Page Five

 


 

Happy Days

The bells in town are ringing,
   'Tis Christmas time, we know;
But not a sound of the bells we hear
   Out across the shifting snow.
Across the wind-swept prairie,
   Where the wild chinook winds blow.

'Tis Christmas night, and we're far away
   From all we love and know,
But faces are bright, and hearts are light;
   Outside is the drifting snow.
And we talk, and laugh, and sing with joy,
   Out where the chinooks blow.

It's Christmas night, and they drink a toast
   To the loved one, far away;
One to the boys from the sunny South,
   And one for the old range ways;
But the one we all love best of all
   When they call out "Happy Days."

'Tis Christmas night on the old wild range,
   And the Northern Lights aglow,
Dance o'er the grim grey cut-banks,
   And down on the drifting snow.
And the coyote sneaks by the frozen creeks,
   And the wolf calls long and low,
But the toast on the range is "Happy Days,"
   Far out where the riders go.

sivellbk.JPG (13379 bytes)

Read more classic poetry by Rhoda Sivell here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

 

 

The Trapper's Christmas Eve

It's mighty lonesome-like and drear.
Above the Wild the moon rides high,
And shows up sharp and needle-clear
The emptiness of earth and sky;
No happy homes with love a-glow;
No Santa Claus to make believe:
Just snow and snow, and then more snow;
It's Christmas Eve, it's Christmas Eve.

And here am I where all things end,
And Undesirables are hurled;
A poor old man without a friend,
Forgot and dead to all the world;
Clean out of sight and out of mind . . .
Well, maybe it is better so;
We all in life our level find,
And mine, I guess, is pretty low.

Yet as I sit with pipe alight
Beside the cabin-fire, it's queer
This mind of mine must take to-night
The backward trail of fifty year.
The school-house and the Christmas tree;
The children with their cheeks a-glow;
Two bright blue eyes that smile on me . . .
Just half a century ago.

Again (it's maybe forty years),
With faith and trust almost divine,
These same blue eyes, abrim with tears,
Through depths of love look into mine.
A parting, tender, soft and low,
With arms that cling and lips that cleave . . .
Ah me! it's all so long ago,
Yet seems so sweet this Christmas Eve.

Just thirty years ago, again . . .
We say a bitter, last good-bye;
Our lips are white with wrath and pain;
Our little children cling and cry.
Whose was the fault? it matters not,
For man and woman both deceive;
It's buried now and all forgot,
Forgiven, too, this Christmas Eve.

And she (God pity me) is dead;
Our children men and women grown.
I like to think that they are wed,
With little children of their own,
That crowd around their Christmas tree . . .
I would not ever have them grieve,
Or shed a single tear for me,
To mar their joy this Christmas Eve.

Stripped to the buff and gaunt and still
Lies all the land in grim distress.
Like lost soul wailing, long and shrill,
A wolf-howl cleaves the emptiness.
Then hushed as Death is everything.
The moon rides haggard and forlorn . . .
"O hark the herald angels sing!"
God bless all men
it's Christmas morn.

Robert Service, from The Spell of the Yukon


Some years ago, when it was first posted, we wondered whether "The Cremation of San McGee," which takes place on Christmas Day, had a place with Christmas poems. Poet G. Don Ensminger commented,"'Sam McGee' would be a fine addition to Christmas since the whole heart of the poem is really making the best of a very bad situation. Sam longed for home at this time of year like so many others do. He just happened to have found it (or felt it) in a mighty peculiar place there on the 'marge.'"

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
     By the men who moil for gold;
  The Arctic trails have their secret tales
     That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
     But the queerest they ever did see
  Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
     I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, 
     where the cotton blooms and blows.
  Why he left his home in the South to roam
     'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold 
     seemed to hold him like a spell;
  Though he'd often say in his homely way 
     that he'd "sooner live in Hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way 
     over the Dawson trail.
  Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold
      it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze 
     till sometimes we couldn't see,
  It wasn't much fun, but the only one
     to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight 
     in our robes beneath the snow,
  And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead 
     were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, 
     "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
  And if I do, I'm asking that you 
     won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; 
     then he says with a sort of moan,
  "It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold 
    till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead— it's my awful dread 
     of the icy grave that pains;
  So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, 
     you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, 
     so I swore I would not fail;
  And we started on at the streak of dawn; 
     but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day 
     of his home in Tennessee;
  And before nightfall a corpse was all 
     that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, 
     and I hurried, horror-driven,
  With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, 
     because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: 
     "You may tax your brawn and brains,
  But you promised true, and it's up to you 
     to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, 
     and the trail has its own stern code.
  In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, 
     in my heart how I cursed that load!
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, 
     while the huskies, round in a ring,
  Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—
     O God! how I loathed the thing!

