STORY WITH A MORAL by Waddie Mitchell

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STORY WITH A MORAL
by Waddie Mitchell

Now I know there’s things worse
that make cowpunchers curse
And I reckon it’s happened to us all
Though it’s been years, since, you can bet
when I think of it yet,
It still makes my old innards crawl.

I was makin’ a ride
to bring in one hide
That hadn’t showed up in the gather
I was riding upstream,
daydreamin’ a dream,
When I caught there was somethin’ the matter.

Near some quaking asp trees
I had caught in the breeze
A stench that was raunchy and mean
And I reckoned as how
it might be the old cow
So I rode to a bend in the stream.

Sure enough, that cow lied
in the crick there and died
Hard telling how long she’d been been there
She was bloated and tight
was a horrible sight!
She was oozing and slipping her hair.

Her eye sockets were alive
with maggots that thrive
On dead flesh, putrid yellow and green,
An’ the hot sun burning down
turning pink things to brown
Spewing oily gunk in the stream.

I spurred upwind fast
to get away from the blast
Of the heavy stench the cow made
And I felt bad seein’s how
I’d lost the old cow
So I pulled up near a tree in the shade.

Then, I got sick to the core
rememberin’ just moments before
I’d done something that made me feel worse
Not thirty yards down
I’d stepped off to the ground
And drank till my belly near burst!

For months after it
just the thought made me spit
And I’d live it over like a bad dream.
And the moral, I think
is: if you must take a drink,
Never, ever, remount and ride upstream.

© Waddie Mitchell, reprinted with permission

This Waddie Mitchell poem, a favorite of many, is included in his recent award-winning book, 100 Poems. He also has a recent CD, Sweat Equity. Both the book and CD are produced by Western Jubilee Recording Company.

Waddie’s bio tells, “From his earliest days on the remote Nevada ranches where his father worked, Waddie was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining, the art of spinnin’ tales in rhyme and meter that came to be called cowboy poetry, a Western tradition that is as rich as the lifestyle that gave birth to it.” Since then he’s been a great ambassador for cowboy poetry. He was instrumental in creating the first cowboy poetry gathering and has appeared on national television and radio and at gatherings and events across the West. He has received countless awards, including the respected Wrangler Award and the prestigious Nevada Heritage Award.

Find more about Waddie Mitchell at Western Jubilee  and in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com. Find order information for 100 Poems here and see our review at CowboyPoetry.com.

This June 2016 photo is by New Mexico rancher, poet, and writer Deanna Dickinson McCall.

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

GOOD CLEAN FUN by Rodney Nelson

 

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GOOD CLEAN FUN
by Rodney Nelson

I remember making hay with Dad,
We’d put it up in stacks—
Dad used to use a stackframe,
and filled it to the max.

Then sometimes, but not often,
he’d say “Rodney, you’ve the knack.
Grab a fork—I’ll lift you up,
and you top off the stack.”

Reluctantly, I’d take the fork.
He’d lift me up on top—
I’d stack that hay to 30 feet,
before he’d finally stop.

Then he’d drive up really close,
I could see him down beneath
As I stepped out on the pushoff
on the end of the stacker teeth.

He’d back up a little ways,
I hoped he’d try no tricks
But giving me rides on that farmhand,
was how he got his kicks!

Wasn’t long and I’d get mad.
I’d had these rides before—
He’d slide the pushoff almost in,
Then he’d run it out once more!

“Come on, Dad, let me down,
this really isn’t fair”
Then he’d point the teeth toward the ground
and leave me dangling in the air!

I could hear him laughing down below,
in hopeless choking mirth.
and I’d wonder if I’d ever again
put my feet upon the earth!

It was no use to argue,
Dad wouldn’t quite ’till he was done,
But I always, always wondered,
How could this be so fun?!

Well, our yard light burned out last year,
and since I’d run that farmhand all my life,
I knew we could fix it in a minute
if I could convince the wife!

Wasn’t easy to convince her,
she said a housewife was her role,
Though mad she was, she climbed aboard,
Took a ride to the top of the pole.

I said, “Sweetheart, I’m so proud of you”
when she fixed the light—
“And you’re especially lovely when you’re angry,
You really are a sight.”

“Let me down, you worthless cur,”
She was having a full-fledged fit—
I couldn’t pass up a chance like this,
So I drove around a bit!

