Lariat Laureate


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We're pleased to announce the winner of the:

Lariat Laureate

of  Utah
recognized for his poem

It's a Mostly Quiet Time of Day



8 Seconds


Dave P. Fisher
 "Dawn Riders"

Janalee Martin
 "The Long Rope"

Bill McKay 
"The Waddie"

LaVerna B. Johnson
"I Don't Look Down on Dust No More"

Don Ayers
"Simple Truths"

Sue Derksen
"The Cowboy Way"
British Columbia

Smoke Wade
"A Change of Season"

Paul Hatch
"Vern 'n Verg..."

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

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 on this page.

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 here.


You can enter the next Lariat Laureate Competition.



Lariat Laureate

recognized for his poem, "It's a Mostly Quiet Time of Day"


About Paul Kern:

I grew up on the western edge of Idaho Falls, Idaho where among other things I worked on local farms and ranches for many of my formative years.  I went on to receive two masters degrees - one in languages and the other in business.

I inherited a love of the west and all that includes from my parents.  Some of my earliest memories are of pack trips into the Tetons with our horses and other good friends - many of the human variety.  Much of the material for my poems comes from the impressions of those early experiences, which I now have the luxury of reliving, retelling and repainting with a more romantic hue than what I know was actually the case. 

The influence of my family is a significant factor in my poetry.  Even now in their eighties, my father still enjoys back country horse trips and working cattle and on the ranches in Island Park, Idaho. My mother will still go out on a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the winter with us.

Some of my poetry is based on experiences I have had with my three sons and daughter as we have worked together on our horse farm in Utah and our small ranch in Island Park, Idaho.  I learned the importance of good livestock from my mother, how to shoe horses from my father and how to live and love from my wife Kathie and our four children.

The livestock trade is only a small part of what I currently do.  I have been in business of one kind or another all of my working life.

We asked Paul why he writes Cowboy Poetry and why he thinks it is important and he told us

Cowboy poetry is a literary sagebrush rebellion.  Perhaps you'll recall that a few years back some of the western states arched their backs and bogged their heads at the fact that the Federal Government is the largest landowner in the west and is subject to interests foreign to local interests.  The so called sagebrush rebellion was an attempt at getting more local input into decisions affecting farming and ranching.

Cowboy poetry is a movement to reclaim good usin' poetry from the minds and the pens of the unintelligible literary elite.  While we don't doubt that many of the stream-of conscience-free-versers actually feel the pain they describe, cowboy poets have one up on them - two licks of common sense grounded in good western dirt.  And to boot - cowboy poetry crosses more cultural boundaries than most people realize.  Just mention the word and up pop the smiles and the grins.

Cowboy poetry is one of the most significant literary and oral traditions in the English language today.  It captures time and space in a vernacular that is uniquely fitted to the task.  When our dialect is allowed to describe traditional western life in unbridled and unhobbled language, the result can be either humorous or sentimental but will always have a twist that is unique to the culture of the raw-boned west.   My poetry is an attempt to reflect this rich Western heritage and to pass it on to my children and someday to my children's children.

You can email Paul Kern.

You can visit Paul Kern's web site.

This is Paul Kern's winning poem:

It's A Mostly Quiet Time of Day

It's a mostly quiet time of day,
No one has too much to say.
Muscles ache from what's been done,
We sit and watch the setting sun.

Purple mist settles over the valley,
Okra and sienna come forth to sally.
The old west's brushes swing center stage,
Indian paint, sego lily, lupine and sage.

Blossoms blazed red in the light of day,
Fade slowly into shades of gray.
Small white petals fold down their husk,
As sunlight drifts softly into dusk.

The cool of the evening wafts on by,
As painted clouds cover up the sky,
Red yellow blazes carry the light,
Of celestial embers into the night.

Dusters and slickers untied and unrolled,
Come off the saddles to ward off the cold,
As the evening dew begins to rise,
Remaining colors fade from our eyes.

Voices are soft away from the crowd,
Muffled and muzzled by a low hanging cloud.
What was yellow and what was white,
Now's just a shadow in the pale lunar light.

It's a mostly quiet time of day,
We rise from our rest not much to say,
It's gray in the east - a new day has begun,
We saddle and ride to the rising sun.

