ANTHEM, by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

buckrooster

 

ANTHEM
by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

And in the morning I was riding
Out through the breaks of that long plain,
And leather creaking on the quieting
Would sound with trot and trot again.
I lived in time with horse hoof falling;
I listened well and heard the calling
The earth, my mother, bade to me,
Though I would still ride wild and free.
And as I flew out in the morning,
Before the bird, before the dawn,
I was the poem, I was the song.
My heart would beat the world a warning—
Those horsemen now rode all with me,
And we were good, and we were free.

We were not told, but ours the knowing
We were the native strangers there
Among the things the land was growing—
To know this gave us more the care
To let the grass keep at its growing
And let the streams keep at their flowing.
We knew the land would not be ours,
That no one has the awful pow’rs
To claim the vast and common nesting,
To own the life that gave him birth,
Much less to rape his mother earth
And ask her for a mother’s blessing
And ever live in peace with her,
And, dying, come to rest with her.

Oh, we would ride and we would listen
And hear the message on the wind.
The grass in morning dew would glisten
Until the sun would dry and blend
The grass to ground and air to skying.
We’d know by bird or insect flying
Or by their mood or by their song
If time and moon were right or wrong
For fitting works and rounds to weather.
The critter coats and leaves of trees
Might flash some signal with a breeze—
Or wind and sun on flow’r or feather.
We knew our way from dawn to dawn,
And far beyond, and far beyond.

It was the old ones with me riding
Out through the fog fall of the dawn,
And they would press me to deciding
If we were right or we were wrong.
For time came we were punching cattle
For men who knew not spur nor saddle,
Who came with locusts in their purse
To scatter loose upon the earth.
The savage had not found this prairie
Till some who hired us came this way
To make the grasses pay and pay
For some raw greed no wise or wary
Regard for grass could satisfy.

The old ones wept and so did I.
Do you remember? We’d come jogging
To town with jingle in our jeans,
And in the wild night we’d be bogging
Up to our hats in last month’s dreams.
It seemed the night could barely hold us
With all those spirits to embold’ us
While, horses waiting on three legs,
We’d drain the night down to the dregs.
And just before beyond redemption
We’d gather back to what we were.
We’d leave the money left us there
And head our horses for the wagon.
But in the ruckus, in the whirl,
We were the wolves of all the world.

The grass was growing scarce for grazing,
Would soon turn sod or soon turn bare.
The money men set to replacing
The good and true in spirit there.
We could not say, there was no knowing,
How ill the future winds were blowing.
Some cowboys even shunned the ways
Of cowboys in the trail herd days
(But where’s the gift not turned for plunder?),
Forgot that we are what we do
And not the stuff we lay claim to.
I dream the spell that we were under;
I throw in with a cowboy band
And go out horseback through the land.

So mornings now I’ll go out riding
Through pastures of my solemn plain,
And leather creaking in the quieting
Will sound with trot and trot again.
I’ll live in time with horse hoof falling;
I’ll listen well and hear the calling
The earth, my mother, bids to me,
Though I will still ride wild and free.
And as I ride out on the morning
Before the bird, before the dawn,
I’ll be this poem, I’ll be this song.
My heart will beat the world a warning—
Those horsemen will ride all with me,
And we’ll be good, and we’ll be free.

© 1993, Buck Ramsey, used with permission
Called cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader,” Buck Ramsey was a cowboy, poet, songwriter, musician, National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award recipient. His work continues to inspire cowboy poets and songwriters.

This is the day affectionately known as “Buck Day,” an annual celebration of his birth. Buck Ramsey would have been 81 this year.

“Anthem” is the prologue to Buck Ramsey’s book-length poem, Grass. A book of the entire poem was published by Texas Tech University Press in 2005. It also includes photos, friends’ recollections, Buck Ramsey’s original short story on which he based the poem, and a CD of the original 1990 recording of Buck Ramsey performing Grass in John Hartford’s home studio in Nashville, introduced by Andy Wilkinson.

Top poets and reciters Joel Nelson, Jerry Brooks, and Andy Hedges recite Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem” in an impressive film interpretation, Between Grass and Sky, which begins with Buck Ramsey’s voice.

