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Welcome to our thirteenth annual Christmas at the BAR-D!

We keep Christmas throughout the season, with continual additions of news, poetry, songs, and more. 

Along with the poetry, songs and more (newest poetry and songs here) we post holiday news and features below.

© 2006, David Graham

There's a special Christmas Art Spur—a painting by Montana artist David Graham, "A Winter Night."

Submissions were welcome through Monday, December 17, 2012. They are now closed. Selected poems are posted here.

Other Christmas poem and song submissions were welcome through December 15, 2012. Those are posted below, throughout the season.

 The perfect gifts: The BAR-D Roundup CDs

Find information about each of the acclaimed collections of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry here.

There are also special offers for bundles, including a deeply discounted price for all five of the available CDs (Volumes One and Two are sold out):



A Year-end Message

A one-minute message from one of our long-time supporters, Andy Nelson:

photo by Stuart Johnson

Click to listen to Andy Nelson's message.

Would you like to record a message in support of the BAR-D? Email us.

This past year, did you find things at that interested you? Did you visit for poetry, news, event information, features? Was your own poem included at the BAR-D? Was your local gathering announced, or were you a part of a gathering report? Did we share your news with our many visitors?

Your support is vital to the existence of and the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry.

If you enjoy features such as Christmas at the BAR-D,  if you care, if you can, there's no better time to show your support.

All that happens at the BAR-D is made possible by the essential contributions of generous supporters:; Cowboy Poetry Week and its annual Western art poster; The BAR-D Roundup compilation CD; and the Rural Library Project that distributes posters and CDs to rural libraries. We've received generous donations of $10 and donations of $1000; and we are grateful for them all. 

Please become a supporter with a tax-deductible donation, perhaps in memory of someone who treasured our Western Heritage: Make a difference.

Read some of our supporters' comments here,  visit the Wall of Support, and donate!

Read all about our history, the Center, and about how you can be a part of it all right here.

You can make a donation by check or money order, by mail (please use the form here for mail to PO Box 695, St. Helena, CA 94574) or by a secure, on-line credit card payment through PayPal (a PayPal account is not required): is a project of The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, a tax-exempt non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Act. Contributions to the Center are fully deductible for federal income tax purposes.

As in all journalistic endeavors, no editorial preference is given to financial sponsors or supporters.


Visit our Sponsor supporters.

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Be a part of it all here at the BAR-D.

Join with others on our Wall of Support 


Poetry, Songs, Stories, Links and More, below    

Christmas News and More   

Western Christmas Books and Music (separate page)   

Find holiday events on our Events calendar


Christmas Art Spur


It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words...we know many that are worthy of a poem or a song.  In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our thirty-first piece offered to "spur" the imagination is "A Winter Night," by Montana artist David Graham.  

© 2006, David Graham; this image should not be reposted or reproduced without permission;

16" x 20" Oil
"A Winter Night"


  Artist David Graham comments on "A Winter Night":

With the winter chill knocking at the door, those inside this cabin are huddled around the fireplace, absorbing the warmth provided by the latest log to be added to the flames. A visitor has stopped by to warm up for a moment, before continuing on. His horse is tied to the hitching post, patiently awaiting his rider's return. There is nothing quite like a clear winter's night, when the moon is slowly rising and reflecting its light off a fresh blanket of snow. The land is still, as if in a great slumber. There are no birds chattering, no chirping from insects, and none of the usual sounds that are so typical of a summer's evening. All is quiet here, except for the occasional distant echo of a coyote howling, or perhaps an owl hooting from a tree top.


Art Spur subjects are meant to inspire poetry and songs; we look for poems and songs inspired by the piece, not necessarily for a literal description of the image or its subject. 

Submissions from all were welcome through Monday, December 17, 2012. Submissions are now closed.

Selected poems by Marleen Bussma, Joyce Johnson, S.D. Matley, Doug Davis, Jean Mathisen, Del Gustafson, David L. Carlton, and Clark Crouch are posted here.

Art Spur has featured the works of Tim Cox, Bill Owen, Joelle Smith, and others.

Find more about Art Spur and links to all of the previous subjects here.


Christmas News and More

See the Events calendar for Christmas events.

Your Christmas news is welcome; email us


  Each year, Jeri Dobrowski's Cowboy Jam Session columns for December and November feature great Western Christmas picks.

Read the Cowboy Jam Session columns here.

  North Dakota poet, writer, rancher, and Senior Pro Rodeo champion Rodney Nelson writes about "The older I get, the less I want or need for Christmas" in his popular Up Sims Creek column. The column  appears bi-weekly at Farm & Ranch Guide., where there are links to many past columns.


