Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

Amarillo, Texas
About Janet Eggleston



Moving On...

     Dedicated to my father, Evan Eugene Eggleston

You left early this morning—the sky was dark black.
I lay still and pretended to sleep.
But today will be different than any before,
And I'm sorting the memories I'll keep.

We've been on this ranch for all of our lives;
This June will be fifty-two years.
But tonight we'll be sleepin' in a bedroom in town,
And I can't stop the flow of my tears.

We once were young people—just married, in love,
And life stretched so endless it seemed.
But I've just blinked my eyes, and the years have flown by.
I still think it feels just like a dream.

I've looked at the man 'cross the table from me,
His worn, wrinkled face—thin, grey hair;
And I wonder what happened to that handsome, young man
Who once sat in that very same chair.

The years haven't been kind to either of us—
Too much time in the hot summer sun;
Endless days spent in hard, manual, back-breaking work,
And the beauty of youth comes undone.

I remembered the jagged, white scar on your leg,
That runs from your knee to your thigh.
All that concerned you was ridin' again,
While I was afraid you might die.

And the shoulder you broke when you stood in the gate,
Tryin' to stop some stampeding cattle;
The right ankle you twisted till it almost broke off
When the cinch busted loose on your saddle.

I look at you now, full of scars and broke bones,
And I think of the last several weeks.
When we've talked of sellin' and movin' to town,
It's the first time I've seen tears on your cheeks!

We both always knew that some day this would happen;
But it always seemed far down the line.
As I lay here this morning, it near breaks my heart
To discover we've run out of time.

I get up from the bed and go stand at the window,
And look to see just where you are.
The sky's getting lighter and turning to grey.
Up above I see one faint, dim star.

You're out by the barn; I can just see your shape
As you whistle your horse up to ride.
You've had him so long we've forgotten his age,
But he still makes your chest swell with pride.

I know where you're goin' as you pass out the gate.
One last ride round the ranch that you love.
The tears blur my eyes as you gallop away,
And I whisper to God up above...

To give you the strength to get through today
And the days that will follow this one;
To keep you a cowboy for the rest of your life,
And to guide you till your years here are done.

I'm not sure what's out there beyond the blue sky,
But there's one thing that I know, of course.
That heaven has cattle and green, grassy land
And a good cowboy who rides his own horse!

© 2006, Janet Eggleston
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Janet told us:  This poem was inspired by my parents.  They are both in their seventies, and although they are in good health, they have been having discussions, off and on, about if and when they should consider retiring.  As most people know, the ranching lifestyle is a hard one, both physically and mentally.  I have heard bits and pieces of these conversations, and I decided to write this poem as a tribute to them.  It is written from the viewpoint of my mother.

(I am happy to say, that as of this writing, they are still going strong...working on the ranch with their cattle!)  I know that the time will come when they will have to "move on," but I hope it is many years in the future!


Evan and Janelle Eggleston



Eight-Second Dreams

His past is more real to him
Than the life he lives today;
Inside, he's young and fearless,
But, in truth, he's old and gray.

He's got two scrapbooks full of pictures
Underneath his old bedframe...
Newspaper articles and photos
From his days of rodeo fame.

There are trophies in the corner,
Dust-covered moments from his life;
They cost a lot for him to earn them.
He left behind his kids and wife.

But if you turn the clock back fifty years,
You'll see a young man in his prime;
He's full of dreams and hope and courage.
He's got grit and lots of time.

He grew up a simple ranch boy,
Not too much different from the rest;
But God gave him special talent...
At riding broncs, he was the best.

Straight from the ranch to the arena,
He came with saddle and worn rope;
Full of dreams of fame and glory,
On each wild horse, he pinned his hope.

He and danger were acquainted.
They met at every rodeo;
The cowboy used his skill and strength
To ride each bucking, wild bronco.

He graduated, with top honors,
From schools of hard work and hard knocks;
His body bore the brunt of learning...
From broken bones to jarring shocks.

