THE ARMY MULE by by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE ARMY MULE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Sometimes mules got in the army ’cause they’d pulled a wicked trick.
Had some trouble with a feller and the feller he got kicked.
That man’s neighbors joined in singin’, while the parson blessed his soul;
“Shall We Meet Beyond the River Where the Surges Cease to Roll.”

But the mule he liked the army when he got his trainin’ done.
And the soldiers didn’t seem to hold his past against him none.
For the packer and the “Skinner,” take ’em as a general rule,
Has a past a heap more shady than the average army mule.

No they didn’t starve or beat him, and he did his share of work.
They knowed how they ort to treat him and the mule he didn’t shirk
If you know the way to use him he’s a mighty handy tool,
And the people that abused him rank a lot below the mule.

There mebby is a stubborn streak that runs among the breed.
Don’t try to move a wheel mule up and work him in the lead.
That works in both directions and you buck the self same deal
If you try to make the lead mule back and work him on the wheel.

He will keep a heavy wagon movin’ right along the road.
In among the hills and mountains he will pack a heavy load.
He might light out for some reason that you never could explain,
But you’ll find him at the picket line in time to get his grain.

‘Course you have to be admittin’ that a mule has got his tricks.
He ain’t harmless like a kitten, and he means it when he kicks.
But you’ll find him mighty useful, and you’ll find he ain’t no fool,
If you chance to get acquainted with a real old army mule.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Still thinking of veterans, here’s a tribute to the four-legged kind.

“The Army Mule” appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1943 and was included in the 1947 edition Bruce Kiskaddon’s Rhymes of the Ranges.

Western Livestock journalist Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 edition of Rhymes of the Ranges, “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. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

We are at work on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon. We are honored that Bill Siems will tell about Bruce Kiskaddon in an introduction on the CD. Kay Nowell will recite “The Army Mule.” Stay tuned for more news. The double CD will be released for the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week, April 21-27, 2019.

This undated photo from The Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division is titled, “Pack mule of U.S. Army Signal Corps, used for carrying storage batteries for the field wireless telegraph.”

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

JEFF HART, by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

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photo ©2015, Ken Rodgers, bravotheproject.com

 

JEFF HART
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

Jeff Hart rode out of the gulch to war
When the low sun yellowed the pines.
He waved to his folks in the cabin door
And yelled to the men at the mines.
The gulch kept watch till he dropped from sight—
Neighbors and girl and kin.
Jeff Hart rode out of the gulch one night;
Next morning the world came in.

His dad went back to the clinking drills
And his mother cooked for the men;
The pines branched black on the eastern hills,
Then black to the west again.
But never again, by dusk or dawn,
Were the days in the gulch the same,
For back up the hill Jeff Hart had gone
The trample of millions came.

Then never a clatter of dynamite
But echoed the guns of the Aisne,
And the coyote’s wail in the woods at night
Was bitter with Belgium’s pain.
We hear the snarl of a savage sea
In the pines when the wind went through,
And the strangers Jeff Hart fought to free
Grew folks to the folks he knew.

Jeff Hart has drifted for good and all,
To the ghostly bugles blown,
But the far French valley that saw him fall
Blood kin to the gulch is grown;
And his foreign folks are ours by right—
The friends that he died to win.
Jeff Hart rode out of the gulch one night;
Next morning the world came in.

…Charles Badger Clark, Jr. from “Sun and Saddle Leather”

On this Veterans Day/Remembrance Day and the the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, we recognize those who have served with Badger Clark’s timeless poem, written during WWI. It was printed in Collier’s Illustrated Weekly in 1919 and in other newspapers and periodicals of the time. It was added to later editions of Clark’s Sun and Saddle Leather, in a section titled “Grass Grown Trails.”

Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and where he lived for most of his life.

