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Lariat Laureate

of Columbia, Missouri

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of

Recognized for his poem, The Bull Dogger


About Jay Jones:

Jay Jones was raised on a farm in rural Missouri. In his younger days he rode bulls and roped calves in amateur rodeos. He draws heavily on his experiences in amateur rodeos for much of his poetry, and believes strongly in the preservation and promotion of the cowboy way of life. Since joining the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association he has branched out into song writing and, on occasion, will even play and sing a song or two he has written. Jay and his wife Debbie have been married for over 30 years and had one son and have two grandchildren. Jay and family live in Columbia, Mo. He has a B. A. in English, is a teacher for the State of Missouri, and is a Vietnam Veteran. His poetry and songs are always uniquely original, usually humorous, but sometimes explore the traditional aspects of our western heritage.

We asked Jay why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:  I write Cowboy Poetry because I admire the courage, independence, and determination of the American Cowboy.  Cowboy poetry encompasses so many topics -- horses, dogs, cattle, all kinds of critters -- along with adventure, romance, humor, and a marvelous landscape for a backdrop.  Subjects to write about are endless.  I enjoy my association with other members of the  Missouri Cowboy Poets Association and really anticipate our gatherings where everyone presents their latest creations.

You can email Jay Jones. Here's his award-winning poem:

The Bull Dogger 

It was Shorty who convinced me
We were missing something fine
He kept wearing down my eardrums
Until I signed the entry line

Together we'd been roping
When our ranch work slowed up some
And for two old part-time cowboys
We'd made some money having fun

But Shorty had a new horse
That had been dogged off in the past
It was talent going wasted
He kept claiming, voice full blast

The problem was our sizes
He was no bigger than an elf
While my shirts all had some X's
When I bought them off the shelf

It's common knowledge to a dogger
You have to weigh more than a flea
To toss a steer upon its back
So friend Shorty turned to me

Which caused a little problem
When we entered that event
I'd never dogged a single steer
But knew kinda how it went

Shorty said, "No problem
Just drop a hand upon its hip
Slide it up and grab two horns
Then give the beast a flip"

"Sounds good" says I with a moron's grin
Now deep under Shorty's spell
Forgetting I'd dive off a running horse
On to horns and hooves from Hell

We walked back to check the critter
Whose number I had drawn
And I was jolted back to reality
By the steer's huge height and brawn

But by now I was committed
And we each backed in our box
Old Shorty was a-grinning
Like a chicken-eating fox

Hazer Shorty nodded ready
So I loosened up my rein
The steer flashed out like a lightning bolt
My old pony did the same

We got out fine, didn't bust the line
Then I dropped down on the steer
Heard Shorty yell, "Now give him Hell"
As I worked from rear to ears

I had started strong, then things went wrong
As I set my feet for sliding
As its left dew claw slipped in my boot
And started instantly de-hiding

Locked together leg to leg
We raced across the arena floor
A five legged type of stampede
I swear I'd never seen before

Stride for stride we raced full speed
Locked up like lovers in a dance
Each step I swore I'd kill my friend
If I ever got the chance

Shorty grabbed his calf rope
And in spite of my yelling "NO"
Roped the beast, threw his slack
And started a whole new rodeo

The steer stopped short but I kept on
Full speed like crack the whip
My boot went sailing out a sight
But I gave that steer the slip

That steer was finally shed of me
Or I was shed of him
I crawled painfully back upon my horse
And then counted every limb

Shorty, my true hazing friend
Rode up with a big old frown
Said, "You're a bull-dogging no-account
You should have had him down"

I just gave a grin to Shorty
Because revenge is sweetly spent
Said, "Best go borrow Sammy's bullrope
'Cause I entered you in that event"

June 1999, Jay Jones
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


We asked Jay about his inspiration for this poem, and he replied:  This poem is based on a true practice pen incident from my rodeo days.  A middle-aged horseman with no rodeo experience decided he wanted to try bull-dogging.  The other boys gave him a few tips, loaned him a dogging horse, supplied a hazer, and opened the gate.  The poem describes what happened.  He began and ended his bulldogging career the same day.

