ELKO, by Colen Sweeten


by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

They came to the mid-winter gath’ring,
Leaving haystacks and dehorning chutes.
Dressed true to old west tradition,
Levis, Stetsons, and high heeled boots.

A few were in casts or on crutches,
Some looked like I’d seen them before.
Each wore the hat no one touches
And had high polished boots on the floor.

The faces were brown as a saddle.
Some mustaches wide as a door.
And they walked with a half-cocked straddle,
Like the part that they sit on was sore.

Their poetry, sprinkled with sagebrush,
Was not meant for the city galoots.
And there each one sat in his ten gallon hat,
And a cow and a half worth of boots.

© 1987, Colen Sweeten, used with permission of the Sweeten family
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

The Western Folklife Center’s 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, often referred to simply as “Elko,” is getting underway in Elko, Nevada. We like to share the late Colen Sweeten’s poem every year, when it’s “Elko time.”

During his lifetime, Colen Sweeten was a part of every Elko gathering, except one. He had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he “wasn’t even using them all.”

Colen Sweeten appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1991, along with the late Rod McQueary. See a clip from the show here.

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com,  where there are also tributes to him.

Find some other poems about Elko in our feature here.

This 2014 photo by Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “Fancy cowboy boots for sale at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo in San Antonio, Texas,” is from The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Find the collection here, where it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

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

In Our Thoughts: Bob Schild 1931-2020

2009 photo by Jeri Dobrowski

 Yvonne Hollenbeck shared the sad news of the passing of poet, saddlemaker, and rode champion Bob Schild, January 20, 2020. She wrote:

Bob Schild was one of the finest cowboy poets in our modern day, and was such a fine person. A world champion NIRA saddle bronc rider, a world class gentleman. He will be sorely missed.

Rod Miller has a fine tribute, “The Whistle Has Sounded,” at his blog.

Arrangements are being handled by Hawker Funeral Home, where there will be an Find an obituary here, which tells, “Visitation for family and friends will be Thursday, January 30th from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Hawker Funeral Home, 132 S. Shilling Avenue in Blackfoot.  Interment will follow in the Groveland Cemetery.” There will be a celebration of life at a later date.

This poem of his says much about the man:

by Bob Schild (1931-2020)

This life’s been a grand undertaking
On a long and a tortuous trail;
Emotions and dreams kept us floating
Like ships breaking waves at full sail.

We’ve partaken of visual wonders…
Watched the trout rise to harvest a fly—
While mountains—shaken by thunder—
Flashed neon ‘neath lightning-framed sky…

We’ve thrilled at the elk’s lusty whistle
Marveled at spots on a fawn;
Then, quick as a shot from a pistol:
These symbols of freedom were gone.

We’ve rigged a team in dray trappings,
Sowed joy from a buckboard behind,
Motivated by multitudes clapping,
In response to old ballads aligned.

We’ve sought for the fruits of the forest—
These ravaged and gutted by man,
Whose intentions—not always the purest,
Embrace his municipal plan.

We’ve seen sections of lush vegetation—
Which loss we may never atone,
Yield to a civilization…
Its asphalt, skyscrapers and stone.

Ox wagons, once truly symbolic…
A vestige of migrations west,
Wore wheels that preceded the frolic
of autos man soon would possess.

Songs Written in Delicate sonnets,
Harmonized in a warm hearted swoon,
Emphasized a pure life on the planet—
While rockets raced up to the moon.

We’ve seen the invincible humbled,
Our century three quarters gone,
From the full bloom of youth we have stumbled
And still times march presses on.

Now fanatics die by the legion;
They call this, “Allegiance to God,”
Others leap to defend each his region;
It’s the righteous who bloody the rod!

It’s peculiar, the road we have traveled,
And, no doubt, we’d transverse it again.
Do not bolt as the world comes unraveled,
But, drive on, for great goodness remains.

© 2006, Bob Schild, used with permission

A long-time part of CowboyPoetry.com, Bob Schild shared his story, with photos:

I was born in Rexburg, Idaho in 1931, at the beginning of The Great Depression; any and all financial stability previously enjoyed by the family (I was the second of five) gone. To the day my Dad died, he was never able to recapture the good times. These times had been tough before, now they were catastrophic.

By the time I reached seven years of age, after several relocations, we settled on a farm-livestock operation on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Harry Hart, soon to become World Champion Steer Wrestler (1939) maintained a practice arena on the edge of the property. In the summer months nearly all the area calf ropers and steer wrestlers met there regularly to hone their skills; my brother Jack and I were usually rapt observers, dragging our own rope fragments and dabbing a loop on anything we could approach. There, and then, was born in us both the desire to become rodeo hands….

The story continues here, where there are additional poems.