And every day that quiet clay 
     seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
  And on I went, though the dogs were spent 
     and the grub was getting low.
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, 
     but I swore I would not give in;
  And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, 
     and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, 
     and a derelict there lay;
  It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice 
     it was called the Alice May.
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, 
     and I looked at my frozen chum;
  Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, 
     "is my cre-ma-tor-eum!"

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, 
     and I lit the boiler fire;
  Some coal I found that was lying around, 
     and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared— 
     such a blaze you seldom see;
  And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, 
     and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like 
     to hear him sizzle so;
  And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, 
     and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled 
     down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
  And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak 
     went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow 
     I wrestled with grisly fear;
  But the stars came out and they danced about 
     ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said,
     "I'll just take a peep inside.
  I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked."
     Then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, 
     in the heart of the furnace roar;
  And he wore a smile you could see a mile, 
     and he said:  "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear 
     you'll let in the cold and storm—
  Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, 
     it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
     By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
     The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
     Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Robert Service, from The Spell of the Yukon

 

See our feature about Robert Service here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

 

A Cowboy Country Christmas

It's a cowboy Christmas evenin',
Cain't hardly hear a sound,
It's quiet by the old wood stove

There's no fightin' on the ground.
 
There sure is some there overseas,
We trust it's for the right,
But still you feel it deep inside—
Our kids have gone to fight.
 
The wind's a pickin' up some,
The fire it throws a spark,
The coal oil lantern flickers bright—
As it illuminates the dark.
 
Some things will never change,
They've always been this way,
Red hot flames will all burn out—
Their coals will cool to gray.
 
On a country Christmas mornin',
With horse drawn sleighs and such,
A fresh cut pine and turkey plate—
We'll invoke the Healer's touch.
 
May winds of war stop howlin',
May flames of hate burn out,
May our lanterns lighten up the dark—
Mid bitter storms of doubt.
 
It's a cowboy country Christmas,
Why, there's singin' comes alive!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail -
Where faith and grit survive.


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

Photos from Paul Kern's cabin in Island Park, Idaho—cowboy country.

Read more of Paul Kern's poetry here.

 

Ramona's Christmas Box 


Lightly, ever lightly, like the soft touch of a mother's hand
Silky snowflakes fall and envelope a sleepy, solemn land.
And the lantern-glow from windows drapes across a whitened lawn,
Framing characters in silhouette as a child in school has drawn.

Within the creaking farmhouse on this deep, December eve,
A classic play in just three acts begins its story-line to weave.
A young woman brought her daughter to this aging cowgirl's cache
To bask in the light of wisdom, and learn Ramona's Christmas past.

"Jessie-girl," said Ramona, "Lift the lid on this old trunk.
It's dusty as a July trail from bein' stored beneath my bunk.
Peel back that Indian Blanket, lay it careful on the floor.
Why, lookie here, I ain't seen this stuff for twenty years or more."

To the blond and bashful five-year old, filled with wistful hopin'
That rusty, worn, old steamer looked like a treasure chest just opened.
Between tender, shaking fingers, with pure, child-like delight,
Ramona lifted each decoration...held it dancing, spinning bright.

"Why, this one was drawn by Billy when he was in the second grade.
We was poor back then and all we had were things that were home-made.
This quilted ball, this wooden horse carved from a block of pine.
These shiny beads sewn on flannel. Oh my! They sure look fine."

"Pa saved these silvery metal strips and twisted them several times.
They looked like sparkly icicles and rang like tinkling chimes.
A garland made from buck-brush leaves that grew out on the ranch.
And, I sewed this little angel to place up on the tip-top branch."

An old trunk full of memories that had been avoided many years.
Because of sadness it inspired, yet joy burst forth through the tears.
Jessie's mom brought in a tall blue spruce, as though it had been ordained
To be the precious symbol of a hurting heart reclaimed.

Each glittering, glistening ornament reflected in the youngster's eyes
Told Ramona, in the truest sense, that Christmas never dies.
Amidst songs and gleeful laughter, adorned with living history,
On a snowy winter's gloaming, stood Ramona's finest Christmas tree.

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

 

Read more of Virginia Bennett's poetry here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

 

 

A Christmas Thought

When northern lights are flashin' bright
          with shades of every hue
And fresh snow cover on the range
          makes this whole world look new.
While ridin' home beneath these lights,
          lettin' horse just pick his way,
You scan this world that looks so clean
          and think of Christmas Day.

