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Welcome to our fourteenth 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.

Other Christmas poem and song submissions were welcome through December 15, 2013. Selected poems were posted below, throughout the season.

 The perfect gifts: The BAR-D Roundup CDs

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight is a 2-disc collection of the best classic and contemporary Christmas cowboy poetry.

Find information about each of our 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

An urgent challenge donation ... your help is needed, now.

This past year, did you find things at CowboyPoetry.com 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 CowboyPoetry.com 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: CowboyPoetry.com; 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!

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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):

CowboyPoetry.com 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.

 

 

Your support is essential to CowboyPoetry.com.
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

The thirty-sixth Art Spur piece is a Christmas Art Spur featuring "Little Buddy," who is also featured on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8, the new 2-disc compilation of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry.

"Little Buddy" is immortalized in poetry by DW Groethe, in the poem "The Legend of Little Buddy the Christmas Steer," which is on the CD. The real "Little Buddy" lives on the Granley Ranch near Bainville, Montana. The photograph is by DW Groethe, enhanced by designer Chris Waddell.

Submissions were open to all through December 18, 2013. Selected poems are posted here.


 

Winter Art Spur


"'Winter Work on the CO Bar' © 2006 by Bill Owen, www.BillOwenCA.com

Our thirty-fifth piece offered to "spur" the imagination, "Winter Work On the CO Bar"—a special Winter Art Spur—is the work of premier Western artist Bill Owen (1942-2013). We are honored to have the painting and grateful to Valerie Owen for her generous permission.

Bill Owen has commented, "This painting shows the other side of the cowboy's life, which is not so romantic; the work goes on, no matter what the weather may be. This is Vic Howell and his crew on the CO Bar Ranch in northern Arizona."

Submissions are open to all through December 31, 2013. Find information here.
 

 


Christmas News and More


See the Events calendar for Christmas events.

Your Christmas news is welcome; email us

 

Find daily Christmas posts on our Facebook page.


  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.



Jo Lynne Kirkwood has a new CD of original poetry, A Cedar Ridge Christmas. Find more in our New Releases news here, on her page here at the BAR-D, and at www.jokirkwood.com.
 

  Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot") has a new collection of Christmas and winter holiday poetry, Western Winter Lights, with classic poetry, modern verse by other poets, and her original pieces. Find more in our New Releases news here, on her page here at the BAR-D, and at www.buckshotdot.com.


     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.


  The Heritage of the American West has a select cowboy poetry and Western music Gift Guide.


  Western radio celebrates Christmas:

Jim and Andy Nelson's Clear Out West (C.O.W) radio; ClearOutWest.com. Christmas cowboy music and poetry throughout the season.

 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.

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; Hugh-McLennan.com
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; JudyJamesradio.com; Christmas music and poetry throughout the season.

 Jim Thompson's Live! with Jim Thompson; LiveWithJT.com; 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

"Christmas at the Home Ranch" by Bruce Kiskaddon

"The Perfect Christmas Tree" by Robert Dennis, with an illustration by Lee Stevens

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

"Santa Must Be a Shoer" by Andy Nelson

Video: Stephanie Davis and "Winter Wonderland"

"Drylander's Christmas" by S. Omar Barker

"Country Christmas Concerts" by Doris Bircham

"High Desert Christmas" by Tim Hedrick

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

"Arizona Christmas" by Jane Morton

"Line-Camp Christmas Letter" by S. Omar Barker

  Christmas Art Spur poems

"The Old Time Christmas" by Bruce Kiskaddon

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

"The Night the Mules Saved Christmas" by Molly Wilson

"Obliged" by Jack Burdette

"The Cowboy Angel" by Jean Mathisen Haugen

Audio link:  Western Swing Christmas with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

"Creekwood Ranch Christmas" by Perry L. Williams

"The Legend of the Christmas Mountains" by Charles Williams

"Mesquite Thorns an' Gum Drops" by Jim Cathey

"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" by Larry Chittenden

"'Hey, You Born In A Barn?'" by Bill Hickman

"The Fredonia Ordnance Ordinance" by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

"Prairie Silent Night" by Curly Musgrave

"Neath a Christmas Eve Sky" by Rod Nichols

"Christmas Beneath the Stars" by Colen Sweeten

"A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer" by S. Omar Barker

A message of gratitude to you from the BAR-D

 

 

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."

