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.

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POEMS

Winter

TOFURKY, ANYONE? by Marleen Bussma
FEEDIN’ THE COWS IN WINTER TIME by George Rhoades
A LONG WINTER by Jean Mathisen Haugen
NO BLUES IN COWTOWN by Jeff Campbell

Christmas

CATTLE AT CHRISTMAS (or) Homage to Fake News
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
A TRUE COUNTRY CHRISTMAS by Michelle Turner
A CHRISTMAS MEMORY by Ol’ Jim Cathey

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TOFURKEY, ANYONE?
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

cowsjlk.jpg

 

FEEDIN’ THE COWS IN WINTER TIME
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

cowsjlk.jpg

A LONG WINTER
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

cowsjlk.jpg

NO BLUES IN COWTOWN
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

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CHRISTMAS SELECTIONS

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

cowsjlk.jpg

A TRUE COUNTRY CHRISTMAS
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

cowsjlk.jpg

A CHRISTMAS MEMORY
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

cowsjlk.jpg

Thanks to all who participated.

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SUBMISSIONS

•  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.

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jlk2019

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.

cowsjlk.jpg

Christmas 2017: Submitted and Invited Poems

xmasbardplain

Find more poetry at the main page for the 18th annual Christmas at the BAR-D. Below are selected submitted poems for 2017.

“The Wily Old Cow and Santa,” by Tim Heflin
“The Ox and the Cattle,”  by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
“Untitled,” by Robert Dennis
“I Carried Mary,” by Andy Nelson
“The Star and the Sheepherders,” by Ron Secoy
“Cowboy Christmas Day,” by George Rhoades

Find many, many more Christmas poems at CowboyPoetry.com.

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THE WILY OLD COW AND SANTA
by Tim Heflin

Santa got lost in a snowstorm
and landed in a Sierra meadow.
He hadn’t a clue as to where he was
and no idea which way to go.

It was windy and cold in the darkness,
Rudolph’s nose couldn’t even be seen.
The sounds and smells were scary
and the cries of the wolves sounded mean.

The reindeer were starting to panic
when something crashed out of the trees.
It was only a wily old loner cow
in snow up to her knees.

“You must be lost if you’re up here”
she said to Santa between smiles.
“I can lead you down to my owner’s ranch house
it’s only a few rugged miles.”

“I’d be much obliged” Santa replied.
“From there we can find our way.”
“I have many more stops to make with my sleigh
before the coming of day.”

Then they followed that wily old cow
down a treacherous winding trail.
So snowy, freezing and dark it was
they barely could see her tail.

After a while they dropped out of the clouds
and their vision began to improve.
The trail leveled out and then straightened
and soon they really could move.

“This is as close to the ranch as I go”
to Santa that old cow did say.
“For any ol’ cowboy that gets a rope on me
will get an extra month’s pay.”

“The path parallels an old fence line
as the valley opens up below.”
“When you see the lights of the ranch” she said
“You will know the way to go.”

“Thank you my friend” said Santa
“Can I get anything for you?”
“For all of the help that you’ve been to us,
what is there that I can do?”

That wily old cow thought for awhile
then whispered into Santa’s ear.
And none of the cowboys got a new rope
for Christmas presents that year.

Now, everyone knows about Rudolph
and I guess that is okay.
But nobody’s heard of the wily old cow
that helped to save Christmas Day.

© 2017, Tim Heflin
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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cowsjlk“Cows,” © 2017, Jo Lynne Kirkwood

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

dingred_1029

JB-17-11-09-xmas-1© 2017, LE Stevens

UNTITLED
by Robert Dennis

Christmas time at a cow camp can get might long and cold And a feller checking cattle has to be a little bold When he saddles up a cold backed horse to go and check around Tending to all them cattle he’s in charge of ‘cross that frozen ground

That ol’ pony ain’t to tolerant of some silly little quirk When the feller on his back comes off as being a royal jerk So a cowboy tries his very best to be extremely nice ‘Specially when he and said pony, have to cross some slickery ice

Oh sure you can sharp shoe them, but there is always balls of snow That get wadded up and make horses hooves just like skates, ya’know That’s when them caulks on shoes don’t really do much good So you don’t get around like in summer time you always could

So Slim saddles up ol’ Dobbin when it’s just the right conditions Wearin’ every stitch he owns with a rifle and axe for additions Gets Dobbin’ standing down hill so he can make that awkward climb Grunts and strains to get on board cuz’ Slim ain’t in his prime

With rifle in the scabbard, axe tied on back of saddle Awkward as a hog in a canoe who ain’t never held no paddle Dobbin heads out nice and easy cuz’ he is old and pretty wise He’s done this job lots of winter with lots of different guys

They come to the first watering spot that needs a hole cut in ice So cows can drink and get there fill, but here’s the part not nice Water collects in lower spots, geographically so to speak So it’s a downhill grade to this here spot, down along a creek

Slim ain’t takin no chances, safety first is his lifelong motto So he stops on top of the upper slope just like a feller oughta’

Dobbin’s on the downhill slope, so there ain’t much of a step He loosens up in the saddle for his final disembarking prep

The thing that Slim forgot about as his belly goes past that horn Is that his gut is a lot larger than the day that Slim was born Slim had put a leather belt around and over his bulky coat Help to keep him snug and warm like the wild rag ‘round his throat

