Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur 2017, “Makin’ a Break For It” by Tyler Crow

tylercrowmakinabreak482601.jpg

image © 2015, Tyler Crow, “Makin’ a Break for It”

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…we know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 45th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Cowboy Poetry Week  Art Spur, an oil by Tyler Crow, “Makin’ a Break For It.” He tells that the oil painting depicts his “good amigo Mike Eslick.”  The painting was selected as the poster image for the 16th annual Cowboy Poetry Week, April 16-22, 2017.

Submissions were welcome from all through Tuesday, April 11, 2017.  Thanks to all who participated.

Selected poems are posted below.

Find previous Art Spur subjects here and at CowboyPoetry.com, including one with a previous Tyler Crow painting, “At the End of His Rope.”

cpw_poster_2017_crow_r1sm

POEMS

“Makin’ a Break For It,” by Kathy Moss of Oregon
“A Day at the Office,” by Al “Doc” Mehl of Colorado
“Running Amok,” by Marleen Bussma of Utah
“Oh No You Don’t!,” by Tom Swearingen of Oregon
“He’s a Rider,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
“Endearment,” by Mark Munzert of New York
“The Elusive Dream,” by Ol’ Jim Cathey of Texas
“Ranch Ropin’,” by Lynn Kopelke of Washington
“Last of the Strays,” by George Rhoades of Oklahoma

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

MAKIN’ A BREAK FOR IT
by Kathy Moss

If given a chance a thousand times,
in tales they’re all the same,
Where cowboys lives repeat in rhymes,
and horses play the game.
Where wisdom beams from knowing eyes,
and the jester holds the rope,
They put you there a thousand tries,
and can only wish and hope
That your toss is true, your cinch is tight,
your hands honest on the bit,
When life throws you a wild fight,
makin’ a break for it.

When in doubt, you dally son,
take your turns, and head to the fire,
Be true as the one who has to run,
and pulling the weight you hire.
For when there is a rough one,
the truth is where you sit,
For his knowledge if respected
catches those makin a break for it.

© 2017, Kathy Moss
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

A DAY AT THE OFFICE
by Al “Doc” Mehl

He’s a cowboy by profession,
And he works the open range;
Spend a day there in his ”office,”
You’ll discover something strange…

You could say he mans a cubicle
(A square with four straight sides);
But those sides are mountain ranges,
And his square’s a light-year wide.

Though he doesn’t own a smart phone,
He’s possessed with common sense;
He is less ’bout “build relationships,”
And more ’bout “build some fence.”

Yes, it’s true, he’s got a laptop,
Though it shifts when horse might buck,
And his only modern “key-board”
Is the starter in his truck.

Never had a written “E-val,”
Never joined a brainstorm group;
Though he’s heard about “team building,”
He would rather build a loop.

He’s not keen to learn new “paradigms,”
His “pairs” are cow-and-calf.
If he ever punched a clock,
His overtime would make you laugh.

He is all ’bout punching cattle;
Punching time clocks is a joke.
And when payday rolls around each week,
He’s all ’bout staying broke.

Seems his pension plan is simple,
He’ll just work until he’s dead.
And his filing cab’net’s just
A calving book; that… plus his head.

Come and spend a day at work with him,
Some cattle you’ll both punch.
Dress in layers, wear a hat, and come well-fed…
He don’t do lunch.

© 2017, Al “Doc” Mehl
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

RUNNING AMOK
by Marleen Bussma

Loud banging can be heard throughout the pasture and the hills.
The calf is using both front feet like hammers as he mills
around the min’ral feeder that has given up its stash.
He pokes his head inside, brings in a foot, and starts to bash.

Perhaps he hopes that tasty morsels hiding in a crack
will drop like coins in Vegas when the slots give something back.
He’s taught it a good lesson drubbing dimples, dents, and dips.
He jolts it for good measure as he spanks it with his hips.

He finds an unsuspecting neighbor calmly eating grass,
then gives a hearty head-butt as he runs off full of sass.
His tail is high up in the air, a kite string blazing red.
The Overture of William Tell is blaring in his head.

His mother is a jumper who has challenged every fence.
An acorn does not fall far from the oak.  In his defense,
enough of his contrary mother rests within his genes
to make him act like he’s a new recruit for the Marines.

While running over grass that found a foothold in the spring,
he’ll jump across imaginary mountain streams, then wing
his way above deep canyons where no men dare scale.
This pest penned in the pasture is Tom Sawyer with a tail.

When born, he was no bigger than a minute as he hid
deep in the brush where Mamma left him off the rancher’s grid.
This sanctuary serves him yet when he needs an escape.
It’s branding time and lassos will be thrown his way to drape

around his neck and drag him to the dreaded branding fire.
He’s frisky and he’s full of pep with little thought to tire.
A rider comes upon him out of nowhere near his side.
He was too busy chasing shadows to go off and hide.

The race is on.  He heads for cover, but the horse is fast.
He dodges, darts, and ducks, but cherished freedom does not last.
He’s jerked down to the real world; thoughts to run away are blurred.
Now drug off through the dirt, he’s just another in the herd.

