pleased to announce the winner of the:
Below you'll find the poems and more information about the winners in the sixth Lariat Laureate Competition.
There are pages for previous Lariat Laureate and 8 Seconds' winners listed on the current winners' page, here.
"Everyone should leave some sign of having passed this way!" With that in mind, at age 64, Jackson began his writing by documenting some of his early life's experiences in rhyme. As that material gradually dried up, looking for other story sources, eventually moved him on through the entire spectrum of western life, writing about such diverse subjects as Geology of the Rockies; Old Barns; building fences; Steam engines, "Molly Cule," (the life cycle of a drop of water); even development of a fictional character called Captain Baaa-a-a-d who saves baby animals from predators and other acts of valor as he dons his cape and mask to fight pastoral evil. Calling his work "Western Verse" rather than using the more restrictive title of "Cowboy Poetry."
As well as reciting at numerous poetry gatherings throughout the West, Sam has produced several shows and competitive events. Organizing a group of cowboy poets calling themselves Dogie Wranglers who, under a grant from Idaho Commission on the Arts, each year visit rural schools to teach and encourage student in the field of Cowboy Poetry. His latest venture (this being the fourth year) has been to produce the world's one and only "Cowboy Poetry Rodeo" held annually in the heart of Canyon Country at
Kanab Utah. "Excellence through Competition" being the central theme.
We asked Sam why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:
I write Cowboy Poetry primarily for sheer enjoyment of the accomplishment. Secondly, it is a means of communication that gives me my "best shot" of relating my life's experiences, historical themes and an outlet for my imagination
We asked Sam about his inspiration for "Midnight on the Kaibab" and he replied:
So as not to be confused with the "average bears," my wife and I spent the 1999, turn of the century, Christmas holidays at a line cabin on the Judd ranch near the Kaibab plateau on the Arizona strip. One clear, cold, starry evening, I came across a dusty old journal written by the original homesteader, Zadoc Judd. Although this poem's story comes from my own imagination, the old cowboy's journal lit the spark.
You can email Sam. Here's his award-winning poem:
Midnight on the Kaibab
It's the last day of December,
year is eighteen ninety nine,
nearin' midnight on the Kaibab Plateau.
T'was a night to long remember
'midst those ponderosa pine,
Listen up and hear this tale of long ago!
It started as a whisper,
down the ridge just to the West.
A subtle sound, near toneless to the ear.
The pitch climbs higher, crisper,
like a Mountain Cat possessed,
to noise I figure sure the rocks can hear.
Well--I'm sittin' in my cabin,
had just finished up a chore,
figures how I'd best be seein' what's about.
Just about the time I'm grabbin'
fer the handle of the door,
froze with wonder as I heard the lusty shout:
"I'm a rippin', roarin', twister!
I'm a thundergustin' gale!
Eats a cyclone fer m' breakfast every day!
I'm a canyon digger, mister!
I can spit out rain and hail!
All the hills lay flat that dare get in my way!"
Hangin' just above the clearin'
is a dark hellacious cloud,
with an ugly vortex spinnin' 'round and 'round.
From its gut the voice comes searin',
boomin' clear and cannon loud,
usin' tones that stir vibrations in the ground.
"Zadoc Judd!! I'm hearin' stories--
yer the man that does it all--
You'z the roughest, toughest, Waddie on the strip!!
Well, I'll tells ya what, b'gories;
If you'd dare to take my call,
step astride Ol' Twister, take a little trip!
If ya rides him to the whistle
then you wins the "Futures Purse,"
an' I shows ya what awaits next hundred years.
If ya ends up eatin' thistle
well-ya gets the "Cosmic Curse" --
herdin' stars instead'a punchin' bally steers!
When the dust had settled, mostly,
and some noise had died away,
sets an ancient soul astride a monster Jack.
His appearance small and ghostly
gets me thinkin'; "Judgment Day??"
then I sees an Indian saddle is his tack.
Now, I've never scared too easy,
and not often prone ta brag,
says; "Old man I'll take yer challenge, that's a bet!"
Then at risk of soundin' 'breezy,'
adds; "I'll straddle that old nag,
heck, I'll buck'em out and never break a sweat!"
"Well now cowboy, fetch yer riggin',
Climb aboard and earn yer pay!
You'd do well ta set yer jaw 'fore getting' on!
That first jump'll be a biggin',
out towards the Milky Way,
Fer the 'cocky' that's the one that gets'em gone!"
There's a natty lookin' smile
floats across the weathered face
as he holds a blindfold o'er the critters' eyes.
Swingin' on in usual style,
snugs my knees fer 'just-in-case',
"Let-'er-buck!! and YO!! we're headin' fer the skies!!
Boys, with no exaggeration,
I can tell you peelers that:
T'was the highest jump a man will ever see.
Down below's the Indian nation
spinnin' under where we's at--
I'm a spurrin', yellin', WAHOOOO-look at me!!!
Though that first one kept me busy,
out the corner of my eye,
there's Ol' Taurus breathin' fire an' kickin' dirt.
For a second, wonders; "is he
my new neighbor in the sky?"
Then some 'twistin' brings me back to full alert.
Touchin' down just South of Zions,
humps his back an' brays an' snorts!
He ain't used ta baggage stickin' to his back!
We go bustin' past some Lions,
Leos' den's around these parts?
Got the rhythm now, I's glued to this ol' Jack!
Now I feels him start ta coilin' up
the springs in all four legs.
and I'm thinkin' this could be his biggest blast.
As rocks and dirt come boilin' up
from hoof-tipped powder kegs,
Still aboard, but kinda hope this jump's the last!
Just a speck far down below me
Sinbad country and the Reef.
floatin' high enough to spot the Southern Cross.
That last caper didn't throw me,
with a feelin' of relief,
finally got this critter thinkin' I'm the boss!
With our rodeo behind us, and
so long as we're this high,
might as well take time to do a little tour.
See some wonders that the Masters' Hand
has put here in the sky--
seems I've always had a fancy to explore.
There's ol' "Hercules" of great acclaim,
and "Lepus," giant hare.
Wave hello to "Bootes," the herdsman, as we pass.
Now there's "Pegasus," winged horse of fame,
a givin' us the stare--
(Hey! first time he's seen a cowboy on an Ass)
These allmighty cosmic ranches,
boundary's fenced by gleamin' stars,
sets my mind to think how small our earthly range.
When some comet avalanches
block our trail, we swing past Mars
there I spots a sight that strikes me sort'a strange.
Up ahead, in distant clusters
cowboys whoopin', ridin' hard.
keepin' maverick stars from mixin' with their bunch.
Ropes a swingin', poppin' dusters,
some on foot a'standin' guard--
"Them's the boys Ol' Twister's throwed," would be my hunch.
Well come on ya long eared critter!
time we's headin' back fer camp.
