by DW Groethe

How they love to go a neighborin’
and seek more scenic bits of range.
I think, perhaps, they’ve joined
some kind of herbivore exchange.
No matter—
Every clip had better be in place
and hangin’ tight and true.
Best tap them staples exter good
so the girls ain’t slippin’ thru.

Their whole reason for existence,
till you get that yearlin’ bull,
is to poke an’ test and stretch your wire
an’ patience to the full.
I beat ’em once to a saggin’ line
before they made their break,
I know, that sounds outrageous
but it’s the truth for heaven’s sake.

I was snuggin’ up the wire
’bout to tie that little loop
when I gets this eerie feelin’
I just joined a bigger group.
So, I kinda ease my eyes around
to get a better glance
and what I see are strainin’necks and heads
all in a bovine trance.
Starin’ like no tomorrow
their mouths a slowly chewin’
and I swear a listenin’ close
I heard a voice say, “Whatcha doin’?”

“Hah,” I cried “Get outa here!
Yer givin’ me the willies!”
And “Poof!” recedin’ heifer butts,
I’m feelin’ pretty silly.
‘Cause here I’m thinkin’ “holy moly”
“Where’ve they got to now?”
There’s nothin’ worse on this whole earth
than tendin’ future cows.

Houdini in his prime could never
disappear as swift
as a herd of yearlin’ heifers
who decide it’s time to drift.
Vacatin’ pens you got ’em in
for places quite unknown
to themselves, or even heaven,
when they get that urge to roam.
I do not know exactly why
they’re made that way, but lord,
I do know this, if you keep heifers,
you are never, ever bored.

© 2004, DW Groethe
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Eastern Montana ranch hand, poet, and picker DW Groethe performs at venues small (his favorite) and large. He’s appeared many times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and has been invited to the National Traditional Council for the Arts’ National Folk Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Library of Congress, and other places.

Find more about DW Groethe and more of his poetry and lyrics at

This 2009 photo of DW Groethe is by photographer, photojournalist and teacher Jessica Brandi Lifland, an official photographer for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. It is from her project documenting the lives of cowboy poets. Her photoblog includes a slide show of her photographs of DW Groethe, accompanied by his recitation of “Yearlin’ Heifers” from the first volume of The BAR-D Roundup.

Find more about Jessica Brandi Lifland at her web site.

>>>>> This is a scheduled post. We’re on a break until May 25.



photo © 2015, John Michael Reedy;  request permission for any use.


by DW Groethe

It must’ve been a day
for peace an’ reverie
When my father took a pencil in his hand
an’ scribed upon his notebook,
all the horses that he’d had
when growin’ up in West Dakota land.

I can see him sittin’, thoughtful,
soft smile in his eyes,
As the ponies pranced before him, once again.
Then he jotted each one down,
with a slow an’ careful hand.
Sometimes, horses, can count right up with kin.

Tobe, Frank an’ Muggins,
Daisy I an’ Daisy II,
(his mem’ry felt a breeze that stirred their manes.)
Charlie, Chub an’ Pearl
found their way up to the front
an’ back once more upon the dusty plains.

Prince I an’ II an’ Mike
come lopin’ lightly into view,
he penned their mem’ries, gentle on the page…
a-waitin’ an’ a thinkin’,
he was missin’…just a few
when Queen an’ May neared, nickerin’ thru the sage.

An’ finally, down the draw,
come Thunder, Buck an’ Bill
a’flyin’ like the wind an’ they was one.
then he eased back in his chair,
contemplatin’ all that’s there,
his gatherin’ of the old bunch was all done.

Yeah…it must’ve been a day
of peace an’ reverie,
in his office, at a desk of metal gray,
when the ol’ man made a tally
a-gatherin’ up his cavvy,
One last time, a-fore they slipped away.

© 2007, DW Groethe, used with permission
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission.

Eastern Montana ranch hand, poet, and picker DW Groethe told us about this popular poem’s inspiration, “Among the many things I inherited from my father was a box of items from his office desk. In it there was a handful of pens and pencils and a small pocket notebook (stapled, not spiral-bound). On the first page he’d written the names of sixteen horses…the horses he’d grown up with back in the twenties and thirties. I wish I could remember all the stories he had about them. As it is, all I have is a page in an old worn notebook and a poem to honor their memories.”

DW performs his poetry and music at venues small and large. He’s appeared many times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and has been invited to the the National Traditional Council for the Arts’ National Folk Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, @The Library of Congress, and other places.

He returns to the Western Folklife Center’s 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this week (January 30-February 4, 2017).

