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



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 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 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, 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; and at the NCPR web site,

This photo shows the 2016 contestants and judges.


MY GRANDKIDS by Bryce Angell


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, 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.

Rick Huff’s “Best of the West Reviews,” Fall, 2016

Rick Huff reviews Western music and cowboy poetry releases in his “Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews” column in The Western Way from the Western Music Association, other publications, and at

Rick Huff considers Western music books and recordings; cowboy poetry books, chapbooks, and recordings; and relevant videos for review. For other materials, please query first:

Please be sure to include complete contact information, price (plus postage) and order address information.

From Rick Huff, February, 2012:

Policy of the Column: It should be understood by artists sending material that it is being done for review consideration. Submitting such material does not ensure that it will be reviewed. Also, predominantly religious material is not accepted for review in the column. If further clarification is needed, contact Rick Huff, PO Box 8442, Albuquerque, NM 87198-8442.

Rick Huff
P.O. Box 8442
Albuquerque, NM 87198-8442


Selections from “Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews,” Fall, 2016, below:

Andy Hedges,  Cowboy Songster Vol. 2
Jared Rogerson, Heaven
Floyd Beard,  Short Grass Country
Teresa BurlesonThe Calf Book
Curio Cowboys, Rose Of Old Pawnee
J. J. Steele, Just Passin’ Thru|
Jerry Bell, High Mountain Memory



Andy Hedges,  Cowboy Songster Vol. 2

Although not strictly a Western CD by “definition,” all of the songs and recitations (set to Hedges’ often spellbinding guitar treatments) are authentic ones used by cowcamp entertainers.  Or at least they were songs that coulda-woulda-shoulda been so-used!

It’s interesting to note how easily Bob Dylan’s “Walkin’ Down The Line” slips right into place beside “Ragged But Right” or D. J. O’Malley’s “Charlie Rutledge.”  S. Omar Barker’s “Into The West” is set to music here and works well.  In the notes Don Edwards says these cowcamp entertainers were variously known as “musicianers” or “songsters” and maintained “an intensely pure relationship” with their audiences.  That effect is nicely achieved in the recording of this collection.  Here you will find that simple, wholesome clarity that comes with well thought out voice and guitar work … heart to hand and voice to ear.  To good effect for the recording Hedges used his dad’s vintage Harmony Sovereign h1260 guitar, rebuilt with a “harmony conversion.”

Andy Hedges is onto something fresh with this approach and I applaud it!  Eleven tracks.

CD: and

©2016, Rick Huff



Baxter Black, Tinsel, Mistletoe & Reindeer Bait

The ever-clever Mr. Black is back for the holidays, with a mixed bag of goodies. Broken into two sections labeled (accurately) “Fun” and “Faith,” the book contains a number of fan favorites from both categories.

In one piece Baxter asks the burning question “What’s Christmas To A Cow?”  Who else would envision bovines choosing whether to believe in Santa Claus or Santa Gertrudis?  Or try “How The Angel Got On Top Of The Tree” with its profoundly painful mental picture conjured up of the angel asking “Santy” the wrong thing at the precisely the wrong time.  There’s a nutty “Christmas Gift Exchange on The Farm” that will make you wonder if that desert air Baxter breaths is full of “provocatives!”  The “Fun” section is chock full of Santy tales for the kidder in all of us.  On Christmas Eve, put the wee ones to bed, then pull this out…and try not to wake everybody up giggling and snorting.

In Part Two (the “Faith” part), the content is obvious and specific.

The book is “gleefully illustrated” (the publisher’s words but I concur) by Wally Badgett, Bob Black, Don Gill, Dave Holl, Charlie Marsh, Herb Mignery and Bill Patterson.  Fifty-six pages.  Recommended!

Hardcover Book:  ISBN 978-0-939343-62-1; $21,95 + s/h through or call 1-800-654-2550.

©2016, Rick Huff



Jared Rogerson, Heaven

Rogerson’s fourth CD release continues to justify his slogan “Cowboy Music From The New West,” and he is living proof that our definition of Western Music must hinge on lyric content rather than instrumentation or style.

