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The current Lariat Laureate award is here.
In June 2000, we were pleased to announce
the second Lariat Laureate:

Lariat Laureate

Neal Torrey

of Bolivar, Missouri
recognized for his poem
The Marshal and the Chicken Thieves

and

8 Seconds

(alphabetically by poem title):


After the Wet
Jack Sammon
Lithgow, Australia

The Burial of Ol' John
David Kelley
Allen, Texas

Cathay Williams
Linda Kirkpatrick
Leakey, Texas

Desert Rat
Verlin Pitt
West Central Wyoming

Fixin' to Get Excitin'
Francine Roark Robison
Shawnee, Oklahoma

Hassayampa
Charley Sierra
Cold Springs Valley, Nevada

Line Dance Lesson
Janice Gilbertson
King City, California

Winter of Life
Louis A. Carle
Riverside, California

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

This page can take a long time to load.  

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 listed on the current winners' page, here.

 

You can enter the next Lariat Laureate Competition.

 

It is also our pleasure to award a

Special Mention

to our Honored Guest

Bette Wolf Duncan   click here

for her

Cattle Country Trilogy


 

Lariat Laureate

Neal Torrey


Following is Neal Torrey's Lariat Laureate award winning poem and his introduction to this true story.

Allen Raver (now of Jackson, Wyoming)  told me one about his grandfather, John Raver, who was a frontier marshal in South Dakota.  He still has his grandfather's model 1895 Winchester in .30-40 caliber, and it is in mint condition.  He also has his old ledger, where he wrote down the things he did as a marshal.  One of those entries was the source of this poem:

 

The Marshal and the Chicken Thieves


His hands curled 'round his coffee cup, the old hand told a story--
Of rougher days and tougher times in Dakota Territory.
The land was like a flaming forge that tested each man's mettle,
And tempered into strongest steel those souls who dared to settle.
Wild bands of Sioux and Cheyenne rode - in forays ever bolder.
You had to watch the trail ahead - with one eye o'er your shoulder.

Still, civilization's steady march soon gained the Black Hills border,
And folks in Custer County said, "We need some law and order!"
There was one man with extra sand, and everybody knew it.
John Raver took the Marshal's badge, cause -"Someone had to do it."
He packed a six-gun on his belt where it came quick to hand,
And nestled in his saddle-boot was a lever-action grand.

The Marshal served the county well, a lawman good and true.
He kept a ledger of the things his job caused him to do.
The old hand found this story there, upon the yellowed sheaves,
Of how the Marshal went against....the gang of Chicken Thieves!

There was a pack of wolves back then who rode the Rimrock Trail.
Reckless, mean and desperate, they robbed the U.S. mail.
They slipped into the Black Hills then, 'til things were not so hot,
And quiet, Custer County seemed like just the perfect spot.
They holed up in an old line-shack, and never showed in town,
Tho one slipped in to buy their grub when few folks was around.

Hard-eyed, lean and dangerous, they numbered six in all.
Armed to the teeth, they stayed holed up through Summer into Fall.
Now, men of action can get cramped when they are kept confined,
And "cabin fever" does strange things when it tampers with the mind.
But thieves are thieves, whatever the prize, and here's where the plot thickens...
They began to use their outlaw skills -- to steal the neighbor's chickens!

Bold men, who made their living taking other people's wealth....
Now were lickin' chicken bones by practicing their stealth.
The neighbor knew some hens were gone, but had no proof for showin'
Until a fickle prairie wind brought......chicken feathers blowin'!
It wasn't hard to follow up those feathers in the air.
A short ride to the windward side brought him to the robbers' lair.

"I want those men arrested NOW!"  He slammed his big fist down!
"You're the Marshal!  Do your job and bring 'em into town!
They've had their fun, the deed is done, and I'm the one who's bested!
They laughed at me when I found them out!  I want those men ARRESTED!"

"Hold on, we're talking fightin' men.  I sure would hate to test 'em.
Why, I would need a posse's help to go out and arrest 'em."

"I'm sorry, Marshal Raver, and I hate it like the dickens,
But I've been made a laughing-stock, 'cause those men stole my chickens!"

Now, Marshal Raver didn't flinch from trouble in the least.
He wasn't known for backin' down from either man or beast.
A man, to keep his self respect, must live what he believes.
So, Marshal Raver saddled up to catch those chicken thieves.
His Winchester he shoved in the scabbard, nervously checked his sixgun twice,
Then, Raver mounted up and rode, against his friends' advice.
His eyes took in the Black Hills sweep, the antelope, the sky.
He watched them with the saddened eyes of one about to die.

