MICROBES, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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MICROBES
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

You hear of microbes and of germs
And all them eddicated terms.
They say a feller hadn’t oughter
Go fillin’ up on muddy water.

Fer once them microbes gets inside
They mighty soon have multiplied.
From what they say, I onderstand,
They’re mighty apt to kill a man.

But then a cow boy doesn’t mind.
He drinks what water he can find.
It may be mud or alkali,
He has to drink it and git by.

Now them there littly wigly worms
That sorter swims about and squirms,
I’ve drunk a heap of them you bet,
And none of ’em has hurt me yet.

Fer drinkin’ water, so to speak,
It hadn’t ort to be too weak.
Yore hoss can drink an awful lot.
His stummick never gits upsot.

And so perhaps a quart or two
Is not a goin’ to damage you.
Jest drink yore fill and go ahead.
The bugs you drunk will soon be dead.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, June 2, 1936

We’re celebrating Bruce Kiskaddon all of this week.

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

In Bill Siems’ “Shorty’s Yarns,” a collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, he includes a 1938 note from the editor of the Western Livestock Journal, where many of Kiskaddon’s poems and stories were printed. He quotes the editor who refers to Kiskaddon’s own description of his early days:

“My first work with cattle was down in southwest Missouri. I was twelve years old. Four of us, all about the same age, were day herding a bunch of cows on what unfenced country there was around that place. We had quite a lot of room and at night we put them in an eighty acre pasture. We four kids worked at it all summer. We rode little Indian horses and went home at night. Not much cow punching, that’s a fact, but it was big business to us. The talk of opening the Indian territory for settlement had started, and already the open country was beginning to be occupied by boomers’ camps.” Read the entire piece here.

Noted reciter and popular performer Jerry Brooks chose this lesser known Kiskaddon poem to recite on the new triple-CD set, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon from CowboyPoetry.com. It was included in Kiskaddon’s 1947 Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.

Find more about Jerry Brooks at cowboypoetry.com (it happens to be her birthday).

Find more about Kiskaddon in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 2016 photo by Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A pause that refreshes for this cow at Big Creek cattle ranch on the Colorado border, near the towns of Riverside and Encampment, in Carbon County, Wyoming,” is from the Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Find more here.

Find the collection here, where it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and here on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

FORGOTTEN, by Bruce Kiskaddon

forgotten2019photo by Carol M. Highsmith

FORGOTTEN
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Yes, he used to be a cow hoss
that was young and strong and fleet
Now he stands alone, forgotten,
in the winter snow and sleet.
Fer his eyes is dim and holler
and his head is turnin’ gray,
He has got too old to foller—
“Jest a hoss that’s had his day.”

They’ve forgotten how once he packed ‘em
at a easy swingin’ lope.
How he braced his sturdy shoulders
when he set back on a rope.
Didn’t bar no weight nor distance;
answered every move and word,
Though his sides were white with lather
while he held the millin’ herd.

Now he’s stiff and old and stumbles,
and he’s lost the strength and speed
That once took him through the darkness,
‘round the point of a stampede
And his legs is scarred and battered;
both the muscle and the bone.
He is jest a wore out cow hoss
so they’ve turned him out alone.

They have turned him out to winter
best he can amongst the snow.
There without a friend and lonesome,
Do you think he doesn’t know?
Through the hours of storm and darkness
he had time to think a lot.
That hoss may have been forgotten,
but you bet he aint forgot.

He stands still. He aint none worried,
fer he knows he’s played the game
He’s got nothin’ to back up from.
He’s been square and aint ashamed.
Fer no matter where they put him
he was game to do his share
Well, I think more of the pony
than the folks that left him there.

….from “Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems,” 1947

We’re celebrating Bruce Kiskaddon this week.

Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges (this poem was in the later edition), “Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges… He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.”

Cowboy and poet Jesse Smith’s recitation of “Forgotten” is included on the new triple-CD set, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon” from CowboyPoetry.com.

Jesse Smith and the late Sunny Hancock collected their poems in a 2002 book, Horse Tracks Through the Sage, which is worth looking for. The late Larry McWhorter writes in an introduction, “…Sunny and Jesse are products of the old school who have been more miles on horseback before sunup or after sundown than most people have in broad daylight….When future generations seek to learn about the true cowboy life through the printed word, the poems and Sunny Hancock and Jesse Smith will be hard to ignore.” There are forewords by Baxter Black and Chris Isaacs.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range,  Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems contributes a biographical introduction to Kiskaddon on MASTERS: Volume THREE.

