SUMMER TIME by Bruce Kiskaddon

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SUMMER TIME
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There’s a heap of times when ridin’
after cattle shore is tough.
When every thing is goin’ wrong,
or else the weather’s rough.
The whole world seems ag’in you.
You can do yore level best,
But you ain’t a gittin’ nowheres
and yore nearly dead for rest.

But it’s purty in the summer
when yore ridin’ through the hills.
Where the tall green grass is growin’
and the air is soft and still.
Cows and calves is fat and gentle.
They jest look at you and stare.
You can hear the little insecks
go a buzzin’ in the air.

You may run onto some places
that is mighty steep to climb,
But you ain’t in any hurry,
and you give the hoss his time.
You figger that it ain’t so bad,
a bein’ a cow poke,
And you feel so plum contented
you don’t even want to smoke.

No, a cow boy’s life ain’t easy
when you git it figgered down.
He don’t have a lot of comforts
that the people have in town.
But he don’t deserve no sympathy
fer how his life is spent.
Fer there’s times he’s jest a bathin’
in a ocean of content.

There is nothin’ there to bother him,
he doesn’t have to hurry.
He is doin’ what he wants to do,
he isn’t in a hurry.
Yes, it pays up fer the frost bites,
all the falls and all the spills,
On them lovely days in summer
when he’s ridin’ in the hills.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

The poem and its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951) appeared on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar in November, 1942, and also in the Western Livestock Journal that year.

Bruce Kiskaddon’s ten years of cowboying informs many of his works. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems introduces Bruce Kiskaddon’s life and work. The poetry begins with some of the best known of Kiskaddon’s reflective poems, with look backward to “when cattle were plenty and men were few.” Poems that follow are about cowboys and men, work, cattle, horses (and one mule), heavenly concerns, old-time life, quirky characters, gear, a ghost tale, and some Christmas poems.

Among the voices are Randy Rieman, Jay Snider, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Trey Allen, Floyd Beard, Ol Jim Cathey, Rod Miller, Ken Cook, Ross Knox, Chris Isaacs, Dennis Russell Nazelrod, Jerry Brooks, Gail Steiger, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Jessica Hedges, Robert Dennis, Valerie Beard, Keith Ward, John Reedy Baxter Black, J.B. Allen, Brigid Reedy, Jesse Smith, Duane Nelson, Kathy Moss, Susie Knight, Kay Nowell, Tom Swearingen, Dick Morton, DW Groethe, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Dale Page, Almeda Bradshaw, Smoke Wade, Sunny Hancock, Jarle Kvale, Johnny Reedy, Rusty McCall, Dave McCall, Terry Nash, and Rex Rideout. Musician and top sound engineer Butch Hause offers a colorful radio PSA for the Center and Cowboy Poetry Week.

CDs are offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s “Rural Library Program, given to the Center’s donors, and available for sale. Find more about the CD here.

This image is from the CowboyPoetry.com collection of Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendars. Cattle prices are given on the back of the calendar page, which includes, “Range cows of common and medium quality are selling at $8.75 to $10.50 …. Bulls continue in fairly good demand at $10 to $11…”

(This poem is in the public domain.)

STRINGIN’ ALONG, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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STRINGIN’ ALONG
Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It’s nice to see a herd of cattle travelin’ in a string
With the riders workin’ easy on the point and on the swing.
If you keep the cattle stringin’ you can walk ’em quite a ways
But if you let ’em spread or bunch they’ll settle down and graze.

And if you keep a herd strung out there’s not so many lags,
And you ain’t makin’ distance if you have to “chouse the drags.”
The man that’s ridin’ on the lead should regalate the pace,
Then every critter mighty soon will find himself a place.

Any time they git to spreadin’ and you want ’em narrowed in;
If you take a lope up forward, then come walkin’ back ag’in.
If you meet your stragglers facin’, at a slow and easy walk,
It’s more good than all the racin’ and a lot of noisy talk.

And every critter gits his place you mighty soon will find
Where he ain’t afraid of critters that’s a walkin’ just behind.
If a man would think and reason he could see the way it feels
If some critter he is skeered of was a trompin’ on his heels.