His “Life’s Too Short Not To Rodeo” is Country Rock musically and it includes the classic Western theme of the city-bound guy opting for the “gentle” bucking arts.  “When it’s Rainin’ Cowboys” describes a tough night at the rodeo.  Tracks that fall squarely into the contemporary Americana category are also present. Most of the songs are Rogerson writes and co-writes, with covers of two songs written by CD co-producer Brenn Hill (“Pictures In The Fire” and “Cowboy Singer Too,” a valid comment on certain Western festivals’ bars for qualifying).  “Why Wyoming” is a wonderfully eerie sung conversation/duet with Devin Rae about a spiritual need to relocate.

Jared Rogerson represents the new “Western.”  Whether you would call his output by that name or not, you need to come to terms with it one way or the other.  Twelve  tracks.  Recommended.

CD:  $18 + $2 s/h through, downloads through most online sources or mail order from Roughstock Records, PO Box 2071, Riverdale, WY  82941.

©2016, Rick Huff



Floyd Beard,  Short Grass Country

A fine writer and reciter, Floyd Beard offers us another collection of top-drawer cowboy thoughts and delivery.

“If I’ve got any pull I’ll pray that old bull will throw calves of ‘The Buyer’s Type,’” Beard writes in the poem bearing that title.  With equally apt turns of phrase, (and with considerable bravery…considering…), he brings us “One Size Fits All,” an account of his wife’s, er, adventures getting’ dressed to go dancin’.  With a different kind of “bravery” he engages in Spanish dialect humor in the novelty “Papa Noel.”  I’ll let that one sit with you where it will.  A nice appreciation of the solitary cowboy life can be found in “Ain’t A Hermit” and the flip side of it is illustrated in “A Cowboy’s Life Is The Easy Life” (as in “ya gotta be freakin’ kiddin’ me”)!  Butch Hause also provides sensitive guitar support, making this a well produced package.

Covers of others’ works include Luther Lawhon’s “The Good Old Cowboy Days,” E.A. Brininstool’s “Where The Sagebrush Billows Roll,” Sunny Hancock’s “The Bear Tale” and Banjo Patterson’s “Man From Snowy River.”  Nice collection!  Eighteen tracks.

CD:  $15 + $3 s/h from Short Grass Studios, PO Box 124, Kim, CO  81049;

©2016, Rick Huff



Teresa Burleson, The Calf Book

Poet Teresa Burleson is no stranger to either the Western life or to Western audiences.  Her newest release offers more of her views of the former to the latter.

In “Cowgirl Way” she clearly states and demonstrates that strength comes in different dressing, but also she affirms making a hand doesn’t mean she hands off her feminine side.  The title track “The Calf Book” illustrates it all comes out in the wash, and that is the problem, unfotunately!  In “The Message” she arguably equates the shameful Indian betrayal with loss of rights today. And a particular turn of phrase from “Gettin’ Lucky” caught my ear:  “Visions of cowboys two-stepped in their heads.”  Covers include Luke Reed’s “One-Eyed Jack”;  Larry McWhorter’s brief but dead-on “Therapy”; and on Daron Little’s “The Bell Song” the CD engineer happened to record Burleson singing part of the words she intended to only recite and blended singing with recitation together in post.  Good capture!

Some friends help on the album with music intros and outros.  They include Aarom Meador (guitar/mandolin/Native flute), Devon Dawson (drum/Scottish bodran) and Kristyn Harris (fiddle).  Eleven tracks.


©2016, Rick Huff



Curio Cowboys, Rose Of Old Pawnee

This group has a unique and ongoing preservationist mission.  That would be to bring the earliest style of Western Swing forward, with all its quaintly rowdy and somewhat disjointed quirkiness.  So here, straight from what could have been an Edison cylinder or pancake-thick 78 rpm recording, is the newest recording from the Curio Cowboys.

The collection celebrates some of the many early Fred Rose songs, including some from the period he used the pseudonym “Floyd Jenkins.”  Rose became known later to another generation for such standards as “Kaw-liga,” “Roly Poly,” “Take These Chains From My Heart” and “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain.”  He also was responsible for the now standardized arrangement of “Cattle Call.”

Pick tracks in the style include “Rootie Tootie,” “Low & Lonely,” “I Can’t Go On This Way,” “Home In San Antone,” “Deed I Do,” “Blues In My Mind” and the instrumental “Deep Henderson.”  Jordan Ripley’s vocal on “Deed I Do” is a nice plus and she and husband Byron (from The Tumbleweeds) do the honors on “Texarkana Baby” to its benefit.

When approaching this style, just set your tuning fork aside and relax!  Eighteen tracks.

