by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
When you wake up in the mornin’ at the breakin’ of the dawn;
When you ketch the wrangler pony and you throw yore saddle on.
Startin’ out to git the hosses, watch fer tracks and travel slow.
You can’t always be so sartin jest which way they’re apt to go.
All the world begins to waken from the shadder of the night.
Little birds and hoot owls callin’ and the East is getting bright.
Then at last you find the hoss tracks, and you foller on their trail
Leadin’ up across a hog back, down into a grassy swale.
You can see yore hosses grazin’, little bunches here and there.
When they see that you are comin’ they look up and sniff the air.
They’re soon rounded up and started. Joggin’ in a ragged line,
As the shoulders leave the valleys and the sun begins to shine.
All the crew is out to meet you at the camp or the corrals,
And nobody but a wrangler, knows how good a breakfast smells.
You still recollect them mornin’s and I guess you always will;
When the mornin’ breeze was blowin’ and the sunlight hit the hills.
…Bruce Kiskaddon, 1940
This atmospheric poem by the great Bruce Kiskaddon appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1940 and also on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar with an illustration by Katherine Field.
As we’ve told many times, 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.
Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental Open Range that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, “Shorty’s Yarns”; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.
This 1910 photo by cowboy photographer Erwin E. Smith is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division. It is titled “The horse wrangler.” Find more about it here.
At the Amon Carter Museum, the largest holder of Smith photographs, they tell, “Erwin E. Smith (1886–1947) always wanted to be a cowboy and an artist. When he was a boy growing up in Bonham, a town in Fannin County in North Texas, the era of the great trail drives was over, and he feared that the old ways of the cowboy were disappearing. However, the legend and myth of the cowboy was just beginning. Popular literature, art by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, and the fledgling film industry promoted a romantic, yet often inaccurate, image of the cowboy. For his part, Smith resolved to honor the life of the cowboy by presenting as true a portrayal as possible.” See their on-line gallery of his works here.