photo by Jeri Dobrowski
WHERE DO YOU RIDE NOW, OLD COWBOY?
by Dennis Gaines (1954-2019)
The ranges don’t reach to the sunrise,
But the coyote still sings to the dawn,
And the old ways are dying in my eyes;
How long, Lord, can we carry on?
And where do you ride now, old cowboy?
Do the stars in your night brightly shine?
Do you dream the same dreams I dream now, boy,
Or is your land much grander than mine?
Does your grass feel the cut of the barbed-wire
That slashes the heart and the hand?
Or can it rekindle the old fire
That sleeps in the soul of the man?
And where do you ride now, old waddie?
Where do you roll out of your bed?
And when the strength has forsaken my body,
Will I ride on your ranges instead?
No one knows, no one cares how I’m hurtin’;
They can’t see that my back’s to the wall.
I might lose in this life, but I’m certain
That somewhere old punchers ride tall.
So blaze me a trail, you rawhiders;
Let me foller my dreams at a lope.
Sittin’ high, wide and handsome, rough riders,
A-straddle my horse and my hopes.
The old free ways are strangled by freeways;
Cattle trucks on the cow-trails now gone.
And I’ve cursed and I’ve prayed that there be ways
For old cowboys like me to ride on.
Have you made your own peace with the Lord, son,
And do you ride with the sinners as well?
For if God is a cowboy, we’ll have fun
Just a-chousin’ the Devil through Hell.
Speak kind to the Boss of the Riders;
Tell Him I lived free and proud.
It was lonely and tough, but I tied ‘er
Hard and fast, away from the crowd.
So wherever you’re ridin’, old cowboy,
Cut ten snorty broncs to my string.
‘Cause ropin’ and ridin’, I’ll allow, boy,
Beats the Hell out of gold harps and wings.
© 1990, Dennis Gaines
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.
Sadly, cowboy, poet, and popular entertainer Dennis Gaines left this world on December 26, 2019. Known for his stage antics and humorous windies, he will be greatly missed by friends and family. In recent months, good friends such as Linda Marie Kirkpatrick, Jean Prescott and Gary Prescott, Andy Hedges and Alissa Hedges, and others kept in close touch with and visited with Dennis Gaines.
Dennis was born in Mountain Home, Idaho, to an Air Force father and native Texan mother, and the family was stationed at bases in Texas, Louisiana, Okinawa, and Germany.
He worked on drilling rigs and cowboyed at the historic Matador Cattle Company. He was featured on stages from the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration and many in between. Perhaps his most unforgettable performance involved his poem “The Spandex Cowboy,” performed in pink tights. See the poem and Lori Faith’s photo of Dennis in the famous tights here.
He was one of the first poets at CowboyPoetry.com, you can find some of his work at cowboypoetry.com/dg.htm.
This poem is from his 1990 book, New Tradition Western Verse. He introduces it with his signature humor, “This piece is readily adaptable to a number of melodies. I sing it regularly to my cows and have yet to hear a single complaint. Human audiences are less
charitable towards my singing talents, preferring the recited version.”
Jean Prescott has written, “Dennis requested that there be no formal service after his passing. He asked that his body and organs be donated to A&M for research, but did not meet the criteria because he was too tall. He will be cremated and on Memorial Day his ashes will be spread over the family property near Buffalo Gap, Texas, where his mother’s ashes were spread. Friends are invited to attend.”
Condolences can be left at Callaway-Jones.
The above portrait of Dennis Gaines was taken by photojournalist Jeri Dobrowski at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This photo was taken at the same gathering by Smoke Wade and includes from left, Waddie Mitchell, Jerry Brooks, and Dennis Gaines:
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photos with this post, but for other uses, seek permission.)