A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA, by Al “Doc” Mehl

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A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA
by Al “Doc Mehl

There’s a quilt in north Nebraska,
That’s been sewn into the land;
Rolling grass fields are the fabric,
And the batting’s made of sand.

It’s been trimmed at the horizon
Where it’s pinned against the sky;
Ev’ry stock tank is a button,
Ev’ry windmill is a tie.

And the runs of old barb’d wire,
They are the braided threads with which
Nimble fingers sew a pattern;
Ev’ry fence post is a stitch.

Each square tells a family’s story,
Sewn inside a bound’ry fence;
That quilt chronicles a his’try
’Bout the trials of sustenance.

Formed of fabric from those lives,
That quilt will shield us from the storm;
Daytime’s tapestry breathes beauty,
Come the night, ’twill keep us warm.

Pieced a broad mosaic patchwork,
’Tis a blend of life and line;
I should think that some great spirit
Had a hand in the design.

Most folks picture the Almighty
In the image of a man.
But if judging by that quilt,
I’d say God has a woman’s hands.

© 2008, Al “Doc” Mehl, used with permission

 

Poet, songwriter, and musician Al “Doc” Mehl told us about this poem soon after it was written, and he illustrates relationships among poets:

Several years ago as I was driving into the Sand Hill country of Nebraska to perform at Old West Days in Valentine, I couldn’t help thinking of the finely detailed quilting of good friend and accomplished poet Yvonne Hollenbeck ([a Nebraska native] who lives nearby just across the state line in South Dakota). The rolling grass covered hills of this uniquely beautiful countryside reminded me of Yvonne’s billowy bed-cover creations, and an idea for a poem began to take shape.

As it turns out, a few scribbles on a loose scrap of paper were all that survived that original inspiration, and the cryptic notes languished in a “poems-in-progress” file until recently… Jane Morton was kind enough to present me with a copy of her latest CD titled Turning to Face the Wind. Listening to her recording, I was inspired to revisit my own quilting-poem idea by Jane’s somber poem, “Summer ’34.” In this piece, Jane describes her mother taking up the art of piecing a quilt to combat the loneliness she felt living out on the eastern plains of Colorado. I can still hear Jane’s voice: ‘Mom pieced and pieced and pieced some more, that summer ’34; My mother was expecting, and the wind blew evermore.’

I pulled my former notes from the file that evening, and it seems the original idea had finally come of age; the poem about the Sand Hill country flowed out onto the page.

Doc also shared this photo, which he says was, “…taken by me in the Sand Hills of Nebraska on the ranch where poet Marty Blocker was working at the time.

The happy couple of Doc Mehl and Doris Daley live in Black Diamond, Alberta. They’ll both be at the Bar U Ranch in Southern Alberta on July 1, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering (Prescott, Arizona, August 9-11) and at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering (Heber City, Utah, October 25-28).

At the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Doris Daley and Doc Mehl will join Gary Allegretto, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Marleen Bussma, Don Cadden, Dean Cook, Kevin Davis, Sam DeLeeuw, Mike Dunn, Thatch Elmer, Don Fernwalt, Linda Lee Filener, Pipp Gillette, Amy Hale Auker, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Al “Doc” Mehl, Mike Moutoux, Mark Munzert, Old Time Fiddlers, Jay Parson, Jean Prescott & Gary Prescott, Dennis Russell, Rusty Pistols Reloaded, Buck Ryberg, Jim & Nancy Sober, Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, and Barry Ward. Find more at azcowboypoets.org.

Performers at the Heber Valley Cowboy Music and Poet Gathering are Dave Stamey, Waddie Mitchell, Gary McMahan, Andy Nelson, Randy Rieman, Brenn Hill, Doris Daley, Al “Doc” Mehl, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Randy Huston, Trinity Seely, Kenny Hall, Jeff Carson, High Country Cowboys, Ryan Fritz, John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, Max T. Barnes, Hot Club of Cowtown, Jack Hannah, Ed Peekeekoot, Dyer Highway, Many Strings, Stacy Despain, Nancy Elliott, Charley Jenkins Band, Stewart MacDougall, In Cahoots, Kristen J. Lloyd, and the Heber Valley Orchestra. Find more at hebervalleycowboypoetry.com.

