DECEMBER by Rod Miller


“Cold Gather” © 2016, Mark Kohler;

by Rod Miller

I don’t wear no white hat—
it’s only fallen snow;
blankets both my shoulders,
caps boots, stirrup to toe.
Horse’s eyelash frosted,
his maneline salted white.
Tracks made by his horseshoes
soon disappear from sight.

The wind, it ain’t blowin’
and this cold I can stand—
bow my back, cowboy up,
and ride on for the brand.
Do the job I’m paid for.
Ain’t no need to pout.
Snow’ll melt come springtime,
like whiskers, grass’ll sprout.

A fire sure would feel good;
a cup of coffee, hot;
sougans in the bunkhouse
rolled out on ropeweb cot.
I’ll get home ’bout midnight.
Can’t wait to feel that bed.
Slim’ll wake and tell me
I can sleep when I’m dead.

Ride again at first light,
never mind snow and cold—
shake flakes off m’ back and
forget I’m too damn old.

© 2016, Rod Miller, used with permission

Utah’s Rod Miller excels as an essayist, journalist, novelist, short-story writer, poet, and more. He told us that this poem was “…inspired by season and circumstance.”

He has received the Western Writers of America’s prestigious Spur Award three times: for his poetry, short fiction, and a novel.

See his insightful and entertaining articles about writing and reciting cowboy poetry (and more of his poetry) at

Subscribe to Rod Miller’s blog.

This outstanding painting, “Cold Gather,” is by award-winning artist Mark Kohler, known for his watercolors and oils. He states on his web site, “I have a passion for the American West, and for the last 18 years I’ve dedicated my God-given talent to one goal: documenting the independent spirit and pride that the modern working cowboy has inherited from his predecessors. It is uniquely American and worthy of preservation.”

Mark Kohler also has a beautiful new book, Going West, which, he describes, “Like my first book, ‘Working Cowboys,’ it records the amazing experiences I have had chronicling the American West.”

Visit his website,; find him on Instagram; and on Facebook.

A BUSTED COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS by D.J. O’Malley 1868-1884


by D.J. O’Malley 1868-1884

I am a busted cowboy
And I work upon the range,
In summertime I get some work,
But one thing which seems strange,
As soon as fall work’s over
I get it in the neck
I get a Christmas present
Of a neatly written check.

I come to town to rusticate,
I’ve no place else to stay
When winter winds are howling hard
Because I don’t eat hay.
A puncher’s life’s a picnic?
It is one continual joke.
But there’s none more anxious to see spring
Than the cowboy who is broke.

The wages that a cowhand earns
In summer goes like smoke,
And when the snow begins to drift
You bet your neck he’s broke.
You may talk about your holidays,
Your Christmas cheer and joy,
They’re all the same to me, my friend.
Cash gone, I’m a broke cowboy.

My saddle and my gun in soak,
My spurs I’ve long since sold,
My rawhide and my quirt are gone,
My chaps, no. They’re too old.
My outfit’s gone, I can’t e’en bum
A cigarette to smoke.
For no one cares what happens
To a cowboy who is broke.

Just where I’ll eat my dinner
This Christmas, I don’t know,
But you can bet your life I’ll have one
If I get but half a show.
This Christmas holds no charms for me,
On good things I’ll not choke,
Unless I get a big handout
I’m a cowboy who is broke.

…D. J. O’Malley, 1893

D.J. O’Malley was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1868. He worked on the open range for nearly 20 years, starting in Montana in 1884.

The University of Arizona’s Cowboy Songs and Singers: of Lifeways and Legend site comments on this poem: “This was written on a winter night after Mr. O’Malley had been parted from $2 by a fellow with a long spiel. He says that at that time there were many ‘summer hands’ or ‘mail order cowboys.’ They were only good enough to fill in as herders or extras during roundup time, but when they told it around the stove in winter they were all ‘top hands.’ The poem appeared in the Stock Growers’ Journal on December 23,
1893. It was signed Iyam B. Usted.”

See their collection of poems about D.J. O’Malley and commentary about him by John I. White here.

Find more about the poem and about D.J. O’Malley at in our feature that includes selections of his poetry and prose.

This photograph of D.J. O’Malley is from the Montana Historical Society, used with permission. Credit: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT: 944-212 D.J. O’Malley (Kid White) taken in Forsyth, Montana 1897, photographer unknown. Catalog # 944-212

(Please respect copyright. Permission is required from the Montana Historical Society for this image. The poem is in the public domain.)




by Red Shuttleworth

This overarching happiness
is a fresh-painted red truck on gravel…
an empty cattle trailer rattling behind it.
All that rust shaken off and windblown.

Tomorrow I shall get up at four a.m.,
drive to Walla Walla, listen to Russell
sing “Blue Wing” over and over again.
Tomorrow: snapshots of drought country,
lines in a red-as-lifeblood notebook.

It will be Sunday tomorrow…
like day-old roadside shell casings.
This happiness will be chalky memory.

