LEGEND OF BOASTFUL BILL, by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.


by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

At a roundup on the Gily,
One sweet mornin’ long ago,
Ten of us was throwed right freely
By a hawse from Idaho.
And we thought he’d go a-beggin’
For a man to break his pride
Till, a-hitchin’ up one leggin’,
Boastful Bill cut loose and cried —

“I’m a on’ry proposition for to hurt;
I fulfill my earthly mission with a quirt;
I kin ride the highest liver
‘Tween the Gulf and Powder River,
And I’ll break this thing as easy as I’d flirt.”

So Bill climbed the Northern Fury
And they mangled up the air
Till a native of Missouri
Would have owned his brag was fair.
Though the plunges kep’ him reelin’
And the wind it flapped his shirt,
Loud above the hawse’s squealin’
We could hear our friend assert

“I’m the one to take such rakin’s as a joke.
Someone hand me up the makin’s of a smoke!
If you think my fame needs bright’nin’
W’y I’ll rope a streak of lightnin’
And I’ll cinch ‘im up and spur ‘im till he’s broke.”

Then one caper of repulsion
Broke that hawse’s back in two.
Cinches snapped in the convulsion;
Skyward man and saddle flew.
Up he mounted, never laggin’,
While we watched him through our tears,
And his last thin bit of braggin’
Came a-droppin’ to our ears.

“If you’d ever watched my habits very close
You would know I’ve broke such rabbits by the gross.
I have kep’ my talent hidin’;
I’m too good for earthly ridin’
And I’m off to bust the lightnin’s, —

Years have gone since that ascension.
Boastful Bill ain’t never lit,
So we reckon that he’s wrenchin’
Some celestial outlaw’s bit.
When the night rain beats our slickers
And the wind is swift and stout
And the lightnin’ flares and flickers,
We kin sometimes hear him shout —

“I’m a bronco-twistin’ wonder on the fly;
I’m the ridin’ son-of-thunder of the sky.
Hi! you earthlin’s, shut your winders
While we’re rippin’ clouds to flinders.
If this blue-eyed darlin’ kicks at you, you die!”

Stardust on his chaps and saddle,
Scornful still of jar and jolt,
He’ll come back some day, astraddle
Of a bald-faced thunderbolt.
And the thin-skinned generation
Of that dim and distant day
Sure will stare with admiration
When they hear old Boastful say —

“I was first, as old rawhiders all confessed.
Now I’m last of all rough riders, and the best.
Huh, you soft and dainty floaters,
With your a’roplanes and motors —
Huh! are you the great grandchildren of the West!”

…by Badger Clark

Clark wrote the poem in 1907 and our version is from Clark’s Sun and Saddle Leather, first published in 1915.

The late Buck Ramsey comments on the poem in an essay, “Cowboy Libraries and Lingo,” in Cowboy Poets & Cowboy Poetry, edited by David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher. He writes, “..for imaginative cowboy lingo and outlandish braggadocio, Badger Clark’s “The Legend of Boastful Bill” is hard to beat…Bill goes on one hell of a ride, but as a challenge this raging bronc is for Boastful Bill about like hairpinning Aunt Maude’s milk cow…”

A favorite recitation is by Jerry Brooks, from her Shoulder to Shoulder CD (and on The BAR-D Roundup volumes Five and Ten from CowboyPoetry.com). Other top recordings of the poem are by Randy Rieman, on his Where the Ponies Come to Drink CD and Paul Zarzyski recites it on Cowboy Poetry Classics from Smithsonian Classics. A recording exists of Badger Clark reciting his poem. Find more in our Badger Clark features.

>>>>> We’re considering a future MASTERS CD of Badger Clark’s poetry. Do you have a favorite poem or favorite recitation? Do you recite a lesser known Clark poem? Email us. <<<<<<<

This 1888 photo by John C.H. Grabill is titled,”‘Bucking Bronco.’ Ned Coy, a famous Dakota cowboy, starts out for the cattle round-up with his pet ‘Boy Dick.'” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

This poem and photo are in the public domain.

