CowboyPoetry.com    Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

BYRD WOODWARD
Prescott Valley, Arizona
About Byrd Woodward 

 

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for her poem, Eggs on the Moon


 

 

Eggs on the Moon

My Pa had a crazy horse called 'Moon,'
An angular black with a blaze;
She shied at any blamed thing that moved,
Couldn't stand long enough to graze.
Did I mention to you I was born with
Fine white-blond hair on my head?
Just like spun sugar, we got the stuff cut
In town by a barber named Fred.

One day, my Mama, lookin' up at Pa
Said "I got some eggs fer the store;
I'll wrap 'em an' pack that big basket..
There's prob'ly five dozen or more.
An', C.J., can you take Byrdie with you,
An' give me a chance for a bath?
It's been so sultry this summer,
I'm scrubby as Minnie's hind calf."

Pa rode Moon for his entertainment;
He saddled her up and lit out,
With me on his lap, eggs in his hand,
An' that fool mare dancin' about.
The store was only 'bout four miles away,
We did it in nothin'-flat time;
On the porch sat a bunch of lazy old men...
Pa circled old Moon on a dime.

He started to hand me down on the porch,
Moon caught sight of my flyin' hair;
She bunched up and Pa knew what was comin',
He tossed the eggs up in the air.
The mare humped her back an' sun-fished,
I ran up the steps an' sat
An' watched while my pa put on a show,
Fannin' ol' Moon with his hat!

I don't know how long th' rodeo took,
Buckin' up and down the dirt road.
I know Sam Blair caught the egg basket;
An' nary-ary a one of 'em broke.
Moon fin'lly stood with her head hangin' down,
Her sides were heavin' like bellers;
The old men were hoppin' around on the stoop,
Pa'd sure entertained them ole fellers.

Pa tied Moon up and we went on inside;
We made our best deal fer my ma;
He found a penny in his watch pocket...
That jawbreaker lasted 'til fall.
When we get home, Pa hands Ma her cash,
But neither one of us tells;
She'll go a lot easier on both of us
If she hears it from somebody else!

© Spring 1999, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


We asked Byrd what inspired this poem and she told us: "This is the story of an adventure my Dad and I had when I was about three or four years old. We lived on a little bitty old place in Montour, Idaho and he and my mom and I were by ourselves.  Usually, we had one relative or another staying with us for one reason or another, mostly having to do with money or the lack of it.  CJ (Clifford Jordan) was my biological father and I remember this as a time when he was paying a lot of attention to me. he taught me to yodel (badly) and tried to teach me to play guitar or mouth harp or something (never happened).  It was almost like he and I had this tiny conspiracy going on...we did a lot of stuff we didn't want to have to explain to my mother.  It was a magical time in my life; a few years after that the folks divorced and I didn't see him much after that and never again when it was just the two of us. I have some very fond memories of him at that time and while we were on the ranch in Gardena."

Byrd writes that this is "my father, Clifford Woodrow Jordan and me at eight months old.  I don't think this is 'Moon'; doesn't look spooky enough."

This poem is also included in our collection of
 poems about Cowboy Dads and Grandads


 

Byrd Woodward was previously named one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for her poem, Feather Henry

 

Feather Henry

He was known as Feather Henry on th' ranches hereabout,      
Whenever you needed an extra hand, you'd hunt young Henry out.
Th' sign fer him was a hawk feather hung out on th' rancher's gate,
Sure enough, he'd show up in a week or so, dependable as fate.

Steppin' out on th' porch, you'd find 'im, hunched up aginst th' rain.
On his head he wore a cowpoke's hat that blew in off th' plain,
In th' band there was a feather from a high flyin' red-tailed hawk;
He'd have set out there a week, I guess, before you'd get him to knock;

Henry was born to a white girl who hadn't known 'gee' from 'haw,'
And a scared young Nez Perce' man runnin' hard from th' county law.
The boy was ten when his ma was drowned in a canyon flood;
His granddad turned th' kid away, couldn't bear his Indian blood.

Feather Henry would rake or mow or plow... do most any chore;
He slept in tack shacks an' woodsheds, ate at th' kitchen door.
Kindly ranch women kept him in duds, hand-me-downs from their kids,
Any one of them would have let him stay on... but Henry never did.

He moved around th' valley, showin' up when an' where he was needed
With hayin' or lambin' or when it was time t' get th' garden weeded.
One day Jed Grant found out by chance where Henry's true talents lay...
He could gentle a wild colt quiet, and do it in less than a day.

Henry could do some of lots of things, but when it came to a horse,
He could outshine anyone around, with light from an inner source.
Henry would whisper his horse talk, keepin' his hat down low,
He'd call wild ones out of th' hills, or in from th' prairies below.

Legend said Nez Perce' knew horses, Appaloosas were their pride;
Decked out in fancy trappin's, they showed th' Crow how t' ride. 
The word went 'round like wildfire...Feather Henry's fame soon grew;
Said he'd always called ponies an' hawks...th' white folks just never knew.

When it seemed no one livin' had the power t' calm those crazy eyes,
Henry'd lean quiet up aginst th' corral, backed by a blazin' sunrise.
Filled with doubt, th' throbbin' blood poured through th' critter's veins,
With flashin' hooves an' shudderin' hide, fear raced through their brains.

Th' boy would wait, still as a stone, 'til th' worst of it had passed,
Then he'd move slow, takin' the sun's glare out of their eyes at last.
Henry'd hunch his back up waitin' 'til he felt th' first shy move,
Then he'd cock his head  an' drop his hip t' show that he approved.

Their noddin' heads an' canted eyes would answer only to him...
He'd shoulder in, layin' his hands on th' young'un's quivverin' skins.
Nudgin' an' turnin'...walkin' away... speakin' in tongues of their own,
I never once saw Feather Henry come close t' bein' thrown.

I knew I'd been seein' wonders performed before my very eyes;
When I said as much t' Henry, he just looked at me, surprised.
He never seemed to comprehend the way that he'd been blessed,
Or even why th' rest of us had always seemed impressed.

Th' boy grew up to be a man, we'd come t' take him fer granted,
Stickin' some feathers up on th' gate whenever we needed his talent;
Time went by an' as things changed, th' country went t' war,
It was some other folks' fight in Asia, just like we'd done before.

Henry talked war talk like th' rest of us but no one thought he'd go,
Then he joined up an' spent his boot camp in a place called Quantico.
Henry went t' 'Nam an' when they shipped him an' his medals back,
We put him t' rest the Nez Perce' way... with hawk feathers in our hats.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Byrd Woodward's paternal grandfather,
Chester Warren Jordan, a horse whisperer.

 

We asked Byrd about her inspiration for "Feather Henry" and she replied:

Yes, it's drawn from my experience...Grandpa Jordan, who lived with us for quite a while, could do this..and my husband Woody is pretty good at it, too. The young man in the poem is real, he just wasn't a whisperer...he was a fellow my brother went to high school with, a talented writer and poet...I've often wondered what we've missed by his death...I thought his work was wonderful.

 

 

Byrd Woodward was previously recognized as

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for her poem, Goodbye to Friends

 

We asked Byrd about her inspiration for "Goodbye to Friends" and she replied:

I think the poem, "Goodbye to Friends" speaks pretty well for itself in that the true story is there, the quality of the people, their character and the lifestyle of western folks on small ranches in the forties is made pretty clear.  One of the two, Bowser, could climb trees and Grampa made Prince Albert money betting on that dog for years. The only thing I'd like to add is to identify the people...they are my maternal grandparents, Joseph
Benjamin (called Ben) (b. 1886-d. 1973)  and Nellie Flora (Badley) DeMasters (called Flora) (b. 1887-d. 1972), who were among the finest folks I've ever known.  I thank them every day for the "how to live a life" gifts they gave me when I was young and even though I've sometimes failed to live up to their standards, they know that I've been doing my best.

 

Goodbye to Friends

I never saw you without seein' them...
I can't guess how old they were;
Elmer was s'posed to be Gramma's dog,
You'd brought him home fer her.
But all they needed was to hear your step,
They'd be waitin' there by th' door,
Both of 'em with their tongues hangin' out,
Wonderin' what you'd be needin' 'em for.

You told me once that Bowser had taught
Elmer to be a cow dog;
But that mutt would of worked anything you
Pointed to...sheep, chicken or hog.
We watched 'em workin' the herd as one,
As the grass turned green in the spring,
Though they was two sep'rate critters...
Your voice was pullin' one string.

As you gathered up for th' work day,
Gramma an' me watched from the porch,
Carryin' yer noon meal in a cotton sack,
An' saddlin' up yer paint horse.
Them dogs would wait fer ya', steady an'
Patient as twin bumps on a log...
Then Gramma would turn to the kitchen
An' mutter, "There he goes with MY dog."

