A COWBOY SEASON by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

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photo courtesy of Amy Steiger

 

A COWBOY SEASON
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Part III
(October — The Pasture Corrals)

In late autumn gnarled branches remember
their youth, and know they must die,
and at night they moan, and creak and cry out,
and bare tremblin’ limbs to the sky.

And in those lost hours ’til the dawnin’
hoot owls hunt, and predators roam,
and out riding nighthawk you look over your shoulder,
feelin’ fearful, and longin’ for home.

But a coyote’s been doggin’ your late season calves,
and near the tank a bear print was found,
and the fences need mending, better get to that soon,
‘fore your cattle stray off of your ground.

The wind stirs dry leaves in the shadows.
Is that a bruin, a hidin’ in there?
Or could be a cougar, warily watchin’—
Or nothin’ but restless night air.

“Aw, Come on,” you mutter, and shake at your shoulders.
“Grab hold, man. This ain’t no big deal.”
It’s just that October’s got you feelin’ spooked,
and out here the demons are real.

© 2001, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, used with permission

Perfect for the season, Utah storyteller and rural teacher Jo Lynne Kirkwood’s atmospheric four-part work, “A Cowboy Season” is a BAR-D favorite. Find the entire poem at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find Jo Lynne Kirkwood at the Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering (October 26-30, 2016). She’ll join other poets: Waddie Mitchell, Doris Daley, Andy Nelson, Jeff Carson, DW Groethe, 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.

Jo Lynne Kirkwood has a fine book that collects her poetry, “Old Houses,” and recordings. Find more about her at CowboyPoetry.com, at her site; and on Facebook.

Award-winning Writer, poet, and working cowboy Amy Steiger shares this recent photograph of bear and baby bear tracks taken by Gail Steiger. Both Steigers work on Arizona’s Spider Ranch, in the Prescott area.

See more of her photos on Instagram; follow her on Amazon for news about her forthcoming book and information about her novels and essays;
and visit her site .

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

WET BOOTS by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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WET BOOTS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

A cowboy goes under a turrible strain,
When he tries to wear boots that’s been soaked in the rain.
He pulls and he wiggles, and after he’s tried,
He gits him some flour and sprinkles inside.

Then he gits him two jack knives; puts one in each lug
And he stomps and he pulls till his eyes start to bug.
Next he tries a broom handle—an awful mistake.
Which same he finds out when he feels the lug break.

The toes and the heels they bust out of his socks,
And it’s awful to hear how that cowpuncher talks.
He opens his knife and it shore is a sin,
Fer he cuts his new boots till his feet will go in.

I reckon, old-timer, you know how he feels.
You have kicked bunk house walls and the chuck wagon wheels.
And you know when yore older, there’s nothin’ to gain
From buyin’ tight boots if you work in the rain.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

We’ll dedicate this poem to the memory of cowboy, poet, and recite Rusty McCall, 1986-2013. It was one of the first poems he learned. Find more about Rusty, including great photos by Kevin Martini-Fuller at CowboyPoetry.com.

In the introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, Frank 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.”

This poem was included in Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems. Find much more poetry and more about Bruce Kiskaddon in our features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1940 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboy pulling on boots, rodeo, Quemado, New Mexico.” It’s from the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress. Find more about it here.

This poem and photograph are in the public domain.

THE BUYER’S TYPE by Floyd Beard

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THE BUYER’S TYPE
by Floyd Beard

I’m standing here pushing up a steer,
as I load the truck today.
Looks thick and fat from where I’m at,
as I send him on his way.

Yell out your bid, or wave your lid
as you catch the auctioneer’s cry.
Run up his price, you know he’s nice,
let ‘em know you want to buy!

You hope each spring that your cow’ll bring,
a calf of the buyers’ type.
So that next fall at the auctioneer ball,
they’ll all want to take a swipe.

I ain’t for gore but a bidder’s war,
‘tween buyers is mighty fine.
When they’ll bid once more, o’er the buyer next door,
and the calves they’re wantin’s mine.

Then I go inside and I strut with pride,
as I settle at the cashier’s till.
Weight tickets come down and they’re “times’ed” per pound,
and the gold my pockets fill.

What…I take the shrink? Is that fair ya’ think?
The commission is then pulled out!
And a feed cost’s there for two days of care,
boy that yardage is kinda’ stout.

