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"Crash of Thunder"



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

Our 41st piece offered to "spur" the imagination is a special National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur, a painting, "Crash of Thunder," by noted cowboy artist, cowboy, and rancher Gary Morton (garymortonart.com).

We asked Gary to tell us about the painting's inspiration and he commented, "Catching horses in the rope corral at the Bell. We were changing horses after making a big drive near the Beef pens. It had been threatening rain all morning. When it started, the thunder and lightning was plentiful. I don't know a single cowboy that doesn't get a little nervous when the lightning starts and the thunder crashes!"

Submissions were welcome from all through Tuesday, July 22, 2015. Selected poems are posted below.

Gary Morton generously donated two signed prints of "Crash of Thunder" for a drawing giveaway. The winners were Jerry Brooks of Sevier, Utah, and Jean Haugen of Lander, Wyoming.

© Gary Morton, www.garymortonart.com;
this painting should not be reposted or reproduced without permission
"Crash of Thunder"

Poets are invited to be inspired by the art; a literal representation of the art is not expected.

The Eleventh Annual National Day of the Cowboy is Saturday July 25, 2015. Find more about the organization at  www.nationaldayofthecowboy.com/ and on Facebook.



When asked for a brief bio, Gary Morton offered a characteristically humble reply: "Lives in New Mexico, cowboy and artist, Gary Morton, loves the range riding culture and lives it."

We found a more formal bio that gives a deeper look at his life and his impeccable cowboy and cowboy artist credentials:

Gary began cowboying on different ranches as a teen and ultimately became wagon boss on the historic Bell Ranch in New Mexico. The life of cowboying makes Gary more than familiar with his subjects. “I don’t just paint for myself, but to honor the working cowboy.” Gary’s paintings are realistic, accurate and his attention to detail allows him to be honest to himself and the people he paints.

He has served on many boards throughout his career. He is one of the founding directors of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association and served as Vice-President and President. He remains a WRCA Director and chairman of rules and sanctioning.

Gary has served four Governors of New Mexico in various appointments including Chairman of the New Mexico Arts Commission, Director Department of Cultural Affairs and Equestrian Facility Design Task Force.

By 2002 Gary had spent 25 years as a full-time artist when the love of the life brought him back to ranching, taking a position as manager for the CR Ranch near Las Vegas, New Mexico. Then in 2008 he was awarded the grazing lease on the Valles Caldera National Preserve where he and a cowboy crew cared for 2000 yearlings through the summer.

In 2009 he acquired the summer grazing lease on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in southern New Mexico where he and a crew cared for 4700 yearlings. In 2011 Gary has come full circle and returned to the Bell Division of Silver Spur Ranches and the Mesteno Camp country west of the Canadian River. Being able to bring both worlds together once again has proved inspirational.

Over the years he has shown his paintings in many shows, galleries, and museums throughout the country. Gary continues to create authentic paintings of the contemporary working cowboy. He has enjoyed many opportunities to create special commission works for collectors.

Gary has a body of work that reflects a life dedicated to perfecting his God-given talent and portraying the cowboy.




Find more about Gary Morton in our feature here.



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© Gary Morton, www.garymortonart.com;
this painting should not be reposted or reproduced without permission
"Crash of Thunder"




The top five panel-selected poems:

Country Melody by Marleen Bussma of Utah
Crash of Thunder by Robert Dennis of South Dakota
The Bell Mare by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
The Sounds of Daybreakin' by Jim Cathey of Texas
A Crash of Thunder by Michael Henley of Arkansas




Country Melody

The lightning hammers edges of the mountains dim and dark.
It splits the clouds with searing fingers burning bright and stark.
Loud thunder rides along as sidekick while it detonates
its drumming, deep, ear-splitting roar. The sky now merely waits.

It hovers heavy with expected rain that pastures seek.
Clouds boil to the thunder’s tempo and the lightning’s streak.
They cast an eerie shade of green while blocking out the sun
and threaten there’ll be violence before the day is done.

The ground is chopped and chewed by horses’ hooves that stomp and tramp,
when dancing to the weather’s raucous music in the camp.
The herd is tense and edgy as they push on the corral
that’s temporary, made of rope to suit the brief locale.

Quick footsteps of a cowboy fast approach the high-strung herd.
His duster flares like bat wings as he croons a gentle word
to soothe the agitation that rides bareback in the pen
and tries to earn a higher score than that of mortal men.

Soft-spoken words and soothing hands dissolve the herd’s unease.
The cowboy strokes a buckskin as its mane lifts in the breeze.
He’s back in camp to find a rested horse to search for strays.
His fav’rite ride’s the mustang that he’s used for several days.

He checks out the remuda, finally settles on a bay
who turns his head, pricks up his ears and moves out of the way.
The cowboy calmly vocalizes near the horse’s side
and slips the bit between the teeth, soon ready for a ride.

The thunder sounds more distant as the storm clouds hesitate
to wreak their havoc on the camp that’s meekly lain in wait.
The cowboy tightens up the cinch beneath the skies of gray.
He’ll take this outdoor office over Wall Street any day.

© 2015, Marleen Bussma
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Crash of Thunder

Look at that dark ol’ cloud
With them steaks a lightning glarin’
The raindrops feel like icy pellets
Sure glad for this slicker I’m wearin’

But a slicker’s supposed’ta keep you dry
And I’m feelin’ kind'a clammy
Lord, look at that water fallin’
I may as well be in Alabammy!

Damn! There goes another grave digger!
That ol’ lightnin’ sure does pop
I hate to make this rain quit
but I sure wish them bolts would stop

Still and all it could be worse
One thing sure makes me glad
This nylon rope is still soft enough to swing
Not stiff Manilla like them old hands had

How on earth did them old timers do it?
That wet Manilla was stiff as a wire!
Maybe they was just better hands back then
Dang! Look at that fire!