Of course the years fin'ly took their toll...
Time waits fer no man or beast,
They laid longer mornin's by the wood stove
Stretched out an' takin' their ease.
They both started stiff'nin' up in the cold,
Gained weight, their muzzles grew gray;
They'd take time off now and an' again,
And you'd put things off for a day.

You give 'em a boost up in the truck,
They'd wait, muscles all bunched to help;
One on each side of th' tailgate,
Longin' fer th' days they was whelps.
They was just like two little gray men
Workin' at not getting' old...
Neither of 'em wantin' to give it up,
Each still tryin' to pull his load.

Grampa fin'ly had 'em put down,
Side by side, on the same day...
Like they was still workin' cow dogs
Holdin' a rank Hereford at bay.
Me an' Gramma stood on th' porch
While Grampa drove over th' bridge;
Seems like those dogs are still runnin'
There...just over the ridge.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Byrd writes: "This is a picture of my grandpa, Joseph Benjamin DeMasters and his dog, Bowser, at the high camp in Little Valley, Idaho."  

This poem is also included in our collection of
 poems about Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 

Who is this Feller?

Who IS this feller my ma's brung home
An' what's he doin' out here?
Standin' in th' yard in his new Levi's
With hair stickin' outta his ears.
He shore don't look like much t' me
With his boots run down at th' heels..
If that's th' best hand she could find in town
She didn't make much of a deal.

See,  he's tilted' over to th' left...
Whoa! she's haulin' him up on th' porch!
"Hayes", says she, "these here's m' kids,
There's Byrdie an' Donald, of course.
An' this little 'un here is baby Ron...
Now, Ron! don't you tune up an' cry!
(He's carried on some since his Pa's
Been gone...an' I'm durned if I know why.")

Who IS this feller my ma's brung home?
They've got theirselves married up!
If that ain't th' dad-blamedest thing I've heard
Since th' devil in hell was a pup!
Ma says he's good as she's apt t' get.
In spite of th' squint in his eye;
If he's th' best then what th' heck
Did th' ones look like she passed by?

Well, he knows how t' shoe an' sets
A good seat when he's ridin' our big bay;
I ain't seen 'im run th' colts or th' calves
An' he's up at  th' first crack of day.
He don't seem to shirk th' dirty work
An' I ain't seen him showin' off much..
'Less you count grabbin' Ron on th' run
When he plumb near got hit by that truck.

He's been a-workin' hard on th' place,
Pretty much from sun-up 'til down.
He's fixed the roof an' nailed up th' shed
An' he brung a new pump out from town.
Donald an' him, their getting' along;
About as friendly as they can be..
I can tell what he's been warmin' up to
An' he best not try that on ME!

Who IS this feller my ma brung home?
He's been hangin' around now a year.
Ronnie don't cry when he picks 'im up;
Seems he shore has settled in here.
Me, I don't know what to call 'im..
Seems funny now just sayin'  'Hayes'.
Ma thinks we all ought to call 'im 'Pa'
Gram an' Gramp,  that's what they both say.

That feller an' ma was talkin' tonight..
I heard 'em when I was in bed;
Ma says, "I can make her straighten up!"
"She'll likely grow into it"s all that he said.
I laid there with my heart all fisted up;
My innards felt empty an' black;
I was missin' th' man that is my Pa...
But I reckon he ain't comin' back.

Who IS this feller my ma brung home?
The ranch is shore lookin' fine.
The wood pile's stacked plumb up to th' eaves,
An' th' whole place has took on a shine.
Hayes, he don't take much credit,
Says "that Byrd, she's shore a good hand!
Yestid'y she helped me set th' new posts.
Got done quicker than I ever planned".

Who IS this feller my ma brung home?
The derndest thing's happened now.
Don left th' gate open fer the fifteenth time,
An' I got run down by a cow.
I jist couldn't  keep from hollerin''..
I looked up through m' tears an' saw
That feller my ma brung home that day
...Th' one that I'd just called 'Pa'.

It's true he's gimpy on that one side,
But if you squint yer eyes it don't show;
His ears sticks out like dinner plates,
An' he keeps his hat pulled down low.
But you ask him now when we're in town
"Who's this bunch you got with you today?"
He'll grin, an' say, "Pard, this here's m' fam'ly!
I've growed into 'em, now, y' might say."

© 2001, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This poem is also included in our collection of
 poems about Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 


The Project 

Ranchin' out west's getting' harder each day
What with th' gov'mint men an' all...
Ever day they's breathin' fire down yer neck,
An' you'd better answer th' call.
Last Spring I'd been puttin' off a job
So I set down an' drawed me a plan..
I figgered next time I went t' town,
I'd stop by at th' permit man.

He told me he'd hep me rework 'er some
Til he thought it 'ud be jist fine...
Said he'd kick it up t' th' county boys
An' approval could take some time.
So I checked th' mailbox 'bout onct a week...
It's pert' near eight miles t' th' gate..
In Summer a letter come from th' State,
Said I'd left out m' cost estimate.

So I filled out th' form that they'd sent me,
Dotted eyes an' crosst all th' tees..
Then waited some more 'til I thought it was
Gettin' jist about time to freeze.
Next March a sixteen year old kid showed up..
I met him out here on th' porch;
He said he was th' offishul inspecter
An' th' site he'd come out t' endorse.

"Do it this way..no, that ain't quite right yit...
Now, yer too fer t' the left..
If you move jist a leetle bit back t' th' right,
Ya kin finish 'er up by yerself"!
Well, he'd moved me right back where I'd started
When I tuk out th' damned permit...
We'd used up th' better part of a year
Decidin' jist where th'...privy should set.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

The Hat 

The hat hung on a peg in the back
The afternoon Kate married Cliff... 
She knew th' first moment she spied him
He was th' man she'd be with.

He was ridin' a lively bay gelding
Wearin' th' hat and a flashy red shirt;
Grinnin' an' winkin', an' showin' off...
Workin' 'er for all he was worth.

Katie, with her sister, said, "Nell, he's th' one
I been lookin' for all my young life;
An' before next fall, you just watch an' see,
We'll be livin' as husband an' wife.

He was slick as he courted an' wooed her,
A silvr'ed tongue at his command;
It wasn't long 'fore he had her eatin'
Direct from the palm of his hand.

She believed their 'love' was eternal
He promised her she'd never lack;
Forever lasted less than six years;
When she ran, she took his old hat.

Nowadays it sits on a tousled blond head
That belongs to an angel that fell
Straight out of the 'match made in Heaven'
That took them both into Hell.

There's only two things she's kept thru th' years
That belonged to the man of her dreams...
The blue-eyed girl who looks too much like him
An' a cowboy hat split at th' seams.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


The next four poems form a series, and they are also included in our collection of  poems about Cowboy Dads and Grandads


 

Born to the Breed

"A pinto!" my Gramma said with surprise.
Old Maggie must have stars in her eyes.
Her foals have been dark for th' last fifteen years;
She's waited 'til late to start shiftin' gears!"

Within two days Maggie lay dead on th' ground,
Her last foal stompin' and snortin' around
As if to say "Man, now look what you done..
We was getting' on fine until you come along".

Grandpa said, "Flora, that colt just won't feed",
"Don't fret now Ben, I know what he needs".
Down at th' corral she tried and she tried
Then fin'ly sat down on the bucket and cried.

Gramps said, "Sonny, you've got us both beat
It's up to you now, I can't make you eat"!
Th' colt danced around some, then made up his mind...
An' butted my Grampa right in the behind!

Ben grew closer to that colt than his boys..
Sons disappointed, but the horse was pure joy.
Ever day they'd be workin', just after dawn,
Next thing you'd know the mornin' was gone.

Ben's hands an' his friends laughed at his back..
Sayin' "Look, he's cow-hocked an' those hooves'll crack!"
They thought the man was pure wastin' his time
But soon that pony could turn on a dime.

Two years down th' road, they saw what he had...
Said, "Ben, I'd take that colt offa yer hands".
Gramps 'ud look up with a grin on his face.
"Ain't this here th' horse you called a disgrace?"

The two worked together as if they was one
Never quittin' until th' last dog was hung...
"There's one more steer down there in that brush",
Through snows an' sweat an' the alkali dust.

There are cowboys and horses out there today.
About only a few will you hear cowhands say,
"I'd ride into hell with that man an' his horse,
An' foller 'em up River Styx to it's source".

Grampa an' Sonny were both of that breed,
Westerners born into desperate need..
I'm proud to think I can measure up some
To either of them when th' day's work is done.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Workin' Partners

I recall we was down at the auction.
That dude was watchin' you cut;
"I'll buy that horse from you, Sir", he declared,
"Here's a  thousand right on th' spot!"
Th' man musta thought you was crazy
As you shook yer lariat out,
'Cuz you laughed out loud, callin' to him
"I'll say no if  that's all you got."

