current Lariat Laureate award is here.
About Jay Snider:
Jay Snider was born in the small southwest Oklahoma town of Walters in 1953. His family settled in Cyril Oklahoma where he attended grade school and high school. He graduated in 1971 and went on to attend Southwestern Oklahoma State University on a Rodeo scholarship. He roped calves, steers, and rode bulls throughout most of his early years and now stays busy raising roping horses, cattle, and team roping. Jay continues to judge a few of the better amateur rodeos around home. His wife, Sandi and he have two boys, Jason who reside in Jones Oklahoma with his wife Kara, and their youngest boy Rusty who continues to live in the Cyril area.
Jay currently holds the position of CEO of the Charley Russell Western Heritage Association for Oklahoma and enjoys attending local Cowboy Poetry Gatherins’ and events. He hosts annually the Invitational Rafter S Ranch Timed Event Championship and Cowboy Reunion.
The ranch headquarters is based in Cyril Oklahoma and the “Keechi Hills Ranch” operations are located east of Cement Oklahoma. The Keechi Hills Ranch will be the future site of the annual Rafter S Ranch Timed Event Championship and Cowboy Reunion.
Some of his recent performance locations include opening for Michael Martin Murphy at the Medicine Park Music Hall in Medicine Park Oklahoma. Also, he has performed at the Chisholm Trail Chuckwagon Gathering in Duncan, Oklahoma, the Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas, and the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas as well as numerous private and civic functions in Oklahoma and Texas. Jay has twice been nominated for male poet of the year by the Academy of Western Artists in 1999 and 2000.
Jay Snider's album Cowboyin’, Horses and Friends was nominated for best poetry album for 2001 in the Academy of Western Artists' Will Rogers Cowboy Awards. It is available in cassette only for now for $10.00 postage paid.
Cowboyin', Horses, and Friends can be ordered via e-mail or by writing Jay Snider at Route 1, Box 167, Cyril, Oklahoma 73029
We asked Jay Snider why he writes Cowboy Poetry, and he replied:
I have only been writing Cowboy Poetry a couple of years and I'm not sure my old English teacher would consider it poetry, but I have been researching the Cowboy way for life for nearly fifty years. I wrote my first poem for my wife for Christmas and it's been all downhill from there.
I felt like I needed to preserve some of the old stories I had heard from the "old timers" and try to relive some of my own personal experiences through poetry. My thoughts are, "folks, if you hear a story from some of the 'old timers,' you had better write it down." You see, when they are gone, so goes the story. The challenge, for me, is to take those stories or experiences and put them down in the form of poetry. Fortunately, cowboy poetry seems to appeal to most people and I thank God or the greatest super-hero of all times: the American Cowboy.
My Old Amigo Lum
He aint much on conversation
His old mind, it wanders some
But a better compadre aint lived or breathed
Than my ole amigo Lum
Now Lum, hes plenty punchy
Ya wont find a tougher old coot
But down right, plain old common sense
Aint one of his stronger suits
You wont find a better feller
To have round ya in a pinch
His heads as hard as granite rock
And he wont give an inch
We were cowboyin up in the Keechi hills
It was one of our lighter days
But wed bout had our bellies full
Of cuttin those cedar stays
The weekend, now was comin up
Time for the big rodeo in town
Been quite a spell since wed been in
Lum and me would ride on down
Now Lum aint no spring chicken
But he acts just like a kid
When the bullriders finally mount the beasts
Used to twist em himself, he did
The crowd gathered round the buckin chutes
They were thick as bitin fleas
And Lum, his statures lackin some
Makin it tough for him to see
Ole Lum sure aint no genius
But what next he did made sense
He climbed up near the buckin chutes
And sat upon the fence
The fence sure aint as comfy
As his recliner back at the shack
And the cable through the cross-tie posts
Seemed to be a little slack
Now ole Lum, hes kinda portly
Of a diet he aint thought
So the cable strand he sat upon
Down the line had been drawn taught
The announcers voice boomed loudly
Of the high horned brindle beast
Two thousand pounds of ragin hell
Was soon to be released
On Widowmaker, they kicked the latch
He followed the gate around
Then planted his feet and sucked back left
And slammed that cowboy down
He gave the clown a hookin
Made a lap around the pen
But there aint a fence for a hundred miles
That could hold this brindle in
The Widowmaker, he sized it up
Then made a fitful run
He was intent on clearin that fence
Just four posts down from Lum
He quit the earth in one great leap
Now comes the change of events
A solid ton of snortin beef
Hit smack on top of that fence
Ole Lum, hes cool, just sat there calm
With both hands in his pockets
But a ton of bull on that cable strand
Shot Lum off like a rocket
Now Lum survived the launchin
And annihilation merely by chance
But he didnt make re-entry
Till halfway through the dance
Lum told me it wasnt the launch
Nor the fallin, nor the drop
The thing that hurt his ole body so
Was that mighty sudden stop
Lum believes the moral here
Needs tellin to all you fans
Its best to watch the rodeo
From somewhere in the stands
© 1999, Jay Snider, All rights reserved
You can email Jay Snider.
You can read more poetry by Jay Snider here at the BAR-D.
The time for branding calves rolled 'round, and Dad was short a crew.
My brother said, "Don't worry Dad, I'll find some help for you."
Bill went around the neighborhood recruiting here and there.
His neighborhood was Country Club, and they said, "Do what? Where?"
"I know that you'll have lots of fun," he told those city folks.
