Folks' Poems

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G. DON ENSMINGER
Fort Collins, Colorado
About G. Don Ensminger

 

 


The Ranches of Walden


She remembered the ranches of Walden, not too far from Steamboat Springs
Where the rangeland rests on higher ground, and cowgirls are born with wings
Up where the cattle graze so close to clouds that the barbed wire cuts through sky
She remembered the ranches her father had worked -- as the fenceposts rolled on by

She remembered the ranches of Walden, in the strange steps her father made
On the legs he broke from being trampled once, by a horse not well-behaved
His legs had kept him from Korea, but he had never claimed to being 'broke'
She remembered the ranches he grew up on -- in the words his movements spoke

She remembered the ranches of Walden, far from the southern life she led
In a trailer park in a one-horse town, ever since her mother had re-wed
She remembered riding a gentle pony once, back when she used to have birthdays
She remembered a cowboy trying to hold his ground -- watching his cowgirl fly away

She remembered the ranches of Walden, although she was never raised that high
Ever since she was mailed her father's memory book, she'd come to wonder why
Anyone would cowboy down in Texas, when they could tend a mountain herd
Now nearing the father she remembered -- she winged her way home, just like a bird

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



As Long as I Live Up in These Hills

As long as I live up in these hills, I hope I never again will see
the thing that knocked me from my horse, and disappeared in front of me
The spectre came from out of darkness, and slapped me from behind
and stood over me -- and laughed at me -- a prankish phantom of some kind

As long as I live up in these hills, I hope I never again will hear
that siren's voice that cried out my name, so eerie, and so clear
From inside my cabin it seemed but a whisper, then it turned into a shout
from the tree line in a comely voice, she cried "Won't you please come out?"

As long as I live up in these hills, I hope I never come to know
the beast that left two hoof prints, outside my cabin in the snow
The prints led to my cabin wall, where they proceeded to the roof
and there's still a hoof print on my window glass -- a kind of demon's proof

As long as I live up in these hills, I hope I never again will feel
the blanket which I lay beneath - rise up - in a night so deathly still
As though snapped by an unseen chambermaid, the blanket caught some air
it was fully lifted -- and draped over me -- and across my head with care

As long as I live up in these hills, I hope I never again will find
a scribbled message like the one that read 'Cowboy -- It's only in your mind'
I found it tacked upon my headboard, a few inches above my ear
As long as I live up in these hills -- it's all these 'neighbors' that I fear

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Witches in the Valley of the Sun


I'd heard of drumming from ghost dances in the canyons
where all left behind was just a burning sacred fire
I'd heard that shadows from skinwalkers crossed the mountains
until each shadow with each sunset soon retired
I'd heard of beauty in this desert, but I'd heard of evil too
I'd listened closely to each story -- one by one
But no one before had ever seen, what I don't like remembering
-- the sight of witches in the valley of the sun

I was a wrangler then and just into my twenties
when I reached the valley with a journal and a dream
to trace the path of all the ancients that had lived there
to find the visions only those before had seen
Was the first night in the valley when I heard their wailing calls
and by the river I could see them -- one by one
While giving off a lantern's light, they glowed and danced throughout the night
-- they were witches in the valley of the sun

All night I feared that a witch might see me watching
and so I doused my fire and hid my horse behind the brush
and I watched them dance so near, I could have touched them
as they sang and prayed to some dark demon, soul, or such
While letting out a wretched call, one witch would fly above them all
while the others would all bow down -- one by one
They spoke and said "Our home is hell, your heart is home, embrace our spell"
strange words from witches in the valley of the sun

I don't know when I fell asleep or fell unconscious
but I woke up early that next morning with a start
and I found fire circles burned all around where I'd been sleeping
and I found a circle that had been burned around my heart
I packed my roll and loosely saddled, and I did not give a damn
as I imagined things they'd done to me -- one by one
I rode out across the desert floor, and swore I'd return again no more
-- to be with witches in the valley of the sun

