National Day of the Cowboy: 2016 Cowboy Keepers


The National Day of the Cowboy organization announces its 2016 Cowboy Keeper Awards:

We’re Inspired by Cowboy Keepers

Each year, with its Cowboy Keeper Award©, the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit organization has the great privilege of recognizing individuals, organizations, and projects that make or have made a significant contribution to the preservation of pioneer heritage and the promotion of cowboy culture. In 2016, those who have inspired such recognition are Glenn Ohrlin, Donnalyn Quintana, Cotton and Karin Rosser, John Prather, Joseph “Jo” Mora, and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center.

Glenn Ohrlin
Born in 1926, in Minnesota, Glenn Ohrlin heard cowboy songs on the radio and from friends and family as a boy. By age 5, he was singing himself and at 10, he learned to play guitar. He left home at 16 to work as a cowboy. He eventually lived in a stone house he built in Arkansas, where he also operated his own cattle ranch. A sold out auditorium for “The Legacy of Glenn Ohrlin,” tribute at the 32nd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2016, was a moving testament to his extensive influence on cowboy culture. The late cowboy Glenn Ohrlin was revered by all who knew him as a man who lived at the heart of the cowboy tradition. He was known to be a genuine one-of-kind cowboy who shared his music with all. He was fondest of performing old time novelty tunes, but he had a deep appreciation for all types of songs and loved to be around young people to pass his knowledge and love for music along to them. His repertoire ranged from traditional ballads, poetry, bawdy songs, hobo ditties and Spanish tunes from the period 1875 to 1925, to country and western, and folk songs. Over his years of cowboying, riding in rodeos, and collecting cowboy music, Ohrlin wrote The Hell-Bound Train, published by the University of Illinois Press in 1973. It contained 100 of his favorite cowboy songs and poems, as well as the people and stories behind them. He released an album of the same name. He was named an NEA Heritage Fellow in 1985.

For two years, Ohrlin was host and performer with The Cowboy Tour, on which he traveled 30,000 miles sharing cowboy music. During that time, he worked with other western folklorists who organized the successful Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. A remarkable man with an especially dry sense of humor, Ohrlin liked to say, “The crowd might like me or they might not, but I’ll get paid anyway.” He theorized that cowboys sing because of the isolated life they lead. His legacy from a long happy life of 88 years includes stories, songs, humor, and poetry, but most importantly it includes those who have been inspired by him to carry on the cowboy music and poetry tradition. Singer Randy Rieman summed up Ohrlin and his influence beautifully with this heartfelt compliment during the tribute show, “In the 31 years of the poetry gathering, we needed to see Glenn. You just didn’t want to miss one of Glenn’s shows.”

Donnalyn Quintana
Donnalyn Quintana established her nonprofit organization, “Western Wishes,” in 1994, out of a desire to make a difference in a child’s life by “celebrating the determination and courage of those facing adversity who love the western way of life.” She recognized there are kids who dream of being a sheriff, riding a reining horse, learning to rope a steer, ride in the rodeo or simply long to be a cowboy or cowgirl in some way. Twenty-two years later, Ms. Quintana’s program continues to grow and reward kids for their fighting spirit while also communicating the stories of their determination to get back in the saddle. The Western Wishes program puts inspiring kids in the spotlight, even if just for a moment, and encourages them to reach for the stars and see their dreams come true. She has worked tirelessly to enlist the help of celebrities such as Tuf Cooper, George Strait, Stran Smith, Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire, to light up a child’s life. Over the years, Donnalyn has worked to bring life to the western wishes of hundreds of young buckaroos with life changing illness or injury, whether mentally or physically challenged. Through her kindness, she has been touching lives and healing the hearts of young people facing potentially life-threatening adversities.

