Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

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They called that bronc Ol' Butterfly,
But you could only wonder why.
Whenever a cowboy thought to ride 'im,
He'd end up on the ground beside 'im.
That horse was a Western institution,
And riders were destined for redistribution.

Big Jim's the only man who never was thrown
From Butterfly's back to the next time zone.
No one could figure how that could be,
So we asked him to solve the mystery.
The secret, as told by Big Jim Miller:
"I raised him from a caterpillar."

Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


I drew the bull named Chuckles:
That does it, now I'm dead.
He always sends your buckles
High above your head,
And when you finally hit the ground,
Tryin' not to splatter,
If you don't see a clown around
It's not a laughin' matter.

I usually don't sound gloomy
'Bout my ridin' skills
But last time that he threw me
I had lots'a doctor bills,
So when they start to introduce
The bull that I can't steer,
I'll know it's almost time to use
My cowboy landin' gear.

2002, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Boot Hill

I found an ornery rattlesnake -
Well, really he found me.
He was, with that one last mistake,
A diamondbacked fatality.

He proved that he could rattle loudly,
I proved that my gun shoots:
Soon I will be wearin', proudly,
A brand new pair of snakeskin boots.

2002, Bruce Satta

This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

Chisholm Lullaby

The nighttime is never too easy
With two thousand head in a herd.
We built a good fire
And it's time to retire,
But the cattle are restless and stirred:

"I'll sing ya to sleep, stubborn mav'ricks,
To the tune of the coyotes' call.
The moon is a spotlight
And not much is not right,
But wish on a star that might fall

For your days here on earth are now numbered
And the winds of change are a'blowin'.
You'll soon ride the rail
At the end of this trail:
Abilene is where you're a'goin'.

Rest easy, then, here in this moment,
There's no need for fussin' or cryin'.
Ya can't change your fate
Just by stayin' up late,
Though I can't say I blame ya for tryin',

But the future's beyond the horizon
With all of it's fine consequences:
Just spendin' your days in
Cow Heaven, a'grazin'
In pastures unbounded by fences."

2002, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Grampa Is A Feisty Sort

Grampa is a feisty sort:
He'd be the first to tell ya so.
Then he'd cuss and yell and snort
And prob'ly tell ya where to go!

He rode the bulls at rodeos
And a county fair, or two.
To this day, nobody knows
Exactly who was throwin' who!

Once I saw ol' Gramps get drunk
And shoot his foot (not once, but twice)
When he was aimin' for a skunk:
He didn't sound or smell too nice!

When his life of worldly cares
Finds him buried, 'neath the clover,
Satan hopes he heads Upstairs:
In Hell, who knows?  He might take over!

2003, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Where The Rainy Days Are Sunny

When you've got so little money
That it isn't even funny,
And you're strugglin' through another "rainy day,"
You might begin to wonder
Why in blazes, or in thunder,
You chose a cowboy's life to make your way.
But in truth, there was no choosin' --
Not one second of confusion,
For your roots are buried deeply in this land
And there'll be no "up and leavin' " --
That's a thought not worth conceivin'
To an old and tired, but happy, hired hand.

The day begins too early,
And the crew gets kind'a surly
'Cause the crack of dawn can come without a warnin'.
You'll set out fixin' fences
Where the property commences,
Get that done and still, it's only mornin'.
Ol' Trooper knows you'll ride 'im
Doin' work ad infinitum
But he's there for you, awaitin' your command,
And the banks can keep their money:
Out here every day is sunny
To an old and tired, but happy, hired hand.

2003, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



A Corner Of Heaven

The night is still, but I'm awake,
Thinkin' 'bout ol' Slim.
He'd been sick for quite awhile;
Today, we buried him.
He 'n I had worked together
Almost thirty years:
Pullin' calves, stackin' bales,
Roundin' up the steers...

