MASTERS CD Series

 The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry produces compilation CDs of classic and contemporary poetry recitations. The CDs are offered to libraries in the Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week Rural Library project, given as premiums to the Center’s supporters, and available to the public.

The current CD series is MASTERS.

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MASTERS: VOLUME TWO (April, 2018) contains over 60 tracks in a double CD of the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals,  siblings, couples, parents and children—bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Andy Hedges introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS: VOLUME TWO here.

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The first CD in the series. MASTERS (2017), includes the works of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens, reciting their poetry in recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs). Jay Snider introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS (2017) here.

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Previous to the MASTERS series, the Center produced ten volumes of The BAR-D Roundup.

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The Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—is held each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, a compilation CD and the celebration’s poster—by Clara Smith in 2018; by Jason Rich in 2017; by Gary Morton in 2016; by Don Dane in 2015; by Jason Rich in 2014; Shawn Cameron in 2013; by R.S. Riddick in 2012, Duward Campbell in 2011, Bill Owen in 2010, Bob Coronato in 2009; William Matthews in 2008; Tim Cox in 2007; and Joelle Smith in 2006—are offered to libraries in the Center’s Rural Library Project. The outreach program is a part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

We need your support to continue and expand these programs. Join us and be a part of it all.

THE BUYER’S TYPE, by Floyd Beard

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THE BUYER’S TYPE
by Floyd Beard

I’m standing here pushing up a steer,
as I load the truck today.
Looks thick and fat from where I’m at,
as I send him on his way.

Yell out your bid, or wave your lid
as you catch the auctioneer’s cry.
Run up his price, you know he’s nice,
let ‘em know you want to buy!

You hope each spring that your cow’ll bring,
a calf of the buyers’ type.
So that next fall at the auctioneer ball,
they’ll all want to take a swipe.

I ain’t for gore but a bidder’s war,
‘tween buyers is mighty fine.
When they’ll bid once more, o’er the buyer next door,
and the calves they’re wantin’s mine.

Then I go inside and I strut with pride,
as I settle at the cashier’s till.
Weight tickets come down and they’re “times’ed” per pound,
and the gold my pockets fill.

What…I take the shrink? Is that fair ya’ think?
The commission is then pulled out!
And a feed cost’s there for two days of care,
boy that yardage is kinda’ stout.

Well they whittled my check, but then what the heck,
better get what I got to the bank.
Get your grubby mitts off my money you nits,
my ship came in and purt near sank.

Take out pasture cost and the ones I lost,
I’m barely gonna cover my bills.
Still owe the vet charge, and the feed bill’s large,
now I’m cuttin’ out most of my thrills.

Well the trucker’s paid and the mortgage made,
and repair bills paid at the shop.
Fuel’s laid in, mill’s pumping again,
propane sure took a big hop.

Well I’ll fix the roof next year and maybe see clear,
to get by on the tires I’ve got.
And I’ll burn more wood, and maybe I could,
patch the tank where it’s got the rot.

I’ll watch what I buy and if prices stay high,
I’ll get by for another year.
I’ll just be brave, use the heifers I save,
and try to not choke on fear.

If I squeeze real tight, I’ll make it alright,
and there ain’t no use to gripe.
But if I got any pull, I pray that ol’ bull,
will throw calves of the buyers’ type

© 2014, Floyd Beard, used with permission

This poem appears on popular Colorado rancher and poet Floyd Beard’s recent CD, Short Grass Country. The album includes original poems and recitations of classic poems by Luther Lawhon, E.A. Brininstool, Sunny Hancock, and Banjo Paterson. It’s all tied together with fine music by Butch Hause.

Floyd Beard comments on “Buyer’s Type” in the liner notes, “Cattlemen work in a year-long cycle. This poem marks the end of one cycle and beginning of the next.  It also points out that ranches love their calves to sell high, but it is sure not all profit.”

Find Rick Huff’s review on the CowboyPoetry.com blog, where he calls Short Grass Country, a “collection of top-drawer cowboy thoughts and delivery.”

This photo is courtesy of Floyd Beard.

