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JEAN A. (MATHISEN) HAUGEN
Lander, Wyoming
About
Jean A. (Mathisen) Haugen

one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for her poem, Wyoming Gate

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

 

 

Wyoming Gate

There is one thing is this western land
that I thoroughly hate, I cannot stand.
It holds me up, it makes me late--
the dreadful thing is a Wyoming Gate.
When I'm tired and worn and my temper's hot,
When I'm after a stray that's needing caught,
You can be sure, and I'm not a liar,
that that blinking gate will be tangled wire.
It tears my clothes and it burdens my brain.
And the way to open it is never the same.
At times when I'm tired and I want to climb through,
then I'm sure to get stuck and my head is bruised blue.
I hate it!  I hate it!  It ruins my life.
It punctures my pride when it falls for my wife.
I never can open it, yet steers knock it down
and the only good wire will be miles into town.
I kick it, I cuss it, it tears up my clothes.
That Wyoming Gate is number one of my woes.
I try to forget it, get disgusted, pull out hair.
But no matter what happens--that gate is still there.
Oh, sure as I'm breathing, if it's Heaven I rate,
the door won't be pearly, but a Wyoming Gate!

© 2002, Jean A. Mathisen    
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked Jean what inspired this poem and she told us: "Wyoming Gate" is a poem I wrote when I was 16 years old.  The reason I wrote it was because we have a lot of those old wire gates around on the ranches in Wyoming and my grandmother, Mary Hornecker, laughed one time at my grandpa, John Hornecker when he was "cussing and discussing a particular wire gate" and said, "Well, John, it's just an old Wyomin' gate--what do you expect? You made it yourself!"  It has always been one of my favorite poems and I titled my first cowboy poetry book Wyoming Gate after it.

 

Jean Mathisen Haugen was previously named one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
r ecognized for her poem, Cowboy Auction

 

The Cowboy Auction

We went to Bill's cowboy auction--
they had saddles, guns and spurs,
hamburgers, hot dogs and horses
and mitts made out of fur.
They had paintings and horse collars,
handcuffs, moccasins and a fiddle.
The auctioneer was warming up his voice
and we saw him there in the middle.
Now, Ma, she liked the buckskin mare
and a rifle took my eye.
But what I went to the auction for
they didn't have there to buy!
They called it a "cowboy auction"
but not a one of them was for sale--
mustaches and chaw and scuffed-up boots--
they'd take one look and turn tail.
I call it false advertising,
calling that auction by that name.
By golly, I wanted a cowboy,
not a boot or a spur or a hame.
I got a bone to pick with you, Jones,
your advertising just ain't true--
if I can't get me a cowboy there,
then what's a poor girl to do?
You called this the first annual auction--
well, if you're gonna have another--
you'd best get a cowboy to sell to me
and another buckskin for my Mother!

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

We asked Jean what inspired her poem "Cowboy Auction" and she told us: The poem is about a Cowboy Auction that Bill Jones, cowboy poet and humorist who lived here at Lander, had along about 1995.  He hired the local community hall and they had just about everything a person could think for for sale there--except a cowboy!  Which gave me the idea for a poem to tease Bill a bit.  He liked it and printed in his column he used to have in the Lander Journal. Yep, never have found one of those cowboys for sale--ha!

(Bill Jones' poetry is included in Cattle, Horses, Sky, and Grass: Cowboy Poetry of the Late Twentieth Century and his work appears in other anthologies.  He and poet Rod McQueary published a book of Vietnam War poetry, Blood Trails.) 

 

 

Jean Mathisen was previously one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
r ecognized for her poem, Patriarch

 

Patriarch 

Old tree, you've seen one hundred ten years
as the sun went rolling by.
Growing bigger every season,
cutting space into the sky.
Cottonwood, you sing at evening,
when the wind is wafting low.
Songs of sweetness, songs of sadness,
songs of all the years you know.
And the log house built before you
still stands there beneath your leaves.
Dreaming now of all the home folks,
born and grown who always leave.
There were children in your young years--
great-great grandparents of those now.
Children born and lived and died here--
ranching, working, raising cows.
There was many a black angus
sought the coolness of your shade.
Children played their games about you,
broken-hearted mourners prayed.
There were lilacs in the sweet May,
family dinners on the lawn.
Family gatherings, weddings, good times,
ah, so many of them gone.
Patriarch, you're left to dream now
of the times on the Seven-Y-Bar.
Families gone and past now--
only you know where they are.

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Photo from about 1990, it's bigger now!

Jean Mathisen's family has ranched in the Lander Valley for seven generations, and she told us:

We asked Jean to elaborate about what inspired her poem "Patriarch" and she told us:

I came to write "Patriarch" because the tree I wrote it about was planted the year my Grandfather, John Hornecker, was born in 1890 behind the log cabin he was born in.  My mother was also raised in that cabin along with 7 brothers and sisters and was married there.  The tree is an integral part of our family lore, our "family tree" so to speak.

My aunt still owns the old home ranch and the tree is still there, big as ever!

The ranch is still in family ownership and the cottonwood is a giant.  I think it has to be one of the biggest cottonwoods in Wyoming--it has a trunk circumference of better than 28'.

In October, 2005, Jean told us, "My aunt is selling the ranch after it has been in the family for 121 years, she just can't keep it up any more.  A portion of the ranch is still owned by my uncle so not all of it is gone."

