“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.

SHE’S COVID-19 FREE by Marleen Bussma


by Marleen Bussma

The cattle are fed. She feels ready for bed
as the day has been brutal and long.
The darned Covid-19 has her surly and mean,
but she has to stay steady and strong.

As yet no one is sick. It would be a real trick
for the virus to travel out here.
Forty miles from town they are hard to track down,
only bad weather’s found them this year.

Social distance is fine, but she’s drawing the line
with her hubby who’s dodging his work.
He has self-quarantined with his buddies convened
in the basement with beer and a smirk.

She’s done laundry and cooked. Her day’s been fully booked,
but there’s still time to bristle and fume.
Taking matters in hand she has plotted and planned
for her own space away from her groom.

The essentials are packed and a note has been tacked
to explain that he’s now on his own.
Now it’s his turn to care for the ranch that they share.
She is tired and her patience has flown.

But before she takes leave, she has plans to retrieve
all the guns that he has in the house.
She collects the TP threading rolls with great glee
on the barrels of the guns of her spouse.

Like a soldier at work she has no time to lurk
as she loads up the plunder and loot.
The white tissue brigade marches out where it’s laid
in the truck of her beer drinking coot.

The new diesel fires up. Is she sure of this? Yup!
Muddy tires roll to easier life.
When he leaves basement’s bliss, which true love will he miss,
his new truck, guns, TP, or his wife?

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

Award-winning Utah poet Marleen Bussma told us about the poem’s inspiration, “It all came about when my brother mentioned to me that he’d heard a rumor that a new country/western song had just been released. The story line had the woman leaving her husband taking the guns, ammo, and toilet paper. He suggested I write a piece along those lines, since he needed a laugh. That’s how ‘She’s Covid-19 Free’ came to life. What our country is facing now is a serious situation, but you need a release valve to get through the day. ”

She provided the photograph above and commented, “Pine Valley Mountain is a dominating fixture in our landscape.”


Marleen Bussma’s book, Tales of the Trails (2019) received the top poetry Gold Medallion from the Will Rogers Medallion Awards. Her most recent CD is Snow on the Sage (2019). She has appeared at many gatherings and events, and has been a featured performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her  poetry, videos, reviews, books and cds, and more at marleenbussma.com.

On this same subject, you may want to give a listen to Dave Stamey’s “The Corona Blues.”

(Request permission to share this poem or photo.)

ART SPUR “Cows,” Winter 2019-2020

cowsjlk.jpg© 2017, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, request permission for use

Our 51st piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a 2017 drawing titled “Cows,” by Utah teacher, poet, artist, and storyteller Jo Lynne Kirkwood. In Art Spur, poets and songwriters are invited to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Art Spur submissions may be Winter- or Christmas-themed. All Christmas poems (Art Spur or not) were welcome through December 19, 2019. Winter-themed Art Spur poems are welcome through Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Selected poems will be posted. Find submission information below.




TOFURKY, ANYONE? by Marleen Bussma
A LONG WINTER by Jean Mathisen Haugen
NO BLUES IN COWTOWN by Jeff Campbell


CATTLE AT CHRISTMAS (or) Homage to Fake News
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood


by Marleen Bussma

The climate changers warn you that the burger you might eat
will bring on rack and ruin so they’re cooking up fake meat.
Their laboratory’s stocked with many plant-based additives
to mimic looks and tastes of eats a cow creates and gives.

Misleading information doesn’t spell out all the facts.
Broad claims of harm from methane-spouting cows stalls and distracts
attention from the calorie laden, salty, processed goop.
This truth about fake food could make approval ratings droop.

The real world holds your cattle that you’ve raised just like your dad.
Tradition means a lot to you in this life that you’ve had.
So few now feed the masses, there’s an easy disconnect
from people in the city whose views aren’t always correct.

Your stomach has been growling since you finished feeding hay.
The wind has hurled and spit snow, adding misery to your day.
You’re headed into town and take time to enjoy the drive,
decide you’ll treat yourself at your kids’ fav’rite burger dive.

You pull up to the drive-thru and your mouth begins to drool.
She’s coming to the window with your take-out bag of fuel
and glides with sweet slow motion as in wild romantic dreams.
Her warm hand brushes yours as she hands out this sack that steams

with an aroma sending hot delicious sweet bouquets.
Unwrapped, it snaps a visual like a Polaroid display.
It’s stacked high to your liking with the layers snuggled neat.
The lettuce and tomato flirt like girls who work the street.

The bun’s soft to your fingers. Tiny drops of burger fat
drop down onto the open wrapper with a sensual splat.
You ease the burger upward. The aroma makes you weak.
Your mouth has flooded and drips when you open wide to seek

that burger high. Each bite sends out endorphins to your brain.
You sink into your seat as senses sing a glad refrain.
The flavor, texture, glistening shine of grease all join the choir
and work in harmony that sates the pleasure you desire.

They’re welcome to their fake food and their dirty city air.
You’ll take your country living that has cattle, where you share
the mountain views and pastures, soaring eagles in the sky.
Today you’re at the drive-thru to enjoy that burger high.

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



by George Rhoades

Icy wind, a little snow and sleet,
And the frost was like frozen dew
On those wintry days long ago
When there were feedin’ chores to do.

The southern plains all around us,
Rollin’ hills, horizons far, far away,
Chilly air cut just like a knife,
Trees along the creek bare and gray.