Well they whittled my check, but then what the heck,
better get what I got to the bank.
Get your grubby mitts off my money you nits,
my ship came in and purt near sank.

Take out pasture cost and the ones I lost,
I’m barely gonna cover my bills.
Still owe the vet charge, and the feed bill’s large,
now I’m cuttin’ out most of my thrills.

Well the trucker’s paid and the mortgage made,
and repair bills paid at the shop.
Fuel’s laid in, mill’s pumping again,
propane sure took a big hop.

Well I’ll fix the roof next year and maybe see clear,
to get by on the tires I’ve got.
And I’ll burn more wood, and maybe I could,
patch the tank where it’s got the rot.

I’ll watch what I buy and if prices stay high,
I’ll get by for another year.
I’ll just be brave, use the heifers I save,
and try to not choke on fear.

If I squeeze real tight, I’ll make it alright,
and there ain’t no use to gripe.
But if I got any pull, I pray that ol’ bull,
will throw calves of the buyers’ type

© 2014, Floyd Beard, used with permission

This poem appears on popular Colorado rancher and poet Floyd Beard’s recent CD, Short Grass Country. The album includes original poems and recitations of classic poems by Luther Lawhon, E.A. Brininstool, Sunny Hancock, and Banjo Paterson. It’s all tied together with fine music by Butch Hause.

Floyd Beard comments on “Buyer’s Type” in the liner notes, “Cattlemen work in a year-long cycle. This poem marks the end of one cycle and beginning of the next. It also points out that ranches love their calves to sell high, but it is sure not all profit.”

Find Rick Huff’s review here, where he calls Short Grass Country a “collection of top-drawer cowboy thoughts and delivery.”

Find more about Floyd Beard at CowboyPoetry.com; at his web site; and on Facebook.

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

THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND lyrics by Gary McMahan

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THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND
lyrics by Gary McMahan

The old Double Diamond lay out east of Dubois
in the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer’s gavel rapped and it rattled,
as I watched the old Double Diamond go.
Won’t you listen to the wind
Mother Nature’s violin.

When I first hired on the old Double Diamond
I was a dammed poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim,
well my spirit was tame
couldn’t see all the cards in my hand.
And the wind whipped the granite above me
and blew the tumbleweeds clean through my soul.

I fought her winters, busted her horses
I took more than I thought I could stand,
but the battle with the mountains and cattle
seems to bring out the best in a man.
I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
and a mama, her babies to hold.

And I need the hills of Wyoming
in the land of the buffalo
Now shes sellin’ out, and I’m movin’ on
But I’m leavin’ with more than I came
‘Cause I got this saddle and it ain’t for sale,
and I got this song to sing

I got this a new range to find
and new knots to tie
in a country where cowboys are kings
I turned my tail to the wind,
and the old Double Diamond
disappeared into the sage.

Yay ee o-del o-hoo – dee

© 1975, words and music by Gary McMahan, used with permission

Gary McMahan’s widely loved song has been cited as one of today’s top cowboy songs by Western Horseman. It has been recorded by Chris LeDoux, Ian Tyson, and dozens of other artists. Gary tells about writing the song:

My dad was a cattle trucker and had hauled lots of cattle out of Dubois, Wyoming, for a fella named Ab Cross. Ab owned the grand old Cross Ranch outside of Dubois. Dad and Ab were good friends, and I became a friend of the Crosses as well.

I believe it was 1973 when Dad and I were up there in Dubois on a fishing trip. We stayed with the Crosses, and as we were getting ready to head out, Ab said, “You’re not leaving today, are you? The Double Diamond Ranch is going on the auction block today, and it’s kind of a big deal around these parts.” So Ab talked us into staying an extra day.

We all went to the sale and saw the fine old ranch go. There were a bunch of cowboys there who had just lost their jobs and were loadin’ up and moving out, all heading to what they hoped would be another cowboyin’ job somewhere. It struck my heart, and I thought this was kind of typical of what was going on in the West.

That next day on the drive back to Colorado, I wrote the basics of the song ‘The Old Double Diamond.’ I was living in Nashville at the time and over the next…I don’t know…nine months or so, I refined the song into the song you hear today.

It’s been cut I don’t know how many times by big names and small alike. I never tried to control who sang the song. I just let it have its head…I rarely meet a cowboy who doesn’t know the words to that song.