Damn, this is the kind'a thing
For solemn contemplation:
What's the nature of a soul?
It's final destination?
Mortality's a common bond
That everybody shares:
As the pauper's life must end,
So too, the millionaire's.

The image of a Paradise
Would be, each to his own;
For every man that lives and breathes,
A different Heaven's known.
If I ever get there
The part that's meant for me
Is the corner just like Idaho,
And that's where Slim'll be.

2003, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


September In Wyoming

You feel good inside when the fire spits and pops,
And the clouds also burn as the sun slowly drops.
You've moved in tight
'Round the campfire tonight,
There's a chill in the air, and the coffee's just right:
It's September in Wyoming.

There's still work to do on the new calving shed
And it's been a long time since you slept in your bed:
Your list of work grows,
But that's how it goes
And you're doin' your best to beat the first snows.
It's September in Wyoming.

The herd is onto fresh meadow feed.
You're truckin' in hay: "How much will we need?"
You've been leavin' tracks
'Long the gentle switchbacks
And now that day's done, a quick chance to relax.
It's September in Wyoming.

This year, there weren't many dog days of summer:
The seasons march on to a dutiful drummer.
It's time for shipping,
The temperature's dipping,
And pretty soon winter winds will be whipping.
It's September in Wyoming.

2003, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

About this poem, Bruce told us that "Cris Paravicini's Online Diary at Wyoming Cowgirl supplied some of the inspiration, and the structure is borrowed from Howard Norskog's The Salmon River Breaks..." 


When You And I Are Old

When you and I are past our prime,
We'll look back on this very time
With what our frail memories hold,
When you and I are old.

I'd lived a hard-luck cowboy's life
With no desire to take a wife.
Settle down?  Not a chance!
But oh, the power of a glance:

An eyebrow raised, a crooked smile,
Then, watchin' you walk down the aisle.
A honeymoon would have been nice:
We made a shivaree suffice

And then, your challenges began,
Partnered with the kind of man
Who'd do his best, but often failed
Yet, through your strength, we both prevailed

And raised five kids on what God granted -
Game I shot, or beans you planted.
Never once did you complain,
Though worried eyes revealed your pain.

Those very eyes?  Not a chance!
But oh, the power of a glance.
Now, the last of five has grown;
What lies ahead remains unknown

But, if I never made it clear,
You are what my heart holds dear:
More precious than my very breath,
And even so beyond my death.

2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

This poem is included with our collection of Cowboy Love Poems


A Story Or Two

The campfire's nothin' but embers 'n ash,
'N the fellers have settled down, too.
I'm flat on my back, lookin' up at the stars
'N just enjoyin' the view
'N thinkin' about all the stories I heard
Not more than a few hours ago:
Memories, jokes, 'n just outright lies
Told in the campfire's glow.
Most of the boys have an eloquent flair
When they're braggin' about their own deeds
'N they'd go on for hours, if given the chance,
'Bout their horses - or, pardon me, "steeds."
I've even told a few windies myself,
Relivin' my fiery youth:
Most of 'em purty much sheer fabrication,
But a few of 'em steeped in the truth.
Smiley is known for his ways with the gals,
From the stories he's always a'spinnin'.
I gotta admit, if they're only half true
That explains why he's always a'grinnin'.
Now Joe, he'll usually strum his guitar
'N play a song that he's wrote.
For sure, that kid is loaded with talent:
It shines through in every note.
I reckon tonight it was Mitch, took the prize,
With his yarn 'bout an eight-legged calf -
"Or maybe," he said, " 'twas the world's largest spider, "
'N made everybody laugh.
Most every night, if there's plenty'a wood
'N there's nothin' of work left to do,
The boys 'n I'll sit by the fire
'N tell a story or two...

2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



A Bit Colder

I can't think of a better way
Of spendin' the night, or spendin' the day
Than gettin' this cattle from point A to B:
Truth be known, I'd do it for free.
Truth be known, that's about what I do;
Costs are high, and profits are few.
The rewards, however, are somethin' again:
Guess it's easy to please some men.
It's in my blood: I'll be a drover
Until my workin' days are over.

