HORSEBACK MAN FOR HIRE lyrics by Joel Nelson

56422388_10157228903175859_8628109163269980160_nApril, 2019 photo of Randy Rieman, Joel Nelson, Sean Sexton,
and Andy Hedges, courtesy of Andy Hedges

lyrics by Joel Nelson

Twenty miles away the R.E.A.
Ran out of poles and wire
I earn my pay the cowboy way
I’m a horseback man for hire
I’m a horseback man for hire

Where I was born every saddle horn
Had a rope tied hard and fast
All the boots were worn – all the shirts were torn
And we held on to the past
We held on to the past

Now I take my turns and the mulehide burns
When I need to slip a coil
I play my gig in a double rig
I’m a grandson of the soil
I’m a grandson of the soil

I’m no one’s fool – I’ve been to school
I’ve taken my degree
But the cattle bawl and the coyote’s call
Are the things that beckon me
They’re the things that call to me
So I step astride and I start my ride
While the sun is still asleep
I’m bonafide – I been certified
And my roots run mighty deep
My roots run mighty deep

I don’t need to smoke your weed
To get me feelin’ right
Just a canvas bed to lay my head
When the stars come out at night
With the dipper shinin’ bright

My thumbs ain’t flexed cause I don’t text
Your emails leave me cold
Go lick a stamp that’ll find my camp
On a letter I can hold
Send a letter I can hold

I like a good book by my chair
I like hot tea by the fire
Where I can read without a care
When the wind – howls – through – the – wire
Cause I’m a horseback man for hire

Your gilded halls and shopping malls
Can’t hold me very long
So I quit the scene of fine cuisine
To be where I belong
Out here’s where I belong

I got a darn good life and a darlin’ wife
She sets my heart on fire
She’s a pretty thing and she wears my ring
She’s horseback and for hire
She’s a horseback girl for hire

When I cease to be you can bury me
Or build a funeral pyre
Just scatter my ash and divide my cash
With a horseback man for hire
With a horseback man for hire


I need lots of space from the human race
I need solitude from the multitude
I need reverie on the lone prairie
These are things that – I – require
I’m a horseback man for hire
I’m a horseback man for hire and
You can’t take it away
I’m a horseback man for…

© Joel Nelson, used with permission

Songster Andy Hedges’ rendition of rancher, horseman, and poet Joel Nelson’s lyrics is a standout on his new Shadow of a Cowboy album.

Western Horseman recently debuted the song and quoted Andy Hedges:

Joel Nelson wrote the lyrics to “Horseback Man for Hire,” and I heard him sing it a cappella…It stayed in my mind…I’m honored to be the first person to record it.

I believe Joel is one of the most important cowboy poets out there today. He’s a thoughtful writer, wonderful reciter, and a respected horseman and working cowboy.

Find the song and Western Horseman article by Jennifer Denison here.

Find more about Joel Nelson at


Shadow of a Cowboy is as entertaining as it is authentic. Selections draw from the deep roots of traditional country, cowboy, folk, and Western music. The tracks stretch from Teddie Blue Abbott through Pete Seeger to Tucker Zimmerman and beyond as Andy Hedges interprets the past and creates new sounds.

When asked about the overall inspiration for this CD, he comments, “This record was a bit of a hodgepodge of songs that I had collected but I think a theme began to arise in that the songs came from a variety of sources and spanned several eras. I had a vision to do an album of songs that show that the cowboy music tradition has continued from the trail driving era to the 1920s-30s to the 1950-70s to the present day…”

That earliest period is represented by “The Ogallaly Song,” a traditional piece included in the classic We Pointed Them North book by E.C. “Teddie Blue” Abbott. Abbott writes, “I never counted the verses…but you could keep on singing it all night.” Hedges captures that sense.

An unbroken thread of connections among musicians and songwriters weaves through “Shadow of a Cowboy.” The title track, a song by Tucker Zimmerman, came to Hedges when he contacted Zimmerman about another of his songs, “Oregon,” also included in this project. Andy Hedges tells that he knew “Oregon” from Derrol Adams’ recording. He says, “Derroll Adams was Ramblin’ Jack’s old banjo playing partner and they traveled to Europe together in the 1950s.” Billy Faier, known for his work with Pete Seeger, has his “Song of the Cuckoo” included, and the tag at the end is from “912 Greens” by Ramblin’ Jack.

