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

Sam A. Jackson

of Utah
recognized for his poem
Midnight on the Kaibab 

Lariat Laureate

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of


Midnight on the Kaibab
Ol' Taupe
Becky O'
Cowboy Poetry Competition
A Cowboy Poem
Reel vs. Real Cowboys
Poetic Stimulation
Western Legends Roundup
New Year
's Resolutions for Cowboy Poets
"Cowboys! Cowboys! Cowboys!" (prose)
Comfort First

RA (Rhymers Anonymous)
Cowboy Simulation

My Canvas Home
Ode to the Rancher

On Page 2:

Mornin' Songs
"Sure Fire" Signs
The Reminisce
My Pal Gus

About Sam A. Jackson:

  "Everyone should leave some sign of having passed this way!" With that in mind, at age 64, Jackson began his writing by documenting some of his early life's experiences in rhyme. As that material gradually dried up, looking for other story sources eventually moved him on through the entire spectrum of western life, writing about such diverse subjects as Geology of the Rockies; Old Barns; building fences; Steam engines, "Molly Cule," (the life cycle of a drop of water); even development of a fictional character called Captain Baaa-a-a-d who saves baby animals from predators and other acts of valor as he dons his cape and mask to fight pastoral evil.  He calls his work "Western Verse" rather than using the more restrictive title of "Cowboy Poetry."

As well as reciting at numerous poetry gatherings throughout the West, Sam has produced several shows and competitive events. He organized a group of cowboy poets calling themselves Dogie Wranglers who, under a grant from Idaho Commission on the Arts, each year visit rural schools to teach and encourage students in the field of Cowboy Poetry. His latest venture has been to produce the world's one and only National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, "excellence through competition" being the central theme.


We asked Sam why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:

I write Cowboy Poetry primarily for sheer enjoyment of the accomplishment. Secondly, it is a means of communication that gives me my "best shot" of relating my life's experiences, historical themes and an outlet for my imagination

We asked Sam about his inspiration for "Midnight on the Kaibab" and he replied:

So as not to be confused with the "average bears," my wife and I spent the 1999, turn of the century, Christmas holidays at a line cabin on the Judd ranch near the Kaibab plateau on the Arizona strip. One clear, cold, starry evening, I came across a dusty old journal written by the original homesteader, Zadoc Judd.  Although this poem's story comes from my own imagination, the old cowboy's journal lit the spark.


Visit Sam Jackson's web site.


wildwooley.jpg (12592 bytes)  Sam's book, Wild and Woolly Western Verse and other Sagebrush Yarns was published in July, 2004.  Read more about it below.

You can email Sam.  Here's his award-winning poem:

Midnight on the Kaibab

It's the last day of December,
      year is eighteen ninety nine,
          nearin' midnight on the Kaibab Plateau.
T'was a night to long remember
      'midst those ponderosa pine,
          Listen up and hear this tale of long ago!

It started as a whisper,
      down the ridge just to the West.
          A subtle sound, near toneless to the ear.
The pitch climbs higher, crisper,
      like a Mountain Cat possessed,
          to noise I figure sure the rocks can hear.

Well--I'm sittin' in my cabin,
      had just finished up a chore,
          figures how I'd best be seein' what's about.
Just about the time I'm grabbin'
      fer the handle of the door,
          froze with wonder as I heard the lusty shout:

"I'm a rippin', roarin', twister!
      I'm a thundergustin' gale!
          Eats a cyclone fer m' breakfast every day!
 I'm a canyon digger, mister!
      I can spit out rain and hail!
          All the hills lay flat that dare get in my way!"

Hangin' just above the clearin'
      is a dark hellacious cloud,
          with an ugly vortex spinnin'  'round and 'round.
From its gut the voice comes searin',
      boomin' clear and cannon loud,
          usin' tones that stir vibrations in the ground.

"Zadoc Judd!! I'm hearin' stories--
      yer the man that does it all--
          You'z the roughest, toughest, Waddie on the strip!!
Well, I'll tells ya what, b'gories;
      If you'd dare to take my call,
          step astride Ol' Twister, take a little trip!

If ya rides him to the whistle
      then you wins the "Futures Purse,"
          an' I shows ya what awaits next hundred years.
If ya ends up eatin' thistle
      well-ya gets the "Cosmic Curse" --
          herdin' stars instead'a punchin' bally steers!

When the dust had settled, mostly,
      and some noise had died away,
          sets an ancient soul astride a monster Jack.
His appearance small and ghostly
      gets me thinkin'; "Judgment Day??"
          then I sees an Indian saddle is his tack.

Now,  I've never scared too easy,
      and not often prone ta brag,
          says; "Old man I'll take yer challenge, that's a bet!"
Then at risk of soundin' 'breezy,'
      adds; "I'll straddle that old nag,
          heck, I'll buck'em out and never break a sweat!"

"Well now cowboy, fetch yer riggin',
      Climb aboard and earn yer pay!
          You'd do well ta set yer jaw  'fore getting' on!
That first jump'll be a biggin',
      out towards the Milky Way,
          Fer the 'cocky' that's the one that gets'em gone!"

There's a natty lookin' smile
      floats across the weathered face
          as he holds a blindfold o'er the critters' eyes.
Swingin' on in usual style,
      snugs my knees fer 'just-in-case',
          "Let-'er-buck!! and YO!! we're headin' fer the skies!!

Boys, with no exaggeration,
      I can tell you peelers that:
          T'was the highest jump a man will ever see.
Down below's the Indian nation
      spinnin' under where we's at--
          I'm a spurrin', yellin', WAHOOOO-look at me!!!

Though that first one kept me busy,
      out the corner of my eye,
          there's Ol' Taurus breathin' fire an' kickin' dirt.
For a second, wonders;  "is he
      my new neighbor in the sky?"
          Then some 'twistin' brings me back to full alert.

Touchin' down just South of Zions,
      humps his back an' brays an' snorts!
          He ain't used ta baggage stickin' to his back!
We go bustin' past some Lions,
      Leos' den's around these parts?
          Got the rhythm now, I's glued to this ol' Jack!

Now I feels him start ta coilin' up
      the springs in all four legs.
          and I'm thinkin' this could be his biggest blast.
As rocks and dirt come boilin' up
      from hoof-tipped powder kegs,
          Still aboard, but kinda hope this jump's the last!

Just a speck far down below me
      Sinbad country and the Reef.
          floatin' high enough to spot the Southern Cross.
That last caper didn't throw me,
      with a feelin' of  relief,
          finally got this critter thinkin' I'm the boss!

With our rodeo behind us, and
      so long as we're this high,
          might as well take time to do a little tour.
See some wonders that the Masters' Hand
      has put here in the sky--
          seems I've always had a fancy to explore.

There's ol' "Hercules" of great acclaim,
      and "Lepus," giant hare.
          Wave hello to "Bootes," the herdsman, as we pass.
Now there's "Pegasus," winged horse of fame,
      a givin' us the stare--
          (Hey! first time he's seen a cowboy on an Ass)

These allmighty cosmic ranches,
      boundary's fenced by gleamin' stars,
          sets my mind to think how small our earthly range.
When some comet avalanches
      block our trail, we swing past Mars
          there I spots a sight that strikes me sort'a strange.

