HORSEBACK MAN FOR HIRE lyrics by Joel Nelson

56422388_10157228903175859_8628109163269980160_nApril, 2019 photo of Randy Rieman, Joel Nelson, Sean Sexton,
and Andy Hedges, courtesy of Andy Hedges

HORSEBACK MAN FOR HIRE
lyrics by Joel Nelson

Twenty miles away the R.E.A.
Ran out of poles and wire
I earn my pay the cowboy way
I’m a horseback man for hire
Yipee-yi-yay
I’m a horseback man for hire

Where I was born every saddle horn
Had a rope tied hard and fast
All the boots were worn – all the shirts were torn
And we held on to the past
Yippee-yi-yay
We held on to the past

Now I take my turns and the mulehide burns
When I need to slip a coil
I play my gig in a double rig
I’m a grandson of the soil
Yippee-yi-yay
I’m a grandson of the soil

I’m no one’s fool – I’ve been to school
I’ve taken my degree
But the cattle bawl and the coyote’s call
Are the things that beckon me
They’re the things that call to me
So I step astride and I start my ride
While the sun is still asleep
I’m bonafide – I been certified
And my roots run mighty deep
Yippee-yi-yay
My roots run mighty deep

I don’t need to smoke your weed
To get me feelin’ right
Just a canvas bed to lay my head
When the stars come out at night
Yippee-yi-yay
With the dipper shinin’ bright

Bridge:
My thumbs ain’t flexed cause I don’t text
Your emails leave me cold
Go lick a stamp that’ll find my camp
On a letter I can hold
Yippee-yi-yay
Send a letter I can hold

I like a good book by my chair
I like hot tea by the fire
Where I can read without a care
When the wind – howls – through – the – wire
Cause I’m a horseback man for hire

Your gilded halls and shopping malls
Can’t hold me very long
So I quit the scene of fine cuisine
To be where I belong
Yippee-yi-yay
Out here’s where I belong

I got a darn good life and a darlin’ wife
She sets my heart on fire
She’s a pretty thing and she wears my ring
She’s horseback and for hire
Yippe-yi-yay
She’s a horseback girl for hire

When I cease to be you can bury me
Or build a funeral pyre
Just scatter my ash and divide my cash
With a horseback man for hire
Yippe-yi-yay
With a horseback man for hire

Bridge:

I need lots of space from the human race
I need solitude from the multitude
I need reverie on the lone prairie
These are things that – I – require
I’m a horseback man for hire
Yippee-yi-yay
I’m a horseback man for hire and
You can’t take it away
I’m a horseback man for…
Hire

© Joel Nelson, used with permission

Songster Andy Hedges’ rendition of rancher, horseman, and poet Joel Nelson’s lyrics is a standout on his new Shadow of a Cowboy album.

Western Horseman recently debuted the song and quoted Andy Hedges:

Joel Nelson wrote the lyrics to “Horseback Man for Hire,” and I heard him sing it a cappella…It stayed in my mind…I’m honored to be the first person to record it.

I believe Joel is one of the most important cowboy poets out there today. He’s a thoughtful writer, wonderful reciter, and a respected horseman and working cowboy.

Find the song and Western Horseman article by Jennifer Denison here.

Find more about Joel Nelson at cowboypoetry.com.

andyhcover

Shadow of a Cowboy is as entertaining as it is authentic. Selections draw from the deep roots of traditional country, cowboy, folk, and Western music. The tracks stretch from Teddie Blue Abbott through Pete Seeger to Tucker Zimmerman and beyond as Andy Hedges interprets the past and creates new sounds.

When asked about the overall inspiration for this CD, he comments, “This record was a bit of a hodgepodge of songs that I had collected but I think a theme began to arise in that the songs came from a variety of sources and spanned several eras. I had a vision to do an album of songs that show that the cowboy music tradition has continued from the trail driving era to the 1920s-30s to the 1950-70s to the present day…”

That earliest period is represented by “The Ogallaly Song,” a traditional piece included in the classic We Pointed Them North book by E.C. “Teddie Blue” Abbott. Abbott writes, “I never counted the verses…but you could keep on singing it all night.” Hedges captures that sense.