From that day on Sonny was known
As Ben's 'thousand dollar' horse;
Th' story went all over Gem County,
Spreadin' an' gainin' new force.
Each re-tellin' only got better
Till it got down to Carl Deflores;
After that whenever you'd see him
He'd grin. and offer you more!

For years I'd watched you and Sonny
Workin' like one soul, not two.
You wouldn'ta been more insulted
If he'd offered to buy ME from you.
The thousand th' dude offered wasn't close
Fer that colt you'd raised up by hand.
It'ud take ever green apple God ever made
An' most of th' cash in th' land.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Warriors from the Same Tribe

Grampa and Sonny were both getting old
Bringin' cows down off summer range,
They'd set out with th' boys pretty late in the fall
And the weather had started to change.

Crossin' 95 three times with the herd,
An' swimmin' the Payette as well,
Down the rock canyon the wild river'd cut.
Steep and slipp'ry as the trail into hell.

Sonny skidded hard on the ice and fell
With the old man's leg in between;
Riders who saw it said it was the worst
Horse wreck they ever had seen.

Sonny struggled to his feet and stood ground-reined,
He was bleedin' and fav'rin' an ankle;
But he stuck right there, protectin' the boss,
Who was downstream in that river of cattle.

           *********************

The folks an' th' horse left the ranch the same day,
Leg and ankle to hurt to recover;
To a little ten acre spread there in Sweet
With good fishin' and mighty deep clover.

Grampa'd go down at first light with the bridle
And jingle his horse to the fence;
They'd stand and visit,  like old friends will
'Bout the days when they both could still dance.

Sonny'd prod at the old man's pockets and sleeves
'Til he found hidden sugar or such;
Then he'd toss his head and snort like a colt!
Grandpa'd say, " Whoa now, old hoss, don't fuss".

The end came for both long years back in th' past
But I can see them so clear in my mind.
Sonny cuttin' rank range steers out of the herd,
Grampa swingin' his loop true and wide.

If a man can be judged by his work an' his word
An' a horse by his loyalty an' trust,
There've never been two truer souls on this earth..
Ash to ashes and dust into dust.


© 2001, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Spirit Horse and Rider


Sonny was nearin' thirty years old,
Long in th' tooth an' near blind...
Comin' t' th' fence mornin's became a chore,
You could almost hear his joints grind.
He'd been th' best cow pony on th' range,
Grampa dreaded what had t' be done...
They spent more time in th' pasture together,
Both knowin' th' time would soon come.

Ben called up Willard an' Joe on th' phone,
Said "Boys, I'm needin' a hand.
I've got some diggin' that needs t' be done,
An' you know how quick I get fanned."
His sons drove on up Monday in pickups
With shovels an' tools in th' beds...
Both their faces were sorrowful an' grim,
They knew what was layin' ahead.

Down in the meadow, diggin' took half a day...
Then, both his boys offered to do it,
But Ben said no, it was his job alone...
He might jist as well git to it.
He scratched Sonny's ears, fed him an apple,
Curried an' brushed his pinto hide,
Stroked th' white handprint there on his left hip...
They longed for just one more ride.

Sonny wore th' fine horsehair hackamore
Ben braided long ago with his hands,
Th' old man checked th' paint's hooves and hocks
An' stroked th' old Cross J brand.
Then he walked t' th' house for his pistol,
Led Sonny alongside that grave...
An' shot that courageous horse in th' head,
Tears of grief scalded trails on his face.

Th' three of 'em shoveled th' dirt back,
Joe drove his truck across th' raw earth...
Grampa stood thinkin' 'bout old Maggie,
Who'd died givin' th' colt birth.
On still nights I can hear Sonny whicker,
Th' wild spirit within my soul thrills...'cuz
I know that my Granddad's still ridin'
His medicine horse up in th' hills.

© 2002, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This is a picture taken in 1945 of my Grampa DeMasters and his '$1000' cutting and roping horse, Sonny....you can't see the hand print on his hip....this was taken at the home place in Sweet, Idaho...it's the only photo I have of the two of them...it looks so much like him, with the roll-your-own hanging from the corner of his mouth and his bow legs..


The above four poems form a series, and they are also included in our collection of  poems about Cowboy Dads and Grandads


 

Peanut What?


I drove th' pick-up to town one mornin' early in spring
For new mower blades, crankcase oil an' some rolls of balin' string.

I met a feller from Georgia who was passin' through our town,
He was out west th' first time to visit an' gander some around.

He'd stopped at th' Coffee Pot diner for a big dose of caffeine..
I was in there bitchin'' 'bout my damned ol' mowin' machine.

I knew I'd be makin' changes at th' ranch before too long...
We'd had a string of real bad luck with lots of things goin' wrong.

He claimed he was a peanut farmer, his crop a little root,
Said he made a middlin' livin' an' he traveled some, to boot.

Declared his place had an 'off-season', a term I'd never heard;
He told me some about th' work an' a thought to me occurred.

It sounded like a lot less work than I'd done all my life,
An' I had yet to travel more than t' Sante Fe with my wife.

I shook my head in wonder, said I'd like to take a look..so
Th' man agreed to ship me a 'how to grow 'em' book.

By an' by the book arrived in our mailbox by th' road
An' I sat down t' read it soon as I got th' meadow mowed.

Th' discription that the book contained sounded good to me,
So I took it to th' kitchen for my lovely wife to see.

She laughed out loud when she'd read it, sayin' she was sure
I'd lost my mind completely.. maybe I'd sniffed too much manure.

I yelled, "Damn it, woman, we got to look ahead these days,
We ain't gittin' younger an' th' price of beef never seems to raise!

It looks like this nut bus'ness would diversify us some
Even if we don't decide t' go whole hog 'er none."

Mae turned them big eyes on me an' gave me th' special look
That tells me 'Duck, Cowboy, yer goose is gonna git cooked'.

"Now I don't doubt that plannin' fer th' future's a good thing
But change like that don't come about on th' pro-verbial shoe-string."

Mae said it looked to her like what th' farmer'd really sent me
Was nothin' but a full-blown case of Georgia peanut envy.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 

His Land

In the desert southwest sits a ranch house, distressed
By weather, time and neglect...
The shiplap is faded and the whole place leans
A tad to the left of erect.

An old cowboy sits out on his front porch,
Smoking a roll-your-own cigarette;
Since the radio quit, the paper's the only
Fresh news he's been able to get.

It lays on his lap as he sits in the dusk,
His face a map on old leather...
His thin hair combed over the top of his head,
The dog and him there together.

The old rocker creaks as he starts to read,
Hands shaking like new aspen leaves,
The front page photo shows two New York towers,
Shocked eyes register his disbelief.

The acres he owns were deeded to him by
His best friend who died in the War.
With no kith or kin, Frank cried, dying there,
"It's my land I've been fightin' for!

Now, you got to take it, Hab," he had said.
"Make it your dream in place of mine,
Although you know nothin' of ranchin' and cows,
You'll learn...an' make out just fine."

When the fight was done, he'd come to this place,
Dry land, but with one real good well.
It reminded Hab of the place he'd been born.
Searing heat like the fires out of hell;

Frank's dream lived in his soul through the long years,
It became his one guiding light.
The learning cost pride and bone breaking work,
But it gained him four boys and a wife.

They'd built a ranch on the bare piece of ground
That his buddy gave his life for;
His beloved wife died after thirty good years,
The sons were gone by seventy-four.

He lives here alone with his memories and
Talks to the one horse he keeps,
Along with his dog Kush, and some chickens,
A cow and a few head of sheep.

The old hand shivers and weeps in the dark,
Then rises at the first show of light
To go fetch his faded World War II flag,
His march at Bataan in his mind.

Many friends died in that hellish time, but
Back then the enemy was clear;
Now we must fight cruel cowards who will strike
The ideals this country holds dear.

He hangs "Old Glory" from its place on the porch,
Stands at attention out in the dirt...
And sings for the flag he fought to defend...
His uniform an old cowboy shirt.

The place of his birth is far, far away,
He sings with an accented voice..
The stirring anthem of the United States,
The Land that's his... only by choice. 

© 2001, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

 

Just the Hats, Ma'am

My first mornin' in th' bunkhouse,
I was startin' in to dress
When I heard th' boys discussin' hats...
Th' kind we wear out west.
First off I heard, "Georgie, hide that thing
Ya call th' 'Big Sidewinder!'
Y'all keep them fancy 'Hollywoods'...what
I want, if I kin find 'er,
Is a big, ol' black 'Boss a' th' Plains'...
Stetson had th' right idée!
'Til then I'll wear this old 'Denton Pinch';
It works jist fine fer me."