A long time ago, in a previous life,
A pretty young girl said she'd be my wife,
But she needed more than a rarely seen letter
And ended up marryin' somebody better.
I was sad for awhile: my heart broke in two
But I just focused on gettin' 'em through.
Now that I've gotten quite a bit older,
These lonely nights can seem a bit colder
But I'll never dwell upon what might have been:
Fate had its reasons for what happened then.

We're halfway to Denver: so far, no stampede.
Tell you what: that's the last thing we'd need.
Won't be long, and my watch is done:
"Stay there, ornery: don't think to run!"
Maybe I'd better sing 'em a song:
Whenever I do, I get the words wrong.
'Course, they aren't too picky, and don't seem to mind
But my horse, the critic, isn't as kind.
Low in the east is mornin's first light
So I'll pack it on in: it's been a cold night.

2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



Onward, Ever Onward

The moonlight filtered through the breaks in Carolina clouds
That hung so low they wrapped the valley snug, in silver shrouds,
Where Fletcher Owens' house stood empty, by an unused road
For California beckoned him to claim his motherlode.
In '49, a fever spread: an outbreak, uncontrolled.
The world, it seemed, and Fletcher Owens, set their sights on gold.
He joined a group of fifty men, and anted up his share
For wagons, oxen, cows, and ponies - just to get 'em there.
Independence played the host to scores of wagon trains
While thirty thousand people waited out Missouri's rains.

Finally, when the spring rains ended, Fletcher's group set out.
Not one of them had second thoughts, or any shred of doubt
That they would reach those fields of gold, make their fortunes there,
And have, for once, prosperity and wealth enough to spare.
All of Fletcher's worldly goods, for now, were in one box,
But he would come back "in a year, with pockets full of rocks!"
Thirty thousand others shared his dreams of endless gold,
So over endless prairies, endless trains of wagons rolled.
With optimism, Fletcher's eyes were firmly focused west.
Ready for what lay ahead, on and on they pressed.

On they went: they couldn't take the chance to fall behind,
For grazing grass was prized, and might become too hard to find.
On they rolled, while prairie storms spawned hail as large as eggs
To batter men with weary souls, and beasts with weary legs.
Onward, ever onward - though now their ranks were thinning
For they were fighting cholera, and cholera was winning.
Accidents, and drowning, would also take a toll
Yet onward, ever onward, the wagon wheels would roll.
Ominously, shallow graves began to mark their way
And as they passed, Fletcher always took the time to pray.

Onward, past the Chimney Rock, to Laramie by July,
Then, just ahead, a Rocky Mountain journey to the sky:
But for that leg, they found their heavy wagons weren't designed
So boxes, barrels, trunks of clothes, and tools were left behind.
The heavy stench of rotting stock began to fill the air,
As seven hundred miles of sheer exhaustion caught them there.
Before they took those mountains on, some chose to turn around;
They had set out for a dream: a nightmare's what they'd found
But Fletcher's group, with resolution, would not be deterred:
While home was calling out to them, "Gold!" is what they heard.

They crossed those mountains, then Nevada's deserts in September:
They rolled at night, the Black Rock floor a white-hot burning ember.
Onward, up to higher ground: Sierra's snow-filled passes
And shortcuts through to nowhere more than new snow-filled morasses.
It was here that Fletcher's group broke up, and on his own
He forded drifts, and icy rivers chilling to the bone
But he could sense that he was close: too close to be denied.
He struggled on, could barely move, yet found the strength inside
And reached California with no more than he could carry:
But he'd survived the desert sun... the mountain snows... the prairie!

