WHEN YOU’RE THROWED, by Bruce Kiskaddon

jmr816photo © 2016, John Reedy; request permission for use

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.)

HORSEBACK MAN FOR HIRE lyrics by Joel Nelson

56422388_10157228903175859_8628109163269980160_nApril, 2019 photo of Randy Rieman, Joel Nelson, Sean Sexton,
and Andy Hedges, courtesy of Andy Hedges

lyrics by Joel Nelson

Twenty miles away the R.E.A.
Ran out of poles and wire
I earn my pay the cowboy way
I’m a horseback man for hire
I’m a horseback man for hire

Where I was born every saddle horn
Had a rope tied hard and fast
All the boots were worn – all the shirts were torn
And we held on to the past
We held on to the past

Now I take my turns and the mulehide burns
When I need to slip a coil
I play my gig in a double rig
I’m a grandson of the soil
I’m a grandson of the soil

I’m no one’s fool – I’ve been to school
I’ve taken my degree
But the cattle bawl and the coyote’s call
Are the things that beckon me
They’re the things that call to me
So I step astride and I start my ride
While the sun is still asleep
I’m bonafide – I been certified
And my roots run mighty deep
My roots run mighty deep

I don’t need to smoke your weed
To get me feelin’ right
Just a canvas bed to lay my head
When the stars come out at night
With the dipper shinin’ bright

My thumbs ain’t flexed cause I don’t text
Your emails leave me cold
Go lick a stamp that’ll find my camp
On a letter I can hold
Send a letter I can hold

I like a good book by my chair
I like hot tea by the fire
Where I can read without a care
When the wind – howls – through – the – wire
Cause I’m a horseback man for hire

Your gilded halls and shopping malls
Can’t hold me very long
So I quit the scene of fine cuisine
To be where I belong
Out here’s where I belong

I got a darn good life and a darlin’ wife
She sets my heart on fire
She’s a pretty thing and she wears my ring
She’s horseback and for hire
She’s a horseback girl for hire

When I cease to be you can bury me
Or build a funeral pyre
Just scatter my ash and divide my cash
With a horseback man for hire
With a horseback man for hire


I need lots of space from the human race
I need solitude from the multitude
I need reverie on the lone prairie
These are things that – I – require
I’m a horseback man for hire
I’m a horseback man for hire and
You can’t take it away
I’m a horseback man for…

© Joel Nelson, used with permission

Songster Andy Hedges’ rendition of rancher, horseman, and poet Joel Nelson’s lyrics is a standout on his new Shadow of a Cowboy album.

Western Horseman recently debuted the song and quoted Andy Hedges:

Joel Nelson wrote the lyrics to “Horseback Man for Hire,” and I heard him sing it a cappella…It stayed in my mind…I’m honored to be the first person to record it.

I believe Joel is one of the most important cowboy poets out there today. He’s a thoughtful writer, wonderful reciter, and a respected horseman and working cowboy.

Find the song and Western Horseman article by Jennifer Denison here.

Find more about Joel Nelson at cowboypoetry.com.


Shadow of a Cowboy is as entertaining as it is authentic. Selections draw from the deep roots of traditional country, cowboy, folk, and Western music. The tracks stretch from Teddie Blue Abbott through Pete Seeger to Tucker Zimmerman and beyond as Andy Hedges interprets the past and creates new sounds.

When asked about the overall inspiration for this CD, he comments, “This record was a bit of a hodgepodge of songs that I had collected but I think a theme began to arise in that the songs came from a variety of sources and spanned several eras. I had a vision to do an album of songs that show that the cowboy music tradition has continued from the trail driving era to the 1920s-30s to the 1950-70s to the present day…”

That earliest period is represented by “The Ogallaly Song,” a traditional piece included in the classic We Pointed Them North book by E.C. “Teddie Blue” Abbott. Abbott writes, “I never counted the verses…but you could keep on singing it all night.” Hedges captures that sense.

An unbroken thread of connections among musicians and songwriters weaves through “Shadow of a Cowboy.” The title track, a song by Tucker Zimmerman, came to Hedges when he contacted Zimmerman about another of his songs, “Oregon,” also included in this project. Andy Hedges tells that he knew “Oregon” from Derrol Adams’ recording. He says, “Derroll Adams was Ramblin’ Jack’s old banjo playing partner and they traveled to Europe together in the 1950s.” Billy Faier, known for his work with Pete Seeger, has his “Song of the Cuckoo” included, and the tag at the end is from “912 Greens” by Ramblin’ Jack.

