ALONE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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photo © 2017, Jessica Hedges; request permission for use

 

ALONE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

The hills git awful quiet, when you have to camp alone.
It’s mighty apt to set a feller thinkin’.
You always half way waken when a hoss shoe hits a stone,
Or you hear the sound of hobble chains a clinkin’.

It is then you know the idees that you really have in mind.
You think about the things you’ve done and said.
And you sometimes change the records that you nearly always find
In the back of almost every cow boy’s head.

It gives a man a sorter different feelin’ in his heart.
And he sometimes gits a little touch of shame,
When he minds the times and places that he didn’t act so smart,
And he knows himself he played a sorry game.

It kinda makes you see yourself through other people’s eyes.
And mebby so yore pride gits quite a fall.
When yore all alone and thinkin’, well, you come to realize
You’re a mighty common feller after all.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area.

This poem appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in September, 1937 and was reprinted in Kiskaddon’s 1947 Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.

As we’ve told many times, 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.

Andy Hedges has an excellent recitation of this poem on the latest episode of Cowboy Crossroads. It accompanies an interview with Hal Cannon, folklorist, musician, and Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center. Hal talks about his earliest experiences with cowboy poetry, the beginnings of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, his music, and more. All of the Cowboy Crossroads podcasts are good listening. Find them here.

Thanks for this recent photo to poet, writer, cowboy, and photographer-with-a-great-eye Jessica Hedges. She and her family live in Southern Oregon where her husband, Sam, cowboys. Just a few places you’ll find Jessica performing her poetry in coming months include the WSRRA Western States Ranch Rodeo Association Finals in Winnemucca, NV, November 2-5, 2017; Cowgirls Night Out at The High Desert Museum in Bend, OR, November 9, 2017; and the Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Sierra Vista, AZ, February 2-4, 2018.

Find more about Jessica at cowboypoetry.com; at her site,  jessicahedgescowboypoetry.com; at Instagram; and on Facebook.

MEMO ON MULES by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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photo ©2017, Sandy Seaton Sallee; request permission for use

MEMO ON MULES
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

There ain’t no use in talkin’,
When a feller rides a mule,
He’s got himself a saddle mount
That’s mighty hard to fool.
Some horses step right in a bog
without a second glance,
But jassacks simply don’t believe
in takin’ any chance.
They’ll fool around a barbed wire fence
the same as horses, but
You purt near never see a mule
that’s got a barbed-wire cut.
You let a horse get to the grain,
he’ll founder on the stuff,
But mules, by instinct, seem to know
when they have had enough.

Some mules will spook and run away,
some throw a buckin’ fit,
But panicky is something that
they seldom ever git,
For when they pull a ruckus,
they are always plumb alert
To see that Mr. Jackass
never winds up gittin’ hurt.

Most cowboys think a jassack
is a plumb disgraceful mount,
And it is true that some of them
ain’t very much account
For anything but harness
or to tote a heavy pack,
And horses have some virtues
that a mule may often lack;
But ol’ Kit Carson rode a mule,
and other pioneers
Sure viewed a heap of country
over some ol’ hard-tail’s ears.
And all of them reported that
upon the longest trail,
The mule was one tough critter
that was never knowed to fail.
He’d stay plumb fat on grass so short
a horse would starve to death.
He never lathered easy
and was seldom short of breath.
Kit claimed his gait was easy
on the rider in the kack,
And that he’d always git you there
and always bring you back.

This ain’t no fancy eulogy
on big-eared saddle mounts,
But some oldtimers rode ’em,
and by most of their accounts
Of jassacks under saddle,
in the smooth or in the rough,
There seems to be some evidence
that mules have got the stuff!

…by S. Omar Barker, from Rawhide Rhymes; used with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman.

It’s told that Barker enjoyed signing his name with his brand, created from his initials and the “S” laid sideways for “Lazy SOB,” but, that’s not a completely accurate story. In an article written by Barker for a March/April 1972 issue of Hoofs and Horns magazine, Barker introduces himself, “…This S.O.B. (my initials, not my ancestry) has never claimed to qualify as a sure ‘nough cowboy.” Later in the article, he comments, “Incidentally, when I applied for (Lazy S O B) for our cattle brand, they wrote back that some other S O B already had it. So we had to be satisfied with (Lazy S B).” (Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing the article, which he received from Vess Quinlan, who received it from Joel Nelson who received it from Kay Kelley Nowell. We are still looking for the date.).

Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

This recent photo, which has had a viral popularity on Facebook, is by poet and wilderness guide Sandy Seaton Sallee, taken of her husband Scott riding a mule and leading 14 more out of their wilderness camp.

Sandy and Scott run Black Mountain Outfitters,  located in the heart of Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and also Slough Creek Outfitters, , offering world-famous Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout fishing. Find more about Sandy Seaton Sallee at blackmountainoutfitters.com and at CowboyPoetry.com.

Enjoy these additional photos from the Sallees:

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photo ©2017, Sandy Seaton Sallee; request permission for use

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photo ©2017, Sandy Seaton Sallee; request permission for use

ssm3

photo ©2017, Sandy Seaton Sallee; request permission for use

ssm4

photo ©2017, Sandy Seaton Sallee; request permission for use

THE HELPMATE by Yvonne Hollenbeck

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THE HELPMATE
by Yvonne Hollenbeck

You say I look disgusted
but you took me by surprise,
and I suppose there was resentment
coming from my eyes.

Since that hired man left us
I’ve been more than just his wife;
I’m the helper by his side
as he continues ranching life.

I get the gates and scoop the bunks
and help with feeding hay,
and that is just the start
of all the jobs I do each day.

I’m right there for the calving
and I help with all the chores,
then try to catch my work up
when I get some time indoors.

You see, I run and jump
each time he gives a little yelp,
and it galls me that you ask
how he is doing “with no help.”

© 2014, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Yvonne Hollenbeck is cowboy poetry’s most visible ranch wife, and her life gives her endless material. She is a sought-after performer at Western events, for her poetry and for her traveling program that includes the works of the five generations of quiltmakers in her family. She is a champion quilter.

Yvonne and and her husband Glen, a champion calf-roper, raise cattle and quarter horses on their ranch in Clearfield, South Dakota.

In fairness to Glen, the poem came about after he told Yvonne about someone who, even after Glen had said Yvonne was helping out, went on to ask how he did everything “with no help.”

This poem is in Yvonne Hollenbeck’s recent book, Rhyming the Range, which collects her original poems about her life on the ranch. The book includes the most requested poems from her two out-of-print books and all of her newest poetry. She also has a CD by the same name that includes many of those poems.

Next month, Yvonne heads to the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering & Western Swing Festival, October 27-29, 2017 at the Forth Worth Stockyards National Historic District. Events include a ranch rodeo, invitational team roping, chuck wagon competition, wagon train/trail ride, and much more. Yvonne joins other poets and musicians, including Don Edwards, Jay Snider, Jean Prescott, Chris Isaacs, Dan Roberts, “Straw” Berry, Mikki Daniel, Bobby Flores, Kristyn Harris, Jake Hooker, Leon Rausch, Hailey Sandoz, and of course, the great Red Steagall.

Find more about the event at redsteagallcowboygathering.com and on Facebook.

This photo, by Yvonne Hollenbeck, was taken last spring at the Hollenbeck ranch.

Find more of Yvonne Hollenbeck’s poetry at CowboyPoetry.com  and visit YvonneHollenbeck.com.

DUNDER DEFINING by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

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© 1993, Kent Reeves; request permission for use

 

DUNDER DEFINING
by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

(Being a one-sided conversation with the Kid about his daddy)

“Yeah he’d be called a ‘daisy hand’
If this was bygone days
Before the meanings changed their names
And cowboys changed their ways.

“Those punchers out of real old rock
And of the long, long shadow,
Those graduates of the camp and trail
Who shunned the fenced-in meadow

“When all the range was grass-side up
And all the cows wore horns—
They’d call your dad a ‘ranahan’
Well to the leather born.”

Old Dunder, augering the Kid,
Was brushing on the paint
In strokes that made the Fiddle look
A downright cowboy saint.

