right
And blow and push and shove
Until your calm has blown away
And you pray that peace returns.
Contentious wind... that blow-hard kind
That rakes and turns your quiet mind
Until your nerves are frayed and raw
And tension mounts inside.
Lord... let me be a quiet breeze
That gently blows through lives
To cool, and soothe a fevered brow
Let me ease their rocky ride.
And if the breeze must press at times
When folks have missed your mark
Then, let it hold the scent of rain
That soothes like Gilead's balm
So words don't sting like driven dirt
And love is always there
The wind of your Holy Spirit
Returning peace and calm.
© April 2002, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Mixed Blessings 

There's a dry wind blowin' dust clouds
Through mesquite and greasewood trees
And the land's so dry it's crackin'
So no living thing's at ease
And spider webs are thick and wide
Across each mountain side.
Beside the windmill still and stark
Calves bawl and cows are lowing
They're mothered up to a water trough
Cuz' nothin out there's growing
Soon they'll all be shipped away
Someplace where there's been rain.
The horses stand beside the barn
And sniff and flinch and blow
They nibble leavings on the ground
With no desire to go
They wait for us to pitch some hay
Not even young ones play.
There's a hint of rain so far away
On top of the Mogollon
And thunderheads begin to build
In the eastern sky alone
While distant thunder's talkin' bold
Of moisture soon foretold.
Depending which comes first and most
The lightning or the rain
Will dictate how the souls of men
Will cleanse or turn profane
The distant thunder's talkin' bold
Of thunderheads in stronghold.
The wind delivers mixed blessings
Of rain and fire to fall
And heal the land with double talk
Of heaven and of hell
When lightning sets the land on fire
Or rain will quench the pyre.

© 2002, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


From an Old Ranch Wife 

My son... there you stand... coffee cup in your hand
Still steamin' and hot from the pot
You tell me you want to get married
While your horse is hobbled out front!

I wish I had time now to tell you
Just what those few words really mean
But instead I'll just ask you a question
You should answer before trading rings.

One question, my son, you must answer
Before double tracing you start
Think long, and think hard as I ask you
What will you give... in exchange for her heart?

Hard work?  Dogied calves?  Dying roses?
Long days in the sun or the snow?
Rain running in under window panes?
Then haulin' wood through the snow?

Riding drag with a dog that don't like her?
Loosing chickens to coyotes and skunks?
Don't grin at me boy... cuz' I'm speakin' the truth
I hope she's not packin' her trunks!!

So give me your cup and I'll wash it.
Unhobble your horse... now ride smart
But think on that question I asked you,
What will you give... in exchange for her heart?

© July 2002, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Ridin' Drag

He married that girl in '55
Back when they were young and alive
Moved to the ranch and settled in
She made every camp shine like a lamp
And now and then she'd ride drag.

She cooked and cleaned and wrote to her mom
Milked the cow and doctored her bag
And once in a while, when the help was short
He'd saddle a horse and call her out
And she'd grab her hat and ride drag.

The droughty years were tough on cows
And cowboys were scattered afar
So now and then he'd make her day
He'd tell her to pack a couple of sacks
Cuz' somebody had to ride drag.

She learned to like the dusty chore
Even more as the years rolled by
For it meant she was really a trusted hand
Who would always ride for the brand
Even if all she did was ride drag.

And that she did, for many years
Through smiles, and tears and sweat and fears.
Until one day, his heart gave out
And through her tears she smiled and said,
"This time I don't want to ride drag."

He patted her hand and wiped her tears
And he smiled through lips drawn tight
"My sweet, I pray that you'll be alright,
I'm goin' on and I'll mark the way,
But somebody has to ride drag."

© 2003, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


What a Ride We've Had!!

He lay there in the blankets on a lonely bunkhouse cot
Thinking back on better days when he was in a better spot
Where life was filled with laughter
And the ways of cowboy days
Ridin' out with all his heroes, made of merely mortal clay.

