WHAT IT IS, by Trey Allen

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WHAT IT IS
by Trey Allen (1971-2016)

“What is this cowboy poetry?”
the lady asked of me.
“It must be more than stories
Whether rhymed or free.”

“What makes it so intriguing,
reels you in and gets you hooked,
it must be something simple.”
I jist give a sideways look.

“You’re right, ma’am, it’s kinda simple
but it’s complicated too,
but if you’ve got time to lend an ear
I’ll share some thoughts with you.”

You see the written word is simple
But the complicated thing
Is understanding the life behind the words
So I’ll tell you what I mean.

It’s the greenin’ of the grass in spring,
The first frost in the fall,
The dreary doldrums winter morns,
The summer shadows tall.

It’s the smell of mornin’ coffee
‘fore ol’ Sol has blinked an eye
and the million twinklin’ star aglow
in the pitch black predawn sky.

It’s the jingle of a much-worn spur
Upon a rundown handmade boot,
The snort of a cold-backed cayuse
And the silent prayer he don’t leave you afoot.

It’s the catch rope hangin’ inside the door
Of a rickety ol’ saddle shed
And the wariness of the pony
Who knows jist when to drop his head.

It’s the colt you traded for last fall
And started late this spring
That’s proved to you he’s worth his salt
And you wouldn’t trade him for anything.

It’s that motley face calf there on the scale,
He don’t look half as big as when
You had to flank him solo
Last spring in the brandin’ pen.

It’s the tangy scent of wood smoke,
The washtub by the wagon wheel,
The patched and worn out cookfly
And all the stories it could tell.

It’s a herd of unbroken saddle mounts
Strung out steppin’ single file
Through a sage covered Utah mountain pass
For near three quarters and a mile.

It’s the old man outside the brandin’ pen
Watchin’ the goings on
And the look in his eye that says loud and clear
“I’d like to see one more ‘fore I’m gone.”

It’s an old cow sucklin’ a newborn calf,
A foal on wobbly legs.
It’s a seventeen hour day with nothin’ on your stomach
But bitter coffee dregs.

It’s the old kack you use to start a young colt,
Holds in for the bad storms you weather.
It’s the pride displayed in a new handmade rig
And the creak of the well tooled leather.

It’s the antiquated wage he draws
Despite the Hollywood label,
It’s puttin’ life and limb on the line
To put a tasty beef steak on the table.

It’s the Sevier River Valley and the Wasatch Front,
The Muggyown Rim in the spring.
The Canadian River breaks, the Chisos and the Davis
And a thousand other places I’ve never seen.

It’s the labor of love you choose for life
Workin’ from can ’til can’t.
Maam, I could go on for days ’bout what it is
And probably a lot of things it ain’t.

So in short, ma’am, what I’m sayin’ is this
Cowboy poetry ain’t jist in the words you read,
The poetry of the cowboy
Is in the life he leads.

© Jack “Trey” Allen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

It is hard to top what the late Trey Allen, popular award-winning poet, reciter, cowboy, and Kansas ranch manager had to say in his poem. He is greatly missed by his many friends and family. We’re grateful for his poetry and recordings.

A 2014 bio he supplied gave a bit of background, “For some twenty years and change now, Jack Trey Allen has been writing and reciting cowboy poetry. He started out gathering intel early in life as a bullrider/bullfighter and graduated to shoeing horses and starting colts, to those ‘to those in the know’ this should explain a great deal. At the
point he began his family however, the conclusion was reached that three meals a week and Copenhagen made less than desirable home conditions and he settled into a real job…

“While earning a regular paycheck, he kept his hand turned at colts and shoeing, dayworking, etc. It was during this time he became intimate with a little known group called ‘Corporate America.’ Thirteen years of that and he packed his family up, headed for the mountains of south central Colorado, near Canon City and has been full time cowboy every since. For nine years Trey has managed the Moyer Ranch in the northern Flints Hills of Kansas, south of Manhattan. When asked about the possibility of ‘lightin’ a shuck,’ he said ‘Pack rats set up shop in my tipi and cut my bedroll up into little tiny ones. Sure hate to disturb their little enterprise…’ Reckon he’ll stay put.”