Th' feller talkin' was Jigger Bob,
He had an honest claim;
Brim pulled down both front an' back,
It surely will shed rain.
Said he'd seen a "Riverboat Gambler"
"Gave me th' heebie jeebs,
That Spanish lacin' looks right fem-i-nine,
It's band was stitched with beads."
'Tana Pete said he was partial to
A wide brim, nice high crown...
A long high crease droppin' back to front,
His color choice was brown.

Th' next hand spoke, a squirt named Runty
He acted pretty cocky...
He claimed he'd rode th' entire west from
Th' ocean to th' Rockies.
"Like as not, I'll be keepin' my old
President's style of brim;
'Harry' seems t' like it mighty fine,
Thar's hand rollin' round th' rim."
Th' Runt thought he was th' one true gift
God give t' ever woman...
He was sure as hell he looked a lot
Like Mr. Harry Truman.

Briscoe Lip said, "Ya waddies lookee here,
Th' 'Keller Di'mond' stands me fine...
You boys best watch those skunky hands!
Cuz' y'all know that it's mine!"
"Wal, that's fine fer all you Staked Plains boys,
Give me 'Weatherford Double X'...
Buckeroos all know whar I hail from...
Ain't no doubt I'm a Tex!"
Most hands can figger th' direction
Each feller rode in from,
By takin' a gander at his hat...
Whether dude or saddle bum.

I figgered it was comin' time
To make my first appearance;
My old worn chinks an' workin' gloves
Would prove I knew th' dance.
So I pulled th' blanket down
An' smiled my "girlie" smile,
"I reckon I'll jist stick with mine...
It's been around a while."
I had on my little "teardrop" that
Sported a sweetheart string...
Th' boys began t' whoop it up;
"Now ain't that just th' thang!

"Boys, look at this, I do believe
We got ourselves a dude...
She's gotta rope her hat down tight!
'Scuse us, Miss, fer bein' rude!"
"It don't bother me a little bit
To wear mine with a string...
It holds th' dang thing on real tight,
When I'm out ridin' swing.
When my derned hat flies off in th' wind,
Instead 'a foolin' round,
I jam it back on with just one hand,
An' I keep my dally wound.
With them big'uns flyin' off yer heads
Each time ya strike a breeze,
Ya wear horses out jist givin' chase
To big felt tumbleweeds.

"Now step down, my puncher friends, an'
When ya' walk up to it,
Th' dang wind'll grab it one more time
An' now, boys, yer on foot.
Staggerin' round th' prairie with
Yer noses fulla dust,
Cussin' them jewels that made ya seem
Like 'cowhand upper-crust!
So I'll raise a cold one to ya, gents
From a barstool back in town,
While all you big ol' cowboy studs
Run them loose hats down."

© 2001, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

A Man for All Seasons

My Pa drove off mad an' drunk fer good, when I was jist a kid...
Ma said "Good riddance to rubbish" an' that she was glad he did.
It was hard t' figger that one out, there was so much work t' do,
Th' place was a torn-apart puzzle an' my Pa had been th' glue.

It stands t' reason three little kids didn't make very good hands;
But we was there an' it seemed like nobody else gave a damn.
I was eight an' Donald was five an' Ronnie just a baby...
Ma said we could do it alone and she didn't mean 'maybe'.

I'd seen th' fights, the drunken jags... I knew what it was about,
Still a pa was someone kids like us could hardly do without.
I didn't blame either one of them, it was part of my young life...
Still, I knew we were all in trouble, no matter who was right.

I missed most of a whole school year, what with one thing an' another,
Us kids did th' best we knew but ya' should have seen my mother.
She derricked up th' loose hay, thankful th' late cut was so scant,
She worked 'way past tired, stumblin' on from 'can see t' can't'.

We'd had pretty darned close t' fifty head when my Pa lit out,
We sold in th' fall, everything we thought we could do without.
She forked hay on th' sled, broke th' ice an' fed th' horses an' cows,
Winter was bad, she slept in her clothes, an' did fer us kids somehow.

I cooked; oatmeal an' bacon, mostly, t' help her with that load;
Don looked out fer Ronnie in th' spring, while Ma an' me rode
Th' fences in diff'rent directions, hopin' we'd find none down,
So we could turn th' cows we had left out t' forage on their own.

Late spring, we was plump wore out when we heard racket in th' yard,
Buster was barkin' his head off, standin' his family's guard.
It was Gramps, my Pa's dad, lookin' like hell an' stinkin' of sheep
That he'd winter'd with down in Shoshone, arrivin' in his old heap.

We were sick in th' house with colds when he poked th' fire up flush,
Scrambled eggs, sang t' th' boys; Ma cried an' he told her t' hush.
"'Pears t' me, Kate, you could use a hand, though we ain't ever got on...
If we can stand each other a while, I'll see what needs t' be done."

An' God love his heart, we set to that day, me an' him alone,
Givin' Ma time t' gather up some an' spend a few hours on her own.
Gramps smelled bad an' his red handles drooped down in th' rear;
He drank whiskey an' thought water, on him, was somethin' t' fear.

"Too much bathin'll weaken ya," he'd claim jist t' git Ma's goat,
"An' you all got t' remember, I ain't never learnt how t' float."
He seemed like an angel to us kids, spesh'ly t' me an' Don;
He'd whinney an' buck just like a horse down on th' floor with Ron.

We ate turnips an' taters out of th' garden... then we swore
It musta been rabbits that got 'em, then went an' ate some more.
We climbed rafters t' see baby swallers, slept outside on th' porch,
Went on adventures in th' dark, lightin' our way with a torch.

Best of all, he gave us time to figger out how t' keep th' ranch,
Th' place still looked like a gypsy camp, but Gramps gave us a chance.
He stayed on day after day, chousin' steers up outta th' draws,
Scratchin' his rump, turnin' air blue, fartin' an' spittin' his chaw.

He an' Ma spatted like two cats, each claimin' space in th' barn;
He' pester an' plague her, hide scissors an' tangle up her yarn.
He told th' best stories, played banjo an' wrote good cowboy poems,
He fixed his bald spot by layin' long gray hairs 'cross th' top with his comb.

I trusted ever word he told me about crossin' th' plains at age eight,
Th' Cheyenne had scalped him..."that's why there's no hair on my pate.
We'll set some nail holes, plant horse's tail hair, manure an' water it good,
By spring we should have me a new crop!"...an' I believed we would.

Came th' day ma found her a man I didn't think much of at first,
They married an' I found out we coulda done a lot worse.
Gramps would be leavin' us, sayin' the ranch only needed one boss;
I went numb when I heard it, sure I couldn't bear such a loss.

Th' day he left out, after three years, I cried an' begged him t' stay;
I couldn't imagine doin' without th' man who'd taught me to play.
He kissed my head an' whispered, "Honey, I ain't goin' that far..."
I only saw him once more in my life, wavin' to me from a car.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is also included in our collection of
 poems about Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 


Byrd Woodward (center) with her grandfather 
Chester Warren Jordan (left) and her 
father, Clifford Woodrow Jordan



We're Waitin' on You


I'd get up in th' mornin' ahead of th' rest,
So when Pa got t' stirrin' about,
I'd have water pumped and th' woodbox full
An' everbody's work gear laid out.
Th' fresh eggs were gathered fer my Ma,
Th' fire was hot an' coffee was done,
I did every chore I knew how to do...
So I wouldn't hear "Boy, get a move on,

Ever'body's waitin' on you."

My Ma wasn't treated much better than me,
The boys sassed her back an' made faces...
I willingly helped her with all that I could
An' abided within her good graces.
She'd pat me an' hug me an' ruffle my hair,
When none of th' rest was around...
Pa, he glared and growled at her all th' time,
   She hardly dared make a sound.

"We're waitin' on that boy of yers."

I never knew then what it was about me
That made Pa so all-fired mad...
I only knew when he looked at me hard,
It made me feel guilty an' bad.
Then one day my big brother told me,
   "Hurry up, you plumb sorry bastard..."
    I didn't know for years what that word meant;
    I did know it couldn't be good.

"Somebody's always waitin' on you."

Oh, I'd spent some time lollygaggin'
Around... back when I couldn't tell
That they all thought I didn't amount
To more than a blister in Hell.
So I'd taken t' paddlin' my own canoe,
Worked longer, harder an' faster;
By lookin' out fer deadfalls ahead,
I held off th' worst disasters.

"We're waitin' on you...agin."

