‘NEATH A CHRISTMAS EVE SKY by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)


© 2015, John Michael Reedy; request permission for use.


by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)

There’s a halo that’s circlin’
’round a moon shinin’ bright,
adding wonder and glory
to the heavens tonight.

And it seems to be sayin’
to this cowboy at least,
it was on such an evenin’
came the young Prince Of Peace.

And I know without doubtin’
as the bunkhouse draws nigh,
that it’s Christmas I’m feelin’
neath a Christmas Eve sky.

There’s a wind slightly blowin’
through the needles of pine,
and the shadows are loomin’
where the moonbeams now shine.

And the soft sound of singing
come a-driftin’ to me
as the hands are now gatherin’
’round a small lighted tree.

And it brings me a smile, Lord,
and a tear to my eye,
as I’m headin’ home fin’lly
neath a Christmas Eve sky.

© 2007, Rod Nichols
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Texan Rod Nichols will forever be missed by his many friends and family. This is just one of his memorable poems and one of his last Christmas poems. Find many more at CowboyPoetry.com.

This beautiful photograph was made near Boulder, Montana two years ago by photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet John Michael Reedy (who also created the photograph in our Christmas cover photo.)

See more impressive photography at his site.

John Michael Reedy’s recent book, This Place, includes his impressive photography accompanied by his poems and songs. You can view the entire book at the publisher’s site.

Find more about John Michael Reedy at CowboyPoetry.com and visit

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




© 2016, John Michael Reedy. Request permission for use.

by J.W. Beeson

It’s 15 below on the prairie
the wind chill’s down near 42
and I’m watchin’ a Texas blue norther blow in
and I’m not sure what I’m gonna do.

‘Cause the tanks are froze pretty near solid
and the handle broke off my best ax
and the feed’s gettin’ wet from a hole in the roof
where it’s leakin’ all over the sacks

And I’m feedin’ more hay than I planned on
’cause the snow covered up all the grass
the tractor’s broke down and the pickup won’t start
and it’s cold as a well digger’s…shovel

It’s the 24th day of December
and the sagebrush is covered with ice
and I think that a hot cup of coffee
or a good shot of rye would be nice

‘Cause my feet are so cold I can’t feel ’em
and my fingers are purty near froze
and there’s icicles hung off my moustache
from the drip drippin’ off of my nose

I was hopin’ I’d get to quit early
and be back at the house Christmas Eve
but these baldies are cryin’ and hungry
and there’s no one to feed if I leave

And there’s one little motley-faced heifer
who somehow got in with the bull
and she’s just too little to leave by herself
’cause the calf’s gonna have to be pulled

And there’s one other thing I might mention
a fact that is painfully clear
I’m so broke that I can’t pay attention
so I guess I’ll spend Christmas out here

But it’s pretty out here on the prairie
where the stars light the cold winter sky
and though I can’t remember when things were much worse
I guess I’m still a right lucky guy

‘Cause I’ve got a good woman who’ll love me
no matter what time I come home
and my young ‘un is happy and healthy
though I wish he weren’t quite near so grown

And I’ve got that new 3-year-old filly
who’s better than I even dreamed
and my old spotted gelding as good as they come
so things ain’t all as bad as they seem

I’ve got no cause for being ungrateful
and to gripe and complain isn’t good
’cause there’s people all over this country
who’d trade places with me if they could

So I know that I’ll have a good Christmas
in spite of my problems somehow
I’ll just watch as this Texas blue norther blows in
and sing “O Holy Night” to the cows.

© 1996, J. W. Beeson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Texas cowboy and saddlemaker J.W. Beeson’s Christmas poem first appeared in Western Horseman in December, 1996. His recitation of it is included on the double-cd Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup from CowboyPoetry.com.

His bio tells, “In 1995, J.W. Beeson was hired by the Great American Cattle Drive to help drive a herd of Texas longhorns from Fort Worth to Miles City, Montana. Beeson left with the herd March 5, 1995 from the Fort Worth Stockyards and arrived September 1 in Miles City, Montana, six months and 1600 miles later. In October of 1996, he was inducted into the Old Trail Drivers Association of Texas, and was credited as being the only cowboy to be ‘in the saddle’ every day of drive, a feat not accomplished since 1886.”

