Folks' Poems

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EZRA SPUR
Puyallup, Washington
(aka R. L. Howard)

About Ezra Spur

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for his poem, Dakota True

 

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

 

About Ezra Spur:

Ezra Spur AKA R. L. Howard resides in Puyallup, Washington State. An amateur naturalist and western artist, he is a veteran of the Viet Nam War, a husband, dad, and granddad.

I was raised on the prairie of the Midwest. My dad passed on when I was a boy and I just kind of drifted for a time, then a rancher gave me a job. Pay was bunkhouse room and board, five dollars a week and two pair of boots per year. Though the wages was not near what I could have made in town, I would not trade the life I was living then for any dollar amount. That old man showed me a way of living and a gave me a set of values that would go along way in this world today. Thank you John.

I began writing poetry for my grandchildren. In the hustle and bustle of these fast moving times, it seemed to me, that the past was not all that important to them. So I dressed it up some, to make it interesting. I try to write about things that happened, or relate a story that I heard during that time.  When life was simple and right and wrong were the only choices. With a little humor added to make it fun.

I am honored to be able to share these pencilin's with other folks. The pioneer spirit is the American spirit. Cowboy Poetry is the story of that spirit. Where you come from, has a lot to do with, where you are going. Someone should say something before it is lost forever.

There is a lot said these days about ethnic heritage. During the time I spent in the military I had the opportunity to travel to both Asia and Europe. Most people know of the American Cowboy. As a fourth generation American I am under the opinion that the cowboy way of life is my ethnic heritage.

We asked Ezra about his inspiration for "Dakota True" and he replied:

"Dakota True" was inspired by events I had the pleasure of enjoying in the late fifties. A post hiding, spring blizzard blew in and the only way in or out was horseback. We cut State Right of Way fences to get to the cattle to feed them. I rode down that highway eight days before the first plow came through.

You can email Ezra.

 

Dakota True

It started with thunder and lighting,
an April storm that should have been rain.
Then it spat 20 inches of wet snow,
down on the Dakota plains.
A bona fide Blue Northern,
with a chill, that could bite to the bone.
Not fit for man or for critter,
not good to be far from home.

The hands holed up in the bunkhouse.
Next to the stove's cheery glow.
Told yarns, sipped whiskey and gambled.
Waiting to outlast the blow.
You might say that spirits where jovial,
glad for the break had come.
From the hard work of a prairie spring time,
content, all were happy, save one.

Jedidiah's proud mind was troubled,
about a catch pen five miles away.
And the cows he had penned there,
sorted out, just yesterday.
Most would say, they weren't worth the bother,
they were culls and due to be sold,
locked out from hay and pasture,
today hungry, alone in the cold.

He passed the first day nearly silent,
to see what the morning would bring.
Awake most the night with his worry,
he had to do the right thing.
He arose with the false dawn that morning,
dressed in his warmest clothes.
Went down to the barn with a lantern,
decided he would take the Roan.

The big hoss was trail wise and steady,
he fed him to fuel the chore.
At daylight, he was up and mounted,
then set out, undaunted and unsure.
To keep warm he forsook the saddle.
He rode with his back to the wind.
It was a long way from easy going.
It would be hell, when he came back again.

The feisty old roan was willing.
It looked like they could prevail.
The crest might be clear in places,
in the draws, they would have to break trail
Two hours out they rested,
and still had four miles to go.
He cussed the wind and it's howling.
He dammed, the grasp of the snow.

The next five hours were less toilsome,
by the grace of the lay of the land.
The drifts seemed to be below him,
his mind set, on the task, 'twas at hand.
In the lee of the crest, again they rested.
Just one more valley to go.
Through the din of the wind he listened,
and thought he could hear cattle low.

The old Roan, he knew, had wearied.
He could see the deep heave in his side.
Yet he stood, head up and ready,
and the fire burned bright in his eye.
With a hand full of mane and a prayer,
he threw a leg, across the Roan's back.
Then set out to trek the last mile.
O'er a valley, wind blown, snow packed.

Without cue the Roan took the plummet,
into the sterling white fold.
The grip of the drift was like quicksand,
loathe to release it's hold.
Snow belly deep is a hazard,
that draws on muscle and bone.
The taught of those cows drove him onward.
He would save em, or die all alone.

Lunge after lunge the Roan labored,
with a dutiful trust in the man.
His big heart, hammered hard, without falter,
at duel with the wrath of the land.
With a keen eye, Jed sought the high ground.
The odd shape, or a tuff of short grass.
The wind closed the trail there behind them.
He was fearful the daylight would pass.

At last he could hear cattle bawling,
and see the gray shape of the grove.
Where the catch pen and haystack were nestled,
tucked in from the wind and the snow.
A 100 yards, may as well be a mile,
when you are that much short of your goal.
It can rob you of life and well being,
reach out and snatch your soul.

Yet the Roan had the will to go on,
for there, in the odd eddy of wind.
He caught the sweet smell of alfalfa.
That gave a new bottom to him.
Now headstrong he plunged into the powder,
and where goes the hoss, goes the man.
Jed sensed the resolve of the Roan,
driven now by instinct, not plan.

As dark descended they toiled,
until they stood at the gate.
Jed tore down the rails to the hay,
removed from his worrisome weight.
All stood with a mouth full of fodder,
the once hungry cows and the Roan.
Then he dug in to wait out the storm,
warm and safe, with the hay as his home.

That night he slept without care,
and dreamed of a light sunny day.
Just him and the Roan moving easy,
across a meadow, where calves suckled and played.
Then a warm breeze blew in from the South,
and the white onslaught became flood.
A good old roan hoss and Jedidiah,
went on home in the mud.