© 2005, Paul Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Paul told us about his inspiration for this poem:

The inspiration for this poem was a wilderness horse camp near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River in the Bridger Teton Wilderness Area at the foot of the Absarokas.  We had ridden hard that day and settled in for the night with a view of the valley where three grizzly bears pawed at rotten logs in the streambed near Two-Ocean Pass.  They finally decided to keep their distance from us when we made a lot of racket to warn them of our presence, doing our best to keep the horses calm all the while.  In the back country, things are never completely quiet and you can never completely relax.  The best you can get is a "mostly" quiet time regardless if you're
in the back country or on the range.  The imagery in this poem seemed to fit the "Ridin' Out" Art Spur project, so I sent it on in.

This poem is also posted in our our Art Spur project.

You can read more of Paul Kern's poetry here at the BAR-D.


8 Seconds

Dave P. Fisher


Dawn Riders


Latigos pulled tight with fingers gone numb,

Slide ‘em under the pad to warm ‘em up some.

The feel of a horse, the touch of good leather,

And to know that your heart’s light as a feather.

The smell of strong coffee a-drift on the breeze,

Hot biscuits and beef steaks as much as you please.

To stand in the chill and see the morning’s first glow,

And feel the very life blood in you starting to flow.


They say these are times to try a man’s soul,

The pace of today’s world exacts an almighty toll.

Too many men have never stood with a tin cup in their hand,

And watched the silent sunrise bring birth to the land.

They’ve never saddled up with men of their kind,

And dug down inside themselves to see what they’ll find.

Their souls would be healed, the good drawn from the bad,

If ever, just once – if ever they had.


Look to the west, where the mountains don’t change,

To the sage and rimrock where men ride the range.

Their grandfathers knew it and their fathers did too,

The look of the morning and grass soaked by the dew.

Now, their sons take their place or ride by their side,

Like brothers they hold on to the old ways with pride,

For these the days that have passed will never be gone,

The brotherhood of men who ride out with the dawn.


© 2005,  Dave P. Fisher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


This poem was inspired by our Art Spur project, which featured Kent Rollins' photograph, "Ridin' Out."

Dave told us more about his inspiration for the poem:

The photo reminded me of the days when I used to ride out in the predawn light.  The cold fingers fumbling with the latigo, and then sliding them under the pad against the warmth of the horse and how good that felt.  The world has pulled us too far away from what is important to us, to be with men of our kind and feel history come alive inside of us.  We have pride and determination in holding onto our values and heritage, when the world tries to throw them back in our faces we stand firm and hold onto them.  My favorite saying is from one of Chris LeDoux's songs, "I'd rather take ten seconds in the saddle than a lifetime of watching from the stands." The world would be a lot different if each person took their ten seconds and felt the pride of having done so.

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

The West has always been my life's blood.  My maternal ancestors were mountain men and pioneers across Canada and into the U.S.  My paternal grandfather died out west as a telegrapher on the railroad.  My step-grandfather was Blackfoot from Montana and he had a tremendous influence on our family.  All in all I can't help but write abut the history and people of the West.  Cowboy poetry tells our stories, like the village storyteller or the minstrels of old, the cowboy poet tells who we are and where we come from.  Cowboy poetry is too valuable to lose because it tells the world and our youth what is important to us and why.

  I'm from Oregon, and lived in the West all my life, in fact I've never even seen the east bank of the Mississippi River.  School drove me crazy; it seriously cut into more important aspects of my life -- like hunting and fishing.  As soon as I cut the lead rope that kept me tied to the school building I started looking around for wider ranging adventures - and I found them.  In fact some of them about scared me to death.

I ran with a bunch of good ol' farm boys chasing rodeos.  I rode saddle broncs and had the time of my life. The bronc riders of that day had little to fear from me, although I heard the whistle a time or two; my six-foot-four frame made me less than a stylish rider.