Up ahead, in distant clusters
      cowboys whoopin', ridin' hard.
          keepin' maverick stars from mixin' with their bunch.
Ropes a swingin', poppin' dusters,
      some on foot a'standin' guard--
              "Them's the boys Ol' Twister's throwed," would be my hunch.

Well come on ya long eared critter!
      time we's headin' back fer camp.
          Set us down, I'll let yer partner pay his bet.
Sure won't brand you as no quitter
      fact; at buckin' you's a champ!
          with a gait as easy ridin' as they get.

As we glides in fer a landin'
      there's some wonder on the face
          of the feller that Ol'Twister knows as "Boss."
You could tell the way he's standin'
      this had triggered some disgrace,
          as he grumbles' "It's our first time fer a loss!"

From within a traveled buckskin poke
      he lifts a glowin' stone,
          gestures I should come and gaze into its light.
Warns me: "Nothing seen can 'er be spoke
      of wonders you'll be shown-
          as they'll never be recalled beyond this night."

The brilliant light begins to fade,
      then dims to lanterns glow.
          I rub my eyes and set up in the chair.
Some kind'a dream! A real charade!
      A cosmic rodeo!
          Me tourin'  'round the Heavens?? I declare!!

I step out in the winters night
      and look up at the stars.
          Fer quite a spell, just watch'em sweepin' 'round.
To wonder if some fellers might
      be grazin' beef on Mars?
          Then fetched from cosmic musings by a sound!

It rings a faint familiar tone,
      like something heard before,
          I lay it to the wind caressin' pine.
Or, Lobo, tired of life alone,
      sings out from canyon floor?
          Then mystic words are blended with the whine!!

"I'm a rippin', roarin', twister!
      I'm a thundergustin' gale!
          Eats a cyclone fer ma breakfast every day!
I'm a canyon digger, mister!
      I can spit out rain and hail!
          All the hills lay flat that dare get in my way!!"

Ain't sure if I should laugh, or cuss
      at this creative hearin'?
          seems my ears is twistin' winds to spoken sound!!
But things become less humorous
      as daybreak lights the clearin'--
          and mule tracks come a starin' from the ground!!

So, even now on cloudless nights
      I'll look into the sky,
          and smile a bit at constellations' gleam.
To wonder; if those starry lights
      that's slowly trailin' by--
          are drovers movin' herds?  or just a dream??

©  Sajac  '00
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Ol' Taupe

My "YELP" was more from scare, than hurt,
              but when I tried to run,
'hind' quarters hugged the rocky dirt.
             Just nipped the colt in fun!

Her primal instinct sent the hoof
             to strike it's glancing blow.
I dragged myself from out her reach
             then heard the call from Joe-

"Heah Taupe! heah Taupe! You wayward soul,
             That mare is mean as sin.
She sees you messin' with her foal
              will damned sure do you in!

Come on ol' pup, let's hit the trail,
              sun's still an hour high.
We'll race to camp, the first one in
              gets all the lemon pie"!

I raised my shoulders, dug in claws,
              boy, movin's quite a chore!
I'll get to Joe, he'll fix me up,
              just like he has before.

"Heah Taupe!, Heah Taupe! now where you at?
              Come on, we got'ta get!
Quit playin' games ya ugly cuss,
              we got no time fer it"!

Joe rides around the pinyon tree,
              see's me a layin' there.
"Taupe!", says he, "get up! let's go!
              ya gave me quite a scare"!

Steps off his bay, when I don't stand,
              kneels down, then says; "Dear God!
His ruddy face turns ashen gray,
              then with a heart sick nod,
lays me across the saddle
              swinging quickly up behind.
Ain't sure just where we're goin' but-
            o let me ride is kind.

Probably to the Vets, I'd guess,
             like when that ornery snake;
scared me and I nipped its tail-
             turned out one big mistake!

We've been good pals since we wuz pups,
             been through both thick and thin.
Partners, come it rain or shine,
             where I go you'll see him.

Oh, he'll get mad and cuss me some
             when things don't go just right.
A tail wag un sheepish grin
             will usually end the fight.

I've helped him out a time or two:
             I'll not forget the day,
that 'she bear' had him up a tree-
             I chased her clean away.

Dogs ain't supposed to understand
             the workins' of mans mind.
Life's "whys-and-wheres" , its "hows-and-whens",
             are settled by his kind.

I've never seen him quite like this,
             a tear is on his cheek.
Can't figure what's a botherin' him,
             there's water in the creek!
And plenty grass has growed this spring,
             the calves are good and fat-
The heifers brought good price last week!
             don't think it's none o'that?

The ridge top's layin' just ahead.
             Now why'd we come up here?
Joes ties the bay, then sets me down,
             sure'nuff, he's actin' queer?

The rifle glints from setting sun
             while sliding from its boot.
A hundred times I've heard its roar
             and cringe as Joe would shoot!

Hey! now I've got it figured out;
             We're here to find some game.
We're short on grub fer supper-
             won't take long, he's got good aim!

I usually help him with this chore,
             jump rabbits fer his sight.
Today my tail won't even wag,
             but heck- he'll do alright.
And I'll be feelin' better soon,
             he'll fix things, wait and see--
The rifle muzzle swings around---
             Joe?? ---Joe, why's it aimed at me???

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

Becky 'O

There were no horses in North America prior to the Spaniards bringing them in the 16th century. Today's wild horses are descendants of the Spanish animals who strayed, and through inbreeding over the  years, we have today's Mustangs.  On occasion you will run across a 'throw-back' that seems to have many of the traits of the original 'blooded'  equines. This story is about one of them, a mustang mare caught wild on Utah's West desert in the 1940's, who spent most of her life blind in one eye, but a truly outstanding saddle mare. Her name was Becky O'--- 'A Throw-back-from-Castile'!

Aye! Becky'O, yer a fancy hoss.
Got an easy gait, never throwed the boss.
Top hand in spite of yer seein' loss;
          This Ode sings praise to you!

On the western Utah desert, in the north of the needles range,
stands a rise of rock called 'Mountain Home,'
an awesome place where the mustangs roam,
where grass grows tall in the sandy loam,
          and today we ride that trail.

We're an hour out as the shadows break
from pitch black dark to a gray opaque,
we've a long tough ride this day to make,
          through the trees and slick-rock shale.

Now, Becky 'O is the mare I ride,
has a 'cat-dimmed' eye on the 'git-on' side,
best danged Cayuse I've been astride.
          She's a gen-u-ine 'broomtail!

I reminisce as we climb the grade,
o'er the well worn path ancient hooves have made,
past the crumbled walls of the palisade.
          Hello'd by a coyotes wail.

Our journey ends where the trees stand bare,
near the wind blown ledge of the Pumas' lair,
where there ain't no eyes but our own to stare
          at the grassy, sheltered swale.

