pleased to announce the winner of the:
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 had one son and have two grandchildren. Jay and family live in Columbia, Mo. He has a B. A. in English, is a teacher for the State of Missouri, and is a Vietnam Veteran. His poetry and songs are always uniquely original, usually humorous, but sometimes explore the traditional aspects of our western heritage.
We asked Jay why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied: I write Cowboy Poetry because I admire the courage, independence, and determination of the American Cowboy. Cowboy poetry encompasses so many topics -- horses, dogs, cattle, all kinds of critters -- along with adventure, romance, humor, and a marvelous landscape for a backdrop. Subjects to write about are endless. I enjoy my association with other members of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association and really anticipate our gatherings where everyone presents their latest creations.
You can email Jay Jones. Here's his award-winning poem:
The Bull Dogger
It was Shorty who convinced me
We were missing something fine
He kept wearing down my eardrums
Until I signed the entry line
Together we'd been roping
When our ranch work slowed up some
And for two old part-time cowboys
We'd made some money having fun
But Shorty had a new horse
That had been dogged off in the past
It was talent going wasted
He kept claiming, voice full blast
The problem was our sizes
He was no bigger than an elf
While my shirts all had some X's
When I bought them off the shelf
It's common knowledge to a dogger
You have to weigh more than a flea
To toss a steer upon its back
So friend Shorty turned to me
Which caused a little problem
When we entered that event
I'd never dogged a single steer
But knew kinda how it went
Shorty said, "No problem
Just drop a hand upon its hip
Slide it up and grab two horns
Then give the beast a flip"
"Sounds good" says I with a moron's grin
Now deep under Shorty's spell
Forgetting I'd dive off a running horse
On to horns and hooves from Hell
We walked back to check the critter
Whose number I had drawn
And I was jolted back to reality
By the steer's huge height and brawn
But by now I was committed
And we each backed in our box
Old Shorty was a-grinning
Like a chicken-eating fox
Hazer Shorty nodded ready
So I loosened up my rein
The steer flashed out like a lightning bolt
My old pony did the same
We got out fine, didn't bust the line
Then I dropped down on the steer
Heard Shorty yell, "Now give him Hell"
As I worked from rear to ears
I had started strong, then things went wrong
As I set my feet for sliding
As its left dew claw slipped in my boot
And started instantly de-hiding
Locked together leg to leg
We raced across the arena floor
A five legged type of stampede
I swear I'd never seen before
Stride for stride we raced full speed
Locked up like lovers in a dance
Each step I swore I'd kill my friend
If I ever got the chance
Shorty grabbed his calf rope
And in spite of my yelling "NO"
Roped the beast, threw his slack
And started a whole new rodeo
The steer stopped short but I kept on
Full speed like crack the whip
My boot went sailing out a sight
But I gave that steer the slip
That steer was finally shed of me
Or I was shed of him
I crawled painfully back upon my horse
And then counted every limb
Shorty, my true hazing friend
Rode up with a big old frown
Said, "You're a bull-dogging no-account
You should have had him down"
I just gave a grin to Shorty
Because revenge is sweetly spent
Said, "Best go borrow Sammy's bullrope
'Cause I entered you in that event"
© June 1999, Jay Jones
We asked Jay about his inspiration for this poem, and he replied: This poem is based on a true practice pen incident from my rodeo days. A middle-aged horseman with no rodeo experience decided he wanted to try bull-dogging. The other boys gave him a few tips, loaned him a dogging horse, supplied a hazer, and opened the gate. The poem describes what happened. He began and ended his bulldogging career the same day.
You can read more poetry by Jay Jones here at the BAR-D.
A Day's Work
Now I'm not one to fuss a lot or get all sad and whiny,
But that day on the X Bar hadn't started off too shiny,
I'd slept out on the bunkhorse porch and in the open air,
That pole-cat musta' been attracted by the snorin' there,
He chewed off half my boot top, it was salty I assume,
And 'fore he left he sprayed my bed and me with his perfume.
Then Cookie burned the biscuits when the fire got too hot,
I think he dropped his wad of snoose down in the coffee pot,
The eggs were slick and slimy and the bacon limp and tired,
So breakfast on that morning left a lot to be desired,
And when I headed toward the barn and glanced at the corral
I weren't surprised to see the gate wide open sure as hell.
The wranglin' pony'd slipped the latch and exited from there,
Went grazin' near the ranch house like he didn't have a care,
I coulda' overlooked that much and issued him a pardon,
But that gol-dern cayuse was trompin' in the boss's garden,
He'd et the peas and carrot tops and chomped off all the corn,
I'd cause him to regret the very day that he was born.
