COWBOY COURTIN’ TIME by Elizabeth Ebert

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photo of “Jim,” © 2018, AmyHaleAuker

 

COWBOY COURTIN’ TIME
by Elizabeth Ebert

When Romeo went courtin’
He climbed a balcony,
And some men serenade you
Upon their bended knee.

Leander swam the Hellespont
To reach his lady’s side,
But when a cowboy comes a-courtin’
You get a pickup ride.

Sometimes the pickup’s even washed
(Will wonders never end?)
But like as not he’s brought along
His trusty cowdog friend.

The dog will bark a welcome
(And you know what that means)
There’ll be paw prints and dog hair
Upon your new black jeans.

The cowboy’ll open up the door
And hold it while you enter.
You know he’s gettin’ serious
‘Cause he sits you in the center.

The cowboy’s reeking of cologne,
Half a bottle, you can tell,
You wish he’d shared it with his friend
Who has that doggy smell.

A hairy face on one side
A mustache on the other,
And both of them are squeezin’ in
‘Til you think you’re gonna smother.

You sit there in the middle
Like a rabbit in the hole.
The one is merely droolin’
While the other’s droolin’ Skoal.

Makes a body sometimes ponder
On the strange queer twists of fate
Makes you sometimes even wonder
Which one really is your date.

The cowboy’ll put his arm around
And hug you ’til you hurt.
And then he starts to pawin’
(The dog, that is) your shirt.

They’ve got you snuggled there between
Just a pawn within their game.
I doesn’t matter where you turn
‘Cause they kiss about the same.

Long years have passed since courtin’ time
Changed me from Miss to Mrs.
And I’ll admit, I’ve grown to like
Those cowboy-cowdog kisses.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission.

It’s a pleasure to have the perfect Valentine poem from South Dakota’s much-loved poet Elizabeth Ebert, who is turning 93 later this month. This poem appears in her book, Crazy Quilt. She introduces it, writing, “Don’t tell me that cowboys aren’t romantic!”

Journalist Carson Vaughan wrote about Elizabeth Ebert in a February, 2017 American Cowboy profile, “The Grande Dame of Cowboy Poetry.”

Find more about Elizabeth Ebert at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph of “Jim” is by writer and cowboy Amy Hale Auker. Like Amy, Jim works and lives on Arizona’s Spider Ranch. He recently got a new partner, and you can follow the fun on Amy Hale Auker’s Instagram. Amy Hale Auker is the author of four acclaimed books—two novels and two essay collections—with new publications forthcoming. Find more about her at AmyHaleAuker.com.

Find more Valentine’s Day poems at CowboyPoetry.com.

HE TALKED ABOUT MONTANA, by Elizabeth Ebert

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photo © 2015, Jessica Brandi Lifland

 

HE TALKED ABOUT MONTANA
by Elizabeth Ebert

He talked about Montana
For he’d worked there in his youth,
And you somehow got the feeling
That most of it was truth.
Talked about the things he’d done there,
Memories from a happy past.
Talked about Montana rivers
Running cold, and deep and fast,
About pines upon a hillside
And mountains rising high,
About the endless reaches
Of a blue Montana sky.

Said he left there at the war’s start,
Went to tell his folks good-bye.
Then there was a wartime wedding
To a girl who got his eye.
Said she’d keep the home fires burning,
‘Til the war was past and won,
Wrote her love to him in letters,
Sent him pictures of their son.
And the letters and the pictures
Helped him bear the death and blood.
And he’d dream about Montana
As he slogged through foreign mud.

They would buy a little ranch there,
And he’d teach the boy to ride.
It would be a bit of heaven,
With his family at his side.
But he came home to discover
Someone else was in his place.
She had found another lover.
It was more than he could face
For he was tired of fighting,
So he merely let them go.
It was then he started drinking,
Just to ease the pain, you know.

He’d work a month cold sober,
And then he’d draw his pay,
He was headed for Montana;
But the booze got in his way,
And he never made it out of town,
‘Fore the money all was spent
And he was busted flat again,
And he didn’t know where it went.
So he’d come back asking for his job.
And he’d hope you’d understand.
And you always hired him on again
For he was a darned good hand.

And he’d talk about Montana.
And you’d get a glimmer then,
Of the cowboy that he used to be,
And the man he might have been
Before the war and wife and whiskey
Had bent him out of shape.
Now the war and wife were history
And the whiskey was escape.
But he swore that he was going back
And he’d do most anything
For Montana sure was pretty
When it greened up in the spring.

Then he finally got an offer
To tend a band of sheep.
It was just for winter wages,
Barely paid his board and keep.
But it was in Montana,
So he was on his way,
He could stand to winter woollies,
He would work for little pay,
For he’d be there in the springtime
When the sky turned clear and blue,
And he’d go back to punching cattle
When his winter job was through.

Don’t know why he left the sheep camp,
Started walking into town,
Maybe he just needed whiskey
To wash the lonely down.
Quick come Montana’s blizzards.
Deep falls Montana’s snow.
And unforgiving are the winds
When they once begin to blow.
He’d come looking for his Paradise,
He hadn’t come to die.
But he froze upon a lonely road
‘Neath a cold Montana sky.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

South Dakota’s much-loved poet Elizabeth Ebert, who turns 93 this month, is celebrated for her powerful writing as well as her quick wit and humor.

