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We get a number of questions from people seeking cowboy songs and poems. Often, they know just a line  or just a few of the words, or the story. Sometimes we know the answers or can find them, and sometimes we hope for help from other visitors like you.  Many answered and unanswered queries are listed below.  Maybe you can help.

Below you'll find:

The most recent questions

A list of poems mentioned in Who Knows?

We do make mistakes.  We hope you will help us out and weigh in when you see those. We're always interested in adding additional information.  Just give us a holler.

We get many questions about two poems, both of which we're pleased to have here at the BAR-D:  

One is Wallace McRae's Reincarnation.  We get requests for that poem such as "I once heard on Johnny Carson about how a cowboy dies and is buried and the horse eats the grass that grows on his grave and then..."  We're pleased to have a feature about Wallace McRae and his poem here.

The other is Gail Gardner's The Sierry Petes (or Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail). Questions about that usually go something like "My dad used to tell me a poem about tying knots in the devil's tail," or "Do you know the poem 'Sorry Pete'?" or "Siren Peaks?" We're pleased to have a feature about Gail Gardner and his poem here.  That poem is also included in The Big Roundup, our anthology of classic and contemporary poetry from the BAR-D.

Another often-asked about poem is Bill Hirschi's The Bra.  


Our Cowboy Poetry Anthology index lists poems and poets in various collections.

We have some cowboy poetry and Western music reference books listed here..


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Below you'll find:


The Newest

A list of poems and songs mentioned in Who Knows?


This is Page 1.
(with the most recent questions)

  The index below also links to questions and answers on:

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4 
(with the next-most recent questions)



List of poems mentioned in Who Knows?
alphabetically by title

Among the found ...

"AARP!" by Baxter Black
"Answered Prayer" ("Jake the Rancher") by Bill Jones
The Apricot Poodle Bold" by Corky Williams 

"The Ballad of Frisco Kate's" by Harry Noyes Pratt
"The Ballad of William Sycamore"
by Stephen Vincent Benet
"Bear Ropin' Buckaroo
S. Omar Barker
"The Belled Coyote" by Robert "Bob" Fletcher
"Bet at the Bar" by Waddie Mitchell
"The Bible Tells Me So" by Dale Evans
"Bill Venero" anonymous 
"Bill's in Trouble" by James Barton Adams
"The Black Beauty"  by Johnie Schneider 
"A Border Affair/Spanish is the Loving Tongue" by Charles Badger Clark 
"The Bra" by Bill Hirschi
"Brands" by Mike Logan
"Bruin Wooin'" by S. Omar Barker"

"California Joe" John Wallace "Captain Jack" Crawford
"The Canvassing Agent"
"Cattleman's Prayer" anonymous?
"Charley Lee" by Henry Herbert Knibbs
"Charlie and the Calumet Can" by Charley Hendren
"Code of the Cow Country" by S. Omar Barker
"The Cow-Boy's Dream" by Bruce Kiskaddon
"Cowboy at College" by S. Omar Barker
"Cowboy Jack" anonymous 
separate page
"Cowboy Prank" anonymous?
"Cowboy Song" by Charles Causley
"Cowboy Time" by Baxter Black
"The Cowboy's Dance Song" ("The High-Toned Dance") by James Barton Adams
"The Cowboy's Life" by James Barton Adams (?)
"Cowboy's Message from Home" by Edmond N. Florant
"The Cowboy's Prayer" by Curly Fletcher
"Crossing the Divide" by J. W. Foley
"Cyclone Blues" by Griff Crawford (?) 

"Definition of a Cowboy"  anonymous
"Desert Pete" anonymous
"Distractions" by A. W. Erwin
"Disputed Epicure" by Wallace McRae
"Don't Eat Oranges" by John Nelson 
"Dunder Defining"  by Buck Ramsey   

"El Dorado" by Edgar Allen Poe   
Empty Saddles at Christmas" by S. Omar Barker  
"Equus Caballus" by Joel Nelson

"From Town" by Charles Badger Clark

"The Guide" by by Brian Brannon

"The Hanging of Texas Peters" author unknown  unanswered   
"Haven't Sold Your Saddle" by Waddie Mitchell
"The Hell-Bound Train" traditional
"Hell in Texas"  E. U. Cook (?)
"The High-Toned Dance" ("The Cowboy's Dance Song") by James Barton Adams

"I Must Come Back" by Charles "Badger" Clark  
"I Ride an Old Paint"  anonymous 
I'd Like to be in Texas" by Carl Copeland & Jack Williams
"It's a Matter of Taste" by Lloyd M. Gerber   

"Jake the Rancher" ("Answered Prayer") by Bill Jones

"Lasca" by Frank Desprez   
"The Last Longhorn" by John Wesley
"Legacy of the Rodeo Man" by Baxter Black (from "8 Seconds," the movie about Lane Frost) 
"Life Gets Tedious" anonymous?
"Little Breeches" by John Hay
"The Long Horn Speaks" by Bruce Kiskaddon
"Missing ranch dog" by Baxter Black
"The Luck of a Buck" by S. Omar Barker?

"Mad Jack's Dog" by Rod McQueary   
"Maggie" by Wallace McRae
"The Maverick" by Red Steagall
"The Men Who Ride No More" by Joel Nelson
"My Little Buckaroo" by Jack Scholl
"Montana Waltz" (multiple versions) 
"Mustang Gray" traditional
"My Cross Eyed Gal" Long and Gene Autry?
"Myself & I" by Charles "Badger" Clark 

"Nancy MacIntyre" by Lester Shepard Parker
"Napanee" by Will S. Genaro and W.R. Williams
"Night Rider's Lament" by Mike Burton   
Noonday Sun" by Kathryn and Byron Jackson

"Ode to Tofu" by Elizabeth Ebert
"Old Fort Phantom Hill" by Larry Chittenden
"The Old Kids Horse" by Harold Sloan (?) 
partially answered
"One White Foot" anonymous
"Only the Hangman" anonymous (?)
"Out Where the West Begins" by Arthur Chapman  

"The Passing of the Trail" by Charles "Badger" Clark   
"The Pearl of Them All" by Will Ogilvie 
"People Are Funny Critters" by Baxter Black
"The Perfect Gift" by Baxter Black
"The Piddling Pup" anonymous
"Podner, Yo're Welcome" Dude Sands (?) 
"Powder River, Let'er Buck" Jack Lee (?)
"Pretty Good Dog" and other poems by Jack DeWerff
"Psalm of Life
" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Pullin' Leather" by S. Omar Barker
"Purt Near!" / "Pert' Near Perkins" by S. Omar Barker

"The Ride of Paul Venarez" Eben E. Rexford
"Roll a Rock Down" by Henry Herbert Knibbs 
"A Ranger's Ranger" by Gene O'Quinn 

"Santy's Emissions Sticker" by Baxter Black
"Scotty's Wild Stuff Stoo" by  Francis Humphris Brown
"Silver Bells & Golden Spurs" anonymous
"Silver Jack" anonymous
"Sleepin' in the Bunkhouse" by Ken Gardner 
"Some Call Him Brave" by S. Omar Barker 
"Spanish is the Loving Tongue/A Border Affair" by Charles Badger Clark
The Star-Planters" Arthur Guiterman
"The Sufferers"  ? Roberts

"Texas a Paradise"  E. U. Cook (?)
"There's an Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse Tonight" by Gene Autry
"This God Forsaken Land" by Kenneth Pruitt 
"The Time to Decide" by Bruce Kiskaddon   
Turbulence" by Murray Hartin
"The Two Things in Life That I Really Love" by Gary McMahan
"Typical" by Waddie Mitchell

"Watchin' Em Ride" by S. Omar Barker
"Wealth" by Sam Jackson
"The West, Where Men are Men and Collars are Celluloid
possible answer
Wind in the Mountains" unanswered

"Zebra Dun" anonymous


At-least-half-answered questions with non-specific topics/titles

"Buckaroo Bard" Video answered  

Buckskin Bow / Hanky Dean possible answer

Dying Cowboy Drifting In and Out of Reality  possible answer

Earliest Texas Cowboy Poetry -- Judge Lysius Gough answered  

Fred Lambert (1887-1971)

Geese Flying South by E. E. Kirkpatrick

A Humble Donkey  possible answer

Pecos Higgins answered   

Reincarnation set to music? answered  

Stubby Pringle/Slim Pickens Christmas movie  answered, somewhat

Tonight Show Cowboy Poets  some answers


Non-specific topics/titles....mostly from unanswered questions

1921 Ladies Grand Championship at the Wild West Show in Ogden, Utah

40 miles from nowhere

Advice in a restaurant

After so many years, they wore down the floor

Airplanes and broncs

All the States Rodeo Poem

Amarillo, "Away down in Texas...."

And a Cyclone Hit My Seat Where I Was Sat

Arthur "Slim" Vaughn and the 5-H Ranch Rodeo

Barefoot Boy Who Drives the Cattle Home

Bear hunger and chastising wife...

Bill Simpson

Black and a bay

Breakin' Slack

Broken Down Cowboy

Bronc That Wouldn't Bust

Brush that little tear away ...

A buckaroo from the Circle 2  

A buckskin named Jim

Bullriding poem ...bull gets stuck in tree

Bunkhouse roof is leaking ...

Cattle buyer...

Cattle Drive Lullaby

Cayenne Pepper Bill

Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong

Christmas Stranger  possible answer

Colorado's distant hills

Cowboy as artist

Cowboy Bars: Pickwick, Hitching Post

Cowboy Christmas poem  

Cowboy is a "bad apple"

Cowboy Prayer about Final Paycheck

Cowboy Up Cowboy Down

Cowboy Version of the Lord's Prayer  

Cowyard of My Heart 

Dr. Fred Bornstedt answered

Empty Chute

Forever More May You Ride

Fort Ransom Rodeo Poem by Charlie Hunt  

Freezing horse apples and a frozen pard (book) 

Gal who never said a word

Gates, many different ones that are opened, up to the Pearly

Grumblin' Cowboy Gets Up Early and Comes to See Nature's Beauty 

Hard pan Jake ... When Californy's Dry

He Still Keeps a Shod Horse

Harriet Krister, illustrated Badger Clark's work

High Stepping Critters

Horse falls into a hole...

Horse Hubby

A Horse Named "Klaska" (no, they say they aren't lookin' for "Lasca")  

It Was Cold and Damp

Jack McGee of the Double E 

Keith Avery Poems

"Knee High" or "Nehi Valley" song

The Last Fight of Cocklebur Bill

Little Frankie

May you pitch your tent where the wind won't hit ya...

Mourning rancher gets hit by lightning

Mouse Colored Horse

A Mule Shoe of Solid Gold

My Wyoming

Never Sold My Saddle

A new-made parson came to Sage....

The Number 10 Washtub   

Oh the Indians an' the Cowboys

Oklahoma...Way Out Where the West Begins...  

Old Brown Dogs

Old Men

Ole Cowpony  

One night when the moon was a flying ghost...

Paul Smith/Schmidt   For Tom -- Man from Pine Creek

Perhaps the Lord has a ranch

Early Prescott Rodeo Photo  MOST WANTED!

Ride the Clay

Ridin' down that Jubilee Trail

Rodeo Poem..."I surmise from your belt buckle size you may have won ole Cheyenne"

Roll Over Cowboy ... Billy the Kid?

Saddle on his breast

Saloon fire act of God

Seeking families of Gil Traveller and Frank Burns

Silver Star Saloon

Singing cowboys' duet

Sorting time

Steer hide sled

There's a lot about life as I've lived it

Tie That Binds  

Tingle of the Shingle

The Town of Loving  

Two Hats Talking


What Cowboys like in a horse

What Makes a Cowboy

When He Put on that Stetson Hat...  

When I Pitch My Tent at the End of the Trail  

Where I Once Had Cattle I Now Have Sheep

Where's a Cowgirl gonna ...

Working for Wages and Living on Beans and Fat  

You and I, Just Once More



new 9/30/10

Silver Star Saloon

Jan writes:

My father, who died in 1963, recited a poem to us in our younger years. I can only remember a line here and there and have no idea of the
author, name of poem, etc. I'm not sure of words or spelling of those things I can remember:

Adams, O'Doule and Doone—Malarky and Wright as they stood one night
In the Silver Star Saloon.

When door swung back and a kid in black
Came walking slowly in
With two big gats like baseball bats
Hung at his belt in view

It was _______ sweetheart Nellie.


Have an answer for Jan?   Email us.

new 1/26/10

Seeking families of Gil Traveller and Frank Burns

Dee is seeking any relatives of  rodeo stars/trick riders Gil Traveller and Frank Burns.

Have an answer for Dee?   Email us.

answered 2/10/10
new 1/26/10

Cowboys "not allowed in Hell"                                                                                           Answered

Ryan writes:

I am looking for a poem that might be called "Cowboy's Dream." It is about a cowboy that dreams he is sent to heaven but when he gets there he can't seem to have any fun until he finally talks an angel into going along with him. At that point St. Peter catches on and realizes a mistake has been made and concludes "that's a cowboy, they aren't even allowed in hell."