His coming was of no surprise.  They always posted guard.
He stopped his horse about the time he got up to the yard.
"Hello, the house!" he shouted.  They answered from within,
But, some, he knew, where hid outside, their gunsights trained on him.
"This here is Marshal Raver, and I've come to talk with you,
'Bout stealing Perkins' chickens, and what you plan to do."
Slowly, from their hiding spots, the outlaws came to view.
"What is your meanin', Marshal, on...'what we plan to do'?"

"Well, ol' Perkins signed a paper, we call it a Complaint,
That you've been stealing chickens.  Now, do you say you ain't?
If you was to pay ol' Perkins for the hens that you've consumed,
This thing could then be settled and the peace could be resumed.
But, if you don't take my offer now, that I make you as a friend,
My duty, boys, as Marshal is.....I'll have to take you in!"

"Hah!  Look around you, Marshal.  You're much too young to die.
Do you think that you could take us all?"

"Well, I think I'd hafta try!"

They all stood tight as statues then, eyes narrowed to a squint,
And Marshal Raver, he looked back, his jaw set hard as flint.
A moment that seems hours passed, with all tensed for the draw,
Then, there slowly came a softening, like a snowfield in a thaw.
One of the outlaws smiled and said, "Ah'll tell you somethin' true...
Ah've never been arrested as a 'chicken thief', have you?"

It turned out not a one of them had ever gained that fame,
To have the label "chicken thief" tacked on behind their name.
And so they all surrendered to the charge John Raver made,
And meekly rode to town with him, where soon their fines were paid.
But before they rode away that day, the leader shook his hand.
He said, "Raver, you ain't got a lot of sense.  But, you purely do have SAND!"

2000 Neal Torrey

About Neal Torrey:

 

Click for larger version:  Neal Torrey, photo courtesy Mr. Torrey   Neal Torrey resides in Bolivar, Missouri, was born in Missouri, but the majority of his adult life was spent in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he raised AQHA and Appaloosa horses.  Neal is a member of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association and the Oklahoma Western Heritage, Inc.  Contact Neal by email for information about his book of poetry, Sagebrush Sentiments, or a cassette tape that features Neal and eight other MCPA members.

When we asked Neal why he writes cowboy poetry, he replied:

"As to why I write cowboy poetry?  Well, take a deep seat. I grew up reading Will James and Zane Grey, in fact, I think I read all that our small library had of those two.  I tried my best to learn how to draw horses like Will James and Charlie Russell.  I spent my Saturday afternoons in the movie theatres, watching Hopalong Cassidy, the Durango Kid, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Bob Steele, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Red Ryder and all that bunch of good, clean-cut heroes. 

Later in life, as a Special Deputy Sheriff in Teton County, in Wyoming, I rode patrol on horseback, six-gun strapped to my hip, looking for (believe it or not) cattle rustlers!  I had to pinch myself to see that I wasn't dreaming.

Our children, and perhaps a good many of our young adults need exposure to the moral code that was held by the real cowboys and ranchers.  The later Hollywood image of the anti-hero in the leading role has done a lot of damage to the true story of the West. 

As I can, I try with my cowboy poetry to show the cowboy, the rancher, the lawman, the soldier and the Native American in a good, positive light.  Sure, there were bad men in the West, but they were definitely a minority, and were quickly eliminated by the decent citizens of the West.  There is much to tell of the privations, the harsh weather and primitive conditions under which the men of the old West functioned. 

If you study the hymns and the songs of the cowboy, you see that for the most part, he was a man of honor, integrity and faith.  That story is one that needs to be told, and I have taken it upon myself to tell it."

You can read more of Neal Torrey's' poems here on this site.  His poem, Western Wear, was a runner up in the previous Lariat Laureate contest.

 

8 Seconds

 

Jack Sammon

When I was a young stockman I, like other stockmen worked on cattle stations during the dry season of the year, living in stock camps out on the cattle runs. For three months when it was too wet and hot to be able to work cattle, the stock camps were shut down and the stockmen (Ringers) were payed off. Most of us would head south and got jobs in towns. Mostly we took jobs in mines working underground.

Although we all had intentions of giving the bush away and keep working as miners, with its high pay and short hours, as soon as the wet season was over the call of the cattle camps was usually too much and we would roll our swags (bed rolls) and head on out for another season.

