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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 twenty-first piece offered to "spur" the imagination—as part of Cowboy Poetry Week—is the work of premier Western artist Bill Owen. His painting, "Born to This Land," is featured as the ninth annual Cowboy Poetry Week poster.

The painting's title is from an outstanding poem by past Texas Poet Laureate, singer, songwriter, radio and television host, and entertainer Red Steagall. You can read Red Steagall's poem below and here in our feature about him; it was included on the first edition of The BAR-D Roundup  

Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through April 12, 2010.   

Poetry submissions now closed; find selected poems below.

Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"'Born to This Land' © 1992 by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com

Bill Owen comments, "The title of this painting is taken from a poem by my friend, Red Steagall. Fathers often teach the cowboy profession, which includes respect for the land, to their youngsters." The work depicts a Northern Arizona rancher and his son "seen enjoying each other’s company while waiting for the last few head of cattle to arrive at the hold up."

 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, is celebrated for his realistic portrayals of contemporary cowboys and ranchers. He is a member of the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America (CA). He has 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.

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.


Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through April 12, 2010. 

Poetry submissions are now closed; find selected poems below.

Web reproduction permitted for Cowboy Poetry Week promotion with the credit line included:
"'Born to This Land' © 1992, by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com; Cowboy Poetry Week 2010, www.cowboypoetry.com"
 Publications, email us for high resolution print reproduction information.

Cowboy Poetry Week posters are not sold. They are offered to libraries in our Rural Library Project and to supporters of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, which sponsors CowboyPoetry.com, Cowboy Poetry Week, the Rural Library project, and all of our programs.

Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"'Born to This Land' © 1992 by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com

Bill Owen's painting's title was inspired by his friend Red Steagall's poem:


Born to This Land

I've kicked up the hidden mesquite roots and rocks
From the place where I spread out my bed.
I'm layin' here under a sky full of stars
With my hands folded up 'neath my head.

Tonight there's a terrible pain in my heart
Like a knife, it cuts jagged and deep.
This evening the windmiller brought me the word
That my granddaddy died in his sleep.

I saddled my gray horse and rode to a hill
Where when I was a youngster of nine,
My granddaddy said to me, "Son this is ours,
All of it, yours, your daddy's and mine.

Son, my daddy settled here after the war       
That new tank's where his house used to be.
He wanted to cowboy and live in the west
Came to Texas from east Tennessee.

The longhorns were wild as the deer in them breaks.
With a long rope he caught him a few.
With the money he made from trailin' em north,
Son, he proved up this homestead for you.

The railroad got closer, they built the first fence
Where the river runs through the east side.
When I was a button we built these corrals
Then that winter my granddaddy died.

My father took over and bought up more range
With good purebreds he improved our stock.
It seemed that the windmills grew out of the ground
Then the land got as hard as a rock.

Then during the dust bowl we barely hung on,
The north wind tried to blow us away.
It seemed that the Lord took a likin' to us
He kept turnin' up ways we could stay. 

My daddy grew older and gave me more rein,
We'd paid for most all of the land.
By the time he went on I was running more cows
And your daddy was my right hand man."

His eyes got real cloudy, took off in a trot,
And I watched as he rode out of sight.
Tho I was a child, I knew I was special
And I'm feelin' that same way tonight

Not many years later my daddy was killed
On a ship in the South China Sea.
For twenty odd years now we've made this ranch work
Just two cowboys, my granddad and me.

And now that he's gone, things are certain to change
And I reckon that's how it should be.
But five generations have called this ranch home
And I promise it won't end with me.

'Cause I've got a little one home in a crib
When he's old enough he'll understand,
From the top of that hill I'll show him his ranch
Cause like me, he was Born To This Land.

© 1989, Red Steagall, reprinted with permission
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"'Born to This Land' © 1992 by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com


Cowhand by Ken Cook of South Dakota
Born to This Land by Michael Henley of Arkansas
Greensprings Brothers by Tom Nichols of Oregon
The Soddy Dug Into A Hill by Bette Wolf Duncan of Iowa
Born to this Land by Jeff Hildebrandt of Colorado
A Promise Broken by Al "Doc" Mehl of Colorado
Heart in the Land by Don Hilmer of South Dakota
Born to This Land by Susan Matley of Washington
Headin' Home by C.W. (Charley) Bell of Utah



Swallowed by a cow outfit,
  Stayed horseback all his days,
Hardly choked on growing older,
  Just chomped down cowboy ways.

A man tied to a calling,
  Tough work with no remorse,
Staying close to grass and water,
  Tight bound to cow and horse.

Seldom drifted far from horse flesh,
  A woman's scent was rare,
Always hungered for the prairie,
  When he could not smell her there.

Feasted on the day to day,
  Of grass for months on end,
Savored every horse he rode,
  Like drinks with an old friend.

Gorged his self on punchin' cows,
  And work horse reins held tight,
Devoured every daylight hour,
  Just trying to work'em right.

Never strayed too far from leather,
  Truth is just plain cowhand,
But plumb content in knowing,
  He was anchored to this land.

