THE RAIN by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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© Tim Cox,  “Racing Sundown”

 

THE RAIN
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It ain’t so very pleasant when the rain is pourin’ down,
And a hoss cain’t even hurry on the wet and muddy ground,
For the rain has done and got you lots of miles from anywhere,
So it ain’t no use to hurry fer it wouldn’t git you there.

So you jest hump up and take it as you ride across the flat,
While your clothes is wet and soakin’ and the rain runs off your hat.
You git cold acrost the shoulders and your back is gittin’ wet.
And there’s quite a bit of moisture in the saddle where you set.

And it sorter sets you thinkin’ of the folks that live in town.
They go indoors when it’s rainin’, all they do it set around.
But the man that punches cattle doesn’t get a break like that.
There ain’t no roof on a saddle; he lives onderneath his hat.

When a cowboy hits bad weather he shore makes some solemn vows
That he’s through a poundin’ leather and he’s through a punchin’ cows.
Yes, he does a heap of growlin’ but it doesn’t mean a lot
Fer a rain don’t hurt him any and it’s mighty soon forgot.

And it eases up his feelin’s fer to make a little talk,
But he knows it’s good fer paster and it’s mighty good for stock.
And, to tell the truth, it’s funny WHY a waddy talks like that
When it makes the bosses money and it keeps his hosses fat.

So he ort to stop and figger he is there to earn his pay,
And there ain’t no job a goin’ that is pleasant every way.
But he knows without no tellin’ if a job was only fun
Folks would pay to git to do it, ‘stead of pay to git it done.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, 1936

In his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, “Rhymes of the Ranges,” Frank King wrote, “Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be
in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.”

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from “Open Range,” Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called “Shorty’s Yarns.” Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This great painting by Tim Cox, “Racing Sundown,” is a fun contrast to this poem. It’s available in a number of formats here.

One of today’s most visible and most popular Western artists who has earned countless awards, his bio tells that, “Tim is a fourth generation Arizonan born in 1957 and raised in the farming and ranching community of Duncan, Arizona near the New Mexico state line.” Find more at timcox.com and also at the Cowboy Artists of America site.

Thanks to Suzie Cox and Tim Cox for their permissions.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this image with this post, but for any other use, please request permission. The poem is in the public domain.)

WAITIN’ FOR SOME RAIN by Chris Isaacs

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WAITIN’ FOR SOME RAIN
by Chris Isaacs

The coolness of the morning air hides well the bitter fact
That temperature means little when the ground is dry and cracked.
Aspen leaves on Escudilla show their green against the sky,
But its only natures apparition ’cause the stock tanks are all dry.

The older cows they know its time to move to summer range;
To green grass and easy livin’, they don’t understand the change
That Mother Natures dealt to us these past six or seven years,
So we push them back to winter ground and try to stifle fears.

Here it is the first of June and we’re still out here feedin’ hay
And hopin’ for a red sky every morning as we start another day.
Saw cattle trucks pull into the Nine Cross, our nearest neighbors place.
Guess they had all that they could take of this droughts dry embrace.

The radio said there’s a chance for rain in another week or two.
Guess we’ll say a prayer, cross our fingers and hope that that is true.
We’ll bear down a little harder, do the work and bear the pain,
Watch for clouds and haul more water while we’re waitin’ for some rain.

© 2018, Chris Isaacs, used with permission

Cowboy, packer, and popular poet and humorist Chris Isaacs comments, “The drought in the Southwest part of the US is serious folks and Arizona is being hit especially hard. We live about 10 miles from the head waters of the Little Colorado River and it has quit running for only the second time in the last 100 years. It is a serious situation friends and we are praying hard for some rain!”

Chris shared this photo, which was taken earlier this year.

