REASONS FOR STAYIN’
by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)
“What’s the myst’ry of the wagon?
asked a townie, green as grass,
As he visited on a dreary autumn day.
Fer there weren’t a sign of romance
nor no waddies’round with class,
And he couldn’t see why one would want to stay.
“Well, don’t be askin’ me,” says Jake,
when asked that very thing,
“I’ve only been around here thirty years;
If I’d learnt some floocy answers
to the questions you-all bring
I’d not be tough as brushy outlawed steers!
“It’s a dang sight more romantic
in the bunkhouse, snug and warm,
When that winter wind
is blowin’ from the Pole
Than the livin’ at the wagon
through the same ol’ freezin’ storm
And the call of nature sends you for a stroll!
“The smell of beans and beefsteak
born in bilin’ coffee’s breath
Pulls a feller from them soogans,
clean and dry,
‘Stead of half-cooked food that drownded
so you’ll not git choked to death
As you look around and git to wonderin’ why.
“But I reckon, since you asked me,
it’s the challenge that you git
Testin’ what you got for gizzard
through the squalls,
And not just nature’s doin’s
but the kind that’s stirred a bit
When a cowboy, bronc, or critter starts the brawls.
“Take them fellers that’s a-squattin’
’round that soggy campfire there,
That big-uns done some time
for murder one,
But I’ll guarante you, feller,
when you think your flank is bare
You’ll hear his boomin’ laughter through the run.
“The scroungy-lookin’ half-breed kid
can ride a bear or lion,
Thought he mostly rides the rough-uns
for the boys.
Black Pete would rope the Devil
through a stand of burnt-out pine,
And Ol’ Dobb would mark his ears to hear the noise!
“What I’m gettin’ ’round to sayin’
is them boys will back yore play
Though their outside shore ain’t groomed
or show-ring slick;
It’s their innards that you count on
when you work for puncher’s pay,
And the reason why the wagon makes you stick.”
© 1997, J.B. Allen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission
Texan J.B. Allen was a working cowboy for over three decades. He was a frequent performer at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and also at Nara Visa and other events. His poetry is included in many anthologies and in his own books and recordings. His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.
Buck Ramsey (1938-1998), in his introduction to The Medicine Keepers, wrote of J.B. Allen, “More than most cowboys, he held to the ways and memories…thought and talked the old lingo” and stated, “…in my opinion he is the best living writer of traditional cowboy verse.”
J.B. Allen’s poetry is featured in the first MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com (2017) along with the work of Larry McWhorter, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens. The compilation includes recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs), with an introduction by Jay Snider.
Find more about J.B. Allen at CowboyPoetry.com.
Top Texas artist Duward Campbell created this painting of his good friend J.B. Allen and his horse, Pilgrim, in 2005. We were proud to have it as the art for the 2011 Cowboy Poetry Week poster from CowboyPoetry.com. Find more about it here.
Thanks to Margaret Allen for her generous permissions.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)