Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

This is Page 2.

See Page 1 for an index to the questions, answers, and poems.

Page 3

Page 4

new 1/12/03

The Poem from "8 Seconds," the Movie about Lane Frost    answered

We get many of requests like this one from Leann: "I was watching the movie 8 Seconds with Lane Frost and Tuff Hedeman and they had a poem in the movie . I believe it to be called the "Legacy of a Cowboy." Could you help me find this poem?

In the movie, the poem is called "Cowboy is his Name"  It is a version of Baxter Black's poem, "Legacy of the Rodeo Man."  You can read the text Baxter's poem here at the BAR-D and read both poems here on a fine site dedicated to Lane Frost.

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updated 10/25/06
updated 7/13/06
updated 5/4/06
updated 3/25/05
updated 12/15/03
updated 5/15/03
updated 1/12/03
new 8/19/02

Just What Do "Snuffy" and "Fiery" Mean in "I Ride and Old Paint"?
(and some words about "Hoolihan" and about the "old dan")

Barbara asks:

When we were in Missoula, Montana last month, we had dinner with a couple who lived there. We got to talking about songs about Montana and I sang "I Ride an Ol' Paint" for them. I had learned that song forty years ago in grade school. I seem to remember that the teacher explained what "the fiery and the snuffy" meant, but that explanation didn't sit well with our new Montana friends. I searched all over the internet for a site that might tell me, but the only one I found with footnotes  said only that snuffy meant "snuff colored, or reddish-brown." Can you tell me who is right? Our friend from Montana said that  fiery and snuffy referred to two different colored dogies and I think I remember my teacher telling me that it referred to the names of two locomotives waiting to take the cattle to market after the roundup. Thanks.

Snuffy and Fiery

We told Barbara:

In the Songs of the Wild West, with commentary by Alan Axelrod, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art 1991, the author says "...fiery (another term for paint) and the snuffy (a buff- or snuff-colored horse)..." 

Someone else weighed in:

Regarding the meaning of "the fiery & snuffy" have always meant (to me) that the ones prone to spooking & snorting (the fiery & the snuff-y) are just LOOKING for an excuse to stampede.  Seems perfectly obvious!  And therefore, you would want to "ride around them SLOW."

Popular musician, auctioneer and DJ Stan Howe from Montana offers:

The "Fiery & Snuffy" in "I Ride and Old Paint" refer to Lighting and Thunder.  Those names for it were well known  to anyone in Wyoming and Montana at the time the song was written.  Note that the line is:  "For the fiery and snuffy are ready to go."  Often it is sung as:  "For they're fiery and snuffy and ready to go," which also works if you consider the cattle to be fiery and snuffy.  What it really refers to, though, is lightning and thunder.
Reference: Old time cowboy fiddler and singer Jim Beebe, son of Steve Bebee, famous Texas/Montana trail hand pictured in many of the early books on Montana including Before Barbed Wire: L. A. Huffman, Photographer on Horseback by Mark H. Brown

Don adds:

[My dad]  said "fiery" and "snuffy" were the campfire and branding iron.

In July, 2006, Milton wrote: 

Having worked as a cowboy in Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Idaho, and about the terms "fiery and  snuffys": whenever you're holding up a herd of cattle to work, be it branding or cutting out steers, there are always a certain few in the herd that are looking for a chance to breakout of the hold up and head back to their home range. 

Ray commented in October, 2006.  See his comments here.

Here are the words:

I Ride an Old Paint

I ride an old paint, I lead an old dan
I'm goin' to Montana to throw the hoolihan
They feed in the coulees, they water in the draw
Their tails are all matted, their backs are all raw

Ride around little dogies, ride around them slow
For the fiery and snuffy are rarin' to go

Old Bill Jones had a daughter and a son
One went to college, the other went wrong
His wife, she got killed in a poolroom fight
But still he's a-singin' from mornin' till night

When I die, take my saddle from the wall
Place it on my old pony, lead him out of his stall
Tie my bones to my saddle and turn our faces to the West
And we'll ride the prairie we love the best

I ride an old paint, I lead an old dan
I'm goin' to Montana to throw the hoolihan
They feed in the coulees, they water in the draw
Their tails are all matted, and their backs are all raw

Don adds:

I learned a slightly different version of this song from an old Burl Ives record my Dad had years ago:

"Old Bill Jones had two daughters and a song;
one went to Denver; the other went wrong.
His wife, she died in a pool room fight.
Still he keeps singin' all day and all night."


We get questions about the meaning of  "hoolihan."  

In the 1933 Cowboy Lore, by Jules Verne Allen (more about that here) one interesting section of commonly used terms includes entries such as "HOOLIHANING, the act of leaping forward and alighting on the horns of a steer in bull-dogging in a manner to knock the steer down without having to resort to twisting the animal down with a wrestling hold. Hoolihaning is barred at practically all recognized contests."  

In response to our posting that information, Rod Miller wrote "The line 'throw the Hoolihan' that appears in 'I Ride an Old Paint' almost surely refers to a type of loop used in roping, often for catching horses. A hoolihan is a kind of backhand loop, but distinct from a regular backhand loop in that the roper rolls his wrist and the loop rolls over in the air. That rolling motion also describes the motion of a hoolihanned steer in bulldogging -- it does a forward roll. It is unlikely that the line in the song has reference to bulldogging as Bill Pickett is credited with inventing that particular activity long after, I suspect, 'I Ride an Old Paint" was first written and sung."

Rod also referred us to the definition of "hooley-ann" in Ramon F. Adams' Cowboy Lingo (1936): "The term 'hooley-ann' was a roping term and the throw was used mostly to catch calves out of a bunch and to rope horses. The roper rode with his loop in his hand, and when the chance presented itself, he swung the loop backward instead of forward, and as it came over it was turned in such a way as to cause it to flatten out before it reached the head of the animal to be roped.  Just one swing and it could be tossed thirty feet forward. The size of the loop depended upon the distance it was to be thrown and the size of the animal. A good calf-roper who used the 'hooley-ann' might be thirty feet from a wee tot of a calf and start a loop that a beef steer could pass through, but the noose ran out by reason of the distance, and by the time it reached the calf, it was barely large enough to pass around the calf's neck."

Adams' definition of "hoolihaning" is word-for-word the same as that in Jules Verne Allen's Cowboy Lore cited above.  Cowboy Lore was published three years before Adams' book.

A history site here: http://historywired.si.edu/detail.cfm?ID=49  claims "A Hoolihan is a left-hand-and-around horse throw. The rope is released with minimum of movement."

A site here:  http://home.att.net/~basicbrian/iride.html has the song and a note: "A very dangerous rodeo move, jumping from a horse at full gallop onto a moving cow, to flip it over. The move, named after it's originator, is now banned in competition."

The PBS History of the West site places the song in the 1868-1874 period, but without documentation. 


In May, 2006, Don comments: 

"My Dad, who grew up in the 1920's and 1930's on a ranch in west Texas, said that throwing the hoolihan could be used to mean 'getting ready to die' similar to 'headin' for the last roundup.'" 

In July, 2006, Milton writes: 

Hoolihan is a loop thrown, usually when you're roping horses.

Ray commented in October, 2006.  See his comments here.


Old Dan

In March, 2005 Danni writes: 

... the writer refers to "leading an old Dan. Is an old dan a mule or another type of horse?

We answered:

In in Songs of the Wild West, Alan Axelrod writes "Some versions of this song say "old dam" rather than "old Dan" which suggests the pack horse is the old paint's mother."  Others have suggested it is "dun," a reference to the color of the horse.


In October, 2006, Ray writes:

I have read several times, with some amusement, this discussion about the words in the old song, "I Ride an Old Paint." I finally decided that I had just as well get into the fray.

First I will state an observation, based on many years in the saddle and observing people that either work in the periphery of the cowboys world such as forest rangers, veterinarians, ranch-hands, sometimes ranch managers or owners or others that have made a study of the cowboy like college professors, musicians, entertainers and artists.  Many of these people have written authoritative descriptions and opinions of a cowboy's life and language.  Some of their work is very entertaining and often close to the mark but if you read long enough you can detect a lack of the smell of sage brush and horse manure.  When you read the opinions about "Old Paint" and "Old Dan," or "Fiery" and "Snuffy,, or what is a "hoolihan," some of them sound plausible, some of them are funny and some of them are downright absurd. Of all the ideas about these words the only one that hit the mark was the man that said he had cowboyed in four or five states.

Starting from the beginning, anyone that has caught horses around a roundup wagon as the daylight is starting to break in the east (when you have to bend down so you can skyline a horses ears to know where to throw your "hoolihan") more then a few times has known a multicolored horse called Paint or a faithful old Dan.  When I think of the big wagon outfits around the west I can't recall one that didn't have a Paint Hoss  and an Old Dan. Fiery and Snuffy were more often used as adjectives to describe the way a horse or another animal acted although I've known horses that were named as
such because that was the way that they acted.  Fiery would fire (buck) at any opportunity. Snuffy was just touchy and had to snort whenever he was startled.  In the context of this song, Fiery and Snuffy are a couple critters that were spooky and ready to run at the drop of a hat, hence they acquired the names. The hoolihan, again as the old cowboy indicated, is a method of throwing a loop with a minimum amount of motion.  Instead of whirling the loop around your head as is generally done when in pursuit of a critter the loop is kept still at your side until the opportune time when it is then flipped backhanded to the unsuspecting target head. The idea is to avoid excess motion that would disturb flighty cattle or horses. When a steer is hoolihanned his head is jammed into the ground so that he flips straight over in a similar fashion.  Bill Pickett is credited with introducing the hoolihan to the early day rodeos but I believe it was practiced by the early California Vaqueros in "la plaza de toros."


We welcome your comments, as always.

See Jack Thorp's 1921 version of "Old Paint" in our feature here.

By the way, the song is included in our anthology, The Big Roundup.

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answered 1/5/03
new 7/29/02

Old Fort Laramie                       Answered!

Don wrote to us:

Don't know if you can help out but my father learned a poem in grade school as a youngster back in the 30's.  He can still recite the poem, but doesn't recall the name of the poem or the author, I was wondering if you could help.  The first line of the poem goes,

Old Fort Laramie long ago faced a siege and a blizzard snow,

Then he added:

I got a little more of the poem I previously wrote you about, but still do not know the author or the name of the poem, please help if you can.  The poem goes....