So much is packed into the ten tracks of Shadow of a Cowboy. The varied songs flow and  invite repeated listening. As in earlier projects, inspired, ethereal harmonies of Alissa Hedges add layers of interest to a number of her husband’s tracks. Designer Dirk Fowler’s spare and evocative art reflects the soul of the project.

Other songs include “The Horsetrader’s Song” by prolific songwriter and musician Jimmy Driftwood; Carter Family member Sara Carter and her husband A.P. Carter’s “Lonesome Pine Special”; and folksinger and rodeo cowboy Peter LaFarge’s vivid tale of “Iron Mountain.”

Two other outstanding tracks are the collaborations with two additional respected cowboy poets, John Dofflemyer and Waddie Mitchell. Andy Hedges says of “Tennis Shoes,” Dofflemyer’s tribute to a friend, “…I don’t believe that I changed a single word. The music came easily for this one.”

“Long Johns On,” from words written by Waddie Mitchell and further enlivened with a melody suggested by Alissa Hedges, is unforgettable fun. Really unforgettable; it has genuine–yet delightful–ear worm qualities. Find a video performance of it from the Western Folklife Center’s 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

That humorous gem brings to mind the work of the late, great, beloved Glenn Ohrlin, music historian, performer, friend of Andy Hedges, and one of his heroes. Earlier this month, he paid tribute to him at the Ozark Folk Center. You can’t help but wish that Glenn Ohrlin was still around to hear “Long Johns On” and this entire album.

Someone once wrote about Glenn Ohrlin that he created “…a style that is at once powerful and understated.” And that comment could serve as well as a perfect description of Andy Hedges and the impressive Shadow of a Cowboy.

Find more at and while you are there, be sure to tune into his “Cowboy Crossroads” podcasts, which are valuable and entertaining visits with cowboys, poets, musicians, and other representatives of the working West.

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



by Baxter Black

It came from outta nowhere,
like a prolapse in the night.
Which, in fact is what it was, my friends,
the cow vet’s scourge and plight.
That pudgy pink projectile
from those monster movie scenes
Like some whopping giant burrito
filled with attitude and beans.

I was soon laid down behind it
on a hillside in the muck
While the cowboy shined his high beams
from his perch there in the truck.
His rope stretched from the bumper
to her front legs tied in haste.
As I wallowed in the darkness
like a frog, stripped to the waist.

It was bigger than a tree trunk.
It was slick as old chow mein.
It was heavy as a carpet
someone left out in the rain.
I tried to gain some purchase
as I pressed my fist in tight,
It was thrashing like a porpoise
and was putting up a fight.

I got it in a hammerlock.
It was like a rabid dog.
I wrapped my legs around it
like a monkey on a log.
I pushed until my shoulder
disappeared inside the mass
As I scrambled for a foothold
in the mud and frozen grass.

But alas, with one huge effort
she expelled me from her grip.
I shot out like a cannon,
rolled and did a double flip.
But I grabbed her tail in passing
and with strength born out of war,
I dove at the appendage
like some punch drunk matador.

I lifted her hind quarters,
and I swung her side to side,
Then, like smart men do,
I used my head to push it back inside!
It was dark there for a second,
it was hard to catch my breath
But there she lay, my patient
I had saved from certain death.

The cowboy rolled his window down, said,
“Doc, are you alright?”
He gunned the engine several times.
The headlights got real bright.
“I’ve seen a prolapse done before
but never quite like that!”
“Oh, they taught us that in vet school…
But I think it ate my hat.”

© Baxter Black, used with permission

You must watch Baxter Black performing this poem. Find one video from the Heber Valley Music and Cowboy Gathering and another video here.

Poet and writer Rod Miller, in “Fine Lines and Wrinkles,” an essay at, writes, “Alliteration, assonance, consonance, and a completely off-kilter view of the world are apparent in these fine, wrinkled lines from ‘Prolapse from the Black Lagoon’ by Baxter Black. (Note that even his name uses alliteration and assonance.)”

