PAYIN’ ATTENTION by Carole Jarvis


photo © 2017, Jessica Hedges


by Carole Jarvis

“I told ya’ once, it’s the second gate,
and leave the thing open!
Close the one with fingertrap;
That’s where they’ll water—I’m hopin’.

“Now pay attention; watch fer cows;
make sure the fences are up.
Keep yer mind on what we’re doin’ out here,
and quit lookin’ fer buttercup!”

Then off he rides in a cowboy trot,
his eyes on the trail up ahead.
And me, I’m tryin’ to concentrate,
on all of the things he just said.

But above me there’s a red-tail hawk,
and I watch him circle and soar.
Then into the wind he dips and turns,
with the grace of a matador!

And what made those tracks in the wash;
they’re not rabbit or coyote I know,
But some kind of critter wandered this way,
and it hasn’t been that long ago.

Guess I really shouldn’t tarry though,
so come on old horse, let’s get goin’.
I’m sure by now Dan’s halfway there,
and I’d better be a-showin’.

Okay, this trail is headed right,
and I can see all the fence from here.
Gee, what a lovely day for a ride,
oh wow, there’s a herd of mule deer!

With three or four does and a buck
a couple of spikes! Boy they’re quick!
Over that ridge and out of sight
Like kids on a pogo stick!

That buck was a five-point, at least!
I wonder where he hid last fall?
Wherever it was, I hope he goes back—
uh oh, I think I head a cow bawl!

Oh nuts, that came from way up ahead—
I pray they’re not through the gate!
Come on little horse, let’s hit a lope,
I’m in big trouble if I’m too late!

And there they are, headin’ straight in
toward the gate I’m supposed to close!
At a dead run now, it’s nip and tuck—
And I beat ‘um—but just by a nose!

Wow! That was too close, old pony,
I’d never hear the end of that,
If they’d gotten through and scattered…
well, let’s go see where the rest are at.

Here comes Dan now with the big bunch,
ridin’ in from the other direction.
“Good,” he says, when he sees these cows,
“looks like ya’ paid attention!”

I always do, I say to him,
and a laugh is his reaction.
Just because on a rare occasion,
I might have had a distraction.

So I tell him the fence is all up,
and there’s plenty of feed in the draw.
But I keep to myself, all the other things,
that when I paid attention I saw!

© 2003, Carole Jarvis
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Popular poet Carole Jarvis has lived and cowboyed in Wyoming, Oregon and Arizona. She has written, “… there’s been a lot of hard work, dusty trails, blisters, sunburns and broken bones along the way, but it’s the life I chose and the one Dan, my husband chose, and we wouldn’t trade it for any other.”

Carole Jarvis lives is the recipient of the 2001 Gail I. Gardner Award for a Working Cowboy Poet, bestowed at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering at Prescott, Arizona and of the 2003 Western Heritage Award, bestowed at the 15th Annual Cowboy Christmas Poetry Gathering in Wickenburg, Arizona.

This poem is included in her book, “Time Not Measured By a Clock” and she recites it on Volume 7 of The BAR-D Roundup from Find more of her poetry, including a moving tribute to her late husband, and more about her at

This photograph is by poet, cowboy, and entrepreneur Jessica Hedges. Her “Branded in Ink by Jessica Hedges” company “serves the ag community through the art of storytelling on social media and beyond.” Her photography (see more on Instagram at brandedinink and cowboyinlady) is available as prints, cards, and more. Find more at

Jessica is among the poets and musicians taking part in the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and
Music Gathering, February 2-4, 2018 in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Featured performers are 3 Trails West, Floyd Beard, Almeda Bradshaw, Patty Clayton, The Cowboy Way, Doris Daley, Peggy Godfrey, Hanson Family, Joe Herrington, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Carolyn and Dave Martin, Syd Masters Band, Doc Mehl, Notable Exceptions, Trinity Seely, Tom Swearingen, Barry Ward, and Joyce Woodson. Saturday Daytime Performers are Vic Anderson, Janet Bailey, Valerie Beard, Cimarron Sidekicks, Dean Cook, Joel Eliot, Thatch Elmer, Jessica Hedges, Ron Hinkle, Randy Houston, Steve Jones, Susie Knight, Mary Matli, Dave and Kathy McCann, James Michae, Mark Munzert, OK  Chorale Trio, Ramblin’ Rangers, Dennis Russell, Gail Star, Rocky Sullivan, Miss “V”,  and Washtub Jerry.

ALONE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)


photo © 2017, Jessica Hedges; request permission for use


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

The hills git awful quiet, when you have to camp alone.
It’s mighty apt to set a feller thinkin’.
You always half way waken when a hoss shoe hits a stone,
Or you hear the sound of hobble chains a clinkin’.