We asked J.W. Beeson about the inspiration for the poem, and here is his response, printed in full as received. Read it and you’ll see why not one word was changed:

As for how it was written, it’s pretty much a true story, when it was written. A Tornado had blown my Saddle Shop away in April so I hired out wherever I could find work. I was taking care of some cattle and had a little First Calf Heifer that was due to calve any day. I had built a little crosstie leanto at the pens and used an old combine wheel for a Fire Pit. I spent a lot of time out there with those cows, my horses and Dog. Had a big ol Black and White Paint Gelding named Bill ( one of the best horses I ever owned) and was riding a Green Broke Philly named Calico, who was petty snakey, but smart and coming along real good, just needed lots of miles.

A Big Blizzard blew in the day before Christmas Eve and I knew that sure as the world, if I left that heifer alone and couldn’t get back to her she would calve, so I put some food and my coffee pot in my old 1963 Chevy Feed pickup and headed to the pens. It was an old 6 cylinder, 4 wheel drive 3/4 ton stepside pickup that had been brush painted OD Green. It would only run about 45 mph top speed, but would climb a house in FWD.

I had a Female Afghan Wolfhound named “Duchess” who was my constant companion and usually when I went to feed, she would ride on the back, on top of the hay bales with her nose in the wind. I would put the pickup in four wheel Low and the transmission in Granny Low, Set the throttle, jump out, get on the back with the Dog and feed hay. The old pickup would drive itself and the cattle would follow, and when I was done feeding I would run up to the cab and jump back in. I knew that if the snow got deep and I had any trouble I had either the Pickup or Ol Bill to depend on, so I wouldn’t be stranded.

So, I headed to the pens, built a fire, made a pot of Cowboy Coffee and put a can of Beanie Weenies on to cook. It was Blowing Snow and Pretty cold but I had a good fire going and was ready to stay the night and baby sit the little heifer. Duchess snuggled up next to me, trying to mooch a Beanie Weenie just as the wind layed down at about 9 or 10 o’clock, Christmas Eve Night.

It was that old Hard Cloudless Cold that goes clear through you, but the stars were all out and shining bright. The Ground was frozen hard and everything crackled when I walked. The Trees were covered with white frost and the tank was froze near solid but the light from the Moon and the Campfire was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I have always loved nights like that, and I remember thinking, Mother Nature put on her Best White Dress for me tonight and she wearing every Diamond she owns.

I’m Nearly Broke, I’m spending Christmas Eve in a windbreak with a Dog, A Horse,and A pregnant cow, and I wouldn’t trade this to be anywhere else in the world. It was like tonight God made the whole world just for me. He gave me the greatest Christmas Present I could get, and it was something Money couldn’t buy and most folks never see.

People all over the world were wondering if they would live out the night or if their kids would starve, and here I was, with a warm coat, a full belly, a warm fire, 2 friends that loved me unconditionally and a Front Row Seat to the Majesty of Creation and the miracle of Birth. I wondered how many people would trade places with me in a heartbeat if they could. Made me ashamed I ever griped about anything.

I knew that when the heifer had her calf, I would Grain Ol Bill, Duchess and I would get in the Truck and head in, to a Wife and Son, waiting in a Warm House, with Hot Food, a Soft Bed, and probably a Christmas Present or two. I looked up at the sky and the words to “Oh Holy Night” just kinda came softly out of my mouth. It was one of the best nights of my life.

All those things are now, as all things are destined to become, Memories. Wife left, Kids grew up, Horses, Dogs and the Pickup, got old and died. The Cold hurts me now and I still get around, but a lot slower and I have lived longer than anyone, including me, ever bet I would have, but I will always remember that special Christmas Eve Night When things were about as bad as they could get and as Good as they could Be, All at the same time.

That Night, God gave me something He didn’t give to just Everybody, and I’ve never stopped being grateful.

Find more about J.W. Beeson at CowboyPoetry.com.

This striking photograph was made by photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet John Michael Reedy. See more impressive photography at his site.

John Michael Reedy’s recent book, “This Place,” includes his impressive photography accompanied by his poems and songs. You can view the entire book here.

Find more about John Michael Reedy at CowboyPoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

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

A COWBOY SEASON by Jo Lynne Kirkwood



photo by John Michael Reedy; request permission for any use. 


by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Part III
(October — The Pasture Corrals)

In late autumn gnarled branches remember
their youth, and know they must die,
and at night they moan, and creak and cry out,
and bare tremblin’ limbs to the sky.