Baxter Black has said of her (and referring to this poem): “To say that I admire Elizabeth’s writing seems meager comment on her talent. She writes from inspiration with such graceful force it’s like her pen has power steering. There are so many first class pieces in her books, most contemporary cowboy poets would covet even just one so good in their armory. If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all: ‘Before war and wife and whiskey/ Had bent him out of shape/ Now the war and wife were history/ And the whiskey was escape.'”

Journalist Carson Vaughan wrote about her in a February, 2017 American Cowboy profile, “The Grande Dame of Cowboy Poetry.”

Find more about Elizabeth Ebert at CowboyPoetry.com.

This beautiful photograph of Elizabeth Ebert was taken in 2015 photojournalist Jessica Brandi Lifland (jessicalifland.smugmug.com; jblifon Instagram) at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find more of her gathering photos at her photo blog and see her Cowboy Poetry Project images and gathering archives here.

TRUE GRIT by Elizabeth Ebert

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TRUE GRIT
by Elizabeth Ebert

The crowd had all left the rodeo ground,
Just a bunch of old cowboys were hangin’ around.
Hunkered down on rheumatic haunches,
With balding pates and protruding paunches,
Drinkin’ to the old days way back when
The horses were tougher and so were the men.
And every time that the jug went ’round
The toasts got longer and more profound.
“Here’s to the world’s best buckin’ horse!”
(That was Tipperary, of course.)
“To the Pony Express that carried the mail!”
“To Old Man Chisholm and his trail!”
To ranchers and rustlers and those in between,
To the rivers they’d crossed and the mountains they’d seen.

Then old Bill said, with a hearty burp,
“Let’s drink to the lawmen—to Wyatt Earp
And Morgan, and Doc, and that OK crew,
They were real brave men, but I’m telling you,
The man I remember most of all,
He weren’t no real lawman a’tall.
But that fellow from down at the picture show,
The one that had ‘True Grit,” you know.
I was a lawman once myself.
My guns are at home on the closet shelf,
But if I could ride for the law again
I’d ride in the hoofprints of John Wayne
When he played that Rooster Cogburn fellow.
Now there’s a marshall who wasn’t yellow,
With his reins in his teeth and his guns in his hand
He rode right into that outlaw band.
He was old like me, and tired and fat.
I wish I could make one ride like that!”

Then Ed said, “By pure Providence,
There’s a horse standin’ over along the fence
With a saddle that looks like a pretty good fit
And we’re here to judge if you’ve got true grit.
If you want that ride, you can make it still.”
Old Bill stood up, “By God, I will!
But Rooster Cogburn wore a patch,
And so to make it a fairer match
I’ll stick my glasses here in my pocket,
Then the ride will be square and you can’t knock it;
But when I take them off, of course,
You’ll have to point me toward that horse.
I was a lawman as you well know,
My guns are at home and I’ve told you so
But my pickup truck holds a twenty-two
And an old twelve-gauge, and I’ll make ’em do!”
So they helped him on and he sat up proud,
Said those famous words and he said ’em loud
And they sounded just like poetry.
Said, “Fill your hands, you S.O.B.!”

Then he struck the reins into his mouth
And he kicked that horse and they took off south.
He raised up the shotgun and fired a round,
The fellows they all hit the ground
While the pellets riddled the pickup truck
And the horse went into a crow-hop buck.
Bill might have stuck on, as like as not
He might have stuck on, but he plumb forgot,
Forgot that his teeth were the store-bought kind
And he wore ’em loose so they wouldn’t bind.
They slid from his mouth, still chewin’ that rein
And Bill came down in a world of pain.

His pocket was filled with shards of glass.
His teeth were scattered across the grass.
His hat was smashed and his Sunday clothes
Were spattered with blood from his busted nose.
But he staggered up—to their vast relief.
Said, “A gritty man don’t need no teeth
No glasses neither! You know darned well
He can spot a jug by his sense of smell!”
So they passed it around and they had to admit
John Wayne never had no truer grit.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, used with permission, from Crazy Quilt

South Dakota’s much-loved poet, 92-year old retired ranch wife Elizabeth Ebert, has delighted audiences across the West. Carson Vaughan recently profiled her in an article,”The Grande Dame of Cowboy Poetry,” for American Cowboy Magazine. Read the article here.

Elizabeth Ebert has a wide range, creating memorable poems both serious and humorous. Baxter Black has said of her (and referring to her serious poem, “He Talked About Montana”): “To say that I admire Elizabeth’s writing seems meager comment on her talent. She writes from inspiration with such graceful force it’s like her pen has power steering. There are so many first class pieces in her books, most contemporary cowboy poets would covet even just one so good in their armory. If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all: ‘Before war and wife and whiskey/ Had bent him out of shape/ Now the war and wife were history/ And the whiskey was escape.'”

Elizabeth Ebert has CDs and books. Find more about her at CowboyPoetry.com.

After listening to the new MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com, Elizabeth Ebert commented about some of the poets included, “…I sat at a book table one day with Larry and watched him draw horses and other animals on the white plastic table cloth. He was quite an artist and much too young to die. J.B. fascinated me as he reminded me of a corner post–straight, solid and unmovable. I could not believe that he never wrote down a poem until it was finished in his head, and never changed a word after it was written. And Sunny with that mean look he loved to startle people with when he was really such a sweet guy. We spent a lot of time with him and Alice at gatherings. Out at Prescott [Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering] he asked if he could do ‘True Grit’ and it just seemed to fit him so well that I never recited it again until after he had died….He was certainly one of a kind.”

This c. 1922 photograph by the Bain News Service is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. It is described, “Cowboy riding bronco while other cowboys look on.” Find more about it here.