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Cisco, Texas
About Cleo Savage



I Rode With Bob Wills

It must've been somewhere around 1923 or 24,
I was hoboin' to Amarillo, and on to Baltimore.
We stopped somewhere in East Texas to take on more fuel,
Out in a field was an ole black man plowin' with a mule.
When the train started up it would creak and crack.
Through the boxcar door came a kid with a case on his back.
He settled down in one corner, and slept for quite a while
And, when he woke, he opened the case, I seen him smile.

He took out a fiddle, and he tightened up the bow.
He played the prettiest music that I ever did know.
He played a song that he said his daddy wrote,
And you could see the emotion that he put into every note.
The way he played was enough to give a man the shivers,
I asked where he hailed from, and he said "Down between the rivers".
He said he lived not far from here, out in the foothills,
His family growed cotton, and his daddy was Uncle John Wills.

One hobo said he'd heard the kid play before,
His family had played for a dance up on the Matador.
Another said that he'd heard the name too,
While he was cowboyin' for the U Bar U.
The kid told us how much he loved to play,
But he wasn't sure that was what he wanted to do every day.
He pulled down on that fiddle and made a moanin' blues sound,
The engineer pulled the whistle, and we was Amarillo bound.

As the train slowed for a curve with Amarillo in view,
The kid clutched the case and jumped, and I did too.
The next time I seen him, He was in a barber shop,
Between shines he'd fiddle, the crowd begged him not to stop.
After work, we'd hang out and pull down on a bottle or two,
The kid would get high, talk about his family, and get real blue.
Then one day he was restless, and wanted to find a new job.
That was the last time I ever laid eyes on Jim Bob.

Oh, I heard him play that fiddle many times after that day.
Just about every time we turned on the radio, you could hear him play.
For he went on to become famous and start up a big fiddle band.
His music was played far and wide across this great land.
I even seen him on the silver screen down at the theater one night.
He played the fiddle for a gal, and beat the outlaws in a gun fight.
He's gone now, but his music still rings in these West Texas hills.
And, I remember the night that I rode the train with the great Bob Wills

1991, Cleo Savage
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Cleo says: I have been a fan and student of Western Swing music most of my life. I collect Bob Wills 78 rpm's for my 1911 Victrola. For many years (15) I made the journey to Turkey, Texas to attend the Bob Wills celebration held there annually. I got the idea for the poem after reading Dr. Charles Townsend's book, San Antonio Rose, The Life of Bob Wills. I sent him a copy of the poem and he seemed impressed in that he asked permission to send a copy to another Wills fan, George Strait. 



I sat my tin cup on a rock by the fire
where a skillet had been.
I looked across the fire into the
face of a toothless grin.
I couldn't remember a time when ole'
Sam wern't around.
He was as much a part of this place as
 the cattle, fences and the ground.

I said, "Sam, tell us again about the time
you came to the Lazy S."
He said, "Well, it was back in about thirty-two
or thirty-three, I guess."
It was long before you was borned and your
 Daddy was just a little nipper,
I hopped a train back in Ohio and hoboed
out here on the Western Zipper."

The ole' man went on telling the story that
I'd heard a hundred times before.
But, each time that he told it just made me
love him just a little bit more.
'Cause like I said before, I can't remember
 when he were'nt around.
He was as much a part of this country as the
fences, cattle and ground.

He told the story how him and Grand-dad
saved those steers in the Winter of '34.
And, how the next year's drought made 'em wonder
if they wanted to ranch anymore.
But, the love of the land and the freedom
of a day's work outside,
outweighed their frustrations and helped put
 their doubts and fears aside.

Sam told about the time he hitched the wagon
that carried Mother to town.
And he was there when I was born and how
 Dad didn't want to put me down.
He recalled the day that Dad was gored by a horn
from an ole mossy cow
And, what kept her from killin' him, well.
 he just didn't know how.

While he was talkin', I started rememberin' about
 some things that Dad had said.
How Sam could ride and rope bettern' anyone,
even bettern' ole Bugger Red.
Sam could heel 'em and drag to the fire as fast
 as they could lay on the brand.
And, everyone bragged how the Lazy S had
some of the best cowboys in the land.

I remember askin' Dad why Sam didn't
rope and ride anymore.
He said that Sam's legs wouldn't ever
be as they were before.
That ole cow down in the cedar breaks
caught him on his blind side.
Knocked his horse down and broke both his legs,
so that he'll never again ride.

That's why Sam's called the Cosinero and handles
all the chores of the cook.
He's revered for his sourdough biscuit, cooks from
 scratch, don't need no book.
He's cooked for almost as long as I can remember
for the Lazy S and others close by.
And as I think of how he's almost family,
a tear comes to the eye.

And to see him old, wrinkled and worn
like an old Justin boot,
Makes me sad to think of the days when
we won't have the ole' galoot.
He taught me how to throw a loop, ride and shoot a gun,
He's one of those folks that seems to enjoy life
and knows how to make work fun.

I just wish that if I have younguns that they
would have the chance to know
A person like ole' Sam like I did, I sure
 think that it helped me to grow.
And, each night around the fires, Sam tells his stories
that some say just ain't so.
Well, I listen to his stories again and again
Because, I just love this old Cosinero.

1998, F. Cleo Savage
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Cleo says: I got the idea for this poem after I retired from education and was cookin fer group in West Texas. An old felller was sittin round tellin stories about the old days. Mention was made about a man that cooked on a ranch in the Caprock area of Texas, and the poem grew from that. I'm sure we all know someone like this if we've spent much time round the fires.



About Cleo Savage:

I grew up in West Texas in the Panhandle area, and a western swing music fan. I'm a die-hard Bob Wills Fan. I retired from education in '96 and managed a ranch in West Texas for several years before settlin' on my place here in Cisco where I raise horses and grow hay and live life the cowboy way.





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