And his thoughts were overflowing with a song from deep within
"What a ride we've had my brothers, what a wonder it's all been,
Life's been full of mostly everything
A man could ever need
What a glory trail the portion, of this vagrant cowboy breed."

"What a ride we've had my brothers, what a glory trail we've seen,
What more could anybody ask then where we all have been?
Oh, a wife & kids would sure be nice
This side of paradise
But I wouldn't trade no kiddies for the splendid sacrifice!"

Thus he drifted off in day-dreams full of horses, grass and sky
Where the glory of the morning was so easy on the eye
When he rode the range so freely
Being just a stringy lad
And he sang his song of glory, "Brothers... what a ride we've had."

© 2003, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



A Leap of Faith

When your left foot hits the stirrup
And your right foot leaves the ground
There's a whole lot that can happen
While your butt is saddle bound!

It's a leap of faith 'yer takin'
As you reach toward that crest
That this horse you're takin' holt of
Will respond with all his best.

There's a vast pool of potential
In that space between his ears
And a cowboy knows he's reachin'
For what lies beyond the fears.

So you watch his eyes for tension
As you catch hold of the mane
Then your left foot hits the stirrup
While you try to read his brain.

And you see yourself reflected
In the window of his soul
But your toe has found position
In foundation with a hole.

And what happens in that moment
When your right foot leaves the ground
Will either make or break you
If his choice is come unwound.

But you've surely done your groundwork
And this isn't his first round
Where a left foot hit the stirrup
And a right foot left the ground.
So you take that leap of faith again
Where hope and hard work meet
With a sense that all the world is right
In the rhythm of his feet.

© 2004, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



They're Comin' in to Water

It started when just four of 'em
Way up along the cedars
Started down the narrow trail
And then I watched the leaders
Reach to nip at one another
With their ears laid back in fun
When the whole bunch pulled in sight
They erupted to a run

They had started out real easy
Seemed like they were havin' fun
'Til one lit into another
And the whole herd come undone
It had turned into a horserace
Through the malapai and grass
Some were barefoot some were shod
But the bunch was comin' fast.

So I held my breath in silence
With my coffee mug in hand
As they rumbled through the pasture
Blowin' dust up from the land
They were comin' in to water
Where the windmill cranks and whines
Pumping for a parched remuda
Where long shadows draw their lines
They drank their fill of water
Then stood quietly around
Head to tail they switched the flies away
And gently stomped the ground
Two young fellers stood with shoulders
Side to side and heads aloft
Gently gnawing at the withers
Of his pardner warm and soft
About a half an hour passed
Some watered out again
Then lined out on the narrow trail
Like perfect specimen
This time they walked out slowly
Quite methodical in fact
As though higher pecking order
Had instructed how to act
It'll be tomorrow morning
When their thirst begins again
To draw them to the windmill
Like some chicks back to a hen
They'll come buckin' through the granite
Through the cactus and the grass
As another morning breaks across
A window of the past.
Thanks to a workshop in Prescott
August 2004

© 2004, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



When Granny Wore an Apron

When Granny wore an apron all the world was right for me
Things were in their place just as ever they should be
I was warm and safe and loved on and the cookie jar was full
But just cuz she was wearin’ it she didn’t take no bull

Pappy loved my granny, though sometimes it didn’t show
He was tough as dried hide with hair the shade of crow
His granny was an Indian and he was proud to say
Our heritage was American, and brother could he pray!

When Granny wore an apron all the world was right for me
As a toddler I could hide there where I thought no one could see
And when I helped her bake and fry she made one just for me
So that when I wore my apron I was just like my granny.

And Pappy knew that when he came to bring the kinlin’ in
He better stack it easy so the bark stayed in the bin
And he better mind her clean swept floor and leave the mud outside
His boots had best be batted off when he’d been out to ride.