HE TALKED ABOUT MONTANA, by Elizabeth Ebert (1925-2018


by Elizabeth Ebert

He talked about Montana
For he’d worked there in his youth,
And you somehow got the feeling
That most of it was truth.
Talked about the things he’d done there,
Memories from a happy past.
Talked about Montana rivers
Running cold, and deep and fast,
About pines upon a hillside
And mountains rising high,
About the endless reaches
Of a blue Montana sky.

Said he left there at the war’s start,
Went to tell his folks good-bye.
Then there was a wartime wedding
To a girl who got his eye.
Said she’d keep the home fires burning,
‘Til the war was past and won,
Wrote her love to him in letters,
Sent him pictures of their son.
And the letters and the pictures
Helped him bear the death and blood.
And he’d dream about Montana
As he slogged through foreign mud.

They would buy a little ranch there,
And he’d teach the boy to ride.
It would be a bit of heaven,
With his family at his side.
But he came home to discover
Someone else was in his place.
She had found another lover.
It was more than he could face
For he was tired of fighting,
So he merely let them go.
It was then he started drinking,
Just to ease the pain, you know.

He’d work a month cold sober,
And then he’d draw his pay,
He was headed for Montana;
But the booze got in his way,
And he never made it out of town,
‘Fore the money all was spent
And he was busted flat again,
And he didn’t know where it went.
So he’d come back asking for his job.
And he’d hope you’d understand.
And you always hired him on again
For he was a darned good hand.

And he’d talk about Montana.
And you’d get a glimmer then,
Of the cowboy that he used to be,
And the man he might have been
Before the war and wife and whiskey
Had bent him out of shape.
Now the war and wife were history
And the whiskey was escape.
But he swore that he was going back
And he’d do most anything
For Montana sure was pretty
When it greened up in the spring.

Then he finally got an offer
To tend a band of sheep.
It was just for winter wages,
Barely paid his board and keep.
But it was in Montana,
So he was on his way,
He could stand to winter woollies,
He would work for little pay,
For he’d be there in the springtime
When the sky turned clear and blue,
And he’d go back to punching cattle
When his winter job was through.

Don’t know why he left the sheep camp,
Started walking into town,
Maybe he just needed whiskey
To wash the lonely down.
Quick come Montana’s blizzards.
Deep falls Montana’s snow.
And unforgiving are the winds
When they once begin to blow.
He’d come looking for his Paradise,
He hadn’t come to die.
But he froze upon a lonely road
‘Neath a cold Montana sky.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

South Dakota’s much-loved poet, the late Elizabeth Ebert, was celebrated for her powerful writing as well as her quick wit and humor.

Baxter Black has said of her (and referring to this poem): “To say that I admire Elizabeth’s writing seems meager comment on her talent. She writes from inspiration with such graceful force it’s like her pen has power steering. There are so many first class pieces in her books, most contemporary cowboy poets would covet even just one so good in their armory. If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all: ‘Before war and wife and whiskey/ Had bent him out of shape/ Now the war and wife were history/ And the whiskey was escape.'”

Listen to her recite this poem in a 1994 video, recently posted on Facebook by the Western Folklife Center.

Her long-time friend, South Dakota poet Yvonne Hollenbeck has an article about Elizabeth Ebert in the current issue of RANGE magazine, with photos and poetry. It begins, “The year was 1929 when four-year-old Elizabeth Summers penned her first poem. The country was headed into the Great Depression and and times were especially hard for farm families on the South Dakota prairie, but she constantly wrote verses noting the struggles as well as the good times experienced during her youth.”

Journalist Carson Vaughan wrote about Elizabeth Ebert in a February, 2017 American Cowboy profile.

Find more about Elizabeth Ebert at CowboyPoetry.com.

This iconic image, c. 1888, titled “The Cow Boy,” is by J.C.H. Grabill, a photographer from Sturgis, Dakota Territory. It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it at .

Grabill worked in Dakota Territory and The Library of Congress maintains an on-line collection of Grabill photographs.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission. The photo is in the public domain.)

