INSIDE WAR by Joel Nelson

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photo © 2016, Ken Rodgers

 

INSIDE WAR
by Joel Nelson

We read stories of Wars
Hist’ries written on pages
And records of battle
Drawn on walls of the cave
Read of Glory and Honor
And Right through the ages
And all those who fell
‘Neath the crest of the knave

The themes are eternal
Of wars on the ocean
Of axes and swords
On the Otterburn Plain
The ninety gun Frigates
The horsemen in motion
The bleeding has stopped
But the stories remain

There are terms of Armistice
And flags of surrender
This war fought for freedom
That war saved a race
Twixt savages cruel
Or soldiers yet tender
The scholars record them
And each has its place

Some go unrecorded
Wars fought self-contained
Conflicts never ending
No respite or truce
For the foe lives within
Lashing out unrestrained
And the warrior wears thin
From the battles’ abuse

The shelling subsides
Then intensity quickens
With most unaware
Of the state of the war
Leaving soldier and loved ones
With Conflict that thickens
Outsiders observing
The scene from afar

There is only so long
Any warrior can battle
‘Til he must succumb
To the enemy inside
So loosening the reins
Stepping down from the saddle
Heaving sigh of relief
He will cease his long ride

His allies left standing
Gather somewhat uncertain
Refraining from judgment
United by love
Acknowledging peacetime
And drawing the curtain
Leaving all in the hands
Of the Maker above

© 2008, Joel Nelson

On this Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, we’re honored to share the words of Texas rancher and horseman Joel Nelson. He served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. A National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Fellow, Joel Nelson is respected for his writing and his reciting.

You can find Joel Nelson next weekend at the 18th annual Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, November 18-20, 2016 in Monterey, California. The event has a great outreach with local schools and libraries, and includes a great a Western art and gear show.

There, Joel Nelson joins a stellar lineup of Dave Stamey, Mike Beck, Don Edwards, Randy Rieman, Peter Rowen, Skip Gorman and the Waddie Pals, Connie Dover with Tom Sauber, Juni Fisher, Janet Bailey, Rich O’Brien, Rex Allen, Jr., The Hanson Family, R.W. Hampton, Bruce Forman & COW BOP, Karen Ross, Jim Ross, Ross Knox, Hot Club of Cowtown, and Whit Smith.

Find more about the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival at montereycowboy.org and on Facebook.

Find more about Joel Nelson at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph, by Idaho filmmaker, writer, teacher, and photograph Ken Rodgers, was taken last month at the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Ken and Betty Rodgers are the creators of the award-winning film, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, about the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines during the 1968 siege at Khe Sanh in Vietnam, with whom Ken served. Find more about it  on Facebook and at bravotheproject.com, where there is an engaging blog.

Their latest project, a work in progress, I Married the War, tells the stories of the lives of combat veteran spouses, from WWII through today. Find more about it at imarriedthewar.com and on Facebook.

Find poems and more for Veterans Day at CowboyPoetry.com.

START OF A COLD MORNIN’ by Deanna Dickinson McCall

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painting by JaNeil Anderson

START OF A COLD MORNIN’
by Deanna Dickinson McCall

When posts are glazed like a cake
And the wire is taut with ice
The troughs need busting
The mornin’s ain’t so nice.

The red roan resembles a camel
His back has such a hump
You’d better cheek him up
He’ll likely buck and jump.

The saddle is sitting high
Good inch above his back
He’s sucked all up
Under blanket and kack.

On mornings like these
It’s a chance you take
Sliding into the stirrup
No room for mistake.

You wish you were 20 again
When you make that swing
But, you’ll do it because
That’s what cold morning’s bring.

© 2016, Deanna Dickinson McCall, used with permission

Award-winning poet, writer, and fourth-generation New Mexico rancher Deanna Dickinson McCall and noted painter and rancher JaNeil Anderson collaborated, pairing poems and paintings, in an attractive and engaging book, Split Reins.

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In the foreword, respected singer, songwriter, and rancher Randy Huston comments that the book, “…is a wonderful look into real life in the rural West, a contemporary landscape still flavored by the frontier era, and a place in which many values and traditions haven’t changed in more than a hundred years. The hardships, triumphs, and daily routines of this unique world come to life in this collection.”

He explains that “split reins” are associated with the working traditions of Southwest cowboys; “two independent reins that must be used in concert to signal a horse.” He concludes, “As the saying goes, the sum is greater than the parts.”

Deanna has two highly praised books of stories, Rough Patches, which just 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 CowboyPoetry.com; at her web site, deannadickinsonmccall.com; and on Facebook.

JaNeil Anderson studied under Cowboy Artists of America painters James Reynolds and R.S. Riddick. She and her husband live on their family’s third-generation ranch along the banks of the Gila River in southwest New Mexico. She is represented by Thunder Horse Gallery in Riudoso.

