THE TWISTER by Jay Snider

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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.)

CATTLE, by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

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CATTLE
by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

Other states were carved or born
Texas grew from hide and horn.

Other states are long and wide,
Texas is a shaggy hide.

Dripping blood and crumpled hair;
Some fat giant flung it there,

Laid the head where valleys drain,
Stretched its rump along the plain.

Other soil is full of stones,
Texans plow up cattle-bones.

Herds are buried on the trail,
Underneath the powdered shale;

Herds that stiffened like the snow,
Where the icy northers go.

Other states have built their halls,
Humming tunes along the walls.

Texans watched the mortar stirred,
While they kept the lowing herd.

Stamped on Texan wall and roof
Gleams the sharp and crescent hoof.

High above the hum and stir
Jingle bridle rein and spur.

Other states were made or born,
Texas grew from hide and horn.

…by Berta Hart Nance
Hear Andy Hedges’ outstanding recitation of this poem on the current Cowboy Crossroads episode. The episode is part one of a riveting interview with respected cowboy, horseman, reciter, and poet Joel Nelson, made at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering earlier this year. Joel Nelson tells great stories about his earliest ranch memories; time spent with his father, who was a cowboy and deputy sheriff; and about his early cowboying work, including his time at the 06 Ranch; and other formative experiences.

The popular Cowboy Crossroads podcast, a growing, lasting archive of engaging interviews with those involved in the working West and beyond, includes episodes with Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Dom Flemons, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, Wallace McRae, Amy Hale Auker, Ross Knox, and others.

Find Andy Hedges next at the 9th Annual Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering in Shoshone, Idaho on September 14-15. The lineup also includes Kristyn Harris, Brigid & Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, John Reedy, Lynn Kopelke, Panhandle Cowboys (Dave Fulfs & JB Barber), Tony Argento, Prairie Wind Coyote (Joseph Sartin & Little Joe McCutcheon), Open Range (Linda Hausler & Ric Steinke), Thatch Elmer and David Anderson.

Andy Hedges has many other performances coming up at interesting venues. See andyhedges.com for his schedule.

In his 1941 book, “The Longhorns,” J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964) writes, “The map of Texas looks somewhat like a roughly skinned cowhide spread out on the ground, the tail represented by the tapering peninsula at the mouth of the Rio Grande, the broad head by the Panhandle. But ‘Cattle,’ by Berta Hart Nance, goes deeper than the map.”

Berta Hart Nance (1883-1958) was the daughter of a rancher, who was also a Confederate veteran, Indian fighter, and cousin of Jefferson Davis,” according to the Texas Almanac, which includes more about her life and writings. In 1926, her book-length poem about Texas was published, “The Round-Up.” She had two other books of poetry published, and her work was included in many anthologies.

Find more about her and her poem at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1938 photograph, “Cattle range on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle,” is by noted Depression-era documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). It’s from The Library of Congress U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs.

Dorothea Lange is best known for her Depression-era photograph of a migrant woman. See that photos and others in a 2013 Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find a brief biography of Dorothea Lange, a part of Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl, at PBS. The Museum of Modern Art has a gallery of photos.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

BOOMER JOHNSON, by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

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BOOMER JOHNSON
by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

Now Mr. Boomer Johnson was a gettin’ old in spots,
But you don’t expect a bad man to go wrastlin’ pans and pots;
But he’d done his share of killin’ and his draw was gettin’ slow,
So he quits a-punchin’ cattle and he takes to punchin’ dough.

Our foreman up and hires him, figurin’ age had rode him tame,
But a snake don’t get no sweeter just by changin’ of its name.
Well, Old Boomer knowed his business – he could cook to make you smile,
But say, he wrangled fodder in a most peculiar style.

He never used no matches – left em layin’ on the shelf,
Just some kerosene and cussin’ and the kindlin’ lit itself.
And, pardner, I’m allowin’ it would give a man a jolt
To see him stir frijoles with the barrel of his Colt.

