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Christmas Waltz

The winter is here and the old year is passing,
The sun in its circle winds far in the south.
It's time to bring cheer to a cold, snowbound cow camp,
It's Christmas tree time of the year for the house.

Go ride to the cedar break rim of a canyon,
Down by where the river takes creek water clear,
And saddle-sleigh home us a fine shapely evergreen
Picked out while prowling the pasture this year.

While Fair strings the berries and popcorn and whatnots
And Ty braids the wreaths out of leather and vines,
Old Dunder, he whittles and whistles old carols
And fills them with stories of fine olden times.

He talks of a baby boy born in a cow shed,
All swaddled in tatters and laid in a trough,
Who, growing up, gave away all he could gather
And taught us that what is not given is lost.

It's morning of Christmas and long before dawning
The camp hands are risen to ready the feast.
But with the fires glowing they don warm apparel
And go out to gaze on the Star of the East.

They cobbler the plums they put up back in summer,
They bake a wild turkey and roast backstrap deer,
They dollop the sourdough for rising and baking,
And pass each to each now the brown jug of cheer.

The dinner is done and they pass out the presents,
Their three each they open with handshakes and hugs,
Then Ty gets his guitar and Fred gets his fiddle
While Dunder and Fair laugh and roll back the rugs.

The tunes that they play melt the chill from the winter
As Dunder and Fair waltz and two-step along.
They play, sing and dance till the next morning's dawning
Then all of the their slumbers are filled with this song.

© 1996, Buck Ramsey, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.


See our feature about Buck Ramsey here.

  "Christmas Waltz" was printed in a small gift edition by Gibbs-Smith Publishers in 1996.  It is out of print but copies may be available from the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop and some other new and used book outlets.

A recording of Buck Ramsey singing "Christmas Waltz" was made in 1995. Buck Ramsey tells about his family's shape-note singing and talks about the setting for his piece, which can be found on the award-winning Voices of the West's "A Cowboy Christmas" recording produced by Hal Cannon and Mary Beth Kirchner. The recording was remastered in 2005 and is available on CD from the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop.

Bette Ramsey comments about the recording: "Buck grew up in a singing family, and his sisters were well known for their gospel singing. We get a sense of what the Ramsey family sounded like as Buck is joined on this beautiful recording by his sisters Wanda, Ellen and Sylvia, and his younger brother Charles." 

The recording is also on the 2-CD set, Buck Ramsey, Hittin' the Trail, released by Smithsonian Folkways Records in 2003.

Read more about Buck Ramsey in our features here.


A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer

I ain't much good at prayin',
   and You may not know me, Lord—
For I ain't much seen in churches,
   where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me 
   out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin' after cattle, 
   feelin' thankful when it rains.

Admirin' Thy great handiwork.
   the miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit,
   in the way it comes to pass 
That hired men on horseback
   and the livestock that we tend 
Can look up at the stars at night,
   and know we've got a Friend.

So here's ol' Christmas comin' on,
   remindin' us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will
   into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain't a preacher, Lord,
   but if You'll hear my prayer,
I'll ask as good as we have got 
   for all men everywhere.

Don't let no hearts be bitter, Lord.
   Don't let no child be cold.
Make easy the beds for them that's sick
   and them that's weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride,
   no matter what we're after,
And sorter keep us on Your side,
   in tears as well as laughter.

I've seen ol' cows a-starvin'—
   and it ain't no happy sight;
Please don't leave no one hungry, Lord,
   on Thy Good Christmas Night—
No man, no child, no woman,
   and no critter on four feet
I'll do my doggone best 
   to help you find 'em chuck to eat.

I'm just a sinful cowpoke, Lord—
   ain't got no business prayin'
But still I hope you'll ketch a word
   or two, of what I'm sayin':
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord—
   I reckon You'll agree—

There ain't no Merry Christmas
   for nobody that ain't free!
So one thing more I ask You, 
   Lord: just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom 
   for the future Sons of Man!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited; this poem is included in Cowboy Miner Productions' Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker


S. Omar Barker earned more from the publication and uses of his "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer" than from any other poem. A December 23, 1998 article by Ollie Reed Jr. in the Albuquerque Tribune, "Church on the Range," comments on the poem:

In November 1962, New Mexico author S. Omar Barker received a telegram asking permission for his poem "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer" to be read on the Lawrence Welk TV show.

