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Shawn Cameron's "Making Adjustments"

© 2012, Shawn Cameron; shawncameron.com

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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 thirty-third piece offered to "spur" the imagination is a painting, "Making Adjustments," by noted Arizona artist, poet, and fourth-generation rancher Shawn Cameron (shawncameron.com). The painting was selected as the official poster for the twelfth annual Cowboy Poetry Week, 2013: 

Submissions were welcome from all through April 18, 2013. Selected poems are below, posted during the 12th annual Cowboy Poetry Week, April 21-27, 2013.

© 2012, Shawn Cameron; this painting should not be reposted or reproduced without permission; shawncameron.com
Oil, 18x24
"Making Adjustments"

© 2012, Shawn Cameron;  shawncameron.com
Web reproduction permitted for Cowboy Poetry Week promotion with the credit line included:
"Making Adjustments" © 2012, by Shawn Cameron, ShawnCameron.com; Cowboy Poetry Week 2013, CowboyPoetry.com"
 Publications, email us for high resolution print reproduction information.

Shawn Cameron comments on the painting:

I have spent my life watching cowboys work and noted the horses, equipment and attitudes they possess. The best ones are alert to what is ahead and prepare themselves accordingly. "Making Adjustments" is a painting of a good hand, Toby Foote, checking his cinch before roping calves to be branded.

© 2011, Shawn Cameron

Shawn Cameron's "Mornings on Horseback" was a featured Art Spur. Read the selected poems, 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.


Find more in our feature here, which includes two of Shawn Cameron's poems and some additional art. Visit www.shawncameron.com which includes much more, and her blog.


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© 2012, Shawn Cameron; this painting should not be reposted or reproduced without permission; shawncameron.com
Oil, 18x24
"Making Adjustments"


Poet Cowboy by Ken Cook of South Dakota
He Rides the Wild Horse Down by LaVerna B. Johnson of Utah
Range War by Susan Matley of Washington
The Choice
by Marleen Bussma of Utah
Making Adjustments Ain't Easy by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
Another Good Day by Don Hilmer of South Dakota
Dance With Me, Mister by Lynn Kopelke of Washington
Making Adjustments by Joyce Johnson of Washington
Adjustments by MaryK Croft
Our Saddles Were Straight by Stuart Hooker of New Mexico
Cowboy Lesson by R.V. Schmidt of California
Green Colt by Del Gustafson of Washington
Adjustments by David Carlton of Texas
Times Like This by Merv Webster of Queensland


Poet Cowboy

His place is the prairie where poet with pen
and life as a cowboy collide.
Moments emerge midst the cunning of daylight
revealing both meter and hide.

In the saddle encircled by quiet darkness
his head full of words on the fly.
He searches as if their escape means the death
of a poem in the blink of an eye.

The brilliance of dawn beckons come find us
steers blaze like the sun on his face.
Some of the yearlings and a stanza or two
bust out and appear for the chase.

An explosion of instinct flows from him as
beef trying to break fuel his quest.
The pounding of hooves mixed with meter and rhyme
explodes like a bomb in his chest!

Midday with its warmth brings his gather in line
hard work on a horse near complete.
Doubts that might linger drift away with the clouds
not once does he ponder defeat.

He holds to a rhythm that mirrors the herd
a cadence and purpose hard fought.
'Cause there herding cattle this poet with pen
knows the steers and his poem … are caught.

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



He Rides the Wild Horse Down

We ride blue canyons. Cumulous
surrounding like white cliffs
slide nimbly past vast climbing clouds,
soft, luminescent, bright.
Across the aisle, a young cowboy
recites great jobs he's done,
goes on and on, mile after mile,
says he can do it right:

Well, someone said I'd do the job
no bronco bothers me, an' stuff.
My reputation's . . . I will win
in any fight
I'm tough!
It was a fancy rich man's place.
(They have more cash than brains, an' stuff.)
They paid twice-t more than I was worth,
paid for my flight, an' stuff.

They took me to this big corral
where's cowhands who'd been beat, an' stuff
was sittin' on the fence, a-grin,
to watch my plight, an' stuff.
I walked up to that ornery horse
an' looked him in the eye, an' rough

stuck thumb an' fingers up his nose

pinched it REAL tight, an' stuff.

I never flinched, stood that-away
until he understood
no bluff,
then throwed my leg across his back!
He'd lost his bite, an' stuff.
He knowed that I was boss, at once.
I never treats 'em mean. Enough
respect is what you need, ya'know,
not huffin' spite, an' stuff.

Just then the plane, descending low
to find the landing strip
drops down, then bounces up again,
rocks wildly
what a fight.
The air is thick with silence as
it bucks
a vicious bronc!
The cowboy's chatter ends at once;
his startled face turns white.