Old Fort Laramie long ago, 
faced a siege in blizzard snow, 
faced three thousand circling Sioux, 
raging red and arrows slew, 
Every man that showed his head, 
faced them short of men and lead.
Full two hundred miles would be, 
down the trail to Laramie.
Who will go asked Harrington, 
Quick as the word there up spoke one.  
Philip Trapper, hunter, scout, 
waits till night then ventures out, 
crawls out crafty thru the snow, 
weather thirty odds below. 
Leading lest their keen eyes find him, 
a snow white horse five rods behind him.  
Bare back lest the saddle shake, 
so he crawls till day break.
Day break comes he mounts and rides, 
rides with the death of a caravan, 
chewing frozen pemmican.
Horse shoe station greets his eyes, 
there the telegraph he tries, 
wires have snapped with weighted snow,
Still forty more "cold" miles to go.

We knew this one.  It is "Some Call it Brave," by S. Omar Barker, found in his book, Rawhide Rhymes.  The book is out of print, but available from libraries and used book sources.  It actually starts:

Old Fort Kearney, long ago,
Faced a siege in a blizzard's snow;
Faced three thousand circling Sioux,
Raging reds whose arrows slew
Every man who showed his head;
Faced them short of men and lead.

and it ends:

Old Fort Kearney, long ago,
Heard thrice-welcome bugles blow.
Up the trail from Laramie,
Troopers brought delivery.
Though no stone marks Phillips' grave,
Some there are who call him brave.
Booming like a muffled drum,
Still the Big Horn blizzards come,
Chanting snowy litanies:
"We remember the Portuguese!"

See our feature on S. Omar Barker here.

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answered 12/18/02
updated 11/29/02
new 9/04/02

Eating off the Dog's Plate                                    Answered!!
("Mad Jack's Dog" by Rod McQueary)

Carnes asks:

I wonder if you can help me find a poem. I heard it years ago on the Johnny Carson show when he had Baxter Black and some other "cowboy poets" on. This isn't a Baxter Black poem though. All I remember of it was the first line which said "It was a small and _____ cabin, thick dirt roof and round corral" and the last line was something like "he's not mad its just you're eating off his plate." It was the story of a cowboy who stopped at an old prospectors cabin and ended up staying for supper and had to eat off the dog's plate. I thought it was so funny. Any help you could give me would be truly appreciated.

Oakbook asked about the same poem:

I was hoping to find someone who might remember a poem that was in a cowboy magazine about 10 to 15 years ago.  It was about a cowboy or trapper who came upon an old cabin and the old guy there invited the traveler in to have supper.  While they where eatin' the old guys dog kept growling at the traveler until he asked the old guy why.  The old guy told him that he was eatin' off of the dogs plate.  Somehow this poem stuck in my head but I cannot find a copy of it anywhere.

Poet Rod McQueary (see more about him and his poetry here) wrote to us:

I wrote this and recited it on the Tonight Show, with Colen Sweeten in February, 1991.

Mad Jack's Dog

It was a short and squatty cabin
Thick dirt roof and round corral
From the distance, it looked interesting,
I stopped to rest my horse a spell.

From around behind this cabin
This wild-eyed old-timer came
Said his name was Mad Jack Hanks,
I shook his hand, told him my name.

Said he was up there trapping beaver,
And that he had the lonesome blues,
Soon, he offered bed and breakfast,
If I would share the latest news.

I agreed to his proposal
He seemed glad to have me stay,
He was rustling up some tableware,
While I put my horse away.

He had some supper going,
I hauled in a load of wood.
I shared the latest current events,
-and things were going good...

'Till I reached down to pet his damned old dog,
I truly meant no harm,
But before you know it, that old wolf had bit me on the arm.
"Mad Jack," I said, "why does your dog just glare at me with hate?"

"Oh, it's nothin', he's just cranky cause--
You're eatin off his plate.

           © 1991, Rod McQueary

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updated 11/8/10
updated 1/23/05
updated 2/13/04
updated 12/15/03
updated 12/12/03
updated 11/25/03
updated 10/30/03
updated 5/01/03
new 12/01/02

Cowboy Poets on the Tonight Show

A number of Cowboy Poets appeared on Johnny Carson's NBC Tonight Show in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Baxter Black, Waddie Mitchell, Lloyd Gerber, Colen Sweeten, Rodney Nelson, Carlos Ashley, Martin Bergin, Kay Kelley, Gwen Petersen, Nyle Henderson, and Rod McQueary.

Jeri Dobrowski wrote: 

Add the name of Kay Kelley to those who performed on the Tonight Show. I'm pretty sure she was on the same show as Rod Nelson -- the first segment featuring cowboy poets.

The Santa Fe, N.M. cowgirl poet did her poem lamenting the misunderstanding between ranch and wrench. Seems she fell in love with her future husband, when he said he had a "big ranch." Only later did she come to realize that what he had said was "big wrench." Alas, plumbing tools were not what she had in mind!

Kay performed at the first and second Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gatherings, Medora, N.D., back in 1987 and 1988.

Jeri's note led us search further and we and found that www.JohnnyCarson.com has a good searchable database, from which  we extracted some additional dates for the poets who appeared on the show:

02-08-85 Waddie Mitchell and Nyle Henderson (Thanks to Bob Sigman of Chuckwagon's Best for this one)

01-15-1986 Waddie Mitchell and Gwen Petersen

01-08-1987 Waddie Mitchell and Baxter Black

1-4-88  Baxter Black

1-19-89 Baxter Black and Carlos Ashley

02-3-89 Lloyd Gerber and Martin Bergin

03-24-1989  Kay Kelley and Rodney Nelson

1-17-90 Baxter Black

02-08-1991 [This was the date that Colen Sweeten and Rod McQueary were "bumped" when the show ran out of time.]

02-21-1991 Colen Sweeten and Rod McQueary

8-28-91 Baxter Black

1-17-92 Baxter Black

 In 2010, Baxter Black released Baxter Black Double DVD Live, which includes previously uncollected segments of his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and additional material. Material performed on The Tonight Show includes "Vegetarian's Nightmare," "The Oyster," "All I Want for Christmas," "Stamp Machine," "The Accident," "AARP!," "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," and "Perfect Gift."

Doug Brewer reminded us of a poem by the late Colen Sweeten, a poem Colen wrote about being "bumped" from the Tonight Show the first time he and Rod McQueary were invited, when the show ran out of time. That was Colen's poem "Famous—Almost":


We'd spent the weekend down in Elko
With cowboy poets—what a sight!
There came a call from the Tonight Show,
They invited me for Friday night!
My eyebrows were twitching with excitement
As I put the receiver down.
Then the word spread like a brushfire
To a thousand people in our town.

Each friend had a friend who had a friend,
Our town is a friendly place.
Word made the rounds in leaps and bounds
To what seemed half the human race.
The show had made all arrangements.
I flew with Delta to L. A.
Where a limo waited at the airport
To take me to a fancy place to stay.

The studio had my name printed
On a dressing-room for just one night.
They finally got to where they could spell it
But they never did pronounce it right.
Rod came in at the last minute.
He said his horse had come up lame.
We spruced up some and put our hats on,
We were on our way to fame!

We got close enough to see the spotlight
But we didn't say one cowboy rhyme
We got the V. I. P. treatment
But they just flat-out ran out of time.
So I've come to a conclusion,
It's like a boyhood I once knew,
When I got far too much attention
Over something that I didn't do.

© 1992, Colen H. Sweeten, Jr.

When Colen returned and was on the show, he recited "Feelin' My Oats," which poked fun of the Quaker Oats commercials starring Wilford Brimley.  He had to explain a few lines that would have gone over the heads of non-ag viewers: "... I'm eating oats three times a day/ If I ate that much wheat the soles of my feet / Would look like runners on a sleigh."

Rod McQueary recited "Mad Jack's Dog," which is mentioned above.

Friends of Cowboy Poetry mourn the loss of Johnny Carson, who died January 23, 2005.

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new 11/29/02

The Canvassing Agent

Terri wrote to us first:

I am looking for a reading, ballad, cowboy poem, ???  not sure, but they were recited at community gatherings in Weiser, Idaho in 1920's-1930's called "Alaska"  and "The Canvassing Agent."  Have you ever heard of these???? I think Alaska was the name of a woman.

We suggested "Lasca" to Terri and that was one of the poems. We were interested in these early Weiser gatherings and asked her to tell us more.  She said she was asking on the part of her mother-in-law, who had placed an ad in a publication naming these and other poems: 

"Wanted:  words to readings my father, William Oliver Turnidge (of Monroe Creek, north of Weiser, Idaho) recited at community gatherings in 1920's-1930's..."

Terri found the sources of the other poems and then got a description of "The Canvassing Agent" from her mother in law: "A gal was in her house and there was a knock at the door.  It was a salesman and she pretended that she couldn't hear, because he was trying to sell her something through the door.  So, he would talk and she would pretend that he was her long lost lover.  So the conversation would go on, with him talking (trying to sell her on his product) with her replying each time with something  like he was her long lost lover."

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new 10/20/02

When I Pitch My Tent at the End of the Trail 

Connie asks:

I've been contacted by a librarian with a patron who is looking for the complete poem and poet's name for a poem which includes the following lines.  (The poem was recited to the patron by her 92-year-old grandmother):

At the end of the trail where er' that may be
When death draws rein to speak to me
With howdy pardner I hope I'll grin
-------------sit and chin?

Though my hand may be shakey
There never was-------------

How am I to know that God's not a friend
Waiting to give me that comrade's hail
When I pitch my tent at the end of the trail

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updated 12/12/03
new 10/20/02

"Sleepin' in the Bunkhouse" by Ken Gardner     Answered!

Many Gates Poem

Nancy asks:

Do you know where I might find:

In December 2003 Ken Gardner himself wrote to us, and said:

"The book has not been published.  Only a couple of computer-generated copies exist and those are in my possession."  

We'll keep you posted on any news we receive.

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new 9/04/02

Tie That Binds

Mary Ann wrote to us: 

I'm a reference librarian and have a patron who is looking for a poem he heard years ago.  All he remembers is that it referred to a "tie that binds" and how you don't have to wear such a thing in the West.  I can't find a reference to such a thing.  Can you help?  Thanks!

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new 9/04/02
answered 9/07/02

The Knife and the Orange                         Answered!

Milton asks:

Quite a while back, I heard a poem on TV about a cowboy who cuts up an orange with his knife all the while telling what terrible things he does with that knife.  When he's done cutting up the orange and has it distributed to his listeners, he let's them know that when the knife gets too dirty, he cleans it with an orange.

It's a terrible funny poem, but I've not seen it written anywhere. Would you know who wrote it or where I can get a copy of this poem?  I'd be very grateful for your assistance..

Chuck Larsen of Saratoga, Wyoming led us right to the answer and the poet in question, his friend John Nelson of Gunnison, Colorado.  You can enjoy John's poem, "Never Eat Oranges," right here.  The poem is included in John Nelson's book, My Participle's Danglin', available for $10 from John Nelson, The Gunnison Country Guide Service, P.O. Box 1443, Gunnison, CO 81230 (970) 641-2830.