Barker, a sunup-to-sundown, every-day-of-the-week professional writer for much of his more than 90 years, telegraphed back that for $100 they had a deal.

Back again comes a telegraph from the TV show's agent asking if Barker would settle for $50.

"Fifty bucks no steak. Beans," Barker wired in response on Nov. 26, 1962. "But will accept anyway to help TV poor folks."

Jodie Phillips, wife of Barker's nephew Bob Phillips, smiled as she pointed out copies of the telegrams pasted in a thick scrapbook put together by Barker himself....

Pictured: Some of S. Omar Barker's scrapbooks, books, and photographs, photographed at the home of his grandniece, daughter of Jodie and Bob Phillips, November 2007.  Photo by Jeri Dobrowski,

"If he didn't sell a poem, he didn't eat," Jodie Phillips said of Barker, who died in Las Vegas, N.M., in April 1985, just a couple of months shy of his 91st birthday.

Apparently the Welk show decided not to use the poem.

That was a rarity. Tennessee Ernie Ford and sausage king-country singer Jimmy Dean read it on national television, and it has been reprinted much more than 100 times in collections of Barker's works, anthologies, magazines and Christmas cards.

Leanin' Tree cards of Boulder, Colo., has used the Barker verse...more years than not for more than two decades.


Jodie Phillips said she never heard Barker talk about what inspired him to write the Christmas prayer, but she thinks it's based on his own brand of theology."

"There were no churches where Omar grew up," she said. "He believed in God, and I think he had a very strong religious conviction. But he belonged to no sect. He never went to church services."


Read more of S. Omar Barker's poetry here.

The Star and a Humble Cowboy

Lord, you cared so much for the shepherds,
     you sent the glad news first to them—
Before the kings and the wise men,
    so you might just speak again

To some other humble herdsman
    out here on the range abiding—
A brilliant star, an angel choir
    proclaiming "Peace!  Glad tidings!"

The shepherds were common people
    who slept in the fields near their flocks;
Their clothes might be dirty and ragged
    and rugged and rough their talk.

So, Lord, I needn't apologize
    for my appearance or my words.
I know you're right here beside me,
    and it seems that I've just heard

The shepherds hastening, excited,
    Extolling the star they had seen,
A baby born in a manger;
    Not to some great king and queen,

But to people who do the menial tasks
    That housewives and carpenters do,
And farmers and desk clerks and waitresses—
    Just people like me and you.

But famous rich men brought presents,
    Which should prove what I know to be true—
Christ came for shepherds and wise men
    And kings and cowboys too.

© 1996, Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Art copyright Buckshot Dot, used with her mighty kind permission 
Illustration by Dee Strickland Johnson 
("Buckshot Dot")

This drawing was a Christmas Art Spur subject in 2007.


Read more of Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot)'s poetry here.



The Old Time Christmas

I liked the way we used to do,
   when cattle was plenty and folks was few.
The people gathered frum far and near, and
   they barbacued a big fat steer.
The kids tried stayin' awake because,
   they reckoned they might ketch Santa Claus.
Next mornin' you'd wake 'em up to see,
   what he'd been and put on the Christmas tree.

It was Christmas then fer the rich and pore,
   and every ranch was an open door.
The waddy that came on a company hoss
   was treated the same as the owner and boss.
Nobody seemed to have a care,
   you was in among friends or you wasn't there.
For every feller in them days knew
   to behave hisself as a man should do.

Some had new boots, which they'd shore admire
   when they warmed their feet in front of the fire.
And the wimmin folks had new clothes too,
   but not like the wimmin of these days do.
Sometimes a drifter came riding in,
   some feller that never was seen agin.
And each Christmas day as the years went on
   we used to wonder where they'd gone.

