TWO VIEWPOINTS AT WEANING TIME, by Elizabeth Ebert

Elizabeth Ebert

photo © 2009, Jessica Lifland; request permission for use

TWO VIEWPOINTS AT WEANING TIME
by Elizabeth Ebert (1925-2018)

We weaned the calves today, and we
Sat long upon the fence to see,
Could we discover mid the fuss
Just what the future held for us.

I didn’t hear their plaintive bawl,
I didn’t see weaning calves at all.
Saw steers and heifers grown and plump
Standing at feed bunks, rump to rump,
Gaining seven pounds a day
On scarcely any grain or hay,
While prices rose so fast, by heck,
We’d be ashamed to cash the check.

But he saw veterinary bills
From calfdom’s constant scourge of ills,
Like diarrhea and runny nose,
And he saw waterers that froze,
Tractors broke down from pushing snow
In weather forty-five below,
And silage piles and stacks of hay
That dwindled faster every day;
While prices took a downward slide
‘Til calves were scarcely worth their hide.

We sat upon that fence, we two,
Each with a different point of view.
And this will be my prayer each night,
“Oh Lord, just ONCE let me be right!”

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, used with permission of the Ebert family, from Crazy Quilt

South Dakota’s much-loved poet, retired ranch wife Elizabeth Ebert, delighted audiences across the West. She was married to her rancher huband S.J. Ebert for 62 years, until his death in 2008. She died March 20, 2018, leaving countless friends and fans, a loving family, and a great body of work.

Elizabeth Ebert created memorable poems, both serious and humorous. Baxter Black has said of her, “To say that I admire Elizabeth’s writing seems meager comment on her talent. She writes from inspiration with such graceful force it’s like her pen has power steering. There are so many first class pieces in her books, most contemporary cowboy poets would covet even just one so good in their armory…”

Read Carson Vaughan’s obituary in the New York Times, “Elizabeth Ebert, ‘Grand Dame of Cowboy Poetry,’ Dies at 93,” and find more in this blog and at cowboypoetry.com.

This 2009 photo of Elizabeth Ebert is by photojournalist and teacher Jessica Lifland, an official photographer for the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. It is from her project documenting the lives of cowboy poets.

Find photographs of Elizabeth Ebert from that project and those for many others, including DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Amy Hale Steiger and Gail Steiger, Rodney Nelson, Wally McRae, Waddie Mitchell, Jerry Brooks, Doris Daley, and others, along with National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Images from 2004-2019 here.

Thanks to Jessica Lifland and the Ebert family for their generous permissions.

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

ABOVE AND BEYOND, by Jarle Kvale

cowboythrown“Heavily thrown,” by Erwin E. Smith (1886-1947), c. 1907


ABOVE AND BEYOND

The boys and me were kinda miffed
to hear the boss man say,
he’s bringin’ in some buster
just to break that bald-faced bay.

It sorta bruised our feelings,
tho, in fact, we’d all been tossed;
that bay’s sure got our number –
we’d all tried, and we’d all lost.

Accordin’ to the boss,
I guess we’re all a sorry lot –
this kid’s above and way beyond
the meager skills we’ve got.

We gathered round the pen
that day that cowboy swaggered in;
he strolled just like a peacock,
smirked a denigratin’ grin.

He claimed, “There’s not a horse around
that’s ever bucked me off” –
the final words we heard from him
‘fore he was sent aloft.

The kid went soaring through the air
and bid that bay adieu –
it’s then we all agreed
the boss’ words were ringin’ true.

Above that horse’s head he flew –
beyond the round pen’s rail –
we arched our necks in pleasure
as we watched his skills set sail.

Above the record altitude
that Frank had set last fall;
beyond the longest distance
that my mem’ry could recall.

His flight was acrobatic –
did a flip, then added two –
I scored him perfect tens,
like he’s another Mary Lou.

But flights have ways of ending,
due to gravitation’s tug –
his landing wasn’t pretty,
like a windshield meets a bug.

Was 30 minutes later,
when that cowboy came around;
untangled legs and caught his breath,
rose slowly from the ground.

Humility’s a virtue
that some folks have never learned –
but spoutin’ off and talkin’ big
is bound to get you burned.

That cowboy’s lost his swagger,
and the boss man’s eatin’ crow –
above and way beyond’s a phrase
he’d just as soon let go.

