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Round Rock, Texas
Alan Lemke



The Christmas Star

I was riding through Avalanche Pass one late December day
A short time after the sun fell out of sight
Another of them long, cold days of winter
Gave way to a lonely silent night

I spurred old Buck on up that narrow ridge
Where it looked down on the camp below
The chill spreading through my bones kinda eased its grip
When I finally seen that fire's warm glow

Now I seen night skies from Creede on down to Waco in my years
But never any quite as grand as that one
Seemed like the good Lord had a notion to paint him a picture
Which He just seemed to be getting done

I slid from the saddle and took a long look up yonder
There must have been 'bout a million stars a twinkling
But this big one in the east, glowing like a hot branding iron
Caught my eye and got me thinking

My mind drifted back some twenty odd years
To when my Pa set me on his lap and told me this yarn
How on that very day, in a land far away
A little boy was born in a barn

"He weren't no cowboy like the little pards I know'd
His daddy was a carpenter, that's how he earned his keep
But the boy didn't figure to follow in those footsteps
See His job would be to tend to the sheep"

"So he was a shepherd," I said, "Like old Mr. O'Malley"
"Well, not really," Pa replied  "He weren't like all the rest
See, there were others sent out to tend to the flocks
But this young feller figgered to be the best"

"He started out right when it came time to work
And looked hard to find the twelve very best hands
Then He and His friend set out on their journey
To find sheep that'd been lost through the lands"

"I reckon he built him a sizeable flock," I said
Pa shook his head  "Weren't quite as easy as it sounds
Despite the care and love the shepherd offered
There were some sheep just didn't want to be found"

"And then there were others who hated the man
They got all riled up at how his pastures were filled
So before he was able to gather in too many sheep
They plotted together and had the man killed"

"That ain't a real happy story, Pa,"  I guess I looked confused
'Cause he stared down at me and grinned
"Now listen close, son.  That shepherd...was our Savior, Jesus
And them lost sheep was all us folks who sinned"

Well I never heard it put quite that way before
But I finally understood the meaning of the story Pa told
And on nights like tonight when the north wind blows strong
It kind of helps to warm my insides from the cold

'Cause a cowboy knows all about what it's like to be lost
And not always having a bunkhouse to keep him warm
And those days on the trail would get awful long
If he couldn't see no end to the storm

I've spent many a Christmas out on the trail since then
And ain't a one goes by that when I put my head down to sleep
I don't look up in the night sky and find that bright star
And smile...knowing He's still watching over His sheep.

About Alan Lemke:

I live in Round Rock, Texas (suburban Austin).  Been here 10 1/2 years.  I dabble in music, playing guitar and writing a few songs, playing in small clubs around here, and the cowboy poetry thing. I've been fascinated by the cowboy way of life since I was a kid.  Grew up reading all I could about it, researched much  about cowboys and The West in libraries and soaked up everything I could about Texas history.  Now for the real shocker.  I'm a country boy from northern Wisconsin.  Not exactly a cowboy, but a farm kid who feels the values and way of life I grew up with are not that unlike those shared in this poetry. Perhaps that was the big draw.  While I didn't live in the west, my heart felt what all these great poets have written about.

But when people question what a Cheesehead knows about Cowboy Poety and the west, I'm quick to point out the background of Larry Chittenden.  If a New Yorker can pen one of the greatest poems and ultimately songs about cowboy life in The Cowboy's Christmas Ball, then there's room for another Yankee as well.

(The picture is about a year old, and unfortunately a "grilling accident" is responsible for that nice moustache being gone, but it seems to be a good photo for an aspiring cowboy poet.)







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