WINTER PAST’ER by Bruce Kiskaddon

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WINTER PAST’ER
by Bruce Kiskaddon

The old time winter past’er was a good idee some how,
It worked a whole lot faster than the way they do it now.
Jest look the feed they have to haul. It really don’t make sense.
Them days one man could handle all they put inside the fence.

This work of feedin’ gits my goat. It worries me a lot.
Too cold to go without a coat, and with it you’re too hot.
You git the snow pushed off the stack and use a big hay knife.
You’re workin’ fit to break your back. No way to spend your life.

Of course on winter mornin’s when you had to chop the ice,
And ride a dozen miles of fence, it wasn’t jest so nice.
But then it had this new way beat, as near as I recall.
You bundled up your ears and feet and didn’t mind aytall.

We hear a lot of “Post War” talk. So when this scrap is through,
I’m hopin’ they will winter stock the way they used to do.
If once they git the world streamlined, I recokon mebbyso,
They will winter cows in past’ers like they used to years ago.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1946

This poem appeared in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar 74 years ago.

Wheaton Hall Brewer wrote, in his introduction to Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1835 book, Western Poems, “…As the years roll on and history appreciates the folk-lore of the plains and ranges, these poems by a real cowboy will take on a deeper significance and mightier stature. When Bruce turns his pony into the Last Corral—long years from now, we all hope—he need feel no surprise if he hears his songs sung by the celestial cowboys as their tireless ponies thunder over the heavenly ranges, bringing in the dogies for branding at the Eternal Corrals. For poetry will never die.”

Find many more poems and more about Kiskaddon in features at cowboypoetry.com. Earlier this year we released a 3-cd collection, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon.

This 1943 photograph by John Collier, Jr., (1913-1992) is titled “Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico. Winter feeding on the Mutz ranch.” It is from The Library of Congress Farm Services Administration collection.

Collier had learning disabilities and hearing loss from a car accident when he was a young boy. He spent time learning from painter Maynard Dixon. Dixon was married to noted photographer Dorothea Lange at the time and she may have helped him get work as a photographer at the Farm Services Administration, which documented American life
during the Great Depression. He became an anthropologist and his book, “Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method” is still in use. Find a film about him at vimeo.com/ondemand/johncollier.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

MASTERS CD Series

 The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry produces compilation CDs of classic and contemporary poetry recitations. The CDs are offered to libraries in the Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week Rural Library project, given as premiums to the Center’s supporters, and available to the public.

The current CD series is MASTERS.

Coming in 2020:  MASTERS: VOLUME FOUR, the poetry of Badger Clark.

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MASTERS: VOLUME THREE contains over 60 tracks in a three-disc CD of the poetry of  Bruce Kiskaddon. Voices from the past and from today’s top reciters and poets celebrate cowboy poetry’s popular classic poet.  Kiskaddon expert Bill Siems introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS: VOLUME THREE here.

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MASTERS: VOLUME TWO (April, 2018) contains over 60 tracks in a double CD of the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals,  siblings, couples, parents and children—bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Andy Hedges introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS: VOLUME TWO here.

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The first CD in the series. MASTERS (2017), includes the works of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens, reciting their poetry in recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs). Jay Snider introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS (2017) here.

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Previous to the MASTERS series, the Center produced ten volumes of The BAR-D Roundup.

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The Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—is held each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, a compilation CD and the celebration’s poster—by Shawn Cameron in 2019; by Clara Smith in 2018; by Jason Rich in 2017; by Gary Morton in 2016; by Don Dane in 2015; by Jason Rich in 2014; Shawn Cameron in 2013; by R.S. Riddick in 2012, Duward Campbell in 2011, Bill Owen in 2010, Bob Coronato in 2009; William Matthews in 2008; Tim Cox in 2007; and Joelle Smith in 2006—are offered to libraries in the Center’s Rural Library Project. The outreach program is a part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

We need your support to continue and expand these programs. Join us and be a part of it all.

 

Please pitch in. Be a part of it all!

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The Center was formed to serve a mostly rural and under-served community of Western writers, musicians, and artists; to help preserve Western and Cowboy Poetry and its associated arts; to offer a central resource for poets, libraries, schools, and the public; and to educate the public about the history and value of Western and Cowboy Poetry and its associated arts.

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OL’ PROC, by Wallace McRae

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OL’ PROC
by Wallace McRae

Old-timers in the neighborhood
Would bandy words on who was good
At puncher jobs for hours on end when I was just a kid.
They’d get wall-eyed ‘n paw and bawl
And swear, “By damn I knowed ’em all.
If’n Josh he wasn’t best trailhand, I’ll eat my beaver lid!”

“Down and dirty, I’m the dealer
Old Bob Seward? Best damn peeler
Ever snapped a bronc out, jist give me one he broke.”
“Give you say? That’s what I heard.
You’re right that Bob’s a tough ol’ bird.
But better practice cactus pickin’ and work on your spur stroke.

Cain’t stay astraddle one of his his’n
When he pops the plug and goes t’ fizzin’
She’ll be adios caballo and howdy to the nurse.”
They’d move from bickering bronc peeler
To rawhide hands ‘n fancy heelers.
“Red Carlin?” “Young Mac Philbrick?” They’d testify and curse.