Find more about JaNeil Anderson at her web site, www.janeilanderson.com, and on Facebook.

BE YOURSELF by Georgie Sicking, 1921-2016

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BE YOURSELF
by Georgie Sicking, 1921-2016

When I was young and foolish,
The women said to me,
“Take off those spurs and comb your hair
If a lady you will be.

“Forget about those cowboy ways
come and sit a while,
We will try to clue you in
On women’s ways and wiles.

“Take off that Levi jumper
Put up those bat wing chaps.
Put on a little makeup and
We can get a date for you, ‘perhaps.’

“Forget about that roping.
That will make calluses on your hands.
And you know it takes soft fingers
If you want to catch a man!

“Do away with that Stetson hat
For it will crush your curls.
And even a homely cowboy wouldn’t
Date a straight-haired girl.”

Now being young and foolish,
I went my merry way.
I guess I never wore a dress
Until my wedding day.

Now I tell my children,
No matter what you do,
stand up straight and tall,
Be you, and only you.

For if the Lord had meant us, all to be alike,
And the same rules to keep,
He would have bonded us all together,
Just like a band of sheep.

© Georgie Sicking, used with permission

It is with great sadness that we learned (from Diane Scott) of the passing of much-loved cowboy and Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inductee Georgie Sicking, 95, on November 6, 2016. This autobiographical poem is just one her many popular verses.

Find a short video with the poem and additional footage here.

In the impressive book, Tough by Nature, by Lynda Lanker, Georgie Sicking tells that she was the only woman who ever drew pay on Arizona’s Oro Ranch, where she worked during World War Two. She prefers to be called a “cowboy,” not “cowgirl.”

She is quoted in Tough by Nature, “Some people had the idea that all you had to do to be a cowgirl was put on a pretty dress and a pair of boots and a big hat and get a faraway look in your eyes…and you’re a cowgirl. They’ve been kind of hard to educate.”

Georgie Sicking has been a great inspiration to many.

Of Ridin’ & Rhymin’, the award-winning documentary about Georgie Sicking by Greg Snider and Dawn Smallman of Far Away Films, Hal Cannon, Founding Director (retired) of the Western Folklife Center, comments, “Georgie Sicking is why ‘to cowboy’ is best used as a verb to explain a work, a life, and a big open land. This film captures her level gazed life in such a powerful way that it defines the American West.” See a clip here.

Georgie Sicking’s photo graces the cover of The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Five from CowboyPoetry.com. The circa 1940 photo was taken at a carnival on her first date with the man who became her husband (photo courtesy of Georgie Sicking and Dawn Smallman).

Georgie was at the first Western Folklife Center National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985, and appeared there and at other gatherings many times, until the last couple of years.

Services will be held on Saturday, November 19 at 1:00 pm at The Gardens Funeral Home in Fallon, Nevada.

Find an obituary here.

Cards can be sent to Georgie Sicking’s daughter, Sue Jarrard, PO Box 341 Kaycee, WY 82639

Find some of her poetry and more about Georgie Sicking at CowboyPoetry.com.

As Linda Marie Kirkpatrick commented, “I wanted her to live forever.” She will be greatly missed.

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

A FITTING MONUMENT by Mike Moutoux

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mmhuston-windmill-sizedphotos © 2016, Mike Moutoux

A FITTING MONUMENT
by Mike Moutoux

In the dry land stands the monument of a dreamer
It is a testament to hope; to years of yearning
Standing tall above the grasses, rocks and scrub oak
Below a cloudless sky and sun so brightly burning

No babbling brooks cross here, just silent sand arroyos
Few linger here at all; fewer still would stake a claim
Only fools and dreamers could love this barren land
It does not suffer fools; dreamers love it just the same

‘Twas the Homestead Act that brought him here to dream and sweat
It was the solitude and grass that it made it feel right
But there were months when precious rains were non-existent
Each cloudless day brought another worried weary night

All that changed when the Aermotor windmill was delivered
The well was dug, the tower raised; each rod and gear in place
The wind blew as always, but now it turned a shiny fan
And both the cowman’s heart and dreams begin to race

The cowman would talk about that day for years to come
How the blades spun, the rods creaked, how he paced and paced
And then water, precious water, poured from pipe to trough
Giving hope a thing a man could actually taste

Within weeks trails appeared around the water trough
As thirsty critters, one by one, found the water there of course
Not just cows, but the antelope, fox and deer drank there
The tower, a beacon, led them to their water source

The story of the dreamer is old but not forgotten
The tower still stands although its working years are spent
A testament to one man’s hope and all those years of yearning
For a dreamer and cowman, a most fitting monument.