In December, 2007, jean told us: "My aunt sold the old ranch 2 years ago, but the fellow who bought it has fixed up the old log cabin and restored it (the cabin dates to the 1870's) and his wife is going to use it for her silversmith shop. He is also very proud of the old tree. He runs some horses on the ranch and a few llamas. My uncle still owns part of the old ranch--it has been in family ownership for 123 years now. The tree is now 117 years old and still growing."


 


Sam's Remedy

The ranch old Samuel lived upon was fifty miles from town
so he couldn't run in there for parts when machinery broke down.
But Samuel had a remedy for emergencies so dire--
if anything would fall apart, he'd mend it with baling wire.
His pickup, year of '49, would get him into dutch,
but Samuel only tugged a bit on the wire on the clutch
and off he'd go in a dusty cloud, sputtering and jingling wire.
Yep, he could fix 'most anything with rusty baling wire.
His fence gates all were wired up with loops of varying size.
When one wore out he'd push it down and hurriedly devise
another loop to fix it with and then went on his way.
He fixed his front door with it too and used it on his hay.
And when old Samuel came to die and they put him in a box--
what do you know, the lid went down but had no kind of locks.
Old Samuel roused from his final rest and said, "Don't just stand around--
close her up with baling wire 'fore you put me in the ground!"
And when he got to the pearly gate he saw all he could desire--
for holding it shut efficiently was a loop of baling wire!

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


I wrote this poem about a friend of ours who lived up the Ham's Fork River above Kemmerer, Wyoming--he had grown up in Austria, cleaned the stalls of the Lipizzaner stallions as a boy, came to the States and was a moonshiner during prohibition.  He was a fine old man.

 
Two of a Kind

Whatever way the land lies,
the other side of the fence is paradise.
He must hurry now, he can't be late,
to find a way to open the gate,
for leaning through that barb wire fence
is painful and he's learned that hence.
He can move the saddles, bridles too--
to give himself something to do.
He gets in trouble more often than not--
but he yearns to test another spot.
Over the hill and down the road--
without ever packing any kind of a load.
He has a brain--he uses it too--
to always change his point of view.
No matter what the people say--
he likes another kind of hay.
He's not a man--it's obvious of course--
just a trouble maker and a darned smart horse!
He causes problems, not worth a dime--
but I'd not trade him at any time.
For me, whichever way the land lies
the other side of the fence is paradise.
To sum it up precisely, you see,
that old horse is just a lot like me!

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Half-Pint Cowboy

Half-pint cowboy,
wearing Daddy's hat,
tries to drop a yarn rope
on his kitty cat.

Half-pint cowboy--
a regular old hand.
He turned three last week sometime,
wears his Mama's brand.

Three-foot cowboy
can't quite fill his boots.
Packing cold iron on his hip--
a plastic gun he shoots.

Hard-riding cowboy,
ranging the living room,
herding phantom cattle
on his horse--the kitchen broom.

Come on, little cowboy,
up on Mama's lap.
Rest some from your gunfights,
'cause it's time to take a nap.

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


His Roots 

He's wearing walking shoes these days,
instead of his old boots.
His hat is now a baseball cap--
has he forgot his roots?
His hair is soft and faded grey,
it is no longer red.
His horses sold, the cow camp gone.
Are you sure that he aint dead?
He's shrunken up from what he was.
He's somewhat sentimental now--
pays more attention to the wife
than the current price of cows.
But, whoa up now an dtake a look
at his faded light blue eyes--
that Red--he may be getting old--
but a cowboy never dies.
Mention a time when he was young
up there on the Great Divides--
his eyes will shine with lightning sparks
when he thinks of the days he'd ride
pushing cattle up Twin Creek
or the reaches of Beaver Rim.
Mention the Green River Cattlemen
and it's like manna from heaven to him.
He's wearing walking shoes these days
instead of his old boots.
His hat is now a baseball cap,
but he's not forgot his roots.
Just whoa up there and take a look
at his faded light blue eyes--
the cowboy's there, alive and well,
and his spirit never dies!

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is about my great uncle, Carl "Red" Mathisen, foreman of the Bar Cross Ranch at Cora, Wyoming and a champion cutter racer for many years. He died in 1998.

Illusions


Illusions and some fantasies--
they make the heart beat strong.
Day dreams come at odd times
and they help the time along.
Today I saw a cowboy--
my, he was a handsome man.
Dressed neatly in a crisp white shirt
and face and neatsome tan.
He wore a fine grey stetson hat,
all clean and nicely creased.
It's when he sat to take his rest
that my illusion ceased.
I swore he was the very one
to which my heart had called.
Then he removed his stetson hat
and, oh Lord, he was bald!
Not one hair upon his head--
a round and reddened pate.
Once he might have had black locks.
Alas, it was too late!
Illusions and some fantasies,
they make the heart beat strong.
Oh, cowboy, keep on your hat--
so my illusions don't go wrong!

