Lariat Laureate


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We're pleased to announce the winner of the:

Lariat Laureate

of  Utah
recognized for her poem




8 Seconds


Slim McNaught
 "Cold Weather Feedin'"
South Dakota

Janalee Martin
 "Close to Timber"

G. M. Atwater
"The Home Place"

Alf Bilton
"When Walls Forgot"

Diane Tribitt
"Upgrading the Herd"

Gail T. Burton
"The Economist"

Muriel Zeller
"She Did Not Love Change"

Mike Moore
"21st Century Cowboy"

Listings above do not indicate any particular order of selection.

Below you'll find the poems and more information.

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 on this page.

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 her poem, "Spring"



About Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw:

Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw was born in Blackfoot, Idaho, just off the Fort Hall Reservation.  She had her first horse when she was four and spent hours riding the Reservation with her Indian friends and even more hours on the tributaries of the Snake River.

She continued to ride and rodeo during her high school years and then attended Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, on the rodeo team.  While at college she took as many livestock classes as she could, often the only girl in Feeds and Feeding, Livestock Management and Selection, and so on.

Now single, Sam was married for almost twenty years to a man who raised cattle and sheep.  She can run a squeeze chute, inoculate cows in the heat of the day and spend cold nights checking first time calving heifers by headlight.  She can keep a calf warm on the floor of her truck or the floor of her kitchen, and keep the scour medicine in her fridge separate from the dressing she made for last night's supper. She can also keep a sense of humor and make a good story out of any of the happenings experienced with the stock.

Sam is the past president of the Cowboy Poets of Utah, and is now serving on its Board of Directors. She is a member of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho, Cowboy Poets of Wind River, the Utah Chapter of the Western Music Association (WMA) and was one of five finalists for the WMA Female Poet for 2006. Sam won three of four events in the Western Legends Poetry Rodeo in Kanab, Utah, held in August of 2006 and was named the 2006 Silver Buckle Category winner.

She will be a featured poet at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista in February of 2007 and a featured poet at the Cedar City Cowboy Gathering in Utah in March of 2007.

[Sam DeLeeuw photo by Lori Faith Merritt, Photography by Faith]


We asked Sam why she writes Cowboy Poetry and why she thinks it is important and she told us

Why not? I was raised in Idaho and loved riding the hills with my family and friends on the Blackfoot Reservation. I rode the tributaries of the Snake River and was a part of the life this all presented. My heritage has been pioneers and early settlers and my early years of riding horses and being raised in a community where cattle supplied livelihoods. Time brings change and the "backyard cattle raisers" are all but gone. The major beef producers are barely hanging on because of the economy and forced restrictions. This way of life must be preserved and written down, the stories told, whether humorous or serious. I want the memories of my youth and later years to be read by my family in the next generations and I do that through my cowboy poetry.

You can email Sam DeLeeuw.


This is Sam DeLeeuw's winning poem:


When cold grey clouds take flight
Chased off by azure blue,
And rigid earth gives way
To desert life anew...

When cactus blossom hues
Adorn the desert sand,
When wild grass turns green
Across a barren land...

When heifers, bawling low,
Announce new life at dawn,
When crusted ice and snow
Shine bright and then are gone...

When mares with early foals,
Stand guard against the wind,
And show their growing ire,
Heads high, with ears laid pinned...

When hawks and eagles fly
Then hover overhead,
And guard their feathered nests
In cliffs of desert red...

When howling chants arise
From wolf pups in the night,
When antelope downwind
Are spooked and bolt in flight...

Warmth comes to the prairie ...
When sun rays stretch their arms,
Magic fills the senses....
When Springtime shares her charms!

2006, Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Sam told us about her inspiration for this poem:  Spring is magical, especially when you are riding out where new life is appearing everywhere.  It may come in cactus blossoms, new grass, melting snow off lichen laden rock or new foals and calves. You can't help but "feel" spring in those first few weeks of new life on the flat or desert. The mountains still carry its crown of frozen ice, but the valleys begin a rebirth that fills your senses with anticipation and "magic."

You can read more of Sam DeLeeuw's poetry here at the BAR-D.