He paused, and then commenced to rake
His hand across his whiskers,
But realized that rasp he grew
Might raise some awful blisters.

He soothed his palm upon his knee
And gazed the air a hole
And gave the Kid the look that showed
The secrets of his soul.

“You set out definin’ you’re ridin’ for boggin’—
There’s not a pure way to describe
The reason and rhyme of the cowpuncher callin’,
The jist of the cowpucher tribe.

“But say we start up with an idy of Santee—
Like Russell, a cowpuncher saint—
The best you can say is, he’s good to his horses,
The worst you can say is, he ain’t.

The kind out of old rock and of the long shadow—
Your daddy is of the same leather—
You’d say of his makin’s his water runs deep,
And he’d do with to ride the wild river.

“You can’t call his rank by the crease of his hat,
By his get-up, now matter how fine.
You go by the moves that he makes on his horse—
Is he in the right place the right time?

He knows what the mother cow says to her calf,
He’s a regular Webster on cattle,
He hears what the wind says and listens to grass—
He’s plumb simply at home in the saddle.”

© Buck Ramsey, used with permission
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Buck Ramsey’s friend, rancher and poet Darin Brookman, has written,”Buck Ramsey was a cowboy, musician, poet and historian. He had a definite opinion on most subjects and a gentle nature that made you want to hear them. In the ranks of cowboy poets and singers, he was our leader and our conscience.” Hal Cannon, Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center, named Buck Ramsey cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader.”

A biography at the National Endowments for the Arts tells about the accident, when he was just 25 years old, that confined him to a wheelchair. They write that Buck Ramsey, “…worked as a cowboy and rough rider on the big ranches along the Canadian River. In 1963, while he was working on the Alibates Division of the Coldwater Cattle Company, a bit shank snapped and the spoiled horse Ramsey was riding threw him to the ground. What he later called ‘just landing wrong’ left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.”

His life and art continue to inspire and his work continues to be recited, sung, and celebrated. Buck Ramsey was a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow. His recordings were awarded two Western Heritage Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Andy Hedges has a fine recitation of this poem in the current episode of his COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast. His guest, Chuck Hawthorne, has some Buck Ramsey
stories.

Find more about Buck Ramsey on Facebook at the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page,
and in features at CowboyPoetry.com, which includes poetry, reminiscences, and more.

This photograph of Buck Ramsey is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist & Photographer. It appeared in the landmark book, Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves. This photograph, made in the spring of 1993, shows Buck Ramsey visiting the one-room school house he attended as a boy.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com; his site,
cowboyconservation.com; and on Facebook.

Thanks to Bette Ramsey for her generous permission.

THE GOOD OLD COWBOY DAYS by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922)

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THE GOOD OLD COWBOY DAYS
by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922)

My fancy drifts as often, through the murky, misty maze
Of the past—to other seasons—to the good old cowboy days,
When the grass wuz green an’ wavin’ an’ the skies wuz soft and blue,
And the men were brave an’ loyal, and the women fair an’ true!
The old-time cowboy—here’s to him, from hired hand to boss!
His soul wuz free from envy and his heart wuz free from dross,
An’ deep within his nature, which wuz rugged, high and bold,
There ran a vein uv metal, and the metal, men, wuz, gold!

He’d stand up—drunk or sober—’gin a thousand fer his rights;
He’d sometimes close an argument by shootin’ out the lights;
An’ when there was a killin’, by the quickest on the draw,
He wern’t disposed to quibble ’bout the majesty uv law,
But a thief—a low down villain—why, he had no use for him
An’ wuz mighty apt to leave ‘im danglin’ from a handy limb.
He wuz heeled and allers ready—quick with pistol or with knife,
But he never shirked a danger or a duty in his life!

An’ at a tale uv sorrow or uv innocence beguiled
His heart wuz just as tender as the heart uv any child.
An’ woman—aye, her honor wuz a sacred thing; and hence
He threw his arms around her—in a figurative sense.
His home wuz yours, where’er it wuz, an’ open stood the door,
Whose hinges never closed upon the needy or the poor;
An’ high or low—it mattered not—the time, if night or day,
The stranger found a welcome just as long as he would stay.

