ART SPUR “Just for the Fun of It,” Winter 2018-2019

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Photo by Carol M. Highsmith; Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

WINTER ART SPUR

Our 49th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a 2016 photograph by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A horse rolls in the snow, apparently just for the fun of it, as others head out for a winter romp at the Midland Ranch, in the shadow of the Wind River Range of the Northern Rockies in remote Sweetwater County, Wyoming.”

The photographer explains, “The closest town, Farson, is 26 miles away. The ranch, whose first cabins served as a Pony Express remount station in 1860, was homesteaded in the 1890s and settled by French Basque immigrant John Arambel, the patriarch of the current owner, in 1909….” Find more at The Library of Congress.

Submissions are now closed. Find selected poems below.

The photograph is included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection description notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

 

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POEMS – WINTER THEMED

“Snow on the Sage” by Marleen Bussma
“Folks Who Do Know Horses” by Tom Swearingen
“A Blessin’ of the West” by Ol’ Jim Cathey
“Snow Day” by Jeff Campbell
“Horse Feather Marks in the Snow” by Ken Howry

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SNOW ON THE SAGE
by Marleen Bussma

Flat bottoms of the vagrant clouds sail low-set as they scud
on undersides stained dark and grimy as if dipped in mud.
The nearby mountains hooded white by recent gifts of snow
bask in the weakened winter sunlight’s intermittent glow.

The herd is on the move. The lead mare duly breaks the trail.
Impatient gusts of wind comb through each horse’s flowing tail
and catch the fleecy strands of breath exhaled like ropes of silk.
The frosted whiskers shimmer white as if just dipped in milk.

Small snow-clods fly from feet that carve the rangeland with their bite,
like frosty weapons used in a ground-level snowball fight.
The horses’ cadence steps into a snow-waltz on the range.
The timeless instincts of the migrant herd will never change.

The primal urge to revel, rub, and roll in winter’s dress
takes one horse to his knees. He lies and lets his brown back press
into the snow. White stocking legs wave lamely in the air.
His playful romp is frisky, but the others do not share

his sense of fun, this wintry mischief as he takes a break.
He gets back on his feet, bucks high, and cleans off with a shake.
A horse snow-angel birthed by play lies lonely in the snow.
It will remain an only child. The herd is on the go.

The lead mare walks with purpose as she presses to the west.
In frontier times this was the course where bold men did their best.
It was the new, where man could reinvent himself or flee
to where he’d melt away and float like mist aloft and free.

Wind scribbles messages on clouds. Dried sage leans from the gusts.
A hawk soars on transparent currents where he dives and thrusts.
The horses are a liquid flow that fade and disappear.
The mustangs are the only trace left of the old frontier.

© 2018, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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FOLKS WHO DO KNOW HORSES
by Tom Swearingen

I’m sure folks who don’t know horses
Must think them pretty strange
When observing their behavior
Unbridled on the range.

See them running for no reason
Than buck and fart’n fun,
Out there chasing their own shadows
In spring and summer sun.

And then when the temps are dropping
And autumn’s run its course,
When the winter snows are falling,
That’s when they’ll see a horse

Do some things that defy logic,
That must seem near insane
To those folks who don’t know horses
And workings of their brain.

Like, why would horses drop and roll
In snow instead of stand
So they look like they’re cavorting
On sunny beach’s sand?

Why, they must just think ’em loco.
Undisciplined at best.
Wondering why such energy
Is spent instead of rest.

‘Course that horse might just be itchy,
Or easing something sore.
Or strugglin’ with a twisted gut,
Too hard to walk much more.

But just as likely reason is
The horse rolls in the snow
Is instinct. Hard-wired survival,
Ingrained from years ago.

Yes, the folks who do know horses,
They know they’re plenty bright
To know that’s how to dry off hair
When ground is frozen white.

© 2018, Tom Swearingen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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A BLESSIN’ OF THE WEST
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

He pulled up on a small rise to watch nature’s scene,
An’ was spellbound sittin’ there,
An idyllic picture, crisp and so serene,
There was music in the air!

He sat horseback, just watchin’ the ponies run,
The weather was bitin’ cold,
But it was good to see them cavort in the sun,
A sight that never got old.

Bunched his collar ‘round his neck, tucked his hat down tight,
That ol’ wind was blowin’ strong,
Probably heralded a snow durin’ the night,
But for now, she’s nature’s song.

Lendin’ music to the flight of the wild horse,
As they tumbled down that trail,
In full gallop, a vision of joy of course,
As they plunge o’er hill an dale.

Ahhh the beauty an’ glory of natures stock,
That unfolded in his vision,
The feelin’ of the cold an’ sound of hoof on rock,
The glory of God’s provision.

The magnificent view of distant mountain range,
With snow coloring their peak,
Caused one to hope, this pony race would never change,
But their future sure looks bleak!

He turned away with grateful heart, knowin’ he was blessed,
A grand life was his reward,
Manifested in the glory of the west,
An’ he quietly thanked his Lord.

