THE COWBOY by Leon Flick (1954-2013)

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THE COWBOY
by Leon Flick (1954-2013)

He was made in the West
where a man’s put to test
by the horses and tracks that he’s made.
And his love for the land,
is a thing that is grand.
Life’s dues have been hard, but they’re paid.

The lessons he’s learned
and the pride that he’s earned,
and the knowledge that speaks in his eye
comes from hours in the saddle,
where he’s trotted astraddle,
‘tween the land and the good Lord’s blue sky.

Through the drought and the flood,
he’s bathed in life’s blood.
Life and death seem the stones of his path.
He’s seen nature’s death,
put the unfit to rest,
and the love of a cow’s newborn calf.

He’s been imitated
till he’s near constipated
by the folks who are faking his part.
They can play till they strand,
but they won’t understand
that they’re missin’ what lives in his heart.

He’s got enough sense,
to take down the fence
that corners most mortal men’s minds.
He knows Mother Nature,
and sure won’t forsake Her.
She’s twice as hard as she is kind.

And his God, as he knows Him
and the things that He shows him,
has taught one thing for sure.
Mother Nature is hard,
and you die what you are.
So friend, hope your tracks have been pure.

© 1992, Leon Flick
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Much-loved and missed cowboy Leon Flick entertained audiences across the West with his poetry, including appearances at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This poem is included on his 1992 Home for a Buckaroo recording and is in his book, A Cow’s Tail for a Compass. His friend Kathy Moss recently shared a video on Facebook that includes the poem.

The annual Sunny Hancock/Leon Flick Memorial Cowboy Poetry Show in Paisley, Oregon, raises funds for a local cowboy crisis fund and scholarship and honors the memory of Leon Flick and his fellow Lake County poet and cowboy Sunny Hancock.

This years’s show, emceed by poet Jessica Hedges (one of the show’s founders) takes place August 11, 2017, and features popular poets and reciters Jim and Karen Ross and musicians Rico Nova and The Desires. Find more about it on Facebook.

These photos are courtesy of Billie Price Flick. Thanks to her for her kind permissions.

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HOOFS OF THE HORSES by Will Ogilvie (1869-1963)

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photo © Walter Workman, walterworkman.com; seek permission for use

HOOFS OF THE HORSES
by Will Ogilvie (1869-1963)

The hoofs of the horses!—Oh! witching and sweet
Is the music earth steals from the iron-shod feet;
No whisper of lover, no trilling of bird
Can stir me as hoofs of the horses have stirred.

They spurn disappointment and trample despair,
And drown with their drum-beats the challenge of care;
With scarlet and silk for their banners above,
They are swifter then Fortune and sweeter than Love.

On the wings of the morning they gather and fly,
In the hush of the night-time I hear them go by—
The horses of memory thundering through
With flashing white fetlocks all wet with the dew.

When you lay me to slumber no spot can you choose
But will ring to the rhythm of galloping shoes,
And under the daisies no grave be so deep
But the hoofs of the horses shall sound in my sleep

by Will Ogilvie from Galloping Shoes, 1922

 

Scotsman Will Ogilvie lived in Australia for a dozen years, where he became a top station hand, drover, and horse breaker.

In the current episode of Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads, respected horseman, braider, and reciter Randy Rieman gives his impressive presentation of the poem (at 39:40).

Wylie Gustafson set the poem to music, and the song appears on Wylie & the Wild West’s Hooves of the Horses CD. Find a video here.

Ogilvie was a popular writer who contributed to the Bulletin—the paper that published poets and writers including Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson, Harry “Breaker” Morant (Ogilvie’s close friend), and others—even after his return to Scotland.

Find more at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE by Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943)

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Image by Seita, licensed from Shutterstock.com.

THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE
by Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943)

The flags are flying, the bands are playing,
And there, down Gurley street
The big parade is coming —
Hark to the trampling feet!
Two hundred cow men riding,
Dressed out for holiday;
Ten-gallon hats and fancy shirts
And ‘kerchiefs bright and gay.

Two hundred horses prancing
As the riders whoop and yell;
And jingle of spurs and bridle chains
The noise and music swell.
There’s Ruffner on the sorrel,
His silver bridle shines;
And Doc Pardee comes riding
Down from the Munds Park pines.

And there’s the Beloat of Buckeye
Who twirls a winning rope;
Loge Morris and his juniors,
All on a swinging lope.
The Champies and Ed Bowman,
And all the medalled train
Come back to lift more honors
At Prescott once again.

They pass with jokes and laughter,
And shouting clear and loud,
Out to the big arena
To face the cheering crowd.
And some will rope for glory
And some will ride for gold;
And some will grappled bull-dogged steers
And win on a strangle-hold.

