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

Lariat Laureate

Verlin Pitt

of Lander, Wyoming
recognized for his poem
Turk Wiggin's Last Song

and

8 Seconds

(alphabetically by poem title):

Culture Shock
K. T. Etling
Missouri

The Home Place
Roger Traweek
Seaside, Oregon

Hoss Fer Sail
McCloud (aka Davey Lee George)
AJ Ranch

I Have Seen the Land
Graham Dean
Prairie, Queensland, Australia

Last of the Herd
Ron Loof
Colorado Springs, Colorado

My Cowgirl Life
Linda Kirkpatrick
Leakey, Texas

The Old Empty House
Flavis Bertrand
Newell, South Dakota

Round-up
Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Utah

 

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

Leroy Watts

for his fine poem

Gateway to the West


 

 

Lariat Laureate

Verlin Pitt


Following is Verlin Pitt's Lariat Laureate award winning poem.

 

Turk Wiggin's Last Song

He was travelin' light that stormy night, when he rode in the ranchhouse gate.
The rain fell hard there in the yard and the hour was gettin' real late.
By the light of a lamp he stumbled through the damp and in the bunkhouse door.
He sat his junk by an empty bunk and slept in the clothes that he wore.

The next mornin' at dawn with breakfast on every hand filed out the door.
Right there at the table, Turk showed us he was able to eat a dozen eggs and more.
We all figured if Turk put what he ate to work he'd be one fearsome hand.
That first day he earned his pay and showed us that he had some sand.

It was a piece down the road when old Turk showed he had some curious ways.
It's no strange thing for a man to sing, what's strange is if he bays.
He made a mournful sound like a scalded hound, when he had to stand night guard.
The cows didn't seem to mind, when he began to unwind, but the cowpokes took it hard.

They'd almost fight to stand guard at night just to keep old Turk from singin'.
They'd do most anything not to hear Turk sing, and keep their ears from ringin'.
When the nighthawk rode in all of the men were up and on their way.
If Turk stood guard gettin' up was hard, and even harder to start the day.

There came a day we were windin' our way down the Bozeman trail.
We were given the word to push this herd clear on ahead to the rail.
Curly Bill in the lead put the hooks to his steed and set a hurried pace.
Turk Wiggin's bag was ridin' drag, and he kept every cow in it's place.

Every poke likes to trail some old cow's tail across the prairie sand.
It sets a mood no city dude will ever get from such a barren land.
Then old Turk went right to work a singin' his terrible banshee wail.
Turk's voice had power but the mood went sour, and it pierced like a driven nail.

That very night as we lay packed tight in our bedrolls beneath the sky,
We formed a plan for this singin' man and the plan was for him to die.
We just couldn't take that raspin' rake, when Turk broke into a song.
The more he brayed the worse we frayed, and we'd listened way too long.

That old Turk was a piece of work and he claimed he had a gift.
The sorry thing was he thought he could sing and claimed it gave him a lift.
What he didn't know is we were set to blow and had lost our will to cope.
With our nerves worn thin every man was in and Curly Bill had a brand new rope.

At the break of dawn the plan was on, and we strung him up to a tree.
Turk had no clue what we were up to or just why it had to be.
It was quite a sight when the rope got tight and Turk kinda kicked and jerked.
Turk was a croakin' and if the branch hadn't broken our plan just might have worked.

He never made a peep when he landed in a heap at the bottom of that tree.
We knew somethin' was wrong when he stood there so long as quiet as could be.
With his mouth wide open it appeared he was gropin' for just the right words to say.
But nothin' came out when he tried to shout, old Turk had lost his bray.

In the days to come, though his lips were dumb, his heart was filled with hate.
In stretchin' his neck we'd put his voice in check and sealed poor Turk's fate.
Though our plan went wrong we'd stopped his song and closed the curtain on his stage.
He'd never sing no more like he did before in the land of the purple sage.

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.

You can email Verlin Pitt.

Verlin Pitt's poems The Mule Whisperer and Desert Rat were previous Lariat Laureate finalists. You can read more of Verlin Pitt's poetry here at the BAR-D and on his own site

 

8 Seconds


K. T. Etling

 

Culture Shock

                  I've always been a loner,
                  Rode the Bighorn range so long,
                  Ain't never rightly sure
                  Who's still squattin' here, who's gone.

                  About a week ago,
                  Reined my hoss down from them hills.
                  Was outta grub and chew,
                  Low on Carter's Liver Pills.

