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near Monett, Missouri

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Cowboys and Country Boys

I have never seen the Pecos, never crossed the Rio Grande,
Never ridden dry and dusty 'cross our desert western land.
But I feel a kind of kinship with the boys whose life that's been,
And I hope that they have happy trails to ride on now and then.
No, I've never roped a dogie, never set a burning brand
To a struggling yearling heifer, never drove a four-in-hand,
But I've spent a lot of hours with the cattle and the soil,
And I understand the challenge and have experienced the toil.
I've mown the grass and baled it up and hauled and stacked the crop
And, weary to the bone, have thanked the Lord when we could stop.
I've known the ax, the hoe, the saw, the hammer, and the plow,
And many times, day after day, have cared for calf and cow.
I've helped the mothers birthing and stood back to watch and laugh
As the cows made soft, excited sounds and nudged their new-born calf.
And when no one was watching, I've hugged and kissed them, too,
And I've wept when they lay down and died, and there was nothing I could do.
I've milked the critters daily, twice a day, year after year
And mostly stayed on one small farm.  It's all been done right here.
I might have been a cowboy, too, but Great-Grandpa stopped here
Although he had some friends and kin that wandered on out there
And became a part of ranching with spaces broad and wide
Where junipers dot the ridges and cactus the countryside.
And Grandpa, coming after, liked clear running creeks and hills
And on a summer evening, the call of whippoorwills.
And so we settled here and stayed, but some wound up out west,
And we'll not argue or complain about which or where is best.
Let's just agree that here and there there's work to do that's good,
And that we're honored to help out providing folks their food.
I might have been a cowboy, but a country boy's not bad,
And there are things we both can see that the other never had.
There are marvels there and marvels here that make a wondrous sight,
And if we bloom where planted, I guess we'll be all right.
No, I've never seen the Pecos, never crossed the Rio Grande,
Never ridden dry and dusty 'cross our desert western land,
But the kinship's there, old cowpoke, so let's ask God on our knee
To send more happy trails for us to travel, you and me.

1999, Lee Neill

This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



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