An unbroken thread of connections among musicians and songwriters weaves through “Shadow of a Cowboy.” The title track, a song by Tucker Zimmerman, came to Hedges when he contacted Zimmerman about another of his songs, “Oregon,” also included in this project. Andy Hedges tells that he knew “Oregon” from Derrol Adams’ recording. He says, “Derroll Adams was Ramblin’ Jack’s old banjo playing partner and they traveled to Europe together in the 1950s.” Billy Faier, known for his work with Pete Seeger, has his “Song of the Cuckoo” included, and the tag at the end is from “912 Greens” by Ramblin’ Jack.

So much is packed into the ten tracks of Shadow of a Cowboy. The varied songs flow and  invite repeated listening. As in earlier projects, inspired, ethereal harmonies of Alissa Hedges add layers of interest to a number of her husband’s tracks. Designer Dirk Fowler’s spare and evocative art reflects the soul of the project.

Other songs include “The Horsetrader’s Song” by prolific songwriter and musician Jimmy Driftwood; Carter Family member Sara Carter and her husband A.P. Carter’s “Lonesome Pine Special”; and folksinger and rodeo cowboy Peter LaFarge’s vivid tale of “Iron Mountain.”

Two other outstanding tracks are the collaborations with two additional respected cowboy poets, John Dofflemyer and Waddie Mitchell. Andy Hedges says of “Tennis Shoes,” Dofflemyer’s tribute to a friend, “…I don’t believe that I changed a single word. The music came easily for this one.”

“Long Johns On,” from words written by Waddie Mitchell and further enlivened with a melody suggested by Alissa Hedges, is unforgettable fun. Really unforgettable; it has genuine–yet delightful–ear worm qualities. Find a video performance of it from the Western Folklife Center’s 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

That humorous gem brings to mind the work of the late, great, beloved Glenn Ohrlin, music historian, performer, friend of Andy Hedges, and one of his heroes. Earlier this month, he paid tribute to him at the Ozark Folk Center. You can’t help but wish that Glenn Ohrlin was still around to hear “Long Johns On” and this entire album.

Someone once wrote about Glenn Ohrlin that he created “…a style that is at once powerful and understated.” And that comment could serve as well as a perfect description of Andy Hedges and the impressive Shadow of a Cowboy.

Find more at andyhedges.com and while you are there, be sure to tune into his “Cowboy Crossroads” podcasts, which are valuable and entertaining visits with cowboys, poets, musicians, and other representatives of the working West.

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

THE BREAKER IN THE PEN by Joel Nelson

breakerkentphoto © Kent Reeves, used with permission

THE BREAKER IN THE PEN
by Joel Nelson

There’s a thousand-year-old story, involving beasts and men.
With one of each we set the stage and let the play begin.
Take Eohippus’ grandson now on middle fingernail,
and the world’s most recent primate, no vestige left of tail.
The first outweighs the second eight times or maybe ten.
Nothing new, this story of the horse and the breaker in the pen.

There are times he thinks he’s crazy, other times he knows for sure.
But centaur blood pumps through his veins and there isn’t any cure.
There are broncs that try his patience and those that test his skill,
make him lie awake in nighttime, make him almost lose his will.
There are stiffened, aching mornings when he questions if he’ll last,
’cause the breaker’s over fifty while the broncs are still two-past.

No imaginary spider web connects him to the brute,
just developed understanding, maybe years in taking root.
A dozen broncs stand shivering, the mist is rolling in.
There’s a slicker on the top rail and a breaker in the pen.

He’s a study in persistence, even stubborn if you will
He’ll bend more often than he breaks and he’s tough, damn tough, to kill.
Rumor runs he nursed on mare’s milk, Some say he’s into Zen.
Truth is he lives and breathes his work. The breaker in the pen.

There are times he feels restricted by those endless little rounds
wishing he were on the cow crew with the roundup sights and sounds
But he’s seen the cattle sorted, now the crew comes trottin’ in
astride the horses started by the breaker in the pen.

He’s not high on riding buckers, he disdains the use of quirt.
He’s eaten quite a little more than his fair share of dirt.
So he reads what’s there before him, tryin’ hard to catch the signs;
instinct or intuition gives him what’s between the lines.

His psycho-cybernetic work has often saved his hide,
but a moment comes with every horse when he has to mount and ride.
So fearless or in spite of fear he moves to step astraddle.
Now what will be will surely be, for the breaker’s in the saddle

Here we redefine commitment for it’s now the horse’s deal
The breaker’s foot is shoved into the stirrup to the heel
This ride might end with two as one just like it all began,
else the breaker finds the wherewithal to rise and ride again.