He never quite could make it happen.
He was always one ride shy;
But he never lacked in courage,
And he never lacked in try.

He spent his youth and years beyond that
Riding horses fighting mad;
But he never reached the National Finals,
Though he gave it all he had.

Some dreams last longer and die harder,
But then, one day, we wake up old;
And the life we wished had happened
We know, now, never will unfold. his mind, he's still bronc riding...
He can smell the horse's sweat;
He climbs aboard that prancing demon
Sure this will be his best ride yet!

He can hear the crowd now cheering.
The gate swings open, and he's free!
He jerks awake and lies there, silent,
Remembering how it used to be.

So, now he lives a life of memories...
Eight second rides fill up his head;
And if you'll stop a while and visit,
He'll pull out scrapbooks from the bed.

There are many of us like him...
We've all had dreams that fell apart;
But I tip my hat to old bronc riders...
And to dreams we carry in our heart!

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


Janet told us, "As I was growing up, my father participated in small rodeos around our hometown. We were exposed to many rodeo cowboys—some talented, some not—and we learned about their lives by our associations. I have written this in memory of those cowboys, who though they gave it all they had, were never quite talented...or blessed...enough to become world champions. I have wondered what they thought about in their old age. This is my answer to that 'unasked' question." 


A Quarter's Worth

He was a rag-a-muffin young man.
I'd guess his age at nine or ten;
I saw him standing by the arena
When I pulled my trailer in.

It was our local county livestock fair
And our hometown rodeo;
And I'd come to run the barrels
On my best horse Smokey Joe.

The young man looked uncared for.
He had a thin and dirty face;
Barefoot, with worn-out, wrinkled clothes...
He looked alone and out of place.

He slowly edged up closer to me
As I groomed and brushed my horse;
Then I heard him ask a question
In a small and timid voice...

"Lady, could I ride your horse?
 At home, I've got an old stick toy,
 But I've never rode a live one.
 My dream's to be a real cowboy."

I looked at him, and he looked down,
And scuffed his bare foot in the dirt;
He said, "I'm sorry that I bothered you."
I saw a big hole in his shirt.

My heart just melted in me...
And I said, "Now hold on here,
I think that we can strike a bargain."
And his face lit up with cheer.

I wanted to see him smile again,
So I a teasing way...
"How much you pay to ride him?"
His words stick with me to this day.

His right hand dug into his pocket,
And he said, in his small voice,
"A quarter's all I've got, ma'am,
It ain't enough to ride a horse...

But could I—maybe—touch him?
I'd be gentle as could be."
And my eyes filled up so full of tears
That I couldn't hardly see!

I swallowed-stuck out my right hand—
And said, "Young man, we've got a deal.
Today's the day all rides are free."
And his smile turned wide and real.

I led ol' Smokey around the 'rena,
And around and round again;
And I'll never forget his excitement
Or the size of his big grin.

When the ride was finally over,
He said, "I'll never forget this day...
And a cowboy always pays his debt."
Then he turned and walked away.

The rodeo's still a blur to me.
I don't recall just how I placed;
But I can close my eyes and see quite clearly
That sweet and hungry boy's young face.

When I took Smokey to the trailer,
I opened up the swinging door...
Lying a rare diamond...
Was a lone quarter on the floor.

I still think about him often.
His coin remains my greatest treasure;
How much that quarter's worth to me—
There's no way to ever measure!

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


Janet told us, "Because I work with children, I have always had a tender spot for those who have less than others.  I have also learned that every child wants to ride a horse, even though many seldom get the chance. I combined these two ideas into my poem, 'A Quarter's Worth.' All of us have the ability to make a difference in a child's life. And...everyone wants to be a cowboy/cowgirl!"

The Other Mother

I guess that something broke inside her the night she lost
     her newborn foal.
She wouldn't even let us in the pen;
She stood over him for two days straight. She wouldn't
     eat or drink.
She nuzzled, nudged, and licked all over him.

We finally got a rope around him, and we pulled his
     body out.
She charged the gate and put up quite a fight;
It broke my heart to hear her from the kitchen window in
     the house
As she whinnied, long and loud, into the night.

