© Bill Owen, “Born to This Land” request permission for reproduction
BORN TO THIS LAND
by Red Steagall
I’ve kicked up the hidden mesquite roots and rocks
From the place where I spread out my bed.
I’m layin’ here under a sky full of stars
With my hands folded up ‘neath my head.
Tonight there’s a terrible pain in my heart
Like a knife, it cuts jagged and deep.
This evening the windmiller brought me the word
That my granddaddy died in his sleep.
I saddled my gray horse and rode to a hill
Where when I was a youngster of nine,
My granddaddy said to me, “Son this is ours,
All of it, yours, your daddy’s and mine.
Son, my daddy settled here after the war
That new tank’s where his house used to be.
He wanted to cowboy and live in the west
Came to Texas from east Tennessee.
The longhorns were wild as the deer in them breaks.
With a long rope he caught him a few.
With the money he made from trailin’ em north,
Son, he proved up this homestead for you.
The railroad got closer, they built the first fence
Where the river runs through the east side.
When I was a button we built these corrals
Then that winter my granddaddy died.
My father took over and bought up more range
With good purebreds he improved our stock.
It seemed that the windmills grew out of the ground
Then the land got as hard as a rock.
Then during the dust bowl we barely hung on,
The north wind tried to blow us away.
It seemed that the Lord took a likin’ to us
He kept turnin’ up ways we could stay.
My daddy grew older and gave me more rein,
We’d paid for most all of the land.
By the time he went on I was running more cows
And your daddy was my right hand man.”
His eyes got real cloudy, took off in a trot,
And I watched as he rode out of sight.
Tho I was a child, I knew I was special
And I’m feelin’ that same way tonight
Not many years later my daddy was killed
On a ship in the South China Sea.
For twenty odd years now we’ve made this ranch work
Just two cowboys, my granddad and me.
And now that he’s gone, things are certain to change
And I reckon that’s how it should be.
But five generations have called this ranch home
And I promise it won’t end with me.
‘Cause I’ve got a little one home in a crib
When he’s old enough he’ll understand,
From the top of that hill I’ll show him his ranch
Cause like me, he was Born To This Land.
© 1989, Red Steagall
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission
The great Red Steagall is the Official Cowboy Poet of Texas and the past Poet Laureate of Texas, the first “cowboy” poet to hold that honor in decades (Carlos Ashley held the position 1949-1951).
His “Born to This Land,” a standout anthem to the cowboy way, is on his recording, Born to This Land, recipient of the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. We were honored to have it on the first volume of The BAR-D Roundup from CowboyPoetry.com and is included on volume 10, the “best of” double CD.
Red Steagall headlines the 26th annual Old West Days Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering, September 28-October 1, 2017 in Valentine, Nebraska, joined by Chance Dennis, Mikki Daniel, Curt Brummett, Jake Riley, and others. The event also includes Western art, a trade and quilt show, a trail ride, youth poetry contest, and more. Visit oldwestdays.net for schedules, tickets, and more information and find the event on Facebook.
The much loved and respected Bill Owen (1942-2013) of Cowboy Artists of America lent his painting by the same name, “Born to This Land,” for the 2010 Cowboy Poetry Week poster. He and Red Steagall were the closest of friends and he was inspired by the poem.
Bill Owen commented on his painting, “…Fathers often teach the cowboy profession, which includes respect for the land, to their youngsters.” The work depicts a Northern Arizona rancher and his son “seen enjoying each other’s company while waiting for the last few head of cattle to arrive at the hold up.”
Bill Owen also demonstrated his commitment to the next generations through his Arizona Cowpuncher’s Scholarship Organization, which was renamed in his honor, as the Bill Owen, Cowboy Artist, Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc.
Thanks to Val Filhouer for her kind permissions.