STARTIN’ OUT, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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STARTIN’ OUT
by Bruce Kiskaddon

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

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 (1878-1950) 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 we look forward to having Gail Steiger’s recitation of that poem on the forthcoming multi-disk 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 will contribute and 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.

PULLIN’ LEATHER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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PULLIN’ LEATHER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Yes, a cow boy has his troubles,
and he shore is out of luck,
Out a dozen miles from nowheres
and his hoss begins to buck.
And he picks a place to practice
on some mighty ugly grounds,
For you’d land amongst the cactus
if he ever got you down.

So you aim to keep a straddle
and you’ll ride him if you can,
‘Elst they’ll be a dehorned saddle,
or they’ll be a one armed man.
You don’t look like much vaquero,
he is floppin’ yore shirt tails.
You have lost yore old sombrero
and you’ve broke some finger nails.

People say that pullin’ leather
don’t show ridin’ skill.That’s true.
But you’d like to stick together
till the argyment is through.
When yo’re a slippin’ and a slidin’,
you’ll admit at all events
If it doesn’t show good ridin’
that it shows a heap of sense.

When yo’re throwed it ain’t so pleasant
with a dozen miles to walk.
No there ain’t nobody present,
and the hoss of course cain’t talk.
You are hangin’ on and prayin’.
You ain’t makin’ no grand stand.
You jest aim to keep a stayin’
and you’ll do the best you can.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem and its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951) appeared on the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar in October, 1938, and also in the Western Livestock Journal that year.

Kiskaddon and Field collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal from 1936 to 1942, when she had to stop working to take care of her ailing parents and her children. In 1949 they renewed their partnership. Kiskaddon died in 1950 and had written six-month’s worth of poems in advance. Field illustrated them all before her own death in 1951.The two never met in person.

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.

Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental “Open Range” that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, “Shorty’s Yarns”; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Coming this spring from the BAR-D: A multi-disk CD with over 50 Kiksaddon poems, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of
Bruce Kiskaddon.

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

THE ARMY MULE by by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE ARMY MULE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Sometimes mules got in the army ’cause they’d pulled a wicked trick.
Had some trouble with a feller and the feller he got kicked.
That man’s neighbors joined in singin’, while the parson blessed his soul;
“Shall We Meet Beyond the River Where the Surges Cease to Roll.”

But the mule he liked the army when he got his trainin’ done.
And the soldiers didn’t seem to hold his past against him none.
For the packer and the “Skinner,” take ’em as a general rule,
Has a past a heap more shady than the average army mule.

No they didn’t starve or beat him, and he did his share of work.
They knowed how they ort to treat him and the mule he didn’t shirk
If you know the way to use him he’s a mighty handy tool,
And the people that abused him rank a lot below the mule.

There mebby is a stubborn streak that runs among the breed.
Don’t try to move a wheel mule up and work him in the lead.
That works in both directions and you buck the self same deal
If you try to make the lead mule back and work him on the wheel.

He will keep a heavy wagon movin’ right along the road.
In among the hills and mountains he will pack a heavy load.
He might light out for some reason that you never could explain,
But you’ll find him at the picket line in time to get his grain.

‘Course you have to be admittin’ that a mule has got his tricks.
He ain’t harmless like a kitten, and he means it when he kicks.
But you’ll find him mighty useful, and you’ll find he ain’t no fool,
If you chance to get acquainted with a real old army mule.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Still thinking of veterans, here’s a tribute to the four-legged kind.

“The Army Mule” appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1943 and was included in the 1947 edition Bruce Kiskaddon’s Rhymes of the Ranges.

Western Livestock journalist Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 edition of Rhymes of the Ranges, “Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.”

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.

We are at work on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon. We are honored that Bill Siems will tell about Bruce Kiskaddon in an introduction on the CD. Kay Nowell will recite “The Army Mule.” Stay tuned for more news. The double CD will be released for the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week, April 21-27, 2019.

This undated photo from The Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division is titled, “Pack mule of U.S. Army Signal Corps, used for carrying storage batteries for the field wireless telegraph.”

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

THE DRIFTER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE DRIFTER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I’ll bet there’s some feller you all recollect,
That folks joked and kidded but had to respect.
He’d a soft drawlin’ voice and a daredevil grin,
And was welcome wherever he cared to ride in.

