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Gail T. Burton, photo courtesy Mr. Burton

GAIL T. BURTON
Benton, Arkansas
About Gail T. Burton
Gail T. Burton's
web site

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

One of 

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

Recognized for his poem, "The Economist"

 

 

The Economist

Randy Jones and Booger Red,
With a tough ol' yaller houn',
Wuz huntin' deer out in the brakes
'Bout forty miles from town.
Almost starved, 'cause game was scarce,
They wondered what to do.
So chopped the tail off that ol' dog
And cooked it down for stew.

They ate the meat 'n drank the soup
Then tossed the dog the bone.
The grateful pooch licked Randy's hand
When everything was gone.
Then Booger looked at Jones and said:
"I'll call a spade a spade;
If you really study what we've done,
It's just like Federal Aid."

© 2005, Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

We asked Gail what inspired this poem, and he told us:  

I believe you'll find most rural people are somewhat politically conservative. Certainly they live their private lives that'a way. But sometimes we need sort of a nudge to get our thinking on the right track. I can't remember his name, but he was one of several people running for President back in the early 60's. He told this story about two hunters.

We asked Gail why he writes Cowboy Poetry, and he responded

I've been told that I write the last line of my poems first. In retrospect, it's probably a fact. A goodly number of my poems have been written to make a specific point, or make a short statement. My poem might simply be a vehicle to get the reader to that comment. Often folks don't pay attention to what one has to say, but if it's put in verse it catches their attention. I enjoy a good tale, I enjoy a good joke and I enjoy a truism; sometimes you can get all three in one poem.

You can email Gail T. Burton.

 

Gail T. Burton was previously one of 

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

Recognized for his poem, "Cowboy Dreams"


Introduction to Cowboy Dreams

I grew up in Southwest Oklahoma.  That area had been generally designated as Indian Territory so it settled up pretty late. When it opened up for settlement it ended the trail drives from Texas to central Kansas, and some of those young drovers migrated up into Oklahoma.

When they broke up the Kiowa-Comanche Territory both my parents came from Texas with their folks and settled on claims at the edge of the Big Pasture, just north of  Red River.    They located about half way between two cattle crossings.  On the right was the Chisholm, which led up into central Kansas, and on the left was the Western Trail which crossed above Doan's Store going up by Fort Supply, Ogallala, and into Miles City, Montana.

While I was growing up one of our neighbors was an old cowboy turned cattle trader and his holding pens bordered our place on the south.  He walked with a cowboy gait that made him look like he would collapse with every step.  He had work-gnarled hands and a weathered face with lines so deep they looked like they could have been cut in there with a markin' knife.

When he'd bring a bunch in I'd often go down there and visit with him while he worked his cattle. I'd watch him and say to myself: "I sure would like to be a cowboy . . ."

Cowboy Dreams

I sure would like to be a cowboy.
I want to be one mighty bad,
and to be a true life cowboy
I'd give anything I had.
I've been thinkin' 'bout it all my life,
I've had this dream a long long time.
Just to be a workin' cowboy
is as high as I could climb.

I know exactly what you're thinkin'.
I know you couldn't be more wrong.
I don't want to play a guitar;
wouldn't sing some cowboy song.
I don't want to be an athlete;
don't want to be like Roy or Gene,
don't want to ride in rodeos
or be on that silver screen.

But how I'd like to be a cowboy,
not like the ones you see today,
want to be out workin' cattle
not just out there pitchin' hay.
I'd like to be a real life cowboy
like some of those I've read about,
want to be out there at  sun-up
when they¹re all a-ropin' out.

I'd like to sit around the camp fire
while Andy Adams told a tale,
or hear Jack Thorp a-singin' songs
'bout the life out on the trail.
If my childhood dreams had come to pass
and all those thoughts had come out right
I'd be ridin' with the round-up,
sleepin' in my tarp' at night.

