TURNING TO FACE THE WIND, by Jane Morton

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TURNING TO FACE THE WIND
by Jane Morton (1931-2020)

I hear the windmills creak and squeak
As wheels turned toward the wind.
Those mills pumped water for the stock
On which our hopes were pinned.

The sucker rods moved up and down
While wheels spun round and round.
They sucked the fossil water up
For use above the ground.

The windmills made life possible
On flat and dry terrain.
They kept the stock tanks well-supplied
Despite infrequent rain.

To us those wooden windmills were
The pyramids of the plains
More monumental than the ones
That held pharos’ remains.

My family, too, faced winds head on–
The winds of chance and change,
The winds that blew with blizzard force
And howled across the range.

And like the windmills on our ranch,
We anchored to that place
Until the winds became so strong
They ripped us from our base.

© 2003, Jane Morton
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

With great sadness, we learned that popular poet Jane Morton died on February 16, 2020.

As we’ve written elsewhere, Jane wrote poetry and prose about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. Generations later, her mother, Eva Lena Ambrose, was surprised to discover that her husband, a teacher and coach, was determined to return to the family farm that eventually became the family ranch. Her mother faced a harder-than-expected life with dignity.

Jane Morton shared this photo taken at her family’s ranch in Colorado in the 1970s or 1980s and told us that the photo was “… of the calving shed, which is part of a larger pasture outside the fence where, in November, they bring in the heifers who are going to be calving for the winter… The corrals there are used during branding. There is a big brush pile, most of it out of view, that provides shelter for the cattle during the winter storms… ”

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In her award-winning book, Turning to Face the Wind, Jane Morton includes the photo of the same shed, “and the heifers and calves that have been rounded up for branding. The heifers will be separated from the calves and turned out to pasture where they will stand by the fence calling for their calves… In the book, the photo accompanies her poem, “The Cows Came First,” that ends with a wry observation about her mother, a reluctant ranch wife:

Dad bought one stone for both of them,
and he had it engraved.
A cow and windmill took the place
of flowers she had craved.

When mother said the cows came first;
she knew my dad too well.
Above her final resting place,
that cow will always dwell.

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A detail from the photo is used as the cover and within the 2007 edition of Deep West videos, from the Western Folklife Center. The videos are a collection of films made by ranch families, “first-hand stories from the rural West that are rooted in the values of life on the land.”

Watch that Deep West video and hear Jane recite “Turning to Face the Wind” and another poem and tell about the windmills, her father and his tractor, and about aspects of the ranch that have changed over time.

The video was also aired on the Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Network along with other films in its Real Colorado series.

Jane made two other Deep West videos, one with her poem “Branding” and great photos, and another, “At the Edge of the Aquifer,” about a cowboy living on the Ambrose ranch in Colorado and the water issues he faces.

Jane and Dick Morton were married for over sixty-six years.

Find more about Jane Morton and more of her poetry at cowboypoetry.com.

Jane Morton’s talents and cheerful presence will be missed greatly. We are fortunate to have her poems, stories, and recordings.

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Find an obituary here.

 

 

(Please respect copyright. To share this poem, request permission.)

Jane Ambrose Morton, 1931-2020

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We’re sad to report the death of popular poet Jane Morton, a friend to many—and a part of cowboypoetry.com from its earliest days. Her husband, poet and reciter Dick Morton wrote to say that she had died Sunday, February 16, 2020. Jane and Dick were married for over 66 years. A memorial service will take place in August at their home in Colorado.

Jane wrote poetry and prose about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. Generations later, her mother, Eva Lena Ambrose, was surprised to discover that her husband, a teacher and coach, was determined to return to the family farm that eventually became the family ranch. Her mother faced a harder-than-expected life with dignity.

Each year we launch Cowboy Poetry Week with Jane’s poem that well described her own inspiration for writing:

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, used with permission

Jane stopped performing several years ago. She has award-winning books and a CD of her poetry. Find more about her and some of her poetry and ranch history at cowboypoetry.com.