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

Read many more poems and more about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph is by writer, poet, teacher, filmmaker, photographer, and Marine veteran Ken Rodgers. He told us, “I took that photo on a summer day in Roseberry, Idaho, a small town north of Boise in Valley County. Roseberry is semi-ghost town whose heyday is long past. The town was settled by Finnish folk in the late 19th Century. The flag was fluttering in a mild summer breeze out in front of the old Roseberry General Store. I liked how the wind whipped the flag in juxtaposition to the old gas pump…”

Ken and Betty Rodgers’ outstanding and important documentary, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor explores the experiences of the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines during the 1968 siege at Khe Sanh, Vietnam, where Ken Rodgers served. The award-winning film is available on DVD and streams on Amazon.

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The Rodgers’ latest project is I Married the War, a documentary about the wives of  combat veterans.

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Find poetry and more for Veterans Day at CowboyPoetry.com,
(Please respect copyright. You can share this photograph with this post, but for other uses, request permission. This poem is in the public domain.)

AFTER THE FALL ROUNDUP by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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AFTER THE FALL ROUNDUP
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Now the summer work is over and the wagon’s pullin’ in,
And we’ve said good bye to fellers that we mightn’t see agin,
Fer a cow boy don’t write letters so we mighty soon lose track
Of the boys that stops and works a while and never does come back.

When yore clothes is soter tattered and yore hat brim sags and flops,
And yore boots is wore and battered, them that had the fancy tops,
When the owners and the bosses and the hands is most all in.
And them strings of summer hosses is slowed up and lookin’ thin.

When them thin clouds start a trailin through the soft and pleasant sky,
And you watch old buzzard sailin’ soter useless way up high,
And it makes the toughest cow boy soter study after all,
When he’s draggin’ with the wagon to the home ranch in the fall.

Fer he caint help but remember that most cow boys don’t git old
And he’ll git to one November when he caint stand work and cold;
He shore knows that he’ll be sorry when he gits like you and me;
Jest an old man tellin’ stories ’bout how good he used to be.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem is of course reminiscent of Kiskaddon’s masterpiece, “When They Finish Shipping Cattle in the Fall,” which was one of his earliest published poems, appearing in his 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges.

This image is an original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page from 85 years ago, November, 1933. “After the Fall Roundup” was also included in Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.

Poet Bruce Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. The two never met in person.

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.

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.

We are at work on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon. We are honored that Bill Siems will tell about Bruce Kiskaddon in an introduction on the CD. Stay tuned for more news. The double CD will be released for the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week, April 21-27, 2019.

Find information about earlier MASTERS volumes here.

This poem is the public domain. The calendar page is from the BAR-D collection.

BILL’S IN TROUBLE by James Barton Adams (1843-1918)

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BILL’S IN TROUBLE
by James Barton Adams (1843-1918)

I’ve got a letter, parson,
from my son away out West,
An’ my ol’ heart is heavy
as an anvil in my breast,
To think the boy whose future
I had once so proudly planned
Should wander from the path of right
an’ come to such an end!
I told him when he left his home,
not three short years ago,
He’d find himself a plowin’
in a mighty crooked row—
He’d miss his father’s counsel,
an’ his mother’s prayers, too;
But he said the farm was hateful,
an’ he guessed he’d have to go.

I know thar’s big temptation
for a youngster in the West,
But I believed our Billy
had the courage to resist,
An’ when he left I warned him
o’ the ever waitin’ snares
That lie like hidden sarpints
in life’s pathway everywheres.
But Bill he promised faithful
to be keerful, an’ allowed
He’d build a reputation
that’d make us mighty proud;
But it seems as how my counsel
sort o’ faded from his mind,
An’ now the boy’s in trouble
o’ the very wustest kind!

His letters came so seldom
that I somehow sort o’ knowed
That Billy was a trampling
on a mighty rocky road,
But never once imagined
he would bow my head in shame,
An’ in the dust’d waller
his ol’ daddy’s honored name.
He writes from out in Denver,
an’ the story’s mighty short;
I just can’t tell his mother,
it’ll crush her poor ol’ heart!
An’ so I reckoned, parson,
you might break the news to her—
Bill’s in the legislatur’,
but he doesn’t say what fur.