Ms. Quintana’s personal mission is to leave a legacy of goodwill the cowboy way. To that end, she reaches outside her arena as well, such as taking the time to attend the hearing at the Texas Legislature on behalf of the National Day of the Cowboy bill, where she invited her friend, rodeo legend Larry Mahan to testify to the hearing committee on our behalf. Her organization is also launching a College Rodeo Challenge, spearheaded by a college intern, to encourage other college rodeo teams to “pay it forward” by finding deserving kids, executing their wish and sharing their story. After helping to make more than 600 western wishes come true, Donnalyn still views her work as blessing for her, noting, “Every time I come away from granting a wish, my life is changed for the better. I feel that this was put into my heart for a reason.” A woman who radiates warmth and kindness, Donnalyn Quintana emphasizes that ultimately the aim is to use the Western Wishes stories to inspire other children battling similar adversities.

Cotton & Karin Rosser
Cotton Rosser says the seeds of showmanship were planted in his blood as a boy, by heroes like Will James, Hoppy, Gene, and Roy. Growing up in California, he was always on the lookout for opportunities to spend time with cowboys. Following high school, he attended Cal Poly, where he served as captain of the rodeo team. He competed in Madison Square Garden in New York in 1950. Rosser won the saddle bronc riding at the Reno Rodeo in 1950. His highlight was winning the all-around title at the 1951 Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco, but a ranch accident broke both of his legs, putting him out of rodeo competition and into business as a stock contractor and producer. To this day, he delights in new ways to entertain and wow the crowds, whether with Roman Chariot Races, Bull Poker or Bull Teeter-Totter! Cotton Rosser isn’t all about the pageantry, however. He sincerely cares about the integrity of rodeo. He takes great pains to ensure that the Flying U has the very best livestock. An aficionado of bucking horses and longhorn cattle, he attends to every detail himself. He is a legendary stock contractor and rodeo event producer who has supplied bulls to the PBR during its entire history. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2009, he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 2014 the Reno Rodeo honored him with “Cotton Rosser Night.” It couldn’t go to a more deserving person,” said Bob Tallman, longtime voice of the Reno Rodeo. “In the past 50 years, Cotton’s changed the face of rodeo five times. He’s been so far ahead of the curve people have flown to his events just so they could steal from them and do the same things.” Speaking at California Polytechnic State University, where he had once served as rodeo team captain Rosser told the graduates, “The motto, ‘learn by doing,’ has worked for me all my life.” And, all his life Cotton Rosser has shared his knowledge and experience while inspiring generations of cowboys and entertaining millions of people.

Karin Allred Rosser
PRCA Gold Card Member, Karin Allred Rosser, has spent her life excelling in fields related to Western Heritage. Early in life she was introduced to livestock and horses, riding Shetland Ponies as a toddler and Quarter Horses as she grew. Summers were spent at flat tracks as a hot walker and pony girl, while winter afternoons involved chariot races in NM and UT, and appearances at State and World Championship meets. Her teenage years found her in the horse show arena where she excelled in Western and English Riding and served as first President of the Utah Jr. Quarter Horse Association. Her competitive spirit resulted in numerous awards from the Utah, Intermountain and American Quarter Horse Associations. Competing as a barrel racer and queen contestant in amateur rodeo turned Karin’s attention to the rodeo arena. At 19 she was crowned Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Queen, launching her into professional rodeo. Later that year, having earned the title Miss Rodeo Utah, she was 1St Runner-up to Miss Rodeo America. The MRA scholarship money helped pay for a Fashion Merchandising degree from Weber State University. During her year-long reign she participated in western apparel markets, celebrations, and radio and TV spots, representing professional rodeo.