Listen to Gary McMahan’s rendition at his web site and see a video here.

Find an Ian Tyson version on YouTube and one by Chris LeDoux here.

Find more about Gary McMahan at CowboyPoetry.com; visit his site (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums); and find him on Facebook.

Gary McMahan is portrayed on the cover of the new Real Singing Cowboys by Charlie Seemann, in a painting, “A Fine Old Martin,” by William Matthews. (Matthews has created designs for two Martin cowboy guitars. See a recent article here.)

Folklorist Seemann, executive director emeritus of the Western Folklife Center, comments in his preface, “I once asked the late Glenn Ohrlin what he thought made a good cowboy singer. He answered, ‘First, you gotta see how good they can ride.’ That is the premise on which I have based this book.”

The insightful volume celebrates the depth and breadth of talent of many top singers and songwriters from today’s real working West.

The book includes a deep, informative introduction to cowboy music. There are are profiles, with photographs and discographies, of 50 Western singers, songwriters, and musicians: Jesse Ballantyne, Mike Beck, Adrian Brannan, Dale Burson and Family, Lyle Cunningham, Jay Dalton, Kevin Davis, Stephanie Davis, Geno Delafose, Duane Dickinson, Juni Fisher, Brownie Ford, Ryan Fritz, the Gillette Brothers, DW Groethe, Wylie Gustafson, Kenny Hall, R.W. Hampton, Joni Harms, Kristyn Harris, Don Hedgpeth, Michael Hurwitz, Ken Jones, Walt LaRue, Chris LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Gary McMahan, Chuck Milner, Michael and Dawn Moon, Rooster Morris, Glenn Ohrlin, Ken Overcast, Howard Parker, J Parson, Bob Petermann, Jean and Gary Prescott, Buck Ramsey, Luke Reed, Ray Reed, Brigid Reedy, Dave Schildt, Trinity Seely, Clyde Sproat, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, T.R. Stewart, Linda Svendsen, Caitlyn Taussig, Rod Taylor, Ian Tyson, Jessie Veeder, Johnny Whelan, and Hub Whitt.

The Real Singing Cowboys is available from booksellers and the publisher, Two Dot Press, an imprint of The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group.

(Please respect copyright. You can share these lyrics with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)

BUYER BEWARE by Jarle Kvale

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BUYER BEWARE
by Jarle Kvale

When folks are sellin’ horses,
they’ve been known to lie and cheat
And the unsuspecting buyer’s
easily duped by their deceit—

But I’ve set some rules for buyin’
to prevent you actin’ rash,
And I’ll share ’em with you freely,
though I’m usually wantin’ cash.

Don’t ever buy for color—
9 of 10 times you’ll get stuck—
Avoid a horse that’s coughing—
never buy a horse named “Buck”—

I wouldn’t take a crazy one
whose eyes resemble bugs—
Be wary of those deadheads—
it might only be the drugs.

Just say “no” to former racers—
turning left is all they know—
You’ll forever ride in circles
while you try to teach them ‘whoa’.

If a horse is billed as gentle
and the type to suit a kid—
Best bring along a seatbelt—
wear a helmet on your lid—

And if they claim the horse is green
and merely needs some work,
You’ve the right to be a skeptic
while the owner hides his smirk.

Course always buy from strangers—
don’t react in disbelief—
If a closer look upon your friends
reveals a common thief.

And stay away from ring sales,
though the deal may seem compellin’—
The situation’s risky—
might be me who’s down there sellin’.

© 2015, Jarle Kvale, used with permission

Jarle Kvale, North Dakota horseman, radio broadcaster, and host of the cowboy poetry and Western music Back at the Ranch radio show, heads for the Western Folklife Center’s 32nd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering early next year (January 30-February 4, 2017).

He joins Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Luke Bell, Jerry Brooks, Cowboy Celtic, Doris Daley, John Dofflemyer, Carolyn Dufurrena, Maria Lisa Eastman, Don Edwards, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dom Flemons & Brian Farrow, Patricia Frolander, DW Groethe, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Brenn Hill, Teresa Jordan, Ross Knox, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Waddie Mitchell, Doug Moreland & the Flying Armadillos, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Kent Rollins, Jack Sammon, Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld, Trinity Seely, Sean Sexton, Sourdough Slim & Robert Armstrong, R.P. Smith, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Rod Taylor, Ian Tyson, Keith Ward, Andy Wilkinson, and Paul Zarzyski. Find more about the event at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org and on Facebook.

