Page Two



Memories of Christmas

Colored lights across the room,
Children playing on the floor;
I guess I'm living in the past,
I've gone back sixty years or more.

And oil lamp glows on the window sill,
Shadows flicker on the snow,
Christmas was a holy time
So many, many years ago.

There was love within our humble home,
Every night we were together,
With the Christmas story from the Bible,
We paid no attention to the weather.

Youngsters practiced being good,
It was like that on every farm;
George and I were chopping wood
To keep our homestead cabin warm.

The chores we did by starlight
Proved a blessing in the end,
Each star we saw up in the sky
Became our special friend.

We had to carry drinking water
While we waited for the pail to fill,
I said, "That's the star that led the wise men,
Shining there about the hill!"

No one had to tell us which star,
We had that one figured right;
It was the one that shone the brightest
Just before the morning light.

On Christmas Eve our barn was spotless,
We spread clean straw and fed choice hay,
We knew which stall we would offer
If Mary came to us someday.

I don't recall a lot of presents,
It was different from today,
We will not forget the spirit
That filled our ranch house on that day.

© 2002, Colen H. Sweeten Jr.
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

In a Manger

It was cold and late when I came to the gate.
The big dipper was upside down.
I had rode hellbent and my horse was spent,
And it was still thirty miles to town.

I watered my horse as I looked at the house,
Its windows were showing no light
So I fumbled and scratched for the barn door latch,
And we borrowed their barn for the night.

I felt my way to the timothy hay,
And filled the manger in one empty stall.
It turned out all right, there was enough moonlight,
Squeezin' in through the cracks in the wall.

Then I climbed into the manger and burrowed down some,
Being careful to cover my feet.
For that comfortin' hay o'er the spot where I lay,
Was the supper old Tony must eat.

I lay there just thinkin', mostly 'bout home,
And my wife and my two year old boy
About fifteen below and the miles I must go,
Or I knew there'd be no Christmas joy.

I'm laying in a manger, just like my Lord!
The thought brought a tear to my cheek.
I wanted to pray, but no words I could say,
Just too overcome and humbled to speak.

Then I thought of the shepherds who had traveled as I
To the place where the bright star shone.
And wise men drawing nigh to the light in the sky,
With their gifts to acknowledge His own.

I thought of the hand carved gifts made of pine,
In my saddlebags dripping with foam.
Not really so fine, but the carvin' was mine,
And he'd know that his father was home.

Then the wind settled down and dawn came around,
And my eyes were still open wide.
Still hungry and tired but newly inspired,
I set off on the thirty mile ride.

"Lying in a manger," when I read it now,
Has a much broader meaning, I've found.
That night in a manger that was owned by a stranger
Turned my way of livin' around.

© Colen H. Sweeten Jr.
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski


See tributes to Colen Sweeten here and read more of his poetry here.



