Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

About David L. Carlton





Nagging Old Wife

A old worn out saddle
A rope that is frayed
A horse that's too old
He's seen better days

A dog eared old Stetson
With boots broken down
A rusty old truck
With one road to town

An old cowboy's possessions
Are not silver or gold
But his trappings of life
That could never be sold

His possessions are simple
And so is his life
But he'd give it all up
For a nagging old wife

He's rode for the brand
For too many years
He's worn out and old
And he is facing his fears

Afraid to go on
Into the twilight of life
Never having a family
Or nagging old wife

© 2006, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David told us: The poem, "Nagging Old Wife," is based it upon an old cowboy who once worked at the Institute of Texan Cultures. He had left his home in east Texas as a 12 year old, and had gone west to find a job as a cowboy. He had never married, and  had no family that he knew of.

When I met him, he was a stove-up old hide, whose joints squeaked when he walked. Nothing was wrong with his voice or mind, and his job was to entertain visitors around
the old chuckwagon on the exhibit floor. I was a part-time security guard at the time, and we talked about how our cowboy lives were the same in a lot of ways, and different in others. He once told me that the only thing he felt like he really missed was a family and a "nagging old wife."

(Note: The ITC staff later traced down a sister he hadn't seen or communicated with since he left home as a kid.)

Mr. Bell

I was ridin one time, for a foreman named Bell
I was doing my best, but was still catchin HELL

We started at daylight, and we ended at night
We were ridin and ropin, with no time to fight

I was a youngster then, and I didn't know quit
But Mr Bell's cussin, was sure givin me fits

Things continued this way, for a solid two weeks
I was gettin so mad, it was too hard to speak

I was a  fair cowboy, or so I had been told
But Mr. Bell's standards, they were sure gettin old

It seemed like forever, for certain a year
When those two weeks were up, I just wanted to cheer

The pay was pretty good, and the food it was swell
But when I work for Mr. Bell again, it'll be a cold day in HELL

© 2006, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


David told us: "Mr. Bell" is based upon a couple of weeks I spent in 1966. I was hired as a day working cowboy, to help gather and work cattle on a large ranch in south Florida. Mr. Bell was the foreman. He had a reputation as a very demanding boss, who wanted things done a certain way. Any time something didn't go the way he expected, he would immediately begin cussing and throwing a fit. He would go from zero to fist fight in about three seconds. I was raised to be a respectful young man, and spent a lot of time biting my tongue during that two weeks. I learned a lot that summer, and Mr. Bell was one of my teachers. To this day, I have never quit a job and have always lived up to verbal agreements. When Mr. Bell handed me my pay check, he also paid me a pretty good compliment. He said that if I ever needed a job, all I had to do was look him up. As I climbed into my vehicle to leave, I couldn't help but think, when I work for Mr. Bell again, it'll be cold day in Hell. I kept my work.


Hard Times

When I was young
And times were hard
Daddy's life was never slow

He'd load his horse
On Sunday morning
And down the road he'd go

A lariat rope
A well trained horse
And the skill to get it done

He worked so hard
From dawn to dusk
In the blazing Florida sun

He'd doctor calves
On the open range
When screw worms were really bad

To see calves die
From maggot worms
It was enough to make you sad

Times have changed
And Science has spoken
Screw worms are no longer a threat

But I'll always remember
My boyhood Hero
And a time I can never forget

© 2007, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David told us: This poem is based upon my childhood memories. Growing up in the Florida cattle industry in the 1950's was an impressionable time in this young cowboy's life. At that time, screw worms infested most ranches in the United States, and especially  those in Florida and Texas. This infestation cost the cattle industry millions of dollars each year. My dad worked his daily ranch job from Monday morning until Saturday noon. He rested on Saturday afternoon, but when Sunday morning rolled around, he'd help  other local ranchers, friends and family treat their sick animals. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him on these Sunday jobs, and as a result, got to know him a little better. Though times were hard for a ranch hand with five little mouths to feed, I didn't
consider them hard at all. I was learning the things I cared about most from my personal hero. The experiences of those times had a lasting effect on the memories I have of my dad. If someone couldn't afford to pay him, he'd do it, just because it needed to be done.



