SUMMER TIME by Bruce Kiskaddon

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SUMMER TIME
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There’s a heap of times when ridin’
after cattle shore is tough.
When every thing is goin’ wrong,
or else the weather’s rough.
The whole world seems ag’in you.
You can do yore level best,
But you ain’t a gittin’ nowheres
and yore nearly dead for rest.

But it’s purty in the summer
when yore ridin’ through the hills.
Where the tall green grass is growin’
and the air is soft and still.
Cows and calves is fat and gentle.
They jest look at you and stare.
You can hear the little insecks
go a buzzin’ in the air.

You may run onto some places
that is mighty steep to climb,
But you ain’t in any hurry,
and you give the hoss his time.
You figger that it ain’t so bad,
a bein’ a cow poke,
And you feel so plum contented
you don’t even want to smoke.

No, a cow boy’s life ain’t easy
when you git it figgered down.
He don’t have a lot of comforts
that the people have in town.
But he don’t deserve no sympathy
fer how his life is spent.
Fer there’s times he’s jest a bathin’
in a ocean of content.

There is nothin’ there to bother him,
he doesn’t have to hurry.
He is doin’ what he wants to do,
he isn’t in a hurry.
Yes, it pays up fer the frost bites,
all the falls and all the spills,
On them lovely days in summer
when he’s ridin’ in the hills.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

The poem and its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951) appeared on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar in November, 1942, and also in the Western Livestock Journal that year.

Bruce Kiskaddon’s ten years of cowboying informs many of his works. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems.

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 CowboyPoetry.com.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems introduces Bruce Kiskaddon’s life and work. The poetry begins with some of the best known of Kiskaddon’s reflective poems, with look backward to “when cattle were plenty and men were few.” Poems that follow are about cowboys and men, work, cattle, horses (and one mule), heavenly concerns, old-time life, quirky characters, gear, a ghost tale, and some Christmas poems.

Among the voices are Randy Rieman, Jay Snider, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Trey Allen, Floyd Beard, Ol Jim Cathey, Rod Miller, Ken Cook, Ross Knox, Chris Isaacs, Dennis Russell Nazelrod, Jerry Brooks, Gail Steiger, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Jessica Hedges, Robert Dennis, Valerie Beard, Keith Ward, John Reedy Baxter Black, J.B. Allen, Brigid Reedy, Jesse Smith, Duane Nelson, Kathy Moss, Susie Knight, Kay Nowell, Tom Swearingen, Dick Morton, DW Groethe, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Dale Page, Almeda Bradshaw, Smoke Wade, Sunny Hancock, Jarle Kvale, Johnny Reedy, Rusty McCall, Dave McCall, Terry Nash, and Rex Rideout. Musician and top sound engineer Butch Hause offers a colorful radio PSA for the Center and Cowboy Poetry Week.

CDs are offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s “Rural Library Program, given to the Center’s donors, and available for sale. Find more about the CD here.

This image is from the CowboyPoetry.com collection of Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendars. Cattle prices are given on the back of the calendar page, which includes, “Range cows of common and medium quality are selling at $8.75 to $10.50 …. Bulls continue in fairly good demand at $10 to $11…”

(This poem is in the public domain.)

THE OLD HANDS, by Vess Quinlan

vessquinlanphoto by P’let Tcherkassky

 

THE OLD HANDS
by Vess Quinlan

It’s good to set and listen
to their talk of long ago,
these men with skin like leather
and hair as white as snow,

to hear how the world was run
a little different then,
produced a tougher breed of cattle
and a rougher sort of men.

The cows were lean and ringy
and working ’em was hard;
you could melt a hundred head
and not get a pound of lard.

There were damn few gentle horses
like we’re used to now;
it don’t take much to figger horses
had to match with man and cow.

A horse was five or six years old
before they’d run him in;
the idea of starting colts
was considered wrong back then.

Their days were long and lonesome
and the camps were far away;
they got to town about once a month
to spend the hard earned pay.

But the thing you hear most often
is the whole damn deal was fun,
in spite of winter’s biting cold
and summer’s scorching sun,

In spite of rank and spoiled horses,
or maybe ’cause of them.
You wonder if you’d have made a hand
had you lived back then.

You say you wish the old days
would come rolling back around
to see who could stay the camp
and who’d go back to town.

A grey head shakes, “No son,” he says,
“Not that, leastways not to the letter.
We done some things the way we did
’cause we just didn’t know no better.”