Sandy Kris

There we were, just some heifers to watch and to feed
And me and Kris, alone on the ranch.
And Kris was old. At least forty-five
So he didn’t care if he went to a dance.
But I wasn’t happy, as my folks all pulled out.
Kris said, “Wipe that glum look off your face.”
I just scowled at him. My folks were headed for town
and here I was, stuck on the place.
“They’ll get through okay,” Kris says, rubbing his chin.
“But they’ll have to burrow in for the night.
Be a couple days before we see them again.
But don’t worry. They’ll be all right.”
I just rolled my eyes and stomped toward the house.
I hated winter, and with Christmas in sight
I weren’t feeling too merry, and didn’t care who knew.
But I tarped the wood, and snugged it down tight.
Then hauled a big armload inside the house.
Kris was there, staring out at the sky.
And there was something about the look on his face
that made me pause, though I didn’t know why.
Sandy Kris was a drifter, aged past his prime
Who’d wandered in on Thanksgiving day.
And dad hired him on, for pretty scant wages.
Kris took board for most of his pay.
Kris was an old codger. That term fit him well.
Grey whiskers and a chest like a bear.
He stood five foot two in his wool-stockinged feet
and used a shoelace to tie back his hair.
He wore red flannel long-johns every day of the week,
The same pair, I’d guess, from their smell,
He had a shiny red nose and plump rosy cheeks
and his laugh sort of rang. Like a bell.
Sandy Kris, he was crazy. Liked to talk about stars
and migrations. Patterns of flight.
He’d watch critters then forecast the weather,
and he could tell time from the angle of light.
Mom called the next morning, before the lines all went dead,
Said they’d tucked in at Gran’s for the storm
They’d be home for Christmas, of course, my mom said,
But they missed me, and hoped we’d stay warm.
Christmas Eve we cooked steaks from the freezer,
Browned taters in a pan with some grease,
Then I trudged off to bed, thinking pretty low thoughts
Cause this didn’t seem much like Christmas to me.
I don’t know what it was that awoke me,
Maybe a sound, or the cessation of storm,
But whatever the reason my eyes flew wide open
at midnight. I sat up in alarm.
The night sky had turned silver, and glittered with stars
That shimmered and danced through the gloom,
And the music of magic seemed to sing through the night
And echoed from the walls of my room.
There was a pulse to the night, like a magnet
That drew me right out of my bed
And I crept down the stairs as though pulled by the wind
Filled with eager, inquisitive dread.
The front door of the house stood wide open
The winter night was glowing and warm
As I traversed the yard like a specter
And found Kris, hard at work in the barn.
He moved quick, like a dancer, and hurried his tasks
And the whole barn seemed magic, and fine,
As Kris bundled and strapped up big boxes and bags
In burlap, and tied them with twine.
Grandpa’s old wagon had stood under a tarp,
For ages, since I was a boy.
But when Kris uncovered the buckboard that night
It was filled up with presents and toys.
A deer herd had stopped in the pasture.
They were browsing on the haystack out there.
They seemed tame, hardly skittish, and they sparkled like diamonds
Or stardust, in the clear cold night air.
Kris tossed more bundles into the old wagon,
Then whistled, and called out some names.
And soon eight deer were hitched up and jingling
with sleigh bells tied to their reins.
I figure he saw me, standing there in the gloom
of the barn, in his clear line of sight
Because he nodded. Then he flicked the reins with his wrist,
And that buckboard and the deer all took flight.
I crept back to my bed filled with wonder.
Could what I had seen have been real?
Sandy Kris and eight deer hauling gifts ‘round the world?
The thought had provoking appeal.
When I awakened the snowfall had ended
The world was white with pure, glistening snow.
From out of my window I could see on the ridge
My dad’s pick-up coming home, moving slow.
Christmas morning had come, just like promised.
My folks’d be home ‘fore I’d done with the chores.
I tugged on my boots and my cold weather gear
and rushed down the stairs and outdoors.
Kris was there, feeding stock, like he did every day,
And I laughed, said,”Hey Santa! Welcome back!”
Sandy Kris, he just frowned, said, “Break out some more bales.
Feed ‘em good, then go check on the stack.
Wet spell like this sometimes seeps through the top.”
I looked away. What did this mean?
Could I maybe have just imagined it all?
Had last night been some wild crazy dream?
My mom made a big, fancy breakfast
for Dad, my sis, Kris and me,
and they told of the dance, and that Gran’s doing well,
then we all met again round the tree
and exchanged our presents. I got quite a haul.
There were plenty of gifts that were mine.
But the best gift of all was Kris’ old pocket knife,
Marked, “from Santa,” wrapped in burlap, and twine.

© 2007, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more about Jo Lynne Kirkwood and her poetry here.


Desert Cowboy's Christmas

The bells this cowboy's hearin',
     aren't off of any sleigh.
They're 'round the necks of the old milk cows
     comin' in for their mornin' hay.

There've been other times and places,
     where there weren't snowflakes fallin',
But he can't remember a Christmas,
     when there weren't cattle bawlin'.

The desert air is chilled,
     as daylight tints the sky.
It's plenty cold enough for frost
     but the air is just too dry.

Against the graying pre-dawn
     there's a darker silhoutte.
A remuda horse has just come in,
     but he can't tell which one yet.

The faint scent of creosote brush
     drifts on the mornin' breeze,
And prob'ly because of the day
     makes him think of Christmas trees.