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Once More 

The old man sat by the window
in his favorite lounging chair--
the one he'd fight someone over
if they tried to sit down there.
He was dreaming of the old days
as he gazed out to the west--
to the mountains rising sky-high--
to the country he loved best.
He sighed softly in the evening
and started talking to himself--
"Just once more I'd like to go riding
up that high and rocky shelf,
where the elk are thick and plenty
and their calls echo down the night.
I could draw my rifle up then
as I got one big bull in sight.
I am not sure that I would shoot him--
I just want to hear him call
gathering up his harem
in the golden light of fall.
I would see his big rack moving
through the timber thick and deep.
God, I'd like to go up riding
before I go to that Great Sleep.
Just once more I'd like to go riding
through the hills on old South Pass
near Oregon Buttes in middle summer
where the meadows have deep grass.
I would water in the creek there--
let the horses drink long and deep.
I could watch the mustangs running
before I go to that Last Sleep."
He stopped then for a moment,
looked about some for his cane,
sighed once more as he looked westward
and once more started his refrain:
"Just once more I'd like to go riding
on the slopes of Beaver Rim--
with the blizzard winds a' howling
round Beaver Creek and its frozen trim.
I would hunker in my great coat
and pull down my snug warm cap,
think of coffee and some warm stew
and wish fondly for a nap.
Or just once more pitch out the wild hay
from a sleigh pulled slowly by a team
'cross the meadows of the home ranch--
that is surely a fine dream.
Just once more let me go riding--
let me go and let me roam--
'Cause a cowboy needs a line camp,
not a gol derned nursing home!

© Jean Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

Dad's Truck

The old pickup sits there quietly.
I guess now that it's mine.
For 24 years it was my Dad's
and he kept it up just fine.
Had to park it there just-so.
He polished it every year;
hauled the wood and hauled the trash
and hauled the hunting gear.
Our old dog loved to ride with us
inside on the floor.
I see them there in my mind's eye
until I can't look anymore.
We'll put a monument where he rests
that gives the name and date,
but that old truck tells more of his tale
and now it will sit and wait,
until I go and get the keys
and take us for a ride--
me and the trash and other things
and the memories inside. . .

© May 2002, Jean A. Mathisen    
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Never Forgotten

Bob Mathisen
1924 - 2002



 

  

 

 

This poem is included in our collection of 
poems about Cowboy Dads and Granddads

 

French George Crossing

This poem is about an old timer, "French" George Langlois, who settled on
Beaver Creek in Fremont County around a 100 years ago.  Where he settled is still known as "French George Crossing" or just "French George".  It's a beautiful little valley--but full to the brim with rattlesnakes.


French George Crossing


The road is rough and a ridgerunner
to the valley down on Beaver,
where the wild hay waves like oceans swells
on a day in hot July.
French George had a place here
below the Dillabaugh Buttes,
where rattlesnakes roam freely
in the sage and grasses dry.
It nearly looks like heaven
and the cattle savor high grass,
near the creek that wanders blue-cast
from a partly cloudy sky.
Langlois was the Frenchman,
gone nearly eighty years now,
leaving long his homestead--
but what a lovely place to die.
I think he did not leave here,
perhaps his spirit savors
the rustle of the wild hay
on a day in hot July.
It nearly looks like heaven
or a bit of paradise sprung up
here on French George Crossing
'neath a partly cloudy sky.

© 2002, Jean A. Mathisen    
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Male Order "Bride"

I wrote to him in Alaska
and asked him how the weather was—
it's funny how things happen
or the dealing old Fate does.
He answered it was pretty
and they hadn't any snow.
In fact it was much better
than we'd had here below.
We got to shooting e-mails
back and forth like shooting stars
and I got up early to read them
and all his e-mail cards.
Before we really realized it
we'd gotten seriously attached—
we'd just been looking for a friend,
but by golly, we were matched!
He came to Lander Valley
'board a puddle jumper flight—
14 hours from Fairbanks
and he'd left in the middle of the night.
He was staggering off that plane—
the ride had been rather bad—
some were dizzy and some were sick-
it was the worst one he'd ever had.
Well, we decided to get married
and then moved up the date—
I guess I wanted to catch him
before it might be too late.
We are settling in pretty well—
it's amazing, this computer age!
But my advice—don't ask how the weather is—
unless you want to get engaged!

© May 29, 2003, Jean A. Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

In June of 2003, Jean told us that she and Ron Haugen 
were tying the knot on July 3, 2003


Ron Haugen died September 6, 2011


My Ron

Ron had done many things in his life,
and I was privileged to be his wife.
He loved rock music and mushing dogs,
loved the Northern Lights and Alaska,
and had come to love Wyoming.
He had been a psychologist,
a car racer and a rabble rouser,
a trapper, a carpenter,
and knew his way around plumbing.
He could play a great rock guitar
and loved sail boats and
sailing them around Puget Sound.
That was my Ron

he had learned to love western music
and cowboy poetry.
Life was never easy, but he knew
to look upwards and know
A Gentle Shepherd
kept an eye on his wanderings
and had finally come to take him home.
May the Good Lord bless and keep him

I was privileged to be his wife.