GOOD, CLEAN FUN—I said to myself
as she called me a hopeless sap,
My grin got even wider
as I made another lap!

“Honey, just enjoy yourself
and isn’t it a fright—
It’s the first time that I’ve carried you,
since our wedding night!”

I finally shut the tractor off
Let her sit up there a while,
Promised her I’d let her down,
if she would only smile!

Oh it was fun—but there’s a problem,
I can see it now, I can …
It’s gonna’ take some might sweet talkin’
when that light burns out again!

© 1989, Rodney Nelson
Maybe we’ll make this “hay week.”

North Dakota rancher, poet, columnist, and Senior Pro Rodeo champion Rodney Nelson recites this audience favorite in a video from the 2008 Western Folklife Center National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Rodney’s daughter-in-law Sara Nelson shared photos of Rodney’s grandson Haakon in a past Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

The photos were taken in August, 2014. Haakon was out in the hay field watching his father make some square bales and the baler popped out this little bale that was just his size. He was two at the time.

Find more about Rodney Nelson, some of his poetry, and information about his books and CDs at CowboyPoetry.com. He writes the popular “Up Sims Creek” column in Farm and Ranch Guide.

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

NO REST FOR THE HORSE anonymous

Since every day is Labor Day in the ranching world, here’s a tribute to another sort of tireless worker:

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NO REST FOR THE HORSE
author anonymous

There’s a union for teamster and waiter,
There’s a union for cabman and cook,
There’s a union for hobo and preacher,
And one for detective and crook.

There’s a union for blacksmith and painter,
There is one for the printer, of course;
But where would you go in this realm of woe,
To discover a guild for the horse?

He can’t make a murmur in protest,
Though they strain him both up and down hill,
Or force him to work twenty hours
At the whim of some drunken brute’s will.

Look back at our struggle for freedom—
Trace our present day’s strength to its source,
And you’ll find that man’s pathway to glory,
Is strewn with the bones of the horse.

The mule is a fool under fire;
The horse, although frightened, stands true,
And he’d charge into hell without flinching
‘Twixt the knees of the trooper he knew.

When the troopers grow old they are pensioned,
Or a berth or a home for them found;
When a horse is worn out they condemn him,
And sell him for nothing a pound.

Just think, the old pet of some trooper
Once curried and rubbed twice a day,
Now drags some damned ragpicker’s wagon,
With curses and blows for his pay.

I once knew a grand king of racers,
The best of a cup-wining strain;
They ruined his knees on a hurdle,
For his rider’s hat covered no brain.

I met him again, four years later,
On his side at the foot of a hill,
With two savages kicking his ribs,
And doing their work with a will.

I stroked the once velvety muzzle,
I murmured the old name again,
He once filled my purse with gold dollars;
And this day I bought him for ten.

His present address is “Sweet Pastures,”
He has nothing to do but eat,
Or loaf in the shade on the green, velvet grass,
And dream of the horses he beat.

Now, a dog—well, a dog has a limit;
After standing for all that’s his due,
He’ll pack up his duds some dark evening,
And shine out for scenes which are new.

But a horse, once he’s used to his leather,
Is much like the old-fashioned wife;
He may not be proud of his bargain,
But still he’ll be faithful through life.

And I envy the merciful teamster
Who can stand at the bar and say:
“Kind Lord, with the justice I dealt my horse,
Judge Thou my soul today.”

…Anonymous

Most are familiar with this poem from respected horseman Randy Rieman’s outstanding recitation. Randy’s source for the poem was Songs of Horses, an anthology edited by Robert Frothingham (1865-1937) in 1920. (Find links to digitized versions of the book here.

We also found the same “No Rest for the Horse” poem under a different title, “To a Quiet But Useful Class,” in a 1902 edition of Life magazine. There is no author attributed in that instance, either. You can see the poem in that Life magazine in an edition that has been digitized by Google Book Search, on page 488.

This c. 1910 photo is titled, “Harvesting machine pulled by 32 horses in Spokane, Washington.” The photo is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more here.

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

WHEN YOU’RE THROWED by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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WHEN YOU’RE THROWED
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

If a feller’s been astraddle since he’s big enough to ride,
And has had to throw a saddle onto every sort of hide;
Though it’s nothin’ they take pride in, most of fellers I have knowed,
If they ever done much ridin’, has at various times got throwed.