Down sweep the big sombreros
As the bow to the grandstand’s cheer;
But, look, as they ride to their places—
God! Look what’s coming here!
A long, long train of horsemen,
Yet never a hoof-beat sounds;
And never a dust-spurt rises
From the trampled sporting grounds.

A-breast, in martial order
They wheel and swing to place;
But their forms are thin and misty
And a shadow dims each face;
A pale and still battalion
In Stetsons, chaps, and spurs;
And they, too, bow to the grandstand—
But the picture swims and blurs.

Here are the men of Texas
Who made the Chisholm Trail,
Pointing their herds of long-horns
To the track of a steel-shod rail,
Heading their leaders northward
By a puff of engine smoke;
Betting their all on a market chance—
Thousands–or down, and broke.

Men who trailed the Long Trail
With steers for Idaho;
Men who drove their beef herds
To feed Geronimo.
Men who could buck a Norther,
Men who could fight a drouth;
Sitting their lean trail-horses,
Keen-eyed, and grim of mouth.

There’s Jim O’Neal from Date Creek
With his riders, dark and trim;
And close at this knee Juan Leyvas,
A stripling lithe and slim.
And Stuart Knight comes riding
With his smile and careless grace—
But a whirlwind whips down the beaten track
And a dust-cloud blurs each face.

Gone are the silent riders,
And only the sun beats down
On the trampled, barren arena
And the chute gates weathered brown:
They’ve ridden back to the Days That Were;
But before a play is made—
Three cheers for the unseen men who passed
In the old cow men’s parade.

…by Sharlot Hall, from her 1953 book, Poems of a Ranch Woman.

Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943) wrote about a Fourth of July event that still continues today, the Frontier Days Parade that takes place in conjunction with Arizona’s World’s Oldest Prescott Rodeo. The rodeo celebrates its 129th anniversary this year and is happening now.

Families of many of those mentioned in the poem still live in the Prescott area today.

Sharlot Hall arrived in the Arizona Territory as a young girl. She wrote about those early days and continued to document her life and the stories and histories of Arizona in wrote essays, short stories, articles, and poetry.

Fiercely independent, she was the first Arizona woman to hold public office, serving as Territorial Historian of Arizona. In 1924, shortly after women won the right to vote, she was selected to take the state’s vote to Washington, D. C. Find more about her and more poetry in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

With luck, you can hear Tom Weathers recite this poem at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. This year’s event is its 30th anniversary, August 10-12, in Prescott.

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

 

A COWBOY FUNERAL by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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A COWBOY FUNERAL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There once was a cow boy funeral
that I many times recall,
a bad hoss killed a feller
on a beef work late one fall.
‘Twas a bleak day in November
when the air was cold and raw.
The clouds looked gray and ugly,
and the wind blew down the draw.

There was no automobiles then,
and we was far from trains
in that rugged piece of country
where the canyons break the plains.
We had to make a buryin’
to finish the affair,
well, the best time was the present,
and the closest place was there.

We hadn’t any coffin,
and there was no bell to toll.
We went up on a hill side
and we dug a narrow hole.
We wrapped him up inside his bed
and laid him in the shale;
his saddle onderneath his head,
to ride the last long trail.

We had no book where we could look
and read of from its pages.
No one was there to say a prayer,
or sing “The Rock of Ages.”
I recollect nobody spoke.
We didn’t care to talk.
We filled the hole and took a smoke,
and raised a pile of rock.

And when the thing was over,
it was soter like a dream,
how we helped the cook and wrangler
while they harnessed up the team.
We got the day herd movin’
and departed on our way.
And left that cow boy there to sleep,
till resurrection day.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Many are familiar with Kiskaddon’s much-loved poem, “The Broncho Twister’s Prayer,” which was also recited at his own funeral. You can read it here.

This poem on the same subject is more obscure. It was published in the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar, June, 1938, and also in the Western Livestock Journal. Both carried this illustration by Katherine Field (1908-1951). It also appears in Kiskaddon’s 1947 Rhymes of the Ranges book.

In his monumental collection of Bruce Kiskaddon’s poems (nearly 500), Open Range, Bill Siems writes, “Kiskaddon first worked with cattle and horses as a youngster in Missouri, but dated his start as a buckaroo to 1898, when at age nineteen he began taking entry-level jobs at ranches along the Purgatory River east of Trinidad [Colorado], in the district called Picket Wire, from the cowboy pronunciation of Purgatoire, the original name of the river. Early on he discovered an affinity for horses and an aptitude for working with them. He honed his equine skills by taking jobs with horsemen who were willing to teach him, and became known as a rough string rider in an era when such skill was highly respected. Driven by an appetite for travel that grew with the passing years, Kiskaddon wandered farther from home through a succession of cowboy jobs during the next several years, until a serious accident around 1906 left him temporarily unable to ride.”

Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal from 1936 to 1942, when she had to stop working to take care of her ailing parents and her children. In 1949 they renewed their partnership. Kiskaddon died in 1950 and had written six-month’s worth of poems in advance. Field illustrated them all before her own death in 1951.The two never met in person.

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

 

THE MARRIED MAN by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

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Photo by Carol M. Highsmith

THE MARRIED MAN
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

There’s an old pard of mine that sits by his door
And watches the evenin’ skies.
He’s sat there a thousand evenin’s before
And I reckon he will till he dies.
El pobre!* I reckon he will till he dies,
And hear through the dim, quiet air
Far cattle that call and the crickets that cheep
And his woman a-singin’ a kid to sleep
And the creak of her rockabye chair.

Once we made camp where the last light would fail
And the east wasn’t white till we’d start,
But now he is deaf to the call of the trail
And the song of the restless heart.
El pobre! the song of the restless heart
That you hear in the wind from the dawn!
He’s left it, with all the good, free-footed things,
For a slow little song that a tired woman sings
And a smoke when his dry day is gone.

I’ve rode in and told him of lands that were strange,
Where I’d drifted from glory to dread.
He’d tell me the news of his little old range
And the cute things his kid had said!
El pobre! the cute things his kid had said!
And the way six-year Billy could ride!
And the dark would creep in from the gray chaparral
And the woman would hum, while I pitied my pal
And thought of him like he had died.

He rides in old circles and looks at old sights
And his life is as flat as a pond.
He loves the old skyline he watches of nights
And he don’t seem to care for beyond.
El pobre! he don’t seem to dream of beyond,
Nor the room he could find, there, for joy.
“Ain’t you ever oneasy?” says I one day.
But he only just smiled in a pityin’ way
While he braided a quirt for his boy.

He preaches that I orter fold up my wings
And that even wild geese find a nest
That “woman” and “wimmen” are different things
And a saddle nap isn’t a rest.
El pobre! he’s more for the shade and the rest
And he’s less for the wind and the fight,
Yet out in strange hills, when the blue shadows rise
And I’m tired from the wind and the sun in my eyes,
I wonder, sometimes, if he’s right.

I’ve courted the wind and I’ve followed her free
From the snows that the low stars have kissed
To the heave and the dip of the wavy old sea,
Yet I reckon there’s somethin’ I’ve missed.
El pobre! Yes, mebbe there’s somethin’ I’ve missed,
And it mebbe is more than I’ve won—
Just a door that’s my own, while the cool shadows creep,
And a woman a-singin’ my kid to sleep
When I’m tired from the wind and the sun.

* “El pobre,” Spanish, “Poor fellow.”

…by Badger Clark from Sun and Saddle Leather, 1922

For an excellent recitation of this poem, tune into Andy Hedges most recent Cowboy Crossroads podcast, part two of an interview with Randy Rieman. Andy recites this poem as an introduction. The poem is also included on Andy Hedges’ recent Cowboy Recitations CD.

Badger Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote many lasting poems, and some found their way into song, including “The Old Cow Man,” “Riding’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”

He never married. He was engaged to Helen Fowler of Deadwood before he contracted tuberculosis and went to Arizona for its cure. Greg Scott tells in his book, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, that while Clark was in Arizona, “He wrote lengthy letters to his family and friends and Helen, his fiancée…He wrote poems about his longing for the Black Hills and home. These were poems that were never published. At some point, he must have known that his relationship with Helen would never end in marriage. Each day he became more accustomed to living alone. He enjoyed courting the eligible women in the area when opportunity presented itself. He kept his father apprised of his activities, including his periodic infatuations. Eventually, the formality of his engagement to Helen was ended by mutual consent.”

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

At the 29th Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, top reciters and singers (Jerry Brooks, Elizabeth Ebert, Don Edwards, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Wylie Gustafson, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Joel Nelson, Kay Kelley Nowell, Randy Rieman, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger) took part in a tribute to Badger Clark. In it, Randy Rieman recites “A Married Man.” Watch the show here.

Writer, poet, and teacher Linda Hasselstrom recently sent us links to two videos in which she recites Badger Clark’s poetry: A Tribute to Badger Clark’s poem “The Legend of Boastful Bill” and A Tribute to Badger Clark’s humorous “Last Verse” with brief footage of The Badger Hole and a clip of Badger’s recorded voice.

Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark:

This is another fine photograph by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith. It is titled, “Coats and a cowboy hat at the “Hole-in-the-Wall” Cabin at Old Trail Town, a historic museum complex in Cody, Wyoming,” and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Find the collection here, where it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

Find more about the photograph here.

 

A FATHER’S CONVERSATION WITH HIS DAUGHTER by Marci Broyhill

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photograph of Trey and Janice Hannagan Allen by Carol Barlau; request permission for use

A FATHER’S CONVERSATION WITH HIS DAUGHTER
Inspired by Jack Carter “Trey” Allen, III
by Marci Broyhill

Father and daughter leaned against the rail fence
reviewing the day as the sunset commenced.

They talked about livestock, repairs of the day,
the upcoming taxes and bills yet to pay,

how much hay to keep and how much to sell,
a new door for the barn, a new pump for the well,

cedar trees in the pasture and down by the creek.
Those invasive rogue trees to be burned out next week.

As they paused for a moment and gazed to the west
at the glorious sunset, their voices took rest.

They stood there absorbing the radiant sky
so, peaceful, serene. No words could apply.

This setting was right for the man to impart
philosophical thoughts and requests of his heart.

Breaking the silence by clearing his throat,
calmly shifting his hat, the father gave note.

I’ve lived my best years on this ground where we stand.
I’m the third generation to work this grassland.

As a young man, I frequently fell off the track.
But each time I did, this land called me back.

I’ve been giving some thought to my life here on Earth,
hoping my work has contributed worth.

Man, woman or child, we just never know
when the angel of death says, “Hey there, let’s go.”

To make that time easier for those left behind,
let me share what’s been buzzing around in my mind.

When my body can no longer shelter my soul,
when old age or disease have done taken their toll,

when it’s time for my spirit to cross the grand bridge,
to that eternal grassland up over the ridge,

I have some requests, I hope you’ll abide
when my spirit is called to the hereafter side.

I’m a practical man, my style is low-key.
A quiet observance is perfect for me.

I need not a casket to bury my bones
or a cemetery plot with a fancy head stone.

No extravagant flowers in basket or vase,
for this crusty old geezer, they’d be out of place.

Let me merge with this land, my dust to this earth,
to join in the cycle of Nature’s rebirth.

Toss some of my ashes into a warm breeze
to dust the green crown of the cottonwood trees.

Scatter some dust through a shelterbelt row.
There I’ll stand against wind driving dirt, ice and snow.

Shake some dust in the pasture along the fence line,
and behind the horse barn that your pa built with mine,

across the hay meadow that borders the creek,
into the plum brush where blossoms smell sweet,

on my favorite trails where I ride with Roan Red,
on your mother’s perennials, her prize flower bed.

When it rains, I’ll drip, float and trickle around
immersing myself into life-giving ground

to be one with wild flowers and native grass.
I’ll stroke velvet muzzles of those grazing past.

I’ll cradle new life, domestic and wild,
the gentle, the aggressive, each one Nature’s child.

When the scattering of ashes is accomplished and done
I’ll be living in two worlds, not merely one.

Now you sleeve that there sniffle and blink back those tears.
‘Cuz I plan to keep ranching some twenty plus years.

This land will be yours when I cross the divide.
But until then my dear, I’m here by your side.

You’re an honest, smart woman, with a trustworthy man.
If any two ranchers can make it, you can.

Right now, we’re a trio. I like that I do.
When counting my blessings, the best ones are you.

Oh, there’s one more detail I’m a gonna’ to impose.
Get a stainless-steel plate for a message of prose.

Engrave an inscription so all understand
my respect for ranch life, my love for this land.

Then nail that steel plate on a creosote post.
Let it state, Trey Allen remains here, on the land he loves most.

@ 2017, Marci Broyhill
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Marci Broyhill comments:

“A Father’s Conversation with His Daughter” was inspired by Jack Carter “Trey” Allen III. I first met Mr. Allen in 2005 at Michael Martin Murphey’s West Fest event at Snow Mass, Colorado. I was in the infancy of my cowboy poetry adventure and attended West Fest to immerse myself in the essence of western culture: the people, art, music and poetry. It was there that I heard and met Trey Allen for the first time.

It was after one of the West Fest concerts as I stood on the grassy slope, the magnificent natural amphitheater setting for the West Fest concerts, that I saw Trey Allen walking in my direction. I was apprehensive, yet summoned up the courage to introduce myself and express my appreciation for his material and presentation. At that time, he was dressed in crisp light taupe attire from head to toe. Trey politely tipped his hat and respectfully said, “Thank you, ma’am.” We shared a few pleasantries and he was gone. Our encounter was brief, yet it is branded in my memory.

