ALCHEMISTS, by J.B. Allen

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ALCHEMISTS
by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

Renie was different,
A spawn of the plains,
Whose family was wed to the plows,
For tall grass and horses
Kept callin’ his name
In the manner of monks chantin’ vows.

His brothers
Were more of the Percheron ilk,
Content with a slow, measured pace,
But far-flung horizons
Drew Renie’s young eye,
And thoughts of the wind in his face.

I saw ‘im last Friday
in Muldooney’s store
A-trailin’ two kids and a wife.
His spurs and big smile
‘Neath a weather-stained hat
Said he’d found where he fitted in life.

Do stars cross in heaven
When men are conceived
To single ’em out from the pack?
Imbued with the knowledge
Of cattle and land
Surveyed from a cowpony’s back?

They come from all over
To wagons and camps,
As green as the early spring grass,
A’follerin’ their dreams,
Much too real to ignore,
Forgin’ gold from plain pewter and brass.

© 1991, J.B. Allen
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

This poem by the late Texas cowboy J.B. Allen will speak to many.

Andy Hedges, on his most recent Cowboy Crossroads podcast,  quotes from the poem. It is not found in any of J.B. Allen’s books, but is on an old cassette tape, Kindred Spirits and also is included in Warren Miller’s 1994 book, Cattle, Horses, Sky, and Grass: Cowboy Poetry of the Late Twentieth Century.

J.B. Allen was a widely respected working cowboy for over three decades. He was a frequent performer at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Western Folklife Center’s  National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, 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. The late Buck Ramsey, in his introduction to the book, 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.”

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J.B. Allen’s poetry is featured in a CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS, along with the work of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, 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.

This c. 1906 photo, titled “Cowboy Looking for a Job,” is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Thanks to Margaret Allen for her generous permissions.

(Please respect copyright. To share this poem, request permission.)