THE TIME TO DECIDE by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE TIME TO DECIDE
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Did you ever stand on the ledges,
On the brink of the great plateau
And look from their jagged edges
On the country that lay below?

When your vision met no resistance
And nothing to stop your gaze,
Till the mountain peaks in the distance
Stood wrapped in a purple haze.

On the winding water courses
And the trails on the mountain sides,
Where you guided your patient horses
On your long and lonesome rides.

When you saw Earth’s open pages
And you seemed to understand
As you gazed on the work of ages,
Rugged and rough, but grand.

There, the things that you thought were strongest
And the things that you thought were great,
And for which you had striven longest
Seemed to carry but little weight.

While the things that were always nearer,
The things that you thought were small;
Seemed to stand out grander and clearer.
As you looked from the mountain wall.

While you’re gazing on such a vision
And your outlook is clear and wide,
If you have to make a decision,
That’s the time and place to decide

Although you return to the city
And mingle again with the throng;
Though your heart may be softened by pity
Or bitter from strife and wrong.

Though others should laugh in derision,
And the voice of the past grow dim;
Yet, stick to the cool decision
That you made on the mountain’s rim.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Let’s make this “Kiskaddon Week.”

This beautiful photograph by Texas singer and songwriter Jean Prescott seems a perfect fit to Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem. The image is one of several that Jean shared in a past Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

The photos were taken at workshops with the late David R. Stoecklein. Jean comments on this one, “This was taken at a workshop in Mackay, Idaho in July of 2013. It was a spectacular evening for photos and we were high on the top ridge of the mountain range.”

“The Time to Decide” appeared in Bruce Kiskaddon’s first book, Rhymes of the Ranges, published in 1924. He wrote many poems still read and recited today. See features about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more about Jean Prescott at CowboyPoetry.com, at her web site,  and on Facebook.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post. The poem is in the public domain. Please request permission from Jean Prescott for any other use of the photograph.)

THE CREAK OF THE LEATHER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE CREAK OF THE LEATHER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It’s likely that you can remember
A corral at the foot of a hill
Some mornin’ along in December
When the air was so cold and so still.
When the frost lay as light as a feather
And the stars had jest blinked out and gone.
Remember the creak of the leather
As you saddled your hoss in the dawn.

When the glow of the sunset had faded
And you reached the corral after night
On a hoss that was weary and jaded
And so hungry yore belt wasn’t tight.
You felt about ready to weaken
You knowed you had been a long way
But the old saddle still kep a creakin’
Like it did at the start of the day.

Perhaps you can mind when yore saddle
Was standin’ up high at the back
And you started a whale of a battle
When you got the old pony untracked.
How you and the hoss stuck together
Is a thing you caint hardly explain
And the rattle and creak of the leather
As it met with the jar and the strain.

You have been on a stand in the cedars
When the air was so quiet and dead
Not even some flies and mosquitoes
To buzz and make noise ’round yore head.
You watched for wild hosses or cattle
When the place was as silent as death
But you heard the soft creak of the saddle
Every time the hoss took a breath.

And when the round up was workin’
All day you had been ridin’ hard
There wasn’t a chance of your shirkin’
You was pulled for the second guard
A sad homesick feelin’ come sneakin’
As you sung to the cows and the moon
And you heard the old saddle a creakin’
Along to the sound of the tune.

There was times when the sun was shore blazin’
On a perishin’ hot summer day
Mirages would keep you a gazin’
And the dust devils danced far away
You cussed at the thirst and the weather
You rode at a slow joggin’ trot
And you noticed somehow that the leather
Creaks different when once it gets hot.

When yore old and yore eyes have grown hollow
And your hair has a tinge of the snow
But there’s always the memories that follow
From the trails of the dim long ago.
There are things that will haunt you forever
You notice that strange as it seems
One sound, the soft creak of the leather,
Weaves into your memories and dreams.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

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, including this one, first published in his 1947 book,  Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems.

This iconic photo by John C.H. Grabill, “The Cow Boy,” taken circa 1888, is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Grabill worked in Dakota Territory. The Library of Congress maintains an on-line collection of Grabill photographs.

Find more about this photograph here.

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

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

OLD-TIME COWBOYS by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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OLD-TIME COWBOYS
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Proudly they rode, those horseback men
Whose like we shall not see again,
Those cowboys of a day long gone
Who saddled broncs before the dawn
To ride the long day into night—
Clan cousins of the Ishmaelite.

