Cowboy Idol Competition at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Music Festival, April 14-16, 2017



From Smoke Wade:

The Cowboy Idol finalists have been selected for the 9th Annual Cowboy Idol competition to take place in conjunction with the 14th Annual Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival, April 14 -16, 2017, held at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, WA. The festival is organized by Budd & Judy Massengale along with the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival Board of Directors.

The Cowboy Idol Poet contestants are: A. K. Moss, OR; Dick Warwick, WA; Linda Nadon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and Terry Raff, ID. The Cowboy Idol Musician contestants are: Paul Larson, SD; Pat Threewit, ID; Ed Wahl, BC, Canada; and Last Ride (Duo) featuring Randy Berg and John Lazzarini, ID.  Cowboy Idol is hosted and produced by Smoke Wade.

News on Cowboy Idol; featured performers, open mic sign up, tickets, schedule and special events can be found at –

Scheduled daytime performances will be presented on Friday and Saturday, April 14 – 15, 2017, along with open mic sessions. Headliner shows will take place at 6:00 p.m. each evening. A cowboy church will be held on Sunday morning following the gathering.

The Cowboy Idol contestants compete for trophies along with a $1400.00 purse divided $500.00 for first place and $200.00 for second place in both the poet and musician competition. In addition, all open mic performers will be judged throughout the weekend for the People’s Choice Award with prize money and a trophy to the winner.



THE COWBOY’S LAMENT (traditional)



As I walked out in the streets of Laredo,
As I walked out in Laredo one day,
I spied a poor cowboy wrapped up in white linen,
Wrapped up in white linen and cold as the clay.

“Oh beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
Play the Dead March as you bear me along;
Take me to the graveyard, and lay the sod o’er me,
For I’m a young cowboy, and I know I’ve done wrong.

“I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy,”—
These words he did say as I boldly stepped by.—
“Come sit beside me and hear my sad story;
I was shot in the breast and I know I must die.

“Let sixteen gamblers come handle my coffin,
Let sixteen cowboys come sing me a song,
Take me to the graveyard and lay the sod over me,
For I’m a poor cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong.

“My friends and relation they live in the Nation,
They know not where their boy has gone.
He first came to Texas and hired to a ranchman,
Oh, I’m a young cowboy, and I know I’ve done wrong.

“Go write a letter to my gray-haired mother,
And carry the same to my sister so dear;
But not a word shall you mention
When a crowd gathers round you my story to hear.

There is another more dear than a sister,
She’ll bitterly weep when she hears I am gone.
There is another who will win her affections,
For I’m a young cowboy, and they say I’ve done wrong.

“Go gather around you a crowd of young cowboys
And tell them the story of this my sad fate;
Tell one and the other before they go further
To stop their wild roving before ‘t is too late.

“Oh muffle your drums, then play your fifes merrily;
Play the Dead March as you bear me along.
And fire your guns right over my coffin;
There goes an unfortunate boy to his home.

“It was once in the saddle I used to go dashing,
It was once in the saddle I used to be gay;
First to the dram-house and then to the card-house:
Got shot in the breast , I am dying to-day.

“Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin;
Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall;
Put bunches of roses all over my coffin,
Put roses to deaden the clods as they fall.

“Then swing your rope slowly and rattle your spurs lowly,
And give a wild whoop as you bear me along;
And in the grave throw me, and roll the sod over me,
For I’m a young cowboy, and I know I’ve done wrong.

“Go bring me a cup, a cup of cold water
To cool my parched lips,” the young cowboy said.
Before I turned, the spirit had left him
And gone to its Giver—the cowboy was dead.

We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly,
And bitterly wept as we bore him along;
For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young, and handsome;
We all loved our comrade, although he’d done wrong.

(From the 1921 edition of Jack Thorp’s “Songs of the Cowboys,” in which he writes, “Authorship credited to Troy Hale, Battle Creek, Nebraska. I first heard it sung in a bar-room at Wisner, Nebraska, about 1886.”)