"The ranch is like Bonanza where you all can be cowpokes."
He promised them a beer or two and food fit for a king
If they'd agree to go along and do the branding thing.
Bill could have earned a living selling ice to Eskimos,
So when he took a final count, the yeses beat the nos.
The Greyhound stage that Bill engaged left town at 5 A.M.
Though some did grouse this mid-night roust came much too soon for them.
They reached their destination in an hour and a half,
And those on board were ready to go out and brand a calf.
Dad met them at the pasture gate, and he laid down the rules.
He clearly didn't trust his cows to all these city fools.
"We'll start by walking cattle from the pasture to the pen."
He emphasized the "walking" part, repeating it again.
"Don't get the cows excited now," he warned the eager group.
"This isn't any John Wayne show. We will not shout or whoop."
They fin'lly got the bunch corralled and cows and calves apart.
The calling and the bawling meant the time had come to start.
Les Hoff, a neighbor, branded while the greenhorns held 'em still.
But when they got both hot and tired, they cursed my brother Bill.
Les quickly burned the CU brand onto the calves left side,
While hands inhaled the dust and smoke that smelled of hair and hide.
They struggled with the calves they held, and some of them were tough.
No matter how they did it though, Dad thought they were too rough.
"Now take it easy with those calves," he told them with a frown.
"I don't want you to stress 'em none. Watch how you take 'em down."
"Hey, get your butt down in the dirt." He came on pretty strong.
I figured, whew, his new cow crew just might not last that long.
These bankers, brokers, businessmen weren't used to such abuse,
But Dad went right on yelling if they gave him an excuse.
Bill fin'lly couldn't stand it, so he took our Dad aside.
"You cannot talk to folks like this. These people have their pride."
"I think you should remember, Dad, they came as volunteers.
You'll never get them back again, not in a hundred years."
So dad kept quiet 'till he saw a fellow on his knees.
"Hey, get your butt down in the dirt!" Then he remembered..."Please."
Now in this world of haves and nots, these people were the haves.
Dad didn't think it mattered when it came to branding calves.
They broke for lunch and feasted on baked beans and bar-b-que,
On apple pie and chocolate cake and bowls of chili stew.
'Course balls and shots and horns and ears were also done that day.
By time hands held 300 head, no calves hurt worse than they.
It was a quiet bunch that rode the bus toward home that night,
And those bone-weary cowpokes were a sad depressing sight.
The calves had kicked and stepped on them. Their every muscle ached.
New jeans were smeared with mud and blood, new boots manure-caked.
As they departed for their homes when that long day was through,
They told Bill, "Pardner, don't call us. The next time we'll call you."
And every time that whole year long they needed something done,
Guess who they called. You're right, my friend. My brother was the one.
But next year when the days warmed up, Bill did receive some calls.
"We'd like to help on branding day. Please tell us when it falls."
And when the crowd became so large that things got out of hand,
You had to be invited if you wanted to help brand.
That worked as in the story of Tom Sawyer and the fence.
Folks vied for invitations to the branding day events.
From Canada and Cayman Isles they came by car and plane.
Some came by bus from Littleton. Some came to entertain.
They even came to like our Dad. They said that he was real.
I guess that being tactless was a part of his appeal.
All those who helped year after year had gotten pretty good,
Although in the beginning nobody thought they would.
It doesn't happen anymore. Dad's gone. The ranch is leased.
But this is how it used to be before the brandings ceased.
© 2001, Jane Morton
When we asked Jane to tell us somethin' about herself, she replied:
I grew up on the plains of eastern Colorado in the midst of the drought and the depression. My father taught school and helped his father with the family farm near Fort Morgan. They owed the bank, and there was little money coming in, so the family had to pitch in if they were going to keep their land. The farm had been in the family since 1911l when my great-grandfather bought the original 360 acres. They did manage to hang on, and in the ensuing years it became a 14,000 acre, 800 head cow/calf operation.
I graduated from high school in Fort Morgan and college in Greeley where I participated in theatre and summer stock. I graduated with a teaching certificate as did most who attended Colorado State Teacher's College, now the University of Northern Colorado.
By the time I married, the farm had become a ranch and my husband and I, besides being educators were involved in the ranch and ranch activities including branding, round-ups and cattle sales. Dad had one man on the payroll and farmed out some of the work such as cutting the corn for silage. Otherwise the family did it all.
I began to write for publication about thirty years ago. Since then I've had eleven children's books published, some of which were middle grade novels. Six of the books were for young children and were written in verse.
After attending my first cowboy poetry gathering three years ago, I began to write and recite poems about our family and the ranch. Now retired, my husband and I live near Colorado Springs on the edge of the Black Forest part of the year and in Mesa, Arizona the other part. We participate in poetry gatherings throughout the western United States. He recites the classics and I recite my own poems.
When we asked Jane why she writes Cowboy Poetry, she replied:
At first my motivation in writing cowboy poetry was so our children would have something to help them remember the family they knew. But then I realized there was more to it than that. So many of the family ranches are finding it hard to make a living on the land. Family after family is having to give up and sell out to corporations and developers. By telling my little stories about our family and our ranch I feel I am helping preserve a small part of our western culture for future generations.
Although there were those who were writing and reciting their cowboy poems long before the gatherings in Elko began, I think this cowboy poetry movement is a wonderful thing. Many of the younger generation were totally turned off by the traditional poetry they had to read in school. Cowboy poetry is fun. It's real. People can relate to it. Besides that, the movement is bringing national attention to the poetry and to rural life and
the values rural living promotes.