With triple-digit temperatures it’s tough to hang and rattle
and the breaker’s butt is heat sore, and bleedin’ in the saddle.
Hail the horses of the nations, hear the stories of them told,
How they’ve carried kingdoms’ armies, how they’ve won Olympic Gold.

Carried Washington and Paul Revere, helped set our country free
Carried Roosevelt and Houston, John Wayne, and Grant, and Lee.
One thing they have in common; their stories all begin
with one you seldom hear about: the breaker in the pen.

© Joel Nelson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Respected Texas horseman, rancher, poet, reciter, occasional songwriter, and National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow Joel Nelson’s writing and reciting are masterful—he captures readers and listeners alike with his craft. This is the title poem from his CD, the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that the recording “raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years.”

Find more about Joel Nelson, including this poem and others along with information about his CD, at cowboypoetry.com.

This c. 1993 photograph of Joel Nelson is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist and Photographer, from the landmark book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.

Kent Reeves writes in the book’s Acknowledgments, “…I owe my work in this book to all the poets who allowed me to interrupt their lives and who took me in for a few days. I do not feel that I ‘took’ these photographs; I believe that each poet gave them to me.” In addition to Joel Nelson, the book includes chapters with Buck Ramsey, Wallace McRae, Rod McQueary, Linda Hussa, John Dofflemyer, Shadd Piehl, Paul Zarzyski, Sue Wallis, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, and Drummond Hadley.

See a gallery of photos from the book here on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at cowboypoetry.com; at his site, cowboyconservation.com; and on Facebook.

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

HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU lyrics by Joel Nelson, music by Don Edwards

joelnelsonkent

photo © 1993, Kent Reeves, used with permission

HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU
lyrics by Joel Nelson, music by Don Edwards

You rode the Goodnight-Loving
Went up the Chisholm too
You trailed three thousand to Kansas City
And you wintered with Teddy Blue
Here’s looking at you
Here’s looking at you

You rode with Ranger Goodnight
You helped him tame the land
You learned the Llano Estacado
Just as well as the back of your hand
When you rode for the brand
You rode for the brand

You’ve been three times to Sedalia
With a cook and six-man crew
You came dang near losing the herd and your hair
To a passel of renegade Sioux
But you saw it through
You saw it through

And you courted the dancehall beauties
‘Till they picked your pockets clean
If it happened once you let it happen twice
Up in Dodge and Abilene
And places between
Every place in between

From a heat wave in Palo Pinto
To the frostbite on Raton Pass
You looseherded cattle through a Southwestern drought
In the quest for water and grass
Alack and alas
Huntin’ water and grass

Then you trailed home the fittest survivors
When the word came of late summer rain
And you reveled in respite for weary riders
And three pounds a day in gain
The respite of rain
And three pounds of gain

You drove ‘em up to Montana
Over rivers swollen outta the bank
You started out helping the wrangler’s helper
But you rise right up through the rank
Through the dark and the dank
You rose through the rank

It was a poor way to make a living
And you threatened to quit—but then
When the herd bedded down at the shank of evenin’
You knew you’d do it over ag’in
Through the thick and the thin
You’d do it ag’in

Now a half-dozen generations
Have mourned your passin’ on
But you were just startin’ what still isn’t over
And your spirit saddles up in the dawn
For you are not gone
No you are not gone

We see you in the Steeldust
In the spark flyin’ offfa the show
Maybe we are here livin’ what you never dreamed of
But you lived what we never know
Here’s looking at you
Here’s looking at you

Here’s looking at you—Cowboy
Here’s looking at you.

© Copyright 2001, Joel Nelson, Night Horse Songs, BMI
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This outstanding cowboy song (listen here) is the result of a collaboration between two of today’s most respected people in the cowboy poetry and music world: Joel Nelson and Don Edwards.

Here’s Looking at You” came from the pen of Joel Nelson, emerging as a song, not a poem. Don Edwards told of his friendly skepticism when Joel Nelson told him he had written a song that he wanted Don to hear. Don admitted he was thinking “A song? Joel’s a poet,” and before he knew it, there was another surprise: Joel pulled out his guitar. Don said at the time, “I’ve known Joel for twenty-five years, and I didn’t know he played the guitar.” His expectations weren’t high. But he went from skeptic to believer quickly.