Email if you’d like contact information for Dick Morton.

Find an obituary here.

YOO-HOO, by Jane Morton

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YOO-HOO
by Jane Morton

My mother always called, “Yoo-hoo,”
so we would look her way.
She did it at the sale barn
one cattle auction day.

Dad brought his cows to market there,
as he did every spring.
He liked to watch the auction
and his cattle in the ring.

Some Hereford cows were milling round,
and others bawling loud.
The auctioneer was trying hard
to stir the morning crowd.

My folks were in their usual seat
where they had said they’d be,
And I had started toward them
when my mother spotted me.

She jumped up quick and called, “Yoo-hoo,”
and then she waved her hand.
She’d bid on thirty Herefords
with our own CU brand.

The auctioneer looked toward my mom
and gave a little nod.
A feedlot buyer raised her bid,
and I was thanking God.

I didn’t dare to signal her
for fear they’d think I’d bid,
And Mom had no idea at all
of what she almost did.

So needing to get down there fast,
I headed for the stair.
Then came another, “You-hoo Yo-ooooo,”
that caught me unaware.

I’d almost closed the distance
when my mother waved once more.
The auctioneer acknowledged her,
the way he had before.

I watched the feedlot buyer
as I slipped into my seat,
And when the fellow didn’t bid,
my heart near ceased to beat.

My dad sat focused on the ring
completely unaware
Of all the action going on
right there beside his chair.

From up in back there came a bid,
and I could breathe again.
I prayed the field had narrowed
down to real cattle men.

I took Mom’s hand soon as I could
and held it tight in mine.
I said, “How are you doin’, Mom?”
She said, “I’m doin’ fine.”

Now Mom had been to auctions,
and she knew what not to do.
Of course a real no no would have been
to call, “Yoo-hoo.”

But Mom forgot herself that day
and learned to her chagrin
How close she came to buyin’
back the cows that Dad brought in.

When Dad caught on he realized,
as he had not before,
That thanks to Mom his cattle brought
a buck a hundred more.

© 2008, Jane Morton
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Jane Morton often writes about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. Generations later, her mother, Eva Lena Ambrose, was surprised to discover that her husband, a teacher and coach, was determined to return to the family farm that eventually became the family ranch. Her mother faced a harder-than-expected life with dignity.

JaneMorton2003

Colorado poet Jane Morton is no longer writing or reciting, but her work continues to inspire. She has award-winning books and a CD of her poetry. Don’t miss reading more of her poems about her family and their ranch history at cowboypoetry.com.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee is titled, “Scene in cattle auction barn. Heifer is coming in from pen. San Augustine, Texas.” It is from Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, part of the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection.

Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.

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

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

YOO-HOO by Jane Morton

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YOO-HOO
by Jane Morton

My mother always called, “Yoo-hoo,” so we would look her way.
She did it at the sale barn one cattle auction day.

Dad brought his cows to market there, as he did every spring.
He liked to watch the auction and his cattle in the ring.

Some Hereford cows were milling round, and others bawling loud.
The auctioneer was trying hard to stir the morning crowd.

My folks were in their usual seat where they had said they’d be,
And I had started toward them when my mother spotted me.

She jumped up quick and called, “Yoo-hoo,” and then she waved her hand.
She’d bid on thirty Herefords with our own CU brand.

The auctioneer looked toward my mom and gave a little nod.
A feedlot buyer raised her bid, and I was thanking God.

I didn’t dare to signal her for fear they’d think I’d bid,
And Mom had no idea at all of what she almost did.

So needing to get down there fast, I headed for the stair.
Then came another, “You-hoo Yo-ooooo,” that caught me unaware.

I’d almost closed the distance when my mother waved once more.
The auctioneer acknowledged her, the way he had before.

