About Gwen Petersen
Poems
Contacting Gwen Petersen

 

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About Gwen Petersen

The inimitable Gwen Petersen furnished us with the following and we added a few dates and links:

Gwen has been a working rancher for over thirty years (cows, sheep, pigs). Now raising miniature horses.

   Was one of the poets at the first Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

   Was on the
Johnny Carson Tonight Show doing cowboy poetry in 1986.

   Has been featured a few times at Elko over the years ['85-'89, '91, '94, '96, '05]


photo by Jeri Dobrowski
Jens Lund, Bill Wood, Gwen Peterson, and DW Groethe
Elko, 2005

   Established the first summer-time Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Big Timber in 1985; ramrodded for five years.

   Currently director of Montana Cowboy Poetry Wintercamp held annually in January in Big Timber. [Read a
   Montana Magazine article about it here]

   Produces, writes and directs annual Toot, Snoot 'n Hoot annual Chili Contest and Variety Benefit Show 
   (to help fund annual Wintercamp).

                                                                                                                                                  continued below ...

 

Poems

Cowboy Poetry

A Cussin' Woman

Those Damned Wire Gates

The Legacy


 

By popular demand, we present Gwen Petersen's parody of acclaimed poet Wallace McRae's wildly popular poem, Reincarnation:

 

Cowboy Poetry

"Say, what is cowboy poetry?
A cowpoke asked his friend,
His pal replied, "It happens when
Yer life goes round a bend.
Yer body's broke and so's yer mind,
Yer jaw gits in a flap.
Yer tongue begins to crank out verse,
Like bawlin' from a calf.

"You waller words inside yer head,
And spit 'em on yer friends.
Ya start retellin' all the tales
You've ever knowed, and then--
You brag and babble all about
Meter, rhyme and feet,
And now, you're just beginnin' on
Yer cowboy poetree.

"Yer cowpoke friends are plumb perplexed
They think yore kinda odd
As you wrassle with yer rhymin' words
Of poetry! Ye Gods!
Then Elko town puts out a call,
And you git chosen to
Say yer poems upon that stage--
The honor goes to few.

"And when the spotlight bug has bit--
Where your mind once was--
Is now a goner; that's the end
Of  plain-talk cowboy, cuz--
You now speak only poetry
'Bout life and death, and such
Which leads yer friends to this conclusion:
They're certain now, yer nuts!

© Gwen Petersen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

A Cussin' Woman

A cussin' woman's a trial to hear
For folks who want to think
That females ought to smile the while
A skunk is making stink.

But when the heifers break the fence
As I start out for town,
In pure white slacks, high heels and pearls--
My savoir faire breaks down.

When those darned hogs get in my yard
And roto-till my flowers,
You're apt to see the air turn blue
Perhaps for hours and hours.

Or when I sit at Bessie's side
Just dreaming as I yank,
And she connects with pie-stained tail:
You'll hear some words real rank.

I'm sure some girls are never rude
When farm chores go awry;
Their golden words are never crude;
Before they'd cuss, they'd die.

But let me step in fresh cow pie--
I take it as an omen;
So close your eyes and plug your ears--
Cuz I'm a cussin' woman.

© Gwen Petersen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Those Damned Wire Gates

The sun was high, the weather fair
As I roamed the hills on my buckskin mare;
The ride was long, I was running late
When I pulled up short at a barbed wire gate.

Now I know gates and I know they're mean,
But the ranch-house roof could be plainly seen;
If I went around it was five miles more,
And my seat and my knees and my back were sore.

Once I asked my spouse, "Why are the gates so tight?"
He looked at me like I wasn't bright.
"Cuz a bull or a cow can lean their weight
And knock the wires off a loosened gate."

I slipped from my horse and I faced my foe--
I would at least strike an opening blow
I tried the top, then the bottom band,
I tore my sleeve and I hurt my hand.

I wrapped both arms around the post,
I pulled till I ran out of breath--almost--
I kicked its wires to show my grudge,
I cussed it soundly.  It wouldn't budge!

The time was approaching six o'clock
When all of a sudden I spied a rock.
With gusto and grit I began anew
And hammered the lower wire in two.

With great relief I mounted my mare
And left that gate just lying there;
Glad to leave the scene of the crime,
We trotted home in record time.

This morning early my other half
Said, "I was out checking a newborn calf."
And then he grumbled, "Guess what I found--
The south-field gate was on the ground."

I answered then and my voice was gay,
"You know I was out there yesterday
And your black bull was quite a sight
Leaning against it with all his might."

Now I know I stretched the truth quite far,
But if everything's fair in love and war,
I'll be forgiven by all the fates
Cuz I'm at war with those damned wire gates!