Steer wrestling, courtesy Bob Schild

ART SPUR “Cows,” Winter 2019-2020

cowsjlk.jpg© 2017, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, request permission for use

Our 51st piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a 2017 drawing titled “Cows,” by Utah teacher, poet, artist, and storyteller Jo Lynne Kirkwood. In Art Spur, poets and songwriters are invited to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Art Spur submissions may be Winter- or Christmas-themed. All Christmas poems (Art Spur or not) were welcome through December 19, 2019. Winter-themed Art Spur poems are welcome through Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Selected poems will be posted. Find submission information below.




TOFURKY, ANYONE? by Marleen Bussma
A LONG WINTER by Jean Mathisen Haugen
NO BLUES IN COWTOWN by Jeff Campbell


CATTLE AT CHRISTMAS (or) Homage to Fake News
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood


by Marleen Bussma

The climate changers warn you that the burger you might eat
will bring on rack and ruin so they’re cooking up fake meat.
Their laboratory’s stocked with many plant-based additives
to mimic looks and tastes of eats a cow creates and gives.

Misleading information doesn’t spell out all the facts.
Broad claims of harm from methane-spouting cows stalls and distracts
attention from the calorie laden, salty, processed goop.
This truth about fake food could make approval ratings droop.

The real world holds your cattle that you’ve raised just like your dad.
Tradition means a lot to you in this life that you’ve had.
So few now feed the masses, there’s an easy disconnect
from people in the city whose views aren’t always correct.

Your stomach has been growling since you finished feeding hay.
The wind has hurled and spit snow, adding misery to your day.
You’re headed into town and take time to enjoy the drive,
decide you’ll treat yourself at your kids’ fav’rite burger dive.

You pull up to the drive-thru and your mouth begins to drool.
She’s coming to the window with your take-out bag of fuel
and glides with sweet slow motion as in wild romantic dreams.
Her warm hand brushes yours as she hands out this sack that steams

with an aroma sending hot delicious sweet bouquets.
Unwrapped, it snaps a visual like a Polaroid display.
It’s stacked high to your liking with the layers snuggled neat.
The lettuce and tomato flirt like girls who work the street.

The bun’s soft to your fingers. Tiny drops of burger fat
drop down onto the open wrapper with a sensual splat.
You ease the burger upward. The aroma makes you weak.
Your mouth has flooded and drips when you open wide to seek

that burger high. Each bite sends out endorphins to your brain.
You sink into your seat as senses sing a glad refrain.
The flavor, texture, glistening shine of grease all join the choir
and work in harmony that sates the pleasure you desire.

They’re welcome to their fake food and their dirty city air.
You’ll take your country living that has cattle, where you share
the mountain views and pastures, soaring eagles in the sky.
Today you’re at the drive-thru to enjoy that burger high.

© 2020, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission



by George Rhoades

Icy wind, a little snow and sleet,
And the frost was like frozen dew
On those wintry days long ago
When there were feedin’ chores to do.

The southern plains all around us,
Rollin’ hills, horizons far, far away,
Chilly air cut just like a knife,
Trees along the creek bare and gray.

No hay racks out on the prairie,
No big round rolls back then;
We bucked square bales by hand,
Totin’ and hoistin’ ’em again and again.

Me and Pop would load the flatbed
With bales piled straight and high,
Cross the bridge to the cattle-guard
Under a bleak and cloudy sky.

Cows’d come runnin’ from the woods,
They knew every clatter and rattle
That old truck made on hayin’ days
When we came to feed the cattle.

Pop slowly, carefully drove the flatbed
While I tossed bales to the ground,
Pulled off the wires, broke ’em apart,
And spread the hay all around.

The cows cleaned up every bite,
Along with scattered cubes, I recall,
And we’d watch ’em chompin’ away,
Shovin’, pushin’ in a feedin’ free-for-all.

We’d break the ice on the ponds,
It seems like it was only yesterday,
Fix some fence and stretch some wire,
Check for new-borns, haul some hay.

Now a wind that’s sharp and cold
Brings once more to my mind’s eye
Memories of when me and Pop
Fed the cows in times gone by.

© 2020, George Rhoades
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Jean Mathisen Haugen

This winter started in October—
now snow is half-way up my horse,
while riding out to check the cattle—
it’s a real chore of course.
the pickup bucks over all the snow drifts
and rattles and bangs on its way.
I’d rather be drinking eggnog
on this cold New Year’s Day.
I have a thermos of coffee
packed there in my saddle bag.
Think I’ll stop by the grove of aspen
and have myself a drag.
The cattle all are bunched up
near that aspen grove,
keeping warm together,
though it’s not where we drove—
we’d cleared some of the meadow
and had a team and sleigh,
to bring them out some “eats”—
a large good load of hay.
There are clouds over the mountains,
another storm is headed in.
And Josh is looking closely looking
back at me with a grin.
He knows very well
that I am going to complain.
But snow is prettier I guess
than mud and slush and rain.
So here is a winter wish
to all you folks out there.
Keep warm and safe as you can
in the cold, long winter air!