I split wood without waitin' to be told,
Oiled my tack an' put it away;
If I wore plumb out, nobody else knew,
I finished out every long day.
I'd fall asleep in the back of th' truck,
An' up on th' roan mare I rode...
I learned how t' doze with one eye open
An' none of 'em ever knowed.

"Git saddled...we're waitin' on you."

Then when I was barely ten, Ma died..
I got thru it on nothin' but will;
Th' only gentleness I'd ever known
Was buried up there on th' hill.
Pa didn't let up on me fer one day,
He said "Guess you'll be th' new cook."
I'd never fixed nothin' but coffee...
I dug out Ma's recipe book.

We're waitin' on you t' eat."

"We're waitin' on you... those words scraped my soul
An' they cut me clear to th' bone,
I knew them and th' sneer that went with 'em
Would be chiseled on my tombstone.
At last I was big enough to run off an'
I lit me a shuck that trailed fire,
I knew I'd never go back there agin
No matter where I had to hire.

They'll wait a long time fer me.

It's been a long hard track that I've follered,
I've wanted to lay down an' quit...
 But if Ma didn't give me anything else,
I got a big dose of her grit.
I've got a little spread of my own here, an'
When I have a son an' a wife,
I swear to 'em both the words I'll never say...
Are th' ones that near ruined my life:

"We can't git nothin' done fer waitin' on you."


© 2002, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Byrd Woodward adds: There are a lot of kids in the world who hear nothing but criticism from daylight to dark; most times those words land as hard on little ones as  physical blows.  Lord, give us patience and long memories.



Plenty of Time


There's time tomorrow
To get th' gate fixed
An' take care of  th' roof.
I'll get Ma's garden plowed
Later this week...
An' work on th' bay gelding's hoof.

I got plenty a' time.

That pig wire's loose
An' th' cellar latch, too...
I'll get t' that on Monday.
Th' hen house door broke
An' a weasel got in...
Ma'd have a fit if I worked on a Sunday.

I got plenty a' time.

I need t' make me
A trip into town...
Fer balin' wire an' such.
Ma needs flour I know an'
I'll bet sugar, too...
I oughta stop in an' see Dutch.

I got plenty a' time.

Aye God! I fergot!
Jen's birthday got by me...
She'll be mad as a old wet hen.
Well, I have t'
Go into town anyway...
I'll pick her up somethin' then.

I got plenty a' time.

I need t' check
On th' north waterhole.
It's prob'ly been fouled by now.
Petardo's got ticks
An' th' calves got th' scours...
Things've got by me somehow...but.

I got plenty a' time.

Th' neighbor called,
There's a hole in th' fence...
Now, I got t' mend that right away.
I've got my good
Bull in that pasture.aw...hell,
He's prob'ly got out anyway.

I got  plenty a' time.

I fell off th' roof,
Shoulda fixed that old ladder...
M' ankle's sprained purty bad.
Th' weather's turned cold an'
I ain't got them steers
In offa the Iron Springs flats.

I got plenty a' time.

I had to hire
Some of th' roundup work done...
Dutch's boys came over t' help.
An', bless their hearts, they
Stayed on t' do brandin'...
M' ankle's still on th' gimp.

 Aw well, I got plenty a' time.

Cookin' fer roundup
Was hard on Mama this fall, but
You know she ain't one to complain.
Jen said she'd help
But she never got out here...
I reckon she'll call an' explain.

There's plenty of time fer Ma t' rest up.
Heard from Jenny this mornin'
Said little Tommy's been sick...
I really should get into town.
But th' mower tore up an'
Th' pump handle broke off...
The dang wind blew th' outhouse down.

Shoot, there's still plenty of time.

Ma took sick n' died,
An' Jen, she's done left town...
She took young Tommy with her.
Th' last time I told
Jenny or Mama I loved 'em...
I cain't rightly remember.

Seemed like I had plenty of time.

© 2001, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Byrd Woodward adds: I think this is one of those experiences  we've  all had at one time or another.  Lord, give us long memories and keep us from procrastination.

Byrd is the nicest kind of person, and when she showed us a poem she planned to perform at Sierra Vista in 2002 though not really meanin' it for publication, we asked if we could please share it with folks.  We appreciate bein' mentioned along with her good pards, folks familiar to many, Buckshot Dot (Dee Strickland Johnson), Rusty Calhoun, Jane Morton, and Ron Brinegar

 

Flutterin' Byrdie

I've been writing an' rhyming all of my life..
I don't know how NOT to do it,
I never expected the time would come when
Other folks would listen to it.
If it weren't fer several new friends of mine,
This would never have come about;
I'd still be hunker'd in th' poetry closet..
Flutterin' Byrdie, filled up with doubt.
 
Please bear with me while I name a few of them,
Some of 'em you're sure to know:
There's Jane, Rusty an' Dot...an' Ron Brinegar.
Most of 'ems here now fer this show!
There's th' Bar-D ranch site on th' Internet,
Cowboypoetry dot com's what it's called..
They got 'em an e-lectronic bulletin board,
They tacked some 'a my stuff up last Fall.

A little word of encouragement
Can sometimes change people's lives.
Couldn't hurt us all to remember that,
If opportunity should arise.
A few words and a smile to a little old lady
Saying how nice she looks today,
Might make it a day that she'll never forget..
It costs nothin' to give words away.

Now I'm out here ridin' th' Rhymin' Range,
Spurrin' my bronc fer 8 Seconds...
Comin' outta  th' chute in front of y'all...
That's really th' hard part, I reckon.
I thank all 'a you folks, as well as my pards,
There's somethin' special about ya'...
I'm saddled up here, with my soul hangin' out,
An' I'd never have done it without ya'!

© 2002, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

 

The Last Nail


Ya might not think I'm much t' look at with my ol' boots turned up at th' toes,
Th' heels is run down an' the sole's comin' loose from the nails workin' outta their holes.
M' hat is flat-out disgraceful and these batwings is wore down to bat-ears;
Th' belt I'm wearin' looks pretty fair since I been tight'nin' it up all these years.
M' shirts wore through at th' elbows, my kack's been rode down t' th' wood,
M' hair's curlin' round m' collar an' these pants ain't holdin' up like they should.
Nope, I never made or saved money, ridin' fer day work all over these parts,
Th' way I look prob'ly has somethin' to do with th' fact I ain't broke many hearts.


Maybe I oughta point out some I do have since what I ain't got's purty plain:
I got th' sense God gave a goose and I know to git outta th' rain.
Ya might think this rangy ol' geldin' is played out an' not up t' th' game,
But you turn him t' cuttin' an' ropin'...he'll put other ponies t' shame.
When he's worked all day an' half th' night, a bait of grain'll bring back his stout.
Been offered top dollar at round-ups but I'll keep this toppy ol' mount.
Looks don't tell much about what makes a hand an' my rep's sound as any round here.
My shake's good as gold, I don't raise much dust... any cowman'll buy me a beer.


I got 10,000 sunsets an' dawnin's packed under this ol' hat,
An' pards who'll trust me t' git 'em home, whether I say it's this way or that.
I got a daughter I'm proud of, dogs don't growl when I show up at th' gate.
That li'l gal I saved from drownin' that time's got a boy calls me Uncle Jake.
So...if I leave friends behind in Montany whenever or how come I die,
If I don't show up fer spring brandin' an' damp shows in somebody's eye.
If th' folks I worked with remember that when I said I'd do it...I did,
I b'lieve my maker'll be satisfied when they pound th' last nail in th' lid.



© 2002, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Good Men and Good Horses


You can pick a good man like you would a horse,
You want one that don't need to be spurred;
Watch him real close when he doesn't know it...
See how he treats the rest of the herd.
If he's got a cold jaw, you don't want him,
And watch for the whites of his eyes...
If his ears lay back when you're talking nice,
You're prob'ly in for a nasty surprise.

If he bogs his head at the saddle,
If he likes kicking fences and gates,
You'd best put your ardor in neutral...
Rein in your impatience and wait.
One will come along one of these days
That will help you get out of a fix...
He won't run your leg up against the corral,
Nor choose a bad time to play tricks.

He'll know the right time to back up
When you've dug the front leg from the bog,
And he won't like it much...but he'll do it
When the cook needs him to drag up a log.
He'll give you a nuzzle and a whicker
At the end of a long, hellish day...
And watch out for the prairie dog holes
To keep harm from coming your way.

Cut yourself out a real good one
That stands out from the rest of the bunch,
Never pick one that shies at the rope...
And follow up on a good hunch.
I hope, girl, you choose one like I got...
Dodge the showy one who sees you first;
Might be you'll make a mistake or two,
But you won't come out for the worse...

...As long as you don't lay down your future
On a fancy one that only 'shows good.'
Lay back and wait for one with some bottom,
That moves up gentle just like he should.
The man I got by waiting and watching
Is one I'll never sell or trade.
He's got a lot of good years in him yet...
Yes, sir, the best deal I ever made...