Denise knew the poem, Bruce Kiskaddon's "Cow Boys Dream," where he writes:

He's a buckaroo, I know them well,
They don't allow them even in Hell.

The Cow Boy's Dream

A cow boy and his trusty pal
Were camped one night by an old corral;
They were keeping a line on the boss's steers
And looking for calves with lengthy ears.
The summer work was long since through
And only the winter branding to do.
When he went to rest there was frost on his bed
But he pulled the tarp up over his head;
And into his blankets he burrowed deep,
He soon got warm and was fast asleep.
He dreamed he was through with his wayward past
And had landed safe in Heaven at last.

A city was there with its pearly gate
And the golden streets were wide and straight
The marble palaces gleamed and shone
And the choir sang 'round the great white throne.
Outside there were trees and meadows green--
Such a beautiful range he had never seen,
Great rivers of purest waters flowed
Though it never rained nor it never snowed.

He stood aside on the golden street,
There were heavy spurs on his booted feet,
His bat wing chaps were laced with whang,
But he listened and looked while the angels sang.
He noticed he was the only one
With a broad brimmed hat and a big six gun.

So he said to a saint, "I'd shore admire
To be dressed like one of that angel choir,
Instead of these chaps and spurs and gun;
And I reckon as how it could be done."
So they took him into a room aside
And they fastened wings on his toughened hide.
They fitted him out with a flowing robe,
Like the lady who looks in the crystal glove.
They gave him a crown and a golden harp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy's tarp.

He twanged his harp and he sang a while,
Then he thought of something that made him smile.
Said he "I reckon these wings would do
To show some mustangs a thing or two.
I'll jump a bunch and I'll yell and whoop,
I'll kick their tails and I'll flop and swoop;
I'll light a straddle of one of the things,
And I'll flop his flanks with my angel wings.
I'll ride him bare-back, but if I fail,
And he bucks me off, I'll simply sail."
He hunted wild horses in his dream,
But all he found was the charist team
That Old Elija drove in there,
And to pick on them would hardly be fair.

So he seated himself beneath a tree
And rested his crown upon his knee.
He watched the beautiful angels go
Flying and fluttering to and fro.
At last one landed and started to walk,
She came up close and began to talk.
She had lovely hair of golden brown
And was dressed in a flimsy silken gown.
She had dimpled cheeks, her eyes were blue,
And her fair white skin was beautiful too.

The cow boy gazed at the angel's charms
And attempted to clasp her within his arms.
"Stop!  Stop!" She cried, "Or, I'll make complaints
To the great white throne and the ruling saints."
So the cow boy halted I must confess
And failed to bestow that fond caress.

Said he, "Miss Angel," It's shore too bad.
This sort of a country makes me sad.
Where there ain't no night and it's always day,
And the beautiful ladies won't even play.
When there's wonderful houses and golden streets,
But nobody sleeps and nobody eats.
Them beautiful rivers, it's sad to think.
There ain't no hosses or cows to drink.
With all this grass a goin' to seed
And there ain't no critters to eat the feed.

A man can't gamble--There's so much gold
He could pick up more than his clothes would hold.
What's the use of the Judge and the great white throne
Where troubles or fights was never known?
I'm sorry miss but I'll tell you true,
This ain't no place for a buckaroo."

Then she asked him about his former life
And learned he had never possessed a wife.
But this angel lady so sweet and nice,
Informed him that she had been married twice.
Her husbands had both been quiet men
But if she had it to do again,
She's have to decide between just two.
A sailor boy or a buckaroo.
She seated herself upon his knees
And gave his neck such a hearty squeeze--
Just then they heard an excited call,
'Twas a gray old saint on the city wall.

He flopped his robes and he waved his arm
Till the crowd all gathered in great alarm;
And then the cow boy stood alone,
Before the judge and the great white throne.
"What's this?" the Judge of Creation cried.
"How come this fellow to get inside?
Age must be dimming St. Peter's eye
To let a spirit like that get by.
Just look at his face with its desert brown,
And his bandy legs 'neath his angel gown.
He's a buckaroo, I know them well,
They don't allow them even in Hell.
He hasn't been here a half a day
And he started an angel to go astray.
We can't permit him to stay atall.
Just pitch him over the outside wall."

So the saints and the angels gave him a start
And he went toward the Earth like a falling dart.
He never remembered the time he lit
For he wakened before the tumble quit.
The winter wind blew cold and sharp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy's tarp.

His beautiful vision had come to grief,
So he baked his biscuits and fried some beef.
And drank some coffee black and strong;
But all that day as he rode along
He thought of the saint who had butted in,
And he said to himself with a wicked grin,
"I wish I had holt of that old saint chap,
I'd grab his whiskers and change his map.
I'd jump on his frame and I'd stomp aroun'
Till I tromped him out of his saintly gown."

And all of his life as he roamed and toiled,
He thought of his vision so sadly spoiled.
And the meddlesome saint that has caused it all
When he gave the alarm from the Jasper wall.
He didn't repent nor he didn't pray,
But he always wished they had let him stay.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947

Sometimes we forget what we know. This was the answer to another question in 2004, here.

Have something to add?   Email us.

new 1/06/10

Gal who "never said a word"

Dennis writes:

A friend gave me some of the words to a poem he is trying to track down. Author unknown.

The name may be "She never said a word" or "She never said a solitary word." Here's the verse he could remember:

I met a gal out on the prairie
Where the range was mighty wide
I said, miss this range is lonely
would you mind it if we traveled
side by side?
But she never said a word
made out like she hadn't heard
She never said a solitary word...

Have an answer for Dennis?  
Email us.

new 1/06/10

Colorado's "distant hills"

Robert writes:

In 1938 when I was 17 years old I traveled to Colorado and I bought a booklet as a souvenir  that had several poems about the mountains and the West.

The one poem that I remember was about a young man asking an old timer what was beyond those distant hills. This much I remember:

Tell me old timer, what's beyond those distant hills I see you've lived out here full many a year, this country's  new to me.
The old man turned and faced the lad, his features never changed,
well son he said at length, beyond those hills are higher hills to test your nerve and strength.
Beyond those hills are higher hills and peaks you can not view, except up there on the hills ahead of you.
It is enough for me to see you're on the road today, keep on and on until at last you reach the great divide,
It's always best to leave un-guessed what's on the other side.

Can anyone help me find the author or the booklet?

Have an answer for Robert?   Email us.

new 1/6/10

Perhaps the Lord has a ranch...

Rico writes:

I’m looking for a poem called "The Old Man." I don’t know who wrote but it was read at my godfather’s funeral.

I just remember the last line says “Perhaps the Lord has a ranch and is in need of a good top hand.”

Have an answer for Rico?   Email us.

new 1/6/10

"Knee High" or "Nehi" Valley poem

Penny writes ...

I am looking for an old song—I think it would be called a ballad or cowboy song.

My Dad says it was called “Knee High Valley”—maybe it is Nehi? I am not sure. He said that he remembers it from about 1941 or so.

Have an answer for Penny?   Email us.

new 9/22/09

Advice in a restaurant

F.J. is looking for ...

... a poem written by a woman. It spoke about an older man, a grandpa I think, and a young fellow. They were in a restaurant, and the poem is written from the point of view of someone in another booth listening in. ...I'd like to know the name of the poem and the poet. The older fellow was giving advice to the young man, who was sort of a mess as I recall.

new 7/7/09

There's an Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse Tonight                                                                         Answered

Erlynn writes:

I am searching for an old cowboy song....I think it is called "Old Limpy." The song starts with "He was riding the range one Saturday noon when a northerner started to blow. With his head in his chest, headed into the west, he was stopped by a cry soft and low. A crazy young calf had strayed from its ma and was lost in the snow and the storm."

We told Erlynn that the song is Gene Autry's "There's an Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse Tonight":

There's a cot unused in the bunkhouse tonight;
There's a pinto's head bending low.
His spurs and chaps hang on the wall,
Limpy's gone where the good cowboys go.
     There's a range for every cowboy
     Where the foreman takes care of his own;
     There'll be an empty saddle tonight,
     But he's happy up there I know.

Gene Autry wrote the words and music in 1934. You'll find the words and music here: http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiEMPTYCOT;ttEMPTYCOT.html

  In his book, He Was Singin' This Song, Jim Bob Tinsley devotes a chapter to the song. He writes:

A cowboy song written by a famous movie star in 1934 became so popular with cowboys of successive generations that it's now considered to be one of their traditional songs....A typical act of cowboy compassion was displayed by the hero in the song, the rescue of a maverick lost and helpless in a raging snowstorm. Alan Lomax compared a cowboy, tenderly carrying a calf across the pommel of his saddle, to Joseph, the Carpenter of Nazareth, caring for a child who did not belong to him....

Although it sounds as if it describes an actual happening, [Autry] had no particular incident in mind when he wrote the song. It was just one of the many he was writing at the time, including "Back in the Saddle Again," "Cowboy's Heaven," "Little Pardner," "There's a Rainbow on the Rio Colorado," and "You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven."

Have something to add?   Email us.

updated 3/17/09
updated 11/16/05
updated 11/15/05
new 10/20/02

Buckskin Bow

Out on an Indian Reservation...  ("Indian Napinee")                                                                                Some Answers

Penny in Canada asks:

Can anyone help me find the complete words to "Buckskin Bow?" I believe that's the title and I do have most of the words, but would be interested in the author's name: 

"T'was a calm and peaceful evening in a camp called Buckskin Bow. 
The drinks were flowing freely with a bright and gurgly glow.
The boys about the layout were feeling pretty gay. 
They were packing up their bedding in a reckless sort of way. 
Sitting behind the table was a man called Henry Dean........"

My Dad is 84 and has always had a wonderful memory for reciting long poems such as Lasca and the above. I love to hear him recite poetry especially when the whole family gets together, especially at Christmas. 

Another favourite begins with:

"Out on an Indian Reservation, far from civilization, 
where few pale face feet had ever trod, 
Whiten(?) went a fishin' there one summer......"

In November, 2005, Larry wrote:

I thought I would send you what I learned sometime back as lyrics to a song called, among other things, "Hanky Dean." 
Some of the initial lines are close enough that I suspect they share a common origin even if it is not the precise poem that
Penny seeks.  Here goes...

Hanky Dean

T'was a calm and peaceful evening in a camp called Arapaho,
And the whisky was a runnin with a soft and gentle flow.
The music was a ringin' in the dance hall 'cross the way,
And the dancers were a swinging just as close as they could sway.

People gathered round the tables a bettin' up their wealth,
Nearby stood a stranger who had come there for his health.
He was a peaceful stranger, tho he seemed to be un-strong,
For just before he'd left his home he'd been parted from one lung.

Nearby at a table, sat a man named Hanky Dean.
A tougher man than hanky, buckskin chaps had never seen.
Oh, Hanky was a gambler and he sure did hate to lose,
But he'd been sep-a-rated from a sun-dried stack of blues.

Hank rose from the table, on the floor his last chip flung,
Then cast his fiery glimmers on the man with just one lung.
"No wonder I been losin' every bet I bet tonight,
A sucker and a tenderfoot was between me and the light!

"Look here, little stranger, do you know who I am?"
"Yes, and I don't care -- a copper-colored dam."
The dealers stopped their dealing and the players held their breath,
For words like them to Hanky were a sudden flirt with death.

"Listen Little Stranger while I read my pedigree,
I am known for handlin' tenderfeet and worser men than ye.
The lions on the mountains, I have rode into their lairs,
The wildcats are my playmates, and I wrestle Grizzly Bears.

"Why, the centipedes cain't even mar my tough old sunburned hide,
And the rattle snakes what bit me, they just crawled right off and died.
I'm wilder than the wildest horse what ever roamed the range,
The moss grows on my teeth, wild blood flows through my veins.

"I'm wild, and I'm wolly, and I am full of fleas,
I've never, ever been -- curried below the knees.
And now Little Stranger, if you'll give my your address,
How would you like to go? By mailboat or express?"

Well the gentle Little Stranger, who was leanin' against the door,
Picked up a hand of playin' cards, that were scattered on the floor.
Picking out the four-of-spades, he pinned it to the door,
Then stepped 20 paces across that bar room floor.

As he turned, he drew like lightening, four times did his six-gun roar,
He blotted out each pip, from the card upon the door.
For he had traveled with the circus, and had only quit that day.
"I have one more left, Mister, if you wish to call the play."

Then Hank stepped up to the stranger and this is how he spoke,
"Why the lions on the mountains, that was nothin' but a joke.
Never mind about the extra, you're a bold, bad, shootin' man,
And I'm a meek, little child -- and harmless as a lamb.


That song shares some words with other songs and poems.  For example, "I'm wild, and I'm woolly, and I am full of fleas, I've never, ever been -- curried below the knees" show up in a number of poems and stories and such. That's how "Powder River, Let'er Buck" by Jack Lee ends, and in American Ballads and Folk Songs by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax (1934) the lines are listed as one of a number of "cowboy boasts."