© 2020, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Jeff Campbell

Christmas  comes 

With great anticipation 

Followed up with a 

New Year Celebration

Then it’s back to work 

And school’s in session

Some folks end up with

Post holiday depression

Dad used to call it 

Old Jan-u-weary

The Skies are grey

People are bleary

But here in Fort Worth 

We don’t get the blues 

January’s something 

We all look forward to

For a legendary event 

Will be starting soon

With a big parade 

On Saturday afternoon

Over three weeks 

Where the West begins

They’ll be thrills and spills

Loses and wins

Cause everyday 

There’s  a big stock show

And come every night 

The grand rodeo

Wild bull riders 

Barrel racers too

Rabbits, pigeons 

and a petting zoo

Mariachis, fiddlers 

Guitar slingers

Cowboy poets 

Western singers

So if you’re near 

or if you’re far

Hop a plane, train 

Drive your car

Cause having the blues 

Can be such a pity 

We’ll see you soon 

In Panther City

© 2020, Jeff Campbell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


CATTLE AT CHRISTMAS (or) Homage to Fake News
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

The legend that beasts on Christmas Eve can speak in human voice
To tell the tale of the Christ Child’s birth, so all Creation may rejoice
Has passed through generations, from those who witnessed first
The donkey, sheep, and cattle, bow down at the Infant’s birth.

And who could ever argue the veracity of that story?
Told by shepherds, with Angels standing guard, and Kings in all their glory?
Even the humble Drummer Boy, with a child’s sweet honesty
Sang praise to the musical Ox and Lamb, of their rhythmical harmony.

And though perhaps the Drummer’s ballad was a wordless lullaby,
The connections of cadence and human speech can hardly be denied.
So having admitted the evidence, my mind ponders, and keeps playing
With the thought, If cattle talk on Christmas Eve, What is it that they’re saying?

My faith compels me to believe, with original intent
Of this gift, to spread Glad Tidings! it was first used as was meant.
But twice a thousand years have passed since that Holy Night and now,
And credibility no longer loves a Missionary Cow.

What ever do they talk about? What could it be they say?
Could we suppose a diatribe on the quality of hay?
Perhaps they’d like a warmer barn, fewer barbs on barbed wire fence.
Do they laugh at us behind our backs? Make jokes at our expense?

Perhaps they plot a Range War, with human elocution.
They could be planning a coup d’état, a bovine revolution!
I pause to view the calendar, to count each day and week
Until this fateful night returns – When beasts again will speak!

Paranoia settles in. There will be Reindeer on the roof!
They’ve likely formed a spy network, tapping codes with each small hoof.
We must plan with watchful vigilance; Grab our Bibles, and our Guns,
To withstand the horned and hooved assault! And then, when daylight comes,

We’ll welcome Christmas Morning, share gifts and sing of Peace,
And Celebrate the Season with a haunch of Prime Roast Beef.

© 2017, Jo Kirkwood
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Michelle Turner

The year, as a whole, was one to forget
Hardship and weather sent farmers in debt
Endless spring rains put planting on hold
Haybines were useless, equipment was sold

Much of our cropland left fallow and bare
Some covered with rye ‘cuz pasture was spare
Cattle were gleaning the few stubbled fields
Grain bins were empty from low harvest yields
Fall was no better with October snow
Corn was still standing as we hung mistletoe
Dad sat by the window, just shaking his head
We needed more hay for the stock to be fed

He put on his coat, stepping out in the cold
Sighing deeply he said, “The herd must be sold.”
A cow and two heifers stood by the gate
Patiently waiting, unaware of their fate

After chores we all left for Christmas Eve service
Our spirits were low, but we prayed with a purpose
Waylayed by the Pastor, delaying retreat
He saw in our faces a shadowed defeat

A message of hope, he shared so sincere
using God’s word to subdue our fears
The church yard now empty, we got in our truck
Riding in silence, still praying for luck

We drove down our lane and stopped at the sight
The whole congregation, holding candles of light
They sang Peace on Earth and gathered around
One neighbor came forward, “We’re here with some ground”

“We’ve forty-two acres, with hot-wire fencing
We want you to use it, with everyone’s blessing.”
Another stepped up, taking Dad by the arm
There’s third cutting hay, all stacked in your barn

Dad openly wept, sharing tears with the crowd
We formed a tight circle, hands held and heads bowed
Thanking the Lord for neighborly kindness;
For having been blessed with a true Country Christmas

© 2019, Michele Turner
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


by Ol’ Jim Cathey

Comin’ daybreak, the girls stood there,
They were ready for mornin’ feed.
Fog an’ snow made for crispy air,
Soon he’d come to meet their need.