                  But soon I seen the worstest sight
                  a man could ever see:
                  A cowboy nearly nekked
                  trottin' right in front of me.

                  He wore a big ol' Stetson hat,
                  no shirt and Lycra pants.
                  Ya heard me right, boys, SHINY shorts!
                  He didn't run, he pranced!

                  I said, "HELLOOOO, cowboy!
                  Now, what's THAT all about?
                  Tarnation, fella!  Where's yer clothes?"
                  (When I'm upset I shout.)

                  He said, "I'm doin' road work,
                  jest a-tryin' to stay in shape."
                  He slipped the headset off his skull,
                  Popped in another tape.

                  I'd never seen a hand like this
                  in nigh on sixty years.
                  I rode ol' Rattler close behind
                  that cowboy's glistenin' rear.

                  The lad jogged to a brand new car,
                  Then leaned against it hard.
                  He stretched his hamstrings left and right,
                  Asked, "How ya doin', pard?"

                  I eyeballed that new ve-hi-cle,
                  Saw nothin' that I liked.
                  A cowboy needs a pickup truck,
                  This?   Useful as a bike.

                  "Heck, no, old man, this ain't no car,"
                  The cowboy now did crow.
                  This here's an S. U. V., and pard,
                  It set me back some dough."

                 He leaped inside and pointed out
                 each geegaw on the dash.
                 The CD player, cell phone,
                 the beeper all cost cash.

                 He got to fiddlin' with a wad
                 of buttons, knobs and gears,
                 A siren blared, a beep, a buzz,
                 a whistle.  My worst fears.

                 I said, "HELLOOO, cowboy!
                 Now, what's THAT all about?
                 Tarnation, fella!  Where's yer Stroke?"
                 (When I'm upset I shout.)

                  “Ol' man, I got to l'arn ya
                  a thing, or mebbe three.
                  Come over to my place tonight,
                  some things ya gotta see."

                  Well, I agreed, reluctantly,
                  to meet up with the hand.
                  His house?  It was a condo!
                  With not a speck of land!

                  I said, "HELLOOO, cowboy!
                  Now, what's THAT all about?
                  Tarnation, fella!  Where's yer spread?"
                  (When I'm upset, I shout.)

                  "Ol' man, yer livin' in the past,
                  that much I plainly see.
                  Come on in and have a brew."
                  I eased in.  Carefully.

                  The cowboy gave me somethin' cold,
                  I held it to the light.
                  "Hey, son," I whined, "Yer beer's gone bad."
                  "Ol' coot, that stuff's all right."

                  "All right?" I purely sputtered.
                  "Why son, jest look right here.
                  Ain't beer s'posed to be YELLER?
                  This stuff is downright clear."

                  I said, "HELLOOO, cowboy!
                  Now, what's THAT all about?
                  Tarnation, son, I need a BEER!
                  (When I'm upset, I shout.)

                  His boots?  They looked like runnin' shoes.
                  He swore they WAS his boots.
                  His jeans they stretched this way and that. . .
                  like a polyester suit.

                  He served me dinner, oh so smug,
                  as at my plate I stared.
                  I'd never SEEN grub quite like this,
                  This cowboy had me scared.

                  I said, "HELLOOO, cowboy!
                  Now, what's THAT all about?
                  Tarnation, son!  I could eat a horse!"
                  (When I'm upset I shout.)

                  "Ol' man, this here is sushi.
                  It's downright good fer you.
                  Some tuna, shark and grouper.
                  A few raw oysters, too.

                  I said, "GOOD-BYE, cowboy!
                  I've had it up to HERE!
                  Yer shiny shorts, yer runnin' boots,
                  Yer clear not-yeller beer.

                  Yer car that's good fer nothin'
                  'cept drivin' on concrete,
                  Yer CD player, cell phone,
                  and beeper ain't no treat.

                  But when ya serve a hand like me
                  raw FISH instead of steak,
                  Ya crossed a line there, sonny boy,
                  My own advice I'll take.

                  And so GOOD-BYE, cowboy!
                  And DURN GOOD RIDDANCE, too.
                  I'm headin' fer them Bighorns,
                  I've had my fill of you. . .
                        and Lycra
                        and high-pitched pesky beeps.
                        Sissy cars.
                        Whistles?
                         Now, I ask ya:
                        Has the world gone plumb crazy?
                        Condos.
                        Raw fish.
                        Sorry, son,
                        I gotta get OUTTA here.
                        FAST!
                        Come on, Rattler.
                        GIDDAP.


