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Below are some selected classic and contemporary poems, 
posted in observance of Thanksgiving.

Badger Clark
Thanksgiving Hymn, 1943

E. A. Brininstool
A Roar from the Bunkhouse

S. Omar Barker
Thanksgiving Argument
Bunkhouse Thanksgiving

Drifter's Thanksgivin'

James Barton Adams
Thanksgiving on the Ranch
A Prospector's Thanksgiving

Captain Jack Crawford

Maynard Dixon
In Town

Bj Smith
An Aggie's Thanksgiving

Jack Goodman
Feeding Cows After Thanksgiving Dinner

Adam Hilliard
Walnut Springs, Tx

Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Paul Kern
Where Warmth Means Wood

Seldom Seen in Town

Rod Nichols
A Thanksgiving Mem'ry

Hal Swift
Charlie's Thanksgiving Prayer

thankspcard4.JPG (13328 bytes)

Elsewhere on the web:

The Library of Congress American Memory Project

Charlie Russell Thanksgiving letter and drawing
National Museum of Wildlife Art
"... Turkey is the emblem of this day ...the West owes nothing to that bird, but it owes much to the humped back beef... one of nature's biggest gifts and this country owes him thanks..."

Top cowboy poet and humorist Baxter Black's audio commentary here at Western Horseman, "The First Thanksgiving." "First Cowboy Thanksgiving" is in his book, Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy.  

Baxter Black's "A Turkey's Thoughts" is here in a 2002 column at the Amarillo Globe/News

Poet, humorist, and chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins' November 22, 2011 blog, "Not Just Any Kitchen Table," has a Thanksgiving message.



Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1901

A 1920 message on the back; from our collection


Thanksgiving Hymn, 1943

Another year grows calmly old
     And frost is on the morning grass;
The quaking asp has shed its gold'
     The mountain lakes lie still as glass.
The fields, their summer labor done,
     Sleep in the quiet autumn sun
And the high hills in grave accord
     Lift up their heads and thank the Lord.

Nature's great calmness seems to mock.
     The world's at war; our boys are gone
Far off where furious armies shock
     In many a bloody battle dawn.
Yet though our nation grimly fights,
     This year, to save her ancient rights
At least she wields a mighty sword
   And for that we thank the Lord.

Safety is ours though peace is lost.
     Our cities know no thundering raid;
Fields know no enemy but frost;
     The children play, still unafraid.
The planes that drone across our sky
     Are friendly sentries standing by
That no invading robber horde
     Shall waste our land, so thank the Lord.

For harvest from the fields we've sown,
     For freedom and for righteous laws,
For fighting power to guard our own
     And help our helpless neighbor's cause.
For Victory's slowly dawning light--
     And dawn it must if right is right--
Gather once more around the board,
     This fateful year, and thank the Lord.

by Charles Badger Clark
reprinted with the kind  permission of Jessie Sundstrom of the Badger Clark Memorial Society
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.



Accept my thanks today, O Lord--
But not so much for bed and board--
Those stodgy items of good cheer
I share with chipmunks and with deer--
But rather gifts more fine and fair
That come upon me unaware.

Those priceless incidental things--
Flower fragrance and bird flutterings,
The sudden laughter often caught
From some fantastic kink of thought
A pine's black fretwork lifted high
Against the tranquil sunset sky,
Kindness from strangers all unnamed
That makes me wholesomely ashamed,
A friend' warm, understanding eyes,
A book's communion with the wise,
The dreamful magic of a tune
And slim white birches in the moon--

I thank you, Lord, for daily bread
But I am so much more than fed,
For you, with nought deserved or won,
Indulge me like a favored son,
Flinging profuse along my ways
These jeweled things that deck the day
And make my living far more sweet
Than just to breathe or just to eat.

by Charles Badger Clark
reprinted with the kind  permission of Jessie Sundstrom of the Badger Clark Memorial Society
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Read more about Badger Clark and his poetry here.


A Roar from the Bunkhouse

Nary a thing to eat Thanksgivin'
   Only tin can truck!
Gettin' tired of such a livin',
   Blame the orn'ry luck!
Nothin' only beans an' bacon

   Pard, excuse these tears!
Seems jest like we've been fursaken

   Darn this punchin' steers!

Folks back home are jest a-stuffin'
   Turkey-meat an' pie;
At them feed-fests there's no bluffin';
   Gosh, it makes me sigh!
No sich dinner for us fellers
   In this camp appears;
Turkey ain't fer cowboys' smellers

   Darn this punchin' steers!