Rodeo also introduced Karin to her husband of 38 years, Cotton Rosser, stock contractor for the Pioneer Days Rodeo and other PRCA rodeos. Karin and Cotton were married in 1978. They moved to the Flying U Ranch in Marysville, CA, which offered them more opportunities to promote Western heritage. Her education equipped her to manage “Cotton’s Cowboy Corral,” the western retail store Cotton and Karin own and operate in Marysville. She was also introduced to rodeo production and soon received her PRCA Timer Card and Secretary Card. Karin mastered music and spotlights at some of the largest indoor arenas in the West. During the nine years the Flying U presented the opening ceremonies at the National Finals Rodeo, Karin cued spotlights and music, washed horses, and helped with wardrobe and flag presentation practices. While Cotton occupies center stage, Karin works behind the scenes as a rodeo secretary or timer, greeting dignitaries, planning events, organizing tack trailers, saddling horses, and feeding livestock. Then, they drive down the road together to the next rodeo where she may do it all again. She is a member of the women’s group HANDS, which offers moral support and financial assistance to rodeo people in need. Karin is affiliated with the Cowboy Reunion group which raises money to benefit both the Pro Rodeo Hall of Champions and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. She is known to be a poised professional woman of character and compassion who has made a lasting impression as a wife, mother, businesswoman and friend. She is recognized as a woman of principle who works tirelessly to benefit family, rodeo, ranching, and Western heritage.

Karin and Cotton have hosted school children on ranch tours and supported FFA, 4H and High School Rodeo clubs and teams. Since 2005, the Flying U Rodeo Company has participated in California Ag Day at the Capitol, where Karin and Cotton distribute copies of the Pro Rodeo Sports News, PRCA rule books, animal welfare brochures, answer questions from legislators, media, and the general public and provide information about pro rodeo. Together and individually, Karin and Cotton Rosser exemplify the essential spirit of those who work to promote and preserve the best of our Western Heritage.

Joseph “Jo” Mora
Throughout his lifetime, Joseph “Jo” Jacinto Mora embraced the rich history of the American West. From the time he wrote and illustrated stories about cowboys and Indians as a young child, to his last written and illustrated book about the history of the Vaqueros at the end of his life, Mora depicted the western lifestyle through his varied artistic abilities and by living it himself. As an accomplished illustrator, painter, sculptor, printmaker, cartographer, cartoonist, photographer, and cowboy, Jo was able to express his deep love of western history through numerous channels of creativity. His knowledge of history came from travel by horse and wagon in the early 1900s as he explored California’s missions, Yosemite, the state’s ranches, and eventually the culture of the Hopi and Navajo in Arizona. His observations throughout this time found their way into his writings and his art. Mora’s vast body of work ranges from a California 49er on a half-dollar minted by the U.S. government in celebration of California’s Diamond Anniversary, to four majestic bronzes on display at Oklahoma’s Woolaroc Museum, featuring figures prominent in Oklahoma history and the 101 Ranch of George Miller. The Levi Strauss Company chose Mora’s artwork for an extensive advertising campaign.

It is no surprise that a person of Mora’s vast western legacy would be intertwined with other honored westerners. Upon seeing Jo’s art, Frederick Remington encouraged Jo by telling him, “Son, you’re doing fine. Just stay with it.” Author Zane Grey featured Jo’s drawings in his Western Magazine. Jo’s western drawings sit perfectly alongside the work of Ed Borein and Charlie Russell. The writing of Jo Mora continues to ring just as true sixty years later as the work of Will James and Frank Dobie. Mora himself crafted a 13-scene diorama depicting the life of Will Rogers (at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, OK), as well as one featuring the arrival of John Fremont at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, California.

He wrote and illustrated Trail Dust and Saddle Leather about the American cowboy and Californios about the Vaqueros; both continue to be well respected accounts of their subjects. He worked with his father to create the decorative elements on the Native Sons of the Golden West Building in San Francisco, depicting various aspects of California’s history. Mora created memorial sculptural work in honor of Bret Harte and the decorative elements on the Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas, California. His iconic work, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” was featured on the 2011 National Day of the Cowboy commemorative poster. Mora was a member of the prestigious National Sculpture Society. He was a prolific creator and his incredible and varied works of art can be found in museums, libraries, private collections and public places all around the country.  Jo Mora is one of only eight persons included in each issue of Who’s Who in America since the publication’s inception. One of the rare artists able to make his living by his craft, Mora was a gifted artist, and an amazing person able to accomplish anything he set his mind to. While his list of accomplishments and accolades seems nearly endless, Jo Mora was the consummate husband and father who listed his family at the top of his life’s achievements.

