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DEL GUSTAFSON
Duvall, Washington
About Del Gustafson

 

Recognized as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "The Night Wind"

 

 

The Night Wind

I was hunting stray cows in the mountains,
when I found a small mustang brood,
They were down in a sheltered creek bottom,
stripping the willows for food.
I charged down the hillside to spook them,
and they scattered like a covey of quail.

That rangy, black mare running with them,
I could see was no common broomtail.
The drifts cut her off from the ridges,
and there was no other place she could go,
She made a wild plunge for her freedom,
that put her up to her belly in snow.

I roped her then with no trouble,
My horse kept the ketch rope pulled taut.
I worked down the rope with a halter,
her flight was in vain, she was caught.
She was thin and rough from the winter,
but her hot blood was plain to the eye.

The flat bone told of good breeding,
a short back and a fine head held high.
I neck yoked the mare to my pack mule,
his dam was from a heavy draft breed,
he was determined to go to the warm barn,
so he dragged her and broke her to lead.

The spring grass was up in my pasture,
and she slicked up fat as could be,
but she would gaze at the mountain for hours,
her wild heart longed to be free.
I named the black mare Night Wind,
at a gallop she seemed almost to fly,
A fine mount for a cowboy to ride on,
and I made up my mind then to try.

I ran her into my corral,
swung a loop to run her around,
I roped her as she ran past me,
snubbed her and then choked her down.
I leaped on her head with my blindfold,
got her hobbled and sidelined up tight,
she scrambled to her feet without urging,
full of blind terror and fight.

This way and that way we struggled,
her hobbling and bawling in fright,
but I, determined to ride her,
got her rigged and the saddle cinched tight.
When she tired I slipped off the hobbles,
swung the corral gate open wide.
mounted and reached up for the blindfold,
and drove a spur rowel in her side.

She leaped through the gate like a panther,
and bolted at a runaway pace,
sweat in my eyes had me blinded,
I was choked by the wind in my face.
I sawed on the reins to slow her,
still the rocks and the sagebrush flashed by,
she was running all out to the mountains,
she was going to be free or would die.

A barbed wire fence would not turn her,
she leaped and barely jumped clear,
the heat of my passion was gone now,
chilled by a deep icy fear.
I tugged with both hands on the left rein,
finally her head came around,
I leaned far out to the right side,
she stumbled and slid to the ground.

My knife sliced the latigo cleanly,
as she kicked and flailed on her side,
I jumped clear and jerked off the headstall,
and booted her lathered black hide.
She leaped to her feet in an instant,
snorted with her tail in the air,
galloped off, mane flowing behind her,
the sun glinting on her sweaty black hair.

My spur and my whip could not break her,
though she was lathered and skinned,
Her wild heart belongs on the mountain,
racing that cold mountain wind.

© 1969, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Del told us that he wrote this poem "after a wild horse chase on the south fork of the Salmon River."
 


 

The Pioneer

A road that goes on endlessly,
stretching as far as the eye can see.
A black ribbon in this arid land,
through miles of sagebrush, rocks and sand.
To the right, high on a slope,
the flash of a startled antelope.
Cattle grazing the sparse dry grass,
pause and watch me as I pass.

A lonely church comes into sight,
the blistered paint, once pristine white.
has faded to a weathered gray,
by wind and sun, day after day,
Once a place of joy and tears,
abandoned now for many years.
The cemetery is overgrown,
for decades it has gone unmown.

Monuments are standing yet,
erected so friends would not forget,
Those who are still lying here,
Were people that they once held dear.
Loved by family in their life,
here lies a child, there a wife.
Now weeds and wild grasses grow,
on graves forgotten long ago.

In the corner stands the stone,
of one whoís resting all alone.
Chiseled there, His work is done,
Beloved Father, Husband, Son.
In this place he made his stand,
a hard man in a harder land.
A relentless sun in a cloudless sky,
perhaps in time the wells went dry.