So much is packed into the ten tracks of Shadow of a Cowboy. The varied songs flow and  invite repeated listening. As in earlier projects, inspired, ethereal harmonies of Alissa Hedges add layers of interest to a number of her husband’s tracks. Designer Dirk Fowler’s spare and evocative art reflects the soul of the project.

Other songs include “The Horsetrader’s Song” by prolific songwriter and musician Jimmy Driftwood; Carter Family member Sara Carter and her husband A.P. Carter’s “Lonesome Pine Special”; and folksinger and rodeo cowboy Peter LaFarge’s vivid tale of “Iron Mountain.”

Two other outstanding tracks are the collaborations with two additional respected cowboy poets, John Dofflemyer and Waddie Mitchell. Andy Hedges says of “Tennis Shoes,” Dofflemyer’s tribute to a friend, “…I don’t believe that I changed a single word. The music came easily for this one.”

“Long Johns On,” from words written by Waddie Mitchell and further enlivened with a melody suggested by Alissa Hedges, is unforgettable fun. Really unforgettable; it has genuine–yet delightful–ear worm qualities. Find a video performance of it from the Western Folklife Center’s 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

That humorous gem brings to mind the work of the late, great, beloved Glenn Ohrlin, music historian, performer, friend of Andy Hedges, and one of his heroes. Earlier this month, he paid tribute to him at the Ozark Folk Center. You can’t help but wish that Glenn Ohrlin was still around to hear “Long Johns On” and this entire album.

Someone once wrote about Glenn Ohrlin that he created “…a style that is at once powerful and understated.” And that comment could serve as well as a perfect description of Andy Hedges and the impressive Shadow of a Cowboy.

Find more at andyhedges.com and while you are there, be sure to tune into his “Cowboy Crossroads” podcasts, which are valuable and entertaining visits with cowboys, poets, musicians, and other representatives of the working West.

(Please respect copyright. You can share these lyrics and this photograph with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)

COWBOY LAUNDRY, by Rodney Nelson

rodneyandy.jpgRodney Nelson and Andy Hedges at the 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering; photo courtesy Andy Hedges

by Rodney Nelson

Brides-to-be have much to learn,
there’s more to marriage than joy—
especially if the mate she’s found
is a sure-nuff country boy.

She’s no doubt optimistic—
oblivious to her fate…
The dangers that will come to pass
she can’t anticipate.

She dreams of newborn colts and calves,
anticipation makes her grin—
But ranch life quickly dims these myths
and reality sets in.

There’s calves to work, cows to feed,
meals are often late.
Unpaid bills, and drought and dirt
are things she learns to hate.

It starts when “hubby” saunters in,
a guy she’s never seen unclean—
He’s reeking and he’s filthy,
and she thinks it’s kinda mean…

When he piles his duds upon the floor
and gives her a big squeeze,
says “I need clean clothes in the morning,
so wash these up, if you please.”

She’s gotta pick them off the floor,
though the thought makes her kinda sick,
She thinks she sees them crawling,
so she jabs ’em with a stick!

She’s gotta get them to the washer,
though it fills her heart with dread—
She shuts her eyes and throws ’em in…
lightness fills her head!

But like a dose of smelling salts,
the odor jolts this lass,
It’s made up of sweat, of grease, or crud—
and stuff that once was grass!

There’s pine-tar too, and branding smoke,
horse sweat and a drained abscess,
Diesel fuel and scouring calves,
and a shot of KRS.

But the task is still unfinished,
as she is well aware,
there’s one more chore, for on the floor,
lies her hubby’s underwear!

She’s seen some Hitchcock movies,
storms have caused her awful fright,
But nothing she has seen before
has prepared her for this sight!

An older, wiser ranchwife
would read them like a book—
she’d know he’d oiled the windmill,
and with another look…

She could see old Brownie had thrown him
by the telltale gumbo mud—
And he’d repaired another prolapse
’cause the front was stained with blood.

There are countless other stories
that a cowboy’s briefs could share
Like if he had been eating chili
or had a real bad scare!

But the new bride lacks the knowledge,
and in her frenzied state,
She grabs them with a plier
and shows them to her mate.

“Don’t jump to conclusions, Hon,
you know what that stain means…
I wasn’t careful where I sat
and it soaked on through my jeans.”

She just can’t quite believe it,
and she’s plum filled up with doubt—
She says “If what you say is true, my dear,
you wore this pair inside out!”

Oh, it won’t be long ’til scenes like this
will be common to the bride—
and countless other problems
she’ll learn to take in stride.

Yes, she’ll see her share of troubles
that the coming years will bring—
But if she can handle COWBOY LAUNDRY,
she can handle anything!