And in those lost hours ’til the dawnin’
hoot owls hunt, and predators roam,
and out riding nighthawk you look over your shoulder,
feelin’ fearful, and longin’ for home.

But a coyote’s been doggin’ your late season calves,
and near the tank a bear print was found,
and the fences need mending, better get to that soon,
‘fore your cattle stray off of your ground.

The wind stirs dry leaves in the shadows.
Is that a bruin, a hidin’ in there?
Or could be a cougar, warily watchin’—
Or nothin’ but restless night air.

“Aw, Come on,” you mutter, and shake at your shoulders.
“Grab hold, man. This ain’t no big deal.”
It’s just that October’s got you feelin’ spooked,
and out here the demons are real.

© 2001, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, used with permission

Perfect for the season, Utah storyteller and rural teacher Jo Lynne Kirkwood’s atmospheric four-part work, “A Cowboy Season” is a BAR-D favorite. Find the entire poem at CowboyPoetry.com.

Jo Lynne Kirkwood has a fine book that collects her poetry, “Old Houses,” and recordings. Find more about her at CowboyPoetry.com, at her site; and on Facebook.

This intriguing photo, “Sandy,” is by Montana songwriter, poet, and photographer John Reedy. It is included in his book, This Place. The impressive photography in the book is accompanied by John Michael Reedy’s poems and songs. You can view the entire book here, where it is available from the publisher.

See our feature about John Reedy at CowboyPoetry.com, which includes more examples of his outstanding photography, and find more of his work and more about him at reedy.photoshelter.com and twistedcowboy.com.


RIDIN’ Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)


photo © 2016, John Michael Reedy

Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

There is some that like the city—
Grass that’s curried smooth and green,
Theaytres and stranglin’ collars,
Wagons run by gasoline—
But for me it’s hawse and saddle
Every day without a change,
And a desert sun a-blazin’
On a hundred miles of range.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Desert ripplin’ in the sun,
Mountains blue among the skyline—
I don’t envy anyone
When I’m ridin’.

When my feet is in the stirrups
And my hawse is on the bust,
With his hoofs a-flashin’ lightnin’
From a cloud of golden dust,
And the bawlin’ of the cattle
Is a-comin’ down the wind
Then a finer life than ridin’
Would be mighty hard to find.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Splittin’ long cracks through the air,
Stirrin’ up a baby cyclone,
Rippin’ up the prickly pear
As I’m ridin’.

I don’t need no art exhibits
When the sunset does her best,
Paintin’ everlastin’ glory
On the mountains to the west
And your opery looks foolish
When the night-bird starts his tune
And the desert’s silver mounted
By the touches of the moon.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Who kin envy kings and czars
When the coyotes down the valley
Are a singin’ to the stars,
If he’s ridin’?

When my earthly trail is ended
And my final bacon curled
And the last great roundup’s finished
At the Home Ranch of the world
I don’t want no harps nor haloes
Robes nor other dressed up things—
Let me ride the starry ranges
On a pinto hawse with wings!

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Nothin’ I’d like half so well
As a-roundin’ up the sinners
That have wandered out of Hell,
And a-ridin’

….by Charles Badger Clark

Charles Badger Clark, Jr. got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life.

“Ridin'” is said to be his first poem. It was was included in his first poetry collection, Sun and Saddle Leather, in 1915.

Don Edwards put the poem to music and it is on his Saddle Songs album. Listen and watch a 2012 video where he sings and Waddie Mitchell recites “Commuting.”

Clark’s own recitation of the poem was included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two, from CowboyPoetry.com.

Clark wrote many lasting poems, and others also found their way into song (including “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her”). Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark.

This beautiful May, 2016 photograph is by John Michael Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. Pictured is his daughter Brigid, 16, on Splash. Brigid is a poet, songwriter, musician, artist, and more. She has been an invited performer several times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site. Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

This is a scheduled post. We’re on a break until May 25.

ONLY PLACE FOR ME by Tom Swearingen


photo © John Michael Reedy; request permission for use


by Tom Swearingen

Cows are strung from here to Sunday,
Nose to tail all afternoon.
The herd snakin’ way to low ground,
Down the trail ‘went up last June.

