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

photo by Jen Dobrowski Rogers


New Underwood, South Dakota
About Slim McNaught
Slim McNaught's web site

Slim McNaught's MySpace page



 Recognized as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "The Snubbin' Post"



The Snubbin' Post

dust swirlin'
horse whirlin'
Lariat flashes through the air
horse caught
rope taut
Dallied to snubbin' post there.
cowboy gains
horse strains
Two wills at odds in the sun
cowboy nears
horse fears
He longs for freedom to run.
teachin' begins
fightin' ends
As cowboy and horse connect
fear decreases
strain ceases
Between snubbin' post and neck.
time slides
cowboy rides
And horse gets the job down pat
works cow
knows how.
It started where the snubbin' post's at.

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim told us about the inspiration for this poem: This poem came about from our Western Writers Group & Dakota Cowboy Poets Association. Each meeting is held at the residence (or their choice of location) of a member and that member picks a subject for all to write a poem about. The July 2, 2006 meeting was held at my residence in New Underwood and I had picked “The Snubbing Post” as a theme for that meeting’s poetry. Looking back, I remembered our round corral with a young horse dallied to the snubbing post, no breeze, dust thick, sweaty, feeling his power, fear, and curiosity as I eased down the rope. That’s where the poem came from.


We asked Slim why he writes Cowboy Poetry and why he thinks it is important and he commented:

The reasons I write cowboy poetry are varied, and some I can’t explain. Foremost is that this heritage needs to be kept alive. When memories come to mind I feel compelled to write them down, and they seem to just naturally come out in rhyme. I think this must have been the case with some of my ancestors who spent a lot of time in the saddle making their living with cattle, with nothing for their minds to do but put their experiences to rhyme. I feel we owe those folks for those heritages and principles they have handed down to us. One way to handle this responsibility is to keep their memories and stories alive, and add our own material for our future generations. A lot of folks don’t realize what an important part the American cowboy played in the development of our country. Nowadays we have groups of delusional, illogical people who are rabidly trying to eradicate our cowboy way of life. It is up to us to try to get the truth out to keep this lifestyle alive; just one more reason I write cowboy poetry. We think our memories are the most beautiful, the most tragic, the most impressive, but every generation has thought that since time began, and they all need recorded. As we get older, we tend to look back at how things were and I believe that is a trait that has a purpose. It is by looking back and recording what we see, that keeps our history flowing for future generations.

You can email Slim McNaught:


Slim McNaught was recognized previously as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "Where the Hard Grass Meets the Sky"



Where the Hard Grass Meets the Sky

When time began God promised man
        a lifetime of sweat and toil
So we started our clan where the coyote ran,
        in the west, on hard grass soil.
Where winter's snow and summer's blow
        took it's toll on those who'd try
To tame this land with calloused hand
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

We were young and free with a need to be
        out where the rivers run
And we did our work with nary a shirk
        from dawn 'til the settin' sun.
We stomped our broncs while the wild geese honked
        and the prairie sharpened our eye
Of dangers there we had our share
        where the hard grass meets the sky.
We'd mount our horse and set our course
        by the stars of early dawn
Each trail we rode by the cowboy code
        'til the sun had come and gone.
Then squat on heels and eat our meals
        with campfire smoke in our eye
And we thanked our God for this prairie sod
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

When winters hold on a range so cold
        gave cowboys a dangerous trip
And horses then were our best friends
        as the blizzard tightened it's grip.
With each comrade lost we counted the cost
        of hardships we all lived by
And inside we cried as the night wind sighed
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

But our faith was true 'til our work was through,
        we finished each job with pride,
Each blessing received because we believed
        made us thankful we'd stuck to the ride.
When my time comes and my roundup's done
        and Heaven is waitin' close by
I'll ride o'er the ridge when my Master bids
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

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


Slim told us about his inspiration for the poem:

I was driving home after doing the Heritage of the American West Show in Spearfish, South Dakota, with Joel Gothard and Lew Vasquez. Performing seems to inspire more poetry, and as I looked across the Black Hills landscape, which was a high ridge that appeared to go right into the sky, this poem came to me.

We asked Slim why he writes Cowboy Poetry and why he thinks it is important:

Cowboy Poetry is a heritage passed down to us from our ancestors who came up the trail and settled this land with their herds. We have not only the opportunity but also the responsibility to their memory to carry on their cowboy poetry style and their principles, the Code of the West.


Slim McNaught was recognized previously as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "Cold Weather Feedin'"


Cold Weather Feedin'

          the snow crunches
          the herd bunches
And the mares nicker in the cold,
          their rumps facin'
          to the wind, bracin'
As winter's forces take hold.
          from the hay stack
          I take a look back,
The horses are standin', heads low,
          wind is whippin',
          manes a' flippin'
As they bunch to ward off the blow.
          as I pitch out hay
          at the start of day
I marvel at these creatures I love,
          as they wait for feed
          for their body's need
I feel blessed by the Lord up above.
          in this cold weather
          they bunch together
By an instinct that's centuries old,
          and the snow crunches
          as the herd bunches
And the mares nicker in the cold.

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Slim told us about his inspiration for the poem:

You know, it don't make any difference what time of year it is or what kind of weather you're in, if you just watch a bunch of horses for a few minutes doin' what horses do, you will feel blest. This "Cold Weather Feedin'" is one of those times.

We asked Slim why he writes Cowboy Poetry and why he thinks it is important:

Cowboy Poetry is a heritage passed down to us from our ancestors, and we are fortunate enough to have the chance to honor them by maintaining their principles and continuing their style of poetry.


This Cowboy Thing

Well, I guess it's time
to speak my mind,
I've listened long enough,
to whether a tome
is a cowboy poem
or a poem about cowboy stuff.

Now, after years
of listenin' here
I think I figured it out
how to explain
this cowboy thing
that folks keep askin' about.

Now, two kinds of folks
write cowboy poems
and I really enjoy 'em all
'cause this range has some
of the best that's done
whose verse can leave you in awe.

But the way it appears
from where I was reared
it's the source of the story that tells
and if you've not had
the rope burned hands
you can't describe how it feels.

If you've never grasped
an unborn calf
in a cow up past your elbow
and carried the bruises
from her strainin' and movin'
it's a feelin' you never will know.

If you've never felt
that feelin' you're dealt
when your horse sticks both feet in a hole
while runnin' all out
turnin' a cow about
and the fall leaves you knocked out cold.

If your eyes have not strained
in the dark until pained
findin' a trail to follow
when  badland spires
all seem to get higher
and your stomach is gettin' plumb hollow.

If you've not had aholt
of the head of a colt
while he died from problems at birthin'
and felt the heart break
as death overtakes
knowin' that you can do nothin'.

If you've not rode in awe
from ridge down to draw
in evenin' when the sun's almost down
and felt the warm air
turn to cool down there
as breeze from the canyon flows 'round.

If you've never stepped on
your horse before dawn
and got home a way after dark
with the temps below zero
and a cold wind to freeze ya
and so stiff you can hardly walk.

If you've never spent days
in the mud and the haze
when them cows are bent on calvin'
and your slicker leaks,
soaks your saddle seat,
to lay down and sleep would be heaven.

If you've never fought
a prairie fire in drought
with wet gunny sacks and a spade
tryin' to save grass
and make the range last
out there in the sun with no shade.

Then you'd be hard pressed
to explain to the rest
the feelin's that a cowboy knows
and without the pain
there's no way to explain
how he feels, 'tho it never shows.

Now, I've got friends
who have never been
on a range workin' cattle and horses
but the verses they pen
can be beat by no man,
they listened and learned from real sources.

Folks who don't know
how the joy and pain goes
can't write down those things with feelin'
but that shouldn't stop 'em
from rhymin' and jottin'
to show how the cowboy is dealin'.

'Cause lots of folks
never were that close
to actually feelin' the hardships
but they'd a been cowboys,
back in them old days,
it shows in their verse and their quips.

© 2005, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim told us:  Jim Thompson of CBSI radio in Spearfish, South Dakota, was the inspiration for this poem. He asked what made poetry a cowboy poem (not his exact wording). My opinion is; if you've had frozen spots on your face from winter chores horseback, rope burns and broken bones, rode up on a ridge and watched a bitch coyote teach her pups to hunt, sat your horse on a ridge at sunrise and watch God's great creation come to life, ate dust trailing cows from summer to winter pasture, fought prairie fires and drought while trying to keep a herd producing, sweat the birthin' of your favorite mare and then lost the colt, calved out sometimes in cold
and soakin' rain and always wonder at the miracle, (to name a few experiences) then you can write cowboy poetry. If not, then you can write poetry about cowboys. There are excellent poets in both categories, and one should not be rated above the other, but that is my idea of what makes the difference. Therefore the poem.

This poem is included in our Poems About Cowboy Poetry and Slim McNaught's comments are included in our What is Cowboy Poetry? section.  