I'll be leavin' Becky here today,
on this high plateau where she used to play,
just slip the rope-and walk away.
          Her reward for life's travail.

She'll cast her lot with a broomtail band,
feel the desert wind, roam the pinyon land,
then per-chance cavort with the stallion, and-
          who knows what could prevail?

Aye! Becky'O, yer a fancy hoss,
got an easy gait, never throwed the boss,
how'd you come about this seein' loss?
          I remember-Here's the tale:

Ridin' by this spot some years ago,
came across the blood stains in the snow,
where a buckskin mare lay dead, and so-
          There's a misery I could feel.

T'was a cougar's kill I'd found that day,
swallered down his fill then sulked away,
now a colt stands near the spot she lay.
          Sure to be the cat's next meal!

But a shadow moves, and a subtle roar!
then my rifle speaks as I softly swore;
"Kitty cat you're prey, I'm the predator"!
          When I hear that filly squeal!

It's a feeble charge, but she's snortin' fire,
stepped aside, What spunk! that I do admire,
I'm the good guy, Colt! we should both aspire
          to work ourselves a deal.

When she reared and turned her head I saw,
one eye's been scratched by the lions claw,
bet yer boots she's tried to help her maw!
          She's a throwback from Castile!

Aye! Becky'O, yer a gutsy wrang,
and the name seems right fer a "she" mustang,
from an old, old, song that my Daddy sang,
          'bout a Lass named Beck'  O'Neal.

Though my ropin' skills ain't a sure-fired bet,
dusted off my old hemp lariat,
made a dozen throws-and I'd be there yet-
          if it wasn't fer ol' Taupe.

That shaggy dog see's I'm needin' help,
so he heels the colt with a growl and yelp,
mean enough to spook that little whelp,
         My horse her only hope.

Well, I grabbed her tail so she couldn't go,
with the other hand made a 'classy throw'
then the three of us did a do-se-do-
          in the tangle of the rope!

My horse ain't sure what it's all about,
fer a tiny thing that colt's sure stout!
just who caught who's still in some doubt!
          hi-tailin' down the slope.

That all took place in the days of old,
we're retired now and the ranch is sold,
wouldn't trade that mare fer a sack 'o gold,
          She's grazin' wild brome.

Bye! Becky'O, ya was a fancy hoss,
ya had an easy gait, ya never throwed the boss,
today your gain's my greatest loss--
          Our last ride brings you home!

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

(Jim "Curly" Musgrave  put this to music.)


Cowboy Poetry Competition

So--The wife and yer mama and paid hired hand
    all tell ya; "yer rhymin' is good!!"
Insist that on stage "the performance is grand!
    jist don't get applause that ya should."

Perhaps folks are lazy?  Or clap with one hand?
    or deaf in the ear, ya suppose?
Or maybe, just maybe, they live in town-and,
    don't quite understand cowboy prose?

Whatever the problem, ya might wonder how
    your stuff will stack up against peers,
That invite that came in the mail just now
    says; "Join competitions pioneers".

 America's built on this kind of a thing.
    Competition has helped make it great.
 Excellence our goal, perfection is king,
    objectives the wise advocate.

 Just put up your money, then ride each event,
    a 'rodeo'  it's bein' called,
 and if ya gets throwed, only ego is bent,
    so least ways, yer body ain't mauled.

 Prize money's paid, there's enhances the fun,
    and goes to each high scorin' ride,
 and last, but not least, for year, 'triple ought one'
    come braggin' rights---all certified.

 So get on yer hoss, rein his head to the West,
    let's see where you stand in this crowd.
 Come show'em who's boss, and who ranks second best-
    regardless, you'll walk away proud!

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

A Cowboy Poem

I'd like to write a 'Cowboy Poem'
  but there's some skills that I
must first have firmly in my mind
  before I 'versify'.

A poem is how we might express
  to others how we feel,
about our dreams, our schemes, our thoughts,
  though fanciful or real.

Writing helps our spelling and
  vocabulary grows.
It also gives our minds a rest
  from livings cares and woes.

'Poetic License', is a term
  that many think is great,
it gives us due permission so
  we may exaggerate.

There's many patterns can be used
  when writing verse or prose.
Most 'cowboy' stuff is metrical,
  sounds better, I'd suppose.

To rhyme, the words must sound the same,
  as do both cot and draught.
Although appearance differs much
  their spelling matters not.

Yes, ate and bait and straight all rhyme.
  Two words can rhyme with one;
as kick it goes with thicket, see-
  how rhymin' can be fun?

There's many words that look alike
  with spelling near the same,
when carefully sounded out you'll see
  to rhyme they have no claim.

Important are the syl-la-bles,
  those units of a word,
let's keep them constant in each line
  so rhythm can be heard.

A 'couplet' is two lines that rhyme
  some poets use them all the time-
but if you start a poem with one-
  keep with it 'till your story's done!

 There's other rules we must learn
   when writing western verse.
 Use words the way you usually talk,
   just as you would converse.

 Don't write a sentence backwards just
   to make the last word rhyme
 as; "We are on a hike today
    and up the hill we climb

 Our teachers spend unselfish years
   to teach us how to speak-
 Then 'Cowboy Poets' come along
   with words and sounds unique.

 We're prone to use some 'lazy talk,'
   most Western people do.
 Leavin' of some endin' "g's,"
   and sayin' "ya'll" for "you."

 But shucks, don't fret about that none,
   we'll write our verse and then-
 take off our boots and cowboy hats-
   speak good as new again!

 So now, my friends, take pen-in-hand
   let's get a runnin' start,
 commit your thoughts to paper and-
   make sure they're from the heart!

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

Reel vs. Real Cowboys           

To conjure a vision of "cowboy"
  could carry your mind two ways;
most common's the Hollywood version;
  'gun fights 'un adventure filled days'.

Tall, lean, and disgustingly handsome.
  Tailor-made shirt on his back.
Sittin' a'straddle, a near silver saddle,
  just matchin' the rest of his tack.

His hat is a Johnny B. Stetson,
  pure white and at least 30 X.
Engraved in the band, his initials and brand,
  and would you believe that it's "Tex?"

The horse is a story worth tellin',
  A high steppin', single foot bay.
That baby will run, 'till the villain is done—
  not one drop'a sweat from the fray!

His shootin' goes way beyond braggin',
  usually one shot and they're done,
Then twirlin' the pistol, gives 'em a fistful,
  while smilin' as though it were fun.

Can swaller a glass of bar whiskey
  without ever makin' a face.
Walks with a swagger, never does stagger.
  At poker he draws every ace.

Seldom needs sleep or good victuals.
  Knows all'a them cowboy clichés,
and if he gets shot, it's in a good spot!
  Back ridin' in just a few days.

When leavin', swings into his saddle,
  not usin' the stirrups, of course!
The last look ya gets, is as the sun sets,
  he's singin' a song to his horse.

Some swaller this bogus description,
  though most view the picture as strange.
Let's look at another, cow punchin' brother,
  and follow his day on the range.

