WINTER HOSSES by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)


photo © Ken Rodgers; request permission for use


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

You wake up in the mornin’
and you get yore coffee made.
The thermometer is ten degrees
‘bove zero in the shade.
But when once you get the taste
of good strong coffee in your throat.
You don’t mind the frosty mornin’.
You don’t even wear a coat.

You do put on yore overshoes
fer wadin’ in the snow.
You fill up all three nose bags
and then yore set to go.
The hosses come a nickerin’
and snuffin’ from the shed.
Each one reaches fer the nose bag
when you put it on his head.

You go back into the shack
and git youre breakfast started cookin’.
But you don’t furgit the horsses.
You have got to keep a lookin’.
When they finish, you have got to take
the nosebags off their heads.
Or they’ll grab ’em off each other
and they’ll tear ’em all to shreds.

Hosses act a heap like humans,
and they ain’t so much to blame.
There is shore a lot of people
that is doin’ jest the same.
And it’s mighty hard to stop ’em
at the stunts they try to pull;
Gittin’ sassy and destructive
jest because their belly’s full.

So I reckon there is some one
that has got to take a hand.
Lookin’ after brainless critters
that don’t seem to onderstand.
There’s hosses, cows and people
that you dassent leave alone.
They’d go plum to ruination
if you left ’em on their own.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Master poet Bruce Kiskaddon was a great observer of livestock and humans.

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at

This impressive photograph is by documentary filmmaker, teacher, poet, writer, and photographer Ken Rodgers. Ken and Betty Rodgers are co-producers of I Married the War, a documentary-in-progress about the wives of combat veterans. They also created the award-winning film Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor. Find more about I Married the War at and on Facebook, and more on “Bravo!” at and on Facebook.

Find more about Ken Rodgers at  and here on Facebook. Follow his daily photo posts on Instagram.

COWBOY’S OPINION by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)


by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Of all God’s creatures I endorse
most heartily the one called “horse.”
That on this creature man might sit
no doubt is why God made him split!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Barker wrote some 2,000 poems in his long career, including many pithy short ones, like this one.

It’s told that Barker enjoyed signing his name with his brand, created from his initials and laid sideways for “Lazy SOB,” but, that’s not a completely accurate story. In an article written by Barker for “Hoofs and Horns” magazine, Barker introduces himself, “This S.O.B. (my initials, not my ancestry) has never claimed to qualify as a sure ‘nough cowboy.” Later in the article, he comments, “Incidentally, when I applied for (Lazy S O B) for our cattle brand, they wrote back that some other S O B already had it. So we had to be satisfied with (Lazy S B).” (Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing the article, which he received from Vess Quinlan, who received it from Joel Nelson who received it from Kay Kelley Nowell.)

S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about him at

Oregon poet and horseman Tom Swearingen is pictured in an August, 2016 photo. Tom recites “Cowboy’s Opinion” on a forthcoming recording from

Tom is among the poets and musicians featured at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, February 2-4, 2018 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Known for its enthusiastic community and school involvement, the theme for the 2018 Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering is “Barn Dance and Western Swing.” Find a history of the gathering, which started in 1993, here.

Featured performers are 3 Trails West, Floyd Beard, Almeda Bradshaw,,Patty Clayton,,The Cowboy Way, Doris Daley, Peggy Godfrey, Hanson Family, Joe Herrington, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Carolyn and Dave Martin, Syd Masters Band, Doc Mehl, Notable Exceptions, Trinity Seely, Tom Swearingen, Barry Ward, and Joyce Woodson. Saturday Daytime Performers are Vic Anderson, Janet Bailey, Valerie Beard, Cimarron Sidekicks, Dean Cook, Joel Eliot, Thatch Elmer, Jessica Hedges, Ron Hinkle, Randy Houston, Steve Jones, Susie Knight, Mary Matli, Dave and Kathy McCann, James Michae, Mark Munzert, OK Chorale Trio, Ramblin’ Rangers, Dennis Russell, Gail Star, Rocky Sullivan, Miss “V”, and Washtub Jerry.

Find more at the gathering site,

See Tom Swearingen also at the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, February 16-18, 2018, in Ellensburg, Washington.

Find more about Tom Swearingen on Facebook and at his web site,


CLIFF by Susie Knight


by Susie Knight

The moon shines through his window.
He greets the mornin’s sounds.
He lights a flame beneath the pot
‘n throws in coffee grounds.

He’s old ‘n stiff in places
That ache each morn the same.
His lower back, his knees, ‘n hips;
Arthritis staked its claim.

