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Below are track descriptions, an introduction to The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three, and additional references for the poems included on the CD.

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008)

emporary cowboy poetry. A wide range of voices present tales that express this venerable art form, words that uncover "the heartbeat of the working West."

This third annual edition of The BAR-D Roundup showcases contemporary and traditional works, including Robert Service's vintage recording of "The Cremation of Sam McGee"; the poetry of past Texas Poet Laureate Red Steagall, National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Wallace McRae, and Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature recipient Paul Zarzyski ; noted reciters Randy Rieman, Ross Knox, and  Jerry Brooks presenting classic poems by Henry Herbert Knibbs, D.J. O'Malley, and Badger Clark; a third annual selection from Grass, the master work of the late Buck Ramsey, an NEA National Heritage Fellow, recognized as the modern spiritual leader of the genre.

There are eighteen additional offerings from today’s top poets and reciters, including Joel Nelson, Ken Cook, Doris Daley, DW Groethe, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Paul Kern, Linda Kirkpatrick (reciting a Bruce Kiskaddon poem), Deanna Dickinson McCall, Andy Nelson, Susan Parker (reciting an A.V. Hudson poem), Pat Richardson, Georgie Sicking, Bill Siems (reciting a Curley Fletcher poem), Jay Snider (reciting a Luther A. Lawhon poem), Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Hal Swift (reciting a James Barton Adams poem), Mick Vernon (reciting an S. Omar Barker poem), and Smoke Wade.

The CD cover is a photo of Perry Preston ("P.P.") Dickinson, circa 1912, Texas cowboy. Perry Preston was the grandfather of Deanna Dickinson McCall, and great grandfather of poets and reciters Rusty McCall and Katie-McCall Owens.

 

Inside, there's a photo of South Dakota rancher Glen Hollenbeck, husband of poet Yvonne Hollenbeck.

Poems and permissions were generously donated by poets, musicians, families, and publishers.

Joe Baker of the Backforty Bunkhouse distributes the CD to his extensive network of nearly 200 western radio disc jockeys.

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three CD includes a radio Public Service (PSA) Announcement by Francie Ganje, radio broadcaster and director of the Heritage of the American West show.

Read more about the The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three on the previous page, here.  

On the previous page:

About The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008)

Order Information

What They're Saying ...

Listen to the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry Public Service Announcement

About the cover art and inside photo

About The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008) and Cowboy Poetry Week 2008

How to submit images and poems for consideration for future compilations 


Support CowboyPoetry.com





Introduction

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008) is a compilation of vintage and contemporary recordings of some of yesterday's and today's best classic and contemporary cowboy poetry. A wide range of voices present tales that express this venerable art form, words that uncover "the heartbeat of the working West."

 

This third CD opens with a firm stand in the present, with respected Texas horseman, and poet Joel Nelson reciting his poem, "Shadow on the Cutbank," from his Grammy-nominated CD, The Breaker in the Pen. Baxter Black commented that the CD, "raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years."  

 

Next, rancher and poet Jay Snider  casts a look back at the cowboy life, reciting "The Good Old Cowboy Days," by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922), one of the founding members of the Trail Drivers Association, a poem included in the Trail Drivers of Texas (1920). 

 

Noted packer, reciter and poet Ross Knox, keeping in the past, weighs in with a cowboy's wry observation of his way of life, with "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler," written by cowboy and chronicler D.J. O'Malley (1867-1943).

 

Alberta poet Doris Daley offers her timeless, humorous poem, "Bones," that could describe cowboys of any era, who conversely "love the life 'cause it's so darn healthy."

 

The inimitable Pat Richardson takes listeners to another place altogether, in his amusing and inventive tale of a cowboy and his unlikely companion, "Bigfoot."

 

There is a return to the reality of cowboy and ranching life in the next poems. Beloved octogenarian, cowboy (a term she prefers), and poet Georgie Sicking tells what it takes "To Be a Top Hand." Fifth-generation rancher Deanna Dickinson McCall (her grandfather is pictured on the CD's cover) has some "Advice" for a one of the family's cowboys. Another sort of family perspective comes in "Urban Daughter," the exceptional poem by Montana rancher, poet, and National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Wallace McRae. Wyoming poet, humorist, emcee, and popular radio host Andy Nelson touches on another family connection in his poem, "The Old Crockett Spurs."

 

Cowboys and horses are explored in master reciter and horseman Randy Rieman's recitation of Henry Herbert Knibbs' (1874-1945) classic, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink." Montana ranch hand, songwriter and poet DW Groethe's moving "My Father's Horses" limns the the bond between man and horse. Utah rancher and poet Paul Kern's poem, "At Codding's Place," continues with the wistful and bittersweet theme. South Dakota rancher and poet Ken Cook has something as meaningful to say, with a bit of humor, in "Bloodlines."

 

There's a return to the past, in respect and sentiment in "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk," by past Texas Poet Laureate, multiple Wrangler Award winner, singer, songwriter, and poet Red Steagall. The subject is further explored by South Dakota ranchwife, champion quilter, and top poet Yvonne Hollenbeck in her moving story of "Prairie Patchwork." (Yvonne's husband, Glen Hollenbeck, represents today's ranchers with his photo that is inside the CD.) Working cowgirl, writer, and poet Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns enjoins, "Step lightly, this is holy ground...made so by those who've gone before..." in her "Fiddleback Headquarters."

 

Bill Siems—scientist, musician, editor, and chief collector of the stories and poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)gives life to the classic bucking horse story, "The Strawberry Roan," by Curley Fletcher (1892-1954). It's the perfect introduction to "Luck of the Draw," a stirring salute to rodeo, by the incomparable Paul Zarzyski, the self-described "Polish-hobo-rodeo-poet," recipient of the Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature.

 

Top reciter and former miner Jerry Brooks  brings her impressive interpretation to "The Free Wind," by Charles "Badger" Clark (1883-1957). That notion of freedom underlies Grass, the master work by the late Buck Ramsey. In a third annual excerpt from that book, "Chapter Two," the story of a cowboy's life continues. Buck Ramsey, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, is recognized as the modern spiritual leader of the genre. (The 2006 edition of The BAR-D Roundup includes the well-known and widely known Prologue to Grass, "Anthem," a poem that has been called "the finest contemporary piece of writing in this tradition." The 2007 edition of The BAR-D Roundup includes "Chapter One.")

 

Ranch-raised poet and writer Smoke Wade bridges the past and present in his "A Change of Season," which introduces a group of classic poems. California writer and poet Susan Parker presents "The Homemade Cigarette" by rancher and poet A.V. Hudson (1873-1949). A bit of politics—timely in this year of political of history—finds its way into that poem and into "Bill's in Trouble," a light piece written by James Barton Adams (1843-1918) and recited by Nevada poet Hal Swift. "Jack Potter's Courtin'" by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985) continues the fun mood, recited by California poet and musician Mick Vernon, who is also the Artist Director of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival. Ranch-raised Texas poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick brings the classic selections to a close with a reverent recitation of "The Bronco Twister's Prayer," by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1878-1950).

 

A special vintage recording of Robert Service (1874-1958) reciting his classic poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee," is introduced by Gene Kern, the Washington radio host who discovered the fragile recording and saved it and others from disintegration by transferring them to a modern medium. Service hired on as a cowboy for a short time and some of his tales  were colored by that experience. The strong rhyme and meter of his poetry have inspired many cowboy poets.

 

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three CD includes a radio Public Service (PSA) Announcement by Francie Ganje, radio host and director of South Dakota's Heritage of the American West show.

 

The 2008 CD's striking cover is a photo of of Perry Preston ("P. P.") Dickinson, circa 1912, Texas cowboy, rough-string rider, Marshall, and Texas Ranger special agent. Perry Preston was the grandfather of Deanna Dickinson McCall, and great grandfather of poets and reciters Rusty McCall and Katie-McCall Owens.

Andy Nelson engineered and co-produced the 2006, 2007, and 2008 editions of The BAR-D Roundup.

Joe Baker of the Backforty Bunkhouse distributed the 2006, 2007, and 2007 CDs to his extensive network of western radio stations.

Poems and permissions were generously donated by poets, musicians, families, publishers, and filmmakers.

The Center's Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—is held each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, The BAR-D Roundup CD and the celebration's poster (by top Western artist William Matthews in 2008) are offered to libraries in the Center's Rural Library Project. The outreach program is a part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

Special thanks for the 2008 edition go to Andy Nelson, the McCall family, the Hollenbeck family, Bette Ramsey, Steve Green, the Western Folklife Center, Jeri Dobrowski, Jo Baeza, Stuart Spani, Joe Baker, Alf Bilton, and to all the poets, reciters, families, publishers, and organizations who lent poetry and permissions.

The BAR-D Roundup CDs are produced by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, made possible by generous funding support from sustaining donors

The BAR-D Roundup CDs are dedicated to all those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition. 