ROUNDUP IN THE SPRING by Pat Richardson (1934-2016)



by Pat Richardson (1934-2016)

Ropes uncoil in the darkness,
whistle true an’ find their mark
Saddle up an’ snug yer hat down,
make a bronc ride in the dark
Ponies snortin’ in the darkness
hear the spur rowels as they ring
Horse an’ rider work the kinks out,
boys it’s roundup time, it’s spring

Miles away from camp by sunup
dew hangs silver on the grass
A lone mule deer at a distance
stops an’ freezes ’till yer passed
Make a circle change yer mount,
catch a fresh horse from yer string
Days an’ nights all blend together,
boys it’s roundup time, it’s spring

In the evening’ after supper
Bill starts singin’ way off key
But y’ know for some strange reason,
it sounds pretty good to me
In the bunkhouse he gets hushed
every time he tries to sing
But he’s getting’ songs requested
durin’ roundup in the spring

Longtime foes begin’ to visit,
swappin’ stories, lie, an’ brag
An’ the best hand in the crew
takes his turn at ridin’ drag
Every year I’m amazed,
longtime grudges take to wing
An’ the cowboys work together,
boys it’s roundup time, it’s spring

© 1998, Pat Richardson, used with permission

This week we’re celebrating spring.

The greatly missed Pat Richardson, California poet, artist, cowboy, and former Pro Rodeo Sports News cartoonist is better known for his humorous poems, but he wrote in a variety of styles. Occasionally he would write a more serious poem like “Roundup in the Spring” and completely break the mood with a humorous, unexpected last few lines.

Curly Musgrave (1943-2009), also greatly missed, turned this poem into a song called “Boys, It’s Roundup Time,” on his The Heritage CD.

Pat Richardson was known for his deadpan delivery of his humorous poems, and Baxter Black famously said of Pat Richardson’s poetry, “If you boiled cowboy poetry down to what’s worth savin’, this is what the stew would smell like.”

See Pat in action in a video from the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where he was a frequent performer.

Find some of Pat’s poetry and more about him and his book and recordings at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1888 photo from South Dakota, titled “Branding calves on roundup,” is by John C.H. Grabill (1849-1903). It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Grabill worked in Dakota Territory and The Library of Congress maintains an on-line collection of Grabill photographs.

(You may share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission. The photograph is in the public domain.)


THE CREAK OF THE LEATHER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It’s likely that you can remember
A corral at the foot of a hill
Some mornin’ along in December
When the air was so cold and so still.
When the frost lay as light as a feather
And the stars had jest blinked out and gone.
Remember the creak of the leather
As you saddled your hoss in the dawn.

When the glow of the sunset had faded
And you reached the corral after night
On a hoss that was weary and jaded
And so hungry yore belt wasn’t tight.
You felt about ready to weaken
You knowed you had been a long way
But the old saddle still kep a creakin’
Like it did at the start of the day.

Perhaps you can mind when yore saddle
Was standin’ up high at the back
And you started a whale of a battle
When you got the old pony untracked.
How you and the hoss stuck together
Is a thing you caint hardly explain
And the rattle and creak of the leather
As it met with the jar and the strain.

You have been on a stand in the cedars
When the air was so quiet and dead
Not even some flies and mosquitoes
To buzz and make noise ’round yore head.
You watched for wild hosses or cattle
When the place was as silent as death
But you heard the soft creak of the saddle
Every time the hoss took a breath.

And when the round up was workin’
All day you had been ridin’ hard
There wasn’t a chance of your shirkin’
You was pulled for the second guard
A sad homesick feelin’ come sneakin’
As you sung to the cows and the moon
And you heard the old saddle a creakin’
Along to the sound of the tune.

There was times when the sun was shore blazin’
On a perishin’ hot summer day
Mirages would keep you a gazin’
And the dust devils danced far away
You cussed at the thirst and the weather
You rode at a slow joggin’ trot
And you noticed somehow that the leather
Creaks different when once it gets hot.

When yore old and yore eyes have grown hollow
And your hair has a tinge of the snow
But there’s always the memories that follow
From the trails of the dim long ago.
There are things that will haunt you forever
You notice that strange as it seems
One sound, the soft creak of the leather,
Weaves into your memories and dreams.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon, including this one, first published in his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.

Find many more poems and much more about Kiskaddon in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This iconic photo by John C.H. Grabill, “The Cow Boy,” taken circa 1888, is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Grabill worked in Dakota Territory. The Library of Congress maintains an on-line collection of Grabill photographs.

Find more about this photograph here.