Page Two

Newest below.

Selections to date:

On page one:

"Christmas Waltz" by Buck Ramsey

"Here's to the Cowboys" by Pat Richardson

"Santa's Hired Hand" by Andy Nelson

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

"Depression Oranges" by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

"Panic at the Pole or Jake Rides Again" by DW Groethe

"Old-time Montana Christmas for Cowboys" by Stan Howe


"Line Camp Christmas" by S. Omar Barker

"Christmas on the Trail" by Hal Swift

"The Perfect Gift" by Yvonne Hollenbeck

"The Old Time Christmas" by Bruce Kiskaddon

"Night Before Christmas on the West Texas Plains" by Waddie Mitchell

"Christmas Magic?" by Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

"The Christmas Catch" by Perry Williams

"Christmas Diamonds for a Cowgal" by Linda Nadon

"The Old Dog's Christmas" by Kay Kelley Nowell

"Bringing in the Christmas Tree" by Dan "Doc" Wilson

"Christmas Gift from God" by Jim Cathey

"Christmas in a Cowboy Town" by Jean Mathisen Haugen

"First Christmas for a Cowboy" by Bill Hickman

"Christmas for Folks Down the Road" by C.W. (Charles) Bell

 "Wake Up Call" by Don Hilmer of South Dakota

"Wake Up Call" by Don Hilmer of South Dakota
"Ridin' Plumb Into Luck" by Dennis Russell of New Mexico
"Stewards of the Land" by James Cathey of Texas
"The Little Christmas Stray" by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
"Well Howdy Little Feller" by Tom Swearingen of Oregon
"To Our Fellow Creatures" by Susan Matley of Washington

"Christmas Memories" by Jane Morton

"'Neath a Christmas Eve Sky" by Rod Nichols

"Gifts in the Hay" by Deanna Dickinson McCall

"Prairie Silent Night" by Curly Musgrave

"The Christmas Trail" by Badger Clark

"Merry Christmas" by Bruce Kiskaddon

Merry Christmas, All!


Classic, from the archives:

  Another good Christmas poem by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985):

Line-Camp Christmas
Some eighty miles from nowhere, in a line-camp all alone,
A cowboy set on Christmas Eve without no telephone,
No radio, no TV set, no autos passin' by,
No sound but wind a-moanin' and lonesome coyote's cry
To wish him Merry Christmas. Lookin' back through mem'ry's eye,
He saw a happy fireside on an old Missouri farm,
With Pa and Ma and seven kids assembled snug and warm
Around a purty Christmas Tree a-gleam with candle-light,
With home-folks love a-shuttin' out the boogers of the night;

He saw white popcorn on a string and big red apples hung
To ketch the light in ruddy rays whenever one was swung;
He heard a little sister that was doomed to use a crutch,
A-braggin' on her presents even though they wasn't much;
He saw his older sister with her beau a-lookin' shy,
A-settin' on the hoss-hair lounge. He used to wonder why
Young fellers took so strong to gals. Since punchin' cows, he'd found
How heifer-lonesome you can git without no shes around,
Especially at Christmas time a 'way out in the west

When all the company you've got's the "makin's" in your vest.

So there this lonesome cowpoke set and pondered what to do
To make it seem like Christmas, but of course he durn well knew
He might as well forget it, for a boar's nest batcher's chance
Of making Christmas merry wasn't worth a preacher's pants.
He listened to the wintry wind across the drifted snow,
And thought about the happy home he'd left so long ago
Against his mother's wishes just to be a cowboy bold...
He wondered how the cattle would be standin' all this cold.

Outside he heard some coyotes howl. They sounded lonesome, too,
And all at once this cowboy thought of somethin' he could do.
He stepped outside the dugout, and the cold stars heard him yell:
"Merry Christmas, brother coyotes!" Well, there ain't no more to tell.

He come back in and went to bed a-feelin' like a fool,
But grinnin' some to think how he had celebrated Yule
By wishin' Merry Christmas to a yelpin' coyote crew—
Because there wasn't no one else around to wish it to!