*”The Cowboy’s Lament” (also known as “Streets of Laredo”) is most often cited as “traditional,” and it also has been credited to various authors. Today, most accept that Francis Henry Maynard (1853-1926) wrote an early version of the song, “The Dying Cowboy.” Find our feature about the song and Maynard and more, including links to vintage renditions at

Why feature this poem for St. Patrick’s Day? The melody and story are said to have come from the 18th century Irish ballad, “The Bard of Armagh” (also known as “The Unfortunate Rake,” “Phelim Brady,” and by other titles). Find a short version of that ballad and many links (like this one to a vintage Peter LaFarge rendition of “Streets of Laredo”) and more information about “The Cowboy’s Lament” and its history at

Find other St. Patrick’s Day flavored poems and lyrics at

This 1909 Raphael Tuck postcard is from the New York Public Library’s digital collection. Find more about this card here and see the entire collection of vintage St. Patrick’s Day cards here.


treyjanicephotograph by Carol Barlau; request permission for use


By Jack “Trey” Allen

His boots looked a hundred years old
they’d seen 10,000 miles and more
They’s scuffed up dirty except for the spots
worn smooth by the spurs that he’d wore

Levi’s adorned his twisted bowed legs
faded pale from years in the sun
His belt was remnant of an old harness strap
fastened with some buckle he’d won

His shirt was just a remnant, too
torn and patched and half untucked
If it could’ve talked, it mighta told the story
of all the hard seasons he’d bucked

His shoulders set straight and firm
though not as firm as they once may have been
They spoke of a man who’d done a life’s work
and would gladly do it again

His gray hair told of the wisdom
he gained from years on the range
of horses he’d rode, friends he’d outlived
and all the things that he’d seen change

The line of his jaw set crooked but hard
Seemed it was chiseled outta stone
And the lines on his face, like the wrinkles on his hands,
seemed to cut clear to the bone

The gaze from his icy blue eyes
Could almost bore a hold plumb through
But there was nothing to warm your heart like a smile
from that ancient buckaroo.

© Trey Allen, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Cowboy and ranch manager Trey Allen (1971-2016) is sorely missed by his many friends and family. His friend, rancher and poet Jay Snider has said, “Trey is one of those guys that lives every day by the same code of ethics as the old-timers. It means something to him that your word is your bond and that you do what you say you’re going to do.”

(This poem also appears in a Western Horseman tribute.

See more about Trey Allen here in this blog and at

Photographer Carol Barlau took this striking photograph of Trey Allen and Janice Hannagan-Allen at a branding. We asked her to tell us a bit about herself and she wrote,”Photography is my outlet, my escape from the hurried and stressful everyday world. Photography relaxes me and renews my spirit. One of my favorite places to photograph is in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Here I can admire its quiet and subtle beauty and enjoy the warmth and friendliness of the people I meet there.”

Carol Barlau also took the photograph that was featured in Don Dane Art’s painting of Trey Allen, “Cowboy True, Thru and Thru,” that was selected for the 2015 Cowboy Poetry Week poster and for the cover of Trey Allen’s CD, “A Remnant Gather.” Find more about Carol Barlau and the poster here.

RUBY by Gary Robertson


by Gary Robertson

Ruby was born on the Home Place in ’32
Grandad told Daddy he could call her his own.
From the stories I’ve heard from my Daddy,
From that day on he was rarely alone.

Her mama, she worked ‘tween the traces
So Ruby would be left in the pen
By the time they had worked to the end of a row
That little filly would be right there with them.

Grandad said she was half Pinto ‘n half Whitetail deer
Cleared every fence that they had on the place.
Oh, he’d fuss ’bout just how ornery she was
But always with a smile on his face.

When it came time for breakin’ ‘n trainin’
Daddy swears she taught him how to ride
Still today when talks ’bout Ruby
His eyes, they just light up with pride.