It is then you know the idees that you really have in mind.
You think about the things you’ve done and said.
And you sometimes change the records that you nearly always find
In the back of almost every cow boy’s head.

It gives a man a sorter different feelin’ in his heart.
And he sometimes gits a little touch of shame,
When he minds the times and places that he didn’t act so smart,
And he knows himself he played a sorry game.

It kinda makes you see yourself through other people’s eyes.
And mebby so yore pride gits quite a fall.
When yore all alone and thinkin’, well, you come to realize
You’re a mighty common feller after all.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area.

This poem appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in September, 1937 and was reprinted in Kiskaddon’s 1947 Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.

As we’ve told many times, Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.

Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental Open Range that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, Shorty’s Yarns; and more at

Andy Hedges has an excellent recitation of this poem on the latest episode of Cowboy Crossroads. It accompanies an interview with Hal Cannon, folklorist, musician, and Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center. Hal talks about his earliest experiences with cowboy poetry, the beginnings of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, his music, and more. All of the Cowboy Crossroads podcasts are good listening. Find them here.

Thanks for this recent photo to poet, writer, cowboy, and photographer-with-a-great-eye Jessica Hedges. She and her family live in Southern Oregon where her husband, Sam, cowboys. Just a few places you’ll find Jessica performing her poetry in coming months include the WSRRA Western States Ranch Rodeo Association Finals in Winnemucca, NV, November 2-5, 2017; Cowgirls Night Out at The High Desert Museum in Bend, OR, November 9, 2017; and the Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Sierra Vista, AZ, February 2-4, 2018.

Find more about Jessica at; at her site,; at Instagram; and on Facebook.

ONE LAST BRANDING by Jessica Hedges


by Jessica Hedges

From the hackamore to the two rein, from the two rein to the bridle
Steeping in Spanish tradition, he is every cow pony’s idol

Year after year he has made the push to this old cedar round corral
Held sliding reata dallies, watching rise and fall of crew’s morale

He has been rim fired, wrapped up, burned, had ropes between his legs like snakes
With each rawhide loop that shakes out, he proves what he can mentally take

Experience has taught him to pin his ears and shift his weight just so
For he has found victory in positioning for the perfect throw

Jerking slack from a head loop that settles right is only just the start
It takes patience to build up quiet, pulling to fire shows heart

Avoiding the trap’s dangers, trotting straight to set up the double hock
Taking slack out for the heeler, loop coming tight right at the calf’s sock

Facing up, holding strong, while rider slides coil helping the ground crew
Ropes get set, build up short, hold tight until the bull to steer change is through

With a nod from the ground crew and the heeler, dallies are popped off clean
Grateful for the day, grateful for the anything but basic routine

He first gathered to here at two, watching the branding chaos unfold
He smelled the scorch of burning hide, watched the wrecks, heard bridle crickets rolled

In his third year he came to the fire on the heels, guide horse beside him
That smoke was a lot scarier then as it floated up under limb

With time and patience, he was brought through jaquima to freno traditions
Perfected by the Moors, the Spaniards, and the vaqueros of the missions

Each hackamore and bridle has brought with it a new expectation
A level of finesse understood across boundaries of nation

His eleven year teeth long gone, semi-retired status at best
No more circles, branding pens and sorting alleys by boss’s request

The go to for youngsters and elders, guide horse for an upcoming colt
They question if he’ll make another winter while I secretly revolt

Through his stiff, slackened moves I still see the cow horse he was in his prime
I’m just asking for one more branding, just one more before his due time

© Jessica Hedges, used with permission

Cowboy, mother, ranch wife, and more, Jessica Hedges and her poem took home the Georgie Sicking Award (which included custom spurs by Tommy Thompson) at last weekend’s Western Music Association (WMA) convention.


The Georgie Sicking Award, offered by the Western Wordsmiths chapter of the WMA, “…is presented to the author of a single poem that honors a working ranch cowboy’s lifestyle and celebrates our Western heritage.”

Watch a video from Jessica Hedges in which she talks about the award and recites the poem.

The award is named in honor of beloved cowboy and poet Georgie Sicking (1921-2016). Read more about her and find links to her poetry  here on this blog.

Jessica Hedges is also an entrepreneur and event organizer, and she performs across the West. This Friday she’ll be at the Temptations Cowboy Concert Series in Lovelock, Nevada, and in coming weeks she’ll be emceeing other shows there featuring Mary Kaye, Brenn Hill, and Andy Nelson.

Find more about Jessica Hedges, including her poetry CDs and schedule, at,  at her site,; and on Facebook.

Jessica Hedges also shared this photograph.