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.)

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.)

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.)

COW SENSE, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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COW SENSE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

You have heard people a sayin’ “As dumb as a cow.”
Well they ain’t seen much cattle I’ll tell you right now.
A cow she knows more than some people by half;
She’s the only thing livin’ that savvys a calf.
A cow don’t know nothin? Well, how do you think
They suckle young calves and walk miles fer a drink?

You have watched an old cow; or I reckon you did,
If she’s got a young calf why she keeps it well hid.
She has planted it out where it jest caint be found,
And she won’t go near there if there’s anything ’round.
You just make that calf give a jump or a beller
And that old cow is there to charge into a feller.

If there’s several young calves in a bunch, you will find,
When their Ma’s go to drink they leave one cow behind.
And when they git full and come back to the bunch
She goes to git her a drink and some lunch.
You kin talk of day nurseries. I reckon as how,
They was fustly invented and used by a cow.

Perhaps you have noticed some times on a drive
With cows, men and hosses more dead than alive,
When you got near the water, as soon as they smelt,
Them old cows went fer it jest Hellity belt.
Then the drags was all calves but they didn’t furgit ’em;
When they drunk they come back and they shore didn’t quit ’em.

They let their calves suck and kept out of the rush,
So them calves didn’t git in the mud and the crush.
I’m telling you people without any jokes,
Cows make better parents than plenty of folks.
If folk thought the thing over, I reckon as how,
They wouldn’t be sayin’ “As dumb as a cow.”

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

How about a Kiskaddon doubleheader. This poem is from Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems; it also appeared in the Western Livestock Journal.

Wheaton Hall Brewer wrote, in his introduction to Western Poems:

…As the years roll on and history appreciates the folk-lore of the plains and ranges, these poems by a real cowboy will take on a deeper significance and mightier stature. When Bruce turns his pony into the Last Corral—long years from now, we all hope—he need feel no surprise if he hears his songs sung by the celestial cowboys as their tireless ponies thunder over the heavenly ranges, bringing in the dogies for branding at the Eternal Corrals. For poetry will never die.

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

This recent “family portrait” is by Colorado rancher and poet Terry Nash. He comments, “This was two days before we shipped to the mountain. The cattle know when it’s time. They get a little restless at times, and vocal, waiting for cool mountain pastures. I call it their season of discontent.”

Terry’s most recent CD is A Good Ride. He is also featured on the new MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker from CowboyPoetry.com.

Learn more about Terry Nash at CowboyPoetry.com,  and find him on Facebook while his site, terrynashcowboypoet.com, is being overhauled.

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

 

 

THE BRONCO TWISTER’S PRAYER, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE BRONCO TWISTER’S PRAYER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It was a little grave yard
on the rolling foot hill plains:
That was bleached by the sun in summer,
swept by winter’s snows and rains;
There a little bunch of settlers
gathered on an autumn day
‘Round a home made lumber coffin,
with their last respects to pay.

Weary men that wrung their living
from that hard and arid land,
And beside them stood their women;
faded wives with toil worn hands.
But among us stood one figure
that was wiry, straight and trim.
Every one among us know him.
‘Twas the broncho twister, Jim.

Just a bunch of hardened muscle
tempered with a savage grit,
And he had the reputation
of a man that never quit.
He had helped to build the coffin,
he had helped to dig the grave;
And his instinct seemed to teach him
how he really should behave.

Well, we didn’t have a preacher,
and the crowd was mighty slim.
Just two women with weak voices
sang an old time funeral hymn.
That was all we had for service.
The old wife was sobbing there.
For her husband of a life time,
laid away without prayer.

She looked at the broncho twister,
then she walked right up to him.
Put one trembling arm around him and said,
“Pray. Please won’t you Jim?”
You could see his figure straighten,
and a look of quick surprise
Flashed across his swarthy features,
and his hard dare devil eyes.

He could handle any broncho,
and he never dodged a fight.
‘Twas the first time any body ever saw
his face turn white.
But he took his big sombrero
off his rough and shaggy head,
How I wish I could remember what
that broncho peeler said.

No, he wasn’t educated.
On the range his youth was spent.
But the maker of creation
know exactly what he meant.
He looked over toward the mountains
where the driftin’ shadows played.
Silence must have reined in heaven
when they heard the way Jim prayed.