About K. T. Etling:

K. T. Etling. K.T. Etling has been writing cowboy poems for nigh onto five years.  She loves all things western, collects western gear and art, and she and her husband own a large spread in Missouri where they now run horses.  She's cowboyed from time to time in Wyoming and Colorado, most recently roundin' up strays for the Bolten Ranch near Rawlins and trailin' a herd for the ID near Seminoe.  Her poems have been published in American Cowboy and Whinnies and Neighs.   She is a charter member of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association.

We asked K. T. Etling why she writes cowboy poetry and she replied: I write Cowboy Poetry because it speaks to me from my heart.  I fear we are losing more than just the cowboy way of life here in the early days of the 21st century.  We are losing traditions that speak to us as human beings; traditions that cowboys, with their close ties to the earth, feel deep within their marrow and express in the most elemental of ways.  Whether the  resulting poem speaks of sheer wonder at the glories to be found on the high prairie, or satisfaction at a hard job well done, glee at a particularly well-planned prank, a wild cayuse, or just the pure love of the land and her  creatures, I think a cowboy's simple way of thinking and speaking cuts to the heart of a matter in a purer, more straightforward manner than any other literary form.   And yet no one can deny that cowboys are colorful, complex, near-mythic characters.   It is the romance of the cowboy and of the cowboy's way of life that I seek to preserve.  I hope those whom my poetry touches will realize that the cowboys I celebrate were strong yet gentle men with a distinctive way of communicating their thoughts.  These were men for whom there was only black and white and no shades in between; men who gave as good as they got and who fought the elements to help transform this nation into the superpower it is today (for better or worse).  If more folks thought and acted like cowboys, it would be a far, far better world we live in.  And if I can bring folks just a small part of the way toward thinking like cowboys, well, pard, my entire life will have been worthwhile. 

You can email K. T. Etling

You can read more of K. T. Etling's poems here at the BAR-D.

Roger Traweek

The Home Place

I stopped at the old home place today to pass a little time;
Both of us now show our age - a long ways past our prime.
Since Grandad put his roots down here, a hundred years have passed;
Three generations called it "home"; mine will likely be the last,
Though not the first to claim this place;  the Cheyenne and the Sioux
Loved this land and danced their dance, and they must miss it, too.
Our souls are joined in this good earth where no one really leaves,
Yet Time rolls on, the sands run out, the generations grieve.

Abandoned and neglected now,the living here is done,
No one keeps the home fires burning to greet a wandering son.
It sees the seasons come and go, silent and alone,
A ghost ship adrift in a sea of grass, now tossed and overgrown;
Its windows stare out vacantly, and no light shows within,
To light the night or warm with pride for the home it once had been.
The sunburned paint is peeling; once tidy rooms now gather dust,
Where in bygone days our family thrived on faith and love and trust.

Inside, I wander through the rooms, awash in memories;
The fun and laughter I still recall with clarity and ease.
I can hear my mother humming as she went about her chores,
Cooking, mending, and polishing those worn lineoleum floors.
The kitchen was her palace where she reigned as sovereign queen,
And we ate like kings on simple fare, not knowing times were lean.
She lent courage, grace, and comfort to our simple way of life,
And held her tears and hid her fears, good mother and good wife.

My dad worked hard from dawn to dark and did it every day,
Broad shoulders in a rancher's world of horses, cows, and hay.
With stubborness and steady hand he steered our family's course
Through Depression, drought, and other fits of Nature's fickle force.
Where Dad's chair sat, a patient spider plays a waiting game,
As Grandad did for forty years, and then Dad did the same,
Until my brother took it up as keeper of the trust;
Their unraveled dreams now lie among the cobwebs and the dust.

In the bunkhouse where we brothers slept I hear a keening noise,
The mournful moan of prairie wind grieving for those missing boys.
The calving shed is falling down, in its roof a gaping hole;
As snow and rain and sun and wind exact their steady toll;
Where new-born calves in decades past drew first breath safe within,
And stood on trembling legs to fall and struggle up again,
Now only relics of those days remain as memories pale;
A burlap bag, a tattered rope, hang stiffly from a nail.

The horse barn stands in protest and with false hope bravely waits
For return of horse and rider through the sagging corral gates.
In muffled cadence hoofbeats mark the life I left behind,
Where now Champ and Snips and Rocket gallop only in my mind.
Today I stand between two worlds, as different as white from black;
One beckons me to turn around; the other calls me back.
But memories change...are milled by Time...as the river wears the stone,
And I know nothing stays forever, when it's too long left alone.