No hay racks out on the prairie,
No big round rolls back then;
We bucked square bales by hand,
Totin’ and hoistin’ ’em again and again.

Me and Pop would load the flatbed
With bales piled straight and high,
Cross the bridge to the cattle-guard
Under a bleak and cloudy sky.

Cows’d come runnin’ from the woods,
They knew every clatter and rattle
That old truck made on hayin’ days
When we came to feed the cattle.

Pop slowly, carefully drove the flatbed
While I tossed bales to the ground,
Pulled off the wires, broke ’em apart,
And spread the hay all around.

The cows cleaned up every bite,
Along with scattered cubes, I recall,
And we’d watch ’em chompin’ away,
Shovin’, pushin’ in a feedin’ free-for-all.

We’d break the ice on the ponds,
It seems like it was only yesterday,
Fix some fence and stretch some wire,
Check for new-borns, haul some hay.

Now a wind that’s sharp and cold
Brings once more to my mind’s eye
Memories of when me and Pop
Fed the cows in times gone by.

© 2020, George Rhoades
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Jean Mathisen Haugen

This winter started in October—
now snow is half-way up my horse,
while riding out to check the cattle—
it’s a real chore of course.
the pickup bucks over all the snow drifts
and rattles and bangs on its way.
I’d rather be drinking eggnog
on this cold New Year’s Day.
I have a thermos of coffee
packed there in my saddle bag.
Think I’ll stop by the grove of aspen
and have myself a drag.
The cattle all are bunched up
near that aspen grove,
keeping warm together,
though it’s not where we drove—
we’d cleared some of the meadow
and had a team and sleigh,
to bring them out some “eats”—
a large good load of hay.
There are clouds over the mountains,
another storm is headed in.
And Josh is looking closely looking
back at me with a grin.
He knows very well
that I am going to complain.
But snow is prettier I guess
than mud and slush and rain.
So here is a winter wish
to all you folks out there.
Keep warm and safe as you can
in the cold, long winter air!

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


by Jeff Campbell

Christmas  comes 

With great anticipation 

Followed up with a 

New Year Celebration

Then it’s back to work 

And school’s in session

Some folks end up with

Post holiday depression

Dad used to call it 

Old Jan-u-weary

The Skies are grey

People are bleary

But here in Fort Worth 

We don’t get the blues 

January’s something 

We all look forward to

For a legendary event 

Will be starting soon

With a big parade 

On Saturday afternoon

Over three weeks 

Where the West begins

They’ll be thrills and spills

Loses and wins

Cause everyday 

There’s  a big stock show

And come every night 

The grand rodeo

Wild bull riders 

Barrel racers too

Rabbits, pigeons 

and a petting zoo

Mariachis, fiddlers 

Guitar slingers

Cowboy poets 

Western singers

So if you’re near 

or if you’re far

Hop a plane, train 

Drive your car

Cause having the blues 

Can be such a pity 

We’ll see you soon 

In Panther City

© 2020, Jeff Campbell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


CATTLE AT CHRISTMAS (or) Homage to Fake News
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

The legend that beasts on Christmas Eve can speak in human voice
To tell the tale of the Christ Child’s birth, so all Creation may rejoice
Has passed through generations, from those who witnessed first
The donkey, sheep, and cattle, bow down at the Infant’s birth.

And who could ever argue the veracity of that story?
Told by shepherds, with Angels standing guard, and Kings in all their glory?
Even the humble Drummer Boy, with a child’s sweet honesty
Sang praise to the musical Ox and Lamb, of their rhythmical harmony.

And though perhaps the Drummer’s ballad was a wordless lullaby,
The connections of cadence and human speech can hardly be denied.
So having admitted the evidence, my mind ponders, and keeps playing
With the thought, If cattle talk on Christmas Eve, What is it that they’re saying?

My faith compels me to believe, with original intent
Of this gift, to spread Glad Tidings! it was first used as was meant.
But twice a thousand years have passed since that Holy Night and now,
And credibility no longer loves a Missionary Cow.

What ever do they talk about? What could it be they say?
Could we suppose a diatribe on the quality of hay?
Perhaps they’d like a warmer barn, fewer barbs on barbed wire fence.
Do they laugh at us behind our backs? Make jokes at our expense?

Perhaps they plot a Range War, with human elocution.
They could be planning a coup d’état, a bovine revolution!
I pause to view the calendar, to count each day and week
Until this fateful night returns – When beasts again will speak!

Paranoia settles in. There will be Reindeer on the roof!
They’ve likely formed a spy network, tapping codes with each small hoof.
We must plan with watchful vigilance; Grab our Bibles, and our Guns,
To withstand the horned and hooved assault! And then, when daylight comes,

We’ll welcome Christmas Morning, share gifts and sing of Peace,
And Celebrate the Season with a haunch of Prime Roast Beef.