8 Seconds

Slim McNaught


Cold Weather Feedin'

          the snow crunches
          the herd bunches
And the mares nicker in the cold,
          their rumps facin'
          to the wind, bracin'
As winter's forces take hold.
          from the hay stack
          I take a look back,
The horses are standin', heads low,
          wind is whippin',
          manes a' flippin'
As they bunch to ward off the blow.
          as I pitch out hay
          at the start of day
I marvel at these creatures I love,
          as they wait for feed
          for their body's need
I feel blessed by the Lord up above.
          in this cold weather
          they bunch together
By an instinct that's centuries old,
          and the snow crunches
          as the herd bunches
And the mares nicker in the cold.

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


Slim told us about his inspiration for the poem:

You know, it don't make any difference what time of year it is or what kind of weather you're in, if you just watch a bunch of horses for a few minutes doin' what horses do, you will feel blest. This "Cold Weather Feedin'" is one of those times.

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

Cowboy Poetry is a heritage passed down to us from our ancestors, and we are fortunate enough to have the chance to honor them by maintaining their principles and continuing their style of poetry.


In 1935, when Slim was one year old, his folks moved to a ranch in the Badlands country on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota. They lived in a log house on Bear In The Lodge Creek for a few years and later moved east of there into the Buzzard Basin area south of Eagle Nest Butte. They raised cows and horses and put up a lot of hay. 

In 1954 Slim married Darlene Brodkorb and they purchased the Buzzard Basin ranch. They were blest with a daughter and three sons. After several years, they sold the ranch and started "Slim's Custom Leather," a saddle and boot repair shop and hand tooled leather business, which they have operated for nearly 40 years, starting in Kadoka, South Dakota and later moving to New Underwood, South Dakota. They are now trying to downsize to the hand tooled and handmade leather items and Cowboy Poetry gatherings.

Some time during high school Slim started writing poetry. Over the years he has had poems, stories and articles published in various anthologies plus many cowboy, horse, and agriculture magazines and newspapers. Currently, his page on shows several poems published, plus some gathering reports at other locations on that site. He also publishes a monthly column "The Saddle Rack" on his web site and one other.

In 2005 Slim started his own publishing company, adding it to their leather business, to publish his books. The company is now called Slim's Leather & Publishing. Since 1981 he has published four books. Three are cowboy poetry and short western humor stories, and one book contains some of Slim's original works and some of his mother's original poetry. He also has published two books for his mother, Troy McNaught Westby, with another on the way for each of them. In March of 2006 Slim published his first CD, A Life of Rhyme, and has another CD in the works. Slim feels he has been blest in living and working in ranch country and dealing with horse and cow people all of his life and this carries over into his cowboy poetry.

Slim and Darlene have four children, seven grand children, and (at last count) nine great grand children.

[Slim McNaught photo by Jen Dobrowski]

You can email Slim McNaught.

You can read more of Slim McNaught's poetry here at the BAR-D and at his web site.


Janalee Martin


Close to Timber

I've never been this close to timber,
Watched the woods fill up with snowdrifts,
Seen the jaws of old man winter,
Locking tight on sturdy trees,
Until they call for mercy,
Moaning to the heavens,
Echoing the heartache,
I pour out here on my knees.

"Cattle Foreman Needed"
Read the want ad in the journal,
But I knew just what it meant,
For me anyway.
It meant, I'm packing boxes,
Full of junk that we would trailer,
To the new place, close to timber,
And this time, he said, we'd stay.

Six months it will take me,
To find out why they needed,
Another cattle foreman,
To take the former's place.
Six months, time to figure
That I've come this close to timber,
Just to find the same old problems,
And to look them in the face.

And every time I tell the kids,
"Your Dad is working honey,
But he wishes he could be here,
He can't because he can't."
I stand there in between,
The hurt and disappointment,
That cuts into the base,
Of who and what I really am.

You would think my bark was thicker,
After all it's been a sore spot
For years.  It shouldn't matter,
And I should just move on.
But it deepens like small woodchips,
Form a tree about to topple,
Every blow might be the last
And each one closer to I'm gone.