© 2002, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 

Start As You Mean To Go On...
For Nellie Flora Demasters 


Tiny hands clutching blue granite-ware plates
Along with a flour-sacking towel.....
"Gramma, I can't hold onto them both!
My hands is a little too small!"
"Of course you can, honey, you're a big girl........
Dryin' two's as easy as pie;
Just hold 'em like this and wipe the top
Then change to the other side."

"But if I change 'em, they'll fall on th' floor
An' then they'll break all to Hell!
Mama says I ain't learnt a darn thing
Since th' day I cracked out of my shell!"
"First, don't you start cussin', Nellie Byrd...
Yer a little too young fer sich things.
An' next I ain't noticed you lackin' sense.
Look how good you done on shoe strings".
 
" Let's get back to th' dishes now, if you please..
I was taught by my Ma in days gone
That you always find you do better when
You start as you mean to go on!"
"What that means to little ones like you
To come out ahead in th' end,
Learn to do it right th' very first time
So you won't have to learn it again."

"Now hold 'em this way and wipe th' top,
Then change them around just like this..
See I knew all along you could do it!!
Come here and get a big kiss!"
'Start as you mean to go on' are words
I learned long ago to live by..
In a kitchen beside a wood-burning stove
Holding two big blue plates to dry.

© 10-21-00, Byrd Woodward   
 This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

(This poem is also posted with our special collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms
)

 

The Answer

He pushed the dun down off the caprock
With only one thought in his mind;
He'd ridden his pony's head plumb down,
And storm clouds had built up behind
A worn out and wearied cowhand,
Whose years tallied up pretty high.
With a soggy hat and a wet slicker
That flapped cold and stiff at his sides.
He was traveling hard and packing light.
Had been since he'd gotten the word
Of Carolyn alone and dying slow.
With no hope of her being cured.

You'd think he had a right to go there
So determined did he appear...
God knew how much she meant to him
And how deep in his soul he feared
That he'd arrive to late to tell her
He'd loved her all of his life.
And the reason he'd had to ride away
When she became his brother's wife.
The tired old line-back's steps faltered
Sheet lightning flared up ahead.
There'd be no rest tonight for man or beast,
No shelter, no feed or warm bed.

"Please, please," the old-timer bargained,
"I won't beg or plead ever again,
 If you'll just let me see Cara once more."
The words hammered round in his brain.
Hard black rain battered both horse and man,
The shale slope was a slippery hell.
The old puncher never stood a chance
When his cow pony stumbled and fell.
         He felt his spine snap against a stone,
And watched as his horse limped away;
Sometimes it's the Devil who's listening.
 Much to a believer's dismay.

 It's true that all prayers are answered.
  A response is always bestowed.
    Alone on a talus slope in a storm
 The old man heard a voice say, "No."


© 2002, Byrd Woodward   
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Transition



They got a real late start one fall
Bringin' the cows down home;
I heard it several days later,
I was grown with kids of my own.
Two of the old hands were workin'
With Grampa and Willard and Joe,
Crossin' the pavement above Cascade
Old Sonny fell hard in the snow.

Grampa's leg was broke in six places.
They set it all wrong the first time;
They had to take him to Boise
And start the whole business again.
Six months in a cast convinced him
He couldn't keep ranchin' no more;
The Valley went to a neighbor
And he sold the homeplace to Joe.

He turned sixty-five in the summer,
They bought a gas station in Sweet,
Lived in a little house next door
And they never conceded defeat.
They'd begun a brand new adventure,
Alone, just like at the first;
A snapshot shows the two of them.
New print dress, a sleeve-gartered shirt.

When the station got to be too much
They sold out and bought a place
Just north of town on a nice little crick
Where they could keep a cow and fish.
Grampa cared for his wife by himself
And he took to growin' fine roses;
Her blindness never did seem to vex him,
Put himself in her place, I suppose.

You'd never have known how much he missed
The ranch, the old days and all,
'Cause he lived every day in the present.
"No sense lookin' behind you a-tall."
Gramma died on my birthday in 'seventy one
Beside the man she'd loved all her life.
He was right there, holdin' the hand
Of the woman he called his "sweet wife."

He ordered two tombstones of granite.
One for him and one for his bride;
Then he put all his business in order,
Sat down in his chair and died.
He's been gone now since March of 'seventy-two,
And I've missed him every day since.
I pray to all of my Spirits
They're together now and at rest.

©  10-21-97, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 




This poem is also included in our collection of
 poems about Cowboy Dads and Grandads

 

Mrs. Fenton's Napkin


A little old lady with a genteel air, sat at her table alone;
We were traveling through Wyoming, in a hurry to get on home.
We'd stopped at a diner. it would be fast and prob'ly the cheapest in town.
We'd been to Cheyenne for Frontier Days and left after the last go-round.

Her hair was strawberry blond tinged with gray, she wore a light blue summer
dress,
Proper hat and lacy white gloves, an old cameo pinned over her breast.
There was an aura of sadness about her... her back was erect as she ate.
Just like her Mama had taught her, her movements were calmly sedate.

The place was crowded and as we picked and threaded our way through,
I paused as we passed, leaned down and told her how lovely she looked in
blue.
Her faded eyes smiled into mine, on her cheeks there glowed a faint blush.
She whispered thanks with a nod of her head and we moved along in a rush.

She finished her meal as we ordered and I watched as she walked away.
Her carriage upright, her steps firm and steady, she withdrew her coin purse
to pay.
I thought what a fortunate family she had...she was eighty if she was a day,
"She seems a right able body," my husband said, nodding her way.

Our waitress walked to our table, a folded napkin clutched in her hand,
Said, 'Mrs. Fenton asked me to give you this, said she knew you'd
understand."
On the napkin was a note to thank me for the small kindness I had shown,
"No one has said that to me," she wrote, " in the many years I've been
 alone."

She went on to tell me her husband, dead for these last twenty years,
Had always said blue was her color, and that it should ever be hers.
"So I've worn blue every day since he died; no one but you ever noticed,
I think I'd have cried if I'd spoken, so I left without making a fuss."

I've kept that napkin for thirty years, to remind me each day that we live
In a world where small acts of kindness are the easiest treasures to give.
Words are free...and to make someone happy with just a few of your own,
Rewards both 'giver' and 'getter' with a joy otherwise never known.

©  02-06-02, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 



Things I Done an' Some I Ain't


I ain't ever visited Washington, DC
To tell th' politicians what's what;
I ain't ever married, I prob'ly won't,
I figger that's pretty much that.
I ain't ever owned a place of my own
Though once I thought I just might;
I never et mutton, or beat a horse.
Nor walked if I could ride.

I ain't ever been further than Boise;
I never once give up on my pards;
I never rode down-wind of Medicine Jack,
Nor four-flushed dealin' th' cards.
I ain't learnt t' play th' fiddle
But I'm a dancing' fool.
The ladies line up fer partners
Onc't a month down at th' school.

I never disturbed an Indian ruin,
Them spirits can turn ya' t' stone;
I ain't never borryed ary a thing
But I didn't return th' loan.
There's lots of things I never done
An' some I ain't wanted to..
Some I'd a done given th' chance,
I'll never forget Janie Sue.

My days ain't never been borin',
My nights are filled up with stars;
I won this here buckle at Frontier Days,
On Whiskey Row, drank up th' bars.
I chucked grub in a pinch on a round-up,
Kept many a stray out of harm..
Took th' bosses wife to th' saw-bones
When her horse fell an' she broke her arm.

I ain't never been on a sailin' ship,
 Ain't never flew in a plane;
I been through drought when th' riders
Took up dancin' like Hopis fer rain,
I ain't never been no hero,
Never been to society's whirl;
 I ain't likely to trade this cowboy's life
For anything else in th' world.

©  05-14-01, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

Loss

For the Colen and Ruth Sweeten Family


"If there's ever anything I can do..."
The same words since there are no others;
They come from the hearts of loved ones when
We lose our sons and our daughters...

"Be sure to call me"... "it's better this way"...
We nod and smile,  yes, we know it's true;
It is better for those we love not to suffer
When there's nothing more we can do.

"He's at peace now"... "time heals all things"...
The same words since there are no others...
We listen and hear...and know folks mean well.
As we bury our sisters and brothers.

'Old Rugged Cross'... 'Dear Lord, hear my plea...'
Those same words help our minds to impart
The love precious souls take with them now,
On their journeys to live in our hearts.

"You'll get over it, now that they're gone..."
You're kind, friend, but you've got it wrong
When you use that clichéd phrase because
Their memories will always be strong.

