National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur 2017, “On to Greener Pastures”

greenerpastures

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 46th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur, a photograph from Colorado ranchers and poets Valerie and Floyd Beard, titled “On to Greener Pastures.” Valerie comments, “We were helping the family move the cows that were calving later to another pasture where there would be more feed. It was such a beautiful day in beautiful country in the canyons of Southeastern Colorado.”

Events across America celebrate the thirteenth annual National Day of the Cowboy, Saturday July 22, 2017.

American Cowboy magazine launched the National Day of the Cowboy in 2004. Bethany Braley was involved with that launch and now she heads the National Day of the Cowboy organization, which works year round on the celebration.

Submissions were welcome from all through Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

Thanks to all who participated.

Selected poems are posted below.

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

greenerpastures

POEMS:

“Market Day,” by Marleen Bussma of Utah
“The Trickster,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
“With Apologies,” by Lynn Kopelke of Washington
“The Boring and Mundane,” by Jeff Campbell of Texas
“The Lord’s Pasture,” by Ol’ Jim Cathey of Texas

 

MARKET DAY
by Marleen Bussma

Hope didn’t leave. It just wore out, ground down by restless wind
that polishes men’s broken dreams. Their spirits bruised and skinned.
Young blades of grass look brown, long past their expiration date.
The land has dropped down to its knees to pray for rain and wait.

Cole puts his truck in neutral after pulling up in line.
His metal wreck-on-wheels coughs, spits, and struggles with a whine.
He hoped this year would turn out kind and give him room to breathe.
Instead, he sees disastrous, looming setbacks that bequeath

a pile of debts to add to last year’s sinking bottom line.
Tough times and disappointments have put iron in his spine.
The winter, like an uninvited guest, had over stayed
and left behind its remnants. Weakened cattle dearly paid.

The snow was like a weapon as it battered and abused.
It crusted over cattle faces ’til their nostrils fused.
The cows were calving in unseasoned cold day after day.
Some newborns didn’t make it, one more loss to mull and weigh.

Harsh, tiring cold arrested, booked, and jailed all ranching life.
Bleak hard work barely paid off and demoralized Cole’s wife.
Those bitter, brutal days locked up in mem’ry and defeat
now move aside to make room for the blazing, blistering heat.

The spring had started well with water from the melting snow,
but rain clouds hold a grudge and move on, like the rodeo.
The sun and wind suck moisture like a calf that’s late for lunch.
The dust hangs like a curtain for a final sucker punch.

Range stock ponds now are craters gaping open for a drink.
All wells, some close to failing, feel the water table sink.
Dry stubborn grass that stuck around is stunted, runty feed.
If rain should come it can’t make up for all the hungry need.

The road into the sales barn crawls with trailers full of stock.
Trucks nestle with their bumpers like LA at four o’clock.
Cole sees his neighbors, like himself, in line to save a dream.
They gamble, selling off cow-calf pairs hoping to redeem

their livelihood next year if nature deals a kinder hand.
They live exposed and vulner’ble to hang on to their land.
It takes a bit of gambler to survive this ranching life.
He’s thankful that he has a partner in his loving wife.

Cole puts his truck in gear and nears the choice he’s made to sell.
He blocks his mind from second guessing. Worries want to swell.
Hope hasn’t left. It lies in wait, perchance to grow and sprout.
A new truck might be in the future if his plans work out.

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

greenerpastures

THE TRICKSTER
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

It was coming into summer time,
the foothills were spattered with wild flowers—
Indian Paintbrush, bluebells, and sego lilies—
viewing them could take up hours.

But the folks on this little soi’ree
had no time to stop to take a view—
it was time to move the cattle to the mountains
where the grass was fresh and new.

There was quite a herd of black angus
they were pushing up the hills—
blocking up the highway some
and giving the drivers thrills.

But cattle have the right-of-way in Wyoming,
that’s the way it has always been,
and tourists just have to wait a bit
and then move slowly on again.

They had nearly more cowboys than cows,
folks liked to ride along,
from the oldest to the little ones
and some would sing old songs.

But mostly it was, “Git back here,
you muley stubborn cow
and git that calf back with you
and do it here and now!”

My uncle asked my Ma to go—
she’d not done that in years,
borrowed a horse from her father-in-law
and got right back into gear.

Now Grandpa was a trickster,
he liked to job some of the folks,
and make them pay attention close
to avoid some of his jokes.

He loaned Ma an ornery horse,
who seemed tame and didn’t fight,
but now and then she’d turn her head
and try to take a bite!

Ma didn’t appreciate his joking
and it proved to be a long day,
moving cattle up the switchbacks
to Sawmill Creek, which was their way.

She’d cuss that mare
and call her names back several generations,
and shocked some of the folks along,
but she corrected that mare’s gyrations.

