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...That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor...
                                         
From the Declaration of Independence

 

Below are selected poems and lyrics from the BAR-D, posted in the spirit and celebration of the Fourth of July.

DW Groethe's That Ol' Red, White and Blue
lyrics from Tales from West River

RW Hampton's For the Freedom
lyrics from I Believe

Chris Isaacs' Michael Bia
inspired by an event at the 4th of July Rodeo at Window Rock, 
from Rhymes, Reasons and Pack Saddle Proverbs

Yvonne Hollenbeck's The Flag Out at the Ranch

Rod Nichols' Cowboy 4th of July and Cutter Bill's 4th of July

Hal Swift's Anvil Chorus
and
Phylo Jenks's Bath
which takes place on the Fourth, from Cowboy Poems and Outright Lies

Bette Wolf Duncan's  The Red Lodge Rodeo

and

Sharlott Hall's Old Cow Men's Parade

 

 

And more, elsewhere on the web:

The Declaration of Independence at the National Archives

American University's Comprehensive Fourth of July Links

The Fourth of July at the Library of Congress American Memory Collection

"A Capital Fourth" from PBS

Fourth of July Facts for 2013 from the Census Bureau

The Declaration of Independence Avalon Project at Yale

 

 


 

Jeri Dobrowski's vintage image from a Fourth of July in  Picture the West


See our collections of poems
for Memorial Day and for Veteran's Day
and a list of all themed collections here.



That Ol' Red, White and Blue

My ol’ man was a soldier back in WWII.
My mom was a nurse on a hospital ship
In that same ol’ big war, too.
I remember, as a kid, how they hung out the flag
On a special day or two,
But I was too young to really understand
About that ol’ red, white and blue.

So they taught me how to put my hand on my heart
When the flag passed by in review.
And to take off my hat as a sign of respect
For the things that flag could do.
And that every little thing she stood for
Really stood for me and you.
And hey, every day’s the Fourth of July
For that ol’ red, white and blue.

     Chorus
      Every day’s the Fourth of July
      For that ol’ red, white and blue.
      A tie that binds, a spirit that shines
      And it shines the whole year through.
      And every little thing she stands for
      Really stands for me and you,
      Hey, every day’s the Fourth of July
      For that ol’ red, white and blue.


Well, both of my folks are gone now,
That’s just the way it goes.
You’re here for a while, a tear and a smile,
They left me more than heaven knows.
And all those little things they stood for
They did ‘em for me and you
And hey, every day’s the Fourth of July
For that ol’ red, white and blue.

     Chorus

© 2001, DW Groethe, from Tales from West River
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Read more of DW Groethe's poetry here.

 


 

 

For the Freedom

The snow’s all but gone from the Sangre de Cristos
The high country soon will be bare
As the cottonwoods bloom along the sleepy slow Cimarron
Oh, how I wished I was there 

I’ll bet Danny has grown a foot since I’ve been gone
Little Katie turns seven this spring
Just hold them and kiss them
And tell them I love them, for who knows what tomorrow might bring       

Chorus:

Raise the stars and stripes for me every morning
Say a prayer for me each night
Remember, remember, please, always remember
It’s for the freedom we love, that I fight
It’s for the freedom we love that I fight
 

Got a letter from Dad, some cookies from Momma
Got the card that you sent, yesterday
And I carry your picture in my left front pocket
It sort of helps me when I am afraid

‘Cause this desert’s a hell, when the wind blows the sand up
The nights here are black, cold and long
But from what I can tell, the folks here sure need us
And that’s why I’m singing this song

Repeat Chorus

The Captain just came in and gave us our orders
I’ll guess we’ll be moving out soon
Just know that I love you and if something should happen
You and the kids, Dear, will know what to do

Repeat Chorus

© 2005, R. W. Hampton, All rights reserved, from I Believe
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

This song was selected as the 2006 Western Music Association Song of the Year
 

Read more of R. W. Hampton's lyrics here.

