JACK BURDETTE
Flagstaff, Arizona
About Jack Burdette

 

 

 

 

Magenta Sky

        Now, the coosie's a might grumpy
           and the top hand ain't wearing no grin.
        Guess you could say the whole outfit's
           sense of humor is growing thin.
        High up here in the Hualapais,
           the roundups are usually tough.
        But, with the weather that we've had,
           reckon this spring is more than rough.

        Two days of rain that drenched us through
           and now the wind is gusting strong.
        But, 'round here, for a weather change,
           just wait around, it won't take long.
        I've rode herd for many outfits,
           but, Kingman is the only place,
        I've stood in mud up to my knees
           and had dust blowing in my face.

        The cows are wild and scattered thin,
           because there's water everywhere.
        Fresh grass is sprouting in the flats
           and a small group is mighty rare.
        The corral pens are filling slow,
           although we've worked for fourteen days.
        Of course, you always have mavericks,
           but this year, the whole herd is strays.

        Seems that's the nature of this life,
           either too much water or drought.
        Sometimes I ask, is it worth it?
           Maybe, I should have stayed down South,
        Where the winters ain't quite so cold
           and the work would be close to town.
        I reckon it's only natural
          to let the hardships get you down.

        Then, I recall the evening sky,
           with the purplish and red background.
        It's the one place short of Heaven,
           where this wonder can be found.
        Where pinks and yellows paint the clouds,
           behind the mountain's silhouette.
        There's a magic, hard to describe,
           in an Arizona sunset.

        Then, I look up to the heavens,
           aglow with shining star's bouquet
        And soon forgotten are the toils,
           that seemed immense during the day.
        Why I do this tough lonely job?
           I no longer need to ask why.
        For here, I'm living a free life
           in the land of magenta sky.              

© 2005, Jack Burdette
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

Saguaros in the Snow

In the foothills of the Bradshaw's,
  it's not that uncommon a sight,
To see the snow 'bout every year,
  drop down and paint the desert white.
But, no matter when I see it,
  the high desert in winter gown,
It's an awesome, eerie beauty;
  saguaros with a snowy crown.

Up high in the ponderosas,
  even down in the pinyon draws,
The snow makes things look natural,
  while hiding some of nature's flaws.
When it drifts 'round the junipers,
  I think of little Christmas trees
And imagine it's nature's quilt,
  to calm and set the world at ease.

Yet, something seems most out of place,
  seeing cacti that seem so proud,
To usually thirst in blazing sun,
  all hushed 'neath winter's chilly shroud.
Still, though it may be hard to grasp,
  a greater thrill, you'll never know,
Than to ride out in the morning
  and see saguaros in the snow.

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

 

Jack told us, "This poem was inspired by a late storm this past winter that dropped the snow line down to under three thousand feet elevation. This covered a lot of dessert that is usually thought of as being hot and dry. The giant saguaro covered with snow is an unusual and beautiful sight."

 

 

The Blacksmith's Shed

It's just an old add-on lean-to,
  by the barn on the old home place,
With a hog wire fence around it,
  to keep the cows out of his space.
A couple window panes are broke
  and the old tin roof is rusted.
The forge's stack is listing bad,
  because one guy wire is busted.

The small corral is empty now,
 where shoeless ponies used to wait.
Some rimless wheels lean 'gainst the fence
 and tumbleweeds have clogged the gate.
The door creaks when I open it
  and cobwebs need be brushed aside.
The feeling's like a trip in time,
  as I reverently step inside.

Dust dances in the rays of light,
  that filter through the clapboard cracks
And illuminate horse collars,
  that rest atop some old feed sacks.
There's bits and bridles and horseshoes,
 hanging from handmade nails above
And there on the tool strewn workbench,
  a pair of long wrist leather gloves.

Now, time has forever silenced,
  resounding music that was mine,
The quick rhythm of the hammer,
  above the bellows' wheeze and whine.
The striking blows began as thuds,
  as hammer shaped the hot horseshoe,
Then rose to sharper clank, clink, clinks,
  when black replaced the glowing hue.

The hissing when the tongs would plunge,
  hot steel into the quenching tank
And the ever piercing squeaking,
  when he would turn the jib hoist crank.
But, silently stands the anvil,
  atop its weathered oak log base,
A monument to craftsman's pride,
  that still lingers in this work place.

