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We started the Favorite Cowboy and Western Poems Project in conjunction with Cowboy Poetry Week, which we celebrate the third week of April each year, during National Poetry Month.  

We welcome your comments all year.  See Page 1 for more background information.

This is Page 3 of 5 pages of comments.  
The most recent comments are posted on Page 5.

The index of all poets and poems mentioned is on Page 1.

We invite you to tell us about your favorite classic or contemporary Western or Cowboy poem.  

Simply send an email and tell us:

  • the name of your favorite Western or Cowboy poem

  • the author's name

  • why it's a favorite

Be sure to include your name and email address. 

We're particularly interested in knowing why the poem is your favorite.

 

We welcome corrections and additions to our follow-up notes.  Email us.



Jane Morton contributed the following:

Jane Morton 

When I was in the fifth grade our class had poetry time Friday afternoons. During this time we could recite any poetry we'd memorized.  Using my mother's old poetry books as a resource, I found and recited, "Barbara Fritchie," "The First Snowfall," and "Casey At the Bat" among others. I couldn't wait for Fridays to come. I think now that I learned rhyme and meter from that poetry. My mind still registers those rhythms.  Later on in high school and in college Emily Dickinson became a favorite.

However, once I learned of cowboy poetry and read some of the classic poems, I knew this was the poetry I wanted to write. If I have to pick a favorite poet, and that is difficult because there are so many, it would be Sharlot Hall.  Just reading her "Smell of Rain" dries my throat and parches my lips. "The Old Ranch Mother" makes my heart ache for that poor woman and all she suffered with a husband that just wants to "spit and chaw." Although I love "When Maw Turned the Stampede," I never could recite it.  The picture Sharlot conjures of Maw "swingin' her apern an' yellin': 'Shoo'" chokes me up, and brings tears to my eyes.  The people in her poems are real. Sharlot
touches my deepest emotions. 

Jane Morton is:  

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

Smithsonian Folkways' Cowboy Poetry Classics (2003) includes an excellent recitation of Sharlot Hall's "The Smell of Rain" by Virginia Bennett.  See the cross-referenced index of poets, poems and reciters on this CD in our anthology index and read a review here. You can read more about the CD at the Smithsonian Folkways site.

 


Dick Morton contributed the following:

Dick Morton 

Dick Morton at Prescott 2001, photo by Teddie "Nell" Daley

 

 

 

 

So many wonderful poems written by the early day cowboy poets make me wonder how I can say which are my favorites. I guess it's those that touch my heart. Charles Badger Clark's, "The Lost Pardner" is one. When I recite it, it is difficult because I think of a boyhood friend I lost. Without him my days were empty, I didn't want to believe he left me and I would look for him whenever I passed his house and want to relive the times we spent together. When I came across "The Lost Pardner" I couldn't wait to learn it--it's one of my favorites.

  • You can read more about  Dick Morton and one of his poems here.  Dick Morton is an accomplished reciter, and we reviewed his presentation of "The Lost Pardner" at Prescott in 2001 right here

  • We have features about Charles "Badger" Clark and some of his poetry here

    The Lost Pardner

    I ride alone and hate the boys I meet.
      Today, some way, their laughin' hurts me so.
    I hate the mockin'-birds in the mesquite--
      And yet I liked 'em just a week ago.
    I hate the steady sun that glares, and glares!
      The bird songs make me sore.
    I seem the only thing on earth that cares
      'Cause Al ain't here no more!

    'Twas just a stumblin' hawse, a tangled spur--
      And, when I raised him up so limp and weak,
    One look before his eyes begun to blur
      And then--the blood that wouldn't let 'im speak!
    And him so strong, and yet so quick he died,
      And after year on year
    When we had always trailed it side by side,
      He went--and left me here!

    We loved each other in the way men do
      And never spoke about it, Al and me,
    But we both knowed, and knowin' it so true
      Was more than any woman's kiss could be.
    We knowed--and if the way was smooth or rough,
      The weather shine or pour,
    While I had him the rest seemed good enough--
      But he ain't here no more!

    What is there out beyond the last divide?
      Seems like that country must be cold and dim.
    He'd miss the sunny range he used to ride,
      And he'd miss me, the same as I do him.
    It's no use thinkin'--all I'd think or say
      Could never make it clear.
    Out that dim trail that only leads one way
      He's gone--and left me here!