The Old Roller Towel

When I was a youngster some of the cow outfits fixed a place you could clean up a little. They'd mount two blocks of wood on the wall of the bunkhouse, usually outside, and put a stick between them. Then they'd take a piece of cloth anywheres from twelve to eighteen inches wide and six or eight feet long. They'd sew the ends of that strip together, run that stick through it, and hang it on them blocks. They'd set a wash basin and a bucket of water below it. We called 'em roller towels, and I can tell you folks, we felt real blest to have such modern comforts.

The Old Roller Towel

The old roller towel on the bunkhouse wall
was a comfortin' sight to see
It spoke of food and friendship and rest
and how welcome the traveler would be.
It told of the hands who worked this place
by it's condition at the end of the day
The stranger who stopped may not find a clean spot
but he was always welcome to stay.

The old roller towel on the bunkhouse wall
could tell volumes if able to talk,
How the boss's son left his hand prints there
while followin' his hero's walk.
It could tell the tale of his growin' up
to finally take over the place
And through all this time the old towel hung,
ready to dry the next face.

The old roller towel on the bunkhouse wall
that hung o'er the basin below
And the old cracked mirror that hung by it's side
were treasures in years long ago.
For with that old towel hangin' there on the wall
a cowboy'd get cleaned up and ready,
Then he'd head into town to strut his stuff
and go sparkin' with his steady.

The old roller towel on the bunkhouse wall
done service to an army each day
From the cowboys who rode there on that range
to those just passin' that way.
So, of all the comforts we had in them days
I'll remember that old roller towel
And how nobody cared who had used it before,
it brought us all closer, somehow.

The old roller towel on the bunkhouse wall
would today be a major eye sore
'Cause folks are now blest with fancy sinks
and faucets that make washin' no chore.
But the closeness we felt can't be found today
'mongst them fancy gadgets and all.
It sure was no beauty but it done it's duty,
the old roller towel on the wall.  

© 2005, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Lookin' Back

There's a strand of old barb wire
almost hidden in the grass,
It's layin' where the sod was broke
by a 'steader, back in the past.
It brings back memories to older folk
who watched our country growin'
They remember the hard times they had then
while futile seeds they were sowin'.

Hardships back then we can't even imagine
and most folk today couldn't cope,
Travel them days was by horse or train
and the most they had was hope.
Their crops burnt out and their livestock died
from lack of feed and water,
And the farmer worked from dark to dark
to care for his sons and daughter.

There's a windmill there, (or what's left of one)
tower head and pump rod gone
And the old house there is tumblin' down
it's windows blank and forlorn.
The barn's all rotted, roof caved in,
corrals all growed up with weeds
And the ground around is littered with trash
left from a poor family's needs.

When the sweat of man and the sweat of horse
mixed in that hard plowed ground
It began a trail of heartbreak and pain
that made many men strong and sound.
For the trials that beset them as they toiled away
was like fire to steel in a forge,
Some would shatter from the heat and the cold
but some would be shaped by the Lord.

But for some who toiled in the heat and the cold
there came the day for the end
When they knew they'd done the best they could
but the prairie would win and would mend.
So they packed up their frugal belongin's
and returned to where they started,
And the prairie took over their patches of land,
so went the drought's broken hearted.

© 2005, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim told us: In the early 1900's the homesteaders came into this country and plowed up a lot of prairie. Then it dried up, the wind came up, and there was dirt hundreds of feet in the air. They called it the "dirty thirties". That's when I was born. Folks hung wet rags over the cracks and windows in their shacks to keep the dirt from siftin' in. We had kerosene lamps lit in
our old log house in day time  because the dirt was hiding the sun. I remember growin' up during that time, and when I think back, I can see now it was purty tough for the farmers. We didn't have it as bad because we didn't have that much farm ground around us. We were more in the badlands where it was cow country. So in a moment of nostalgia I wrote this poem.


Memories in the Mist

In a clearin' in a canyon, at a crossin' miles from home
I was searchin' for a smooth spot to spread my bedroll on.
I'd been ridin' on the west range checkin' grass and water source
And since the night was comin' on, I needed grazin' for my horse

Now, I see a mist had gathered as I rode up to that spot
And my horse, he hesitated, one short step, and then he stopped.
Stood still with both ears pointed, at that mist there on the ground
And in the stillness I heard voices, sounds like cowboys gathered 'round.

Then a breeze, and in that moment, through that mist that's outta place,
I see an old chuckwagon, a campfire flickerin' on a face.
Then as my eyes grew 'customed to the settin' sun's last glow
Saw a group of cowboys gathered, eatin' chuck and talkin' low.

Well, my mind was churnin', racin', what I was seein' could not be
We'd had no trail herds on this range since back in eighty three.
And as I started forward my ol' horse, he wouldn't budge,
Felt a shudder go clear through me like an icy finger's nudge.

How long I sat there starin' I have really never known 
And that horse stood like a statue as if he'd turned to stone.
While I listened there in wonder as they spoke of times long past
I recalled the way my granddad told me stories that would last.

How they trailed them cows to Kansas through drought, and storm, and mire
And how they usta gather in the evenin' 'round the fire.
Now they're speakin' low and somber 'bout the hardships of the trail
And how the weather slows them when it brings the rain and hail.

I hear 'em say they lost a man when storm brought stampede 'round
And then I see, in shadow, an empty saddle on the ground.
Now, as I listened to 'em, these men I barely saw,
A flood of memories crush me, leave me breathless and in awe.

For in my mind I see myself on horse that's white with sweat
And a herd that's flat out runnin', I can't get them turned back yet.
And I feel the thunder comin' from ten thousand hooves and more,
When, suddenly, I'm fallin' and the world is turnin' o'er.

Then I see a grave site lonely with no cross to mark its place
And somehow, in that mist there, in that grave I see my face.
With my body soaked and clammy in my mind I realized
That my life out there was ended, it's so real I'm terrified.

Then suddenly the spell is gone, I feel my horse relax,
And the clearin' there before me is completely without tracks.
It's as if that bunch of cowboys were never in my sight
And the daylight's almost gone now, it's comin' on to night.

Well, I camped there at that crossin' so I could see in day's broad light
If what my mind had witnessed really happened there that night.
And mornin' found me searchin' for tracks of man or cow
But my prints, of boot and horse tracks, are all that's in that clearin' now.

Yet that night still leaves me shaken when I remember how it felt
And I can't help but get the feelin' that in another life I dwelt.
But what of friends and family? Did I leave a mother grievin'?
Or was I just a loner with nothin' left worth leavin'.

Now some will say I'm crazy, that things like that ain't true,
But if you had been there with me you'd believe what I tell you.
And sometime at that crossin', look up that hill aways,
'Cause from down there in that clearin' you can just make out a grave.

© 2005, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim told us: This location was on the ranch where I grew up. It's been a lot of years, but I think I could still find that grave on the hillside, the rocks are probably still there. Imagination done the rest.

Hayin' Time

I was batchin', young and lonely
on that Buzzard Basin spread
When I decides I need a cook
just to keep me better fed.
I was tired of my own cookin'
and the dog was gettin' thin,
So I looks around the country,
found a bride to court and win.

Well, we got hitched and settled down
and things were goin' fine
Me, I'd gained a bunch of weight
and that dog thinks she's divine.
And when it come to ranchin'
she sure showed common sense,
Like when she helped me put the stretch
on some wore out wire fence.

Now, hayin' time was comin' 'round,
had to get my 'quipment goin',
Sharpened sickles, oiled and tuned up
'till I was ready for the mowin'.
So I loaded up the barrells
that would keep me full of gas
And all the tools I thought I'd need
to do this job at last.

Now, I had this old five speed Ford truck
that was my hayin' rig, you see
But to get that truck and  tractor moved
I needed two of me.
So I thinks to myself, I've got a hand
to work right by my side
So I headed to the ranch house
to speak to my new bride.

Now, she's just more than willin'
to help out when she can
But she'd not had much experience
drivin' trucks in hilly land.
'Cause it's got to be remembered
she's a flat land country lass,
And that basin rim's half'a mile straight up,
even thru the pass.

So she hops right up in that loaded truck
and I know she'll fill the bill
And I tell her just to stay in low
while she climbs that basin hill.
But if it gets to pullin' down
just stick it down in super.
Don't even need to use the clutch,
just mesh them gears and goose 'er.

Well, I'm a quite aways ahead
pullin' mowers and all 'a that
And I see her startin' up that grade
as I top out on the flat.
And while I'm settin' there a waitin'
I can hear that tranny howlin'
And I can tell low gear ain't gonna do,
by the way that old truck's growlin'.

Now the tranny in that  outfit
had a lever on the shifter
And when you pulled the lever up
it changed the gear that you were after.
So when she grabbed she squeezed the flipper,
hit reverse instead of low,
And just when the cab came into view,
down the hill I see her go.

Well, I can tell you I was worried,
there's a deep canyon down that hill,
And if she backed off in there
all that hayin' gas she'd spill.
So I went runnin' fast to catch her
but when the crest I finally made
I see her crank that truck around,
stopped 'er crossways on the grade.

Now, in fifty years that's come and gone
we've worked side by side by choice
And times have been when doin' things
she swears I raise my voice.
But when I got to where she's parked
she really blowed her stack,
'Cause first thing I done was check to see
if my gas was in the back.