Weather soggy-like an' murky;
   Makes me mighty blue;
Thinkin' of Thanksgivin' turkey
   Makes me h'umsick, too.
Sour-dough bread an' canned tomaters
   Ain't th' grub that cheers;
Oh fer pie an' mashed pertaters!
   Darn this punchin' steers!

Bunkhouse bunch are sick as blazes
   Bein' fed this way;
Gettin' so th' maynoo raises
  Sam Hill ev'ry day!
ev'ry mother's son a-kickin'
  When th' truck appears!
Never git a sniff o' chicken

   Darn this punchin' steers!

Same ol' bread an' beans furever!
   Gosh, we'd like a change!
Reck'n we won't git it never
   While we ride th' range!
Oh, fer some o' mother's cookin;

   That's th' dope that cheers!
Guess my callin' I've mistooken

   DARN this punchin' steers!

by E. A. Brininstool, from Trail Dust of a Maverick, 1914


Read more about E. A. Brininstool and his poetry here.


postmarked November 23, 1908



Thanksgiving Argument

About this here Thanksgiving there are two opposin' views,
One helt by ol' Pop McIntyre, one helt by Smoky Hughes;
And how them two ol' cowpokes will debate the pros-and-cons
Produces in the bunkhouse many verbal marathons.
"I've always worked," says Smoky, "For whatever I have had,
Since first I wrangled horses as a rusty-knuckled lad.
I've rode my share of broncos, and I've punched a heap of cow,
And earned my own danged 'blessings' by the sweat of my own brow!
Why should I be a-givin' thanks for what I've duly earned
Is a lot of bosh and bunkum that I just ain't never learned!"

Pop McIntyre, he sucks his pipe a thoughtful draw or two,
Then says: "Well, Smoky, I'll admit that you're a buckaroo
Who sets a steady saddle and ain't stingy with his sweat,
But maybe there's a thing or two you stubbornly forget.
You're noted as a peeler that is seldom ever throwed

To what good luck or blessin' is your skill at ridin' owed?"
"There ain't no good luck to it, Pop," says Smoky. "I'm a man
Who ain't obliged for nothin' when I do the best I can.
For when I earn my wages bustin' out a bunch of colts,
It's me, myself in person, that is takin' all the jolts.
That's why I claim Thanksgivin' Day is mostly just a fake
To give some folks a good excuse for turkey stummick-ache!"

"My friend," says Pop, sarcastic, "you have spoke your little piece,
And proved you've got a limber tongue that's well supplied with grease.
You scoff at all thanksgivin', but a fact you surely know
Is that some Power beyond your own learned blades of grass to grow.
You spoke of ridin' broncos—I'll admit you ride 'em good,
And set up in the saddle like a salty peeler should.
For this you take the credit, and you claim to owe no thanks
For the buckarooster blessin' of the muscles in your shanks!
Instead you should feel thankful," says Pop's concludin' drawl,
That the good lord made you forkéd—or you couldn't ride at all!"

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

from Songs of the Saddlemen, 1954

Bunkhouse Thanksgiving

A beef roast in the oven and the hands all waitin' 'round,
So they got to kinder talkin' 'bout the different things they'd found
That each of them was thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day,
And some, they told it solemn-like, and some, they told it gay.

Tom thanked the Lord that hosses had four legs instead of two,
So cowboys don't have to walk like some poor suckers do.
Ol' Bashful claimed that women was the blessing in his life

No doubt he meant his mother, for he'll never get a wife!
"I'm thankful most for cattle, boys," says Slim, who thinks a heap.
"In a world without them critters we would all be herdin' sheep!"
The Ramrod spoke his thankfulness that grass was good and long,
And Curly said he thanked the stars that he was young and strong,
While Bud, he blessed his appetite. The way that beef roast smelt,
He also felt thanksgivin' for the long holes in his belt!