Jean Mathisen Haugen, September 8, 2011

 

 

Heaven's Reaches

I walked round the old campground
and saw some rusty cans.
Then I recalled the story
Grampaw told of one good man.
He was roughshod 'round the edges,
would fight both bear and snake;
helped Grampaw trail the cattle
and he answered to just Jake.
They trailed in far from Oregon
shorthorn cattle in those days
here to this low valley.
The Longhorns came in other ways.
Now Jake would eat 'most anything
that Cookie would ever fix,
from beans and bacon to cowboy stew
and bacon powder biscuits were his picks.
He liked meat from jackrabbit to poached deer
and liked dried apple pie
that Cookie made with relish,
adding in an occasional fly.
But what he loved most of all
that sent him to Heaven's reaches,
was when he used his jack knife
to pry open a can of peaches.
He figured manna from heaven
that was mentioned in the Good Book,
came in those old tin cans
and had the peaches' look.
Grampaw and Jake were good pals
and they'd made across Idaho.
It was coming into fall now
and they were worried some about snow.
They were trailing down Green River
when the lightning began to flash,
and streaks were dancing on the cattle's horns
and the cattle started to dash.
The chuckwagon was caught in the middle
and the cattle were headed that way.
Looked like the wagon and Cookie was doomed,
but Jake did more than pray.
Grampaw yelled at him to hold back,
but Jake just ploughed on it.
He was bound to save the wagon,
and the last seen of him was a grin.
The stampede ended as quickly
as a cloud passing over the moon.
The scene left behind was a bad one,
but the boys found Jake fairly soon.
The wagon and Cookie were safe now,
but a bull had gored old Jake,
taken his favorite horse down,
but he explained what he'd done for their sake:
"Bury me on the hill, boys.
This campground will do just fine.
I have lived me a good life
and I think it was my time.
I just had to save the wagon,
Ole Cookie and his tin wash tub,
For they were our necessities,
and most of all, we needed the grub.
And I hope the Lord will be kind to me
if I get to Heaven's reaches,
and let me have some jackrabbit stew
and a can of heavenly peaches!"
Jake's grave is not marked here
except by a pile of rusty tin cans,
once ful of the fruit that the cowboy loved-
they were left for that brave man.
Grampaw settled in the valley here,
made a ranch and raised short horns.
Raised some kids and told each and every one
from the time that they were born
they'd best appreciate food to eat
and if they wanted to taste Heaven's reaches,
just get a can of something good-
but make damned sure it was peaches!

© 2-15-03, Jean A. Mathisen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jean told us:  I got the idea  for that poem about the old stories of how the cattle were trailed into this part of Wyoming--they were the descendants of the oxen and cattle that moved west on the Oregon Trail and were shorthorn cattle brought in from Washington and Oregon in the early 1870's.   The love for peaches was inspired by my Dad who used to talk about how he loved to open some canned fruit, usually peaches, when he was out working as a cowboy back in the late 'thirties and early 'forties.  The rest of the story is pretty much "made up!"

 

The Government Road

There's not much left of the pasture,
the town has grown around it.
Just a weathered cedar fence post
and a horse trough mark it now.
The Government Road ran through here,
the alleys mark the old route,
but a school house and some houses
have long replaced the horse and cow.
Log houses covered by clapboards
with the old hen coops in the back yards
or an outhouse converted to a tool shed
leave the town's past far behind.
This was Ed Farlow's pasture
and rodeos were held here
back over a hundred years ago
beyond memory and mind.
Red Butte rises on the horizon.
Oh, if it could just tell stories
of the soldiers on the Government Road
and the cowboys that called this home.
Ranches ranged its red flanks,
where housing additions now sprout,
but sometimes coyotes, mountain lions
and wolves still find it still fit to roam.
No, there's not much left of the pasture,
now they're planning to subdivide it,
the horse trough will be torn apart
and the barbed wire hauled away.
The greenness of the wild hay
and water in the old ditch,
will, like the Government Road,
be forever gone away.

© 2003, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jean tells us: I wrote the "Government Road" because just a few remnants of the old "Government Road" from Lander to Fort Washakie ran nearby our house in the northwest end of Lander and also just a small remnant of the old horse pasture that now makes up our housing addition remain--so that's what gave me the idea.  There's a very interesting old horse or feed trough still there and a few worn and weathered cedar posts left from the original fence. I intend to track out more traces of the "Government Road" or "Washakie's Trail" as I get time.


 

Cow Pony

Oh, there's paints or palominos,
blacks and roans and whites.
But I'll just take a sorrel
any time of day or night.
They aren't flashy, they aren't fancy,
but they work a long hard day.
They trailed old Chisholm's cattle
and ran the buffalo a long way.
There is mustang blood within them,
mixed with quarter and thoroughbred.
Their ancestors ran the high ridges
and down the long years it's been said.
If you want a cattle pony
who is faithful, who is true,
pass up the Paints and Appalooseys
for a sorrel will more than do.
Arabs ran in his ancestry,
though they don't show up very much.
He's an old Wyoming pony
and will work the range and such.
Oh, there's paints and palominos,
blacks and roans and whites.
But me--I'll take a sorrel
any time of day or night.

© 2004, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Jean says: I wrote this one for all the old cow ponies my Grandpa Mathisen traded over the years when he was a horse trader in the Lander Valley.