Now killin’ folks and cookin’ ain’t so awful far apart,
That musta been why Boomer kept a-practicin’ his art;
With the front sight of his pistol he would cut a pie-lid slick,
And he’d crimp her with the muzzle for to make the edges stick.

He built his doughnuts solid, and it sure would curl your hair
To see him plug a doughnut as he tossed it in the air.
He bored the holes plum center every time his pistol spoke,
Till the can was full of doughnuts and the shack was full of smoke.

We-all was gettin’ jumpy, but he couldn’t understand
Why his shootin’ made us nervous when his cookin’ was so grand.
He kept right on performin’, and it weren’t no big surprise
When he took to markin’ tombstones on the covers of his pies.

They didn’t taste no better and they didn’t taste no worse,
But a-settin’ at the table was like ridin’ in a hearse;
You didn’t do no talkin’ and you took just what you got,
So we et till we was foundered just to keep from gettin’ shot.

When at breakfast one bright mornin’, I was feelin’ kind of low,
Old Boomer passed the doughnuts and I tells him plenty:
“No, All I takes this trip is coffee, for my stomach is a wreck.”
I could see the itch for killin’ swell the wattle on his neck.

Scorn his grub? He strings some doughnuts on the muzzle of his gun,
And he shoves her in my gizzard and he says, “You’re takin’ one!”
He was set to start a graveyard, but for once he was mistook;
Me not wantin’ any doughnuts, I just up and salts the cook.

Did they fire him? Listen, pardner, there was nothin’ left to fire,
Just a row of smilin’ faces and another cook to hire.
If he joined some other outfit and is cookin’, what I mean,
It’s where they ain’t no matches and they don’t need kerosene.

…by Henry Herbert Knibbs

Henry Herbert Knibbs never worked as a cowboy, but he was a student of the West and his friendships, including one with cowboy, rancher, and writer Eugene Manlove Rhodes informed his work. His poems are still often recited today, including “Boomer Johnson” and “Where the Ponies Come to Drink,” “The Walking Man,” “Shallows of the Ford,” and “So Long, Chinook!”

Find more about Knibbs and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This poem always brings to mind great cowboy cook, poet, storyteller, and television personality Kent Rollins, whose temperament is the opposite of Boomer Johnson. Kent and Shannon Keller Rollins take their restored 1876 Studebaker wagon to the National Crafts and Cowboy Festival, which happens September 12-October 27, 2018 at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

Kent and Shannon will be at the festival October 3-27, and Kent also appears during the event in “An Evening on the Trail,” with Gunsmoke star and artist Buck Taylor.

Other performers during the festival include The Western Flyers, Syd Masters & The Swing Riders, Belinda Gail, The Home Rangers, and The Willis Clan.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cook of SMS Ranch making bread in front of chuck wagon. Ranch near Spur, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

Find a feature about noted photographer and teacher Russell Lee with a gallery of photographs from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the@University of Texas at Austin here.

(This poem and photo are in the public domain.)

WHEN THE DOGS TOOK OVER THE RANCH by Andy Nelson

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WHEN THE DOGS TOOK OVER THE RANCH
by Andy Nelson

The day that the dogs took over the ranch,
Was a day just like the others;
They figured they had all the help they needed,
With all their sisters and brothers.

So, they fired the people and sent them away,
And divvied the chores between dogs;
Each of them having at least some expertise,
In caring for cattle and hogs.

The Border Collie was voted the foreman,
The Aussie was next in command;
And barked out orders to the rest of the pack,
“Oy, muster the doggies at hand.”

“Aye, get off yer bahoochies,” snapped a Sheltie,
The Kelpie yelped, “Good on ya, mate;
No one could understand the Catahoula,
As he sat there blocking the gate.