Set us down, I'll let yer partner pay his bet.
Sure won't brand you as no quitter
fact; at buckin' you's a champ!
with a gait as easy ridin' as they get.
As we glides in fer a landin'
there's some wonder on the face
of the feller that Ol'Twister knows as "Boss."
You could tell the way he's standin'
this had triggered some disgrace,
as he grumbles' "It's our first time fer a loss!"
From within a traveled buckskin poke
he lifts a glowin' stone,
gestures I should come and gaze into its light.
Warns me: "Nothing seen can 'er be spoke
of wonders you'll be shown-
as they'll never be recalled beyond this night."
The brilliant light begins to fade,
then dims to lanterns glow.
I rub my eyes and set up in the chair.
Some kind'a dream! A real charade!
A cosmic rodeo!
Me tourin' 'round the Heavens?? I declare!!
I step out in the winters night
and look up at the stars.
Fer quite a spell, just watch'em sweepin' 'round.
To wonder if some fellers might
be grazin' beef on Mars?
Then fetched from cosmic musings by a sound!
It rings a faint familiar tone,
like something heard before,
I lay it to the wind caressin' pine.
Or, Lobo, tired of life alone,
sings out from canyon floor?
Then mystic words are blended with the whine!!
"I'm a rippin', roarin', twister!
I'm a thundergustin' gale!
Eats a cyclone fer ma breakfast every day!
I'm a canyon digger, mister!
I can spit out rain and hail!
All the hills lay flat that dare get in my way!!"
Ain't sure if I should laugh, or cuss
at this creative hearin'?
seems my ears is twistin' winds to spoken sound!!
But things become less humorous
as daybreak lights the clearin'--
and mule tracks come a starin' from the ground!!
So, even now on cloudless nights
I'll look into the sky,
and smile a bit at constellations' gleam.
To wonder; if those starry lights
that's slowly trailin' by--
are drovers movin' herds? or just a dream??
© Sajac '00
You can read more poetry by Sam Jackson here at the BAR-D.
Ballad of Dogie Munroe
Lately I've noticed that some of my friends
Aint' lookin' like cowpokes as such
Now I kept my mouth shut when ball caps come in
But sneakers is dang near too much
A fellow come in the casino last night
An' set down by Dogie Munroe
He thought that Dogie's a farmer named Dwight
An' said he thought cowpokes was slow
An' Dogie said Yeah what exactly's that mean
The dude said you know, really dumb
The best o'the cowpokes that I've ever seen
Was jist a ol' rodeo bum
The next thing y'know there's a heckuva fight
The dude, he got punched in the jaw
An' Dogie'd of stood there and fought'im all night
But the bartender called in the Law
An' when they come in they all wanted t'know
Exactly who started the brawl
The dude said, that farmer, named Dogie Munroe
It's him was the cause of it all
Ol' Dogie said, you call me farmer once more
I'll kick yer ol' rear end so hard
Yer nose'll be bleedin' all over the floor
An' maybe all over the yard
The sheriff said Dogie, as most cowboys go
Yer not one t'go start a fight
I'd like you t'tell me, an' I'd like t'know
What started the trouble tonight
Dogie said this boy said cowpokes is slow
In fact he said cowpokes is dumb
I grant you I did it, I struck the first blow
An' poked at his eye with m'thumb
The sheriff said Dude, now you tell me what's true
You really say cowpokes is slow?
I jist cain't imagine a young pup like you
Would say that t'Dogie Munroe
The dude said most farmers don't get so upset
An' who the heck's Dogie Munroe?
The sheriff said out of the cowpokes I've met
Ol' Dogie's the toughest I know
The dude said, a cowpoke? No wonder he's swearin'
I thought he's a farmer I knew
But how would I know with them sneakers he's wearin'
Now ain't that a fine howdy-do?
The sheriff said sneakers and cowpokes don't mix
It matters not who you may meet
An', Dogie your troubles some day I cain't fix
With weird things like them on yer feet
When you wear them sneakers boy, somebody rude
Is gonna mistake who you are
They're gonna think you're a visitin' dude
Jist hangin' aroun' in the bar
Then he said to Dogie, Ol' Buddy, that's it
If you don't like gettin' took down
You gotta promise me yer gonna quit
A wearin' them sneakers t'town
An' Dogie said no one kin tell me t'quit
A wearin' these shoes on m'feet
Next thing that you know there'll be somebody say
What food that a cowpoke kin eat
And so ends the ballad of Dogie Munroe
A better man never drew breath
But wearin' them sneakers wherever he'd go
Was finally the cause of his death
© 2001 Hal Swift
About Hal Swift:
Hal Swift came into this world in Speedway City, Indiana. It was a week before Christmas, 1928--the 25th anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright's history-making flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He was born Ralph Harmon Swift, but got the name Hal while working as a disc jockey at a radio station in Monterey, California in the early 1960s. His boss didn't like the double "uff" in Ralph and Swift, so Hal held a contest with his listeners. There were over 200 entries--and the one who came in with the winning name went home with an unopened copy of a long-play record album by Peter, Paul and Mary--taken, of course, from the station's library.
He had most of the childhood diseases available in 1935, right after he started the first grade. Indiana didn't have kindergarten at that time. Because he was sick for so long, he had to start school all over again, and by the age of twelve was taller that most of his teachers--well, the lady ones, anyway. He was a lieutenant in the school's traffic patrol, and played trumpet in the school band. After two years in high school, his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he took up string bass and became one of the country's youngest members of the American Federation of Musicians. As such, he was privileged to work with many great musicians, including jazz guitarist, Howard Roberts, jazz pianist, Pete Jolly, and singer, entertainer, Marty Robbins. At the time, though, Marty was still Martin Robinson.
In 1947, while in North Phoenix High school, Hal (still Ralph) got into broadcasting when a studio band he was playing with needed an announcer. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1948 and served as a shipboard Morse code radio operator while a member of the Japan occupation forces, and then during the Korean War. After his honorable discharge in 1952 he went back into broadcasting and worked in stations from Mount Shasta to Monterey, California, then in Reno, Nevada. He worked in various areas of broadcasting, from the original disc jockey stuff, to being a reporter and news editor, a commercial writer and salesman, and a broadcast engineer.
When all of this excitin' stuff paled in 1977, he decided he'd become a minister, and do something really worthwhile in this world. By January of 1991 he found he'd much rather be doin' the excitin' stuff, and went back into radio--and writing. His writing interests turned to things Western, probably, he says, because by now--in addition to his home state--he'd lived in Arizona, Texas, California, Colorado, and Nevada.
