shannonaug2013photo by Shannon Keller Rollins


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’ 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 on YouTube.

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

This photograph is by Shannon Keller Rollins, used with her permission. Shannon and Kent Rollins run the Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon, the official chuck wagon of Oklahoma. Their best-selling cookbook,  A Taste of Cowboy, includes many outstanding recipes and many of Shannon’s great photographs.

They take their restored 1876 Studebaker wagon to ranches for spring and fall gatherings and to cowboy poetry and music events. They also cater weddings and corporate events. Visit their web site for more, including information about their cooking school, videos, and the “From the Chuck Wagon” blog. Also find them on Facebook, where they often have live videos.

Shannon and Kent Rollins are at the Silver Dollar City National Harvest & Cowboy Festival through October 22, 2016; at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering January 30-February 4, 2017; and many places in between.

(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.)


wallyjlwatermarkphoto by Jessica Brandi Lifland

by Wallace McRae

They contemplate their town-boot toes
As they stand around and mill.
They check the south horizon,
‘Cross the tracks above the hill.

Their suitcoats hint of mothballs,
Their Levis are clean and creased.
They speak of grass or cattle
But never the deceased.

Some have shook the Gov’ner’s hand,
And one’s been in the pen.
Crooked legs define the bronc hands,
Cropped-off thumbs the dally men.

Their spring-toothed necks are throttled up
In silky black wild rags.
Their faces scored like flower-stamps
On well-worn saddle bags.

They’ve come early to the funeral home,
Yet don’t want to go inside.
There’s no comfort in a breathless room
Or words of “eventide.”

They somehow share a secret bond
As each one recollects:
Together. Separate. Silently.
Each pays his last respects.

You’ll hear no keening to the vaulted skies,
But the good hands know when a good hand dies.

© Wallace McRae, used with permission
Wally McRae is a third-generation rancher, with a 30,000 acre cow-calf ranch in Forsyth, Montana.He was the first cowboy poet to be awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In his book, Cowboy Curmudgeon and other poems, Wally McRae notes this poem is “Dedicated to the memory of my uncle Evan D. McRae.”

Texas Hill Country poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick suggested this poem. She comments, “When I began writing cowboy poetry I studied the classics, paying close attention to the subject matter, the rhyme and the meter. I hope that beginning writers study this poem. It should be read and pondered. It is just beautifully written.”

This outstanding photograph of Wally McRae is by photojournalist Jessica Brandi Lifland, used with permission, from her “Cowboy Poets” project. See more of her photos of Wally McRae here.

Others photographed for her “Cowboy Poets” project include Amy and Gail Steiger, Rodney Nelson, Henry Real Bird, Jack Walther, Bimbo Cheney, Waddie Mitchell, Doris Daley, Jerry Brooks, Elizabeth Ebert, D.W. Groethe, and Bill Lowman. Find the photographs here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but any other use requires permission.)

HEAVEN lyrics by Jared Rogerson

jadaphoto by Terry Allen


lyrics by Jared Rogerson

Green field, yellow t-shirt, French-braid in your long brown hair
Hay’s cut, baled up, now Daddy says it’s okay to run him out there
You’re nine years old, fast as you can go on the back of your gold palomino
And your little blue heeler is catching up fast, your big smile makes me laugh

You’re heaven, heaven in a picture
Time stands still, did I forget to mention
You’re heaven, the image of love
Yeah, you’re a picture of heaven

Eighteen, your field of dreams is far away from that college town
You go to work, you go to school, grown up ain’t always cool
But on Friday night, fast as you can go chasing cans at the college rodeo
And your old palomino giving all he has, it’s like you’re flying first class

You’re heaven, heaven in a picture
Time stands still, did I forget to mention
You’re heaven, the image of love
Yeah, you’re a picture of heaven

Remember this, time is a test and life is a clover leaf
In your white dress don’t you forget you’ll always be my little piece of

Heaven, heaven in a picture
Time stands still, did I forget to mention…

You’re heaven, heaven in a picture
Time stands still, did I forget to mention
You’re heaven, the image of love
Yeah, you’re a picture of Heaven