CD:  $15 from

©2016, Rick Huff




J. J. Steele, Just Passin’ Thru

J. Steele is one of those cowpoets the fans want to hear from because he has definitely been-there-done-that. In his introduction, Steele admits “I might just break meter in mid-poem cause that’s the way I tell it best.” But it’s real, and that would be the point of the exercise, right?

Alluding to stages of life, Steele clusters his verse into the categories “Summer Range,” “Winter Stubble” and “Home Pasture.”  From Steele’s poem “Frosty” comes the following vivid description:  “ One day this horse kicked Frosty right smack in the face…and where his nose, it used to be, it left him just a place!” Ouch. And Steele also knows from whence came dinner in another verse:  “When I eat my steak, I knew it came hard” and that means “tippin’ my hat to ‘The Crew In The Yard’.”  His verse “Mr. Bud Pie” is a nice horse tale, and you’ll find others that will speak directly to you, particularly if you are from the horse and cow culture.

The collection isn’t Earth-shattering, nor is it intended to be.  It’s just an honest portrayal of some more pieces of the West of today and of times not long passed.  I guess you could say it deals with “the moments and the momentous.”  Sixty-five  pages.

Trade Paperback – ISBN  978-1-4787-7220-0, US $14.95; and

©2016, Rick Huff



Jerry Bell, High Mountain Memory

The newest release from Jerry Bell should again find an appreciative audience, and once again I’m putting in my request for his studio guy to mix Bell’s vocal singing performances more in the forefront.

Bell is a vivid reciter, authentic in tone and content.  Works of Colen Sweeten, Pat Richardson, S. Omar Barker, Sunny Hancock (rather than the “Sony Handcok”  credited here) and Bruce Kiskaddon are always welcome.  Among the songs covered are Tom Russell & Ian Tyson’s “Rose of San Joaquin,” Larry Bastian & Ernest Berghoff’s “Cowboy Bill,” Marty Robbins’ “Old Red,” Ernest & James Schaper and Bill Barwick’s “Don’t Know Much About Waltzin’” and Lucky Whipple’s “Bucking Horse Ballet.”  Two worthy Bell originals round it out (“Ride ‘Em Cowboy” and the title track “High Mountain Memory”).  Fourteen tracks.

I do like Jerry Bell’s style of delivery in both his spoken and singing modes.  Now if we can just get his “mixologist” to let us fully hear him sing…

CD:  $15 + s/h from Jerry Bell, 20 Foxtail Lane, Riverton, WY  82501.

©2016, Rick Huff


OLD-TIME COWBOYS by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)



by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Proudly they rode, those horseback men
Whose like we shall not see again,
Those cowboys of a day long gone
Who saddled broncs before the dawn
To ride the long day into night—
Clan cousins of the Ishmaelite.

Their marching music was the bawl
Of longhorn cattle, and the call
Of high adventure stirred their blood
To horseback pride and hardihood.

Dusty they rode. The salt of sweat
Was more to them than the alphabet,
And more the drum of a horse’s hoof
Than any fireside, field, or roof.

Partners of the wind, their spurs are rust
Their cattle trails long-settled dust,
But over their campfires’ ashened embers,
The steadfast northern star remembers
That proudly they rode, with ancient pride
Of all bold men and true who ride!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker from Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West

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. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB.”

Find more poetry and more about S. Omar Barker at

This c. 1904 photograph is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division. It is captioned, “Seventeen cowboys posed informally.” Find more about it here.

(You can share this poem with this post, but please request permission for any other uses. This photograph is in the public domain.)

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Shows and Workshops



From the Western Folklife Center:

33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Ticketed Show and Workshops Now Online

The Gathering website has a new look and a new address! Bookmark and head on over to see the ticketed shows and workshops scheduled for the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 30-February 4, 2017, in Elko, Nevada!

Western Folklife Center members can purchase tickets to these shows and workshops starting September 6 at 9:00 am PST. To purchase tickets online during the members’-only period, you must have a password that will be given to current members starting August 20 via email. You can also call or email the membership office after September 20 for the password. When you purchase tickets, you will need to know your membership level benefits. If you are unsure of your member level or your benefits, contact the membership office at at 775-738-7508 ext 222 or membership@

Jack “Trey” Allen, 1971-2016

treyhoglex photo by Bruce L. Hogle

With great sadness, we learned of the death of popular cowboy, ranch manager, and poet Trey Allen on July 7, 2016, after a long, brave battle with multiple myeloma.