Find more about Kiskaddon in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 2012 photograph, titled, “A lone horse in hill country near the American River at Coloma in El Dorado County, California,” is by Carol M.Highsmith (carolhighsmith.com) and included in the Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about this photograph here.

Find the collection here, where it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally
with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

ART SPUR “Just for the Fun of It,” Winter 2018-2019

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Photo by Carol M. Highsmith; Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

WINTER ART SPUR

Our 49th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a 2016 photograph by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A horse rolls in the snow, apparently just for the fun of it, as others head out for a winter romp at the Midland Ranch, in the shadow of the Wind River Range of the Northern Rockies in remote Sweetwater County, Wyoming.”

The photographer explains, “The closest town, Farson, is 26 miles away. The ranch, whose first cabins served as a Pony Express remount station in 1860, was homesteaded in the 1890s and settled by French Basque immigrant John Arambel, the patriarch of the current owner, in 1909….” Find more at The Library of Congress.

Submissions are now closed. Find selected poems below.

The photograph is included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection description notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

 

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POEMS – WINTER THEMED

“Snow on the Sage” by Marleen Bussma
“Folks Who Do Know Horses” by Tom Swearingen
“A Blessin’ of the West” by Ol’ Jim Cathey
“Snow Day” by Jeff Campbell
“Horse Feather Marks in the Snow” by Ken Howry

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SNOW ON THE SAGE
by Marleen Bussma

Flat bottoms of the vagrant clouds sail low-set as they scud
on undersides stained dark and grimy as if dipped in mud.
The nearby mountains hooded white by recent gifts of snow
bask in the weakened winter sunlight’s intermittent glow.

The herd is on the move. The lead mare duly breaks the trail.
Impatient gusts of wind comb through each horse’s flowing tail
and catch the fleecy strands of breath exhaled like ropes of silk.
The frosted whiskers shimmer white as if just dipped in milk.

Small snow-clods fly from feet that carve the rangeland with their bite,
like frosty weapons used in a ground-level snowball fight.
The horses’ cadence steps into a snow-waltz on the range.
The timeless instincts of the migrant herd will never change.

The primal urge to revel, rub, and roll in winter’s dress
takes one horse to his knees. He lies and lets his brown back press
into the snow. White stocking legs wave lamely in the air.
His playful romp is frisky, but the others do not share

his sense of fun, this wintry mischief as he takes a break.
He gets back on his feet, bucks high, and cleans off with a shake.
A horse snow-angel birthed by play lies lonely in the snow.
It will remain an only child. The herd is on the go.

The lead mare walks with purpose as she presses to the west.
In frontier times this was the course where bold men did their best.
It was the new, where man could reinvent himself or flee
to where he’d melt away and float like mist aloft and free.

Wind scribbles messages on clouds. Dried sage leans from the gusts.
A hawk soars on transparent currents where he dives and thrusts.
The horses are a liquid flow that fade and disappear.
The mustangs are the only trace left of the old frontier.

© 2018, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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FOLKS WHO DO KNOW HORSES
by Tom Swearingen

I’m sure folks who don’t know horses
Must think them pretty strange
When observing their behavior
Unbridled on the range.

See them running for no reason
Than buck and fart’n fun,
Out there chasing their own shadows
In spring and summer sun.

And then when the temps are dropping
And autumn’s run its course,
When the winter snows are falling,
That’s when they’ll see a horse

Do some things that defy logic,
That must seem near insane
To those folks who don’t know horses
And workings of their brain.

Like, why would horses drop and roll
In snow instead of stand
So they look like they’re cavorting
On sunny beach’s sand?

Why, they must just think ’em loco.
Undisciplined at best.
Wondering why such energy
Is spent instead of rest.

‘Course that horse might just be itchy,
Or easing something sore.
Or strugglin’ with a twisted gut,
Too hard to walk much more.

But just as likely reason is
The horse rolls in the snow
Is instinct. Hard-wired survival,
Ingrained from years ago.

Yes, the folks who do know horses,
They know they’re plenty bright
To know that’s how to dry off hair
When ground is frozen white.