That bay? Well, he’s still buckin’ –
and still provin’ us his worth –
each time we meet a braggart
who needs bringin’ back to earth.

© 2019, Jarle Kvale
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Jarle Kvale, North Dakota horseman, radio broadcaster, and host of  the cowboy poetry and Western music Back at the Ranch radio show includes “Above and Beyond” in his new book, Horses, Dogs (& Lingerie).

Find Jarle Kvale at Colorado’s 31st annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 3rd – 7th, 2019. Evening performers include Trinity Seely, Ross Knox, Brooke Turner, Margaret Wilhelm, Greg Hager, Bill Lowman, and Mary Kaye. Daytime performers include Jarle Kvale, Kathy Moss, Paul Larson, Almeda Bradshaw, Tom Swearingen, Thatch Elmer, Ol’ Jim Cathey, Nolan King, Emelia Knaphus, Chris Isaacs, Two Bit Pete, Allora Leonard, Carol Markstrom, Dan McCorison, Slim McWilliams, Dave Munsick, Sam Noble, Jonathan Odermann, Don Schauda, The Sawyer Family, Lindy Simmons, Kacey and Jenna Thunborg, Cora Rose Wood, and Laurie Wood.

The following week, October 10-13, 2019 he’ll be at the 28th annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days in Valentine.  Featured performers include Wylie & the Wild West, Jarle Kvale, Dave Munsick, Sky Shivers, and the High Country Cowboys.

img478

Jarle Kvale’s new book, Horses, Dogs, (& Lingerie) is described, “Jarle takes his experiences with horses, rodeo, and North Dakota rural living and turns them into humorous verse. He’s been writing cowboy poetry for over 25 years, sharing his stories with friends and family over trail ride campfires, at various community events, and at cowboy poetry gatherings throughout the country.”

Praise for the book includes ranch hand, poet and picker D.W. Groethe’s comment, “…His poetry has the kind of meter and rhyme that defines traditional cowboy poetry, along with the humor it takes to keep your attention going full out. Writing well, in this style, is difficult at best, and he’s got it down….”

Horses, Dogs, (& Lingerie) is available for $15 postpaid from Jarle Kvale,  PO Box 488 Dunseith ND 58329.

Jarle Kvale also has a recent CD, Custom Made.

Find more of Jarle Kvale’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and tune in to the current and past Back at the Ranch radio shows.

Jarle_Kvale-9393-7x5,300.jpg
photo of Jarle Kvale by Kevin Martini-Fuller

The c. 1907 photograph by Erwin E. Smith (1886-1947) at the top of the page is titled “Heavily thrown.” It is further described, “Photograph shows a cowboy on the ground after being thrown from his mount and other cowboys on horseback coming to his aid, on the Turkey Track Ranch in Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

Find a gallery of Erwin E. Smith’s works at the Amon Carter Museum.

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

YEP, by Rod Nichols

yep2019

YEP
by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)

“It’s been awhile,” the cowboy said.
“Yep,” replied his friend.
“It must be nearly fifteen years.”
“Yep,” he said again.

“I guess you been a driftin’ some?”
“Yep,” his friend replied.
“I guess I’ve done about the same.”
“Yep,” the old friend sighed.

“Remember Shorty Winkleman?”
“Yep,” friend answered slow.
“I hear he up and passed away.”
“Yep,” he answered low.

“Sure looks like we may have some rain.”
“Yep,” his friend allow’d.
“Lord knows that we can stand relief.”
“Yep,” the other scowled.

“I guess you need to head on out?”
“Yep,” his friend intoned.
“I sure am glad we got to chat.”
“Yep,” the old hand droned.

The cowboy, after supper, said
he’d run into Ray.
The other boys now gathered ’round.
“What’d he have to say?”

“He said that it had been awhile,
nearly fifteen years.
he said that he had drifted some
workin’ with them steers.”

“He said he knowed ’bout Shorty’s death,
that it made him sad.
He figured we was in fer rain,
fer relief was glad.”

“He said he was a headin’ out,
glad we got to jaw.
Ol’ Ray is quite a talker, boys.
Beats all I ever saw.”

© 2003, Rod Nichols
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This poem is a perennial favorite, appreciated as much as Texan Rod Nichols was. Find more about him and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986)—which seems to fit the poem so well—is captioned, “Foreman of the SMS Ranch on left and old cowboy on the right waiting for dinner at the chuck wagon. Ranch near Spur, Texas.” It is from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Find a feature about noted photographer Russell Lee and a gallery of photographs from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History The University of Texas at Austin.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission. The photo is in the public domain.)