In his official bio, where he is described as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses,” Baxter Black comments, “My audience is my inspiration. Every cowboy, rancher, vet, farmer, feed salesman, ag teacher, cowman and rodeo hand has a story to tell, and they tell it to me. I Baxterize it and tell it back to ‘em! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

He recites Bruce Kiskaddon’s “They Can Take It” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD from and S. Omar Barker’s “Cowboy Saying” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO.

This message comes from Baxter’s office, a policy announcement:

Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit.”

His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”

This version of “Prolapse from the Black Lagoon” comes from Poems Worth Saving, Baxter Black’s 2013 collection of 164 poems and stories. Find more about Baxter Black at,  on Facebook; and find much more, including a weekly column, at

This photograph is courtesy of Baxter Black.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but request permission for any other use—except recitation.)

THE OLD NIGHT HAWK, by Bruce Kiskaddon



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I am up tonight in the pinnacles bold
Where the rim towers high.
Where the air is clear and the wind blows cold,
And there’s only the horses and I.
The valley swims like a silver sea
In the light of the big full moon,
And strong and clear there comes to me
The lilt of the first guard’s tune.

The fire at camp is burning bright,
Cook’s got more wood than he needs.
They’ll be telling some windy tales tonight
Of races and big stampedes.
I’m gettin’ too old fer that line of talk:
The desperaders they’ve knowed,
Their wonderful methods of handling stock
And the fellers they’ve seen get throwed.

I guess I’m a dog that’s had his day,
Though I still am quick and strong.
My hair and my beard have both turned gray,
And I reckon I’ve lived too long.
None of ’em know me but that old cook, Ed,
And never a word he’ll say.
My story will stick in his old gray head
Till the break of the Judgment Day.

What’s that I see a walkin’ fast?
It’s a hoss a’ slippin’ through.
He was tryin’ to make it out through the pass;
Come mighty near doin’ it too.
Get back there! What are you tryin’ to do?
You hadn’t a chance to bolt.
Old boy I was wranglin’ a bunch like you
Before you was even a colt.

It’s later now. The guard has changed.
One voice is clear and strong.
He’s singin’ a tune of the old time range —
I always did like that song.
It takes me back to when I was young
And the memories come through my head,
Of the times I have heard that old song sung
By voices now long since dead.

I have traveled better than half my trail.
I am well down the further slope.
I have seen my dreams and ambitions fail,
And memory replaces hope.
It must be true, fer I’ve heard it said,
That only the good die young.
The tough old cusses like me and Ed
Must stay still the last dog’s hung.

I used to shrink when I thought of the past
And some of the things I have known.
I took to drink, but now at last,
I’d far rather be alone.
It’s strange how quick that a night goes by,
Fir I live in the days of old.
Up here where there’s only the hosses and I;
Up in the pinnacles bold.

The two short years that I ceased to roam,
And I led a contented life.
Then trouble came and I left my home,
And I never have heard of my wife.
The years that I spent in a prison cell
When I went by another name;
For life is a mixture of Heaven and Hell
To a feller that plays the game.

They’d better lay off that wrangler kid.
They’ve give him about enough.
He looks like a pardner of mine once did.
He’s the kind that a man can’t bluff.
They’ll find that they are making a big mistake
If they once get him overhet;
And they’ll give him as good as an even break,
Or I’m takin’ a hand, you bet.

Look, there in the East is the Mornin’ Star.
It shines with a firy glow,
Till it looks like the end of a big cigar,
But it hasn’t got far to go.
Just like the people that make a flash.
They don’t stand much of a run.
Come bustin’ in with a sweep and a dash
When most of the work is done.

I can see the East is gettin’ gray.
I’ll gather the hosses soon;
And faint from the valley far away
Comes the drone of the last guard’s tune.
Yes, life is just like the night-herd’s song,
As the long years come and go.
You start with a swing that is free and strong,
And finish up tired and slow.