Above the canyon walls we dart
in blinding lightening flash,
then thunder bawls as we drop down,
leap up, dart left, then right.
Our feet rise up to walk on air,
our bottoms leave the seats.
We twist and turn, then gladly see
bright blinking runway lights,

but off we go, a rocking turn
come back to try again.
Teeth clenched, we brace to hit tarmac

then, gladly
end our flight.
Whee-eeew, the cowboy whispers, I
ain't DOIN' THIS again… an' stuff!
It ain't for me, a ride this mean
in black of night, an stuff!

A nearby passenger exclaims,
"You've bucked a ride before.
I think if you, with handy skills
in taming beasts a mite,
will thrust your thumb and fingers up
our raucous pilot's nose,
then pinch
real hard, eyeball to eye—
he'll learn to do it RIGHT!

© 2013, LaVerna B. Johnson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Range War

It’s a cinch no cowboy works for praise
when there’s cattle-moving dust to raise.
The drive to summer pasture’s smooth; you feel a trifle smug,
a smile of triumph crossing your dirt-caked, clean-shaven mug.
The next day dawns, and starts off calm and cool,
‘til a wily one-horned cow overrules
the peaceful scene in seconds flat.

She leads a few from summer pasture back down the grade.
With blatant curse you and a pard push the hoofed brigade
back up the mountainside. The one-horned butterscotch cow
bides her time for a day or two, but she’s got know-how;
this time she leads a bigger crew down to the wintering place.
You holler for another hand to assist you in the chase
of the dirty dozen, back to summer lands.

No, you’re not working for praise, you’re not the groveling kind,
but you’d give a week’s pay to foil this bovine master-mind.
Round three, with twenty-six in tow, she leads the rebellion
and you wonder out loud why you’ve been cursed with this hellion.
She doesn’t fight you when you push her mob back
But one challenging eye says there’ll be no slack
In your summer, making her stay put.

But next spring, the leader of the renegades
down parched mountainside to stream-cut shaded glade
doesn’t show. You wonder if she’s ailing;
from a distance you see signs she’s failing.
Head hung low, the single horn won’t rally
her legions. The steer and heifer tally
have no leader for their grand escape.

Old butterscotch is gone next spring when it’s time to move.
The morning’s good cheer tumbles and your mood won’t improve.
Dust waters your eye. You realize the drive feels lonely somehow.
When next in town, you’ll raise a glass to that one-horned butterscotch cow.

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



The Choice

The morning sun has painted rouge upon the canyon walls,
neglecting deep dark crevices and secrets they could hide.
A red tailed hawk surfs lazily on rising thermal waves,
then dips and banks while circling as it lets its body glide.

The cattle drift along and nose the ground for grass to eat.
Their bellies fill as summer makes amends for winter’s snow.
The days, now shorter, snatch the warmth from autumn’s lazy breeze.
The ranch hands aim the herd to winter pasture far below.

The last man to start riding is adjusting gear and tack.
He takes his time to tighten leather burnished by the years.
This ride will be his last one for the outfit Circle D.
His body aches and tells him to stop wrangling cows and steers.

While glancing down he sees the soft track pressed into the ground.
Alarm takes hold and blood runs cold as North Dakota’s spring.
His choice is made. There’ll be a change of plans in his work day.
He gives a yank to check his cinch then tugs his saddle strings.

A set of eyes now watch him as he works to find her trail.
Her instincts urge her to give up the vigil she’s begun
as she is forced to forage for her cubs outside her range.
She leaves the roof’s protection built by shadows from the sun

that filters through the thicket growing dense on the terrain.
Her sleek and graceful body crosses slick rock without sound.
Athletic in her movements she is quickly on her way
with very little trace of cougar footprints on the ground.

The cowhand knows that cougars favor cover in thick brush.
While loudly singing Colorado Trail he’ll urge his mare
to scramble up the slick rock hoping there will be no cat
and that it made the choice to leave, returning to its lair.

His horse is calm and easy as they climb the craggy slab.
The cougar’s tracks are hidden by the hardness of the rock.
He sees where she has rested in the broken thicket stems
while coolly contemplating risks of raiding ranging stock.

His years of cowboy savvy tell him she will not be back.
She’d made no stand to fight to seal a range cow to its fate.
She’ll go back to her normal prey, which mostly is the deer.
Avoiding human contact is a self-preserving trait.

An ageing bachelor side-steps shackles strapped around his soul.
He understands the need to keep her clinging cubs well fed.
His balm is knowing that no obligation ties him down
to flout the face of fortune risking that he’ll be shot dead.

The cruelty of nature is a fact known by mankind.
The stronger and the weaker do not have an equal voice.
The cowhand’s resting easy knowing days are counting down,
that he’ll be moving on and will not have to make the choice.