A painting of Trey Allen by Don Dane was featured on the 2015 Cowboy Poetry Week poster.

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Find more about Trey Allen at CowboyPoetry.com and on Facebook.

Thanks to Janice Hannagan-Allen for the aboves photograph and her generous permissions.

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

Troy Hare McNaught Westby, 1916-2019

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Yvonne Hollenbeck and Robert Dennis sent the news of the death of Troy McNaught Westby, age 103, on January 30, 2019. Respected and admired by many, Troy McNaught Westby was a poet and artist, active all of her life.

Her son, poet Slim McNaught, wrote about his mother in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com:

My mother was born Troy Hare on January 5, 1916 on a farm east of Glasco, Kansas to parents of Irish and English descent…

In 1935 we moved to a ranch south west of Wanblee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This log house sat on the bank of Bear Creek, with the barn and corrals on one side and the house on the other and a large cottonwood tree laid across the creek for a footbridge.

My mother has been a prolific writer all her life, with shelves and boxes of writings, plus many that have been lost or destroyed over the years. It wasn’t always easy keeping material safe from little varmints in the old log houses of the time, plus the weather that came in through the cracks when the chinking crumbled and fell out. When I was small it seemed to me she spent a lot of time mixing mud from the “buffalo wallows” and chinking the openings between the logs in that old ranch home.

Later we moved some miles east of there into a frame house in the “Buzzard Basin” where she lived until she moved to town in 1956 after I had married and took over the ranch.

The first poem she remembers writing was for an English assignment in the eighth grade. She doesn’t remember the poem or how it went, but in it she compared death to crossing a river. That startled her teacher. The earliest poem she still has a copy of (“The Sandhills”) was written in 1933 and published in Ranch Romances, a popular western magazine of the time….

Her first teaching job was in a one-room country school building on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1941. Students there ranged from first grade through the eighth, with some of the older boys bigger than she was. She rode horseback eight miles to the school on Sunday afternoon, stayed in an area sectioned off with sheets hung on wires for her living quarters, then rode back to the ranch Friday night (or Saturday morning if the weather was bad). That school was across the county line, so I had to go to school in the county in which we lived for the first two years she taught there. The last year she taught there, the State Superintendent of Schools allowed me
to stay with her and go to school there. That was my fourth grade year….

The next several years she held the teaching position at a school building that was moved in and located one-half mile from our ranch. She then moved into Martin, South Dakota in 1956 where she taught the grades for several years. During that time she furthered her education until eventually she gained a composite major in Education and a Major in Art. She was then able to teach in both the elementary and secondary divisions.

In 1960 she started teaching in the Rapid City, South Dakota school system. She taught first grade at Meadowbrook Elementary two different times and High School Art the last nine years at Old Central High and West Jr. High.

She retired from teaching in 1978 after thirty seven years in the profession but continued to substitute teach for several years. In 1984 she moved to Mesa, Arizona where she resided until moving to New Underwood, South Dakota in 1997….

From the time I can remember, my mother painted, usually in oil paint; played many different stringed instruments plus piano and accordion; and wrote poetry. In between all this she also fulfilled her duties as a ranch wife when not in school: working cows, fixing fence, riding windmills, and all the other things that needed done. Before I could walk, and until I could get around on my own horse, she hauled me with her in her saddle…..

Since the 1930s she has had many poems and stories published in several western magazines and anthologies. In 1981 she and I co-authored and published a book of our poetry Away Out West. Since that time she has published two more books and currently has another about ready to print. Her second book, Portrait Of Life In Rhyme, contains several styles of poetry written from years ago to the present, including sonnets, haiku, free verse, and others. Her third book, They Say In Rhyme, consists of thirteen paintings with a children’s poem for each painting. She intended this book just for her great great grandchildren, but gets requests for copies from
folks who see it.

Read the entire piece and find poems by Troy McNaught Westby at CowboyPoetry.com.

Five Generations of McNaughts, Three Times-2006Five generations of McNaughts, 2006

WHAT IT IS, by Trey Allen (1971-2016)

trey

WHAT IT IS
by Trey Allen (1971-2016)

“What is this cowboy poetry?”
the lady asked of me.
“It must be more than stories
Whether rhymed or free.”