As a youngster, going through all those childhood diseases, he got to read a lot. He says, "In late 1933, maybe early 1934--somebody gave me a book titled, 'Demon Dick and Bunker Bill'. It was based not-too-loosely on the song, 'Big Rock Candy Mountain.' Do you remember that?" he says. "Where the bluebird sings, by the lemonade springs, in the big rock caaan-dy mountain." He says, "I don't recall the story line now, but I do recall I enjoyed the book a whole lot. It was about five inches tall, maybe 17 inches wide, and about a quarter-inch thick. The cover was cardboard, and the pages were similar to newsprint, only rougher, I believe. The whole thing was done in rhyme, and was illustrated, like a comic book. I know the cover was in color, front and back, but I don't remember if the story page cartoons were in color. Those pictures and rhythms are still in my head somewhere. I kept the book for years. I don't know where it is now--I think I gave it to one of our sons. I'll have to ask.
"Around 1936-37 my mom took my little sister and me and moved to Phoenix, Arizona where we hoped my sister would be cured of asthma. We only stayed a year, but we moved back to Phoenix in 1945. My wife, Carol and I lived in Yuma, Arizona from 1982 to 1986. So, I've lived in Arizona three times now. That first move, though, exposed me to some real, live cowboys--as well as a few real cowboy musicians--and just added to the interest Demon Dick and Bunker Bill had kindled in me."
Although he says he rode a little with some real cowboys, he never worked at it. "I was never a cowboy wannabe," he says, "more of a cowboy could-a-been. I had plenty chances, but I managed mostly to avoid 'em. I decided not to let not working as a cowboy keep me from enjoying writing about them, though. He said he didn't know exactly how to respond when a radio friend named Bob Carroll asked him in an interview if he'd ever worked at being a cowboy. He said, "Bob made it all right that I hadn't when he said, 'Arthur C. Clarke writes pretty good space stuff, and he never worked as an astronaut.' That Bob's okay."
His book, Cowboy Poems and Outright Lies is being offered on line at Silver Creek Music and Books. (More about that below.)
He has an unpublished novel, Ballad of a Small Town, about 1864 Drytown, UtahTerritory -- now Wadsworth, Nevada -- during the final year of the Civil War. "The town was important," he says, "mainly because it was on the way to someplace else. But it was,
and still is, an interesting town."
With his wife, Carol, Swift currently lives in Sparks, Nevada, not too far from Drytown. All three of their sons also live in Nevada. They're honored in Cowboy Poems and Outright Lies in a poem titled, Them Boys of Ours. Hal loves the West and is currently enjoying reading, and writing, about it.
We asked Hal why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he said:
Cowboy Poems are ballads without a melody, and I love reading--and writing--them.
I think one of the important things Cowboy Poetry does is to give Westerners, and non-Westerners alike, a chance maybe to understand how Westerners think--about life, about others, and about themselves.
We asked Hal about his inspiration for his "Ballad of Dogie Munroe and he replied:
"Ballad of Dogie Munroe" got its start in Colorado. I was talking with some cowboy friends in church there a few years ago, and I kinda got to kiddin' them about the caps a lot of 'em were wearing. Feed stores give the caps away as a form of advertising.
Someone brought up the old joke:
"Why don't cowboys wear sneakers?"
"Well, because all the feed stores give away is ball caps."
This led to my speculating about what would happen if a cowpoke walked into a bar and was mistaken for a farmer. Now, you and I both know farmers and ranch folks get along very well but, take someone like the dude, Dwight, and set him down alongside someone like Dogie Munroe, and things just kinda happen, sometimes.
You can read more of Hal Swift's poetry here at the BAR-D.
At one time Chicago's Stockyards were the biggest and the best.
Chicago played an important part in the taming of the West.
Chicago's fragrant stockyards were the largest in the states.
The only part of them still standing...is their limestone entrance gates.
Out on the plains millions of cows roamed free during the Civil War.
The folks in the East wanted beef; it's what they had a craving for.
All of the cattle were out in the West; the consumers were all in the East.
They had to be brought together; Chicago's Stockyards closed the breach.
They opened up the Union Stockyards on Christmas Day of 'sixty-five.
Chicago's Union Stockyards made "Cattle Kingdom" come alive.
The first leg of the trip was the "Long Drive" from Texas to our Great Plains.
Cowboys herded cows North for hundreds of miles, to railheads for the trains.
Cowpunchers loaded up the cattle, with long poles to prod and punch.
So began another word for Cowboys. They were still a wild bunch.
To survive the "Long Haul" second leg, the cattle needed water.
Cowpunchers rode along to tend them, saved their lives for future slaughter.
Chicago on any given weekend, had more Cowpunchers on hand,
than in any other cow town, throughout the Western land.
The Stock Yard Inn was where they ate; Drover's Bank booked in their cash.
43rd Street Jail was their new bunk, when they did something rash.
The big drovers all sent herds here, Chisholm, Dodge and Blasingame.
There were also many others, they all made the stockyard's fame.
"Cattle Kingdom" lasted twenty years, from 'sixty-six to 'eighty-six.
Then along came bigger businessmen...becoming cattlemen in their mix.
John Farwell...started a giant spread where land was nearly free.
He ran the world's largest ranch, three-million-acre XIT.
Texas Panhandle was the ranch locale but Chicago was where he dwelt.
Single-handedly this big businessman, made his Western presence felt.
One hundred and twenty Cowboys, worked year-round on the XIT.
In eighteen eighty-seven...John fired them all for being thieves.
John Farwell wrote new "Ranch Rules," to be followed by all his men.
Card playing, drinking and gambling, were unallowable sins.
But the biggest sin was stealing, especially from the ranch.
If a Cowhand got caught rustling beef, there was no second chance.
There were twenty-three rules to be obeyed, or a Cowhand was let go.
Once hired...then fired from the XIT, every rancher around would know.
XIT Cowhands all were young and white, at other ranches not always the case.
Mexicans, Blacks and Indians (women as well), all got caught up in the chase.
Nearly half of all Western Cowhands, didn't fit the Hollywood mold.
But the Cowboys, who worked for the XIT, always did as they were told.
Fifteen hundred miles of four-strand fence, for Cowboys to ride and repair.
One thousand gates for ninety-four pastures, three hundred windmills fanning the air.
Four-strand fences used six thousand miles of wire, and that wire had better be tight.
When a Cowboy rode for the XIT, he worked hard and did everything right.
Those Cowboys earned thirty dollars per month, plus three meals and a company horse.
But their clothing, bedding, saddle and tack, they furnished themselves, of course.
The ranch was so big it was divided in eights, eight headquarters and foreman as well.
Abner Taylor was manager most of the time, but at the top was old John V. Farwell.
"Cattle Kingdom" lasted twenty years, from 'sixty-six to 'eighty-six.
Big business was to change all that, putting most ranchers in a terrible fix.
Change comes along to all things. The only thing certain is change.
When change came to "Cattle Kingdom," it forever changed life on the range.
