by Don Edwards

See him out there a-rangin’ alone
A solitary rider from out of the past
Hidin’ and singin’ all by himself
Of the old singin’ cowboys, he may be the last.

With a war bag of songs and a wore-out guitar
He chases the sundown and sings to the stars
Listen to him singin’ his melancholy strain
This wanderin’ minstrel of the range.

No wanderer I’ve known could ever sing
A more welcome song to a trail weary herd
As he sang to the cattle on those dark lonely nights
His voice softly ringin’ like his jingle-bob spurs.

He’d rather be singin’ to the cattle at night
Feel the warmth of a campfire than cold city lights
And he don’t give a damn about fortune and fame
This ramblin’ minstrel of the range.

No troubles no worries just travelin’ on
Don’t care where he’s goin’ don’t care where he’s been
The rhythm of his song is the gait of his horse
And he tunes his guitar to the wind.

Soft falls the tune of the troubadour’s song
“I’m a poor lonesome cowboy, I know I’ve done wrong”
Singin’ ’bout cowboys, horses and trains
This wanderin’ minstrel of the range.

Now the range is a-changin’ into neon and noise
And folks have lost touch with the land
They may tap their feet to an old cowboy song
But mostly they won’t understand.

That sad, lonesome feelin’ when the last coyote cries
For the soul of the drifter with nowhere to ride
Soon only the night wind will sing his refrain
This vanishing minstrel of the range.

© 1987 Don Edwards, Night Horse Songs/BMI,used with permission

Great troubadour and music historian Don Edwards is an ambassador of cowboy music to the wide world. Known for his generosity as well as his humility, he has nurtured the talents of other deserving artists who carry on the traditions.

In Don Edwards’ Classic Cowboy Songs, he writes about his inspiration for “Minstrel of the Range”: “I wanted to write a song that paid tribute to Curley Fletcher and other cowboy minstrels of the early days. I didn’t have the foggiest idea how or what I was going to write with the title I had dreamed up, until one day I was reading some of William Wordsworth’s poetry and came across a poem called ‘The Solitary Reaper.’ As I read and reread this poem, words began coming to me as the ‘Solitary Reaper’ became a ‘Solitary Cowboy.’ Where the tune came from, I don’t know…”

Listen to Don Edwards sing “Minstrel of the Range” on YouTube.

The Classic Cowboy Songs book includes the melody line and guitar chords. You can also find Wordsworth’s poem in our feature about Don Edwards.

A film about Don Edwards’ work and life, The Last Coyote, was recently released. Find more about it on Facebook and at coyotedon.com/home.

Find more about Don Edwards on Facebook; on his web site; donedwardsmusic.com; and also see more at Western Jubilee Recording.

Don Edwards joins Dave Stamey and Trinity Seely as headliners at the 30th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, taking place in Prescott, August 10-12, 2017. The favorite event of many, other performers include Gary Allegretto, Charlotte Allgood-McCoy, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Curt Brummet, Dale Burson, Dani Sue Carter, Dean Cook, Mikki Daniel, Kevin Davis, Marina Davis, Daisy Dillard, Jody Drake, Jim Dunham, Mike Dunn, Avery Ervien, Slim Farnsworth, Don Fernwalt, Ray Fitzgerald, Rolf Flake, Oscar Gray, Amy Hale Auker, Audrey Hankins (Balow), Larry Harmer, Paul Hatch, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Sue Jones, Suzi Killman, Gary Kirkman, Ross Knox, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Monk Maxwell, Wanda Macwell, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Slim McWilliams, Janet Moore, Nika Nordbrock, Donn Pease, Vess Quinlan, Gary Robertson, Frank Rodrigues, Buck Ryberg, Tom Sharpe, Jay Snider, Gail Starr, Gail Steiger, Duane Steinbrink, Rocky Sullivan, Duke Vance, Tom Weathers, Ashley Westcott, Bob Wood, Byrd Woodward, Rusty Pistols Cowboy Band, Arizona Old Time Fiddlers, and Broken Chair Band.

This year’s poster features a painting by George Molnar, “Long Way Home.” George Molnar’s art was featured on the 20th anniversary poster as well. Find more about him and his work at georgemolnar.com.

Find more about the 30th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Facebook and at azcowboypoets.org.


Events: Gatherings and More















Submission information

We welcome your event date and link for cowboy poetry and Western music events. Please send information at least several weeks before your event. Email us.

We regret that we can’t list individual performers’ or groups’ shows or “shows” that have just one or two performers or groups, including house concerts; those are too numerous for us to maintain. (We do welcome information for established venues with a roster of regularly-scheduled programs, even if those programs feature just one or two performers. The season’s schedule is welcome, at least several weeks before the season begins.)

We sometimes include other events of interest, such as rodeos and art shows.

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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 CowboyPoetry.com, 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.

