CHAPS by Gary McMahan

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CHAPS
by Gary McMahan

To: Mr Ralph Lauren
505 5th Ave
New York City

I seen on the TV Mr. Lauren
That you have a men’s cologne you call “Chaps”
And it’s probably a manly scent
Or you wouldn’t have called it that.

I confess I’ve never used the stuff
And this may sound a little harsh
But I suspect men use cologne to hide
The fact that they didn’t warsh

So I can’t really comment on the product
Though I’m sure it smells just fine
It’s the way you say the name “chaps”
That chaps my cowboy behind

You see the name is derived
From the Spanish word chaparro, well
It in turn got its name
from the word chaparral

Which again in Spanish means
A dense thicket of thorny brush and trees
Which all manner of cowboys
have ridden through for centuries

Thus needing protection for their legs
These chaparros were fashioned from cowhide
and are the leather leggin’s cowboys wear
That comes without a backside

Then us gringos got hold of the word
And shortened chaparro to chaps
Kinda like when we took the word
Tappaderos and condensed it to “Taps”

So that’s why “ch” is really pronounced
With an “sh” sound you see
And to an ol’ cowboy that’s worn chaps all his life
It seems a travesty

That you would use the cowboy’s manly image
To sell your fancy smell to the herd
And never even take the time
To learn how to say the word

‘Cause fact is Mr. Lauren
Even though I’d like to console ya
anyone who says “chaps” for chaps
Don’t know chit from chineola

© Gary McMahan
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

You can watch Gary McMahan, accompanied by popular musician Ernie Martinez, as they performed this poem at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The clip is included in Doug Morrione’s award-winning film, Everything in the Song is True.

(The entire film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse is available for streaming at Amazon.

Gary McMahan tells that this poem was inspired by a letter that former longtime Western Horseman publisher (and Gary’s father-in-law) Dick Spencer wrote to Ralph Lauren.

The bio at Gary McMahan’s web site tells:

Gary is known for his award-winning songs, captivating stories, uproarious humor, and national championship yodeling. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Riders in the Sky, Dave Stamey, and Juni Fisher. His songs, stories, and poems embody what many believe to be the heart of the new West.

Gary comes by his cowboy heritage naturally. He was born into it and has ridden, wrangled, and roped all over the West, all the while collecting reflections on cowboy ways. Those reflections are the backbone of all his songs, stories, and poems.

Find more about Gary McMahan at cowboypoetry.com and visit his site, singingcowboy.com (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums).

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein is titled, “Spurs, chaps and broad-rimmed hat, the cattleman’s distinctive features of dress. Quarter Circle ‘U’ Ranch, Montana.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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

A COWBOYIN’ DAY, by Gary McMahan

garypatterson

A COWBOYIN’ DAY
by Gary McMahan

Morning is just a thin line to the East
As you steps in the corral and captures a beast.
Cold saddle blankets, hey cock-a-doodle-doo—
Don’t buck now, you booger; you’ll break me in two.

Your head starts working on the last pass around;
Saddle horses are wrangled, draft horses cut out.
You shuts the gate and steps to the ground—
It’s hot, black coffee you’re thinking ’bout now.

Then it’s biscuits and gravy and eggs over light,
And the foreman’s wife is a beautiful sight.
Jokes and jabs and the cowboss’s orders,
A chew and a toothpick, and you’re out the door

To saddle the horse you’ll use for the day,
Makin’ sure your riggin’ has no extra play.
You steps aboard light with him all gathered up
’Cause you know first hand this critter can buck.

Ease him out at a walk and head north towards the dump.
You’ll be askin’ a trot when he loses his hump.
You hits a slow lope on the badger highway;
It’s a cool morning, blue-sky cowboyin’ day.

And the brooks are babbling down through the holes,
The meadowlarks sing the song in your soul,
And the wildflowers blaze any color you s’pose
As the smell of sagebrush and pine fill your nose.

Now the horse that you’re on is big, and he’s lean—
Quick, tough, smart, and a little bit mean.
His saddle’s no place for the meek or the green;
He’s a sho-nuff rip-snortin’ cowboyin’ machine.

And the place that you’re headed is pretty intense;
Continental Divide is the back fence.
There’s ten thousand acres of mountain and rock there
And twelve hundred head to check and to doctor.

And to make matters worse (or better, you think),
They’re all yearling heifers—unpredictable dinks.
They’ll run and they’ll hide ’til hell freezes twice
Then kick up their heels as you skate on the ice.

But this ain’t no colt, and you ain’t no kid,
So you whips out your rope and pulls down your lid,
And you climbs and cruises the sagebrush and aspen
’Til you finds you a cow brute what’s droopy and raspin’.