What followed was what Don describes as a song of “marvelous purity, akin to the works of Don Hedgpeth, JB Allen, Badger Clark, Bruce Kiskaddon,” writers able to make words with “a hundred years wrapped into now.” Don said that he couldn’t get the song out of his mind, and he soon was in touch with Joel to talk about working with the song, saying that he didn’t want to do anything to take away from the near-perfect words. Don’s skillful arrangement makes it impossible to imagine any other tune working with the inspired lyrics.

“Here’s Looking at You” was recorded by Don Edwards on his Saddle Songs II, Last of the Troubadours album. You can listen to it here.  It was also featured last week on Jim and Andy Nelson’s Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio show and is available in part 4 of the October 15, 2018 archive.

This collaboration was featured in 2008 in a column from CowboyPoetry.com, “Before the Song,” which appeared in the International Western Music Association’s magazine, The Western Way. Find much more about the song and the collaboration in the article here.

Find more about Joel Nelson at CowboyPoetry.com and visit donedwardsmusic.com for more about Don Edwards.

Joel Nelson appears at the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Fredricksburg, Texas, November 8-10, and will be a part of the Western Folklife Center’s 35th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering January 28 – February 2, 2019. The lineup includes 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. Find more at
http://www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

This c. 1993 photograph of Joel Nelson is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist, from the landmark book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.

Kent Reeves writes in the book’s Acknowledgments, “…I owe my work in this book to all the poets who allowed me to interrupt their lives and who took me in for a few days. I do not feel that I ‘took’ these photographs; I believe that each poet gave them to me.” In addition to Joel Nelson, the book includes chapters with Buck Ramsey, Wallace McRae, Rod McQueary, Linda Hussa, John Dofflemyer, Shadd Piehl, Paul Zarzyski, Sue Wallis, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, and Drummond Hadley.

See a gallery of photos from the book on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com and at cowboyconservation.com.

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

THE MEN WHO RIDE NO MORE, by Joel Nelson

joelkrphoto of Joel Nelson © Kent Reeves, www.cowboyconservation.com

THE MEN WHO RIDE NO MORE
by Joel Nelson

“Bronc to Breakfast” calendars hang fading on the walls
There’s a lost and aimless wandering through the corridors and halls
Of slippered feet that shuffle on a waxed and polished floor
And vacant stares of emptiness from the men who ride no more

Men who once rode proudly—men with long straight backs
Men who covered hill and plain with steel shod horses’ tracks
Now pass their idle days in rooms with numbers on the door
With orderlies and nurses for men who ride no more

Time was when spur rowels jingled when boot heels bumped the floor
Dawns with hot black coffee and saddling up at four
With feet in tapaderos and broncs between their knees
And silken neck scarves snapping as they turned into the breeze

From full-blown living legends true to riding for the brand
To the scarcely mediocre who could hardly make a hand
They would gather for the branding or the shipping in the Fall
Now it’s walker, cane, and wheelchair in the antiseptic hall

And they all have their mementos on the table by their side
Like a cracked and fading snapshot of a horse they usta ride
Or standing with the wife beside a thirty-seven Ford
A high-heeled boot hooked nonchalant on a muddy running board

Just instants frozen from the past that somehow give a clue
To who and what they were before their riding days were through
Horseback men with horseback rules from horseback days of yore
Their one and only wish would be to somehow ride once more

To once more rope a soggy calf and drag it to the fire
To long-trot for a half a day and see no post or wire
To ride a morning circle—catch a fresh one out at noon
And trot him in when the day was done to the rising of the moon

To put in one more horseback day and have just one more chance
To ride home to a pretty wife and drive her to the dance
To take her hand and hold her close and waltz across a floor
Before the time to join the ranks of men who ride no more.

© 1997, Joel Nelson, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Texas rancher Joel Nelson is highly respected as a poet, reciter, and horseman.

This poem appears on Joel Nelson’s CD, The Breaker in the Pen, the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that the recording “raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years.” The poem is also on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Four.

Joel Nelson was named a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow in 2009. See a biography there.

Read an excellent 2010 profile of Joel Nelson by Ryan T. Bell, “Joel Nelson” The Horses and the Words.”

Find a number of video performances on YouTube, including this video from a 2012 appearance at the Blanton Museum.

Find more about Joel Nelson, including this poem and others, at CowboyPoetry.com.