 

A Work of Art

They consider the boots an art piece now.
The heels are worn and skuffed.
Worn to ride teh bucking horses
and the cowboy never had enough
of riding in the early spring
and working through the fall gather.
His hat was long ago blown away.
He's long gone--it doesn't really matter.
His face was lined and leather rough,
worn by wind and rain and snow.
He died last ylear, his grave unmarked--
and he would wish it so.
For he always was a quiet sort
and mostly lived a quiet life.
Had his saddle and cowboy geat,
but never took a wife.
He rode the grubline his last years,
but didn't expect a handout.
He'd work for everything he got
and was never one to pout.
He died back at the line camp
in a sheepwagon where he would stay.
Left behind his old worn boots
and he was just a stray.
No one knew his story
or where he'd been as a kid.
He worked and always earned his keep
and that was all he did.
He liked the life or lived it so,
or maybe just couldn't move on.
Knew Wyoming for over forty years,
from the dusk and back to dawn.
Now his boots, bought at a yard sale
are on display at an art gallery.
Hard riding made them a work of art.
Oh, how he'd laugh if he could just see!

© 2004, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jean says: I wrote this partially based on an old cowboy that came to this area around 1930 and was known as the "Rider of the Purple Sage"--Jack Ertman. He died 20 years ago in a line camp on Beaver Creek south of Lander.


Relics

Now he was hunting relics
from days of the town's long past.
But when I gave him my suggestion,
it left him a bit aghast!
I told him to find where outhouses had been.
He would find most anything,
For pioneers were prone to throw
it down the outdoor thing.
So finally, he got a shovel
and started in to dig
where once a privy had proudly stood
and before long he did a jig.
He found an old pharmacy bottle,
and one that had once held beer,
a lamp that was turning purple,
and a buckle off some cowboy gear.
He'd found a regular treasure hole,
though what he was digging through,
was waste that once came from pioneers--
folks like me and you.
I cheered him on as he dug on down,
but just between you and me--
that boy can have that old stuff--
where it came from--I don't want to see!

©  Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Jean told us: I was inspired to write the new one when they were moving an old house in Lander that was built in the early 1880's out to the new museum and "Pushroot"
(Lander's first name) village site.

 

Ride to Glory

Riding a bull to glory--
Or letting it erase my name--
Got to make 8 seconds
And make it on to fame.
But now I've got old Fooler,
Who side winds like a snake,
His twist and winds and belly grinds
Are nearly more than I can take!
My, God, he nearly dumped me,
I'm spurring all I can,
The clown is moving up close
To try and save this man.
But just at six-some seconds,
Old fooler does his thing,
Twists and winds down the right side
And gives me a big fling.
I'm a' running for the fence now.
His horns are up my rear.
I'd surely give up bull riding--
But odds are--I'll be here next year!

© 2004, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

You Know It's Time to Retire When...

I never preferred to be a cowgirl.
Horses and I keep a distance apart.
Though, Lordy, I love to see them
and they run wild in my heart.
You know it's time to retire
when your hat lands in the creek.
You'll never see your Stetson
no matter where you seek.
A cook realizes another time
when it's good to call it quits--
when the fire on the old grill
starts giving her all kinds of fits.
My daddy was a cowboy
that later turned to the law,
'cause he could never afford a ranch,
and it always stuck in his craw.
But, me, I prefer those flies to buzz
and dive on the cows instead of me.
I never lost anything hauling cows
and would rather keep moving free.
But from long ago I can hear an echo
from my grandad and my paw,
"My girl, what are you doing
ignoring the cowboy law!
For you blood runs deep within this ground,
and the west wind knows your kin.
Get yourself aboard a horse
and get where you belong agin' !"
Yet, I prefer a nice soft chair
and a cold, crisp can of beer.
Believe I'll ignore the ancestors
and make myself comfy here!

© 2005, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

Jean told us what inspired her to write this poem: What inspired me to write it was I got my Grandpa's old wooden chair that he used to sit on a lot (and no one else dared sit on it too!) and I remembered how he wished his granddaughters would have taken more after him--he remembered every horse he ever owned and loved them a lot.   He was a horse trader and rancher for many years in the Lander area.  Also, I do like my own rocking chair---if our calico cats aren't sleeping there!

The Home Ranch

Pieces of old glass
glint in the sun.
They speak of the old ranch
and the days that are done.
A woman once lived here,
one porcelain chip was a vase,
another some mirror glass
that reflected her face.
The home ranch is going
and now it's been sold.
One hundred twenty-one years
the total tales to be told.
The old cabin sits there
quietly in the shade,
logs slowly rotting,
but the times it has paid—
weddings and funerals,
laughter and joy,
stories of eight generations
and of each girl and boy.
Pieces of old glass
glint in the sun—
they speak of the home ranch
and the days now long done.

© 2007, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Jean told us: What inspired me to write this poem was the fact that the Hornecker Ranch on Squaw Creek, west of Lander, Wyoming, was the home ranch for my mother, Betty Hornecker Mathisen's, family from 1884 on.

My uncle, Donald Hornecker still owns some of the original ranch which was taken up by my great grandfather, Albert Hornecker. In 2005 my Aunt Jean Hornecker Irvine sold the portion of the ranch that had the old original cabin dating from the 1870's (it was built by a trapper named Henry Thompson) and the original barns and so on. The cabin originally sat about a quarter of a mile away near Squaw Creek and the remnants of an old root cellar can still be seen there—I've found pieces of glass and china there.

When my great grandfather took up the place he dismantled the cabin, numbered the logs, and moved it up to the hill it now sits on. That was in 1884-85 and while they were moving the cabin they lived in a tipi—their oldest daughter Maude was born in the tipi in 1885. My grandfather, John Hornecker, was born in the cabin December 1, 1890 and my parents were married there on June 4, 1946.

