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DOYLE JAMES RIGDON
Okeechobee, Florida
About
Doyle James Rigdon


Elko, 2010 by Jeri L. Dobrowski

 

 

 

Out in the Cypress

Out in the cypress, and down in the slough
There's some rough ridin' we need to do
Old yeller cowdogs, a trottin' 'longside
Help us find cattle where we need to ride
Across a big flagpond, I can see me a man
He's easin' his pony across the wet land
He's waitin' on me to come up my side
And I'm huntin' for cattle, 'cause they like to hide
Well, we'll find us some cattle on a wide open flat
And put the dogs on 'em, as quick as a cat
Bunch 'em and drive 'em down to the cowpens
Pushin' and drivin' until they're all in
Some will have 'em a smoke, others have 'em a chew
Laugh at some jokes, the boss told him a few
Markin' and brandin's what we'll do today
Workin' them cattle, that's why we're paid
Brandin' smoke boils up and gets in your clothes
Mixed with fresh cowmess, it offends the nose
Come about dinner, we'll take us a break
Build us a fire and cook us a steak
Tell tales of wrecks, we've had us a few
Or take us a nap, that's if we want to
When we wake up, we'll hit it again
Markin' and brandin' calves until it ends
When the work's over, we'll turn all 'em out
Into a crevice and then turn about
Load up the horses and be on our way
Thankful to be through with another day
Come early mornin', we'll be back at the barn
Saddlin' our horses and tellin' some yarns
Thankful to be in the saddle again
And hopin' some day that this life never ends.
 

Doyle James Rigdon
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 


One Leg

I'm sorry I cain't rope
Seems like there ain't much hope
For me to be a world-class roper
But at least I ain't a doper!
I like the chase, I like the chance
To throw my lariat at somethin' on the ranch
Out in the woods, chasin' a haredick
I'll build my loop like a Will Rogers trick
As fast as I can, which is kinda slow
I'll twirl my loop and throw and throw
And throw and throw, until he gets away
Or he tires out and I snare him that day
I reckon it's genetic, hereditary you might say
'Cause my mama's brother--he's the same way
He'll hang his loop to the side, if he's close enough
And if the cow runs in it, well that's just tough
For the cow, that is, 'cause he's a practical man
He says, "Out in the woods, it's catch as catch-can.
You don't get no points for ropin' 'em honest."
Though that's what the guys would admonish
Buck and Ernie catch consistently
And they poke fun at our lack of ability
But for their respect, we'll not beg
'Cause that sucker's still caught....even if just by one leg!

2002, Doyle James Rigdon
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Doyle adds:  I wrote the above poem because some fellows we worked with at Alico Ranch in Devil's Garden, Florida (between Clewiston and LaBelle) used to pick at us for our poor roping skills. I've watched my uncle, Darrel, throw a loop at a cow who was hiding in a palmetto ledge, with only her head sticking out, and come up with a hind foot. He's no heeler, but he's a consistent foot catcher. I'm pretty much the same way, but I was taught it's better to go out with a few dogs and bring in the whole bunch than go out with a rope and bring 'em in one at a time.

As for the term "haredick," old timers (from the 1800's) called wild cows "heretics" because they'd quit the bunch, heading for the woods.  We Southerners are a bit lazy with our speech and so the "t" became pronounced as a "d." Also called "hairydicks." The definition I was taught for "haredick" was a cow or bull two years old or older with neither earmark nor brand.

 

Ropin' the Haredics

Now I realize that havin' haredics on a place
May seem to most as somethin' of a disgrace
A sign that someone isn't much of a hand
'Cause they cain't gather all the cattle from their land
But there's always gonna be an outlaw, a wild one
That when it sees a horse, it's instinct is to run
And when you've done everthin' you can do
From doggin', to trappin', to ridin' the hammocks through
There comes the time anticipated by cowhunter folk
When you're only alternative is to rope 'n choke!

When the bull throws up his head, your blood begins to race
He pulls out and then starts the chase!
The adrenaline's a-pumpin' as you fly across the ground
The horse's hooves beating a steady cadence as on the earth they pound
Pegged out, as fast as you can go
Jumpin' obstacles and dodgin' 'diller holes
Closer and closer, homed in on your prey
When you see your buddy miss, and he pulls away
Headin' for the high ground of his hammock lair
When you close in and you throw your snare
The loop slices through the air and lands true
While your buddy wishes he'd caught him and not you
You pull up and wait for the jerk
And you think to yourself, "God, I love this work!"