© 2017, Marleen Bussma
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

 painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30


OH NO YOU DON’T!
by Tom Swearingen

Oh no you don’t!  I’ve seen that trick.
And this grey has seen it too.
You might think you’ve got us snookered,
But calf I’ve got news for you.

Your little zig, and sudden zag
You must thought would shake us loose.
But this cow horse has you figured
So you’re ’bout to feel my noose.

For this loop I built is sailing
And it’s heading for your neck.
So you might consider slowing
And diminishing your wreck.

Otherwise you’ll be stopped faster
Than I think you’d like to stop.
Put your head back where your tail is
In an instant ’bout-face swap.

Which might just send you a’ tumblin’
Like a bovine acrobat.
A cartwheeling heap of hairy.
Pretty sure you don’t you want that.

‘Cause your eye orbs might get dusty.
And your air might get woofed out.
Your nose might suffer a scrapin’
From your premature reroute.

Your tail might end up with a kink.
And a leg might get a sprain.
And I just hate to think about
The jumble’n  of your brain.

Now, the choice is yours, but hurry.
See, this twine’s about to soar.
So please straighten up and slow down
‘Cause I can’t delay no more.

Just need to change you from a bull.
Punch a tag there in your ear.
Inject you with some medicine.
Burn our brand into your rear.

Oh.  Maybe now I see your point.
Doesn’t sound like too much fun.
So I guess I’ll understand if
You just keep up with your run.

© 2017, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

HE’S A RIDER
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

He’s a’ lopin’
and a’ ropin’,
working hard to catch that calf.
Where country’s high and wider,
He’s a rider
that few could beat by half.
There is blue sky,
where the winds sigh
and the mountains rise up tall.
Nothing’s hidin’,
as he’s ridin’,
for he truly loves it all.
He’s on the old ranch
on the north branch
of the old Popo Agie River.
For a century
in their memory,
his family’s loved to live here.
He’s a lopin’
and a’ ropin’,
working hard to catch that calf.
Where Wyoming’s high and wider,
he is a rider
few could beat by half!

© 2017, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

ENDEARMENT
by Mark Munzert

Loopin’ strays and runaways
In air so warm and pure.
Lucky me for what I see
In open range grandeur.

Upon my colt as dogies bolt
There’s no way I can lose.
If I miss my throw, I’ll still know
It’s this cowboy life I choose.

On my steady mount I can count.
Together we are a team.
Just the two of us with no fuss.
Were just livin’ out our dream.

Mountains high, grass n’ water nigh,
Could you want of better scope?
Forage green and waif stock to glean,
For these things I’ll always hope.

When day’s done and I’ve had my fun
I’ll disengage to my sack.
Of my post I’ll have had the most
‘Midst endearment I shan’t lack.

© 2017, Mark Munzert
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

THE ELUSIVE DREAM
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

Old timers never quit, they just strive to renew,
Tho, sometimes they do ride “upstream,”
Their ever vanishing youth, to pursue.
…They seek the elusive dream.

I sat hossback, watchin’ that scene unfold,
Like it was only yesterday,
An’ it played out, as if the story had been retold,
To us travelers on our way.

An early Texas spring found us workin’ stock,
On the Quarter Circle C,
When I come acquainted that the Grey an’ young Brock,
Had that special chemistry.

Ahhh, I thought back to a scene from yesteryear,
An’ marveled at my recall,
An image of horse an’ rider, showin’ no fear,
A picture of “buck ‘n bawl.”

Before me the scene of an age old fight,
Man an’ beast as once before,
Then the subtle  hiss of the lariat’s flight,
The hoofs thud on desert floor.

Why, I could smell horse sweat, dust, an’ leather,
An’ feel the tug of a spring breeze,
Blowin’ the scent of sage an’ coming weather,
Gave me pleasant thoughts of gay soirees.

An’ gone were the aches an’ pains brought on by age,
At youthful spirit’s  return.
Thanks to that Grey an’ Brock, here at God’s own stage,
A life for which we often yearn.

So, I took a moment to say thanksto God,
For blessin’s He gave to me.
To live a good life on this western sod,
Where a cowboy can be free.

Old timers never quit, they just strive to renew
Tho, sometimes they do ride “upstream,”
Their ever vanishing youth, to pursue.
…They seek the elusive dream!

© 2017,  Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

RANCH ROPIN’
by Lynn Kopelke

My buddy Geof and me was wrastlin’ calves
Whilst workin’ for the Bar H Bar.
It’s a job can’t be done by halves.
Ground work’s hard. Just the way things are.
To this day, I swear
Through no fault of ours
One of them critters got clear
And took off with all his power.
Pickin’ up speed as his hooves gained traction
With thoughts of skinnyin’ under the rail
But Rob and John sprung into action
That freedom train to derail.
They shook out their loops and set out afoot.
No thought in their mind to fail
To return this wanderin’ galoot
Just as sure as the US Mail.
Their approach was slow, purposeful.
The beast might yet turn bold.
You couldn’t be too careful.
He must’ve been near three weeks old.
Oh, but they stood tall
Lariats all a twirl.
A symbol of America, never to fall,
Recognized throughout the world,
COWBOY
One young rancher named Terry
Not as impressed as the rest of us
With expression somewhat glarey
Set out purposely through the dust.
He, deftly, dodged the spinnin’ loops
And approached the cornered critter
And with a less than gentle scoop
Picked up that errant pup and returned him to the litter.
For a moment they still stood
Frozen in space and time
Robbed of their heroic cowboyhood.
Practicality had stolen their moment sublime.
But there was work to be done
Critters to be branded in kind
But amidst that spring’s other fun
That image remains etched in my mind.
A twin cowboy colossus, the inspiration for Gene and Roy,
Their kack twine, like Old Glory, bravely unfurled.
For when a cowboy feels like, well, a cowboy,
Catch or no, he’s king of the world.