And maybe you’ll tag ’er ’fore she gits to the brush
And trip ’er and tie ’er in a big rush
And pack her with sulfa and penicillin.
She’ll turn for the better, good Lord a willin’.

Lots of footrot and pinkeye today,
But that don’t mean the boogers can’t play.
They’ve ducked and they’ve dodged ’til who laid a chunk,
But you managed to capture a pretty good hunk.

A line-backed old heifer with a sly side dart
Almost upset the whole apple cart,
And a bald-faced old bag sure slammed on her brakes
When we dived off a ledge and got in her way.

It’s the heat of the day now—sun’s straight overhead—
And you and your horse are packing some lead.
You hanker for rest and a biscuit or two,
And you figures you got that much coming to you.

Now your horse likes the grass that grows ’neath the aspen,
And the shade there is welcome as peace everlastin’.
So you finds such a place with a creek close by
To soothe the bruises of a hard ride.

You hobbles, unbridles him, loosens his girth
Then sets yourself down in the cool, green earth,
Surrounds your grub and drinks your fill
And takes a siesta way back in the hills.

Well, a catnap is all you require;
Still, you lay there and ponder your thoughts . . .
The world sure has its briars.
Take, for instance, this good old cow-hoss—

He was a wild-eyed, ring-tailed dandy.
Heck, they give up on him ’fore they give him to me,
But it’s the same for horses as it is for men—
He just needed a job and a kick in the shin.

Well the afternoon’s spent with the usual flair:
A close call here, a catastrophe there.
But still we saved more than a couple of hides;
That’s why we get paid for making these rides.

A storm blew through for about thirty minutes,
And you’d swear that Satan hisself was in it.
You’re sure glad your pony is seasoned plumb through—
Close lightning’s unloaded a few buckaroos.

You’re wet as a fish, but you ain’t gonna melt,
And the sun feels the best it ever has felt.
You’re all steamed up like an overdue freight,
But you’re dry as a duck time you get to the gate.

Now, there are those who thinks a cowboy’s a crude, ignorant cuss.
Truth is, we no-savvy them; they no-savvy us.
But there’s one thing that sticks in my mind
When a cowboy’s job cuts into sublime.

It’s when you and your horse form a leathery feather
And drift two, three yearlings out of a gather
And trail ’em up someplace they don’t want to go
When they’re needing a vet or what ever, y’know.

You set ’em just so when you go through a gate,
And don’t rile ’em up, for heaven’s sake.
Folks that have tried it say it’s kind of an art
To pen ’em in the home corral before dark.

And we’re trailin’ two of em home this night.
We’ll prolly ship the one; the other’ll be all right.
But one wrong move now the air’s turning cool,
And these two yearling heifers’ll make you look like a fool.

Punch ’em into the catch with a “whoop” and a smile.
You been walkin’ on eggs for the last two miles,
And if one woulda broke, the fur woulda flew—
No tellin’ when you’da got another crack at them two.

Your horse rolls in the dirt while you put up your tack,
Then savors his grain while you scratch his back.
It’s an evenin’ ritual you both enjoy;
You don’t covet nothin’ when you ride this ol’ boy.

An he heads for the timothy down by the lake
Whilst you saunters to the house for soup and steak
To mix it up with compadres and finish your pie
Like folks do when they’re satisfied.

When supper’s done, there’s little time for play—
You sleep hard all night if you work hard all day—
But ’fore you fall off your log to float in the air,
You may have time for a little prayer:

“Lord, I thank you for this cowboyin’ day.
I sure had me some fun a-earnin’ my pay,
And I like to think I put meat on the table
For a country that needs to stay fit an’ able.

“But a cow with no horse is boring as hell,
And a horse with no cows don’t ring my bell.
It’s a good life you gave me, these horses and cattle,
And I wanted to say thanks Lord for my day in the saddle.”

© 1986, Gary McMahan, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Cowboy, poet, songwriter, and yodeler Gary McMahan’s vivid “A Cowboyin’ Day” is a contemporary cowboy poetry standout.

In his book, Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song, he writes about it, “One of my favorite things is working cattle on a good horse in the high country. I used to do a considerable amount of it, and even though this poem doesn’t have a ‘Hollywood plot,’ a lot of ranch folk have told me how much they like it, especially those who’ve ever run a bunch of yearlin’s.”

At Gary McMahan’s singingcowboy.com, you can listen to “A Cowboyin’ Day” and the full-length tracks of all his albums of his music and poetry.

Gary is headed to the 30th annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Golden, January 17-20, 2019. The lineup includes Jerry Brooks, Jon Chandler, Connie Dover, Mark Gardner & Rex Rideout, Kristyn Harris, Carol Huechan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Chuck Larsen, Gary McMahan, John Nelson, New West, Jean Prescott, Dave Stamey, Pop Wagner, Barry Ward, and Dick Warwick.