WAR BRIDLE by Maria Lisa Eastman

marialisa1

WAR BRIDLE
by Maria Lisa Eastman

I used to be a girl who rode bucking horses.
Not in a rodeo or anything glamorous,
just regular horses who bucked—
horses owned by people
who didn’t want them to buck.

Those horses did not scare me.

When they bucked, I sat down deep,
slapped my long reins on their flanks, made them run.
They ran fast and for a long time.
I didn’t let them stop.
If they slowed, I slapped my reins again
so they picked up their pace.

After some long miles, I’d let them slow—
they would draw in great
shuddering breaths,
lifting my legs off their ribs.
Then, all at once, they’d let go,
but it wasn’t anything they did
or anything you could see.
When it happened,
I could feel it run clean, clear
like a mountain stream through us both.
I didn’t question why they bucked.
Likely they all had good reasons.
I wasn’t thoughtful like I am now but
I wasn’t unfeeling or unkind—
I just took it plain, they bucked,
my job was to get them to stop.

Not by being good at riding bucking horses,
because I was never any good at that.
What I was pretty good at was
staying on a running horse,
and that’s what I figured they needed to do.

Run.

When I asked them to run,
I was one-hundred-percent sincere.
I knew the right thing was to go somewhere with them,
instead of nowhere against them.
I was sure of it.
Those horses believed in me.

When I got a little older, I changed.

I don’t know just what it was that changed in me.
That’s what I’m here trying to work out.
What I do know is I quit asking them to run.
I got stuck in their fear, made it my own.
When those horses bucked,
I would get scared,
I would get mad—
I was at war with anything that crossed my path.

And nobody knows that better than a horse.

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

The official bio of Maria Lisa Eastman, award-winning poet and frequent invited performer to the Western Folkife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, tells, “Wyoming rancher Maria Lisa Eastman hails from the village of Hyattville, Wyoming, population 100. She and her husband operate the Oxbow Ranch, a sometimes-for-profit hay and cattle outfit, and Rainhorse Equine Assisted Services, a verifiable non-profit, where unfortunate horses are rehabilitated to help people who have had troubles themselves.”

This poem is included in her new book, Regarding the Others. She comments, “This is an auto-biographical poem, looking back to a time when I was able to help out a couple of difficult horses. Then I wasn’t able to anymore. I didn’t know it then, but my heart had fallen out of harmony, and I’d stopped giving 100%. It wasn’t until 20 years later or so that I began to wonder what had happened and why. In the process of looking into myself, I wrote this poem.

See our feature about Maria Lisa Eastman, which includes more of her poetry (“How to Tell a Coyote to Go Away” and “Bad Business”).

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n

Of her new book, Paul Zarzyski writes, “In her first book of poetry, aptly titled Regarding the Others, Maria Lisa Eastman, by amplifying the choirs of venerable voices of “the others,” magnifies the intrinsic presence of those fellow beings defining our hallowed West—paramount of whom, the horse…” Past Wyoming Poet Laureate, Wyoming rancher Patricia Frolander describes the book as, “Deliciously fresh and deeply caring poems from a poet who understands the power of relationship.”

The cover of Regarding the Others is by celebrated artist Theodore Waddell.

Find the book at Amazon and for $15 postpaid from Maria Lisa Eastman, P.O. Box 55, Hyattville, WY 82428.

This photo is courtesy of Maria Lisa Eastman.

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

Maria Lisa Eastman; “Regarding the Others” and three poems

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpgcover art by Theodore Waddell, “Ryegate Horses”

In her first book of poetry, aptly titled Regarding the Others, Maria Lisa Eastman, by amplifying the choirs of venerable voices of “the others,” magnifies the intrinsic presence of those fellow beings defining our hallowed West—paramount of whom, the horse…  Paul Zarzyski, Rodeo Poet

Deliciously fresh and deeply caring poems from a poet who understands the power of relationship.  Patricia Frolander, Wyoming Poet Laureate 2011-2013

bwseparator

POEMS

War Bridle
How to Tell a Coyote to Go Away
Bad Business

marialisa1.jpg

bwseparator

WAR BRIDLE

I used to be a girl who rode bucking horses.
Not in a rodeo or anything glamorous,
just regular horses who bucked—
horses owned by people
who didn’t want them to buck.