There’d been a sifting of powder snow,
That had fell throughout the night.
T’was cold, but not unseasonable tho,
As dark gives in to mornin’ light.

Christmas morn on the Quarter Circle C,
But there was chores to get done,
Foggy an’ white made it hard to see,
This mornin’, they’d not see the sun.

Still a few flakes of snow in the air,
The girls were patient, standin’ quiet,
They knew the feed would be there,
An’ their day would start off right.

He smiled as they walked up slow,
Their breathe steamin’ from the cold,
He thought of a time so long ago,
The story so often retold.

The heavenly hosts song of great joy,
The night of the Savior’s birth,
Mary an’ Joseph’s Baby Boy,
Peace an’ goodwill to all the Earth.

His girls brought mem’rys of that night
Calm an’ quiet…so very serene,
He reveled in that joyous sight,
As he pictured that Holy Scene.

He sensed a great joy as he fed,
With the girls crowdin’ ‘round him,
He could hear that story his Dad read,
‘Bout the Savior’s birth in starlight dim.

He felt so blessed on that cold morn,
As he thanked God, on bended knee,
For His great love, Jesus was born!
Christmas on the Quarter Circle C.

© 2019,  Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


Thanks to all who participated.



•  Even if you have a poem or song pending, you are welcome to send one submission inspired by this painting.

•  Art Spur subjects are meant to inspire; we look for poems and songs inspired by the piece, not necessarily for a literal description of the image or its subject.

•  Do follow our regular guidelines for submissions.

•  When you email your submission to poems@cowboypoetry.com, please indicate in the subject line that it is an Art Spur submission.

Find some previous ART SPUR submissions here and here.



Jo Lynne Kirkwood creates an impressive hand-crafted Christmas card each year, and this was her drawing for the cover of her 2017 card, accompanied by her poem, “Cattle at Christmas (or) Homage to Fake News.”

She has a fine book that collects her poetry, Old Houses, and recordings. Find more about her at cowboypoetry.com.


COWBOY, by J.B. Allen


by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)

A’settin a’horseback at the first rays of the sun,
on a cool late spring mornin’, ‘fore the brandin’ is done
is payment in full, for chores done and forgotten
through a winter of feedin’ and calves misbegotten.

The pay ain’t the reason for the work that we do.
It’s a feel for the land and the stock, that comes through
in the lives that we lead, and the character shown,
by the doin’ of jobs that will never be known,
except by ourselves, and the creature attended,
and the feelin’ that comes, when seein’ it mended.

I’ve known some ol’ boys, that were just downright mean,
but out on a roundup they surely were keen
to be on the spot, when the cattle were leavin’,
or up to their waists in the sand and a’heavin’
on a cow that had blundered out into a bog,
and then take their time to drag up a log,
to the keep the wood comin’ for the cook of the crew,
then watch the young heifers, till the calvin’ was through.

It’s easy to throw the word “cowboy” around,
but a real one is almighty hard to be found.

© 1990, J.B. Allen, from Water Gap Wisdom, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Texan J.B. Allen was a widely respected working cowboy for over three decades. He was a frequent performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and also at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Nara Visa, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, and other events. His poetry is included in many anthologies and in his own books and recordings.

Allen, J.B. #551-'03-5x5
J.B. Allen photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998. The late Buck Ramsey, in his introduction to the book, wrote of J.B. Allen, “More than most cowboys, he held to the ways and memories…thought and talked the old lingo” and stated, “…in my opinion he is the best living writer of traditional cowboy verse.”


J.B. Allen’s poetry is featured in a CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS, along with the work of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens. The compilation includes recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs) with an introduction by  Jay Snider.

Find more about J.B. Allen at cowboypoetry.com.

We are pleased to debut the 19th annual Cowboy Poetry Week poster, with its striking art, “Ranch Water,” by Teal Blake). Find more about him and more of his work at tealblake.com and follow him at instagram.com/tealcokeblake.

The 19th annual Cowboy Poetry Week is celebrated April 19-25, 2020. The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry inaugurated Cowboy Poetry Week in 2002 with initiatives to promote cowboy poetry and associated Western arts, to strengthen the community of poets and artists, and to make cowboy poetry more accessible to a wide audience.

Get your schools, libraries, and community involved! Perform your poetry, donate a book, share your knowledge during Cowboy Poetry Week.  In recent years, poets and others have created special social media posts and events for Cowboy Poetry Week. Share the poster!

Each year the Center produces a Western art poster and a compilation CD project, both of which are offered to hundreds of rural libraries through Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program.