© 2018, Tom Swearingen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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A BLESSIN’ OF THE WEST
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

He pulled up on a small rise to watch nature’s scene,
An’ was spellbound sittin’ there,
An idyllic picture, crisp and so serene,
There was music in the air!

He sat horseback, just watchin’ the ponies run,
The weather was bitin’ cold,
But it was good to see them cavort in the sun,
A sight that never got old.

Bunched his collar ‘round his neck, tucked his hat down tight,
That ol’ wind was blowin’ strong,
Probably heralded a snow durin’ the night,
But for now, she’s nature’s song.

Lendin’ music to the flight of the wild horse,
As they tumbled down that trail,
In full gallop, a vision of joy of course,
As they plunge o’er hill an dale.

Ahhh the beauty an’ glory of natures stock,
That unfolded in his vision,
The feelin’ of the cold an’ sound of hoof on rock,
The glory of God’s provision.

The magnificent view of distant mountain range,
With snow coloring their peak,
Caused one to hope, this pony race would never change,
But their future sure looks bleak!

He turned away with grateful heart, knowin’ he was blessed,
A grand life was his reward,
Manifested in the glory of the west,
An’ he quietly thanked his Lord.

© 2019, Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

justforfun

SNOW DAY
by Jeff Campbell

Change comes quick as we sleep through the night
A pasture of green now sugary white
It sure does sparkle in the morning sun
But makes it hard to get all the work done

Roads are frozen and travel is slow
It’s not often down here that we get a big snow
I stare in frustration, my daily plan shot
So I pour another cup from the old coffee pot

I think back on the days when I was a youth
My dad was a hard worker and that’s the truth
But on these occasions he always took time
To help celebrate this rare change of clime

So I rustled the kids out of their bed
Went out to the barn and rigged up a sled
We spent the day in this winter wonderland
Even constructed a Texas snowman

As I sit and ponder this night serene
Tomorrow I’ll be back to my old routine
Soon all this snow will just melt away
School will be open to the kids’ dismay

But down the road when they’re both grown
Out in the world with kids of their own
Hope they recall Dad put work away
And shared in the joy of a Texas snow day

© 2018, Jeff Campbell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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HORSE FEATHER MARKS IN THE SNOW
By Ken Howry

I ain’t never been the sociable kind,
Reckon loner’s more o’ my style.
While others jest faller in tracks head ta tail;
That view, well it can’t make me smile.

There’s lots o’ things that I’d rather do,
An’ they’re durn sure a heap-full more fun.
Why just breathin’ this cold, crisp an’ clean winter air,
Makes me wanna start buckin’ an’ run!

Y’all go on ahead, I’ll catch up real soon,
Heck, the whole herd’s a movin’ real slow.
But, as for me, I must dance to a whimsical tune….
Leaving horse feather marks in the snow.

© 2018,  Ken Howry
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

 
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POEMS – CHRISTMAS THEMED

“Savior,” by Mark Munzert
“A Sack of Tobac,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen

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SAVIOR
by Mark Munzert

A special foal was born that eve beneath stars above the shed.
Hoof drops melted frosty ground trailing towards a straw cast bed.
The Mare’d been quietly pacing. Three dogs were huddled near.
The Sire shaking off the snow, as sentry, quelling fear.
T’was an uncanny silent night, no sound from cows or sheep.
A babe was born, stood and fed, whence nourished, fell asleep.

Those three wise dogs blocked the wind, sheep laid woolen cover warm.
Moonlit parts of dust and dew revealed angelic form.
Donkey’s bray cracked the night to tell the world of this One.
To Sire, Mare and all soulful there was born anointed Son.
Awakened to life’s melodies by softly cooing dove,
Astute and strong he grew with God’s abundant love.

Meadows he paced sharing goodness, kindness, and light.
Modeling forgiveness, salvation, and ample crucial might.
Lone survivor of rebellion, conqueror of demise.
Truly humble of all beings, steadfast faith in his eyes.
It seems his mission was to curry all living being’s favor,
It’s only fitting, for this horse, to have the name of SAVIOR.

© 2018, Mark Munzert
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

justforfun
A SACK OF TOBAC
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

I’m pondering on
a time long ago,
just around Christmas,
when the winds began to blow.

It was cold out there and covered
the grass in way that was strange,
for we had never fed hay
out on the Sweetwater range.