He was careless and rough and a little but dirty.
He had lived several years on the wrong side of thirty.
He wasn’t jest handsome, but wasn’t bad lookin’.
He was handy at carpenterin’, butcherin’, and cookin’.

He could do any thing with an oven or griddle,
And he played a few pretty good tunes on a fiddle.
He could loaf in the shade or could set by the fire
And out talk most any professional liar.

He looked upon life as a sort of a joke.
He didn’t want money, but he never was broke.
But when things got in earnest he shore could talk sense,
And he could shoe horses, mend wagons and fence.

He didn’t mind trouble. He hadn’t a care.
He didn’t work hard, but he shore done his share.
He wouldn’t work steady, but it was a cinch
He never rode off and left friends in a pinch.

A mighty good roper and look out man too.
He could smooth down a bronc quick as most men do.
He wasn’t no scrapper, but if he was right,
He could whip all them fellers that thought they could fight.

If folks didn’t like him, jest let it be known,
And that feller could give ’em a lettin’ alone.
He was most like a doctor, the old timers said.
He helped care fer the sick and to bury the dead.

Now most folks think such a wonderful man
Must have owned lots of cattle or plenty of land.
But all of you cow boys, I needn’t tell you.
He was just some old drifter that all of us knew.

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

In “Open Range,” Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon poems, Kiskaddon’s original preface to “Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems” is included. In it, he comments, in part, “…In 1898 I started riding in Colorado. Since that time I have put in ten or twelve years around horse and cow outfits.

“During the summer of 1922 I was working for G.T. (Tap) Duncan in northwestern Arizona. Sometimes I would parody songs to suit local happenings or write verses and different jingles about what took place on the work…I never really completed grammar school and my powers of imagination are not what some writers are gifted with. So you will find these rhymes are all written from actual happenings or the old legends of cow country…

“Hoping it brings back memories to the old boys and that the younger ones enjoy them.”

Find more about Kiskaddon and more poetry in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This c. 1934 photograph, titled “Working Cowboy,” is from The Library of Congress, originally copyrighted by by McCormick Co., Amarillo, Texas.

Look for our MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD of Kiskaddon poetry in the spring.

This poem and photo are in the public domain.

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

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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 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.

We’re looking forward to bringing you a new recording, MASTERS: Volume Three, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon in 2019. The CD will be offered to rural libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Project, along with the 2019 Western art poster. Find more about the MASTERS recordings here.

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

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

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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-six years ago this month, this poem appeared in the Los Angeles Stockyards calendar.

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.

Western Livestock journalist Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, “Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.”

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.

WHEN YOU CHEEK HIM by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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WHEN YOU CHEEK HIM
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

You caint figger out what a broncho will do
He is bound to start trouble before you git through.
He might rair and fall backwards, and maybe he’ll run,
And maybe he’ll buck like a son of a gun.

Sometimes he may jest go a trottin’ around,
And there’s chances ag’in he might grunt and lay down.
He might go hog wild and shore beller and brawl,
And sometimes he will sulk and he won’t go atall.

You pull up your belt and you pull your hat tight,
Fer it shore sets a feller to thinkin’ allright.
But it isn’t no time to git skeery or weak,
When you grab the old horn and the hacamore cheek.

You make up your mind you will stay there and ride
If he bucks till the brand slips a foot on his hide,
For the worst time in ridin’ a broncho, I’ve found,
Is when your last foot is jest leavin’ the ground.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem appeared in the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar in February, 1936, along with its illustration by Katherine Field (1908- 1951).

According to Bill Siems’ Open Range, which includes almost all of  Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems, Frank M. King wrote an article about Katherine Field in the July 12, 1938 issue of Western Livestock Journal. King tells that she was a “natural,” without any formal training. He also writes of Kiskaddon and calls him a “natural” as well. He comments,
“Bruce is an old cowhand who just naturally thinks in rhymes. He never took no poem lessons, nor for that matter not many of any other sort of lessons, but he’s got ’em all tied to a snubbin’ post when it comes to building cowboy and range poetry…”

Find more about Kiskaddon in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Look for our MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD of Kiskaddon poetry in the spring.

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