FIFTY A DAY, by DW Groethe


photo © Jessica Lifland

by DW Groethe

Fifty a day is a cowboy’s pay
It ain’t much, tho for some it’s enough.
It’s not always money
That rides a man hard
Or acquirin’ piles a stuff.

There are those who would willingly
Trade it all in
For a chance to go ridin’ the herd.
Bein’ out in the lonesome
Not feelin’ alone—
That’s somethin’ you can’t put in words.

No—This is one a them things
That money can’t buy, tho
They wouldn’t say no to a raise,
You can sure bet
They’ll give more’n they get
An’ be happy til the end a their days.

‘Cause bein’ a cowboy
Is like sayin’ “I’m broke.”
A purty good chunk a the time.
But broke ain’t a shame
It’s a part a the game,
Just a fool thinks broke is a crime.

An’ for sure it’s no sweat
The hours they get
Will sometimes be tired an’long.
But when they hit the hay,
At the end a’ the day,
What they earned is the sweetest of songs.

Oh, there’s always those times
When the best that you do
Simply will not be enough.
There are things in this world
That’ll flat make you blue
But that’s life an’ sometimes it’s rough.

Fifty a day a cowboy’s pay
More than enough for a few
Who heed not the call
Of that ol’ nine to five
An’ they’ll laugh around broke,
Tired an’ blue.

© 2002, DW Groethe
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Montana ranch hand, poet, and picker DW Groethe includes this poem on his Tales from West River album and in his book, West River Waltz. Andy Hedges recites the poem on his latest Cowboy Crossroads podcast, which includes an interview with DW Groethe, recorded last month at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

In the interview, DW talks about writing songs and poetry, how he came to work as a ranch hand, and more. Find the interview here, along with many other compelling interviews with people who “share stories and discuss music, poetry, and culture from the working cowboy West and beyond.”

DW performs his poetry and music at venues small and large. He’s appeared many times at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and has been invited to the the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Library of Congress, and other places. He has books and recordings. Find more about him at

This photograph of DW Groethe is by respected photojournalist Jessica Lifland (; jblif on Instagram) as a part of her Cowboy Poetry Project. Other subjects to date include Sean Sexton, Andy Hedges, Jerry Brooks, Waddie Mitchell, Amy Steiger and Gail Steiger, Rodney Nelson, Elizabeth Ebert, Henry Real Bird, Doris Daley, Bimbo Cheney, Jack Walther, and others.

Jessica Lifland is one of the official photographers for the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her gathering photos and her Cowboy Poetry Project photos at

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