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Writer, musician, performer, radio show host...the list of talents goes on. Ken Overcast is the "real deal," who draws on his family's three generations of Montana ranching life for his acclaimed material.  

Over at Ken's web site, subscribers to his newsletter receive a regular treat, along with other news, features, and prizes in each issue: one of this storyteller's great stories.  We'll share some of those stories with you, below, in this feature of occasional stories from Ken Overcast.

Ken's latest CD is Montana in My Soul, with songs by Ken, Richard Elloyan, Cindy Walker, and others, with a duet with Joni Harms and background vocals by Juni Fisher. Read more below.  Read about Ken's books, Shootin' the Breeze and Yesterday's Yarns below, with reviews from our Honored Guests Jeff Streeby and Darrell Arnold. Ken's latest book is Sittin' 'Round the Stove.

At Ken's web site, you can learn more about him and his books and recordings, listen to sound clips, find his tour schedule, listen to his radio show (The Cowboy Show), and more. You can also sign up for the monthly free giveaway that always includes a new and interesting items.  Signup will put you on Ken's newsletter list.

Montana Lullaby

Bear Valley Tales

Shootin' the Breeze

More about Ken Overcast

The Cowboy Show with Ken Overcast is a nationally syndicated one-hour program, broadcast weekly. The show features current Cowboy music, interviews with artists and old-time cowboys, and a bit of storytelling and poetry. You can to recent shows on the web. See our feature about "The Cowboy Show" here.

Visit Ken's web site: www.KenOvercast.com

Read more about Ken and his books and recordings below.

 


 

Montana Lullaby

Ken Overcast has written a song, "Montana Lullaby," that is being considered for adoption as the official state lullaby by the Montana Legislature. Ken wrote his lyrics for a melody written by Montana native Wylie Gustafson. A February 16, 2007 article by Gwen Florio in the Great Falls Tribune, "Sleepy song slips closer to spot as state lullaby," quotes the bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Stahl, "The song "is one of those cultural, historical things that's probably pretty well lost to most of the world...Texas could probably have a lullaby, or Kansas or Nebraska - those places along the old Chisholm Trail...Montana is the last of that bastion."

On February 20, as reported in the Billings Gazette, the House endorsed the bill.

You can read the Montana House bill here and hear a clip of the song here at Ken Overcast's web site.

 

Montana Lullaby
© 2000-2006 Bear Valley Music
Lyrics – Ken Overcast
Music – Ken Overcast, Wylie Gustafson
Interspersed Yodel written by Wylie Gustafson

Verse 1
The sun’s sinkin’ low in the west and I know
Another day on the range has gone by
We’ll bed down the strays, we’ve been gatherin’ all day
With a Montana Lullaby

Chorus 1

In my blankets at night, with the moon shinin’ bright
Dreams of my Jenny drift by
Breakin’ of dawn, brings the Meadowlark’s song
A Montana Lullaby

Verse 2

From the wide rollin’ plains, cross the Rockies blue range
Wherever the proud eagle flies
A lone coyote croons to a full lover’s moon
A Montana Lullaby

Chorus 2

Jenny’s at home, waitin’ alone
As the long roundup evenin’s drag by
The wind in the pines, whispers she’s mine
With a Montana Lullaby

Interspersed with yodels throughout

© 2000-2006 Bear Valley Music
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Bear Valley Tales

Ol' Fishhook

The Longhorn-Harley Davidson Cross

Givin' a Little Back 
(separate page, posted with our Christmas poems and stories)

 


Ol' Fishhook

Dick and Billy had rattled their old pickup over west of the big mountains to a bull sale last spring, and were pointed back towards home. "Dang it, but it's nice out," Billy burped. His bleary eyes taking in the beautiful pine covered slopes. "Whadaya say we lay over a day 'er two and do a little fishin'." Dick was all for it, but they didn't have anything along for a fishin' trip. They'd just figured on running over to the bull sale and
right back home.

"Ahh, what the heck, we just put the cows in a fresh field, an' I s'pose the rest of the stuff 'll prob'ly wait." The boys finally came to the conclusion that if they'd just stop by one of those dude ranch kind of places, that maybe they could get a little fishin' gear and some advice on the where the best spot might be to throw a line in the water.

"Welcome to the Triangle X" was the sign out by the highway, "Guided and Unguided Fishing Trips, Horses, Canoes and Hiking."

"Why not" Dick asked himself as he pulled into the lane that led to some fancy looking log buildings down by a roaring little stream, "Looks like we oughta find out somethin' here."

They were met by a fancy-pants lookin' guy with a rhinestone shirt and his pants stuck in his boots. He said his name was Tumbleweed Tex, "but most folks in these parts just call me Tex." He assured the boys that they were in the right place all right, and he could fix 'em right up.

After Tex gave his little sales pitch on the many varied and exciting activities available, the decision was made to rent a couple of horses and some fishin' gear and head up the creek into the National Forest that was butted right up against the Triangle X.

"The fishin' is good right here," Tex assured them, "but if you go four or five miles up the creek it's even better. That's what I'd do if I was you."

The fancy-pants wrangler motioned over to a couple of sorry lookin' cayuses tied to the pole fence. "You can just take Champion and King. Don't worry, they're nice and gentle, and there are a couple of poles and some fishing tackle right in the first door there in the barn. Good Luck!" he yelled over his shoulder as he put on his best bowlegged cowboy impression and strode over to another car that had recently driven in.

"Gentle ain't the word fer these sorry &%$#," Billy complained as they coaxed and prodded the two old plugs up the trail. "This sucker acts like he's been dead fer quite a while already, and the rigger-mortis has set in."

"Didn't think t' bring any spurs," Dick moaned in agreement. "Didn't figure a fella'd need spurs at a bull sale, but I shore wish I had some now. I think ol Tumbleweed was right, though. Don't believe there's much buck in 'em."

The two ol' boys finally kicked and prodded and whipped the two old nags up the trail until they got to the spot that had been described to them, and lo and behold, but ol' Tex sure hadn't steered 'em wrong. They caught a nice Rainbow Trout with almost every cast. It was the best fishin' they'd ever been in. In fact, they got to where they were just saving the big ones and throwing the little ones back. Both of 'em had their limit in nothin' flat.

The sun was starting to burn red in the western sky, and as much fun as they were havin', it was time to head back down the creek. They gathered their gear, tied the fish on, and started back down the narrow trail towards the dude ranch.

"Me 'n ol' Sparkplug.... I mean Champion, will take the lead," Billy grinned sloppily as he opened another can of his favorite brand of liquid refreshment. "You an' ol King can try to keep up if ya can."

Neither one of those plugs amounted to anything, but the one Billy was ridin' was by far the worst. He was so dude proof that he did what he wanted when he wanted, and there wasn't a whole lot a fella could do about it. His tail was stickin' about half way out all the time and about ever third or fourth step he'd stop right in the middle of the trail and simultaneously reach down for a mouth full of grass and break wind.

A nag like that would be a frustrating thing for a decent hand to try and ride, but both of the boys were feeling the effects of the hot sun, the lazy afternoon, and the two six packs of dinner they'd consumed, so they were just lazin' along. Billy's eyes were almost as shut as ol Champion's, and he'd completely given up on getting him to do anything. He just let the sorry old horse plod along and graze and break wind as he pleased.

About half way home, there was a sudden turn of events. Dick is bringing up the rear on the trail with his reins and the fishin' pole in one hand, and a beer can in the other one, when suddenly ol' Champion takes a notion to stop, graze, and break wind as was his custom. Neither Dick nor ol' King noticed, and they ran right smack into the back of the outfit in front of them.

Dick's fishin' pole was sticking out in the front, and it slid in perfectly under that half raised tail, with the hook implanting itself firmly in a very tender portion of Champion's anatomy. That old plug took off like he was shot out of a rocket, with the reel on Dick's pole making a little whirring sound as it vainly attempted to supply the sudden demand for more line.

Champion and Billy were now both very awake and in a dead run down the trail, but the real action took place when they hit the end of the fishin' line, and the hook did what hooks are supposed to do. The line broke, and that old nag came uncorked.

Billy's a pretty good skinner, but he didn't quite get ol' Champion covered.

"That must be why they call 'im Champion," Dick mused as he rode up, eyein' his pardner sprawled out on his back, moanin' in the middle of the trail.

"Dang shore got the best o' you. I think that durn Tex lied to us. I'd a swore he said that horse was broke."

For some reason, from Billy's crumpled position on the ground with a fresh horseshoe print on his back, the humor in the situation was a little more difficult to see.

It took them a couple of hours to catch the horse, and another one to tie him down to get the hook out, but all was not in vain. Here's what Tumbleweed Tex wrote in a card he sent the boys last fall:

"Thanks for fixin' Champion. When he gets to stallin' on the trail now, all we have to do is pull a little line out of a fishin' reel. That little whirrin' sound is all it takes to perk him right up. Oh.... one more thing, we never tell the guests why, but we changed his name to Ol' Fishhook." 

© 2005, Ken Overcast


The Longhorn-Harley Davidson Cross

The sun was just beginning to peak over the ridge, breakfast was in full swing, and Dick and Billy were having the same conversation they'd had ever' morning for about six months.

"How 'bout a hotcake?" Dick asked his old partner as he flips a couple on his own plate.

"'Nope," was Billy's slurred reply as he popped the top on another beer. "I'm shtickin' with the Breakfast of Champions."

The two old bachelor cronies had been sort of on the outs the last few months. Dick had quit drinkin' last fall sometime and wanted his ol' buddy to experience all of the joys of sobriety that he'd gotten so accustomed to. There were times when the conversations got a little tense.

"I'm tellin' ya Billy, that drinkin' is gonna kill you. Have a hotcake. You need somethin' decent in yer stomach. That big red nose of yours looks just like a doorknob on the Fire Hall."

"'Nuthin' worse than a reformed drunk," Billy retorted, his bleary eyes filled with inebriated contempt. "Eat them things yerself. Door knob on a Fire Hall, my foot! I feel sorry fer you, Dick. You got nuthin' to look forward to. When you wake up in the mornin' that's as good as you're gonna feel all day long. Me....now I know I'm gonna feel better than this after while."

The conversations always just seemed to trail off into the sunset with neither side of the argument getting the upper hand. They were both a little on the stubborn side and neither one of 'em would give an inch. Besides, they'd been partners far too long to get real mad at each other.

"We better get goin' if we're gonna make that circle before the sun gets too high," Billy changed the subject. He flipped the now empty beer can into the old thirty gallon oil drum by the door as he went out.

"'Yea... we better," Dick answered as he tidied up the table. "Give ol' Roany a feed of oats for me, will you? I'll be right behind you."

The boys struck out in a long trot for the west end of their summer pasture to look things over. They'd had a shower or two, the grass was good, and it was a perfect mornin' for a ride. Just as they topped the ridge on the south end of the field, they spied one of the neighbor's cows in with theirs. She was a big dry red brindle cow with a set of horns that belonged in the movies.

"'Looks like we've got one of Smokey's cows in here again."

Normally they would have just eased her over to a gate and put her back where she belonged, but those horns were just more of a temptation than a trigger happy cowboy could stand. The critter looked like she must have been a Longhorn/Limousine cross, for she weighed in at around fourteen hundred pounds.

"'Just look at those antlers," Dick grinned as he jerked down his rope. "I've got the head." Down the coulee towards their unsuspecting victim the two tumbleweed cowboys galloped.

The ol' girl threw her head up and put her tail over her back the minute she saw them comin', and took off on a high lope for the hole in the fence she'd crawled through. She didn't quite make it, and let out a beller that would raise the dead when the slack came out of the loop that Dick had neatly placed around her horns.

Billy's end wasn't quite as easy. The sagebrush was tall and thick so the healin' part of the operation was a little on the tricky side. A couple of loops later and he had her. The boys stretched the old cow out on the sagebrush flat on the far side of the ridge.

They were proud as punch of their little piece of cowboy fun, but to say that the bellerin' cow wasn't impressed would be an understatement.

"'That ought to teach her to stay home," Dick grinned as he stepped off his horse and walked over to the cow stretched out on the ground to retrieve his rope from those huge horns. As he straddled her neck and pulled his loop loose, Billy rode up to loosen his rope on her hind feet.

This is an operation that the boys had performed at least a jillion times. It's just standard procedure for turnin' a critter loose. But this time Billy was a little quick on the draw and released the slack on his end just as Dick was astraddle the cow's neck. Up she came, with one of Dick's legs on each side and a hand on each of those giant horns.

They just thought the ol' cow was upset before. She took off like a rocket; bellerin' and hookin' at Dick with her antlers. They were almost perfect handlebars, and he really put up a dandy ride. It's a dang shame it wasn't captured on video.

Boy, what a sight. Dick's long legs were draggin' the ground on each side of her neck with the rowels on his big Mexican spurs whirrin' through the prairie grass, and cutting little trenches. Both hands were firmly gripped on those wonderful Longhorn-Harley Davidson handlebars.

About this time Billy's Border Collie couldn't stand not being in on the action, and ran around to the front and grabbed the already irate cow by the nose. She dropped her head to hook the dog and off went Dick, landing in a heap right in front of his former mode of transportation.

"Ah, there he is!" Ol Brindle thought to herself and made a hook at the seat of Dick's Wranglers.

The horn slid right over the intended target and lodged itself firmly under his belt. This deal isn't getting any better from Dick's perspective. He's flat on his belly now with a mad cow's horn stuck in the back of his belt. She's as intent on getting loose from Dick as he is from her, but at the present time her focus is on the dog that's still taking every opportunity to nibble away at her face.

The powerful old cow is galloping across the prairie after the dog with a horn under Dick's belt and his face making a little furrow through the rocks and sagebrush. Billy's thinkin' this is about the funniest thing he's ever seen, and would give his whole calf check for a camera. 

The belt buckle finally broke, the cow ran off, and Dick managed to drag himself back to his feet. He was a real mess. His clothes were nearly torn off, and the ride through the sagebrush hadn't done his face any good.

"You really don't look THAT bad," Billy grinned, barely able to contain his laughter. ...."'cept fer yer nose. Looks like a door knob on the Fire Hall."

© 2004, Ken Overcast, from Shootin' the Breeze



Montana in My Soul


2006

CD Includes:

Too Far Back To Texas
The Long Road  (by Richard Elloyan)
Kid Curry
Too Dang Old
The Bear Paw Song (by Millard Dumas)
 Time Rolls On
Lilly Dale, duet with Joni Harms  (by Tiny Moore, Billy J. Wills)
 Mama Called Her Praise
 Cowboy Blues  (by Cindy Walker)
 The Ghost of Little Joe (Craig Dumontel)
Montana in My Soul 
Five Foot Two (Ray Henderson, Samuel M. Lewis, Joseph Young)
Dancin' & Dreamin' 


Read more about Montana in My Soul at www.KenOvercast.com, where you can listen to sound samples and place an order.

 


Sittin' 'Round the Stove

From Ken's web site:

Here's the latest creation from Ken Overcast's pen. Another collection of his unforgettable stories from out where the horses are fast, the cattle are fat, and the women are all good lookin'. It's a ton of fun ... you're going to love it. Once again, Canada's favorite demented son, Ben Crane, has blessed us with his illustrations. They alone are worth the price of the book. It's 240 pages of as good o' readin' as you'll find anywhere.
 

Find order information here.

Shootin' the Breeze

 

Shootin' the Breeze
by Ken Overcast
illustrated by Ben Crane

Available from www.KenOvercast.com
Bear Valley Press
PO Box 1542
Chinook, MT 59523

Just pull your boots off and relax. You've got a ring side seat as one incredible story after another unfolds right before your very eyes. The vast majority of these little short stories are true.. at least they were sort of true when they happened.. since then, well they may have accidentally been embellished just a little... all for the sake of an eager audience that really WANTS to believe every word. You'll probably catch yourself trying to interrupt with a wild tale of your own. After all.. isn't that what Shootin' the Breeze is all about?

Review by Darrell Arnold, editor and publisher of Cowboy Magazine:

There are two things about cowboy life: it is hard work and it is often funny. It seems that cattle, horses, cow dogs, weather, windmills, bureaucrats, ranch wives, and God himself all conspire to make sure nothin’ ever goes as planned.

Anyway, all that laughin’ keeps cowboy life tolerable and interesting. Now any gifted cowboy who can relate that humor to the rest of the world is somebody to be valued.  Ken Overcast is a gifted man-- gifted at singing, gifted at yarnin’, and gifted and payin’ attention to his fellow cowboys.

In Shootin’ the Breeze, Ken’s second volume of (mostly) true cowboy and ranch tales, Ken once again entertains us with cowboy stories….stories about stuff that happened to him, and stories about stuff that he heard about that happened to other big-hatted men. If you like laughin’ at cowboys, and I can't think of anybody who doesn’t, you’ll love Ken's new book. Don’t pass it up.”


Yesterday's Yarns


Yesterday's Yarns: Real Tales from the Real West
by Ken Overcast
illustrated by Ben Crane

Available from www.KenOvercast.com
Bear Valley Press
PO Box 1542
Chinook, MT 59523

Review by Jeff Streeby

The old saying goes:  "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man."  Well, the inside of this book may be even better than that.

This collection of humorous anecdotes, little histories, little mysteries, regional folklore, cowboy philosophy, and intimate glimpses into family life on the Northern Ranges is a rewarding cultural tour of the Highline region of Montana.

Ken Overcast himself is the real deal.  A real cowboy from a real ranch family in one of the least hospitable agricultural environments in the world, his is the voice of the real West.  Unquenchably optimistic, friendly, and as familiar and reassuring as Grandma's oatmeal cookies, his warmly conversational style immediately involves the reader in circumstances sometimes quirky, sometimes profound and with characters who are wise or good or naïve or comically villainous or deadly as a prairie rattlesnake.

These little stories cover just about every topic you could name, from the best excuse ever for being two hours late for school, to an unsolved murder mystery, to advice on what to do if you drop your favorite shovel into the irrigation ditch and then you spot your wife swathing hay in a bikini less than a quarter mile away.

No matter whom you are and no matter where you are, you will find yourself at home with Ken. His delightful stories take you far away from your ordinary day-to-day experiences.  He puts you, willing or no, onto the vast Montana ranges or high among the peaks of the Bearpaw Mountains and among people you wish you could know.


More about Ken Overcast

Ken Overcast is the real deal. In this day and age of plastic throwaway everything, to find someone that is really genuine is a treat indeed. While many in the performing arts tend towards honing an act that is saleable, Ken strives very diligently to just be himself. His music, writing, and public performances are characterized by a down home connection that is indeed rare. He's a third generation Montanan, and is truly making a mark on America's entertainment. Both Ken's recording and writing have been prolific, with his book Yesterday's Yarns published in the spring of 2003, and at least one new recording project in the mill constantly. 2002 also saw the introduction of a syndicated radio program, The Cowboy Show with Ken Overcast.

Born into a ranching family, he was raised in northern Montana on a section of the Milk River known as "Paradise Valley." He literally grew up on a horse, and attended a rural school with three classmates. He and his wife Dawn were childhood sweethearts, and run a commercial cow/calf operation on Lodge Creek, as well as entertaining audiences all over the West. Their ranch is located within fifteen miles of where 100 years of both sides of their family have made their homes. Dawn's only complaint is that, "He's always running off somewhere to play that darned guitar, and leaving me home to do all the work."

Ken has been teamed with Nashville Producer, Russ Ragsdale for many years, and together they have seven CD recordings under their belts. National recognition was just a matter of time. Besides a host of nominations, Ken was crowned the Western Music Association "Yodeler of the Year," garnered a first round Grammy nomination for his Album Prairie Poetry, and was awarded the coveted "Will Rogers Award" by the Academy of Western Artists.

 

     

   

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Read more about Ken and his recordings at www.KenOvercast.com

 


Read Ken Overcast's poem, A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer in our 2004 Christmas Celebration


 

 

 

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