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.

SEASONS by Rodney Nelson

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SEASONS
by Rodney Nelson

They claim we have four seasons,
Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring,
But I guess it’s just a theory
And doesn’t mean a thing.

The frost never really leaves us
‘Cause it’s always in our minds.
The ground is barely warming up
When we crawl off our behinds

To begin the yearly ritual
Like the grooming of the fields,
For any moment wasted
Affects the average yields.

With the calving and the fencing
And the fixing every day,
Before we even know it
We’re a sweating, making hay.

We’ve barely shucked the long johns
When the fireworks report.
The Fourth is now upon us
And the summer’s getting short.

The pace gets ever frantic
With the harvest coming on.
One day you see a school bus
And you know the summer’s gone.

You have to get the work done,
You have to beat the frost.
If you cheat the growing season
You’ll have to bear the cost.

It’s hard to get the hay hauled
‘Cause we’re seeing way less sun.
It’s time to get all winterized
And get the weaning done.

Let’s say you haven’t weakened
And you’ve maintained the pace,
There’s a chance you might be ready
When the snow beats on your face.

So I doubt there are four seasons
There are only two, I fear,
There’s the one we’re getting ready
And the one when winter’s here.

But I’ll say this for winter,
For all its frigid blasts,
It’s the season we’ve been working for
And the only one that lasts!

…Rodney Nelson, used with permission.

North Dakota rancher, poet, columnist, and Senior Pro Rodeo champion Rodney Nelson includes this poem in his new book, Up Sims Creek: The Third Trip. The book includes 100 selections from his popular”Up Sims Creek” column in Farm and Ranch Guide. The columns include poems and prose and are full of vivid, mostly humorous accounts of rural life. He has written 610 columns to date and has now collected the first 300 in three books.

The cover of the new book depicts the store on Sims’ Main Street. It and the book’s illustrations are by North Dakota farmer and rancher Scott Nelson, whose drawings appear in Rodney’s other books, including his heartwarming Wilbur’s Christmas Gift book.

Rodney and Scott are both known for their lack of marketing enthusiasm. Rodney writes in his current column, “A lot of people ask or assume Scott and I are related. We are not related but both of us were blessed with a name we could spell easily by the time we reached third grade.

“Scott and I do share the same marketing skills. If asked what Scott would charge for a painting or a sketch he would likely roll his eyes and ask why anyone would want one…

“I have often left on a book selling trip with high expectations of making lots of sales. After driving considerable distances to some town, I typically look for some place that would be willing to sell them. Usually, after a couple laps around Main Street, I decide I should probably try some other town.”

So to help readers find his books, here’s another quote from the column, “The first 100 trips is $13, the second and third books are $20 each. I still have plenty copies Wilbur’s Christmas Gift available so for $10. All are postpaid to make it easy.” Contact him at 4905 44th St., Almont, ND 58520.

Rodney Nelson returns to the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering January 28 – February 2, 2019. Check out their YouTube channel for performances by Rodney Nelson and much, much more.

The lineup includes 3hattrio, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie, John Dofflemyer, Joshua Dugat, Maria Lisa Eastman, Mary Flitner, Jamie Fox & Alex Kusturok, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Brenn Hill, Tish Hinojosa, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Ross Knox, Ned LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band, Sid Marty, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin Murphey, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Diane Peavey, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan, Halladay & Rob Quist, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, Matt Robertson, Olivia Romo, Trinity Seely, Sean Sexton, Sourdough Slim, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Colter Wall, and Paul Zarzyski. Find more at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

Find more about Rodney Nelson, some of his poetry, and information about his earlier books and CDs at CowboyPoetry.com.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but please request permission for any additional uses.)

In Our Thoughts: Dennis Gaines (updated)

dennisgainesjldxxphoto by Jeri Dobrowski

October 26, 2018

Yesterday, Dennis Gaines told us that he is feeling better than he had been since his recent diagnosis, and with pain control and treatment, he is doing much better than he was a few weeks ago when his illness was announced.

Read his poem, “The Spandex Cowboy,” here.

 

From Jean Prescott, October 18, 2018:

We have a friend in need, folks. And, we all want to help.

Well known, award winning cowboy poet, humorist and storyteller, Dennis Gaines has been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. He has been running a ranch in Texas for the past three years, but is no longer able to work.

There will be a “Stay-at-Home Benefit” on Judy James’ Cowboy Jubilee radio program with an accompanying “Quiet Fund” to raise funds for Dennis on Saturday, October 27th, from 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM, on KMQX 88.5 FM out of Weatherford, Texas.