You’ll find Chris next at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. This year’s event is its 31st anniversary, August 9-11, 2018, in Prescott. Performers include Gary Allegretto, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Marleen Bussma, Don Cadden, Dean Cook, Doris Daley, Kevin Davis, Sam DeLeeuw, Mike Dunn, Thatch Elmer, Don Fernwalt, Linda Lee Filener, Pipp Gillette, Amy Hale Auker, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Al “Doc” Mehl, Mike Moutoux, Mark Munzert, Old Time Fiddlers, Jay Parson, Jean Prescott & Gary Prescott, Dennis Russell, Rusty Pistols Reloaded, Buck Ryberg, Jim & Nancy Sober, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, and Barry Ward. Find more at azcowboypoets.org.

Chris Isaacs collects stories in his recent book, An Element of Truth. Red Steagall​ writes, ” …Chris Isaacs is a master storyteller and poet. He will take you on some incredible journeys….” If you follow Chris on Facebook, you’ll see he’s been in a storytelling mode. Find more about Chris Isaacs in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, chrisisaacs.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but it must be licensed for any other use. The poem is in the public domain.)

 

GIT HIM SLICKER BROKE, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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GIT HIM SLICKER BROKE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When yore breakin’ out a broncho,
Better get him slicker broke;
Or sometime you’ll have to try it
When it isn’t any joke.
When the wind begins a blowin’
Till it snaps his mane and tail,
And you see a black cloud comin’
Full of lightnin’ rain and hail.

And you know if you it him off
He will likely pull away
So you try it in the saddle
And yore hopin’ that you stay
But yore horse starts a buckin’
When you git it halfway on.
While yore arms and sleeves is tangled
Then he throws you and he’s gone.

It’s a mighty nasty feelin’
That a feller caint explain;
When yore standin’ there bare headed
And plum helpless, in the rain.
Fer yore slicker’s tore and busted
And the wind has took yore hat;
And you see yore hoss and saddle
Go driftin’ down the flat.

‘Bout that time you git an idee
And you don’t furgit it, pal.
Better slicker break a broncho
In a mighty good corral

…by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

This poem appears in Bruce Kiskaddon’s second book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, published in 1947.

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today. See features about him at CowboyPoetry.com: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/kisk.htm

The great Bill Owen (1942-2013) was a storyteller, too, with his paintings.They invite you in. This one, “Waiting Out the Storm,” is a perfect example. His web site quotes him about this painting, “Typical of Arizona, the cowboys figured the rain would end shortly, so those who had a slicker threw it over their saddle to keep it dry and then sat in the saddle house until the storm passed.”

Bill Owen was a cowboy’s painter. His web site tells, “Bill always felt compelled to record what he believed to be the true endangered species of our time: the contemporary working cowboy. He was extremely passionate about the importance of portraying each and every detail with complete accuracy.His greatest accomplishments and proudest moments were realized when a true cowboy looked at one of his pieces and said, ‘That’s exactly the way it is!’”

At the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, we were honored to have Bill Owen’s “Born to This Land” as the 2010 Cowboy Poetry Week poster art.

Find more about Bill Owen at CowboyPoetry.com and at billowenca.com. Another way Bill Owen’s legacy continues is with the Bill Owen, Cowboy Artist, Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc., which “…provides scholarships to young people of the Arizona ranching community to further their education beyond high school.”

Special thanks to Valerie Owen Fillhouer for her generous permission for the use of this image.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this image with this post, but for any other use, please request permission. The poem is in the public domain.)

CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY, by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

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CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY
by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

It don’t take such a lot of laws
To keep the rangeland straight,
Nor books to write ’em in, because
There’s only six or eight.
The first one is the welcome sign—
True brand of western hearts:
“My camp is yours an’ yours is mine,”
In all cow country parts.

Treat with respect all womankind,
Same as you would your sister.
Take care of neighbors’ strays you find,
And don’t call cowboys “mister.”
Shut pasture gates when passin’ through;
An’ takin’ all in all,
Be just as rough as pleases you,
But never mean nor small.

Talk straight, shoot straight, and never break
Your word to man nor boss.
Plumb always kill a rattlesnake.
Don’t ride a sorebacked hoss.
It don’t take law nor pedigree
To live the best you can!
These few is all it takes to be
A cowboy—and a man!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar
Barker

We interrupt our week of poems about rain with information about this year’s 21st annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, August 2-4, 2018 in Abilene, Kansas.