That belt hooked over that saddle horn just slick as oil on water Slims foot slipped out of the stirrup just like it maybe ought’r So Slim is hanging upside down, imitatin’ a perfect backflip About then ol’ dobbin gets scared when he feels himself start to slip

Down they go with Slim underneath praying and cussin’ pretty loud Slim is starting’ to rethink his plan and ain’t feelin’ real proud They skid downhill like a bobsled, picking’ up pretty good steam And yup you guessed it, they ended up down there, in that stream

As they break thru’ the ice on the water, Slim manages to get unhooked About right then it dawns on Slim that his goose is still uncooked Dobbin wallers on out now that he ain’t so weighted down Slim wades out wet and cold, just tickled that he didn’t drown

When Slim related this tale to us we asked what maybe he’d learned He claimed he’s had worser scares… like when he almost burned We knew he’d gained some experience and offer some sound advice Slim simply said,  “Well boys, it’s a dang cold way to break some ice”

© 2017, Robert Dennis
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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I CARRIED MARY
by Andy Nelson

An angel came down to see me this morning,
About the carpenter and his bride;
He gave instructions then left without warning,
I was chosen to be Mary’s ride.

I’m just an ol’ donkey, a right lowly beast,
Called to carry the mother of God;
I’m awkward and furry, homely at the least,
And my poor voice is simply just odd.

The assignment I have is really more fit,
For a noble and a comely steed;
But I’m the one that was given charge of it,
So, I accept this mantle indeed.

I place my steps softly and watch where I walk,
Making certain that I do not fall;
I try to stay silent, work hard not to balk,
And I strive to make no noise at all.

She bears the Messiah, I carry them both,
An incumbrance with which I am blessed;
I labor earnestly to fulfill my oath,
And pause only as she needs to rest.

The road is rugged and my cargo divine,
I humbly execute my task;
Now I wish to tarry, a home to be mine,
But I know that I just cannot ask.

As I turn to walk away from the stable,
She touches my soft cheek with her hand;
I would speak to her if I were just able,
But somehow, she can still understand.

She gestures to a spot that I might bed down,
To witness a miracle tonight;
As a Savior is born, a king with no crown,
And the heavens attest that it’s right.

A modest birth in a humble surrounding,
Is the way the Redeemer came in;
He came to this world with blessings abounding,
To free man from the bondage of sin.

I guess it’s fitting that a donkey like me,
Was called to deliver a new king;
So, I lay here tonight completely carefree,
And rejoice as herald angels sing.

© 2017, Andy Nelson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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THE STAR AND THE SHEEP HERDERS
by Ron Secoy

The herd was settled for the night
And Red was making his round
He heard Sam singing in the dark
Keeping the dogies all calmed down

They met on the north side
Red was peering up at the sky
Sam mosied up real quiet like
Until the men were side by side

“Sure is still out here tonight
Reckon we can just sit a bit
Sure is a real brilliant night
Look at how the stars are lit”

Red said, “Reminds me of a star
They say was the biggest in the night
Could be seen for miles around
Giving off the brightest of light”

“That star led some Easterners
To the little town of Bethlehem
To a new born baby in a stable
They gave gifts and worshipped him”

Sam, scratching his head, said
“Now, you don’t say?
A star, a stable and some Easterners
Don’t think I heard it that way”

“Seems there were these sheep herders
Somewhere out on the flats
There came a ruckus in the sky
With singin’ and shoutin’ and all that”

“Bet, that ran off them sheep, Red said
Probably had to chase them all night”
“Nope, they just left them there Sam replied
And went into town to see the sight”

“Of a babe lying in a feed trough
With the animals all around
The parents Mary and Joseph
And everything all quieted down”

Those sheep dippers got real rowdy
They tried to wake up the town
Telling about them goin’s on
And baby Jesus they had found”

“Good thing it weren’t cattle” says Sam
“They’d be scattered twelve ways to noon
The angels would have needed doctoring
From all those carbine rifle wounds”

“Reckon so” old Red replied
“Guess that’s why he came long ago
But I sure am glad he came
Sam said, riding off, singing low

© 2017, Ron Secoy
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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COWBOY CHRISTMAS DAY
by George Rhoades

Breakin’ ice and haulin’ hay
On a cowboy Christmas day,
Cactus, cedar and mesquite
Coated in ice and sleet.

Cattle all huddle together
Out of the frigid weather
Along the timber creek;
Skies gray and bleak.

A coyote wanders warily,
Prowlin’ the woods cautiously
In the early-mornin’ glow
Of freshly fallen snow.

North wind comes howlin,’
A sharp, whistlin’ violin,
Screamin’ like a banshee
Across the open prairie.

Stars the night before
Bright diamonds galore;
Trees standin’ bare
In the cold wintry air.

Workin’ way out here
Miles from anywhere,
Cold and bitter and raw
Down every hill and draw.

A lonely crow calls,
And the sound softly falls
Over the frosty range,
Eerie, hauntin’ and strange.

“Thank God we get to see
This outdoor majesty,”
All the cowhands say
On a cowboy Christmas day.

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

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Find many, many more Christmas poems at CowboyPoetry.com.