Gary told us, “Vess Quinlan and I started the Colorado Cowboy Gathering 30 years ago! I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. We wanted to have a gathering to go along with the National Western Stock Show here in Denver. We figured it would just dovetail right in with it. So we went to the state folklorist Bea Roeder and she really did the hard work of putting it together. Turns out, it was sparsely attended by the NWSS folks and loved by the people in and around Denver and Colorado. We have much to celebrate. Some great cowboy poets came outta Colorado, Bruce Kiskaddon, to give you one example.”

(Look for Gary’s recitation of two Kiskaddon poems on our forthcoming MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD.)

Gary is also featured at the Western Folklife Center’s 35th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 28-February 2, 2019.

Find more about Gary at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, singingcowboy.com.

This photo is by Bill Patterson, top gathering photographer, who has captured great views of so many of today’s performers and the essence of so many events. See some of his photos on Facebook.  The above photo is used with a different look in a recent article in about the Colorado gathering from 5280 magazine.

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

THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND, by Gary McMahan

cutiepie

THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND
lyrics by Gary McMahan

The old Double Diamond lay out east of Dubois
in the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer’s gavel rapped and it rattled,
as I watched the old Double Diamond go.
Won’t you listen to the wind
Mother Nature’s violin.

When I first hired on the old Double Diamond
I was a dammed poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim,
well my spirit was tame
couldn’t see all the cards in my hand.
And the wind whipped the granite above me
and blew the tumbleweeds clean through my soul.

I fought her winters, busted her horses
I took more than I thought I could stand,
but the battle with the mountains and cattle
seems to bring out the best in a man.
I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
and a mama, her babies to hold.

And I need the hills of Wyoming
in the land of the buffalo
Now shes sellin’ out, and I’m movin’ on
But I’m leavin’ with more than I came
‘Cause I got this saddle and it ain’t for sale,
and I got this song to sing

I got this a new range to find
and new knots to tie
in a country where cowboys are kings
I turned my tail to the wind,
and the old Double Diamond
disappeared into the sage.

Yay ee o-del o-hoo – dee

© 1975, words and music by Gary McMahan, used with permission
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission

Gary McMahan’s widely loved song has been cited as one of today’s top cowboy songs by Western Horseman. It has been recorded by Chris LeDoux, Ian Tyson, and dozens of other artists. Gary tells about writing the song:

My dad was a cattle trucker and had hauled lots of cattle out of Dubois, Wyoming, for a fella named Ab Cross. Ab owned the grand old Cross Ranch outside of Dubois. Dad and Ab were good friends, and I became a friend of the Crosses as well.

I believe it was 1973 when Dad and I were up there in Dubois on a fishing trip. We stayed with the Crosses, and as we were getting ready to head out, Ab said, “You’re not leaving today, are you? The Double Diamond Ranch is going on the auction block today, and it’s kind of a big deal around these parts.” So Ab talked us into staying an extra day.

We all went to the sale and saw the fine old ranch go. There were a bunch of  cowboys there who had just lost their jobs and were loadin’ up and moving out, all heading to what they hoped would be another cowboyin’ job somewhere. It struck my heart, and I thought this was kind of typical of what was going on in the West.

That next day on the drive back to Colorado, I wrote the basics of the song ‘The Old Double Diamond.’ I was living in Nashville at the time and over the next…I don’t know…nine months or so, I refined the song into the song you hear today.

It’s been cut I don’t know how many times by big names and small alike. I never tried to control who sang the song. I just let it have its head…I rarely meet a cowboy who doesn’t know the words to that song.”

Listen to Gary McMahan’s rendition at his web site  and see a video on Youtube.

Find an Ian Tyson version on YouTube and one by Chris LeDoux here .

Gary McMahan is featured at the Western Folklife Center’s 35th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 28 – February 2, 2019. The lineup has just been announced: 3hattrio, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie, John Dofflemyer, Joshua Dugat, Maria Lisa Eastman, Mary Flitner, Jamie Fox & Alex Kusturok, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Brenn Hill, Tish Hinojosa, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Ross Knox, Ned LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band, Sid Marty, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin Murphey, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Diane Peavey, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan. Halladay & Rob Quist, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, Matt Robertson, Olivia Romo, Trinity Seely, Sean Sexton, Sourdough Slim, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Colter Wall, Swift Current, and Paul Zarzyski.

The event will include three showings of Everything in the Song is True, Doug Morrione’s award-winning feature-length documentary film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse. The excellent film is now available for streaming at Amazon. Find more about the film at www.everythinginthesongistrue.com.

