WRANGLIN’ by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

wrangler

 

WRANGLIN’
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When you wake up in the mornin’ at the breakin’ of the dawn;
When you ketch the wrangler pony and you throw yore saddle on.
Startin’ out to git the hosses, watch fer tracks and travel slow.
You can’t always be so sartin jest which way they’re apt to go.

All the world begins to waken from the shadder of the night.
Little birds and hoot owls callin’ and the East is getting bright.
Then at last you find the hoss tracks, and you foller on their trail
Leadin’ up across a hog back, down into a grassy swale.

You can see yore hosses grazin’, little bunches here and there.
When they see that you are comin’ they look up and sniff the air.
They’re soon rounded up and started. Joggin’ in a ragged line,
As the shoulders leave the valleys and the sun begins to shine.

All the crew is out to meet you at the camp or the corrals,
And nobody but a wrangler, knows how good a breakfast smells.
You still recollect them mornin’s and I guess you always will;
When the mornin’ breeze was blowin’ and the sunlight hit the hills.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, 1940

This atmospheric poem by the great Bruce Kiskaddon appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1940 and also on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar with an illustration by Katherine Field.

As we’ve told many times, 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.

This 1910 photo by cowboy photographer Erwin E. Smith is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division. It is titled “The horse wrangler.” Find more about it here.

At the Amon Carter Museum, the largest holder of Smith photographs, they tell, “Erwin E. Smith (1886–1947) always wanted to be a cowboy and an artist. When he was a boy growing up in Bonham, a town in Fannin County in North Texas, the era of the great trail drives was over, and he feared that the old ways of the cowboy were disappearing. However, the legend and myth of the cowboy was just beginning. Popular literature, art by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, and the fledgling film industry promoted a romantic, yet often inaccurate, image of the cowboy. For his part, Smith resolved to honor the life of the cowboy by presenting as true a portrayal as possible.” See their on-line gallery of his works here.

 

THE SUMMER STORM by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

summerstorm

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.

 

 

THE OLD COW PONY by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

img354

 

THE OLD COW PONY
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Hello there old feller, I’m speaking to you.
No need to look at me the way that you do.
When we git acquainted I think you will find,
I know quite a bit about you and your kind.

With your wicked bright eyes and your rough shaggy coat,
And about as sure footed and tough as a goat.
You was chuck full of Hell from your nose to your tail.
You came North with the herds when they drove the long trail.

Through the heat and the dust when the goin’ was hard.
Out in the dim star light you held the lone guard.
On the dark stormy night when the herd would stampede,
You carried the riders that “Bended the lead.”

You was never a thing to be petted or trusted.
Most every old cow poke has bones that you busted
But them old boys swear by you. You bet they all do.
And they’d like to build statues to hosses like you.

by Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem, with its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951), appeared in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal in 1938. The next year, it was included in A Souvenir from ‘The Trading Post’ Golden Gate International Competition (San Francisco, 1939). It was also included in Kiskaddon’s 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges.

As we’ve told in the past, we know these details thanks to the work of Bill Siems, who collected almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems and much information about him in his 2006 book, Open Range.

Kiskaddon and artist Katherine 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.

Find more about Kiskaddon and more about Siems’ book at CowboyPoetry.com in our Kiskaddon features.

 

RAIN by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

waitingoutbo“Waiting Out the Storm,” by Bill Owen (1942-2013) request permission for use.

RAIN
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It’s sumpthin’ a feller caint hardly explain
The way that a cowpuncher feels about rain.
It makes the feed grow and it fills up the tanks,
And generally speakin’ he’d orta give thanks.
He wakes up some night when the rain hits his bed
And pull the tarpolian up over his head.
It’s warm when it rains and he gits overhet
And he lays there all night in a miserable sweat.

He wakes up next mornin’, his boots is all soaked
Jest laugh that one off if you think it’s a joke.
He pulls at the lugs and he stomps and he knocks
Till he drives both his feet through the toes of his socks.
He gits his boots on but you know how it feels;
No toes in his socks and them wrinkled up heels.
When he goes to ketch out it ain’t no easy trick
With a rope that is wet and as stiff as a stick.