We're honored to have Buck Ramsey's recording on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8
.

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.

Classic, new on the BAR-D:

Keith Ward recites Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950)  "Christmas at the Home Ranch" on our new 2-CD collection of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry, The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8:

Christmas at the Home Ranch

It was Christmas at the home ranch and the line camp boys rode in;
Jack the cook was busy fixin' fer his Christmas feed agin.
No, we didn't have no turkey but a turkey wouldn't last,
For the boys that work in winter wreck the grub pile mighty fast.
But we had a big fat yearlin' that his mother failed to wean
And you bet that home ranch Christmas was the last he ever seen.

Dusty built a loop and ketched him. Shore did stop him in his tracks,
Old Romero heeled and stretched him while we hit him with the ax.
How the boys did git around him, workin' like a bunch of bees,
Why we hadn't hardly downed him 'fore we'd hung him up to freeze.
Yes, they had the Christmas sperrit, all the boys was feelin' good,
Didn't even have to ast 'em fer to chop and carry wood.

We had beef and beans and taters, biscuits, gravy too, likewise,
Good stout coffee and tamaters and a passel of real pies.
When the cook yelled, "Come and git it!" and the bunch had all got set,
Our old boss sez "Here's some Christmas to be took before you've et."
I don't need to be a tellin' 'bout the smile on ev'ry face
Fer the old jug held a gellun and was in a handy place.

We was feelin' soter holler when we set up to that stuff,
We could chew but couldn't swaller when we 'lowed we'd had enough.
Then we set around the fire, didn't hardly laugh or joke,
So filled up that we was tired, all we did was set and smoke.
We stayed in till afer New Years fer the outfit had the chance
On a special invitation to attend the New Year Dance.

Then we ketched our winter hosses, lots of grub and bed we took,
While the boss held down the home ranch with the wrangler and the cook.
It was mighty cold them mornin's and it made a waddly flinch,
When the frost hung on his whiskers while he pulled his frozen cinch.
And nobody didn't miss us, didn't anybody keer,
For we'd and been to Christmas and it had to last a year.

from Western Poems, 1935

Find more about Bruce Kiskaddon in our features here; more about Keith Ward here.
 

New in 2013:

  South Dakota rancher, songwriter, poet, and saddlemaker Robert Dennis shares his 2013 Christmas poem and its illustration, by Lee Stevens. It's called "The Perfect Christmas Tree":

Gramma wanted a Christmas tree
and it's got to be big and nice
Me? I'm thinkin' of the cost
trees like that are high priced!

But then I have an idea
I'll get one just like she wants
I've seen the perfect Christmas tree
while out riding on one of my daily jaunts
...
 


© 2013, LE Stevens,
reproduction prohibited without express written permission

Find the entire poem here at the BAR-D, where there's more about Robert Dennis and more of his poetry, including other Christmas poems illustrated by Lee Stevens. Robert recites his poem, "The Gift," on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8.

photo of Robert Dennis by Jeri L. Dobrowski

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 steveweisberg.net.

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 brennhill.com and  here on iTunes.

Find more about Wylie Gustafson and Wylie & the Wild West in our feature here and at www.wyliewebsite.com

Find more about Brenn Hill in our feature here and at www.brennhill.com.

 

New in 2013:

  Award winning poet, humorist, and Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio host Andy Nelson comes from a family of farriers. His award-winning book, Ridin' with Jim, includes his poems and stories as well as stories about and by his farrier father. His new Christmas poem seems a natural, Santa Must Be a Shoer:

They say he's a jolly ol' elf,
you'll never find one truer;
But the way I see it myself,
Santa must be a shoer.

Someone's got to trim the reindeer,
and sharp-shoe those little hoofs;
As they dash through the wild frontier,
and land on ice-covered roofs.
...