© 1990, Vess Quinlan, from The Trouble with Dreams
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Colorado rancher, writer, storyteller, and poet Vess Quinlan has been described, “Vess Quinlan is an American Cowboy Poet, who is widely considered to be one of the most respected poets of his genre.” There is no argument with that.

Find more poetry by Vess Quinlan in our feature here.

In July 2019, Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads podcast aired an outstanding interview with Vess Quinlan. It is filled with thoughtful insights about work, cowboys, poetry, and people in general. You’ll hear about his family’s and his own history and learn something about his perseverance and the wisdom he’s gathered. Listen to the episode here.

Find Vess Quinlan’s recitation of his poem, “The Barn Cats” and find more video at the Western Folklife Center’s YouTube channel. Vess Quinlan has been a part of all but two of the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gatherings.

The above photo of Vess Quinlan is by artist and friend-to-many Californian P’let Tcherkassky, taken at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. Find more about her at paulettespalette.net.

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(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)

Vess Quinlan: Three Poems

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photo © 1993,  Kent Reeves; request permission for reproduction; find more below

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POEMS

The Old Hands
Mamma’s Cowboy
The Soul of a Cowman

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THE OLD HANDS
by Vess Quinlan

It’s good to set and listen
to their talk of long ago,
these men with skin like leather
and hair as white as snow,

to hear how the world was run
a little different then,
produced a tougher breed of cattle
and a rougher sort of men.

The cows were lean and ringy
and working ’em was hard;
you could melt a hundred head
and not get a pound of lard.

There were damn few gentle horses
like we’re used to now;
it don’t take much to figger horses
had to match with man and cow.

A horse was five or six years old
before they’d run him in;
the idea of starting colts
was considered wrong back then.

Their days were long and lonesome
and the camps were far away;
they got to town about once a month
to spend the hard earned pay.

But the thing you hear most often
is the whole damn deal was fun,
in spite of winter’s biting cold
and summer’s scorching sun,

In spite of rank and spoiled horses,
or maybe ’cause of them.
You wonder if you’d have made a hand
had you lived back then.

You say you wish the old days
would come rolling back around
to see who could stay the camp
and who’d go back to town.

A grey head shakes, “No son,” he says,
“Not that, leastways not to the letter.
We done some things the way we did
’cause we just didn’t know no better.”

© 1990, Vess Quinlan, from The Trouble with Dreams
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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MAMMA’S COWBOY

It’s been over fifty years
and mamma blushes like a teen,
red as a desert sunset,
when one of her brothers says,
remember the time Bearcat Bearden
fell in love with Marjorie,
hung around the telephone office
all winter just to walk her home.

I am a son amazed,
not to learn that mamma
had a boyfriend before dad
but at the idea of old Bearcat,
who would saddle a horse
to ride to the outhouse,
walking her home.

© 1990, Vess Quinlan, from The Trouble with Dreams
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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THE SOUL OF A COWMAN

When we had enough of shopping,
grew tired of “Don’t touch that,”
“Behave yourself” and “Come back here”
little guy and I escaped, set off afoot
down a handsome tree lined street,
the best town offers with great white homes
and yards penned in by wrought iron.
Little guy took in the plenty grass,
and said, “Grandpaw where are all the horses?”
I swelled with pride to know that genes ran true
and the soul of a cowman was in that child;
barely two he damn sure knew what grass was for.
Then thoughts of pure clean genes running true
vanished in an old man’s grin of understanding.
Raised water short on our desert outfit,
the poor little buckeroo had never seen a lawn.

© 1990, Vess Quinlan, from The Trouble with Dreams
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

vessquinlanphoto by P’let Tcherkassky

Colorado rancher, writer, storyteller, and poet Vess Quinlan has been described, “Vess Quinlan is an American Cowboy Poet, who is widely considered to be one of the most respected poets of his genre.” There is no argument with that.

In July 2019, Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads podcast aired an outstanding interview with Vess Quinlan. It is filled with thoughtful insights about work, cowboys, poetry, and people in general. You’ll hear about his family’s and his own history and learn something about his perseverance and the wisdom he’s gathered. Listen to the episode here.

Find Vess Quinlan’s recitation of his poem, “The Barn Cats” and find more video at the Western Folklife Center’s YouTube channel. Vess Quinlan has been a part of all but two of the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gatherings.