I reckon the hosses all are here.
I can see that T-bar blue,
And the buckskin hoss with the one split ear;
I’ve got ’em all. Ninety two.
Just listen to how they roll the rocks —
These sure are rough old trails.
But then, if they can’t slide down on their hocks,
They can coast along on their tails.

The Wrangler Kid is out with his rope,
He seldom misses a throw.
Will he make a cow hand? Well I hope,
If they give him half a show.
They are throwin’ the rope corral around,
The hosses crowd in like sheep.
I reckon I’ll swaller my breakfast down
And try to furgit and sleep.

Yes, I’ve lived my life and I’ve took a chance,
Regardless of law or vow.
I’ve played the game and I’ve had my dance,
And I’m payin’ the fiddler now.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem appeared in Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, and was revised for his 1947 book. The 45 variants are included in Bill Siems’ Open Range, which includes almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems. The above poem is the 1947 version.

Bill Siems writes, in another of his books, Shorty’s Yarns (the collected stories of Kiskaddon), about how this poem inspired him. His eloquent comments include how city people and ranchers might see each other, and, he comments on ranch people:

“…Besides feeding us, they are the stewards of our land and keepers of our connection with the natural world. They have come closest, after the Native Americans, to harmony with a landscape that is both beautiful and harsh. This harmony is a significant and difficult achievement, essentially in opposition to our romantic notions that are driven by need but not grounded in reality. It is one thing to love the land from a climate-controlled vehicle, but it is another to love it in the wind and sleet on horseback. Cattle as a backdrop for western entertainment are a world apart from cattle as living creatures that must be cared for and slaughtered. Standing with honesty and humility on such bedrock facts of life gives a person authority, however gently it may be asserted…this is the poem that first caught me up in Bruce Kiskaddon’s words…”

Find more about Kiskaddon, Open Range, and Shorty’s Yarns at

In the new triple-CD set from, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems offers an introduction to Bruce Kiskaddon and top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.

Chris Isaacs, cowboy, packer, poet, and humorist, recites “The Old Night Hawk” on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE.

Chris headlines at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, August 8-10, 2019 in Prescott. Other announced performers are headliners Trinity Seely and The Cowboy Way Trio (Doug Figgs, Jim Jones and Mariam Funke). Tickets are available now.

This stunning photograph is by cowboy, writer, and poet Amy Hale Steiger, who cowboys with her husband Gail Steiger in rugged country at Arizona’s Spider ranch. She comments, “We often make camp below this butte when we are working our Cottonwood Pasture. Late evening and early morning highlights the rock faces, and I can’t help but stand in awe.”

For a fine piece of writing about her cowboying life, don’t miss her recent “Feet to the Fire,” in the current issue of Contra Viento Journal.

Amy Steiger has acclaimed books: two novels, two essay collections, and a book of poetry.

Find more about her at her web site,; on; on Instagram; and follow her on Facebook.

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

WATCHIN’ ‘EM RIDE, by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

barkerwatch (1)

S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Isom Like was seventy-odd
Straight in the back as a steel ramrod,
And the whiskers that growed on his leathery chin,
They bristled out instead of in.
Six growed sons had Isom Like:
Jake, Joe, John, Jess, Noah and Ike.

Ridin’ men was Isom’s sons,
Salty, straddlin’ sons-o’-guns.
Once a year they chipped in change
To pay for the best hoss on their range,
And held ridin’ to settle who
Should git that hoss when the show was through.

Nearin’ eighty was Isom Like:
“Pa,” said the son whose name was Ike,
“You’re stiffed up like an ol’ pine tree.
Better leave this to the boys an’ me!”
Ol’ Isom grinned his grizzled grin.
“Nope,” he says, “Just count me in!”

Seven broncs on the high pole pen,
Seven saddles and seven men . . . .
Ma Like watched as the show begun,
And when Jake straddled a dusty dun,
You guessed right off that her joy and pride
Was Jake, from the way she cheered his ride.

Jess spurred out on a big-foot bay.
Up on the fence you could hear Ma say:
“Ride him, Jess! Boy, kick him out!”
And you knowed right quick from the tone of her shout,
Of all six sons Ma Like had bore,
By this here Jess she set most store.