Also find Doc at other venues, including the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Durango, Colorado, October 4-7) where he’ll join Dave Stamey, Jay Snider, Floyd Beard, Curt Brummett, Kristyn Harris, Sam Noble,Ken Overcast, The High Country Cowboys, Vic Anderson, Sally Bates, Colt Blankman, Jack Blease, Rick Buoy, Patty Clayton, The Cowboy Way, Sam DeLeeuw, Thatch Elmer, Nolan King, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Susie Knight, Maria McArthur, Slim McWilliams, Gary Penney, Hailey Sandoz, Lindy Simmons, Gail Starr, Washtub Jerry, Cora Rose Wood, and Laurie Wood. Find more at www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org.

You can even catch Doc playing cello with the “new-grass” group “Highwood;” watch for dates on Doc’s website, DocMehl.com

(Please respect copyright: You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)

 

THE BUYER’S TYPE, by Floyd Beard

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THE BUYER’S TYPE
by Floyd Beard

I’m standing here pushing up a steer,
as I load the truck today.
Looks thick and fat from where I’m at,
as I send him on his way.

Yell out your bid, or wave your lid
as you catch the auctioneer’s cry.
Run up his price, you know he’s nice,
let ‘em know you want to buy!

You hope each spring that your cow’ll bring,
a calf of the buyers’ type.
So that next fall at the auctioneer ball,
they’ll all want to take a swipe.

I ain’t for gore but a bidder’s war,
‘tween buyers is mighty fine.
When they’ll bid once more, o’er the buyer next door,
and the calves they’re wantin’s mine.

Then I go inside and I strut with pride,
as I settle at the cashier’s till.
Weight tickets come down and they’re “times’ed” per pound,
and the gold my pockets fill.

What…I take the shrink? Is that fair ya’ think?
The commission is then pulled out!
And a feed cost’s there for two days of care,
boy that yardage is kinda’ stout.

Well they whittled my check, but then what the heck,
better get what I got to the bank.
Get your grubby mitts off my money you nits,
my ship came in and purt near sank.

Take out pasture cost and the ones I lost,
I’m barely gonna cover my bills.
Still owe the vet charge, and the feed bill’s large,
now I’m cuttin’ out most of my thrills.

Well the trucker’s paid and the mortgage made,
and repair bills paid at the shop.
Fuel’s laid in, mill’s pumping again,
propane sure took a big hop.

Well I’ll fix the roof next year and maybe see clear,
to get by on the tires I’ve got.
And I’ll burn more wood, and maybe I could,
patch the tank where it’s got the rot.

I’ll watch what I buy and if prices stay high,
I’ll get by for another year.
I’ll just be brave, use the heifers I save,
and try to not choke on fear.

If I squeeze real tight, I’ll make it alright,
and there ain’t no use to gripe.
But if I got any pull, I pray that ol’ bull,
will throw calves of the buyers’ type

© 2014, Floyd Beard, used with permission

This poem appears on popular Colorado rancher and poet Floyd Beard’s recent CD, Short Grass Country. The album includes original poems and recitations of classic poems by Luther Lawhon, E.A. Brininstool, Sunny Hancock, and Banjo Paterson. It’s all tied together with fine music by Butch Hause.

Floyd Beard comments on “Buyer’s Type” in the liner notes, “Cattlemen work in a year-long cycle. This poem marks the end of one cycle and beginning of the next.  It also points out that ranches love their calves to sell high, but it is sure not all profit.”

Find Rick Huff’s review on the CowboyPoetry.com blog, where he calls Short Grass Country, a “collection of top-drawer cowboy thoughts and delivery.”

This photo is courtesy of Floyd Beard.

Find more about Floyd Beard at CowboyPoetry.com and  at his web site,
floydbeardcowboy.com.

Floyd is making an impressive and determined recovery from a stroke earlier this year, and he is back on the cowboy poetry trail, as he likes to call it. One place he’s headed is New Mexico’s Fifth Annual Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering, August 24-26, 2018. The gathering has “…over 20 top notch, award-winning pickers, singers, and poets lined up..” Floyd joins Terry Nash, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Dale Burson, Randy Huston, Peggy Malone, Jim Jones, Doug Figgs, and others.