I often visit the old shed,
  for, oh, the memories it unlocks.
Can still smell the charcoal ashes,
  beneath the forge's cold firebox.
His leather apron's on a peg,
  and well worn hammer's on the shelf.
Yes, when my granddad passed away,
  we buried a part of myself.

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


Dedicated to the
memory of my grandfather
Wily Andrew Burdette
1856ó1935

Jack told us, "My inspiration for writing this poem comes from memories of my grandfather who died when I was a young boy. I remember visiting the old shed for many years after his death until urban sprawl consumed the old place. My father keep the tools from the blacksmith shop and we used many of the tools together until my father also passed away."

 

 

The Loneliest Trail

I think by now, I've rode them all,
pushing cattle for little pay,
From Payson up through Happy Jack
and Heber, out the other way.
We drive them down for the winter
and back again, when snow is gone.
These are the roughest in the West,
the trails that climb the Mogollon.

We're winding out of Sedona,
through Bear Wallow Canyon today.
Merry-Go-Round Rock's just ahead.
Reckon tonight that's where we'll stay.
Late tomorrow, we'll hit the switchbacks,
as we climb the steep rim's south face.
With any luck, in 'bout a week,
we'll top out close to Jim Mund's place.

I think oft, as I ride along,
about that girl in Cottonwood.
She's weighing heavy on my mind,
a heap more than any girl should.
Daughter of a copper miner,
who works the claims up at Jerome.
She's the kind of gal that could make,
this cowboy want to find a home.

I met her at a town social
and asked if I might call on her.
That long black hair and cool green eyes,
gave this cowboy's heart quite a stir.
We seemed to hit it off just great
and I think she's carrying a torch.
Because, she didn't seem to mind,
when I kissed her on her side porch.

I think about the ranch up north,
with snow capped peaks and forests of pine.
The beauty there captures your soul,
yet, its far from the love of mine.
Looking back down the trail we've come,
the Verde Valley looks might good.
'Spose one could settle down there fine,
'though, I ain't saying that I would.

Now, no one made no promises
and don't know if she'll wait 'til fall.
Can't seem to shake this anxiousness,
a feeling like none I recall.
I've rode out on many a trail
and never had much cause to stall.
But, when you ride away from love,
it's the loneliest trail of all.

© 2005, Jack Burdette
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack told us, "There is a Forest Service gravel road that winds down the Mogollon Rim from just south of Munds Park, Arizona to Sedona, Arizona, that was used for cattle drives. Bear Wallow Canyon and Merry-Go-Round Rock are actual land marks along this trail. The poem was inspired by pure imagination of the hardships of conducting a cattle drive in this extremely rugged terrain and then having to do it while heartsick over leaving a new-found love."

This poem is included in our Cowboy Love Poems collection.


 

Oilcloth and Coal Oil

I remember the old bunkhouse,
where the curtains were made of jute
And can still smell the coal oil lamp
and see the chimney black with soot.

Coal oil permeated the space
and dominated other scents.
To most it was a foul odor,
to others, a pleasing incense.

Of course, there were other odors,
associated with cowpokes,
From saddle soap to linseed oil
and tobacco from hand rolled smokes.

There was the smell of beans and stew,
simmering on the cookie's stove,
Of leather chaps and sweaty clothes,
and brewing coffee interwove.

But, guess the smell most remembered,
that with lights out would start to creep,
Throughout the room and to the bunks,
coal oil fumes that put me to sleep.

Just before the lamp was quieted,
as chimney rose to lowered wick,
One last fragrant swirl of gray smoke,
before the flame gave its last flick,

Standing near the cooking area,
a dining table where we ate,
All covered with pale red oilcloth,
with a surface shinny as slate.

Etched in the glossy tablecloth,
thousands of rings from coffee cups.
It was the gathering place at night,
and for breakfast chuck at sunup.

Who could count the steers that were roped,
or coyotes shot with a carbine
And who could tally the fortunes,
made in tales across its dull sheen.

Card games late on Saturday nights
and Sunday chuck, without a doubt,
The simple rituals that we shared,
were what made that table standout.

Those days of cowboying are past,
except for riding in my dreams.
But, some details that I recall,
are fresh as yesterday, it seems.

Of all my bunkhouse memories,
of  friends I made and their tall tales,
The ones most vivid in my mind,
are oilcloth's feel and coal oil's smell.

© 2008, Jack Burdette
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack told us, "The inspiration for this poem came from vivid memories of the sights and odors that are so distinct in bunk houses, hunting camps, fishing cabins or anywhere that a group of men gathers to eat and sleep."