Ol Dunk, he kinder sucked his pipe and gazed off toward the hills.
"Well boys," he says, "I'm sixty-five and full of liver pills.
My rheumatism aches me and my pipe is gettin' stale.
My hossy days are over, and I'm feelin' purty pale.
My bunion's grown so bulblous that I've had to split my boot.
My ears—I'd have to climb the tree to hear a hoot owl hoot.
Cain't down my woes in likker, for my ticker's on the blink.
I cain't enjoy the cattylogs, the way my blinkers wink.
I've got some nose for smellin' left—that roast is purt near done,
But all the chawin' teeth I've got adds up to only one.
Ol' Gus shore savvies cookin' beef! I'd like to eat a pound,
But hell, I couldn't chaw it if he took and had it ground!
You talk about Thanksgivin', boys, and here you see me set,
A plumb wore-out ol' cowhand—but I'm mighty thankful yet
For every hoss I've ever rode and every sight I've saw,
But most of all for gravy—which a man don't have to chaw!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

from Songs of the Saddlemen, 1954



Drifter's Thanksgivin'

A way out West long years ago, it came Thanksgivin' time,
And caught this cowboy busted flat. He didn't have a dime,
Nor nothin' else to speak of but a hungry appetite;
No turkey dinner 'neath his belt, no place to spend the night.
The day was raw and chilly and the afternoon was late.
The wore-out hoss he rode upon was purt near buzzard-bait.

A drifter huntin' him a job, with nothin' turnin' up,
He rode this stretch of desert like a lost and lonesome pup,
A-thinkin' surely purty soon some ranch would come in view,
With dinner on the table that they might invite him to.
But all he saw was prairie dogs, as mile on mile he rode,
With here and there a rabbit or an ugly horny toad.
No human habitation, nary ranch house, nary shack,
Until he felt his stummick rubbin' plumb against his back.

Than all at once a dugout's door stood open in the gloom,
And in it stood a cowboy, bristlin' whiskers like a broom.
"Light down! Light down!" this cowboy says, "I'm settin' supper out--
Except in case you don't like beans, you'll have to do without.
For this here is a line-camp that's so doggone far from taw
That the boss ain't sent no vittles out since Jacob folled his Pa!"

A candle lit the boar's nest when them two set down to bread,
A pot of beans, and coffee. Then this drifter bowed his head.
"O Lord," he says, "up yonder where the well-fed angels dwell,
Since this here is the day for thanks, seems like I might be as well
Cut loose and say a word or two about this bill of fare.
When I had cash I spent it like a Klondike millionaire.
You take Thanksgivin' last year--well, I fed on turkey breast,
Cranberry sauce and gravy--which is what I like the best.
But I forgot to thank YOU, Lord, when luck was runnin' good,
So now I'm settin' down to beans, I sorter thought I would.
The pot looks kinder skimpy, but I'm thankful in my heart
That You and this kind stranger aim to let me eat my part.
Thanksgivin' Day is somethin' that a man can understand
When he's got an empty stummick underneath his bellyband.
And so tonight I thank You, Lord of North, South, West and East,
For learnin' me the lesson that plain beans can be a feast!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

from Songs of the Saddlemen, 1954



Read more about S. Omar Barker and his poetry here.

  Frederic Remington's "Thanksgiving Dinner for the Ranch" appeared in Harpers Weekly November 24, 1888



Thanksgiving on the Ranch

We was settin' 'round the ranch house on the last Thanksgiving Day,
Tellin' yarns an' swappin' fables fer to pass the time away;
Fer the owner was religious an' had made it manifest
That there would n't be no ridin' on a day o' joyful rest;
An' we got in a discussion an' a heap o' talk was spent
Pro an' con an' vivy vocy what Thanksgivin' reely meant;
An I'll bet a workin' saddle 'gainst a pa'r o' hoss's shoes
That there never was another sich a scatterin' o' views. 

Texas Tony though 't was taught him when he went to Sunday school,
In the days when he was swimmin' in the Baptis' pious pool,
That it was a celebration that was started on the dock
When the Scribes an' Pharisees was landed onto Plymouth Rock.
Bronco Billy said he reckoned Tex had got his stories mixed,
That his mem'ry wheels had run too long without a-bein' fixed;
That the day, if he remembered, was a day o' jubilee
In remembrance of Abe Lincoln settin' all the negroes free.

Brocky Jim, from Arizony, begged to differ, sayin' he
In his younger days had wasted lots o' time on history;
An' the day was celebrated in thanksgivin' fer the change
When the Revolution fellers drifted off King George's range.
Lengthy Jones an' Watt McGovern an' the Rio Grandy Kid
Coincided in believin', as the present writer did,
It was jest a yearly epock to remind us o' the day
When Columbus happened on us in a onexpected way.

Uncle Dick, the ol' hoss 'ranger, sot an' smoked his pipe till all
O' the fellers with the question then at stake had tuk a fall,
An' when asked fer his opinion o' the matter said that he
Had his idee o' the objeck o' the yearly jubilee:
'T was a day when all the fellers so included could show their thanks
Fer whatever they'd a mind to by a-fillin' up their tanks
Till their legs got weak an' weary from a-carryin' the load

He had spent the day in Denver an' he reckoned that he knowed.