After the Wet

While I'm working at the coal face deep down below the ground,
and hear timber cracking with a sharp and tortured sound,
I peer into the darkness through the cap lamps feeble glow,
thinking of the stock camps on the stations I know.

Where grass is waving stirrup high out on the black soil plains,
and the creeks and gullies brimming full from the yearly rains.
for now the wet has ended on the stations in the north
and it's time for mustering camps to once again go forth.

There's a feeling of excitement and air is full of sounds
as station camps are starting out on their yearly rounds.
From the plains of Coorabulka to box scrubs on Loraine,
they're running in fresh horses to station yards again.

Gates and panels rattle as the horses are drafted out,
they're stirring up the dust and dirt as they mill about,
and horses that are fat and fresh will test the stockmen's skills,
but ringers look forward to the challenge and the thrills.

The camp cook's call the ringers when the morning star is bright
and they're saddled up and riding before the sky is light.
They're rounding up fat bullocks from the river on Nardoo
and running in big pikers from scrubs at Manbulloo.

Where branding fires are glowing in the yards at Eight Mile Camp,
they're pulling up big micks to the bronco-branding ramp,
mixing in with smoke and dust and the smell of scorching hair,
the sound of bawling cows and calves comes floating on the air.

The sound of stockwhips echo from scrubs on Inverleigh,
where along the Flinders River cattle still run free
And out there on The Barkley mirages shimmer on the plains
where on the air there's music of bells and hobble chains.

So when this shift is over and my cap lamp's in the rack,
I'll draw my pay and tell them I won't be coming back.
For I'll be heading up to Queensland's cattle camps once more,
to some outback station where I used to work before.

For stockmen are a nomadic lot who cannot settle down,
we have good intentions when we get a job in town.
But when the Wet's over and grass is high out on the plain,
we roll our swags and head out to stock camps once again.

2000 Jack Sammon


About Jack Sammon:

Click for larger version:  Jack Sammon, courtesy of Mr. Sammon  I was born and raised on cattle stations in the north of Australia and as soon as I was old enough to leave school, which I did as correspondence as we lived one sixty miles from the nearest town, I went to work as a stockman (cowboy) working on stations and droving all over the north. This life is what the poem After The Wet is about.

After a few years knocking about I started as a boss drover (trail boss) as I contracted to move cattle from place to place on the hoof, at times doing droving trips (trail drives) of up to a thousand miles, just as they did in the U.S. in the days of the wild west.

The trouble was that the twentieth century was catching up to us, as roads were been built so that trucks could get out to the stations and pick up cattle.

The trips that would take us months to cover the trucks could now do in a day or two, so as a result drovers like myself were out of work, so I had to give up the life and get a job in town in 1979, as a miner working underground, an era was over. This is what the poem Rusty Spurs is about.

When we asked Jack why he writes cowboy poetry, he replied:

Most Australian Ringers (Cowboys) had a love for what we call Bush Poetry, we use to recite poems around camp fires at night and when we rode around the cattle on night watch so naturally I began to write some my self about the life we lived.

I think that cowboy poetry is important to keep our culture alive and it is a traditional way of explaining our life as cowboys. The life stile of the Australian cowboy was so similar to the American cowboy in my mind, even though the words we use my be different the cowboy is a cowboy the world over.

Jack Sammon has a glossary for his winning poem, photos, and another poem here on this site.

 

David Kelley

 

The Burial of Ol' John

(A one act play)

Bill
"Hey Preacher, wait up a minute, I need to talk to you a short,
‘Scuse me, my throats a little dry, I just need a little snort.
Anyway, I reckon you heard my brother died the other day,
And I was hopin’ you’d do the funeral, I would expect to pay.
What do you say Parson, aw’.. I know John weren’t too pious,
But he was blood, and through it all, he was all right by us."

Preacher
"Well now, Brother Bill, I can’t, in good conscience, do John’s last rites,
The way he blasphemed the Church openly and completely for spite.
Oh, I’d love to, I think a man ought go to his own eternity well,
And while I ought not judge .. I think you know he’s headed for Hell."

Bill
"Well Preacher, reckon I know how you feel, I’d feel the same way,
..But your building fund could be runnin’ over after funeral day,
If you could find it in your heart to do John this one last boon,
And say at least ONE worthy thing about him, Friday, at noon."