Jay Jones was previously 

one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for his poem, Stampede



The word cracked through the darkness
Like a cannon's roar at night
As lightning bolts lanced from the sky
And put the herd to flight
The cowboys leaped from sougans
And swung to saddle on the fly
They'd seen the black clouds rolling in
And slept with night horse tethered by


The rain poured down like seas upturned
The wind tore at their hats
They tightened up their stampede strings
As the prairie grass blew flat
In the storm was total darkness
With sudden flares of lightning strike
But the riders chased the running herd
As death raced through the night


Three thousand head of longhorns
Formed a deadly living wall
That swept across the prairie flats
And its dark and dangerous draws
Huge horns were waving, crashing
Hooves rolled thunder on the ground
This herd would race for many miles
Unless the cowboys chased them down


They had to get the leaders turned
To force the herd to mill
Each cowboy knew this deadly force
Could cripple, maim, and kill
The riders reached the lead steers
Reined their mounts against their flanks
Slapped ropes against their heads and horns
As they tried to bend their ranks


Then their horses' manes were spitting fire
And the cattle bawled in fear
As lightning balls rolled through the herd
Bounced from horn to horn to ear
"Saint Elmo's Fire" yelled Pokey Bill
But the storm snuffed out his words
The cattle seemed to speed their flight
As grim riders used their spurs


The herd, at last, slowed to swinging trot
Heads drooping, bawling stilled
Exhausted men on lathered mounts
Finally turned them til they milled
As the eastern sky turned gray, then orange
The main herd was bedded down
When the cavvy came they caught fresh mounts
To gather strays for miles around


Two hundred head of Longhorns
From that run were never found
When three riders turned up missing
They retraced the deadly ground
They found Petey with a broken leg
Then came the gruesome sight
Of Charley lying by his horse
Both killed by lightning strike


Yet one more man was missing
The kid they knew as Slim
He'd joined them when they crossed the Red
A ragged orphan with no kin
He'd worked hard to be a cowboy
And had the makings of a hand
It was plain he'd tried to turn the herd
But now lay trampled in the sand


The dead were placed in unmarked graves
A final prayer and farewell
But forever in each rider's mind
Was that word of living Hell


2001, Jay Jones
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

We asked Jay about his inspiration for "Stampede" and he replied:  "Stampede" is the first poem I have ever written as a "performance" poem. Most of my poetry flows from some idea that crops up, and then I worry about how to perform it to an audience.  I wrote "Stampede" specifically to perform on local TV station KOMU TV, Channel 8.  Mid-Missouri is not exactly a hotbed of cowboy poetry, and I wanted to do something that would grab the viewer/listener's attention immediately.  I begin the poem with the loud, adrenaline-filled tone the title implies, and then wind down to the tragic conclusion.  The poem is a lot of fun on stage, and I frequently use it as an opener to try to convince the audience that cowboy poets are not only poets, but are also entertainers.  I feel this is something we need to promote to audiences across the nation.  We simply need to reach more people with the message that cowboy poets and musicians offer clean, wholesome, entertainment for the entire family. 

Jay Jones was previously 

one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for his poem, Cowboys Forever


Cowboys Forever

They say the cowboys' time spanned some twenty years
And their day has long since passed
That barbed wire now rides night herd
And the roundups run on gas

We hear that horses now are bred to ride
Not needed to work cattle
That cowboy gear is just for show
Like a rattlesnake with its rattles

As the lonely howl of the timber wolf
Has been replaced by the coyote's song
The tough young men who trailed the herds
In today's world don't belong

But out there on the prairies
In the canyons and the draws
You'll see horsemen herding cattle
And hear the branded mavericks bawl

You'll see horses hot and lathered
And the cowboys rope and tie
See the cooky's fire start smoking
As the long day starts to die

Just the sight of young men riding
Brings back images from the past
While they yet ride these memories
Until the final day will last

And high up in the heavens
Riding trails that have no end
On mustangs made of rawhide
Chasing thunder on the wind

Ride the cowboys of the legends
We record in verse and song
May their ride go on forever
And may I someday ride along

2001, Jay Jones
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Jay Jones was previously

one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
recognized for his poem,  The Mouthpiece


The Mouthpiece

The old man perched on the bucking chute
Watching the young guys ride
He cocked a weathered brow at me
As I sat down by his side

His clothes were old and faded
And his thinning hair was white
But when he turned to talk to me
His eyes were full of life

He said "Now look at these young peacocks
With padded vests and fancy chaps
Back when I was young and riding bulls
Weren't none dared look like that

Our gear was stained and dirty
With here and there a tear
And our smiles would usually have some gaps
Because no mouthpieces did we wear

Now, after biting my tongue a time or two
And getting yanked down on some horns
I got to figuring by age twenty-some
I'd be smooth-mouthed as a baby born

So I bought a big tobacco plug
And I crammed up both cheeks full
Thinking that plug would cushion my teeth
As I crawled down on that bull

Now, I know what you are thinking
But it weren't that way at all
You're thinking that after a jump or two
I swallowed that big old chaw

Nosirree, that tobacco worked
Kept my teeth and tongue intact
As that bull warmed up to bucking
I just chewed and hugged his back

Since I'd never been a chewing man
Real quick I had to expectorate
I was smart enough to spit downwind
But I lost the wind back at the gate