  November 1999, Roger L. Traweek 


About Roger Traweek

My roots go back to the family ranch in eastern Montana where I was a boy in the 1940’s. Although I chose to pursue “book learnin’" and ultimately a different  line of work than ranching, my childhood was and remains to this day among the happiest periods of my life. Although  life on the ranch hadn’t changed all that much over the previous hundred or so years - no conveniences, no electricity, no telephone, no television, no running water, no indoor plumbing - nonetheless, I enjoy a wealth of good memories of those times which I try to preserve in my writing.  As The Home Place suggests, no one lives on the ranch any longer, my parents and an older brother having passed away, leaving no one to operate it.   I wrote The Home Place on-site during a recent visit there in an effort to confront and lay to rest the many “ghosts” of my memories.

I went to Elko in January 2000, met some nice people (some of whom have contributed to this website) and left feeling inspired.  I have always enjoyed writing both prose and poetry, and now that I’m retired I can devote more time to it. I’m currently working on my autobiography, chronicling in particular ranch life as I knew it in an era long gone now. An older brother and I still own the ranch, which, coincidentally, has been in our family’s ownership for 100 years.  We lease it to a neighbor and only return now for short visits to touch our roots.

When we asked Roger why he writes Cowboy Poetry, he replied: I write poetry (I tend to think of mine more as "western" than pure "cowboy") because it is a part of me...who and what I am wherever I am.   Sometimes I simply have to write to express the nostalgia I feel inside for that particular lifestyle.  I've strayed a long way from the range in my lifetime, and it's nice to have a comfortable place to which I can return...my childhood, family, friends and experiences on the ranch offer me that. It's a unique environment where the basic values have changed very little, if at all, over the years and merit preservation.   I hope I can accomplish that in my writing.

You can email Roger Traweek.

Roger Traweek's page on is here at the BAR-D.

.

McCloud (aka Davey Lee George)

 

Hoss Fer Sail

Hey podner, ya want a hoss, a real live maverick?
I got one hyar I'll let go cheap, if you'll say 'yes' real quick.
He ain't got but one good eye but that don't matter none,
cause he can see more loco weed then them with two has done.
Don't wurry none 'bout his back, he jest holds it swayed
ter make ya think thar's sumpin wrong;  it's jest a game he plays.
Them bowed out hocks? Don't mean a thing.  He's jest puttin' on
ter make out I done rode him hard, the dirty sonovagun!
Most o' the har thet's rubbed offn him, he done hissef fer spite,
to make out I never curried him, er let him in at night.
Them spavins thar might look real bad, but don't ya wurry a'tall
it's jest the way he holds hissef, he's sure 'nuff got his gall!
He ain't near as old's he looks, it's jest the way he stands
an' onct I even seen him crawl jest to make the other hands
think I took a board to him er some sech kind o' thing,
but the truth o' the matter is, ya see, he's jest a ding-a-ling.
But never mind all his funny ways, an' all his things that strange,
cause he can cut a steer in 'two' and give eight seconds change.

About McCloud (aka Davey Lee George)

McCloud (also known as Davey Lee George) is the foreman of the AJ Ranch, a place somewhere between Calgary and Dallas.  He has several poems to his credit.

When we asked McCloud why he writes Cowboy Poetry, he replied: Why does anyone do anything?  Why did that guy climb Mt. Everest? Why did anyone want to be a cowboy in the first place?

An answer (for me) is that I like the quaint way of speaking that they used, and the way they had of living through such a harsh environment.  I like the mystique of the cowboy myth, for in reality, what we like to think of as a cowboy never really existed at all. 

One must remember that sailors and cowboys were cut from the same cloth way back when the 'old west' was supposedly happening.  Both lived as near paupers and only stayed put because they had no where else to go to.  Neither had any education, and usually very little motivation. 

But still, they all had a story, and I like to think I represent them, much as I try to tell the sailor's story occasionally.

Why do I like to write cowboy poems?  "Because they are there."

You can email McCloud.

You can read more of McCloud's poems here at the BAR-D.

Graham Dean

 

I Have Seen the Land

I have been to where the sun sets with a vengeance,
And burns the sky with red and ochre hues.
I have lived where man and his dependents
Take solace from the best of nature's views.

I've seen the open plain of the Savannah,
Where brolgas dance and jabirus take flight.
I've watched the white corella in the evening,
Summon in the darkness of the night.

I've searched the water-holes of northern rivers,
Before the wet awakes the mighty flood,
Where crocodiles have gathered in their numbers
To moisten skin where all that's left is mud.

