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.

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“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.

THE TWISTER by Jay Snider

jsb1979

THE TWISTER
by Jay Snider

If he bucks me off, he’ll have to shed his skin
Was the claim the twister made
He said,” There ain’t a bronc that’s drawed a breath
Can shake me loose from this Wade”

Strong words like those need provin’, son
Are you sure you’re up to the test
He said “Let’s catch one up, ya’ll stand aside
Watch this bronc rider do the rest”

Well, we were impressed by the twister’s sand
Thought, heck, this might even be fun
So we bunched ‘em up and circled ‘em round
And cut out the little red dun

He’s a spindly, sorta wild eyed colt
Long necked and a little light boned
But every puncher that had tried him before
In one jump, had been dethroned

“He’s bad as they come in these parts”, I said
The twister just shot me a grin
Said “Bad broncs are my business, if he bucks me off
He’ll have to jump right out of his skin”

So Charlie Bob roped him and snubbed him up close
Ole’ Slim got a mouthful of ear
It took Rusty and Bub and ole’ Jake to hold him
While the twister stacked on his gear

Then the twister stepped on, took a mighty deep seat
Charlie Bob pitched him his head
The colt went from round pen floor to tree top high
Then his north end went south instead

I’ve seen cowboys throwed higher and harder
But I can’t remember just when
And I reckon, Ole’ Snake, be a fittin’ name
Cause this colt just shed his skin

The twister, you see, learned his lesson well
‘Cause he now sings a different song
“It takes a plenty bad hombre to throw me off
But it sure don’t take him long”

© Jay Snider, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This photo of popular Oklahoma rancher, poet, and reciter Jay Snider is from Lawton, Oklahoma, 1979. He told us that the bull “belonged to F&F Rodeo Company and was simply called #33.”

“Twister” is on Volume Nine of The BAR-D Roundup CD from CowboyPoetry.com.

Jay has a recent CD, Classic Cowboy Poetry: The Old Tried and True, which showcases his fine reciting. He delivers poems by Bruce Kiskaddon, Henry Herbert Knibbs, Will Ogilvie, Sunny Hancock, and others, to carry listeners back to time when, to quote Kiskaddon, “cattle were plenty and people were few.”

For a great look at how Jay Snider handles the classics, see a video of him reciting Sunny Hancock’s “The Bear Tale” at the 2010 Western Folklife Center National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Find Jay at Colorado’s 30th annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 4-7, 2018.  Jay joins Dave Stamey, Floyd Beard, Curt Brummett, Kristyn Harris, Sam Noble, Ken Overcast, The High Country Cowboys, Vic Anderson, Mark Baker, Sally Bates, Colt Blankman, Jack Blease, Rick Buoy, Patty Clayton, The Cowboy Way, Sam DeLeeuw, Thatch Elmer, Nolan King, Jo Kirkwood, Susie Knight, Allora Leonard, Maria McArthur, Slim McWilliams, Doc Mehl, Dave Munsick, Gary Penney, Hailey Sandoz, Lindy Simmons, Gail Starr, Miss V – The Gypsy Cowbelle, and Washtub Jerry.

He’ll be at the Red Steagall Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 26-28, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas along with Yvonne Hollenbeck, Red Steagall, “Straw” Berry, Mikki Daniel, Don Edwards, Bobby Flores, Kristyn Harris, Jake Hooker, Chris Isaacs, Jean Prescott, Dan Roberts, Leon Rausch, and Hailey Sandoz.

November 7-11, 2018, find him at the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas, along with Adrian Brannan, Kevin Davis, Jeff Gore, Ross Knox, Chuck Milner, Caitlyn Taussig, and Rod Taylor.

Find more about Jay Snider at CowboyPoetry.com and at his web site, jaysnider.net.

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

A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA, by Al “Doc” Mehl

quiltdoc

A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA
by Al “Doc Mehl

There’s a quilt in north Nebraska,
That’s been sewn into the land;
Rolling grass fields are the fabric,
And the batting’s made of sand.

It’s been trimmed at the horizon
Where it’s pinned against the sky;
Ev’ry stock tank is a button,
Ev’ry windmill is a tie.

And the runs of old barb’d wire,
They are the braided threads with which
Nimble fingers sew a pattern;
Ev’ry fence post is a stitch.

Each square tells a family’s story,
Sewn inside a bound’ry fence;
That quilt chronicles a his’try
’Bout the trials of sustenance.

