Folks' Poems

Back to Lariat Laureate Contest
Back on home
Back to the list of Folks' Poems


Fort Worth, Texas
About Don Gregory


One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for his poem, 30 A Month and Found


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



About Don Gregory

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and was raised in a small town just southeast of there, called Kennedale. I've always been fascinated by the "old" west, and the way of life that folks led back then. I've never had to depend on livestock for my living, but have had a hand in raising a few head, on small farms of family, and friends. I've only recently taken up writing cowboy poetry, but have been writing, for many years, mainly poems for friends, and loved ones.

We asked Don why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:

I've been reading, and listening to Cowboy Poetry for some time now, and
the life depicted in those poems struck me as the way things should still
be...where a man's word is his bond, and where honesty, and integrity,
aren't just words. The words, and expressions widely used by the folks of
the range...both in the past, and the present, should be forever preserved...and I am so glad, that I have been given the chance to do my
part, to keep it alive.

We asked Don about his inspiration for "30 A Month and Found" and he replied:

I sat down to write this poem, and the first verse of this one, and Hard
Promises To Keep
are almost the same, because while I meant to write this
one, I had to write it first, to set the table, it seems.  The places and
sights mentioned in the poem are from my own experiences, hunting and
fishing across the western U.S., and being raised in Texas. The beauty of
these sights should be remembered, and protected. I hope in some small part, I can help folks to be able to see them, if only in their minds.

You can email Don.


30 A Month, and Found

I was up in New York City,
It was the fall of '83.
Standin' by the Ocean,
Watching Lady Liberty.

I'd only gone up there,
As a promise to a friend.
To give the word to family,
That his life had reached an end.

When I left their home that day,
I thought I'd look around.
This would probly be the only time,
I'd get to New York town.

Even from a distance,
I could see her torch held high.
And it drew me to the harbor.
Where a teardrop filled my eye.

Cuz I just stood there, thinkin',
Of folks gone on before.
Fightin' and believin',
In the things that she stood for

This feller, he come up to me,
Said, 'Isn't she a sight?"
In order to hide my tears,
I turned my head a mite.

He said "Cowboy,
don't try to turn away.
She brings a tear, to my eyes too,
And I see her every day"

"I can tell this is your first time,
Yes, I can see your aren't from here.
Let me tell you about my town,
And let me buy you a beer"

Well, we hit this saloon,
Tho' he called it a pub.
All the folks there howdy'd him,
Like it was a social club.

He said, "I work for the chamber of commerce"
From my blank stare, I'm guessin. He could see,
That I had no idee what he's talkin' 'bout,
So he 'splained it to me.

"You see cowboy, it works like this,
I kinda sell the town.
I try to get folks from all over,
To come lay their money down."

For a couple of hours, he described,
His city in detail.
Said, "Cowboy, I'm betting, there's nothing like this,
Out there on them trails.

"Well, says I, Mom said don't try,
To put nobody down.
And there's some almighty, awesome things,
To look at in this town

But out there where I have been,
Is God's great majesty.
And there ain't nothin' that can touch it,
In a man made town, you see.

Have you ever tasted water,
From a mountain stream, so pure?
Or seen an elk calf, nurse his Ma,
That'll set you back, for sure.

I've been up in the Bitterroots,
In the valley of the Red.
Where green grass grows, stirrup deep,
Along the riverbed.

I've seen a thousand Antelope,
Grazin' Wyomin's plains.
With purple mountains, in the background,
Shrouded in summer rains.

Ever see a band of Quakies,
With there leaves, aturnin' gold?
Against a field of spruce trees,
That's somethin' to behold.

Have you seen a western sunrise,
Where the sky turns from black to blue?
But not before God paints the sky,
With an orange, and purple hue.

I'll tell you sir, nothin' on this earth,
Can chase away the gloom.
Like a mornin' in East Texas,
When the Dogwoods is in bloom.

If by chance, someday you leave,
This city, and come out West.
Take some time, and look around,
Its Heaven, at its very best.

Now you're awful proud, and rightly so,
Of what you folks built here.
But, I think I'll head to Texas,
Where the sky is wide, and clear.

I know you think you've got it made,
In a house, with a feather bed.
But for me, I'd rather sleep,
Out there, with stars over my head.

Those folks there in that tavern,
Had listened to my spiel,
And they could see in my eyes,
That's how I truly feel.

"Why it must have cost a fortune,
To see all that you have seen.
We only get to read about it,
In some fancy magazines."

Yes, boys I'm truly blessed,
Tho' I got no cash to toss around.
I've seen it all through the ears of a horse,
For 30 a month, and found.

© 2001, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Don Gregory has been recognized previously as

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for his poem, She Tied Her Hearts to Tumbleweeds


We asked Don about his inspiration for "She Tied Her Hearts to Tumbleweeds" and he replied:

The inspiration for this particular poem came from a lady in the Panhandle
years ago, who tied verses to tumbleweeds, then set them free...Louis
L'Amour wrote a book about it, called "Conagher." When the opportunity
arose to write for the Valentine's Day issue, it came to me that I should
write about it


She Tied Her Hearts to Tumbleweeds

She looks out of the window,
At the ranch he brought her to.
Newly married, full of love,
By and by, the years they flew.

In time, she learned to love this land,
Even the winters, cold and raw.
For the flowers that bloomed in springtime,
Made up for it all

Then came the time when her husband left,
She’ll not forget the day.
He just went to town, to fetch some seed,
Some sixty miles away…

His horse shied from a rattler,
But, this, she’d never know.
For his life was spent, as his horse did jump,
Into a canyon, far below.

Never did she find him,
For several years she tried.
Most of the time, she worked the ranch,
And late at night she cried.

She started stitching little hearts,
For hers was aching so.
She tied those hearts to tumbleweeds,
And then she let them go.

Writing poems, in her spare time,
To keep her from feeling worse.
Then she’d take those little hearts,
And sew to them each verse.

Carrying hearts out to the wind,
For it always seemed to blow.
She tied her hearts to tumbleweeds,
And then she let them go.

Rafe, worked for the Rafter 7,
Building fence, and riding line.
Nothing in his life to prepare him for,
What he was about to find.

Something caught his eye one day,
Just a little speck.
A heart tied to tumbleweed….
He wondered, “what the heck?”

He read the little poem inside,
And in his heart he felt her pain.
And he started gazing north,
Across the windswept plain.

What manner of woman did this?
He knew he had to know.
She tied her heart to tumbleweeds,
And then she let them go.

He rode down to the main house,
Just to draw his pay.
He didn’t try to explain to them,
What made him act this way?

For several months he searched,
Every canyon, every draw.
Searching hard for little hearts,
On every tumbleweed he saw.

Old Rocket, pulled up lame one day,
And he got off to let him rest.
When a tumbleweed, blew by,
A brand new heart, there on its crest.

He dropped the reins, and chased it down,
The ink, it wasn’t dry.
Then he knew the one he longed for,
Was bound to be close by.

Walking o’er the next rise,
From the way the tumbleweed came.
He saw the woman in the yard,
He knew he’d never be the same.

As he howdy’d to the house, he saw
The ranch, in need of a man.
He said “ma’am, my horse could use some rest”
“Looks like you could use a hand.”

She looked him up and down, and said,
“I can’t afford the pay,”
“But there hay, there for your horse”
“I’ll turn no animal away”

He said, “ma’am, this might be forward,
But I don’t know no other way”
And he reached inside his saddlebag,
And the hearts he did display.

“Ma’am, I believe that these are yours”
“I’ve been searching for you so”
“You’ve tied your hearts to tumbleweeds,”
“Why did you let them go?”

Dozens of tiny hearts, he held,
So gently in his hand.
In his eyes she saw such tenderness,
And a heart big as this land.

