Page Ten




A Charlie Creek Christmas

It was Christmas in the badlands
An' the moon was shinin' bright --
So I figgered dear ol' Santa
Wouldn't need no exter light
When he come across the prairie
An' down the coulees deep--
To drop me off my presents
While I was sound asleep --
--That's what I get for figgerin' --
Once again I'se proven wrong
'Cause I shoulda fixed that yard light
in the middle of my lawn.
Now -- I knew the thing was history --
Heck, it burnt out in the spring
When I wacked it up a good one
With my alfalfa balin' thing.

Still -- it come as quite a shock
That night on Christmas Eve--
When a clatter did arise
An' what my blood shots did perceive --
Eight tiny little reindeers
Stumblin' 'round my yard
With about a million presents --
Some still bouncin' mighty hard.
And layin' in the middle,
With his suit so big an' red,
Was none other than his elfness
Slowly shakin' his old head.

Oh my lord! -- I started thinkin'
Ain't this the Cat's Meow --
I'd best be gettin' movin'
And I'd best be movin' now!
'Cause they'd smacked into that light pole
An' it wasn't fer no joke --
Looked like my chance fer presents
Had all gone up in smoke.
I'm halfway apoplectic
An' sorry as can be
As I run like all the dickens
To help him to his feet.

I gets him kinda dusted --
Then we both eyeball the scene
Lookin' pert near like a war zone,
If yer knowin' what I mean.
Then'r peepers lit upon it --
What used ta be his sleigh --
An' there weren't no use denyin'
It had seen its better days.
I'm feelin' real depressed
-- Then I seen him drop his head --
I knew what he was thinkin'
So I quiklike thought -- an' said --

"Yer lookin' kinda worried
But I tell ya what we'll do --
A bit a wire an' some nails
She'll be flyin' good as new.
We can take a couple fence posts
An' bend 'em at the end
Then ya got yerself some runners
To get up an' off again.
We'll grab 'r selves some planks
An' nail 'em right around
What's left a that ol' chassis --
Heck -- She'll float right off the ground!"

Well -- he paused an' thought a bit --
Perked up -- an' said "Yer right!"
"But we'd best be gettin' hoppin'
I got a fairly busy night!"
So faster than a twinklin'
I gets the parts we need --
An' before ya even knowed it
We undone the dirty deed.

Then we gathers in the reindeer
Hitch 'em to the sleigh
An' round up all the presents
Til' they're packed and stashed away.
An' as he climbed aboard
He turned -- Just like a shot --
Stopped an' handed me some presents
An' said -- "I near forgot!"
Then --
I heard him when he hollered
As he flew on outa sight --
"Merry Christmas you old codger --
Next year turn on the light!"

1997, DW Groethe, from A Charlie Creek Christmas & Other Wint'ry Tales of the West
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more poetry by DW Groethe here.



Jim Quarternight's Gift

Ride on, ride on, Jim Quarternight, another lonely ride.
Stars shine bright in the cloudless night, and Time is a pleasant blur.
It's Christmas Eve, and family and feast await at the fireside
To crown the year with love and cheer and the welcome warmth of her.

Age-won wisdom whispers dark and melancholy songs
Of a time when Fortune's promise lured your willing heart astray,
And the romance of the ranges led you knowingly along
As a temptress or mirage that flirts, then gently fades away.

Does your Stetson cover memories of a gay and reckless youth,
Or simply serve to shelter silver hair from snow and cold?
Does the wistful want and longing in your eyes bespeak the truth
Of a quiet resignation at the deal the dice have rolled?

Lord knows you've seen the elephant; the Prodigal's your kin,
Though a fatted calf won't mark the mortal ending of your ride.
But Fate can be capricious, and She throws a whimsic spin,
Why, picture old Jim Quarternight with Hannah by his side!

Hers a world of joy and love, who knows not care nor worry;
His the weight of fifty years, but tall he rides tonight.
And his pulse begins to quicken, and his horse's hoofbeats hurry
'Til he reins up at the homestead in the lantern's welcome light.