    The range is empty and the trails are blind,
      And I don't seem but half myself today.
    I wait to hear him ridin' up behind
      And feel his knee rub mine the good old way
    He's dead--and what that means no man kin tell.
      Some call it "gone before."
    Where?  I don't know, but God!  I know so well
      That he ain't here no more!

    from Sun and Saddle Leather, 1915

Badger Clark is:

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


Janice Chapman contributed the following:

Rod Nichols has a talent for putting poetry into words that identify with our innermost emotions.  Rod, whom I met at the New Braunfels, Texas, Poetry Festival April 6th, 2002 and who had not long been out of surgery, wrote a beautiful poem, "Cowboy Service," shortly after his return home. 

Janice Chapman is:  

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

 

Cowboy Service

One Sunday mornin' mistin' rain
beneath a Texas oak,
a canopy had been set up
where cowboy poets spoke.

Some cowboys had already 'rived
this early time of day,
so I sat down to rest a bit
and hear what they might say.

"Dear Lord" I heard a cowboy say
"We thank you for this time
and for the chance to praise your name
and speak our hearts and mind.

To some a cowboy may seem rough
and not what folks might say
would be the type of character
to ever stop and pray.

But Lord you know the hearts of men
and you know that ain't true,
no man could live the life we live
and not believe in you.

Perhaps it takes a cowboy Lord
who lives close to the land
to see the handiwork of God
and understand his plan.

Our work is neverending seems
and sometimes we forget
and sometimes we might slip a tad
or wander off a bit.

But given time we will return
on such a day as now
and raise our voice in thankfulness
beneath these oaken boughs.

And so we come in praise of thee
our Father's will be done
and ask your blessings as we go
God keep us ev'ry one."

I sat there at the service end
in silence, not a sound
and prayed dear Lord I thank you for
this cowboy church I'd found.

© 2002, Rod Nichols

 Rod Nichols is:

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

 


Hawk Lessard writes:

My favorite cowgirl poet is Debra Coppinger Hill.  She wrote a poem called "Yellow Slicker." Until I read this poem and of course had to re-read many times, I had no idea that women of the West were so talented.  Her poetry just brought me to tears.  I will also have to say my favorite cowboy poet is Mr. Jay Snider.  These two should get together to write a book.

Yellow Slicker
(To "Miss Oleta" Nichols, Pioneer, Lady, Texan) 

                          
She wore his yellow slicker,
Though it almost drug the ground,
It seemed to make things easier,
As if He was still around.

He’d left her some big boots,
She was gonna’ have to fill,
But his old yellow slicker,
It seemed to give her the Will.

The Will to keep on going,
The Will to be wise and strong,
The Will to make their dreams come true,
And remember, where she belonged.

She wore it to feed the cattle,
And when she cleaned the stalls,
She hung it on that high nail by the door,
And remembered He was tall.

She wore it every time,
Storm clouds came rushing in,
She even wore it sometimes,
Just so the tears would not begin.

She wore it to keep the wet out,
And to hold the cold at bay,
It eased the hardness of the ground,
Each time she knelt to pray.

She wore it to chop the tanks,
And when she mended fence,
She wore it on the best of days,
And on the ones that made no sense.

She wore it when it was ragged,
And had completely lost it’s charm,
Because, if she was inside of it,
She was back inside his arms.

It’s just an old yellow slicker,
But it made her life complete,
It reminded her what’s important,
And it kept her on her feet.

She wore it across a lifetime,
And she never felt alone,
She raised their kids, she raised their cows,
And she made their farm a home.

And when she’s gone, she tells the kids,
Just hang it on that nail in the barn,
Then look at it, and in your hearts know,
His yellow slicker, saved the farm.

 
© 1996 Debra Coppinger Hill, All Rights Reserved

Jean Prescott's recording of "Yellow Slicker" appears on Debra Coppinger Hill's CD, "Common Sense, Men and Horses."  Jean Prescott also recorded "Yellow Slicker" on her own recent "Tapestry of the West" album, which is available from SilverCreek Books and Music (where you can listen to sample tracks) and from Jean Prescott's web site  at GiddiupGo.com.  

Tapestry of the West, image courtesy GiddiupGo.com

 

  • You can read more about Jay Snider and some of his poetry here; he is a Lariat Laureate at CowboyPoetry.com and is featured in The Big Roundup.  



Dennis Gaines contributed the following:

Dennis Gaines 

Dennis Gaines, photo courtesy Jim Fish of The Texas Cowboy Gazette

You can put me down for "Clancy of the Mounted Police," by Robert Service, and "Cowboy Sign," by Duane Reece, a cowboy in Arizona whom I have never met.  "Cowboy Sign" is in Voices and Visions of the American West, by Barney Nelson. 

