THE LONG HORN SPEAKS, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE LONG HORN SPEAKS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

The old long horn looked at the prize winning steer,
And he grumbled, “What sort of a thing is this here?
He ain’t got no laigs and his body is big,
I sort of suspicion he’s crossed with a pig.
Now me! I can run, I can gore, I can kick,
But that feller’s too clumsy for all of them tricks.

They’re breedin’ such critters and callin’ em Steers!
Why the horns that he’s got ain’t as long as my ears.
I cain’t figger what he’d have done in my day.
They wouldn’t have stuffed me with grain and with hay;
Nor have polished my horns and have fixed up my hoofs,
And slept me on beddin’ in under the roofs.

Who’d have curried his hide and have fuzzed up his tail?
Not none of them riders that drove the long trail.
They’d have found mighty quick jest how fur he could jump
When they jerked a few doubles of rope off his rump.
And to me it occurs he would not look so slick
With his tail full of burrs and his hide full of ticks.

I wonder jest what that fat feller would think,
If he lived on short grass and went miles fer a drink.
And wintered outdoors in the sleet and the snow.
He wouldn’t look much like he does at the show.
I wouldn’t be like him; no, not if I could.
I caint figger out why they think he’s so good.

His short laigs and his white baby face—
I could finish him off in a fight or a race.
They’ve his whole fam’ly hist’ry in writin’, and still,
He ain’t fit fer nothin’ exceptin’ to kill.
And all of them judges that thinks they’re so wise,
They look at that critter and give him first prize.”

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, from Western Poems, 1935

Bruce Kiskaddon’s ten years of cowboying informs many of his works. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. Find many more poems and more about Kiskaddon in features at cowboypoetry.com.

Colorado’s Valerie Beard recites “The Longhorn Speaks” on this year’s triple-CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon.

You can hear Valerie Beard’s recitation on an excellent episode of Cowboy Tracks radio from Nancy Flagg. The show highlights poets and musicians at the recent 32nd annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.

Nancy comments after attending the event, “Prescott hits the trifecta of Gatherings: a well-run event in beautiful facilities with back-to-back top notch cowboy poets and singers.”

Among the included performers on the “Cowboy Tracks” show are Jay Snider, Mark Munzert, Trinity Seely, Duane Nelson, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Chris Isaacs, Gary Allegretto, Floyd Beard, Dale Burson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Gail Steiger, Terry Nash, and The Cowboy Way Trio.

Listen to the show here.

The above 2014 photo by Carol Highsmith is described, “Longhorn cattle on the George Ranch Historical Park, a 20,000-acre working ranch in Fort Bend County, Texas, featuring historic homes, costumed interpreters and livestock.” It is from the Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

At the Highsmith Archive, it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook.

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

THE SUMMER STORM, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE SUMMER STORM
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

The clouds are a comin’ down over the flat,
The lightnin’ is startin’ to flicker.
It is time fer a cow boy to pull down his hat
And git buttoned up in his slicker.

The lightnin’ is shootin’ jest flash after flash,
The wind is a howlin’ and roarin’,
The thunder it shakes the whole earth with a crash
And the rain it comes down jest a pourin’.

The cattle have started to runnin’, the brutes,
Jest hark to ’em rattle their hocks.
The water comes in at the tops of yore boots,
You can feel it a soakin’ yore socks.

The boys is all busy and goin’ full speed,
They are tryin’ to git the steers millin’.
They git to the front and keep bendin’ the lead
To hold the whole shipment from spillin’.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1936

This poem, illustrated by Katherine Field (1908-1951), first appeared in 1936 in the Western Livestock Journal and on the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar.

Kiskaddon drew on his cowboying experience for his poetry.

As we’ve noted before:

As Bill Siems writes in his landmark book, Open Range, a monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry, “Western Livestock Journal was one of several interacting businesses clustered around the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards, all engaged in the raising, marketing, and processing of livestock. Almost as soon as the Journal started publishing illustrated poems, the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards began issuing its own series, featuring an illustrated poem and calendar printed on five by ten inch card stock, enclosed with its Monthly Livestock Letter. Beginning with January 1933, these monthly calendars continued in an unbroken series through 1959, using reissued poems after the deaths of Kiskaddon and Field.”

Kiskaddon and Katherine Field never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range. 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.

