pleased to announce the winner of the:
Jane Morton told us: 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.
We asked Jane why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she replied: Because I have to. Writing is as necessary for me as breathing. Stories inside of me are clamoring to be told, and cowboy poetry seems the perfect medium for my telling. 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 stories. Someone asked me how long it took me to write a poem. I thought a minute, and then I knew. All my life. Everything I have ever experienced has gone into my poems. I love reciting at the gatherings, because these seem to be stories people want to hear.
You can email Jane Morton. Here's her award-winning poem:
Most all my memories of the ranch involve those huge old trees--
The cottonwoods with bright green leaves a rustling in the breeze.
Those trees were big when I was small, at least they seemed to be.
I couldn't reach the lowest branch or hug the smallest tree.
A settler planted seedlings when he filed a timber claim.
That had to be some twenty years before my family came.
He moved on after proving up, before the trees were grown,
But left a legacy for us on land we came to own.
A small dirt irrigation ditch flowed by longside the trees,
Which stood like sentinels on the banks, limbs waving in the breeze.
Though years and seasons passed away, trees seemed immune to time.
They weathered storms and lived through drought, indifferent to the clime.
Those trees had always been there, and we thought they'd always be.
We didn't count on happenings that we could not foresee.
The tenant leasing cropland was burning weeds one morn,
When high winds set the fence afire, and sparks became airborne.
Firefighters came to fight the fire from every nearby town.
By battling flames into the night they kept the damage down.
Tree fellers, also on the scene, worked felling cottonwood,
Which were endangering the house because of where they stood.
Some trees succumbed to heat and fire, some to the fellers' saw.
It wasn't just the acrid air that made my throat feel raw.
Corrals and fences, old red barn, all burned down to the ground,
The house was spared yet not the same without the trees around.
The rest of the family has gone on, just Bill and I are left.
The fire that burned our history has left us both bereft.
Just Bill and I remember now the way things were back then.
We know the time that we two shared will never come again.
And like the trees, our roots go deep. They're sunk into that earth.
They reach back over ninety years, to time before our birth.
Five family generations walked beneath those huge old trees--
The cottonwoods with bright green leaves a rustling in the breeze.
I stand and listen for a sound. It's quiet here this spring.
No leaves will rustle in the breeze. No birds will chirp and sing.
Though nothing lasts forever, still, it hurts to let it go.
And so I've tried to deal with this the only way I know.
In secret corners of my mind, the cottonwoods stand tall.
The barn's out back by the corral, and nothing's changed at all.
© 2002, Jane Morton
We asked Jane about her inspiration for this poem, and she replied: Unfortunately, my inspiration for this poem was the fire we had at our
ranch April 18, 2002. My brother called to tell me the trees and the outbuildings had burned and my husband Dick and I, my brother and some of
his family met there to assess the damage. Some of the family didn't want to come, because they didn't want to see. I didn't want to see either, but I had to. The remains of the barn still smoldered, and the acrid smell of smoke
hung in the air. I felt the loss in the pit of my stomach, for things there
would never be the same. It wasn't until I wrote the poem that I could come to terms with my feelings, but it still hurts. For us it was the end of an
You can read more poetry by Jane Morton here at the BAR-D.
He was just a skinny stud colt,
All leggy, scared and black,
And I won him in a card game,
On aces, back to back.
All the fellers sorta chuckled
When I brought him home that night,
And I felt a bit embarrassed,
For he surely was a sight.
Why, his tail was full of stickers,
And his mane was half rubbed out;
His coat was dull and dusty,
And his ribs was stickin' out.
He didn't show no promise,
So the bunkhouse boys all said,
And they laughed and poked so much fun
That I started seein' red!
Though he wasn't much to look at,
He was all the horse I had,
And if I was any judge of colts,
He wasn't all that bad!
He had bone beneath that rough coat,
And a real determined eye,
And a breedy look about him,
That would make him worth a try.
So I started in to braggin',
And my tongue began to race,
And I said he'd make a fortune,
And I said I'd name him Ace.
Oh, I told the boys at supper,
And at noon and breakfast too
About the many wondrous things
That black was gonna do!
He would be the greatest stud horse
That the west had ever seen;
He would be the fastest horse on earth,
And sweep the racetracks clean!
He'd have the most cow-savvy,
And the biggest bag of tricks;
He'd be well-known in the cities,
And as well-known in the sticks.
Yep, I did a lot of boastin',
And I had a lot of brass;
I had staked my reputation
On the hope that colt had class!