A bait of grain and Christmas apple saved for Dancy's feast,
A blanket and a sheltered stall to pass the night in style.
Solemnly Jim tips his hat toward the starlit East,
Then steps into the cabin, wreathed in finest Christmas smile.

A hearty cheer and handshake for his younger brother Paul,
While laughter, hugs and kisses come as gifts from Sue to Jim.
But gala airs can't hide the knowing glances in the hall,
Or the sheer delight that fills his soul when she runs out to him.

So young, so young, so soon they learn to snare an old man's heart,
With innocence and faith and trust that swell a man inside.
And he knows it's not forever, and he knows they'll someday part,
But soft she nestles in his arms, and glad he made the ride.

And I've often heard her speak of him with tender tones and tears,
How he smelled of burnished leather, of campfire smoke and sage;
With no regret for beauty lost beyond the veil of years,
Of long-loved scents of plug tobacco, homemade soap and age.

Gifts are given, gifts received, but none so rare as this.
Jim Quarternight holds Hannah tight, and memories weave and wend
To that Christmas Eve when fear and anguish stole away the bliss,
And his brother's wife screamed out and prayed the fearsome pain might end.

A freighting trip took Paul away to pay the banker's due,
His hopes and dreams entrusted to a brother's faithful care.
But Sue broke early, body wracked by spasms through and through,
And placed her life in calloused hands and desperate, whispered prayers.

A midwife's ministrations couldn't be more true nor kind.
"Why, it's just like pullin' calves," said Jim, and blushed upon the saying.
With her precious maiden's modesty relieved and thus defined,
She laughed at his embarrassment, but never ceased her praying.

And they named the baby Hannah, who was given gifts by God
And taught that gifts received may be returned.
They give the most that have the least and know not Wealth's facade;
This lesson shall redeem them yet, if nothing else they've learned.

For one there was who gave His all, though He had naught to give
But His life to save us from our earthly sin.
And Hannah, darlin' Hannah, in the four short years she'd lived
Redeemed a lonely cowboy's soul and found the love within.

Jim's anxious fingers fumbled through his tattered saddlebags,
Past shirt and soap and sundries cast aside to claim the prize.
A silken wild rag worn behind a thousand dusty drags
Held the treasure he had made for her -- a doll with emerald eyes.

I've heard it told so often I believe that I was there;
How he cut up Cookie's apron made from flour sacks he'd saved.
How Dancy's sorrel mane was gleaned for softest, shining hair,
And why he swapped his six-gun to an old Shoshone brave

For a soft and supple buckskin cured with all the ancient skills,
To fashion dress and moccasins with fringe and beads of blue.
How his patient fingers stitched and stuffed with cotton from his quilts,
And how she gazed in wonder at those eyes of emerald hue.

Those eyes, those eyes; swift recognition flashed across Paul's face,
Recalling how a ring adorned the finger of his mother,
Who lived with quiet dignity and died in solemn grace.
No greater love could Jim bequeath the daughter of his brother.

And in the reaches of the night Jim woke to reminisce
And ponder how he might have lived his life another way.
Memory's taste is bittersweet for chances known and missed,
But profit comes not from regret for chances thrown away.

His bed he'd spread beside the hearth and Hannah's downy pad
And smiled to see her clutch the doll with honest love and pride.
Too late he knew the loss of wife and child he'd never had.
"God bless you, girl," he whispered low, then turned his head and cried.

She told me how he spoke to her of life upon the range,
How he loved her true, but loved it, too, and time had come to part.
His salty tears as he held her near seemed not so very strange,
For nothing else but truest love can break a great, good heart.

Jim Quarternight was killed next spring at a round-up on the Red,
When a fool green kid tied hard and fast to the outlaw bull at dawn.
Death rode hard, but Jim rode harder; he took the horns instead.
Ropes sailed true and six-guns crashed too late -- old Jim was gone.