His many, many friends and loving family know that Trey, in the words of his wife, Janice Hannagan-Allen, was “a true cowboy, thru and true all the way.” Janice commented that Trey was, “A man that has touched a million lives, not just as a poet but as a friend to all of us …. He loved you all as much as you loved him …. Your love and prayers for our family are much appreciated …”

In a recent article in Western Horseman by Senior Editor Jennifer Denison, his friend, poet Jay Snider, is quoted, “Trey is one of those guys that lives every day by the same code of ethics as the old-timers. It means something to him that your word is your bond and that you do what you say you’re going to do.”

See a Western Horseman tribute here, which includes Trey Allen’s poem, “The Way I Remember Him.”

We were honored to have a painting of Trey as the 2015 Cowboy Poetry Week poster. Photographer Carol Barlau took the photograph that was featured in Don Dane‘s painting of Trey Allen, “Cowboy True, Thru and Thru.”


Trey’s family shared his obituary:

Jack Carter “Trey” Allen III, 45, of the McDowell Creek Community, Manhattan, Kansas, passed away peacefully with his parents present, July 7, 2016. Trey battled Multiple Myeloma cancer since 2013.

Trey was born January 20, 1971 in Richardson Texas, the son of Jack Carter Allen Jr. and Tana (Davis/Wiggins) Gasparek. He went to grade school in Claude, Texas; attended Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, Amarillo, Texas 1983-1988; and graduated from Claude High School in 1989.

For some twenty years and change, Jack “Trey” Allen wrote and recited cowboy poetry. He started out gathering intel early in life as a bullrider/bullfighter and graduated to shoeing horses and starting colts. To those in the know, this should explain a great deal. At the point he began his family, however, the conclusion was reached that three meals a week and Copenhagen made less than desirable home conditions and he settled into a real job near the present-day metropolis of Hooker, Oklahoma. While earning a regular paycheck, he kept his hand turned at colts and shoeing, day working, and so on. It was during this time he became intimate with a little known group called “Corporate America.” Thirteen years of that and he packed his family up, headed for the mountains of south central Colorado, near Canon City, and became a full-time cowboy for the rest of his life.  In 2006, he moved to Kansas and for 10 years he managed the Moyer Ranch in the northern Flints Hills of Kansas, south of Manhattan, Kansas.

Trey performed cowboy poetry from the Gulf Coast of Alabama to North Dakota and from Missouri to Utah. He was one of four event winners at the first Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and was purty fortunate in subsequent National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo events. In 2011, Kansas hosted its first annual State Cowboy Poetry competition, and a win there offered Trey the opportunity to perform for the “Gubernatorial Entourage” at the Symphony of the Flint Hills, Alma Kansas, in front of Governor Sam Brownback; he considered that a career highlight. The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Colorado and the Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, Colorado, were among his favorite gatherings to perform, along with local Kansas Livestock Association meetings.

Trey could always be seen wearing his trademark pink tall tops, colorful shirt and just as colorful wild rag on stage. His girls would call him “The Skittles cowboy.”  Trey titled himself as “Cowboy Poet, Humorist, Surveyor of Kingdoms, and Practitioner of Quality, Truth and Improvement.”

Trey was past president of the Kansas Livestock Association, local chapter in Junction City, Kansas.

Trey is survived by his wife, Janice (Hannagan) Allen, Manhattan, Kansas; three daughters, Shandee, Edmond Oklahoma, and Lara and Tera M., Cushing, Oklahoma; two step children, Jenna and Colton, Manhattan, Kansas; mother, Tana (Davis/Wiggins) Gasparek, Tres Piedras, New Mexico; step father (the man Trey called dad) Dee Aduddell and his wife Ronda, Claude, Texas; sisters Tera J. Ingram, Emporia, Kansas and Shana Aduddell, Amarillo, Texas; two brothers, Cody Aduddell, Claude, Texas and Seth Aduddell, Amarillo, Texas; two nephews, Tough Medina, Emporia, Kansas and Trenton Richey, Pampa, Texas; a favorite niece, Evelyn Aduddell, Claude, Texas; along with all his brothers from Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in Amarillo, Texas and all his numerous cowboy poet friends.

Trey was preceded in death by his father Jack Carter Allen Jr., December 29, 1972.

Trey’s wish was to have his three girls take a road trip to scatter his ashes at all the ranches where he was employed and where he day-worked.