 

One Day on A Ride

Down in the canyon where the Sweetwater flows,
riding ol' Blizzard the speckled back roan.
Looking for the black baldy with the half Brahma calf,
been a week since I'd seen her, one Friday from last.

Now that herd quitting hussy had been missing before,
she had a gleam in her eye and she liked to explore.
With a hump in her back and a kink in her tail,
lord knows where you'd find her when she hit the trail.

Up the rock canyon went ol' Blizzard and I,
the Sweetwater was rollin and the water was high.
At the Cottonwood snag we forded the flow,
ol' sure footed Blizzard was a good hoss you know.

Up the rock canyon we trailed along,
sun hammerin down and good judgment gone.
We hit the switch backs and started our climb,
a goat wouldn't live there, it was a hell of a time.

Through cactus and rock slides, mud holes and floods,
heat stroke and bruises, with severe loss of blood.
I cursed her momma and I cussed her black hide,
and swore I'd kiss the ground at the end of that ride.

Now I found that hussy at the top of the rim,
in a place close to Heaven as I've ever been.
With wild game and water, grass belly high,
home building timber and known only by I.

Well, friend that's my story and I'm happy as hell,
now I own that ground and that cow has a bell.
If you ever get down Sweetwater way,
stop by and see me cause I'm here to stay.


                                                   


The Old Man


Every waddie's had an old man,
in his younger days.
That's how he came to learn the truth,
about the cowboy's ways.

He told you tales about stampedes,
when the rain was pouring down,
and how it was, with the ladies,
when you brought the herd to town.

He talked about the early times,
when mean cattle roamed the range.
   Said the whole world was going to Hell,
if they didn't make a change.

He showed every thing he knew,
but you still didn't know.
Just when you thought you had it figured out,
you found, it wasn't so.

Then he'd pick you up and dust you off,
and help you down the trail.
Told you, if it was in your heart,
you would never fail.

He was quick, mean and ornery,
but way down deep inside,
there was a big chunk of gentleness,
he just couldn't hide.

He could raise his voice across the remuda,
and quell a nippy mare.
When his cuss words tumbled out,
you'd best not be there.

He kept his reputation clean,
was honest without doubt,
A handshake was all he needed,
to keep the wolves locked out.

He told you to take the time,
to thank the good lord up above.
He's the only one you have,
when the pushing comes to shove.

He taught you it's not what you have,
it's how you passed along the way.
That trouble always came pass,
it never came to stay.

He was sore, lame and staved up,
from rougher younger times.
His tired worn out body,s
was just a prison for his mind.

Old men have to ride on,
I hope through heaven's gate.
I hope Saint Peter tips his hat,
and they don't have to wait.

I hope they find a little spread,
out on the cloudy plains.
Where the sun shines down on them,
where it never rains.

When a young man comes along,
who's what I used to be.
I hope I leave, something behind,
like my Old Man left for me.


                                   

The Bunkwife


I lived in a bunk house, with four other guys,
and on every fifth week, you were the bunkwife.

Now the bunkwife's job, was to clean and scrub,
feed the barn critters, and cook all the grub.

We all hated the job, so it was considered a sin,
to not eat the meal, the bunkwife brought in.

Ol Louie thought, he was a chef,
and of all the bunkwives, he did cook the best.

With beans and steak, he made splendid things,
and for six days, you ate like a king.

But throw out leftovers, he just could not do.
So on the seventh day, you knew it was stew.

Well, I rode in early, on Louie's stew day.
So on down, to kitchen I strayed.

Louie was cooking, and humming a tune.
I took off my hat, and stepped into the room.
 
On the stove, was his big old black pot.
I said "what's for super," he said "what's not."

I took off the lid, and said "Louie it's green."
He said "you should have seen it, before I put in the beans."

With those words of wisdom, he picked a spoon.
Took a small portion, still humming his tune.

He took a taste, between the yippee cy yi yea's.
Smacked his lips twice, and had this to say.

"I think it needs pepper, I'm sure that's what's missin,"
and on the stove, his old black pot was hissin.

Louie's pepper shaker, was as big as two cups,
and just that morning, he filled it up.

But tighten the lid, he did not do.
So one pound of pepper, went into the stew.

Louie smiled, and said "some like it hot."
Took his big spoon, and fished out the top.

Later that night, when we sat down to eat,
Louie said "boy's, tonight we have a treat."

"It's a little dish called, Eat Fast And Go,
something I learned, down in Old Mexico."

We all took a bite, and got tears in our eyes.
It's a embarrassin thing, to see grown men cry.

Everyone jumped up, and ran out to the tank.
Threw Louie in, held him under, and drank.

I tasted that stew, for next fourteen days.
If I stood next to my hoss, he'd shy away.

Louie's still bunkwife, when his turn rolls around.
But on the seventh day, We All Eat in Town!

Somewhere Down the Trail


An owl calls low,
who are you friend?
To stir the stillness of the night.
Coyote pups,
practice their song,
Down the canyon out of sight.

The embers of,
the day's end fire,
warm the weary bone.
The good Lord,
smiled down on me,
when he made the West my home.

Snuffy blows,
and stomps his foot,
to let me know he's near.
The old dog,
at my feet,
has been with me for years.

The wonder of,
the past day's ride,
lays easy on my heart.
It's all here,
by  grand design,
I'm just another part.

Clear water blue,
yon mountain range,
tall timber and canyon rim.
I did my best,
to see it all,
and I would do it all again.

A shooting star,
cuts a fiery path,
across the Milky Way.
Then I understand,
how small I am,
to finish off the day.