So, I fed him oats all winter,
And the finest kind of hay;
He got groomed and had his exercise,
And looked better every day.
Then I turned him out on green grass,
With lots of runnin' room,
And he started buildin' muscle,
And he started showin' bloom.
In the fall I brought him up again,
To the old bunkhouse corral.
Soon the way he took to saddle work
Was the talk of Chaparral.
Why, he never did go buckin',
And he never knew to balk;
He moved square and bold and easy,
And he had a good flat walk.
Yep, he took right off to reinin',
And his figure-eights were neat;
He was catty, quick and willin',
And to ride him was a treat.
All through the snowy winter,
I worked him in the barn;
And at night beside the fire
I'd spin my boastful yarn
Of all the many great things
That Ace was gonna do;
How he'd earn for me my own spread.
And my own remuda too.
Well, the boys got kind of tired,
Of all that talk from me,
But Ace was sure a lot of horse;
On that they did agree.
Come spring, he won the stallion class
Down at the county fair.
Then I took my winter's savings
And I bought a nice brown mare.
On that I sure drew lucky --
Them horses nicked just right.
You should have seen the filly
That came one April night!
She was black as ink and fawn-legged.
With the biggest pair of eyes;
She was fresh as paint, and sweet as sin,
And I named her Ace's Prize.
I took the stud and filly
On the horse show rounds next spring,
And they seemed to come out wearin' blue
Every time they hit the ring.
I'd been keepin' something secret,
About my stallion Ace;
But the folks found out that autumn
That my horse could win a race.
I took all of Ace's winnings,
And his stud fees from the spring,
And I bought a half-a-dozen mares --
I was buildin' quite a string!
In fact, my boss was gettin' mad,
At all the space they took.
He said he'd have to charge me rent!
That got me kind of shook.
It was gonna take me longer,
To realize my dream;
But old Ace kept right on winning,
And our milk turned into cream!
Now it's fifteen long years later,
And the brag has all come true.
This here eighty lonesome acres
All belong to you know who.
And that handsome band of horses
You see roamin' on the place
Are mostly the descendants
Of my old black stallion Ace.
And that's him, standin' on the hill,
Still strong and proud and grand,
With the "look of eagles" showin',
Like a king on his own land.
Well, it's been a long old story,
But I've one more thing to say,
That comes from deep down in my heart,
As I look at him today.
You can know a lot of horses,
And be proud of many too,
But the one who's just part of your life,
That kind is mighty few.
He's one horse in a lifetime,
And there's none can take his place.
And I wouldn't trade the world right now
For my old black stallion Ace.
© 1968, LaVonne Houlton
This poem appeared in Western Horseman in the 60's
About LaVonne Houlton:
I am now 76 years old; wrote my first poem at age 12, and kept right on writing them - all kinds, but my favorite are the narrative western kind. I've always loved the country and horses. Raised and showed registered Morgan Horses for 35 years (Viking Morgan Ranch, Modesto, Ca.). I'm a mother, and a grandmother. My profession was Social Work, but over the years I've written many articles on horses, some historical, some current. These appeared in The Morgan Horse Magazine, Western Horseman, Thoroughbred of California, Horse Lovers, Horseman's Courier, and California Horse Review.
In the 1960's I wrote a monthly column, "LaVonne's Line," that ran in the old Piggin' String magazine for a decade or so, and sometimes I included a poem or one of my "Peanuts Horse" cartoons.
Born a "city child," I was lucky to have had an uncle and aunt who ranched in the Dakota Badlands in the early days. Their cattle and horses grazed on land that's now a part of the National Grasslands of North Dakota -- near Bullion Butte, and along the Little Missouri River. From my uncle, I heard many tales of colorful characters - like Bill Follis, one-time boss of the 777 outfit and a veteran of many cattle drives on the old Chisholm Trail. And like Pete Pelissier, the "Buffalo Bill of the Missouri Slopes," who rounded up wild horses every year, and once ran a Wild West show of some renown. I heard of the old Hashknife outfit, of Teddy Roosevelt and the Custer Trail Ranch, of round-ups and disasters, of long gone but well remembered horses named Van Zandt and Bon Dieu.
Thanks to my uncle, this horse-loving child always had something to ride -- be it the broad back of a Belgian draft horse on the way home from the fields in the evening -- or a burro named Cecil whose aim in life was to scrape a kid off against a fig tree or the corner of a barn. There was at one time a Shetland Welsh cross mare, and I even rode the fat and congenial Hereford bull, Prince Domino, a few times. Lastly came Minnie, companion of my teen-age years, of whom I write in my poem "Cold Creek Remembered." Minnie and I covered many miles of tough, lava-strewn terrain in Northern California's Siskiyou Mountains. There were Herefords and horses, dreams to dream, and many trails to follow. And in the evenings there were the stacks of Western Livestock Journals, with poems by Bruce Kiskaddon and Cowpoke Cartoons by Ace Reid with which to while away a few hours.