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updated 1/20/05
updated 2/14/04
new 9/04/02

The Guide -- High up and Lonesome                  Answered!!

Martin asks:

I was looking for a poem called "The Guide."  I have no idea who wrote it. It has a refrain....something about "high up and lonesome..." If you have any ideas about where I might find it, I sure would appreciate it.

John Nelson (see the reference to his poem, "Never Eat Oranges," above) noticed this question and had the answer. He told us "That poem is called "The Guide" and was written by Brian Brannon.  It was published in Western Horseman magazine several years ago... I am a guide/outfitter and memorized the poem from the magazine and sometimes used to recite it for guests on pack trips..."  With a search of the magazine's archives, we found it was in the February, 1992 issue. Seems Brian Brannon is a hard guy to find these days.

January, 2005 update:

Brian Brannon is back from the mountains, and we're pleased to have "The Guide" and some of his other poems right here.

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new 8/21/02

"The Luck of a Buck" S. Omar Barker?

Steve wrote to us:

For years my dad has quoted a poem he swears was by S. Omar Barker called "The Luck of a Buck." My brothers and I have searched far and wide for a copy of it and have had no luck. This weekend is my Dad's 75th and I'm hoping that you folks might be able to help me. He remembers that it was in a magazine such as "Field & Stream" or "Outdoor Life" any clues?

We asked if he had any further clues, and he wrote:

I do remember bits and pieces, I think, so here goes:

  "It was mid-November and the air was chill
  when two big bucks came over the hill.
  Their sharp hooves cut the frozen snow
  like biscuit cutters cutting biscuit dough.

  The home-town boy, we'll call him Mac,
  took one look at the almanac..."

Sorry, boys, that's all I remember. I do know it was a long "story-type" poem (which I heard 100's of times) and as I said earlier, it was featured in an outdoor magazine. My Dad tells of how his teacher back in the ol' one room school house made him and the other rough and tumble farm boys memorize it when they complained that poetry was for girls (now there was a teacher who knew how to reach her students!) and after that he sat in his deer stand and said over and over to himself.


Click to view at Amazon.com

We talked to Janice Coggin, a font of information and the publisher of the definitive S. Omar Barker book (that doesn't include the poem) and she said "....ummmm....maybe it was a part of his nature poetry, I have some of that somewhere.  And maybe it was his brother, John, well known writer and the person who found Smokey the Bear.  He wrote stories and some poetry."  She mentioned that they both wrote for the outdoor magazines. 

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updated 8/19/04
updated 5/01/03
updated 10/24/02
updated 9/04/02

"Pretty Good Dog," "The Order Buyer" A Kansas Poet?            Answered

Dan from the Lazy D wrote to us:

I am trying to find a poet. I don't know the poet's name. I only know a few poems called "A Pretty Good Dog" and "The Order Buyer". I think he was from Kansas. He published those poems around 1990. They were on a cassette tape. He had one poem about going roping in Nebraska. I know some of the lines from the poems....the most memorable is about three cowboys from Kansas going roping in Nebraska and coming upon icy roads. As they start down a really slick hill, the driver says to the passenger "Wake ole Leroy up. He's never seen a real bad wreck."  Another poem was about  the poet helping a neighbor work cattle and someone bringing a "Pretty good cow dog" as they get the cattle penned the dog chases them thru the fence and loses em all. There was a story about the poet being invited to read poetry at a ladies tea by mistake but they enjoyed him so much they had him back the next year. One story was about an old cowboy taking his old horse to the sale but not being able to sell him and when he got home his wife had the stall all ready for the old horse cause she knew her husband would PO him and bring him home. I'm almost sure this  cowboy poet story teller was from Kansas and I bought his cassette at the bit and spur show in Abiline Tx in 1990 or '91. I've lost the cassette and have looked  for it every time I seen cowboy poetry for sale. Any help would be appreciated. 


Missouri Cowboy Poet Johnny Kendrick had information for Dan:

I'm not certain, but I think the author of the poems you're talking about is Jack DeWerff, who, as far as I know, is at Ellinwood, Kansas. He appeared at the Echoes of the Trail poetry gathering at Fort Scott, Kansas, a few years ago and it seems like I remember him reciting those two you mentioned. There's a CD made at the 1998 Echoes of the Trail that has DeWerff doing "From a Dog's Point of View," though that's not the same one as you mention. Hope this helps.

DJ Jo Hargrave (Keepin' it Cowboy) tracked down poet Jack DeWerff (she had the same tape and the same question).  She told us in August, 2004:

Jack had an earlier tape from the '80s but thought it wasn't real good quality so he went into a studio and redid his recordings and added to them in 1990.  One set is Prairie Tales in Rhyme Vol 1 & 2.  The other is Cowboy Philosophy Vol 1 & 2.  There are 2 tapes in each set so they are $20 a set plus $2.50 shipping.  I have used his stories and poems many times on my show.  He is a wonderful man and a great storyteller.

Contact Jo through her web site: www.keepinitcowboy.com.

"Pretty Good Dog" and five other poems by Jack DeWerff are included in Prairie Poetry: Cowboy Verse of Kansas, edited by our Honored Guest Jim Hoy.  


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new 8/19/02

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

Barbara wrote to us:

I have only the following lines:

"Way out where the West begins, you'll find Oklahoma,
They say that's where your troubles end, out in Oklahoma."

I believe it to have been used in a movie made in the forties. It was a song sung by a young girl. Do you know the song? Can you tell me what movie it was? Thanks.

We told Barbara that we knew a song about Kansas from the 40s that has that business about "troubles end" http://www.angelfire.com/ks/tomes2/KansasSongs/Sunflower.htm but we didn't have any Oklahoma answers.

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new 8/19/02

Fort Ransom Rodeo Poem by Charlie Hunt

Kathleen wrote to us:

I am looking for a cowboy poem by Charlie Hunt. It is a story about Russell Larson roping a buffalo at a rodeo in Fort Ransom, ND. I heard the poem in Medora ND several years ago and have been trying to  get a copy of it for my brother. He was there at the rodeo so I know it's a true story. Can you help in any way?

With the kind help Yvonne Hollenbeck, we got in touch with Charlie Hunt and he answered:

That's been a long time ago, I'm afraid.  I remember the poem but not well enough to write it down.  I wrote it before I began saving some of my poems. I must have written it down because I remember using it at Medora just one time and that's maybe 6 or 8 years ago.  If I can run across it, I'll sure send it to you.

We'll keep you posted.

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new 7/29/02

A Buckaroo from the Circle Two

Rob wrote to us:

I am looking for a poem that I used to know.  It starts with the verse, "A buckaroo from the Circle 2, after drawing all his pay.  Headed straight for town where he rode right down to the bar called Happy Day..."  I think the poem was originally published in Cowboy Magazine, would have been maybe 1993-1995 possibly.  I was working at the Ward Ranch in Tulare CA at the time, and I remember reciting it to some of the other hands there, but that's about as close as I can nail it down.  Seems like it was maybe called "The Storm" or something similar.  The poem told the story of a cowboy kid who causes a stampede, resulting in the death of an older hand by the name of Reed.  After the incident, he "sold his kack, never went back, his cowboy days were through..."  When the poem ends, the old man telling the story in the bar to the young buckaroo gets up and leaves.  After eavesdropping on the story, the bartender realizes that the old man is the kid in the story; he ended up a sad, old drunk.  I still remember the bulk of it, but I'm missing about the middle 3 stanzas.  Its about 100 lines in length.  Please help!

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new 7/29/02

The Hanging of Texas Peters

Keith wrote to us:

I teach public speaking in a St. Louis area high school, and I have a fondness of storytelling poetry that goes back to my childhood, hearing my dad read "The Cremation of Sam McGee."  I had a student back in 1980 recite a poem called "The Hanging of Texas Peters" that I found hilarious, but I have forgotten the author. I believe it was fairly old, perhaps from the days of Robert W. Service. The poem tells of a lynch mob that drags a man from jail to hang him for cattle rustling. When they discover that the man they grabbed was in for murder, they let him go, because, while killing a man is an awful thing it's something they can understand.

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new 7/29/02

A Matter of Taste                                   Answered!

Jim wrote to us:

Decades ago, on the Johnny Carson show, a cowboy poet, (I think, teaching in Boise) recited one comparing castrating cattle vs sheep.  "...With sheep, it's a matter of taste." Can anyone tell me the author and get me a copy of the poem?

This question sent us on a happy journey.  We happened to ask past Lariat Laureate Sam Jackson if he knew the poem. Sam knows a lot about Idaho poets and sheep....Sam sent us over to poet and Honored Guest Colen Sweeten  who knew the answer right away:  He told us it was Lloyd M. Gerber's poem, and that it appears in his book by the same name, It's a Matter of Taste.  We got in touch with Lloyd M. Gerber and he kindly sent us the poem and his book.  We're pleased to say that Lloyd M. Gerber is also now our Honored Guest, and you can read more of his poetry here.  Here's the poem Jim was after:

It's a Matter of Taste

Some say castrating a calf is a matter of taste;
   Some do it slowly and others in haste.
Some gently saw, while others pull
   While making a steer out of a bull.

Some use heavy rubber bands;
   Don't want blood to get on their hands.
Some use heavy tools that crush;
   Some cut them straight off--they're in a rush.

But lambs are another matter, you know;
   Those little round things so slick they grow.
They slip an' slide in their woolly sheath,
   'Till you finally give up and use your teeth.

And that's not the easiest thing to do,
   'Cause you've got to remember not to chew,
And if your teeth aren't all in place,
   They'll slip and slide right through the space.

You've got your nose right in their wool;
   You want to gag 'cause your mouth is full,
And when in ticks and grease you wallow,
   You hold your breath 'cause you dare not swallow.

Finally, when you come up for air,
   You bring only one and not a pair.
Back you go to grope for the one,
   And when you tooth it you are finally done.

Now calves, it is true, shouldn't be done in haste.
But when you cut lambs, it's a matter of taste.

© Lloyd M. Gerber, All Rights Reserved, reprinted with permission

In his book, It's A Matter of Taste, Lloyd Gerber notes that he performed this poem on the NBC Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in February, 1988. Colen Sweeten sent us a slightly different version of this poem, which he said was from Lloyd Gerber's book, I Ain't No DudeLloyd Gerber includes the introduction to It's A Matter of Taste as printed in the book. The book is available from Lloyd Gerber for $15 plus $4 postage:  3420 Shadow Hills Dr.; Eagle, ID 83616

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new 7/29/02

A Border Affair, Spanish is the Loving Tongue   (answered)

Patty wrote to us:

I believe Tex Ritter recorded a song called "A Border Affair or, Spanish is the Loving Tongue," but I can't find it on any of his albums.  I'd like to have a recordin of it no matter who done the singin, or at least maybe you all know who wrote it and where I could find the words.