There will be a celebration of life, or as Trey would call, it a “shindig,” later this fall at the McDowell Creek Community Center, Manhattan, Kansas.  In lieu of flowers, please make donations to “Allen Girls’ College Fund,” 15601 Hannagan Road, Manhattan KS 66502.  Their education was very important to him.

Art Spur: National Day of the Cowboy

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…we know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 43rd piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur, a photograph, “Shadow Bronc,” by songwriter, poet, and photographer John Michael Reedy (,

We asked John Michael Reedy to tell us about the photograph, and he commented:

I made the photograph at the Jefferson County Fair Rodeo in Boulder, Montana. Since most rodeos have photographers dedicated to catching the “action,” my focus tends more towards light, composition, and story. This is our hometown rodeo, a very small-town and (almost) always dry and dusty affair held at the end of August. However, this particular year we experienced absurdly unusual wet and muddy conditions. I felt an urgency to get a good shot on this day, to capture the striking tension between the (still) very clean cowboys and the inevitable mud bath. In this shot, the small-town setting and the prominence of the flag catching the sun at that moment creates a mood, and the classic position of the rider is iconic. Mostly I like the the body language of the horse as he appears to stomp his own shadow in the mud.

Poets are invited to be inspired by the art; a literal representation of the art is not expected.

The Twelfth Annual National Day of the Cowboy is Saturday July 23, 2016. Find more about the organization at and on Facebook.

Selected poems, below, are:

“Someday” by Tom Swearingen
“Broncs, Bruises, and Brawn” by Marleen Bussma
“Counting Down” by Merv Webster
“From Dust to Mud” by Jim Cathey
“Seize the Day” by Jeff Campbell
“Dream Ride” by George Rhoades
“The Shadow Riders”by Jean Mathisen Haugen


by Tom Swearingen

Been years since winning a buckle.
More still since he’s been in his prime.
Tonight, you’d think he was twenty,
Legs churning together in time.

His rowels rake ‘cross the shoulders.
Strong lift of the thick woven reign.
Sweeping to flank with each landing,
Bronc’s efforts to pitch him in vain.

Been to the top of the mountain.
Made Finals three times years ago.
Says he’s just riding for fun now,
But man, he still puts on a show.

Spurs fly like there’s no tomorrow.
He’s fanning and riding for keeps.
Showing his guts and his gristle,
No matter the bucks or the steeps.

He knows he can’t ride forever.
He’ll hang up his war bag someday.
But now he’s right where he should be,
High rolling atop this rank bay.

© 2016, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Marleen Bussma

The day’s crowd is loud and restless waiting in the scorching sun.
Hats are lowered for the anthem that is cheered when singing’s done.
The arena holds and gathers brave contenders to this dance.
They will partner with a rank bronc who’ll replace old west’s romance

with reality and raw truth.  “Come on, cowboy, show your stuff.
Can you take the jarring pounding?  Is your spirit tough enough?”
Jackson paces in the background, hears the chute boss bring the news.
It’s his turn to face the devil, time to pay those dancing dues.

Jackson’s fairly green at riding, wears a price tag on his jeans,
but he’s worked at getting better and he hopes that this ride means
he will hear the buzzer’s music, mark a victory for once.
Jackson’s nerves, though taut and troubled, hang on tough as he confronts

what is caged up in the bronc chute agitated, blowing snot.
Pump Jack throws his ornery head back as the cowboy starts to squat.
Jackson gently makes adjustments as he settles on the steed,
gets his chaps arranged and straightened.  Thoughts of what to do stampede

through his head like prairie dogs that see the shadow of a hawk.
He feels cautious, careful, cold, and hopes his courage does not walk.
“Don’t forget to mark the horse out.  How much buck rein should you give?”
Laundry lists of what to do portend mistakes that don’t forgive.

“Keep your chin down on your chest and have those big toes pointed out.
Lift the buck rein for your balance, stay alert,” his instincts shout.
Jackson pulls his hat down tightly, nods his head to start the dream.
If he sticks like glue to Pump Jack it will help his self-esteem.

Pump Jack rises on his hind feet as he leaps out of the chute.
Jackson’s left hand fans the air as he clings bravely to the brute.
He can feel his fortune slipping like the buck rein in his hand.
The intensity is frantic, nothing like what he had planned.