James Barton Adams

from Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

(the penultimate word in the second stanza has been changed from the original)



A Prospector's Thanksgiving

   I'd bin prospectin' fur half a year
      In the rockiest luck
      A man ever struck,
   An' my hope an' my temper was out o' gear,
   An' I felt just ready to up an' buck
   An to curse the day that I first saw light,
   To curse the gold that was hid from sight,
   To curse the fates that led me on
   By the lamp of hope till all hope was gone,
   An' my heart grew bitter an' full o' hate,
   An' I railed at the Master that would create
      A man to buck
      At the game o' luck
   An' only git ripped up the back by fate!

I knelt me down by a mountain stream,
   From its sparklin' water I took a drink,
Then lolled on the rocky bank to dream
   Of the tattered edges of life. To think.
I recalled the days that had come and gone
   Since I tore myself from the world away,
An' the fact on my mem'ry seemed to dawn,
   That I stared in the face of Thanksgivin' day.
A sneer rose up in my troubled bread,
   An' my soul with its Maker renewed its war
As I asked myself with a spiteful zest:
   "What have I got to be thankful for?
What has God done for a man like me?
   What are the blessin's thrown in my path?
Why should I bow on a thankful knee
   When He's sprinkled my trail with the fire of wrath?"
I struck my pick in the gravelly sod,
   As if to stab at the heart of luck,
And sneered at the idee there was a God,
   An' damned sich teachin' as wordy truck.
I glanced at my grub-bag layin' there
   An' knowed when I'd eaten another meal
I'd have nothin' to live on then but air,
   An' in mad rebellion I ground my heel
Deep down in the unproductive earth.
   An' cursed at the gods' slow-grindin' mills.
An' cursed at the day taht gave me birth,
   An' the fates that led me into the hills.
Aye! curses at everything I hurled.
   At the cruel earth with its struggling men,
An' wished that the old pain-givin' world
   Would bust into nothingness there an then!

I rolled the sleeve up my bare, brown arm,
   I noted the muscles clustered thick,
I felt the pulsations strong an' warm
   As the life-blood flowed like a ripplin' creek.
I slapped my breast with my strong right hand
   An' it stood as firm as a granite wall.
Save when it in majesty would expand
   Till it stood out round as a monster ball.
I slapped a thigh that was knitted steel.
   Threw back my head on its muscled base.
An' in my soul I began to feel
   A chiding that gave me a shameful face.
"What should I thank him for?" for health
   That a man of millions would envy me,
For a frame of iron, an' a perfect wealth
   Of muscle an' nerve, an' a spirit free
As the breezes kissin' my sun-beat cheeks,
   As free as the sunlight that warms the land.
As free as the eagle that soars an' seeks
   The prey provided by Mater's hand.
A new light entered my rebel soul,
   An' I pressed the ground with my traitor knees,
An' a flood of gratitude seemed to roll
   From my glad lips up through the pinon trees.
Then I thit the trail with the fire o' hope
   Blown into a new an' holier blaze,
An' I trudged along up the rocky slope
   My heart-strings tremblin' with songs o' praise!

It must' a' bin heaven that sent me the luck,
   For I hadn't gone more'n a mile, till there
In the breast of a rocky ridge I struck
   A lead that'll make me a millionaire.

James Barton Adams

from Breezy Western Verse, 1899

The editor's introduction to a 1968 publication of the Socorro County (New Mexico) Historical Society, "Some Letters and Writings of James Barton Adams" comments:

The letters of James Barton Adams (alias Jim Carlin) are here published for the first time...For several years he lived and worked in the rugged San Andres mountains of central New Mexico on a ranch owned by Captain Jack Crawford, famous Indian Scout and Poet. The land was harsh, the climate equal in its intensity and variety to the harshness of the land, and human companionship was only an occasional experience. Adams, educated and having an unusual way with words, was able to capture in his letters the spirit of this one small segment of the American Frontier.

A biographical sketch adds:

Adams was employed by Capt. Jack Crawford at his Dripping Springs, N. M. ranch from 1890-1892, and for reason or reasons unknown used an alias during this time. He chose to be called James "Jim" Carlin, and it is doubted that it was a pen name. Many of his poems were probably drawn from his life and experiences during this period in New Mexico. Adams wrote the foreword to Capt. Jack's book Whar the Hand O' God is Seen, published in 1913.