Tonight I'll sleep,
the sleep of babes,
and dream without fail.
Of things to come,
in days not yet lived,
somewhere down the trail.

 

Blue

Blue was the name,
of a hoss I once knew.
No one ever claimed her,
she belonged to the crew.

Cut from a load,
of wild ones was she.
How she got picked,
is a wonder to me.

Bang tailed and jug headed,
with a big Roman nose.
Had a split in one ear,
and was a might pigeon toed.

Ol blue liked to bite,
and strike some too.
And when you rode her,
she'd cowkick your boot.

Reach right up,
with a God awful squeal,
snag your spur with her hoof,
and pull off your heel.

She wouldn't herd cattle,
and she weren't broke to rope.
To spooky for kids,
and too ugly to show.

If you had ground to cover,
Blue'd be the one.
You'd want to fork,
to get the job done.

She would be standing,
when the rest had all quit.
And jump fifteen feet,
if'n you spit.

What was Blue's fate?
Well, I'm not for sure.
But when I lick my stamps,
I think about her.

Wrecks

I first saw him in the spring time, we were picking out our ride.
Joe, I and Stumpy, and the greenhorn we called Clyde.
I was young and hard then, so I liked em big and strong.
Joe leaned to the fancy, the gentle ones passed on.
Down to Clyde and Stumpy, they wanted it that way.
One was just learnin, the other see his younger days.
Everyone had picked two, and it was up to me.
When I laid eyes on this sorrel, just as fine as he could be.
The Old Man read my mind, and said "There's something you should know.
About that red hoss yonder, with the white nip on his nose.
Two men have tried before you, both have turned him out.
He's a throwback to an early time, and an outlaw there's no doubt."
But the old mans words of wisdom, didn't set that right with me.
So I overlooked his council, and I made him number three.
When the bunch was all picked over, and the breakin had begun.
I began to realize, the bad thing that I had done.
But no guts no glory, is what I had in mind.
The day I picked that red hoss, the throwback, outlaw kind.

You know that the spring time, is different things, to different folks.
It has the scent of new beginnings, freshness, warmth and hope.
Spring time to the cowboy, is the start of a new year.
It smells like leather oil, horse flesh, sweat and fear.
The fences all need mended, there's calves that need pulled.
Cattle moved from here to there, and new hosses to be rode.
I dabbed a loop on that sorrel, with the white nip on his nose.
He came back up the rope at me, movin fast to close.
Nose a flared, mouth open wide, and ears laid back flat.
I ducked behind the snubbin post, and took a couple wraps.
Lucky for me, Joe caught him too, as by him he past.
I thought that I had, had it, then he dallied him off fast.
He squealed, kicked and pawed the air, not like most fearin pups.
This one was mean, plumb to the bone, he'd come and look you up.
We dumped him there on the catch pen ground, before it was all through,
and I sat there, on his neck, to figure what to do.
I took a heavy halter, with eight foot of buckin rein.
Strapped it secure, upon his head and turned him loose again.
Then we cut him from the bunch, to a corral behind the chutes.
There I fed and cared for him, the next week or two.
And evenings when my chores were done, and the sun was hangin low,
I'd sit there on the rail, and made talk, soft N slow.
He must have stepped down on that rein, at least a thousand times.
It gave a different point of view, to that throwback outlaw kind.

The world's a mighty lonely place, when you only have one friend.
You best be minding what you do, and looking after him.
And so it was with that hoss, with the white nip on his nose.
Down there in that corral alone, I was the only one he knowed.
His trust for me grew a mite, with each passing day.
Sometimes he'd even nicker low, when I passed his way.
When he got so I could scratch his ear, and he didn't try to bite.
I run him in the bucking chute, and saddled him one night.
He stood there, just as nice, as any hoss could be.
When I eased on down in my rig, he paid no mind to me.
So I gave the nod to Stumpy, and he threw the gate.
I could tell, if I was gonna ride, I best not be running late.
He came out high with a mighty leap, to a height I've never been.
Hit the dirt a bone jarring jolt, and in a heart beat was gone again.
He kicked, rolled and sunfished, swapped ends a time or two.
I knew that I'd been bested, before it was all through.
Tossed me aside, to rid his back, of that hunk of foul debris,
and I hit hard in a sorry way, that drove the wind from me.
Three times I tried to best the beast, just to get the same results.
My pards pulled my rig for me, I was to sore to help em out.
In the end, it was me that won, cause I made up my mind,
It would either be the death of me, or that throwback outlaw kind.


You know there weren't many times, I didn't rise up with the Sun,
I could count em all on just one hand, and that next day would be one.
The old man laughed at me, when he seen the shape that I was in.
He gave me that distant look, that said I tried to tell you friend.
"What you call that red hoss" he ask, "that's tryin to break your neck."
I said "The way that things were going, I guess I'd call him Wrecks."
And so it was, with all of that, sweat, time spent, and pain.
The only thing I had to show, was a hoss that had a name.
Now I've forked a bronc or two, and most times came out on top.
That Wrecks was a different sort, cut from a different lot.
Each time I tried, I'd come up short, but I learned a little bit.
You might say, he taught me how to ride, cause he knew all the tricks.
But I kept my temper to myself, for he felt neither spur or quirt.
It got to be a game with us, to him the pleasure, me the hurt.
Then one day I got him rode, and with me he bucked no more.
Or maybe he felt, I paid my dues, and evened up the score.
From that day on he went to work, to learn the cowhorse ways.
A better friend, a hand never had, to see you through the day.
I've heard the talk of the one man horse, but I never met one yet.
And I might not, know one now, but that's what they called, Ol Wrecks.
You see him and I, had seen it all, done, tied true, and tried.
I could put a babe upon him, if I stood by his side.
But let some other unlucky soul, try to deal with him,
He would go right back to his outlaw ways, and it weren't pretty friend.
No finer piece of horse flesh, have I ever known.
I was just the one he picked, you see, he was never owned.
Rex the ladies all would say, to the noble steed, a noble name.
But they never knew how I spelled it, or his claim to fame.

