“Ranch Water,” by Teal Blake — Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur, 2020

ranchwater“Ranch Water,” © 2019, Teal Blake, 40×40 oil, request permission for use

Our 52nd piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur, “Ranch Water,” a painting by Texas cowboy and artist Teal Blake. The painting is selected as the poster art for the 19th annual Cowboy Poetry Week.


Find more about Teal Blake in our feature here and visit tealblake.com.

Submissions from all were welcome through Monday, April 13, 2020.

Selected poems are posted below.




“Watering Up” by Jim Crotts of Oregon
“Cool Water” by Marleen Bussma of Utah
“The Wise and The Quick” by Rik Goodell of Montana
“Reflection” by Tom Swearingen of Oregon
“Watering His Soul” by David R. Harman
“A Time to Ponder” by Ol’ Jim Cathey of Texas
“The Cowboy, the Creation and the Creator” by Ron Secoy of Oklahoma
“A Tasty Sip” by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming


by Jim Crotts

Today is soft and tranquil,
The wind is sittin’ still,
My seasoned horse is tankin’ up,
And the younger one soon will,
We’re lookin’ at that ridgeline,
Where the rocks are hard and gray
And we know we’ll need the water,
‘Fore the darkness takes the day.

We gotta work the long draw,
Checkin’ up the calves and fence,
We’ll take it slow and steady,
Cause nothing else makes sense,
This job ain’t for the fastest,
This ain’t a wild stampede,
We’re just a horse and cowboy
Seein’ what them heifers need.

The sun’ll probably burn us,
And the wind most like will blow,
And them heifers havin’ babies,
Gonna test the things we know,
They’re more than just our livelihood,
Them dots out on the plain,
They’re livin’ breathin’ partners
In this world of joy and pain.

And to them we come as angels,
With wings upon our backs,
Bringing care and hope and healing
In the doctorin’ in our sacks,
Kinda like the One above us,
Who watches as we ride,
So we won’t get lost or stumble,
With His spirit as our Guide,

And we’ll do with what we’re given,
And we’ll try to make it good,
And we wouldn’t take another trail,
Not even if we could,
Cause all of us are kindred,
With open in our veins,
Our callin’ is to nuture
All them dots out on the plains.

So drink your fill, my partners,
I’ll wait here ’til you’re through,
The water from this little pond,
Is deep and cool and true,
We’ll need it up the canyon,
When the trail is hot and steep,
Out there on our circle,
Where there’s promises to keep.

© 2020, Jim Crotts
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Marleen Bussma

Scout’s mouth rests lightly on the water like an aspen leaf.
He quietly takes in a drink with satisfied relief.
Slow rhythmic pulses ripple on his throat. He sucks his fill
then lifts his head to listen to a meadowlark’s sweet trill.

Cool water drizzles from Scout’s muzzle just like morning mist.
Slow humble drops are worth their weight in gold when drought exists.
The afternoon is cruelly hot. The man’s canteen drained dry.
No luring Judas clouds hang in the high-plains azure sky.

The West was built on promises that water satisfies.
Desired like a gorgeous woman, it’s a crucial prize.
With no perception of importance or its high esteem,
this playful creek spills chitchat sending gossip bits downstream.

It gnaws on rocks and banks of clay, digesting constantly.
When in a quiet mood the sailboat leaves drift languidly.
Unmasked by mellow water, Scout’s reflected muzzle skims
the cool refreshing stream that nurtures all who come and brims

with stonefly nymphs that feed from rocks then mutate into treats.
They offer sav’ry morsels greedy trout will gulp for eats.
The mountains offer beauty many artists have expressed,
but water is the lifeblood and most precious in the West.

© 2020, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Rik Goodell

It’d been a dry ride
From can’t see thru can.
Ol Buck was parched
And so was young Dan.

We saw the clear pool
As we cleared o’er the rise
And trotted on over
To no one’s surprise.

Young Dan got there first
And waded on in.
When totally quenched,
Well, he drank once agin!

Now Buck being wiser
His drinking was measured
Soon he was slaked
By the water he treasured.

Young Dan, on t’other hand,
Slurped ‘n splashed on
Clean down to hoof mud,
‘Til sweet water was gone.

Dan searched north and south
Querying skyward ‘n down.
His belly a’sloshin’
But no drop could be found.

What have I wrought?
His gaze seemed to ask.
But his lack of years
Weren’t up to the task.

Enter Buck once agin,
The wiser, the sage,
Moseying over ‘longside
Young Dan to engage

“Gotta pace yerself”,
Bemoaned Buck in sorrow,
“Whether water or gait,
Leave some for tomorrow”.