I went on to punch cows for a cattle company in western Oregon, and then moved on to wrangling horses and packing for hunting and guide outfitters. I worked in the wilds of the Alaska Bush for three years where I saw some of the greatest beauty left on earth.  I also served as the official horse shoer at two different outfits.  These horses received one shoeing a year, and except for hunting season, ranged free most of the year fighting off wolves.  Anyone who ever did any shoeing can imagine what it was like to shoe these guys. In Montana I took out ten day, 100 mile trips over the divide through the Bob Marshal.  I later went to Wyoming and ran horses in the shadow of the Tetons.  I finally ended up in Colorado packing for Rocky Mountain National Park, which was the best job I ever had.  Along the way I broke horses in the good old way.  Unlike rodeo, style isn't important when breaking horses to ride, they still bucked as hard, but no one was scoring.

For a good many years I spent more time with horses and mules than people. I could understand the four-legged critters, but to this day I still scratch my head trying to figure out the two legged variety.  I met my wife in Colorado, I was barely housebroke and she came from a cultured background. Over the years she has managed to have some positive influence over me and can actually take me places now.  She is raising our three daughters to be fine young ladies and has succeeded wonderfully.  As I always tell the girls, "Listen to your mother and she'll make ladies out of you, but I'll teach you how to fight."  When she wasn't looking I taught the girls how to spit like a cowboy, but I warned them not to tell their mother.

My other passions are fly fishing and fly tying.  I tied professionally for over twenty-five years and still do.  I've had several articles on fly tying and outdoor pursuits published in outdoor magazines and plan to continue writing hunting and fishing articles.

My main attention these days is focused on writing Western novels and short stories. I presently have two books out, The Strawberry Mountain War, set in eastern Oregon, and Yates - U.S. Marshal, set in Nevada.  A Man for the Country, the sequel to Strawberry Mountain, is presently under consideration by the publisher.  Another publisher has accepted Where Free Men Gather and has scheduled it for publication this year [2005].  In addition to these my wife and I will be publishing short story collections, novels, and cowboy poetry under our own imprint, Double Diamond Books.  Watch for us at western shows and rodeos and check out my web site, for some interesting reading.

You can email Dave P. Fisher.

You can read more of Dave P. Fisher's poetry here at the BAR-D.


Janalee Martin


The Long Rope
A Gathering

I heard the cowboy tell a tale,
Of broken hearts and dusty trail,
Everything he'd loved so well,
In a simple poem.
Old woman who had gotten by,
A man who never learned to cry,
Four legs folding up to fly,
When God called 'em home.

He drove the storm where thunders roll,
Drank the driest deserts whole,
Been to hell to save his soul,
Maybe did that twice.
He'd touched the earth and touched the sun,
And kissed creation's very tongue,
Then he told what love had done,
When he'd paid the price.

I could feel the  sunshine when he spoke about the hills.
I could smell the water and the night air gave me chills.
And when the story ended and the people left the show,
It still held me, with a long rope and it wasn't letting go.

His rhyme became a living thing,
This life of every human being.
For the first time I was seeing,
A pattern to it all.
And in the pattern was a plan,
That started before time began,
When everyone could understand,
The writing on the wall.


Strand of love and strip of pain,
Twisting round our hearts remain,
The common threads that bind and strain,
The bonds we cannot break.
The earth will roll until complete,
Another year and then we meet,
To sit and listen at his feet,
And somehow ease the ache.


© 2005, Janalee Martin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


We asked Janalee what inspired her to write this poem and she told us:

I wrote "The Long Rope" after a wonderful experience at the Elko Gathering this past year [2005].  I co-taught a saddle-blanket making class for the Western Folklife Center and it turned out to be so worthwhile.  Everyone who participated in our class was amazing.  Friendships were formed, lives were touched and it was the real thing.  Those things that tie us together as human beings. "The Long Rope."

We asked Janalee why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she told us:

The question about why I write cowboy poetry is multi-faceted.  When anyone questions their own motives for anything, the answers are not simple. Also, the answers evolve along with the writer.  As with most poetry, it was cathartic in the beginning. Then, it became creative expression. Now, I write cowboy poetry ... as a way to see my life more clearly.  It is a way to accept and internalize many aspects of this lifestyle and culture that I am part of. It helps me to see poetry in the mundane and  the godliness in humankind. When I have crisis or pain, it lifts me to a new perspective outside the moment.  In sharing it with others, it becomes part of a larger thing. And suddenly I don't take myself so seriously


I am a ranch wife of 19 years with four daughters and a barnyard full of four-legged friends.  My husband Tom and I have lived on ranches mostly in Northeastern Nevada.  We have a long-standing commitment to cowboy poetry, being friends and family with many of the founders of the Elko Gathering.  I have been an invited poet/performer there a number of times, and both Tom and I have worked with the education program at the Western Folklife Center. I write, recite and love cowboy poetry.  I also sing and play a little guitar.  Mostly sing.