© 2017, Jo Kirkwood
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Michelle Turner

The year, as a whole, was one to forget
Hardship and weather sent farmers in debt
Endless spring rains put planting on hold
Haybines were useless, equipment was sold

Much of our cropland left fallow and bare
Some covered with rye ‘cuz pasture was spare
Cattle were gleaning the few stubbled fields
Grain bins were empty from low harvest yields
Fall was no better with October snow
Corn was still standing as we hung mistletoe
Dad sat by the window, just shaking his head
We needed more hay for the stock to be fed

He put on his coat, stepping out in the cold
Sighing deeply he said, “The herd must be sold.”
A cow and two heifers stood by the gate
Patiently waiting, unaware of their fate

After chores we all left for Christmas Eve service
Our spirits were low, but we prayed with a purpose
Waylayed by the Pastor, delaying retreat
He saw in our faces a shadowed defeat

A message of hope, he shared so sincere
using God’s word to subdue our fears
The church yard now empty, we got in our truck
Riding in silence, still praying for luck

We drove down our lane and stopped at the sight
The whole congregation, holding candles of light
They sang Peace on Earth and gathered around
One neighbor came forward, “We’re here with some ground”

“We’ve forty-two acres, with hot-wire fencing
We want you to use it, with everyone’s blessing.”
Another stepped up, taking Dad by the arm
There’s third cutting hay, all stacked in your barn

Dad openly wept, sharing tears with the crowd
We formed a tight circle, hands held and heads bowed
Thanking the Lord for neighborly kindness;
For having been blessed with a true Country Christmas

© 2019, Michele Turner
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Ol’ Jim Cathey

Comin’ daybreak, the girls stood there,
They were ready for mornin’ feed.
Fog an’ snow made for crispy air,
Soon he’d come to meet their need.

There’d been a sifting of powder snow,
That had fell throughout the night.
T’was cold, but not unseasonable tho,
As dark gives in to mornin’ light.

Christmas morn on the Quarter Circle C,
But there was chores to get done,
Foggy an’ white made it hard to see,
This mornin’, they’d not see the sun.

Still a few flakes of snow in the air,
The girls were patient, standin’ quiet,
They knew the feed would be there,
An’ their day would start off right.

He smiled as they walked up slow,
Their breathe steamin’ from the cold,
He thought of a time so long ago,
The story so often retold.

The heavenly hosts song of great joy,
The night of the Savior’s birth,
Mary an’ Joseph’s Baby Boy,
Peace an’ goodwill to all the Earth.

His girls brought mem’rys of that night
Calm an’ quiet…so very serene,
He reveled in that joyous sight,
As he pictured that Holy Scene.

He sensed a great joy as he fed,
With the girls crowdin’ ‘round him,
He could hear that story his Dad read,
‘Bout the Savior’s birth in starlight dim.

He felt so blessed on that cold morn,
As he thanked God, on bended knee,
For His great love, Jesus was born!
Christmas on the Quarter Circle C.

© 2019,  Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


Thanks to all who participated.



•  Even if you have a poem or song pending, you are welcome to send one submission inspired by this painting.

•  Art Spur subjects are meant to inspire; we look for poems and songs inspired by the piece, not necessarily for a literal description of the image or its subject.

•  Do follow our regular guidelines for submissions.

•  When you email your submission to poems@cowboypoetry.com, please indicate in the subject line that it is an Art Spur submission.

Find some previous ART SPUR submissions here and here.



Jo Lynne Kirkwood creates an impressive hand-crafted Christmas card each year, and this was her drawing for the cover of her 2017 card, accompanied by her poem, “Cattle at Christmas (or) Homage to Fake News.”

She has a fine book that collects her poetry, Old Houses, and recordings. Find more about her at cowboypoetry.com.


CAN’T SEE IT FROM THE ROAD by Marleen Bussma


by Marleen Bussma

Hills are rolling to the valley
as they’ve done since time stood still.
Sky has softened from ink black to darkest blue.
From a ranch house aged and weathered
there are kitchen lights that spill
man-made sunshine onto prairie kissed by dew.

There’s a rutted road that runs off
’til it’s thirty miles away
then it fades into a blacktop street in town.
City folks see dusty gravel
driven thin to showing clay,
an exhausted route that’s old and beaten down.

They don’t see the life that’s thriving
where the road twists through and bends
’round the vital work that fills their dinner plate.
They are unaware a rancher’s
roots dig deep here where he spends
every day in grateful thanks, a family trait.

His herd streams across the green hills
like a ribbon in the breeze
grazing belly-deep, content, and gaining weight.
This sight settles like a blessing,
puts his cluttered mind at ease
as his livelihood spools out clear to the gate.

As a rancher he’s a gambler.
He depends on rain that falls
while he bets that cattle prices will not drop.
Grazing leases are not certain.
If the spring dries up he hauls
water to the thirsty herd each day, non-stop.

With his risk comes compensation
for his life out in the hills.
Nature gives a built-in bonus he can’t buy.
Star-lit skies are filled with light points.
Calls of screeching hawks give thrills
as they wing their way to thermals in the sky.

New-mown hay is summer’s perfume.
He inhales the smell of rains.
He can watch the young calves frolic in the spring.
Branded by the land he lives on,
like the livestock it contains,
he’s his own man and for him that’s everything.

© 2018, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Award-winning poet Marleen Bussma comments:

I grew up on a small farm in North Dakota. We always had cattle, milk cows and stock cows. The cream checks kept us afloat until we could sell grain during the summer and then a load of cattle in the fall. I have a soft spot in my heart for the critters.

I wrote this piece as a response to the city folks who have no idea where the cellophane-wrapped meat comes from that they buy at the grocery store. With the political climate what it is today, some urbanites appear to want cattle to disappear off the face of the earth because of methane issues and climate change. They believe they can live without leather clothing or eating steak. How about insulation material used to heat and cool their house, industrial oils and lubricants, biodegradable detergents, automobile tires, and more than 100 drugs that make our lives safer and more comfortable, including insulin? This list doesn’t scratch the surface.