See, they were playmates, ‘n buddies, ‘n partners
Each gettin’ so much more than they gave
They were young, they were strong, they were carefree
They were innocent, they were brave.

With his rifle, a sack lunch, ‘n a bottle of pop
They’d set out at the first light of day
‘Though he was a kid, there was work to be done
But still time for adventure ‘n to play.

Dad would ride Ruby, as he followed the cows
That grazed on the south railroad lease
Some days he was a drover on the Old Chisholm Trail
Some days, Tom Mix, keepin’ the peace.

Folks, Ruby gave him his first taste of freedom
She gave him her soul ‘n her heart
He gave her his dreams ‘n his boyhood
Took a war to pull them apart.

His first year away, he built airplanes
The next four, fightin’ the war.
By the time he got home, missed a third of her life
‘N maybe a few months more.

His first day back, he walked out to the trap
Whistled her up, ‘n let out a yell
She picked up her head, took a few halting steps,
Then came runnin’, like a bat out-a Hell.

Their reunion was sweet, but a short one
Time had done what Time always does.
Ruby was not part of “What’s yet to be.”
She was part of a life “That once was.”

The G.I. Bill, a walk down the aisle
Then us kids, a house, ‘n career
We’d only get back to the Home Place
A couple-a times a year.

But, the first horse that I rode was Old Ruby
Slid down her neck, when she bent down to eat
No, I wasn’t much of a horseman yet,
But in diapers, a feller can’t take a deep seat.

Today, my whole life revolves ’round horses
You could say I fell under the spell
That Ruby could weave ’round a young boy’s heart
Folks, it’s a magic she worked awful well.

When I was little, I wanted Grandad to say she was mine
Now, I know why that couldn’t be
I see that Ruby was still giving to my Daddy
When she lit this fire in me.

Ruby lived out her days on the Home Place
But, for me, her last chorus has yet to be sung
‘Cause in memories, ‘n stories, ‘n pictures
She and Daddy are forever young.

There’s a painting, up over the mantel
Made from a snap-shot, tucked there in the frame.
Shows Daddy a-horseback on Ruby
‘N he’s got him a handful of mane.

‘N she’s standin’ full up on her hind legs
Her fronts are pawin’ the air
You can see her joy, you can see his pride,
My God but they made-em a pair.

© 2005, Gary D. Robertson
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

California ranch manager Gary Robertson includes “Ruby” in his recent book, “A Treasure Trove of Memories.” The book tells, “Gary Robertson is from a family that has been in Oklahoma since Indian Territory days, when his mother’s people were ‘removed’ there on the Trail of Tears and his family arrived from Texas…” He comments, “The need I have to share my thoughts and experiences through verse and a lyric probably comes from my gene pool. With Texans and Indians in my background, I come from a long line of storytellers.”

This photo is of Gary and his father on Ruby.

Gary is a popular performer at events across the West, and you’ll find him at California’s Santa Clarita Cowboy Gathering April 19-23, 2017. Other performers include Don Edwards, Sons of the San Joaquin, Haunted Windchimes, Kristyn Harris, Dead Winter Carpenters, Jon Chandler and Ernie Martinez, The Show Ponies, Tony Furtado, Run Boy Run, Dave Stamey, The California Feet Warmers, Rosie Flores, Carin Mari, Sourdough Slim, Tom Corbett and Bill Knopf, Joey Dillon, Syd Masters and the Swing Riders, Wild Horse Dancers, Joe Herrington, Andy Hedges, The Vivants, Pop Haydn, Dave Thornbury, David Rainwater, and Ballet Folklórico. Find more at

Gary Robertson receives the Buck Ramsey Award for top male poet from the Academy of Western Artists at the 21st Annual AWA Will Rogers Awards on March 16, 2017 in Fort Worth. Find more at

Find more about Gary at; at his web site,; and on Facebook.

