WINDIES by Dennis Gaines

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photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski; request permission for use

WINDIES
by Dennis Gaines

Cowboys come and cowboys go, but stories are eternal.
Some are wild and some are sad and some downright infernal.
So stack yer poke and lay yer bets; when cowboys get together
The pow-wow turns to cows and gals and hosses and . . . the weather.

“Wind?” says Amarillo Slim, “I’ll give ya wind, my lads.
That wind in Western Texas makes me petrifyin’ sad.
I’ve nailed my duds and riggins on with staples, pins and tacks,
‘Cause it blows yer bloomin’ underwear around from front to back.

“The spiders in the bunkhouse hunker down inside the boots,
And fellers packin’ pistols has to watch the way they shoots.
‘Cause bullets fired against the wind can take ya by surprise
When they stops and turns around and hits ya square between the eyes.

“You’re bound to lose yer shadow ‘less ya stake it to the grass.
If ya eat yer beans in Lubbock, folks in Dallas smell the gas.
And we drive our cattle backwards on the prairie and the plain,
‘Cause we lose at least a mile or two for every one we gain.

“Calvin’ ain’t no chore a-tall — a cow just gaps her mouth,
Then turns her face into the north and blasts the booger south!
The calves are born with hair inside; it seems a mortal sin,
But the breeze will blow ’em inside out and turn the outside in.”

“I don’t give a hoot about yer wind, but pardner, I’ve been cold.”
The gent who spoke was Powder Pete, a rider tough and bold.
“Back home a new-born baby comes into the birthin’ room
A-wearin’ wooly underwear before it leaves the womb.

“I’ve shivered, shook and swore I’ve died from dusk ’til dawn’s a-bornin’.
It takes three days of sun to thaw the dark out every mornin’.
A man will swear he’s deaf and dumb; he cannot hear a thing.
But, Lordy, what a ruckus when the words melt in the Spring!

“A cracklin’ fire’s a memory; the flames just freeze up tight.
I’ve hacked ’em up with knife and ax and tugged with all my might.
Ya toss ’em in a frozen crick, they bounce and melt right through.
When they hit the water down below, them flames are good as new.

“Lightnin’ bolts are too dang slow when Winter rules the roost.
We break ’em off and save ’em for when cattle needs a boost.
When Springtime hits the frigid North to slowly green the sod,
Them gently-thawin’ thunderbolts make dandy cattle-prods!”

“Wind and cold are misery,” ol’ Sandy Billy said,
“But I’ve seen it so dang dry the trees would chase the dogs instead.
When I was just a button, Daddy tossed me in the crick,
Not to learn me how to swim, but pick the fish for ticks!

“We had a water-barrel for to haul the stuff from town.
Sometimes I’d catch a fish and chunk it in to watch it drown.
I’ve seen a single raindrop knock a cowboy to the ground.
It took two pails of dust and sand to bring that rider ’round!

“Bullfrogs live in hollow trees and ducks swim in the rocks;
There ain’t no grub for sheep or goats, but turtles swarm in flocks.
It rained for forty days and nights before ol’ Noah died.
I heard we got a quarter-inch, but likely someone lied.

“Cows give powdered milk and thrive on cactus pads and pear,
And windmills in that country fill the tubs with sparklin’ air.
Ol’ Satan come up from his hole to look around a spell;
He rolled his chaw and spat and said, “It’s too dang dry for Hell.”

“Actions breed reactions, boys, and opposites abound.”
Cajun Beau from Bayou Teche stood up to hold his ground.
“I’ve been so wet I knew the fish and gators all by name.
Cows developed fins and gills, and hosses done the same.

“I’ve seen rain to fill a barrel in a minute, bless my soul,
And might’a filled it quicker, but the keg was full of holes!
I’ve seen mud so deep it bogged a flyin’ buzzard’s shadow down;
A light-foot mouse could skin right up atop the buzzard’s crown!

“I’ve dove to grease a windmill on the driest summer days;
Wore a scuba mask and flippers just to fight a prairie blaze.
Outlaw cows and bulls brush up with yeller catfish, too.
We hang our loops on trotlines and just chouse the varmints through.

“Our hosses don’t wear bridles; we just rig ’em up with sails.
A cuttin’ hoss can work a herd of cows or pod of whales.
We call the Cookie ‘Cap’n’, ’cause the biscuit-rollin’ scamp
Rigs a triple-masted schooner when we break and move the camp.”

Ol’ Cookie’s ears shot up and he said, “Thank ya very much.
I know about yer wind and drought and cold and rain and such.
Pardon me the reference, but I’d like to stir the pot
And tell a simple tale or two of when the times was hot.

“It was out in Arizony down by Douglas in the fall.
In the Summertime there ain’t no critters livin’ there a-tall.
When a Gily monster rustled into camp I thought to kill it,
But I let ‘im crawl into the fire and shade up ‘neath the skillet.

“The coffee beans was bilin’ in a pot with nary water.
Lucifer would call for ice, ’cause Arizony’s hotter
Than his realm of fire and sulfur in the netherworld below.
I loaded up the wagon and I hitched the mules to go.

“A four-up team of Belgian mules was steppin’ high and fine.
I’m prouder than a two-tailed pup to see ’em on the line.
‘Twas then I spied, upon my soul, a field of roastin’ ears.
That corn was poppin’ off the cob for all the world to hear!

“It was hock-deep on them hard-tails when we stopped to watch the show.
Them spankin’ mules of mine has done convinced themselves it’s snow.
‘Cause they all begun to shiver, boys (here Cookie caught his breath).
Lordy, it was so dang hot my mules froze plumb to death!”

