A Cowboy Toast
Here's to the passing cowboy, the plowman's pioneer;
His home, the boundless mesa, he of any man the peer;
Around his wide sombrero was stretched the rattler's hide,
His bridle sporting conchos, his lasso at this side.
All day he roamed the prairies, at night he, with the stars,
Kept vigil o'er thousands held by neither posts nor bars;
With never a diversion in all the lonesome land,
But cattle, cattle, cattle, and the sun and sage and sand.
Sometimes the hoot-owl hailed him, when scudding through the flat;
And prairie dogs would sauce him, as at their doors they sat;
The rattler hissed its warming when near its haunts he trod
Some Texas steer pursuing o'er the pathless waste of sod.
With lasso, quirt, and 'colter the cowboy knew his skill;
They pass with him to history and naught their place can fill;
While he, bold broncho rider, ne'er conned a lesson page, --
But cattle, cattle, cattle, and sun and sand and sage.
And oh! the long night watches, with terror in the skies!
When lightning played and mocked him till blinded were his eyes;
When raged the storm around him, and fear was in his heart
Lest panic-stricken leaders might make the whole herd start.
That meant a death for many, perhaps a wild stampede,
When none could stem the fury of the cattle in the lead;
Ah, then life seemed so little and death so very near, --
With cattle, cattle, cattle, and darkness everywhere.
Then quaff with me a bumper of water, clear and pure,
To the memory of the cowboy whose fame must e'er endure
From the Llano Estacado to Dakota's distant sands,
Where were herded countless thousands in the days of fenceless lands.
Let us rear for him an altar in the Temple of the Brave,
And weave of Texas grasses a garland for his grave;
And offer him a guerdon for the work that he has done
With cattle, cattle, cattle, and sage and sand and sun.
James Barton Adams
James Barton Adams was born in Ohio in 1843. He cowboyed for a short time in New Mexico and later was a Denver journalist. He published a book of poetry, Breezy Western Verse, in Denver in 1889. The above poem and others by Adams also appear in Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp by John A. Lomax (1920)
Look for our feature with new biographical material and more poetry by James Barton Adams.
Cowboy's New Year's Resolutions
As one who's been a cowhand
since the wildcats learned to spit,
I've made some resolutions
for the comin' year, to wit:
Resolved, to ride a shorter day
and sleep a longer night;
To never come to breakfast
till the sun is shinin' bright;
To draw a top-hands wages
when they're due or quit the job
And hunt a wealthy widow
or an easy bank to rob.
Resolved, to quit the wagon
when the chuck ain't up to snuff,
To feed no more on bullet beans
nor chaw on beef that's tough.
Resolved, to straddle
nothin' in the line of saddle mount
That ain't plumb easy-gaited,
gentle broke, and some account.
Resolved, that when it blizzards
and there's stock out in the storm,
To let the owner worry
while I stay in where it's warm.
Resolved, that when it comes
my turn next spring to ride the bogs,
I'll don the bib and tucker
of my town and Sunday togs,
And tell the boss, by gravies,
if he craves to shed some blood,
Just try to make me smear 'em
tailin' moo-cows from the mud.
Resolved, that when a thunderhead
comes rollin' up the sky,
I'll lope in off my circle
to the bunkhouse where it's dry.
Resolved, to do such ropin'
as a ropin' cowhand must,
But never when the air ain't free
from cattle-trompled dust.
Resolved to show no hosses,
and resolved, to swim no cricks;
Resolved, no dead-cow skinnin',
and resolved, no fence to fix.
Resolved, to swing no pitchfork,
no pick, no ax, no spade;
Resolved to wear my whiskers --
if I want to -- in a braid!
Resolved, to take this New Year
plenty easy through-and-through,
Instead of sweatin' heavy like
I've always used to do.
As one who's been a cowhand
since before who laid the chunk,
It may sound like I'm loco,
or it may sound like I'm drunk
To make such resolutions
as you see upon my list,
And others purt near like 'em
that my mem'ry may have missed;
But gosh, they sound so pleasant
to a son of saddle sweat!