I've watched the summer storms create the fires
That glow as night-time falls upon the land.
I've walked the blackened ground where man aspires
To forge a living where the ant-hills stand.

I've listened to the rolling sound of thunder
As lightning strikes the ground with awesome power.
While raging storms advance across the landscape
Renewing life with every passing hour.

And I have seen the rivers as they're rising,
Pounding banks; re-shaping at a whim.
Yes, I have heard the rumble of the flash flood
And had that rush of fear from deep within.

I've flown across a landscape etched with beauty,
Where rivers snake their way towards the sea.
I've watched as waves sweep clean the endless beaches,
Fuelled gently by the early evening breeze.

I've been to where the wedgetail soars intently,
Watched as they, for movement on the ground.
And as I've floated high above Australia,
I've come to know this country's glory bound.

And I am everything they call Australian,
For I am every soul upon this land.
And for all time, as nature is my soul-mate,
For my country proudly will I stand.

Graham Dean

We asked Graham Dean to provide a few definitions of some words that might be unfamiliar to folks outside of Australia:

Didgeridoo or Didge A long hollow branch of a tree used by Australian indigenous peoples as a musical instrument has a haunting low rumble and can also be made to sound animal calls.

Jabiru  Large bird, Australia's only Stalk (explains why there aren't too many of us) lives mainly in the northern regions.

Brolga  Another large bird of the North has a wonderful mating Dance.

Corella White cocatoo a native of Australia.

Wedgetail  Wedgetail Eagle is similar to the large eagles of the world with a distinctive wedge shaped tail.

Illustration copyright Louise K. Dean
Illustration by Louise K. Dean
(click for larger version)

About Graham Dean

We asked Graham to tell us about himself, and he replied:

My wife Louise won a performance poetry championship in Australia in January 1999 (The QANTAS Waltzing Matilda Bush Poetry Championship held in the small town of Winton in Western Queensland Australia every year). The prize was for a trip for her to Elko Nevada to perform at the Poetry gathering in 2000. We had met Dick Warwick at the festival in Australia and had linked up with him in Elko, Dick had arranged for us to be involved in the Lewiston gathering where I was honoured to win the Charlie Camden Wide Loop award for tall tales, the sash is now proudly displayed in our shop. [See Louise Dean's poetry and more of her illustrations here on this site.]

Graham gave us some more details and a bit more description:

Born Brisbane Queensland Aust. 1951-- smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer era.

First started to write poetry at about the age of ten -- Since then- I have always been interested in the wide open spaces of Australia and in the seventies followed those immortal words "Go West Young Man" worked on Cattle stations and more recently in the construction industry. Now- Louise and I have semi retired to a small country town named Prairie (Population 38) in the North West of Queensland, where we have set up a business called Bush Wookatook based on poetry and Art and servicing the tourist.We are also in demand for poetry recitals and workshops and involved in the organisation of festivals, either as comperes, judges or organisers. Sounds like a lot of self promoting guff but it does keep us busy. We would really like to return to America at some time in the future as time and finances permit and would welcome any Cowboy Poets who may be travelling past. We would love to show y'all how a real cup of tea is made in a "billy" over an open fire.

 

When we asked Graham Dean why he writes Cowboy Poetry, he replied: Why I write poetry in the style I do is really lost in my distant past, but I can say that when the urge hits it is impossible to sleep or think of anything else until the essence of the poem is down on paper somewhere and has been exorcised form the mind.

Bush Poetry the Australian version of Cowboy Poetry is and always will be the essence of life outside of the city rush, a reflection of what is to be seen away from the insides of an office or factory.

Selfishly I have always written for myself but have found over time that there are other people who seem to like what I have written. I think we all are trying to write that one great work of art which in our own minds is never too far away but at the same time hard if not impossible for the poet to achieve.

You can email Graham Dean.

Read more about Graham (and Louise) Dean, see more of Louise Dean's illustrations,  and read more poetry here at the BAR-D.