An English sheep dog woofed, “I’ll watch the woolies,”
“For this purpose, I’ve been tutored;”
The Heeler howled, “I’ll take care of the Sheilas,”
Even though he had been neutered.

And they did just fine for a while on the ranch,
Everything seemed hunky dory;
Til one day a snotty scotty terrier,
Marked another’s territory.

Then they all began to bark more and wag less,
And it came to a fever pitch;
When the Dachshund was fired the day after he called
the boss’s sister a bitch.

The Pyrenees chased off the coyote cousins,
For eating some of the chickens;
The Labradoodle phoned the SPCA;
From there the plot only thickens.

Cuz someone made fun of the Shih Tzu’s haircut,
And called him a mop with four feet;
Then they all had to take some workplace training,
And learn how to be more discreet.

It all fell apart when the Chihuahua got stuck,
Trying to clear a blocked rumen;
“Ah bloody hell,” snapped an indigent Corgi,
“We’re in dire need of a human.”

The Collie growled, “Let’s not be too hasty chaps,
I’m not sure that we need those bums;
I think a chimpanzee would do in a pinch,
All we really need are some thumbs.”

© 2018, Andy Nelson, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Pinedale, Wyoming’s Andy Nelson is a second-generation farrier, cowboy poet, emcee, humorist, rodeo announcer, and co-host (with his brother Jim) of the popular syndicated Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio show.

“When the Dogs Took Over the Ranch is on new CD, Uncle Charlie and the Squeeze Chute of Death. Find more about it in a brief review along with another poem from the CD, “You Can Learn a Lot from a Cowboy,” in a recent post here.

This photo of Stubby is courtesy of Andy Nelson.

This weekend Andy Nelson is at the Western Legends Roundup in Kanab, Utah, along with Jared Rogerson, The Bellamy Brothers, and much more. Sam DeLeeuw oversees cowboy poetry at The Barn at the Parry Lodge.

See Andy next at the 27th annual Old West Days Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering, September 27-30, 2018 in Valentine, Nebraska. He is a featured performer, joining Jean and Gary Prescott, Campfire Concerto with Paul Larson, Chuck Larsen, and Sam Noble.

Find Andy Nelson’s complete schedule and more at cowpokepoet.com.

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

THE MEN WHO RIDE NO MORE, by Joel Nelson

joelkrphoto of Joel Nelson © Kent Reeves, www.cowboyconservation.com

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
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without 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. See a biography there.

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 this video from a 2012 appearance at the Blanton Museum.

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

Joel Nelson is a part of the stellar lineup for the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering in Fredericksburg, November 8-10. He will join Amy Steiger (Amy Hale Auker), Cowboy Celtic, Mike Blakely, Dom Flemons, Pipp Gillette, Andy Hedges, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, and Trinity Seely.

This c. 1993 photograph of Joel Nelson is by Kent Reeves, 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; at www.cowboyconservation.com; and on Facebook.

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

THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND lyrics by Gary McMahan

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THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND
lyrics by Gary McMahan

The old Double Diamond lay out east of Dubois
in the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer’s gavel rapped and it rattled,
as I watched the old Double Diamond go.
Won’t you listen to the wind
Mother Nature’s violin.

When I first hired on the old Double Diamond
I was a dammed poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim,
well my spirit was tame
couldn’t see all the cards in my hand.
And the wind whipped the granite above me
and blew the tumbleweeds clean through my soul.

I fought her winters, busted her horses
I took more than I thought I could stand,
but the battle with the mountains and cattle
seems to bring out the best in a man.
I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
and a mama, her babies to hold.

And I need the hills of Wyoming
in the land of the buffalo
Now shes sellin’ out, and I’m movin’ on
But I’m leavin’ with more than I came
‘Cause I got this saddle and it ain’t for sale,
and I got this song to sing

I got this a new range to find
and new knots to tie
in a country where cowboys are kings
I turned my tail to the wind,
and the old Double Diamond
disappeared into the sage.