Find more about Floyd Beard at CowboyPoetry.com and  at his web site,
floydbeardcowboy.com.

Floyd is making an impressive and determined recovery from a stroke earlier this year, and he is back on the cowboy poetry trail, as he likes to call it. One place he’s headed is New Mexico’s Fifth Annual Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering, August 24-26, 2018. The gathering has “…over 20 top notch, award-winning pickers, singers, and poets lined up..” Floyd joins Terry Nash, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Dale Burson, Randy Huston, Peggy Malone, Jim Jones, Doug Figgs, and others.

Find more about the event on Facebook and at cimarroncowboygathering.com.

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

THE COWS CAME FIRST by Jane Morton

 

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photo courtesy of David and Deanna Dickinson McCall

THE COWS CAME FIRST
by Jane Morton

My mother said she realized
with my Dad the cows came first.
If cows and she both needed drinks,
she knew who’d die of thirst.

In any contest with the cows,
Mom came out second-best.
She never gave up trying, though,
To that I can attest.

If Mom had planned a dinner,
or if they’d been invited out,
Dad promised he’d be on time,
but she had cause to doubt.

So many different happenings
had spoiled what she had planned,
She came to think that fate itself
might well have played a hand.

It wasn’t fate, it was my Dad.
He’d start a task too late.
And thinking he had time enough,
he didn’t want to wait.

He’d run into some problem there
he hadn’t counted on,
And sure enough, before he knew,
the daylight would be gone.

By time he got back to the house,
my mom would be irate.
She knew not which excuse he’d use,
but could anticipate—

“I drove out to the pasture where
my Chevy truck broke down.
Before a neighbor came along,
I’d walked halfway to town.

“That ornery Angus bull I bought
went through the fence today.
Of course I had to get him home.
He fought me all the way.

“I stopped to check a windmill,
and I found a stock tank dry.
The cattle have to drink you know.”
I’d hear my mother sigh.

“A calving heifer needed help,
so sure, I had to stay.
I promised I’d be home, I know,
but couldn’t get away.”

He had to pull a windmill
or he had to pull a calf
Mom heard it all so many times
she almost had to laugh.

Dad said he thought that Mom had ought
to take things in her stride.
That proved impossible for her,
no matter how she tried.

And when the two got on in years,
Mom was the first to go.
She’d asked for flowers on her stone,
but did she get them? No!

Dad bought one stone for both of them,
and he had it engraved.
A cow and the windmill took the place
of flowers she had craved.

When Mother said the cows came first;
she knew my dad too well.
Above her final resting place,
that cow will always dwell.

© 2003, Jane Morton, used with permission.

Colorado poet and writer Jane Morton often writes about her family’s ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, Joshua Eaton Ambrose, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872. She wrote this poem about her father, William Ernest Ambrose (1904-1994). She has commented that she really began to “know” her father when she stared writing about him.

She writes, “He loved his land, and he loved his work. His satisfaction with his life was reflected in his face. Perhaps that was why, when many his age had retired to rocking chairs, he was still going strong. Occasionally someone suggested that he retire and take it easy. Usually, he didn’t bother to reply. He’d said it once, and once was enough. ‘Someday,’ he said, ‘they’ll probably find me wrapped around one of these fence posts, but I’ll never quit.'”

Find more about William Ernest Ambrose in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com.  This poem is included in a feature about Jane Morton’s mother, Eva Lena Wolowsky Ambrose (1904-1988). Find more about Jane Morton at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo by New Mexico rancher David McCall was taken last week at their Timberon-area ranch, an area experiencing a serious drought. Poet, writer and the other half of the McCall operation, Deanna Dickinson McCall, a couple of generations ahead of the Ambroses and a woman who has always worked her ranch alongside her husband, commented on the photo, “Waiting for rain, praying it comes soon! David McCall and the boys. I learned at an early age you can’t starve a profit into a cow.” What hasn’t changed: the cows come first. She told us, “We are just hoping the monsoons will arrive on time, or early. The spring that feeds the pipeline is almost dry, too low to feed the line, so we will begin hauling water. This has been the driest, windiest spring/summer we have seen, and the fire threat is so frightening.”

