photo by Karen Gilbride, Captured By Karen
ONCE WE WERE KINGS
by Dale Page
It’s a half day’s ride to this cabin door
Where I spent my eighteenth year.
There are spur marks there on the old wood floor,
But the crew’s no longer here.
So it’s silent now, where a noisy gang
Gathered round to lie and spar
Or to ponder life while some waddy sang
To his battered old guitar.
All the bunk bed slats have been long since burned
By the hungry cast iron stove.
In the corner there lies a chair, upturned,
With the leather seat I wove.
There an old grass rope and a horsehair rein
Hang forgotten on the wall.
That old Frazier rig won’t be rode again.
Whose it was, I can’t recall.
Through the flyspecked, broken out window there
Stands an empty pine pole pen.
All the broncs are gone, but I don’t know where.
And what’s worse, I don’t know when.
And the boys who rode for their meager wage,
Which was thrown away each week,
Were a part of a wild and woolly age
Which gave way to mild and meek.
I can see them there, ‘round the coosie’s fire
When the herd was bedded down.
We would swear our oaths we would not retire
To a lesser life in town.
We would toast our lives with a strong black brew
While we dined on beef and beans.
We looked down on the suit and necktie crew
Who don’t know what living means.
For we ruled the world from our leather thrones,
Cinched atop a half-broke mount.
And we spent our youth as if kings, not drones.
We were rich in things that count.
When we tally dreams that can still come true
We will find our herds are short.
But we won’t regret what we didn’t do
When we stand that final sort.
For a few short years we were pleased to live
As the luckiest of men.
We enjoyed the best that this life can give
Because we were cowboys then.
© 2007, Dale E. Page
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission
Dale Page tells about the poem’s inspiration:
The location in this poem is the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Cimarron, New Mexico, where I spent the summer after graduating high school. The barn where our bunkroom was located is 10 miles off paved road at an elevation of about 8,000 feet. We had 50 horses up there and that many pack burros. I had only one day off the entire summer, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
After 40 years, I returned to the camp and found it pretty much the same. I have to admit it showed a little less wear than I. Standing there brought back a lot of memories of good horses and good friends. In my mind, I could still see the palomino paint at the corral gate, waiting for me to go jingle up the rest of the horses. It was a great place and a great time of my life. That summer changed me from a city boy to a pretty decent rider and a lover of New Mexico.
He adds, in liner notes to his 2014 Once We Were Kings CD, “…It’s about times to which we can’t go back, but times we don’t want to forget.”
Listen to Dale Page recite his poem on the most recent Back at the Ranch Radio show from Jarle Kvale.
Dale Page is also included in the lineup at the Fourth Annual Cimarron Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering, August 25-27, 2017 at New Mexico’s Philmont Scout Ranch, just south of Cimarron. Other performers include Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Janice Deardorff, Doug Figgs, Purly Gates, Danner Hampton, Randy Huston, Washtub Jerry, Jill Jones, Jim Jones, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Peggy Malone, Terry Nash, Claudia Nygaard, Dale Page, Ramblin’ Rangers, Sandy Reay, Dennis Russell, Mark Smith, Rocky Sullivan, Rod Taylor, and Jim Wilson.
The event continues to grow, and this year there is a great-looking chuck wagon. Find more about that and the event on Facebook, and at cimarroncowboygathering.com. Find more poetry and more about Dale Page at CowboyPoetry.com, and at his web site, DalePage.com.
This photograph of Dale Page, which he calls “Colorado Sunset,” is by Karen Gilbride of Grand Junction, Captured By Karen.