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

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)

THE COWS CAME FIRST by Jane Morton

 

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photo courtesy of David and Deanna Dickinson McCall

THE COWS CAME FIRST
by Jane Morton

My mother said she realized
with my Dad the cows came first.
If cows and she both needed drinks,
she knew who’d die of thirst.

In any contest with the cows,
Mom came out second-best.
She never gave up trying, though,
To that I can attest.

If Mom had planned a dinner,
or if they’d been invited out,
Dad promised he’d be on time,
but she had cause to doubt.

So many different happenings
had spoiled what she had planned,
She came to think that fate itself
might well have played a hand.

It wasn’t fate, it was my Dad.
He’d start a task too late.
And thinking he had time enough,
he didn’t want to wait.

He’d run into some problem there
he hadn’t counted on,
And sure enough, before he knew,
the daylight would be gone.

By time he got back to the house,
my mom would be irate.
She knew not which excuse he’d use,
but could anticipate—

“I drove out to the pasture where
my Chevy truck broke down.
Before a neighbor came along,
I’d walked halfway to town.

“That ornery Angus bull I bought
went through the fence today.
Of course I had to get him home.
He fought me all the way.

“I stopped to check a windmill,
and I found a stock tank dry.
The cattle have to drink you know.”
I’d hear my mother sigh.

“A calving heifer needed help,
so sure, I had to stay.
I promised I’d be home, I know,
but couldn’t get away.”

He had to pull a windmill
or he had to pull a calf
Mom heard it all so many times
she almost had to laugh.

Dad said he thought that Mom had ought
to take things in her stride.
That proved impossible for her,
no matter how she tried.

And when the two got on in years,
Mom was the first to go.
She’d asked for flowers on her stone,
but did she get them? No!

Dad bought one stone for both of them,
and he had it engraved.
A cow and the windmill took the place
of flowers she had craved.

When Mother said the cows came first;
she knew my dad too well.
Above her final resting place,
that cow will always dwell.

© 2003, Jane Morton, used with permission.

Colorado poet and writer Jane Morton often writes about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, Joshua Eaton Ambrose, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. She wrote this poem about her father, William Ernest Ambrose (1904-1994). She has commented that she really began to “know” her father when she stared writing about him.

She writes, “He loved his land, and he loved his work. His satisfaction with his life was reflected in his face. Perhaps that was why, when many his age had retired to rocking chairs, he was still going strong. Occasionally someone suggested that he retire and take it easy. Usually, he didn’t bother to reply. He’d said it once, and once was enough. ‘Someday,’ he said, ‘they’ll probably find me wrapped around one of these fence posts, but I’ll never quit.'”

Find more about William Ernest Ambrose in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com.  This poem is included in a feature about Jane Morton’s mother, Eva Lena Wolowsky Ambrose (1904-1988). Find more about Jane Morton at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo by New Mexico rancher David McCall was taken last week at their Timberon-area ranch, an area experiencing a serious drought. Poet, writer and the other half of the McCall operation, Deanna Dickinson McCall, a couple of generations ahead of the Ambroses and a woman who has always worked her ranch alongside her husband, commented on the photo, “Waiting for rain, praying it comes soon! David McCall and the boys. I learned at an early age you can’t starve a profit into a cow.” What hasn’t changed: the cows come first. She told us, “We are just hoping the monsoons will arrive on time, or early. The spring that feeds the pipeline is almost dry, too low to feed the line, so we will begin hauling water. This has been the driest, windiest spring/summer we have seen, and the fire threat is so frightening.”

The McCalls have many generations of ranchers before them and generations of cowboy poets and reciters in front of them, in their children, including the late Rusty McCall, Katie McCall Owen, and Terri Anne Knight and grandchildren. Find more about the family and more about Deanna Dickinson McCall and her poems and stories at  deannadickinsonmccall.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any other uses.)