© 2017,  Lynn Kopelke
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

LAST OF THE STRAYS
by George Rhoades

We rounded up the strays,
The ones that got away
When we herded ’em to the pens
For the final sale day.

The spread was shuttin’ down,
The old Circle R was through;
They sold off the horses,
And most of the cattle, too.

A hundred years or more
Strugglin’ on the Texas plains,
Years of drought, low cow prices,
Too many losses, not enough gains.

They sold it all that day,
And the lively auction drew
From all around the county;
The crowd was more’n a few.

Hay bales and wheat drills,
Farmall tractors and John Deeres,
Along with mowers and combines
Sold off by the auctioneers.

Headgates and portable chutes,
All the gear sold and gone;
The ranch owners beaten down,
Tired of hangin’ on and hangin’ on.

Big ranchers bought the cows,
Bankers took the land,
The old Circle R faded away;
It had made its last stand.

Cowboys finished up their chores,
Said farewell and headed out;
Range getting’ smaller and smaller,
Times are changin’, no doubt.

The final things to go
On that melancholy day,
Was the last of the strays,
The ones that almost got away.

© 2017,  George Rhoades
This poem may not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

painting by Tyler Crow, year: 2015, size: 30

Thanks to all who participated.

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tylercrow    About Tyler Crow
:

Tyler Crow is the newest and youngest member of the Cowboy Artists of America.

From his official bio:

Tyler Crow spent his young life in the small town of Apache, Oklahoma. A 2007 graduate of Apache High School, Tyler always had paper and pencil with him drawing horses. This childhood interest continued throughout his high school years. During his Senior year he entered a pencil drawing in the Oklahoma Youth Expo at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Winning Reserve Best of Show and a scholarship gave him a chance to attend a week-long summer painting workshop co-taught by Bruce Greene and Martin Grelle. This was the first time he had ever held a paintbrush in his hand.

Since their first meeting, Tyler has attended three more painting workshops co-taught by Greene and Grelle. In April 2011, Tyler attended his second Cowboy Artist workshop taught by Mr. Greene at the Scottsdale Artists School in Scottsdale, Arizona. In Tyler’s two most recent shows, Bosque Arts Classic and Small Works Great Wonders, he received the People’s Choice Award. His future plans are to continue studying art and work toward a career as a Western artist.

Find more about Tyler Crow at CowboyPoetry.com; at his site, tylercrow.com; and on Facebook.

ONLY PLACE FOR ME by Tom Swearingen

sandy

photo © John Michael Reedy; request permission for use

 

ONLY PLACE FOR ME
by Tom Swearingen

Cows are strung from here to Sunday,
Nose to tail all afternoon.
The herd snakin’ way to low ground,
Down the trail ‘went up last June.

Temp’rature is barely twenty.
With the wind chill it feels worse.
But I count it all a blessing
What most folks would call a curse.

To be all day on the gather
Bringing high-graze cattle down,
To still be a part of something
Not much understood in town.

To ride from can’t see to can’t see.
No need for a watch or clock.
To know I’m spendin’ my time well,
Working hard to raise this stock.

Riding ground that my father rode,
And his father rode before.
Not a lot of people these days
That can say that anymore.

‘Course days like this will test you some,
Winter gnawing at your core.
Reminding you there are reasons
Others don’t take on the chore.

The feeling long left from my hands,
And about gone from my seat.
Warmth just a dwindling memory.
Still some hours ’til home fire’s heat.

Today it’s snow and bitter wind,
Other times it’s sun and dust.
But regardless of conditions
Being here for me’s a must.

Because I’m right where I figure
Is the only place for me.
For a cowboy is what I am,
Cowboy’s what I’ll always be.

© 2017, Tom Swearingen, used with permission

Oregon horseman Tom Swearingen’s poem was inspired by a 1923 photograph by Charles J. Belden (1887-1966) titled, “Work on cattle ranch, Z/T Ranch, Pitchfork, Wyoming” in a Winter Art Spur at CowboyPoetry.com. See all of the selected poems here.

You’ll find Tom at the Spirit of The West in Ellensburg, Washington this weekend,February 17-19, 2017.

Their web site, ellensburgcowboygathering.com, tells, “Our gear fair hosts over 40 vendors from across the country. Works of art, custom leather products, felt hats and handmade boots are just a few of the booths available for your shopping pleasure. Fiddlers from across our region will be competing and providing music for your enjoyment on Saturday in the Historic Liberty Theater. Our downtown venues provide the opportunity to stroll through beautiful Downtown Ellensburg while enjoying an array of music and scenery….”