Dan stopped searching
And studied Buck straight
Absorbing shrewd words
From his mentor and mate.

Enlightened, Dan nodded
His tack all ‘a jerkin’
And I’d swear on my saddle
Buck peeked over, ‘a smirkin.

Each took up positions,
Standing nose to tail
In comfort and safety
Flicking flies off t’hail

Old bull, young bull
Cain’t always know how
But friendships develop
When we let go and allow.

So Dan has more “go”
But Buck has more stick
And together they’re better
The wise and the quick.

© 2020, Rik Goodell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Tom Swearingen

A ponied palomino
Pauses briefly from its drink.
Content to rest a moment
While the rider stops to think

Back on hard miles covered
Since this morning before light.
And those to still be ridden
‘Til their circle’s done tonight.

Eighteen miles or maybe more
Of dry sage and rock and crust.
This water stop a blessing
To cool off and cut the dust.

Soft ripples radiating
From his sorrel’s sipping lips,
Distort trio’s reflection
To the rhythm of his sips.

© 2020, Tom Swearingen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by David R. Harman

A cowman’s day is dirt and dust,
In ears and nose and mouth.
Bawling calves, worried moms,
Surviving through a drought.
He’s tired and weak from lack of food,
Cause there’s no time to eat.
There’s more to do; nearly through
Hope mom has spread a feast.

The day is done, it’s time to stop
And get a refreshing drink.
His jug is low and sun warmed so
He begins to think.
A stream is near with water flow
From rocks upon the hill.
Bringing down that quenching creek
To satisfy his will.

Water spins a magical spell
That calms a weary soul.
First, he lets his horse get done
Then walks behind the knoll.
Rocks and sand can filter
The elements until
The water’s clear, so starts to drink
His satisfying fill.

Then sits his horse and watches
Shimmering ripples roll,
The pressure of his life’s pursuit
Has taken its own toll.
It mesmerizes in his mind
As water flows or’ rocks
He drifts back to his younger days
When he began this walk.

The memories of years gone by
Renew his toil worn mind.
Even though his body’s tired
He’s able to find
The strength that water gave his soul
To make it through the day
Then get up in the morning
And prove he’s here to stay.

© 2020, David R. Harman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Ol’ Jim Cathey

The harshness of winter here on the high plains,
Had slowly begun to change,
From frosty winds to the gentle warming rains,
That brought new graze to this range.

He sat quite with his thoughts, as the ponies drank,
An’ pondered what lay ahead,
Knowin’ that he had the Good Lord to thank,
For these blessin’s so widespread.

His vision was blurred by the mist an’ the fog,
With a slight chill in the air,
His thoughts came to words in a quiet dialogue,
An’ he sent aloft a prayer.

Just the clean scent of an early spring morn,
That comes at the break o day,
Brought memories strugglin’ to be reborn,
These visions from far away.

The quiet of the morn stirred mem’rys somehow,
Swarmin’ like moths to a flame,
As a gentle breeze brushed his furrowed brow,
He sighed as memories came.

And as memories surfaced, he sat entranced,
Watchin’ the pictures come through,
Visions of yesteryear, bold an’ enhanced,
Mixin’ the old with the new.

He thought of home an’ his sweet Mama’s smile,
As mem’rys marched through his brain,
He’d left home, just a kid, livin’ life in style,
Learnin’ quick not to complain.

He grew up fast an’ learned the cowboy way,
Bringin’ good along with the bad,
Bolstered by his Mama’s prayers each day,
The thought of her made him glad.

An’ as each thought rushed to burst upon the scene,
He sifted through them with care,
An’ one by one, they circled there unseen,
‘Cuz some he could never share.

He shivered from the early mornin’ chill,
As he pushed his thoughts around,
Knownin’ that some mem’rys gave him a thrill,
An’ to most he was not bound.

But the mem’rys were there to remind of the past,
To reflect on yesteryear,
An’ serve as a guide where his lot was cast,
allow no quit an’ no fear.

He knew that he was blessed in a cowboy way,
T’was the only life he knew,
It was early to late, hard work, an’ low pay,
An’ your pards all counted on you.

Yeah, they counted on you to do your part,
An’ they expected your best,
An’ that’s what you gave, your soul an’ your heart,
It takes that here in the west.

So he sorted ‘em out, an’ he brought some in,
As a smile came to his face,
An’ he realized these mem’rys had all been,
Blessed an’ granted by God’s grace!