Part of the joy of cowboy poetry is the people one meets at the gatherings. They are real people with real values, struggling to make a go of it at a time when government regulations, environmental restrictions and income that barely covers costs are making it difficult.
You can email Jane Morton
You can read more of Jane Morton's poems here at the BAR-D.
A Guide to Ranching for the Politically Correct
When we first got into ranching
we really didn't expect
to see the business change so much
to become politically correct.
Cowboy lingo was simple then.
It was easy to communicate.
But now you can't say what you mean,
you're forced to obfuscate
so you don't do irreparable damage
to some critter's self esteem,
and to protect their tender feelings
you must be gentle in the extreme.
"Cowboy" is the first of many words
that we've been forced to shun.
It's sexist as well as sexually confused
and has been replaced by Cattleperson.
We no longer call them "Dogies,"
those calves without a mother.
We merely say they're Victims of
a Parental Deficit Disorder.
And "Cull" is an insensitive way
to describe a worn-out cow;
Candidates for Outplacement
is what we call them now.
If you say you're raising "Fat Steers"
their feelings you might addle,
so we don't talk about their weight--
they're Fitness Challenged Cattle.
And Sexually Neutral Bovine is
the term we've adopted here
to avoid damaging the confidence
of what once was called a "Steer."
"Heifer" is another of those sexist terms
that crosses the P.C. line,
so we've dropped that one in favor of
Pre-Pubescent Female Bovine.
Then there's that label "Herd Bull"
that doesn't pass the test.
That job is now described as
Serially Monogamous Fertilization Specialist.
Being accused of racism is
another thing we dread,
so Multicultural Cattle is how we refer
to those who were once "Crossbred."
They may question their femininity
if you label cows as "Drys."
Calling them Inactive Lactators
is a change we feel is wise.
Sending an animal to the "Sick Pen"
is sure to affect its composure;
a gentler way of describing it is as
the Healing Enclosure.
We say the cattle on our ranch are
Preparing for a Career in Food Service
because we fear a word like "Beef"
will frighten, and make them nervous.
Gentle. Sensitive. Caring. Concerned.
Those words define our place.
And the terms we use to describe our work
are chosen for charm and grace.
But I'd as soon go back to Ranching
the way it used to be,
instead of Hosting this Politically Correct
Ruminant Residential Facility.
"A Guide to Ranching for the Politically Correct" first appeared in Western
Horseman magazine, May 2001.
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.
And Rod recently remarked:
I like the title of the Bill Moyers' series about poetry on PBS, "Fooling with Words." Cowboy lingo provides a lot of interesting words to fool around with. Cowboy poems ought to be more than sentimental stories or jokes that rhyme -- they ought to use to advantage the rich words of the West.
(Self Portrait above by Rod Miller; click for larger image.)
You can email Rod Miller.
You can read more of Rod Miller's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Francine Roark Robison
The bleak and barren land stretched out
As fars a man could see
The icy fingers of the wind
Foretold his destiny.
The years had not been kind out here;
Hed busted his last plow
The bankerd spurned his humble quest
Though hed always paid somehow.
The crops were poor and spindly, cause
There hadnt been much rain;
The topsoild gone to Texas, or
The open Kansas plain.
Hed lost a wife and baby girl
Their graves were marked in stone;
Hed took his grief and worked it out
And stayed there, all alone.
The tumbleweeds a lonely weed
That drifts before the wind
It dances free across the heart
And leaves a hurt to mend.
Hed thought of leaving lots of times
But was rooted to the land.
Just one more year, hed always say
This corn will make a stand.
He hadnt many groceries
But always tried to share
God provided just enough and
No load too great to bear.
The tumbleweeds went rolling by
Before the driving wind
Symbols of the loneliness that
Only love could mend.
At times hed see a traveler
There in the sunsets glow
Whod bring some news and maybe mail
Cause messages traveled slow.
Theyd sit around at supper,
Drinking coffee by the pot
Theyd laugh and share tobacco
And speak of what was what.
The stranger now no stranger more
Continued on his way
But left behind a wealth of thoughts
To ponder every day.
The West was big and mighty, but
Hed faced its harsh demand,
And so on rolled the tumbleweeds
Across the drifting sand.
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.
We urged Francine Roark Robison to tell us more about her book and tape, and she replied:
The name of the book is Night of the Cowboy and Other Poems; the tape has the same title. They aren't EXACTLY the same, but pretty close. Book is $5; tape $10, plus $2 postage, whether one or 25. Email me.
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.
You can email Francine Roark Robison
You can read more of Francine Roark Robison's poetry
here at the BAR-D.
