INSIDE WAR, by Joel Nelson

veteranskr

INSIDE WAR
by Joel Nelson

We read stories of Wars
Hist’ries written on pages
And records of battle
Drawn on walls of the cave
Read of Glory and Honor
And Right through the ages
And all those who fell
‘Neath the crest of the knave

The themes are eternal
Of wars on the ocean
Of axes and swords
On the Otterburn Plain
The ninety gun Frigates
The horsemen in motion
The bleeding has stopped
But the stories remain

There are terms of Armistice
And flags of surrender
This war fought for freedom
That war saved a race
Twixt savages cruel
Or soldiers yet tender
The scholars record them
And each has its place

Some go unrecorded
Wars fought self-contained
Conflicts never ending
No respite or truce
For the foe lives within
Lashing out unrestrained
And the warrior wears thin
From the battles’ abuse

The shelling subsides
Then intensity quickens
With most unaware
Of the state of the war
Leaving soldier and loved ones
With Conflict that thickens
Outsiders observing
The scene from afar

There is only so long
Any warrior can battle
‘Til he must succumb
To the enemy inside
So loosening the reins
Stepping down from the saddle
Heaving sigh of relief
He will cease his long ride

His allies left standing
Gather somewhat uncertain
Refraining from judgment
United by love
Acknowledging peacetime
And drawing the curtain
Leaving all in the hands
Of the Maker above

© 2008, Joel Nelson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

In observance of Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, we’re honored to share the words of Texas rancher, poet, reciter, and horseman Joel Nelson. He served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. A National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Fellow, Joel Nelson is respected for his writing and his reciting.

He is just back from the soldout 2nd annual Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering . Find him at the Western Folklife Center’s 36th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 27-February 1, 2020 in Elko, Nevada and at the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering, February 21-22, 2020 in Alpine, Texas,  where he is the keynote speaker.

Find more about Joel Nelson at cowboypoetry.com.

This photograph, by Idaho filmmaker, writer, teacher, and photographer Ken Rodgers, was taken in 2016 at the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

bravop

Ken and the equally talented photographer and filmmaker Betty Rodgers are the creators of the award-winning film, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, about the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines during the 1968 siege at Khe Sanh in the Republic of Vietnam, in which Ken served. The film is available for streaming at
amazon.com. Find more at bravotheproject.com, where there is an engaging blog.

imarried

Their latest project, I Married the War, tells the stories of the lives of combat veteran spouses, from WWII through today. It is in final editing stages. Find more about it at imarriedthewar.com.

Find poems and more for Veterans Day at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

THE MEN WHO RIDE NO MORE, by Joel Nelson

kentjoelphoto © Kent Reeves, request permission for any use

THE MEN WHO RIDE NO MORE
by Joel Nelson

“Bronc to Breakfast” calendars hang fading on the walls
There’s a lost and aimless wandering through the corridors and halls
Of slippered feet that shuffle on a waxed and polished floor
And vacant stares of emptiness from the men who ride no more

Men who once rode proudly—men with long straight backs
Men who covered hill and plain with steel shod horses’ tracks
Now pass their idle days in rooms with numbers on the door
With orderlies and nurses for men who ride no more

Time was when spur rowels jingled when boot heels bumped the floor
Dawns with hot black coffee and saddling up at four
With feet in tapaderos and broncs between their knees
And silken neck scarves snapping as they turned into the breeze

From full-blown living legends true to riding for the brand
To the scarcely mediocre who could hardly make a hand
They would gather for the branding or the shipping in the Fall
Now it’s walker, cane, and wheelchair in the antiseptic hall

And they all have their mementos on the table by their side
Like a cracked and fading snapshot of a horse they usta ride
Or standing with the wife beside a thirty-seven Ford
A high-heeled boot hooked nonchalant on a muddy running board

Just instants frozen from the past that somehow give a clue
To who and what they were before their riding days were through
Horseback men with horseback rules from horseback days of yore
Their one and only wish would be to somehow ride once more

To once more rope a soggy calf and drag it to the fire
To long-trot for a half a day and see no post or wire
To ride a morning circle—catch a fresh one out at noon
And trot him in when the day was done to the rising of the moon

To put in one more horseback day and have just one more chance
To ride home to a pretty wife and drive her to the dance
To take her hand and hold her close and waltz across a floor
Before the time to join the ranks of men who ride no more.

© 1997, Joel Nelson, used with permission

Texas rancher Joel Nelson is highly respected as a poet, reciter, and horseman.

