COWBOY POETRY IN MOTION by Paul Bliss

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COWBOY POETRY IN MOTION
by Paul Bliss

Well, the mornin’ starts at four am,
the coosie rings the bell,
Come-on, get up ya cowboys,
comes a loud persistent yell!

Come-on, shake out the coffee’s hot,
don’t lay their in yor soogans,
Get’em up, roll’em tight,
all bed rolls to the wagon!

Ya can smell the breakfast cookin’,
un that chill that’s in the air,
As ya gather round that chuck box,
with un emotionless stare.

Ya grab biscuits drowned in gravy,
un thank the God above,
For givin’ ya the piece of mind,
to do the things ya love.

The cook calls out for seconds,
better get it while it’s hot,
While the hoodie loads the bed rolls up,
pulls the tarp, down ties the knots.

The jingler brings yer horses in,
while the night hawk grabs some chuck,
Und ya ponder ’bout the last few weeks,
how ya’ll got by on luck;

The mountains that ya trailed across,
the rivers, streams, un swells,
The thunderstorm’s, the dust, un sweat,
some days it felt like hell;

Und yer muscles, sore, un tender,
from a colt that bucked ya down.
Und knowin’ today is the last day,
und yu’ll arrive in town.

Two hundred un ninety miles,
wranglin’ horses all the way.
There’s un emotion that can’t be denied,
when ya call positions for the day.

The team is almost harnessed up,
the leaders start to paw,
Make a circle boys, start’em slow,
head’em up that draw!

In the east the stars they disappear,
un blue gray takes its place,
Un the pink cliffs now er standin’
out where before there wuz no trace;

The herd busts, un thunders towards the draw,
ears alert, un noses flared,
Un cowboys racin’ for the pass,
with hard determined stares;

They glide through rock un timbers,
with a ballerina’s grace,
Over logs, un brush, un ledges,
like a royal steeple chase.

The dust it starts to foggin’ up,
ya smell leather, horse, un sweat,
Un horses crashin’ through the brush,
but still there’s no regret;

Manes un tails a flyin’,
spurs a ringin’ out a tune,
It’s un illusion watchin’ horse un man
race towards a fadin’ moon.

Down through the pines un cedars,
where the scrub oak slaps yer chaps,
Ya memorize this picture boys,
for time has seemed to lapse.

With cowboys in position,
the herd’s now in control,
Un ya watch the horses all line out
as single file they go.

The sun it tops a ragged ridge,
un the rays come bustin’ through,
Un ya watch the herd snake down the trail,
in solemn overview.

It’s a picture that can’t be described
by anybody’s notion,
‘Cause pardner it’s a feelin’,
“cowboy poetry in motion.”

© 1998, Paul Bliss, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Utah cowboy and rancher Paul Bliss includes this poem and additional poetry and song on his Pure Bliss CD.

He told us that this poem came from a 1998 trip, “…we trailed a 100-horse remuda out the gate of the Lady Bug Ranch, from Salem to Kanab, Utah, 290 miles. Through the meadows of Central Utah. Across steep passes on the edge of the Wasatch mountains. Swimming the Sevier River. Over the pink cliffs of Bryce and Johnson Canyon ….” Read more and more about Paul at CowboyPoetry.com.

This poem inspired a sold-out program of dance and cowboy poetry by Brigham Young University’s Modern Dance Ensemble earlier in 2013. Reciter Jerry Brooks and other poets also participated.

Paul has plenty of experience as a cowboy,rancher, trail boss, and wagon master. A favorite fact about Paul gives a glimpse of his style: One winter he rode horsebackand led 2 pack horses all the way from his home in Utah to the National Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, with most of the trip in blizzard and deep snow.

