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J. B. Allen of Whiteface, Texas, born in 1938, was a working cowboy for over three decades.  He was a frequent performer at gatherings, including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Nara Visa, and the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. His poetry is included in many anthologies; in his own books, including Water Gap Wisdom (1990) and The Medicine Keepers (which includes a CD); and on his recordings, J. B. Allen: Classics, Kindred Spirits, and Treasures. The Medicine Keepers received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award in 1998.

J. B. Allen died in December, 2005. A book of his poetry, JB—The Circle, was released in 2007.


Poem "The Medicine Keepers"

Books and Recordings


An article about J. B. Allen by Bryan Woolley appears in the December 15, 2005 Dallas Morning News.The article quotes  J. B. Allen (from a 1993 Dallas Morning News interview) about how he began writing poetry and tells about his life and his family.

A celebration of his life was held December 16, 2005 in Whiteface. Bette Ramsey shared the photo and poem from the program, which are reprinted below with permission. The photo is from a painting by Duward Campbell, of J. B. Allen and one of his favorite horses, Pilgrim:

Reproduction prohibited without express written permission
© 2005, Duward Campbell,  duwardc@yahoo.com
Painting of J. B. Allen by Duward Campbell


Duward Campbell's painting of J.B. Allen, "Pilgrim," was selected as the 2011 Cowboy Poetry Week poster art and as a Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur subject.





The Medicine Keepers

A man might live and work beside
The fellers 'round the wagon
And never say two words unless
It's just hooraw and braggin'.

But sometimes in the solitude
Of some ol' line camp shack
He smooths a fruit can label out
And writes there on its back

A group of words redeemed from time
To last when he moves on,
Set down with hurried flourish
'Fore his mem'ry of 'em's gone.

The spellin' may not be exact
Or commas where they ought,
But there within those rugged lines
A mood is somehow caught.

It might be full of sadness
From a death or crippled friend,
To just the mournful yearnin'
For a way that's bound to end.

Some others could be bawdy
While full of life and mirth
Or stories 'bout some saddle horse
That has no peers on earth.

There's many through the years been lost
Or burned or throwed away,
But others yet survive
To give us views of yesterday.

And still amongst the workin' hands
The words come now and then
To write a livin' history
Of the stock, and earth, and men.

© 1997, J.B. Allen; used with permission
This poem may not be reproduced or reposted without permission

The late Buck Ramsey, in his introduction to J.B. Allen's book, The Medicine Keepers, writes of J.B. Allen, "More than most cowboys, he held to the ways and memories...thought and talked the old lingo" and states, "...in my opinion he is the best living writer of traditional cowboy verse."


Books and Recordings


JB the circle


An impressive volume of poetry by J. B. Allen (1938-2005), JB the circle, was been published by Dry Camp Press in 2007. The book includes 65 poems, in chapters titled "The Tribe," "The Usin' Kind...or Not," "Bits of Life," and "Speculations." 

J. B. Allen had been involved with the creation of the book, and his comment about its making are included as an introduction: "The editing process continues to be somewhat controversial between myself and those who graciously undertake the chore. Words and phrases commonly used by those of my acquaintance, now and in the past, are cause for some consternation in others attempting to render the poems understandable to those outside the Texican tribe of cowboys ....This set of poems, written over a period of fifteen years, contain personal experiences, stories gleaned from old times, and a few, evidently, originating from ethereal revelations. Three cowboys, who also happen to write, were consulted as to content, spelling and word use. This offering is the result of their suggestions, some of which were heeded."

Insightful pieces by J. B. Allen's daughters open the book, and a chapter called "The Circle" includes moving recollections and heartfelt commentary from his friends Joel Nelson, Chuck Milner, Randy Rieman, Red Steagall, Gail Steiger, Tom Sharpe, Waddie Mitchell, Duward Campbell, and others. Throughout, noted artist Duward Campbell's striking paintings and drawings complement the well designed book.

The book was edited by Duward Campbell and Chuck Milner, and designed by Wayne Beadles, Duward Campbell, and Mark Hartsfield,

The book complements the 1997 collection of J. B. Allen's work, The Medicine Keepers, which was designed by Mark Hartsfield and Duward Campbell and edited by Andy Wilkinson, with an introduction by Buck Ramsey. The Medicine Keepers received the prestigious Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.


Chapter: the tribe
The Stamping Mill
Sound Advice
Boulders and Ben
The Crucible
Dilemmas Dance
The Cooks Tale
Taller Times
Nothing of Value
Quirks of Life
Fountain of Youth
Ridin for the Brands
The Throwback
Kings and Slaves
Forked as They Come
Rugged Reverence
Moil on the Mesa

Chapter: the usin' kind...or not
The Benevolent Mare
Trainin Camp
The Usin Kind
Farce and Folly
The Namesake

Chapter: the circle
Joel Nelson
Chuck Milner
Jack Douglas
Randy Rieman
Jayson Jones
Dale Burson
Red Steagall
Gail Steiger
Tom Sharpe
Rod Taylor
Rob Farrell
Frank Winters
Waddie Mitchell
Duward Campbell

Chapter: bits of life
Bits of Life
Missin the Mark
Small Mysteries
Wishful Thinkin
Bunkhouse Lawyer
A Common Bond
Sun Up
Sweet Revenge
Grandpa's Answer

Chapter: speculations
Sage Advice
Too Many "ings"
The Transformation of Willie Jack
Cabin Fever
Enemy Within
Advice Well Taken
Hard Bargains
The Golden Rake
Last Camp
The Living Legend
Salt, Water, and Perfume
Two Rag Day
Histry Lessons
Cowboy Plumbin
Mixed Blessings


JB the circle is available for $25 postpaid from Duward Campbell, 2515 Second St, Lubbock, TX 79415.