I caught him up and whacked his rump and then I led him back,
I threw my saddle on the rough and jerked up all the slack,
I stepped aboard and wheeled him 'round and raked him with a spur,
What happened next ain't all that clear, it's sorta' like a blur,
That gentle wranglin' pony musta' had enough, I think,
He bogged his head and turned me over quicker than a wink.
I finally got him all lined out and started lookin' 'round
The horse and milk and cow pasture for some tracks there on the ground.
That'd give a clue to where the saddle horses might be at,
The wind came up a-gustin' and it blew away my hat,
It rolled a hundred years or more to where the fence was down,
It 'peered the whole remuda was just nowhere to be found.
I spent the gol- darn mornin' huntin' horses that had strayed
And workin' on the pasture fence and bleedin', I'm afraid,
Cause barb wire's sharp and rusty and it sure can tear your hide,
I wished I'd had some better gloves before I took that ride,
I got the horses in at last and caught my favorite one
And started on my all-day ride, the afternoon half done.
I rode the big south pasture checkin' fence and water-gaps,
But in my rush I'd plumb forgot my slicker and my chaps,
And don't you know that was the day we finally got some rain,
We needed it so bad that I'd for certain not complain,
It was a sudden shower and the kind that helps, I'm told,
But I'd be lucky if I didn't catch my death of cold.
While ridin' down a gully in a soft and sandy track
I found myself a-starin' at a Western Diamondback
At just about eye-level, it was coiled up on the bank,
Instinctively I jabbed the spurs into my horse's flank,
He jumped about ten feet or so just as that rattler struck
And missed me by a whisker in a welcome turn of luck.
I found an old cow upside down, her back down in a hole,
I couldn't tell you how she'd done it, not to save my soul
And she was nearly all done in, a strugglin' to get free,
She'd been a dead old critter soon if it were not for me,
I got my loop around her horns, my horse was toward her rear,
He pulled with all his might and turned her upright, pretty near.
While she was a gropin' groggy, on her belly, in a daze
I got down to retrieve my rope, then go our separate ways,
And as I grabbed the honda she awoke, it was a stunner,
She came up fightin' mad despite the favor that I'd done her,
She needed somethin' handy to combat and she chose me,
But I turned tail for sure and scrambled up a Cedar tree.
That X Bar cow lost interest in the cowboy that she'd treed.
She never did seem grateful for my beneficial deed,
And I crawled down and caught my horse and turned him headin' home,
The sun ball had become a sorta' fadin' yellow dome,
It'd be near dark exceptin' for the risin' big full moon,
But I would be all done with my day's ridin' pretty soon.
And bein' off my schedule then I hit a gentle lope,
A-mutterin' to myself 'bout how I'd almost lost my rope,
And neither horse nor rider saw the hidden badger hole,
But both his front feet found it and we fell just like a pole,
I landed twenty feet away amid some prickly pear,
The horse unhurt thank goodness, so I'd had another scare.
And then I saw a heifer layin' stretched out near the trail,
A calf's front feet were stickin' out and showin' 'neath her tail,
So I got out my O. B. chain with links so flat and strong
And I hooked it on those slippery legs and then before too long
I worked the head out gently and I gave a final pull,
And out there slipped a fine big healthy brawlin' baby bull.
So Mama and her little boy were both okay that night.
The moon was high as I rode home a feelin' quite all right,
And even if some things went wrong a-startin' off the day,
And didn't seem to get a whole lot better right away,
That last small chore was somethin' that sure caused my face to smile
It made the whole day's effort seem a little more worthwhile.
© 1993, Stan Tixier
We asked Stan about his inspiration for "A Day's Work" and he replied:
I wrote "A Day's Work" to describe some events that have happened to me and, I'm sure, to others, on a working cattle ranch. The poem's message is that there's always a "silver lining" even when things don't go right at first. I'm not sure why I write any of my poems; they just come to me, and I write them down and then memorize them. I enjoy taking an old joke, or even a new one, and making a cowboy poem out of it.
Stan Tixier has been writing and reciting cowboy poetry since 1991. His book, A Good Lookin' Horse, Cowboy Poetry and other verse," and audio tape with the same title are in their 3rd printing. A second tape, A Better Lookin' Horse, is also available. A third tape and CD, The Best Lookin' Horse, will be released soon, as will a second book, A Better Lookin' Horse, Cowboy Poetry and other verse.