A biography in The Mecca, February 3, 1900, tells that Adams was born in Ohio and moved with his family to Iowa, "...when that state was 'way out West.' He enlisted at the first call for troops in 1861."  The Socorro County biographical sketch tells that at age 75, during World War I, he volunteered his telegraphic services and "was probably the oldest telegraph operator working the key in the U. S...."

Adams became a newspaper columnist, and wrote poems still recited (and put to music) today. Read some of his other works, including A Cowboy Toast, The Cowboy's Dance Song" ("The High-Toned Dance"), and A Song of the Range here at the BAR-D.

Read more about James Barton Adams' in 1918 obituaries from The Denver Post and Denver Times, along with "Bill's in Trouble," here. (Read more about Captain Jack Crawford here.)




We thank Thee, God, the Giver of all good,
   For Peace and Justice, strenuous truths uniting

For giving us that glorious Man who stood
   Between the lines and stopped inhuman fighting:
For bounteous harvests, strong heroic souls,
   Who dare to follow him we call our Teddy—
For truth and honor where Old Glory rules;
   For statesmen unafraid, true, strong and steady.

God speed the truth, let Justice reign supreme—
   Let Labor, Law and Loyalty combine
To make it real, our brightest, happiest dream
   Of Liberty and Love and God's Sunshine;
And when Thanksgiving Day returns once more
   May Peace and Plenty, strolling hand in hand,
Go on and on toward a richer shore,
   While Song and Laughter echoes through the land.

And echoing from every hill and glen
   Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

by Captain Jack Crawford from his 1910 book, Whar' the Hand o' God is Seen and other poems

Read more about Captain Jack Crawford in our feature here.


The Cowpuncher's Thanksgiving
Two Rhymes of the Range

By L. Maynard Dixon

Sunset Magazine, November, 1903



Now swing your rope—and swing 'er wide!
  It's brandin' time,—and it's time, you bet
To swing a big loop and to take yer ride,—
  Thank God, there's cows in the country yet!

Cut out that yearlin' and take a chance;—
  Show how you can ride. Bets up! I say
He'll burn the earth and he'll burn your pants.
  (We must have some sport Thanksgiving Day!)

He's risin' high and he's landin' hard,—
  Stay with him, Bill! or it's gals good night!
If you can't stick him, a sure thing, pard,
  You'll land on the only rock in sight!

Now ride straight up—you must ride him fair.
  He's risin' high and he's landin' far!
Bet I can ride 'im and not pull hair,—
  Fer that's the kind of boy I are!

by L. Maynard Dixon, 1903, published in Sunset Magazine



In Town

Well, I don't get er give no thanks
  For ridin' dry and ridin' hard;
Nor give no thanks fer sody-pop,—
  Least not like you do, little pard.
But yer dad and me done some pranks
  When him and me hit town, I guess—
But say!—you'll never touch yer pop
  And me,—a howlin wilderness!

But the cattle business ain't the same
  A-boomin' like it used to be;
And bronco-bustin' 's gettin' tame,
  With short-horn kids—and you and me
Are takin' chances on this lay:
  This western country ain't so "bad",—
Nor half so good—Thanksgivin'?—say!
  Us sody-poppin' with your dad!

by L. Maynard Dixon, 1903, published in Sunset Magazine


Historian and musician Greg Scott (Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark) shared the poems and illustrations above, which appeared in the November, 1903 edition of Sunset Magazine.

Modernist Western painter Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) is the subject of several new exhibits and books, including A Place of Refuge; Maynard Dixon's Arizona from the University of Oklahoma Press. Top cowboy troubadour Don Edwards performs the voice of Maynard Dixon in the recent documentary,  Maynard Dixon: Art and Spirit, which received the 2008 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.


postmarked November 21, 1917

An Aggie's Thanksgiving

Hand in hand they stand beneath the wild western sky
The bins are full, the hay is up and harvest heaves a sigh
A chill is in the air that has a winter like persona
Makes the RV wish that it was parked in Arizona

Horseback at a job they jingle back to trucks and trailers
The bulls and strays all tallied now no longer tardy sailors
A frosty frame of snowy white adorns the west horizon
The bounty of the grass recalls when it was kind to bison

The price of grain is set by someone other than yourself
No different than the T Bone steak upon the butcher's shelf
The fuel truck left the yard last week, another hefty bill
That swather needs replacing 'cause it's been through the mill