Those horses did not scare me.

When they bucked, I sat down deep,
slapped my long reins on their flanks,
made them run.
They ran fast and for a long time.
I didn’t let them stop.
If they slowed, I slapped my reins again
so they picked up their pace.

After some long miles, I’d let them slow—
they would draw in great
shuddering breaths,
lifting my legs off their ribs.

Then, all at once, they’d let go,
but it wasn’t anything they did
or anything you could see.
When it happened,
I could feel it run clean, clear
like a mountain stream through us both.

I didn’t question why they bucked.
Likely they all had good reasons.
I wasn’t thoughtful like I am now but
I wasn’t unfeeling or unkind—
I just took it plain, they bucked,
my job was to get them to stop.

Not by being good at riding bucking horses,
because I was never any good at that.
What I was pretty good at was
staying on a running horse,
and that’s what I figured they needed to do.

Run.

When I asked them to run,
I was one-hundred-percent sincere.
I knew the right thing was to go
somewhere with them,
instead of nowhere against them.
I was sure of it.
Those horses believed in me.

When I got a little older, I changed.

I don’t know just what it was that changed in me.
That’s what I’m here trying to work out.
What I do know is I quit asking them to run.
I got stuck in their fear, made it my own.
When those horses bucked,
I would get scared,
I would get mad—
I was at war with anything that crossed my path.

And nobody knows that better than a horse.

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Maria Lisa Eastman comments:

This is an auto-biographical poem, looking back to a time when I was able to help out a couple of difficult horses. Then I wasn’t able to anymore. I didn’t know it then, but my heart had fallen out of harmony, and I’d stopped giving 100%.  It wasn’t until 20 years later or so that I began to wonder what had happened and why. In the process of looking into myself, I wrote this poem.

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpg

HOW TO TELL A COYOTE TO GO AWAY

Last night I heard her sing.
The dogs went crazy—they’d like to join in,
but lost their voices,
traded for regular meals.

I’ll admit, I loved to hear it,
her wavering soprano.
I wanted that wild joy,
the kind that swells big,
cannot be contained,
so you just give in,
throw back your head,
set it free.

Why is she so close?
Is she young, nonchalant,
or just unschooled?
Shrugging off the risk of easy prey,
like I was once,
a cocky scoffer of all elder wisdom.

She had better go—
though I admire her music,
she is not welcome here.
I want to tell her to go away,
to learn life out in the faraway hills,
away from the tempt of easy living.

It’s my secret,
to care about a coyote.
I like to think she could find a sandy den,
bear her pups, have a life.

I think I’ll give her a chance—
keep it just between us.
I’ll walk up the ditch road,
when I find her,
I’ll shoot
once at her tail.

I hope she understands.

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Maria Lisa Eastman comments:

Ah. Coyotes. We hate them, we love them. They slay our lambs, lure our dogs to untimely death, and eat our chickens – or at least scare them into not laying for a week. And yet…that song. What would the West be without their song? They are iconic; sometimes frightening, sometimes thrilling. All the cultures of our West have stories about Coyote. This is a short story about trying to strike a deal with one particular coyote.

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpg

BAD BUSINESS

In a snowy cornfield
between our gate and the highway
hungry mothers have been running the fence.
It doesn’t matter that the snow is deep now
because their feed was all gone anyway.
When we drive down the road
they gallop after the pickup,
bellowing their outrage.

The neighbor’s hired man says he fed them
but with what?
We’d rather not watch at all,
we’re stuck,
reluctant judges
wishing we could look away
better yet, find
a line of green laid out in the snow.

Last night
before the mercury dropped to minus 35
a stronger bunch jumped the cattle guard,
headed down the icy pavement to find a mouthful.
Neighbors phoned for miles.
Black cows in a dark night.

The sheriff said, “That trucker never even saw them.”

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Maria Lisa Eastman comments:

Inspired by a sad event one winter. It was a bad, bad business. It was also bad business.

bwseparator

marialisaeastman.jpg
Wyoming rancher Maria Lisa Eastman hails from the village of Hyattville, Wyoming, population 100. She and her husband operate the Oxbow Ranch, a sometimes-for-profit hay and cattle outfit, and Rainhorse Equine Assisted Services, a verifiable non-profit, where unfortunate horses are rehabilitated to help people who have had troubles themselves.