  Read "Christmas Mail" by past U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser in the December 24, 2012 American Life in Poetry column.

Read "Nest," by Jeffrey Harrison in the December 17, 2012  

Find all of the column's poems in our weekly feature.

Gift ideas

The BAR-D Roundup CDs:

    Find info here, with special offers.


Wild Out West Photography calendar;  (see more in Picture the West)

Western Horseman 2013 Cowboy Calendar;
Western Horseman (see more in our news here)

  Tim Cox calendars;

New Christmas releases for 2012:

  Baxter Black's Reindeer Flu book;; find more here at the BAR-D

Brenn Hill's North Pole Rodeo CD;; find more here at the BAR-D

Christmas Campfire Companion; Port Yonder Press; find more here at the BAR-D.

  It's a Cowboy Christmas, edited by Sally Harper Bates; info here


     Find a large selection of Cowboy Christmas books and recordings here.

See other new releases of books and recordings in our news here, in Jeri Dobrowski's Cowboy Jam Session, and in Rick Huff's Best of West Reviews.

  Western Horseman celebrates the season with a cover by Jack Sorenson, "Jingling All the Way" on its December, 2012 issue.

See their "Cowboy Christmas List Bonus" at the magazine's web site, here.

  Western radio celebrates Christmas:

Jim and Andy Nelson's Clear Out West (C.O.W) radio; live show week of December 17, 2012 has special guest Brenn Hill and his new North Pole Rodeo recording; live show week of December 24 is the Christmas show. Shows are available on demand the week following the live broadcasts.

 Totsie Slover's Real West from the Old West; Deming Radio
Christmas cowboy music and poetry throughout the season.

Charley Engel's Calling All Cowboys; Calling All Cowboys stream
Christmas music and poetry throughout the season, "Annual Christmas Fandango"
December 19-26.

 Jarle Kvale's Back at the Ranch: Back at the Ranch podcast
Christmas music and poetry throughout the season.

Waynetta Ausmus' Waynetta's Roundup; Waynetta's Roundup
Christmas music and poetry throughout the season.

Hugh McLennan's Spirit of the West;
Christmas music and poetry throughout the season.

  Graham Lees' Western Hour; Western Hour
Christmas music and poetry throughout the season.

  Judy James' Western Heritage Radio and Cowboy Jubilee;; Christmas music and poetry throughout the season.

 Jim Thompson's Live! with Jim Thompson;; Christmas music and poetry throughout the season.

(Information about radio shows is welcome. Email us.)



Poems, Songs, Stories and More

New poems and songs along with selected classic and contemporary favorites
from past years' celebrations and audio and video links to poetry and music,
 with posts throughout the season.

Find a complete list with links to all the holiday poems posted starting in 2000 here.

Newest below.

Selections to date:

"Christmas Waltz" by Buck Ramsey

"Ranch Country Christmas" by Ken Cook

Audio links: Baxter Black's Christmas poems at Western Horseman

"The Cowboy's Christmas Ball" by Larry Chittenden (with additional links)

"Cottonwood" by Brenn Hill, from North Pole Rodeo

Video link: "The Cowboy's Christmas Ball" with Michael Martin Murphey and Suzy Bogguss

Video link:
Tammy Burgard 's "Christmas on the Line" with Waddie Mitchell and Michael Martin Murphey

"Rudolph's Night Off" by Baxter Black

Video and audio links: Steve Weisberg's  "Christmas for Cowboys"; Wylie Gustafson, John Denver, Brenn Hill

"The Perfect Gift" by Yvonne Hollenbeck

Audio link: Yvonne Hollenbeck's "The Christmas Quilt"

Owen Wister's "A Journey in Search of Christmas"

"Empty Saddles at Christmas" by S. Omar Barker

"Deer Hay" by Robert Dennis, illustration by Lee Stevens

"Christmas Eve Rain" by Jeff Campbell

"Every Day is Christmas in the West," with Don Edwards video

"A Busted Cowboy's Christmas" by D.J. O'Malley

"A Christmas Prayer" by Doris Daley

"A Mountain Christmas" by Jane Morton

"Black Friday" by R.V. Schmidt

Video links:  "White Christmas" by Don Edwards and by R.W. Hampton

"A Cowboy Christmas Prayer" by S. Omar Barker

Video link: Jimmy Dean performing S. Omar Barker's "A Cowboy Christmas Prayer"

