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"'Winter Work on the CO Bar' © 2006 by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com

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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 thirty-fifth piece offered to "spur" the imagination, "Winter Work On the CO Bar"—a special Winter Art Spur—is the work of premier Western artist Bill Owen (1942-2013). We are honored to have the painting and grateful to Valerie Owen for her generous permission.

Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"'Winter Work on the CO Bar' © 2006 by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com

Bill Owen has commented, "This painting shows the other side of the cowboy's life, which is not so romantic; the work goes on, no matter what the weather may be. This is Vic Howell and his crew on the CO Bar Ranch in northern Arizona."

Submissions were open to all through December 21, 2013. Find the selected poems below.

Bill Owen's painting, "Born to This Land," was featured as the ninth annual Cowboy Poetry Week poster and was also an Art Spur subject.


 Bill & Rocky
Image © 2008 Bill Owen
Bill Owen on one of his favorite horses, Fred,
on the Four Cross Ranch in Kirkland, Arizona

Bill Owen (www.billowenca.com), son of a cowboy, was celebrated for his realistic portrayals of contemporary cowboys and ranchers. He was a member of the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America (CA). He received numerous awards from the CA, and among other honors, has received the Frederic Remington Award for Artistic Merit by the Cowboy Hall of Fame (now the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum); the Prix de West Invitational Show Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; and the C. M. Russell Art Auction Honorary Chairmen’s Award.

Bill Owen founded The Arizona Cowpuncher's Scholarship Organization, which helps finance college educations for young people from Arizona ranching families.

Valerie Owen told us:

The final Cowboy Artists of America Sale & Exhibition took place the weekend of October 11 & 12, 2013 and would have been Bill's 40th anniversary with the Cowoby Artists of America. Bill had finished his last painting, "Caught a Little Deep," right before his passing, so the membership voted to allow the painting to be auctioned that weekend, and four of Bill's sculptures were offered at fixed price. Because Bill had passed, his painting was not eligible for any awards; except one. All attendees cast by secret ballot, voting Bill's last painting, "Caught a Little Deep" to receive the Buyers Choice Award. I know that Bill would have been honored. I was very pleased to accept the award on Bill's behalf and felt it was a befitting end to a spectacular career.

See our feature here for more about Bill Owen, and visit Bill Owen's web site for more about him and his work: www.BillOwenCA.com.

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Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"'Winter Work on the CO Bar' © 2006 by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com



Thoughts of a Western Man by Jim Cathey of Texas

You Listen to the Boss by Susan Matley of Washington

Wind Clouds by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming

Winter Pleasure Ride by Tom Swearingen of Oregon

Hiram N. Roberts by Del Gustafson of Washington



Thoughts of a Western Man

The call to “roll out” comes early
when the sun is froze to its bed.
Then you kick out of yore soogans,
an’ park yore hat atop yore head.
You stumble ‘crost gear, in the dark,
use words that are better unsaid,
as you search fer yore icy boots.
Puttin’ them on is somethin’ you dread!
Dang it!

You slept in long johns an’ britches,
to help keep you warm through the night.
So now you stoke that stubborn fire,
‘til it is shore ‘nuff burnin’ bright.
The button had crawled from his roll,
jawin’ an’ frettin’ about his plight.
Pore kid!

Throws his saddle on the night hoss
while he pranced an’ circled an’ shied.
Now he’d wrangle in the ponies,
fer the fellers to ketch an’ ride.
They’ll shore be rank this cold mornin’
but the boys will take it in stride.
Tough fellers!

Set the coffeepot on the fire,
then go take care of nature’s call.
Wow! Them stars are jest a-shinin’
an’ you hear a night hunter squall.
The boys musta smelled that coffee
‘cuz outta their soogans they crawl
Gotta do it!

Dang, that coffee will shore be good
with beans an’ biscuits fer our chow.
That grub will help us through the day
‘cuz we’ll be a while, I’d allow,
chasin’ them wild ‘uns in that brush.
But we’ll get ‘er done somehow.
I reckon!

We’re all coffeed, fed, an’ mounted,
as we wait fer the break-o-day.
The cow boss scatters the riders,
An’ we each head out on our way.
Yeah, its cold, but we’ll do our job,
tho, we know we work for short pay.
Why do we?

The beauty of the day unfolds,
bringin’ to mind the poems of the bard.
Tho we know we’ll face a tough test,
an’ this day’s work will be dang hard.
We shore love this life that we live,
An’ quietly give thanks to our Lord!
Thank ye Lord!

© 2013, Jim Cathey
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.



You Listen to the Boss

You listen to the boss.
The thick muffler that insulates your neck
from bitter cold was knit of oatmeal fleck
and packed with Christmas fudge from your mother.
You sit astride, bear the icy north’er

And listen to the boss.
No more holidays for this cattle crew.
It’s calving time you’re briefed on. Eight of you
transform from roundup rowdies to midwives,
charged to deliver, maternity-wise.