Main Stage Performers are Waddie Mitchell, Cowboy Celtic, Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band, and Juni Fisher. Downtown Performers include Barbara Nelson, The Panhandle Cowboys, Jim Aasen, T.R Stewart, Stan Kvistad, Duane Nelson, Tom Swearingen, Andy Bales, Rockin HW, Sam DeLeeuw, Paul Wilson, Lynn Kopelke, David Anderson & Jenny Lynn, and Kevin Barnhart.

Tom Swearingen’s latest release is Rhyme ’em Cowboy! Rick Huff, in his Best of the West reviews, comments, “His style and body of work make him one of the most approachable cowbards workin’.” Read more here.

Find more about Tom Swearingen at his web site, including his performance schedule, at oregoncowboypoet.com.

This intriguing photograph, “Sandy,” is by Montana songwriter, poet, and photographer John Reedy. It is included in his recent book, This Place, which also features his poems and lyrics. View the entire book here, where it is available from the publisher.

More photos from the book are included in a February, 2013 Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site. Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

Winter/Christmas Art Spur 2016-2017: “Pitchfork Winter”

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Submissions are now closed.

Find the Winter-themed poems below by Marleen Bussma, Tom Swearingen, Jeff Campbell, and C.W. (Charles) Bell.

Find the selected Christmas-themed poems below by Michelle Turner, Jim Cathey, and Jean Mathisen Haugen.

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…we know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 44th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a 1923 photograph by Charles J. Belden (1887-1966) titled, “Work on cattle ranch, Z/T Ranch, Pitchfork, Wyoming.” It is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division. Find more about it here.

A biography at the Charles Belden Photography Museum web site notes, “The greatest contribution of Charles Belden to the Pitchfork Ranch was making it famous. In the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, Belden took pictures of the Pitchfork Ranch for newspapers in Los Angeles, Denver, Billings, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, New York, and for National Geographic magazine…His technical abilities, combined with an unequaled knowledge of the cowboy and sheepman, allowed Belden to capture the true life and times of the Pitchfork Ranch from 1914 to 1940…He lived and worked on the Pitchfork and, in 1922, became a co-manager…”

Find the bio and more at the Charles Belden Photography Museum web site.

Find a collection of Belden photographs at the University of Wyoming‘s digital archive.

 

WINTER-THEMED POEMS

A PITCHFORK MORNING
by Marleen Bussma

The snow has wrapped its alabaster arms around the day
and squeezed all color from the summer’s generous display.
Sam sits atop his horse and pulls his neck inside his coat.
The snow-haze hid most things his eyes would recognize and note.

The raw wind keens and cries sad tones you cannot hear in town.
It beats the snow and sleet across Sam’s face, though he looks down.
Three hundred miles and thirty years ago he never knew
he’d still be punching cattle in this life he’s passing through.

Dark specks that move emerge from Jack Frost’s cloak that hides the hills.
The cattle come for feed brought in by wagons where it spills
atop the ground and spreads out like the Golden Fork Buffet.
Their greedy appetite will not give in to weather’s play.

Their backs are white and crusted with a blanket spun from sleet.
Their heads wear scarves designed by wind cut from an icy sheet.
Sam notices a cow that staggers, stumbles, slips on snow.
She goes down on her side while other cows don’t even slow.

Sam nudges Sadie to a trot to check the fallen cow.
He steps down from the saddle, tilts his hat so he can bow
his head into the wind that screams and threatens all who live.
“Just one mistake!” is shrieked by elements that won’t forgive.

The cow is blinded by a frozen mask stuck to her face.
She doesn’t try to struggle as Sam wipes away all trace
of glaze encrusted on her eyes, once sightless, shaded, still.
Sam carefully pulls frosty fragments with a cowhand’s skill.

His patient struggles to get up with energy renewed.
She joins the gather near the hay and makes her way to food.
As winter drags its frozen feet with cowboys on alert,
a warm chinook off eastern Rocky Mountains wouldn’t hurt.

© 2017, Marleen Bussma
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

pitchforkchristmassm

ONLY PLACE FOR ME
by Tom Swearingen

Cows are strung from here to Sunday,
Nose to tail all afternoon.
The herd snakin’ way to low ground,
Down the trail ‘went up last June.

Temp’rature is barely twenty.
With the wind chill it feels worse.
But I count it all a blessing
What most folks would call a curse.

To be all day on the gather
Bringing high-graze cattle down,
To still be a part of something
Not much understood in town.

To ride from can’t see to can’t see.
No need for a watch or clock.
To know I’m spendin’ my time well,
Working hard to raise this stock.

Riding ground that my father rode,
And his father rode before.
Not a lot of people these days
That can say that anymore.

‘Course days like this will test you some,
Winter gnawing at your core.
Reminding you there are reasons
Others don’t take on the chore.

The feeling long left from my hands,
And about gone from my seat.
Warmth just a dwindling memory.
Still some hours ’til home fire’s heat.

Today it’s snow and bitter wind,
Other times it’s sun and dust.
But regardless of conditions
Being here for me’s a must.