They’d analyze Link Taylor’s cuttin’:
“His bag-splittin’ way of calf denuttin’
Is pure askin’ for trouble, ‘sides he don’t cut by the sign.”
“You cut your calves by the moon?
Keep on night brandin’ and pretty soon
The sheriff’ll change yer address and you’ll be twistin’ hair
and twine.”

On they’d rave and postulate
‘Bout who was fair and who was great.
As they scratched brands in the hot dust, I’d never say a word.
But in their jousting verbal battle,
Among the boasts and barbs and prattle,
I sat in youthful judgment as they sorted out the herd.”

So, I came early to understand
The names of every good top hand.
In my scope of country, from hearing tough hands talk.
But when they’d crow and blow and boast
The one name that came up the most
Was a wily wild horse runner they simply called “ol’ Proc.”

“You boys jist start ’em. I’ll stop ’em.”
Old Proc’d say and then he’d chop ’em
Off at some escape route. He’d wheel ‘n bring them in.
“Proc thinks horse,” I’d heard them say,
And finally there came the day
That I would get to meet this fabled mounted paladin.

My mother’s father, John McKay,
Up and said on fine spring day
While I was staying with them, “Minnie, get your bonnet.”
“Let’s go up by Castle Rock
‘N see some country, visit Proc.
If you’re late, I’ll be upset. You can bet your life upon it.”

He never paused for her reply.
My grandma fussed around and I
Asked grandpa, “Is he the wild horse man?” “That’s him,”
my grandpa said,
As we ricocheted and bounced our way
In a tobacco-stained green Chevrolet
My grandpa told “Proc stories” and chewed and spit and sped.

From all the tales Grandpa told me
I felt like an authority
On this ranahan, Joe Proctor, who came north with Texas cattle.
His wife had been the JO cook.
But Proc had sparked and won and took
Her for his bride. They fought and won the homestead battle.

I couldn’t wait to meet Mr. Proc,
Whose peers all praised his ways with stock.
But when his calloused hand gripped mine, surprise hit me
in waves.
Those old cowboys who cut no slack
Deemed it unimportant Proc was black,
And wasn’t worth a mention that Joe Proctor’s folks were slaves.

© 1992, Wallace McRae
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

View Andy Hedges’ recitation of this poem at the Western Folklife Center’s 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Earlier this year, Wallace McRae, third-generation Montana rancher and National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, told us about  this poem, which is based on a real person, Joe Proctor, who came up to Montana with Texas cattle. His grandfather talked about him, and told how he and his wife were the only Black people he ever knew.
There was a Black woman who was a cook at an area ranch, and Joe Proctor would ride over to visit her and they eventually married. Some of their descendants still live in the area. Wallace McRae’s grandfather would say that Joe Proctor was widely respected as “a heck of a hand.” Wallace McRae said that Joe Proctor died before he had the chance to meet him, and added that he took a bit of liberty in the poem.

Wallace McRae is most well known for his own least favorite poem, “Reincarnation.” A closer look at his work shows a body of serious work as well as his unique humor.

Find his stirring, masterful poem, “Things of Intrinsic Worth,” performed in 2013 and a part of To the West, a feature-length documentary work-in-progress by H. Paul Moon.

Wallace McRae has retired from public appearances. Find more of his poetry and more about him in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com. He relishes being known as “The Cowboy
Curmudgeon” (which is the title of one of his books). You can share this post, but please don’t otherwise use his poem without permission.

The Western Folklife Center’s 36th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (January 27-February 1, 2020) in Elko, Nevada will have a focus on the historic and contemporary culture of Black cowboys through performances, exhibits, films, and more.

Noted photographer and journalist Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) is most famous for her Depression-era photograph of a migrant woman, and she captured images of other migrants and workers, including cowboys.

This 1936 photo by Dorothea Lange is from The Library of Congress. It is captioned:

Bob Lemmons, Carrizo Springs, Texas. Born a slave about 1850, south of San Antonio, Texas. Came to Carrizo Springs during Civil War with white men seeking new range for their cattle. In 1865, with his master was one of the first settlers. He knew Billy the Kid, King Fisher, and other noted bad men of the border.

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

THEY CAN TAKE IT, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THEY CAN TAKE IT
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Yes, it’s just a bunch of hosses
standin’ out there in the rain.
The reason they are doin’ it
is easy to explain.
There is no shelter handy,
so to travel ain’t no good;
And they wouldn’t go into a barn,
not even if they could.

It is just a little weather,
and they’re plenty used to that.
Like a cow boy in the open,
livin’ onderneath his hat.
All the hosses and the people
that has lived their life outside,
Seems to have a constitution
that can take it on the hide.

Without a bit of thinkin’
I could tell you right from here,
Of hosses livin’ on the range
as long as thirty year.
While the hosses that’s in stables,
and was always roofed and fed,
Lots of them before they’re twenty,
has been hauled off plenty dead.