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



Making Adjustments Ain't Easy

Making adjustments ain't easy
like adjusting gear on that horse,
life can turn and tumble and buck
and get a cowpoke off course.
T'was a year back I lost my husband
yet I still turn to tell him a thought
maybe he hears what I'm thinking,
for a photograph's all that I got.
Making sure the stirrups are fit right
is just what a cowboy should do
but me, I'm short in the stirrups
and good days sometimes are quite few.
I try to keep the reins pulled well,
keep my seat in the saddle just right,
but there's times I forget what I'm doing
and I pull the gear up too tight.
Oh, well, the time is a' passing,
and the sun shines brighter most days,
the adjustments I hope will be easier ,
as I get over the high lonesome phase.
Making adjustments ain't easy,
but this old girl's will, will be done.
And someday I'll see my old cowboy
a' riding beyond the far setting sun.

© 2013, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Another Good Day

Ol' colt you brought us out here
     And you're gonna get us back
If I make a few adjustments that
     Will keep us both "on track."

You almost left me walkin' when
     We headed out at dawnand
You thought you should unload me
     By that Mother with her fawn.

That second cup o' coffeecolt
     Was where I got the force
To head you toward these cattle
     Now, I b'lieve you'll make a horse.

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


Dance With Me, Mister

Hey, Mister, Mister, are you all right?
Whew, that sure was a bad one.
Thought you might take flight
You'd a thought the ground was a girl
The way you up and kissed 'er.
Yeah, you're all right.
Get on up and dance with me, Mister.

I'll be your friend. I know it don't seem that way now
Me bein' all snorty and buckin' so hard.
But show me a little grit patience and know-how
And you'll never have a better pard.
But you can't do that on the ground.
So don't just sit there and fester.
Get up, dust yourself off,
And dance with me, Mister

C'mon. Get up. We're just gettin' started.
This job you took on yourself
Ain't for the timid hearted.
I'm gonna' balk, I'm gonna' kick'
And spin just like a Texas twister.
So get on back up here
And dance with me, Mister.

See, when I was born I ran free.
I didn't wear all this tack.
Now I ain't about to give that up
For no gunsel or some hack.
You got to prove to me you're worth it
And not just some weak sister.
So get up, dust yourself off, and show me what you got.
C'mon. Dance with me, Mister.

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


Making Adjustments

We had brought them to the free range,
Their first release without a fence.
My horse and I were left to herd
And we remained alert and tense.

At this time they were quite happy
To stand knee-deep in grass to eat.
The green grasses of the springtime
Make a fresh salad hard to beat.

I dismounted in one motion,
Checked the cinch on Toby’s saddle,
For you can’t relax completely
When you’re herding half-wild cattle.

My horse’s reins were left dangling
And I knew he wouldn’t wander.
Veteran of the western plains,
He’s been here and there and yonder.

Some of the cows were moving now,
I mounted my horse in a flash,
Taking care of the situation
With a short problem solving dash.

We may look lackadaisical,
When we’re lolling in the saddle
But it takes all of your senses
When you’re herding half-wild cattle.

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


Spring has come late but it’s here,
The bawl of a cow caught my ear.
Calving’s begun and I’m waiting on one,
That ole cow has been brought over near.

The colt’s standing saddled out back
So first I will check all his tack.
He’s pretty darned smart and has had a good start
So I don’t need to cut him much slack.

We trotted ‘til we found the one,
Her labor has barely begun.
But already she hurts and she’ll prob’ly get worse
So she needs to get out of the sun.

Before I get back on my horse,
Adjustments are needed, of course.
My girth will be tight and the breast collar right
So my saddle won’t slip with the force.

As I drop a loop on that cow,
She suddenly shows she knows how
To surprise me with all of her buck and her bawl
And the weight of the rope she pulls now.

That critter’s a wild one, and loud.
She’s jumped, swapping ends, and she’s plowed.
My saddle ain’t busted and rope can be trusted
And the colt, he sure made me feel proud.

We drug her on back to the shed,
Put her up and then watered and fed.
I checked on the bolt then unsaddled the colt.
He came through like a real thoroughbred.

After dinner I checked her again,
Not expecting much change, oh, but when
I looked harder to see new eyes gazing at me,
Then that cow busted out of the pen!

She trotted away but came back
And the little one, shiny and black
Scrambled up on her feet and then wanted to eat
And that cow broke back into the shack!

I let them both out later on.
In a moment they both were long gone.
So I’ll stick with my horse—with adjustments, of course—
Them ole range cows can get off my lawn!