I like to recall the Christmas night.
   The tops of the mountains capped with white.
The stars so bright they seemed to blaze,
   and the foothills swum in a silver haze.
Them good old days is past and gone.
   The time and the world and the change goes on.
And you cain't do things like you used to do
   when cattle was plenty and folks was few.

Bruce Kiskaddon


See our features about Bruce Kiskaddon here.



Busted Cowboy's Christmas

I am a busted cowboy
   And I work upon the range,
In summertime I get some work,
   But one thing which seems strange,
As soon as fall work's over
   I get it in the neck
I get a Christmas present
   Of a neatly written check.

I come to town to rusticate,
   I've no place else to stay
When winter winds are howling hard
   Because I don't eat hay.
A puncher's life's a picnic?
   It is one continual joke.
But there's none more anxious to see spring
   Than the cowboy who is broke.

The wages that a cowhand earns
   In summer goes like smoke,
And when the snow begins to drift 
   You bet your neck he's broke.
You may talk about your holidays,
   Your Christmas cheer and joy,
They're all the same to me, my friend.
   Cash gone, I'm a broke cowboy.

My saddle and my gun in soak,
   My spurs I've long since sold,
My rawhide and my quirt are gone,
   My chaps, no. They're too old.
My outfit's gone, I can't e'en bum
  A cigarette to smoke.
For no one cares what happens 
  To a cowboy who is broke.

Just where I'll eat my dinner
   This Christmas, I don't know,
But you can bet your life I'll have one
   If I get but half a show.
This Christmas holds no charms for me,
   On good things I'll not choke,
Unless I get a big handout
   I'm a cowboy who is broke.

D. J. O'Malley, 1893  


Click for Cowboy Miner  Cowboy Miner Productions published the definitive book of D. J. O'Malley's stories and poems, and you can read more about him and the book here.  See our feature about the book here, created with with the kind cooperation of Cowboy Miner. 



Bunkhouse Christmas

'Twas Christmas Eve out on the ranch, and all the winter crew
Was settin' 'round the bunkhouse fire with nothin' else to do
But let their fancies wander on the thoughts of Christmas chuck,
And what they'd like the best to eat if just they had the luck
To set down to a table where the feast was laid so thick
That all they'd have to do was reach and take their choice and pick.

Young Sleepy Kid, the wrangler, claims he'd love a stummick-ache
From stuffin' steady half a day on choclit-frosted cake.
"A slab of turkey breast, " smacks Pete, "and good ol' punkin' pie!"
"I'd reach for oyster dressin'!" Lobo Luther heaves a sigh.
"It ain't no Christmas feed for me," says little Charlie Moss,
"Without brown turkey gravy and some red cranberry sauce!"
"Mince pie!" avers ol' Swaller-Fork. "The kind my ma could make.
It beats your punkin' forty ways—and also choclit cake!"

So each they named their fancy, till their chops begun to drip,
Then ol' Pop Williams gives a snort and rubs his crippled hip.
He hitches to the window, sorter sizin' up the night.
"Well, boys," he says, "it's Christmas Eve, and if I figger right,
That snow's too deep for travel, so before I hit the hay,
Upon the subject now in hand I'll have my little say.
It ain't what's in your stummick that's the most important part.
It's the feelin's of your gizzard, or in other words, your heart.
A-doin' others kindness is the road to Christmas cheer,
But that, of course, ain't possible, the way we're snowbound here.

It looks like all that we can do for our good Christmas deed
Is hustle all the livestock in and give 'em extry feed.
To hungry cows an extry fork of hay will seem as nice
As when a hungry cowboy finds a raisin in his rice.
And as for favorite Christmas chuck, I'll name mine now, to wit:
It's beef and beans and biskits—'cause I know that's what we'll git!"

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


   This poem is included S. Omar Barker's Rawhide Rhymes.

See our feature about S. Omar Barker here.