                                                             

 

Ode to the Quarter Moon

While nosin around, this cow poetry stuff, I notice nobody takes the time.
To put in a deservin, good word or two, about a genuine cowboy shrine.

I've been down the trail and back again, if you get the drift of what I mean.
I worked on many handsome spread, and for some that just paid with beans.

But it made no mind, what conditions were, be it mansion or bunkhouse shack.
They all had a place, of spiritual repose, tucked in somewhere in the back.

Now you'd visit this place, at least once a day, and you always got there on time.
Bein on time, was the number one rule, when you visit this cowboy shrine.

In a somber way, you'd approach the facade, be it brick or weathered old wood.
When you stepped through the door, you thanked God for the floor, and got out
as fast as you could.

Many a problem, has been solved, inside of those hollow walls.
And many a wise idea made, that weren't to wise at all.

You know the trouble, a puncher can get in, when he's forced to spend time with his mind.
As a matter of fact, I'll have to admit, that's how I figured this rhyme.

It may well be, a fair day in May, or a bright sunny day in June.
When your doin your chore, facin that door, it's only a quarter moon.

           

 

The Ballad of Hank Holmes

Hank Holmes, was a hell of a hand
that rode for the old lazy K brand
and he'd do anything, that he had to do, to prove it.
He bragged, he could ride and rope the best
and if anyone wanted, to take the test
or better than that, make a little bet, they'd lose it.

Unbeknown to him, just south of town
there was this particular, horse of renown
that belonged to a fellow, we all called Fast Hands Fergy.
Gamblin was, Fergy's vice
he won that hoss, with a roll of the dice
and the only reason, he kept him around, he was purdy.

That hoss once belonged, to a rodeo man
that traveled across, the breadth of the land
givin anyone, with money a chance, to ride him.
Many a cowboy, made their bet
and nary a one, had rode him yet
most had left, with sad regrets, they tried him.

So Fergy and I, hatched a scheme
to clean the pockets, of Hank Holmes jeans
and maybe put a sudden end, to that dad-blain braggin.
Some might say, we was settin him up
and we thought about that, as we raised our cups
the only thing worse, than a blowhards words, is a woman's naggin.

Hank got himself, a little drunk in the bar
and told all the boys, to search near and far   
if you think thar's a hoss, that I can't ride then, then find em.
Three months wages, says I'll come out on top
and I said "Hank, that's likely not
I know a little hoss, that would like nothing more, than to deny him."

It got real quiet, in the old dance hall
'twas the first time Hank, had his back to the wall
everyone knew, he had to make his words, come true
So I says, "Seein how your so tuff
maybe three months wages, weren't enough
I wouldn't want to slight, a wranglin man, like you."

He said, "Your right, let's make it four
that'll be plenty, for this little chore."
I noticed how, he didn't speak up, nearly as loud.
and it came to be, that four was bet
I would have liked more, but it was all I could get
and we set the day, with time allowed, to gather a crowd

It didn't take long, for the talk to get around
most money said, Hank would never hit the ground
Fergy and I, went to feedin that high test grain.
When it finally got, to the fateful day
the hoss felt so good, he wanted to play
and the things that happened to Hank, were a down right shame.

It took four or five men, to saddle him up                               
we had to snub em, to my work mule Tuck                                   
he looked Hank over, in a strange walleyed way.       
We finally got, the blindfold on
in short order, Hank would be gone
and I'm not so sure, he wanted throwed in, to the fray.

But he puffed his chest, then clumb on up
he knew that hoss, could sure enough buck
and the likes, ain't been seen, afore or again since.
In just two jumps, he was tall in the saddle
he shook Hank up, like a babe shakes a rattle
then took a bead, on that catch pen fence.

About ten yards out, the hoss just stopped
but poor old Hank, he did not
he took off, like he was wingin it, out of hell.
I never knew a mans hide, could turn that pale
but I guess it does, when you land straddle of a rail
and when Hank hit, he gave em that lonesome yell.  
(ie he he he he he)

Me and Fast Hands, pocketed our dust
we made about enough, to form a college trust
collected our hoss, and moved out smartly, down the road.
In short order, we were back at the ranch
we uncorked a jug, and did a little dance
if hosses where gold mines, we had the motherlode.

Hank Holmes, was a hell of a hand
that rode for the old lazy K brand
as for braggin, he just couldn't use it.
Braggin you see, ain't all that simple
when you have a voice, like Shirley Temple
and besides all that, he didn't have to prove it.

                                            


Skunk Trouble

I had me this old yellar pony,
When I was a boy growin up.
And a sawed off bow legged Beagle,
That ever one just called Pup.

I called that old pony Trigger,
After a hero I seen.
That spent his time chasin villains,
Across the big silver screen.

I was to small to crawl upon him,
So I'd lay a plank on his side.
I'd climb up and get myself mounted,
Push off the plank and then ride.

We spent our time chasin bad guys,
In the territory pa gave to me.
Tryin to keep me from trouble,
I got in plenty you see.

One day a new trail we were blazin a new trail,
up close to the wall along the barn.
When we popped round the corner thar's a skunk there,
poor critter never meant any harm.

