THE MEDICINE KEEPERS J.B. Allen

Allen, J.B. #551-'03-5x5photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

 

THE MEDICINE KEEPERS
by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

A man might live and work beside
The fellers ’round the wagon
And never say two words unless
It’s just hooraw and braggin’.

But sometimes in the solitude
Of some ol’ line camp shack
He smooths a fruit can label out
And writes there on its back

A group of words redeemed from time
To last when he moves on,
Set down with hurried flourish
‘Fore his mem’ry of ’em’s gone.

The spellin’ may not be exact
Or commas where they ought,
But there within those rugged lines
A mood is somehow caught.

It might be full of sadness
From a death or crippled friend,
To just the mournful yearnin’
For a way that’s bound to end.

Some others could be bawdy
While full of life and mirth
Or stories ’bout some saddle horse
That has no peers on earth.

There’s many through the years been lost
Or burned or throwed away,
But others yet survive
To give us views of yesterday.

And still amongst the workin’ hands
The words come now and then
To write a livin’ history
Of the stock, and earth, and men.

© 1997, J.B. Allen; used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Texan J.B. Allen was a working cowboy for over three decades. He was a frequent performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and also at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Nara Visa, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, and other events. His poetry is included in many anthologies and in his own books and recordings. His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the @National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.

Buck Ramsey (1938-1998), in his introduction to The Medicine Keepers, wrote of J.B. Allen, “More than most cowboys, he held to the ways and memories…thought and talked the old lingo” and stated, “…in my opinion he is the best living writer of traditional cowboy verse.”

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“The Medicine Keepers” is just one of J.B. Allen’s poems on MASTERS: VOLUME ONE CD from CowboyPoetry.com, which include his poetry and that of Larry McWhorter, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens. The recording also includes J.B.’s recitation of Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem.”

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RANGE magazine includes “The Medicine Keepers” in the latest of its impressive hardcover volumes, Tales from Out There, a collection of poetry, stories, and photography. Also included in the book are works by Elizabeth Ebert, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Carolyn Duffurena, Vess Quinlan, Waddie Mitchell, Peggy Godfrey, Joel Nelson, Maria Lisa Eastman, Bill Jones, Larry McWhorter, late Buck Ramsey, Lyn Messersmith, Banjo Paterson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Bruce Kiskaddon, and many more.

RANGE describes the book, “Tales is a satisfying page-turner about another America. It’s been there all along, full of long horizons and endless sky and the silence that still exists far from the frenetic cities. There are folks out there, living and working in that rough and beautiful world. Through 64 stories and an array of 143 incredible photos, you will be on a journey to the middle of nowhere told in prose and cowboy poetry from the West’s best award-winning writers and photographers. Brought together in 160 pages of soulful beauty, the volume is dedicated to those we care about.”

The cover photo and many others are by Larry Angier. Find more about the book at rangemagazine.com.

This portrait of J.B. Allen is by Kevin Martini-Fuller.

Find more about J.B. Allen at cowboypoetry.com .

Thanks to Margaret Allen for her generous permissions.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission.)

THE HORSE TRADE, by Sunny Hancock

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THE HORSE TRADE
by Sunny Hancock (1931-2003)

I traded for a horse one time,
he wouldn’t take no beauty prize;
A great big long-eared, blue roan gelding,
not too bad for weight or size.
I had to make some tough old circles
and this trader guaranteed
This horse would show me lots of country
and not need too much rest or feed.

He said “Now this here ain’t no kids’ horse
but he’ll pack you up the crick,
He will bump up on some occasions
and he has been known to kick.
I wouldn’t trade him to just anyone
without having some remorse
But if you’re a sure enough cow puncher,
mister, he’s your kind of horse.

I stepped on that horse next mornin’;
he began to buck and bawl.
That trader maybe hadn’t lied none,
but he hadn’t told it all.
Because we sure tore up the country
where he throwed that equine fit
And I almost ran out of hand holds
by the time he finally quit.

