RAY LASHLEY 1923-2017


Peggy Malone let us know about the death of poet Ray Lashley, 93, on May 29, 2017.

For his bio at CowboyPoetry.com, he wrote:

I was born and raised on a farm in the Missouri Ozarks at a time and place where horses or mules were about the only source of power and transportation. We raised cattle and hogs and feed for them. There was an “Open Range Law” in effect so our cattle had a lot of room to roam and a lot of places to hide. Tending them took a lot of our time.

At about age 14 I was on a short (60 mile) trail drive when the only way to move stock was by train or trail drive. There were no trucks or stock trailers.

I always did like working with horses better than with other types of stock. That’s probably why I’ve been raising horses since 1970.

My first job for pay was driving a four-horse team to a log wagon.

I joined the Navy at 18 and found out that a man could make a living without working as hard as the stockmen back home, so I learned to spell “injuneer” and they let me be one. But, as they say, you can’t take the country out of the boy so I managed to stay in touch with some part of the stock world (mostly horses) while I pursued a career as a weapon testing engineer.

From 1969 to 1994 we owned and lived on a twenty three acre place near the east shore of the Great Salt Lake raising Appaloosa horses. (One of them ran no worse than second in eight out of nine races and won five of them.) After we sold out in ’94 we traveled some, then, in early ’95, moved lock, stock and horses onto the five acre place in Grand Junction, Colorado, where we live now.

I’ve been invited to perform in the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering every year since it started in 1985 until 1995.

Without repeating a poem I can recite from memory something over 3 hours of poetry — mostly cowboy poems by old poets.

Find an obituary here, which says, “A graveside service will be held for family and friends in Des Arc, Missouri in the near future as he is laid to rest near his boyhood home in the family plot surrounded by his parents and siblings.”



by Smoke Wade

They moved often then,
From warm winter grounds by the river’s mouth,
Where mothers gave birth,
On rocky hillsides that faced the sunny south.

Up steep trails, they moved,
Through saddles bathed in late spring showers,
Above the canyons filled with pine,
To mountain meadows with purple flowers.

Past green ponds, they moved,
Through huckleberries on the summit high,
Then swiftly down the Devil’s run.
To the land of endless sky.

Through rolling hills, they moved,
Down dusty lanes in August sun,
To fall pasture with ample room,
For cows to rest and calves to run.

Behind barbed wire, now they move,
There to fatten and to graze,
The winter grounds sit idle now,
Modern times with different ways.

Yes, they moved often then,
Through sumac gullies and mountain streams,
Before trailing the herd became a part,
Of our memories and dreams.

© 1991, Smoke Wade
This poem should not be re-posted or reprinted without permission

Popular emcee and cowboy poet Smoke Wade was raised on a remote Hells Canyon ranch.He’s written a number of stories about his ranching family for Picture the West and Western Memories at CowboyPoetry.com.

Smoke told us that when he wrote this poem, “I was trying to re-capture the memory of the days when we used to trail large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River as the herd followed the seasons. Those days are gone now along with the cattle ranches in Hells Canyon…”

When asked about the importance of cowboy poetry, he responded, “The lifestyle of Hells Canyon cowboys was a way of life that was often considered to be thirty years behind the rest of the world. Lacking other forms of entertainment, stories, tall-tales and poetry were standard fare in the cow camp and they helped relieve boredom while on the trail.Often, the ‘telling’ was a way of recalling the significance of events, the lives of other cowboys, or perhaps the general history of the range we rode.

“After the fall of the Hells Canyon ranching industry, cowboy poetry was a natural way for me to recall the history of the life I once lived and the cowboys I had known. Likewise, the importance of cowboy poetry today is that it continues to document the memory of western events, people, and the cultural significance of the cowboy way of life that is quickly disappearing from the American West…”

Smoke Wade shared this photo from a 1952 branding. Read more about it here. He comments it is, “…the old branding corral on Cactus Flat. Not a trace of the corral or the branding fire pits remains today.”

Find another poem and more about Smoke Wade, along with links to photos and stories at CowboyPoetry.com.





Almeda Bradshaw told us of the passing of poet and writer Bette Wolf Duncan in 2016.

In her bio at CowboyPoetry.com, she wrote:

I was born during the depression, on my grandfather’s ranch in Stillwater County, Montana. Later my folks moved to Billings, where I went to grade and high school.  This is rodeo country; and a good portion of summer entertainment involved rodeo attendance.  It is also cattle country; and it was difficult not to grow up a  cowpoke of sorts by osmosis.

