by Floyd Beard
A short introduction:
The prospectors headed westward,
In search of the mother lode.
They endured the broiling sun and soaking rains.
JB Stetson saw their plight,
So he invented for them a lid.
The first style was known as the Boss of the Plains.
Though the miners took right to it,
The cowboy also saw its worth.
But they rolled the brim and creased the dome a tad.
Then they proudly wore their Stetsons,
The former Boss of the Plains.
For the new crease was know as the Carlsbad.
Many, many decades later
Hollywood made a film,
Lonesome Dove, and it created quite a fuss.
In it a cowboy proudly wore his Stetson.
So now the crease called Carlsbad
Is known by everybody as “The Gus.”
It had hung there in the corner
T’was its place for 50 year,
On the old tarnished coat rack by the door.
Inch wide ribbon made of satin
Once did proudly wrap the sphere,
Though sweat stains bleached its glory long before.
But each stain holds a story
Memories the felt holds tight,
Of a life with a cowboy it could tell.
There were times it filled with laughter,
There were times as dark as night.
Each memory, every stain, it knew them well.
It could recall in days of young
When it proudly rode the range.
T’was a crown upon a young cowboy free.
On the wind they rode together.
And to some it might sound strange,
But a cowboy’s hat is all it wished to be.
Now the grease and stains hold stories
Of the rim rocks that they rode,
Of rains as thunderstorms discharged their lights.
Grand horses beneath the leather;
Freezing rides on nights it snowed;
Every trial, all their rituals and rites.
Of the time it turned a cow,
Slapped her fully in the face.
Broke her challenge and sent’er on her way.
The times it caught rainwater.
Times it urged a faster pace.
Times it twirled when he was sociable ‘n gay.
It was with him as a young man,
Bold and strong their wanderlust.
The grasslands and the mountains wore their track.
It rode with him every outing
Through each whelm and sun baked gust,
As their circles took them out then brought ’em back.
Yes, and how he loved the horses;
Beauty, strength, astounding power.
With fervor he looked forward to their ride.
Rocky trail or through a tempest
Nor did matter time nor hour,
His accomplice that hat he wore with pride.
Now his hands are scarred and buggered
And arthritis call them home.
His bones recall each bad wreck with a sigh.
And the hat is bent and dusty
With salt stains that ring the dome,
A tribute to the miles that have gone by.
Yes, it is a JB Stetson
With a crease of Carlsbad,
The old satin band now frayed with fuzz.
It still hangs there in the corner.
It belonged to my granddad.
I pray I might be half the man he was.
© 2017, F. E. Beard
This poem should not be re-posted or reprinted without permission
Colorado rancher and poet Floyd Beard tells this poem was inspired by his grandfather, Earl Case, “who loved horses, riding, working and ‘messing’ with them all his life. His old black Stetson hung on the coat rack by the door all of my early life. The hat was lost when the old homestead house burned down in the 1980s.”
Floyd told us that he won the 2017 Western Music Association (WMA) Cowboy Poetry contest with this poem. He was also named 2017 Top Male Poet by the WMA.
You can catch Floyd at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Golden (January 19-21); the Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Event in Lawler/New Hampton, Iowa (January 26-27); the Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Sierra Vista, Arizona (February 3-4); and the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine (March 2-3).
This 1940 photograph by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cattleman with his grandson at auction of beef steers and breeding stock at the San Angelo Fat Stock Show. San Angelo, Texas. The Stetson hat, leather coat and boots are standard everyday wear of ranchmen. There is an old saying in Texas that a man never buys but two Stetsons, one when he gets married and the other when his oldest son gets married.”
It’s from The Library of Congress Farm Service Administration collection. Find more about it here.
Find a feature about noted photographer Russell Lee and a gallery of photographs at the University of Texas at Austin.