My next encounter with Mr. Allen was ten years later, August 2015, in Abilene, Kansas at the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo where I was a participant. Mr. Allen was one of the judges. The third time was in October of 2015 at Old West Days in Valentine, Nebraska where Trey was a featured performer. Trey was ill both times; fighting multiple myeloma. Still, Trey portrayed a positive attitude of living, strutting his pink boots, bright neon colored shirts, flashy scarves and ties giving inspiration to all present.

Trey was scheduled to entertain at the Chickasaw County Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Gathering in Lawler, Iowa the following January 2016. Due to his on-going, energy-sapping cancer, he had to decline that appearance. I was asked to “fill in” for Trey Allen. Wow, what boots to fill. I was humbled and honored.

The following was garnered from CowboyPoetry.com.

Jack Carter “Trey” Allen III was born January 20, 1971 in Richardson, Texas. He respected the cowboy code of life and was employed in the ranching, cowboy-style of living most of his life which generated a wealth of background experiences for his colorful, original cowboy poetry which he recited with ease.

He was diagnosed in 2013 of multiple myeloma. A photo of Trey, taken by Carol Barlau became the reference photograph used by Don Dane for his painting titled “Cowboy True, Thru and Thru.” That art work became the poster for Cowboy Poetry Week, April 19-25, 2015.

Understanding the severity of his illness, Trey asked his three daughters that at upon his death, they take a road trip with his ashes. He directed them to scatter his remains on all the ranches on which he worked. Jack Carter “Trey” Allen III died July 7, 2016 in Manhattan, Kansas with family at his bedside.

My three brief encounters with the brave, unselfish man, Jack Carter “Trey” Allen III, inspired me to write “A Father’s Conversation with His Daughter.” Thank you, sir.

[Find a tribute to Trey Allen here and more at CowboyPoetry.com.]

 

Marc Broyhill

ABOUT MARCI BROYHILL

Marci Broyhill, Prairie Poet & Storyteller grew up on the Cedar-Dixon County Line between Nebraska’s Cowboy Trail, Highway 20 and Nebraska’s Outlaw Trail, Highway 12. Marci is on the Humanities Nebraska Roster with her program, Nebraska’s Outlaw Trail, Highway 12. She balances her presentations with current information, history, reflection and humor. Marci currently lives in Dakota City, Nebraska. Find more at marcibroyhill.com.

2015Marci BroyhilMarci Broyhill and two new fans of Cowboy Poetry. South Sioux City, Nebraska Library honoring Cowboy Poetry Week (2015).

2015Marci Broyhill2.jpgMarci Broyhil, Doc Middleton (aka Kyle Rosfeld) and Teresa Kay Orr. Naper, Nebraska honoring Cowboy Poetry Week (2015).

2017marcibroyhill.jpgTeresa Kay Orr and Marci Broyhill in Dakota City, Nebraska honoring Cowboy Poetry Week.  Marci adds, “Teresa Kay is my sister. Whenever possible, we do events together. She brings the element of music. Together, we provide a bit of fun sibling banter.”

A VISITOR by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Just take a good look at what’s gathered up here.
A bunch of six calves and a visitin’ steer.
He can’t be a father, he can’t be a mother;
Of course you can’t tell, he might be a big brother.

This steer he was probably goin’ somewhere.
When he noticed them calves and just wanted in there.
The ol cows has gone to the water to drink,
And the calves that’s awake is too young fer to think.

It is likely by now that this steer doesn’t know
Exactly what place he had started to go.
You can’t depend much on a steer that is true
Fer he don’t know himself what he’s aimin’ to do.

He is generally speakin’ an onsartin’ feller;
He might hide in the bresh, he might stand out and beller.
The cows and the bulls aint so likely to run
But when steers git stampeded it ain’t any fun.

Well, the steer is fulfillin’ his mission on Earth.
A slight operation soon after his birth,
Decided his fate and laid out his career;
He’s a whole lot of beef and that’s why he’s a steer.

… by Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem was among Kiskaddon’s last works. In 1949 he and illustrator Katherine Field (1908-1951) renewed their partnership, creating poems and illustrations for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar, as they had done years before, 1936-1942. Kiskaddon died in 1950 and had written six-months’ worth of poems in advance. Field illustrated them all before her own death in 1951.

That information and almost all of Kiskaddon’s nearly 500 poems is included in “Open Range” by Bill Siems. Find more about Kiskaddon and more about Siems’ book at CowboyPoetry.com in our Kiskaddon features.