John Prather
In this fast moving world where technology emphasizes forward strides, we sometimes lose touch with historical milestones that form the foundation on which we stand today. New Mexico rancher, John Prather, serves as one of those milestones. Although he died in 1965, Prather and his story still resonate as an example of the cowboy ethics and principles of a man willing to stand up for what he believed was right. Born in Van Zandt County, Texas, in 1874, nine year old John and his family were one of the pioneer families moving to the territory of New Mexico in 1883. John started breaking horses when he was 12, charging a dollar per year of the horse; thus a two year old colt cost $2.00 to break. He saved his money, eventually married, and with his bride, homesteaded on the unsettled grasslands of the Otero Mesa where they lived in a tent until they could get a home built. Working behind a team of mules pulling a fresno scraper, they constructed dirt tanks and made water where there was no water. During World Wars I and II John gained fame as the Mule King, having one of the largest Army mule breeding programs in the country. Afterwards he ran a successful cattle ranching business introducing the first Angus cattle to the area. John became widely known so it was not uncommon to see an interesting roster of people at the ranch looking to purchase from his renowned stock. Visitors and clients included Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Dizzy Dean. He enjoyed going into town to do the shopping and often would stop for someone on the road who seemed to be in a tough situation and ask if he could help. Some of the old timers in Alamogordo still tell of times as a young child when they remember John buying expectant mothers a basket of baby clothes or an older person a new set of dentures. Most recipients of his acts of kindness were strangers to him, but he always said there is no excuse not to help someone one when you can. Although always a gentleman John could push boundaries when needed. During war time he often had only lady cowhands working for him because he felt they could use the income and satisfaction of providing for their families while their men were away. The ladies with children were even invited to bring the youngsters to the ranch so he could teach them about life outdoors.

The Cold War turned the attention of the U.S. military to the southern part of New Mexico where expansion of the McGregor Missile Range was seen as a necessity in the race against the Soviets. Buyouts of ranchers with the threat of condemnation worked well in acquiring 99% of the land, with one exception…John Prather. Even though he was 82, Prather refused to be cowed or intimidated and stayed firm in his resolve to keep his ranch. Understanding the need to prime our military’s force he offered to lease it to the Army for $1.00 a year, indemnity free. His offer was rebuffed and legal proceedings were initiated. Negotiations continued for a year with John graciously meeting several generals and inviting them to his place to see the fine beef he was raising to feed the boys in uniform. He was civil, but resolute in his stand to preserve what he had built with years of sweat and tears. Eventually the threat of force was employed and sheriffs’ deputies were sent to arrest the old rancher. Again, John was gracious but firm, saying he understood their job and hoped they understood his. He would not be moved unless it was forcibly. Two days passed ending with three deputies driving back to town with an empty back seat. Newspaper coverage from Alaska to Germany lauded the old cowboy. The Today Show quipped that the Army might want to use John Prather to negotiate with the Soviets on their behalf. The writer, Edward Abbey, penned the book Fire on the Mountain based on John’s determination to keep his land. The book became a made-for-TV film, starring Buddy Ebsen and Ron Howard. Within the year, juke boxes across the country were spinning “The Ballad of John Prather,” by Calvin Boles. John threatened to live to be 100 but passed away at 91. He is buried there where he took a stand for what he felt was right. His ranch is now part of the McGregor Missile Range, but they didn’t take it until a month after his death. He continued to work his ranch until the day he died. He held no grudges and often invited passing soldiers to the house for brisket, beans, and a dip in the cool waters of the steel tank. He was a class act until the very end. John Prather proved by example that being a cowboy is about far more than working with livestock. It is also about strength of character, integrity and true grit.

Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
In the early 1990s a group of citizens from Duncan and southwest Oklahoma, and northern Texas, formed a partnership to increase the quality of life in their region, help educate people on the courage, struggles and successes of settlement in the area, and provide an information stop on the route of present day explorers of the historic Chisholm Trail. From the beginning, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma, hosted visitors with the highest quality educators and exhibits to celebrate the men and women who rode the Trail, settled the area, or were indigenous peoples forced to alter their lifestyles due to the encroachment of travelers and settlers. The Center’s mission is, “To celebrate and perpetuate the history, art and culture of the Chisholm Trail, the American Cowboy and the American West.” As a nonprofit, world class museum inside and out, the Center enriches its community as a renowned destination that brings alive the heritage of the American West, inspiring and educating present and future generations.

The museum serves the United States and International communities as well. The staff estimates fully ¼ of visitors are international. Past, present and future museum exhibits are as diverse as those who traveled the trail, including The Long Ride Home – The African American (cowboy) Experience in America” a photographic exhibition by Ron Tarver, a Grand Ole Opry tribute, a comic book artist’s exhibit, a chuck wagon exhibit, the art of Donna Howell Sickles, and even a vintage apron exhibition. Art lovers will delight in the Garis Gallery of the American West where they can view prized works of George Catlin, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. Cowgirl artists in the Garis Gallery include KW Whitley and Marjorie Reed. Local and regional artists are also on display, including the work of Gay Faulkenberry and Oklahoma notables Paul Moore and Harold T. Holden.

The Chisholm Trail Center’s annual National Day of the Cowboy celebration continues to thrive and grow each year, bringing hundreds of excited attendees to celebrate and honor the role of the cowgirl and cowboy in the American West. They strive to include activities for young folks as well as adults, including educational programming and artist exhibits. At their always exceptional NDOC celebration you can rope a Longhorn, ride a buckin’ bronc, create your own brand, and watch the cattle stampede in the 4D Theater while you cool off during a summer thunderstorm on the Oklahoma prairie. At the Campfire Theater you can listen to Jesse Chisholm and Tex share campfire tales in spite of a ruckus in the wagon as cowboys try to get comfortable for the night.

The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center has received numerous awards as a result of the quality of its exhibits and programs, including in 2014 “Great Expectations Model School” certification (the only non-profit to hold this title consecutively for eight years). In 2005, the “American Cowboy Culture Award” for Western Museums from the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas and in 2003, the “Community Improvement Award” from the Duncan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center is one of three organizations working to create national involvement in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Chisholm Trail in 2017.


Cowboy Keeper Awards are always unique because each year a different artist or photographer contributes the artwork for the award. Renowned Prix de West and multiple award winning artist, Scott Tallman Powers, graciously provided the NDOC with his gentle image of “The Wyoming Storyteller,” for the 2016 Cowboy Keeper Awards.

The National Day of the Cowboy tips its hat to Glenn Ohrlin, Donnalyn Quintana, Cotton and Karin Rosser, John Prather, Joseph “Jo” Mora, and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, our 2016 Cowboy Keeper Award honorees. These esteemed recipients have not only made a substantial contribution to the preservation of our pioneer heritage and cowboy culture, they have inspired untold others to do the same.




Art Spur: National Day of the Cowboy

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…we know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 43rd piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur, a photograph, “Shadow Bronc,” by songwriter, poet, and photographer John Michael Reedy (,

We asked John Michael Reedy to tell us about the photograph, and he commented:

I made the photograph at the Jefferson County Fair Rodeo in Boulder, Montana. Since most rodeos have photographers dedicated to catching the “action,” my focus tends more towards light, composition, and story. This is our hometown rodeo, a very small-town and (almost) always dry and dusty affair held at the end of August. However, this particular year we experienced absurdly unusual wet and muddy conditions. I felt an urgency to get a good shot on this day, to capture the striking tension between the (still) very clean cowboys and the inevitable mud bath. In this shot, the small-town setting and the prominence of the flag catching the sun at that moment creates a mood, and the classic position of the rider is iconic. Mostly I like the the body language of the horse as he appears to stomp his own shadow in the mud.

