Folks' Poems

Back to Lariat Laureate Contest
Back on home
Back to the list of Folks' Poems

Liverpool, England
About "Melancholy" Jones

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


One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

Recognized for his poem, The Bank Robber

"Melancholy Jones" and Will  About "Melancholy" Jones:

We asked "Melancholy" Jones to tell us about himself:

I was brought up in Liverpool, England, the city that gives birth to sailors rather than cowboys. I guess that if you get right down to it, they are pretty much the same breed of men. Tough, yet gentle, and filled with a sense of rightness about the world and all things in it. Always ready to laugh when things seem to be going against them, always running wild and free. So why did I choose to be a cowboy rather than go to sea? Well, Liverpool was, in its heyday, the doorway to America. When European and British people headed for the United States, they passed through our port. Many of my immediate family were first in the queue.

They first arrived in Massachusetts in 1638. Generation after generation followed on. The folk who made the greatest impression on me were my grandmother's older brothers and sisters, who arrived in Texas and Kansas in 1858. My aunts and uncles joined them in 1900. My life was filled with tales of ranching on the Concho and Pecos rivers. Texas Rangers, land feuds, gunfights and bank holdups, and the dangers faced by my cousins, all duly recorded in the local press. Seemed they had to overcome floods, firestorms, droughts and disaster before they made the land their own. Their descendants are still there, in Water Valley, Tom Green County, and many other areas in the West.

While I became a Senior Fire Officer in Liverpool, I dreamed of a life in the West.  Because I had a wife and family to consider, my dream seemed impossible. So I adopted a new persona. Melancholy Jones is my other self, a walking poetaster with a Scouse sense of humor, who can walk with his head held high among all of those chaps, (and chappesses) wearing chaps and ponchos, without feeling any trace of self consciousness or embarrassment. An even greater reward is that of being able to share the warmth and comradeship that exists between cowboy poets everywhere, no matter where they come from. The only barrier between cowboys and the rest of the world is a mental one. So long as we share, and carry the cowboy code, "Don't Fence Me In," we can all jingle our spurs and hit the trail with the same spontaneous song in our hearts. We are in good company. Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; Tex Ritter; The Sons of the Pioneers. Hi Ho Silver. Away !

And when we asked "Melancholy Jones" why he likes Cowboy Poetry, he answered:

Why do I like cowboy Poetry?

I was sittin' in the bunkhouse
When I got this little note
A few short words from Bucky
This is some of what he wrote

'I'm sendin' you this letter
for you to cogitate
You've had a nomination
For Lariat Laureate'

I really was hornswoggled
I guess I sat awhile
I read that letter forty times
And then I had to smile.

He posed a simple question
To every nominee
What do I find so special
In cowboy poetry.

I guess that there's a kinship
Between the guys and gals
That special bond that holds us
As friendly writin' pals

That rollin' sense of humour
That runs right through the West
Or tragedy and pathos
The things that we do best.

Each time I read a poem
My pulse begins to race
I'm ridin' cross the prairie
The wind right in my face.

The range is wide and open
The verse flows strong and free
I guess that's why I'm so beguiled
By cowboy poetry.

(When Melancholy sent us his photo above, he wrote "Would you believe, this was taken on ol' William Shakespeare's 420th birthday, and he don't look a day over thirty. I'm the big guy in green. case you was wonderin'.")

You can email "Melancholy" Jones


The Bank Robber

Black Bart, he was an outlaw,
Who read philosophy
And when he wasn't shootin'
He'd be writin' poetry.

Some say that he was a bad guy.
Some think him just a crank.
For he had found this novel way
To rob most any bank.

He'd lock the doors and windows
While tellin'  them  their faults
Then start in readin' poetry
Till they gave up the vaults

He might begin by tryin'
A ditty of his own
Unless of course the teller
had a heart carved out of stone.

Then he'd extract his book out;
To cries of deep dismay
They saw the listed poet
And fell out in disarray.

Black Bart would hold the book up,
So everyone could see.
" I really hate to do this,
'It' s just as bad for me."