He recites the poem on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8 and it will be included on a CD due out in January from Andy Nelson, How I Taught Bruno a Lesson.

Find the entire poem here at the BAR-D, where there's more about Andy Nelson and more of his poetry.

photo of Andy Nelson by Jeri L. Dobrowski


Elsewhere on the web:

  Top singer and songwriter Stephanie Davis and her Trail's End band perform "Winter Wonderland" in a new video here.
 

New in 2013:

 Jarle Kvale, North Dakota poet, horseman, and radio host of Back at the Ranch radio has a fun Christmas tale, titled Who Nose?

'Twas a cold December evenin' gauge was readin' 10 below

and the Northern Lights were dancin' while I worked beneath their show,

pitchin' hay in feeders fillin' up the tank

with frozen toes and frostbite and a mind that's numb and blank.

But then my eye was captured by a flicker in the snow

and I hesitate to say this but you'd even say it glowed

as it darted back and forth between the feeders and the shed,

and was divin' in the hay a shiny orb of flaming red!
...

 

Find the entire poem here at the BAR-D, where there's more about Jarle Kvale and more of his poetry.

You can listen to Back at the Ranch, which includes Christmas selections in recent programs, here.

Classic:

Terry Nash recites S. Omar Barker's (1895-1985) "Drylander's Christmas" on our new 2-CD collection of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry, The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8:

Drylander's Christmas

Four days before Christmas out on the BAR U
A case of the lonesomes had hit the whole crew.
Though mostly young fellers who'd drifted out West
Plumb off from their homefolks, it must be confessed
That comin' on Christmas, them lonesomes took hold.
As the dadblasted weather turned stormy and cold.
With the trail snowed too deep for a town gallyhoot.
Their chances for Christmas cheer weren't worth a hoot.
There's be stock to tend to -- some strays like as not --
And not much for Christmas but beans in a pot.

Now family homes in them days long ago
Was scattered plum thin as old-timer's know
The feelin's 'twixt nesters and range-ridin' men
Was often plumb hostile.  So here it had been
Till just before Christmas homesteader O'Toole
Took a notion that he'd put a boy on a mule
To spread the good word that on Christmas Eve night
His house would be warm, and with candles alight,
His missus and him would both welcome that crew
Of snowbounded cowhands out on the BAR U.
They said there'd be fixin's and maybe a chance
There might be some music and maybe some dance.

So the cowboys rode over in spite of the snow,
With the mercury hangin' about ten below.
Another farm family from off up the draw
Showed up in a wagon, not just pa and ma
But also three daughters.  Believe it or not,
On that Christmas Eve all feuds was forgot!
And in that snug house on the drylander's claim
Five frostbitten cowhands were sure glad they came.
For the best Merry Christmas, them buckaroos found,
Is always the one where there's women around;
And if you ain't guessed it, 'twas Missus O'Toole
Who'd made the old man put that boy on a mule!

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

Find more about S. Omar Barker here; more about Terry Nash here.

New in 2013:

  Saskatchewan rancher Doris Bircham writes about Christmas memories in Country Christmas Concerts:

Back in the days of the old country school
          as it was nearing December,
we prepared for our Christmas concert
          and one of the things I remember

is my mother sewing angel costumes
          and stitching my taffeta dress.
The flat iron sat on the cook stove,
          ready when she needed to press
...
 

Find the entire poem here at the BAR-D, where there is more about Doris Bircham and more of her poetry.

 

New in 2013:

  California poet Tim Hedrick writes about a High Desert Christmas:

It's time for friends and family
to kindly take their leave
You better hit your bedroll
cuz tonight is Christmas Eve.

Santy Claus is comin'
his sleigh is packed to go
He's got his wooly chaps on
and the team is caulked for snow.
....

Find the entire poem here at the BAR-D, where there is more about Tim Hedrick and more of his poetry.
 