But Pup gave em that hound dog yodel,
as soon as that smell teched his nose.
That put the skunk to runnin,
right between old Triggers toes.

He only jumped once and I's a goner,
but I held on tight, to the reins.
Next thing I see that skunk standin,
On his front feet, butt up, takin aim.

Pup ducked to get behind me,
He'd done it one time before.
When he tried to dig one out,
under pa's feed shack floor.

Now that skunks aim was down right deadly,
He nailed us, ever one, all three.
As quick as it happened, it was over,
I bet we was some sight to see.

Pup rubbing his eyes and whinin,
plowin the ground with his nose.
Trigger shakin his head and blowin,
Me stripin out of my clothes.

I walked back, to the house, buck naked,
Ma got me before I reached the door.
Said she could smell me a comin,
And didn't know if she could take anymore.

With galvanized tub and scrub brush,
She went to work in the shade of the tree.
She washed me and scrubbed me and washed me,
Till I was as pink as could be.

Weeks later they still talked about it,
It sure enough was one big event.
I guess it was for me too.
That was the first night I slept in my tent.


                                         
The Cowboys

Begot by men that sought freedom.
The morning Sun shone down on their back.
Immigrants, farm boys and tradesman,
dandy's, frontiersmen, and hacks.

Romantics of the dime novel.
Greeley's advice takers too.
Some had wore out their welcome,
others sought to start anew.

Hard as river rock granite.
Untamed land tamer, the best.
Seekers of the tough challenge.
Pointed west, forever west.

Stockmen of wild born cattle.
Midwife of foal and calf.
Horsemen of skill unquestioned.
Lover of natures wrath.

Hand shaker of binding contract.
Law abider of unwritten code.
Fair judge in matters of question.
Debt payer of debt owed.

Seer of exploiters ruin.
Leader by method of show.
Common sense educator.
Reaper of what he sowed.

Tale teller, folk singer, and poet.
Master of common reply.
Historian, artist and inventor.
Observer as life passes by.

This is the way of cowboy.
As he rides to the setting Sun.
Smiled on by the God of good fortune.
A hero that is mastered by none.
                                          
                                         

 

Ordinary Joe



He weren't much to look at,
built broad and set low.
A Western Chunk, old timers called him.
Someone named him Joe.
Most would overlook him,
for reasons this n that.
He was just an ordinary hoss,
in a plain brown wrap.

Speed was not his fortune,
some might call him slow.
But he had the spread, between his eyes,
where the learnin had to go.
A jagged scar run cross his shoulder,
from a some wound now unknown.
He was a long way from top dollar,
but the only one to own.

By the way he laid his foot down,
you could tell he was mountain bred.
Many was the number
of the trails, that he had tread.
He would come when called for,
ground tie, load and haul.
Work cattle through the summer,
pack game out in the fall.
 
Never turned out with the remuda
he earned a spot above.
He was kept around the home place,
for when the pushin came to shove.
He was the classic ranch horse,
the kind only found in books.
His name would have been legend,
if he only had the looks.

When time came for his passing,
it was a very somber day.
All the hands turned out,
to pay respect, at his grave.
I could search this old world over,
and this for sure I know.
There will never be another,
like that Ordinary Joe.


 

The Reckoning of Asa Cane

I
The ranch lays nestled in a small river valley,
eastern slope of the Great Divide.
Sixty miles from town and the nearest neighbor,
was the better part of a fair days ride.
Three generations of pioneering cattlemen,
laid claim to the land.
The sense of belonging was imprinted on them,
like the cattle that carried their brand.

The herd was a mix of farm bred beeves,
and range run Longhorn cows.
The later, brought onto land when it was settled,
 were part of the domain now.
Long and gamy with heavy horn,
the get of wild born stock.
Evolved to survive all Nature's fury,
this was the Longhorn's lot.

  Asa Cane, stood on the hill,
next to his pa's grave.
In times of trouble he came here to think,
and to speak of the erstwhile days.
Four months shy of sixteen years,
his boyhood ready to pass.
Early the keeper, of the Cane's home range,
and the traditions of past.

He spoke of his pa's fever.
How they wept when he was gone.
His ma and sister had mustered up,
and found ways to carry on.
He spoke of the goodness of neighbors,
that had looked after what they could do.
How they labored for meals, to fill the barn,
with the fodder to get them through.

He spoke of the cold hearted banker,
that had called for the note to be paid.
How the beeves were sold, to pay the loan,
and the Money Wolves where now stayed.
 He spoke of the Longhorn breed,
and the memory of his pa's strong convey.
How "That range run herd, had built that ranch,
     and would see them through the tuff days."

He spoke of the late coming spring,
and made mention the feed was now gone.
How he turned out the herd so they might browse,
and hoped their range instinct strong.
Then a peacefulness settle on him,
and decisions he had made seem right.
He made note of the clouds, gathering off to the North,
there'd be another new snow tonight.



II
The old bear Grizz woke with a hunger
that only a Bruin can know.
He crawled from the lair of his He Bear Den,
into a fresh Montana spring snow.
The Big Boss Critter, with a range that covered,
the upper reaches of three Watersheds.
Eight hundred pounds, of claw, tooth and muscle,
that all creatures had learned to dread.

He worked his way down the ridge,
pulling a part once towerin trees.
Looking for Grubs, in the past year's decay,
and anything he thought he could eat.
He watched a Wolverine kill a Hare.
Which he promptly took away.
The Ol' Trickster's bluff, might have been good,
but with his hunger it weren't on that day.

