National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur 2017, “On to Greener Pastures”

greenerpastures

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 46th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur, a photograph from Colorado ranchers and poets Valerie and Floyd Beard, titled “On to Greener Pastures.” Valerie comments, “We were helping the family move the cows that were calving later to another pasture where there would be more feed. It was such a beautiful day in beautiful country in the canyons of Southeastern Colorado.”

Events across America celebrate the thirteenth annual National Day of the Cowboy, Saturday July 22, 2017.

American Cowboy magazine launched the National Day of the Cowboy in 2004. Bethany Braley was involved with that launch and now she heads the National Day of the Cowboy organization, which works year round on the celebration.

Submissions were welcome from all through Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

Thanks to all who participated.

Selected poems are posted below.

Find previous Art Spur subjects here and at CowboyPoetry.com.

greenerpastures

POEMS:

“Market Day,” by Marleen Bussma of Utah
“The Trickster,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
“With Apologies,” by Lynn Kopelke of Washington
“The Boring and Mundane,” by Jeff Campbell of Texas
“The Lord’s Pasture,” by Ol’ Jim Cathey of Texas

 

MARKET DAY
by Marleen Bussma

Hope didn’t leave. It just wore out, ground down by restless wind
that polishes men’s broken dreams. Their spirits bruised and skinned.
Young blades of grass look brown, long past their expiration date.
The land has dropped down to its knees to pray for rain and wait.

Cole puts his truck in neutral after pulling up in line.
His metal wreck-on-wheels coughs, spits, and struggles with a whine.
He hoped this year would turn out kind and give him room to breathe.
Instead, he sees disastrous, looming setbacks that bequeath

a pile of debts to add to last year’s sinking bottom line.
Tough times and disappointments have put iron in his spine.
The winter, like an uninvited guest, had over stayed
and left behind its remnants. Weakened cattle dearly paid.

The snow was like a weapon as it battered and abused.
It crusted over cattle faces ’til their nostrils fused.
The cows were calving in unseasoned cold day after day.
Some newborns didn’t make it, one more loss to mull and weigh.

Harsh, tiring cold arrested, booked, and jailed all ranching life.
Bleak hard work barely paid off and demoralized Cole’s wife.
Those bitter, brutal days locked up in mem’ry and defeat
now move aside to make room for the blazing, blistering heat.

The spring had started well with water from the melting snow,
but rain clouds hold a grudge and move on, like the rodeo.
The sun and wind suck moisture like a calf that’s late for lunch.
The dust hangs like a curtain for a final sucker punch.

Range stock ponds now are craters gaping open for a drink.
All wells, some close to failing, feel the water table sink.
Dry stubborn grass that stuck around is stunted, runty feed.
If rain should come it can’t make up for all the hungry need.

The road into the sales barn crawls with trailers full of stock.
Trucks nestle with their bumpers like LA at four o’clock.
Cole sees his neighbors, like himself, in line to save a dream.
They gamble, selling off cow-calf pairs hoping to redeem

their livelihood next year if nature deals a kinder hand.
They live exposed and vulner’ble to hang on to their land.
It takes a bit of gambler to survive this ranching life.
He’s thankful that he has a partner in his loving wife.

Cole puts his truck in gear and nears the choice he’s made to sell.
He blocks his mind from second guessing. Worries want to swell.
Hope hasn’t left. It lies in wait, perchance to grow and sprout.
A new truck might be in the future if his plans work out.

© 2017, Marleen Bussma
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

greenerpastures

THE TRICKSTER
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

It was coming into summer time,
the foothills were spattered with wild flowers—
Indian Paintbrush, bluebells, and sego lilies—
viewing them could take up hours.

But the folks on this little soi’ree
had no time to stop to take a view—
it was time to move the cattle to the mountains
where the grass was fresh and new.

There was quite a herd of black angus
they were pushing up the hills—
blocking up the highway some
and giving the drivers thrills.

But cattle have the right-of-way in Wyoming,
that’s the way it has always been,
and tourists just have to wait a bit
and then move slowly on again.

They had nearly more cowboys than cows,
folks liked to ride along,
from the oldest to the little ones
and some would sing old songs.

But mostly it was, “Git back here,
you muley stubborn cow
and git that calf back with you
and do it here and now!”

My uncle asked my Ma to go—
she’d not done that in years,
borrowed a horse from her father-in-law
and got right back into gear.