I worked during high school as an usherette in a movie theater.   I worked my way through college as a long distance operator; and  I graduated from Rocky Mountain College in Billings Montana in 1954. For the next 18 years I worked as a Medical Technologist, chiefly in the field of toxicology.  Among other institutions, I worked at Texas Children’s Hospital and Southwestern Medical School in Dallas,  Los Angeles County Hospital in Los Angeles and Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, California.

In 1974, I graduated from Drake University Law School.  Subsequently, I was employed as a Prosecutor in The Polk County Attorney’s Office, Des Moines, Iowa; and as Director of the Regulatory Division and legal counsel, Iowa Department of Agriculture.  For the last eight years, prior to my retirement in 1995, I was an Administrative Law Judge (tax cases).  Since retirement, I have been so busy I wonder how in the world I ever managed before retirement.

Bette was the author of several books and in 2011 she was named “Top Female Poet” by the Academy of Western Artists.

Find an obituary here.

LEGEND OF BOASTFUL BILL by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)


by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

At a roundup on the Gily,
One sweet mornin’ long ago,
Ten of us was throwed right freely
By a hawse from Idaho.
And we thought he’d go a-beggin’
For a man to break his pride
Till, a-hitchin’ up one leggin’,
Boastful Bill cut loose and cried —

“I’m a on’ry proposition for to hurt;
I fulfill my earthly mission with a quirt;
I kin ride the highest liver
‘Tween the Gulf and Powder River,
And I’ll break this thing as easy as I’d flirt.”

So Bill climbed the Northern Fury
And they mangled up the air
Till a native of Missouri
Would have owned his brag was fair.
Though the plunges kep’ him reelin’
And the wind it flapped his shirt,
Loud above the hawse’s squealin’
We could hear our friend assert

“I’m the one to take such rakin’s as a joke.
Someone hand me up the makin’s of a smoke!
If you think my fame needs bright’nin’
W’y I’ll rope a streak of lightnin’
And I’ll cinch ‘im up and spur ‘im till he’s broke.”

Then one caper of repulsion
Broke that hawse’s back in two.
Cinches snapped in the convulsion;
Skyward man and saddle flew.
Up he mounted, never laggin’,
While we watched him through our tears,
And his last thin bit of braggin’
Came a-droppin’ to our ears.

“If you’d ever watched my habits very close
You would know I’ve broke such rabbits by the gross.
I have kep’ my talent hidin’;
I’m too good for earthly ridin’
And I’m off to bust the lightnin’s, —

Years have gone since that ascension.
Boastful Bill ain’t never lit,
So we reckon that he’s wrenchin’
Some celestial outlaw’s bit.
When the night rain beats our slickers
And the wind is swift and stout
And the lightnin’ flares and flickers,
We kin sometimes hear him shout —

“I’m a bronco-twistin’ wonder on the fly;
I’m the ridin’ son-of-thunder of the sky.
Hi! you earthlin’s, shut your winders
While we’re rippin’ clouds to flinders.
If this blue-eyed darlin’ kicks at you, you die!”

Stardust on his chaps and saddle,
Scornful still of jar and jolt,
He’ll come back some day, astraddle
Of a bald-faced thunderbolt.
And the thin-skinned generation
Of that dim and distant day
Sure will stare with admiration
When they hear old Boastful say —

“I was first, as old rawhiders all confessed.
Now I’m last of all rough riders, and the best.
Huh, you soft and dainty floaters,
With your a’roplanes and motors —
Huh! are you the great grandchildren of the West!”

…by Badger Clark
Clark wrote the poem in 1907 and our version is from Clark’s Sun and Saddle Leather,” first published in 1915.

The late Buck Ramsey comments on the poem in an essay, “Cowboy Libraries and Lingo,” in Cowboy Poets & Cowboy Poetry, edited by David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher. He writes, “..for imaginative cowboy lingo and outlandish braggadocio, Badger Clark’s “The Legend of Boastful Bill” is hard to beat…Bill goes on one hell of a ride, but as a challenge this raging bronc is for Boastful Bill about like hairpinning Aunt Maude’s milk cow…”

“Rodeo poet”Paul Zarzyski breaks into the poem in part one of Andy Hedges’ recent COWBOY CROSSROADS interview. The iconoclastic poet is eloquent when speaking about his family, poetry, rodeo, and the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Listen to the interview (a second part was released today) here.

A favorite recitation is by Jerry Brooks, from her Shoulder to Shoulder CD (and on The BAR-D Roundup volumes Five and Ten). Other top recordings of the poem are by Randy Rieman, on his Where the “Ponies Come to Drink CD and Paul Zarzyski recites it on Cowboy Poetry Classics from Smithsonian Classics. There is a recording of Badger Clark reciting his poem, on a CD available from the Badger Clark Memorial Society. Find more at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1888 photo by John C.H. Grabill is titled,”‘Bucking Bronco.’ Ned Coy, a famous Dakota cowboy, starts out for the cattle round-up with his pet ‘Boy Dick.'” It is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.