I guess that musta’ set the pattern;
things just never seemed to change,
Although I showed him lots of country,
every corner of the range.
But every time I’d ride that booger,
why, he’d keep me sittin’ tight.
I knew I’d make at least three bronc rides
‘fore he’d pack me home that night.

Which woulda been OK
with lots of horses that I knowed.
But that old pony had my number;
I’d just barely got him rode.
And the thing that really spooked me
and put a damper on my pride
Was he was learning how to buck
faster than I was learnin’ how to ride.

I pulled into camp one evening;
it was gettin’ pretty late.
I see this grey horse in the corral
and there’s a saddle by the gate.
I looked that grey horse over
and I sure liked what I seen,
Then this kid showed up around the barn;
he musta been about sixteen.

He said he’d lamed that grey that morning
coming down off the granite grade,
And he wondered if I had a horse
I’d maybe like to trade.
He said he didn’t have the time to stop
and rest and let him heal,
And since that beggars can’t be choosers,
he’d make most any kind of deal.

When a feller’s tradin’ horses,
why, most anything is fair,
So I traded him that blue roan
for his grey horse then and there.
But them my conscience started hurtin’
When I thought of what I did,
To trade a “fly blown” dink like that
off to some little wet-nosed kid.

So next mornin’ after breakfast,
why, I tells him, “Listen lad,
If you want to know the truth,
that trade you made last night was bad.
That old blue horse is a tough one,
bad as any one you’ll see.
He’ll kick you, strike you, stampede.
He’s a sorry SOB.

“It’s all I can do to ride him
and I’ll tell it to you straight,
I think you’ll be awfully lucky
just to ride him past the gate.
There’s two or three old horses
out there in the saddle bunch.
They ain’t got too much going for ’em
but I kinda got a hunch

“They’ll probably get you where you’re going
if you just don’t crowd ’em none,
But damn, I hate to see you ride
that blue roan booger, son!”
He said, “I told you there last night
I’d make most any kind of trade,
And I appreciation your tellin’
what a bad mistake I made.

“But my old daddy told me when you’re tradin’
that no matter how you feel,
Even if you take a whippin’
that a deal is still a deal.
That horse, you say has lots of travel,
and he’s not too bad for speed.
Well, sir, I’m kinda’ in a tight
and that’s exactly what I need.

“I traded for him fair and square
and damn his blue roan hide,
When I pull outta’ here this morning,
that’s the horse I’m gonna ride.”
I watched him cinching up his saddle
and he pulled his hat way down,
Stepped right up into the riggin’
like he’s headed straight for town.

Stuck both spurs up in his shoulders,
got the blue roan hair a-flyin’
Tipped his head straight back and screamed
just like a hungry mountain lion.
You know, I’ve heard a lot of stories
’bout the bucking horse ballet.
I’ve heard of poetry in motion,
but the ride I saw that day

Just plumb complete defied description
though I can see it plain,
Like it had happened in slow motion
and was branded on my brain.
I don’t suppose I could explain it
to you even if I tried.
The only thing that I can say is,
by the saints, that kid could ride.

He sat there plumb relaxed
like he was laying home in bed,
And every jump that pony made,
that kid’s a-half a jump ahead.
When it was over I decided
I could learn a few things still,
And I said, “Son, I’m awfully sorry
I misjudged your ridin’ skill.”

He just said, “Shucks, that’s OK, mister,”
as he started on his way,
“But if you think this horse can buck,
don’t put your saddle on that grey.”

© 2002, Sunny Hancock, used with the permission of the Hancock Family
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Sunny Hancock, a “cowboy’s cowboy,” cowboyed all over the western U.S. and when he retired, he and his wife, Alice, lived outside of Lakeview, Oregon. They were friends and inspirations to many. He was at the first Westerm Folklife Center National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985 and was a regular participant for many years.