 

Sunflowers on the Slopes

     In drifting clouds,
     The haze enshrouds,
The snow capped San Francisco Peaks.
     While far below,
     Wild flowers grow,
     More colorful than fine batiks.

     Yet higher still,
     Waiting until,
     Their time comes to become ornate.
     As snow recedes,
     Exposed are seeds,
     With summer sun will germinate.

Concealed appeal,
  Waiting to feel,
     The crispness of September days.
Then right on cue,
     A yellow hue,
     Blankets the meadows with bright rays.

  A crescendo,
Of world aglow,
A reassurance of our hopes.
     In beauty frocked,
     Nature unlocked,
     Again, sunflowers on the slopes.

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


Jack comments: The San Francisco Peaks, just north of Flagstaff, Arizona, rise to 12,633 feet above sea level which is the highest point in Arizona. Each fall, every meadow between 7,000 and 8,000 feet elevation on the slopes of these mountains blooms with a sea of golden flowers. My short poem, "Sunflowers on the Slopes" is an attempt to capture in words a bit of the beauty of this awesome display of nature.
 

 

He Didn't Aim To Be My Friend

At seventeen, I drifted in,
  to that Yavapai County spread,
Green as a Palo Verde twig
  and used to taking my own head.
Thatís the first time that I seen him,
  standing by the holding pen gate,
A short and wiry stern faced man,
  the kind that could pull twice his weight.

He eyed me from my hat to boots,
  trying to judge substance from fake,
Like I was some rough stock bronco,
  that he was afixin to break.
He said, ďMy nameís Jake McCutchen
  and Iím the top hand of this spread.
I need some help for the roundup,
  if you be worth your chuck and bed.Ē

I knowed heíd of never hired me,
  if he wernít hurtin for help bad.
So, Ďthough I had a lot to learn,
  decided to give all I had.
I werenít nowhere near his best hand
  but, through it all, I did contend,
Wernít easy to impress a man,
  who didnít aim to be my friend.

Throughout my clumsy learning curve,
  Jake rode me hard, but he was fair.
Though, I didnít gentle easy,
  somehow, he didnít seem to care.
He must have seen promise in me,
  to overlook my gross defects.
Reckon he thought heart and spirit,
  deserved patience and due respect.

That was twenty eight years ago
  and Jake retired just two years back.
I know heíd still be riding me,
  if his hips hadnít gone to rack.
He lives on a little horse farm,
  Ďbout eighteen miles or so away.
But, that donít keep him far enough,
  to not be checking me each day.

Yep, he stuck by me through it all,
  with that wild kid, until a man.
He taught me like I was his son
  and I became his biggest fan.
Now, Jake didnít miss too often
  and usually hit what heíd intend,
But, guess the biggest miss was when,
  he didnít aim to be my friend.

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


Jack comments:
Although the two cowboy characters in this poem are fictitious, they could have been dozens of true friend couples that I have known that started out on the wrong foot or had less than cordial beginnings that somehow grew and bonded into lasting friendships. This poem is about two cowboys with such a beginning that turned into an unlikely lasting friendship.
 

 

Jest Another Morning

Although this scene may be routine,
To the buckaroos of the West.
In beauty born,
Or with Hellís scorn,
Morning brought an endurance test.

A rooster crowed,
The moon hung low,
Just a sliver of a crescent.
Frost crystals formed
And white adorned,
Morningís soft gown, most eloquent.

The sun peeked through,
With purple hue,
Painted the hills in amethyst.
The sky streaked red
And crimson bled,
Like the brush strokes of an artist.

Out of warm bunk,
Without much spunk,
ĎTil my hands wrapped Ďround a tin cup.
Coosieís coffee,
Iíll guarantee,
Would wake ole Rip Van Winkle up.

Bacon and eggs
And coffee dregs,
Then itís time to catch my cayuse.
With cutting rope
And lots of hope,
That he donít give me no abuse.

Without a fit,
Blaze came to bit
And shook off stiffness of the night.
Purt soon my kack,
Was on his back
And the girth band was cinched up tight.

A quick review,
With all the crew,
The Bar J top hand had his say.
When he was through,
We dang well knew,
What were our duties for the day.

Crush out our smokes,
Coil up our ropes
And up into the saddle swing.
Ride to the herd,
See if they stirred,
Watch the night owl on homeward wing.