© 1954, S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited


Pictured: The poem as it appears in S. Omar Barker's scrapbook, photographed at the home of his grandniece, daughter of Jodie and Bob Phillips, November 2007.  Photo by Jeri Dobrowski,


Contemporary, from the archives:

It's writer and poet Hal Swift's birthday today. Here's one of his Christmas poems:

Christmas on the Trail

I was up in the hills, checkin' fence for Dad,
while home from school on vacation.
It started to snow, and soon covered the trail,
but I knew my exact location.

I put up a lean-to for my mare Bill,
then put up a tent for me.
I started a fire, then started a stew,
then I boiled me some sassafras tea,

It was Christmas Eve, and it snowed all night,
but by mornin' the sky was clear.
I found myself thinkin' that this has to be
my favorite time of the year.

I got the feedbag and gave Bill some oats,
then got my fire goin' again.
I thought of my folks and all of the guests,
that for days had been wanderin' in.

They'd be on the carpet in front of the fire,
and passin' their gifts around.
And here's old Bud, snowed in, in the woods,
my carpet, the frozen ground.

I spotted a pine tree, with cones that hung
like ornaments Nature had made.
The green of that tree was somethin' to see,
like beautiful Chinese jade.

A hidden choir of coyotes sang carols,
while a brown bear watched from a hill.
I boiled me some more of that sassafras tea,
then sat there and drank my fill.

Three mountain jays came to check me out,
and flitted from branch to branch.
They too were like ornaments on our tree
in the livingroom back at the ranch.

There, by now, all the folks would be sorry
I'm missin' their Christmas cheer.
But when I get home, I'll have to tell 'em
how I had Christmas here.

© 2003, Hal Swift
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission



Contemporary, from the archives:

Popular South Dakota poet Yvonne Hollenbeck has many Christmas poems, some collected in her book, Christmas on the Range. Find more about her and more of her poetry here and visit her web site,

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 reported with out permission.


Classic, from the archives:

  Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) wrote so many good Christmas poems, including "The Old Time Christmas."

Oklahoma rancher, poet, and songwriter Jay Snider does a wonderful recitation of this poem on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight.

Below is the image of an original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page from December, 1954. The poem and drawing first appeared in the
Western Livestock Journal in 1934. It was also included in Kiskaddon's 1935 book, Western Poems.

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.




Contemporary. New in 2014:

Top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell has several Christmas poems in his new book, One Hundred Poems, including Night Before Christmas on the West Texas Plains.


Night Before Christmas on the West Texas Plains

'Twas the night before Christmas
On the West Texas plain
The ranch had been suf’frin’
For a much needed rain
Still, spirits were high
When kids bedded that night
While their mother and I
We’re assessing our plight

We'd figured for hours
The money we'd need
To sustain the cattle
With supplement feed
Our figures confirmed
We would have to sell out
‘Less we got some relief
From the lingering drought

Resigned to these facts
We arose from the table
To put out the gifts
Our small budget made able
The bounty this year
Would be pitifully small
when we noticed a note
That was taped to the wall
It read: "Dear Santa Claus
We hope you’ll bring
instead of us toys
The most important thing
Some rain for the ranch
So the grass can grow tall
We reckon that'd be
The best present of all

"Might keep us from having
To move from this place"
Then, I noticed their mom
Wipe a tear from her face
"We are blessed in spite
Of our troubles," she said
We hugged and held hands
As we went off to bed.

We were waken at dawn
By some young shouts of glee
"Mommy, Daddy, best hurry, come see
We knew he was real
And would hear our request"
As they pointed to heavy
Black clouds to the West

We were dancing and laughing
And jumping around
When the first precious drops
Started hitting the ground.
Then all of a sudden
The clouds seem to burst
While the soil was quenching
Its terrible thirst

And from that Christmas on
Our whole family will claim
That the best present ever
Was a West Texas rain.

© Waddie Mitchell, reprinted with permission


Contemporary. New in 2014:

Some new Christmas poems this year from BAR-D poets (click titles for entire poems):

  Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns of Wyoming shares "Christmas Magic"

Christmas is a magic time . . . of miracles they say . . .
An’ somethin’ of that sort, I guess, caught me the other day;
Shadows were long, an’ frosty haze, rose from snow covered plain
As Nate an’ Nell rushed hay sled an’ me . . . homeward . . . for their grain.