© 1995, Rodney Nelson
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Of all the poems that have appeared on the ten volumes of The BAR-D Roundup CDs from CowboyPoetry.com, this one by Rodney Nelson, North Dakota rancher, poet, columnist, and Senior Pro Rodeo champion, receives the most radio play. Rodney’s long-suffering wife has been the subject of some of his other poems and perhaps inspired this one.

Don’t miss his friend, popular poet and ranch wife Yvonne Hollenbeck’s own poetic response to this poem in the Tri-State Livestock News.

Rodney Nelson is featured in the current episode of Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads podcast. In the wide-ranging interviews Rodney talks about his rodeo career, his parents, his earliest connections to poetry, and the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (where the interview was recorded). He tells an amusing story about Wilfred Brimley, a touching story about his mother, and an inspiring story about his wife and the power of music.  Explore the 45 other episodes with Dave Stamey, Waddie Mitchell, Ross Knox, Joel Nelson, Mike Beck, Gary McMahan, Corb Lund, Jerry Brooks, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Don Edwards, Michael Martin Murphey, and many others.

Rodney Nelson writes the popular “Up Sims Creek” column in Farm & Ranch Guide and he has two volumes of collected columns. Find more about Rodney Nelson, some of his poetry, and information about more of his books and CDs at CowboyPoetry.com.

You can catch Rodney Nelson and Andy Hedges together at the second annual Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering, November 8-9, 2019, in Fredericksburg, Texas. They’ll be joined by Mike Beck, Brigid and Johnny Reedy, Joel Nelson, Cowboy Celtic, Kristyn Harris, Pipp Gilette, Sourdough Slim, and Mike Blakely.

Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing this photograph from the 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

(You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any additional uses.)



by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

I’d heard of the Canyon (the old cowboy said)
And I figured I’d like to go see it.
So I rode till I sighted a rim out ahead,
And reckoned that this place might be it.

I anchored my horse to a juniper limb
And crawled to the edge for a peek.
One look was a plenty to make my head swim.
And all of my innards felt weak.

If I’d known how durned deep it was going to be,
I’d have managed, by some hook or crook,
To tie my ownself to the doggoned tree
And let my horse go take the look!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar
Barker from Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West, 1958

S.Omar Barker’s poem was a favorite poem of two popular poets who are sorely missed: Rusty McCall, 1986-2013, son of Deanna Dickinson McCall and David McCall; and Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007.

We are lucky to have Rusty McCall’s recitation on last year’s MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, a double CD celebrating S. Omar Barker’s poetry, with over 60 poems from many of today’s top poets and reciters.

Andy Hedges recites “Grand Canyon Cowboy on his COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast with Ross Knox, Episode 3. Episode 43, devoted to S. Omar Barker, includes an interview with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry, who tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa. Top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet.

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. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB” (but Andy Hedges tells that it never really did become his brand, and that explanation is included on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO).

Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

This c.1903 photo, titled “Descending Grand View Trail – Grand Cañon of Arizona,” is described, “Stereograph showing a man, with a horse and two pack mules, descending the Grand View Trail in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

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

BREED OF THE BRAVE, by S. Omar Barker


by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

The wind rode chill on the wings of snow
From a sullen northeast sky,
As the ice-fanged “norther” swooped to blow
Down the staked plains bare and high.

A young steer bawled and an old cow’s nose
Swung up to sniff the storm.
“Let’er rip!” said Bill, “Till the air’s plumb froze!
In town it’s snug an’ warm!”

“Let’er tear!” said Spud, “We’ve drawed our pay
At the toe of the old man’s boot!
Let his damn cows drift! For my part, I’m
A-foggin’ to town for a toot!”

Six men rode fast from the wind’s cold bite—
“I’m turnin’ back,” said one.
“Them cows’ll drift in the storm, come night.
You fellers go have your fun!”

Five men rode on, but the kid called Mac
Struck a lope for the southeast rim;
And the drifting cattle he cut them back
To a down-trail faint and dim.

To the canyon’s breaks down a narrow trail,
Out of reach of the norther’s breath,
He cut them back lest the knife-edged gale
Whip them over the rim to death.

But the ice-fanged wind bit sharp and deep,
And the drift came crowding fast;
And the kid called Mac fought hard to keep
Them turned ‘cross the norther’s blast.

All night on the sifty wings of snow,
All day, all night again,
Like a broom of death the wind swept low
Where the old man’s herds had been.

It was then five men left the warm saloons,
And grim they faced the gale.
The norther crooned its dying runes—
They found Mac riding trail.