Some years ago, while riding colts out in the foothills of New Mexico, Maria Lisa began to collect and study native grasses, and was inspired to earn a master’s degree in range and watershed management.

Maria, Emmy & Coco

More recently, she is the recipient of the 2018 Neltje Blanchan Fellowship in Creative Writing from the Wyoming Arts Council, and has performed several times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

One of her poems is included in the anthology Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (2016), and she has published a chapbook collection of her poetry, entitled Regarding the Others (2019).

Maria Lisa’s work arises from the landscapes of the West and from its animals, plants, and people.

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpg

Regarding the Others is available from Amazon and for $15 postpaid from Maria Lisa Eastman, P.O. Box 55, Hyattville, WY 82428.

Find Maria Lisa Eastman on Facebook.

marialisa2

LEGACY OF THE RODEO MAN by Baxter Black

baxterwilson

 

LEGACY OF THE RODEO MAN
by Baxter Black

There’s a hundred years of history and a hundred before that
All gathered in the thinkin’ goin’ on beneath his hat.
And back behind his eyeballs and pumpin’ through his veins
Is the ghost of every cowboy that ever held the reins.

Every coil in his lasso’s been thrown a million times
His quiet concentration’s been distilled through ancient minds.
It’s evolution workin’ when the silver scratches hide
And a ghostly cowboy chorus fills his head and says, “Let’s ride.”

The famous and the rowdy, the savage and the sane
The bluebloods and the hotbloods and the corriente strain
All knew his mother’s mothers or was his daddy’s kin
‘Til he’s nearly purely cowboy, born to ride and bred to win.

He’s got Buffalo Bill Cody and Goodnight’s jigger boss
And all the brave blue soldiers that General Custer lost
The ghost of Pancho Villa, Sittin’ Bull and Jessie James
All gathered by his campfire keepin’ score and takin’ names.

There’s every Royal Mountie that ever got his man
And every day-work cowboy that ever made a hand
Each man that’s rode before him, yup, every mother’s son
Is in his corner, rootin’, when he nods to make his run.

Freckles Brown might pull his bull rope, Casey Tibbs might jerk the
flank,
Bill Picket might be hazin’ when he starts to turn the crank.
Plus Remington and Russell lookin’ down his buckhorn sight
All watchin’ through the window of this cowboy’s eyes tonight.

And standin’ in the catch pen or in chute number nine
Is the offspring of a mountain that’s come down from olden time
A volcano waitin’ quiet, ’til they climb upon his back
Rumblin’ like the engine of a freight train on the track.

A cross between a she bear and a bad four wheel drive
With the fury of an eagle when it makes a power dive
A snake who’s lost its caution or a badger gone berserk
He’s a screamin’, stompin’, clawin’, rabid, mad dog piece o’ work.

From the rollers in his nostrils to the foam upon his lips
From the hooves as hard as granite to the horns with dagger tips
From the flat black starin’ shark’s eye that’s the mirror of his soul
Shines the challenge to each cowboy like the devil callin’ roll

In the seconds that tick slowly ’til he climbs upon his back
Each rider faces down the fear that makes his mouth go slack
And cuts his guts to ribbons and gives his tongue a coat
He swallows back the panic gorge that’s risin’ in his throat.

The smell of hot blue copper fills the air around his head
Then a single, solid, shiver shakes away the doubt and dread
The cold flame burns within him ’til his skin’s as cold as ice
And the dues he paid to get here are worth every sacrifice

All the miles spent sleepy drivin’, all the money down the drain
All the “if I’s” and the “nearly’s,” all the bandages and pain
All the female tears left dryin’, all the fever and the fight
Are just a small downpayment on the ride he makes tonight.

And his pardner in this madness that the cowboys call a game
Is a ton of buckin’ thunder bent on provin’ why he came
But the cowboy never wavers he intends to do his best
And of that widow maker he expects of him no less.

There’s a solemn silent moment that every rider knows
When time stops on a heartbeat like the earth itself was froze
Then all the ancient instinct fills the space between his ears
“Til the whispers of his phantoms are the only thing he hears

When you get down to the cuttin’ and the leather touches hide
And there’s nothin’ left to think about, he nods and says, “Outside!”
Then frozen for an instant against the open gate
Is hist’ry turned to flesh and blood, a warrior incarnate.

