Featured at the Bar-D Ranch


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky

WALT "BIMBO" CHENEY
Nevada

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  About Walt "Bimbo" Cheney

Walter James Cheney II was an active five-year-old in Holbrook, Arizona, when he tagged along with a family friend to sing a song at the local radio station. The song was "Bimbo" and the nickname was born.

When he was in his early teens his family moved to the Midwest, but when he was eighteen he returned to Arizona where he found work as a cowboy. He subsequently cowboyed in New Mexico, Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada.

He began writing poetry 40 years ago, behind bucking chutes in rodeos, continued writing as he worked as a cowboy, and later discovered that other cowboys had done the same for over a century. Over 30 years ago, when he and other cowboys had a day off, they would gather at a park in Elko and tell each other their poems. Now, they gather everywhere.

"Quakie Braille," a poem he wrote after visiting the scene in a recurring dream, is fast becoming a cowboy poetry standard—written by a cowboy, with a cowboy setting, it illustrates the universal appeal of cowboy poetry. A poet, a philosopher, and a Western storyteller, Bimbo’s poems transcend their settings, relating to people of all ages and all walks of life.

provided 2013

 

Poems

Quakie Braille

The Guy from Town

Double Harness

 

 


Quakie Braille

Did you ever get that feeling like you were in a special place?
Where not too many folks had been and where the spirits touched your face?
And you feel that there’s a reason, but you can’t quite pin it down,
That you were picked to be there when there was no one else around.
I don’t know why I was chosen, but that happened once to me,
When I was riding in the mountains, weaving through the quakie trees.

We had some steers on forest permits and the lease was running short,
So the boss sent me to fetch ‘em, so as to keep him out of court.
Now, I had been up on that mountain probably twenty times, or more,
But I’d never been up quite that high, I hadn’t been on that trail before,
When I come across some carvings on a tree there by the trail.
Two names were carved inside a heart, in lasting quakie braille.

Now, that alone weren’t special—I’d seen carvings many times—
But I think these were the oldest, carved in 1889.
As I set my horse and watched ‘em, two small figures caught my eye
In the underbrush behind ‘em and I ceased to wonder why.
These figures, too, had carvings and they matched those on the tree.
Time hadn’t been so good to them, but they sure matched I could see.

The names carved on that quakie were “Sy” and “Anna Fay.”
Those same names on wooden markers crowned two forest-guarded graves.
My imagination took control and I was back in ‘89,
And I saw Sy with his folding knife pledge that their lives would entwine.
And then I saw them riding on that same trail I had rode,
Stopping many times thereafter, in that shade there by the road.

And not just when they was courtin’, but many times besides,
And I think it was their special place till the day I made that ride.
At first I thought to pull some weeds and knock down all that brush,
But then I thought the better, why disturb them with my fuss?
So I straightened up the markers, piled some stones back on the mounds,
Put some flowers in-between the sweethearts, forked my horse, and rode back down.
Since then I have kept their secret, I haven’t told one soul till now,
For some fifty years they have slept up there, where the two first made their vows.
Time will not erase it. It’s engraved like quakie braille,
What I saw there on that mountain and those sweethearts’ secret trail.
I suppose in time they’ll vanish, the marks on those boards and the tree,
But never will they vanish from this cowboy’s memory.

So, I wrote it down on paper, hopin’ these words would last,
Can then preserve their story that I tell here from the past.
I hope you folks will tell your children and they will then tell theirs,
About that heart that’s carved on that quakie and those folks that rest up there.
And maybe when you’re asked what love is by some youngster at your knee,
You will tell them of that special place that once was shared with me.

© Walt "Bimbo" Cheney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

 



The Guy From Town

A while back, my daughter said,
She had met this guy in town,
Who had asked her out and had stolen her heart,
And had turned her life around.

She said, “Dad, I know you’ll like him,
At least I hope you do,
‘Cause come to think about it,
He reminds me lots of you.”

Well a few weeks passed and then a few months,
And I still hadn’t met this guy,
So I said I’d like to meet him,
If she’d like to ask him by.

Her face lit up, she hugged my neck,
And when she had settled down,
She said he will come to Sunday supper,
This guy she’d met in town.

Now, I wasn’t going to like this guy,
And there weren’t nothin’ she could do,
‘Cause just before she left, she said,
“He sits a bronc like you.”

Well a year has gone by and he has got
Pretty regular round our place.
If he ain’t at some rodeo,
We’ll sure ‘nuff see his face.

Wednesday night I got a call,
I guess it was about sundown.
Was him and he was wondering
If I’d meet him there in town.

He said he’d like to ask me something,
He’d like to see me man to man,
So I loaded up and went on in,
Where I meant to take a stand.

He met me at the station,
Where I was gassing up my truck
And he stood there kicking gravel
Till I asked him what was up.

He grinned and turned a little red,
While still he toed the ground,
This guy who had stolen my daughter’s heart
And makes his home in town.

Then he said he loved my daughter
And was asking for her hand.
Said he hadn’t much to offer,
But if things went like he planned,

Soon he would have a quarter section,
He already had ten mares.
Said he’d have to fix the house up,
But he had some hay on shares.

Well I stopped him in mid-sentence,
I held my hand up for him to be still.
I had sworn I wouldn’t like this guy,
But I did, against my will.

Now my daughter had been dating
Since the day she turned sixteen,
But this guy is the first one
Who had ever asked her hand from me.

So I said, “Let’s grab some coffee,
I’d like to talk a little more.”
He was asking for my daughter’s hand,
And I guess I wanted to be sure.