We asked LaVonne why she thinks Cowboy Poetry is important and she replied: Cowboy Poetry isn't about kings, tycoons or posh surroundings. It is about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, be they set in the past or in the present. It covers an important time and aspect of American life that many people cherish, and children still dream of (when I was 7 or 8 my playmates and I would argue over whether we would be Bob Steele or Tom Mix in the fantasy of the day). I believe that poetry portrays the Cowboy and the West better even than prose can do.
We asked LaVonne about her inspiration for "Ace" and she replied: "Ace" began with a phrase that just popped into my mind, that I had to write down and follow to see myself how it would end. For me, writing that kind of narrative poem, that just seems to spring to life all by itself, is the fun of being a poet.
I like my poems to have a cadence that just flows along when read aloud. I like to create a character who is understandably human -- probably that's why my Western poems are written in the first person. I don't think it's possible to say just how or why a poem was written, at least not for me. With "Ace," once the first couple of lines popped into my head, it was just a natural progression of what I would do if I'd become the unlikely winner of such a colt. I had no idea how it would end until I got there .... and that's exactly why I love to write poetry!
You can email LaVonne Houlton.
You can read more of LaVonne Houlton's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Francine Roark Robison
"Our heroes have always been cowboys"
But what does that really mean?
Is it Vince, or George, or John Wayne,
In a white shirt and tight blue jeans?
Is it Saturday morning serials,
Where Tim and Hoppy rode?
Is it Tom and B-Grade Westerns
Where the hero was never throwed?
Could it be the Lone Ranger lunchbox,
Or paper dolls of Roy and Dale,
Or the rodeo at the fairgrounds,
Or shaking hands with Gene at the rail?
Could it be lessons from Daddy?
"Carry your load and beyond."
"Share a meal with a traveler."
"Let your word be your bond."
Could it be that it's all the above?
With other things thrown in, too--
Like grandpas and daddys standing tall,
Showing us what to do.
The movies and toys and music
Remind us of days long ago
When men were honest, truthful, and just,
So kids knew which way to grow.
Those cowboys are America's heroes,
And lived the Cowboy Code-
Loved God and Mama and horses,
Proud of the trail they rode.
But the greatest hero of all
At least that I've ever knowed
Was the man who was my daddy--
He lived the Cowboy Code.
He never talked to be talking,
Just when he'd something to say.
He never took without asking,
Always wanted to pay.
His handshake was good as a contract--
His word he wouldn't break;
He knew a man's name's important
When his reputation's at stake.
He always worked harder than most--
Earned his day wages fair;
Knew how to get along with the boss
And treat his partners square.
Never let a man go away
Hungry outside the door--
He'd feed him first, then let him work,
Then pay him something more.
He asked no questions of the strays--
Expected honest work.
He knew each one could have been him
Had God not been at work.
Married his sweetheart and loved her
Through years of good and bad;
Corn and cattle won't make you rich--
They did with what they had.
He raised his fam'ly trusting God
For food and health and rain--
When he saw strength was running out,
He'd pray and not complain.
Throughout the years as pain increased,
He smiled and loved us more;
Remembered not the times I'd failed--
He'd not been keeping score.
So this man's always my hero;
Gave wisdom to the end--
He'd led in the right directions
And always been my friend.
Yes, I grew up with a cowboy
And learned the Code of the West;
I gauge my heroes next to him--
Make sure they pass the test.
© 2002, Francine Roark Robison
About Francine Roark Robison:
After a long career of teaching high school English and humanities, Francine Roark Robison took retirement seriously by trading in a high school classroom to go on the road with Cowboy Poetry. However, retirement didn't last long, and she is now an adjunct teacher at Oklahoma Baptist University. She has taught in Oklahoma as well as summer sessions in Mexico and China.
Francine's background includes a farmer dad and a schoolmarm mom. She writes from personal experience or from family stories passed down from her parents, with most of the settings in southern Oklahoma and the Arbuckle Mountains. Farm life included a horse, a collie dog, and numerous cats. She didn't walk five miles in the snow to school, but she did walk down to the cattle guard to catch the school bus, carrying her homework and Roy Rogers lunch box.