Now, I know what you are thinking
But it weren't that way at all
You're thinking I swallowed all that juice
I'd worked up from that big chaw

Nosirree, I just puckered up
Thought, where it goes, it goes
Looking back, it was pure bad luck
That I spit on that bull's nose

Now, you'd think a cud-chewing critter
Would be more tolerant than a horse or mule
But that big bull just went plumb wild
When he inhaled the juice I'd chewed

The next jump I went flying high
Kinda sailplaned through the air
I was searching for soft ground to land
But where I lit, it wasn't there

Now, I know what you are thinking
But it weren't that way at all
You're thinking I swallowed that big old quid
But I had it locked tight in my jaws

Yessirree, my plan had worked
I'd protected my tongue and teeth
I couldn't wait to tell my friends
About my new, and safe, mouthpiece

It stayed with me through each spin and jump
Even lasted through the fall

Then they announced my ride scored ninety-one
And I swallowed that big old chaw"

Jay Jones, September 9, 2000 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


In 1855 Congress gave Jefferson Davis, the head of the War Department, a $30,000 appropriation, and Major Henry Wayne was assigned the task of traveling overseas to the Middle East, where he bought 33 camels to be used by the U. S. Cavalry in the desert southwest. Lt. Edward Beale was assigned the task of getting them in service. The start of the Civil War stopped the great experiment. Most of the camels escaped into the desert. For many years the animals were seen wandering the desert around the Gila and Colorado Rivers. Some say they are still there.


The Cowboy and the Camel 

The young cub reporter
Was out searching for tales
Met an old southwest cowboy
Who was fresh out of jail.

He agreed for a meal
And a drink he’d supply
A tale of survival
The cub’s boss would sure buy.

His story was ancient
Back before the big fight
Where the blue claimed the wrong
And the grey claimed the right.

Arizona was the place
Of the story he’d relate
And the whole thing happened
In eighteen fifty eight.

His horse had died
Some three hours ago
When the cowboy staggered in
To the small water hole.

The Arizona desert’s
A bad place to be lost
And many a traveler
Had paid the high cost.

He still carried his saddle
His bridle, canteen, and rope
But it was far to next water
And he had little hope.

But he filled up his canteen
From the small shrinking pool
And decided to leave
In the night desert cool

When he saw walking toward him
From out of the sun
Such a strange looking beast
His hand went to his gun.

But a quick second look
Showed 4 legs and a hide
And to a true western cowboy
That meant something to ride.

So grabbin his rope
He dug down in the sand
If his luck would hold out
He’d ride out of this land.

As the beast moved in closer
He furrowed his brow
For some parts looked horsey,
Some mulish, and some cow.

It was ewe necked and spavined
With a real ugly face
And the gait that it favored
Was a big rolling pace.

It had hooves like an oxen
A wimpy old tail
And he wasn’t right certain
If it was female or male.

But most striking of all
Was the shape of its back
It had a hump like a grizzly
Only bigger, and further back.

As it moved even closer
He could tell it knew man.
It had a brass ring in its nose
And U.S. for a brand.

His first toss was true
On a front leg it closed.
He worked up the rope
And grabbed the ring in its nose.

Then he was faced with the chore
Of trying to saddle
A creature that was built like
Neither horses nor cattle.

The girth was too short
If the saddle centered the hump
But if he moved it on back
It just slipped off its rump.

His reins wouldn’t reach
On the bridle he had
And he figured that bit
Would just make it plumb mad.

So he decided on bareback
Though his tack would be lost.
He was bent on survival
Whatever the cost.

He cut up his rope
Tho was it new just this year.
He’d use that nose ring for steering
And maybe for gears.

He pulled down on that ring
And the beast slowly knelt.
For the first time in hours
A faint hope he then felt.

He crawled up on its back
Kinda straddled the hump,
Gripped the rope to its nose ring
And give its ribs a good thump.

Then rocking and swaying
On the beast from the sands
He rode out of the desert
To more favorable lands.

The young cub reporter
Gave the old man a stare
Then tore up his note
Let ‘em fall through the air.

He called the old man a liar
Then spun on his heels.
The old cowboy smiled sadly
Turned back to his meal.

But not before pulling
Out a pouch by its string
And pouring out in his palm
A big old brass ring.

