ANTHEM, by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

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ANTHEM
by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998)

And in the morning I was riding
Out through the breaks of that long plain,
And leather creaking on the quieting
Would sound with trot and trot again.
I lived in time with horse hoof falling;
I listened well and heard the calling
The earth, my mother, bade to me,
Though I would still ride wild and free.
And as I flew out in the morning,
Before the bird, before the dawn,
I was the poem, I was the song.
My heart would beat the world a warning—
Those horsemen now rode all with me,
And we were good, and we were free.

We were not told, but ours the knowing
We were the native strangers there
Among the things the land was growing—
To know this gave us more the care
To let the grass keep at its growing
And let the streams keep at their flowing.
We knew the land would not be ours,
That no one has the awful pow’rs
To claim the vast and common nesting,
To own the life that gave him birth,
Much less to rape his mother earth
And ask her for a mother’s blessing
And ever live in peace with her,
And, dying, come to rest with her.

Oh, we would ride and we would listen
And hear the message on the wind.
The grass in morning dew would glisten
Until the sun would dry and blend
The grass to ground and air to skying.
We’d know by bird or insect flying
Or by their mood or by their song
If time and moon were right or wrong
For fitting works and rounds to weather.
The critter coats and leaves of trees
Might flash some signal with a breeze—
Or wind and sun on flow’r or feather.
We knew our way from dawn to dawn,
And far beyond, and far beyond.

It was the old ones with me riding
Out through the fog fall of the dawn,
And they would press me to deciding
If we were right or we were wrong.
For time came we were punching cattle
For men who knew not spur nor saddle,
Who came with locusts in their purse
To scatter loose upon the earth.
The savage had not found this prairie
Till some who hired us came this way
To make the grasses pay and pay
For some raw greed no wise or wary
Regard for grass could satisfy.

The old ones wept and so did I.
Do you remember? We’d come jogging
To town with jingle in our jeans,
And in the wild night we’d be bogging
Up to our hats in last month’s dreams.
It seemed the night could barely hold us
With all those spirits to embold’ us
While, horses waiting on three legs,
We’d drain the night down to the dregs.
And just before beyond redemption
We’d gather back to what we were.
We’d leave the money left us there
And head our horses for the wagon.
But in the ruckus, in the whirl,
We were the wolves of all the world.

The grass was growing scarce for grazing,
Would soon turn sod or soon turn bare.
The money men set to replacing
The good and true in spirit there.
We could not say, there was no knowing,
How ill the future winds were blowing.
Some cowboys even shunned the ways
Of cowboys in the trail herd days
(But where’s the gift not turned for plunder?),
Forgot that we are what we do
And not the stuff we lay claim to.
I dream the spell that we were under;
I throw in with a cowboy band
And go out horseback through the land.

So mornings now I’ll go out riding
Through pastures of my solemn plain,
And leather creaking in the quieting
Will sound with trot and trot again.
I’ll live in time with horse hoof falling;
I’ll listen well and hear the calling
The earth, my mother, bids to me,
Though I will still ride wild and free.
And as I ride out on the morning
Before the bird, before the dawn,
I’ll be this poem, I’ll be this song.
My heart will beat the world a warning—
Those horsemen will ride all with me,
And we’ll be good, and we’ll be free.

© 1993, Buck Ramsey, used with permission
Called cowboy poetry’s “spiritual leader,” Buck Ramsey was a cowboy, poet, songwriter, musician, National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award recipient. His work continues to inspire cowboy poets and songwriters.

This is the day affectionately known as “Buck Day,” an annual celebration of his birth. Buck Ramsey would have been 81 this year.

“Anthem” is the prologue to Buck Ramsey’s book-length poem, Grass. A book of the entire poem was published by Texas Tech University Press in 2005. It also includes photos, friends’ recollections, Buck Ramsey’s original short story on which he based the poem, and a CD of the original 1990 recording of Buck Ramsey performing Grass in John Hartford’s home studio in Nashville, introduced by Andy Wilkinson.