 

Elsewhere on the web:

  From the familiar to the not so, singing cowboy Gene Autry (1907-1998) recorded some great Christmas tunes. (He also wrote "Here Comes Santa Claus.") Find the following dozen songs on YouTube:

"Merry Texas Christmas You All"

"32 Feet—8 Little Tails"

"Here Comes Santa Claus"

"Santa Claus in Coming to Town"

"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"

"Frosty the Snowman"

"Sleigh Bells"

"Up on a House Top

"Silver Bells"

"An Old Fashioned Tree"

"Freddie the Little Fir Tree"

"Silent Night"
 

Visit www.GeneAutry.com for more about Gene Autry.
 


New in 2013:

   Poet and writer Jane Morton calls Colorado home, and she and her husband Dick Morton spend winters in Arizona. That's the subject of her poem, Arizona Christmas:

We're here in Arizona
          where the snowbirds congregate.
Colorado's still our home;
          we didn't emigrate.

We're here in Arizona
          where the skies are mostly blue.
Once in a while it happens that
          we see a cloud or two.
....

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

She recites another of her Christmas poems, "Christmas Turkeys," on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8.





 

Classic:

Dick Morton recites S. Omar Barker's (1895-1985) "Line Camp Christmas Letter" on our new 2-CD collection of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry, The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8:

Line-Camp Christmas Letter

Inside an Old West line-camp,
   settin' on his lonely bed,
A cowboy wrote a letter home,
   and this is what it said:
"Dear Folks: It looks like Christmas time
   is comin' on again,
And I ain't wrote no letter
   since the devil don't know when.

So now I thought I'd drop a line
   just like I done last year,
To let you know I'm safe and well
   and full of Christmas cheer.
Seems like the news ain't much to tell.
   A blizzard blowin' now.
There'll be some cattle driftin',
   Merry Christmas, anyhow!

I've been out ridin' most all day.
   The horse I rode went lame.
The cattle sure are scattered.
   Merry Christmas just the same!
Last night my waterholes froze up.
   Snow sure is slow to thaw.
Some cattle lookin' porely.
   Merry Christmas, Pa and Ma!

This line-camp shack has got some cracks
   that let the snow sift through.
Well Merry Christmas to you, folks,
   and Happy New Year, too!
Excuse this crooked writin'.
   Got my hands frostbite I guess.
The cattle sure are driftin'
   Merry Christmas, Frank and Bes!

Ax handle busted.  Woodpile low.
   Ain't got much fire tonight.
The drifts have knocked some fence line down.
   I trust you're all all right.
My post of beans boiled dry
   and scorched while I was out today.
Them cows are driftin' awful.
   Merry Christmas anyway!

Well folks, I've got to cut this short
   and mend my busted rope.
Just thought I'd drop a little line.
   You all keep well, I hope.
The cowboy life is wonderful.
   Sure glad I came out West.
Give my regards to Adelaide
   and Jack and all the rest.
I'm glad I ain't a cow tonight
   Outside I hear 'em bawl.
Pore critters sure are driftin'.
   Merry Christmas to you all!

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

Find more about S. Omar Barker here; more about Dick Morton here.

New in 2013:

   The thirty-sixth Art Spur piece is a Christmas Art Spur featuring "Little Buddy," who is also featured on the cover The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8, the new 2-disc compilation of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry.

"Little Buddy" is immortalized in poetry by DW Groethe, in the poem "The Legend of Little Buddy the Christmas Steer," which is on the CD. The real "Little Buddy" lives on the Granley Ranch near Bainville, Montana. The photograph is by DW Groethe, enhanced by designer Chris Waddell.

Find poems here by:

Yvonne Hollenbeck, "Little Buddy"

  Marleen Bussma, "The Fence Feud"

  Jim Cathey, "The Best Christmas Gift"

  Jean Mathisen Haugen, "Santa's Special Gift"

  Susan Matley, "Little Buddy"

Find links all past Christmas Art Spur poems here.
 

Classic:

  Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950) "The Old Time Christmas" first appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1934. It was included in his Western Poems collection in 1935.

Jay Snider's outstanding recitation of the poem on the new Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup has been the most-played track from the CD on Western radio.

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, 1934
 

Read about Bruce Kiskaddon and find more of his poetry here.