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

Our Saddles Were Straight

We lined out up the trail like a train on a track,
Trail boss in the lead, a good hand in the back,
We climbed out a long ridge plumb to the top,
Trail boss pulled up, we all come to a stop;

Stepped down, readjusted, tightened our cinches,
With them horses warmed up, not a one even flinches,
Climbed back in our saddles, quiet as could be,
Spread out by the boss so we all could see;

"No tellin' what you'll find down there at the spring,"
"Take Rex with you and bring everything,"
"Hold 'em all up at the head of Cottonwood,"
"You'll be the first there if your gather goes good;"

He lined out the others on their circles that day,
Then we all split up to go on our way,
Ready for whatever would be brought by fate,
Our horses had rested, our saddles were straight.

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


Cowboy Lesson

I hear folks talk about how cowboys drink, raise hell and get foolish and are too dumb to think.
The truth of the matter is way far from that, you can’t handle this job with fog under your hat.
If you think I’m foolin’ just climb up on top of that green-broke cayuse and see if he hops.
While you’re standing there trying to shake off your fear, get a rope on your ego and open your ears.

Now check out them stirrups that take in your toe, you notice the way they are twisted just so?
They wasn’t that way when they come from the store, I turned ‘em and soaked ‘em for three days or more.
So when I sling my leg over and my butt hits the seat, I ain’t pokin' around for a place for my feet.
Is your back cinch too loose? Is your front cinch too tight? Are you sure that big snaffle is hangin’ just right?

Is your breast collar hooked, your riata tied on? Are your hobbles and keeper right where they belong?
Has he got all his shoes? Is he standin’ okay? Do your saddlebags hold what you need for the day
of ridin’ the fence and lookin’ for leaks in five strands of barbed wire that goes on for weeks?
Some jerky, a biscuit, a slicker and tools. Oh, if you get thirsty there’s plenty of pools

of spring fed fresh water for something to drink that won't make you goofy and too dumb to think.
So partner, you just spent a minute or two learnin’ a bit of the job that I do.
I’ll be back by sunset if things go all right, to start over again just before mornin’ light.
Now I’d like to know how you think I have time, to drink and raise hell and make all of this rhyme.

© 2013, R.V. Schmidt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Green Colt

I rode out on a colt that I was training,
His third saddling and he barely was reining,
A stubborn colt, cranky and nettled,
I thought a few miles might help him get settled.

Down in a bottom we found a few cattle,
Spooking the colt and that started a battle,
Balking, fighting and snorting in fear,
trying to run off, he didn't want to get near.

I forced him over to where they were grazing,
to give that colt a lesson in hazing,
If I got the chance I'd just see how,
The colt would react if I dropped a loop on a cow.

To keep the saddle from sliding around,
Off of his side dropping me to the ground,
I thought I'd better tighten up on the cinch,
Take it up just a little, maybe an inch.

Then a cow charged us, really a feint,
Spooking the colt and away the colt went,
The cinch was loose and the saddle didn't stay,
It was just bucked off as the colt ran away.

That flighty bronc took off at a dead run,
the cows running and bucking joining in on the fun,
cussing and coaxing I brought up the rear,
walking behind and packing my gear.

It was plain that there wasn't a chance,
I'd catch the horse before he got to the ranch,
I'll be struggling in, for everyone to see,
they'll be jeering catcalling and laughing at me.

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


Old Bob has gained weight
From the oats he’s been fed
It’s time to make adjustments
For the work that’s ahead

So, I’ll pull up my cinch
As I step to the ground
That belly’s a problem
As both of us have found

When Bob was a colt
All bluster and buck
There were days upon end
When I prayed for some luck

Bob has finally settled
Into a cow working fool
He’s not only my friend
But a hard working tool

So I’ll make some adjustment
As often as I can
And as a lover of horses
I’m sure you’ll understand

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

Times Like This

You know old mate it’s time like this
when checking out the herd
one has the time to think a bit,
’cause life can get quite blurred
with all the things one has to do
to keep on top of things,
but when out here I do enjoy
the peace of mind it brings.

In fact what crossed my mind the most
was how a bloke was blessed
in marrying a wife like mine
and how I’ve been impressed
with how Peg’s handled life out here
and backed me even when
the chips were down and life was tough.
She just worked harder then.

Peg helped me build our first small hut
and worked the cattle too
besides the cooking, washing, cleaning
and other things wives do.
She’s helped fight fires that threatened us
and nursed stock in the droughts
and always talked of positives
when sometimes I had doubts.

She gave birth to our children in
that small, old, wooden shack,
then raised them into fine adults
and often I look back
and wonder in amazement how
she managed all she did
without a tear or a bad word
or were they just well hid.

Peg’s been my best friend through these years
and she’s the one I love
and for that special blessing thank
our God who dwells above.
So mate let me adjust this girth
as we must go you see
for Peg has something special planned
an annivers’ry tea.

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


Thanks to all who participated.





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