Here's what Penny wrote when we sent her Larry's words:

Wow! I'd forgotten about my request for the words to "Buckskin Bow," and name of the author! Yes, I was still interested! When I checked the date of my original request (Sept '02), my heart jumped. I had mentioned that my Dad recited many long poems from memory, "Lasca", etc. Shortly before that letter, my Dad and I had been on a day trip in the truck, poking around the country, and he had been reciting his favourite poems for a friend. Three months after posting my request to you, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and I lost him 6 months later. What wonderful memories were brought back when I found your e-mail reply today! It's never too late!

In March, 2009, Lois Allen wrote with the words to another poem that Penny was seeking, mentioned above:

Many years have passed since I found this song in a scrapbook which belonged to my mother. Whatever happened to the book I’ll never know, however, this is how I remember this song and my mother taught it to me...that was approximately seventy-three years ago. When my children were small I always sung it to them and they now want me to record it. I am now eighty years old and my voice isn’t as it used to be, however, I do plan to have them record me singing it for them.

I do not know the origin, author, or anything about when it was written. I have searched the internet and found various versions by singers, who it seems only remember parts and bits of it.

Way Out On An Indian Reservation

Way out on an Indian reservation,
Far, far away from civilization
Where the foot of paleface seldom trod,
White man went to fish one summer
Met an Indian maid, a hummer,
Daughter of the big chief, Spare-the-Rod.
White man threw some lovin’ glances,
Took the maid to two war dances,
Smoked the pipe of peace, took chances,
Livin’ in a teepee made of fur.
Rode with her on an Indian pony,
Gave her a diamond ring, a phony
As he sang these lovin’ words to her:

Won’t you be my pretty little napinee,
Won’t you take a chance and marry me
Your dad is a chief, it is my belief
To a very merry wedding he’ll agree.
‘Tis true you are a dark little Indian maid,
I’ll sunburn to a deeper shade,
I’ll wear feathers on my head,
Paint my face an Indian red,
If you’ll only be my napinee.”

Sorry to say his con talk caught her,
Soon he married the big chief’s daughter;
Happiest couple that you ever saw.
“Till the light of love had faded,
Nappanee looked old and jaded,
Just about like any other squaw.
Soon papooses came in numbers,
Redskin yells to disturb his slumbers,
White man wonders at his blunders,
How the feathers drooped upon his head.
It’s too late but now he’s a-wishin’
That he had never gone a-fishin’,
Or had ever met this maid and said:

Won’t you be my pretty little napinee,
Won’t you take a chance and marry me,
Your dad is a chief, it is my belief
To a very merry wedding he’ll agree.
‘Tis true you are a dark little Indian maid,
I’ll sunburn to a deeper shade,
I’ll wear feathers on my head,
Paint my face an Indian red,
If you’ll only be my napinee.”

In July, 2009 Katt wrote:

I learned that song at my daddy’s knee with just slightly different lyrics. My father told me it was his mama’s favorite song and he learned it from her as a boy (abt 1920s). Although you appear to have 2 extra lines, I’d love to hear if the melody we know matches as close as the lyrics. We always called it "Indian Napinee."

With Katt's comment, we were able to find the sheet music for the song here and another version of the song here, where it is called "Napanee", or, "My Pretty Little Indian Napanee," written in 1906 with words by Will S. Genaro and music by W.R. Williams.

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Updated 7/1/09
Updated 6/22/09
Posted 6/9/09

"Cyclone Blues"  by Griff Crawford?

C. T. writes:

I am looking for the author of a poem that my father passed on to me. I have never seen it in print, and neither has he for probably 50 years. The Library of Congress Folk Archives were able to trace it possibly to Griff Crawford but could not firmly determine authorship. Included below is the poem as taught by my father. Below that is the response I received from the Library of Congress.

My father set it to music and recorded it in the 1970's as "Kansas Cyclone." Any help you can offer in tracing this back so the hand behind the pen is not forgotten is very much appreciated.

I used to own the Double-D but I'm punching steers today.
A twisting cyclone came along and blowed my ranch away.
It struck the first of April and as it was going hence
It took the barn and chicken coop and a mile or two of fence.
It took the wife, took the kids, the cows and horses too.
It never left me nothing but the mortgage which is due.
And that is why I'm punching on the Kansas plains today.
Paying for the cattle that the cyclone blowed away.

This was part of the reply from the Library of Congress:

The poem appears, essentially as you have written it, as "Cyclone Blues" in two publications: Henry, Mellinger E., Songs Sung in the Southern Appalachians. London: The Mitre Press. 1934. pp. 90-91., Reprinted in: Lomax, John A. Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads New York: Macmillan. 1938. 294-295.

Both cite as their source: "Obtained from Dr. D. S. Gage, Fulton, Missouri, who had it from Prof. Artus M. Moser, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee, 1932. He received it from Griff Crawford."

Griff Crawford published the "Cyclone Blues" in West magazine. Here is the citation and table of contents found at  www.philsp.com/homeville/fmi/t1865.htm#A41415. West [v30 #6, September 30, 1931] ed. R. de S. Horn (Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 128pp, pulp) Details taken from photocopy of Table of Contents. [PSP] Associate Editor: Edmund Collier

* · Try and Take It! · James C. McKell · cv
* 2 · The Bandit of Brazo Buttes · Colt MacDonald · na
* 42 · Breed of the Range · Glenn A. Connor · ss
* 53 · Cyclone Blues · Griff Crawford · pm
* 54 · Lazy Bones Ranch · Walter A. Sinclair · ss
* 63 · The Lally-Cooler · Raymond W. Porter · nv

It does not appear that the Library of Congress holds this title, so I cannot verify if Crawford claims authorship.

We sent C.T. the words as they appear in the Lomax book, which begin:

I uster own the Double D;
I'm punchin' steers today,
Because a cyclone comes along
And blows my ranch away;
It struck the first of April,
An' as it's goin' hence,
It takes my barns and 'dobes
An' a mile er two of fence.

We told C.T. that we have a bit of information on Griff Crawford and Fred Lambert here that may offer some clues:

Update June 22, 2009:  Griff Crawford published a small book, in 1928, Wild Horse Charley of the Cross-Bar-Lazy-B, which includes poems first published in the Kansas City Star. Thanks to Stan Tixier, we now have a copy of the book, and a feature about Griff Crawford here.

Update July 1, 2009:  We are seeking the West magazine mentioned above. Our library claims that no North American library holds that issue. If you can help, please email us.

Have an answer for C.T. add?   Email us.

updated 6/29/09
Updated 6/9/09
Posted 1/2/09

A cowboy named Jack  ("A Cowboy's Message from Home")                                                                 Answered

Sharon writes:

My Dad—who is 83—is looking for a "cowboy" song his Dad used to sing to him, and he in turn used to sing it us "kids." He thinks it was called "Cowboy Jack." Here are the lyrics he can recall, he knows the tune...just can't get all the words. We would like to find them for him for his birthday:where to start looking ?

Out on the range—here rode a reckless crew—
said one to the other, "Jack, a letter came for you"
It's only a letter from home sweet home
Sweet wife and mother—sister and brother, praying to keep me from harm

There's a well-known cowboy song called "Cowboy Jack," recorded by many, including Don Edwards and the Carter Family, but that's a song about a cowboy who finds the grave of his sweetheart:

He was just a lonely cowboy, with a heart so brave and true;
He learned to love a maiden with eyes of heaven's own blue

(from John Lomax' Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads)

See an article about that "Cowboy Jack" song here at CowboyPoetry.com.

Greg Scott sent this answer for Sharon:

The song you're looking for was originally titled "Only a Message From Home, Sweet, Home." It was written in 1905 by Edmond N. Florant and
recorded in 1906 by The Edison Quartet. In the original, the main character is named Jack but he is not identified as a cowboy. The chorus is repeated
twice and there is no second verse. Many folks have recorded this song, my favorite being Buck Ramsey. Buck, and the "cowboy" version, includes a
second verse where Jack returns to his family. I will give you the version I usually sing which I learned from a cowboy singer in Wyoming. It is very similar to Buck's version.

A Cowboy's Message from Home

Out on the Western range one night, I met with a reckless crew
Said one cowboy to another, "Jack, got a letter for you, buckaroo."
"I'll bet it's from a sweetheart Jack." said a rough voice from out of the crowd
Some told jokes, the others rolled smokes as he read them the letter out loud.

"It's only a message from home, sweet home, from the family out on the farm.
Wife and mother, sister and brother all praying to keep you from harm.
The baby's saying his prayers each night to protect you wherever you  roam,
We'll welcome you Jack, if you'll only come back, is the message from home, sweet, home"

"Fare you well, my boys," said Jack. "I'm going to that land."
Each and every cowboy stood and shook him by the hand.
"If only we had a home like yours, we all might be better men,
But say, ol' pard, before you go, please read us the letter again."

Repeat chorus

Buck Ramsey recorded the song as "Cowboy's Letter from Home" and it is included on Buck Ramsey: Hittin' the Trail and Rolling Uphill from Texas. It is included on Don Edwards' Last of the Troubadours.

The Folk Music Index lists several recordings for "A Cowboy's Message from Home", here.

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updated 2/25/09
Posted 2/11/09

Missing Ranch Dog...                                                                                          Answered!

Bill is looking for a poem or story:

...where the rancher was calling his neighbors to see if they had seen his dog? I remember the neighbor's name was 'Joe', and at the end of the story the missing dog returns to the obvious excitement of his owner. The story opens with a telephone ringing.

I had an old cassette tape with it on there.  Basically it was a story of a rancher that called a neighbor, and the caller was asking his neighbor if the neighbor had seen his dog.  While telling the story the rancher admitted his dog was not worth much but it seems as though his wife took a liking to him.  About this time the missing dog wanders in.  The neighbor then hears in the background the excitement/relief in the rancher's voice when he sees his missing dog. I had it probably close to twenty years ago or so.

Kevin recognized the poem as Baxter Black's "The Lost Dog," which is included in his book, Coyote Cowboy Poetry.

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updated 2/25/09
new 3/25/05

Breakin' Slack                                                                                                     Possible answer

Ruth writes:

I have a patron who is trying to locate a poem, he believes the title is "Breakin' Slack."  He heard the poem read on a radio program quite some time ago.  It's about a cowboy out searching for a lost steer.  When the cowboy stops for a smoke, he startles the steer that was hiding in brush near his horse.  The steer takes off, the cowboy ropes it,  it starts to go over a cliff, and the cowboy "breaks slack."

Harold writers:

The information that you describe sounds like Buster McLaury's "The Jerk." I also heard Buster recite this poem on Red Steagall's Cowboy Corner show a few years ago!

We welcome additional information, including any printed source for the poem.

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Posted 2/11/09

Since the days when Lot and Abraham...                                                                                                      Answered!

Allen wrote:

Can you answer a question for me about a poem attributed to S. Omar Barker, of which some of the lines go:

"Since the days when Lot and Abraham split the Jordan range in half,
Just to fix it so their punchers wouldn't fight,
And ol' Jacob skinned his dad-in-law of six years' crop of calves
And hit the trail for Jordan in the night,
There has been a taste for battle 'mongst the men who follow cattle."

What is the name of the poem, is it by Barker and where can I find the rest of it?

We recognized the poem as Charles Badger Clark's "From Town":

From Town

We're the children of the open and we hate the haunts o' men,
   But we had to come to town to get the mail.
And we're ridin' home at daybreak—'cause the air is cooler then—
   All 'cept one of us that stopped behind in jail.
Shorty's nose won't bear paradin', Bill's off eye is darkly fadin',
   All our toilets show a touch of disarray,
For we found that city life is a constant round of strife
   And we ain't the breed for shyin' from a fray.

Chant your warwhoop, pardners dear, while the east turns pale with fear
And the chaparral is tremblin' all aroun'
For we're qicked to the marrer; we're a mid-night dream of terror
When we're ridin' up the rocky trail from town!

We acquired our hasty temper from our friend, the centipede,
   From the rattlesnake we learnt to guard our rights.
We have gathered fightin' pointers from the famous bronco steed
   And the bobcat teached us reppertee that bites.
So when some high-collared herrin' jeered the garb that I was wearin'
   'Twasn't long till we had got where talkin' ends,
And he et his illbred chat, with a sauce of derby hat,
   While my merry pardners entertained his friends.

Sing 'er out, my buckeroos! Let the desert hear the news.
Tell the stars the way we rubbed the haughty down.
We're the fiercest wolves a-prowlin' and it's just our night for howlin'
When we're ridin' up the rocky trail from town.

Since the days that Lot and Abram split the Jordan range in halves
   Just to fix it so their punchers wouldn't fight,
Since old Jacob skinned his dad-in-law for six years' crop of calves
   And then hit the trail for Canaan in the night,
There has been a taste for battle 'mong the men that followed cattle
   And a love of doin' things that's wild and strange,
And the warmth of Laban's words when he missed his speckled herds
   Still is useful in the language of the range.