It’s almost as if the clouds are burning
There’s another crash and bang!
Sure makes you think of life and death
Maybe I’ll stop sayin’ “Damn” and go to usin’ “Dang”!

Well, I better get them horses caught
Jimmy just hollered for the bay
One thing is darn sure true
There's gonna be wet saddle blankets today!

© 2015, Robert Dennis
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.




The Bell Mare

The horse cavvy's getting nervous,
and the rain is pouring down.
I think that cowboy's wishing
he was somewhere back in town.
This spot by old Bitter Creek
is well known for its flash floods.
It's time to move the herd uphill,
the mares, geldings and studs.
The skies are writhing with boiling clouds,
rolling and flashing with a burning light.
The thunder crashes 'cross the hills
and it is surely a scary night.
The bell mare turns and neighs a bit,
trying to calm the cavvy down.
The cowboy is all by himself
and his face is plumb full of frown.
He's worried 'cause a three year old
starts to jolt and buck around.
The lightning crashes just above them
and knocks an old pine to the ground.
Then after what is forever the storms moves on
and all is deathly quiet and still.
The old pine tree is flashing flames
as it burns there on the hill.
Old Pete heaves a big sigh
and is happy they all are still there;
and grained and patted one old horse—
the leader—the old bell mare.

© 2015, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.





The Sounds of Daybreakin'

The squall of the night hunter, stalkin’ its prey;
creatures hide in the night.
Wind gusts send tumbleweeds crashin’ away,
unknown sounds break the quiet.

I come wide awake fer some dang reason.
It’s nigh on to daybreak.
Cow work durin’ the rainy season,
makes dampness hard to shake.

It was wet, lightnin’ still flashed in the east,
it had been a hard night.
One of them kind not fit fer man nor beast,
catchin’ sleep was a fight.

I could hear them cows, restless in their bed,
Cooky had the coffee hot.
He’d rousted the jingler, an’ got him fed,
he left the camp at a trot.

I’m shore he was grumblin’ about his plight,
‘cuz other hands are still a snorin’.
An’ me…I’m shore ready for some daylight,
that ol’ wind’s shore a roarin’.

Coyote yelps sound like angels playin’ harps!
Ol’ Cooky clangs his pots.
Cowboys’re grumblin’ an’ crawlin’ from their tarps,
some scratchin’ their top knots.

Dang! Hear that ol’ thunder just a rumblin’,
an’ the whine of storm pushed wind?
Glad Cooky’s got the coffee fire cracklin’,
hot joe will shore be yore friend.

Boots are pulled on, gives a jingle of spurs,
chaps scrape on damp slickers,
more grumblin’ as stashin’ them tarps occurs,
that ol’ lightnin’ flickers.

Cooky clangs the chow call…”Come an’ get it!”
They fight to be the first,
tho' each one would most likely admit,
his cookin’ is the worst!

Then the crack of whip an’ the jingler’s trill,
clink of hoof strickin’ rock,
earth trembles as hoofbeats pound o’er the hill,
bringin’ in the ridin’ stock.

The fierys an’ the snuffies snort an’ squeal,
whump of a well-placed kick,
wet mud splatters, as into camp they wheel,
leavin’ that trail dang slick.

The leaders circle in the rope corral,
steam risin’ from each back
fills the air with smell of wet chaparral,
where they had left their track.

The cowboss speaks… they settle to the rope,
as they slowly calm down,
breathin’ hard from their vigorous lope.
That’un wants to be a clown!

But in time, the lariat will snug ‘em tight,
as a hoolihan is throwed.
An’ a firm grip will shore ‘nuff calm his fright,
shore hope he don’t explode!

But a quiet word soothes the seethin’ mob,
Cowboss calls a cowboy's name,
who, in turn, names the horse for today’s job
an’ takes charge of his claim.

Headstall slides on with a jingling of the bits,
saddle cinched up tight.
Creak of leather, into the saddle he fits,
looks like this’un will fight!

Grunt of beast an’ thump of rider landin’ hard,
they’ll shore hurrah him some.
But he’ll climb back on ‘til that pony's tard
an’ he’ll earn his ride, by gum.

An’ so it goes with wind an’ mud an’ rain,
as daybreak comes around.
They pull out hopin’ bad weather will wane,
an’ sunshine will soon be found.

The cowboss’ signal sez, “Move ‘em out!”
The lead steer makes his play,
as cowboys punch ‘em up with wave an’ shout!
An’ daybreak turns into day.

That ol’ chuckwagon adds its own rattle,
wind flat blowin’ a gale.
Now, hear the distant lowin’ of the cattle
movin’ on down the trail.

An’ so, the last sounds of daybreakin’ come,
as the herd makes its way.
You hear the melodic sound of hoofbeats drum,
an’ the creak of saddles sway.

© 2015, Ol' Jim Cathey
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.





A Crash of Thunder

Their ears prick up, their nostrils flare, they mill nervously in wonder
The rain is pelting harder now but they’re focused on the thunder
Scant attention is paid to the yellow slicker wearin’ man
They fear the dark sky’s rumblings more than the pending houilhan
That wrangler chores should fall to me today is pure bad luck
'Cause the gentlest of the string we have is surely gonna buck
Then a mighty streak of lightning cut the prairie sky in two
And a crash of thunder that sounded like Ol’ Satan comin’ through
It sounded like the earth itself was surely splittin’ open
And they left that pen we had em in and none them was lopin’
So forget about your breakfast boys, drop your razors and your lather
Grab your slickers and your walkin' boots and our remuda we will gather

© 2015, Michael Henley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.



Thanks to all who participated.


National Day of the Cowboy
July 25, 2015




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