…by James Barton Adams
This poem seems to never lose its relevance.

James Barton Adams worked as a cowboy on Captain Jack Crawford’s New Mexico ranch, 1890-92. He became a newspaper columnist, and wrote poems still recited (and put to music) today, including “The Cowboy’s Dance Song” (also known as “The High-Toned Dance”). It was recently determined that he was the author of “The Gol Darn Wheel.”

The late Hal Swift recited the poem on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three.

The poem appears in Adams’ 1899 book, Breezy Western Verse. Adams, as told in a 1968 publication of the Socorro County (New Mexico) Historical Society, “…lived and worked in the rugged San Andres mountains of central New Mexico on a ranch owned by Captain Jack Crawford, famous Indian Scout and Poet…Many of his poems were probably drawn from his life and experiences during this period in New Mexico. Adams wrote the foreword to Capt. Jack’s book ‘Whar the Hand O’ God is Seen,’ published in 1913.”

Scott E. Lusby shared photos of James Barton Adams, his great great grandfather, and Captain Jack Crawford in a 2008 Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more about James Barton Adams and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1924 photo by Harris & Ewing is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. It is described, “Tex Austin, of Las Vegas, New Mex., calls on Pres. Coolidge to ask the good offices of the Amer. gov’t officials in London for the 100 Amer. cowboys and cowgirls who go to the Brit. Empire exposition to compete in the championship contests in the Imperial Stadium for the International championship titles, Trophies, and $75,000 in purses. Tex Austin will manage the contest…”

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

THE WHITE MUSTANG, by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

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THE WHITE MUSTANG
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

Wherever rhythmic hoofbeats drum,
As galloping riders go or come,
Wherever the saddle is still the throne,
And the dust of hoofs by wind is blown,
Wherever the horsemen young or old,
The Pacing Mustang’s tale is told.

A hundred years on hill and plain,
With comet-tail and flying mane,
Milk-white, free, and high of head,
Over the range his trail has led.
Never a break in his pacing speed,
Never a trot nor a lope his need,
Since faraway days of the wagon train,
Men have followed his trail in vain.

A dozen horses spurred to the death,
Still he flees like a phantom’s breath,
And from some hill at horizon’s hem,
Snorts his challenge back at them.
A bullet drops him dead by day,
Yet white at night he speeds away.
Forever a thief of tamer steeds,
Stallion prince of the mustang breeds,
Coveted prize of the men who ride,
Never a rope has touched his hide.
Wherever the saddle is still a throne,
The Great White Mustang’s tale is known.

O Phantom Ghost of heart’s desire,
Lusty-limbed with soul of fire,
Milk-white Monarch, may you, free,
Race the stars eternally.

… © 1968 S. Omar Barker, from “Rawhide Rhymes,” reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker’s spooky poem fits the post-Halloween mood.

Barker notes that Washington Irving (1783-1859) was the first to write about the “ghost horse of the plains.” In 1832, Irving traveled to Eastern Oklahoma, and wrote about it in his 1835 book, A Tour of the Prairies. In Chapter 20, “The Camp of the Wild Horse,” Irving writes:

…We had been disappointed this day in our hopes of meeting with buffalo, but the sight of the wild horse had been a great novelty, and gave a turn to the conversation of the camp for the evening. There were several anecdotes told of a famous gray horse, which has ranged the prairies of this neighborhood for six or seven years, setting at naught every attempt of the hunters to capture him. They say he can pace and rack (or amble) faster than the fleetest horses can run. Equally marvelous accounts were given of a black horse on the Brazos, who grazed the prairies on that river’s banks in Texas. For years he outstripped all pursuit. His fame spread far and wide; offers were made for him to the amount of a thousand dollars; the boldest and most hard-riding hunters tried incessantly to make prize of him, but in vain. At length he fell a victim to his gallantry, being decoyed under a tree by a tame mare, and a noose dropped over his head by a boy perched among the branches…

Find more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Irving is well known for his own ghostly story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” published in 1820. A bit of trivia: a 1922 silent movie version of the story, “The Headless Horseman,” starred Will Rogers.