The turning leaves,
Of aspen trees,
Blaze the hills with crown adorning.
Sky of azure,
No clouds obscure,
For, itís jest another morning.

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

 

Jack comments: The inspiration for this poem came upon reflecting on how much adventure and interaction with nature that working cowboys experience on an every day basis to the extent that it becomes almost routine and obscured in the work and duties of the day. Most working cowboys will experience more adventure and be exposed to more of nature's beauty in one morning than some "city folks" will experience in a lifetime, except in their dreams and imaginations.
 

The Wrangler's Christmas

A stand of aspen near a stream,
  just as Iíve run out of daylight.
Thereís grass in the bottom below.
  Reckon this will be camp tonight.
Now bare, the aspensí final leaves,
  have fluttered gently to the ground
And wrapped the world in a blanket,
  as if to hush her every sound.

The winter range is dry and brown
  and frost crystals have claimed the grass,
That crackle Ďneath my every step,
  like walking on fine broken glass.
Itíll be a cold one tonight,
  Ďcause the south breeze has lost her breath,
The skyís completely void of clouds
  and the airís quiet and still as death.

A plate of beans warmed on the coals
  and hard tack fills me up just right.
Not chuck most folks would call fancy,
  but, tastes gourmet by the firelight.
Straying leaders have been hobbled
  and the mules are wearing cowbells.
I can settle near my warm fire
  and hear the coyoteís yips and yells.

Faced with a waning crescent moon,
  as days grow short and night air chills,
Thereís something Ďbout December nights,
  that a sense of reverence instills.
Could be the stillness and the dark,
  that magnify the heavenís quasars.
Yet, thereís something I canít explain,
  that makes me reach to touch the stars.

I mull the story of Christís birth,
  with its simplistic beauty
And wonder if I saw the star,
  would I head the call of duty.
And should a host of angels,
  descend from Heaven on high,
Would I travel to Bethlehem,
  as did the shepherds and Magi.

The wise men didnít hesitate,
  to follow the heavenly sign,
For, they knew the significance,
  of the birth of this child divine.
And the shepherds were unafraid,
  to leave flocks on hillside meadows,
To witness the birth of a king,
  the Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I reckon them folks had strong faith,
  for to be so easily implored,
But, reckon you donít have much doubt.
  when youíre been foretold by the Lord.
And, had I lived in those times,
  I wonder what I would have done.
It sure would take a leap of faith,
  but, donít think the calling Iíd shun.

Then, I wonder Ďbout the present
  and the mess this poor world is in.
Two thousand years after Herod,
  there still seems to be right smart sin.
It seems things havenít changed a lot
  and the hatred and greed of man,
Gets only deeper as time goes by.
  but, who knows what God has in his plan.

A muleís bell clanging down below,
  brings me back to present day
And reminds me to stir the fire,
  before sleep carries me away.
Them hunters up in the elk camp,
  will think that Iím their Santa Claus.
My showing up there with supplies,
  on Christmas Day, will draw applause.


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



 

Obliged

By the banks of the Santa Cruz,
   on my granddad's treasured homestead,
South of Tucson, near old Tubac,
   I ran a little cattle spread.
It weren't too big, but had water
   and summer grass was always green.
'Though we had enough to get by,
   most Christmases were pretty lean.

Again this year, like most before,
   we were stretching dollars between,
Gifts we knew our children wanted
   and ranch needs like tools and vaccine.
As usual, struck a compromise
   and Christmas morning was just great.
The kids enjoyed the gifts and frills
   and school clothes, seemed to tolerate.

But, later on that same morning,
   I saw two men at our front gate.
They were on foot, walking a horse,
   that was showing a limping gait.
There were two saddles on its back,
   with hand tooling and silver trim.
No doubt, that they were Mexicans,
   'Though most haggard, their dress was prim.

The subservient spoke English,
   and explained their sad dilemma.
He said that they were herding south,
   to their rancho in Aldama.
He said twenty prime breeding bulls,
   that they had bought in Old Tucson,
Were lost in last night's howling storm,
   when one horse fell just before dawn.

He said, "The poor horse broke a leg
   and was put down, 'though made us sick.
But, we think the bulls are nearby
   and can be found, if we act quick.
But, can't do it on foot no way
   and, if we don't get those bulls back,
The boss could lose the whole rancho,
   without getting breeding on track."