A cow and the person who raises it give back in so many ways–you just can’t see it from the road.

She includes “Can’t See it From the Road” on her latest cd, Snow on the Sage.

Rick Huff, in his Best of the West Reviews, writes, in part:

Utah’s award-winning poet Marleen Bussma strikes again with a well-rounded tour of the Western scene (a bit of hoss, a bit of lore, a bit of land, a bit of gore).

Bussma is noted for artful views of elements that some might overlook as being commonplace [for example] … of a cowboy prepping for a wild ride, Bussma writes: ‘He climbs into the saddle and shimmies for a grip / His backside hugs the seat just like the ocean hugs a ship.’ ….


Marleen Bussma is just back from the Will Rogers Medallion Awards, where her book, Tales of the Trails, received the top poetry Gold Medallion. She has appeared at many gatherings and events, and was a featured performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her poetry, videos, reviews, books and cds, and more at marleenbussma.com.

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

“Making Plans,” by Shawn Cameron Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur, 2019


© 2015, Shawn Cameron, “Making Plans,” shawncameron.com
Request the artist’s permission for any use of this image

Our 50th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur, a painting by Arizona rancher and artist Shawn Cameron, “Making Plans.” The painting is selected as the poster art for the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week.

Shawn Cameron comments on painting’s inspiration:

Occasionally a moment in time lingers in your memory.  The clear morning air was brisk as my husband and another rider paused to discuss the day before them.  Plans were being made to cover their area of a large pasture during spring roundup.  I’ve never tired of observing men on a mission who have goals and possess the skills to accomplish them.  There is an undeniable posture of pride in these horseback men who face a day of unknown challenges with confidence and determination.  Even the horses contemplate the miles before them. My subjects are more than cowboys and horses but rather scenes of quiet strength and courage.  I was motivated by such an atmosphere to share “Making Plans” on canvas.

We’re honored to have “Making Plans” for the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week poster art:


Find more about Shawn Cameron in our feature here and visit shawncameron.com.


Submissions from all were welcome through Monday, April 15, 2019. Selected poems are below.

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


“Makin’ a Hand” by Marleen Bussma of Utah
“Quiet Conversation” by Tom Swearingen of Oregon
“Making Plans” by A.K. Moss of Oregon
“Puttin’ Together a Plan” by Ol’ Jim Cathey of Texas
“A Cowboy Plan” by Don Hilmer of South Dakota
“Old Cowboys” by Terry Hynes of British Columbia
“You Don’t Wanna Know” by George Rhoades of Oklahoma
Aloha My Paniolo Friend, by Jeff Campbell of Texas


by Marleen Bussma

Hank’s face is like worn weathered wood well punished by the wind
then polished to a pewter-like patina, taut and thinned.
The lines upon his hands are deep and colored by the dirt.
His eyes have seen a lifetime, still determined and alert.

He wears his calluses and scars like badges on a chest.
They show his jurisdiction is his ranchland here out west.
His joints are loose and rattle like a wagon on the git.
When God put him together He forgot to put in quit.

Hank sits his favorite horse and looks with pleasure on his spread.
The sun shines like a golden benediction overhead.
Four sparrows perched on fence wires that enclose his grassy grange
are spaced like treble clef notes that sing out “Home on the Range.”

Hank’s young friend rides beside him, full of dreams and ripe with hope.
Wade’s hired on to help Hank and to learn about the scope
of ranchin’, what he needs to do to start in this life’s work.
He hopes Hank’s cowboyin’ will rub off, temper doubts that lurk.

Long years ago when young Hank’s clover wasn’t runnin’ deep,
his hammer banged this ranch into creation. Little sleep
and lots of muscle made a deep track to this stead.
Hank’s proud of what he’s built and of the life that he has led.

Hank lopes out on his horse cuz daylight’s not a thing to waste.
He checks along the fence line for a post to be replaced.
While workin’ he shares what he’s learned of cowboyology.
He has some tips on earnin’ a survivor’s ranch degree.

“You learn to live with basics. There’s no luxury out here.
Don’t envy any neighbor. You don’t need that new John Deere.
Don’t plan a warm vacation when your pasture’s full of snow.
Just put aside the money in a place where it will grow.

Become a good mechanic. Keep your old machinery tuned.
Good friends and neighbors are a must and will keep you immune
to overwhelmin’ obstacles. You’ll help each other out.
Be open to some critics. That’s what learnin’s all about.

When you decide you’d like to have her boots beside your bed,
make sure you’ve picked well to avoid big trouble up ahead.
Hard work with brandin’ and the books will put her on the team.
She’ll be your partner. It takes two to manage this life’s dream.

Don’t plan on gettin’ rich. There’s other gravy you can lick.
You’ll be your own man buildin’ what you want, and if you stick
to what your heart is hopin’ here today you’ll find it buys
the freedom of the saddle and a horse between your thighs.”

© 2019, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Tom Swearingen

Just a quiet conversation
Between friends as they both sat
Saddled looking down upon
The cattle on the flat.

‘Bout things that don’t get talked about
Near as often as they should
‘Mongst men who’ve rode together
For years through scarce and good.

Sure, they’d done a lot of talking
About subjects then at hand.
About the herds or markets,
Or issues with the land.