We told Patty that those fine words were written by Badger Clark and the poem "A Border Affair" is in his book, Sun and Saddle Leather.  The words can be found in many places on the web.  There's something about the Tex Ritter recordin' here and you can listen to the legendary Buck Ramsey sing it here on his My Home It Was In Texas recordin'. 

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updated 5/04/06
new 7/29/02

Lasca         (answered)

Jerry wrote to us:

Sir: I am trying to locate a cowboy poem entitled "Lasca" or "Laska."  It is about a  cattle drover who has a Mexican girl friend named Lasca and who is killed in a sudden stampede caused by the arrival of a Texas norther.  When I was a  child back in the '20s we had this poem on a record - I don't know the author  or the name of the person who recited it. I hope you can help me.

That poem was written by Frank Desprez. Find more information and the poem posted here.

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updated 7/29/02
posted 5/23/02

The Town of Loving... 

Bess asks:

My husband use to quote lines from a poem that he read in the early thirties.  The poem was in one of those in "wild west weekly" magazines. The gist of the poem is about the Goodnight/Loving trail and their escape from the Comanches "down on the banks of the Pecos".  Some of the lines are
as follows:

The town of Loving stands near where
The Comanches missed two wisps of hair,
Yonder's the river, Bill, let's ride
And thank the Lord for a place to hide,
Down on the banks of the Pecos.

Charles Goodnight and "One Arm" Bill Loving was mentioned throughout the poem. This is a sentimental poem to me and my grown-up children.  When recalling stories of their late Dad, the poem is always mentioned.   My husband and I would quote poetry to the children when they were very young.  The above mentioned poem was a favorite.  I would like to have a copy to present to
the children as a memorial to my husband, Travis.

Poet Gene O'Quinn added this comment:  

Don't have the poem, but "One Arm" Bill Wilson was the man referred to.  He worked for Oliver Loving as Scout and trail boss and was with him when attacked by the Comanches.  Loving sent Wilson to seek help while the wounded Loving remained behind.  After three days, Loving managed to escape via the river and was found by Charles Goodnight several days later.  Loving was taken to an Army post in New Mexico for treatment of his wounds, after many delays his arm which was infected with gangrene, was amputated.  Twenty two days later Loving died.  Goodnight returned his body to Texas.  This incident was the pattern for Lonesome Dove written by Larry McMurtry.  See more on info at The Handbook of Texas On-line.  I have a lead on a poetry book that may contain this poem.

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updated 3/23/05
updated 10/27/02
updated 10/25/02
new 5/23/02

Ranger McCabe and Old Rowdy                  Answered!

Steve asks:

About 40 years ago I read a western poem that I enjoyed and would like to find. I only remember a few parts of the poem. "Ranger McCabe and his pony Old Rowdy came riding where walking was taking a chance." Rowdy slips over the edge of a cliff. The cowboy telling the story throws a rope to McCabe, but cannot hold it. McCabe disappears saying, "Hell, I'm a going, just roll a rock down." The poem ends with the cowboy telling how he rides over the same area, and, "I roll a rock down, because McCabe was my friend."

George Wood had the answer!  He wrote:  

The poem is "Roll a Rock Down" by Henry Herbert Knibbs. The only place I have ever seen it is in the Anthology of American Poetry by Louis Untermeyer -- but only in the old editions (like pre 1950). I had to ask the library to look in the archives the last time I needed a copy.  

We discovered that this poem was printed in the March 20, 1919 issue of "The Popular Magazine, and George sent us a copy of the poem from "Modern American Poetry," edited by Louis Untermeyer, third revised edition, © 1919, 1921, 1925 by Harcourt, Brace and Co. 

The accompanying biographical note says that "....Knibbs carries on the tradition of Bret Harte and the Pike County Ballads.  High-hearted verse this is, with more than an occasional flash of poetry.  To the typical Western breeziness, Knibbs adds a wider whimsicality, a rough-shod but nimble imagination.  Knibbs, far more accurately than Service, sings the rough-edged, horny-handed ballad of the pioneer; his is the singer of the ranch, the temporary camp, the uncertain trail.  He can express courage without heroics."

The poem is in Knibbs'  Songs of the Trail (1920) and it's posted on our page of Knibbs' poems here and below:

Roll a Rock Down

On, out in the West where the riders are ready,
They sing an old song and they tell an old tale,
And its moral is plain:  Take it easy, go steady,
While riding a horse on the Malibu Trail.

It's a high, rocky trail with its switch-backs and doubles,
It has no beginning and never an end:
It's risky and rough and it's plumb full of troubles,
From Shifty -- that's shale -- up to Powder Cut Bend.

Old-timers will tell you the rangers who made it,
Sang "Roll A Rock Down," with a stiff upper lip,
And cussed all creation, but managed to grade it;
With a thousand-foot drop if a pony should slip.

Oh, the day it was wet and the sky it was cloudy,
The trail was as slick as any oil-riggers's pants
When Ranger McCabe on his pony, Old Rowdy,
Came ridin' where walkin' was takin' a chance.

"Oh, Roll A Rock Down!" picks and shovels was clangin',
And Rowdy a-steppin' that careful and light,
When the edge it gave way and McCabe was left hangin'
Clean over the rim--with no bottom in sight.

I shook out a loop--bein' crowded for throwin';
I flipped a fair noose for a rope that was wet:
It caught just as Mac lost his holt and was goin',
And burned through my fingers: it's burnin' them yet.

For Ranger McCabe never knuckled to danger;
My pardner in camp, on the trail, or in town:
And he slid into glory, a true forest ranger,
With" "Hell! I'm a-goin'! Just roll a rock down."

So, roll a rock down where a ranger is sleepin'
Aside of his horse below Powder Cut Bend:
I ride and I look where the shadows are creepin',
And roll a rock down--for McCabe was my friend.

I've sung you a song and I've told you my story,
And all that I ask when I'm done with the show,
Is, roll a rock down when I slide into glory,
And say that I went like a ranger should go.

Henry Herbert Knibbs, from Songs of the Trail, 1920

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updated 5/13/09
updated 11/29/02
new 5/23/02

Cattleman's Prayer

Reciter and poet Dick Morton has a question:

From Trail Boss's--Cowboy Cookbook published by the Society For Range Management--1985, I found "Cattleman's Prayer"-- Author unknown, circa 1890. Well I've been repeatin' it and would sure like to give proper credit to that cowboy poet who wrote it. I would presume he is not available to claim what is due him, so I want to do it for him.

2008:  See an updated discussion of the poem here.

Here is a version from Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1929 edition) collected by John Lomax, where it is called the "Cowman's Prayer":

Cowman's Prayer

  Now, O Lord, please lend me thine ear,
  The prayer of a cattleman to hear,
  No doubt the prayers may seem strange,
  But I want you to bless our cattle range.

  Bless the round-ups year by year,
  And don't forget the growing steer;
  Water the lands with brooks and rills
  For my cattle that roam on a thousand hills.

  Prairie fires, won't you please stop?
  Let thunder roll and water drop.
  It frightens me to see the smoke;
  Unless it's stopped, I'll go dead broke.

  As you, O Lord, my herd behold,
  It represents a sack of gold;
  I think at least five cents a pound
  Will be the price of beef the year around.

  One thing more and then I'm through,—
  Instead of one calf, give my cows two.
  I may pray different from other men
  But I've had my say, and now, Amen.


Here's the nearly identical poem from Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (1921):

The Cowman's Prayer

Don't know the author's name. Heard it sung in a cowcamp
near Fort Sumner,
on the Pecos River, New Mexico.

Now, O Lord, please lend me thine ear,
The prayer of a cattleman to hear;
No doubt the prayers may seem strange,
But I want you to bless our cattle range.

Bless the round-ups year by year,
And don't forget the growing steer;
Water the lands with brooks and rills
For my cattle that roam on a thousand hills.

Prairie fires, won't you please stop?
Let thunder roll, water drop.
It frightens me to see the smoke;
Unless it's stopped, I'll go dead broke.

As you, O Lord, my herd behold,
It represents a sack of gold;
I think at least five cents a pound
Will be the price of beef the year round.

One thing more and then I'm through,
Instead of one calf, give my cows two.
I may pray different from other men,
But I've had my say, and now, Amen.


Jim Bob Tinsley, in He Was Singin' This Song (1981), writes about "The Cowman's Prayer":

The old Socorro Bullion was published in Socorro, New Mexico from 1883-1888. Each week the newspaper featured a poem of interest for its readers. Some of the poems had known authors, others did not. On October 30, 1886, the unsigned poem "The Cattle Man's Prayer" appeared on the front page of the paper. Someone later picked it up, deleted a please of Italian skies to avert winter woes, changed the named to be "The Cowman's Prayer," and added a melody...Just when the song became popularly established in oral tradition is not a matter of record, but John Lomax included it in his first collection of cowboy songs in 1910, and Jack Thorp heard it sung in a cow camp on the Pecos River near Fort Sumner, New Mexico, before 1921.

The "Italian skies" verse to which Tinsley refers is a part of the poem Dick Morton first sent to us:

 Now, O Lord, won't you be good
 And give our livestock plenty of food;
 And to avert a winter's woe
 Give Italian skies and little snow.

 Dick Morton recites the early version on his Cowboy Classics CD.


Back in 2002, we found a few references on the web for "Cattleman's Prayer," with differing dates. None of the links are still active.

An AOL member's site commented: "Westerners placed a high value on material things, especially cattle, which was, for many, their source of income. The Cattleman's Prayer expressed a certain self-interest and the following is only one of many versions. This one dates back to 1885."

"The Virtual Texan: had a version and  "Author unknown, circa 1909."

An Ohio library had a song by that titled listed, and it gave the source as: Cowboy and Western Songs, Bramhall House, New York,1982. In that book, edited by Austin and Alta Fife, they credit Trailing the Cowboy, by Clifford P. Westermeier (1955).


In November, 2002, Meghan wrote to us and told us that poem also appears in Cowboy Lore, by Jules Verne Allen, pg 132.  That book was first printed in 1933 by The Naylor Company and was reprinted as late as 1971. The poem appears in a slightly different version there, and is called "The Cowman's Prayer."  No author is noted.