Because I’m right where I figure
Is the only place for me.
For a cowboy is what I am,
Cowboy’s what I’ll always be.

© 2017, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

pitchforkchristmassm

OLD MAN WINTER
by Jeff Campbell

The yuletide season’s over
It will soon be New Years Day
We all enjoyed a white Christmas
With more snow on the way

As I sit here in the saddle
I confirm the forecast right
While looking all around me
At a world cloaked in white

Santa may have gone back home
But Old Man Winter’s settled in
The horizon’s almost disappeared
Where does the sky begin?

The only demarcation
Of where prairie meets the sky
The long red ribbon of cattle
Drudgingly passing by

Workin’ the herd out of the wind
Patient and try not to rush
West down to Burgess Creek
And the shelter of the brush

This frozen task accomplished
Our work is still not through
Here in the dead of winter
There’s always more to do

Use snow to our advantage
Push it up against the fence
A barrier against the gales
Another refuge of defense

Chop logs like a lumberjack
To feed that old wood stove
Chop ice in the water tanks
Where the drinkin’ waters froze

Movin’ hay to the cattle
Make sure that they’re well fed
Bring in a shiverin’ calf
To warm up by my bed

Like the devil in summer
Old Man Winter blast the range
We never do defeat him
Just survive till seasons change

© 2017, Jeff Campbell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

pitchforkchristmassm

LINE CABIN NIGHT
by C.W. (Charles) Bell

When the winds of winter freeze the surface of hill and plain,

With frozen icy weapons beat upon the window pane.

When the ground is deeply covered with drifts of whitest snow,

And the air so clear I see the ranch, way down there below.

That’s when I sit and listen to the north wind’s mighty roar;

The fire in the fireplace casts crazy shadows on the floor.

Outside it’s cold and darkness, while inside it’s warm and bright,

Settled down in solid comfort—I call it—Line Cabin Night!

© 2017, C.W. (Charles) Bell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

pitchforkchristmassm

CHRISTMAS-THEMED POEMS

CHRISTMAS TRAIL
by Michelle Turner

The first snow of the season came in silent, and swift
A wet, sticky snow; too heavy to drift
Falling straight down, it stacked up real quick
Bad for the drovers, but good for Saint Nick!

“Well, Boys, It looks like we’re gonna be late.
The Christmas festivities will just have to wait.”
I sighed a small sigh, and then bowed my head,
“Give us this day, our daily bread”

The families back home were just joining hands
Praying for cowboys on frigid range lands
“Father in Heaven, we ask this of You
Push the blizzard aside; please let them get through”

I watched crystals of ice form on long pony tails
like Christmas tree tinsel decorating our trail
And heat-melted snow dripped over my mare
drizzled like caramel on a gingerbread square

The cattle were covered with coats of white flocking
My mind wandered home to an empty hung stocking
Clouds of hot breath from the herd blurred my view
As if looking through steam over mugs of hot brew

My thoughts were cut short by a cheer from the men
After wiping my eyes and then looking again
One single star peaked out from the skies
and I knew we’d be home for leftovers and pie

We secured all the gates and rubbed down our mounts,
then dragged our cold bones to the steps of the house
With the door bursting open, such commotion inside!
They all waited Christmas, ‘til the end of our ride.

© 2016, Michelle Turner
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

pitchforkchristmassm

CHRISTMAS WISHES
by Jim Cathey

While I’m watchin’ them cows comin’ down in the snow,
Hankerin’ for some better times,
An’ the warmer wind breaks they’ll find down below,
I’m shore wishin’ for warmer climes!

It was comin’ on Christmas time of the year,
We’d hired on for winter brandin’,
An’ was shore ‘nuff proud to hunker down here,
Like Mary an’ Joseph way back when.

Shore now, you recollect the Christmas story?
‘Bout when Baby Jesus was born,
An’ that night with God in all His Glory,
Give us that very first Christmas morn,

Now I reckon as how life can shore be rough,
An’ it warn’t no different way back then,
Them ol’ boys herdin’ stock found it mighty tough,
But lookin’ back, they’d shore ‘nuff grin.

But when they heard them angels a singin’,
I ‘spect it spooked ‘em a good bit,
They figgered it was just bells somewhere a ringin’,
An’ they hunkered down, but didn’t quit.

Yeah, I ‘spect it was colder’n rocks in a heap,
That baby was wrapped up an’ warm,
An’ them dang shepherds with their flock of sheep,
Just plumb hunkered down in that storm.

Now that’s the same choice we make to be cowboys,
I guess, sorta like them three kings,
They chose to follow that star that promised joys,
About which them angels would sing.

Glory to the highest with peace an’ goodwill to all,
An’ them ol’ boys herdin’ their stock,
Scairt, but watchin’ out for ‘em, no matter how small,
Cow, horse, donkey, sheep in a flock.

An’ that baby, layin’ there in a manger,
Wrapped head to toe in swaddlin clothes,
A promise of eternal life to strangers,
After life an’ death, He arose.

Yep, that’s how Christmas musta got started,
An’ so we celebrate today,
While we thank the Good Lord for our paths He charted,
I ‘spect we should hit our knees and pray!