FROM TOWN by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

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photo: Wallace McRae and Andy Hedges in Elko, Nevada, 2018;
photo courtesy of Andy Hedges

 

FROM TOWN
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

We’re the children of the open and we hate the haunts o’ men,
But we had to come to town to get the mail.
And we’re ridin’ home at daybreak—’cause the air is cooler then—
All ‘cept one of us that stopped behind in jail.
Shorty’s nose won’t bear paradin’, Bill’s off eye is darkly fadin’,
All our toilets show a touch of disarray,
For we found that city life is a constant round of strife
And we ain’t the breed for shyin’ from a fray.

Chant your warwhoop, pardners dear, while the east turns pale with fear
And the chaparral is tremblin’ all aroun’
For we’re wicked to the marrer; we’re a mid-night dream of terror
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

We acquired our hasty temper from our friend, the centipede,
From the rattlesnake we learnt to guard our rights.
We have gathered fightin’ pointers from the famous bronco steed
And the bobcat teached us reppertee that bites.
So when some high-collared herrin’ jeered the garb that I was wearin’
‘Twasn’t long till we had got where talkin’ ends,
And he et his illbred chat, with a sauce of derby hat,
While my merry pardners entertained his friends.

Sing ‘er out, my buckeroos! Let the desert hear the news.
Tell the stars the way we rubbed the haughty down.
We’re the fiercest wolves a-prowlin’ and it’s just our night for howlin’
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town.

Since the days that Lot and Abram split the Jordan range in halves
Just to fix it so their punchers wouldn’t fight,
Since old Jacob skinned his dad-in-law for six years’ crop of calves
And then hit the trail for Canaan in the night,
There has been a taste for battle ‘mong the men that followed cattle
And a love of doin’ things that’s wild and strange,
And the warmth of Laban’s words when he missed his speckled herds
Still is useful in the language of the range.

Singer ‘er out, my bold coyotes! leather fists and leather throats,
For we wear the brand of Ishm’el like a crown.
We’re the sons of desolation, we’re the outlaws of creation—
Ee—yow! a-ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

Andy Hedges, fine reciter and songster, recites this poem with brio on his most recent COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast. Equally important, he interviews octogenarian Montanan Wallace McRae, respected rancher, poet, deep thinker, and maverick.

“My father was a cowman…” are the first words from Wally McRae. He talks about his father and grandfather, their settling and ranching history, his own ranching struggles and early life, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and his friendship with another rebel, poet Paul Zarzyski.

Wally McRae has written some of the most recognized cowboy poems, including “Reincarnation” and the exceptional “Things of Intrinsic Worth.” He is a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and has been a part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering from its beginning, in 1985.

Andy Hedges is owed great thanks for capturing his story and that of others. COWBOY CROSSROADS has a wealth of such oral histories, all of which are also full of entertainment. Other episodes feature Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, and others. Find more about COWBOY CROSSROADS and all episodes at
andyhedges.com. Help support his efforts if you are able.

Badger Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote many lasting poems, and some found their way into song, including “The Old Cow Man,” “Riding’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”

In a foreword to a 1942 edition of his Sun and Saddle Leather, a book that has been in print continuously since its 1915 publication, he refers to his poems as his children. He comments, “…I sit here alone my mountain cabin–an old batch, and yet, without the slightest scandal, a happy father–every now and then hearing tidings of how my children have visited interesting places where I shall never go and met fine people whom I shall never see. How delightful it is to have good children!”

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

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

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photo with this post, but for other uses, request permission. This poem is in the public domain.)

TRUE GRIT, by Elizabeth Ebert (1925-2018)

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TRUE GRIT
by Elizabeth Ebert (1925-2018)

The crowd had all left the rodeo ground,
Just a bunch of old cowboys were hangin’ around.
Hunkered down on rheumatic haunches,
With balding pates and protruding paunches,
Drinkin’ to the old days way back when
The horses were tougher and so were the men.
And every time that the jug went ’round
The toasts got longer and more profound.
“Here’s to the world’s best buckin’ horse!”
(That was Tipperary, of course.)
“To the Pony Express that carried the mail!”
“To Old Man Chisholm and his trail!”
To ranchers and rustlers and those in between,
To the rivers they’d crossed and the mountains they’d seen.