Chicago's fragrant stockyards were the largest in the states.
The only part of them still standing...is their limestone entrance gates.
© 2001, David J. Dague
Chicago Stockyard Gates
photo by David Dague
David shared some of his background and research information with us, and we'll likewise share it with you:
When I first moved to Chicago in 1957, the stockyards were still going strong. In fact I did business with a number of firms in the "Yards" as they were referred to then. I often ate at The Stock Yard Inn and it was always quite an experience. I banked at The Drovers Bank (where else) but managed somehow to steer clear of the 43rd street jail, at least up to this point. The stockyards closed in 1975.
XIT Ranch info I found at the Chicago Historical Society. Interesting story how this ranch came into being. It seems the State Capitol Building in Austin Texas, burned to the ground (1875 I think) and needed to be rebuilt. Course Texans being Texans only the very best would do. The problem was the state of Texas was broke at the time. The Texas State legislature passed a bill that would set aside 3,050.000 acres of state land to be paid to the successful bidder who would give Texas the biggest and best Capitol Building for their land.
John Farwell, a successful business man (Dry Goods Merchant) had a brother Charles who was a member of the US House of Representatives and Charles had as a friend a fellow member of the House from Texas. One day, hopefully over lunch, Charles learned of the Bill passed by the Texas Legislature and what they planned. Charles then informed his brother John of the opportunity and the rest is history.
John set in motion a plan to raise money for the project. However, capital for a capitol was hard to come by in the US so John went to England and raised $5 million or so. John and his consortium spent $3.5 million on the state capitol and the rest ($1.5 million) on starting the ranch. This made ranch land cost about $1.17 per acre. This ranch was also known at times as the Capitol Ranch.
When John started the ranch (1885) there was a lot about ranching he didn't know especially about cowboys. Turns out he hired a bunch of outlaws and he fired them in 1887. Then he wrote (or had written) 23 rules governing the behavior of all employees of the ranch.
I was most curious about the origin of the brand XIT. No one seems to know for certain, but the ranch was so big that it covered (or touched upon) ten different counties in Texas. Therefore XIT, X (Roman numeral Ten) In Texas.
Personal tie in to this story is that a friend of mine was the live-in cook to the present day descendants of the Farwells who lived at the time (11 years ago) in a modern mansion on Astor Street. I knew at the time that the Farwells were one of the wealthiest families in Chicago but not their history. I used to fill in for their cook on some weekends and met the Farwells who were always quite gracious and gave me full use of their extensive library.
About David J. Dague:
Friends who know me know that Cowboy Poetry consumes nearly all of my free time. I first learned of the modern day Cowboy Poetry movement on March 5, 2001, by reading an article on the front page of The Wall Street Journal by Jim Carlton. I've written metered rhyme most of my life but after I discovered CowboyPoetry.com life has never been the same. My special friend and Webmaster, Christian Imhoff, offers me his most severe critiques or approval depending on my efforts. It's nice to have a truly honest friend. Cowboy Poetry and Chris have directly led me into other new areas of interest. The Worldwide Web has become a whole new experience as a publishing and research tool. Western history has always been an area of intense interest and with the web there's more of it; just beware of its accuracy.
My four sisters and I were blessed with parents that were true western pioneers. Both of my parent's families were originally from Virginia and over a long period of years both families had migrated west in phases. My father's family moved north to Pennsylvania, prior to the Civil War, then west to Kansas where he was born in Washington County in 1900. They moved to the Horse Heaven Hills of Eastern Washington State when he was a young boy.
My mother was born in Virginia in 1904 and at the age of 4 she moved with her family to Scotland, Illinois, a small farming village in Central Illinois next to the Indiana border. When my mother's family left Illinois they took an Illinois Central train from Danville to Chicago, where they changed trains to The Milwaukee Road railroad line to Minneapolis. The rail fare rates of The Great Northern Railroad from Minneapolis to Billings, Montana were so disproportionately high, that my Grandfather bought some teams and wagons in Minneapolis. Subsequently the family went by covered wagon from Minneapolis, to a ranch outside of Bridger, Montana in 1912.
David Parks, my maternal grandfather who I'm named for, was tried for murder (and acquitted) for shooting local Indians who were rustling his horses and cattle at his ranch in Bridger Montana. As luck would have it, his grandson, Doug Jones is married to a beautiful full-blood Sioux. Eventually both families wound up in the Columbia River basin area of Eastern Washington State. My father worked on my great uncle George Dague's
ranch in the Horse Heaven Hills prior to World War I. My favorite photo of my father is of him plowing a wheat field with a team of thirty-three (33) mules in a fan harness, today's equivalent of a Caterpillar D-8. My parents met in Kennewick, Washington, married and being true western adventurers migrated to Central California in the 1920's.
My twin sister and I were born in Fresno, California, rounding out a family of five children. Our three older sisters spoiled "their twins" and at that time, twins that jointly survived what usually was a premature birth were something of a rarity. Every child should be blessed with a twin, a daily companion to progress and grow up with.
My parents both worked in town when we were kids, and we lived on a small but self-sufficient farm south of Fresno, California. We farmed with horses and mules at a time when everyone else was using tractors. Then came World War II with gasoline rationing and my father's horses and mules were the salvation of most of the small farms in the area.
My mother was an aircraft worker during World War II making P-38 Fighters at Hammer Field, now Fresno International Airport. My mother was a poet and writer all of her life and both she and my father were great storytellers. The stories they told stayed with me and are the basis of many of my poems. My earliest memories are of sitting on my mother or father's lap and being read to or listening to their oral histories or those of our ancestors. Dague was originally Daguerre and it is an Alsatian/Basque name. Naturally,
I'm curious about the Alsace-Lorraine and Basque cultures. Parks, my headstrong mother's name is of English/Scotch-Irish origin and that is my culture.
When I was still a kid my parents bought a ranch northeast of Clovis, California, which I named the D Diamond D Ranch. I claim to be a "Once-upon-a-time Cowboy" as I really didn't stay on the ranch very long. The big city lured me from home, though my sisters and I visited my parents at the ranch for many years until my parent's deaths.
My mother and father visited our family in Chicago in 1961 and during their visit we toured Downstate Illinois areas where my mother had lived 49 years earlier. My mother was an 8 year-old girl when she had left this area and began her trip west. I had heard all my life of her "Best Friend Margaret" who had grown up with her in Scotland, Illinois. We left the area and were twenty miles on our way back to Chicago, when my mother requested that I immediately stop the car and backup to a house we had just passed at 60 miles per hour. I backed up to the house where a 57 year-old woman was sitting in a rocking chair stringing beans. My mother said matter-of-factly "That's my friend Margaret." I laughed, but got out of the car and went around to open her passenger side door. When my mother stepped out of the car, the woman sitting on the porch (eighty feet away) leapt up and immediately said loudly "Why it's Mellie Parks! Mellie how is Montana?" I always wondered how two 57 year olds who were completely out of touch for nearly 50 years could so immediately recognize one another, and in a setting
totally out of context.