She made the ride, the mare settled down
and when Ma got back that day,
Grandpa was grinning by his truck,
thinking this joke was a good way

to settle up some differences
he’d had with his daughter-in-law.
He didn’t know he’d figured wrong
and had well underestimated Ma!

She rode the mare over to him
and that mare tried to take a bite
out of Grandpa’s hind end—
yep, Ma was on the fight.

She climbed down and wagged her finger
right there in the old man’s face,
“Don’t ever pull that on me again!”
and she put him in his place.

Grandpa kinda’ hung his head—
she had ruined all his raptures.
He sold the mare the following day—
before she sent him to greener pastures!

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

greenerpastures

WITH APOLOGIES…
by Lynn Kopelke

They’re sorrel. They’re chestnut. They’re bay.
They’re yaller. They’re spotty. They’re gray.
They come in all sizes.
Their looks win no prizes.
When seen they are going away.
It’s not the first end that you meet.
Don’t nuzzle ner git any treats.
Tho’ it does process food
To discuss that is rude
For it’s not the end that eats.
I know they occur naturally.
They’re out there for all to see.
But to be more than fair,
The equine derriere
Is something to strive not to be.

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

greenerpastures

THE BORING AND MUNDANE
by Jeff Campbell

In the bright early morn
Moving cattle to green pasture
Just a day in the life
Of a Colorado rancher

The young hand stated
This sure is a bore
Could use some excitement
Shake up this dull chore

The old hand just laughed
Said you got a lot to learn
You’ll appreciate today
When the tables start to turn

Now take this blue sky
It will go dark in a hurry
And whether May or November
It can make this Cowboy worry

The spring thunderstorms
Bring along mud and the rain
Slogging along soaked
Your focus hard to retain

Winter’s bitter wind brings
Freezing ice, deep snow
Makes even a short ride
Feel like miles to go

Then there’s sick cows and calves
Bruised hooves, a lame horse
Wildfires, rattlesnakes
And ole coyotes of course

So enjoy the bright sunshine
The sweet smell of evergreens
The wildflowers blooming
The song the warbler sings

Embrace the uneventful
And try hard not to complain
Cause one day you’re going to miss
All this boring and mundane

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

greenerpastures

THE LORD’S PASTURE
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

We kicked them blankets an’ hit the floor to greet another day,
‘Course, them aches an’ pains we ignored,
Headin’fer where Cookie’s fire roared,
For that, we quietly thanked the Lord,
His Grace would give us strength an’ courage, to get us on our way.

The wrangler brought the horses in, Pap was there to throw his loop,
We’d call the name of ours to ride,
Pap’s aim an’ skill was undenied,
A lessor job, he’d not abide,
Most all times, yore ride would start with bolt an’ jolt, with shout an’ whoop!

Daybreak brought a crispy morn, we coffeed, then mapped out our plan,
That ol’ windmill shore needs repair,
Mama cows moved to better fare,
Along with salt to get up there,
Just a few of the things to do when yore ridin’ fer the Man.

There’d been a scatterin’ of rain, ’nuff to settle that ol’ dust,
Them ol’ mama cows was trailin’,
Put a bit of dust a sailin’,
‘Cuz that ol’ wind was a wailin’,
So we pulled our hats down tight, an’ faced right into that windy gust.

As we slow but sure make that gradual climb to summer feed,
We often lean in to discuss,
How mama cows depend on us,
To give them care without much fuss
As we watch ‘em close an’ keep ‘em safe… to meet their ever need.

Like how we each hold close to our Lord where ever we may roam,
Just like them cows, we have a need,
But from our sins we have been freed,
He gave His life to intercede,
So we each arrive at the Lord’s pasture, our Heavenly home!

© 2017, Ol’ Jim Cathey

greenerpastures

SHE SADDLES HER OWN HORSE by Marleen Bussma

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SHE SADDLES HER OWN HORSE
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

 
Marleen Bussma has a new CD, Saddle Up for Cowboy Poetry, which includes this poem.

Marleen comments, “Much has been written about men on the ranch. Since the days of homesteading, women in the west have rolled up their sleeves to carve out a life on the land. Some have worked beside their husbands, while others have been on their own. The subject of this poem is a composite of all the women who have ridden a horse while doing their daily chores.”

MBrave2

About Marleen:

Marleen grew up on a farm in North Dakota.  Her adult life has taken her away from those daily chores, but her heart still lies in the land of the meadowlark.  She has put together many verses on the plight of the women of the west from frontier days to modern farm and ranch times.  She wants to be that cowboy coming into camp for a fresh horse.  She understands the struggle to deal with Mother Nature.  She feels at home where her stories take place.

You can find out more about Marleen, her new CD, Saddle Up for Cowboy Poetry, and her award winning book, Is She Country?, on her website marleenbussma.com.

Marleen will be joining the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering October 5th – 8th, 2017.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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