current Lariat Laureate award is here.
The Last Round-up
For fifty and one hundred years theyd roamed those canyon lands,
Ranchers stock with grazin rights, all the local brands.
On unclaimed tracts theyd once ranged free, then hemmed in by permits,
Passed down from grandfathers to sons, now forced to call it quits.
The edict came, a voice went forth, new forces ruled the land,
and in their greedy rush for power they failed to understand
a way of life, a reverence, an era forced to die.
And desperate men had little choice but rein in and comply.
Angry, silent, grim faced men, just doin what they must,
boys in fringed bright colored shirts, chokin on the dust.
Womenfolk in jeans and spurs, eager still to ride,
and leggy girls in braids and vests, pacin at their side.
Their flyin hooves shot chips and sparks off rocks along the trail,
the dust was thick and filled with stones a hurtlin down like hail.
The earth beneath them trembled, sent tremors to the core.
The sun grew red with haze and clouds across the valley floor.
They pushed them through the canyon walls like demon refugees,
a writhin mass of horns and hides, bawlin like banshees.
From out across the desert the mighty trail drive roared,
until the evening lay its cooling hand across the hoard.
And when the night had fallen, and the herds were penned at last,
A dynasty bowed down their heads. Their way of life had passed.
Sweetly bitter they remembered their life in the old west,
now laid to rest, a last hurrah, a legislated death.
That lady aint no cowboy, the Salt Lake papers read,
they disagreed with what she did, and where her conscience led.
But some folk just aint malleable, dont easily comply
when forced edicts and rules of law say, Lay down now, and die.
And when the last round up was through, and all the brands were named,
a few last hides still roamed the range. Her livestock still remained.
And though those men were truly charged to aid and give assistance,
they owned the law, or thought they did, and were irked by by her resistance.
Reason did not enter in. A blind man seldom sees.
Their goal was clear. Round up that herd. Bring that rebel to her knees.
Horse sense played no part in it. Wisdom held no key.
Their aim was pure and simple. A Legal victory.
Money was no object, although they later tried
to recoup some expenditures by selling off her hides.
They used all of their resources from the bureaus vast supply,
and went in with helicopters and guns, a round up from the sky.
Then took them to the auction, though the brands were not inspected,
they had no bill of sale or right, but clearly they expected
the government to back them up, the sheriff to comply,
The courts of law to rubber stamp their fabricated lie.
But at that final moment, face to face with fact
The boys who ran the auction gave those cattle back.
And with that noble, rightful deed, that act of bravery,
For one brief shinning moment all of us were free.
No, that lady aint no cowboy, I have to reckon that
but that cowboys sure a lady.
And you ought to tip your hat
to the whole danged bunch of them down there,
from the sheriff clear on down.
It took a whole posse of folks
to run the bureaucrats out of town.
İ 2001, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
In February 2001 Jo Lynne told us that her poem is based on a current true story, an on-going controversy, described by the Salt Lake Tribune as one that "seems to encourage further polarization between conservationists and ranchers regarding grazing on public lands." When the rancher in question wouldn't remove her own livestock, they were rounded up by the BLM, who tried to sell them at auction. Jo Lynne says "Things did get pretty close to an old fashioned shoot-out, but the . . . sheriff here told the BLM folks they'd have to pack up and leave, since they didn't have bills of sale or brand inspections (the brand inspector wouldn't comply, either, since they couldn't provide any legal paper trail for their deeds.) There was a fair amount of lying and threatenin' going on, but bottom line the boys at the auction told [the rancher] to take her cattle home.)" Later some cattle were sold at auction. The story continues . . .
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.
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 and visit her web site.
You can read more poetry by Jo Lynne Kirkwood and see more of her art here at the BAR-D.
Where arctic winds howl
And sweep the Palouse,
The brave Nez Perce Indian
Bred a Spotted Cayuse.
A gift of the wind?
They whispered in wonder.
Sired by the lightning,
Born of the thunder.
Eyes wide and wild
They could see all around,
one orb cold blue
Its partner dark brown.
The face powdered white
By the hard driven snow,
Its mane looked like smoke
The tail black as coal.
Ayeee! This ones rump
Stands many hands high
with freckles as thick
As stars in the sky.
