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Princeton, British Columbia
About Helene Renee Ramsay



A Cowboy's Life

A cowboy's life ain't nuthin' like
Is written in them books,
Of darin' deeds upon their steed
An' darn good rugged looks.
His boots ain't polished clean with spit,
His stride ain't none too swift --
An' time for ladies he ain't got,
'Cause he cain't barely sit!
His legs are bowed from settin' in
His saddle, dawn to dusk;
His knees are sore, his hips they ache --
He smells of ranky musk!
He's up before the break o' day
To plow 'n fence 'n seed;
He pitches hay an' irrigates,
An' gives the stock their feed.
An' when it's calvin' time in Spring,
An' trouble is a-brewin'
There ain't no time to call a vet
So pullin' he'll be doin'!
He'll talk nice to that heifer whose
Young calf is not quite ready;
An' then he'll pull it out with hands
So swift 'n sure 'n steady.
A cowboy has to brand his herd,
De-horn an' vaccinate,
An' hold the males down long enough
To carefully castrate.
The stench of burnin' hide is born
Into the clothes he wears;
An' they ain't no designer duds --
But "Wrangler Jeans" from Sears!
A cowboy's life at close of day
Ain't nuthin' like you've read;
Instead he's jus' plain tuckered out,
An' falls into his bed.
So if yur thinkin' that it's great
To be a cowboy's wife,
There just ain't room for much romance
In that ol' cowboy's life!

1995, Helene Renee Ramsay



Brandin' Time

At brandin' time my pa would ride on out 'fore light of day,
To fetch young calves from in a field of summer's new mowed hay.

Since roundin' up these young uns was a lot of work for him,
He took with him a cowhand knowed to everyone as Slim.

This roundin' up weren't nuthin' new to neither of these men,
So it weren't long before they'd drove 'em all inside a pen.

An upturned drum was in one corner filled with burnin' coal,
With fire so hot you'd swear that it could melt the devil's soul!

The brandin' iron lay in the coals to get a white-hot heat,
So's pa could plant the family mark on ev'ry young calf's seat.

To get this done me an' my ma would have to help out some,
We'd holler an' we chase 'em round until we'd cornered one.

Then pa would rope that calf an' throw it to the dusty earth,
An' ma an' me would set on it while yankin' at its girth.

An' if we looked into it's face we'd best not show no fear,
'Cause soon's we did he'd certain bound to set us on our ear!

We'd yell at pa to hurry up an' get the brandin' done,
Our bodies ached, we sweat an' stunk an' this just weren't no fun.

But he still had to vaccinate an' castrate an' dehorn,
An' we still had to lend a hand with bodies tired an' worn.

Still brandin' wasn't over 'til my pa had cooked a treat
An' him an' Slim would gnaw on what's called prairie oyster meat.

It shore is good that brandin' time don't come aroun' that much,
'Cause I prefer more gentle chores ~~~ me bein' a girl an' such!

2003, Helene Renee Ramsay

We asked Helene how she came to write this poem and she told us: Well, waaaay back in the mid 60s I had my lessons in brandin', vaccinatin', de-hornin' and castratin' on my then in-laws ranch in southern Alberta.  Mom and I really did sit on them calves and the poem relates exactly to brandin' time on the Nelson ranch.  Well.  Except for Slim.  I made his name up to fit the rhyme scheme ~ the rest of the Nelson family names just didn't fit in.   The images have certainly stayed with me a long time, wouldn't ya say? I still don't like the smell of burnin' hair all these years down the road! An' have I ever ate one of them prairie oysters?  Nope.  An' I don't never intend on it!  But plate me up any other part an' it's chow time!

About Helene Renee Ramsay:

I live in Princeton, a small rural community in southern British Columbia, Canada but I was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta -- home of the Calgary Stampede (and all things cowboy).  I recall playing cowboys and Indians with my siblings at a young age and I grew up making summertime visits to my uncles farm near High River, Alberta.  But it wasn't until I met my first husband that I realized MY version of the cowboy was certainly a romanticized one, compared to the "real life" cowboy world of his southern Alberta ranching family.  My poetry is written around time spent in this world of working cowboys -- things I've done on both the farm and the ranch, and people I've met along the trail.

"A Cowboy's Life" came from my memories while married to my first husband, and the reality of all that came with being a cowboy's wife -- but more from watching my in-laws than actually living it myself.  We were young, we were city kids -- but I was drawn in by my "romantic notions" of living off the land!  And if ever you have smelled hide burnin' during branding time...well, where's the romance in THAT.




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