Did he pray for rain and curse the sun,
fighting the land till the land won?
Then how long did his family stay,
before they had to go away?
Took what they could and left the land,
let it return to sage and sand,
Do they still recall his name,
and this place from which they came?

Should they travel back this way,
the one thing that I hope and pray,
may they take whatever time they can,
to visit with this lonely man.
With a heavy heart I turned to leave,
but in my soul I still believe,
That surely as the wind does blow,
he stood by the road and watched me go.

© 2008, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Del comments, "I love the high desert area as you drive south from Burns, Oregon toward Nevada. Sagebrush, sand and alfalfa fields. Lots of good horses along there too."


 

Chasing the Wild Ones

I was trying to breed stock horses and thought that I knew how,
They needed to be surefooted and turn right with a cow.
When you jump a wild cow, they will always have a lead,
So the horse that you are riding should have some early speed.

I had a lot of horses that were strong to running blood,
But I wanted mountain breeding and I needed a good stud.
These mares were lightning fast, running in a flat track trial
But you couldnít turn them on a dime, it took half a country mile.

High up on the ridges is where the mountain brood bands run,
There are plenty of young stallions and I meant to catch me one.
I took a ride far up the river, thought Iíd take a look around,
And the South Fork of the Salmon is where the best are found

I found the one I wanted late on the second day.
running with a bachelor bunch, he snorted and ran away.
He plunged up the rocky slope, the sun on his blood bay coat,
and scaled those rocky ridges just like a mountain goat.

He reached the top, his pace unslowed and leaped off the other side,
I watched him on his way down, half gallop and half slide.
He galloped to the valleyís head, then up the canyon floor.
I sat on my horse and watched, till I couldnít see him anymore.

I figured if I spooked him, he would run that way again,
So somewhere on that canyon floor is where Iíd build my pen.
Iíd follow him right off the edge and then it was my hope
Before he busted through my pen I could catch him with my rope.

The next day I used my rope to drag in poles and boughs,
I built a fence on the canyon floor that would hold in wild cows,
I worked on it all that day and though it was getting late,
I took  my remaining Jack Pine poles and made a simple gate.

I found him in the morning where heíd rested for the night,
I spurred my horse right at him and he took off in flight,
He galloped up the rocky slope following the same trail,
I gave my willing horse his head and stayed right on his tail.

And just as he did before, he leaped right off the side,
And I was right behind him, It was one damned thrilling ride.
I turned him toward the canyon and he didnít hesitate.
Once I chased him safe inside, I stopped and closed the gate.

I was careful when I built the pen, I laid up those rails high.
I didnít think he could jump it but thought that he might try,
I chased him up against the fence and when that stud rolled back,
I dropped my loop over his head and then pitched out my slack.

He jerked and bucked at the end of my rope, that stud was full of fight,
But my cowhorse  knew his job full well, and kept the manila tight,
I worked my way on up the rope when he had worn himself all out,
And fashioned a war bridle with a half hitch around his snout.

Iíd been watching his front feet close but he didnít try to strike,
And when I worked around his head he never tried to bite.
I rubbed him down a little while I had him on my line.
Things went better than expected, I thought weíd get on fine.

He balked  a little just at first, so I dropped a loop over his rump,
then every time I tugged it, I could really make him jump.
I worked him down the valley to a Salmon River branch.
then two more days of struggling before I got him to the ranch.

He was caught, I was the boss, I know he understood,
By the time that we reached my home range, he was leading good,
I donít think heíll miss the mountains, the cougars or the bears,
I swear that stud was smiling when I introduced him to the mares.

This Spanish Barb mustang is a fine addition to my string,
Iíve been darn near elated by the foals that dropped this spring,
This touch of Spanish breeding, seems to be just enough,
The foals are fast as lightning, theyíre agile and theyíre tough,

I watch him running with his mares and  I really have  to grin,
If I had to do it over, Iíd do it all again.
It was really quite a struggle, but I had a lot of fun,
Next spring Iíll ride up the Salmon and Iíll catch another one.