© 2019, Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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SNOW DAY
by Jeff Campbell

Change comes quick as we sleep through the night
A pasture of green now sugary white
It sure does sparkle in the morning sun
But makes it hard to get all the work done

Roads are frozen and travel is slow
It’s not often down here that we get a big snow
I stare in frustration, my daily plan shot
So I pour another cup from the old coffee pot

I think back on the days when I was a youth
My dad was a hard worker and that’s the truth
But on these occasions he always took time
To help celebrate this rare change of clime

So I rustled the kids out of their bed
Went out to the barn and rigged up a sled
We spent the day in this winter wonderland
Even constructed a Texas snowman

As I sit and ponder this night serene
Tomorrow I’ll be back to my old routine
Soon all this snow will just melt away
School will be open to the kids’ dismay

But down the road when they’re both grown
Out in the world with kids of their own
Hope they recall Dad put work away
And shared in the joy of a Texas snow day

© 2018, Jeff Campbell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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HORSE FEATHER MARKS IN THE SNOW
By Ken Howry

I ain’t never been the sociable kind,
Reckon loner’s more o’ my style.
While others jest faller in tracks head ta tail;
That view, well it can’t make me smile.

There’s lots o’ things that I’d rather do,
An’ they’re durn sure a heap-full more fun.
Why just breathin’ this cold, crisp an’ clean winter air,
Makes me wanna start buckin’ an’ run!

Y’all go on ahead, I’ll catch up real soon,
Heck, the whole herd’s a movin’ real slow.
But, as for me, I must dance to a whimsical tune….
Leaving horse feather marks in the snow.

© 2018,  Ken Howry
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

 
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POEMS – CHRISTMAS THEMED

“Savior,” by Mark Munzert
“A Sack of Tobac,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen

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SAVIOR
by Mark Munzert

A special foal was born that eve beneath stars above the shed.
Hoof drops melted frosty ground trailing towards a straw cast bed.
The Mare’d been quietly pacing. Three dogs were huddled near.
The Sire shaking off the snow, as sentry, quelling fear.
T’was an uncanny silent night, no sound from cows or sheep.
A babe was born, stood and fed, whence nourished, fell asleep.

Those three wise dogs blocked the wind, sheep laid woolen cover warm.
Moonlit parts of dust and dew revealed angelic form.
Donkey’s bray cracked the night to tell the world of this One.
To Sire, Mare and all soulful there was born anointed Son.
Awakened to life’s melodies by softly cooing dove,
Astute and strong he grew with God’s abundant love.

Meadows he paced sharing goodness, kindness, and light.
Modeling forgiveness, salvation, and ample crucial might.
Lone survivor of rebellion, conqueror of demise.
Truly humble of all beings, steadfast faith in his eyes.
It seems his mission was to curry all living being’s favor,
It’s only fitting, for this horse, to have the name of SAVIOR.

© 2018, Mark Munzert
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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A SACK OF TOBAC
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

I’m pondering on
a time long ago,
just around Christmas,
when the winds began to blow.

It was cold out there and covered
the grass in way that was strange,
for we had never fed hay
out on the Sweetwater range.

Not back in those days,
when the drifts piled up high,
and the cattle died in droves,
‘neath a fearsome snowing sky.

Lige and I were out there,
checking on the stock.
It would nearly break your heart,
to see them frozen in blocks.

We finally took refuge in a cabin
out there in the Sweetwater Rocks,
didn’t have much food on hand
and sure couldn’t thaw those cattle blocks!

Then the hoar frost came down–
the Paiutes called it “The White Death”.
Yep, it’s kind of pretty to see,
but it sure takes your breath.

Two weeks at that leaking cabin
and supplies were mighty low,
we scratched the days on a log,
while those winds continued to blow.

One day it dawned upon me
that Christmas was right near–
Lije said, “What’s the difference,
we’re still stuck out here!”

I dug around in my duffle bag
and mainly saw the lack
of something I could give to Lije,
just a partial sack of tobac.

He figured out what I was up to
and he took out a mouth harp,
played a raggedy Christmas tune
and we jigged a bit in the dark.

We hauled in a big sagebrush,
and hung some empty cans,
here and there all around it
and I banged on a pan.

We had shot a jack rabbit
that we cooked on the stove.
He was tough and not too tasty
and we had no bread or loaves.

We crawled into our old soogans
we used as our beds,
and soon went off to sleep–
and then something struck our heads!

The sun was purely shining,
it was a glorious dawn,
with hoar frost on the aspen,
though soon it was all gone.

That winter still goes down
and one in the history books,
1886-1887, a disaster
and so by the looks,

of what all of us went through,
you’d think we’d like to forget
that cold and snowy windy time,
but we really don’t regret.

Heck, at least we survived,
with jackrabbit and a sack
of roll-your-owns we shared
that little bit of warming tobac!

© 2018, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

 

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SUBMISSIONS

Submissions were welcome from all. Thanks to all who participated.

Find previous Art Spur subjects here and at CowboyPoetry.com.