For two days he scavenged the hogback,
as he worked his way down into the draw.
There 'neath the snow, he heard water trickle,
the beginnings of this year's thaw.
Now he ate the leaf of the Willow,
and the new bud of Alter Wood.
He grazed most the day, in the hungry bear way,
and lay in the sun when he could.

Yet gaunt, the boar prowled the stream side,
moving down with the lay of the land.
Until stream gaining strength, became river,
and he crossed into the home range of man.
A cloven hoof strikes stone in the willow.
The scent of pray hangs heavy in the dew.
The yearling heifer browsed without worry,
not knowing the bear grazed there too.

The stalk was deliberate, the rush blinding.
His giant paw struck just aft of the ear.
Neck broke, the yearling died quickly,
in Nature's way, without pain or fear.
He tasted the blood of his quarry.
What was this new prey he had found?
Light speckled hide and flesh tender,
unwary and easy to ground.

Three days he laid up on the carcass,
sleeping light, eating his fill.
Then he rolled in the putrid remains,
and ambled on down the hill.
Now he entered the lower valley,
where this new prey scent was strong.
Not knowing that he crossed a border,
into a land where he did not belong.



  III
The Twist Horned Cow, moved away from her sisters,
for the want that Range Cows have.
To seek the seclusion, of a place of hiding,
when her time had come to calve.
She had seen nine winters, raised six healthy young,
and always had bred true.
The stir in her womb and fullness of bag,
told her the seventh was now due.

The little bull calf, came easy into the world,
   he just plopped out there on the ground.
The blow from the fall, forced the fluid from his lungs,
and he pulled his first breath down.
If left to survive, he would be handsome.
But it was not to be.
An old boar Grizz, had winded his birthing,
he had a hunger in need of feed.

The cow, caught a flash of movement,
as she stood licking her calf.
A big bear was rushing, off the hill,
Hell bent on death moving fast.
The fact she had a calf, is what saved her,
for she turned to face her foe.
And the blow that was struck was off target,
hitting her shoulder low.

Jaws popping and snarling the bear turned,
her horn caught him inside the flank.
She drove it deep in his muscle, and raised him.
The bear bit her hard on the shank.
Both bloodied and crippled, they grappled.
Exhausted, she traded the calf for her life.
Unsure of his stature, the bear claimed his spoils.
The cow limped off out of sight.



IV
Asa, rose and dressed in a scoot,
a cow had come home in the night.
She stood next to the catch pen and bawled,
something with the herd, was not right.
The mark on her shoulder, told the story,
she stood, lame and blooded, without calf.
A bear had come out mountains,
 a grievous nightmare, that cattlemen have.

He Dressed her wounds and fed her,
then stripped her full bag dry.
There was only one choice to be makin,
like or not, the bear must die.
For a bear that has learned to kill cattle,
is a plague that will scour the range.
Lest he becomes like Old Mose*,
best do it now, while he is new at the game.

No use puttin off, what needs doin,
his pa taught him that early on.
  Alongside that, the time was right,
now, before the bear was gone.
He caught up a Hoss in the lot.
Picked out the Line Backed Dun.
Cleaned his back and strapped on his riggin.
Went to the house for the gun.

The old Winchester, had seen some hard use,
since brought on the ranch when new.
Though worse for wear, it was kept clean,
 and the Buck Horns still lined em' up true.
A rawhide wrap on the stock, secured the butt piece.
Put on green to draw up the split.
In the hands of Asa, it was deadly.
Everything he drew down on, he hit.

Table fare Deer and Elk, was one thing,
and a rouge, cow killing bear, another.
The talk that he had heard of the Grizzly,
He knew, it would be him, or t'other.
He thumbed four rounds down the tube.
Stepped up astride of the dun.
Then set out, down the cows back trail.
To the place, from where she had come.

The trail was easy to follow,
due to a fresh dusting of snow.
No way to misread, the trail that was laid,
The limp in her track clearly showed.
He found the herd, there in the willows,
then cast for sign, just above.
He saw where the cow came off the hill,
and now, with the track, there was blood.

He tied the dun to light brush in the willow.
Should the bear come, he might pull free.
Then levered a round to the chamber.
Thumbed one more, to the tube, with the three.
Just five little parts of separation.
Would come between bear and boy.
And the real Hell, that knows no fury.
That Asa set out to destroy.

He set the hammer at half cock,
Stepped twenty paces, to the side of the track.
Paused for a spell, to tune in to the land,
told himself to be mindful of his back.
Take two quiet steps, stop, look and listen.
Let yourself and the land become one.
Find the bear, before he finds you,
Be patient, your time will come.

Slowly Asa, moved up the slope,
to the place where the cow had the calf.
The sign in the snow told the story,
of the courage, the old cow had.
For the half eaten calf still laid there,
and blood, was with the track of the bear.
Be it good or bad, he was wounded.
Now, was the time for great care.

Again Asa moved to the side.
For he might lay and watch his back trail.
He must find the bear, before he finds him,
on this point he could not fail.
Ever slow he moved up slope.
One hundred yards, then two.
He feared for his life and wanted to run,
but this was a chore he must do.

The old snag, had once been mighty,
until the wind forced it down to the ground.
It laid on the hill, in peaceful repose,
long before he'd been around.
The color of an Iron Gray Hoss,
the silver shined bright in the light.
A sight to behold, the gray that glowed,
yet something did not seem right.

The wind blew down slope and lifted long hair,
that covered the bears grizzled back.
He laid close to the snag and watched down hill,
at the blood that splattered his track.
Asa now knew, where the bear was,
because he saw the hair lift too.
The time had come, for the job to be done,
and there was only one thing left to do.

