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

Sierra Vista, Arizona
About Steve Conroy




Grandpa's Will
  Dedicated to Dee Strickland Johnson "Buckshot Dot"

It was 19 years exact today that Grandpa passed away
And my mind fills up with memories of those many bygone days.
He was a cowboy, AND a rancher, an' he worked hard at all he done.
And Oh, the stories he could tell would really thrill his young grandson.

At 14, Gramps commenced to work, and as he grew to be a man,
Learned his skills from other cowboys, and became a trusted hand.
Then he met my Grandma Sarah, and they bought a fair-sized spread
And began their grand adventure shortly after they was wed.

Well, they started raisin' cattle, had four kids, and over time,
Together made that ranch a home, filled with joys of every kind.
I remember all the laughter as I sat at Grandpa's knee
With my grandma playin' piano, and mama singin' sweet.

I still hear the call for supper at the closing of the day.
As we gathered round the table, Grandpa'd look at me and say:
"Boy, the food is on the table, and Grandma's ready to say grace,
So before you settle in there, comb your hair and wash your face."

This ranch house fills with images of those who walked these floors,
Fixin' food, and raisin' babies, and teaching boys about their horse.
Grandpa ranched for 50 years, and his spread ranked 'mongst the rest
'Cause he worried over every cow, and taught his kids to be their best.

In '87, grandma died, and grandpa came to us to stay
He'd take on almost any chore, workin' hard throughout the day.
Pa bought more land and fenced it in, then added to the herd.
At night, Grandpa would spin his tales as I hung on every word.

Now, I'd be shootin' rabbits with my imaginary gun
Or hidin' in the hayloft to watch the rustlers come.
I could ride my fence-rail pony, and I would rope that Texas Steer
While Grandpa watched and smiled as he saw me through those years

As I look into the mirror hanging on the kitchen wall
With its silver marred and hazy, I see visions of them all.
I hear grandpa pumping water, see him washing those big hands.
And he'd be talking to his Sarah just as if she'd understand.

Grandpa'd wet and soap that washcloth, and wipe the day's work from his face,
Then he'd take his comb out, every strand must be in place.
First he'd comb his hair all forward, and in the middle, make a part.
He combed one side left, the other right; to him this really was an art.

As daylight started fadin', and mom called me in from play.
When it was time for supper, I still hear my Grandpa say:
"Son, your ma's fixed some great vittles, and your pa'll be sayin' grace,
But before you come to table, comb your hair and wash your face."

It was a cold year that December, when Grandpa slipped away.
We played checkers just the night before, as we did most every day.
Then I saw a strange expression come across his weathered face
And I got the strongest feeling he was in a different place.

As ma looked 'round his bedroom, she picked up his bible there
It was worn and a bit weathered from him reading his evening prayer.
Tucked neatly 'twixt the pages, ma found a simple note
It was finger-worn and wrinkled, something that my Grandpa wrote.

Upon it written neatly was my grandpa's final will,
In a hand so strong and steady, his last words I can hear still.
"To my beloved family, who have given much to me,
I leave my worldly possessions, and a chest of memories.

Lately I've seen my Sarah, with loving arms and laughing eyes
She's been tellin' me 'bout a new spread, just beyond, up in the skies.
Now she's callin' me to table, and wantin' me to say the grace
So I'd ask you if you'd kindly, comb my hair and wash my face."

© 2003, Henry S. Conroy
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Steve told us:  I am currently the co-chair of the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and MusicGathering... When the poets and musicians come to Sierra Vista for our Gathering, most of them stay with a host family.  Buckshot Dot (Dee Strickland Johnson) has stayed with my wife, Margie and me for a number of years. One day, she was talking about her grandfather, Roy Hoovler, and how he took such care to comb his hair.  I thought about my own grandfathers and what legacy they left to their grandchildren.  One was memories of times shared.  One was their demonstration of hard work, dedication, honesty, and "true grit"—stick to it until it's done.  With that combination, I wrote the poem. 