“Come inside, “ said she,
“Let’s get out of this wind”
“And I’ll tell you all about it”
“While your horse begins to mend”

They talked all evening,
Way after the sun went down.
And they were still conversing,
When morning rolled around.

She asked “how long you been searching?”
He said, ”since early fall”
“Reckon, what day it really is?”
She got the calendar from off the wall.

“Oh my”, said she, in surprise,
As she looked up the date.
It’s February 14th,
She thought it must be fate.

Now, nearly twenty years have passed,
Since Rafe, and her first met.
And if you ride out toward Big Springs,
Their ranch is the biggest yet.

Now many a passerby, has wondered,
About the sign on the gate, and the words below.
Under a crimson heart, and a tumbleweed,
The words “and then she let them go”

© Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mustang Pete

Well, me Joe Berry, and old Mustang Pete,
All rode for the H Bar C.
And we’d been roundin’ up, for nigh on a month,
No help, except just us three.

So when payday, rolled ‘round, we got all cleaned up...
And put on our very best duds.
Saddled our ponies, and rode into town,
To dance, and soak up some suds.

Well me and Joe, we wined, and dined,
These two gals, till our pokes, run dry.
Then they just kinda drifted off,
With broke cowhands, they really don’t try.

We found Mustang, at old Diamond Lil’s,
And he was sippin’ a schooner, of beer.
We told him, we was all but tapped out,
No sense in us hangin’ out here.

"Pete," says I, "lets head on back,
Tomorrow, we’re working some steers."
Pete said "I’ll catch up, y'all go on ahead,
I got money, for 3, or 4 beers."

When we got outside, I said, "let’s play a joke,
On old Pete," who's drunk, of course.
So we took his saddle, and strapped her down tight,
But backwards, on Mustang’s old horse.

We laughed out loud, on our way home,
Just thinking, how bad he’d be rattled.
And I’d give anything, to have seen, the look on his face,
When he threw his leg, o’er that saddle.

Well, when we got to the ranch, we both saw a sight,
That just made me shake my head.
For when we lit, the bunkhouse light,
There was Pete, passed out in his bed.

We shook, him a mite, just to get him awake,
In itself, not an easy task.
But there were some things, I just had to know,
And some questions, I just had to ask.

"When we left you in town, you was taking your time,
Asippin’ on several more beers.
So tell me, my friend, just how on god’s earth,
You managed, to beat us back here?"

"Well," says he, "when I started, to leave,
I noticed, something purely, was wrong..
For when I went to gather my reins,
I found that my reins was gone

And then, what I saw, it near, made me sick...
And filled this old heart, with dread.
Some dirty, no-count, son-of-a gun,
Done chopped off, my poor hoss’ head!!

Well, thinkin’ real quick, about saving my mount,
Though, I was so angry, I dang near popped.
I jabbed my fist, into his jugular vein,
And he run all the way, here, fore he dropped.

How we found our way home, I guess I’ll never know,
And I guess it could have been worse.
For I was too busy, just trying, to hang on,
Dayum, he run fast, in reverse."

© Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Don Gregory wrote that the inspiration for this next poem "came from seeing the developers, around Justin, Texas, covering up blackland farms, with subdivisions, strip centers, and other "essentials" of our day. I wonder where, or if it will ever stop."


Billy Makes a Stand

I got discharged from the service,
And as I got home one day
I stopped at the café, in my hometown.
To catch up on what happened, while I was away.

Bonnie was the waitress,
As she had been for many years,
I said, "this town sure has grown,"
And her eyes filled up with tears.

"Did I say something wrong?" I asked,
"To cause you this much pain"
She said, "No, it's just the times, I guess"
I asked her to explain.

She said "About the time you left,
Developers started moving in.
They started buying the ranches, and farms,
Of family and friends"

Times were hard, and folks sold quick,
'cause the bank, was closing in.
Most were gonna lose them, anyhow,
But I still think it's a sin.

If you get to looking for Tom,
Or Buster, and can't find them anywhere.
They moved over near Abilene,
And took jobs on ranches, there.

As a fellow came in the café,
In her eyes, I saw the hate.
I knew that this was one of the guys,
That sealed this small town's fate.

He walked up to my table,
And offered up his hand.
He said "You must be Billy Jones,
I hear you're quite a man.

I hear you just got home,
From serving Uncle Sam.
A hero, that saved many troops,
By making a valiant stand.

Now my name is Howard Bowman,
And I'm a developing man,
I'm a mover, and a shaker,
And I want to buy your land

Now I've seen the place, that you call home,
Run down, since you've been gone.
I'll take it off your hands, my friend,
Before you move along."

Well, I just looked him in the eye, and said,
"Before I move along?
Did you have some idea,
That I'd sell it for a song?

My Great-Grandad, bought that place,
Way back in 1892.
Gave all the money, that he had,
To someone just like you.

I know that he near lost the land,
Back when the dust bowl blew,
But he managed to hang on to it,
No thanks, to men like you.

And when my Grandad, needed money,
To dig a brand new well.
The local banker, took his note,
And Grandad, dang near had to sell.

But he left the ranch, to my dad,
And daddy made it pay.
And that scruffy little ranch, is mine,
Now that daddy's passed away.

Now folks like you come along,
All driving fancy trucks.
And the only thing that interests you,
Is how to make a buck.

You tell me that you have a plan.
To help me to get rich.
Well, I wouldn't sell that land to you,
If I didn't own a stitch.

You see, you folks, cut your streets,
'cross the open prairies.
And you cut those little "ranchettes,"
From ranches, farms and dairies.

And I just can't help but wonder,
Where we'll grow, our food.
When folks like you are finished,
Doing all your 'good.'.

For where will cattle graze?
And where will wheat grow tall?
After you folks sell off the land,
I tell you, you got gall.

Mister, I don't have much,
But I have my own two hands.
And I'll be damned, if while I'm alive.
You will ever own my land!!!"

Well, I didn't realize, that once again,
I'd made another stand.
But the folks in that café, all cheered,
At what I'd said to this man.

The fellow, he left town that day,
Moved on to parts unknown.
But I'd bet my bottom dollar,
He's still buying homes.

But around our little town,
We ain't seen him since.
And every morning, I go out,
Checking on my fence.

That little spread, he wanted,
So much to subdivide.
Is providing a home for me,
And my brand new bride.

Every day I count my blessings,
That I came from this land.
A little bit of Paradise,
Where a man can be a man.

© Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Texas, to St. Paul

He was a Texas cowhand,
From down around Ft. Worth.
And he had never been gone too long,
From the country of his birth.

But he met this little filly,
A girl with flaxen hair.
And she hailed from Minnesota,
Which is way up north, somewhere.

He tried his best, to keep his mind,
On the herd he’s hearing bawl.
His body’s stuck in Texas,
But his heart is in St. Paul.

His mind it starts to wander,
And pictures fill the air.
He sees the gold reflected,
As the sunlight hits her hair.

He recalls her awesome beauty,
Her smile, her flawless skin.
But the thing that touches him the most,
Was the beauty deep within.

His mind it keeps adriftin’
As he’s working out a draw.
His body’s here in Texas,
But his heart is in St. Paul.

He takes a long hard look,
At the land that he loves so.
A place he thought he’d never leave
And his feelings start to flow.

He gazes that the house he built,
‘Neath the trees, up on that hill.
“Everything a man could want…”
That’s what he told old Bill.

But now it seems so empty,
And it echoes, at his call.
His body’s here, in Texas,
But his heart is in St. Paul.

Now he’s on the platform,
Rail ticket in his hand.
Written instructions handed,
To his old and trusted friend.

These tell you what to do, old pard,
In case I don’t come back.
The lower 40’s yours, my friend,
For taking up the slack.