He dabs for his hoss and he makes a good snare
But the hoss downs his head and backs right out from there.
Fer a cow pony knows you caint tighten a loop
When you ketch with a rope that’s as stiff as a hoop.
When he gits saddled up he must climb up and ride
And that wets the last dry spot he had on his hide.
The hoss starts to buck but that cow boy is set
Fer a man’s hard to throw when his saddle is wet.

All day he keeps ridin’ the flats and the hills,
A slippin’ and slidin’ and likely he spills.
When he gits into camp he must stand up to eat,
And his clothes is all wet from his head to his feet.
He stands ’round the fire, he cusses and smokes,
Fer he hates to git into a bed that’s all soaked.
But his slicker’s wet through fer it’s old any way,
And there’s mighty few slickers turns water all day.

And while he turns in, and as strange as it seems
He goes off to sleep and he sweats and he steams.
Next mornin’ it’s clear and the wind’s blowin’ sharp
He shivers and crawls out from under his tarp.
By the time he eats breakfast he’s feeling all right
And his bed will dry out by a couple more nights.
But the old saddle blankets are still cold and wet,
And the hoss humps his back and looks wicked you bet.

Old cow boy is tired, he’s stiff and he’s sore,
He’s had lots of trouble, he don’t want no more.
So he takes that old pony and leads him around
Till he gits his back warm and the saddle sets down.
Fer the man that’s been rained on two nights and a day,
Ain’t lookin’ fer trouble; he ain’t built that way.
He wants feed and water but let me explain,
A waddy ain’t comf’tble out in the rain.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, from Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 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.

Near the end of his life, Bruce Kiskaddon collected many of his previously published poems and one hundred never-before-published poems for his book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems. This poem is one of those one hundred. Bill Siems writes in his monumental Open Range, which collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems, that the 1947 book “…has been the ‘bible’ of Kiskaddon’s poetry since it first appeared…”

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

This painting, “Waiting Out the Storm,” is by the great Bill Owen (1942-2013).

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!’”

We were proud to have Bill Owen’s “Born to This Land” as the image for the official poster for the ninth annual Cowboy Poetry Week, 2010.

Visit billowenca.com for more about Bill Owen; find more about Bill Owen at CowboyPoetry.com; at the Cowboy Artists of America site; and see more on Facebook.

Bill Owen’s good work was also in good works: he founded the the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Scholarship Organization to help finance college educations for young people from the Arizona ranching community. The organization is now called the Bill Owen, Cowboy Artist, Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc.

Thanks to Val Fillhouer​ for her kind permissions.

 

CUTTIN’ OUT THE CALVES by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

img359

 

CUTTIN’ OUT THE CALVES
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Well now them purty little calves
has sorter come to grief.
A lot of them is shipped away
and et fer baby beef.
And if they don’t get shipped away
they got to leave their Ma.
They got to quit a drinkin’ milk
and larn to eat and chaw.

But any time a feller thinks
they’re easy separated
He’d orta try and cut ’em out
and he’ll git eddicated.
You caint tell what a calf will do—
he’s allus actin’ crazy.
I’ve often thought, twixt me and you,
his mind was sorta hazy.

But then a old cow ain’t like that.
I needn’t to explain.
I’ve seen some heads in onder hats
that didn’t have her brains.
A crazy calf and foxy cow,
when once you git ’em mixed
I aim to tell you hear and now
can pull a lot of tricks.

They make a cuttin’ pony sweat;
they make a cow boy ride.
They git yore temper overhet
and rile you up inside.
To stop and think it aint so bad,
and afterwards it’s fun.
But man it mostly makes you mad
before you git it done.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, 1933

 

This poem seems a good complement to the previous post. It is an early poem by Kiskaddon, printed in the October, 1933 Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and illustrated by Katherine Field (1908-1951). It also appeared in the Western Livestock Journal and Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.

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.

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

 

THE CUTTIN’ HOSS by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

20206351_10214216706311278_837656319_n

photo © 2017, April Kelley, request permission to reproduce

 

THE CUTTIN’ HOSS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

The cuttin’ hoss, I’ve allus said,
was sumpthin’ of a scholar.
He gits idees into his head
that’s mighty hard to foller.
You show him what you aim to cut,
he goes right after that;
He starts it off and moves about
as easy as a cat,
And if the critter doesn’t run,
he takes it nice and slow;
He cuts it out and gits it done
without no fuss or show.