2002, Doyle James Rigdon
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


See Doyle's definition of "haredic" above.

Doyle told us: I wrote this poem at the behest of a fellow I worked with a few years ago. He kept wanting me to write one about haredic ropin' and I couldn't get the words to flow.  One day, we were out catching 'dic cattle out of Dooley Marsh, and had just finished tying one down. All the crew had regathered from our dispersal and were rehashing the chase, when someone spotted a cow about a mile away on the slough that ran through the marsh. Naturally, we shucked it to our horses, and the race was on to get to him first, as it turned out to be a bull. Doug had him dead to rights and just completely missed him, and I swooped in like a hawk and snared him! The next morning, I had the poem written and was telling it to the crew. Although I didn't mention him, Doug didn't like it all that much!

 

 

The Competition

It's a competition where we ride
To put our ropes on cattle that hide
When out from a palmatter patch they run
Quarter is given to nary a one
While through the hammocks dashin'
And through flagponds, splashin'
It's nip and tuck
Dodge and duck
Through palmatter flats like a steeplechase
Lighter'd snags all o'er the place,
It's rope or wreck!
What the heck
You'll feel good, once it quits hurtin',
If you live, of that I'm certain!
It's like the Derby, when we give chase
'Cuz after a cow, it's a horserace!
You'd better have a pony that can run
If you expect to catch you one
That's because there's two of the crew
After the same critter as you!
And 'bout the time you throw your snare,
Well, he ducks off, and you catch air!
From behind you, they will swoop
While you build a second loop
With a laugh, they'll race by
While you build on the fly
D'rectly, someone'll snare the beast
You missed, but what a rush, at least
He'll sunfish and lunge, try to catch a horse
Gotta mind your slack, of course
To help, someone'll throw their snare
And then you take 'im to a tree somewhere
We're unconcerned with losin' our prey
For we don't dally, the Western way
To the saddle horn we tie
For this is the motto we live by:
Go for broke!
Rope and choke!
When we catch 'im, we mean to keep 'im,
And whatever comes with 'im!

2006, Doyle James Rigdon
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Doyle told us about the inspiration for his poem: I just got to thinking about how competitive we are about roping, even those of us who can't rope to save our lives, and the thrill that comes from a wild chase through the woods...many times I would have been swept from the saddle passing between a couple of trees had I not turned in my toes...it was written to try to capture the experience of woods roping here in Florida...it's difficult to read with a rhythm, but when I recite it, there is a rhythm that doesn't translate onto paper.  I do realize there are some who tie off to the saddle horn out West, but dallying seems to be the norm and like my Uncle Dewaine says, "If you ain't tied off, you don't want him bad enough!"

 

The Mugger

They really couldn't believe it, although he seemed sincere
This New York Yankee, come to work one year
He grew up with westerns, watchin' Gene and Roy
Told 'em all his life, he wanted to cowboy

He knew of Del Vecchio, the bullrider from the Bronx
He listened to country music, and gone to honky tonks
From an online auction, he'd bought a used saddle
And two or three books on the diff'rent breeds of cattle

Why he come to Florida, no one could rightly say
They figgered he'd have headed West to learn the cowboy way
He told 'em all he wanted work, of his lifelong dream
To ride the range as part of a cow getherin' team

The Foreman was dubious, it was calvin' season
Norm'ly to hire a new man, he wouldn't see a reason
But the Yankee was in luck, cuz Bill had just quit
And the Foreman had no choice but to see if he would fit

He couldn't use a whip, and didn't know how to rope
After hours of teachin', the cowcrew gave up hope
They asked if he could ride, and the Yankee said, "Of course!"
And so he sat a-straddle of a thoroughly broken horse

Their Cracker speech was a foreign tongue to his pale Northern ears
And his Queensborough language pattern was subject to taunts and jeers
Of course he understood English, this Yankee wasn't dense
But in the air between them there existed a verbal fence

The Foreman took him on his round, and at a hammock's edge
Instructed him to ride South to a palmatter ledge
For him to ride through it, and cut through the cabbage trees
Skirtin' round some cypress, and to watch out for the knees

West from the cypress, ride to the pine head
Watch for the ditch lizard, your horse don't like the dead
There's a hammock near the cowpens, we'll meet t'other side
The cowcrew foreman left him there, and the Yankee started his ride

The terms the boss had used concerned the Yankee some
He worried 'bout fallin' off, when to the ledge he'd come
Abruptly steppin' off an edge vexed his fearful soul
His horse scared him half to death as he stepped in a bull hole!

