STARTIN’ OUT, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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STARTIN’ OUT
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When you have to start out on a cold winter day
The wind blowin’ cold and the sky is dull gray.
You blow on the bit till you take out the frost,
Then you put on the bridle and saddle yore hoss.

He squats and he shivers. He blows through his nose.
The blanket is stiff for the sweat is shore froze.
Then you pick up yore saddle and swing it up high,
Till the stirrups and cinches and latigoes fly.

The pony he flinches and draws down his rump.
There’s a chance he might kick, and he’s likely to jump.
He rolls his eye at you and shivers like jelly
When you pull that old frozen cinch up on his belly.

It is cold on his back and yore freezin’ yore feet,
And you’ll likely find out when you light on yore seat,
That you ain’t got no tropical place fer to set.
It is likey the saddle aint none overhet.

But a cow boy don’t pay no attention to weather.
He gits out of his bed and gits into the leather.
In the winter it’s mighty onpleasant to ride,
But that’s just the time when he’s needed outside.

…by Bruce Kisaddon

More than seventy-five years ago, Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem appeared in the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar.

As mentioned with previously-posted calendar poems: From 1936 through 1942, poet Bruce Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal.

In 1939, Frank M. King, editor of the Western Livestock Journal, wrote,  “…Sometimes Bruce’s poems are mailed up there to Katherine in her mountain home, and pretty soon it comes back with a drawing that just fits the poem. Then for a change she sends her drawings over here to Los Angeles and Bruce squints them eyes over ’em that he used to use for spying out long eared calves up there on them Colorado and Arizona mountain ranges, and in a right short time he comes out with one of them poems that exactly matches the picture, so they make a good team for matching up pictures and poems.”

The two never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Kiskaddon has another poem that is also named “Starting Out,” and  Gail Steiger recitest it on this year’s triple-disc CD from CowboyPoetry.com, with over 50 Kiksaddon poems, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon. Bill Siems contributes an introduction and a recitation of his own.

This poem is in the public domain and the illustration comes from our collection of Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar pages.

THEY CAN TAKE IT, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THEY CAN TAKE IT
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Yes, it’s just a bunch of hosses
standin’ out there in the rain.
The reason they are doin’ it
is easy to explain.
There is no shelter handy,
so to travel ain’t no good;
And they wouldn’t go into a barn,
not even if they could.

It is just a little weather,
and they’re plenty used to that.
Like a cow boy in the open,
livin’ onderneath his hat.
All the hosses and the people
that has lived their life outside,
Seems to have a constitution
that can take it on the hide.

Without a bit of thinkin’
I could tell you right from here,
Of hosses livin’ on the range
as long as thirty year.
While the hosses that’s in stables,
and was always roofed and fed,
Lots of them before they’re twenty,
has been hauled off plenty dead.

So it seems the way with people,
and it seems the way with stock,
And the cedar grows the toughest
when it’s right amongst the rocks.
That’s why hosses, men, and women,
if they’re made of proper stuff,
Gits along a whole lot better
if they’re raised a little rough.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

 

Seventy-seven years ago, this poem appeared in the Los Angeles Stockyards calendar.

The great Baxter Black recites the poem on this year’s triple CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon  (think Christmas giving).

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From 1935 through 1942, poet Bruce Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. The two never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This poem is in the public domain. The calendar page is from the BAR-D collection.

AFTER THE FALL ROUNDUP by Bruce Kiskaddon

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AFTER THE FALL ROUNDUP
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Now the summer work is over and the wagon’s pullin’ in,
And we’ve said good bye to fellers that we mightn’t see agin,
Fer a cow boy don’t write letters so we mighty soon lose track
Of the boys that stops and works a while and never does come back.

When yore clothes is soter tattered and yore hat brim sags and flops,
And yore boots is wore and battered, them that had the fancy tops,
When the owners and the bosses and the hands is most all in.
And them strings of summer hosses is slowed up and lookin’ thin.

When them thin clouds start a trailin through the soft and pleasant sky,
And you watch old buzzard sailin’ soter useless way up high,
And it makes the toughest cow boy soter study after all,
When he’s draggin’ with the wagon to the home ranch in the fall.

Fer he caint help but remember that most cow boys don’t git old
And he’ll git to one November when he caint stand work and cold;
He shore knows that he’ll be sorry when he gits like you and me;
Jest an old man tellin’ stories ’bout how good he used to be.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, 1933

This poem is of course reminiscent of Kiskaddon’s masterpiece, “When They Finish Shipping Cattle in the Fall,” which was one of his earliest published poems, appearing in his 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges.

