BE YOURSELF by Georgie Sicking, 1921-2016


by Georgie Sicking, 1921-2016

When I was young and foolish,
The women said to me,
“Take off those spurs and comb your hair
If a lady you will be.

“Forget about those cowboy ways
come and sit a while,
We will try to clue you in
On women’s ways and wiles.

“Take off that Levi jumper
Put up those bat wing chaps.
Put on a little makeup and
We can get a date for you, ‘perhaps.’

“Forget about that roping.
That will make calluses on your hands.
And you know it takes soft fingers
If you want to catch a man!

“Do away with that Stetson hat
For it will crush your curls.
And even a homely cowboy wouldn’t
Date a straight-haired girl.”

Now being young and foolish,
I went my merry way.
I guess I never wore a dress
Until my wedding day.

Now I tell my children,
No matter what you do,
stand up straight and tall,
Be you, and only you.

For if the Lord had meant us, all to be alike,
And the same rules to keep,
He would have bonded us all together,
Just like a band of sheep.

© Georgie Sicking
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Much-loved cowboy and Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inductee Georgie Sicking would have been 99 on this day. Greatly missed, her life and work continue to inspire poets and cowboys. This autobiographical poem is just one her many popular verses.

Find an interview with Georgie Sicking and her recitation of this poem here.

In the impressive book, Tough by Nature, by Lynda Lanker, Georgie Sicking tells that she was the only woman who ever drew pay on Arizona’s Oro Ranch, where she worked during World War Two. She preferred to be called a “cowboy,” not “cowgirl.”

She is quoted in Tough by Nature, “Some people had the idea that all you had to do to be a cowgirl was put on a pretty dress and a pair of boots and a big hat and get a faraway look in your eyes…and you’re a cowgirl. They’ve been kind of hard to educate.”

An excellent award-winning documentary about Georgie Sicking, “Ridin’ & Rhymin’,” was made by Greg Snider and Dawn Smallman of Far Away Films. DVDs are available.

This photo of Georgie Sicking graces the cover of The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Five from The circa 1940 photo was taken at a carnival on her first date with the man who became her husband (photo courtesy of Georgie Sicking and Dawn Smallman).

Find more of Georgie Sicking’s poetry and more about her at

(Request permission for use of this poem or photo.)

HEROES OF OLD by Jay Snider

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by Jay Snider

The end of the trail is a cross we all bear.
We’re all branded the day of our birth.
Make no mistake, it’s the choices we make
plot the course that we ride here on earth.

With luck we have gathered up heroes
like our daddies and granddaddies did.
The face and name likely won’t be the same
as the heroes they knew as a kid.

What shall we do when our heroes are gone
and we’re thinking we’re here all alone?
It’s not courage we lack, so we’ll follow his track,
pull his hat down real tight and ride on.

If ever their trails be forgotten
all heroes may cease to exist.
The hats that they wore should be passed ever more
and new names must be scribed to the list.

It’s a task that is chocked full of danger
and cursed with the Devil’s own kiss.
Lift high up your cup for the kids looking up
are the targets we must never miss.

The tracks that we make, they will follow.
We must never veer from that trail.
Never give up the fight because right is still right.
That code they set down without fail.

Take care of the hat that you’re wearing.
Protect it as if it’s pure gold.
Don’t ever look back, place your hat on the stack.
That’s the makings of heroes of old.

© 2017, Jay Snider
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Oklahoma rancher, poet, and songwriter Jay Snider told us that he worked on this poem for some time after his father passed away, and while driving home from the Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2017, he finally put it together, pulling off the road several times to work on it. Jay’s father was a top roper and rodeo cowboy and his grandfather was a brand inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Jay Snider’s recent CD, Classic Cowboy Poetry: The Old Tried and True, showcases his fine reciting. Like some poetry time traveler, he delivers poems by Bruce Kiskaddon, Henry Herbert Knibbs, Will Ogilvie, Sunny Hancock, and others, to carry you back to time when, to quote Kiskaddon, “cattle were plenty and people were few.”