Right now Paul is busy preparing for the Bliss Wagon Train Reunion later this month. He told us about it:

In the late 1800s and early 1900s my grandfather, Norman Ingels Bliss,in between crops, would freight from the rail head in Oasis, Utah to the mining district of Gold Hill and the now ghost town of Joy, with an eight-up hitch and three wagons in tandem on the way from Joy through the Swasey Mountains. He would stop and check cattle and change out tired horses for fresh horses that would be resting in Lost Springs Canyon.

My father Ferron Lane Bliss would tell me stories about trips, with the teams and wagons trailing out to the Swasey’s to gather fire wood, which was their only source of fuel to cook meals and heat the home in the cold winters.

Since some of my father’s nine brother’s and one sister’s (none still living) descendants are three and four generations removed from ranching and freighting, and since I’am in charge of the Reunion, I thought we should get back to basics of what that life back then was like.”

Paul shared this photo above of his grandfather, one of only three known photographs.He comments, “Those tassels on the head stall are horse hair that he pulled and braided. I have that saddle on the beam in our living room.”

Find more about Paul Bliss at CowboyPoetry.com and at paulfbliss.blogspot.com

 

SADDLIN’ UP TIME by Andy Wilkinson

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SADDLIN’ UP TIME
by Andy Wilkinson

I never looked forward to the end of the day;
Or to evening, drab and melancholy-gray,
Or to featureless shadows of purple-to-black,
Or to work finished-up or simply put back
While the business of living slowly unwinds;
I was always awaitin’ for saddlin’-up time.

I slept of necessity, not pleasure and not
For the comforts of night, when the bosom of God
Cradled mortality in immortal dark,
Nor for the shroud of cool starlight whose spark
Like the lamp of the firefly silently chimed;
I took my pleasure in saddlin’-up time.

And I worried the hectic commotion of morn,
The commerce of mercantile and courthouse lawn,
The meetings and greetings on sidewalk and street
Where horseback-opinions and auguring meet,
And I argued their rhythms, swore at their rhymes,
But was playful as a pup, come saddlin’-up time.

For ’twas then before ever light angled to fill
The round corners, we’d clamor like wolves at the kill
With horse-talk our yap, with our nip and our bite
Latigo leathers snapping cinchas down tight
In the summer’s wet dew or the winter’s sharp rime
As we readied our horses at saddlin’-up time.

When the morning night air was marble we breathed,
Heavy and smooth and as cold as the breeze
That skitters across the new snow-covered plains,
One hand on the horn and the other, the reins
We stepped aboard stirrups, young bucks in our prime,
Salty as the Pecos at saddlin’-up time.

Though I’ve lived for this moment most all of my life,
Beginnings, not endings, put the edge on my knife;
And I’ve cursed too damn much and I’ve never prayed well
And it may be God figures to send me to Hell,
Riding drag for the Devil to pay for my crimes,
But I’m damned if I’ll go ‘fore saddlin’-up time.

© 1994, Andy Wilkinson, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This poem by respected poet, songwriter, singer playwright, teacher, and editor Andy Wilkinson is a part of his “Wrangler award-winning Western folk opera of the dreams and visions of the legendary cowman, Charlie Goodnight” (titled Charlie Goodnight). His great-grandmother’s great-uncle was Charlie Goodnight. The late J.B. Allen recites “Saddlin’ Up Time” on the album.

Another outstanding recitation of this poem, by Jerry A. Brooks, appears on her “Shoulder to Shoulder” CD and on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Seven.

Andy Wilkinson dazzled his audience with his keynote address at the recent Western Folklife Center’s 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The presentation, which focused on the gathering’s theme of storytelling, was a celebration in brilliant poetry, with a few musical interludes.

View a video here to see why there was a clamoring for a printed version.

storyline

Now, the piece, “Storyline,” has been published by John Dofflemyer’s Dry Crik Journal. Find more, including Andy Wilkinson’s introduction and order information here.

Find more about Andy Wilkinson at CowboyPoetry.com,  at his web site andywilkinson.org, and on Facebook.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboy throwing saddle onto horse on cattle ranch near Spur, Texas.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.