Their marching music was the bawl
Of longhorn cattle, and the call
Of high adventure stirred their blood
To horseback pride and hardihood.

Dusty they rode. The salt of sweat
Was more to them than the alphabet,
And more the drum of a horse’s hoof
Than any fireside, field, or roof.

Partners of the wind, their spurs are rust
Their cattle trails long-settled dust,
But over their campfires’ ashened embers,
The steadfast northern star remembers
That proudly they rode, with ancient pride
Of all bold men and true who ride!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker from Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West

S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB.”

Find more poetry and more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

This c. 1904 photograph is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division. It is captioned, “Seventeen cowboys posed informally.” Find more about it here.

(You can share this poem with this post, but please request permission for any other uses. This photograph is in the public domain.)

REAL COWBOY LIFE by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

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REAL COWBOY LIFE
by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

You have read these cowboy stories,
About their life so wild and free;
I expect that you could tell me
What a cowboy’s life should be.
Oh, he rescues lovely maidens
And he shoots the rustlers down;
He wears a fancy outfit,
And he paints up every town.

You can see him in the movies,
He’s a high-falutin’ swell;
A-ridin’ wring-tailed pintos,
And always raisin’ Hell.
But now let me tell you somethin’
‘Bout this cowboy life so free;
It ain’t no bed of roses,
You can take a tip from me.

Now there ain’t no handsome cowboys,
Nowhere I’ve ever been,
For a real top-notch Buckero
Is just homlier than sin.
And all cowboys have their troubles,
A few of which I’ll name,
To show you that cowpunching
Is a mighty sorry game.

When the roundup starts in April,
The first job you undertake
Is to shoe up all your horses
Till you think your back will break.
Now then you can be a center,
Or a rimmy if you will;
It don’t make any difference,
You will have your troubles still.

When you take your dally-welties
You can lose a lot of hide,
But if you fail to get ’em,
You have shorely got to ride.
Or you tie her hard and solid,
And then throw away the slack;
If your steer should hub a saplin’,
You are shore to lose the pack.

When you get a wild bunch driftin’,
Straight down for the home corral,
There will somethin’ spook the leaders,
And your whole bunch go to Hell.
You build to an orejana,
For to tie him in a rush,
But your pony turns a knocker
And he throws you in the brush.

Then you long-ear’s in the thicket,
And your dogs have plumb give out,
So the only thing that you can do
Is to cuss and cry and shout.
As you ride away and leave him,
You can hear the critter bawl,
And you know some feller’ll git him
Before the rodeer comes next fall.

When you have a real hard winter,
And your cows all try to die,
You ride out every morning,
And to lift ’em up you try.
You can git one by the handle,
And you heave and lift and strain,
With a mighty awful struggle
You can tail her up again.

Oh, you try to leave her standin’,
But she charges you in high,
Then she breaks down in the middle
So you leave her there to die.
On the range there’s not a yearlin’
That is fat enough for meat,
And you are all burnt out on bacon,
And the beans ain’t fit to eat.

When you’ve cowboyed for a lifetime,
Here is all ’twill do for you:
Some busted ribs and shoulders
And a hip knocked down or two.
You have butted into cedars
Till your hair is hard to find,
And the malapais and granites
Have you all stove up behind.

If you ever have a youngster,
And he wants to foller stock,
The best thing you can do for him
Is to brain him with a rock.
Or if rocks ain’t very handy,
You kin shove him down the well;
Do not let him be a cowboy,
For he’s better off in Hell.

You may swear you’ll never ride again,
And know you will not fail,
Till you hear a cavviada
Come a-jinglin’ down the trail.
Then you pack up all your soogans,
And prepare to pull your freight,
For you know you’re just a cowboy,
And your head ain’t screwed on straight

© Gail I. Gardner, from Orejana Bull, used with permission

Gail Gardner was born in Prescott, Arizona. Though he was educated at Philip Exeter Academy and Dartmouth University, his true desire was to work as a cowboy, which he did. He also wrote memorable poems, many of which have been set to music, including his best-known work, “The Sierry Petes (or Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail).” He published some of his poems in his 1935 book, “Orejana Bull for Cowboys Only,” which was reprinted most recently in 1987.

In checking a fact (his middle name) we found his WWI draft registration. On it, he describes his profession as “ranching & cattle growing.” His middle name was Irwin.

Gail Steiger, Gardner’s grandson, recites “Real Cowboy Life” on his recent, well-received CD, A Matter of Believin’. Find that at his web site.