John D. (Jay) Jones
The MouthpieceThe old man perched on the bucking chute
Watching the young guys ride
He cocked a weathered brow at me
As I sat down by his side
His clothes were old and faded
And his thinning hair was white
But when he turned to talk to me
His eyes were full of life
He said "Now look at these young peacocks
With padded vests and fancy chaps
Back when I was young and riding bulls
Weren't none dared look like that
Our gear was stained and dirty
With here and there a tear
And our smiles would usually have some gaps
Because no mouthpieces did we wear
Now, after biting my tongue a time or two
And getting yanked down on some horns
I got to figuring by age twenty-some
I'd be smooth-mouthed as a baby born
So I bought a big tobacco plug
And I crammed up both cheeks full
Thinking that plug would cushion my teeth
As I crawled down on that bull
Now, I know what you are thinking
But it weren't that way at all
You're thinking that after a jump or two
I swallowed that big old chaw
Nosirree, that tobacco worked
Kept my teeth and tongue intact
As that bull warmed up to bucking
I just chewed and hugged his back
Since I'd never been a chewing man
Real quick I had to expectorate
I was smart enough to spit downwind
But I lost the wind back at the gate
Now, I know what you are thinking
But it weren't that way at all
You're thinking I swallowed all that juice
I'd worked up from that big chaw
Nosirree, I just puckered up
Thought, where it goes, it goes
Looking back, it was pure bad luck
That I spit on that bull's nose
Now, you'd think a cud-chewing critter
Would be more tolerant than a horse or mule
But that big bull just went plumb wild
When he inhaled the juice I'd chewed
The next jump I went flying high
Kinda sailplaned through the air
I was searching for soft ground to land
But where I lit, it wasn't there
Now, I know what you are thinking
But it weren't that way at all
You're thinking I swallowed that big old quid
But I had it locked tight in my jaws
Yessirree, my plan had worked
I'd protected my tongue and teeth
I couldn't wait to tell my friends
About my new, and safe, mouthpiece
It stayed with me through each spin and jump
Even lasted through the fall
Then they announced my ride scored ninety-one
And I swallowed that big old chaw"
© Jay Jones, September 9, 2000
About John D. (Jay) Jones:
Jay Jones was raised on a farm in rural Missouri. In his younger days he rode bulls and roped calves in amateur rodeos. He draws heavily on his experiences in amateur rodeos for much of his poetry, and believes strongly in the preservation and promotion of the cowboy way of life. Since joining the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association he has branched out into song writing and, on occasion, will even play and sing a song or two he has written. Jay and his wife Debbie have been married for over 30 years and have one son and two grandchildren. Jay and family live in Columbia, Mo. He has a B. A. in English, is a teacher for the State of Missouri, and is a Vietnam Veteran. His poetry and songs are always uniquely original, usually humorous, but sometimes explore the traditional aspects of our western heritage.
We asked Jay why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:
I write Cowboy Poetry because I admire the courage, independence, and determination of the American Cowboy. Cowboy poetry encompasses so many topics -- horses, dogs, cattle, all kinds of critters -- along with adventure, romance, humor, and a marvelous landscape for a backdrop. Subjects to write about are endless. I enjoy my association with other members of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association and really anticipate our gatherings where everyone presents their latest creations.
You can email Jay Jones.
You can read more of Jay Jones' poetry
here at the BAR-D.
McCloud (aka Davey Lee George)
The Newfoundlander and the Bull
(as told by foreman John McCloud)
We were sitting around in the Starlight Bar,
and talking of times now gone,
when somebody mentioned the Newfie fellow,
and how he'd come along.
We turned to John, who had seen it all,
and remembered it at its peak,
and as he sat and mused awhile
we waited for him to speak.
"We was all in town fer the rodeo
that happens ever' year,
an' was talkin 'bout this and that,
when sumpin happened queer.
As we stood thar by the holdin' pens,
that keeps the bulls in close,
we happent to see a stranger thar,
in the oddest lookin' clothes.
As he come up clost we seen his pants
was with a bottom bell,
an' on his head was a ol' time cap
that had a fishy smell.
He looked to be a shanklin' boy,
jedgin' from his bones,
that stuck all out ever' which a'way,
why, even his elbows shone!
Well, I stepped up then and said 'how do,'
thinin' he'd jest answer back,
but when he spoke I never knowed
a word, an' thats a fact.
The stranger said, an' I swar he did,
'Shor b'y 'ow's yer a'ter bean!'
I stood thar wonder'n what to do,
when a feller next to me
said 'he's a Newf, an' thats the way
they always seems to talk.'
I ast him then, (his name was Joe),
what lingo the boy had spoke,
an' Joe he answert easy like;
he said 'good mornin's' all,
I spent some time up thar with them,
and can usually make a call.
It was time then to start to ride,
an' we each had us a bull,
with one left over fer extra like;
the meanest one to pull.
An outsized brahma bull, he whar,
and the wurst I'd ever seen,
an' danger burnt inside his eyes,
an' them horns wud make you squeem.
But before anyone could start a ride
the stranger turned an' grinned,
an' said 'Shor, b'y, oy'll try 'im oot,
tho 'e 'peers a shar bit thin!'
Well, I looked agin to lettle Joe,
and he answers back right quick;
'the Newfy says he'll ride the bull ,
though it don't seem all that slick.'
I thought I'd heerd purt near ever'thin,
but this'n took the cake,
and I said to Joe, what the hell's with him,
he ain't even got a stake!
Then the ganglin' boy throwed down his cap,
and a twunty bill to boot,
and that were all it took to go,
in spite of him wearin' a suit.
Then he said to us, or I think he did,
and Joe will say it's so;
'Shor now, and Oy's a'ter ridin' darries,
in ary squall, oot on de Jarge's bank,
when ye sees naught fer blawin' flume,
and the toid she's rum and rank,
and Oy's seen de ice cume rarin' in,
likes tho 'twere a banshee's wind
and n'er yit has Oy slunk back
and been a'ter styrtin' agin.'
Well, I said ok, whatever he said,
its his scrawny neck, not mine,
but does he know you have to stay
ten seconds to the line?
