THE BRONCO by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

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THE BRONCO
by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

The bronco’s mighty wild and tough,
And full of outdoor feelin’s:
His feet are quick, his ways are rough,
He’s careless in his dealin’s.

Each mornin’ he must have his spree,
And hand you plenty trouble
A-pitchin’ round the scenery
Till you are seein’ double.

Or mebby-so, you think he’s broke,
And do a little braggin’;
“Plumb gentle hoss!” he sees the joke,
And leaves—with reins a-draggin’.

Or, mebby-so, you think he’ll jump
That little three-foot railin’:
When all he does is stop and hump,
And stay—while you go sailin’.

But when his pitchin’ fit is done,
And ropin’, cuttin’, brandin’,
Is on the bill—I’ll tell you son,
He works with understandin’.

At workin’ stock he’s got his pride:
—Dust rollin’, boys a-yellin’—
He’ll turn your steer, and make you ride,
And he don’t need no tellin’.

Perhaps you’re standin’ middle-guard,
Or ridin’ slow, night-hawkin’:
And then your bronc is sure your pard,
At loafin’, or at walkin’.

Or, when the lightnin’ flashes raw,
And starts the herd a-flyin’,
He’s off to head ’em down the draw,
Or break your neck, a-tryin’.

A bronc he sure will take his part,
At gettin’ there or stayin’:
He’ll work until he breaks his heart,
Be he don’t sabe playin’.

He may be wild, he may be tough,
And full of outdoor feelin’s:
But he’s all leather, sure enough,
And he puts through his dealin’s.

….by Henry Herbert Knibbs, from Saddle Songs and Other Verse, 1922

Henry Herbert Knibbs wrote stories, poems and novels. He never worked as a cowboy, but he was a student of the West and his friendships, including one with cowboy, rancher, and writer Eugene Manlove Rhodes informed his work. His poems are still often recited today, including “Boomer Johnson,” “The Walking Man,” “Shallows of the Ford,” and “So Long, Chinook!”

Find more about Knibbs and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This image is from a c.1908 reproduction of an 1888 wood engraving by great Western artist Fredric Remington (1861-1909). It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

(This poem and image are in the public domain.)

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Shows and Workshops

 

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From the Western Folklife Center:

33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Ticketed Show and Workshops Now Online

The Gathering website has a new look and a new address! Bookmark www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org and head on over to see the ticketed shows and workshops scheduled for the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 30-February 4, 2017, in Elko, Nevada!

Western Folklife Center members can purchase tickets to these shows and workshops starting September 6 at 9:00 am PST. To purchase tickets online during the members’-only period, you must have a password that will be given to current members starting August 20 via email. You can also call or email the membership office after September 20 for the password. When you purchase tickets, you will need to know your membership level benefits. If you are unsure of your member level or your benefits, contact the membership office at at 775-738-7508 ext 222 or membership@ westernfolklife.org.

THE PEARL OF THEM ALL by Will Ogilvie (1869-1963)

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THE PEARL OF THEM ALL
William Henry “Will” Ogilvie (1869-1963)

Gaily in front of the stockwhip
The horses come galloping home,
Leaping and bucking and playing
With sides all a lather of foam;
But painfully, slowly behind them,
With head to the crack of the fall,
And trying so gamely to follow
Comes limping the pearl of them all.

He is stumbling and stiff in the shoulder,
And splints from the hoof to the knee,
But never a horse on the station
Has half such a spirit as he;
Give these all the boast of their breeding
These pets of the paddock and stall,
But ten years ago not their proudest
Could live with the pearl of them all.

No journey has ever yet beat him,
No day was too heavy or hard,
He was king of the camp and the muster
And pride of the wings of the yard;
But Time is relentless to follow;
The best of us bow to his thrall;
And death, with his scythe on his shoulder,
Is dogging the pearl of them all.

I watch him go whinnying past me,
And memories come with a whirl
Of reckless, wild rides with a comrade
And laughing, gay rides with a girl –
How she decked him with lilies and love-knots
And plaited his mane at my side,
And once in the grief of a parting
She threw her arms round him and cried.

And I promised – I gave her my promise
The night that we parted in tears,
To keep and be kind to the old horse
Till Time made a burden of years;
And then for his sake and one woman’s…
So, fetch me my gun from the wall!
I have only this kindness to offer
As gift to the pearl of them all.