You can hear Gail Gardner’s own performance of “The Sierry Petes” on this week’s Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio show.

The recording is from The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten, a double CD of top classic and modern poetry from CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo, ” Gail I. Gardner at the Devil’s Gate Rodeo Grounds, Skull Valley, “Round-up Time” in the 1920s,” is courtesy of the Gardner/Steiger family.

Find more about Gail Gardner and see many photos and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

THE COW BOY’S DREAM by Bruce Kiskaddon ( (1878-1950)

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THE COW BOY’S DREAM
by Bruce Kiskaddon ( (1878-1950)

A cow boy and his trusty pal
Were camped one night by an old corral;
They were keeping a line on the boss’s steers
And looking for calves with lengthy ears.
The summer work was long since through
And only the winter branding to do.
When he went to rest there was frost on his bed
But he pulled the tarp up over his head;
And into his blankets he burrowed deep,
He soon got warm and was fast asleep.
He dreamed he was through with his wayward past
And had landed safe in Heaven at last.

A city was there with its pearly gate
And the golden streets were wide and straight
The marble palaces gleamed and shone
And the choir sang ’round the great white throne.
Outside there were trees and meadows green—
Such a beautiful range he had never seen,
Great rivers of purest waters flowed
Though it never rained nor it never snowed.

He stood aside on the golden street,
There were heavy spurs on his booted feet,
His bat wing chaps were laced with whang,
But he listened and looked while the angels sang.
He noticed he was the only one
With a broad brimmed hat and a big six gun.

So he said to a saint, “I’d shore admire
To be dressed like one of that angel choir,
Instead of these chaps and spurs and gun;
And I reckon as how it could be done.”
So they took him into a room aside
And they fastened wings on his toughened hide.
They fitted him out with a flowing robe,
Like the lady who looks in the crystal globe.
They gave him a crown and a golden harp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy’s tarp.

He twanged his harp and he sang a while,
Then he thought of something that made him smile.
Said he “I reckon these wings would do
To show some mustangs a thing or two.
I’ll jump a bunch and I’ll yell and whoop,
I’ll kick their tails and I’ll flop and swoop;
I’ll light a straddle of one of the things,
And I’ll flop his flanks with my angel wings.
I’ll ride him bare-back, but if I fail,
And he bucks me off, I’ll simply sail.”
He hunted wild horses in his dream,
But all he found was the chariot team
That Old Elija drove in there,
And to pick on them would hardly be fair.

So he seated himself beneath a tree
And rested his crown upon his knee.
He watched the beautiful angels go
Flying and fluttering to and fro.
At last one landed and started to walk,
She came up close and began to talk.
She had lovely hair of golden brown
And was dressed in a flimsy silken gown.
She had dimpled cheeks, her eyes were blue,
And her fair white skin was beautiful too.

The cow boy gazed at the angel’s charms
And attempted to clasp her within his arms.
“Stop! Stop!” She cried, “Or, I’ll make complaints
To the great white throne and the ruling saints.”
So the cow boy halted I must confess
And failed to bestow that fond caress.

Said he, “Miss Angel,” It’s shore too bad.
This sort of a country makes me sad.
Where there ain’t no night and it’s always day,
And the beautiful ladies won’t even play.
When there’s wonderful houses and golden streets,
But nobody sleeps and nobody eats.
Them beautiful rivers, it’s sad to think.
There ain’t no hosses or cows to drink.
With all this grass a goin’ to seed
And there ain’t no critters to eat the feed.

“A man can’t gamble—There’s so much gold
He could pick up more than his clothes would hold.
What’s the use of the Judge and the great white throne
Where troubles or fights was never known?
I’m sorry miss but I’ll tell you true,
This ain’t no place for a buckaroo.”

Then she asked him about his former life
And learned he had never possessed a wife.
But this angel lady so sweet and nice,
Informed him that she had been married twice.
Her husbands had both been quiet men
But if she had it to do again,
She’d have to decide between just two.
A sailor boy or a buckaroo.
She seated herself upon his knees
And gave his neck such a hearty squeeze—
Just then they heard an excited call,
‘Twas a gray old saint on the city wall.

He flopped his robes and he waved his arm
Till the crowd all gathered in great alarm;
And then the cow boy stood alone,
Before the judge and the great white throne.
“What’s this?” the Judge of Creation cried.
“How come this fellow to get inside?
Age must be dimming St. Peter’s eye
To let a spirit like that get by.
Just look at his face with its desert brown,
And his bandy legs ‘neath his angel gown.
He’s a buckaroo, I know them well,
They don’t allow them even in Hell.
He hasn’t been here a half a day
And he started an angel to go astray.
We can’t permit him to stay atall.
Just pitch him over the outside wall.”