 


 

 

Michael Bia

You spent your childhood wild and free,
And none of us could then foresee
How you'd touch our lives, or to what degree.
We never knew you, Michael Bia.

You life was in the land and sky;
Vermillion cliffs and mesas high.
These were yours to occupy.
You were of Diné, Michael Bia.

You rode the bulls and rode them well,
But you wouldn't leave the reservation's Citadel
Though it was known you could excel.
Ah, you could ride 'em Michael Bia.

The White House called; you left your land,
And off you went to Viet Nam,
To a war you did not understand.
You did your duty, Michael Bia.

You fought with honor and with pride,
But before the fighting could subside
In that far off land, you died.
You gave the ultimate, Michael Bia.

At Window Rock in sixty-eight
They turned a bull out of the gate,
And his bell rang loud to reiterate
Our thank you, Michael Bia.

Dine [mark], and white men, too
Stood and shed a tear for you;
And though your time on earth is through
May God keep you, Michael Bia.

Now often when I think of the past
Or cross that reservation vast,
Or see Old Glory at half-mast,
I think of Michael Bia.

Ya'at'eeh, Hastiin!  (Ya-ta-hey, Has-teen!)

© 2001, Chris Isaacs, from Rhymes, Reasons and Pack Saddle Proverbs
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Diné is what the Navajos call themselves; it means "The People."

Chris Isaacs writes about this poem:

There are things that happen in our lives that we have absolutely no control over, which become a part of us forever. Such was the case with the poem about Michael Bia.

I got out of the U. S. Marine Corps in January of 1967 just as things were really starting to heat up in Vietnam.  Michael Bia was leading the bull riding standings for the AIRCA when he was drafted and sent to Viet Nam just about the time I was discharged.  He never came home.

In 1968 my wife Helen and I were at the Fourth of July rodeo in Window Rock, Arizona, where I was entered when something happened that haunted me for years. The Navajo tribe paid tribute to Michael Bia at that rodeo by taking his chaps and spurs and attaching them to a bull with Michael's bull rope and then turning the bull loose in the arena during a moment of silence. Nothing has ever affected me quite like that short moment of tribute to a fellow cowboy/comrade-in-arms, and I have thought of it many, many times over the years...The first time that I tried to recite it, I broke down and cried, which kept me from trying it again for quite a while. Then in 1997 at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering I was on the Veterans' Session with Joel Nelson, Rod McQueary, and some others, and managed to get through the entire thing...I have had many Vets thank me for the poem, which means a great deal to me...I did a show near Washington, D. C. a few years ago, and made it to the Wall (the Vietnam Memorial) where I found Michael's name...

excerpted from Chris Isaacs' Will Rogers Medallion Award winning book, Rhymes, Reasons and Pack Saddle Proverbs

 

Read more of Chris Isaacs' poetry here.


 

The Flag Out on the Ranch

It was an old and faded flag but it was always there,
for visitors to see it freely waving in the air.

He'd say "I always fly it every time I get a chance,
although I know it's odd to see it out here on this ranch."

And when you'd ask about it, his face would beam with joy
he'd tell how he went off to war when he was but a boy.

He said it changed him to a man and changed him much too fast
from scenes imprinted on his mind .but that is in the past.

He lost a lot of comrades but somehow his life was spared;
and pleased him so when folks would fly their flag to show they cared.

Then said, "I hope you'll fly one, and never take it down
even though you're in the country and a long long way from town.

'cause there's still a lot of boys fighting hard to keep us free
although it may be for a cause in which you disagree."

Now, ever since that day when he explained this all to me
I know just why he flies it when it's just for him to see.

It's to show appreciation for those who gave their best,
and that flag is always flying on his ranch there in the West.

© 2006, Yvonne Hollenbeck
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Read about Yvonne Hollenbeck and more of her poetry
here.

