“Waiting Out the Storm,” by Bill Owen (1942-2013) request permission for use.
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
It’s sumpthin’ a feller caint hardly explain
The way that a cowpuncher feels about rain.
It makes the feed grow and it fills up the tanks,
And generally speakin’ he’d orta give thanks.
He wakes up some night when the rain hits his bed
And pull the tarpolian up over his head.
It’s warm when it rains and he gits overhet
And he lays there all night in a miserable sweat.
He wakes up next mornin’, his boots is all soaked
Jest laugh that one off if you think it’s a joke.
He pulls at the lugs and he stomps and he knocks
Till he drives both his feet through the toes of his socks.
He gits his boots on but you know how it feels;
No toes in his socks and them wrinkled up heels.
When he goes to ketch out it ain’t no easy trick
With a rope that is wet and as stiff as a stick.
He dabs for his hoss and he makes a good snare
But the hoss downs his head and backs right out from there.
Fer a cow pony knows you caint tighten a loop
When you ketch with a rope that’s as stiff as a hoop.
When he gits saddled up he must climb up and ride
And that wets the last dry spot he had on his hide.
The hoss starts to buck but that cow boy is set
Fer a man’s hard to throw when his saddle is wet.
All day he keeps ridin’ the flats and the hills,
A slippin’ and slidin’ and likely he spills.
When he gits into camp he must stand up to eat,
And his clothes is all wet from his head to his feet.
He stands ’round the fire, he cusses and smokes,
Fer he hates to git into a bed that’s all soaked.
But his slicker’s wet through fer it’s old any way,
And there’s mighty few slickers turns water all day.
And while he turns in, and as strange as it seems
He goes off to sleep and he sweats and he steams.
Next mornin’ it’s clear and the wind’s blowin’ sharp
He shivers and crawls out from under his tarp.
By the time he eats breakfast he’s feeling all right
And his bed will dry out by a couple more nights.
But the old saddle blankets are still cold and wet,
And the hoss humps his back and looks wicked you bet.
Old cow boy is tired, he’s stiff and he’s sore,
He’s had lots of trouble, he don’t want no more.
So he takes that old pony and leads him around
Till he gits his back warm and the saddle sets down.
Fer the man that’s been rained on two nights and a day,
Ain’t lookin’ fer trouble; he ain’t built that way.
He wants feed and water but let me explain,
A waddy ain’t comf’tble out in the rain.
…by Bruce Kiskaddon, from Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947
Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.
Near the end of his life, Bruce Kiskaddon collected many of his previously published poems and one hundred never-before-published poems for his book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems. This poem is one of those one hundred. Bill Siems writes in his monumental Open Range, which collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems, that the 1947 book “…has been the ‘bible’ of Kiskaddon’s poetry since it first appeared…”
Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ Open Range; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, Shorty’s Yarns; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.
This painting, “Waiting Out the Storm,” is by the great Bill Owen (1942-2013).
Bill Owen was a cowboy’s painter. His web site tells, “Bill always felt compelled to record what he believed to be the true endangered species of our time: the contemporary working cowboy. He was extremely passionate about the importance of portraying each and every detail with complete accuracy.His greatest accomplishments and proudest moments were realized when a true cowboy looked at one of his pieces and said, ‘That’s exactly the way it is!’”
We were proud to have Bill Owen’s “Born to This Land” as the image for the official poster for the ninth annual Cowboy Poetry Week, 2010.
Bill Owen’s good work was also in good works: he founded the the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Scholarship Organization to help finance college educations for young people from the Arizona ranching community. The organization is now called the Bill Owen, Cowboy Artist, Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc.
Thanks to Val Fillhouer for her kind permissions.