© 2010, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Born to This Land
We barely made it to Kingman on the cold night my son was born
He spent his first three years perched between me and the saddle horn
He learned early on to believe in his dad and a good cow horse
He came to count on his mother's love and being safe each night of course
He trusted the land and family around him as his young life began to form
He believed the Bible and his Grandpa's stories and the clouds before a storm
He counted on the hands in the bunkhouse and a well-braided rawhide rope
He listened to the talk of prices and rain and his mamma's prayers of hope
Funny what a young man can come to believe in by the time he's grown to ten
Odd all the life-lessons that a boy can discover at a brandin' or a sortin pen'
Four generations of poor ground and thin cattle and tryin' to grow grass in the sand
But he'll stick like a yucca with what he believes cause like me he was born to this land

© 2010, Michael Henley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Greensprings Brothers

You’ll know when he needs you,

Little things will let you know.

Son, there’s a real cowman

Working down below.

My Greensprings brother—

Played with, fought with . . . loved.

I see us

with pockets of periwinkles and willow poles

sneaking up on tiny pools—

no shadow, no sound—

Young boys catching rainbows.

Their slimy sides shimmering

like BBs shot in the morning sunlight.

The target; a rusty lard bucket

atop the combine’s exhaust,

a ranch boys’ play structure,

never started,

never towed.

Mind how he brings ‘em slow and steady.

That’s how you work’em when they gotta pay.

Won’t be no whoopin’ and hollerin’

Rammin’ and jammin’ today.

He’s my hero—

along with those other Greensprings boys.

One; loved his loggin’,

‘til a choker rang his bell.

Another; a mailbox, a bat, a Chevy

At teenage speed . . .


second cutting in the hot August sun,

stacking six high all season long,

sweat, dust and chaff be damned

sort of guys


   searching for understanding

     and steady work,

           scrambling day to day.

Best hope it’s a heifer

I can’t tell from here.

There are too many flies

To make it a steer.

Why’d I leave him


in that apartment?        

Was I to see a storm brewing?

His waves crashing onto rocks.

Demons piling debris.

Voices rattling windows;

theirs, his,

louder, wilder,

ebbing, surging,

ebbing, surging.

He knows. He knows every cow.

Maybe they calved in that storm.

In this country, a calf’s a goner

If you can’t keep him warm.

They took his guns—

called the cops.

Bein’ neighborly?

Their paranoia receded—

gone with his high tide—

their beach now clean.

They won’t go as a pair.

They’ll be split when sold

Her as a heiferette

The calf as a day old.

I got courageous about visiting time—

Nurses locked me out . . . then locked us in.

We were the same each day;

wide eyed,


brains running wild.

His—synapses firing, but not connecting.

Mine—grasping at a new reality.

Here, it’s no second chances

Ship’em with no goodbyes.

His boss can’t pay the bank

With late calves and drys.

Someday we’ll talk—really talk.

But not today . . .

Not today.

Maybe green springs will come.

© 2010, Tom Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The Soddy Dug Into A Hill

Looking down on their herd and their family’s spread
in the Red River Valley below,
they thought of their ancestral "Greats" and their "Grands,"
who lived here a century ago.
It was spoken of yet and they’d never forget
the day of their Grandfather’s birth.
He was born to this land! He was born in the land,
in a soddy dug into the earth!

Bohemian settlers! The offspring of serfs,
with transplanted roots in this Red River turf;
with hard-working hands that were well-scarred from toil,
they shoveled a home out of Red River soil.
And there in a hillside, their first child was born;
in the midst of a blizzard’s contemptuous scorn.
He was born to the land. He was born in the land—
in a soddy dug into a hill.
Though the years had rolled on and the soddy was gone,
his descendants could picture it still.

With a quilt for a window, a quilt for a door,
and a carpet of straw on a frozen earth floor.
It was cold! It was cold! And the soddy was bare.
Just a table, some chairs and a string bed was there;
with a wood-burning stove that devoured all the wood,
with a voracious greed, just as fast as it could.
It was damp! It was cold, nearly twenty below—
and the winds whipped the quilts and hurled in the snow!

Somehow, he survived and in later years, thrived
in this soddy dug into a hill.
He survived on the strength of a dream and a prayer—
and his family’s iron-tough will.
They were born to the land. He was born in the land,
in a dug-out of tough prairie sod.
Although feverish and weak and ill as a babe,
he was blessed by a merciful God.

His descendants owed much to their "Grands" and their "Greats";
this sprawling Red River estate.
They could still see them yet; and would never forget.
They were good! They were grand! They were great!
They were born to the land and gave birth on this land
to descendants who now viewed with pride
this ranch of much worth that the offspring of serfs
transformed out of raw riverside.

© 2010, Bette Wolf Duncan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Find notes about this poem and its dedication here.



Born to This Land

You know a cowboy is a dreamer
as he rides the shrinking range.
And he dreams of independence
he may never see again.
Trying to learn from what has happened
to avoid what lies ahead
as he works to keep the home place
and make sure his family’s fed.