 


 

 

A Cowboy 4th of July

In the life of an early-day cowboy
the only two days he could rest
were Christmas that came in the winter
and July the Fourth which was best.

Cause no one could ever out-holler
or let his whole spirit soar high
as a just-off-the-range happy cowboy
when it came to the Fourth of July.

Independence was more than a "Day," boys:
twas his way of life, don't you see,
and he weren't about to miss showin'
just how much it meant to be free.

The cow towns knew that much about him;
they plum went all out for the Fourth.
They opened the town to the trailhands,
who'd come in by wagon or horse.

Tweren't nuthin' could dampen their spirits,
or keep any trailhand away,
and no one could hold back a cowboy
from kickin' his heels up that day.

There was music and dancin' and fireworks,
declarations, and ,not. just a few.
a free-for-all town celebration,
all decked out in red, white and blue.

They were proud of this land and this nation,
and showed it for any to see.
Today we might bolster our own pride
rememberin' our own history.

In the life of an early-day cowboy
the only two days he could rest
were Christmas that came in the winter
and July the Fourth which was best.

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

 


 

Cutter Bill's 4th Of July
The heavens were gleaming  near twilight.
They reined in at Cutter Bill's Bar.
Some bunting was strung 'cross the outside
in red, white and blue  with some stars.
 
For a moment they sat there in silence,
just gazin' at what they now saw.
The colors they knew  of Ol' Glory
now held all them cowboys in awe.
 
There weren't any words to be uttered
The silence held all of their thoughts.
That symbol of freedom and justice
said more than some eloquent talk.
 
Somewhere in the distance were fireworks,
they lit up behind Cutter Bill's.
Twas then to a man as they looked on
they all felt the same sudden chill..
 
There weren't any songs set to music,
There wasn't  a bit of fanfare,
just red, white and blue beneath Heaven,
and the glow from the rockets' red glare.
 
A moment in time to remember,
the reason we honor today,
the birth, under God , of a nation,
the home of the free and the brave.
 
They never stepped down 'fore they left there.
For somehow in ways unexplained,
they'd seen all  that they needed seein'
and rode back the way that they came.
 
There's a time in all men's life I reckon,
like the time outside Cutter Bill's Bar,
when they feel for the first time that feelin'
and know without doubt who they are.
 
The heavens were gleaming  near twilight.
They reined in at Cutter Bill's Bar.
Some bunting was strung 'cross the outside
in red, white and blue  with some stars.
 
For a moment they sat there in silence,
just gazin' at what they now saw.
The colors they knew  of Ol' Glory
just holding them cowboys in awe. 

© 2007, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Read more of Rod Nichols' poetry here.

 

 


 

Anvil Chorus

One of the things about the Fourth of July
that really filled my cup,
was when Uncle Lon fired an anvil off,
to wake ever'body up.

Each year at dawn on the Fourth of July,
he put an anvil on an old oak stump.
Folks'd come watch where he had it set up,
close to town, by the village dump.

Woody and his girlfriend Byrdie were there,
just kinda moonin' around,
and Woody said he figgered that anvil
must weigh more'n a hunderd pound.

I always wondered how Uncle Lon
packed the danamite under that thing.
But he said it's a secret he couldn't put out,
'cause it's part of the rites of Spring.

We'd stand watchin' till the mornin' sun
peeked over the hills beneath.
Uncle Lon'd yell, Fire! And we'd cover our ears
against a boom that'd rattle yer teeth.

That anvil sailed up like a bird let loose,
and I swear it just floated down.
But the dust it stirred when it finally hit,
sent a cloud halfway to town.

Yeah, my favorite thing about the Fourth of July,
that filled me with true elation,
was when Uncle Lon fired that anvil of his,
to start off the day's celebration.