Girl Wanted—Mistletoe

And now its comin' Christmas time I can't help but know,
By the white and waxy berries of the old mistletoe,
It grows along the foothills and in every sandy draw,
On the oak and on the walnut, more than you folks ever saw,
And in this gladsome season almost everwhere I go,
I find myself a ridin' underneath the mistletoe,
But it's just plumb aggravatin' and it makes me grit my teeth,
For mistletoe ain't nothing less there's two folks underneath.

Arizona historian, writer, musician, and reciter Greg Scott (pictured) has shared many rare poems and much information; we're grateful for his contributions, including the short, little-known Christmas poem above by Badger Clark (1883-1957):

Greg told us, "Badger Clark moved to Arizona Territory [from South Dakota] for his health in the late spring of 1906. Settling on a ranch near Tombstone, he took a keen interest in his new desert surroundings. He discovered that mistletoe grew abundantly in the trees around his home. During his earlier travels, his step-mother had submitted some of his letters to their hometown newspaper, the Deadwood Pioneer Times. His short, humorous poem about mistletoe was published in that paper in December of 1906."

reprinted with permission from Greg Scott's
Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark.

Badger Clark under the mistletoe on the Cross I Quarter Circle, 1906

Last year Greg shared another uncollected Christmas poem by Badger Clark, The Rover's Toast. He told us, "Badger himself called this poem 'gloomy Christmas verse,' but I expect it was because he'd had such unexpected success the year before with his 'Christmas' poem 'A Cowboy's Prayer' (it appeared  in the December issue of Pacific Monthly, 1906). He was clearly homesick and nostalgic. "The Rover's Toast" was published in August, 1907 in Pacific Monthly."

We're pleased to have another Badger Clark Christmas poem, including a BAR-D favorite, The Christmas Trail.

See our feature about Badger Clark here.

Greg Scott is the editor of Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, a comprehensive collection of the works of Badger Clark. See our feature about the book here.


Merry Christmas

We was whistlin', we was singin' on a winter afternoon;
The hobble chains and fryin' pans was jinglin' to the tune.
Fer we knew the day was Christmas and the line camp was in sight,
No, it wasn't much to look at but it suited us all right.

We onpacked and we onsaddled, then we turned our hosses out;
We cooked lots of beef and biscuits and we made the coffee stout.
We et all we could swaller, then we set and took a smoke,
And we shore did work our memory out to find a bran new joke.

No, it wasn't like the Christmas like the folks have nowadays—
They are livin' more in comfort, and they've sorter changed their ways—
But I sorter wish, old pardner, we could brush the years away,
And be jest as young and happy, as we was that Christmas Day.

Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon wrote an annual Christmas poem for the Chuck Wagon Trailers, a group organized in 1931 "by old-time cowboys who were Hollywood's first stunt men and western stars."  This 1933 piece is posted courtesy of Bill Siems, whose recent, monumental book, Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, includes more of those Christmas poems, and all of Bruce Kiskaddon's known poetry. Siems notes that the poem was reprinted in the Western Livestock Journal in December, 1933.


