THEN AND NOW
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
There were officers, outlaws, and gamblers and scrappers,
That lived their wild lives in the stirrin’ old west.
There were bull whackers, mule skinners, soldiers and trappers;
But the old time cow puncher was there with the best.
The old frontier cattleman, cool and unhurried,
Though the danger was close, or the goin’ was tough:
Went on with his work, and he never once worried;
If he had a few cowboys, well, that was enough.
Now the bobbed wire fences have cut up the ranges.
The cattle themselves is a different breed.
There has been some improvement and plenty of changes.
There’s a heap in the blood, but there’s more in the feed.
The old time cow puncher, the dare devil ranger,
With a gun on his hip and the spurs on his heels,
Is replaced by a cow hand that works in less danger.
He is surer of shelter and regular meals.
Now the herdsman today has his troubles and losses,
But he still has the heart of the old time cow hand.
He is doin’ his best just the same as his bosses,
To raise the most beef, the best way he can.
…by Bruce Kiskaddon, January, 1942
From 1936 through 1942, poet Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) and artist Katherine Field (1908 – 1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. This image is an original calendar page from January, 1942.
In 1939, Frank M. King, editor of the Western Livestock Journal, wrote, “…Sometimes Bruce’s poems are mailed up there to Katherine in her mountain home, and pretty soon it comes back with a drawing that just fits the poem. Then for a change she sends her drawings over here to Los Angeles and Bruce squints them eyes over ’em that he used to use for spying out long eared calves up there on them Colorado and Arizona mountain ranges, and in a right short time he comes out with one of them poems that exactly matches the picture, so they make a good team for matching up pictures and poems.” The two never met in person.
Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from “Open Range,” Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.