                                                                                                                                                                                             Margo Metegrano, April 2008


Track Descriptions
Page two

 

Below:

14.  Red Steagall, "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk" 3:19
15.  Yvonne Hollenbeck, "Prairie Patchwork"
1:56
16.  Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, "Fiddleback Headquarters" 
3:30
17.  Bill Siems, "The Strawberry Roan" (Curley Fletcher)
3:45
18.  Paul Zarzyksi, "Luck of the Draw"
2:41
19.  Jerry A. Brooks (Brooksie), "Free Wind" (Badger Clark)
3:38
20.  Buck Ramsey, "Chapter Two" from Grass 
5:25
21.  Smoke Wade,  "A Change of Season"
1:12
22.  Susan Parker, "The Homemade Cigarette" (A.V. Hudson)
1:59
23.  Hal Swift, "Bill's in Trouble"  (James Barton Adams)
1:55
24.  Mick Vernon, "Jack Potter's Courtin'"  (S. Omar Baker)
3:02
25.  Linda Kirkpatrick, "The Broncho Twister's Prayer" (Bruce Kiskaddon)
3:07

SPECIAL CLASSIC RECORDING

26.  Introduction to  "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Gene Kern  2:00
27.  Robert Service, "The Cremation of Sam McGee" 
9:27

28.   Francie Ganje, Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry Public Service Announcement (PSA) 
:30

Page One:

  1.  Joel Nelson, "Shadow on the Cutbank"  1:26
  2.  Jay Snider, "The Good Old Cowboy Days" (Luther A. Lawhon) 
4:25
  3.  Ross Knox, "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler"  (D.J. O'Malley) 
2:05
  4.  Doris Daley, "Bones"
:56
  5.  Pat Richardson, "Bigfoot"
3:14
  6.  Georgie Sicking, "To Be a Top Hand"
1:18
  7.  Deanna McCall, "Advice"
1:00
  8.  Wallace McRae, "Urban Daughter" 
2:40
  9.  Andy Nelson, "The Old Crockett Spurs" 
1:02
10.  Randy Rieman, "Where the Ponies Come to Drink"  (Henry Herbert Knibbs)
2:38
11.  DW Groethe,  "My Father's Horses" 
1:56
12.  Paul Kern,  "At Codding's Place"
1:38
13.  Ken Cook, "Bloodlines"
2:18
 

 

All rights are reserved by the artists and owners of the included tracks.
Poems and permissions were generously donated by poets, musicians, families, publishers, and filmmakers.
The BAR-D Roundup is produced by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, with generous funding support from sustaining donors

Most biographies were supplied by the poets and reciters.



Track 14: Red Steagall, "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk"

About the track, "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk"
About the poet, Red Steagall
The poem, "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk"
Additional links

 

About the track, "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk"

"The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk" is from Red Steagall's CD, The Cowboy Code


About the poet, Red Steagall

Red Steagall, photo used with permission

Red Steagall is the past Poet Laureate of Texas, the first "cowboy" poet to hold that honor in decades (Carlos Ashley held the position 1949-1951). In 1991, he was named the Official Cowboy Poet of Texas by the Texas state legislature. Known for his . In 1991, he was named the Official Cowboy Poet of Texas by the Texas state legislature.

Known for his poetry as well as his Texas Swing dance music and songs, Red has earned many distinctions in his 35-year-plus career. He has had over 200 of his songs recorded, recorded 26 consecutive records on the national charts and released over 20 albums. He has entertained around the world and appeared in films and television productions.

Red Steagall has published a number of acclaimed books. He has received the Wrangler Award for original music from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City for five of his albums.

He hosts the annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering  in the Stockyards National Historic District of Fort Worth, Texas each fall. His one-hour syndicated radio show, Cowboy Corner, is heard on 170 stations in 43 states.

Red Steagall has been inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

      Order an autographed copy direct from Red Steagall 


The poem, "The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk"

The Memories in Grandmother's Trunk

They came in a wagon from St. Jo, Missouri
Grandmother was seven years old
I remember she said she walked most of the way
Through the rain, and the mud and the cold.

She saw the Comanche, they came into camp
Not the savage she'd seen in her dreams
They were ragged and pitiful, hungry and cold
Begging for salt pork and beans.

They staked out a claim at the cross timbers breaks
Where the big herds went north to the rail.
One day a cowpuncher gave her a calf
Too young to survive on the trail.

Their Jersey cow gave more milk than they needed
The calf grew up healthy and strong.
She staked him that fall in the grass by the creek
And pampered him all winter long.

In April her daddy rode into Fort Worth
With her calf on the end of his rope.
He traded her prize for a red cedar trunk
That she filled full of memories and hope.

I found grandmother's trunk hidden under a bed
In a back room where she used to sleep.
I've spent the whole morning reliving her youth
Through the trinkets that she fought to keep.

There's the old family Bible, yellowed and worn
On the first page was her family tree.
She'd traced it clear back to the New England coast
And the last entry she made was me.

I unfolded a beautiful star pattern quilt
In the corner she cross stitched her name.
I wonder how many children it kept safe and warm
From the cold of the West Texas plain.

There's a tattered old picture that says "Mom, I Love You"
Tho' faded, there's a young soldier's face.
And a medal of honor the government sent
When he died in a faraway place.

A cradleboard covered with porcupine quills
Traded for salt pork and beans,
Was laying on top of a ribbon that read
Foard County Rodeo Queen.

Dried flowers pressed in a book full of poems
A card with this message engraved,
To my darlin' wife on our 25th year
And some old stamps my grandfather saved.

Of course there are pictures of her daddy's folks
They sure did look proper and prim.
I reckon if they were to come back to life
We'd look just as funny to them.

Grandmother's life seemed so simple and slow
But the world started changin' too soon.
She heard the first radio, saw the first car
And lived to see men on the moon.

Life on this planet is still marching on
And I hope that my grandchildren see,
My side of life through the trinkets I've saved
The way grandmother's trunk does for me.

© Red Steagall
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 


Additional links

Red Steagall at CowboyPoetry.com

Red Steagall's web site

Red Steagall's Cowboy Corner radio program

The Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering Western Swing Festival

 


Track 15: Yvonne Hollenbeck, "Prairie Patchwork"

About the track, "Prairie Patchwork"
About the poet, Yvonne Hollenbeck
The poem, "Prairie Patchwork"
Additional links

About the track, "Prairie Patchwork"

"Prairie Patchwork" is from Yvonne Hollenbeck's Pieces of the Past CD. The poem is also included in her award-winning book, From My Window.

Yvonne Hollenbeck is also a champion quilter. Her "Patchwork of the Prairie" traveling trunk show includes family stories and her poetry, and the carefully preserved work of five generations of her family's quiltmakers. The section of quilting poems in From My Window includes vintage prairie photos and family photos, such as the one of "Grandma Smiley" (1863-1951), in part the inspiration for the "Prairie Patchwork" poem. Yvonne Hollenbeck writes:

She endured the many hardships known to those hardy pioneer women, and all the while found pleasure in making beautiful quilts, many of which are still cherished by her descendants.


About the poet, Yvonne Hollenbeck

Yvonne Hollenbeck writes about her life as a Clearfield, South Dakota rancher's wife. While helping her husband Glen tend to the cattle and the registered quarter horses they raise, she often finds humor in the everyday duties of being a rancher's wife and quite often writes poetry or stories on the subject. As the daughter of a National Champion Old-Time Fiddler, she grew up in an environment that encouraged her to become an accomplished musician. She's a champion quilter, having won many state and national awards. Her favorite pastime, however, is writing and performing poetry.

A native of Gordon, Nebraska, she likes calling South Dakota cattle country her home. She feels very much a part of the state, as the great-granddaughter of Ben Arnold, a well known old-time Dakota cowhand who came to the state with the Texas trail herds and led quite an adventuresome life as a South Dakota pioneer. 

She has been a featured poet at many gatherings, including the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Her poetry is included in several anthologies and a part of the four-poet CD, Where the Buffalo Rhyme.  She has published four books of poetry: Blossoms Beneath the Snow, a Tribute to the Pioneer Ranchwomen; Where Prairie Flowers Bloom, which received the Will Rogers Medallion Award; and From My Window, which also received the Will Rogers Medallion Award, She has five CDs, My Home on the Range, Prairie Patchwork, and Winter on the Range, What Would Martha Do? and Pieces of the Past.

Yvonne Hollenbeck was named the Top Female Poet in 2005 by the Academy of Western Artists and named the Top Female Poet by the Western Music Association in 2006 and 2007. She's received numerous other awards.

 

    ywhatwouldcd.JPG (8943 bytes)

 


The poem, "Prairie Patchwork"

Prairie Patchwork

There’s a faded, handmade quilt on the sofa in her room,
and she always had it neatly folded there;
and when I’d ask about it, a smile’d come on her face;
it pleased her so to think that I would care.

