WHEN THEY’VE FINISHED SHIPPING CATTLE IN THE FALL by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

shannonaug2013photo by Shannon Keller Rollins

 

WHEN THEY’VE FINISHED SHIPPING CATTLE IN THE FALL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Though you’re not exactly blue,
Yet you don’t feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
For your feelin’s and the weather
Seem to sort of go together,
And you’re quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;
And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin’
On the job for winter brandin’,
And your pardner, he’s a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin’,
But you never hear him speakin’,
And you feel it’s goin’ to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother—
He is friendly but he’s quiet, that is all;
For he’ thinkin’ while he’s draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin’
At an easy walk a swingin’
In behind the old chuck wagon movin’ slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they’ve waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin’ sporty,
Not a hoss is actin’ snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they ‘re gentle, when they’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled ‘way down furr’wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
‘Cept his old cob pipe is smokin’
As he lets his team go pokin’,
Hittin’ all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin’—
He’s just settin’ there and thinkin’
‘Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin’
And two little clouds a sailin’,
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you’re lonesome when you’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin’ bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin’
Up there in the soft blue linin’
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin’
As your memory starts driftin’
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you’re far away and draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue—
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin’ but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did—
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done—
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
‘Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede—
‘Twas away up north, you helped ’em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn’t reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his’n—
Boy that killed him’s still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he’s rich and livin’ high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances—
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead ’em down the middle
Jest a prancin’ to the fiddle—
Never thought of goin’ home till the break of day.
No! there ain’t no chance for sleepin’,
For the memories come a creepin’,
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

…from Kiskaddon’s 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges
Bruce Kiskaddon’s masterpiece is a well loved classic, in the repertoire of most serious reciters.

Hear top poet Waddie Mitchell recite it on YouTube.

Bruce Kiskaddon drew on his cowboying experiences for his poetry. Find much more about him in features at CowboyPoetry.com:

This photograph is by Shannon Keller Rollins, used with her permission. Shannon and Kent Rollins run the Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon, the official chuck wagon of Oklahoma. Their best-selling cookbook,  A Taste of Cowboy, includes many outstanding recipes and many of Shannon’s great photographs.

They take their restored 1876 Studebaker wagon to ranches for spring and fall gatherings and to cowboy poetry and music events. They also cater weddings and corporate events. Visit their web site for more, including information about their cooking school, videos, and the “From the Chuck Wagon” blog. Also find them on Facebook, where they often have live videos.

Shannon and Kent Rollins are at the Silver Dollar City National Harvest & Cowboy Festival through October 22, 2016; at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering January 30-February 4, 2017; and many places in between.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but any other use of the photo requires permission. The poem is in the public domain.)