Oh, I've day-worked a bit with cattle,
I've even broke a horse or two,
but I'd like to be a cowboy
like Will James or Teddy Blue.
I want to smell the sourdough biscuits
and coffee boiling in the can,
I want to feed the brandin' fire
and hear the shoutin' tally-man.

I want to hear the lark a' singin'
when I mount up to start the day,
and feel the saddle creak in time
as I ride along my way.
Want to hear the jingle-bobs'
when it's the only sound around,
and watch the cattle stringin' out
when they¹re evening water bound.

And I'd sure like to smell mesquite grass
when it's been washed by summer rain,
and I'd like to smell the milk-breath
of a day old calf again.
I want to see the glow of sunset
through a dust-cloud along the trail,
and watch baby calves a'nursin';
buttin' bag and twistin' tail.

I don't need to ride like Booger Red
or gather herds like Slaughter would.
I don't have to rope like Blocker,
or break trails like Loving could.
But I'd sure like to see Doan's Crossing,
or ride the trail to Wichita,
Push the cattle 'cross the prairie;
smell the pens of Omaha.

A thousand sights and sounds and feelings
have always wandered through my mind;
like listening to a hidden voice
that could never be defined.
But the course of logic bound my life,
and real success has come my way,
My life has always seemed content;
I've not lived a boring day.

But sometimes in midnight's darkest hour
I count the things that I have done,
and wonder if the life I've lived
was for daughter, wife, and son.
Should I have been a real life cowboy?
The very thought is bitter-sweet.
Had I gone and been a cowboy
would my dreams then be complete?

© Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Ganted Down

Randy Jones and Booger Red
Rollin' slowly out of bed,
With Randy groanin' loudly,
Rubbin' beard and scratchin' head.
He sniffed and coughed and trembled,
Tryin' to make his body work;
Rememberin' chores before him
Woke his mind up with a jerk.

Remembered how he'd partied
'Til the wee hours of the night,
And how he'd come out loser
When he wound up in a fight.
Then Booger heard him mumble
As he fell back fast asleep,
"My mind sets up appointments
That my body just can't keep."

© 2000, Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

                  

 

Passin' Through

A hoot owl sends his unexpected call
through the rustling leaves of the cottonwood,
and a hundred unseen eyes study your silent
form beside the dying fire.

The hobbled horses grazing nearby
seem grateful for your company;
tho' it's doubtful they'll welcome
your attention in the morning.

Your drooping eyelids feel
the warmth of reflected heat
while you contemplate the vibrant pyrography
of a single glowing ember.

A gray beetle, called from his hidden cave
by the unfamiliar light,
wanders precariously close to a heated rock,
then bolts with jerking movements
to the coolness of spittle
near your outstretched foot.

Your back is cold.

You ponder the need of another
stick of deadfall on the fire
as you wrap yourself in your tarp,
and pillow your dull contented head
on your rolled up jacket,
while the haunting trickle of Cache Creek
flows into your unremembered dreams.

© Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


The Winds of Time 

The winds of time have turned the page
and the tale is almost told
of snuffy colts and young cowboys
ridin' nights out in the cold.
For sixty years I've rode the range;
I don't envy any man,
I've lived where skies are open wide
on the trails where cattle ran.
Life's sure been good to me 'n mine,
I ain't never wore a frown,
but today I'm sorta' saddened;
'cause today we moved to town.

We sowed our oats 'n took our licks
and we didn't mind the price.
'cause days were always filled with joy
where life's fate had cast the dice.
Times were when we'd ride for miles
without crossing road or fence
but now the range is broken up
so the trails just don't make sense.
I miss the green of springtime range,
seems the world has all turned brown,
and I miss the quiet of evening;
'cause today we moved to town.

But my woman's still beside me,
truest friend I ever had,
tho' problems often came our way,
times with her were never bad.
She's loved me when we've been on top
or when we wuz deep in debt,
and I'm blessed because I have her
'cause I know she loves me yet.
For fifty years she's rode with me
whether times were up or down,
but we're both a little weary,
and today we moved to town.