She has performed at several gatherings, including the Oklahoma and Texas State Fairs; the Red Steagall Gathering in Ft. Worth; Cowboys, Heroes, and Friends in Branson; the Chisholm Trail Festival in Yukon; the Poetry Society of Tennessee in Memphis; the Farm and Ranch Heritage Gathering in Las Cruces; Festival of the West in Scottsdale; Echoes of the Trail in Ft. Scott; National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City; Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas; Bookfest 2000 in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and many others, as well as a couple of pig roasts.
Francine has been designated Oklahoma's Cowboy Poet Laureate and is endorsed by West Quest.
She has a book and tape of original poetry.
We asked Francine why she writes Cowboy Poetry and 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.
We asked Francine about her inspiration for "America's Heroes" and she replied: My poetry is truly a gift from God and I have to give Him the credit--I just provided the paper for this one. It tells about my dad with great accuracy. He was always one to live the example, not just talk about it.
My dad, Charlie Roark, was born in 1905, Indian Territory, 2 years before Oklahoma's Statehood (1907). He was one of 11, the first one born "out West" rather than in North Carolina. There were 4 younger than he was. His dream was to follow a cattle drive up the trail "north to Abilene" but actually he was born a few years too late for that. He was a farmer/rancher all his life and made sure that my brother and I grew up right and got a good education. He would have been so proud of my "cowboy poetry."
Evidently, he has been a big influence on my values and beliefs and is probably one reason I write cowboy poetry. At least, he provides many of the stories.
You can email Francine Roark Robison.
You can read more of Francine Roark Robison's poetry here at the BAR-D.
The Cowboy Auction
We went to Bill's cowboy auction--
they had saddles, guns and spurs,
hamburgers, hot dogs and horses
and mitts made out of fur.
They had paintings and horse collars,
handcuffs, moccasins and a fiddle.
The auctioneer was warming up his voice
and we saw him there in the middle.
Now, Ma, she liked the buckskin mare
and a rifle took my eye.
But what I went to the auction for
they didn't have there to buy!
They called it a "cowboy auction"
but not a one of them was for sale--
mustaches and chaw and scuffed-up boots--
they'd take one look and turn tail.
I call it false advertising,
calling that auction by that name.
By golly, I wanted a cowboy,
not a boot or a spur or a hame.
I got a bone to pick with you, Jones,
your advertising just ain't true--
if I can't get me a cowboy there,
then what's a poor girl to do?
You called this the first annual auction--
well, if you're gonna have another--
you'd best get a cowboy to sell to me
and another buckskin for my Mother!
© Jean Mathisen
About Jean Mathisen:
I'm a native of Lander and Wyoming--my family has been here in the Lander Valley since 1869 and seven generations have been on ranches here. I have been writing poetry (much of it cowboy poetry) since I was 8 years old and have published 6 books of poetry, along with poems appearing in about 25 chapbooks. I also had poetry appear pretty steadily in the Wyoming Rural Electric News for 20 years. I have participated in Gatherings in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I currently work for the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation as an Administrative Specialist (permit clerk and radio dispatcher to translate the government title!).
I am a member of Cowboy Poets of Idaho, have been performing cowboy poetry about 15 years and writing it a lot longer!
We asked Jean why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she said: I write cowboy poetry because it is a large part of my culture and heritage--six people that I know of in my family have written cowboy poetry. I have written it since before I was old enough to know it was cowboy poetry! I get a lot of enjoyment writing it and associating with the folks who also write it.
We asked Jean what inspired her poem "Cowboy Auction" and she told us: The poem is about a Cowboy Auction that Bill Jones, cowboy poet and humorist who lived here at Lander, had along about 1995. He hired the local community hall and they had just about everything a person could think for for sale there--except a cowboy! Which gave me the idea for a poem to tease Bill a bit. He liked it and printed in his column he used to have in the Lander Journal. Yep, never have found one of those cowboys for sale--ha!
(Bill Jones' poetry is included in Cattle, Horses, Sky, and Grass: Cowboy Poetry of the Late Twentieth Century and his work appears in other anthologies. He and poet Rod McQueary published a book of Vietnam War poetry, Blood Trails.)
You can contact Jean Mathisen by email.
You can read more of Jean Mathisen's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Jake and Rufus was checkin' cows
It was spring, the ground was soggy.
Drivin' the fifty-seven Ford
Lookin' out fer a strayin' doggy.
Jake told Rufus his truck was shot,
Had seen most of its better days.
Rufus seemed to ignore ol' Jake
Just kept a lookout fer them strays.
But, Jake kept crabbin' 'bout that truck,
Kept ridin' Rufus pretty hard.