The McCalls have many generations of ranchers before them and generations of cowboy poets and reciters in front of them, in their children, including the late Rusty McCall, Katie McCall Owen, and Terri Anne Knight and grandchildren. Find more about the family and more about Deanna Dickinson McCall and her poems and stories at  deannadickinsonmccall.com.

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

FROM TOWN by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

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photo: Wallace McRae and Andy Hedges in Elko, Nevada, 2018;
photo courtesy of Andy Hedges

 

FROM TOWN
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

We’re the children of the open and we hate the haunts o’ men,
But we had to come to town to get the mail.
And we’re ridin’ home at daybreak—’cause the air is cooler then—
All ‘cept one of us that stopped behind in jail.
Shorty’s nose won’t bear paradin’, Bill’s off eye is darkly fadin’,
All our toilets show a touch of disarray,
For we found that city life is a constant round of strife
And we ain’t the breed for shyin’ from a fray.

Chant your warwhoop, pardners dear, while the east turns pale with fear
And the chaparral is tremblin’ all aroun’
For we’re wicked to the marrer; we’re a mid-night dream of terror
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

We acquired our hasty temper from our friend, the centipede,
From the rattlesnake we learnt to guard our rights.
We have gathered fightin’ pointers from the famous bronco steed
And the bobcat teached us reppertee that bites.
So when some high-collared herrin’ jeered the garb that I was wearin’
‘Twasn’t long till we had got where talkin’ ends,
And he et his illbred chat, with a sauce of derby hat,
While my merry pardners entertained his friends.

Sing ‘er out, my buckeroos! Let the desert hear the news.
Tell the stars the way we rubbed the haughty down.
We’re the fiercest wolves a-prowlin’ and it’s just our night for howlin’
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town.

Since the days that Lot and Abram split the Jordan range in halves
Just to fix it so their punchers wouldn’t fight,
Since old Jacob skinned his dad-in-law for six years’ crop of calves
And then hit the trail for Canaan in the night,
There has been a taste for battle ‘mong the men that followed cattle
And a love of doin’ things that’s wild and strange,
And the warmth of Laban’s words when he missed his speckled herds
Still is useful in the language of the range.

Singer ‘er out, my bold coyotes! leather fists and leather throats,
For we wear the brand of Ishm’el like a crown.
We’re the sons of desolation, we’re the outlaws of creation—
Ee—yow! a-ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

Andy Hedges, fine reciter and songster, recites this poem with brio on his most recent COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast. Equally important, he interviews octogenarian Montanan Wallace McRae, respected rancher, poet, deep thinker, and maverick.

“My father was a cowman…” are the first words from Wally McRae. He talks about his father and grandfather, their settling and ranching history, his own ranching struggles and early life, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and his friendship with another rebel, poet Paul Zarzyski.

Wally McRae has written some of the most recognized cowboy poems, including “Reincarnation” and the exceptional “Things of Intrinsic Worth.” He is a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and has been a part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering from its beginning, in 1985.

Andy Hedges is owed great thanks for capturing his story and that of others. COWBOY CROSSROADS has a wealth of such oral histories, all of which are also full of entertainment. Other episodes feature Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, and others. Find more about COWBOY CROSSROADS and all episodes at
andyhedges.com. Help support his efforts if you are able.

Badger Clark 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. He wrote many lasting poems, and some found their way into song, including “The Old Cow Man,” “Riding’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”

In a foreword to a 1942 edition of his Sun and Saddle Leather, a book that has been in print continuously since its 1915 publication, he refers to his poems as his children. He comments, “…I sit here alone my mountain cabin–an old batch, and yet, without the slightest scandal, a happy father–every now and then hearing tidings of how my children have visited interesting places where I shall never go and met fine people whom I shall never see. How delightful it is to have good children!”

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

THE COW AND THE CALF by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE COW AND THE CALF
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

A cow and a calf, or a calf and a cow
Either way that you say it, it don’t matter how;
But there’s the foundation of all the beef trade,
And it always has been since the first beef was made.

Calves may have had fathers or sisters and brothers,
But they wore the same brand that was put on their mothers.
If hundreds of cattle was mixed in a herd,
When a cow claimed a calf, the whole world took her word.

