Lariat Laureate

 

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We're pleased to announce the winner of the:

Lariat Laureate

KEN COOK

of  South Dakota,

recognized for his poem

"The Conversation"

 

and

8 Seconds

(alphabetically)

Cathy Brian
"The Day the Cows Go Out"
Utah

Daniel Bybee
"Old Jiggs"
Nevada

Byrl Keith Chadwell
"Cowboy Credentials"
Oregon

Del Gustafson
"The Night Wind"
Washington

Slim McNaught
"The Snubbin' Post"
South Dakota

Kip Sorlie
"Rope"
South Dakota

Smoke Wade
"Trailing the Herd"
Nevada and Idaho

Cora Wood
"Chester"
Wyoming



 

Below you'll find the poems and more information about the winners and a media release.

Biographies below are supplied by the poets.

You can also view separate pages for each winner with the links below
or through Folks' Poems and the Index of poems.
 


 

There are pages for previous Lariat Laureate and 8 Seconds' winners:

First Lariat Laureate Rod Nichols and 8 Seconds are here.
Second Lariat Laureate Neal Torrey and 8 Seconds are here.
Third Lariat Laureate Verlin Pitt and 8 Seconds are here.
Fourth Lariat Laureate Jo Lynne Kirkwood and 8 Seconds are here.
Fifth Lariat Laureate Jay Snider and 8 Seconds are here.
Sixth Lariat Laureate Sam Jackson and 8 Seconds are here.
Seventh Lariat Laureate Rod Miller and 8 Seconds are here.
Eighth Lariat Laureate Jane Morton and 8 Seconds are here.
Ninth Lariat Laureate Jay Jones and 8 Seconds are here.
Tenth Lariat Laureate LaVonne Houlton and 8 Seconds are here.
Eleventh Lariat Laureate Jack Sammon and 8 Seconds are here.
Twelfth Lariat Laureate Paul Kern and 8 Seconds are here.
Thirteenth Lariat Laureate Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw and 8 Seconds are here.
Fourteenth Lariat Laureate Diane Tribitt and 8 Seconds are here.

Fifteenth Lariat Laureate Ken Cook and 8 Seconds are below.

 

You can enter the next Lariat Laureate competition.


Lariat Laureate

KEN COOK

recognized for his poem, "The Conversation"



photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
 

About Ken Cook:

Ken Cook of Martin, South Dakota, is currently ranching and writing in southeast Bennett County. His wife, Nancy, has a real job in town at the bank! It's a marriage made in heaven. Ken gets to kiss his banker every evening.

Ken's poetry cuts a wide path—from the humorous "who'd-a-thunk-it" mishaps involving kids, cattle, and horses, right down an emotional trail reliving the years spent horseback with his grandpa Frank Buckles. His son Kiel is currently working on the ranch his great-grandpa Buckles started and the family once owned.

Cook writes about what he knows: punchin' cows and livin' life. He has had the privilege of entertaining folks in several states, including a trip to the 23rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, as a featured performer.

Ken has recorded two CD's of original poetry, Dad, We'll Rope Today and I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy. His latest CD, Cowboys Are Like That includes the work of Buck Ramsey, Badger Clark, and Ralph Garnier Coole, as well as his own poetry. Ken's poetry is featured on the 2007, 2008, and 2009 editions of The BAR-D Roundup.


We asked Ken why he writes cowboy poetry and why he thinks it is important.

Cowboying, for a hundred different reasons, is a way of life folks are drawn to. There's no better way to share this life I live than through poetry. Besides, my singing is terrible and I couldn't play a guitar on a bet!

Over the years I've ridden 'longside men three times my age, and kids green as spring grass. Old and young alike have a story to tell, and if I can "steal" just a little from each one of them, a poem will find its way to the surface of a piece of paper. After hearing a poem of mine, someone will ask "Is that true, or did that really happen?" I tell them it's all true...except for the parts I made up.

I write because I get the same adrenalin rush from writing as I do from punchin' cows, roping and ridin' good horses.  It's just what I do.


This is Ken Cook's winning poem:


The Conversation

What has not changed ol' cowboy friend
Since you was young and men were men?

When horse not broke till nearly five?
Cow's horns intact kept calf alive!

What has not changed in all your days,
Is nothin' left of cowboy ways?

The wagon was your only home
And blackest eve Nighthawk did roam,

To hold 'em quiet with lullaby
And ride the ridge where coyotes cry.

What has not changed in all your days,
Is nothin' left of cowboy ways?

When fences held a garden tight
And grass for miles a wondrous sight,

With horse and rope to branding fire
You burned the hide with one desire,

To live a life on Sandhills grass.
Tell me cowboy, has all that passed?

I'll tell you boy what still remains
Of cowboy ways here on the plains.

By God you ride the same as me
And cows are cows near's I can see.

I'll tell you son what still survives
Of cowboy ways shines in your eyes.

Few teams are left and fence appeared
So Nighthawk sleeps but over years,

By God you rope and do it grand
'Cause it's your life, you've made your stand,

Which has not changed in all the days
You've kept alive a cowboy's ways.

You fight back change to keep old ways
That every year make ranching pay,

So generations yet to come
Might live this life that we've begun.

They'll saddle horse to work a cow
Here on this ranch like we do now.

2007, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Ken tells about the inspiration for his poem:

On February 1st, 2007, I did an interview at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Deep West Sheep Camp with Laura Marcus.  I spent nearly the entire interview talking about my Grandpa Frank Buckles and my kids and the changes in the cattle industry that have occurred over three generations. Laura asked the question, "Ken, what has not changed?"  I thought for a moment then replied, "Cows."  The one thing that has not changed is the fact that cows are still...just cows. As I left the sheep camp I pulled my pad and pen out of my pocket and wrote down the line "cows are cows."  And those three words prompted the creation of the dialogue between a grandpa and his grandson that I call "The Conversation."

For me, the poem has become ageless, with the passing of my Grandpa, my kids growing up, and now a grandchild of my own. This thing we call "life on the ranch" has a way changing with the seasons.

Ken has written about his grandfather in poems such as "Grandpa," and has shared photos and stories about him in Picture the West. You can see those photos and read more here.