Sprung from those roots
Came Frosty, my horse,
A knot head Appaloosa
The devil its source.
I groomed and fed him
He stared with wild eyes,
And faster than lightning
His temper would rise.
His ears pinned back
his nostrils held wide,
He whirled round and bit me
Right in the side.
I led him to pasture,
I put out his lick,
I curried his coat
Until shiny and slick.
He kicked me and dumped me,
Scraped me out of the saddle
On low hanging limbs,
I was losing the battle!
At last I decided
to give him his head.
Id ride Frosty out
Until he was dead!
With the bit in his teeth
and his wild crazy eyes,
He bucked, then he screamed,
And reared tward the skies.
Just when my seat
was incredibly sore
from slapping the saddle,
He crow-hopped some more.
I flew through the air,
I soared like a bird.
His pawing the ground
was the last thing I heard.
Our wrangler named Payute,
Asked for that horse
Take him, I said,
Ive sure had the course.
The next time I saw them
I watched from the porch,
A proud, handsome Indian
Sittin' tall on that horse.
I knew as I watched them,
That some ancient force
Reunited that Indian
and Frosty, his horse.
İ 1999 Rusty Calhoun
About Rusty Calhoun:
When we asked Rusty to tell us somethin' about herself, she replied:
I am a fifth generation member of horse and cattle ranchers beginning in Virginia and the Carolinas before the Revolutionary War, where they raised gaited horses, carriage and wagon horses, as well as mules for the U.S. Army.
I was raised on the B BAR V Ranch in Clear Creek County, Colorado. Our Upper Bear Creek Canyon ranch house, at one time, served as the last stage coach stop of the Butterfield Stage Coach Lines before its Denver terminus. We raised Black Angus cattle and Tennessee Walking Horses, as well as trail and ranch ponies.
Besides ranching, I've operated a base camp and pack string for hunters in the Colorado Rockies. My husband and I did some limited rodeoing in the early years of our marriage.
I am the Poet Wrangler for the annual Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona and I perform at Cowboy Poetry Gatherings throughout the west as well as other gatherings and festivals including: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Nevada where Ive been a featured poet along with most of the well known cowboy poets. At the Western Heritage Festival in Las Vegas, my work was singled out by Baxter Black during one of his performances. I considered this quite an honor.
It is a great privilege to be able to chronicle our western heritage in poetry and prose. The cowboy life deserves to be portrayed with all of the respect possible. Of course this does not preclude showing the rich sense of humor that is at the heart of the cowboy life. Pranks, jokes, and tall tales are included in every cowboy poet's collection.
When we asked Rusty why she writes Cowboy Poetry, she replied:
In my family and its history cowboy poetry isn't something that began with the Elko Gathering -that's only when many people became familiar with it. Part of my legacy was listening to my menfolk recite their poems, spin yarns, try to outdo each other with tall tales, and sing songs like "Long haired Preacher's," "Springtime in the Rockies," "Red River Valley," "Froggy Went a Courtin'," and any number of old tunes that took their minds off the bitter cold, aching joints, tired bodies and weary minds from worry and overwork. Those who glamorize and wax philosophical about the hard, lonely, grueling, dangerous, gut-bustin' work of ranching probably ain't never done it.
Most cowboys before my dad's time ( turn of the century) were illiterate and their poems were the only way they had of sharing their stories. Cowboy poetry was like the "range newsletter" of its day and cowboys would memorize each others poems and spread them - in this way we learned of the doin's and whereabouts of many of our kin. That's why true cowboy poetry is filled with references to "Slim" and "Shorty" "Gus" and "Greasy John" - These men sent their messages along through the campfire network. Much like we, here at the Bar -D Ranch send our ranchin' stories along to other pards who see and know the truth of our words. We all know who the real cowboys are. It's a hard life even in this day and age, and we sure need the contact with our pards to stay focused on the trail ahead, and ride it out with cowboy honor and dignity as our guides. That's why I write cowboy poetry.
You can email Rusty Calhoun.
You can read more of Rusty Calhoun's poems here at the BAR-D.
Thomas Vaughan "Melancholy" Jones
The Bank Robber
Black Bart, he was an outlaw,
Who read philosophy
And when he wasn't shootin'
He'd be writin' poetry.