© 2005, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim told us: This is a true story. We were married June 1, 1954, and this happened during hayin' season just after that. But you gott'a have family members with the right attitude before you can tell stories on them. I'm just lucky, I guess, 'cause I have a couple friends who'll hide me out for a few days 'til my wife will let me back in the house after I tell some of these stories about her.

Prairie Bones

Those bones on the prairie were one time old horses
who lived out their lives and then died,
And those dried out old pieces of saddle
were left where they wore out from the ride.
And the cowboys who rode 'em are buried,
some in sod, some in rocks in the west,
'Cause this country was tough on all comers
so the cowboy carried the load for the rest.

But those horses were one time young colts,
friskin' by their mothers' side,
And those saddles were once new creations
made from a fresh tanned cowhide.
And the cowboys who rode 'em were wooly and wild,
but they rode for the brand every day
'Cause this country was rough on women and horses
so it was the cowboy who cleared the way.

So, today as I gaze at those bones on the prairie
in my mind I see herds from the past,
And remember the trails and rides of my youth
where today streets and houses grow fast.
And from my old eyes comes a tear now and then
when I remember good horses, old pards,
And I know I'll catch up with 'em one of these days
'cause the Lord has our souls to guard.

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Spring in South Dakota

There's folks who talk of spring a comin'
when they chance to get together
And here in South Dakota land
it's all about the weather.
When spring comes to our prairie sod
you can never tell its pace
You could be up to your knees in mud
or have dust blow in your face.

There's things you sure can count on, 'tho,
like cactus growin' again,
And prairie dogs diggin' up new ground,
coyotes prowlin' 'round the pens.
Each night and day for months (it seems)
there's first calf heifers to check
Hopin' for a good calf crop,
gets the banker off our neck.

But lots of folks just never see
the grass as it comes back,
Nor that bunch of baby bunnies there
born in that old hay stack.
They never notice the smell of spring
when the mornin' sun is showin'
And when a colt stands, wobbly and wet,
the miracle goes unknown.

There's folks who never seem to listen
as the geese honk in the sky
When they're searchin' for a place to graze,
movin' smoothly as they fly.
And some folks never pay no mind
when young calves run and play
They miss the tonic spring gives us
to drive winter's cold away.

But our Maker gives us lots of signs
to know that spring is here
And how we look and feel and see
makes life feel good or drear.
Like when ol' hoss flicks both his ears
as he slips on frosty grass
And you feel him catch his balance quick,
and thank God you ride the best.

When those elm tree buds get full and fat
and purty soon there's leaves
Then once again a shade is grown
to give us summer ease.
You hear those frogs that croak at night
with their throaty, steady song,
They let the world know by their sound
that spring has come along.

So while this spring is gettin' here
and I'm enjoyin' all that's new,
I hear some folks discuss this one,
and reminisce about a few.
Then argue 'bout which one they say
was the dryer or the wetter,
Well, in seventy years I've seen 'em worse
but then, I've seen 'em better.    

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Last Cowboy

Things have sure changed since my granddaddy's day
when he cowboy'd on a west Texas plain
And he'd be surprised at what all's  come around
and some would sure cause him pain.
His wagon wheel ruts are now hard concrete,
the crossin' at the river is bridged,
And nowdays a man and his saddle horse
has fences 'tween him and the ridge.

Now, I'm near as old as my granddaddy was
when he went to that range in the sky
And the changes made from his time to mine
are enough to bring  tears to the eye.
But from this time on we can see for sure
that changes are gonna' be greater,
So we'll live our lives the best that we can,
put our trust in our God, our Creator.

But I feel sorry for those who've never been throwed
from a bronc on a cold, hard mornin'.
Never rolled out to chop wood in the dark
to keep that log house a warmin'.
They've never held the head of a colt
that died 'cause of problems at birthin'
And never hauled some wet, smelly calf
in their lap in the saddle to warm him.

They've never pumped that well in the sun
when that handle was hotter than sin
'Cause windmills don't pump when the wind don't blow
and them cows gotta' water again.
They've never ate dust behind a movin' herd
or knocked ice off some old cow's nose,
Nor took the beatin' some old bronc can give
when he bogs his head and blows.

For lots of folks have missed out on the livin'
that makes up a cowboy's life
But it's not their fault, it's left to chance,
and for some that would be plumb right.
Now, that old cowboy way is a thing of the past,
with sadness we've watched it go,
From us who lived it away back then
when our lives were so full years ago.

But now we look at the new generation,
at what their way of livin' brings,
And it makes us oldsters feel purty good
when we see them do cowboy things.
Now they have pickups, horse trailers and such,
no longer  ride them hard trails.
But you see by their ways that some of the things
we lived for have some how prevailed.

So this is an ode to the last cowboy,
as him and his horse fade away.
But I believe 'fore that  time comes around
generations will have long passed away.
'Cause bein' a cowboy is a state of mind,
and of character, upright and true.
And when it's all said and the tally's all done
there may always be cowboys among you.

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Slim told us, "When I look back and realize that a bunch of folks I knew when I was a kid were born in the 1800s, including my grandfather, it kinda makes me think. I followed my granddad around when I was young and learned a few things from him. I could have learned a lot more if I had paid attention. The problem is that young people don't know how valuable a grandparent is until they're gone. So sometimes I get a nostalgic streak and write poetry like this one I call 'The Last Cowboy.'" 


Closin' the Gate

When I was a lad, I thought it was bad,
and complained of such a sad state
That when finally my growth got me tall as a post
I got stuck with closin' the gate.
And from that time on, my dad would say, "Son,
your bones are younger than mine,
And your horse is shorter by a hand and a quarter
so it's easier for you anytime."

Well, I thought it demeanin' and it kept me steamin',
and I'd mutter under my breath.
But when my dad made a rule no one but a fool
would chance takin' on his wrath.
While sortin' out strays and workin' cows all day
with the older guys doin'  the ridin'
I'd always get stuck behind a gate needin' shut
'til I felt I was back there hidin'.

Then when I got older and became the proud holder
of a spread of my own, that was great.
I was workin' alone, doin' it all on my own,
but there I was, still closin' the gate.
Now, I just took my crew, to the neighbors to do
some gatherin' for him, he's been ailin'
Needed his fall sortin' done, to ship some to town,
we pitched in, since his health was failin'.

He's got some wild critters, some mangy bunch quitters,
and each year he'd have trouble at his pen
He'd get the herd in the trap but they'd turn right back,
and he'd have to go chase 'em again.
But my crew are cowhands, gathered that bunch from the badlands,
headed 'em into that corral with ease
Cowboys all yellin', them ol' cows all  bellerin',
and dust so thick you can't breathe.

Now, I may be in charge, but the chances are large
that I'll be the last one to the pen
And bein' the boss with the gentlest hoss
I'll get stuck closin' the gate again.
After hours in the saddle, to step down is a battle,
to keep my old knees from foldin'
And when I get on the ground, both feet planted sound,
Its a handful of horn I'm still holdin'.

So I hobble around, mutterin' some grumpy sounds
'Bout havin' to get out of my saddle
With my bones all creakin' I don't feel like speakin'
just wanna get done with these cattle.
But when the neighbor's wife steps up big as life,
asks sweetly, "How did you stop their escape?"
I say with much pride, hat in hand by my side,
"Why mam, it was me closin' the gate."

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Slim told us, "Lots of us raised on a ranch got the dubious honor of opening and closing gates when we finally grew enough to reach them. It was good for us, but we didn't know it then."


The Job

When you got a thousand head to calve
with the weather cold and wet
And nothin' that you own is dry,
with cold winds blowin' yet.
The line shack leaks, you're outta wood,
yer burnin' sticks for fire
Supplies are low, boss ain't been near,
it's enough to raise your ire.

Ya do your best to calve these cows,
'tho they don't help a lot,
'Cause when you've helped 'em birth a calf
they charge you blowin' snot.
You switch your mounts, they're gettin' thin,
they don't get time to graze,
If things don't change right shortly here
you're askin' for a raise.

You get no sleep on this lousy job,
your temper's at an end,
Complain to your horse, he's the only one
you've got here for a friend.
For a sack of Durham you'd quit this job,
let this outfit calve it's own,
You've had enough, your body's shot,
you're hankerin' to be goin'.

If things don't give here purty soon
your gonna set 'em right
By now you're mad and wet and cold,
and spoilin' for a fight.
You'll give that boss a piece of mind
if he ever comes to camp
You've had about all you're gonna take
from that inconsiderate scamp.

Why, there's no boss that's worth his salt
would leave a man like this,
Most miserable job you ever had,
one you sure ain't gonna miss.
If he ever shows, you're gonna quit,
maybe even ride to the ranch
Tell him where to put his cows
leave without a backward glance.

But wait!  In the mist! A wagon's comin'!
It's the boss, with Sam in tow!
Sam's leadin' his string, he's come to help,
and that wagon's full, you know.
Man, its good to see them boys,
you're just tickled to the core,
Food and fuel and extra mounts,
a man can't ask for more.