Elsewhere on the web:


 
Ranch-raised Texas State Photographer Wyman Meinzer (wymanmeinzer.com) and musician Doug Smith (dougsmith.com) collaborate on a beautiful video, "
We Three Kings; Christmas in the Lone Star State":

(Thanks to Jeri Dobrowski via Jay Snider for this link from last year's Christmas at the BAR-D)
 

New in 2013:

Welcome Montana's Molly E. Wilson and her poem and drawing, The Night the Mules Saved Christmas:

Not many years have passed since Santa did come, high o’er the plains of Saskatchewan
Crossed from Alberta and into the States—when a nor’easter caught him in a whirl of snowflakes.
 


© 2013, Molly E. Wilson; please request permission for reproduction

Read the entire poem and find more about Molly E. Wilson here and at the family's website/blog at http://pmwilson3.blogspot.com.

 

New in 2013:

   Arizona poet Jack Burdette shares his Christmas tale, "... inspired by the thought that good deeds are usually rewarded by a gesture of appreciation," titled Obliged:

By the banks of the Santa Cruz,
   on my granddad's treasured homestead,
South of Tucson, near old Tubac,
   I ran a little cattle spread.
It weren't too big, but had water
   and summer grass was always green.
'Though we had enough to get by,
   most Christmases were pretty lean.
...

Read the entire poem here, where there is more of Jack Burdette's poetry and more about him.
 

 

New in 2013:

  Wyoming local historian Jean Mathisen Haugen writes about an likely character, The Cowboy Angel:

He was just a rough old cowboy,
and somehow he'd come to fail—
for years he'd been riding broncos
and headed down a long, wide trail.
But all of a sudden, here he was,
wearing wings and oh, what a sorry tale
...

Read the entire poem here, where there is more about Jean Mathisen Haugen and more of her poetry.

 

Elsewhere on the web:

Bob Wills Radio has Christmas swing music by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, available on demand.

 

New in 2013:

  Welcome Texas cowboy Perry L. Williams and his poem, Creekwood Ranch Christmas:

Christmas Day broke clear and bright
   As sunshine pushed away the night
But in the north the storm clouds rolled
   With hint of change and winter cold
...

Read the entire poem here, where you'll find more about Perry L. Williams.
 

New in 2013:

  Texas storyteller Charles Williams tells The Legend of The Christmas Mountains:

The old man resettled himself, as old men are wont to do,
And surveyed his audience with eyes of faded blue.

"The Christmas Mountains, you say, why that name?
There's many that have the true story, or so they claim.
...

Find the entire poem here, where you'll find more about Charles Williams and more of his poetry.
 


 

New in 2013:

  Texas poet Jim Cathey recalls past Christmastimes in his poem, Mesquite Thorns an' Gum Drops:

Christmas time brings lots of mem'rys, of Jesus' birth, an' Christmas trees,
happy kids, an' Uncle T's jokes, family, friends an' "Howdy Folks."
What was the best Christmas glory? Dad, readin' the Christmas Story,
there on that West Texas plain.

Jim does a great recitation of Larry Chittenden's "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" on the new Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup.

Find Jim's entire poem here along with more of his poetry and more about him.
 

Classic 

  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.

Texas poet
Jim Cathey gives a great recitation of the poem on the new Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup.
 

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.

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

 

New in 2013:

  Texas poet Bill Hickman shares his poem, "Hey, You Born In A Barn?":

I was born on a ranch grew up with cattle, a rancher's son,
When kids put me down they would always use a line, this one,
"Hey, you born in a barn?"
...

Find the entire poem here, where there's more about Bill and more of his poetry.
 


   Utah's
Jo Lynne Kirkwood creates a Christmas poem and drawing each year. She shares her 2013 offering, The Fredonia Ordnance Ordinance:

Bubba Johnson started it. He'd got a bb gun
From Santa Claus at Christmas. And I guess it just seemed fun
To test the gun's trajectory by shooting the Christmas lights
That were strung out across Main Street. But he didn't use his sights
Or it could be that his eyes were bad, or he just had lousy aim
Because he'd only bagged a couple of bulbs before the fire department came
....