Preacher
"I do believe you’re tying to bribe this poor man of the cloth.
You think your money will lure me in like a flame draws a moth?
However, give me time, and I’ll consult with the almighty now,
And ask his approval of one final act of kindness somehow.

Lord what in the WORLD could I say, good, about this retched outlaw,
Speakin’ kindly of this scoundrel, will evermore hang in my craw.
But Lord, if you’ll just help me this one time, we could use the cash
To build some Sunday school space, if my motives don’t sound too rash.

Well, Bill I believe the Lord would have me accede to your desire.
Furtherin’ the Lord’s work seems fittin’ for John in this last hour."

Bill
"Well, Preacher .. it’s time, and John shore would appreciate this final deed.
Remember, just ONE GOOD thing about John is our everlasting need."

Preacher
"Brethren, we’re gathered, to lay to his final resting place, ol’ John.
We know John, as a contemptible, no good, convicted, ex-con,
Prone to beat his wife ever so often, and drank like a skunk.
Fight like a badger, and in all his ways, was nothing but a punk
Blasphemous to the end, and known far and wide, as out and out scum.
But, compared to his brother Bill here, John was as sweet as they come"


11/99 All Rights Reserved, David Kelley

About David Kelley:

Click for larger version: David Kelley, courtesy Mr. Kelley    Howdy! my name is David Kelley, and I was born in the panhandle of Texas in 1943, west of Lubbock, Tx., in the thriving metropolis of Levelland, Tx.. Yes Margaret, there really is such a place as Levelland. I’ve been writing cowboy poetry off and on for twenty years, mostly off. I came to know some of the older lingo, due to my surroundings, and as I got into poetry, it just came natural to write the way I talked. I came by most of my stories honestly, by the limited experiences I've had, and the fact that one side of the family was almost all cowboys. I spent a good deal of time as a child on The Pitchfork Ranch, (as we called it back then, actually The Pitchfork Land & Cattle Company) near Guthrie, Texas. I had a dear uncle who was the "Farm Camp Manager" for the "Pitchfork" for years. He and his brothers, Porter, Jack, and his dad, King David Myers, cowboy'd all around the Caprock area of Texas all their lives. They're all dead now and I felt an obligation to put some of their stories, as well as some of my own, down for my kids, and others who might be interested. Some of my wife's family are subjects of my poetry as well. I feel blessed and honored by the interest in my work thus far. I have made every attempt to be accurate, and authentic, as well as informative and entertaining. It is my desire that you would see our poetry as your introduction to the past, and to the future as well. My attempt in writing this poetry is to immortalize the working cowboy lifestyle, and his forefathers. While the cowboy is not perfect, he certainly embodies the spirit of goodness and fair play that we could all use in this imperfect world we live in. 

When we asked David to comment further about why he writes cowboy poetry, he replied:

I write about the working cowboy because I should have been one, and blew my chance, and because folks on the street today need to remember what the cowboys down through history have done for them.  I write about the working cowboy, and perform at gatherings when I get the opportunity, because it's one of the last forms of entertainment, void of the filth and garbage in most other forms of entertainment today.   I write so little Johnny down the street can find out about his grandpa, or uncle, in an amusing, or even a serious way, without having to wade through trash to get there."

You can read more of David Kelley's poems here on this site and on his own site.

 

Linda Kirkpatrick

I first heard the story of Cathay Williams in 1998.  I realized at that time that I would have to tell the story of this remarkable woman.  But like a lot of other stories that float around in my brain, it got to sit there for awhile.  Then out of the blue the group that I am with, The Cowboy Sunset Serenade, was invited to perform at a program on the steps of the Texas state capitol in Austin honoring the Buffalo Soldier.   There are few known facts about Cathay Williams.  However out of desperation and the need to make her own way she disguised herself as a man and joined the 38th Infantry.  The 38th was one of the all black units formed after the War Between the States to give the black men who served with the Union an opportunity to further their career in the military.  So with the invitation to help celebrate the Buffalo Soldier I got busy and wrote this poem about her.  Cathay Williams remained a strong woman until her death in New Mexico at the age of 82.

 

Cathay Williams

In a tiny shotgun cabin
Martha’s baby girl was born.
A baby born to slavery
That no one could forewarn.

Cathay Williams was determined
And never was deterred
As she began her life as a house girl
Being seen but never heard.

Then the Civil War broke out
And the Union soldiers came
And taking Cathay with them
Her life would never be the same.

Cathay learned the ways of military life
And became an accomplished cook.
She was sent to General Sheridan
A job she proudly undertook.