It's me here in the middle,
I can't seem to keep from hurting,
Because of me he'd leave here,
Because of me he stays.
He sells himself for pennies,
Making richer people richer,
His life's blood is this lifestyle,
No matter what it pays.

The kids know that he loves them,
More than cows and grass-tall pastures,
They're just sick of moving,
They need to settle down.
To graduate from High School,
Maybe elected prom queen,
And when they go to college,
This could be their own home town.

It's me here, between leaving
And the long days I am lonely,
Between the broken dryer
And the sawing of the hours.
Each time I hang the clothes out,
or try to fix the plumbing,
I feel the cut get deeper,
And the splinters of my power.

I don't want to hate it,
I wish to God I didn't,
So much weighs in the center,
Getting smaller every day,
But it's me here in the middle
Trying to hold it all together,
And the chips just keep on flying,
And I might fall either way.

I've never felt this close to timber,
Maybe age has left me weaker
Unbending with the winter,
Creaking more and more.
I work at feeling hope and
Something more beyond the hurting.
I am closer now to timber,
Than I've ever been before.

2006, Janalee Martin
This song may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Previously, 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.


G. M. Atwater


The Home Place

He leans upon his shovel,
tips his hat and wipes his brow.
The heat has sucked his strength plumb gone,
but, 'least there's water now.
More than was this morning,
just a sluggish, muddied pool.
The spring still runs, though slowly,
but, for now, it has to do.

He looks, then, all around him.
Cattle watch with wary gaze.
The grass is curling yellow
'neath the sun's ungodly blaze.
The earth is dry as flour -
Lord, it's only come July!
From foolish, hopeless habit,
he looks at the furnace sky.

There's clouds stacked up like cotton
far away beneath the sun,
but they're only empty promise.
No real moisture comes.
He clamps his dusty hat back on
and sighs with tired despair.
Dear God, when will You send us rain?
It's just so damn' unfair.

His great-grandpa first won this place
from sagebrush, rocks and sand.
His dad's and grand dad's entire lives
were woven in this land.
Someday soon it'd come to him . . .
but what, then, would be left?
For drought and debt and market whims
were bleeding them to death.

He once had left the old home place
to work for other brands.
He'd cowboyed, learned and rambled,
done his best to make a hand.
Then came the time when he'd returned,
content to settle down.
He'd married, just a year ago,
and she, too, loved this ground.

But now she's took a job in town
to help them pay the bills.
The doctors get a goodly chunk;
poor mom is often ill.
They sold the farm a few years back
where once they grew their hay.
It hurt him more'n he'd have thought,
seeing mem'ries hauled away.

He's never cared for farmin' work.
It just ain't in his heart.
But it'd been part of all their lives
and near pulled dad apart.
Tough old man keeps going,
but the son's begun to wonder;
how long of fighting uphill pulls
before the place goes under?

He's lately thought of pulling out,
and building life anew,
instead of wasting his best years
on what looks almost through.
But he can't leave his folks this way.
What if things go wrong?
Then all his life he'd think,
he could have helped, if he weren't gone.

Some would say, it's your own life.
Who says that you can't choose?
Deep inside, dad knows it;
fate decides what's win or loose.
His wife is understanding.
She's behind him either way.
But they neither one can answer,
is it time to go . . . or stay?

2006,  G. M. Atwater
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Gloria told us about her inspiration for the poem:

I wrote "The Home Place" quite a few years ago for a good friend of ours, a small rancher in Eastern Washington, who was going through some awfully hard times.  I never look for a poem, they seem to find me, and our friend's tale of hardship just kind of got stuck in my heart. I had the honor of reciting this poem at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering when our friend was present to hear it, and his response afterwards gratified me more than words can say.