They’d talked about the need for rain.
Spent hours in idle chatter.
They’d solved the world’s big problems,
And some that don’t much matter.

But this day some words were spoken
That they’d never before shared.
At least to one another.
For now their hearts were bared.

‘Cause the trail for one was ending
In just weeks or maybe days.
His “til then” getting closer
Put both men in a haze.

Making words come not so easy.
Hard to know just what to say.
But still some things need saying,
And this would be the day.

It started with, “I’ll not forget
All the kindness that you’ve shown.
You’ve been quite the friend to me,
I’d say the best I’ve known.”

With the solemn silence broken
These two cowboys’ talk turned deep,
To truths they’d always treasure,
And promises to keep.

A promise to keep forever
His memory close at hand,
And finish things he’d started,
And live the dreams he’d planned.

A promise to rarely dwell on
Lean and low times of the past,
But rather, focus forward
To pastures green and grassed.

The words that were shared that morning
Were heartfelt and came with tears,
Conveying things not spoken
For way too many years.

Lord, it’s hard to bid your farewell
To a pard who’ll soon be gone,
Stepping beyond the daylight
To no more ride the dawn.

There was quiet contemplation
Between friends as they both sat,
The last time looking out on
The cattle on the flat.

© 2019, Tom Swearingen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by A.K. Moss

To see beyond a moment, stillness in the air,
The memory of those choices silently lingers there.
Making plans, not promises as they sort out the day.
For a journey is the action, in the plan along the way.
Beyond the ridgeline, beyond the river flows,
Beyond the sea of sand and rock, where the sage and juniper grows.
Beyond the the cattle grazing, the grass wet with dew.
Beyond the anticipation as if the horses knew.
There is a motion towards the north, a nod headed south,
There is a finger pointing yonder to the canyon mouth,
Deep beyond the steep ridge, there is a meadow there,
Can gather most if your counting to help get the tally square.
A swell, a saddle, a gully, a lone tree on the ridge.
There’s a Mesa, a boulder, or dry creek all used to name and bridge
The ideas, the gather, the fence line or not.
In making plans in the lay of the lands it is all that they got
To work with, along with their horses to see a job through,
It is simple communication in the work that they do.
A bob of a head from the bay, he has been this route before,
The buckskin looks onward to the lower valley foor.
But they will wait their turn of commuting, as the plans are being made
For there are no promises, just a journey and the actions played.
That moment a memory will linger, of the taste of morning air,
The salt of horse sweat, and the leather creaking there.
A thousand times it’s been ridden, by the making of the hands,
As they gather for conversation, in the morning, making plans.

© 2019, A.K. Moss
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Ol’ Jim Cathey

It was Easter Sunday mornin’,
On the Quarter Circle C,
Mother Nature’s gift of spring!
Our cantankerous ol’ boss,
Sent us in groups of two an three,
An’ round-up was in full swing!

We each one had our jobs to do,
An’ knew just where to go,
Got started before daylight!
Put our ponies in a trot,
Headed out for the Bee Hollow,
‘Cuz that’s where we start our fight!

As the sky lighted in the east,
We headed for the brush,
That ol’ sunrise gave us pause!
‘Cuz the mornin’s beauty spread out,
Showin’ graze thick an’ lush,
There’d be beeves in all the draws!

Willy’s ol’ pony stood calm,
Just usin’ his eyes an’ his ears,
Fellers learn to watch their mount!
A good hoss is savvy,
To how things go down before it appears,
An’ on that a feller can count!

Well, they sat their saddles an’ jawed,
Puttin’ together a plan,
Each one knew just where they’d be!
When the time come to slap their rope,
As the mornin’ work began,
Well, that’s just cowboy decree!

But before we head our ponies,
Into a dusty day’s task,
There’s one job we plan to do!.
We’ll check our gear an’ riggin’,
An’ for God’s blessin’ we will ask,
Prayin’ He will see us through!

Knowin’ this was Easter Sunday,
T’was a blessin’ that got the nod,
Jesus’ victory o’er the grave!
They’d step off an’ doff their hats,
Then bend a knee to God,
Thankful their sins He forgave!

Then as one, they’d hit them draws,
As they began the gather,
Roustin’ critters wild an’ free!
The blessin’ of the Lord shore helps,
Make a plan come together,
Here on the Quarter Circle C!

© 2019, Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Don Hilmer

Well Good Mornin’ Neighbor—Good seein’ you too—
With brands mixed together, and it’s just me and you.
There’s big range to cover and not many hands,
So it looks like we better be makin’ some plans.

It’s been a tough Winter, with some livestock loss—
But we both know the country—both ride a good hoss.
You cover the river, I’ll trot down the creeek
We’ll head for the pens where the two waters meet.

If your herd moves slower, as they’re likely to do—
I’ll pen those I’ve gathered, then ride to help you.
If we run into trouble and it starts to get late—
We’ll sort’em tomorrow—Let’s meet at the gate.

© 2019, Don Hilmer
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Terry Hynes

He’s tired and bent and dirty.
Four decades past his thirty,
and wonderin’ why in hell he’s still around.

Most friends that he has known,
like leaves the winds have blown,
are rotting somewhere in some darkened mound.

“Must be the genes, he says to himself,
or maybe just B.S. luck.
I never was one to shun most fights,
just lucky enough to duck.”

Just one more cinch on this stretcher here,
and one staple more in the post.
Of all the darn jobs I would rather avoid,
this fencing is one of the most.