Then the boss shakes your hand,
says, "Been wantin' to get up here bad."
You know right then that this job here
is the best you ever had.
And when he says, "That herd looks great,
you've done real good here son."
You get ramrod straight and answer back,
"Aw, it's nothin', just doin' what needs done."

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

Slim told us, "When I was young we did not calve two year old heifers. They were too much of a problem, so we waited until they were three. Somewhere around 1960 my granddad brought a bunch of bred two year olds to the ranch my wife and I were on and wanted me to calve them out. What a nasty experience. Bred to a big Hereford bull, I pulled almost everyone of them with a saddle horse and a tree. Got to thinkin' about that experience and this poem came up."



A Gift from the Past
it needs brought to folks attention
that a cowboy on a pension
Is a restless soul and sure looks outta place
with that battered hat pulled down
he prowls around the town
Eyes alert for any friendly face.
what he really needs to find
is a kindred restless mind
Who will sit and reminisce with him awhile
and discuss the days of old
when they cowboy’d wild and bold
Rememberin’ all the trails that made ‘em smile.
now the general population
is so lost in concentration
That they pay no mind to these old weathered hands
and the people scurrin’ about
have no clue, but there’s no doubt,
How these oldsters cleared the way to these new lands.
there’s no one knows the trails,
nor the pleasures nor travails
These bowed of leg old timers have lived past
and the youngsters on the run
with no thought but havin’ fun
Not carin’ that the old days didn’t last.
the hurt these cowboys felt
that the loss of comrades dealt
Took it’s bitter toll on spirits when they died
no one knows the lonely ache
lookin’ back on years can make
With the memories these old cowboys hold inside
then as the years go by
drainin’ youth from step and eye
Their spirits fight the years to stay alive
and as their eyesight dims
they react to inner whims
By recallin’ all their deeds of days gone by.
so when you see ‘em there,
stiffenin’ joints and grayin’ hair,
Stop and think what these old folks have done for you
‘cause without their sweat and tears
and honest labor through the years
Your hopes and dreams would never have come true.

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Slim told us, "I was in the grocery store waiting for my wife to get done shopping when I noticed two old cowboys setting on a bench. Leaning toward each other, balanced on their canes, hollering in each other's ear because of the surrounding noise of cash registers, kids hollering, and the bustle of the shoppers. As I watched these old timers, this poem came rolling through my mind."


A Bull in the Kitchen
Now, ranchin’ down here in the Badlands
can sure be a lot of hard work
But once in a while somethin’ happens
that takes on a humorous quirk.
Like calvin’ time in the rain and mud
and goin’ hours without sleep,
To wind up havin’ a good chuckle                     
that sure makes this life hard to beat.
I’d been in the saddle, seemed like days,
in a steady fallin’ cold rain,
And them cows was shellin’ out young’ns
like tomorrow’s plumb out’ta range.
All those calves were soaked and shiverin’,
them cows tryin’ to lick ‘em dry,
But the cold and the wet together
was sure gonn’a cause some to die.
Now, I’d been doin’ the best I could
to get them calves up and goin’,
But I’d run out of dry gunny sacks
I’m usin’ to rub and warm ‘em.
So when I came to this big bull calf
I threw him over my saddle
And headed on into the ranch house
to see, could I save this rascal.
Now, my wife is one of them ranch wives
who will see a need and pitch in
And I knew she would be plumb happy
to run this bull in her kitchen.
She’d always had lots of compassion
for critters when times were tryin’,
And she’d stay up all night if needed
to keep one of ‘em from dyin’.
Now, you’d never believe how this calf
perked right up in that nice warm room,
And before I knew what’s happenin’
it was time for the mop and broom.
That little calf went wobblin’ around
just a’ smearin’ things as he went
And I was plumb flabbergasted by
the mess, no more time than he’d spent.
Now, the wife took one look at that mess
and her German nature came out
And I knew I was in deep trouble,
‘cause that calf’s still wobblin’ about.
Then that woman flat laid down the law,
in terms that were both clear and mean,
Instead of me, it’s she who’d do chores
and that kitchen better get cleaned.
Well, it took me three hours to mop,
 wash walls and furniture and all,
Can’t  believe such a mess could be made
by a calf so wobbly and small.
When this subject comes up in a crowd
I hunch down and get outta sight,
‘Cause I know she’ll get even again
for messin’ her kitchen that night.
If you folks have time, after this rhyme,
just ask that woman about it
She’ll describe this true event to you,
in such detail you might smell it.

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

Slim told us, "We were married in June of 1954 and this story happened that next spring at calving time. We had been married less than a year and I didn't know that woman as well as I thought I did."




Just sittin’ there starin’ at embers
          while the crew was lazin’ around
Coffee still hot, cook rattlin’ pans,
          some bedrolls were spread on the ground.
At the end of a day of brandin’
          while nighthawks were holdin’ the herd,
We were restin’ from work of the day
          listenin’ to sounds we’ve all heard.
Then my mind just kinda slipped backward
          to the ranch where my youth was spent
And the mother who held the check rein
          on a youngster kinda hell bent
Who’s wild as the rangeland around him,
          but she was a caring mother,
With a razor strop firm in one hand
          and a Bible in the other.
It seems as youngsters we’re prone to wrecks
          with cows and people and horses,
Gatherin’ ourselves broken bones and hearts
          as we try to spurn life’s forces.
We’re young and fierce, takin’ life by storm,
          never heedin’ the danger signs.
Thought we could ride whatever had hair
          too wild, then, to know our own minds.
But always I felt those hidden thoughts,
          memories of mother’s teachin’,
And even while in my wildest rides         
          those thoughts were silently preachin’
On how things stacked up for good or bad,
          how I was treatin’ my fellow man,
Kept me aware that right needed done
          and to always ride for the brand.
So, while sittin’ starin’ at embers
          as our work day comes to an end
Content with what God has given me
          on this range with critters to tend.   
I thank the Lord for this life I’ve had,
          and also my caring mother,
With a razor strop firm in one hand
          and a Bible in the other.

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


Slim told us, ""While thinking about Mother's Day, I started remembering some of the things my mother put up with while I was growing up. She had to be a strong, patient woman because I was a little headstrong. As my memory searched back through the years, this poem came to me."

See a feature about Slim McNaught's mother, Troy McNaught Westby, and her poetry here.


National Day of the American Cowboy

Our Nation will pay tribute today
to the Cowboy, what a sturdy breed,
With news negatives about how he lives
reporting the truths what we need.
What a most fitting day to honor the way
our ancestors settled here
As they laid out their towns and settled down
they left legacies strong and clear.

From Big Thickets and Bends where Texas begins
to Dakota plains and more
Cowboys workin', their duties not shirkin',
gives America strength galore.
And by honest toil on good hard grass soil
on the home front and in the wars
Patriots, it shows, the whole world knows
they feed nations and protect our shores.

Sittin' tall in his saddle, checkin' his cattle,
or in his pickup truck
Or checkin' herds in a plane like a bird,
a cowboy don't trust much to luck.
He knows it's hard work, with no time to shirk,
that helps keep things under control
Conserving the range is his foremost aim,
in the grass lands where cattle stroll.

So the cowboys who trailed north to the rails
and others who came on their own,
Who built us a land on principles grand,
left legacies we're proud to own.
The workin' cowboy, through his sweat and joy,
has honored these gifts from the past
While tending his herds, recalling the words
to stories and songs that will last.

As he works each day he earns honest pay
that keeps his life focused, on track
Honors goals yet, that his ancestors set,
as their memories still come back.
He puts first in life his God and his wife,
serves his country in time of war,
To protect the ways he'll live out his days,
in freedom, he asks for no more.

So today we plan this tribute to them,
declaring this National Day,
American Cowboy, it brings us joy,
as we honor you in this way.
And as we toast these cowboys the most,
we're thankful they were part of the plan
And thank our God for American sod
where cowboys can be their own man.

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


Slim comments, "A lot of folks don't realize what an important part the American Cowboy played in the development of our country, and nowadays we have groups of delusional, illogical folks rabidly trying to eradicate our cowboy way of life. It's up to us to try to get the truth out across the ways and keep this lifestyle alive. National Day of the American Cowboy is such a great way to do this."


Memories from the Past

I was lookin' 'cross the prairie at the range I used to ride
and it struck me how things change, but never do.
How I once was forkin' broncs and workin' cattle there with pride
and the cowboy life was all I ever knew.

But the prairie seemed to shrink in size as farmers plowed the sod
and barb wire caused some range wars to be fought.
We tried hard to keep the peace and never lost our faith in God,
but the free range of the old days came to naught.

Then age and livin' took their toll, grayed our hair and slowed our walk,
moved memories from the present to the past.
Still we lived for things that seemed to us way more than idle talk,
long before the trail herds disappeared at last.

In my mind I feel the buck brush scuffing light against my chaps
and I feel the thrill of takin' dallys smooth,
I remember how my cow horse kept the sag out of the slack
while I doctored some ol' cow with ills to soothe.

We remember losin' cowboys in the middle of their prime,
and we wondered why the Lord would take them then
And it made us all aware that way too soon would be our time,
made us realize that God alone knew when.

