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by Pat Richardson


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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.

Poetry submissions were welcome from all, through February 10, 2008. Selected poems are posted below.

Our thirteenth piece offered to "spur" the imagination is by Pat Richardson, titled "Sammy."

by Pat Richardson

Pat comments: Sammy belonged to Doc Clarke, the famous horse vet in Petaluma, California. Doc used to team rope off him. He heeled and did pretty good for never getting to practice much. Old Sammy was about the nicest mule I ever was around. Doc had to give him a tetanus shot once and Sammy threw a fit. Doc said, "I don't blame him, he's only human." And I think that attitude is why Doc got along with animals as well as he did.
Sorry I don't have any stories about Doc and Sammy saving children from burning buildings or anything, although Sammy did send out Christmas cards to all the other horses and mules that he knew, and sang at rest homes and hospitals, baked cookies and so on...

One of today's most popular cowboy poets, Pat Richardson was born and raised with livestock. He rode colts, worked on ranches, and rodeoed.

Photo by Jess Howard, Pat's brother, poet, musician,
and 1970 NRCA Saddle Bronc Champion
Pat Richardson, age 21 in Wichita where he rode polo colts for Polo Hall of Fame honoree Willis L. Hartman

Pat's an accomplished artist. He has contributed illustrations and cartoons to The Pro Rodeo Sports News and other publications (including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering program), has illustrated books, and continues to create drawings. His Will Rogers Medallion Award-winning book, Pat Richardson Unhobbled, Cowboy Poetry, Stories, and Outright Lies, includes many of his drawings.


J. D. Yates and Dick Yates at Phoenix, Arizona
by Pat Richardson

Pat Richardson's son Terry at Hayward, California
by Pat Richardson

Wallace Brooks at Palm Springs
by Pat Richardson


Prints of Pat Richardson's pen and ink drawings are available; find more information examples and read more about them at his web site and in our feature, here.

In addition to his award-winning book of poetry, Pat has a number of CDs, including the new Pat Richardson Strikes Again with Duckin' the Law and Many More, B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Sheep), Pull My Finger; and others. His poetry is included on the 2006, 2007, and forthcoming 2008 edition of The BAR-D Roundup.

Baxter Black once said about Pat's poetry, "If you boiled cowboy poetry down to what's worth savin', this is what the stew would smell like."

Pat returned to the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the ninth time in 2008.

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.
Pat Richardson

Read more about Pat Richardson in our feature here and at his web site,   www.PoetPatRichardson.com.





Thanks to all who submitted poems.


Packin' Sammy, by Michael Henley

Ol' Muley, by Al Mehl

Mule Whisperer, by Rod Miller

Sammy's Misunderstanding, by Yvonne Hollenbeck

The Legend of the Missouri Mule, by Jerry Schleicher

Molly, by Mag Mawhinney

My Friend Clarence, by Hal Swift

Alice, by Clark Crouch

Dinny Tarbox's Mule, by Merv Webster



Packin' Sammy

Don't put that meat on Lucy
cause she don't take to blood.
And probably not on Kate
she ain't travelin' like she should.

Pay heed behind Lil' Satan boys
you know that outlaw kicks.
Don't put no dudes on Molly
Bob say's she'll buck off ticks.

Picket Dan with hobbles on
he's bad to want to roam.
If he takes a notion boys
he'll beat us all back home.

Slick's the stoutest thing we got
but he's a chore to pack.
With a belly like a barrell stove
and that hog ridge on his back.

Don't tail the roan to Shilo cause
them two don't get along.
This is a damn fine pack string
so gents don't take me wrong.

Just put the quarters on Ol' Sammy
and girt that decker tight.
Then start him down the trail
and he'll take it down all right.

Nope, you don't need to lead him
cause he's seen the trail before
and he won't cause no problems
he always accepts the chore.

He'll be standin' at the trailers
when we all cross Eagle Creek.
He'll be the first into camp boys
when we start 'em back next week.