I’d sooner be up on my horse for sure,
with Chet riding there by my side.
For many long years we rode out this land,
and damn, ‘twas a hell of a ride.

That painting that hangs on my mantle wall.
Ol’ Chet brought it over one day.
Said, “Reminds me a time when you and I
were out tryin’ to find a lost stray.”

A couple of cowboys, makin’ some plans,
an’ hoping they’d outsmart that cow.
Sitting there lookin’, from up a small ridge,
and prayin’ we’d find her somehow.

I look at that painting ‘most every day,
and think about things that we done.
This bein’ a cowboy’s a tough old life,
but dammit, it sure can be fun.

But most of the fun has all gone these days,
and Chet, well he’s long gone too.
So I’ll just keep doin’ what needs to be done,
‘cause that’s what ol’ cowboys do.

© 2019, Terry Hynes
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by George Rhoades

Billy Bob and Shorty,
Way out on the Texas plain,
Ridin’ herd for the Bar X,
Scorchin’ hot, needin’ rain.

Billy Bob says to Shorty:
“Man on TV says every year
Gets hotter and hotter,
Arctic’s startin’ to disappear.

“This country’ll be too hot
For man, beast or cow.
What’ll it be like
Fifty or 100 years from how?”

“You don’t wanna know,”
Was the reply.

“I made a trip into the city,”
Billy Bob says in some despair,
“Cars and trucks and people
Rushin’ about everywhere.

“Crowds and pollution,
Noise and blight all around;
In 50 or 100 years, what’ll
It be like in town?”

“You don’t wanna know,”
Was the reply.

“And cowhands like us
Are slowly fadin’ away.
What’ll it be like
Fifty or 100 years from today?”

“You don’t wanna know,”
Was the reply.

“And in 50 or 100 years,
Will we keep from blowin’
The world into tiny bits,
The way things are goin’?”

“You really don’t wanna know,”
Was the reply.

© 2019, George Rhoades
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

by Jeff Campbell

In the late afternoon
As the sun descends
More than the day
Is coming to an end

He’s heading to Denver
Silver wings fly away
In the saddle I listened
To what he had to say

Five years is too long
Away from my roots
I need Kauai red dirt
On these cowboy boots

An ache deep inside
That never goes away
Long to see a rainbow
Reflecting off the bay

Feel the sea breeze
When the trade wind blows
White sandy beaches
Like a Colorado snow

I miss Kanikapila
On a late Friday night
And the old Hukilau
Under bright sunlight

And if fate says my
Paniolo days are through
I’ll be happy in shades
Of pink, green and blue

So I said Aloha
My Paniolo friend
One of these days
I’ll see you again

And on that day
We’re going to ride
From Waimea to Lihue
On the windward side

Yes on that day
Together we’ll ride
Through Koloa to Lihue
On the windward side

© 2019, Jeff Campbell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


Thanks to all who participated.

ART SPUR “Just for the Fun of It,” Winter 2018-2019


Photo by Carol M. Highsmith; Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.


Our 49th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a 2016 photograph by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A horse rolls in the snow, apparently just for the fun of it, as others head out for a winter romp at the Midland Ranch, in the shadow of the Wind River Range of the Northern Rockies in remote Sweetwater County, Wyoming.”

The photographer explains, “The closest town, Farson, is 26 miles away. The ranch, whose first cabins served as a Pony Express remount station in 1860, was homesteaded in the 1890s and settled by French Basque immigrant John Arambel, the patriarch of the current owner, in 1909….” Find more at The Library of Congress.

Submissions are now closed. Find selected poems below.

The photograph is included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection description notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.





“Snow on the Sage” by Marleen Bussma
“Folks Who Do Know Horses” by Tom Swearingen
“A Blessin’ of the West” by Ol’ Jim Cathey
“Snow Day” by Jeff Campbell
“Horse Feather Marks in the Snow” by Ken Howry



by Marleen Bussma

Flat bottoms of the vagrant clouds sail low-set as they scud
on undersides stained dark and grimy as if dipped in mud.
The nearby mountains hooded white by recent gifts of snow
bask in the weakened winter sunlight’s intermittent glow.

The herd is on the move. The lead mare duly breaks the trail.
Impatient gusts of wind comb through each horse’s flowing tail
and catch the fleecy strands of breath exhaled like ropes of silk.
The frosted whiskers shimmer white as if just dipped in milk.

Small snow-clods fly from feet that carve the rangeland with their bite,
like frosty weapons used in a ground-level snowball fight.
The horses’ cadence steps into a snow-waltz on the range.
The timeless instincts of the migrant herd will never change.

The primal urge to revel, rub, and roll in winter’s dress
takes one horse to his knees. He lies and lets his brown back press
into the snow. White stocking legs wave lamely in the air.
His playful romp is frisky, but the others do not share

his sense of fun, this wintry mischief as he takes a break.
He gets back on his feet, bucks high, and cleans off with a shake.
A horse snow-angel birthed by play lies lonely in the snow.
It will remain an only child. The herd is on the go.

The lead mare walks with purpose as she presses to the west.
In frontier times this was the course where bold men did their best.
It was the new, where man could reinvent himself or flee
to where he’d melt away and float like mist aloft and free.

Wind scribbles messages on clouds. Dried sage leans from the gusts.
A hawk soars on transparent currents where he dives and thrusts.
The horses are a liquid flow that fade and disappear.
The mustangs are the only trace left of the old frontier.