The new owner is restoring the cabin and his wife will be using it for her silversmith shop. The tree directly behind the cabin was planted in the summer of 1890 (the year Wyoming became a state—and it is a cottonwood, the Wyoming state tree) and is still growing.

These are photos of the old cabin and of my Aunt Jean Hornecker Irvine and my mother, Betty Hornecker Mathisen taken at the "good-bye" picnic we had just before Jean Irvine sold the ranch in September, 2005.

 

Jean has shared other photos and articles about the home ranch and her family, in Picture the West and Western Memories features.

 

 

Uncle Sammy

Uncle Sammy never married
and he ended up herding sheep.
He was grandpa's oldest brother—
he mostly liked to drink and sleep.
As a youngster he drove freight wagons,
the ones with a 20-horse hitch.
Sammy was rather scared of bears—
the thought of them made him itch.
One night on the way to Atlantic,
when grandpa was along with him,
Sammy got the notion
that something was kinda' grim.
He was sure he smelled a bear somewhere,
he was determined to sleep on the wagon load—
which was made up of farming equipment
and they'd camped by the Twin Creek road.
Grandpa tried to talk to tell him
he'd fall off when he went to sleep,
but Sammy was bound and determined
that up on the load he would creep.
It was quiet and no moon that night,
when the horses began to stir.
Grandpa heard a startled yell—
and Sammy had fallen for sure.
Sammy tried to grab the rifle,
but grandpa pulled it back from him—
"There ain't no bear, you danged fool!"
and he whopped him with his hat brim.
Well, Sammy finally settled down
after his long falling leap,
soon started into snoring hard
and there fell fast asleep.
Sammy was quite a character,
carried his false teeth in his shirt pocket—
never sought any women folk
and his photo never graced a locket.
But grandpa loved to talk of him
and the days now long gone and rare—
when Sammy mistook a buck rake
for some kind of grizzly bear!

© 2008, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

 

Jean told us: What inspired me to write the poem was the story my Grandpa, Walt Mathisen, used to tell about the times he and his older brother Sammy used to drive the freight wagon up to the Geissler Mercantile store at Atlantic City (30 miles south of Lander)—this story is true (although Grandpa tended to stretch it a bit!). The Merc is still open but is now a well known steak house in this area of Wyoming, instead of being a general merchandise store. It was started about 1890 by Mr. Geissler. Sam Mathisen was my Grandpa's oldest brother and was born Aug. 19, 1894 in Kamas, Utah. He died in 1956 and spent most of his years as either a cowboy or in his latter years as a sheepherder. He never married and was said to be quite a character.



A Horse Tail

It was years back when we were kids
my brother and I set out to make some money.
Finally we had a bright idea
and at the time, we thought it was a honey.
There was this semi full of Shetland ponies
that a feller had for sale.
We thought we'd buy those babies—
and that's the start of one sad tale.
They were tough little buggers.
They'd buck harder than great big broncs.
Our clothes were ripped and rather torn
and we fell with grunts and honks.
I dreamed of using them for target practice,
but my brother hid the shotgun away.
He said we had too much invested—
although they ate way too much hay.
And I tell you, talk about ornery,
they'd bite you on the back side.
We couldn't give away those critters
and I dreamed of mounting their hides.
It was up in the Big Horn country,
we finally had a grand 'i'dee—
we backed that semi up a draw
and set those monsters free.
So somewhere out in the Big Horns,
there are legends of a wild Shetland herd.
And Lord help anyone that tries to tame them—
just leave 'em alone is my word!

© 2008, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Jean told us
: I got an inspiration for while I was training at the Wyoming Department of Corrections Honor Farm at Riverton. One of the older correction officers, Tom Streeter of Newcastle, Wyoming, was telling a story about buying a semi-load of Shetland ponies he and his brother were going to break when they were just starting out
well,  to say the least, the horses "broke them" and he said somewhere in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming there is still a herd of of wild Shetlands running loose. Boy, that was perfect for a cowboy poem...

 

Powder River Bath

He always walked bowlegged
and was tough as a prickly pear.
A cowboy from the old days
with worn jeans and rough-cut hair.
I always had a drink or two
with him at the local bar,
and we'd talk "cowboy philosophy"
and why things are the way they are.
One day he came limping in,
and little slower, and grinned at this kid.
He had a cast on up to his knees
and he wasn't talking like he usually did.
Well, I just had to ask him
what made him cripple and quiver?
"Aw, my horse decided to give me
a bath in the dern Powder River!"
Yep, old Joel, he was a tough one,
but that horse had rolled on top of him—
but the old feller is still a' going
with his yellow toothy grin.
There's not much water in the Powder,
and we all just had to laugh—
Old Joel had gone modern on us
and had gotten a proper mud bath!

© 2007, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

Jean told us: Our local druggist, Joel Maertens, told me the story in "Powder River Bath" a few years ago. He grew up at Buffalo, Wyoming and this old-timer occasionally came into the drug store his father owned there. One day he came in with a cast up to his waist and could barely move. Joel asked him what had happened and the old fellow said, "Ah, my derned horse tried to give me a bath in the Powder River!". The old saying about the Powder River is, "a mile wide and a foot deep, too thick to drink, too thin to plow; Powder River let 'er buck!" (which was also the war cry of the Wyoming soldiers in World War I: "Powder River, Let 'Er Buck!" Unfortunately, Joel died at the age of 45 a year ago and we still miss him. When I wrote the poem I gave it to Joel and it was hanging up in his drug store, the Palace Pharmacy here in Lander, until after his death. He had two little boys and a wife of just a few years. His family has just sold the drug store to another pharmacist.
 