The Cowboys' Christmas Ball 
To the Ranchmen of Texas

'Way out in Western Texas, where the Clear Fork's waters flow,
Where the cattle are "a-browzin'," an' the Spanish ponies grow;
Where the Northers "come a-whistlin'" from beyond the Neutral Strip;
And the prairie dogs are sneezin', as if they had "The Grip";
Where the cayotes come a-howlin' 'round the ranches after dark,
And the mocking-birds are singin' to the lovely "medder lark";
Where the 'possum and the badger, and rattlesnakes abound,
And the monstrous stars are winkin' o'er a wilderness profound;
Where lonesome, tawny prairies melt into airy streams,
While the Double Mountains slumber, in heavenly kinds of dreams;
Where the antelope is grazin' and the lonely plovers call—
It was there that I attended "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The town was Anson City, old Jones's county seat,
Where they raised Polled Angus cattle, and waving whiskered wheat;
Where the air is soft and "bammy," an' dry an' full of health,
And the prairies is explodin' with agricultural wealth;
Where they print the Texas Western, that Hec. McCann supplies
With news and yarns and stories, uv most amazin' size;
Where Frank Smith "pulls the badger," on knowin' tenderfeet,
And Democracy's triumphant, and might hard to beat;
Where lives that good old hunter, John Milsap, from Lamar,
Who "used to be the Sheriff, back East, in Paris sah!"
'T was there, I say, at Anson with the lovely "widder Wall,"
That I went to that reception, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The boys had left the ranches and come to town in piles;
The ladies—"kinder scatterin'"—had gathered in for miles.
And yet the place was crowded, as I remember well,
'T was got for the occasion, at "The Morning Star Hotel."
The music was a fiddle an' a lively tambourine,
And a "viol came imported," by the stage from Abilene.
The room was togged out gorgeous-with mistletoe and shawls,
And candles flickered frescoes, around the airy walls.
The "wimmin folks" looked lovely-the boys looked kinder treed,
Till their leader commenced yellin': "Whoa! fellers, let's stampede,"
And the music started sighin', an' awailin' through the hall
As a kind of introduction to "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The leader was a feller that came from Swenson's ranch,
They called him "Windy Billy," from "little Deadman's Branch."
His rig was "kinder keerless," big spurs and high-heeled boots;
He had the reputation that comes when "fellers shoots."
His voice was like a bugle upon the mountain's height;
His feet were animated an' a mighty, movin' sight,
When he commenced to holler, "Neow, fellers stake your pen!
"Lock horns ter all them heifers, an' russle 'em like men.
"Saloot yer lovely critters; neow swing an' let 'em go,
"Climb the grape vine 'round 'em—all hands do-ce-do!
"You Mavericks, jine the round-up- Jest skip her waterfall,"
Huh!  hit wuz gettin' happy, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The boys were tolerable skittish, the ladies powerful neat,
That old bass viol's music just got there with both feet!
That wailin', frisky fiddle, I never shall forget;
And Windy kept a-singin'—I think I hear him yet—
"Oh Xes, chase yer squirrels, an' cut 'em to one side;
"Spur Treadwell to the centre, with Cross P Charley's bride;
"Doc. Hollis down the middle, an' twine the ladies' chain;
"Varn Andrews pen the fillies in big T Diamond's train.
"All pull yer freight together, neow swallow fork an' change;
"'Big Boston,' lead the trail herd, through little Pitchfork's range.
"Purr 'round yer gentle pussies, neow rope 'em! Balance all!"
Huh!  hit wuz gettin' active—"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The dust riz fast an' furious; we all jes' galloped 'round,
Till the scenery got so giddy that T Bar Dick was downed.
We buckled to our partners, an' told 'em to hold on,
Then shook our hoofs like lightning, until the early dawn.
Don't tell me 'bout cotillions, or germans. No sire 'ee!
That whirl at Anson City just takes the cake with me.
I'm sick of lazy shufflin's, of them I've had my fill,
Give me a frontier break-down, backed up by Windy Bill.
McAllister ain't nowhar: when Windy leads the show,
I've seen 'em both in harness, and so I sorter know—
Oh, Bill, I sha'n't forget yer, and I'll oftentimes recall,
That lively gaited sworray—"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

by Larry Chittenden

This poem is included in Larry Chittenden's 1893 book, Ranch Verses.

The Handbook of Texas Online presents a concise history: "The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball is an annual event in Anson, Texas, based on a nineteenth-century ballad. A frontier dance at Anson impressed William Lawrence Chittenden so much that he later wrote a poem about the event. He was staying overnight at the Star Hotel, where a Christmas dance was held annually in appreciation of the patronage of ranchers and cowboys. He watched the cowboys and their ladies dance the square, the schottische, the heel-and-toe polka, the waltz, and the Virginia reel. From his observations there, and perhaps at later dances, he wrote his poem "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball...." Read more at the Handbook of Texas Online.

The 75th consecutive re-enactment of the Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball was held December 18, 2009.

Read more about the poem's history and the ball at the Handbook of Texas Online.

Read more about Larry Chittenden in our feature here.