Poets are invited to be inspired by the art; a literal representation of the art is not expected.

The Twelfth Annual National Day of the Cowboy is Saturday July 23, 2016. Find more about the organization at and on Facebook.

Selected poems, below, are:

“Someday” by Tom Swearingen
“Broncs, Bruises, and Brawn” by Marleen Bussma
“Counting Down” by Merv Webster
“From Dust to Mud” by Jim Cathey
“Seize the Day” by Jeff Campbell
“Dream Ride” by George Rhoades
“The Shadow Riders”by Jean Mathisen Haugen


by Tom Swearingen

Been years since winning a buckle.
More still since he’s been in his prime.
Tonight, you’d think he was twenty,
Legs churning together in time.

His rowels rake ‘cross the shoulders.
Strong lift of the thick woven reign.
Sweeping to flank with each landing,
Bronc’s efforts to pitch him in vain.

Been to the top of the mountain.
Made Finals three times years ago.
Says he’s just riding for fun now,
But man, he still puts on a show.

Spurs fly like there’s no tomorrow.
He’s fanning and riding for keeps.
Showing his guts and his gristle,
No matter the bucks or the steeps.

He knows he can’t ride forever.
He’ll hang up his war bag someday.
But now he’s right where he should be,
High rolling atop this rank bay.

© 2016, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Marleen Bussma

The day’s crowd is loud and restless waiting in the scorching sun.
Hats are lowered for the anthem that is cheered when singing’s done.
The arena holds and gathers brave contenders to this dance.
They will partner with a rank bronc who’ll replace old west’s romance

with reality and raw truth.  “Come on, cowboy, show your stuff.
Can you take the jarring pounding?  Is your spirit tough enough?”
Jackson paces in the background, hears the chute boss bring the news.
It’s his turn to face the devil, time to pay those dancing dues.

Jackson’s fairly green at riding, wears a price tag on his jeans,
but he’s worked at getting better and he hopes that this ride means
he will hear the buzzer’s music, mark a victory for once.
Jackson’s nerves, though taut and troubled, hang on tough as he confronts

what is caged up in the bronc chute agitated, blowing snot.
Pump Jack throws his ornery head back as the cowboy starts to squat.
Jackson gently makes adjustments as he settles on the steed,
gets his chaps arranged and straightened.  Thoughts of what to do stampede

through his head like prairie dogs that see the shadow of a hawk.
He feels cautious, careful, cold, and hopes his courage does not walk.
“Don’t forget to mark the horse out.  How much buck rein should you give?”
Laundry lists of what to do portend mistakes that don’t forgive.

“Keep your chin down on your chest and have those big toes pointed out.
Lift the buck rein for your balance, stay alert,” his instincts shout.
Jackson pulls his hat down tightly, nods his head to start the dream.
If he sticks like glue to Pump Jack it will help his self-esteem.

Pump Jack rises on his hind feet as he leaps out of the chute.
Jackson’s left hand fans the air as he clings bravely to the brute.
He can feel his fortune slipping like the buck rein in his hand.
The intensity is frantic, nothing like what he had planned.

When you talk about a bronc ride, Casey Tibbs once gave this pearl,
“You just fall into a rhythm.  It’s like dancing with a girl.”
Jackson’s rhythm leaves the dance floor as he flirts with a dismount.
Fresh air swells above his saddle like a sly thief’s bank account.

His intentions are unfastened as he flops like fish on shore.
Bouncing wildly in the saddle, he forgets about a score.
The eight-second clock is ticking.  Does he have time to regroup?
The arena floor now greets him and he doesn’t have to stoop.

With the grace of a flat tire he is finished for the day.
Just his pride is pained and pounding as he grimly limps away.
Though rejected like a wallflower waiting with a wish to dance,
the next town puts on a rodeo and he’ll get another chance.

As he thinks about his last ride, what went right and what went wrong,
he concedes he needs the basics to help make his riding strong.
It will take a lot more practice while he learns to do what’s smart,
but for now he knows his hat stayed on and, pardner, that’s a start.