A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA by Al “Doc” Mehl

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A QUILT IN NORTH NEBRASKA
by Al “Doc Mehl

There’s a quilt in north Nebraska,
That’s been sewn into the land;
Rolling grass fields are the fabric,
And the batting’s made of sand.

It’s been trimmed at the horizon
Where it’s pinned against the sky;
Ev’ry stock tank is a button,
Ev’ry windmill is a tie.

And the runs of old barb’d wire,
They are the braided threads with which
Nimble fingers sew a pattern;
Ev’ry fence post is a stitch.

Each square tells a family’s story,
Sewn inside a bound’ry fence;
That quilt chronicles a his’try
’Bout the trials of sustenance.

Formed of fabric from those lives,
That quilt will shield us from the storm;
Daytime’s tapestry breathes beauty,
Come the night, ’twill keep us warm.

Pieced a broad mosaic patchwork,
’Tis a blend of life and line;
I should think that some great spirit
Had a hand in the design.

Most folks picture the Almighty
In the image of a man.
But if judging by that quilt,
I’d say God has a woman’s hands.

© 2008, Al “Doc” Mehl, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Nebraska celebrates its 150th anniversary today, and the sesquicentennial celebration continues all year.

Poet, songwriter, and musician Al “Doc” Mehl told us about this poem soon after it was written, and he illustrates a relationship among poets:

Several years ago as I was driving into the Sand Hill country of Nebraska to perform at Old West Days in Valentine, I couldn’t help thinking of the finely detailed quilting of good friend and accomplished poet Yvonne Hollenbeck ([a Nebraska native] who lives nearby just across the state line in South Dakota). The rolling grass covered hills of this uniquely beautiful countryside reminded me of Yvonne’s billowy bed-cover creations, and an idea for a poem began to take shape.

As it turns out, a few scribbles on a loose scrap of paper were all that survived that original inspiration, and the cryptic notes languished in a “poems-in-progress” file until recently… Jane Morton was kind enough to present me with a copy of her latest CD titled Turning to Face the Wind. Listening to her recording, I was inspired to revisit my own quilting-poem idea by Jane’s somber poem, “Summer’34.” In this piece, Jane describes her mother taking up the art of piecing a quilt to combat the loneliness she felt living out on the eastern plains of Colorado. I can still hear Jane’s voice:

Mom pieced and pieced and pieced some more,
that summer ’34
My mother was expecting,
and the wind blew evermore.

I pulled my former notes from the file that evening, and it seems the original idea had finally come of age; the poem about the Sand Hill country flowed out onto the page.

Doc also shared this photo, which he says was, “…taken by me in the Sand Hills of Nebraska on the ranch where poet Marty Blocker was working at the time.”

Find more about Doc at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, docmehl.com.

Nebraska “prairie poet” Marci Broyhill brought the state’s celebration to our attention. She and her sister, songwriter Teresa Kay Orr, are presenting programs to students to commemorate Nebraska’s Sesquicentennial. Teresa Kay Orr’s songs are a part of a documentary on Doc Middleton, “Nebraska’s Robin Hood.” Watch the film here.

Find more about Marci at marcibroyhill.com.

Learn more about Nebraska’s 150th Anniversary at ne150.org and on Facebook.

WHEN A COWBOY SINGS by Andy Nelson

jrmgphoto © Mark Gocke Photography; request permission for any use

 
WHEN A COWBOY SINGS
by Andy Nelson

Each moment that I spent in a saddle,
From desert to high mountain springs;
Tends to migrate from dormant to conscious,
Every time a cowboy sings.

The chirp made as my horse works his cricket,
And the way a poly rope zings;
The clanking of spur chains and jingle bobs,
Resonate when a cowboy sings.

The tell-tale scent of a wet saddle pad,
Rain on sage, among other things;
All come back in an olfactory rush,
Whenever a good cowboy sings.