© Gwen Petersen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

The Legacy

My Grandmother gave me a gift today,
(Now, I expected socks),
Instead, an apron, clean, but worn
Was folded in the box.

I know that women used to wear
Aprons to the floor,
Shapeless garments of muslin cloth,
Who wears ‘em anymore?

My Grandmother doesn’t know, I thought,
The modern way of things,
That wearing aprons and serving others
Is what enslavement means.

When Grandmother gently chided me,
Politely, I said I’d listen,
And as she spoke of the threadbare garment,
I began to see her vision.

“Rest your hand upon the apron,”
My Grandmother said to me;
“Listen to women who came before,
Women from history.”

My fingers touched the roughened cloth,
I felt my spirit hasten,
As if the souls of those long dead
Were speaking through the apron.

I caught a glimpse of times before,
And I walked in ghostly shoes;
I fancied I was a frontier woman,
And wondered, would life I lose?

I held a baby as I marched
Beside a covered wagon;
And I was tired for the way was endless,
My weary steps dragged on.

Then howling warriors swept upon me,
Shooting from every side,
I ran till I thought my heart would burst,
There was no place to hide.

I slung the child apron-wrapped,
Not knowing where she fell;
The babe survived, and I am her kin,
Her name, like mine, was Nell.

Again I touched the worn old cloth,
And became a prairie bride;
New-settled in a soddy hut,
At night, sometimes, I cried.

For fuel, I learned to follow bison
And picked up chips of dung;
I heaped them high in my muslin apron,
And fetched till my arms grew numb.

I carried thick dark bricks of sod
Enfolded in my apron,
And learned to value prairie beauty,
As homeward I would hasten.

Once more I stroked the muslin threads,
And became a farmer’s wife;
A skidding axe sliced through his leg,
Blood poured away his life.

To tourniquet the flow I tore
A strip from my apron hem,
Then harnessed the team and raced for town;
Death was foiled again.

Smoothing the cloth of Grandmother’s apron,
I saw a farmhouse shelter;
A toddler wandered close to geese,
She chased them helter-skelter.

Those flapping, honking, pecking demons,
Gave the child a fright;
But right and left I thrashed my apron,
And drove those birds to flight.

Once more the vintage muslin apron
Made pictures in my mind;
I was my Grandmother in her youth,
My life was the Spartan kind.

When heifers broke the fence one day,
My apron closed the gap,
Till I could fix the fence with tools
And chase those critters back.

And I often sat by the back-porch door
And watched the children at play,
While snapping beans and shelling peas
In my aproned lap each day.

Then my Grandmother’s apron showed me
Western women when,
At branding time or thrashing season,
They cooked for hungry men.

I saw them in their kitchens,
Roasting, baking, heating;
Then folding hands across their aprons,
They proudly watched men eating.

“Have some more, there’s plenty here,
Now, fellas, don’t be shy!
More coffee Joe? Have some cake!
Here’s a piece of pie.”

“This apron is my gift to you,”
My Grandmother said to me,
“Woven with truth and women’s power,
It is your legacy.”

I reached across my Grandmother’s apron,
And touched her gnarled hand,
And felt the souls of all the women
Whose courage forged this land.

I thanked her softly for my present,
In tears, and filled with pride,
I greeted the shadows of aproned women
Walking by my side.

© Gwen Petersen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

In April, 2010, Gwen Petersen sent the following:

Leslie Keltner (aka: Lulubelle) is keepin’ it cowboy. She pulled off another rootin’ tootin’ Songs of the Cowboys in Cody, Wyoming.  Cowboy pickers and cowboy poets from nine different states rolled into the historic western town.  Starting with registration and reception at Buffalo Bill’s former hangout—the Irma Hotel—the event swirled from welcome to wow in about three seconds. 

Held each April, Songs of the Cowboys reflects cowboy life—the art and practice of bringing meat to the nation’s tables, especially beef. 

Meat comes in many forms but only the beef industry has heroes on horseback. John Wayne didn’t ride off into the sunset on the back of an ostrich. The following can be shouted—military cadence style—especially if you’re talking to a vegetarian. 
 

A Salute to Cowboy Life

A cowboy’s life is mighty swell,

At chasin’ cows he does real well.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

He feeds them cows in winter time,

Rolls them bales and picks up twine.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Frostbite feet and nose and hands,

He don't quit, cuz he's got sand.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

He feeds in blizzards from a truck,

Drifts so thick that he gits stuck.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Spring arrives, the cows give birth,

Droppin' calves on Mother earth.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Sometimes calfie gits hung up,

A cowboy has to know his stuff.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Hook a chain on two small feet,

Pull that calf; it slides out neat.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Mama cow gets on the fight

Tries to horn him, that ain’t right.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Brand the calves when spring has sprung,

Cowboy stained with bovine dung.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Trail the cows to summer range,

Bulls get busy making change.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Hayfields he must irrigate,

Ain't no fun, this chore he hates.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Fixes fence, gets bit by ticks,

Scratches like he's lost his wits.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Mow the hayfield, see a snake,

Dodge that reptile; mower breaks.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Stack the hay to reach the sky,

Work from dawn till daylight dies.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Round up cattle in the fall,

Wean them calves and hear 'em bawl.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Ship the calves on cattle trucks

Feedlots take 'em, grain 'em up

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Makin' steaks for folks who eat,

Ranch-grown beef that can't be beat.

