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.

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

On this 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.

You can find Joel Nelson next weekend at the 18th annual Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, November 18-20, 2016 in Monterey, California. The event has a great outreach with local schools and libraries, and includes a great a Western art and gear show.

There, Joel Nelson joins a stellar lineup of Dave Stamey, Mike Beck, Don Edwards, Randy Rieman, Peter Rowen, Skip Gorman and the Waddie Pals, Connie Dover with Tom Sauber, Juni Fisher, Janet Bailey, Rich O’Brien, Rex Allen, Jr., The Hanson Family, R.W. Hampton, Bruce Forman & COW BOP, Karen Ross, Jim Ross, Ross Knox, Hot Club of Cowtown, and Whit Smith.

Find more about the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival at montereycowboy.org and on Facebook.

Find more about Joel Nelson at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

Ken and 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.