“What makes it so intriguing,
reels you in and gets you hooked,
it must be something simple.”
I jist give a sideways look.

“You’re right, ma’am, it’s kinda simple
but it’s complicated too,
but if you’ve got time to lend an ear
I’ll share some thoughts with you.”

You see the written word is simple
But the complicated thing
Is understanding the life behind the words
So I’ll tell you what I mean.

It’s the greenin’ of the grass in spring,
The first frost in the fall,
The dreary doldrums winter morns,
The summer shadows tall.

It’s the smell of mornin’ coffee
‘fore ol’ Sol has blinked an eye
and the million twinklin’ star aglow
in the pitch black predawn sky.

It’s the jingle of a much-worn spur
Upon a rundown handmade boot,
The snort of a cold-backed cayuse
And the silent prayer he don’t leave you afoot.

It’s the catch rope hangin’ inside the door
Of a rickety ol’ saddle shed
And the wariness of the pony
Who knows jist when to drop his head.

It’s the colt you traded for last fall
And started late this spring
That’s proved to you he’s worth his salt
And you wouldn’t trade him for anything.

It’s that motley face calf there on the scale,
He don’t look half as big as when
You had to flank him solo
Last spring in the brandin’ pen.

It’s the tangy scent of wood smoke,
The washtub by the wagon wheel,
The patched and worn out cookfly
And all the stories it could tell.

It’s a herd of unbroken saddle mounts
Strung out steppin’ single file
Through a sage covered Utah mountain pass
For near three quarters and a mile.

It’s the old man outside the brandin’ pen
Watchin’ the goings on
And the look in his eye that says loud and clear
“I’d like to see one more ‘fore I’m gone.”

It’s an old cow sucklin’ a newborn calf,
A foal on wobbly legs.
It’s a seventeen hour day with nothin’ on your stomach
But bitter coffee dregs.

It’s the old kack you use to start a young colt,
Holds in for the bad storms you weather.
It’s the pride displayed in a new handmade rig
And the creak of the well tooled leather.

It’s the antiquated wage he draws
Despite the Hollywood label,
It’s puttin’ life and limb on the line
To put a tasty beef steak on the table.

It’s the Sevier River Valley and the Wasatch Front,
The Muggyown Rim in the spring.
The Canadian River breaks, the Chisos and the Davis
And a thousand other places I’ve never seen.

It’s the labor of love you choose for life
Workin’ from can ’til can’t.
Maam, I could go on for days ’bout what it is
And probably a lot of things it ain’t.

So in short, ma’am, what I’m sayin’ is this
Cowboy poetry ain’t jist in the words you read,
The poetry of the cowboy
Is in the life he leads.

© Jack “Trey” Allen

It is hard to top what the late Trey Allen, popular award-winning poet, reciter, cowboy, and Kansas ranch manager had to say in his poem. He is greatly missed by his many friends and family. We’re grateful for his poetry and recordings.

A 2014 bio he supplied gave a bit of background, “For some twenty years and change now, Jack Trey Allen has been writing and reciting cowboy poetry. He started out gathering intel early in life as a bullrider/bullfighter and graduated to shoeing horses and starting colts, to those ‘to those in the know’ this should explain a great deal. At the point he began his family however, the conclusion was reached that three meals a week and Copenhagen made less than desirable home conditions and he settled into a real job…

“While earning a regular paycheck, he kept his hand turned at colts and shoeing, dayworking, etc. It was during this time he became intimate with a little known group called ‘Corporate America.’ Thirteen years of that and he packed his family up, headed for the mountains of south central Colorado, near Canon City and has been full time cowboy every since. For nine years Trey has managed the Moyer Ranch in the northern Flints Hills of Kansas, south of Manhattan. When asked about the possibility of ‘lightin’ a shuck,’ he said ‘Pack rats set up shop in my tipi and cut my bedroll up into little tiny ones. Sure hate to disturb their little enterprise…’ Reckon he’ll stay put.”

A painting of Trey Allen by Don Dane was featured on the 2015 Cowboy Poetry Week poster.

Find more about Trey Allen at CowboyPoetry.com.

Thanks to Janice Hannagan-Allen for this photograph and her generous permissions.