Stan has recited to audiences throughout the West - in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. He has won competition in "Cowboy Poetry Rodeos" in Cedar City and Kanab, Utah, with some of the best cowboy poets anywhere competing.
A graduate of the University of Arizona with degrees in range management, Stan also served in the US Navy and spent several years as a working cowboy on the Money registered Hereford Ranch in southern Colorado. After a career with the US Forest Service (retired as regional forester of the Intermountain Region), he was president of the Society for Range Management, a professional society of 5,000+ members.
His novel, "Green Underwear," a story about a forest ranger, has been widely distributed (available from www.westernheritage.com or call 1-800-303-5703.)
Stan and his wife, Jan, live in Eden, Utah, where they raise, train, and occasionally sell fox-trotting horses. They have 3 married children and 10 grandchildren.
Stan says: I have always enjoyed cowboy poetry. S. Omar Barker was poet laureate in New Mexico when I was growing up there many years ago, and I thought he was wonderful (he was!) After I retired and had a little free time, I thought I'd try and see if I could do it and it just mushroomed from there. I went to the open mike session at the Ogden Pioneer Days Cowboy Poets gathering and was invited on the main stage the next year and the next for about 8 years straight. The "competition" in Cedar City and Kanab, produced by Sam Jackson, turned out to be some of the most fun I'd ever had. (Some folks like that sort of thing and some don't; I think it's a hoot!) I have about 100 or more poems in my "memory bank," mostly mine, some by other poets.
Getting a poem ("You Get the Gate!") published in Western Horseman in November, 2002 was a highlight.
We asked Stan why he thinks Cowboy Poetry is important and he replied:
Cowboy Poetry is important because it perpetuates a unique art form that has its roots in our Western heritage. It is unlike other, more highly cultured poetry (that usually doesn't even rhyme anymore), in that it uses the cowboy vernacular and it usually tells authentic stories, whether humorous or serious, in a highly entertaining way.
You can email Stan Tixier.
You can read more of Stan Tixier's poetry here at the BAR-D.
The Drovers Reunion
There is a group of old time drovers, who gather every year,
to the little town of Camooweal they come from far and near,
where they join in with old droving mates who sit around the fire,
while in the evening sky above a big full moon climbs higher.
Of the countless men and women who went droving in the past
just this little group beside the fire now represents the last.
They only have their memories or a photograph to show
for those years of droving cattle where the western rivers flow.
When the lined and weathered faces of old friends from bygone days
are mixing with the dancing shadows of a fire's cheerful blaze,
old memories are rekindled and thoughts their go drifting back,
to the times they spent in droving camps out on the Wave Hill Track.
From their cracked and gravelled voices we hear the stories told,
of times when riding night watch around the cattle in the cold,
while forcing songs through shivering lips out on some lonely plain
to the sound of creaking saddletree and jingling hobble chain.
They speak of bringing mobs of cattle down the dusty Barkly route,
heading in towards the railheads from the stations further out,
or when droving down the Cooper, where they saw fat bullocks pass
wading knee deep through the clover and the waving Mitchell grass.
We hear them tell of how they battled to get the cattle through,
when the drought was on the country back in nineteen fifty two,
and of other years when they were met by chilly winter rains
when they had to plough through clinging mud across the black soil plains
And there's a hint of sentiment in a voice that's filled with pride
when someone starts to mention an old night horse he use to ride,
who would never balk or stumble through scrub on a storm lit night,
when the lightening flashed and timber crashed as cattle rushed in fright,
I wish I could have been there with them, back in their younger years,
droving down the river channels with twelve hundred head of steers,
or when taking turn on night watch coming through the Murranji,
where the south wind moans through lancewood scrubs and lonely curlews cry,
For they have seen the 'Vision Splendid' that poets wrote about,
when they rode the vast expanses of that country further out,
where many a night watch song was sung beneath those western stars,
to the rhythmic beat of horses feet and chime of snaffle bars.
© 2002, Jack Sammon
We asked Jack about his inspiration for this poem, and he replied: When I was a child growing up on a cattle station (ranch) just south of Camooweal I would see cattle in the tens of thousands passing the homestead heading towards the railhead further south. Bringing those cattle down were the drovers, I would see them, dusty bearded men, sitting loosely in the saddle a stock whip draped over an arm as the slowly moved along in the dust behind the cattle, they were my heroes. Over fifty years later with the droving era now just a memory since the advent of road transport, I attended a drovers reunion in Camooweal, a little town with a population of around two hundred people situated in the far outback of Australia, where I met up with my childhood heroes once again, old men and women who sat around a campfire and swapped stories of their younger days. Meeting up with them and listening to the stories gave me the idea for the poem "The Drovers Reunion."
