TO HEAR RANDY TELL ‘EM by Daniel Bybee

Randy Rieman © 2011, Jeri Dobrowski

by Daniel Bybee

Plain simple tales of round-ups and trails
were the staple of poems of the West.
To hear Randy tell ‘em you’ll sweat or you’ll shiver
and be there with dust on your vest.
He’s a time machine with a soft soothing voice
pickin’ you up on a Montana wind
And carryin’ you back to that home on the range
when a horse was a man’s only friend.

When Randy recites one I’ve heard many times
‘bout an outlaw who cooks with his gun,
I still laugh out loud when old Boomer tells
Henry Herbert Knibbs that “he’s takin’ one!”
I heard the “Creak of the Leather” one night
when he recited a poem in Red Bluff,
and I “Purt Near” laughed till I cried when he
told how Perkins was spreading his stuff.

You’ll find yourself nervous as Jack Potter mumbles
and stumbles for just the right word,
and you’ll squeeze the reins tight as your mustang goes down
on that flight from a stampeding herd.
The words of Barker and the words of Desprez
come alive when he gives them a voice,
‘cause when “Lasca” is dead you try not to cry
but you find that you don’t have a choice.

Down Under we go to the dry saltbush plains
on a Grey ridin’ out through the haze.
The emotion spills out of that Paterson poem
when he recites “In the Droving Days.”
We sense his deep love for horses when hearing
“Where the Ponies come to Drink.”
The feeling of joy with a tinge of regret,
his pony’s there and then gone in a blink.

The married man’s friend in Badger Clark’s poem
ends up thinking about his own life.
He reckons he’s missed maybe more than he’s won,
not havin’ a child or a wife.
You’ll find yourself sittin’ in that married man’s house
watchin’ him braid a quirt for his boy
while his friend goes on about life on the range
and the room he could find there for joy.

Kiskaddon’s classic of the final fall shipping
has been recited by others before,
but you’re lonesome and draggin’ back home with the wagon
when Randy recites it once more.
These poems pass through Randy with their souls intact,
you smell sage, feel the buck and the bawl.
He delivers sights, sounds and smells to your ears,
with eyes closed, you’ll live through it all.

The wisdom and humor of cowboys who rode
for the brand every day of their lives
was captured in poetry by all the greats
and because of their poems it survives.
To hear Randy Rieman recite classic lines
that the great cowboy poets wrote down
is to live in your mind for a while in that best
of all places, “An Old Western Town.”

© 2020, Daniel Bybee
The poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This poem contains lines from poems by S. Omar Barker, Bruce Kiskaddon, Badger Clark, Henry Herbert Knibbs, Frank Desprez, and Banjo Patterson.)


Nevada poet and horseman Daniel Bybee’s skillful poem captures a range of beloved classic cowboy poetry and its vivid delivery by one of today’s best reciters, Randy Rieman. Randy said he was “so humbled and complimented” by the poem.

At this year’s Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Daniel Bybee was chosen from many open mic participants to be a part of a special Saturday evening show, “Highlights of the Open Mic.”

Dan in Elko 2000cropx

Find more about him and more of his poems at

Dan Bybee 2011 Reno Rodeo Cattle DriveDaniel Bybee at the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive.

Watch some of Randy Rieman’s performances on YouTube and find more about him at and at

This 2011 photo of Randy Rieman is by Jeri Dobrowski, used with permission.


(Request permission for use of this poem or these photos.)




by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Though you’re not exactly blue,
Yet you don’t feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
For your feelin’s and the weather
Seem to sort of go together,
And you’re quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;
And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin’
On the job for winter brandin’,
And your pardner, he’s a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin’,
But you never hear him speakin’,
And you feel it’s goin’ to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother—
He is friendly but he’s quiet, that is all;
For he’s thinkin’ while he’s draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin’
At an easy walk a swingin’
In behind the old chuck wagon movin’ slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they’ve waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin’ sporty,
Not a hoss is actin’ snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they’re gentle, when they’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled ‘way down furr’wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
‘Cept his old cob pipe is smokin’
As he lets his team go pokin’,
Hittin’ all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin’—
He’s just settin’ there and thinkin’
‘Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin’
And two little clouds a sailin’,
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you’re lonesome when you’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin’ bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin’
Up there in the soft blue linin’
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin’
As your memory starts driftin’
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you’re far away and draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue—
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin’ but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did—
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done—
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
‘Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede—
‘Twas away up north, you helped ’em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn’t reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his’n—
Boy that killed him’s still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he’s rich and livin’ high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances—
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead ’em down the middle
Jest a prancin’ to the fiddle—
Never thought of goin’ home till the break of day.
No! there ain’t no chance for sleepin’,
For the memories come a creepin’,
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

…from Kiskaddon’s 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges


Bruce Kiskaddon’s masterpiece is a well loved classic, in the repertoire of most serious reciters. Kiskaddon drew on his cowboying experiences for his poetry. Find much more about him in features at

One of the most outstanding recitations of the poem is by respected reciter, horseman, braider, and more Randy Rieman. He included the poem on his Old Favorites CD, and that recitation is on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten.”

Randy Rieman appears at the popular Cowpoke Fall Gathering, November 7-10, 2019 in Loomis, California. He will be joined by Dave Stamey, Larry Maurice, Michael Reno-Harrell, Bill Brewster, and The Heifer Belles.

The gathering is the premier event of the Cowpoke Foundation, “where cowboy poetry, music and storytelling reinforce the ‘cowboy way’ at the heart of Western traditions. Educational programs in local schools and youth performances at The Fall Gathering ensure that this heritage continues by exposing young people to these oral folk art forms.”

Find more at, including this year’s poster, “The Gold Seekers,” by Keith Christie (1940-2017).

This 1942 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Imperial County, California. Cattleman notes down number of head of cattle shipped.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.

This poem and photo are in the public domain.