THE CREAK OF THE LEATHER, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE CREAK OF THE LEATHER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It’s likely that you can remember
A corral at the foot of a hill
Some mornin’ along in December
When the air was so cold and so still.
When the frost lay as light as a feather
And the stars had jest blinked out and gone.
Remember the creak of the leather
As you saddled your hoss in the dawn.

When the glow of the sunset had faded
And you reached the corral after night
On a hoss that was weary and jaded
And so hungry yore belt wasn’t tight.
You felt about ready to weaken
You knowed you had been a long way
But the old saddle still kep a creakin’
Like it did at the start of the day.

Perhaps you can mind when yore saddle
Was standin’ up high at the back
And you started a whale of a battle
When you got the old pony untracked.
How you and the hoss stuck together
Is a thing you caint hardly explain
And the rattle and creak of the leather
As it met with the jar and the strain.

You have been on a stand in the cedars
When the air was so quiet and dead
Not even some flies and mosquitoes
To buzz and make noise ’round yore head.
You watched for wild hosses or cattle
When the place was as silent as death
But you heard the soft creak of the saddle
Every time the hoss took a breath.

And when the round up was workin’
All day you had been ridin’ hard
There wasn’t a chance of your shirkin’
You was pulled for the second guard
A sad homesick feelin’ come sneakin’
As you sung to the cows and the moon
And you heard the old saddle a creakin’
Along to the sound of the tune.

There was times when the sun was shore blazin’
On a perishin’ hot summer day
Mirages would keep you a gazin’
And the dust devils danced far away
You cussed at the thirst and the weather
You rode at a slow joggin’ trot
And you noticed somehow that the leather
Creaks different when once it gets hot.

When yore old and yore eyes have grown hollow
And your hair has a tinge of the snow
But there’s always the memories that follow
From the trails of the dim long ago.
There are things that will haunt you forever
You notice that strange as it seems
One sound, the soft creak of the leather,
Weaves into your memories and dreams.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

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, including this one, first published in his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.

Find many more poems and much more about Kiskaddon in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

It is one of the compelling features of cowboy poetry to hear how different reciters present a poem, particularly a poem as lyrical as “The Creak of the Leather.”

Andy Hedges has a fine interpretation of “The Creak of the Leather” on his most recent Cowboy Crossroads podcast, which features an interview with singer and songwriter Corb Lund.

Gary McMahan has an equally fine recitation of the poem on our forthcoming MASTERS: VOLUME THREE multi-disc CD.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboy on horse with equipment on cattle ranch near Spur, Texas.” It 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.

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

THE OLD TIME CHRISTMAS and MERRY CHRISTMAS, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE OLD TIME CHRISTMAS and MERRY CHRISTMAS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I liked the way we used to do,
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.
The people gathered frum far and near, and
they barbacued a big fat steer.
The kids tried stayin’ awake because,
they reckoned they might ketch Santa Claus.
Next mornin’ you’d wake ’em up to see,
what he’d been and put on the Christmas tree.

It was Christmas then fer the rich and pore,
and every ranch was an open door.
The waddy that came on a company hoss
was treated the same as the owner and boss.
Nobody seemed to have a care,
you was in among friends or you wasn’t there.
For every feller in them days knew
to behave hisself as a man should do.

Some had new boots, which they’d shore admire
when they warmed their feet in front of the fire.
And the wimmin folks had new clothes too,
but not like the wimmin of these days do.
Sometimes a drifter came riding in,
some feller that never was seen agin.
And each Christmas day as the years went on
we used to wonder where they’d gone.

I like to recall the Christmas night.
The tops of the mountains capped with white.
The stars so bright they seemed to blaze,
and the foothills swum in a silver haze.
Them good old days is past and gone.
The time and the world and the change goes on.
And you cain’t do things like you used to do
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.

… Bruce Kiskaddon, 1934

And here is another Kiskaddon poem, with a similar sentiment:

MERRY CHRISTMAS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

We was whistlin’, we was singin’ on a winter afternoon;
The hobble chains and fryin’ pans was jinglin’ to the tune.
Fer we knew the day was Christmas and the line camp was in sight,
No, it wasn’t much to look at but it suited us all right.

We onpacked and we onsaddled, then we turned our hosses out;
We cooked lots of beef and biscuits and we made the coffee stout.
We et all we could swaller, then we set and took a smoke,
And we shore did work our memory out to find a bran new joke.

No, it wasn’t like the Christmas like the folks have nowadays—
They are livin’ more in comfort, and they’ve sorter changed their ways—
But I sorter wish, old pardner, we could brush the years away,
And be jest as young and happy, as we was that Christmas Day.

… Bruce Kiskaddon

 

Merry Christmas, all!

We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

This image is an original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page from December, 1954. The poem and drawing first appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1934. It 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.

