THEN AND NOW by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There were officers, outlaws, and gamblers and scrappers,
That lived their wild lives in the stirrin’ old west.
There were bull whackers, mule skinners, soldiers and trappers;
But the old time cow puncher was there with the best.

The old frontier cattleman, cool and unhurried,
Though the danger was close, or the goin’ was tough:
Went on with his work, and he never once worried;
If he had a few cowboys, well, that was enough.

Now the bobbed wire fences have cut up the ranges.
The cattle themselves is a different breed.
There has been some improvement and plenty of changes.
There’s a heap in the blood, but there’s more in the feed.

The old time cow puncher, the dare devil ranger,
With a gun on his hip and the spurs on his heels,
Is replaced by a cow hand that works in less danger.
He is surer of shelter and regular meals.

Now the herdsman today has his troubles and losses,
But he still has the heart of the old time cow hand.
He is doin’ his best just the same as his bosses,
To raise the most beef, the best way he can.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, January, 1942

From 1936 through 1942, poet Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) and artist Katherine Field (1908 – 1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. This image is an original calendar page from January, 1942.

In 1939, Frank M. King, editor of the Western Livestock Journal, wrote, “…Sometimes Bruce’s poems are mailed up there to Katherine in her mountain home, and pretty soon it comes back with a drawing that just fits the poem. Then for a change she sends her drawings over here to Los Angeles and Bruce squints them eyes over ’em that he used to use for spying out long eared calves up there on them Colorado and Arizona mountain ranges, and in a right short time he comes out with one of them poems that exactly matches the picture, so they make a good team for matching up pictures and poems.” The two never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from “Open Range,” Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at


THE EARLY WORM by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

You git into yore soggy clothes
and go outside the door,
It’s been a rainin’ all night long;
it rained the night before.
It sets a hand to thinkin’
of the sayin’ he has heard
How he ort to git up early,
and be the early bird.

And shore enough you see a bird
a pullin’ out some worms.
The end that’s fast shore stretches,
and the other end shore squirms.
And it puts a different meanin’
on the sayin’ you have heard.
The worm ain’t never mentioned.
You jest hear about the bird.

Now the folks that own the outfit
are a restin’ warm in bed.
While the foreman and the cow boys
must git out and go ahead.
You wish fer yore tobacker,
and you use some awful words.
The hands and foreman is the worms,
the owner is the bird.

And you git a different idee
what you might be really worth.
And then you wonder what you’ll be
yore second time on earth.
You will likely be an inseck,
or some onimportant germ
Because you know this time on earth,
yore nothin’ but a worm.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1939

A good Monday morning poem, for all the worms out there.

This poem, illustrated by Katherine Field (1908-1951), first appeared in 1939 in the Western Livestock Journal and on the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar. It was reprinted in 1956.

As Bill Siems writes in his landmark book, Open Range, a monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry, “Western Livestock Journal was one of several interacting businesses clustered around the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards, all engaged in the raising,  marketing, and processing of livestock. Almost as soon as the Journal started publishing illustrated poems, the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards began issuing its own series, featuring an illustrated poem and calendar printed on five by ten inch card stock, enclosed with its Monthly Livestock Letter. Beginning with January 1933, these monthly calendars continued in an unbroken series through 1959, using reissued poems after the
deaths of Kiskaddon and Field.”

Kiskaddon and Katherine Field never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range.  Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at