Featured at the Bar-D Ranch


 © 2004, Joelle Smith, www.joellesmith.com

Back on Home

Search CowboyPoetry.com

The Latest
     What's New
        Subscribe (free!)

Be a Part of it All 
     About the BAR-D
     Join us!

The BAR-D Roundup

Cowboy Poetry Collection
     Folks' poems
     Honored Guests
     Index of poems

Poetry Submissions  
    Current Lariat Laureate

Events Calendar

Cowboy Poetry Week

Featured Topics
    Classic Cowboy Poetry
    Newest Features
        Poets and musicians
        Cowboy poetry topics
        Programs of  interest
        Gathering reports
        In memory
   Who Knows?

Cowboy Life and Links
    Western Memories
    Books about Cowboy Poetry  

The Big Roundup

Link to us!
Give us a holler



line.GIF (1552 bytes)

See the Art Spur introductory page here

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...we know many that are worthy of a poem.  In Art Spur, we invite poets to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry.

Our seventeenth piece offered to "spur" the imagination is the late Joelle Smith's drawing, "Bringing Home the Tree," a special Christmas Art Spur.

The image depicts Joelle Smith and her niece Clara, who contributed a submission, below.

Submissions were welcome from all through December 18, 2008. Submissions are now closed.

Read the selected poems below.

"Bringing Home the Tree"
image © 2004, Joelle Smith, www.joellesmith.com; reproduction prohibited without permission

Joelle Smith's work is familiar to many in the posters she has done for Cowboy Poetry and Music Gatherings, including the Santa Clarita Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, the Visalia Roundup; for the Cowgirl Hall of Fame; and for Western music albums, including those for Don Edwards, Lorraine Rawls, and Wylie and the Wild West.

Her painting, "Heading Home," was the 2006 Cowboy Poetry Week poster, the cover of the first edition of The BAR-D Roundup, and an Art Spur subject.

Recently, her painting, "Riata Man," was chosen as the cover for Mackey Hedges book, The Last Buckaroo.

Read more about Joelle Smith and see more examples of her work in our feature here, and visit her web site, www.JoelleSmith.com.

Joelle got her first pony, George, when she was ten. This was not the start of her love of horses, but was the first real horse that came into her life. She even chose the college she attended because they had a school pasture where she could keep her horse.  

Joelle's life revolved around her love of horses, both in her work and in the rest of her life.  She lived with her mother, Sally, on twenty acres in Alfalfa, Oregon, along with seven horses. Sally contributes as secretary for Joelle's business, as well as chief cookie baker. She has become known as "Cookie Mom" at Joelle's shows for the cookies that she brings.

Joelle spent her mornings with the horses and painted in the afternoons and evenings.  The horses came first in her life just as they came first in her daily schedule.

Her favorite subject was horses, and these she painted with true passion.  "The art came from the horses," she explained. The love of horses was always there and so was the art, but the horses came first."

All of Joelle's subjects were real horses, real places and real people. She did not pose them for her paintings, but tried to capture a slice of life in a documentary style. Many of the horses in her paintings are her own, as they were close by.  She made at least two trips out of the area a year to gather material.

Joelle's work is a reflection of her experiences on ranches throughout the West.  Her paintings are records of contemporary Western life, her legacy to future generations.

Joelle was invited to display her work at the 2006 Prix de West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, an accomplishment she strived for during her entire career.

On August 5, 2005, Joelle lost her valiant three year battle with cancer.  Though her physical presence here on earth is and will always be greatly missed, her legacy of work will live on.  


"Bringing Home the Tree"
image © 2004, Joelle Smith, www.joellesmith.com; reproduction prohibited without permission



A special  submission by Clara Smith of Oregon, "My Hero"

Bringing Home the Tree by Yvonne Hollenbeck of South Dakota
Bringin' Home Christmas by Jo Lynne Kirkwood of Utah
The Gift by Al Mehl of Colorado
Christmas in Logan 1952 by Jan Erickson of Utah
Decoratin' with Memories by Jerry Schleicher of Missouri
Special Delivery by Slim Farnsworth of Colorado



Bringing Home the Tree

It’s been a long, long time ago, but I can still remember
how we’d had a lot of snow, and was well into December.

It was getting close to Christmas and no presents could be found.
We hoped that good old Santa wouldn’t also be snowbound.

Then suddenly one afternoon the sun came shining through.
The weather warmed up pretty nice like it will sometimes do.

We kids stayed home with grandma while our parents took a ride.
They said, “to check the cattle,” with the cowdog at their side.

We were playing “Fox and Geese” outside when brother said to me,
“Look! Here comes dad and mama and they're bringing home a tree!”

We spent that winter evening making trimmings all by hand.
And much to our excitement, that tree looked mighty grand!