And he will ride his pony
          through the pastures and the streams
          cause he says it makes a difference
          and it keeps alive his dreams.
          He sees God on the hillsides,
          in the colors of the leaves
          and it makes him truly thankful
          for the blessings he’s received.

Too many folks have been defeated;
let their ranch land slip away
‘til the future they imagined
is cut down like the hay.
But he will fight against temptation
and with God on his side
he’ll sit tight in his saddle
and just enjoy the ride.

Cause he was born to cowboy,
          He was born onto this land.
          He’s a trustee of its heritage
          and it’s here he’ll take his stand.
          So, he will ride his pony
          through the pastures and the streams
          cause he says it makes a difference
          and it keeps alive our dreams.

© 2010, Jeff Hildebrandt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



A Promise Broken

We’ve rode together now two years,

We’ve shared the laughter, sweat, and tears,

It’s kind of fun to think ’bout all the things we saw.

You’ve got a head with good horse sense,

Yet wear an angry countenance;

Just proves that we inherit both the strength and flaw.


I know you never met your dad,

He was strappin’ handsome lad;

He spent his younger years out workin’ for the law.

A silver badge upon his chest,

A faded photo in his vest,

The man was slow to choose the gun, but quick to draw.


And I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout your mother,

What with me her only brother,

Well, together, ’twere some hungry times we saw.

But sis was always there for me,

She’d save our pennies carefully,

And she would make me eat my beans and cabbage slaw.


And though I swore, by her death bed,

—I’d always find you work and bread,

Still I know life out workin’ cattle’s kinda raw.

I’ve tried to keep you fed and warm,

I’ve tried to shelter you from storm;

These are among the things I promised to your ma. 


I’ve kept my word e’er since that day,

And, for the things I’m ’bout to say,

I know your mother’d prob’bly clock me in the jaw.

But seems a promise is like ice,

And, held too long, extracts a price;

’Twas solid sworn, but over time begins to thaw.


So now I think I’ll break that oath,

What with you puttin’ on some growth.

You see that man who’s pushin’ doggies up the draw?                   

Well, he’s a better man than most,

And on the grave of your ma’s ghost,

It’s time I fin’lly tell you, son… that he’s your pa.

© 2010, Al "Doc" Mehl
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Heart in the Land

When you live from the start with this land in your heart
     On the stage set by nature each day
You can witness God's plan through the work of His hand
     And your heart wants to keep it that way.
When it all went together, the wind and the weather
     The stars and the sunnight and day
It is plain He had reasons for cycles and seasons
     No need to ask you for "your say."
When you show that you care for His creatures out there
     And are steadily doin' your part
You will prove where you stand—have respect for this land
     And then hold that respect in your heart.
It's a waste of creation to be takin' a nation
     That was formed and then blessed by His hand
And then tear it apart from the man with "that heart"
     Who has known he was "Born To This Land."

© 2010, Don Hilmer
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




Born to This Land

There were many family youngsters,
Each one strong and brave,
And all were taught to work the ranch as one;
But there’s always something extra in
The boy or girl who takes
The lessons of the land and makes it run.

It fell to Margaret, said her pa,
To manage o’er the place
Where she and Barb and Bob and Matt had grown.
The others scattered to the town
And went their separate ways,
But Margaret had the ranch deep in her bones.

Born to this land, so said her pa,
And foreman she became.
Her heart beat with the seasons
And she felt it was a shame
That not all people had the chance
To answer nature’s claim.
Born to this land was Margaret
And its steward she became.

When decades passed and Pa was gone,
Ma joined him not long after,
And Margaret strove to keep the ranch alive.
She felt them both, but mostly Pa
When round-up time came on her,
And with her on the cattle trail he’d ride.

They’d talk of things seen long ago
When she was just a slip,
Though now her hands were gnarled and leather-tough.
The years of sun and roping steers
Had burnt their brand in deep
But Margaret, she could never get enough

Of sun and sage and western skies,
Of cow dogs herding strays,
Of calving spring and round-up in the fall.
She’d never leave this piece of clay,
Her heart would stop right here,
Her dust would join the land and heed its call.

Born to this land, and there she died.
Her kinfolk sad and sullen,
Gathered round her marker
Underneath a willow tree.
“We should have helped,” the others cried,
Not really understanding
She was born to this land
And her spirit wandered free.

© 2010, S.D. Matley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Headin' Home

Mike and Jenna were settin’ that day
Astride their mounts in a lazy way,
Watchin’ their son a trailin’ below,
Drivin’ three heifers kinda slow.

Mike said, “There he is, my dear,
Our little son in his thirteenth year,
Actin’ like a man in his cowboy ways,
Bringin’ home those wayward strays.”

“Yes dear, our boy is becoming a man,
Workin’ and growin’ as fast as he can,”
Jenna replied, with a tear in her eye
As the boy and the heifers came trailin’ by.

“Grow into a man someday he will,
But no matter what we’ll love him still.”
Then Mom and Dad just turned about face
And followed their son back to the home place.

© 2010, (C.W. Charles) Bell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



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