This year’s double CD, MASTERS: VOLUME FOUR, the poetry and song of Charles Badger Clark, Jr., will be released in June. It will include recitations by today’s poets; poems in Clark’s own voice; and, for the first time in one of these projects, songs that were created from Badger Clark’s poems. A full announcement is forthcoming.

(Posters are never sold. They are sent to libraries and given, along with the year’s CD, to donors of $50 or more. Join us! You’ll be supporting the Center and its programs and receive these gifts. There’s info here.)

Find more about Cowboy Poetry Week here and stay tuned for much more to come about the celebration.

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



by Carole Jarvis

If there’s any of you women out there,
…..who are newly a cowboy’s wife.
And are still experiencing the honeymoon phase,
…..be prepared, there’s an afterlife!

The time will soon come you’ll be asked to help out,
…..So you probably ought to know,
That when he hands you a ripe, with a cow on the end,
…..You’re expected to never let go!

No matter he’s roped the old girl from the ground,
…..then dallied a big cedar post,
While explainin’ to you how bad sick she is,
…..almost ready to “give up the ghost.”

She’s standin’ there, tongue out, legs all a’spraddle,
…..her eyes bulging out of her head,
As the cowboy moves in to give her a shot,
…..for after all, the cow’s about dead.

Not quite! Just as the needle is jabbed in her rump,
…..that hind leg lets go with a whack.
And the cowboy’s shin receives direct hit,
…..as I’m tryin’ to take up my slack.

For the cow has leaped forward, shakin’ her head,
…..throwin’ slobber in every direction.
And with only that cedar post between us,
…..I’ve decided to use some discretion.

I dodge to the side, lettin’ go of the rope,
…..which had just burned the palms of both hands.
And that wild-eyed old cow’s horns barely miss
…..where I was, ’cause that’s where she lands.

“Keep a’hold of the rope!” comes a yell from behind
…..but by then this alliance is through!
One “near death” experience a day is enough
…..and I did all I could possibly do.

Or, at least it seemed, from my point of view,
…..(which was sure not the view I’d have chose)
But I handled the incident logically—
…..and that’s where the problem arose.

Logic wasn’t a choice—I aborted the mission!
…..left my post, in the midst of a battle!
So ladies beware, the honeymoon’s over,
…..when you and the cowboy work cattle.

© 2019, Carole Jarvis
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Award-winning poet Carole Jarvis met her cowboy while working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and they were married for over 50 years before his death in 2010. She tells in her bio at CowboyPoetry.com:

We’ve lived and cowboyed in Wyoming, Oregon and Arizona, and there’s been a lot of hard work, dusty trails, blisters, sunburns and broken bones along the way, but it’s the life I chose and the one Dan, my husband chose, and we wouldn’t trade it for any other.

“Mission Impossible” is included in Facing West: Voices of Western Women, Volume Two (2019). The book includes poems and stories from over 50 Western women, including Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Jessica Hedges, Andrea Waitley and daughter Abi McWhorter Reynolds, Betty McCarthy, Dee Strickland Johnson (“Buckshot Dot”), and many others. Facing West was compiled by Sally Bates, who is pictured on the cover in a photo by Mary Abbott.


With proceeds from the first volume, Natalie G’Schwind was presented with the 2019 Facing West, Roni Harper Memorial Scholarship. Find more about both volumes of Facing West and other publications from Arizona Cowboy Connection at arizonacowboyconnection.com.

Find more about Carole Jarvis at cowboypoetry.com.

The photograph is courtesy of Carole Jarvis from the Jarvis Ranch.

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

SADDLIN’ UP TIME, by Andy Wilkinson



by Andy Wilkinson

I never looked forward to the end of the day;
Or to evening, drab and melancholy-gray,
Or to featureless shadows of purple-to-black,
Or to work finished-up or simply put back
While the business of living slowly unwinds;
I was always awaitin’ for saddlin’-up time.

I slept of necessity, not pleasure and not
For the comforts of night, when the bosom of God
Cradled mortality in immortal dark,
Nor for the shroud of cool starlight whose spark
Like the lamp of the firefly silently chimed;
I took my pleasure in saddlin’-up time.

And I worried the hectic commotion of morn,
The commerce of mercantile and courthouse lawn,
The meetings and greetings on sidewalk and street
Where horseback-opinions and auguring meet,
And I argued their rhythms, swore at their rhymes,
But was playful as a pup, come saddlin’-up time.

For ’twas then before ever light angled to fill
The round corners, we’d clamor like wolves at the kill
With horse-talk our yap, with our nip and our bite
Latigo leathers snapping cinchas down tight
In the summer’s wet dew or the winter’s sharp rime
As we readied our horses at saddlin’-up time.