Pausing, he watches the sunrise
     break the hold of the night.
Objects begin to emerge from the dark
     changing form in the light.

Saguaro, arms reaching skyward,
     cottonwood trees, bare limbed.
A rooster up on the big corral fence
     sittin' there crowin' at him.

An old cow begins to bawl,
     knowin' it's time for feed.
He breaks the bales and scatters the hay,
     and the others follow her lead.

Cattle and man have a bond,
     they've always been his life.
Over the years they've taken the place
     of a family and a wife.

As seasons follow seasons,
     he's never changed direction.
Horses, cattle, and wide-open spaces,
     the "cowboy connection."

 "Merry Christmas, Girls," he calls,
     "here's a little extra hay.
An old cowboy likes to do his part
     to make this a special day!"

His Christmas seldom means presents,
     or bright lights on a tree,
More a time to pause and reflect
     on the way a man ought to be.

Some folks don't understand this,
     but it really isn't so strange.
It's what a cowboy's life's all about,
     to a shepherd of the range. 

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


Read more poetry by Carole Jarvis here.


A Charlie Creek Christmas

It was Christmas in the badlands
An' the moon was shinin' bright

So I figgered dear ol' Santa
Wouldn't need no exter light
When he come across the prairie
An' down the coulees deep

To drop me off my presents
While I was sound asleep

—That's what I get for figgerin'
Once again I'se proven wrong
'Cause I shoulda fixed that yard light
in the middle of my lawn.
Now—I knew the thing was history

Heck, it burnt out in the spring
When I wacked it up a good one
With my alfalfa balin' thing.

Still—it come as quite a shock
That night on Christmas Eve

When a clatter did arise
An' what my blood shots did perceive

Eight tiny little reindeers
Stumblin' 'round my yard
With about a million presents

Some still bouncin' mighty hard.
And layin' in the middle,
With his suit so big an' red,
Was none other than his elfness
Slowly shakin' his old head.

Oh my lord!—I started thinkin'
Ain't this the Cat's Meow

I'd best be gettin' movin'
And I'd best be movin' now!
'Cause they'd smacked into that light pole
An' it wasn't fer no joke—
Looked like my chance fer presents
Had all gone up in smoke.
I'm halfway apoplectic
An' sorry as can be
As I run like all the dickens
To help him to his feet.

I gets him kinda dusted

Then we both eyeball the scene
Lookin' pert near like a war zone,
If yer knowin' what I mean.
Then'r peepers lit upon it

What used ta be his sleigh

An' there weren't no use denyin'
It had seen its better days.
I'm feelin' real depressed
—Then I seen him drop his head

I knew what he was thinkin'
So I quiklike thought—an' said

"Yer lookin' kinda worried
But I tell ya what we'll do—
A bit a wire an' some nails
She'll be flyin' good as new.
We can take a couple fence posts
An' bend 'em at the end
Then ya got yerself some runners
To get up an' off again.
We'll grab 'r selves some planks
An' nail 'em right around
What's left a that ol' chassis—
Heck—She'll float right off the ground!"

Well—he paused an' thought a bit—
Perked up—an' said "Yer right!"
"But we'd best be gettin' hoppin'
I got a fairly busy night!"
So faster than a twinklin'
I gets the parts we need—
An' before ya even knowed it
We undone the dirty deed.

Then we gathers in the reindeer
Hitch 'em to the sleigh
An' round up all the presents
Til' they're packed and stashed away.
An' as he climbed aboard
He turned—Just like a shot—
Stopped an' handed me some presents
An' said—"I near forgot!"
I heard him when he hollered
As he flew on outa sight—
"Merry Christmas you old codger—
Next year turn on the light!"

© 1997, DW Groethe, from A Charlie Creek Christmas & Other Wint'ry Tales of the West
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Illustration by DW Groethe


'Twas a Fright Before Christmas
Snake Eye Saves the Day

It was gettin' close to Christmas
an' Jake was feelin' good—
cause fer once in his ol' lifetime
things was caught up like they should.
He'd finally fixed the yard light
heck—you could see a country mile
an' the hay'd been gathered over
an' set up in nifty piles—
When he gets this oddball phone call
from none other than Saint Nick
sayin' he'd have to cancel Christmas
cause all the reindeer come down sick,
an' he was callin' everyone
whose name was on his list—
most was good—some was iffy—
an' some you'd never guess.