She’d open it and tell about the making of each block,
and each one had a story of its own.
It was made when she was young and was living on the ranch
in a sod house that she called her “prairie home.”

It was made from scraps of fabric from feed sacks she had saved,
or from worn-out clothes her children had outgrown;
and every single block in that pretty patchwork quilt
just seemed to fit together like a poem.

The pink block was the color of the early morning dawn,
and that crimson one like sumac in the fall;
yellow
was the color of her rose bush by the gate,
and
lilac was her favorite one of all.

The dark one made her think about those dry depression years
when all the hills were parched and dusty brown.
Gray was like the rain that fell the day her husband died,
. . . it was after that she had to move to town.

She said that life itself is like a patchwork quilt,
of births and deaths and all things in between;
and just when you are thinking that everything is fine,
along comes something new and unforeseen.

Just like her personal diary, as if she’d written in a book,
with the dawning and the passing of each year;
it seems her hopes and sorrows were recorded in each stitch
and each time that I read it brought a tear.

The story of her life, she said, was stitched in that old quilt;
on a corner on the back she signed her name;
then called it “Prairie Patchwork”...she wrote that on there too,
as a tribute to her life there on the plain.

© 2005, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 



Additional links

Yvonne Hollenbeck feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Yvonne Hollenbeck's web site


Track 16: Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, "Fiddleback Headquarters"

About the track, "Fiddleback Headquarters"
About the poet, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
The poem, "Fiddleback Headquarters"
Additional links

About the track, "Fiddleback Headquarters"

"Fiddleback Headquarters" was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three.

Rhonda and her husband Will do daywork for the Fiddleback.


photo courtesy of Nicky Groenewold

Rhonda writes:

The first time I set foot in that old house I was overwhelmed by a deep, spiritual feeling of awe and reverence for the countless, unknown cowboys and ranch hands who had done the same. I knew they had ridden the very same trails, done the same work, in the same way...felt the same tired, suffered the same elements.

Will battled a rank bronc through the cottonwoods near there one day, and we've met all the perils and joys I speak of in the poem as we work that area. The continuity of the cowboy life is what I love most about it, and I feel this poem encompasses some of my feelings.

See additional photos that accompany her poem, here


About the poet, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

Ranch-reared in northeastern Wyoming, Rhonda has spent most of her life in the ranching industry.  She has been riding since she was 2-years-old and began rodeoing at age 8. She has been actively involved with breeding, training and exhibiting both Quarter Horses and Appaloosas on a national scale.  A trainer, horsemanship instructor and judge, Rhonda is a longtime member of the Girls Rodeo Assocation (GRA, now WPRA) and is a Gold Card member of the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA, now PRCA).  She was Wyoming Girl's Barrel Racing Association champion for 1964 and 1965.

In high school rodeo she qualified for four NHSFR's (1959-1962) and competed in three. State titles include All Around Cowgirl, Pole Bending and Barrel Racing champion three consecutive years. National titles include Queen in 1960 and Pole Bending in 1961 and 1962.  Rhonda and her gelding General Leo set a national record in that event in 1961 which was never equaled, 15.7 seconds on five poles.

In addition to state and national high school queen titles, Rhonda was Miss Rodeo Wyoming 1963 and won the Horsemanship division of Miss Rodeo America competition.   She was Runner Up for National Appaloosa Queen in 1966, and served as Wyoming Ambassador for the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association in 1995 and 1996.  As a queen judge she has officiated at state pageants in Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado, at the Miss Rodeo American Pageant in 1985 and the National High School Rodeo Queen competitions in 1993 and 1998.

Rhonda is a professional rodeo organist featured at major pro rodeos across the nation since 1966, including National Finals of high school, college and senior pro rodeo.  Since 1977 she's been writing for horse publications, writes a weekly horse news column, and has four books and thousands of published articles to her credit.

As a writer and performer of cowboy poetry, she's been featured at cowboy culture events in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming.

She was inducted as a Cowgirl Honoree to the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1977 and received the All-Around Cowboy Culture Award at the 2000 National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration in Lubbock, Texas. She was the first woman to receive that prestigious award.

She writes a regular column, "Over the Corral Fence," for the Tri-State Livestock News.

photo of Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, 2007, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.


The poem, "Fiddleback Headquarters"

Fiddleback Headquarters

Step lightly, this is holy ground...made so by those who've gone before...
Don't you feel their aura, when you step in through that door?
Can't you sense their kinship?  Feel their appraisal, and know that they're here?
Why would you laugh? Or act like they are somethin' to fear?

This Fiddleback Ranch home was built more than a hundred years ago,
Back in the eighteen-eighty's, when life was hard...an' "slow"...
By that word I speak of how long it took to get a day's work done;
An' the way they always "found" a little time for fun.

Thousand's of head of cattle, along with ten thousand's more of sheep
Wore the brand "Fiddleback"; an' their hands were short on sleep.
My husband's Godmother cooked here, while her husband was the top hand
Who snapped out the Fiddleback rough string; all for the brand.

My mom's dad was a camp tender, drivin' miles of Fiddleback trail,
Packin' supplies to scattered herders, he could not fail.
Neither balky mules nor runaway teams deterred him from his chore . . .
Ridin' each ridge an' crick today, I recalled his lore.

I wonder...did he take off his hat, an' step 'crost this same threshold?
Look forward to the meal served up... taste the water cold...
Or did he maybe pump it, out there, where this bucket I just filled?
Did any hand who'd set at this table, in a horse wreck get killed?

Did they respect the quicksand? An' the sink holes, the way we do?
Dread badger holes...slipp'ry banks... an' snakes that rattle,  too?
Don'cha think they cursed the bovines, so danged determined to run free?
Didn't they fight heat an' drought...an' the wind...constantly?

Bet'cha countless numb ol' fingers—an' frosted toes that burnt like sin—
Bunched, like us, 'round this ol' wood stove...thankful to be in,
From gatherin' an' movin' cows...that snow an' wind in their faces...
Glad like us to edge in...At table, take their places...

Reckon they've raced along the River, with the lightning crackin' wild?
Then, when they'd turned the bunch, were they happy as a child?
Did they fight their broncs to face that wind, when small hail come stingin' down?
Ride like hell to some cut bank...'fore the big stuff did pound?

Did they know the blessed comfort, to stretch out upon the warm sand...
Rare respite from constant tension, ridin' for the brand?
Did they give their all to stick some bronc, while dodgin' cottonwood limbs?
Don't it kind'a cross over...their world, an ours, my friends?

Haven't their horses jolted them, jumpin over a whitetail fawn...
All bedded down an' hidin', just before break of dawn?
Did they love to hear elk bugle, as the sun sank beyond the rim,
That bordered their world? Did they think of God...and thank Him?

Sci-fi folk talk of "time warp"...an' sometimes I'm sure I have been there...
When sittin' around this table...eatin' cowboy fare...
Reckon I've earned their approval? That would be the greatest of all
Honors, awards or trophies, given by some famed Hall...

Each time I ride for the Fiddleback, I hope to please these "old ones"...
Unworthy though I am...alongside of such bold ones...
What a priv'lege...to step inside this door, an' tread their holy ground...
Please...let 'em sense my rev'rence, Lord...as they gather 'round...

© 2007, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Additional links

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame


Track 17: Bill Siems, "The Strawberry Roan" by Curley Fletcher (1892-1954) 

 

About the track, "The Strawberry Roan"
About the reciter, Bill Siems
The poem, "The Strawberry Roan"
Additional links

About the track, "The Strawberry Roan"

Bill Siem's recording of "The Strawberry Roan" is from Songs of the Cowboys, 1993 and 2007 by The Educated Fellers (Bill Siems and Ted Hensold).

Carmen William "Curley" Fletcher was born in San Francisco in 1892 and grew up in Bishop, California. Among his many occupations, he was a cowboy, poet, musician, rodeo promoter, publisher, and prospector.

"The Strawberry Roan" was Curley Fletcher's (1892-1954) most well known work. It became a popular song in the early 1920's, and has a large history of its own, from bunkhouses to Hollywood. 

The song is aid to have had 15 verses when first written in 1915. The popular 1930’s songwriters and radio personalities Fred Howard and Nat Vincent (“The Happy Chappies”) reworked the lyrics and the song quickly became one of the most often recorded cowboy songs.

Curly Fletcher collected his work in two books of poetry, Rhymes of the Roundup (1917, nine poems), Songs of the Sage (1931; there was a "reprint edition" in 1986, edited by Hal Cannon and published by Gibbs-Smith), and a songbook, Ballads of the Badlands, (1932).

   


About the reciter, Bill Siems

Bill Siems is a member of the chemistry faculty at Washington State University, a performer of old-time music, including cowboy songs, and a longtime admirer of Bruce Kiskaddon's poetry. 

