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


East Helena, Montana
Buzz Helfert




A Wreck on the North Forty

I was sittin' on the barstool
with nothin' strenuous planned,
When a friend pulls up, buys my beer
and says he needs a hand.
Now, way out here in this frozen West,
it often goes without sayin',
"Give a friend the best you've got."
(especially if he's payin'.)
Ken said that he was motherin'
a neighbor's herd of steers,
But one took sick, needed doctorin',
then we can get back to the beers.
Ken told me this won't take too long,
'cept for catchin' his horse.
Alpo thinks as much of him,
as a spouse in a mean divorce.
So I devised a plan to let that ol' plug be,
if Mike was willin' to help out.
We could doctor with just us three.
It took another pint or two,
to lay out our new plot,
Mike would drive, Ken would rope,
and I would give the shot.
If you're from the city, and that's where you were born,
you'll learn that ropin' from a pickup,
Won't let you dally round the horn.
So the stake bed and a shovel,
were used to fill the bill,
And we'd be back at the waterhole,
before we caught a chill.
Now the action went according to plan,
pretty much like we'd hoped.
Ken threw his loop as the steer sped by,
and now we had him roped.
But sometime near the dally,
the plan slipped off the track.
For tied fast to the shovel,
was me and the Hi-lift jack!
That steer wasn't so docile,
he was wild as can be.
He took off akickin',
draggin' the shovel, jack and me!
Then more loops were thrown,
and Ken soon had him caught,
An easy job at first,
was now harder than we thought.
Now, I still had the needle,
filled with drugs we'd bought,
And every leg that crossed my path,
received a healthy shot.
At length, our task was over,
the skirmish turned into a war.
The steer was kind limpin',
and two cowboys' butts were sore.
And though they held it against me,
and don't trust my medical skills,
They passed that long, hard winter
without payin' any doctor bills.

2002, Buzz Helfert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.


The Packer

The time was late October
        the huntin' camp was set.
If the weather held, and our luck was good,
        we'd find those bull elk yet.
Our pack hearse was called Ol' Bill,
        and not the pick of the herd.
   He was nasty, mean and ornery,
        and he squealed like a bird.
But he was all that we had shod,
        so we'd have to just make do.
And if we treated him gentle,
        he might pack out an elk or two.
On the third hard day of huntin',
        my partner shot a bull.
Bob said he was in a rockslide,
        and we'd be in for a long, hard pull.
Now, I'm not the wrangler I used to be,
        (Ol' Bill thinks I never was.)
But I vowed to lead him to that elk,
        if it's the last thing he ever does.
Soon the elk was quartered,
    panniers hangin' on the sawbuck tree.
I started to lead Bill out,
        when he rared back and pulled free.
He took off down that mountain
        like the last of the thunderin' herd.
Panniers aflappin' in the wind,
        like a great big flying bird
I finally caught him at the bottom,
        no panniers to be found
The sawbuck was busted in two,
        the riggin' draggin' on the ground.
Bill was wild-eyed and crazy,
        I knew he'd had his fill.
And no matter what I tried
        he wouldn't go back up that hill.
But the meat was up there somewhere,
        we had to get it down.
So Bob unloaded his rifle,
        and started back up with a frown.
Later we found the panniers,
        I told Bob he'd have to pack.
He mentioned all his ailments,
        especially his bad back.
Bob was set in his ways,
        no matter how much I goaded.
So I twitched his lip and tied up a foot
        and soon I had him loaded.
I led Bob off that mountain,
        without any hint of a wreck.
(I tied a half-hitch 'round his lower jaw,
        run  through a loop around his neck!)
Soon we got to the bottom,
        and then we found the tent.
Bob was pretty bent-over,
        he looked like he was spent.
Bob's only parting shot,
        came after a drink or three.
"That pack was bad enough,
        but the britchin' was killin' me!"
A smile crossed my face,
        as I thought how much better he'd be.
If only they'd have gelded him,
        when he was two or three!

2002, Buzz Helfert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.