One chidin' comment after t'other,
Then, Rufus growled, "Now, listen Pard,
"This ol' truck's never let me down.
These years, it's always pulled me through."
Then his rusty partner shuttered!
Jake piped, "Now watcha gonna do?
"Yer trusty, dusty piece of junk
Has done quit ya' out on this trail.
By high noon, we'll be buzzard bait!
It picked a heck of a place to fail."
Rufus grinned, then winked at Jake.
"This ain't new, it's happened before!
All we need is a COWBOY JUMPSTART
To make this ol' pickup roar!"
"A cowboy jumpstart?" Jake hollered back.
"Where ya gonna get one way out here?
There ain't another cowboy 'round
To give a pull or kick in yer rear!"
Just then a big ol' Brama bull
Lumbered up from outta the draw.
Rufus ki-yied and grabbed his rope,
Shook out a loop and spit out his chaw.
He bellered like a rival bull
That humped beast was drawn to the truck.
From on the hood, he swung that loop.
But, Jake bailed out and lit a shuck!
"You crazy, lop-eared S.O.B!
That Brama's gonna tromp yer tush."
Rufus cranked up that ol' lasso
As that ragin' Brama split the bush.
Rufus let fly of that ol' hard twist
Just as purty as you please!
It settled deep around his hump,
Jerkin' slack, it began to squeeze.
Rufus dallied to the Texas longhorns
Mounted on his pickup's rusty hood.
Jake shook his head and muttered low,
"That crazy fool is up to no good!
"Rufus, what are you thinkin', Pard?
To your rust bucket that bull is tied!"
Rufus raised his arms and kie-yied!
In a drawl filled with impish pride,
"Yep, it's been a while since I tried this,
But, it worked then, so should work now!
All we need is some MOTIVATION
And the rest will be up to that cow!"
At that the bull shook his head at Jake!
Shoveled dirt with the tip of each horn!
Jake sensed, HE was the MOTIVATION.
On his weathered face, a look forlorn!
"Rufus, you danged ol' S.O.B.!"
The bull bucked, charged and Jake dove hard.
The rope came tight, the truck lurched up,
Rufus popped the clutch! "Good goin', Pard!
"Now, one more time!" Rufus shot out,
"And I believe we'll have it made!"
The bull bore down and was blowin' snot,
Jake's deep sunburn began to fade!
Jake took off runnin' hard 'n' fast!
That Bramer lungin' at his heels!
The truck was coughin' and wheezin',
The boulders bouncin' off its wheels!
Lookin' back over his shoulder,
Puffin' hard and near out of breath,
He could see Rufus a grinnin',
Then the horns of that bull of death!
"Rufus, once this truck is runnin'
Resultin' from this COWBOY JUMPSTART,
Who's gonna take the rope off this bull?!!"
"I'm drivin', Jake, that there is yer part!"
To keep that truck in runnin' shape,
Jake now endeavors to do his part!
So's not to hafta suffer through
Another gall danged Cowboy Jumpstart!
© 2002, Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw
About Sam DeLeeuw:
Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw was born in Blackfoot, Idaho, just off the Fort Hall Reservation. She had her first horse when she was four and spent hours riding the Reservation with her Indian friends and even more hours on the tributaries of the Snake River.
She continued to ride and rodeo during her high school years and then attended Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, on the rodeo team. While at college she took as many livestock classes as she could, often the only girl in Feeds and Feeding, Livestock Management and Selection, etc.
Now single, Sam was married for almost twenty years to a man who raised cattle and sheep. She can run a squeeze chute, inoculate cows in the heat of the day and spend cold nights checking first time calving heifers by headlight. She can keep a calf warm on the floor of her truck or the floor of her kitchen, and keep the scour medicine in her fridge separate from the dressing she made for last night's supper. She can also keep a sense of humor and make a good story out of any of the happenings experienced with
Sam is a member of the Cowboy poets of Idaho, the Utah Chapter of the Western Music Association and was voted their 2001 Female Poet of the year. She is the newly elected President of the Cowboy Poets of Utah. Sam has been featured with such great talents as Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, Sons of the San Joaquin, The Bar J Wranglers, Brenn Hill, Stephanie Davis and Baxter Black.
Sam was an invited poet at Durango, Colorado and Prescott, Arizona.in 2001, and is a featured poet at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona in 2002.