Here! hold him out there by the yard wing,
And don’t let him know by a sign:
Turn his head to you – ever so little!
I can’t bear his eyes to meet mine.
Then – stand still, old boy! for a moment …
These tears, how they blind as they fall!
Now, God help my hand to be steady …
Good-bye! – to the pearl of them all!

…by William Henry Ogilvie

Few poems are held in such high regard as this heart-breaking piece by William Henry “Will” Ogilvie. When told by a talented reciter, such as Randy Rieman, Jerry Brooks, Joel Nelson, or the late Milton Taylor, it can evoke tears.

Scotsman Will Ogilvie lived in Australia for a dozen years, where he became a top station hand, drover, and horse breaker. His poems “Hooves of the Horses” and “The Pearl of Them All” are his works heard most often at gatherings in North America. (Wylie Gustafson of Wylie and the Wild West set “Hooves of the Horses to music.) Ogilvie was a popular writer who contributed to the Bulletin—the paper that published poets and writers including Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson, Harry “Breaker” Morant (Ogilvie’s close friend), and others—even after his return to Scotland.

Find more about Ogilvie at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo detail is from a 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) titled “Cowboy petting his horse. Cattle ranch near Spur, Texas.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

Ed Nesselhuf, 1944-2016

 

edEd Nesselhuf, right, presents award to Smoke Wade at the 2006  National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo.
Photo © 2006, Jeri Dobrowski

Yvonne Hollenbeck shared the sad news of the death Ed Nesselhuf, fellow South Dakotan and much loved and admired cowboy poet and humanitarian, on July 27, 2016. A Lutheran pastor, he founded Prison Congregations of America.

Ed was a driving, indispensable force in the organization and success of the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo during its management by Sam Jackson, who conceived the event.  He also served as a judge foreman for organizers of the current National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Dawn and Geff Dawson.

A moving obituary here tells, “The most important thing in his life was his family. The rest of this was written by Ed himself…” Ed’s words about his family are a testament to his life well lived. These words end it, “… I will miss you but this is only temporary. I will be waiting for you all, just as safe as a toad in God’s pocket.”

The family suggests that memorials can be directed to Prison Congregations of America at PO Box 1335, Sioux Falls SD, 57101.

Find some of Ed Nesselhuf’s poetry here at CowboyPoetry.com.

 

National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration

 

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From the organizers:

28th Annual National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration

 LUBBOCK, TX – The National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration hosts the 28th annual event in Lubbock, Texas, September 9-11th, 2016 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. New attractions include sessions featuring performances by Dave Stamey, Mike Beck, Craig Carter & Zack Casey along with cowboy poets Chris Isaacs and Ross Knox. History sessions on “The Horse’s Influence on the American West” will be scheduled throughout, a Luncheon and Program on Friday and a special session with Texas State Historian, Bill O’Neal. Chuck Wagon Roast Coffee will be on sale during regular show hours in the Exhibit Hall and Chuck Wagon area, and at the Chuck Wagon Breakfast on Sunday of the event.

The purpose of the event is to celebrate, preserve and pass along our western heritage and cowboy culture. To carry out these goals, the event schedule includes a variety of talented performers throughout the day and nationally recognized artists Dave Stamey, Mike Beck, Craig Carter, Zack Casey, Chris Isaacs and Ross Knox for the Friday and Saturday night performances. Many talented musicians, poets and storytellers from across the nation will gather to perform as well as presentations of Native American demonstrations and dancing, western authors, horse handling demonstrations, farrier demonstrations, the Horse Parade, the National Championship Chuck Wagon Cook-Off, and exhibits of western artworks and merchandise.

The event features more than 100 performers and presenters including cowboy and cowgirl poets, musical acts, storytellers, authentic chuck wagon cooks, authors, special presenters, and exhibit spaces filled with the best in western art and goods. It truly is the premier event of its kind in existence today! One of the largest events annually held in Lubbock, the Symposium draws visitors from many states and multiple nations, and people from more than 30 nations have attended in the previous twenty-seven years.

