BUYER BEWARE by Jarle Kvale


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 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; check out “Back at the Ranch” on Facebook; and tune into the current and past shows at

(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)

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


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

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, ; at; 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


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.


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

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 and “like” the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Facebook.

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

Western Slope Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, November 4-5, 2016, Grand Junction, Colorado


The Western Slope Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, November 4-5, 2016 in Grand Junction, Colorado, carries on the tradition of the Museum of Western Colorado’s annual cowboy poetry and music event.

Performers include Al Albrethson, Jerry Brooks, Nona Kelley Carver, The Great Western Heritage Show, Randy Huston, Susie Knight, Slim McWilliams, Peggy Malone, Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Terry Nash, and Dennis Russell

Find more at the Museum of Western Colorado web site and on Facebook.

GIVING IN TO LONESOME by Janice Gilbertson


by Janice Gilbertson

Her long legs, bony knees poking
At pantlegs, sunbleached and threadbare
Disappear into his kneehigh boots with
Burlap stuffed toes, and worn beyond repair

Her bare hands no longer noticing the cold
Are bent and fused until they feel no pain
The right rested in its place on her thigh
The left hand’s crooked fingers weave the rein

It is his tattered sheepskin coat she wears
Unbuttoned to the cold, early morning air
And it is his ole blue scarf ’round her throat
Shaped by his sweat and the knot he’d tied there

She quietly sits her beloved bay gelding
Narrow-chested and slightly splayed
He is stoved and gaunt with age
Hipbones wide and back some swayed

They stand for a moment just inside the gate
Both shifting old bodies for comfort’s sake
She legs his ribby side gently and turns
To ride the ancient fence north to the break

‘Neath a cast-iron sky without a glint of star
She rides through the dark before dawn
By the instincts of a thousand rides
They travel by memory of days bygone

There was a time she rode here on snorty colts
Their morning-fresh stride dancing her along
What a grand time she would have then,
Looking for that stray where it didn’t belong

There are no cattle now, not for a decade
But old habits hang on like old barbed wire
His fence pliars still hang in their scabbard
To twist a wire, tap a staple, should she desire

Ghost calves bawl for want of their mamas
Bulls bellow for long gone cows on the lowland
She sees him on his black on the zig zag trail
Where he is sitting his saddle just grand!

Time’s trickery confuses her and she curses
At her old mind where his image lingers
Ghostly fog knuckles over the ridge
Crawls the canyons in cold, grey fingers

A harsh chill shudders her thin body
And sends gooseflesh down her spine
The familiar sounds and images
So cruelly tease her lonesome mind

For the first time she turns back on her trail
Finally…leaving her life as it were
For the very first time in fifty years
She leaves the gate stand open behind her

© Janice Gilbertson, used with permission

Janice Gilbertson is one of the women included in the new She Speaks to Me: Western women’s view of the west through poetry and songs, edited by Jill Charlotte Stanford, with photographs by Robin L. Green.

The book is an enticing collection of works by Amy Hale Auker, Sally Bates, Virginia Bennett, Niki Berg, Teresa Burleson, Doris Daley, Janice Gilbertson, Audrey Hankins, Joni Harms, Linda Hasselstrom, Jessica Hedges, Debra Coppinger Hill, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Stacy Jenne, Dee “Buckshot Dot” Strickland Johnson, Randi Johnson, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Echo Klaproth, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Renee Meador, Lyn Messersmith, Kathy Moss, Lauralee Northcott, Skye Mesa Ogilvie, Evelyn Roper, Sandy Seaton Sallee, Ann Sochat, Rhonda Stearns, Jody Strand, and Tina Willis. Western Horseman Senior Editor Jennifer Denison provides a foreword.

Janice Gilbertson comments, “What an honor it is to be included in Jill Stanford’s beautiful book of western women’s poetry. My western background is precious to me and being able to grasp the same fine thread as these brave, capable and talented women touches me deeply. Thanks to Jill for bringing us together.”

Find more about Janice Gilbertson, including her two novels, Summer of ’58 and The Canyon House at her web site, at, and on Facebook.

She Speaks to Me is available from booksellers and the publisher, Two Dot Press, a division of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but for other uses, please request the poet’s permission.)


jaybudisaacsphoto by Bud Isaacs


by Jay Snider

It’s been told of good horses lost
In simple words that cowboys use
He dern sure was a good one
He’s the kind you hate to lose

He’s the kind you could depend on
In the river and the breaks
In rough country and wild cattle
He’d be the one you’d take

His efforts weren’t ruled by stature
With him you’d finish what you’d start
His limits were governed only
By the dimension of his heart

His expectations were simple
Merely fairness from a friend
But when he’d feel the need to run
It’s best not to fence him in

Pure poetry in motion
As across the plains he’d fly
A tried and true compadre
In a seasoned cowboy’s eye