Then old Bill said, with a hearty burp,
“Let’s drink to the lawmen—to Wyatt Earp
And Morgan, and Doc, and that OK crew,
They were real brave men, but I’m telling you,
The man I remember most of all,
He weren’t no real lawman a’tall.
But that fellow from down at the picture show,
The one that had ‘True Grit,” you know.
I was a lawman once myself.
My guns are at home on the closet shelf,
But if I could ride for the law again
I’d ride in the hoofprints of John Wayne
When he played that Rooster Cogburn fellow.
Now there’s a marshall who wasn’t yellow,
With his reins in his teeth and his guns in his hand
He rode right into that outlaw band.
He was old like me, and tired and fat.
I wish I could make one ride like that!”

Then Ed said, “By pure Providence,
There’s a horse standin’ over along the fence
With a saddle that looks like a pretty good fit
And we’re here to judge if you’ve got true grit.
If you want that ride, you can make it still.”
Old Bill stood up, “By God, I will!
But Rooster Cogburn wore a patch,
And so to make it a fairer match
I’ll stick my glasses here in my pocket,
Then the ride will be square and you can’t knock it;
But when I take them off, of course,
You’ll have to point me toward that horse.
I was a lawman as you well know,
My guns are at home and I’ve told you so
But my pickup truck holds a twenty-two
And an old twelve-gauge, and I’ll make ’em do!”
So they helped him on and he sat up proud,
Said those famous words and he said ’em loud
And they sounded just like poetry.
Said, “Fill your hands, you S.O.B.!”

Then he struck the reins into his mouth
And he kicked that horse and they took off south.
He raised up the shotgun and fired a round,
The fellows they all hit the ground
While the pellets riddled the pickup truck
And the horse went into a crow-hop buck.
Bill might have stuck on, as like as not
He might have stuck on, but he plumb forgot,
Forgot that his teeth were the store-bought kind
And he wore ’em loose so they wouldn’t bind.
They slid from his mouth, still chewin’ that rein
And Bill came down in a world of pain.

His pocket was filled with shards of glass.
His teeth were scattered across the grass.
His hat was smashed and his Sunday clothes
Were spattered with blood from his busted nose.
But he staggered up—to their vast relief.
Said, “A gritty man don’t need no teeth
No glasses neither! You know darned well
He can spot a jug by his sense of smell!”
So they passed it around and they had to admit
John Wayne never had no truer grit.

© 1997, Elizabeth Ebert, used with permission, from Crazy Quilt

South Dakota’s much-loved poet, retired ranch wife Elizabeth Ebert, delighted audiences across the West. She died March 20, 2018, leaving many friends and loving family, and a great body of work.

Read Carson Vaughan’s obituary in the New York Times, “Elizabeth Ebert, ‘Grand Dame of Cowboy Poetry,’ Dies at 93,” and find more here.

Elizabeth Ebert had a wide range, creating memorable poems both serious and humorous. Baxter Black has said of her (and referring to her serious poem, “He Talked About Montana”): “To say that I admire Elizabeth’s writing seems meager comment on her talent. She writes from inspiration with such graceful force it’s like her pen has power steering. There are so many first class pieces in her books, most contemporary cowboy poets would covet even just one so good in their armory. If her poems were mountains and the verses peaks, this would be the eagle soaring over all: ‘Before war and wife and whiskey/ Had bent him out of shape/ Now the war and wife were history/ And the whiskey was escape.'”

Find more about her Elizabeth Ebert at CowboyPoetry.com.

After listening to the MASTERS: VOLUME ONE CD from CowboyPoetry.com, which includes the works of Larry McWhorter, Sunny Hancock, J.B. Allen, and Ray Owens, Elizabeth Ebert commented about three of the poets included, “…I sat at a book table one day with Larry and watched him draw horses and other animals on the white plastic table cloth. He was quite an artist and much too young to die. J.B. fascinated me as he reminded me of a corner post–straight, solid and unmovable. I could not believe that he never wrote down a poem until it was finished in his head, and never changed a word after it was written. And Sunny with that mean look he loved to startle people with when he was really such a sweet guy. We spent a lot of time with him and Alice at gatherings. Out at Prescott [ the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering] he asked if he could do ‘True Grit’ and it just seemed to fit him so well that I never recited it again until after he had died….He was certainly one of a kind.”