The Hat

The trip started out as a sure enough lark,
           we'd ride through "the Bob" and camp out in the dark.
We'd eat and tell jokes and josh friend to friend,
            but nobody counted on that infernal wind!
It came from the North on our second day,
            but the sky was still blue so we decided to stay.
And continue our ride in the colors of fall
            and view the high country and the ol' "Chinese Wall."
Now this bunch of cowboys were sure enough old hands
            they've ridden the mountains and the prairies' hot sands.
And the best of the bunch was called Uncle Cliff;
            he was older and wiser and sat a horse ramrod stiff.
A horseman for sure and our Cap'n by choice,
            we listened when he talked in that low, steady voice.
Cliff was steely-eyed and fearless, but one thing he'd dread
            was to be caught outside with no hat on his head.
He'd put it on first as he rose from his bed,
            and the last thing he undressed was that hat on his head.
Well sir, that wind kept blowin' and scatterin' our camp,
            then the rain started fallin' and things now got damp.
So Cliff got up and about at the first break of dawn
            and reached for his Stetson and found out it's gone!
That wind was the culprit and the worst that he dreaded
            had now come to pass, he'd have to go bareheaded!
He went through that camp on his hands and his knees;
            he looked under the rocks and up in the trees.
But his hat's long gone, his search is in vain,
            and he'd have to find a substitute to keep off the rain.
Well, a pannier's too big and saddle pad won't do
            (he tried on the lid, from a kettle of stew).
His spirits by now were at the bottom of the scale,
            when what did he see, but a canvas water pail.
"The size is just right," he said with a grin
            "and the strap of a handle fits under my chin!"
That bucket was homely, no matter the cost,
            but we all said it looked better than the hat that he lost.
Now the moral of this longwinded tale I've told
            is that any ol' hat is worth more than gold!

2002, Buzz Helfert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Buzz adds: The inspiration for this poem came from a horseback trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness a few years back.  It really happened just like in my poem except we gave Uncle Cliff his hat back after a few days of laughin' at his water bucket.  He said he didn't mind wearin' it much in the back country, but he dreaded the trip into Augusta for fuel on our way home.


Ol' Pards

The old man sat down with his grandson near,
'said "Listen to my words, 'cause I want you to hear.
Your whole life lies ahead filled with sorrow and joy,
heed well my advice, while yer still a boy.
'Cause a man knows too much, he can't be told
that the treasures of life are not silver and gold."
"It's the company we keep, and the friends that we make,
that provides us our wealth and gives us a stake.
You see, Dame Fortune is fickle, and not to be trusted,
the gilt-edge of a phony, tomorrow is rusted.
But, the hombres you ride with, who stick by your side,
through sadness, and gladness; through shame and through pride,
these treasures won't leave you, they're yours for all time,
and though their value is priceless, they won't cost a dime.
'Cause honor and loyalty just can't be bought
and to call a man yer friend requires some thought.
You see, money and fame don't matter to a friend,
he takes you the way you are, and stands by you to the end.
So treasure those cowboys who are loyal to yer brand,
'cause they may not be around as long as you'd planned.
And treat yer pals like their end is closer than their beginnin'
and even if they're losin', make 'em think they're winnin'."
Then the old man slumped over, with a tear in his eye
and said, "I've lost too many good pards who never said goodbye.
But, one day, I know we'll meet again
                so, remember son, treasure the time with your friends."

2003, Buzz Helfert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


America's Heartland  

Once there were many, eight million or more,
the backbone of the Nation, they supplied America's store
with bread and fruit and meat and corn,
the land's bounty poured forth from the horn
of plenty and fed her people in peace and in war
with enough left over to help feed the poor.
They were the sons of the pioneers, and honored to
be the keepers of the land and the last of the free.
Their calling was noble, and fathers gave thanks
for their sons growing up to fill in the ranks
of America's farmers whose future was bright
"as long as rivers flow free and day follows night."
But now something's gone wrong, the vision's grown dim,
our farmers produce more, but their profit's grown slim.
And the farm of the family shrinks day by day
and the farm of the future is called "the corporate way."
With "bioengineered crops" and "animal units" galore
you're not sure what you're gettin' when you shop at the store.
Now imports and futures enter into the game
and their percentage of profit's no longer the same.
Foreclosures and auctions are common to see;
a damn poor substitute for a harvest ball or a threshing bee.
Five hundred farms a week are a thing of the past,
and a hundred small businesses are unable to last.
The towns of the heartland are shrunken and bare, 
the school's closed down, no harvest days or county fair.
Now Willy sings the plight of our heroes of the land,
but that don't change a thing, fertile fields still turn to sand.
And no one seems to care of what we're about to lose.
When the last family farm shuts down it won't make the news.
"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" will echo once more
when you take out a loan to shop at the store.
"Two for the price of one" is an outdated phrase,
and, if meat's on the menu, well, just hope for a raise,
'cause food's now a luxury and the cost will reflect
your biggest expense and shrinkin' pay check.
A full belly's a memory, and a diet's not needed
'cause 'til wheat hits ten bucks, the corporate fields won't be seeded.
You see, profit's the name of the game now, and a way of life is gone.
And the Breadbasket of America is now a subdivision lawn