MICHAEL BIA by Chris Isaacs


photo by Carol M. Highsmith


by Chris Isaacs

You spent your childhood wild and free,
And none of us could then foresee
How you’d touch our lives, or to what degree.
We never knew you, Michael Bia.

You life was in the land and sky;
Vermillion cliffs and mesas high.
These were yours to occupy.
You were of Diné, Michael Bia.

You rode the bulls and rode them well,
But you wouldn’t leave the reservation’s Citadel
Though it was known you could excel.
Ah, you could ride ’em Michael Bia.

The White House called; you left your land,
And off you went to Viet Nam,
To a war you did not understand.
You did your duty, Michael Bia.

You fought with honor and with pride,
But before the fighting could subside
In that far off land, you died.
You gave the ultimate, Michael Bia.

At Window Rock in sixty-eight
They turned a bull out of the gate,
And his bell rang loud to reiterate
Our thank you, Michael Bia.

Diné, and white men, too
Stood and shed a tear for you;
And though your time on earth is through
May God keep you, Michael Bia.

Now often when I think of the past
Or cross that reservation vast,
Or see Old Glory at half-mast,
I think of Michael Bia.

Ya’at’eeh, Hastiin! (Ya-ta-hey, Has-teen!)

© 2001, Chris Isaacs
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.
(Chris notes: Diné is what the Navajos call themselves; it means “The People.”)

Chris Isaacs writes about this poem in his award-winning book, Rhymes, Reasons and Pack Saddle Proverbs:

There are things that happen in our lives that we have absolutely no control over, which become a part of us forever. Such was the case with the poem about Michael Bia.

I got out of the U. S. Marine Corps in January of 1967 just as things were really starting to heat up in Vietnam. Michael Bia was leading the bull riding standings for the AIRCA when he was drafted and sent to Viet Nam just about the time I was discharged. He never came home.

In 1968 my wife Helena and I were at the Fourth of July rodeo in Window Rock, Arizona, where I was entered when something happened that haunted me for years. The Navajo tribe paid tribute to Michael Bia at that rodeo by taking his chaps and spurs and attaching them to a bull with Michael’s bull rope and then turning the bull loose in the arena during a moment of silence. Nothing has ever affected me quite like that short moment of tribute to a fellow cowboy/comrade-in-arms, and I have thought of it many, many times over the years…The first time that I tried to recite it, I broke down and cried, which kept me from trying it again for quite a while. Then in 1997 at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering I was on the Veterans’ Session with Joel Nelson, Rod McQueary, and some others, and managed to get through the entire thing…I have had many Vets thank me for the poem, which means a great deal to me…I did a show near Washington, D. C. a few years ago, and made it to the Wall (the Vietnam Memorial) where I found Michael’s name…

Find more about Chris Isaacs at CowboyPoetry.com and visit chrisisaacs.com.

This 2006 photo of the Vietnam Memorial is by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.The accompanying note tells, “Deliberately setting aside the controversies of the war, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served when their Nation called upon them. The designer, Maya Lin, felt that the politics had eclipsed the veterans, their service and their lives. She kept the design elegantly simple to allow everyone to respond and remember.”

Find more about the photo here.

The Highsmith Archive 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 a selection of Memorial Day poems at CowboyPoetry.com.


THE GLORY TRAIL (or HIGH-CHIN BOB) by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

‘Way high up the Mogollons,
Among the mountain tops,
A lion cleaned a yearlin’s bones
And licked his thankful chops,
When on the picture who should ride,
A-trippin’ down a slope,
But High-Chin Bob, with sinful pride
And mav’rick hungry rope.

“Oh, glory be to me,” says he,
“And fame’s unfadin’ flowers!
All meddlin’ hands are far away;
I ride my good top-hawse today
And I’m top-rope of the Lazy J—
Hi! kitty-cat, you’re ours!”

That lion licked his paw so brown
And dreamed soft dreams of veal—
And then the circlin’ loop swung down
And roped him ’round his meal.
He yowled quick fury to the world
Till all the hills yelled back;
The top-hawse gave a snort and whirled
And Bob caught up the slack.

“Oh, glory be to me,” laughs he.
“We hit the glory trail.
No human man as I have read
Darst loop a ragin’ lion’s head,
Nor ever hawse could drag one dead
Until we told the tale.”

‘Way high up the Mogollons
That top-hawse done his best,
Through whippin’ brush and rattlin’ stones,
From canyon-floor to crest.
But ever when Bob turned and hoped
A limp remains to find,
A red-eyed lion, belly roped
But healthy, loped behind.