Then he nods his head an' hauls his cap
down tight above his eyes,
An' I knowed fer sure that purty soon
we'll all see how he dies.
An' then the dam'dist thing of all
took place thar in that shute,
fer the Newfy boy jumped on his back
an' meant to ride him under foot.
I noticed then he was a'wearin' boots,
the kind that's made of gum
an' he looked like he'd been born in them,
an' it showed he warn't no bum.
I hollered out to set on down,
and git aholt the rope,
an' he hollers back, " If they iver hard,
'e'd sot 'is arse in the bottum of de boat,
shor and de b'ys doon ther' ter Carbonair
wudn't n'er let 'im back,
so twer best 'e rode de way 'e knowed,
in case 'e had ter tack."
Then the bell let off, and the gate swung wide,
and out of thar they come,
and the bull he snorted and the Newfy yelled
those words that sounded dumb,
but they musta meant a lot of things
to the bull he was standing on,
fer he bucked an' reared an dove an' turned,
in all, right woebegone.
But thar he stood an' yelled some more
as they went acrost the line,
an' after a while the bull slowed down
an' started looking kind
of like he wondered what went wrong,
an' he also wondered, too,
what had been onboard his bucking back
that had stuck to him like glue.
An' then after all of this took place,
the Newfy boy hopped off
an' walked around to the bulls front end
to show him his new boss.
An' don't you know, that bull stood thar
an' easy like licked his hand,
whilst I stood thar in wonderment,
fer it jest beat the band.
Then the Newfy went to git his prize,
which I reckoned was right big
fer none of us was a'gonna ride,
since he'd done beat the jig.
As he walked on up thar to the jedge,
that bull jest tagged along
like a great big ol' ugly dog;
like the two of them belonged."
McCloud added these remarks about his poem "When I was first stationed at Argentia Naval Station in 1950 most of the Newfoundland'rs spoke a dialect similar to what I attempted to portray. In fact, my father in law, who has been deceased for many years now, spoke to me from time to time and I have yet to understand a word that fine old man said."
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.
Visit McCloud's site to read about, browse through, and obtain his new book, "Sailors, Lovers and Cowboys" published by Writer's Club Press, iUniverse.com.
When we asked McCloud why he writes Cowboy Poetry, he replied:
I find it fascinating that I can dream up and relive all the things I saw in the movies well over sixty years ago. I just wish they still made those old movies because I learned so much about the old West and the scenery was so great. I learned that good was good and bad was bad, and never the twain should dwell side by side.
You can email McCloud: DeLeeGee@aol.com
You can read more of McCloud's poems here at the BAR-D.
Queen of the West
Our favorite treat when we were kids was the Saturday matinee,
In times that seemed so innocent, those days of yesterday,
Where our comic book heroes would come to life on that silver screen.
There was Hopalong, Randolph Scott, the Lone Ranger, Roy, and Gene.
Being the oldest, Joyce and I helped Dad with all the chores.
Milkin' cows, breakin' colts, stackin' hay 'til our arms were sore.
We did all the jobs that our ranchin' neighbors gave to their boys
And rarely had time for tea parties, dolls, or other girlish toys.
We knew our lives were different from the rest of the girls at school,
'Cause, in town, they all wore dresses while we broke their cardinal rules
By wearing jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and high heeled, cowboy boots.
All their teasin' and finger pointing just made us more resolute.
'Cause, you see, we had our hero, too, up on that movie screen.
In all those Saturday serials, she was the only Queen.
In fringed skirt and rhinestone shirt, on Buttermilk she'd ride,
To do right by all with Roy Rogers by her side.
She was the voice of wisdom and showed us girls we had a right
To fight wrong and injustice, to be fair, good, and forthright,
To find within ourselves the courage to always do our best.
She became our hero, Dale Evans, the Queen of the West.
The world seemed a little colder, today, when I heard the news,
That my hero, Dale, had headed for that heavenly rendezvous.
I can hear Buttermilk's nicker as he lopes up to Dale's side,
And see Trigger prancing up in welcome with Roy's smile a mile wide.
Upon a ridge rears Silver, and the Lone Ranger waves his hat "hello."
While Champion slides to a perfect stop as Gene Autry hollers, "Whoa."
Bullet's barkin' up a storm, while he weaves among the horses' feet.
Seems like all of the legends have gathered here to honor and to greet.
Hollywood's much dimmer now, as in a blaze of glory Dale will ride
Into the fading sunset, with those cowboy heroes at her side.
You know His campfire's waiting, beyond the rise and 'round the bend
Happy Trails to you, Dale, until we meet again.
© February 8, 2001 by Janice E. Mitich
This poem was written in honor of Dale Evans.
Janice Mitich followed her twin sister, Joyce, into this world in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Both girls were 8 weeks premature as their mother had slipped on the ice while walking to the outhouse at their home in Newcastle, Wyoming. At age five, they moved to Sheridan, Wyoming where the family ranched on various small spreads, and Janice developed her love for ranching and horses . "Money was so tight, us four kids never ate beef at home until we were twelve. We ate only antelope, deer, elk, and rabbit, often taken out of season. We couldn't afford to eat our own cows. Our 'hamburger meat' was scrap game run through a meat grinder."
For several years they attended a one room country school with about ten other ranching kids in grades 1-8. While in junior high, the family came to Tucson because of Joyce's asthma. Their dad, George Prell ranched in Pima and Pinal Counties for two years before returning to Wyoming to eventually buy his parents' ranch 40 miles northwest of Lusk, Wyoming, raising cattle and top-notch horses until his death in 1979.