We recently moved to Montana where Tom works as the "cow-boss" on a large outfit. Some people ask me what it's like here and I tell them it's like waking up in a movie every day.  A rich and amazing change from the Nevada desert. And at our age, starting over gets a little more complicated, but such is the life of a cowboy's wife.

You can email Janalee Martin.

Janalee Martin's poetry is posted here at the BAR-D.


Bill McKay


The Waddie

Never gets the best of horses,
Yet welcome, just the same.
Hired for just a few days or weeks,
Always easy to blame.

Puts his shoulder to the grindstone.
A top hand, on foot or horseback.
A wanderin' man, I guess you'd say,
But he's ready to take up the slack.
He's just known as the waddie,
A title some look on with shame.
Although, to him, it doesn't much matter;
To some, he's a bum, just the same.
Proud of his cowboy profession,
But cursed with a wandering foot.
He loves those horses and cattle,
Just seems he can't never stay put.
A teepee or camper for roof top,
Or sometimes his roll on the ground.
He's footloose, not nailed down to nothin',
But it don't keep him from sleepin' right sound.
First class at ropin' and ridin',
The best at workin' a steer.
Yet gentle a colt with the touch of a hand,
This cowboy can sure pack the gear.
But just when you think you've got im' pegged,
Wired and all tied down.
He'll walk up and quietly ask for his time,
Roll his bed without makin' a sound.
Back out on to the highway,
Not runnin' to or from.
Just chasin' a dyin' cowboy dream,
Into the settin' sun.

© 2004, Bill McKay
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked Bill about his inspiration for this poem and he replied:

"The real cowpuncher's life is still out there. I'll be chasin it 'till the day they spread my ashes up in the high country."

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

Cowboy poetry IS my life. I  live the poems  that I write.....I never perform other fellas work, just my own.  It's just a personal feeling of mine that the true POETRY of the cowboy has been glazed and jumbled by the mix and the money. Not to even say for one moment that the other poems that folks write aren't relevant or just downright great, BUT, if you've never husbanded cattle for wages ( and poor wages at that) then no matter, it takes away the purity of the art. I used to attend lots of gatherings but they kind of got turned into entertainment venues, the camaraderie got lost in the quest fer the dinero, see what I mean.  In a way it'd be like me writin' a poem about bein' an astronaut. Doesn't mean I couldn't write a good rhyme or two but the feel wouldn't be there, ESPECIALLY in the LIVE performance. See where I'm goin' here. I'm not tryin' to take ANYTHING away from the huge number of talented folks out there, but it's either real life or fiction.

It's important because it is truly an art form practiced by a culture of people slowly dying out. As I've always said, I'm not too keen on the ego's or the commercial types that I've met since I've been writing, but I do love to share what I write with others, (especially in the live performance.)


  Been a working cowboy for a "LARGE" part of my life. I've worked in California, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Texas, and Arizona. When I wasn't cowboying I was training horses, shoeing for pay or repairing saddles. When you "waddie" as I have most of my life, you learn to do whatever it takes to "git the 'coon."  I have also owned a ranch in Colorado (Double tuff proposition at 8000' feet +), wrangled dudes, packed hunters and campers, even tried my hand at peddlin' horse trailers. Anyway, if it can't be done horseback or it  ain't horse related it would probably take the better part of a"20 mule team" to drag me into it. Hobbies, hmmmmm....I am part of a ranch rodeo team ( when we ever git the time), rope when I can, Luuuuv to ride them cuttin' horses (most fun you can have in 2.5 minutes with yer clothes on), fly fishin' anywhere in Montana.

I tend cattle for the Azar Nut Co. on one of their lease ranches. Still riding a few colts, (only the good kind) and wrangle a few dudes for extra money. 

You can email Bill McKay.  

You can read more of Bill McKay's poetry here at the BAR-D.