He has edited two impressive collections of Kiskaddon's work, Shorty's Yarns—Western Stories and Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, published in 2004, is the result of years of research and collecting, the book includes all of Kiskaddon's published short stories. In 2007, Bill Siems and Old Night Hawk Press released Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, a monumental 600-page work that includes Bruce Kiskaddon's entire poetic output (481 poems); extensive illustrations (including 323 line drawings by Katherine Field, Amber Dunkerley, and others); biographical and historical introductions; prefaces by Hal Cannon, Waddie Mitchell, and Lynn Held; rare photographs, and more. 

Bill Siems is also a performer of old-time music, including cowboy songs, and a reciter of classic cowboy poetry. He and Ted Hensold, "The Educated Fellers," have a CD, Songs of the Cowboys (1993 and 2007).

 

shortybk1.jpg (9386 bytes)  


The poem, "The Strawberry Roan"

The Strawberry Roan

I wuz hangin' 'round town just uh spendin' muh time,
I wuz out of a job an' not makin' uh dime,
When uh feller steps up an' he sez,
"I suppose you're a bronc ridin' guy from the looks uh yure clothes."

"Well yuh guesses me right, I'm a good un I claim,
Do yuh happen tuh have any bad uns tuh tame?"
An' he sez he's got one, an' uh bad un tuh buck,
An' fer throwin good riders he's had lots uh luck.

An' he sez that this pony has never been rode,
That the boys that gits on him is bound to git throwed,
Well, I gits all excited an' asks what he pays
Fer to ride that old pony uh couple uh days.

Well, he offers uh ten-spot—Sez I, "I'm yure man,
'Cause the bronc never lived that I couldn't fan
That no hoss never lived, nor he never drew breath
That I just couldn't ride till he starved plum tuh death. 

Now I don't like tuh brag but I got this tuh say,
That I ain't been piled up fer uh many uh day;
And sez he, "Git yure saddle an' I'll give yuh uh chance,"
So I gits in his buck-board an' drifts tuh his ranch.

There I stays until mornin' an' right after chuck
Then I steps out tuh see if that outlaw kin buck,
An' I spots the corral an' uh' standin' alone
There I sees this caballo, uh strawberry roan. 

An his laigs is all spavined, he's got pigeon toes,
He's got little pig-eyes and a big Roman nose.
He's got little pin-ears an' they touch at the tip,
An' a double-square iron it was stamped on his hip.

He wuzs yew-necked an' old with uh long lower jaw,
I kin see with one eye he's uh reg'lar outlaw,
So I puts on muh spurs an' I'm sure feelin' fine
An' I turns up muh hat an' I picks up muh twine.

Now I throws the loop on him an' well I knows then
That before he gits rode I will sure earn that ten;
Then I gits my blinds on an' it sure wuz uh fight,
an' a-next comes my saddle an I screws it down tight.

Then I up an' piles on him an' raises the blind,
I am right in his middle tuh see him unwind,
An' I spots the corral an uh stand-in' alone
There I seems tuh quit livin' down here on the ground.

And he goes toward the east an' he goes toward the west,
An' tuh stay in the middle I'm doin' my best;
Now he's sure walkin' frog an' he heaves uh big sigh
And he only lacks wings fer tuh be on the fly.

Then he turns his old belly right up tuh the sun
An' he sure is a sun fishin' son uv uh gun,
He's the worst buckin' bronc that I've seen on the range,
He kin turn on a nickle and give yuh some change.

While he's buckin' he's squealin' he sounds like a shoat,
An' I tells yuh that pony has sure got muh goat;
An' I claim that, no foolin' that bronc could sure step,
An' I'm still in the saddle uh buildin' up rep;

Then he hits on all fours an' he suns up his side,
I don't see how he keeps from a sheddin' his hide.
An' I loses muh stirrups an' also muh hat
An' I'm grabbing the leather ez blind ez a bat.

With a phenomenal jump then he goes up on high,
An' I'm settin on nuthin' way up in the sky,
An' it's then I turns over an' I comes back tuh earth,
An' I lights in the tuh cussin' the day of his birth.

Then I knows that the hosses I ain't able tuh ride
Is some uv 'em livin—they haven't all died;
But I bets all muh money thar's no man alive
That kin stay with that bronc when he makes that high dive.

by Curley Fletcher

The version above is labeled "The Original Strawberry Roan" in Fletcher's Ballads of the Badlands (see an image from the book here).


Additional links

Curley Fletcher feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Shorty's Yarns—Western Stories and Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Bill Siem's Old Night Hawk Press web site


Track 18: Paul Zarzyski, "Luck of the Draw"
 

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Below:

About the track, "Luck of the Draw"
About the poet, Paul Zarzyski
The poem, "Luck of the Draw"
Additional links

About the track, "Luck of the Draw"

"The Luck of the Draw" recording is from Paul Zarzyski's 2006 CD, Collisions of Reckless Love. The CD was recorded at Open Path Studios, and musicians include Tim Volpicella, Renata Bratt, Krisitina Forester, Denny Berthiaume, Chris Miller, and Gordon Stevens.

The poem appears in Paul Zarzyski's book, All This Way for the Short Ride (1996).


pzPortraitHiRes1.JPG (3550690 bytes)  About the poet, Paul Zarzyski

From Paul Zarzyski's official biography:

Paul Zarzyski, the recipient of the 2005 Governor's Arts Award for Literature, has been spurring the words wild across the open range of the page and calling it Poetry for 33 years. In the early '70s, he heeded Horace Greeley's "go west young man, go west" advice and received his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from The University of Montana, where he studied with Richard Hugo. In the same breath, he took up a second "lucrative" vocation – bareback bronc riding. He rode both the amateur and the ProRodeo circuits, hung his hooks up in his late 30s, then cracked back out, after turning 40, for a couple more years on the senior circuit or, as Paul prefers to call it, The Masters. On the lee side of his rodeo roughstock years, these days he "makes his living" (to borrow the title of a James Dickey essay) BARNSTROMING FOR POETRY.

Paul has been a featured performer at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the last 20 years, has toured Australia and England, and has recited at the National Book, Folk, and Storytelling Festivals, The Santa Clarita and Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festivals, The ProRodeo Hall of Fame, The Library of Congress, and with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also featured, in June 1999, on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, aired from The Mother Lode Theater in Butte, Montana.

His recent publications include WOLF TRACKS ON THE WELCOME MAT (OreanaBooks, 2003), winner of The Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, BLUE-COLLAR LIGHT (Red Wing Press, 1998) and ALL THIS WAY FOR THE SHORT RIDE (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1996), which received The Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Two recordings—WORDS GROWING WILD (1998) and THE GLORIOUS COMMOTION OF IT ALL (2004)—both produced by Jim Rooney in Nashville, offer poems with accompaniment by Duane Eddy, John Hartford, Rich O'Brien, and other fine musicians.

Of his "Roughstock Sonnets" collection—ALL THIS WAY FOR THE SHORT RIDE—the March 16, 1997 New York Times Book Review proclaimed:

"Mr. Zarzyski alternates between bluster and lyricism. For the former, he uses lopingly metered stanzas and punch-drunk, self mythologizing bravura... But he proves equally adept at meditative free verse..."

Paul also has collaborated on song lyrics with Ian Tyson, (Rodeo Road, Jerry Ambler, and Whispering Hope), Tom Russell (Bucking Horse Moon and All This Way For The Short Ride), Dave Wilkie of Cowboy Celtic (Black Upon Tan and Flying, Not Falling, In Love With You), Don Edwards (West of the Round Corral), Wylie Gustafson (Saddle Broncs And Sagebrush and Rodeo to the Bone), and Betsy Hagar (Home Chest, The Christmas Saguaro Soiree, Star Light Star Bright, and others).

Born and raised in Hurley Wisconsin, Paul now lives west of Great Falls, Montana.

Paul Zarzyski has a number of books and CDs to his credit, including the 2006 recordings, Collisions of Reckless Love and Rock 'n' Rowell.
 

pzcoll.jpg (14856 bytes)  pzrock.jpg (25832 bytes)    

Paul Zarzyski photo Gordon Stevens


The poem, "Luck of the Draw"

 

Luck of the Draw

That holy moment I rode the bay,
Whispering Hope, this rodeo arena

like a shrine I return to, like sanctuary
or religion itself
was filled with bawling holler,
dust and hoof beats. The blur of cowboy colors
shimmered brilliant as boyhood Septembers
among birch and sugar maples, where I played
decked-out like TV bronc twister,
Stoney Burke. 