Now Grandpa was a trickster,
he liked to job some of the folks,
and make them pay attention close
to avoid some of his jokes.

He loaned Ma an ornery horse,
who seemed tame and didn’t fight,
but now and then she’d turn her head
and try to take a bite!

Ma didn’t appreciate his joking
and it proved to be a long day,
moving cattle up the switchbacks
to Sawmill Creek, which was their way.

She’d cuss that mare
and call her names back several generations,
and shocked some of the folks along,
but she corrected that mare’s gyrations.

She made the ride, the mare settled down
and when Ma got back that day,
Grandpa was grinning by his truck,
thinking this joke was a good way

to settle up some differences
he’d had with his daughter-in-law.
He didn’t know he’d figured wrong
and had well underestimated Ma!

She rode the mare over to him
and that mare tried to take a bite
out of Grandpa’s hind end—
yep, Ma was on the fight.

She climbed down and wagged her finger
right there in the old man’s face,
“Don’t ever pull that on me again!”
and she put him in his place.

Grandpa kinda’ hung his head—
she had ruined all his raptures.
He sold the mare the following day—
before she sent him to greener pastures!

© 2017, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

greenerpastures

WITH APOLOGIES…
by Lynn Kopelke

They’re sorrel. They’re chestnut. They’re bay.
They’re yaller. They’re spotty. They’re gray.
They come in all sizes.
Their looks win no prizes.
When seen they are going away.
It’s not the first end that you meet.
Don’t nuzzle ner git any treats.
Tho’ it does process food
To discuss that is rude
For it’s not the end that eats.
I know they occur naturally.
They’re out there for all to see.
But to be more than fair,
The equine derriere
Is something to strive not to be.

© 2017, Lynn Kopelke
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

greenerpastures

THE BORING AND MUNDANE
by Jeff Campbell

In the bright early morn
Moving cattle to green pasture
Just a day in the life
Of a Colorado rancher

The young hand stated
This sure is a bore
Could use some excitement
Shake up this dull chore

The old hand just laughed
Said you got a lot to learn
You’ll appreciate today
When the tables start to turn

Now take this blue sky
It will go dark in a hurry
And whether May or November
It can make this Cowboy worry

The spring thunderstorms
Bring along mud and the rain
Slogging along soaked
Your focus hard to retain

Winter’s bitter wind brings
Freezing ice, deep snow
Makes even a short ride
Feel like miles to go

Then there’s sick cows and calves
Bruised hooves, a lame horse
Wildfires, rattlesnakes
And ole coyotes of course

So enjoy the bright sunshine
The sweet smell of evergreens
The wildflowers blooming
The song the warbler sings

Embrace the uneventful
And try hard not to complain
Cause one day you’re going to miss
All this boring and mundane

© 2017, Jeff Campbell
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

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THE LORD’S PASTURE
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

We kicked them blankets an’ hit the floor to greet another day,
‘Course, them aches an’ pains we ignored,
Headin’fer where Cookie’s fire roared,
For that, we quietly thanked the Lord,
His Grace would give us strength an’ courage, to get us on our way.

The wrangler brought the horses in, Pap was there to throw his loop,
We’d call the name of ours to ride,
Pap’s aim an’ skill was undenied,
A lessor job, he’d not abide,
Most all times, yore ride would start with bolt an’ jolt, with shout an’ whoop!

Daybreak brought a crispy morn, we coffeed, then mapped out our plan,
That ol’ windmill shore needs repair,
Mama cows moved to better fare,
Along with salt to get up there,
Just a few of the things to do when yore ridin’ fer the Man.

There’d been a scatterin’ of rain, ’nuff to settle that ol’ dust,
Them ol’ mama cows was trailin’,
Put a bit of dust a sailin’,
‘Cuz that ol’ wind was a wailin’,
So we pulled our hats down tight, an’ faced right into that windy gust.

As we slow but sure make that gradual climb to summer feed,
We often lean in to discuss,
How mama cows depend on us,
To give them care without much fuss
As we watch ‘em close an’ keep ‘em safe… to meet their ever need.

Like how we each hold close to our Lord where ever we may roam,
Just like them cows, we have a need,
But from our sins we have been freed,
He gave His life to intercede,
So we each arrive at the Lord’s pasture, our Heavenly home!

© 2017, Ol’ Jim Cathey

greenerpastures