REASONS FOR STAYIN’ by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

Allen, J.B. #551-'03-5x5

photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

REASONS FOR STAYIN’
by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

“What’s the myst’ry of the wagon?” asked a townie, green as grass,
As he visited on a dreary autumn day.
Fer there weren’t a sign of romance nor no waddies’round with class,
And he couldn’t see why one would want to stay.

“Well, don’t be askin’ me,” says Jake, when asked that very thing,
“I’ve only been around here thirty years;
If I’d learnt some floocy answers to the questions you-all bring
I’d not be tough as brushy outlawed steers!

“It’s a dang sight more romantic in the bunkhouse, snug and warm,
When that winter wind is blowin’ from the Pole
Than the livin’ at the wagon through the same ol’ freezin’ storm
And the call of nature sends you for a stroll!

“The smell of beans and beefsteak born in bilin’ coffee’s breath
Pulls a feller from them soogans, clean and dry,
‘Stead of half-cooked food that drownded so you’ll not git choked to death
As you look around and git to wonderin’ why.

“But I reckon, since you asked me, it’s the challenge that you git
Testin’ what you got for gizzard through the squalls,
And not just nature’s doin’s but the kind that’s stirred a bit
When a cowboy, bronc, or critter starts the brawls.

“Take them fellers that’s a-squattin’ ’round that soggy campfire there,
That big-uns done some time for murder one,
But I’ll guarante you, feller, when you think your flank is bare
You’ll hear his boomin’ laughter through the run.

“The scroungy-lookin’ half-breed kid can ride a bear or lion,
Thought he mostly rides the rough-uns for the boys.
Black Pete would rope the Devil through a stand of burnt-out pine,
And Ol’ Dobb would mark his ears to hear the noise!

“What I’m gettin’ ’round to sayin’ is them boys will back yore play
Though their outside shore ain’t groomed or show-ring slick;
It’s their innards that you count on when you work for puncher’s pay,
And the reason why the wagon makes you stick.”

© 1997, J.B. Allen, used with permission

Texan J.B. Allen was a working cowboy for over three decades. He was known for writing poems “in his head” before committing them to paper. In a 1993 article in Tulsa World, “Cowboy Poets Weave Western Yarns,” by Bryan Woolley, J.B. Allen is quoted, “”How do I go about writin’ it? I don’t go about writin’ it. The way I do it, a line will come to me in my head, and I’ll write that down. And then another’n. And another’n. A lot of times the thing’ll take off in a different direction than what I thought it was goin’ to. Halfway through the poem, I still don’t know how it’s gonna end. But I git there.” Read the article here.

You can hear J.B. Allen’s recitation of this poem on this week’s Clear Out West radio from Jim and Andy Nelson, available online (and archived for later listening).

He was a frequent performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and also at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Nara Visa, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, and other events. His poetry is included in many anthologies and in his own books and recordings. His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.

This poem and others by J.B. Allen are featured in a new CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS, along with the work of Larry McWhorter, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens. The compilation includes recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs) with an introduction by Jay Snider.

Find more about J.B. Allen at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo of J.B. Allen is by top photographer Kevin Martini-Fuller, who has photographed participants of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for over three decades. Find some of those photos at his site.

 

THE MEDICINE KEEPERS by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

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THE MEDICINE KEEPERS
by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

A man might live and work beside
The fellers ’round the wagon
And never say two words unless
It’s just hooraw and braggin’.

But sometimes in the solitude
Of some ol’ line camp shack
He smooths a fruit can label out
And writes there on its back

A group of words redeemed from time
To last when he moves on,
Set down with hurried flourish
‘Fore his mem’ry of ’em’s gone.

The spellin’ may not be exact
Or commas where they ought,
But there within those rugged lines
A mood is somehow caught.

It might be full of sadness
From a death or crippled friend,
To just the mournful yearnin’
For a way that’s bound to end.

Some others could be bawdy
While full of life and mirth
Or stories ’bout some saddle horse
That has no peers on earth.

There’s many through the years been lost
Or burned or throwed away,
But others yet survive
To give us views of yesterday.

And still amongst the workin’ hands
The words come now and then
To write a livin’ history
Of the stock, and earth, and men.

© 1997, J.B. Allen; used with permission

We’re celebrating the 16th annual Cowboy Poetry Week with some of the best of the best.

