RIDIN’ FENCE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Ridin’ along at a easy walk
with your steeples and hammer and pliers.
Keepin’ a watch fer the tracks of stock
or the weeds blowed up on the wires.
You’ll find some sign of coyotes, too,
and plenty of rabbit tracks.
And down in the wash some calves crawled thru
and scraped the hair off their backs.

You must fix the gate on the other side
along where the road goes through.
The past’rs big. It’s a good long ride
and they’s allus a heap to do.
You find a place where a big old bull
went through in a patch of oak.
They’s a picket out and some steeples pulled
and a couple of wires broke.

Some folks had camped at the Hillside spring,
been there for a couple of days.
The boss didn’t like that sort of thing.
They might kill a beef, he says.
Before you finish it gits plum dark.
You caint see to do things right.
So you pile up some rocks to make a mark
and ride on home in the night.

Fence ridin’ jobs aint allus snaps.
I never did call it fun.
The worst thing about it is perhaps
that yore never exactly done.
But any feller that’s got good sense
can figger the whole affair.
If nothin’ went wrong with a string of fence,
he wouldn’t be needed there.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, from “Western Poems,” 1935

In Bill Siems’ Shorty’s Yarns, a collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, he includes a 1938 note from the editor of the Western Livetock Journal, where many of Kiskaddon’s poems and stories were printed:

“Answering the requests of many readers of Western Livestock Journal, Bruce Kiskaddon, famous cowboy poet, writes his autobiography. His book Western Poems has had tremendous sale. There is hardly a cattlemen’s meeting but what someone adds to the occasion by reciting a Bruce Kiskaddon poem. Probably his ‘Little Blue Roan’ is the most popular. Now we’ll let Bruce tell his own story.”

Kiskaddon writes, “My first work with cattle was down in southwest Missouri. I was twelve years old. Four of us, all about the same age, were day herding a bunch of cows on what unfenced country there was around that place. We had quite a lot of room and at night we put them in an eighty acre pasture. We four kids worked at it all summer. We rode little Indian horses and went home at night. Not much cow punching, that’s a fact, but it was big business to us. The talk of opening the Indian territory for settlement had started, and already the open country was beginning to be occupied by boomers’ camps. People were coming from everywhere to be ready for the opening. They were a mixed up lot….” Read the entire piece here: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1089&context=usupress_pubs

Find more about Kiskaddon in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1941 photo by Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990) is titled, “Range cattle behind fence on grazing land near Birney, Montana.” It is from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

Read more about Marion Post Wolcott, known for her Depression-era photographs, and find more images at a web site designed by her daughter.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)