Joe clumb on and you heard Ma squall:
“Joe, you’re the ridin’est son of all.”
Noah an’ John purt near got piled–
But both was Ma Like’s favorite child.
Two broncs left, and the one Ike took
Bucked like the broncs in a storybook;
Pawed the moon and scraped the sky.
Up on the fence you could hear Ma cry:
“Boy, that’s ridin’ to suit my taste!
I got one son ain’t no panty-waist!”

One bronc left, a big blue roan . . . .
“Never mind, boys, I’ll saddle my own!”
Over the saddle Pa flung his shank,
Raked both spurs from neck to flank.
The big roan rose like a powder blast,
Buckin’ hard and high and fast,
But deep in the wood Pa Like set screwed,
Strokin’ his beard like a southern dude!
And every time that blue roan whirled,
Ma Like’s petticoats come unfurled.

Isom grinned and waved his hat,
And Ma, she squalled like a ring-tailed cat:
“Straddle him, Isom! Show your spizz!
Learn these buttons what ridin’ is!”
Throwed her bonnet high in the air,
Whooped and hollered and tore her hair:
“I got six sons and nary a one
Can ride like that ol’ son-of-a-gun!”
Yelled and cheered so dang intense
She fell plumb off of the high pole fence.
“Wawhoo, boys! Watch Isom spur!”
Isom’s six sons grinned at her.

Seven broncs and the ridin’ done . . . .
Nary a doubt but Pa had won!
“Sons,” says Ma, “are a mother’s pride,
But ol’ Pa Isom, he can ride!
The trouble is, you boys ain’t tough–
But you’ll learn to ride–when you’re old enough.”

(Based on a true incident related by the late Col. Jack Potter. Isom Like died at the age of 102.)

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

Here’s a poem in anticipation of Father’s Day.

Keith Ward recites “Watchin’ em Ride” on our 2018 MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, a double CD celebrating S. Omar Barker’s poetry, with over 60 poems from many of today’s top poets and reciters.

Wyoming’s Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Cowgirl Hall of Fame honoree, poet, writer, day worker, and rodeo historian shared vintage family horse photos a while back in Picture the West at and an accompanying piece, “Horses Are My Heritage” in Western Memories.

She comments on this photo,”Dad had a bunch of mares and bought a registered Thoroughbred stallion from Eph Hogg who came to Wyoming from Kentucky. His head and neck are shown in this photo, they called him “Little Eph”; Dad’s at far right.”

When we asked her about pairing this poem with her photograph, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns was pleased. She told us that while she was a columnist Rodeo Sports News, she was looking for a photo of a particular horse and was in touch with a man named Bill King from Kim, Colorado, whose family provided rodeo stock to the region. She writes, “As we corresponded Bill soon began to tell me of the manuscripts he wanted to get published. He had stories of not only the King’s (his father and several brothers who traded horses in every state, Canada, Mexico and Cuba in the 1800’s!) but also two other families deeply entwined with horses.

“He gave me the manuscripts to read. One family was the Like’s?—and in the Like family story was this poem of S. Omar Barker’s.

“Bill said the six Like boys and the old man each owned outfits and ran a lot of horses along the Cimarron River border country between New Mexico and Colorado; and that they truly did have this competition every fall when they gathered their horses to brand and cut. Bill’s story was that Barker had actually come out to Isom’s place one fall to observe the show, and wrote the poem from live inspiration. What he had in his manuscript was from a copy Barker gave to the Like’s when he wrote it.

Poets Valerie Beard and Floyd Beard live on one of the Like brothers’ original homesteads in Southeastern Colorado. Valerie told us that, “… a few years ago we saw the name, “Ike” chiseled into the cliff face just below our house. We were thinking that it was “Like” at one time and the “L” wore off even though it didn’t look like it. After getting familiar with the poem, it is all clear. Ike Like chiseled his name into the cliff face himself…”

J. Frank Dobie also wrote about the Like family in his book, The Longhorns. Find the poem and more about it at, where there is also much more about S. Omar Barker and more of his poetry.

