photo © Shannon Keller Rollins; request permission for any use.
REASONS FOR STAYIN’
by J.B. Allen (1938-2005)
“What’s the myst’ry of the wagon? asked a townie, green as grass,
As he visited on a dreary autumn day.
Fer there weren’t a sign of romance nor no waddies’round with class,
And he couldn’t see why one would want to stay.
“Well, don’t be askin’ me,” says Jake, when asked that very thing,
“I’ve only been around here thirty years;
If I’d learnt some floocy answers to the questions you-all bring
I’d not be tough as brushy outlawed steers!
“It’s a dang sight more romantic in the bunkhouse, snug and warm,
When that winter wind is blowin’ from the Pole
Than the livin’ at the wagon through the same ol’ freezin’ storm
And the call of nature sends you for a stroll!
“The smell of beans and beefsteak born in bilin’ coffee’s breath
Pulls a feller from them soogans, clean and dry,
‘Stead of half-cooked food that drownded so you’ll not git choked to death
As you look around and git to wonderin’ why.
“But I reckon, since you asked me, it’s the challenge that you git
Testin’ what you got for gizzard through the squalls,
And not just nature’s doin’s but the kind that’s stirred a bit
When a cowboy, bronc, or critter starts the brawls.
“Take them fellers that’s a-squattin’ ’round that soggy campfire there,
That big-uns done some time for murder one,
But I’ll guarante you, feller, when you think your flank is bare
You’ll hear his boomin’ laughter through the run.
“The scroungy-lookin’ half-breed kid can ride a bear or lion,
Thought he mostly rides the rough-uns for the boys.
Black Pete would rope the Devil through a stand of burnt-out pine,
And Ol’ Dobb would mark his ears to hear the noise!
“What I’m gettin’ ’round to sayin’ is them boys will back yore play
Though their outside shore ain’t groomed or show-ring slick;
It’s their innards that you count on when you work for puncher’s pay,
And the reason why the wagon makes you stick.”
© 1997, J.B. Allen, used with permission
Texan J.B. Allen was a working cowboy for over three decades. He was a frequent performer at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and also at Nara Visa and other events. His poetry is included in many anthologies and in his own books and recordings. His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.
J.B. Allen’s poetry is featured in a 2017 CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS, along with the work of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens. The compilation includes recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs), with an introduction by Jay Snider.
Andy Hedges, songster and host of COWBOY CROSSROADS comments on the CD, “This album represents four of the finest poets to ever come out of cowboy culture. We are not likely to see their kind again and the world should be grateful to Cowboypoetry.com for preserving their voices.”
MASTERS was offered to rural libraries across the West in the CowboyPoetry.com outreach Rural Library Program, a part of Cowboy Poetry Week. It was also given as a thank-you to our supporters and is available for purchase. Find more about MASTERS here.
Find more about J.B. Allen at CowboyPoetry.com.
This great photograph is by Shannon Keller Rollins, who, with popular chuck wagon cook, poet, storyteller, and television personality Kent Rollins, runs the Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon.
Shannon and Kent take their restored 1876 Studebaker wagon to ranches for spring and fall gatherings, to events, and they also cater weddings and corporate events. They hold a Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon Cooking School each fall; have a regular column in Western Horseman; and have a top-selling cookbook, A Taste of Cowboy.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)