Lord, thank you for giving us Jesus on earth,
An’ for promisin’ life with you,
As we celebrate this wondrous birth,
Please allow our faith to renew.

An’ thank you for these critters in the snow,
That let us know the cowboy way,
An’ help us stay true, our faith all aglow,
Thank you Lord! In yore name we pray.

Well, I’m still watchin’ them cows comin’ down in the snow,
Hankerin’ for some better times,
An’ the warmer wind breaks they’ll find down below,
I’m shore wishin’ for warmer climes!

© 2016, Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

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A COWBOY, CAMPFIRE AND A STAR
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

It was cold that winter night,
when I got caught out in the snow.
A blizzard came in from the west,
and how that wind did blow!
I’d been riding across the range
looking for a few stray cows,
trying hard to bring them in,
but the storm hit here and now.
I found shelter in a shallow cave
and built a warm campfire,
chewed on jerky and had some beans—
not all I would desire.
For this night was Christmas Eve
and I was there all alone—
no songs and surely no angels,
just the howl of the wild wind’s moan.
I used my saddle for a pillow
and had my soogans near,
crawled inside to get some sleep,
but sure wished I wasn’t here.
I drifted off into a dream
and then, in the middle of the night,
I heard some rustling in the brush
and it gave me a bit of a fright.
The storm had finally cleared.
I saw way off a’ ways afar
the streaming beams of high lonesome light
that were coming from a star.
Then I saw an angel fly by
and soon a flock of them were singing,
there just above the little cave
songs of joy and even bells were ringing.
The campfire should have gone out by then,
but the flames were dancing high,
brightening the lonely cave
and nearly bright as that star in the sky.
Then it was suddenly quiet
and I went back to sleep.
Near morning I crawled out at dawn—
and there was canned food in a heap,
along with fresh-cut firewood
and a tipi tent that was brand new.
I scratched my head, fixed coffee
and made a real strong brew.
And it was then I stumbled over
some feathers from real angel wings—
then I realized that was no dream—
I had really heard them sing.
I am old and crippled now,
but I can recall from years afar
the story of that long ago night
’bout a cowboy, a campfire and a star.

© 2016, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

Thanks to all who participated.

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SUBMISSIONS

Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through Tuesday, January 17, 2017. Christmas-themed submissions were welcome by Tuesday, December 20, 2016).

Submissions are now closed.

 

Find previous Art Spur subjects and their poems here.

 

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Art Spur: National Day of the Cowboy

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…we know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 43rd piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur, a photograph, “Shadow Bronc,” by songwriter, poet, and photographer John Michael Reedy (reedy.photoshelter.com, twistedcowboy.com).

We asked John Michael Reedy to tell us about the photograph, and he commented:

I made the photograph at the Jefferson County Fair Rodeo in Boulder, Montana. Since most rodeos have photographers dedicated to catching the “action,” my focus tends more towards light, composition, and story. This is our hometown rodeo, a very small-town and (almost) always dry and dusty affair held at the end of August. However, this particular year we experienced absurdly unusual wet and muddy conditions. I felt an urgency to get a good shot on this day, to capture the striking tension between the (still) very clean cowboys and the inevitable mud bath. In this shot, the small-town setting and the prominence of the flag catching the sun at that moment creates a mood, and the classic position of the rider is iconic. Mostly I like the the body language of the horse as he appears to stomp his own shadow in the mud.

Poets are invited to be inspired by the art; a literal representation of the art is not expected.

The Twelfth Annual National Day of the Cowboy is Saturday July 23, 2016. Find more about the organization at nationaldayofthecowboy.com and on Facebook.

Selected poems, below, are:

“Someday” by Tom Swearingen
“Broncs, Bruises, and Brawn” by Marleen Bussma
“Counting Down” by Merv Webster
“From Dust to Mud” by Jim Cathey
“Seize the Day” by Jeff Campbell
“Dream Ride” by George Rhoades
“The Shadow Riders”by Jean Mathisen Haugen

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SOMEDAY
by Tom Swearingen

Been years since winning a buckle.
More still since he’s been in his prime.
Tonight, you’d think he was twenty,
Legs churning together in time.

His rowels rake ‘cross the shoulders.
Strong lift of the thick woven reign.
Sweeping to flank with each landing,
Bronc’s efforts to pitch him in vain.

Been to the top of the mountain.
Made Finals three times years ago.
Says he’s just riding for fun now,
But man, he still puts on a show.

Spurs fly like there’s no tomorrow.
He’s fanning and riding for keeps.
Showing his guts and his gristle,
No matter the bucks or the steeps.

He knows he can’t ride forever.
He’ll hang up his war bag someday.
But now he’s right where he should be,
High rolling atop this rank bay.

© 2016, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

BRONCS, BRUISES, AND BRAWN
by Marleen Bussma

The day’s crowd is loud and restless waiting in the scorching sun.
Hats are lowered for the anthem that is cheered when singing’s done.
The arena holds and gathers brave contenders to this dance.
They will partner with a rank bronc who’ll replace old west’s romance

with reality and raw truth.  “Come on, cowboy, show your stuff.
Can you take the jarring pounding?  Is your spirit tough enough?”
Jackson paces in the background, hears the chute boss bring the news.
It’s his turn to face the devil, time to pay those dancing dues.