© 2016, Marleen Bussma
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Merv Webster

It’s been a life I don’t regret and looking back I’m proud
of all the rides and challenges played out before a crowd.
Eight seconds might not seem that long but on a bronc from hell
you have to know it’s every move or you won’t score that well.

I’d made a promise to my wife that this was my last ride
as she had shared my childhood dream and I look back with pride
on how she’d thrown her full support behind me all the way
but sensed she longed to settle down and call it quits today.

I knew the bronc between my chaps, I’d ridden him before,
but if it had its way at all he’d dump me that’s for sure.
The Chute Boss called, “Let’s have him out!” and did that horse perform
though all who’d hung up on his back knew that was just the norm.

Eight seconds were now counting down, I’d marked out clean enough,
but this bronc sure would see if I was made of sterner stuff.
He knew the game and loved it too and had a bag of tricks
and it would try near everyone that it had in its mix.

Six seconds now and counting down, so what now lies ahead?
I swear its gonna prop and buck and sure to drop its head.
It’s eyeing off that shadow there and knew it’s in its blood
to want to see me on the ground and sprawled out in the mud.

Four seconds left and I’ve survived but man my back near broke
while all the pain that wracked my frame was way beyond a joke.
Just rake and watch for his next move was what raced through my mind
and just a few secs longer and we’ll put all this behind.

Two seconds left but man he showed no sign of tiring out
then arched his back and screamed out loud and I was in no doubt
he’d give it all he had and  try in one last desp’rate buck
to do his best and give his all to see me come unstuck.

I knew there for a moment there was air below my seat
and wondered would I stay with him or did he  have me beat.
But then I felt his back again and heard the siren blow
well knowing I had ridden time and we’d put on a show.

To go out on a ride like that was pleasing to the soul
and mighty glad the bronc I drew had surely played its role.
The broncs I ride these days are tame but every now and then
I break a lively youngster and I count down time agen.

© 2016,  Merv Webster
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Jim Cathey

Dang Gramps! I ain’t too shore about this weather,
That ol’ muddy ground shore spooks me.
I seen them ol’ boys grabbin’ fer leather,
an’ their ol’ broncs seemed sorta goofy.

Most times its purty dry come buckin’ time,
‘course, I reckon you’ve seen it all.
But I just wondered, back in yore prime,
If you’d ever seen sich a squall.

Yeah, I seen it muddy like this, back in ought nine,
When Dick Stanley rode Ol’ Steamboat.
Lookin’ back, we shoulda took it as a sign,
All the chutes was purt near a float.

Cheyenne it was, a fancy gig back then,
Folks had came from all around,
All that stock was bad an’ so was the men,
‘course Frontier days was renowned.

Some said that Steamboat would never be rode!
That he’d go down in hist’ry.
Now Dick Stanley, well, he ain’t never been thowed!
But his past was a myst’ry.

He knowed all about this bronc he was on,
‘Twas a good bronc riders job.
Lottery said he drawed the devil’s spawn,
An’ he knowed he’d shore played hob.

The night’s rain turned hard dirt into a mud,
Ma Nature had made her play.
That bronc was snortin’ an’ lookin’ for blood,
But this cowboy planned to stay.

He’d marked ‘em good, comin’ outta the chute,
His fist drawed  into a knot.
But, that  bronc was learnin’ the ways of the brute,
An’ he’d give more than he got.

He quit the gate an’ was goin’ on high,
An’ he showed that he warn’t slow,
He’d come poundin’ down, then go on the fly,
Twistin’ ‘til his belly would show!

That cowboy stuck tighter than a Texas tick,
While that bronc was  asplashin’ mud.
An’ he squalled an’ snorted  with every kick,
smashin’  the ground with a thud.

But this day would not be kind to Ol’ Steamboat,
Mayhaps the mud slowed him down.
Steamboat whistled, but that was all she wrote,
‘cuz Dick Stanley had won the crown!

