THAT LITTLE BLUE ROAN
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
Most all of you boys have rode horses like that.
He wasn’t too thin but he never got fat.
The old breed that had a moustache on the lip;
He was high at the wethers and low at the hip.
His ears always up, he had wicked bright eyes
And don’t you furgit he was plenty cow wise.
His ears and his fets and his pasterns was black
And a stripe of the same run the length of his back.
Cold mornin’s he’d buck, and he allus would kick
No hoss fer a kid or a man that was sick.
But Lord what a bundle of muscle and bone;
A hoss fer a cow boy, that little blue roan.
For afternoon work or for handlin’ a herd,
He could turn any thing but a lizzard or bird.
For ropin’ outside how that cuss could move out.
He was to ’em before they knowed what ’twas about.
And runnin’ down hill didn’t faize him aytall.
He was like a buck goat and he never did fall.
One day in the foot hills he give me a break
He saved me from makin’ a awful mistake,
I was ridin’ along at a slow easy pace,
Takin’ stock of the critters that used in that place,
When I spied a big heifer without any brand.
How the boys ever missed her I don’t onderstand.
Fer none of the stock in that country was wild,
It was like takin’ candy away from a child.
She never knowed jest what I had on my mind
Till I bedded her down on the end of my twine.
I had wropped her toes up in an old hoggin’ string,
And was buildin’ a fire to heat up my ring.
I figgered you see I was there all alone
Till I happened to notice that little blue roan.
That hoss he was usin’ his eyes and his ears
And I figgered right now there was somebody near.
He seemed to be watchin’ a bunch of pinon,
And I shore took a hint from that little blue roan.
Instead of my brand, well, I run on another.
I used the same brand that was on the calf’s mother.
I branded her right pulled her up by the tail
With a kick in the rump for to make the brute sail.
I had branded her proper and marked both her ears,
When out of the pinions two cow men appears.
They both turned the critter and got a good look
While I wrote the brand down in my own tally book.
There was nothin to do so they rode up and spoke
And we all three set down fer a sociable smoke.
The one owned the critter I’d happened to brand,
He thanked me of course and we grinned and shook hands
Which he mightn’t have done if he only had known
The warnin’ I got from that little blue roan.
…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1947, from Rhymes of the Ranges
A couple of weeks ago, we included a 1938 note from the editor of the Western Livestock Journal, who stated that of Kiskaddon’s poems at the time, “Probably his ‘Little Blue Roan’ is the most popular.”
In his monumental collection of Bruce Kiskaddon’s poems (nearly 500), Open Range, editor Bill Siems also includes an earlier version of this poem, from Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.
Siems writes about the poet, “Kiskaddon first worked with cattle and horses as a youngster in Missouri, but dated his start as a buckaroo to 1898, when at age nineteen he began taking entry-level jobs at ranches along the Purgatory River east of Trinidad [Colorado], in the district called Picket Wire, from the cowboy pronunciation of Purgatoire, the original name of the river. Early on he discovered an affinity for horses and an aptitude for working with them. He honed his equine skills by taking jobs with horsemen who were willing to teach him, and became known as a rough string rider in an era when such skill was highly respected. Driven by an appetite for travel that grew with the passing years, Kiskaddon wandered farther from home through a succession of cowboy jobs during the next several years, until a serious accident around 1906 left him temporarily unable to ride.”
J.B. Allen’s recitation of “That Little Blue Roan” will be included on our forthcoming MASTERS: VOLUME THREE multi-disc CD of Bruce Kiskaddon’s poems, to be released in April for the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week. Find more about the MASTERS series here.
Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.
This 2005 photograph, titled “Two Young Nakota Mares,” is by François Marchal and is from Wikimedia Commons.
The poem is in the public domain.