Just sell the rest, and wire the cash,
‘Cause I wont need the land at all.
I won’t come back to Texas,
Without my darlin’ from St Paul.

First Ride

My very first ride, I'll always recall,
With more than considerable pride.
You all know, of course,
Just what kind of horse,
They pick for a greenhorn to ride.
I remember my first glimpse, of that mare,
As I walked out the door.
Her hide, shiny, and slick,
Her eyes evil and quick,
I said, "boy you stepped off in it this time, for shore"
As I stepped up to her, and looked into her eyes,
Scared to death, standin' there on the ground.
Cause, in my mind's eye,
She stood twenty hands high,
And musta weighed two thousand pounds.

We danced a mite, just me and her,
As I grabbed hold of the reins.
And that pig-eyed glare,
From that roman nosed mare,
Made ice water run through my veins

I grabbed her ear, and swung aboard,
Heck, there's no time like the present
She took off with a jump,
That slammed me on my rump,
And I knew it weren't gonna be pleasant

She pitched, and she bucked, a throwin' her head,
Her hooves, in the air, they flew.
She commenced to squealin',
It was a heckuva feelin',
To be stickin', to her, just like glue.

That mare tried every trick in her book,
And how me, and her, did spar.
With my heels on her shoulders,
I kept getting bolder,
Till I spurred, like a rodeo star.

She fought me hard, but I took her measure,
And I thought we might ride for the border.
And I'd just hit my stride,
With this dime store snide,
When the time ran out on my quarter.

I was breathing hard, as we came to a stop,
And I'd never felt so alive.
Imagination, runs wild,
In the mind of a child,
And heck, I's just goin' on five.

© Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Hard Promises To Keep

Here I am in New York town,
It's the fall of '83.
Deliverin' on a promise,
I'd made to Jimmy Dee.

Me and him had rode some trails,
Pushin' beeves from south to north.
Riding for brands all over,
As we cowboyed back and forth.

Never had I partnered,
With a friend so true.
I'd saved his hide a couple a times,
And he'd saved my bacon too.

His luck ran out in Texas,
On the West fork of the Trinity.
We lost two hundred cows, that night,
And the world lost Jimmy Dee.

It was a hot and dusty night,
Heat lightnin' filled the skies.
I seen it flashin' o'er the herd,
Seen panic in their eyes.

All at once they started,
Bawlin' and runnin' hard.
I's a lookin' and a shoutin',
Tryin' to find my pard.

When I finally seen old Jimmy,
He was ridin' for the lead.
Tryin' his best to turn them steers,
Spurrin' on his steed.

I seen his pony stumble,
I saw his eyes, as he went down.
A cut off scream, heard above the hooves,
When Jimmy went to ground.

We finally got 'em millin',
They quieted down a bit.
I took off down our back trail,
My stomach, in a fit.

I knew I had to find him,
Tho' I knew I'd find him dead.
But we'd rode so long together,
My heart filled up with dread.

He wasn't where I thought he'd be,
Oh, I found his pony there.
But Jimmy wasn't around at all,
Could my pardner have been spared?

Then I heard him breathing weakly,
And I strained hard to see.
Somehow he'd crawled off the trail,
And was leanin' against a tree.

I hit the ground beside him,
Was there something I could do?
Yup, said he, I got a job,
That I'd trust, to only you.

I know I'll never make it home,
I know this is the end.
I got family, way back east,
They should hear it from a friend.

Please tell 'em how I died,
Yes, tell 'em when and where.
Take what pay I got comin',
And give it to them there.

It's been an honor, pardner,
To ride these trails with you.
Tell the boys, I did my best,
Just couldn't see it through.

I tried to find the words to say,
What I felt so deep inside.
But when I finally found them,
My friend had already died.

I bit my lip, until it bled,
Tears welled up in my eyes.
 I tried hard to fight them back,
What fool said a cowboy never cries?

That was near three months ago,
Now here I am in town.
Sittin' in their parlor,
Tellin' how their boy went down.

I watched their pain, their heartache too,
But I also saw their pride.
Jimmy D'Angustino, was a man,
In how he lived, and how he died.

I told them also, about the words,
That failed me at his side.
How I tried to tell him how I felt,
How I held him as he died

He was more than just a friend,
He was more like my brother.
A partner, and a man,
Like him, there'll be no other.

A harder thing, I've never done,
Than lookin' in their eyes.
And giving news, never good,
And seein' their surprise.

But I'd made my friend a promise,
Now, outside, I feel release.
And I look up at the sky and say,
Jimmy, rest in peace.

© 2001, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


   Why do I write cowboy poems?
   The question has been asked.
   The query hangs there in my mind,
   So I've taken up the task.

   Sometimes my writing's just a way,
   To keep some things alive.
   Honor,  integrity, and hard work,
   Things for which we strive.

   Where can you find these values?
   Why they're all o'er the place.
   Just find one, who sits a saddle,
   And look into their face.

   The words and phrases, punchers used,
   I hope to capture in my pages.
   Just maybe, I can, in some small part,
   Help them last, down thru the ages.

   The romance of the open range,
   Pushin' longhorns, through the dust.
   Western life was strong and pure,
   We now hold a sacred trust.

   I've never made my living,
   Owning or working cows.
   But still, I write about it,
   And some folks wonder how.

   Where do I seem to find the words,
   To write these things for you?
   I can't answer that, myself,
   I simply have no clue.

   Someone is providin' them,
   Of this, I have no doubt.
   Cuz, when I take my pen in hand,
   The words just tumble out.

   Mayhaps a ghost from long ago,
   Creeps into my mind.
   And drops a few things now and then,
   Just for me to find.

   Perhaps that kindred spirit,
   Gives me verse, and line.
   I just roll them 'round a bit,
   And somehow make 'em mine.

   If this is true, and it might be,
   He's a right persistent cuss.
   Cuz sometimes he wakes me in the night,
   And raises such a fuss.

   The words he sometimes drops on me,
   Just won't let me sleep.
   And I get up to write them down,
   As if they wouldn't keep.

   The pictures formin' in my head,
   Of happenin's long since gone.
   Are just as vivid, as if they was new,
   And equally, as strong.

   Sometimes I see a herd of steers,
   Grazin' a valley, far below.
   Or maybe just a line shack,
   Isolated, in the snow.

   Or maybe cowboys, playin' pranks,
   On a compadre, drunk in town.
   Sometimes its cowboys, hats in hand,
   Cuz one of theirs went down.

   All these things come to mind,
   When I sit down to write
   Verses, made from pictures,
   I hope I get them right.

   Cuz that spirit friend of mine,
   Tho, I know not his name.
   Has left a mark on me, so deep,
   I'll never be the same.

   I hope the words I write,
   Honor the life, I've come to love.
   And I hope they give some pleasure,
   To that spirit up above.

   I'm awful proud, I've had the chance,
   To share those words with you.
   Until, that spirit rides, into my mind,
   I bid you all. Adieu

   © 2001, Don Gregory
    This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

That Place Where Shorty Went

We'd been pushin' the herd for nigh on a month,
From way south of San Antone.
And every day since we left,
Shorty, rode off alone.

He'd climb aboard his pony,
Each and every morn'.
Ridin' out of camp,
Before the day was born.

Not a word to anyone,
Tho' I know it weren't a snub
He just rode out and back,
A'fore the coosie, dished out grub.

It finally got the best of me,
And I just had to know.
What he's a doin' everyday,
And just where did he go.

One mornin' I snuck out real quiet,
And waited for him to pass.
Then I fell in behind him,
As he rode off 'cross the grass.

He rode up on a little ridge,
That overlooked the herd.
And I just sat there listenin',
To each and every word.