Now—picture this work-a-day feller;
  five-eight, and he's built sort'a slight.
Boots decorated with cow-salve,
  and clothes that ain't fittin' just right.

His face might'a wore out two bodies.
  Hair brings ta mind moldy hay.
a big easy smile, breaks out'a that pile,
  "Disguise keeps the gu-rills a-way."

The coat he's a wearin's a "wonder,"
  you "wonder" the source of the thing.
But now you know who, might'a skinned that old ewe,
  that died of consumption last spring.

Its sleeves are too long, so he cuffs 'em,
  a tear has been patched with some twine.
Out front is a juttin', a stick fer the button.
  But keeps out the weather just fine.

His horse ain't a whole lot to look at,
  sure-footed and smart as an ass.
Turns on a dime, but stops every time,
  it comes to a stand of good grass.

The saddle he's sittin' is weathered,
  but still sports a good solid tree.
Some stitchin' still loose, from when his cayuse,
  hit oaks on account of a bee.

His gun is a rusty old carbine,
  scarred stock juttin' out'a the boot.
It's rode a long ways, and seen better days,
  with a good chance it won't even shoot.

Says gamblin' don't treat him too kindly,
  in fact, nearly caused him a wreck;
Last time he played poker, was caught with a joker,
  that weren't s'posed to be in the deck.

Quit drinkin' hard likker fer reason,
  says; "Beer better matches his wage,
and sometimes that whiskey, would make him so frisky,
  they'd keep him in town in a cage!

Been known to climb into his saddle—
  (if no one's behind him ta gawk)
by leadin' his bay, up the trail a way,
  then crowdin' in close to a rock.

The last look ya gets at this cowboy;
  He's standin' there scratchin' his....chin,
a wonderin' how, to clear that ol' cow,
  that's in the barbed wire again!

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

Poetic Stimulation

 I figure to become a famous poet,
  and once my mind has set upon a task,
 will do my level best as not to blow it,
  so-- putting on my best poetic mask-

 Saunter down to Barneys Noble book store,
  an' ask'em for a book with lots'a word.
 "Would a million do sir?" I said "Oh shore
  no harm in havin' some that I ain't heard"!

 What set me on this rhymesical adventure?
  A story in a science magazine!
 While at the dentists waiting for my denture,
  read all about this 'fixture' in my bean.

 "The Brain," it flatly stated, "is the fastus
  computer, unskilled labor's ever made.
 Compact and cool running so's ta last us
  for cogitating in the sun or shade.

 Ten billion cells, each one it claims, a storin',
  at least two megs of information bits.
 Keeps right on hummin', even when we're snorin',
  ordains us to be dull, or great poe-its!"

 "Ah-ha!" says I, "With such a power factor,
  computin' in my head a'while I muse,
 I could become a surgeon or an actor,
  or even-yes, a poet-- should I choose".

 With open book and paper I am started,
  but Whoa-this stuff ain't soundin' like it should!
 Even when them sylly-bulls are sorted,
  the meter and the cadence ain't so good!

 It says  "Cerebral cortex stimulation
  will often set creative juices free".
 So-drawing on my recent education-
  I figure out what that might do fer me.

Perhaps a 'tich - or - two' of sippin' whiskey?
  then if that doesn't cause me to inspire-
 at least it might result in getting' frisky,
  and sure enough could light some other fire!

 Salute!! Oh aqua-vitae, start your charmin'.
  I shudder as it sinks into my gut.
 The burnin' in my throat is quite alarmin'!
  A painful way to stem poetic rut.

 With pen-in-hand awaiting mystic glimmer,
  a twitching in my eye sets me alert.
 Comes next, it seem me brain begins to simmer!
  Suffice to say; "no longer I'm inert"!

 Carrumba!! Words start flashing through my mind now.
  I write one verse in clever metaphor.
 If  "one" spawns verbal hemorrhage of this kind- wow!
  what literary treats, if I sip more?

 My pen is drafting words as though some genie's
  had just released Bill Shakespeare from a flask.
 More stimulation for my dop-a-meenies-
  Such brilliant work is now a simple task.

 Example? You dare ask for confirmation?
  No, dear friend, for I would dare suppose,
 that judging from your common occupation,
  me thinks your mind's not ready for such prose!

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


Cowboy Poets
   (of what they write)

They write of the 'old' days, of long ago friends
     of horses and dogs they have had.
Of times they were younger, of dreams and pretends,
     and stories that tell of their dad.

They write of the mountains and prairies they cross,
     with danger a part of each day.
Admit all their trappings might load on one hoss,
     as freedom means more than the pay.

They write of the romance and loves set aside,
     lost, as they've chosen a life
not privy to luxury and tokens of pride
     other men offer a wife.

They write of the everyday hardships employed,
     accept them as part of the times,
and tell of some pleasures we've never enjoyed
     except through their treasure of rhymes.

They set their adventures to paper with pen,
     then with humble parade, pass on.
Another steps forward, starts writing, and then-
     overshadows the bard just gone.

By using this measure, they pass on the wit
     and wisdom they'd like us to keep.
With noble tradition, they're bound to commit
     their stories before they sleep.

© Sajac '02
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


He was an old man. Over forty, I'd say.
            We sat on the porch where we always sat after supper,
                        he's on the top step, I'm down a couple.

A white paper disc decorated with an engraved bull,
swings from a yellow string hanging out an overall pocket.
                        It doesn't quite fit the family crest-
                                    Papa raises sheep.

A tug on the bull retrieves a small white cloth bag.
            It's label proudly proclaims:
                        "Genuine Bull Durham Smokin' Tobacco."

Teeth grab the closed top-
            Fingers tug the opposite side-
            The draw strings slides--It's open!

Tapped gently, the "Durham" spills
            into a paper trough shaped by a finger and thumb.
            It fills-then stops-
                            Exactly the right amount! How'd he do that?

Then I wondered quietly; what part of a bull
            does this "Durham" really come from?
            but didn't ask-only a kid would do that.

Now teeth grip the disc, and with a clever nod
            the sack is closed, then tucked away.
            The bull-on the disc-on the string-
                                   left hanging out for next time.

The paper with its "Durham" still loaded
            is carefully raised, his tongue wets the papers edge,
            then in one masterful motion, confirming
                            "the hand is quicker than the eye," another 
     Genuine Bull Durham roll-yer-own smoke is born!

A twist of the paper locks one end.
            Lips shape, then seal, the other.
            Some maverick bits of "Durham"
                                    waiting on the tongue are tasted,
            carefully positioned, then-spit-t-t-t away!!

He leans back, winces as he straightens a leg,
            mutters, "Damn that gray mare!"
            then fetches a match from the overall pocket.
                                Held firmly against the seat of his pants
it launches on a path worn by a thousand before it
            and near the back of the knee-comes away flaming!

I once asked;  "Why that way?"
            "Well", he replied, "burning sulfur
            under the fingernail is painful but-
                    scratch marks on yer Grandmas' porch is worse!"

A pause rids the sulfur, then held in one hand
            habitually cupped against the wind,
            the flame touches-paper flares-then glows-
                                    The smoke rings swirls up and out-
            Will it lasso my finger? Missed again! it's gone.

