WHEN YOU’RE THROWED, by Bruce Kiskaddon

jmr816photo © 2016, John Reedy; request permission for use

by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

If a feller’s been astraddle
since he’s big enough to ride,
And has had to throw a saddle
onto every sort of hide;
Though it’s nothin’ they take pride in,
most of fellers I have knowed,
If they ever done much ridin’,
has at various times got throwed.

It perhaps is when you’re startin’
on a round up some fine day,
That you feel a bit onsartin’
’bout some little wall eyed bay.
Fer he swells to beat the nation
while yore cinchin’ up the slack,
And he keeps a elevation
in your saddle at the back.

He starts rairin’ and a jumpin’
and he strikes when you git near.
But you cuss him and you thump him
till you git him by the ear.
Then your right hand grabs the saddle
and you ketch a stirrup too,
And you aim to light astraddle
like a wholly buckaroo.

But he drops his head and switches
and he gives a back’ards jump.
Out of reach your stirrup twitches
and your right spur grabs his rump.
And, “Stay with him!” shouts some feller.
But you know it’s hope forlorn.
And you feel a streak of yeller
as you choke the saddle horn.

Then you feel one rein droppin’
and you know he’s got his head,
And your shirt tail’s out and floppin’
and the saddle pulls like lead.
Then it ain’t no use a tryin’
for your spurs begin to slip
Now you’re upside down and flyin’
and horn tears from your grip.

Then you get a vague sensation
as upon the ground you roll,
Like a vi’lent separation
twixt your body and your soul.
And you land again a hummick
where you lay and gap fer breath,
And there’s sumpthin’ grips your stummick
like the awful clutch of death.

Yes the landscape round you totters
when at last you try to stand,
And you’re shaky on your trotters
and your mouth is full of sand.
They all swear you beat a circus
or a hoochy koochy dance,
Moppin’ up the canyon’s surface
with the busom of your pants.

There’s fellers gives perscriptions
how them bronchos should be rode.
But there’s few that gives descriptions
of the times when they got throwed.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Andy Hedges has a fine recitation of this cinematic poem in his current “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast. The episode (#47) includes a captivating interview with musician and songwriter Ned LeDoux, who talks about his ranch upbringing; his famous father, rodeo champion, singer-songwriter, and artist Chris LeDoux (1948–2005); and performs a new song, “The Next in Line.”

This poem was printed in Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, and John Lomax included a version of it in 1919 in Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp.

As we’ve told many times about Bruce Kiskaddon, he 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 classic poems.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Randy Rieman recites “When You’re Throwed” and other top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at cowboypoetry.com.

This great 2016 photograph is by John Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. John and his talented offspring, Brigid and Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, each recite Kiskaddon poems on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site: reedy.photoshelter.com. Find more about him at cowboypoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photograph with this post, but please request permission for other uses. The poem is in the public domain.)



by Baxter Black

It came from outta nowhere,
like a prolapse in the night.
Which, in fact is what it was, my friends,
the cow vet’s scourge and plight.
That pudgy pink projectile
from those monster movie scenes
Like some whopping giant burrito
filled with attitude and beans.

I was soon laid down behind it
on a hillside in the muck
While the cowboy shined his high beams
from his perch there in the truck.
His rope stretched from the bumper
to her front legs tied in haste.
As I wallowed in the darkness
like a frog, stripped to the waist.

It was bigger than a tree trunk.
It was slick as old chow mein.
It was heavy as a carpet
someone left out in the rain.
I tried to gain some purchase
as I pressed my fist in tight,
It was thrashing like a porpoise
and was putting up a fight.

I got it in a hammerlock.
It was like a rabid dog.
I wrapped my legs around it
like a monkey on a log.
I pushed until my shoulder
disappeared inside the mass
As I scrambled for a foothold
in the mud and frozen grass.

But alas, with one huge effort
she expelled me from her grip.
I shot out like a cannon,
rolled and did a double flip.
But I grabbed her tail in passing
and with strength born out of war,
I dove at the appendage
like some punch drunk matador.