This poem appears on Joel Nelson’s CD, The Breaker in the Pen, the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that the recording “raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years.” The poem is also on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Four.

Joel Nelson was named a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow in 2009.

Read an excellent 2010 profile of Joel Nelson by Ryan T. Bell, “Joel Nelson, The Horses and the Words.”

Find a number of video performances on YouTube, including a video from a 2012 appearance at the Blanton Museum.

Find Joel Nelson at the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering, which was started last year and is already making its mark as a don’t-miss event. The second annual gathering is November 8-9, 2019, in Fredericksburg. The lineup includes Mike Beck, Andy Hedges, Brigid and Johnny Reedy, Joel Nelson, Krystin Harris, Pipp Gilette, Sourdough Slim, Rodney Nelson, Mike Blakely, and Stephanie Davis (just announced, replacing Cowboy Celtic).

He returns to the Western Folklife Center’s 36th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 2-February 1, 2020. Find more about performers, workshops, shows and sessions, and more at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

Joel Nelson will give the keynote speech at the new Lone Star Cowboy Gathering in Alpine, Texas, formed by an energetic group of people, including co-chair and poet Kay Nowell, in response to this year’s retirement of the venerable Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The event is scheduled for February 21-22, 2020. Find a recent press release here. Visit the Lone Star Cowboy Gathering site for more information and sign up for their news at lonestarcowboypoetry.com.

Find more about Joel Nelson, including this poem and others, at CowboyPoetry.com.

This c. 1993 photograph of Joel Nelson is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist, from the landmark book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.

Kent Reeves writes in the book’s Acknowledgments, “…I owe my work in this book to all the poets who allowed me to interrupt their lives and who took me in for a few days. I do not feel that I ‘took’ these photographs; I believe that each poet gave them to me.” In addition to Joel Nelson, the book includes chapters with Buck Ramsey, Wallace McRae, Rod McQueary, Linda Hussa, John Dofflemyer, Shadd Piehl, Paul Zarzyski, Sue Wallis, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, and Drummond Hadley.

See a gallery of photos from the book on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at cowboypoetry.com and at cowboyconservation.com.

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

USELESS QUESTION and TEXAS ZEPHYR by S. Omar Barker

txcowboysy

USELESS QUESTION
by S. Omar Barker

No Texan ever asks you where you’re from. In fact they say
He views such questions as but idle chatter.
Because if you’re from Texas, you will tell him anyway,
And if you’re not, it really doesn’t matter.

TEXAS ZEPHYR
by S. Omar Barker

To figure how hard the wind blows out on the Texas Plains,
You hang a fresh-killed beef up with a pair of logging chains;
And if, on the morning after, you find your beef’s been skinned,
And you have to ride to find the hide, there’s been just a little wind!

…poems courtesy of the S. Omar Barker Estate, used with permission.
These poems should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Though he hailed from New Mexico, S. Omar Barker seemed to know something about Texas. He 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.

On MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker, Texan Kay Kelley Nowell recites “Useless Question” and Texan Linda Marie Kirkpatrick recites “Texas Zephyr.”

Both Kay Kelley Nowell and Linda Kirkpartick are involved with new Texas gatherings.

Kay Kelley Nowell is part of the committee for the new Lone Star Cowboy Gathering in Alpine, Texas, formed by an energetic group of people in response to this year’s retirement of the venerable Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The event is scheduled for February 21-22, 2020. Visit their site for more information and stay tuned for more news here.

Linda Kirkpatrick is a part of the lineup for the first annual Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Winsboro Center for the Arts, October 19, 2019. She’ll be joined by Lavern “Straw” Berry, Joe Dan Boyd, Teresa Burleson, Don Cadden, Bob Campbell, Allan Chapman, “Doc” Davis, Pipp Gilette, Chris Isaacs, Gary Robertson, Hailey Sandoz with Kristin Harris, Jay Snider, Doug Tolleson, and Conrad Wolfman.

And the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering, started last year and already making its mark as a don’t-miss event, holds its second annual gathering November 8-9, 2019, in Fredericksburg. The lineup includes Mike Beck, Andy Hedges, Brigid and Johnny Reedy, Joel Nelson, Cowboy Celtic, Krystin Harris, Pipp Gilette, Sourdough Slim, Rodney Nelson,
and Mike Blakely.

This c. 1901 photograph by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) is titled “A group of Texas cowboys” at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

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