© 2018, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

by Tom Swearingen

I’m sure folks who don’t know horses
Must think them pretty strange
When observing their behavior
Unbridled on the range.

See them running for no reason
Than buck and fart’n fun,
Out there chasing their own shadows
In spring and summer sun.

And then when the temps are dropping
And autumn’s run its course,
When the winter snows are falling,
That’s when they’ll see a horse

Do some things that defy logic,
That must seem near insane
To those folks who don’t know horses
And workings of their brain.

Like, why would horses drop and roll
In snow instead of stand
So they look like they’re cavorting
On sunny beach’s sand?

Why, they must just think ’em loco.
Undisciplined at best.
Wondering why such energy
Is spent instead of rest.

‘Course that horse might just be itchy,
Or easing something sore.
Or strugglin’ with a twisted gut,
Too hard to walk much more.

But just as likely reason is
The horse rolls in the snow
Is instinct. Hard-wired survival,
Ingrained from years ago.

Yes, the folks who do know horses,
They know they’re plenty bright
To know that’s how to dry off hair
When ground is frozen white.

© 2018, Tom Swearingen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.


by Ol’ Jim Cathey

He pulled up on a small rise to watch nature’s scene,
An’ was spellbound sittin’ there,
An idyllic picture, crisp and so serene,
There was music in the air!

He sat horseback, just watchin’ the ponies run,
The weather was bitin’ cold,
But it was good to see them cavort in the sun,
A sight that never got old.

Bunched his collar ‘round his neck, tucked his hat down tight,
That ol’ wind was blowin’ strong,
Probably heralded a snow durin’ the night,
But for now, she’s nature’s song.

Lendin’ music to the flight of the wild horse,
As they tumbled down that trail,
In full gallop, a vision of joy of course,
As they plunge o’er hill an dale.

Ahhh the beauty an’ glory of natures stock,
That unfolded in his vision,
The feelin’ of the cold an’ sound of hoof on rock,
The glory of God’s provision.

The magnificent view of distant mountain range,
With snow coloring their peak,
Caused one to hope, this pony race would never change,
But their future sure looks bleak!

He turned away with grateful heart, knowin’ he was blessed,
A grand life was his reward,
Manifested in the glory of the west,
An’ he quietly thanked his Lord.

© 2019, Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.


by Jeff Campbell

Change comes quick as we sleep through the night
A pasture of green now sugary white
It sure does sparkle in the morning sun
But makes it hard to get all the work done

Roads are frozen and travel is slow
It’s not often down here that we get a big snow
I stare in frustration, my daily plan shot
So I pour another cup from the old coffee pot

I think back on the days when I was a youth
My dad was a hard worker and that’s the truth
But on these occasions he always took time
To help celebrate this rare change of clime

So I rustled the kids out of their bed
Went out to the barn and rigged up a sled
We spent the day in this winter wonderland
Even constructed a Texas snowman

As I sit and ponder this night serene
Tomorrow I’ll be back to my old routine
Soon all this snow will just melt away
School will be open to the kids’ dismay

But down the road when they’re both grown
Out in the world with kids of their own
Hope they recall Dad put work away
And shared in the joy of a Texas snow day

© 2018, Jeff Campbell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.


By Ken Howry

I ain’t never been the sociable kind,
Reckon loner’s more o’ my style.
While others jest faller in tracks head ta tail;
That view, well it can’t make me smile.

There’s lots o’ things that I’d rather do,
An’ they’re durn sure a heap-full more fun.
Why just breathin’ this cold, crisp an’ clean winter air,
Makes me wanna start buckin’ an’ run!

Y’all go on ahead, I’ll catch up real soon,
Heck, the whole herd’s a movin’ real slow.
But, as for me, I must dance to a whimsical tune….
Leaving horse feather marks in the snow.

© 2018,  Ken Howry
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.




“Savior,” by Mark Munzert
“A Sack of Tobac,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen



by Mark Munzert

A special foal was born that eve beneath stars above the shed.
Hoof drops melted frosty ground trailing towards a straw cast bed.
The Mare’d been quietly pacing. Three dogs were huddled near.
The Sire shaking off the snow, as sentry, quelling fear.
T’was an uncanny silent night, no sound from cows or sheep.
A babe was born, stood and fed, whence nourished, fell asleep.

Those three wise dogs blocked the wind, sheep laid woolen cover warm.
Moonlit parts of dust and dew revealed angelic form.
Donkey’s bray cracked the night to tell the world of this One.
To Sire, Mare and all soulful there was born anointed Son.
Awakened to life’s melodies by softly cooing dove,
Astute and strong he grew with God’s abundant love.

Meadows he paced sharing goodness, kindness, and light.
Modeling forgiveness, salvation, and ample crucial might.
Lone survivor of rebellion, conqueror of demise.
Truly humble of all beings, steadfast faith in his eyes.
It seems his mission was to curry all living being’s favor,
It’s only fitting, for this horse, to have the name of SAVIOR.

© 2018, Mark Munzert
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

by Jean Mathisen Haugen

I’m pondering on
a time long ago,
just around Christmas,
when the winds began to blow.

It was cold out there and covered
the grass in way that was strange,
for we had never fed hay
out on the Sweetwater range.

Not back in those days,
when the drifts piled up high,
and the cattle died in droves,
‘neath a fearsome snowing sky.