Top poets and reciters Joel Nelson, Jerry Brooks, and Andy Hedges recite Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem” in an impressive film interpretation, Between Grass and Sky, which begins with Buck Ramsey’s voice.

The Western Folklife Center, home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, recently posted a great video of Buck Ramsey from 1994. In it, he comments on the oral tradition and recites his poem, “Bad Job.” Watch it on Facebook.

Find “Anthem,” more poetry, and more about Buck Ramsey in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Visit the Buck Ramsey Memorial Page on Facebook, which is maintained by Buck Ramsey’s daughter, Amanda Robin Ramsey.

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These photographs of Buck Ramsey are by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist, from a landmark book that Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves. The photographs were made in the spring of 1993. One shows Buck Ramsey visiting the one-room school house he attended. In the other, the fiddler with Buck Ramsey is Rooster Morris.

Kent told us about his experiences in photographing Buck Ramsey, “One of the more enjoyable times working on the book was getting to visit with Buck Ramsey and his family, Bette and Amanda. We traveled through the Texas Panhandle where Buck had worked and grew up. I got to drive the van and I was forgiven for bumping his neighbor’s car when we pulled out of Amarillo. We visited the one-room school house where he attended grade school where he talked about daydreaming during class and looking out across the great Texas panhandle. There was an impromptu concert along with more of Buck’s stories. Always stories.

“He talked about listening to baseball games on the radio in bunkhouses with other cowboys gathered around and that they were all St. Louis Cardinals fans. At the time there weren’t any teams as far west as the Cardinals and no Texas cowboy was gonna cheer for some team from a big city in the east. Over the years I have talked to other punchers, buckaroos and cowboys of that era and yep, Cardinals were a cowboy’s favorite. It was a grand day and the best way I can simply end this short tale is with what Buck wrote in my personal copy of ‘Between Earth and Sky,’ ‘…Thanks and keep out of the wire –'”

See a gallery of photos from the book on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, cowboyconservation.com.

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

A COWBOYIN’ DAY, by Gary McMahan

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A COWBOYIN’ DAY
by Gary McMahan

Morning is just a thin line to the East
As you steps in the corral and captures a beast.
Cold saddle blankets, hey cock-a-doodle-doo—
Don’t buck now, you booger; you’ll break me in two.

Your head starts working on the last pass around;
Saddle horses are wrangled, draft horses cut out.
You shuts the gate and steps to the ground—
It’s hot, black coffee you’re thinking ’bout now.

Then it’s biscuits and gravy and eggs over light,
And the foreman’s wife is a beautiful sight.
Jokes and jabs and the cowboss’s orders,
A chew and a toothpick, and you’re out the door

To saddle the horse you’ll use for the day,
Makin’ sure your riggin’ has no extra play.
You steps aboard light with him all gathered up
’Cause you know first hand this critter can buck.

Ease him out at a walk and head north towards the dump.
You’ll be askin’ a trot when he loses his hump.
You hits a slow lope on the badger highway;
It’s a cool morning, blue-sky cowboyin’ day.

And the brooks are babbling down through the holes,
The meadowlarks sing the song in your soul,
And the wildflowers blaze any color you s’pose
As the smell of sagebrush and pine fill your nose.

Now the horse that you’re on is big, and he’s lean—
Quick, tough, smart, and a little bit mean.
His saddle’s no place for the meek or the green;
He’s a sho-nuff rip-snortin’ cowboyin’ machine.

And the place that you’re headed is pretty intense;
Continental Divide is the back fence.
There’s ten thousand acres of mountain and rock there
And twelve hundred head to check and to doctor.

And to make matters worse (or better, you think),
They’re all yearling heifers—unpredictable dinks.
They’ll run and they’ll hide ’til hell freezes twice
Then kick up their heels as you skate on the ice.

But this ain’t no colt, and you ain’t no kid,
So you whips out your rope and pulls down your lid,
And you climbs and cruises the sagebrush and aspen
’Til you finds you a cow brute what’s droopy and raspin’.