Back in 2007 in a Picture the West feature at, Jay wrote that this photograph showed his mother and his father “…with 7 of the 9 saddles he won through the years in the Senior Pro Rodeo Association and the National Old Time Ropers Association. His rodeo career began in the early 1940s and continued to rope steers up until the last couple of years. I’m sure he still can but prefers to coach his sons and grandsons from the chutes. That’s a blessing in itself. I have never known a better horseman than he.”

Last week Jay Snider took part in the Western Heritage Classics’ virtual “Cowboy Poetry Under the Stars.” Find his excellent presentation of a variety of poems at 29:45.

Enjoy his rendition of Sunny Hancock’s (1931-2003) “The Bear Tale” in a video from the Western Folklife Center’s 2011 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Find Jay at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering August 6-8, 2020 in Prescott. The lineup includes Mary Abbott, Anderson’s, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Colt Blankman, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Lola Chiantaretto, Dean Cook, Sam Deleeuw, Mike Dunn, Don Fernwalt, Linda Lee Filener, Rolf Flake, Belinda Gail, Jack George, Amy M. Hale, Audrey Hankins, Joni Harms, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Gary Kirkman, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Maxwell’s, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Mark Munzert, Miska Paget, Abby Payne, Mike Prince, Rusty Pistols Reloaded, Makenzie Slade, Jay Snider, Dave Stamey, Gail Starr, Gail Steiger, Tom Swearingen, Duke Vance, Tom Weathers, and Ashley Westcott.

See Jay later this year at the 30th annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering October 23-25, 2020 in Fort Worth. There are many activities there and other poet and musicians performing include Red Steagall, “Straw” Berry, Mikki Daniel, Bobby Flores, Kristyn Harris, R.W. Hampton, Jake Hooker, Teresa Burleson, Chris Isaacs, Jean Prescott, Dan Roberts, Leon Rausch, and Hailey Sandoz.

November 12-15, 2020, he’ll be in Amarillo at the WRCARodeo Finals. Stay tuned for more at that event at

Find more about Jay Snider at

(Request permission for use of this poem or photo.)

I’M GLAD I KNEW MEN LIKE THAT by Sally Harper Bates


by Sally Harper Bates

Up before daylight, put coffee on
Fed the stock and saddled by dawn
Get bucked off and get back on
Stay tough till the pain is gone

Riding through cholla and catclaw brush
Roping cattle that left in a rush
Shredded clothes, chaps brush-scarred
They never pulled out when things got hard

If they had to build fence they did it right
Posts in line, wires all tight
He’d stop to dig someone out of a rut
If he got stuck, he’d suck in his gut

Respect your horse, don’t use him too hard
He’s more than a tool, he’s also your pard
Ear down a colt or bust him flat
Then grain him, scratch him, give him a pat

Laughed out loud at a kid that got dumped
From the back of a horse that barely humped
Just to be sure the kid wouldn’t shrink
He took the time to ride by and wink

He’d ride through dust and blistering heat
Freezing rain and numbing sleet
Hunt up cows and bring them in
Not one of those sows belonged to him

He could have rode by, and hope she’d die
That cow that sported a soggy pink eye
The one that ran him down in the pen
Only God can make that kind of men

He’d jerk down a strap and tan my hide
Then rock me to sleep by a warm fireside.
Sit at a bar and banter all night
Or dance with his daughters till daylight.

Called to war, these steadfast men
Came back home to bury their kin
Read poetry books on love and war
Then built houses, and roads, and more.

The day before he showed up for the draft
He worked on the colt to hone his craft
He didn’t buck the bridle off
Go get drunk, or dodge the draft.

Busted up by a crazy old roan,
Hobbled back to work alone.
Call in sick? What the hell for?
Someone still gotta do the chores.

Knee deep in blood, smoke, and cow-crap
Branding, till his body is wracked
Lips are always blistered and cracked.
Fingers split, nails dirty and black.

Caught a maverick, wished he’d missed
The bull had been his nemesis.
Swappin’ stories through the night
Butt in the saddle at morning light.

He could butcher a steer, and process meat
Play guitar and still sing sweet.
Drive forty miles on a wash-board road
To dance with his wife and lighten his load.

Always perfecting his craft and his tack
Teaching the young ones who follow his tracks
His word is his bond, a handshake his creed
Known by his words, but more by his deeds

He’s tough and he’s tender, he’s hard to the bone
Made that way, by the seeds he’s sown
No give to his cinch, he’s set in his ways
Proud and strong, till he’s old and gray.