When you talk about a bronc ride, Casey Tibbs once gave this pearl,
“You just fall into a rhythm.  It’s like dancing with a girl.”
Jackson’s rhythm leaves the dance floor as he flirts with a dismount.
Fresh air swells above his saddle like a sly thief’s bank account.

His intentions are unfastened as he flops like fish on shore.
Bouncing wildly in the saddle, he forgets about a score.
The eight-second clock is ticking.  Does he have time to regroup?
The arena floor now greets him and he doesn’t have to stoop.

With the grace of a flat tire he is finished for the day.
Just his pride is pained and pounding as he grimly limps away.
Though rejected like a wallflower waiting with a wish to dance,
the next town puts on a rodeo and he’ll get another chance.

As he thinks about his last ride, what went right and what went wrong,
he concedes he needs the basics to help make his riding strong.
It will take a lot more practice while he learns to do what’s smart,
but for now he knows his hat stayed on and, pardner, that’s a start.

© 2016, Marleen Bussma
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Merv Webster

It’s been a life I don’t regret and looking back I’m proud
of all the rides and challenges played out before a crowd.
Eight seconds might not seem that long but on a bronc from hell
you have to know it’s every move or you won’t score that well.

I’d made a promise to my wife that this was my last ride
as she had shared my childhood dream and I look back with pride
on how she’d thrown her full support behind me all the way
but sensed she longed to settle down and call it quits today.

I knew the bronc between my chaps, I’d ridden him before,
but if it had its way at all he’d dump me that’s for sure.
The Chute Boss called, “Let’s have him out!” and did that horse perform
though all who’d hung up on his back knew that was just the norm.

Eight seconds were now counting down, I’d marked out clean enough,
but this bronc sure would see if I was made of sterner stuff.
He knew the game and loved it too and had a bag of tricks
and it would try near everyone that it had in its mix.

Six seconds now and counting down, so what now lies ahead?
I swear its gonna prop and buck and sure to drop its head.
It’s eyeing off that shadow there and knew it’s in its blood
to want to see me on the ground and sprawled out in the mud.

Four seconds left and I’ve survived but man my back near broke
while all the pain that wracked my frame was way beyond a joke.
Just rake and watch for his next move was what raced through my mind
and just a few secs longer and we’ll put all this behind.

Two seconds left but man he showed no sign of tiring out
then arched his back and screamed out loud and I was in no doubt
he’d give it all he had and  try in one last desp’rate buck
to do his best and give his all to see me come unstuck.

I knew there for a moment there was air below my seat
and wondered would I stay with him or did he  have me beat.
But then I felt his back again and heard the siren blow
well knowing I had ridden time and we’d put on a show.

To go out on a ride like that was pleasing to the soul
and mighty glad the bronc I drew had surely played its role.
The broncs I ride these days are tame but every now and then
I break a lively youngster and I count down time agen.

© 2016,  Merv Webster
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Jim Cathey

Dang Gramps! I ain’t too shore about this weather,
That ol’ muddy ground shore spooks me.
I seen them ol’ boys grabbin’ fer leather,
an’ their ol’ broncs seemed sorta goofy.

Most times its purty dry come buckin’ time,
‘course, I reckon you’ve seen it all.
But I just wondered, back in yore prime,
If you’d ever seen sich a squall.

Yeah, I seen it muddy like this, back in ought nine,
When Dick Stanley rode Ol’ Steamboat.
Lookin’ back, we shoulda took it as a sign,
All the chutes was purt near a float.

Cheyenne it was, a fancy gig back then,
Folks had came from all around,
All that stock was bad an’ so was the men,
‘course Frontier days was renowned.

Some said that Steamboat would never be rode!
That he’d go down in hist’ry.
Now Dick Stanley, well, he ain’t never been thowed!
But his past was a myst’ry.

He knowed all about this bronc he was on,
‘Twas a good bronc riders job.
Lottery said he drawed the devil’s spawn,
An’ he knowed he’d shore played hob.

The night’s rain turned hard dirt into a mud,
Ma Nature had made her play.
That bronc was snortin’ an’ lookin’ for blood,
But this cowboy planned to stay.

He’d marked ‘em good, comin’ outta the chute,
His fist drawed  into a knot.
But, that  bronc was learnin’ the ways of the brute,
An’ he’d give more than he got.

He quit the gate an’ was goin’ on high,
An’ he showed that he warn’t slow,
He’d come poundin’ down, then go on the fly,
Twistin’ ‘til his belly would show!