Ron Loof

 

Last of the Herd

    The old buffalo walked slowly
    Looking for a place to settle down
    To hunker down and rest a bit
    On a warm patch of ground
   
    Out in the distance the storm clouds
    Were building up again
    Looking dark and forbidding
    And as ugly as sin
   
    It had been a rough winter
    All the way from last fall
    But this old bull had seen more rough winters
    Than he cared to recall
   
    Right now the old fella
    Just wanted to lay for a spell
    He was old and tired
    And he wasn't feeling real well
   
    He found himself a spot
    That seemed extra warm and dry
    And let himself down
    With a grunt and a sigh

    As he lay, he let his mind wander                               
    Back to the journey that had been his life
    All the days he had lived
    Through good times and strife                                

    The warm summer days
    Spent grazing on grass
    The long cold winters
    That never seemed to pass

    The rituals of spring
    The mating and the fights
    The brisk winds of fall
    And the ever-longer nights

    He had seen it all
    Had this old guy
    Many, many moons
    He had seen pass by

    He used to run with others
    His friends and his kin
    But they were all gone now
    Taken by bloody men

    They used to cover the plains
    And they sounded like thunder
    But now he's alone
    All the rest had gone under

    He had watched them all die
    In bunches and ones
    Slaughtered by those hunters
    With their big roaring guns

    So now he's the end
    The last of his kind
    And the only place he saw them
    Was in the back of his mind

    So he laid there and thought
    Of the times he had known
    A solitary warrior
    Living all alone         

    The wind suddenly grew colder
    As the snow started to fall
    But over the rising wind
    He heard a familiar call
 
    It was the call of the Herd
    Home he knew he must go
    It would be warmer there
    There would be no more snow
                              
    So he closed his weary eyes
    Laid down his grizzled head
    And in just a few seconds
    The old buffalo was dead

    He's free to roam forever
    With his family and friends
    On a prairie with no winter
    Where the grass never ends

    The old bull lives now
    In the fields of the past
    And I can still see him
    When my mind I cast

    They say that the buffalo
    Were big, dumb brutes
    But to me, they're America
    They're a big part of my roots

    I love those big creatures
    And I know they're not all dead
    But there used to be millions more        
    Close to extinction they were led

    Sometimes I wish I lived
    In those olden days of yore
    So I could see those vast herds
    The way they were before.

 

About Ron Loof:

When we asked Ron Loof to tell us about himself, he replied: "Well, I don't know what is interestin' enough about me to be able to print, but I guess it could say that I'm a 35 year old husband and father to two beautiful daughters, and that this is really the first time I've ever written anything for public viewing. I love cowboy poetry, but I've always loved it from a reading or listening standpoint and not a writing standpoint, up until recently."

We asked Ron Loof why he writes Cowboy Poetry, and he replied:   I guess I just have some thoughts that I need to get out. I do better expressing my thoughts in written form than I do speaking them; always have, always will, I guess. I was born and raised on a farm, always been around livestock of some kind or another, and cowboy poetry always struck me as the most honest form of prose. There ain't much of that la-dee-da type of attitude that you see so much in more "classical" forms of poetry. I can only truly write about things which are very close to my heart, which limits me on topics to write about, but I also never "fake" a poem, if you know what I mean.

You can email Ron Loof.

You can read more of Ron Loof's poems here at the BAR-D.

Linda Kirkpatrick

My Cowgirl Life

I was just a little cowgirl of maybe two or three
And tired of riding horses upon my Daddy’s knee,
So I was given this old stick horse and for hours I would ride
Chasing imaginary dogies with my collie dog by my side.

I toddled out behind my Dad ‘cause I thought I was a hand
Just a regular ‘ole cowpuncher riding for his brand.
But Dad was awful excited, he had something for me to see,
There saddled up beside the barn was this good paint mare for me.

The saddle we had was way too big, for I was pretty small,
But Daddy told me not to fret, this was no problem a’tall.
He took two old worn stirrups and laced them to a girt,
Then tied them to the saddle horn and I sat there pretty pert.

He then tied the old split reins into a hard fast knot,
Just so I wouldn’t lose them when we began to trot.
I began that day to tag along where ever Dad would go
I was finally a cowgirl and my heart was all a’glow.

Well I grew to fit that saddle and to rein without the knot,
I even got a faster horse, ‘cause Paint would only trot.
We’d ride up in the mountains rounding up the goats and sheep
We’d ride all day from dawn to dusk, then unsaddle, feed and sleep.

And now I am much older and I still run the ranch
My Dad will come and help me out when he has the chance.
I gather the cows in a pickup truck, with modern pens at hand
And sometimes my love of ranching is hard to understand.

Then I gaze at my very first stirrups hanging on the living room wall
And they remind me of that time when I was very, very small.
The life of a cowgirl in Texas is what I chose to lead
And all cowgirls in Texas are of a very special breed.

We are everywhere in the state from the Red to Rio Grande.
So please, when ever you see us, come over and shake our hand.
You’ll find a very tender lady underneath our skin of brown,
And on our heads a well worn hat that we wear just like a crown.

