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DENNIS RUSSELL
Cimarron, New Mexico
About Dennis Russell
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Just His Life

It's half past four when he kicks the door,
He grabs his boots and his hat and he's gone.
Yesterday's ride left him pretty darn sore,
As he heads for the barn with a yawn.

A cowboy's day, well it starts this way,
And most would say that he's crazed.
'cause the first sunlight is well into his day,
Why does he draw this pay?

And riding herd, he don't think it absurd,
To call the place his own.
He'll whistle a tune, sing in a word,
And blend it with soft cattle moan.

Now this man's life, alone with no wife,
Works everyday with no tear.
'Cept for the death of his "pard" in Blythe,
Well that was some time last year.

When his day is done, and he's lost "not a one,"
He'll talk to to his pony and YELL for fun.
Massage an ear, give him a whack,
Ride home, with the sun at his back.


© 1997, Dennis Russell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Dennis told us: In this part of ranch country, there has been a lot of tradition set by some tough ol' cowboys. In the last couple of years we had to say goodbye to some long time friends. These men had certainly been a part of our history and had set the standards for all the rest of us to try and live by. This writing only touches the "edge of camp" when it comes to any kind of acknowledgement of their lives.


Is This the Last Gather?

Well, all these years spent, riding this range,
On horse, pushing cows, as the seasons have changed.
To good mountain grass when the spring days warm,
To the valley again as the fall wind warns.

But they keep on trying, tired and cold,
To quit this business, by God it gets old.
But each year that lopes by, just as the last,
This herd they won't sell, again they will pass.

But last September, the bulls were all sold,
The cows were all bred, but they too, grow old.
The blood of this herd is as old as the west,
The hearty Hereford, this country's best!

"Pardners" and friends of this ranch ride the dawn,
The "air" is tense, are the good days all gone?
To gather the herd, well in this last year,
The cattle must go, this time it is clear.

A life of days working and arguing so,
With mad mother cows, but I know that they know.
That they'll all come together, this year in the pens,
The cutting will start, and the end..., it begins.

A new life to live, but talk turns bovine,
Well what would they do with no cows to mind?
Just talk to their horses, remember old times?
Sweep all the floors clean, hang clothes on the line?

It gets in your blood and you can't even quit,
Just keep a few mamas, ride a horse just a bit.
Buy just one more bull; there is one down the way,
They'll quit this next year, or, some other day.

© 2006, Dennis Russell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Dennis told us: There are many family ranches around Cimarron, NM. These ranches have been worked by families and handed down from generation to generation. Most will continue this tradition until the end of time. Every once in a while there is no family left to pass the place along to. A lot of questions have to be answered and there are "life changing" decisions to be made. I wrote this about some very special friends of mine.


 

That Old Yellow Horse

That old yellow horse ...he still knows the way,
'Cause he hauled that cowboy...day after day.
The man hummed old tunes to hooves kicking dust,
That horse was his friend he allowed him his trust.

They remembered old times as they walked every mile,
Most of them good, just look at them smile.
The cowboy in youth and the ladies so fair,
And that horse still recalls his favorite young mare.

And all the years both good times and bad,
Most of them happy and some of them sad.
Always working for others, watching cattle and land.
Man on horseback, both chewing on sand.

But every Sunday they'd go the same way,
To the church on the hill so the cowboy could pray.
For that which he lost in the "early year,"
The cowboy was sad; to the horse it was clear.

And the horse never knew why he'd kneel to the ground,
At the same stone when they're spread all around?
But tradition was set and they always would go,
Every Sunday morn' through the rain or the snow.

That old yellow horse still stands in the pen,
...Just waiting on his life long friend.
But something was wrong, he remembered that day,
When someone else came to scatter his hay.

Now months had gone by when the gate was a sway,
And on Sunday morning the horse went the way.
To the church on the hill that they always would go,
Though his shoes had grown loose the horse didn't slow.

When he got to the stones it had grown quite cold,
And he found the new...right next to the old.
And as a creature of habit the horse turned away,
He walked back to his pen and just finished his hay.

© 2006, Dennis Russell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Dennis told us:  With all that time behind the wheel a guy can do a bunch of writing. I spend a lot of time in my truck traveling from northern New Mexico to southern Colorado. I spend a lot of time on farm roads. Often, I see an old horse, in an old pen, behind an old ranch house. Now I know most folks wouldn't give it a second thought. It is just an old horse, in an old pen, behind an old house. But I know there is something more to that horses' life, and also the one that he belongs to. I know that old horse, in the old pen, behind the old ranch house, has a story to tell....


Bitter Sweet

Each year in September as the gather begins
Of the herd up north when the green grass thins.
Cody and Ike will trot along with their skill,
And to better the odds ride Burbank and Bill.

It’s that big apple tree that I still can recall
That chewed bitter sweet on the round up last fall.
The one that grows old on the rugged East Bluff,
Where, riders don’t prowl the going is rough.

Riding slow through the narrows is the only way to
Pass under the tree with the cliff sided view.
Brown leaves hide the slope where the grass hardly grows
With the rocky drop off and the wind always blows.

Why surely no cows could be grazing up there.
It was the driest of years and it would only be bare.
So me and the boys punched our gathered on in.
We were short just a few, well, just maybe ten.....

We elected to eat before we rode back out.
So we were waiting for grub and just jawing about,
While Cookie fired up that stained blackened grate,
Why those few mavericks will just have to wait.