I can recall smartly how frost bite feels,
And just how bad a hail stone stings;
I may recollect the ache of regret,
Anytime that a cowboy sings.

I taste the sensation of riding drag,
The savor of old piggin’ strings;
And salivate at the thought of calf fries,
Listening as a cowboy sings.

I reminisce some old cowboy mentors,
Who traded chaps for angels’ wings;
Yet the harrowing pangs of loneliness,
Can haunt me when a cowboy sings.

But it takes me back where I need to be,
Peace of mind, the melody brings;
And I get the chance to live once again,
Every time a cowboy sings.

© 2017, Andy Nelson, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Second-generation farrier Andy Nelson is a popular cowboy poet, emcee, humorist, rodeo announcer, and co-host (with his brother Jim) of the syndicated Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio show.

Andy appears at events and gatherings across the West, and he will be at the 31st annual Sierra Valley Grange Cowboy Poetry & Music Show, March 17-18, 2017 in Vinton, California. He’ll be joined by Brenn Hill and Carol Schley. Find more here. Find more of Andy’s upcoming performances at his web site, cowpokepoet.com.

Andy Nelson’s latest CD is I Won, and it features a wide range of poetic moods, from nonsense to reverence, that show the breadth of his talents. He is accompanied by friend and top songwriter Brenn Hill—who produced the album—on several tracks. The great-looking package sports a cover by noted cowboy cartoonist Ben Crane.

Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio’s weekly programs can be heard online (and there are archives of past shows). The sixth annual C.O.W. Cruise takes place next year, January 18-27, 2017. This time the cruise goes to Hawaii and will include a special C.O.W. tour of the famous Parker Ranch. Find more here.

This photo of singer and songwriter Jared Rogerson is by Mark Gocke Photography (markgocke.com). Jared’s newest album is Heaven, and in this small world, Brenn Hill makes a vocal appearance on his own “Cowboy Singer, Too,” a relevant piece about who is “cowboy enough,” and Andy Nelson also shows up on the track.

Watch the impressive promo for the album, with great images. There’s more at jaredrogerson.com and at his YouTube channel.

Find more about Jared Rogerson at CowboyPoetry.com,  and on Facebook.

Gail T. Burton 1929-2017

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Gail T. Burton 1929-2017

We were sad to learn of the passing of Gail T. Burton, a long-time friend of the BAR-D, who had fought liver cancer for more than two years.

Thanks to Bobby Newton for passing along this information from the memorial service:

Gail Travis Burton, 88, of Benton, AR, passed away Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at his home. He was born, January 4, 1929 in Temple, Oklahoma, to the late William L. and Vela Ina Buton. He was alsos preceded in death by his oldest brother. M/Sgt. Wendell L. Burton and older sister, Lauretta Burton Reynolds.

Mr. Burton was a deacon at First Baptists Church of Benton, a U.S. Army veteran having served in Korea 1946-48, and had retired as a Fire Protection Specialist. He was also a Master Mason, a life-member of the California PTA and a member of the Los Angeles Fire Protection Forum, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, the Missouri Cowboy Poet’s Association, and a charter member of the Academy of Western Artists.

Since 1987, his poetry has been featured in The Tombstone Epitaph, the National Newpaper of the Old West.  He has written from 400-500 cowboy poems.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Barbara Burton; five childern, Terri Baird (Victor) of Benton; Paula Buton of Fawnskin, CA; John Burton of Benton; Joel Burton (Karen) of South Plainfield, NJ and Leonard Burton of Little Rock; 15 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and many friends. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are requested for Children’s Ministry at First Baptist Church, 211 S. Market St., Benton, AR 72015 and/or Saline Memorial Hospice House in Bryant, 23157 I-30 South, Bryant, AR 72002.