Some say that he was a bad guy.
Some think him just a crank.
For he had found this novel way
To rob most any bank.
He'd lock the doors and windows
While tellin' them their faults
Then start in readin' poetry
Till they gave up the vaults
He might begin by tryin'
A ditty of his own
Unless of course the teller
had a heart carved out of stone.
Then he'd extract his book out;
To cries of deep dismay
They saw the listed poet
And fell out in disarray.
Black Bart would hold the book up,
So everyone could see.
" I really hate to do this,
'It' s just as bad for me."
They saw the dreaded author
And said in undertones.
"This guy is going to kill us.
That's Melancholy Jones"
This Jones became a by word
in annals of the West
Of all the poetasters
He's probably the best.
It took a lot of practice,
but he's can match the worst.
When writing awful poetry
He's bound to finish first.
Black Bart began his readin'
Before verse one was done
The customers were senseless
The tellers tried to run
The manager was writhing
In silent soundless scream.
This essence of a nightmare
A long unending dream.
Even Bart was trembling
When startin' on verse two
He doubted if he really had
The nerve to see it through
Until the chief cashier
Handed Bart the key
He pleaded, "Take the money,
For God's sake set us free."
But just like many villains
Bart's plan had gone astray
For when he ran outside he found
His horse had run away.
He should have had it tethered
Or fixed with ear phones
It couldn't stand the poetry
Of Melancholy Jones
The posse had him covered
He tried to leave the town
The sheriff opened fire
The posse gunned him down
He lies now, in the graveyard
And written on his stone
"This outlaw died of poetry
And Melancholy Jones."
İ 2001, Thomas Vaughan Jones
About "Melancholy" Jones:
We asked "Melancholy" Jones to tell us about himself:
I was brought up in Liverpool, England, the city that gives birth to sailors rather than cowboys. I guess that if you get right down to it, they are pretty much the same breed of men. Tough, yet gentle, and filled with a sense of rightness about the world and all things in it. Always ready to laugh when things seem to be going against them, always running wild and free. So why did I choose to be a cowboy rather than go to sea? Well, Liverpool was, in its heyday, the doorway to America. When European and British people headed for the United States, they passed through our port. Many of my immediate family were first in the queue.
They first arrived in Massachusetts in 1638. Generation after generation followed on. The folk who made the greatest impression on me were my grandmother's older brothers and sisters, who arrived in Texas and Kansas in 1858. My aunts and uncles joined them in 1900. My life was filled with tales of ranching on the Concho and Pecos rivers. Texas Rangers, land feuds, gunfights and bank holdups, and the dangers faced by my cousins, all duly recorded in the local press. Seemed they had to overcome floods, firestorms, droughts and disaster before they made the land their own. Their descendants are still there, in Water Valley, Tom Green County, and many other areas in the West.
While I became a Senior Fire Officer in Liverpool, I dreamed of a life in the West. Because I had a wife and family to consider, my dream seemed impossible. So I adopted a new persona. Melancholy Jones is my other self, a walking poetaster with a Scouse sense of humor, who can walk with his head held high among all of those chaps, (and chappesses) wearing chaps and ponchos, without feeling any trace of self consciousness or embarrassment. An even greater reward is that of being able to share the warmth and comradeship that exists between cowboy poets everywhere, no matter where they come from. The only barrier between cowboys and the rest of the world is a mental one. So long as we share, and carry the cowboy code, "Don't Fence Me In," we can all jingle our spurs and hit the trail with the same spontaneous song in our hearts. We are in good company. Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; Tex Ritter; The Sons of the Pioneers. Hi Ho Silver. Away !
And when we asked "Melancholy Jones" why he likes Cowboy Poetry, he answered:
Why do I like cowboy Poetry?
I was sittin' in the bunkhouse
When I got this little note
A few short words from Bucky
This is some of what he wrote
'I'm sendin' you this letter
for you to cogitate
You've had a nomination
For Lariat Laureate'
I really was hornswoggled
I guess I sat awhile
I read that letter forty times
And then I had to smile.
He posed a simple question
To every nominee
What do I find so special
In cowboy poetry.
