,jessicaboys2photo © 2018, Jessica Hedges

by Ken Cook

I’ll tell this one straightforward and try not to leave undone,
the building of a friendship I watched while being spun.

The scene, a grassy horse trap on a crisp October day
after men had saddled up and rode out on their way.

I spied a cowboy on a mission, packin’ a halter big as he was.
Appeared to me, from his pint size, his plan had tall size flaws.

How he’d catch a horse and get on put my mind in a fizzle,
but he was gathering props to complete his horseback puzzle.

If you’re barely tall as meadow grass and a horse is big and stout,
it takes a heap of cowboy try to make things all work out.

He hunted up two buckets, turned’em over on a bank,
disappeared down by the barn and found a narrow plank.

Board went on the buckets, step one was complete,
then hustled back up to the barn to get his horse a treat.

Tossed oats in a coffee can, couple handfuls so they’d rattle,
boldly walked out to the tank where I knew things would unravel.

Several horses came and went, each one drank their fill,
the little feller paid no mind, just stood there calm and still,

until a big black gelding raised his head and snuck a look,
boy shook the can, and that coax worked just like he’d set a hook.

One hoof, then another, not a trot but not a walk.
Gelding sensed just what was coming, even so he did not balk.

With a flat hand full of berries, lured that big head ever lower
’til Dad’s halter fell in place and in a flash the catch was over.

Horse finished all the oats, even the dribbles on the ground,
Lad calmly stroked his neck like a lost friend he’d just found

and I swear that horse just melted, how can youngsters be that smart?
Easy I guess, if all you do flows freely from your heart.

Now I couldn’t hear what he was sayin’, but while they both were walkin’,
his words just kept on coming and that kid went right on talking

until horse and he were standing at the board, set up for mounting,
and next thing I saw happening was the little guy was ridin!

I assume with one arm wavin’, he and his crew were gathering,
after that it took deciphering, but I figure he was sorting.

Next came some pretend roping, at this make believe ranch branding,
until the pairs were trailed to grazing, and his faithful steed quit walking.

A Folgers can brim full of oats lured a big head low once more,
halter off, kid rubbed his friend gently like before.

Then it happened, thing that got me, said I’d tell it straight,
Cowboy waved goodbye to that horse ‘til he reached the farthest gate.

I never interrupted them nor made my presence known
because what happens, between two good friends, is better left alone.

© 2018, Ken Cook
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Third-generation South Dakota cowboy and rancher Ken Cook told us he was originally inspired to write this poem by seeing  “The Best Gift,” by Western Horseman art director Ron Bonge.

Ken has a distinctive delivery style; you can download the audio of this poem here.

Ken comes from a long line of respected cowboys, and he and Nancy Cook continue that line with their offspring. Ken and Jay Snider collaborated on a highly praised book and CD, Passing it On, with drawings by Tyler Crow and Roger Archibald. Ken also has CDs of his poetry.

Find more about Ken Cook and more of his poetry at

Oregon poet, cowboy, photographer, businesswoman, and mom and wife of a cowboy Jessica Hedges shared this photo of her son, Cinch, with Joey, his grandfather’s old horse. Cinch carries on a great cowboy line. His grandfather is cowboy and writer Mackey Hedges (Last Buckaroo, Shadow of the Wind). Jessica Hedges’ “Branded in Ink by Jessica Hedges” company “serves the ag community through the art of storytelling on social media and beyond.” Her photography is available as prints, cards, and more. Find more at

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

VANISHING BREED? by Baxter Black

sam2017photo © 2017, Jessica Hedges,
Request permission for use

by Baxter Black

They call ‘em a vanishing breed.
They write books and take pictures
and talk like they’re all dyin’ out.
Like dinosaurs goin’ to seed
But that’s my friends yer talkin’ about.

Like Tex from Juniper Mountain.
He carved out a way of life
where only the toughest prevail.
He’s fifty-seven an’ countin’.
His sons now follow his trail.

And Mike who still ain’t got married.
At home in the seat of a saddle,
a sagebrush aristocrat.
I reckon that’s how he’ll be buried;
A’horseback, still wearin’ his hat.

There’s Bryan, Albert and Floyd.
Cowmen as good as the legends
to whom their livelihood’s linked,
Who’d be just a little annoyed
To know they’re considered extinct.

Some say they’re endangered species
Destined to fade into footnotes
like ropes that never get throwed.
To that I reply, “Bull Feces!”
They’re just hard to see from the road.

© Baxter Black
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Baxter Black, top cowboy poet and occasional philosopher, hardly needs an introduction. From Elko to NPR, he put cowboy poetry on the map.

A few months ago, Baxter asked us to relay this message, a policy announcement: “Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit.”

His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”

This version of “Vanishing Breed?” comes from Poems Worth Saving, Baxter Black’s 2013 collection of 164 poems and stories.

Find more about Baxter Black at and find much more, including a weekly column and all of his books and recordings at

This photograph of cowboy Sam Hedges is by poet, cowboy, and entrepreneur Jessica Hedges, who is proudly married to Sam. Her Branded in Ink company “serves the ag community through the art of storytelling on social media and beyond.” Her photography is available as prints, cards, and more. Find more at and on Facebook.


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.