Honored Guest
Ben McKenzie

About Ben McKenzie
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Contacting Ben McKenzie

 

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About Ben McKenzie

When Ben McKenzie says "Howdy Pardner and welcome to my world" he means it. Ben is owner and founder of the Toppenish Poetry Society (T. P. S.) or Teepees, a not-for-profit society that "highlights the talents of cowboy and western poets. Its commitment is to archive as much of the talent of modern cowboy and western poets as possible before the old timers are all gone and a way of life has vanished." 

Ben's Horsefeathers site is full of generous praise for the many poets he showcases there.  About the poetry, he says   "Some of it is great, some of it is good, and some of it just is."   Horsefeathers is a warm and welcoming kind of place.

Ben is extraordinary in other ways, too:   He's posted his entire book, Poetry for Cowboys, on the internet. He says "I am one of those old timers and relatively young for being so. I have worked with raw horse power, horse drawn swathers, mowers, buckrakes, plows, wagons . . ." and now he says he sits "in front of a computer trying to save a taste of a vanishing tradition while  there are still those who can remember it all."

We can't do his prose justice with just a few quotes, though you know you're going to enjoy yourself when he writes this introduction to his own work:

" . . .What in blue blazes exactly is Cowboy Poetry? Well Cowboy Poetry is poetry written by Cowboys. It deals with the mundane day to day existence of cowfolk, spiced with the occasional hectic or humorous event that adds color to their world. In other words Cowboy poetry is actual and factual poetry about the things that happened to you or someone you knew in the course of a day, a week, a year, or your life. On the other hand the Poetry you are about to read is Poetry For Cowboys. Poetry For Cowboys is actual and factual, or not so actual and factual poetry about things that did or didn't, could or couldn't happen to you or someone you knew in the course of a day, a week, a year, or your life. It is written on the assumption that there is a little Cowboy in all of us and plays to that fact."

Poems

Barb Wire
Make Mine a Cowgirl
The Drifter
Grandma and the Cowboy
Another Old Cowboy Has Died (posted with David Kelley's poem, Trails End)
Christmas at McCreaty's (posted with other Holiday 2000 poems)

Barb Wire, the scourge of the west! How many of us has not spent many a pleasant summer day wrestling with the stuff? The only thing I ever saw it slow down was sand and tumble weeds. Cattle don't mind it they just push right on through. Hell they'll even eat the stuff given half a chance. I'd like to have hung the man who invented it but I always suspected he already was.

BARB WIRE

(Best spit when you say that mister)! Is the meanest stuff on God's green Earth, it's a snag, and a snarl, and a twister! It ain't the settin posts I hate, just line em up and get em straight. I bury em deep and tamp em tight, and I won't back off till I loose the light! But strechin those barbs I gotta say, is a job best left for a sunny day! Because when the day is cold and your hide is firm, is when them barbs do the greatest harm. They'll snag you deep then bury in, and rip a man from shank to chin! There's no wise a man can judge the lag, what's tight in the winter, in summer will sag! When the day is hot, the sun is high, the sweat is stinging in either eye. Your clothes are stickin and your gloves are soft, it's time to string that onery stuff! So you stretch and hammer, cuss and blow, but there's one thing that's nice to know! If you do it once and get it right, it won't be keeping ya up at night! Then keep it in back of your old minds eye, but you best not look when riding by! For fear, It'll sense ya takin it's size, and shed its staples before your eyes! If you ever wonder who invented the stuff? It was the rancher next over, sure enough! Who then covered his holdings from corner to crick, afraid your stock might get a lick! Then he says "Howdy Neighbor", friendly as can be, but I can't help thinking, (Don't neighbor me! You should be skinned alive, rubbed down with salt, and boiled in oil! Its because of you, I sweat and toil)! BARB WIRE (Best spit, when you say that mister)! On the carcass of life it's another blister!...

MAKE MINE A COWGIRL

Cowgirl's are just all right by me, They don't put on airs and they seldom drink tea. Their world's not bound to silks and lace, If they don't like your cut you'll hear it to your face. They ain't so shy they won't speak up, They've got a way of making an old dog feel like a pup. Their ageless beauty's the whole durn crew, And they ain't into doing what the city gals do. City gals are polished smiles, It's part of their little game. They'll catch a man with spirit to spare, Then ride him till he's lame. But cowgirls don't hang tough with no such stuff, They don't want a man who's tame. Figuring how many times I've heard them joke, He's used to the saddle, but he'll never be broke. And that's the reason you'll hear me say, Give me a Cowgirl any day...