We asked Sam why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she said: Why not??? I was raised in Idaho and loved riding the hills with my family and friends on the Blackfoot Reservation. I rode the tributaries of the Snake River and was a part of the life this all
presented. My heritage has been pioneers and early settlers and my early years of riding horses and being raised in a community where cattle supplied livelihoods. Time brings change and the "backyard cattle raisers" are all but gone. The major beef producers are barely hanging on because of economy and forced restrictions. This way of life must be preserved and written down, the stories told, whether humorous or serious. I want the memories of my youth and later years to be read by my family in the next generations and I do that through my cowboy poetry.
We asked Sam what inspired her poem "Cowboy Jumpstart" and she told us: While at the gathering in Cedar City I met a talented lady, Polly Kennedy from Wellsville, Utah. She hand carves characters from the West that are fantastic. Again seeing her in Payson, Utah, this winter, one of her newest renditions was entitled COWBOY JUMPSTART. I asked her if I could take the privilege of adding a "story" behind the carving she had just created, hence, COWBOY JUMPSTART!
You can contact Sam DeLeeuw by email.
You can read more of Sam DeLeeuw's poetry here at the BAR-D.
One-Eyed Pete and Dusty Wells
Were not the best of friends;
Pete had once shot Dusty's dog,
And never made amends.
Then Dusty tumbled ol' Pete's outhouse
Down a steep incline,
Which really riled Pete,
'Cause he was IN IT at the time!
That unplanned ride put One-Eyed Pete
Into a ragin' funk;
He snuck in Dusty's shack,
And put a rattler in his bunk.
Three days later, Pete hit town;
He planned to have a bust,
And tell all his compadres
'Bout how Dusty'd bit the dust.
When he barged into the barroom,
There stood Dusty, glass in hand;
And encirclin' his Stetson
Was a brand-new snakeskin band!
Pete lit a shuck for his homestead,
His visage as dark as thunder;
He swore he'd hatch a plan
To put ol' Dusty six feet under.
But when he reached his cabin,
Pete found it wasn't there;
The ground where his abode had set
Was naked, nude, and bare!
But the telltale tracks told Pete
How Dusty'd bested him again-
With the help of a twenty-mule team
And a length of loggin' chain.
Pete found his home a mile away,
Upon a rimrock's edge,
A hair away from tumblin' off
That steep and hairy ledge.
One-Eyed Pete threw down his hat
And stomped it all to hell,
Whilst layin' numerous curses
On the head of Dusty Wells.
He damned ol' Dusty's parentage,
His horse, his name, his eyes;
And vowed that Dusty'd breathe his last
Before the next sunrise.
Like a demon, he rode back to town,
Sparks a-flyin' from his path;
There'd be pure hell to pay
When One-Eyed Pete unleashed his wrath!
Dusty had just left the bar,
His bacchanal complete,
When he heard the clamor markin'
The approach of One-Eyed Pete.
Thunderin' hooves and gunshots,
Lead flyin' in flurry!
One thought came into Dusty's head:
"Take cover- in a hurry!"
Dusty Wells was not one who'd
Go willingly to slaughter;
He found convenient shelter
Behind a big barrel full of water.
Pete reined up short, reloaded,
Then slid down from the saddle,
And hollered out these words
Before ol' Dusty could skedaddle:
"Ya think a got a hidey-hole,
"But Dusty, I done found ya!
"Come out 'n' face me like a man,
"Or...I'LL SHOOT THRU THE BARREL 'N' DROWN YA!"
From Dusty, not a single sound;
Had he finally met his match?
But then he spoke his calm reply:
"Got somethin' fer ya- catch!"
A whirlin' spray of sparks came
Spinnin' through the desert night;
The "gift" that Dusty tossed to Pete
Was a stick of dynamite!
Next day, at dawn, they buried Pete
(Well, all that they could find)
In a lonely grave beside the trail
That leads to the Peacock Mine.
And Dusty wrote Pete's epitaph
(At least, that is the rumor):
"Beneath this stone lies One-Eyed Pete-
"He had no sense of humor."
© 2002, Rip-Snortin' Press
About Charley Sierra:
I've been writin' poetry for 32 years now, and 12 of them in Nevada. I'm married to a Nevada native, and we live on a little spread north of Reno. I won the the Reno Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Contest in 1995, for my poem "Desolation Chili." I love recitin' to folks with a sense of humor. I've self-published one book of poetry, Burnin' the Breeze, and I'm workin' on a second one, tentatively titled Long-Haired Whiskey-Drinkin' Liar.
We asked Charley why he thinks Cowboy Poetry is important and he replied: Cowboy poetry is as real as the smell of sage, the sun in your eyes, the dust in your nostrils; it is the land, and the land is a poem in itself.