I guess that there's a kinship
Between the guys and gals
That special bond that holds us
As friendly writin' pals
That rollin' sense of humour
That runs right through the West
Or tragedy and pathos
The things that we do best.
Each time I read a poem
My pulse begins to race
I'm ridin' cross the prairie
The wind right in my face.
The range is wide and open
The verse flows strong and free
I guess that's why I'm so beguiled
By cowboy poetry.
You can email "Melancholy" Jones
You can read more of "Melancholy" Jones' poetry here at the BAR-D.
McCloud (aka Davey Lee George)
Ya see thet ol' hoss out thar,
the one with the tore up ear?
Ya'd never know to look at him
as we stand talkin' here,
but thet ol' nag, thet bag o' bones
wuz onct a mighty steed.
The kind ya seldom heerd about,
an' even rarer see'd.
Yes, it's many a day, now gone by
since he wuz the one to beat,
but onct he run the whole dam' range,
with the Tetons at his feet.
He was big an' strong an' wild as wind
an' his mane flowed like a falls,
why, jest his whinny wuz all it took
to give the mares a pause.
He knowed the range, near ever inch,
an' knowed the dangers, too,
but the ones to try to test his sauce
was dumb and mighty few.
But then one day a bunch come in
that runs the rodeo.
They said they needed healthy stock
to feature in their show.
So the boys from 'round the other spreads,
an' some of mine, as well,
set out to catch that wild ol' roan
but he really give 'em hell.
He led 'em on a merry chase,
all up and down the range,
but after while they cornered him,
an' the way they did was strange,
fer each of them had a pair
of hosses, side by side.
While one of the hosses rested
t'other was the ride.
So after while, even big ol' roan
began to fail and sag,
an' then they jest rode him down
like any other poor ol' nag.
Well, they took him to their rodeo
to make him a great big star,
but his heart was never quite the same,
though he wuz knowed both near an' far.
They kept him there for about three years
but he slowly wilted down,
till finally he wern't nothin' a'tall
but a has-been sort of clown.
So they sent him back fer me to see,
an' it near 'bout broke my heart,
but I looked him deep down in his eye,
and I seen a tiny spark.
Now, ever day he seems to be
a little more on his feed,
an' I hope ta Gawd he gits the chance
ta once more be a steed.
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: DeLeeGee@aol.com
You can read more of McCloud's poems here at the BAR-D.
late spring storms are deadly
much like a loaded gun
clouds burdened like a pregnant cow
before her birthing's done
snowflakes fell at a frantic pace
rushing headlong to the earth
when we looked out we realized
there was little cause for mirth
trapped as we were in my hideaway
this tiny dugout made of sod
two miles from the safety of our parent's home
at the mercy of the hand of God
the fangs of the storm that day snuffed out
the life of many a Two Bar cow
as the wind's bitter snarl
chased them off the cliff at Mitchell's Brow
in a three foot drift just outside the door
we found a nearly frozen calf
when Davey brought it in and thawed it out
its antics made us laugh
for three days we ate unsalted beans
burned chips to keep us warm
the two of us kids and that darned calf
but we lasted out that storm
through the quagmire left by melting snow
we finally found the track
but that fool calf had adopted us
followed us all the way back
the Two Bar hands told us to keep him
cause his mama couldn't be found
some said that calf was lucky to find us
but it was the other way around
İ 2000 by Bobbie Gallup ASCAP
This story was an account by Miss Idah E. McComsey of being trapped in a prairie blizzard with her brother and rescuing a tiny calf. She had moved to the Panhandle of Nebraska in 1888 with her parents from Stark County, Illinois.
About Bobbie Gallup:
When we asked Bobbie Gallup to tell us about herself and her work, she answered:
I have a lot more of these, which I call Americana ballads, since I do quite a bit of songwriting these days. Poetry and music seem to be such powerful tools to help folks understand the people, places and events of our history . . . and I hope my work does a bit to help preserve some of those fragments of our past.
Having grown up in Michigan and then living in Minnesota for 16 years, my love of the West finally drew me to move to Colorado in 1992. I now live on a small ranch in a mountain canyon northwest of Loveland, Colorado, where I spend as much time as possible researching and writing about the tales and truths of earlier times here in the West.