The Western Folklife Center, home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, recently posted a great video of Buck Ramsey from 1994. In it, he comments on the oral tradition and recites his poem, “Bad Job.” Watch it on Facebook.

Find “Anthem,” more poetry, and more about Buck Ramsey in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Visit the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page on Facebook, which is maintained by Buck Ramsey’s daughter, Amanda Robin Ramsey.

buckschool

These photographs of Buck Ramsey are by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist, from a landmark book that Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves. The photographs were made in the spring of 1993. One shows Buck Ramsey visiting the one-room school house he attended. In the other, the fiddler with Buck Ramsey is Rooster Morris.

Kent told us about his experiences in photographing Buck Ramsey, “One of the more enjoyable times working on the book was getting to visit with Buck Ramsey and his family, Bette and Amanda. We traveled through the Texas Panhandle where Buck had worked and grew up. I got to drive the van and I was forgiven for bumping his neighbor’s car when we pulled out of Amarillo. We visited the one-room school house where he attended grade school where he talked about daydreaming during class and looking out across the great Texas panhandle. There was an impromptu concert along with more of Buck’s stories. Always stories.

“He talked about listening to baseball games on the radio in bunkhouses with other cowboys gathered around and that they were all St. Louis Cardinals fans. At the time there weren’t any teams as far west as the Cardinals and no Texas cowboy was gonna cheer for some team from a big city in the east. Over the years I have talked to other punchers, buckaroos and cowboys of that era and yep, Cardinals were a cowboy’s favorite. It was a grand day and the best way I can simply end this short tale is with what Buck wrote in my personal copy of ‘Between Earth and Sky,’ ‘…Thanks and keep out of the wire –'”

See a gallery of photos from the book on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, cowboyconservation.com.

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

BAD JOB by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

buckrooster

© 1993, Kent Reeves, cowboyconservation.com

 

BAD JOB
(also known as “Bum Thinking Nowhere Near a Horse”)
by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

If you see me sittin’ sorrowful, all busted up and stove-up
And you wonder how a puncher gits that way,
I can tell you at the start-off to avoid all work aground
If you rope and ride ahorseback for yore pay.

It’s all right to shoe yore horses and to braid and mend your tack,
All that work aground that keeps you in the saddle.
But yore mind gits misdirected if you try yore hand at chores
Beneath stomping out the broncs and punchin’ cattle.

Now and then old Majordomo, he’d come roust me during slack
And suggest I patch his roof or plow his garden,
Or do some posthole diggin’ or go scale some tall windmills,
But I’d always tell ‘im, “Please, I begs yore pardon.”

But it so happened that one Sunday I was early in from town
And was holdin’ down the bunkhouse all alone
When the boss, he done convinces me that if I’d pull one chore,
Tackin’ hack hooves next day would be quicker done.

“All them shoes are in a whiskey barrel up in the barn hayloft,
Standing right beside that hayloft pulley door.
Though it took us five to hoist ’em up, I figures comin’ down
All that gravity is worth them four men more.”

Wal, I’m nowhere near a horse, so it makes good sense to me.
I go don my chaps and spurs and gits my rope,
Then I ambles to the barn and up the ladder to the loft,
Thinkin’ I can git this job done in a lope.

So I straps a big old jug knot tie around that whiskey barrel,
Runs the rope out through the pulley to the ground.
Then I delicately balances that barrel on the edge,
And I rushes out to gently let ‘er down.

Well, I runs the rope around my tail and takes a hitch in front
To control the downward progress of the barrel.
Then I gives the jerk that tilts the barrel out of that hayloft door—
And that’s the insult that begins our little quarrel.

See, that barrel of horseshoes had to weigh a good four hundred pounds,
More than twice what I would weigh all wet and dressed.
So when I tell you that my rope hitch HITCHED and slipped up underarm,
Then I figure you can guess most of the rest.

I plumb parts with earth quite suddenly, ablastin’ for the sky,
But I meets that barrel ’bout halfway up that barn.
This wreck, it slows my progress some, but it ain’t slowed for long
‘Fore I’m headin’ for that pulley and yardarm.

When that barrel hits the bottom and my pore head hits the top
And it rings that pulley like a midway gong
Where those fellers swing the hammers for to show off with the girls—
Wal, you might think that it’s over…But you’re wrong.