Old Tom was in the chicken yard 
He was looking for some eggs
To cook for the sleepy cowpokes
As they stretched their gimpy legs

Taters were in the frying pan
They were washed and chopped real fine 
To brown and feed hungry hands
As they moseyed in to dine 

A little patch of blooming weeds
Was growing against the shed  
Where many pans of water flung
Made a prickly flower bed

Every day was just like the last
The menu was always plain
An old camp cook did what he could
With a life that was filled with pain

He never planned to be a cook
Just a cowboy filled with dreams
Stiff old joints and aching bones
From the elements extreme
Now he cooks and does his best
Even though it wasn’t planned
He’s filled with pride and memories
Of his time riding for the brand 

© 2007, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


David told us: As often happens, a young cowboy becomes an old cowboy. Some are lucky enough to find a female companion before they get old and crippled. If this companion is strong enough willed, she might teach her cowboy not to take so many risks. Instead of jumping off of a running horse onto a wild cow's head, he learns to stay in the saddle a little more often, and let the young ones handle the ground work. Instead of always riding the rough string, he keeps a few more gentle well-broke horses around. Instead of sleeping on the cold hard ground, he’s found the comfort of clean sheets, three meals a day, and a warm body to ward off the chill of a cold winter’s night.

Some cowboys have never been lucky in life or love. They continue to abuse their bodis to the point to where they are crippled up and can no longer fork a saddle. Since they have never know anything but to ride for the brand, they never want to leave the ranch. If they are still able to learn to cook, they sometimes end up cooking in a cow camp or bunk house.

Cow camps and bunk houses don't offer many luxuries of life. Hands and faces are washed in an old enamel bowl on the porch, and dirty water is flung from the porch. Sometimes, this little bit of dirty
water  is enough to irrigate a small area, so that a few weeds can grow.

With that in mind, I have composed a short poem in tribute to the cook. I didn't know old Tom, but I knew his kind.



Longhorn's Tail

The herd was moving easy
Like nothing was wrong
With horns pointed North
They were grazing along

They were spread to eternity
With a breeze in their face
Just drifting along eating
In a slow kind of pace

When off to West
Black clouds came rolling in
It wasn't if it was coming
It was just a matter of when

The trail boss sent word
Up and down the line
"Let the stragglers catch up"
His orders suited fine

Old Cookie parked his wagon
Upon the open plain
He started slinging pots
To get ahead of the rain

The tent fly was anchored
Into deep sandy ground
His helper collected wood
Dragging all that he found

The coffee was brewing
With the beans in a pot
When off to the South
It sounded like a shot

A flash of forked lightning
Came streaking straight down
The cattle started milling
With new energy they found

They were walleyed and nervous
With each thunder clap
They bunched tight together
Not leaving a gap

A little after darkness
The weather died down
The cattle all settled
On soggy wet ground

The men all took turns
To wolf down some food
Then back to the herd
In a quarrelsome mood

They held the herd till midnight
When the cattle bedded down
Then they headed for the wagon
And their bed on the ground

That's how it was
When riding the trail
Navigating a cattle drive
Over a longhorn's tail

© 2007, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David comments: This poem is based upon the many cattle drives made by Floridians before and after the Civil War. Florida had so many cattle, that a special Confederate unit was formed called the Cow Calvary. This unit was responsible for moving cattle and protection of the vast Florida cattle herds. There are many stories of their deeds on the web and in history books.

During the long war that blanketed the entire South, the Confederacy became very poor and hungry. Being a little more in control of their state, Florida seemed to fare better than its southern sisters. The Union soon found out that it was not capable of sustaining a lengthy campaign in the interior of Florida and remained in the large coastal cities for the duration of the war. Florida was no different than it sister states, except that it was less developed, had fewer roads, and was recognized a rather tough place to be if the population didn't want you there. Being a member in good standing of the Confederacy, Florida was more than happy to sell some of their vast cattle herds to help feed and arm southern troops.