We asked Charley about his inspiration for "The Feud" and he replied: Mostly, I spent over seven years tryin' to write a poem around one line: "I'll shoot thru the barrel 'n' drown ya!"
You can email Charley Sierra.
You can read more of Charley Sierra's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Last of the Breed
Thirty six years of hard labor--
And nothing to show for it all.
A wife and three kids who don't know him,
He's crippled from many a fall.
He used to be tall, lean, and handsome--
But middle age spread has set in,
He has no companion or lover--
He's outlived most all of his friends.
I guess that his brand reads "West Texas."
He'll turn fifty-one, first of May.
Footloose, a drifter, a throwback--
To the West and her wild, wooly days.
He hung up his spurs back in eighty--
When injuries made him too slow--
To make a good ride on the rough-stock,
That he rode in the Pro Rodeo.
Out back of the chutes you'll still find him,
With advice that the young ones won't heed.
It's more than a life it's a callin'--
And he's the last of the vanishing breed.
© 2001, John R. Yaws - All Rights Reserved
About John Yaws:
Back in the early seventies and into the early eighties, I cowboyed in California, Arizona, and Texas. My love has always been for the Southwest. Much of my poetry is based on personal experience (with a liberal dab of poetic license thrown in) and experiences of friends, and bunkhouse tales I heard. Louis L'Amour was my favorite author, and like him, I want to be a good storyteller. I want my characters to live on in the minds of the readers long after they have forgotten the name of John Yaws. 'Nuff sed.
You can email John Yaws.
You can read more of John Yaws' poetry here at the BAR-D.
The word cracked through the darkness
Like a cannon's roar at night
As lightning bolts lanced from the sky
And put the herd to flight
The cowboys leaped from sougans
And swung to saddle on the fly
They'd seen the black clouds rolling in
And slept with night horse tethered by
The rain poured down like seas upturned
The wind tore at their hats
They tightened up their stampede strings
As the prairie grass blew flat
In the storm was total darkness
With sudden flares of lightning strike
But the riders chased the running herd
As death raced through the night
Three thousand head of longhorns
Formed a deadly living wall
That swept across the prairie flats
And its dark and dangerous draws
Huge horns were waving, crashing
Hooves rolled thunder on the ground
This herd would race for many miles
Unless the cowboys chased them down
They had to get the leaders turned
To force the herd to mill
Each cowboy knew this deadly force
Could cripple, maim, and kill
The riders reached the lead steers
Reined their mounts against their flanks
Slapped ropes against their heads and horns
As they tried to bend their ranks
Then their horses' manes were spitting fire
And the cattle bawled in fear
As lightning balls rolled through the herd
Bounced from horn to horn to ear
"Saint Elmo's Fire" yelled Pokey Bill
But the storm snuffed out his words
The cattle seemed to speed their flight
As grim riders used their spurs
The herd, at last, slowed to swinging trot
Heads drooping, bawling stilled
Exhausted men on lathered mounts
Finally turned them til they milled
As the eastern sky turned gray, then orange
The main herd was bedded down
When the cavvy came they caught fresh mounts
To gather strays for miles around
Two hundred head of Longhorns
From that run were never found
When three riders turned up missing
They retraced the deadly ground
They found Petey with a broken leg
Then came the gruesome sight
Of Charley lying by his horse
Both killed by lightning strike
Yet one more man was missing
The kid they knew as Slim
He'd joined them when they crossed the Red
A ragged orphan with no kin
He'd worked hard to be a cowboy
And had the makings of a hand
It was plain he'd tried to turn the herd
But now lay trampled in the sand
The dead were placed in unmarked graves
A final prayer and farewell
But forever in each rider's mind
Was that word of living Hell
© 2001, Jay Jones
About 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.
We asked Jay about his inspiration for "Stampede" and he replied: "Stampede" is the first poem I have ever written as a "performance" poem. Most of my poetry flows from some idea that crops up, and then I worry about how to perform it to an audience. I wrote "Stampede" specifically to perform on local TV station KOMU TV, Channel 8. Mid-Missouri is not exactly a hotbed of cowboy poetry, and I wanted to do something that would grab the viewer/listener's attention immediately. I begin the poem with the loud, adrenaline-filled tone the title implies, and then wind down to the tragic conclusion. The poem is a lot of fun on stage, and I frequently use it as an opener to try to convince the audience that cowboy poets are not only poets, but are also entertainers. I feel this is something we need to promote to audiences across the nation. We simply need to reach more people with the message that cowboy poets and musicians offer clean, wholesome, entertainment for the entire family.