Our people are not merely "days gone by,"
They watch, urging us on as we strive;
Loved ones will never be ashes and dust;
They're with us, their spirits alive.

Keep love in your hearts as you listen to
The same words since there are no others.
Reach out and hold all of those who are dear,
As you grieve... and console one another.

Remember when the thought strikes, "I wish they'd
Seen that... they'd have laughed until they cried!"
You and I know, Friends... they did see that...
Just through slightly different eyes.

©  10-23-02, Byrd Woodward
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

And...Forever
 

Jesse, I came in here expectin' to see
Your dirty old hat on the bed...
I wonder how many times I asked you to
Keep the danged thing on your head...
I hated the sight of it laying there on
The quilt given us when we wed....
God knows the hours Nell spent stitchin' it...
Matchin' the blue, white and red.

I knew where that thing had been...leanin' against the side
Of some rank and manure-y old cow...
Her belly blown up like a big brown balloon...
She got into the jimson somehow.
I recall it layin' in the pig pen once...
You were birthin' that old sow...
 I tell you, Love, I'd give anything
To see it out there right now.

Jesse, that hat is on the bed today
Plainer than plain in my mind...
        I can feel you sneakin' through the door
To pat me on the behind.
I'll jump and yell and give you a swat,
Knot my brows into a line..
You never knew I smelled you comin'...
That stink...and you, combined.
 
It's been a year ago today...

Christmas was the hardest to get through,
Though the children did their best
To make it seem the way it had been...when you
Wore your red Santa Claus vest.
You'd laugh and shout your joy to the sky,
Sure our love would pass every test...
 And give all the little ones 'horsie-foot rides...
Knowing we'd truly been blessed.

Folks tell me it gets better with time,
Yet long hours seem to drag by...
I find myself talkin' out loud to you, Jess
An' waitin' for your reply.
The loneliness won't seem to let up...
I struggle nights not to cry...
I yelled at your saddle horse today,
Blamin' him for the way you died.

I guess I thought when the last day came,
We'd just lay down side by side...
I didn't once think there'd come a day
When there'd be no "you and I."
I don't recognize my face in the mirror,
Alone here, askin' God "why?"...
I believe though, Jesse, the worst of it is,
I never told you goodbye.
 
It's been a year today...And Forever.

 
© 09-11- 2002, Byrd Woodward
 This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Good Help's Hard To Come By


Last winter I decided to set new posts along the south side of th' crick.
My neighbor, Hank, said he'd come to help if we got things started right quick.
Declared he had enough work at his place to keep him jumpin' till fall,
An' if I wasn't ready to start by March, he couldn't help me a-tall

'Long about the fifth day of that month, I rode over to tell him that I
Had the posts we'd need cut, skint and hauled...so he could come on by...
Hank said he'd done got a letter from his old sweetie up north in Cheyenne,
He figgered he'd best ride up there an' ask could he be some help to Diane.

"An' Shorty, I know you won't mind seein' to feedin' and waterin' my stock.
An' say, by the way, 'fore I get back, the tails on them lambs should be docked."
So I fed an' watered and saw to them sheep, though I could hardly stand the stink,
It put me behind in my own work so bad, I was down in my back for a week.

When Hank got back he come over to say he was about ready to start.
He looked so fresh an' plumb happy. I couldn't scare up enough heart
To tell him six ewes died while he was gone and I s'pected an old lobo wolf...
It weren't long 'fore I felt guilty an' told him. the ol' coot lit out in a huff.

I waited a few days, then dragged the wolf hide to Hank's place so's he could see it dead.
He brightened quite a bit then and 'lowed how tomorra he'd be at my spread,
Then we could get them danged posts fin'ly set and ready fer wire right away;
I figgered it was best not to remind him it was now the middle of May.

It warmed up some overnight and Hank's skin was leakin' like he'd just been stuck
Like a pig in the fall that was wishin' it was back wallerin' 'round in the muck.
'I'm ridin' home," he declared, "there ain't no post nowhere  worth no heart attack.
What we need to do here this mornin' is figger out when I oughta come back.

It's hot 'nuff to kill a camel out here.'sides, in two days it'll be Sunday;
There's s'posed to be some cool weather come in.I guess I'll be here by Monday."
When the cooler weather set in Thursd'y night, I figgered here's my best chance.
I'll fetch that booger here in th' mornin' an' set him t' work on my fence.

When I seen Hank the next day he looked like he was in a hyp-notic trance.
He was mutterin' that Cheyenne woman he knew .was talkin' about ro-mance!
Well, 'course he couldn't build fence in that condition so I sent him back to his place.
He rode off lookin' like a streak of lightnin' had struck him slap-dab in the face.

The next time I seen him, he declared he'd run a sliver clean up in his thumb;
"Now. Shorty, you cain't 'spect me to set posts when my whole dad- blamed hand's gone numb."
"Hank," I says to him, "it's August now and I'm thinkin'. you ought to jist ride home.
Next time I start in settin' posts, I'll hire me a miner out of Jerome.

At least he'll know how to dig me a hole and maybe, if he's feelin' right fine,
He'll jist keep on a-diggin' till he finds a big em'rald or di'mond mine.
Then I can re-tire down to Mexico an' drink tequila from big fancy bowls,
And never have to ask a neighbor again to help me dig any holes!"

©  01-29-03, Byrd Woodward 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

A Three-Holer?

My Grampa once built a beauteous thing
Up above the barn on a knoll...
It came to be called the 'arguin' house
An' th' sonofagun  had three holes.

Thirteen grandkids in a small home
That only had five little rooms...
Got to be more than Grampa could stand...
At least that's what I've come to presume.

Seemed there were always two of us fightin'...
He figgered he'd best think of something...
He vowed the plan came to him in a dream
An' he started in buildin' that spring.

It looked like any plain old outhouse would...
A little wider though, I suppose...
Except..as soon as you got inside it
You perceived it had three little holes.

An' there wasn't no big hole underneath...
Just some nice long grass an' wild flowers...
The hole shelf lifted right up on hinges
An' let in the sweet April showers.

We had no notion where this thing was headed...
We stood 'round watchin' sorta in shock.
Grampa hacked a path all the way up there
From th' back door an' lined it with rock.

There was no roof or door on th' thing...
Grampa wanted those flowers to grow!
We figgered to get in Gramma's good graces
We'd take her some tied up with a bow.

"Now then," he said, "sit down here and listen
Because I'm not goin' to say this twice...
If two kids start fightin', they'll come th' trail...
An' sit out here 'til they can be nice."
 
"There's more this story than meets your blue eye"...
The old gentleman said with a grin...
"You'll have to bring one cousin up with you
An' settle it...'fore you get back in."

Well, shoot, that didn't sound all that bad...
We'd been imaginin' a whole lot worse!
...The catch was that third kid... upset as heck
'Cuz two others were bein' perverse!
 
An' the third kid had nothin' to do with
The fight two of his cousins got into...
h' poor kid had to sit there an' listen
'Til the others fixed up their to-do..
 
You can bet that brought to a conclusion
Some loud arguin' in nothin' flat!
Next time you might be sittin' on a hole...
In th' the rain. with two little brats!
 
'Spesh'ly in the winter in an outhouse
That had neither a roof nor a door...
It took two minutes to climb the danged hill...
We made it up there and back in four.
 
It took us no time to figger it out...
We could short cut our Grampa's fine plan...
We'd settle our differences out on the porch;
Some fights ended before they began.
 
There were times we never left th' front room...
Our signal was to count up to three;
Those holes sat alone up there on th' hill...
Grampa read in his chair peacefully.
 
 
© 01-28-04, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

The Bawly Cow

There's nothin' here now but one bawly old cow,
An' she looks like hell on four legs.
It's a plaintive moo..what's she callin' to?
It pert' near sets my teeth on edge.
She's as old as these hills so quiet and still.
What can she be whinin' about?
I guess she's gone daft 'cuz she can't have no calf.
At her age?.there ain't no doubt.

Must be lonesome up here ..why, there's nary a steer.
Just herself is all that's she's got.
But don't build a loop.you'll wind up in the soup.
She's to smart to ever be caught.
Why, that rangy old hag has been makin' bag. 
She just ain't got no sense atall!
Then up out of the brush here comes in a rush
One scroungy little hairball.

My eyes must deceive.no, aye god, I believe
Mama cow's dropped two of a kind.
She's got another one there.he ain't got much hair.
'Pears half his tail's been left behind!
Matter of factly, an' very practic'ly
'Little mange' heads for the off side.
You can tell from his size he ain't much range-wise.
It takes him too long to decide.
 