© 2009, Hal Swift
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Hal comments: Uncle Lon was married to my mom's younger sister, Lucy. They never had children, something Uncle Lon regretted. When Lucy died of "consumption," Uncle Lon began making children's toys in his blacksmith shop. Oh, he continued shoeing horses, and doing general blacksmith work, but rocking horses were his specialty of the toys he made. When I was around eight years old, I was sure I was going to be a blacksmith when I grew up. Instead, I became a musician and a writer. Uncle Lon's practice of "shooting the anvil," as he called it, to mark the beginning of the annual 4th of July celebrations, was the highlight of the holiday for a lot of folks. Especially all of us kids.
 


Phylo Jenks's Bath

One of the ways that we'd celebrate
When the Fourth of July come 'round
Was t'burn all our long-handled underwear
Right out on the desert ground

A lotta the cowpokes that I rode with
Would put 'em on in November
So takin' 'em off on the Fourth of July
Meant most of the boys'd remember

But Phylo Jenks he was somethin' else
He missed the Fourth one year
He wore his long-handles twenty-two months
His horse wouldn't let 'im git near

Y'cain't be a cowpoke without you kin ride
So he went out an' bought 'im a mule
He figgered a jackass wouldn't object
But this jackass was nobody's fool

When Phylo got on 'er the mule threw 'im off
An' he was extremely upset
T'have a ol' jackass refuse to be rode
Is as bad as it ever will get

Our wrangler said Phylo you surely do stink
An' if yer a wonderin' why
Maybe you'd oughta go out with the boys
'Cause today is the Fourth of July

An' Phylo said really I wouldn't of knowed
I never been good at the date
He walked to the desert an' when he got there
The boys said Hey, Phylo, yer late

The way that he smells said ol' Hiram McFee
I don't think that late's quite the phrase
Git outta them long-handles, do it right now
An' throw them things there on the blaze

The smell was so terrible no one could breathe
An' great was those pore cowpokes' wrath
They hoisted ol' Phylo right up in the air
An' someone yelled give 'im a bath

Well sir, they done it, an' he was impressed
An' on this thing you kin rely
Phylo will be at the head of the line
Right here the next Fourth of July

© 2001, Hal Swift, from Cowboy Poems and Outright Lies
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Read more of Hal Swift's poetry here.


The Red Lodge Rodeo
(1940s - 1950s)

Forget?? I've not forgotten
those times when I was young;
and the memory of those rodeos
tastes sweet upon my tongue.
Red Lodge on July the fourth,
I'd find a way to go
to where the crowd and action was...
the home town rodeo.

I'd head on out for Red Lodge
where everyone was goin'.....
where rodeo grounds were packed with folks
and streets were over flowin.
The ruckus of the rodeo
would rock the Red Lodge crowd.
The cheers and chants and jeers and rants
would vibrate thunder-loud.

And when the chute was opened
and Bud Linderman shot out,
the home town crowd went crazy,
as the bronco spun about.
With both legs on the same side,
he'd spur the bronc's right side—
then toss across to the left,
a spurrin' as he'd ride.
The right side—then the left side—
a spurrin' all the while;
and then he'd face the hometown crowd
and flash his hometown smile.

And when it came Turk Greenough's time,
we'd marvel at his skill—
the way he'd step right off the bronc
like it was standin' still.
Standin' still? Not hardly!
It bucked! It kicked! It spun!
But Turk stepped off so casual-like
when his ride was done.

And then came destiny's fair child,
and I can see him still......
the Champion All 'Round Cowboy—
Bud's big brother, Bill.
He could ride the bulls and broncs
that came straight outta hell.
He could ride most any brute
and always he'd excel.

Rodeos...I've seen a lot...
but nothin' can compare
to the home town rodeo
when all your friends are there;
and you're all there together
a cheerin' loud; and when
the riders that you're cheerin' for
are local home town men.

 © 2000, Bette Wolf Duncan, All rights reserved
 This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bette Wolf Duncan comments: I grew up in in Rodeo Country, southeast Montana. Red Lodge calls itself Home of Rodeo Champions. And it is that.. .The three cowboys mentioned in the following poem, Bill and Bud Linderman and Turk Greenough, and Alice and Marge Greenough were world champions, all World Chanpion riders. In later years, so was Deb Greenough. All are in the Cowboy or Cowgirl Hall of Fame. A statue of Bill Linderman stands in front of the rodeo gallery, National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.