I learned to cook in a restaurant in Berkeley, California while I was going to college. I went into the printing business in 1955 and except for a three year stint in US Army (1956-59) I've spent my entire career in the printing and advertising businesses. Today, I'm employed as Director of Operations for a printing company based in Chicago that serves clients throughout the United States. They say that a man who loves his job never works a day in his life. That's me.
This background plus wanderlust and an insatiable curiosity contributes to my poetry. I'm not well traveled in other hemispheres but I've been to and through all the 48 contiguous states, 5 provinces of Canada and 7 states in Mexico.
We asked David why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:
I love the West I've written Cowboy Poetry in one form or another most of my life probably for that reason and because I could. My sons and daughters used to ask for a copy of some poem that I would orally relate to them so that's when I first began to actually write them down. Up to that point I used to carry them around in my head, a repertoire of favorite lyrics. Most of my poems were written for performances and were intended to be humorous, as I love laughter. Poems and odd ball parodies to songs made up the majority of my show biz career. My career was limited to three nights a week at "Joann," probably the single best entertainment saloon ever in Chicago. Today I write some more serious material so that my children and grand children have something to relate to through me. Most of the time when I begin to write a poem I haven't a clue where it's going to wind up. I put myself in a setting and let the poem happen. Those types of poems, when they do turn out, are the best because they're a pleasant surprise even to the author. In my mind I wander through the West a great deal.
We asked David about his inspiration for "Cattle Kingdom" and he replied:
Before "Cattle Kingdom" was written, I had a lot of first hand experience with Chicago's Stockyards. Because of my earlier work there, I had an extreme curiosity about the true history of the yards. When I began doing research to satisfy that curiosity I stumbled into a story that wouldn't leave me alone. The XIT Ranch in Texas was unknown to me prior to that research. The more I thought about it the more powerful the urge became to turn it into my chosen form of story telling, Cowboy Poetry. I'll never forget the first time I drove through the intersection of 39th and Union. It was a hot summer's day and my car windows were completely rolled down until I caught the first whiff of Chicago's fragrant Stockyards.
You can email David and do visit his web site.
You can read more of David Dague's poems here at the BAR-D.
My father loved his cattle ranch.
His life was centered there.
And so, connected to that earth
Knew who he was and where.
He knew about its history,
And its geology,
And how his land had lain beneath
A once vast inland sea.
"The bottom land is rich," he said,
"Where rivers used to run.
The best land in the world," he said.
"This soil is next to none."
He knew each inch of pasture land
And every cow by sight.
He knew how good his corn crop looked
In early morning light.
He'd frozen in the winter cold
On truck beds forking hay.
He'd sweltered in the summer sun
Out looking for a stray.
He'd branded cattle in the spring,
Cut silage in the fall.
He seldom took on extra help,
But tried to do it all.
He'd seen the drought go on and on,
And grass turn brittle-dry.
He'd seen the price of cattle drop,
Expenses go sky-high.
The weather and the price of beef
Were things he couldn't change.
He couldn't keep a grass-fed fire
From burning up his range.
Beyond that, though, there wasn't much
That he could not control
Except the years that went too fast,
And age that took its toll.
He didn't ever plan to leave,
But he left anyway.
Time came it wasn't up to him.
He didn't have a say.
Although his body may be gone,
I feel his presence there.
His sweat and blood are in that ground,
His breath mixed with that air.
© 2001, Jane Morton
About Jane Morton:
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. This farm had been in the family since 1911 when my great-grandfather bought the original 320 acres. They owed the bank, and there was little money coming in, so the whole family had to pitch in and help if we were to keep our land.
During the '40s the debt was paid off, and the family went into the cattle business. As the financial situation improved we bought more land. By the late sixties we had acquired 14,000 acres, the herd had grown to 800 head of Herefords, and the "farm" had become a ranch.
When I married, 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 big jobs, such as cutting corn for silage. Otherwise the family did it all.
After attending my first cowboy poetry gathering three years ago in Colorado Springs, 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 cowboy poetry gatherings throughout the western United States.
When we asked Jane why she writes Cowboy Poetry, she replied:
Because I have to. I have stories inside that have to come out, and poetry seems like the perfect medium for what I do. During the depression when my father taught school, we moved from place to place in eastern Colorado. Sometimes we moved from one house to another in the same area. Although I changed neighborhoods, schools, lost old friends and made new ones, things at the farm were always the same. The farm gave me a sense of place and a feeling of security and stability, because no matter where we were, "we" had a farm. I want to convey those feelings through my poems. Instead of writing a family history, I am writing cowboy poetry. I think it is important for every family to tell their story. I particularly love reciting the poems at the gatherings, because these seem to be stories people want to hear.
When we asked Jane about her inspiration for "Connected," she replied:
I was inspired to write "Connected" because I have such vivid memories of my dad and his love for the land. He knew it intimately in all weather, all seasons, all times of the day. He knew it in good times and in bad. He earned his living on the land and from the land. He never did anything that would hurt it. He balked at leasing for oil because he feared the rigs would tear it up. He said the scars would be there 100 years later. He
always told us, "Take care of the land, and it will take care of you."
You can email Jane. See information about her books here.
You can read more of Jane Morton's poems here at the BAR-D.
It started with thunder and lighting,
an April storm that should have been rain.
Then it spat 20 inches of wet snow,
down on the Dakota plains.
A bona fide Blue Northern,
with a chill, that could bite to the bone.
Not fit for man or for critter,
not good to be far from home.
The hands holed up in the bunkhouse.
Next to the stove's cheery glow.
Told yarns, sipped whiskey and gambled.
Waiting to outlast the blow.
You might say that spirits where jovial,
glad for the break had come.
From the hard work of a prairie spring time,
content, all were happy, save one.
Jedidiah's proud mind was troubled,
about a catch pen five miles away.
And the cows he had penned there,
sorted out, just yesterday.
Most would say, they weren't worth the bother,
they were culls and due to be sold,
locked out from hay and pasture,
today hungry, alone in the cold.
He passed the first day nearly silent,
to see what the morning would bring.
Awake most the night with his worry,
he had to do the right thing.
He arose with the false dawn that morning,
dressed in his warmest clothes.
Went down to the barn with a lantern,
decided he would take the Roan.
The big hoss was trail wise and steady,
he fed him to fuel the chore.
At daylight, he was up and mounted,
then set out, undaunted and unsure.
To keep warm he forsook the saddle.
He rode with his back to the wind.
It was a long way from easy going.
It would be hell, when he came back again.
The feisty old roan was willing.
It looked like they could prevail.