For a few years, I had a outfitting business up in the Beartooth Mountains in NW Wyoming where we took guests out for a week long horsepacking trips in the high country. Although I have been an interpretive naturalist since graduate school, this was the first opportunity to research and share the stories of the West with guests who wanted to immerse themselves in the culture and history of the area. I also learned to love cooking on a woodstove from that experience . . . although I was never totally certain what was due to the high altitude and what to the quirks and foibles of the stove!
A few years ago, I did the interpretive plan for a historic and scenic byway from Ogallala to Scotts Bluff. Doing the original research for that and other byways in Colorado, Utah and Nebraska has provided me with a lot of stories, which often can be found in journals, diaries, letters and old newspapers from earlier times. I find these stories fascinating and I love to help make history come alive for folks who visit the area . . . or who read one of my translations.
You can email Bobbie Gallup.
You can read more of Bobbie Gallup's poems here at the BAR-D.
Gail T. Burton
Introduction to Cowboy Dreams
I grew up in Southwest Oklahoma. That area had been generally designated as Indian Territory so it settled up pretty late. When it opened up for settlement it ended the trail drives from Texas to central Kansas, and some of those young drovers migrated up into Oklahoma.
When they broke up the Kiowa-Comanche Territory both my parents came from Texas with their folks and settled on claims at the edge of the Big Pasture, just north of Red River. They located about half way between two cattle crossings. On the right was the Chisholm, which led up into central Kansas, and on the left was the Western Trail which crossed above Doan's Store going up by Fort Supply, Ogallala, and into Miles City, Montana.
While I was growing up one of our neighbors was an old cowboy turned cattle trader and his holding pens bordered our place on the south. He walked with a cowboy gait that made him look like he would collapse with every step. He had work-gnarled hands and a weathered face with lines so deep they looked like they could have been cut in there with a markin' knife.
When he'd bring a bunch in I'd often go down there and visit with him while he worked his cattle. I'd watch him and say to myself: "I sure would like to be a cowboy . . ."
I sure would like to be a cowboy.
I want to be one mighty bad,
and to be a true life cowboy
I'd give anything I had.
I've been thinkin' 'bout it all my life,
I've had this dream a long long time.
Just to be a workin' cowboy
is as high as I could climb.
I know exactly what you're thinkin'.
I know you couldn't be more wrong.
I don't want to play a guitar;
wouldn't sing some cowboy song.
I don't want to be an athlete;
don't want to be like Roy or Gene,
don't want to ride in rodeos
or be on that silver screen.
But how I'd like to be a cowboy,
not like the ones you see today,
want to be out workin' cattle
not just out there pitchin' hay.
I'd like to be a real life cowboy
like some of those Iıve read about,
want to be out there at sun-up
when theyıre all a-ropin' out.
I'd like to sit around the camp fire
while Andy Adams told a tale,
or hear Jack Thorp a-singin' songs
'bout the life out on the trail.
If my childhood dreams had come to pass
and all those thoughts had come out right
I'd be ridin' with the round-up,
sleepin' in my tarp' at night.
Oh, I've day-worked a bit with cattle,
I've even broke a horse or two,
but I'd like to be a cowboy
like Will James or Teddy Blue.
I want to smell the sourdough biscuits
and coffee boiling in the can,
I want to feed the brandin' fire
and hear the shoutin' tally-man.
I want to hear the lark a' singin'
when I mount up to start the day,
and feel the saddle creak in time
as I ride along my way.
Want to hear the jingle-bobs'
when it's the only sound around,
and watch the cattle stringin' out
when theyıre evening water bound.
And I'd sure like to smell mesquite grass
when it's been washed by summer rain,
and I'd like to smell the milk-breath
of a day old calf again.
I want to see the glow of sunset
through a dust-cloud along the trail,
and watch baby calves a'nursin';
buttin' bag and twistin' tail.
I don't need to ride like Booger Red
or gather herds like Slaughter would.
I don't have to rope like Blocker,
or break trails like Loving could.
But I'd sure like to see Doan's Crossing,
or ride the trail to Wichita,
Push the cattle 'cross the prairie;
smell the pens of Omaha.