Siems tells that Kiskaddon wrote an annual Christmas poem for the Chuck Wagon Trailers, a group organized in 1931 “by old-time cowboys who were Hollywood’s first stunt men and western stars.”

Look for our new CD, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, in April, 2019. CDs are offered to libraries across the West in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program. If you’d like your library to be included, email us.

Linda Marie Kirkpatrick recites “The Old Time Christmas” on the forthcoming CD.

On The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8, a double CD of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry, Jay Snider recites “The Old Time Christmas” and Gail Steiger recites “Merry Christmas.”

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

(These poems are in the public domain.)

CHRISTMAS AGAIN, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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CHRISTMAS AGAIN
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It will soon be New Year. It’s Christmas once more
We are skeered of inflation, I don’t know what for.
Because this inflation ain’t nothin’ that’s new.
It’s been with us so long that it ort to be through.

They have took the price ceilin’ off pork and off beef,
Which might give the turkeys a little relief.
They’ve et chicken and turkey until they want steak,
Which same ort to give a few turkeys a break.

So mebby they’ll be some improvement at that.
They say there’s new cars. I don’t know where they’re at.
And some ready made clothes we might buy for example,
Instead of the orders we give from the sample.

And then that old feller they call Santa Claus.
I reckon he better be careful, because
He ain’t got no license fer drivin’ that sleigh,
And there’s plenty of taxes he never did pay.

But never mind folks, it will all work around
To where people will get both their feet on the ground,
So we might as well do just the way that we did.
Enjoy this year’s Christmas along with the kids.

…Bruce Kiskaddon
We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

Bruce Kiskaddon wrote this poem a year after the end of World War II, and left us an interesting perspective on those times. The poem was published December, 1946 in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar. The drawing is by Amber Dunkerley (1893-1973), who illustrated Kiskaddon’s calendar poems from 1943-1948.

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.

Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental Open Range that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, Shorty’s Yarns; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Look for our new multi-disc CD, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, in April, 2019. CDs are offered to libraries across the West in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program and are available for sale.

Support the BAR-D before January 1 with a donation of $40 or more and you’ll receive the CD and the 2019 Cowboy Poetry Week poster by Shawn Cameron (shawncameron.com) Posters are never sold.

Join us! Find information here.

This poem is in the public domain.

HIGH AN’ WICKED by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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HIGH AN’ WICKED
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When they cut you out a bucker
why the boys all gathers ’round
Fer to see the hull performance
whan you let the hammer down,
They will help you while you saddle
and they ear him down you bet,
Till they git you up a straddle
and you tell ’em that yore set.

Then they jump away and holler
and they hit him with their hat,
And he bucks plum high and wicked
weavin’ crooked like a bat.
When he hits the ground he shakes you,
then he lurches through the air–
You cain’t see that broncho no place
but you shore can feel he’s there.

Now you aim to show that critter
there’s a cow boy on his back,
So you rake him down the shoulders
and you pitch the cuss the slack.
Then you show the other fellers
how you fan ’em with yore lid,
And the old hoss bucks and bellers
while you holler like a kid.

Now yore gittin’ kinda dizzy
and yore feelin’ soter shook;
You was sartin you could ride him
but you might have been mistook.
But his jumps begin to weaken
and at last his head appears;
It’s a welcome sight old cowboy,
is a buckin’ hoss’s ears.

….Bruce Kiskaddon

Kiskaddon’s gift for description pairs well with the Katherine Field illustration from this 1933 Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar page.

The reverse of the page states, “This is the seventh of a series of calendars issued monthly by the Los Angeles Union Stock Company. Bruce Kiskaddon’s realistic cowboy poems are illustrated by Miss Katherine Field, a New Mexico girl who makes her sketches from actual, living scenes on her own cow ranch.”

Kiskaddon and Field collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal from 1936 to 1942, when she had to stop working to take care of her ailing parents and her children. In 1949 they renewed their partnership. Kiskaddon died in 1950 and had written six-month’s worth of poems in advance. Field illustrated them all before her own death in 1951.The two never met in person.

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.

Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental Open Range that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, Shorty’s Yarns; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Look for our new CD, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, in April, 2019. CDs are offered to libraries across the West in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program. Find earlier MASTERS CDs here. If you’d like your library to be included, email us.

This poem is in the public domain and the illustration comes from our collection of Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar pages.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE CHRISTMAS TREE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

They’ve been to get their Christmas tree, they hadn’t far to go.
They live in that high country where young timber starts to grow.
The day is cold the snow is new, there’s not so many tracks.
The dad has got the Christmas tree, the kid he has the ax.

You notice by the chimney that the fire place is wide.
They have their house built strong and low, it’s plenty warm inside.
They’ve got a set of good corrals besides a stable too;
They are fixed up pretty handy fer a place to winter through.