"Santa's Helper" by Jay Snider

"A Merry Christmas Heifer" by Jerry Schleicher

"Christmas Holly by Blanche Evridge

"The Rovers Tale" (poem) and  "The Wise Man" (story) by Badger Clark

"Christmas Beneath the Stars" by Colen Sweeten

"Of Christmas Past" by Jim Cathey

"Santa Sees Red" by Bill Hickman

"Happy Days" by Rhoda Sivell

"Christmas in the Country" by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

"A Believer's Christmas" by Chuck Larsen

"Jingle Bull" by Festus Turp

Video links: a dozen Christmas tunes by singing cowboy Gene Autry

Winter/Art Spur poems from Marleen Bussma, Joyce Johnson, S.D. Matley, Doug Davis, Jean Mathisen, Del Gustafson, David L. Carlton, and Clark Crouch

"The Unwanted Tree" by C.W. (Charles) Bell

"East Texas Christmas" by Jeff Campbell

"The Legend of Little Buddy the Christmas Steer" by DW Groethe

Audio link:  Bodie Dominguez' song from Mike Puhallo's poem, "A Crayon-Colored Christmas"

"A Cowboy's Christmas Eve" by Rod Nichols

Video link: "We Three Kings; Christmas in the Lone Star State" by Wyman Meinzer and Doug Smith

"The Christmas Trail" by Badger Clark

"Prairie Silent Night" by Curly Musgrave

"The Old-Time Christmas" by Bruce Kiskaddon



Contemporary classic: from the archives

It is our Christmas tradition to launch Christmas at the BAR-D with the modern classic, Christmas Waltz, by Buck Ramsey (1938-1998). A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Buck Ramsey has been called "the spiritual leader of modern cowboy poetry."

Find a sample of the song here at Smithsonian Folkways, where it is included in  Hittin' the Trail," a collection of his music and poetry. The song, recorded in 1995 is introduced:

Buck's "Christmas Waltz" became an instant cowboy Christmas classic. Peregrine Smith Books published it in a small book format in 1996. Buck grew up in a singing family, and his sisters were well known for their gospel singing. We can hear the Primitive Baptist shaped note singing roots of the Ramsey family as Buck is joined on this beautiful recording by his sisters Wanda, Ellen, and Sylvia, and his younger brother Charles.

Find the entire liner notes here at the Smithsonian Folkways site.

photo of Buck Ramsey by Scott Braucher

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 permission.

Find more about Buck Ramsey in our feature here.

Contemporary, from the archives:

Last year's Christmas Art Spur image was the the work of North Dakota artist and rancher Scott Nelson. The piece was from North Dakota rancher, writer, and poet Rodney Nelson's (no relation) book, Wilbur's Christmas Gift, a heartwarming book-length poem, the story of a cowboy and his gift to the children of a rural country school.

 South Dakota cowboy Ken Cook was inspired by Scott Nelson's art, and wrote "Ranch Country Christmas":

photo of Ken Cook by Kevin Martini-Fuller,

Ranch Country Christmas

If Wilbur has a weakness it's kids at Christmas time,
Why I know that old cowboy hardly spends a dime,
To make sure Christmas morning down this valley ain't a bust,
'Cause a gift for every youngster left by "Santa" is a must.

Out here in the country where ranching is our way,
There's plenty work to last all year but seldom enough pay,
For presents piled beneath a tree decked out with blinkin' lights,
No store bought dolls in pretty dresses, wagons, trains, or kites.

Wilbur stockpiles his supplies startin' New Year's Day,
To braid and build and fashion homemade gifts to give away.
From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve long nights to fill the bill,
He's creating treasures using expert cowboy skill.

A rope halter and lead rope, Chuck's boys could use some gear.
Braided reins for Benny's oldest, should have finished those last year!
Two straw dolls with burlap dresses for the twins of Mrs. C's.
A box kite for Jess's youngest strong enough to catch a breeze.

Builds a wagon from an old canoe the wheels carved out of pine,
Long enough for seven children to all ride in at one time.
'Cause Joe and Pearl has quite a brood from diapers past fifteen,
All piled in it together they'll look like packed sardines.

Delivering his presents might take up half the night,
Had Wilbur not devised a plan that rivals Santa's flight.
He piles 'em in his pickup while families are at church,
Makes it back to sing "What Child Is This" from his last row favorite perch.

The parents of the children know Wilbur is the one,
Making Christmas morning special for daughters and their sons.
So when the snowball dance rolls round complete with potluck feast,
That's when a herd of thank you comes at Wilbur all unleashed.