Singer 'er out, my bold coyotes! leather fists and leather throats,
For we wear the brand of Ishm'el like a crown.
We're the sons of desolation, we're the outlaws of creation—
Ee—yow! a-ridin' up the rocky trail from town!

The poem is from Badger Clark's Sun and Saddle Leather. Read more about Badger Clark in our feature here.

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Updated 1/06/09
Posted 1/23/09

Rodeo Poem..."I surmise from your belt buckle size you may have won ole Cheyenne"

Ken writes:

Through the years I have on several occasions heard a rodeo poem about a cowboy who ran into an older cowboy in a bar. I can remember parts
but can never remember the entire poem. The poem starts as follows:

In a dingy old bar, not too far from the river in old Kaycee
Stood a mangy old crook with a beer in his hook and he related this warning to me.
Now son I know you must rodeo, I can tell by the gleam in your eye
And I surmise from your belt buckle size you may have won ole Cheyenne.

"POW" wrote:

I know the rodeo trail poem from the poem "In a dingy old bar not so far from a river in K.C." The 1st part here is what I remember of what my dad told me.

In a dingy old bar not so far from a river in K.C
Stood a withered old crook with a beer in his hook who related this warning to me.
He said son I know you rodeo I can tell by the crease in your hat
Day or night you'll drink or fight to prove your not a cat.

I surmise by your belt buckle size you just won old Cheyenne
And that gleam in your eyes makes me realize you think you are a ladies man.
Now, once I was young and strong and raised in a righteous way....

Far from home I'd travel alone through jungle, skid row and jail
But try as I might I couldn't fight that glow of the rodeo trail.)
Now some downfalls been the bottle others the black needle of dope,
But for me it was saddle and rope.....

The poem goes on and gets colorful. My dad really knows this poem well and as I remember he was always coming up with his own verses.

We found another version on this blog, titled "The Story of My Life."

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Posted 12/29/08

Empty Chute

Kyla is looking for a poem that was handed out at a funeral some years ago. She writes:

...I can't remember the name of it or any part of it except one line that has stuck with me. The line I can remember is this: There's an empty chute at our place, one that can't be filled"...

Have an answer for Kyla?   Email us.

Posted 12/18/08

Cattle Buyer

Sharon writes:

I have been trying to find a poem/narrative titled "The Cattle Buyer" which I saw a copy of in a gallery. It was a humorous description of the profession of a cattle buyer.  I don't remember the name of the gallery but it was located in the old stockyards section of Cowtown in North Fort Worth. There was also a commentary nearby called "Confusion" which had the same look and feel which might have come from the same person or seller.

Have an answer for Sharon?   Email us.

Updated 12/18/08
Posted 11/18/08

Ode to Ol...                                                                                                                           Answered!

Mike F. asks:

I was driving through Alpine, Texas and heard a very unique cowboy poem on the radio. I don't exactly remember the name of the poem, however I think it was "Ode to Ol' ---." The poem started out with the young horses coming through the gate, jumping and playing, followed by Ol' --- (cannot remember his name). The gist of the poem was how in his youth, no other horse was as strong or fast, but age has caught up with him. The writer then knows what has to happen to put the horse out of his pain and misery, and fetches his gun. One poignant line says "please hold his head straight as I couldn't bear for his eyes to meet mine."

Linda Kirkpatrick recognized that Mike was looking for "The Pearl of Them All," by Will Ogilvie:

The Pearl of Them All

Gaily in front of the stockwhip
The horses come galloping home,
Leaping and bucking and playing
With sides all a lather of foam;
But painfully, slowly behind them,
With head to the crack of the fall,
And trying so gamely to follow
Comes limping the pearl of them all.

He is stumbling and stiff in the shoulder,
And splints from the hoof to the knee,
But never a horse on the station
Has half such a spirit as he;
Give these all the boast of their breeding
These pets of the paddock and stall,
But ten years ago not their proudest
Could live with the pearl of them all.

No journey has ever yet beat him,
No day was too heavy or hard,
He was king of the camp and the muster
And pride of the wings of the yard;
But Time is relentless to follow;
The best of us bow to his thrall;
And death, with his scythe on his shoulder,
Is dogging the pearl of them all.

I watch him go whinnying past me,
And memories come with a whirl
Of reckless, wild rides with a comrade
And laughing, gay rides with a girl -
How she decked him with lilies and love-knots
And plaited his mane at my side,
And once in the grief of a parting
She threw her arms round him and cried.
And I promised - I gave her my promise
The night that we parted in tears,
To keep and be kind to the old horse
Till Time made a burden of years;
And then for his sake and one woman's...
So, fetch me my gun from the wall!
I have only this kindness to offer
As gift to the pearl of them all.

Here! hold him out there by the yard wing,
And don't let him know by a sign:
Turn his head to you - ever so little!
I can't bear his eyes to meet mine.
Then - stand still, old boy! for a moment  ...
These tears, how they blind as they fall!
Now, God help my hand to be steady ...
Good-bye! - to the pearl of them all!

by William Henry Ogilvie

Find a bit more in a previous Who Knows? question here.

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Posted 12/16/08

A Buckskin Named Jim...

Rev. Gene asks:

My father-in-law used to quote a western poem that had the line "had a buckskin, name of Jim" also one "banked a heap on him." Dad is gone and I would like to locate the poem for my wife. There was also a part about a cattle stampede and Jim saving his cowboy.

Have an answer for Jim?   Email us.

Updated 12/16/08
Posted 8/24/05

May you pitch your tent where the wind won't hit ya ...

Jeff is looking for something his dad used to recite, that includes:

May neither rain, nor sleet, nor blizzard
Disturb the joy juices of your gizzard

May you pitch your tent where the wind won't hit ya
The snakes won't bite
And the bears won't get'ch ya

Slim Farnsworth has seen this toast in a painting in a diner in Paonia, Colorado. And, he told us: This web address: http://www.goantiques.com/detail,western-tradition-birthday,761169.html has a picture of the painting. Evidently it was also a Leanin' Tree card, turns out the print was by Bill Hampton. There is no other author listed for the quote, and I think he did his own quotes.

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Updated 12/16/08
Posted 11/18/08

 Wise Cowboy's Advice...                                                                                                     Answered!      

Mike asks:

I am desperately searching for a poem about a middle-aged man questioning his marriage, bills, etc. and considering setting off to find something better. A wiser cowboy explains that the grass is not always greener somewhere else and convinces him to invest in his current family, for true happiness.

  Tim Jobe recognized Waddie Mitchell's poem, "Haven't Sold Your Saddle," which is in his book, Waddie's Whole Load. The poem includes these lines:

"Our work and wife scapegoat real well when we are of that mind...
The grass ain't greener, I see that—...."

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Updated 12/18/08
Posted 11/6/08

A favorite cut of beef...                                                                                                        Answered!      

Duncan writes:

I heard a poet on CBC a few months ago – I believe his name was Don Waddell, and the poem I am trying to find is about a favorite cut of beef.

Chris Isaacs and John Nelson both recognized Wallace McRae's poem, "Disputed Epicure," from his book, Cowboy Curmudgeon. The poem starts with these lines:

"What's you favorite cut of beef?"
    the highborn lady queried....

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Posted 11/6/08

 Two hats talking...

Burton asks:

Do you know of the poem where two hats are talking to each other in a bar? The owners of the hats can't hear them. Heard it in Lewistown in '03.

Have an answer for Burton?   Email us.

Posted 11/6/08

What cowboys like in a horse...

Kristen asks:

I am trying to find an old poem, a discussion between two cowboys about what they like in a horse. The first one talks about all the flashy stuff he wants in a horse and the second cowboy goes on to describe just how the horse has to have heart. I know it is an old poem and I used to have a copy of it a long time ago...

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Posted 8/13/08

Black and a bay...

Lisa is looking for a song that starts:

There once was a cowboy without any worries
He rode in the saddle from morning til night
He had some fine horses and a small herd of cattle
Could ride bucking broncos, drink, gamble and fight.

She writes:

It goes on to say he lost all his horses and cattle "except two fine racers, a black and a bay" He fell in love with a farmers daughter and they ran away on "the black and the bay" and she dies, I think. I don't know the title or the artist, we've always just called it "The Black and the Bay"
Any help will be appreciated!

Have an answer for Lisa?   Email us.

Posted 8/13/08

Cowboy is a "bad apple"

Becky is looking for a poem "about a Cowboy who is told that there is a 'bad apple' in the family and he needs to get rid of it. The 'bad apple' turns out to be himself and he can't ever catch himself.

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Posted 8/12/08

Horse falls into a hole...

Laurie writes:

My dad is looking for an old cowboy poem. He does not know the name. but it talks about an old cowboy going for a ride on his horse when they fall into a hole. The old cowboy finally climbs out but then realizes that he has no way of getting his faithful old horse out of the hole, so he decides that he should just bury him right there. He starts shoveling the dirt and when he turns around the old horse is standing behind him. Any ideas on what poem this might be?

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Posted 7/29/08

A new-made parson came to Sage...

Elsie writes:

I'm looking for an old cowboy poem that my dad used to recite and it begins like this: "A new-made parson came to Sage, dressed like a dude divine, with horn-rimmed specs to give him age, and a frock-coat fittin' fine. Up walked Slim, old Satan's son....", and this is about as far as I can get. I'm in hopes that someone has heard of it and can direct me to it.

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Posted 7/29/08

"Nancy MacIntyre" by Lester Shepard Parker

Lee is looking for copies of  Nancy MacIntyre, a Tale of the Prairies, written in 1911 by Lester Shepard Parker. You can read the entire illustrated book-length poem here.

It starts with "Billy's Revery":

No use talking, it's perplexing,
Everything don't look the same;
Never had these curious feelin's
Till those MacIntyres came.
Quit my plowing long 'fore dinner,
Didn't hitch my team again;
Spent the day with these new neighbors,
Getting 'quainted with the men.
Talk about the prairie roses!
Purtiest flow'rs in all the world,
But they look like weeds for beauty
When I think of that new girl.
Strange, she seems so kind of friendly
When I'm awkward, every way,
And my tongue gets hitched and hobbled,
Everything I try to say!

There's one person, that Jim Johnson,
That there man I can't abide;
He's been milling around near Nancy,—
Durn his dirty, yaller hide!
Never really liked that Johnson;
Now, each time I hear his name,
Feel this state's too thickly settled,—
That is, since that new girl came.
If this making love to women
Went like breaking in a horse,
I might stand some show of winning,
'Cause I've learned that game, of course;
But this moonshine folks call 'courting,'
I ain't never played that part;
I can't keep from talking foolish
When I'm thinking with my heart.

Now, those women that you read of
In these story picture books,
They can't ride in roping distance
Of that girl in style and looks.
They have waists more like an insect,
Corset shaped and double cinched;
Feet just right to make a watch charm,
Small, of course, because they're pinched.
This here Nancy's like God made her,—
She don't wear no saddle girth,
But she's supple as a willow,
And the purtiest thing on earth.
I'm in earnest; let me ask you—
'Cause I want to reason fair—
What durn business has that rope-necked
Johnson sneaking over there?


A December 4, 1909 newspaper column in the New York Times, called "Boston Gossip of Latest Books" mentioned the book:

Who is going to buy [poetry]? "Dwellers on the right bank of the Mississippi have bought 5,00 of "Nancy MacIntryle" by Mr. Lester Shepard Parker of Missouri.

Parker, born in 1860, also wrote at least four musical scores People Will Talk (1900), Rag-time Rastus, the Whistler (1900); The Fisher Wife's Lullaby (1905), and Come back to Missouri (1921). He also wrote The state capitol of Missouri, with a description of its construction, museum, art features, mural paintings, sculptures, art windows and  decorations.

Lee wrote looking for a particular edition of the book:

I am looking for copies of Nancy MacIntyre, a Tale of the Prairies by Lester Shepard Parker, but only those published by Felix Harris of Dallas in the 1950s. That may seem odd when the book was originally published from 1911 to about 1920. You see Felix Harris was my grandfather and he was in love with “Nancy,” with the strong approval of my grandmother, Hallie.

In 1917 as a young lieutenant Felix Harris took a copy of Nancy MacIntyre to France when he was shipped over as a doughboy. Over the next two years of war and occupation in Germany he and his entire regiment read the book and fell in love with “Nancy.” After returning to Dallas and getting on with life. Felix Harris was only able to pick up additional copies of the original editions when he stumbled on them in used book stores, being pre Internet. He was able to recite the entire poem and always said it should be read aloud.

I am not sure of the circumstances, but in the 1950s he either bought or reproduced the original plates and published four editions of 500 each of Nancy MacIntyre, a Tale of the Prairies, giving them to family and friends around the country and the world. He put a plate inside the front cover where he wrote the name of the recipient and the date. He was very excited when he went to see the first Cinerama movie to see a copy of Nancy MacIntyre on Lowell Thomas’ desk. He died in 1960 in London.