Well—Jake he sorta swallered hard
his head began ta shake—
"No!" he said—"No Christmas?"
It was more than he could take.
"Do ya really need them reindeers—
or will some other critter do?
Have ya figgered this thing over,
Have ya really thought it thru?"

"Yep," Nick said, "An' sad ta say—
the problem is ya see—
It's rare ta find a critter
that can sail up over trees—
not accountin' birds a course,
I tried 'em once 'er twice—
but their feathers made me sneeze
an' their brains is made a rice."

"Well, lord amighty," Jake replied—
then a bell began ta ring—
"I got a cow back in the barn
that might be just the thing!
There's not a fence for miles around
that she can't sail over—
The gate 'er panel ain't been built
she won't put 'er tail over!
We call 'er dear ol' Snake Eye—
An' she earned that name no doubt—
But maybe what ya oughta do
is come an' check 'er out!"—
An' just like in a twinklin'
Santa popped out to the ranch—
ta see if dear ol' Snake Eye
could give Christmas one more chance.

She stood there in the corner,
behind the furthest stall—
seen Jake an' Santa comin'
an' started climbin' walls.
She buggered out her eyeballs
then to the roof she flew—
ol' Santa stood there plumb amazed...
"Hey Jake—I think she'll do!

Illustration by Scott Nelson,; used with his kind permission

But she's only one ol' crazy cow—
This flyin' is a chore—
to do it good and proper
I'm gonna need a couple more!"
Jake cried—"That ain't no problem—
Heck Traeger—he's got two...
I'll call Anderson an' Granley—
I know they got a few."

An' before the night was over—
much to his big surprise—
ol' Santa got outfitted
with a bunch of crazed walleyes—
They was as testy as a team
as had ever pulled a sleigh—
But Santa said—"I'm in control,
looks like Snake Eye saved the day!"

Then he cracked his whip—
an' I heard him scream
as they veered off to the right—
some words that I will not repeat
"Merry Christmas an' goodnight!"

© 1998, DW Groethe, from A Charlie Creek Christmas & Other Wint'ry Tales of the West
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Illustration by Scott Nelson,; used with his kind permission


Scott Nelson, a  North Dakota farmer, rancher, and artist, illustrated DW Groethe's book, A Charlie Creek Christmas, and top poet Rodney Nelson's book, Wilbur's Christmas Gift. Scott Nelson is involved in a compelling project, described at his web site: "Several years ago, out of a deep respect for the World War Two generation and a lifelong interest in WW II aircraft, Scott started interviewing veteran aviators and illustrating their stories on canvas. As of the spring of 2007, Scott completed 13 large oil paintings and a number of smaller water colors. The paintings are all based on real events occurring during the war...."  Read more about it and view some of the art at Scott Nelson's web site:

The little book, A Charlie Creek Christmas & Other Wint'ry Tales of the West, is a gem in words and illustration, with hand-lettered poems and black and white and hand-colored illustrations by Scott Nelson and D. W. Groethe

$10 postpaid from:

D. W. Groethe
PO Box 144
Bainville, MT 59212

Read more poetry by DW Groethe here.



Christmas at Sims

When we celebrate this season
Like we have done in the past,
We cling tightly to tradition
As good memories tend to last.

Oh, nothing ever stays the same.
We sometimes yield to modern whims,
But there's something mighty special
About Christmas here at Sims.