Jackson’s fairly green at riding, wears a price tag on his jeans,
but he’s worked at getting better and he hopes that this ride means
he will hear the buzzer’s music, mark a victory for once.
Jackson’s nerves, though taut and troubled, hang on tough as he confronts

what is caged up in the bronc chute agitated, blowing snot.
Pump Jack throws his ornery head back as the cowboy starts to squat.
Jackson gently makes adjustments as he settles on the steed,
gets his chaps arranged and straightened.  Thoughts of what to do stampede

through his head like prairie dogs that see the shadow of a hawk.
He feels cautious, careful, cold, and hopes his courage does not walk.
“Don’t forget to mark the horse out.  How much buck rein should you give?”
Laundry lists of what to do portend mistakes that don’t forgive.

“Keep your chin down on your chest and have those big toes pointed out.
Lift the buck rein for your balance, stay alert,” his instincts shout.
Jackson pulls his hat down tightly, nods his head to start the dream.
If he sticks like glue to Pump Jack it will help his self-esteem.

Pump Jack rises on his hind feet as he leaps out of the chute.
Jackson’s left hand fans the air as he clings bravely to the brute.
He can feel his fortune slipping like the buck rein in his hand.
The intensity is frantic, nothing like what he had planned.

When you talk about a bronc ride, Casey Tibbs once gave this pearl,
“You just fall into a rhythm.  It’s like dancing with a girl.”
Jackson’s rhythm leaves the dance floor as he flirts with a dismount.
Fresh air swells above his saddle like a sly thief’s bank account.

His intentions are unfastened as he flops like fish on shore.
Bouncing wildly in the saddle, he forgets about a score.
The eight-second clock is ticking.  Does he have time to regroup?
The arena floor now greets him and he doesn’t have to stoop.

With the grace of a flat tire he is finished for the day.
Just his pride is pained and pounding as he grimly limps away.
Though rejected like a wallflower waiting with a wish to dance,
the next town puts on a rodeo and he’ll get another chance.

As he thinks about his last ride, what went right and what went wrong,
he concedes he needs the basics to help make his riding strong.
It will take a lot more practice while he learns to do what’s smart,
but for now he knows his hat stayed on and, pardner, that’s a start.

© 2016, Marleen Bussma
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

COUNTING DOWN
by Merv Webster

It’s been a life I don’t regret and looking back I’m proud
of all the rides and challenges played out before a crowd.
Eight seconds might not seem that long but on a bronc from hell
you have to know it’s every move or you won’t score that well.

I’d made a promise to my wife that this was my last ride
as she had shared my childhood dream and I look back with pride
on how she’d thrown her full support behind me all the way
but sensed she longed to settle down and call it quits today.

I knew the bronc between my chaps, I’d ridden him before,
but if it had its way at all he’d dump me that’s for sure.
The Chute Boss called, “Let’s have him out!” and did that horse perform
though all who’d hung up on his back knew that was just the norm.

Eight seconds were now counting down, I’d marked out clean enough,
but this bronc sure would see if I was made of sterner stuff.
He knew the game and loved it too and had a bag of tricks
and it would try near everyone that it had in its mix.

Six seconds now and counting down, so what now lies ahead?
I swear its gonna prop and buck and sure to drop its head.
It’s eyeing off that shadow there and knew it’s in its blood
to want to see me on the ground and sprawled out in the mud.

Four seconds left and I’ve survived but man my back near broke
while all the pain that wracked my frame was way beyond a joke.
Just rake and watch for his next move was what raced through my mind
and just a few secs longer and we’ll put all this behind.

Two seconds left but man he showed no sign of tiring out
then arched his back and screamed out loud and I was in no doubt
he’d give it all he had and  try in one last desp’rate buck
to do his best and give his all to see me come unstuck.

I knew there for a moment there was air below my seat
and wondered would I stay with him or did he  have me beat.
But then I felt his back again and heard the siren blow
well knowing I had ridden time and we’d put on a show.

To go out on a ride like that was pleasing to the soul
and mighty glad the bronc I drew had surely played its role.
The broncs I ride these days are tame but every now and then
I break a lively youngster and I count down time agen.

© 2016,  Merv Webster
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

FROM DUST TO MUD
by Jim Cathey

Dang Gramps! I ain’t too shore about this weather,
That ol’ muddy ground shore spooks me.
I seen them ol’ boys grabbin’ fer leather,
an’ their ol’ broncs seemed sorta goofy.

Most times its purty dry come buckin’ time,
‘course, I reckon you’ve seen it all.
But I just wondered, back in yore prime,
If you’d ever seen sich a squall.

Yeah, I seen it muddy like this, back in ought nine,
When Dick Stanley rode Ol’ Steamboat.
Lookin’ back, we shoulda took it as a sign,
All the chutes was purt near a float.

Cheyenne it was, a fancy gig back then,
Folks had came from all around,
All that stock was bad an’ so was the men,
‘course Frontier days was renowned.