The pace of life is faster now
and we're slowing down a mite.
I'm havin' trouble with my eyes,
and her hair is turnin' white.
We sleep a little restless too,
traffic noises bother us,
but it's closer to the church-house,
and that's gotta be a plus.
Heaven's now a little closer,
our next move will bring a crown,
so we'll camp here 'till He calls us;
'cause today we moved to town.

© 2003, Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

Bounden

Randy Jones and Booger Red,
Ridin' toward the church one day,
Met Lonesome Jack, with fishin' pole,
A'ridin' the other way.
Red asked Jack to go to church,
Maybe hang around for lunch.
But Jack allowed them church folks
Was a gross unfriendly bunch.

"They don't never talk to strangers,
They ignore me when I speak,
The preacher's dry and boring
And their organ's got a leak.
Why do I have to go there?
My goin's a disaster."
"Ya' gotta' go," said Booger,
"Because you're still the Pastor."

© 2003, Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



Whiskey Pete

She was just a little button,
the day her Mama died,
and Whiskey Pete, the Cowboy,
grit his teeth but never cried.
He just stood there at the grave side,
red eyed with whiskey breath,
tryin' to figure what to do;
couldn't face the pain of death.

Next day he stumbled from his bed
in an alcoholic haze,
facing the reality
that he had a child to raise.
With no words he fixed her breakfast,
cleaned the house up by-and-by,
read stories to his daughter;
still the cowboy didn't cry.

He was "Whiskey Pete the Cowboy,"
he'd been called that since his youth,
he'd earned the name they called him,
if you really want the truth.
But he'd won the heart of someone;
someone decent, full of life.
And tho' she knew his failings
she had still become his wife.

And he loved her with a passion
that he couldn't hold inside,
and with the baby's coming
he was all filled up with pride.
But he'd never stopped his drinkin',
he was "Whiskey Pete," ya' see,
he's cowboy rough and ready
and he's cowboy tough and free.

But that evening found him silent,
thinking through the life ahead,
the job she'd left unfinished
and the things his wife had said.
So next day he dressed his daughter,
fixed her breakfast, combed her hair,
took her with him out to work
ridin' on a gentle mare.

They fed cattle in the winter,
checked on cows when calves were due,
greased windmills in the spring time
while the months and seasons flew.
They learned to cook together!
even learned to sew a bit.
while altering tack and clothing
so they'd get better fit.

He's still Whiskey Pete the Cowboy,
tho' he didn't drink at all,
now he's always "Mister Mom"
4H, church and basketball.
Oh! they laughed a lot together,
but he sometimes dried her tears,
and they kept ridin' side by side
as the months turned into years.

He was rough and he was ready
and the girl rode by his side,
but every bit a lady
with her daddy there to guide.
He would help her with her homework,
wash her cloths or braid her hair,
answer questions 'bout her life;
always dealin' on the square.

They sat their cap for Whiskey Pete,
but no girl could find his heart,
he was raisin' up a daughter ....
and were seldom far apart.
He often thought about his wife,
as he watched the evening sky,
and oft times felt her presence.
Still the cowboy didn't cry.

Then like a fairy tale he came,
tho' he'd been there all her life.
A rancher's son; a cowboy,
she became a rancher's wife.
This young girl was now a woman
with no flaw that you could see;
a tribute to her mother;
you could trust his guarantee.

Wedding bells were softly ringing,
as he walked her down the aisle,
and Whisky Pete the Cowboy
was decked out in his best smile.
Then he gave her hand in marriage
as the cowboy pledged his love
and knew the match was perfect;
like arrangements made above.

The child was on her honeymoon,
the house all quiet again,
and Whiskey Pete the Cowboy
felt that old familiar pain.
He stood there with a photograph
of the one who'd been his bride
and he said; "we've done our best."
After twenty years .... he cried.