They saw the dreaded author
And said in  undertones.
"This guy is going to kill us.
That's  Melancholy Jones"

This Jones became a by word
in annals of the West
Of all the poetasters
He's probably the best.

It took a lot of practice,
but he's can match the worst.
When writing awful poetry
He's bound to finish first.

Black Bart began his readin'
Before verse one was done
The customers were senseless
The tellers tried to run

The manager was writhing
In silent soundless scream.
This essence of a nightmare
A long unending dream.

Even Bart was trembling
When startin' on verse two
He doubted if he really had
The nerve to see it through

Until the chief cashier
Handed Bart the key
He pleaded, "Take the money,
For God's sake set us free."

But just like many villains
Bart's plan had gone astray
For when he ran outside he found
His horse had run away.

He should have had it tethered
Or fixed with ear phones
It couldn't stand the poetry
Of Melancholy Jones

The posse had him covered
He tried to leave the town
The sheriff opened fire
The posse gunned him down

He lies now, in the graveyard
And written on his stone
"This outlaw died of poetry
And Melancholy Jones."

2001, Thomas Vaughan Jones

Taking an Amendment
(Well how do I know which one. Shucks I'm British!)

I want to write a poem
About the Old Wild West
And all those long gone heroes
Who passed the sternest test

The Cisco Kid, Durango,
Kit Carson and John Wayne
The men of whom we know we'll
Never see the likes again.

I'd like to ride up with them,
For just a mile or so,
Indulging in nostalgia
While we hunt buffalo.

And then some savage redskins
Come bustin' for a fight
But just in time, the cavalry
Puts all those braves to flight.

Then out of this confusion,
Through all the dust and smoke
There comes an ancient chieftain
Who doesn't see the joke.

He brushes down his feathers.
His head is held erect.
He says,"This here poem ain't
Perlitickly correct.

You can't call me a savage
It isn't true, I know.
For I'm a pure American
This treaty tells me so.

I am a noble citizen
Of this here U.S.A.
I'm here to make my living,
In the true American Way.

I am your local barber
So you should write with care
Then he done took his scissors out
And cut off all my hair.


The Phantom Horseman
( A Tale of the Old West )

Over the mountain and through the dale,
under a dark and moonless sky;
A sobbing scream, like a banshee's wail.
The phantom horseman's riding by.

Galloping, galloping through the mist,
eyes as red as satanic coal,
Straining to meet an ancient tryst.
Riding to save his long lost soul.

The wraith of a shadow in the night,
seeking to find his golden bride.
His lady's cowl is cold and white
and the love he had has long since died.

        Thunder along the Chisholm Trail
        The deed is done and the die is cast
          He rides like the Devil was on his tail
        But he'll never outrun his shameful past.

When first they came to the Golden West
they had high hopes for the life they'd planned;
But he met his fate and failed the test
for the terror he felt in this savage land.

When strangers came to his house one day
he looked on them with a fearful eye;
Then like a coward he ran away,
leaving the girl he loved to die.

With fear an all-consuming flame
he had no strength to help his wife;
The strangers ravaged her feeble frame
and stole her honour then her life.

The terror of her final scream
pleading for help that never came,
Burns in his brain like an awful dream
and his heart is torn and wracked with shame.

        Thunder along the Chisholm Trail
        The deed is done and the die is cast
          He rides like the Devil was on his tail
        But he'll never outrun his shameful past.

He rode the plains for many a year
living a life of misery,
With many a heartache, many a tear,
until he came to the hanging tree.

He thought he could leave his shame behind
by ending his sad and feeble life
But the echoes of his poor mad mind
still call in longing for his wife.

Galloping, galloping without end,
and never the touch of a friendly hand,
Or the cheerful voice of a loving friend,
but the whispering hush of the shifting sand.

Over the mountain and through the dale,
under a dark and moonless sky;
A sobbing scream like a banshee's wail,
the phantom horseman's riding by.



If you ever visit Nashville
And you pass by Music Row,
You may see a grey haired lady
Watching people come and go.
Her clothes are old and shabby
And her face is worn with strife,
While she clutches in a shopping bag,
The remnants of her life.