With the advent of the Internet, I have been buying back copies from my grandfather’s editions of Nancy MacIntyre, giving the first one to my grandson, signed “From your grandfather and your great-great grandfather” It is really special to receive another copy in the mail and know that Felix Harris held the same book over 50 years ago. One book still had a letter in it signed by him when he sent a book to a lady. I had one book store quote me $300 for a copy because it was signed by my grandfather. I told the man that he should know that I am the only person in the world looking for that book. I passed on that one.

Have information for Lee?   Email us.

Posted 7/29/08

Bear hunter and chastising wife...

Kathy writes:

I am looking for a particular poem...It's about a cowboy who lives in a cabin with his wife and one morning sets out to shoot a bear. He has some trials and tribulations, of course, in hunting the bear but at some point comes eye to eye with one. At which point, he takes off in a run back to his cabin and jumps the fence and rushes in the door. The poem ends with him replying to his chastising wife that "Yeah, but I brought the bear home alive." Or something to that affect.

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updated 6/8/09
Updated 3/14/07
Posted 9/5/05

The Star Planters                                                                                                                    Answered!           

Our Utah friend Allen Clark recited "The Star-Planters" at the 2005 Sevier Valley Roundup. It's a fine old poem, whose author was often cited as "anonymous."  Al found the poem in Robbers Roost Recollections, by Pearl Baker, published by Utah State University Press. The author tells that her mother had clipped the poem from the pages of a magazine.  In 1996, it was set to music by Margaret MacArthur and called "Them Stars." She found it in the Ben Gray Lumpkin Collection of Colorado Folklore at the University of Colorado.  

We recently stumbled on the rightful author: Arthur Guiterman. The poem is included in his 1921 book, A Ballad-Maker's Pack. Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943) was the co-founder of the Poetry Society of America, and served as its President 1925-26. He was a prolific and popular writer who also wrote reviews in verse for Life Magazine.  

We've long had a parody he wrote of Arthur Chapman's "Out Where the West Begins" posted here. Our interest in Guiterman was rekindled when we heard top reciter Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks (who also recites "The Star-Planters") recite his poem, "Damming the Missouri" at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. That poem is included in his 1927 book, Wildwood Fables. Smoke Wade recited another Guiterman poem at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in 2006.

Allen Clark recites "The Star Planters" on The BAR-D Roundup, Volume Four.

Here is the poem as it appears in A Ballad-Maker's Pack, followed by the version attributed to "Anonymous":

The Star-Planters

Them stars! Oh, how often I've laid on the prairie
   And watched them go sweeping around,
My bronco a-dozing beside me, and nary
   A breeze nor a whisper of sound!

I've learnt the main bunch in the heavenly ranches
   There's Jupiter, Venus, and Mars—
Religion? He don't know its primary branches
   What ain't been alone with the stars.

Some clusters are branded.— the Dipper, the Lion,
   The Eagle, the Sarpent, the Bear
The Horns of the Bull and the Belt of Orion,
   And Cassy O' Whats-her-name's Chair;

But most of them's mavericks, roaming the ranges,
   Unclaimed in the herds in the sky,
No part of the big panorama that changes,
   From winter to summer;— and why?

Well, maybe it's gospel, or maybe he sold me,
   But here is the yard that the Priest,
Chitola, who bosses the Navajos told me
   The night of the corn-plantin' feast:

When all of the mountains were set in their  places
   And threaded with cañons and rills,
The star-worlds, the last of the mighty creations
   Were laying in heaps on the hills

In masses of silver, of gold and of copper,
   All polished and shining and new,
Poured out on the granite like corn from the hopper
   Awaiting their place in the Blue.

Now, first came the Bear of the Mountains, who faces
   The North, from his cave in the scaurs;
He lifted his paws to the heavenly spaces
   And laid out his picture in stars.

Then over the peaks of his western dominions
   The Eagle who battles the storm,
Flew up to the heavens with star-dusted pinions
   And printed the lines of his form.

And next, that the tribes and the nations might wonder
   The Buffalo leaped to the sky;
That shag-headed Bison whose beller is thunder,
   Emblazoned his image on high.

But now came the Coyote, so crafty and clever,
   A scallywag all the way through,
The yap-throated, critical varmint, who never
   Is pleased with what other folks do.

Sez he, "These here stars were intended to brighten
   The uttermost reaches of Night,
But you fellers waste them in pictures to heighten
   Your glory; and that isn't right!

"Jest watch me!! I'll show you how stars should be
   He jumped in the glittering piles,
He kicked and he gamboled, he danced and he ranted,
   He scattered them millions of miles!

So that's why they glimmer at sixes and sevens,
   Stampeded all over the vault
A shame and disgrace to the orderly Heavens;—
   It's all that coyote chap's fault.

And still you can hear him, the yelping Coyote,
   A-mocking the stars in the dim
Of night on the Barrens, with yammerings throaty,
   While they look reproachful at him.

From A Ballad-Makers Pack by Arthur Guiterman, 1921

This is the version that was previously known, and attributed to "Anonymous":

The Star Planters

Them Stars! How often I've laid on the prairie
An' watched 'em go sweepin' around
My bronco a-dozin' beside me an' nary
A breeze nor a whisper of sound!

I've learned the main bunch of the heavenly ranches
There's Jupiter, Venus and Mars
Religion? He don't know its primary branches
What ain't been alone with the stars

Some clusters is branded-- the Dipper, the Lion,
The Eagle, the Sarpint, the Bear
The Horns o' the Bull and the Belt of Orion,
And Cassia O' Whats her-name's Chair

But lots of 'ems mavricks, roamin' the ranges,
Unclaimed by the herds in the sky,
No part of the big panorama that changes,
From Winter to Summer-- and why?

Well, mebbe it's gospel and maybe he sold me
But here's the whole story at least
That Big Chief Citola, the Navajo, told me
The night of the Corn-plantin' feast

When all of the mountains was set in their stations
An' threaded with canyons and rills
The Star worlds, the last of the mighty creations
Was layin' in heaps on the hills

In masses of silver, of gold and of copper,
All polished and shinin' and new,
Poured out on the granite like corn from the hopper
Awaitin' their place in the blue

Now, first come the Bear o' the Mountains, who faces
The North, from his cave in the scours;
He lifted his paws to the Heavenly spaces
An' laid out his picture in stars.

Then over the peaks of the western dominions,
The Eagle who battles the storm,
Flew up to the heavens with star-dusted pinions
An' printed the lines of his form.

An' next, that the tribes an' the nations should wonder
The buffalo leaped into the sky
That shag-headed Bison whose beller is thunder,
Emblazoned his image on high.

But now came the Coyote so crafty and clever,
A scalawag all the way through;
The yap-throated, critical varmint who never
Is pleased with what other folks do.

Says he, "These stars was intended to brighten
The uttermost reaches of Night,
But YOU go and use 'em in pictures to heighten
Your glory; and that isn't right.

Jest WATCH ME! I'll show you how stars should be planted"
An' he jumped in the glitterin' piles,
He kicked and he gamboled, he danced and he rambled
An' he scattered 'em millions of miles!

So that's why they glimmer at sixes and sevens,
Stampeded all over the Vault
A lasting disgrace to the orderly Heavens,
An' it's all that coyote chap's fault.

An' still you can hear him, the yelpin' Coyote,
A-mockin' the stars in the dim
Of night on the Barrens, with yammerings throaty
While they look reproachful at him.

Well, mebbe it's gospel and mebbe he sold me,
But that's the whole story, at least,
That Big Chief Citola, the Navajo, told me,
The night of the corn-plantin' feast.

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new 3/16/07

Fred Lambert (1887-1971)

In March, 2007, Leone wrote to us:

I met Fred Lambert two or three times in Cimarron, New Mexico and in 1970 I purchased a book from him that had 487 pages and was published by Western Heritage Press in Fort Worth. The pages are 81/2" by 11" and it is full of his poetry. It is also full of Fred's pen and ink illustrations... Can you tell me anything about it? Are any other copies available? Does Fred's poetry have any following in Cowboy Poet circles? It is autographed twice by the author, one looks like he had put in every book he sold and the other one is personalized to me. His dad was a pioneer from the middle 1850's in New Mexico and built and ran the Hotel and bar in Cimarron.

We answered:

You don't mention the name of the book, but a search of the used book market can turn up several of his books, including these with high values.

Bunkhouse Tales of Wild Horse Charley
Bygone Days of the Old West

As you may know, Fred Lambert's papers are at the University of New Mexico:

and there is quite a bit about him here:

We don't find him included in many of the contemporary anthologies searched, and his work is not recited frequently, as far as we know. We  have a vague recollection of there being a question of another poet, Griff Crawford having poetry quite similar to Lambert's verse. 

Tim Jobe of Cal Farley's Boys Ranch has done some research on Lambert, and we'll ask him.

Tim responded with the following:

William Fred Lambert** correction below

Fred Lambert was a true westerner. He was born in 1887 in Cimarron, New Mexico, to Henri and Mary Lambert. Henri Lambert started Lambert's Inn in Cimarron which later became the St James Hotel. Fred was born in room #31. Henri had been a personal chef of President Abraham Lincoln. He built Lambert's Inn in 1872 and it became a notorious place during the heyday of the Old West.

At the age of 16, Fred Lambert was sworn in as a Territorial Marshall from New Mexico.  He served as a law officer his entire life, in many capacities.  He was also an active rancher and was chiefly responsible for the restoration of many historic landmarks in and around Cimarron. He was also an accomplished writer and artist.  He published two books of poems and pen and ink drawings. The first was titled Wild Hoss Charley, Bunkhouse Tales.  It was published in 1931 by Lambert & Brown, Cimarron, New Mexico and illustrated by the author. This is a paperback book and is hard to find today. The Lambert Collection was left to the University of New Mexico. I called them to try to get more information about this book but they had no record that it exists. However, they do have his second book published in 1948. It is titled Bygone Days of The Old West

He contributed to other books but these are the only two I have found that contain his poetry. Both books are pretty hard to find in a first edition. Bygone Days was republished and released in 1970 and that edition is not quite so hard to find. I have yet to find in any of the biographies about Fred Lambert, any mention of the Wild Hoss Charley book. Fred Lambert died in 1971.

From what I have been able to uncover, Some of the poems that are in Fred Lambert's two books were written by other people. He published his first book, Wild Hoss Charley Bunkhouse Tales, in 1931. It is a paperback and has several Wild Hoss Charlie poems in it. These same poems are also in an earlier book published by Griff Crawford. One of the other poems in this book is "Jog On Jehosaphat." That poem is in a catalog of songs belonging to the Library at York, Nebraska. It was copyrighted to Griff Crawford. However, in Lambert's first book he states that it is one of his earlier writings and has been published in several newspapers without his permission. All of the poems in this book are reprinted in Lambert's second book, Bygone Days of the Old West along with a lot of other poems. This book, in the Acknowledgements, thanks, among other people, Griff Crawford for interest and co-operation in making the book possible. There are 151 poems in this second book. One is titled "Annie Lowery On The Guard." This is actually the poem "
A Bad Half Hour," written by Badger Clark. I do not recognize any of the other poems in the book as being anything I have seen published elsewhere.  

Robert Dougless of Cal Farley's Boys Ranch recited "Horse Sense," one of the Wild Hoss Charley poems at the Elko Gathering in 2006.

**In July, 2009, Fred Lambert's great-niece wrote to say that his correct name is "Charles Frederick Lambert, not William Fred."

See another Griff Crawford-related question above.

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updated 3/16/07
more 11/28/06
new 10/27/04

Bullriding Poem: Bull Stuck in Tree / One Day as I Rode Out ...

Tim Jobe points out that the first item below was about the same poem mentioned in a 2004 entry. We've combined the two below.

Tim wrote, "I heard Glenn Ohrlin sing this song once at Elko but I don’t know the name or the author." We're following up on that.

In November, 2006, Barbara wrote:

I'd like to find the words to one poem--I think it's an old poem but I don't know who recited it. It tells of a guy who got chased one day by a big bull, and the bull's horns got stuck in a tree.  The guy says "Here's my chance to ride that bull" so he puts a rope around it and climbs on board.  Then he takes the bull's horns out of the tree and away they go, "past Jupiter and around Mars, gosh they saw a lot of stars."

In October, 2004, Jana wrote:

  I was going through my mother's things, she was born in 1905 and lived from Kansas, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona back to Texas, then California, always involved with horses and I believe this is her handwriting.  However, my father was the poet in the family, so she may have copied it...

The words I found, as best I could read them:

One day as I rode out upon the high and rolling range,
     I met a likely looking brute, whose countenance was strange.
He was a long eyed three year old, this handsome roving bull.
     He had no writing on his hide and both his ears were full.

No passport on his wall, I thought, no claim to any home,
     He'll have to stay out here alone, and roam, and roam and roam.
When winter comes and this here range is buried deep in snow,
     There'll be no ranch for him to claim, no place for him to go.

The sight of that poor Maverick bull out there upon the green,
     Went straight to my tobacco heart and pierced the nicotine.
I'll lay him gently down, I said, and upon his hairy hide,
     I'll write the full direction of a place he can reside.

