Page Five

 

 

Three Wise Men

Back in the days when cattle range was prairies wide and lone,
Three Bar Z hands was winter-camped upon the Cimarrón.
Their callin' names was Booger Bill and Pinto Pete and Tug,
And though their little dugout camp was plenty warm and snug,
They got plumb discontented, for with Christmas drawin' near,
They couldn't see no prospects of no kind of Christmas cheer.

Pete spoke about the bailes he'd be missin' up at Taos.
Tug said he'd give his gizzard just to see a human house
Alight with Christmas candles; and ol' Booger Bill avowed
He's shoot the next galoot who spoke of Christmas cheer out loud.
They sure did have the lonesomes, but the the first of Christmas week,
A wagonload of immigrants made camp off down the creek.

They'd come out from Missouri and was headin' farther west,
But had to stop a little while and give their team a rest.
They seemed to be pore nester folks, with maybe six or eight
As hungry lookin', barefoot kids as ever licked a plate.
"We've just got beans to offer you," the wagon woman smiled,
"But if you boys will join us, I will have a big pot b'iled
On Christmas day for dinner, and we'll do the best we kin
To make it seem like Christmas time, although our plates are tin!"

Them cowboys sort of stammered, but they promised her they'd come,
Then loped back to their dugout camp, and things begun to hum.
They whittled with their pocketknives, they sewed with rawhide threads,
They hammered and they braided and they raveled rope to shreds.
They butchered out a yearlin', and they baked a big ol' roast.
They scratched their heads to figger out what kids would like the most,
Till when they went on Christmas day to share the nesters' chuck,
They had a packhorse loaded with their homemade Christmas truck:

Bandanna dolls for little gals, with raveled rope for hair;
Some whittled wooden guns for boys, and for each kind a pair
Of rough-made rawhide moccasins.  You should have seen the look
Upon that nester woman's face when from their pack they took
A batch of pies plumb full of prunes, some taffy made of lick,
And a pan of sourdough biscuits right around four inches thick.

That ain't the total tally, but it sort of gives a view
Of what three lonesome cowboys figgered out to try and do
To cure the Christmas lonesomes on the Cimarrón, amid
The wild coyotes and cattle--and they found it sure 'nough did.

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

 

The Night Before the Jackalopes Saved Christmas


The Legend of the Jackalope

First noted by the original cowboys who roamed the western range, the jackalope is the antlered cross of the antelope and western jackrabbit. This unusual animal was known to mimic the nightly singing sounds of the cowboys who trailed cattle up the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas. The cowboys knew the jackalope to be a highly aggressive animal, one that would use his antlers to charge a cowpuncher wandering out of camp at night alone. For this reason, many cowboys referred to the jackalope as the "Warrior Rabbit." Cowboys were especially mindful of the Texas jackalope, whose great size was indicative of its native home -- the Lone Star State - and whose ferocity was compared to that of the badger. The jackalope possesses the ability to elude most hunters and, under most all circumstances, does not like to be
seen. On the trail, when a cowboy saw movement from the corner of his eye, and then turned to look at the movement and nothing was there, he knew he was in the company of one or more jackalopes. Small populations of the jackalope live to this day in parts of the American West. Although the chances of spotting an actual living jackalope are slim, his likeness can be found on postcards and rare photographs.


Out in far west Texas, where the waters of the Pecos flow,
I was roundin' up stray doggies what'd got caught out in the snow.

I bedded down next to some sagebrush, my saddle underneath my head,
An' I cozied up next to my fire, the hard ground as my only bed.

I lay lookin' up at the mountains that still silhouetted the western sky,
When all to once I saw a snow sleigh, a snow sleigh on the fly!

It was Santa and his reindeer a-makin' up this dadgum sight,
An' seein' 'em gave me to know that it must be Christmas Eve Night.

They come a-chargin' in from the north, an' landed down in the desert basin,
An' they was bonafide by lookin' at 'em,  not a figment of my imagination.

I stayed hidden behind my sagebrush, so's not to give myself away,
When ol' Santa stood up to stretch, then perambulated outa the sleigh!

He says, "Now you reindeer find somethin' to feed on, an' stretch your bones a mite,
You'll need all the help you can get on this coldest of Christmas Nights!"

The reindeer commenced to foragin' on anything that served as feed,
When all to once the lot of 'em started munchin' on locoweed!

As fast as I could blink, they'd all swallowed the weed down good,
An' just as fast they started actin' like locoed reindeer would.

Ol' Donner commenced to buckjumpin' like a wild rodeo palouse,
An' Blitzen curled up on the ground, a-honkin' like a sickly goose!

The rest of 'em acted no better, an' so it donned on me real quick,
That these reindeer were in no condition to help our friend St. Nick.

Ol' St. Nick needs critters what can pull a snow sleigh all night,
An' these reindeer couldn't do it 'til they started feelin' right.

Well, there ain't any reindeer in Texas, an' none were fallin' outa the sky,
So I needed to round-up some other critters that could pull a snow sleigh on the fly.

After much deliberatin' an' shoulderin' the whole world's hopes,
I realized this situation called for Texas-size jackalopes!

These varmints could pull a snow sleigh to the best of my surmise,
'Cause down in Texas these critters grow to be supersized!

These jackalopes grow large and rangy, with antlers atop their crown,
An' when they're feelin' ornery they can charge a man to the ground!

But even the meanest four-legged varmints rest in peace on Christmas Night,
So's I figured to bring in a mess of 'em without too much of a fight.

Well, I looked behind every cactus patch, an' all mesquite tree stumps,
An' I tried to spot jackalope antlers a-stickin' out from sagebrush clumps.

I scoured the country to the north, an' the country to the west,
An' I rounded up a herd o' jackalopes an' brought in eight o' the very best.

I brought 'em all back to Santa an' we harnessed 'em two by two,
An' once they were fitted out with sleigh bells, I knew these jacks'd do!

Santa said, "I appreciate your work cowboy, but must tell you all the same,
We can't take off to finish Christmas 'til I give each jackalope a name!"

Well, he looked each jackalope in the eye to capture their disposition,
An' then he gave each o' the varmints a name to fit that exact description.

The ol' elf gave me a wink, an' said these critters will save the day!
This'll be the jolliest bunch of jinglin' jackalopes to ever jerk a sleigh!

He perambulated back in his snow sleigh, an' to his team he gave a yell,
"Charge on you mighty deerbunnies like coyotes were on your tail!"

"Now, Jerky! Now, Jumpy! Now, Jack-Knife an' Floppy!
On, Sourdough! On, Flapjack! On, Hardtack an' Hoppy!"

"Out across the mountains, off into the western sky!
Let's take Christmas 'round the world with this snow sleigh on the fly!"

It may have sounded like a meteor, like a whip a-makin' cracks,
But this now distant fireball was St. Nicholas an' his band o' yuletide jacks!

© 2005, David Althouse
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of David Althouse's poetry here.

 

 

Visit our Art Spur project for a growing collection of poems inspired by 
"A Christmas Tale" by Mick Harrison. 

 

 

See a complete list of all the holiday poems from 2000-2004 here.

See the links here for holiday news and more.


 

 

Page Five

 

 

 

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