Wuz honest to the marrow, and his bond wuz in his word.
He paid for every critter that he cut into his herd;
An’ take your note because he loaned a friend a little pelf?
No, sir, indeed! He thought you wuz as worthy as himself.
An’ when you came and paid it back, as proper wuz an’ meet,
You trod upon forbidden ground to ask for a receipt.
In former case you paid the debt (there weren’t no intres’ due),
An’ in the latter—chances wuz he’d put a hole through you!

The old-time cowboy had ‘is faults; ’tis true, as has been said,
He’d look upon the licker when the licker, men, wuz red;
His language weren’t allers spoke accordin’ to the rule;
Nor wuz it sech as ye’d expect to hear at Sunday school.
But when he went to meetin’, men, he didn’t yawn or doze,
Nor set there takin’ notice of the congregation’s clothes.
He listened to the preacher with respect, an’ all o’ that,
An’ he never failed to ante when they passed aroun’ the hat!

I call to mind the tournament, an’ then the ball at night;
Of how old Porter drawed the bow and sawed with all his might;
Of how they’d dance—the boys an’ girls; an’ how that one wuz there
With rosy cheeks, an’ hazel eyes, an’ golden, curly hair;
An’ I—but here I’m techin’ on a mighty tender spot;
That boyhood love, at this late day, had better be forgot;
But still at times my heart goes back agin’ and fondly strays
Amidst those dear remembered scenes—the good old cowboy days!

The old-time cowboy wuz a man all over! Hear me, men!
I somehow kinder figger we’ll not see his like agin.
The few that’s left are older now; their hair is mostly white;
Their forms are not so active, and their eyes are not so bright
As when the grass wuz wavin’ green, the skies wuz soft an’ blue,
An’ men were brave, an’ loyal, and the women fair an’ true,
An’ the land wuz filled with plenty, an the range wuz free to graze,
An’ all rode as brothers—in the good old cowboy days.

…by Luther A. Lawhon from “The Trail Drivers of Texas”

Those fortunate enough to have have heard Oklahoma rancher and poet Jay Snider’s (jaysnider.net) recitation of “The Good Old Cowboy Days” on his CD, The Old Tried and True or at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo or the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering or the Westernfolklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering or other events have experienced a fine performance of a little-heard poem. Jay Snider brought the poem to our attention, and he recites on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three and it is included on Volume Ten “best-of-the-best” double CD.

Listen to Jay Snider recite the poem on YouTube.

The poem was written by Luther A. Lawhon and is included in The Trail Drivers of Texas, a book best described by its subtitle, “Interesting Sketches of Early Cowboys and Their Experiences on the Range and on the Trail during the Days that Tried Men’s Souls—True Narratives Related by Real Cowpunchers and Men Who Fathered the Cattle Industry in Texas.”

Lawhon worked in newspapers and was involved in local politics, as a congressional candidate.

The book, with over a thousand pages, was originally published by the Old Time Trail Driver’s Association, where Lawhon served as Secretary. An article by Lawhon, “The Men Who Made the Trail,” is also included in the book.

There were at least four editions of the book published before a 1925 edition that was reprinted in 1992 by the University of Texas Press and includes an introduction by B. Byron Price and a full index. The early editions of the book are rare, as are copies of Lawhon’s other collections, which include Songs and Satires (1901) and Cactus Blossoms (1905).

Read more about the University of Texas edition of The Trail Drivers of Texas, and read B. Byron Price’s introduction and view the table of contents at the university’s site.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee 1903-1986 is titled, “Old-time trail driver in front of kitchen cabinet. Crystal City, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. Find more about it here. There are other photos of the same man, and the captions note that he lives “…alone in quarters furnished by the town. He also receives sustenance from town. He is an old-time trail driver.”

Find a feature about noted photographer Russell Lee and a gallery of photographs from the University of Texas at Austin.