Was she once a country Rock Star,
Or perhaps a juke box queen,
Or a yellow rose from Texas
Come to try the music scene.
Did a million cheering pop fans
Crowd to listen to her voice,
Till she took the wrong direction;
And she made a fatal choice.

Now her smile is worn and weary.
Her old eyes are cold and sad.
Is she thinking of her yesterdays,
And all the joys she had.
A failing, faded country rose,
Displayed for all to see,
She withers on uncaring stones
In Nashville, Tennessee.



You've heard of Henry Johnson?
A mighty man was he
Two hundred pounds of muscle
But he sure loved poetry

Some cowhands thought it funny
Some thought it mighty strange
To hear him spouting poetry
As he rode on the range

The straw boss gave him warning
To keep it in his bag
But he took out his book one day
While he was riding drag.

He read aloud a ditty
By Melancholy Jones
The words came out so powerful
They eased his kidney stones

The other cowboys shouted
But Henry took no heed
And shucks, before he knew it
He'd started a stampede.

You shouldn't frighten longhorns.
A thousand head or more
Took off as though Old Nick himself
Was knocking at the door

They thundered up the valley
Down through the old Bar D
And made poor Virgil shout and curse
As he shinned up a tree.

They smashed down all the fences
And rumbled down the road
They terrified old Omar
Into writing one more ode.

They rampaged through the garden
They smashed the whisky still
They boxed up in a canyon
Ran off beyond the hill.

Omar and Virgil talked to find
The  cause of this disaster
And eyes stared out accusingly
At Jones, the poetaster.

This didn't phase old Henry
He didn't rave or curse
He just had all these happenings
Immortalised in verse.

He used to be a cowboy
Now he writes poetry
So they might still find work for him
Down at the old BarD


Ruckus at Rhyme Central

It was quiet and hushed in Texas. Just a dry and dusty day,
and the tumbleweeds rolled lazily to a summer breeze at play.

The folk who lived in Onion Patch were mostly sleepy still;
When they heard an old steam engine give a mournful, distant shrill.

None gave a passing notion to the coming of the train;
But when HE jumped down, they knew their town would never be the same.

He was just a smart mouth kid at heart, despite his flash moustache,
But loud and clear, for all to hear, he shouted, bold and brash.

"I've ridden far to the Onion Bar to take a few folks down.
You'd best tell them all that they'd better crawl, 'cos Two-gun Pete's in town.

If you've got an ode then you'd best reload, and your rhyme had best be sweet.
For there ain't no man who can rhyme and scan as fast as Two-gun Pete.

Can you hear the tock of the old town clock? Wa'al, I'm waiting on the street!
You ain't got much time so prepare to rhyme; You've been called by Two-gun Pete"

It seemed that no one noticed, inside the old saloon;
The honky tonk piano tinkled out the same old tune.

There was never a sign nor signal from the silent rhyming men,
As in answer to their hushed response, Pete opened up again.

"I'm the best there is, I'm a rhymin' wiz; I'm the best that there can be,
And I've come to scratch in your Onion Patch, 'cos there's none as good as me.

Now I'm tellin' you, you're a motley crew and you don't know how to write;
There ain't no two guns that can match my puns, and I'm bustin' for a fight."

The double doors swung open with a slow and measured tread.
A rhymester man came walking through with old and grizzled head.

"Kid, when it comes to poems, you're just a tad too young.
Your life's a mite too empty, your songs are not yet sung.

I was up an' writin' poetry when poems had to rhyme.
Git back aboard that steamtrain, while you still got the time."

"I've heard of you old timer, you used to be real fast,
Before you got used up and slow and now your day is passed.

I don't take any pleasure in shooting up old men
But I can write a darned good fight, and you'll never to beat my pen.

Your shooter's old and rusty, your rhymin' days are done
And your old time verse is getting worse. It's time that you were gone."

"Insulting me won't cut it, though I bear no ill will.
If you think that you're a writin' man then show us all your skill.

You think my pistol's empty? I hate to tell you pard
I've got a hundred thousand words stored up in my backyard

And when this showdown's over and buzzards pick your bones
You can tell the Lord that you crossed a sword with Melancholy Jones."

