THE “D2” HORSE WRANGLER
by D.J. O’Malley (1867-1943)
One day I thought I’d have some fun,
And see how punching cows was done;
So, when the roundup had begun,
I tackled a cattle king.
Says he: “My foreman is in town,
He’s at the MacQueen, his name is Brown,
Go over, and I think he’ll take you down.”
Says I: “That’s just the thing.”
We started for the ranch next day,
Brown talked to me ‘most all the way;
He said cowpunching was only fun,
It was no work at all;
That all I had to do was ride,
It was just like drifting with the tide,
Geemany chimany, how he lied;
He surely had his gall.
He put me in charge of a cavvy-yard
And told me not to work too hard,
That all I had to do was guard
The horses from getting away.
I had one hundred and sixty head,
And oft’ times wished that I were dead,
When one got away Brown got red,
Now this is the truth, I say.
Sometimes a horse would make a break
Across the prairies he would take
As though he were running for a stake,
For him it was only play.
Sometimes I couldn’t head him at all
And again my saddle horse would fall
And I’d speed on like a cannon ball
Till the earth came in my way.
They led me out an old gray hack
With a great big set fast on his back,
They padded him up with gunny sacks
And used my bedding all.
When I got on he left the ground,
Jumped up in the air and turned around,
I busted the earth as I came down,
It was a terrible fall.
They picked me up and carried me in
And rubbed me down with a rolling pin;
“That’s the way they all begin,
You are doing well,” says Brown,
“And tomorrow morning, if you don’t die,
I’ll give you another horse to try.”
“Oh! won’t you let me walk?” says I,
“Yes,” says he, “into town.”
I’ve traveled up and I’ve traveled down,
I’ve traveled this country all around,
I’ve lived in city, I’ve lived in town,
And I have this much to say:
Before you try it go kiss your wife,
Get a heavy insurance on your life,
Then shoot yourself with a butcher knife,—
It’s far the easiest way.
…by D.J. O’Malley, 1894
“The ‘D-2’ Horse Wrangler” was first published in 1894 in the Miles City Stock Grower’s Journal.
D. J. O’Malley was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1868, and put in nearly a score of years on the open range. He started cowboying in Montana in 1884.
His career as a cowboy poet began in 1889 when he penned “To the Memory of Wiley Collins” about a chuck wagon cook who was killed by lightning. Over the next half century, he wrote many poems and stories about the men and the work he knew, often using the pen name “N Bar N Kid White.”
In a 1967 article in the Journal of American Folklore, John I. White writes, “The most persistent contributor of original verses to the Journal was Dominick J. O’Malley ( 1867-1943), who, at the age of fifteen, following the disappearance of his soldier-stepfather from Fort Keogh adjacent to Miles City, had gone to work as a horse wrangler for the Home Land & Cattle Company, operated by the Niedringhaus Brothers. In a very short time the young wrangler with a flair for versifying had become proficient at the cowpuncher’s unique and often dangerous trade, which he followed for nearly twenty years. Three trips up the trail with Texas cattle bound for northern ranges, the last in 1891, were among his unusual experiences.”
Read more at CowboyPoetry.com.
Top reciter Ross Knox includes “The ‘D-2’ Horse Wrangler” on his CD, Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day, and that recording is included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three from CowboyPoetry.com.
Watch the late Trey Allen recite the poem at here in this YouTube video.
There’s a recording of Slim Critchlow reciting “The ‘D-2’ Horse Wrangler” at the Western Folklife Center, along with some other great classics.
This photograph of D.J. O’Malley is from the Montana Historical Society, used with permission. Credit: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT: 944-212 D.J. O’Malley (Kid White) taken in Forsyth, Montana 1897, photographer unknown. Catalog # 944-212
(This poem is in the public domain.)