2003, Buzz Helfert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Just One More

As you go through life, you take your licks
and play the hand you're dealt.
It's the cowboy way to ride 'er out
and just cinch up yer belt.

It does no good to complain about life
and dwell on what might have been.
You can't rewind ol' Father Time
and do it all over again.

Hell, I'm not a complainer, I accept my lot
and I live with no regrets,
but I often wonder, late at night,
if I might have hedged my bets.

Now, I take no truck with Satan,
I'd never barter my soul,
but shootin' craps in this game of life,
I'd like to have "one more roll."

"Just one more" is a tired 'ol phrase
but think of what it would change
if 'one more rain' fell on  pasture
and greened up that dry summer range.

"One more beer" would sure be nice
when yer parched and out of cash,
and "one more rally" in the stock market
might've prevented a crash.

"One more rain" in July
at harvest, means another full bin,
and "one more second" on that bronc
and my buckle wouldn't be made of tin!

"One more kiss" from a sweetheart,
and I might have mended my ways.
And "one more ride" through the badlands
might have gathered those lost strays.

"One more shell" in my rifle,
and that buck would be hangin' on the pole,
and "one more dally" on the saddle horn
and my fingers would still be whole.

But "just one more" is only a wish
and never meant to be,
'cause ridin' through life lookin' backwards
don't allow you to foresee.

Your history reads like a brand;
this you can't alter or change.
The path you rode is indelible,
like the buffalo trails on the range.

Tomorrow's pages are blank
and yesterday's cast in stone.
So don't blame others for what might have been,
'cause pard, you did it all alone.

2003, Buzz Helfert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




Bad Habits and Good Health

"I tell ya, Jake, I ain't at all well,

My liver's bad, and I feel like hell."

"My heart is racin' and my lungs are plugged,

my mind is fuzzy, like I been drugged."

"My knees are bad and my hip is out,

my hearin's so poor you'll have to shout."

"I've got shingles and piles and cavities galore,

why, they ain't got enough medicine in the whole drug store."

"The doc just shakes his head and runs more tests

and then sends me home for a weeks bed rest."

"I've never used liquor or tobacco, and I'm in bed by eight,

I exercise and I eat right and I don't pack no extra weight."

"Then I look at you and the life you've led,

why, it's just short of a miracle that you ain't dead."

"You smoke and drink and cuss a blue streak,

yer contrary and stingy; so tight that you squeak.

Your baths are sure rare and your hygiene is poor,

hell, I can smell ya before you get to my door."

"You think 'Old Crow' is a tonic and snoose is a health food,

and a barley beverage is the ticket when you don't feel good.

Yet yer healthy and strong and never complain,

while I'm sickly, and weak, and circlin' the drain."

"I have to say, pard, it just ain't fair our roles are reversed.

Then Jake gave me a lecture that sounded rehearsed."

"Yer problem's quite simple, you've lived life all wrong.

You've been a pillar of virtue and a role model all along."

Now, when I come down with some dread disease,

I'll swear off my vices and drop to my knees

and quit a bad habit fer a week or two,

which will surely improve my health and make me feel new."

"While you've got nuthin' to give up, you feel as well as can be expected."

"Cuz pard, the failure in yer health plan is due to the bad habits that you've neglected!"

2008, Buzz Helfert
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.






About Buzz Helfert:

I am a 4th generation Montanan, and I have lived in East Helena my entire life.  I am married, my wife is Doreen, and I have 3 girls: Cassandra, Kristi, and Jessica.  I am a full-time farm machinery dealer, part-time paramedic, and wannabe cowboy.  I have been writing cowboy verse for five or six years; and my ideas are based on true personal experiences. I am fortunate enough (and old enough) to have known some of the old time cowboys, and they have always been my heroes.




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