And maybe you’ll tag ’er ’fore she gits to the brush
And trip ’er and tie ’er in a big rush
And pack her with sulfa and penicillin.
She’ll turn for the better, good Lord a willin’.

Lots of footrot and pinkeye today,
But that don’t mean the boogers can’t play.
They’ve ducked and they’ve dodged ’til who laid a chunk,
But you managed to capture a pretty good hunk.

A line-backed old heifer with a sly side dart
Almost upset the whole apple cart,
And a bald-faced old bag sure slammed on her brakes
When we dived off a ledge and got in her way.

It’s the heat of the day now—sun’s straight overhead—
And you and your horse are packing some lead.
You hanker for rest and a biscuit or two,
And you figures you got that much coming to you.

Now your horse likes the grass that grows ’neath the aspen,
And the shade there is welcome as peace everlastin’.
So you finds such a place with a creek close by
To soothe the bruises of a hard ride.

You hobbles, unbridles him, loosens his girth
Then sets yourself down in the cool, green earth,
Surrounds your grub and drinks your fill
And takes a siesta way back in the hills.

Well, a catnap is all you require;
Still, you lay there and ponder your thoughts . . .
The world sure has its briars.
Take, for instance, this good old cow-hoss—

He was a wild-eyed, ring-tailed dandy.
Heck, they give up on him ’fore they give him to me,
But it’s the same for horses as it is for men—
He just needed a job and a kick in the shin.

Well the afternoon’s spent with the usual flair:
A close call here, a catastrophe there.
But still we saved more than a couple of hides;
That’s why we get paid for making these rides.

A storm blew through for about thirty minutes,
And you’d swear that Satan hisself was in it.
You’re sure glad your pony is seasoned plumb through—
Close lightning’s unloaded a few buckaroos.

You’re wet as a fish, but you ain’t gonna melt,
And the sun feels the best it ever has felt.
You’re all steamed up like an overdue freight,
But you’re dry as a duck time you get to the gate.

Now, there are those who thinks a cowboy’s a crude, ignorant cuss.
Truth is, we no-savvy them; they no-savvy us.
But there’s one thing that sticks in my mind
When a cowboy’s job cuts into sublime.

It’s when you and your horse form a leathery feather
And drift two, three yearlings out of a gather
And trail ’em up someplace they don’t want to go
When they’re needing a vet or what ever, y’know.

You set ’em just so when you go through a gate,
And don’t rile ’em up, for heaven’s sake.
Folks that have tried it say it’s kind of an art
To pen ’em in the home corral before dark.

And we’re trailin’ two of em home this night.
We’ll prolly ship the one; the other’ll be all right.
But one wrong move now the air’s turning cool,
And these two yearling heifers’ll make you look like a fool.

Punch ’em into the catch with a “whoop” and a smile.
You been walkin’ on eggs for the last two miles,
And if one woulda broke, the fur woulda flew—
No tellin’ when you’da got another crack at them two.

Your horse rolls in the dirt while you put up your tack,
Then savors his grain while you scratch his back.
It’s an evenin’ ritual you both enjoy;
You don’t covet nothin’ when you ride this ol’ boy.

An he heads for the timothy down by the lake
Whilst you saunters to the house for soup and steak
To mix it up with compadres and finish your pie
Like folks do when they’re satisfied.

When supper’s done, there’s little time for play—
You sleep hard all night if you work hard all day—
But ’fore you fall off your log to float in the air,
You may have time for a little prayer:

“Lord, I thank you for this cowboyin’ day.
I sure had me some fun a-earnin’ my pay,
And I like to think I put meat on the table
For a country that needs to stay fit an’ able.

“But a cow with no horse is boring as hell,
And a horse with no cows don’t ring my bell.
It’s a good life you gave me, these horses and cattle,
And I wanted to say thanks Lord for my day in the saddle.”

© 1986, Gary McMahan, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Cowboy, poet, songwriter, and yodeler Gary McMahan’s vivid “A Cowboyin’ Day” is a contemporary cowboy poetry standout.