I lifted her hind quarters,
and I swung her side to side,
Then, like smart men do,
I used my head to push it back inside!
It was dark there for a second,
it was hard to catch my breath
But there she lay, my patient
I had saved from certain death.

The cowboy rolled his window down, said,
“Doc, are you alright?”
He gunned the engine several times.
The headlights got real bright.
“I’ve seen a prolapse done before
but never quite like that!”
“Oh, they taught us that in vet school…
But I think it ate my hat.”

© Baxter Black, used with permission

You must watch Baxter Black performing this poem. Find one video from the Heber Valley Music and Cowboy Gathering and another video here.

Poet and writer Rod Miller, in “Fine Lines and Wrinkles,” an essay at CowboyPoetry.com, writes, “Alliteration, assonance, consonance, and a completely off-kilter view of the world are apparent in these fine, wrinkled lines from ‘Prolapse from the Black Lagoon’ by Baxter Black. (Note that even his name uses alliteration and assonance.)”

In his official bio, where he is described as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses,” Baxter Black comments, “My audience is my inspiration. Every cowboy, rancher, vet, farmer, feed salesman, ag teacher, cowman and rodeo hand has a story to tell, and they tell it to me. I Baxterize it and tell it back to ‘em! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

He recites Bruce Kiskaddon’s “They Can Take It” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD from CowboyPoetry.com and S. Omar Barker’s “Cowboy Saying” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO.

This message comes from Baxter’s office, a policy announcement:

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

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

This version of “Prolapse from the Black Lagoon” comes from Poems Worth Saving, Baxter Black’s 2013 collection of 164 poems and stories. Find more about Baxter Black at CowboyPoetry.com,  on Facebook; and find much more, including a weekly column, at

This photograph is courtesy of Baxter Black.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but request permission for any other use—except recitation.)

THE OLD NIGHT HAWK, by Bruce Kiskaddon



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I am up tonight in the pinnacles bold
Where the rim towers high.
Where the air is clear and the wind blows cold,
And there’s only the horses and I.
The valley swims like a silver sea
In the light of the big full moon,
And strong and clear there comes to me
The lilt of the first guard’s tune.

The fire at camp is burning bright,
Cook’s got more wood than he needs.
They’ll be telling some windy tales tonight
Of races and big stampedes.
I’m gettin’ too old fer that line of talk:
The desperaders they’ve knowed,
Their wonderful methods of handling stock
And the fellers they’ve seen get throwed.

I guess I’m a dog that’s had his day,
Though I still am quick and strong.
My hair and my beard have both turned gray,
And I reckon I’ve lived too long.
None of ’em know me but that old cook, Ed,
And never a word he’ll say.
My story will stick in his old gray head
Till the break of the Judgment Day.

What’s that I see a walkin’ fast?
It’s a hoss a’ slippin’ through.
He was tryin’ to make it out through the pass;
Come mighty near doin’ it too.
Get back there! What are you tryin’ to do?
You hadn’t a chance to bolt.
Old boy I was wranglin’ a bunch like you
Before you was even a colt.

It’s later now. The guard has changed.
One voice is clear and strong.
He’s singin’ a tune of the old time range —
I always did like that song.
It takes me back to when I was young
And the memories come through my head,
Of the times I have heard that old song sung
By voices now long since dead.

I have traveled better than half my trail.
I am well down the further slope.
I have seen my dreams and ambitions fail,
And memory replaces hope.
It must be true, fer I’ve heard it said,
That only the good die young.
The tough old cusses like me and Ed
Must stay still the last dog’s hung.

I used to shrink when I thought of the past
And some of the things I have known.
I took to drink, but now at last,
I’d far rather be alone.
It’s strange how quick that a night goes by,
Fir I live in the days of old.
Up here where there’s only the hosses and I;
Up in the pinnacles bold.

The two short years that I ceased to roam,
And I led a contented life.
Then trouble came and I left my home,
And I never have heard of my wife.
The years that I spent in a prison cell
When I went by another name;
For life is a mixture of Heaven and Hell
To a feller that plays the game.

