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Shawn Cameron

"Mornings on Horseback"

© 2011, Shawn Cameron

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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 or a song.  In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our twenty-seventh piece offered to "spur" the imagination is the work of Arizona artist, poet, and fourth-generation rancher Shawn Cameron.

© 2011, Shawn Cameron; this painting should not be reposted or reproduced without permission; shawncameron.com

"Mornings on Horseback"

Shawn Cameron comments:

The subject is our son, Brooks Cameron. It was an early morning in June on the Cataract country south of the Grand Canyon. The light and atmosphere, the work ahead of the all the men, the smell of the livestock, etc. were part of the motivation. The determination these men have as they leave morning after morning, to do whatever needs to be done, is motivation to me personally. It gives me courage to face the day.

It was painted in 2011, sold in a gallery in Bozeman, Montana, and hangs in a professional office in Texas.

See a larger version of the image below.

Art Spur subjects are meant to inspire poetry and songs; we look for poems and songs inspired by the piece, not necessarily for a literal description of the image or its subject. 

Submissions from all were welcome through Monday, November 21, 2011. Submissions are now closed.

Find the selected poems below.

The 2004 17th Annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering poster featured artist Shawn Cameron's painting, "Along the Santa Maria." The gathering theme was Still Doin' Business. The event's invited poets write poems about the poster painting, and the poems are presented at sessions during the event.

Shawn Cameron and the gathering organizers gave us permission to share the image, and our feature here includes a selection of the poster poems. We are particularly pleased to have Shawn Cameron's own poem in that selection, "Cactus, Sand and Stone (or Corrientes and the Cowboy)."

Find that poem and another, "The Echo of Jangling Spurs," along with our feature about her, here.

About Shawn Cameron
from shawncameron.com

Like many in her field, Shawn is considered an accomplished professional in the arena of Western Art but her roots run deeper than most when it comes to subject matter. Her work is a passionate reflection of what she knows personally, Western ranch life.

Her family's involvement in the state's cattle business began over 135 years ago. Both sides of her family are Arizona pioneers. Her paternal great-grandfather, James Henry Wingfield, his father, two brothers and their families used oxen to pull their covered wagons west on the Oregon Trail, then traveled south with horse drawn wagons to Arizona crossing the Colorado River with 200 head of cattle in 1875. They settled in the area of Camp Verde. A family brand registered by them in 1885 is reportedly one of the state’s oldest on file.

Her maternal grandfather, John Osborne, rode horseback to Arizona from Kansas in 1908. He obtained work near Globe at the largest ranch in Arizona, the Chiricahua Cattle Company, better known as the "Cherrycows." He moved to general manager in 1915. He eventually owned several ranches and in 1961 was honored as Cattleman of the Year by the Arizona Cattlegrowers Association. That legacy continues as Shawn and Dean’s children carry ranching into the fifth generation.

She credits the Lord, a lifelong love affair with art and a unique family heritage for her perspective of the west. Possessing a deep appreciation for the true cowboy, the elements of his world become an inspiration for her work. There is nobility about him. As Poet Utah Phillips wrote about the cowboy, “If dirt were a kingdom, then he would be king.”

Artistic talent manifested itself at an early age and art education was provided through formal and informal settings. Several mentors were influential but the early encouragement of Joe Beeler, Bill Owen and Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt proved valuable. Others she has studied with include: Jim Wilcox, Dan Robinson, Bill Anton, Mark Daily, Jim Norton CAA, Ron Riddick CAA, Matt Smith, Martin Grelle CAA, Bruce Greene CAA, and sculptor, John Coleman. Her primary medium is oil but she has worked in pencil, watercolor, pastel and clay.

While raising her children on the ranch, she obtained a Bachelors of Education with a minor in Written Expression, yet art remained her first love. She had come to a fork in the road requiring a career decision. It was Dean who provided the counsel, strength and courage she needed to travel the uncharted course of her artistic development. He remains a major source of encouragement and support. After many years in the art world she retains the heart of a student whose goal is continual improvement.

