STORY WITH A MORAL, by Waddie Mitchell

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STORY WITH A MORAL
by Waddie Mitchell

Now I know there’s things worse
that make cowpunchers curse
And I reckon it’s happened to us all
Though it’s been years, since, you can bet
when I think of it yet,
It still makes my old innards crawl.

I was makin’ a ride
to bring in one hide
That hadn’t showed up in the gather
I was riding upstream,
daydreamin’ a dream,
When I caught there was somethin’ the matter.

Near some quaking asp trees
I had caught in the breeze
A stench that was raunchy and mean
And I reckoned as how
it might be the old cow
So I rode to a bend in the stream.

Sure enough, that cow lied
in the crick there and died
Hard telling how long she’d been been there
She was bloated and tight
was a horrible sight!
She was oozing and slipping her hair.

Her eye sockets were alive
with maggots that thrive
On dead flesh, putrid yellow and green,
An’ the hot sun burning down
turning pink things to brown
Spewing oily gunk in the stream.

I spurred upwind fast
to get away from the blast
Of the heavy stench the cow made
And I felt bad seein’s how
I’d lost the old cow
So I pulled up near a tree in the shade.

Then, I got sick to the core
rememberin’ just moments before
I’d done something that made me feel worse
Not thirty yards down
I’d stepped off to the ground
And drank till my belly near burst!

For months after it
just the thought made me spit
And I’d live it over like a bad dream.
And the moral, I think
is: if you must take a drink,
Never, ever, remount and ride upstream.

© Waddie Mitchell, reprinted with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This poem, a favorite of many, is included in top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell’s recent award-winning book, 100 Poems. Find our review here.

Another recent release of note is the impressive Cohorts & Collaborators; Songs Written with Waddie” from Western Jubilee. Waddie comments in the liner notes, “This album is a special project…I send off some of my words and get back another artist’s genius.” Those artists include Dave Stamey, Brenn Hill, Trinity Seely, Jon Chandler, The Gillette Brothers, Sons and Brothers, Dean Walden, and Juni Fisher.

Waddie headlines Utah’s 24th annual Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 24-28, 2018 and joins poets Randy Rieman, Andy Nelson, Jeff Carson, Doris Daley, Jo Kirkwood, and Al Doc Mehl and musicians John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, Max T. Barnes, Dave Stamey, Hot Club of Cowtown, Brenn Hill, Jack Hannah, Ed Peekeekoot, Ryan Fritz, Trinity Seely, Charley Jenkins Band, Dyer Highway, High Country Cowboys, Gary McMahan, Stacy Despain, Nancy Elliott, Randy Huston, Stewart MacDougall, Many Strings, Kenny Hall, Kristen J. Lloyd, In Cahoots, and the Heber Valley Orchestra.

Waddie’s bio tells, “From his earliest days on the remote Nevada ranches where his father worked, Waddie was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining, the art of spinnin’ tales in rhyme and meter that came to be called cowboy poetry, a Western tradition that is as rich as the lifestyle that gave birth to it.” Since then he’s been a great ambassador for cowboy poetry. He was instrumental in creating the first cowboy poetry gathering and has appeared on national television and radio and at gatherings and events across the West. He has received countless awards, including the respected Wrangler Award and the prestigious Nevada Heritage Award.”

Find more about Waddie Mitchell at Western Jubilee, via waddiemitchell.com, and in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

We’re pleased to have Waddie Mitchell’s voice on many of our recordings, including the recent MASTERS: Volume II, on which he recites S. Omar Barker’s “Thanksgiving Argument.”

This circa 1985 photo was taken at the Little e Ranch.

Thanks to Waddie Mitchell for his generous permissions.

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

YOU CAN LEARN A LOT FROM A COWBOY by Andy Nelson

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photo by Stuart Johnson

YOU CAN LEARN A LOT FROM A COWBOY
by Andy Nelson

“Now boarding flight 63 to Denver,”
Is what the flight attendant said;
I grabbed my duffle, dumped out my coffee,
Hoping to be one place ahead.

But then she said,
“Only members of the Pompous and Privileged Club first;”
Then they loaded the first-class passengers,
It turns out, that wasn’t the worst.

They were loading the plane from front to back,
Which assures the thing I always dread;
The guy with the “too-large-to-carry-on,”
Smacks everyone else in the head.

As I walked by whacking all that I passed,
I thought, common ev’ryday folk
could learn a few things from the western world,
Especially from a cowpoke.

Stock-haulers know how to load up a rig,
They do it from nose, back to the door;
The other way, you can’t get them all in,
I don’t need to say anymore.