The stone Asa threw, ricochet off the snag,
and the bear came out like shot.
He look to the rear for the source of the noise,
then heard the rifle, go to cock.
He wheeled to face Asa, stood up on two,
and appeared near bigger than life.
His huge broad head, waved to and fro,
his claws dangled down like knives.

At twenty-five paces lookin up hill,
Eight foot, can seem more like Ten.
Asa, pushed jitters aside, for the need to be calm,
and his sights settled down over him.
Pick one little spot, ran through his mind,
and he picked out a part he could use.
He took a deep breath and held, then squeezed one off,
when the bead sat down in the groove.

The old Winchester barked, though he aimed for his heart,
he just clipped it and collapsed the right lung.
Asa jacked in a round, and drew down again,
before the bear even knew what was done.
 A nerve shakin squall, rang out over the hills,
the bullet burned to the bear's very core.
Asa found his bead, pulled deep in the vee,
took a deep breath and held, like before.

The bear dropped, but was to soon off the ground,
the adrenaline poured through his veins.
He came down the hill, in that rollin bear gate,
Asa was steady to hold with his aim.
Twice more the gun spoke, not slowing him down,
each bullet was well placed and true.
Ten paces now, still coming on strong,
only one bullet left to make do.

The burnished black nose, hung in the sight,
the bead came down into place.
Time ceased to move, so it seemed to the boy,
though it moved at a breakneck pace.
He touch it off, the bullet found the bear's brain,
and the boy's job now was complete.
A grizzled old bear with silver tipped hair.
Lay dead, at the man's feet.



  
*Old Mose: Notorious grizzly bear that ravaged Colorado from 1883 to
1904. He is  credited with killing 3 men (suspected of killing a total of
eight men) and more than 1200 head of livestock (sheep, cattle and horses).
Killed northwest of Canon City, Colorado April 4, 1904 by James Anthony. Old
Mose measured over 10 foot nose tip, to tip of tail and weighed more than
1200 pounds.

2001, Ezra Spur

 

The Poets

Tales where told in the days of old
O'er the camp fires of the West.
In metered rhyme with truth sublime
the listener was addressed.

They spoke of hope, the common folk
and the beauty of the range.
Of men gone bad, cows gone mad
the occurrence of the strange.

Of lover lost and outlaw Hoss,
lonesome Line Camp stays.
The taste of beans and faded dreams,
how they'd quit someday.

They'd poke fun at things they done,
find humor in catastrophe.
With hard times nigh, when most would to cry,
they laughed at the calamity.

All said and done, they were the one,
that kept the record straight.
Of the cowboy's way, in bygone days,
may their rhetoric long be great.

Tales where told in the days of old
O'er the camp fires of the West.
Those spoke in rhyme with measured time,
are the ones that I loved best.

2001, Ezra Spur

 

This poem is included in our collection of
 Poems About Cowboy Poetry.

 

 

Cowboy


You singed on as a hand a fifteen
With a hanker to be on yer own
Too young to find work in the city
Too old to be livin at home
So you muck stalls and split wood for Cookie
Go fer, everything that gets got
He's meaner than a wet, sacked up badger
Expects you to fetch on the trot
But they gave you a gentle old cow horse
And said, "You can call this one your own"
So you saddle up each day 'round sundown
And ride out on the prairie alone
There in the glow of the moonlight
With the beauty that comes with the land
You decide, come Hell or high water
You're gonna be a Top Hand

Next thing you know, you're twenty
And drawin top cowboy pay
You forgot all those hard times aforehand
You can't wait to greet the next day
You cut a swath, that is high, wide and handsome
The Cowboy Way pours proud through your veins
You have a job and a sure enough, good pony
Folks around, call you by your name
Then you hear they ride broncs on Sunday
At an arena just south of town
No need to fret, you can barrow a riggin
Just put your entry fee down
A two dollar Saddle Bronc Jackpot
Fair judging, one winner take all
More than a week's pay there for the takin
They ride every Sunday till Fall

You figure to risk a sawbuck
You've topped a bad one or two
First ride you get bucked down early
You're bound, to see it through
Next week you get one covered
There's not enough horse for the prize
You have an inkling, you might could do this
One more Sunday, and you have the top ride
You ride every chance that summer
Win more than a fair share for sure
Save an enough to buy your own saddle
You're headed for the big time's the word
Come August you make your first meetin
Local show that draws a good crowd
Luck would have it, you split first and second
Hook is set, there's no turnin back now

You're in Denver the day you make thirty
For ten years you've been on the road
It's one Rodeo then another
Where you been, the Lord only knows
The highway's a lonely companion
And sometimes your mind starts to stray
You swear, you can hear Cookie holler
And you long to go home someday
You're slammed hard in the chute at Cody
At Abilene you near break your neck
They have a big pay out in Vegas
And you're ninth in the standings, last check
With some luck and a draw that's forgiven
You could win enough to buy your own spread
For now, your mind's in the middle
And you're out on the highway instead

You hang up your riggin at forty
Go on back, to the place you call home
Cookie has passed on and is buried
'Neath the oak, in the rich prairie loam
You make an offer to buy your old outfit
Why you don't rightly know?
A man that has been there and done it
Truth is, you have no place to go
Cash money does some tall talkin
Things pan out and it turns it's yours
It comes with some good white faced cattle
And on going, back breaking chores
Now it's long hard days in the saddle
Hot days with short starry nights
Cold winters spent feeding cattle
A short ended budget, that's tight