They’d better lay off that wrangler kid.
They’ve give him about enough.
He looks like a pardner of mine once did.
He’s the kind that a man can’t bluff.
They’ll find that they are making a big mistake
If they once get him overhet;
And they’ll give him as good as an even break,
Or I’m takin’ a hand, you bet.

Look, there in the East is the Mornin’ Star.
It shines with a firy glow,
Till it looks like the end of a big cigar,
But it hasn’t got far to go.
Just like the people that make a flash.
They don’t stand much of a run.
Come bustin’ in with a sweep and a dash
When most of the work is done.

I can see the East is gettin’ gray.
I’ll gather the hosses soon;
And faint from the valley far away
Comes the drone of the last guard’s tune.
Yes, life is just like the night-herd’s song,
As the long years come and go.
You start with a swing that is free and strong,
And finish up tired and slow.

I reckon the hosses all are here.
I can see that T-bar blue,
And the buckskin hoss with the one split ear;
I’ve got ’em all. Ninety two.
Just listen to how they roll the rocks —
These sure are rough old trails.
But then, if they can’t slide down on their hocks,
They can coast along on their tails.

The Wrangler Kid is out with his rope,
He seldom misses a throw.
Will he make a cow hand? Well I hope,
If they give him half a show.
They are throwin’ the rope corral around,
The hosses crowd in like sheep.
I reckon I’ll swaller my breakfast down
And try to furgit and sleep.

Yes, I’ve lived my life and I’ve took a chance,
Regardless of law or vow.
I’ve played the game and I’ve had my dance,
And I’m payin’ the fiddler now.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem appeared in Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, and was revised for his 1947 book. The 45 variants are included in Bill Siems’ Open Range, which includes almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems. The above poem is the 1947 version.

Bill Siems writes, in another of his books, Shorty’s Yarns (the collected stories of Kiskaddon), about how this poem inspired him. His eloquent comments include how city people and ranchers might see each other, and, he comments on ranch people:

“…Besides feeding us, they are the stewards of our land and keepers of our connection with the natural world. They have come closest, after the Native Americans, to harmony with a landscape that is both beautiful and harsh. This harmony is a significant and difficult achievement, essentially in opposition to our romantic notions that are driven by need but not grounded in reality. It is one thing to love the land from a climate-controlled vehicle, but it is another to love it in the wind and sleet on horseback. Cattle as a backdrop for western entertainment are a world apart from cattle as living creatures that must be cared for and slaughtered. Standing with honesty and humility on such bedrock facts of life gives a person authority, however gently it may be asserted…this is the poem that first caught me up in Bruce Kiskaddon’s words…”

Find more about Kiskaddon, Open Range, and Shorty’s Yarns at CowboyPoetry.com.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems offers an introduction to Bruce Kiskaddon and top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.

Chris Isaacs, cowboy, packer, poet, and humorist, recites “The Old Night Hawk” on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE.

Chris headlines at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, August 8-10, 2019 in Prescott. Other announced performers are headliners Trinity Seely and The Cowboy Way Trio (Doug Figgs, Jim Jones and Mariam Funke). Tickets are available now.

This stunning photograph is by cowboy, writer, and poet Amy Hale Steiger, who cowboys with her husband Gail Steiger in rugged country at Arizona’s Spider ranch. She comments, “We often make camp below this butte when we are working our Cottonwood Pasture. Late evening and early morning highlights the rock faces, and I can’t help but stand in awe.”

For a fine piece of writing about her cowboying life, don’t miss her recent “Feet to the Fire,” in the current issue of Contra Viento Journal.

Amy Steiger has acclaimed books: two novels, two essay collections, and a book of poetry.

Find more about her at her web site, amyhaleauker.com; on CowboyPoetry.com; on Instagram; and follow her on Facebook.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photograph with this post, but for other uses, seek permission. The poem is in the public domain.)

A VISITOR, by Bruce Kiskaddon



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Just take a good look at what’s gathered up here.
A bunch of six calves and a visitin’ steer.
He can’t be a father, he can’t be a mother;
Of course you can’t tell, he might be a big brother.

This steer he was probably goin’ somewhere.
When he noticed them calves and just wanted in there.
The ol cows has gone to the water to drink,
And the calves that’s awake is too young fer to think.