The complete lineup includes Amy Hale Auker – Prescott, AZ; Mike Beck – Monterey, CA; Luke Bell – Cody, WY; Jerry Brooks – Sevier, UT; Cowboy Celtic -Turner Valley, Alberta, Canada; Doris Daley – Black Diamond, Alberta, Canada; John Dofflemyer – Lemon Cove, CA; Carolyn Dufurrena – Winnemucca, NV; Maria Lisa Eastman – Hyattville, WY; Don Edwards – Hico, TX; Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – Marshall, CA; Dom Flemons & Brian Farrow – Hillsborough, NC; Patricia Frolander – Sundance, WY; DW Groethe – Bainville, MT; Kristyn Harris – McKinney, TX; Andy Hedges – Lubbock, TX; Brenn Hill – Hooper, UT; Teresa Jordan – Virgin, UT; Ross Knox – Midpines, CA;Jarle Kvale – Dunseith, ND; Daron Little – Encampment, WY; Corb Lund – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Doug Moreland & the Flying Armadillos – Manchaca, TX; Joel Nelson – Alpine, TX; Rodney Nelson – Almont, ND; Shadd Piehl – Mandan, ND; Vess Quinlan – Florence, CO; Henry Real Bird – Garryowen, MT; Brigid Reedy – Boulder, MT; Randy Rieman – Dillon, MT; Kent Rollins – Hollis, OK; Jack Sammon – Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia; Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld – Birney, MT; Trinity Seely – Cascade, MT; Sean Sexton – Vero Beach, FL; Sourdough Slim & Robert Armstrong – Paradise, CA; R.P. Smith – Broken Bow, NE; Dave Stamey – Orange Cove, CA; Gail Steiger – Prescott, AZ; Rod Taylor – Cimarron, NM; Ian Tyson – Longview, Alberta, Canada; Keith Ward – Vilas, NC; Andy Wilkinson – Lubbock, TX; and Paul Zarzyski – Great Falls, MT.

Find more at

Find more about DW Groethe and his books and recordings here at

This beautiful June, 2015 photograph is by John Michael Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. Pictured along with the horses are Brigid and Johnny Reedy, both talented, creative young people. Poet, songwriter, and musician Brigid Reedy, 16, also returns to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this week, where she will also take part in the special Moth radio broadcast.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s photo site. Find more about him at and visit




Illustration by Scott Nelson


by DW Groethe

It was Christmas in the badlands
An’ the moon was shinin’ bright—
So I figgered dear ol’ Santa
Wouldn’t need no exter light
When he come across the prairie
An’ down the coulees deep—
To drop me off my presents
While I was sound asleep—
—That’s what I get for figgerin’—
Once again I’se proven wrong
‘Cause I shoulda fixed that yard light
in the middle of my lawn.
Now—I knew the thing was history—
Heck, it burnt out in the spring
When I wacked it up a good one
With my alfalfa balin’ thing.

Still—it come as quite a shock
That night on Christmas Eve—
When a clatter did arise
An’ what my blood shots did perceive—
Eight tiny little reindeers
Stumblin’ ’round my yard
With about a million presents—
Some still bouncin’ mighty hard.
And layin’ in the middle,
With his suit so big an’ red,
Was none other than his elfness
Slowly shakin’ his old head.

Oh my lord!—I started thinkin’
Ain’t this the Cat’s Meow—
I’d best be gettin’ movin’
And I’d best be movin’ now!
‘Cause they’d smacked into that light pole
An’ it wasn’t fer no joke—
Looked like my chance fer presents
Had all gone up in smoke.
I’m halfway apoplectic
An’ sorry as can be
As I run like all the dickens
To help him to his feet.

I gets him kinda dusted—
Then we both eyeball the scene
Lookin’ pert near like a war zone,
If yer knowin’ what I mean.
Then’r peepers lit upon it—
What used ta be his sleigh—
An’ there weren’t no use denyin’
It had seen its better days.
I’m feelin’ real depressed
—Then I seen him drop his head—
I knew what he was thinkin’
So I quiklike thought—an’ said—

“Yer lookin’ kinda worried
But I tell ya what we’ll do—
A bit a wire an’ some nails
She’ll be flyin’ good as new.
We can take a couple fence posts
An’ bend ’em at the end
Then ya got yerself some runners
To get up an’ off again.
We’ll grab ‘r selves some planks
An’ nail ’em right around
What’s left a that ol’ chassis—
Heck—She’ll float right off the ground!”

Well—he paused an’ thought a bit—
Perked up—an’ said “Yer right!”
“But we’d best be gettin’ hoppin’
I got a fairly busy night!”
So faster than a twinklin’
I gets the parts we need—
An’ before ya even knowed it
We undone the dirty deed.

Then we gathers in the reindeer
Hitch ’em to the sleigh
An’ round up all the presents
Til’ they’re packed and stashed away.
An’ as he climbed aboard
He turned—Just like a shot—
Stopped an’ handed me some presents
An’ said—”I near forgot!”
I heard him when he hollered
As he flew on outa sight—
“Merry Christmas you old codger—
Next year turn on the light!”

© 1997, DW Groethe, used with permission

Montana ranch hand, poet, and picker DW Groethe creates an illustrated Christmas poem every year. This one is from his entertaining chapbook, A Charlie Creek Christmas & Other Wint’ry Tales of the West.

This illustration is by Scott Nelson. Among his many credits, Scott Nelson also has illustrated Rodney Nelson’s Wilbur’s Christmas Gift, and volumes of his Up Sims Creek columns (including a new one, just released) and Rodney’s daughter, photographer Annika Plummer’s new book, The Apple Story.

DW performs his poetry and music at venues small (which he really likes) and large. He’s appeared many times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and has been invited to the National Traditional Council for the Arts’ National Folk Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Library of Congress, and other places. Find more about DW Groethe at