Then the Civil War was ended
And Cathay was finally free
And in seeking out her freedom,
She found her place in history.

Her own way she needed to make
And a burden to no one be
So as a Buffalo Soldier she joined up
In the 38th U. S. Infantry.

Cathay Williams became William Cathay
And no one was to know
The secret of her identity
As a soldier she did grow.

The troops moved west to Ft. Cummings
To keep the Apache at bay.
There were one hundred and one enlisted men
And among them was William Cathay.

After two years as a soldier
In the 38th Company A
William went to see the doctor
And her secret came out that day

Discharged as a Buffalo Soldier
Cathay did her very best
As she continued to make her way
In this land they called the West.

Because of her illegal enlistment
Her pension passed her by
But she picked herself up and moved on
And never questioned why.

Life ended for Cathay Williams
At the age of eighty-two
She lived a long independent life
A life that was tried but true.

A salute to Cathay Williams
The hero of this rhyme
A special woman of the west
A legend in her time.

July 1999, Linda Kirkpatrick

 

About Linda Kirkpatrick:

Click for larger image:  Linda Kirkpatrick and Surprise  I have been writing Cowboy Poetry for several years now. My mom is from Philadelphia and my dad is from Texas. They met during World War II, married and my mother got to live the dream that many city girls were wishing they could do….she married her cowboy and made her home on a remote Texas ranch. Then I came along and try as she might to dress me in dresses, her little girl became Daddy’s cowgirl. My whole life has involved cowboys in one way or the other. I try to focus my poetry on the Women of the West and the lives of women ranchers. The group that I belong to is called "The Cowboy Sunset Serenade." It is made up of me, Linda Kirkpatrick, Frank Roberts and Joe Wells. The program is about the history of the cowboy, the west and women of the west. We perform at schools, state parks and retirement centers. We have also performed at the National Cowboy Symposium at Lubbock, Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Folklife Festival in San Antonio, Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo in Austin and anywhere else we can get someone to listen. Frank Roberts sings Cowboy Songs while Joe and I do Cowboy Poetry.

We asked Linda Kirkpatrick why she writes cowboy poetry and she replied:

I guess I do this in honor of my family, just a bunch of old cowboys.   I have watched them give their time, sweat and blood to be stewards of the land and guardians of the livestock.  I was, unknowingly, brought up  with a healthy respect for livestock and the environment and this was all thanks to my dad, my uncles and my granddad.  As any person who has lived this life knows it is hard work with little pay but the rewards are greater than anything imaginable.  So this is why I write about this life, with an emphasis on the women who lived in this era.

You can read more of Linda Kirkpatrick's poetry here on this site.

 

Verlin Pitt

 

Desert Rat

Way back in the eighteen hundreds men sought the yellow gold.
They burned in the desert heat and froze in the bitter cold.
Each man had his own reason for seeking the motherlode.
Gold fever pushed them on as they saddled up and rode.
 
A few got rich but most of them stayed poor.
They sought the gold and left it, worse off than before.
Long hard days of digging dirt and then to come up dry.
For some the dream of riches turned out to be a lie.
 
There was a breed of man who didn't care where the gold was at.
His love was in the quest for it, and he was called a desert rat.
Followed by a loaded jackass wherever he might go.
He roamed the mountain peaks and the valleys way down low.
 
With a pack mule and a shovel he sifted through the dirt.
Once in awhile, he'd find some gold but not enough to hurt.
A man alone on the prairie beneath a starlit sky.
In the company of a mule, and no one knows just why.
 
He sleeps out on the prairie with the coyotes and rattlesnakes,
And at the crack of dawn, he'll be cooking up sourdough cakes.
Some folks would say he's crazy and they'd be as right as rain.
Too long with the yellow fever can drive a man insane.
 
He bellers out "Oh Susanna" as he moves at his own slow pace,
And his mule is singing backup and braying out the bass.
The day did finally come when he found the motherlode,
But he covered it back up and across the prairie he rode.
 
He never left a marker, not one single way of going back.
All that gold in the ground and he covered his own track.
That Sourdough knew the secret of what this life is all about.
True security lies not in what you have but what you can do without.