By the time that he'd arrived, the "easy" gold was gone:
The hills were filled with prospectors who'd scoured 'em, early on,
But Fletcher dug, all day long, and set the Long Tom rocking,
And panned the rivers, thinking Opportunity was knocking.
He dug, and he dug, 'til he'd dug his way to Hell
And his body kept him up nights, and he didn't eat too well,
But on he dug, and panned some more, and washed a ton of dirt
'Til every joint and muscle in his weary body hurt.
There were days when it paid off: he'd find a little gold
But give it up, at the camps, where supplies were sold.

Fletcher knew by '51 his odds for wealth were slim,
Then, as he dug and washed more dirt, a thought occurred to him:
Prices were outrageous - an egg cost fifty cents -
And he multiplied those pennies by ninety thousand tents.
He'd spent a lot of what he'd earned just to buy supplies:
He knew these others had to eat, best he could surmise.
With an onion at a dollar, and flour marked way up,
He started mining miners, and gold dust by the cup.
He always had new customers, arriving by the score,
That formed the firm foundation of Owens' General Store.

He'd finally found his golden dream, and gathered up his riches
Through the basic economics of filling empty niches.
Even when a conflagration burned his building down,
You guessed it: Fletcher built, again, the nicest store in town.
Often, in his later years, he'd sit back on his porch
And watch the setting sun he knew as freedom's blazing torch.
In this tale of Fletcher's, there's a lesson to be learned:
Keep working hard and don't give up - you'll get back what you've earned.
If you run into large obstacles, and find your dreams have skid,
Just go onward, ever onward, as Fletcher Owens did.

2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


The Cowboy Poet

He writes about the days gone by, of life out on the trail:
Of cattle towns, and cowboys actin' way beyond the pale,
The mornin' smells, when Cookie had a pot of coffee brewin'
And a batch of sourdough biscuits that was almost fit for chewin'.

He writes about the rodeo; the buckin' bulls and broncs,
And cowboys drinkin' way too much in run-down honky-tonks
While they relive the day's events, and even demonstrate
How bad ones sometimes threw 'em, or how they rode for eight.

He writes about life on the ranch, of calving in the spring
And the helpless feeling summer wildfires never fail to bring.
Often, he has written 'bout the roundup in the fall
And winters at the line camp, when there's no one 'round at all.

He writes about the horses that he's known throughout the years:
The way they mean "all business" when they've cocked their tails 'n ears.
He's written 'bout the "Zebra Dun," "Blue Rocket," and the "Roan."
He is the cowboy poet, and his story is my own.

2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

Bruce told us he was proud to have this poem posted on Gene O'Quinn's web site during Cowboy Poetry Week '04.  See our feature about the annual celebration of Cowboy Poetry Week.

This poem is also posted in our collection of Poems About Cowboy Poetry.


Pickup Lines

The pickup is plastered with lots'a free stickers
   The kids'd dug outta their cereal box.
She finds every pothole the county won't fill in:
   One of these days I'll get some new shocks.
Duct tape works great for occasional rattles
   And patchin' up holes where the rust has gone through.
In my opinion, that rust just adds character:
   Guess it depends on your point of view.
Candy and gum wrappers fill up the space
   Where an old 8-track tape deck once was installed.
A pine-scented air fresh'ner's tryin', but failin',
   To cover the smell of manure she's hauled.  

Cutters and pliers, pullers and hay hooks,
   Nippers and clinchers all line the bed.
Can't say for sure, but I got a hunch
   There's more tools back there than out in the shed.
The bumpers are missin', the fenders are crooked,  
   And three of the wheels have hubcaps, mismatched.
The muffler is strung up with wire clothes hangers:  
   Last time I checked, it was still attached.
The windshield is foggy: the fan doesn't work
   And back when it did, it only blew cold.
Guess we're both kind'a showin' our age:
   Together, this pickup and me have grown old.

2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Easy Into Mornin'

Strawberry sun;
Day is done:
Its light retreats from this place
But the moon's a lamp
Hangin' over camp.
Squint at it, you see a face.