You can email Ken Cook: ken@kencookcowboypoet.com


You can read more poetry by Ken Cook here at the BAR-D and at his website, www.kencookcowboypoet.com.

 


 

8 Seconds

Cathy Brian

 

The Day the Cows Go Out

The morning air is damp, and there is dew upon the ground,
But I can still see dust and I can hear a pleasing sound.

My cowboys woke up early; they got dressed and rushed away,
While they grabbed their spurs and saddles and lunches for the day.

And somewhere in the scurry from their beds and out the door
They still had time to thank me like they've always done before.

The pleasing sound is of cowboys as they begin the day
A whoopin' and a shoutin', contrasting mothers as they pray

That their cowboys won't be trampled, that their horses stay serene.
It's a comfort to the mothers; their prayers are just routine.

Before the morning sun begins to raise his dazzling head,
Over the hills and mountains getting dudes out of their bed,

My boys are on their horses and the cows are raisin' dust.
They're causing such a ruckus you'd think the fences just might bust.

But they finally get 'em gathered and out an open gate
And are heading to the mountains where the cows'll congregate.

The cows will settle down some as they hit the open trail,
And it seems that's when the cowboys can finally exhale.

It's something to look forward to; the day the cows go out,
And the sound of working cowboys in the distance as they shout.
 

2008, Cathy Brian 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Cathy told us about the inspiration for her poem: "As the mother of five wonderful, slightly dirty, mischievous, kids I found myself with a rare opportunity to take an early walk on the day that the cows were going out. Unintentionally, I walked in the direction that the cows were being gathered and worked. It was probably a good mile off, but I could see the dust and hear the shouts of the cowboys. It was still early enough that the dust and steam from the cows was visible and shining through the early sunlight. There were probably ten or more cowboys in all, with a bunch of little cowboys and girls. As I walked, listened, and smiled, I could make out the distinct shouts of my own cowboys. Thus the poem."

 

We asked Cathy why she writes Cowboy Poetry and why she thinks it is important, and she commented: 

I, absolutely, love the ability the cowboy poet has to take a sticky, strenuous situation that may have caused some sorrow or strife and see the humor in it (after it's over with, of course). I also love the fact that a cowboy, or cowgirl is about the toughest person around, and yet, they know what it is to be gentle, and enjoy the beauty of life. Who better can capture what life is all about in poetry, than those who are so concerned with and intimately a part of life, growth and the land.

Where the cowboy is dwindling, and being run off his precious land, the stories and lessons he has learned are so important and necessary. I want my children to have the memories of their endangered childhood written down in this traditional and unique way so that their experiences can be used to teach and bless the lives of their posterity.
 

You can email Cathy Brian: cat7brian@scinternet.net

 

I live in Loa, Utah, My husband, Roger, is and has been, his whole life, a cattle and sheep rancher. I was raised in the city, but felt misplaced my whole life. I would often escape into a Louis L'Amour book and dream of my own cowboy, not realizing that that was, indeed, exactly what my future held.

So, for fourteen years I have ridden the range beside my husband and, in time, my three sons, Braden (12), Caib (11), Chance (3) and my little cowgirls, Aubree (7), and Oaklee (1). The oldest four have recited my cowboy poetry on stage for the last nine years. Each has tried his or her hand at writing about their own cowboy dreams.

The poems I have written are all about the experiences my husband, the kids, and I have had as we've grown together. I have written a few poems that come from the lives of our ancestors and hope to be able to continue finding unique stories from those who rode the range before us. But, the greatest joy I have is from watching and writing about my children as they grow, learn, experience and enjoy the beauty of life and living through the hard, monotonous, and often back-breaking labor of working cowboys.
 

Cathy Brian's poetry is here at the BAR-D.


Daniel Bybee

Old Jiggs

By the time I knew him he had seen his better days
and he'd gotten sorta cranky and was tricky in the ways
of a horse who'd seen it all and knew all a ranchers tricks
when it came to handlin' horses while avoidin' their swift kicks
 
The Jiggs I knew would come a runnin' for a flake of hay
and he'd run you over every time if you got in his way
An apple or a sugar cube could coax him through the gate
and when my uncle saddled him he'd just stand there and wait
 
But put a kid like me up in the saddle on that hoss
and he sure would come untracked just to show me who was boss
Jiggs would buck and bow his neck to see if I would stick
and turn around and try to bite and maybe throw a kick
 
My uncle got old Jiggs from a neighbor rancher's wife
and he never could have dreamt that horse would live such a long life
and outlive so many horses born since he had been acquired
and keep on livin' years and years since he had been retired
 
But back in younger days these two had covered lots of ground
when they both had fewer aches and their knees were firm and sound
and they brought the cattle in for the shippin' in the fall
after gatherin' em from manzanita thickets ten feet tall
 
They rode the brushy canyons of my uncle's foothill spread
and crossed the Fresno river where he gave ol' Jiggs his head
as he picked his way across between the rocks covered with moss
and then vaulted up the bank like a fancy jumpin' hoss
 
Almost forty years had passed since Jiggs first learned to walk
when my uncle took him packin' where majestic granite rock
forms Sierra peaks and valleys holding crystal clear blue lakes
where snow hangs on thru June and the mighty aspen quakes
 
My uncle thought it fittin' that his trusty aging steed
should graze his final pastures up where red fir drops its seed
and where grass is growing next to lakes kept full by icy streams
in a tranquil mountain setting that was worthy of his dreams
 
I was on that trip and Jiggs was packed with all our gear
and we had a line of horses with Jiggs bringin' up the rear
and we watched for that old horse to give us some kind of a sign
that he might be on his last legs near the end of his long line
 
But ten days later after many miles on dusty trails
and climbin' over passes watchin' other horses tails
Jiggs was still a goin' to the surprise of uncle Clyde
and I think three more years passed 'fore good old Jiggs then finally died
 
He died back on the home ranch in a pasture 'neath a willow
where he lay down in the shade with the tall grass for a pillow
and he drifted off to sleep cooled by a gentle summer breeze
as the sun set on old Jiggs with twilight filtered through the trees

2008, Daniel Bybee
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Pascal and Clyde Pitts


Daniel told us about the inspiration for his poem: My uncle had many horses over the years, but the most memorable one was named Jiggs. By the time I was old enough to help out on the ranch, Jiggs was already old and ornery and spent most of his time down on my uncle’s ranch outside of Fresno. My cousin and I were told to stay away from him, but we saddled him up in the corral and both got on and he commenced to try and buck us off. We both stayed on somehow. One other time I was in the corral with Jiggs and he put his ears back and came after me. I managed to get behind a big stack of fence boards before he caught me. After that, I left him alone. Jiggs lived to be over 40 years old and we even took him on one of our high mountain pack trips a few years before he died. Many years later, I heard stories from my aunt about how he was a good cow horse back in his younger years. Last year those stories and my memories of my experiences with Jiggs came together in this poem. I hope you enjoy it.