We lack most of the glitter
That some folks need to see,
Here it's mostly "prairie" simple
Not like Christmas on TV.
So we're celebrating Christmas
Like they've always done before,
This tradition here has lasted
Since back in eighteen eighty four.
At one time if you listened
And sat quietly a spell,
You'd hear a haunting steamer's whistle
And the clanging of a bell.
You'd hear the jingling of the harness
Hear someone shouting Whoa!
Hear the stamping of the horses feet
As they stood there in the snow.
Well, this city's just a memory
Now a chapter of the past,
Like thousands of these prairie towns
This one didn't last.
Gone, are this town's city sidewalks
No longer are there trains
This little stately country church
Is all that now remains.
Tonight we won't hear sleigh bells
Or the crunch of horses feet,
But we will see cars and pickups
Parked right across the street
That brought all of us together
To celebrate once more
A Christmas, plain and simple,
But Christmas to the core.
We will hear the same old story
And all of us will know
They sang the same familiar songs
A hundred years ago.
Once again, this home spun pageant
Will spread smiles clear to the ears
We'll give paper sacks of candy
Like they've done throughout the years.
There's no better place to celebrate
No matter where you search
For it's hard to beat a Christmas
In a little country church.

© 2007, Rodney Nelson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read more poetry by Rodney Nelson here.

The Kissin' Tree

Now, Opie was a ranchin' man,
but like some cowboys we know,
He had some feelins' way down deep
he don't know how to show.
This Opie had a neighbor gal,
a widow young and fair,
And Opie loved that widow gal
with her pretty flaxen hair.

The widow had a boy and girl
that she nurtured by her side,
Them kids thought sure that Opie could
walk on water if he tried.
And Opie spent a lot of hours
doin' things to teach those two
'Bout raisin' horses, cows and calves,
and what makes a cowboy true.

Now Christmas time's a comin' 'round
but Opie don't have much
So he gathers up some leather straps,
some wood, some quills, and such.
He made a little rockin' cradle
for the girl's small dolly dear
Then carved a whistle for the boy
he could blow so all could hear.

But gifts to give the mother, now,
that has Opie fairly stuck,
Without a place to go and shop
he's really outta luck.
So he braids a leather necklace mixed
with white horsehair and quills,
But he's afraid this paltry gift
may not give her any thrills.

So one day while he's visitin' there
he asks what he could do
To bring a little Christmas joy
and raise their spirits, too.
And the widow had an answer quick,
she would love a Christmas tree
All green and thick with needles long,
what a blessing that would be.

Now, Opie had a good sized range,
one that covered many mile,
He knows in one far corner there
grow trees that make him smile.
So he saddled up when mornin' dawned,
stuck his axe there in his bag,
And figured with the size he wants
this ol' tree he'll have to drag.

Now, Opie's luck is holdin' out,
'cause it snowed about a foot
And a tree will drag plumb smooth on snow
with no needles ruined to boot.
When he gets home it's into night,
and his horse is tuckered out,
But he smiles with satisfaction knowin'
she'll be happy, there's no doubt.

Now, that tree, it nearly reached the roof,
transformed that old log shack,
The kids both squealed and danced around
while mother's tears hold back.
Then decoratin' on that tree
with paper chains and flakes,
Strung popcorn on some long white strings,
hung stockin's by the grates.

Now, the boy is just a little tot,
he's not learned to form his words,
And when he spoke of "Christmas tree"
"Kissin' tree: is what you heard.
Then the kids dance 'round and hug that pair
and the girl laughs out with glee,
"We're havin' us a merry Christmas
gathered 'round this kissin' tree."

© 2006, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem was written for the 2006 Christmas Art Spur project, which featured a drawing by Jo Lynne Kirkwood.

Slim McNaught, photo by Jen Dobrowski

Read more about Slim McNaught and his poetry here.



A Christmas Prayer

Sure is pretty here tonight, there's excitement in the air
Busy shoppers hustle home through Central Park.
The tree must be ten stories tall in Rockefeller Square
A million lights are sparkling in the dark.

It's a fast-paced life I'm living; it's first class all the way.
Fancy office, fancy parties, fancy things.
"I'm shooting for the works" is what my friends all heard me say,
And now I dine with presidents and kings.

Oh, it's glamorous all right, success and all the rest.
And maybe it's this little skiff of snow.
But tonight I'm kind of lonesome for a little place out west,
And a cowboy down the road I used to know.

I bet an opal moon shines on the Eastern Slopes tonight,
The hills lie still beneath a snowy shawl.
Chores are done, the porch light's on, a fire crackles bright,
Maybe Ian's singing at the Longview Hall.