I'm an old man now and just into my eighties
and I found myself another journal and a dream
I've not returned to where the ancients keep their secrets
I saw things there I wish to God I'd never seen
It's been years now since I held my mount and heard their wailing calls
but on recent nights I swear I've heard them -- one by one
The circle burned into my chest, means when I've gone, I may not rest
-- I may dance with witches in the valley of the sun

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

I'm a Better Man, Boss

I'm a better man, Boss, than the man you think you know
you have only seen the surface of the cowboy parts that show
I am better than this instance, better than this point in time
the better man you have no time to know -- may be the best man you will find

I'm a better man, Boss, than this man of infamy
I lived a whole lifetime, before this time, before the cowboy you now see
I will overtake this one mistake, it's no large bearing on my worth
this single incident will not be the death of -- the life I've lived from birth

I'm a better man, Boss, than the man you've cast aside
I may seem dead upon the saddle now, but inside this cowboy's still alive
I am prideful of the man I am, that so many fail to be
and though you look on me with sheer contempt -- no man's a match for me

I'm a better man, Boss, than a man who would not care
that mistakes I make along the way, should seem to lay my true soul bare
I will own up to my own true faults, and from these I plan to grow
these things won't be the measure of me -- they will not define my mortal soul

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

We Grew Up on the Cimarron

We grew up on the Cimarron, where the red mud stained our clothes
Where youth and river passed us by, slipping down its crimson shoals
We grew up hard and grew up lean, with an outside tough as clay
And inside we burned as youth and river churned -- an inner fire that lit our way

We bled into the Arkansas, on the eastern boundary of our world
Through oil land rich to be drilled down dry, in its drowning pools we swirled
We came up quick and came up clean, though looking rusted down like nails
And inside we learned as youth and river turned - that halfway trying always fails

We rode along the Cimarron, on paths we shared with the great Pawnee
And from where Pawnee Bill took our Wild West life, and showed it for a fee
We lived not much for show ourselves; we just did chores few men had tried
And inside we yearned for nothing but to earn respect-- of the men we rode beside

We grew up on the Cimarron, north of the valley and the boundary of the Red
Through the northern heart of territory Oklahoma, we sprung to life along its bed
While others grew up slow and grew up green, we earned an inside edge that shown
And those outside learned far from the river's turns -- our toughness only rivaled stone

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Windblown Fire, or Fireblown Wind 

Blew a dark cloud 'cross our meadow, so thick that you could choke
Did not blow through quietly, and was not just blowing smoke
Blazed right down our beaten path, and found its way into our door
It was windblown fire, or fireblown wind, with hell alive inside its core

Stood small upon the hillside, watching fanning winds burn higher
Took our hearts and ranchhouse with it, swept inside its windblown fire
Watched all the walls come tumbling down, and watched the barn fall in
Knocked a lot of life out of us, strewn about by fireblown wind

Wind blowing fire, or fire blowing wind?
Don't matter much, when hell that don't burn out -- blows in
Call it what you want to, we just called it "Windfire Hell"
Windblown fire, or fireblown wind -- blew by quick, but burned us well

Felt just like big hot coffee tears were rolling down my face
While windblown fire -- or fireblown wind -- made ashes of the place
Lost the walls that we depended on for weathering every storm
Felt as helpless as a calf must feel, that first moment when it's born

Fire blowing wind, or wind blowing fire?
Don't matter much, when hell that don't blow out -- burns higher
Call it what you want to now, we just call it "Starting New"
Fireblown wind, or windblown fire -- burned us quick, then blew on through

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




Tornado's Alley 

Tearing up the local countryside like a juvenile on a joyride
he came blazing down the country road while blowing dust
Lifting fenceposts in the air, and giving flight to Grandpa's rocking chair
his bumper sticker must have said "It's Mobile Homes, or Bust"

Picking up the sale barn's roof, he scared the stock plumb to the hoof
then he blew Hal's Drive-In plumb to the wrong side of the track
Jumping up to miss the old fairgrounds, he headed straight on in to town
And he drove straw through wood -- heck, he drove the whole hay stack