Years have passed since that small funeral
in that lonely grave yard lot.
But it gave us all a memory, and a lot
of food for thought.
As we stood beside the coffin,
and the freshly broken sod,
With that reckless broncho breaker
talkin’ heart to heart with God.

When the prayer at last was over,
and the grave had all been filled,
On his rough, half broken pony,
he rode off toward the hills.
Yes, we stood there in amazement
as we watched him ride away,
For no words could ever thank him.
There was nothing we could say.
Since we gathered in that grave yard,
it’s been nearly fifty years.
With their joys and with their sorrows,
with their hopes and with their fears.
But I hope when I have finished,
and they lay me with the dead,
Some one says a prayer above me,
like that broncho twister said.

…from Bruce Kiskaddon’s “Rhymes of the Ranges,” 1924

Bruce Kiskaddon’s poems are among the most recited works at gatherings. Kiskaddon worked as a cowboy from the time he was 19 until a serious accident about ten years later put an end to his riding. When he turned to writing he became known for his realistic works about cowboy and ranching life. Frank M. King, editor of The Western Livestock Journal, where many of his poems were printed, asserted that Kiskaddon was “the best cowboy poet who ever wrote a cowboy poem.”

Watch top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell and outstanding balladeer Don Edwards perform the poem along with “Amazing Grace”in a 2013 performance at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering here.

Texas writer and reciter Linda Marie Kirkpatrick recites the poem on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008) from CowboyPoetry.com.

“The Bronco Twister’s Prayer” was recited at Kiskaddon’s own funeral. Find the entire poem and features about Bruce Kiskaddon at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1940 photo by Russell Lee is titled “Grave on the high plains. Dawson County, Texas.” It’s from the U.S. Farm Security Administration (FSA)/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs at The Library of Congress. Find more about it here.

Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.

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

THE COW AND THE CALF by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE COW AND THE CALF
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

A cow and a calf, or a calf and a cow
Either way that you say it, it don’t matter how;
But there’s the foundation of all the beef trade,
And it always has been since the first beef was made.

Calves may have had fathers or sisters and brothers,
But they wore the same brand that was put on their mothers.
If hundreds of cattle was mixed in a herd,
When a cow claimed a calf, the whole world took her word.

Folks thought more of calves than of children, they did.
In them days nobody adopted a kid,
But a whole lot of fellers jest couldn’t be stopped,
If a calf was onbranded and there to adopt.

So you caint blame a cow for the way she took care,
And fed and purtected her calf every where.
And the whole cattle business I’ll tell you right now
Depended a heap on the sense of a cow.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1935.

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…”

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

This photo was taken earlier this year, just after the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, by poet, reciter, regional historian, and chuck wagon cook Linda Kirkpatrick. She told us, “I saw this little steer in a pasture in Terlingua, Texas. I loved the way his color blended with the colors of the desert, so, being me, I looked in every direction and did a turn around in the middle of the highway to go back and catch his portrait.”

Find more about Linda Kirkpatrick, including her books and recordings, at CowboyPoetry.com and find her “Somewhere in the West” column in The Hill Country Herald.

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

THE OLD NIGHT HAWK by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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photo © 2017, Amy Steiger

 

THE OLD NIGHT HAWK
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I am up tonight in the pinnacles bold
Where the rim towers high.
Where the air is clear and the wind blows cold,
And there’s only the horses and I.
The valley swims like a silver sea
In the light of the big full moon,
And strong and clear there comes to me
The lilt of the first guard’s tune.

The fire at camp is burning bright,
Cook’s got more wood than he needs.
They’ll be telling some windy tales tonight
Of races and big stampedes.
I’m gettin’ too old fer that line of talk:
The desperaders they’ve knowed,
Their wonderful methods of handling stock
And the fellers they’ve seen get throwed.

I guess I’m a dog that’s had his day,
Though I still am quick and strong.
My hair and my beard have both turned gray,
And I reckon I’ve lived too long.
None of ’em know me but that old cook, Ed,
And never a word he’ll say.
My story will stick in his old gray head
Till the break of the Judgment Day.

What’s that I see a walkin’ fast?
It’s a hoss a’ slippin’ through.
He was tryin’ to make it out through the pass;
Come mighty near doin’ it too.
Get back there! What are you tryin’ to do?
You hadn’t a chance to bolt.
Old boy I was wranglin’ a bunch like you
Before you was even a colt.