But if some critter has a trick
and thinks that he’s a slicker,
The cuttin’ hoss is jest as slick
and mostly somewhat quicker.
When he works you’ll find fer sartin
it’s a job to stay on top,
‘Cause he’s mighty quick on startin’
and he’s just as quick to stop.
He shore don’t do no shirkin’
when he starts to move around;
He’s got all four corners workin’
when he squats and grabs the ground.

You will find it’s mighty nifty,
how he moves from left to right,
And he’s jest about as shifty
as a boxer in a fight.
He don’t git none fussed nor rattled;
he can jump and dodge and slide;
Fer his job is cuttin’ cattle,
it’s the cowboy’s job to ride.
He’s a shore enough go gitter
and it sometimes has occurred
That he came out with a critter
and the man stayed in the herd.

So when you start a cuttin’,
why you want a horse that’s wise,
And a cowboy, too, that’s sudden up
between the hair and eyes.
It takes a good clean sitter
and you’re never at a loss
If you allus watch the critter
and don’t try to watch the hoss.
Jes you screw down in your saddle;
that old hoss knows what to do,
Fer he savvys cuttin’ cattle
good as any buckaroo.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, 1932

In a 1932 article by Lee Shippey in his “Lee Side o’ L-A” column in the Los Angeles Times, where this poem was featured, he wrote, “Bruce Kiskaddon is a bellhop in the Hayward Hotel. He also is a poet whose verse is featured on the cover page of the Western Livestock Journal, for he used to be a cowboy before he became a bellhop. Harold Bell Wright recently told Nelson Crow, editor of that paper, that one of Bruce’s poems was the finest Western poem he had seen in a long time. And cattlemen who don’t care much for most poetry say that Bruce’s just hits the spot. We hope that Southern California is not yet too unwestern to appreciate Kiskaddon’s verse…”

The poem also appeared in Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems, published by Crow. Find more about Kiskaddon and about Bill Siem’s Open Range, which collects almost all of Kiskaddon’s poetry and much biographical material, in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Eighty-five years after the publication of the poem, it’s a pleasure to include this photograph by April Kelley of her daughter Hannah Rose Kelley at the Heguy Ranch on Reminics, practicing for the youth stock horse class at the Elko county fair.

Fourth-generation ranchers and horse trainers Hannah Rose Kelley, 10, and her sister Ruby Jo, 5, are featured on the cover of Western Horseman‘s July issue and in a story inside, “Starting Small,” by Susan Morrison and Kate Bradley Byars. The article tells that Hannah has been “…successful in starting about a dozen minis and ponies so far, as well as a few Quarter Horses.”

April Kelley comments about her daughters, “They learn that hard work pays off. It might not pay off that day, but it might pay off a week later or a month later. And that is really rewarding…” The entire article is worth seeking out.

Thanks to Deanna McCall for putting us in touch with April Kelley.

DRINKIN’ WATER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

img352

DRINKIN’ WATER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When a feller comes to a pond or a tank,
It is better to ride out a ways from the bank.
Fer the water is clearer out there as a rule,
And besides it is deep and a little more cool.

And out toward deep water, you notice somehow,
You miss a whole lot of that flavor of cow.
You can dip up a drink with the brim of yore hat,
And water makes purty good drinkin’ at that.

You mebby spill some down the front of yore shirt,
But any old waddy knows that it doesn’t hurt.
There may be some bugs and a couple insecks
But it all goes the same down a cow puncher’s neck.

I know there is plenty of folks would explain
Why such water had ort to be filtered or strained.
Sech people as that never suffered from thirst.
Or they’d think of that later and drink it down first.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1938

 

This poem, with its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951), appeared in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal in 1938. The next year, it was included in “A Souvenir from ‘The Trading Post’ Golden Gate International Competition” (San Francisco, 1939).

We know these details thanks to the work of Bill Siems, who collected almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems and much information about him in his 2006 book, “Open Range.” Find more about Kiskaddon and more about Siems’ book at CowboyPoetry.com in our Kiskaddon features.

Wheaton Hale Brewer wrote, in his foreword to Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1935 Western Poems book, “…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 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.”