You listen to the boss.
Eight hands make four pairs in round-the-clock shifts
and everyone’s on call. You’ll search the drifts
to rescue stowed-away calves. When they bawl
from the brush it’s an urgent rescue call.

You listen to the boss.
The first-time heifers are sure to need aid
and no matter how well your plans are laid
when throwing a calf they might throw a twist.
The thought of the chaos makes your eyes mist.

You listen to the boss.
The worst part: waiting for calving to start.
But once it comes, anxiety departs.
The work is brutal; some will not survive.
Heart full, a new year entered by new lives

makes you glad you listened to the boss.

© 2013, S. D. Matley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Wind Clouds

We were gathered there up on the ridge,
bundled up and ready for most anything—
then we all began to see those clouds rolling in
and start hear the wild winds sing.
'Round here we call 'em Lander Valley zephyrs—
though they can blow 80 miles or more,
blowing away Ma's chicken coop
and once, blowing away the general store
Gus spoke up and said we'd best
be about moving in the herd
to get them into shelter,
but Pike went on like he hadn't heard a word.
The "discussion" was getting windy in itself—
Pike and Gus were shaking their fists,
the wind was howling more than a hundred coyotes could
and the snow began to blow and mist.
Finally, the boss rode up and said,
"Boys, settle down your jawin',
We got to get to working now,
you're like a bunch of old steers pawin'!"
So we rounded up the bunch and moved them in,
and scattered out a load of hay—
we don't use tractors here yet, boys,
would rather use a team and sleigh.
It was a long hard windy day,
not one we will soon forget,
now Pike and Gus are sharing a slug or two,
'cause those wind clouds and snow made 'em wet.
Generally, it was a regular day on the place—
Pike and Gus will be jawin' tomorrow.
Think I'll ride off to the neigihbor's ranch
and see if they have some sugar to borrow!
Wind clouds, when they come rolling in,
sound like banshees wailing 'a way.
Hope they blow off someplace else
and leave us a quiet Christmas Day!
© 2013, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Winter Pleasure Ride

We started out with slickers
On or carried just in case
Wild rags tied to warm our neck
Or to pull up on our face

Layered up with woolies on
Two shirts and a heavy vest
And blanket-lined canvas coats
Figured that should stand the test

Now past three the skies are dark
And the wind is blowing mean
The forecast folks reporting
We’re due squall like we’ve not seen

Yet, we’re on a “pleasure ride”
‘Least we say that’s what we do
Hard to ‘magine that today
With this big ‘ol storm ‘a brew

'Cause all the time we're riding
That sun has been getting low
The temperature's been falling
Eating at our inner glow

Our cheeks are getting tingly
And our noses have a run
This little “ride for pleasure”
Why, she’s stopping to be fun

So we ride in to the wind
Find our way back to the road
Then in the barn unsaddle
Warm, and get the tack all stowed

Later with the horses groomed
We reflect upon our ride
Was that a ride “for pleasure”?
“It sure was” we all decide

Because time in the saddle
Is what we’ve come to treasure
Don’t matter the conditions
We’ll always find some pleasure

Be that pleasure of senses
Those, the seeing touching kind
Or pleasure that takes place deep
In the thinking of a mind

Just give us time with horses
And as long as we’re astride
Won’t matter what’s encountered
We’ll make it a “pleasure ride”

© 2013, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Hiram N. Roberts

Hiram Roberts, a known horse and cattle thief,
The number stolen might well strain your belief,
A cold windy night is what he preferred,
Sweeping down in the darkness to drive off your herd.

The good ranchers knew they would find no relief,
Until they could hunt down and capture the thief.
Desperate men who ignoring the weather,
Gathered to put a posse together.

Where Hiram hid our cattle we didn’t know,
But we followed the tracks left in the snow,
The tracks led us up to Hiram Roberts lair,
Kicked in the door, dragging him by the hair.

Then out in the cold with no coat and no hat,
We saddled a horse, a stolen one at that,
But yet in the end we turned Hiram free,
We meant to hang him but couldn’t find a tree.

© 2013, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Del Gustafson writes, "Hi Roberts was a notorious horse thief in Iowa, he was actually hung in Cedar County, Iowa by the Regulators in Late Oct. or early Nov. of 1857. He was suspected of stealing horses in Iowa and driving them across Illinois to his ranch in Indiana. I think they really hung him for keeping bad company on a farm he maintained in Jones County, Iowa. I haven't been able to determine how my great great grandfather, Nathan H. Roberts died other than in 1857. The fact they shared so many places in common made me wonder if they were one and the same. They weren't, Nathan died in May of 1857 near the Illinois, Indiana border. No record of criminal acts. The picture made me think of a posse.



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