His favorite fresh-baked homemade rolls from Chuck's wife just appear,
Along with pie from Mrs. C. the best she'll make all year.
Joe and Pearl keep waiting on him 'til he's overstuffed with chuck,
Jess and Benny pool their thank you slip a jug in Wilbur's truck.

And when good cowboy music gives each rancher's wife a chance,
The mom's of all those children ask sweet Wilbur for a dance.
Not sure what's said between each as they whirl around the floor,
But Wilbur's eyes are glistening when he shuffles toward the door.

It takes work to raise a family a fair piece from the lights,
And friends with hearts of kindness hold the chill off Christmas nights.
You can bet your bottom dollar when New Year's rolls around,
Wilbur will start his "shopping' spree"…but not in any town.

© 2011, Ken Cook
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Find more about Ken Cook and more of his poetry here at the BAR-D and at

  This year's Winter/Christmas Art Spur features a painting by David Graham. Find the Art Spur and submission information here (deadline, December 17, 2012).

Elsewhere on the web:

  Western Horseman magazine has a collection of audio clips by Baxter Black, including Christmas offerings: "Cows in the Manger" and "First Christmas, Cowboy Style."

Find the audio clips here.

Classic from the archives

  William Lawrence "Larry" Chittenden (1862-1934) is best known for his 1890 poem, "The Cowboy's Christmas Ball," which was included in his 1893 book, Ranch Verses. The poem was inspired by a cowboy Christmas dance he attended in Anson, Texas and the event he made famous still takes place annually.

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."

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

Find more about Larry Chittenden and more poetry in our feature here.

Find information here about this year's Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball (December 20-22, 2012), with Michael Martin Murphey and the Rio Grande Band.

A YouTube video here features Michael Martin Murphey and Suzy Bogguss singing "A Cowboy's Christmas Ball."


Contemporary, new:

Top Western songwriter and singer Brenn Hill has a new Christmas CD, North Pole Rodeo.

It's filled with fresh interpretations of Christmas classics that range from fun to reverent ("Santa Claus in Coming to Town," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," "Away in a Manger," "What Child is This," and "Silent Night") along with "Christmas for Cowboys" and two original songs, "Quinney's Riggin'" and "North Pole Rodeo."

Also included is this gem of a poem, a serene expression of gratitude and a graceful way to enter the spirit of the season:


Around the rim on Cottonwood
There stands a cedar shack
And a pole corral to pen a bronc
And a shed to hang your kack
Beneath the peak of lodgepoles
Between an aspen stand
Behind the crest of cedars
That stretch the broken land
Between the sage and the timber
Where cattle often hide
Where I ride to each December to curl up inside
And look up at the windy peaks
And feel the fire's glow
Then trot out through the morning
'Cross the dusted winter snow
Around the rim on Cottonwood
A brand new lion track
That dots a line up through the draw
And slowly circles back
Where somewhere in the bitter night
He drifted like a spirit
Beyond the realm of vision
Not I nor horse could hear it
But yet the proof that there he crept
Cut fresh into the snow
And still I shiver at the thought
Of where and why he goes
Around the rim on Cottonwood
Where deep the canyon cuts
Into the mountain's very bowels
Its twisted winding guts
The frozen rivers down below
And warm springs on the hill
At minus seventeen and more
The water's running still
And running deep are shadows now
For day does not stay long
Soon the full moon rises high
And I can hear the song of one lonely coyote
Singing farewell to the sun
Sending out the call that finally evening time has come
Around the rim on Cottonwood
My fire's burning down
My cabin warm
My ride was good
My sleep is sweet and sound

© 1997 Red Cliffs Press Music (BMI).
All rights reserved. Used by permission

Brenn Hill's recitation of this poem is not to be missed. Read more about North Pole Rodeo here at the BAR-D.

Find audio samples and more here at Brenn Hill's web site.

See more about Brenn Hill in our feature here.

Elsewhere on the web:

Tammy Burgard created a video, "Christmas on the Line," which she describes, "This footage was shot on the Flying W, a fourth-generation ranch in Colorado where they still move cattle to the high country the same way they have for generations: on horseback. We have to cross a 10,000 ft pass in Gunnison, Colorado in late November and this year temps dropped below zero and a blizzard rolled in. The documentary I shot this for never came to fruition so I re-edited to music by my friend, Michael Martin Murphey as a Christmas carol." Waddie Mitchell's words open the video.

Find the YouTube video here.

Michael Martin Murphey's 18th annual Cowboy Christmas Ball takes place December 14, 2012 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Contemporary, from the archives:

  Top cowboy poet and philosopher Baxter Black has an array of great Christmas poems, books, recordings, and columns. Here's one of his Rudolph poems:

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.