The Photograph

He came ridin' out of Texas
Headin' westward past our ranch
Out of work and just a drifter
Looking for another chance.

Jimmy Thompson was his handle
And he set his horse right well
While the dust upon his saddle
Said he'd rode for quite a spell

Jimmy said he'd herded cattle
Workin' ranches 'long the way.
Said he's good at shoein' hosses,
Fixin' tack and pitchin' hay.

John Sutter, that's my father,
Could tell the cut of any man.
So, as he motioned towards the bunkhouse,
Said he could use another hand.

Now Jim worked hard around our place,
Built a tool shed, patched the roof.
Fixed corrals and mended fences,
He even pulled a worried tooth.

I could see from dad's expression
He was glad he'd hired Jim.
Jim worked hard an' smart an' steady
Dad saw a foreman's drive in him.

A writer feller came out our way
To study the cowboy's life
And he asked to take some pictures
Of my father and his wife.

He asked young Jim if he would pose
A settin' there on his horse
With hat and chaps and six-gun
And his best dress shirt, of course.

So Jim got dressed and slickered
Then he climbed up on that roan
And set there restin' easy
Like a cowboy comin' home.

"Back him up a bit!" That feller said
"So's I can get a better view
Of you upon your pony
'gainst the Arizona blue."

So, Jim gently pulled against the reins,
And Sandy shifted back
Again, Jim nudged, an' Sandy moved
Till Jim gave him some slack.

Well, suddenly ol' Sandy bucked
To everyone's surprise!
And Jim's new hat went flyin'
As he headed towards the sky.

Neck bowed tight, he went high and right.
Sandy hardly touched the ground.
And Jim held on with all he had
Wonderin' when he's comin' down!"

Sandy snorted and pushed out hard.
He twisted, jerked and spun.
He sunfished, then he barrel-rolled,
Kept goin' till he's done.

Well, Jim finally settled Sandy,
Quiet'd him best he could tell.
And later, Jim would surely swear
He had rode the bronc from ....  Well,

That writer feller laughed and said:
"You'll be famous, I promise you!
Them's the best darn pictures I ever got
Of a young bronc ridin' fool."

Now Jim ain't famous, but if you ask,
He'll tell of that infamous day
When Sandy ... backed into the 'lectric fence ...
And Jim got his picture made.

© 2003, Henry S. Conroy
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Steve told us: I am working on a series of poems around a family with several generations. I had thought about a young cowboy coming to a ranch, getting work and staying on, eventually to marry into a family. When I decided on the poem's ending I did some research on use of electric fences in the West and discovered it was first used in Texas on the XIT Ranch in 1888. Not only would it be less injurious to cattle, but the cowboys riding fence could communicate with the ranch headquarter by telephone. It was short-lived because the cowboys were skeptical and it proved impractical at the time.

However, electric fences WERE used long enough for me to write my poem.

Steve notes that there is some interesting historical information at the Antique Barbed Wire Society web site.

About Steve Conroy:

Steve Conroy was raised in Minnesota, and first became interested in the "cowboy life" where, at the age of 12, he worked at a riding stable.  He learned a lot about the chores necessary to keep the operation running clean.  There he rode and worked as a trail guide.  The two old wranglers who worked there talked of the "old days" and Steve learned much from them about the care of horses.

After traveling around the United States and other parts of the world with the US Army for some 24 years, Steve and his family settled in Sierra Vista in 1989 and have been residents since then.  After arriving at Ft. Huachuca, Steve joined B Troop, 4th Cavalry, and rode with them for over three years. There he learned about caring for horses, performing as a Cavalry trooper and living life in the Cavalry in the 1860's.  He rode in many events throughout the southwest during those years, to include three trips to the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California.

Steve is currently one of the Co-Chairs for the
Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering and has worked with the Gathering for 11 years.  He writes his own poetry and enjoys reciting some of the classic artists, such as S. Omar Barker and Bruce Kiskaddon.  He also plays guitar and sings songs reminiscent of those days when cowboys and cattle made for great tales.



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