Temp’rature is barely twenty.
With the wind chill it feels worse.
But I count it all a blessing
What most folks would call a curse.

To be all day on the gather
Bringing high-graze cattle down,
To still be a part of something
Not much understood in town.

To ride from can’t see to can’t see.
No need for a watch or clock.
To know I’m spendin’ my time well,
Working hard to raise this stock.

Riding ground that my father rode,
And his father rode before.
Not a lot of people these days
That can say that anymore.

‘Course days like this will test you some,
Winter gnawing at your core.
Reminding you there are reasons
Others don’t take on the chore.

The feeling long left from my hands,
And about gone from my seat.
Warmth just a dwindling memory.
Still some hours ’til home fire’s heat.

Today it’s snow and bitter wind,
Other times it’s sun and dust.
But regardless of conditions
Being here for me’s a must.

Because I’m right where I figure
Is the only place for me.
For a cowboy is what I am,
Cowboy’s what I’ll always be.

© 2017, Tom Swearingen, used with permission

Oregon horseman Tom Swearingen’s poem was inspired by a 1923 photograph by Charles J. Belden (1887-1966) titled, “Work on cattle ranch, Z/T Ranch, Pitchfork, Wyoming” in a Winter Art Spur at CowboyPoetry.com. See all of the selected poems here.

You’ll find Tom at the Spirit of The West in Ellensburg, Washington this weekend,February 17-19, 2017.

Their web site, ellensburgcowboygathering.com, tells, “Our gear fair hosts over 40 vendors from across the country. Works of art, custom leather products, felt hats and handmade boots are just a few of the booths available for your shopping pleasure. Fiddlers from across our region will be competing and providing music for your enjoyment on Saturday in the Historic Liberty Theater. Our downtown venues provide the opportunity to stroll through beautiful Downtown Ellensburg while enjoying an array of music and scenery….”

Main Stage Performers are Waddie Mitchell, Cowboy Celtic, Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band, and Juni Fisher. Downtown Performers include Barbara Nelson, The Panhandle Cowboys, Jim Aasen, T.R Stewart, Stan Kvistad, Duane Nelson, Tom Swearingen, Andy Bales, Rockin HW, Sam DeLeeuw, Paul Wilson, Lynn Kopelke, David Anderson & Jenny Lynn, and Kevin Barnhart.

Tom Swearingen’s latest release is Rhyme ’em Cowboy! Rick Huff, in his Best of the West reviews, comments, “His style and body of work make him one of the most approachable cowbards workin’.” Read more here.

Find more about Tom Swearingen at his web site, including his performance schedule, at oregoncowboypoet.com.

This intriguing photograph, “Sandy,” is by Montana songwriter, poet, and photographer John Reedy. It is included in his recent book, This Place, which also features his poems and lyrics. View the entire book here, where it is available from the publisher.

More photos from the book are included in a February, 2013 Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site. Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.



photo © 2015, John Michael Reedy;  request permission for any use.


by DW Groethe

It must’ve been a day
for peace an’ reverie
When my father took a pencil in his hand
an’ scribed upon his notebook,
all the horses that he’d had
when growin’ up in West Dakota land.

I can see him sittin’, thoughtful,
soft smile in his eyes,
As the ponies pranced before him, once again.
Then he jotted each one down,
with a slow an’ careful hand.
Sometimes, horses, can count right up with kin.

Tobe, Frank an’ Muggins,
Daisy I an’ Daisy II,
(his mem’ry felt a breeze that stirred their manes.)
Charlie, Chub an’ Pearl
found their way up to the front
an’ back once more upon the dusty plains.

Prince I an’ II an’ Mike
come lopin’ lightly into view,
he penned their mem’ries, gentle on the page…
a-waitin’ an’ a thinkin’,
he was missin’…just a few
when Queen an’ May neared, nickerin’ thru the sage.

An’ finally, down the draw,
come Thunder, Buck an’ Bill
a’flyin’ like the wind an’ they was one.
then he eased back in his chair,
contemplatin’ all that’s there,
his gatherin’ of the old bunch was all done.

Yeah…it must’ve been a day
of peace an’ reverie,
in his office, at a desk of metal gray,
when the ol’ man made a tally
a-gatherin’ up his cavvy,
One last time, a-fore they slipped away.