As he rode along further, there was blowin' a cool breeze
And he contemplated thoroughly what kind of cabbage grew in trees
Though he didn't know it, he come through where the Foreman said
And searched the area expectantly to see a giant head

An ancient sight, a totem pole, he expected to behold
Like somethin' off of Easter Island, a Seminole relic of old
He rode into a stand of pine, but never saw the head
He come upon a cattle trail and followed where it led

'Ditch lizard' puzzled the man, he thought to ask them later
While ruminatin' upon this term, he never saw the gator!
His horse's nose caught the stench and launched him in the air!
He impacted swiftly with the earth, his arm in prickly pear!

A string of cusswords left his mouth, poetically it seemed
The art of such vulgarity has every sailor dreamed!
Concludin' his obscenities, he retrieved the final spine
As Gopher come upon the scene, returnin' Yank's equine

The Yankee mounted sheepishly, and continued on his way
Muddled still by the terms, his thoughts in disarray
Bewildered though he was, he was sure he'd recognize
A hammock hangin' in the air, between the earth and skies

But he saw no hammock, just some trees, and cattle all a-stir
And round the cows he plainly seed where the cowmen where
When Yank joined them round the herd, Jim saw a pregnant cow
She'd tried to calve, hooves were out, she needed helpin' now!

Gopher roped and choked her, Jim went to tail 'er down
And it was here that what occurred gave the Yank renown
A simple word assailed his ears, he didn't have to fake
He understood implicitly, it's meaning no mistake

Jim had hollered "Mug the cow!,"
the Yankee pulled his knife
Looked at her with gritted teeth,
"Yer wallet or your life!"

2010, Doyle James Rigdon
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Doyle comments, "[The poem's] inspiration came from an incident that occurred at another part of Lykes Brothers Ranch. A new man had hired onto Boar Hammock (one of the five 'camps' Lykes has) who had been raised on a cattle ranch in Venezuela, but educated in America. He was unfamiliar with certain terms commonly used, and on his first time gathering with the crew, was instructed to go to the deadman in the fence, and wait there until he saw the other men sweep across the pasture and then he was to fall into line. He did not know that a 'deadman' is a pull post with an anchor, in lieu of an H brace. He was hunting all over for a tombstone! I then got to thinking of all the other terms we use, some which are peculiar to Florida ranching vernacular, and thought it'd be a fun way to showcase one more difference between us and cowboys from other regions. I settled on the New Yorker as the unfortunate victim when I thought of what most people think of when the word 'mugging' comes to mind and because Florida has no shortage of Yankees from that particular state North of the Mason/Dixon."
 


Doyle expounds on Florida cowmen and contrasts their work with Western "cowboys" in his poem, "The West," presented by Florida Wildlife Corridor in a 2012 video here.

 


Doyle_and_Squirrel.jpg (21050 bytes)  About Doyle James Rigdon:

I am a sixth generation Floridian and a fifth generation cowhunter. I use the term "cowhunter" because, traditionally, that is what Florida cowboys were called. Although the term 'cowboy' is used today, we still commonly call cow work "cowhuntin'." My g-g-g grandfather came to Florida from Sweden in 1862. His son, and subsequent generations down to me have all been
or are cowboys.

I grew up listening to the stories my grandaddy and uncles told about cowhunting and breaking horses and it instilled in me the desire to follow in their footsteps. Grandaddy is 70 years old and still works full time for Lykes Bros. Ranch in Brighton, Florida. He's still breaking colts, too! I only hope I'm that tough and spry at his age.

I wrote my first poem at the age of 13, about how much better horses were than women, because they didn't give you any lip, and you could do more work with a horse. In high school I wrote poems trying to woo women, which although it usually didn't work, still got high praise. I started writing cowboy poetry six years ago, and found I had the knack for it. I write cowboy poetry pretty much exclusively now.

I daywork on area ranches and break horses on the side. Work ain't as plentiful as it was when Grandaddy was coming up, because of the Yankee invasion. Sadly, the land is more valuable for malls and subdivisions than cattle, even with all the furor over the environment. The government is just as culpable for the ongoing demise of Florida's cattle industry, but I need to get off of my soapbox. I tend to get carried away by my passions. I perform at trailrides, agricultural associations and anywhere I get asked to come. I can be contacted by email

The picture is of me on my horse, Squirrel. We tend to name horses after colors or character traits in my family, and she's a bit nutty.


 

 

 

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