 

We asked Daniel why he writes Cowboy Poetry and why he thinks it is important, and he commented: 

I started writing cowboy poetry in order to tell the stories of growing up working and playing on my uncle’s cattle ranch in Coarsegold, California. I was lucky enough grow up on a farm only a few miles from my uncle’s valley farm, and he used to stop and pick me up on the way to his mountain ranch. We would haul up a load of hay, unload it into the old barn, doctor cows and calves, and ride around in the jeep feeding the cows and shooting squirrels. Then we might saddle up the horses for a ride out to check fences and reservoirs. I had so many memories of those wonderful years and I always thought I would write them down some day. After going to Elko for the first time in 2001, I learned how I could tell my stories to other people. I wanted to record that portion of my uncle’s life that he shared with me while I was growing up. He was such an incredible man who lived life with such a passion that few people ever experience. I want other people to be able to experience through my poems the man I knew and the life he lived. My uncle, Clyde Pitts, taught me the cowboy code through how he lived his life and I am forever grateful to him for how I live my life today.


You can email Daniel Bybee:  danbybee@hotmail.com

 

I grew up on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California. I had a large extended family with 13 sets of aunts and uncles and 37 first cousins. Most of us were farmers and ranchers. Two of my mom’s brothers owned a cattle ranch up in the Sierra Nevada foothills near the town of Coarsegold. I used to go with my Uncle Clyde up to the ranch every chance I could to help out with the chores, ride horses, ride in the jeep and shoot squirrels. He had been a bull rider in his younger days and a good friend of Slim Pickens. He always had great stories to tell while we were riding to and from the ranch. He and my Uncle Pascal took me, my brother and some cousins on a horse pack trip every summer into the high Sierras to an area outside of Yosemite National Park. We would spend 10 days hiking and fishing and learning about taking care of the horses on our trips. Those were magical times and the memories of those trips and of my years at that ranch have provided me with a treasure chest of ideas for my poems.


Pascal and Clyde Pitts

I’ve been going to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every year since 2001, and I have been learning from the best writers and reciters in the country. I recently moved to Reno, Nevada, and look forward to new adventures that will eventually be subject matter for new poems. I plan to keep writing as long as ideas keep coming.
 

Daniel Bybee's poetry is here at the BAR-D.
 


Byrl Keith Chadwell
 

 

Cowboy Credentials

The "wrecks" that they weather
           I would sorta suppose
Are cowboys' credentials
           Not the look of their clothes

If you've ridden for long
            On a range fit for snakes
When you're movin' cattle
            In those rim rocks and breaks

Your horse he might stumble
             Spurrin' down off a rim
to turn that ol' lead cow
             Now things start lookin' grim

Somersault with your horse.
            Some folks call it "a wreck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

"There she is...cut her back...
            That wild eyed ol' brindle"
She starts facin' you down
            And her fire is a' kindle

You sure are mistaken
            When you call her last bluff
Because she's had enough
            Of your horse and your guff

So she sticks her ol' head
            Way up under your horse
In the twink' of an eye
            You've got cowboy remorse

Advanced education.
            Some folks call it "a wreck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

When the trail's dark and steep
            And no moon lights your way
Got a pack string of mules
            You hear one of them bray

You'd figured by midnight
            Sure enough you'd be back
Now a mule's in the creek
            Upside down on her pack

A schedule adjustment.
            Some folks call it "a wreck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

You know that big Paint colt
            That you've started to ride
Thinks big rocks eat horses
            Still...you take him outside

You've got to work cattle
             Not just go for the ride
You're pushin' his limits
            All along with your pride

If you can stay with him
            Each time "rocks" eat your horse
You'll build up credentials
            And your tall tales' resource

But if'n he dumps you?
            It's OK "what the heck"
Builds cowboy credentials
            If you don't break your neck

And yes...you're a "cowboy"
            By the look of your clothes
But now... with "credentials"
            Would you sorta suppose??

2006,  Byrl Keith Chadwell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Keith told us about his inspiration for this poem: There are questions that come up from time to time, about cowboy poetry and cowboy poets. What is cowboy poetry? Just who is a cowboy poet?  Should cowboy poetry be; verse in rhyme and meter or freestyle?

This poem reflects my belief that cowboy poetry should be…“poetry” but it also should be…“credible,” no matter who writes the stuff or what technique they use.    

"Cowboy Credentials" is based on some of my own real life experiences over the years. So, I am poking a little fun at my own credentials as a cowboy and a cowboy poet.

In the final analysis, the knowing nod of a grey old head, under a cowboy hat, perched above a pair of bowed legs, will always be the best meter to certify a “cowboy poem” or a “cowboy poet.


We asked Keith why he writes cowboy poetry and he told us

Honestly?  I can't remember when I didn't want to be a cowboy. The first cowboy poem I ever remember hearing was a favorite of my Mother's and she was the first to read it to me when I was just a lad. I found a worn copy of it in her diary after her death in 1971. It was the S. Omar Barker poem titled "He Takes it Straight." I have always been a black coffee drinker. (Is that a bit of coincidence or perhaps a bit of cowboy poetry influence?)

My life has been enriched by a family heritage of pioneer ranching, timber, mining and farm people who came West and scratched out a living in this great Northwest country. My Grandfather Chadwell came west with a cattle drive on the Oregon Trail and stayed to homestead in Eastern Oregon. Our ranch was also along parts of the old Oregon Trail.  