Of course, ol’ Santa found us, though we thought it mighty strange
that he found our place with all that snow that covered up the range.

Now many years have come and gone, but my fondest memory
is the sight of my dear mom and dad bringing home the tree.

© 2008, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Bringin' Home Christmas

Some years the full moon bathes the world in bright light,
A clear iridescent white glow
Sometimes Christmas Eve’s an indigo night,
Deep and velvet, like a lamp turned down low.
Remember the years when our children were small,
How they’d count down the hours until bed?
Impatient to hurry the onset of morning,
They’d lie awake sleepless instead.
We’d hear whispers and giggles,
And they’d spy from their windows
To catch, just one time, Santa’s sleigh.
And sometimes, somehow we’d hear jingling bells
In the night, ringing soft, far away.

But though sleep was a challenge they’d rise with the dawn
Wake their parents then rush to the tree,
Eagerly tear at the ribbons and wrappings
Overwhelmed with sweet Christmas greed.

Some years when there’s drought, we’ve no moisture at all.
Just a bone-aching deep empty cold.
Some years there’s a half-foot of powder
Cross the fields and those backcountry roads.
These years the stock keeps us close by at Christmas
There’s feeding, and troughs sealed with ice.
As we make ready for Christmas here on the place,
Fill the air with sweet piñon and spice

And we wait for the soft crunch of tires on the snow
Stoke the fire, and light up the tree
Because bringin’ home Christmas means somethin’ else now.
Christmas brings them back home to me.

© 2008, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Gift

She had been feelin’ kinda punk,

She’d lost all appetite and spunk,

Though she’d been keepin’ down some honey lemon tea.

Still, she would be there at his side

To make that winter’s morning ride

To find and bind and cut a perfect Christmas tree.


See, this young couple’s own rendition

Of the holiday tradition

Deemed that each successive tree be one inch higher.

And after settin’ up the lights,

They mapped out twelve pre-Christmas nights

For sippin’ cider there together by the fire.


The twelfth night fell on Christmas Eve. 

She leaned her head against the sleeve

Of that green shirt she’d bought him just the year before.

She spoke to him of her impression,

’Stead of gifts or new possessions,

Christmas maybe ought to be ’bout so much more.


It ought to be ’bout true renewal,

’Bout a time to newly fuel

The faded energy to strive toward peace on earth.

A time for tolerance and love,

When both the eagle and the dove

Can see the need for reconnection and rebirth.


She snuggled up against his shoulder. 

In a chuckle, then, he told her

He’d return her gifts if that’s what she preferred.

And, with a smile, she kissed his cheek, 

Then in a voice so soft and meek,

She whispered, “No,” her simple answer in one word.


She hinted then ’bout a surprise. 

He spied the twinkle in her eyes,

A drop of sap snapped out a crackle in the flame.

And though he looked a bit perplexed,

She knew, not this year but the next,

Their Christmas holiday would never be the same.


She had to then apologize,

But based on issues ’bout the size,

His gift’s deliv’ry was delayed until July.

He answered that would be just fine,

And that he really didn’t mind,

And, truth be told, he didn’t even wonder why.


See, he don’t care ’bout gifts or wealth,

He had been thinkin’ ’bout her health,

And so he asked, “What did the doctor have to say?”

Now, keepin’ silent had been tough,

She’d kept this secret long enough,

And so she told him… “There’s a baby on the way.”


© 2008, Al Mehl
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 Christmas in Logan 1952

I lived with my Uncle 'n Grandma for a time,
when my folks found work out of town
Times were tough, but the family of this five-year-old,
had love, and would not let him down

Melvin, my Uncle, was a cowboy at heart
He knew horses, was a rodeo man
But that life of wild broncs left him sick and a cripple,
when a horse bucked him off in Cheyenne

He still loved good horses, enjoyed ridin' tall
'round the streets of his small town in Utah
I'll always remember that bitter cold winter
spent livin' with Melvin 'n Grandma

Christmas was comin' as it did every year,
Melvin told my sister and me
And Santa would need a place to leave presents,
preferably under a tree

So dressed in warm clothes, Melvin saddled his horse,
then I watched as he rode away
He went East to the mountains, up the canyon 'n back,
that ride took him most of that day

I sat at the window, watching and waiting,
the sunlight was starting to dim
When around the corner came a horse and rider,
was it Melvin? It had to be him.