Find more about both MASTERS CDs here.

This c. 1922 photograph by the Bain News Service is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. It is described, “Cowboy riding bronco while other cowboys look on.” Find more about it here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but for other uses, request permission. This photo is in the public domain.)

THE FARMWIVES OF ALBERTA by Doris Daley

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THE FARMWIVES OF ALBERTA
by Doris Daley

Everybody’s different, diversity rules the day
Still I slap my head in wonder at the Housewives of LA.
They’re bosomy and botoxed, voluptuous of hip
And I can’t understand why anybody gives a rip.

They’re brassy and they’re bossy, over-glitzed, uber noisy
And please don’t get me started on the Housewives of New Joisy.
A spree at Nieman Marcus and they’re rolling the clover,
Cleavage like the 23 Psalm: their cups runneth over.

They hurl diamond crusted insults with a practiced, deadly aim
Jealousy and jewelry are their biggest claims to fame.
They dress themselves in Gucci just to buy a happy meal
Though to be clear, the chauffeur is the one who’s at the wheel.

Flirting with a jailbird sugar daddy millionaire
And here’s my biggest question: Why does anybody care?
If you want me as a viewer, scrap those superficial wives
And point your TV camera at the gals who have real lives.

Farmwives tough as tigers, ranch wives strong and brown
And the ones I know the best: the real farmwives of my home town.
When I was just a baby, when TV was still a dream
These farmwives got together just to laugh and let off steam.

Tough and smart and funny, and steady as she goes
And they never shopped at Tiffany’s or wore designer clothes.
They could drive a tractor, fix a fence, load and bale and stack
Then bake six rhubarb pies with one hand tied behind their back.

They had soirees, they had setbacks, skies of grey and skies of blue
And these Farmwives of Alberta always got each other through.
They buried husbands, buried kids, shared laughter and shared tears
They’ve been there for each other for over 60 years.

So when it comes to housewives, you can keep your bling and brass
It’s to farm and ranch wives everywhere I raise my fluted glass.
But ‘specially to the women who you won’t see on TV:
My mom and all her farm pals who still inspire me.

© Doris Daley
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission

Canadian wordsmith, performer, and emcee Doris Daley is widely appreciated throughout the cowboy poetry and Western music world. Top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell has said, “If cowboy poetry was fresh milk and the cream that rises to the top was the very best, then Doris Daley would be very rich and very fattening.”

See videos, poetry, and more at www.DorisDaley.com and find more poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

In coming weeks, find Doris Daley at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, March 2-3, 2018. Friday night headliners include Jay Snider, Doug Figgs, Ryan Fritz, Deanna McCall, and Michael Stevens. Saturday night headliners are Gary Allegretto, Ross Knox, Gary Robertson, Trinity Seely, and Caitlyn Taussig. Poets and musicians include Apache Adams, Amy Hale Auker, Floyd Beard, “Straw” Berry, Mike Blakely, Teresa Burleson, Dale Burson, Don Cadden, Bob Campbell, Craig Carter, Cowboy Celtic, Allan Chapman & Rodeo Kate, Doris Daley, Mikki Daniel, John Davis, Kevin Davis, Ray Fitzgerald, Rolf Flake, Pipp Gillette, Jeff Gore, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Don Hedgpeth, Carol Heuchan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Jill Jones & Three Hands High, Jim Jones, Linda Kirkpatrick, Daron Little, Pat Meade, Glenn Moreland, Terry Nash, Joel Nelson, Sam Noble, Kay Nowell, Jean Prescott, Gary Prescott, Mike Querner, Luke Reed, Randy Rieman, Heather Watson & Nathan Schmidt, R.P. Smith, Gail Steiger, Rod Taylor, Doug Tolleson, Keith Ward, Washtub Jerry, and Jim Wilson. Find more at texascowboypoetry.com.