She remembers him now in his boots and spurs and hat placed upon his breast;
So proud, so strong, so peaceful, and yet -- how could the story be told otherwise?
As they lowered the lid on the old cowboy and sang to his final rest,
Clutched in his good right hand was her gift -- the doll with the emerald eyes.

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

Dennis Gaines, photo courtesy Jim Fish of The Texas Cowboy Gazette

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

Read more of Dennis Gaines' poetry here.



Cowboys and Christmas

When the hay is stacked, the beef calves sold,
and snow drifts through the pines,
Then the stockmen take their holiday.
It's cowboy Christmas time.

Inside of the bunkhouse some of the green
is a shade that's tracked in from the barn,
But the cook stove is glowing a bright Christmas red,
and the atmosphere's cheery and warm.

There's that jingle-bell jangle of spurs on their boots,
They wear Santa Claus gear 'neath their clothes
(Two-button drop-seat long red union suits.
Chilled cowboys are right proud of those!)

And come evenin' when ranch hands all gather
Round that evergreen pitchy-pine fire,
The sounds of Home on the Range and Oh, Holy Night
Fill the air like a heavenly choir

'Cause you've heard the stories about cowboys, and Christmas,
From the old days, when Herod was King.
It was stockmen out riding the herds by night
who first heard that angel choir sing.

And it was men, with their beasts, on the rangelands
To whom the story was first told
Of our Savior, an infant that first Christmas night,
In a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes

And from them the saying went forward
Until it had reached all the earth.
A message of gladness, of peace and great joy
On the night of that small baby's birth.

And the glory of God in His highest
Brought peace to all Earth for that night.
And the stockmen were there, right from the first,
Bathed in that wondrous light.

So now, in these long nights of winter,
When Christmas is well on its way,
Ask a cowboy. He'll tell you, from deep in his heart
Why it is that we have Christmas day.

 2004, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


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

Read more of Jo Lynne Kirkwood's poetry here.


Christmas Love

My Mom could darn, and she could mend,
   but Mother didn't sew.
That's why I prized my gift from her
   that Christmas long ago.

My mother had an old machine]
   she used to stitch up rips,
So though I saw her seated there,
   no questions passed my lips.

But when that Christmas morning came,
   I found beneath the tree
New dresses for my Shirley doll,
   Mom's special gift for me.

She'd bought pre-printed muslin cloth,]
   and followed stamped designs
To cut and sew those little clothes
   along the dotted lines.

I knew of things she'd rather do
   like cook and wash and clean,
Most anything but sit and sew,
   and fight that old machine.

Each year there is one Christmas gift
   which stands out from the rest.
Because Mom didn't like to sew,
   I thought her gift the best.

 2004, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



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

Read more of Jane Morton's poetry here





A Cowboy Holiday Wish

As the seasons roll on by
And the prairie turns to brown.
As trees lose their golden leaves
And snow sparkles on the ground.

We stock up the old log pile
With cords of slow burning wood.
Pull on our warm winter hat
And bundle up like we should.

We offer some simple wishes
To right the things that are wrong.
Here's some hope for everyone
That has meaning all year long.

We wish for you a Christmas
That's totally worry free.
We wish for you a holiday
Relaxing as can be.

We wish for you a Christmas
Filled full of love each day.
We wish for you a Chanukah
With some time to laugh and play.

We wish for you a Christmas
With loved ones all around.
We wish for you a Kwanzaa
Where care and compassion abound.

We wish for you a Christmas
Filled with music and friends.
We wish for you a season
Where love of all knows no ends.

We wish for you a Christmas
Centered on caring and not the store.
We wish for you a joyous life.
We cannot wish for more.

 2004, James H, John, Unpublished Work 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


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

Read more of Jim John's poetry here

Visit our Art Spur project for poems 
inspired by Charlie Russell's "Seein' Santa."

"Seein' Santa" 
by Charles M. Russell, 1910
C. M. Russell Museum
Great Falls, Montana
reproduced with permission





Page Ten



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