A look of amusement, his eyes smile, he pats my shoulder.
 I stare with pride and wonderment.
            He didn't spill one speck!

Don't know why Grandma won't let him smoke in the house?
            Oh well, tonight is the best lookin' smoke we've ever rolled.

"Papa", I asked in my most grown-up voice,
            "when will I be old enough to do that??

© Sajac '98
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



                        A sultry summers afternoon,
                                    dust devils dance as fools,
                        as heat waves sculpt a vague mirage
                                    of distant, shallow, pools.

                        The mountains launch a thunderhead
                                    a dozen miles high,
                        then gouged by volts, from lightning bolts,
                                    its thunder shakes the sky.

                        Beyond the ridge, a wisp of smoke
                                    comes rising in the air.
                        This country's dry, and plants that die,
                                    leave tinder every where.

                        As would a casual romance bloom,
                                    so fires rise as well,
                        one spark will grow, beyond a glow,
                                    to flame, then raging hell.

                        The gusty winds seek out, harass,
                                    then coax each infant blaze
                        to leave its nest, no longer rest,
                                    go out, begin its graze.

                        A ridge consumed with callow ease,
                                    to whet the appetite,
                        finds more to burn, at every turn,
                                    as all but rocks ignite.

                        Then feeding with the frenzy of
                                    a Grizzly's first spring kill,
                        extends its bounds, the speed astounds,
                                    in wake-a blackened hill.

                        Shear size creates the firestorm
                                    from which there's no reprieve.
                        A forest lost, in holocaust,
                                    robs air from all that breathe.

                        Now, vacuum powered tentacles
                                    seek out and capture fuel.
                        Cares not the least, for man or beast,
                                    beware! this thing is cruel!!

                        Sounds that vent from deep within
                                    this 'devils carousel',
                        might echo those, I would suppose,
                                    that man will hear in  hell.

                        Flames that belch from canyon depths
                                    belie a dragons breath.
                        A raptor floats, o'er smoke filled moats,
                                   drawn in by smell of death.

                        A rabbit darts from cover, though
                                    it fears not from the sky,
                        but runs to flee, the burning tree,
                                    a will 'to-live' not 'die'!

                        The hawk will plummet t'ward the prey,
                                    wings tucked and talons drawn,
                        approaching near, both disappear,
                                    consumed and quickly gone.

                        At canyons base, a rocky bed,
                                    was yesterday a stream,
                        now fishes die, as pools dry,
                                    reduced to hissing steam.

                        Glowing bits of embers fly
                                    on winds spawned of the heat,
                        to reach ahead, trap those who've fled,
                                    annoyed by their retreat.

                        Now racing as a freight train might
                                    that has no engineer,
                        audacious, reckless, daring, bold,
                                    this monster has no fear.

                        Especially none from likes of man
                                    whose efforts so amuse,
                        as shovel, axe, and dozer blade,
                                    do little but abuse.

                        T'was Mother Nature's awesome force
                                    that set the spark aglow,
                        and only She can change it's course
                                    with rain and winters snow.

                        For learned man has now allowed
                                    the forests to decay,
                        not using plants to nurture as
                                    he must in modern day.
                        thus destroying species that
                                    his efforts sought to save.

                        Endangered and domestic now-
                                    both lie in common grave.
                        Whose fault, this great inferno that
                                    destroys and wastes and kills?
                        Should blame be Mother Natures or-
                                    Mankind's destructive skills?

                              © Sajac  '95
                              This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The herd is nearing bedground, slowly grazing,
dogies bunched and playing on the hill.
Hundreds in their number, how amazing,
by dusk each finds their mother-but they will!
The sounds of night, each echo like no other
join the serenade to end of day.
Blending in their tones with lowing mother,
calling soft to coax the young from play.

One-by-one they heed the call to dinner,
with bellies full now bed down for the night.
Days work done, you count yourself a winner.
Rewarding, this bucolic, tranquil, sight.
The moon is showing o'er the east horizon.
Wind begins to whisper through the trees.
Cactus flowers sweet aroma risin',
drifts across the trail on evenings breeze.

Your pony shakes his head anticipating
rewards that will be his when back at camp;
a nosebag full of oats will be a'waiting,
a rubdown where the saddle's made him damp.
With chores all done you set awhile and ponder.
Roll a smoke and put your cares away.
Though meager wage you're prone to promptly squander-
you wonder how the 'poor-folks' spent their day?

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

Sam writes: "This poem recalls an early June evening, many years ago, at one of our bedgrounds called "Cottonwood Corrals" in the hills a couple of miles above the ranch. It could be a tranquil place this time of day with a small stream making sounds only small streams can make. As dusk turned to darkness, the smell of the night blooming cactus made the evening's ride back to camp a rewarding experience. . . .


Western Legends Round-up
 (a cowboy celebration)

This story is told of a city out West,
            rich in its trove of historic debris.
A small, friendly town, with a most noble quest--
           "Stayin' in touch with how things-used-to-be."

Each Autumn as warm summer days near an end,
            memories of earlier times come astir,
then following through on this yesteryears trend,
            folks will oblige grand events to occur.

Old legends are gathered from out of the past,
            dusted, and polished to sparkle like new.
Events re-enacted, their heroes re-cast,
            the "Past" comes alive for the "Present" to view.

The sights and the sounds you are likely to hear
            will conjure up visions of much harder times.
See glimpses from life of the hardy pioneer,
            hear echoes of history in ballads and rhymes.

So let your mind wander, forget it's today,
            pretend to be livin' those days of the past.
Then when comes the morrow, you're likely to say--
           "Kanab's Western Legends, shape memories that last!"

© Sajac '03
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Sam Jackson is originator, developer, and producer of one of the top annual Cowboy Poetry events:  The Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, held in Kanab, Utah, in conjunction with the Western Legends Round-up.  Read our feature about the event here


New Year's Resolutions for Cowboy Poets:

I will modify my creative writing habits in such a manner as to complete one
poem, and edit it at least 100 times, before beginning the next!   But if I don't -----------

I will never ask my wife to listen to any partially completed poem that has
absolutely no editing!   But If I do---------

It will never be more than just two or three times per day!   But if It

I will put little credence in her comments if any [major] items are pending
on her "Honey-do" list!   But If I do-------

I will also, before publishing, have the poem reviewed by at least two hired
hands, one close relative, (having no indication if they are included in my
will) and at least one  Pastor who is not soliciting contributions!   But if
I don't ---------

I will never allow overly positive feed back to go to my head, thus
preventing me from doing my very best work!   But if it does-------

It will not allow it to affect my life style in such a manner as to begin
spending outrageously large portions of the family income for traveling to
cowboy poetry gatherings merely for egotistical purposes!   But if I

I will never become haughty, supercilious or self centered merely because of
audience reaction,  standing ovations or compliments from fellow poets, who
might be seeking compliments in return!   But if I do---------

I will endeavor to continue to treat my fans, and the "lesser-poets"
surrounding me, with every ounce of the respect due them!   But if I don't-------

I will never refuse autographs to the homeless, mentally challenged or
children under the age of four!   But if I do--------

It will be with the proper courtesy and an outpouring of  regret! And,

I will absolutely never, ever,  refuse any reasonable offers from major book
publishers, Hollywood movie studios or TV talk shows, regardless of how busy
my schedule!!!