We were drifting right along as this ran through my head,
     And must have gone a mile or two before it all was said.
I lent a loop around his hump and twined him 'round the toes,
     Then we headed north to visit friends among the Eskimos.

That bull turned over twenty times before he hit the ground,
     I felt the saddle riggin' go, it busted clear around.
With saddle gone and also me, my measly old cayouse
     Just naturally concluded that I'd meant to turn him loose.

He done some tall old runnin' then across those barren flats,
     And left me with that spike horned bull, just a reachin' for my slats.
About a hundred yards from there, I saw the nicest tree,
     whose branches reached far up and just seemed to beckon me.

The bull, he must have spied it too, or else he read my mind,
     for he followed me all the way, about one-inch behind.
They say that cowboys legs are stiff, they can't get up much speed,
     But that's a myth like more that's said of this bow legged breed.

I have no record of the time, but I'll wager a new hat,
     From where we started to that tree, was made in nothin' flat.
I hooked an arm around a limb and swung up toward the sky
     A thinkin' that that bull, of course, would just keep on goin' by.

But the speed had made him dizzy and blurred his eyes up too,
     For he hit that tree right center and both his horns went through.
I quickly grabbed a likely club and clinched those horns to stay,
     While I went for my branding iron back where my saddle lay.

I built a fire inside the tree and got the iron red hot
     Then on his hide I drew a trail back to my feeding lot.
A bright idea occurred just then, I'll ride this bull, I said,
     Until I find my horse again to take his place instead.

I threw my hull upon his back while he romped upon my corns,
     I drew the cinches up real tight and then unclenched his horns.
I stepped up in the stirrup and threw him in reverse,
     He quickly pulled his antlers free and left the universe.

We played around with Jupiter and took a squint at Mars
     And passed a dozen comets that were racing through the stars.
I saw more real astronomy on top of that 'er' bull,
     Than I ever thought existed in a sky I knew was full.

I enjoyed the brilliant scenery most of which was new,
     Until that sudden eclipse came and blotted out the view.
I think I'll be alright inside a month or two,
     And hope to get my saddle then, if that old bull is thru.


Jana says "I await the wonders of the internet!"

Have an answer?  Email us.

new 12/27/06

Mourning rancher gets hit by lightning

Marc is looking for a poem he heard in Dillon, Montana, in the past few years. He writes, "It has to do with an old rancher whose wife had died. He then decided to do himself in and went out on his horse on a hill and was struck by lightning."

Have an answer for Marc?  Email us.

new 12/27/06

After so many years, they wore down the floor ...

We don't like to perpetuate what may be an internet gag, but we've received so many requests for this quiz that concerns what people say they think is a cowboy  poem or song, that we'll include the gist of the requests here, and maybe someone can get to the bottom of it all. Many people have sent information like this: 

After so many years, they wore down the floor, 
Put in a new one in and scuffed it some more.  
You swing me, I swing you, We drive on down the avenue.  
We're almost where we want to go.  
It sound a lot like the word, casino.  
No poker and no roulette, 
You can't come here to gamble or bet.
Now don't stop and begin to flaunt -- Name this bar and restaurant.

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new 12/27/06

Only the Hangman

Olaf wrote that "many moons ago my former wife used to sing a song to me" and that he'd been looking for the answer for 40 years. He said that it started with:

There's gold in the mountains
Gold in the valleys
Gold in the rivers
And gold in the sea

She gave me a shotgun/ sixgun
Said there's gold in the mountains

We found more than one similar song, including "Only the Heartaches" and  "Only the Hangman," which is referenced here, with lyrics, commentaries, and a note that it is sung to the tune of "Streets of Laredo."

Rex Allen sang "Only the Hangman" on his Sings and Tells Tales recording (see the Rex Allen museum site here).

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updated 8/13/08
new 12/27/06

Jake the Rancher / Answered Prayer                                                                                 ANSWERED

We get many requests asking for the poem "Jake the Rancher," about a rancher's prayer that is heard, but since his voice is not recognized, the answer to his prayer (to start his truck) is given to someone else in North Dakota.

It is posted in many places on the internet, including:  http://www.cowboyfun.com/jake/, where it is attributed to Bill Jones.

In August, 2008 Kent Stockton wrote to confirm that the poem is by Bill Jones, that it appeared in his book, There Ain't Much Romance in the Life of Us Cows, second edition, published by Western Printing, Lander, Wy., in 1991. The poem's title is "Answered Prayer."

We get many questions about the whereabouts of Bill Jones. We hope he'll be in touch one day.

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updated 3/17/06
updated 1/8/06
new 11/28/06

Boots Ain't Made to Walk ...   S. Omar Barker poem, "Pullin' Leather"       Answered!

Pat was looking for an S. Omar Barker poem that he read "in one of the old western pulp magazines in the 30's." He remembered part of it:

I've done my share of braggin' when it come my turn to spiel,
As we all set a'talkin' round the ole chuckwagon wheel.
I've told about the bad ones that I've cure of sneeze and snort
And never pulled no leather, as a peeler hadn't ort.

But when a fellers 40 miles from nowhere and his horse lets in to buck a spell,
Well, there's ways of hanging on that's hard on a buckrooster's pride.
But boots ain't made to walk in, so you kinda got to ride!
That's when you grab that biscuit, like you growed up on a farm
And you'll shore dehorn that saddle, or you'll throw away an arm.

'Cause everybody knows that boots ain't made to walk,
And most of us is grateful that a horse ain't fixed to talk.

Tim Jobe of Cal Farley's Boys' Ranch knew the poem: "Pullin' Leather" by S. Omar Barker.  Thanks also to Karen Ross, who sent the same information.

Pullin' Leather

I've done my share of braggin' when it come my turn to spiel,
And rode some salty broncos at the ol' chuckwagon wheel.
I've told about the buckers that I've cured of snuff and snort,
And never pulled no leather, like a peeler hadn't ort.
From colts just off the gramma to the outlaws of the shows,
I've set up there and scratched 'em all the way from flank to nose.
I claim to be a rider that no man has ever saw
Reach out to grab the button when my seat's too far from taw.
But when a feller's ridin' forty miles from hell-and-gone,
And his hoss lets in to buck a spell, there's ways of stayin' on
That ain't considered proper to a buckarooster's pride

But boots ain't made to walk in
so you've kinder got to ride.
This pitchin's took you by surprise, way out there all alone,
And cactus beds around you make your innards fairly groan.

So you've got to keep astraddle and you aim to stay on top,
Even when you know you're slippin' and you hear your shirt-tail pop.
Your Stetson's gone a-sailin' and you'll foller purty quick
Unless you clamp to somethin' that will sorter help you stick.
That's when you grab the biskit like you'd growed up on a farm.
You'll sure dehorn that saddle or you'll throw away an arm!
There ain't no grandstand watchin', so you sure would be a fool
To let that pony throw you for the sake of any rule!
I've done my share of braggin', and it sure can't be denied
That no "man" ever seen me pullin' leather on a ride;
But forty miles from nowheres
well, a cowboy hates to walk,
And most of us is thankful that a hoss ain't fixed to talk!

© 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

The poem appears in Barker's 1954 book, Songs of the Saddlemen, and was published also in 1939 in Western Stories magazine.  

See our feature about S. Omar Barker here.

(Another master, Bruce Kiskaddon, also has a poem called "Pullin' Leather," which is included in his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.)

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new 11/28/06

He Still Keeps a Shod Horse

Kim writes:

A few years ago I heard a song/poem on a radio station out of Arkansas or Oklahoma, and I've been looking for it ever since. It was about an old cowboy, and I remember it had the lyrics "But he still keeps a shod horse handy, though it's been years since he rode", or something pretty close to that. I know it was a male singer, maybe Michael Martin Murphey or Red Steagall. I'd love to find a copy for my dad, because it reminded me so much of him.  

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new 11/03/06

"Code of Cow Country"                                                     Answered

Larry wrote looking for a poem that hung in his grandmother's house in San Saba, Texas. He wrote, "I do not know the name but still remember, 'It don't take a lot of laws to keep the ranchland straight...'" 

The poem is S. Omar Barker's Code of the Cow Country:

Code Of The Cow Country

It don't take such a lot of laws
     To keep the rangeland straight,
Nor books to write 'em in, because
     There's only six or eight.
The first one is the welcome sign—
     True brand of western hearts:
"My camp is yours an' yours is mine,"
     In all cow country parts.

Treat with respect all womankind,
     Same as you would your sister.
Take care of neighbors' strays you find,
     And don't call cowboys "mister."
Shut pasture gates when passin' through;
     An' takin' all in all,
Be just as rough as pleases you,
     But never mean nor small.

Talk straight, shoot straight, and never break
     Your word to man nor boss.
Plumb always kill a rattlesnake.
     Don't ride a sorebacked hoss.
It don't take law nor pedigree
     To live the best you can!
These few is all it takes to be
     A cowboy—and a man!

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

The poem was published in S. Omar Barker's 1954 book, Songs of the Saddlemen, and later collections.

Our continued thanks to the estate of S. Omar Barker for the permission granted to CowboyPoetry.com to post Barker's work. Much of his work is still protected by copyright, and permission should be obtained for its use in print or on the web.

See the poem and much more about S. Omar Barker—including the interesting story behind the often-recited "Jack Potter's' Courtin'"'—in our feature here.


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new 11/06/06

"Bill's in Trouble"                                                                         Answered

Jane writes: There's an old poem in the form of a letter with a twist about..."

Rather than spoil the "twist," here it is: 

Bill's in Trouble

I've got a letter, parson, from my son away out West,
An' my ol' heart is heavy as an anvil in my breast,
To think the boy whose future I had once so proudly planned
Should wander from the path of right an' come to such an end!
I told him when he left his home, not three short years ago,
He'd find himself a plowin' in a mighty crooked row

He'd miss his father's counsel, an' his mother's prayers, too;
But he said the farm was hateful, an' he guessed he'd have to go.

I know thar's big temptation for a youngster in the West,
But I believed our Billy had the courage to resist,
An' when he left I warned him o' the ever waitin' snares
That lie like hidden sarpints in life's pathway everywheres.
But Bill he promised faithful to be keerful, an' allowed
He'd build a reputation that'd make us mighty proud;
But it seems as how my counsel sort o' faded from his mind,
An' now the boy's in trouble o' the very wustest kind!

His letters came so seldom that I somehow sort o' knowed
That Billy was a trampling on a mighty rocky road,
But never once imagined he would bow my head in shame,
An' in the dust'd waller his ol' daddy's honored name.
He writes from out in Denver, an' the story's mighty short;
I just can't tell his mother, it'll crush her poor ol' heart!
An' so I reckoned, parson, you might break the news to her—
Bill's in the legislatur', but he doesn't say what fur.

by  James Barton Adams from his 1899 book, Breezy Western Verse

James Barton Adams (1843-1918) did some ranch work in New Mexico in the 1880s, later became a newspaper columnist, and wrote poems still recited (and put to music) today. 

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.)

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new 10/26/06

And a Cyclone Hit the Seat Where I Was Sat...

Walt writes: I'm looking for a poem I heard from a school mate about 1958-59. It was so long ago that I remember very little of the poem, just the general idea and a couple of phrases that have stuck with me all my life.

It's a long funny story about riding a wild bronco; probably has a title related to the horse's name.

I specifically remember:

He picked me up
He threw me down
He nearly knocked me into town
. . .
And a cyclone hit the seat where I was sat

Many times over the years, I have thought of a cyclone hitting my seat whenever life throws me an obstacle.

Have an answer for Walt?  Email us.

new 10/25/06

One Night When the Moon Was a Flying Ghost...

Lynn writes: I was wondering if you would have any information on the following verse. My Grandfather used to recite it to my Mom and her sisters when they were younger. Both my cousin and I have tried internet sites and libraries but have had no luck in finding the title or the complete poem. (It may even be a song):

    One night when the moon was a flying ghost
    One night when the wind was high
    Over the mountain, past painted post
    A man came riding by.
    Only the grey owl saw him pass
    Only the grey wolf heard
    The coyote howled, the night birds cried,
    The man spoke never a word.

Have an answer for Lynn?  Email us.

new 10/3/06

Cattle Drive Lullaby

Sally writes:  

When I was a child, my father sometimes sang me to sleep with an old cowboy song used on cattle drives. All I remember is the chorus (mind  you, this memory is several decades past):

Wake up, slake up, Jacob.
Git up and blow your horn.
We ain't got long to stay here.
We ain't got long 'til morn.

One verse began, "Oh, it's up in the morning and..."

I'd love to hear it again -- or at least read all the words. 

We told Sally that there is an old folksong reference here to the "Old Canny Miner Lad:

It's up in the morning and out afore dawn 
Wi' your moleskin breeks and your pitboots on 
And the sleep in your eyes from the night just gone 
He's a fine lad, a canny lad, the miner

and there are other songs that are takeoffs from that song, including an army ballad.