Pete fought his fight with honour, came shooting, fair and square.
Returning rapid fire, rattling rhymes beyond compare.

Maybe his stance was twisted by the innocence of youth
His tenets were in poetry, philosophy, and truth.

He may have been a tad naive, and had too much to say,
But he met his match at the Onion Patch. Now Pete has had his day.

That foolish high falutin' fool who thought he was the best
Has paid the price of misplaced pride and gone to find his rest.

But listen very carefully when the moon is full and bright,
And Pete may still be riding through the small hours of the night.

His story may be over, but his spirit still bemoans
The day he tried to shoot it out
With Melancholy Jones.

Mountain Man

Curly  was a mountain man.
He came from Tennessee
And never a man could equal him
For rhymin' poetry.

He was known in every Southern state
For his perspicacious skill
Why, down in Old Kentucky
They used it for a still

Curly loved his moonshine
It gave his rhymes some zing
And somewhere deep in Texas
They formed a Rhymin' Ring.

The folks came out to celebrate
Our Curly and his verse
It's said that one old dyin' guy
Jumped clear out from his hearse

Nothing seemed to stop them
They crowded to his Rhyme
The people came from everywhere
From dawn to suppertime

Then Curly got to thinkin'
It's time to get some fame
Why I could charge a million bucks
If I could make my name

He turned all arty farty
An' started writin' prose
He lost his sense of rhythm
In that new style he chose.

Now he's so high falutin'
He talks such fancy talk
He may be rich and famous
But he's lonely in New York

He misses all the fun times
When folk came from afar
To listen to our Curly
The risin' cowboy star.

He misses drinkin' moonshine
And rhymin' poetry
But most of all, he's yearnin' for
His friends in Tennessee

Dancing, Country Style

C'mon cowhands, let's relax.
Stow your tarps and gunny sacks;
Time we found us some romance
Struttin' our stuff at a country dance.

First of all, we'll have to change.
Life is fine out on the range
But we have to smell real sweet
Sweepin' those ladies off their feet..

Bring a bottle, take a nip;
Careful, just a little sip.
Can't go dancin' if we're drunk,
Taintin' the air like a low down skunk.

Hear the fiddler pluck that string;
Gives the tune an extra zing.
Gonna have ourselves a treat,
Jumpin' a jig to the drummer's beat.

Honour your partners, doh ze doh.
Look at that gal from Idaho.
Glad we're dancin' way out West,
Country gals are always best.

Here's a gal with a Texas drawl;
Laughin' eyes and a "Hi Y'all"
Golden hair and honeyed mouth.
Sure can tell she's from the South.

Colorado gals are fine;
Keep your hands off, that one's mine.
Oklahoma gals can stomp,
First class fun in a ballroom romp.

Swing your partners, round we go.
Honour your partners, doh ze doh,
Call the changes one more time.
Stomp your feet to a Square dance rhyme.

Almost time to say goodbye.
See that twinkle in her eye;
Play your cards right, take your chance,
Walkin' her' home from a country dance.

The Immigrants

Tell of the men of Texas
Who tamed that savage place.
Who rode beside the devil,
Met their Maker face to face.

Of how they made a fortune
Costing sweat and toil and blood,
Then lost it at Ben Ficklin
When the town died in a flood.

Of how they bred Rambouillet sheep
On Edwards Old Plateau;
Then sold the wool and mutton
Somewhere in San Angelo.

They herded sheep and cattle
With no shelter but a poncho,
Along Dry Devil's River
Where it meets up with the Concho.

They built a town named Christoval,
And civilized the West;
And none could say no other
Than they tried and did their best.

They paved the roads of Texas,
Through the prairies and the plain.
I doubt if we will ever see 
The likes of them again.

God Bless you Jimmie Currie,
and God Rest you, Uncle Bill
We never yet forgot you,
And we swear we never will.



The Legend of the Lost

Deep in the heart of Texas,
one chilly, starlit night,
somewhere along the foothills,
a campfire  burning bright.

