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Thankful Cowboy

The air is thin and thoughts are clean
'Neath a shard of leanin rays
Where naked peaks of serrate claws
Jut up through summer haze

A'grazin on the southern slope
And the meadows to the west
Shadows fold in granite curtains
And the cattle come to rest

A big hole smolders thru the dusk
The moon hangs low and pale
In the foothill sage and chaparral
A pack of coy-otes start to wail

Beddin down is mighty peaceful
Horse hobbled in silhouette
Against a sapphire night horizon
Times a cowboy don't forget

Lookin up to the maker of heaven
Givin thanks the earth is ours
Hooves sparkin on the Milky Way
The big dipper pourin stars

He's just grateful he's a cowhand
Livin a life most don't see
Close to God's green earth a'horseback
He prays he'll always be

2000, Ed Keenan, from the book Cow Chip Poetry--- Lies, Lingo 'n Lore (All rights reserved)

Braggin Gringos

Me being gringo and part Mexican
Eatin biscuits and refried beans
Talkin chicano and border lingo
I was plum prejudice it seems

At nineteen we was real cowboys
And knew every cowboy way
Riding tough and rollin Bull Durham
One handed on a windy day

Strikin a match on our Levi britches
Or with a flick of a single thumbnail
Blab a suckin calf before breakfast
Or buck a bronc till it stood pale

Yeh! We was tough and was country
Trappin bobcats and mountain lions
Pickin our teeth with their toe nails
And skinnin 'em for rugs or tie-ons

Once when we was hot and sweaty
Comin in from buckin hay
We was tippin a couple of longnecks
Down at the ol' Barrett Cafe

Braggin loud 'bout ridin saddle-broncs
How we could rake 'em till they're raw
How our spurs was like a curry comb
That made the crowd drop their jaw

Up walks these young vaqueros
Them brown skins from across the line
Sombreros throwed back on neck strings
They put their dinero on the line

Wearin spurs with two-inch rowels
And shirts colorful as serapes
Tight britches flared at the bottom
They weren't twins but they was copies

Two straight Tequilas with salt 'n lime
Then they challenged us to bare-backs
Said only women ride in porch swings
They laid their money out in stacks

 In their corral was some scrubby caballos
Like each one had a different brand
We couldn't help but snickerin
To take their loot and call their hand

Just a hackamore bridle and surcingle
They said take the hoss of your pick
Drawin straws to see who rode first
I drew the shortest stick

I took the sway back for leverage
Thinkin I could settle in
I scrunched up tight to the withers
Pulled my hat down to my chin

The girts wrapped snug around my glove
When I hollered "let's have a hoss!"
They jerked the cinch up good 'n tight
And we took flight to see who's boss

Well I done alright on her maiden flight
Till she spun sideways flat in midair
Stretched out flat we're back to back
And my spurs ain't rakin this mare

No stirrup or strap to hook my spurs
And it put my gringo pride in pain
To grab for leather or a saddle horn
And come up with a handful of mane

When I looked up I was lookin down
Cause she done me a somersault
Hittin the ground spittin teeth and dirt
This braggin's my own dang fault

It goes no better for the rest of the boys
No matter which hoss they meet
And those vaqueros rode stuck like a tick
And always landin on their feet

Now I learned a lesson I won't forget
About judgin with tongue a'waggin
Whether gringo or a Mexican cowboy
Can you live up to your braggin?

2000, Ed Keenan, from the book Cow Chip Poetry--- Lies, Lingo 'n Lore (All rights reserved)


One Shot

Back when one shot meant meat on the table
Whether tree squirrel rabbit or boars
When a rancher working his dog took off
It weren't just to enjoy the outdoors

Shells were costly each shot had to count
When Todd heeled Dad on the trail
When their huntin dog would point and set
Up would flush a covey of quail

There were no deer in the woods back then
So his Dad never learned such glory
But as the deer returned Todd learned well
And told his Dad many a story

Now his Dad was failing with Emphysema
But Todd's stories put a glow on his face
With his poor health now threatening his life
Todd invites him to hunt the home place

The same place where as a kid he followed
And learned to hunt with his Dad
Deer were plentiful now marking the woods
So he wanted to make his heart glad

Thinking back to those wonderful memories
Todd knew his chances were one
To see a smiling Dad tag his first big buck
Something he had never done

He explained his 30-30 Marlin and scope
And they rode out to the woods
It's late afternoon and Dad's short of breath
Not much time to get the goods

He sets his 'ol Dad near the field's edge
And evening sun was fadin fast
Todd dropped back and hid in the pines
Hope in his throat 'n heart in his past

Sure enough this big old buck moseys out
Into the field right near a boulder
Dad cocked the hammer with methodical care
He put the cross hairs on his shoulder

Caught by surprise when the shot went off
Toddy came flying out like a lark
His Dad said that big ol' buck fell then ran
But now it's gettin cold and dark

His Dad struggled over to the exact spot
Suffering bad and breathing hard
And he points to where the deer ran off
Toward the old family farmyard

There's now no way to see tracks or blood
So with a feeling of desperate hope
Todd hurries his search in circles ahead
The moon helps now with his grope

Straining his eyes and scanning each inch
Was it a miss they'd never know?
When he sees this white in the moonlight
The deer's belly reflects like snow

Voice choked with emotion he called his Dad
And they both stood over the buck
Todd couldn't hide his tears in the moonlight
And said 'Now that's beginners luck!'

Well they both knew they had their last chance
But neither expressed the thought
When The Old Man heeled Todd on the trail-
One father, one son and one shot

2002, Ed Keenan 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

(Based on a true happening)


Read about Ed Keenan's book at his web site.



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