In his book, Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song, he writes about it, “One of my favorite things is working cattle on a good horse in the high country. I used to do a considerable amount of it, and even though this poem doesn’t have a ‘Hollywood plot,’ a lot of ranch folk have told me how much they like it, especially those who’ve ever run a bunch of yearlin’s.”

At Gary McMahan’s singingcowboy.com, you can listen to “A Cowboyin’ Day” and the full-length tracks of all his albums of his music and poetry.

Gary is headed to the 30th annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Golden, January 17-20, 2019. The lineup includes Jerry Brooks, Jon Chandler, Connie Dover, Mark Gardner & Rex Rideout, Kristyn Harris, Carol Huechan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Chuck Larsen, Gary McMahan, John Nelson, New West, Jean Prescott, Dave Stamey, Pop Wagner, Barry Ward, and Dick Warwick.

Gary told us, “Vess Quinlan and I started the Colorado Cowboy Gathering 30 years ago! I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. We wanted to have a gathering to go along with the National Western Stock Show here in Denver. We figured it would just dovetail right in with it. So we went to the state folklorist Bea Roeder and she really did the hard work of putting it together. Turns out, it was sparsely attended by the NWSS folks and loved by the people in and around Denver and Colorado. We have much to celebrate. Some great cowboy poets came outta Colorado, Bruce Kiskaddon, to give you one example.”

(Look for Gary’s recitation of two Kiskaddon poems on our forthcoming MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD.)

Gary is also featured at the Western Folklife Center’s 35th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 28-February 2, 2019.

Find more about Gary at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, singingcowboy.com.

This photo is by Bill Patterson, top gathering photographer, who has captured great views of so many of today’s performers and the essence of so many events. See some of his photos on Facebook.  The above photo is used with a different look in a recent article in about the Colorado gathering from 5280 magazine.

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

RANCHMAN’S RESOLUTIONS by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

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RANCHMAN’S RESOLUTIONS
by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

Of New Year’s resolutions
I could think up quite a few.
But since I’m pretty busy,
Maybe two or three will do:
Resolved to raise still better beef,
To market when they’re fat;
To build new chutes, to buy new boots–
But wear the same old hat!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

These resolutions may be easier to keep than most. One recent study says that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.

Barker, as described in Cowboy Miner Productions’ collection of his work, “…was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico… a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator…” He was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

Gail Steiger, Arizona ranch manager, cowboy, filmmaker, songwriter, and poet recites this poem on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker.

The poem seemed a perfect choice for him. These hat pics are courtesy of Gail’s partner, writer and cowboy Amy Hale Auker Author.

Gail Steiger is a featured performer at the Western Folklife Center​’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 28 through February 2, 2019. Find more about the event and see the great lineup at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

After Elko, find Gail at the popular Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering​ in Alpine, February 22-23, 2019. Learn all about it and see the outstanding list of performers at texascowboypoetry.com.

Find more about Gail Steiger at gailsteigermusic.com.

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

34th annual Vinton Cowboy Poetry & Music Show, Vinton, California March 15 and 16, 2019

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34th annual Vinton Cowboy Poetry & Music Show
“Oldest and Best Cowboy Poetry Show in California”  
March 15 and 16, 2019

 

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The Sierra Valley Grange presents

Dave Stamey

Chris Isaacs

Richard Elloyan & Steve Wade

March 15,16 -2019

Sierra Valley Grange Hall

92202 Hwy 70, Vinton, California

Friday Evening Show at 7:30 PM

      Saturday — Matinee Show at 2:00 PM – Evening Show at 7:30 PM

Dinner Fri 5 to 7 PM /Dinner Sat 4:30 to 7:00 PM 

Reserved seating. Show tickets: $25 for Adults, $10 for Children 12 and under 

Dinners:  $12 for Adults and $8 for Children 12  and under

For tickets call Pam Olivieri (831-345-9840)

Always on the 3rd weekend in March.

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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.)

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RESOLUTION, by Sandy Seaton Sallee

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RESOLUTION
by Sandy Seaton Sallee

I catapulted yesterday
Atop my brand new steed
We somersaulted off the hill
I didn’t even bleed.