From that time on her soul was wounded, and I watched her
     as she turned
Into a creature full of anger and of hate;
She'd bare her teeth and try to run me down when it came
     time to feed
As my three year-old son watched outside the gate.

I decided that I'd sell her the next time I went to town.
She was a danger, and I didn't want her near;
I talked to my young boy 'bout never goin' in her pen.
I thought I'd made things pretty plain and clear.

But she seemed to fascinate him in a strange and touching
He'd stand outside her fence for hours on end;
I'd hear him telling nonsense stories and singing songs that
     he'd made up
Just like he'd do if he was with a friend.

One day I had a feeling as I was hanging laundry out
That something wasn't just exactly right;
I walked around the corner of the house and toward the
What I saw completely filled me full of fright!

My son had opened up her gate, a flake of hay held in his
With ears laid back, the mare pawed up the dirt;
I knew there was no way that I could reach my boy in time.
In seconds, he'd be killed or badly hurt!

I reached the fence about the time she whirled and charged
     at him.
I saw her great hooves flash as they came down;
A wailing cry escaped from me that only mothers make...
An empty, awful, broken, frightened sound.

I'd like to think she recognized another mother's grief.
That, somehow, she sensed another kindred soul;
Perhaps, with her intelligence, she knew instinctively
That that little one was my own helpless foal.

She pulled herself up short within a hair's breadth width
     of him.
Her muscles bunched and quivered with the strain;
She stood a moment, breathing hard, her eyes fixed on my
Then with a gentleness I can't explain...

She sniffed his face and neck and blew her warm breath in
     his ear.
He wiggled, and he giggled with pure joy;
With the manners of a gracious queen, she ate with small,
     neat bites
The alfalfa hay held out by my small boy.

As humans, we are often small and shallow in our thoughts
About animals and what we think they feel;
We believe that only two-legged species know about true
That four-legged creatures can't know what is real.

But in that mare I saw a simple, heart-felt longing for her
A hurt and pain as real as mine would be,
If the circumstances had been changed on that one fateful
And my son had been taken 'way from me.

With glee, he grabbed her 'round her legs and hugged her
     hard and tight.
She nudged him softly with her velvet nose;
And I left my child to comfort that other mother in her loss
As I slowly headed back to hang the clothes.

That night, when it was time for bed, I told my little boy
As he lay, so sweet and warm under the cover,
That she could have really hurt him, but he whispered in
     my ear,
"I wasn't scared because she was a mother."

That mare is now the best friend that my young son has in
They're together each and every single day;
She watches over him as if he were her flesh and blood,
And I believe she thinks of him that very way.

I've thought, almost each day now, about the miracle I saw,
And I'm convinced that neither here nor up above.
There will ever be a medicine or discovery that is made
That can heal a broken heart like simple love!

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

Janet told us, "This poem started out as a Mother's Day poem, and then it turned into a
horse poem, and then a 'mother horse' poem. Now I just dedicate it to all mothers everywhere...both the two-legged and four-legged ones. I presented this poem at Lubbock at the National Cowboy Symposium last September (2009)."


A Perfect Fit

Arnold was a “carnie” pony.
He worked at midways, far and wide;
His job…to carry little children
On his back, ride after ride.

He walked ‘round and ‘round in circles.
The hours and days would come and go;
At night the flashing lights and sounds
Would dizzy him as he walked slow.

He’d sometimes look up from his circle
And watch the real cowboys go by,
Sitting tall on full-sized horses,
And in his heart, he’d often cry…

And wonder why he wasn’t like them.
Why a Shetland, he’d been born?
No true cowboy would ever ride him.
And he’d feel small and so forlorn.

But if God’s big enough for sparrows,
And on each head, He knows the hairs,
Then He was big enough for Arnold.
He knew that little pony’s cares.

And so one night, at one more midway,
In an unknown town some place,
He sent a little boy to Arnold
Who also felt quite out of place.