© 2020,  Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Ron Secoy

His face well worn like a saddle
This gentleman of the old west
Ruddy and wrinkled by age
By the sun and wind caressed

His speech a lumbering drawl
Punctuated by cowboy verbs
Talk all night about his horse
Yet a man of just a few words

Spent his days among the mesquite and sage
In the time the cattle were trailed to Dodge
Soddies weren’t as common on the prairie
As the Indian teepee and medicine lodge

He reveled in the newness of a sunrise
Peaking over the mountains and plain
Acquainted with all kinds of weather
Found value and beauty in snow and rain

He preferred sleeping out under the stars
He called them God’s blanket of light
He drifted off to sleep to a coyote lullaby
On many a clear, peaceful, western night

Nothing more refreshing as water from a rustling brook
Or tastier than rabbit roasted on a spit
Through thick and thin there was always provision
The good Lord made sure of it

He couldn’t have a better companion
Than that sorrel gelding he rode
Some things are just priceless by nature
Worth more than silver or gold

History and literature may very well record
His life, his times, his ways and more
And the special bond that existed between
The cowboy, the creation and the creator

© 2020,  Ron Secoy
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Jean Mathisen Haugen

That water tastes cool and soothing,
as the early morning light
dances on the moving water
as if it was pushed by sprites.
The horse is cooling off some
and the cowboy gazes across the hills,
where he has worked for many years,
with bucks. and bumps and spills.
Some ranch water has a little manure
from the cows that have passed through,
but that ‘ole horse doesn’t care,
for it tastes good through and through.
He raises his head to swallow it
and the cowboy grins at his moves–
he, himself, would like to take a dip,
but all that would only prove,
cooling off for a little bit
and the sun would dry his clothes,
but if it’s a real cool morning,
the chills would come in droves!
It’s time to get on back to work,
and the sun is rising high now–
so he and his horse move on out
to round up an ornery old cow.

© 2020,  Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


Thanks to all who participated.

Find previous Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur subjects and their poems here and at CowboyPoetry.com.

COWBOY, by J.B. Allen


by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

A’settin a’horseback at the first rays of the sun,
on a cool late spring mornin’, ‘fore the brandin’ is done
is payment in full, for chores done and forgotten
through a winter of feedin’ and calves misbegotten.

The pay ain’t the reason for the work that we do.
It’s a feel for the land and the stock, that comes through
in the lives that we lead, and the character shown,
by the doin’ of jobs that will never be known,
except by ourselves, and the creature attended,
and the feelin’ that comes, when seein’ it mended.

I’ve known some ol’ boys, that were just downright mean,
but out on a roundup they surely were keen
to be on the spot, when the cattle were leavin’,
or up to their waists in the sand and a’heavin’
on a cow that had blundered out into a bog,
and then take their time to drag up a log,
to the keep the wood comin’ for the cook of the crew,
then watch the young heifers, till the calvin’ was through.

It’s easy to throw the word “cowboy” around,
but a real one is almighty hard to be found.

© 1990, J.B. Allen, from Water Gap Wisdom, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Texan J.B. Allen was a widely respected 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.

Allen, J.B. #551-'03-5x5
J.B. Allen photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998. The late Buck Ramsey, in his introduction to the book, 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.”


J.B. Allen’s poetry is featured in a 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.

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

We are pleased to debut the 19th annual Cowboy Poetry Week poster, with its striking art, “Ranch Water,” by Teal Blake). Find more about him and more of his work at tealblake.com and follow him at instagram.com/tealcokeblake.

The 19th annual Cowboy Poetry Week is celebrated April 19-25, 2020. The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry inaugurated Cowboy Poetry Week in 2002 with initiatives to promote cowboy poetry and associated Western arts, to strengthen the community of poets and artists, and to make cowboy poetry more accessible to a wide audience.

Get your schools, libraries, and community involved! Perform your poetry, donate a book, share your knowledge during Cowboy Poetry Week.  In recent years, poets and others have created special social media posts and events for Cowboy Poetry Week. Share the poster!

Each year the Center produces a Western art poster and a compilation CD project, both of which are offered to hundreds of rural libraries through Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program.

This year’s double CD, MASTERS: VOLUME FOUR, the poetry and song of Charles Badger Clark, Jr., will be released in June. It will include recitations by today’s poets; poems in Clark’s own voice; and, for the first time in one of these projects, songs that were created from Badger Clark’s poems. A full announcement is forthcoming.

(Posters are never sold. They are sent to libraries and given, along with the year’s CD, to donors of $50 or more. Join us! You’ll be supporting the Center and its programs and receive these gifts. There’s info here.)

Find more about Cowboy Poetry Week here and stay tuned for much more to come about the celebration.