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

Cowboy poetry is, in my view, a historic tradition. I think it is no stretch to say that it traces its roots back hundreds of years to the very earliest bardic traditions. The purpose of cowboy poetry has always been to tell a story, to capture a moment or thought or ideal, or even just a gut-busting laugh—because it's worth remembering. Cowboy poetry captures something that others can hear or read and say, "Yeah, this
is sure familiar." To outsiders it may seem a quaint, anachronistic genre set in predictable four-beat measures, but it's so much more than that. Cowboy poetry presents the heart and soul of a way of life: the good, the
bad, the tragic and the hilarious, and as we rocket headlong into the 21st century, I think it's important to retain past traditions. Just in the past 15 years we've all seen the ranges and ranching change. Cowboy poetry is a way to make sure that life is not forgotten.  It is a way to remember who we still are.


  I am a mule packer and cowhand, having worked together with my husband for twenty-some years on pack stations and cow outfits in Nevada, eastern and northern California, and northern Arizona.  I've been blessed to ride some of the most magnificent country in God's creation, and along the way get to know some awfully good folks. Nowadays we live near town on the California/Nevada border and work in the "modern" world, but we still get horseback and day-work when we can, and we've never sold our saddles. Psst, and don't tell anybody, but I've also taken up border collies and sheepdog trials.  ;-)

You can email us to contact G. M. Atwater.


G. M. Atwater's poetry is here at the BAR-D.

Alf Bilton


When Walls Forgot

Her voice banished walls, and "coyotee" calls
Would wash newer noises away;
I'd hear eagles scream, and mountains would gleam
On distant horizons each day.

Revived by her words, the buffalo herds
Again roamed the prairie she knew;
Were slaughtered again, plain seeded to grain,
When "sodbustin' farmers" came through.

She often retold how "Charlie" was bold
Enough to set blooded studs free,
To join a wild bunch, 'cause he had a hunch
Their "get" would remount cavalry.

They could have sold more, "come the Civil War,"
But left a seed herd running free;
And "Young Charlie" wed my grandma instead,
And started his own "fambily."

A found "massacree" became real to me,
As things that she kept on her shelves.
Her stories went on, but wilderness gone,
The plains were like ghosts of themselves.

When pierced by the rails paralleling old trails
That horses bestowed on the West,
And worse yet fenced, the prairie commenced
"Tuh shrivel, 'n' shrink," like the rest.

Then she'd story North, where they had gone forth
On a quest for more untamed land,
Of Saskatchewan, and how they'd gone on
To the Yukon's promising sand.

The mustangers died, but seed scattered wide
Carried on in a world they spurned;
Where wild things are lost, and few heed the cost
Of values we see overturned.

What I am today, I owe in some way,
To stories she pulled from the gloom;
To cowboys and kin who lived once "ag'in"
When walls forgot Grandmother's room.

2005, Alf Bilton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Alf told us about his inspiration for the poem:

Like many others who write cowboy poetry, I grew with movie heroes like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. There was nothing unusual about this in our neighborhood, but unlike my playmates, I had a supplemental supply of cowboy stories available. My grandmother on my mother's side of the family had lived through much of the "classical" cowboy era in the western United States before moving to Canada, and she frequently lived with us. Between her own stories and those of people she had known personally, her background provided ample fodder for a seemingly endless supply of tales about family members and those they had known. Better, she loved to tell stories as much as I liked to listen, and had the patience to relate favorites over and over again. The result was that I, as a preschooler, was introduced to American history through stories about my own ancestors. It was only much later that I began to realize she had been passing along information about more than just two generations of the Palmer family (my mother's maiden name). Part of that confusion no doubt resulted from the family's habit of naming someone in each generation Charles. It became my own middle name.

My mother and an aunt or two got interested in genealogy at one point, and claimed to have traced the family back to within about thirty years of the Mayflower's landing. I seem to have come by my own fiddle-foot honestly though. It seems every time somebody started talking about new land farther west, one or more Palmers was driven to go see for themselves. When they ran out of dry land at the Pacific, the family doubled back, then turned north and was soon wandering all over Canada. The stories came with them.

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

I write cowboy poetry because I cannot seem to stop writing it.

Writing poetry has for most of my life been one of the ways I processed experiences and internalized memories or thoughts. It is a creative activity that has long since become something of an addiction for me. That being the case, I suppose it is only natural that when I write, some of the things I write about belong to the cowboy world. My mother's side of the family had a long history of involvement with the lifestyle, and I was lucky enough to enjoy a few years of personal experience with it.