With PTO's and branding irons and power lines above
Safety practiced every day protects the ones you love
The kids are on the school bus for an hour and a half
They learn responsibility from this years 4H calf

Well this is not a business that everyone would choose
At Mother Natures mercy with everything to loose
But isn't it adversity that makes the calling sweet
Knowing you're the reason that there's sizzle in the meat

A life in Agriculture on the place just down the road
Yields itself no equal, a good fortune mother load
With harvest far exceeding the food upon the table
The staff of life supporting a country strong and stable

In country halls roasting turkey wafts upon the air
The spuds are mashed, gravy browned, an annual affair
Where neighbors being handy is the way we all behave
And never pass each other without a friendly wave

So weather it be cattle, horses, sheep or corn
The stock you raise is reason to want to blow your horn
And though it's true an Aggie has to got be half tough
If you're blessed enough to be one, then you are blessed enough.

© 2014, Bryan (Bj) Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Read about Bj Smith and his poetry here.




Feeding Cows After Thanksgiving Dinner

Listen to the snow

whispering through the corn field—

save some pie for me.


It’s cold outside

but I know they’re waiting,

the trust in their eyes


softer than the snow,

their sweet breath misting the air,

their windward sides


all but invisible—

they’ll be lined along the fence,

eyes turned this way.


I shouldn’t be long—

I’ll give them an extra bale

and I want to check


that youngest heifer

although I know she’s okay.

I might stay a while


just to hear them eat—

perhaps I’ll watch the house through

the veil of snow


and see the lights pale

from the far side of the fence.

In the muted night


my breath will join theirs,

my side will become invisible,

my vision shorten.


Through curling snowflakes

the house will slowly regress,



from ground and sky—

the world will formlessly vanish

leaving the soft trust,


whispering snow,

cows quietly eating,

hushed wind and me.


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


Read about Jack Goodman and his poetry here.




By round-up time the high country was filling up with cold
The nights were chill and slivers of ice lined the waterin’ hole
at dawn, until the churning hooves of near 800 head
ground to mud the diamond ice, turned the water a murky red.
Aspen trees were putting on their crowns of burnished gold
And oak-brush, not to be outdone, blushed scarlet in the cold.
The nights were brisk but the days were hot with sweaty work to be done
When you’re workin’ ‘til your saddle’s sore, round-up ain’t much fun!
But the grub was good, the company prime, and a cowboy knows the worth
of hard work and the friends we make in our short time on Earth.

As the the pairs started moving down the slope and the boys tallied up the bill
It soon were clear a number of hides was still up on the hill.
It’s this long warm fall, the trail boss said, they’re likely way up high.
They’ll mosey down in search of feed when the first snows start to fly.
Tell you what
, he said with a stretch, givin’ his neck a rub,
We’ll push these down then come back up and resupply your grub.
You boys stay here and cool your heels in the cabin on the line.
They’ll be comin’ down in sixes and eights when the snow falls on the pines.

Now Bucky was nothin but a young green kid, not old enough to shave
but Dove had wrangled for most of his life and was versed in the cowboy ways.
So through the autumn days the two stayed on up in the high country range
corralling strays as they wandered down, and watching the season change.
Mornings now their feet would crunch across the frosty grass
that led toward the frozen steam, covered with icy glass.
By mid-November it seemed that all the strays who could be found
had wandered in and were corralled.  It was time to be headin’ down.

But then the first big winter’s storm reared it’s icy mane
and roared around the cabin walls, shaking the window panes.
Dove and Bucky huddled tight close to the Franklin stove,
heartsick ‘bout the penned up stock, shiverin’ in the cold.
Little frosty cotton drifts seeped in the cabin door
and ice crept in around the chinks along the drafty floor.
For three long days the storm kept up, and when it finally left
There stayed behind a cold so deep it took away their breath.

The waterin’ hole was frozen hard at least four inches down
The cattle pawed and bawled for feed against the frozen ground.
Dove and Bucky broke the ice and brushed away the snow
from a section along side the stream where the grass had used to grow.
The pasture which had been so green and lush with summer bloom
Was frozen stiff and covered deep.  The herd was facing doom.

The second day dawned colder still.  The snow was icy blue
Dove and Bucky began to think they was in trouble too.
Maybe we should chance the trail, Bucky spoke aloud his need,
Leave the herd, turn ‘em out so they could scrounge for feed.
Dove turned his head and looked at Buck from the corner of his eye
then wandered off, not sayin’ a word.  Bucky didn’t have to ask why.
Dove never would go down alone, and leave the herd behind.
The idea wouldn’t have even come up, if Buck hadn’t aired his mind.