That frozen feed trail snakes us, ‘round the head of the breaks,
There where Grandpa’s saggin’ homestead house, causes me heartaches . . .
But wait . . . Can it be? . . . There’s hum . . . of fiddles on the air!
Nate an’ Nell stop . . . they prick their ears – all I can do is stare!


  Perry Williams of Texas shares "The Christmas Catch"

The bells they was ringin'
And the coyotes was singin'
Their song on a Christmas Eve night
And Ol' Jim kept an eye
On the cold winter sky
For Santa to come into sight

illustration by Choc McCorcle


  Linda Nadon of Saskatchewan shares "Christmas Diamonds for a Cowgal"

It was the winter of 2003
the price of beef was way down
To supplement our cash flow,
I worked at an office in town

(more new poems to come ...)

Classic, from the archives:

journeywister.JPG (11039 bytes)   Owen Wister's (1860-1938) story, "A Journey in Search of Christmas" is illustrated by by Frederic Remington

The story of "A Journey in Search of Christmas" is a part of Lin McLean, an 1898 novel by Owen Wister, a writer best known as the author of The Virginian. tThe story was published by Harper & Brothers as a separate book in 1904, illustrated by Frederic Remington. Find the entire story and its illustrations here.

It begins:

In the old days, the happy days, when Wyoming was a Territory with a future instead of a State with a past, and the unfenced cattle grazed upon her ranges by prosperous thousands, young Lin McLean awaked early one morning in cow camp, and lay staring out of his blankets upon the world. He would be twenty-two this week. He was the youngest cow-puncher in camp. But because he could break wild horses, he was earning more dollars a month than any man there, except one. The cook was a more indispensable person. None save the cook was up, so far, this morning. Lin's brother punchers slept about him on the ground, some motionless, some shifting their prone heads to burrow deeper from the increasing day. The busy work of spring was over, that of the fall, or beef round-up, not yet come. It was mid-July, a lull for these hard-riding bachelors of the saddle, and many unspent dollars stood to Mr. McLean's credit on the ranch books.

Find the entire story and its illustrations here.


Contemporary. New in 2014:

Some new Christmas poems this year from two poets new to the BAR-D (click titles for entire poems):

  Kay Kelley Nowell of Texas shares "The Old Dog's Christmas"

It’s the first bad storm of the winter
And it’s raging cold outside.
And the cowboy’s already dreading
What will be a long, hard ride.

He’s got to check that new bunch of steers
And be sure they haven’t strayed,
‘Cause the fence in the river pasture
Still has holes the elk had made.

  Dan "Doc" Wilson of Arizona shares "Bringing in the Christmas Tree"

When the sage is white with winter frost
It’s a certain sign my friend,
That Christmas Day is comin’ soon
And it’s just around the bend.

If the women folk are gath‘rin’ ‘round
For a Christmas quiltin’ bee,
It’s time to cut the jawin,’ folks,
And go out and cut a tree.

And new poems from a few old friends of the BAR-D:

  Jim Cathey of Texas shares "Christmas Gift from God"

Christmas in Texas was comin’ on fast,
…but not fast enough for us sprouts!
The old folks were just hopin’ they could last,
but for the most part, they shore had their doubts.
Livin’ could shore be tough durin’ the drouth,
the cattle were poor and the waterholes dry,
an’ the dang cattle price had shore 'nuff gone south.
Purt near enough to make a cowboy cry.


Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming shares "Christmas in a Cowboy Town"

The little town was new-hatched
that Christmas of "way-back-when,"
just a few folks living there
with a few moving through now and again.


  Bill Hickman of Texas shares "First Christmas for a Cowboy"

The old cowboy sat by the window, stared out in the night,
Checking for Santa Claus and all of his reindeers in flight.
The little boy that was asleep came toddling down the steps,
“Grandpa why are you still up, why you haven’t even slept.”

  C.W. (Charles) Bell of Utah shares "Christmas for Folks Down the Road"

It was Christmas time when Big Jake said
To his grandson that snowy day.
He’d taken him out to the barn to chat,
And this he decided to say.