And while they pose like statues in that flicker of an eye
There’s somethin’ almost sacred, you can see it if you try.
It’s guts and love and glory—one mortal’s chance at fame
His legacy is rodeo and cowboy is his name.

“Turn ‘im out”

© 1986, Baxter Black

This often-requested poem was featured in the 1994 movie 8 Seconds, about the legendary Lane Frost (1963–1989). Frost was named PRCA World Champion Bull Rider at age 24 in 1987. In 1989 he died in the arena at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

In the movie, the poem is called “Cowboy is His Name.” A site, which is no longer active, tells, “Near the end of the movie “8 Seconds,” Lane, Tuff and Cody are flying over the Cheyenne arena, and Cody reads a poem entitled ‘Cowboy is His Name.’ That poem is really a shortened version of the poem ‘Legacy of a Rodeo Man’ by Baxter Black.”
View an archived version of the site with the poems here.

Find articles here devoted to the life of Lane Frost, which were written on the 25th anniversary of his death in 2014.

Baxter Black’s official bio describes him as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses.” In the introduction to his recent book, Poems Worth Saving, which includes “Legacy of the Rodeo Man,” Baxter Black comments, “I have been blessed by the good Lord to live in the company of folks I admire and care about. People of the land, I give you my hand, you’re the salt of the Earth, Amen.”

He recites Bruce Kiskaddon’s “They Can Take It” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE triple CD from CowboyPoetry.com and S. Omar Barker’s “Cowboy Saying” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO.

This message comes from Baxter’s office, a policy announcement: “Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit.”

His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”

Find more about Baxter Black at CowboyPoetry.com and find much more, including a weekly column, at BaxterBlack.com.

This image, titled “Baxter Ahorseback,” by Vaughn Wilson, is courtesy of Baxter Black.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but request permission for any other use—except recitation.)

CHAPS by Gary McMahan

chapsx

CHAPS
by Gary McMahan

To: Mr Ralph Lauren
505 5th Ave
New York City

I seen on the TV Mr. Lauren
That you have a men’s cologne you call “Chaps”
And it’s probably a manly scent
Or you wouldn’t have called it that.

I confess I’ve never used the stuff
And this may sound a little harsh
But I suspect men use cologne to hide
The fact that they didn’t warsh

So I can’t really comment on the product
Though I’m sure it smells just fine
It’s the way you say the name “chaps”
That chaps my cowboy behind

You see the name is derived
From the Spanish word chaparro, well
It in turn got its name
from the word chaparral

Which again in Spanish means
A dense thicket of thorny brush and trees
Which all manner of cowboys
have ridden through for centuries

Thus needing protection for their legs
These chaparros were fashioned from cowhide
and are the leather leggin’s cowboys wear
That comes without a backside

Then us gringos got hold of the word
And shortened chaparro to chaps
Kinda like when we took the word
Tappaderos and condensed it to “Taps”

So that’s why “ch” is really pronounced
With an “sh” sound you see
And to an ol’ cowboy that’s worn chaps all his life
It seems a travesty

That you would use the cowboy’s manly image
To sell your fancy smell to the herd
And never even take the time
To learn how to say the word

‘Cause fact is Mr. Lauren
Even though I’d like to console ya
anyone who says “chaps” for chaps
Don’t know chit from chineola

© Gary McMahan
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

You can watch Gary McMahan, accompanied by popular musician Ernie Martinez, as they performed this poem at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The clip is included in Doug Morrione’s award-winning film, Everything in the Song is True.

(The entire film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse is available for streaming at Amazon.

Gary McMahan tells that this poem was inspired by a letter that former longtime Western Horseman publisher (and Gary’s father-in-law) Dick Spencer wrote to Ralph Lauren.

The bio at Gary McMahan’s web site tells:

Gary is known for his award-winning songs, captivating stories, uproarious humor, and national championship yodeling. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Riders in the Sky, Dave Stamey, and Juni Fisher. His songs, stories, and poems embody what many believe to be the heart of the new West.

Gary comes by his cowboy heritage naturally. He was born into it and has ridden, wrangled, and roped all over the West, all the while collecting reflections on cowboy ways. Those reflections are the backbone of all his songs, stories, and poems.

Find more about Gary McMahan at cowboypoetry.com and visit his site, singingcowboy.com (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums).

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein is titled, “Spurs, chaps and broad-rimmed hat, the cattleman’s distinctive features of dress. Quarter Circle ‘U’ Ranch, Montana.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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