A dozen boys sat huddled  
around the dancing flames,
singing their songs, as boys will do,
and playing boyish games.

From Palo Duro Canyon
a lonely coyote cried;
A breeze sprang up in answer,
and whispering ghosts replied.

They told about the legend,
a battle that was won;
An Indian tribe was vanquished,
a way of life was done.

But sometimes there are moments
they come back from the dead.
They dance the Dance of Darkness,
where Indian blood was shed.

The plains ring out with chanting,
the war drums sound their beat,
and all the world must tremble
from dancing, pounding feet.

The boys were stiff with horror,
their breath framed in the frost
They heard the coming demons,
and knew that they were lost.

In Palo Duro Canyon
there lies a secret grave,
where rising in miasmic mist
there came a warrior brave.

His brow was lined with hoar washed ice,
his eyes a living hell;
A palace of eternal cold,
where frozen souls must dwell.

The children huddled closer,
some held a friendly hand,
But one by one they stiffened
underneath the Demon's brand.

The sun came up next morning,
revealed a ghastly sight.
A ring of frozen children,
in postures pale and white.

Then from Palo Duro Canyon
there came a coyote's call.
The land lay quiet and deathly still.

Came answer - none at all.

The Last Drive

I'm lying on this lonely trail
I'm stomped up pretty bad
I'm reminiscing of the past
And all the friends I had

But mostly, thoughts of Mary
Come crowding in my mind
The way she was, the way she looked
Her face so sweet and kind

She'd always be there waiting
When we brought in the herd
She'd welcome me with loving smile
To let me know she cared.

I never did appreciate
That Mary was my wife
Nor loneliness she must have felt.
A roving cowboy's wife.

Until, one dreadful morning
She wasn't there for me
She'd run off with a gambling man
From Memphis, Tennessee.

I found out some years later
Of how my Mary died
Abandoned, lost, in trouble
With no one by her side.

My heart was sick with sorrow
To hear she'd died in shame
I wish I could have held her hand
When she called out my name.

I never loved another
Let such emotions pass
I thought I'd found my solace
In an empty whisky glass.

Now time is fading fast away
By God! It's growing cold
I wonder where those years have fled
How did I get so old?

I'm tasting blood inside my mouth
I think my ribs are bust
I'm lying like a broken doll
In trampled dirt and dust.

Somewhere inside the gathering dark
I hear a coyote wail
A signal to the pearly gates
I'm on my homeward trail

But see who comes to greet me
It's Mary1 She's alive
Waiting to bring me home at last
From my last cattle drive.


The Streets of Laredo

Somebody asked me why I'm just a cowboy,
'Stead of a prince or a poet so grand.
Sit yourself back and I'll tell you a story,
How I got dealt an importunate hand.

I was real smart, so contented and happy
At the commencement of this little tale,
I'd ridden point on a herd for my pappy,
Mouth kind of parched from the long dusty trail.

Supper was served then most folks got to snorin'.
All settled in and the herd bedded down.
I was so dry that I set off explorin',
Needed a drink so I rode into town.

Standin' in Main Street I heard people talking,
Someone was playing a honky-tonk tune.
I slung my Stetson and kept right on walkin',
Through the swing doors of a smoky saloon.

Once at the bar I was filled with elation,
Carla was holdin' a drink out for me.
Without a shadow of prestidigitation
Purtiest girl that you ever did see.

When our eyes met I could feel the sparks flyin'.
I held her hand and we talked for a while.
She had me hog-tied without even tryin',
I was just lost in the warmth of her smile.

Then came this hombre all pushin'  and shovin'
Wanted my Carla to have for his own,
"Here's twenty dollars I want me some lovin'"
When I heard that I was cut to the bone.

I squeezed his shoulder and swung him to face me
Laid him out flat with a punch to the jaw,
When my sweet Carla reached out to embrace me
That stupid drunk had to come back for more.

He stood before me a' cussin' and swearin',
Went for his gun so I stepped on his head,
Plumb clean forgot of the boots I was wearin'
Bust up his skull and he ended up dead.