A water tower remodeled into a modern studio near their home, sits on the banks of the Verde River north of Prescott, Arizona. Horses are within a few feet of her door and provide an opportunity to sketch and paint from life. These studies are then taken indoors as painting resources. Material is gathered on family ranches. Her studio paintings include men and livestock with vital connections to the contemporary ranching scene. Her family is often part of this story. Because of her intimate relationship to the animals and cowboys, she takes pride in portraying them accurately.

Several publications have featured Shawn's work including Southwest Art, Western Art Collector, Art of the West and Western Horseman. Her paintings have served as the covers of Equine Art and Western Horseman. The Arizona Cowpuncher's Rodeo and Prescott Cowboy Poetry Gathering are among those that have used her paintings on their posters.

Art Shows she's participated in include the Prix de West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Heart of the West at the National Cowgirl Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas; Cowgirl Up! at the Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona and honored as the co-featured artist at the C.M. Russell Auction in Great Falls, Montana. Shawn won her first professional art awards early in her career. In 1992 she received the Phippen Family Award and Second in drawing at the Phippen Memorial Western Art Show. Her work has been recognized in a variety of venues but one she's especially honored by is the 2007 Cowgirl Up! “Artist’s Choice Award.” Her paintings can be seen in Trailside Galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona and Jackson, Wyoming and Tierney Fine Art in Bozeman, Montana.

See our feature here for more about Shawn Cameron, which includes additional examples of her work and some of her poetry. Visit her web site, www.shawncameron.com, which includes her blog.

If you enjoy features like Art Spur, please support the BAR-D.




© 2011, Shawn Cameron; this painting should not be reposted or reproduced without permission; shawncameron.com
20 x 24
"Mornings on Horseback"



Riding on the Roof by Jeff Hildebrandt of Colorado
The Red Rider by Bette Wolf Duncan of Iowa
Our Battle Cry by Ken Cook of South Dakota
The Return of the Kid by Susan Matley of Washington
Autumn Days by C.W. (Charles) Bell of Utah
The Home Range by Del Gustafson of Washington
The Calling by Slim McNaught of South Dakota
It's Understood by Daniel Bybee of Nevada
Fairfield and Mornings on Horseback
 by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
Mind Grazing by Robert C. Atkin of Kansas
Balancing the Books by Merv Webster of Queensland



Riding on the Roof

Sometimes I feel I’m riding on the roof;
Riding on the roof of creation.
I look over yonder at mountain tops
at just about my elevation.
And what some call sage down at my feet
is really the tops of trees.
When I’m riding on the roof of creation
I think I know just what God sees.

© 2011, Jeff Hildebrandt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Red Rider

The beat of my pinto’s hoofs pierced the night,
as we welcomed the break of the first rays of light.
The canyon awoke all around us; and we
witnessed a splendor most folks seldom see.
Wranglers rise early. There’s hard work ahead;
and too much to do to stay long in the bed.
Thus we saw the red rider emerge into view;
and baptize the range with small droplets of dew.

Slowly, so slowly, he rode to the crest
of the mountains that loomed in the distance out west.
The night winds were dying. The stars were all gone;
chased of by the fiery, red rider of dawn.
The fragrance of sage and pine was intense;
and the big sky above, never seemed so immense.
The stars in their exile from perches on high,
watched the red rider set fire to the sky.
It blazed with a fury, blood-red and blush-pink.
It burned off the clouds that were stained with black ink.

A new day was dawning. The old day was done.
The blazing red rider was riding the sun.
As he rode ‘cross the sky on his stallion of gold,
he blazed trails for the new day. He burned off the old.
His hands wrapped around the hands on our reins.
He put steel in our backbones and fire in our veins.
One moment, he reigned. But the next, he rode on;
taking with him, the dew and the splendor of dawn.
And the disdain and dread that, on rising, we knew,
had vanished just like the small droplets of dew.

© 2011, Bette Wolf Duncan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Our Battle Cry

Out here we bond with only those who know,
The art of capturing cattle from afar.
Before the sunrise throws a warming glow,
We feel the disappearance of each star.

Within our heart's a place good leather strives,
To savor chase and nothing matters more.
For this we sacrifice, commit our lives,
Cast worldly goods aside not keeping score.

Upon this monument of grass for beef,
Fresh water bears the gift that binds us all.
We sanctify our spirit's sole belief,
Horseback we thirst to challenge nature's call.

