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

armymule

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.

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

afterfall.jpg

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.

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

ghostcanyontraillk

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)

cowboychaps

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.

THE MAN ON THE FENCE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

manonfence

THE MAN ON THE FENCE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There’s a man that I would speak about, you see him every where.
He puts out conversations till he mangles up the air;
No matter what the subject is his idees are immense.
But he don’t go into action. He’s the man that’s on the fence.

When the owners ship out cattle they have all that they can do.
The buyers and the waddies they are mighty busy too.
Who explains the situation to a bunch of idle gents?
I needn’t tell no body, it’s the feller on the fence.

Who is that can tell you how a bronco should be rode?
Who is it laughs the loudest at a feller when he’s throwed?
Who tries to be sarcastic when he makes his wise comments?
Whose pants is full of splinters? It’s the man that’s on the fence.

Who is it puts a swagger on but never gits in trouble?
If he ever gits in danger who can vanish like a bubble?
Who can tell about a battle till he holds the crowd plum tense?
Though perhaps he’s never seen it; it’s the feller on the fence.

Who hollers at old timers as if they were his pals?
Who has set and spurred the splinters from a hundred odd corrals?
Who has spurred the gates and fence rails till the boys all know the dents?
It’s the man that’s always present. It’s the feller on the fence.

No, he ain’t no use fer nothin’ and he sure does eat a lot.
And he does a heap of talkin’ that would get a real man shot.
But the outfit tolerates him though he ain’t worth thirty cents,
Fer he’s really right amusin’ that there fellow on the fence.

And it helps an honest waddy when he’s done his best and failed;
Just to stop and look and listen at the feller on the rail.
Fer he knows down in his gizzard, if he’s got an ounce of sense,
That he’s done a durned sight better than the man that’s on the fence.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, from Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947
Bill Siems collected most of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems in Open Range, and he collected many great Kiksaddon short stories in Shorty’s Yarns. In the latter, he quotes Kiskaddon from his autobiography:

[Tap Duncan’s Diamond Bar, 1922 -1924] was my last job with a cow outfit. My eyes were bothering me and I was getting gray. In short I found out I wasn’t young any more. Punching cattle in a rough country is not an old man’s job. That is if he really gets in and makes a hand. As you get older a bucking horse can outguess you mighty quick. You are not so active if you get a horse jerked down, or if one falls with you it stoves you up a heap worse than it did years ago. And you don’t go down a rope to many big calves before you get that all gone feeling, especially if you are about five feet five.

But I still like the smell of a camp fire and like to hear the creak of saddle leather and the rattle of spurs. And I like the smell of cows. Yes even if I can tell there have been cows in the drinking water, it don’t bother me much if the mixture ain’t too strong.

Find information about Kiskaddon, many poems, and information about both of Bill Siems’ books in our Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1939 photograph, “Cowboys sitting on corral fence. Roundup near Marfa, Texas,” by Russell Lee (1903-1986), is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Find a feature about noted photographer and teacher Russell Lee with a gallery of photographs from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

We’re looking forward to bringing you a new recording, MASTERS: Volume Three, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon in 2019. The CD will be offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Project, along with the 2019 Western art poster. Find more about the MASTERS recordings here.

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

WHEN THEY’VE FINISHED SHIPPING CATTLE IN THE FALL by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

terryfinished

WHEN THEY’VE FINISHED SHIPPING CATTLE IN THE FALL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Though you’re not exactly blue,
Yet you don’t feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
For your feelin’s and the weather
Seem to sort of go together,
And you’re quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;
And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin’
On the job for winter brandin’,
And your pardner, he’s a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin’,
But you never hear him speakin’,
And you feel it’s goin’ to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother—
He is friendly but he’s quiet, that is all;
For he’s thinkin’ while he’s draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin’
At an easy walk a swingin’
In behind the old chuck wagon movin’ slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they’ve waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin’ sporty,
Not a hoss is actin’ snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they’re gentle, when they’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled ‘way down furr’wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
‘Cept his old cob pipe is smokin’
As he lets his team go pokin’,
Hittin’ all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin’—
He’s just settin’ there and thinkin’
‘Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin’
And two little clouds a sailin’,
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you’re lonesome when you’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin’ bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin’
Up there in the soft blue linin’
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin’
As your memory starts driftin’
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you’re far away and draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue—
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin’ but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did—
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done—
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
‘Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede—
‘Twas away up north, you helped ’em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn’t reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his’n—
Boy that killed him’s still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he’s rich and livin’ high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances—
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead ’em down the middle
Jest a prancin’ to the fiddle—
Never thought of goin’ home till the break of day.
No! there ain’t no chance for sleepin’,
For the memories come a creepin’,
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

…from Kiskaddon’s 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges

Bruce Kiskaddon’s masterpiece is a well loved classic, in the repertoire of most serious reciters. Hear top poet Waddie Mitchell recite it.

Bruce Kiskaddon drew on his cowboying experiences for his poetry. Find much more about him in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 2017 photo is by Colorado poet and rancher Terry Nash. He told us, “I took it on the mountain just before we began gathering cattle to ship.”

Terry Nash can be found at events across the West, including the upcoming 2nd annual West End Cowboy Gathering in Nucla, Colorado, October 31, 2018 along with Dale Burson, Valerie Beard, Floyd Beard, and Peggy Malone. Next month, he is also a part of the Western Slope Cowboy Gathering, November 2-3, 2018 in Grand Junction, Colorado. He’ll join Trinity Seely, Al Albrethsen, Floyd Beard, Dale Burson, Jerry Brooks, Nona Kelley Carver, The Great Western Heritage Show (Rick Cosby and Gary Mansfield), Dale Page, Rod Taylor, Rocky Sullivan, Peggy Malone, and the Ramblin’ Rangers (Bonnie Jo and Brad Exton).

Terry’s recent CD is A Good Ride.” Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com  and visit his site, terrynashcowboypoet.com.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but any other use of the photo requires permission. The poem is in the public domain.)

THEY CAN TAKE IT by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

kisktheycan

THEY CAN TAKE IT
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Yes, it’s just a bunch of hosses
standin’ out there in the rain.
The reason they are doin’ it
is easy to explain.
There is no shelter handy,
so to travel ain’t no good;
And they wouldn’t go into a barn,
not even if they could.

It is just a little weather,
and they’re plenty used to that.
Like a cow boy in the open,
livin’ onderneath his hat.
All the hosses and the people
that has lived their life outside,
Seems to have a constitution
that can take it on the hide.

Without a bit of thinkin’
I could tell you right from here,
Of hosses livin’ on the range
as long as thirty year.
While the hosses that’s in stables,
and was always roofed and fed,
Lots of them before they’re twenty,
has been hauled off plenty dead.

So it seems the way with people,
and it seems the way with stock,
And the cedar grows the toughest
when it’s right amongst the rocks.
That’s why hosses, men, and women,
if they’re made of proper stuff,
Gits along a whole lot better
if they’re raised a little rough.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Seventy-six years ago this month, this poem appeared in the Los Angeles Stockyards calendar.

From 1935 through 1942, 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.

Western Livestock journalist Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, 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.

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