"Boss", said he, "it's me again,
Like every day before.
I just want you to know I 'preciate,
You givin' me one more"

"I'd like to ask you, once again,
To keep an eye on us.
I know how busy you must be,
But in you I place my trust"

"Yesterday, that thunderstorm,
Scattered cattle 'cross the plain.
I know it had its blessings, too,
It brought much needed rain.

 I know sometimes, your plan ain't clear,
And we must face each test.
And after the stampede had passed.
We laid Joe, and Red to rest.

When they reach those pearly gates,
Give 'em each some cows to brand.
Give 'em both a good pony,
And they'll each make you a hand

Well, looks like this day, is shapin' up,
To be almighty fine.
I'll let you get to your work,
And I'll get back to mine."

Now I was awful careful,
To hide back out of sight.
But now I see that puncher,
In a new and different light.

If he saw me that day,
 He never said a word.
Just put his hat back on his head,
And rode back to the herd.

That was near a month ago,
And when I awoke, this morn'.
I felt the urge to ride out,
 Before the day was born.

Upon a ridge, I'm sittin',
Hat held in a tremblin' hand.
Wonderin; just where to start,
Talkin' to the man.

Boss, I ain't sure what to say,
You ain't heard from me before.
Thank you, boss, for days gone by,
Thanks for givin' me one more.

Thank you for another chance,
To maybe get things right.
Yesterday, in the Canadian,
Was such a sickenin' sight.

I was kinda dumb, I guess,
Trying to push those steers acrost.
There just ain't no way,
To make up for what we lost.

Out there in the middle,
I heard that awful sound.
I turned around in time to see,
That wall of water comin' down.

I knew it all was over,
I'd reached the end of my line.
Then from out of nowhere,
Came the loop from Shorty's twine

There he was, asittin',
Stirrup deep in swirlin' mud.
Try hard to save a foolish kid,
That tried a crossin' in a flood.

He had me dallied off,
And swung me to the bank.
When I looked back upstream,
My heart just kinda sank.

This waddie, that had saved my life,
Tho' he's worth ten of me
Was swept clear from his saddle,
By a log, he didn't see.

Standin' by that river,
Runnin' high and churnin' foam.
I stood there feelin' helpless,
As you called Shorty home.

Now, when old Shorty gets there,
Give him some calves to brand,
Give him his old roan to ride,
We both know he's a top hand.

Well, looks like this day is shapin' up,
To be almighty fine.
I'll let you get to your work,
And I'll get back to mine.

Oh, and Boss, once again,
Thank you for today.
And I'll be back tomorrow,
If things work out that way.

© 2001, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Saturday Matinees

Back when I was just a pup,
I'd say oh, 'bout five.
I thought those movie cowboys,
Was the greatest folks alive.

I wanted to be one of them,
Up there on that silver screen.
Kissin' all the lady's fair,
And whuppin' outlaws, mean.

I'd have me one of them Stetsons,
With the brim curled up like that.
They could fight for forty minutes,
And never lose their hat.

And talk about great horses,
Why I'd love to have one yet.
They galloped, everywhere they went,
And never broke a sweat.

I'd have one of them double six-gun rigs,
To fill the outlaws hearts with fright.
Cuz you could load em up on Monday,
And shoot till Friday night.

And when Roy or Gene wanted,
To sing a song, for you and me.
There always seemed to be a guitar,
Hid out behind a tree.

As a kid, it didn't dawn on me,
To question, how and why.
I just knew that good guys,
Won every time they'd try.

As I got a little older,
And saw those same movies on TV.
Through eyes, without the innocence,
I saw things that couldn't be.

I laughed, and figured, Roy and Gene,
Would have both had heart attacks.
If they saw you dally off your twine,
To their silver mounted kacks.

Outlaws with their rifles,
Could never hit our pards.
But with pistols, Roy could knock 'em down,
At about four hundred yards.

And I often wondered,
Why they never wore no chaps.
But had their saddles fitted,
Silver conchoed taps.

Then I grew into manhood,
Once more, those shows, to see
And realized the lessons learned,
Have always stuck with me

Treat all people with respect,
A cowboy doesn't lie.
He never backs down from a fight,
And gives things his best try.

And now I sit and ponder,
Perhaps we'd see better days.
If kids still had double six-gun rigs,
And Saturday matinees.

© 2001, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

The Day I Met Old Pete

Pull up a chair, and give a listen,
To this here cowboy's tome.
About the time, quite by accident,
The Big Boss called me home.

I was out a'bustin' brush,
Chousin' out some hides.
When I rode through this fogbank,
Into one of my strangest rides.

I come out the other side,
And commenced to lookin' 'round.
 I hadn't seen this place before,
 What in this world, had I found?

Well, I seen this here feller,
I rode up and tipped my hat.
Said," Howdy, they call me Curly,
Could you tell me where I'm at?"

He nodded, and said" my name's Peter,
Some folks say I'm a Saint.
I'll leave it up to you, to say,
If I am, or if I ain't.

This here range you're ridin',
Belongs to you know who.
Some waddies call it "The Big Ranch",
I figger that name'll do.

I said "Hold up a minute,
Just wait a second, Hoss.
You say that you're Saint Peter?
Well, that leaves me at a loss."

"You tryin' to tell me, this is Heaven?"
I caught a twinkle, in his eye.
"It can't be, before he gets there,
A feller has to....die."

Well, old Pete, he just sat there,
And it left me feelin' queer.
He said, "Folks just never know,
When their time is drawin' near".

"Take a look around you,
And you will surely know.
Just exactly, where you are,
And that what I say is so"

The thing, that really cinched it,
Brought a teardrop, to my eye.
The pony I was ridin',
Was a gelding, name of Pie.

The reason, for my heartache,
The cause for all my tears.
Was 'cuz my little baldface pard,
Had been gone, near 20 yrs.

I was a bit bewildered,
As I looked at Pete, again.
He said, "It's always tough, at first,
But the sorrow soon will end.

Let's ride up the road a piece,
There's some folks you'll want to see.
Old Shorty's there, with Red, and Joe,
And a boy, named Jimmy Dee."

We come up to this simple gate,
To a valley, lush, and wide.
He said, "your friends are waitin',
Just on the other side"

But the gate it wouldn't open,
Pete said, "Wait right here.
Somethin' musta gone awry."
 Right then, I felt true fear.

When he come back, in his hands,
Was a golden tally book.
And he was flippin' ever page,
On his face a puzzled look.

My nerves was getting' frazzled,
Wish he'd hurry up and tell.
Do I get to stay in Heaven?
Or is my destination Hell?

He said, "there's been a mix-up,"
Here it comes, my biggest fear.
"You ain't s'posed to be here,
For, oh.. let's say..many a year."

Now I don't have to tell you,
That I was some relieved.
Figured I'd be shovelin' brimstone,
Least, that's what I believed.

But it left me with some queries,
Things I had to ask.
With years to kill, so to speak,
Where do I start that task?

"If I ain't posed to be here,
Does that mean I didn't die?
Am I really not in Heaven,
Sittin' astride, old Pie?"

"Do I ride around, in limbo?
Do I go chouse ghostly steers?
Tell me Pete, you gotta help,
Alleviate my fears."

"Calm down, says he, this sorta thing,
Happens now and then.
You'll just go on back to earth,
Until you're called again.

Nobody yet has found,
Where you shed your mortal coil.
So I can put you back, right there,
And leave you to your toil."

"See that trail, right yonder?
That runs under that bluff.
Hang close to that band of quakies,
And you'll find it, sure enough.

When you come to the gap,
In a little stand of fir.
Ride on through, and when you come out,
Things'll be just like they were.

To tell the truth, I wasn't too keen,
On the idea of comin' back.
I kinda liked what I could see,
From up there on my kack.

It was like Pete read my mind,
You know, I think he could.
He said, "Cowboy, you'll be back,
And it'll be twice't as good."

