by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
You hear of microbes and of germs
And all them eddicated terms.
They say a feller hadn’t oughter
Go fillin’ up on muddy water.
Fer once them microbes gets inside
They mighty soon have multiplied.
From what they say, I onderstand,
They’re mighty apt to kill a man.
But then a cow boy doesn’t mind.
He drinks what water he can find.
It may be mud or alkali,
He has to drink it and git by.
Now them there littly wigly worms
That sorter swims about and squirms,
I’ve drunk a heap of them you bet,
And none of ’em has hurt me yet.
Fer drinkin’ water, so to speak,
It hadn’t ort to be too weak.
Yore hoss can drink an awful lot.
His stummick never gits upsot.
And so perhaps a quart or two
Is not a goin’ to damage you.
Jest drink yore fill and go ahead.
The bugs you drunk will soon be dead.
…Bruce Kiskaddon, June 2, 1936
We’re celebrating Bruce Kiskaddon all of this week.
Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area.
In Bill Siems’ “Shorty’s Yarns,” a collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, he includes a 1938 note from the editor of the Western Livestock Journal, where many of Kiskaddon’s poems and stories were printed. He quotes the editor who refers to Kiskaddon’s own description of his early days:
“My first work with cattle was down in southwest Missouri. I was twelve years old. Four of us, all about the same age, were day herding a bunch of cows on what unfenced country there was around that place. We had quite a lot of room and at night we put them in an eighty acre pasture. We four kids worked at it all summer. We rode little Indian horses and went home at night. Not much cow punching, that’s a fact, but it was big business to us. The talk of opening the Indian territory for settlement had started, and already the open country was beginning to be occupied by boomers’ camps.” Read the entire piece here.
Noted reciter and popular performer Jerry Brooks chose this lesser known Kiskaddon poem to recite on the new triple-CD set, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon from CowboyPoetry.com. It was included in Kiskaddon’s 1947 Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.
Find more about Jerry Brooks at cowboypoetry.com (it happens to be her birthday).
Find more about Kiskaddon in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.
This 2016 photo by Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A pause that refreshes for this cow at Big Creek cattle ranch on the Colorado border, near the towns of Riverside and Encampment, in Carbon County, Wyoming,” is from the Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Find more here.
Find the collection here, where it 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.”
(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)