For the sake of cows what man rides so—
Dead, to his saddle, bound?
On the great high plains where the northers blow
This breed of the brave is found.

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

According to a family biography, poet and writer S. Omar Barker’s parents set out for New Mexico in 1889, with “fifty-six head of cattle, twelve head of mares and colts, a yoke of oxen, two teams of horses and three covered wagons loaded to the top of the sideboards…”

Andy Hedges’ current Cowboy Crossroads podcast includes interviews with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry and with top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. Georgia Snead tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa and about Barker’s work. Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet.

The MASTERS: VOLUME TWO,the poems of S. Omar Barker CD from CowboyPoetry.com has over 60 tracks of Barker’s poetry, presented by many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and their offspring—who bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Andy Hedges introduces the CD and the life of Barker.

Find more of S. Omar Barker’s poetry and more about him at cowboypoetry.com.

This c. 1881 photograph is from Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com, in a submission by Nevada horseman and poet Daniel Bybee, about his family’s cowboy and ranching roots, from France to New Mexico.

His great uncle Fred was persuaded to record memories of his life before he died at age 95 in 1980. Dan writes, “He was a cowboy and a freight wagon driver in New Mexico, worked at a sawmill, worked the docks in San Francisco, and drove a cab there. When he was 11, he helped his parents and my grandfather drive 100 head of cattle and a remuda of horses from New Mexico to Oklahoma. He took a turn riding night hawk every night along with my grandfather who was 13. One of his uncles was killed in a gun fight when Fred was 5 [pictured on right]. After his family moved to Oklahoma, he returned to New Mexico to cowboy for a few years with his uncles.”

Find much more of the family’s story and more photos here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and this photograph with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)

“PURT NEAR!” by S. Omar Barker

barkeronrocks 800dpi.jpgphoto © estate of S. Omar Barker. Request permission for use.

by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

They called him “Purt Near Perkins,”
for unless the booger lied,
He’d purt near done most everything
that he had ever tried.
He’d purt near been a preacher
and he’d purt near roped a bear;
He’d met up with Comanches once
and purt near lost his hair.
He’d purt near wed an heiress
who had money by the keg,
He’d purt near had the measles,
and he’d purt near broke his leg.

He’d purt near been a trail boss,
and accordin’ to his claim,
He’d purt near shot Bill Hickock—
which had purt near won him fame!
He’d purt near rode some broncs
upon which no one else had stuck
In fact he was the feller
Who had purt near drowned the duck!

Now mostly all the cowboys
On the Lazy S B spread,
They took his talkin’ with a grin
And let him fight his head.
But one named Tom Maginnis
Sorter told it to him rough:
“You’re ridin’ with an outfit now
Where ‘purt near’ ain’t enough!
We tie our lasso ropes to the horn,
An’ what we ketch we hold,
And ‘purt near’ is one alibi
We never do unfold!
In fact, right now
I’ll tell you that no word I ever hear
Sounds quite so plain damn useless
As that little pair: ‘purt near’!”

That’s how ol’ Tom Maginnis
Laid it out upon the line,
And like a heap of preachin’ talk,
It sounded mighty fine.
But one day Tom Maginnis,
While a-ridin’ off alone,
He lamed his horse
And had to ketch some neighbor nester’s roan
To ride back to the ranch on.
But somewhere along the way
A bunch of nesters held him up,
And there was hell to pay!

Tom claimed he hadn’t stole the horse—
Just borrowed it to ride.
Them nesters hated cowboys,
And they told him that he lied.
The cussed him for a horsethief
And they’d caught him with the goods.
They set right out to hang him
In a nearby patch of woods.
They had pore Tom surrounded,
With their guns all fixed to shoot.
It looked like this pore cowboy
Sure had heard his last owl hoot!

They tied a rope around his neck
And throwed it o’er a limb
And Tom Maginnis purt near knowed
This was the last of him.
Then suddenly a shot rang out
From somewhere up the hill!
Them nesters dropped the rope an’ ran,
Like nesters sometimes will
When bullets start to whizzin’.
Tom’s heart lept up with hope
To see ol’ Purt Near Perkins
Ridin’ towards him at a lope.

“Looks like I purt near
Got here just in time,” ol’ Perkins said,
“To see them nesters hang you!”
Tom’s face got kinder red.
“You purt near did!” he purt near grinned.
“They purt near had me strung!
You’re lookin’ at a cowboy
That has pert near just been hung!
And also one that’s changed his mind—
For no word ever said,
Can sound as sweet as ‘purt near’,
When a man’s been purt near dead!”