At fifty you turn your first profit
Up till now, you've been just getting by
Times at hand to do some reflecting
At the highs and lows in your life
Looking back you might make some changes
But not with the path that you chose
You were first and always a Cowboy
It's in your blood and it clearly shows
They're still ridin broncs on Sunday
There's a new kid that's really hot
Word's out, he's headed for the big time
You hope the kid don't get lost
That young feller you hired last summer
Has the makins to be a Top Hand
Hard working and quick to the learnin
He looks to stand tall as a man

You just can't believe, you're now sixty
So you find ways to hang close to home
You saddle an old Cow Horse 'round sundown
And ride out on the prairie alone
There in the glow of the moonlight
With the beauty that comes with the land
You thank God for the life you've been given
He's a Cowboy, he understands

2002, Ezra Spur

 

Where the Blue Stem Grows

Though fifty years have passed
I still hold them dear
The memories of a life well spent
in my younger years
When I, with my compadres
rode those rolling hills
Where the Prairie Falcon, soared on high
and the Meadow Lark would trill

Our hosses, full of vinegar
would buck with each ride
The cavvy, in the bloom
was the Wrangler's pride
Brothers of the saddle
on that wondrous land
Each a part, of the whole
riding for the Brand

White Sage and Purple Cone
skirt the Prairie Rose
On that sea of grass
Where the Blue Stem grows

Even as my time is short
my Minds Eye, makes it real
I can, hear the sounds,
the scent, the taste, the feel
Where water, clear and bright
through the coulees goes
In lush valleys, beaver toiled
just to stanch its flow

Heifer calves and baby bulls
for their mamma's bawled
Fat cows, in grass belly high
hearkened to their call
Roundup time, brought old friends
to laugh with, rouse and cheer
The yarns told in the campfire's light
would carry you for years

The Milky Way fills the sky
as you lay in quiet repose
Lost in the serenity
Where the Blue Stem grows

Once again I long to ride
O'er that rolling land
To see the grain, upon the grass
when Autumn is at hand
To hear the saddle leather creak
My pony, fit to go
Pushing cattle to winter range
from the high plateau      

When he and I, melt together
to become a team of one
The satisfaction, at days end
of a job well done
A blue-gray morning mist
rises off an early dew
Where the Maker, stopped to rest
when his day was through

Where the yellow light of dawning
became the Sunset's golden glow
Shone across those amber hills
Where the Blue Stem grows

2002, Ezra Spur

 

That Old Mousy Cow

"One thing could be said,
'bout that old Mousy Cow,
She put most of her brethren to shame."
The way Brahma's go,
The mean one's the bull,
This cow, made a bad bull, look tame.
With horns here to there,
And a snot slinging stare,
Floppy hump, hung off the side.
A mile and a day,
Weren't fer 'nough away.
To look out, for her mousy old hide.

Without a care,
On his favorite pet mare,
Clyde, rode out to check cows.
Liven his dream,
He trailed up 'long the stream,
Payin no mind, or no how.
That huffy old cuss,
Jumped out of the brush,
Head high, switch tailed and rank.
Picked up Clyde, Hoss and all,
Stood 'em up tall,
Then dropped them, down over the bank.

They hit sunny side down,
On the river rock round,
In water, near two feet deep.
All poor Clyde, could think,
What's that horrible thing,
That's stuck here, betwixt my knees.
'Twas holding him down,
And he feared he might drown,
He had, a particular liken for air.
She rolled this way, then that,
Them, both flat on their back,
It was more than a feller could bear.
But Clyde weren't alone,
Fer he knew ever stone,
That lay, in near parts, there about.
Each shape and size,
Thought they'd be his demise,
Broke-down, ground-up and spit out.

Then sumpen from above,
Give em a shove,
And set Clyde's mare free.
When he popped up for air,
What would be there?
That old Mousy Cow's teats.
On his head, her bag sat,
Like some new kind of hat,
All leather, Two buttons per side.
Clyde, still in shock,
Peeked out, 'tween her hocks,
And seen a tail passin by.

Now Clyde's mixed up mind
Thought someone tossed him a line,
So he reach out, and took a hold.
That cow had been tailed before,
And wanting no more,
Lit out fer places untold.
Through bramble, o'er brand,
Like an Iron Horse, she ran,
Clyde, hangin on for the drag.
With bits of clothes, hide and hair,
stuck on thorns, ever where,
He was near drowned, rolled on, and snagged.

When they got to the stump,
The old cow give a jump.
Stump jumpin, weren't Clyde's forte.
He hit with a thud,
And the place that he rubbed,
Can be seen, on that stump, to this day.
Pet mare, came home,
As you guessed, all alone.
I went out looking for Clyde.
From the sign on the ground,
I tracked him down.
He'd found, a good place, to hide.

There was an old critter's den,
Clyde had clumb in,
'Neath, the gnarled roots of stump.
By trade, plead and shout,
I talked him out.
Clyde was done being, the chump.
I begged, "Clyde come on."
He cried "Is it gone?"
And whimpered this sad refrain.
"One thing you could say,
'bout that Old Mousy Cow,
She put most of her brethren to shame."

2004, Ezra Spur

Ezra adds: "We raised some bucking bulls in the old days, using a straight, horned, Brahman bull over some hand picked hereford cows. A neighbor saw the bull and gave the old man a straight brahman heifer as a joke. What started out as a joke became a pet, then as these things often do, turned into a hazard. On two different occasions I watched her get a horn under a horse and pick a cowboy off the ground. We called her Betty, and this poem is about her." 

 

 

 


See Ezra Spur's The Tree in the collection of Holiday Poems from 2003
and
The Visit in the collection of Holiday Poems from 2002
and
Shaving Cream Santa Claus in the collection of Holiday Poems from 2001

 

 

 

 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

 

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