A thousand sights and sounds and feelings
have always wandered through my mind;
like listening to a hidden voice
that could never be defined.
But the course of logic bound my life,
and real success has come my way,
My life has always seemed content;
I've not lived a boring day.
But sometimes in midnight's darkest hour
I count the things that I have done,
and wonder if the life I've lived
was for daughter, wife, and son.
Should I have been a real life cowboy?
The very thought is bitter-sweet.
Had I gone and been a cowboy
would my dreams then be complete?
About Gail T. Burton
I was born at a time when horses shared the work with tractors and, from my first memories, had a serious interest in cowboys and Old West history. Tho' never a working cowboy I've had the opportunity to spend time horseback and in the company of working cowboys. My mother taught me poems, and the appreciation of poetry, when I was a child and the two interests sorta blended together as I grew matured.
Gail "GT" 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. Burton has a basket of love for the old west, a bucket of information from years of study and observation as well as a cup full of experience which 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 album (CD & Cassette) 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 conveys a tender thought, a nostalgic reminder of the old west or even a touch of wisdom. 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. Also 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.
"I was born at Temple, a small town 30 miles S/W of Lawton, OK. A town where my grandfather settled on a claim when they opened up the Kiowa - Comanche Territory. When asked, I usually tell 'em I'm from Oklahoma because, although I've not lived there since 1954, it's still home to me.
Down near the Southwest corner of Oklahoma is the little town of Temple. Three miles west of town is East Cache Creek. I've spent a lot of time along East Cache Creek doing what boys should be doing when there's country to be seen and growing up to be done. Dreaming of such times and places has kept me contented while others were succumbing to the stress of life."
You can email Gail T. Burton.
You can read more of Gail T. Burton's poems here at the BAR-D
and find out more about his books.
French Camp Red (aka Brad Smith)
The Dog Swamp Stranger
I remember that chilly October midnight
When we rode side by side through the swamp
Through the low-hangin fog and the evil moonlight
After visitin town for a romp.
Our horses clip-clopped us a tap dancin tune
Like theys walkin on coffins or tombs.
And occaisional light from a peek-a-boo moon
Lit their nostrils thick vaporous plumes.
I said to Ol Earl with a wisperin, Whoa,
I aint never seen Dog Swamp so foggy.
And progress got painful an terrible slow
Cause the footin got treacherous boggy.
Now it happened to be that eventually
Me an Earl found ourselves overlookin
A poor man, we agreed, whats appearin to be
Down a path that he shouldna tookin.
That cowboy was sittin there under his hat
And hed made it to maybe mid-bog.
Then he sunk to his waist in a sneaky mud flat
No doubt hidden by darkness and fog.
We both told him, Hey, and he said, Howdy do.
And we offered to toss him a rope.
But to our great surprise he just sat in the goo.
He just sat there, then spit, then said: Nope.
So we asks him, Why not? as he sunk to his chest,
Youre too young t be fixin t die.
Then me and Earl sat, having made our behest,
And we waited to hear his reply.
Now, I left me a wife back in St. Louie, Mo
He explained with an unbalanced grin.
And I left me another in Colorado
Then he sunk in the mud to his chin.
But to leave this poor filly jus wouldnt be right,
No, not even if I had my druthers.
For she brung me this far without nary a fight,
N thats moren I can say for them others.
So we stared at the hat that still floated quagmired
As we passed it circuitously,
And we knew that the stranger we just seen expired
But for fortune was Ol Earl and me.
About French Camp Red and Brad Smith:
French Camp Red gets his poetry somehow out via Brad Smith, "a boring guy with a wife and two kids living the American dream in Elk Grove, CA."
We asked Brad Smith to elaborate and he said:
Okay. Since you asked, I have to admit Im not just in it for the money. Oh, sure, that parts great (along with all the women it attracts), but I guess I have to confess my true motivations. Red would have wanted it that way.
I work in the construction business. Im not a cowboy. Havent been one since my voice started cracking, my skin broke out, and girls came along and spoiled it all. Until then, I had the fastest gun, the toughest fists and the meanest mean-look of anyone on the block. I learned it all from watching television and movies, and acting it all out with my pards. Of course, none of that was very realistic. But what I also learned (I think) was a strong sense of whats right and good versus whats wrong and bad. And a strong opinion of which side I wanted to be on. I still believe straight shooters always win and I think all kids should get to watch the old cowboy shows in school now that they dont have to learn to duck-and-cover anymore.