See he's the one I seem count on
when the tough works needin' done.
When it has to be done perfect
Sammy's gonna be the one.

Packin' dudes or catchin' calves.
Pullin' feed sleds in the snow.
Sammy's never shirked a task.
He's never told me no.

Cause of that he gets mistreated
overused while others coast.
Seems we put our biggest burdens
on the ones we trust the most.

© 2008, Michael Henley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 Ol’ Muley

My fav’rite mount’s an ugly mule,
Legs, ears, and chromosomes all bent,
A half-bred misfit, like his owner,
One genetic accident.

You see, his pedigree is suspect,
Not a trace of royalty,
But, like his owner, deep inside
He’s got the gene for loyalty.

He’s got an aptitude for workin’
Over lollygaggin’ fun,
And he’ll endure, just like his owner,
’Til the work is fin’lly done.

He’s good for packin’ in the fall,
He’s good for brandin’ in the spring,
And I prefer him to a horse
For doin’ just ’bout anything.

He’s just a lowly beast of burden,
Still, I treat him like a friend;
I like to spend a minute with him
When the day comes to an end.

It’s just my way of sayin’ thanks,
Though I don’t try to make a fuss,
’Cause, like his owner, god forgive him,
He’s a bit cantankerous.

I rub my knuckles ’cross his brow,
His ears and eyes and teeth I check,
I like to pat him kinda firmly
Where the head becomes the neck.

It’s there the hairs align, like waves of wheat,
Not bristled, rough, or raw;
It’s just below the ear, and just behind
The angle of the jaw.

That’s where I like to clap ol’ Muley
When the day’s rewards are won,
And come to think of it… I clap that place
When I embrace my son.

© 2008, Al Mehl
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Mule Whisperer

Horses by scores and dozens I’ve had between my heels,
And driven hitched to implements dragged or rolled on wheels.
Horses I’ve worked aplenty, but I’ve never handled a mule;
For they’re obstinate and intractable and don’t play by the rules.

Hybrids take special handling according to what I’ve seen—
Oversize lungs, an earsplitting voice, and a vocabulary mean,
Belching clouds of loud profanity that drift in a toxic mist;
Words that don’t belong in any mouth a mother’s kissed.

Calling mules [ASTERISKS], dumb as [CROSSED OUT] sheep;
[DELETED] and [BLEEP] and dirty [OBSCENITY] [CUT],
Threaten them with [STRIKE THROUGH]; no ifs, ands, or buts.

Muleskinners don’t apologize for their filthy, nasty words—
Claim that what they’re saying ain’t the worst a mule has heard
And burning their big [BLEEPING] ears to gain the upper hand
Is the only kind of language them [EXPLETIVE] mules understand.

© 2008, Rod Miller
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Sammy's Misunderstanding

"You're as stubborn as a mule," Doc Clarke was heard to say,
"and I hate to see you hanging 'round this place!"
Poor Sammy's heart was broken when he heard Doc's angry words
and a look of sadness came upon his face.

Doc went on with language that defied all decency;
poor Sammy hung his head with sheer remorse.
Then thought that Doc might lighten up if he could just reform,
and wished that he had just been born a horse.

Perhaps he should just leave there, but he had no place to go;
after all, he'd lived with Doc near all his life.
He had tried to earn his keep by working hard each day,
when to his aid came Doc's hard-working wife.

She saw poor Sammy's head hung low as tears welled in his eyes,
and wondered why on earth he looked like that;
then realized that Sammy had mistaken Doc's remarks
as he hollered at his worthless trainer, Pat.

© 2008, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Legend of the Missouri Mule

There was a day, they say, when Missouri mules reigned across the nation.
A proven fact, old-timers say, confirmed by independent observation.
Back in nineteen hundred and four, at the St. Louie's World's Fair.
When they organized an exposition to judge the mules on exhibit there.