© Sajac '04
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Cowboys! Cowboys! Cowboys!
 by Sheepherder Sam Jackson

Some years back, I attended my first cowboy poetry gathering in St. Anthony Idaho, though liking the general concept of  western history (and other assorted stuff) being set to rhyme-- I was quite surprised to learn that the West had been explored, tamed and settled solely, by ...  cowboys!

Where I came from, cowboys and sheep men looked much alike--both did their days work on horseback; wore riding boots' kept the weather off their pretty faces with ten gallon hats; smoked Bull Durham; drew about the same wages; and smelled pretty much the same.  Why then, so much chatter about one and not the other?  My conclusion: movies.  Cowboys just got better press! Thus began my "One Shepherd Crusade" to do something about it


We have six ol' cows a grazin' in a pasture near the road,
where they're certain to be seen by passers-by.
Just beyond the hill are grazin' several thousand head of sheep,
            by design they're not apparent to the eye.

Folks would never guess by lookin' as they drive a past our place
hid behind that screen of lovely rollin' hills--
stands our "real" source of income, little woolly quadrupeds,
Shore enough, the ones that usually pay the bills.

But if someone were to ask us--at a place away from home;
How we make our livin', just per chance?
Why we'd straighten up our shoulders, look'em right straight in the eye
and proudly state:  "We own a cattle ranch!!!"      

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

As I began reciting some of my sheep poetry at various "cowboy" poetry gatherings, more and more old bow- legged fellers would approach after the shows, pull me aside, then in a half-embarrassed, whispered voice would say, "Ya know, our outfit started out in the sheep business--might even say that's what got us goin' good." Or, "I used to herd woolies, pretty much enjoyed the work but had to get into the cow business when the price of wool went to hell!"

Although I am personally aware of at least a dozen such ranches in Utah and Idaho, Nevada also has some documentation as well. 

These excerpts are from Buckaroos in Paradise: Cowboy Life in Northern Nevada, published by the Library of Congress in 1980 and republished as a Bison Book by the University of Nebraska Press in 1981:

Many of the old cattle ranches began as sheep-raising operations. Particularly in the days when cheap, good labor was available, before the federal grazing lands were enclosed and brought under control in the 1930s and before the development of synthetic fabrics, sheep were profitable. Ranches like the Stewarts' 96 (originally the William Stock Farming Company), the Recanzones' Home Ranch, the Millers' 101, and the Pasquale ranch owed at least part of their early success to the sheep industry. The 96 Ranch once ran as many as twelve thousand Merino sheep.

The open-range cattle business glorified and exaggerated in popular fiction, movies, and television shows only flourished for a brief time, from about the end of the Civil War to about 1890.

© 2006, Sajac 


Comfort First

The older we get, the safer's the bet,
     that 'fore we step out in the cold,
We're wearin' some clothes, won't let us get froze,
     for comfort we're easily cajoled.

Cowpunchin's our trade, but we ain't afraid,
     when coziness comes into play

To cut out the bull, admittin' that wool
     outshines cowhide socks any day!

© 2004, Sajac, from Wild and Woolly Western Verse 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


(Rhymers Anonymous)

I'm a rhyme-a-holic, un my name is Sam,
but I'm a gonna quit-- bet yer boots I am!

Threw away my notes, un threw away my pen
Swearin' clean off rhymin' any words again!!

Couple days gone by, I'm still a feelin' fair.
Oh, well, I shake a bit, prone ta sit un' stare

stayin' clear of books an keep the diet plain
seems ta help a bit at easin' verbal pain

Hope ta see the day when I kin take a walk
An not have ta practice any rhymin' talk

ask my "Higher Power" fer a helpin' hand
ta be a sheddin' this cowboy poet brand

I'll know fer sure I'm cured uv this dread disease
When asked "If I'll recite?" say "No thank you please!"

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



Cowboy Simulation

So ya wannabe be a cowboy, but—don't quite have all the means,

                                    Lemme tell ya how to do a simulation.

            Dandy way ta take a short cut to some rugged Western scenes

guaranteed to furnish outdoor stimulation.


First thing’s ta go and buy a tent fer campin’ in yer yard

make sure that it's the very smallest style

            Then pitch it where there’s no cement and tie'er down real hard

in case the wind starts blowin' after while


            Some limbs from off the neighbors pine will make a cozy bed

                                    A tarp will keep the tips from  stickin’ through

A pillow’s nice when you recline to rest yer weary head   

                                    don’t have a saddle?—then a rock’l do.  


            The Pet store’s jist on down the road an’ sells some things ya need—

            (We gotta make this cowboy thing seem real!)

            two scorpins and a horney toad, a snake of any breed

                                    then turn’em loose right after evenin’s meal


            The reasons they’re invited is to keep you on yer toes—   

                                    loosin’ sleep to some is their un doin’

            jist knowin’ that yer campin’ with these sleeky, horney foes

                                    guarantees a restless night is brewin’


            As daylight breaks you feel the urge suggesting natures call

                                    Now don’t be headin’ fer yer favorite locker

            Jist park behind a handy bush and use it fer a stall

                                    So what-- if neighbors think yer off yer rocker?


            Next thing’s is figure out a way ta make ya “Cowboy tough”

                                    This here should work—with any kind of luck

            Tomorrow at first light of day jist raise up off yer duff

                                    And get yerself run over by a truck


            Now limp on back to cowboy camp (got throwed off by yer hoss!)

                                    an cuss a bunch cuz dinner beans’er cold

            It’s rained a bit—yer cold an’ damp—but don’t start gettin’ cross

                                    cuz cowboy life’s some tougher than youz told!  


If you ain’t had no fun by now at this here cowpoke game

                        I’d figure there’s a chance you wuz mistaken

Jist ain’t cut out to tend the cow—so take another aim

                        can’t cowboy up lest you got plenty achin’. 

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


My Canvas Home

Sheepherder Tents

I’d dare say there aren’t many left who have spent time in the mountains living in a tent and being supplied by packhorse during the course of making a living. Although I hesitate referring to this as “Roughing it” (for each generation has their own definition of the term) it may come pretty close, but for whatever it's worth, here are some recollections of time spent in my "canvas digs" while herding sheep for my Dad during WW II.    

Still referred to as a “Sheepherder Tent,”  this rectangular canvas structure was 6 ft. wide by 12 ft. long, with 3 ft. walls and 6 ft high at the crown. The floor was dirt and two angular flaps that tied in front served as a doorway. It had few qualities dedicated to comfort, when the weather was hot—the tent was hot with the opposite qualities during a cold snap. However in its defense, it kept the sun off my pretty face and was an excellent wind break. 