Now there’s not much cattle trailin’ on the hills and on the plains.
They move the stock in motor trucks and on the railroad trains.
But I think of men and hosses and the trails I used to know,
When we moved a lot of cattle over fifty years ago.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

The next MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com will feature the works of Kiskaddon. If you recite (or know of a recitation) of one of the lesser known Kiskaddon poems, email editor@cowboypoetry.com with suggestions for consideration.

Bruce Kiskaddon wrote many poems informed by his decade of cowboying.  Some of those poems are still heard often at gatherings today. There are many more (he published nearly 500) good poems that are not as well known. Some of the poems, like this one, have a degree of nostalgia.

Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges:

Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph is from ranchers and poets Valerie Beard and Floyd Beard. Valerie comments on the photograph, titled “On to Greener Pastures”:

We were helping the family move the cows that were calving later to another pasture where there would be more feed. It was such a beautiful day in beautiful country in the canyons of Southeastern Colorado.

Find more about Valerie and Floyd at floydbeardcowboy.com.

The photo was the featured image for a 2017 National Day of the Cowboy
Art Spur” at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

A WET ROPE, by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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A WET ROPE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I will bet all your life you will never forget
The trouble you’ve had with a rope that was wet.
One day when your hoss was rode down to a walk
You cornered a gentle hoss close to a rock.

You throwed, but your rope was as stiff as a hoop.
So he just downed his head and backed out of the loop.
He was foxy. As soon as he saw the rope fall,
He just pulled out from there and he left you. That’s all.

That time you run onto an old moss horn steer
You’d been aimin’ to lead out fer over a year.
He was in some rough country just close to the valley,
You throwed and you ketched him and tried for a dally.

But the saddle and rope was both wet and you missed.
You blistered your fingers and battered your fist.
There was no chance. The ground was all muddy and slick,
And a wet muddy rope doesn’t tangle so quick.

Yes I reckon that you can remember a lot,
But it makes you so mad that it’s better forgot.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

Things have changed a bit in the 65 years since Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem was printed in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar, but it’s easy to imagine the scene.

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon.

A 2017 article in a Western Horseman blog by William Reynolds focuses on Kiskaddon, and describes Kiskaddon’s style as, “…uniquely unromantic and undoubtedly authentic.”

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

(This poem is in the public domain.)

THE EARLY WORM by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE EARLY WORM
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

You git into yore soggy clothes
and go outside the door,
It’s been a rainin’ all night long;
it rained the night before.
It sets a hand to thinkin’
of the sayin’ he has heard
How he ort to git up early,
and be the early bird.

And shore enough you see a bird
a pullin’ out some worms.
The end that’s fast shore stretches,
and the other end shore squirms.
And it puts a different meanin’
on the sayin’ you have heard.
The worm ain’t never mentioned.
You jest hear about the bird.

Now the folks that own the outfit
are a restin’ warm in bed.
While the foreman and the cow boys
must git out and go ahead.
You wish fer yore tobacker,
and you use some awful words.
The hands and foreman is the worms,
the owner is the bird.

And you git a different idee
what you might be really worth.
And then you wonder what you’ll be
yore second time on earth.
You will likely be an inseck,
or some onimportant germ
Because you know this time on earth,
yore nothin’ but a worm.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1939

A good Monday morning poem, for all the worms out there.

This poem, illustrated by Katherine Field (1908-1951), first appeared in 1939 in the Western Livestock Journal and on the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar. It was reprinted in 1956.

As Bill Siems writes in his landmark book, Open Range, a monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry, “Western Livestock Journal was one of several interacting businesses clustered around the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards, all engaged in the raising,  marketing, and processing of livestock. Almost as soon as the Journal started publishing illustrated poems, the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards began issuing its own series, featuring an illustrated poem and calendar printed on five by ten inch card stock, enclosed with its Monthly Livestock Letter. Beginning with January 1933, these monthly calendars continued in an unbroken series through 1959, using reissued poems after the
deaths of Kiskaddon and Field.”

Kiskaddon and Katherine Field never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range.  Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.