It's the symphony for me tonight, Champagne and caviar.
Oh, the swirl and sway and sparkle of this place!
But you know, I kind of long to hear a cowboy's soft guitar
And to feel a warm Chinook upon my face.

Where'd she go-that little girl who used to live in cowboy boots,
Made sure each year the reindeer got some hay.
She's not gone far-just dresses now in silk designer suits
And is living life the New York City way.

Sure is pretty here tonight, there's excitement in the air.
A dab of French perfume—my cab is here.
In the swirl and sway and sparkle, I say a Christmas prayer:
"May it be Christmas in Alberta for me next year."

© 2003, Doris Daley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of Doris Daley's poetry here.

Country Christmas 

Christmas in the country is a different sort'a thing.
A quiet, peaceful, solitude, that nature seems to bring.

Yet, some folks from the city feel sad we miss so much.
Tinsel town mall muffin's think: We're really out of touch!

No decorated streets to flaunt the merchants floats paradin'.
No helicoptered Santa's land to sirens serenadin'.

Far removed from distant crowds of noisy people shoppin',
scramblin' hard toout do friends, must really keep'em hoppin'.

We have no crowded shopping malls chuck full'a plastic toys.
No bands a tootin' Christmas songs that get lost in the noise.

The curried groves of pine and spruce that crowd each vacant space,
designer colors coat the boughs and take away their grace!

I'm givin' thought to such as this as we come 'round the bend,
the team now breaks into a trot as they see journey's end.

With full moon just a peekin' o'er the mountains to the east,
its light careens off snow clad trees and gives our eyes a feast.

Beside me in the bobsleigh, is a Christmas tree a ridin',
and faces framed by fur trimmed caps are laughin' as we're glidin'.

Just up ahead, a cabin's light, smoke curlin' from its stack.
A cheery voice is callin' out—"So glad to see you're back!"

Aroma of good things to eat, a driftin' out our way,
makes us want to hurry as we feed the team their hay.

We finish chores, then take the tree, into the house for Mom to see—
We knew that she would tell our Dad: "Prettiest tree we've ever had!"

Christmas morning! What a sight! Not much sleepin' here last night.
Grandfolks made it through the drifts, family fun, exchange of gifts.

We told our stories, laughed at Dad, best Christmas that we've ever had!
At Christmas time don't pity me—This is what they all should be!!

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

Read more about Sam Jackson and some of his poetry here.


Bringing Christmas Home

     There's a lot to say 'bout Christmas
          Some is truth and some is tale
     It can have a powerful meaning
          It can be a happy trail

     There's a part not worth the bother
          If ya let it be your guide
     There also is the other part
          That's darn'd sure worth the ride

     It's the part that makes you ride at dawn
          Just to have an early start
     Makes 'ya peaceful in the saddle
          Cause you're peaceful in the heart

     You can find it in the morning stars
         It lasts the whole year long
     You'll set your mind on doin' good
          And fill the world with song

     If Christmas means these things to you
          You need not be alone
     I'd join your crew and ride with you

     © 2006, Don Hilmer
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.       

This poem was written for the 2006 Christmas Art Spur project, which featured a drawing by Jo Lynne Kirkwood.

Read more about Don Hilmer and his poetry here.


Remote Control Wife

There's an item I've put on my wish list,
now that Christmas is comin' around.
Most years I'm content with a lead rope or cinch,
but this year I'm easy street bound.

Gonna ask ol' Jolly for something,
if in stock at the North Pole I'm set.
If guaranteed, I'll order a couple,
one for inside and outside you bet.

My present needs no explanation,
to a cowboy it ends daily strife.
'Cause this year I'm askin' dear Santa,
for a remote to control my dear wife!

Don't scoff gals till ya here the attachments
and programs a man can record,
It's got buttons and dials and accessories
to keep husbands from getting' too bored

With the ease of one hand operation,
free batteries supplied for a year!
The outside remotes solar powered,
I've got friends who will dismount and cheer

When I program the "refreshment memory",
to operate daily at three,
And Nanc comes a runnin', cooler in hand,
filled with beer for my cowhands and me.