This favorite photo of the book Vess Quinlan carries with him was taken at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering  by Idaho photographer and filmmaker Betty K. Rodgers (imarriedthewar.com):

Quinlan Book B&W© 2010, Betty K. Rodgers; request permission for reproduction

The color photo up top of Vess Quinlan is by artist and friend-to-many Californian P’let Tcherkassky, taken at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. Find more about her at paulettespalette.net.

The circa 1993 photograph of Vess Quinlan at the top of this page is by Kent Reeves from the landmark book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.

Kent Reeves writes in the book’s Acknowledgments, “…I owe my work in this book to all the poets who allowed me to interrupt their lives and who took me in for a few days. I do not feel that I ‘took’ these photographs; I believe that each poet gave them to me.” In addition to Vess Quinlan, the book includes chapters with Buck Ramsey, Wallace McRae, Joel Nelson, Rod McQueary, Linda Hussa, John Dofflemyer, Shadd Piehl, Paul Zarzyski, Sue Wallis, Henry Real Bird, and Drummond Hadley.

See a gallery of photos from the book here and find more about Kent Reeves at cowboypoetry.com, at his site cowboyconservation.com, and on Facebook.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)

USELESS QUESTION and TEXAS ZEPHYR by S. Omar Barker

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USELESS QUESTION
by S. Omar Barker

No Texan ever asks you where you’re from. In fact they say
He views such questions as but idle chatter.
Because if you’re from Texas, you will tell him anyway,
And if you’re not, it really doesn’t matter.

TEXAS ZEPHYR
by S. Omar Barker

To figure how hard the wind blows out on the Texas Plains,
You hang a fresh-killed beef up with a pair of logging chains;
And if, on the morning after, you find your beef’s been skinned,
And you have to ride to find the hide, there’s been just a little wind!

…poems courtesy of the S. Omar Barker Estate, used with permission.
These poems should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Though he hailed from New Mexico, S. Omar Barker seemed to know something about Texas. He 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 cowboypoetry.com.

On MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker, Texan Kay Kelley Nowell recites “Useless Question” and Texan Linda Marie Kirkpatrick recites “Texas Zephyr.”

Both Kay Kelley Nowell and Linda Kirkpartick are involved with new Texas gatherings.

Kay Kelley Nowell is part of the committee for the new Lone Star Cowboy Gathering in Alpine, Texas, formed by an energetic group of people in response to this year’s retirement of the venerable Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The event is scheduled for February 21-22, 2020. Visit their site for more information and stay tuned for more news here.

Linda Kirkpatrick is a part of the lineup for the first annual Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Winsboro Center for the Arts, October 19, 2019. She’ll be joined by Lavern “Straw” Berry, Joe Dan Boyd, Teresa Burleson, Don Cadden, Bob Campbell, Allan Chapman, “Doc” Davis, Pipp Gilette, Chris Isaacs, Gary Robertson, Hailey Sandoz with Kristin Harris, Jay Snider, Doug Tolleson, and Conrad Wolfman.

And the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering, started last year and already making its mark as a don’t-miss event, holds its second annual gathering November 8-9, 2019, in Fredericksburg. The lineup includes Mike Beck, Andy Hedges, Brigid and Johnny Reedy, Joel Nelson, Cowboy Celtic, Krystin Harris, Pipp Gilette, Sourdough Slim, Rodney Nelson,
and Mike Blakely.

This c. 1901 photograph by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) is titled “A group of Texas cowboys” at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

(Please respect copyright. You can share these poems with this post, but for other uses, request permission. The photograph is in the public domain.)

A WESTERNER by E. A. Brininstool

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A WESTERNER
by E. A. Brininstool

I knowed he was a Westerner
I knowed it by his talk;
I knowed it by his headgear,
I knowed it by his walk.
His face was bronzed and fearless;
His eye was bright and keen,
That spoke of wide, vast ranges
I knowed that he had seen.

Somehow I knowed he’d ridden
The range-lands of the West;
His speech was bunkhouse patter—
The kind I love the best.
He brought a hint of prairies,
Of alkali and sage;
Of stretches wide and open —
The Western heritage.

I knowed he was a Westerner
Just from the way he done;
His footgear, too, proclaimed him
A stalwart Western son…
He had “the makin’s” with him,
And I could not forget
His bed-ground from the manner
He rolled his cigaret.