Anyway, Ive lived here in the Big Valley most of my fifty-odd years and Ive never even seen Barbara Stanwick in person, let alone that blonde with the tight jeans. But every once in a while I feel like being a cowboy again, and it makes me want to write some stuff down. If that stuff rhymes and amuses me and theres a place where I can e-mail it and no one tells me to stop, hell, Im in hog heaven.
You can email Brad Smith (he'll be in touch with French Camp Red).
You can read more from French Camp Red here at the BAR-D.
The E.S.L. Ranch
Stranded, I was, in some cow town,
Out of work and down on my luck;
No way to pay for my next meal
With my finances at less than a buck
When a man drove up in a pickup truck,
Said he was looking for a worker to hire.
Hauled me off to the middle of nowhere;
Dumped me out next to a campfire.
Id just settled in for a good nights sleep
To rest up for the coming days work
When hell broke loose with a vengeance
And awakened me with a jerk.
Get up you waddy! some guy hollered,
Cant ya hear coosie a-callin?
Haul yerself out of them sougans!
Roll up that hen-skin and paulin!
Put on a load of Mexican strawberries
An some sinkers to line yer flue,
Then grab a kack and come on back
And Ill tell ya what youre to do.
Rattle yer hocks down to the cavvy
An with a reata snag a cayuse,
Then light out into the brasada
And chouse any critters thats loose.
I stammered at the man, dumbfounded.
He said, There aint no time fer palaver!
If ya wanna be a ranahan
Get forked and get out on the gather!
Well, I resigned my position on the spot,
Mind reeling and spirit broken
Starvings easier than working a job
Where English isnt spoken.
Rod sent this glossary to go along with his poem:
waddy (or waddie): a working cowboy
coosie: the cook, from the Spanish "cocinero"
sougans (or soogans): bedroll
hen-skin: blanket or quilt (often stuffed with feathers)
paulin: bedroll cover, a tarpaulin
put on a load: eat
Mexican strawberries: beans
line yer flue: fill your stomach
rattle yer hocks: hurry, move quickly
cavvy: horse herd
reata: rawhide catch rope, for the Spanish "la riata' which also became lariat
light out: go, ride away
chouse: chase, drive quickly
critters: cattle, in this case
palaver: talk, discussion
ranahan: good cowboy, top hand
get forked: get mounted, get horseback
the gather: a roundup
E.S.L.: highfalutin education jargon, English as a Second Language
This poem was awarded a Superior ranking in the Charley Russell Western Heritage Association (CRWHA) Poetry Award Competition.
Rod Miller resides in Sandy, Utah. He says "I grew up in the small town of Goshen, Utah where our family ran a small herd of cattle and enough horses to keep everyone mounted. For a good part of his life, my dad was a working cowboy, responsible for the cattle on a large farm/ranch operation. I rode bareback broncs in high school, college, and PRCA rodeos for several years. The peak of my career (probably) was landing on my head at the College National Finals Rodeo. Nowadays, I write poetry for fun at my home in Sandy, Utah where I live with my wife and two daughters."
More than forty of Rods poems have appeared in print since he penned his first in 1997. WESTERN HORSEMAN, AMERICAN COWBOY, RANGE, and COWBOY magazines have all featured his poems on multiple occasions. Rod has also written a book of cowboy humor which the publisher will release in Spring 2002, and a short story of his is in a forthcoming Western anthology. He is a member of Western Writers of America.
Rod Miller told Omar West why he writes Cowboy Poetry when the two met up at the 2001 Elko Gathering:
I believe in perpetuating the Western traditions. I had some things I wanted to say and, for me, Cowboy Poetry is the way to say it.
(Self Portrait above by Rod Miller; click for larger image.)
You can read more of Rod Miller's poetry here at the BAR-D.
A Prairie King
When I unroll my tarp at night
and spread my sougins out,
I look up at the starry sky
and know what life's about.
It's havin' peace and breathin' free
and havin' my own space.
It's lookin' up at God's great sky,
close enough to touch His face.
