THE ELDER by Teresa Burleson



by Teresa Burleson

The old wood chair raked across the floor
as he slowly stood up,
He walked to the stove and poured himself
another steaming cup.

His bones creaked like the scuffed hardwood floor
beneath his feet,
The thump of boot heel and ring of spur
played out a pleasant beat.

He sat back down in the chair that he left
and took a long sip,
Listening to younger cowboys laugh ’bout
catching some ol’ rip.

About how rank the new colts are
and the inches of rain,
The price of feed and the average
of cattle’s weight and gain.

They boast and they brag
about their latest triumph or wreck.
Eating breakfast, making small talk
and giving the new guy heck.

Somehow the conversation turned
toward a more serious side,
About spiritual things like faith
and letting God be your guide.

The elder cowboy silently listened
to the lively debate,
He feared his input
would make the conversation abate.

Back and forth, the pro’s and con’s
of living a life for the Lord,
One believed he couldn’t do it
for he would just be too bored.

The new guy said, “You can’t be
a cowpuncher and be a Christian.”
Besides, he don’t go in for
all that pomp and benediction.

The older cowboy could feel the tension
and he had to clear it.
They knew he didn’t say much but
when he did you better hear it.

He looked them each in the eye
and spoke in a clear, confident voice.
As he told them that one of these days
they would have to make a choice.

About which trail to ride
and it best be sooner than later.
They need to think hard about
having a talk with their Creator.

He told them, “there’s some things
that you fellas need to understand.
You see, cowboys can be Christians
for our Lord is a cattleman.

He owns cattle on a thousand hills
and every creature on the ground.
Why, he started a colt on Palm Sunday
and rode him all the way to town!

Now, y’all be watchin’ for him to come back
like a thief in the night.
He’ll be ridin’ down from heaven
on a finished horse that’s white.

Just accept what the Lord has for you
and he’ll never turn his back.
Simply follow the rules in His book
and it will keep you on track.

Well, silence filled the cookhouse
as they heard what was on his mind,
Enlightenment shined in their eyes
and a few got in a bind.

Surprisingly, for a man that rarely spoke,
he had a lot to say.
They quietly left the table
with something to think about that day.

And you could hear the soft creak of the hardwood floor
beneath their feet,
The thump of boot heels and the ring of spurs
played out a pleasant beat.

Then the old wood chair raked across the floor
as he stood up to leave.
He put on his hat and silently prayed
that at least one would believe.

© 2018, Teresa Burleson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission
Texan Teresa Burleson is a part of the forthcoming Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering (October 16-17, 2020) and when we requested a poem to help spread the word of that event, she sent us this poem.

The lineup for the second annual Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering also includes Hailey Sandoz and Mike Blakely.  The Gathering site tells, “…In addition to a great line-up of performers for the morning and afternoon sessions, this year’s Gathering features several special events. Come hear Michael Martin Murphey on Friday at Winnsboro Center for the Arts and sign up for the Open Mic session Friday afternoon from 5-7 pm. RJ Vandygriff will kick off Saturday afternoon with his special presentation of ‘The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet’… Find more at

Teresa Burleson was chosen as the 2019 International Western Music Association Female Poet of the Year. Find more about her and her books and cds, her schedule, her poetry, and more at

(Request permission for use of this poem.)