ODE TO THE CALF CRADLE
by Larry McWhorter (1957-2003)
Modern day ranchers are doohickied up
But some gadgets do come in handy.
To have a truck and a trailer with you
On the back side at sundown is dandy.
Them feeders you see on flatbeds now
Sure beat them hundred pound sacks,
Round bales are moved with tractor and winch,
These all save on cowboys’ backs.
The makers of these should see paradise,
St. Pete, let them in if you’re able.
But the fires of Hell won’t be hot enough
For the man who made the calf table.
That heavy, clangin’, foul lookin’ trap
That eats cowboys’ fingers for lunch,
I think it’s alive, for I’ve seen it grin
When my hand it got its chance to crunch.
Oh for the days when the brandin’s were pure,
When the dragger and horse were the kings.
The brandin’ pen was a field of honor
Before that nut forged them foul things.
I’m sure that honyock really meant well.
We all have to do things to cope.
But on their best day, there’s no way they’re faster
Than an old gray haired man with a rope.
The years bring on change and the old ways must fall,
“Efficiency” rules now, I guess,
But that man and his cradle are doing away
With the job that the cowboy loves best.
Now, I’m not one to wish bad luck,
I’ve no use for witch doctor’s powers.
But I hope that feller lives a thousand years
With a case of incurable scours.
© Larry McWhorter, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission
The last time we shared this poem, Colorado rancher and poet Terry Nash suggested that it would be a good follow-up to Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem (posted Monday) “The Brandin’ Corral.” Thanks to the generous permission of Andrea Waitley, it is a pleasure to share it. As she commented, it is a poem that working cowboys love.
A much admired and respected cowboy’s cowboy, poet, and musician, Larry McWhorter left behind an impressive collection of poetry.
Larry McWhorter wrote about this poem in his book, Cowboy Poetry: Contemporary Verse by Larry McWhorter (2000):
I remember Dad telling me about a prospective buyer looking over the ranch he now runs. After an extensive tour of the place, the buyer asked where the calf table was. Dad replied, “I loaned it to a neighbor on the condition he never bring it back!”
I am of the opinion that the only people who don’t enjoy branding calves by dragging them to the fire are a) people who have never been where it was done right or b) people who are not good at it.
I realize circumstances dictate a lot of situations. However, I would almost prefer to be fencing or pulling a windmill to working a calf table. It’s about the same thing to me.
The works of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens are featured in the first MASTERS CD (2017) from CowboyPoetry.com. They recite their poetry in recorded poems, “live” performances, and also recite other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs). Jay Snider introduces the CD.
Larry McWhorter’s friend, Texas singer and songwriter Jean Prescott produced an impressive double-CD album of his work in 2010, with his recitations and also recordings by some of his friends reciting his work, including Oscar Auker, Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Hedges, and others. Find more about that project at CowboyPoetry.com.
Find more poetry and more about Larry McWhorter at CowboyPoetry.com.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, please obtain permission.)