Jarle Kvale includes “Buyer Beware” on his recent CD, Custom Made. It includes 14 original poems, mostly humorous, delivered in his engaging, understated style.

This photo, courtesy of Jarle Kvale, is of “Beau.”

Find more of Jarle Kvale’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com; check out “Back at the Ranch” on Facebook; and tune into the current and past shows at http://keyaranch.podomatic.com.

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

WHEN HE COLD JAWS by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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“Renaming His Horse,” Bill Owen (1942-2013)

 

WHEN HE COLD JAWS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When you set in the saddle and up on a hoss,
You get the idea that yore mebbyso boss.
Yore feet in the stirrups, yore hands on the reins,
You feel like the Lord of the mountains and plains.
Like you run the whole country and made all the laws;
But the difference it makes when yore pony cold jaws.

You jump a few wild ones and start to turn ’em.
Then try to break past and you reckon you’ll learn ’em.
You raise in your stirrups and lift fer a run,
But you haven’t gone far till you see what you’ve done.
They race down a hill and make fer a draw,
Then yore hoss slings his head and you feel him cold jaw.

His head in the crown piece, he shore does know how,
He is after his head and he’s got it right now.
You use all the stren’th in yore arms and yore shoulders.
He knocks the sparks out of the slide rocks and boulders.
A mighty sick feelin’ comes into yore craw,
Fer you never did think that this hoss would cold jaw.

It ain’t no use to pull. The reins tear through yore grip.
He crashes through brush and you feel yore clothes rip.
About all you can do is to hang on and ride.
You feel the cold sweat breakin’ out on yore hide.
You had run past yore cattle the last that you saw
And yore horse races on with an iron cold jaw.

At last he gets winded. You bend the old brute.
One sole is tore loose from the toe of yore boot.
The stock you was after, you nere will know
Which way or direction they happen to go.
You have left half yore shirt on a bunch of cat claw,
Fer it shore wrecks a hand when his hosses cold jaw.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, “Rhymes of the Ranges,” 1947

Bruce Kiskaddon drew on his cowboying experiences for his poetry. Find much more about him in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

This painting, “Renaming His Horse,” is by the great and much missed Bill Owen,  (1942-2013).

The painting received the Cowboy Artists of America 2003 Artist’s Choice award, an honor bestowed by members for the best overall exhibition. The Cowboy Artists of America celebrate their 51st anniversary starting October 13, 2016 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. (See the complete catalogs for the Cowboy Artists of America and the associated Traditional Cowboy Artists here.)

At the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, we were honored to have Bill Owen’s “Born to This Land” as the 2010 Cowboy Poetry Week poster art.

Find more about Bill Owen at CowboyPoetry.com, ; at billowenca.com; and  on Facebook.

Special thanks to Valerie Owen Fillhouer for her generous permission for the use of this image.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this image with this post, but for any other use, please request permission. The poem is in the public domain.)

29th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering (2016) report by Nika Nordbrock

29th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Prescott, Arizona
by Nika Nordbrock

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Cowboy poetry was once again in Prescott as the 29th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona, on August 11, 12, and 13, 2016, continued the tradition of sharing the poetry and music with neighbors and friends. Poets, musicians, and audience certainly had a marvelous time during this fantastic weekend. The Gathering poster’s artwork was “Dogies ‘n’ Dust,” by Marcia Molnar.

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This year over 50 poets and musicians celebrated the twenty-ninth gathering with the multiple day sessions on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and three ticketed evening shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The evening shows were held in the Performing Arts Center at the Yavapai College Prescott Campus. The all-volunteer Gathering crew once again made it a seamless event for the public. The program was dedicated to 17 year old Ben Jensen who has been volunteering since he was five years old. The evening shows were well attended. The day sessions covered serious and humorous cowboy poetry and cowboy music. The patrons enjoy the college venue with its parking, convenient bathrooms, plenty of seating in the larger venues, two snack bars, air-conditioned rooms, and no hills to climb. All the day sessions were well-attended.