                               But that was before
high school fans cheered us
galloping against rivals under gladiator lights
those fall Fridays in the pits, number 72
afire for 48 minutes of forearm shiver
and crack-back block.
                                 It’s hard to believe
there was a time I forgot the roughstock
rider gutting it out
to the final gun, the whole
gridiron game’s-worth of physical grit
concentrated, pressed into one play,
into one 8-second ride. All I needed was a horse
and the words of Horace Greeley in a dream,
a western pen pal, a cowboy
serial flashback, some sign or cue
to make me imagine the chutegate
thrown open to the snap
cleats
and spurs, chaps and pads, high kicks,
hard hits and heartbeats synchronized
a thousand miles apart.
                               I left home barely
soon enough to make one good
bucking horse ride
across a vast canvas of Kid Russell landscape
backdropped by Heart Butte under a fuchsia sky
in Cascade, Montana.
                              Through these cottonwoods,
high above the Missouri River’s silent swirls,
the flicking together of leaves
is the applause of small green hands, children
thrilled by a winning ride, by their wildest wish
beginning, as everything begins, with luck
of the draw, with a breeze in the heat,
with whispering hope
a first breath
blessed by myth, or birth, in the West.

© 1996, Paul Zarzyski, All rights reserved.  
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Additional links

Paul Zarzyski feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Paul Zarzyski's web site

Open Path Music web site

 


Track 19: Jerry A. Brooks (Brooksie), "The Free Wind" by Charles "Badger" Clark, Jr.
                                                                                                                       (1883-1957)

 

About the track, "The Free Wind"
About the reciter, Jerry A. Brooks (Brooksie)
The poem, "The Free Wind"
Additional links

About the track, "The Free Wind"

"The Free Wind" was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three. The poem appears in Charles Badger Clark Jr.'s (1883-1957) book, Sun and Saddle Leather, in the "Grass Grown Trails" portion of the book.

Badger Clark, a minister's son born in 1883, wrote "A Cowboy's Prayer," probably one of the best known Western poems. Another well loved and often-performed poem is Clark's "The Glory Trail."

In the Preface to Sun and Saddle Leather, editor Ruth Hill tells of a compliment given by "an old cowman who said, 'You can break me if there's a dead poem in the book, I read the hull of it. Who in H— is this kid Clark, anyway?  I don't know how he knowed, but he knows.'"

The Preface goes on to tell how as a young man, Clark found himself in cow country near the Mexican border and "stumbled unexpectedly into paradise...The sky was persistently blue, the sunlight was richly golden, the folds of the barren mountains and the wide reaches of the range were full of many lovely colors, and his nearest neighbor was eight miles away...the cowmen who dropped in for a meal now and then...appeared to have ridden directly out of books of adventure, with old young faces full of bad grammar, strange oaths and stranger yarns, and hearts for the most part as open and shadowless as the country they daily ranged."

Clark wrote his mother regularly, and "found prose too weak to express his utter content and perpetrated his first verses."  His mother submitted the poems to the Pacific Monthly, and the rest is cowboy poetry history.

 


About the reciter, Jerry A. Brooks (Brooksie)

 

Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks of Sevier, Utah, is known as a respected reciter throughout the West. She's been an invited performer at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Colorado Cowboy Poets Gathering, and many other events. She worked for many years as a miner in Utah.

Jerry Brooks photo, 2006, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.


The poem, "The Free Wind"

The Free Wind

I went and worked in a drippin' mine
     'Mong the rock and the oozin' wood,
For the dark it seemed lit with a dollar sign
     And they told me money's good.
So I jumped and sweat for a flat-foot boss
     Till my pocket bulged with pay,
But my heart it fought like a led bronc hawse
     Till I flung my drill away.

For the wind, the wind, the good free wind,
     She sang from the pine divide
That the sky was blue and the young years few
     And the world was big and wide!
From the poor, bare hills all gashed with scars
     I rode till the range was crossed;
Then I watched the gold of the sunset bars
     And my camp-sparks glintin' toward the starts
And laughed at the pay I'd lost.

I went and walked in the city way
     Down a glitterin' canyon street,
For the thousand lights looked good and gay
     And they said life there was sweet.
So the wimmin laughed while night reeled by
     And the wine ran red and gold,
But their laugh was the starved wolf's huntin' cry
     And their eyes were hard and old.

And the wind, the wind, the clean free wind,
     She laughed through April rains:
"Come out and live by the wine I give
     In the smell of the greenin' plains!"
And I looked back once to the smoky towers
     Where my face had bleached so pale,
Them loped through the lash of drivin' showers
     To the uncut sod and the prairie flowers
And the old wide life o' the trail.

I went and camped in the valley trees
     Where the thick leaves whispered rest,
For love lived there 'mong the honey bees,
     And they told me love was best.
There the twilight lanes were cool and dim
     And the orchards pink with May,
Yet my eyes they'd lift to the valley's rim
     Where the desert reached away.

And the wind, the wind, the wild free wind,
     She called from the web love spun
To the unbought sand of the lone trail land
     And the sweet hot kiss o' the sun!
Oh, I looked back twice to the valley lass,
Then I set my spurs and sung,
For the sun sailed up above the pass
And the mornin' wind was in the grass
     And my hawse and me was young. 

         by Charles "Badger" Clark, Jr.



Additional links

Jerry A. Brooks (Brooksie) feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Charles "Badger" Clark features at CowboyPoetry.com
 


Track 20: Buck Ramsey, "The Story: Two"

About the track, "The Story: One"
About the poet, Buck Ramsey
About the poem, "The Story: One"
Additional links

About the track, "The Story: One"

"The Story: Two" recording, by Buck Ramsey, is included on a CD that accompanies the book, Buck Ramsey's Grass, with essays on his life and work, published by Texas Tech University Press, 2005. The track is from Buck Ramsey's masterwork, Grass. Each version of The BAR-D Roundup has included a track, in order, from Grass.

In an introduction to the recording, Andy Wilkinson tells how this recording was made, not long after Buck Ramsey had finished the first draft of the poem, and after Buck "... had made a new friend of his long-time idol, folk singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott. They'd met at the Elko Cowboy Poetry gathering in one of those famous after-hours jam sessions at the Stockman's Hotel where Buck and Jack swapped poems and songs into the small hours of the morning... Ramblin' Jack was especially taken with one of the poems he'd heard Buck recite and suggested that Buck get it down on tape, mentioning that he had a friend in Nashville, musician John Hartford, who had a nicely-appointed home studio...."  Wilkinson comments that this track is from that tape, "the first ever made of the modern cowboy classic 'Grass.'"  

Wilkinson adds, "There's one more small, but important, part of the story.  When Texas Tech University Press came to reissue the poem, Buck's widow Bette suggested that they use this recording, the one that Buck had always thought of as his best, his favorite.  But the only copy she had was damaged, and as John Hartford had also since died, there was little hope of reclaiming it. Luckily, Buck's long-time friend Eddie Reeves had saved the original and was able to track down a studio with the machinery to transfer it into a contemporary format from which the engineer was then able to restore the damaged parts.  So as you listen to this piece of history, remember that it's one that would have been lost but for the circle of friendship.  And that's pure Buck Ramsey."

Read the entire introduction here, in our feature about Buck Ramsey's Grass, with essays on his life and work.

Permission for inclusion of this track was kindly granted by Texas Tech University Press.


About the poet, Buck Ramsey

BuckPortraitWeb.jpg (36314 bytes)

Buck Ramsey is recognized as the “spiritual leader” of cowboy poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, who died in 1998.  Hal Cannon, founding director of the Western Folklife Center, home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, has commented on Buck Ramsey's writing and music, "His work 'Anthem' is probably thought of as the finest contemporary piece of writing in this tradition..."

See much biographical information about Buck Ramsey, with many comments about him from contemporary poets and others in our feature here

Buck Ramsey made two recordings that received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Museum, Rolling Uphill from Texas and My Home it Was in Texas. In 2003, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released Buck Ramsey ~ Hittin' the Trail, and that recording also received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award.  Buck Ramsey was the author of two books, And As I Rode Out on the Morning (1993) and Christmas Waltz (1996). In 2005, Texas Tech University Press published Buck Ramsey's Grass, with essays on his life and work. His work has been recorded by many others and is included in many anthologies.

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[Photo of Buck Ramsey by Scott Braucher, used with permission]


About the poem, "The Story: Two"

"The Story: One" is the second chapter of Buck Ramsey's book-length poem, Grass. It follows the prologue, "Anthem," which is included on the first edition of The BAR-D Roundup (2006), and Chapter One, which is included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two (2007).

In her introduction to Buck Ramsey's Grass, with essays on his life and work, Bette Ramsey writes, "Buck Ramsey's epic poem Grass began as a short story called 'A Beginning.' Later he rewrote it for a magazine and named it 'The Wagon Incident.' The poem [was] originally published in 1993 as And As I Rode Out in the Morning..."  Read the entire introduction here.

Buck Ramsey has written, "I took the stanza scheme from Pushkin and the plot from a short story I wrote, called 'A Beginning.' The poem is meant to be the beginning and a very small part of a story of cowboys on the plains."  