This vintage photo is of Gary and his dog, Cutie Pie. Check out “Cutie Pie (the Yodeling Dog)” at his site for audio from the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering with Ranger Doug of the Riders in the Sky, Gary, and Cutie Pie.

Find more about Gary McMahan at CowboyPoetry.com; visit his site, www.singingcowboy.com (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums); and find him  on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/HorseAppleRecords.

(Please respect copyright. You can share these lyrics with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)

A COWBOYIN’ DAY by Gary McMahan

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A COWBOYIN’ DAY
by Gary McMahan

Morning is just a thin line to the East
As you steps in the corral and captures a beast.
Cold saddle blankets, hey cock-a-doodle-doo—
Don’t buck now, you booger; you’ll break me in two.

Your head starts working on the last pass around;
Saddle horses are wrangled, draft horses cut out.
You shuts the gate and steps to the ground—
It’s hot, black coffee you’re thinking ’bout now.

Then it’s biscuits and gravy and eggs over light,
And the foreman’s wife is a beautiful sight.
Jokes and jabs and the cowboss’s orders,
A chew and a toothpick, and you’re out the door

To saddle the horse you’ll use for the day,
Makin’ sure your riggin’ has no extra play.
You steps aboard light with him all gathered up
’Cause you know first hand this critter can buck.

Ease him out at a walk and head north towards the dump.
You’ll be askin’ a trot when he loses his hump.
You hits a slow lope on the badger highway;
It’s a cool morning, blue-sky cowboyin’ day.

And the brooks are babbling down through the holes,
The meadowlarks sing the song in your soul,
And the wildflowers blaze any color you s’pose
As the smell of sagebrush and pine fill your nose.

Now the horse that you’re on is big, and he’s lean—
Quick, tough, smart, and a little bit mean.
His saddle’s no place for the meek or the green;
He’s a sho-nuff rip-snortin’ cowboyin’ machine.

And the place that you’re headed is pretty intense;
Continental Divide is the back fence.
There’s ten thousand acres of mountain and rock there
And twelve hundred head to check and to doctor.

And to make matters worse (or better, you think),
They’re all yearling heifers—unpredictable dinks.
They’ll run and they’ll hide ’til hell freezes twice
Then kick up their heels as you skate on the ice.

But this ain’t no colt, and you ain’t no kid,
So you whips out your rope and pulls down your lid,
And you climbs and cruises the sagebrush and aspen
’Til you finds you a cow brute what’s droopy and raspin’.

And maybe you’ll tag ’er ’fore she gits to the brush
And trip ’er and tie ’er in a big rush
And pack her with sulfa and penicillin.
She’ll turn for the better, good Lord a willin’.

Lots of footrot and pinkeye today,
But that don’t mean the boogers can’t play.
They’ve ducked and they’ve dodged ’til who laid a chunk,
But you managed to capture a pretty good hunk.

A line-backed old heifer with a sly side dart
Almost upset the whole apple cart,
And a bald-faced old bag sure slammed on her brakes
When we dived off a ledge and got in her way.

It’s the heat of the day now—sun’s straight overhead—
And you and your horse are packing some lead.
You hanker for rest and a biscuit or two,
And you figures you got that much coming to you.

Now your horse likes the grass that grows ’neath the aspen,
And the shade there is welcome as peace everlastin’.
So you finds such a place with a creek close by
To soothe the bruises of a hard ride.

You hobbles, unbridles him, loosens his girth
Then sets yourself down in the cool, green earth,
Surrounds your grub and drinks your fill
And takes a siesta way back in the hills.

Well, a catnap is all you require;
Still, you lay there and ponder your thoughts . . .
The world sure has its briars.
Take, for instance, this good old cow-hoss—

He was a wild-eyed, ring-tailed dandy.
Heck, they give up on him ’fore they give him to me,
But it’s the same for horses as it is for men—
He just needed a job and a kick in the shin.

Well the afternoon’s spent with the usual flair:
A close call here, a catastrophe there.
But still we saved more than a couple of hides;
That’s why we get paid for making these rides.

A storm blew through for about thirty minutes,
And you’d swear that Satan hisself was in it.
You’re sure glad your pony is seasoned plumb through—
Close lightning’s unloaded a few buckaroos.

You’re wet as a fish, but you ain’t gonna melt,
And the sun feels the best it ever has felt.
You’re all steamed up like an overdue freight,
But you’re dry as a duck time you get to the gate.

Now, there are those who thinks a cowboy’s a crude, ignorant cuss.
Truth is, we no-savvy them; they no-savvy us.
But there’s one thing that sticks in my mind
When a cowboy’s job cuts into sublime.

It’s when you and your horse form a leathery feather
And drift two, three yearlings out of a gather
And trail ’em up someplace they don’t want to go
When they’re needing a vet or what ever, y’know.