Baxter Black has a wild and fun new Christmas book for 2012, Reindeer Flu. As mentioned in our review here, "Reindeer Flu follows last year's Rudolph's Night Off. The author comments, 'Reindeer Flu is another misaligned story poem that can be memorized by the young at heart and read or recited on festive occasions. You see, poems are meant to be read out loud, or at least, move your lips! So take this poem and please use it wisely. Don't waste happiness.'"

Above, find a link to some of Baxter Black's Christmas audio poems and columns at Western Horseman.

Find more about about Baxter Black in our feature here and visit for much more.

Elsewhere on the web:

  One of the best cowboy Christmas songs, "Christmas for Cowboys," is not always attributed to its rightful author. It was written by Steve Weisberg for John Denver in 1975.

Tall in the saddle we spend Christmas day
driving the cattle on the snow-covered plains.
All of the good gifts given today;
ours is the sky and the wide open range.
I'll take the blanket; I'll take the reins,
Christmas for cowboys and wide open plains.

Steve Weisberg "played lead guitar, dobro, pedal steel, and sang the low harmony" with John Denver "...during his biggest years..." Find more about him at

Contemporary Western singers keep the song alive in impressive ways, including Wylie Gustafson (on his Christmas for Cowboys album, pictured) and Brenn Hill (on the new North Pole Rodeo).

Here are two video performances of "Christmas for Cowboys": Wylie Gustafson; John Denver with Patty Loveless and Clint Black.

Listen to a clip by Brenn Hill here at and  here on iTunes.

Find more about Wylie Gustafson and Wylie & the Wild West in our feature here and at

Find more about Brenn Hill in our feature here and at

Contemporary, from the archives:

South Dakota ranch wife and champion quilter Yvonne Hollenbeck has a wonderful book of Christmas poems, Christmas on the Range and other poems, which includes this poem:

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.

Some of Yvonne Hollenbeck's Christmas poetry is also on the 2010 CD, Sleigh Belles, from the Sweethearts in Carhartts, which she recorded with singers Liz Masterson and Jean Prescott. Read about here.

A podcast from the Western Folklife Center features Yvonne Hollenbeck's poem, "The Christmas Quilt." The poem was recorded at the 2004 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Listen to the program here.

 Find more about Yvonne Hollenbeck in our feature here and at



     Classic Western writer Owen Wister (1860-1938), best known as the author of The Virginian, wrote a story we posted serially in a past Christmas at the BAR-D, "A Journey in Search of Christmas." The story includes illustrations by Frederic Remington.

Find the entire story here.

Classic, from the archives:

S. Omar Barker (1894-1985) wrote some of best-known cowboy Christmas poems.

"Empty Saddles at Christmas" was the winner of a 1967 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and was printed in Western Horseman magazine in December, 1966, illustrated by Brummett Echohawk.

Empty Saddles at Christmas

The junipers whiten with snow softly fallin';
Somewhere down in the draw there's an ol' cow a-bawlin'.
There ain't nothin' ails her—we're plumb sure of that,
For grass has been good and the stock is all fat.
And yet, driftin' in on the snow-feathered breeze,
The sound brings a feelin' of wishful unease
To us old hands settin' here cozy and warm,
Snug-sheltered and safe from this Christmas Eve storm:
A strange, lonesome feelin' we can't push away,
Rememberin' tomorrow will be Christmas day;
Rememberin' it's Christmas and wonderin' when
Them two empty saddles will be rode again.

There's two pairs of spurs and two hats on their pegs,
And two pairs of chaps meant for young cowboy legs
A-hangin' unused on the old bunkhouse wall—
But the boys they belong to ain't hearin' cows bawl.
They're hearin' machine guns, the whine of a shell,
And all them strange sounds of a war that's plain hell;
The sea waves a-slappin' the side of a boat,
The ominous roar from a big bomber's throat;
The strange, alien language of little brown men—
The same sounds all over and over again,
While deep in their hearts what they're longin' to hear
Is wind in the cedars, the bawl of a steer.

Us oldsters, we set here this Christmas Eve night
A-thinkin' of cowboys that's gone off to fight.
If our thoughts could reach 'em, here's what we would say:
"We're doin' our best, boys, since you went away.
The ranch is still here and the cattle well-tended.
Your horses are fed and the fences are mended.
Looks like a white Christmas will show up at dawn.
We hope it's the last one you boys will be gone.
There's an old cow a-bawlin'—she claims her calf's missin'—
Sure wish that you boys was here with us to listen.