So the saints and the angels gave him a start
And he went toward the Earth like a falling dart.
He never remembered the time he lit
For he wakened before the tumble quit.
The winter wind blew cold and sharp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy’s tarp.

His beautiful vision had come to grief,
So he baked his biscuits and fried some beef.
And drank some coffee black and strong;
But all that day as he rode along
He thought of the saint who had butted in,
And he said to himself with a wicked grin,
“I wish I had holt of that old saint chap,
I’d grab his whiskers and change his map.
I’d jump on his frame and I’d stomp aroun’
Till I tromped him out of his saintly gown.”

And all of his life as he roamed and toiled,
He thought of his vision so sadly spoiled.
And the meddlesome saint that has caused it all
When he gave the alarm from the Jasper wall.
He didn’t repent nor he didn’t pray,
But he always wished they had let him stay.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Even when it comes to fantasy, Bruce Kiskaddon is a master of detail. This poem appeared in his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and other poems.

In the foreword to that book, Frank M. King writes, “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, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.”

Find much more poetry and more about this favorite classic cowboy poet at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1934 photograph is titled, “Working Cowboy.” 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.)

BY GIVING ME HORSES by Andy Nelson

 

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BY GIVING ME HORSES
by Andy Nelson

You taught me to give, by giving me horses,
And set me adrift on uncharted courses.

You taught me to love, by loving them truly,
Not just the tame, but the wild and unruly.

And when one was given to a neighborhood boy,
You taught me instead, the true meaning of joy.

You taught me to work, by working beside me,
Training our horses, with you there to guide me.

You taught me to serve, by serving together,
No matter the time, no matter the weather.

And when one grew old and crippled with blindness,
You laid him to rest and taught me ‘bout kindness.

You taught me respect, by respecting each steed,
And treating them gently, no matter the breed.

You asked much, for you knew their ability,
Asked forgiveness, and taught me humility.

And when one was ill, in some sort of fashion,
You aided him right and taught me compassion.

You taught me to trust, by trusting their actions,
And not taking heed to outside distractions.

You taught to me share, and to give of yourself,
And not put your talents away on a shelf.

And when a few coyotes, ran one through the fence,
You taught me that actions come with consequence.

You taught me gratitude, and of thanks giving,
That horses, not things, make my life worth living.

And when one was stricken, I learned of remorse,
You taught me your best, when you gave me a horse.

© 2013, Andy Nelson, used with permission

Pinedale, Wyoming’s Andy Nelson is a second-generation farrier, cowboy poet, emcee, humorist, rodeo announcer, and co-host (with his brother Jim) of the popular syndicated Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio show.

Known as a funnyman, this poem is a heartfelt serious piece. Watch Andy Nelson recite his poem, along with songwriter and musican Jared Rogerson, on Youtube.

One of Andy’s daughters is shown in this photograph, courtesy of the Nelson family.

Andy is in demand at gatherings across the West, and will be at the Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Gathering in Heber City, Utah, October 26-30, 2016.

In Heber City, he’ll join other poets: Waddie Mitchell, Doris Daley, Jeff Carson, DW Groethe, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Ross Knox, and Walt “Bimbo” Cheney; and musicians Michael Martin Murphey, Suzy Bogguss, Bar J Wranglers, The Highwaymen Live Tribute Band, Dave Stamey, Wylie & The Wild West, The Haunted Windchimes, Joni Harms, Belinda Gail, New West, Trinity Seely, John Wayne Schulz, Heifer Belles, Molly in the Mineshaft, Olivia Harms, Miss Devon and The Outlaw, Dansie Family Band, Kenny Hall, Ken Stevens & Jerye Lee, and the Heber Valley Orchestra.

Andy Nelson’s latest CD is “I Won,” and it features a wide range of poetic moods, from nonsense to reverence, that show the breadth of his talents. He is accompanied by friend and top songwriter Brenn Hill—who produced the album—on several tracks. The great-looking package sports a cover by noted cowboy cartoonist Ben Crane.

Find more about Andy Nelson at CowboyPoetry.com, ; at his web site, www.cowpokepoet.com; and at the Clear Out West (C.O.W.) website and the show’s Facebook page.

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