I watched the feedlot buyer as I slipped into my seat,
And when the fellow didn’t bid, my heart near ceased to beat.

My dad sat focused on the ring completely unaware
Of all the action going on right there beside his chair.

From up in back there came a bid, and I could breathe again.
I prayed the field had narrowed down to real cattle men.

I took Mom’s hand soon as I could and held it tight in mine.
I said, “How are you doin’, Mom?” She said, “I’m doin’ fine.”

Now Mom had been to auctions, and she knew what not to do.
Of course a real no no would have been to call, “Yoo-hoo.”

But Mom forgot herself that day and learned to her chagrin
How close she came to buyin’ back the cows that Dad brought in.

When Dad caught on he realized, as he had not before,
That thanks to Mom his cattle brought a buck a hundred more.

© 2008 revised, Jane Morton
This poem should not be reported or reprinted without permission

Jane Morton often writes about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. Generations later, her mother, Eva Lena Ambrose, was surprised to discover that her husband, a teacher and coach, was determined to return to the family farm that eventually became the family ranch. Her mother faced a hard life with dignity.

Jane Morton has award-winning books and a CD of her poetry. Don’t miss reading more of her poems about her family and their ranch history at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee is titled, “Scene in cattle auction barn. Heifer is coming in from pen. San Augustine, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, part of the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Find more about it here.

Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.

THE COWS CAME FIRST by Jane Morton

 

deannacows

photo courtesy of David and Deanna Dickinson McCall

THE COWS CAME FIRST
by Jane Morton

My mother said she realized
with my Dad the cows came first.
If cows and she both needed drinks,
she knew who’d die of thirst.

In any contest with the cows,
Mom came out second-best.
She never gave up trying, though,
To that I can attest.

If Mom had planned a dinner,
or if they’d been invited out,
Dad promised he’d be on time,
but she had cause to doubt.

So many different happenings
had spoiled what she had planned,
She came to think that fate itself
might well have played a hand.

It wasn’t fate, it was my Dad.
He’d start a task too late.
And thinking he had time enough,
he didn’t want to wait.

He’d run into some problem there
he hadn’t counted on,
And sure enough, before he knew,
the daylight would be gone.

By time he got back to the house,
my mom would be irate.
She knew not which excuse he’d use,
but could anticipate—

“I drove out to the pasture where
my Chevy truck broke down.
Before a neighbor came along,
I’d walked halfway to town.

“That ornery Angus bull I bought
went through the fence today.
Of course I had to get him home.
He fought me all the way.

“I stopped to check a windmill,
and I found a stock tank dry.
The cattle have to drink you know.”
I’d hear my mother sigh.

“A calving heifer needed help,
so sure, I had to stay.
I promised I’d be home, I know,
but couldn’t get away.”

He had to pull a windmill
or he had to pull a calf
Mom heard it all so many times
she almost had to laugh.

Dad said he thought that Mom had ought
to take things in her stride.
That proved impossible for her,
no matter how she tried.

And when the two got on in years,
Mom was the first to go.
She’d asked for flowers on her stone,
but did she get them? No!

Dad bought one stone for both of them,
and he had it engraved.
A cow and the windmill took the place
of flowers she had craved.

When Mother said the cows came first;
she knew my dad too well.
Above her final resting place,
that cow will always dwell.

© 2003, Jane Morton, used with permission.

Colorado poet and writer Jane Morton often writes about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, Joshua Eaton Ambrose, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. She wrote this poem about her father, William Ernest Ambrose (1904-1994). She has commented that she really began to “know” her father when she stared writing about him.

She writes, “He loved his land, and he loved his work. His satisfaction with his life was reflected in his face. Perhaps that was why, when many his age had retired to rocking chairs, he was still going strong. Occasionally someone suggested that he retire and take it easy. Usually, he didn’t bother to reply. He’d said it once, and once was enough. ‘Someday,’ he said, ‘they’ll probably find me wrapped around one of these fence posts, but I’ll never quit.'”