© 2007, DW Groethe, used with permission
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission.

Eastern Montana ranch hand, poet, and picker DW Groethe told us about this popular poem’s inspiration, “Among the many things I inherited from my father was a box of items from his office desk. In it there was a handful of pens and pencils and a small pocket notebook (stapled, not spiral-bound). On the first page he’d written the names of sixteen horses…the horses he’d grown up with back in the twenties and thirties. I wish I could remember all the stories he had about them. As it is, all I have is a page in an old worn notebook and a poem to honor their memories.”

DW performs his poetry and music at venues small and large. He’s appeared many times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and has been invited to the the National Traditional Council for the Arts’ National Folk Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, @The Library of Congress, and other places.

He returns to the Western Folklife Center’s 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this week (January 30-February 4, 2017).

The complete lineup includes Amy Hale Auker – Prescott, AZ; Mike Beck – Monterey, CA; Luke Bell – Cody, WY; Jerry Brooks – Sevier, UT; Cowboy Celtic -Turner Valley, Alberta, Canada; Doris Daley – Black Diamond, Alberta, Canada; John Dofflemyer – Lemon Cove, CA; Carolyn Dufurrena – Winnemucca, NV; Maria Lisa Eastman – Hyattville, WY; Don Edwards – Hico, TX; Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – Marshall, CA; Dom Flemons & Brian Farrow – Hillsborough, NC; Patricia Frolander – Sundance, WY; DW Groethe – Bainville, MT; Kristyn Harris – McKinney, TX; Andy Hedges – Lubbock, TX; Brenn Hill – Hooper, UT; Teresa Jordan – Virgin, UT; Ross Knox – Midpines, CA;Jarle Kvale – Dunseith, ND; Daron Little – Encampment, WY; Corb Lund – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Doug Moreland & the Flying Armadillos – Manchaca, TX; Joel Nelson – Alpine, TX; Rodney Nelson – Almont, ND; Shadd Piehl – Mandan, ND; Vess Quinlan – Florence, CO; Henry Real Bird – Garryowen, MT; Brigid Reedy – Boulder, MT; Randy Rieman – Dillon, MT; Kent Rollins – Hollis, OK; Jack Sammon – Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia; Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld – Birney, MT; Trinity Seely – Cascade, MT; Sean Sexton – Vero Beach, FL; Sourdough Slim & Robert Armstrong – Paradise, CA; R.P. Smith – Broken Bow, NE; Dave Stamey – Orange Cove, CA; Gail Steiger – Prescott, AZ; Rod Taylor – Cimarron, NM; Ian Tyson – Longview, Alberta, Canada; Keith Ward – Vilas, NC; Andy Wilkinson – Lubbock, TX; and Paul Zarzyski – Great Falls, MT.

Find more at www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

Find more about DW Groethe and his books and recordings here at CowboyPoetry.com.

This beautiful June, 2015 photograph is by John Michael Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. Pictured along with the horses are Brigid and Johnny Reedy, both talented, creative young people. Poet, songwriter, and musician Brigid Reedy, 16, also returns to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this week, where she will also take part in the special Moth radio broadcast.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s photo site. Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and visit www.twistedcowboy.com.


NEW YEAR’S EVE by Rod Nichols


© 2015, John Michael Reedy


by Rod Nichols

I’ll saddle the roan then ride out alone
‘neath a clear moon with frost on the ground,
to a high ridge I know
through the dark pines and snow
far away from the dim lights of town.

In a short space of time a hillside I’ll climb
to the top with my face to the wind,
and there I’ll just wait
as the hour grows late
and a new year once more will begin.

I’ll take a look then on where I have been
and the changes the old year has brought,
the good times and bad
some happy some sad
as the faces of time fill my thoughts.

In the silence of night from that small patch of white
I’ll say “Adios” to lost friends,
with a small prayer at last
for the present and past
then I’ll ride down that hill once again.

© 2000 Rod Nichols, used with permission

Rod Nichols is forever missed by his many friends and family. This is one of the early poems he shared. Find more about him and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 2015 photograph, “Roper in the Snow,” is by Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet John Michael Reedy. See additional impressive photography at his site.

Find more about John Michael Reedy at CowboyPoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

Find more New Year poems at CowboyPoetry.com.