Our memories take us back in time to crisp fall dawns of yore
when the roundup had us all a'workin' hard,
The sweat and dust that was our world while we toiled back there before
was what gave us strength to live in them days, pard.

So now we look around us and see a repeat of our past,
see youngsters read our history kept in tomes,
And on down the road it's them who are the older ones at last
caring for the range, their country and their homes.

Well, pardner, as you may have guessed, I remember years behind
so much better than what happened just today,
You can tell my thoughts are wanderin' through canyons of my mind
when we lived and loved the old time cowboy way.

When you put it all together in the broader scheme you find
it just shows that human nature does not change,
Because each generation born relies on the past one's mind
to teach values that were learned back on the range.

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


Slim comments, "We had just lost a local cowboy in a wagon train accident and after writing a poem for the family, I got to thinking about how much things never really change. We think our memories are the most beautiful, the most tragic, the most impressive, but every generation thinks the same. So the poem."


My Horse's Ears

I've seen a lot of country, my friend,
     and sights you wouldn't believe
There are scenes I don't recall that well
     and there's some I wish would leave.

But lookin' back down memory's trail
     there's one that I've had for years,
It's the range I looked at way back then,
     from between my horse's ears.

There are pictures in my memory
     that creep in from busy past
Like an old cow when she's fightin' flies
     or a colt that's runnin' fast.

Where cactus blooms while the young hawk sails
     and heat from the noon sun sears
And I gazed at land buffalo roamed,
     from between my horse's ears.

My memory winces from the pain
     of some wrecks back in that day
That were caused by time spent nursin' cows
     on range where antelope play.

Then pleasures we had on soft spring days
     when blankets of green appears
As I looked out on a peaceful world,
     from between my horse's ears.

I see that old cow still fightin' flies
     as soft clouds drift slowly by
She throws back her head and swings her tail
     to chase off that pesky fly.

My horse's head comes up with a jerk
     and points to a sound he hears,
Ol' coyote's in the draw, and I watch,
     from between my horse's ears.

When trailin' the herd to seasons graze
     and sleepin' under the stars
We all rode hard when the lightning came
     as it left the range with scars.

We drank our fill of cool clear water
     where the river flowed for years
As I watched Blue lead the herd across,
     from between my horse's ears.

So life went on, way too fast it seems,
     and soon I was lookin' back
To times that were hard, but still good times,
     made me glad I wasn't slack.

And as the Lord watched over us there
     with blessings across the years
I was content watchin' God's great plan,
     from between my horse's ears.

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

Slim comments: As we get older, we tend to look back at how things were. I believe that is a human trait that serves a purpose. It is by looking back and recording what we see, that keeps our history flowing for future generations.

23" x 29" painting (acrylics) by Bonnie Krogman,
with a frame built by Slim McNaught and covered with hand-tooled leather.

In 2014, the framed painting will be in a traveling display at Days of 76 in Deadwood, South Dakota in August, and at Casey Tibbs Days in Ft. Pierre, South Dakota in September. It will be displayed in Belle Fourche, South Dakota in May, 2015.

The painting is also the cover of his book, Between My Horse's Ears and will be the cover of a forthcoming CD.



In Granddad's Day

This was the scene years ago
        ‘fore movies led folks astray
Few are left who can describe the feel
        of life the old cowboy way.
But this is one of my granddad’s tales
        that he told me as a lad
There’s few today could stand this life
        and they’d all call it bad.

When Coosie bellers, “Breakin’ day!”
        it makes you start to squirm
Every joint is stiff and sore
        ‘cause that ground’s so doggone firm.
You smell the coffee, sure smells good,
        but it’s wet from here to there
You’re sick and tired of rain and fog
        and cold wind in the air.

You lift the flap that tops your roll
        and rain falls on your face
You wonder where your wages went
        and why you’re in this place.
You pull your boots from ‘neath your tarp
        get ‘em on, get on your feet,
Pack your bed roll, stow it away,
        then shiver while you eat.

Now, whatever you do don’t say, “Good mornin”,
        to ol’ Coosie, he’s a grouch,
He’s holdin’ a grudge against the world
        and at cussin’ he’s no slouch.
These trailherd cooks are an ornery breed
        most of ‘em stove up and sore,
So just eat the grub and don’t complain
        and sure don’t ask for more.

The wrangler’s got the herd roped in
        and you slog through grass that’s wet
By the time you’ve saddled up and gone
        your boots are soaked more yet.
And if this weather holds as is
        they may not dry, take warnin’,
‘Cause pullin boots on that are cold and wet
        can even spoil a bad mornin’.

You’re hopin’ the sun shines long enough
        to get your bed roll dried
Coosie will spread ‘em on the wagon top
        if there’s a chance they’ll dry on the ride.
Them cows are cold, they don’t wanna move,
        it’s sure tough to get ‘em trailin’
And after days of rain and fog
        a few of them are ailin.

But once you’re mounted and ridin’ out
        the world looks a whole lot better
You marvel at what rain does for the grass
        and them cows can’t get any wetter.
So the day progresses, gettin’ better as it goes,
         the range has never looked cleaner,
And by afternoon when the sun comes out
         this country’s a whole lot greener.

Been nice if we could have started this drive
        another month or so later
To be able to miss these cold spring rains
        that make the hardships greater.
But to get up north before the freeze
        you have to start trailin’ early
‘Cause some of them northern winters there
        can sure get cold and surly.

So we water ‘em good then trail an hour,
        start beddin’ down ‘fore dusk,
We’re holdin’ ‘em on a grassy ridge
        where sun’s turnin’ mud to dust.
It’s gonna be one of them perfect nights
        that makes nighthawkin’ a treat
It’s times like these that a cowboy knows
        this life just can’t be beat.

But today there’s few who could stand the pace
        spendin’ long days in the saddle,
Through rain and snow and dust and storm
        and turnin’ stampedin’ cattle.
Where you live out doors at nature’s whim,
         no shelter, protection or berth,
And back in them days a trail hand’s life
         brought out a man’s actual worth.

So as I look back on the stories he told
        I dream of life back then,
And think what a life I could have had
        if that’s what my fate had been.
But I look at myself with warm house and barn
        and a trailer to haul my horse
And I think my desire is a little far fetched
        as does my wife, of course.

© 2009, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim comments, "My granddad used to tell me stories of some of the escapades he got into when he was young. I don't remember them word for word but here's one as my memory recalls it."

Tom Cat Wreck

Did ya ever notice how them wrecks hurt us
          when we’re skinned up and some bones get broke
Then as the years glide and our memories slide
          we mostly just remember the joke.
That’s kinda the way of my story today
          about a wreck from years long gone
It was with my ‘ol mare, rope horse extra ordinaire
          and a tom cat with claws sharp and long.

Now, I rode that ‘ol mare thru the horse barn with care,
          gonna drive some colts out to pasture,
When this old tom cat fell (or maybe jumped, who can tell?)
          From the haymow as we came out the door there.
He landed right smack behind the skirts on that kack,
          then dug in his claws for traction.
He was sure wantin’ out of this deal, there’s no doubt,
          and he didn’t have to wait long for action.

That ‘ol mare is twelve, and skittish as well,
          she’s agile as a young feller around girls
And she ain’t standin’ pat for the likes of that cat
          so she bucked high with her back in a curl.
Well, me and the tom cat, we both came unlatched,
          but I’m heavier so he went up lots higher
I’m goin’ up in the air as he’s comin’ down from up there
          and we meet face to face with ire.

Now, when I look back, I’ll remember that cat,
          stretched out way up there off the ground
All four feet and his hair stickin’ straight out in the air
          and his body stretched long, thin, and round.
His tail looked a fright, like a tumbleweed might,
          and his whiskers were stiff as a limb
With his eyes full of fire and a burning desire
          to separate this whole wreck and him.

When I came back down I suddenly found
          I was right back on that ‘ol mare’s rump
And that tom cat had pegged down that mare’s hind leg
          like a squirrel goin’ down a tree stump.
Now, as you can guess she’s havin’ none of that mess,
          stuck her nose through that hack to the ground
Flipped me up in the air and I wanted to stay there
          but I knew I was comin’ back down.

Now, our old milk cow, just got milked and had chow,
          left her signature as she strolled through the place
And when I came down front first on the ground
          you can guess what was under my face.
That fracas spooked colts and they started to bolt,
          circlin' fast and bunched up tight
And as I reared up in place, through that cowpie on my face,
          I could see what was comin’ was a fright.

So I flopped back down, tryin’ to squirm into the ground,
          ‘cause them colts was now trompin’ my frame
And to add insult to hurt, they pushed my face in the dirt,
          right back in them cowpie remains.
Now, the skin has grew back and the breaks are intact
          and the years have brought out the humor
But ‘til that cat was gone, we did not get along
          and if you hear I like cats, it’s a rumor.

© 2009, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim comments, The mare in this poem is a full sister, one year older, to the horse on the cover of my CD, Reminiscin'. It all happened so fast that this may not be exactly the way it was, but this is how my memory sees it.