When the morning night air was marble we breathed,
Heavy and smooth and as cold as the breeze
That skitters across the new snow-covered plains,
One hand on the horn and the other, the reins
We stepped aboard stirrups, young bucks in our prime,
Salty as the Pecos at saddlin’-up time.

Though I’ve lived for this moment most all of my life,
Beginnings, not endings, put the edge on my knife;
And I’ve cursed too damn much and I’ve never prayed well
And it may be God figures to send me to Hell,
Riding drag for the Devil to pay for my crimes,
But I’m damned if I’ll go ‘fore saddlin’-up time.

© 1994, Andy Wilkinson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This poem by respected poet, songwriter, singer, playwright, teacher, and editor Andy Wilkinson is a part of his Wrangler award-winning “Western folk opera of the dreams and visions of the legendary cowman, Charlie Goodnight” (who was his great-grandmother’s great-uncle). J.B. Allen recites “Saddlin’ Up Time” on the Charlie Goodnight album.

Charlie Goodnight: His Life In Poetry And Song

Andy Hedges has his own fine recitation on a “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast Episode 28, with an extended interview with Andy Wilkinson, filled with engaging history and thoughtful, interesting stories about Charlie Goodnight and his times.

Another outstanding recitation of this poem, by Jerry Brooks, appears on her Shoulder to Shoulder CD and on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Seven.”

See Andy Wilkinson at the new Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas, February 21-22, 2020. The gathering has been created by an enthusiastic group of people who came together after the announcement of the end of the venerable Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering last year. The program’s outstanding lineup includes Mike Blakely, Dale Burson, Craig Carter, Allan Chapman & Rodeo Kate, Doug Figgs, Jack George, Pipp Gillette, Jeff Gore, Amy Hale Steiger, Andy Hedges, Randy Huston, Jim Jones, Jill Jones, Jarle Kvale, Deanna McCall, Terry Nash, Andy Nelson, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Gary Prescott, Jean Prescott, Mike Querner, Vess Quinlan, Brigid & Johnny Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, Trinity Seely, R.P. Smith, Jay Snider, Red Steagall, Gail Steiger, Michael Stevens, Rod Taylor, The Cowboy Way (Jim Jones, Doug Figgs and Mariam Funke) Andy Wilkinson, and Jim Wilson.

Andy Wilkinson dazzled his audience with his keynote address at the 2017 Western Folklire Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The presentation, which focused on the gathering’s theme of storytelling, was a celebration in brilliant poetry, with a few musical interludes. View a video to see why there was a clamoring for a printed version.

Now, the piece, Storyline, has been published by John Dofflemyer Dry Crik Journal. Find it , including Andy Wilkinson’s introduction and order information at drycrikjournal.com.

Find more about Andy Wilkinson at CowboyPoetry.com and at his web site, andywilkinson.org.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboy throwing saddle onto horse on cattle ranch near Spur, Texas.” It’s from the Farm Services Administration (FSA) collection at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.

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

Carol Heuchan: Three poems


photo by Pauline Fredericks



The Magic of the Horse
Curly, Larry, and …Just a Mo
The Dude Ranch Horse


TC eye pic

Carol Heuchan

Have you ever owned a creature that could thrill you to the bone?
One once distant and defiant, yet whose soul becomes your own?

Felt the power of the panther and the lightness of a bird.
Known a silent, secret language more effective than a word?

Felt the drift of acquiescence at the flexing of a muscle.
Known the pleasure of a lifestyle free from city rush and bustle.

Or the thrills of reckless riding ‘cross a country wild and free,
with a kindred spirit’s pounding heart, right there beneath your knee.

Have you criticised or cursed some deed or action that’s been shown?
Then been humbled by the knowledge that the fault was all your own.

Have you tasted satisfaction of successes, large or small?
Then you must have done the hard yards to deserve them one and all.

Has your livelihood depended on a daunting job to do?
And thanked God for His creation of a partner tried and true?

Have you heard a gentle nicker, had him nuzzle through your hair?
Have you felt as if you’re flying, up where eagles only dare?

Known the fear and found the courage, known you had to see it through.
Learned life’s lessons from a being with a different point of view?

Had a friend who keeps on listening when you never say a word—
never grudges, never judges, just as if he hasn’t heard.

If you’ve never tasted freedom, rode the range or cleared the course,
put your hand on living velvet and had comfort from its source,

Then you’ve never known the magic of the horse…

© 2016, Carol Heuchan
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission



by Carol Heuchan

The three of us were always close.
We stuck like super glue.
We were saddle tramps and rovers.
We were cowboys, through and through.

We’d lived this way for fifty years,
No changes were we wishing
Then Mo announced (God help him),
he’d decided to go…fishing.

