COWBOY LAUNDRY, by Rodney Nelson

rodneyandy.jpgRodney Nelson and Andy Hedges at the 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering; photo courtesy Andy Hedges

by Rodney Nelson

Brides-to-be have much to learn,
there’s more to marriage than joy—
especially if the mate she’s found
is a sure-nuff country boy.

She’s no doubt optimistic—
oblivious to her fate…
The dangers that will come to pass
she can’t anticipate.

She dreams of newborn colts and calves,
anticipation makes her grin—
But ranch life quickly dims these myths
and reality sets in.

There’s calves to work, cows to feed,
meals are often late.
Unpaid bills, and drought and dirt
are things she learns to hate.

It starts when “hubby” saunters in,
a guy she’s never seen unclean—
He’s reeking and he’s filthy,
and she thinks it’s kinda mean…

When he piles his duds upon the floor
and gives her a big squeeze,
says “I need clean clothes in the morning,
so wash these up, if you please.”

She’s gotta pick them off the floor,
though the thought makes her kinda sick,
She thinks she sees them crawling,
so she jabs ’em with a stick!

She’s gotta get them to the washer,
though it fills her heart with dread—
She shuts her eyes and throws ’em in…
lightness fills her head!

But like a dose of smelling salts,
the odor jolts this lass,
It’s made up of sweat, of grease, or crud—
and stuff that once was grass!

There’s pine-tar too, and branding smoke,
horse sweat and a drained abscess,
Diesel fuel and scouring calves,
and a shot of KRS.

But the task is still unfinished,
as she is well aware,
there’s one more chore, for on the floor,
lies her hubby’s underwear!

She’s seen some Hitchcock movies,
storms have caused her awful fright,
But nothing she has seen before
has prepared her for this sight!

An older, wiser ranchwife
would read them like a book—
she’d know he’d oiled the windmill,
and with another look…

She could see old Brownie had thrown him
by the telltale gumbo mud—
And he’d repaired another prolapse
’cause the front was stained with blood.

There are countless other stories
that a cowboy’s briefs could share
Like if he had been eating chili
or had a real bad scare!

But the new bride lacks the knowledge,
and in her frenzied state,
She grabs them with a plier
and shows them to her mate.

“Don’t jump to conclusions, Hon,
you know what that stain means…
I wasn’t careful where I sat
and it soaked on through my jeans.”

She just can’t quite believe it,
and she’s plum filled up with doubt—
She says “If what you say is true, my dear,
you wore this pair inside out!”

Oh, it won’t be long ’til scenes like this
will be common to the bride—
and countless other problems
she’ll learn to take in stride.

Yes, she’ll see her share of troubles
that the coming years will bring—
But if she can handle COWBOY LAUNDRY,
she can handle anything!

© 1995, Rodney Nelson
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Of all the poems that have appeared on the ten volumes of The BAR-D Roundup CDs from, this one by Rodney Nelson, North Dakota rancher, poet, columnist, and Senior Pro Rodeo champion, receives the most radio play. Rodney’s long-suffering wife has been the subject of some of his other poems and perhaps inspired this one.

Don’t miss his friend, popular poet and ranch wife Yvonne Hollenbeck’s own poetic response to this poem in the Tri-State Livestock News.

Rodney Nelson is featured in the current episode of Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads podcast. In the wide-ranging interviews Rodney talks about his rodeo career, his parents, his earliest connections to poetry, and the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (where the interview was recorded). He tells an amusing story about Wilfred Brimley, a touching story about his mother, and an inspiring story about his wife and the power of music.  Explore the 45 other episodes with Dave Stamey, Waddie Mitchell, Ross Knox, Joel Nelson, Mike Beck, Gary McMahan, Corb Lund, Jerry Brooks, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Don Edwards, Michael Martin Murphey, and many others.

Rodney Nelson writes the popular “Up Sims Creek” column in Farm & Ranch Guide and he has two volumes of collected columns. Find more about Rodney Nelson, some of his poetry, and information about more of his books and CDs at

You can catch Rodney Nelson and Andy Hedges together at the second annual Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering, November 8-9, 2019, in Fredericksburg, Texas. They’ll be joined by Mike Beck, Brigid and Johnny Reedy, Joel Nelson, Cowboy Celtic, Kristyn Harris, Pipp Gilette, Sourdough Slim, and Mike Blakely.

Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing this photograph from the 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

(You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any additional uses.)