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In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems introduces Bruce Kiskaddon’s life and work. The poetry begins with some of the best known of Kiskaddon’s reflective poems, with a look backward to “when cattle were plenty and men were few.” Poems that follow are about cowboys and men, work, cattle, horses (and one mule), heavenly concerns, old-time life, quirky characters, gear, a ghost tale, and some Christmas poems.

Among the voices are Randy Rieman, Jay Snider, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Trey Allen, Floyd Beard, Ol’ Jim Cathey, Rod Miller, Ken Cook, Ross Knox, Chris Isaacs, Dennis Russell Nazelrod, Jerry Brooks, Gail Steiger, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Jessica Hedges, Robert Dennis, Valerie Beard, Keith Ward, John Reedy, Baxter Black, J.B. Allen, Brigid Reedy, Jesse Smith, Duane Nelson, Kathy Moss, Susie Knight, Kay Nowell, Tom Swearingen, Dick Morton, DW Groethe, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Dale Page, Almeda Bradshaw, Smoke Wade, Sunny Hancock, Jarle Kvale, Johnny Reedy, Rusty McCall, Dave McCall, Terry Nash, and Rex Rideout. Musician and top sound engineer Butch Hause offers a colorful radio PSA for the Center and Cowboy Poetry Week.

CDs are offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program, given to the Center’s donors, and available for sale. Find more about the CD here.

This poem is in the public domain. The illustration is from the CowboyPoetry.com calendar collection.

SUMMER TIME by Bruce Kiskaddon

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SUMMER TIME
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There’s a heap of times when ridin’
after cattle shore is tough.
When every thing is goin’ wrong,
or else the weather’s rough.
The whole world seems ag’in you.
You can do yore level best,
But you ain’t a gittin’ nowheres
and yore nearly dead for rest.

But it’s purty in the summer
when yore ridin’ through the hills.
Where the tall green grass is growin’
and the air is soft and still.
Cows and calves is fat and gentle.
They jest look at you and stare.
You can hear the little insecks
go a buzzin’ in the air.

You may run onto some places
that is mighty steep to climb,
But you ain’t in any hurry,
and you give the hoss his time.
You figger that it ain’t so bad,
a bein’ a cow poke,
And you feel so plum contented
you don’t even want to smoke.

No, a cow boy’s life ain’t easy
when you git it figgered down.
He don’t have a lot of comforts
that the people have in town.
But he don’t deserve no sympathy
fer how his life is spent.
Fer there’s times he’s jest a bathin’
in a ocean of content.

There is nothin’ there to bother him,
he doesn’t have to hurry.
He is doin’ what he wants to do,
he isn’t in a hurry.
Yes, it pays up fer the frost bites,
all the falls and all the spills,
On them lovely days in summer
when he’s ridin’ in the hills.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

The poem and its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951) appeared on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar in November, 1942, and also in the Western Livestock Journal that year.

Bruce Kiskaddon’s ten years of cowboying informs many of his works. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems.

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.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems introduces Bruce Kiskaddon’s life and work. The poetry begins with some of the best known of Kiskaddon’s reflective poems, with look backward to “when cattle were plenty and men were few.” Poems that follow are about cowboys and men, work, cattle, horses (and one mule), heavenly concerns, old-time life, quirky characters, gear, a ghost tale, and some Christmas poems.

Among the voices are Randy Rieman, Jay Snider, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Trey Allen, Floyd Beard, Ol Jim Cathey, Rod Miller, Ken Cook, Ross Knox, Chris Isaacs, Dennis Russell Nazelrod, Jerry Brooks, Gail Steiger, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Jessica Hedges, Robert Dennis, Valerie Beard, Keith Ward, John Reedy Baxter Black, J.B. Allen, Brigid Reedy, Jesse Smith, Duane Nelson, Kathy Moss, Susie Knight, Kay Nowell, Tom Swearingen, Dick Morton, DW Groethe, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Dale Page, Almeda Bradshaw, Smoke Wade, Sunny Hancock, Jarle Kvale, Johnny Reedy, Rusty McCall, Dave McCall, Terry Nash, and Rex Rideout. Musician and top sound engineer Butch Hause offers a colorful radio PSA for the Center and Cowboy Poetry Week.

CDs are offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s “Rural Library Program, given to the Center’s donors, and available for sale. Find more about the CD here.

This image is from the CowboyPoetry.com collection of Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendars. Cattle prices are given on the back of the calendar page, which includes, “Range cows of common and medium quality are selling at $8.75 to $10.50 …. Bulls continue in fairly good demand at $10 to $11…”

(This poem is in the public domain.)