Find some of Gail T. Burton’s poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

THE BRAHMA STEER by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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THE BRAHMA STEER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

What would the old time cowboy from the trails of yester year
Imagine was the matter if he met a Brahma steer?
That cowboy wouldn’t figger that the steer was real;In fact
He’d think he had too much to drink and gone plum off the track.

The sight of some big Brahma steer, his bump a standin’ high,
Without no horns, with droopin’ ears, and mulish lookin’ eye,
Would make an old hand figger if he’d ort to pull his gun,
Or ride up for a closer look, or turn around and run.

I reckon that there old time boy would figger ’twas a cross
‘Twixt a Jersey and a bison and a Palamino hoss.
The hands of fifty years ago would not have thought that now
The Brahma is more common than the old time longhorn cow.

There has been a lot of changes in ranges of the West;
They keep the sort of critters that they figger do the best.
We won’t likely live to see it but they’ll mebbe come a day
When they’ll give a cow a pellet equal to three bales of hay.

They won’t ship no stock to market, fer the aeroplane will land,
That will kill and skin and cook ’em and will take ’em off in cans.
They’ll have the hides all tanned and cured before they start fer town,
And they’ll make ’em into boots and shoes before they hit the ground.

Yes, there’s lots to the cow business that the old boys didn’t know
When they rode the old cow ponies over fifty years ago.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

An article, “Brahman Cattle,” at cattle.com tells about the American Brahman Breeders Association formed in Houston in 1924 and that, “Their first officially registered animal was named Sam Houston.”

Nearly 70 years have passed since this poem was printed on the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar, January, 1948. It was illustrated by Amber Dunkerley (1893-1973), who illustrated Kiskaddon’s calendar poems from 1943-1948. The poem also appeared in Kiskaddon’s 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges.

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.

Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental “Open Range” that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, “Shorty’s Yarns”; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Events: July

Find links to all months here.

 

•  through July 5, 2020
World’s Oldest Rodeo—133rd Annual Prescott Frontier Days Prescott, Arizona

•  July 1-4, 2020
117th Annual Cowboys’ Roundup Days & July 4th Celebration Steamboat Springs, Colorado

•  July 1-5, 2020  POSTPONED
52nd annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival Washington, D.C.

•  July 3-12, 2020 CANCELLED FOR 2020
Calgary Stampede Calgary, Alberta

•  July 3-12, 2020
Cattlemen’s Days Gunnison, Colorado

•  July 10-12, 2020  CANCELLED FOR 2020
Montana Folk Festival Butte, Montana

•  July 10-12, 2020 POSTPONED
8th Annual Early Californios Skils of the Rancho V6 Ranch near Parkfield, California

•  July 11, 2020
Scofield’s Cowboy Campfire at Red Mule Ranch Fiddletown, California

•  July 11-12, 2020
Michael Martin Murphey’s American WestFest Red River, New Mexico

•  July 17-19, 2020 CANCELLED FOR 2020
18th Annual Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering Encampment, Wyoming

•  July 17-26, 2020  
Cheyenne Frontier Days Cheyenne, Wyoming

•  July 18, 2020
Scofield’s Cowboy Campfire at Red Mule Ranch Fiddletown, California

•  July 19, 2020 CANCELLED FOR 2020
Cowboy Music and Poetry at Riverbend Winston, Oregon

•  July 22-25, 2021   CANCELLED FOR 2020
Red Ants Pants Music Festival White Sulphur Springs, Montana

•  July 23-26, 2020 POSTPONED FROM MAY, 2020 
Cowboy Way Jubilee Ardmore, Oklahoma

•  July 24,  2020
Annual Sunny Hancock/Leon Flick Memorial Cowboy Poetry Show Lake County, Oregon

•  July 25, 2020
16th Annual National Day of the Cowboy

•  July 31-August 2, 2020 CANCELLED FOR 2020
Newport Folk Festival Newport, Rhode Island

•  July 31-August 2, 2020  (rescheduled from May 1-3, 2020)
Salado Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering  Salado, Texas