  Jay Jones 1998
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission




I guess at the time
Rowdy was eighteen or so
He was riding the bulls
At the small rodeos

He had a bull out on Sunday
But on Saturday night
He was shoeing a horse
When it decided to fight

When the dust had all settled
That horse had new shoes
But right-handed Rowdy
Had his riding hand bruised

He also had ribs
That had been pawed all around
And a bruise in his Wranglers
When the W was found

With is riding hand wasted
And bruised neck to thigh
Rowdy was too weak to ride
Too proud not to try

He’d never ode southpaw
But they say need inspired
And in the rodeo sport
Riding hurt was required

So on Sunday he was back
Of the rodeo chutes
Putting rosin on his rope
And spurs on his boots

The bull he had drawn
Was an ornery old cuss
Who left most of his riders
Down biting the dust

He wrapped his left hand
Then asked for the gate
Although he felt awkward
He was riding for eight

The bull bucked left
And spun to the right
Old Rowdy was hooking
And hanging on right

Then he slid to the side
Dropped down in the well
He was hung on a ton
Of pure bucking Hell

The clowns knew their job
And broke loose his hold
But not before Rowdy
Was put knocked out cold

The ambulance was there
When he first came around
Said he was heading
For the clinic downtown

But Rowdy stood up
Though he was dizzy and pained
Told the medic he was fine
That his whole body was just sprained

Now looking back
Some twenty years or more
I can see the next problem
Was the belt buckle he wore

It was silver and heavy
The first buckle he’d won
And it seemed to remind him
Of things he had done

Now, unknown to Rowdy
While unconscious he lay there
They’d loosened his britches
To give him some air

So when he pushed through the crowd
That had gathered around
That heavy old buckle
Dragged his britches right down

His belt got all tangled
With the spurs that he wore
And with one working hand
He couldn’t pull up his drawers

A thousand spectators
Roared with delight
And cameras were flashing
As they recorded the sight

One of his friends
Finally rushed to his side
Helped him pull up his pants
Find a good place to hide

Rowdy’s injuries soon healed
But his pride was sure hurt
When the paper ran his picture
With his pants in the dirt

He later told his friends
That his Mom had good sense
When he said "Wear clean underwear
In case of any accidents."

  Jay Jones 1998
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission




Old Charley

Every bunkhouse seems to have one
Must be a tradition of the West
They call them bunkhouse jokers
And Old Charley was the best

Find a King Snake in your bedroll
Or your bunk moved to the yard
Just peek around the corner
You’ll find Old Charley laughing hard

Find a boot half full of cider
Or maybe glued tight to the floor
Or one stirrup leather lengthened
Hinges gone from outhouse doors

For all of these blame Charley
Cause he set it up somehow
The other guys would chase him off
But Old Charles sure knows cow

So came the Christmas party
And Old Charley’s running wild
On the lookout for a victim
He can trick or get plumb riled

He found the boss’s camera
Unattended in a room
Quickly set the camera’s timer
And dropped his trousers for the moon

The perfect crime had been committed
With no witnesses to tell
He waited for the film’s return
And his boss’s startled yell

But days and weeks and months went by
And not a word was said
Came the Fourth of July picnic
With his ranch hosting other spreads

At the end of the largest table
Was a huge tarp-covered frame
That the boss said was a present
But for whom he wouldn’t name

When the mid-day meal was over
And the people gathered round
As the boss walked to the framework
And quickly yanked the canvas down

There blown up like a billboard
Was the proof of the perfect crime
Cheeks tightly clenched for posing
Was a full moon, human kind

The whole county roared in laughter
Old Charley hung his head in shame
Because before the full moon shining
Was wrapped a belt with Charley’s name.

  Jay Jones, March 1999
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



Rodeo Clown

It was a small town rodeo
Sponsored by the local Jaycees
And the clown they’d hired
Was a splendid example by rule of committee.

Some two bit circus
Must have bit the dust
And the clown they’d had
Was taking all jobs, as a hungry man must.

But it was obvious to those
Who were in the know
That the man in the mask
Was taking part in his very first rodeo

He wore a big red nose
And a painted on smile
And those long shoes that he wore
Seemed to stretch out a mile

All in all
He was a right funny fellow
And in one hand
He carried a tiny, red, silk umbrella

He done all right
During the broncs and the roping
Kept a lotta folks laughing
With his clowning and joking

Then came the bulls
And things sure changed around
He didn’t roll out a barrel
In fact he couldn’t be found

Then a Jaycee spotted him
Sitting high in the crowd
And the argument that followed
Got heated and loud

He’d seen those bulls
When in the pens they were loaded
They wanted him down there
When those chute gates exploded

Well, he must have been broke
Or just lacked common sense
Cause he came down from the crowd
And climbed over the fence

The crowd got quiet
When they saw what he was doin
It was spooky and sad
Like when a storm, or a wedding, was brewing

He stood lonely and lost
Out in front of that crowd
Then the chute gates popped open
And things really got wild

It was the luck of the draw
The first bull he would face
Pure hated the cowboys
And the whole human race

He bucked off his rider
And the crowd gave a groan
As the bull spun toward the clown
And then froze still as stone