You can email Jay Jones.
You can read more of Jay Jones' poetry here at the BAR-D.
Whether Fact or Fiction
"Historical accuracy's" the phrase that they use
To strip out both the myth and mystique.
To them a cowhand is some plain working stiff
Herding cows 'cross an old, muddy creek.
They're weathered and battered, bedraggled and worn
By the wind and the sun and the dust.
Their saddles are splitting, their boots all have holes
Their lariats are frayed and their spurs mostly rust.
The cattle are mangy and smelly and mean.
There's blizzards and hail storms and worse.
"To be a cowboy is no blessing," sez they.
"It's more like some nightmare-ish curse."
They are just hired hands only caring 'bout pay.
There ain't no Cowboy Code. No honor. No pride.
It was just getting by. No more than a job
That required someone who could rope and could ride.
They laugh at the silver screen cowboys
And their duds and their guns and white hat.
"It's all a big joke! They've got it all wrong!
Those screen writers don't know where it's at."
Now these folks who call themselves "debunkers"
Got the facts, but they miss all the best.
It's the legend that grows, not what everyone knows
That makes cowboys the Knights of the West.
And they think that unless you've worked cattle
A "cowboy poet's" something you'll never be.
Cause it's only the grime and the grind that's real.
There ain't no way that you'll ever see.
Here's some plain facts if you want to know them,
The cowboy and the old west is long dead.
What lives in our hearts and our souls and our minds
Is those tales still afloat in our head.
Like the stories of the knights of King Arthur,
It's the myth that lives on throughout time.
And it lifts us up and inspires our young folks
With it's moral so clear yet sublime.
There's a place here for all the historians
That separate the myth from the fact.
Still, after they're gone, the legend lives on
Helping everyone to know how to act.
© 2001, James H. John, Unpublished work
About Jim John:
I'm a Kansas boy born in the Ozark border country of southeast Kansas. My dad was a railroader with Santa Fe. When I was nine we moved to Wichita, a cowtown if there ever was one. Of course now it's a lot bigger, but it's still more town than city.
I fell in love with the Flint Hills when I was a teenager. They're thousands of acres that buffalo once grazed and are now grazed by cattle. Rolling hills and valleys covered by bluestem grass with an occasional tree here and there. But they're wide open. They inspire my poems and my sense of the hardiness and rough & ready humor of the folks that settled these great plains.
I consider myself a plainsman which now means to me someone who is most at home under a sky with unlimited horizons.
We asked Jim why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied: I've been writing Cowboy Poetry for a few years now and it constantly amazes me and pleases me when something I wrote inspires someone or pleases them or makes them smile. It's and honor to be one of the poets who work to capture the spirit and hope and joy of those times and this wonderful part of our world, the West.
I've been honored to be published in American Cowboy magazine and The Big Roundup. I was once even Cowboy Poet of the Month on the Notorious Clanton Gang site (December 1977)
We asked Jim about his inspiration for "Whether Fact or Fiction" and he replied:
From time to time I come across sites that assert that we need to be historically accurate. That we should ignore the legend and the myth and just concentrate on the cowboy of the 1830's thru 1880's as they really were.
And there are sites that assert that if you don't own a ranch or work as a cowhand that you just don't really have a clue. Unfortunately the assumption is that without such credentials, you just don't have anything to say worth hearing.
As logical as that seems to be, it takes away a vital aspect of the impact of the cowboy on America. It skips the myth.
Now myth isn't a bad word. It's technical meaning is that it is a story or a tale that attempts to explain how things came to be as they are. It doesn't mean just a tall tale.
And I think that the legend of the cowboy was another attempt, like Arthur and Camelot and the knights of the roundtable to explain why there are those who live their lives by a moral code that makes the world a better place for us all.
I think that it is a singular honor that a "common man" (the cowboy) was a place where this myth could flourish and I think that we all can benefit from those 19th Century legends on their great stallions and their white hats as they stand against the crooked bankers and politicians and horse thieves and cattle rustlers.
Finally, I own no ranch. I live in an overgrown cowtown of old, Wichita. But, Shakespeare didn't live in Denmark or ancient Rome. Yet, he sought the meaning of life there.
I don't compare myself to Shakespeare. But I do believe that cowboy poets, both old and new, like Shakespeare and Hemingway and many others try through their words and their wit and, hopefully, sometimes their insight to show that life has meaning and joy and hope as well as pain and fear and drudgery. It's not important how we find it. Just that we do.
You can email Jim John.
You can read more of Jim John's poetry here at the BAR-D.
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