Through long established markets in Cuba, Florida cattlemen maintained a cash market before, during and after the Civil War. Spanish gold was a preferred currency over Confederate script when purchasing guns and ammunition from European markets. Many cattle were smuggled out of Florida in blockade runner's small ships for the short run down to Havana.

Cattle were driven to the west coast of Florida for the Cuban markets, and north to Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina as meat on the hoof. If the cattle were going to Cuba, it was common to load the cattle on small ships that had skirted Union gun boats and slipped into the rivers along the Gulf Coast. As an example of many such war time loading spots, there is a deep water landing at Old Ft. Hamer on the Manatee River that allowed cattle to be loaded with ease. The timing of the loading had to be coordinated with the right phase of the moon. If there was no moon, it allowed the right conditions for a small ship to slip back in the Gulf waters and dodge the Union gun boats. From there it was a short and easy trip to Cuba.

The weather in Florida has always been rough. From the end of May through the end of September, Florida can be a wet place to be, with occasional hurricanes or daily heavy thunderstorms. Thunder and lightning, mixed with nervous cattle that are far from home, have always been the catalyst for disaster. In that regard, Florida and Texas cattle drives were very similar. Disaster didn't occur with every storm, but often enough to make many a cowboy keep his night horse saddled...just in case. Cold beans, wet biscuits and a muddy bed were very common to Florida cowboys.



Mildewed old saddle

With a frayed mohair girth

With one old wooden stirrup

Hanging down in the dirt


It's seen better days

When it was used now and then

But it ain't seen a horse's back

In only the Lord knows when


A one eared old headstall

With a curbless old bit

Back in the day

Most horses it'd fit


But now the barn spiders

Have made it their home

It serves a new purpose

As it hangs all alone


The same with the cowboy

That's moved into town

He gave up his dreams

With the new job he found


He still dreams of freedom

Under an ocean blue sky

Where his heart was so happy

But he was barely getting by


So he hung up his dreams

And found a new life

With a steady paying job

An a nagging young wife


Yep, he's had second thoughts

But he knows it's too late

Cause when he headed to town

Life closed all the gates

© 2010, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


David comments: I don't usually write my poetry from dreams, but this one kinda wrote itself and pestered me until I put it to print. Even though I remember very little of the actual dream, when I awoke some verse kept running through my head. Even while I was shaving, some of the lines kept coming to mind. I carried the idea in my head all day, and when I got home after work it was still there, so I sat down with my laptop and it just kinda spilled out. The poem is based upon why so many young cowboys have changed their careers, when cowboying is their true love.

I sent a draft of this poem to some relatives and close friends who encourage my writing, and got a fair share of compliments. One of my cousins remarked that she had been talking about this very subject with a friend in Wyoming, and that my poem rings true in the cattle industry all across this great country.


Cattle Drive

The cattle were gathered
And pushed into a bunch
They had gathered only the best

Moving a herd
In the early days of Florida
Was much like it was out West

A dozen riders
With leather for skin
A wagon with a canvas fly

A few extra horses
And a cow dog or two
With barely enough to get by

The herd was sold
To buyers up North
Or… so the story is told

It was time to move them
And complete the deal
Payment was made in pure gold

They were held in a bunch
On the edge of a pond
They milled and lowed through the night

Breakfast was had
And the wagon was loaded
Everything seemed just right

Unlike the open ranges
Of most of the West
Florida was a different scene

Palmetto bushes
And wait-a-minute vines
With hammocks in between

You didn’t really drive them
They just drifted along
And grazed when grass could be found

You gave them their time
To eat what they could
As long as they were Northward bound

Early each evening
With the sun sinking low
The wagon moved on up ahead

A fire would be started
For soaked beans in a pot
At a spot for the cattle to bed

Two meals a day
Was the usual fare
When cattle were on the trail

It took a long time
To cover the ground
The pace was slow as a snail

There weren’t many towns
Or places to shop
You had to eat just what you had brought

Sometimes the wagon
Didn’t always hold supper
If a wild critter could be shot or caught

There were lots of deer
And rabbits galore
And a few wild hogs could be found

But when cattle were moving
And traveling through brush
They made such a crashing sound