I have a kinship with His creatures
that poke around and prowl,
and even like to hear the sound
of a lonesome coyote howl.
The night birds sometimes sing to me
a restful lullabye.
and I hear willows by the creek
when a stiff wind makes 'em sigh.
When irritations of the day
have all been laid aside,
then I look at this world of mine
and nearly bust with pride.
I count my blessings one by one
out on this great prairie,
and realize that I am rich;
in fact, I'm royalty.
İ Tex Tumbleweed
About Tex Tumbleweed:
Tex Tumbleweed was born in Oklahoma but says, "I come to Texas as soon as I heard about it." Tex lived in the small West Texas town of Stamford in the vicinity of Abilene. This town had the only rodeos that were performed by real cowboys in the nation at one time. Later Tex moved into Dallas County next to the late Frank Harter's spread. Still a teenager, Tex spent a lot of time riding Frank's horses and rode a cutter at the age of fourteen. Tex attended school, married, and raised two daughters, but the family livelihood was a commercial painting company, not ranching. However, Tex never lost the love of cowboy life, horses, and the beautiful prairie land, and had no problem crawling into the weather-beaten hide of a cowboy. Tex says, "I choke on the traildust with the wrangler ridin' drag in the late 1800's, I get a sore behind from ridin' in the saddle all day, and I feel the homesick ache of the young cow hand on his first long trail drive. I become this cowboy when I write his poetry. My tribute to this American hero follows:
TRIBUTE TO THE AMERICAN COWBOY
I blazed the trail with Charles Goodnight,
and joined settlers in an Indian fight.
When Baylis John Fletcher took his view
of the Great Rocky Mountain, I was there too.
I've seen my country through a cowboy's eyes,
and with this vision, I now realize;
all cowboys belong in the hall of fame,
even though we don't know them all by name.
Written by M.S. Land, alias, Tex Tumbleweed
Why does Tex write Cowboy Poetry?
When I first read cowboy poetry, it was love at first sight. It is not loaded with metaphors and hidden meanings that only the poet knows what the poem is about. What you see is what you get. Also, I treasure our western heritage and feel strongly that it should be promoted. And most of all, I just plain enjoy writing cowboy poetry.
You can read more of Tex Tumbleweed's poetry here at the BAR-D
"WILD BILL" HALBERT
In recognition of Wild Bill Halbert's body of work, his
encouragement of writers and poets, and in particular for
his excellent poem, Runnin' Fer 'is Life.
Runnin' Fer 'is Life
One time out thar on tha rockin' W Ranch sticks
We had us a pit fer dippin' them cows fer ticks.
We 'as a way out thar on tha ol' back forty
A havin' us a big ol' tick dippin' party.
Of a sudden we peered crost tha prairie brush
'N' saw a commin' fast a big cloud o' dust.
It come nearer 'n we could see fer goodness sakes
'Twas a cowboy on a big barr a whuppin' 'im with snakes.
He rode up, alit, kicked tha griz 'n tied 'is head
With them two rattlers 'n, they wuzzent dead.
He said. "QUICK! I shore does needs sumthin' ta drank."
We 'uz plum outta warter, 'cept in tha dippin' tank.
He asked, "Whuts that thar in them gallin jugs?"
"Tick dip," I said, he tarned wun up, GLUG, GLUGH, GLUG,
Then started untyin' the barr, made 'im kneel 'n got back on,
Lashed 'im good with them two snakes 'n in a flash wuz gone.
I hollered atter 'im, "Hey! whut makes yew in sich a hurry?"
We heared 'is voice commin' back outta tha dust so blurry,
"Ain't got no time ta stop 'n chat with yew fellers taday,
Thar's a mean hombre atter me 'n 'e's a commin' this way!"
İ 1994 Wild Bill Halbert
This is a poem I wrote from an old, old joke, for readin' on stage at a C&W show and it kept being requested. I also have it on a tape cassette called WILLS POINT STAGE STOP with guitar accompaniment and 14 cuts poems and song. I wrote all but one and Joe Sharp of SHARPWAY MUSIC in Tennessee wrote the music and sings all but one song.
You can read more of "Wild Bill" Halbert's poetry here at the BAR-D.
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