I guess I could say my appreciation for the cowboy way of life has been a huge factor in the formation of all that I am, including my desire from time to time to write about those things that move me emotionally, and spiritually. 

To be so blessed to have been even a small part of this heritage and this life has no doubt inspired me to write some...cowboy poetry.

You can email Byrl Keith Chadwell: rucklescreekranch@hotmail.com

Byrl Keith Chadwell was born in a Colorado mining town in the late 1930s. Keith started to cowboy, as a youngster, on his grandfather’s homestead on the breaks of the Burnt River in Eastern Oregon.

Keith has spent a lifetime working with livestock which has included breaking and training a lot of horses and mules. Keith and His wife Barbara owned and operated their own stock ranch for over 14 years before retiring in 2005.

Keith is also a 10 year U. S. Marine Corps veteran and later worked in Human Resources management and  Safety/Risk Management Consulting with various companies.  

Keith and Barbara, his wife of over 50 years, recently sold their ranch and did some RV traveling. They ended up working at the Grand Canyon for a couple of seasons where Keith worked as a mule guide. 

With roots that run deep into the ranching, mining and timber history of the Northwest, Keith has a rich and colorful background from which he writes Western gospel songs, and cowboy poetry. Keith recently finished his first cowboy poetry CD, titled Tales and Trails.


Byrl Keith Chadwell's poetry is here at the BAR-D.
 


Del Gustafson

 

The Night Wind

I was hunting stray cows in the mountains,
when I found a small mustang brood,
They were down in a sheltered creek bottom,
stripping the willows for food.
I charged down the hillside to spook them,
and they scattered like a covey of quail.

That rangy, black mare running with them,
I could see was no common broomtail.
The drifts cut her off from the ridges,
and there was no other place she could go,
She made a wild plunge for her freedom,
that put her up to her belly in snow.

I roped her then with no trouble,
My horse kept the ketch rope pulled taut.
I worked down the rope with a halter,
her flight was in vain, she was caught.
She was thin and rough from the winter,
but her hot blood was plain to the eye.

The flat bone told of good breeding,
a short back and a fine head held high.
I neck yoked the mare to my pack mule,
his dam was from a heavy draft breed,
he was determined to go to the warm barn,
so he dragged her and broke her to lead.

The spring grass was up in my pasture,
and she slicked up fat as could be,
but she would gaze at the mountain for hours,
her wild heart longed to be free.
I named the black mare Night Wind,
at a gallop she seemed almost to fly,
A fine mount for a cowboy to ride on,
and I made up my mind then to try.

I ran her into my corral,
swung a loop to run her around,
I roped her as she ran past me,
snubbed her and then choked her down.
I leaped on her head with my blindfold,
got her hobbled and sidelined up tight,
she scrambled to her feet without urging,
full of blind terror and fight.

This way and that way we struggled,
her hobbling and bawling in fright,
but I, determined to ride her,
got her rigged and the saddle cinched tight.
When she tired I slipped off the hobbles,
swung the corral gate open wide.
mounted and reached up for the blindfold,
and drove a spur rowel in her side.

She leaped through the gate like a panther,
and bolted at a runaway pace,
sweat in my eyes had me blinded,
I was choked by the wind in my face.
I sawed on the reins to slow her,
still the rocks and the sagebrush flashed by,
she was running all out to the mountains,
she was going to be free or would die.

A barbed wire fence would not turn her,
she leaped and barely jumped clear,
the heat of my passion was gone now,
chilled by a deep icy fear.
I tugged with both hands on the left rein,
finally her head came around,
I leaned far out to the right side,
she stumbled and slid to the ground.

My knife sliced the latigo cleanly,
as she kicked and flailed on her side,
I jumped clear and jerked off the headstall,
and booted her lathered black hide.
She leaped to her feet in an instant,
snorted with her tail in the air,
galloped off, mane flowing behind her,
the sun glinting on her sweaty black hair.

My spur and my whip could not break her,
though she was lathered and skinned,
Her wild heart belongs on the mountain,
racing that cold mountain wind.

1969, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Del told us that he wrote this poem "after a wild horse chase on the south fork of the Salmon River."


You can email Del Gustafson: delgustaf@netscape.com

 

My early years were spent on the family farm just south of the Canadian border. Due to World War II, power lines were not strung until late in 1946. Up until then lights were Carbide, piped in from a carbide well, kerosene lamps, Coleman lanterns and candles. The acetylene gas that came from the carbide well was really sooty, so kerosene was used most of the time. We had a wood cook stove decorated with nickel designs, a pitcher pump at the kitchen sink and a Sears and Roebuck privy set away from the house. Electricity brought radio, wringer washers, refrigeration and a milking machine.

We plowed, three horses abreast, tall horse in the furrow, with a John Deere sulky plow. The furrows were a quarter of a mile long and going away from the barn the horses would want to stop and look back to see if you said "Whoa," and they didn’t hear you. Going toward the barn it was hard to get them to stop for a breather. We’d change teams at mid-day and plow till milking time. Putting in forty acres of grain seemed to take forever.

My brothers and I would ride anything we could and some things we couldn’t. We improvised a bucking chute in the barn and someone would swing the door open when we were set. The doorway was low enough so we had to duck when we came out. I recall my brother coming out on a tall red heifer and taking the door frame full in the face. I remember them daring me to ride a hog that weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds. I might have stayed for three jumps then he stepped on me. The neighbor had an ornery mule that would run you out off the pasture. They dared me to ride him and he wasn’t a real bad bucker but he gave me lice. A few years later two friends and I pooled our money to buy a used bareback rig and an association saddle and we went rodeoing on weekends. We managed to be in the money enough to keep us going.

I worked heavy construction for a good many years and most of us were ex-cowboys or wannabe cowboys. We worked hard and played harder. Every year a bunch would head over to the Salmon River area to chase wild horses. The BLM stopped that in 1974. It was after a wild horse chase in 1969 I wrote "The Big Yella Dun" and "The Night Wind." "The Big Yella Dun" was published in Western Horseman in September of 1969.