Irving also has a connection with this image. This nineteenth century engraving, “Lassoing Wild Horses,” was made by by W. W. Rice from a painting by Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888). Darley illustrated many works by authors of the time and did the first illustrations for Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.”

S. Omar 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… named after his father Squire L. Barker, but went by Omar, he often signed his books with his initials and trademark brand, ‘Lazy SOB.'”

Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America (and twice the winner of their Spur Award) and was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum ‘s Hall of Great Westerners, the first living author to receive that recognition. His poems were frequently published by Western Horseman and appeared in many other publications. He published four collections of his hundreds of poems, edited many books, and wrote novels and non-fiction.

Rex Rideout has a great recitation of “The White Mustang,” with creative sound, on the “MASTERS: Volume Two: the poetry of S. Omar Barker” CD from CowboyPoetry.com.

The image is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

(You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission. The image is in the public domain.)

GHOST CANYON TRAIL, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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GHOST CANYON TRAIL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There are strange things told of spirits bold,
And the trail to Sante Fe,
There is many a tale of the Chisholm trail,
And the trail to Laramie.
But this is the tale of an obscure trail
That few men travelled on;
Where a spirit was known to ride alone,
‘Twixt the midnight hour and dawn.

It would wind and creep through canyons deep
And over the mesa wide.
The men who knew this trail were few,
Where the phantom used to ride.
At times was heard a careless word
Some drinking man let fall,
But ’twas held a joke by the rangeland folk,
That no one believed atall.

I learned the truth from a hard youth.
He was one of those reckless men
Who could ride in the lead of a night stampede,
Ot the dust of the broncho pen.
On a winter night when the stars were bright
And the dying moon was low,
He was holding his course on a jaded horse
And the pace that he made was slow.

The cow horse flinched and cringed, till the cinch
Was almost against the ground.
His quivering ears showed deathly fear
And the cow boy looked around.
He felt the thrill of a clammy chill,
As it travelled along his spine,
For he saw at his side a phantom ride,
With never a word or sign.

He kept his place, for he set his pace
To the cow boy’s jogging speed.
There came no sound on the frozen ground
From the tread of his phantom steed.
He showed a flash of a long moustache
And a tilted campaign hat.
There straight and strong with stirrups long
The phantom trooper sat.

They were all alone. And the pale moon shone
Through the ghost at the cow boy’s side.
His courage fled as he rode with the dead
Alone on the mesa wide.
No sign of flight, no show of fight
The buckaroo displayed,
For slugs of lead won’t hurt the dead,
Through the mist of a vapor shade.

With the mesa past they came at last
To a canyon wide and dark,
Where some stone huts stood in the cottonwoods
That had long been an old land mark.
Each ruined shack had a chimney black,
And a roofless crumbling wall.
A living spring was the only thing
That was useful to men atall.

The chilling breeze through the leafless trees,
Gave a dreary, dismal moan.
The trooper stayed in the ghastly shade
And cow boy rode alone.
Strange tales are head of what occurred
At that place in the years gone by,
Ere that restless soul of the night patrol
Rode under the starlit sky.

What the trooper knows, or where he goes,
Nobody has ever found.
But the tale is told of the lone patrol
By the older settlers ’round.
There’s a cow boy trip with a face that’s grim,
Will never forget that ride
On a winter night in the pale moon light,
By the phantom trooper’s side.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Happy Halloween. Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem, with a bit of a tip of the hat to Robert Service, is from his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems. Find many more Kiskaddon poems and more about him in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Also catch the Halloween spirit with “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and the first-ever recording of it in 1949, by Burl Ives. Find our links to other videos of the song, including renditions by Johnny Cash, Gene Autry (in a 1949 film trailer), Marty Robbins, Sons of the Pioneers, Chris LeDoux, Bing Crosby, Riders in the Sky, Jimmie Rodgers, Lorne Greene, Elvis, The Blues Brothers, the Outlaws, Judy Collins, at CowboyPoetry.com, and find more poems in the spirit of Halloween there as well.