Texan J.B. Allen was a working cowboy for over three decades. He was a frequent performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and also at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Nara Visa, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, and other events. His poetry is included in many anthologies and in his own books and recordings. His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.

Buck Ramsey (1938-1998), in his introduction to The Medicine Keepers, wrote of J.B. Allen, “More than most cowboys, he held to the ways and memories…thought and talked the old lingo” and stated, “…in my opinion he is the best living writer of traditional cowboy verse.”

This is just one of J.B. Allen’s poems on the new MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com. The recording also includes J.B.’s recitation of Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem.”

Find more about J.B. Allen at CowboyPoetry.com.

Top Texas artist Duward Campbell’s created this painting above of his good friend JB Allen and his horse, Pilgrim, in 2005. We were proud to have it as the art for the 2011 Cowboy Poetry Week poster from CowboyPoetry.com. Find more about it here.

KINDRED SPIRITS by J. B. Allen (1938-2005)

amybull

photo © 2017, Amy Hale Auker

KINDRED SPIRITS
by J. B. Allen (1938-2005)

The spotted heifer missed the drive
and spent the winter free,
‘Though freedom’s price was willow bark
then sprigs of filaree
That finally showed beneath the snow
before her strength played out.
And green-up brought a fine bull calf
to teach the maverick route.

They fattened on the meadows
of the high Sierra’s flanks
In the company of a maverick bull
that drifted from the ranks
Of cattle across the great divide
turned loose to make their way
And lost amongst the canyons
that were strewn in disarray.

The offspring of this union
proved a wily beast,indeed,
Endowed with instincts from the wild
and blessed with wond’rous speed
That proved a worthy challenge
to the punchers in the hills
Who through the hills spun hairy tales
of wildest wrecks and spills.

But though the issue from the two
was sometimes trapped or caught,
These two ol’ wily veterans
still practiced what they taught,
Spent the winters running free
within their secret haunt
Which held enough to see ’em through
emergin’ weak and gaunt.

For years ol’ Utah searched the range
in futile quest for sign
Of where they spent the winter months a
and somehow get a line
On how they made it every year
and brought a calf, to boot,
‘Til fin’lly one cold, dreary day
it fell to this old coot

To happen on their winter park,
hid out from pryin’ eyes,
And to this day ol’ Utah holds
the key to where it lies.
The kindred spirit, shared by all,
who seek the higher range
Could not betray that cul-de-sac
to folks just bent on change

With no respect for mav’rick ways
or independent thought,
And not one frazz’lin’ idee
of the havoc being wrought
By puttin’ things on schedule,
be it work, or man, or cow,
Till ways that make for bein’ free
are bred plumb-out somehow.

Old Utah turned and trotted off,
to let those old hides be.
His heart a-beatin’ lighter
just a-knowin’ they were free.

© 1997, J.B. Allen
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Texan J.B. Allen was a working cowboy for over three decades. He was a frequent performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and also at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Nara Visa, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, and other events. His poetry is included in many anthologies and in his own books and recordings. His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.

J.B. Allen’s poetry is featured in a new CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS, along with the work of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens. The compilation includes recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs) with an introduction by Jay Snider.

Andy Hedges, songster and host of COWBOY CROSSROADS  comments on the CD, “This album represents four of the finest poets to ever come out of cowboy culture. We are not likely to see their kind again and the world should be grateful to Cowboypoetry.com for preserving their voices.”

MASTERS has been offered to rural libraries across the West in the CowboyPoetry.com outreach Rural Library Program, a part of Cowboy Poetry Week. It was also given as a thank-you to our supporters and is available for purchase. Find more about MASTERS here.

Find more about J.B. Allen at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph is by cow hand, writer, and poet Amy Hale Auker, taken a couple of weeks ago. She cowboys with her husband Gail Steiger in rugged country at Arizona’s Spider ranch. About this photo, she noted, “We rarely run anything through the chute, but this huge maverick bull came from down in the low country. We drove him out with gentle cows, sixteen miles.A quick brand in the chute and he’s free again.”

Look for Amy Hale Auker’s new book, Ordinary Skin: Essays from Willow Springs, from Texas Tech University Press in May. Find more about her at her web siteon CowboyPoetry.com, on Facebook, and on Instagram.