For those who yearn to gather, work, and ride,
Or crave a life unfenced beneath the sky.
Hang close to those who reek of hoof and hide,
Your eagerness is still our battle cry.

© 2011, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Return of the Kid

Do you remember that morning?
A kid, old enough to help make
The gather, but young enough that
Mom had to jiggle you awake?

It was cold; fall’s gather was late.
The sun rose after an hour’s ride
In the frigid, cobalt pre-dawn.
Your jeans jacket lined with sheep hide,

Chill wind pricked your skin but not your
Bones. A kid, half-grown, you rode near
Dad, some uncles, and a good dog
Or three to flush out brushed up steers

The coffee shared before the ride
Bit your taste buds, the cocoa from
Yesterday, when you left for school,
A beat on sweet memory’s drum.

You rode old Blue, his six wise years
A good match for your own fourteen.
You earned your keep on the home place
That day when life was evergreen,

Life before now-stale city dreams
Inched into your soul. Eyes open,
You picture your folks, still at work;
The ranch is as it’s ever been.

The years-ago cold morning fades.
You’ll call them tonight. A short flight
Will carry you home to Old Blue;
The kid you were will see daylight.

© 2011, Susan Matley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Autumn Days

The day had begun, breakfast was done
And I was still movin’ slow.
To tighten the cinch I took up an inch
And Buck was ready to go.

Then just by chance I caught a glance
From Buck as he gave me a snort.
The horse seemed to say, “We’re wastin’ the day
And these days are sure gettin’ short.”

Old Buck was right, with his equine insight,
He knew we had work to do.
Fall roundup was here and winter was near,
And lots of chores to get through.

So I took to the saddle, we began to skedaddle,
Roundin’ up those last minute strays;
And bringin’ them in, so we could begin
To enjoy these late autumn days.

© 2011, C.W. Bell  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Home Range

I ride this land that was rode before,
By my father, granddad and many more,
Where I dismounted to check my gear,
May have held the tracks of the pioneer.

Who had traveled far while moving west,
And chose this place to stop and rest,
Deciding then to claim this land,
To carve a home from sage and sand.

Through summer heat and winter snow,
Worked and watched his family grow,
Nurtured this land where he chose to dwell,
It gave but then it took as well,

Droughts came and the springs went dry,
And he had to watch his cattle die,
He dedicated his parents to the earth,
But he was there for his children’s birth,

Now I am the steward of this range,
Protecting it from misguided change,
This hard land cannot be owned,
I am but a guest, it is only loaned,

For a short while I can call it mine,
But I’ll have to pass it on in time,
To those who will come after me,
Who will protect this land to keep it free.

© 2011, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Calling

There is a calling in this land,
On mountain plain or desert sand,
That touches souls of men who yearn
To find their place, their fate to earn.

This calling that a cowboy feels
Fulfills his hope to cut and heal
Those bonds that bind to city lights,
That hide the heaven’s starry nights.

On frozen ground or burning sand
He’s free to grow and make a hand,
With honest toil to prove his worth
A life in balance ‘tween pain and mirth.

He rides the morning trail, alert,
For cattle sign there in the dirt
His livelihood is made that way
In rounding up the ones that stray.

With calloused hand and steady eye
He heeds the plea of nature’s cry,
Steadfast in caring for the land
And always riding for the brand.

With creak of leather, strike of hoof,
A cloudless sky that makes a roof,
The smell of grass on gentle breeze
All mix to keep his mind at ease.

His church is always near at hand,
He thanks his Maker for this land,
Worships at a grassy alter
Praying that his faith not falter.

He’ll ride this range of grass and cow
Until the time for him to bow
And cross to that eternal shore
Where there is pain and strife no more.

But passing, then, he leaves behind
A memory that his kin will find
Behooves them all to strive for good
And keep the faith for which he stood.