Fishing!! But we’re Bushies, mate!
You can’t live on the coast!
No Campdrafts and no Rodeos?
You’ll soon give up the ghost.

And sure enough, that’s what he did.
He upped and blooming carked it!
And he left us his directions
to dispense with plot and casket.

No burial, no cemetery,
no farewell drinking bashes—
just one big urn and we two mates
were named to cast the ashes.

And if that wasn’t bad enough,
he’d made a stern decree
for us to take his last remains
and scatter them…at sea!!!

Now me and Curly stood transfixed,
could not believe our ears.
This thing that Mo had asked of us,
beyond our wildest fears.

We’d ridden feral bucking bulls,
been stomped and broke and battered
and done it time and time again
just like it never mattered.

We’d faced horses that’d kill you
if given half a chance,
and we’d laid our swag with spiders, snakes
and fearsome, bighting ants.

Wild boars we’d taken lightly
and we’d bashed up bikie gangs
and we’d sometimes picked up women
who looked like orang-utans.

I reckon we would still be cool
with tigers what’s in Burma,
so long as all the while we had
our feet on Terra Firma.

We don’t do lake; we don’t do sea.
We’re not too keen on rivers.
Hell! A bathtub is enough to give
the pair of us the shivers.

See, we’re country. We’re the Outback.
We’ll handle what we oughta.
But as sure as God made apples,
we will draw the line at water.

So complying with our mate’s request
to put him in the sea,
caused at least some consternation
for the likes of Curl and me.

A fishing fella’s little boat
was offered for the job.
He’d row us out a mile or two
to give the urn a lob.

Not on your blooming Nelly,
was the look our faces said.
Get in a boat with Tanglefoot?
We’d rather we were dead.

“We’ll be right, thanks all the same.
We’ll do our duty here.”
and to each other whispered
“We’ll just find the nearest pier.”

But nearly two hours later
and miles along the shore,
there was not one possibility.
Just water—nothing more.

“Back a ways, I saw a shelf—
a rock shelf—that will do.
We’ll roll up duds and wade a bit,
then toss and tooteloo.

Our legs were skinny, white and stark,
and manly hairs? Oh, no.
From years of rubbing leather,
not a single hair would grow.

But we shed our boots and socks and rolled
our jeans above our knees
and gingerly, on tippy toes,
set out to brave the seas.

Now, every inch that we crept forward,
every inch got deeper, too.
“That’s far enough!” (in unison)
“It’s gonna have to do.”

We said some words, uncapped the urn,
prepared to beat the rumour.
But alas, we hadn’t factored on
King Neptune’s sense of humour.

Precisely when we tipped the lot,
in action brave and bold,
he raised a little tidal wave
and sent it back tenfold.

Well Mo was now all over us!
And covered head to toe.
There simply wasn’t part of us
that wasn’t part of Mo!

We coughed and squawked and choked and spat
and high-tailed back to shore
a’muttering words we reckoned that
we’d never said before.

Those ashes found their way up into
every nook and cranny
and places where they were not stuck,
I’m sure there were not any.

We tried to wash him off one leg—
he flew onto the other.
We looked like two great lamingtons,
home made by someone’s mother.

Our mincing gait along the beach
had onlookers in stitches
and left them not in slightest doubt,
we’d also wet our britches.

Right then and there, we made a pact.
BE BURIED! Somehow, sorta!
And never, ever, ever go
not even close….to water.

© 2019, Carol Heuchan
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission



by Carol Heuchan

There’s stories told of horses bold and brave and smart and strong
and legends of the rodeo in tale and verse and song.
Each wondrous feat that’s never beat, a million times before
you’ve listened to in rapture and they’ve held you all in awe.

It’s guaranteed some single deed has earned your admiration
and that has grown and had them known and gained a reputation.
They’ve stood the test ’cause they’re the best and singers sing their song.
I’m here today to have my say and tell you—it’s all wrong!

Now someone ought to write a song or poem just for me
’cause I’m the unsung hero. I’m a Dude Ranch Horse, that’s me.

You’ve heard, I’m sure, of ‘Man o’ War’, the speedster of the track.
I’m slow, I know, when setting out but wait till I turn back!
Then place your dough and watch me go (and listen to the screams).
‘Seabiscuit’ and that ‘Pharlap’, well they’re only in your dreams.

You all have seen on silver screen those scenes that make me bristle –
heroes brag as faithful nag comes runnin’ to a whistle.
They’re puppets! Dopey muppets! Yeah, and I can beat ’em all,
’cause I’m the one that’s really smart. I don’t come when they call!

Now I might look as if I took some chloroform, it’s true.
That’s my disguise ’cause I’m real wise at foolin’ folks like you.
‘Doc’s Spinifex’ and ‘Peppy San’, well neither one could match me
’cause I ignite like dynamite if someone tries to catch me.