That cowboy stuck tighter than a Texas tick,
While that bronc was  asplashin’ mud.
An’ he squalled an’ snorted  with every kick,
smashin’  the ground with a thud.

But this day would not be kind to Ol’ Steamboat,
Mayhaps the mud slowed him down.
Steamboat whistled, but that was all she wrote,
‘cuz Dick Stanley had won the crown!

Now you drawed good an’ you shore got the skill,
That bronc will be okay, like as not.
An’ he’ll shore ‘nuff try to give you a spill,
So son, just give ‘r all you’ve got!

Yeah! I seen it muddy like this… back in ought nine.

© 2016,  Jim Cathey
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Jeff Campbell

Four A.M. the thunder booms
As the gushing rain cascades
Easy just to stay right here
The coffee and couch persuades

It’s just a small town rodeo
A winding one hundred mile trip
But he hates the thought of missing
As he takes one final sip

Dodges puddles out to the truck
Turns the key and the radio on
As an old Corb Lund song ends
A forecast of blue skies by dawn

Does it matter if he wins?
Or lands with a humbling thud
When that whirling shadow stomper
Baptizes him in the mud

It’s about the thrill and focus
The feeling of being alive
To have something to live for
A goal and a will to strive

One day out on life’s highway
As he glances in his rear view
He will not regret things tried
Just the ones he did not do

© 2016,  Jeff Campbell
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by George Rhoades

The old cowboy sat in the chair,
A blanket across his lap,
On the patio of the rest home,
Wakin’ from his nap.

I did ’em all, he said,
Ridin’ and ropin’ at the rodeo
All up and down the line,
Calgary to Cheyenne to El Paso.

Now I’m crippled up and stuck
With caretakers and fadin’ memory,
Thinkin’ back on the past,
Gone forever now for me.

But when I sleep I dream
That I’m buckin’ once again,
A small town, flags aflyin’,
Tryin’ my best to win.

Corrals, horses, pickup trucks,
Spurs, buckles, chaps and ropes,
Arenas, bulls, barrel racers,
Livin’ on dreams and hopes.

Travelin’ from town to town,
Wantin’ to make the short go,
To get the cash and the glory;
Hard life, not much to show.

Comin’ outta the chute,
One arm up, under stormy sky,
Hat pulled low, holdin’ tight,
Pickup man waitin’ nearby.

I’ve drawn a good one,
Bronc with lots of fire,
High-kickin’ and high-jumpin’,
I’m ridin’ ‘im higher and higher.

Settlin’ into the rhythm,
Day money’s gonna be mine,
Spurrin’ on a high roller,
Pains forgotten, feelin’ fine.

The roar from the crowd,
Ride ’em cowboy, comes the cry,
The cheers urge me on
As I grab for the sky.

Then I hear the buzzer,
Eight-second ride and top score;
My dream comes to an end
‘Til I dream it all once more.

© 2016, George Rhoades
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.

by Jean Mathisen Haugen

Those rodeo grounds are in rough shape,
they date back over eighty years.
Though the rodeo dates back to 1894
and many a’ cowboy has bruised his rear.

The CCC built this one for town
a’ way up on the highest hill,
with a full view of the mountains,
and wild horse races still cause a thrill.

A few years ago they planned to move the grounds—
but that idea did not go over well.
The folks here liked it just where it was—
for there were many stories to tell

of when Indians danced in the ring there
or a bull dumped a cowboy or two;
the time old Checkers climbed the stand
from the back to get a good view.

Come the 4th of July, Pioneer Days
has folks coming here back home
to see the parade and the rodeo,
for they never wanted to roam

out of the valley to somewhere else.
This valley catches your heart
and the old rodeo brings ’em home
from way back in1894 at it’s start.

Now I’m sitting here in this grandstand
and it seems to me that I see
some shadow riders in the ring—
and they’re not just seen by me!

Stub Farlow and his brother Jules,
Clayton Danks, a well known rider.
A lady rider who once rode the circuit
and her second horse is right beside her.

Phantom horses and phantom bulls
and ghosts of cowboys long gone—
join us here at the rodeo grounds—
Let her buck and let’s get on

with having a regular big to-do
for the day is blue sky and prime
and the shadow riders are back here too—
to enjoy the fun one more time!

© 2016, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be shared without the author’s permission.