© 2008, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


 

Goodbye Old Friend

I dug a grave there at the gate,
Where she would always stand and wait,
nickering to me of her need,
She wanted love but mostly feed.

Out of love I dug that pit.
Wide enough for her to fit.
Lined with straw and six feet deep,
A place for my good horse to sleep,

For thirty five years sheíd been my friend,
A friendship Iíd hoped would never end,
But she got old and wracked with pain,
The Vet said she wouldnít get well again.

Weíd made a pact, a bargain struck,
Sheíd never leave in a rendering truck,
Combed and brushed, I made her pretty,
She would not leave this life all dirty.

I led her down despite her aches,
And fed her sweet molasses cakes,
Turned her to where she would fall in death,
For one last time I smelled her breath.

And stroked her face so she wouldnít fret,
That lethal needle by the vet.
I cradled her head till her last sigh,
Have you ever heard a hard man cry?

© 2008, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Del comments
: I wrote this one for my good mare. She deserved to be remembered somehow. She was a Joe Reed II granddaughter out of a Redman mare.

 

Jack Sprague

Just a farm boy growing grain, on the Sunflowered Iowa plain,
Til the day he kissed his mother at the door,
He joined the U.S. Cavalry and was shipped across the sea,
To fight the war that was going to end all war.

Through the muck and the mire, often under heavy fire,
Many friends of his were laid in Flanders Field,
With the British and the French, they fought trench to trench,
They were determined to make the Kaiser yield.

In attack after attack, they pushed the Kaiser back,
From Chateau Thierry on to Belleau Wood,
Though some would have to die, they knew they had to try,
To keep evil from winning over good.

When the Armistice came about, Jack didnít muster out,
He stayed with the Army to bring law and order,
Protecting citizens from harm, until Jack lost his arm,
Fighting bandits down along the Mexican border.

That didnít stop him, he could still shoe and trim,
he sat a horse like the two of them were one,
I never saw him balk, at topping off rough stock,
Heíd ride a green horse until it was all done.

Tied hard, heíd cast a loop, in a perfectly round hoop,
And he never missed a critter when he threw,
Though he was long in the tooth, he was the hero of my youth,
One handed he did what most couldnít do with two.

© 2009, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 


 

The Greeley Rodeo

I came into Colorado, with not much but my saddle,
And stopped for a hot cup of Joe.
The waitress said really, you should drive over to Greeley,
For the Greeley Stampede Rodeo.

I drove those few miles and I got warm welcome smiles,
From some ladies in big hats and curls,
Then I made the rounds of the rodeo grounds,
And waved to the young college girls.

All my money was spent, signing up for my event,
I drew a horse called Gray Bob,
I needed some luck, or else sell my truck,
Or at the very least take a job.

I strapped my spurs on my boots, and hung around the chutes,
Wishing I had time for a bite,
When my turn came, they called out my name,
And I pulled my Stetson down tight.

I slid down in the seat, found the stirrups with my feet,
And gave a nod to the man on the gate.
The announcer in the stand, said letís give a big hand,
To that good cowboy coming out of chute eight.

Heís from the Northwest, and riding one of our best,
Lets hope he stays out of the dirt,
Then that gray  swapped ends, while we were still in the pens,
And I thought I might really get hurt.

He was a mean chute fighter, and a real bad leg biter,
He backed out with his teeth in my boot,
I managed to mark out when he spun about,
Though he banged up my leg in the chute.

He would leap for the sky, his rear hooves kicking up high,
coming down on one with a thud,
If this sunfishing gray, could have his own way,
Iíd be off and spitting out mud.

On every jump, my head near slammed his rump,
As I roweled him from shoulder to flank
His jumps jolted my head, until my nose bled,
This big horse really was rank.

I had my hands full, he could spin like a bull,
I knew if I had any sense,
Iíd swallow my pride and dive over his side,
If he tried to buck into the fence.

My timing was slowing, I felt myself going,
Another jump and I thought Iíd buck loose,
I was pulling the hack, trying to stay on his back,
But was afraid that it was really no use.