Wild Pride

The cowboys that my Dad spoke of,
seem fresh and clear to me.
They walked the walk and talked the talk
and lived a life hard and free.
They smoked only "roll-your-owns"
with thin paper and a 'baccy bag.
That was 70-odd years ago
when a bandana was a glad rag.
They've changed a lot over the years
and ride four-wheelers instead of a horse.
Many have gotten college degrees
and ranches are fewer of course.
Yet the old ways do continue on,
as cowboys travel with a wild pride—
riding broncs and bucking bulls
and give 'em one heckuva ride.
The spirit of those folks 70 years ago
or a 140, or possibly more,
goes on down in the DNA
though legs and backs are sore,
from working days in the hot sun
and choking on blowing dust.
The cowboy spirit lives here still,
just as it always must.
It doesn't matter if it's a Wyoming,
Colorado or Utah day—
the cowboys go on with their wild pride
in living the western way.

© 2009, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Jean told us: I was inspired to write the poem one day when I was thinking about some of the old cowboys I have known and that my folks knew over the years that are nearly all gone now and I wanted to pay tribute to them.

Here is a photo of local long time cowboy and a fine western artist and flint knapper, Tom Lucas of Lander. Tom was raised around here and worked many years on the Wind River Reservation. He taught himself how to make big horn sheep horn bows and flint nap arrowheads and other replicas of stone tools the Indians once used. He was one of the cowboys left around here that really knows his business and also shows his fine western paintings in Lander and Dubois and down in Scottsdale, Arizona in the winter.


 

Read Jean's story about Western artist and "flintnapper" Tom Lucas in Picture the West.

Heart of the Rodeo

They tried to ride wild horses
in the days of long ago.
More than one cowboy got stamped hard
at the Pioneer Days Rodeo.
Ed Farlow started it in 1894,
mainly then as a wild horse race.
His son Stub rode the wild broncs
and he rides yet on Wyoming's license plates.
They put on a wild west show
and the Indians took part,
a chance to show their riding skills
and time to show their wild hearts.
The rodeo grounds moved around a bit
and it changed some over the years,
it's not known as well as Cheyenne now,
but it keeps going as it appears.
Just a small town rodeo,
whose history still remains,
The Grand Daddy of 'em all--
hear the pioneer's refrains--
"Powder River, Let 'Er Buck!"
Stub rides that bronco still.
Yep, its 4th of July in Lander town
at the rodeo up on the hill.

© 2010, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Jean comments: This poem was inspired one day when I was walking by what was once the original rodeo grounds here at Lander, back in the early 1890s. Our Pioneer Days Rodeo started in 1894 and pre-dates Cheyenne Frontier Days by 3 years.

Unfortunately, they have made that old historic ground into a housing subdivision and the site of a new middle school and there goes the last of the open ground in our end of town. We do still have active rodeo grounds on the hill above town that date back to the mid-1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps built them.

Many people disagree that Stub Farlow is the cowboy on the Wyoming license plate, but I have a letter from Stub to a cousin of mine back in the early 1950s stating he was the model for the cowboy. Lester Hunt, Wyoming's Secretary of State in 1936, had the bucking horse designed and had lived at Lander in the early 20th century and knew Stub well. Hunt was also later Governor of Wyoming and Senator for the state in Washington D.C. Stub is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Lander under a granite boulder with the bucking horse carved on it and the notation that he is truly Wyoming's cowboy.

 

Cowboys Don't Eat Bagels

I saw a feller the other day
with a bagel, just a' eating away,
and my old pard, looking mighty grim,
went and took a stance in front of him,
He said, "What the heck are you thinking, boy?
That ain't food for any cowboy.
Take a slab of bread and spread butter thick,
put beef on it and eat her quick.
Pour it down with cowboy coffee strong
and that will keep you going long.
You can ride horseback for many hours,
chasing steers and stomping wild flowers."
That feller choked on his bagel there
and my old pard started to swear
and laugh and stopped and slapped his knee.
He said, "This is the gospel according to me

eat beef and keep your living clean.
Now, son, I didn't plan on being mean,
but cowboys and bagels just don't mix.
You're putting yourself in quite a fix.
They'll chase you right out of the country here

so keep eating prime beef and drinking beer!"

© 2011, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

(with a tip of the hat to Ada McDonnel!)
 

Jean told us: I get inspiration from just about anything to write poems. "Cowboys Don't Eat Bagels" came from a phone conversation I was having with a cowboy poet friend of mine, Ada McDonnel of Fort Washakie, Wyo. We were discussing what gave us ideas for poems and at the same time I heard her husband, Gus, in the background mumbling something about "Cowboys don't eat bagels!" I started laughing and told Ada there was an idea for a poem right there...

Ada and Gus have a ranch near the old cavalry quarters at Fort Washakie, Wyoming, the second longest operated frontier fort in Wyoming—from 1869-1909. Ada's family came to the Fort early and her ancestor worked there. Gus was a horse shoer for many years and Ada's family, the Gustin's, ran a dude ranch up in Dickinson's Park in the Wind River Mountains above the Fort. She has written a lot of poetry, is compiling her memoirs and the memoirs of her family, which dates back farther than my own here, is a talented artist and is interested in history—guess that's why we're friends.