Here’s how it works: While being aware of the need to help folks around us who are experiencing trials or tragedy, the concept of the Stay-at-Home Benefit Concert has been developed by DJs Jim and Andy Nelson with the help of CowboyPoetry.com.

This is a special concert which you can listen to from the comfort of your home and enjoy without spending any money. With that in mind, you are free to donate any amount of money that you may have spent in travel, food, tickets and lodging to this worthy cause through what we call the Quiet Fund.

With the Quiet Fund, you can give any amount by mail or credit card, and the recipient is sent the funds with donor names, but not the amounts given. You can also chose to remain anonymous. Please put Dennis Gaines name in the notes/memo. Only Linda Kirkpatrick, who oversees the fund, knows the names of donors and the amounts of donations. She does not share that information with anyone else.

Here is how you can listen if you are not in the Weatherford, TX, area. Download the “tunein” app on your cell phone or your computer. Put in KMQX 88.5. CHUCK FM will pop up and you can listen to the concert in the comfort of your own home or vehicle.

Donate by credit card with Paypal (you do not need a Paypal account) with this link.

And, you can also donate by sending a check or money order to:

Linda Kirkpatrick 
P.O. Box 128
Leakey, Texas 78873

or directly to:

Dennis Gaines
8954 FM 60 West
Somerville, TX 77879

Remember to say a prayer for Dennis and be generous with your donation. God Bless.

______________________

From October 10, 2018:

Thanks to Teresa Burleson for sharing this sad news, from Steve Conroy of the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering:

Cowboy, poet, and storyteller Dennis Gaines is “dealing with serious cancer…Please keep Dennis in your prayers and if you have an opportunity, send him a note or give him a call.”

Dennis Gaines
8954 FM 60 West
Somerville, TX 77879
830-285-0333

Find more about Dennis at cowboypoetry.com/dg.htm.

 

WHEN THEY’VE FINISHED SHIPPING CATTLE IN THE FALL by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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WHEN THEY’VE FINISHED SHIPPING CATTLE IN THE FALL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Though you’re not exactly blue,
Yet you don’t feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
For your feelin’s and the weather
Seem to sort of go together,
And you’re quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;
And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin’
On the job for winter brandin’,
And your pardner, he’s a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin’,
But you never hear him speakin’,
And you feel it’s goin’ to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother—
He is friendly but he’s quiet, that is all;
For he’s thinkin’ while he’s draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin’
At an easy walk a swingin’
In behind the old chuck wagon movin’ slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they’ve waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin’ sporty,
Not a hoss is actin’ snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they’re gentle, when they’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled ‘way down furr’wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
‘Cept his old cob pipe is smokin’
As he lets his team go pokin’,
Hittin’ all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin’—
He’s just settin’ there and thinkin’
‘Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin’
And two little clouds a sailin’,
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you’re lonesome when you’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin’ bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin’
Up there in the soft blue linin’
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin’
As your memory starts driftin’
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you’re far away and draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue—
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin’ but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did—
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done—
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
‘Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede—
‘Twas away up north, you helped ’em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn’t reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his’n—
Boy that killed him’s still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he’s rich and livin’ high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances—
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead ’em down the middle
Jest a prancin’ to the fiddle—
Never thought of goin’ home till the break of day.
No! there ain’t no chance for sleepin’,
For the memories come a creepin’,
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

…from Kiskaddon’s 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges

Bruce Kiskaddon’s masterpiece is a well loved classic, in the repertoire of most serious reciters. Hear top poet Waddie Mitchell recite it.

Bruce Kiskaddon drew on his cowboying experiences for his poetry. Find much more about him in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 2017 photo is by Colorado poet and rancher Terry Nash. He told us, “I took it on the mountain just before we began gathering cattle to ship.”

Terry Nash can be found at events across the West, including the upcoming 2nd annual West End Cowboy Gathering in Nucla, Colorado, October 31, 2018 along with Dale Burson, Valerie Beard, Floyd Beard, and Peggy Malone. Next month, he is also a part of the Western Slope Cowboy Gathering, November 2-3, 2018 in Grand Junction, Colorado. He’ll join Trinity Seely, Al Albrethsen, Floyd Beard, Dale Burson, Jerry Brooks, Nona Kelley Carver, The Great Western Heritage Show (Rick Cosby and Gary Mansfield), Dale Page, Rod Taylor, Rocky Sullivan, Peggy Malone, and the Ramblin’ Rangers (Bonnie Jo and Brad Exton).

Terry’s recent CD is A Good Ride.” Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com  and visit his site, terrynashcowboypoet.com.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but any other use of the photo requires permission. The poem is in the public domain.)

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.

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