© 2015, Red Shuttleworth, from Woe to the Land Shadowing, used with permission
Poet and playwright Red Shuttleworth’s Woe to the Land Shadowing poetry collection “…presents poems from the Washington State fire season of summer-2015.” It received the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s 2016 “Wrangler” Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Poetry (Blue Horse Press).

Past Texas Poet Laureate Larry D. Thomas praised the book, “If the American West could write, these poems would be its story…”

Read Paul Zaryski’s words and a short review of Red Shuttleworth’s Brief Lives, which includes a poem here.

Red Shuttleworth has received three Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and has been named “Best Living Western Poet” by True West Magazine.

Find more about Red Shuttleworth at his blog; his web site,; and on  Facebook.


Picture the West: Mike Moutoux

Picture the West looks for images that give a glimpse of the ranching, cowboy, and rural and working life of the West of today and yesterday. We’re looking for vintage and contemporary photos: family photos, images of where you live and work, and the area around you.

If you have a photo to share, email us.

Find many years’ previous photos at



New Mexico cowboy, songwriter, poet, entertainer, and photographer Mike Moutoux shares pictures below from this fall. He writes:

“A good friend of mine, Randy Huston, asked me to come up for a branding and of course I made the long drive to be there. That is what friends do. Turns out, Randy has a lot of friends who do the same and together we made short work out of branding his crop of Corriente calves. It was a picture perfect shirtsleeves by 8:00 in the morning day, and with all the help he had, I got permission to just run a camera for a while.

(All photos: © 2016, Mike Moutoux, Request permission for use.)




“It is always a pleasure to be in a branding pen; for me it is much more enjoyable than a rodeo. There is the pleasure of getting work done, being side by side with folks you both like and admire, occasional misses and slip-ups offset by slick catches and quick thinking ropers and flankers speeding up the work and keeping each other and the livestock safe. The dust, the smoke and the noise are unique to the work and create an atmosphere I love to be in the middle of.




“My song’s line below, ‘Seen fine roping done by the best of quiet men’ was inspired by this particular crew that Randy puts together. It is a pleasure to ride beside them and watch them work. They make it look easy; they make me proud to be part of the crew; they understand if I sit out a spell to take photos like these so I can share it all with others. They are the best of quiet men.”


(All photos: © 2016, Mike Moutoux, Request permission for use.)


lyrics by Mike Moutoux

I’m grateful for the chances given me
For places that could set my spirit free
Been reckless when I had to be
No, long days never bothered me
‘Cause I saw things I’d never get to see
Trading time for one more memory

Rode mountain trails where aspens twist and sway
Where Douglas Firs threw shadows deep and long
And columbines nod gently in the shade
Where canyon creeks made music all day long

I’ve been blessed to see a new life come to be
Helped a time or two when the birth was rough
And the mourning of a cow inspired me
When she lost a calf she never got to love


Been in the thick of things in the branding pen
Survived the swirling dust and kicking calves
Seen fine roping done by the best of quiet men
Each of us all giving all we have

Saddled up my horse in the pearly light of morn
Seen the last stars kiss the morning moon goodbye
Watched the eastern clouds greet the sun as it was born
The beauty and romance would make me sigh


I’m grateful for the chances given me
Tried to share it all with songs and poetry
Stretched the truth now if I had to
Sang my heart out and was glad to
Grateful for the chance to set you free
Grateful for the time you took for me.

© 2016, Mike Moutoux, used with permission

Find some of Mike Moutoux’s poetry and lyrics and more about him at; at his web site,; and on Facebook.

BACK HOME ON THE RANGE lyrics by Stan Howe


©2004, Jeri Dobrowski,

lyrics by Stan Howe

His saddle still hangs by the door in the bunkhouse,
It’s been there for eighty four years.
Mom called me in Denver and told me the sad news,
I thought I was too old for tears.

Born in Miles City back in 1890,
He’d have rolled up a hundred this spring.
Born when the land and the range was still open,
Who could have guessed what his century would bring?


And another old cowboy is gone, gone, gone,
We laid him to rest yesterday,
With a hearse drawn by horses, a few friends and neighbors,
Another old cowboy’s Back Home on the Range.

He married great Grandma back in 1920,
They ranched up along the Big Dry,
That’s pretty tough country to raise a big family,
Somehow they managed to always get by.

But the years keep on passing, lives keep on changing,
The hard work laid Great Grandma down.
It’s been twenty years since he sold off the home place,
Bought a house in Miles City and moved in to town.


In a little white church, way out on the prairie,
Where for nigh on a century he knelt to pray,
Where he married Great Grandma and Baptized their children,
I sang him the old songs he’s loved all his days.

I Come To the Garden Alone, When the dew is still on the Roses…

And…On a Hill Far Away, Stood and Old Rugged Cross…

And I’d Like to Be in Texas For the Roundup in the Spring…


And another old cowboy is gone, gone, gone,
We laid him to rest yesterday,
With a hearse drawn by horses, what’s left of our family,
Another old cowboy’s Back Home on the Range

© 1989, Stan Howe, used with permission


Stan Howe, Montana renaissance man, is a popular singer, songwriter, musician, entertainer, storyteller, writer, auctioneer, photographer, Model T authority, and fiddle expert. He is also host and producer of Montana Public Radio’s “Folk Show.”