A WET ROPE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I will bet all your life you will never forget
The trouble you’ve had with a rope that was wet.
One day when your hoss was rode down to a walk
You cornered a gentle hoss close to a rock.

You throwed, but your rope was as stiff as a hoop.
So he just downed his head and backed out of the loop.
He was foxy. As soon as he saw the rope fall,
He just pulled out from there and he left you. That’s all.

That time you run onto an old moss horn steer
You’d been aimin’ to lead out fer over a year.
He was in some rough country just close to the valley,
You throwed and you ketched him and tried for a dally.

But the saddle and rope was both wet and you missed.
You blistered your fingers and battered your fist.
There was no chance. The ground was all muddy and slick,
And a wet muddy rope doesn’t tangle so quick.

Yes I reckon that you can remember a lot,
But it makes you so mad that it’s better forgot.

…Bruce Kiskaddon

Things have changed a bit in the 64 years since Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem was printed in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar, but it’s easy to imagine the scene.

Bruce Kiskaddon 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 in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon.

A recent article in a Western Horseman blog by William Reynolds focuses on Kiskaddon, and describes Kiskaddon’s style as, “…uniquely unromantic and undoubtedly authentic.”

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


I’LL RIDE THRU IT by Deanna Dickinson McCall


photograph © Walter Workman, permission required for use


by Deanna Dickinson McCall

I seek out the strong broad chest
Sweet breath and gentle eye
Strong neck where my head can rest
On the horse’s strength I rely.

I’ll ride thru it.

When the cold makes my bones ache
But there’s work to be done
For those cows’ and calves’ sake
I’ll finish what’s begun.

I’ll ride thru it.

When struggling to understand
Life’s peaks and falls
My soul seeks the range land
I answer her siren call

I’ll ride thru it.

When dreams fill me with pain
Of loved ones now gone
Tears fall like a soft rain
In the early light of dawn

I’ll ride thru it.

When dust sticks to my sweat
Heat bouncing off the ground
Horse’s shoulders dripping wet
No breeze is to be found

I’ll ride thru it.

When my life’s fading away
I’m about to be set free
I hope on that last day
In that saddle I’ll still be

and I’ll ride thru it.

© 2017, Deanna Dickinson McCall
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Award-winning poet, writer, and fourth-generation rancher Deanna Dickinson McCall comments about this poem, “Riding has always gotten me through tough times; the important part is to keep riding, and not to stop. Horses have always been healing to me, and we have traveled life’s roughest trails together.”

Recently, Deanna and noted painter and rancher JaNeil Anderson collaborated, pairing poems and paintings, in an attractive and engaging book, Split Reins.

Deanna has two highly praised books of stories, Rough Patches, which recently won a Will Rogers Medallion Award, and Mustang Spring, which also includes poems. She also has an award-winning CD of her poetry, Riding. She’s a popular performer at gatherings, often appearing at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and other events.

Find more about Deanna Dickinson McCall at; at her web site; and on Facebook.

This photograph is by respected photograph Walter Workman. Find more about Walter Workman on Facebook and at, where there are impressive photo galleries.




by Paul Bliss

Well, the mornin’ starts at four am,
the coosie rings the bell,
Come-on, get up ya cowboys,
comes a loud persistent yell!

Come-on, shake out the coffee’s hot,
don’t lay their in yor soogans,
Get’em up, roll’em tight,
all bed rolls to the wagon!

Ya can smell the breakfast cookin’,
un that chill that’s in the air,
As ya gather round that chuck box,
with un emotionless stare.

Ya grab biscuits drowned in gravy,
un thank the God above,
For givin’ ya the piece of mind,
to do the things ya love.

The cook calls out for seconds,
better get it while it’s hot,
While the hoodie loads the bed rolls up,
pulls the tarp, down ties the knots.