But the Brand Boss drove up without making a sound.
He said “Good job! Well done! They all must be found.”
I approached him with caution and said with a sigh,
“Were just missing a few and they must be up high.”

“Then why are you boys here and not ready to mount?
There’ll be time to grub up when you balance the count.”
So Cody and Ike rattled hocks for the hill,
But did not return soon, so went Burbank and Bill

Finally Bill rode in crazed as a man can get!
I joked with ol’ Cookie, “He has some news I’ll bet.”
He rambled out a story, one heck of a tale.
So Bill, Cookie and I, started up the Bluff trail.

Then Cookie said, “Wait” and grabbed his big Apple pie
To use as a tool when he confronted the guy
That was making the ruckus and causing disrupt
With the cowboys and cows that are now all corrupt.

We arrived at the narrows and looked onto the site
Where one wrong move could put the whole bunch into flight.
All the stock and the riders had gone on through
Unaware of the bear with the apple stocked view.

Then lifting my hat I confirmed that the tree
Lodged the biggest brown bear that you ever did see.
There was no horse nor cow that would ease on out
Under an overstuffed bear who was lounging about.

Any shot that was fired would cause stampede for the cliff,
They stood there stiff legged and feared danger they’d sniff.
So we bribed the bear down with that great looking pie
Smelling so fresh with sweet apples and Chai.

When the adventure was over and we rode back to camp
With the tally all balanced and where the ‘hands’ could revamp.
No one looked at Cookie nor their thanks would they share,
Still mad ‘cause he fed their whole pie to that bear.

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

 
Dennis told us: Every once in a while, the talk around the supper table might turn to last year's round up. The fall gathering had been planned just about the same way every year since the ranch has been having round ups, but sometimes there is a "little hitch" in it. It seems that no matter how well you have it planned, or how many good riders you have along, or even how good the camp cook is, quite often something will come up that you just haven't figured on. On this particular round up when I saw the tracks under the apple tree I just knew we might be in for a little adventure....


Renewin' All Our Hopes

It’s been a long five years with so little rain or grass.
Prices are sky high and I’m just trading gold for gas.
With bulk feed cost a climbing, it makes hard to wean the calves.
So I broke the cookie jar and cashed in my dollar halves.

Time took my three best mammas, my oldest Hereford cows.
And we sold the red bull "Bob." He’d been perfect up ‘til now.
I shipped my heifer calves last fall along with my old stock.
My herd keeps heading south like slow seconds on wall clocks.

I’m raising soggy little calves on mammas chewing seeds.
They’re eating last year’s bales that grew right up from weeds.
Why should a man hold on to what he’s barely got?
A bunch of mamma cows with calves who graze on Satan’s lot.

There‘s still no rain or grass and it’s almost turned July.
West wind still blows so hard. I’ve not seen it go this dry.
The water holes gone bad and so has most the crick,
And the mud had dried and cured into hard adobe brick.

But I heard a voice within, telling me to just keep on,
There is always hope to have, for the summer’s not half gone.
Well the Mrs. and this Mr. prayed our own convincing prayer,
That for the next year, and the next, we’ll still be working there.

And then the absolute next morning I woke up in a cloud.
Then two, then three, then more, I just cried right out real loud.
“Lord bring us needed rain. I know you still remember how.
Let it heal up all our fields and feed our horses and our cows.”

The wet sweet smell of summer rain was surely in the air,
The constant bawling of the cows, they told us it was there”.
I will not now imply that the drought was cured that day.
Nor even in one week or two, but the fix was on the way.

The monsoon wind had finally come. Our fear for now was done.
That overdue life-giving rain cooled off the South-West Sun.
Now in the weeks that followed, in the gauge it registered,
And by the fourth I fed no hay to my grass-contented herd.

If it kept on raining steady the pasture wounds would mend.
For the first time in five years all the ponds would fill again.
The herd would move to re-grown grass. The creek ‘be running clear.
And we’d even keep are heifers and put tags in their right ear.

Well it doesn’t take that much just some inches of good rain,
To make the ponies prance and cowboy angels sing again.
Our cows are out there grazing on the side of grassy slopes,
While we fatten up with pride, and keep Renewin’ All Our Hopes.

© 2013, Dennis Russell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 
Dennis told us: The drought in New Mexico has been severe for many years. Some claim it has been the most severe drought in in this part of the country on record. It changed the way folks do business and go about their way of life. Many outfits have reduced the number of cattle they run by more than half. The record breaking rain that New Mexico and Colorado were lucky enough to receive in July and August restarted the trend of ranches keeping their heifers and putting yearlings back on the range. It started us in "Renewin All Our Hopes."

 


 

See Dennis Russell's

Ridin' Plum into Luck in Art Spur
 

 

 


  About Dennis Russell:

Dennis lives in Cimarron, New Mexico. He has been a part of that community off and on since 1962 when his family moved there to reopen the saw mill. Dennis has been writing poems and songs since he was quite young. He started doing some recitations and has had a very good response. He gives wagon rides around town in the summer and enjoys getting out his team for weddings and special events.

Dennis and his wife Jana, also enjoy packing folks up into the mountains on their horses and mules. At 50 years old Dennis is looking forward to the day when he can just stay home and feed his cows, work with his young stock, recite his stories, and, well, you know the rest. If you ever get the chance to come and see the "Maverick Club Rodeo," every 4th of July; you will sure not regret it.

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