I did more than a little trimming and shoeing but the oddest was a donkey with feet like a rocking horse. His rear feet pointed off to the left like a truck out of alignment. Things started out alright but the more good feet I got under him the harder he fought. By the time I got to the last foot I almost had to throw him and tie him down.

At this point in life I can only write a good ride.

 

Del Gustafson's poetry is here at CowboyPoetry.com.
 


Slim McNaught

 

The Snubbin' Post

dust swirlin'
horse whirlin'
Lariat flashes through the air
horse caught
rope taut
Dallied to snubbin' post there.
cowboy gains
horse strains
Two wills at odds in the sun
cowboy nears
horse fears
He longs for freedom to run.
teachin' begins
fightin' ends
As cowboy and horse connect
fear decreases
strain ceases
Between snubbin' post and neck.
time slides
cowboy rides
And horse gets the job down pat
works cow
knows how.
It started where the snubbin' post's at.

2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Slim told us about the inspiration for this poem: This poem came about from our Western Writers Group & Dakota Cowboy Poets Association. Each meeting is held at the residence (or their choice of location) of a member and that member picks a subject for all to write a poem about. The July 2, 2006 meeting was held at my residence in New Underwood and I had picked “The Snubbing Post” as a theme for that meeting’s poetry. Looking back, I remembered our round corral with a young horse dallied to the snubbing post, no breeze, dust thick, sweaty, feeling his power, fear, and curiosity as I eased down the rope. That’s where the poem came from.

 

We asked Slim why he writes Cowboy Poetry and why he thinks it is important and he commented:

The reasons I write cowboy poetry are varied, and some I can’t explain. Foremost is that this heritage needs to be kept alive. When memories come to mind I feel compelled to write them down, and they seem to just naturally come out in rhyme. I think this must have been the case with some of my ancestors who spent a lot of time in the saddle making their living with cattle, with nothing for their minds to do but put their experiences to rhyme. I feel we owe those folks for those heritages and principles they have handed down to us. One way to handle this responsibility is to keep their memories and stories alive, and add our own material for our future generations. A lot of folks don’t realize what an important part the American cowboy played in the development of our country. Nowadays we have groups of delusional, illogical people who are rabidly trying to eradicate our cowboy way of life. It is up to us to try to get the truth out to keep this lifestyle alive; just one more reason I write cowboy poetry. We think our memories are the most beautiful, the most tragic, the most impressive, but every generation has thought that since time began, and they all need recorded. As we get older, we tend to look back at how things were and I believe that is a trait that has a purpose. It is by looking back and recording what we see, that keeps our history flowing for future generations.


You can email Slim McNaught:  slimscl@yahoo.com

 


  
photo by Jen Dobrowski

Slim McNaught of New Underwood, South Dakota, spent his early years in an old log house on a ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota. He started writing poetry in high school but didn't try his hand at reciting live on stage until 2004. Since that time he's been busy going to cowboy poetry gatherings from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Medora, North Dakota, entertaining at banquets, city centennial and quasi-centennial celebrations, trail rides, and participating in cowboy churches. The rest of his time is taken up with his leather tooling business, having downsized the saddle and boot shop he and wife, Darlene, operated many years.

Much of his poetry is about things that happened to him or his friends while growing up on ranches in southwest South Dakota. Over the years he has had poems and articles published in various anthologies plus many cowboy, horse, and agriculture magazines and newspapers. Some highlights have been a short clip on RFD-TV taken from a performance on Susie Luchsinger’s program, and being chosen to perform on the Friday Night Opry at the WMA Awards Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2008. Since 1981 Slim has published five books, the last three of which he printed and assembled in his leather shop, with another about ready to print. He also has two CDs published with another in the works which will include some of his cowboy prayer poems. He also publishes poem books for his mother, Troy McNaught Westby. His cowboy poetry itinerary can be found on www.myspace.com/slimthe1st. Books and CDs can be found on his "Slim's Custom Leather" web store at www.slimscustomleather.com. His latest CD is also available at www.cdbaby.com.

Slim feels he has been blest in knowing and working with cattle and horse people all his life which has influenced his poetry and leather work. Slim and Darlene have four children, seven grand children, and ten (at last tally) great grand children.

 

Slim McNaught's poetry is here at CowboyPoetry.com.
 


Kip Sorlie

 

Rope

WHERE TIMBER MEETS THE SAGE
     A SHACK AND SHED GROW OLD,
MUTE PROPS, STILL ON A STAGE,
     THAT WATCHED THIS TALE UNFOLD.
 
He finished building camp,
     Then wagoned up his gear.
Cold weather turning damp
     Said snow was nearly here.
 
He stopped and thought awhile,
     Then, hung the rope inside.
He rode off with a smile,
     "That rope will save his hide!"
 
Someday his son would need,
     For purposes unknown,
A good rope and a steed,
     Long after he had grown.
 
The son, now grown and gray
     Had laid his dad to rest,
But Bob would tend each stray,
     Till his son fledged the nest
 
A cold chill on his neck
     Bespoke the first alarm.
Bob watched each little speck
     That settled on his arm.
 
As the flakes descended,
     Like tiny flecks of sand,
Lightly they portended
     Seduction of the land.
 
A calm disguised the cold,
     Suggesting it was warm.
It was deception bold
     That gave no hint of storm.
 
His old horse, Toby, knew
     Before they reached the camp
And apprehension grew,
     When Bob set match to lamp.
 
The light would show the way
     Through snow to shack and bed.
Sleep would conclude his day,
     Once Toby had been fed.
 
Disturbed from sleep he grinned,
     Then staggered to the door,
Blown open by the wind
     That woke him with a roar.
 
It blew and grew for days
     And still it had no end.
He had no hope for strays.
     The dead, his dad would tend.
 
The stove burned branch and bow,
     That gave scant heat or light,
But hay forked from a mow
     Warmed Toby day and night.
 
The long rope to the shed
     Was anchored to the shack.
It took Bob where it led.
     It took him there and back.
 
Erected by his dad,
     Out where the cattle ranged,
The camp still found Bob glad
     Whenever seasons changed.
 
Fresh chinking every Fall
     Held back the wind and rain.
When snowflakes raked a wall,
     All efforts proved but vain.
 