His courage was unmatched by mortal men
From conquistadors to kings
Cowboys sing his praises
At roundups in the spring

Ain’t it strange how thoughts of horses lost
Mirror those of men passed on
And though they’ve gone to glory
Their spirit’s never gone

Sometimes simple words seem best
When final words we choose
He dern sure was a good one
He’s the kind you hate to lose

© 2003, Jay Snider, used with permission
Third-generation Oklahoma cowboy and rancher Jay Snider told us about his poem:

The inspiration for this poem came to me on December 7, 2002. I had to put down a little bay stud that we owned for near a dozen years. Cancer had invaded one of his kidneys and the vet gave him little hope. It truly was a sad day for us. I remember telling my wife and sons,  “Doc sure was a good one. He’s the kind you hate to lose.”

That same day, I had been asked to do a poem at an old man’s funeral that lived north of where we live. He was as good a cowman as ever came out of our country. After the service, his eldest son said to me, “Dad sure was a good one. He’s the kind you hate to lose.”

I could not get those words out of my mind. I started this poem that night; however, I could not finish it until March 19, 2003 when we received word that Larry McWhorter had passed away. Then it came to me what I had been trying to say all along.”

Jay is appreciated as well for his fine reciting. Enjoy his rendition of Sunny Hancock’s (1931-2003) “The Bear Tale” in a video from the Western Folklife Center’s 2011 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering here.

See a Western Horseman video about Jay Snider by Jennifer Denison here.

Take the opportunity to hear Jay on the new “Del Shield’s Western World” radio show, on the Better Horses Network. It includes conversation and Jay’s recitations of classic poetry, Bruce Kiskaddon’s “When They’ve Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall,” Will Ogilvie’s “Pearl of the Them All,” and Luther Lawhon’s “The Good Old Cowboy Days,” all from his recent The Old Tried and True: Classic Cowboy Poetry CD.

A few places you’ll find Jay in coming months are the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering & Western Swing Festival, in Fort Worth October 25-27, 2016; the Working Ranch Cowboy Association Finals in Amarillo, November 10-13, 2016; the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, Arizona, February 3-4, 2017; and the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, February 24-25, 2017.

Find more about Jay Snider at, and at his site.

This 2013 photo of Jay Snider is by Bud Isaacs, used with his permission.

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


shannonaug2013photo by Shannon Keller Rollins


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Though you’re not exactly blue,
Yet you don’t feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
For your feelin’s and the weather
Seem to sort of go together,
And you’re quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;
And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin’
On the job for winter brandin’,
And your pardner, he’s a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin’,
But you never hear him speakin’,
And you feel it’s goin’ to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother—
He is friendly but he’s quiet, that is all;
For he’ thinkin’ while he’s draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin’
At an easy walk a swingin’
In behind the old chuck wagon movin’ slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they’ve waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin’ sporty,
Not a hoss is actin’ snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they ‘re gentle, when they’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled ‘way down furr’wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
‘Cept his old cob pipe is smokin’
As he lets his team go pokin’,
Hittin’ all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin’—
He’s just settin’ there and thinkin’
‘Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin’
And two little clouds a sailin’,
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you’re lonesome when you’re draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin’ bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin’
Up there in the soft blue linin’
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin’
As your memory starts driftin’
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you’re far away and draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue—
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin’ but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did—
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done—
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
‘Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede—
‘Twas away up north, you helped ’em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn’t reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his’n—
Boy that killed him’s still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he’s rich and livin’ high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances—
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead ’em down the middle
Jest a prancin’ to the fiddle—
Never thought of goin’ home till the break of day.
No! there ain’t no chance for sleepin’,
For the memories come a creepin’,
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin’
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they’ve finished shippin’ cattle in the fall.

…from Kiskaddon’s 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges
Bruce Kiskaddon’s masterpiece is a well loved classic, in the repertoire of most serious reciters.

Hear top poet Waddie Mitchell recite it on YouTube.

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

This photograph is by Shannon Keller Rollins, used with her permission. Shannon and Kent Rollins run the Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon, the official chuck wagon of Oklahoma. Their best-selling cookbook,  A Taste of Cowboy, includes many outstanding recipes and many of Shannon’s great photographs.

They take their restored 1876 Studebaker wagon to ranches for spring and fall gatherings and to cowboy poetry and music events. They also cater weddings and corporate events. Visit their web site for more, including information about their cooking school, videos, and the “From the Chuck Wagon” blog. Also find them on Facebook, where they often have live videos.

Shannon and Kent Rollins are at the Silver Dollar City National Harvest & Cowboy Festival through October 22, 2016; at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering January 30-February 4, 2017; and many places in between.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but any other use of the photo requires permission. The poem is in the public domain.)