© 2016, Mike Moutoux

New Mexico cowboy, songwriter, poet, entertainer, and photographer Mike Moutoux shared this poem and photos.

He comments, “The Aermotor company sold its first windmills in 1888; they still make them today. It is not uncommon to see their mills in our part of the country. The precious water they produce as well as the many ranch dirt tanks that capture and store run-off benefit cows and great herds of wild things.”

Catch Mike Moutoux at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering (February 3-5, 2017) in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The event celebrates its 25th anniversary and featured artists are Arvel Bird, Mikki Daniel, Desert Suns, Rena Randall & Due West Trio, Juni Fisher, Sue Harris, Carol Heuchan, Susie Knight, Jon Messenger, Dale Page, Saddle Strings, and Jay Snider. Participating artists include Broken Chair Band, Call of the West, Van Criddle, Sam DeLeeuw, Mike Dunn, Nancy Elliot, Kerry Grombacher, Purly Gates, Harpy Trails, Larry Harmer, Randy Huston, Ken & Jerye, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Peggy Malone, Carol Markstrom, Mike Moutoux, Terry Nash, Tony Norris, Notable Exceptions, and Outriders. Find more at cowboypoets.com and on Facebook.

Find more about Mike Moutoux at mikemoutoux.com, including his performance schedule and occasional “Ranch Notes.”

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

GHOST CANYON TRAIL by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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GHOST CANYON TRAIL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There are strange things told of spirits bold,
And the trail to Sante Fe,
There is many a tale of the Chisholm trail,
And the trail to Laramie.
But this is the tale of an obscure trail
That few men travelled on;
Where a spirit was known to ride alone,
‘Twixt the midnight hour and dawn.

It would wind and creep through canyons deep
And over the mesa wide.
The men who knew this trail were few,
Where the phantom used to ride.
At times was heard a careless word
Some drinking man let fall,
But ’twas held a joke by the rangeland folk,
That no one believed atall.

I learned the truth from a hard youth.
He was one of those reckless men
Who could ride in the lead of a night stampede,
Ot the dust of the broncho pen.
On a winter night when the stars were bright
And the dying moon was low,
He was holding his course on a jaded horse
And the pace that he made was slow.

The cow horse flinched and cringed, till the cinch
Was almost against the ground.
His quivering ears showed deathly fear
And the cow boy looked around.
He felt the thrill of a clammy chill,
As it travelled along his spine,
For he saw at his side a phantom ride,
With never a word or sign.

He kept his place, for he set his pace
To the cow boy’s jogging speed.
There came no sound on the frozen ground
From the tread of his phantom steed.
He showed a flash of a long moustache
And a tilted campaign hat.
There straight and strong with stirrups long
The phantom trooper sat.

They were all alone. And the pale moon shone
Through the ghost at the cow boy’s side.
His courage fled as he rode with the dead
Alone on the mesa wide.
No sign of flight, no show of fight
The buckaroo displayed,
For slugs of lead won’t hurt the dead,
Through the mist of a vapor shade.

With the mesa past they came at last
To a canyon wide and dark,
Where some stone huts stood in the cottonwoods
That had long been an old land mark.
Each ruined shack had a chimney black,
And a roofless crumbling wall.
A living spring was the only thing
That was useful to men atall.

The chilling breeze through the leafless trees,
Gave a dreary, dismal moan.
The trooper stayed in the ghastly shade
And cow boy rode alone.
Strange tales are head of what occurred
At that place in the years gone by,
Ere that restless soul of the night patrol
Rode under the starlit sky.

What the trooper knows, or where he goes,
Nobody has ever found.
But the tale is told of the lone patrol
By the older settlers ’round.
There’s a cow boy trim with a face that’s grim,
Will never forget that ride
On a winter night in the pale moon light,
By the phantom trooper’s side.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon
Happy Halloween. Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem, with a bit of a tip of the hat to Robert Service, is from his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems. Find many more Kiskaddon poems and more about him in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

Also catch the Halloween spirit with “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and the first-ever recording of it in 1949, by Burl Ives, here.

Find our links to other videos of the song, including renditions by Johnny Cash, Gene Autry (in a 1949 film trailer), Marty Robbins, Sons of the Pioneers, Chris LeDoux, Bing Crosby, Riders in the Sky, Jimmie Rodgers, Lorne Greene, Elvis, The Blues Brothers, the Outlaws, Judy Collins, at CowboyPoetry.com and find more poems in the spirit of Halloween there as well.

Texas local historian, ghost-tale-teller, poet, writer, and reciter Linda Kirkpatrick shared this fitting photograph, taken in July, 2014. Find more about her at LindaKirkpatrick.net.

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

THE WHITE MUSTANG by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

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THE WHITE MUSTANG
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

Wherever rhythmic hoofbeats drum,
As galloping riders go or come,
Wherever the saddle is still the throne,
And the dust of hoofs by wind is blown,
Wherever the horsemen young or old,
The Pacing Mustang’s tale is told.