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF! 

 

Give a cheer and have a beer

Made it through another year

Saddle Up - 1, 2,

Spur ‘em hard - 3, 4,

1, 2, 3, 4,  1, 2,…EAT BEEF!

© 2010, Gwen Petersen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

 

 

About Gwen Petersen (continued from above)

Author of:

  The Ranch Woman's Manual

The Greenhorn's Guide to the Woolly West

  The Whole Shebang (audio book) published by Books in Motion.

Menus for the Cooking Impaired -co authored.

How To Be Elderly, A User's Guide, Volume One -poems and stories.

Shameless Satire (CD) poems and song parodies.

Yellowstone Pioneers: The Story of Hamilton Stores and Yellowstone Park

Ten Years' Gatherings, Montana Poems and Stories -co-editor

Booklets of Poetry, including:

The Wrong End Of The Sow 
Cowcamp Cookery: A Perfectly Splendid Batch of Ranch Country Recipes & Rhymes 
A Tall Bush, Ranch Woman Rhymes 
Tall in the Sidesaddle: Ranch Woman Rhymes
Cowpunchers, Sheep Herders and Plain Pig Farmers: Wild West limericks 
The Bachelor From Hell
The Long Black Hair
Scratch Where It Itches.

Contributor to:  

    Leaning into the Wind, Woven on the Wind, Writing Montana: Literature Under the Big Sky, Coolin' Down, and a bunch
    of others.

      Spurrin' the Words, a Cowboy Poetry Project from the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development.

    Several plays and skits including: Justice Prevails or: There's a Fly in the Ointment of Love (produced by
    Spring Creek Players, Lewistown, MT)

    Writes a weekly column, In A Sow's Ear, that appears in papers in several western states. (Has been writing this for
    over twenty years).

    Director of the annual Sagebrush Writers Workshop held in Big Timber (
email for info). 

    Member of Western Writers of America.

    Co-producer of "Bring It Home Music & Arts Festival."  (Annual Labor Day weekend event of workshops in
    music and poetry with a Concert finale. )

     Co-producer of the 2006 calendar, "I See By Your Outfit"


           Is co-producer and model of Montana Gwendolyn Greeting Cards.


Hey, There Cowboy


        Is currently working on two novels, putting together a book of plays and skits (produced) and a screenplay.

        Is working on her attitude.

         Lives on small place with cats, dogs, horses and uninvited varmints.


  

  Gwen Petersen's  2007 book, How to Shovel Manure and Other Life Lessons for the Country Woman offers a handbook for country living. The table of contents (called "Parts and Innards") ranges from "Calving the Heifers" through "Ordering a Custom-Built Country Man" to "Mildred Norton's Rich, Dark, Chocolaty, Chocolate Cake." From the publisher's description:

 It's not a job you want to take on without a sense of humor. Oops—it's not a job at all. It's an all-encompassing life, being a country woman on the ranch or farm, and with wit and equanimity like Gwen Petersen's, it can be survived. In fact, with Petersen's help, it can be drop-dead hilarious. A much-loved cowgirl scribe in rare form, Petersen eases us through the rigors
of country living, from raising chickens to shoveling manure to cooking Rocky Mountain oysters. You'd think midwifing a calf was no laughing matter—until Gwen steps in with her expert advice. She has wise counsel for sharing the yard with a gaggle of ill-tempered geese; step-by-step instructions for harvesting pig manure; and sound advice for staying cool through haying season and coping with the chaos of Christmas on the ranch or farm.

For good measure, the book includes poems and recipes that will transport you to a country state of mind--whether you hail from the city's busiest streets or the ranch's quietest gravel roads. Equal parts handy how-to advice, rural humor, philosophy, and fond farm nostalgia, How to Shovel Manure and Other Life Lessons for the Country Woman is all good.

How to Shovel Manure and Other Life Lessons for the Country Woman is available from Amazon and other booksellers.


Contacting Gwen Petersen

 

Read Gwen's weekly column, In a Sow's Ear at The Fence Post and American Western Magazine

Contact Gwen for more information about for her books, calendar, and note cards.

Gwen Petersen
PO Box 1255  
Big Timber, MT 59011
406/932-4227
email

 

 

 

 

 

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