The crest might be clear in places,
in the draws, they would have to break trail
Two hours out they rested,
and still had four miles to go.
He cussed the wind and it's howling.
He dammed, the grasp of the snow.
The next five hours were less toilsome,
by the grace of the lay of the land.
The drifts seemed to be below him,
his mind set, on the task, 'twas at hand.
In the lee of the crest, again they rested.
Just one more valley to go.
Through the din of the wind he listened,
and thought he could hear cattle low.
The old Roan, he knew, had wearied.
He could see the deep heave in his side.
Yet he stood, head up and ready,
and the fire burned bright in his eye.
With a hand full of mane and a prayer,
he threw a leg, across the Roan's back.
Then set out to trek the last mile.
O'er a valley, wind blown, snow packed.
Without cue the Roan took the plummet,
into the sterling white fold.
The grip of the drift was like quicksand,
loathe to release it's hold.
Snow belly deep is a hazard,
that draws on muscle and bone.
The taught of those cows drove him onward.
He would save em, or die all alone.
Lunge after lunge the Roan labored,
with a dutiful trust in the man.
His big heart, hammered hard, without falter,
at duel with the wrath of the land.
With a keen eye, Jed sought the high ground.
The odd shape, or a tuff of short grass.
The wind closed the trail there behind them.
He was fearful the daylight would pass.
At last he could hear cattle bawling,
and see the gray shape of the grove.
Where the catch pen and haystack were nestled,
tucked in from the wind and the snow.
A 100 yards, may as well be a mile,
when you are that much short of your goal.
It can rob you of life and well being,
reach out and snatch your soul.
Yet the Roan had the will to go on,
for there, in the odd eddy of wind.
He caught the sweet smell of alfalfa.
That gave a new bottom to him.
Now headstrong he plunged into the powder,
and where goes the hoss, goes the man.
Jed sensed the resolve of the Roan,
driven now by instinct, not plan.
As dark descended they toiled,
until they stood at the gate.
Jed tore down the rails to the hay,
removed from his worrisome weight.
All stood with a mouth full of fodder,
the once hungry cows and the Roan.
Then he dug in to wait out the storm,
warm and safe, with the hay as his home.
That night he slept without care,
and dreamed of a light sunny day.
Just him and the Roan moving easy,
across a meadow, where calves suckled and played.
Then a warm breeze blew in from the South,
and the white onslaught became flood.
A good old roan hoss and Jedidiah,
went on home in the mud.
About Ezra Spur:
Ezra Spur AKA R. L. Howard resides in Puyallup, Washington State. An amateur naturalist and western artist. He is a veteran of the Viet Nam War, a husband, dad, and granddad.
I was raised on the prairie of the Midwest. My dad passed on when I was a boy and I just kind of drifted for a time, then a rancher gave me a job. Pay, was bunkhouse room and board, five dollars a week and two pair of boots per year. Though the wages was not near what I could have made in town, I would not trade the life I was living then for any dollar amount. That old man showed me a way of living and a gave me a set of values that would go along way in this world today. Thank you John.
I began writing poetry for my grandchildren. In the hustle and bustle of these fast moving times, it seemed to me, that the past was not all that important to them. So I dressed it up some, to make it interesting. I try to write about things that happened, or relate a story that I heard during that time. When life was simple and right and wrong were the only choices. With a little humor added to make it fun.
I am honored to be able to share these pencillin's with other folks. The pioneer spirit is the American spirit. Cowboy Poetry is the story of that spirit. Where you come from, has a lot to do with, where you are going. Someone should say something before it is lost forever.
There is a lot said these days about ethnic heritage. During the time I spent in the military I had the opportunity to travel to both Asia and Europe. Most people know of the American Cowboy. As a fourth generation American I am under the opinion that the cowboy way of life is my ethnic heritage.
We asked Ezra about his inspiration for "Dakota True" and he replied:
"Dakota True" was inspired by events I had the pleasure of enjoying in the late fifties. A post hiding, spring blizzard blew in and the only way in or out was horseback. We cut State Right of Way fences to get to the cattle to feed them. I rode down that highway eight days before the first plow came through.
You can email Ezra.
You can read more of
Ezra Spur's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Face the Day
Just when the world is cracking up
and it seems to be all lost
you pull your boots on one more time
to face the heat or frost
cause the day will come no matter what
and the chores won't go away
so you hit the saddle and head on out
it ain't about the pay
you don't know what will happen
that ain't in your routine
but you blink your eyes and greet the day
and hope the grass is green
so all the critters get a meal
to turn life's endless wheel
and when tomorrow gets here
you can look em in the eye
and know that when you rode out
you gave it "cowboy try"
About Steve Dirksen:
Steve writes: "Moved to California as a preteen from Kansas. Been a classroom teacher for 25 years. K thru 6. Passions are history, art and poetry of the West (past and present). As an artist my work turned toward the west about 20 years ago. I was doing ceramic western figures and started doing portraits of my favorite western actors. Got in a few shows but no real success. About 15 years ago I started a weekly cowboy day in my room. Got a rope and saddle to let the kids get a feel for it. We go out on Thursday to let each kid throw a loop at whatever target we have that year (tree stump, bench). I teach them at least 2 cowboy songs (Pecos Bill and Back in the Saddle) I started my poetry in 96 and got one published in American Cowboy Dec/Jan 97. I took that as a sign. I have had one published each year since. Also I have hooked up with Desert Cowboy out of Yucca Valley, CA and have had two articles published there. In April 2000 I had a poem published in ReadtheWest.com. I participated in my first gathering as a "local poet" in Yucca Valley in 1999. I continue to look for gatherings to perform my work at. Gatherings are filled with people who find the Western arts a way to make that step into tomorrow easier."
We asked Steve why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:
I always wanted my art to be something anyone can look at and respond to in a positive way. The poets that we have around us are special folks coping with everyday life. I am proud to be a part of the "Cowboy poetry" variety of special folks It's such a bonus to be amongst you all.
We asked Steve about the inspiration for "Face the Day" and he replied:
What inspired me to write "Face the Day" were the events of 911 and its aftermath. But beyond that was the historical fact of all hard times in American History where we have rallied to rebuild, unite and overcome the odds. But from the point of view of the "hand" (you and I) who does it every day. No matter what comes you still have to get up and "face the day."
You can email Steve.
You can read more of Steve Dirksen's poems here at the BAR-D.
Goodbye to Friends
I never saw you without seein' them...
I can't guess how old they were;
Elmer was s'posed to be Gramma's dog,
You'd brought him home fer her.
But all they needed was to hear your step,
They'd be waitin' there by th' door,
Both of 'em with their tongues hangin' out,
Wonderin' what you'd be needin' 'em for.
You told me once that Bowser had taught
Elmer to be a cow dog;
But that mutt would of worked anything you
Pointed to...sheep, chicken or hog.