See, the crashin’ of that old stave barrel all weighed down with that steel
Caused the bottom to bust out and dump its load,
So I’m plummetting from heaven now about the speed of sound,
And I’m speedin’ on a dang’rous deadend road.

But that devil barrel, it slaps me blind and sideways one more time
As it flies up and I’m acrashin’ down.
THEN you’d think this stubborn accident would be about played out
When I breaks a few more bones upon the ground.

No. The rope goes slack. The hitch unhitches. I lie gazin’ up.
Then I close my eyes and gives me up for dead.
‘Cause the last thing that I see before I wakes, all splintered up,
Is that cussed barrel acomin’ fer my head.

© Buck Ramsey, used with permission

Called cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader,” Buck Ramsey, cowboy, poet, songwriter, musician, National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award recipient continues to inspire poets and songwriters.

Hear one excellent recitation of this poem on Andy Hedges’ COWBOY CROSSROADS Episode Eight (Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Part Two).

In a 1993 book, introducing the poem for which he is best known, Grass, Buck Ramsey wrote, “For some years back there I rode among the princes of the earth full of health and hell and thinking punching cows was the one big show in the world. A horse tougher than me ended all that, and I have since been a stove-up cowpuncher trying to figure out how to write about the cowboy life. Some consider this poem to be the peak so far in that effort…”

A book of the entire “Grass” was published by Texas Tech University Press in 2005. It also includes photos, friends’ recollections, Buck Ramsey’s original short story on which he based the poem, and a CD of the original 1990 recording of Buck Ramsey performing Grass in John Hartford’s home studio in Nashville, introduced by Andy Wilkinson.

Top poets and reciters Joel Nelson, Jerry Brooks, and Andy Hedges recite Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem,” the prologue to “Grass,” in an impressive film interpretation, Between Grass and Sky: Rhythms of a Cowboy Poem, which begins with Buck Ramsey’s voice.

Find “Anthem,” more poetry, and more about Buck Ramsey in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Visit the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page on Facebook.

This photo of Buck Ramsey is by by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist & Photographer, from a landmark book, Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.The photographs were made in the spring of 1993.This photograph shows Buck Ramsey and fiddler Rooster Morris.

Kent told us about his experiences in photographing Buck Ramsey,”One of the more enjoyable times working on the book was getting to visit with Buck Ramsey and his family, Bette and Amanda. We traveled through the Texas Panhandle where Buck had worked and grew up. I got to drive the van and I was forgiven for bumping his neighbor’s car when we pulled out of Amarillo. We visited the one-room school house where he attended grade school where he talked about daydreaming during class and looking out across the great Texas panhandle. There was an impromptu concert along with more of Buck’s stories. Always stories…”

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.comwww.cowboyconservation.com, and on Facebook.

 

CHRISTMAS WALTZ by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

brchristmaswaltz

CHRISTMAS WALTZ
by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

The winter is here and the old year is passing,
The sun in its circle winds far in the south.
It’s time to bring cheer to a cold, snowbound cow camp,
It’s Christmas tree time of the year for the house.

Go ride to the cedar break rim of a canyon,
Down by where the river takes creek water clear,
And saddle-sleigh home us a fine shapely evergreen
Picked out while prowling the pasture this year.

While Fair strings the berries and popcorn and whatnots
And Ty braids the wreaths out of leather and vines,
Old Dunder, he whittles and whistles old carols
And fills them with stories of fine olden times.

He talks of a baby boy born in a cow shed,
All swaddled in tatters and laid in a trough,
Who, growing up, gave away all he could gather
And taught us that what is not given is lost.

It’s morning of Christmas and long before dawning
The camp hands are risen to ready the feast.
But with the fires glowing they don warm apparel
And go out to gaze on the Star of the East.

They cobbler the plums they put up back in summer,
They bake a wild turkey and roast backstrap deer,
They dollop the sourdough for rising and baking,
And pass each to each now the brown jug of cheer.

The dinner is done and they pass out the presents,
Their three each they open with handshakes and hugs,
Then Ty gets his guitar and Fred gets his fiddle
While Dunder and Fair laugh and roll back the rugs.