A tall, stooped cowboy pushed a wheelchair
Up to the ride where Arnold was;
And he picked up a small, bent boy
In gentle arms and with great love…

And placed him carefully on Arnold,
Who stood so patiently and still;
And then he patted Arnold’s shoulder,
And the little pony felt a thrill…

When the cowboy whispered to him,
“This is my little son, you see;
He won’t ever get to grow up
Or be a real cowboy like me,

But the one thing in this world
That he wants more than anything
Is to ride a horse alone;
So I’ve picked you to do this thing.

You see, you’re just the perfect match.
You’re small and sturdy…the right size;
And I can tell by watching you
That you are kind. It’s in your eyes.

So, bud, I’m giving you my treasure.
This is your most important ride;
Walk tall, and make his dream come true.”
And Arnold’s heart swelled big with pride.

He walked with steps, both slow and gentle.
He didn’t jostle, not one bit;
And the broken boy he carried
Somehow seemed a perfect fit.

He raised a small hand to his father,
As ‘round and ‘round the pony paced;
“See me, daddy, I’m a cowboy!”
A joyful smile lit up his face.

Today, dear Arnold’s a real cow horse.
He lives up north, out in the wild,
On a big ranch where his one job
Is to give rides to just one child.

They’ve gone on roundups and on trail rides,
And Arnold’s been in rodeos
Carrying a treasure on his back
With measured steps, gentle and slow.

And every time he rides on Arnold,
The small boy whispers, “I love you.
I feel like I am ten feet tall!”
And Arnold feels the same way, too.

And in their hearts, both boy and pony
Know they make a perfect fit;
‘Cause real love overlooks all flaws,
And that’s the big and small of it!

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

Janet comments: I have always felt badly about the small horses that work at carnivals.
I have wondered what it must feel like to be one of them. That was the spark for this poem. I also know how much kids love horses, so I put those two ideas together and "A Perfect Fit" was the result.

In a "perfect" world, every kid would have his/her own horse and live in the country! Too bad the world is NOT perfect!"

Through the Eyes of a Child

The world looks much different through the eyes of a child.
It's all black and white...there's no gray;
And I've come to find out, as a teacher of youth,
I can't ever predict what they'll say.

Some ideas that they have are unique and quite strange,
While others are "far-fetched" and wild;
Yet some information is solid and true.
It depends on the class and the child.

Our unit on "cowboys" is always a hit.
That's something they'd all like to become;
Most never realize the hard work that's involved.
All they think is that it would be fun...

To sleep out of doors and to ride on a horse,
To go days on end with no bath,
To not attend school or have homework to do...
No spelling or reading or math.

Once in a while, though, I get caught off guard
By the depth and the thoughts of some student...
Who is wise beyond years and smarter than most...
Whose answers are complex and prudent.

For I've wondered, myself, what's the cowboy mystique?
What's the lure of the wide, open land
That makes all of us yearn to ride off on a horse
To a life we all think would be grand?

One shy little boy at the back of the class
Volunteered for the first time all year
To answer my question, "What's a real cowboy like?"
His answer quite moved me to tears.

"A cowboy is good, and he's brave, and he's strong.
His hands are all rough and scratched up;
But he'll still hold your hand if you're scared of the dark,
'Cause a cowboy is born to be tough.

He's kind to all people and cattle and dogs.
He'll lead his horse when you want to go ride;
He'll share the last piece of beef jerky he has.
You'll be safe when he's there by your side."

The little boy paused, then he spoke, kind of sad,
"I know all about cowboys, you see,
'Cause my Grandpapa Jim lived and worked on a ranch.
We were the very best friends, him and me.

I spent lots of summers just bein' with him.
He was never too busy to chat;
But he died just last year, and I miss him a lot.
A cowboy's like God in a hat!"

I've thought several times of those words that he said.
There's a truth there that can't be denied;
And if you are a cowboy, I hope you walk true
And carry that name with great pride...

'Cause some little boy carries memories inside,
And it can't get much better than that,
To know, that he thinks, in his heart and his soul
That a cowboy's like God in a hat!