Have an answer for Sally?  Email us.

new 10/3/06

Bovine Flatulence and People Eating Soy                                             Answered!

RG is looking for:

a poem or song "about cow gas and folks eating soy." He tells us it was "aired on KBFS in Belle Fourche, SD, on a Saturday morning radio show and was more of a song. The bottom line had something to do with what the world would think of the cows when they got everyone weened off beef and eating beans." 

Texas poet Linda Kirkpatrick knew the answer right away.

  South Dakota poet Elizabeth Ebert wrote "Ode to Tofu," and it is included in her book, Crazy Quilt:

  The poem was put to music in a collaboration with Curly Musgrave on his Cowboy True CD.

Elizabeth Ebert kindly gave us permission to post the poem:

Ode to Tofu

The gentle cows upon our plains
    Who feed upon the grass,
And then, in turn, expel methane
    In manner somewhat crass,
Are being blamed for making
    Our atmosphere less dense.
They say someday we'll die because
    Of bovine flatulence.

Does the answer lie in planting
    Our range lands all to soy?
If we abstain from eating beef
    Will life be filled with joy?
Let's not accept this premise
    'Til we check behind the scenes,
Just how much gas will people pass
    When they're only eating beans?

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, and included in Crazy Quilt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

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new 10/3/06

Sorting Time

Christine is looking for a poem she says is called "The Sort."  She tells us she heard it on "CFCW, in Alberta. It was about sorting day and how the neighbors were busy, on had to go to the dentist the other was getting his books done. One line was ma was in the house pouring a snort, cuz it was sorting day.  There also a line about ma locking pa in the barn, until he promise to quiet his cussing at her and the cows.  

Have an answer for Christine?  Email us.

new 10/3/06

The Cowboy's Life                                                                                  Answered

cowboylifepca1.JPG (24073 bytes)  Jason wrote to Who Knows? about a poem he had heard in the early 1980s in grade school, which started "The bawl of a steer to a cowboy's ear..." That poem (and song) is called The Cowboy's Life:

The bawl of a steer
To a cowboy's ear
Is music of sweetest strain;
And the yelping notes
Of the gray coyotes
To him are a glad refrain.

and ends:

Saddle up, boys,
For the work is play
When love's in the cowboy's eyes,
When his heart is light
As the clouds of white
That swim in the summer skies.

Our version comes from the 1921 edition of Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys. Thorp notes that he, "Heard this sung at a little round-up at Seven Lakes, New Mexico, by a puncher named Spence."

The first lines of the piece have been quoted often, have appeared on postcards (see two here along with the poem) and such. One postcard attributes  the verse to James Barton Adams and to a work of his we haven't located, "The Trail" (it does not appear in Adams' 1899 collection of poems, Breezy Western Verse).  But, Thorp, in another entry in his 1921 Songs of the Cowboys, includes a piece called A Song of the Range and notes it is "By James Barton Adams, sent me by Miss Nell Benson." The piece is very similar to "The Cowboy's Life," with some additional lines.  It begins:

The bawl of a steer to a cowboy's ear is music of sweetest strain;
And the yelling notes of the gray coyotes to him are a glad refrain;

and ends with a chorus:

Hi-lo!  Hi-lay!
For the work is play
When love's in the cowboy's eyes,
When his heart is light
As the clouds of white
That swim in the summer skies;
And his jolly song 
Speeds the hours along
As he thinks of that little gal
With the golden hair
Who'll be waiting there
At the gate of the home corral.

Read both poems in our feature about the 1921 Songs of the Cowboys, here.

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updated 10/3/06
new 3/6/06

Brush that little tear away ...

Roger wrote: Today, a man sent me a poem or song that he has read to his children and grandchildren for decades. Now, one of them wants to know where it came from. Do you have any idea? With it's reference to "wooden pony," it seems obviously written for a child.

"Brush that little tear away, old timer,
You know a cowboy never cries.
Something must have spoiled your day, old timer,
Did campfire smoke get in your eyes?
You're weary fighting battles with the redskins,
Your little wooden pony's weary, too.
So hit the trail to slumberland, old timer,
You know, a cowboy never cries."

Virginia also wrote: My dad sang this to us every night when I was a kid, but with slightly different words.  I'd love to know where this came from as well.

Brush away your little tear, old timer,
You know a cowboy never cries.
Something must have spoiled your day, old timer,
Did campfire smoke get in your eyes?
You're weary fighting battles with the redskins,
Your little wooden pony's weary, too.
So hit the trail to slumberland, old timer,
While your Daddy watches over you."

Have an answer for Roger and Virginia?  Email us.

updated 6.9.08
updated 10/03/06
new 8/19/04

Pecos Higgins                                                                                (Answered)

Dave wrote in 2004: I am looking for any information on the life of Eugene "Pecos" Higgins (1883-1971). He was a cow puncher, outlaw, poet that spent most of his life in the White Mountains of Arizona.

We were fortunate that Stanley Brown came our way.  Stan wrote: 

Put Dave in touch with me.  I knew Pecos from the Cowboy Camp Meetings in the Southwest, and can share an essay I wrote on Pecos. 

Stan, who now lives in Prescott, was the Payson, Arizona town historian and an archivist for the Rim Country Museum. He wrote two historical articles a week for the Payson Roundup (search the Archive there for many of his articles). He's a retired Methodist minister (more about Stan below).

Stan shared that essay about Pecos Higgins:


By Stan Brown

I first met Pecos Higgins under the Prayer Tree.  If I had known his background I would have thought that an odd place to find him.  

He was born Eugene Higgins, September 3, 1883, in Texas. He worked as a cowboy and by the age of 23 he had drifted to Arizona. The nickname “ Pecos ” had been given him after the name of the place his family had lived when he was a boy. He rode for the Chiricahua Cattle Company on the San Carlos Reservation and became well known as a roper in the Wild West shows that were popular around the turn of the 20th century.  

Pecos Higgins had a series of five marriages, each one failing because of his heavy drinking.  As an alcoholic he bounced between jobs in Springerville, Taylor, McNary, Show Low and New Mexico.  He went to prison for selling liquor to the Indians, and after he was released he tried to settle down on a little ranch he bought near Lakeside, called The Buckhorn.  However he lost that ranch in his next divorce and earned a living breaking mustangs.  During this time he became known as a cowboy poet, and made some money entertaining the dudes.  

So the episodes in the life of Pecos Higgins accumulated, in and out of marriages and prison, drifting, drinking, raising Cain, cattle rustling and riding the range.  One day he met a couple from his home state of Texas who in turn introduced Pecos to Joe Evans.  Evans was the founder of the Southwest Cowboy Camp Meeting movement, a tough old cowpoke who was a devout Christian.  The two cowboys began a correspondence and Pecos learned to highly respect Joe Evans. The Texan contacted a friend in Springville, asking to pick the old coot up and take him to church.  Pecos tried to refuse, but when he found out they were representing Joe Evans he agreed to go.  Joe had been sending him books along with his letters, and Pecos had begun to think about what they said.

The day the couple picked Pecos up for church he was recovering from a three-week drunk.  He stuffed a pint of whiskey into his boot and took it with him to worship. consuming it all right after the service.  The couple was persistent and got Pecos involved in Cowboy Camp Meetings being held in New Mexico and Arizona.  He would recite poetry and tell stories so that he became quite an attraction. It was an evening in 1955 when the message of God’s love got through to Pecos.  At the age of 71 he hobbled down to the front of the tent and confessed that he believed and Christ could be his boss from now on.

Higgins soon became a familiar sight at laymen’s retreats and camp meetings.  One magazine described him as “looking like a wizened, leather-skinned character from a TV western, walks half-bent, head down, jerking with each step, as if his cowboy boots are too tight.  He dresses the part of an Arizona ranch hand, including a big Stetson, bright neckerchief and boots.”

I met Pecos in 1962, a few months after he had taken up residence in the Pioneer Home in Prescott.  My family and I were attending the eight-day Camp Meeting in Chino Valley, and that afternoon all us men were gathered around the Prayer Tree on that ranch, as is the custom. While the men meet there the women all meet under the big tent.   It was Thursday, and every afternoon that week one old cowboy had spoken the same prayer, “Lord, sweep away the cobwebs from our hearts and minds.”  By this time Pecos Higgins had heard the unanswered prayer long enough, and interrupted with a prayer of his own.  “Lord, never mind the cobwebs.  Kill the spider!”

Obviously that prayer had been answered for old Pecos.  The spiders were gone from his mind and with them the cobwebs of a troubled life.  There was sweetness showing through the trail-weary renegade.  About sixty of us stood holding hands in a circle around a big juniper tree as the time of testimony and prayer came to an end.  Cowboys and ranchers were lifting their voices in prayer. Their skin must have been tougher than mine because the mosquitoes were attacking my neck and arms and there was no escape from the callused hands that griped me on either side.  Then Pecos prayed again.  “Lord,” he said, “I ain’t askin’ ya for nothin’ – I’m jist thankin’ ya for ever’thing.”  

Four years later, short of his 88th birthday, Pecos Higgins died and was laid to rest on a Prescott hillside.  His marker reads, “He made a good hand.”

© Stanley Brown, All Rights Reserved
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(Stan Brown also shared some history about the old cowboy standard, "Billy Vanero.")


More about Stan (Stanley C. Brown)

Stan Brown was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Washington and Lee University and Northwestern University, graduating from the latter in 1950 with a BS degree in American history. As a child and youth he developed skills in writing, but his career interests were changed by a calling into the Christian ministry. He obtained a master's degree in theology from Garrett Theological Seminary, and spent forty years, from 1951 to 1991, as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. During this time Stan was active in the United Christian Ashram movement, serving on its international board and as a Bible teacher and evangelist, working with E. Stanley Jones for many years.

Stan's career took him to Arizona in 1958. He and his family lived in Phoenix for five years (Central; Methodist Church), Long Beach, California for eight years (Grace United Methodist Church), and Tucson, Arizona (Catalina United Methodist Church), for twenty years until his retirement in 1991. At that time he and his wife made Payson, Arizona, their permanent home

Upon retirement Stan again took up his interest in research and writing about American history. His special area of expertise is the history of central Arizona, and Territorial Arizona. Stan was a member of the Westerner's International, Tucson Corral, and is past president of the Northern Gila County Historical Society in Payson, Arizona where he held the position of historian and archivist for the Society and its Rim Country Museum. He also was appointed Town Historian for Payson, Arizona, and wrote two articles each week on regional history for the local newspaper, The Payson Roundup. In June of 2004 Ruth and Stan moved to Prescott to take residence in the Las Fuentes Resort Village.

Stan and his wife Ruth have been married since 1949. They have three children, thirteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Most of these live in the Long Beach area of California. Stan continues historical research and writing manuscripts and historical papers.


We finally came by Pecos' Poems in 2008:


Pecos' Poems, written with Joe Evans (1956 and 1957) also contains biographical material, photos, a colorful introduction by the co-authors, letters, stories, some religious poems, cowboy poems, and poems that have been borrowed in large part from others, including "Sirene Peaks" (a version of Gail Gardner's "The Sierry Petes"); "My Little Blue Roan" (a version of Bruce Kiskaddon's  "That Little Blue Roan").

Find some of the poetry from the book, and more, here.

  The Westerners: A Roundup of Pioneer Reminiscences edited by John Myers Myers (1997) includes a chapter about Pecos Higgins, "Riding All Sorts of Trails," with a long interview from late in his life.


In 2004 we also posted this about Pecos Higgins:

We told Dave that we didn't have much info, but we did find some references on the web:


Two poems on the site of Texas poet Gene O'Quinn:

http://home.houston.rr.com/geneoquinn/id21.htm  "The Old Campfire"
http://home.houston.rr.com/geneoquinn/id26.htm "Looking for Work"

Ron Harris of Humble, Texas, sent this information in 2006:

Pecos Higgins was my great uncle.  The last time I saw him was in 1944 ( I was 6 yrs old then) at his mother's house in Pecos.  He rode his horse from Arizona to Pecos.  He tried to sell me his spurs for $2, but my mother wouldn't let me buy them because she knew he'd just buy whiskey with it.  His brother, Bert, was a world champion bull dogger (now called steer wrestler).  He went to Hollywood as a stunt man for western movies.  My grandmother and her mother-in-law, Anne Higgins, had a dairy in Pecos.  Their motto was "You can whip our cream, but you can't beat our milk."  His only brother that stayed in Pecos was Fred.  I had heard that Pecos was a cowboy poet, but never checked into it until Google came along and made it easier.

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updated 12/27/06
updated 10/25/06
updated 10/03/06
new 3/25/05

Bronc That Wouldn't Bust

Anita found words handwritten in an old book, and wondered if we knew the poem or song and who wrote them.  We've found it attributed to "Anonymous" and found a reference to the Arizona Woodchoppers singing it, and wonder if anyone has the words with an author attached.  It goes like:

I've busted bronchos off and on
Since I first struck thier trail,
and you bet I savvy bronchos
from nostrils down to tail,
But I struck one on Powder River
and say hands, he was the first
and only living broncho
that your servant couldn't burst.