The Gift

Well, it’s done, he’s in the ground,
     the preacher’s said his words.
We’re standin’ round, hats in hand,
     studyin’ what we heard.
Wind is cold, a blizzard’s nigh,
     the Christmas season’s here.
Standin’ on this windy plain
     don’t bring us any cheer

 The preacher didn’t know him,
     not many really did,
But he’d been there, strong and true,
     since I was just a kid.
He came from down in Texas,
     ‘round Dalhart, so they say,
One thing we knew, he was tough,
     and lived the cowboy way.

 He never started trouble
     but he’d sure had his share,
Yet, even in his worst times
     he’d stop to help and care.
I followed him around some
     when I was just a teen
Then I drifted, like some do,
     to things I’d never seen.

 Years went by as years will do
     and livin’ kept me gone,
But that old man taught me some
     that stuck as I lived on.
In my mind I’d hear him say,
     “Don’t ever start a fight,
Keep your saddle clean and oiled,
     and treat your neighbors right.”

 “In your deals with any man,
     be honest, that’s a must,
And always ride for the brand,
     be someone they can trust.”
Well, I’d always tried to live
     the way he showed us all
And I often thought of him,
     standin’ straight, proud an’ tall.

So we stood on frozen ground
      beside that fresh dug grave
We donned our hats, it was cold,
     in blizzard’s icy wave.
I’d rode far to make this call,
     no Christmas in my mind,
But he had given me a gift,
     I had not left behind.

 Now, I’ll never be the man
     that cowboy had become
‘Cause I’ve not had the hard life
     he’d lived while he was young.
But the greatest gift, I found,
     was wisdom from this one.
That old man was my grandpa,
     and I? His first grandson.

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

Slim comments: This poem is basically about my grandfather. Some things, of course, are added to make the story, such as, I rode there in a car, not on a horse as it sounds in the poem, and he was an atheist so Christmas wasn't a big thing with him. He was born around 1888 (I never knew his birth date) and my dad was born in 1909; I was born in 1934. Granddad had been a cattle buyer in west Texas. He didn't talk much about those days (he never said much about anything) so there is a lot I don't know about that time period.

From what my father told me, Granddad would buy livestock and my teenaged father and his two brothers and a sister would trail them to their destinations. When I knew my grandfather, he had moved to South Dakota and was working on a ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, later bought a small place where he lived the rest of his life taking care of a few cows.

I spent some time with him as a youngster. Like most young folks, I didn't know how important a grandparent was until after he was gone. But I did retain some of the things I learned from him about taking care of the range and livestock. One of the things I remember about him, he was over six feet tall and stood very straight. I always tried to mimic that posture.

But he did stand up for what he believed in. The last scrap he was in that I heard about, he was over 70 years old and took offense at something a neighbor had done, and fists flew. According to my cousin, who was there, Granddad won the altercation. I don't know, I wasn't there.


Those Cowboys Who Came Before

There’s a breed of men who tempt our pen
        with their poems and songs of fame
We relive their ways and remember their days,
        do our best to recall their name.
Now, I tell ya pard some find it hard
        understandin’ some of their lore
They had an itch to find their niche,
        those cowboys who came before.

It wasn’t the call of the glory and all,
        kept them cowboys livin’ that way.
No Sir, ‘twas the pride in a man’s inside,
        kept him workin’ cows for his pay.
Whether handlin’ colts or a bronc that bolts,
        or just sittin’ while eyes explore
With a leg o’er the horn as the day is born,
        those cowboys who came before.

Back when it started and trail herds departed
        they stuck with the brand through it all
On ranges they settled as nature they battled,
        spring calvin’ to roundups in fall.
They set the pace for their future race
        and their offspring knew the score
‘Cause they taught ‘em well, as you can tell,
        those cowboys who came before.

They sired sons who now are the ones
        takin’ over care of this range.
With honest toil on that hard grass soil
        to them it don’t feel strange
When they put their hand to their daddy’s land,
        feel the heritage, history and more,
To work the days and honor the ways
        of those cowboys who came before.

Now, we’ll do our best, meet every test,
        to record this hist’ry we’ve known,
So the next to come see what’s been done
        and build a life of their own.
It’s the space that’s free that’s needed, you see,
        to that end we continue to chore,
In honor of men who lived back then,
        those cowboys who came before.

© 2009, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Slim comments: When you get older you start thinking about things from the past. The poem, “Those Cowboys Who Came Before,” came to me while I was thinking about some of the old timers I knew as a boy. Those old cowboys were a large part of the settling of our area here in the west. We need to be aware of the heritage they handed down to us, and we have an obligation to keep that heritage alive. Cowboy poetry gives us that opportunity. Lets just hope we can keep it "cowboy" in an age where few know what real "cowboy" is.

It's Fall Again

Well, old cowboy, it’s fall again,
               winter will end summer’s run
Seems like seasons come faster now,
                with leaves turnin’ gold in the sun.
The boss gave you news just yesterday
               you’re not sure you wanted to hear.
Said he thought you might be better off
               takin’ a break this year. 

You’ve been holdin’ down that line shack
               more years than you remember.
Choppin’ ice and herdin’ strays,
               it starts out each November.
It’s been back there in your mind
               while thinkin’ this past year
But now the time has fin’lly arrived
               you’re not feelin’ that much cheer. 

You wonder where the good years went,
               ain’t feelin’ that much older,
But lately on these chilly morns,
               it seems to be much colder.
You hunch your neck down in your scarf,
               it’s time for winter jacket,
And crows are gathered on the flats
               with lots of fuss and racket.  

Well, the boss is prob’ly right, you know,
               he’s been as good as gold
But it rankles just a little bit,
               he thinks yer gettin’ old.
Oh, he’ll hold your job ‘til spring time,
               needin’ help on brands and gathers
‘Tho not to work the winter now
               don’t seem to fit your rathers.

You’ve seen them old gents sittin’ ‘round
               on the Town House porch in there
And you noticed all they did was sit
               a’waitin’ for their fare.
But now yer thinkin’, it might be nice,
               keepin’ out of the blizzard.
No more snow drifts, choppin’ ice,
               in winds that freeze your gizzard.

Might be nice, now you think of it,
               not to wake in a freezin’ shack
Havin’ water thawed to wash yer face,
               might stop you goin’ back.
That choppin’ wood to warm that shack
               takes time you could be restin’
‘Cause takin’ care of winter range
               is hard on men, no question. 

So next time Coosie goes to town
               buyin’ grub for the ranch
You’ll ride the buckboard, have a look,
               spend time at the ol’ Longbranch.
Check to see if wages saved
               will buy a place in line
Shucks, cowboys just don’t need that much
               to get through winter fine. 

Yep, old cowboy, it’s fall again,
               gettin’ ready for winter is done.
A few snow flakes came floatin’ down,
               Coosie’s next trip is the one.
You’ll rest your old bones, spend time with old friends,
               watch winter from a rockin’ chair
Lookin’ forward to spring’, hearin’ cattle bawl,
               when you’ll ride again out there.   

© 2010, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim comments: In the fall of 2010, Jim Thompson wanted a poem about the Fall season. I got to thinking about an old cowboy that I used to pasture cattle for. He was a little old bow-legged cowboy, was always there to help with branding and shipping in the fall. He ran some cows on his own place, too, but he got so stove up he finally had to start staying in the hotel for the winters. That first winter was hard on him, but he was back in the spring. Changed the details around a bit to make the poem, but that's who inspired it.


When the Grass Comes Green in Spring

A cowboy’s life ain’t all hard toil,
          there are pleasures that he knows,
Like pride that comes with jobs well done
          or watchin’ young things grow.
Just to watch young calves a’playin’,
          to hear meadowlarks that sing,
There’s a whole new world a’happ’nin’
          when the grass comes green in spring.

Old timers spent their winter months
          in a hotel in some town
Now headed out to ranchin’ jobs
          where they hang their tack around.
They’re gettin’ those stiff joints worked out
          that winter layoffs bring
Until they’re back in workin’ shape
          when the grass comes green in spring.

My winter’s almost over now,
          I’m lookin’ for some sun,
My soul sure gets a hankerin’
          to be out where critters run.
My joints don’t work so good now’days
          but when the shoer’s anvil rings
I’d like to straddle that ol’ horse
          when the grass comes green in spring.

To ride out with the roundup boss,
          watch the cavvy friskin’ about,
They sure won’t have that buck ‘n’ snort
          after roundup, there’s no doubt.
Young punchers full of push and shove,
          who gather nights to sing,
Will sure get rid of winter’s kinks
          when the grass comes green in spring.

Once more to sit my horse at dawn,
          with a leg throwed o’er the horn,
And watch the range as daylight comes
          with another morning born.
For seasons filled with pleasant days
          and the splendor Heaven brings
Where you see the handiwork of God
          when the grass comes green in spring.

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

Slim comments, "The older I get, the more nostalgic I become. I was thinking about some of the things I used to enjoy, so I jotted a few down, and it turned into this poem."



Grandpa's Boot Print

Young folks don’t know a grandparent’s worth
          ‘till after they’re gone to their heavenly berth
But I was blest with a wise old hand
          and followed his boot prints in the sand.