Jules Verne Allen was known as "The Singing Cowboy" and a 1929 letter from the Governor of New Mexico appears in the book, appointing him "to the office of 'The Singing Cowboy' and official singer of New Mexico's cowboy folk songs."  In his introduction, Allen thanks his friends S. Omar Barker and Henry Herbert Knibbs, among others.  The book includes a wide ranging "history" of cowboys, including subchapters titled "The movie Cowboy," "The real Cowboy," "His outfit," "Habits of Cattle," and more.  There are chapters about cattle brands, a Cowboy dictionary, and a collection of "Songs of the Range" with musical notations. 

The book is widely available through libraries and used book sources and you can find some of those through this Amazon link.


Versions of piece, as "Cowman's Prayer," were recorded by Glenn Ohrlin (on a 1974 LP, Cowboy Songs), Dale Evans (on Songs of the Old West), and Carl T. Sprague (on Cowtrails, Longhorns, and Tight Saddles: Cowboy Songs 1925-1929) and others.


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new 5/23/02

When He Put on That Stetson Hat... 

P. writes:

There is a poem

    "but when he put on that old Stetson hat
    he was a king to me".

Please tell me who the author is and what the name of the poem is and where can I find the rest of it?   I heard it in Prescott, Az at their 1st Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  Prob. about 1988. Marshall Trimble was there, so was Vess Quinlan, Joe Austin - only remember that because of my sketchbook.  

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new 1/26/02

Working for Wages and Living on Beans and Fat

Rick wrote to us:

I know this is a long shot in the dark, but I am searching for a poem my son and I heard on the radio years ago.  I am looking for it because my son was 4 years old at the time we were going on my sons first deer hunting trip, it was about 4:00 in the morning and Charles Kuralt on the radio show was interviewing a cowboy, that cowboy told of a poem that went something like this:

So you want to be a cowboy
just buy yourself a hat
working for wages and 
living on beans and fat...

Goes on with more but it was so meaningful to my son and I, that you could have heard a pin drop in that truck that morning. We still talk about it too this very day. Just thought you might have heard of this one, I realize there are so many cowboys such as this one out there that I thought just maybe.

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new 1/26/02

Freezin' Explodin' Apples and a Frozen Pard

Sammi in Montana wrote (after she helped with Donn's question above):

My question may be a bit off the topic of poetry,  but  is in regards to a cowboying book I read when I was very young. I can't remember title or author, but remember a couple of incidents that happened in the book:  

The first is a scene where a few cowboys are riding in to town to the watering hole, and the weather is freezing cold, so cold in fact, that when the horses they were riding dropped their "apples," the exteriors froze before they hit the ground, and the interiors were still warm, so they exploded like firecrackers when they hit the ground.  

The second scene is where the cowboy rides to a line camp to see a friend, only to find him dead. He knows the ground is too hard to dig a grave, and doesn't want the coyotes nibbling his bones, so he takes his blanket from his bedroll, wets it and wraps the dead fellow with it so it freezes solid. 

(Funny what a kid will remember!)  I would like to find the book and read it again.

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Cowboy Christmas

Frank wrote to us: 

I'm hopin' ya'll can help me locate a Christmas poem I heard fifteen years or so ago.  It was on "A Prairie Home Companion" (one of my few clues).  The only words I can recall in earnest about the poem are:  "I knew it was a cowboy Christmas 'cause all the angels were on horses, and had traces of chaw runnin' their chin."  I'm probably paraphrasing and I know there are as many cowboy Christmas poems as there are cowboys but such a magical poem couldn't be that obscure.

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Ole Cowpony

Bill in Montana wrote to us: 

Do you know where I could find the rest of this poem or the author's name?

Ole Cowpony

I've been thinkin little pony,
While the cowboy's make their grade,
Don't they ever stop to figure
You're just standing in the shade?

All them silver mounted makin's
That they hang upon your hide
Lends a touch of rare distinction
When they climb aboard to ride.

But it don't seem fair and even
When the cowboy crashes through,
Because he grabs off all the credit
And there's nothing left for you.

Bill added:  I got the poem second-hand from a librarian in Belgrade, Montana, who is looking for it on behalf of a patron.  She sent it to a librarian in Kalispell who passed it along to me because I sing a lot of old-time western songs, but this one has me up a stumped.

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A Horse Named "Klaska"

West Virginia librarian Ted wrote to us: 

I have a patron who has been searching for a book of cowboy [or western] poetry which, she thinks, was published in the early 1900s.  One of the poems mentions a horse called "Klaska," which I have identified as a Chinook word.  The patron's elderly mother is named "Klaska," and the daughter is trying to locate the book of poetry for a Christmas present.

Does "Klaska" the horse ring any bells with you?

We and others have suggested Lasca, but that's not the poem they are looking for.

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Cowboy Version of The Lord's Prayer 

Jean wrote to us: 

I am looking for the cowboy version of the Lord's Prayer.  I have no idea who originated it.  It is similar to the Red Skelton version of "The Pledge of Allegiance."  Can you help?  Thanks so much.  

We told Jean that the closest we knew was Buckshot Dot's  poem, "Bob Leatherwood's Wager," which is on her  web site right here.  

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


Butch wrote us from Idaho:

Several wears ago I heard a cowboy poet recite a poem in Glenns Ferry, Idaho. I don't remember his name but if I could describe to you the poem maybe you could give me an idea as to how I might get a copy.  I know this is a long shot but maybe.

A cowboy gets up early, before sunup to go to work as he saddles his horse he thinks of all of those still in their nice warm beds and he grumbles to himself about having to get up so early when others get to sleep in. He saddles up and starts up the trail still grumbling. Then he smells the fresh morning air, hears a meadowlark, sees a buck deer, then as he watches the morning sun come up over the hill he realizes just how lucky he is to be able to get up early and see all these beautiful things of nature that he would miss if he stayed in bed like the others. That is about how I remembered it. It is a great poem with a great message. I would like to get a copy somehow. Can you help me?

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Idaho poet Denise McRea sent Butch this information and we followed up:

Perhaps the poem you are asking about is one by Rick Kuntz, of Dillon, Montana.  He is probably in the phone book in the Dillon area.  I have heard him do a very good poem that fits your description.  He also does "Pert Near Perkins." Maybe you could contact Rick and see if it was his poem. Hope this helps.

We put Butch in touch with Rick Kuntz and he wrote:

I contacted Rick Kuntz and we had a nice visit he sent me a copy of his poem, "A Day Heaven Sent."  It's a great poem close to the one I am looking for, but not it. I heard of a poet by the name of Baxter Black. Maybe I can find him on the internet and ask him about it.                                                    

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updated 11/14/11
updated 8/19/04
updated 6/10/04
updated 9/04/02

Black Beauty and a Colt                                                                                                        Answered!! 

June wrote to us in August 2001:

For several years now, I have been trying to find the words to a poem I've heard recited at least twice. It is called "Black Beauty" and is about an old grey or white mare with a beautiful black stud colt.  Have you heard it?   Do you know it?   Does someone have the words? I have the first part of the poem on tape.  According to the poet reciting it (I do not know who), it was written by John Schnieder (?) in 1928. What I have on tape goes like this:

  I'd like to tell ya'all a story, I don't want to make you blue,
  but if you'll bear with me just a moment, the words I speak are true.

  For two years I'd been a pinin' and a scheming for to get,
  my hands upon this black horse no one will ever get.

In July 2002, Chris Isaacs told us that Jesse Smith had recorded this poem, which is by Johnie Schneider (1904-1982). The poem is on Jesse Smith's tape, The Holstein Steer.

  Cowboy, poet, and reciter Jesse Smith is probably most responsible for the poem being known.  On the tape, Jesse Smith tells that the poem was written in 1923-24 by Schneider, a World Champion Bull Rider.

Our version of the poem and the photo of Johnie Schneider are courtesy of the Schneider family and cowgirl, poet, and writer Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns. Rhonda points out that Johnie Schneider was the first official World Champion Bull Rider and his brother, Frank Schneider was also a World Champion Bull Rider.

An entry on the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame web site tells that Johnie Schneider "... had a soul of a poet and the heart of a cowboy. He began rodeoing in 1923 and quickly established a reputation as one of the most versatile performers around" He is quoted, "The best thing about rodeo was that it gave a lot of us a start in life. There weren’t many options back then for a fellow trying to make it."

Jesse Smith made a new recording of "The Black Beauty" for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Four.

The version below of "The Black Beauty" is corrected from the transcription of a hand-written copy:

The Black Beauty

I'll tell you a story of a thing that makes me blue.
Please listen for a moment, for the words I speak are true.
For two years I's been riding and scheming for to get—
My hands upon a beauty that no one will ever get.

I'd caught many a wild horse and never failed until,
I started on this youngster at the foot of Rocky Hill.
He was nothing but a baby, when first I saw him there

Standing by his mother, a little old grey mare.

And when he'd grown from colthood to a big strong handsome black
There was always by his hoofprints, the little old grey mare's track.
I lay awake many a night, trying to scheme a way
For to make a big black beauty, be my saddle horse some day.

But this beauty always dodged them 'spite all that I could do.

Til one day I dug a pitdown by the waterside,
I covered it over with sticks and leaves and climbed a tree to hide.
I hadn't been there very long; the sun was shining still,
When I saw the couple coming thru the rocks up on the hill.

And as they came down closer to the waterside,
The old mare done the leading and the black stayed close beside
Another step was all it took till she'd be in the pit.
She bowed her head and snorted and then stepped back a bit.

She turned her head as if to saythere is danger here my son.
And at the twinkle of an eye, my right hand grasped my gun.
I jerked it from its holster, for now I knew the truth;
I'd never catch the beauty with the old mare running loose.

I peeked out thru the branchesdrew a fine sight on my gun,
My finger clutched the trigger, and the old mare's days were done.
The great black reared straight in the air then sort of settled down
And stretched his long keen neck to smell the blood upon the ground.

He blew a loud shrill whistle, his nostrils flaming red,
And with his sleek foreleg he stroked
his mother lying dead
Then a sudden fear seemed to seize him and he whirled and with a bound

Crashed into a pine tree than sank back to the ground.

 I climbed down thru the branches and ran to where he struck,
And lifting up his small keen head I found he broke his neck.
I knew that I was beaten as they both laid cold and still

I laid the beauty's head back down and started up the hill.

My heart was sure heavy with the whole thing on my mind,
For now I knew the very truth
the black had been born blind.

© 1923, Johnie Schneider
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Johnie Schneider, 1931


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updated 7/29/02

Myself & I    (ANSWERED!)

Ping wrote us:

I have been trying to locate this poetry "Myself & I" by Badger Clark.  I heard it during my recent visit to South Dakota. I can't seem to find the poetry in any of the bookstore. I just loved it when I first heard it.

Thanks to  Gene O'Quinn and our new indexes of some of Badger Clark's books, we were able to point Ping to the poem in Badger Clark's Sky Lines and Wood Smoke. 