"Clancy" is a stirring account of a Mountie who gave his all, in the self-sacrificing way that cowboys often do in their own pursuits. Although Clancy's sacrifice went far above the call of ordinary duty for anyone, we must keep in mind that cowboys throughout history have given their lives in storms, stampedes, and swollen rivers. 

You could also include Eugene Manlove Rhodes' epic poem "The Hired Man on Horseback" in this category. 

For a contemporary selection, it's hard to fault "Cowboy Sign," which is a sterling example of fierce and unapologetic pride in a way of life and a heritage that few in this country will ever know. My hat's off to Duane Reece.

Dennis Gaines is:

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

"Sing hey, sing ho, for the ice and snow,
 And a heart that's ever merry;
Let us trim and square with a lover's care
 (For why should a man be sorry?)
A grave deep, deep, with the moon a-peep,
 A grave in the frozen mould.
Sing hey, sing ho, for the winds that blow,
And a grave deep down in the ice and snow,
 A grave in the land of gold."

Day after day of darkness, the whirl of the seething snows;
    Day after day of blindness, the swoop of the stinging blast;
On through a blur of fury the swing of staggering blows;
    On through a world of turmoil, empty, inane and vast.
Night with its writhing storm-whirl, night despairingly black;
    Night with its hours of terror, numb and endlessly long;
Night with its weary waiting, fighting the shadows back,
    And ever the crouching madman singing his crazy song.

Cold with its creeping terror, cold with its sudden clinch;
    Cold so utter you wonder if 'twill ever again be warm;
Clancy grinned as he shuddered, "Surely it isn't a cinch
    Being wet-nurse to a looney in the teeth of an arctic storm.

"The blizzard passed and the dawn broke, knife-edged and crystal clear;
    The sky was a blue-domed iceberg, sunshine outlawed away;
Ever by snowslide and ice-rip haunted and hovered the Fear;
    Ever the Wild malignant poised and panted to slay.

The lead-dog freezes in harness--cut him out of the team!
    The lung of the wheel-dog's bleeding--shoot him and let him lie!
On and on with the others--lash them until they scream!
    "Pull for your lives, you devils! On! To halt is to die."

There in the frozen vastness Clancy fought with his foes;
    The ache of the stiffened fingers, the cut of the snowshoe thong;
Cheeks black-raw through the hood-flap, eyes that tingled and closed,
    And ever to urge and cheer him quavered the madman's song.

Colder it grew and colder, till the last heat left the earth,
    And there in the great stark stillness the bale fires glinted and
gleamed,
And the Wild all around exulted and shook with a devilish mirth,
    And life was far and forgotten, the ghost of a joy once dreamed.

Death! And one who defied it, a man of the Mounted Police;
    Fought it there to a standstill long after hope was gone;
Grinned through his bitter anguish, fought without let or cease,
    Suffering, straining, striving, stumbling, struggling on.

Till the dogs lay down in their traces, and rose and staggered and fell;
    Till the eyes of him dimmed with shadows, and the trail was so hard to
see;
Till the Wild howled out triumphant, and the world was a frozen hell--
    Then said Constable Clancy: "I guess that it's up to me."

Far down the trail they saw him, and his hands they were blanched like bone;
    His face was a blackened horror, from his eyelids the salt rheum ran;
His feet he was lifting strangely, as if they were made of stone,
    But safe in his arms and sleeping he carried the crazy man.

So Clancy got into Barracks, and the boys made rather a scene;
    And the O. C. called him a hero, and was nice as a man could be;
But Clancy gazed down his trousers at the place where his toes had been,
    And then he howled like a husky, and sang in a shaky key:

"When I go back to the old love that's true to the finger-tips,
I'll say: 'Here's bushels of gold, love,' and I'll kiss my girl on the lips;
'It's yours to have and to hold, love.' It's the proud, proud boy I'll be,
When I go back to the old love that's waited so long for me."


Robert Service, from Ballads of a Cheechako, 1909

Rhodes' first published poem, "Charlie Graham," appeared in Charles Lummis' magazine, Land of Sunshine, in 1896.  (A book of letters between Lummis and Rhodes,, Sandpapers: The Lives and Letters of Eugene Manlove Rhodes and Charles Fletcher Lummis, was published several years ago. You can read more about the book here at Amazon.)  Rhodes' wife wrote his biography in 1938; the book shares the name of his famous poem, Hired Man on Horseback.

The University of New Mexico describes its Rhodes Collection here:  "During 1941 a complete set of the first editions of Eugene Manlove Rhodes' works were acquired for the library. Eugene Manlove Rhodes, novelist, essayist and poet, is one of New Mexico's most beloved writers. Gene Rhodes' fiction was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post; adapted for motion pictures, television and the stage; and published in hardcover, paperback, and Armed Services Editions. The collection includes almost all published items by or about Rhodes."