I said, “You say you love her,
But it takes a lot more than that.
And you mention mares and meadow
Like they’d be some kind of welcome mat.

“What I want here is your promise
That she never will be cold,
And that she will never hunger,
In her youth or when she’s old.

“That you’ll hold her in your arms sometimes
And listen when she cries,
And that you stand beside her, thick or thin,
Until the day you die.

“That you will always be there for her,
And to her judgment you will pay heed,
And if you can promise this,
Well, son, I guess that’s all I need.”

He gave to me that promise.
Standing up, we both shook hands,
And I began to see it,
How my girl could like this man.

He was young and strong and willing,
And he would not be held down
By the trials placed before him,
Even if he was from town.

I guess he must’ve told her Thursday,
‘Cause at supper she told me
She had never been so happy,
And that sure was plain to see.

So, I guess that she’ll be going,
Leaving her home here on the range,
And I’d better get used to it,
‘Cause June the 8th her name will change.

To tell you the truth, I’ll probably like him,
Now that time’s a-windin’ down,
‘Cause she’s right, he’s kind of like me,
This guy that lives in town.

© Walt "Bimbo" Cheney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

 

 

Double Harness

When I met him he’d seen eighty snows,
His hair was spun-silk white,
His hide looked like a post oak,
His voice was cracked a mite.

His stature still was lean and straight,
His step, still light and smooth,
His smile still filled with humor,
And his eyes still strong and true.

He asked me first to set a spell
While he fetched out a hat.
Then we walked out past the picket gate
Beneath the cottonwood, and we sat.

He plucked a coil of grass rope
From a hook behind that bench.
He then shook out a playful loop,
In knowing hands unclenched.

I had come to write the story
Of a man named Reed O’Dell.
But as his life unfolded,
His story told itself.

He didn’t say much about
his boyhood years, except,
That he was raised by Christian parents
In a home where love was kept.

Said he really started growing
The year he turned eighteen,
Three years after leaving
His daddy’s board and beans.

He was working for an outfit
That was aging beef to sell
To Uncle Sam’s strong army
That was fighting over in Hitler’s hell.

He said that was the first he’d heard
About the war across the waves,
So he caught his private mount
And went and joined the U.S. braves.

And he didn’t say too much
About his trip across the sea,
Only if you spent a year there,
You would sweat and you would freeze.

He then said, “Son, let’s walk a bit,
I need to stretch a spell.”
So we walked down past the wood pile,
Stopping at a pole corral.

He began once more his story,
Starting with his army done.
How he had earned a living horseback
From Miles City to San Antoine.

It was there he married Becky
And he went to working cows
For the sixes for two winters,
For forty bucks a month and a house.

But he had an itchy feeling
In his heels back in them days,
So him and Becky loaded up
And made for Santa Fe.

To a job he had been promised,
One that never did pan out.
It seems that outfit wasn’t set up
To hire no married blouts.

So he trapped some wild horses,
Which he broke and drove to town
And sold to those who would buy a horse
That was broke Western, proved and sound.

They saved a little money
And they started going west
Until they landed in Nevada
Where they had to build a nest.

Because by then Becky carried Jacob T.,
Their oldest son.
They settle in the sagebrush
And began to build a home.

He trapped some wild cattle
And he traded here and there,
For eighty yearling heifers
That would be his starting share.

Over the next five years he built his herd
To near six hundred strong,
From the maverick females running loose
And the ones he had bought and owned.

By then they had built a frame house
And added on some rooms
‘Cause they added three more O’Dells by then,
He said the family came real soon.

He then said, “Son, if you’ll stay and eat,
We’ll start back toward the shack.
I’ll betcha Becky’s peeled some spuds by now,
And the coffee’s probably black.”

While we sat there at his table
After taking on a feed,
He once more spoke of life and love,
And times of want and need.

By ‘58 he had built his herd
To near nine thousand head.
Was giving twelve good cowboys
A wage and board and bed.

And he was making beef that was aged on grass
When Grade A beef was lean,
And he said he showed a little profit,
Even when the years was mean.

It was getting along toward bedtime
And I still had to catch my plane,
So I asked him if he’d tell me
The secret to his claim.

He said, “Son, it ain’t no secret
What it took to shape my life.
It was sweat, and blood, and want, and need,
With the best of kids and wife.

“The sweat and blood were mine to spend,
In fact, that’s all I owned.
But I used them, and they served me well
When I was starting to build my home.

“The want and the need I got from her,”
And he nodded across the room
At Becky, softly humming
While she tidied up with a broom.

He said, “She gave me five strong sons
To help me tend the stock and land,
And as well she gave three daughters
Who’re fit to stand by any man.

“So I guess if there’s a secret
To holding life’s true gain
It’s to have a girl that loves you
When life cuts against the grain.

“Then you work in double harness
Pulling toward a common goal.
Only then is life worth living
And only then does life seem whole.”

As my plane took off that evening,
High above the rocks and sage.
I thought of Reed and Becky,
‘Till I held this pen to page.

I hope that I have done them justice
As my story nears its end.
And so, to both of them,
My friendship I will send.

I hope they live to be two hundred
And I hope their years are often blessed.
And I hope they work in double harness
Until they ranch in heaven’s West.

© Walt "Bimbo" Cheney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

 

Links


  Hear Bimbo Cheney recite his poem, "April's Fool" on a Western Folklife Center Ranch Rhymes podcast here.

Listen to Bimbo Cheney recite "Quakie Braille" on IndieFeed here and "The Guy From Town" here.


 

Contact Information

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775-777-5656
775-738-1246
 

 

 

 

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