It perhaps is when you’re startin’ on a round up some fine day,
That you feel a bit onsartin’ ’bout some little wall eyed bay.
Fer he swells to beat the nation while yore cinchin’ up the slack,
And he keeps a elevation in your saddle at the back.

He starts rairin’ and a jumpin’ and he strikes when you git near.
But you cuss him and you thump him till you git him by the ear.
Then your right hand grabs the saddle and you ketch a stirrup too,
And you aim to light astraddle like a wholly buckaroo.

But he drops his head and switches and he gives a back’ards jump.
Out of reach your stirrup twitches and your right spur grabs his rump.
And, “Stay with him!” shouts some feller. But you know it’s hope forlorn.
And you feel a streak of yeller as you choke the saddle horn.

Then you feel one rein droppin’ and you know he’s got his head,
And your shirt tail’s out and floppin’ and the saddle pulls like lead.
Then it ain’t no use a tryin’ for your spurs begin to slip
Now you’re upside down and flyin’ and horn tears from your grip.

Then you get a vague sensation as upon the ground you roll,
Like a vi’lent separation twixt your body and your soul.
And you land again a hummick where you lay and gap fer breath,
And there’s sumpthin’ grips your stummick like the awful clutch of death.

Yes the landscape round you totters when at last you try to stand,
And you’re shaky on your trotters and your mouth is full of sand.
They all swear you beat a circus or a hoochy koochy dance,
Moppin’ up the canon’s surface with the busom of your pants.

There’s fellers gives perscriptions how them bronchos should be rode.
But there’s few that gives descriptions of the times when they got throwed.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

As we’ve told many times about Bruce Kiskaddon, he 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 classic 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.

This 1940 photograph by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboy being thrown from bucking horse during the rodeo of the San Angelo Fat Stock Show, San Angelo, Texas.” It’s from The Library of Congress U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs collection. Find more about it here.

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

Ralph “Hal” Swift 1928-2016

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We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of poet and writer Hal Swift on August 31, 2016. Hal, 88, was a long-time friend, active participant, and great supporter of CowboyPoetry.com.

Hal was an accomplished musician and played with Marty Robbins in their early days. He was inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in, 2005, recognized for his professional broadcasting career of 40 years.

He had a fall a week and a half ago and never recovered from surgery. He and his wife Carol had just moved into an assisted living facility a few days before his fall.

There will be no service; the family requests that people make donations to their favorite charity.

Read some of Hal Swift’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

(Photo by Johnny Gunn)

THE TIME TO DECIDE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE TIME TO DECIDE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Did you ever stand on the ledges,
On the brink of the great plateau
And look from their jagged edges
On the country that lay below?

When your vision met no resistance
And nothing to stop your gaze,
Till the mountain peaks in the distance
Stood wrapped in a purple haze.

On the winding water courses
And the trails on the mountain sides,
Where you guided your patient horses
On your long and lonesome rides.

When you saw Earth’s open pages
And you seemed to understand
As you gazed on the work of ages,
Rugged and rough, but grand.

There, the things that you thought were strongest
And the things that you thought were great,
And for which you had striven longest
Seemed to carry but little weight.

While the things that were always nearer,
The things that you thought were small;
Seemed to stand out grander and clearer.
As you looked from the mountain wall.

While you’re gazing on such a vision
And your outlook is clear and wide,
If you have to make a decision,
That’s the time and place to decide

Although you return to the city
And mingle again with the throng;
Though your heart may be softened by pity
Or bitter from strife and wrong.

Though others should laugh in derision,
And the voice of the past grow dim;
Yet, stick to the cool decision
That you made on the mountain’s rim.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Let’s make this “Kiskaddon Week.”

This beautiful photograph by Texas singer and songwriter Jean Prescott seems a perfect fit to Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem. The image is one of several that Jean shared in a past Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

The photos were taken at workshops with the late David R. Stoecklein. Jean comments on this one, “This was taken at a workshop in Mackay, Idaho in July of 2013. It was a spectacular evening for photos and we were high on the top ridge of the mountain range.”

“The Time to Decide” appeared in Bruce Kiskaddon’s first book, Rhymes of the Ranges, published in 1924. He wrote many poems still read and recited today. See features about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more about Jean Prescott at CowboyPoetry.com, at her web site,  and on Facebook.

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