See our feature about Badger Clark here, which includes listings of the poems in his most popular books.

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updated 7/26/02

I Must Come Back    (ANSWERED!)

Melissa in Missouri wrote us:

I've been looking for a poem I think was written by Badger Clark.  I though the title was "I Must Come Back" but am not sure! ... I think I saw it on a wall at Wall Drug in Wall, SD - years ago.  The poem basically described how much one would miss the beauty of the earth once they had passed on. 

Once again Gene O'Quinn came to the rescue, and  Yvonne Hollenback also weighed in on this one, which can be found in Badger Clark's Sky Lines and Wood Smoke and in God of the Open.  

See our feature about Badger Clark here, which includes listings of the poems in his most popular books.

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updated 4/23/07
updated 6/23/05
updated 9/7/04
updated 6/27/02

Ridin' Nightherd, Wonder What the Poor Folk....                             (ANSWERED!)

"Night Rider's Lament" by Mike (Michael) Burton and "Wealth" by Sam Jackson


Few songwriters have remained as mysterious as Michael Burton. In April, 2007, we received an email with this information:

If you are interested in the lyrics or in recording "Night Rider's Lament" written by Michael Burton, please visit the Michael Burton Music Web site www.nightriderslament.com or write them at P.O. Box 549, Vail, AZ 85641

"Night Rider's Lament" has been recorded by Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Nanci Griffith, Don Edwards, and many other Country Western Artists.

The site tells that Michael Burton and his wife live on their working ranch in Southern Arizona, and that "The origin of 'Night Rider's Lament' was an actual event in his life as written."

Below are some of the previous comments and questions about this song, and more:

Donn wrote to us:

I'm looking for a particular poem. I don't know who wrote it, nor do I know the title. All I really remember is the general gist of the verse and the last line. It is about a cowboy riding nightherd, I think, or maybe he is just riding drag, but he complains a bit about his situation and how other people make more money, all the while observing why he has chosen the cowboy life. The last line goes sorta like "I wonder what the poor folk are doin' tonight?" Got any idea of the poem I'm talking about? If so, do you know where I can find it?

Sandra Herl from WorkingCowboy.com wrote:

Could you be thinking of the Chris LeDoux song, Night Rider's Lament?

Sammi in Montana wrote:

Ian Tyson has the song, I believe is called "Nightherd's Lament."  This may be the same song Chris LeDoux released.

It is about a cowboy that receives a letter from home, and while on nightherd reads it by moonlight. His folks back home don't understand why he would give up everything to became a cowboy.  He finishes up his letter, tears off the stamp for his friend, and when his relief rides up, he sees the letter and says:

(song chorus)

"And he asked me
Why does he ride for his money?
Why does he rope for short pay?
He ain't getting no where,
and he's losin' his share.
Oh, he must have gone crazy out there.

But they've never seen the Northern Lights,
Never seen a hawk on the wind,
they've never seen spring hit the Great Divide,
and they've never heard ol' camp Cookie sing."

(Thanks to Harold Roy Miller for further clarification on those lyrics.)

Click for Amazon  Sandra found the song is on Chris LeDoux's Old Cowboy Classics album (and you can hear a clip from it at Amazon and at CD Now).


Click for Amazon  We found the song is on Ian Tyson's Old Corrals and Sagebrush, and that it was written by Mike Burton.  He writes "I learned it from an old Jerry Jeff Walker album. I've also heard Garth Brooks & a neat version (in concert) by Suzzi Bogus." You can hear a clip at Amazon.


Click for Amazon  On Nanci Griffith's Grammy-winning Other Voices, Other Rooms, she sings it accompanied by Don Edwards' yodel, which one reviewer described as "thrilling."  You can hear a clip at Amazon, but unfortunately, it doesn't include the yodel.

We also found it recorded by other folks from Garth Brooks (see all the words on Planet Garth) to Jerry Jeff Walker and on other albums, and we found a notation that the words and music are by Mike Burton, copyright 1975 Groper Music.

We've long had this question and answer, but another question we get all the time is:  What more is known about Michael (Mike) Burton, who wrote "Night Rider's Lament"?  

In April, 2007, we received an email with this information:

If you are interested in the lyrics or in recording "Night Rider's Lament" written by Michael Burton, please visit the Michael Burton Music Web site www.nightriderslament.com or write them at P.O. Box 549, Vail, AZ 85641

"Night Rider's Lament" has been recorded by Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Nanci Griffith, Don Edwards, and many other Country Western Artists.


Meanwhile, the answer to the original question had nothing to do with "Night Rider's Lament"!

Once again Gene O'Quinn, who has answered so many of these Who Knows? questions, comes to the rescue. Gene had read  Sam Jackson's poem Wealth elsewhere, and thought it might be just what Donn was seeking'.  Donn told us, after our ten months of trailing this question: "Now that is what I call perseverance! Yes, this is the poem I was looking for..."  We thank Gene and Sam, who shared the poem with us:


The herd is nearing bedground, slowly grazing,
dogies bunched and playing on the hill.
Hundreds in their number, how amazing,
by dusk each finds their mother-but they will!
The sounds of night, each echo like no other
join the serenade to end of day.
Blending in their tones with lowing mother,
calling soft to coax the young from play.

One-by-one they heed the call to dinner,
with bellies full now bed down for the night.
Days work done, you count yourself a winner.
Rewarding, this bucolic, tranquil, sight.
The moon is showing o'er the east horizon.
Wind begins to whisper through the trees.
Cactus flowers sweet aroma risin',
drifts across the trail on evenings breeze.

Your pony shakes his head anticipating
rewards that will be his when back at camp;
a nosebag full of oats will be a'waiting,
a rubdown where the saddle's made him damp.
With chores all done you set awhile and ponder.
Roll a smoke and put your cares away.
Though meager wage you're prone to promptly squander-
you wonder how the 'poor-folks' spent their day?

© Sajac  

Sam writes: "This poem recalls an early June evening, many years ago, at one of our bedgrounds called "Cottonwood Corrals" in the hills a couple of miles above the ranch. It could be a tranquil place this time of day with a small stream making sounds only small streams can make. As dusk turned to darkness, the smell of the night blooming cactus made the evening's ride back to camp a rewarding experience. . . .

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updated 8/19/04
new 5/23/02

Ira Aten, Texas Ranger 

Tom wrote to us:

I am a distant relative, not a direct descendant of Ira Aten.  I happened onto your site and was wondering if you would know if there ever was any poetry written about him.  I have a book on him.

Well we happened to ask  Gene O'Quinn about that, and Gene went beyond answering and wrote his own poem.  Here's an excerpt from our news item:

  A while back a descendant of Texas Ranger Ira Aten contacted us, asking if we knew of any poetry about his famous kin.  Well we do now.  Gene O'Quinn has penned a poem, A Ranger's Ranger, that brings alive the interesting' story of this man's life.   

You can read more about Ira Aten on the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum site.  Gene also pointed out that the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum has a Cowboy poem: "The Battle of San Bennidito," written about 1877 by Texas Ranger S. J. Adams.  You can read the poem on their site here.

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updated 3/30.05
updated 5/29/02
updated 6/4/02
updated 8/2/02

Wisdom On the Rim    (The Time to Decide)  Answered (more than once!)

Julie wrote to us:

I heard a poem on the radio of Badger Clark's and I was hoping to find a copy of it.  The final line talks about the decisions made "on the rim"  It is about the perspective we gain when looking off of a mountain.

We came up blank and Julie added:

Who knows maybe the musician misquoted the authorship of the poem.  Other images:  it starts out looking out from a mountain at an unencumbered view talking about it being a great place for putting our little problems into perspective; moves onto later talking about the decisions made on the rim are the ones to be trusted in life. anyway it gets a little foggy from there.

Someomesent us the poem and said it was by Badger Clark and we had that posted for a while.  But another weighed in and corrected that.  The poem is "The Time to Decide" by Bruce Kiskaddon:

The Time to Decide

Did you ever stand on the ledges,
On the brink of the great plateau
And look from their jagged edges
On the country that lay below?

When your vision met no resistance
And nothing to stop your gaze,
Till the mountain peaks in the distance
Stood wrapped in a purple haze.

On the winding water courses
And the trails on the mountain sides,
Where you guided your patient horses
On your long and lonesome rides.

When you saw Earth's open pages
And you seemed to understand
As you gazed on the work of ages,
Rugged and rough, but grand.

There, the things that you thought were strongest
And the things that you thought were great,
And for which you had striven longest
Seemed to carry but little weight.

While the things that were always nearer,
The things that you thought were small;
Seemed to stand out grander and clearer.
As you looked from the mountain wall.

While you're gazing on such a vision
And your outlook is clear and wide,
If you have to make a decision,
That's the time and place to decide

Although you return to the city
And mingle again with the throng;
Though your heart may be softened by pity
Or bitter from strife and wrong.

Though others should laugh in derision,
And the voice of the past grow dim;
Yet, stick to the cool decision
That you made on the mountain's rim.

See our feature on Bruce Kiskaddon here.

Poet Joel Nelson recites the poem on the 1994 Rhino Records CD (71573), "A Cowboy Poetry Gathering," which is no longer for sale but sometimes used copies can be found. 

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Half a World to Ride (Answered!)

Buck wrote to us:

Can you tell me any info about a poem I seem to remember but can't remember from where I heard it or saw it. It goes like this....

Dream back beyond crampy lanes to glories that have been the camp,
smoke on sunset plains, the riders loping in:
Loose rein and rowelled heel to spare, the wind our only guide,
For youth was in the saddle there with half a world to ride

...who is the author and is there more?

Gene O'Quinn came to the rescue once again!  It turns out this is from a poem by Badger Clark, "The Passing of the Trail," which is in Badger Clark's Sun and Saddle Leather.  See our feature about Badger Clark where we've posted The Passing of the Trail

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updated 5/29/02

Definition of a Cowboy...  (Answered)

Paula writes:

My search is for a poem called "Definition of a Cowboy."  I had it typed out
on a plain piece of paper, and during a recent move, I've misplaced it.  It
was by "anonymous" and I don't even know if it's ever been published.

Almost every verse starts, "A cowboy is..." and then ending is something about "loving him anyway when he's looking at you through blood-shot eyes, saying 'hi, honey!' "

I would greatly appreciate any help you can give my on this one.  If I find
it around here somewhere and no on beats me to it, I'll pass it along!

Thanks from a Redneck cowgirl in Arkansas

Not an hour after we posted this question, poet Gene O'Quinn was back with an answer.  With his response, we found the poem in several places on the web and found it also where "Marine," "Sailor," "Skydiver," and other  groups were mentioned in place of "Cowboy."  Here's one version over at Cowboylife.com and another here.  Both places mention the poem is anonymous.  Gene thought it might be by Bill Rhemenn from Spring, Texas.  