To fetch up to feed, an' he's been getting beat
By big sister time after time.
She ain't fat an' sassy but that 'lil lassie's
Been hearin' the dinner bell chime.
Well, Ma's seen my hoss an' that savvy ol' boss
Lights out like her tail's caught afire.
Calves scraggle behind but Ma's made up her mind.
She's headed for ground that's higher.

© 2004, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Trophy Boots

I felt a hand grippin' my shoulder while I was standin' there,
'Long side the grave of my daddy, head bent, faking a prayer...
I was thinkin', "God, you son of a gun, I'll look you up one day;
I'll walk right up and ask you why you taken my folks away.'
When preachin' was over, I turned to see whose hand it was I felt...
All I could see was the buckle he wore to fasten up his belt.
He looked just like a mountain, the biggest man I'd ever seen...
Hat pushed back and grinnin' at me, wearin' boots and Levi jeans.

He was a friend of my daddy's, a man I'd known most of my life...
He was at Mama's service, too and had always treated me nice.
It was Jim, the rodeo cowboy, famous both far and wide...
There was a time when he and my dad each wanted Ma for his bride.
They'd stayed best of friends even though one had beat out the other...
Dad wed the woman they both loved...the one who became my mother.
The bond continued strong and sure, while Jim made a name for himself,
My folks worked our place... makin' a living...but not very much else.

Mama died when I was six; now at eight, my dad was gone, too...
Aunt Mattie said she'd take me in and raise me along with her brood.
Jim trailed us home on horseback and when he'd climbed up on his bay,
The fancy new boots he was wearin' just plumb took my breath away.
I'd never seen anything like them and they proved a distraction of sorts...
Jim said they were hand-crafted snakeskin... they shone like smoky quartz.
He stayed a while workin' cattle, there on my uncle's ranch...
Helpin' me with my sorrow and showin' me I had a chance.

Came time the rodeo season started up after winter's break;
My friend said he was leaving, that he had a livin' to make.
My guts tied in knots as we loaded up his good roping horse,
He gripped my shoulder and said, "Son... I'll back in due course."
I needed to tell him I knew... he'd stayed on just to help me...
That he was my best friend and I hoped he'd forever be.
My tongue tangled up, my throat went dry but fin'ly I blurted to him,
"Whatcha gonna do with them boots...when you git through with them?"

He grinned and said I could have them..."There's lotsa good in 'em yet;
I'll polish 'em up 'fore I ship 'em and...I promise I won't ferget".
First he sent new boots he thought would fit...they were a bit too small...
I wore them 'til they pinched so bad, I couldn't get in them at all.
When he could he'd stop by and tell me I "sure was getting tall";
He'd bring or send a new pair of boots when school took up in the fall.
But one day his old snakeskin boots came along in the mail...
They must have been a size fifteen, my feet rattled in them like hail...

But they were the ones I'd waited for since I was a little kid...
The same ones Jim was wearing when he came to do what he did...
The note that came in the box said, "See, Son, I said that I would;
I'm not sure these old things will ever do you much good."
I stuffed the toes with holey socks and bandaided-up my heels.
And flapped around like somebody walkin' on banana peels.
Kids pointed and laughed when I showed up in boots too big for my feet...
Of all those fights I got into, there's not one I'd care to repeat.

I wore those boots until they threatened to fall right off my feet...
I never did grow into them...and never admitted defeat.
The boots belonged to my hero, the man I'd tried to become...
The cowboy who shaped me and taught me, the man who called me 'Son'.
The new boots kept coming in the mail, long after I'd grown and wed,
Lots of them are still lined up... right there, at the foot of our bed.
There were boots for our kids in the mailbox when each of them turned three...
Just as steady as clock work they came each year, with an unspoken guarantee:

"This is the way I can tell you how much you all mean to me...
Yer dad an' me ain't much good with words, I guess you'll all agree.
Yer daddy wanted t' know about love when he was just a boy...
He asked about some ol' boots of mine...but that was just a decoy;
He wanted t' know if I'd ferget about him after a while...
Would I recall his eyes were brown or he had a crooked smile...?
"What're ya gonna do with them boots...when you're all through with 'em, Jim?"
So I sent 'em along, filled up with love, fer him t' flap around in."


Aunt Mattie had told me when my dad died, he had left a will...
That all he'd had came to me and there weren't any debts or bills.
Truth was he hadn't left anything.... the ranch was buried in red...
But Mattie said everything was just fine and I was not to fret.
I learned later that Jim had paid for all I'd ever owned,
The clothes I wore, the car I drove... everything till I was grown...
I ate 'Jim food' and went to college on a 'Jim Scholarship'...
Rode a 'Jim saddle' and he was there on my first Mexican trip.

His shoulders stoop some now as he rocks... outside, there on the porch,
His hips stiffen up a little after a day spent up on a horse...
There he is, that fine old man, with his silver-mounted saddles,
His championship buckles tell of the days he spent bull-dogging cattle.
The trophy that means the most to Jim... and to the man that he calls 'Son',
Is the one hanging up there on the wall, a trophy that both of them won...
It represents their love and pride, it's the one the whole family salutes
Every day as they're walking by...those worn-out old snakeskin boots.

© 2004, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

 

Read Byrd Woodward's 

One Night on th' Prairie, in the collection of 2005 Christmas poems

Still Doin' Business  

posted with other 2004 Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering poster poems

and

A Four-Year Old's Christmas Truth in the collection of Holiday Poems for 2002

and

  Reindeer Paws and I'll Be Good, and Arizona Christmas Eve 
in the collection of Holiday Poems for 2001.

 

 

About Byrd Woodward:

I was born on a cow ranch in Idaho in 1937; both my parents were from pioneering stock, the Jordans, Badleys and DeMasters.  Life was hard and we all had little outfits but we had nothing to compare our lifestyle to, so we made out just fine. The ranch my folks had when I was a kid is on Highway 56, one of two main north and south roads through Idaho, just a mile or so above Gardena on the Payette River.  The place still looked pretty much the same when we were up there for a family reunion in June, 2000.

My husband, Woody, whom I married in 1959, was raised on a ranch above Priest River, Idaho; they ran shorthorns clear into Canada.  We have three children and two grandchildren.

We never did ranch as adults but we managed to live a rural lifestyle while raising the kids and usually had horses and a cow and chickens, at least. 

I've been writing poetry since I was a kid and I first read it in public at 'open mike' during the Arizona State Gathering in Prescott.  Cowboy poets who have encouraged me include Jane Morton; Rusty Calhoun; David Lee, the Poet Laureate of Utah; Ron Brinegar; 'Buckshot Dot" (Dee Strickland Johnson); Janet Moore; Mary Abbott and Carole Jarvis.

I write mostly about what I knew on the ranch as a kid, which is very personal and is still sometimes hard to get through.

I proudly carry some Indian blood through my two paternal grandparents (Cherokee and Nez Perce) and my biased feelings always show when I write about that subject.  My part Nez Perce Grandma taught me my love of history by telling me the legends of her people and about Lewis and Clark.

My husband and I are both semi-retired now.  We lived in Arizona; we moved from eastern Washington be close to our grandkids, who are the pride of our lives.  We have wonderful views of the high desert and the Bradshaw Mountains.

 

We asked Byrd why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she replied:

I write cowboy poetry because it pours out of me. I can't not write it. Since most of the poems are about real happenings and real people, they sometimes nearly jump out of my head full blown and only need a little tweaking.  I can go long spells during which nothing happens and I do know the form isn't always correct.

I think Cowboy Poetry is important for the same reasons Jane Morton does. That if we aren't fortunate enough to have tape recordings or the writings of our parents and grandparents, their lives will be lost to history unless some of us get some of it down on paper.  I like to think I'll be leaving my people alive in my grandkid's minds.  I wouldn't change or trade that time in my life for anything else I've ever known; my people and those experiences shaped my entire life. I guess it's called "the cowboy way."

 

  You can email Byrd Woodward.

 

There...Just Over the Ridge

A chapbook of 18 original poems, including:

Cookie's Solution
Dancin' Fool
The Last Nail
Born to the Breed
Workin' Partners
Eggs on the Moon
The Hat
Good Men and Good Horses
Goodbye to Friends
Cold Wire
Still Doin' Business
Who is this Feller
Warriors from the Same Tribe
Eulogy: Spirit Horse and Rider
...And Forever
For Ray Gardner
Hank Goes Courtin'
Feather Henry

Available for $8 postpaid from:
 

email

 

 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

HOME

 What's New | Poems

 Features | Events  

The BAR-D Roundup | Cowboy Poetry Week

Poetry Submissions 

Subscribe | Newsletter | Contact Us

  Join Us!

 

Authors retain copyright to their work; obtain an author's
permission before using a poem in any form.

 

CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc., a Federal and California tax-exempt non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.  

 

Site copyright information