na1photo by Nika Nordbrock

The Gathering received support from various community sponsors—hotels, restaurants, businesses, and individuals. As many know, without such sponsorship, gatherings around the West would not be able to continue sharing with audiences the lifestyle of those who earn their livelihood on horseback as working cowboys and in the livestock and ranching sectors.

na3photo by Nika Nordbrock

The public part of the Gathering kicked off with the Thursday evening show which featured Jim Jones with host Chris Isaacs. Even with a “heckler” in the audience, Chris Isaacs was the ultimate professional who kept the show moving smoothly. The show included the Amy Hale Auker Steiger, Dale Page, the Fiddlin’ Duo, Gary Kirkman, Suzi Killman, and Jay Snider.Once again the authentic and historic chuck wagons provided by Myron and Betsy Deibel and the plants from Ken and Lisa Lain, owners of Watters Garden Center, provided the stage setting ambiance.

na4photo by Nika Nordbrock

Friday morning the poets and singers participated in outreach programs at fourth grade classes in several elementary schools, at the Bob Stump Northern Arizona Veterans Hospital, and at the Arizona Pioneers Home.

na2photo by Nika Nordbrock

At noon on Friday, the Gathering started with the opening program in the Yavapai College Performance Hall. After the posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, Joe Konkel, president of the Gathering, welcomed the audience to the Gathering and Introduced Prescott Mayor Harry Oberg who welcomed the audience and mentioned that the Gathering was Prescott’s second largest cowboy event as only the Frontier Days Rodeo drew a bigger crowd each year.

After the opening, the patrons scattered to seven venues, where they could enjoy a variety of cowboy poetry, stories, and music.

Evening host Randy Huston kept the 7:00 pm Friday show at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center running smoothly and on time. Mary Kaye headlined the show and was joined on stage by Doug Figgs, Floyd Beard, the Fiddlin’ Duo, Gary Kirkman, Kay Kelly-Nowell, and Don Fernwalt. Fourth graders also recited their poems which they had written for the Gathering’s “Poetry in the Schools” program.

na6photo by Nika Nordbrock

Saturday was another busy day with the eight concurrent day sessions from 9:00 am-5:00 pm at the Yavapai College Prescott Campus. During the day, folks took a break to stroll through the Prescott Farmers Market, enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant or the college’s snack bars, or listened to the sessions.

At 1:00 pm, Joe Konkel hosted the special ranch history session, which featured the Nesham Family from Hillside, Arizona. Galen and Rodella Nesham have ranched in Arizona since 1962. Not only do the Neshams ranch on Thorn Peak, Tres Alamos, Pipeline, and Santa Maria Ranches, but also they are active in the ministry at Hillside Bible Church and Walnut Grove Chapel, where Galen is the minister. They say, “We are blessed, blessed, blessed.”

Several new faces at the Gathering were Calvin Danner, Nancy Elliott, Leon Gee, Bonnie Krogman, All day cowboy poetry fans were able to enjoy stories about ranch life, ranch women and men, green grass, life in the West, and Western history, both serious and humorous, with sessions of cowboy poetry, cowboy classics, and cowboy music.

On Saturday evening, 7:00 pm performance, which was hosted by Tom Weathers, headlined R. W. Hampton with Curt Brummett, Bonnie Krogman, Bimbo Cheney, Kevin Davis, Steve Lindsey.

na5photo by Nika Nordbrock

The Gail I. Gardner Award for a cowboy poet was presented to Gary Kirkman from Taylor, Arizona. Gary has worked on and managed several ranches in Arizona and currently ranches in the Taylor and St. Johns area.

Saturday night was soon at a close and patrons, poets, host families, and sponsors parted once again. The crew of volunteers quickly dismantled the Cowboy Mercantile, the Green Room, and the stage. Soon the cowboy poet family, new and old “tribe” members, left each other with hugs and waves, and the words “See you next year” drifted across the Arizona night air.

If you missed the Gathering, you can still purchase the commemorative poster, programs, coins, bolos, and other Gathering merchandise. Contact the Gathering at azcowboypoets.org.

Remember to mark your calendars and check the website for August 10, 11, and 12, 2017, and the 30th Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona. It’s one gathering that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to bookmark as one of your favorite sites www.azcowboypoets.org and “like” the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Facebook.

[Find additional photos by Nika Nordbrock in her report on Rope Burns.]