This image is an original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page from 86 years ago, November, 1933. “After the Fall Roundup” was also included in Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.

Poet Bruce Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. The two never met in person.

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns.

Find more at cowboypoetry.com.

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Popular colorado poet and rancher Floyd Beard recites this poem on the recent 3-cd MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon.  You can see Floyd at the Western Slope Cowboy Gathering​, November 1-2, 2019, in Grand Junction, Colorado, presented by the Museums of Western Colorado​. Other performers include Terry Nash​, Peggy Malone​, Bill Clark, Jean Prescott​, Gary Prescott​, Valerie Beard​, Floyd Beard​, Dale Burson​, Dale Page​, Dennis Russell Nazelrod​, Rocky Sullivan​, and Rod Taylor.

(This poem is the public domain. The calendar page is from the BAR-D collection.)

THE MAN ON THE FENCE, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE MAN ON THE FENCE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There’s a man that I would speak about, you see him every where.
He puts out conversations till he mangles up the air;
No matter what the subject is his idees are immense.
But he don’t go into action. He’s the man that’s on the fence.

When the owners ship out cattle they have all that they can do.
The buyers and the waddies they are mighty busy too.
Who explains the situation to a bunch of idle gents?
I needn’t tell no body, it’s the feller on the fence.

Who is that can tell you how a bronco should be rode?
Who is it laughs the loudest at a feller when he’s throwed?
Who tries to be sarcastic when he makes his wise comments?
Whose pants is full of splinters? It’s the man that’s on the fence.

Who is it puts a swagger on but never gits in trouble?
If he ever gits in danger who can vanish like a bubble?
Who can tell about a battle till he holds the crowd plum tense?
Though perhaps he’s never seen it; it’s the feller on the fence.

Who hollers at old timers as if they were his pals?
Who has set and spurred the splinters from a hundred odd corrals?
Who has spurred the gates and fence rails till the boys all know the dents?
It’s the man that’s always present. It’s the feller on the fence.

No, he ain’t no use fer nothin’ and he sure does eat a lot.
And he does a heap of talkin’ that would get a real man shot.
But the outfit tolerates him though he ain’t worth thirty cents,
Fer he’s really right amusin’ that there fellow on the fence.

And it helps an honest waddy when he’s done his best and failed;
Just to stop and look and listen at the feller on the rail.
Fer he knows down in his gizzard, if he’s got an ounce of sense,
That he’s done a durned sight better than the man that’s on the fence.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, from “Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems,” 1947

Bill Siems recites this poem on the 3-CD collection, MASTERS: Volume Three, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon.

Siems collected most of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems in “Open Range,” and he collected many great Kiksaddon short stories in “Shorty’s Yarns.” In the latter, he quotes Kiskaddon from his autobiography:

“[Tap Duncan’s Diamond Bar, 1922 -1924] was my last job with a cow outfit. My eyes were bothering me and I was getting gray. In short I found out I wasn’t young any more. Punching cattle in a rough country is not an old man’s job. That is if he really gets in and makes a hand. As you get older a bucking horse can outguess you mighty quick. You are not so active if you get a horse jerked down, or if one falls with you it stoves you up a heap worse than it did years ago. And you don’t go down a rope to many big calves before you get that all gone feeling, especially if you are about five feet five.

“But I still like the smell of a camp fire and like to hear the creak of saddle leather and the rattle of spurs. And I like the smell of cows. Yes even if I can tell there have been cows in the drinking water, it don’t bother me much if the mixture ain’t too strong.”

Find information about Kiskaddon, many poems, and information about both of Bill Siems’ books in our Kiskaddon features at cowboypoetry.com.

This 1939 photograph, “Cowboys sitting on corral fence. Roundup near Marfa, Texas,” by Russell Lee (1903-1986), is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Find a feature about noted photographer and teacher Russell Lee with a gallery of photographs from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

THE SUMMER STORM, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE SUMMER STORM
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

The clouds are a comin’ down over the flat,
The lightnin’ is startin’ to flicker.
It is time fer a cow boy to pull down his hat
And git buttoned up in his slicker.

The lightnin’ is shootin’ jest flash after flash,
The wind is a howlin’ and roarin’,
The thunder it shakes the whole earth with a crash
And the rain it comes down jest a pourin’.