He brought with him the freedom
Of that great Western land;
Where grassy billows, endless,
Sprawl out on ev’ry hand.
The city noises chafed him,
And each skyscraper tall
Seemed like grim barriers risin’,
Or some deep canyon wall.

He seemed a part and parcel
Of countries wide and far,
Where great herds dot the mesas,
Out where the cowmen are.
I knowed he was a Westerner
Becuz he was so free
In yellin’ “Howdy pardner!”
When he was passin me.

…E. A. Brininstool, from Trail Dust of a Maverick, 1914

E. A. (Earl Alonzo) Brininstool was a western historian, best known for his writings about Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. He also worked as a reporter and editorial writer for Los Angeles newspapers. In a 1994 reissue of his 1954 book, Troopers with Custer, it is claimed that he wrote over 5,000 Western poems.

In the introduction to Brininstool’s 1914 poetry collection, Trail Dust of a Maverick, Robert J. Burdette wrote that Brininstool, like earlier dialect poets (including Robert Burns):

. . . has done the same thing for the abundant, exuberant, natural dialect of the range and the rodeo; the long winding trail, the sweep of the prairies . . . his verse lends splendor to the sunrise and beauty to the sunset . . . His songs have this deathless quality—they chant the glories and the beauties, the joys and the dangers, the dances and the conflicts of the vanishing life.

This 1913 photo of E.A. Brininstool and “Curley” is from the Native Peoples of Northern Great Plains Digital Images Database at the Montana State University Library. From the site: “The Native Peoples of Northern Great Plains Digital Images Database includes photographs, paintings, ledger drawings, documents, serigraphs, and stereographs from 1874 through the 1940s…”

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)

OUT WHERE THE WEST BEGINS, by Arthur Chapman

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OUT WHERE THE WEST BEGINS
by Arthur Chapman (1873-1935)

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,
That’s where the West begins.

Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where friendship’s a little truer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,
That’s where the West begins;

Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,
That’s where the West begins;
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
And a man makes friends without half trying —
That’s where the West begins.

… by Arthur Chapman, from Out Where the West Begins (1916)

At one time, few western poems were as widely known as Arthur Chapman’s “Out Where the West Begins.” Legend has it that he dashed off the poem for his “Center Shots” column in the Denver Republican when the Western states’ governors were arguing about where the West begins, and that he was amazed at the attention it received.

The poem appeared on postcards and other souvenirs, and was set to music. The poem was “adapted” without attribution for particular states

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The dust jacket of his 1921 novel, “Mystery Ranch,” has this to say about the poem:

…Today it is perhaps the best-known bit of verse in America. It hangs framed in the office of the Secretary of the Interior at Washington. It has been quoted in Congress, and printed as campaign material for at least two Governors. It has crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific, while throughout this country it may be found pinned on walls and pasted in scrapbooks innumerable…[his poems] possess a rich Western humor such as has not been heard in American poetry since the passing of Bret Harte.

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Find “Out Where the West Begins” and more about it, including a parody, “Down Where the Vest Begins,” at cowboypoetry.com. View the entire book at the Internet Archive.

Broadcaster and rodeo announcer Jim Thompson “Out Where the West Begins” on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two.

Chapman wrote many poems and published two collections of them.

The black and white uncredited illustration at the top is from Chapman’s 1921 Cactus Center book. We have searched, but have been unable to identify the artist, Harold ____? There are two signed illustrations in the book, but the (illegible) surnames don’t even look the same. The same artist appears to have illustrated the jacket of Out Where the West Begins. The postcard, from the BAR-D collection, is one of many that were produced with the poem.

Find much more about Arthur Chapman in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

This poem is in the public domain.

Events: Gatherings and More

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We welcome your event date and link for cowboy poetry and Western music events. Please send information at least several weeks before your event. Email us.

We regret that we can’t list individual performers’ or groups’ shows or “shows” that have just one or two performers or groups, including house concerts; those are too numerous for us to maintain. (We do welcome information for established venues with a roster of regularly-scheduled programs, even if those programs feature just one or two performers. The season’s schedule is welcome, at least several weeks before the season begins.)

We sometimes include other events of interest, such as rodeos and art shows.

We will consider separate blog posts with event information. Please send the announcement in plain text, not in graphic or pdf format. You can attach a logo, photo or graphic.

Be sure to include date, times, ticket information, a description, and performers’ names, along with contact information: a phone number, email address, or web link that can be posted.

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