COW SENSE, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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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

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

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, New Mexico rancher, writer, and poet Deanna Dickinson McCall has a great recitation of “Cow Sense.”

Thanks to Rick Huff of the International Western Music Association for his review of the project in the current issue of the organization’s The Western Way. He writes, in part, “…If you are not already Kiskaddon-oriented, let this opportunity immerse you in what it really is to be– and see through the eyes and feel with the heart of–a cowboy. Highly
recommended.”

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.

Colorado rancher and poet Terry Nash shares this photo taken in late June this year. The most recent International Western Music Association awards named Terry Nash the Male Poet of the Year and his “A Good Ride” was named Best CD of the year.

Just a few places to find Terry in coming months include the 32nd annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, August 8-10, 2019; New Mexico’s upcoming 6th annual Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering, August 22-25, 2019; and Colorado’s 4th annual Western Slope Cowboy Gathering, November 1-2, 2019.

Learn more about Terry Nash at CowboyPoetry.com and at terrynashcowboypoet.com.

(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.)

MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon

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photo of Bruce Kiskaddon licensed from the Aultman Collection, History Colorado

“We are so very fortunate that the Center For Western and Cowboy Poetry / CowboyPoetry.com even exists, but particularly because [they] annually issue performances of the most revered classic Cowboy Poetry as part of their MASTERS series, making them available to libraries and learning institutions.  Staring out from the cover of MASTERS: VOLUME THREE is the strikingly handsome face of the young Bruce Kiskaddon, one of the most personally accomplished, admired and often performed Cowboy Poets of all time.  Here you have three CDs packed with fifty-eight Kiskaddons they somehow culled from among his nearly five hundred poems.  Most of the fine reciters chosen for the release are recognized poets in the own rights from current times and the past.  As always, great consideration has been given to the flow from work to work on the CDs, making the collection all the more enjoyable.  If you are not already Kiskaddon-oriented, let this opportunity immerse you in what it really is to be—and see through the eyes and feel with the heart of—a cowboy.  Highly recommended.” Rick Huff, Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews

“These CDs are historic collections that will be appreciated for generations to come.” Charley Engel, “Chuckaroo the Buckaroo” of Calling All Cowboys radio

Praise for previous CDs from CowboyPoetry.com:

“The MASTERS of cowboy poetry series from CowboyPoetry.com showcases both the masters of writing Western poetic words and masters of delivering those words.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.” Rick Huff, Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews

“This album [MASTERS (2017)] represents four of the finest poets to ever come out of cowboy culture. We are not likely to see their kind again and the world should be grateful to Cowboypoetry.com for preserving their voices.” Andy Hedges, songster and host of COWBOY CROSSROADS

“…The annual anthology takes listeners on an oral excursion to places throughout the West, introducing them to colorful cowboy characters, explaining their connection to the land, and telling their tales of tough times and the rewards they receive from living the Western lifestyle…” Jennifer Denison, Senior Editor, Western Horseman

“The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry’s annual anthologies are creating a valuable, high quality and thoroughly enjoyable resource for everyone…” Steve Green, Archivist, Western Folklife Center

“…without peer…intelligently produced… I equate them to one of those Ken Burns specials, like his Civil War, Jazz, or Baseball….the best of the best.” Rick Huff, Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews

“For those of us who love cowboy poetry, this is perhaps the best anthology we’ve yet heard.” Cowboy Magazine

The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry produces compilation CDs of classic and contemporary poetry recitations. The CDs are offered to libraries in the Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week Rural Library project, given as premiums to the Center’s supporters, and available to the public.

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Our thirteenth CD (following ten volumes of The BAR-D Roundup and two MASTERS volumes) is MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon (April 2019).

MASTERS: VOLUME THREE has over 60 tracks in a multi-disc CD of the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950). Voices from the past and from today’s top reciters and poets celebrate cowboy poetry’s popular classic poet. Bill Siems, whose monumental work, Open Range, collects almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems, introduces the CD.

Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)  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.

Find more about Kiskaddon at CowboyPoetry.com.

The MASTERS CD is dedicated to all those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition.

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The Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—takes place each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, a compilation CD and the celebration’s poster (by Shawn Cameron in 2019) have been offered to libraries in the Center’s Rural Library Program. The outreach program is part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

The annual CD is a premium for our supporters and also available for purchase. Find information about past years’ CDs here.