Janice taught in Tucson in the winters, and trailered her horse up to the ranch for the summer to help out and to rodeo some. "It was the best of both worlds. I didn't have to shovel snow or sweat out the monsoons, and I got to a lot more rodeos that way" Janice started writing cowboy poetry in 1991. "My students were always interested in how I grew up. I taught a month long unit on the history of cattle ranching and rodeo. I would bring my barrel horse to school, teach the kids to ride a bucking barrel and to rope, and then take the class to slack at the Tucson rodeo. So I decided to write down my personal history in the form of cowboy poetry."
Janice has been invited to numerous cowboy poet gatherings across Arizona, in New Mexico, California, and Utah for the last eight years. After 30 years of teaching, Jan has retired but keeps her hand in Education as a Marana School Board Member. Along with her cowboy poetry, she also writes children's literature, school curriculum, is an award-winning member of the Society of Southwestern Authors, and a talented western artist. She was recently featured in and on the cover of the March,1999, issue of the NEA Retired Magazine which goes to retired members of the National Education Association.
Janice is a former member of the Women's Professional Rodeo Association, a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, the NRA, and was, for twenty-seven years a Hunter Safety Instructor and later a Chief Instructor for the Arizona Game and Fish Dept.
We asked Janice why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she said:
My late stepdad use to write poetry as a young man while growing up on his folks' homestead on Dogie Creek, out of Lance Creek, Wyoming, until he went into the Navy in WWII. From what my aunts tell me, he had notebooks full of poems and drawings of horses--all of which have been lost. Since he "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket" he would recite poetry, like "Little Joe the Wrangler," and "The Strawberry Roan" to entertain us kids on long drives back and forth to town or while trout fishin' in the Big Horn Mountains west of Sheridan, Wyoming. I guess that's when I first fell in love with cowboy poetry.
My late mother also wrote poems which were tributes to people who had passed on.
I wrote my first rhyming poem as an assignment in high school English class, but didn't write anymore until 1991, when I started writing cowboy poetry and was invited to the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, the next year. Cowboy Poetry is the only way I know how to pass down my family's history.
Having taught fifth and sixth grades for 30 years, I have seen, with great sadness, how our children are growing away from the land and from God, taking nature's gifts for granted, and being brainwashed that having more "stuff" will fill that emptiness within. I started reading my poetry to my classes, during my rodeo unit, which I taught every February, and found that the kids were fascinated with the way I grew up---much like I was fascinated, listening to my Dad and his seven brothers and sisters talk about all the stunts they pulled as kids. I would have my students write poems about their lives, as that too, will become family history to be passed down. To me, Cowboy Poetry, gets to peoples' heart of hearts and strikes a cord that makes all of us sisters and brothers. We are all creatures of the earth, and when we separate ourselves in our concrete world, we are less human. Cowboy Poetry helps us to re-connect to that which made us, and that's why it is so important to me.
You can email Janice Mitich.
You can read more of Janice Mitich's poems here at the BAR-D.
Those Droving Days
Do your thoughts ever unfold to those days of old
when cattle strung out on the plain,
as they slowly pass by with dust rising high
can you see those old drovers again
or the ringers you knew from times long ago who
had shared your campfire's blaze,
Do you ever ponder or allow thoughts to wander
back to those droving days?
Have you awoke in a fright on a dark stormy night
and your thoughts flash back through the years,
to those nights on the rout when the storms were about
you rode around Territory steers.
Did your heart miss a beat when those steers hit their feet
and rushed off camp with a roar?
With sounds of horns clashing and dry timber crashing
you gallop round them once more.
Do you ever think back to that trip on The Track
when you took stores into Marree,
across the dry desert land all covered with sand
for as far as the eye could see?
When all was in drought with no grass on the route,
you battled to get that mob through.
But you got them there with a few head to spare,
by using the tricks that you knew.
And remember the days, when you rode in the haze
of dust rising up from the plain,
or nights in a camp with a swag that was damp,
You shivered in cold winter rain.
Do you still miss the sound as you camped on the ground,
of horse bells on the night air
or the whispering breeze as it drifts through trees,
at times you wish you were there?
Can you imagine again the tug of the rein
As you race to steady the lead,
on a good horse beneath with the bit in his teeth
that was well bred and built for speed,
or recall a bad colt that could buck and bolt
when you tried to put up a ride?
All that actually hurt when you bounced off the dirt
was mostly only your pride.
Now the years have rolled on and the drover has gone
from those stock routes out in the west.
We've all settled down and got jobs in town
with a mortgage and all of the rest.
Though it's often said that the life that we led
was not what it's made out to be,
I know it was rough at times things were tough
but the life that we led was free.
© 2000 Jack Sammon
Ringers - cowboy
Stores - young cattle that are for sale
Marree - a railhead town in South Australia
The Track - the famous desert road of four hundred miles between the towns
of Birdsville and Marree.
Swag - bedroll
Photo by Jacqueline Curley, reproduced with permission.
Visit Jacqueline Curley's web site for more images of the Outback
About Jack 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 used 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 myself 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 lifestyle 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. If it is not kept up future generations will lose a culture and history.
You can email Jack Sammon.
You can read more of Jack Sammon's poetry here.
