STORY WITH A MORAL, by Waddie Mitchell


by Waddie Mitchell

Now I know there’s things worse
that make cowpunchers curse
And I reckon it’s happened to us all
Though it’s been years, since, you can bet
when I think of it yet,
It still makes my old innards crawl.

I was makin’ a ride
to bring in one hide
That hadn’t showed up in the gather
I was riding upstream,
daydreamin’ a dream,
When I caught there was somethin’ the matter.

Near some quaking asp trees
I had caught in the breeze
A stench that was raunchy and mean
And I reckoned as how
it might be the old cow
So I rode to a bend in the stream.

Sure enough, that cow lied
in the crick there and died
Hard telling how long she’d been been there
She was bloated and tight
was a horrible sight!
She was oozing and slipping her hair.

Her eye sockets were alive
with maggots that thrive
On dead flesh, putrid yellow and green,
An’ the hot sun burning down
turning pink things to brown
Spewing oily gunk in the stream.

I spurred upwind fast
to get away from the blast
Of the heavy stench the cow made
And I felt bad seein’s how
I’d lost the old cow
So I pulled up near a tree in the shade.

Then, I got sick to the core
rememberin’ just moments before
I’d done something that made me feel worse
Not thirty yards down
I’d stepped off to the ground
And drank till my belly near burst!

For months after it
just the thought made me spit
And I’d live it over like a bad dream.
And the moral, I think
is: if you must take a drink,
Never, ever, remount and ride upstream.

© Waddie Mitchell, reprinted with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This poem, a favorite of many, is included in top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell’s recent award-winning book, 100 Poems. Find our review here.

Another recent release of note is the impressive Cohorts & Collaborators; Songs Written with Waddie” from Western Jubilee. Waddie comments in the liner notes, “This album is a special project…I send off some of my words and get back another artist’s genius.” Those artists include Dave Stamey, Brenn Hill, Trinity Seely, Jon Chandler, The Gillette Brothers, Sons and Brothers, Dean Walden, and Juni Fisher.

Waddie headlines Utah’s 24th annual Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 24-28, 2018 and joins poets Randy Rieman, Andy Nelson, Jeff Carson, Doris Daley, Jo Kirkwood, and Al Doc Mehl and musicians John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, Max T. Barnes, Dave Stamey, Hot Club of Cowtown, Brenn Hill, Jack Hannah, Ed Peekeekoot, Ryan Fritz, Trinity Seely, Charley Jenkins Band, Dyer Highway, High Country Cowboys, Gary McMahan, Stacy Despain, Nancy Elliott, Randy Huston, Stewart MacDougall, Many Strings, Kenny Hall, Kristen J. Lloyd, In Cahoots, and the Heber Valley Orchestra.

Waddie’s bio tells, “From his earliest days on the remote Nevada ranches where his father worked, Waddie was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining, the art of spinnin’ tales in rhyme and meter that came to be called cowboy poetry, a Western tradition that is as rich as the lifestyle that gave birth to it.” Since then he’s been a great ambassador for cowboy poetry. He was instrumental in creating the first cowboy poetry gathering and has appeared on national television and radio and at gatherings and events across the West. He has received countless awards, including the respected Wrangler Award and the prestigious Nevada Heritage Award.”

Find more about Waddie Mitchell at Western Jubilee, via, and in our feature at

We’re pleased to have Waddie Mitchell’s voice on many of our recordings, including the recent MASTERS: Volume II, on which he recites S. Omar Barker’s “Thanksgiving Argument.”

This circa 1985 photo was taken at the Little e Ranch.

Thanks to Waddie Mitchell for his generous permissions.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but request permission for any other uses.)