Not much game
Stuck close to the trail
Or volunteered for the supper pot

So when something was found
It was brought into camp
Even though it wasn’t a lot

When the cattle got lazy
Or headed for a scrub
And decided to find a new trail

The dogs were sent barking
To bring them all back
On this they never would fail

A nip on the nose
Hard enough to draw blood
Could make a cow turn around

And stick her head
In the middle of the bunch
With her nose high off of the ground

It was “get along doggie”
And stay with the bunch
Don’t try to strike out on your own

It’s a whole lot easier
To stay with the herd
Than go looking for a new home

If all went well
In a month or so
The trip would finally end

The money moved South
The cattle moved North
And the drive started over again

© 2011, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David comments:

As a direct descendant of the early pioneers of the Florida cattle industry, I have always felt a kinship to them and their deeds. History has documented the Florida Cattle industry to some extent, but more work could be done. With my interest and family history, I have always felt like I was born 100 years too late. With my writing, I have found the ability to place myself in that era, and I have based this poem on the following historical facts.

During the mid to late 1800’s, Florida beef was shipped around the world. Cattle were gathered and driven to seaports along both coasts of Florida, but Punta Rassa and Tampa on the Gulf Coast, were the largest shipping points. Many thousands of head were shipped to Cuba for slaughter and world distribution.

During the Civil War, Florida beef was moved north to help feed the Confederacy. After the Union Army figured out this beef was making up a large portion of the Confederacies rations, a significant effort was made to prevent this from happening. The South was under a full military blockade throughout the War. Cattle going north had to be smuggled out by boat or driven on long cattle drives. Confederate boats would sometimes slip past Union guards and enter coastal rivers along the Gulf of Mexico. They would load their cattle at night, and slip back out under the cover of darkness, where they would transport their cargo to New Orleans and other Southern controlled ports.

To prevent this cattle transport north, the Union forts at Tampa, Pensacola and Fort Myers were beefed up, and raids were conducted on local cattle ranches. This was done, because it was easier, and safer, than catching those moving the cattle. What this turned out to be was cattle rustling by the Union Army. Southerners took great offense to this cowardly action, and as a result, a special Cavalry unit was organized to protect the ranchers and their herds. This “Cow Cavalry,” as it was called, was made up of Southerners who were very capable cattlemen and brave enough soldiers to keep the beef moving north.

One of these brave soldiers was one of my ancestors, Capt. Francis Ashbury Hendry. According to historical records, at one time he was considered “The Cattle King of Southwest Florida,” with his herds numbered over 50,000 head. Through an agreement he had with the Seminoles in the area, he was the first cattleman to graze cattle south of the Caloosahatchee River. During the early months of the Cow Calvary, Capt Hendry led a charge against Fort Myers to recover about 200 head of cattle that the Union Army has stolen from a local ranch. After this episode, and similar action up and down the state, the Union Army went out of the cattle rustling business. Hendry Country, Florida was named in his honor.

The art of gathering and driving herds of cattle in the scrubs and swamps of wild Florida, was unlike the skills required of the Western drovers. This art required the ability to find wild cattle hiding in almost impossible undergrowth and timber. They also had to control a herd, with the ability to drive and keep it together in both day or night. The cowboys and cowwomen of Florida have been, and always will be, referred to as Cowhunters.


Christmas Tree Hunting

Daddy saddled our horses
Then he tied on an axe
He dropped two biscuit sandwiches
Into an old flour sack

With everything loaded
And our jackets pulled tight
You’d think we were leaving
For a full day and night

But the truth of the matter
As we rode from the barn
We were Christmas tree hunting
And not from a farm

The ranch was an empire
To a young boy like me
It provided me memories
And even a tree

Back on the north side
We found a small stand
A perfect small forest
In Florida’s white sand

Daddy took his time
As we looked all around
Then we ate our cold sandwiches
As we sat on the ground

The tree that we chose
Was perky and neat
With one mighty swing
It lay at our feet

Daddy wrapped his old slicker
Over that pretty little tree
He tied on his rope
Then he handed it to me

I dallied that lariat
And we headed for home
Me pulling our Christmas
But I wasn’t alone

Not many memories
Are so vivid and strong
As Christmas tree hunting
When Daddy took me along

© 2011, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David comments:

I remember many things from my childhood, but none are more vivid and precious to me than my Daddy’s love for Christmas. Even though times were hard, and he had very little money to indulge his family with material things, he made sure that we knew and felt his love for each one of us. If I could turn back the clock, and go through it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat. My Daddy is gone now, and I am approaching 64 years of age, but at this time of year I can still feel his love.