He told me not to worry,
He'd take good care of Pie.
He'll be in my remuda,
When I come back, by, and by.

I shook his hand, and tipped my hat,
Like I did when we first met.
And to this day, if I close my eyes,
I can see him yet.

I rode out of that country,
Came out, just above that tank.
I figure I got a second chance,
And I got Pete, to thank.

Saint Peter, is a puncher,
Just like you and me.
One day I'll ride with him again,
This time for eternity.

© 2001, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Fancy Words

How much do I love thee?
A poet one time asked.
His answer was an awesome thing,
As in love's glow he basked.

Now I can't speak at all like that,
Fancy words don't come my way.
I find simple words, the best,
For things I have to say.

Like how much do I love you?
Well, old Shakespeare, he might say.
I love you as the morning dew,
Doth love the brand new day.

And how strong are my feelings?
He'd prob'ly say with glee.
My love is strong enough to bind,
My soul, with that of thee.

And I wonder what old Bill would say,
About how long my love will last.
Till both earth and time stand still,
They sure spoke fine in days gone past.

Words like that, you just don't hear,
Around no cattle camp.
Anyhow they'd sound plum strange,
Spoke by a saddle tramp.

I wish I had those fancy words,
To tell about my love.
I even hit my knees, and asked,
For help from up above.

My hands are cold and clammy,
As I try to find a word,
I've even asked these waddies,
For any phrase, they might have heard.

They all just laugh at me,
And say, "go give her a kiss.
You're gonna have a heart attack,
If you keep on like this.

But I got to get this message right,
You simply have to know.
How my heart feels deep inside,
And how I need you so.

I'll love you for forever,
My love is strong and true.
My love's so big my heart might burst,
These things, I'd say to you.
But I ain't no fancy writer,
So I'll just say I love you.
Ill leave the fancy words to someone else,
Just say you love me too.

© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

The Drive

The civil war just over,
Times, for folks, were tough.
And he had heard, thru' spoken word,
How Reconstructionists, made it rough.

Yet, he stood and wondered,
With his wife there on his arm.
How thru' those folks, the Statesmen spoke,
As Carpetbaggers took over his farm.

He had heard 'bout Texas,
Where longhorn cattle thrive.
He had no home, to call his own,
So he thought he'd make a drive.

He left his wife, there on the porch,
At the cabin, of a friend.
Said Linda Sue, my love is true,
I'll come home to you again.

With fifty horses, and a wagon,
Some seventeen good men,
Rode, it seemed, to chase a dream,
Some ne'er to return, again.

They pushed hard, and made good time,
Made Texas, by early spring.
They felt the pain, and watched as rain,
Turned  a river, to an evil thing.

Whilst they were crossin', the Sabine,
The river, risin' fast.
Whilst ridin' flank, old Jessie sank,
And right there, breathed his last.

Late that night, he watched the stars,
He dreamed of her, and then,
Said, Linda Sue, I'll see this thru,
And come home to you, again.

They made it to "The Thicket",
Lots of beeves there in them breaks.
But pushin' 'em out, left no doubt,
Of chances a fella takes.

They put together, three thousand head,
But not without some cost.
With Billy, Red, and Wiley dead,
The count at four men lost.

Three thousand ornery, longhorns,
Pushed by thirteen men.
He said, Linda Sue, in a month or two,
I'll be home with you again

Pushin' the herd, t'wards, the north
And whilst they were crossin' the Red.
A Comanche attack, on the men in the back.
Left 'em with two more dead.

They buried Bill, and Joe, that day,
Old Zeke, he spoke from the word.
They set two crosses, and mourned their losses.
Then rode back to the herd.

Then came the night, the Bandits hit,
And they started a stampede.
He spun around, at that awful sound,
And rode hard, for the lead.

He was gainin' ground, on the edge of the herd,
When his horse stumbled, and fell.
Cursed as he spoke, his arm was broke,
Inside a ragin' longhorned Hell.

He managed to squeeze a couple of shots,
Cursed his luck, and said.
Linda Sue, your man is through,
By morning, I'll be dead.

But morning found him still alive,
He saw two feathered silhouettes.
Would he try? Or would he die?
He figured, they's makin' bets.

Even if the redskins took him,
He couldn't hurt much worse.
He leaned his back, against his kack,
Every movement brought a curse.

He grabbed onto the saddle,
And pulled to set the bone.
It was plain, they saw his pain,
But so far, they'd left him alone.

With strips of rein, he tied a splint,
From his rifle stock, that shattered.
Then fixed a sling, for his broken wing,
From his shirt, hangin', and tattered
A stab, in his chest, as he started to rise,
Near made him wish for death.
Broken ribs grated.the pain, unabated,
He grimaced, with each shallow breath.

Once on his feet, he shouldered his load,
And set off to follow the herd.
He started to track, not once looking back,
Two shadows followed, but said not a word.

He thought of home, as he walked along,
Each step, as painful as sin.
Said, Linda Sue, if I make it to you,
I'll ne'er leave your side again.

He collapsed in a heap, on the second day,
Fell headlong into the sands.
He floated, it seemed, perhaps he just dreamed,
That he was lifted by gentle red hands.

Six days later, he finally awoke,
On his head, a cloth, cool, and damp.
Thru' eyes feverishly weak, he recognized Zeke,
"Looks like you finally made it to camp.

You've been used, almighty hard,"
He said, with his crooked old grin.
"Just dang near dead", the old man said,
"When those injuns of yore's, brung you in.
You've had a fever, plumb out of yore head,
For hours, you'd moan and pine.
And if yore Linda Sue, cares as much about you,
 I'd say y'all, are gonna be fine."

"You've talked a lot about me, old pard,
How 'bout the men and the herd?
Are more men dead? Did we lose many head?
About it you ain't said a word"

"We was lucky, he said, lost nary a man,
Lost five or six hundred hides.
We been lettin' 'em graze, while we rounded up strays,
Might find 'em all with yore injuns for guides"

For a couple of weeks, he rested abed,
Till he just couldn't take it no more.
He winced, of course, as he mounted his horse,
His ribs still broken, and sore.

Those redmen helped out, then told 'em with sign,
They were leaving after one more sleep.
With two hundred head, and some sourdough bread
Little enough pay for their keep.

Three thousand head, and three hundred more,
Started by eleven good men.
A drive to remember, with luck by September,
He'd be with his Linda, again.

They pushed those beeves till they come to the tracks,
Two shiny ribbons of steel.
Then held on the ground, till a train come around,
And there they made their deal.

They met a buyer, from Chicago,
And sold for fifteen a head.
The bargain was sealed, the original deal,
Equal shares, for living and dead.

Now they'd paid off all the shares,
To those who chose to roam
A sack of gold, can be awfully cold,
When your man ain't comin' home.

He rode up to the cabin,
That he'd left so long ago.
Said, "Linda Sue, I've come for you,
Lord, I've missed you so."

Later that night, she kissed him long,
He clung to her bosom's cleft.
Said," Linda Sue, I tell you true.
I wish I'd never left."

© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Haunted Dreams

Layin' alone, in this line shack tonight,
No light, save a fingernail moon.
But shadows I find, traversin' my mind,
In the Realm of the Vinegaroon.

Some mornin's are spent, just bustin' ice'
From the creek, so's the cattle can drink.
And some of the day, I spend throwin' hay,
And cracks, in the cabin, I chink.

Some of the time, I spend fixin' tack,
Or mendin' the odd stretch of fence.
I keep busy days, but at night my mind plays,
Against darkness I have no defense.

When darkness falls, each and every night,
I know dawn can't come too soon.
My dreams are haunted, by shadows undaunted,
In the Realm of the Vinegaroon.