I was born and raised on cattle stations in the north of Australia and as soon as I was old enough to leave school, which I did as correspondence as we lived one sixty miles from the nearest town, I went to work as a stockman (cowboy) working on stations and droving all over the north.
After a few years knocking about I started as a boss drover (trail boss) as I contracted to move cattle from place to place on the hoof, at times doing droving trips (trail drives) of up to a thousand miles, just as they did in the U.S. in the days of the wild west.
The trouble was that the twentieth century was catching up to us, as roads were been built so that trucks could get out to the stations and pick up cattle.
The trips that would take us months to cover the trucks could now do in a day or two, so as a result drovers like myself were out of work, so I had to give up the life and get a job in town in 1979, as a miner working underground, an era was over.
When we asked Jack why he writes Cowboy Poetry, he replied:
Most Australian Ringers (Cowboys) had a love for what we call Bush Poetry. We used to recite poems around camp fires at night and when we rode around the cattle on night watch, so naturally I began to write some myself about the life we lived.
I think that cowboy poetry is important to keep our culture alive and it is a traditional way of explaining our life as cowboys. The lifestyle of the Australian cowboy was so similar to the American cowboy in my mind, even though the words we use my be different the cowboy is a cowboy the world over. If it is not kept up future generations will lose a culture and history.
Visit Jack Sammon's web site.
Read Jack Sammon's account of his ringer life and his family's life in the outback in our Cowboy Memories collection.
You can read more poetry by Jack Sammon here at the BAR-D.
Out of the shadows a lone man rode;
'Twas a Morgan Horse that the man bestrode,
Chestnut coat and a gleaming hide,
A prancing step and a look of pride.
A stallion he was, with spirit strong,
To carry a man where the miles were long,
To cross the gullies of rolling stone,
And to suit a man who would ride alone.
Then out of the dim a brightness grew,
Over endless vistas and mountains blue,
And the trail led up to a distant height
Where mustangs grazed in a meadow bright.
And the man turned his horse through the chaparral
Into pinon trees, past an old corral,
Breathing air as sweet as man ever knew,
Over grass that sparkled with morning dew.
While up ahead the mustangs twirled,
And ran away, leaving dust that whirled.
Then the man snaked his rope and laughed with glee --
"This is the Heaven for one like me!"
And late that night to a tall pine stand
By a campfire bright came an angel band,
To hear the tale of a lonely horse,
And of mustangers who had run their course.
While the stars winked down and coyotes cried,
'Til the night grew pale and the fire died.
Then the man saddled up his chestnut friend,
To ride the trails that would never end
© 1989, LaVonne Houlton
We asked LaVonne what inspired her to write "Ern Pedler" and she explained:
You may be familiar with Ern Pedler, the author of The Big Lonely Horse, And Other Stories. Ern was a family man, yet he still loved to go off into the back country of Utah, with only his Morgan stallion for company, and track mustangs -- not to harm or capture, but mostly for the sheer exhilaration of the chase. His stories were first published in The Morgan Horse Magazine, and were much admired.
In 1989, already ill, scant months before he died, a group got together for a last cattle drive, in which Ern participated, and during which time he read from his wonderful stories, as the video cameras rolled. The rare footage that was shot back in '89 still sits 'in the can', but there is hope yet of raising the funds to produce the film at last.
I wrote this poem the night I learned that Ern Pedler had passed away.
I am now 77 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 writes Cowboy Poetry and she replied: I love to write Cowboy Poetry because there is an endless well of stories there, just waiting to be told, and after I wrote my first one ("Town and Country," in 1966) I found that I really liked to tell those stories as they came to mind. And I love to read the work of other Cowboy Poets just as much -- it's a very special world!
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.
You can email LaVonne Houlton.
You can read more of LaVonne Houlton's poetry here at the BAR-D.
LaVerna B. Johnson
There's a peaceful time of evening as the work is almost done
when the horses drop their saddles, have a dust bath, roll, or run.
We all gather to the campfire smells of cooking one by one,
use our hats to slap the dust off--home again.
We hear calls of cattle lowing, voices carry on the breeze
as it wanders down the canyon, then meanders through the trees.
While we stop to smell the sage, light shimmers "quakie's" golden leaves,
and it sure feels good to be back home again.
