jessicaboys2 (1)
© Jessica Hedges

by Ken Cook

I’ll tell this one straightforward
and try not to leave undone,
the building of a friendship
I watched while being spun.

The scene, a grassy horse trap
on a crisp October day
after men had saddled up
and rode out on their way.

I spied a cowboy on a mission,
packin’ a halter big as he was.
Appeared to me, from his pint size,
his plan had tall size flaws.

How he’d catch a horse and get on
put my mind in a fizzle,
but he was gathering props
to complete his horseback puzzle.

If you’re barely tall as meadow grass
and a horse is big and stout,
it takes a heap of cowboy try
to make things all work out.

He hunted up two buckets,
turned’em over on a bank,
disappeared down by the barn
and found a narrow plank.

Board went on the buckets,
step one was complete,
then hustled back up to the barn
to get his horse a treat.

Tossed oats in a coffee can,
couple handfuls so they’d rattle,
boldly walked out to the tank
where I knew things would unravel.

Several horses came and went,
each one drank their fill,
the little feller paid no mind,
just stood there calm and still,

until a big black gelding
raised his head and snuck a look,
boy shook the can, and that coax worked
just like he’d set a hook.

One hoof, then another,
not a trot but not a walk.
Gelding sensed just what was coming,
even so he did not balk.

With a flat hand full of berries,
lured that big head ever lower
’til Dad’s halter fell in place
and in a flash the catch was over.

Horse finished all the oats,
even the dribbles on the ground,
Lad calmly stroked his neck
like a lost friend he’d just found

and I swear that horse just melted,
how can youngsters be that smart?
Easy I guess, if all you do
flows freely from your heart.

Now I couldn’t hear what he was sayin’,
but while they both were walkin’,
his words just kept on coming
and that kid went right on talking

until horse and he were standing
at the board, set up for mounting,
and next thing I saw happening
was the little guy was ridin!

I assume with one arm wavin’,
he and his crew were gathering,
after that it took deciphering,
but I figure he was sorting.

Next came some pretend roping,
at this make believe ranch branding,
until the pairs were trailed to grazing,
and his faithful steed quit walking.

A Folgers can brim full of oats
lured a big head low once more,
halter off, kid rubbed his friend
gently like before.

Then it happened, thing that got me,
said I’d tell it straight,
Cowboy waved goodbye to that horse
‘til he reached the farthest gate.

I never interrupted them
nor made my presence known
because what happens, between two good friends,
is better left alone.

© 2018, Ken Cook
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Third-generation South Dakota cowboy and rancher Ken Cook told us he was originally inspired by a drawing, “The Best Gift,” by Western Horseman art director Ron Bonge.

Ken comes from a long line of respected cowboys, and he and Nancy Cook continue that line with their offspring. Ken and Jay Snider collaborated on a highly praised book and CD, Passing it On, with drawings by Tyler Crow and Roger Archibald. Ken also has CDs of his poetry.

Find more about Ken Cook and more of his poetry at

Jessica Hedges, poet, cowboy, photographer, businesswoman, Western marketing expert, and mom and wife of a cowboy, shared this photo of her son, Cinch, with Joey, his grandfather’s old horse. Cinch carries on a great cowboy line. His grandfather is cowboy and writer Mackey Hedges (“Last Buckaroo,” “Shadow of the Wind”). Jessica Hedges’s Branded in Ink company works at “Challenging the face of western marketing one brand at a time.” Her photography is available as prints, cards, and more. Find more at and on

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