For late at night, when I close my eyes,
I see her standin' there.
In shadows it seems, through tormented dreams,
The girl with the flaxen hair.

I never touch her, or hold her close,
Tho' many a night I've tried.
I reach for her hair; my hands close on air,
And many a mornin' I've cried.

Altho' it's dreams that haunt my mind,
The woman was real, you see.
A beautiful girl, I'd have given the world,
But she married another, not me

So after twenty years, I still wander,
And over this country I roam.
A lonely man, in a lonely land,
With fitful dreams of a home.

So I'm layin' alone, in this line shack tonight,
No light, save a fingernail moon.
But shadows I find, traversin' my mind,
In the Realm of the Vinegaroon.

© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

The Old Puncher

I look across, and see the face,
Of a puncher, haggard, and old.
His eyes focus off in the distance,
As he recalls younger days, brash and bold.

The wrinkles and lines, etched on his face,
Not one less than fifty years deep.
Caused by the Sun, the Wind, and the Snow,
And many a night, without sleep.

He sports a scar, from right near his chin,
To a point, just below his left ear.
Took a eighty-six stitches, to close that one up,
He'll not ever forget that old steer.

His hair, once an unruly blonde mane,
Now thinnin', and white as the snow.
And his eyes aren't quite as bright,
As they were a few years ago.

His nose, it's been broke, a couple of times,
He dismisses most of the fights.
As likkered up cowboys, gettin' all riled,
Over real, or imagined, slights.

I look at his hands, wrinkled, and gnarled,
With too many scars to tally.
And part of one finger is missing,
From getting caught in a dally.

I musta looked off for a minute,
For when I look back, he's driftin'.
His mind going back to the long ago,
Thru all of the memories, he's siftin'.

He's rememberin' that old lineback dun,
The one he never could ride.
And he's also seeing, the girl,
That spent forty years by his side.

She was a goodun, she put up with him,
And to this day he don't understand how.
He remembers the flowers, he put on her grave,
And the pain that he feels, even now.

He recalls the day his heart tried to fail,
And they put him in this damned "home".
With a bunch of gossipin' widow women,
And no chance for a cowboy to roam.

He has always been lean, and wiry,
Just muscles, sinew, and grit.
They say he should have died that day,
But it just ain't in him to quit.

They say his mind is goin',
They talk where they think he can't hear.
But he's just livin' inside his memories,
It's better than livin' out here.

Then someone shouts, "It's suppertime."
"I'm comin'" I hear myself say.
Then I turn away from the mirror,
And slowly start headin' that way.

© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Midnight Rider's Song
    With thanks to Augustus Toplady

I awoke, from a peaceful sleep,
To the distant, mournful, strains.
Of a hymn, that every cowboy knows,
That was raised, out on these plains.

Was it really singin' that I heard?
Or just the moanin' of the wind.
I had almost drifted back to sleep,
When I heard that song again.

"Rock of ages, cleft for me."
I heard it plain as day.
But who in thunderation
Would be ridin' out this way?

I looked out the window,
Who could this fellow be?
It was quarter after midnight,
Seems he was ridin' straight at me.

I could hear him, plain enough,
On the clear night air, his voice rang out.
But he moved just like a shadow,
I could barely make him out

Fact is, the moon was full,
Or I'd not seen him at all.
But I could hear his lonely voice,
As he crooned his midnight call.

Must be a miner, or a trapper,
He had a packhorse, I could see.
Singin' as he drew nearer,
"Let me hide myself in thee.."

Bold as brass, he rode in,
Rode right up to the gate
"Scuse me sir, I need your help,
Tho' I know the hour's late.

I'm lookin' for the Samson Place,
Could you kindly point the way?
I really need to get there,
Before the break of day."

"You've been on his place," I said,
"Since you topped out on that ridge.
The main house is three miles south,
Just past a covered bridge"

"This is just his line camp",
But lookin' back, I 'spect he knew.
"It's an odd hour for a visit,
Is Mister Joe expectin' you?

"Much obliged" the rider said,
"The answer's yes, and no.
Everyone's expectin' me,
But none knows when I'll show".

This rider was all decked out, in black
His hair was snowy white.
His face a ghostly pallor,
He was a haunted sight.

The skate, that he was ridin',
A ganted, fleabit gray.
With a chill, I realized, who this was,
And why he'd rode this way.

Well, my jaw was clenched in fear,
And for a while, I held my breath.
Just starin' at those hollow eyes,
Of the rider known as Death.

That horse that he was leadin',
I was wrong, she carried no pack.
The wood that she was packin'
Was Joe Samson's well-worn kack.

I recognized that mare,
From all the stories Joe had told.
And knew full well, that she had died,
When Joe was twelve years old.

She was his first cow pony,
To hear him tell, she was the best.
And I recalled his misty eyes,
As he told of layin' her to rest.

Well, that rider tipped his hat,
Then slowly rode away.
Leavin' me just standin' there.
Lord, I can see him, to this day.

And the song he was singin',
As down the trail he rode.
Still sends shivers up my spine,
"From thy wounded side which flowed."

I don't recall goin' back to sleep,
Nor even comin' back inside.
But I awoke the next mornin',
Recallin' that rider, and his snide.

Did all that really happen?
It was so real, it seemed.
Was Death really at my doorstep?
Or was it merely dreamed?

Either way, I saddled Chalk,
For I knew I had to go.
If only for my piece of mind,
To check on Mister Joe.

When I rode into his yard,
I knew last night was real.
An eerie pall, hung o'er the place,
Just something you could feel.

Joe's old dog was on the porch,
Just layin' by the door.
Like me, he'd seen that rider,
And knew Joe weren't there no more.

Well. It seems to me that rider,
Stopped by that line shack on the plains.
Cuz, he wanted someone to find,
And do right by Joe's remains.

I buried Mister Joe that day,
On the hill, beside his wife.
They're together once again,
He'd said she was the best part of his life.

Lord, that was forty years ago.
Has it really been that long?
What is that I'm a hearin'?
It's that low and mournful song.

"While I draw this fleeting breath.."
Oh, his voice is low and clear.
He's trailin' another horse, tonight,
And, again, his path leads here.

He ain't come to ask directions,
He ain't here to sit and talk.
Cuz the horse, that he's leadin'
Is my old gray geldin', Chalk.

No, tonight's not just a visit,
Old Chalk, sports my empty kack
Once more I'll greet the rider,
But this time, I won't come back.

Now you can say this old man's crazy,
Hearin' voices, on the wind.
Or that I'm seein' shadows,
But let me tell you somethin' friend.

 You can take this story, as you will,
But you can bet that one thing's true.
Just like he's here for me tonight,
Some night, he'll come for you.

And you can live high, wide, and handsome,
But you best mind what's right, and wrong.
For what you hear, won't be the wind,
But that Midnight Rider's song.
© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Letters From the Chisholm Trail

"Come runnin', Jedediah!" she shouted,
"On the table I found this note.
It seems our son Joseph, has left us,
Come listen to what he has wrote."

"Dearest Mother and Father," it said,
In barely legible scrawl.
"I know, y'all are having it rough,
The times are hard on us all.
There's not enough to go around,
Barely enough to get by.
I've heard they're hirin' in San Antone,
So I'm gonna go give it a try.
Seems they're commencin' a gather,
Gonna drive cattle north, for a sale
Headin' for someplace, called Baxter Springs,
Which is, I think, on the old Shawnee Trail.
I'm sorry, Pop, if you think I've run out,
On y'all whilst you're in need.
But I'll send most of my wages back,
And there'll be one less mouth to feed.
You have Zeke, and Jeremiah,
Both born to work the land.
I guess I got Uncle Gus' blood,
Seems the plow don't fit my hand.
Please try not to be angry,
I'll miss all of you so.
And I'll write, every chance I get."
Signed, Your lovin' son, Joe.