Grass follows the life and experiences of Billy Deaver, who leaves the farm at 15 to pursue a cowboy's life. Poet Joel Nelson describes the poem, "From the leaving of home and kin, through the stirrings of adolescence, to the making of a hand in a tribe of men who 'the gods had chosen well,' there is nothing a cowboy could ever want to say that Buck hasn't covered in Grass."


Additional links

Buck Ramsey features at CowboyPoetry.com

Buck Ramsey's Grass feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Texas Tech University Press web site

Andy Wilkinson's web site


Track 21: Smoke Wade, "A Change of Season"

 

Below:

About the track, "A Change of Season"
About the poet, Smoke Wade
The poem, "A Change of Season"
Additional links


About the track, "A Change of Season"

"A Change of Season" is from Smoke Wade's CD, Smoke Wade, A Legend in His Own Mind.

Smoke comments about the poem:

The busy way of life in Hells Canyon came to an end during the 1970's when the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was formed. The ranches were forced from the canyon and today, little is left of what was a western way of life. This exodus mirrored the 1877 removal of the Nez Perce Indians from the canyon. One day, at a beer garden after the parade, I noticed a bunch of old cowboys hanging out - talking, remembering old times. It dawned on me that with the fall of the Hells Canyon ranches to the U.S. Forest Service, that these cowboys didn't have a range to go back to.  "A Change of Season" was spawned at that moment. 

The message of the poem is timely with the recent Supreme Court ruling that local governments may force the sale of private property for the purpose of financial betterment of a community.  Often, I open the poem with the following statement:

For ten thousand years, mankind lived along the banks of the Snake River in Hells Canyon, until 1877, when the United States Congress decided it was time to evict the residents of the canyon. They gave the order to the U. S Army, and under the command of General Howard, Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce people were forced to leave their homeland forever.

Over time the canyon once again became populated with outlaws, sourdoughs, miners, horse thieves, homesteaders, sheepherders and cattle ranchers, until almost one hundred years had passed. And then, congress once again decided it was time to evict the residents of Hells Canyon. This time the order went down to the U. S. For' Service and one by one the ranches fell, condemned, evicted and forced out, until today there is little sign left of what we once called home. And thus began our change of season.


About the poet, Smoke Wade

Smoke Wade was born and raised on a Snake River cattle ranch in Hells Canyon, Oregon, where he rode horseback 6 miles to a one-room school house through the 6th grade. He is a fourth-generation Wallowa County, Oregon cowboy and range land manager.

Smoke has written cowboy poetry and western nostalgia for 15 years and has been performing since 2001. His poetry and stories reflect the memories of a lifestyle that once flourished in the Snake River canyon country along the Idaho-Oregon border.

Smoke Wade is an active gathering organizer and frequent contributor of reports and articles about cowboy poetry and Western music events.


 

Smoke Wade photo, 2007, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.


The poem, "A Change of Season"

 

A Change of Season

We don't summer at Chesnim' these days,
Not since the For' Service shut 'er down;
They took away our permit to graze,
Now we pasture on the edge of town.

We don't fall ride at Cold Springs anymore,
In the teeth of an early winter storm;
Or hitch our boots by the cow camp door,
And play cribbage inside where it's warm.

We no longer winter by the Snake,
On benches carved below the rim;
The land was sold for the public's sake,
To the For' Service and to the BLM.

No, we don't spring calve on Cactus Flat,
Since it sold to the State Fish and Game;
They say the Chinook ain't comin' back,
And the cowman must carry the blame.

So, we gather now, at Third and Grand,
A beer garden after the parade;
And, here we'll make one final stand,
Until this season begins to fade.

© 1994, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Additional links

Smoke Wade's feature at CowboyPoetry.com


Track 22: Susan Parker, "The Homemade Cigarette" by A.V. Hudson (1873-1949)

About the track, "The Homemade Cigarette"
About the reciter, Susan Parker
The poem, "The Homemade Cigarette"
Additional links

About the track, "The Homemade Cigarette"

"The Homemade Cigarette" was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three.

The poem, by A.V. Hudson (1873-1949), is from her 1915 book, The Land Where the Cowboy Grows. Susan Parker is "intrigued by the 'vanishing voices' of poetry," and is working on a book and recording of selected works written by pioneering women during the late 1800s and early 1900s that focus on life in the early West. One interesting poet who will be included in her project is Colorado poet A. V. Hudson (1873-1949). Addie Viola Cropsey Hudson lived in Huerfano County with her husband Timothy M. Hudson (1870-1963), on a ranch near Gardner, where they raised Herefords.

In the foreword to her 1915 book, The Land Where the Cowboy Grows, she writes about the inspiration for some of her poems:

"Billy" has long been a visitor of mine who did considerable "pestering 'round" in the spring of the year. There would be stretches of time when the "Circle A.H. Ranch" wasn't bothered with him, then some morning he would arrive—horse, dog and entire paraphernalia.

When he was gone, I would pick up the bits of verse he had left lying about. At last these became so numerous it was decided to put a few of them into book form, and for that reason the following "round-up" was made....

A woman of her time, several of her poems allude to the suffragette movement. (A. V. Hudson's husband was also a state senator.)

A.V. Hudson's work was also collected in anthologies, including Evenings with Colorado Poets (1926) and The Sea Anthology (1924).

   


About the reciter, Susan Parker

Susan Parker thinks perhaps God didn’t have his reading glasses handy when he was deciding where on earth to set her down. Without them, he misread the address and sent her to Eureka, California, instead of Eureka, Montana.

Intrigued by pioneering women of the West, Susan has become a student of their writings: "I hear their voices as they pour out loneliness and frustration onto the page. Their courage and determination beg me to share their work, to appreciate the freedoms I enjoy as a result of their perseverance and sacrifice." She is working on a book and recording project of those "vanishing voices."

She has a CD, She Rode a Wild Horse, and a book, Lady By the Bay.

 

 

Susan Parker photo, 2006, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.


The poem, "The Homemade Cigarette"

The Homemade Cigarette          

There are dreams that come a plenty
            When the campfire gleams at night,
There are faces in each planet
            When the evening stars are bright;
I am glad to pass the yarn along
            Of most I see, and yet,
Tho I could, I would not tell you
            All I tell my cigarette.

Never painter sketched on canvas
            All the beauty Nature dealt;
Never music has been written
            Telling all the writer felt;
Never poet put on paper
            All his genius could beget,
For he would not tell all secrets
            He has told his cigarette.

If your spirit’s on the rampage
            And you heave and twist inside,
Then you saddle up at midnight
            For a long and furious ride;
You dismount upon the hilltop
            And the whole darned world forget
While you roll and smoke in silence
            Just an “onery” cigarette.

Then the world is still about you
            Down the glade and up the hill,
And there comes to mind a female
            Who once piously said, “Bill,
Quit your smoke and vote for women.”
            Sufferin’ cats! a suffragette
Talking of emancipation,
            Slandering you, my cigarette.

Then you’re silent, telling secrets
            To that brown and slender roll,
Getting next to God and Nature;
            Holding converse with your soul.
There’s the man who chews the stogie,
            And the lad whose pipe’s a pet,
But the cowman out in cowland
            Smokes the homemade cigarette.

by A.V. Hudson                                                                         

 


Additional links

Susan Parker feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Susan Parker's web site

A. V. Hudson's poem, "The Land Where the Cowboy Grows" at CowboyPoetry.com


Track 23: Hal Swift, "Bill's in Trouble" by James Barton Adams (1843-1918)

 

About the track,  "Bill's in Trouble"
About the reciter, Hal Swift
The poem, "Bill's in Trouble"
Additional links

About the track, "Bill's in Trouble"

"Bill's in Trouble" was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup, Volume Three.

"Bill's in Trouble" is included in James Barton Adams' (1843-1918), Breezy Western Verse, published in 1899.

The editor's introduction to a 1968 publication of the Socorro County (New Mexico) Historical Society, "Some Letters and Writings of James Barton Adams" comments:

The letters of James Barton Adams (alias Jim Carlin) are here published for the first time...For several years he lived and worked in the rugged San Andres mountains of central New Mexico on a ranch owned by Captain Jack Crawford, famous Indian Scout and Poet. The land was harsh, the climate equal in its intensity and variety to the harshness of the land, and human companionship was only an occasional experience. Adams, educated and having an unusual way with words, was able to capture in his letters the spirit of this one small segment of the American Frontier.

A biographical sketch adds:

Adams was employed by Capt. Jack Crawford at his Dripping Springs, N. M. ranch from 1890-1892, and for reason or reasons unknown used an alias during this time. He chose to be called James "Jim" Carlin, and it is doubted that it was a pen name. Many of his poems were probably drawn from his life and experiences during this period in New Mexico. Adams wrote the foreword to Capt. Jack's book Whar the Hand O' God is Seen, published in 1913.