In through the smallest crack,
     They mounded on the floor,
With little drifts in back
     And more inside the door.
 
Eleven days the gale
     Had battered shack and shed.
The twelfth, born calm and pale,
     Cleared as the gray clouds fled.
 
Just bitter cold remained,
     Each flake reflecting sun,
But nature seemed restrained,
     Now that the storm had run.
 
Bob's son, from far below,
     Left home before daylight,
To challenge fallen snow
     And brave a world turned white.
 
The taxing trek was slow,
     With powder to his knees.
As sweat began to flow
     He felt his mustache freeze.
 
They told of his advance,
     The skis deep tracks of course,
But little was the chance
     Of finding dad or horse.
 
He found stove ashes cold,
     The wood box empty, too.
His boot tracks, looking old,
     Did not provide a clue.
 
The frayed rope, white with frost,
     Sagged loosely to the shed.
He feared, "If dad was lost,
     Then Toby, too, was dead!"
 
Out to the shed he strode,
     Resigned to withered hope.
Out to the horse abode,
     He followed weathered rope.
 
The young man, in despair,
     Saw Toby on the ground.
In the hay, lying there,
     His father, too, he found.
 
He stood there with bowed head,
     In overwhelming grief.
Then, Toby stood, not dead,
     A sight beyond belief!
 
His father, slow to rise,
     Before the son dismayed,
Appeased his son's surprise
     With the smile he displayed.
 
Bob leaned across the rail
     Embracing a grown lad,
Who traveled up a trail
     That led him to his dad.
 
The storm, so long and cold,
     Had kept them far apart,
But in their thoughts, untold,
     Each knew the other's heart.
 
Downing snow-melt coffee
     Bob told of his ordeal.
Listening intently,
     His son prepared a meal.
 
"The blow came slowly on!
     It woke me in the night.
I thought it would be gone
     When dark gave way to light!"
 
"That first night as I slept,
     A vivid dream I had
About the snow, wind-swept,
     A rope and your granddad."
 
"The storm intensified
     As feeble daylight grew.
I woke to find, outside,
     An old rope that I knew."
 
"Off through the blowing snow
     I glimpsed a fading form.
With a rope to follow,
     It vanished in the storm!"
 
"I did not string that line!
     It was another's deed!
Did grandpa pull that twine?
     Had he foreseen the need?"
 
"It bound the shed and shack
     And Toby needed care,
But with the storm's attack
     I'd not have gotten there!"
 
"My dad said long ago,
     An old rope held my fate,
But little did I know
     It led to Toby's gate!"
 
"For when the stove died out
     I stoked the horse instead!
We'd both have died, no doubt,
     With Toby left unfed!"
 
Once again together,
     The two sat down to eat.
Old rope was the tether
     That made the day complete.
 
A new rope on a nail,
     Where once an old one hung
Is there above a rail,
     Just waiting to be strung.
 
A rope, the snow and shed
     Are truly intertwined,
For they bind those ahead
     To those not far behind!

2009, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

When we asked Kip about the poem's inspiration, he provided this comment and an epilogue: My earliest memories contain vivid pictures of a long rope tied to the house for the barn. It was a long rope and strung every winter. Storms were frequent, intense and could last for many days at a time. I grew to depend on it, but took it for granted. Though not in use any more, it still hangs in a barn away from the weather, retired. I'm sure it would perform once again, if asked too.
 

Epilogue
 
I swear this tale is true!
     But I've embellished it,
As storytellers do
     To make the pieces fit!
 
Of men who lived this tale,
     Two have long departed.
The third awaits a trail,
     The fourth has not started.
 
A son may sometimes spurn
     A dad, too proud to hope,
But in the end they learn
     From withered, weathered rope.
 
The first rope wagoned in 
     Was fated on to me.
It's tied to where I've been
     And where I hope to be.
 

We asked Kip why he writes cowboy poetry and why he thinks it is important and he commented:

My life's purpose was raising five children to stand on their own two feet and deal with whatever life would toss at them. I was partially successful. When they left home, my purpose disappeared.

My life requires purpose, something more important than myself. With my children gone, I found purpose once again in cowboy verse. It is an honest, straight-forward handshake with honest, straight-forward people who, even if they do not live the lifestyle, carry the values with great pride. It is for them that I hope to be, at least partially, successful.


You can email Kip Sorlie: marilynsorlie@msn.com 
 

I am not a cowboy, ranch raised and trail hardened before being able to walk. In my case the condition was entirely adult onset.

More than half of my sixty years were spent on Drummond Island, in the far north of Lake Huron. In the fifties we would boat across to the mainland of the Upper Peninsula twice a year for necessities.  We had neither power nor plumbing. We filled our ice house in winter, made maple syrup in the spring and put up next year's firewood in the fall.  My father and grandfather taught me to hunt, fish and trap. Surviving 6+ months of snow covered ground required developing multiple techniques for staying alive.  It was a hard life, but I did not know that until power and plumbing found our island by the early sixties.

The balance of the sixties and the seventies found the island transformed into a tourist destination. In the early eighties a large corporation created an executive retreat on the island, which destroyed the fabric of our small community. Reluctantly, I packed up my family and headed West. We settled on a ranch in Sanders County, Montana. It was a fine place to raise both kids and cows, without power and plumbing, for a time.

The writing of verse began in high school.  It wandered in many directions for a lot of years. I found that writing poems of my experiences to by immensely satisfying. Rural and cowboy ballads just sort of evolved, as my family learned, adjusted and blended into the ranching community of the area.

When our children grew and settled in South Dakota, my wife and I exchanged our ranch for a hay farm near them. Today I write poems and look out over some mighty fine hay ground, with cows off in the distance, waiting for the third cutting to be removed.

I would suggest to anyone that they write down their stories, pass them to their children's' children and watch as the bonding takes place.


Kip Sorlie's poetry is here at CowboyPoetry.com.
 


Smoke Wade

 

Trailing the Herd

They moved often then,
From warm winter grounds by the river's mouth,
Where mothers gave birth,
On rocky hillsides that faced the sunny south.

Up steep trails, they moved,
Through saddles bathed in late spring showers,
Above the canyons filled with pine,
To mountain meadows with purple flowers.