He rode up the path by the side of the house,
I saw a tree tied on the back
The breath from the nose of his horse looked like steam
from an engine, hauling cars up the track

It was nearly forever 'til he came from the barn,
cause the horse needed caring and feed
Finally, through the back door, with a pine tree in tow,
he said: "This is what Santa will need"

I believe that's the first time I'd noticed the smell
of a fresh cut, trimmed evergreen
Then Grandma showed boxes full of crystal and glass,
like nothin' that I've ever seen

As we'd hang each trinket on the tree, she would tell,
a story of a person or place
How the bobble was special, and a part of her life,
which was clear by the look on her face

A little bird's nest on a branch of the tree,
had survived the trip comin' back
I was told t'was an ornament made just for me,
Mother Nature's own knick-knack

Three small stones, painted robin egg blue,
were placed in that nest so small
As a symbol of life, the message of Christmas,
that is offered to one and all

My memories of Christmas are few at the most,
but thinking back, the first one I see,
is a man on his horse in a cold Utah winter,
riding off to fetch home a tree

© 2008, Jan Erickson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Decoratin' With Memories

We'd ridden to the hills to fetch a tree, my boy, our horses, and me.
And comin' home, I began to reminisce about our family history.
About that old box of Christmas ornaments stashed behind the bed.
See, rather than buyin' new stuff, we decorate with memories instead.

Them old glass ornaments in the box came all the way from Germany.
Carried here by my great-granddad's folks the year they crossed the sea.
To get a fresh start right here on this ranch, over a hundred years ago.
Passed down through the generations, it'll soon be yours, you know.

That old tin star that tops our tree came from my great-aunt Eleanor.
According to our family tale, she traded eggs for it at the general store.
Back in the Depression days, when folks could scarcely afford to eat.
That star was her gift to the family, and for the times, that was quite a treat.

There's a little brass angel in the box we always hang on an upper branch.
Grandpa's brother Jim made it after the war, when he came home to the ranch.
Hammered out of a cartridge shell he picked up on a beach in Normandy.
Now that cartridge represents a symbol of peace to decorate our tree.

There's a little wooden doll in the box, just a simple hand-carved toy.
It belonged to your grandma, Peg, and I reckon that doll gave her joy.
Your grandma's been gone, I'd say, more than thirty years ago now.
That doll brings tears to your mother's eyes when she sets it on a bough.

A child's red cowboy boot seems an odd thing to hang on an evergreen tree.
That boot was yours when you were a tot. I guess you must have been three.
Your ma held on to it all these years, and it always puts a smile on her face.
To recall the little feller, now mostly grown, who'll someday run this place.

There's a rowel in that box from an old set of spurs that belonged to my dad.
And a hair ribbon bow I gave your ma after the first time I made her mad.
There's a little snowman I carved from antlers I found up on the slope.
And instead of stringin' garland on our tree, we loop it round with rope.

I suppose some folks might think our Christmas tree looks a little strange.
Decorated with boots and spurs and such, and things found on the range.
But each trinket we store in that box brings forth a special memory.
As we drag home the Christmas tree. Just my boy, our horses, and me.

© 2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Special Delivery

Tommy and Jake had been cowboys,
Since before either one could walk,
Brothers livin’ the cowboy dream,
And a’talkin’ the cowboy talk.

They bought the spread from their daddy,
He was gettin’ up there in years,
They kept the place goin’ this long,
With plenty of blood, sweat, and tears.

Tommy and Clara got married,
When they was jist eighteen years old,
A preacher, some friends, and their vows,
And two weddin’ rings made of gold.

Jake had been married fer a spell,
A daughter’s what he had t’ show,
His wife needed t’ find herself,
She packed and said she had t’ go.

Tommy and Jake’s at the cow camp,
Hunkered down ‘neath three feet of snow,
Some cows were still on the mountain,
They got three bulls t’ find for they go.

Tommy’s updatin’ his journal,
Says, “Hey Jake, tonight’s Christmas Eve!
Another year spent as cowboys,
Brother ain’t it hard t’ believe?

We’re missin’ another Christmas,
Our women alone at the place,
I’ll bet they’s jist havin’ supper,
Holdin’ hands and sayin’ their grace.”

“I wish that we coulda been there.”
Jake say’s with a tear in his eye.
“I been neglectin’ my daughter.”
He broke down and started to cry.

They stoke up the fire in the stove,
And they settle in for the night,
Maybe with luck they can be home,
They’ll have to get goin’ first light.

Well they awoke on that cold Christmas mornin’,
T’ find the stove roarin’ with fire,
They looked at each other and both said, “Not me!”
Then who? They was forced to inquire.

There was snow on the cabin floor,
Fresh, hot coffee brewed in the pot,
Stockin’s was hung o’er the window,
And sweet rolls believe it or not.

Well Tommy and Jake was confused,
And bewildered t’ say the least,
‘Cause stacked up there on the table,
Was fixin’s fer a Christmas feast.

By chance, they looked out the winder,
And marveled at what they could see,
Two riders a’horseback comin’,
They seemed t’ be draggin’ a tree.