Prairie Silent Night

It's a silent night out on the prairie 
All the cattle are millin' around
There's a bright prairie star
Oe'r the mountains afar
In the wind there's a heavenly sound

And I know that some nightherder long years ago
Followed that star to the Savior's abode
It's a silent night out on the prairie
In the stars I see Heaven's decree
On this cold Christmas night
I am warmed in his light
Now that babe's ridin' nightherd with me

(Poem inserted into song)
It's Christmas Eve and I'd have bet my best spurs
I wouldn't be chasin' cows tonight
But at least there's a full prairie moon lights my way
And that star in the East's sure a sight
It's so cold I'm nearly froze to this saddle
But the boys fed an' so I let 'em go
To wherever a Christmas might take 'em
So I'm headin' these strays all alone 

An' feelin' a bit of self pity out here
Not home by the fire and the tree
Amidst all the gifts and the laughter
That this season's come to be
But if these cows had stayed put
I'd have missed that bright star
Can't help wondrin' if it's not the same
That signaled the season's gift given to all
Who would take on that sweet baby's name

Now the night's cold no longer surrounds me
As I remember I'm no longer alone
An' these cows, well they move a mite faster
With a glimpse of the warm lights of home
Guess I just need remindin'
Of the gifts that are mine from above
My kids, my good wife and this cowboy life
And the gift of that sweet baby's love

(End of Song)
And I know that some nightherder long years ago
Followed that star to the Savior's abode
It's a silent night out on the prairie
In the stars I see Heaven's decree
On this cold Christmas night
I am warmed in his light
Now that babe's ridin' nightherd with me

Words and Music by Curly Musgrave, recorded on Cowboy True

© 2003, Curly J Productions All Rights Reserved
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.


  "Prairie Silent Night" is included on Cowboy True.

Curly Musgrave died on December 13, 2009. Find a tribute page here.

Read more poetry and lyrics by Curly Musgrave here.


Rudolph's Night Off

'Twas the night before Christmas and Rudolph was lame!
The vet from the North Pole said
, "Foot-rot's to blame,
I'll give him some sulfa, it's the best I can do
But stall rest is needed the next week or two."

"Great Scott!" cried old Santy, he turned with a jerk.
"I won't git through Pierre if my headlight don't work!
On Interstate 40 I'll surely get fined
And lost in Montana if I'm flying blind!"

"No cop in his right mind would give any clout
To a geezer who claimed that his reindeer went out!"
He gathered the others, ol' Donner and Blitzen.
Were any among 'em whose nose was tranmitzen?

They grunted and strained and sure made a mess
But no noses glowed brightly or ears luminesced.
"It's bad luck in bunches," cried Santy, distressed.
"We'll fly Continental, the Red-Eye Express!"

"I'll just check the schedule." Hhe put on his glasses,
When up stepped ol' Billy, the goat from Lampasas.
He shivered and shook like a mouse on the Ark,
But his horns were a beacon...They glowed in the dark!

Santy went crazy! He asked "Why?" With a smile

"I just ate a watch with a radium dial!
Where I come from in Texas we don't have thick hide
So my skin is so thin it shines through from inside."

"If that's true then let's feed him!" cried Santy with glee,
"Gather everything burnin' and bring it to me!"
So Billy ate flashbulbs and solar collectors,
Electric eels and road sign reflectors,

Firecracker sparklers, a Lady Schick shaver
And Lifesavers, all of 'em wintergreen flavor,
Jelly from phosphorescellous fish,
Day-Glow pizza in a glittering dish,

Fireflies and candles and stuff that ignites,
Then had him a big bowl of Northering Lights!
He danced on the rug and petted the cat,
And after he'd finished and done all of that

To store up the static 'lectricity better,
They forced him to eat two balloons and a sweater!
Then he opened his mouth, light fell on the floor
Like a fridge light comes on when you open the door!

His Halloween smile couldn't be better drawn
When he burped accidently, his high beams kicked on!
Hitch him up!" cried ol' Santy, and they went on their way.
I remember that Christmas to this very day.