Past green ponds, they moved,
Through huckleberries on the summit high,
Then swiftly down the Devil's run.
To the land of endless sky.

Through rolling hills, they moved,
Down dusty lanes in August sun,
To fall pasture with ample room,
For cows to rest and calves to run.

Behind barbed wire, now they move,
There to fatten and to graze,
The winter grounds sit idle now,
Modern times with different ways.

Yes, they moved often then,
Through sumac gullies and mountain streams,
Before trailing the herd became a part,
Of our memories and dreams.

1991, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Smoke told us that he wrote this poem "back in the early nineties. I was trying to re-capture the memory of the days when we used to trail large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River as the herd followed the seasons. Those days are gone now along with the cattle ranches in Hells Canyon.

When I read the poem, I can recount my life of an entire year from these few words—of many years. In retrospect, I now use the poem when I am conducting cowboy poetry workshops as an example of how to say a lot with 24 short lines of poetry. The poem works as an example of how to tell the story without writing a story. It also works as an example of how to put a hook in the poem, though I never realized I was doing it at the time.

We asked Smoke why he thinks Cowboy Poetry is important, and he responded:

The life style of Hells Canyon cowboys was a way of life that was often considered to be thirty years behind the rest of the world.  Lacking other forms of entertainment, stories, tall-tales and poetry were standard fare in the cow camp and they helped relieve boredom while on the trail. Often, the "telling" was a way of recalling the significance of events, the lives of other cowboys, or perhaps the general history of the range we rode.

After the fall of the Hells Canyon ranching industry, cowboy poetry was a natural way for me to recall the history of the life I once lived and the cowboys I had known. Likewise, the importance of cowboy poetry today is that it continues to document  the memory of western events, people, and the cultural significance of the cowboy way of life that is quickly disappearing from the American West. Cowboy Poetry in itself, is part of the cowboy culture.

There will come a day, when the working American cowboy, as we know him, will become a part of America's past. Though cowboy poetry continues to evolve with the modern day cowboy lifestyle, this too may pass. When the cowboy is gone, his songs, his stories and his poems are all that will be left to document his inner self. Through these words of poetry, we will always know who the cowboy was. It may well be that the cowboy's poetry final mark—his epitaph—will be in rhyme and meter.

You can email Smoke Wade: smokewade@clarkston.com


photo by Jeri Dobrowski

Smoke Wade, of Mesquite, Nevada, is a cowboy poet, storyteller, emcee, cowboy poetry event organizer, freelance journalist and cowboy poetry laureate of the KRLC 1350AM Western Heritage Show. Smoke was born and raised on a Snake River cattle ranch in Hells Canyon, Oregon, where he rode horseback 6 miles to a one-room school house through the 6th grade. He is a fourth generation Wallowa County, Oregon, cowboy and range land manager.

Smoke has written cowboy poetry and western nostalgia for 20 years and has been performing since 2001. His poetry and stories reflect the memories of a lifestyle that once flourished in the Snake River canyon country along the Idaho-Oregon border.

Smoke was awarded the 2003 Poet of the Year Award, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame Award for the Christian Cowboy Balladeers in 2004. He was also the 2005 Top Hand Award Winner at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering, and received the
2005 8 Seconds award in the Lariat Laureate competition on CowboyPoetry.com for his poem, "A Change of Season."

In 2006, the Palouse Country Cowboy Poetry Association awarded Smoke the Lifetime Achievement Award. Always truthful, Smoke was the champion teller of tall tales at the 2004 and 2005 Lewis-Clark Cowboy Poetry gathering in Lewiston, Idaho.

Smoke won the Silver Buckle for first place at the 2006 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Kanab, Utah in the Rising Star Serious Reciter division. He also won first place in the Silver Buckle Reciter Humorous division at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Smoke has produced one CD: Smoke Wade, A Legend in His Own Mind (2004).

Smoke is a member of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho, the Cowboy Poets of Utah, the Christian Cowboy Balladeers, the Palouse Country Cowboy Poets Association, the Academy of Western Artists, the Western Music Association. He has published in Rope Burns, Cowboy Troubadour, The North West Agri-times, The Angus Journal and Happy Trails as well as www.cowboypoetry.com and www.cowboyentertainer.com (where he has an additional web page).


Smoke Wade's poetry is here at CowboyPoetry.com.
 


Cora Wood

 

Chester

Giddyup Chester, We’re gonna be late.
We’re helpin’ Dad move cows today,
And he’s waitin’ at the gate.

Chester is my good pony.
Kind of short, but really fast!
Today, he’d move a whole lot faster
If he’d just get his head out of the grass!

2007, Cora Wood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Cora told us about her inspiration for this poem: I wrote Chester because Jerry Paxton told me he would write one if I did. So I wrote "Chester."
 

We asked Cora about why she writes cowboy poetry and cowboy songs and she told us:

I like to do cowboy poetry and cowboy songs because I like to travel place to place. I like to write songs because I like to share my songs I write.
 


 

 


photo by Justin Dunn

Cora Wood is a tiny ranch cowgirl from Encampment, Wyoming (currently 7 years old) who sings cowboy songs and writes a little poetry about her favorite things: her horses and helping her Dad work cows. She also loves fishing. Cora often performs with her Mom (Laurie Wood), and will jump at any chance to share her poems or her music.

Cora has performed at the Sagebrush Cowboyography Poetry and Music Gathering in Sheridan, Wyoming; the Riverton, Wyoming Cowboy Roundup; the Durango Cowboy Gathering in Durango, Colorado and at the Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering in Encampment, Wyoming.  She has sung the National Anthem at the Wyoming Wrangler Junior Division Rodeo Finals, the Encampment Jamboree Rodeo, and for the Saratoga, Wyoming Town Council.  Cora is a member of the Cowboy Poets of the Wind River and the Western Music Association Youth Chapter.

Cora's first CD, Cora's Cowgirl Yodel, was released in 2009.
 

Cora Wood's poetry is here at CowboyPoetry.com.
 