© 2013, Jo Lynne Kirkwood; please request permission for reproduction

 

Find the entire poem here.

Jo Lynne recites her poem, "Bringin' Home Christmas," on the new Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup. It's also on her new CD collection of Christmas poems, A Cedar Ridge Christmas.

Find more of Jo Lynne Kirkwood's poetry and more about her here at the BAR-D.

 

 

   Songwriter, poet, and fine human being Curly Musgrave (1949-2009) wrote many memorable pieces, including this one, which we're honored to have on the new Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup:

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 the permission.

 Find more about Curly Musgrave in our feature here and visit his memorial web site here.


 



 

Contemporary, from the archives:

    Popular Texas poet Rod Nichols (1942-2007) shared many Christmas poems with the BAR-D. This was a favorite:

Neath A Christmas Eve Sky


There's a halo  that's circlin'
'round a moon shinin' bright,
adding wonder and glory
to the heavens tonight.
 
And it seems to be sayin'
to this cowboy at least,
it was on such an evenin'
came the young Prince Of Peace.
 
And I know without doubtin'
as the bunkhouse draws nigh,
that it's Christmas I'm feelin'
neath a Christmas Eve sky.
 
There's a wind slightly blowin'
through the needles of pine,
and the shadows are loomin'
where the moonbeams now shine.
 
And the soft sound of singing
come a-driftin' to me
as the hands are now gatherin'
'round a small  lighted tree.
 
And it brings me a smile, Lord,
and a tear to my eye,
as I'm headin' home fin'lly
neath a Christmas Eve sky.

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

Jim Thompson, broadcaster and friend of Rod Nichols, recites the poem on the new Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup.

Find more about Rod Nichols here and in a tribute 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 permission.

We are honored to have this poem on the new Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup.

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

photo of Colen Sweeten by Jeri L. Dobrowski

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; in 2013, the S. Omar Barker Estate let us know that this poem is now considered in the public domain.

A December 23, 1998 article by Ollie Reed Jr. in the Albuquerque Tribune, "Church on the Range," includes a comment on the poem from Barker's niece, Jodie Phillips:

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."

We were thrilled to include a vintage recording of Jimmy Dean's recitation of the poem on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight, a collection of Christmas cowboy poetry.  Jimmy Dean recites "A Cowboy Christmas Prayer here on YouTube.

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


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

 


 

Merry Christmas all!

Thanks to all for a great year filled with poetry, art, photography, music, and the collaboration and friendship of all who share our mission to preserve the arts and life of the real working West.

Thanks for visiting CowboyPoetry.com and for following us on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks to all who share their words, art, and photographs. Thanks to those who make Cowboy Poetry Week happen throughout the West.

Special thanks to those of you who so importantly support the work of the Center: CowboyPoetry.com, Cowboy Poetry Week, the Rural Library Program, the annual Western art poster, The BAR-D Roundup. It is you, as a part of a vibrant and generous community, who make everything possible here at the BAR-D.

Merry Christmas from the BAR-D to you.
 


 

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

 

 




 

 

In remembrance of those who left us this year...

Jack Tippett, Charlie Camden, Rusty McCall, Jessie Sundstrom, Guy Porter Gillette, Verl Arthur "Bobe" Stout, Rusty Calhoun, Frances Wheeler, Roy "Boots" Reynolds, Leon Flick, Alice Hancock, Montie Montana Jr., Bill Owen, Charlie Colombe, Donna Alonzo Vaughan, Will Stearns, Howard Norskog, Joseph H. Dobrowski, Janice Coggin, Maci Harris, David Harris ...

... and those who gave their lives in military service.


2005 photo by Air Force photographer Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi
Arlington National Cemetery

Find the Arlington story and more at Wreaths Across America.

(thanks to Chris Isaacs for the first view of the photo)

 



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

 


 

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See the links above for holiday news and more; our regular News Since the Last Newsletter is here.

See a complete list of all the holiday poems and songs posted since 2000 here.

Find the list of all the poems at the BAR-D here.

 

 

 

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