LANGUAGE OF THE LAND, by Tom Swearingen

cmhroundup

LANGUAGE OF THE LAND
by Tom Swearingen

There’s not a lot that’s spoken
As we sit upon our mounts.
The cow boss checking tallies,
Adding up the remnant counts.

He’s mighty long on wisdom,
But he’s pretty short on words
When lining out the circles
When we’re gathr’n up the herds.

“They’re out there boys, go get ’em.
Now you know just what to do.”
‘Course he’s right, and he should know,
‘Cause he handpicked all the crew.

He knows there’ll be no slacking,
That we’ll more than earn our pay.
Since that’s ‘bout all that matters
He’s not got much more to say.

With just some simple pointing
And some nods amongst the boys,
We head in all directions
Taking in the morning noise.

You’d think without us talking
There’d be nothin’ much to hear.
But fact is, in the silence
There’s a lot to hit your ear.

Like birds awake and singing.
Or cicadas flicking wings.
There’re Aspen trees a quaking,
And the sound of bubblin’ springs.

Muffled hooves on dewdrop grass.
And the crack of sun-parched brush.
Thermals blowing up steep slopes.
Bobwhite’s whistle ‘fore they flush.

And then the sound we’ve come for.
Distant, faint, from down below,
The bawling calves and mommas
Tell us just where we should go.

The silence gives direction
Sometimes better than what’s planned.
And so we leave the talking
To the language of the land.

© 2016, Tom Swearingen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Oregon horseman Tom Swearingen says one of his greatest pleasures when horseback is being silent and just listening. “It’s amazing what one can hear if we just stay quiet. Of course horses’ ears are keen and they can pick up sounds far earlier than we can. But every once in a while I get the satisfaction (likely kidding myself) that I’ve tuned into a distant sound before my mount’s ears react.”

Tom says that Gary Morton’s 2016 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur painting “A Life Less Ordinary” reminded him of early mornings, miles to cover, and the challenge of relying more on senses than planning to be successful at the task at hand and that “Language of the Land” was inspired by that painting and the memories it recalled.

langts

“Language of the Land” is included on Tom’s new CD of the same name. The album has been leading the charts for Western Music radio play, according to the International Western Music Association’s Western Way magazine.

Tom is headed to the 31st annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 3rd – 7th, 2019. Evening performers include Trinity Seeley, Margaret Wilhelm, Brooke Turner, Bill Lowman, Greg Hager, Ross Knox, and Mary Kaye. Daytime performers are Colt Blankman, Thatch Elmer, Almeda Bradshaw, Ol’ Jim Cathey, Rick Buoy, Two Bit Pete, Chris Isaacs, Tim Krebs, Emelia Knaphus, Nolan King, Jarle Kvale, Paul Larson, Allora Leonard, Lynne Belle Lewis, Carol Markstron, Dan McCorison, Slim McWilliams, Kathy Moss, Sam Noble, Dave Munsick, Jonathan Odermann, Abby Payne, Lindy Simmons, Don Schauda, Kacey and Jenna Thunborg, and Tom Swearingen.

Tom will be making his first invited appearance at the Western Folklife Center’s 36th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He joins other poets and storytellers Doris Daley, John Dofflemyer, Carolyn Dufurrena, Maria Lisa Eastman, Patricia Frolander, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Carol Heuchan, Chris Isaacs, Randi Johnson, Jarle Kvale, Annie Mackenzie, Waddie Mitchell, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Jonathan Odermann, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, R.P. Smith, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, Michael Stevens, Forrest VanTuyl, and Paul Zarzyski. Musicians & singer-songwriters include An American Forrest, Mike Beck, Cat Clifford, Dylan Clough, Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, Dom Flemons, Pipp Gillette & Lloyd Wright, DW Groethe, R.W. Hampton, Andy Hedges, Hot Club of Cowtown, Ned LeDoux, Corb Lund & the Hurtin’ Albertans, Miko Marks, Marinna Mori, Tracy Morrison, The Munsick Boys, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Trinity Seely, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Michael Stevens, Jessie Veeder, and Wylie and The Wild West. They also promise “special guests.” Visit nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org for much more, including descriptions of workshops, films, and other events at the gathering.

After Elko, find Tom at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, February 7-8, 2020, in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Stay tuned to cowboypoets.com for more gathering announcements and information.

Tom has many more events on his calendar, which you can find along with other information at oregoncowboypoet.com.

This image by Carol M. Highsmith is described, “Ranch manager Mark Dunning oversees a roundup at the Big Creek cattle ranch near the Colorado border in Carbon County, Wyoming.” The original image is from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, from The Library of Congress collection. This image was digitally enhanced by rawpixel. Find this image at rawpixel.com/Carol M Highsmith.

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

We’ll be on a break from September 6-20,
but there will be regularly scheduled posts.

PAYIN’ ATTENTION by Carole Jarvis

jhdec2217

photo © 2017, Jessica Hedges

 

PAYIN’ ATTENTION
by Carole Jarvis

“I told ya’ once, it’s the second gate,
and leave the thing open!
Close the one with fingertrap;
That’s where they’ll water—I’m hopin’.

“Now pay attention; watch fer cows;
make sure the fences are up.
Keep yer mind on what we’re doin’ out here,
and quit lookin’ fer buttercup!”

Then off he rides in a cowboy trot,
his eyes on the trail up ahead.
And me, I’m tryin’ to concentrate,
on all of the things he just said.

But above me there’s a red-tail hawk,
and I watch him circle and soar.
Then into the wind he dips and turns,
with the grace of a matador!

And what made those tracks in the wash;
they’re not rabbit or coyote I know,
But some kind of critter wandered this way,
and it hasn’t been that long ago.

Guess I really shouldn’t tarry though,
so come on old horse, let’s get goin’.
I’m sure by now Dan’s halfway there,
and I’d better be a-showin’.

Okay, this trail is headed right,
and I can see all the fence from here.
Gee, what a lovely day for a ride,
oh wow, there’s a herd of mule deer!

With three or four does and a buck
a couple of spikes! Boy they’re quick!
Over that ridge and out of sight
Like kids on a pogo stick!

That buck was a five-point, at least!
I wonder where he hid last fall?
Wherever it was, I hope he goes back—
uh oh, I think I head a cow bawl!

Oh nuts, that came from way up ahead—
I pray they’re not through the gate!
Come on little horse, let’s hit a lope,
I’m in big trouble if I’m too late!

And there they are, headin’ straight in
toward the gate I’m supposed to close!
At a dead run now, it’s nip and tuck—
And I beat ‘um—but just by a nose!

Wow! That was too close, old pony,
I’d never hear the end of that,
If they’d gotten through and scattered…
well, let’s go see where the rest are at.

Here comes Dan now with the big bunch,
ridin’ in from the other direction.
“Good,” he says, when he sees these cows,
“looks like ya’ paid attention!”

I always do, I say to him,
and a laugh is his reaction.
Just because on a rare occasion,
I might have had a distraction.

So I tell him the fence is all up,
and there’s plenty of feed in the draw.
But I keep to myself, all the other things,
that when I paid attention I saw!

© 2003, Carole Jarvis
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Popular poet Carole Jarvis has lived and cowboyed in Wyoming, Oregon and Arizona. She has written, “… there’s been a lot of hard work, dusty trails, blisters, sunburns and broken bones along the way, but it’s the life I chose and the one Dan, my husband chose, and we wouldn’t trade it for any other.”

Carole Jarvis lives is the recipient of the 2001 Gail I. Gardner Award for a Working Cowboy Poet, bestowed at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering at Prescott, Arizona and of the 2003 Western Heritage Award, bestowed at the 15th Annual Cowboy Christmas Poetry Gathering in Wickenburg, Arizona.