And so the windy tales are told in bars and camps at night,
While the bull-fire burns to ashes or the lamp is shinin’ bright.
Though his epic odes and sagas may be void of class or couth,
A cowboy never lies, my friend — he just improves the truth!

© 1991, Dennis Gaines, used with permission

Cowboy Dennis Gaines is known for his humorous windies and on-stage antics.

As most of his many friends know, he is struggling with stage four cancer and is now in hospice. Your prayers are welcome. We’ll have a new address for Dennis in a few days and he welcomes cards and letters. He welcomes texts at any time. You can email us for contact information.

From his official bio:

Dennis Gaines calls himself a cowboy poet, humorist and storyteller, a vocation that rates with bawdy house piano player in terms of prestige and respectability. Nevertheless, having survived an epic childhood which found his parents playing hide-and-seek all over the world, and Dennis always finding them, he was allowed to matriculate to the seventh grade, after which he found himself seeking ungainful employment in the oilfields of the world and ranches of the West…

He frequents assorted gatherings and may be spotted at conventions, private parties, banquets, gunfights, chili cookoffs, hangin’s, hitchin’s, trail drives, campfires, rodeos, soup kitchens, dude ranches, horse sales, casinos and dogfights. He has never been seen in the company of lawyers, politicians or other such outlaws.

Through all of it, he has tried to preserve some of what is good about cowboy culture and its heritage, with an emphasis on humor, tradition and perhaps even a little bit of nostalgia.

He also adds, “I consider everyone a friend until proven otherwise; a philosophy that would go a long way toward solving the world’s ills if everyone thought likewise.”

Find more of Dennis Gaines’ poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

Thanks to Jeri Dobrowski for this photograph of Dennis Gaines. Find more of her photography here.

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

BACK HOME ON THE RANGE lyrics by Stan Howe

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©2004, Jeri Dobrowski, jeridobrowski.com

BACK HOME ON THE RANGE
lyrics by Stan Howe

His saddle still hangs by the door in the bunkhouse,
It’s been there for eighty four years.
Mom called me in Denver and told me the sad news,
I thought I was too old for tears.

Born in Miles City back in 1890,
He’d have rolled up a hundred this spring.
Born when the land and the range was still open,
Who could have guessed what his century would bring?

Chorus

And another old cowboy is gone, gone, gone,
We laid him to rest yesterday,
With a hearse drawn by horses, a few friends and neighbors,
Another old cowboy’s Back Home on the Range.

He married great Grandma back in 1920,
They ranched up along the Big Dry,
That’s pretty tough country to raise a big family,
Somehow they managed to always get by.

But the years keep on passing, lives keep on changing,
The hard work laid Great Grandma down.
It’s been twenty years since he sold off the home place,
Bought a house in Miles City and moved in to town.

Chorus

In a little white church, way out on the prairie,
Where for nigh on a century he knelt to pray,
Where he married Great Grandma and Baptized their children,
I sang him the old songs he’s loved all his days.

I Come To the Garden Alone, When the dew is still on the Roses…

And…On a Hill Far Away, Stood and Old Rugged Cross…

And I’d Like to Be in Texas For the Roundup in the Spring…

Chorus

And another old cowboy is gone, gone, gone,
We laid him to rest yesterday,
With a hearse drawn by horses, what’s left of our family,
Another old cowboy’s Back Home on the Range

© 1989, Stan Howe, used with permission

 

Stan Howe, Montana renaissance man, is a popular singer, songwriter, musician, entertainer, storyteller, writer, auctioneer, photographer, Model T authority, and fiddle expert. He is also host and producer of Montana Public Radio’s “Folk Show.”

The recent passing of friends prompted him to share these lyrics. He said that his stepfather inspired him to write the song, but that it really isn’t a song about him, but rather, “…it is a song about all the old cowboys who end up alone at the end, wife and family gone, too damned old to work and not many others around who remember what they remember. A lot of them used to end up in the old hotels in Miles City or Billings, sitting in the lobby and visiting until it was time to go over and have a drink or something to eat, play cards for the afternoon and get another day of their life done. I used to go to the Lincoln Hotel in Billings and sit and visit with them. I also used to go to the Cowboy Bar lunches in Great Falls and visit with the old guys and go to the Range Riders Museum in Miles City once in a while. Now they all get shuffled off to assisted living or the rest home, the old hotels are gone and I am not as interested in the old guys as I’m now one of them.”

The song is recorded on his Bunkhouse and Honkytonk CD.

Listen to Stan Howe and his “Yellowstone” song in “What’s in a Song” from NPR and the Western Folklife Center.

In another video, he sings “Memories of You.”

This photograph is by photojournalist Jeri Dobrowski (and good friend of Stan Howe). She tells about it, “The vintage horse drawn hearse in this photo is a working funeral carriage owned by Stevenson & Sons Funeral Homes, Miles City, Montana. Pictured here in September 2004, it was leaving the Custer County Cemetery, Miles City, after transporting my grandmother, E. Lucille Varnado, for burial. Many of the old-time ranchers and cowboys from the area take their last ride behind the roan Clydesdales that the Stevensons use to pull the hearse.”

Stan told us that his stepfather was carried to the cemetery in this same hearse. He wrote, “I have always thought Stevenson’s did a great service to the old cowboys and farmers of eastern Montana by maintaining that hearse. For what they charge they surely can’t make what it costs to feed the horses and replace them, haul them and the hearse, etc. But it must give them great satisfaction to know how much it is appreciated by the people who make use of that service.”

See some of Jeri Dobrowski’s photography at jeridobrowski.com.