And when they put the candles on it’s easy to believe
How that tree will look by fire light this comin’ Christmas eve.
There won’t be any carols sung, there won’t be no organ play
But they’ll have a happy Christmas in them hills so far away.

I’ll bet the old man’s thinkin’ back to when he was a kid.
How folks would spend their Christmas and the things he got and did.
Of course the kid, he looks ahead, he don’t think of the past,
But he’ll soon have Christmas memories that he’ll keep until the last.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon wrote several Christmas poems, and we look forward to posting more during the season, as a part of  the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental Open Range that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, Shorty’s Yarns; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Look for our multi-CD release, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, available in April, 2019. Find information about all of the MASTERS CDs here.

The CDs are offered to libraries across the West in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program. If you’d like your library to be included, email us.

Support the BAR-D before January 1 with a donation of $40 or more and you’ll receive the CD and the 2019 Cowboy Poetry Week poster by Shawn Cameron Western. Join us! Find information here.

Donate_A_2015

This poem is in the public domain.

STARTIN’ OUT, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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STARTIN’ OUT
by Bruce Kiskaddon

When you have to start out on a cold winter day
The wind blowin’ cold and the sky is dull gray.
You blow on the bit till you take out the frost,
Then you put on the bridle and saddle yore hoss.

He squats and he shivers. He blows through his nose.
The blanket is stiff for the sweat is shore froze.
Then you pick up yore saddle and swing it up high,
Till the stirrups and cinches and latigoes fly.

The pony he flinches and draws down his rump.
There’s a chance he might kick, and he’s likely to jump.
He rolls his eye at you and shivers like jelly
When you pull that old frozen cinch up on his belly.

It is cold on his back and yore freezin’ yore feet,
And you’ll likely find out when you light on yore seat,
That you ain’t got no tropical place fer to set.
It is likey the saddle aint none overhet.

But a cow boy don’t pay no attention to weather.
He gits out of his bed and gits into the leather.
In the winter it’s mighty onpleasant to ride,
But that’s just the time when he’s needed outside.

…by Bruce Kisaddon

Seventy-five years ago, Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem appeared in the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar.

As mentioned with previously-posted calendar poems: From 1936 through 1942, poet Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal.

In 1939, Frank M. King, editor of the Western Livestock Journal, wrote,  “…Sometimes Bruce’s poems are mailed up there to Katherine in her mountain home, and pretty soon it comes back with a drawing that just fits the poem. Then for a change she sends her drawings over here to Los Angeles and Bruce squints them eyes over ’em that he used to use for spying out long eared calves up there on them Colorado and Arizona mountain ranges, and in a right short time he comes out with one of them poems that exactly matches the picture, so they make a good team for matching up pictures and poems.”

The two never met in person.

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.

Kiskaddon has another poem that is also named “Starting Out,” and we look forward to having Gail Steiger’s recitation of that poem on the forthcoming multi-disk CD from CowboyPoetry.com, with over 50 Kiksaddon poems, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon. Bill Siems will contribute and introduction and a recitation of his own.

This poem is in the public domain and the illustration comes from our collection of Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar pages.

PULLIN’ LEATHER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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PULLIN’ LEATHER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Yes, a cow boy has his troubles,
and he shore is out of luck,
Out a dozen miles from nowheres
and his hoss begins to buck.
And he picks a place to practice
on some mighty ugly grounds,
For you’d land amongst the cactus
if he ever got you down.

So you aim to keep a straddle
and you’ll ride him if you can,
‘Elst they’ll be a dehorned saddle,
or they’ll be a one armed man.
You don’t look like much vaquero,
he is floppin’ yore shirt tails.
You have lost yore old sombrero
and you’ve broke some finger nails.

People say that pullin’ leather
don’t show ridin’ skill.That’s true.
But you’d like to stick together
till the argyment is through.
When yo’re a slippin’ and a slidin’,
you’ll admit at all events
If it doesn’t show good ridin’
that it shows a heap of sense.

When yo’re throwed it ain’t so pleasant
with a dozen miles to walk.
No there ain’t nobody present,
and the hoss of course cain’t talk.
You are hangin’ on and prayin’.
You ain’t makin’ no grand stand.
You jest aim to keep a stayin’
and you’ll do the best you can.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem and its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951) appeared on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar in October, 1938, and also in the Western Livestock Journal that year.

Kiskaddon and Field collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal from 1936 to 1942, when she had to stop working to take care of her ailing parents and her children. In 1949 they renewed their partnership. Kiskaddon died in 1950 and had written six-month’s worth of poems in advance. Field illustrated them all before her own death in 1951.The two never met in person.

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.

Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental “Open Range” that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, “Shorty’s Yarns”; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Coming this spring from the BAR-D: A multi-disk CD with over 50 Kiksaddon poems, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of
Bruce Kiskaddon.

This poem is in the public domain and the illustration comes from our collection of Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar pages.