The event has activities for the entire family! Show goers will be able pick and choose from a full schedule of entertainers, western programs, and activities each day of the event. A schedule of events and ticket information may be found on the official web site at www.cowboy.org . All-inclusive, one-price, “Wrangler Pass” and “Rustler Pass” admission tickets are available prior to the event. The Wrangler passes allow admission and meals for all three days and the Rustler pass is an all-inclusive one day pass for Friday or Saturday. Individual tickets may be purchased in advance through the office, on the web site, or in person upon arrival at the event.

The show is open to the public Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 9-10-11th at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, 1501 Mac Davis Lane (6th Street). Additional information about the event may be obtained at cowboysymposium@suddenlink.net or  www.cowboy.org.

THE OLD PROSPECTOR by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

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THE OLD PROSPECTOR
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

There’s a song in the canyon below me
And a song in the pines overhead,
As the sunlight crawls down from the snowline
And rustles the deer from his bed.
With mountains of green all around me
And mountains of white up above
And mountains of blue down the sky-line,
I follow the trail that I love.

My hands they are hard from the shovel,
My leg is rheumatic by streaks
And my face it is wrinkled from squintin’
At the glint of the sun on the peaks.
You pity the prospector sometimes
As if he was out of your grade.
Why, you are all prospectors, bless you!
I’m only a branch of the trade.
You prospect for wealth and for wisdom,
You prospect for love and for fame;
Our work don’t just match as to details,
But the principle’s mostly the same.

While I swing a pick in the mountains
You slave in the dust and the heat
And scratch with your pens for a color
And assay the float of the street.

You wail that your wisdom is salted,
That fame never pays for the mill,
That wealth hasn’t half enough value
To pay you for climbin’ the hill.
You even say love’s El Dorado,
A pipe dream that never endures—
Well, my luck ain’t all that I want it,
But I never envied you yours.
You’re welcome to what the town gives you,
To prizes of laurel and rose,
But leave me the song in the pine tops,
The breath of a wind from the snows.
With mountains of green all around me
And mountains of white up above
And mountains of blue down the sky-line,
I’ll follow the trail that I love.

by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. from Sun and Saddle Leather
Charles Badger Clark Jr.’s book, Sun and Saddle Leather, has been in print for over 100 years.

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 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.

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation now holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale. See more at the SDHSF web site.

Top reciter Jerry Brooks recorded “The Old Prospector” for her recent Shoulder to Shoulder CD, and that recording is also included on The BAR-R Roundup: Volume Six.

You can listen to her perform the poem ten years ago at the Western Folklife Center’s 2006 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where it is introduced, “A master reciter of classic verse, Jerry Brooks worked underground in the coal mines of Utah for 26 years before taking to the cowboy poetry stage.” She returns to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2017. Find more about Jerry Brooks at CowboyPoetry.com.

This c. 1903 photograph is by C.D. Nichols, from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

SUMMER STORM by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950

 

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THE SUMMER STORM
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

The clouds are a comin’ down over the flat,
The lightnin’ is startin’ to flicker.
It is time fer a cow boy to pull down his hat
And git buttoned up in his slicker.

The lightnin’ is shootin’ jest flash after flash,
The wind is a howlin’ and roarin’,
The thunder it shakes the whole earth with a crash
And the rain it comes down jest a pourin’.

The cattle have started to runnin’, the brutes,
Jest hark to ’em rattle their hocks.
The water comes in at the tops of yore boots,
You can feel it a soakin’ yore socks.

The boys is all busy and goin’ full speed,
They are tryin’ to git the steers millin’.
They git to the front and keep bendin’ the lead
To hold the whole shipment from spillin’.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1936

This poem, illustrated by Katherine Field (1908-1951), first appeared in 1936 in the Western Livestock Journal and on the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar.

As Bill Siems writes in his landmark book, Open Range, a monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry, “Western Livestock Journal was one of several interacting businesses clustered around the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards, all engaged in the raising, marketing, and processing of livestock. Almost as soon as the Journal started publishing illustrated poems, the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards began issuing its own series, featuring an illustrated poem and calendar printed on five by ten inch card stock, enclosed with its Monthly Livestock Letter. Beginning with January 1933, these monthly calendars continued in an unbroken series through 1959, using reissued poems after the deaths of Kiskaddon and Field.”

Kiskaddon and Katherine Field never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This poem is in the public domain.