"Woman come quick!" he hollered out loud,
As he jumped, from his horse, to the sand
"We got a letter, and tho' I can't read the words,
I can tell it's in young Joseph's hand."

He eagerly hands her the letter,
She opens the pages with care.
And with the rest of the family waiting,
She reads what is written there

"Dearest Mother, and Father,
I send my love to you,
I've hired on with an outfit,
So I'm sendin' some money too.
Mr. Thompson, said he'd wire my pay,
Less, the cost of gear for the trail
Direct to the bank, right there in town,
So's it don't get lost in the mail.
I ran in to Johnny Malone,
On the trail just south of there.
I asked if his folks knew where he was,
And all I got, in return, was a stare.
If you could, send one of the kids,
To let 'em know, just where he's gone.
I wouldn't want 'em worryin' too much,
And let 'em know that he ain't alone.
Tell Zeke, I seen the Alamo,
And felt a bone deep chill.
To stand where those brave men had died,
I think their spirits linger still.
Pardon, the way this letter looks,
I'm writin' by the light of the fire.
And the only place, to rest my page,
Is on this old wagon tire.
We been gatherin', and a brandin',
So far twelve hundred head.
I ain't never seen no horns this big,
Why, some have an eight-foot spread.
They say it looks like three more weeks,
And we'll be headin out.
They're wantin' to start three thousand head,
Or somewhere's thereabout.
Pop, I know you're standin' there,
As Mom reads this out loud.
This kind of work's what I want to do,
And I hope I can make you proud
Well, I best crawl in my bedroll,
Mornin' comes early, out here too.
I'll write again, when I can,
Till then, my best to you."

At the close, she steals a glance,
At Jed's eyes, with their misty glow.
She reads the final line to him,
"I love you both," your loving son, Joe.
Dr. Walker dropped it off,
Whilst making his monthly rounds.
A wrinkled, brownish envelope,
That came from Austin town.

"Dearest Mother and Father,"
She read as they gathered 'round.
"I hope this letter finds you well,
We're camped just out of town.
We been making real good time,
These beeves trail broke real quick.
There's been plenty of grass and water,
So's they're looking pretty slick.
Mom, the fellows are proud of you,
They say you planted the seed.
Every night, they come around,
And I'm teachin' 'em to write, and read.
I have a bit of bad news, tho',
For Mr. and Mrs. Malone.
Would y'all make a trip to their farm?
And tell 'em Johnny, ain't comin' home.
You know he always fancied himself,
Pretty handy, with that gun.
He found out the hard way, two weeks ago,
That he wasn't the only one.
He got in a fight, with Rafe Vasquez'
A vaquero, from the Pecos land.
But when the shootin' was o'er that day,
Johnny was down, in the sand.
His last words to me, that day,
Were "Joe, I've played the fool.
I thought this gun, made me a bigger man,
I forgot, it is only a tool."
Well, I guess I best be turnin' in,
The fire is burnin' low.
And I've got to ride nightguard,
In about two hours or so.
They tell me that Waco,
Is the next town of any size.
And they're tellin' us we'll be there,
Before we realize.
In my mind, I see all of you,
And I purely miss you so.
Mom, give 'em all a hug for me,
I love you, your son, Joe.
"Dearest Mother, and Father,
I hope this finds you well".
She reads the crumpled letter,
Where it's from, is hard to tell.

"We didn't stop in Waco,
We got the news, today.
Folks in Missouri are afraid of the ticks,
So we're goin' another way.
We got word from this fellow,
His name was Joseph McCoy.
Seems he's a cattle buyer,
From someplace in Illinois.
He sent word to all the herds,
Of a new route, to the trains.
It leads right through the Nations,
To some town out on the plains.
He said we would be welcome,
Something Texians have seldom seen.
To a speck of a town, with new loadin' chutes,
I think they called it Abilene.
Now we'll be passin' thru Fort Worth,
I'll post this letter there.
If I don't get another chance, to write,
Tell everyone to take care.
There ain't gonna be many places,
After we reach the Red River station.
To post a letter, cuz there just ain't no towns,
Up in the Indian Nation.
I'll finish up, by tellin' you,
How much I miss y'all so.
Until I get to write again,
I love you, your son Joe.

"Now ma'am, I brung this letter,
And his truck, cuz the lad was me friend.
And you've no way aknowin',
But my name is Angus McGuinn.

Just after he wrote you this letter,
As we were tryin' to cross.
A band of outlaws stampeded tha herd,
And four or five riders were lost.

Joe was on the upstream side,
When the bandits come around.
He sat there, with this Henry,
And took six outlaws down.

There was just too many,
And they finally took him down.
But there weren't enough left of them,
To turn those beeves around.

We tracked 'em down and hung 'em
And put an end to tha fray.
I've never seen a sadder bunch,
Than when we laid Joe away.

I've told y'all how your lad has died,
And I mourn for him, today."
I've done the job, I had to do,
I'd best be on my way."

She says, "Stay, while I read his letter,
You've carried it all this way.
I've the feeling Joe would have wanted you,
To hear what he had to say"

"Dearest Mother, and Father,"
The first line always read.
She reads, through tear dimmed eyes,
What the rest of the letter said.

We're havin' to hold the cattle up,
Cuz of the floodin' on the Red.
It'll give us time to rest a bit,
Before we push ahead.
I never got to tell y'all,
About the friends, that I have made.
They been awful good to me,
Tho' as a puncher, I stand in their shade.
One fellow in particular,
That I'm proud to call a friend.
Is this huge Scot, with fiery red hair,
By the name of Angus McGuinn.
He dove into the Brazos,
To save a puncher's sorry hide.
And if he hadn't a done it,
Your son Joe would've surely died.
Well, the weather's clearin,
Gotta go pack our stuff.
For the trail boss said at first light,
We're crossin' sure enough.
Just when I'll get to mail this,
There's just no way to know.
But you're always in my heart,
I love you, your son, Joe.

"Now I've listen to ya readin',
Seems he left out a thing or two.
'Tis true I jumped in that river,
But there's sumptin' he didn't tell you.

When we got to the Brazos,
Tha River was runnin' high.
Some of them wanted to wait it out,
But some of them wanted to try.

Joe was ridin' point, that day,
And I was ridin' swing.
The leaders had barely left tha bank,
And tha river was an evil thing.

When I got to tha River,
Where it made a bend from tha north.
Your Joe had pulled three waddies out,
And was goin' in after tha fourth.

And that ain't tha only time,
He risked all, for a friend in need.
And I'm bettin' he never told you,
'Bout any of his other deeds.

I can't count on my hands, tha times,
Some puncher's bacon, he saved.
But then again it's just like him,
His own flag, he never waved.

I'll not meet another like him,
I'm so proud, he called me friend.
When I marry someday, and have me a son,
His name will be Joseph McGuinn.

© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Quarter Circle P

From a distance, you can see it,
Just a pile of weathered stone.
This crumblin' silent sentinel,
On a ridge it stands alone.

The only thing left standin',
To mark a Cowman's scheme.
Weathered chimney, and foundation,
Not much left of one man's dream.

I bought the land it sits on,
In the year of '83.
And found this rusted branding iron,
A Quarter Circle P.

Just who the brand belonged to,
Remains a mystery, to this day.
For if it was ever registered,
It was never filed away.

I used to come here every day,
To prod, and poke around.
Findin' pieces of a legacy,
Scattered all around.

I found a box of buttons,
Thread and needles, long since gone.
Did this Cowman, bring his wife out here?
Or did he live alone.

A dugout, found not far away,
Charred beams and walls caved in.
There, I unearthed the story,
Of a family, and their end.