Now you drawed good an’ you shore got the skill,
That bronc will be okay, like as not.
An’ he’ll shore ‘nuff try to give you a spill,
So son, just give ‘r all you’ve got!

Yeah! I seen it muddy like this… back in ought nine.

© 2016,  Jim Cathey
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Jeff Campbell

Four A.M. the thunder booms
As the gushing rain cascades
Easy just to stay right here
The coffee and couch persuades

It’s just a small town rodeo
A winding one hundred mile trip
But he hates the thought of missing
As he takes one final sip

Dodges puddles out to the truck
Turns the key and the radio on
As an old Corb Lund song ends
A forecast of blue skies by dawn

Does it matter if he wins?
Or lands with a humbling thud
When that whirling shadow stomper
Baptizes him in the mud

It’s about the thrill and focus
The feeling of being alive
To have something to live for
A goal and a will to strive

One day out on life’s highway
As he glances in his rear view
He will not regret things tried
Just the ones he did not do

© 2016,  Jeff Campbell
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by George Rhoades

The old cowboy sat in the chair,
A blanket across his lap,
On the patio of the rest home,
Wakin’ from his nap.

I did ’em all, he said,
Ridin’ and ropin’ at the rodeo
All up and down the line,
Calgary to Cheyenne to El Paso.

Now I’m crippled up and stuck
With caretakers and fadin’ memory,
Thinkin’ back on the past,
Gone forever now for me.

But when I sleep I dream
That I’m buckin’ once again,
A small town, flags aflyin’,
Tryin’ my best to win.

Corrals, horses, pickup trucks,
Spurs, buckles, chaps and ropes,
Arenas, bulls, barrel racers,
Livin’ on dreams and hopes.

Travelin’ from town to town,
Wantin’ to make the short go,
To get the cash and the glory;
Hard life, not much to show.

Comin’ outta the chute,
One arm up, under stormy sky,
Hat pulled low, holdin’ tight,
Pickup man waitin’ nearby.

I’ve drawn a good one,
Bronc with lots of fire,
High-kickin’ and high-jumpin’,
I’m ridin’ ‘im higher and higher.

Settlin’ into the rhythm,
Day money’s gonna be mine,
Spurrin’ on a high roller,
Pains forgotten, feelin’ fine.

The roar from the crowd,
Ride ’em cowboy, comes the cry,
The cheers urge me on
As I grab for the sky.

Then I hear the buzzer,
Eight-second ride and top score;
My dream comes to an end
‘Til I dream it all once more.

© 2016, George Rhoades
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Jean Mathisen Haugen

Those rodeo grounds are in rough shape,
they date back over eighty years.
Though the rodeo dates back to 1894
and many a’ cowboy has bruised his rear.

The CCC built this one for town
a’ way up on the highest hill,
with a full view of the mountains,
and wild horse races still cause a thrill.

A few years ago they planned to move the grounds—
but that idea did not go over well.
The folks here liked it just where it was—
for there were many stories to tell

of when Indians danced in the ring there
or a bull dumped a cowboy or two;
the time old Checkers climbed the stand
from the back to get a good view.

Come the 4th of July, Pioneer Days
has folks coming here back home
to see the parade and the rodeo,
for they never wanted to roam

out of the valley to somewhere else.
This valley catches your heart
and the old rodeo brings ’em home
from way back in1894 at it’s start.

Now I’m sitting here in this grandstand
and it seems to me that I see
some shadow riders in the ring—
and they’re not just seen by me!

Stub Farlow and his brother Jules,
Clayton Danks, a well known rider.
A lady rider who once rode the circuit
and her second horse is right beside her.

Phantom horses and phantom bulls
and ghosts of cowboys long gone—
join us here at the rodeo grounds—
Let her buck and let’s get on

with having a regular big to-do
for the day is blue sky and prime
and the shadow riders are back here too—
to enjoy the fun one more time!

© 2016, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.