Texas local historian, ghost-tale-teller, poet, writer, and reciter Linda Kirkpatrick shared this fitting photograph, taken in July, 2014.

Find Linda at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, February 22-23, 2019. The event performers are Apache Adams, Gary Allegretto, Amy Hale Auker, Eli Barsi, Floyd Beard, “Straw” Berry, Mike Blakely, Dale Burson, Don Cadden, Bob Campbell, Craig Carter, Allan Chapman & Rodeo Kate, Justin Cole, High Country Cowboys, Doris Daley, Mikki Daniel, John Davis, Kevin Davis, Doug Figgs, Ray Fitzgerald, Rolf Flake, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Belinda Gail, Pipp Gillette, Jeff Gore, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Randy & Hanna Huston, Chris Isaacs, Jill Jones & Three Hands High, Jim Jones, Linda Kirkpatrick, Ross Knox, Daron Little, Deanna McCall, Pat Meade, Glenn Moreland, Terry Nash, Joel Nelson, Sam Noble, Kay Nowell, Jean Prescott, Gary Prescott, Mike Querner, Luke Reed, Randy Rieman, Gary Robertson, Trinity Seely, R.P. Smith, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, Michael Stevens, Caitlyn Taussig, Rod Taylor, Doug Tolleson, Keith Ward, and Jim Wilson.

Find more about Linda Kirkpatrick at lindakirkpatrick.net.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photograph with this photograph, but for other uses, please request permission from the photographer. The poem is in the public domain.)

THE DRIFTER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE DRIFTER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I’ll bet there’s some feller you all recollect,
That folks joked and kidded but had to respect.
He’d a soft drawlin’ voice and a daredevil grin,
And was welcome wherever he cared to ride in.

He was careless and rough and a little but dirty.
He had lived several years on the wrong side of thirty.
He wasn’t jest handsome, but wasn’t bad lookin’.
He was handy at carpenterin’, butcherin’, and cookin’.

He could do any thing with an oven or griddle,
And he played a few pretty good tunes on a fiddle.
He could loaf in the shade or could set by the fire
And out talk most any professional liar.

He looked upon life as a sort of a joke.
He didn’t want money, but he never was broke.
But when things got in earnest he shore could talk sense,
And he could shoe horses, mend wagons and fence.

He didn’t mind trouble. He hadn’t a care.
He didn’t work hard, but he shore done his share.
He wouldn’t work steady, but it was a cinch
He never rode off and left friends in a pinch.

A mighty good roper and look out man too.
He could smooth down a bronc quick as most men do.
He wasn’t no scrapper, but if he was right,
He could whip all them fellers that thought they could fight.

If folks didn’t like him, jest let it be known,
And that feller could give ’em a lettin’ alone.
He was most like a doctor, the old timers said.
He helped care fer the sick and to bury the dead.

Now most folks think such a wonderful man
Must have owned lots of cattle or plenty of land.
But all of you cow boys, I needn’t tell you.
He was just some old drifter that all of us knew.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, from “Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems,” 1947

In “Open Range,” Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon poems, Kiskaddon’s original preface to “Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems” is included. In it, he comments, in part, “…In 1898 I started riding in Colorado. Since that time I have put in ten or twelve years around horse and cow outfits.

“During the summer of 1922 I was working for G.T. (Tap) Duncan in northwestern Arizona. Sometimes I would parody songs to suit local happenings or write verses and different jingles about what took place on the work…I never really completed grammar school and my powers of imagination are not what some writers are gifted with. So you will find these rhymes are all written from actual happenings or the old legends of cow country…

“Hoping it brings back memories to the old boys and that the younger ones enjoy them.”

Find more about Kiskaddon and more poetry in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This c. 1934 photograph, titled “Working Cowboy,” is from The Library of Congress, originally copyrighted by by McCormick Co., Amarillo, Texas.

Look for our MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD of Kiskaddon poetry in the spring.

This poem and photo are in the public domain.