And New Year's resolutions --
well, I never kept one yet!
So why make resolutions
that bring furrows to your brow?
Let's make 'em free and fancy --
'cause we'll bust 'em anyhow!
S. Omar Barker; reprinted with permission from Cowboy Miner Productions
This S. Omar Barker poem is reprinted with the kind permission of Cowboy Miner Productions, publishers of the finest in classic and modern Cowboy Poetry. This poem is from their book Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker
New Year's Greetings
I try not to complain much-
I take it from year to year.
Deliver calves in January snow,
and have a little "liquid cheer."
I work at keeping a stiff upper lip,
no matter what comes along;
I bite the dust and cuss the wind
and occasionally try to sing a song.
My life hasn't been an easy one.
My kin have mostly died;
my friends have moved on to the west
and there's been times I've cried.
This year has been the hardest one
that I 've seen in many a day.
If things could go wrong, they surely did-
from drought to not much hay.
The creek is running mighty low-
my spirits aren't much higher.
We're getting very little snow
and it just gets dryer and dryer.
The New Year's staring me in the face
and I greet it with some cheer--
I resolve to stay up New Year's Eve-
to make damn sure this last one's outta' here!
© 2002, Jean A. Mathisen
You can read more of Lariat Laureate runner up Jean Mathisen's poetry here at the BAR-D. Jean is the author of six books of poetry.
Bless Ya For Takin' The Ride
Tie a knot in your wildrag and snug the slide on your windstrings and head into life at the lope!
Take down your lariat and shake out a loop and catch ya both horns full of hope!
Blaze a new trail to the mountain top and always look ahead and not back.
Breath deep of horse sweat and wildflowers and mossy creekbanks and hardtack.
Sit by your fire with people with hearts and share all your beans and your dreams.
Throw your worries to the North wind and watch 'em go by on the South.
It's seldom as bad as it seems.
Lay out on the Earth, all snug in your bedroll and let your eyes fill up with stars.
Let the-man-in-the-moon play ya a tune and watch Venus Texas-Waltz with Mars.
Fill up your saddlebags or even your paniers with kindness and fairness and deeds.
Then leave some of them off with a neighbor or a friend or even a stranger with needs.
Pick your best horse and summon your guts and sit your saddle with pride!
Love every minute and everything in it, and Bless ya for takin' the ride!
© December 2002, Janice Gilbertson
You can read more of Janice Gilbertson's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Happy New Y'ar
Sunlight glimmered off the rocks,
an' sparkled on the dew,
as the hoss walked slowly on,
then stopped to take a chew;
a bit of grass he'd spotted thar,
on his path through busted stone,
but a jerkin' on his bridle
made him leave the stuff alone.
Wit' steps thet showed abhorrence
to the rider on his back
he continued in his search fer stems,
an' ignored a'nother whack
from the irritated cowpoke
who sat dejected thar
in the saddle, all bewildered like,
thet the hoss would send a dare.
Riders likes the thot thet they
kin allis call the shot,
an' believe the hoss should blindly go
whar the cowboy thinks he ought.
But somehow on this mornin' ride
the situation was revarsed,
an' the hoss hisse'f was being boss;
an' it was gettin' warse!
Fer it had dawned a New Y'ar's day,
an' the hoss had formed a plan,
thet he was gonna be in charge
an' not the stupid man!
So with a nonchalance unknowed
from prev'ous epysodes,
he decided thet he'd eat his fill
from ary grass thet growed.
I think I sayed 'bewildermunt'
within a'nother line,
but if I didn't, here i'tis,
fer it fits the scene jest fine,
an' as we leave this pair an' go
along our merry way,
I wush you all the best of health,
an' a Happy New Yar's Day.
© 2002, McCloud
You can read more of Lariat Laureate runner up McCloud's poetry here at the BAR-D. McCloud has a book, Sailors, Lovers and Cowboys:
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