 I heard the whistle blast, eight seconds were past,
And I bailed for the pickup rider,
I went face down in the dirt, and though I wasnít hurt,
It was embarrassing for any bronc fighter.

I scored a seventy nine, and that was just fine,
I finished in the money that day,
I earned it of course, he was one big mean horse,
And he made me work hard for my pay.

I showed them I had sand, and with day money in hand,
I took off for my next rodeo town,
Money for gas and beans, and enough cash in my jeans,
To get my next entry fee laid down.

I have very little to show, from those days of rodeo,
Just some buckles made from pot metal,
Really painful bone chips, and pins in my hips,
Thanks to a bronc named Red Kettle.

You may think this is talk, but Iíve rode lots of rough stock,
And some broncs are harder to set,
But that devil in gray hide, gave me my toughest ride,
A ride I will never forget.

© 2009, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Verne and Me and a Brindle Bull

We got to the rodeo grounds late,
Coming in from out of state,
And the bronc riding events were all full,
So my good buddy Verne,
Said Iíd have to learn,
The finer points of riding a bull,

Verne asked me just how,
I wouldnít ride on a cow,
He said a bull is just like a big steer,
Get some sand in your craw,
Itís like riding a see saw,
Just lean from his front to his rear.

I replied to Verne, ďnope,Ē
I donít own a bull rope,
But Verne said, Iíll let you use mine,
Now if the bull starts to spin,
Be sure to lean in,
Now get in that bull signup line.

That big brindle bull,
Seemed to fill the chute full,
As I slid down on him from above,
I felt the rope bite,
As Verne pulled it tight,
Taking extra wraps on my glove.

Verne yelled, Outside,
And the gate opened wide,
my rowels along side the bullís neck,
On his first jump,
I went high on his hump,
I was sure I was going to wreck.

That striped bull was quick,
Heíd twist with each kick,
Then spin around in his track,
That ornery bull tried,
To put an end to my ride,
And make me slide off of his back.
                                              
I flopped like a ragdoll,
But I didnít fall,
The whistle was a most welcome sound,
I slid over his side,
But I was still tied,
And couldnít get free to the ground.

That bull slung me around,
My feet dragging the ground,
He turned to give me a hook,
I was about to be torn,
By the bullís blunted horn,
No matter what actions I took.

Then a rodeo clown,
In a short flowered gown,
And red wig, grabbed the bull by his snout,
Another ran to my side,
Helped to get me untied,
So my hand and my glove would come out.

Well, I didnít hesitate,
I sprinted for the gate,
And scaled it three rails at a time,
I reached the top rail,
The bull hot on my tail,
And I prayed that the bull couldnít climb.

I heard the announcer say,
Not in the money today,
Words that all riders dread,
That made me decide,
This was my last bull ride,
No matter what Verne Johnson said.

© 2009, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Del told us, "Verne Johnson could talk you into most anything."
 


 

The Bad Bay

I took me a job with the Cross Spur brand,
A big cow spread up in the scab rock.
hired on as a bronc fighter, not a regular hand.
Taking the rough out of some of their stock.

I had some green horses on a picket line,
I would work them broncs a little each day.
Everything seemed to be going just fine,
then the boss said I needed to start earning my pay.

He'd gambled on a horse race and he won a big bet,
but he couldn't collect as hard as he tried.
So he took a bay horse to settle the debt,
And I was going to break that bay horse to ride.

He said he meant to bring that bet welsher down,
I knew he was angry by the way that he spoke,
He said he wanted to go riding through town,
On the back of the bronc that couldnít be broke.

He said this bay has thrown some of the best,
No one has rode him though many have tried,
So I spit in the dust and puffed out my chest,
And said there has never been a bronc I couldnít ride.

He said some of the things that anger him most,
Are men that canít handle their whiskey or beer,
Or fore flushers that canít back up their boast,
So ride that bay horse or pack up your gear.

Three riders were coming with ropes on a bay,
One leading in front and one on each side,
That bronc was fighting every step of the way.
But the bay couldn't reach them the way he was tied.