A biography in The Mecca, February 3, 1900, tells that Adams was born in Ohio and moved with his family to Iowa, "...when that state was 'way out West.' He enlisted at the first call for troops in 1861."  The Socorro County biographical sketch tells that at age 75, during World War I, he volunteered his telegraphic services and "was probably the oldest telegraph operator working the key in the U. S...."

Adams became a newspaper columnist, and wrote poems still recited (and put to music) today.


About the reciter, Hal Swift

Nevada poet and writer Hal Swift joined the U.S. Navy in 1948 and served as a shipboard Morse code radio operator while a member of the Japan occupation forces, and then during the Korean War. After his honorable discharge in 1952 he went back into broadcasting and worked in stations from Mount Shasta to Monterey, California, then in Reno, Nevada. He worked in various areas of broadcasting, including disc jockey, reporter, news editor, commercial writer, salesman, and a broadcast engineer.

Hal Swift was inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2005, recognized for his professional broadcasting career of 40 years.

He has a book of his poetry, Cowboy Poems and Outright Lies and a number of CDs.

 

Hal Swift photo, 2006, by Johnny Gunn


The poem, "Bill's in Trouble"

Bill's in Trouble

I've got a letter, parson, from my son away out West,
An' my ol' heart is heavy as an anvil in my breast,
To think the boy whose future I had once so proudly planned
Should wander from the path of right an' come to such an end!
I told him when he left his home, not three short years ago,
He'd find himself a plowin' in a mighty crooked row—
He'd miss his father's counsel, an' his mother's prayers, too;
But he said the farm was hateful, an' he guessed he'd have to go.

I know thar's big temptation for a youngster in the West,
But I believed our Billy had the courage to resist,
An' when he left I warned him o' the ever waitin' snares
That lie like hidden sarpints in life's pathway everywheres.
But Bill he promised faithful to be keerful, an' allowed
He'd build a reputation that'd make us mighty proud;
But it seems as how my counsel sort o' faded from his mind,
An' now the boy's in trouble o' the very wustest kind!

His letters came so seldom that I somehow sort o' knowed
That Billy was a trampling on a mighty rocky road,
But never once imagined he would bow my head in shame,
An' in the dust'd waller his ol' daddy's honored name.
He writes from out in Denver, an' the story's mighty short;
I just can't tell his mother, it'll crush her poor ol' heart!
An' so I reckoned, parson, you might break the news to her—
Bill's in the legislatur', but he doesn't say what fur.

by James Barton Adams

 


Additional links

Hal Swift feature at CowboyPoetry.com

More about James Barton Adams at CowboyPoetry.com
 


Track 24: Mick Vernon, "Jack Potter's Courtin'" by S. Omar Baker (1895-1985)

About the track, "Jack Potter's Courtin'"
About the reciter, Mick Vernon
The poem, "Jack Potter's Courtin'"
Additional links

About the track, "Jack Potter's Courtin'"

"Jack Potter's Courtin'" was recorded for The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three and Mick Vernon performs his own guitar music.

The poem, by S. Omar Barker, (1895-1985), is included in his book, Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West (1968).

S. Omar Barker was a prolific writer. Elmer Kelton writes that Barker "... once estimated his career output at about 1,500 short stories and novelettes, about 1,200 factual articles, about 2,000 poems." Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, served as president of that organization, and twice was a recipient of WWA's Spur Award. His wife, Elsa, a respected writer in her own right, also served as a WWA president. S. Omar Barker was the first living author inducted into the Hall of Fame of Great Westerners (now called the Hall of Great Westerners) by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

As told in Cowboy Miner Productions' collection of S. Omar Barker's poetry, Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker, "Omar was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. S. Omar Barker was a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator. He is best known, and rightly so, as one of the West's best and most admired cowboy poets. He was named after his father Squire L. Barker, but went by Omar. He often signed his books with his initials and trademark brand, 'Lazy SOB.'"

"Jack Potter's Courtin'" is based on real people. July, 2006, we received correspondence from Georganna Kresl, great granddaughter of "Jack" and "Cordie," commenting on the poem about her great-grandparents, Jack Potter and Cordelia Eddy. Read her interesting account and see photos here.

Among S. Omar Barker's books of poetry are Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West (1968), Songs of the Saddlemen (1954), Buckaroo Ballads (1928), and Vientos de las Sierras (1924.

        


About the reciter, Mick Vernon

Mick Vernon writes about his time spent in the saddle working cattle with the Dobbas outfit in the Sierras near Auburn, California, and about other reflections of western life. 

He is also a trained farrier, although he's known as the "Lyrical Lawman" because of his two decades with the Seaside Police Department, where he is Deputy Chief. Mick is also the Artistic Director and past President of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival. He is the host of the two-hour weekly radio program, Radio Ranch.

Mick Vernon is the author of The Lyrical Lawman Rides, a book of original cowboy poetry with a CD by the same title.

  

Mick Vernon photo, 2005, by Henry Benson


The poem,  "Jack Potter's Courtin'"

Jack Potter's Courtin'

Now young Jack Potter was a man who knowed the ways of steers.
From bur-nests in their hairy tails to ticks that chawed their ears.
A Texican and cowhand, to the saddle bred and born,
He could count a trail herd on the move and never miss a horn.
But one day on a tally, back in eighteen-eighty-four,
He got to acting dreamy, and he sure did miss the score.
The Trail Boss knowed the symptoms. "Jack you ain't no good like this.
I'll give you just ten days to go and find what is amiss!"
A "miss" was just what ailed him, for he'd fell in love for sure
With a gal named Cordie Eddy, mighty purty, sweet and pure.
So now Jack rode a hundred miles, a-sweatin' with the thought
Of sweetsome words to ask her with, the way a fella ought.
"I'm just a humble cowhand, Miss Cordie, if you please,
That hereby asks your heart and hand, upon my bended knees!."
It sounded mighty simple thus rehearsed upon the trail.
But when he come to Cordie's house, his words all seemed to fail.
'Twas "Howdy, ma'am, and how's the crops? And "How's your pa and ma?"
For when it came to askin' her, he couldn't come to taw.

He took her to a dance one night. The hoss she rode was his.
"He's a dandy little hoss," she says. "Well, yep," says Jack, "he is."
They rode home late together and the moon was ridin' high,
And Jack, he got to talkin' 'bout the stars up in the sky,
And how they'd guide a trail herd like they do sea-goin' ships.
But words of love and marriage—they just wouldn't pass his lips!
So he spoke about the pony she was ridin', and he said:
"You'll note he's fancy-gaited, and don't never fight his head."
"He's sure a little dandy," she agrees, and heaves a sigh.
Jack says, "Why you can have him—that is—maybe—when I die."
He figgered she might savvy what he meant or maybe guess,
And give him that sweet answer which he longed for, namely, "yes."
But when they reached the ranch house, he was still a-wonderin' how
He would ever pop the question, and he had to do it now.
Or wait and sweat and suffer till the drive was done that fall,
When maybe she'd be married, and he'd lose her after all.
He put away her saddle, led his pony to the gate:
"I reckon I'll be driftin', ma'am. It's gittin' kinder late."
Her eyes was bright as starlight, and her lips looked sweet as flow'rs.
Says Jack, "Now, this here pony—is he mine, or is he ours?"
"Our pony, Jack!" she answered, and her voice was soft as moss.
Then Jack, he claims he kissed her—but she claims he kissed the hoss!

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker Further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited


Additional links

Mick Vernon feature at CowboyPoetry.com

S. Omar Barker feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Radio Ranch feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival web site


Track 25: Linda Kirkpatrick, "The Broncho Twister's Prayer" by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

 

About the track, "The Broncho Twister's Prayer"
About the reciter, Linda Kirkpatrick
The poem, "The Broncho Twister's Prayer"
Additional links

About the track, "The Bronco Twister's Prayer"


"The Bronco Twister's Prayer" is from Linda Kirkpatrick's CD,  Beneath a Western Sky.

"The Bronco Twister's Prayer" was written by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) and included in his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges. It was read at his funeral.

Kiskaddon is one the most admired "classic" cowboy poets and his poems are frequently recited. The foreword to Rhymes of the Ranges by writer Frank M. King tells about the experience behind the poems:

Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.

In 2007, Bill Siems and Old Night Hawk Press released the important Open Range: Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, a monumental 600-page work that includes Bruce Kiskaddon's entire poetic output (481 poems); extensive illustrations and rare photographs, and biographical and historical information.


About the reciter, Linda Kirkpatrick

Ranch-raised Texas writer and poet Linda Kirkpatrick's poetry often tells the stories of  the women of the west and the lives of women ranchers. She is also know for her masterful recitations of classic and contemporary poetry by others. She performs at events across the West, and was an invited poet at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. She sometimes performs as a part of the group, "The Cowboy Sunset Serenade," with Frank Roberts and Joe Wells, whose music and poetry programs are about the history of the cowboy, the West and the women of the West.