Folks thought more of calves than of children, they did.
In them days nobody adopted a kid,
But a whole lot of fellers jest couldn’t be stopped,
If a calf was onbranded and there to adopt.

So you caint blame a cow for the way she took care,
And fed and purtected her calf every where.
And the whole cattle business I’ll tell you right now
Depended a heap on the sense of a cow.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1935.

Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, “Rhymes of the Ranges,” “Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges…”

Find much more about Kiskaddon and many more poems in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo was taken earlier this year, just after the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, by poet, reciter, regional historian, and chuck wagon cook Linda Kirkpatrick. She told us, “I saw this little steer in a pasture in Terlingua, Texas. I loved the way his color blended with the colors of the desert, so, being me, I looked in every direction and did a turn around in the middle of the highway to go back and catch his portrait.”

Find more about Linda Kirkpatrick, including her books and recordings, at CowboyPoetry.com and find her “Somewhere in the West” column in The Hill Country Herald.

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

THE DUDE WRANGLER by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

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THE DUDE WRANGLER
by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

I’ll tell you of a sad, sad story,
Of how a cowboy fell from grace,
Now really this is something awful,
There never was so sad a case.

One time I had myself a pardner,
I never knowed one half so good;
We throwed our outfits in together,
And lived the way that cowboys should.

He savvied all about wild cattle,
And he was handy with a rope,
For a gentle, well-reined pony,
Just give me one that he had broke.

He never owned no clothes but Levis,
He wore them until they was slick,
And he never wore no great big Stetson,
‘Cause where we rode the brush was thick.

He never had no time for women,
So bashful and so shy was he,
Besides he knowed that they was poison,
And so he always let them be.

Well he went to work on distant ranges;
I did not see him for a year.
But then I had no cause to worry,
For I knowed that some day he’d appear.

One day I rode in from the mountains,
A-feelin’ good and steppin’ light,
For I had just sold all my yearlin’s,
And the price was out of sight.

But soon I seen a sight so awful,
It caused my joy to fade away,
It filled my very soul with sorrow,
I never will forgit that day.

For down the street there come a-walkin’
My oldtime pardner as of yore,
Although I know you will not believe me,
Let me tell you what he wore.

He had his boots outside his britches;
They was made of leather green and red.
His shirt was of a dozen colors,
Loud enough to wake the dead.

Around his neck he had a ‘kerchief,
Knotted through a silver ring;
I swear to Gawd he had a wrist-watch,
Who ever heard of such a thing.

Sez I, “Old scout now what’s the trouble?
You must have et some loco weed.
If you will tell me how to help you,
I’ll git you anything you need.”

Well he looked at me for half a minute,
And then he begin to bawl;
He sez, “Bear with me while I tell you
What made me take this awful fall.

“It was a woman from Chicago
Who put the Injun sign on me;
She told me that I was romantic,
And just as handsome as could be.”

Sez he, “I’m ‘fraid that there ain’t nothin’
That you can do to save my hide,
I’m wranglin’ dudes instead of cattle,
I’m what they call a first-class guide.

“Oh I saddles up their pump-tailed ponies,
I fix their stirrups for them too,
I boost them up into their saddles,
They give me tips when I am through.

“It’s just like horses eatin’ loco,
You can not quit it if you try,
I’ll go on wranglin’ dudes forever,
Until the day that I shall die.”

So I drawed my gun and throwed it on him,
I had to turn my face away.
I shot him squarely through the middle,
And where he fell I left him lay.

I shorely hated for to do it,
For things that’s done you cain’t recall,
But when a cowboy turns dude wrangler,
He ain’t no good no more at all.

…Gail I. Gardner, from Orejana Bull; reprinted with permission of the Gardner/Steiger family; this poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Gail I. Gardner, born in Prescott, Arizona, was educated at Philip Exeter Academy and Dartmouth University. But he wanted to work as a cowboy, which he did for much of his life. He later became the postmaster of Prescott. His works are a solid part of cowboy poetry history.

