THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE, by Sharlot Mabridth Hall

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THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE
by Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943)

The flags are flying, the bands are playing,
And there, down Gurley street
The big parade is coming —
Hark to the trampling feet!
Two hundred cow men riding,
Dressed out for holiday;
Ten-gallon hats and fancy shirts
And ‘kerchiefs bright and gay.

Two hundred horses prancing
As the riders whoop and yell;
And jingle of spurs and bridle chains
The noise and music swell.
There’s Ruffner on the sorrel,
His silver bridle shines;
And Doc Pardee comes riding
Down from the Munds Park pines.

And there’s the Beloat of Buckeye
Who twirls a winning rope;
Loge Morris and his juniors,
All on a swinging lope.
The Champies and Ed Bowman,
And all the medalled train
Come back to lift more honors
At Prescott once again.

They pass with jokes and laughter,
And shouting clear and loud,
Out to the big arena
To face the cheering crowd.
And some will rope for glory
And some will ride for gold;
And some will grappled bull-dogged steers
And win on a strangle-hold.

Down sweep the big sombreros
As the bow to the grandstand’s cheer;
But, look, as they ride to their places—
God! Look what’s coming here!
A long, long train of horsemen,
Yet never a hoof-beat sounds;
And never a dust-spurt rises
From the trampled sporting grounds.

A-breast, in martial order
They wheel and swing to place;
But their forms are thin and misty
And a shadow dims each face;
A pale and still battalion
In Stetsons, chaps, and spurs;
And they, too, bow to the grandstand—
But the picture swims and blurs.

Here are the men of Texas
Who made the Chisholm Trail,
Pointing their herds of long-horns
To the track of a steel-shod rail,
Heading their leaders northward
By a puff of engine smoke;
Betting their all on a market chance—
Thousands–or down, and broke.

Men who trailed the Long Trail
With steers for Idaho;
Men who drove their beef herds
To feed Geronimo.
Men who could buck a Norther,
Men who could fight a drouth;
Sitting their lean trail-horses,
Keen-eyed, and grim of mouth.

There’s Jim O’Neal from Date Creek
With his riders, dark and trim;
And close at this knee Juan Leyvas,
A stripling lithe and slim.
And Stuart Knight comes riding
With his smile and careless grace—
But a whirlwind whips down the beaten track
And a dust-cloud blurs each face.

Gone are the silent riders,
And only the sun beats down
On the trampled, barren arena
And the chute gates weathered brown:
They’ve ridden back to the Days That Were;
But before a play is made—
Three cheers for the unseen men who passed
In the old cow men’s parade.

…by Sharlot Hall, from her 1953 book, Poems of a Ranch Woman.

Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943) wrote about a Fourth of July event that still continues today, the Frontier Days Parade that takes place in conjunction with Arizona’s World’s Oldest Prescott Rodeo. The rodeo celebrates its 132nd anniversary this year and is happening now.

Families of many of those mentioned in the poem still live in the Prescott area today.

Sharlot Hall arrived in the Arizona Territory as a young girl. She wrote about those early days and continued to document her life and the stories and histories of Arizona in wrote essays, short stories, articles, and poetry.

Fiercely independent, she was the first Arizona woman to hold public office, serving as Territorial Historian of Arizona. In 1924, shortly after women won the right to vote, she was selected to take the state’s vote to Washington, D. C. Find more about her and more poetry in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

With luck, you can hear Tom Weathers recite this poem at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. See an article from just a few days ago about Tom Weathers and the gathering, with audio.

This year the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering celebrates its 32nd anniversary, August 8-10, 2019 in Prescott. Headliners are Chris Isaacs, Trinity Seely and The Cowboy Way Trio (Doug Figgs, Jim Jones and Mariam Funke). Among the many other performers are Jay Snider, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Dave McCall, Valerie Beard, Floyd Beard, Gary Allegretto, Terry Nash, Mark Munzert, Mary Matli, Amy Hale Steiger, Gail Steiger, Dale Burson, Kay Kelley Nowell, Duane Nelson, Rolf Flake, Audrey Hankins, Mike Dunn, Thatch Elmer, R.P. Smith, and others. Find the complete schedule with all performers here.

Tickets are available now. See azcowboypoets.org for info.

Find poems and more for Independence Day at CowboyPoetry.com:
cowboypoetry.com/fourthofjuly.htm

This is image is by Seita, licensed from Shutterstock.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photo with this post, but it must be licensed for any other use. The poem is in the public domain.)

LEGACY OF THE RODEO MAN by Baxter Black

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LEGACY OF THE RODEO MAN
by Baxter Black

There’s a hundred years of history and a hundred before that
All gathered in the thinkin’ goin’ on beneath his hat.
And back behind his eyeballs and pumpin’ through his veins
Is the ghost of every cowboy that ever held the reins.

Every coil in his lasso’s been thrown a million times
His quiet concentration’s been distilled through ancient minds.
It’s evolution workin’ when the silver scratches hide
And a ghostly cowboy chorus fills his head and says, “Let’s ride.”

The famous and the rowdy, the savage and the sane
The bluebloods and the hotbloods and the corriente strain
All knew his mother’s mothers or was his daddy’s kin
‘Til he’s nearly purely cowboy, born to ride and bred to win.

He’s got Buffalo Bill Cody and Goodnight’s jigger boss
And all the brave blue soldiers that General Custer lost
The ghost of Pancho Villa, Sittin’ Bull and Jessie James
All gathered by his campfire keepin’ score and takin’ names.

There’s every Royal Mountie that ever got his man
And every day-work cowboy that ever made a hand
Each man that’s rode before him, yup, every mother’s son
Is in his corner, rootin’, when he nods to make his run.

Freckles Brown might pull his bull rope, Casey Tibbs might jerk the
flank,
Bill Picket might be hazin’ when he starts to turn the crank.
Plus Remington and Russell lookin’ down his buckhorn sight
All watchin’ through the window of this cowboy’s eyes tonight.

And standin’ in the catch pen or in chute number nine
Is the offspring of a mountain that’s come down from olden time
A volcano waitin’ quiet, ’til they climb upon his back
Rumblin’ like the engine of a freight train on the track.

A cross between a she bear and a bad four wheel drive
With the fury of an eagle when it makes a power dive
A snake who’s lost its caution or a badger gone berserk
He’s a screamin’, stompin’, clawin’, rabid, mad dog piece o’ work.

From the rollers in his nostrils to the foam upon his lips
From the hooves as hard as granite to the horns with dagger tips
From the flat black starin’ shark’s eye that’s the mirror of his soul
Shines the challenge to each cowboy like the devil callin’ roll

In the seconds that tick slowly ’til he climbs upon his back
Each rider faces down the fear that makes his mouth go slack
And cuts his guts to ribbons and gives his tongue a coat
He swallows back the panic gorge that’s risin’ in his throat.

The smell of hot blue copper fills the air around his head
Then a single, solid, shiver shakes away the doubt and dread
The cold flame burns within him ’til his skin’s as cold as ice
And the dues he paid to get here are worth every sacrifice

All the miles spent sleepy drivin’, all the money down the drain
All the “if I’s” and the “nearly’s,” all the bandages and pain
All the female tears left dryin’, all the fever and the fight
Are just a small downpayment on the ride he makes tonight.

And his pardner in this madness that the cowboys call a game
Is a ton of buckin’ thunder bent on provin’ why he came
But the cowboy never wavers he intends to do his best
And of that widow maker he expects of him no less.

There’s a solemn silent moment that every rider knows
When time stops on a heartbeat like the earth itself was froze
Then all the ancient instinct fills the space between his ears
“Til the whispers of his phantoms are the only thing he hears

When you get down to the cuttin’ and the leather touches hide
And there’s nothin’ left to think about, he nods and says, “Outside!”
Then frozen for an instant against the open gate
Is hist’ry turned to flesh and blood, a warrior incarnate.

And while they pose like statues in that flicker of an eye
There’s somethin’ almost sacred, you can see it if you try.
It’s guts and love and glory—one mortal’s chance at fame
His legacy is rodeo and cowboy is his name.

“Turn ‘im out”

© 1986, Baxter Black

This often-requested poem was featured in the 1994 movie 8 Seconds, about the legendary Lane Frost (1963–1989). Frost was named PRCA World Champion Bull Rider at age 24 in 1987. In 1989 he died in the arena at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

In the movie, the poem is called “Cowboy is His Name.” A site, which is no longer active, tells, “Near the end of the movie “8 Seconds,” Lane, Tuff and Cody are flying over the Cheyenne arena, and Cody reads a poem entitled ‘Cowboy is His Name.’ That poem is really a shortened version of the poem ‘Legacy of a Rodeo Man’ by Baxter Black.”
View an archived version of the site with the poems here.

Find articles here devoted to the life of Lane Frost, which were written on the 25th anniversary of his death in 2014.

Baxter Black’s official bio describes him as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses.” In the introduction to his recent book, Poems Worth Saving, which includes “Legacy of the Rodeo Man,” Baxter Black comments, “I have been blessed by the good Lord to live in the company of folks I admire and care about. People of the land, I give you my hand, you’re the salt of the Earth, Amen.”

He recites Bruce Kiskaddon’s “They Can Take It” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE triple CD from CowboyPoetry.com and S. Omar Barker’s “Cowboy Saying” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO.

This message comes from Baxter’s office, a policy announcement: “Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit.”

His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”

Find more about Baxter Black at CowboyPoetry.com and find much more, including a weekly column, at BaxterBlack.com.

This image, titled “Baxter Ahorseback,” by Vaughn Wilson, is courtesy of Baxter Black.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but request permission for any other use—except recitation.)

MORNING ON THE DESERT, by Katherine Fall Pettey

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MORNING ON THE DESERT
by Katherine Fall Pettey (1874-1951)

Morning on the desert,
and the wind is blowin’ free,
And it’s ours jest for the breathin’,
so let’s fill up, you an’ me.
No more stuffy cities
where you have to pay to breathe—
Where the helpless, human creatures,
throng, and move, and strive and seethe.

Morning on the desert,
an’ the air is like a wine;
And it seems like all creation
has been made for me an’ mine.
No house to stop my vision
save a neighbor’s miles away,
An’ the little ‘dobe casa
that belongs to me an’ May.

Lonesome? Not a minute:
Why I’ve got these mountains here;
That was put there jest to please me
with their blush an’ frown an’ cheer.
They’re waitin’ when the summer sun
gets too sizzlin’ hot—
An’ we jest go campin’ in ’em
with a pan an’ coffee pot.

Morning on the desert!
I can smell the sagebrush smoke;
An’ I hate to see it burnin’,
but the land must sure be broke.
Ain’t it jest a pity
that wherever man may live,
He tears up much that’s beautiful,
that the good God has to give?

“Sagebrush ain’t so pretty?”
Well, all eyes don’t see the same;
Have you ever saw the moonlight
turn it to a silv’ry flame?
An’ that greasewood thicket yonder—
well, it smells jest awful sweet
When the night wind has been shakin’ it;
for smells it’s hard to beat.

Lonesome? well, I guess not!
I’ve been lonesome in a town.
But I sure do love the desert
with its stretches wide and brown;
All day through the sagebrush here,
the wind is blowin’ free.
An’ it’s ours jest for the breathin’,
so let’s fill up, you and me.

…by Katherine Fall Pettey, from “Songs from the Sage Brush,” 1910

 

For many years, this poem was printed on postcards and reproduced with the comment, “Found written on the door of an old cabin in the desert.”  With some detective work and some luck, we found the author was Katherine Fall Pettey. Through her brother, she had ties to the Teapot Dome scandal, Billy the Kid, and Pat Garrett. She lived the last decades of her life in a mental institution. Find more in our feature at cowboypoetry.com.

Popular reciter Jerry Brooks is responsible for bringing “Morning on the Desert” to audiences through her outstanding recitation.

These photos are of a century plant putting out its once-in-a-century bloom at Jerry Brooks’ own high desert home. Always ready to meet a challenge, in a drone-free feat, she rigged up two ladders to get a great view of the plant, over 20 feet tall. Look her up at Instagram.com to see more and other photos from her desert life.

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Find more about Jerry Brooks at cowboypoetry.com and also take a listen to her interview from last year on Andy Hedges’ “Cowboy Crossroads” (episode 31) where she tells about her life as a coal miner, talks about poetry, and more.

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

WHEN YOU’RE THROWED, by Bruce Kiskaddon

jmr816photo © 2016, John Reedy; request permission for use

WHEN YOU’RE THROWED
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

If a feller’s been astraddle
since he’s big enough to ride,
And has had to throw a saddle
onto every sort of hide;
Though it’s nothin’ they take pride in,
most of fellers I have knowed,
If they ever done much ridin’,
has at various times got throwed.

It perhaps is when you’re startin’
on a round up some fine day,
That you feel a bit onsartin’
’bout some little wall eyed bay.
Fer he swells to beat the nation
while yore cinchin’ up the slack,
And he keeps a elevation
in your saddle at the back.

He starts rairin’ and a jumpin’
and he strikes when you git near.
But you cuss him and you thump him
till you git him by the ear.
Then your right hand grabs the saddle
and you ketch a stirrup too,
And you aim to light astraddle
like a wholly buckaroo.

But he drops his head and switches
and he gives a back’ards jump.
Out of reach your stirrup twitches
and your right spur grabs his rump.
And, “Stay with him!” shouts some feller.
But you know it’s hope forlorn.
And you feel a streak of yeller
as you choke the saddle horn.

Then you feel one rein droppin’
and you know he’s got his head,
And your shirt tail’s out and floppin’
and the saddle pulls like lead.
Then it ain’t no use a tryin’
for your spurs begin to slip
Now you’re upside down and flyin’
and horn tears from your grip.

Then you get a vague sensation
as upon the ground you roll,
Like a vi’lent separation
twixt your body and your soul.
And you land again a hummick
where you lay and gap fer breath,
And there’s sumpthin’ grips your stummick
like the awful clutch of death.

Yes the landscape round you totters
when at last you try to stand,
And you’re shaky on your trotters
and your mouth is full of sand.
They all swear you beat a circus
or a hoochy koochy dance,
Moppin’ up the canyon’s surface
with the busom of your pants.

There’s fellers gives perscriptions
how them bronchos should be rode.
But there’s few that gives descriptions
of the times when they got throwed.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Andy Hedges has a fine recitation of this cinematic poem in his current “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast. The episode (#47) includes a captivating interview with musician and songwriter Ned LeDoux, who talks about his ranch upbringing; his famous father, rodeo champion, singer-songwriter, and artist Chris LeDoux (1948–2005); and performs a new song, “The Next in Line.”

This poem was printed in Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, and John Lomax included a version of it in 1919 in Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp.

As we’ve told many times about Bruce Kiskaddon, he worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited classic poems.

In the new triple-CD set from cowboypoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon, Randy Rieman recites “When You’re Throwed” and other top poets and reciters present over 60 Kiskaddon poems.

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at cowboypoetry.com.

This great 2016 photograph is by John Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. John and his talented offspring, Brigid and Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, each recite Kiskaddon poems on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site: reedy.photoshelter.com. Find more about him at cowboypoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

(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.)

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CowboyPoetry.com
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.

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2019 program support:
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Yvonne and Glen Hollenbeck
in memory of Liz Masterson, Kenny Krogman, Elizabeth Ebert
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Jane and Dick Morton
Karen Bartholomew
Stella Callentine
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2019 program support:
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CHAPS by Gary McMahan

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CHAPS
by Gary McMahan

To: Mr Ralph Lauren
505 5th Ave
New York City

I seen on the TV Mr. Lauren
That you have a men’s cologne you call “Chaps”
And it’s probably a manly scent
Or you wouldn’t have called it that.

I confess I’ve never used the stuff
And this may sound a little harsh
But I suspect men use cologne to hide
The fact that they didn’t warsh

So I can’t really comment on the product
Though I’m sure it smells just fine
It’s the way you say the name “chaps”
That chaps my cowboy behind

You see the name is derived
From the Spanish word chaparro, well
It in turn got its name
from the word chaparral

Which again in Spanish means
A dense thicket of thorny brush and trees
Which all manner of cowboys
have ridden through for centuries

Thus needing protection for their legs
These chaparros were fashioned from cowhide
and are the leather leggin’s cowboys wear
That comes without a backside

Then us gringos got hold of the word
And shortened chaparro to chaps
Kinda like when we took the word
Tappaderos and condensed it to “Taps”

So that’s why “ch” is really pronounced
With an “sh” sound you see
And to an ol’ cowboy that’s worn chaps all his life
It seems a travesty

That you would use the cowboy’s manly image
To sell your fancy smell to the herd
And never even take the time
To learn how to say the word

‘Cause fact is Mr. Lauren
Even though I’d like to console ya
anyone who says “chaps” for chaps
Don’t know chit from chineola

© Gary McMahan
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

You can watch Gary McMahan, accompanied by popular musician Ernie Martinez, as they performed this poem at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The clip is included in Doug Morrione’s award-winning film, Everything in the Song is True.

(The entire film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse is available for streaming at Amazon.

Gary McMahan tells that this poem was inspired by a letter that former longtime Western Horseman publisher (and Gary’s father-in-law) Dick Spencer wrote to Ralph Lauren.

The bio at Gary McMahan’s web site tells:

Gary is known for his award-winning songs, captivating stories, uproarious humor, and national championship yodeling. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Riders in the Sky, Dave Stamey, and Juni Fisher. His songs, stories, and poems embody what many believe to be the heart of the new West.

Gary comes by his cowboy heritage naturally. He was born into it and has ridden, wrangled, and roped all over the West, all the while collecting reflections on cowboy ways. Those reflections are the backbone of all his songs, stories, and poems.

Find more about Gary McMahan at cowboypoetry.com and visit his site, singingcowboy.com (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums).

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein is titled, “Spurs, chaps and broad-rimmed hat, the cattleman’s distinctive features of dress. Quarter Circle ‘U’ Ranch, Montana.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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

“Shadow of a Cowboy,” by Andy Hedges

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Shadow of a Cowboy is as entertaining as it is authentic. Selections draw from the deep roots of traditional country, cowboy, folk, and Western music. The tracks stretch from Teddie Blue Abbott through Pete Seeger to Tucker Zimmerman and beyond as Andy Hedges interprets the past and creates new sounds.

When asked about the overall inspiration for this CD, he comments, “This record was a bit of a hodgepodge of songs that I had collected but I think a theme began to arise in that the songs came from a variety of sources and spanned several eras. I had a vision to do an album of songs that show that the cowboy music tradition has continued from the trail driving era to the 1920s-30s to the 1950-70s to the present day…”

That earliest period is represented by “The Ogallaly Song,” a traditional piece included in the classic We Pointed Them North book by E.C. “Teddie Blue” Abbott. Abbott writes, “I never counted the verses…but you could keep on singing it all night.” Hedges captures that sense.

An unbroken thread of connections among musicians and songwriters weaves through “Shadow of a Cowboy.” The title track, a song by Tucker Zimmerman, came to Hedges when he contacted Zimmerman about another of his songs, “Oregon,” also included in this project. Andy Hedges tells that he knew “Oregon” from Derrol Adams’ recording. He says, “Derroll Adams was Ramblin’ Jack’s old banjo playing partner and they traveled to Europe together in the 1950s.” Billy Faier, known for his work with Pete Seeger, has his “Song of the Cuckoo” included, and the tag at the end is from “912 Greens” by Ramblin’ Jack.

So much is packed into the ten tracks of Shadow of a Cowboy. The varied songs flow and  invite repeated listening. As in earlier projects, inspired, ethereal harmonies of Alissa Hedges add layers of interest to a number of her husband’s tracks. Designer Dirk Fowler’s spare and evocative art reflects the soul of the project.

Other songs include “The Horsetrader’s Song” by prolific songwriter and musician Jimmy Driftwood; Carter Family member Sara Carter and her husband A.P. Carter’s “Lonesome Pine Special”; and folksinger and rodeo cowboy Peter LaFarge’s vivid tale of “Iron Mountain.”

Three other outstanding tracks are the collaborations with three respected cowboy poets, Joel Nelson, John Dofflemyer and Waddie Mitchell.

Andy Hedges heard Joel Nelson perform his stellar “Horseback Man for Hirea cappella and is quoted, in a Western Horseman article by Jennifer Denison that includes audio, “It stayed in my mind…I’m honored to be the first person to record it… I believe Joel is one of the most important cowboy poets out there today. He’s a thoughtful writer, wonderful reciter, and a respected horseman and working cowboy.”

Andy Hedges says of “Tennis Shoes,” Dofflemyer’s tribute to a friend, “…I don’t believe that I changed a single word. The music came easily for this one.”

“Long Johns On,” from words written by Waddie Mitchell and further enlivened with a melody suggested by Alissa Hedges, is unforgettable fun. Really unforgettable; it has genuine–yet delightful–ear worm qualities. Find a video performance of it from the Western Folklife Center’s 2019 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

That humorous gem brings to mind the work of the late, great, beloved Glenn Ohrlin, music historian, performer, friend of Andy Hedges, and one of his heroes. Earlier this month, he paid tribute to him at the Ozark Folk Center. You can’t help but wish that Glenn Ohrlin was still around to hear “Long Johns On” and this entire album.

Someone once wrote about Glenn Ohrlin that he created “…a style that is at once powerful and understated.” And that comment could serve as well as a perfect description of Andy Hedges and the impressive Shadow of a Cowboy.

Find more at andyhedges.com and while you are there, be sure to tune into his “Cowboy Crossroads” podcasts, which are valuable and entertaining visits with cowboys, poets, musicians, and other representatives of the working West.