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

 

Georgia Snead, April 21, 2018

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photo courtesy of Andy Hedges

With the greatest sadness, we learned of the death of Georgia Snead in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on April 20, 2018. An obituary includes much about her impressive life.

Georgia Snead was the grandniece of S. Omar Barker and in charge of his estate. She carried on the work of her parents, Jodie and Bob Phillips, in collecting and preserving Barker’s poetry.

She was a gracious woman, who extended permission to many poets and reciters for books and recordings in which they wanted to include S. Omar Barker’s work. She gave generous permissions to the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry and CowboyPoetry.com, and she worked with the Center in its production of the recent MASTERS: VOLUME TWO CD of S. Omar Barker’s work.

Some poets and others had the opportunity to visit with her at her home, where she would share stories of S. Omar Barker, his scrapbooks, books and more.

It was a great pleasure to see her again, along with some of her family, at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2016, where Andy Hedges helped create a standout show, “An Evening with the Squire,” described as “… an evening of humorous tales, cow country commentary, and celebration of the ranch family through the words of Squire Omar Barker, the “Poet Lariat of New Mexico.” Those participating included Jerry Brooks, Thatch Elmer, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Ross Knox, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Vess Quinlan, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman and Gail Steiger.

Andy Hedges has done much research on S. Omar Barker and was featured at an event in Las Vegas, New Mexico last fall. A future episode of his Cowboy Crossroads will focus on Barker. Andy Hedges shares this photo, with Georgia Snead, at “her beautiful family cabin on the original Barker homestead.”

Her son wrote about her death, “Georgia Norton Phillips Snead went with her ancestors early this morning. At home in Santa Fe, with her husband and sons close at hand, her cat curled up in the corner, wind in the pinons outside. Soon enough birdsong came through the window, a few raindrops pattered the terrace, and the sun came up.”

She will be greatly missed.

 

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WHEN I LEAVE THIS LIFE by Elizabeth Ebert (1925-2018)

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
photo © 2015,  Jessica Lifland

 

WHEN I LEAVE THIS LIFE
by Elizabeth Ebert 1925-2018

When I leave this life as we all must do
…..And this prairie I’ve loved through the long, long years

There’s a single boon that I ask of you,
…..Don’t waste one precious day in tears.
Have a funeral if you feel you must
…..With the usual rituals for the dead,
A plain pine box, not satin-lined
…..But with a blanket, preferably in red.

No cloying masses of hothouse flowers,
…..Just a cluster of bright balloons, and then
No extolling of virtues I never had,
…..Just a simple prayer and a soft “A-men.”
Let the memories be of the happy times,
…..Let the sound of laughter grace the day.
Find an old cowhand with an old guitar
…..To yodel me joyfully on my way.

And later, whenever the time seems right,
…..On a sunny day from a greening hill,
Scatter my ashes into the wind.
…..Then I shall be part of the prairie still.

© 2006, Elizabeth Ebert, from Prairie Wife
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

There’s an empty place in the cowboy poetry world that won’t ever be filled: Yvonne Hollenbeck shared the sad news of the passing of beloved South Dakota poet and ranchwoman Elizabeth Ebert, 93, on March 20, 2018.

A Celebration of Life Service for Elizabeth Ebert will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Calvary Lutheran Church in Lemmon, South Dakota. Find an obituary here.

Elizabeth Ebert introduced this poem in her book, Prairie Wife, writing, “Our youngest daughter has promised that when we die our ashes will be mixed together and scattered on this land that we love so well.” She reminded her family that yesterday would have been her 72nd wedding anniversary. Her husband S.J., about whom she wrote many great and varied poems, died in 2008.

Find some of her poetry at CowboyPoetry.com. Seek out her books and recordings.

Journalist Carson Vaughan wrote about Elizabeth Ebert in a February, 2017 American Cowboy profile, “The Grande Dame of Cowboy Poetry.” He quotes her devoted friend Baxter Black about the first time her heard her perform her poetry, “You could just see a flower growing there out of the rest of us standing around like weeds.”

This photograph by photojournalist Jessica Lifland was taken at the 2015 Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. See more of her photos of Elizabeth Ebert in a wonderful collection from a forthcoming project here.

