I’M GLAD I KNEW MEN LIKE THAT by Sally Harper Bates

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I’M GLAD I KNEW MEN LIKE THAT
by Sally Harper Bates

Up before daylight, put coffee on
Fed the stock and saddled by dawn
Get bucked off and get back on
Stay tough till the pain is gone

Riding through cholla and catclaw brush
Roping cattle that left in a rush
Shredded clothes, chaps brush-scarred
They never pulled out when things got hard
I’M GLAD I KNEW MEN LIKE THAT

If they had to build fence they did it right
Posts in line, wires all tight
He’d stop to dig someone out of a rut
If he got stuck, he’d suck in his gut

Respect your horse, don’t use him too hard
He’s more than a tool, he’s also your pard
Ear down a colt or bust him flat
Then grain him, scratch him, give him a pat

Laughed out loud at a kid that got dumped
From the back of a horse that barely humped
Just to be sure the kid wouldn’t shrink
He took the time to ride by and wink

He’d ride through dust and blistering heat
Freezing rain and numbing sleet
Hunt up cows and bring them in
Not one of those sows belonged to him
I’M GLAD I KNEW SOME OF THEM

He could have rode by, and hope she’d die
That cow that sported a soggy pink eye
The one that ran him down in the pen
Only God can make that kind of men

He’d jerk down a strap and tan my hide
Then rock me to sleep by a warm fireside.
Sit at a bar and banter all night
Or dance with his daughters till daylight.

Called to war, these steadfast men
Came back home to bury their kin
Read poetry books on love and war
Then built houses, and roads, and more.

The day before he showed up for the draft
He worked on the colt to hone his craft
He didn’t buck the bridle off
Go get drunk, or dodge the draft.
I’M GLAD I KNEW MEN LIKE THAT

Busted up by a crazy old roan,
Hobbled back to work alone.
Call in sick? What the hell for?
Someone still gotta do the chores.

Knee deep in blood, smoke, and cow-crap
Branding, till his body is wracked
Lips are always blistered and cracked.
Fingers split, nails dirty and black.

Caught a maverick, wished he’d missed
The bull had been his nemesis.
Swappin’ stories through the night
Butt in the saddle at morning light.

He could butcher a steer, and process meat
Play guitar and still sing sweet.
Drive forty miles on a wash-board road
To dance with his wife and lighten his load.
I’M GLAD I KNEW MEN LIKE THAT

Always perfecting his craft and his tack
Teaching the young ones who follow his tracks
His word is his bond, a handshake his creed
Known by his words, but more by his deeds

He’s tough and he’s tender, he’s hard to the bone
Made that way, by the seeds he’s sown
No give to his cinch, he’s set in his ways
Proud and strong, till he’s old and gray.
OH, I’M GLAD I KNOW MEN LIKE THAT

© 2020, Sally Harper Bates
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Popular poet, storyteller, songwriter, and editor Sally Harper Bates grew up on ranches and worked on them.

She told us about this poem’s inspiration, “I was listening to a CD of Red Steagall on my way home from visiting with my great grandsons. About three songs in I said out loud, ‘I’m glad I knew men like that!’”

She shared this 1940s photo of “men like that,” which includes, left to right, Dick Tatum; her father, Wallace Harper; and her grandfather Perry Harper.

Sally Harper Bates has books of her own poetry and stories, and has edited others, including two recent volumes of Facing West: Voices of Western Women, which collect the words of many Western poets and writers. Find more about the books and about her at Arizona Cowboy Connection.

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