I remember followin’ those prints around
          I’d find them ever’where, pressed in the ground
Sometimes in mud, sometimes in dry,
          I always felt safe with those boot prints nigh.

When nature’s call came late at night
          privy’s out back, the darkness a fright,
Then mornin’ dawned and you would find
          Grandpa’s boot prints right by mine.

At about age four my grandpa began
          teaching me things that make a man,
I learned a lot ‘bout life and trust
          just followin’ his boot prints in the dust.

When temptation raised its ugly head
          and I’d get sent to the ol’ wood shed
I’d have this fear down in my gut
         of Grandpa’s boot print on my butt.

He started me ropin’, hand on my wrist,
          showed me the way my rope should twist
When I’d throw a loop and miss a calf
          he’d stand in his boot print, watch and laugh.

I’d saddle my pony, go roamin’ the breaks,
          mother would worry at chances I’d take
Grandpa would tell her, “Don’t you fret,
          someday he’ll match my boot prints yet.”

He’d take me fishin’ along the cricks
          in catchin’ fish he knew the tricks
Taught me to take just what I need
          I followed his boot prints, takin’ heed.

When I’d find myself in dire straits
          with decisions to make that couldn’t wait
I’d follow the trail to Grandpa’s side
          with Grandpa’s boot prints as my guide.

He’d settle my mind, listen and nod,
          I trusted his wisdom next to God,
And in the end I’d find the clue
          like Grandpa’s boot print, in plain view.

We worked our cows, good weather ‘n’ bad,
          ‘twas the best education a boy ever had
He taught me to always care for the land,
          followin’ his boot prints made me a hand.

He told me tales of his cowboy days
           that made me want to follow his ways
But my stride will never match his, pard,
          ‘cause my boot prints never had it that hard.

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

Slim comments, "When I was small my grandfather was a big influence in my life. Some youngsters don't have the desire or opportunity to learn from a grandparent. I was blest, but I could have learned a lot more if I had paid attention."


What is a Cowboy?

From northern Canadian ranges to thickets Texas way
       where the cowboy makes his livin’ on a horse
There’s a class of folks the world around don’t really understand,
       even though their own ancestors set this course.
Now, the life a cowboy lives to earn a livin’ ain’t all fun,
       there’s some purty rocky stretches that he roams,
But you’ll find that through the hard times and the good he’ll be right there
       carin’ for the range, his country and his home.

Some folks don’t understand a man who would choose to spend his life
       carin’ for a bunch of cows and horses,
Just to work and sweat his whole life through keepin’ things together
       always faced with Mother Nature’s forces.
The folks now days can’t understand any man who don’t complain
       when the world is steppin’ on him while he’s beat,
And they can’t see why anyone who is in his natural mind
       would work hard in bitter cold or drought and heat.

But those city folk cannot imagine in their wildest dreams
       what it’s like to live our life the cowboy way,
Steppin’ out on crisp spring mornin’s when the world’s all ice and snow
       to feed livestock what they’re needin’ for the day.
Then slip and slide on frozen cow pies, while saddlin’ up ol’ horse
       to spend time at choppin’ ice and stringin’ hay,
While the cold wind bites your jaw line and you hunch down in your scarf
       but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

There’s a bunch of us had wrecks a plenty out there on the range
       when spring thaw melts some ice down in the grass
And the warm sunshine of mornin’ makes the footing look plumb safe
       but down there at the roots it’s as slick as glass.
And the time may come while workin’ cows that horse will fall with you
       when his feet hit ice and slide from under him
The footing there is dangerous so you give your horse his head,
       he’ll turn that cow, let him free to make his spin.

Those city folks will never know how a cowboy feels at dusk
       when the cold north wind is blowin’ in a storm
And he’s pitchin’ hay to horses ‘round the hay stacks and corrals
       where wind don’t hit, smells are good, he’s stayin’ warm.
Now it’s kinda hard explainin’ to folks who haven’t been there
       how much comfort this can give an ol’ cowhand
And the sense of satisfaction coming from this simple chore
       is a stress relief the world don’t understand.

The problem is folks judge all cowboys by those on silver screen
       who sure wouldn’t know a prolapse from foot rot
It seems Hollywood has caused folks to get the wrong impression,
       makes the cowboy life all glory when it’s not.
‘Cause there are many joys and sorrows make up the cowboy life
       unbeknownst to all but just those chosen few
Who make this world a better place while they’re watchin’ o’er the range,
       lookin’ up to God and the Red White and Blue.

© 2009, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Slim comments, "For some time I didn't think it was worthy of publication. Lately, I'm thinking maybe there are some folks who need to know that a cowboy's life is not all glitz and glamor, instead of what the silver screen has always shown. That was the inspiration for this poem, and I hope that's the message folks get."

It’s Silent at the Pens Tonight

It’s silent at the pens tonight
          horses hip shot, half asleep
The dust has settled, trucks are gone,
          those cowboys have earned their keep.
They’re gathered ‘round the loadin’ chute
          where the boss and foreman stand
Windin’ down, discussin’ the day,
          somber mood is on the land.

It’s been a long day for this ranch,
          hard decisions needed made.
The dry spell outlasted the grass,
          water holes just seemed to fade.
Sure nothin’ new to these ranchers,
          can happen every few years,
But to folks who depend on grass
          these are always constant fears.

The ranch will survive, has before,
          by cullin’ foundation stock
Cuttin’ expense where they can,
          trustin’ in God ‘stead of luck.
These hands know their time here is done,
          the ranch can’t afford all their pay,
So they will drift, some far, some near,
          takin’ what jobs come their way.

Then when the time comes they’ll gather
          on this hard grass range once more,
Go back to jobs tendin’ cattle
          just like they all did before.
It will rain, ‘tho might be next year,
          but the grass will come again,
And these cowboys will all be welcome
          when new grass and new life begin.

© 2012, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim comments,
"My youngest son was working on a ranch in western South Dakota. The boss had held back an extra hundred plus head of heifers because he had the help to calve them out. Then the drought hit. He had to sell the heifers and put some of his foundation stock in feed lots to get through. Because of the drought my son, like some other cowboys in the area, was out of a job. That was the inspiration for this poem."

Mother's Apron Strings

Our fam’ly wasn’t any differ’nt
     from others livin’ ‘round
‘Cept my mother would rather cowboy
     than spend her time house bound.
So cookin’, sewin’ and cleanin’ house
     was not her fav’rite things
And we knew the chores were really done
     when mother tied her apron strings.

So when mother hung her saddle up,
     and headed for the kitchen,
We knew she’s fixin’ us a meal
     and we’d be sure to listen.
‘Cause later on she’d call us in
     and we’d be fed like kings,
On steak and taters and coffee strong,
     when mother tied her apron strings.

When checkin’ cows and water holes
     on days as hot as sin
Our Levi seats got slick and shiny,
     our horses all done in.
She’d do her share ‘long side us boys,
     right in the thick of things,
But we knew the hard day’s work was done
     when mother tied her apron strings.

And those days when hard work tired us all
     and the future seemed so bleak
We’d all go mopin’ around the place
     feelin’ orn’ry, mean and weak.
Then she’d tell us all, “Knock off early,
     bring some cold drinks from the spring”.
It made our world a peaceful place,
     when mother tied her apron strings.

So now we’ve rode that outside circle,
     our saddles are worn and old,
We’re lame in joints and grayin’ hair,
     our minds strive to keep hold.
A pleasant mem’ry invades our thoughts,
     it’s the reason our heart sings,
‘Cause the world was right and we were safe
     when mother tied her apron strings.

© 2010, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Slim comments, "My mother never liked being stuck in the house. She would rather be on a horse working cows or checking things out. She always said she would rather milk a cow than face a kitchen range. We ate a lot of beef and potatoes and hot coffee. They must have been easy to fix."



Happy Ol' Cowboy

I’ll admit I’m gettin’ older,
          my bald spot’s rimmed with white,
My rotator cuff don’t rotate,
          my hearin’ ain’t quite right.
My meniscus has plumb worn away,
          my back is stiff and sore,
My hips don’t swivel like they should,
          and when I sleep I snore.

Now, I can’t lift my saddle,
          angina causes pain,
My ropes have all developed holes,
          that rotator cuff’s to blame.
Last time I tried to tail a cow
          I wound up on my butt
With all these things that’s goin’ on
          I feel I’m in a rut.

My hairy legs support ten pounds
          of extra fat and flab
And the bottled pills upon my shelf
          look like a doctor’s lab.
My ears keep gettin’ bigger,
          my feet are growin’ too,
It don’t make me hear no better,
          just wear a bigger shoe.

My eyesight’s gettin’ dimmer,
          my reflex almost nil,
My sense of smell has gone away,
          can’t fix it with a pill.
My pacemaker needs rechargin’,
          too much acid in my gall,
My metal knee joint just won’t bend,
          can’t touch my toes at all.

I have trouble with my breathin’,
          blood sugar gets way low,
Then up goes the ol’ blood pressure
          for reasons I don’t know.
But with these perks of my old age
          that keep me from all wrong
And with the aid of my stout cane
          I strive to get along.

