TRAILING THE HERD by Smoke Wade

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TRAILING THE HERD
by Smoke Wade

They moved often then,
From warm winter grounds by the river’s mouth,
Where mothers gave birth,
On rocky hillsides that faced the sunny south.

Up steep trails, they moved,
Through saddles bathed in late spring showers,
Above the canyons filled with pine,
To mountain meadows with purple flowers.

Past green ponds, they moved,
Through huckleberries on the summit high,
Then swiftly down the Devil’s run.
To the land of endless sky.

Through rolling hills, they moved,
Down dusty lanes in August sun,
To fall pasture with ample room,
For cows to rest and calves to run.

Behind barbed wire, now they move,
There to fatten and to graze,
The winter grounds sit idle now,
Modern times with different ways.

Yes, they moved often then,
Through sumac gullies and mountain streams,
Before trailing the herd became a part,
Of our memories and dreams.

© 1991, Smoke Wade
This poem should not be re-posted or reprinted without permission

Popular emcee and cowboy poet Smoke Wade was raised on a remote Hells Canyon ranch.He’s written a number of stories about his ranching family for Picture the West and Western Memories at CowboyPoetry.com.

Smoke told us that when he wrote this poem, “I was trying to re-capture the memory of the days when we used to trail large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River as the herd followed the seasons. Those days are gone now along with the cattle ranches in Hells Canyon…”

When asked about the importance of cowboy poetry, he responded, “The lifestyle of Hells Canyon cowboys was a way of life that was often considered to be thirty years behind the rest of the world. Lacking other forms of entertainment, stories, tall-tales and poetry were standard fare in the cow camp and they helped relieve boredom while on the trail.Often, the ‘telling’ was a way of recalling the significance of events, the lives of other cowboys, or perhaps the general history of the range we rode.

“After the fall of the Hells Canyon ranching industry, cowboy poetry was a natural way for me to recall the history of the life I once lived and the cowboys I had known. Likewise, the importance of cowboy poetry today is that it continues to document the memory of western events, people, and the cultural significance of the cowboy way of life that is quickly disappearing from the American West…”

Smoke Wade shared this photo from a 1952 branding. Read more about it here. He comments it is, “…the old branding corral on Cactus Flat. Not a trace of the corral or the branding fire pits remains today.”

Find another poem and more about Smoke Wade, along with links to photos and stories at CowboyPoetry.com.

 

A CHANGE OF SEASON by Smoke Wade

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A CHANGE OF SEASON
by Smoke Wade

We don’t summer at Chesnim’ these days,
Not since the For’ Service shut ‘er down;
They took away our permit to graze,
Now we pasture on the edge of town.

We don’t fall ride at Cold Springs anymore,
In the teeth of an early winter storm;
Or hitch our boots by the cow camp door,
And play cribbage inside where it’s warm.

We no longer winter by the Snake,
On benches carved below the rim;
The land was sold for the public’s sake,
To the For’ Service and to the BLM.

No, we don’t spring calve on Cactus Flat,
Since it sold to the State Fish and Game;
They say the chinook ain’t comin’ back,
And the cowman must carry the blame.

So, we gather now, at Third and Grand,
A beer garden after the parade;
And, here we’ll make one final stand,
Until this season begins to fade.

© 1994, Smoke Wade, used with permission
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Popular emcee and cowboy poet Smoke Wade was raised on a remote Hells Canyon ranch. He’s  written a number of stories about his ranching family for Picture the West and Western Memories at CowboyPoetry.com.

In an introduction to this poem, particularly timely today, he comments on the history of the area and about how the family’s way of life ended in the 1970s:

For ten thousand years, mankind lived along the banks of the Snake River in Hells Canyon, until 1877, when the United States Congress decided it was time to evict the residents of the canyon. They gave the order to the U. S Army, and under the command of General Howard, Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce people were forced to leave their homeland forever.

Over time the canyon once again became populated with outlaws,sourdoughs, miners, horse thieves, homesteaders, sheepherders and cattle ranchers, until almost one hundred years had passed. And then, Congress once again decided it was time to evict the residents of Hells Canyon. This time the order went down to the U. S. Forest Service and one by one the ranches fell, condemned, evicted and forced out,
until today there is little sign left of what we once called home. And thus began our change of season.

One day, at a beer garden after the parade, I noticed a bunch of old cowboys hanging out—talking, remembering old times. It dawned on me that with the fall of the Hells Canyon ranches to the U.S. Forest Service, that these cowboys didn’t have a range to go back to. “A Change of Season” was spawned at that moment.

This photo is of Smoke Wade, age 15, leading a pack string.

Find some of Smoke Wade’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.  Don’t miss
his stories and photos in Western Memories.

Smoke hosts and produces the Cowboy Idol Competition at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival (April 14-16, 2017) at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Washington.This is the competition’s 9th year, and the 14th anniversary of the Gathering.

Competitors have been chosen for Cowboy Idol: poets A. K. Moss, OR; Dick Warwick, WA; Linda Nadon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and Terry Raff, ID; and musicians Paul Larson, SD; Pat Threewit, ID; Ed Wahl, BC, Canada; and Last Ride (Duo) featuring Randy Berg and John Lazzarini, ID.

Find a complete media release from Smoke Wade here.

Performers at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering include Gary Allegretto, Billy Dean, Lacy J. Dalton, and Mike Morgan.

Find more information at columbiarivercowboygathering.com and on Facebook.

Cowboy Idol Competition at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Music Festival, April 14-16, 2017

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From Smoke Wade:

The Cowboy Idol finalists have been selected for the 9th Annual Cowboy Idol competition to take place in conjunction with the 14th Annual Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival, April 14 -16, 2017, held at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, WA. The festival is organized by Budd & Judy Massengale along with the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival Board of Directors.

The Cowboy Idol Poet contestants are: A. K. Moss, OR; Dick Warwick, WA; Linda Nadon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and Terry Raff, ID. The Cowboy Idol Musician contestants are: Paul Larson, SD; Pat Threewit, ID; Ed Wahl, BC, Canada; and Last Ride (Duo) featuring Randy Berg and John Lazzarini, ID.  Cowboy Idol is hosted and produced by Smoke Wade.

News on Cowboy Idol; featured performers, open mic sign up, tickets, schedule and special events can be found at – www.columbiarivercowboygathering.com

Scheduled daytime performances will be presented on Friday and Saturday, April 14 – 15, 2017, along with open mic sessions. Headliner shows will take place at 6:00 p.m. each evening. A cowboy church will be held on Sunday morning following the gathering.

The Cowboy Idol contestants compete for trophies along with a $1400.00 purse divided $500.00 for first place and $200.00 for second place in both the poet and musician competition. In addition, all open mic performers will be judged throughout the weekend for the People’s Choice Award with prize money and a trophy to the winner.