Breeders brought mules from Illinois, and from Kentuck and Tennessee.
They come from Missouri and Arkansas, to enter that mule-judgin' spree.
Newspapers said more'n a thousand mules was entered in competition.
Mules of every color, size and type, and ever one in prime condition.

Among the Missourians was a feller from the western end of the state,
Who'd built a fine herd of well-fitted mules, sorted by age and weight.
Unknown to the other breeders, he was new to the mule-judgin' game.
But when the competition reached its end, they'd know Bill Elgin's name.

There was fifteen judgin' categories, startin' with single mules, by age.
When they called the winner of four years and over, Elgin went on stage.
Then Elgin won for mules over sixteen hands. And that was just a start.
Cause then he showed the winner for mules sixteen hands or over to cart.

Elgin claimed another first with a pair of mules hitched to a wagon.
And when he won for three mules abreast, folks commenced to braggin'.
"You know, he's a Missouri man, and it appears he's been to school.
Cause he clearly knows a thing or two about breedin' and fittin' a mule."

But William Elgin weren't done yet. Heck, he was just buildin' steam.
Cause he won with four mules to a wagon, and again with a six-mule team.
Other breeders at that exposition shook their heads in stunned surprise.
That some Missouri country boy would take home nearly every prize.

Ever since that date, the "Show Me State" has been famous for its mules.
It's Missouri's official state animal, and the mascot for several schools.
That's how Missouri mules became legendary, over a hundred years ago.
When Elgin won five thousand dollars, at the St. Louie World's Fair Show.

© 2008, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


From the 1800s through World War I, Missouri mules represented the highest standard in mule breeding and fitting. President Harry S. Truman, the son of a horse and mule dealer, invited a four-mule hitch from his hometown of Lamar, Missouri, to appear in his 1948 inaugural parade up Pennsylvania Avenue. William Elgin, whose mules swept seven of the top classes in judging competition at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, lived near Platte City, Missouri, today a bedroom community of Kansas City.



In a little place called Gimlet,
there's a "Mules and Music" show
where mules are fairly judged,
pulling wagons to and fro.

Later on, that pen is filled
with excited children's laughter
as they anxiously await
the critter that they're after.

It's called a barnyard scramble
and what you catch, is yours.
There's kittens, goats and puppies
and even sows and boars.

Mud-splattered kids from six to twelve
race madly 'round the pen,
to grab a bawling calf
or perhaps a squawking hen.

When the frenzied chase is over,
all the kids line up again
to face another challenge
brought inside that holding pen.

"Kids, this mule's name is Molly,"
says a voice from way up high,
"all you gotta do is touch her
and try not to let her by."

"Her baby's just behind you
and she knows he's over there.
Now, call to her, reach out your hand,
don't move your feet...be fair!"

Molly stands there for a moment,
searching each and every face.
Her ears twitch in confusion
from the chaos in the place.

She cautiously steps forward
but stops again, mid-stride,
then something seems to waken
her instincts deep inside.

In that noisy crowd of children,
she hears one special voice
and a little girl jumps up with joy
'cause she is Molly's choice.

© 2008, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



My Friend Clarence

Charley Walker is setin' in Shorty's Place,
at his table by the outside wall.
But he ain't moved for an hour-and-a-half,
and he just ain't talkin' at all.

Miss Sioux, who plays the pianna there,
comes over and pats his back.
This lady can cheer most anyone up.
Y'know? she just has that knack.

When she asks old Charley if he's okay.
He looks up, and gives 'er a smile.
"I'm rememberin' somebody special," he says,
"that ain't been around for a while."

Sioux says, "If you want to talk to me Charley,
I got an ear you're welcome to bend."
Charley says, "It's Clarence that I'm thinkin' about,
a special long-time friend."

"Clarence," says Charley, "is only a mule,
you can tell by checkin' his ears.
And like lots of friends that are special to me,
he was in my life for years.