Joel Nelson is a part of the stellar lineup for the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering in Fredericksburg, November 8-10. He will join Amy Steiger (Amy Hale Auker), Cowboy Celtic, Mike Blakely, Dom Flemons, Pipp Gillette, Andy Hedges, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, and Trinity Seely.

This c. 1993 photograph of Joel Nelson is by Kent Reeves, from the landmark book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West” by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.

Kent Reeves writes in the book’s Acknowledgments, “…I owe my work in this book to all the poets who allowed me to interrupt their lives and who took me in for a few days. I do not feel that I ‘took’ these photographs; I believe that each poet gave them to me.” In addition to Joel Nelson, the book includes chapters with Buck Ramsey, Wallace McRae, Rod McQueary, Linda Hussa, John Dofflemyer, Shadd Piehl, Paul Zarzyski, Sue Wallis, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, and Drummond Hadley.

See a gallery of photos from the book on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com; at www.cowboyconservation.com; and on Facebook.

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

INSIDE WAR by Joel Nelson

vets

photo © 2016, Ken Rodgers

INSIDE WAR
by Joel Nelson

We read stories of Wars
Hist’ries written on pages
And records of battle
Drawn on walls of the cave
Read of Glory and Honor
And Right through the ages
And all those who fell
‘Neath the crest of the knave

The themes are eternal
Of wars on the ocean
Of axes and swords
On the Otterburn Plain
The ninety gun Frigates
The horsemen in motion
The bleeding has stopped
But the stories remain

There are terms of Armistice
And flags of surrender
This war fought for freedom
That war saved a race
Twixt savages cruel
Or soldiers yet tender
The scholars record them
And each has its place

Some go unrecorded
Wars fought self-contained
Conflicts never ending
No respite or truce
For the foe lives within
Lashing out unrestrained
And the warrior wears thin
From the battles’ abuse

The shelling subsides
Then intensity quickens
With most unaware
Of the state of the war
Leaving soldier and loved ones
With Conflict that thickens
Outsiders observing
The scene from afar

There is only so long
Any warrior can battle
‘Til he must succumb
To the enemy inside
So loosening the reins
Stepping down from the saddle
Heaving sigh of relief
He will cease his long ride

His allies left standing
Gather somewhat uncertain
Refraining from judgment
United by love
Acknowledging peacetime
And drawing the curtain
Leaving all in the hands
Of the Maker above

© 2008, Joel Nelson
This poem should not be re-posted or reprinted without permission

In observance of Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, we’re honored to share the words of Texas rancher and horseman Joel Nelson. He served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. A National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Fellow, Joel Nelson is respected for his writing and his reciting.

Find more about Joel Nelson at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph, by Idaho filmmaker, writer, teacher, and photograph Ken Rodgers, was taken last year at the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

This year, Ken was the Grand Marshal of the Boise Veterans Day parade. See a great photo here on Facebook.

Ken and the equally talented Betty Rodgers are the creators of the award-winning film, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, about the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines during the 1968 siege at Khe Sanh in Vietnam, with whom Ken served. Find more about it  on Facebook and at bravotheproject.com, where there is an engaging blog.

Their latest project, a work in progress, I Married the War, tells the stories of the lives of combat veteran spouses, from WWII through today. Find more about it at imarriedthewar.com and on Facebook.

Find poems and more for Veterans Day at CowboyPoetry.com.

EQUUS CABALLUS by Joel Nelson

kentreeveshorses927

photo © 2017, Kent Reeves; request permission for use.

 

EQUUS CABALLUS
by Joel Nelson

I have run on middle fingernail through eolithic morning,
I have thundered down the coach road with the Revolution’s warning.
I have carried countless errant knights who never found the grail.
I have strained before the caissons I have moved the nation’s mail.

I’ve made knights of lowly tribesmen and kings from ranks of peons
And given pride and arrogance to riding men for eons.
I have grazed among the lodges and the tepees and the yurts.
I have felt the sting of driving whips and lashes, spurs and quirts.
I am roguish—I am flighty—I am inbred—I am lowly.
I’m a nightmare—I am wild—I am the horse.
I am gallant and exalted—I am stately—I am noble.
I’m impressive—I am grand—I am the horse.

I have suffered gross indignities from users and from winners,
And I’ve felt the hand of kindness from the losers and the sinners.
I have given for the cruel hand and given for the kind.
Heaved a sigh at Appomattox when surrender had been signed.