Not back in those days,
when the drifts piled up high,
and the cattle died in droves,
‘neath a fearsome snowing sky.

Lige and I were out there,
checking on the stock.
It would nearly break your heart,
to see them frozen in blocks.

We finally took refuge in a cabin
out there in the Sweetwater Rocks,
didn’t have much food on hand
and sure couldn’t thaw those cattle blocks!

Then the hoar frost came down–
the Paiutes called it “The White Death”.
Yep, it’s kind of pretty to see,
but it sure takes your breath.

Two weeks at that leaking cabin
and supplies were mighty low,
we scratched the days on a log,
while those winds continued to blow.

One day it dawned upon me
that Christmas was right near–
Lije said, “What’s the difference,
we’re still stuck out here!”

I dug around in my duffle bag
and mainly saw the lack
of something I could give to Lije,
just a partial sack of tobac.

He figured out what I was up to
and he took out a mouth harp,
played a raggedy Christmas tune
and we jigged a bit in the dark.

We hauled in a big sagebrush,
and hung some empty cans,
here and there all around it
and I banged on a pan.

We had shot a jack rabbit
that we cooked on the stove.
He was tough and not too tasty
and we had no bread or loaves.

We crawled into our old soogans
we used as our beds,
and soon went off to sleep–
and then something struck our heads!

The sun was purely shining,
it was a glorious dawn,
with hoar frost on the aspen,
though soon it was all gone.

That winter still goes down
and one in the history books,
1886-1887, a disaster
and so by the looks,

of what all of us went through,
you’d think we’d like to forget
that cold and snowy windy time,
but we really don’t regret.

Heck, at least we survived,
with jackrabbit and a sack
of roll-your-owns we shared
that little bit of warming tobac!

© 2018, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

 

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SUBMISSIONS

Submissions were welcome from all. Thanks to all who participated.

Find previous Art Spur subjects here and at CowboyPoetry.com.

THE MARRIED MAN, by Charles Badger Clark

marriedmanx.jpgphoto by Carol Highsmith

THE MARRIED MAN
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

There’s an old pard of mine that sits by his door
And watches the evenin’ skies.
He’s sat there a thousand evenin’s before
And I reckon he will till he dies.
El pobre!* I reckon he will till he dies,
And hear through the dim, quiet air
Far cattle that call and the crickets that cheep
And his woman a-singin’ a kid to sleep
And the creak of her rockabye chair.

Once we made camp where the last light would fail
And the east wasn’t white till we’d start,
But now he is deaf to the call of the trail
And the song of the restless heart.
El pobre! the song of the restless heart
That you hear in the wind from the dawn!
He’s left it, with all the good, free-footed things,
For a slow little song that a tired woman sings
And a smoke when his dry day is gone.

I’ve rode in and told him of lands that were strange,
Where I’d drifted from glory to dread.
He’d tell me the news of his little old range
And the cute things his kid had said!
El pobre! the cute things his kid had said!
And the way six-year Billy could ride!
And the dark would creep in from the gray chaparral
And the woman would hum, while I pitied my pal
And thought of him like he had died.

He rides in old circles and looks at old sights
And his life is as flat as a pond.
He loves the old skyline he watches of nights
And he don’t seem to care for beyond.
El pobre! he don’t seem to dream of beyond,
Nor the room he could find, there, for joy.
“Ain’t you ever oneasy?” says I one day.
But he only just smiled in a pityin’ way
While he braided a quirt for his boy.

He preaches that I orter fold up my wings
And that even wild geese find a nest
That “woman” and “wimmen” are different things
And a saddle nap isn’t a rest.
El pobre! he’s more for the shade and the rest
And he’s less for the wind and the fight,
Yet out in strange hills, when the blue shadows rise
And I’m tired from the wind and the sun in my eyes,
I wonder, sometimes, if he’s right.

I’ve courted the wind and I’ve followed her free
From the snows that the low stars have kissed
To the heave and the dip of the wavy old sea,
Yet I reckon there’s somethin’ I’ve missed.
El pobre! Yes, mebbe there’s somethin’ I’ve missed,
And it mebbe is more than I’ve won—
Just a door that’s my own, while the cool shadows creep,
And a woman a-singin’ my kid to sleep
When I’m tired from the wind and the sun.