Now, I’ve never considered
If a bull could have dreams
I think dogs can
And maybe some mules that I’ve seen

But that bull must have thought
That it hit Paradise
Or maybe entered the lottery
And won the first prize

He lowered his head
And went charging to get ‘em
That clown tried to run
But those long shoes wouldn’t let ’em

He knocked the clown down
Then gave a loud, painful bellow
As he got stuck in the eye
With a tiny, red, silk umbrella

The clown used that umbrella
Like he was fightin a duel
But the beating he took
Was both painful and cruel

The cowboys leaped in
Through the dust and confusion
And pulled that clown out
With only minor contusions

It was hard to believe
That no bond had been broken
Because the bull had been busy
With his kicking and poking

His red nose turned up missing
Of course his real one was still there
Then that bull started coughing
And shot his nose through the air

One of those long shoes
Now lung from a horn
And from the other horn dangled
The red wig that he’d worn

He lost his tiny, red, silk umbrella
And no one knew where
But for weeks that bull bellowed
When he hiked his tail in the air

He was battered and beaten
When his voice could be found
He announced his retirement
As a rodeo clown

  Jay Jones, written May 1998, revised August 1999
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission





His face was angry, worn and weathered
But he kept his temper tightly tethered
As he eyed the school board that called him here
His boots and Levis were clean but worn
His Stetson pulled down for a storm
When he rose to speak his voice was strong and clear.

He faced a dentist, preacher, lawyer
Bankers’ wife and rich old sawyer
All elected by the people to the Board
But being elected don’t mean flawless
And though the rancher was not lawless
The rights he had he would always closely hoard.

He said, "My son was expelled a week ago
Though he’ll graduate in a month or so
And the reason you gave me was he had a gun
I won’t argue this cause it’s a fact
But a cab locked rifle’s no criminal act
Especially if you’re a working rancher’s son."

"My son had chores that he must do
Miles from home and miles from school
My foreman dropped his horse out there that day
A neighbor saw some steers of mine
That had drifted past my northern line
So after school my son was chasing strays."

"Now this ain’t no school of city breds
We’re mostly farm and ranching spreads
Every family member helps to do the chores.
I’ve known most these kids ‘bout all their life
Their folks I’ve neighbored storm and strife
No finer kids have crossed a schoolhouse floor."

"To a ranch raised kid a gun’s a tool
But our sons and daughters are not fools
They know a 30-30 ain’t no toy
But it darn sure ain’t no big AK
Or Uzie, with its deadly spray
And it’s never pointed at another girl or boy."

"You’ll never find these kids at school
Breaking God’s most sacred rule
By shooting classmates down with random aim
That small brief time of national story
For these children holds no glory
They know life is not a movie or a game."

"That canyon where my son was heading
Has rattle snakes with deadly venom
I killed a cattle-eating cougar there last year.
There’s still some grizzlies up that high
If your horse if hurt, you might get by
By shooting you an elk, or maybe deer."

"The point, I guess, that I’ a- making
Is you can’t stop a kid from graduating
Because he has a gun locked in his truck
He has fencing tools and fly dope there
A saddle, bridle, feed for his mare
And shovels to dig out cattle that are stuck."

"We’ve set his college money by
But without high school, he can’t even try
To lead our ranch through this millennium
Right now the boy’s confused and mad
His work shop is his pickup cab
Where he keeps his working gear, including guns".

The school board said, "We understand,
But all schools have rules and firearms are banned."
"Then, change the rules" the cattle rancher thundered
The school board members flinched and ducked
But the audience present all spoke up
Until the elected one could see that they had blundered

Then and there they took a vote
Decided rules wrote wrong could be rewrote
And changed the way the regulations read
But fearful of the Eastern press
They still banned guns like all the rest
But scratched out firearms – wrote BB guns instead.

Jay Jones, June 1999
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



Katie's Kiss

He'd been long upon the circuit
Ranked top 20 fourteen times
But the stock was getting tougher
And the road a long hard grind

He needed one more year of effort
To meet the goals that he had set
To raise the big down payment
For the ranch they planned to get

His wife was getting mulish
Said he needed to retire
They had enough to buy the ranch
Just make the loan a little higher

She said that little Katie
Needed him to be at home
A little girl needs more from Father
Than a voice on a telephone

But his pick-up was all loaded
It was time for him to leave
He gently kissed away their tears
And asked them not to grieve

Katie grabbed her mother's purse
Smeared lipstick on her lips
He smiled down at  the little girl he loved
And turned his cheek for the red-lipped kiss

But Katie jumped in the pick-up cab
Gave the rear-view mirror a kiss
Said now when you look behind you
You'll think of the ones you miss

He gave them both a final hug
And started down the road
He had a show to make tomorrow
And a lot of miles to go

But Katie's words stayed with him
And he knew his wife was right
That little girl needed more from him
Than long distance every night

In the corner of the mirror
Was the center of his soul
He cranked that pick-up truck around
He'd just retired from rodeo.