LaVerna B. Johnson


I Don't Look Down on Dust No More

I see your boot prints in the dust
out in the horse's pen
and think, perhaps, you're still nearby
and I'll see you again.
Soft dust covers your ridin' chaps,
your round-up hat's wide brim.
"Don't bother with the dust," I say.
"We're just waitin' for him."

I used to watch the dust clouds swirl
and wish them far away.
Dust sneaked inside, nagged me to clean
when I would rather play.
A million times or more I've cursed
the dust, I'd chance to say.
I don't look down on dust no more,
my heart' s in yesterday.

Rain clouds rise up to drench the land
and everything turns green
while dust melts deep into the earth.
I guess I've never seen
a rainbow that's less welcome here
as dust clouds fade away
because it means time's passin' and
my heart's in yesterday.

Rememberin' our little ones,
cleaned up and fast asleep,
or rompin' wildly by the fire
with you, are sights I keep
stored up for when the hard times come.
Somehow they seem to seep
like dust into my wakin' hours;
they pile up soft and deep.

Well, I will dust my courage off
and finish up my chores
so when I ride the other side
my trail will follow yours.
Love's dust collects on memories,
falls from our happy stores
of living close together, glad,
and keepin' even scores.

Time's dusty traces in this place
tell me you had to go.
Your picture here beside me now
reminds me it was so.
I can't hold on to yesterday.
Before too long I'll know
it's time to join the big round up,
our final rodeo.

© 2004, LaVerna B. Johnson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked LaVerna what inspired this poem and she told us:  

There's a lot of truth and a little bit of dreamin' in this poem. The loss of my husband in 1988 is still not old news to me. I think we accept loss, with time, but never forget. The line: I don't look down on dust no more came sneakin' in sideways and whomped me one day, soon followed by the realization that when my heart is in yesterday, it is a lonely place to be. I wondered who else might recognize these feelings. Movin' on, leavin' yesterday behind and staying busy, trying to accomplish good with the time allotted us means we are stayin' alive as long as we live. Still, every once in a while, I catch myself lookin' back, anchorin' myself in the reality of life long ago.

Previously, we asked LaVerna why she writes Cowboy Poetry and why she thinks it is important and she told us:

I am a poet who happens to have been born in cowboy country, and grew up loving it. I can still hear Dad reciting poems around our campfire when we were out deer hunting, or pine nut picking. Poetry has added a richness to my life. I cannot imagine what my life would be without it, unless I might describe it as some kind of malady, or sickness... the kind our world is suffering from today where folks are kind of lost and out of touch with what is real. Much of poetry itself has gotten lost and some is so confusing folks don't want to hear it.

Cowboy poetry has never lost its soul! It still rings true, and people are so hungry for it they come in droves and gather 'round to celebrate the joy of singing the thoughts and spirit of being alive... just folks who belong to each other. This gives me hope for the whole world of poetry and for some folks who are still lost, still trying to find their way home.

I was born and raised in the red rock country of southern Utah called "Dixie" since pioneer times. My ancestors settled here, learning how to make a living from a parched land that knew how to fight back. Dad brought me a colt from the herd of wild horses on the nearby "Arizona Strip" when he was working for some ranchers, building fence. It was the only horse I ever had to ride, but he was a good one, once he was tamed. Trips into surrounding wilderness with dad to gather firewood, build fences, pick pine nuts, go deer hunting, eat his amazing dutch oven cooking--these were my "vacations," more joyful than any trip to Disneyland. I love our rugged, wild country and the people that go with it. 

You can email LaVerna B. Johnson

You can read more of LaVerna B. Johnson's poetry here at the BAR-D.

Don Ayers


Simple Truths

Ranchin' life is cattle...
ridin' fence and shakin' hay,
spendin' hours in a saddle...
workin' weary fer your pay.

It's spinnin' fancy rope tricks...
tellin' yarns the cowboy way,
tyin knots and twistin' wire...
watchin' gangly calves at play.

It's the friendship t'ween old bunkmates...
it's the fellowship of men,
and the sharin' of a moment
at the passin' of a friend.

It's the clap of heavy thunder
when the last one's in the pen,
and a weary pony's playful romp...
when the long day hits its end.