Those cowboys fought the bay into the pen,
Saying we got him here, you keep the rope.
Weíre not afraid, just good careful men,
Then slammed the gate shut and took off in a lope.

I needed to get him snubbed tight to the post,
Iíd just grab a rope with a run and a dive,
but the single thought that worried me most,
Was that outlaw would catch me and eat me alive,

I made my run and snatched the end knot,
Made a wrap on the post and snubbed him up short,
I had him then and he knew he was caught,
All he could do was stand there and snort.

I was trying to throw a saddle on the bay,
But he cow kicked me right in the chin,
I should have taken a front foot away,
Because then he up and cow kicked me again.
                                              
I got him scotch hobbled, though it was a fight,
And covered his head with a burlap feed sack,
I threw on my saddle and screwed it down tight,
Now I just had to get up on his back.

I unhitched the scotch hobble despite my fears,
Got up in the saddle though it took a few tries,
I slipped my ketch rope over his ears,
And pulled off the sack that was covering his eyes.

The bay exploded with a deep throaty bawl,
I couldnít tell his head from his tail,
I lost both stirrups and knew that was all,
His second jump threw me across the top rail.

There at the fence he stood squealing at me,
Just dumb luck put me on the other side,
By the look in his eye it was sure plain to me,
This cowboy was lucky to escape with his hide.

A bronc fighting cowboy donít gather much moss,
His war bag and saddle, he just travels light,
I was too ashamed to face up to the boss,
So I packed up my gear and rode off in the night.

I looked for new range and I took a new name,
And if anyone asked I always would say,
You must be mistaken, we might look the same,
But Iíve never even heard of that bay.

© 2009, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Del told us, "A few years ago I bought a black mare wearing a cross spur brand. She was strong to standard bred breeding and was a natural pacer. Word was she came up from Arizona and was by a government stallion. Well she was just plain mean and her foals were too. I finally got some well behaved foals out of her daughter."


 

Trail's End

He rode in from the gather,
Where a cold rain fell all day,
A thin old grizzled rider,
His face wrinkled and gray.

He carried up his saddle,
He had a bad limp to his walk,
He groaned some as he set it down,
Didnít join the fireside talk.

He rode an association saddle,
Basket stamped without a horn,
Once it was a beauty,
Now old and badly worn.

And on his scuffed embroidered boots,
He wore Jim Shoulders spurs,
strapped down hard from shank to heel,
Itís the way that he prefers.

He scooped a plate of Cookyís stew,
Standing as he ate,
He finished up and wiped his mouth,
Cooky took his plate.

He poured himself a coffee,
Then squatted down and sat.
Trying to protect his coffee,
From rain running off his hat.

They say he once was big time,
In the world of rodeo,
Heíd won a lot of trophies,
But that was long ago.

Those glory days are long ended.
And the pickings have been slim,
The money and the fame are gone,
But the memories live on in him.

He leaned back and rolled a smoke,
Gazed up at the dark clouds,
Smiled a bit as if remembering,
The cheering of the crowds.

He crawled into his old slugoon,
And he pulled his boots inside,
Then sometime during that rainy night,
That good old cowboy died.

© 2010, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Del told us, "I wrote this poem as something of a protest of friends slipping away long before I was ready to lose them. The time frame would be in the last fifty-five years, maybe more current. I may have to write a book to explain all the terms I used. A neighbor used a field kitchen when gathering cattle from some of the remote areas. During fire season he contracted to provide food and portable showers to the fire crews so he used one because it was convenient. Two of his cooks I knew were Dixie and Cooky. Cooky's first or last name was Spence but he seemed to prefer Cooky. I had him in mind when I wrote the poem. Bringing in or gathering the stock was common usage. "Round up" sounded a little "movie cowboy" and you might get funny looks if you used it. I think slugoon had its roots in WWI because when I was a kid it was used mostly by the older cowboys. I think there had to be a tarp or shelter half involved. I like to use it because of the feeling of nostalgia it gives me. I can almost see their weathered faces and smell dust and cow. I guess I could go on forever about hardware stores with oiled wood floors and stoves that sold harness and 'D' rings and all the things you needed to fix your gear, Bull Durham and Brown's Mule and fishing gear and rifles."