Today I crept out of my bed
My tailbone’s in revolt
I ignored his warning signs
I’d by-gosh ride that colt!

Last year I led a spooky mule
Tied to a spotted App
The mule was calm but Appy ran
A fast Olympic lap.

Back corkscrewed but chiropractor
Got me cranked in place
No one could see the black-and-blue
‘Cept marks on my face.

Three surg’ries on my shoulders
The screws have been removed
A walking cast repaired my foot
My insurance approved.

I broke my neck while roping steers
That gelding sure could buck
I’m wired now from end to end
I’m tight with Lady Luck.

Both knees are orthoscopic-fixed
My right wrist has a pin
My skull sports quilted stitching marks
I have a crooked grin.

An old friend watched me limp one day
The words he said still lash
“Your mind is writing checks for you
Your body just can’t cash.”

Next time I’m sure I won’t buck off
I’ve discovered the solution
I’ll have no choice for now that goal’s
My New Year’s Resolution!

© 2017, Sandy Seaton Sallee, used with permission.

 

Popular poet and wilderness guide Sandy Seaton Sallee says the poem is, “All true, unfortunately!” Last week she shared a photo for Jay Snider’s “Tyrone and Tyree,” and it’s a pleasure to have another photo from her, in her element.

Sandy and her husband Scott run Black Mountain Outfitters, located in the heart of Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and also Slough Creek Outfitters, offering world-famous Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout fishing. Find more about Sandy Seaton Sallee at blackmountainoutfitters.com and at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

COWBOY’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS, by S. Omar Barker

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COWBOY’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
by S. Omar Barker

As one who’s been a cowhand since the wildcats learned to spit,
I’ve made some resolutions for the comin’ year, to wit:
Resolved, to ride a shorter day and sleep a longer night;
To never come to breakfast till the sun is shinin’ bright;
To draw a top-hands wages when they’re due or quit the job
And hunt a wealthy widow or an easy bank to rob.
Resolved, to quit the wagon when the chuck ain’t up to snuff,
To feed no more on bullet beans nor chaw on beef that’s tough.
Resolved, to straddle nothin’ in the line of saddle mount
That ain’t plumb easy-gaited, gentle broke, and some account.

Resolved, that when it blizzards and there’s stock out in the storm,
To let the owner worry while I stay in where it’s warm.
Resolved, that when it comes my turn next spring to ride the bogs,
I’ll don the bib and tucker of my town and Sunday togs,
And tell the boss, by gravies, if he craves to shed some blood,
Just try to make me smear ’em tailin’ moo-cows from the mud.
Resolved, that when a thunderhead comes rollin’ up the sky,
I’ll lope in off my circle to the bunkhouse where it’s dry.

Resolved, to do such ropin’ as a ropin’ cowhand must,
But never when the air ain’t free from cattle-trompled dust.
Resolved to show no hosses, and resolved, to swim no cricks;
Resolved, no dead-cow skinnin’, and resolved, no fence to fix.
Resolved, to swing no pitchfork, no pick, no ax, no spade;
Resolved to wear my whiskers—if I want to—in a braid!
Resolved, to take this New Year plenty easy through-and-through,
Instead of sweatin’ heavy like I’ve always used to do.

As one who’s been a cowhand since before who laid the chunk,
It may sound like I’m loco, or it may sound like I’m drunk
To make such resolutions as you see upon my list,
And others purt near like ’em that my mem’ry may have missed;
But gosh, they sound so pleasant to a son of saddle sweat!
And New Year’s resolutions—well, I never kept one yet!
So why make resolutions that bring furrows to your brow?
Let’s make ’em free and fancy—’cause we’ll bust ’em anyhow!

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, from Rawhide Rhymes, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker; this poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Happy New Year, all!

S. Omar Barker (1895-1985) was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

Jay Snider recites this poem on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker from CowboyPoetry.com: .

The photo below of S. Omar Barker and his horse, which also appears inside MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, is courtesy of the S. Omar Barker Estate.

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