But there’s one thing keeps me goin’,
          and it’s my only binge,
It’s the thing that I enjoy the most,
          makes all my neighbors cringe.
The thing that makes me happy?
          (I’m grinnin’ to beat the band),
It’s that current driver’s license
          in my arthritic hand.

© 2014, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



King of the Moment

There is nothin' in a cowboy's world
     makes him feel more like a king
Than sittin' on his favorite horse
     watchin' eagles on the wing.
While he's sittin' there surveyin'
     all his world that's goin' 'round
He's the king of this great moment
     and the ruler of this ground.

Ol' horse is standin' hip shot,
     he's catchin him a nap,
He knows he'll have to go to work
     sortin’ critters in some trap.
With daylight just 'a breakin'
     while the prairie comes to life
And the sun rays cut the darkness
     like a golden sunbeam knife.

It’s then, while countin’ blessings
     of this prairie life, he sees,
There is no feelin' in the world
     like a good horse ‘tween your knees.
'Tho he can't explain the feelin'
     when his seat lands in that saddle
And he feels that horse respond
     as he starts to workin' cattle,

Feels the power and persuasion
     from this cow horse that he's on….
Still, he'll keep on this way of livin'
     'til his life has come and gone.
He don't ask for nothin' better
     than what this life can bring
'Cause when his seat is in that saddle
     he is feelin' like a king.

© 2014, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Slim tells us this poem was written for Peggy Ables, Executive Director of the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish, South Dakota. He comments, "Peggy and I were talking about painting word pictures with poetry and she asked me to write a poem about what it felt like when you stepped on a good cow horse and got ready to work cattle. This was what I came up with."



Sippin' Coosie's Coffee

When the sun is just a’ peekin’
        o’er the badland mesa rim
And the cavy is all wrangled
        while the star light’s gettin’ dim
There’s sounds that break the morning air
        with a hearty welcome noise,
It’s the sippin’ coosie’s coffee
        by a crew of hungry cowboys.

Now, city folk would think it rude,
        makin’ such an uncouth sound,
But coffee strong that’s good and hot
        can‘t be sipped without a sound
There’s just somethin’ ‘bout that coffee
        makes a feller’s heart perk up
When coosie lifts that coffee pot
        and fills yer cold tin cup.

There’s lots of stuff that’s sold to folks
        s’posed to make a life of awe
And folks will travel miles one way
        just to lay around some spa
But when coffee fills yer gizzard
        and the sun shines on yer back
Ain’t no concoction in the world
        can match coffee hot and black.

And that bronc that parts yer whiskers
        every mornin’, durn his hide,
Why, you fork him like a breaker
        with that coffee hot inside
‘Cause that bronc, he’s just a’ checkin’,
        see if you have learned to ride,
While coosie, standin’ ‘neath the fly,
        sees his coffee work with pride.

So whether day lights breakin’
        or the sun is gettin’ low
There’s a sound comes from the wagon
        makes a cowboy’s innards glow
It’s that sippin’ coosie’s coffee
        that he brews there in that pot
It’s what makes these orn’ry cowboys
        plumb contented with their lot.

© 2015, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Slim comments, "I dedicate this poem to Kent Rollins. His coffee made my day at Silver Dollar City in the Cowboy Tent when the temperature was 20 degrees and that microphone felt like a chunk of ice."
Slim refers to the annual National Harvest & Cowboy Festival held each fall in Branson, Missouri.


Read Slim McNaught's

"Heading West" © Molly Morrow,; reproduction prohibited
Winnin' the Game in our Art Spur Project


Alone in our Art Spur Project


The Calling in our Art Spur project


Poetry in Motion in the 2010 National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur project


End of the Ride about the end of the Heritage of the American West show


The Wrangler, in our 2009 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur


Rod's Pinpoint of Light, a tribute to Rod Nichols


At a Cowboy Pace in our 2007 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur Project


The Kissin' Tree in our 2006 Christmas Art Spur project


A Christmas Thought posted with other 2006 Christmas poems


Headin' Home in our Art Spur project


The Tale of "A Christmas Tale" in our 2005 Christmas Art Spur project


The Memory, in our Art Spur Project


About Slim McNaught:

photo by D. Enise

Slim McNaught of New Underwood, South Dakota, spent his early years in an old log house on a ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota. He started writing poetry in high school but didn't try his hand at reciting live on stage until 2004. Since that time he's been busy going to cowboy poetry gatherings from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Medora, North Dakota, entertaining at banquets, city centennial and quasi-centennial celebrations, trail rides, and participating in cowboy churches. The rest of his time is taken up with his leather tooling business, having downsized the saddle and boot shop he and wife, Darlene, operated many years.

Much of his poetry is about things that happened to him or his friends while growing up on ranches in southwest South Dakota. Over the years he has had poems and articles published in various anthologies plus many cowboy, horse, and agriculture magazines and newspapers. Some highlights have been a short clip on RFD-TV taken from a performance on Susie Luchsinger’s program, and being chosen to perform on the Friday Night Opry at the WMA Awards Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2008. Since 1981 Slim has published five books, the last three of which he printed and assembled in his leather shop, with another about ready to print. He also has two CDs published with another in the works which will include some of his cowboy prayer poems. He also publishes poem books for his mother, Troy McNaught Westby. His cowboy poetry itinerary can be found on Books and CDs can be found on his "Slim's Custom Leather" web store at His latest CD is also available at

Slim feels he has been blest in knowing and working with cattle and horse people all his life which has influenced his poetry and leather work. Slim and Darlene have four children, seven grand children, and ten (at last tally) great grand children.


Between My Horse's Ears

2013; Cover illustration by Bonnie Krogman


An Oldtimer's Prayer
Between My Horse's Ears
Memories from the Past
Mother's Apron Strings
The Calling
The Wrangler
Huggin' the Mare
Barb Wire
Grandpa's Boot Print
It's Fall Again
Sixteen Hands
Those Cowboys Who Came Before
What Is A Cowboy
Electronic Homicide
Closin' the Gate
When the Grass Comes Green in Spring

Between My Horse's Ears is available for $10.50 postpaid from Slim McNaught, 110 S. Madison Ave., New Underwood, SD 57761; 605-754-6103.




Named Top Cowboy Poetry Album, 2009
by the Academy of Western Artists


At a Cowboy Pace
Cowboy Prayer of Thanks
Tom Cat Wreck
Closin' the Gate
A Gift From the Past
Where the Hard Grass Meets the Sky
The Mustang
The Old Prairie School
The Job
Headin' Home

Reminiscin' includes eleven tracks of cowboy poetry written and recited by Slim McNaught, with background music and sound effects. Music and singing is by Joel Gothard, and the CD was recorded and published by Prairie Sage Publishing, Lew Vasquez, Gillette, Wyoming.

Slim notes that the cover "picture of me on the horse was taken in 1949 and that horse is a full brother to the mare in the poem 'Tom Cat Wreck,' who was a year older."

Listen to all tracks at CDBaby.

Read some of Slim's poetry at his MySpace page, where there are audio tracks.

Reminiscin' is available for $18.50 postpaid from Slim's web site, from CDBaby, and by mail: Slim McNaught, 110 S. Madison Ave, New Underwood, SD 57761; 605-754-6103.

See Rick Huff's review here.


Reflections of a Cowboy Poet


A Cowboy Prayer of Faith
A Christmas Thought
A Gift from the Past
Circle Unending
Cowboy Inspiration
Headin' Home
Prairie Bones
Spring in South Dakota
That's Where I'm From
The Memory
The Prairie Rose
The Snubbin' Post
This Cowboy Thing
Waitin' for the Call
The Coronation

Reflections of a Cowboy Poet includes fifteen poems and Slim McNaught's original illustrations. Slim, raised on a ranch in the Badlands country on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota, dedicates the book, " the memory of our ancestors who came up the trail and settled this land with their herds. We have not only an opportunity but also the responsibility to carry on their cowboy poetry style and their principles, the Code of the West.

Read some of Slim's poetry at his web site, including more about the book and a sample page here.

Reflections of a Cowboy Poet is available for $7.50 postpaid from Slim's web site or by mail: Slim McNaught, 110 S. Madison Ave, New Underwood, SD 57761; 605-754-6103.


A Life of Rhyme

Slim McNaught's 2006 CD, A Life of Rhyme, includes 14 of his original poems

The Old Still
Cowboy High
The Bull Fighter
Hayin' Time
A Bull in the Kitchen
One Old Dry Cow
The Cowboy and the Coyote
Memories in the Mist
Jump Startin' an Old Geezer
Cell Phone Rodeo
Pickin' a Brand
The Last Cowboy
Lookin' Back
Retire? Well I Don't Think So

Slim describes the CD as, "For all of us old enough to remember how much fun we had pretending when we were kids...until that mythical time some people call Retirement." 

A Life of Rhyme is available for $15 postpaid directly from Slim's web site or by mail: Slim McNaught, 110 S. Madison Ave, New Underwood, SD 57761; 605-754-6103.

You can email Slim.

See Slim's web site for more of his poetry and information about his books.


See a feature about Slim McNaught's mother, Troy McNaught Westby, and her poetry here.

The fine work of Slim McNaught



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