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Eugene, Oregon
About Van Criddle




Sixteen Horses

The source of power on the ranch
Used to be the mighty horse.
Belgian, Shire, or Clydesdale
Did the heavy work of course.

Adorned with hames and harness
Hitched to the doubletree
They spared the backs and muscle
Of men like you and me.

You'd hook 'em to the cycle bar
To mow the new grown hay.
They'd work from dawn to dusk
Give their all, each and every day.

They'd pull the rake and push the sweep,
Push the plunger up the slide,
Pull the wagon out to feed
With harness straining at their hide.

They asked little of the rancher,
Their needs really weren't that much,
A little feed and water
Treat 'em right and use a gentle touch.

We'd put 'em out on Horse Creek,
That was their summer range.
They'd know that it was hayin' time
When the weather took a change.

They'd show up at South Pasture
How they knew we didn't know.
We never had to worry none
'Cause we knew that they would show.

We'd drive down to let 'em in,
We never had to wait.
Sixteen faithful, needed horses
Were a standin' at the gate.

Well, things have changed this year,
Now that Buddy runs the place.
He thinks  the horses way too slow.
I never know'd that we was in a race.

New swathers, rakes and balers
Have now replaced those working teams
Bud's father, Carl, sheds a tear
This wasn't the future of his dreams

I went out to swath the hay
I was thinkin' this is great!
Then I saw sixteen horses
a standin' at the gate.

They was lookin' kinda dazed,
Seemed to wonder what was goin' on.
They'd been there to go to work
Since way before the daylight's dawn.

I swear they looked dejected,
Hurt, and with some broken pride.
Somethin' broke inside of me.
I hurt and I just cried.

I'll not forget that sullen day
Nor will I forget the date
When sixteen horses, feelin' useless
Was left a standin' at the gate.

© 2005, Van A. Criddle
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



What Really Matters?

The old cowboy sat in the stands
High above the auction ring.
And waited for the auctioneer
To begin to chant and sing.

He'd smile and nod as folks came in,
Some would come to shake his hand,
He'd give them all a nice warm smile,
It was hard for him to stand.

I thought that he would nod his head
As cattle were bought and sold
But he never flinched a bit
Though the air was gettin' cold.

I learned that he'd been a rancher
His herd was two thousand head.
He'd long since sold the land he loved,
His wife was a long time dead.

He came each month to stay in touch
With the good ol' ranchin' folks
Who'd rode with him, helped him out,
And shared with him their jokes.

With town folk he didn't fit in
They just didn't understand
His need for some space or his love
For the beauty of open land.

The sale was o'er, folks left the stands
To settle for what they'd bought,
I watched the old cowboy leave
And thought 'bout all I'd been taught.

A man spends his life makin' his way,
O'er comin' the troubles that mount,
in the end it's life's relationships
that really do matter and count.

© 2006, Van A. Criddle
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Van told us: The sale barn is one of my favorite places in the world. I got to thinking about the people at the sales that had retired from active ranching or farming and why they still came to the sale. I realized that it was to stay in touch with the people they loved and were comfortable with. They enjoyed having people know and respect them. They didn't have to buy anything. They just wanted to feel a part of the life they had lived and still loved. Though our ability to continue to do that which we love doing may end, the friends and relationships we develop in the process can live with us forever.


No Man Hath Made This Beauty

The new spring grass is wet and green
Misted mountains complete the scene
As I watch in wonder all that God has made.

The swollen river runs its course
Through valley pastures from its source
Through lodge pole pine and willows its course is laid.

The Angus cattle break the plain
And saunter, grazing through the rain
Strung out like picnic ants on the valley floor.

Mustang ponies race o'er the hill
Just the sight gives the heart a thrill.
No man hath made this beauty and that's for sure.

White-tailed doe seem to just appear
As sunlight fades with evening near
slowly leaving the shadows, as white flags wave.

Doe still keep their young fawns close by
With fleeting glance they keep an eye.
Ready to flee at first sign, their young behave.

Sunlight fades  to dusk, cattle low,
The purple sky provides a show
That would test the grandest master artists skill.

Silence slowly creeps o'er this scene
All the world is at once serene
As sound of evening creatures and wind grow still.

© 2006, Van A. Criddle
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Van told us: I visited my son and his family in Lolo, Montana, over Memorial Day. He has a beautiful and peaceful view from his back deck that inspired this poem. After sitting there early in the morning and at dusk for three days I enjoyed many exhilarating and serene sights, sounds and impressions. Everything mentioned in the poem is part of what I saw and felt and experienced over those three days.