We are the real heart of Texas with a will you can’t deny
Our hearts and souls belong to God until the day we die.
So when you speak of Texas do not leave this thought unsaid.
And remember all us cowgirls we’re Texas born and bred.


Linda Kirkpatrick and her paint mare, not that long ago

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 thislife, with an emphasis on the women who lived in this era.

You can email Linda Kirkpatrick.

Linda Kirkpatrick's poem Cathay Williams was a previous Lariat Laureate finalist. You can read more of Linda Kirkpatrick's poetry here at the BAR-D.

Flavis Bertrand

 

The Old Empty House

        The Old Empty House stands alone on the prairie
        The shingles are weathered, the siding is worn
        The front step is missing, the wall paper torn
        The glass is all shattered, there is no front door

        Old Empty House, what a story you might tell
        Of the great western movement and a family so well
        They drove your first nail and set the front door
        They settled down here to live forever and more

        That family is still here out under the grass
        Please, Old House, tell me the story of what came to pass
        They settled here in eighty-eight with dreams of life and the future to come
        The prairie was hard and there was no future for some

        The struggle was great with the terrible winter cold and snow drifts piled high
        Then, blazing heat from the summer clear sky
        The creek ran low and fields were so dry
        The locust swept down and they watched their crops die

        Old Empty House now so weathered and worn
        You stand alone for what they have borne
        Their footsteps are gone, their voices long still
        But you will remember the unbroken will
        They beat this old prairie and changed things around
        They made it a land of sound and song

        They are out there now under the grass
        The great depression came and the dust bowl too
        Their friends most left, there was nothing to do
        They were too old to go yet too tired to stay
        Nothing for them but to wait and pray

        Then time came to pass as it always must
        And they were buried there beneath the prairie dust
        Old Empty House, you molder away
        The story you could tell is only yours this day
        I stand here now in your empty door
        And dream your dreams of what has gone before.

 

About Flavis Bertrand:

Flavis Bertrand in Chico, California  Flavis Bertrand's family homesteaded in the Dakota Territory.  Flavis was born and raised in Clark, South Dakota.  He left home at 17 to find his way in the world, and after a series of adventures he landed in Chico, California.  He attended college until WWII broke out.  When he returned from the service he married and settled in Arbuckle, California.  Afer a number of years he returned to his South Dakota roots and lives today in Newell, South Dakota. 

Read more poetry by Flavis Bertrand, accompanied by Eleanor Bertrand's drawings here at the BAR-D.

Jo Lynne Kirkwood

 

Round-up

By round-up time the high country was filling up with cold
The nights were chill and slivers of ice lined the waterin’ hole
at dawn, until the churning hooves of near 800 head
ground to mud the diamond ice, turned the water a murky red.
Aspen trees were putting on their crowns of burnished gold
And oak-brush, not to be outdone, blushed scarlet in the cold.
The nights were brisk but the days were hot with sweaty work to be done
When you’re workin’ ‘til your saddle’s sore, round-up ain’t much fun!
But the grub was good, the company prime, and a cowboy knows the worth
of hard work and the friends we make in our short time on Earth.

As the the pairs started moving down the slope
and the boys tallied up the bill
It soon were clear a number of hides was still up on the hill.
It’s this long warm fall, the trail boss said, they’re likely way up high.
They’ll mosey down in search of feed when the first snows start to fly.
Tell you what
, he said with a stretch, givin’ his neck a rub,
We’ll push these down then come back up and resupply your grub.
You boys stay here and cool your heels in the cabin on the line.
They’ll be comin’ down in sixes and eights when the snow falls on the pines.

Now Bucky was nothin but a young green kid, not old enough to shave
but Dove had wrangled for most of his life
and was versed in the cowboy ways.
So through the autumn days the two stayed on up in the high country range
corralling strays as they wandered down, and watching the season change.
Mornings now their feet would crunch across the frosty grass
that led toward the frozen steam, covered with icy glass.
By mid-November it seemed that all the strays who could be found
had wandered in and were corralled.  It was time to be headin’ down.

But then the first big winter’s storm reared it’s icy mane
and roared around the cabin walls, shaking the window panes.
Dove and Bucky huddled tight close to the Franklin stove,
heartsick ‘bout the penned up stock, shiverin’ in the cold.
Little frosty cotton drifts seeped in the cabin door
and ice crept in around the chinks along the drafty floor.
For three long days the storm kept up, and when it finally left
There stayed behind a cold so deep it took away their breath.