We watched 'em workin' the herd as one,
As the grass turned green in the spring,
Though they was two sep'rate critters...
Your voice was pullin' one string.
As you gathered up for th' work day,
Gramma an' me watched from the porch,
Carryin' yer noon meal in a cotton sack,
An' saddlin' up yer paint horse.
Them dogs would wait fer ya', steady an'
Patient as twin bumps on a log...
Then Gramma would turn to the kitchen
An' mutter, "There he goes with MY dog."
Of course the years fin'ly took their toll...
Time waits fer no man or beast,
They laid longer mornin's by the wood stove
Stretched out an' takin' their ease.
They both started stiff'nin' up in the cold,
Gained weight, their muzzles grew gray;
They'd take time off now and an' again,
And you'd put things off for a day.
You give 'em a boost up in the truck,
They'd wait, muscles all bunched to help;
One on each side of th' tailgate,
Longin' fer th' days they was whelps.
They was just like two little gray men
Workin' at not getting' old...
Neither of 'em wantin' to give it up,
Each still tryin' to pull his load.
Grampa fin'ly had 'em put down,
Side by side, on the same day...
Like they was still workin' cow dogs
Holdin' a rank Hereford at bay.
Me an' Gramma stood on th' porch
While Grampa drove over th' bridge;
Seems like those dogs are still runnin'
There...just over the ridge.
© 2001, Byrd Woodward
About Byrd Woodward:
I was born on a cow ranch in Idaho in 1937; both my parents were from pioneering stock, the Jordans, Badleys and DeMasters. Life was hard and we all had little outfits but we had nothing to compare our lifestyle to, so we made out just fine. The ranch my folks had when I was a kid is on Highway 56, one of two main north and south roads through Idaho, just a mile or so above Gardena on the Payette River. The place still looked pretty much the same when we were up there for a family reunion in June, 2000.
My husband, Woody, whom I married in 1959, was raised on a ranch above Priest River, Idaho; they ran shorthorns clear into Canada. We have three children and two grandchildren.
We never did ranch as adults but we managed to live a rural lifestyle while raising the kids and usually had horses and a cow and chickens, at least.
I've been writing poetry since I was a kid but I never read it in public until this past summer at 'open mike' during the Arizona State Gathering in Prescott. Cowboy poets who have encouraged me include Jane Morton; Rusty Calhoun; David Lee, the Poet Laureate of Utah; Ron Brinegar; 'Buckshot Dot" (Dee Strickland Johnson); Janet Moore; Mary Abbott and Carole Jarvis.
I write mostly about what I knew on the ranch as a kid, which is very personal and is still sometimes hard to get through.
I proudly carry some Indian blood through my two paternal grandparents (Cherokee and Nez Perce) and my biased feelings always show when I write about that subject. My part Nez Perce Grandma taught me my love of history by telling me the legends of her people and about Lewis and Clark.
My husband and I are both semi-retired now; I work at Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott as the weekend Visitor's Service Coordinator. We've lived in Arizona for four years; we moved from eastern Washington be close to our grandkids, who are the pride of our lives. We moved to Mayer last summer from Prescott Valley and have wonderful views of the high desert and the Bradshaw Mountains.
We asked Byrd why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she replied:
I write cowboy poetry because it pours out of me. I can't not write it. Since most of the poems are about real happenings and real people, they sometimes nearly jump out of my head full blown and only need a little tweaking. I can go long spells during which nothing happens and I do know the form isn't always correct.
I think Cowboy Poetry is important for the same reasons Jane Morton does. That if we aren't fortunate enough to have tape recordings or the writings of our parents and grandparents, their lives will be lost to history unless some of us get some of it down on paper. I like to think I'll be leaving my people alive in my grandkid's minds. I wouldn't change or trade that time in my life for anything else I've ever known; my people and those experiences shaped my entire life. I guess it's called "the cowboy way."
We asked Byrd about her inspiration for "Goodbye to Friends" and she replied:
I think the poem, "Goodbye to Friends" speaks pretty well for itself in that the true story is there, the quality of the people, their character and the lifestyle of western folks on small ranches in the forties is made pretty clear. One of the two, Bowser, could climb trees and Grampa made Prince Albert money betting on that dog for years. The only thing I'd like to add is to identify the people...they are my maternal grandparents, Joseph
Benjamin (called Ben) (b. 1886-d. 1973) and Nellie Flora (Badley) DeMasters (called Flora) (b. 1887-d. 1972), who were among the finest folks I've ever known. I thank them every day for the "how to live a life" gifts they gave me when I was young and even though I've sometimes failed to live up to their standards, they know that I've been doing my best.
You can email Byrd.
You can read more of Byrd Woodward's poems here at the BAR-D.
I drug up a chair
I pulled off my boots
I rested my feet by the fire
Twisted the cap
From a bottle of jack
And agreed with both feet
We was tired
The shadows all came out of hiddin
As the sun slid below the horizon
The stars all turned on
And they stay on till dawn
By then we'd be out again riddin
The air was crisp as a cracker
There wasn't hardly a breeze
The smoke rose up like a fountain
Straight down drifted cottonwood leaves
Clear as a bell
And cold as hell
Was probably the way I'd describe it
One by one to the fire
Each cowboy retired
And drug up his own chair beside it
Stories were told
Of the miles that we rode
Through the high country
Kickin up strays
We all shared a drink
And agreed we did think
The fall gather was the best of a buckaroo's days
But this story ain't just about cowboys
It's about a night I will always recall
When there by the flame
We tuned in the game
Heard the umpire cry out
And fifty five thousand screaming fans
All cheered the first swing of the bat
Along with five hired hands
Around the campfire
Up on Bodie Flat
The Twins and the Cards
Had tied up the series
This game would settle it all
And somehow through the struggle
The boys of summer
Had turned into the men of fall
And I discovered that night
A spark of boyhood delight
I learned that time can never erase
Those memories you have
Playing catch with you dad
Or the first time you made it on base
How a new baseball glove
Felt big as a shovel
Stiff as a frozen rope
And you pounded that pocket
fist after fist
Rubbed it with saddle soap
Till finally it fit
Like you best pair of sneakers
You wrote you name in the palm
Dreamed of the day
You would pitch the big game
Each time you put that glove on
Now to my way of thinkin
Nothin tastes better
Then dinner cooked out on the range
Beans and bread
A hot cup of coffee
Slowly cooked over sage
But as the play by play unfolded
I found myself just a might jealous
To be in those stands
With a root beer in hand
And a hot dog with mustard and relish
The roar of the crowd
The glare of the lights
The symmetry of the diamond
The calls balls and strikes
Marris and Mantle
The Ryan express
Watching the Giants play in Candlestick Park
Close to heaven as a kid ever gets
And I was not alone in my thinkin
For I saw on those other guys faces
They too were carried away
To those innocent days and places
When you didn't have to pay for your fun
You hadn't yet learned to worry
Summer days were lazy streams
Didn't go anywhere in a hurry
Well right from the very beginning
We whooped it up
We cussed the umps
We didn't care much who was winning
At the end of the game
The final score
The Cards were at three
And the Twins had four
Then we drifted away in the darkness
Not to be those little boys anymore
Ain't it funny how some things stick with ya
That night in perticular
Seems so vivid and clear
Though its a migratory memory
Arrives, lingers and leaves
Comes back again each year
And I remember lyin in my bedroll
Staring up into the dark
Thinking those aren't really shootings stars
Those are fastballs
God has hit out of the park
About Richard Elloyan
I am a singer, songwriter, poet, and actually have a real job too. I am an environmental health specialist for the State of Nevada. Fancy way to say health inspector! I grew up in the small town of Virginia City, home of Bonanza fame. I have been writing in one form or another for the past 40 years. As soon as I stopped trying to write commercial tunes and started writing the stuff I liked my career has taken off. I have been playing all around the country these days, including Elko, Rhymers Rodeer in Gardnerville, NV, and will be at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering as well. Just finished my second CD, called BIG NEVADA SKY. In October 2000 I opened for Ian Tyson and played a ton of corporate gigs through the end of the year. Busy, busy, busy. I have a wife, Sally, who tells everyone she is my chief financial officer, and I have two children, Kelly and Trisha.