This poem is included in her book, “Time Not Measured By a Clock” and she recites it on Volume 7 of The BAR-D Roundup from CowboyPoetry.com. Find more of her poetry, including a moving tribute to her late husband, and more about her at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph is by poet, cowboy, and entrepreneur Jessica Hedges. Her “Branded in Ink by Jessica Hedges” company “serves the ag community through the art of storytelling on social media and beyond.” Her photography (see more on Instagram at brandedinink and cowboyinlady) is available as prints, cards, and more. Find more at www.jessicahedgescowboypoetry.com.

Jessica is among the poets and musicians taking part in the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and
Music Gathering, February 2-4, 2018 in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Featured performers are 3 Trails West, Floyd Beard, Almeda Bradshaw, Patty Clayton, The Cowboy Way, Doris Daley, Peggy Godfrey, Hanson Family, Joe Herrington, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Carolyn and Dave Martin, Syd Masters Band, Doc Mehl, Notable Exceptions, Trinity Seely, Tom Swearingen, Barry Ward, and Joyce Woodson. Saturday Daytime Performers are Vic Anderson, Janet Bailey, Valerie Beard, Cimarron Sidekicks, Dean Cook, Joel Eliot, Thatch Elmer, Jessica Hedges, Ron Hinkle, Randy Houston, Steve Jones, Susie Knight, Mary Matli, Dave and Kathy McCann, James Michae, Mark Munzert, OK  Chorale Trio, Ramblin’ Rangers, Dennis Russell, Gail Star, Rocky Sullivan, Miss “V”,  and Washtub Jerry.

COWBOY’S OPINION by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

tsaug1616

COWBOY’S OPINION
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Of all God’s creatures I endorse
most heartily the one called “horse.”
That on this creature man might sit
no doubt is why God made him split!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Barker wrote some 2,000 poems in his long career, including many pithy short ones, like this one.

It’s told that Barker enjoyed signing his name with his brand, created from his initials and laid sideways for “Lazy SOB,” but, that’s not a completely accurate story. In an article written by Barker for “Hoofs and Horns” magazine, Barker introduces himself, “This S.O.B. (my initials, not my ancestry) has never claimed to qualify as a sure ‘nough cowboy.” Later in the article, he comments, “Incidentally, when I applied for (Lazy S O B) for our cattle brand, they wrote back that some other S O B already had it. So we had to be satisfied with (Lazy S B).” (Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing the article, which he received from Vess Quinlan, who received it from Joel Nelson who received it from Kay Kelley Nowell.)

S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/sobarker.htm.

Oregon poet and horseman Tom Swearingen is pictured in an August, 2016 photo. Tom recites “Cowboy’s Opinion” on a forthcoming recording from CowboyPoetry.com.

Tom is among the poets and musicians featured at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, February 2-4, 2018 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Known for its enthusiastic community and school involvement, the theme for the 2018 Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering is “Barn Dance and Western Swing.” Find a history of the gathering, which started in 1993, here.

Featured performers are 3 Trails West, Floyd Beard, Almeda Bradshaw,,Patty Clayton,,The Cowboy Way, Doris Daley, Peggy Godfrey, Hanson Family, Joe Herrington, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Carolyn and Dave Martin, Syd Masters Band, Doc Mehl, Notable Exceptions, Trinity Seely, Tom Swearingen, Barry Ward, and Joyce Woodson. Saturday Daytime Performers are Vic Anderson, Janet Bailey, Valerie Beard, Cimarron Sidekicks, Dean Cook, Joel Eliot, Thatch Elmer, Jessica Hedges, Ron Hinkle, Randy Houston, Steve Jones, Susie Knight, Mary Matli, Dave and Kathy McCann, James Michae, Mark Munzert, OK Chorale Trio, Ramblin’ Rangers, Dennis Russell, Gail Star, Rocky Sullivan, Miss “V”, and Washtub Jerry.

Find more at the gathering site, cowboypoets.com.

See Tom Swearingen also at the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, February 16-18, 2018, in Ellensburg, Washington.

Find more about Tom Swearingen on Facebook and at his web site, oregoncowboypoet.com.