This poem remains the all-time most popular we’ve posted. The first volume of the MASTERS (2017) CD from CowboyPoetry.com has a recording of Sunny reciting this poem, and others, in front of a live audience at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Gary McMahan tells the poem with music, and you can listen to the entire piece at his site, singingcowboy.com.

Find more about Sunny Hancock at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) is titled, “Cowboy mounting horse, Quarter Circle U Ranch, Big Horn County, Montana” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

(A September, 2014 Facebook post of this poem became our most popular social media post ever, with currently over 3,000 Likes, and over 8,000 shares. People continue to Like and comment on that post.)

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

>>>This is a scheduled post. We’re on a break through September 20.

ODE TO THE CALF CRADLE, by Larry McWhorter

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ODE TO THE CALF CRADLE
by Larry McWhorter (1957-2003)

Modern day ranchers are doohickied up
But some gadgets do come in handy.
To have a truck and a trailer with you
On the back side at sundown is dandy.

Them feeders you see on flatbeds now
Sure beat them hundred pound sacks,
Round bales are moved with tractor and winch,
These all save on cowboys’ backs.

The makers of these should see paradise,
St. Pete, let them in if you’re able.
But the fires of Hell won’t be hot enough
For the man who made the calf table.

That heavy, clangin’, foul lookin’ trap
That eats cowboys’ fingers for lunch,
I think it’s alive, for I’ve seen it grin
When my hand it got its chance to crunch.

Oh for the days when the brandin’s were pure,
When the dragger and horse were the kings.
The brandin’ pen was a field of honor
Before that nut forged them foul things.

I’m sure that honyock really meant well.
We all have to do things to cope.
But on their best day, there’s no way they’re faster
Than an old gray haired man with a rope.

The years bring on change and the old ways must fall,
“Efficiency” rules now, I guess,
But that man and his cradle are doing away
With the job that the cowboy loves best.

Now, I’m not one to wish bad luck,
I’ve no use for witch doctor’s powers.
But I hope that feller lives a thousand years
With a case of incurable scours.

© Larry McWhorter, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

The last time we shared this poem, Colorado rancher and poet Terry Nash suggested that it would be a good follow-up to Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem (posted Monday) “The Brandin’ Corral.” Thanks to the generous permission of Andrea Waitley, it is a pleasure to share it. As she commented, it is a poem that working cowboys love.

A much admired and respected cowboy’s cowboy, poet, and musician, Larry McWhorter left behind an impressive collection of poetry.

Larry McWhorter wrote about this poem in his book, Cowboy Poetry: Contemporary Verse by Larry McWhorter (2000):

I remember Dad telling me about a prospective buyer looking over the ranch he now runs. After an extensive tour of the place, the buyer asked where the calf table was. Dad replied, “I loaned it to a neighbor on the condition he never bring it back!”

I am of the opinion that the only people who don’t enjoy branding calves by dragging them to the fire are a) people who have never been where it was done right or b) people who are not good at it.

I realize circumstances dictate a lot of situations. However, I would almost prefer to be fencing or pulling a windmill to working a calf table. It’s about the same thing to me.

The works of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens are featured in the first MASTERS CD (2017) from CowboyPoetry.com. They recite their poetry in recorded poems, “live” performances, and also recite other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs). Jay Snider introduces the CD.

Larry McWhorter’s friend, Texas singer and songwriter Jean Prescott  produced an impressive double-CD album of his work in 2010, with his recitations and also recordings by some of his friends reciting his work, including Oscar Auker, Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Hedges, and others. Find more about that project at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more poetry and more about Larry McWhorter at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo comes from Terry Nash; it’s his current Facebook cover photo. Find more about Terry at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, terrynashcowboypoet.com.

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

Cowboy Poetry Week, April 16-22, 2017

cpw_poster_2017_crow_r1smimage © 2015, Tyler Crow, “Makin’ a Break for It”

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Below:
About Cowboy Poetry Week
Get Involved
Rural Library Program
MASTERS CD
Poster by Tyler Crow

Elsewhere on the blog:
Cowboy Poetry Week News
Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur
MASTERS CD

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COWBOY POETRY
by Jane Morton

The round-ups, the brandings,
the calvings are done,
as ranchers sell out
and move on one by one.

