DUNDER DEFINING by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

© 1993, Kent Reeves; request permission for use


by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

(Being a one-sided conversation with the Kid about his daddy)

“Yeah he’d be called a ‘daisy hand’
If this was bygone days
Before the meanings changed their names
And cowboys changed their ways.

“Those punchers out of real old rock
And of the long, long shadow,
Those graduates of the camp and trail
Who shunned the fenced-in meadow

“When all the range was grass-side up
And all the cows wore horns—
They’d call your dad a ‘ranahan’
Well to the leather born.”

Old Dunder, augering the Kid,
Was brushing on the paint
In strokes that made the Fiddle look
A downright cowboy saint.

He paused, and then commenced to rake
His hand across his whiskers,
But realized that rasp he grew
Might raise some awful blisters.

He soothed his palm upon his knee
And gazed the air a hole
And gave the Kid the look that showed
The secrets of his soul.

“You set out definin’ you’re ridin’ for boggin’—
There’s not a pure way to describe
The reason and rhyme of the cowpuncher callin’,
The jist of the cowpucher tribe.

“But say we start up with an idy of Santee—
Like Russell, a cowpuncher saint—
The best you can say is, he’s good to his horses,
The worst you can say is, he ain’t.

The kind out of old rock and of the long shadow—
Your daddy is of the same leather—
You’d say of his makin’s his water runs deep,
And he’d do with to ride the wild river.

“You can’t call his rank by the crease of his hat,
By his get-up, now matter how fine.
You go by the moves that he makes on his horse—
Is he in the right place the right time?

He knows what the mother cow says to her calf,
He’s a regular Webster on cattle,
He hears what the wind says and listens to grass—
He’s plumb simply at home in the saddle.”

© Buck Ramsey, used with permission
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Buck Ramsey’s friend, rancher and poet Darin Brookman, has written,”Buck Ramsey was a cowboy, musician, poet and historian. He had a definite opinion on most subjects and a gentle nature that made you want to hear them. In the ranks of cowboy poets and singers, he was our leader and our conscience.” Hal Cannon, Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center, named Buck Ramsey cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader.”

A biography at the National Endowments for the Arts tells about the accident, when he was just 25 years old, that confined him to a wheelchair. They write that Buck Ramsey, “…worked as a cowboy and rough rider on the big ranches along the Canadian River. In 1963, while he was working on the Alibates Division of the Coldwater Cattle Company, a bit shank snapped and the spoiled horse Ramsey was riding threw him to the ground. What he later called ‘just landing wrong’ left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.”

His life and art continue to inspire and his work continues to be recited, sung, and celebrated. Buck Ramsey was a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow. His recordings were awarded two Western Heritage Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Andy Hedges has a fine recitation of this poem in the current episode of his COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast. His guest, Chuck Hawthorne, has some Buck Ramsey

Find more about Buck Ramsey on Facebook at the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page,
and in features at CowboyPoetry.com, which includes poetry, reminiscences, and more.

This photograph of Buck Ramsey is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist & Photographer. It appeared in the landmark book, Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves. This photograph, made in the spring of 1993, shows Buck Ramsey visiting the one-room school house he attended as a boy.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com; his site,
cowboyconservation.com; and on Facebook.

Thanks to Bette Ramsey for her generous permission.