The sides were usually pinned to the ground with wooden pegs then banked with dirt to keep out water and such local neighborhood pests as lizards, chipmunks, scorpions and rattle snakes (however, these same little rascals could come and go as they pleased via the aforementioned "front doors"). The tent was made from heavyweight canvas and waterproof, that is, unless something (like a hat or shoulder) would happen to touch the inside—then get out a pan to catch the drip.  

On the right side, as you enter, was the “Sheepherder Stove” perched on a large rock. This small, light weight unit could cook yer breakfast and keep things toasty as long as you fed it kindlin—but carefully! as too many sticks of oak or sage brush, all at once, would quickly turn the 20-gauge tin cherry red as there was no (effective) damper system to calm things down.

On the left side of the entry way stood a cupboard and two grub boxes. The former was usually a wooden crate standing on end, and the latter were covered boxes custom made to fit in the outfits pack saddle panniers. The rear half of the tent was used for a bed that sat on a framework of gamble oak poles topped off with a mattress of freshly cut pine boughs to enhance your sleeping pleasure. Several heavy “herd quilts” covered this “mattress.” They in turn were covered with a canvas tarp that served as a bedspread and tablecloth. A small water can sets just outside the door and to complete the interior decor, a canvas water bag or a metal canteen would hang from the tents front upright.

For mid-day recreation you might tease a rattlesnake into climbing a gamble oak bush or try (again) to capture the chipmunks pilfering oats out of the horses grain sacks.  I had a radio (with a dry cell battery larger than the radio) that would last about thirty days—if only played an hour a day, which wasn't much of a problem as there was no reception when the sun was up. In the morning while breakfast cooked, I'd listen to T Texas Tyler sing "Remember Me," "Roly Poly," "Rye Whiskey," and other "groan-up" music. Evening entertainment was either reading "Cowboy" stories by lantern light or listening to the 50,000 thousand watt, clear channel station coming out of Clint Texas: "C-l-i-n-t---Clint Texas" where they were forever advertising automobile paint that would not "Chip—Crack—or Peel!!" Figured, one day to buy some, for if things held steady and I had calculated correctly, by the time I was sixteen and could drive legally, my "six bits a day" would add up to about what it would take to buy a car—that would probably need a paint job.

I suppose the most difficult part of those "roughin' it" days, mentally, might have been the lonesome, and physically, putting up with the mud, wet and cold, while tryin' to warm up or dry out during those occasional two-or-three day Spring drizzles—but heck that sounds snivelly and there I was, a  whopping 12 years old, an' makin' six bits a day, so I'll end it here and see if I can set this story to rhyme—

My Canvas Home

          When as a lad, I camped alone,

while tending to my wooly flock.

Now more than sixty years have flown,

would if I could, turn back the clock?


From time to time my mind replays

             fond scenes of how those days were spent

engaging in the humble ways

            that come from living in a tent.


In many ways, those times were good,

self-confidence, experience gained,  

though doubting that today I could,

for progress has me luxury trained.


Could I, one hour before the dawn,

arise as coyotes greet the day

            to light a fire then stumble on

                   to find a steed that’s grazed away?


It mattered not how sweet the grass

                               how tall, nor tender, near the camp—

you’d swear that buckskin horse's ass

                               would trek a mile to make me tramp.    


                   Some sights and sounds come drifting in

                               so sharp and real it seems that I

                   can taste and smell and hear the din

                               from eggs and bacon as they fry                                               


                   Scoop out the breakfast from the pan

                                 hot coffee perkin’ in its pot

                   the dogs er smellin’ hotcakes, an,

                               are hopin’ that you’ve cooked a lot.


                   The pine bough bunk serves triple role

                                as table, bed and easy chair.

                   and hangin’ from the center pole

                                your digs are lit by lanterns glare.


                   Designer cupboards proudly stand

                               displaying manufactures pride—                                    

“Pure Sun Kissed prunes, the healthy brand!”

                               exclaim “These shelves are bona fide!”  


                   Beside the Spam, boxed flakes of wheat

                               their corners gnawed some, here and there

                   Danged chipmunks likely had a treat—

                               no more that right that we should share.


                   A stove sits perched across the aisle

                               its coat of rusty weathered tin

                   ain’t seen no polish for a while

                               top’s bent and sides are wearin’ thin


                   Still sittin’ on the same old stone

                               that keeps its belly off the ground

                   we move, but it stays here alone                                   

                               until next season rolls around.


                   ‘Bout once a week I’d keep an eye

                               a peerin’ down the home ranch trail

                   expectin' Dad would soon come by

                               a fetchin' fresh supplies and mail.


                   It's lonesome?  but I ain't afraid,

                               jist "shepherd up," get over it !

                   Six bits a day, I'm gettin’ paid—

                               while we're at war—I'll do my bit!         

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


This poem and story are also posted in our Western Memories feature.


Ode to the Rancher

Please note: The author is certainly aware that many ranches are successfully owned and operated by women, however, scripting has led to the use of the objective male pronoun “he” throughout this document. 

In man's quest to earn his daily bread, there may be few vocations more mentally taxing, physically exhausting, and have greater potential for promoting stomach ulcers, gray hair, gnashing of the teeth, loosening of the bowels and be less appreciated by the general public, than that of America's Western Livestock Rancher. For here resides the poor soul who must toil year 'round, seven days a week, from dawn till dusk, trying to overcome the endless problems associated with tilling the soil and raising livestock, and in doing so, must turn enough profit for the operation to last another season. At the same time he must deal with the deluge of restrictive rules and regulations constantly spewing from bureaucratic government agencies—and if that wasn't enough, this high-stakes gambler, each year, must bet everything he owns" land, equipment, livestock, and home, on something as unpredictable and fickle as the weather.  Not enough rain—he loses, too much rain—he loses, the right amount of rain, but at the wrong time—he loses. Those are worries he must look forward to year around. 

This “Tiller of the Turf, as well as having a thorough knowledge of  horticulture and animal husbandry, must also possess some expertise as a diplomat, paralegal, bookkeeper, veterinarian, civil engineer, master mechanic, welder, carpenter, plumber and a number of minor disciplines too numerous to mention here. 

Our “Jack of all trades, in the course of a single day, might go from performing the most humble task to taking on the roll of a skilled negotiator:  Mucking out a stable in the morning then negotiating a megabuck deal in the afternoon. Branding calves one minute and operating a fourteen foot swath combine the next, repairing the tractor's tire, followed by installing a new accounting program on the computer. This multi-disciplined fellow can go from plowing a field, to moving wheel lines, to repairing the training wheels on his granddaughter's training bike, then finishing off the day arguing against a tax increase in the County Commissioner's chambers.

A few “Guardians of the grasslands” will have gross incomes running into seven figures, giving outsiders the appearance of  "rolling in the dough." However, the small amount they might actually retain at year's end will rank them right down amongst us common folk, for regardless of one’s business savvy, having to pay $200,000 for a combine; $3 a gallon for fuel to operate it; then giving your grain away for $2 a bushel, or feeding it to cattle, that you must sell for pennies per pound above their keep—doesn't add up to much profit.