© 2020, Sally Harper Bates
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Popular poet, storyteller, songwriter, and editor Sally Harper Bates grew up on ranches and worked on them.

She told us about this poem’s inspiration, “I was listening to a CD of Red Steagall on my way home from visiting with my great grandsons. About three songs in I said out loud, ‘I’m glad I knew men like that!’”

She shared this 1940s photo of “men like that,” which includes, left to right, Dick Tatum; her father, Wallace Harper; and her grandfather Perry Harper.

Sally Harper Bates has books of her own poetry and stories, and has edited others, including two recent volumes of Facing West: Voices of Western Women, which collect the words of many Western poets and writers. Find more about the books and about her at Arizona Cowboy Connection.

(Please respect copyright. Request permission to share this poem or photo.)

100 YEARS FROM NOW by Doris Daley

photo © Jessica Lifland

by Doris Daley

100 years from now, if the world’s still in the game,
May the earth recall our footprints, may the wind sing out our names.
May someone turn a page and hearken back upon this time,
May someone sing a cowboy tune and someone spin a rhyme.

History buffs will study us and time will tell its tales
Our lives will be a brittle pile of cold and quaint details.
A scrap of faded photograph, a news headline or two…
But life was so much more, my friend, when the century was new.

100 years from now, don’t look back and think me quaint,
Don’t judge and call me sinner, don’t judge and call me saint.
We lived beneath the arch with a mix of grit and grace,
Just ordinary folk in an extraordinary place.

So 100 years from now hear our ancient voices call,
Know that life was good and the cowboy still rode tall.
Wild flowers filled our valleys and the coyotes were our choir
We knew some wild places that had never known the wire.

We raised stouthearted horses; we’d ride and let ‘er rip
We burned beneath the summer sun and railed at winter’s grip.
We took a little courage when the crocus bloomed each spring
We loved beneath the stars and we heard the night wind sing.

We buried and we married, we danced and laughed and cried
And there were times we failed, but let the records show we tried.
And sure, I have regrets; I made more than one mistake
If I had it to do over there are trails I wouldn’t take.

But the sun rose up each day, we’d make it through another year
We’d watch the skies and count our calves and hoist a cup of cheer.
We knew drought and fire and heartache, we knew fat and we knew bone
But we were silver lining people and we never rode alone.

So, Friend, if you are reading this 100 years from now
Understand that we were pilgrims who just made it through somehow.
We’ve crossed the river home and we left but one request:
100 years from now, think back kindly on the west.

And ordinary folk, no special fate, no special claims
But 100 years from now, may the wind sing out our names.
Know the times were good and we rode the best we know.
We loved the west; we kept the faith, 100 years ago.

© 2004, Doris Daley
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

A great Cowboy Poetry Week is behind us, and we’re glad to still have the best of the best to share.

Ranch-raised Albertan Doris Daley is known for her outstanding writing and impressive stage presence. Top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell has commented, “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.”

Doris told us, “There are two things about this picture that fit the poem: it was taken in The Rockies, which provided much inspiration for the poem, and the chaps I’m wearing belonged to Mattie Blair, much beloved neighbour, pioneer and surrogate grandmother. I inherited them when she died. What a timeless reminder that the things and the people we love about the west roll on from generation to generation.”

Find more about Doris Daley at

This photograph of Doris Daley is by respected photojournalist Jessica Lifland (Instagram). Doris commented, “I remember that trip well, photo credit goes to Jessica Lifland who flew up to Alberta and rode along on the trip…”

Jessica Lifland is one of the official photographers for the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her recently posted 2020 highlights and other gathering photos and her Cowboy Poetry Project photos.

(Please respect copyright. Request permission for use of this poem or photograph.)

Jane Ambrose Morton, 1931-2020

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We’re sad to report the death of popular poet Jane Morton, a friend to many—and a part of from its earliest days. Her husband, poet and reciter Dick Morton wrote to say that she had died Sunday, February 16, 2020. Jane and Dick were married for over 66 years. A memorial service will take place in August at their home in Colorado.