…by Badger Clark from “Sun and Saddle Leather,” 1922
* “El pobre,” Spanish, “Poor fellow.”

At the 20013 Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, top reciters and singers (Jerry Brooks, Elizabeth Ebert, Don Edwards, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Wylie Gustafson, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Joel Nelson, Kay Kelley Nowell, Randy Rieman, Dave Stamey, and Gail Steiger) took part in a tribute to Badger Clark. In it, Randy Rieman recites “A Married Man.” Watch at youtube.com.

For another excellent recitation of this poem, tune into Andy Hedges Cowboy Crossroads podcast, episode 14, part two of an interview with Randy Rieman. Andy recites this poem as an introduction. The poem is also included on Andy Hedges’ recent Cowboy Recitations CD.

Badger Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote many lasting poems, and some found their way into song, including “The Old Cow Man,” “Ridin’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”

He never married. He was engaged to Helen Fowler of Deadwood before he contracted tuberculosis and went to Arizona for its cure. Greg Scott tells in his book, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, that while Clark was in Arizona, “He wrote lengthy letters to his family and friends and Helen, his fiancee…He wrote poems about his longing for the Black Hills and home. These were poems that were never published. At some point, he must have known that his relationship with Helen would never end in marriage. Each day he became more accustomed to living alone. He enjoyed courting the eligible women in the area when opportunity presented itself. He kept his father apprised of his activities, including his periodic infatuations. Eventually, the formality of his engagement to Helen was ended by mutual consent.”

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark.

This photograph is by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “Coats and a cowboy hat at the ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’ Cabin at Old Trail Town, a historic museum complex in Cody, Wyoming.” Find more about it here. It is included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection description notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

MICHAEL BIA by Chris Isaacs

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photo by Carol M. Highsmith

 

MICHAEL BIA
by Chris Isaacs

You spent your childhood wild and free,
And none of us could then foresee
How you’d touch our lives, or to what degree.
We never knew you, Michael Bia.

You life was in the land and sky;
Vermillion cliffs and mesas high.
These were yours to occupy.
You were of Diné, Michael Bia.

You rode the bulls and rode them well,
But you wouldn’t leave the reservation’s Citadel
Though it was known you could excel.
Ah, you could ride ’em Michael Bia.

The White House called; you left your land,
And off you went to Viet Nam,
To a war you did not understand.
You did your duty, Michael Bia.

You fought with honor and with pride,
But before the fighting could subside
In that far off land, you died.
You gave the ultimate, Michael Bia.

At Window Rock in sixty-eight
They turned a bull out of the gate,
And his bell rang loud to reiterate
Our thank you, Michael Bia.

Diné, and white men, too
Stood and shed a tear for you;
And though your time on earth is through
May God keep you, Michael Bia.

Now often when I think of the past
Or cross that reservation vast,
Or see Old Glory at half-mast,
I think of Michael Bia.

Ya’at’eeh, Hastiin! (Ya-ta-hey, Has-teen!)

© 2001, Chris Isaacs
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.
(Chris notes: Diné is what the Navajos call themselves; it means “The People.”)

Chris Isaacs writes about this poem in his award-winning book, Rhymes, Reasons and Pack Saddle Proverbs:

There are things that happen in our lives that we have absolutely no control over, which become a part of us forever. Such was the case with the poem about Michael Bia.

I got out of the U. S. Marine Corps in January of 1967 just as things were really starting to heat up in Vietnam. Michael Bia was leading the bull riding standings for the AIRCA when he was drafted and sent to Viet Nam just about the time I was discharged. He never came home.

In 1968 my wife Helena and I were at the Fourth of July rodeo in Window Rock, Arizona, where I was entered when something happened that haunted me for years. The Navajo tribe paid tribute to Michael Bia at that rodeo by taking his chaps and spurs and attaching them to a bull with Michael’s bull rope and then turning the bull loose in the arena during a moment of silence. Nothing has ever affected me quite like that short moment of tribute to a fellow cowboy/comrade-in-arms, and I have thought of it many, many times over the years…The first time that I tried to recite it, I broke down and cried, which kept me from trying it again for quite a while. Then in 1997 at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering I was on the Veterans’ Session with Joel Nelson, Rod McQueary, and some others, and managed to get through the entire thing…I have had many Vets thank me for the poem, which means a great deal to me…I did a show near Washington, D. C. a few years ago, and made it to the Wall (the Vietnam Memorial) where I found Michael’s name…

See Chris’s recent post with photos of Michael Bia on Facebook.