George Bourbeau contributed the following:

I think I'd have to nominate three, two old timers and one new.

First would be Bruce Kiskaddon's "When They Finish Shipping Cattle in the Fall." Second is Badger Clark's "A Long Half Hour." I think they reflect some basic cowboy thoughts and feelings and paint some beautiful mind paintings.

My contemporary favorite is Baxter Black's "The Buckskin Mare" That is such a powerful story, and his wording is so descriptive, that even though I've read it at least a hundred times and listened to the tape and least as much, my heart rate still increases to machine gun velocity every time. Baxter is a master poet, storyteller and songwriter and, I guess, a pretty fair veterinarian. He's one of my modern day heroes.

  • You can read more about George Bourbeau and read his poetry here

  • You can read more about "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall" on page 1We have a feature with more poetry about Bruce Kiskaddon here.  

  • We have features about Charles "Badger" Clark and some of his poetry here. This is the poem mentioned by George Bourbeau:

    A Bad Half Hour

    Wonder why I feel so restless;
        Moon is shinin' still and bright,
    Cattle all is restin' easy,
        But I just kain't sleep tonight.
    Ain't no cactus in my blankets,
        Don't know why they feel so hard—
    'Lesst it's Warblin' Jim a-singin'
        "Annie Laurie" out on guard.

    "Annie Laurie"— wish he'd quit it!
        Couldn't sleep now if I tried.
    Makes the night seem big and lonesome
        And my throat feels sore inside.
    How my Annie used to sing it!
        And it sounded good and gay.
    Nights I drove her home from dances
        When the east was turning gray.

    Yes, "her brow was like the snowdrift"
        And her eyes like quiet streams,
    "And her face" — I still can see it
        Much too frequent in my dreams;
    And her hand was soft and trembly
        That night underneath the tree,.
    When I couldn't help but tell her
        She was "all the world to me."

    But her folks said I was "shif'less,"
        "Wild," "unsettled.,"— they was right,
    For I leaned to punchin' cattle
        And I'm at it still tonight.
    And she married young Doc Wilkins—
        Oh my Lord! but that was hard!
    Wish that fool would quit his singin'
        "Annie Laurie" out on guard.

    Oh I just kaint stand it thinkin;
        Of the things that happened then.
    Good old times, and all apast me!
        Never seem to come again—
    My turn? Sure.  I'll come a runnin'.
        Warm me up some coffee, pard—
    But I'll stop that Jim from singin'
        "Annie Laurie" out on guard.

    Badger Clark

    One of the best loved modern performances is done by Don Edwards and Waddie Mitchell, as they perform "A Bad Half Hour" and "Annie Laurie."  The moving collaboration is found on their recording The Bard and the Balladeer and you can listen to a part of it at Amazon.  

    Click for Amazon   

In Don Edwards' excellent book, Classic Cowboy Songs from the Minstrel of the Range, he tells about how he came to set the poem to music, after playing with a Scottish folksinger at a Texas Scottish festival.  Don Edwards writes "...Badger's poem came to life like never before -- a magical musical moment to say the least -- and I've been singing it like that ever since."   Limited copies of this book are available from Don Edwards' web site:

We have a description of the book here.

 

  • You can read more about Baxter Black here at CowboyPoetry.com and you can visit his web site.  His web site describes "The Buckskin Mare" tape "Baxter calls this poem 'a cowboy's nightmare . . .Edgar Allen Poe in spurs.' The title poem (15 minutes) is a story about one cowboy's obsession with a wild, invincible mustang."


Our friend and poet Jeff Streeby contributed the following:

Jeff Streeby 


favorite poems--

Knibbs, Henry Herbert--
"The Shallows of the Ford"
"The Long Road West"
Reason: Perfection of form and sentiment
 
Banjo Paterson
"Pardon-- Son of Reprieve"
Reason: strength of narrative/naturalness of rhyme
 
Overcast, Ken
"The Mist of the Wild Rose"
Reason: strength of imagery
 
Allen Wayne Damron & Tim Henderson
"The Gringo Pistolero"
Reason: conciseness/strength of imagery & characterization
 
D. J. O'Malley
"The D-2 Horse Wrangler"
Reason: strength of rhyme and authenticity

Jeff Streeby is:

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

  • Jeff Streeby can be a man of few words; he saves them for his poetry. You can read more about Jeff Streeby and some of his poetry here; he is an Honored Guest at CowboyPoetry.com.  We are proud to have selections from his work in progress, Sunday Creek, here.