The legendary Glenn Ohrlin told Pat Richardson that he knew the song and you can sing it to  "...Any damn tune, because everyone used a different tune when they sang it."   Anyone have any sources for this?

Yvette wrote:

Here is the rest of the poem.  My dad used to recite it to us when we were children. I wrote it down once when he was reciting it. I know that poems which have been repeated over and over may lose something of the original, but this is as close as I can get. Dad didn't know who wrote it. I hope this helps.

I've busted broncos off and on
Since I first struck their trail,
and you bet I savvy broncos
from nostrils down to tail,
But I struck one on Powder River
and say hands, he was the first
and only living bronco
that your servant couldn't burst.
He was a no account buckskin
with a strip down his backbone
and wooly like a sheep.
And every time he went aloft
he tried to leave me there.
Once when we went up
the lights across Jordan shone
Right there we parted company
and he came down alone.
And I hit old Tara firm
and he brought a bunch of stars
along to dance in front of me.
Now I ain't a ridin' air ships or electric flying beasts
and I ain't got rich relations waitin' me back east.
So I've sold my chaps and I sold my saddle
and my spurs can lay and rust.
For now and then there's a bronco
that a buster cannot bust.

Kim writes: I was looking for guitar chords suitable for a basic cowboy tune to accompany a lyric I just wrote, and stumbled across your great site...I was surprised to find a reference to a poem that has long been a favorite of mine, even though it now appears I only knew a fragment of it.  I knew it from the book A Horse Around The House, by Patricia Jacobson and Marcia Hayes.  This is a book about horse care that I carried with me constantly when I was a horse crazy kid (and still have today), and is not
about cowboys or poetry.  But a bit of the poem is quoted as an intro to Chapter 1, and it is quoted exactly like this:

He was a no-count buckskin
Wasn't worth two bits to keep
Had a black stripe down his backbone
And Wooly like a sheep,
That Hoss wasn't built to tread the earth,
He took natural to the air,
And every time he went aloft
He tried to leave me there.

--Anonymous tribute to an unmanageable horse.

...Interestingly, when I quoted the fragment above I always changed "built" to "born," and "backbone" to "back."  I guess that's how
such things get changed over time as they are handed down.

I'm delighted to learn that there was more to the poem, and pleased I could suggest a tiny fragment of additional information about it.

By the way, A Horse Around The House, though originally published in 1972, is still an absolutely wonderful book about horse care with fantastic illustrations drawn by Patricia Jacobson under her professional illustrator name Pat Kelly.

  A second edition of A Horse Around The House was published in 1999, and there is more information at Amazon.

In late, 2006, South Dakota poet Elizabeth Ebert wrote, "I have a copy of "The Bronc That Wouldn't Bust" from an old school poem book. It is anonymous there, too."


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new 9/12/06

Cowboy Bars: Pickwick and Hitching Post

Pat Richardson
is looking for photos of the Pickwick and the Hitching Post cowboy bars, which were in the  "Riverbottom" area of Glendale and Burbank, California in the forties or fifties.

Have any photos for Pat? You can email Pat or email us

new 7/21/06

Crossing the Divide

Lori writes:

Does anybody know the tune that "Crossing the  Divide" (by J.W. Foley from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921) is sung to?

We couldn't find any music for it or recordings.  Here are the words, which are also posted in our feature about Song of the Cowboys by Jack Thorp:

Crossing the Divide

One of the best of the lot. Heard this at round-up in the Mogollon Mountains, 
sung by a puncher named Freckles.

Parson, I'm a maverick, just runnin' loose an' grazin',
Eatin' where's th' greenest grass an' drinkin' where I choose;
Had to rustle in my youth an' never had no raisin';
Was n't never halter broke an' I ain't much to lose;
Used to sleepin' in a bag an' livin' in a slicker;
Church folks never branded me -- I don't know as they tried;
Wish you'd say a prayer for me an' try to make a dicker
For the best they'll give me when I cross the Big Divide.

Tell 'em I ain't corralled a night in more 'n twenty;
Tell 'em I'm rawboned an' rough an' ain't much for looks;
Tell 'em I don't need much grief because I've had a-plenty;
I don't know how bad I am 'cause I ain't kept no books.
Tell 'em I'm a maverick a-runnin' loose unbranded;
Tell 'em I shoot straight an' quick an' ain't got much to hide;
Have 'em come an' size me up as soon as I get landed,
For the best they'll give me when I cross the Great Divide

Tell 'em I rode straight an' square an' never grabbed for leather;
Never roped a crippled steer or rode a sore-backed horse;
Tell 'em I've bucked wind an' rain an' every sort of weather,
Had my tilts with A. K. Hall an' Captain R. E. Morse.
Don't hide nothin' from 'em, whether it be sweet or bitter,
Tell 'em I'll stay on th' range, but if I'm shut outside
I'll abide it like a man because I ain't no quitter;
I ain't going to change just when I cross th' Bigt Divide

Tell 'em, when th' Roundup comes for all us human critters,
Just corral me with my kind an' run a brand on me;
I don't want to be corralled with hypocrites an' quitters;
Brand me just for what I am -- an' I'm just what you see.
I don't want no steam-het stall or bran-mash for my ration;
I just want to meet th' boss an' face him honest-eyed,
Show him just what chips I got an' shove 'em in for cashin';
That's what you can tell 'em when I cross the Big Divide.

by J. W. Foley, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

J. W. (James William) Foley, 1874-1939, was a North Dakota Poet Laureate. He wrote the state song. He also wrote plays, lyrics, short fiction, and other works. He published a number of books of poetry, including A Little Book of Prairie Breezes (1902), Songs of Schooldays (1906), Boys and Girls (1913), Tales of the Trail (1914), New Verses of Human Folks (1916), Friendly Rhymes (1918), and Just for Fun Verses (1923). There's a photo of J. W. Foley here at the North Dakota State University Institute for Regional Studies' portrait collection site.

Have an answer for Lori?  Email us.

new 7/13/06

California Joe

Kay writes:

Well, I would like to know who wrote "California Joe," about an old trapper who trapped with Jim Bridger, and does anyone have the song recorded or in their memory--besides me--with its 1800s tune of course?

It was sung to my mother in the 1890s by old cowboys that rode with my grandfather for Montague Stevens (The Englishman) in the New Mexico Mountains down around Reserve and Tularosa (the one on the San Pedro Creek
in Catron County ).

Now, somebody by the name of Ringer sang the song on tape, pretty near the correct words of the long story.  But his tune was WAY off from the original tune with its unique timing and tempo.

I would like to correspond with someone else who knows the old, original tune.  I had a rendition as passed down to me by
the Mangum cowboys  of New Mexico, from Stevens' cowhands.

Your interest could lead to an exchange of tapes of some really old and authentic words and tunes.

We answered:

The version from the 1938 Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax begins:

Well mates, I don't like stories; 
Or am I going to act
A part around the campfire 
that ain't a truthful fact?
So fill your pipes and listen; 
I'll tell you -- let me see--
I think it was in Fifty
From that to Sixty-three.

You've all heard tell of Bridger;
I used to run with Jim,
And many a hard day's scouting
I've done 'longside of him;
Well, once near old Fort Reno, 
a trapper used to dwell;
We called him old Pap Reynolds,
The scouts all knew him well.

That book notes the song is "Written by Captain Jack Crawford, Indian scout and hunter."

You will find some lyrics and information at this site:

and audio and lyrics at this site:

Here is the album that Jim Ringer recorded with "California Joe":

We looked in our music reference books and found some information.

Guy Logsdon, in his book,
The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing and Other Songs Cowboys Sing, devotes a number of pages to the song (pp.173-178) and includes information about the authorship (John Wallace "Captain Jack" Crawford), words, and music.  He writes:

Who set the poem to music and when it happened are not known, but John A. Lomax included the song in his 1910 edition of Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, however, it was not a complete text. When the 1938 edition appeared, a twenty-six verse text was used, along with credit given to Captain Jack Crawford. The only other collector to include "Cowboy Joe" in a printed collection was Margaret Larkin in her Singing Cowboy. In 1971, a California variant was published in Western Folklore as collected by Sunny Goodier, and in response to her solicitation for additional information, in 1973 Austin E. Fife provided bibliographical information about no fewer than twenty variants from at least eight states. Jack Thorp in his copy of Lomax (1916) indicated that he had collected the song, but he did not use it in his 1921 edition of Songs of the Cowboys.

Have more information for Kay?  Email us.

new 7/13/06

Singing cowboys' duet

Mary Jo asks:

I trying to find a song that either Rex Allen and Tex Ritter sang  together...or someone else did...but, it takes place while riding  double on a horse and they talk back and forth.

I'd appreciate any/all info. in helping me find the title to this  song and who sung it.

Have an answer for Mary Jo?  Email us.

new 5/25/06

Cowboy as artist

B. writes:

I am trying to locate a poem I once read or heard about branding.  I remember that the poem referred to the cowboy as the artist, the hide as his canvas, and the finished product being the masterpiece

Have an answer for B?  Email us.

new 5/23/06

Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong

Jerry wrote to us:

Do you have any information on poetry by Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong? He was a stagecoach driver in Kansas and Colorado and spent much of his time in Barber County, Kansas.

Here's a web page I've made about him, which includes a photo of him driving a stage:

He died March 16, 1923, after having been "crippled up" for several years from being kicked by a horse.

One source of information about him states that he wrote "cowboy poetry." My guess is that his poems would have been published in The Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Barber Co., Kansas), as the editor of that local newspaper also published poems by Orange Scott Cummins, and is credited for having given "The Pilgrim Bard" his first exposure to the public. http://www.rootsweb.com/~ksbarber/cummins_scott.html

(Jerry has an interest in poetry and maintains a site here: http://www.rootsweb.com/~kscomanc/poetry.html.  He writes, "
It is striking how many of the obituaries - 1,200 or so - on that site include a poem written by a friend or family member, or quote a well-known poem...It would delight me to no end if some of your readers found inspiration in some of the stories on my websites
http://www.rootsweb.com/~kscomanc/index.html and http://www.rootsweb.com/~ksbarber/index.html as their own springboard for writing cowboy poetry...Should readers of your site be inspired to write their own poems based on stories found on my site, I'd be very happy to read those poems and possibly publish them on my site.  Please ask your readers to see this page for my current email address: http://www.rootsweb.com/~kscomanc/contact.html.")

Have an answer for Jerry?  You can email Jerry at the address at his site here or email us with any information.

updated 9/12/06
new 5/17/06

Dr. Fred Bornstedt                                                               An Answer ...

Richard Klebieko found us when he lit on the name of Dr. Fred Bornstedt, who is mentioned in our index of Boots magazine. The Fall, 1992 issue, has a memorial to him, and says, in part, "He had worked over 40 years as a buckaroo and 26 of those as cow/calf veterinarian...From the Army to the Bunch Grass Band, he sang his way through life..."

Richard writes: My name is Richard Klebieko and my mother's maiden name is Nooreguard. We are both looking for any kind of information on Dr. Fred Bornstedt who passed away in 1992 while working on the Lightning Creek Ranch near Imnaha, Oregon. He wrote poetry and published two country albums. He is a cousin to my mother. She is assembling a genealogy tree and photo/document album on her side of the family. She was born and raised in Baker, Oregon.

We were also hoping to see if we can acquire or find where we can get those albums. One is titled "Take Me Back to the Wallowas" and the other, "Church in the Wildwood" (Rainbow Records of Hollywood).

Any information or links would be greatly appreciated.

Smoke Wade was able to help and to give Rick some contact names.  Smoke wrote,  in part, "Fred worked as a ranch hand on our family ranch system in Hells Canyon...This was over forty years ago...My uncle has tapes of Fred's poetry."

Have more for Richard?  You can email Richard or email us with any information.

new 5/4/06

Hard pan Jake ... When Californy's Dry

Dick writes:  My Dad recited this poem when I was a kid, ( I am now 77 !) I don't know where he had heard it, or even if he wrote it himself, doubtful. I've done a lot of searching in many places over the years but no luck. Here's what I remember of it. I suspect the title is "When Californy's Dry" 

Hard pan Jake from the head of the lake,
With hair on his chest, that's me.
I've pawed this earth since my day of birth.
With a Spirit wild and free.

What would they do, that roaring crew,
Them wolves what I used to know,
If they heard the news that you can't have booze,
In this land where the Jag Vines grow?

I reckon they'd shoot any damned galloot
That threatened to stop their Rye
They'll not be here ,my soul to cheer
When Californy's dry.

I assume it was during prohibition days when it was written, seems like there were a couple more lines or maybe even verses. mentioning Toulomb Bill and Tag Mcgill, or some such.

Have an answer for Dick?  Email us.

new 5/4/06

Bunk house roof is leaking ...

Amber wrote: We're looking for a letter/poem ...my grandfather... used to use this in sermons...We think it's Will Rogers work and there's a line in it "I have to stop writing now because the bunk house roof is leaking." 

Have an answer for Amber?  Email us.


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