(Heaven in a picture
Time stands still) did I forget to mention

(You’re heaven, the image of love)
Yeah, you’re a picture of heaven

© 2016, Jared Rogerson, Wapiti Country (ASCAP)


A fresh and compelling voice in the Western music world, Jared Rogerson’s newest album, Heaven, offers a wide variety of his lively songs and includes a few co-writes and songs by others. There are both tough and tender themes that include roads traveled, rodeo tales, working cowgirls, relationships lost and found, freedom, and the big open West. Brenn Hill makes a vocal appearance on his own “Cowboy Singer, Too,” a relevant piece about who is “cowboy enough,” well done by Rogerson (even popular poet Andy Nelson shows up on the track).

Watch the impressive promo for the album, with great images, here.

See Rick Huff’s “Best of the West” review here.

Find all the lyrics and much more at jaredrogerson.com and enjoy songs from Heaven and other albums and performance videos at Jared Rogerson’s YouTube channel. Listen to the song, “Heaven,” here.

Jared shared the photo at the top of this page (by Terry Allen) of his daughter, Jada, painting “Heaven.”

Find more about Jared Rogerson at CowboyPoetry.com and on Facebook.

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

THAT LITTLE BLUE ROAN by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Most all of you boys have rode horses like that.
He wasn’t too thin but he never got fat.
The old breed that had a moustache on the lip;
He was high at the wethers and low at the hip.
His ears always up, he had wicked bright eyes
And don’t you furgit he was plenty cow wise.

His ears and his fets and his pasterns was black
And a stripe of the same run the length of his back.
Cold mornin’s he’d buck, and he allus would kick
No hoss fer a kid or a man that was sick.
But Lord what a bundle of muscle and bone;
A hoss fer a cow boy, that little blue roan.

For afternoon work or for handlin’ a herd,
He could turn any thing but a lizzard or bird.
For ropin’ outside how that cuss could move out.
He was to ’em before they knowed what ’twas about.
And runnin’ down hill didn’t faize him aytall.
He was like a buck goat and he never did fall.

One day in the foot hills he give me a break
He saved me from makin’ a awful mistake,
I was ridin’ along at a slow easy pace,
Takin’ stock of the critters that used in that place,
When I spied a big heifer without any brand.
How the boys ever missed her I don’t onderstand.
Fer none of the stock in that country was wild,
It was like takin’ candy away from a child.

She never knowed jest what I had on my mind
Till I bedded her down on the end of my twine.
I had wropped her toes up in an old hoggin’ string,
And was buildin’ a fire to heat up my ring.
I figgered you see I was there all alone
Till I happened to notice that little blue roan.

That hoss he was usin’ his eyes and his ears
And I figgered right now there was somebody near.
He seemed to be watchin’ a bunch of pinon,
And I shore took a hint from that little blue roan.

Instead of my brand, well, I run on another.
I used the same brand that was on the calf’s mother.
I branded her right pulled her up by the tail
With a kick in the rump for to make the brute sail.
I had branded her proper and marked both her ears,
When out of the pinions two cow men appears.

They both turned the critter and got a good look
While I wrote the brand down in my own tally book.
There was nothin to do so they rode up and spoke
And we all three set down fer a sociable smoke.
The one owned the critter I’d happened to brand,
He thanked me of course and we grinned and shook hands
Which he mightn’t have done if he only had known
The warnin’ I got from that little blue roan.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1947, from “Rhymes of the Ranges”
Here’s the Kiskaddon poem mentioned in a previous post; a 1938 note from the editor of the Western Livestock Journal stated, “Probably his ‘Little Blue Roan’ is the most popular.”

In his monumental collection of Bruce Kiskaddon’s poems (nearly 500), Open Range, editor Bill Siems also includes an earlier version of this poem, from Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.

Siems writes about the poet, “Kiskaddon first worked with cattle and horses as a youngster in Missouri, but dated his start as a buckaroo to 1898, when at age nineteen he began taking entry-level jobs at ranches along the Purgatory River east of Trinidad [Colorado], in the district called Picket Wire, from the cowboy pronunciation of Purgatoire, the original name of the river. Early on he discovered an affinity for horses and an aptitude for working with them. He honed his equine skills by taking jobs with horsemen who were willing to teach him, and became known as a rough string rider in an era when such skill was highly respected. Driven by an appetite for travel that grew with the passing years, Kiskaddon wandered farther from home through a succession of cowboy jobs during the next several years, until a serious accident around 1906 left him temporarily unable to ride.”