Them riders rode to the cabin,
And stepped in out of the cold,
They took off their jackets and hats,
It was quite the sight t’ behold.

Their women standin’ before ‘em,
As perty as ever could be,
“Quit starin’ and get bundled up,
Get out there and fetch us that tree.”

Tommy and Jake was dumbfounded,
And didn’t know quite what t’ say,
Clara said, “Boy’s we’s family,
And we’re sharin’ this Christmas day.

We figured y’ wouldn’t be home,
We knew what we needed t’ do,
We guessed you couldn’t make Christmas,
So we up and brought it to you.”

Well that there’s the way it happened,
In a cow camp one Christmas day,
Christmas was jist as it should be,
And a fam’ly held hands t’ pray.

© 2008, Slim Farnsworth
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

A special submission by Clara Smith

Clara Smith, 13, niece of Joelle Smith, is depicted riding with Joelle in "Bringing Home the Tree." Clara was also a model for Joelle Smith's drawing in the August, 2006 issue of Western Horseman, and the drawing below. Clara shared a poem in 2007, "Memories," which is included here in our tributes to Joelle.

Clara shares her submission inspired by "Bringing Home the Tree":


My Hero

I remember waking up to a cold chilly morning and looking out the window, peering between the blinds onto the crisp white blanket of snow that lay softly on the pasture.

Snow flakes slowly drifted down and clung to the twisted juniper and pine trees.

Grandma, Auntie Jo, and I sat around the dinning room table to share a delicious freshly cooked breakfast.

We finished eating and Auntie Jo and I went to get ready to go outside to the barn.

Sparky’s dog tags jingled as she ran to us at the door. The young Australian Shepherd always came hoping for adventure in the snow covered outdoors.

All three of us walked to the barn as the snowflakes fell on our noses.

As we stepped into the barn all the horses looked up in curiosity to see who’s here.

Auntie Jo and I caught the two horses we would ride and saddled them up.

We walked the horses out into the pasture, their hooves crunching in the snow with every step they made.

Auntie Jo and I would talk about things that have happened with me at school before winter break.

I always loved the feeling of sitting in the saddle on a horse with Auntie Jo; I always felt safe with her around.

When I was little she was the one who taught me to ride.

She was the best teacher, and always spoke in a soft tone and always make me smile when I became frustrated accomplishing new things.

As we would walk she would tell me about how I could do better in my riding.

Around that time she began to teach me the names of the layers and parts of the saddle and would often quiz me while we walked through the pasture. I always seemed to get the names mixed up and she we would laugh at the crazy names that were mixtures of saddle parts and different types of bridle head pieces.

I would occasionally look back to find Sparky with her nose sprinkled with snow.

Every time we would ride I would always ask many different questions about the animals.

After many years of asking about so many different things, she always had the patience to answer my questions no matter how odd they might be.

Then I thought, "How is she able to know all of this?"

From that day on I knew that she was truly incredible person. She was able to accomplish so much. She could draw and paint and could teach her knowledge in such an incredible way.

We continued into the forest and came to a clearing. There was the perfect tree for the house. We dismounted and shook the snow off to get a better look.

Grandma was always so particular about her Christmas trees—it had to be perfect! We both agreed that this one would do nicely, and she cut it down.

Sparky and I waited as she fastened her rope to the trunk and climbed back into the saddle.

We turned and began to make our way back home, with the perfect Christmas tree in tow. All was right and good in that beautiful winter that now seems so much like a dream.

Auntie Jo was a very incredible and talented person and will always be my hero and have a special place in my heart.

© 2008, Clara Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


"Bringing Home the Tree"
image © 2004, Joelle Smith, www.joellesmith.com; reproduction prohibited without permission



Support CowboyPoetry.com

If you appreciate programs such as Art Spur, please show your support.


Become a supporter, make a donation, perhaps in memory of someone who treasured our Western Heritage: Make a difference.

Read some of our supporters' comments here,  visit the Wall of Support, and donate!

Read all about our history, the Center, and about how you can be a part of it all right here.

You can make a donation by check or money order, by mail (please use the form here for mail to PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133) or by a secure, on-line credit card payment through PayPal (a PayPal account is not required):

CowboyPoetry.com is a project of The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, a tax-exempt non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Act. Contributions to the Center are fully deductible for federal income tax purposes.






 What's New | Poems | Search

 Features | Events  

The BAR-D Roundup | Cowboy Poetry Week

Poetry Submissions 

Subscribe | Newsletter | Contact Us

  Join Us!


Authors retain copyright to their work; obtain an author's
permission before using a poem in any form.


CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc., a Federal and California tax-exempt non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.  

Site copyright information