(Read more about Richard's recordings, here.)
We asked Richard why he writes songs and poetry and he replied:
I write songs and poetry because I simply have no choice. I would do it even if I was the only one to ever read it. Every song, every poem, is an itch or and ache that doesn't go away until it finds its way to paper. Sometimes it's a blessing and sometimes a curse. Either way, it's a constant.
We asked Richard about the inspiration for "The Series" and he replied:
Surprisingly, there was no real "inspiration" for "The Series." It is the recording of an actual event that took place in the fall of 1987. I was doing a photo essay of Nevada buckaroos and rode the fall gather on the Flying M Ranch, outside of Bridgeport, California. We sat around the campfire, listened to the world series on the radio and drank Jack Daniels to keep warm.
You can email Richard.
You can read more of Richard Elloyan's poetry here at the BAR-D.
She Tied Her Hearts to Tumbleweeds
She looks out of the window,
At the ranch he brought her to.
Newly married, full of love,
By and by, the years they flew.
In time, she learned to love this land,
Even the winters, cold and raw.
For the flowers that bloomed in springtime,
Made up for it all
Then came the time when her husband left,
Shell not forget the day.
He just went to town, to fetch some seed,
Some sixty miles away
His horse shied from a rattler,
But, this, shed never know.
For his life was spent, as his horse did jump,
Into a canyon, far below.
Never did she find him,
For several years she tried.
Most of the time, she worked the ranch,
And late at night she cried.
She started stitching little hearts,
For hers was aching so.
She tied those hearts to tumbleweeds,
And then she let them go.
Writing poems, in her spare time,
To keep her from feeling worse.
Then shed take those little hearts,
And sew to them each verse.
Carrying hearts out to the wind,
For it always seemed to blow.
She tied her hearts to tumbleweeds,
And then she let them go.
Rafe, worked for the Rafter 7,
Building fence, and riding line.
Nothing in his life to prepare him for,
What he was about to find.
Something caught his eye one-day,
Just a little speck.
A heart tied to tumbleweed .
He wondered, what the heck?
He read the little poem inside,
And in his heart he felt her pain.
And he started gazing north,
Across the windswept plain.
What manner of woman did this?
He knew he had to know.
She tied her heart to tumbleweeds,
And then she let them go.
He rode down to the main house,
Just to draw his pay.
He didnt try to explain to them,
What made him act this way?
For several months he searched,
Every canyon, every draw.
Searching hard for little hearts,
On every tumbleweed he saw.
Old Rocket, pulled up lame one day,
And he got off to let him rest.
When a tumbleweed, blew by,
A brand new heart, there on its crest.
He dropped the reins, and chased it down,
The ink, it wasnt dry.
Then he knew the one he longed for,
Was bound to be close by.
Walking oer the next rise,
From the way the tumbleweed came.
He saw the woman in the yard,
He knew hed never be the same.
As he howdyd to the house, he saw
The ranch, in need of a man.
He said maam, my horse could use some rest
Looks like you could use a hand.
She looked him up and down, and said,
I cant afford the pay,
But there hay, there for your horse
Ill turn no animal away
He said, maam, this might be forward,
But I dont know no other way
And he reached inside his saddlebag,
And the hearts he did display.
Maam, I believe that these are yours
Ive been searching for you so
Youve tied your hearts to tumbleweeds,
Why did you let them go?
Dozens of tiny hearts, he held,
So gently in his hand.
In his eyes she saw such tenderness,
And a heart big as this land.
Come inside, said she,
Lets get out of this wind
And Ill tell you all about it
While your horse begins to mend
They talked all evening,
Way after the sun went down.
And they were still conversing,
When morning rolled around.
She asked how long you been searching?
He said, since early fall
Reckon, what day it really is?
She got the calendar from off the wall.
Oh my, said she, in surprise,
As she looked up the date.
Its February 14th,
She thought it must be fate.
Now, nearly twenty years have passed,
Since Rafe, and her first met.
And if you ride out toward Big Springs,
Their ranch is the biggest yet.
Now many a passerby, has wondered,
About the sign on the gate, and the words below.
Under a crimson heart, and a tumbleweed,
The words and then she let them go
About Don Gregory
I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and was raised in a small town just southeast of there, called Kennedale. I've always been fascinated by the "old" west, and the way of life that folks led back then. I've never had to depend on livestock for my living, but have had a hand in raising a few head, on small farms of family, and friends. I've only recently taken up writing cowboy poetry, but have been writing, for many years, mainly poems for friends, and loved ones.
We asked Don why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:
I've been reading, and listening to Cowboy Poetry for some time now, and
the life depicted in those poems struck me as the way things should still
be...where a man's word is his bond, and where honesty, and integrity,
aren't just words. The words, and expressions widely used by the folks of
the range...both in the past, and the present, should be forever preserved...and I am so glad, that I have been given the chance to do my
part, to keep it alive.
We asked Don about his inspiration for "She Tied Her Hearts to Tumbleweeds" and he replied:
The inspiration for this particular poem came from a lady in the Panhandle
years ago, who tied verses to tumbleweeds, then set them free...Louis
L'Amour wrote a book about it, called "Conagher." When the opportunity
arose to write for the Valentine's Day issue, it came to me that I should
write about it
You can email Don.
You can read more of Don Gregory's poetry here at the BAR-D.
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