After Alpine, Doris is headed to British Columbia’s 22nd Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival, March 15th – 18th, 2018. Performers include Abe Zacharias, Alan Moberg, Ben Crane, Bj Smith, Brian Salmond, Bryn Thiessen, Butch Falk, Carol Heuchan, Chris Isaacs, Doc Mehl, Doris Daley, Ed Peekeekoot, Gary Prescott, Gary Fjellgaard, Gordie West, Hugh McLennan, Jason Ruscheinsky, Jim McLennan, Louis “Big Rig” McIvor, Mag Mawhinney, Mike Dygert, Notable Exceptions, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, and Tom Cole. Find more about the many activities at the event at www.bcchs.com.

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photo of Doris Daley by Mikeala MacKenzie, mikaelamackenzie.com.

THE ZEBRA DUN anonymous

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THE ZEBRA DUN
anonymous

We were camped on the plains at the head of the Cimmaron
When along came a stranger and stopped to arger some.
He looked so very very foolish that we began to look around,
We thought he was a greenhorn that had just ‘scaped from town.

We asked him if he had he been to breakfast; he had n’t had a smear;
So we opened up the chuck-box and bade him have his share.
He took a cup of coffee and some biscuits and some beans,
And then began to talk and tell about foreign kings and queens,

About the Spanish War and fighting on on the seas
With guns as big as steers and ramrods big as trees,–
And about old Paul Jones, a mean-fighting son of a gun,
Who was the grittiest cuss that ever pulled a gun.

Such an educated feller, his thoughts just came in herds,
He astonished all them cowboys with them jaw-breaking words.
He just kept on talking till he made the boys all sick
And they began to look around just how to play a trick.

He said he had lost his job upon the Santa Fe
And was going across the plains to strike the 7-D.
He did n’t say how come it, some trouble with the boss,
But said he’d like to borrow a nice fat saddle horse.

This tickled all the boys to death; they laughed ‘way down in their sleeves–
“We will lend you a horse just as fresh and fat as you please.”
Shorty grabbed a lariat and roped the Zebra Dun
And turned him over to the stranger and waited for the fun.

Old Dunny was a rocky outlaw that had grown so awful wild
That he could paw the white out of the moon every jump for a mile.
Old Dunny stood right still–as if he didn’t know–
Until he was saddled and ready for to go.

When the stranger hit the saddle, old Dunny quit the earth,
And traveled right straight up for all that he was worth.
A-pitching and a-squealing, a-having wall-eyed fits,
His hind feet perpendicular, his front ones in the bits.

We could see the tops of mountains under Dunny every jump,
But the stranger he was growed there just like the camel’s hump;
The stranger sat upon him and curled his black moustache,
Just like a summer boarder waiting for his hash.

He thumped him in the shoulders and spurred him when he whirled,
To show them flunky punchers that he was the wolf of the world.
When the stranger had dismounted once more upon the ground,
We knew he was a thoroughbred and not a gent from town;

The boss, who was standing round watching of the show,
Walked right up to the stranger and told him he need n’t go–
“If you can use a lasso like you rode old Zebra Dun,
You are the man I’ve been looking for ever since the year one.”

Oh he could twirl the lariat and he did n’t didn’t do it slow;
He could catch them fore feet nine out of ten for any kind of dough,
There’s one thing and a shore thing I’ve learned since I’ve been born,
That every educated feller ain’t a plumb greenhorn.

…anonymous

One of the oldest cowboy songs, “The Zebra Dun” is sometimes known as “The Educated Fellow.” The author is unknown. When Jack Thorp collected the song, he noted that he “first heard the song sung by Randolph Reynolds, Carizozo Flats, in 1890.”

Cowboy and singer Jules Verne Allen (1883-1945) recorded “Zebra Dun” in 1928, the first known commercial recording. Listen to a great version by Cisco Houston (1918-1961) here from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Many others have recorded “Zebra Dun,” and Don Edwards has an outstanding version on his “Saddle Songs” album that you can listen to here.

Find more in our feature about Jack Thorp’s 1912 Songs of the Cowboys.

This 1940 photo of a cowboy at the Quemado, New Mexico rodeo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.