Jay Jones, 3/99
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



Recalling the Rhyme

I'd just joined the Association
Of Missouri Cowboy Poets
For many years I'd write a poem
And have no place to show it

At last I had a showplace
For my rhyming truth and lies
Then they told me not to read my poems
They should all be memorized

That took my brand new rainbow
And ripped it all to shreds
'Cause ten minutes after eating
I can't recall what I was fed

I can't remember birthdays
I forget my old friends names
Phone numbers are a hopeless case
My anniversary's a guessing game

Of course my wife caught on to that real quick
Multiple anniversaries she don't mind
She never tells me what the real date is
Just takes the presents every time

But I love this Western poetry
And not wishing to appear absurd
I decide to commit to memory
Just one poem word - by -word

Now you can't practice poetry silently
You must speak the words out loud
I find it odd the way some people act
When they see you alone addressing a crowd

My wife soon knew my lines by heart
'Course I was stuck on the second verse
She made it clear she'd not be near
When I decided to rehearse

My cat and dog ran and hid
My friends grew hard to find
My horse got spooky and hard to catch
All because of my Western rhyme

So I practiced with a mirror
Now that's a gruesome sight to see
This huge old gray haired cowboy
Watchin' me just watchin' me!

But I practiced and I practiced
Until at last the day arrived
When I was scheduled for an appearance
And I had my lines all memorized

Soon enough the big day came
And I stepped out upon the stage
I was positive I knew my lines
So I left behind the printed page

It flowed along so quick and smooth
I had that big crowd in my hands
At last I reached the final verse
The big finale I had planned

And that last verse was so important
On it the whole poem rested
Just to finish one whole poem
Was worth the work I had invested

I struck a pose to speak the lines
But what they were I knew not
I had 'em somewhere here up in my head
But just where I plum forgot

I know my face turned flaming red
As I stood there dumb and stricken
The audience changed from friendly folks
Into vultures seekin' their next victim

My knees got weak and shaky
I was sure my heart would burst
But I couldn't recall a single line
At least none that I'd rehearsed

In desperation I squared my shoulders
Buried deep my shame and rage
Said, "etcetra, etcetra, etcetra"
And strolled proudly from the stage

Jay Jones  2/2000
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



The Horse Whisperer

While surfing channels one rainy day
I found a program on PBS
Where a man trained horses by whispering
Seemed like something I needed to test

This grabbed my attention right away
For my training was more like a battle
It involved whips and spurs and four letter words
Along with ear biting, blindfolds, and old saddles

This guy claimed he could take a wild horse
And ride him on the same day he met him
It sounded much better than the method I used
Which was climb on, buck off, and go get him

He said the whole secret was observing
Every move that the green horse made
To watch his ears and his mouth and his movement
To have the horse bond instead of being afraid

So I went out to a wild horse auction
Where I purchased a six year old stud
I wanted a good test for my skills as a whisperer
In the pen he seemed of calm blood

When I hauled him he tore up my trailer
When I stalled him he tore up my barn
So I turned him loose in my stud pen
Figuring there he couldn't do harm

I spent three days patching my stud pen
Had to order more lumber and nails
When he switched from kicking to jumping
I had to go up a couple more rails

After three weeks of life in the stud pen
Three weeks of hauling him water and grain
He quit trying to bust down the fences
So I decided he was ready to tame

According to the book I had purchased
I was to get him to trot or to lope
In a circle around the enclosure
Gently urging him with a soft length of rope

Rope in hand I entered the fence gate
Sure enough he started to run
You don't need a whole herd for a stampede
With the right critter, you can do it with one

For two hours we ran the arena
I chased him a few rounds-then him me
My career as a horse whisperer trainer
So far just relied on my speed

The book said he would start chewing
And then he'd start to slow down
When he wanted to stop I should let him
Then to walk away and he'd follow me around

Sure enough he started chewing and halted
I turned my back and strolled slowly away
When he nudged me, I was sure we had bonded
Then he bit me, just where I won't say

When I spun around to correct him
All I saw was sharp teeth and big feet
I banged his nose with the book on horse whispering
To gain time for a speedy retreat

I sure regretted those two extra railings
That I'd added to get the fence way up high
But with that stud snapping teeth at my backside
I cleared it on my very first try

That stallion was squalling and raging
Made it plain he'd never be tamed
I borrowed my banker's new trailer
And turned him loose way out on the range

Now I'm back to my old training methods
And I ignore all these trendy new schemes
I know now why they call it "horse whispering"
That's what happens when you run out of screams