The tunes that they play melt the chill from the winter
As Dunder and Fair waltz and two-step along.
They play, sing and dance till the next morning’s dawning
Then all of the their slumbers are filled with this song.

© 1996, Buck Ramsey
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Buck Ramsey’s work continues to inspire cowboy poets and songwriters. Called cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader,” Buck Ramsey was a cowboy, poet, songwriter, musician, National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award recipient.

Listen to this beautiful piece here.

See the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page on Facebook and find more poetry and more about Buck Ramsey at CowboyPoetry.com.

A recording of Buck Ramsey singing “Christmas Waltz” was made in 1995. Buck Ramsey tells about his family’s shape-note singing and talks about the setting for his piece. Bette Ramsey comments about the recording: “Buck grew up in a singing family, and his sisters were well known for their gospel singing. We get a sense of what the Ramsey family sounded like as Buck is joined on this beautiful recording by his sisters Wanda, Ellen and Sylvia, and his younger brother Charles.”

The recording is on the 2-CD set, Buck Ramsey, Hittin’ the Trail, released by Smithsonian Folkways Records in 2003.

The “Christmas Waltz” book show above was printed in a small gift edition by Gibbs-Smith Publishers in 1996. It is out of print but used copies can be found.

Find more Christmas poetry throughout the season here at the 18th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

DUNDER DEFINING by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

buckschool
© 1993, Kent Reeves; request permission for use

 

DUNDER DEFINING
by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

(Being a one-sided conversation with the Kid about his daddy)

“Yeah he’d be called a ‘daisy hand’
If this was bygone days
Before the meanings changed their names
And cowboys changed their ways.

“Those punchers out of real old rock
And of the long, long shadow,
Those graduates of the camp and trail
Who shunned the fenced-in meadow

“When all the range was grass-side up
And all the cows wore horns—
They’d call your dad a ‘ranahan’
Well to the leather born.”

Old Dunder, augering the Kid,
Was brushing on the paint
In strokes that made the Fiddle look
A downright cowboy saint.

He paused, and then commenced to rake
His hand across his whiskers,
But realized that rasp he grew
Might raise some awful blisters.

He soothed his palm upon his knee
And gazed the air a hole
And gave the Kid the look that showed
The secrets of his soul.

“You set out definin’ you’re ridin’ for boggin’—
There’s not a pure way to describe
The reason and rhyme of the cowpuncher callin’,
The jist of the cowpucher tribe.

“But say we start up with an idy of Santee—
Like Russell, a cowpuncher saint—
The best you can say is, he’s good to his horses,
The worst you can say is, he ain’t.

The kind out of old rock and of the long shadow—
Your daddy is of the same leather—
You’d say of his makin’s his water runs deep,
And he’d do with to ride the wild river.

“You can’t call his rank by the crease of his hat,
By his get-up, now matter how fine.
You go by the moves that he makes on his horse—
Is he in the right place the right time?

He knows what the mother cow says to her calf,
He’s a regular Webster on cattle,
He hears what the wind says and listens to grass—
He’s plumb simply at home in the saddle.”

© Buck Ramsey, used with permission
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Buck Ramsey’s friend, rancher and poet Darin Brookman, has written,”Buck Ramsey was a cowboy, musician, poet and historian. He had a definite opinion on most subjects and a gentle nature that made you want to hear them. In the ranks of cowboy poets and singers, he was our leader and our conscience.” Hal Cannon, Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center, named Buck Ramsey cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader.”

A biography at the National Endowments for the Arts tells about the accident, when he was just 25 years old, that confined him to a wheelchair. They write that Buck Ramsey, “…worked as a cowboy and rough rider on the big ranches along the Canadian River. In 1963, while he was working on the Alibates Division of the Coldwater Cattle Company, a bit shank snapped and the spoiled horse Ramsey was riding threw him to the ground. What he later called ‘just landing wrong’ left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.”

His life and art continue to inspire and his work continues to be recited, sung, and celebrated. Buck Ramsey was a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow. His recordings were awarded two Western Heritage Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Andy Hedges has a fine recitation of this poem in the current episode of his COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast. His guest, Chuck Hawthorne, has some Buck Ramsey
stories.

Find more about Buck Ramsey on Facebook at the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page,
and in features at CowboyPoetry.com, which includes poetry, reminiscences, and more.

