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"Scoping the Bosque" by Jennifer M. Ward


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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 sixteenth piece offered to "spur" the imagination is Arizona artist Jennifer M. Ward's painting, "Scoping the Bosque."

Submissions are now closed. Read the selected poems below.

image © Jennifer M. Ward; reproduction prohibited without express written permission
"Scoping the Bosque"
22"x18"; water miscible oil on masonite

Jennifer M. Ward writes about "Scoping the Bosque":

"Here my husband and son are looking down on the mesquite bosque at the convergence of Trout Creek and Knight Creek, which are the headwaters of The Big Sandy River in Northwestern Arizona.

"A bosque is a low-lying area usually found along the banks of some sort of water drainage where very thorny shrubs and trees grow in thick abundance. It is a favorite hangout for cattle for the following reasons: cool shade, food, great hiding places, and lots of thorny branches to bash, smash, and shred cowboys!"

photo by Jaimie Robach
Jennifer Ward

Jennifer M. Ward is a third-generation Arizonan. She tells, "Some of my fondest childhood memories are of helping my family ranch and farm along the beautiful Beaver Creek. Most of my free time was spent  exploring Beaver Creek, its tributaries and the surrounding Verde Valley on horseback. The valley was amazing because there was never a lack of new things to explore! There were unique geological formations of limestone, colored sandstone and ancient lava flows, caves, canyons with vertical  walls, winding arroyos, mesas, high vistas and hidden valleys, rivers, streams, springs, artesian wells and swimming holes, ancient Indian ruins, turn of the century structures abandoned by ranchers, farmers, merchants, miners, cavalry, outlaws and gangsters, mesquite bosques, cottonwood groves and juniper forests and abundant wildlife.

"I have loved art for as far back as I can remember. I was blessed with a multitude of subject matter close by. I drew horses, cows and anything related to my surroundings. With a rural upbringing and strong family values, I could not think of a more beautiful inspiration for my art....I use my art as a way to preserve the strong Western heritage that I cherish."

Jennifer M. Ward was the 2008 National Day of the Cowboy artist for their Cowboy Keeper Award (which was bestowed on top cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey). Read below about her involvement with the National Day of the Cowboy.

Learn more about Jennifer Ward and view more of her art at her web site, www.jennifermward.com.



Where Time Has Stood Still by Diane Tribitt

Scopin’ the Bosque by Al Mehl

Scopin’ the Bosque by Victoria Boyd

On the Other Side by Clark Crouch

If This Old Trail Could Speak by Slim Farnsworth


Thanks to all who submitted poems.



Where Time Has Stood Still

Commercial cow ranches have changed a lot…
In some ways, quite a little bit.

We see outside cash buy small ranches up  
for some big outfit's benefit.

We see more hunters, hikers and campers
in cowpuncher country, today;
and lots more pressure from government laws
as we watch our lifestyle decay.

But we know some things ain’t changed all too much,
like handlin' cows day-‘t-day
in this old country, where time has stood still,
as we cowboy, horseback, for pay.

There's four full-time men that hold down this camp,
each tendin' ‘t six hundred cows
on sixty or more square miles of desert,
sustained, as the good Lord allows.

We each take a piece ‘a country ‘t ride
twice a year, when we make a drive,
Ridin’ our circles and watchin’ for tracks
where the hidin' cow seems ‘t survive.

Lot a’ these cows are masters at hidin'—
some never get over that trait;
so if we hap ‘t let one get away,
we likely just sealed our own fate.

‘Cause next time she’ll take her calf and her pals
out into the desert bosque,
‘til we've got us ten or fifteen head that
are hidin', or gettin' away.

There’s a gray cow here, that's sixteen years old.
She don't need no thicket ‘t hide.
All that she needs is just one little bush,
and she’ll hole up, right there beside.

You would swear‘ t Christ it weren't big enough
‘t conceal a full-grow’n cow;
You could ride up close…as from you ‘t me…
and you'd never see her, somehow.

Oh, she used ’t come out like a freight-train
…when she'd come out…that ain't no lie:
She’s old enough, now, that I'm curious just
how long it'll take her ‘t die

We ride each camp 'til the whole outfit's worked,
on horseback, two months, ev’r day,
Makin’ a livin’ is all that we ask,
with no one ‘t get in our way.

Yes sir, time has stood still for us cowboys
survivin’ by nature's design;
still sleepin’ beneath a red desert moon, 
cowpunchin’, come rain or come shine.

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


Scopin’ the Bosque

Dad’s an outgoing fellow, he’s friendly, he’s mellow,

He’s loyal with all of his friends;

He is cheerful and bright, and in place of a fight

He’s the first to be makin’ amends.


He’s the first with a greeting, he’ll chair a town meeting,

He’s quick with a lim’rick or rhyme,

A magnanimous style, a gregarious smile,

’Least it's true ’bout one third of the time.


But the other two thirds, he’s a man of few words,

Even fewer when hurtin’, or troubled,

Or just angry, or mourning, and seems that this morning

The sound of his silence has doubled.


No, he never gets mean, never lets out a scream,

And although he is never unkind,

For the horses and me, it's darn’d easy to see

That he's got somethin’ big on his mind.


Mornin’ chill’s in the air, a low fog’s hangin’ there

’Long the banks of the Big Sandy River.

But it isn’t the breeze that’s been rattlin’ my knees,

It’s his mood that’s been makin’ me shiver.


He’s dismounted his horse, and he’s plottin’ a course

Through this thorny ol’ bosque of mesquite.

Me, I've seen this a lot, seems to gather his thoughts

When his weight’s firmly down on both feet.


With his horse on a lead, walks ahead of the steed,

Claims he’s scopin’ the bosque for stray cattle.

But his search, seems to me, is to find clarity,

’Cause the viewin’ is best from a saddle.


Me, I’m wonderin’ why he won’t someday just try

To be honest with me ’bout his pain,

To combine with his walkin’ a little more talkin’;

There’d be less to lose than to gain.


Even though it’d be hard, why not drop down his guard,

And just maybe try tellin’ me ’bout it?

I keep dreamin’ that he'd be confidin’ in me;

It might happen someday... but I doubt it.

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



Scopin’ the Bosque

We tracked them cows all thru the morn’

A hopin’ they weren’t at the bosque

Meandering up and down desert trails

Thru sand n’ sagebrush n’ rock

My son is young, but he’s a hand

He ropes n’ rides like a man

Shakin’ out loops, as sweet as you please

He’ll head ‘em, if anyone can

Well, the sun was high n’ our hopes were low

As we headed down the track

A leadin’ t’wards that shady bosque

The mesquite a scrapin’ our kak

We could hear the Big Sandy River

Where two creeks converged below

As we picked our way thru the thorny brush

Where the goin’s mighty slow

The brush got thicker n’ thorns got long

Our Wranglers n’ chinks got poked

The deep, shady bosque with its welcomin’ cool

Prevented a cow’s getting’ roped

But that’s a grown man’s thinkin’

A boy’s mind is more clear

My boy heard the bell, shook out a high loop

Snaked it n’ roped him a steer

He turned on his pony, n’ led him out

Of the thorny mesquite brush bosque

The steer all stiff legged, tight, n’ mad

As he got drug thru trees n’ rocks

I followed behind, then got ‘side of the trail

As the whole herd came out of the trees

N’ followed the boy n’ the fightin’ steer

N’ I watched, as proud as you please!

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



On the Other Side

A ridge of hills against the sky,
a won'drous sight to see,
an invitation to explore
this grassy inland sea.

The distant hills all stand in line,
leading a rider on
through a journey of discov'ry,
light of a new days dawn.

It makes us wonder at such times
"what's on the other side?"
Seems like there's always one more hill,
another mile to ride.

When the long journey's done at last,
the ending of the ride...
topping the crest of that last hill,
we see the other side.

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




If This Old Trail Could Speak

Look at that sun in the sky son.
Boy, ain’t it a sight t’ behold?
Shinin’ down, right here on this trail,
Jist like on the cowboys of old.
I’d wager this trail has a story ‘er two,
‘Bout the cowboys who’ve ridden her way,
Tales of deceit; of love and defeat,
She’s seen plenty of wear in her day.
Look at her stretched out t’ the edge of the bosque,
She stands plum resolute through the years,
She’s seen her share of cowboys come through,
She’s been watered by Ma Nature’s tears.
Well I reckon some day, when we’s dead and gone,
Another will stop here on this trail,
He’ll wonder ‘bout them that come before,
All the horseshoes with hand driven nail.
Look at that sun in the sky son,
I’m glad that we stopped here a spell,
Next time some puncher comes her way,
Ours ‘il be the story she’ll tell.

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



"Reason to Persevere"

image © Jennifer M. Ward
"Reason To Persevere"
11" x 14", mixed media

In 2008, the National Day of the Cowboy Cowboy Keeper Award was presented to Michael Martin Murphey. Jennifer Ward's drawing served as the art for the award.

Jennifer told us about the inspiration for the work:

The photo that inspired this drawing and poem was taken by my sister Jaimie Robach, on the Bar S Ranch in Northwestern Arizona. The young child standing outside of the water trap gate is her daughter, Brooklynne, who is watching her father Shane working the wild cattle. When I saw this photograph it really touched a chord deep inside me. Here was a young cowgirl watching and waiting until the day she could ride a horse and work the cattle as her mother and father do and as her ancestors have done for many generations before her but… will this way of life remain until the time her own children will be standing at the gate watching her?

The original photograph was taken in black and white and I wanted to give my rendition the feel of a time-worn cherished family photograph that had been passed down through the generations and lovingly preserved and retouched, reflecting the family’s desire to persevere in their Western tradition. If you look at the young girl’s shadow you will see the image of a grown cowgirl tipping her hat; it is the reflection of what the little girl wishes to be.

I have helped my family build such water traps in the past. It is a slow process of getting the wild cattle used to more and more of human trappings as they come in for an easy source of water; the hauling of water to remote areas or the searching for a box canyon suitable for such a trap and leaving scraps of hay, the hauling in of what ever scraps of wood and metal we could find to slowly construct the fencing, then the waiting for more and more wild cattle to become accustomed to the new watering hole, the smells and the sights of fencing. And, many times, the hit-and-miss of finally catching them. I know the perseverance it takes, the small monetary payoff, yet the uncountable rewards of finally succeeding as a family effort. To see the joy in the younger children’s faces as they play and pretend that they themselves are out working the cattle is truly a reason for any western family to persevere.

Jennifer Ward shares the following poem:

Reason to Persevere

It takes a lot of perseverance to get the whole herd to come in
Because once they sense a trap they'll likely not return again
They’ve been running wild in need of doctoring, branding and such
It takes quite a while to get them used to the human touch
Long hours of sweat and work are needed day by day
"More work than what they're worth" is what most folks would say
But when you catch the eyes of your child in just a single glance
Standing outside the makeshift fence waiting for their chance
To take rope and rein in hand it all becomes perfectly clear
No matter what the odds are you have reason to persevere.

© 2008, Jennifer M. Ward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

View more about the Cowboy Keeper Award at Michael Martin Murphey's web site.

Learn more about Jennifer Ward and view more of her
art at her web site,


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