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

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

Find more poetry and more about S. Omar Barker here at the BAR-D.

New in 2012:

  Jeff Campbell's poem will resonate with many, Christmas Eve Rain:

I sat and listened to the sound of the rain
Watching the droplets roll down the pane
Nobody dreams of a Christmas that’s wet
But remember last summer, how can we forget

Read the entire poem here. Jeff Campbell grew up on a small farm in Georgia, spending his weekends on his Uncle's Alabama ranch. A graduate of Northwestern State's Heritage Resources Program, he is currently the Tourism Director for Jefferson, Texas, a small historic town in East Texas.

New in 2012:

  South Dakota rancher, songwriter, poet, and saddlemaker Robert Dennis shares his 2012 Christmas poem about and elf and its illustration, by Lee Stevens. It's called "JW":

He yearned to head down west
see... he lived way up north
he wanted to ride broncs and rope wild cattle
rodeo on the Fourth

There'd never been no elf cowboys
heck, they don't run cattle way up there
horses was scarce as hens teeth
just snow and cold arctic air!

© 2012, LE Stevens,
reproduction prohibited without express written permission

Find the entire poem here, where there's more about Robert Dennis and more of his poetry, including a 2012 Christmas poem, "Deer Hay," with an illustration by Lee Stevens.

Robert Dennis is also a part of Cowboy Culture...South Dakota Style, along with Paul Larson and Ken Cook.

photo of Robert Dennis by Jeri L. Dobrowski

photo courtesy of Kathy Edwards;

Every day is Christmas in the West
There's always an evergreen tree nearby
and always stars like ornaments in the sky

Nature makes a present of each day
Skylarks softly carol on their way
.....from Jack Elliott and Foy Willing's "Every Day is Christmas in the West"

  Cowboy troubadour—and national treasure—Don Edwards heard "Every Day is Christmas in the West" in a 1950s film and recorded the song in 1996. Find his rendition, with family photos (including Smoky, pictured above) and more in a YouTube video.

The song was in Trail of Robin Hood, which starred Roy Rogers.  It's about Christmas tree sellers in a small Western town. "Robin Hood" is never mentioned in the film. Also in the movie were Rex Allen, Monte Hale, Bill Farnum, and other Western stars of the time. You can watch excerpts of the film in a YouTube video.

Read more about the film in this blog.

Find more about Western songwriter Jack Elliott (1914-1971) here at the Western Music Association web site, where he is a Hall of Fame inductee.

"Every Day is Christmas in the West" with Don Edwards and Norman Blake is included on the recent Christmas compilation album, Christmas Trail, from Western Jubilee.

Find more about Don Edwards here at and at his site,


Classic, from the archives:

  D.J. O'Malley was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1868, and put in nearly a score of years on the open range. He started cowboying in Montana in 1884. He wrote an early cowboy Christmas poem:

A 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

The University of Arizona's Cowboy Songs and Singers: of Lifeways and Legend site comments on this poem: "This was written on a winter night after Mr. O'Malley had been parted from $2 by a fellow with a long spiel. He says that at that time there were many 'summer hands' or 'mail order cowboys.' They were only good enough to fill in as herders or extras during roundup time, but when they told it around the stove in winter they were all 'top hands.' The poem appeared in the Stock Growers' Journal on December 23, 1893. It was signed Iyam B. Usted."

See the site's collection of poems about D.J. O'Malley and commentary about him by John I. White here.

Find our feature about D.J. O'Malley here, which includes poems and prose.

[1884 photo of D.J. O'Malley by L.A. Huffman photo courtesy of Cowboy Miner]

Contemporary, from the archives:

   Albertan Doris Daley is the only poet whose work is featured in the 2013 Western Horseman Cowboy Calendar. Read more about that here.

This poem by Doris Daley is a BAR-D favorite:

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.

This poem appears here as "Christmas in Alberta," in the December issue of Canadian Cowboy Country magazine. It appears on the back page of the print edition.

Find more about Doris Daley here at and visit her site,

[Doris Daley photo by Walter Workman]

New in 2012:

  Award-winning Colorado poet Jane Morton often writes about her pioneering ranching family and about local history. She shares a new poem for Christmas, inspired by "...a story that a friend of ours told me about ten years ago. He said it was a true story, and that Tom was his cousin..."

Mountain Christmas 

A mountain Christmas used to mean
            a program at the school.
The whole community turned out
            to celebrate the Yule.

