TO BE A TOP HAND
by Georgie Sicking (1921-2016)
When I was a kid and doing my best to
Learn the ways of our land,
I thought mistakes were never made by
A real top hand.
He never got into a storm with a horse
He always knew
How a horse would react in any case and
Just what to do.
He never let a cow outfigure him,
And never missed a loop.
He always kept cattle under control
Like in a chicken coop.
He was never in the right place at the wrong time,
Or in anybody’s way.
For working cattle he just naturally knew,
When to move and when to stay.
I just about broke my neck tryin’,
To be and to do,
All those things a good cowboy,
Just naturally knew.
One day while riding with a cowboy,
I knew was one of the best,
For he had worked in that country for a long time,
Had taken and passed the test.
I was telling of my troubles,
Some bad mistakes I made.
That my dreams of being a top cowboy,
Were startin’ to fade.
This cowboy looked at me and said,
With a sort of a smile,
A sorry hand is in the way all the time,
A good one just once in a while.
Since that day I’ve handled lots of cattle,
And ridden many a mile.
And I figure I’m doin’ my share if I get in the way,
Just every once in a while.
© Georgie Sicking, from Just More Thinking, used with permission.
The approach of Cowboy Poetry Week is a fine time to remember much-loved and much-missed cowboy and Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inductee Georgie Sicking, who remains a great inspiration to many.
Recently, the Western Folklife Center posted a video on Facebook of Georgie Sicking performing this poem at the 1994 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
In Tough by Nature by Lynda Lanker, Georgie Sicking told that she was the only woman who ever drew pay on Arizona’s Oro Ranch, where she worked during World War Two. She preferred to be called a “cowboy,” not “cowgirl.”
The book goes on to quote her, “Some people had the idea that all you had to do to be a cowgirl was put on a pretty dress and a pair of boots and a big hat and get a faraway look in your eyes…and you’re a cowgirl. They’ve been kind of hard to educate.”
Of Ridin’ & Rhymin’, the award-winning documentary about Georgie Sicking by Greg Snider and Dawn Smallman of Far Away Films, Hal Cannon, Founding Director (retired) of the Western Folklife Center, comments, “Georgie Sicking is why ‘to cowboy’ is best used as a verb to explain a work, a life, and a big open land. This film captures her level gazed life in such a powerful way that it defines the American West.” Find a preview of this must-see film here.
Find much more about Georgie Sicking and more of her poetry at cowboypoetry.com.
This photo of Georgie Sicking graces the cover of The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Five” from CowboyPoetry.com. The circa 1940 photo was taken at a carnival on her first date with the man who became her husband (photo courtesy of Georgie Sicking and Dawn Smallman).
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any other uses.)