Find more about Chris Isaacs at CowboyPoetry.com and visit chrisisaacs.com.

This 2006 photo of the Vietnam Memorial is by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.The accompanying note tells, “Deliberately setting aside the controversies of the war, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served when their Nation called upon them. The designer, Maya Lin, felt that the politics had eclipsed the veterans, their service and their lives. She kept the design elegantly simple to allow everyone to respond and remember.”

Find more about the photo here.

The Highsmith Archive notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Find a selection of Memorial Day poems at CowboyPoetry.com.

 

Winter/Christmas Art Spur, 2017-2018, “Coyote” (and poems for inspiration)

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(Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, made possible by Carol M. Highsmith and the Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 47th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a photograph by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A lone, and lean, coyote makes the best of wintertime the northernmost Wyoming reaches of Yellowstone National Park.”

The photograph is included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection description notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at http://www.carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

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SUBMISSIONS

Submissions are welcome from all. Christmas-themed poems and lyrics had a deadline of Thursday, December 21, 2017. Winter-themed submissions have a deadline of Thursday, January 18, 2018.

Poets and songwriters are invited to be inspired by the photograph; a literal representation of the art is not expected.

•  Please follow our regular guidelines for content.

•  You may submit one poem, either Christmas- or winter-themed.

•  Send your poem to poems@cowboypoetry.com and note “Art Spur” in the subject line.

Selected poems will be posted.

Find previous Art Spur subjects here and at CowboyPoetry.com.

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Selected Christmas-themed Poems

“The Coyote Christmas Carol Choir,” by Marleen Bussma of Utah
“Christmas Song,” by Ol’ Jim Cathey of Texas
“Coyote Kin,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
“Lonesome Coyote,” by Tamara Hillman of Arizona

Thanks to all who participated.

 

THE COYOTE CHRISTMAS CAROL CHOIR
by Marleen Bussma

Contrary Harry gnaws and chomps the tip of Walter’s nose.
He mouths and grunts then side-steps as his satisfaction grows.
Impulsive Henry plans to hold a banquet as he steers
his body in position where he’ll serve up Chester’s ears.

Defiant Chester opens wide to munch on Harry’s tail.
They’re worked into a frenzy and most dining’s done by braille.
And then there’s Walter, meek, subdued, not joining in the stunt.
He doesn’t pester anyone, because he is the runt.

The coyote pups have been evicted from the family’s den.
Their mother is fed up with all the mischief there has been.
Just yesterday she caught them sneaking out to cross the range.
They wanted to be free and see some country for a change.

Mom saw the last tail bobbing like a cork on heavy seas
as naïve pups plunged down the precipice like refugees.
The terror of the coyote traps took hold and energized
her into action with the strength she never realized

she had to save her pups from danger. Chaos framed the scene.
Mom sputtered, fumed, and bristled like she’d had too much caffeine.
She scolded, chastised, lectured in a voice so very loud.
“Why can’t you canine pups behave and mind to make me proud?”

As Harry opened up his mouth she dared him to object.
Their shoulders slumped. Their heads dropped down. She thought she could detect
remorse. They now looked sheepish, sorry, and chagrined.
She hoped their youthful deviltry subsided like the wind.

The night is peaceful as the pups perch on a sandstone ledge.
They’ve promised to behave and not be wayward in a pledge
to mother. It’s no fun to be obedient they find.
Frustration brings out yips and yaps with howls. They’ve even whined!

Their outcry is more organized when Harry sings the lead.
Soon Henry joins with Chester and they blend the notes they need
for harmony that rises over rim rock and the trees.
Poor Walter struggles, tryin’ hard, but shrieks in sev’ral keys.

They sing the carols that drift high above the country church
where men and women congregate to worship as they search
for Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men, an annual crusade.
The coyotes sit in silence as they let the last note fade.

Each night the siblings’ serenades are symphonies that teem
with Christmas cheer as mother listens to her life-long dream.
They raise their voices singing to the starry skies and moon,
including warbling Walter still stuck slightly out of tune.