A hundred years on hill and plain,
With comet-tail and flying mane,
Milk-white, free, and high of head,
Over the range his trail has led.
Never a break in his pacing speed,
Never a trot nor a lope his need,
Since faraway days of the wagon train,
Men have followed his trail in vain.

A dozen horses spurred to the death,
Still he flees like a phantom’s breath,
And from some hill at horizon’s hem,
Snorts his challenge back at them.
A bullet drops him dead by day,
Yet white at night he speeds away.
Forever a thief of tamer steeds,
Stallion prince of the mustang breeds,
Coveted prize of the men who ride,
Never a rope has touched his hide.
Wherever the saddle is still a throne,
The Great White Mustang’s tale is known.

O Phantom Ghost of heart’s desire,
Lusty-limbed with soul of fire,
Milk-white Monarch, may you, free,
Race the stars eternally.

© 1968 S. Omar Barker, from Rawhide Rhymes, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker’s spooky poem fits the mood for Halloween. Find more in that vein in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com (which also includes lots of links for “Ghost Riders in the Sky”).

Barker notes that Washington Irving (1783-1859) was the first to write about the “ghost horse of the plains.” In 1832, Irving traveled to Eastern Oklahoma, and wrote about it in his 1835 book, A Tour of the Prairies. In Chapter 20, “The Camp of the Wild Horse,” Irving writes:

…We had been disappointed this day in our hopes of meeting with buffalo, but the sight of the wild horse had been a great novelty, and gave a turn to the conversation of the camp for the evening. There were several anecdotes told of a famous gray horse, which has ranged the prairies of this neighborhood for six or seven years, setting at naught every attempt of the hunters to capture him. They say he can pace and rack (or amble) faster than the fleetest horses can run. Equally marvellous accounts were given of a black horse on the Brazos, who grazed the prairies on that river’s banks in Texas. For years he outstripped all pursuit. His fame spread far and wide; offers were made for him to the amount of a thousand dollars; the boldest and most hard-riding hunters tried incessantly to make prize of him, but in vain. At length he fell a victim to his gallantry, being decoyed under a tree by a tame mare, and a noose dropped over his head by a boy perched among the branches…

Find more related links in our Halloween feature.

Irving is well known for his own ghostly story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” published in 1820. A bit of trivia: a 1922 silent movie version of the story, “The Headless Horseman,” starred Will Rogers.

Irving also has a connection with this image. This nineteenth century engraving, “Lassoing Wild Horses,” was made by by W. W. Rice from a painting by Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888). Darley illustrated many works by authors of the time and did the first illustrations for Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.”

S. Omar Barker as described in Cowboy Miner Productions’ collection of his work, “…was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico… a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator… named after his father Squire L. Barker, but went by Omar, he often signed his books with his initials and trademark brand, ‘Lazy SOB.'”

Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America (and twice the winner of their Spur Award) and was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum ‘s Hall of Great Westerners, the first living author to receive that recognition. His poems were frequently published by Western Horseman and appeared in many other publications. He published four collections of his hundreds of poems, edited many books, and wrote novels and non-fiction.

The image is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

(You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission. The image is in the public domain.)

DEEP OCTOBER by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)

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Gathering the Creek” by  Tim Cox, used with permission

 

DEEP OCTOBER
by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)

There’s somethin’ ’bout the time of year
when fall is almost over,
September’s just a memory,
now lost in deep October.

The nights have changed from cool to cold
the trees from leafed to bare,
a breeze is now a cuttin’ wind
that hones the evenin’ air.

And overhead a muted light
casts shadows o’er the gloom,
like tricks upon All Hallow’s Eve
an orange October moon.

A melancholy, haunted place
this lonely trail tonight,
a grove of twisted, barren shapes
against that autumn light.

The sounds of evenin’ aren’t the same
no crickets, birds or frog,
instead a moan among the trees
or distant, mournful dog.

While overhead that muted light
casts shadows o’er the gloom,
like tricks upon All Hallow’s Eve
an orange October moon.

There’s somethin’ ’bout the time of year
when fall is almost over,
September’s just a memory,
now lost in deep October.

© 2007, Rod Nichols, used with permission

Rod told us, “‘Deep October’ was written after a ride one evening when the moon was almost orange in color. I was on a black Morgan that belonged to a friend of mine and I had to write this one when I got in.

Rod is forever missed by his many friends and family. Find more about him and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This beautiful image, “Gathering the Creek,” is by top Western artist Tim Cox. Tim Cox has a number of striking fall paintings, many available as prints. See them and many more at timcox.com. Thanks to Suzie and Tim Cox for permission to share “Gathering the Creek.”

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