It's a flat loop when you need it...
it's a dally without thumbs.
It's the sizzle of an iron...
when they've rounded up the bums.

It's the sparklin' stars of heaven
when the cool of evenin' comes,
and the calming gift of music...
when a campfire guitar strums.

It's the burst of bloomin' clover,
and the smell of new mown hay,
and the soothin' sound them crickets make...
when light's all gone from day.

It's the greenin' days of drizzle
that transform the land each May,
and the twinklin' eyes of children...
watchin' barn cats' kittens play.

It's the crisp, cold snap yer boots make...
on fresh new artic snow,
and the heavn'ly view of northern lights...
settin' winter skies aglow.

But mostly it's the simple truths
that all ranch families know...
Respect the land...the earth and man...
and the creatures God's bestowed.

 © 2003, Don Ayers
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked Don how he came to write this poem, and he said:  

Growing up on a ranch smack dab in the middle of Montana teaches you a few things about what is really important in life. Folks who make their living off the land have a real understanding about the simple things that really matter. I tried to capture their reverence for those special things.

We asked Don why he thinks Cowboy Poetry is important, and he commented: 

I've been blessed to have grown up in Montana, where so much is required of you just to be here. Folks that live here are a hearty lot...they don't complain much and just snicker when you do. That simple and honest spirit makes for fertile ground for those among us who recognize the makins' for a good story when they see one. Cowboy poetry carries on the traditions of story tellin'...and rhymin' words to make a point. What modern art form could be more pure than that?

I was raised on a ranch near Grass Range, Montana, the youngest of two children. I figure being from a place called Grass Range had something to do with my interest in cowboy life and the good and simple lessons that the ranch taught me. I left there a long time ago, but have always lived nearby...and still in my beloved Montana.

I spent most of my life as a television producer/director/cameraman/writer and had a thousand great adventures. I've a passion for tinkering with words, and these little poems have provided me with a great outlet for expression...and certainly many opportunities to remember where I came from.

In the mid-nineties I became good friends with cowboy poet and author, Mike Logan who I hired to narrate some promotional films I produced for the Montana Department of Agriculture. Mike's big voice and his great writing talent were a real inspiration to me.

There's something very pure about a well tuned line. The simplistic themes and no nonsense story telling styles of the master cowboy poets are truly a thing of beauty.

You can email Don Ayers.

You can read more of Don Ayers' poetry here at the BAR-D.


Sue Derksen


The Cowboy Way

I was ridin out back on the "24K,"
The clouds in the sky were ominous grey.
Wind cut through my bone-dry, lining and all,
The rain pelted hard, drops big as a ball.
But me and my Paint had a big job to do.
The fence near the creek had busted right through,
Ten head of Hereford's went missin that day,
All of them heavy with calves on the way.
We rode up the "Bug Infest" road to the tracks,
Then circled around to make our way back.
I spotted a cougar on the rocks near the bluff,
Lickin her chops like she'd had just enough.
Teak snorted and side-stepped, her ears were straight flat.
(She still bares the scars from that old mountain cat.)
I urged her to go on with a "Steady now, girl,"
Gave a cluck and a whistle...we were off in a whirl.
We rode on to a clearing, off to the right
Where it would be safe to make camp for the night.
By this time, the wind was blowing so hard
I knew finding cattle was not in the cards.
I tried to make fire, but that proved no good,
So under a lone fir, Teak and I stood.
The rain kept on fallin, we were so wet and cold,
Had a hard time that night...I was feelin right "old."
Next mornin, the sky turned a bright white and blue,
The sun shinin down, warmed us right through.
I saddled my  friend, we went on up the trail,
Tired...but determined we would not fail.

We rode to the top of a knoll and then down
When I heard that "Oh so familiar" sound.
And there, just ahead, by a stand of Jack pine
Were ten Hereford girls and calves, counting nine.
As we pushed them all home, my Paint, Teak, and me,
I spotted that cougar high up in a tree.
Content with her meal, she lazed on a branch,
I knew we'd be safe and get back to the ranch.
Under the tree, the calf's carcass, I saw,
Three cubs trying hard to give it a gnaw.
 I thought to myself, "It amazes me
The circles of life that a cowboy might see."
But I also knew how lucky we'd been
To have lost only one? Why, it caused me to grin!
My heart felt so light as we rounded the bend
To have it turn out so good in the end.
No matter the hardship or struggle, you see...
Livin this life is the best there could be.
Cause, I know, in my heart, at the end of the day,
Life is worth livin the Cowboy Way.