We need your support to continue and expand these programs. Join us and be a part of it all.

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Order information

The MASTERS CD  is available for $35 postpaid. Order with a credit card at Paypal or by mail:  CowboyPoetry.com, Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450.

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Below:

Track list and description
Acknowledgements

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The over 60 tracks on three CDs begin with an biographical introduction to Bruce Kiskaddon by Bill Siems, whose monumental work, Open Range, collects almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems.

The poetry begins with some of the best known of Kiskaddon’s reflective poems, with a look backward to “when cattle were plenty and men were few.” Then poems that follow are, somewhat in this order: about cowboys and men; work; cattle; horses (and one mule); heavenly concerns; times gone by; quirky characters; gear; a ghost tale; and a few Christmas poems. Musician and top sound engineer Butch Hause offers a colorful radio PSA for the Center and Cowboy Poetry Week.

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DISC ONE

1. ABOUT BRUCE KISKADDON Bill Siems
2. from LOOKING BACKWARD Randy Rieman
3. WHEN THEY’VE FINISHED SHIPPING CATTLE IN THE FALL Randy Rieman
4. THE BRONCHO TWISTER’S PRAYER Jay Snider
5. THE TIME TO DECIDE Andy Hedges
6. THE CREAK OF THE LEATHER Gary McMahan
7. ALONE Trey Allen (1971-2016)
8. AFTER THE FALL ROUNDUP Floyd Beard
9. BETWEEN THE LINES Jay Snider
10. THE DRIFTER Ol’ Jim Cathey
11. HE DIDN’T BELONG Rod Miller
12. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN ME OR IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN YOU Ken Cook
13. THE LONG EARED BULL Ross Knox
14. THE OLD NIGHT HAWK Chris Isaacs
15. THE NEW MEXICO STRAY Dennis Russell
16. MICROBES Jerry Brooks
17. STARTIN’ OUT Gail Steiger
18. COW SENSE Deanna Dickinson McCall
19. THE COW AND THE CALF Amy Hale Auker
20. NOT SO SLOW Jessica Hedges
21. SHOVELING THE ICE OUT OF THE TROUGH Robert Dennis
22. THE LONG HORN SPEAKS Valerie Beard

DISC TWO

1. INTRODUCTORY Ken Cook
2. EARLY WORM Keith Ward
3. RIDIN’ FENCE Gail Steiger
4. FEEDIN’ TIME John Reedy
5. THEY CAN TAKE IT Baxter Black
6. THAT LITTLE BLUE ROAN J.B. Allen (1938-2005)
7. THE BELL MARE Brigid Reedy
8. FORGOTTEN Jesse Smith
9. WHEN YOU’RE THROWED Randy Rieman
10. WHEN HE COLD JAWS Duane Nelson
11. CAUGHT NAPPIN’ Keith Ward
12. PULLIN’ LEATHER Gary McMahan
13. ON FOOT Kathy Moss
14. HER COLT Susie Knight
15. THE ARMY MULE Kay Kelley Nowell
16. THE GENTLE HOSS Tom Swearingen
17. THE OLD COW PONY Dick Morton
18. WHEN CONNORS RODE REP FOR THE LORD Ross Knox
19. JUDGMENT DAY DW Groethe
20. THE COW BOY’S DREAM Waddie Mitchell

DISC THREE

1. AN OLD WESTERN TOWN Randy Rieman
2. THE MEDICINE SHOW Andy Hedges
3. THEN AND NOW Andy Nelson
4. PROGRESS Dale Page
5. THE BRANDIN’ CORRAL Almeda Bradshaw
6. AUGERIN’ Smoke Wade
7. THE MAN ON THE FENCE Bill Siems
8. A COWBOY’S BRAINS Sunny Hancock (1931-2003)
9. DRINKIN’ WATER Jarle Kvale
10. WET BOOTS Johnny Reedy
11. ALKALI IKE’S ZIPPERS Rusty McCall (1986-2013)
12. WORKIN’ IT OVER David McCall
13. THE LOST FLANNINS Terry Nash
14. HER MAN Susie Knight
15. GHOST CANYON TRAIL Rex Rideout

CHRISTMAS POEMS
16. CHRISTMAS AT THE HOME RANCH Keith Ward
17. THE OLD TIME CHRISTMAS Linda Kirkpatrick
18. MERRY CHRISTMAS (1933) Gail Steiger

19. CENTER FOR WESTERN AND COWBOY POETRY RADIO PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (PSA) Butch Hause

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Thanks to the poets, reciters, and families and to Bill Siems, Andy Hedges, Margaret Allen, Jeffrey Hancock, the McCall family, the Western Folklife Center, the Cowboy Crossroads podcast, History Colorado, Andy Nelson and Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio, Totsie Slover and The Real West from the Old West radio, and Chris Kirby. Produced by Margo Metegrano and compiled and mastered by Butch Hause at the Ranger Station Studio, Berthoud, Colorado, all with generous funding support from Laura and Edmund Wattis Littlefield, Jr., the Margaret T. Morris Foundation, and our community’s all-important sustaining donors.