The poem above is based upon part fact and part fiction, but the respect and love that I feel for my Dad is all fact. Daddy never took me alone, when we were cutting a tree, because my brother and sisters had to be there too, but if he had, this is what would have happened.

This poem is a part of Christmas at the BAR-D, 2011



We saddled our horses and rode out at dawn
Prepared to make our sweep
It had been raining for several days
The water was getting real deep

In the south Florida sun when the water gets warm
The mosquitoes get thick as can be
As you ride through the pastures the sky turns black
It gets dang near impossible to see

Your horse belly deep, and the mosquitoes in clouds
A gall berry bush seemed to work best
You did what you could just to see up ahead
It was almost a life and death test

You leaned out over your saddle horn
Trying to keep up a good pace
Down each side you keep brushing them off
Then you swipe them off of his face

Cows were dying from the mosquitoes they breathed
They were clogging those poor heifer’s lungs
With their tail over their back they splashed up ahead
Sucking air around their thickened tongues

You tried to stay focused on getting them out
And driving them to dry ground
But those gall berry bushes, just flapping like hell
Was the only relief that you found

We got those heifers out of that “pasture of doom”
And sprayed them the best that we could
Though the relief only lasted for a little while
Just seeing their relief made you feel good

© 2012, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David comments:

The inspiration for the poem "Mosquitoes" took place in the summer of 1966. For 2 weeks that summer, I worked as day worker on the Badcock Ranch in south Florida. Even though I only worked there for 2 weeks, I wrote another poem about my time at this ranch, titled “Mr Bell.”

There had been rain for the past couple of weeks, and in some of the pastures, especially around the cow pens, the water was belly deep to a long legged horse. When south Florida gets that much rain, the mosquito population gets thick in a hurry.

Before we could begin gathering mama cows and calves, we had to move some young heifers out of a small holding pastures next to the cow pens. As we approached, the heifers curled their tail over their backs, and started splashing away from us. As they moved away, a black cloud of mosquitoes rose from the surface of the water.

The mosquitoes were so thick you could hardly see the heifers. The faster they moved, the thicker the mosquitoes seemed to get. Being seasoned Florida cowboys, we started looking for something to beat the mosquitoes off with. There were gall berry bushes growing along the fence line, so we started improvising. We broke gall berry limbs to use as a mosquitoes swatter. As we remounted and rode away, the mosquitoes began to cover us up too.

They were so thick, we could hardly see our horses head. We began swinging those gall berry limbs, sweeping the cloud of mosquitoes from our horses face, as well as our own. We kept this up all the way across that pasture. Not a word was said all the way across that pasture, as nobody wanted a mouth full of mosquitoes.



We were working some yearlings
When out of the east
Storm clouds started building
Like they were filled with warm yeast

The pastures were like lakes
The water was so deep
We had to ride horses
While parking the jeeps

The clouds they were rolling
Like looking for a feast
They were puffy and black
Like the head of a beast

We tossed coins to determine
Who was going to get wet
By trailing the stragglers
And facing the threat

My luck was all bad
As the old saying goes
Yes.. I was the cowboy
Who fate seems to have chose

I was chasing them out
Through the swamp at the gate
I had thoughts of disaster
And I was feeling like bait

I was pushing them hard
Trying to empty the gap
The water was knee deep
And filled full of crap

The gate posts was sprung
And the gate wouldn’t fit
So I took down my lariat
So mad I could spit

I was working real fast
With a hyperactive mind
It said “Get out of this water,
Or trouble you’ll find”

The thought hardly registered
In my over-active brain
When POW…, it got me
A total energy drain