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

Janet comments:
Teaching school has taught me a lot about life. This poem came about as a result of a fourth-grade Social Studies lesson and the class discussion that ensued about what a cowboy is like. I think it’s the very best definition of a “cowboy” that I’ve ever heard. (We never know who is watching us in this world…it may only be a child but what a lasting example we can make!)


A Good Day

With appreciation to Joel Lundstrom (Utah) for sharing the idea for this poem with me.

I’d been dragged through wet manure,
Two times ‘round the cattle lot,
And one time up against the barn,
By a mad cow, slingin’ snot.

I had thought, when I first roped her,
I could get her in the pen;
But she was bound and plain determined
That she wasn’t goin’ in!

Now to add to my frustration,
I had an audience of one…
Sittin’ on the top rail watchin’
Was my neighbor, Mr. John.

He was tough and thin and wiry,
An old-time cowboy through and through;
With graying hair and scars and wrinkles,
It’s plain he knew a thing or two.

That ol’ cow knew that she’d beat me,
And, Mr. John, he knew it, too;
So, in disgust, I let the rope go…
The only thing I knew to do!

As I walked over to the fence,
I kicked a dirt clod, and I swore,
“This day don’t look to be a good one.
I’d like to skip it, that’s for shor’!”

I dusted off and put my hat on
Then climbed up on the rail to sit;
Mr. John, in all his wisdom,
Knew my pride had took a hit.

We both just sat a while in silence,
Then he spit and wiped his mouth…
“I’m gonna tell ya’ a little somethin’
You might just want to think about…

It’s certain life is gonna trip you,
And it’s gonna black your eye;
And there’s gonna be those days, son,
When you wonder why you try…

But no matter how bad things get,
Remember…ever’ day is good
That you wake up in the mornin’
And your elbows don’t bump wood!”

I know I looked a little puzzled,
‘Cause he gave a wink and grinned,
“I’m talkin’ ‘bout a pinewood box, son,
The kind they’ll someday lay you in.

Now, I ain’t tryin’ to be funny,
‘Cause all of us will reach that time,
But ever’ day we’re here’s a good one.
You might just keep that thought in mind.”

It’s strange how one short conversation
Can lodge right in your mind and stay;
I think of Mr. John quite often,
When things aren’t goin’ just my way.

If you can teach an old dog new tricks,
Then you can teach a cowboy, too;
So I’m passin’ on these simple words
And their lesson now to you…

“No matter how bad things might get,
Remember…ever’ day is good
That you wake up in the mornin’
And your elbows don’t bump wood!”

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

Janet comments:  I spend my summers working in Yellowstone National Park, which has given me a wide variety of friendships. I met a gentleman from Utah who gave me the idea for this poem when he told me a good day was one "where your elbows didn't bump wood." He said he had often heard old cowboys he grew up with use that expression. I took that idea and wrote "A Good Day." There's a lot of truth in these words!


  About Janet Eggleston:


I grew up in a small town in the Oklahoma Panhandle. My parents owned grassland outside of town, and my childhood revolved around working in our family cow-calf operation.  (My parents are still involved in this today.)  Raising and caring for cattle was just a part of my life. I learned to brand, dehorn, vaccinate, castrate, and do all the work required to make our herd a high-quality one. It was not until I was grown that I truly appreciated all the lessons and values that I learned from my country childhood.

I am currently living and working in Amarillo, Texas. I teach fourth-grade and am very active in educating my students about agriculture and the western way of life. I am also a member of the Southwest Cowboy Poetry Association in Amarillo. I have written many cowboy poems and am very interested in presenting the "cowboy way of life" in a positive yet realistic way. I feel that I was very fortunate to have been raised the way I was, and I want my poetry to reflect the influence of my parents and my country raising.

I have worked for the past eight summers in Yellowstone National Park and being surrounded by the beautiful scenery (mountains, open valleys, and nature has also given me inspiration for my poetry. 

You can email Janet Eggleston.



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