The sky was ablaze with the stars shining bright.
They were shooting and falling all through the night.
And I realize now, though my fingers are crossed
What I really was seein'... was ol' Billy's exhaust!

© 1997, Baxter Black, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

Click to order from Amazon "Rudolph's Night Off" is included in Baxter Black's book, Cactus Tracks & Cowboy Philosophy. Visit his web site,

See our feature about Baxter Black here.


Santa's Hired Hand

Santa's been busy, runnin’ ‘round dizzy,
each Christmas he falls way behind;
So, to help him out, with his western route,
he hired a hand of some kind.

A few things may change, out there on the range,
but presents will come all the same;
So please be advised, and don't be surprised,
When you find it weren’t Santa that came.

Cuz there’ll be no sleigh, on this Christmas day,
instead he’ll come in a wagon;
And different this year, there’ll be no reindeer,
mules will be hooked up a draggin’.

You'll not hear his shout, echoing about,
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and so on;
As Bonnie and Clyde, take over the ride,
with Jim, Jake, Dan, and Deon.

The only glowing nose, is the one that goes,
on the face of Santa's new hand;
It's frosty out there, in the sub-zero air,
High above open range land.

His fingers get cold, the reins hard to hold,
so please have hot coffee, no cream;
Leave jerky instead, of cookies and bread,
and oats for the rest of his team.

He don't care much, for "carols" or such,
he likes cowboy poetry best;
So play a few tracks, from Waddie or Bax,
and give him a minute to rest.

Then he’ll go back to work, with nary a shirk,
and fill stockings until they heave;
With rasps and hoof picks, mineral salt licks,
worm paste, and a new OB sleeve.

His bowl full of jelly, oversized belly,
Pushes his pants down when he bends;
His trousers may sag, when he opens his bag,
Embarrassing family and friends.

He wears woolly chaps, a Fudd cap with flaps
And a Carhartt coat on his back;
His dog is his elf, rides next to himself,
with toys stuffed into a grain sack.

The Grinch doesn't dare, come in anywhere,
Santa's hired hand might be roaming;
There’s a .44 mag, inside of his bag,
and he learned to shoot in Wyoming.

He’s the best hired hand in all of the land,
though you’ll not see a stranger sight;
He’ll shout through his doin’s, “Merry Christmas to you’ns,
and to alla your’ns a good night!”

© 2009, Andy Nelson, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.


© 2009, Andy Nelson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

illustration by Bonnie Shields ( from the forthcoming book by Andy Nelson,
Riding with Jim; Adventures with Cowboys and Farriers

Find more about Andy Nelson in our feature here.



Grubline Carol
(a new look at a traditional song)

Christmas is a-comin' and I've got no work at all.
I've been out on the grubline, since shipping in the fall.
Now the days are getting colder and the nights are getting long,
so I play my old French harp, and I sing this song.

Christmas is a-comin', and I'll work to earn my keep.
Can you find a roving puncher a warm place to sleep?
If you haven't got a bunk for me, a patch of floor will do.
If you haven't got a patch of floor, may God bless you.

Christmas is a-comin', and my pony's short of feed.
A little bait of oats is what he really needs.
If you haven't got a bait of oats, a flake of hay will do.
If you haven't got a flake of hay, may God bless you.

Christmas is a-comin', and my gear is wearing thin.
Could you spare a piece of rawhide, to patch it up again?
If you haven't got some rawhide, some baling wire will do.
If you haven't got some baling wire, may God bless you.

Christmas is a-comin' , and I'm feeling kind of gaunt.
A plate of beans and bacon is all I really want.
If you haven't got the bacon, a plate of beans will do.
If you haven't got a plate of beans, may God bless you.

Christmas is a-comin', and I've been alone too long.
Do you have a pretty daughter, to sing a Christmas song?
If you haven't got a daughter, a maiden aunt will do.
If you haven't got a maiden aunt, may God bless you.

Christmas is a-comin' and I've got no work at all.
I've been out on the grubline, since shipping in the fall.
Now the days are getting colder, and the nights are getting long,
so I play my old French harp, and  I sing this song.