I felt myself falling
Going over on my heels
Everything was so quiet
And nothing seemed real

My whole body went rigid
My insides turned to stew
While my eyesight was fading
Everything turned light blue

The last thing I remember
As I fell to the ground
Was cow sh*t and water..
As I was sucking it down

I don’t remember anything
That happened after that
Until standing in the barn
Not wearing my hat

I lost one of my spurs
And I was all out of breath
I was happy to be living
I had just cheated death

And ever since that day
When clouds build in the east
I get nervous and worried
Cause Lightning’s my Beast

© 2007, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David comments:

This poem is based upon the following experience:

In the summer of 1965, the rains came daily to South Florida. The canals of the South Florida Flood Control District were out of their banks, and cattle pastures looked like very large lakes.

We were working a bunch of cattle and had separated about 300 head of yearling that had been weaned. We had been holding them for the market price of yearlings to get better. The boss had decided that we should hold them in a pasture close to the cow pens, in hopes of having easy access to them if the weather turned for the better and the market improved. This would require pushing them through the horse pasture for a quarter of a mile to reach the pasture that had been selected.

As we were about to turn the yearlings out of the pens, a black cloud came rolling out of the east. Since rain had been a daily occurrence for a couple of weeks, we knew that someone was about to get wet. The boss said that we could flip coins to see who would have to follow the yearlings out and close the gate behind them. I lost the coin flip.

We opened the gate, and everyone helped get them started down the fence. As I followed along behind, everyone else rode for the barn and a dry place to wait out the storm. As the yearlings strung out down the fence, I went to pushing the stragglers real hard, trying to beat the rain. The bottom fell out about half way down the fence line, but I kept on pushing. As they started crowding through the barb wire gate, they bunched up real bad. The ones on the outside got pushed into the gate posts on both sides of the opening by the ones on the inside. When the last yearling finally cleared the gate, I stepped down in knee deep water that was green from mud and cow manure.

I drug the wire gate around, and found that the gate posts had been pushed too far apart for the wire gate to fit the opening. As this wasn’t the first time I had run up against this problem, I knew what to do. I pulled my lariat down, and began to tie the gate shut. Just as I put my arm around the post and began to pull, I thought about how foolish it was to be in water with the possibility of lightning in the area. In less time than it takes to blink, every muscle in my body froze up, everything turned a beautiful shade of blue, and I started falling over backwards. I remember thinking on the way down how dirty this water was.

As a wall of water came over my face, the beautiful blue changed to a muddy green color, and my open mouth filled with water and crap.

I don’t know what happened next, but when I regained my ability to think, I was standing in a horse stall under at the barn. Everyone was asking me what had happened. I never heard the lightning or the thunder, but I knew that I had been struck by lightning. I was weak throughout my whole body for days after this. From that day until now, when a black cloud rolls in from the east, my knees get a little weak, and I start looking for shelter.

A few weeks after, I was riding through this same gate and found a spur that I had lost when I was hit. The spur strap was burned into, like it had been cut by a knife.


Rancher's Fall

Fall is here and the calves are fat
It’s finally time to sell
You hold the heifers that show some class
You just pick… and hope like hell

The steers get loaded and it’s down the road
To generate some needed cash
To fight the bankers away from the door
That would throw you out with the trash

It’s the sweet time of year in a rancher’s life
Like when bees start living on honey
You satisfy the creditors for one more year
They think you’re just in it for money

Some years it rains with plenty of grass
And the bounty that it brings
But some years it’s dry and you’re feeding hay
It’s just the natural way of things

© 2013, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


David comments:

I was reading the local stockman’s news last fall, and I was amazed that the news I was reading hasn’t changed much in my lifetime.The news was talking about $3.00 a pound calves, and the future shortage of cow/calf pairs, due to the heavy sell off during the recent drought. During drought conditions, when ranchers can’t afford to feed their mama cows anymore, they reduce the size of their herds. When markets get short of beef, prices go up. When it starts raining again, and grass is abundant, no one has as many calves as they would like to take advantage of the higher market.