Some said that Steamboat would never be rode!
That he’d go down in hist’ry.
Now Dick Stanley, well, he ain’t never been thowed!
But his past was a myst’ry.

He knowed all about this bronc he was on,
‘Twas a good bronc riders job.
Lottery said he drawed the devil’s spawn,
An’ he knowed he’d shore played hob.

The night’s rain turned hard dirt into a mud,
Ma Nature had made her play.
That bronc was snortin’ an’ lookin’ for blood,
But this cowboy planned to stay.

He’d marked ‘em good, comin’ outta the chute,
His fist drawed  into a knot.
But, that  bronc was learnin’ the ways of the brute,
An’ he’d give more than he got.

He quit the gate an’ was goin’ on high,
An’ he showed that he warn’t slow,
He’d come poundin’ down, then go on the fly,
Twistin’ ‘til his belly would show!

That cowboy stuck tighter than a Texas tick,
While that bronc was  asplashin’ mud.
An’ he squalled an’ snorted  with every kick,
smashin’  the ground with a thud.

But this day would not be kind to Ol’ Steamboat,
Mayhaps the mud slowed him down.
Steamboat whistled, but that was all she wrote,
‘cuz Dick Stanley had won the crown!

Now you drawed good an’ you shore got the skill,
That bronc will be okay, like as not.
An’ he’ll shore ‘nuff try to give you a spill,
So son, just give ‘r all you’ve got!

Yeah! I seen it muddy like this… back in ought nine.

© 2016,  Jim Cathey
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

SEIZE THE DAY
by Jeff Campbell

Four A.M. the thunder booms
As the gushing rain cascades
Easy just to stay right here
The coffee and couch persuades

It’s just a small town rodeo
A winding one hundred mile trip
But he hates the thought of missing
As he takes one final sip

Dodges puddles out to the truck
Turns the key and the radio on
As an old Corb Lund song ends
A forecast of blue skies by dawn

Does it matter if he wins?
Or lands with a humbling thud
When that whirling shadow stomper
Baptizes him in the mud

It’s about the thrill and focus
The feeling of being alive
To have something to live for
A goal and a will to strive

One day out on life’s highway
As he glances in his rear view
He will not regret things tried
Just the ones he did not do

© 2016,  Jeff Campbell
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

DREAM RIDE
by George Rhoades

The old cowboy sat in the chair,
A blanket across his lap,
On the patio of the rest home,
Wakin’ from his nap.

I did ’em all, he said,
Ridin’ and ropin’ at the rodeo
All up and down the line,
Calgary to Cheyenne to El Paso.

Now I’m crippled up and stuck
With caretakers and fadin’ memory,
Thinkin’ back on the past,
Gone forever now for me.

But when I sleep I dream
That I’m buckin’ once again,
A small town, flags aflyin’,
Tryin’ my best to win.

Corrals, horses, pickup trucks,
Spurs, buckles, chaps and ropes,
Arenas, bulls, barrel racers,
Livin’ on dreams and hopes.

Travelin’ from town to town,
Wantin’ to make the short go,
To get the cash and the glory;
Hard life, not much to show.

Comin’ outta the chute,
One arm up, under stormy sky,
Hat pulled low, holdin’ tight,
Pickup man waitin’ nearby.

I’ve drawn a good one,
Bronc with lots of fire,
High-kickin’ and high-jumpin’,
I’m ridin’ ‘im higher and higher.

Settlin’ into the rhythm,
Day money’s gonna be mine,
Spurrin’ on a high roller,
Pains forgotten, feelin’ fine.

The roar from the crowd,
Ride ’em cowboy, comes the cry,
The cheers urge me on
As I grab for the sky.

Then I hear the buzzer,
Eight-second ride and top score;
My dream comes to an end
‘Til I dream it all once more.

© 2016, George Rhoades
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

THE SHADOW RIDERS
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

Those rodeo grounds are in rough shape,
they date back over eighty years.
Though the rodeo dates back to 1894
and many a’ cowboy has bruised his rear.

The CCC built this one for town
a’ way up on the highest hill,
with a full view of the mountains,
and wild horse races still cause a thrill.

A few years ago they planned to move the grounds—
but that idea did not go over well.
The folks here liked it just where it was—
for there were many stories to tell

of when Indians danced in the ring there
or a bull dumped a cowboy or two;
the time old Checkers climbed the stand
from the back to get a good view.

Come the 4th of July, Pioneer Days
has folks coming here back home
to see the parade and the rodeo,
for they never wanted to roam

out of the valley to somewhere else.
This valley catches your heart
and the old rodeo brings ’em home
from way back in1894 at it’s start.

Now I’m sitting here in this grandstand
and it seems to me that I see
some shadow riders in the ring—
and they’re not just seen by me!

Stub Farlow and his brother Jules,
Clayton Danks, a well known rider.
A lady rider who once rode the circuit
and her second horse is right beside her.

Phantom horses and phantom bulls
and ghosts of cowboys long gone—
join us here at the rodeo grounds—
Let her buck and let’s get on

with having a regular big to-do
for the day is blue sky and prime
and the shadow riders are back here too—
to enjoy the fun one more time!

© 2016, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.