It was the evenin’ of that second day they heard a different noise
The padded scuff of horses hooves.  It was the boss, and five more boys!
Well, hallalooya!  Bucky whooped.  A prettier sight I never did see!
Dove didn’t say much, he never did.  But you could tell he was relieved.
The mountain’s rough, the trail boss said, and the pass is pert snowed in
But if we move ‘em slow we’ll be okay.  We’ll be home for Thanksgivin’!

Thanksgiving?  Bucky said, Why shucks.  I plumb forgot the season!
This year there’s a lot to be thankful for, I sure will have good reason
to bow my head when grace is said and thank the Lord, Amen
for what he’s done to keep us safe, and bring us home again.
There’s friends I made, and lessons learned about stickin to what you start
And deeper truths that can only be found when you listen to your heart.
And thanks for this harvest we’re bringin’ in, and the bounty that He brings
And the chance to do it all again, when we move ‘em up next Spring!

© November 1999 by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more about Jo Lynne Kirkwood and her poetry here.

Where Warmth Means Wood

In the winter of nineteen twenty-one,
Before the arrival of their firstborn son,
Alf took Amy through snow and ice,
Forty miles by sleigh from Preston to Paradise.

My grandfather felt a little regret,
That a horse and a sleigh was all he could get,
To visit her family as he knew he should,
When travel meant horses and warmth meant wood.

In the winter of nineteen sixty-eight,
Thanksgiving that year just had to wait,
My father drove cattle through drifting snow,
To the shelter of valleys down below.

We just put off our holiday feast,
Grateful for safety of man and beast.
The cattle were cared for best as they could,
When rescue meant horses and warmth meant wood.

A little closer towards the end of the year,
We called on poor families living near,
In a Quonset hut and a tarpaper shack,
Heat was by fire and water they'd pack.

Country radio had made a plea,
To donate a Christmas gift or a tree,
So we took a present to each little child,
They were ragged, dirty and a little bit wild.

Plastic sheets on the windows let in daylight,
And the wind and the snow and the cold of the night,
We tried to help out as they expected we would,
Horses lived better than this; still warmth meant wood.

So here we are in two thousand and some,
It's hard not to let your feelings go numb,
So we remember our folks' blood, sweat and tears,
We try to pass it on down through the years.

From horses to cattle to neighborly ways,
From harness and saddle to one-horse sleighs,
To being kind to man and to beast as we should,
It still means something where warmth means wood.

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



Seldom Seen in Town

There drums a rainy torrent now,

As my roof echoes the sound,

Of water falling fast to earth—

On prairies parched and thirsty ground.


I thank thee Lord for blessings,

Poured out on me like rain,

It seems for most I have to wait—

To know the loss before the gain.


I thank thee Lord for grassland,

For the cattle that survived,

I thank thee Lord for horses—

And the talent they have inside.


I thank thee for their willingness

To work for feed for wages,

For the good they've done for man—

Today down through the ages.


I thank thee for the gift of growth,

It's something man can't give,

For increase in both crop and herd—

Thou—Giver of life to live.


I can plant, harvest and graze,

And stack and store and sell,

But I can't give the growth—

That springs from thy eternal well.


I thank thee Lord for family,

For those long past before,

That loved this land as I do now—

Could they have loved it more?


I stop and pause and wonder,

As the rain is slowing down,

At blessings from thy gentle hand,

That are seldom seen in town.

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


Read more about Paul Kern and his poetry here.


Thanksgiving Mem'ry

The axe swung for the final time:
a cord of wood was done.
The old man paused to wipe his brow
before he made his run.

He'd made a deal with Cutter Bill's
and with the barkeep, Slim:
A cord of wood for modest pay
before the cold set in.

He hitched the morgan to a dray,
piled high with split-oak logs.
He went on foot to lead them both,
as up the road they slogged.

He'd done alright, he quietly thought,
since Martha passed away.
He'd found the means to keep the place
and hold on day by day.

The boys had, long since, moved away,
just where he didn't know.
It must have been ten years, at least,
Dear Lord, he missed them, so.

The morgan balked beneath the load
until he urged it on.
The days were growin' shorter, now,
and light would soon be gone.

He felt it odd they'd made a deal,
insistin' on today:
Perhaps they hadn't thought that he
would mind a holiday.

But, holidays just came and went,
the truth of it be known.
he needed work to help ease up
the weight of life alone.