 

A Night in Cody

As I drove out this morning,
In the early morning light,
I was thinking fondly,
of what we shared last night,

Iíll be thinking of you sweetly,
as I drive west today,
but in our hearts we both know,
The words I cannot say.

I know you will wait for me,
Till I rodeo here again,
Consoling me if I lose,
Or to celebrate my win.

You wish things could be different,
That I could settle down,.
but a circuit riding cowboy,
would wither in one town,

If you tried to hold me,
Iíd only break your heart,
The pull of the arena,
Would soon tear us apart.

My life is the crowd, broncs and bulls,
and in your heart you know,
you cannot hope to change me,
My heart belongs to rodeo.

© 2011, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Del comments that the poem is "a little excerpt from my misspent youth."  

 


The Roan

Iíd seen him in the mountains,
Running with his little band,
A red roan stallion,
The true owner of this land.

Some fine looking horse flesh,
From his nose back to his tail,
I thought heíd bring some money,
Down at the local sale,

We hatched a plan to catch him,
At least give him a run,
Weíd earn some pocket money,
And have a little fun.

My brother was awaiting,
Near the cattle watering trough,
He waved a saddle blanket,
And that wild bunch took off.

I was waiting for them,
At the bottom of the slope,
I caught him in a cutbank,
lassoed him with my rope.

The fighting was soon over,
The rearing and the fuss
With flaring nostrils, heaving sides,
He stood there watching us.

My brother looked him over,
We can sell him I suppose,
But heíll never see ten again,
from the gray around his nose.

Heís getting old just like us,
I see heís past his prime,
No one will try to break him,
Heís just not worth their time.

Heíll go to the killers,
Iíd say thereís a good chance,
The next time he sees sunlight,
Will be in a butcher shop in France.

A descendant of splendid steeds,
That carried Spanish Knights,
A proud, battle tested victor,
Of many wild stallion fights.

I could not see him end his days,
A prisoner in some stable,
Or worst yet, to be slaughtered,
Meat for a Frenchmanís table.

I worked my way down the line,
Until I could reach the noose,
I pulled the rope over his ears,
And let that roan horse loose.

I was standing there in his dust,
After Iíd set him free,
I could see in my brotherís face,
How surprised he was at me.

He saw a tear run down my face,
But a cowboy doesnít cry,
When that roan whirled and ran,
He kicked dust up in my eye.

I still see him in the mountains,
Running with his mares and colts,
I always wave a greeting,
He always snorts and bolts.

When my life is over,
And Iím laid in that final trench,
Iíll thank the lord no one penned me up,
Or sold me to the French.

© 2011, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Honest Herb

I met up with Herb the other day as he came riding down the trail,
He had a young pinto mustang tied to his horseís tail,
I gave her a good look over, Herb never said a word,
But I suspected he had roped her from a mountain mustang herd.

I said, Herb, The thing about your horse chasing I never understood,
You go to church most Sundays and folks say you are good,
But Iím thinking about that Paint filly tied to your horseís tail,
If the BLM caught you with her youíd be fined or go to jail.

I know you think the government is run by crooks and fools,
We caught horses there for years before they changed the rules,
They round them all up and ship them off, they spoiled all our fun,
But they will arrest a man for stealing if they catch him taking one.

Herb replied, you know I am a Deacon and that my faith is strong,
And I have always been a true friend and will never do you wrong,
Another manís cash or a branded calf, you know Iíd never take it,
And any law that I agree with, thereís no way Iíd ever break it.

But the property tax and grazing fees are really getting high,
And with feed and groceries going up we are barely getting by,
And federal and state income tax on every dime I earn,
So I try to catch a horse or two as a little tax return.

