Elizabeth Ebert

photo © 2009, Jessica Lifland; request permission for use

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

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.)