You set ’em just so when you go through a gate,
And don’t rile ’em up, for heaven’s sake.
Folks that have tried it say it’s kind of an art
To pen ’em in the home corral before dark.

And we’re trailin’ two of em home this night.
We’ll prolly ship the one; the other’ll be all right.
But one wrong move now the air’s turning cool,
And these two yearling heifers’ll make you look like a fool.

Punch ’em into the catch with a “whoop” and a smile.
You been walkin’ on eggs for the last two miles,
And if one woulda broke, the fur woulda flew—
No tellin’ when you’da got another crack at them two.

Your horse rolls in the dirt while you put up your tack,
Then savors his grain while you scratch his back.
It’s an evenin’ ritual you both enjoy;
You don’t covet nothin’ when you ride this ol’ boy.

An he heads for the timothy down by the lake
Whilst you saunters to the house for soup and steak
To mix it up with compadres and finish your pie
Like folks do when they’re satisfied.

When supper’s done, there’s little time for play—
You sleep hard all night if you work hard all day—
But ’fore you fall off your log to float in the air,
You may have time for a little prayer:

“Lord, I thank you for this cowboyin’ day.
I sure had me some fun a-earnin’ my pay,
And I like to think I put meat on the table
For a country that needs to stay fit an’ able.

“But a cow with no horse is boring as hell,
And a horse with no cows don’t ring my bell.
It’s a good life you gave me, these horses and cattle,
And I wanted to say thanks Lord for my day in the saddle.”

© 1986, Gary McMahan
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Cowboy, poet, songwriter, and yodeler Gary McMahan’s vivid “A Cowboyin’ Day” is a contemporary cowboy poetry standout.

In his book, Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song, he writes about it, “One of my favorite things is working cattle on a good horse in the high country. I used to do a considerable amount of it, and even though this poem doesn’t have a ‘Hollywood plot,’ a lot of ranch folk have told me how much they like it, especially those who’ve ever run a bunch of yearlin’s.”

The current “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast from Andy Hedges is a don’t-miss conversation with Gary McMahan. Gary talks about his life and work, including his music career and influences. He also tells some wild stories and shares the story of the creation of his popular song “The Old Double Diamond,” which has become a cowboy anthem and has been sung by Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, and manyothers. The episode gives a great look at Western music history. Find it and all the “Cowboy Crossroads” episodes at andyhedges.com/cowboy-crossroads.

At Gary McMahan’s web site, singingcowboy.com, you can listen to “A Cowboyin’ Day” and the full-length tracks of all his albums of his music and poetry.

Gary describes this photo, “Waitin’ for Spring. Me on the T Lazy 7 ranch outside of Aspen in the late ’70s or early ’80s…”

Find more about Gary at CowboyPoetry.com, his site, and on Facebook.

THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND lyrics by Gary McMahan

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THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND
lyrics by Gary McMahan

The old Double Diamond lay out east of Dubois
in the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer’s gavel rapped and it rattled,
as I watched the old Double Diamond go.
Won’t you listen to the wind
Mother Nature’s violin.

When I first hired on the old Double Diamond
I was a dammed poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim,
well my spirit was tame
couldn’t see all the cards in my hand.
And the wind whipped the granite above me
and blew the tumbleweeds clean through my soul.

I fought her winters, busted her horses
I took more than I thought I could stand,
but the battle with the mountains and cattle
seems to bring out the best in a man.
I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
and a mama, her babies to hold.

And I need the hills of Wyoming
in the land of the buffalo
Now shes sellin’ out, and I’m movin’ on
But I’m leavin’ with more than I came
‘Cause I got this saddle and it ain’t for sale,
and I got this song to sing

I got this a new range to find
and new knots to tie
in a country where cowboys are kings
I turned my tail to the wind,
and the old Double Diamond
disappeared into the sage.

Yay ee o-del o-hoo – dee

© 1975, words and music by Gary McMahan
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Gary McMahan’s widely loved song has been cited as one of today’s top cowboy songs by Western Horseman. It has been recorded by Chris LeDoux, Ian Tyson, and dozens of other artists. Gary tells about writing the song:

My dad was a cattle trucker and had hauled lots of cattle out of Dubois, Wyoming, for a fella named Ab Cross. Ab owned the grand old Cross Ranch outside of Dubois. Dad and Ab were good friends, and I became a friend of the Crosses as well.

I believe it was 1973 when Dad and I were up there in Dubois on a fishing trip. We stayed with the Crosses, and as we were getting ready to head out, Ab said, “You’re not leaving today, are you? The Double Diamond Ranch is going on the auction block today, and it’s kind of a big deal around these parts.” So Ab talked us into staying an extra day.