Hands Worth More than Silver or Gold

His old hands were leathered and gnarled
But oh the story that they told.
They showed the stuff that he was made of
Those hands worth more than silver or gold.

They'd dug more'n a thousand post holes
Set the posts and hung the cross rails,
Swathed and baled acres of new mown hay
And fed more than ten thousand bales.
They'd saddled a dozen good horses
He'd owned durin' his ranchin' life.
They'd played when the money was flowin'
And prayed durin' hard times and strife.
They'd roped bawlin' spring calves for brandin'
Were scarred from many a dally.
They've herded, sorted, cut cows and calves
And were perfect on the tally.
They've pulled hundreds of heifers' first calves,
Cradled a few in the saddle
When they were too weak to stand or feed,
Calf sittin' 'cross lap, a straddle.
Stroked the neck of a favorite mare
When she was tryin' to give birth.
When the new colt in due time was born
He was proud, the proudest on earth.
And when he first held each new born child
Those hands now partnered with heaven,
Held his wife in a soft special way
On the birthday of all seven.
Yes those hands are leathered and gnarled
But oh the story that they've told.
They show the stuff that he is made of
Those hands worth more than silver or gold.
© 2006, Van A. Criddle
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


I Don't Live on the Ranch Anymore

I've straddled many good ponies
And I've my herded my share of beeves.
I've sorted, cut cows and calves
And dealt with smells that gave me the heaves.
I've pulled calves that wouldn't be born
And then mothered 'em up to the cow.
I've worked 'em in all kinds of weather
But now sometimes  I sure wonder how.

I've started and finished some colts.
Some outlaws jarred me clear to my soul.
A few were smart and quick to learn
Ya knew they'd never be on the dole.
They'd earn their keep with their savvy
And they'd be quick to tackle each task.
They'd respond to every demand
No matter what it was that was asked.

Life takes many a twist and turn
and sometimes it sure alters life's course
to make a livin' some other way
instead of on the back of a horse.
I now live at the edge of town
And travel down Interstate five.
Managing people's like herdin' sheep
Some days I feel I'm barely alive.

I wrote a few poems for my wife,
For Christmas, about ten years ago.
The words came down in cowboy prose
About the life of her loving beau.
She urged me in to sharin' some,
At Baker City  some few years back.
Since then life's sure been a frolic
And has been on a really fast track.

Oh, I'd never trade in my life
Or change anything 'bout where it has led.
I don't live on the ranch anymore
But those mem'ries will never be dead,
And sharing' my rhymes and stories
Of cowboyin' when I was sprout
Put's a real big smile on my face
When they touch a cord and I hear a shout.

© 2007, Van A. Criddle
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is included in our Poems about Cowboy Poetry collection.

  'Tis in the Spring

'Tis in the spring when life springs forth
And shows the hand of God,
And in my mind I ponder life
And all the trails I've trod.

The things I've seen and all I've done
Have made me what I am.
The year's first calf, a mare's new colt,
Even a newborn lamb,
The chick'ry beds, the sunsets' glow
And all the rivers that I've swum,
Are now a part of what makes me
And all that I've become.

The soft spring rains and melting snow
bring winds that sting my cheeks,
and prairie grass so verdant green,
and swollen valley creeks.

The hands of pards from near and far,
The newborn babies' cry,
The past travails of life lived free
And when someone would die,
Have chiseled lines in this old face
And colored graying hair,
And touched my heart, and made me glad
I haven't traveled unaware.

© 2007, Van A. Criddle, All rights reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Van told us: I woke up one night and was thinkin' 'bout all the blessings of my life, all the things I'd experienced and all the trials we'd been through. I thought of each spring when life springs forth and the new life of the year helps me remember that I haven't traveled this road alone. The Good Lord above has let me experience many things, some good and joyful and some not so good and painful. Each of these experiences has gone into making me who and what I am. I'm grateful that I know that.


The Cowboy Hasn't Died

They told me that the cowboy and his way of life was done,
But don’t you tell that to the Lammers from Harper, Oregon.
Why just a week ago last Sunday they had roundup day
And Pard, they sure was doin’ it the old time cowboy way.

They started way before the sunrise loadin’ up their steeds,
Grabbed a bit of breakfast chuck, that’s ‘bout all a cowboy needs,
Trailered hosses t’ward the Junction, saddled up their mounts,
Then started gatherin’ cows and calves and takin’ counts.

By noon they had ‘em gathered and drove ‘em to the pen
And now the sortin’ started, they’d see who was boys and men.
I’ll tell ya boys, cuttin’ calf from cow ain’t no easy task,
And ta swing the gate shut fast is ‘bout all that one can ask.