As I was thinking about the recurring situation, this poem came to mind. It reminds me of the old rancher that won a million dollar lottery, and when asked what he was going to do with it, he said something like “I’m going to keep ranching until it’s gone.” Most ranchers are not in their business for the big income potential, and do not measure their success by the size of their bank accounts. There are actually two times of the year on a ranch that are special. One is when the calves are being born, and the other is when they go to market. If the calf crop is good, and grass is plentiful, a rancher might save a few extra replacement heifers when he can. If he’s over extended at the bank, he has to sell his heifers too, just to satisfy his loans. Some things just never seem to change.


Cowboys, Fences and Lightning

The rain was blowing sideways
When the cattle hit the gap
The herd began to wad up
When the lightning made a clap

I knew the end was getting close
I smelled sulfur in the air
I felt my heartbeat quicken
With a feeling of despair

They hit the gap a running
Getting crowded from the rear
A feeling of total helplessness
With my Maker standing near

The posts and wire was groaning
And it sounded like a gun
Making room for all the stragglers
As the leaders hit a run

When the gap was finally cleared
And the herd had made it through
I hit the ground a running
Because in my mind I knew

Cowboys, Fences and Lightning
Are a dangerous sorta mix
You have to trust your Lord and Savior
Cause there’s never any tricks

You do your best in all you do
When you’re riding for a brand
You trust and pray that what you do
Your Lord will understand

When in a flash your world turns blue
And you’re driven to the ground
You come to, with your mind a haze
You can barely hear a sound

You know your Lord was standing by
To hold you in his arms
To save a cowboy, just doing his job
And protect you from the harm

© 2013, David L. Carlton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

David comments:

Florida cowboys are forever facing the elements of a tropical climate. I have spent weeks without a dry pair of boots. I have seen days when pastures were filled with water stirrup deep. The only way to close a gate was to step down in pocket deep water and get wet to the waist. Usually it wasn’t too deep that the cow dogs couldn’t keep up. They were capable of holding their head up and kinda jumping along to keep their ears out of the water. I have written about the elements that effect Florida cowboys in the past, and my getting struck by lightning. This is not an isolated incident, because all Florida cowboys are faced with these same elements. The renowned Florida Photographer, Carlton Ward, has done an outstanding job documenting this environment and these elements. All of his work speaks to this old cowboy’s heart.

  David L. Carlton shares information and
photos about his family's Florida cowboy roots in Picture the West


Read David L. Carlton's

Fresh Horses, posted with other Art Spur poems


  About David L. Carlton:

I was born in Bradenton, Florida on February 29, 1948. After extensive research of the things that also occurred on this date, I'm afraid I was one of the top occurrences nationally. Some football player (Al Clark) was also born on that day. I have met a few people through the years that were also born on the 29th, but not very many. 

I am a native Floridian, and my genealogy line goes back to 1843 in the state.

I spent my early life on cattle ranches. I was raised as a cowboy, with cowboy genes. There are at least seven generations before me that were cowboys, so I came by it naturally.

I joined the US Air Force in 1967, and stayed to make it a career. In 1993, I moved my family to Texas as an employee of Texas A&M University. After telling Aggie jokes for 20 years, it was only fair that I should become one. When I retire from this career, I refuse to seek a third. My retirement plans include a return to my beloved Florida to grow orchids and write.

I have been writing since 1979. I write poetry and short stories, and have been working on my life story for my grandkids. My hobbies include writing, training bird dogs and horses, photography, gardening, and fishing.

Poetry of a Florida Cowboy


This book is a collection of poetry and experiences related by a Florida
cowboy. The author explains the inspiration that led to most of these
poems, and includes a brief personal history of himself and the cattle
industry in the state of Florida in his introduction to the book.The
book also includes pictures of several generations of his family. These
are the people that he attributes his love of life to, and his respect
for the cowboy way to live his life.

Available now from AuthorHouse,

Order this title through your local bookseller or preferred on-line retailer.
978-1-4772-6857-5 (SC ISBN)
978-1-4772-6856-8 (HC ISBN)
978-1-4772-6855-1 (EBook ISBN)



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