We all went to the sale and saw the fine old ranch go. There were a bunch of cowboys there who had just lost their jobs and were loadin’ up and moving out, all heading to what they hoped would be another cowboyin’ job somewhere. It struck my heart, and I thought this was kind of typical of what was going on in the West.

That next day on the drive back to Colorado, I wrote the basics of the song “The Old Double Diamond.” I was living in Nashville at the time and over the next…I don’t know…nine months or so, I refined the song into the song you hear today.

It’s been cut I don’t know how many times by big names and small alike. I never tried to control who sang the song. I just let it have its head…I rarely meet a cowboy who doesn’t know the words to that song.

Listen to Gary McMahan’s rendition at his web site and see a video here.

Find an Ian Tyson version on YouTube and one by Chris LeDoux here.

Find more about Gary McMahan at CowboyPoetry.com; visit his site, singingcowboy.com (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums); and find him on Facebook.

See Gary McMahan at Colorado’s 29th annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 5-8, 2017. He joins Andy Nelson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Floyd Beard, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, R.P. Smith, Terry Henderson, and many others.

This year’s theme is “cowboy humor.”

Much goes on at the event in addition to cowboy poetry and music stage shows: the popular Cowboy Poet Train, the Cowboy Poet Trail Ride, the Cowboy Parade, a chuck wagon breakfast, theatre performances, art exhibits, and more.

There’s a particular special event this year: A showing of Everything in the Song is True, Doug Morrione’s award-winning feature-length documentary film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse. Find more about the film at everythinginthesongistrue.com and on Facebook.

This image is this year’s great fine art poster with the painting, “Ten Below Zero,” by artist Andrew Peters (andrewpetersart.com).

Find more about the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering at durangocowboypoetrygathering.org and on Facebook.

 

A COWBOYIN’ DAY by Gary McMahan

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A COWBOYIN’ DAY
by Gary McMahan

Morning is just a thin line to the East
As you steps in the corral and captures a beast.
Cold saddle blankets, hey cock-a-doodle-doo—
Don’t buck now, you booger; you’ll break me in two.

Your head starts working on the last pass around;
Saddle horses are wrangled, draft horses cut out.
You shuts the gate and steps to the ground—
It’s hot, black coffee you’re thinking ’bout now.

Then it’s biscuits and gravy and eggs over light,
And the foreman’s wife is a beautiful sight.
Jokes and jabs and the cowboss’s orders,
A chew and a toothpick, and you’re out the door

To saddle the horse you’ll use for the day,
Makin’ sure your riggin’ has no extra play.
You steps aboard light with him all gathered up
’Cause you know first hand this critter can buck.

Ease him out at a walk and head north towards the dump.
You’ll be askin’ a trot when he loses his hump.
You hits a slow lope on the badger highway;
It’s a cool morning, blue-sky cowboyin’ day.

And the brooks are babbling down through the holes,
The meadowlarks sing the song in your soul,
And the wildflowers blaze any color you s’pose
As the smell of sagebrush and pine fill your nose.

Now the horse that you’re on is big, and he’s lean—
Quick, tough, smart, and a little bit mean.
His saddle’s no place for the meek or the green;
He’s a sho-nuff rip-snortin’ cowboyin’ machine.

And the place that you’re headed is pretty intense;
Continental Divide is the back fence.
There’s ten thousand acres of mountain and rock there
And twelve hundred head to check and to doctor.

And to make matters worse (or better, you think),
They’re all yearling heifers—unpredictable dinks.
They’ll run and they’ll hide ’til hell freezes twice
Then kick up their heels as you skate on the ice.

But this ain’t no colt, and you ain’t no kid,
So you whips out your rope and pulls down your lid,
And you climbs and cruises the sagebrush and aspen
’Til you finds you a cow brute what’s droopy and raspin’.

And maybe you’ll tag ’er ’fore she gits to the brush
And trip ’er and tie ’er in a big rush
And pack her with sulfa and penicillin.
She’ll turn for the better, good Lord a willin’.

Lots of footrot and pinkeye today,
But that don’t mean the boogers can’t play.
They’ve ducked and they’ve dodged ’til who laid a chunk,
But you managed to capture a pretty good hunk.

A line-backed old heifer with a sly side dart
Almost upset the whole apple cart,
And a bald-faced old bag sure slammed on her brakes
When we dived off a ledge and got in her way.

It’s the heat of the day now—sun’s straight overhead—
And you and your horse are packing some lead.
You hanker for rest and a biscuit or two,
And you figures you got that much coming to you.

Now your horse likes the grass that grows ’neath the aspen,
And the shade there is welcome as peace everlastin’.
So you finds such a place with a creek close by
To soothe the bruises of a hard ride.

You hobbles, unbridles him, loosens his girth
Then sets yourself down in the cool, green earth,
Surrounds your grub and drinks your fill
And takes a siesta way back in the hills.