A packer can help you pack for your trip,
And do it with nary a glitch;
Pack lean and light and then balance your load,
Tie it with a nice diamond hitch.

Need a mani-pedi before you go?
A farrier’s the guy to pick;
He’ll only twitch you if you don’t behave,
And won’t even get in the quick.

A rawhide braider is right for the job,
With pigtails for the well-traveled;
He will braid them up most perfect and tight,
And they’ll never come unraveled.

If turbulence scares or makes you get sick,
Bronc riders can help you lick that;
A riggin, some rosin, and a thick leather glove,
Will keep you right where you’re sat.

Cowboy advice ain’t just for traveling,
It helps with a wide range of chores;
Some Utah hobbles to ground tie your horse,
Can be used to hold up your drawers.

Need bodywork on a dent in your car?
Let a rancher address your claim;
A couple of whacks with his sledge hammer,
And then both sides will look the same.

Can’t back a truck and a trailer up straight?
A teamster can show how it’s done;
Need someone to give your Shih Tzu a shave?
A sheep shearer’s prob’ly the one.

A blacksmith can save on your home decor,
With some horse shoe hangers and art;
Need assistance with landscaping duties?
A goatherd could give a head start.

There’s lots to be learned from cowboys each day,
And plenty of things to discuss;
And if you make him shop or drive downtown,
He’ll sure as heck teach you to cuss.

A little common sense sure goes a long way,
you might as well take our advice;
Load the dang plane from the back to the front,
and maybe then lower the price.

© 2018, Andy Nelson
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.

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His new CD, Uncle Charlie and the Squeeze Chute of Death, rich and varied, has bulls, dogs, geezers, horses, and things that nearly defy description (for example, the title poem, so well illustrated by top cowboy cartoonist Ben Crane on the CD’s cover). Andy can be funny, philosophical, serious, complex, and more than a bit wild. There are several tracks that also feature cowboy singer and songwriter Brenn Hill, and the experience of these two friends, who often perform together, comes through in excellent collaborations.

A couple of heartfelt tear-jerkers (“Waiting” and “The Cowboy I Never Knew”) are included. In a fine rendition of the late Don Kennington’s “The Last Nail,” Andy Nelson’s love and respect for his mentor and friend reflects the deep relationship of the two. Don Kennington would be proud.

A hidden track at the end, starring Jim Nelson, Andy’s brother and radio co-host, is as wonderfully wacky as he is. Let’s say he puts the O! in outrageous.

Beneath the hilarity, the whole project is produced with a care and professionalism that’s a great model for others.

Find the CD at Andy Nelson’s site (and check out some of Ben Crane’s other covers on earlier cds). Cowpokepoet.com also includes Andy Nelson’s performance schedule and more.

This coming weekend, find Andy and Brenn Hill at a National Day of the Cowboy Preserve event in Prairie City, Oregon, on July 28 organized by cowboy, author, and poet Kathy Moss. See an article here.  They also appear in Paisley on July 27 at a fundraiser for the Sunny Hancock-Leon Flick Memorial Cowboy Poetry Gathering and scholarship. See an article here.

And, among other places, find Andy at Western Legends Roundup, Kanab, Utah (August 23-25, 2018); Old West Days, Valentine, Nebraska (September 29, 2018); and the Heber Valley Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Heber City, Utah (October 24-28).

At Heber City, he’ll be joined by poets Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Al “Doc” Mehl, Doris Daley, and Jeff Carson. Featured musicians are John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, Max T. Barnes, Dave Stamey, Hot Club of Cowtown, Brenn Hill, Jack Hannah, Ed Peekeekoot, Ryan Fritz, Trinity Seely, Charley Jenkins Band, Dyer Highway, High Country Cowboys, Gary McMahan, Stacy Despain, Nancy Elliott, Randy Huston, Stewart MacDougall, Many Strings, Kenny Hall, Kristen J. Lloyd, In Cahoots, and the Heber Valley Orchestra. Find more at hebervalleycowboypoetry.com.

Photo of Andy and Jim Nelson courtesy of Andy Nelson.

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

A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA, by Al “Doc” Mehl

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A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA
by Al “Doc Mehl

There’s a quilt in north Nebraska,
That’s been sewn into the land;
Rolling grass fields are the fabric,
And the batting’s made of sand.

It’s been trimmed at the horizon
Where it’s pinned against the sky;
Ev’ry stock tank is a button,
Ev’ry windmill is a tie.