National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo 2017, August 3-5, 2017, Abilene, Kansas

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From the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo (NCPR):

It’s not too late to put the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo on your calendar. We still have a few spots open in the competition—so visit the website at ncpr.us for rules and entry forms and join us August 3rd after the parade at the Shockey and Landes Building, Abilene, Kansas, for our annual get-together and open mic event.

Then Friday and Saturday mornings until we are done, we start in with the cowboy poetry rodeo competition with free admission. On Saturday afternoon, August 6, 2016, at 4:00 p.m., get your tickets to the Matinee show where the winners will be crowned and perform their winning poetry followed by the Chisholm Trail Western Music Show with Geff Dawson and Cowboy Friends. For more information, visit our web site at ncpr.us. Tickets available online.

Take time to see all the sights in Abilene and the area while you are in Kansas. You can see one of the biggest free fairs and rodeo in the Midwest, the Central Kansas Free Fair and Wild Bill Hickok PRCA Rodeo while you are there, plus many, many more attractions. Some of our contestants and judges will be performing during the rodeo each night so don’t miss it!

Don’t miss eating at the Brookeville Hotel where they serve family-style fried chicken dinners. If you would like to come as a contestant or a spectator, contact Geff Dawson, geff.b@ranchcowboy.com or call 785-456-4494 and we will get you hooked up. You’re not going to want to miss this event. We have several special guests coming to judge and entertain, and contestants can win thousands of dollars and prizes. Entries are open now.

Many poets who have participated in the NCPR have had high praise for the experience, including Yvonne Hollenbeck, Doris Daley, Linda Kirkpatrick, DW Groethe, Janice Gilbertson, Andy Nelson, the late Pat Richardson, and others. A celebration of “excellence through competition,” many lasting friendships are made at the NCPR.

Find more about the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo on Facebook; at CowboyPoetry.com; and at the NCPR web site, ncpr.us.

This photo shows the 2016 contestants and judges.

 

MY GRANDKIDS by Bryce Angell

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MY GRANDKIDS
by Bryce Angell

My grandkids are my pride and joy.   They’re growing up too fast.    Their presence touches my old heart.  I wish this time could last.

As each was born into our clan, more proud, I couldn’t be.  I hoped they’d grow up good and kind and want to be like me.

I grew up as a cowboy and rode horses every day.  It’s what my family did for work and what we did for play.

But when I put them on my horse, their eyes grew wide with fear.  They tried it just to please me, but made their feelings clear.

I’ve watched them bounce a basketball, play soccer all day long.  A cowboy hat they will not wear.  Each says it just feels wrong.

The other day one told me he thinks golfing’s kinda cool.    Do I have the nerve to tell him?  We call it pasture pool.

His dad bought him some new golf clubs.  My grandson’s joy was loud.  When I see him golfing with his dad, I couldn’t be more proud.

I’ll learn to swing a club, I guess, if that’s what it will take.  I’ve swung an ax for sixty years and that’s a piece of cake.

I understand that cowboy boots are taboo on the green.  And me in yellow golfing shorts?  That could be called obscene.

My legs are bowed and show the wear from sitting in the saddle and hanging on for my dear life while cutting out the cattle.

Do any cowboys play this game?  Some prob’ly do somewhere, but I think I’ve talked myself right out of golfing anywhere.

Could they use a golf cart driver?  I’d sit behind the wheel.  Just to be there near my grandkids, for me would be ideal.

But, no matter if they’re at my side or with the golfing crowd, my grandkids are the world to me.  I couldn’t be more proud.

© 2016, Bryce Angell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Bryce Angell comments on the poem:

Most of my grandchildren are living in urban areas.  Golfing, and such, is even taught in their schools.  They don’t have the opportunity to be around horses or animals.  I do go golfing with them and my own sons and yes I am the cart driver.  Nothing pleases me more than to have a grandchild snuggle up to me at anytime.  If they want to golf I’m all for it, just as long as I’m included.


About Bryce Angell (from CowboyPoetry.com, 2015)
:

I was raised on a ranch/farm. My father was an outfitter, therefore we had many horses. At the age of seventeen I became my father’s farrier. You know the rest of that story.

Now at age sixty, two horses are still a major part of my life with rides into the Tetons, Yellowstone and surrounding areas.