Well, a catnap is all you require;
Still, you lay there and ponder your thoughts . . .
The world sure has its briars.
Take, for instance, this good old cow-hoss—

He was a wild-eyed, ring-tailed dandy.
Heck, they give up on him ’fore they give him to me,
But it’s the same for horses as it is for men—
He just needed a job and a kick in the shin.

Well the afternoon’s spent with the usual flair:
A close call here, a catastrophe there.
But still we saved more than a couple of hides;
That’s why we get paid for making these rides.

A storm blew through for about thirty minutes,
And you’d swear that Satan hisself was in it.
You’re sure glad your pony is seasoned plumb through—
Close lightning’s unloaded a few buckaroos.

You’re wet as a fish, but you ain’t gonna melt,
And the sun feels the best it ever has felt.
You’re all steamed up like an overdue freight,
But you’re dry as a duck time you get to the gate.

Now, there are those who thinks a cowboy’s a crude, ignorant cuss.
Truth is, we no-savvy them; they no-savvy us.
But there’s one thing that sticks in my mind
When a cowboy’s job cuts into sublime.

It’s when you and your horse form a leathery feather
And drift two, three yearlings out of a gather
And trail ’em up someplace they don’t want to go
When they’re needing a vet or what ever, y’know.

You set ’em just so when you go through a gate,
And don’t rile ’em up, for heaven’s sake.
Folks that have tried it say it’s kind of an art
To pen ’em in the home corral before dark.

And we’re trailin’ two of em home this night.
We’ll prolly ship the one; the other’ll be all right.
But one wrong move now the air’s turning cool,
And these two yearling heifers’ll make you look like a fool.

Punch ’em into the catch with a “whoop” and a smile.
You been walkin’ on eggs for the last two miles,
And if one woulda broke, the fur woulda flew—
No tellin’ when you’da got another crack at them two.

Your horse rolls in the dirt while you put up your tack,
Then savors his grain while you scratch his back.
It’s an evenin’ ritual you both enjoy;
You don’t covet nothin’ when you ride this ol’ boy.

An he heads for the timothy down by the lake
Whilst you saunters to the house for soup and steak
To mix it up with compadres and finish your pie
Like folks do when they’re satisfied.

When supper’s done, there’s little time for play—
You sleep hard all night if you work hard all day—
But ’fore you fall off your log to float in the air,
You may have time for a little prayer:

“Lord, I thank you for this cowboyin’ day.
I sure had me some fun a-earnin’ my pay,
And I like to think I put meat on the table
For a country that needs to stay fit an’ able.

“But a cow with no horse is boring as hell,
And a horse with no cows don’t ring my bell.
It’s a good life you gave me, these horses and cattle,
And I wanted to say thanks Lord for my day in the saddle.”

© 1986, Gary McMahan, used with permission
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission.

Cowboy, poet, songwriter, and yodeler Gary McMahan’s vivid “A Cowboyin’ Day” is a contemporary cowboy poetry standout.

In his book, Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song, he writes about it, “One of my favorite things is working cattle on a good horse in the high country. I used to do a considerable amount of it, and even though this poem doesn’t have a ‘Hollywood plot,’ a lot of ranch folk have told me how much they like it, especially those who’ve ever run a bunch of yearlin’s.”

At Gary McMahan’s, singingcowboy.com, you can listen to “A Cowboyin’ Day” and the full-length tracks of all his albums of his music and poetry.

The poem is also on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten, a double CD of the top classic and modern cowboy poetry.

Gary returns to the Colorado Cowboy Gathering in Golden later this month, January 19-22, an event he had a hand in starting. An award-winning film that features Gary and others including Yvonne Hollenbeck, Everything in the Song is True, will be screened at a special dinner event at the gathering. The film has been chosen as an official selection of the Sedona International Film Festival, which takes place February 18-26, 2017. See the film’s trailer and find more about it here and on Facebook.

Other performers at this month’s Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering include Floyd Beard, Jon Chandler, Doris Daley, Richard Elloyan & Steve Wade, Skip Gorman, DW Groethe, Kristyn Harris, Carol Heuchan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jill Jones & Friends, Susie Knight, Liz Masterson, Al “Doc” Mehl, Rodney Nelson, Mark Gardner & Rex Rideout, Yampa Valley Boys, Pop Wagner, and the Flying W Wranglers. Find more about the event at coloradocowboygathering.com and on Facebook.

Find more about Gary at CowboyPoetry.comon Facebook, and at his site, singingcowboy.com.