There's a switch at the top I can't wait to try
when calves start hittin' the ground,
Just flip it to "check calvey heifers";
she'll go out without makin' a sound,

Then at the same time push the skip and fast forward,
hit the record and I'm in for a treat.
She'll be back in the house around daylight
and fix me up breakfast to eat.

.I can set it to fence and no matter the weather,
she'll chop ice when it's twenty below.
It's got this delete button I'm sure to use,
when she wants dinner out and a show.

There's a beeper to fetch her from Wal-Mart,
a tracker to find where she's at
And the channels are locked, to help her adjust
to more dogs and the death of her cats.

My favorite control is for volume,
a blessin' to this cowboy's ear.
When her voice reaches epic proportions,
I'll use it to no longer hear

The scoldin' for all that I'm doin',
or not doin' gees take your pick.
No more cussin' at me 'bout how lazy I be,
the volume control does the trick.

Now ladies ya know that I'm jokin',
the remote idea's only in fun.
But I mention the thing to my son in-law Andy.
and he paid me to order him one!

© 2007, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more about Ken Cook and his poetry here.



The Schoolhouse Christmas Tree

They were livin' in a rundown place some might call a labor shack.
Just two tiny bedrooms for seven kids, with an old privy out in back.
Their dad was a farmer's hired man, but work was slow that year.
And they were scrapin' ends to feed the kids, as Christmas time drew near.

There wouldn't be no Christmas tree, and gifts would be mighty few.
Just a pair of socks for each of the kids, maybe a paper doll or two.
They couldn't afford a turkey dinner, so an old hen would have to do.
Perhaps a home-baked apple cake to go along with the chicken stew.

The kids attended a little country school not too many miles away.
That had been decorated with a Christmas tree to celebrate the holiday.
Strung with tinsel and paper chains, with a gold tinfoil star on top.
The youngest boy stared at that tree till it seemed his eyes would pop.

It was the last day of classes, before the school closed for the holiday,
When that little lad hung behind, while his siblings went their way.
I noticed he was still in the room, and wondered what was wrong.
"What happens to the Christmas tree," he asked, "when everyone is gone?"

"I guess we'll have to throw it out," I said. "I already have one at home.
There'll be no one here over the holidays, so the tree will stay here alone."
Then that little feller got an idea as he gazed at that sparkling tree.
His next question nearly broke the heart of an old country teacher like me.

"My folks can't afford a tree this year. Do you think it would be alright,
If I took it back to our house, so we can have a tree on Christmas night?
It seems an awful pretty tree to be left alone here on Christmas Day.
I know it would make my family happy, if that tree could come to stay."

I fear that a tear rolled down my cheek when I heard that little elf
Ask for a tree to cheer his family, but not askin' anything for himself.
"That's a splendid idea," I smiled through my tears. "Let's load it in my car.
Then you and I can take it to your house. Why don't you carry the star."

We lovingly placed that tree in my trunk, still decorated with silver foil.
And drove it to that tumbledown shack, a couple miles off the blacktop oil.
The boy's mother came to the door when we pulled into the drive.
If her youngest had got in trouble again, she vowed she'd skin that boy alive.

"I hope you don't mind," I explained, "but could you do a favor for me?
School's out for the holidays, and I don't know what to do with this tree.
Your son fears the tree will be lonely, so he offered it a place to stay.
"I'll understand if you say no. But I'd hate to just throw it away."

I could see her swallow her pride, when her little boy handed her the star.
Then a smile lit up her face, as she helped take the tree from my car.
"It's kind of you to offer," she said. "It'll help make this old shack a home.
And I agree that a Christmas tree ... should never spend Christmas alone."

© 2007, Jerry Schleicher
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jerry comments, "I write about rural life, instead of traditional cowboy poetry. But this story, like most of my poetry, is based on a true event ... one that took place in the two-room country school my wife attended many years ago in the Cedar Valley area of western Nebraska."

Read more of Jerry Schleicher's poetry here.






Visit our Christmas Art Spur project, an illustration by Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot), "A Cowboy's Christmas Eve."



See a complete list of all the holiday poems from 2000-2007 here.

See the links here for holiday news and more.




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