What I found amongst three sets of bones,
Let a grisly tale take holt.
A dozen Comanche arrowheads,
And a rusted Walker Colt.

Three graves I dug that afternoon,
It seemed the thing to do.
Three markers carved from boards of pine,
Names and dates, I never knew.

I heated up that rusty iron,
And burned those markers deep.
And I've since left that place alone,
It's forever theirs to keep.

Those people gave their very life,
To carve something from this land.
In some small way, I hoped to honor them,
By taking up their brand.

On early mornin's I ride this way,
And as strange as this might seem.
I feel them watching over me,
As I live out their dream.

And in my minds eye, they're smilin',
Cuz I know just what they see.
2000 head of shorthorns, wearin'.
 Quarter Circle P.

© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Last Known Cowboy

Will we see it the headlines?
Will they show it on TV?
Will they interrupt the broadcast, on that day?
Or will it even make the paper?
Perhaps we'll never know.
The day the last known cowboy passed away.

Everyday, the range is shrinkin',
Covered up by urban sprawl.
As the creature, we call progress, rears its head.
How soon till we awaken,
And find the things that we hold dear,
Are, like vast herds of bison, long since dead.

Will it ever happen?
Will there ever come the day?
When artificial protein, fills our plate.
When no cows are left a'grazin,
And no herds are left to tend.
And we've let our own devices seal our fate.

When the last valley's filled with houses,
And there's malls built on the plains.
And there's no more plots of land to subdivide.
Will only roadside markers tell us,
Of his spirit, and his work?
Will we know the day his era finally died?

Will we see it in the headlines?
Will they show it on TV?
Will they fly the flags at half-mast, on that day?
Or will the news hit deaf ears?
Will there be no one to mourn?
The day the last known cowboy passed away.

Will some old dirt arena,
Where he circles for a judge,
Be the only place we see a horseman ride?
With no cattle left to round up,
When no calves are left to brand.
The mere thought, is something I cannot abide.

We'll lose more than cowboys,
When the land is finally paved.
And we've bartered all our heritage away.
We'll lose some honest ways of life,
Like  "ridin' for the brand".
A price, I think, that's just too high to pay.

When we've created all our monuments,
To vanity, and greed.
And let Mother Nature's beauty slip away.
Then like the good book tells us,
We will reap what we have sown.
Will too late we see the errors of our way?

Will we see it in the headlines?
Will they show it on TV?
Lord, I'm hopin' I don't live to see the day.
When some beat reporter tells us,
About all that we have lost.
And that today...The last known cowboy... Has passed away.

© 2002, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Don told us what inspired his poem: "If you travel down Park Blvd. in Plano, Texas, you will drive past about a gazillion malls, strip centers, apartment complexes, and assorted "necessities" of our day...then you will come to this little ranch that has been there since the late 1800' is hanging in, in the middle of this urban sprawl... and it gave me the idea that one day we will build our heritage out of existence..."



Howdy Boss

Howdy Boss, it's me again,
I know it's been a spell.
Seems we never talk too much,
When things are goin' well.

It seems I only come up here,
With burdens to unload.
When I ought to come and thank you,
For the blessin's you've bestowed.

I guess it's just like us folks,
To forget that it was you.
Who broke the drought last summer,
And saw fit to see us through.

We're pretty good at takin' credit,
When life is runnin' sweet.
And all too quick, at layin' blame,
For our troubles, at your feet.

When soldiers die, in that distant land,
Some say that you don't care.
We forget, there was once a cross,
On a hill, not far from there.

Where your dad gave his son too,
To save a wretched crew.
Givin' thanks, it seems to me,
Is the least that I can do.

Boss, I thank you kindly,
For watchin' over me and mine.
You've caught us when we stumbled,
And kept us all in line.

And I thank you for this hilltop,
It's beauty, not touched by man.
Where we can sit and talk a spell,
'Bout all the things at hand.

And I thank you Boss, for givin' me,
That field of new mown hay.
It'll help me feed the calf crop,
You saw fit to send my way.

Thank you for my saddlehoss,
And the pup here at my knee.
But mostly, Boss I thank you,
For lettin' me live free.

Now, Boss, I know I come up here,
With some troubles in my heart.
But, I can't remember what they was.
Ain't that the dangdest part?

Just how it is that happened,
I guess ain't mine to know.
With nothin' more than just a talk,
You laid my worries low.

Well Boss, I got some fences,
And some tack I need to mend.
And I know you're awful busy too,
With the prayers folks always send.

So I guess I'll get back to it,
And quit takin' up your time.
Oh...and Boss, there's one more thing,
Thanks for givin' peace of mind.

© 2004, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Comin' Home

The old shack's roof, is missin' some shakes,
The walls, now stark, and plain.
Flour sack curtains, still hangin' from rope,
O'er a winder, with one busted pane.

Our ladder-back chairs, now gatherin' dust,
Sit 'neath a table of pine.
Two bunks, in the corner, where we laid our heads.
T'was home for us boys ridin' line.

We made coffee, on that old sheet-iron stove,
A spoon of water to settle the grounds.
Strong enough to make a horseshoe float,
And keep us awake whilst makin' our rounds.

T'was bacon and beans for our breakfast,
Sourdough biscuits, to see us through.
The same thing awaited for supper,
With a day's work between the two.

In a split rail corral, in the lee of the barn,
That now stands silent, and still,
Our comp'ny nags, coats shaggy and long,
Once staved off the long winter's chill.

Them times, as I remembers 'em now,
They's the best days we ever knew.
Sittin' the saddle, day after day,
With lots of cowboyin' to do.,

I remembers the mornin', I was stirrin' the fire,
When a worried look darkened your face.
"I had a vision, last night," you said,
"And they're acomin' to take our place."

"Who's comin' to replace us?" I asked,
"Shorty and Red like as not."
You told me "you just don't understand,
It ain't a who, it's a what."

 I thought, my friend, you'd gone loco,
As you sidled up to the fire.
You related your vision of wagons,
Each loaded with posts and barbed wire.

"There's gonna be miles of fences,
Posts and gates by the score.
And when they're done fencin' the range in,
Well. They ain't gonna need us no more"

"You shore know how to ruin a day"
I said with a halfway grin.
" We just need to get out with the herd,
 And then you'll feel better again."

I had no way of knowin',
How right you were that day.
For it wasn't too long in comin',
The time when they gave us our pay.

Since then it's been mostly daywork,
More cowboys, than jobs, it seems.
We even worked in towns for a spell,
But open range ran through our dreams.

We made each other a promise,
That when it came our time to pay.
That out on the open country,
Is where we'd face our judgment day.

Hard to believe it's been 15 yrs,
Since the last time we made this ride.
We been lots of places together,
And now Jake, you done went and died.

I brung you back to this line shack,
It's where you felt most at ease.
You loved the wide sky up above you,
And the sound of the wind in the trees.

I know this might seem selfish,
 But I wish I'd gone first, old pard.
 For I can't recall when you weren't around,
Life without you is gonna be hard.

So do me a favor, up yonder,
As your ridin' on Jordan's far shore.
If the Boss needs another good cowboy,
 Tell him you know of one more.

© 2004, Don Gregory
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read Don Gregory's Playin' Santa and Cowboys and Christmas "Spirits" posted with other Holiday 2001 poems.

And read Don Gregory's Coosie's Rainbow Stew, Resolvin' Resolutions and Reminiscin' posted with other Countdown to 2002 New Year poems.



 What's New | Folks' Poems | Newsletter

The Big Roundup Anthology

 Features | Events | BooksLinks

Lariat Laureate Competition

Subscribe | Contact Us | About This Site


Poets retain copyright to their work; obtain a poet's 
permission before using a poem in any form.

© 2000-2005 
Managing editor: M. Metegrano
Graphics: Red Braznell