Shaking houses to their core, while he left intact the discount store
as if offering us a 'blue light' special chance to start again
Throwing big Ford trucks left and right, leaving sirens wailing in the night
he leveled the tall church steeple not unlike some bowling pin

Screaming "Give me a name like a hurricane," he left us in a driving rain
so we named him 'Tornado' after a bull only Freckles Brown could ride
And when Tornado tuckered out, we wondered what he'd been so mad about
laying waste to everything in his path from a quarter to a half-mile wide

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

The Boys Will Ride High Again 
(Lost in the Flood) 

The boys will ride high again some day
-- but yesterday, they fell to earth
Where the raging waters pulled them down
with not one care for what their breath was worth 

The boys will ride high again some day
-- but for today, their moms will cry
For the fall is hardest on the folks at home
who must draw the shades they burned a candle by

The boys will ride high again some day
-- but yesterday, the creek was wild
Taking the two best hands riding for the brand
and leaving behind two wives, each bearing child

The boys will ride high again some day
-- but for tonight, the lantern's dim 
Flickering through the boards of a horse's stall
on the surviving hand who suffered one bruised limb

The boys will ride high again some day
-- for come tomorrow, they'll find new hire
And they'll gain new mounts and saddle soon
heading for clear still water, across the cold barbed
wire

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 


I Know What Heaven Knows 

I know what heaven knows, and I heard it from on high
from the owl that lives outside the bunkhouse, who knows "who, when, and why"
He comes to tell me heaven's secrets -- I'd just as soon that he would keep
he talks about these things that heaven knows -- and heaven knows I cannot sleep

I know what heaven knows, and I heard it from the tree
from the owl that lives outside the bunkhouse, who shares this twisted bond with me
He told me of her coming passing - on the night before she passed away
he talks about these things that heaven knows -- which makes me dread each coming day

I know what heaven knows, and I heard it from the limb
from the owl that lives outside the bunkhouse, who carries death all over him
He calls out names of those I know -- and through the night I curse his voice
he talks about these things that heaven knows -- which now I know, but not by choice

I know what heaven knows, and now I've heard it from the hill
from the owl that lived outside the bunkhouse, the owl I tried, but could not kill 
He said that I did not deserve such secrets now -- so he'd return from where he came
But someday he'd share what heaven knows -- and from the limb, he'd speak my name

1998, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

The Cowgirl Called "The Bride" 

She was sure one sweetheart of a rodeo, and sure enough one honey of a ride
the only 'sure bad bet' I'd take again -- the cowgirl they called "The Bride" 
She had long black hair that swayed from head to hips, like a pendulum on a clock
if she'd been a race car she'd have run Le Mans -- no way that girl'd run Stock

There were stories about botched weddings, and many grooms who sat and cried
when she left them dangling at the alter -- the cowgirl called "The Bride"
True, she had these eyes that cut right through you, and she could tell you where to go
but she could have opened up a transplant ward -- if you count every heart she stole  

It's said she came out West for outdoor rodeos, from a lazy youth she'd spent inside
they said she'd once been a dainty debutante -- the cowgirl called "The Bride"
She could sing a song - you'd swear like Patsy Cline -- and the old cowboys would melt
big old tears would well up in their eyes -- from well-heeled feelings seldom felt 

She refused to dance first time I asked, pronouncing dead all wounded pride
but when the last dance came, she lit my flame -- the cowgirl called "The Bride"
She laid her cheek up against my cheek, and I knew God still lived upstairs
I did not care about the rumors going around -- of her strange past nuptial affairs

I've often beefed up stories, and told some tall tales that were pretty wide
but I'll say I never fell so hard, or so fast -- until the cowgirl called "The Bride"
That girl had me wound up so tight, I never once even had to breathe
she fed me life support within her kiss -- she'd won the hunt, and I'd been treed

I gave my grandma's wedding ring to her, and my brand new pickup on the side
on the day I asked her for her hand -- to this cowgirl called "The Bride"
We danced beneath the stars across the lone prairie, the night she answered "yes" 
those days of heaven felt awfully good to me -- if there's a word for it, it's "bliss"

They came from all across the western circuits, to see this boy plumb fit to be hog-tied
on the sunniest Utah day you'd ever know -- to the cowgirl called "The Bride"
I must say I never looked so good, and I am not just spinning my own air
it was like a picture out of  'Bride and Groom' -- but it was me up standing there!