Gary describes this photo, “Waitin’ for Spring. Me on the T Lazy 7 ranch outside of Aspen in the late ’70s or early ’80s…”

THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND lyrics by Gary McMahan

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THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND
lyrics by Gary McMahan

The old Double Diamond lay out east of Dubois
in the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer’s gavel rapped and it rattled,
as I watched the old Double Diamond go.
Won’t you listen to the wind
Mother Nature’s violin.

When I first hired on the old Double Diamond
I was a dammed poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim,
well my spirit was tame
couldn’t see all the cards in my hand.
And the wind whipped the granite above me
and blew the tumbleweeds clean through my soul.

I fought her winters, busted her horses
I took more than I thought I could stand,
but the battle with the mountains and cattle
seems to bring out the best in a man.
I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
and a mama, her babies to hold.

And I need the hills of Wyoming
in the land of the buffalo
Now shes sellin’ out, and I’m movin’ on
But I’m leavin’ with more than I came
‘Cause I got this saddle and it ain’t for sale,
and I got this song to sing

I got this a new range to find
and new knots to tie
in a country where cowboys are kings
I turned my tail to the wind,
and the old Double Diamond
disappeared into the sage.

Yay ee o-del o-hoo – dee

© 1975, words and music by Gary McMahan, used with permission

Gary McMahan’s widely loved song has been cited as one of today’s top cowboy songs by Western Horseman. It has been recorded by Chris LeDoux, Ian Tyson, and dozens of other artists. Gary tells about writing the song:

My dad was a cattle trucker and had hauled lots of cattle out of Dubois, Wyoming, for a fella named Ab Cross. Ab owned the grand old Cross Ranch outside of Dubois. Dad and Ab were good friends, and I became a friend of the Crosses as well.

I believe it was 1973 when Dad and I were up there in Dubois on a fishing trip. We stayed with the Crosses, and as we were getting ready to head out, Ab said, “You’re not leaving today, are you? The Double Diamond Ranch is going on the auction block today, and it’s kind of a big deal around these parts.” So Ab talked us into staying an extra day.

We all went to the sale and saw the fine old ranch go. There were a bunch of cowboys there who had just lost their jobs and were loadin’ up and moving out, all heading to what they hoped would be another cowboyin’ job somewhere. It struck my heart, and I thought this was kind of typical of what was going on in the West.

That next day on the drive back to Colorado, I wrote the basics of the song ‘The Old Double Diamond.’ I was living in Nashville at the time and over the next…I don’t know…nine months or so, I refined the song into the song you hear today.

It’s been cut I don’t know how many times by big names and small alike. I never tried to control who sang the song. I just let it have its head…I rarely meet a cowboy who doesn’t know the words to that song.

Listen to Gary McMahan’s rendition at his web site and see a video here.

Find an Ian Tyson version on YouTube and one by Chris LeDoux here.

Find more about Gary McMahan at CowboyPoetry.com; visit his site (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums); and find him on Facebook.

Gary McMahan is portrayed on the cover of the new Real Singing Cowboys by Charlie Seemann, in a painting, “A Fine Old Martin,” by William Matthews. (Matthews has created designs for two Martin cowboy guitars. See a recent article here.)

Folklorist Seemann, executive director emeritus of the Western Folklife Center, comments in his preface, “I once asked the late Glenn Ohrlin what he thought made a good cowboy singer. He answered, ‘First, you gotta see how good they can ride.’ That is the premise on which I have based this book.”

The insightful volume celebrates the depth and breadth of talent of many top singers and songwriters from today’s real working West.

The book includes a deep, informative introduction to cowboy music. There are are profiles, with photographs and discographies, of 50 Western singers, songwriters, and musicians: Jesse Ballantyne, Mike Beck, Adrian Brannan, Dale Burson and Family, Lyle Cunningham, Jay Dalton, Kevin Davis, Stephanie Davis, Geno Delafose, Duane Dickinson, Juni Fisher, Brownie Ford, Ryan Fritz, the Gillette Brothers, DW Groethe, Wylie Gustafson, Kenny Hall, R.W. Hampton, Joni Harms, Kristyn Harris, Don Hedgpeth, Michael Hurwitz, Ken Jones, Walt LaRue, Chris LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Gary McMahan, Chuck Milner, Michael and Dawn Moon, Rooster Morris, Glenn Ohrlin, Ken Overcast, Howard Parker, J Parson, Bob Petermann, Jean and Gary Prescott, Buck Ramsey, Luke Reed, Ray Reed, Brigid Reedy, Dave Schildt, Trinity Seely, Clyde Sproat, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, T.R. Stewart, Linda Svendsen, Caitlyn Taussig, Rod Taylor, Ian Tyson, Jessie Veeder, Johnny Whelan, and Hub Whitt.

The Real Singing Cowboys is available from booksellers and the publisher, Two Dot Press, an imprint of The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group.

(Please respect copyright. You can share these lyrics with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)