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Earliest Published Cowboy Poetry in Texas   (An Answer)

Sam Lanham wrote to us from Fredricksburg, Texas with this question:

Are there any books of cowboy poetry published in Texas before Lysius Gough's "Western Travels and other Rhymes" in 1886? 

Sam told us "... Lysius Gough... entertained his fellow 'pokes around the campfires on the trail in north Texas in the 1870's and 1880's.  I have his book "Western Travels and Other Rhymes," (Dallas, 1886), and his 1935 "Spur Jingles and Saddle Songs" which reprints most of the earlier book.  I suspect this is one of the earliest publications of Texas cowboy poetry but I haven't been able to find a history or bibliography of cowboy poetry from that period."  

The Handbook of Texas has an article about Gough that includes these two items that caught our eye: Gough never swore so he was called "Parson," and "In his typewriter was his last poem, prophetically titled "Gone."

Great responses came from this question, when Scott Bumgardner got involved, and he put Sam in touch with Lysius Gough's grandson, Jim Gough.  Jim sent us the following, and since then we've added a whole feature about Judge Lysius Gough

Howdy...was pleased to hear from Sam Lanham that you too have discovered my Grandfather Gough. Rest assured he is and was the "original" cowboy poet among other notable accomplishments. He rode with Gunter and Munson's T-Anchor boys in Randall County. Drove cattle from the Palo Duro headquarters camp thru Indian Territory to Abilene and Ft. Dodge. Left home to trail herds at tender age of 15. He was one of the founders of the "Old Time Cow-Punchers Roundup" held each year in Amarillo in the late '20's. He was a contemporary of Charlie Goodnight and  the first County Judge of Castro County in Dimmitt, TX. He was the first Mayor of Hereford, Tx. and was instrumental in bringing "easterners" to the Panhandle to settle. He at one time was one of the largest land owners in that region. He also founded the Panhandle Wheat Growers Association. He spent his twilight years speaking to the school children of Texas and promoting his second book of cowboy verse..."Spur Jingles and Saddle Songs". He was honored with a tribute at the opening session of the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock in 1991. As his grandson, I was there to read his poems. A distant cousin, Elaine Coffman, wrote a fine paper on the Judge which is published in a copy of the "Catch-Pen" book put out by Alvin Davis and the Symposium folks. As you can tell, I'm most proud of my heritage and have spent most of my adult life telling folks about Grandaddy Gough. You can bet we'll give you the 'whole story" on the drop of a hat! Incidentally, Guy Logsdon is a personal friend of mine. I did seminars with him on the origins of cowboy music and verse several times. Also interviewed him on my old radio show, "Texas USA" on TSN in '95. He's a nice guy and knows his history. 

Over at Scott Hill Bumgardner's Texas Legacies site, he tells about learning that Hugh Kerr, his 4th great grandfather, "had written Texas' first epic poetry book" right here.  Hugh Kerr arrived at Harrisburg in 1831. Scott clarifies that Hugh Kerrs' "Texas" poetry couldn't be considered "Cowboy Poetry" and he gave Sam a few leads to follow. 

  Scott's CD, Texas Legacies, has 17 tracks of stories and original poetry about Texas and the cowboy, includin' poetry by his ancestor Hugh Kerr.  Visit Scott's Texas Legacies site to listen to sample tracks, learn more, and to get a hold of a copy for yourself.

Click for Amazon  InCowboy Poets and Cowboy Poetry, edited by David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher, Guy Logsdon states, on page 56 "The earliest printed collection of cowboy poetry is Western Travels and Other Rhymes by L. (Lysius) Gough, who cowboyed in Texas from 1882 to 1884 and wrote poems 'about actual life on the trail and  ranch'..."  It goes on for just a bit under one page, with a few verses of Gough's "Damn Fool."  

  Guy Logsdon is retired from the University of Tulsa, where "he was director of libraries and professor of education and American folklife...currently works as an entertainer, writer, and publisher of cowboy music and poetry. He is the author of The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing and Other Songs Cowboys Sing." Click the cover or here for the Amazon information or see the publisher's information here for this book published in 1995.

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last updated July 26, 2002

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Call of the West (Answered, amazin'ly)

Arlene wrote to us:

I am trying to locate a poem I read perhaps 15 years ago but can remember neither the author nor the title ... not to mention not even many, if any, of the words ... now don't you just love a challenge??? ... <g> it was not classic, whatever that may be,  'cowboy poetry', but a little more mystical ... (yeah, yeah cowboys can be mystics too... <g>) it was about the call of the west ... and i seem to recall a repetitive phrase in the poem something to the effect of ...'such is the call (the way, the heart, the lure, the ...) of the west' ... does this ring any bells??? any ideas???

  G. Don Ensminger suggested this:

I don't know if it's the same poem or not because it actually has no reference to the "West," but your description reminded me strongly of the Robert Service poem "The Call of the Wild."

Here's an excerpt:

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert's little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o'er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.
-- Robert Service, "The Call of the Wild"

Maybe not the one you're looking for, but a great poem nonetheless by the man that many would consider the master of rhyme and meter verse.  

But Arlene says:

... and although Robert service's poem is indeed a great one, I'm afraid it's not the one I'm after ... I think the reference to the "west" in the poem may be less in terms of '"owboy" west, than the west as the spirit of adventure or exploration, or ...

Then D. H. suggested:

Tom Perlman's first album has a song like this.

And then Jack sent a suggestion and we passed it along just in case:

It's probably not the poem that Arlene is thinking of, but I think she'd enjoy "Out Where the West Begins" by Arthur Chapman....the repetitive line is "That's where the west begins"...and it is sort of mystical...

And ... Arlene says:

YES!!! this is it!!!!

It's a little different than as I recalled it ... but I was living in the East pining away for the West at the time ...

Extend my great thanks to the wise person who made the connection!!!

and thanks to your perseverance ...

Arthur Chapman's "Out Where the West Begins" happens to be the first poem in our anthology, The Big Roundup, and we have that poem and others of Chapman's right here at the BAR-D.


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updated 3/16/07

My Cross Eyed Girl                                                                   Answered, or ...

In February, 2007 Bud wrote to us saying that previously information posted about this song was incorrect. He sent information indicating the song was written by "Long and Gene Autry" in 1935, and sent us the lyrics. As they'd still be covered by copyright, we'll post just the first stanza as it was sent:

My Cross Eyed Gal

By Long and Gene Autry
Arr. By N. Manoloff
Copyrighted by Gene Autry
M. M. Cole Publishing Co. Chicago, Il. -- 1935

O she's done and gone away, kicked the bucket yesterday.
My cross eyed gal that lived upon the hill
She took strychnine and died And I hope she's satisfied
Cause she done the whole darn thing against my will

Whether the song was traditional and this version was written in modern times, or this was the song in question below ... we'd welcome any additional information.

Quite some time ago, before we started dating Who Knows? entries, this is the information we had posted.

Mike wrote to us:

A couple years ago or more (old age makes the time slide right by) the Discovery Channel ran a special about the American Cowboy. On this show a cowboy playing banjo played and sang part of a song about "planting onions on her grave so every time I walk by I can pucker up and cry."  I've searched forever trying to find out anything about this song with absolutely no luck, but a friend of mine suggested it might be a Cowboy poem set to music. Do you know anything at all about such a poem or song?  Please e-mail me if you even suspect anything. Thanks a bunch. Mike

  Andy Hedges sent this information:

I know an old song called "The Cross Eyed Gal" that has that line in it.  I have a friend who sings it to the tune of "Little Joe the Wrangler." Here are the lyrics:

Oh she's dead and gone away she kicked the bucket yesterday
That Cross eyed gal that lives upon the hill
She took strychnine and died now I hope she's satisfied
'Cause she done the whole durn thing against my will


She's my dandy she's my daisy
She's humpbacked and she's crazy
She's bowlegged knock-kneed and she's blind
She took strychnine and died now I hope she's satisfied
'Cause she's done and gone and left me in a bind

She said good-bye to me as she sat upon my knee
She said we'd meet upon that golden shore
But I took it as a joke, I never thought that she would croak
Cause she never up and died on me before

Now that she has gone to rest I'll fulfill her last request
And plant a bunch of onions on her grave
So that when I'm passing by I can pucker up and cry
Cause those doggone onions simply make me rave

A recorded version of this song is available by Skip Gorman on his album, "Lonesome Prairie Love."  It is available from Rounder Records. I sure hope this helps.

Andy Hedges

Thanks Andy!  At Skip Gorman's web site, there is information about that album and Skip's others. 

Don't miss Andy's own album, Days and Nights in the Saddle.

   Read one of Andy's poems and more about his album here at the BAR-D.

By the way, Mike replied:

WOW!!  Andy hit it right in the 10 ring!! This is EXACTLY the song I've been looking for the past three years. Thanks so very much for all your help. I sent a great big thank you to Andy, too. You guys are my heroes. Thanks again!!!   Mike 


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Lady in a Cadillac, Brands....  (Answered!)

Our pard Jody wrote us:

I really want to learn the poem "THE BRAND" -- the one where the hand gets stopped by a lady in a Cadillac and asked about the brand on his cattle and he rattles off the brands of about 40 different spreads. Know where I can find it?

We get this question often enough that we'll include our answer:

The poem, Brands, is by Montana Cowboy Poet Mike Logan.

Click to view at Amazon.com  It is included in New Cowboy Poetry, A Contemporary Gathering, available from Amazon.com and from the publisher, Gibbs-Smith.  Montana Cowboy Poet Mike Logan has a website

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El Dorado  (Answered!)

CJ wrote us:

I was just wondering  about a certain poem.  It was in a John Wayne movie called El Dorado.  I just wondered if it was an actual poem and if it is do you know it? ... I know a few lines of it like "over the mountains of the moon down the valley of the shadow ride boley ride to that land called El Dorado..."

Here's our answer. 

It's a poem written by Edgar Allen Poe:

El Dorado

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old
This knight so bold
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

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updated 5/13/04
updated 4/02/02

Prime the Pump With a Little Water (Desert Pete)  (Answered!)

Wayne wrote to us:

Specifically, I'm looking for a poem of long ago.  I can't think of its correct name but it was about a water pump in the desert, and how it was necessary to prime the pump with the little jar of water instead of drinking it.

Well, we weren't sure, but Wayne used a search engine and told us: 

You did it!  You helped me find the poem I have looked for for years.  The name of the poem is "Desert Pete."  

Wayne attached the poem, also a song made popular by the Kingston Trio. It can be found here.