Now, you marvel how the world is touched
          by nature's evenin' light
Each limb that's piled up high with snow,
         each post that's capped with white.
And for the Christmas times a' comin'
        you smile and wish from here
That friends and family and folks afar
        have a Christmas filled with cheer.

Then when you reach the home corral
        with comforts waitin' there,
You smell the smells of this, your world,
        while horse enjoys his fare.
Your table waits with food and warmth
        and family gives life reason,
Then from your heart comes many thanks
        for another Christmas season.

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

 

Slim McNaught, photo by Jen Dobrowski

Read more of Slim McNaught's poetry here.

 

 

Country Christmas 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read more of Sam Jackson's poetry here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

 

 

The BAR-D community goes far beyond "words on the web." The following note, received during the season, is a touching example of that community. It is posted with permission:

... I was searching on the internet for the birth year of my grandpa, Louis A. Carle (for a Christmas present for my dad—and the information was needed without his knowledge...so as not to spoil the present!)...and the search led me to CowboyPoetry.com. Louis A. Carle was one of the poets
included; the specific page I was led to was a page in honor and memory of him. He passed on December 20, 2000, when I was 15. I just wanted to thank you... I love my grandpa more than I can say—to describe how much he is missed would never do the actual feelings justice, so I won't even try. 

I am ashamed to admit that I never really read much of his poetry when he was alive—I never realized how talented he was. Though I was 15 when he passed, there was still much that I didn't understand about relationships and the bond of family. I wish I could sit and talk with him again, just for an hour or so. Since he passed I've read his words and truly appreciate the "rhyming autobiography," as he called it, that he's left for his kids, his grandkids...and all the rest to come. 

What I really appreciate however, are the words of the poets who took the time to write about my grandpa, "the old was-been cowboy." The heartfelt words of these individuals —his friends— revealed a different side of my grandpa that I was never able to experience because of the dynamics of a grandpa-granddaughter relationship. These poems showed me the Louis A. Carle that was a poet, a friend, a "was-been cowboy," a father, and most importantly, a God-fearing man. When he was alive I only really saw him as my grandpa...oftentimes not realizing that he was once a kid like me, once in school, once an athlete, once a soldier, once in love, four times a daddy, even more times a grandpa, always a child of God, always a cowboy. What I read helped me to see all those things that I was unable to see, as I was only a selfish kid, when he was physically here on earth with us. 

I know that "old was-been cowboy" is up there on that Heavenly range...praising his Creator while roping cattle or breaking a wild horse ...and that brings me a joy that I am incapable of expressing. I can't wait until I see him again....I appreciate the space to give my grandpa the commendation that I never had the chance to give him while he was alive... my family and I appreciate and have been touched by CowboyPoetry.com, through the life of my grandpa. I hope you understand the importance and necessity of family—remembering to thank the Lord every day for the things he has given you and for the people he has placed within your life. Thank you again for everything you cowboys are doin'! I wish you all the best while celebrating the birth of our Lord, during this Christmas season.

                                                                                                             Julie Carle

Louis A. Carle    1924-2000

Never Forgotten

 

Texas poet Rod Nichols read Julie Carle's note and responded:

Louie was my friend and mentor. After his passing, I determined to do what I could to keep him with me in my poems. "Ol' Lou" appears in many of my poems, including "Christmas At The Bunkhouse," "Christmas Comes to Linecamp," Christmas Eve At Cutter Bills," and so many more. God bless his granddaughter for finding the side of Louie that so many of us knew.

Some of the poems Rod mentions are at CowboyPoetry.com, and others are at his beautifully designed site:

"Christmas at the Bunkhouse":
www.cowboypoetry.com/xmas2001pdd.htm#Christ

"Christmas Comes to Line Camp": 
www.cowboypoetry.com/ho1.htm#rn

www.geocities.com/rodnichols.geo/lcamp.html

"Christmas Eve at Cutter Bill's":
www.geocities.com/rodnichols.geo/cutter.html

 

  For a number of years, for many, a part of Christmas at the BAR-D has been a visit to first Lariat Laureate Rod Nichols' dazzling presentation of his poem, "Christmas Comes to Line Camp," at his web site, in a special "web book" with music and entrancing graphics.  

For 2006, Rod has added two additional books: "Little Britches, A Christmas Story," and "Christmas Poems," a collection of twelve of his Christmas poems.

  

Visit all three of Rod's Christmas books here.  

 

 

 

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

See the links here for holiday news and more.

 


 

 

Page Five

 

 

 

 

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