Geff Dawson, who with Dawn Dawson heads the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, recites this S. Omar Barker poem on the latest double CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

Barker, as described in Cowboy Miner Productions’ collection of his work, “…was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico… a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator…” He was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

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The National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo describes their events, “…There are competition levels for beginners and Silver Buckle winners, cash prizes, trophy buckles and more. Anyone can compete—bring your best poetry or recited poetry and compete with us. It’s tons of fun and you get to meet a whole lot of people who love the same thing you do—cowgirl/cowboy poetry. Competition dates are August 3-4, 2018, in Abilene, Kansas, during the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo and Kansas Free Fair! For more information, click our web site at www.ncpr.us. Entry forms, rules and our 2018 schedule are all available on the web site…”

Many poets have participated over the years, and have high praise for the experience, including Yvonne Hollenbeck, Doris Daley, Linda Kirkpatrick, DW Groethe, Andy Nelson, the late Pat Richardson, and many others. A celebration of “excellence through competition,” many lasting friendships are made.

The associated Chisholm Trail Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Show is August 4, 2018 in Abilene, Kansas.

Find more about the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo at ncpr.us and on Facebook.

These photos include Geff and Dawn Dawson (far right, horseback) and the judges of the 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, including Oklahoma poet and rancher Jay Snider and others. Thanks to Geff and Dawn for the photos.

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

 

THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE, by Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943)

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THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE
by Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943)

The flags are flying, the bands are playing,
And there, down Gurley street
The big parade is coming —
Hark to the trampling feet!
Two hundred cow men riding,
Dressed out for holiday;
Ten-gallon hats and fancy shirts
And ‘kerchiefs bright and gay.

Two hundred horses prancing
As the riders whoop and yell;
And jingle of spurs and bridle chains
The noise and music swell.
There’s Ruffner on the sorrel,
His silver bridle shines;
And Doc Pardee comes riding
Down from the Munds Park pines.

And there’s the Beloat of Buckeye
Who twirls a winning rope;
Loge Morris and his juniors,
All on a swinging lope.
The Champies and Ed Bowman,
And all the medalled train
Come back to lift more honors
At Prescott once again.

They pass with jokes and laughter,
And shouting clear and loud,
Out to the big arena
To face the cheering crowd.
And some will rope for glory
And some will ride for gold;
And some will grappled bull-dogged steers
And win on a strangle-hold.

Down sweep the big sombreros
As the bow to the grandstand’s cheer;
But, look, as they ride to their places—
God! Look what’s coming here!
A long, long train of horsemen,
Yet never a hoof-beat sounds;
And never a dust-spurt rises
From the trampled sporting grounds.

A-breast, in martial order
They wheel and swing to place;
But their forms are thin and misty
And a shadow dims each face;
A pale and still battalion
In Stetsons, chaps, and spurs;
And they, too, bow to the grandstand—
But the picture swims and blurs.

Here are the men of Texas
Who made the Chisholm Trail,
Pointing their herds of long-horns
To the track of a steel-shod rail,
Heading their leaders northward
By a puff of engine smoke;
Betting their all on a market chance—
Thousands–or down, and broke.

Men who trailed the Long Trail
With steers for Idaho;
Men who drove their beef herds
To feed Geronimo.
Men who could buck a Norther,
Men who could fight a drouth;
Sitting their lean trail-horses,
Keen-eyed, and grim of mouth.

There’s Jim O’Neal from Date Creek
With his riders, dark and trim;
And close at this knee Juan Leyvas,
A stripling lithe and slim.
And Stuart Knight comes riding
With his smile and careless grace—
But a whirlwind whips down the beaten track
And a dust-cloud blurs each face.

Gone are the silent riders,
And only the sun beats down
On the trampled, barren arena
And the chute gates weathered brown:
They’ve ridden back to the Days That Were;
But before a play is made—
Three cheers for the unseen men who passed
In the old cow men’s parade.