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com:

This 2005 photograph, titled “Two Young Nakota Mares,” is by François Marchal and is from Wikimedia Commons.

The poem is in the public domain.

RIDIN’ FENCE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Ridin’ along at a easy walk
with your steeples and hammer and pliers.
Keepin’ a watch fer the tracks of stock
or the weeds blowed up on the wires.
You’ll find some sign of coyotes, too,
and plenty of rabbit tracks.
And down in the wash some calves crawled thru
and scraped the hair off their backs.

You must fix the gate on the other side
along where the road goes through.
The past’rs big. It’s a good long ride
and they’s allus a heap to do.
You find a place where a big old bull
went through in a patch of oak.
They’s a picket out and some steeples pulled
and a couple of wires broke.

Some folks had camped at the Hillside spring,
been there for a couple of days.
The boss didn’t like that sort of thing.
They might kill a beef, he says.
Before you finish it gits plum dark.
You caint see to do things right.
So you pile up some rocks to make a mark
and ride on home in the night.

Fence ridin’ jobs aint allus snaps.
I never did call it fun.
The worst thing about it is perhaps
that yore never exactly done.
But any feller that’s got good sense
can figger the whole affair.
If nothin’ went wrong with a string of fence,
he wouldn’t be needed there.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, from “Western Poems,” 1935

In Bill Siems’ Shorty’s Yarns, a collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, he includes a 1938 note from the editor of the Western Livetock Journal, where many of Kiskaddon’s poems and stories were printed:

“Answering the requests of many readers of Western Livestock Journal, Bruce Kiskaddon, famous cowboy poet, writes his autobiography. His book Western Poems has had tremendous sale. There is hardly a cattlemen’s meeting but what someone adds to the occasion by reciting a Bruce Kiskaddon poem. Probably his ‘Little Blue Roan’ is the most popular. Now we’ll let Bruce tell his own story.”

Kiskaddon writes, “My first work with cattle was down in southwest Missouri. I was twelve years old. Four of us, all about the same age, were day herding a bunch of cows on what unfenced country there was around that place. We had quite a lot of room and at night we put them in an eighty acre pasture. We four kids worked at it all summer. We rode little Indian horses and went home at night. Not much cow punching, that’s a fact, but it was big business to us. The talk of opening the Indian territory for settlement had started, and already the open country was beginning to be occupied by boomers’ camps. People were coming from everywhere to be ready for the opening. They were a mixed up lot….” Read the entire piece here: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1089&context=usupress_pubs

Find more about Kiskaddon in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1941 photo by Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990) is titled, “Range cattle behind fence on grazing land near Birney, Montana.” It is from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

Read more about Marion Post Wolcott, known for her Depression-era photographs, and find more images at a web site designed by her daughter.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

Events: October 2016

• through October 2, 2016
65th Annual Rex Allen Days Willcox, Arizona

• through October 2, 2016
27th Annual Durango Cowboy Gathering Durango, Colorado

• through October 2, 2016
Trail’s End Gathering High River, Alberta

• through October 29, 2016
National Harvest & Cowboy Festival Silver Dollar City, Missouri

• October 1, 2016
Evening Under the Stars  Reno, Nevada

• October 2, 2016
27th Annual Alzada Cowboy Poetry, Music and Art Show  Alzada, Montana

• October 3-4, 2016
38th Annual Folk Music Festival Prescott, Arizona

• October 6-8, 2016
23rd Annual Will James Society Gather Canyon, Texas

• October 6-9, 2016
25th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days Valentine, Nebraska

• October 6-9, 2016
20th Annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival Hailey and Ketchum, Idaho

• October 7-9, 2016
Bob Wills Fiddle Festival & Contest Greenville, Texas

• October 7-9, 2016
27th Annual Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico

• October 7-9, 2016
Annual Lone Pine Film Festival and Cowboy Poetry Lone Pine, California

• October 13, 2016
Sixth Annual Paradise Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering Paradise, California

• October 13-16, 2016
Women Writing the West Conference Santa Fe, New Mexico

• October 14-15, 2016
Cowboy Crossings / Cowboy Artists of America and Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

• October 15-22, 2016
The NILE Stock Show, Pro Rodeo and Western Expo Billings, Montana

• October 20 – 23, 2016
14th Annual Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium Cartersville, Georgia

• October 22, 2016
Whistle Stop Ranch Fall Cowboy Roundup Acton, California

• October 22, 2016
33rd Annual Texian Market Days George Ranch Historical Park Richmond, Texas

• • •

• October 26-30, 2016
22nd Annual Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering Heber City, Utah

hvcpg2016Visit our Sponsor supporters: Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering

• • •

• October 28-30, 2016
26th Annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and Western Swing Festival Fort Worth, Texas

• October 28-30, 2016
Cedar Livestock & Heritage Festival Cedar City, Utah

• Dates not yet received for 2016
23rd annual Gila Valley Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering Safford, Arizona

• Dates not yet received for 2016
27th Annual Alzada Cowboy Poetry, Art & Music Show Alzada, Montana

• Dates not yet received for 2016
26th Annual Visalia Fall Roundup Visalia, California

Events: September 2016

• September 1-5, 2016
58th Annual Wagon Days  Sun Valley, Idaho

• September 2-3, 2016
Fifth annual Stanley-Sawtooth Cowboy Gathering  Stanley, Idaho

• September 2-4, 2016
Celebrate Bandera  Bandera, Texas

• September 2-4, 2016
Tumbleweed Music Festival  Richland, Washington

• September 2-5, 2016
North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo  Barriere, British Columbia

• September 7-10, 2016
69th Annual Tri-State Rodeo Fort Madison, Iowa

• September 9-10, 2016
4th Annual Great Basin Buckaroo Gathering Ogden, Utah

• September 9-10, 2016
San Angelo Cowboy Gathering  San Angelo, Texas

• September 9-10, 2016
September 22-23, 2017
19th Annual Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering  Hot Springs, South Dakota

• September 9-11, 2016
Banning Stagecoach Days  Banning, California

• September 9-11, 2016
28th Annual National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration  Lubbock, Texas

• September 9-11, 2016
36th Annual Hells Canyon Mule Days  Enterprise, Oregon

• September 9-11, 2016
National Folk Festival  Greensboro, North Carolina

• • •

• September 10, 2016
2nd Annual Napa Valley Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering Yountville, California

Visit our Sponsor supporters: Western Folklife Center

• • •

• September 14-17, 2016
105th Annual Pendleton Round-up  Pendleton, Oregon

• September 14-October 29, 2016
National Harvest & Cowboy Festival  Silver Dollar City, Missouri

• September 16-18, 2016
27th Annual Maple Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Maple Creek, Saskatchewan

• September 16-18, 2016
Fifth Annual Dakota Western Heritage Festival  Pierre, South Dakota

• September 16-18, 2016
7th Annual Lost n Lava Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Shoshone, Idaho

• September 23-24, 2016
12th Annual Globalquerque Music Festival  Albuquerque, New Mexico

• September 23-24, 2016
Western Days Festival  Lewisville, Texas

• September 23-25, 2016
102nd Annual Fruita Fall Festival Fruita, Colorado

• September 24, 2016
Not Just Cowboy Poetry Willits, California

• September 24, 2016
Pikes Peak Cowboy Gathering  Cripple Creek, Colorado

• September 25, 2016
Ranching Truth benefit concert Alamogordo, New Mexico

• September 25-26, 2016
Ranch Rodeo Finals and Cowboy Heritage Festival  Kissimmee, Florida

• September 29-October 2, 2016
27th Annual Durango Cowboy Gathering  Durango, Colorado

• September 29-October 2, 2016
65th Annual Rex Allen Days  Willcox, Arizona

• September 30-October 2, 2016
Trail’s End Gathering  High River, Alberta