Twenty One Today
Part One - The Kid
The kid had a look in his eyes, a haunted kind of stare, that made him try anything, as if he
Few knew of his younger years, but stories were often told, of how he got so doggone
mean, and his heart so freezin' cold.
But no one could get close to him, he never let no one in. He had a fiery hatred inside, so
hot it burned the skin.
Things hadn't always been so bad, for this kid, so mean. At one time he had a family, the
best you've ever seen.
A mother who adored him, a father bold and strong, until the day his mother died, and
everything else went wrong.
His father had loved his Ma, more than life, and that's for sure. And when she died so
suddenly, for his grief, there was no cure.
His son looked so much like his mom, his father couldn't bear, the sight of the boy, his
voice, or face, or the curls in his chestnut hair.
So he rode away without goodbye, his grief consumin' his life, and left his twelve year old
son alone, with no mother, and him, no wife.
So this young one had to learn, to get along as best he could. If there'd been some help
along the way, he might have turned out good.
But, alas, it wasn't meant to be, this one was, lost for true. With all that hatred eatin' him,
there was nothin' left to do.
So he rode alone from town to town, a driftin' with the wind, playin' cards, punchin' cows,
tryin' to kill the pain within.
Everywhere he went he left a trail, a bloody one at best. And as each year was passin', his
reputation grew in the West.
Three in Salinas and Wichita, one on a bar room stair. Each time he killed to dull the pain,
almost too much to bear.
Until one day he heard of a man, a marshal of reputation, keen. Supposed to be the fastest
gun, the West had ever seen.
A thought did cross his blood stained mind, a bitter smile creased his lips, he'd not yet
killed a lawman, with the Colt strapped to his hip.
So he began another journey, to try and end the pain, he had nothin' left to loose, and
everything to gain.
With his twenty first birthday approaching, he had to get it done, the only way he knew
how, with the bullets in his gun.
And somethin' really deep inside, made his heart jump with his plan. He must find the one
he'd heard about, this legendary man.
What was so important, that he couldn't seem to wait? With the way his life was goin', it
had to be his fate.
And with this thought on his weary mind, he closed his eyes to sleep, as the spirits that
tormented him, made plans, so dark and deep.
Part Two - The Marshal
He once had been a traveler, the world he loved to see, till he came upon a beauty,
in western Tennessee.
She was from a family, well mannered and well bred. Respected by everyone, 'the
finest', it was said.
But she had captured his wandering heart, he had to win her hand. So he bought the
place next to hers, a pretty piece of land.
It took a while, but he got it done, finally they were wed. They made the perfect couple,
by everyone, it was said.
She was indeed a beauty, the apple of his eye; the one who made him feel so free, like an
eagle in the sky.
Always supporting him, a partner by his side, she kept the home fires burning warm,
as he did his job outside.
And folks respected this quiet man, always so firm and strong. He had a wealth of
patience, his temper, it was long.
Then they had their first born, a son so fine and fair, with a smiling face, a dimpled chin
and curly chestnut hair.
The boy seemed to be everywhere, a 'young buck' you could say, as he did his chores
and occasionally, found some time to play.
Until one day, he came home from school, the doc's buggy in front of the place.
What was goin' on he thought, the blood drained from his face?
He ran inside but was stopped, by doc at the bedroom door. His Ma had just passed
away, her loving touch, his, no more.
Stumblin' outside cryin', with tears upon his face, he saw his Pa sittin' there, a blank look
on his face.
They both stared at the sky, not knowing what to say, until Pa went to the barn, at the
end of that too long day.
And saddled up his horse, and with his gear rode out, never even looking back, as his
son, his name did shout.
He rode down to New Orleans, a ship he took round the 'Horn', those who saw his
hollow look, knew he wished he wasn't born.
In Frisco, drinkin' in a bar, a rough one picked a fight, and with one quick
bullet, he ended a life that night.
He tried to get anyone to end the pain inside, by takin' every chance he could, with the
gun strapped to his side.
But no one was fast enough, and luck was his worst friend, as he continued to push and
try, to bring about his end.
He headed to the east, where towns were rough and mean, yet he remained the fastest
gun, anyone had ever seen.
So when the town called Deadwood, asked him to be their law, he took the job with no
regrets, a quick death was all he saw.
But luck was still against him, and somewhere deep inside, he was not quite ready,
to take that final ride.
He knew, or rather, felt it, a number it was, for sure, would provide the final answer,
it would be the cure.
But what was so important, about ol' twenty one, that gave him such a peace inside,
he knew it would be done.
Could it be that twenty men, had felt his hurt so deep? Or was it a dark secret,
that haunted his restless sleep?
But one thing he knew for sure, time was almost done, when he could finally lay down,
his burden and his gun.
So he calmly waited, as sand in the hour glass ran out, he'd know with a new morning,
what this feelin' was all about.
Part Three - The Meeting
The day dawned bright and hot, as it did most every day, with folks movin' round early,
hurryin' on their way.
For most, this was no different, another day like the rest, workin' hard and stayin'
alive, tryin' to do their best.
But two in this town called Deadwood, felt it in their heart. Today was simply meant to
be, and they would play their part.
Neither knew the other, at least not for quite a while. They'd both traveled far and wide,
over many a lonely mile.
The kid squinted against the sun, that beat down on his head, awakened from a restless
sleep, by what the spirits said.
This was another birthday, twenty one, now he was a man. Somehow he knew that this
day was special, it all fit in a plan.