© 2017, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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CHRISTMAS SONG
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

Indian summer soon changed to cold winter snow,
Heralding that Christmas time was near.
‘Course, it was just me an’ that that ol’ lineshack, you know,
That lonesome feelin’ was purty severe.

Lonely? It dang shore was! Made worse by the coyote’s yip.
A shiver went up an’ down my spine,
I’d best shake this off, calm down an’ get a grip,
Cup of hot coffee will make things fine.

Then my thoughts drifted through time, back to yesteryear,
I could see Pa readin’ from The Book,
‘Bout the Baby Jesus an’ Kings an’ Angels near,
An’ how shepherds, with their flocks, came to look.

The Christ Child lay in a manger that Holy night,
While Angels sang “Hosanna to the King.”
Then I could hear that coyote’s yippin’ at first light,
An’ I swear… I could hear the angels sing!

The angels sang a song of love with peace and hope,
Then joy seemed to seep into my heart,
An’ my troubled thoughts left me in a lope,
An’ I was feelin’ good, anxious for a fresh start.

Right then, my lonesomeness just seemed to melt away,
An’ a smile struck my face like a warm kiss,
So I bowed my head an’ with Christmas joy began to pray,
An’, that ol’ coyote yippin’ pure bliss.

I don’t often see ‘em, not more’n a glimpse at most,
But I was glad that he had come along,
As he slunk t’ward the river, sorta like a ghost,
An’ I said a silent thanks for his song.

Wal, Christmas is shore ‘nuff good, but chores must get done.
So I says, “Thank You Lord for yore way.”
Then I saddles up, head out to seek warmth from the sun,
Joggin’ along on that Christmas Day!

© 2017, Ol’ Jim Cathey 
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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COYOTE KIN
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

Slow up, coyote,
no need to run.
I’m just riding out,
don’t have my gun.

It’s a little sad
and passing strange
why you and me
can’t share the range.
We’re loners both
and you’re crippled some.
I’ve nearly forgot
where I come from.
Old dog coyote,
we should be pards.
Food’s scarce to come by.
Life has been hard
for both of us,
I’d tend to think.
So when I see you
I just wink
and head my horse
the other way
and tell the boss,
“No coyotes today.”
Slow up, coyote,
no need to flee,
’cause we are kin,
dog coyote and me.

© 2017, Jean Mathisen Haugen 
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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LONESOME COYOTE
by Tamara Hillman

Just look at that coyote
lurkin’ a far over there,
he reminds me of my younger days
when I had nary a care.

It didn’t matter the season—
snow or summer sun,
I lived my life plum’ for myself
an was an ornery son-of-a-gun.

Only foraged for food in my gut
an’ clothes to fit my need,
an’ a dog who loved me spite of it all,
an’ a wild horse for my steed.

I wondered ‘cross the country
an’ stopped but now & then,
hung my hat in a bunkhouse
when needin’ rest from sin.

I scuttled about from ranch to ranch—
pay poor, an’ work was mean,
hours from sunup ‘til darkness,
an’ like that coyote, I was lean,

But I never got discouraged
‘cause I was livin’ single
‘til a filly down ol’ Texas way
taught me how to mingle.

I’m still like that ol’ coyote
but in a different way,
got six kids an’ a pretty wife
who gave my life some sway.

I settled on a gnarly ranch—
a place to call my own,
an’ work the place from dusk ‘til dawn
with nary a grunt nor groan.

‘Cause now, ya see, that ol’ coyote
has matured into a fox,
I’ll not be freezin’ in the snow,
nor livin’ in a box.

I got me a real warm fire now,
a dog layin’ by my chair,
six kids an’ a wife who love me
an’ I sure ain’t got no cares.

© 2017, Tamara Hillman 
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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A  few coyote poems, for inspiration:

THE BELLED COYOTE
by Robert Fletcher (1885-1972)

Aint no one loves a coyote
That I ever heard about.
He aint nuthin’ but a pestilence
Requirin’ stampin’ out.
A sneakin’, thievin’ rustler,—
A gray, ga’nt vagabone
Whose locoed vocal tendencies
Are lackin’ depth and tone.

Seems like he’s always hungry
And Lord, man, when he wails
It’s the concentrated sinfulness
From lost and vanished trails.
Well, there’s one of them Carusos
Hangs about the Lazy B
And makes hisself obnoxious
Most plum’ consistently.