Formed of fabric from those lives,
That quilt will shield us from the storm;
Daytime’s tapestry breathes beauty,
Come the night, ’twill keep us warm.

Pieced a broad mosaic patchwork,
’Tis a blend of life and line;
I should think that some great spirit
Had a hand in the design.

Most folks picture the Almighty
In the image of a man.
But if judging by that quilt,
I’d say God has a woman’s hands.

© 2008, Al “Doc” Mehl, used with permission

 

Poet, songwriter, and musician Al “Doc” Mehl told us about this poem soon after it was written, and he illustrates relationships among poets:

Several years ago as I was driving into the Sand Hill country of Nebraska to perform at Old West Days in Valentine, I couldn’t help thinking of the finely detailed quilting of good friend and accomplished poet Yvonne Hollenbeck ([a Nebraska native] who lives nearby just across the state line in South Dakota). The rolling grass covered hills of this uniquely beautiful countryside reminded me of Yvonne’s billowy bed-cover creations, and an idea for a poem began to take shape.

As it turns out, a few scribbles on a loose scrap of paper were all that survived that original inspiration, and the cryptic notes languished in a “poems-in-progress” file until recently… Jane Morton was kind enough to present me with a copy of her latest CD titled Turning to Face the Wind. Listening to her recording, I was inspired to revisit my own quilting-poem idea by Jane’s somber poem, “Summer ’34.” In this piece, Jane describes her mother taking up the art of piecing a quilt to combat the loneliness she felt living out on the eastern plains of Colorado. I can still hear Jane’s voice: ‘Mom pieced and pieced and pieced some more, that summer ’34; My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.’

I pulled my former notes from the file that evening, and it seems the original idea had finally come of age; the poem about the Sand Hill country flowed out onto the page.

Doc also shared this photo, which he says was, “…taken by me in the Sand Hills of Nebraska on the ranch where poet Marty Blocker was working at the time.

The happy couple of Doc Mehl and Doris Daley live in Black Diamond, Alberta. They’ll both be at the Bar U Ranch in Southern Alberta on July 1, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering (Prescott, Arizona, August 9-11) and at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering (Heber City, Utah, October 25-28).

At the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Doris Daley and Doc Mehl will join Gary Allegretto, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Marleen Bussma, Don Cadden, Dean Cook, Kevin Davis, Sam DeLeeuw, Mike Dunn, Thatch Elmer, Don Fernwalt, Linda Lee Filener, Pipp Gillette, Amy Hale Auker, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Al “Doc” Mehl, Mike Moutoux, Mark Munzert, Old Time Fiddlers, Jay Parson, Jean Prescott & Gary Prescott, Dennis Russell, Rusty Pistols Reloaded, Buck Ryberg, Jim & Nancy Sober, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, and Barry Ward. Find more at azcowboypoets.org.

Performers at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poet Gathering are Dave Stamey, Waddie Mitchell, Gary McMahan, Andy Nelson, Randy Rieman, Brenn Hill, Doris Daley, Al “Doc” Mehl, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Randy Huston, Trinity Seely, Kenny Hall, Jeff Carson, High Country Cowboys, Ryan Fritz, John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, Max T. Barnes, Hot Club of Cowtown, Jack Hannah, Ed Peekeekoot, Dyer Highway, Many Strings, Stacy Despain, Nancy Elliott, Charley Jenkins Band, Stewart MacDougall, In Cahoots, Kristen J. Lloyd, and the Heber Valley Orchestra. Find more at hebervalleycowboypoetry.com.

Also find Doc at other venues, including the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Durango, Colorado, October 4-7) where he’ll join Dave Stamey, Jay Snider, Floyd Beard, Curt Brummett, Kristyn Harris, Sam Noble,Ken Overcast, The High Country Cowboys, Vic Anderson, Sally Bates, Colt Blankman, Jack Blease, Rick Buoy, Patty Clayton, The Cowboy Way, Sam DeLeeuw, Thatch Elmer, Nolan King, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Susie Knight, Maria McArthur, Slim McWilliams, Gary Penney, Hailey Sandoz, Lindy Simmons, Gail Starr, Washtub Jerry, Cora Rose Wood, and Laurie Wood. Find more at www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org.

You can even catch Doc playing cello with the “new-grass” group “Highwood;” watch for dates on Doc’s website, DocMehl.com

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