CLIFF by Susie Knight


by Susie Knight

The moon shines through his window.
He greets the mornin’s sounds.
He lights a flame beneath the pot
‘n throws in coffee grounds.

He’s old ‘n stiff in places
That ache each morn the same.
His lower back, his knees, ‘n hips;
Arthritis staked its claim.

He sets his jaw this mornin’
‘n pours a cup o’ joe,
Then takes some time to reminisce
’bout days from long ago.

The ranch he used to manage,
Not far from Valentine,
Was 60,000 acres
By 1969.

Top hand ‘n overseer,
He led the ranch’s crew.
Most times he managed twenty men
To delegate them through

The February calvin’s,
The brandin’s late in May,
The fences fixed all summer
Clear through till weanin’ day.

And, oh, the saddle horses
He rode each held a prize
There in his golden mem’ries
Secured behind his eyes.

But few will ever grasp it,
The life he’s lived ‘n known.
The calves he’s pulled from heifers;
Cesareans he’d sewn.

The hope of life each springtime
That wars against the curse
Of certain death from coyotes,
The cold, ‘n somethin’ worse…

…the older cows that weaken.
They’d just lay down ‘n die.
As labor’d overtake ’em,
He kept a watchful eye

‘n did his all to save ’em
To satisfy the boss.
Kept cattle profits in the black,
Preventin’ any loss.

He earned his compensation
For forty years or so,
’til one day in the winter when
He learned he’d been let go!


…the boss had died a-sudden.
The ranch was gettin’ sold.
New corporation owners felt that
He was too dang old

To run the ranch the kinda way
(On paper) they saw fit.
Dazed ‘n numb, he headed west
To mend his soul that split.

He settled west of Denver,
Near foothills out o’ town.
A place where he could view the sky
From sunup till sundown.

Then, he perused the papers
To find a job or two.
But, workin’ in Home Depot or
McDonald’s wouldn’t do!

Persistent in his searchin’,
Stayin’ focused and on track,
He found a dandy full-time job
Where he’d remain horseback.

It’s at a little stable
In a thousand acre park.
He wrangles dudes on horseback rides
From dawn until it’s dark.

He doesn’t pay attention;
Their antics don’t disturb
As hoofbeats meld with heartbeats
In percussive, low reverb.

With one eye on his riders
And one eye in the past,
He’s found a way to reminisce
The life that didn’t last.

He never would ‘o guessed that
His path would go this way…
Guidin’ trail ridin’
For city folks at play.

He knows they’re on vacation;
They’re “cowpokes” for a while.
They have no clue who’s guidin’them
Behind that wrinkled smile.

He’d never brag ‘n tell ’em.
(That ain’t the Cowboy Way.)
He’s horseback still, ‘n will remain
Until his dyin’ day!

© 2014, Susie Knight
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Award-winning Colorado cowgirl poet, singer, songwriter, and horsewoman Susie Knight told us:

I met Cliff Andre in the spring of 2011 when I was hired to be the Kids’ Horse Camp Instructor for Bear Creek Stables in Morrison, Colorado. A quiet old cowboy, it took most of the summer for me to learn Cliff’s story. I watched him handle horses gently with seasoned wisdom. Once I learned that he ranched most of his life not far from Valentine, Nebraska (a mere 100 miles from my family’s ranch in Pine Ridge, South Dakota), I pried out of him these bits and pieces of his life’s story. To date, Cliff is 88 years young, still guiding trail rides and driving the team of Belgians for Bear Creek Stables’ private events.

She provided this photograph of Cliff and Hippie, taken in May, 2015.

Susie appears next at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Golden, January 19-21, 2018. This year’s headliners are Carin Mari Lechner and Dave Stamey, and featured performers are Vic Anderson, Eli Barsi & John Cunningham, Floyd Beard, Marty Blocker, Doris Daley, Sam DeLeeuw, Richard Elloyan & Steve Wade, Carol Heuchan, Susie Knight, Al “Doc” Mehl, Carin Mari, Dave Stamey, Rod Taylor & Don Richmond, Dick Warwick, Joyce Woodson, and the Flying W Wranglers. Find more at

Susie Knight’s latest CD is Fillin’ Tanks. Find her also at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, Arizona, February 2-4, 2018.

Find more about Susie Knight at,  at her web site, and on Facebook.