It is likely by now that this steer doesn’t know
Exactly what place he had started to go.
You can’t depend much on a steer that is true
Fer he don’t know himself what he’s aimin’ to do.

He is generally speakin’ an onsartin’ feller;
He might hide in the bresh, he might stand out and beller.
The cows and the bulls aint so likely to run
But when steers git stampeded it ain’t any fun.

Well, the steer is fulfillin’ his mission on Earth.
A slight operation soon after his birth,
Decided his fate and laid out his career;
He’s a whole lot of beef and that’s why he’s a steer.

… by Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon’s ten years of cowboying informs many of his works. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems.

This poem was among his last works. In 1949 he and illustrator Katherine Field (1908-1951) renewed their partnership, creating poems and illustrations for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar, as they had done years before, 1936-1942. Kiskaddon died in 1950 and had written six-month’s worth of poems in advance. Field illustrated them all before her own death in 1951.

That information and almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems are included in Open Range by Bill Siems. Find more about Kiskaddon and more about Siems’ book in our Kiskaddon features.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems offers an introduction to Bruce Kiskaddon and top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.


(This poem is in the public domain. The calendar image is from our collection.)

WET BOOTS, by Bruce Kiskaddon


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

A cowboy goes under a turrible strain,
When he tries to wear boots that’s been soaked in the rain.
He pulls and he wiggles, and after he’s tried,
He gits him some flour and sprinkles inside.

Then he gits him two jack knives; puts one in each lug
And he stomps and he pulls till his eyes start to bug.
Next he tries a broom handle—an awful mistake.
Which same he finds out when he feels the lug break.

The toes and the heels they bust out of his socks,
And it’s awful to hear how that cowpuncher talks.
He opens his knife and it shore is a sin,
Fer he cuts his new boots till his feet will go in.

I reckon, old-timer, you know how he feels.
You have kicked bunk house walls and the chuck wagon wheels.
And you know when yore older, there’s nothin’ to gain
From buyin’ tight boots if you work in the rain.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon
This poem was included in Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.

Talented Montanan Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, 13, recites the poem on the new 3-CD project from Cowboy Poetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon. His sister, Brigid Reedy and their father, John Reedy, also contributed recitations to the new CD. They all perform at events across the West.

Find much more poetry and more about Bruce Kiskaddon in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1940 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboy pulling on boots, rodeo, Quemado, New Mexico.” It’s from the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection at The Library of Congress.

Find a feature about noted photographer and teacher Russell Lee with a gallery of photographs from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

FORGOTTEN, by Bruce Kiskaddon

forgotten2019photo by Carol M. Highsmith

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.

It’s Cowboy Poetry Week!


Let the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week begin!

Poets, musicians, libraries, and others have planned events, exhibits, and
more. States’ governors have proclaimed the week. Find the latest in Cowboy Poetry Week news.

We’re honored to have the beautiful work of Shawn Cameron, “Making Plans,” as the image for this year’s poster. Later this week there will be poems inspired by this painting, in Art Spur.

This year’s audio compilation, the 3-CD set, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, is now available. Over 60 tracks with voices from the past and from today’s top reciters and poets celebrate cowboy poetry’s popular classic poet, Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950).

Hundreds of rural libraries across the West have received this year’s poster and an invitation for the CD for their collections, through Cowboy Poetry Week’s outreach Rural Library Program.

Posters are never sold, but, in addition to going to libraries, they are given to supporters of The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. For a $50 donation, you can receive a thank-you gift of the poster and MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon. You’ll also be joining the community that helps to support the Center and ensure that its programs continue, including CowboyPoetry.com, Cowboy Poetry Week, and the Rural Library Program. Donations of any amount make a difference. Find more about how to be a part of it all here.

All of the work of the Center is made possible by its generous community of individual supporters, sponsors, and program funders. Find them all here. If you appreciate the work of the Center, thank them, and why not join them and be a part of the BAR-D?

Find more about Cowboy Poetry Week here.

Thanks for joining us here. Stay tuned this week for some of the best-of-the-best poetry postings.











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