It’s later now. The guard has changed.
One voice is clear and strong.
He’s singin’ a tune of the old time range —
I always did like that song.
It takes me back to when I was young
And the memories come through my head,
Of the times I have heard that old song sung
By voices now long since dead.

I have traveled better than half my trail.
I am well down the further slope.
I have seen my dreams and ambitions fail,
And memory replaces hope.
It must be true, fer I’ve heard it said,
That only the good die young.
The tough old cusses like me and Ed
Must stay still the last dog’s hung.

I used to shrink when I thought of the past
And some of the things I have known.
I took to drink, but now at last,
I’d far rather be alone.
It’s strange how quick that a night goes by,
Fir I live in the days of old.
Up here where there’s only the hosses and I;
Up in the pinnacles bold.

The two short years that I ceased to roam,
And I led a contented life.
Then trouble came and I left my home,
And I never have heard of my wife.
The years that I spent in a prison cell
When I went by another name;
For life is a mixture of Heaven and Hell
To a feller that plays the game.

They’d better lay off that wrangler kid.
They’ve give him about enough.
He looks like a pardner of mine once did.
He’s the kind that a man can’t bluff.
They’ll find that they are making a big mistake
If they once get him overhet;
And they’ll give him as good as an even break,
Or I’m takin’ a hand, you bet.

Look, there in the East is the Mornin’ Star.
It shines with a firy glow,
Till it looks like the end of a big cigar,
But it hasn’t got far to go.
Just like the people that make a flash.
They don’t stand much of a run.
Come bustin’ in with a sweep and a dash
When most of the work is done.

I can see the East is gettin’ gray.
I’ll gather the hosses soon;
And faint from the valley far away
Comes the drone of the last guard’s tune.
Yes, life is just like the night-herd’s song,
As the long years come and go.
You start with a swing that is free and strong,
And finish up tired and slow.

I reckon the hosses all are here.
I can see that T-bar blue,
And the buckskin hoss with the one split ear;
I’ve got ’em all. Ninety two.
Just listen to how they roll the rocks —
These sure are rough old trails.
But then, if they can’t slide down on their hocks,
They can coast along on their tails.

The Wrangler Kid is out with his rope,
He seldom misses a throw.
Will he make a cow hand? Well I hope,
If they give him half a show.
They are throwin’ the rope corral around,
The hosses crowd in like sheep.
I reckon I’ll swaller my breakfast down
And try to furgit and sleep.

Yes, I’ve lived my life and I’ve took a chance,
Regardless of law or vow.
I’ve played the game and I’ve had my dance,
And I’m payin’ the fiddler now.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem appeared in Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, and was revised for his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems. The 45 variants are included in Bill Siems’ Open Range, which includes almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems. The above poem is the 1947 version of “The Old Night Hawk.”

Bill Siems writes, in another of his books, Shorty’s Yarns (the collected stories of Kiskaddon) about how this poem inspired him. His eloquent comments include how city people and ranchers might see each other, and, he comments on ranch people:

“…Besides feeding us, they are the stewards of our land and keepers of our connection with the natural world. They have come closest, after the Native Americans, to harmony with a landscape that is both beautiful and harsh. This harmony is a significant and difficult achievement, essentially in opposition to our romantic notions that are driven by need but not grounded in reality. It is one thing to love the land from a climate-controlled vehicle, but it is another to love it in the wind and sleet on horseback. Cattle as a backdrop for western entertainment are a world apart from cattle as living creatures that must be cared for and slaughtered. Standing with honesty and humility on such bedrock facts of life gives a person authority, however gently it may be asserted…this is the poem that first caught me up in Bruce Kiskaddon’s words…”

Find more about Kiskaddon, Open Range, and Shorty’s Yarns at CowboyPoetry.com.

This stunning photograph is by writer and ranch hand Amy Steiger (Amy Hale Auker) who cowboys with her husband Gail Steiger in rugged country at Arizona’s Spider ranch. She comments, “We often make camp below this butte when we are working our Cottonwood Pasture. Late evening and early morning highlights the rock faces, and I can’t help but stand in awe.”

Amy Steiger has four acclaimed books: two novels and two essay collections. The latest collection, Ordinary Skin, was recently released (see the glowing reviews on Amazon). She also has a forthcoming book of poetry.  Find more about her at AmyHaleAuker.com,  on CowboyPoetry.com, on Facebook,  and on Instagram.

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