The community of cowboy poets is sharing something akin to my grandmother's tales of the West as she had known it. Her memories, her values, and perhaps something of her quirky sense of humor, were passed along to my generation even before we realized they were something to be treasured. Cowboy poets are a group of like-minded people pooling individual memories and talents in an attempt to preserve and transmit to even more generations something that began, for me,
in my grandmother's room.

I believe that as our society moves ever deeper into an era typified by urbanization, values of convenience, and licensed lifestyle; as the wilderness succumbs to technology and activist ignorance; and as rural areas sink deeper into a quagmire of bureaucratic incursion; preservation and transmission of such stories to new generations is becoming even more
important. Those stories are the key to understanding a different way, the way of the pioneer, the individualist. It is the way of those who paradoxically strive for self-reliance while remaining ready to help others.

It is the way symbolized by the cowboy.

  Still in his fifties, Alf is already determined to sit down one of these days and decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He claims to have been too long prone to wandering, wondering, and worrying about things that don't seem to bother anyone else. Among those things are the changes he sees as the North undergoes settlement and the same "civilizing" influences that have long since overtaken the rest of the West in both Canada and the United States.

Alf finished high school in Yellowknife, then promptly took off to see for himself whether the world was really flat or not. He managed to turn twenty-one on the other side of the globe during a long stint in Australia.
His folks moved while he was yondering overseas. "My father though, a woodsman from 'way back, had made the mistake of teaching me the rudiments of tracking. I caught up to the family again in the Yukon." He has been returning to the Territory whenever there was work to be had pretty much ever since.

There were a few years in Alberta attending university and then teaching school. Eventually, he remembered he greatly preferred jobs that got him outdoors and stayed at work when he went home. He also spent some time in Saskatchewan when a friend and he tried crossbreeding a yak bull and some Highland heifers. Alf's was to be mostly sweat equity and he spent the next couple of years alone with the livestock most of the time. Those years cemented his respect for working cowboys and ranchers.

"Horse, heeler, and I were all out of our depth with that Yakland venture. I wasn't long concluding that what made a pretty good bush horse in the Yukon wasn't the best for working cattle. It took a little longer to admit I was as out of place there as my horse was. The dog caught on quickly and turned out to be the only competent one in the outfit. Of course, we started out with her mad at me for a long time because it was obviously my fault that cows could kick sideways."

Alf claims the best description of the result came from an old cowboy who had tried the same thing. "He opined that the highland-yak cross results in a longhorned flying shag rug with a bad attitude. Anyway, the cattle seemed to be having more fun than we were, so when I heard of a mine reopening in the Yukon, I was a lot longer packing the truck than deciding what to do."

Among many other things, like picking fruit, cutting sugar cane, and selling computers, Alf has worked mine mill and placer mining, wrangled both horses and tourists, drove truck, operated heavy equipment, even pumped gas to stay on the food chain. And, he says, "Once in a while I write."

"When I write poetry, a few words or phrases seem to infect my mind first and the rest just somehow grows from that. It's like some tune I can't be rid of until it's done, and done a certain way; some tune like the one
Tom T. Hall sang about in That Song Is Drivin' Me Crazy."

"Sometimes it all comes quickly. Other times, months or years go by with occasional additions or modifications presenting themselves out of the blue until the day something 'clicks' and my scatter-brained muse is finally
satisfied. At that point, it feels more like I've released something than created it. "

You can email Alf Bilton.

You can read more of Alf Bilton's poetry here at the BAR-D and at his web site.


Diane Tribitt


Upgrading the Herd

I rode through the herd and decided the ranch was sure need'n a change.
My cows were ready for wheelchairs and my calf crop looked just as strange.

The daddy's of those acorn calves were mostly tankers at the best;
Just some high fallootin' eaters that couldn't pass a semen test.

I needed some education on genetics and EPDs;
So I asked our local Beef Team to teach me 'bout pedigrees.