Mmmm! The cook done himself up real proud. The coffee's good and black.
Spuds sizzling in the bacon grease are brown and crisp. I pack
my blue tin plate with beans and steak, then hunker down to smack.
It's time to find my bedroll, home again.
Well, a calf was lost to cougar on the west range yesterday.
The water hole we dug there brings a price we're glad to pay.
We see cattle and the wildlife coexist, and that's okay.
It's a part of all we've loved since way back when.
There's an echo of coyotes as the light begins to fade.
Timid deer step from the thickets. Each, alert in evening's shade,
now intently bows to forage in green meadows we have made
while fulfilling dreams our grandpa dreamed back then.
There are times on peaceful evenings after work and grub are done
when dad tells of other evenings when he had to tote a gun
in some far off lands where schemers tried to conquer, one by one,
some small nations where folks fought to stay free men.
He says, No... Never take for granted this peaceful, cherished land!
...Tells how fighting for the people there sure helped him understand
how fulfilling obligations, sharing work, giving a hand
helps us all prepare to go back Home again.
© LaVerna B. Johnson
We asked LaVerna what inspired this poem and she told us:
This poem was written with cowboy rancher Clayton Atkin in mind, and shared with his family after his death. Clayton loved to recite poems, had a sharp wit, and was one of the vanishing breed of cowboys who fought in the Second World War. "Homestead" was first published locally after the death of Clayton and Joy Atkin's fine young rancher son Brent Atkin who was killed while trucking a load of cows in from "the strip" to winter range. Printing this poem honors the Atkin family, some of cowboys' best.
Our friend Clayton Atkin recited poetry, and kept us laughing. But he and his family did not laugh about tough ranching conditions that were sometimes made tougher by "environmentalists" who did not understand that good cowboys were environmentalists protecting the land long before it got to be fashionable. I thought about this, and about Clayton's sons and grandsons who were trying to carry on some great traditions. The future looked fairly grim to me. I wondered where the new cowboys would come from... young men who would not give up when things looked so discouraging. I wanted somehow to capture this struggle of keeping cowboy heritage alive in this poem.
I was born and raised in the red rock country of southern Utah called "Dixie" since pioneer times. My ancestors settled here, learning how to make a living from a parched land that knew how to fight back. Dad brought me a colt from the herd of wild horses on the nearby "Arizona Strip" when he was working for some ranchers, building fence. It was the only horse I ever had to ride, but he was a good one, once he was tamed. Trips into surrounding wilderness with dad to gather firewood, build fences, pick pine nuts, go deer hunting, eat his amazing dutch oven cooking--these were my "vacations," more joyful than any trip to Disneyland. I love our rugged, wild country and the people that go with it.
We asked LaVerna why she writes Cowboy Poetry and why she thinks it is important and she told us:
I am a poet who happens to have been born in cowboy country, and grew up loving it. I can still hear Dad reciting poems around our campfire when we were out deer hunting, or pine nu picking. Poetry has added a richness to my life. I cannot imagine what my life would be without it, unless I might describe it as some kind of malady, or sickness... the kind our world is suffering from today where folks are kind of lost and out of touch with what is real. Much of poetry itself has gotten lost and some is so confusing folks don't want to hear it.
Cowboy poetry has never lost its soul! It still rings true, and people are so hungry for it they come in droves and gather 'round to celebrate the joy of singing the thoughts and spirit of being alive... just folks who belong to each other. This gives me hope for the whole world of poetry and for some folks who are still lost, still trying to find their way home.
You can email LaVerna B. Johnson
LaVerna B. Johnson's poetry is posted here at the BAR-D.
I'm Not An All-Round Cowboy
I don't claim to be an all-round cowboy,
The kind that won the west,
My boots don't have riding heels,
And I never owned a leather vest.
My horse is mostly out to pasture,
Except for once or twice a year
When I ride down in the canyon
To bring the cows back up here.
I mostly use the four-wheeler
When I go out to check the herd
My truck is just an old Ford Ranger,
And my wife drives an '85 Thunderbird.
My kids are both in high school,
But they don't junior rodeo;
They're too busy doing school work
And planning how their lives will go.
My wife doesn't belong to ladies' clubs,
She's never been to a quilting bee;
She's too dang busy correcting papers
And teaching American History.
Oh, I keep a little herd book
In the pocket of my jeans, but
Daughter enters it in the computer
And tells me what the figures mean.
Joe, he's a real whiz with figures,
Understands all the economic stuff,
I just feed the cows and cross my fingers,
But he says today that's not enough.