Gardner is probably best known as the author of “The Sierry Petes (or Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail).”He wrote that now-famous piece in 1917. He continually battled the notion that the poem was “anonymous” or claimed by other authors. It became an immediate favorite, recited and put to music by others, quickly entering the realm of “classic.”

Find more poetry, photos, and more about Gail I. Gardner in our feature here.

For another great take on dude wranglers, read top singer and songwriter Dave Stamey’s  piece, “The Dude Wrangler,” on Facebook.

This 1941 photograph,”Dudes and cowboy from Quarter Circle U Ranch at Crow Indian fair. Crow Agency, Montana” is by noted photographer Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990). A collection of her photographs at The Library of Congress  tells that she produced more than 9,000 photographs for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1938 to 1942. Find more at a web site created by her daughter. Find more about the above photo here.

MICHAEL BIA by Chris Isaacs

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photo by Carol M. Highsmith

 

MICHAEL BIA
by Chris Isaacs

You spent your childhood wild and free,
And none of us could then foresee
How you’d touch our lives, or to what degree.
We never knew you, Michael Bia.

You life was in the land and sky;
Vermillion cliffs and mesas high.
These were yours to occupy.
You were of Diné, Michael Bia.

You rode the bulls and rode them well,
But you wouldn’t leave the reservation’s Citadel
Though it was known you could excel.
Ah, you could ride ’em Michael Bia.

The White House called; you left your land,
And off you went to Viet Nam,
To a war you did not understand.
You did your duty, Michael Bia.

You fought with honor and with pride,
But before the fighting could subside
In that far off land, you died.
You gave the ultimate, Michael Bia.

At Window Rock in sixty-eight
They turned a bull out of the gate,
And his bell rang loud to reiterate
Our thank you, Michael Bia.

Diné, and white men, too
Stood and shed a tear for you;
And though your time on earth is through
May God keep you, Michael Bia.

Now often when I think of the past
Or cross that reservation vast,
Or see Old Glory at half-mast,
I think of Michael Bia.

Ya’at’eeh, Hastiin! (Ya-ta-hey, Has-teen!)

© 2001, Chris Isaacs
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.
(Chris notes: Diné is what the Navajos call themselves; it means “The People.”)

Chris Isaacs writes about this poem in his award-winning book, Rhymes, Reasons and Pack Saddle Proverbs:

There are things that happen in our lives that we have absolutely no control over, which become a part of us forever. Such was the case with the poem about Michael Bia.

I got out of the U. S. Marine Corps in January of 1967 just as things were really starting to heat up in Vietnam. Michael Bia was leading the bull riding standings for the AIRCA when he was drafted and sent to Viet Nam just about the time I was discharged. He never came home.

In 1968 my wife Helena and I were at the Fourth of July rodeo in Window Rock, Arizona, where I was entered when something happened that haunted me for years. The Navajo tribe paid tribute to Michael Bia at that rodeo by taking his chaps and spurs and attaching them to a bull with Michael’s bull rope and then turning the bull loose in the arena during a moment of silence. Nothing has ever affected me quite like that short moment of tribute to a fellow cowboy/comrade-in-arms, and I have thought of it many, many times over the years…The first time that I tried to recite it, I broke down and cried, which kept me from trying it again for quite a while. Then in 1997 at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering I was on the Veterans’ Session with Joel Nelson, Rod McQueary, and some others, and managed to get through the entire thing…I have had many Vets thank me for the poem, which means a great deal to me…I did a show near Washington, D. C. a few years ago, and made it to the Wall (the Vietnam Memorial) where I found Michael’s name…

See Chris’s recent post with photos of Michael Bia on Facebook.

Find more about Chris Isaacs at CowboyPoetry.com and visit chrisisaacs.com.

This 2006 photo of the Vietnam Memorial is by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.The accompanying note tells, “Deliberately setting aside the controversies of the war, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served when their Nation called upon them. The designer, Maya Lin, felt that the politics had eclipsed the veterans, their service and their lives. She kept the design elegantly simple to allow everyone to respond and remember.”

Find more about the photo here.

The Highsmith Archive notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Find a selection of Memorial Day poems at CowboyPoetry.com.