Verlin Pitt

 

About Verlin Pitt:

Verlin Pitt, courtesy Mr. Pitt

Verlin Pitt says: "I was born and raised in Lander, Wyoming, and have lived here most of my life. I've tried other places a couple of times, but when I noticed there weren't any mountains I found myself meanderin' around with my head down. My day job, actually I work nights, is a Deputy Sheriff for the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, and it does tend to take time away from my hobbies. Besides writin' cowboy poetry I like to get out into the hills and look around for gold, rocks, jade and other valuable items. I have heard they are out there, and I reckon if I keep up the search I'll find somethin' besides old rusty beer cans and horseshoe nails. I can tell you from my own experience that shoeing horses and mules was a profitable trade, during the time Pioneers were heading West. My high dollar metal detector has found it's share of rusty horseshoe nails along the Oregon trail. I sometimes think the horses and mules were the only individuals who lost anything."

We asked Verlin Pitt why he writes cowboy poetry and he replied:

I write Cowboy Poetry for a variety of reasons. The number one reason being that I don't know how not to. I write it because it is what I'm all about, and because I love the West and its people. I would hope that the traditions of the "Cowboy Way" and the "Indian Way" are passed on for the next hundred years or so. Cowboy Poetry is one way of doing just that.

Verlin Pitt's poem The Mule Whisperer was a previous Lariat Laureate finalist. You can read more of Verlin Pitt's poetry here on this site and on his own site.

 

Francine Roark Robison

 

Fixin' to Get Excitin'

Th' brandin' irons were ready
On thet cloudless summer day,
While Lester an' th' other boys
Looked on with some dismay.

Ol' Reb had built hisself a loop
An' picked him out a stray--
He swore thet little critter
Would wear his brand today.

Th' hoolihan had settled sweet
Aroun' thet snowy head,
But Baby wouldn't have it--for
He'd seen them irons was red!

So a beller'n an' a bawlin'
He cut roun' an' in between
Th' hind legs of Reb's horse--an'
Took off towards Abilene.

"It's fixin' to get excitin'"
Said Lester, "I'll be bound"
Then Will got tangled in his spurs
An' tumbled to th' ground.

"Look out," says Andy, cautious-like,
As Buster took a jump,
Cause Mama cow was a-aimin'
Those horns at Buster's rump.

Th' prickly pears was waitin' there
As Buster made his leap,
An' Reb found new disaster
With pears an' cowpies--deep.

Then Lester dropped his cigarette
He'd took so long in makin'--
Still had th' pouch-string in his mouth
When he saw the turn they'd taken.

Now Buster still is runnin' with
Thet cow attached behind,
An' Reb's still holdin' on th' rope,
Somewhat all entwined.

Reb's chaps were cut to ribbons
An' his shirt was all askew,
An' where he'd fin'lly lost his hat
Nobody ever knew.

But when all th' dust got settled,
Reb shook his head once more--
He found he'd branded Lester,
An' Les was mighty sore!

Th' cavvy butted 'gainst his ma
An' give th' boys a glare--
His little tail still held its arch;
His little hide, its hair.

Francine Roark Robison

About Francine Roark Robison:

Click for larger image: Francine Roark Robison  After a long career of teaching high school English and humanities, Francine Roark Robison took retirement seriously by trading in a high school classroom to go on the road with Cowboy Poetry.  However, retirement didn't last long, and she is now an adjunct teacher at Oklahoma Baptist University.  She has taught in Oklahoma as well as summer sessions in Mexico and China.

Francine's background includes a farmer dad and a schoolmarm mom.  She writes from personal experience or from family stories passed down from her parents, with most of the settings in southern Oklahoma and the Arbuckle Mountains.  Farm life included a horse, a collie dog, and numerous cats.  She didn't walk five miles in the snow to school, but she did walk down to the cattle guard to catch the school bus, carrying her homework and Roy Rogers lunch box. 

She has performed at several gatherings, including the Oklahoma and Texas State Fairs; the Red Steagall Gathering in Ft. Worth; Cowboys, Heroes, and Friends in Branson; the Chisholm Trail Festival in Yukon; the Poetry Society of Tennessee in Memphis; the Farm and Ranch Heritage Gathering in Las Cruces; Festival of the West in Scottsdale; Echoes of the Trail in Ft. Scott; National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City; Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas; Bookfest 2000 in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and many others, as well as a couple of pig roasts. 

Francine has been designated Oklahoma's Cowboy Poet Laureate and is endorsed by West Quest.

She has a book and tape of original poetry, and a stack of essays to be graded!

