STORY WITH A MORAL
by Waddie Mitchell
Now I know there’s things worse
that make cowpunchers curse
And I reckon it’s happened to us all
Though it’s been years, since, you can bet
when I think of it yet,
It still makes my old innards crawl.
I was makin’ a ride
to bring in one hide
That hadn’t showed up in the gather
I was riding upstream,
daydreamin’ a dream,
When I caught there was somethin’ the matter.
Near some quaking asp trees
I had caught in the breeze
A stench that was raunchy and mean
And I reckoned as how
it might be the old cow
So I rode to a bend in the stream.
Sure enough, that cow lied
in the crick there and died
Hard telling how long she’d been been there
She was bloated and tight
was a horrible sight!
She was oozing and slipping her hair.
Her eye sockets were alive
with maggots that thrive
On dead flesh, putrid yellow and green,
An’ the hot sun burning down
turning pink things to brown
Spewing oily gunk in the stream.
I spurred upwind fast
to get away from the blast
Of the heavy stench the cow made
And I felt bad seein’s how
I’d lost the old cow
So I pulled up near a tree in the shade.
Then, I got sick to the core
rememberin’ just moments before
I’d done something that made me feel worse
Not thirty yards down
I’d stepped off to the ground
And drank till my belly near burst!
For months after it
just the thought made me spit
And I’d live it over like a bad dream.
And the moral, I think
is: if you must take a drink,
Never, ever, remount and ride upstream.
© Waddie Mitchell, reprinted with permission
This Waddie Mitchell poem, a favorite of many, is included in his recent award-winning book, 100 Poems. He also has a recent CD, Sweat Equity. Both the book and CD are produced by Western Jubilee Recording Company.
Waddie’s bio tells, “From his earliest days on the remote Nevada ranches where his father worked, Waddie was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining, the art of spinnin’ tales in rhyme and meter that came to be called cowboy poetry, a Western tradition that is as rich as the lifestyle that gave birth to it.” Since then he’s been a great ambassador for cowboy poetry. He was instrumental in creating the first cowboy poetry gathering and has appeared on national television and radio and at gatherings and events across the West. He has received countless awards, including the respected Wrangler Award and the prestigious Nevada Heritage Award.
This June 2016 photo is by New Mexico rancher, poet, and writer Deanna Dickinson McCall.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but request permission for any other uses.)