Rhonda commented further on this photo, “The old man with the suspenders is Charlie McEndeffer, originally from Sterling, Colorado. They were a big ranching, cowboy family and Charlie was a magnificent, amazing horseman. I remember him very well from my early childhood, although by that time he was pretty stove up and I never saw him ride. He worked for my grandfather for years and he and Dad were breaking horses and baching in an old cabin on Robbers Roost Creek south of Newcastle when that photo was made…”

Rhonda is a great storyteller, and you can find her “Rodeo Roots” stories at; some of her poetry here; and more about her at her site,

Find more poems for Father’s Day and other special features at

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

TOMBOY, by Dee Strickland Johnson (“Buckshot Dot”)


by Dee Strickland Johnson (“Buckshot Dot”)

I was raised with seven brothers
near a place called Concho Lake.
There was Jamie, Jeff, and Joseph,
Sam and Seth and Sid and Jake.
So I grew up rough and tumble,
and I made my share of noise,
Romped the dogs and roped the horses.
I was rowdy as the boys!

Skinny tomboy, seven brothers,
and assorted brothers’ friends
On our little cattle ponies,
raced to hell and back again.
We’d roar down the dry arroyas;
then we’d all come tearing back,
There was Buzz and Paul and Donnie
and that rascal Charlie Black.

But one Spring, as I grew older,
Mama firmly told me, “No!”
And when the boys went out on roundup—
Mama said I couldn’t go.
Then she tried to teach me cooking,
how to sew, and keep the place;
But my heart was roping yearlings,
and I longed to barrel race.

Once she washed my hair in soap weed;
while it still hung limp and damp,
She stuck that rusty curling iron
down the chimney of the lamp.
“Sister,” she said, holding up a gingham
dress that she had sewed,
“Andy’s comin’! Now you wear this,
so’s your legs won’t look so bowed.”

Andy was the new young foreman
of the ranch off to our west,
And of all my brothers’ cronies,
Mama showed she liked him best.
O, she was proud that she had made me
look like something of a girl,
Got me out of faded Levis,
forced my stubborn hair to curl.

Well, it wasn’t long thereafter
every time that Andy’d call,
And the boys were pitching horseshoes,
Andy’d linger in the hall.
So he came to be my suitor,
brought me candy, flowers and such,
And the night he brought me perfume,
Well, I didn’t mind too much.

Andy’d come ‘most every evening;
he was courteous and kind,
And it wasn’t any secret
what the cowboy had in mind.
Every Friday we’d go dancing,
laughing clear to town and back.
Andy made me feel a lady—
so I married Charlie Black!

© 1994, Dee Strickland Johnson, from her book, Cowman’s Wife, used with permission

Popular poet, writer, and musician Dee Strickland Johnson, known as “Buckshot Dot,” delights audiences across the West.

Buckshot Dot told us that some of the poem was based on her own life, including the facts that when they lived on the Hualapai that reservation, her mother did wash her hair in soap weed (agave root) and did curl her hair with a curling iron she heated by placing down the chimney of the kerosene lamp.

She also told us that the poem itself was inspired by another infamous tomboy: the late poet, cowboy, and National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame honoree Georgie Sicking. Buckshot Dot says that at a gathering, Georgie, ” …mentioned on stage that she grew up a tomboy. I was waiting in the wings and right then and there I decided to write that poem…”

Buckshot Dot has recordings, books of her poetry, books about Arizona history, books for children, and more. Find more about her at, and visit her web site,

This image is a childhood photo of California poet, writer, horsewoman, and tomboy Janice Gilbertson. She shared it in a 2007 Picture the West at

Janice has published well-received books of her poetry and two novels, Summer of ’58, and The Canyon House. She is at work on her third novel, The Dark Side of Gibson Road.

The title poem of one her poetry collections, “Sometime in the Lucias,” was a Western Writers of America, Inc. Spur Award finalist. Find her on Facebook and at

(You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any other uses.)

A VISITOR, by Bruce Kiskaddon



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Just take a good look at what’s gathered up here.
A bunch of six calves and a visitin’ steer.
He can’t be a father, he can’t be a mother;
Of course you can’t tell, he might be a big brother.

This steer he was probably goin’ somewhere.
When he noticed them calves and just wanted in there.
The ol cows has gone to the water to drink,
And the calves that’s awake is too young fer to think.