© 2005, Sue Derksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


We asked Sue about her inspiration for this poem and she told us:

I wrote "The Cowboy Way" partly from my own experience and partly from a memory told to me by a neighbor.  I was followed by a Big Cat on a ride up the Bug Infest Road.  I never saw her going up, but on the way back, saw impressions in the snow.  She had been so silent!  Later, I noticed her high on a rock cliff licking her paws.  The next day, I spotted her in the pasture where my cows were calving. It reminded me of the story I was told.  I combined the two experiences and wrote this poem.

We asked Sue why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she responded:

I want to pass forward to next generations the stories and poems of this lifestyle so it never fades from life or memory.  This is heartfelt and so important to me.


The 24K Ranch is nestled in the mountains just outside Princeton, BC Canada. As far back as I can remember, I have loved those four legged creatures man called horse and the lifestyle ranching enhances.  I am pursuing my greatest passion raising American Paints.  Someone once said: "Ask me to show you poetry in motion and I will show you...the horse!"  Bandit, 24K's black and white stud, and all the mares and foals exemplify that saying. Second to my passion for horses, is that for relating, through poetry, what I see and feel living "life the cowboy way."  Not always easy, but ever rewarding.

You can email Sue Derksen.

You can read more poetry by Sue Derksen here at the BAR-D.


Smoke Wade



A Change of Season

We don't summer at Chesnim' these days,
Not since the For' Service shut 'er down;
They took away our permit to graze,
Now we pasture on the edge of town.

We don't fall ride at Cold Springs anymore,
In the teeth of an early winter storm;
Or hitch our boots by the cow camp door,
And play cribbage inside where it's warm.

We no longer winter by the Snake,
On benches carved below the rim;
The land was sold for the public's sake,
To the For' Service and to the BLM.

No, we don't spring calve on Cactus Flat,
Since it sold to the State Fish and Game;
They say the Chinook ain't comin' back,
And the cowman must carry the blame.

So, we gather now, at Third and Grand,
A beer garden after the parade;
And, here we'll make one final stand,
Until this season begins to fade.

© 1994, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked Smoke about the inspiration for this poem, and he told us:

The busy way of life in Hells Canyon came to an end during the 1970's when the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was formed. The ranches were forced from the canyon and today, little is left of what was a western way of life. This exodus mirrored the 1877 removal of the Nez Perce Indians from the canyon. One day, at a beer garden after the parade, I noticed a bunch of old cowboys hanging out - talking, remembering old times. It dawned on me that with the fall of the Hells Canyon ranches to the U.S. Forest Service, that these cowboys didn't have a range to go back to.  "A Change of Season" was spawned at that moment. 

The message of the poem is timely with the recent Supreme Court ruling that local governments may force the sale of private property for the purpose of financial betterment of a community.  Often, I open the poem at live performances and on my CD with the following statement:

For ten thousand years, mankind lived along the banks of the Snake River in Hells Canyon, until 1877, when the United States Congress decided it was time to evict the residents of the canyon. They gave the order to the U. S Army, and under the command of General Howard, Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce people were forced to leave their homeland forever.

Over time the canyon once again became populated with outlaws, sourdoughs, miners, horse thieves, homesteaders, sheepherders and cattle ranchers, until almost one hundred years had passed. And then, congress once again decided it was time to evict the residents of Hells Canyon. This time the order went down to the U. S. For' Service and one by one the ranches fell, condemned, evicted and forced out, until today there is little sign left of what we once called home. And thus began our change of season.

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.

  Smoke Wade, of Lewiston, Idaho, is a  cowboy poet, reciter, storyteller, emcee, and frequent guest on 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 15 years and has been performing since 2001. His poetry and stories reflect the memories of a life style that once flourished in the Snake River canyon country along the Idaho-Oregon border.