The cattle have started to runnin’, the brutes,
Jest hark to ’em rattle their hocks.
The water comes in at the tops of yore boots,
You can feel it a soakin’ yore socks.

The boys is all busy and goin’ full speed,
They are tryin’ to git the steers millin’.
They git to the front and keep bendin’ the lead
To hold the whole shipment from spillin’.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1936

This poem, illustrated by Katherine Field (1908-1951), first appeared in 1936 in the Western Livestock Journal and on the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar.

Kiskaddon drew on his cowboying experience for his poetry.

As we’ve noted before:

As Bill Siems writes in his landmark book, Open Range, a monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry, “Western Livestock Journal was one of several interacting businesses clustered around the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards, all engaged in the raising, marketing, and processing of livestock. Almost as soon as the Journal started publishing illustrated poems, the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards began issuing its own series, featuring an illustrated poem and calendar printed on five by ten inch card stock, enclosed with its Monthly Livestock Letter. Beginning with January 1933, these monthly calendars continued in an unbroken series through 1959, using reissued poems after the deaths of Kiskaddon and Field.”

Kiskaddon and Katherine Field never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at cowboypoetry.com.

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In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems introduces Bruce Kiskaddon’s life and work. The poetry begins with some of the best known of Kiskaddon’s reflective poems, with a look backward to “when cattle were plenty and men were few.” Poems that follow are about cowboys and men, work, cattle, horses (and one mule), heavenly concerns, old-time life, quirky characters, gear, a ghost tale, and some Christmas poems.

Among the voices are Randy Rieman, Jay Snider, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Trey Allen, Floyd Beard, Ol’ Jim Cathey, Rod Miller, Ken Cook, Ross Knox, Chris Isaacs, Dennis Russell Nazelrod, Jerry Brooks, Gail Steiger, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Jessica Hedges, Robert Dennis, Valerie Beard, Keith Ward, John Reedy, Baxter Black, J.B. Allen, Brigid Reedy, Jesse Smith, Duane Nelson, Kathy Moss, Susie Knight, Kay Nowell, Tom Swearingen, Dick Morton, DW Groethe, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Dale Page, Almeda Bradshaw, Smoke Wade, Sunny Hancock, Jarle Kvale, Johnny Reedy, Rusty McCall, Dave McCall, Terry Nash, and Rex Rideout. Musician and top sound engineer Butch Hause offers a colorful radio PSA for the Center and Cowboy Poetry Week.

CDs are offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program, given to the Center’s donors, and available for sale. Find more about the CD here.

This poem is in the public domain. The illustration is from the CowboyPoetry.com calendar collection.

SUMMER TIME by Bruce Kiskaddon

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SUMMER TIME
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There’s a heap of times when ridin’
after cattle shore is tough.
When every thing is goin’ wrong,
or else the weather’s rough.
The whole world seems ag’in you.
You can do yore level best,
But you ain’t a gittin’ nowheres
and yore nearly dead for rest.

But it’s purty in the summer
when yore ridin’ through the hills.
Where the tall green grass is growin’
and the air is soft and still.
Cows and calves is fat and gentle.
They jest look at you and stare.
You can hear the little insecks
go a buzzin’ in the air.

You may run onto some places
that is mighty steep to climb,
But you ain’t in any hurry,
and you give the hoss his time.
You figger that it ain’t so bad,
a bein’ a cow poke,
And you feel so plum contented
you don’t even want to smoke.

No, a cow boy’s life ain’t easy
when you git it figgered down.
He don’t have a lot of comforts
that the people have in town.
But he don’t deserve no sympathy
fer how his life is spent.
Fer there’s times he’s jest a bathin’
in a ocean of content.

There is nothin’ there to bother him,
he doesn’t have to hurry.
He is doin’ what he wants to do,
he isn’t in a hurry.
Yes, it pays up fer the frost bites,
all the falls and all the spills,
On them lovely days in summer
when he’s ridin’ in the hills.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

The poem and its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951) appeared on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar in November, 1942, and also in the Western Livestock Journal that year.

Bruce Kiskaddon’s ten years of cowboying informs many of his works. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems introduces Bruce Kiskaddon’s life and work. The poetry begins with some of the best known of Kiskaddon’s reflective poems, with look backward to “when cattle were plenty and men were few.” Poems that follow are about cowboys and men, work, cattle, horses (and one mule), heavenly concerns, old-time life, quirky characters, gear, a ghost tale, and some Christmas poems.