He sets his jaw this mornin’
‘n pours a cup o’ joe,
Then takes some time to reminisce
’bout days from long ago.

The ranch he used to manage,
Not far from Valentine,
Was 60,000 acres
By 1969.

Top hand ‘n overseer,
He led the ranch’s crew.
Most times he managed twenty men
To delegate them through

The February calvin’s,
The brandin’s late in May,
The fences fixed all summer
Clear through till weanin’ day.

And, oh, the saddle horses
He rode each held a prize
There in his golden mem’ries
Secured behind his eyes.

But few will ever grasp it,
The life he’s lived ‘n known.
The calves he’s pulled from heifers;
Cesareans he’d sewn.

The hope of life each springtime
That wars against the curse
Of certain death from coyotes,
The cold, ‘n somethin’ worse…

…the older cows that weaken.
They’d just lay down ‘n die.
As labor’d overtake ’em,
He kept a watchful eye

‘n did his all to save ’em
To satisfy the boss.
Kept cattle profits in the black,
Preventin’ any loss.

He earned his compensation
For forty years or so,
’til one day in the winter when
He learned he’d been let go!


…the boss had died a-sudden.
The ranch was gettin’ sold.
New corporation owners felt that
He was too dang old

To run the ranch the kinda way
(On paper) they saw fit.
Dazed ‘n numb, he headed west
To mend his soul that split.

He settled west of Denver,
Near foothills out o’ town.
A place where he could view the sky
From sunup till sundown.

Then, he perused the papers
To find a job or two.
But, workin’ in Home Depot or
McDonald’s wouldn’t do!

Persistent in his searchin’,
Stayin’ focused and on track,
He found a dandy full-time job
Where he’d remain horseback.

It’s at a little stable
In a thousand acre park.
He wrangles dudes on horseback rides
From dawn until it’s dark.

He doesn’t pay attention;
Their antics don’t disturb
As hoofbeats meld with heartbeats
In percussive, low reverb.

With one eye on his riders
And one eye in the past,
He’s found a way to reminisce
The life that didn’t last.

He never would ‘o guessed that
His path would go this way…
Guidin’ trail ridin’
For city folks at play.

He knows they’re on vacation;
They’re “cowpokes” for a while.
They have no clue who’s guidin’them
Behind that wrinkled smile.

He’d never brag ‘n tell ’em.
(That ain’t the Cowboy Way.)
He’s horseback still, ‘n will remain
Until his dyin’ day!

© 2014, Susie Knight
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Award-winning Colorado cowgirl poet, singer, songwriter, and horsewoman Susie Knight told us:

I met Cliff Andre in the spring of 2011 when I was hired to be the Kids’ Horse Camp Instructor for Bear Creek Stables in Morrison, Colorado. A quiet old cowboy, it took most of the summer for me to learn Cliff’s story. I watched him handle horses gently with seasoned wisdom. Once I learned that he ranched most of his life not far from Valentine, Nebraska (a mere 100 miles from my family’s ranch in Pine Ridge, South Dakota), I pried out of him these bits and pieces of his life’s story. To date, Cliff is 88 years young, still guiding trail rides and driving the team of Belgians for Bear Creek Stables’ private events.

She provided this photograph of Cliff and Hippie, taken in May, 2015.

Susie appears next at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Golden, January 19-21, 2018. This year’s headliners are Carin Mari Lechner and Dave Stamey, and featured performers are Vic Anderson, Eli Barsi & John Cunningham, Floyd Beard, Marty Blocker, Doris Daley, Sam DeLeeuw, Richard Elloyan & Steve Wade, Carol Heuchan, Susie Knight, Al “Doc” Mehl, Carin Mari, Dave Stamey, Rod Taylor & Don Richmond, Dick Warwick, Joyce Woodson, and the Flying W Wranglers. Find more at

Susie Knight’s latest CD is Fillin’ Tanks. Find her also at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, Arizona, February 2-4, 2018.

Find more about Susie Knight at,  at her web site, and on Facebook.


SKYPE (#don’tgetthispoundsignstuff) by Terry Nash


photo by Amy Hale Auker; request permission for use


SKYPE (#don’tgetthispoundsignstuff)
by Terry Nash

Never thought I’d ever twitter
Nor considered that I’d tweet.
I’ve kept my hashtags to myself
And my sentences complete.

I used to think that Facebook
just happened when in bed
And you’d drifted off mid-paragraph
And yer novel hit yer head.