 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-ninth piece offered to "spur" the imagination—a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur—is "Wake up Call," a painting by noted Western artist Steve Devenyns (

Steve Devenyns comments, "In my work I strive to portray the relationship between a rancher and the animals and land in his care. 'Wake up Call' is a great example of this theme."

Submissions were welcome from all through December 22, 2014. They are now closed. Selected poems are posted here, and they are:

"Wake Up Call" by Don Hilmer of South Dakota

"Ridin' Plumb Into Luck" by Dennis Russell of New Mexico

"Stewards of the Land" by James Cathey of Texas

"The Little Christmas Stray" by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming

  "Well Howdy Little Feller" by Tom Swearingen of Oregon

  "To Our Fellow Creatures" by Susan Matley of Washington



Contemporary, from the archives:

  Jane Morton writes much about her family's ranching roots and has shared many Christmas poems, including:

Christmas Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Contemporary, from the archives:

The much-missed Rod Nichols (1942-2007) gave us many Christmas poems, including this lovely one:

'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.



Contemporary, from the archives:

Deanna Dickinson McCall's poem, "Gifts in the Hay," is perfect for a Christmas Eve:

Gifts in the Hay

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

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


Contemporary, from the archives:

  Much-loved and missed Curly Musgrave (1943-2009) left us a beautiful poem, "Prairie Silent Night":

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
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Classic, from the archives:

  Charles Badger Clark's (1883-1957) "The Christmas Trail," a fine Christmas poem, was put to music by Don Edwards as "Ridin' the Christmas Trail," and you can listen to that here.

The Christmas Trail

The wind is blowin' cold down the mountain tips of snow
   And 'cross the ranges layin' brown and dead;
It's cryin' through the valley trees that wear the mistletoe
   And mournin' with the gray clouds overhead.
Yet it's sweet with the beat of my little hawse's feet
   And I whistle like the air was warm and blue
For I'm ridin' up the Christmas trail to you, 
                  Old folks,
   I'm a-ridin' up the Christmas trail to you.

Oh, mebbe it was good when the whinny of the Spring
   Had weedled me to hoppin' of the bars.
And livin' in the shadow of a sailin' buzzard's wing
   And sleepin' underneath a roof of stars.
But the bright campfire light only dances for a night,
   While the home-fire burns forever clear and true,
So 'round the year I circle back to you, 
                   Old folks,
   'Round the rovin' year I circle back to you.

Oh, mebbe it was good when the reckless Summer sun
   Had shot a charge of fire through my veins,
And I milled around the whiskey and the fightin' and fun
   'Mong the mav'ricks drifted from the plains.
Ay, the pot bubbled hot, while you reckoned I'd forgot,
   And the devil smacked the young blood in his stew,
Yet I'm lovin' every mile that's nearer you,
                   Good folks,
   Lovin' every blessed mile that's nearer you.

Oh, mebbe it was good at the roundup in the Fall,
   When the clouds of bawlin' dust before us ran,
And the pride of rope and saddle was a-drivin' of us all
   To stretch of nerve and muscle, man and man.
But the pride sort of died when the man got weary eyed;
   'Twas a sleepy boy that rode the nightguard through,
And he dreamed himself along a trail to you,
                    Old folks,
   Dreamed himself along a happy trail to you.

The coyote's Winter howl cuts the dusk behind the hill,
   But the ranch's shinin' window I kin see,
And though I don't deserve it and, I reckon, never will,
   There'll be room beside the fire kep' for me.
Skimp my plate 'cause I'm late.  Let me hit the old kid gait,
   For tonight I'm stumblin' tired of the new
And I'm ridin' up the Christmas trail to you,
                     Old folks,
   I'm a-ridin' up the Christmas trail to you.


Classic, from the archives:

We'll close the 15th annual Christmas at the BAR-D with one of Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950) many good Christmas poems, one which is recited so well by Gail Steiger on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight, "Merry Christmas."

Merry Christmas

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

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

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

Bruce Kiskaddon

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


Thanks to all of you who visit the BAR-D throughout the year, and to all of the poets, songwriters, artists, photographers, and other friends who are such an important part of the BAR-D.


Merry Christmas, All!



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