Cook's ways and means
With a pot of beans
Had your hunger slaked,
But hours have fled
Since you were fed:
Could sure use some biscuits he baked.

Nightwatch shifts
And vocal riffs
Are part and parcel now.
Your cattle call
Provokes a bawl:
You're talkin' to a cow.

You grin at that,
Adjust your hat,
And then, without a warnin',
A full-blown smile:
You're versatile,
Favorin' "easy" into mornin'.

2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

The Cagy Lot

We caught 'em as a cagy lot:
Ran 'em hard by our crack shot
Who creased the muscle on their neck
And ended, thus, our two day trek.
They'd drop at that, as if they'd died,
Just long enough to get 'em tied:
No, wasn't long that they'd stay numb,
Then, one by one, we'd break 'em some
And ride 'em through the chaparral,
For wranglin' at the main corral.

By catchin' broncs, we earned our way
(And ate our share of dust and clay):
The work of brave and calloused men;
And we would ride, and ride again
Not to have the beasts subdued
Or change their flagrant attitude.
They kicked, we knew, for more than show:
For more than any man could know.
Yet, part of it, we felt we shared,
When fools enough to be compared.

2005, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


For The Dust

He poured a cup of coffee,
Couldn't see it for the steam:
Didn't need no sugar,
Never used no cream.
He took a drink, burned his tongue
But didn't let it show.
He knew what wouldn't hurt his pards
Was what they didn't know.

The caffeine did its duty:
His mind began to stir
As if it had been prodded by a
Sharp, and well-placed spur.
He picked the paint to be his mount,
No wonder why he fussed:
A thousand head of cattle,
Couldn't see 'em for the dust.

2005, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Shadows Of Change

Each day, I ride out fetchin' back those drifters 'cross the line
And face the biting, cutting winds of winter's cruel design
But shards of setting sun have changed the leaden clouds to gold
And for a little while, at least, it doesn't seem so cold.

My shaggy-coated pony, head down, slowly picks his way
And savvies that he's not too far from home, and evening hay.
We've made a final turn and there ahead's the line camp shack.
I'm hungry. tired. numb with cold. it's sure good to be back.

The weather's unpredictable: who knows what's left in store?
We might have seen the final storm: there might be twenty more.
For now, at least, familiar landmarks showed the way to go:
Revealed, after several months of burial in snow.

Looks like runnin' water underneath the river ice
And the groundhog said, from here on out the weather's gettin' nice
So spring is gonna be here soon to stir the souls of men,
Undo the winter's frigid grip, and set things right again.

2006, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


A Corner of Heaven

A Corner of Heaven, with a foreword by Jim Thompson

From the book's description: "From 1870's trail driver to modern ranch hand, the author has taken on many voices to create this collection of cowboy poetry. Though varied in form and covering a wide range of scenarios, the 44 poems all share characteristics of classic cowboy poetry: tight rhyme and meter." 

A Corner of Heaven is available for $9.99 plus shipping and handling (media mail, $2.48, priority, $5.76). You can see more about the book here and order the book, and you can also order directly from Bruce Satta, 2234 Olde Sawmill Blvd., Dublin, OH  43016


Bruce Satta collaborated with Tim Callaway of Prairie Moon on "I Will Carry You," a song about a horse and his cowboy, from the horse's point of view, included on the band's 2011 CD, Saddle Up.

Find Rick Huff's review of the CD here.

Read Bruce Satta's

Checkin' Every Post, written for Rod Nichols


Headin' for Home, in our Art Spur project


For My Valentine, posted with "cowboy love poems"


Christmas Eve, Near Rabbit Creek, posted with 2005 Christmas poems


Santa's Hat posted with Christmas 2003 poems


Fact That I'm Believin'  in our Art Spur project

In the Mornin' Hours in our Art Spur project


Temperance in our Art Spur project


Somethin' in the Air posted with other Christmas 2004 poems



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