Now you might think we lost our way,
And forgot what ranch life means,
But pard, you'd be dead wrong,
Because we work here like a team.
Just watch that girl of ours
While she mothers a sickly calf.
She's no rough-neck cowgirl,
She's just a sweet and tender lass,
But she knows every breed there is,
And which ones bring best cash.
She knows all the historic brands,
And what'll make this ranch land last.
Joe, he'll go off to college
When the haying's done this fall;
Ma and I are sure gonna miss him,
But he says it won't be long at all
He'll be ready to run the place,
Then maybe I can take a rest.
(Well, I don't know I'm ready to quit
I thought I'd just reached my best.)
This land belonged to great grandpa Jake;
Passed from him to Gramps, to Dad, to me.
Looks like our kids will own it too,
And that's the way it's meant to be.
It's more than making money,
Although a living we got to have.
It's watching good cows come fresh
When you've raised them up from calves.
It's watching clover come to purple bloom;
It's a crop, and we sell the seed--
But it's that clover smell in spring time,
More than money, that's what it is I need.
It's watching a blazing sunset,
And holding children on your knee.
I don't claim to be an all-round cowboy,
But this family ranch means a lot to me.
© 2003, Charlene Schilling
We asked Charlene about her inspiration for this poem and she told us:
This poem is really "real life," because I am not an all-round cowboy. I've rode the horse, collected cattle, and helped at the pens, but I'm more aware of the "Cowboy Way," than the "Cowboy Life." I could go in when the work was done and heat up dinner in the microwave. I think that the ranch owners' feelings of possession of the land goes beyond the Title in the County Office. When one works on the land, is on hand when the calves are born, bears the burden of low prices, and enjoys the rewards of high cattle prices, the reward is beyond that of dollars. It is a way of life.
Many bios start off in a log cabin in the mountains helping with the family cattle ranch. Well, mine starts in a tar papered shack on the Gunflint Trail in Northern Minnesota where my dad worked in a lumber camp. There was the proverbial two room school, the family farm with a couple of milk cows, the usual pigs and chickens, and gardens where the deer frustrated my mother with their moonlight foraging. Bob and I left the cold, snow, and mosquitoes of Minnesota in 1974 to settle in Genesee, Idaho.
While "I Don't Claim To Be An All-Round Cowboy" (oops, one of my poem titles slipped in there), I have lent a hand to gathering cattle, manned the needles, and even laid on a couple of brands. I could certainly qualify as camp cook. I've been involved with cowboy poetry since 1994 when I joined the Cowboy Poets of Idaho. The most gratifying part of being connected to CPI is the camaraderie with other poets. CPI claims to be a family, and that's the way the poets treat one another. Bob and I have four wonderful children, 11 grandchildren, and one great grandson. We celebrated our 52nd anniversary April 2, 2001.
You can read more poetry by Charlene Schilling here at the BAR-D.
Nona Kelley Carver
To a Friend
When the shadows of the canyons
Purple down the lofty steeps,
It is then my heart remembers,
And a quiet feeling creeps
Deep into my lonely being,
Down inside this mortal's breast.
It's a longing for a haven
Where my weary soul finds rest.
When the colors of the sunset
Spread across a golden sky,
And the splendor of the heavens
Is beheld by every eye,
It is then I think of others
I have met along the trail,
And hold on to precious memories
Of a friend who will not fail
To reach out when I am hurting,
And rejoice when I am glad.
Who will comfort me in sorrow.
Who will weep when I am sad.
It is then I see dear faces
In the campfire's leaping flames...
Hear their voices and their laughter
As the wind calls out their names.
When my Maker lights His moonbeams,
And unveils each glowing star,
And I journey in my memory
To those loved ones near and far.
May the path He spreads before me
Lead to peace that will not end.
May you know you are remembered
As my loyal, faithful friend.
© 2002, Nona Kelley Carver
We asked Nona what inspired her to write this poem and she told us:
My husband and I were camping down along the Colorado River between Fisher Towers and Moab, Utah, with life-long friends. As the sun began to set, and the red sandstone walls began to glow with deepened color, the words began to flow. Above us was one of those glorious sunsets that begin in Colorado, and spread over into Utah, Arizona and New Mexico with colors that are truly indescribable.
Family and friends are so important to us. They share our joys and sorrows. In other words, they CARE. That is the message I was trying to convey. Hopefully, it also expresses my thanks to our Creator for the beauty of the
Nona was born in Colorado, and still lives there. During part of her early years, she lived well beyond the electric lines in a cabin built of logs. She learned to read by the light of a kerosene lamp and rode horseback to school.