When we asked Francine Roark Robison why she writes cowboy poetry, she replied:

Why do I write cowboy poetry?  I think it provides a link to the past, providing ties to a family's traditions, values, and memories.  The West is an important part of our history, and people should be reminded of the hopes and dreams, as well as the sacrifices and courage, of our ancestors as they settled new lands and raised families.   And we need to remember that as the older generations leave us, the stories that they told will also be gone, unless we make the effort to preserve them.  Cowboy poetry is a way to keep those stories alive.

Read more of Francine Roark Robison's poetry here and learn about her book and tape.

 

Charley Sierra

 

Hassayampa

Some call me a "prevaricator;"
Some say I'm a liar.
Either way, it means the truth
Ain't somethin' I admire.

They say, "Take anything he says
"With a great big pinch of salt."
Yup, veracity eludes me,
But folks, it ain't my fault!

There's a crick called "Hassayampa"
Down Arizona way,
And drinkin' from it makes you lie-
Least, that's what people say...

The day was hot and dusty
When I happened 'pon its banks;
When I spied that cool clear water,
I knelt, and offered thanks.

Then I stretched myself out
And upon my belly lay;
I'd just gotten me a mouthful
When someone hollered, "Hey!"

Twas a feller on a big black hoss;
The man looked mean and hard.
He said, "Tell me somethin', sonny-
"Do ya know where ya are?

"This here's the Hassayampa,"
He said, pointin' at the water.
"Ya might consider drinkin' here,
"But I don't think ya oughter!"

"This crick can steal the truth from ya
"Like candy from a baby;
"Ya'd be a liar from now on,
"And son, I don't mean maybe!"

"Falsehoods, fibs, 'n' windies'd
"Become yer stock in trade;
"Now son, I hope yer seein'
"The mistake ya almost made!"

"That liar's brand is tough to wear,
"Cause a man's word is his bond;
"Ya'd be suspicioned by yer pards,
" 'N' those of whom yer fond."

"No matter where ya'd roam,
"Ya'd not escape yer vicious lies;
"Folks'd know just what ya are
"By lookin' in yer eyes!"

"Ya could swear on a stack of bibles,
"But they'd still require proof,
" 'N' son, that ain't no life to live-
"A stranger to the truth!"

"I think I caught ya just in time;
"Ya didn't drink.....I hope?
I swallered hard, forced a grin,
And politely answered..........."NOPE."

Charley Sierra

 

About Charley Sierra:

I've been writin' poetry for 30 years now, and 10 of them in Nevada. I'm married to a Nevada native, and we live on a little spread north of Reno. I  won the the Reno Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Contest in 1995, for my poem "Desolation Chili." I love recitin' to folks with a sense of humor.

When we asked Charley Sierra why he thinks cowboy poetry is important, he replied:

Cowboy poetry is as real as the smell of sage, the sun in your eyes, the dust in your nostrils; it is the land, and the land is a poem in itself.

You can read more of Charley Sierra's poems on his web site.

 

 

Janice Gilbertson

 

Line Dance Lesson

I was walkin' up town past the hardware store,
I noticed a poster stuck on the door.

Out the corner of my eye, I gave it a glance,
Saw that it said, "Come On and Line Dance."

For an older cowgirl, I'm pretty light on my feet,
I can do pretty good by a good steady beat.

So later that evenin' when the chores got done,
I pulled on my best boots and headed ot at a run.

I got to the hall -- 'bout the last to get in,
The first thing I noticed, there weren't many men.

Real cowboys don't line dance, I've heard some folks say
Real cowboys ride broncs, brand calves and buck hay.

I've seen 'em on tv in Stetson hats and fancy clothes,
Pants tucked in new boots with real pointy toes.

The gals are all wearin' short skirts or tight jeans,
Some lookin' real cute, some bustin' their seams.

Well, now we're all here, there's a dozen or so.
The teacher up front says, "We'll start out real slow."

She's sayin' some stuff  'bout stomps, heels and toes,
And how we'll look nice if we stay in our rows.

I know right quick this will be hard for me,
I'd forgot the first step when we got to step three.

The folks all around me are vinin' and turnin',
It's becomin' apparent, I'm pretty slow learnin'.

Now they're all at the end and I'm still at the start,
I reckon I missed the whole middle part.

She puts on some music, says "Now-let's do it faster."
Now it becomes a real bad disaster.

Dang! I can't rember my left from my right,
I'm startin' to sweat and I'm lookin' a sight.

A guy on one side gives me a stare,
Says "What'cha doin' here? Ya'll should be over there."