…by Sharlot Hall, from her 1953 book, Poems of a Ranch Woman

Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943) wrote about a Fourth of July event that still continues today, the Frontier Days Parade that takes place in conjunction with Arizona’s World’s Oldest Prescott Rodeo. The rodeo celebrates its 131st anniversary this year and is through today, July 4, 2018.

Families of many of those mentioned in the poem still live in the Prescott area today.

Sharlot Hall arrived in the Arizona Territory as a young girl. She wrote about those early days and continued to document her life and the stories and histories of Arizona in wrote essays, short stories, articles, and poetry.

Fiercely independent, she was the first Arizona woman to hold public office, serving as Territorial Historian of Arizona. In 1924, shortly after women won the right to vote, she was selected to take the state’s vote to Washington, D. C. Find more about her and more poetry in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

With luck, you can hear Tom Weathers recite this poem at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. This year’s event is its 31st anniversary, August 9-11, 2018, in Prescott. Performers include Gary Allegretto, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Marleen Bussma, Don Cadden, Dean Cook, Doris Daley, Kevin Davis, Sam DeLeeuw, Mike Dunn, Thatch Elmer, Don Fernwalt, Linda Lee Filener, Pipp Gillette, Amy Hale Auker, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Al “Doc” Mehl, Mike Moutoux, Mark Munzert, Old Time Fiddlers, Jay Parson, Jean Prescott & Gary Prescott, Dennis Russell, Rusty Pistols Reloaded, Buck Ryberg, Jim & Nancy Sober, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, and Barry Ward. Find more at azcowboypoets.org.

Find poems and more for Independence Day at CowboyPoetry.com.

This is image is by Seita, licensed from Shutterstock.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photo with this post, but it must be licensed for any other use. The poem is in the public domain.)

 

A WET ROPE, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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A WET ROPE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I will bet all your life you will never forget
The trouble you’ve had with a rope that was wet.
One day when your hoss was rode down to a walk
You cornered a gentle hoss close to a rock.

You throwed, but your rope was as stiff as a hoop.
So he just downed his head and backed out of the loop.
He was foxy. As soon as he saw the rope fall,
He just pulled out from there and he left you. That’s all.

That time you run onto an old moss horn steer
You’d been aimin’ to lead out fer over a year.
He was in some rough country just close to the valley,
You throwed and you ketched him and tried for a dally.

But the saddle and rope was both wet and you missed.
You blistered your fingers and battered your fist.
There was no chance. The ground was all muddy and slick,
And a wet muddy rope doesn’t tangle so quick.

Yes I reckon that you can remember a lot,
But it makes you so mad that it’s better forgot.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

Things have changed a bit in the 65 years since Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem was printed in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar, but it’s easy to imagine the scene.

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon.

A 2017 article in a Western Horseman blog by William Reynolds focuses on Kiskaddon, and describes Kiskaddon’s style as, “…uniquely unromantic and undoubtedly authentic.”

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

(This poem is in the public domain.)

THE MEN WHO DON’T FIT IN by Robert Service (1874-1958)

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THE MEN WHO DON’T FIT IN
by Robert Service (1874-1958)

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.

They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.

They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.

And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.

Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

…by Robert Service from The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses

Robert Service, an inveterate traveler and adventure seeker, was born in England and grew up in Scotland.

Service yearned to be a cowboy. He arrived in Canada the same year that gold was found in the Klondike, and did hire on as a cowboy for a bit on Vancouver Island. But soon he returned to the job he had trained for—banking— and that work led him eventually to the Yukon, when his bank transferred him there.

There he wrote stories of the prospectors and poems such as “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” His work met with immediate acclaim and his poetry remains widely read and performed.

Some of the tales he told were colored by his life in the West among cowboys, and the strong rhyme and meter of his work have inspired many cowboy poets.

Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985), titled “Cowboy in front of bunkhouse, Quarter Circle U Ranch, Big Horn County, Montana,” is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Rothstein was a student of Roy Styker, who conceived the documentary photography project for the FSA. Find more about Arthur Rothstein here.

(This poem and photo are in the public domain.)