My late husband, Bill Duncan, lived close to Red Lodge; and, as a child, he used to play rodeo with Bill and Bud Linderman.
 

Read more of Bette Wolf Duncan's poetry here.


 

Old Cow Men's Parade

The flags are flying, the bands are playing,
   And there, down Gurley street
The big parade is coming

   Hark to the trampling feet!
Two hundred cow men riding,
   Dressed out for holiday;
Ten-gallon hats and fancy shirts
   And 'kerchiefs bright and gay.

Two hundred horses prancing
   As the riders whoop and yell;
And jingle of spurs and bridle chains
   The noise and music swell.
There's Ruffner on the sorrel,
   His silver bridle shines;
And Doc Pardee comes riding
   Down from the Munds Park pines.

And there's the Beloat of Buckeye
   Who twirls a winning rope;
Loge Morris and his juniors,
   All on a swinging lope.
The Champies and Ed Bowman,
   And all the medalled train
Come back to lift more honors
   At Prescott once again.

They pass with jokes and laughter,
   And shouting clear and loud,
Out to the big arena
   To face the cheering crowd.
And some will rope for glory
   And some will ride for gold;
And some will grappled bull-dogged steers
   And win on a strangle-hold.

Down sweep the big sombreros
   As the bow to the grandstand's cheer;
But, look, as they ride to their places

   God! Look what's coming here!
A long, long train of horsemen,
   Yet never a hoof-beat sounds;
And never a dust-spurt rises
   From the trampled sporting grounds.

A-breast, in martial order
   They wheel and swing to place;
But their forms are thin and misty
   And a shadow dims each face;
A pale and still battalion
   In Stetsons, chaps, and spurs;
And they, too, bow to the grandstand

   But the picture swims and blurs.

Here are the men of Texas
   Who made the Chisholm Trail,
Pointing their herds of long-horns
   To the track of a steel-shod rail,
Heading their leaders northward
   By a puff of engine smoke;
Betting their all on a market chance

   Thousands--or down, and broke.

Men who trailed the Long Trail
   With steers for Idaho;
Men who drove their beef herds
   To feed Geronimo.
Men who could buck a Norther,
   Men who could fight a drouth;
Sitting their lean trail-horses,
   Keen-eyed, and grim of mouth.

There's Jim O'Neal from Date Creek
   With his riders, dark and trim;
And close at this knee Juan Leyvas,
   A stripling lithe and slim.
And Stuart Knight comes riding
   With his smile and careless grace

But a whirlwind whips down the beaten track
   And a dust-cloud blurs each face.

Gone are the silent riders,
   And only the sun beats down
On the trampled, barren arena
   And the chute gates weathered brown:
They've ridden back to the Days That Were;
   But before a play is made

Three cheers for the unseen men who passed
   In the old cow men's parade.

From Poems of a Ranch Woman, 1953

 

Prescott, Arizona claims to have "the world's oldest rodeo," always held over the Fourth of July. Read about its history here.

Sharlot Hall (1870-1943) names many ranchers and cowboys in her poem. Frequently, audiences at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering are treated to Tom Weathers' recitation of this poem. Families of many of those mentioned in the poem still live in the Prescott area today.

Sharlot Mabridth Hall arrived in the Arizona Territory with her parents, as a young girl. She wrote about those early days and continued to document her life and the stories and histories of Arizona. She wrote essays, short stories, articles, and poetry. Fiercely independent, she was the first Arizona woman to hold public office, serving as Territorial Historian of Arizona. In 1924, shortly after women won the right to vote, she was selected to take the state's vote to Washington, D. C.

Read more about Sharlot Hall and more of her poetry in our feature here.



 

 

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