© S. Omar Barker, from his 1954 book, Songs of the Saddlemen and reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

Tune into Andy Hedges’ current COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast—it’s outstanding—to hear his entertaining recitation of “Purt Near.” He also offers stories and information about Barker and engages his interview guests.

The episode includes interviews with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry, and with top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. Georgia Snead tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa and about Barker’s work. Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet. He recites “Ranchman’s Widow.”

New Mexico’s S. Omar Barker gave many humorous poems to the world of cowboy poetry. A good number of them, including this one, remain widely recited today. He inserted a bit of himself in this poem in referring to the “Lazy S B spread.”

It’s told that Barker enjoyed signing his name with his brand, created from his initials and laid sideways for “Lazy SOB,” but, that it was his brand is not accurate. 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).”

Last year we released MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker, with over 60 tracks on a double CD, with many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and their offspring—who bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Andy Hedges introduces the CD and the life of Barker.

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 S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo is courtesy of the S. Omar Barker estate.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but any other use requires permission of the S. Omar Barker estate.)





by John Dofflemyer

It was dry in the fall of seventy-six
and the cows were calvin’ in the dust,
nothin’ to see but acres of chips,
a drought year when cowmen went bust.

Their hides were rough ‘n’ just cover’d bone
‘n’ ribs caught most of your eye,
spindly calves seemed to wander alone
as if lookin’ for a place to die.

Cows were bringin’ two-bits a pound,
a hundred bucks less than the spring,
and all you could do, was throw hay on the ground,
and pray to God it would rain.

Their toes would clack like castanets
in the cloud that’d boil ’round your truck,
the bawlin’ skeletons and weak silhouettes
would bring tears to the drought of good luck.

Reckon Ma Nature’s showed me who’s boss,
as she’ll do some time and again,
but she’s never caused me half of the loss
that politicians create with a pen.

© 1989, John Dofflemyer, used with permission

California rancher and poet John Dofflemyer is Andy Hedges’ guest on the most recent Cowboy Crossroads podcast—the 41st in this excellent, not-to-be-missed series.

John Dofflemyer speaks to a sweep of modern history, from his young life in the turbulent ’60s, its music and politics, through the birth of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He also reflects on his boyhood, the deep roots of his ranching family, and how he came to work on the ranch and later take on full responsibility. Throughout, his thoughtful and open-minded maverick spirit shines through, from his publication of Vietnam War poetry by the late Rod McQueary and William Jones to his views on environmental issues to the nature and forms of cowboy poetry.

“Drought of Seventy Seven” was one of John Dofflemyer’s earliest poems and was included in his first book, Dry Creek Poems (1989), where it appears all in lower case. The poem was collected in New Cowboy Poetry: A Contemporary Gathering, edited by Hal Canon (1990). A 2011 entry in Dry Crik Journal also includes the poem.

John Dofflemyer’s innovative periodical, the Dry Crik Review of Contemporary Cowboy Poetry, published fourteen print volumes, 1991-1994, and an electronic double volume in 2005. Find a comprehensive index at CowboyPoetry.com. Currently the Dry Crik Journal blog includes frequent poems, commentary, and photography.

The Cowboy Crossroads podcast with John Dofflemyer is the last of the series for this year. Don’t miss Andy Hedges’ fine recitation of a Charlie Russell Christmas poem. Find the podcast and many others here where you can listen to past interviews with Waddie Mitchell, Don Edwards, Jerry Brooks, Gary McMahan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Randy Rieman, Amy Hale Auker, Ross Knox, Dom Flemmons, Mike Beck, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Wallace McRae, Amy Hale Auker, and many others.

John Dofflemyer returns to the Western Folklife Center’s 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 28 – February 2, 2019 in Elko, Nevada. The lineup includes 3hattrio, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie, John Dofflemyer, Joshua Dugat, Maria Lisa Eastman, Mary Flitner, Jamie Fox & Alex Kusturok, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Brenn Hill, Tish Hinojosa, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Ross Knox, Ned LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band, Sid Marty, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin Murphey, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Diane Peavey, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan, Halladay & Rob Quist, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, Matt Robertson, Olivia Romo, Trinity Seely, Sean Sexton, Sourdough Slim, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Colter Wall, and Paul Zarzyski. Find more at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org and check out their YouTube channel for a great archive of cowboy poetry and Western music performances and more.

This c. 1993 photograph of John Dofflemyer by Kent Reeves appeared in the 1995 book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West and is used with his generous permission. View a gallery of all of the book’s photos here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)