It is likely by now that this steer doesn’t know
Exactly what place he had started to go.
You can’t depend much on a steer that is true
Fer he don’t know himself what he’s aimin’ to do.

He is generally speakin’ an onsartin’ feller;
He might hide in the bresh, he might stand out and beller.
The cows and the bulls aint so likely to run
But when steers git stampeded it ain’t any fun.

Well, the steer is fulfillin’ his mission on Earth.
A slight operation soon after his birth,
Decided his fate and laid out his career;
He’s a whole lot of beef and that’s why he’s a steer.

… by Bruce Kiskaddon

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

This poem was among his last works. In 1949 he and illustrator Katherine Field (1908-1951) renewed their partnership, creating poems and illustrations for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar, as they had done years before, 1936-1942. Kiskaddon died in 1950 and had written six-month’s worth of poems in advance. Field illustrated them all before her own death in 1951.

That information and almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems are included in Open Range by Bill Siems. Find more about Kiskaddon and more about Siems’ book in our Kiskaddon features.

In the new triple-CD set from, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems offers an introduction to Bruce Kiskaddon and top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.


(This poem is in the public domain. The calendar image is from our collection.)

THE BLACK BEAUTY, by Johnie Schneider

johnie_31 (1)

by Johnie Schneider (1904-1982)

I’ll tell you a story of a thing that makes me blue.
Please listen for a moment, for the words I speak are true.
For two years I’s been riding and scheming for to get—
My hands upon a beauty that no one will ever get.

I’d caught many a wild horse and never failed until,
I started on this youngster at the foot of Rocky Hill.
He was nothing but a baby, when first I saw him there—
Standing by his mother, a little old grey mare.

And when he’d grown from colthood to a big strong handsome black
There was always by his hoofprints, the little old grey mare’s track.
I lay awake many a night, trying to scheme a way
For to make a big black beauty, be my saddle horse some day.

But this beauty always dodged them ‘spite all that I could do.

Til one day I dug a pit—down by the waterside,
I covered it over with sticks and leaves and climbed a tree to hide.
I hadn’t been there very long; the sun was shining still,
When I saw the couple coming thru the rocks up on the hill.

And as they came down closer to the waterside,
The old mare done the leading and the black stayed close beside
Another step was all it took till she’d be in the pit.
She bowed her head and snorted and then stepped back a bit.

She turned her head as if to say—there is danger here my son.
And at the twinkle of an eye, my right hand grasped my gun.
I jerked it from its holster, for now I knew the truth;
I’d never catch the beauty with the old mare running loose.

I peeked out thru the branches—drew a fine sight on my gun,
My finger clutched the trigger, and the old mare’s days were done.
The great black reared straight in the air then sort of settled down
And stretched his long keen neck to smell the blood upon the ground.

He blew a loud shrill whistle, his nostrils flaming red,
And with his sleek foreleg he stroked—his mother lying dead
Then a sudden fear seemed to seize him and he whirled and with a bound—
Crashed into a pine tree than sank back to the ground.

I climbed down thru the branches and ran to where he struck,
And lifting up his small keen head I found he broke his neck.
I knew that I was beaten as they both laid cold and still—
I laid the beauty’s head back down and started up the hill.

My heart was sure heavy with the whole thing on my mind,
For now I knew the very truth—the black had been born blind.

© 1923, Johnie Schneider, used with permission

Johnie Schneider (1904-1982) was the first official World Champion Bull Rider. This memorable poem is included with more about his life in the “Rodeo Roots” collection of articles at by rodeo historian, poet, and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame honoree Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns.

An entry on the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame web site tells that Johnie Schneider “… had a soul of a poet and the heart of a cowboy. He began rodeoing in 1923 and quickly established a reputation as one of the most versatile performers around.” Johnie Schneider is quoted, “The best thing about rodeo was that it gave a lot of us a start in life. There weren’t many options back then for a fellow trying to make it.”


Find more about him at

This 1931 photo of Johnie Schneider and the buckle image are courtesy of Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns and the Schneider family.

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