So, one day, a cayuse dyin’
We surrounds the corpse with traps,
Where we’d cached it in a coulee
A thinkin’ that perhaps
In a moment inadvertent
That coyote will come around
And meet up with some damn tough luck,
And we will have him downed.

Sure enough, he made an error
For he let his appetite
Prevail agin his judgment
And we cinched him that same night.
He got one foot caught in a trap
And jumpin’ ’round about
Another gloms him by a laig
And sort of stretched him out.

Naw, pard, we didn’t shoot him,—
Jest aimed to give him hell,
We took and strapped around his neck
A jinglin’ little bell
And turned him loose to ramble,—
Yes,–I reckin’ it was cruel,—
Aint a cotton-tail or sage-hen
That is jest a plain damn fool

Enought to not take warnin’
When they heard that little bell,—
So he don’t get too much food nor
Company, I’m here to tell.
He’s an outlaw with his own kind
And his pickin’s pretty slim,
‘Cause ev’rywhere he goes that bell
Gives warnin’ that it’s him.

And sometimes when it’s gettin’ dusk
And ev’rything plum’ still,
I can hear that bell a tollin’
As he slips around a hill.
It kind of gets upon my nerves,—
That, and his mournful cry,
For I know the skunk is fond of livin’
Same as you or I.

One day I’m in the saddle
A twistin’ up a smoke,
When he sneaks our of a coulee,
And pard, it aint no joke,
When I see him starved and lonesome,
A lookin’ ‘most all in,—
Well, perhaps I’m chicken hearted,
But it seemed a dirty sin,

And besides, that bell, it haunts me,
Till there doesn’t seem to be
A way t’ square things but to put
Him out of misery.
So I takes my 30-30,
As he sits and gives a yell,—
I drawed a bead, and cracked away,—
And busted that damn bell!

…by Robert H. Fletcher, from “Prickly Pear Pomes,” 1920 chapbook

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THE COYOTE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

The coyote of the western ranges
Survives despite all modern changes.
He views the world with dauntless drollery—
And does not practice birth controllery.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

____

THE COYOTE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Cry, coyote! Cry lonely at dawn
For days of a past unforgotten but gone;
For buffalo black on the wide, grassy plains,
In a land still unfettered by civilized chains.

Cry shrill for a moonrise undimmed by the glare
Of cities and highways. Who is there to share
With a slim little wolf all the longing he wails
From moon-mystic hilltops and shadowy trails?

Cry, coyote, gray ghost of the rimrock! Your cry
Still echoes in hearts where old memories lie.
Cry, coyote! Cry lonely at dawn
For open-range freedom now vanished and gone!

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

THE COYOTE and COW WORK WON’T WAIT by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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Photo by Carol M. Highsmith

 

THE COYOTE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

The coyote of the western ranges
Survives despite all modern changes.
He views the world with duantless drollery—
And does not practice birth controllery.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

S. Omar Barker, as described in Cowboy Miner Productions’ collection of his work, “…was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico… a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator…” He enjoyed signing his work with a “Lazy SOB” brand. He was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman.

Many of S. Omar Barker’s short pieces were collected in a 1998 book, Ol’ S.O.B. Sez: Cowboy Limericks. In the introduction, top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell writes:

I really don’t think Omar had any idea of the impact his poetry had. He rode on before the cowboy poetry gatherings emerged. He didn’t see the number of cowboys who had taken his words to heart and memory. He had become one of the top three recited poets of the genre.

Why? Because he lived, worked, understood, and spoke cowboy. Not the ethereal, but the day-to-day sweaty, freezing, long-trot, leather-clad, rope-burned, calf-pullin’, brush-scarred, dally-slippin’ kind.

Then he boiled it down to its essence…He would write about things so common in the cowboy world that cowboys often overlooked them, but they’d recognize immediately the truth in those writings because Omar wrote of that life “from the inside-lookin-out” point of view.

Another from the book:

COW WORK WON’T WAIT
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

We hear unions speak of a four-day week
As if it would simple be heaven
But folks who raise cattle still find it’s a battle
To get all their work done in seven.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 2016 photograph is titled, “A lone, and lean, coyote makes the best of wintertime the
northernmost Wyoming reaches of Yellowstone National Park.”

It is another fine one by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about the photograph here.

Find the collection here, where it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.