They took a break for lunch, they’d earned it I do believe.
They were grateful folks, nodded thanks for all they would receive.
Chet opened that Powder River gate and walked inside.
The way he walked and moseyed showed me the cowboy hasn’t died.

He fired up that propane flame to heat up those brandin’ rods
So they could mark those cattle their’s before all men and gods.
The crew now moved to the pen some on mounts and some on feet.
Nick ‘n, Smoke ‘n Mont would rope those calves, bawlin’, swift and fleet.

Jim would do the cuttin’ ‘n harvest oysters for the feed.
Kyle, Ty and Jason gave a hand wherever there was need.
Vickie ran in with shots when each young ear was notched.
Chet’s trained eyes checked every brand to see that none were blotched.

They’d head and heel those dogies, drag ‘em close up near the fire.
They worked in dust and sweat yet they never seemed to tire.
They moved in great precision yet no man told them how
It was obvious to me that these boys understood the cow.

With mixed smells of blood, sweat, dust and burnin’ hide and hair
There was no mistaken Pard, there were real live cowboys there.
Sounds of scared and bawlin’ calves ‘n cows floated in the breeze
As each cowboy worked on horseback, or on his feet or knees.

They did it like the old boys did a hunert years ago.
They roped and stretched and dallied, they put on quite a show.
It’s just a days work to them, been done many times before
Notchin’ ears, makin’ steers, givin’ shots and burnin brands in sure.

Four generations of cowmen completed roundup tasks
The cowboy is alive and well if anybody asks.
The old skills are passed on to cowboys yet to be
And they’ll preserve the western way of life for you and me.

Well, They told me that the cowboy and his way of life was done,
But don’t you tell that to the Lammers from Harper, Oregon.
There’s still a lot a cowboys livin’ life out on the range
Hopin’ that their life on horseback will never have to change

© 2006, Van A. Criddle, All rights reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Van comments: I had the opportunity to attend a Lammers family branding a couple of years ago. They were great to let me hang around, get in the way, get dirty and refill my reservoir with the sights, sounds and smells of an old fashioned branding. It took me back many years. I was so impressed that they had kept the old ways alive and well and were teaching the 3rd and 4th generations their skills. The cowboy is alive and well!



Merry Christmas 2010

The tree’s all dressed up and the lights all aglow
The breeze has grown still and it’s startin’ to snow.
The skies are all clear and the stars shine so bright
It’s sure got the feel of a great Christmas night.

The house is all lit, there’s a wreath on the door,
Smells in the air and oh so very much more.
Lights outline the house, presents under the tree,
Make happy holidays for you and for me.

The old fireplace glimmers and warms up the place
And the holiday cheer puts a smile on your face.
Friends and family are all gathering here
To share Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas to you all!

© 2010, Van A. Criddle, All rights reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read Van Criddle's 

Star So Bright, in our 2007 Christmas Art Spur


At His Own Pace, posted in our Art Spur project

End of the Day, posted in our Art Spur project


Merry Christmas?, posted with other 2005 Christmas poems


A Christmas Tale in our Art Spur project



About Van Criddle:

Van Criddle is a born cowboy. He's had a love for the cowboy way and all things western all of his life. "When other kids were wearin' tennis shoes and Beta Boots I wore cowboy boots." His years on a working ranch, rodeoing and horse training have influenced him in a way that few other things in his life have. One year he decided to write his wife, Kathy, a poem-a-day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. They came out as cowboy poetry. His wife shared them with others who told Van he ought to perform them. He was invited to participate in a Cowboy Gathering in Baker City, Oregon and an entertainer was born. He has been very well received by audiences throughout the Northwest. His words paint pictures that make you feel that you are right there living them. He can touch your heart and your funny bone. His country boy-city girl relationship with his wife Kathy have inspired some of his most humorous poems, such as "The Elk Hunt" and "Step in Quick" and his poem "Sixteen Horses" will go right to your heart.

Sixteen Horses


Sixteen Horses
Moved to Town
Merry Christmas?
Elk Hunt
The Pond
Night Chill
Step in Quick
As Much as I Hurt
Home on the Ranch
New York Cowhand
Billy O and Betty Dean
Daddy's Cowboy Boots
My Heart's in the West
The Words He Spoke Were Few


Sixteen Horses is available for $12 postpaid (check or money order) to:

Van Criddle
Rafter C Productions
2034 Laurelhurst Dr.
Eugene, OR 97402



Member of the
Cowboy Poets of Utah



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