© 2003, Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

The Headless Horseman

In the Southwest part of Texas,
On the Leona—near the old fort,
You’ll see a headless horseman riding,
Read about it in the scout’s report.
He rides on a black mustang stallion,
His leather jacket buttoned tight,
A serape around his shoulders;
This vaquero he rides every night.

One day he’ll be seen on the Frio
Running hard after a mustang band.
Then forty miles west the next evening
He’ll be wading through Nueces sand.
His head is fixed to the saddle horn,
A large sombrero is tied on tight,
He’s protected by rawhide leggings
As he rides through the day or the night.

He’s been seen by cowboys and Rangers,
By pioneers far out on the plains,
By sheep herders; whole squads of solders,
He’s seen riding through dust storms or rains.
Men shot him with pistols and rifles,
But the bullets passed through with a puff.
He rides like the wind on the mustang;
A phantom who rides upright and tough.

A half dozen men said they’d catch him,
They ambushed him the very next day.
At Nueces Bull Head Watering
They shot the horse; he died where he lay.
Lashed tight to the back of the stallion
Was a dried-up Mexican’s remains
He’d been tied there for years it would seem
Hauled by the horse out over the plains.

Then the truth of it came tumbling out
Three Texas fighters had done the deed
While they’d ridden hard to right a wrong
They’d left a trail all outlaws could read.
Lieutenant Vidal had deserted
From the Mexican army one night
And gone over to the Texican’s
To be with them in Houston’s last fight.

But after the war he was useless,
Stealing horses from ranches out west,
Till one night he stole from Creed Taylor
A tough rancher one shouldn’t molest.
Creed Taylor with a fellow named Flores
Tracked them west and were in quite a race
When they met up with Bigfoot Wallace
Who joined up for the joy of the chase.

Two days hard ride up the Leona
Is where they caught the three by surprise
They soon killed Vidal and one other,
Without a qualm or concern I surmise.
And then Bigfoot Wallace took over,
This daring eccentric old maverick.
He’d teach all them horse thieves a lesson,
And he thought it would be a good trick.

The recaptured band held a stallion,
A wild black that had never been rode.
They roped it and bound it up tightly
Then they saddled him up for the load.
They sawed off Vidal’s head with a knife,
It was the height of a horse-thief’s scorn.
And with chin-strap and thong they fastened
Vidal’s head to his big saddle horn.

‘Twas a Mexican rawhide-rigged saddle
With a big horn which was wide and flat
The carcass they put in the saddle
And they tied him right there where he sat.
They propped him up straight with a tree limb
Dressed him up in full regalia too
With leggins and spurs and serape
He was dressed for his final review.

Then they took off the halter and blindfold
and let the stallion go buck it out
Then headed him off toward a wild bunch
where it caused a most horrible rout.
The wild ones stampeded before him,
so afraid of the load on his back,
It appeared he was herding them on
As he followed them out on the track.

No wild horse would come near the stallion,
so alone with his mummified load,
he roamed ‘cross the prairie and salt flats
and sometimes where the Indians rode.
‘Till at the Bull Head Watering place
in the dim fading light of the day
They ambushed the stallion and killed him
at the edge of his ghostly highway.

But don’t leave this true story just yet,
Perhaps there things that you have forgot,
I didn’t say this was a legend
Nor just some childish Halloween plot.
The start of this tale is the ending.
Not the ambush out there on the plains.
I wrote that he rides a black stallion.
Understand what this word now explains!

In the Southwest part of Texas,
On the Leona—near the old fort,
You’ll see a headless horseman riding;
Read the details in the news report.
He rides a black mustang stallion,
His leather jacket buttoned up tight,
A serape around his shoulders
This vaquero! he’ll ride there tonight.