Among the voices are Randy Rieman, Jay Snider, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Trey Allen, Floyd Beard, Ol Jim Cathey, Rod Miller, Ken Cook, Ross Knox, Chris Isaacs, Dennis Russell Nazelrod, Jerry Brooks, Gail Steiger, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Amy Hale Steiger, Jessica Hedges, Robert Dennis, Valerie Beard, Keith Ward, John Reedy Baxter Black, J.B. Allen, Brigid Reedy, Jesse Smith, Duane Nelson, Kathy Moss, Susie Knight, Kay Nowell, Tom Swearingen, Dick Morton, DW Groethe, Waddie Mitchell, Andy Nelson, Dale Page, Almeda Bradshaw, Smoke Wade, Sunny Hancock, Jarle Kvale, Johnny Reedy, Rusty McCall, Dave McCall, Terry Nash, and Rex Rideout. Musician and top sound engineer Butch Hause offers a colorful radio PSA for the Center and Cowboy Poetry Week.

CDs are offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s “Rural Library Program, given to the Center’s donors, and available for sale. Find more about the CD here.

This image is from the CowboyPoetry.com collection of Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendars. Cattle prices are given on the back of the calendar page, which includes, “Range cows of common and medium quality are selling at $8.75 to $10.50 …. Bulls continue in fairly good demand at $10 to $11…”

(This poem is in the public domain.)

PROLAPSE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON by Baxter Black

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PROLAPSE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON
by Baxter Black

It came from outta nowhere,
like a prolapse in the night.
Which, in fact is what it was, my friends,
the cow vet’s scourge and plight.
That pudgy pink projectile
from those monster movie scenes
Like some whopping giant burrito
filled with attitude and beans.

I was soon laid down behind it
on a hillside in the muck
While the cowboy shined his high beams
from his perch there in the truck.
His rope stretched from the bumper
to her front legs tied in haste.
As I wallowed in the darkness
like a frog, stripped to the waist.

It was bigger than a tree trunk.
It was slick as old chow mein.
It was heavy as a carpet
someone left out in the rain.
I tried to gain some purchase
as I pressed my fist in tight,
It was thrashing like a porpoise
and was putting up a fight.

I got it in a hammerlock.
It was like a rabid dog.
I wrapped my legs around it
like a monkey on a log.
I pushed until my shoulder
disappeared inside the mass
As I scrambled for a foothold
in the mud and frozen grass.

But alas, with one huge effort
she expelled me from her grip.
I shot out like a cannon,
rolled and did a double flip.
But I grabbed her tail in passing
and with strength born out of war,
I dove at the appendage
like some punch drunk matador.

I lifted her hind quarters,
and I swung her side to side,
Then, like smart men do,
I used my head to push it back inside!
It was dark there for a second,
it was hard to catch my breath
But there she lay, my patient
I had saved from certain death.

The cowboy rolled his window down, said,
“Doc, are you alright?”
He gunned the engine several times.
The headlights got real bright.
“I’ve seen a prolapse done before
but never quite like that!”
“Oh, they taught us that in vet school…
But I think it ate my hat.”

© Baxter Black, used with permission

You must watch Baxter Black performing this poem. Find one video from the Heber Valley Music and Cowboy Gathering and another video here.

Poet and writer Rod Miller, in “Fine Lines and Wrinkles,” an essay at CowboyPoetry.com, writes, “Alliteration, assonance, consonance, and a completely off-kilter view of the world are apparent in these fine, wrinkled lines from ‘Prolapse from the Black Lagoon’ by Baxter Black. (Note that even his name uses alliteration and assonance.)”

In his official bio, where he is described as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses,” Baxter Black comments, “My audience is my inspiration. Every cowboy, rancher, vet, farmer, feed salesman, ag teacher, cowman and rodeo hand has a story to tell, and they tell it to me. I Baxterize it and tell it back to ‘em! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

He recites Bruce Kiskaddon’s “They Can Take It” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD from CowboyPoetry.com and S. Omar Barker’s “Cowboy Saying” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO.

This message comes from Baxter’s office, a policy announcement:

Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit.”

His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”

This version of “Prolapse from the Black Lagoon” comes from Poems Worth Saving, Baxter Black’s 2013 collection of 164 poems and stories. Find more about Baxter Black at CowboyPoetry.com,  on Facebook; and find much more, including a weekly column, at
BaxterBlack.com.

This photograph is courtesy of Baxter Black.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but request permission for any other use—except recitation.)