She writes a regular Texas history column, "Somewhere in the West," for Texas Escapes magazine and produces a chapbook of stories and poetries twice each year. She has a CD, Beneath a Western Sky, and a book, Somewhere in the West.

  

Linda Kirkpatrick photo, 2005, by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.


The poem, "The Broncho Twister's Prayer"

The Broncho Twister’s Prayer

It was a little grave yard
   on the rolling foot hill plains:
That was bleached by the sun in summer,
   swept by winter’s snows and rains;
There a little bunch of settlers
   gathered on an autumn day
‘Round a home made lumber coffin,
   with their last respects to pay.

Weary men that wrung their living
   from that hard and arid land,
And beside them stood their women;
   faded wives with toil worn hands.
But among us stood one figure
   that was wiry, straight and trim.
Every one among us know him.
   ‘Twas the broncho twister, Jim.

Just a bunch of hardened muscle
   tempered with a savage grit,
And he had the reputation
   of a man that never quit.
He had helped to build the coffin,
   he had helped to dig the grave;
And his instinct seemed to teach him
   how he really should behave.

Well, we didn’t have a preacher,
   and the crowd was mighty slim.
Just two women with weak voices
   sang an old time funeral hymn.
That was all we had for service.
   The old wife was sobbing there.
For her husband of a life time,
   laid away without prayer.

She looked at the broncho twister,
   then she walked right up to him.
Put one trembling arm around him and said,
   "Pray. Please won’t you Jim?"
You could see his figure straighten,
   and a look of quick surprise
Flashed across his swarthy features,
   and his hard dare devil eyes.

He could handle any broncho,
   and he never dodged a fight.
‘Twas the first time any body ever saw
   his face turn white.
But he took his big sombrero
   off his rough and shaggy head,
How I wish I could remember what
   that broncho peeler said.

No, he wasn’t educated.
   On the range his youth was spent.
But the maker of creation
   know exactly what he meant.
He looked over toward the mountains
   where the driftin’ shadows played.
Silence must have reined in heaven
   when they heard the way Jim prayed.

Years have passed since that small funeral
   in that lonely grave yard lot.
But it gave us all a memory, and a lot
   of food for thought.
As we stood beside the coffin,
   and the freshly broken sod,
With that reckless broncho breaker
   talkin’ heart to heart with God.

When the prayer at last was over,
   and the grave had all been filled,
On his rough, half broken pony,
   he rode off toward the hills.
Yes, we stood there in amazement
   as we watched him ride away,
For no words could ever thank him.
   There was nothing we could say.
Since we gathered in that grave yard,
   it’s been nearly fifty years.
With their joys and with their sorrows,
   with their hopes and with their fears.
But I hope when I have finished,
   and they lay me with the dead,
Some one says a prayer above me,
   like that broncho twister said.

by Bruce Kiskaddon

 



Additional links

Linda Kirkpatrick feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Linda Kirkpatrick's "Somewhere in the West" column at Texas Escapes

Bruce Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com

Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon feature at CowboyPoetry.com

 


SPECIAL CLASSIC RECORDING
Track 26:  Introduction to "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service (1874-1958)
Track 27: Robert Service, "The Cremation of Sam McGee"

 

About the track, "The Cremation of Sam McGee"
About the poet, Robert Service
The poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee"
Additional links

About the track, "The Cremation of Sam McGee"

"The Cremation of Sam McGee" is from the Robert Service in Person; The Bard of the Yukon CD. The 1948 recordings were discovered by radio broadcaster Gene Kern, who rescued the recordings, transferring them to a more stable media. The recordings were made with the agreement that they would not be released during Service's lifetime. The Robert Service in Person; The Bard of the Yukon CD includes Robert Service reciting "The Spell of the Yukon," "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," and "The Cremation of Sam McGee." (The CD is available from reason-for-hope.com, and there is a special offer for CowboyPoetry.com visitors here).

A Wikipedia article, with additional references, comments, in part about the poem:

Although the poem was fiction, it was based on people and things that Robert Service actually saw in the Yukon. The "Alice May" was based on the derelict sternwheeler the "Olive May" that belonged to the "BL&K" company and had originally been named for the wife and daughter of "Albert Sperry Kerry Sr." Lake Lebarge is formed by a widening of the Yukon River just north of Whitehorse and is still in use by kayakers.

For a period, Robert Service lived with Dr. Sugden in Whitehorse who recounted to him about being sent out to tend to a sick prospector. When Dr. Sugden arrived at the prospector's cabin, he found the man dead and frozen stiff. Having no tools to bury him, Dr. Sugden cremated the prospector in the boiler of the Olive May and brought the ashes back to town....

Find more references and links in our feature about Robert Service.


About the poet, Robert Service

Robert Service (1874-1958), an inveterate traveler and adventure seeker, was born in England in 1874, and grew up in Scotland. 

Service yearned to be a cowboy.  He arrived in Canada the same year that gold was found in the Klondike, and did hire on as a cowboy for a bit on Vancouver Island.  But soon he returned to the job he had trained forbanking and that work led him eventually to the Yukon, when his bank transferred him there.

There he wrote stories of the prospectors and poems such as "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee." His work met with immediate acclaim and his poetry remains widely read and recited.

Some of the tales he told were colored by his life in the West among cowboys, and the strong rhyme and meter of his work have inspired many cowboy poets.


The poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee"

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
     By the men who moil for gold;
  The Arctic trails have their secret tales
     That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
     But the queerest they ever did see
  Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
     I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, 
     where the cotton blooms and blows.
  Why he left his home in the South to roam
     'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold 
     seemed to hold him like a spell;
  Though he'd often say in his homely way 
     that he'd "sooner live in Hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way 
     over the Dawson trail.
  Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold
      it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze 
     till sometimes we couldn't see,
  It wasn't much fun, but the only one
     to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight 
     in our robes beneath the snow,
  And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead 
     were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, 
     "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
  And if I do, I'm asking that you 
     won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; 
     then he says with a sort of moan,
  "It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold 
    till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread 
     of the icy grave that pains;
  So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, 
     you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, 
     so I swore I would not fail;
  And we started on at the streak of dawn; 
     but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day 
     of his home in Tennessee;
  And before nightfall a corpse was all 
     that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, 
     and I hurried, horror-driven,
  With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, 
     because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: 
     "You may tax your brawn and brains,
  But you promised true, and it's up to you 
     to cremate these last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, 
     and the trail has its own stern code.
  In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, 
     in my heart how I cursed that load!
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, 
     while the huskies, round in a ring,
  Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—
     O God, how I loathed the thing!

And every day that quiet clay 
     seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
  And on I went, though the dogs were spent 
     and the grub was getting low.
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, 
     but I swore I would not give in;
  And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, 
     and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, 
     and a derelict there lay;
  It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice 
     it was called the Alice May.
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, 
     and I looked at my frozen chum;
  Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, 
     "is my cre-ma-tor-eum!"

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, 
     and I lit the boiler fire;
  Some coal I found that was lying around, 
     and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared— 
     such a blaze you seldom see;
  And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, 
     and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like 
     to hear him sizzle so;
  And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, 
     and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled 
     down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
  And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak 
     went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow 
     I wrestled with grisly fear;
  But the stars came out and they danced about 
     ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said,
     "I'll just take a peep inside.
  I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked,"
     then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, 
     in the heart of the furnace roar;
  And he wore a smile you could see a mile, 
     and he said:  "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear 
     you'll let in the cold and storm—
  Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, 
     it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
     By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
     The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
     Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee

Reprinted with permission from The Cremation of Sam McGee, Hancock House, 1989

 



Additional links

Robert Service feature at CowboyPoetry.com

Vintage Robert Service recordings at reason-for-hope.com (special offer for CowboyPoetry.com visitors here).



Track 28: Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry PSA by Francie Ganje

About the Public Service Announcement (PSA)
The PSA
About Francie Ganje
Additional links

About the Public Service Announcement (PSA)
 

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three CD includes a radio Public Service (PSA) Announcement by Francie Ganje, radio host and Director of the Heritage of the American West show.


The PSA  

I'm Francie Ganje, radio host and Director of the Heritage American West show.

Cowboy Poetry records the heartbeat of the working West. This tradition—stories of cowboys, ranchers, and Western writers—spans three centuries. Today's poets represent voices from this vital—yet endangered—rural culture.

Learn more about it at CowboyPoetry.com, a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry
 

Listen to the 2008 30-second public service announcement


About Francie Ganje

Francie Ganje is Mid-Day Anchor at South Dakota's KBHB radio, the Director of the Heritage of the American West show and occasional fill-in host of Live with Jim Thompson.


Additional links

Audio: The 30-second public service announcement 

The Heritage of the American West show


 
Additional track descriptions are on page one...


 

 

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