© 2010, Gail T. Burton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission
 

Gail comments: This poem reports an historical fact. Soon after the Mexican War (1846-48) a rider without a head was reported to be ranging in the great mustang country along the Nueces River in Southwest Texas. The circumstances of this rider was outlined by J. Frank Dobie as "The Headless Horseman of the Mustangs" in his book Tales of Old-Time Texas (1928) and also referred to by Mayne Reid in his book, A Strange Tale of Texas (1886). Perhaps the ending of my poem is a bit fanciful but, who knows?
 


Read Gail T. Burton's A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer and Bunkhouse Christmas Eve posted with other 2000 Christmas poems

and

How Far is it to Bethlehem posted with other 2004 Christmas poems

and

Just Celebrating posted with other 2006 Christmas 

 

 

 

About Gail T. Burton

Gail "GT" Burton grew up at a time when horses shared the work with tractors and, from his first memories, had a serious interest in cowboys and Old West history. Though never a working cowboy he had the opportunity to spend time horseback and in the company of working cowboys. His mother taught him poems, and the appreciation of poetry, as a child and the two interests sorta blended together as he matured.

Burton was born at Temple in Southwest Oklahoma when the state was barely twenty years old and has been a lifelong student of western lore. A bit short on experience, but a serious observer of those old time cowboy friends while growing up has equips him to write poems about cowboys and their trials and tribulations.

Burton is the author of Cow Pies & Candle Lights, a collection of cowboy poems, as well as an audio album under the same title.  He participates in cowboy poetry gatherings from Texas to Montana and is, since 1988, a featured poet in The Tombstone Epitaph, The National Newspaper of the Old West.

His poetry is often an outlet for his more unique (deranged) thinking, but just as often will convey a tender thought, a nostalgic reminder of the old west or even a touch of wisdom. He is a gentleman poet with heart, soul and a funny bone.

Other work by Burton includes Charity; poems of faith, words of love and letters of Christmas;   volumes one and two of The Adventures of Randy Jones & Booger Red, a collection of poems carried as a series in The Tombstone Epitaph, reporting the misadventures of two whimsical cowboys who are often bent on self destruction.

Gail comments, "I'd like to say that writing about cowboys has been one of the major joys of my life. I know, and have known, working cowboys all my life and have found them to be the most interesting animals of God's creation. I've enjoyed saying poetry with them at various gatherings from Georgia to Washington, down to California and back to Arkansas. In addition, have had the pleasure of introducing Cowboy Poetry to folks at a Ladies Quilting Club in Arkansas, a Writer's League in Missouri, Global Halloween Convergence (New Orleans, San Jose, and Sleepy Hollow, New York), many church parties, civic clubs, school rooms, and the Strathdon Luncheon Club at Cock Bridge. Scotland ... that was a hoot! I enjoy what I do and hope you enjoy it as much as I."

You can email Gail T. Burton and visit his web site: www.GailTBurton.com


Below is more information about his books.

 

Gail T. Burton's publications:


 

The Adventures of RANDY JONES & BOOGER RED, single volume edition 2010. Published in THE TOMBSTONE EPITAPH, The Newspaper of the Old West, which began February of 1989. 165 poems, plus fifteen pages of commentary outlining the attics of the late Dale Taylor; from whom many poems originated. $15.00

COW PIES & Candle Lights: A collection of poems about cowboys including several from the series of Randy Jones & Booger Red.  115 pages of text. $10.00

CHARITY, poems an anthology of poems of faith, words of love and poetic letters of Christmas. 169 pages of text. $15.00. My best work.

Album: COW PIES & Candle Lights, a collection of 25 poems from the book by the same title; none of which are of Randy Jones & Booger Red. Approximately 55 minutes with background music & sound effects.  CD, $10.00.

S/H $3.00 total for any number of items. Order from Gail T. Burton, 14 Azalea Circle, Benton, AR 72019-2250, email, gtburton1929@sbcglobal.net

 


 

 

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