I can be as tough as hardened steel—as fragile as a flower.
I know not my endurance and I know not my own power.
I have died with heart exploded ’neath the cheering in the stands—
Calmly stood beneath the hanging noose of vigilante bands.
I have traveled under conqueror and underneath the beaten.
I have never chosen sides—I am the horse.
The world is but a players stage—my roles have numbered many;
Under blue or under gray—I am the horse.
So I’ll run on middle fingernail until the curtain closes,
And I will win your triple crowns and I will wear your roses.
Toward you who took my freedom I’ve no malice or remorse.
I’ll endure—This Is My Year—I am the Horse!

© 2002, Joel Nelson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Texas rancher, horseman, poet and reciter Joel Nelson wrote this poem for the Year of the Horse in 2002. He commented on the poem in an interview with the National Endowment for the Arts, of which he is a Heritage Fellow: “….[it is] a tribute to the horse because he’s been so important to me throughout my life…To maybe help a little in the understanding of the piece, I’ll talk about the ancestry of the horse a little bit. Evidence that scientists have unearthed over the years would indicate that the horse was not always as he is today. He was at one time a little terrier-sized animal trotting around the face of the globe with toes on all four feet. And it wasn’t until probably the Eocene Era that the middle digit of each paw had evolved into what we think of as the horse’s hoof. And the digits to either side diminished and are now what we refer to the splint bones in the horse’s leg. But this poem is a tribute to that great animal that I ride.”

Paul Moon’s WESTDOCUMENTARY includes footage of Joel Nelson reciting
the poem.

Wylie & the Wild West put “Equus Caballus” to music on their “Hooves of the Horses” album. Listen here on YouTube.

Joel Nelson’s The Breaker in the Pen album is the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that the recording “…raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years.”

Find images and links along with the poem and more about Joel Nelson and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This striking image is by packer, poet, photographer and more Kent Reeves. He’s particularly known for his photographs in the landmark book, “Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West,” by Anne Heath Widmark.

Check out the recent page about his great grandfather and his diaries, James B. Frew, The Story of a Young Saddler. Frew was the company saddler for the 5th Cavalry and he eventually opened a saddle shop that became the largest saddle company in the Ozarks.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com;  at his site, cowboyconservation.com; and on Facebook.

ON FINDING SOMEONE by Joel Nelson

sylviajoelcolor© 2016, Walter Workman, walterworkman.com, request permission for any use

 

ON FINDING SOMEONE
by Joel Nelson

If on some better than average day
I should be riding along
Observing—not expecting—well maybe
And should see just as hoof swept by
One flawless arrow point—
If on that shining morning
I should step down to lift this point
Turning it delicately—feeling its smoothness
Beneath my fingertips
I would marvel at its perfection
At the way some ancient one
Had tempered and crafted such beauty
And how it came to lie there
All these centuries—covered—uncovered
Re-hidden—re-exposed
Until it came to me
To happen by this place
On this day made now more perfect.
And I would ponder such things
As coincidence and circles and synchronicity,
And I would pocket this treasure near my heart,
And riding on I would recall
Having seen such treasure as this elsewhere
But not this one—not this one.
And for one brief moment I would stiffen with fear
At how one quick glance in another direction
Could have lost this to me forever,
And I would touch my shirt over my heart
Just to make sure.

© 1998, Joel Nelson, used with permission.

It’s often said that anything a cowboy sings is a cowboy song, and that holds true for any poem a cowboy writes being cowboy poetry.

Respected Texas horseman, rancher, poet, reciter, and National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow Joel Nelson’s writing and reciting are masterful—he captures readers and listeners alike with his craft. His The Breaker in the Pen album is the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that the recording “…raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years.”

Watch Joel Nelson recite this poem in a Blanton Museum of Art performance in 2012.

Sylvia and Joel Nelson ranch near Alpine, Texas. This great photo of them was taken by top cowboy photographer Walter Workman and was used inside The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 10 from CowboyPoetry.com.

Songster and respected cowboy music and poetry interpreter Andy Hedges liked this poem so much that he recorded it, along with other classics, modern and otherwise, on his latest project, Cowboy Recitations.

Find more about Joel Nelson, including this poem and others along with information about his CD, at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more about Walter Workman on Facebook and at walterworkman.com, where there are impressive photo galleries.

Find more poems for Valentine’s Day at CowboyPoetry.com.