Jane wrote poetry and prose about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. Generations later, her mother, Eva Lena Ambrose, was surprised to discover that her husband, a teacher and coach, was determined to return to the family farm that eventually became the family ranch. Her mother faced a harder-than-expected life with dignity.

Each year we launch Cowboy Poetry Week with Jane’s poem that well described her own inspiration for writing:

by Jane Morton

The round-ups, the brandings,
the calvings are done,
as ranchers sell out
and move on one by one.

We must tell the stories,
so memories live on,
past time when the tellers
themselves are long gone.

© 2004, Jane Morton, used with permission

Jane stopped performing several years ago. She has award-winning books and a CD of her poetry. Find more about her and some of her poetry and ranch history at

Email if you’d like contact information for Dick Morton.

Find an obituary here.

THE REAL THING, by Larry McWhorter (1957-2003)


by Larry McWhorter (1957-2003)

Have you ever saddled up a horse
You didn’t want to ride,
And gone out where you didn’t want to go?
It’s not a subject much discussed,
This unromantic side,
And only understood by those who know

That empty hollow feeling felt
Of staring at the dark
While hoping that the worst he’ll do is buck.
But you get paid to ride the kind
Who’d rather bite than bark.
You sigh and turn and pray to God for luck.

Have you ever drained the final drop
Out of your coffee cup
While staring at the wind-whipped, driving snow?
You’re warm right now, but that’ll end
By time you’ve saddled up
And then you’ll get the chilling horseman know

Of stinging ears and fingertips
While cold, like novocaine,
Numbs your toes, yeah, you know how it feels.
The cramping in your arches makes
You grit your teeth in pain
‘Til you dismount and walk upon your heels.

Have you ever had your arm so tired
From doctoring all day
You find it hard to build another loop?
You used to think you liked to rope
When it was done for play,
But now you find you’ve come to dread the droop

Of ears or runny eyes and limps.
It never seems to end.
You almost hate ’em just because they’re sick.
But there before you stands one more
There’s no choice but to tend.
You ask your worn out horse for one more lick.

Have you ever felt the urge to quit,
But gone on anyway
And followed through on nothing else but pride?
That’s how it has to be sometimes
When work outweighs the pay,
And you’re not there on just a “whimsy” ride.

You do it even when you know
It’s gonna hurt like hell,
You do it even though you post no score
Except the one inside yourself
Which makes you do things well.
You do it for the men who rode before.

© 2000, Larry McWhorter, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

The great, late cowboy Larry McWhorter was certainly an authority on “real.” In his 2000 book, Contemporary Verse by Larry McWhorter, he introduces this poem, writing, “As Vess Quinlan would say, ‘This one is more for the ‘ins” thans the ‘bys”…there are certain things only men of the saddle understand and know.”

But it has a universal message, like so many of his poems.

Listen to Red Steagall recite this poem. The recitation is from an important project that popular singer and songwriter Jean Prescott produced, The Poetry of Larry McWhorter. It includes Larry McWhorter’s recorded recitations of his poetry, and eleven of his poems that were never recorded, recited by some of today’s top performers who were his friends, including Waddie Mitchell, Chris Isaacs, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Dennis Flynn, Oscar Auker and Jesse Smith.

The first-in-the-series MASTERS (2017) CD from features recitations by Larry McWhorter, Sunny Hancock, J.B. Allen, and Ray Owens.

Read more poetry by Larry McWhorter and more about him at

Thanks to Jean Prescott for this photograph of Larry McWhorter and to Andrea Waitley for her kind permission for the use of this poem.

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

In Our Thoughts: Dennis Gaines (1954-2019)

dennisgainesjldxxphoto by Jeri Dobrowski

Sadly, Dennis Gaines died December 26, 2019. He will be missed by his many friends and family.

Jean Prescott tells us, “Dennis requested that there be no formal service after his passing. He asked that his body and organs be donated to A&M for research, but did not meet the criteria because he was too tall. He will be cremated and on Memorial Day his ashes will be spread over the family property near Buffalo Gap, Texas, where his mother’s ashes were spread. Friends are invited to attend.”

Condolences can be left at Callaway-Jones.



Previous posts:

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

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.

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.”

Find more about Dennis at