She married Alfred Carver in 1953. They began ranching at Mesa, Colorado, purchasing land that had been in the Carver family for three generations. They operated a dairy, and also raised beef cattle. It was here that their two sons were raised.
Nona's ranching experience shows in her work that she refers to as "fiction with a few facts thrown in." Her work has been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and has spread from Australia to Amsterdam. Her major books in print are: Cowboys, Cookstoves, and Catastrophes and Carver Country Cowboys. They can be ordered through any bookstore in the US and Canada (see more information here). Her most recent accomplishment has been recording two CDs of poetry. The first is titled Reflective Moods, and features her most serious work. The second, titled Carver Country Poetry contains the funniest poetry she has written. She also publishes CarverCards, a line of greeting cards for family and friends.
Believing that reciting makes an authors work come alive for the audience, Nona gives her best whether it is to a small group or at the The National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration where she is a repeat performer. She and Alfred treasure friendships they made as part of Cowboy Gatherings.
Her most recent performances were on opening night at Cheyenne Cowboy Symposium and Celebration, and Saturday sessions in the Diamond Circle Theater of the Historic Strater Hotel at Durango's Cowboy Gathering, and the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
Nona has performed in schools in both Colorado and Arizona, and presents some poetry written especially for children. Her work is published weekly in The Plateau Valley Times, her local newspaper, and often in The San Juan Silver Stage. Current projects include work on a Christmas album on CD, and drawing the illustrations for another book of cowboy poetry. She received a nomination for the best female poet in 2000 from The Academy of Western Artists.
We asked Nona why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she told us:
My father was a storyteller in the days when folks entertained themselves by gathering and sharing the events of their lives. He loved humor, and could make even a mediocre story leaving you howling and holding your sides. When I began to write as the result of being laid aside with an injury, writing from my background of ranching seemed the right thing to do. Loving the sound of laughter, I have tried to create cowboy characters that amuse and mystify my audience. Cowboys are a varied lot, and contribute much more than a food supply to America and the rest of the world. Why not share their special brand of folklore and a few facts with my readers?
Cowboy Poetry allows me to share the heritage of the West with fellow poets as well as my audience. Our Gatherings build friendships that cannot be found in other arenas.
You can read more poetry by Nona Kelley Carver here at the BAR-D.
Twilight for the Cowboy
I heard that song again last night that lightens up my load,
'bout how "he's still out there ridin' fences, you just can't see him from the road."
It helped me feel good for a while, ridin' through these pinyon hills,
but the truth keeps comin' back, it don't help to pay the bills.
I'm proud of the way I make my livin', out here chasin' steers,
but I can't ignore the things that have changed a lot down through the years.
It's never been a job for a ol' boy lookin' for top pay,
but the truth is that the western cowmen may have seen their better days.
I got a friend who lives in Georgia on a thousand acre spread,
with a feed sack and a four wheeler, he can run 400 head.
Yep, I'm the real McCoy, down to my hand tooled 'slobber straps,'
but how many boys, in the last ten years, have worn out a pair of chaps.
It's never been just about the money, simply ranchin' to survive,
but without some gas wells or some hunters, its hard to keep the place alive.
Even knowin' how much a man can come to love this crazy life,
its harder than ever to explain it to your children and your wife.
I suppose punchers have been whinin' since they hit the first cow trail.
'Bout the weather and the cookin' and the cow towns and the rail.
So I'm the last one in a long line who said he was the "last of his kind."
But, I think, in 20 years a real cowboy might just be hard to find.
© 2003, Michael Henley
I've been a fan of cowboy poetry all my life. my pickup is littered with tapes of Baxter and Waddie as well as my favorite Red Steagall. I'm a business owner and rancher here in central Arkansas. I've hunted the western states and Canada for the last 25 years and share your love of the heritage of cowboy poetry. I am married with three children. There are not many ways to accurately describe the freedom, independence or spirit of the west and the cowboy life, but to my friends who seek an explanation, I've found poetry to do it best. I've been playing the guitar and writing cowboy songs all my life.
You can read more poetry by Michael Henley here at the BAR-D.
I will always remember that day in December
when I first saw that wild, raucous sight.
And with nary a word I can still see that herd
and how it moved with a powerful might!
Some cowboys looked tattered and some even lathered
as they fought to gain on the lead.
Yet some seemed quite handy, perhaps even dandy
and sure footed as any a steed.