© Dean Cook 
This song may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read about Dean Cook and more of his poetry here at the BAR-D.


Gifts in the Hay

On the long trek to the barn snow crunches under my feet
From somewhere in the trees an old horned owl hoots
The sweet smell of hay greets me as I open the door
The new calf is up and nursing, a worry no more.
As I step back out my breath appears in a cloud of steam
It's a night of beauty, a moment to dream.
Stars twinkle in a clear crisp sky
Prompting me to wonder once again why, why
God chose to have His Holy Son born in a barn, laid in hay
When He with such divine power had the choice of any way
Did He plan that the keepers of lowly cattle and sheep
Be the first believers of the Gift of the babe asleep?
For the angels led the herdsmen on their way
To the precious child cuddled in rags and hay.
I begin to hum "Silent Night" as I follow the pathway
So thankful for all of God's gifts born in the hay.

© 2006, Deanna Dickinson McCall
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

Read more of Deanna Dickinson McCall's poetry here.

The Perfect Gift

Not everyone's Christmas is merry,
    not everyone's heart's filled with cheer;
perhaps it's because they are missing
    a loved one not with them this year.

It might be a soldier in service,
  or death might have darkened their door;
there's reasons why some folks are lonely
   and something we should not ignore.

It must be real hard to be lonely,
   while others are happy and gay;
while we see the blue skies and sunshine,
   their skies are cloudy and gray.

And it's easy with our lives so busy
   to not take the time to be there
to help lift a burden for others
    and let them know somebody cares.

If you want to do something this Christmas
   to help those who might be alone,
take time from your parties and shopping
   and give them a call on the phone.

Better yet, pay 'em a visit
    to let 'em  know somebody cares;
for none of us know of tomorrow
    when we may have crosses to bear.   

So this year when you go out shopping
    be sure that you add to your list
a name of someone that's lonely
     and give them the best kind of gift.
You won't have to spend any money,
     for we know that the best gifts are free.
Take time for the lonely this Christmas,
     it's just how God meant it to be.

© 2002, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

    "The Perfect Gift" is included in Yvonne Hollenbeck's award-winning book, From My Window.

Read more of Yvonne Hollenbeck's poetry here.



Christmas Memories

Our ranch is out of family now,
our memories bitter-sweet.
This Christmas we look back on times,
that we can not repeat.

My brother, Bill, who owned it,
sold it rather than divide.
He didn’t want his progeny
to quarrel when he died.

Though Christmases out at the ranch,
had ended years ago,
It seems like only yesterday—
we never did let go.

Our family ties are strong and close,
the family will survive.
New roots will come from cuttings,
which keep memories alive.

We have two new great-grandchildren
to carry on traditions.
Evelyn Crawford, Cody Dane,
were this year’s new additions.

If I could make a Christmas wish
for them in years to come—
May they be centered deep within,
and know where they came from.

May they both have a sense of place,
for landscape shapes a soul,
And may they know the natural world,
which makes a person whole.

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


See some photos here that accompanied this poem in 2007.

Read more of Jane Morton's poetry here.

Here's to the Cowboys

Here's to the cowboys I've known in my lifetime
all the tough hands that lived on the fringe
they weren't much to look at, and damn hard to open
'cause most were just hung with one hinge

I know you're thinking, "They're too hard to handle."
but pardner that's where you're all wrong
they'll come to "getcha" come Hell or high water
and you're damn glad they happened along

When the going got tough, they loved the excitement
though they never knew what was in store
they'd make some joke, "Put your oars in the water
and by God don't be rowing for shore."

A cowboy can stand a whole lot more than most
lump jaws, hoof rot, and three titters
but when it comes time, to reel in your line
the thing they can't stand are the quitters

So here's to the cowboys I've known in my lifetime
that could handle a horse, rope or steer
I'd drink to your health if you had any left—
"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

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

Read more of Pat Richardson's 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.







See a complete list of all the holiday poems from 2000-2009 here.

See the links here for holiday news and more.


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