Jay Jones, 6/27/00
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



The Compliment 

"You're a pretty good cowboy poet, mister"
The voice came from behind
I turned around to thank the man
Who liked my western rhyme

He stood there polite and smiling
With real sincerity on his face
And when he stuck his hand at me
I was quick to meet the shake

I had seen him on the front row
As I took my turn on stage
He was quick to smile and laugh and clap
Though his eyes seemed sometimes vague

He was a child of innocence
Full grown in body but not in mind
With a vision that saw and embraced a world
With a pure clearness I can't find

As I looked into his honest eyes
And saw he meant each word he spoke
"You're a pretty good cowboy poet, mister"
Meant a lot to this cowpoke

Jay Jones, 3-25-01
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


The Homesteaders

He fled the Appalachians
Left the tired and bitter soil
For a homestead out in Kansas
Where he might profit from his toil

He believed the tales told by land agents
Of a deep and fertile loam
How crops would spring up overnight
Where the buffalo once roamed

He hitched two mules to wagon
Loaded three kids and a wife
Said farewell to friends and kin
And set out for his new life

The trip was long and brutal
Many rivers must they cross
One small grave they left behind
Each frontier has its cost

At last they entered Kansas
Staked out 160 as their own
Used their plow to break the sod
Into squares to build a home

They took their mules and wagon
To a tree grove miles away
Where they cut some logs for roofing
Over which more sod would lay

They scraped deerhide thin for windows
Used leather straps to hang the doors
Hauled fireplace stones from a nearby creek
Packed the dirt they called a floor

They draped cloth below the ceiling
To catch dirt that dribbled down
Used buffalo chips for all their fires
Since no firewood was close around

The prairie soil was virgin
And yielded slowly to the plow
The three day trip to town was made
Bought a bull and two good cows

Each year they made some progress
Each spring more prairie land was cropped
The children came in stairsteps
More hands for chores that never stopped

Two tiny graves well-tended
Were on a grassy wind-swept hill
Where the wildflowers added beauty
And gave life where life was stilled

The woman's beauty faded
Drained by toil and Kansas sun
The man grew lank but rawhide tough
From work that must be done

Twice they fought off indians
Many times they fought a drought
A twister picked up their outhouse
Set it down over three miles out

But they proved up on their homestead
And even bought the farm next door
No one could call them wealthy
But at last they were not poor

Nine kids survived the hardships
And each one left in time
But they all came back to visit
The proud parents left behind

The old sod house finally vanished
Replaced by lumber brought by rail
And the outside world moved closer
As the Fed's improved the mail

Their youngest son stayed with them
Because he, too, was born to till
And when the couple died two days apart
He dug their graves upon the hill

The land they loved has passed to me
A descendant of their line
Their weathered graves are tended still
And a fence protects their shrine

Sometimes when shadows lengthen
And memories flood the land
I walk the ground they worked and loved
And take pride in how I am

1998, Jay Jones
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

The Last Ride 

It was two a.m. in Tulsa
The arena slumbered now
Gone were the sweating cowboys
And the excited noisy crowd
A single pole light challenged
The darkness of the night
A lone bat flicked its wing tips
Gathering insects in mid-flight
Alone in the arena, out in front
Of the rough stock gates
Stood a figure lost in silence
His carriage proud and straight
The bat was the only motion
As the scene froze, etched in time
Then the head bowed as in prayer
As he seemed to search his mind
I watched him from the grandstands
But left my presence undeclared
For two hours I'd been seeking him
But friends know times to share
I knew what he was thinking
Because I'd seen him take the fall
In his mind he was deciding
Was this the last ride of them all
I'd seen him win his buckles
And I'd seen him ride the best
But 8 seconds was getting longer
And time slowed us like all the rest
We'd rode the circuit a long time now
Lord knows we'd had some fun
I'd been good, but not like him
For no titles had I won
It's hard to change a way of life
When that life is all you dreamed
To let time become the winner
A foe deadly but dimly seen
We'd bought a ranch in Texas,
Had our plans made for this time
But was the time now upon us
The final choice was his, not mine

The bowed head lifted slowly
And I knew he'd made a choice
I knew the path I wanted most
But yet I held my voice
I reflected on the friendship
That some men form and keep
We'd never wondered how or why
Just knew that it ran deep
Tomorrow we'd be heading
For another show some where
Or driving back to Texas
To our loved ones waiting there
He reached down into his warbag
Pulled out his battered riding vest
Slowly draped it over center chute
To spur some rookie to his best
I sensed the choice was final
The time to quit had come
A new life was waiting for us
The old life past and done
I found the voice that I had lost
And stopped him in mid-stride
As our hands joined, so did our vests
We'd both made our last ride

2000, Jay Jones
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission



There are many measures for a man, and one that touched us here all deeply was the reason we came to have Jay's fine poem, Angels in the Moonlight. When Jay first sent us his poem in September, 2002, he mentioned that it was "a different subject for me."  We were all immediately impressed by the poem, and when we asked Jay about how he came to write it, he replied:

Our only child, 33 year old Brent, had a major heart attack July 4th of this year.  He remained in a coma until he passed July 20th.  He had no history of heart problems, was in excellent physical shape, and there is no family history of this type, so his death left us stunned.  