This photograph of Buck Ramsey is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist & Photographer. It appeared in the landmark book, Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves. This photograph, made in the spring of 1993, shows Buck Ramsey visiting the one-room school house he attended as a boy.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com; his site,
cowboyconservation.com; and on Facebook.

Thanks to Bette Ramsey for her generous permission.

BAD JOB by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

buckrooster

© 1993, Kent Reeves, cowboyconservation.com

 

BAD JOB
(also known as “Bum Thinking Nowhere Near a Horse”)
by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

If you see me sittin’ sorrowful, all busted up and stove-up
And you wonder how a puncher gits that way,
I can tell you at the start-off to avoid all work aground
If you rope and ride ahorseback for yore pay.

It’s all right to shoe yore horses and to braid and mend your tack,
All that work aground that keeps you in the saddle.
But yore mind gits misdirected if you try yore hand at chores
Beneath stomping out the broncs and punchin’ cattle.

Now and then old Majordomo, he’d come roust me during slack
And suggest I patch his roof or plow his garden,
Or do some posthole diggin’ or go scale some tall windmills,
But I’d always tell ‘im, “Please, I begs yore pardon.”

But it so happened that one Sunday I was early in from town
And was holdin’ down the bunkhouse all alone
When the boss, he done convinces me that if I’d pull one chore,
Tackin’ hack hooves next day would be quicker done.

“All them shoes are in a whiskey barrel up in the barn hayloft,
Standing right beside that hayloft pulley door.
Though it took us five to hoist ’em up, I figures comin’ down
All that gravity is worth them four men more.”

Wal, I’m nowhere near a horse, so it makes good sense to me.
I go don my chaps and spurs and gits my rope,
Then I ambles to the barn and up the ladder to the loft,
Thinkin’ I can git this job done in a lope.

So I straps a big old jug knot tie around that whiskey barrel,
Runs the rope out through the pulley to the ground.
Then I delicately balances that barrel on the edge,
And I rushes out to gently let ‘er down.

Well, I runs the rope around my tail and takes a hitch in front
To control the downward progress of the barrel.
Then I gives the jerk that tilts the barrel out of that hayloft door—
And that’s the insult that begins our little quarrel.

See, that barrel of horseshoes had to weigh a good four hundred pounds,
More than twice what I would weigh all wet and dressed.
So when I tell you that my rope hitch HITCHED and slipped up underarm,
Then I figure you can guess most of the rest.

I plumb parts with earth quite suddenly, ablastin’ for the sky,
But I meets that barrel ’bout halfway up that barn.
This wreck, it slows my progress some, but it ain’t slowed for long
‘Fore I’m headin’ for that pulley and yardarm.

When that barrel hits the bottom and my pore head hits the top
And it rings that pulley like a midway gong
Where those fellers swing the hammers for to show off with the girls—
Wal, you might think that it’s over…But you’re wrong.

See, the crashin’ of that old stave barrel all weighed down with that steel
Caused the bottom to bust out and dump its load,
So I’m plummetting from heaven now about the speed of sound,
And I’m speedin’ on a dang’rous deadend road.

But that devil barrel, it slaps me blind and sideways one more time
As it flies up and I’m acrashin’ down.
THEN you’d think this stubborn accident would be about played out
When I breaks a few more bones upon the ground.

No. The rope goes slack. The hitch unhitches. I lie gazin’ up.
Then I close my eyes and gives me up for dead.
‘Cause the last thing that I see before I wakes, all splintered up,
Is that cussed barrel acomin’ fer my head.

© Buck Ramsey, used with permission

Called cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader,” Buck Ramsey, cowboy, poet, songwriter, musician, National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and @National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award recipient continues to inspire poets and songwriters.

Hear one excellent recitation of this poem on Andy Hedges’ most recent COWBOY CROSSROADS episode (Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Part Two).

In a 1993 book, introducing the poem for which he is best known, Grass, Buck Ramsey wrote, “For some years back there I rode among the princes of the earth full of health and hell and thinking punching cows was the one big show in the world. A horse tougher than me ended all that, and I have since been a stove-up cowpuncher trying to figure out how to write about the cowboy life. Some consider this poem to be the peak so far in that effort…”

A book of the entire “Grass” was published by Texas Tech University Press in 2005. It also includes photos, friends’ recollections, Buck Ramsey’s original short story on which he based the poem, and a CD of the original 1990 recording of Buck Ramsey performing Grass in John Hartford’s home studio in Nashville, introduced by Andy Wilkinson.