The waterin’ hole was frozen hard at least four inches down
The cattle pawed and bawled for feed against the frozen ground.
Dove and Bucky broke the ice and brushed away the snow
from a section along side the stream where the grass had used to grow.
The pasture which had been so green and lush with summer bloom
Was frozen stiff and covered deep.  The herd was facing doom.

The second day dawned colder still.  The snow was icy blue
Dove and Bucky began to think they was in trouble too.
Maybe we should chance the trail, Bucky spoke aloud his need,
Leave the herd, turn ‘em out so they could scrounge for feed.
Dove turned his head and looked at Buck from the corner of his eye
then wandered off, not sayin’ a word.  Bucky didn’t have to ask why.
Dove never would go down alone, and leave the herd behind.
The idea wouldn’t have even come up, if Buck hadn’t aired his mind.

It was the evenin’ of that second day they heard a different noise
The padded scuff of horses hooves.  It was the boss, and five more boys!
Well, hallalooya!  Bucky whooped.  A prettier sight I never did see!
Dove didn’t say much, he never did.  But you could tell he was relieved.
The mountain’s rough, the trail boss said, and the pass is pert snowed in
But if we move ‘em slow we’ll be okay.  We’ll be home for Thanksgivin’!


Thanksgiving?  Bucky said, Why shucks.  I plumb forgot the season!
This year there’s a lot to be thankful for, I sure will have good reason
to bow my head when grace is said and thank the Lord, Amen
for what he’s done to keep us safe, and bring us home again.
There’s friends I made, and lessons learned about stickin to what you start
And deeper truths that can only be found when you listen to your heart.
And thanks for this harvest we’re bringin’ in, and the bounty that He brings
And the chance to do it all again, when we move ‘em up next Spring!


November 1999 by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

About Jo Lynne Kirkwood:

I'm from the Colorado Strip part of northern Arizona.  My grandfather was one of the original settlers of the area, and I'm still related to at least half the people left down there (always have been).  When my mother was born, in the small town I'm from, Arizona was still a territory (that's just a great -- to me -- piece of trivia that occurred to me recently.  I've used it in one poem so far, but I'll probably think of something else to do with it.)  I grew up with beef cattle and hay.   I now live in central Utah with my husband and four kids -- and we raise hay and calves.  I also teach school - English and art. (And I do western art - watercolor and pencil, mostly.)  I've been writing for most of my life (since I could, when I could, sometimes when I shouldn't be - maybe.) but have been concentrating more on the "cowboy genre" for the last year or two.

Drawing by JoLynne Kirkwood
Drawing by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

We asked Jo Lynne Kirkwood why she writes cowboy poetry, and she replied:  I accept that this is an honest question, but I'm going to do something real mean with it and give you a true answer; or rather, a series of them.   The short version is "because that's what the folks who listen to what I write want to hear."  The long version takes longer.

I'm a school teacher.  I teach art and English, and in my English classes I teach poetry.  Because I live right in the middle of what's still left of the Old West, there are lots of "half-growed" cowboys who end up in my classroom, and who have no connection with or interest in any dead poets, or "modern poetry" (meaning free verse.)  I discovered years ago, however, that they do like and respond to funny rhymed verse, and the "cowboy genre" in particular. So, I started bringing in what I could find - mostly work by Waddie or Baxter Black - and used that as an avenue in to whatever else I managed to accomplish.  Along with reading "other folks' poems" I've always had my students write their own poems (some of which sometimes turn out to be pretty good...) and I write with my students.

When I write, I tend to use real life material either from my own background, or based on local characters, or stories my husband brings home from the coffee shop.  And, because so many of my poems are "almost" true or are about old boys everybody around here knows, before I even realized people were paying attention I was being talked about behind my back and accosted in the grocery store.    Folks started asking me to read at various gatherings around the county, so, in order to avoid running out of material I had to keep writing poems.   

One day somebody who really should have known better said something that came off as disparaging about cowboy poetry being a sort of rustic folk art, and that it really wasn't considered a true poetic art form.  That converted me.  I am proud to work in a genre that has this broad an appeal.  Cowboy poetry - anything about the cowboy era, really - is one of the few art forms that can be considered as authentically American, and I am all for preserving the culture and celebrating this particular "true poetic art form".  It's about what I know, where I come from, who I care about, and, well shucks...folks just plain like it.   Thanks for askin'.

You can email Jo Lynne Kirkwood.

You can read more poetry by Jo Lynne Kirkwood and see more of her art here at the BAR-D.

 

 

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