One day the rancher’s son, aged eight
            came home from school with news.
He had been picked to speak a piece.
            Tom practiced lines and cues.

Two cowboys wintering over in
            the bunkhouse near the barn,
heard him inside reciting it,
            and they spun him a yarn.

 Read the entire poem here, where there is more about Jane Morton and more of her poetry.

New in 2012:

When we asked award-winning California artist and author R.V. Schmidt whether his amusing tale was a Christmas submission, he told us that it "...started out as a sort of Thanksgiving poem then I think the Christmas spirit kinda took over."

Black Friday

Elmore, Slim and Jimmy had been sortin cows all day,
and they finally caught that Clara steer they planned to haul away.

We’ll put him in that open top and wrap him up real tight,
then we’ll haul him to the auction and get cleaned up for tonight.

Read the entire poem here, where there is more about R.V. Schmidt and more of his poetry and visit his site,

Elsewhere on the web:

Two of today's top cowboy singers have video renditions of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas":

Don Edwards, here at YouTube.

Find more about Don Edwards here at and at his site,

[photo by Donald Kallaus]

  R.W. Hampton, here at YouTube

Find more about R.W. Hampton here at and visit his site,

Wikipedia notes here that "White Christmas" is "the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song, in several different languages." They state that, "According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time..."

Classic, from the archives:

S. Omar Barker (1895-1985) wrote one of the best known and best loved Christmas poems:

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

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....

"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, Colorado, 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."

Find more about S. Omar Barker and many more poems in our feature here.

Elsewhere on the web:

  Jimmy Dean recites "A Cowboy Christmas Prayer here on YouTube.

Contemporary, from the archives:

  Top Oklahoma poet, reciter, and songwriter Jay Snider wrote another BAR-D favorite:

Santa's Helper

Santa's checkin' through his list
The elves are workin' overtime
Rudolph's shined his nose up bright
The sleigh is lookin' fine

Mrs. Santy's been acookin'
For ole' Santy and the boys
Cause Santy needs his nourishment
While spreadin' Christmas joys

Ole' Santy checks his schedule
And studies through his map
That Mrs. Santy plotted out
While Santy took his nap

The Mrs. stayed up half the night
Sortin' presents shoulder deep
Cause Christmas is acomin' soon
And ole' Santy needs his sleep

Christmas Eve, she's up 'fore dawn
It's sourdough biscuits for the boys
While Santy eats his breakfast
She's out loadin' all the toys

She helps to harness up the teams
And hitch 'em to the sleigh
While Santy drinks his coffee
She's out loadin' feed and hay

Then she helps him in his longjohns
After pressin' out his suit
Helps him fasten his suspenders
Spit shines both his boots

In  a twinkle, Santy's on his way
Yuletide duties he'll not shirk
How come Santy gets the glory
When Mrs. Santy does the work

© 2000, Jay Snider
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Find more about Jay Snider and more of his poetry here at the BAR-D and at

New in 2012:

Missouri poet, writer, and country humorist Jerry Schleicher mixes reality and the Christmas spirit:

A Merry Heifer Christmas

'Twas the day before Christmas and the cattle were bawlin'.
They'd just caught sight of the bales I was haulin'
From the stackyard to the corrals not too far away.
Cows think the best part of winter is summer-cut hay.

I'd begun loadin' the feeders with big round bales
When I found myself boxed between the cows and the rails.
The steers was pushin' and buttin' their way to the feed.
And I was about to get trampled tryin' to satisfy their need.

Read the entire poem here, where there is more about Jerry Schleicher and more of his poetry.

New in 2012:

Minnesota writer and poet Blanche Evridge offers a touching story:

Christmas Holly

Holly touched the Christmas tree as Jim turned on the light,
You shoulda heard her giggle with a two-year-old's delight.
She thought she had the magic to light up that ol’ tree,
When little did she know how she lit up Jim and me.

She was jist a mav’rick; a stray without a brand
And Jim and I were lonely with a need to share the land,
So we opened up our ranch house and opened up our hearts
And grew to love that toddler with the strength the Lord imparts.

Read the entire poem here, where there is more about Blanche Evridge and more of her poetry.

Classic, from the archives:

  Greg Scott, historian, musician, and Badger Clark (1883-1957) biographer unearthed this 1907 Christmas poem by Badger Clark:

The Rover's Toast

You that in the trail believes;
Let the drinks go 'round again;
No true rover ever grieves.
While the world, in faith and folly,
Laughs, tonight, among the holly
Give one glass, that's deep and jolly,
To our old time Christmas Eves.

