by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)
Lord knows why the boss ever hired him,
he wuzn’t what you’d call a hand,
he stayed in our way or in trouble,
not much of a cowboy that man.
I think that the boss would’ve fired him,
just waited to find the right way,
til after our supper one evenin’
he took a mouth-organ and played.
It might have been Red River Valley
or Down In The Valley so low
or Kathleen or Come To The Bower,
to this day I don’t rightly know.
But that doesn’t really much matter
cause whatever tune that he played,
when that rascal pup started playin’
we all wuz right glad that he’d stayed.
Have you felt the warm wind on the prairie,
the soft mourning call of a dove,
then you may have some sort of feelin’
for what we wuz all thinkin’ of.
The cares of the day soon forgotten,
they vanished without any trace,
there wuzn’t an hombre among us
without a big smile on his face.
The Lord gives to each man a talent
to use or to hide as he may,
there wuzn’t no doubt ’bout his talent
whenever that feller had played.
Lord grant me just one little favor,
please help me a bit now and then,
to call on just half of such talent
to shine as a light before men.
© 2002, Rod Nichols, used with permission
Texas poet Rod Nichols is greatly missed by his many friends. He wrote this poem soon after September 11, 2001, and he told us, “… I have never seen so much interest in cowboy poetry, story telling, music and western art as I have seen since the Sept. 11th attack. I think folks are beginning to look for answers in our past and the American cowboy fills the bill. Here is one more that speaks to the use of the talents that the Good Lord has given us all whatever they may be.”
Find more about Rod Nichols and much more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.
This 1939 uncaptioned photo is thought to be related to another photo and is described as, “Cowboy in front of bunkhouse, Quarter Circle U Ranch, Big Horn County, Montana.” It’s a part of the Farm Security Administration collection of the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog from The Library of Congress. You can browse the collection here.
Find more about this particular photograph here.
The image was taken by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985), a student of Roy Styker. Stryker conceived the documentary photography project for the FSA. Find more about Arthur Rothstein here.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for any other use of the poem, please request permission. The photograph is in the public domain.)