On Aug. 23 I was on a local TV station. The host, Paul Pepper, a long- time TV personality in Mid-Mo, knew about Brent and I showed him a short song I had written on my son.  He began talking about his mother's terminal illness that left her speechless as she awaited death at his home.  He said he saw her talking to someone, staring at the ceiling above her.  She had not noticed his entrance.  He asked her if she was talking to someone.  Unable to speak, she nodded yes.  He asked if it was God.  She shook her head no.  He asked if it was Angels, and she nodded yes.  She passed later.

The combination of grief for my son and Paul's story led to the poem.  It is a poem I was unable to write to my satisfaction.  I actually started the poem with a man and his son, with the son passing, but could not see the keyboard through the tears, so I changed it.  Some day I hope to to rewrite it better.

I really sent you the poem because I remembered, after Cowboys Forever, how you said you were hoping to put some material together for families who had lost a loved one.  I am hoping my poem might reach someone suffering the terrible agony of personal loss, and perhaps help to soothe this loss in some small way.  Not every religion believes in Angels, but for those who do believe, I hope the story brings comfort.

Angels in the Moonlight 

He was my friend and he lay dying
All alone, just me and him
But I knew no one could help him now
Because life's thread was getting thin

I'd built a campfire out of deadwood
Wrapped him in his soogan tight
Watched the campfire challenge darkness
As the sunset welcomed night

I put the coffee on from habit
Though I knew he couldn't drink
I hoped the smell would comfort him
Maybe give me time to think

The trip was one of many made
For twenty years and more
Just two old friends that fished high lakes
And watched the eagles soar

I'll never know what spooked his horse
He was mountain bred and born
But something made him rear and fall
Pinned my pard beneath the horn

His lungs were crushed past talking
But his eyes were still alert
As I eased his saddle 'neath his head
He tried to hide his hurt

I masked the tears that stormed my eyes
There was no time to cry
Somehow I had to find the strength
To watch my best friend die

I told him I was helpless
I had done all I could do
But I would stay with him until the end
Then the hidden tears came through

His hand moved slowly over mine
Then he raised one finger high
His gaze seemed fixed beyond the stars
As he pointed to the sky

His lips were slowly moving
And though they uttered not a word
I sensed that he was talking
To some presence I'd not heard

"Is it God that you are talking to,"
I asked, to try to understand
His head moved slightly sideways
As did the pressure from his hand

I looked upward where he pointed
But at first saw not a thing
Then I seemed to sense and feel the beat
Of something nearing on the wing

As the full moon cleared the rugged peaks
A lone owl gave its mournful call
Dark shadows stirred of things unknown
And I watched in silent awe

I recalled a phrase from long ago
Or was it whispered from the skies
"To behold an Angel on the wing
You must use your heart for eyes"

There was magic in that moonlit glade
I lost my fear of my friend's death
A look of peace replaced the pain
As he drew his final breaths

"Is it Angels," I asked quietly
A final nod, then all alone
I watched Angels in the moonlight
As they flew my old friend home

September 2002, Jay Jones
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

Jay's wife Debra added:

There is one more portion to Brent's story I would like to relay to you...

Brent had his heart attack on July 4.  On July 11 the last team of doctors told us there was no hope and we were going to lose our son.  There was very little sleep in our home that night, but some time in the night Jay picked up his guitar and wrote a song for Brent that we used in his memorial service.

To fully understand the song you must know that Jay's father died when Jay was three. His father's name was Arthur Robinson Jones.  We named our son Brent Robinson, and he, in turn, named his son Jakob Robinson.

It is called simply "Brent's Song."

Brent's Song

My father died when I was just a baby
My son and grandson share his middle name
I never thought I'd have to live to see it
But my son the angels flew to earth to claim

His time with us is now forever ended
But still he lives within our heart and soul
He shared his love with all that he found needy
We all wonder why he had to go

So father help my son fly up to heaven
Light the torch that guides him on his way
Give him the love he gave to those who miss him
And heal the hearts that watched him fly away

July 11, 2002, Jay Jones
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Our hearts go out to Jay and Debra and to Brent's family, and our gratitude is large for their generosity in sharing these words that will surely be a comfort and inspiration to many, now and always.



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