by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
I’ll bet there’s some feller you all recollect,
That folks joked and kidded but had to respect.
He’d a soft drawlin’ voice and a daredevil grin,
And was welcome wherever he cared to ride in.
He was careless and rough and a little bit dirty.
He had lived several years on the wrong side of thirty.
He wasn’t jest handsome, but wasn’t bad lookin’.
He was handy at carpenterin’, butcherin’, and cookin’.
He could do any thing with an oven or griddle,
And he played a few pretty good tunes on a fiddle.
He could loaf in the shade or could set by the fire
And out talk most any professional liar.
He looked upon life as a sort of a joke.
He didn’t want money, but he never was broke.
But when things got in earnest he shore could talk sense,
And he could shoe horses, mend wagons and fence.
He didn’t mind trouble. He hadn’t a care.
He didn’t work hard, but he shore done his share.
He wouldn’t work steady, but it was a cinch
He never rode off and left friends in a pinch.
A mighty good roper and look out man too.
He could smooth down a bronc quick as most men do.
He wasn’t no scrapper, but if he was right,
He could whip all them fellers that thought they could fight.
If folks didn’t like him, jest let it be known,
And that feller could give ’em a lettin’ alone.
He was most like a doctor, the old timers said.
He helped care fer the sick and to bury the dead.
Now most folks think such a wonderful man
Must have owned lots of cattle or plenty of land.
But all of you cow boys, I needn’t tell you.
He was just some old drifter that all of us knew.
…Bruce Kiskaddon, from Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947
Texan Ol’ Jim Cathey recites “The Drifter” on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon. The triple CD has over 60 tracks of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Voices from the past and from today’s top reciters and poets celebrate the popular classic poet.
In Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon poems, the original preface to Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems is included. In it, he comments, in part:
…In 1898 I started riding in Colorado. Since that time I have put in ten or twelve years around horse and cow outfits.
During the summer of 1922 I was working for G.T. (Tap) Duncan in northwestern Arizona. Sometimes I would parody songs to suit local happenings or write verses and different jingles about what took place on the work…I never really completed grammar school and my powers of imagination are not what some writers are gifted with. So you will find these rhymes are all written from actual happenings or the old legends of cow country…
Hoping it brings back memories to the old boys and that the younger ones enjoy them.
Find more about Kiskaddon and more poetry in our features at cowboypoetry.com.
This c. 1934 photograph, titled “Working Cowboy,” is from The Library of Congress, originally copyrighted by by McCormick Co., Amarillo, Texas.
This poem and photo are in the public domain.