Media Release



COWBOYPOETRY.COM NAMES LARIAT LAUREATE

SAN FRANCISCO—June 12, 2009—CowboyPoetry.com officially named its fifteenth Lariat Laureate today—and "8 Seconds"—winners in a global competition on the internet's premier cowboy poetry site. This popular folk form preserves and celebrates the stories of ranching and rural life.

South Dakota rancher and poet Ken Cook (of Martin), a finalist in previous competitions, was recognized as Lariat Laureate for his poem, "The Conversation." The inspiration for the poem was an oral history interview, in which Cook says he "spent nearly the entire interview talking about my Grandpa Frank Buckles and my kids and the changes in the cattle industry that have occurred over three generations..." He comments, "For me, the poem has become ageless, with the passing of my Grandpa, my kids growing up, and now a grandchild of my own. This thing we call 'life on the ranch' has a way changing with the seasons."

The "8 Seconds" finalists are, alphabetically, Cathy Brian of Loa, Utah; Daniel Bybee of Reno, Nevada; Byrl Keith Chadwell of Baker City, Oregon; Del Gustafson of Duvall, Washington; Slim McNaught of New Underwood, South Dakota; Kip Sorlie of Viborg, South Dakota; Smoke Wade of Lewiston, Idaho and Mesquite, Nevada; and Cora Wood of Encampment, Wyoming.

CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. The site, updated continually, is a central resource for western and cowboy poetry and associated arts. It hosts thousands of classic and contemporary poems, features, an events calendar, and news. The eighth annual Center-sponsored Cowboy Poetry Week was held in April 2009, an event officially recognized by unanimous resolution of the United States Senate. As a part of that celebration, each year the Center's outreach Rural Library Project offers libraries across the West its contemporary Western art poster (this year by Bob Coronato of Hulett, Wyoming) and its annual compilation CD of modern and classic cowboy poetry, The BAR-D Roundup

Most of the Lariat Laureate finalists share rural roots, and many express the importance of preserving a record of an endangered way of life through their stories. The poetry often acknowledges the challenges and rewards of ranching life lifestyle, its communities, and its values.

Hearing the distinct shouts of her own cowboys—"five wonderful, slightly dirty, mischievous, kids"among many cowboys gathering and working cattle inspired Loa, Utah rancher Cathy Brian to write "The Day the Cows Go Out." She tells that she writes cowboy poetry with her children's futures in mind, "Where the cowboy is dwindling, and being run off his precious land, the stories and lessons he has learned are so important and necessary. I want my children to have the memories of their endangered childhood written down in this traditional and unique way..."

Daniel Bybee of Reno, Nevada, spent much of his youth on his uncle’s cattle ranch in Coarsegold, California. He says his uncle, "Clyde Pitts, taught me the cowboy code through how he lived his life and I am forever grateful to him for how I live my life today." Bybee's poem, "Old Jiggs," is the tale of an "ornery" cow horse who lived for over 40 years.

Byrl Keith Chadwell of Baker City, Oregon, recently worked as a Grand Canyon mule guide. He considers what makes a cowboy in his poem, "Cowboy Credentials." His poetry draws on his life experiences, and he comments, "My life has been enriched by a family heritage of pioneer ranching, timber, mining and farm people who came West and scratched out a living in this great Northwest country. My Grandfather Chadwell came West with a cattle drive on the Oregon Trail and stayed to homestead in Eastern Oregon. Our ranch was also along parts of the old Oregon Trail..."

Del Gustafson of Duvall, Washington, spent his early years on the family farm just south of the Canadian border. He says, "My brothers and I would ride anything we could and some things we couldn’t." His poem, "The Night Wind," was written "after a wild horse chase on the south fork of the Salmon River."

Slim McNaught of New Underwood, South Dakota, is a previous finalist. His poem, "The Snubbin' Post," was prompted by a writers' group topic assignment. He tells, "Looking back, I remembered our round corral with a young horse dallied to the snubbing post, no breeze, dust thick, sweaty, feeling his power, fear, and curiosity as I eased down the rope." McNaught, who spent his early years on a ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota, feels a responsibility to preserve Western heritage. He comments, "It is by looking back and recording what we see, that keeps our history flowing for future generations."

Kip Sorlie of Viborg, South Dakota tells that he was not "ranch raised," but rather that in his case, "the condition was entirely adult onset." Relocating his family decades ago, they settled on a ranch in Sanders County, Montana. When the children were grown, he and his wife exchanged their ranch for a hay farm near them, in South Dakota. His poem, "Rope," is a strong and vivid metaphor of the ties and hardships that can bind generations. Sorlie comments about the purpose he finds in writing cowboy poetry, "It is an honest, straight-forward handshake with honest, straight-forward people who, even if they do not live the lifestyle, carry the values with great pride."

Smoke Wade of Lewiston, Idaho, and Mesquite, Nevada, is a previous finalist. Wade was born and raised on a remote Snake River cattle ranch in Hells Canyon, Oregon, a fourth-generation Wallowa County cowboy and rangeland manager. He tells that in his winning poem, "Trailing the Herd," he was "trying to re-capture the memory of the days when we used to trail large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River as the herd followed the seasons. Those days are gone now along with the cattle ranches in Hells Canyon." Active today as a gathering organizer and reporter, he comments, "After the fall of the Hells Canyon ranching industry, cowboy poetry was a natural way for me to recall the history of the life I once lived and the cowboys I had known. Likewise, the importance of cowboy poetry today is that it continues to document the memory of Western events, people, and the cultural significance of the cowboy way of life that is quickly disappearing from the American West..."

Cora Wood of Encampment, Wyoming, is the youngest poet honored; she's seven years old. She takes her place in the tradition of writing about ranching life. Her poem, "Chester," is about a horse she rides when working cows with her ranch manager father. Cora performs at events across the West. She writes songs as well as poems, and is also known for her yodeling, which is showcased in her new recording, Cora's Cowgirl Yodel.

Cowboy poetry's popularity is celebrated year round at CowboyPoetry.com, in an ever-growing number of publications and recordings, and at hundreds of regional gatherings. No other way of life has spawned so many poets and so many compelling, enduring stories. Cowboy poetry's tales of the past and present preserve the heritage of an endangered culture, an important part of North America and North American history.


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