Smoke was a top ten nominee for the 2004 Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers Award for Cowboy Poet/Storyteller-Humorous division, received  2005 AWA nominations for Storyteller, Male Poet, Rising Star, and Poetry CD, for his CD Smoke Wade, A Legend In His Own Mind. He was awarded the 2003 Poet of the Year Award and 2004 Hall of Fame Award for the Christian Cowboy Balladeers. Always truthful, Smoke was the champion teller of tall tales at the 2004 and 2005 Lewis-Clark Cowboy Poetry gathering in Lewiston, Idaho. He also competed and placed in the 2004 Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Kanab, Utah.

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, and he has published in Rope Burns, The North West Agri-times, The Angus Journal and Happy Trails as well as and (where he has an additional web page).

Smoke has produced a CD: SMOKE WADE, A LEGEND IN HIS OWN MIND (2004)

You can email Smoke Wade.

You can read more poetry by Smoke Wade here at the BAR-D.


Paul Hatch


Vern 'n Virg'...

      They'ze within a nickel, they'd finish I think soon.
      At dawn is when they started, now it was well past noon.

      The object was an' ol' milk cow that Virgil had for sale.
      "Two bits a pound," Vern offered, she's nothin' but a shell."

      But Virg' was stuck on thirty, a deal may not be made.
      His wife brought beans an' melon an' a glass of lemonade.

      They sat there in the milkin' shed, the heat was real intense.
      That ol' bag's tongue was hangin' out, she's leanin' on the fence.

      Vern spoke of her defects an' Virg' sang her acclaim.
      He'd like to get the best of Vern, -- a trader of some fame.

      The sun was disappearin' when Vern stood up to leave.
      "Run 'er on the scales my friend, you've beat me I believe".

      "Tell me Vern, Virg' queried, when she'ze weighed an' paid.
      "Why didn't you buy her early on, -- why all the serenade?"

      Vern put away his checkbook, grinned an' then he said.
      "I got ta buy 'er by the pound an' sell 'er by the head."

      The answer failed to ring a bell. "But why'd you wait all day?"
      "Well, I enjoy yer company Virg', -- an' yer wife's buffet."

      "I glanced in yer water trough, that ol' hide had naught to drink."
      "So I kept the trade a goin' to make up that nickel on the shrink."

        © 2004, Paul D. Hatch
        This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked Paul what inspired this poem, and he told us:  

My dad was Vern Hatch, a cattle trader who knew the art of the trade. I used to enjoy watching my dad trade cattle with the local folks. One guy he bought from at times was Virgil, a local farmer/dairyman. (Dad always said Virgil hated the thought of leaving any profit in a cow.)  My Dad and Mr. Virgil Bushman have both passed away, but I like to think that wherever they are, they would get a kick out of this poem.

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

While I know that the real poetry purists think that Cowboy Poetry just don't measure up, it is my deeply held feeling that it is a most unique way to put one's deepest feelings to paper. I doubt that anyone can attempt to scribble a few lines of Cowboy Poetry without feeling a bit of kinship to a way of life that is fast disappearing.  Having performed my poetry in front of folks in three piece suits, in tuxedos, as well as those in Wranglers and Stetsons, I find Cowboy Poetry to be a great equalizer in communication. I think that it is perhaps the only true American poetry which can trace its roots to the soil of the West.

 I'm the youngest son of the late Vern Hatch, who was a cowman without peer! I could not be rightly accused of being a cowman myself but was immersed in that tradition my whole life. I stand in admiration of the traditional cowmen who struggled and fought to make an honest living against great odds. I am a bit less impressed by many latter-day "cowboys" who's claim to the title is the money to buy a fancy saddle and nice Stetson. I'm 60 years old now and have seen a good bit of change in ranching and stockmen over the years but am happy to note that there are still a goodly number of good men and women plying the trade. I've been writing Cowboy Poetry for many years, mostly for myself and family, but do enjoy sharing it in the hope that someone else might get a laugh or shed a tear. I suppose like many amateur poets, I look at the writings of others and realize I may never be in their class. I enjoy in my clumsy way trying to put feelings to paper through poetry and though my writings don't measure up to many others, it's therapeutic for an old son of a cowman.

You can email Paul Hatch.

You can read more poetry by Paul Hatch here at the BAR-D.



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