© 2011, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



It's Understood

Your partner knows it’s time to work, you pull the cinch up tight
His coat shines in the morning sun and everything feels right
He feels your body in the saddle—every move you make
Transmits a signal you both know, he loves the give and take

It’s understood that you’re the boss, he follows your commands
He loves the work and cattle are something he understands
Your eyes lock on a gimpy steer, you grab hold of your rope
He knows the one you’re lookin’ at and breaks into a lope

It’s understood just what you want when you shake out a loop
He closes in and gets in place as you let out a whoop
Years of practice on display, with horse and man in sync
You hit the mark, the rope draws tight, it happens in a blink

It’s understood by trusty mount what’s going to happen next
And as he turns to pull the steer his muscled neck is flexed
Another cowboy closes in to take a quick heel shot
His aim is true, the ropes are taunt, the steer knows that he’s got

It’s understood when you jump off, your horse will face the steer
And stand there with the rope pulled tight till you are in the clear
The doctoring is done with care; the leg will mend in time
Your horse releases tension at your subtle little sign

The ride today will test you both and last till the sun sets
And both of you’ll be tired but your horse never forgets
The gentle way you treat him and the life that you both share
It’s understood you’re his best friend and that you’ll always care

© 2011, Daniel Bybee
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Fairfield and Mornings on Horseback 

It's a glorious morning out here
and I am busy saddling up—
had steak and eggs for breakfast
and a big ole cowboy coffee cup.
Now this ole horse looks mighty calm here,
but he's feeling feisty, I can tell.
He's either gonna take a kick at me
or buck me plumb farther than hell.
his eyes are white and a' rolling—
he's looking for a nice big cactus patch.
Yep, old Fairfield doesn't realize
that with me, he has met his match!
So I am double checking everything
and heading him off from rocks and such.
Bucking him out isn't too bad,
but I don't care for getting thrown off much.
I'm cinching up while I'm at it
and gave him a swat on the rump.
Got my spurs on just to nudge him a bit,
and I hope he doesn't see that black stump!
Yep, it's a glorious morning out here
on a beautiful chunk of wide western land,
and I'll be enjoying the day's work—
if I can just keep old Fairfield in hand!

© 2011, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Mind Grazing

The last star faded in the heavens
As I rode in from the graveyard shift
Mist floated above the marshes
The horizon was startin' to lift

The cattle slowly ambled
Down for their mornin' drink
I gave my pony his head
Sat back and started to think

I thought about how lucky I was
To live in a land where I am free
To travel about unfettered
The master of my own destiny

I thought about the years gone by
And of how this country did change
Of the denizens of concrete jungles
And of life out here on the range

I thought of world conflicts
That annihilated our fathers and brothers
I thought of those, too, left behind
Ah yes, those dear sisters and mothers

I know not how long I wandered
Through this passage of meandering thought
But I searched each chapter carefully
Not finding the answers I sought

Maybe there are no solutions
For these seeds that history has sewn
Just mysteries for the fertile mind
To decipher when left on their own

So I think I'll go on searching
And just maybe someday I'll find
The piece that'll complete the puzzle
In the pastures of my mind

© 2011, Robert C. Atkin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Balancing the Books

I’m sorry for the early rise but mate I need to ride
next door to old man Dingwall’s place ‘cause ev’rything I’ve tried
has failed to stop that brindle steer, that broke off half a horn,
from jumping ‘cross his fence line and then chowing on his corn.

Last year I had a yearling steer, whose hide was white as snow,
that fancied that enticing crop; that’s fifteen months ago.
I’m sure the old coot grew the stuff delib’ratley I’d say
to lure across a meat tray in the form of some poor stray.

One sensed that he’d been missing for a few days then at least
and knowing how old Dingwall thought about a straying beast
it’s best I thought to fetch him back before it was too late,
as sharing that man’s cold room could surely be its fate.

I found old Dingwall by his yards and asked about the steer,
but he denied he’d seen it there, though offered me a beer.
Then as I knocked the tinny down I saw there on a rail,
a white hide that I recognized and went a little pale.

Not wishing to give much away I somehow surely knew
just where the yearling was a least and what I had to do.
Old Dingwall had a heifer that would jump the fence as well
and seemed to like the grass I grew and often stayed a spell.

No good the old mate searching ‘cause no matter where he looks
he will not find a trace of her; I’ve balanced up the books.
To give that brindle beast a chance I think it’s best somehow
we get this girth strap buckled up and head off mate, right now!

© 2011, Merv Webster
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.




Thanks to all who participated.


See our feature about Shawn Cameron here, which includes samples of her art and two of her poems.

Visit www.ShawnCameron.com.


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