Liz Masterson, December 30, 2017

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The Western music and cowboy poetry world grieves the loss of universally loved and lauded singer Liz Masterson on December 30, 2017. Greatly talented, funny, and with an irrepressible spirit, she leaves countless friends and loving family.

A memorial celebration has been announced:

Sunday, February 4th 2pm-6pm

American Mountaineering Center
710 10th Street
Golden, Colorado 80401

2 to 4 Music and Poetry in the Auditorium

4 to 6 We’ll gather in the Conference Center
for light snacks and sharing memories of our
favorite cowgirl……

 

Those following her Caring Bridge page received the news of her passing:

Dear Treasured Friends & Family Afar,

Our family is deeply saddened to share the passing of our beloved sister, aunt and family member, the beautifully, talented Liz Masterson.

Liz has been in hospice care in her home since early November with a wonderfully supportive stream of friends and family sharing their love and music with her. She passed away shortly after 6pm this evening following her long battle with ovarian cancer with several dear friends (Ginger, Mag, Susan, Susie), her brother, Ed and sister-in-law, Jeannie nearby.

Two days ago Liz tried to muster the words and strength to send her Caring Bridge community the following update which she wasn’t able to complete:

This is the journal post I didn’t want to write for a while. It’s been hard getting my mind around the now inevitable conclusion that I am losing this battle. Watching my body decline everyday is an undeniable reality I have to face.

On December 11th while on my way to see my oncologist, I fell on the bottom step of my porch and it took Ginger and two of my neighbors to help me get up. Seeing Jerralyn was bittersweet, as it marked the closing of our four and a half year doctor/patient relationship. I was so relieved to have Ginger here to drive me to my appointment.

For those wishing to express their condolences with a thoughtful gift, in lieu of flowers, Liz has asked that you donate to your favorite animal charity, music scholarship or an ovarian cancer or BRCA research alliance or foundation.

More details will be shared in the coming days around her memorial service.

Your continued love, support and music through her journey with cancer and her recent days in hospice are immeasurable, and we are forever grateful that she has such a kind and compassionate community.

With love and gratitude,
Liz’s Family

Social media followed with many friends offering tributes and reminiscences. Her friend Yvonne Hollenbeck wrote, “One of the best voices to ever grace the stage at many a cowboy poetry gathering or folk festival…” Friend Patty Clayton shared the news, “….the songbird has flown. What an amazing life this woman has had. Her last days on this Earth have yielded to a peaceful end to a long, hard and well fought battle that Liz met head on and with such grace and dignity and that never ending sense of humor that continued to make us all laugh even in the hardest of times…”

Over the past years, Liz bravely pursued treatments for her ovarian cancer. She continued to perform, record, and spend time with valued family and friends.

Find more about Liz Masterson at her web site.

 

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Stan Tixier, 1932-2017

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We were sad to learn of the death of Utah poet Stan Tixier on December 23, 2017. Stan was a long-time part of the BAR-D and a tireless supporter of Cowboy Poetry Week. Each year he would coordinate with librarians, musicians, poets, and the media to present programs at area libraries.

Find some of Stan’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

See an article “‘The Tabasco Man,’ cowboy poet Stan Tixier, dies at 85,” by Janae Francis, from the Standard-Examiner, December 30, 2017

An obituary here tells about Stan’s rich life, “…Stan served in the Navy as an air traffic controller for 4 years starting in 1951 and in the reserves for four years after that. He began a career in the United States Forest Service in 1959. He had many assignments in Arizona, New Mexico, Washington D.C. and Milwaukee, Wisconsin before transferring to Ogden, Utah in 1982. He retired as Regional Forester in 1991 and he and Jan moved to Eden, Utah. While serving as Regional Forster, Stan also served as the first Chairman of the Inter-Agency Grizzly Bear Committee. He was active in the Society for Range Management and served as its national president in 1991-92. After retiring, Stan began further careers raising foxtrotting horses and writing and performing cowboy poetry. He achieved particular success in the latter, performing often and winning awards at several regional contests….”

It notes, “Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. with a Rosary with an open mic following the Rosary at 7 p.m. on December 28, 2017 at Myers Mortuary, 5865 S 1900 W, Roy. A funeral mass will be said at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 514 24th Street, Ogden, at 11 a.m. on December 29, 2017.”

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