"Pat Richardson's sketch of a mule named Sammy
brought Clarence to mind today,
and the look that I see in that mule's eyes
is something that won't go 'way.

"Clarence was the one who always took us
to weddings, and funerals and such.
And he never complained, he just did 'is job,
like it never bothered 'im much.

"Once, in a storm, he kept me warm,
and he probably saved my life.
And he took our eldest to get the doc,
to come and tend to my wife.

"She was havin' a childbirth problem, y'see,
and I had to stay by her bed.
Doc says, "That mule just flew like the wind,
like he knew there was trouble," he said.

"Clarence stands outside the bedroom window,
like he just wants to be near by.
He patiently waits there, and doesn't leave,
till he hears our baby's first cry."

Sioux says to Charley, "Where's Clarence now?"
And Charley says, "Well, he died.
I recall the day, that he passed away,
I set down when I heard, and cried.

"He was killed by lightnin' fifty years ago,
but I still see him plain as day.
And the look that I see in that mule's eyes
is something that won't go 'way."

© 2008, Hal Swift
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




Alice thought that she was a horse,
her heritage she knew,
'cause her ma was a quarterhorse
with bloodlines that were true.

And, though she never knew her pa,
she thought of him each day,
knowin' he was a grand stallion,
her pa, who'd gone away.

So with pride and great energy,
Alice worked her heart out,
believing that she was a horse,
and never feelin' doubt.

Then one Spring day she met her pa
and realized, alas,
that her thoughts and dreams were untrue,
'cause he was a jackass.

© 2008, Clark Crouch
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Dinny Tarbox's Mule


There are some folks who consider that most mules are downright dumb

but this bloke named Dinny Tarbox had a diff’rent rule of thumb.

He will tell you that his closest friend for many, many a day

was in fact a mule called Dividend;  a real smart sort of bay.


Din had bred that mule himself like and he thought him rather grand

and it earned the name he gave him, as I know this fact first hand. 

I was looking for a pack mule for a trip I planned to make

and I saw the ad "Good Mule for Sale"; my very first mistake.


When old Dinny came to see me he just praised that mule no end

and he guaranteed we’d get on well;   he’d be a faithful friend.

Well I took the old boy at his word;  that’s error number two.

Then he said goodbye to Dividend and drove off out of view.


But next morning when I woke up the old mule had disappeared

and I couldn’t find a sign of him, which seemed a little weird.

When I rang to tell old Dinny he was saddened by the tale

and he said he’d keep a lookout, but it proved of no avail.


Six months later at a cattle sale while talking to a mate

I made mention of my purchase and the loss I’d had of late.

He then scratched his head and asked me if the mule it was a bay

and the bloke who sold it to me was named Tarbox by the way.


It would seem that Dinny Tarbox had sold nigh on twenty mules

and they all were bays that disappeared on unsuspecting fools.

So you see old Dinny taught him well that mule called Dividend

but I hear he got religion and he went straight in the end.  

© 2008, Merv Webster
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




Art Spur turns into "art spar" between friends, poets Sam Jackson and Pat Richardson (who created, "Sammy," the subject of this Art Spur.

Sam Jackson is the organizer and producer of the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. Some people are known for being "warm and fuzzy," but perhaps not Sam Jackson. He had a "pre-Art Spur" poem and Pat Richardson offered a short retort:

  Sam Jackson writes:

A Jackass Named Sammy 

There's an image of a jackass on the current Art Spur page

we've been asked to write some verse about the beast

it's a very handsome creature, this opinion seems quite sage,

            a self portrait of the artist, say the least?


But its moniker is Sammy, so the former's not the case

            now I wonder who that name makes reference to?

Ol' Sam Jackson ain't that purty thus it couldn't be his face

            so I'll leave this equine mystery up to you.

  Pat Richardson responds:

That's a clever poem you wrote about the mule my friend
But to make it look like you, I'd need to draw the other end.







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