“Oh, glory be to me,” grunts he.
“This glory trail is rough,
Yet even till the Judgment Morn
I’ll keep this dally ’round the horn,
For never any hero born
Could stoop to holler: ”Nuff!'”

Three suns had rode their circle home
Beyond the desert’s rim,
And turned their star-herds loose to roam
The ranges high and dim;
Yet up and down and ’round and ‘cross
Bob pounded, weak and wan,
For pride still glued him to his hawse
And glory drove him on.

“Oh, glory be to me,” sighs he.
“He kain’t be drug to death,
But now I know beyond a doubt
Them heroes I have read about
Was only fools that stuck it out
To end of mortal breath.”

‘Way high up the Mogollons
A prospect man did swear
That moon dreams melted down his bones
And hoisted up his hair:
A ribby cow-hawse thundered by,
A lion trailed along,
A rider, ga’nt but chin on high,
Yelled out a crazy song.

“Oh, glory be to me!” cries he,
“And to my noble noose!
Oh, stranger, tell my pards below
I took a rampin’ dream in tow,
And if I never lay him low,
I’ll never turn him loose!”

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

Badger Clark’s poems were often printed, put to music, and otherwise adopted and adapted without acknowledgement of his authorship, passing into the oral tradition.

In the preface to Sun and Saddle Leather, Clark’s 1915 book where “The Glory Trail” was first published, he writes that the “folk version” perhaps was better than the original, and that the changes reflected “such rubbings down and chippings off as might happen to it in passing from mouth to mouth.” He writes:

“One night when I was washing my pots and kettles I heard the boys around the fire discussing a cow-puncher over in the mountains, who, the week before, had roped a bobcat and ‘drug’ it to death. The boys spent some time swapping expert opinions on the incident, so it stuck in my mind, incubated, and eventually hatched out The Glory Trail.

“Nobody said anything about the poem, good or bad, as I remember, and I reckoned it had fallen rather flat until, some years later, about three years ago, I think, a distant friend sent me a copy of Poetry which featured High Chin Bob. I found a real native folksong which the cowboys were accustomed to carol in their long riders over the romantic wildernesses of the Southwest, a song like Melchizedek, without father or mother, which probably had naturally “just growed” in the rocky soil where it now flourished. What was my amazement, in examining this literary curiosity, to find that it was my ‘Glory Trail’…”

Read more along with the poem and more about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com. The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

Listen to Don Edwards’ rendition of the poem put to music.

This image of a 1921 pen and ink drawing of a mountain lions by Western artist and writer Will James (1892-1942) is from the “Cabinet of American Illustration” at The Library of Congress. Find more about it here.

Born in Canada, James’ given name was Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault. He worked as a cowboy and served prison time for cattle theft. He’s said to have perfected his art during his incarceration and emerged reformed.

The University of Nevada, Reno – Knowledge Center has an interesting online exhibit, “Will James and the West.” It tells that Will James “… came West in 1907 at the age of fifteen, becoming a cowhand and changing his name to William Roderick James. James showed artistic talent from an early age, and gained a reputation for his sketches of life on the range long before publishing his first work.”


TO BE A TOP HAND by Georgie Sicking (1921-2016)


by Georgie Sicking (1921-2016)

When I was a kid and doing my best to
Learn the ways of our land,
I thought mistakes were never made by
A real top hand.

He never got into a storm with a horse
He always knew
How a horse would react in any case and
Just what to do.

He never let a cow outfigure him,
And never missed a loop.
He always kept cattle under control
Like in a chicken coop.

He was never in the right place at the wrong time,
Or in anybody’s way.
For working cattle he just naturally knew,
When to move and when to stay.

I just about broke my neck tryin’,
To be and to do,
All those things a good cowboy,
Just naturally knew.

One day while riding with a cowboy,
I knew was one of the best,
For he had worked in that country for a long time,
Had taken and passed the test.

I was telling of my troubles,
Some bad mistakes I made.
That my dreams of being a top cowboy,
Were startin’ to fade.

This cowboy looked at me and said,
With a sort of a smile,
A sorry hand is in the way all the time,
A good one just once in a while.

Since that day I’ve handled lots of cattle,
And ridden many a mile.
And I figure I’m doin’ my share if I get in the way,
Just every once in a while.

© Georgie Sicking, from Just More Thinking
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Much-loved cowboy and Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inductee Georgie Sicking would have turned 96 this year. A great inspiration to many, she is dearly missed.

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 preferred 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.”

Of Ridin’ & Rhymin’, the award-winning documentary about Georgie Sicking by Greg Snider and Dawn Smallman of Far Away Films (www.farawayfilm.com), 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.

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

This photo of Georgie Sicking 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).

This is a scheduled post. We’re on a break until May 25.