Photograph of Bruce Kiskaddon licensed from the Aultman Collection, History Colorado.

WHEN YOU’RE THROWED, by Bruce Kiskaddon

jmr816photo © 2016, John Reedy; request permission for use

WHEN YOU’RE THROWED
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

If a feller’s been astraddle
since he’s big enough to ride,
And has had to throw a saddle
onto every sort of hide;
Though it’s nothin’ they take pride in,
most of fellers I have knowed,
If they ever done much ridin’,
has at various times got throwed.

It perhaps is when you’re startin’
on a round up some fine day,
That you feel a bit onsartin’
’bout some little wall eyed bay.
Fer he swells to beat the nation
while yore cinchin’ up the slack,
And he keeps a elevation
in your saddle at the back.

He starts rairin’ and a jumpin’
and he strikes when you git near.
But you cuss him and you thump him
till you git him by the ear.
Then your right hand grabs the saddle
and you ketch a stirrup too,
And you aim to light astraddle
like a wholly buckaroo.

But he drops his head and switches
and he gives a back’ards jump.
Out of reach your stirrup twitches
and your right spur grabs his rump.
And, “Stay with him!” shouts some feller.
But you know it’s hope forlorn.
And you feel a streak of yeller
as you choke the saddle horn.

Then you feel one rein droppin’
and you know he’s got his head,
And your shirt tail’s out and floppin’
and the saddle pulls like lead.
Then it ain’t no use a tryin’
for your spurs begin to slip
Now you’re upside down and flyin’
and horn tears from your grip.

Then you get a vague sensation
as upon the ground you roll,
Like a vi’lent separation
twixt your body and your soul.
And you land again a hummick
where you lay and gap fer breath,
And there’s sumpthin’ grips your stummick
like the awful clutch of death.

Yes the landscape round you totters
when at last you try to stand,
And you’re shaky on your trotters
and your mouth is full of sand.
They all swear you beat a circus
or a hoochy koochy dance,
Moppin’ up the canyon’s surface
with the busom of your pants.

There’s fellers gives perscriptions
how them bronchos should be rode.
But there’s few that gives descriptions
of the times when they got throwed.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Andy Hedges has a fine recitation of this cinematic poem in his current “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast. The episode (#47) includes a captivating interview with musician and songwriter Ned LeDoux, who talks about his ranch upbringing; his famous father, rodeo champion, singer-songwriter, and artist Chris LeDoux (1948–2005); and performs a new song, “The Next in Line.”

This poem was printed in Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, and John Lomax included a version of it in 1919 in Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp.

As we’ve told many times about Bruce Kiskaddon, he 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 classic poems.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Randy Rieman recites “When You’re Throwed” and other top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at cowboypoetry.com.

This great 2016 photograph is by John Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. John and his talented offspring, Brigid and Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, each recite Kiskaddon poems on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site: reedy.photoshelter.com. Find more about him at cowboypoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

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

THE OLD NIGHT HAWK, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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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, and was revised for his 1947 book. 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.

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.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems offers an introduction to Bruce Kiskaddon and top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.

Chris Isaacs, cowboy, packer, poet, and humorist, recites “The Old Night Hawk” on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE.

Chris headlines at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, August 8-10, 2019 in Prescott. Other announced performers are headliners Trinity Seely and The Cowboy Way Trio (Doug Figgs, Jim Jones and Mariam Funke). Tickets are available now.

This stunning photograph is by cowboy, writer, and poet Amy Hale Steiger, 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.”

For a fine piece of writing about her cowboying life, don’t miss her recent “Feet to the Fire,” in the current issue of Contra Viento Journal.

Amy Steiger has acclaimed books: two novels, two essay collections, and a book of poetry.

Find more about her at her web site, amyhaleauker.com; on CowboyPoetry.com; on Instagram; and follow her on Facebook.

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