So it seems the way with people,
and it seems the way with stock,
And the cedar grows the toughest
when it’s right amongst the rocks.
That’s why hosses, men, and women,
if they’re made of proper stuff,
Gits along a whole lot better
if they’re raised a little rough.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

 

Seventy-seven years ago, this poem appeared in the Los Angeles Stockyards calendar.

The great Baxter Black recites the poem on this year’s triple CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon  (think Christmas giving).

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From 1935 through 1942, poet Bruce Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. The two never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This poem is in the public domain. The calendar page is from the BAR-D collection.

THANKSGIVING, Charles Badger Clark

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THANKSGIVING
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

Accept my thanks today, O Lord—
But not so much for bed and board—
Those stodgy items of good cheer
I share with chipmunks and with deer—
But rather gifts more fine and fair
That come upon me unaware.

Those priceless incidental things—
Flower fragrance and bird flutterings,
The sudden laughter often caught
From some fantastic kink of thought
A pine’s black fretwork lifted high
Against the tranquil sunset sky,

Kindness from strangers all unnamed
That makes me wholesomely ashamed,
A friend’s warm, understanding eyes,
A book’s communion with the wise,
The dreamful magic of a tune
And slim white birches in the moon—
I thank you, Lord, for daily bread
But I am so much more than fed,
For you, with nought deserved or won,
Indulge me like a favored son,
Flinging profuse along my ways
These jeweled things that deck the day
And make my living far more sweet
Than just to breathe or just to eat.

…by Charles Badger Clark

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

South Dakota native Charles Badger Clark worked as a ranch hand in Arizona ranch and became the first South Dakota Poet Laureate. His father was a minister; his poems often express gratitude. “A Cowboy’s Prayer” is the best known. This one is likewise full of grace. Find more at cowboypoetry.com.

This photo is of Badger Clark and his friend and fellow poet, Bob Axtel (1887-1976). The photo, by Charles Axtel, is from Arizona historian Greg Scott’s Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark. The book includes all of Badger Clark’s short stories; poetry, including more than two dozen previously unpublished or long out-of-print poems; essays; letters; and photos. See our feature about the book and another about Axtel.

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

We’re at work on a new cd, MASTERS: VOLUME FOUR, the poetry of Charles Badger Clark. Find more about MASTERS here.

Find Thanksgiving poems and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post. The poem is in the public domain. Request permission for any other use of the photo.)

THANKSGIVING ARGUMENT, S. Omar Barker

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THANKSGIVING ARGUMENT
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985

About this here Thanksgiving
there are two opposin’ views,
One helt by ol’ Pop McIntyre,
one helt by Smoky Hughes;
And how them two ol’ cowpokes
will debate the pros-and-cons
Produces in the bunkhouse
many verbal marathons.
“I’ve always worked,” says Smoky,
“For whatever I have had,
Since first I wrangled horses
as a rusty-knuckled lad.
I’ve rode my share of broncos, ”
and I’ve punched a heap of cow,
And earned my own danged ‘blessings’
by the sweat of my own brow!
Why should I be a-givin’ thanks
for what I’ve duly earned
Is a lot of bosh and bunkum
that I just ain’t never learned!”

Pop McIntyre, he sucks his pipe
a thoughtful draw or two,
Then says: “Well, Smoky,
I’ll admit that you’re a buckaroo
Who sets a steady saddle
and ain’t stingy with his sweat,
But maybe there’s a thing or two
you stubbornly forget.
You’re noted as a peeler
that is seldom ever throwed—
To what good luck or blessin’
is your skill at ridin’ owed?”
“There ain’t no good luck to it, Pop,”
says Smoky. “I’m a man
Who ain’t obliged for nothin’
when I do the best I can.
For when I earn my wages
bustin’ out a bunch of colts,
It’s me, myself in person,
that is takin’ all the jolts.
That’s why I claim Thanksgivin’ Day
is mostly just a fake
To give some folks a good excuse
for turkey stummick-ache!”

“My friend,” says Pop, sarcastic,
“you have spoke your little piece,
And proved you’ve got a limber tongue
that’s well supplied with grease.
You scoff at all thanksgivin’,
but a fact you surely know
Is that some Power beyond your own
learned blades of grass to grow.
You spoke of ridin’ broncos—
I’ll admit you ride ’em good,
And set up in the saddle
like a salty peeler should.
For this you take the credit,
and you claim to owe no thanks
For the buckarooster blessin’
of the muscles in your shanks!

Instead you should feel thankful,”
says Pop’s concludin’ drawl,
That the good lord made you forkéd—
or you couldn’t ride at all!”

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker wrote several Thanksgiving poems. This one appears in his 1954 book, Songs of the Saddlemen.

We are honored to have top cowboy poetry Waddie Mitchell’s recitation of “Thanksgiving
Argument” on last year’s double cd, MASTERS: Volume Two, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

Barker’s prolific writing was described by his friend Fred Gipson, “…It’s as western as sagebrush, authentic as an brush-scuffed old boot, and full of the warm-hearted humor that seems always to be a part of ‘the men who ride where the range is wide’…”

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

This postcard is from the BAR-D collection.

Find additional poems and more in a Thanksgiving feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

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