Lige and I were out there,
checking on the stock.
It would nearly break your heart,
to see them frozen in blocks.

We finally took refuge in a cabin
out there in the Sweetwater Rocks,
didn’t have much food on hand
and sure couldn’t thaw those cattle blocks!

Then the hoar frost came down–
the Paiutes called it “The White Death”.
Yep, it’s kind of pretty to see,
but it sure takes your breath.

Two weeks at that leaking cabin
and supplies were mighty low,
we scratched the days on a log,
while those winds continued to blow.

One day it dawned upon me
that Christmas was right near–
Lije said, “What’s the difference,
we’re still stuck out here!”

I dug around in my duffle bag
and mainly saw the lack
of something I could give to Lije,
just a partial sack of tobac.

He figured out what I was up to
and he took out a mouth harp,
played a raggedy Christmas tune
and we jigged a bit in the dark.

We hauled in a big sagebrush,
and hung some empty cans,
here and there all around it
and I banged on a pan.

We had shot a jack rabbit
that we cooked on the stove.
He was tough and not too tasty
and we had no bread or loaves.

We crawled into our old soogans
we used as our beds,
and soon went off to sleep–
and then something struck our heads!

The sun was purely shining,
it was a glorious dawn,
with hoar frost on the aspen,
though soon it was all gone.

That winter still goes down
and one in the history books,
1886-1887, a disaster
and so by the looks,

of what all of us went through,
you’d think we’d like to forget
that cold and snowy windy time,
but we really don’t regret.

Heck, at least we survived,
with jackrabbit and a sack
of roll-your-owns we shared
that little bit of warming tobac!

© 2018, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.




Submissions were welcome from all. Thanks to all who participated.

Find previous Art Spur subjects here and at CowboyPoetry.com.



by Marleen Bussma

It’s forty miles from nowhere as the night wind sighs and sings.
It teases the thermometer that wavers, wilts, then wrings
all heat from sky and land that shivers, though it’s springtime’s start.
Now twenty-two below, the moon shines with just half a heart.

Cold Levis on the chair slip over long-johns warm from bed.
Kate staggers as she stumbles to get dressed and clear her head.
It’s 3:00 A.M. and time to check the calving shed’s penned herd.
She fights the wind through darkness. She’s the only thing that’s stirred.

Tonight she is the mid-wife with a flashlight’s extra eye.
It flicks across the red backs in the stalls they occupy.
Kate hears the heavy panting of a heifer hard at work.
She’s lying in the straw. Each quiver has become a jerk.

Kate’s witnessed birth a hundred times, a ranching genesis.
She cherishes the part she plays and doesn’t think of this
as business, but a way of life. She thrives on the demands,
the rhythm of the seasons, and hard work done with her hands.

The heifer bellows. Eyes are pools of panic, angst, and pain.
She thrashes with her head, casts spools of drool out to complain.
Two tiny cloven hooves appear and then a little nose.
A wet slick body slips out in the afterbirth that flows.

The heifer looks behind her with eyes wide in great surprise.
Kate grabs a gunny sack to briskly rub and scrutinize
this wet, dependent critter that begins to breathe and move.
Kate places it near mother’s nose and hopes she will approve.

The cow lows softly, gives a lick, then rises to her feet.
With hind legs first, the recent mother slowly stands to greet
and nuzzle, lick and nudge, all part of life’s age-old routine.
A wash-rag tongue caresses, laps, until the newborn’s clean.

As sturdy as a worn-out shoe, four fickle feet aspire
to get a grip then stand up stiff and firm, just like barbed-wire.
The jelly-legs give out and rest a minute on the ground.
He tries again and takes some steps to mother where he’s found

an udder filled with what he needs, an in-house drink buffet.
He gives a nose-bump, starts to suck, and lunch is on its way.
The sky is growing light and pushes darkness to the west.
Fatigue is etched around Kate’s eyes and shows that she needs rest.

She’s wearing blobs of cow-crud, splattered with mysterious spots,
decides to take a breather in the cow-shed where she squats.
Her eyes are closed. Her head leans forward with Mixmaster hair.
She’s dirty, rank, and smelly, but she’s sure her horse won’t care.

This ranch has been her life and she knows how to make it run.
A ride across the hills is gold, like dancing in the sun.
Kate shuns the busyness of town; just give her life that’s plain.
She’ll take this young calf’s romping and a summer’s inch of rain.

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

Award-winning Utah poet Marleen Bussma includes “She Saddles Her Own Horse” in her new collections of poems, Tales of the Trails. The poem received the “Best Western Poem” Spur Award from Western Writers of America.

Many roads are traveled in the wide range of themes in Tales of the Trails,  poems that come from today’s West as well as the Old West. Poems based on historical subjects include stories of “Blue,” Charlie Goodnight’s longhorn steer; “The Remarkable Ride of Two-Gun Nan,” about Nan Apsinwall, who rode horseback from San Francisco to New York City in 1911; about “Rattlesnake Kate” in a  tale from the Arizona Strip; and others. Pieces from today’s west look at rodeo, ranching, wildfires, and even Sasquatch. Photographs complement the poems.


See more of Marleen Bussma’s poetry at Cowboy Poetry.comon this blog; and at her site, marleenbussma.com.

Also at her site, find order information for Tales of the Trails, an earlier book, Is She Country?, and her recent CD, Saddle Up for Cowboy Poetry.

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