Now someone ought to write a song or poem just for me
’cause I’m the unsung hero. I’m a Dude Ranch Horse, that’s me.

I’ve got lop ears and great big feet and head like cardboard box
but it contains a heap of brains. Yeah I’ll outfox a fox.
You all endorse a circus horse for doin’ clever tricks—
I’m way ahead. Yeah I play dead. I do it just for kicks.

And Rodeo, well that’s the go for outlaws tried and true.
Eight seconds they turn inside out to get a bloke askew.
I want a rider off my back, well I can take the crown.
I simply find a sandy patch and then I just…lie down.

I hide my mirth and puff my girth in sheer one-upmanship
and in a while, I start to smile and feel the saddle slip.
Now nothin’ you could ever do could make me work real hard.
If you can’t ride, then step aside. I’ve got a Union Card.

Now someone ought to write a song or poem just for me
’cause I’m the unsung hero. I’m a Dude Ranch Horse, that’s me.

I will go ’neath branches low and squeeze through gateways thin
and take a short cut through the scrub where no man’s ever bin.
Olympic horses? Nah, they’d find my feats beyond compare,
for I can jump a great big stump that isn’t even there!

I’m tough and rough and good at bluff and they can’t hold a candle.
I’m brilliant at a ton of things no other horse can handle.
In my defence, there ain’t a fence can keep me in my place.
But I’ll be back at suppertime and smilin’ in your face.

I can raid the feed shed, even when the door is shut,
and eat real quick and not get sick. I got a cast iron gut.
The things I do for folks like you are cunning if not kind.
I’ve often grinned as I’ve passed wind when people walk behind.

Now someone ought to write a song or poem just for me
’cause I’m the unsung hero. I’m a Dude Ranch Horse, that’s me.

Yes, history pales in telling tales; it’s time to get it right.
Those poets and those lyricists, they really ain’t too bright.
I’m telling you that I can do what famous nags can do
and do it even better and it’s on the quiet, too.

I’ve dealt more blows and squashed more toes than you could ever count
and coped with more stupidity than any other mount.
So stop regaling horses that are not a patch on me
and fix the wrong and write a song about a horse…like me.

Yeah, someone ought to write a song or poem just for me
’cause I’m the unsung hero. I’m a Dude Ranch Horse, that’s me.

© 2010, Carol Heuchan
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission


Both SIdes CD front 400w

Both Sides of Carol Heuchan (2019) includes 24 tracks of Bush and cowboy poetry with music by  Ernie Martinez. Cover photo by Pauline Fredericks.


Friends and fans love Australian horsewoman and poet Carol Heuchan, a popular participant in U.S. gatherings. And she loves them back. She told us:

On a personal level, I cannot tell you what the connection to cowboy poetry and coming over to gatherings means to me. Aside from the fact that I am deeply a part of “the land” and horses in Australia, the iconic American Cowboy scenario has always held me in its awe and to be even a small part of that is so amazing. Of course performing is my work now. But perhaps even more valued is the incredible camaraderie and support I have received in the U.S. It is something I have not encountered in Australia (or anywhere in the world) and it is more heart-warming to me than you could imagine.

Her bio (below) tells that she “spent the best years of her life on a sheep and cattle property in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales.”

Carol is featured at the Western Folklife Center’s 36th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 27 – February 1, 2020.

From Elko, she’ll head to the 28th annual Cochise Cowboy Gathering in Sierra Vista, Arizona, February 7-8, 2020.

The photo above of the eye of a beautiful young Australian Stock horse was taken by Carol at a friend’s place just a week or so ago.

Find more about Carol on Facebook  and visit her site, carolpoet.com.au.
(Album cover photo by Pauline Fredericks.)

Official bio, provided January, 2020:

Carol Heuchan, twice Australian Bush Poetry Champion and nine times Laureate winner and winner of the richest prize in poetry history—a Case JX55, thirty four thousand dollar tractor!

She has fifteen professional performance tours of U.S. and Canada under her belt, (including Kamloops, B.C., Canada’s National Cowboy Gathering and Elko, Nevada, U.S. National Cowboy Gathering) and has been nominated as amongst the top five poets in U.S.—yet she lives in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia!

Carol is a fair dinkum Aussie horsewoman, International horse judge, horse events commentator and acknowledged as the cream of Australian Bush Poetry.

She spent the best years of her life on a sheep and cattle property in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales.

Five books and six CDs—the newest is an exciting double album of Cowboy Poetry and Australian Bush Poetry with musical touches by IWMA’s Instrumentalist of the Year, Ernie Martinez.

Carol’s writing runs the gamut—from side splittingly hilarious to utterly gut wrenching! Not to be missed.


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