  • See our feature on D. J. O'Malley here, which includes "D2 Horse Wrangler." Cowboy Miner, in cooperation with Dallywelter Press and the Montana Historical Society, has published a collection of his prose and poetry:

  • Montanan Ken Overcast is an acclaimed poet, songwriter, singer, and broadcaster.  "Mist of the Rose" is included on his Prairie Poetry album, which includes his description "I've had more requests for this than anything I've done. It's a fantasy about a cowboy and an old set of abandoned buildings. It seems they're all over the place out west, and at one time, all contained families with dreams. Who were they? Where did they go? Why did they leave? What happened to their dreams? See his Bear Valley Tales here, read about his radio program, The Cowboy Show here, and visit his web site here.

  • "The Gringo Pistolero" is in Tim Henderson's book, Sweeping up Dreams, Lyrics as Poetry, which is mentioned here.  His collaborator, Texas singer, songwriter and entertainer Allen Wayne Damron was the co-founder of the Kerrville Folk Festival.  He performs the song on a recording with the same title, Sweeping up Dreams and on another album, 35 Years, noted here, where you can listen to the song.

  • D. J. O'Malley was born in 1868. We have a feature about D. J. O'Malley here.

The University of Arizona's great Music of the Southwest site has information about D. J. O'Malley here, and a selection of his poems, including "The D-2 Horse Wrangler" here.

In 2000, working with the Montana Historical Society, Cowboy Miner Productions published D. J. O'Malley's book-length manuscript, Reminiscences and Poems of Early Montana and the Cattle Range, which O'Malley had prepared before he died in 1943.  The book is an extensive collection of poems, prose, and photographs. You can read more about the book, D. J. O'Malley, and read his poem "Where the Sagebrush Grows" at the Cowboy Miner site:

Smithsonian Folkways' Buck Ramsey ~ Hittin' the Trail (2003) 2-CD set includes Buck Ramsey singing "The Tenderfoot," which the liner notes explain was "originally known as 'The D2 Horse Wrangler.'" Read a review of the CD set here. You can read more about the CD at the Smithsonian Folkways site.

 


Gwen Smith writes:

My favorite Cowboy Poet is Waddie Mitchell... Please all of you cowboy poets never stop writing and telling your stories with poetry...

  •   See our feature on Waddie Mitchell right here.

 


Linda Kirkpatrick contributed the following:

Linda Kirkpatrick 

I must say that "Old Yellow Slicker" by Debra Coppinger Hill is probably the most touching poem that I have ever read or performed.  I first heard Debra recite the poem in Lubbock several years ago.  It was there that I first met Debra.  The more I thought about her poem the more that it touched me.  I asked for permission to recite the poem and she graciously allowed me to use it.  Well then I had to practice it for about 2 months before I could stand and say it without crying.  I must say that I have been reciting it all across the state for the last several years and in every audience one or more are in tears.  Frank Roberts and I now do "Old Yellow Slicker" together with "Amazing Grace."  We began doing it this way at about the time we had to put my dad in a nursing home so again it is hard to do without spilling a tear or two but in a more loving kind of way.  As many times as I have recited it the tears just welled up when I heard Jean Prescott sing it for the first time in Lubbock. Debra had told me what a great job that Jean did with it and she was right.

It is a poem that will tug the strings on everyone's heart.

My favorite classic poem is "Bronco Twister's Prayer" by Bruce Kiskaddon. This is a poem that I have recited many times and when reciting it I can just picture in my mind the whole poem from beginning to end.  I have always tried to bring out poems that mention the women of the west and even though this poem is about the twister one can just see the widow and the "two women with weak voices."  It also paints a pretty vivid picture of the strength of these old cowboys when the chips are down and they have to take up the slack.

Linda Kirkpatrick is:

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

  • You can read more about Lariat Laureate runner up Linda Kirkpatrick and some of her poetry here.  Linda is the author of an outstanding new AWA-nominated book, Somewhere in the West, Texas Women Who Left a Legacy - Poems and Legends," which you can read more about here.

Somewhere in the West by Linda Kirkpatrick

  • You can read more about Debra Coppinger Hill and some of her poetry here; she is an Honored Guest at CowboyPoetry.com and is featured in The Big Roundup.  "Old Yellow Slicker" is posted above, and is followed by information about Jean Prescott's recording and Debra Coppinger Hill's CD, "Common Sense, Men and Horses."

 


This is Page 3....more comments on Page 4....


 

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