THE DRIFTER

You didn't look me over, you sorta looked me through! It was plain you were takin pleasure in the fact I'd come to you! You begrudged me a drink of water, you didn't offer chuck. Your fence and I both needed work. We both were out of luck! I told you of the spreads I'd worked, from Texas to Idaho. You asked if I was such a damned good hand why did they let me go? You said, "I've often seen your kind, drifting here and there. Working whatever the season, never gettin it square. Working for next to nothing, never taking a wife. Ekeing a grim satisfaction, out of living a drifter's life! I won't be party to your misery. There isn't a job here to buy!" The smile that played across your face, just added weight to the lie! I didn't take it too personally, I'd seen your kind of old! In by the light and the fire, me, In the storm and the cold! You, in church on Sunday, dinner on Sunday night! Me, like a wolf in the shadows, skirting the edge of the light! Taking what ever you throw me, begrudging you none of your own. You, living high on the back strap, me, living close to the bone! You, with your pompous attitude, couldn't see doing no wrong!... Me, with my pride in my belly, trying to get along! There wasn't no use in persisting, I was dealing out of my class. I thanked you for the water, you wouldn't touch the glass! I couldn't help but notice, your smile as you watched me depart. Me, with the storm on my shoulders, you, with the storm in your heart!


GRANDMA AND THE COWBOY

"He has a burr in his blanket." My Grandma said. "He's spent all morning in that old tack shed. He's not fit for company. I wouldn't even try! You know, he talks to that rigging as if it were alive! It's the first snow that does it, I've seen it before. He sits up all night, and then sleeps on the floor. In a week he's gone, to the high country's call, and some day I expect him not to come home at all.  It ain't he don't love me, he's made that quite plain. So I smile as he's leaving, and hand him his rein. He's seventy years young now, spent forty with me, but you can't tame a Cowboy, he has to be free."  I said, "Grandma, what's a Cowboy?" She said, "Lord only knows! It ain't the tilt of his hat, or the hang of his clothes. It's more sawdust and liniment, saddle sore and pain, what he is exactly no one can say. He's part dust from the drag at the end of the day. He's part cayuse, part coyote, part timber wolf, part man, part rattle snake and part saddle soap. With a little finger, that heads South, from the pull of the rope. He's campfire, hellfire, top hand and a good Joe. He's a lot more things than I'll ever know! He's part guitar, part mouth harp, part whistle and flirt, part nine year old boy with dirt on his shirt. He's a wet slicker in the hall, mud on the floor, and an apologetic smile as he goes through the door. He's polite enough, just enough, where the ladies are concerned, and he makes himself scarce when their backs are turned. He uses vinegar for after shave, vanilla for his breath, and thinks whiskey can cure anything, short of love sickness or death. He likes rodeos, stock shows, horses and dogs, and anything built out of leather or logs. He likes shooting irons, branding irons, saddles and gear, tall tales, and do tales, and even some don't tales, and everyone's kids, hanging on to his coat tails. He likes spurs, and chaps, and an old Barlow knife. He can brag for hours on his dogs or his wife. He's part horse, part boots, part faded old hat, and a Cowboy ain't a Cowboy, if he doesn't have that. But most of all freedom, to go as he will, and a yearning to know, what's beyond that next hill. Now at last, I'll say, and this with conviction. A Cowboy's a bona fida walking contradiction! Like the silver tip and mountain lion, and even his steed, he's the last evidence of a vanishing breed. Now here comes your Grandpa, he'll be leaving at last, riding Hell bent for leather, to catch up with his past.   I'll wave him good-by and he'll grin like a kid!" She said, "I don't know why I married a Cowboy, but I'm glad that I did!"

 

A Book and Sites

As we mentioned above, Ben McKenzie's entire book, Poetry for Cowboys is on line.  It includes the poems above and pages more of entertaining poems and stories.  It's full of wisdom and philosophy; observations by Pa ("I showed my Pa a quote from some famous writer that said, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, he said the feller who wrote it was being a bit long winded, he should have said, Hell hath no fury like a woman."; and a poem and some opinions about Elko (page 4).

Ben's site is Horsefeathers, home to countless cowboy and western poets with many links their sites.  And don't miss the Cowboy's Dictionary, the awards for family-friendly sites, and the many links to other western sites.

Ben also hosts Cow Camp, a site with cowboy poetry, humor, trail cooking recipes, and more.

Contacting Ben McKenzie

Visit Ben's Horsefeathers or Cow Camp sites.  You can email Ben at: teepees1@aol.com

 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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