The jingler brings yer horses in,
while the night hawk grabs some chuck,
Und ya ponder ’bout the last few weeks,
how ya’ll got by on luck;

The mountains that ya trailed across,
the rivers, streams, un swells,
The thunderstorm’s, the dust, un sweat,
some days it felt like hell;

Und yer muscles, sore, un tender,
from a colt that bucked ya down.
Und knowin’ today is the last day,
und yu’ll arrive in town.

Two hundred un ninety miles,
wranglin’ horses all the way.
There’s un emotion that can’t be denied,
when ya call positions for the day.

The team is almost harnessed up,
the leaders start to paw,
Make a circle boys, start’em slow,
head’em up that draw!

In the east the stars they disappear,
un blue gray takes its place,
Un the pink cliffs now er standin’
out where before there wuz no trace;

The herd busts, un thunders towards the draw,
ears alert, un noses flared,
Un cowboys racin’ for the pass,
with hard determined stares;

They glide through rock un timbers,
with a ballerina’s grace,
Over logs, un brush, un ledges,
like a royal steeple chase.

The dust it starts to foggin’ up,
ya smell leather, horse, un sweat,
Un horses crashin’ through the brush,
but still there’s no regret;

Manes un tails a flyin’,
spurs a ringin’ out a tune,
It’s un illusion watchin’ horse un man
race towards a fadin’ moon.

Down through the pines un cedars,
where the scrub oak slaps yer chaps,
Ya memorize this picture boys,
for time has seemed to lapse.

With cowboys in position,
the herd’s now in control,
Un ya watch the horses all line out
as single file they go.

The sun it tops a ragged ridge,
un the rays come bustin’ through,
Un ya watch the herd snake down the trail,
in solemn overview.

It’s a picture that can’t be described
by anybody’s notion,
‘Cause pardner it’s a feelin’,
“cowboy poetry in motion.”

© 1998, Paul Bliss, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Utah cowboy and rancher Paul Bliss includes this poem and additional poetry and song on his Pure Bliss CD.

He told us that this poem came from a 1998 trip, “…we trailed a 100-horse remuda out the gate of the Lady Bug Ranch, from Salem to Kanab, Utah, 290 miles. Through the meadows of Central Utah. Across steep passes on the edge of the Wasatch mountains. Swimming the Sevier River. Over the pink cliffs of Bryce and Johnson Canyon ….” Read more and more about Paul at

This poem inspired a sold-out program of dance and cowboy poetry by Brigham Young University’s Modern Dance Ensemble earlier in 2013. Reciter Jerry Brooks and other poets also participated.

Paul has plenty of experience as a cowboy,rancher, trail boss, and wagon master. A favorite fact about Paul gives a glimpse of his style: One winter he rode horsebackand led 2 pack horses all the way from his home in Utah to the National Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, with most of the trip in blizzard and deep snow.

Right now Paul is busy preparing for the Bliss Wagon Train Reunion later this month. He told us about it:

In the late 1800s and early 1900s my grandfather, Norman Ingels Bliss,in between crops, would freight from the rail head in Oasis, Utah to the mining district of Gold Hill and the now ghost town of Joy, with an eight-up hitch and three wagons in tandem on the way from Joy through the Swasey Mountains. He would stop and check cattle and change out tired horses for fresh horses that would be resting in Lost Springs Canyon.

My father Ferron Lane Bliss would tell me stories about trips, with the teams and wagons trailing out to the Swasey’s to gather fire wood, which was their only source of fuel to cook meals and heat the home in the cold winters.

Since some of my father’s nine brother’s and one sister’s (none still living) descendants are three and four generations removed from ranching and freighting, and since I’am in charge of the Reunion, I thought we should get back to basics of what that life back then was like.”

Paul shared this photo above of his grandfather, one of only three known photographs.He comments, “Those tassels on the head stall are horse hair that he pulled and braided. I have that saddle on the beam in our living room.”

Find more about Paul Bliss at and at