Top poets and reciters Joel Nelson, Jerry Brooks, and Andy Hedges recite Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem,” the prologue to “Grass,” in an impressive film interpretation, Between Grass and Sky: Rhythms of a Cowboy Poem, which begins with Buck Ramsey’s voice.

Find “Anthem,” more poetry, and more about Buck Ramsey in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Visit the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page on Facebook.

This photo of Buck Ramsey is by by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist & Photographer, from a landmark book, Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.The photographs were made in the spring of 1993.This photograph shows Buck Ramsey and fiddler Rooster Morris.

Kent told us about his experiences in photographing Buck Ramsey,”One of the more enjoyable times working on the book was getting to visit with Buck Ramsey and his family, Bette and Amanda. We traveled through the Texas Panhandle where Buck had worked and grew up. I got to drive the van and I was forgiven for bumping his neighbor’s car when we pulled out of Amarillo. We visited the one-room school house where he attended grade school where he talked about daydreaming during class and looking out across the great Texas panhandle. There was an impromptu concert along with more of Buck’s stories. Always stories…”

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.comwww.cowboyconservation.com, and on Facebook.

 

CHRISTMAS WALTZ by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

brchristmaswaltz

 

CHRISTMAS WALTZ
by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

The winter is here and the old year is passing,
The sun in its circle winds far in the south.
It’s time to bring cheer to a cold, snowbound cow camp,
It’s Christmas tree time of the year for the house.

Go ride to the cedar break rim of a canyon,
Down by where the river takes creek water clear,
And saddle-sleigh home us a fine shapely evergreen
Picked out while prowling the pasture this year.

While Fair strings the berries and popcorn and whatnots
And Ty braids the wreaths out of leather and vines,
Old Dunder, he whittles and whistles old carols
And fills them with stories of fine olden times.

He talks of a baby boy born in a cow shed,
All swaddled in tatters and laid in a trough,
Who, growing up, gave away all he could gather
And taught us that what is not given is lost.

It’s morning of Christmas and long before dawning
The camp hands are risen to ready the feast.
But with the fires glowing they don warm apparel
And go out to gaze on the Star of the East.

They cobbler the plums they put up back in summer,
They bake a wild turkey and roast backstrap deer,
They dollop the sourdough for rising and baking,
And pass each to each now the brown jug of cheer.

The dinner is done and they pass out the presents,
Their three each they open with handshakes and hugs,
Then Ty gets his guitar and Fred gets his fiddle
While Dunder and Fair laugh and roll back the rugs.

The tunes that they play melt the chill from the winter
As Dunder and Fair waltz and two-step along.
They play, sing and dance till the next morning’s dawning
Then all of the their slumbers are filled with this song.

© 1996, Buck Ramsey, used with permission.

Buck Ramsey’s work continues to inspire cowboy poets and songwriters. Called cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader,” Buck Ramsey was a cowboy, poet, songwriter, musician, National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award recipient.

See the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page on Facebook and find more poetry and more about Buck Ramsey at CowboyPoetry.com.

A recording of Buck Ramsey singing “Christmas Waltz” was made in 1995. Buck Ramsey tells about his family’s shape-note singing and talks about the setting for his piece. Bette Ramsey comments about the recording: “Buck grew up in a singing family, and his sisters were well known for their gospel singing. We get a sense of what the Ramsey family sounded like as Buck is joined on this beautiful recording by his sisters Wanda, Ellen and Sylvia, and his younger brother Charles.”

The recording is on the 2-CD set, Buck Ramsey, Hittin’ the Trail, released by Smithsonian Folkways Records in 2003: http://www.folkways.si.edu/buck-ramsey/hittin-the-trail/american-folk-country/music/album/smithsonian.

“Christmas Waltz” was printed in a small gift edition by Gibbs-Smith Publishers in 1996. It is out of print but used copies can be found.

Find more Christmas poetry throughout the season here at the 17th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.