The whole church filled with organ songs, and my mom sat there and cried
while we waited for the vision that could only be -- the cowgirl called "The Bride"
And we waited while the organ played, and when it stopped - we waited more
but there never was a veil, bouquet, or girl -- walk through that chapel door

Word spreads through the circuits fast -- with each changing mount, wind, and tide
a warning went from Fort Worth up to Calgary -- about the cowgirl called "The Bride"
But word came back every year or so -- that one more poor cowboy'd bet the ranch
but each cowboy grinned and thanked his lucky stars -- he'd been given half a chance

I'm not known as a man to frown or fret about things in life that go astray 
though the truck is gone, it was worth the price -- to win more than I'd hoped or prayed 
Somewhere tonight some cowboy's living large 'cause for one brief moment he sits beside
the girl that fooled me once -- heck, I'd let fool me twice -- the cowgirl called "The Bride" 

1998, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



My Dashboard Hula Girl 

I ordered my li'l grass-skirted hula girl from a catalog of goods
that sold tiki cups, and plastic leis, and lamps made from driftwood
She came wrapped in bubbled plastic, but she looked no worse for wear
and I sat her high upon my dashboard, where desert winds blew through her hair

She danced the dashboard hula all across the great Southwest
from Scottsdale to Las Cruces, my li'l wahine passed the circuit test
She was made to dance the dashboard hula that came with chasing rodeos
she danced for miles upon the pickup dashboard -- sharing the life that I had chose

The road of life is lonely when you live your life out on the road
so you find mail-order happiness -- where Hawaiian goods are sold
So I'd don my "Blue Hawaii" shirt -- just like the red one Elvis wore
and then off we'd go -- highway hula dancing -- from desert shore to desert shore

Then came a summer's day excursion and a Texas gulf coast holiday
I drove the truck out to the water's edge, and swam the desert dust away
I was laying on the beach -- almost asleep -- when something touched my hand
and off she ran - the hula doll who fell to earth -- dancing across South Padre's sand

I ran and caught my dashboard hula girl and I held her to the sky
I will swear I wasn't drinking -- but I swear that li'l tears fell from her eyes
And though she tried to get away from me -- I held on tightly to her toes
and tucked her in my shirt trying to forget -- this wasn't the life she would've chose

Now my li'l wahine would not dance for me no matter how I turned
I pulled tight donuts on a dime -- but she just stood there straight and firm
From old El Paso to Glen Canyon Dam, she held on tight to her grass skirt
and she wouldn't wiggle when I offered her Lake Powell -- so I knew her feelings hurt

They will claim they give you warranties on everything that you may buy
but when your dashboard hula girl gets homesick -- she'll leave you high and dry
So I lost a ride at the Reno Rodeo, driving way out west to Carmel-By-The-Sea 
and li'l wahine caught a sailboat in the harbor -- leaving the highway hula dancing all to me

2001, G. Don Ensminger
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Read G. Don Ensminger's My Winter Conditions, Riding Up the Western Slope, Sante Fe Santa Claus, and Christmas Mornings posted with the other Holiday 2001 poetry. 

 

 


About G. Don Ensminger:

G. Don Ensminger lives on the Front Range of the Rockies in Colorado.  He is a procurement officer for a resources conservation agency that works in cooperation with private landowners across the United States and its territories.  Originally hailing from the Red River region in Southeastern Oklahoma, he is a graduate of Oklahoma State University.

 

 

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