He said, "Now, we ain't no beggars,
   in fact, we don't even know how.
But, if you could spare a horse,
   we sure could use the loan, now."
Answered, "That was asking a lot,
   from a man with little to share.
But, I do have one rein broke colt,
   that I reckon somehow could spare."

"He ain't no seasoned cow pony,
   but, he is savvy, young and strong.
If you show a little patience,
   he'll carry you fine all day long."
With that, the Mexican's seemed pleased
   and said, "Today, we cannot pay,
But, the Bible says ten times over,
   you will be repaid one day."

So they got Spark out of his stall
   and saddled him with their fine tack.
El Jefe never spoke a word,
   until he swung up on Spark's back.
As he rode through the ranch front gate,
   he raised two fingers to his brim
And simply smiled and said "Obliged."
   S'posed I'd lost a horse on that whim.

Next Christmas came, as did the next
   and most forgotten was my horse.
But, it hurt a little last year,
   when Spark would have been Ben's, of course.
Now days, Ben rides a lot with me,
   and doesn't seem to even care,
That since his promised colt was gone,
   had to settle for my old mare.

It had been two years to the day,
   when on Christmas, to my surprise,
I saw the Mexicans return.
   'bout two hours after sunrise.
This time they had an entourage,
   with wagons decorated grand,
One full of food and gifts galore,
   the other held a five piece band.

Loping behind the trail wagon,
   with a new saddle on his back,
Was Spark looking well groomed and slick
   and wearing silver on his tack.
The English speaker then explained.
   "Found those bulls we were looking for
And got them down home, thanks to you.
   and this spring we had calves galore."

"We drove them to Tucson this fall
   and now we're delighted to say,
The rancho is solvent again,
   So, now we come to debt repay.
Your horse we return more seasoned.
   He's in wonderful shape, but then,
After two years with vaqueros,
   he'll have to learn English again."

Ellie fixed a feast for us all
   and we had music for Yuletide.
Ben was thrilled to have his Spark back
   and couldn't wait to take a ride.
Janie was happy with her doll
   and silver ring with a gemstone.
It was the most lavish Christmas,
   that our family had ever known.

El Jefe never spoke a word,
   It seems his English words were few,
But, I guess, in any language,
   he sure knew how to say thank you.
As he rode through the ranch front gate,
   he raised two fingers to his brim
And simply smiled and said "Obliged."
   That was the last we saw of him.

© 2011, Jack Burdette
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Jack comments, "The poem was inspired by the thought that good deeds are usually rewarded by a gesture of appreciation."
 

 

 Habits and Traditions

The fireplace flames now dancing soft,
fends off a chill from winterís snow,
Takes me back to Christmases past,
spent Ďneath the starsí heavenly glow.
Away from home out on the trail,
seems tradition always prevailed.
A scraggly bush would make a tree
and natureís backdrop never failed.

Weíd read Lukeís story of Christís birth
and sip our coffee from tin ware.
ĎCourse, the last sip went in the fire,
to avoid the grounds settled there.
Singing familiar Christmas carols,
to clumsy picking on guitar,
Sounded more like joyful noise,
than music to the ear, by far.

Nowadays, more comfort I desire,
a nice snug home suits me just fine,
With family and grandkids close by,
to celebrate Christís birth divine.
The happy gatherings Ďround the tree
and opening of presents come dawn,
The turkey feasts and pumpkin pies,
take me back to where memories spawn.

Traditions instilled in our youth,
just like old habits seem to stick.
Thereís mistletoe and manger scenes
and Rudolf, Frosty and St. Nick.
Reflecting on this glorious day,
it must be past time to retire,
Down to my last sip of coffee,
and whoops, just tossed it in the fire.

© 2015, Jack Burdette
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 



 

Read Jack Burdette's

The Nighthawk's Christmas posted with 2007 Christmas poems

and

 Angel in the Window posted with 2006 Christmas poems

 

 

 

About Jack Burdette:

I moved to Arizona about forty-two years ago and have always loved it here. My work took me away a couple of times, but I always found my way back. I have settled here in Flagstaff and plan to stay put this time. Although I never worked as a cowboy, I have socialized with quite a few. In fact, I am a professional engineer who designs and builds steel mills. However, my father was in the US Cavalry when they still rode horses and
went on to compete on the rodeo circuit. He also worked as a cowboy and ran a blacksmith shop with his dad. So, I guess I have some cowboy blood by heredity.

 

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