They shook their heads in disbelief as they checked out my sorry lot.
We ran the whole works through the chute and the Beef Team began to plot.

We culled out the thin and shelly cows, and sold those that forgot to calf.
By the time my old bulls were loaded my herd size was down to one-half.

I went and bought some replacements, black heifers that were Angus bred,
and bought some Angus bull power, in top five percents, black and red.

The Team said synchronization cut calving time down a few weeks;
We A.I.'d some and utilized some embryo implant techniques.

We used the new bulls for clean up. Our plan was exact and ideal.
I sure was anticipating new babies with Angus appeal.

Rumors 'bout upgrading my herd spread 'round at the coffee shop.
And city folk come drivin' by to check out my Angus calf crop.

With a renewed sense of cowboy pride I rode through that herd day and night.
But when the first calf hit the ground I dang near fainted at the sight!

This calf looked like an imposter with hair all red-speckled and white,
Standing there sucking a black cow...And two more were born that night.

I put them in the far pasture, tryin' to hide 'em from public view.
But those calves stood out like a sore thumb, and 'fore long most everyone knew

The word had spread like wild fire that my registered Angus bull
Threw red-and-white Shorthorn babies, and my pasture was darn near full.

But no-one asked why my black cows had Shorthorn calves on the ground
And the simple genetic deception made my herd "unique" and "profound!"

I've learned that embryo transfers don't boggle the fine minds of some
on ways of bovine reproduction...But how could the rest be so dumb!

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


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

With the help and advisement of the University of Minnesota Beef Team , we made some major changes in my cow herd. We decided to incorporate an embryo implanting program (for a shorthorn producer) into the plan, so when the calves started to hit the ground I was constantly answering questions about the strange, new calf crop. Some folks "got it,"…but some didn't. At any rate, it sure looked funny seeing the shorthorn babies out in the pasture! And I had fun spoofing a few people that just didn't know any better!       

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

Poetry is the window to the heart and soul of a poet. I write with passion and intensity, determined to help someone know something, or to understand something, or to feel something…that they wouldn’t have otherwise known or understood or felt…especially when it comes to the cowboy way of life. 

Cowboying is about battling every imaginable obstacle out there to maintain that position. It’s about surviving the droughts, blizzards, diseases, floods, and heck: even the banker! It’s about living and working with God.  It’s about raising your children to know, understand, and appreciate this lifestyle. It’s about getting up every night to check on first calf heifers and feeding cattle in wind chills of -50. It’s about round-ups and roping the renegades.  It’s about the perils and mishaps; the romance and love. It’s about the horses and the cow dogs. But mostly, it’s all about the cowboys and cowgirls who keep it all alive.  


  Diane Tribitt, Minnesota's Cowgirl Poet, is a rancher from Hillman,
Minnesota. She also runs a construction crew that erects grain bins across the United States, and has served on the rodeo circuit for many years as an events secretary. Diane brings this wealth of experience to every poem she writes. But the special feelings that her works evoke is also rooted in a deep spirituality and faith that comes from years of hard work in the open air, the special love of family and friends, and devastating losses that raise the question of what life is really all about.

Diane loves crossing trails with other poets, musicians and audiences as she travels to various cowboy gatherings.

You can email Diane Tribitt.

You can read more poetry by Diane Tribitt here at the BAR-D and at her web site.


Muriel Zeller


She Did Not Love Change
for Tiny

In the cycles of change,
she loved the sameness.
She believed in constancy:
rocks, oaks, summer
salt on the tongue,
dust in a cow's wake,
hay, manure, chapped
hands, spring cold, pulling
stuck calves with a come-along,
riding bareback, burning brush,
bloody barbed wire,
an old Hereford bull named Triumph.

Past and future collapsed
into each moment she spent
on the ranch.  She curled
into the womb of land,
was born, reborn,
brought her shame, had it vanish
into the ground's thrust
of green, into its strawing.
The land took on each hardship,
wore it down into dust.
God could not give her peace
like she found after she closed
the gate that opened onto the world.

But the world insists upon itself.
Love thins with a bloodline.
Language falls down.
The vernacular of land and time
is reinterpreted in subdivision lines.
She did not love change,
but change loved her,
as you know, to death.