Yay ee o-del o-hoo – dee

© 1975, words and music by Gary McMahan
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Gary McMahan’s widely loved song has been cited as one of today’s top cowboy songs by Western Horseman. It has been recorded by Chris LeDoux, Ian Tyson, and dozens of other artists. Gary tells about writing the song:

My dad was a cattle trucker and had hauled lots of cattle out of Dubois, Wyoming, for a fella named Ab Cross. Ab owned the grand old Cross Ranch outside of Dubois. Dad and Ab were good friends, and I became a friend of the Crosses as well.

I believe it was 1973 when Dad and I were up there in Dubois on a fishing trip. We stayed with the Crosses, and as we were getting ready to head out, Ab said, “You’re not leaving today, are you? The Double Diamond Ranch is going on the auction block today, and it’s kind of a big deal around these parts.” So Ab talked us into staying an extra day.

We all went to the sale and saw the fine old ranch go. There were a bunch of cowboys there who had just lost their jobs and were loadin’ up and moving out, all heading to what they hoped would be another cowboyin’ job somewhere. It struck my heart, and I thought this was kind of typical of what was going on in the West.

That next day on the drive back to Colorado, I wrote the basics of the song “The Old Double Diamond.” I was living in Nashville at the time and over the next…I don’t know…nine months or so, I refined the song into the song you hear today.

It’s been cut I don’t know how many times by big names and small alike. I never tried to control who sang the song. I just let it have its head…I rarely meet a cowboy who doesn’t know the words to that song.

Listen to Gary McMahan’s rendition at his web site and see a video here.

Find an Ian Tyson version on YouTube and one by Chris LeDoux here.

Find more about Gary McMahan at CowboyPoetry.com; visit his site, singingcowboy.com (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums); and find him on Facebook.

See Gary McMahan at Colorado’s 29th annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 5-8, 2017. He joins Andy Nelson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Floyd Beard, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, R.P. Smith, Terry Henderson, and many others.

This year’s theme is “cowboy humor.”

Much goes on at the event in addition to cowboy poetry and music stage shows: the popular Cowboy Poet Train, the Cowboy Poet Trail Ride, the Cowboy Parade, a chuck wagon breakfast, theatre performances, art exhibits, and more.

There’s a particular special event this year: A showing of Everything in the Song is True, Doug Morrione’s award-winning feature-length documentary film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse. Find more about the film at everythinginthesongistrue.com and on Facebook.

This image is this year’s great fine art poster with the painting, “Ten Below Zero,” by artist Andrew Peters (andrewpetersart.com).

Find more about the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering at durangocowboypoetrygathering.org and on Facebook.

 

Campfires, Cattle & Cowboys Gathering, November 17, 2017, Duncan, Oklahoma

Campfires, Cattle & Cowboys Gathering

LIVE! UNDER THE STARS! Campfires, Cattle, and Cowboys Gathering, a cowboy poetry evening, returns for its third year, Friday, Nov. 17, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan.

Featured artists include nationally-recognized cowboy poet Jay Snider, cowboy poet laureate Francine Roark Robison, Danny Carl Williams, Donnie Poindexter, and the duo of Jim Garling on the guitar and Susanne Woolley on the fiddle.

Novice performers get a chance to break in their boots on the stage during open mic session interspersed through the featured performers from 6:00 – 9:00pm. Register that night or call for details.  All family friendly spoken or musical poetry welcome.

Meet, mingle and pick up your favorite artists’ books and CDs from 5:00-6:00pm or at their artist table throughout the night.

To warm your innards, there will be campfires, hot coffee and plenty of hot chocolate.  Bring your blankets and lawn chairs for this outdoor gathering. No charge to attend with a recommended donation of $20 to help the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center fulfill its mission and continue these types of programs.

For information, visit onthechisholmtrail.com; facebook.com/onthechisholmtrail/events; or call 580-252-6692.