Find more about William Ernest Ambrose in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com.  This poem is included in a feature about Jane Morton’s mother, Eva Lena Wolowsky Ambrose (1904-1988). Find more about Jane Morton at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo by New Mexico rancher David McCall was taken last week at their Timberon-area ranch, an area experiencing a serious drought. Poet, writer and the other half of the McCall operation, Deanna Dickinson McCall, a couple of generations ahead of the Ambroses and a woman who has always worked her ranch alongside her husband, commented on the photo, “Waiting for rain, praying it comes soon! David McCall and the boys. I learned at an early age you can’t starve a profit into a cow.” What hasn’t changed: the cows come first. She told us, “We are just hoping the monsoons will arrive on time, or early. The spring that feeds the pipeline is almost dry, too low to feed the line, so we will begin hauling water. This has been the driest, windiest spring/summer we have seen, and the fire threat is so frightening.”

The McCalls have many generations of ranchers before them and generations of cowboy poets and reciters in front of them, in their children, including the late Rusty McCall, Katie McCall Owen, and Terri Anne Knight and grandchildren. Find more about the family and more about Deanna Dickinson McCall and her poems and stories at  deannadickinsonmccall.com.

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

YOO-HOO by Jane Morton

jm

YOO-HOO
by Jane Morton

My mother always called, “Yoo-hoo,” so we would look her way.
She did it at the sale barn one cattle auction day.

Dad brought his cows to market there, as he did every spring.
He liked to watch the auction and his cattle in the ring.

Some Hereford cows were milling round, and others bawling loud.
The auctioneer was trying hard to stir the morning crowd.

My folks were in their usual seat where they had said they’d be,
And I had started toward them when my mother spotted me.

She jumped up quick and called, “Yoo-hoo,” and then she waved her hand.
She’d bid on thirty Herefords with our own CU brand.

The auctioneer looked toward my mom and gave a little nod.
A feedlot buyer raised her bid, and I was thanking God.

I didn’t dare to signal her for fear they’d think I’d bid,
And Mom had no idea at all of what she almost did.

So needing to get down there fast, I headed for the stair.
Then came another, “You-hoo Yo-ooooo,” that caught me unaware.

I’d almost closed the distance when my mother waved once more.
The auctioneer acknowledged her, the way he had before.

I watched the feedlot buyer as I slipped into my seat,
And when the fellow didn’t bid, my heart near ceased to beat.

My dad sat focused on the ring completely unaware
Of all the action going on right there beside his chair.

From up in back there came a bid, and I could breathe again.
I prayed the field had narrowed down to real cattle men.

I took Mom’s hand soon as I could and held it tight in mine.
I said, “How are you doin’, Mom?” She said, “I’m doin’ fine.”

Now Mom had been to auctions, and she knew what not to do.
Of course a real no no would have been to call, “Yoo-hoo.”

But Mom forgot herself that day and learned to her chagrin
How close she came to buyin’ back the cows that Dad brought in.

When Dad caught on he realized, as he had not before,
That thanks to Mom his cattle brought a buck a hundred more.

© 2008 revised, Jane Morton
This poem should not be reported or reprinted without permission

Much-loved Colorado poet and writer is recovering from an accident in which she suffered fractured vertebrae. She’s facing a long recovery. Cards are welcome: 7961 E. Natal Ave., Mesa, AZ 85209.

Jane Morton often writes about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. Generations later, her mother, Eva Lena Ambrose, was surprised to discover that her husband, a teacher and coach, was determined to return to the family farm that eventually became the family ranch. Her mother faced a hard life with dignity.

Jane Morton has award-winning books and a CD of her poetry. Don’t miss reading more of her poems about her family and their ranch history at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee is titled, “Scene in cattle auction barn. Heifer is coming in from pen. San Augustine, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, part of the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Find more about it here.

Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.