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


Muriel told us about her inspiration for the poem:

I wrote this poem, as well as many others, in response to my sense of loss when my parents began subdividing and selling my grandmother's ranch. Though the poem is dedicated to my grandmother (Tiny), I could just as easily have been writing about myself.  Sometimes the connection with a piece of land, the reverential sense of place skips a generation or is subjugated to (dare I say it so baldly?) greed. The Sierra Nevada foothill community where I live was all grazing land and ranches only a generation ago. We now have Starbucks and Burger King. I am not naive. I understand there are social and economic pressures driving the growth in my area, but I am frightened by the lack of balance between stability and change. So I write poems and letters to the editor.

This poem came out of  love, anger and longing.  I worked on it for about a year, and, finally, gave up. I discovered it was all it was ever going to be.

We asked Muriel about writing cowboy poetry and she commented:

As to why I write cowboy poetry, quite simply, I don't. I write poetry that often has a rural setting, because I write out of my experience, and because I love the land and traditions of the West. If my poem is accepted as a cowboy poem, I am delighted. However, my first obligation is always to the poem, not its audience. The audience, and I always hope there is one, is secondary. Poetry is about discovery, getting to what we know but can't quite grasp. And if you ask me why cowboy poetry is important, I will tell you it is important because it is poetry.

Previously, my poetry has appeared in a variety of publications including The Montserrat Review, Perihelion, Camas:The Nature of the West, Northridge Review, Plainsongs, Bliss, Manzanita: Poetry and Prose of the Mother Lode, and Slipstream. My work has been anthologized, most notably in Over This Soil: An Anthology of World Farm Poems (University of Iowa Press, 1998).  I have published two chapbooks, Legacy (2001)and Red Harvest (Poet's Corner Press, 2002). I have received two Pushcart Prize nominations (2001, 2004), and my work has appeared on Verse Daily

I am currently working on a chapbook with my friend and fellow poet, Catherine Webster, which focuses on the landscape of central California and the Sierras.  In addition to writing poetry, I work parttime and am a member of an aspiring non-profit group called, whose mission it is to promote responsible growth and development through public participation in community planning in order to preserve the quality of rural life in the greater Valley Springs, California area.

You can email Muriel Zeller.


Muriel Zeller's poetry is here at the BAR-D.


Gail T. Burton


The Economist

Randy Jones and Booger Red,
With a tough ol' yaller houn',
Wuz huntin' deer out in the brakes
'Bout forty miles from town.
Almost starved, 'cause game was scarce,
They wondered what to do.
So chopped the tail off that ol' dog
And cooked it down for stew.

They ate the meat 'n drank the soup
Then tossed the dog the bone.
The grateful pooch licked Randy's hand
When everything was gone.
Then Booger looked at Jones and said:
"I'll call a spade a spade;
If you really study what we've done,
It's just like Federal Aid."

2005, Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

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

I believe you'll find most rural people are somewhat politically conservative. Certainly they live their private lives that'a way. But sometimes we need sort of a nudge to get our thinking on the right track. I can't remember his name, but he was one of several people running for President back in the early 60's. He told this story about two hunters.

We asked Gail why he writes Cowboy Poetry, and he responded

I've been told that I write the last line of my poems first. In retrospect, it's probably a fact. A goodly number of my poems have been written to make a specific point, or make a short statement. My poem might simply be a vehicle to get the reader to that comment. Often folks don't pay attention to what one has to say, but if it's put in verse it catches their
attention. I enjoy a good tale, I enjoy a good joke and I enjoy a truism; sometimes you can get all three in one poem.

 Gail "GT" Burton grew up at a time when horses shared the work with tractors
and, from his first memories, had a serious interest in cowboys and Old West history. Though never a working cowboy he had the opportunity to spend time horseback and in the company of working cowboys. His mother taught him poems, and the appreciation of poetry, as a child and the two interests sorta blended together as he matured.