He felt a chill inside, despite the heat of the day. He recognized that feeling, there was
nothin' left to say.
So he headed for the bar across the street, not certain of exactly why. All he knew
was, it just seemed right, it was a good day to die.
The marshal woke up early, on his cot down at the jail, he headed to the coffee pot, and
found it cold and stale.
And as he glanced out the window, a stranger caught his eye. There was something
familiar about him, though he couldn't say just why.
He watched him as he crossed the street, in front of the general store, and noticed the
kid hesitate as he parted the bar room doors.
Slowly he set the coffee down, weren't no good anyway, and reached for his pistol
belt, as he did most every day.
He felt a funny tinglin', from somewhere deep inside, as if a far off memory, through
his mind was tryin' to ride.
Might as well check out the town, and eat somethin' real soon. But he couldn't shake
that feelin' inside, it must close to noon.
An easy stroll down Main Street, showed everything was just fine, so he walked back
down a side street, it didn't take much time.
He was getting' a little thirsty, must be this dusty heat. Besides he knew a gal at the bar,
he'd been really anxious to meet.
Another chill ran down his back, where did that come from? As he thought about it for a
second, his hand reached for his gun.
It was then he knew for certain, today might be his last, an end to all the torment that
followed him from the past.
Twenty had dared test his anger, and fallen to his gun,
Would this here stranger, turn out to be twenty one?
His footsteps seemed to echo, as he walked thru the bar room door. When his gaze met
that of the stranger, he knew it would lead to more.
He memory was cloudy, like fog on a mornin' cold, but he knew this kid, this stranger,
from a time in the past, so old.
A quick look around, few in the place today, mostly the stranger and the bar keep,
who never had much to say.
"How about a whiskey, and a beer would be good, too, with all this doggone heat, there
isn't that much to do."
The stranger was watching him, and making it pretty plain. If he came here lookin' for
trouble, he must surely be insane!
The marshal turned and looked at this kid, so young, but strongly built,
he reminded him of someone long ago, in his heart he felt the guilt.
"Are you the lawman, I hear so much about? Or are you just another coward, who's
parentage is in doubt?"
The marshal took a long drink, as fire flashed in his face. If this kid was lookin' for
trouble, he'd come to the right place.
"I seem to know you, boy, but I really don't give a care, for your attitude or the words
you use, or the grudge you seem to bear."
"I'll ignore your remark, stranger, and let it ride today, but I'd be real careful of the
words I chose to say."
The kid slammed his glass down, it made a hollow sound. He was ready to end this
thing, and put this lawman down.
The marshal breathed a sigh, he'd been this place before, but as he turned and faced this
kid, a chill ran to his core.
The kid felt somethin', too, he saw it in his eyes. They both suddenly knew where, it
came as a complete surprise.
This was his Pa who left him, so very long ago. The boy's chestnut hair and deep
blue eyes, from the marshal's wife, you know.
But time had done nothin', to erase the pain they felt. They were both ready to play,
the hand that fate had dealt.
The place went dead silent, as they looked in the other's eyes. And when their guns fired
together, they were both surprised,
To see each other standing, no way could they have missed. They were the best guns
around. Death, they knew her kiss.
But now they saw each other, in a new, much clearer light. And as they looked around
they were greeted, by an even stranger sight.
For right there between them, two bodies lay on the floor, and they heard a sound of
music, as someone came in the door.
They looked to see who entered, but were startled with what they saw, for standing there
most radiant, was his wife and the young boy's Ma.
She had a smile upon her face, with her arms both open wide, and she spoke the words
they'd longed to hear, during many a long hard ride.
"It's time to come home now, boys, and lay your burdens down, and let those that remain
behind, put those bodies in the ground."
"This time has long been coming, that's what those on earth will say." "But the strangest
part of all is, you're both, Twenty One today!"
© 5/2000 Lloyd Shelby
About Lloyd Shelby
I earned my way all the way from junior high through college shoeing horses and working with cutting horses. Although I got a job in the city, I found my way back to the "cowboy way," and have never looked back. My love of writing and performing goes back to when I was watching the Greats in the cowboy world: Dale and Roy, Gene Autry, Hoppy; then Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulders, Donnie Gay and, a personal friend, Dale Robertson. Today, I have had the privilege of performing at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Luckenbach, Crosby, and many other less well known, but equally fun venues. I was encouraged with my early work when I was told I should be on a stage. That was before I learned that they meant the one that was leaving there in twenty minutes! Since then, I will speak about the "cowboy way" anywhere the platform isn't moving. I am a Director with The American Jack Rabbit Horse Association and the Chairman of The National Bullshooter's Hall of Fame. I authored a Resolution passed by the Texas Legislature in 2001, declaring Texas Country Musicians, Cowboy Poets, Storytellers, and Artists, natural resources of the State of Texas and designating them as "Texas Treasures." I am the proud owner of the infamous Texas ranch, Rancho Poquito, located in Crosby, Texas.
We asked Lloyd why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:
Cowboy Poetry is unique, in that, it expresses a freedom of the spirit that has captured the imagination of millions upon millions of people around the world. No other character is quite as well known as the American Cowboy and no one expresses his character as well as the Cowboy poet. I write what I know as well as what I see in my imagination. Those who write and/or appreciate Cowboy Poetry know what I mean. Finally, it is gratifying to see Cowboy poets and their work being accepted as a truly unique American art form. Shoot, we already knew that! God Bless Cowboy Poets everywhere!
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