“Ordinary Skin” by Amy Hale Auker

ordinary skin.jpg


From writer, poet, and working cowboy Amy Hale Auker’s new collection of creative nonfiction, Ordinary Skin: Essays from Willow Springs:

Icons only work if there is something of substance to back them up. The cowboy as icon only works if we keep the bedrock, the substance behind him. He is not some model of character or ethics or integrity, but a husband of the land, a grower of food. He is not an actor getting his share of the corporate take by reciting the words of scriptwriters and asking his horse to rear in time to the music. The cowboy is not a nostalgic touchstone from Saturday matinees, but a present-day reality, saddling his horse and getting greasy in the shop and building a fence. Six-guns and wooly chaps and parades and rodeos aside, the cowboy is a steward of precious resources, a caretaker of animals.

Amy Hale Auker’s Ordinary Skin is a deeply personal and original view from today’s working West.  “Thoughtful” would be too passive a description for the writing; she is anything but passive. She is startlingly present, exquisitely and equally attuned to mud bugs and cows and horses with attitude and the heart of an aged grandfather. It’s an outstanding collection of narrative nonfiction, brave in its honesty and vast in its themes.

And the narrative is the thing. She is a deft storyteller. Her transition from ranch wife to working cowboy was hard won and she writes about it candidly, in descriptions both tough and tender. Hers is not your grandfather’s cowboy life. Or is it? She offers up plenty of cowboy tales, with all the failures and successes of ranch work. It is the “romance of ranching life,” both in its ironic sense and its sense of deep fulfillment.

There are rich, often sensuous, passages, especially when she writes of her ranch manager partner and lover and their labor together in Arizona’s remote and rugged Santa Maria mountains. One moving piece begins, “…We rode out early of a morning after a big fight the night before. Working together means no time-out after hurtful words in the dark …” The long ride to their destination helps to heal, “As we stepped off to air our horses’ backs before dropping down into the deep crease in the earth, a heavy late-spring snow began to fall all around us, one of the most beautiful moments of my life…” You’ll want to read about what happened next.

She observes others, especially her family, with clarity and compassion, even when their style may be contrary to her own. In one anecdote, her father’s anger has the family sitting at the dinner table in “stiff silence,” no one wanting to become the focus of his attention. She writes, “My mother, always and forever trying to make peace, looked out the plate glass window and said, ‘My, aren’t the birds pretty.'” There’s no judgment in the telling of the story. She tells it like it was, and you find yourself as relieved as the rest of the family must have been when the comment breaks the tension and leads her father to respond with a roar of laughter. Next, you may find yourself reflecting on the lessons there. Once again Amy Hale Auker shows you something, and leaves any conclusions to the reader.

Ordinary Skin is much worth savoring and contemplating. The writing is polished to a sheen: “First came glassy jewels of hail the size of juniper berries and just as blue. Then came driving sideways rain and the ground began to run and move and designate its low places and its high.”

Amy Hale Auker fearlessly makes her own way through a challenging and rewarding life, paying attention. There’s no hubris in these essays, just keen observation, respect and love for friends and family, and a humble reverence for and curiosity about the natural world. Like the best poetry—and her prose often approaches poetry—the writing is filled with metaphor, the sort that might make you gaze up from the book and stop to consider, for example, what you and those mudbugs might have in common.

With well-received books to her credit (a previous book of essays and two novels) her steady voice has become an important voice. In Ordinary Skin, that voice soars.

Ordinary Skin is published by Texas Tech University Press, under the wise and guiding hand of  Senior Editor Andy Wilkinson, as a part of the “Voice in the American West” series.

Find more at www.amyhaleauker.com.




THE GOOD YEARS by Deanna Dickinson McCall



by Deanna Dickinson McCall

The soft sound of hooves on leaves
Shuffling over rock on the slope,
The gentle pull uphill as you look
Praying for grass, praying for hope.

It’s autumn and no rain has fallen
No summer monsoons ever came.
Last year’s grass is gone to dust
Too many years of the same.

You recall waving gramma grass
Cured brown with seed on the stem
It would put a cow through winter
Up here on the ridge and rim.

But, it rained at least some,
Even those marginal years had grass
The springs and creeks flowed
Laden clouds didn’t blow past.

You re-live the really good years
The land was unbelievably green
You rode in mud fixing water gaps
Tanks blown, canyons scoured clean.

Grass and wildflowers was stuff of fairies
Seeds and blooms nodding to dancing dew
Cows and horses sleek and shiny fat
Lord, it was like the land was new.

Those memories keep you hanging on,
Heaven sent rains would finally come.
You have been in tight spots before
Tough old times, you’ve seen some.

Drier than the dirty thirties
Record dry they say.
God will open the heavens
Wash this drought clean away.

‘Til then, you pull your hat down
Squint through the dust some more
Summon faith back in your heart
That God will heal this land’s sore.

Close your tired eyes against the dust
See the fat cattle and green grass
Feel the moisture on the soft wind
Dream of the good years of the past.

© 2013, Deanna Dickinson McCall
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Fifth-generation rancher, writer, and poet Deanna Dickinson McCall wrote about the drought in an eloquent piece in the Ranch and Reata magazine in 2015, The article, “The Gift,” begins, “The leaves crumble beneath my horse’s hooves, scattering into flakes onto the gray rock as we climb the trail. We’ve labored upward, hoof striking rock to dust repeatedly, through oak brush that never turned green, algarita too dry to produce the berries I cherish for jelly, and rust-colored cedar and piñion stands. The stunted grass is buried in dust.”

Deanna appears with Randy Huston and Jim Wilson in a July 22, 2017 show for the National Day of the Cowboy in Timberon, New Mexico. Then she heads for two other good events next month:

The Real Cowboy Music and Poetry Show Benefit for Ranching Truth takes place August 5, 2017, 7 PM, in Ruidoso, New Mexico. In addition to Deanna Dickinson McCall, the show features Gary Prescott, Jean Prescott, and Randy Huston. Find more at the Ranching Truth site.

Deanna is also included in the lineup at the Fourth Annual Cimarron Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering, August 25-27, 2017 at New Mexico’s Philmont Scout Ranch, just south of Cimarron. Other performers include Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, @Dale Burson, Janice Deardorff, Doug Figgs, Purly Gates, Danner Hampton, Randy Huston, Washtub Jerry, Jill Jones, Jim Jones, Peggy Malone, Terry Nash, Claudia Nygaard, Dale Page, Ramblin’ Rangers, Sandy Reay, Dennis Russell, Mark Smith, Rocky Sullivan, Rod Taylor, and Jim Wilson. Find more at cimarroncowboygathering.com.

Deanna has two highly praised books of stories, Rough Patches, which recently won a Will Rogers Medallion Award, and Mustang Spring, which also includes poems. She also has an award-winning CD of her poetry, Riding. She’s a popular performer at gatherings, often appearing at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and other events.

Her next book, a sequel to Rough Patches, is scheduled for release in October.

This photo, taken last month, is of Deanna and Dave McCall and ranching friends and neighbors.

Find more about Deanna Dickinson McCall at CowboyPoetry.com; at her web site, deannadickinsonmccall.com; and on Facebook.


YEP by Rod Nichols


by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)

“It’s been awhile,” the cowboy said.
“Yep,” replied his friend.
“It must be nearly fifteen years.”
“Yep,” he said again.

“I guess you been a driftin’ some?”
“Yep,” his friend replied.
“I guess I’ve done about the same.”
“Yep,” the old friend sighed.

“Remember Shorty Winkleman?”
“Yep,” friend answered slow.
“I hear he up and passed away.”
“Yep,” he answered low.

“Sure looks like we may have some rain.”
“Yep,” his friend allow’d.
“Lord knows that we can stand relief.”
“Yep,” the other scowled.

“I guess you need to head on out?”
“Yep,” his friend intoned.
“I sure am glad we got to chat.”
“Yep,” the old hand droned.

The cowboy, after supper, said
he’d run into Ray.
The other boys now gathered ’round.
“What’d he have to say?”

“He said that it had been awhile,
nearly fifteen years.
he said that he had drifted some
workin’ with them steers.”

“He said he knowed ’bout Shorty’s death,
that it made him sad.
He figured we was in fer rain,
fer relief was glad.”

“He said he was a headin’ out,
glad we got to jaw.
Ol’ Ray is quite a talker, boys.
Beats all I ever saw.”

© 2003, Rod Nichols, used with permission.

Rod Nichols left behind countless friends and good poems. Find more about him and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986)—which seems to fit the poem so well—is captioned, “Foreman of the SMS Ranch on left and old cowboy on the right waiting for dinner at the chuck wagon. Ranch near Spur, Texas.” It is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more here.

Find a feature about noted photograph Russell Lee and a gallery of photographs from the University of Texas at Austin here.



DRINKIN’ WATER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When a feller comes to a pond or a tank,
It is better to ride out a ways from the bank.
Fer the water is clearer out there as a rule,
And besides it is deep and a little more cool.

And out toward deep water, you notice somehow,
You miss a whole lot of that flavor of cow.
You can dip up a drink with the brim of yore hat,
And water makes purty good drinkin’ at that.

You mebby spill some down the front of yore shirt,
But any old waddy knows that it doesn’t hurt.
There may be some bugs and a couple insecks
But it all goes the same down a cow puncher’s neck.

I know there is plenty of folks would explain
Why such water had ort to be filtered or strained.
Sech people as that never suffered from thirst.
Or they’d think of that later and drink it down first.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1938


This poem, with its illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951), appeared in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal in 1938. The next year, it was included in “A Souvenir from ‘The Trading Post’ Golden Gate International Competition” (San Francisco, 1939).

We know these details thanks to the work of Bill Siems, who collected almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems and much information about him in his 2006 book, “Open Range.” Find more about Kiskaddon and more about Siems’ book at CowboyPoetry.com in our Kiskaddon features.

Wheaton Hale Brewer wrote, in his foreword to Bruce Kiskaddon’s 1935 Western Poems book, “…As the years roll on and history appreciates the folk-lore of the plains and ranges, these poems by a real cowboy will take on deeper significance and mightier stature. When Bruce turns his pony into the Last Corral—long years from now, we all hope—he need feel no surprise if he hears his songs sung by the celestial cowboys as their tireless ponies thunder over the heavenly ranges, bringing in the dogies for branding at the Eternal Corrals. For poetry will never die.”