We must tell the stories,
so memories live on,
past time when the tellers
themselves are long gone.

© 2004, Jane Morton

Cowboy Poetry Week is celebrated each year during April, National Poetry Month in the United States.

In 2017, Cowboy Poetry Week—the sixteenth annual—takes place April 16-22, 2017.

In 2017 it is made possible by generous support from Laura and Edmund Wattis Littlefield, a grant from the Margaret T. Morris Foundation, and the individuals and organizations who support the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry.

CowboyPoetry.com initiated Cowboy Poetry Week, and for the celebration’s second year, in April 2003, the United States Senate passed a resolution, with unanimous approval, recognizing our Cowboy Poetry Week celebration. Twenty-three states’ governors and other officials have recognized Cowboy Poetry Week since, and many activities take place in communities across the West and beyond.

See the 2017 events—to date—on the calendar here.


GET INVOLVED!

Get your schools, libraries, and community involved! Perform your poetry, donate a book or CD, share your knowledge.

Find ideas about how to get involved here.


THE RURAL LIBRARY PROGRAM

The Rural Library Program is an important Cowboy Poetry Week outreach activity, a part of our mission to serve a mostly under-served community of rural Westerners. Each year, a new compilation CD of top classic and contemporary cowboy poetry is offered, along with Cowboy Poetry Week posters, to many rural libraries across the West. The CD is also available for purchase.


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THE MASTERS CD

For 2017, the CD is MASTERS, a collection of poems by four late, respected poets: Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens. Introduced by Jay Snider, the compilation includes recorded poems, “live” performances, and the poets’ recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs).

Find more about the CD here.

CDs are sent to libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s associated Rural Library Program, given to supporters (at the $40 level and higher) as thank you gifts, and available to the public. More information about Masters is forthcoming.

Find information about all of the previous CDs, the BAR-D Roundup series, at CowboyPoetry.com.

cpw_poster_2017_crow_r1smimage ©2015, Tyler Crow, “Makin’ a Break for It”

THE 2017 POSTER

Cowboy and artist Tyler Crow‘s painting, “Makin’ a Break for It,” is selected as the 2017 Cowboy Poetry Week poster image and a special Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur. Tyler Crow is the newest and youngest member of the Cowboy Artists of America.

He tells that the oil painting depicts his “good amigo Mike Eslick.”

From his official bio:

Tyler Crow spent his young life in the small town of Apache, Oklahoma. A 2007 graduate of Apache High School, Tyler always had paper and pencil with him drawing horses. This childhood interest continued throughout his high school years. During his Senior year he entered a pencil drawing in the Oklahoma Youth Expo at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Winning Reserve Best of Show and a scholarship gave him a chance to attend a week-long summer painting workshop co-taught by Bruce Greene and Martin Grelle. This was the first time he had ever held a paintbrush in his hand.

Since their first meeting, Tyler has attended three more painting workshops co-taught by Greene and Grelle. In April 2011, Tyler attended his second Cowboy Artist workshop taught by Mr. Greene at the Scottsdale Artists School in Scottsdale, Arizona. In Tyler’s two most recent shows, Bosque Arts Classic and Small Works Great Wonders, he received the People’s Choice Award. His future plans are to continue studying art and work toward a career as a Western artist.

Find more about Tyler Crow at CowboyPoetry.com; at his site, tylercrow.com; and on Facebook.

Previous poster artists include Duward Campbell, Shawn Cameron, Bob Coronato, Tim Cox, Don Dane, William Matthews, Gary Morton, the late Bill Owen, Jason Rich, R.S. Riddick, and the late Joelle Smith. Find more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Posters are never sold. They are sent to participants in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program and sent to Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry supporters (at the $40 level and higher) as thank you gifts.