You all know the times I mean,
'Fore we learnt that life is fight;
When all men were square and clean
And all wimmen saints in white;
When our trails were short and level
And our Christmas revel
No fiesta of the devil
Like we're havin' here tonight.

Drink to the longest long ago,
To the baby heart's desire,
When we hung the stockin' low
And hope Santy wouldn't tire;
When we dreamed his bells were ringin'
While our sleepy arms were clingin'
To the woman that was singin'
As she rocked us by the fire.

Drink to bigger prouder times,
With the laughin' and their show
Sleighs and churches minglin' chimes
And the lights across to snow;
To the stars that were the clearest;
To the friends that were nearest;
To the girls, the first and dearest,
Underneath the mistletoe.

Through the year, old things are dead
And our eyes are always drawn
Toward the hopes that flare ahead,
On the edge of every dawn;
But the night-wind in December
Wails: "Remember!" and "Remember!"
Till a campfire's last red ember
Paints a thousand things that's gone.

Clink your glasses, trailers dear,
You the rovin' imp deceives,
Down the four winds drifted here
Like a whirl of fallen leaves;
Here's to loves that bind us,
Sweet old dreams that used to blind us,
Home, the heaven that's behind us,
And the old time Christmas Eves.
Hug the bar, you homeless men.

Badger Clark, 1907

The poem is included in Greg Scott's Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark. Greg 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."

Read more about Badger Clark and Greg Scott's book here.

Find more poetry and information about Badger Clark in an additional feature here.

Last year, with thanks to Greg Scott, we serialized Badger Clark's 1922 Christmas story "The Wise Man." It, too, is included in Greg Scott's book. He introduces it:

Badger Clark is correctly known as a cowboy poet. His well known verse is recited wherever cowboy poetry is featured.

Clark is less appreciated for his short story writing. He had a couple of his stories published while he still lived in Arizona (1906-1910). It wasn't until a decade later that he began writing short stories in earnest. In the period 1920 to 1923 Clark wrote a popular series of stories for Sunset magazine.

At the time he and his mother were providing care for his aged father. He told famed Montana photographer L.A. Huffman, who provided illustrations for Clark's famous collection of poems, Sun and Saddle Leather, that the work of a caregiver was not conducive to writing verse.

Clark's series of stories about an Arizona cowboy, Spike Saddler (a character clearly fashioned after Clark himself) was immediately popular with Sunset readers. In all, he wrote seventeen "Spike" stories for that magazine. He had to present all the basics of a good short story each month, including introduction of conflict and its resolution. His Christmas story, "The Wise Man," appeared in the January 1922 issue of Sunset.

Read the story here.

Contemporary, from the archives:

  Much-loved cowboy poet Colen Sweeten (1919-2007) wrote this touching poem in 2006:

Christmas Beneath the Stars

The cattle were bedded down on the hill,
It was a peaceful sight that I saw.
The winter moon hung high in the sky
Casting shadows on the side of the draw.

The Christmas lights on the ranch house below
Sparked a thought of a night gone by.
When shepherds, watching over their flocks
Heard the message from the sky.

I stopped and looked at the stars above
And listened where all was quiet,
Then into my heart came the message
The angels delivered that night.

I stepped from the saddle, whispering aloud,
"Shepherds watching over their flocks."
My mount rubbed his head on my shoulder
As he shifted his feet on the rocks.

The horse held his breath while we listened,
I could almost hear the heavenly choir.
Then the spirit bore witness once again
And burned in my heart like a fire.

Yes, the ranchers, herders and cowboys
Who work beneath the wide open sky,
Can understand how the shepherds felt
When they heard the voice from on high.

Let the rich and the powerful pity me,
Let the city folk think I am strange;
My silent prayer shall continue to be,
"Lord, thanks for my home on the range."

© 1996 Colen H. Sweeten Jr., reprinted with permission from
Hoofprints and Heartbeats
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry in our feature here

photo of Colen Sweeten by Jeri L. Dobrowski

New in 2012:

  Texan Jim Cathey introduces his poem, "An old timer who spent much of his cowboy days in the rough canyon country around San Angelo, Texas, told me a lot of stories about his life experiences. This poem is based on these stories.

Of Christmas Past

Christmas had come to the Salt Fork range
an’ brought some shore ‘nuff cold weather.
He rode out, knowin’ how quick it could change.

Dang bronc had him grabbin’ fer leather!
He had checked on the salt licks and windmills,
an’ this day’s work was pert near done.

Read the entire poem here, where there is more about Jim Cathey and more of his poetry.


New in 2012: