photo © 2009, Jessica Lifland

by DW Groethe

How they love to go a neighborin’
and seek more scenic bits of range.
I think, perhaps, they’ve joined
some kind of herbivore exchange.
No matter—
Every clip had better be in place
and hangin’ tight and true.
Best tap them staples exter good
so the girls ain’t slippin’ thru.

Their whole reason for existence,
till you get that yearlin’ bull,
is to poke an’ test and stretch your wire
an’ patience to the full.
I beat ’em once to a saggin’ line
before they made their break,
I know, that sounds outrageous
but it’s the truth for heaven’s sake.

I was snuggin’ up the wire
’bout to tie that little loop
when I gets this eerie feelin’
I just joined a bigger group.
So, I kinda ease my eyes around
to get a better glance
and what I see are strainin’necks and heads
all in a bovine trance.
Starin’ like no tomorrow
their mouths a slowly chewin’
and I swear a listenin’ close
I heard a voice say, “Whatcha doin’?”

“Hah,” I cried “Get outa here!
Yer givin’ me the willies!”
And “Poof!” recedin’ heifer butts,
I’m feelin’ pretty silly.
‘Cause here I’m thinkin’ “holy moly”
“Where’ve they got to now?”
There’s nothin’ worse on this whole earth
than tendin’ future cows.

Houdini in his prime could never
disappear as swift
as a herd of yearlin’ heifers
who decide it’s time to drift.
Vacatin’ pens you got ’em in
for places quite unknown
to themselves, or even heaven,
when they get that urge to roam.
I do not know exactly why
they’re made that way, but lord,
I do know this, if you keep heifers,
you are never, ever bored.

© 2004, DW Groethe
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Eastern Montana ranch hand, poet, and picker DW Groethe performs at venues small (his favorite) and large. He’s appeared many times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and has been invited to the National Traditional Council for the Arts’ National Folk Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Library of Congress, and other places.

Find more about DW Groethe and more of his poetry and lyrics at

This 2009 photo of DW Groethe is by photojournalist and teacher Jessica Lifland, an official photographer for the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. It is from her project documenting the lives of cowboy poets. Her photoblog includes a slide show of her photographs of DW Groethe, accompanied by his recitation of “Yearlin’ Heifers” from the first volume of The BAR-D Roundup.

Find that slide show and those for many others, including Andy Hedges, Amy Hale Steiger and Gail Steiger, Rodney Nelson, Wally McRaie, Waddie Mitchell, Jerry Brooks, Doris Daley, and others, along with National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Images from 2004-2019 at her photo site.

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

RANCH MOTHER, by S. Omar Barker



by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

She knows the keen of lonely winds
The sound of hoofs at night,
The creak of unwarmed saddles in
The chill before daylight,
The champ of eager bridle bits,
The jingle-clink of spurs,
The clump of boots—lone silence, too,
For cowboy sons are hers.

She knew the dust of cattle trails
While yet she was a bride,
And tangy smell of branding iron
Upon a dogie’s hide.
The yelp of coyotes on a hill,
The night hawk’s lonely croon,
The bawl of milling cattle: thus
Her cowcamp honeymoon.

Her hands are hard from laboring,
Her face is brown from sun,
But oh, her eyes are deep with dreams
Of days and duties done!
The hand of hardship forged her love
That first far rangeland spring.
Now he is gone its memory lives,
A gentle, deathless thing.

Her days knew little neighboring,
Less now, perhaps, than then,
Alone with years she gleans content:
Her sons are horseback men!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar

Here’s to celebrating mothers, Mother’s Day and every day.

S. Omar Barker’s mother, Priscilla, was the eldest of nine sisters. A family biography tells that she and Squire Barker set out from Texas for New Mexico in 1889, with “fifty-six head of cattle, twelve head of mares and colts, a yoke of oxen, two teams of horses and three covered wagons loaded to the top of the sideboards…” Priscilla had four of children with her on the 500-mile journey that took six weeks. The biography tells, “Priscilla drove a heavy team of horses. Squire had made a box bed for 6-week-old Grace at the back of her mother’s seat…”

Award-winning New Mexico poet Deanna Dickinson McCall is known for her fine recitation of this poem and we’re pleased to have it on recordings, including MASTERS: Volume Two, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

Popular songwriter Jean Prescott put the poem to music on her Traditions CD.

Find much more about S. Omar Barker and his poetry at

This photograph is from a 2010 Mother’s Day feature at by poet, reciter, and popular emcee Smoke Wade and his sister, Sharon S. Brown, in memory of their mother, Betty Jean Tippett (1921-1993). Betty Jean Tippett was the daughter of a homesteader, sheepherder, and cattle rancher who became a cattle baron in a remote area of southeastern Washington near the Hells Canyon of the Snake River. She married and raised her children on a ranch near Rogersburg.

Smoke Wade writes, “My first memories of riding a horse were with Mom. She was often called upon to take lunch to a branding crew working in a remote area. Mom would tie the bundled food in pillowcase to the saddle horn and strap me on behind her with a large belt and we would go riding to take lunch to the branding crew.

“Other times while moving cows up to spring or summer pasture, mom would have me strapped on the saddle behind her. When evening came and the work was yet to be finished, mom would unsaddle her horse and make a place for me to lie down on the hillside with the saddle blanket for a bed and the saddle for a pillow. Then she would ride her horse bareback as she finished helping dad and my older brother move the cows farther up the draw in the dark…Yes, mom was a cowgirl.”

She was also a Princess of the Pendleton Round-Up (Oregon) in 1938 and Queen of the Lewiston RoundUp (Idaho) in 1940.

Find many more tributes and poems to mothers at

Smoke Wade recites “Augerin'” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon and “Rawhide Rooster” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Find more about him and his own recording at

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




celebrates our Western heritage and today’s working West, dedicated to preserving our important history and to promoting the Western arts that carry on those traditions.  It’s a part of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry.

The Center was formed to serve a mostly rural and under-served community of Western writers, musicians, and artists; to help preserve Western and Cowboy Poetry and its associated arts; to offer a central resource for poets, libraries, schools, and the public; and to educate the public about the history and value of Western and Cowboy Poetry and its associated arts.

Supporters make a difference. With individual support, the Center can continue its programs, expand some of those efforts, and take on new projects. Individual support helps show institutional funders the community interest in our Western arts.

We thank our supporters, who are listed below. They make an important difference to the community of Western writers, musicians, and artists as we work together to preserve Western heritage and support Western and Cowboy Poetry and its associated arts. Please join us.

The BAR-D supporters make all of the programs of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry possible: Cowboy Poetry Week, the Rural Library Program, and



RANGE Magazine (sponsor)
Marci Broyhill (sponsor)
Jim Thompson (Sacramento, CA)
Mark Munzert
Marilyn and Kip Sorlie
Shelly Pagliai-Prairie Moon Quilts
LaVerna B. Johnson
Almeda Bradshaw (sponsor)
Georganna Kresl
Susie Knight
Jeff Campbell
Betty and Ken Rodgers
Linda Nadon in memory of Georgie Sicking and Elizabeth Ebert
Al “Doc” Mehl and Doris Daley
Paul R. Brown III
Jeri Dobrowski
Dee Strickland Johnson (“Buckshot Dot”)
Rodney Nelson
Kay Kelley Nowell
Sally Baldus
Dave Stanley
Dale Page
Alan Mollenkopf
James Stanley
Ginger Manley
Jo Kirkwood
Susan Parker (sponsor)
Roshana Floyd
Denise Arvidson in memory of Ross Christian Arvidson
Scott and Diana Overcash
Cindy and Chuck Learn (sponsors)
Fred Haines
Patricia Frolander
Wendy Brown
DW Groethe
Stella and Ol’ Jim Cathey in memory of Charles (Charlie) Prentiss
and Loretta Kay (Flake) Kanavel
KC LaCourse
Valerie and Floyd Beard
Ray Hopper
Nancy Flagg
Richard R. Hall
Hugh Cooke
Stan Howe
Karen Bartholoma
K L Fischer
Betty Burlingham
Ken Cook (sponsor)
Keith Ward
George Rhoades
Jeffrey Johnson

2019 program support:
Laura and Edmund Wattis Littlefield Jr.
Margaret T. Morris Foundation


John Waters
Paul R. Brown III
Almeda Bradshaw (sponsor)
Jim and Stella Cathey in memory of Louise M. Fritts
Marci Broyhill (sponsor)
Buzz Helfert
Al “Doc” Mehl and Doris Daley
Susan Matley in memory of Liz Masterson
Charmaine Ganson
Susan Parker
Marvin and Elaine Del Chiaro
Thomas F. Hawk
Terry Nash
Rodney Nelson
Patrick Sullivan
Jerry A. Brooks
Cindy Quigley
Lawrence Smith
Diana Rice
Susan Shuma
Susie Knight
David Carlton
Russ Westwood
Scott and Diana Overcash in memory of Debi Koppang
M. Todd Hess
David Sudbury
Janet Prezia
Georganna Kresl
L.L. “Lucky Lindy” Segall in memory of Carlos Ashley
Hugh Cooke
Linda Nadon in memory of Georgie Sicking
Don Hilmer
Yvonne Hollenbeck (sponsor)
Yvonne and Glen Hollenbeck
in memory of Liz Masterson, Kenny Krogman, Elizabeth Ebert
Jeff Thomas
Martha Singer
Ken Howry—Sunshine Prairie Farm
Jeri Dobrowski
Ron Secoy
Michael Henley
Jane and Dick Morton
Karen Bartholomew
Stella Callentine
Mark Munzert
Bryce Angell
Maryanne Patterson
Betty Burlingham
Denise Arvidson in memory of Ross Christian Arvidson
C.W. (Charley) Bell
Chuck and Cindy Learn (sponsor)
Kay Kelley Nowell
Charles A. St. Lucas
George Rhodes
Nick Bales
Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns (sponsor)
Bill Siems
Jim and Stella Cathey in memory of Sammie Green
Andy Nelson-Clear Out West (sponsor)
Jean Prescott (sponsor)
Marleen Bussma
Tom Swearingen
Gary McMahan
The Cowboy’s Workshop
Tom Linenbrink
Robert Dennis
Totsie Slover
Michael Henley
Richard Hall
Joseph C and Robin B Thomas
Daniel Wilson
John Walker
Jarle Kvale
Dale Page
Sally Smith-Joelle Smith Western Art
Daniel Bybee
Spalding Labs Flying SL Ranch Radio Show (sponsor)
Jerry A. Brooks
Terry Nash
Ron Secoy
Andria Kidd
Western Folklife Center (sponsor)
Sandy Seaton Sallee
Jean A. Haugen
Brian Sullivan
Smoke Wade
P’let and Mike Tcherkassky
Janice Gilbertson
Jeff Thomas
Mary Beth Piatt
Lynn Kopelke
Teresa Burleson
Deanna Dickinson McCall
Jay Snider (sponsor)
Roberta Rothman
The Cowpoke Fall Gathering (sponsor)
Sherrie Swanson
Linda Kirkpatrick
Rod Miller
Greg Camp

2019 program support:
Laura and Edmund Wattis Littlefield Jr.
Margaret T. Morris Foundation



See all of the generous supporters to the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry below and find how to  be a part of it all here.

You can make a donation by check or money order, by mail (please use the form here for mail or mail to PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450) or by a secure, on-line credit card payment through PayPal (a PayPal account is not required):

x-click-but21 is a project of The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, a tax-exempt non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Act. The Center seeks grants and donations from individuals, corporate entities, foundations, and private sources.

Contributions to the Center are fully deductible for federal income tax purposes.

Donors at the $50 level* and higher receive the year’s CD and Cowboy Poetry Week poster. (The CD fair market value is $15 and that amount is not deductible as a charitable contribution.) *$65 USD for Canada and other international locations.

As in all professional journalistic endeavors, no editorial preference is given to financial sponsors or supporters.














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abAR-D Banner

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breakerkentphoto © Kent Reeves, used with permission

by Joel Nelson

There’s a thousand-year-old story, involving beasts and men.
With one of each we set the stage and let the play begin.
Take Eohippus’ grandson now on middle fingernail,
and the world’s most recent primate, no vestige left of tail.
The first outweighs the second eight times or maybe ten.
Nothing new, this story of the horse and the breaker in the pen.

There are times he thinks he’s crazy, other times he knows for sure.
But centaur blood pumps through his veins and there isn’t any cure.
There are broncs that try his patience and those that test his skill,
make him lie awake in nighttime, make him almost lose his will.
There are stiffened, aching mornings when he questions if he’ll last,
’cause the breaker’s over fifty while the broncs are still two-past.

No imaginary spider web connects him to the brute,
just developed understanding, maybe years in taking root.
A dozen broncs stand shivering, the mist is rolling in.
There’s a slicker on the top rail and a breaker in the pen.

He’s a study in persistence, even stubborn if you will
He’ll bend more often than he breaks and he’s tough, damn tough, to kill.
Rumor runs he nursed on mare’s milk, Some say he’s into Zen.
Truth is he lives and breathes his work. The breaker in the pen.

There are times he feels restricted by those endless little rounds
wishing he were on the cow crew with the roundup sights and sounds
But he’s seen the cattle sorted, now the crew comes trottin’ in
astride the horses started by the breaker in the pen.

He’s not high on riding buckers, he disdains the use of quirt.
He’s eaten quite a little more than his fair share of dirt.
So he reads what’s there before him, tryin’ hard to catch the signs;
instinct or intuition gives him what’s between the lines.

His psycho-cybernetic work has often saved his hide,
but a moment comes with every horse when he has to mount and ride.
So fearless or in spite of fear he moves to step astraddle.
Now what will be will surely be, for the breaker’s in the saddle

Here we redefine commitment for it’s now the horse’s deal
The breaker’s foot is shoved into the stirrup to the heel
This ride might end with two as one just like it all began,
else the breaker finds the wherewithal to rise and ride again.

With triple-digit temperatures it’s tough to hang and rattle
and the breaker’s butt is heat sore, and bleedin’ in the saddle.
Hail the horses of the nations, hear the stories of them told,
How they’ve carried kingdoms’ armies, how they’ve won Olympic Gold.

Carried Washington and Paul Revere, helped set our country free
Carried Roosevelt and Houston, John Wayne, and Grant, and Lee.
One thing they have in common; their stories all begin
with one you seldom hear about: the breaker in the pen.

© Joel Nelson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Respected Texas horseman, rancher, poet, reciter, occasional songwriter, and National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow Joel Nelson’s writing and reciting are masterful—he captures readers and listeners alike with his craft. This is the title poem from his CD, the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that the recording “raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years.”

Find more about Joel Nelson, including this poem and others along with information about his CD, at

This c. 1993 photograph of Joel Nelson is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist and Photographer, from the landmark book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.

Kent Reeves writes in the book’s Acknowledgments, “…I owe my work in this book to all the poets who allowed me to interrupt their lives and who took me in for a few days. I do not feel that I ‘took’ these photographs; I believe that each poet gave them to me.” In addition to Joel Nelson, the book includes chapters with Buck Ramsey, Wallace McRae, Rod McQueary, Linda Hussa, John Dofflemyer, Shadd Piehl, Paul Zarzyski, Sue Wallis, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, and Drummond Hadley.

See a gallery of photos from the book here on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at; at his site,; and on Facebook.

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

Events: May

Find links to all months here.

• through May 12, 2019
14th Annual Cowgirl Up! Art from the Other Half of the West Wickenburg, Arizona

• through May 19, 2019
Trappings of Texas Custom Cowboy Gear and Western Art Exhibit Alpine, Texas

• May 1-4, 2019
Third annual Bryce Canyon Mule Days Tropic, Utah

• May 2-4,  2019
Cattle Barons Weekend Pendleton, Oregon

• May 2-5, 2019
Cowboy Way Jubilee Ardmore, Oklahoma

• May 3, 2019
Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest Regional Qualifying Contest #2
  Fredonia, Kansas

• May 3-4, 2019
South Texas Cowboy Gathering Seguin, Texas

• May 3-4, 2019
21st Annual Cowtown Society Of Western Music Swingfest  Mineral Wells, Texas

• May 9, 2019
Cowboy Poetry Under the Stars at the Western Heritage Classic Abilene, Texas

• May 9-12, 2019
The Western Heritage Classic Abilene, Texas

• May 11, 2019 (and May 25, 2019)
Cross Timbers Cowboy Poetry and Stories Mineral Wells, Texas

• May 18-27, 2019
39th Annual Old West Days Jackson Hole, Wyoming

• May 19, 2019
58th Annual Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest & Folk Festival Agoura Hills, California

• May 21-26, 2019
49th Bishop Mule Days Bishop, California

• May 24-27, 2019
14th Annual Cowboy Legends Memorial Day Celebration Antelope Island, Utah

• May 25, 2019
Cross Timbers Cowboy Poetry and Stories Mineral Wells, Texas

• May 25, 2019
Hell’s A-Roarin’ Horse Drive Gardiner, Montana

• May 25-26, 2019
33rd Annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering Medora, North Dakota

• May 25-26, 2019
29th Annual Chuck Wagon Gathering and Children’s Cowboy Festival Oklahoma City, Oklahoma



RIDIN’, by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.


Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

There is some that like the city—
Grass that’s curried smooth and green,
Theaytres and stranglin’ collars,
Wagons run by gasoline—
But for me it’s hawse and saddle
Every day without a change,
And a desert sun a-blazin’
On a hundred miles of range.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Desert ripplin’ in the sun,
Mountains blue among the skyline—
I don’t envy anyone
When I’m ridin’.

When my feet is in the stirrups
And my hawse is on the bust,
With his hoofs a-flashin’ lightnin’
From a cloud of golden dust,
And the bawlin’ of the cattle
Is a-comin’ down the wind
Then a finer life than ridin’
Would be mighty hard to find.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Splittin’ long cracks through the air,
Stirrin’ up a baby cyclone,
Rippin’ up the prickly pear
As I’m ridin’.

I don’t need no art exhibits
When the sunset does her best,
Paintin’ everlastin’ glory
On the mountains to the west
And your opery looks foolish
When the night-bird starts his tune
And the desert’s silver mounted
By the touches of the moon.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Who kin envy kings and czars
When the coyotes down the valley
Are a singin’ to the stars,
If he’s ridin’?

When my earthly trail is ended
And my final bacon curled
And the last great roundup’s finished
At the Home Ranch of the world
I don’t want no harps nor haloes
Robes nor other dressed up things—
Let me ride the starry ranges
On a pinto hawse with wings!

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Nothin’ I’d like half so well
As a-roundin’ up the sinners
That have wandered out of Hell,
And a-ridin’

….by Charles Badger Clark

Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957) got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life.

“Ridin'” is said to be his first poem. It was was included in his first poetry collection, Sun and Saddle Leather, in 1915. Clark’s own recitation of the poem is included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two, from

The great Don Edwards put the poem to music and it is on his Saddle Songs album. Listen and watch a 2012 video where he sings it with Waddie Mitchell reciting his “Commuting.”

Clark wrote many lasting poems, and others also found their way into song (including “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her”). Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark at

>>>>> We’re considering a future MASTERS CD of Badger Clark’s poetry. Do you have a favorite poem or favorite recitation? Do you recite a lesser known Clark poem? Email us.

This beautiful May, 2016 photograph is by John Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. Pictured is his daughter Brigid (, an outstanding musician, poet, songwriter,  artist, and more. She performs at events across the West, and is a frequently invited performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Brigid, her brother Johnny, and her father John are all included on the recent 3-CD set, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site: Find more about him at and visit

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

WET BOOTS, by Bruce Kiskaddon


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

A cowboy goes under a turrible strain,
When he tries to wear boots that’s been soaked in the rain.
He pulls and he wiggles, and after he’s tried,
He gits him some flour and sprinkles inside.

Then he gits him two jack knives; puts one in each lug
And he stomps and he pulls till his eyes start to bug.
Next he tries a broom handle—an awful mistake.
Which same he finds out when he feels the lug break.

The toes and the heels they bust out of his socks,
And it’s awful to hear how that cowpuncher talks.
He opens his knife and it shore is a sin,
Fer he cuts his new boots till his feet will go in.

I reckon, old-timer, you know how he feels.
You have kicked bunk house walls and the chuck wagon wheels.
And you know when yore older, there’s nothin’ to gain
From buyin’ tight boots if you work in the rain.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon
This poem was included in Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.

Talented Montanan Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, 13, recites the poem on the new 3-CD project from Cowboy, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon. His sister, Brigid Reedy and their father, John Reedy, also contributed recitations to the new CD. They all perform at events across the West.

Find much more poetry and more about Bruce Kiskaddon in our features at

This 1940 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboy pulling on boots, rodeo, Quemado, New Mexico.” It’s from the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection at The Library of Congress.

Find a feature about noted photographer and teacher Russell Lee with a gallery of photographs from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.