Don Edwards and Waddie Mitchell have it on their "Bard and the Balladeer recordin'" (click the cover for Amazon's details, where you can listen to a sample of it):

Click for Amazon  

Dick Morton pointed out that "Desert Pete" was written by Billy Edd Wheeler, and we thank him for that, which is also noted over at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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updated 1/3/06
updated 10/14/05
updated 10/31/04
updated 9/19/03

Stubby Pringle / Slim Pickens Christmas Movie (Answered!)

Ray wrote to us: 

I am looking for both the book Stubby Pringles Christmas or Stubby Pringles Cowboy Christmas.  I would like to give it as a gift to my grandson. I am would also like to find a copy of the video.  It was aired on a Denver TV station in the early Eighties. If it is not Stubby Pringles, then it would be Stacy Pringles. Gone down a lots of trail from the time I fist read the book and then seen the movie till today. Great Christmas Story.

If that can't be found, I would like to find a copy of the Christmas story video/movie that stared Slim Pickens from back in the 70's or 80's.

Can you set me on the correct trail?

We told Ray:

We found some discussions about how the Pringle film is at UCLA but not on video.

At one time we found a copy of the book for $200. "1. SCHAEFER, Jack. Stubby Pringle's Christmas. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1964) 1st ed. A charming Christmas story handsomely illustrated by Lorence Bjorklund. Very fine in very fine pictorial dust jacket. $200 " 

Amazon.com has used copies advertised, the last one we saw was $79.95 (and they have a set of cassettes of all of Jack Schaefer's stories; they don't say what is included).

BAR-D pards weighed in:

L. Dale says the book is on eBay for as low as $30 from time to time.

Jodi told us it is also in the Reader's Digest Book of Christmas which was printed around 1973.

And...... a $6.00 (!) version from Leader Lore, who publishes a reprint of the book with the permission of Jack Schaefer's widow: 

4940 South Bitter Root Drive
Taylorsville, UT 84118-2800

   The story is also in:  A Cowboy Christmas, edited by Anne Tempelman-Kluit.

As to Slim Pickens, maybe you are referring' to Christmas Mountain, which this site and others say isn't on video (1980): http://www.eonline.com/Facts/Movies/0,60,59109,00.html

In September, 2003, "D." wrote and said "Yes!! There is movie with Slim Pickens called The Story of a Cowboy Christmas Angel. It was aired in the 80's and it was about a cowboy who had died and had to redeem his ways before he could go to heaven, very good movie."

  In January, 2006 we found a DVD of Christmas Mountain, the Story of a Cowboy Angel available through Amazon

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updated 9/04/02

Pert 'Near  (Answered!)

Marty wrote to us:

Heard someone recite a poem entitled Pert ‘near. Ring any bells. I loved it and want a copy.

This is one of our most frequently-asked questions.

That poem, also known as Purt Near! and Pert' Near Perkins is by S. Omar Barker

Click to view at Amazon.com  It is available in a fine book from Cowboy Miner, and with their kind permission, we're pleased to share it with you here: 


"Purt Near!"

They called him "Purt Near Perkins,"
   for unless the booger lied,
He'd purt near done most everything
   that he had ever tried.
He'd purt near been a preacher
   and he'd purt near roped a bear;
He'd met up with Comanches once
   and purt near lost his hair.
He'd purt near wed an heiress
   who had money by the keg,
He'd purt near had the measles,
   and he'd purt near broke his leg.

He'd purt near been a trail boss,
   and accordin' to his claim,
He'd purt near shot Bill Hickock--
   which had purt near won  him fame!
He'd purt near rode some broncs
   upon which no one else had stuck
In fact he was the feller
   Who had purt near drowned the duck!

Now mostly all the cowboys
   On the Lazy S B spread,
They took his talkin' with a grin
   And let him fight his head.
But one named Tom Maginnis
   Sorter told it to him rough:
"You're ridin' with an outfit now
   Where 'purt near' ain't enough!
We tie our lasso ropes to the horn,
   An' what we ketch we hold,
And 'purt near' is one alibi
   We never do unfold!
In fact, right now
   I'll tell you that no word I ever hear
Sounds quite so plain damn useless
   As that little pair: 'purt near'!"

That's how ol' Tom Maginnis
   Laid it out upon the line,
And like a heap of preachin' talk,
   It sounded mighty fine.
But one day Tom Maginnis,
   While a-ridin' off alone,
He lamed his horse
   And had to ketch some neighbor nester's roan
To ride back to the ranch on.
   But somewhere along the way
A bunch of nesters held him up,
   And there was hell to pay!

Tom claimed he hadn't stole the horse--
   Just borrowed it to ride.
Them nesters hated cowboys,
   And they told him that he lied.
The cussed him for a horsethief
   And they'd caught him with the goods.
They set right out to hang him
   In a nearby patch of woods.
They had pore Tom surrounded,
   With their guns all fixed to shoot.
It looked like this pore cowboy
   Sure had heard his last owl hoot!

They tied a rope around his neck
   And throwed it o'er a limb
And Tom Maginnis purt near knowed
   This was the last of him.
Then suddenly a shot rang out
   From somewhere up the hill!
Them nesters dropped the rope an' ran,
   Like nesters sometimes will
When bullets start to whizzin'.
   Tom's heart lept up with hope
To see ol' Purt Near Perkins
   Ridin' towards him at a lope.

"Looks like I purt near
   Got here just in time," ol' Perkins said,
"To see them nesters hang you!"
   Tom's face got kinder red.
"You purt near did!" he purt near grinned.
  "They purt near had me strung!
You're lookin' at a cowboy
   That has pert near just been hung!
And also one that's changed his mind--
   For no word ever said,
Can sound as sweet as 'purt near',
   When a man's been purt near dead!"

By S. Omar Barker, reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker from Cowboy Miner Publications


See our feature about S. Omar Barker here.


   Andy Hedges has a great rendition of this poem n his "Days and Nights in the Saddle".


Click for Amazon  It has been recorded by Waddie Mitchell on The Bard and the Balladeer. At Amazon you can hear at least some of it.

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updated 6/30/10

Buried Between the Things He Loved Most  (Answered!)

Sandi wrote us:

I, and others in the company I work for, have been searching high and low for a particular toast or poem, that has to do with dying with your boots on, spurs, a fine horse a fine woman, a saddle, etc., etc.,  I believe the ending line has something to do with the cowboy, or soldier, being buried between the two things he loves the most. Are you familiar with this poem or toast?  It's possibly an old Cavalry toast.

We couldn't help and sent Sandi our usual reply.  And she replied:

Thanks so much for your reply and for the search engine addresses.  I did find what I was looking for from the Ft. Riley, Kansas Cavalry Association. The poem/toast goes like this:

Here's to the horses
Here's to the saddles
Here's to the girl's that ride them

When I die,
May my hide be tanned
And made into a saddle

So I can be between the two things
I love the most.

Mike Dunn of Mesa, Arizona pointed out that probably the best known poem on the subject is by Gary McMahan, called "The Two Things in Life That I Really Love."  It's included in New Cowboy Poetry:  

Click to view at Amazon.com  New Cowboy Poetry : A Contemporary Gathering
by Hal Cannon (Editor)

Find the poem in our feature about Gary McMahan here.

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updated 10/14/05
updated 12/15/03
updated 5/15/03

Life Gets Tedious (Answered!)

We got this request:

Sorry if I am not in the correct department.  But, I have been trying to locate a poem that goes something like ----  The sun comes up, the sun goes down, The hands on the clock keep going around.  Just get up and you have to lay down, Life gets tedious, don't it..........  etc, etc.   I believe Grandpa Jones did this reading on Hee Haw many years back.  Would you have any idea where I can locate the entire poem?  Any help you could give me, or directions, would be greatly appreciate.

We answered:

That's a tune  called "Life Gets Tedious, Don't It?"

You can hear Doc Watson singing' it here:

We've seen it attributed to Tom T. Hall, C. J. Robison, Carson Robinson, Peter Lind Hayes, and others. 

Chuck wrote to us:

Life Gets T'jus, Don't It?  That was the way I first heard of it in the middle 1940's.  It was on a record.  I do not know the label or artist.  It was a reading with a 'plinking' accompaniment.  It has been a favorite in our family for all those years.  (Third generation now.)  I don't know what happened to our copy, but a few years ago I made a transcription of the words:












Chuck also sent this link to another version: http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/l/lifegetsteejusdontit.shtml

John told us:

As far as I am aware, this was recorded in the '30s by Frank Crummit and re-recorded by Dorothy Shay ("The Park Avenue Hillbilly")
in the '40s.

Verlon W. adds:

I've got a 33 1/3 RPM album by Carson Robinson with some great art work on the cover of a man sitting in a chair on the porch with his feet propped up on the railing, and his dog lying nearby. The title of the album is "Life Gets Tee-jus Don't It?  Of course that tune, or should I say recitation is featured, and as one site viewer wrote, it has a plinking accompaniment in the background. There are other stories and recitations included on the album, of course; one about Hitler; which probably dates the recording in the forties. I don't mean the record album was recorded that early, but the original tape might have been recorded then, as 33 1/3 vinyl records were first produced in 1954-55, or somewhere along there, Hope this sheds a little light on the subject. 

Paul adds:

I had a 78 back in the early fifties of "Life Gets Tedious Don't It." My version was by Peter Lind Hayes and I still can't get it out of my mind.

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updated 9/20/09
updated 10/23/06
updated 1/20/05
posted in or before 2002

The Piddling Pup / Piddlin' Pete (Answered!)

Phyllis wrote to us:

"The Piddling Pup" was in a book I had many years ago -- with "The Face on the Bar Room Floor" -- "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and other 'Ribald' (keyword in title) poetry of the wild west. Ever heard of it? The publisher name began with a "V". Would love to find "The....Pup" again.

We found many references to a poem frequently said to be a traditional Australian poem.   It starts like this:

Pete, The Piddling Pup

A farmer's dog came into town,
His Christian name was Pete.
A noble pedigree he had,
To see him was a treat.
And as he trotted down the street
'Twas beautiful to see
His work on every corner,
His work on every tree...

We note that on  Frank Daniel's Bush Poetry site (no longer active in 2006), he has a version attributed to Jo Anderson, circa 1750.

We found the book Phyllis referred to, with a clue from Rebecca.  It's called American Ballads; Naughty, Ribald, and Classic, compiled by Charles O'Brien Kennedy with the Assistance of David Jordan.  A Premier Book, Fawcett Publications, Inc. NY 1952, second printing 1956.   Used copies are not hard to come by.


   Waddie Mitchell has a version of this poem, "Piddlin' Pete," on his Waddie Mitchell Live CD.

  Larae told us that the poem appears in Poems for the John.


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Always more to come....

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