THE BRANDIN’ CORRAL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
When the west was all onsettled
and there wasn’t no bob wire,
They had a way of workin’
that was sumpthin’ to admire.
Every thing was done on hoss back,
and I’ve heard old timers talk
How the kids in cattle countries
didn’t hardly learn to walk.
They worked cattle in the open,
and they laid ’em on the ground.
It was cuttin’, flankin’, ropin’,
and a tyin’ critters down.
But the present cattle raiser
aint so strong fer that idee,
And he has a way of workin’
that’s as different as can be.
‘Taint so hard on men and hosses,
and it’s better for cow brutes
When you got a place to work ’em
in corrals and brandin’ chutes.
When we heard of brandin’ fluid,
fust we took it fer a joke.
Jest to think of brandin’ cattle
when you couldn’t smell no smoke.
Well a feller caint deny it
that the new way is the best,
Fer there’s been a heap of changes
in the ranges of the west,
Most of the outfits then was bigger,
and a cow was jest a cow,
And they didn’t stop to figger things
as close as they do now.
…Bruce Kiskaddon, July, 1935
This image is another original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page from over eighty years ago, July, 1935.
Times change. It brings to mind cowboy and rancher Ken Cook’s contemporary poem, “The Conversation“:
What has not changed ol’ cowboy friend”
Since you was young and men were men?”
Poet Bruce Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. The two never met in person.
Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, “Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.”
Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.