Our ”Resident Rumpelstiltskin” sometimes finds "spinning grass into meat" a less daunting task than that of "dealing with government entities and the public," for here one must develop the acting ability of a Broadway performer, the patience of an Olympic curling champion, and be enough in control of facial muscles to prevent spasms from occurring while listening to countless do-gooders—some so naive they imagine the beefsteak they relish originates in the back room of the local meat market—explain how to best manage the ranchers water resources and grazing properties. He must also possess the ability to look surprised, sad, happy, dismayed or even aghast, while quickly swapping one expression for another as a situation demands. Add to that charge, the mind-boggling burdens provided by constant torment from swarms of environmentalists who (seemingly) have little else to do other than harass and shout dissent to any and all, livestock/agriculture ventures, while vehemently denying their real agenda is the eventual confiscation of every inch of Western soil not covered with asphalt or cement for recreational use by the masses.

He must also master the art of feigning delight at wasting valuable time at government meetings scheduled by officials who, with the course of action already determined by their office, will invite the rancher to supply input from the landowner's perspective, for no other apparent reason than to maintain an air of political correctness. It is also quite helpful to be well versed in the subtle art of cultivating friendships with individuals in adversarial groups. A continual upgrade of politically correct terminology is necessary to remain immune from that always embarrassing and sometimes fatal "hoof-in-mouth" disease.

In summary: If a statue, or some other type of distinguished award for bravery and service to the country for the civilian "Above and beyond the call of duty," is ever available, let it be given to this persevering and overly accommodating fellow, for here is the man, who under extremely trying circumstances, remains forever resolute in his efforts to help feed America.

                So with that information under our belt—let me attempt to put a typical day into verse.

Ode to the Rancher

If you might spend one day my friend engaging in the rancher's plight
you'll reason why this noble craft can cause the bravest man some fright
Then with your new found empathy, I trust you’d wonder, why we fight?

Each morn 'fore break of day you rise from comfort of your feather bed
can hear the heifers mooin’ loud suggestin’ that they should be fed
and thus begins another day—so off to earn your daily bread.

It’s first things first—the morning chores, each project garners equal care
the cows are fed the hogs are slopped the water trough needs some repair
then soon as you have finished that, drop by and check the pregnant mare

You hear a ruckus in the barn, some kind of bovine free-for-all,
The bull pen gate now stands agape—noise comin’ from the heifer's stall
the scene unfolding clearly shows—more early calves again next Fall

The tractor tire is showin’ flat, you fix it, fill its gut with air
then as you put the tools away your cell phone knells its usual blare
the BLM is on the horn, asks: Do you have some time to spare?

An all important meeting’s set, requesting that you join the fray
most sorry sir, too much to do, think we might choose some other day?
Chief says it’s best that you attend, the outcome could affect your pay!

Truck’s dust comes boilin’ up the lane, a PETA sign adorns its side.
The driver waves a fresh report, reads "cruelties some ranchers hide."
you further question; “What’s the charge?” Seems like it’s canine genocide

The predator you speak of sir, is dead alright, dead as can be—
“and guilty? you go on to say, “yes, guilty in this way you see—
I own the bull the canine bit—that sent him to eternity!”

Now change your duds, the pick-up roars, yer headin’ for the heart of town
a look is fixed upon on your face assuring it will show no frown
while meeting with these pompous souls who, if they could—would wear a crown

The magic word is “Water” that the "Chosen few" discuss today
a substance o’er which wars are fought and weaker men are led astray
while nonsense spouts from naïve mouths, the daylight hours waste away

Another day has run its course, some problems solved, some left undone
your worries set aside for now, you’re home, with wife, the stalwart one
with new resolve you’ll rise at dawn, as steadfast as the rising sun.

                   © 2008, Sajac
                   This poem and essay may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Read Sam Jackson's

What If? in our Art Spur project


The Pack Train(ing) in our Art Spur project

Sam Jackson's poem, "Toast to the Sheepherder," is included in the 2007 
Songs and Stories from Sheepherding CD produced by the Western Folklife Center.

  A session at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering introduced a new Western Folklife Center Deep West Records CD, Songs and Stories from Sheepherding, the impressive result of a project of over five years in the making. The show began with a rollicking, crowd-pleasing performance by Montana's Stan Howe singing his "Norwegian Sheepherder's Ball," which is also included on the CD.

The CD is described by the Western Folklife Center, "Hear the songs, verse and stories of shepherds who came to America to pursue the American Dream, including Scots, Scandinavians, Basques, Greeks, Iris, Mexicans and Peruvians. This historic collection is based on the expressive arts of sheep ranching—the "other" ranching tradition—and is bound to be a collector's item. This CD includes extensive notes, photos and translations to the songs and poems."

The 29 tracks include Sam A. Jackson's "Toast to the Sheepherder." Sam Jackson, who started herding sheep at age 11,  comments that "The Songs and Stories from Sheepherding CD "documents the history of a nearly forgotten industry that had much more to do with the successful settling of the west than most folks realize." Also included are selections by J. B. Allen (reciting Curley Fletcher's "Sheepherders Lament"), Rosalie Sorrels, Martin Goicoechea, Della Turner & the Deseret String Band, John "Jake" Fleming, Linda Hussa, Dee Blackburn, Diane Josephy Peavy, Ringling Five, and many others. The CD includes an informative booklet that contains a wealth of background information on each piece.

The Songs and Stories from Sheepherding CD is available from the Western Folklife Center bookstore.


Wild and Woolly Western Verse 
and other Sagebrush Yarns

Wild and Woolly Western Verse and other Sagebrush Yarns is full of Sam Jackson's meticulous, always-entertaining poetry. Sam writes "Some of the stories are true, and shouldn't be.  Some are not true, but perhaps, should be! All are meant to entertain and enlighten readers to a view of life from the perspective of those spending their lives in the West..." Nearly 70 poems in 166 pages are collected in chapters such as "Frozen Tales," "Poetry for Reflection," "On the Lighter Side," "Scientific Musings" (with pieces such as "Time," "Wind," "Creation" and "Sheepherder Geology") and a first chapter, which shares the book's title.  Pages of "poem narratives" include notes and asides on many of the poems.  An special feature, an essay, "Writing Cowboy Poetry," explores his wealth of experience on the subject. Those familiar with the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo -- an event conceived and produced by Sam Jackson -- know his commitment to excellence, and he practices what he preaches.  The illustrations, photos, and the cover art are by his talented wife, Renee Budge Jackson.  

Read our review here.

Wild and Woolly Western Verse and other Sagebrush Yarns is available postpaid for $14 plus $2.35 first class postage from Sam Jackson, 4675 E. Vermillion Avenue, Kanab, Utah 84741.  




Read Sam Jackson's essay about Competition among Cowboy Poets here and his essay, Writing Cowboy Poetry.


See Sam Jackson's Where's the What??, Rhymin', and Beyond?, all included with a feature about the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo


See Sam Jackson's Country Christmas in the 
collection of Holiday Poems from 2001


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