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

Teal Blake

Teal Blake’s honest, realistic portrayals of  the real working West are informed by a life of cowboying and rodeo experience. We’re honored to have his stunning painting, “Ranch Water,” as the image for the 2020 Cowboy Poetry Week poster:

ranchwater“Ranch Water,” © 2019, Teal Blake, 40×40 oil, request permission for use




Known for his watercolors, you can explore the depth and great breadth of his work at TealBlake.com, including bucking horses, ledgers, logos, cartoons, and more.  Here are a few examples of the variety of his subjects:

tularosaflats“Tularosa Flats,” © 2019, Teal Blake, 40×40 oil, request permission for use

thecampthief“The Camp Thief,” © 2019, Teal Blake, 40×40 oil, request permission for use


Ledger art © 2019, Teal Blake, 40×40 oil, request permission for use


In 2019, Teal Blake wrote and illustrated J is for Jackalope, a delightful story inspired by the tales he would tell his son. Find more about it and how it came about in our review here.



tealblakeportrait   Official biography:

Teal Blake grew up in Montana, on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by ranching country. Growing up in his father’s studio looking at C.M. Russell paintings and reading Will James books inspired him to pick up a pencil and start capturing his own visions of cowboys and the American West.

Teal has been painting professionally since 2005, he was predestined to become, a western artist. Teal has always liked to show what makes the traditional West: cowboys not always clean shaven, shirts not always creased, and their horses’ manes not always long.

Teal’s love for the tradition of ranching and cowboying is unparalleled. Up before dawn gathering the cavvy, camping out on the wagon for weeks on end and playing cards with the crew during a rainstorm. Blake’s portrayal of ranch life and the handful of people keeping it alive is an authentic one. No models, no costumes, simply being fortunate enough to work and ride alongside his friends and muses; he is able to capture his material and inspiration first-hand.

In 2014 Teal’s labor, talent and accomplishments earned him an invitation into the renowned Cowboy Artists of America organization. He has also been honored with several awards, including the Joe Beeler CAA Foundation Award and 1st Place Watercolor at the Phippen Museum and has been featured in such magazines as Western Horseman, Western Art & Architecture, Southwest Art, Ranch & Reata and The Cowboy Way.

In 2011 Teal created “We Pointed Them North,” an art show held in Fort Worth, celebrating the memoirs of Teddy “Blue” Abbott. Teal’s work appeared on the cover of Big Bend Saddlery catalogue in 2012 and 2013. His painting “Morning Gather” was used for the cover of Some Horses by Thomas McGuane.

Teal and his son Luca currently reside in Fort Worth, Texas.

More about Teal Blake:

Cowboy Artists of America

2017 Mountain & Prairie podcast

“J IS FOR JACKALOPE” by Teal Blake


by Teal Blake

Not long ago out in the dust and the sage, a story I’ll tell written down on this page. A critter so wild and free and the little boy who named him–Samuel C.B.

Now, Samuel C.B. was a blond-headed boy. He wore chaps on his legs and red boots on his feet. He’d rope and tie whatever he’d meet. He tied all the barn cats and dogs on the ranch, and even the chickens when he had the chance…

…from the beginning of J is for Jackalope, by Teal Blake, used with permission

There is so much to love about “J is for Jackalope” from Cowboy Artists of America artist Teal Blake. It’s a cowboy-poetry-in-motion tale full of adventure, heart, humor, and fabulous art.

Respected publisher and writer Bill Reynolds comments in his Introduction, “This book is an artful depiction of the dreams and wishes of a young cowboy, and in a sense, of all those that set out in life simply trying to succeed in the things they love to do.”

Reynolds also hints at how Samuel C.B. got his name: Teal Blake’s great grandfather, Samuel Coke Blake, was one the the American Quarter Horse’s founding breeders.

Young cowboy Sam sets out to find a jackalope, which some might think is a mythical creature. Sam will change minds. The writing and Sam take off on a wild ride when he ropes his jackalope, which he eventually turns, and finds, “He was all about kick and all about feel.” Their adventures together begin and … well, you’ll want to read it for yourself.

Teal Blake told us the book came about from the stories he would spin for his young son. Though the genius of the art and story is solely that of Teal Blake, the book was also made possible by a community of people who believed in the concept and donated to a greatly successful Kickstarter campaign. See the original delightful Kickstarter video and find more about the book’s creation here.

It is rare that a book of such careful quality, authenticity, content, and design is produced. This enduring volume should delight readers of all ages for generations.

Find more about Teal Blake and more about the book and order information at tealblake.com. Also find him at Instagram.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share the excerpt with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)