When Granny wore an apron over skirts below the knee
And stockings that were gartered just above where you could see
I wondered if she wouldn’t feel a little bit more free
If she’d wear some denim britches and dress a bit like me

But never in my lifetime did she don a pair of jeans
Not even when upon her knees she scrubbed a wood floor clean
Just somethin’ she was born to and she never gave it up
A lady never wore split britches, always had two teacups.

When Granny wore an apron all the world was right for me
I keep one in my kitchen right there by my cups for tea
I never wear one lately, except on one occasion . . .
When my grandkids come for cookies and a little cup of tea.

© 2011, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Sally Harper Bates told us about the poem's inspiration, "...it's so very truewhen we were little my granny always wore an apron unless she was goin ' to town. In those days you had to wringer wash everythingso we were more careful about getting things stained or dirty. She didn't have a closet full of clothes like we do todayjust a few dresses and one small dresser. And I loved her apronsmost of what is in this poem was just...oh so true."

Generic Titles

I've said it loud, and said it long
There's no such thing as a cowgirl
That name got tacked on Roy Roger's wife
For a cowboy she had too many curls.

A lot has been said about cowboys
Fer as long as they've been around.
Bottom line is...that it's a vocation
The word cowboy's a verb, not a noun

A female who knows how to cowboy
And can handle herself on the range
Is rarely concerned about gender
And she never would think it strange

To carry the handle of "cowboy"
All that means is . . . she's doin' the job
And she might be a sweet little lady
Or maybe as tough as a cob

But if you're one who ponders on gender
Or being politically correct
No wonder you find it confusing
And don't know just what to expect

Well then . . . just go on callin' us cowgirls
It's not a bad word, or a "slam"
But you don't say someone's a truckdriveress
Or a carpentress, just 'cuz she's ma'am

But if your gonna' call me a cowgirl
To be sure you're politically right
Then you better start callin' them BULLBOYS
And lets's get the gender split right.

© 2011, Sally Harper Bates
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

*Thanks to Charlotte Thompson for the conversation that birthed this little poem all those many years ago.



Read Sally Bates' poem, For My Friends, Larry & Andrea that was written for Larry and Andrea McWhorter, here.


hotbiscuits.jpg (44025 bytes)

Sally Bates' story "Spooky Cook" is featured in Hot Biscuits
a great collection edited by Max Evans and Candy Moulton, published by University of New Mexico Press.  
See our special feature about the book here.


Book and CDs

It's a Cowboy Christmas


A collection of stories, poetry, memories and recipes from folks who live the cowboy lifestyle and how they've experienced Christmas on the ranch. More than 30 writers have provided the 125 page collection.

The book is  $11, plus $5.35 shipping for up to 2 books.

Order from:

Sally Bates
P.O. Box 2814
Chino Valley, AZ 86323




The Canyons of My Heart


The Canyons of My Heart includes 14 new cowboy songs, 3 gospel songs, and 8 poems.

Most of the songs are family history or stories about friends and personal incidents. Canyons of My Heart seems to hold what has been hidden in the canyons of my heart until it found its way into this album.

The CD is $18.85 postpaid

Order from:

Sally Bates
P.O. Box 2814
Chino Valley, AZ 86323



Vantage Point

The  book is 70 pages including 38 poems with illustrations.  Some of the
poems are new, some are "oldies but goodies" which were written in the past.
All 38 are original poems.

There are 12 songs on the CD, including four pieces that were written by other
poets and I put music to. he rest are original songs. Songs are:

Song of the Horseman
Arizona Night
Cedar Dust
Grandad's Brand
Ridin' Out
Rustler's Moon
Waltz of the 3/4 Moon
Arizona August - Gail Gardner
Tracks That Won't Blow Out - Ray Owens
Roses in the Yard - Jon Messenger
The Mirror - Ron Brinegar

The CD is $15
The book is $12
Set of both is $24
Shipping and packaging are $4.50

Order from:

Sally Bates
P.O. Box 2814
Chino Valley, AZ 86323






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