Never took notice of what folk were sayin'
I hit the trail like a bat out of Hell,
As I absconded I heard Carla prayin'
Callin' her love for me wishin' me well.

Now I recall all the time that was wasted
All of the love that I've lost through the years,
And of my Carla who' lips I have tasted
Flavored in full by the salt of my tears.


Texas Lament

I stopped off at a roadhouse in Ohio.
I bought myself a glass or two of beer.
I heard an old song playing on the juke box
And wiped away the whisper of a tear.

I listened to this tune that told of Texas,
It made me wish that I were back at home.
One day I plan on going back to Texas,
And when I do I never aim to roam.

I figure I'll go back to Water Valley
To find the folks that I once loved and knew.
Perhaps I'll find my childhood sweetheart, Sally;
I'll ask her if by chance she's missed me too.

The old fort still sits silent by the Concho,
The river holding waters fast and deep.
Miguel will still be there in his old poncho,
Sombrero tilted forward in his sleep.

I still recall that day in Tom Green County,
I drew my gun and shot a cowboy dead.
The sheriff and a judge put up a bounty.
They laid ten thousand dollars on my head.

One day I'm going back to Water Valley,
Although the sheriff's men may hang me high.
I need to see once more my sweetheart Sally,
And kiss her one more time before I die.

2002, Melancholy Jones

Bar Fly

I was sitting on my lonesome in a corner of the bar.
Contemplating as I drank an ice cold beer,
when a man from Loozeanna who was kinda under par
started shouting out for all the world to hear.

"I'm the toughest roughest cowpoke that you folks have ever seen
I'm the hardest hombre since the world began.
I'm a whirlin' twirlin' twister, an' there ain't a man so mean
as would tangle with a Loozeanna man"

I stood up slow and easy, I was heading for the john,
Then he swung and hit me with a baseball bat.
My head began a-buzzin' and I had a dander on
for he'd put a doggone crease in my best hat.

Wa'al he dragged upon my hair some, took a bite out of my nose,
and I very slowly started to get mad.
I'm a quiet man from Texas and don't often come to blows,
but I hit him with the best shot that I had.

He was shaken for a minute then he got up once again.
Started in like he was coming back for more,
So I kicked him where his mother hasn't looked since he was ten.
Then I nailed his ears down firmly to the floor.

There are times a feller wants to sit and have a drink or two.
Reminiscing on the hard men that he's met.
Especially those who plumb forgot, as some are prone to do,
That a Texican's as tough as you can get.

I'm just sitting on my lonesome in a corner of the bar
There's this feller and he's looking straight at me.
I can see his busted nose and on his face a fancy scar
As he says "Hey Mister!  I'm from Tennessee..."

2002, Melancholy Jones


The sun shines down, the morning's fair,
till clouds come scudding by.
A whisper in the morning air,
dark funnels in the sky.

The trees dance low and bow their heads
in supplicating plea;
While cattle take defensive stance
and bend the humble knee.

The cowhand spurs his frightened horse
and slackens off his rein.
He flees the whirlwinds deadly course
with all his might and main.

The wind beats airwaves in the grass.
Dust devils come to town;
The rain draws patterns on the glass
and cuts the flowers down.

Now whirling wind and thunderous roar
brings terror from the skies,
As Nature opens wide her maw
in demonic disguise.

The skies are black as darkest night,
Dark angels ride the gale.
The endless roar brings mortal  fright
And hearts and courage fail.

The storm is raging overhead,
while hurling Nature's blast.
and trembling mortals lie abed
until the rage is past.

Until the monster drinks its fill;
The fiend has spent its wrath.
Until the land is hushed and still
which marked the twister's path

When winds die down and skies are clear
The air feels fresh and clean.
The range wipes dry the final tear,
Replenished, fresh and green.

2002, Melancholy Jones



 What's New | Poems | Search

 Features | Events  

The BAR-D Roundup | Cowboy Poetry Week

Poetry Submissions 

Subscribe | Newsletter | Contact Us

  Join Us!


Authors retain copyright to their work; obtain an author's
permission before using a poem in any form. is a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc., a Federal and California tax-exempt non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.  

Site copyright information