The recent passing of friends prompted him to share these lyrics. He said that his stepfather inspired him to write the song, but that it really isn’t a song about him, but rather, “…it is a song about all the old cowboys who end up alone at the end, wife and family gone, too damned old to work and not many others around who remember what they remember. A lot of them used to end up in the old hotels in Miles City or Billings, sitting in the lobby and visiting until it was time to go over and have a drink or something to eat, play cards for the afternoon and get another day of their life done. I used to go to the Lincoln Hotel in Billings and sit and visit with them. I also used to go to the Cowboy Bar lunches in Great Falls and visit with the old guys and go to the Range Riders Museum in Miles City once in a while. Now they all get shuffled off to assisted living or the rest home, the old hotels are gone and I am not as interested in the old guys as I’m now one of them.”

The song is recorded on his Bunkhouse and Honkytonk CD.

Listen to Stan Howe and his “Yellowstone” song in “What’s in a Song” from NPR and the Western Folklife Center.

In another video, he sings “Memories of You.”

This photograph is by photojournalist Jeri Dobrowski (and good friend of Stan Howe). She tells about it, “The vintage horse drawn hearse in this photo is a working funeral carriage owned by Stevenson & Sons Funeral Homes, Miles City, Montana. Pictured here in September 2004, it was leaving the Custer County Cemetery, Miles City, after transporting my grandmother, E. Lucille Varnado, for burial. Many of the old-time ranchers and cowboys from the area take their last ride behind the roan Clydesdales that the Stevensons use to pull the hearse.”

Stan told us that his stepfather was carried to the cemetery in this same hearse. He wrote, “I have always thought Stevenson’s did a great service to the old cowboys and farmers of eastern Montana by maintaining that hearse. For what they charge they surely can’t make what it costs to feed the horses and replace them, haul them and the hearse, etc. But it must give them great satisfaction to know how much it is appreciated by the people who make use of that service.”

See some of Jeri Dobrowski’s photography at

CHRISTMAS AT THE HOME RANCH by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)



by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It was Christmas at the home ranch
and the line camp boys rode in;
Jack the cook was busy fixin’
fer his Christmas feed agin.
No, we didn’t have no turkey
but a turkey wouldn’t last,
For the boys that work in winter
wreck the grub pile mighty fast.
But we had a big fat yearlin’
that his mother failed to wean
And you bet that home ranch Christmas
was the last he ever seen.

Dusty built a loop and ketched him.
Shore did stop him in his tracks,
Old Romero heeled and stretched him
while we hit him with the ax.
How the boys did git around him,
workin’ like a bunch of bees,
Why we hadn’t hardly downed him
‘fore we’d hung him up to freeze.
Yes, they had the Christmas sperrit,
all the boys was feelin’ good,
Didn’t even have to ast ’em
fer to chop and carry wood.

We had beef and beans and taters,
biscuits, gravy too, likewise,
Good stout coffee and tamaters
and a passel of real pies.
When the cook yelled, “Come and git it!”
and the bunch had all got set,
Our old boss sez “Here’s some Christmas
to be took before you’ve et.”
I don’t need to be a tellin’
’bout the smile on ev’ry face
Fer the old jug held a gellun
and was in a handy place.

We was feelin’ soter holler
when we set up to that stuff,
We could chew but couldn’t swaller
when we ‘lowed we’d had enough.
Then we set around the fire,
didn’t hardly laugh or joke,
So filled up that we was tired,
all we did was set and smoke.
We stayed in till after New Years
fer the outfit had the chance
On a special invitation
to attend the New Year Dance.

Then we ketched our winter hosses,
lots of grub and bed we took,
While the boss held down the home ranch
with the wrangler and the cook.
It was mighty cold them mornin’s
and it made a waddy flinch,
When the frost hung on his whiskers
while he pulled his frozen cinch.
And nobody didn’t miss us,
didn’t anybody keer,
For we’d and been to Christmas
and it had to last a year.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

The poem was included in Kiskaddon’a 1935 book, Western Poems. Find many more poems and more about Kiskaddon in features at

It’s recorded on the double-CD Christmas edition of  The BAR-D Roundup from by North Carolina poet and reciter Keith Ward. Find more about the Christmas CD (and the other 9 volumes) at The CDs are all great, affordable Christmas gifts.


This image is the cover of The BAR-D Roundup Christmas CD. It was taken by poet and picker DW Groethe and depicts “Little Buddy” at the Granley Ranch near Bainville, Montana. “Little Buddy” is also featured in “The Legend of Little Buddy the Christmas Steer” that is on the double Christmas CD.


Sandra Herl, December 2, 2016


Another sad loss for the cowboy poetry and Western Music community: Sandra Herl died December 2, 2016.

She will be remembered by her many friends and family, including her husband Steven Herl, for her work with the Academy of Western Artists, Will Rogers Medallion Award, and other organizations.

This photo with the late Pat Richardson and Sandra Herl was taken by Yvonne Hollenbeck at the 2005 Academy of Western Artists event.

More information will be posted as it is received.