The sun was settin' in the west
when Cutter Bill's was near.
The sounds of laughin' men was heard
and Lou's piano, clear.

He tied the morgan to a post
then went inside for Slim.
The laughter and the music ceased
and plainly startled him.

"Why, Jed," the barkeep called to him,
"Come in and take a seat.
We got ourselves a turkey and
were just about to eat."

"Come on and take a seat right there,
that chair right in the middle."
The barkeep now called to the cook,
"Just bring them special vittles."

Then, sure enough, out came the food,
roast turkey and the rest.
They laid a spread before ol' Jed
the evenin's honored guest.

"Before we start a passin' 'round
the turkey or the dressin',
I'd like to call on our friend, Jed,
to help us with a blessin'."

Ol' Jed was sort of caught off guard,
but bowed his head and prayed,
"Dear, Lord, we thank you for this food,
upon this special day."

"And for the blessin's we have known
throughout the passin' year,
and bless our loved ones also, please,
that could not make it here."

When Jed had opened up his eyes,
two men had joined him, now,
they stood on either side of him,
and seemed to wait, somehow..

He nodded just to be polite,
then leaped out of his chair:
As though by answered prayer he found
his two sons, standin' there.

Dear, Lord, we thank you for this day,
and blessin's through the year,
and for the love of family,
though they be far or near.

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

Read more about Rod Nichols and his poetry here.


early 1900's


Walnut Springs, Tx.

It was crisp
but not cold
college girls home for Thanksgiving
and friends
with no makeup
stretched out on the couch
like sisters
in A&M t-shirts
pajama bottoms
and cowboy boots

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

Read more about Adam Hilliard and his poetry here.

Charlie's Thanksgiving Prayer

Ol' Charlie Walker is out on the trail
when Thanksgivin' Day comes around.
He's got no potatoes or turkey and gravy,
and his table is just the hard ground.

He'd gone to the mountains to bring down the cows,
and it's takin' more time than he'd thought.
The snowstorm is somethin' he hadn't planned for,
so he's glad for what grub that he's brought.

Charlie says, "Well, I can like it, or not,
I can offer up thanks any where.
But it's Thanksgiving Day, so I might as well like it.
So saying, he started this prayer.

"Dear Lord, I thank you for my darlin' wife,
I tell you, you picked quite a looker.
And she's been my helper, and give me her love,
no matter the places I've took her.

"We really feel blessed with the sons that you've give us.
We've raised them the best that we could.
They're all of 'em grown now, and out on their own.
Your blessings on them, if y'would.

"Our grandchildren, too--my goodness, bless them!
The world will soon be in their hands.
But I know with your help, they'll all do just fine,
whatever the future demands.

"The herd that we've got aint' much this year,
but they're healthy as they can be.
I'm thankful for that, and I give thanks too,
for the health that you've given to me.

"Oh yeah, the horses! Why without them two,
I wouldn't get anythin' done.
With their sense of humor, and all of their tricks,
things wouldn't be nearly as fun.

Old Charlie is still thinkin' thoughts of his folks,
as he shakes out some feed for 'is friends.
He builds him a shelter of sagebrush and rocks
on a hill where a small river bends.

He makes sure the animals all are okay,
takes his bedroll then, and lays down.
Ain't long 'till he's dreamin' about his dear wife,
dressed up in her white wedding gown.

Charlie hears the notes of the Wedding March.
The snow continues to fall.
His breathing gets slower, and he doesn't move.
Now, he hears nothin' at all.

His three sons gather around where he lays,
each one of 'em callin' his name.
The youngest, Bucky, says, "Wouldn't you know?
Every year it's exactly the same."

The middle one, Dave, says, "I guess it's the food.
makes 'im fall asleep in 'is chair.
He's probably dreamin' he's out on the range,
on 'is favorite dapple-gray mare."

"I dunno," says Bucky. "Did anyone notice,
he was hummin' a song just now?"
Dave says, "He prolly was singin' to sleep
his horses, or maybe a cow."

Charlie wakes and stretches and says, "Where's the snow?"
Son, Gary, says, "Just in your dreams."
"Why, I guess it was," Charlie says, and grins.
"Life ain't, sometimes, how it seems."

"Pumpkin pie is ready!" his wife calls out.
Then asks, "Charlie, where have you been?"
"Just sayin' thanks for m'blessin's," he says.
"All that's left t'say now is...Amen."

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

Read more about Hal Swift and his poetry here.





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