And the runs of old barb’d wire,
They are the braided threads with which
Nimble fingers sew a pattern;
Ev’ry fence post is a stitch.

Each square tells a family’s story,
Sewn inside a bound’ry fence;
That quilt chronicles a his’try
’Bout the trials of sustenance.

Formed of fabric from those lives,
That quilt will shield us from the storm;
Daytime’s tapestry breathes beauty,
Come the night, ’twill keep us warm.

Pieced a broad mosaic patchwork,
’Tis a blend of life and line;
I should think that some great spirit
Had a hand in the design.

Most folks picture the Almighty
In the image of a man.
But if judging by that quilt,
I’d say God has a woman’s hands.

© 2008, Al “Doc” Mehl, used with permission

 

Poet, songwriter, and musician Al “Doc” Mehl told us about this poem soon after it was written, and he illustrates relationships among poets:

Several years ago as I was driving into the Sand Hill country of Nebraska to perform at Old West Days in Valentine, I couldn’t help thinking of the finely detailed quilting of good friend and accomplished poet Yvonne Hollenbeck ([a Nebraska native] who lives nearby just across the state line in South Dakota). The rolling grass covered hills of this uniquely beautiful countryside reminded me of Yvonne’s billowy bed-cover creations, and an idea for a poem began to take shape.

As it turns out, a few scribbles on a loose scrap of paper were all that survived that original inspiration, and the cryptic notes languished in a “poems-in-progress” file until recently… Jane Morton was kind enough to present me with a copy of her latest CD titled Turning to Face the Wind. Listening to her recording, I was inspired to revisit my own quilting-poem idea by Jane’s somber poem, “Summer ’34.” In this piece, Jane describes her mother taking up the art of piecing a quilt to combat the loneliness she felt living out on the eastern plains of Colorado. I can still hear Jane’s voice: ‘Mom pieced and pieced and pieced some more, that summer ’34; My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.’

I pulled my former notes from the file that evening, and it seems the original idea had finally come of age; the poem about the Sand Hill country flowed out onto the page.

Doc also shared this photo, which he says was, “…taken by me in the Sand Hills of Nebraska on the ranch where poet Marty Blocker was working at the time.

The happy couple of Doc Mehl and Doris Daley live in Black Diamond, Alberta. They’ll both be at the Bar U Ranch in Southern Alberta on July 1, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering (Prescott, Arizona, August 9-11) and at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering (Heber City, Utah, October 25-28).

At the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Doris Daley and Doc Mehl will join Gary Allegretto, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Marleen Bussma, Don Cadden, Dean Cook, Kevin Davis, Sam DeLeeuw, Mike Dunn, Thatch Elmer, Don Fernwalt, Linda Lee Filener, Pipp Gillette, Amy Hale Auker, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Al “Doc” Mehl, Mike Moutoux, Mark Munzert, Old Time Fiddlers, Jay Parson, Jean Prescott & Gary Prescott, Dennis Russell, Rusty Pistols Reloaded, Buck Ryberg, Jim & Nancy Sober, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, and Barry Ward. Find more at azcowboypoets.org.

Performers at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poet Gathering are Dave Stamey, Waddie Mitchell, Gary McMahan, Andy Nelson, Randy Rieman, Brenn Hill, Doris Daley, Al “Doc” Mehl, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Randy Huston, Trinity Seely, Kenny Hall, Jeff Carson, High Country Cowboys, Ryan Fritz, John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, Max T. Barnes, Hot Club of Cowtown, Jack Hannah, Ed Peekeekoot, Dyer Highway, Many Strings, Stacy Despain, Nancy Elliott, Charley Jenkins Band, Stewart MacDougall, In Cahoots, Kristen J. Lloyd, and the Heber Valley Orchestra. Find more at hebervalleycowboypoetry.com.

Also find Doc at other venues, including the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Durango, Colorado, October 4-7) where he’ll join Dave Stamey, Jay Snider, Floyd Beard, Curt Brummett, Kristyn Harris, Sam Noble,Ken Overcast, The High Country Cowboys, Vic Anderson, Sally Bates, Colt Blankman, Jack Blease, Rick Buoy, Patty Clayton, The Cowboy Way, Sam DeLeeuw, Thatch Elmer, Nolan King, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Susie Knight, Maria McArthur, Slim McWilliams, Gary Penney, Hailey Sandoz, Lindy Simmons, Gail Starr, Washtub Jerry, Cora Rose Wood, and Laurie Wood. Find more at www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org.

You can even catch Doc playing cello with the “new-grass” group “Highwood;” watch for dates on Doc’s website, DocMehl.com

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