J. B. Allen Classics



Sheepherder's Lament by Curley Fletcher
Clearing Sale anonymous
Anthem by Buck Ramsey
Canned Termaters by S. Omar Barker
Bad Job by Buck Ramsey
When They've Finish Shipping Cattle in the Fall by Bruce Kiskaddon
Roundup in the Spring anonymous
The Old Night Hawk by Bruce Kiskaddon
Strawberry Roan by Curley Fletcher
Little Joe the Wrangler by Jack Thorp
Sierry Pete's by Gail I. Gardner
Where the Ponies Come to Drink by Henry Herbert Knibbs
The Little Blue Roan by Bruce Kiskaddon
Clancy of the Overflow by Banjo Paterson
Things of Intrinsic Worth by Wallace McRae



The Medicine Keepers  
Book and CD


The Medicine Keepers received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award in 1998.

Book includes:

Chapter: The Code
The Medicine Keepers
New Trails
The Sum of the Parts
The Shrine
The Grand Adventure
The Fortress
Splinters and Beams
The Brotherhood
Resurrection and Life
Square Pegs

Chapter: The Work
Only Yesterday
The Guidon
Reasons for Stayin'
The Grinnin' Grass
The Lure of Home
A Different Outlook
Ramblin to the Wagon
Fall's Last Fire

Chapter: The Pardners
Changin' of the Guard
The Reunion
Peavine's Odyssey
Rites of Passage
The End of a Long Day
Nighthawk Notions
Winter Wonder
Easin' the Path
Wagon Paths
Purty Ain't Pardners
Greater Love

Chapter: The Stories
The Slick
The Scapegoat
A Fittin' End
The Transformation
A Fightin' Chance
Boley's Christmas
Cost of Livin'
A Rare Treat
Luck of the Draw
Kindred Spirits

Chapter: The Changes
Line Camp Legacy
Habits Die Hard
The Patriarch
One Last Favor

CD includes:

The Medicine Keepers
The Shrine
Splinters and Beams
The Brotherhood
Square Pegs
The Guidon
Reasons for Stayin'
The Grinnin' Grass
The Lure of Home
Ramblin' to the Wagon
Fall's Last Fire
Rites of Passage
Nighthawk Notions
Purty Ain't Partners
Greater Love
A Fightin' Chance
Cost of Livin'
Luck of the Draw
Line Camp Legacy
Habits Die Hard
One Last Favor




Water Gap Wisdom



the final judge
The Refresher Course
Elusive Look
Matrimonial Martyrs
Misplaced Laments
Kindred Spirits
Lesser of Two Evils
Thorough Schoolin
The Final Score
One Last Link
The Stamping Mill
It's Only Cold if You're Workin
The Namesake
Virtue's Pardners
The First Cuttin' Contest
Strawberry's Last Ride
Common Interest
Spur Tracks
When in Doubt
Capitol Punishment
Tough Hombres
Sowers and Reapers
Sojournin Sadie
Law? or Justice?
A Better Job
A Few Good Men
The Scout
Mettle Detector


Kindred Spirits
Cassette tape


Kindred Spirits
The Medicine Keepers
It's Only Cold if You're Working
The Shrine
Embryonic Nightmare
Bunkhouse Lawyer
Reasons for Stayin
Requiem for a Bronc Peeler
Law? Or Justice?
Purty Ain't Pardners
Easin' the Path
Longhorns, Greys, and Cowboys
Kings and Slaves
Crossing the Red
The Final Score
Ramblin' to the Wagon
The Sculptor
Kick in the Traces



Cassette tape


History Lesson
Round Up in the Spring
Good Intentions
Greater Love
Fountain of Youth
Sweet Revenge
The Guidon
Too Soon Gone
Farce and Folly
The Livin' Legend
The Strawberry Roan
Falls Last Fire
The Usin' Kind
Gentle But Firm
Cowboy Plumbin
False Colors




  J. B. Allen recites his poem, "The Medicine Keepers," on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Six

   J. B. Allen recites the traditional "I'd Like to Be in Texas" on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Four

  J. B. Allen recites Gail I. Gardner's "The Sierry Petes" on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two.

Article about J. B. Allen in the Dallas Morning News.

Feature about J. B. Allen at Texas Public Television, KACV

J. B. Allen recites "I'd Like to Be in Texas" at the Western Folklife Center web site.



Duward Campbell's painting of J.B. Allen, "Pilgrim," was selected as the 2011 Cowboy Poetry Week poster art and as a Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur subject.





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