But, now I have this smart phone
With touch screen and some apps,
And I’m feelin’ sorta trendy
And I figure, just perhaps,

I’ll polish up my ‘tech’-nique;
Succumb to the latest hype,
Clean my hat, brush my ‘stache
And call someone and skype!

I figured just this mornin’
I’d be sure to catch Ol’ Claude.
When he see’s my grinnin’ face
There’s no doubt he’ll be awed!

So I called a little early
To catch him still at home…
Hadn’t ever seen him hatless,
But the glare off his ol’ dome

Plumb blinded me at first!
And when he started into talkin’
He hadn’t stuck his teeth in yet;
It was sorta like he’s squawkin’!

Claude didn’t know we’s skypin’-
Held the phone up just to listen
And I swear I seed plum through him
Confirmin’ my suspicion;

Some cowboys got dang little
‘Twixt their left ear and their right
Next time I skype ol’ Claude
It’ll be in the dark of night!

© 2015, Terry Nash, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Colorado rancher, reciter, and poet Terry Nash includes this poem on his new CD, A Good Ride.

Find the complete playlist for A Good Ride here.

Terry makes a return appearance as as invited poet at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada (January 30-February 4, 2018) along with a stellar lineup, including poets, musicians, and dancers: Ardi Baltza, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Ryan Bell, Muzzie & Willy & Cody Braun, Adrian Buckaroogirl, Caleb Klauder Country Band, Cowboy Celtic, John Dofflemyer, Carolyn Dufurrena, Maria Lisa Eastman, Elko Ariñak, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dom Flemons & Brian Farrow, Jean Flesher & Amerikanuak, Patricia Frolander, Pipp Gillette, Martin Goicoechea, Jesus Goñi, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rita Hosking & Sean Feder, Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran, Ross Knox, Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti, Betty Lynne McCarthy, Carlton McCord Lewis, Wally McRae, Waddie Mitchell, Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa, Michael Martin Murphey, Terry Nash, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Riders in the Sky, Randy Rieman, The Rifters, Matt Robertson, David Romtvedt & Caitlin Belem Romtvedt, Jack Sammon, Sean Sexton, Sand Sheff, Andy Wilkinson, Wylie & the Wild West, and Paul Zarzyski.

The 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering also includes workshops, films, exhibits, dances, and more. Find more at

Find Terry also at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas (March 2-3, 2018).

Learn more about Terry Nash at and about his CDs and more at his web site,

This photo with DW Groethe and Gail Steiger was taken by writer and cowboy Amy Steiger (Amy Hale Auker) in 2016 at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Amy is also featured at Elko. Amy Steiger is the author of four acclaimed books: two novels and two essay collections. Find more about her at


15th Annual Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival, April 13 -15, 2018, Kennewick, Washington

From Smoke Wade:

The 15th Annual Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival will take place April 13 -15, 2018 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, WA. The event is organized by Judy Massengale along with the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival Board of Directors.

News on featured performers, open mic sign up and special events are forthcoming. Visit

Scheduled daytime performances will be presented on Friday and Saturday, April 13– 14, 2018, along with open mic sessions. Headliner shows will take place at 6:00 p.m. each evening. A cowboy church will be held on Sunday morning following the gathering.

One of the highlights of the weekend will be the 10th Annual Cowboy Idol competition for both poets and musicians hosted by Smoke Wade. There will be trophies along with $500.00 for first place and $200.00 for second place in both the poet and musician competition. In addition, all open mic performers will be judged throughout the weekend for the People’s Choice Award with prize money and a trophy to the winner. Cowboy Idol contest applicants may contact Smoke Wade: email (435) 215-9675.

For information regarding advance ticket sales, RV parking, special Motel rates, or vendor & performer applications,  visit or contact Judy Massengale: email (509) 851-4287.


A COWBOY’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)


by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

As one who’s been a cowhand since the wildcats learned to spit,
I’ve made some resolutions for the comin’ year, to wit:
Resolved, to ride a shorter day and sleep a longer night;
To never come to breakfast till the sun is shinin’ bright;
To draw a top-hands wages when they’re due or quit the job
And hunt a wealthy widow or an easy bank to rob.
Resolved, to quit the wagon when the chuck ain’t up to snuff,
To feed no more on bullet beans nor chaw on beef that’s tough.
Resolved, to straddle nothin’ in the line of saddle mount
That ain’t plumb easy-gaited, gentle broke, and some account.