Burton was born at Temple in Southwest Oklahoma when the state was barely twenty years old and has been a lifelong student of western lore. A bit short on experience, but a serious observer of those old time cowboy friends while growing up has equips him to write poems about cowboys and their trials and tribulations.

Burton is the author of Cow Pies & Candle Lights, a collection of cowboy poems, as well as an audio album under the same title.  He participates in cowboy poetry gatherings from Texas to Montana and is, since 1988, a featured poet in The Tombstone Epitaph, The National Newspaper of the Old West.

His poetry is often an outlet for his more unique (deranged) thinking, but just as often will convey a tender thought, a nostalgic reminder of the old west or even a touch of wisdom. He is a gentleman poet with heart, soul and a funny bone.

Other work by Burton includes Charity; poems of faith, words of love and letters of Christmas;   volumes one and two of The Adventures of Randy Jones & Booger Red, a collection of poems carried as a series in The Tombstone Epitaph, reporting the misadventures of two whimsical cowboys who are often bent on self destruction.

Gail comments, "I'd like to say that writing about cowboys has been one of the major joys of my life. I know, and have known, working cowboys all my life and have found them to be the most interesting animals of God's creation. I've enjoyed saying poetry with them at various gatherings from Georgia to Washington, down to California and back to Arkansas. In addition, have had the pleasure of introducing Cowboy Poetry to folks at a Ladies Quilting Club in Arkansas, a Writer's League in Missouri, Global Halloween Convergence (New Orleans, San Jose, and Sleepy Hollow, New York), many church parties, civic clubs, school rooms, and the Strathdon Luncheon Club at Cock Bridge. Scotland ... that was a hoot! I enjoy what I do and hope you enjoy it as much as I."

You can email Gail T. Burton.


You can read more poetry by Gail T. Burton here at the BAR-D.


Mike Moore


21st Century Cowboy

The electronic age is rooted down deep,
We've entered the new century.
Cowboying has changed, the world moves too fast,
It's near about run off and left me.

We were riding the backcountry and got turned around,
Lynn never showed signs of distress.
He just opened his saddle bags, punched in the right code,
We found our way way using his GPS.

Out on the saltgrass, pairing cows with their calves,
Old Hank let out a mournful moan.
A cow quit the herd, Charlie let her get by,
He was busy talking on his cell phone.

On payday the young hands all gather 'round,
Talk of "margin," "CD," and "IRA."
Up on this old horse, I feel kinda behind,
Riding fence for long hours and short pay.

And their words sound the same, but their meanin' sure ain't,
As new ways and old try to meet.
Words like "Bear," "Bull," and "Stock" take on a new life,
When they're talking it down on Wall Street.

On rodeo night I cinched him down tight,
Climbed aboard and hollered, "Open the gate!"
I had to spur high, I needed the win,
The feds just raised the prime interest rate.

The old hands are gone - Buck, George, Shorty, and Slim.
The good Lord took 'em all way back when.
It sends chills up my back to think of this age,
And what it would have done to those men.

I'm behind times you say; I need to catch up.
There's no use living in the past.
Well, you may be right, but my mind stays in a fog.
This world's moving too darn fast.

Well, I need to get going; it's way past sun-up.
The hay pasture's cut and ready to bale,
But I'm downloading stock prices off of the web,
And I still need to check my E-mail.

2005, Mike Moore
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

  I live in Santa Fe, Texas and I'm a 45 year old (most of the time anyway) oil refinery worker. A lot of the time ferrier (since 1982) and all of the time fool for mules and horses (mostly mules).

I got introduced to cowboy poetry while riding the Caprock Canyons in the Texas Panhandle where I met up with a fellow rider who is just as feverish as I am about seeing Gods country one trail at a time. We sat around camp fires, swapped some pretty good lies and listened to hours of tapes by some of his favorite cowboy poets. I've been hooked ever since.

Most of the poems and stories I've written were inspired by trails I've ridden and mules and horses I've known. I submitted "The Mule Skinner and the School Marm" at the urging of a cousin, a school marm named Idabeth, who lives in Alvin, Texas who has been after me for some time to send something in. 

You can read more poetry by Mike Moore here at the BAR-D.


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