I looked that filly over and scratched my head in thought,
She sure had better breeding than the last horse that I bought,
The government might call it stealing and claim that it is wrong,
But next time Herb goes chasing mustangs, Iím gonna go along.

© 2012, Del Gustafson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Dell told us he was inspired, in part, by the recent Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur with R.S. Riddick's "Heads or Tails." He also comments, "We are still a little sore that the BLM wont let us chase mustangs but they will round them up with helicopters and kill and cripple some in the process. I always thought that if they were going to thin the herds they should leave the best running free. When we caught them, the best ones always got away so we actually improved the herds. This is a tribute to some of the independent spirited ranchers and farmers I have known. They were all individuals."

 

Read Del Gustafson's

 Cow Docs in Art Spur

and

The Stranger in Art Spur

and

Horse Hunting posted with Art Spur poems

and

The Home Range posted with Art Spur poems

and

Starting the Day posted with 2011 National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur poems

and
 

Pilgrim in the 2011 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur

and
 

Moonlight Vigil in the 2010 Christmas Art Spur

 



  About Del Gustafson:

My early years were spent on the family farm just south of the Canadian border. Due to World War II, power lines were not strung until late in 1946. Up until then lights were Carbide, piped in from a carbide well, kerosene lamps, Coleman lanterns and candles. The acetylene gas that came from the carbide well was really sooty, so kerosene was used most of the time. We had a wood cook stove decorated with nickel designs, a pitcher pump at the kitchen sink and a Sears and Roebuck privy set away from the house. Electricity brought radio, wringer washers, refrigeration and a milking machine.

We plowed, three horses abreast, tall horse in the furrow, with a John Deere sulky plow. The furrows were a quarter of a mile long and going away from the barn the horses would want to stop and look back to see if you said "Whoa," and they didnít hear you. Going toward the barn it was hard to get them to stop for a breather. Weíd change teams at mid-day and plow till milking time. Putting in forty acres of grain seemed to take forever.

My brothers and I would ride anything we could and some things we couldnít. We improvised a bucking chute in the barn and someone would swing the door open when we were set. The doorway was low enough so we had to duck when we came out. I recall my brother coming out on a tall red heifer and taking the door frame full in the face. I remember them daring me to ride a hog that weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds. I might have stayed for three jumps then he stepped on me. The neighbor had an ornery mule that would run you out off the pasture. They dared me to ride him and he wasnít a real bad bucker but he gave me lice. A few years later two friends and I pooled our money to buy a used bareback rig and an association saddle and we went rodeoing on weekends. We managed to be in the money enough to keep us going.

I worked heavy construction for a good many years and most of us were ex-cowboys or wannabe cowboys. We worked hard and played harder. Every year a bunch would head over to the Salmon River area to chase wild horses. The BLM stopped that in 1974. It was after a wild horse chase in 1969 I wrote "The Big Yella Dun" and "The Night Wind." "The Big Yella Dun" was published in Western Horseman in September of 1969.

I did more than a little trimming and shoeing but the oddest was a donkey with feet like a rocking horse. His rear feet pointed off to the left like a truck out of alignment. Things started out alright but the more good feet I got under him the harder he fought. By the time I got to the last foot I almost had to throw him and tie him down.

At this point in life I can only write a good ride.

You can email Del Gustafson.
 


 


Del Gustafson's poem, "Cowboy," is included in Eight Viewpoints: western poetry, a 2009 chapbook from Western Poetry Publications. Other poets included are Clark Crouch, Kenneth Garcia, Debra Meyer, Del Gustafson, Steve Dickson, Virginia Cook, Stephen Foster, and J. Wesley Taylor, Sr.

Western Poetry Publications, an imprint of The Resource Network (a nonprofit educational corporation established in 1981), is "dedicated to remembering, preserving, sharing, and celebrating our western and cowboy heritage and the traditions which that heritage embodies."

 

Read more about Eight Viewpoints: western poetry at the publisher's web site: westernpoetry.org. The book is available for $8.95 plus postage from Amazon and other booksellers.

 

 

 

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