Resolved, that when it blizzards and there’s stock out in the storm,
To let the owner worry while I stay in where it’s warm.
Resolved, that when it comes my turn next spring to ride the bogs,
I’ll don the bib and tucker of my town and Sunday togs,
And tell the boss, by gravies, if he craves to shed some blood,
Just try to make me smear ’em tailin’ moo-cows from the mud.
Resolved, that when a thunderhead comes rollin’ up the sky,
I’ll lope in off my circle to the bunkhouse where it’s dry.

Resolved, to do such ropin’ as a ropin’ cowhand must,
But never when the air ain’t free from cattle-trompled dust.
Resolved to show no hosses, and resolved, to swim no cricks;
Resolved, no dead-cow skinnin’, and resolved, no fence to fix.
Resolved, to swing no pitchfork, no pick, no ax, no spade;
Resolved to wear my whiskers—if I want to—in a braid!
Resolved, to take this New Year plenty easy through-and-through,
Instead of sweatin’ heavy like I’ve always used to do.

As one who’s been a cowhand since before who laid the chunk,
It may sound like I’m loco, or it may sound like I’m drunk
To make such resolutions as you see upon my list,
And others purt near like ’em that my mem’ry may have missed;
But gosh, they sound so pleasant to a son of saddle sweat!
And New Year’s resolutions—well, I never kept one yet!
So why make resolutions that bring furrows to your brow?
Let’s make ’em free and fancy—’cause we’ll bust ’em anyhow!

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, from “Rawhide Rhymes,” reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker


Happy New Year, all!

S. Omar Barker  was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about S. Omar Barker at

Jay Snider recites this poem in a forthcoming CD from

This photograph is by Colorado rancher Terry Nash, taken in late 2013. Terry has a new CD, A Good Ride. Find more about him at and at his site,


Liz Masterson, December 30, 2017


The Western music and cowboy poetry world grieves the loss of universally loved and lauded singer Liz Masterson on December 30, 2017. Greatly talented, funny, and with an irrepressible spirit, she leaves countless friends and loving family.

A memorial celebration has been announced:

Sunday, February 4th 2pm-6pm

American Mountaineering Center
710 10th Street
Golden, Colorado 80401

2 to 4 Music and Poetry in the Auditorium

4 to 6 We’ll gather in the Conference Center
for light snacks and sharing memories of our
favorite cowgirl……


Those following her Caring Bridge page received the news of her passing:

Dear Treasured Friends & Family Afar,

Our family is deeply saddened to share the passing of our beloved sister, aunt and family member, the beautifully, talented Liz Masterson.

Liz has been in hospice care in her home since early November with a wonderfully supportive stream of friends and family sharing their love and music with her. She passed away shortly after 6pm this evening following her long battle with ovarian cancer with several dear friends (Ginger, Mag, Susan, Susie), her brother, Ed and sister-in-law, Jeannie nearby.

Two days ago Liz tried to muster the words and strength to send her Caring Bridge community the following update which she wasn’t able to complete:

This is the journal post I didn’t want to write for a while. It’s been hard getting my mind around the now inevitable conclusion that I am losing this battle. Watching my body decline everyday is an undeniable reality I have to face.

On December 11th while on my way to see my oncologist, I fell on the bottom step of my porch and it took Ginger and two of my neighbors to help me get up. Seeing Jerralyn was bittersweet, as it marked the closing of our four and a half year doctor/patient relationship. I was so relieved to have Ginger here to drive me to my appointment.

For those wishing to express their condolences with a thoughtful gift, in lieu of flowers, Liz has asked that you donate to your favorite animal charity, music scholarship or an ovarian cancer or BRCA research alliance or foundation.

More details will be shared in the coming days around her memorial service.

Your continued love, support and music through her journey with cancer and her recent days in hospice are immeasurable, and we are forever grateful that she has such a kind and compassionate community.

With love and gratitude,
Liz’s Family

Social media followed with many friends offering tributes and reminiscences. Her friend Yvonne Hollenbeck wrote, “One of the best voices to ever grace the stage at many a cowboy poetry gathering or folk festival…” Friend Patty Clayton shared the news, “….the songbird has flown. What an amazing life this woman has had. Her last days on this Earth have yielded to a peaceful end to a long, hard and well fought battle that Liz met head on and with such grace and dignity and that never ending sense of humor that continued to make us all laugh even in the hardest of times…”

Over the past years, Liz bravely pursued treatments for her ovarian cancer. She continued to perform, record, and spend time with valued family and friends.

Find more about Liz Masterson at her web site.