The leather was slapping and bandanas flapping
As each man rose to answer the call.
The hoots were all hollered and the stray doggies collared
and drug into the midst of it all!
The dust was a flying as onward they were trying
to move the herd steady and sure.
The hooves were a stomping, and dragging and clomping,
it was more than some could endure.
I remember the sound when they made it to town
and how the dear ladies did swoon.
They found themselves swaying to twin fiddles playing
as the caller began a sweet croon.
And such was the night 'neath the winter moonlight,
that I first fell in love with it all.
With the sights and the sounds; with the twirling around's
of a dance called the "Cowboy Christmas Ball."
© 2002, Carl Bennett Condray
We asked Carl what inspired him to write this poem and he told us:
"Winter Stampede" was written after a trip to a local haunt owned by a good friend Jody Nix, his father was Hoyle Nix and wrote "Big Balls in Cowtown." Both Jody and his father were world champion fiddlers. Hoyle opened the Stampede dance hall as a place for his band, the Texas Cowboys to perform. It is as down home as they come in Texas, old wood floors that show the scars of spurs and shuffle board wax. No telling how many miles have been danced since it opened, around the forties I believe. I love to dance and especially with Jan.
This one time when we were there we were taking a breather and enjoying how some of the boys were reluctant to dance. Some of them were also just downright dangerous and it amazed me that they didn't trip on their own shadows. They were stomping and clomping around like a herd of cattle and the ladies or the better dancers were trying to keep them corralled in the middle of the dance floor where they wouldn't hurt anyone. The "stray doggies" were hanging out over by the wall and they would have a gal who wanted to dance swoop over and take them out for a whirl. Sometimes over great objection and after some serious bull dogging. It just all seemed to fall into place as that awesome sound of twin fiddles filled the air. I truly believe that though the violin was invented in Europe, God invented the fiddle somewhere around here in Texas and I know a couple of boys that can sure tear em' up! Anyway I just thought that the twist of comparing this dance to a stampede at the "Stampede" was too good to pass up.
Carl Condray's poetry has come from his experiences under the West Texas skies of Big Spring where he has lived most of his life. He lives on a mountaintop ranch at the south edge of town, where he oversees wildlife preservation on roughly 400 acres. He has worked for the City of Big Spring Fire Department for over 22 years. He is the City Fire Marshall and investigated arson for many years with his K-9 partner "Sidesaddle Sadie Sootylady." Carl loves to snow ski, shoot Black Powder, and make custom spurs and silver badges. Most of all he likes to visit with people who love life and that is reflected in his Cowboy Poetry, which embodies both the simple and profound views of days gone by.
Carl says "I have always loved history and poetry and 'Cowboy Poetry' just seems to be the best combination of both! Cowboy poetry is a visual style of communication, best when it is heard and not just read. I hope that the listener can fall into the rhythm of its meter and be lulled away like the sounds of the horse's hoof beats along the trail. I want them to see the colors of the range, taste the trail dust, and find themselves surrounded by its humor. Early Pioneers often found humor in the midst of difficult times. I admire that as laughter is too rare a sound now days and it has such a healing quality to it."
His poetry has been heard all around the West Texas area and is spreading quickly across the state. He has been featured on the syndicated radio talk show, "The Sounds of Texas", hosted by the well-known entertainer, author and acclaimed journalist, "Tumbleweed Smith." He has also been the subject of the television documentary "Texas Tales." a feature series hosted by John Pronk of WFAA Channel 8 in Dallas. He is a member of the Academy of Western Artists (AWA). Carl is available to speak to all types of groups and loves to share his poetry and tales with "any" captive audience he meets. For more information on his programs, or to request a session, give him a shout.
We asked Carl why he thought Cowboy Poetry was important and why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he told us:
I just feel that progress will regress if it means we lose the lessons of our past. Cowboy poetry tends to recapture some of the old, timely wisdom and flavor of the days gone by. I would much rather be entertained by reading a bad poem than playing a good video game.
I cannot really say that there is such a thing as a bad poem since they are all written as a record of someone's feelings or emotions. Maybe it is just that their point of view is different than mine but at least they took the time to try to share something with me. That is what is important, sharing ideas and hopefully humor. We all need laughter in our lives. It is the best medicine, you know!
I like to write to explore me feelings or to carry myself away from the daily grind. I just hope that when someone reads my poetry that it is done out loud. It is better heard than read and besides what better way is there to irritate your friends and family?
You can email Carl Condray.
You can read more poetry by Carl Condray here at the BAR-D.
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