Now we all turn around and I'm thinkin', Oh! Brother!
They're all goin' one way, and I'm goin' another.

A gal on my right is lookin' real mad.
I'd stomped on her foot, guess it hurt pretty bad.

I tell her I'm sorry, guess I went wrong,
"By the way," I say sweetly, "How long's this dang song?"

Finally it's over and I'm headin' for the door,
The teacher is hollerin', "Don't go there's still more."

Well, I ain't goin' back. I ain't takin' a chance,
I ain't gettin' beat up just learnin' to dance.


January 2000, Janice Gilbertson

 

About Janice Gilbertson:

Janice Gilbertson writes: "I live with my husband Ron in the Santa Lucia foothills on the west side of the Salinas Valley in California. I am one year older than 49 and have been riding horses since I was 4 years old. We always had horses and cattle when I was a girl, and I never outgrew my love of horses. We currently have two Mustangs. One is a pretty bay mare named Nevada News (she will be at the Mustang show in Reno this year!) and the other is Kiger Canyon Ruby, and of course she is very special. She and I are still working things out. I think she is smarter than I am. I work part time, which allows me a lot of horsin' around time. My real passion is working cowhorse and riening, and I hope to do some of that with my Kiger."

When she became a Lariat Laureate finalist for Line Dance Lesson, Janice Gilbertson wrote: "Line Dance Lesson" was fun to write 'cause it was so darn true I made myself laugh. A few years ago my husband and I took lessons at the rec (wreck) center here in our small town of King City. First of all it was a challenge just to stay up that late. The first few times we went I laughed so hard at myself I couldn't do a thing right. Loving to dance and being a horseback rider, I was amazed at my lack of coordination. The poem is too true.

As anyone does, I love to laugh and I would have to say that Baxter Black is my favorite poet.I write when the notion strikes, and almost always due to remembering a true incident. I've written a few sad or serious things, but they are usually for someone else. I like the funny stuff. "I like to think I can bring to mind a funny picture and make someone laugh."

You can read more of Janice Gilbertson's poems here on this site.

 

Louis A. Carle

 

Winter of Life

Lord, he is old and weakened
He walks where he used to run.
In his youth he was always a happy dog,
Now he sleeps away days in the sun.

Please make his trail mostly level
As he travels this last long mile.
Provide shade away from the heat of the day
Where he can stop and rest for awhile..

If it rains let the raindrops be gentle,
If it blows let the breezes be warm.
Let this winter of life be kind to us both,
Give us shelter to keep us from harm.

Please, Lord, if either must suffer
Give the pain and the hurting to me.
He's been with me through life's changing waters
As only a man's dog can be.

He doesn't deserve to be hurting
He has lived a hard life and long time
And, I hope, as he leaves he'll leave knowing
Your love as he's always known mine.

I raised him, Lord, from a puppy
We have followed some rough rocky trails.
Please Lord, make this last trail more gentle
As he comes to where Love never fails. Amen.

Freckles, by Irma-Ann Carle, 1996
Freckles
Irma-Ann Carle, 1996

Louis A. Carle tells us that the above poem "was written as a prayer when Freckles was dying. He actually lived another year and I had to have him put down at 17."

 

About Louis A. Carle:

Kelly & Me (Louis A. Carle) Louis A. Carle sometimes calls himself "Theoldwasbeencowboy." He is a resident of Riverside, California. He was born in 1924 and raised on an Illinois “corn and hog’ farm” where the farming power was horses. A goodly portion of the family income was from breaking and training heavy work horses as well as light harness and pleasure horses.

As a helicopter pilot in World War Two he served in the South Pacific assigned to the 13th Army Air Corps,  2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron.

A severe heart problem in1987 stopped his active training and horseshoeing but, with the help of his wife of more than 20 years,  he still keeps somewhat active breeding Quarter Horses, Longhorn cattle and  Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs.

He is now spending a large portion of his time writing “Cowboy Poetry” which he calls his rhyming autobiography. His poems have been published in magazines and newspapers nationwide and are featured in many cowboy poetry  websites.

His wife, Irma-Ann, is an artist and full time art teacher. She illustrates many of these poems and is a major reason for the acceptance of his books.

When we asked Louis A. Carle why he writes cowboy poetry, he replied:

My poetry is autobiographical and is one way to pass along my life experiences.

Your can read more of Louis A. Carle's poems here on this site (and see more of Irma-Ann Carle's art.  Louis A. Carle also has his own web site.

 

 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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