She also knew my Grandpa Mathisen quite well (he was a horse trader and wintered dude horses for years); my Uncle Bub Mathisen, who was also a horseshoer and a brand inspector for years and some of Grandpa's brothers including Red, Gillis and Marven Mathisen.

Now I'm not sure if Ada had bagels out there that day or not, but it gave me a good idea and I want to give a "tip of the hat" to Ada and Gus—they're great folks.

Bye the way, this "cowboy poet" happens to love bagels and Philadelphia cream cheese!

A Child's Gift

Cutting cookies out of dough;
Christmas time and still no snow.
Putting frosting on the cake,
another party dress to make.
Crocheting red stripe candy canes,
records to play the old refrain
of peace on earth—good will to men,
and yet, somewhere, there's war again.
In Wyoming, it's real dry,
only snow is 'way up high.
The deer are down on Twin Creek now,
sharing meadows with the cows.
Elk still range the upper hills,
hunting forage, not the frills
of lights upon an evergreen
or artificial set-up scenes,
of Santa Claus, complete with sleigh
and jumping deer—and I would say,
that Nature knows the season best.
Her decoration of the West
is natural and not contrived,
long years formed and not short-lived.
So I prefer the hoary frost,
the deeps snowdrifts, wind-storm tossed.
Sundog rainbows in the sky,
the Christmas star 'a-dancin' high,
bare cottonwoods and chickadees,
ravens cawing in the trees.
Here would come the Peace true-born—
Gift of the Child on Christmas morn.

© 2011, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


This poem is a part of Christmas at the BAR-D, 2011

 

Petticoat Rustlers

dThe tales of Wyoming's petticoat rustlers
relates both of them were lovely and fair.
Cattle Kate and Dutch Annie
were ladies of a type rather "rare."
Ella Watson was Cattle Kate's real name
and she settled on the Sweetwater
on land a rich cattleman wanted,
so he and fellow ranchers sought her.
They took her and her lover to be lynched from a skimpy pine,
on a hot day in the rough Sweetwater Rocks
'way back in July of eighteen-eighty-nine.
Then the rancher took their land
and claimed Ella was a lady of the night.
For a hundred years Ella was wronged
and folks still continue to argue and fight.
Years later she was proved innocent,
but she is still branded as Cattle Kate.
Most of the ranchers died hard deaths,
and forgiveness came too late.
Anna Richey was a beauty,
who grew up on the Hamsfork River.
She turned to cattle rustling,
for it gave her a thrill and a shiver.
The local folks called her Dutch Annie,
she was convicted of being a cattle thief.
The people knew she was guilty
and sending her to jail would be a relief.
She asked to be allowed to go home
to settle up her own affairs—
she was found poisoned to death,
in the ranch kitchen near the stairs.
She was the only woman in Wyoming
ever convicted of being a cattle thief.
One of my old friends knew her,
and remembered her fate with grief.
Petticoat rustlers, Ella and Anna,
though Ella was innocent,
separated by death by thirty years,
and none of the killers would ever repent.
I hope they ride together somewhere,
where the pastures run high with wild hay,
and the petticoat rustlers have found peace,
for forever and a blue sky day.

© 2012, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

Jean told us: "I was inspired to write it because it compares the two women in Wyoming's history who 'paid' a hard wage for being or not being cattle thieves. For 120 years Ella Watson, aka 'Cattle Kate,' who was lynched on the Sweetwater River in 1889 along with her lover/or possible husband, James Averill, had been branded as a cattle thief. Fact of the matter was, she wasn't and neither was James Averill. On the other hand, Anna Richey, known as 'Dutch Annie' around Kemmerer, Wyoming where I grew up, was a cattle thiefI was at her ranch 40-odd years ago. She was shot at but the would-be killer missed and after being convicted of stealing cattle she and her ranch hand were poisoned at the ranch. She died some 30 years after Ella Watson. People pretty much knew who her killer was, but he was never brought to justice. Just kind of an interesting twist to some western and Wyoming history, and figuring out that what you always hear about some folks isn't always true and other stories are forgotten."

 

The Cowboy Yard Sale

The cowpoke stopped by the yard sale,
they were having down the street.
Most stuff sold at those shindigs,
were junk that he didn't need.

But this one he really liked at once—
there were saddles and feed bags there,
a horse shoeing kit with rusty horse shoes,
and off to the side was a pinto mare.

There was a lariat and some good spurs.
That cowboy sure had a grin on his face—
wasn't sure if he was dreaming or not—
but this sure was his kind of place!

He bought the saddle right off,
then considering his good luck,
he bought a Stetson and the spurs,
and backed up his beat-up pickup truck.

The mare was a black and white pinto,
the kind he had always craved.
So he called his boss to haul the horse trailer in,
and about that yard sale he raved.

It was a while before the boss got there,
and said, "Pete, you got carried away!
Danged if I'll haul any more stuff again,
and no more days off on Saturday!"

But then, the boss got to looking around—
found a rifle just to his taste,
bought a pile of jeans stacked neatly up,
no use letting them go to waste.

They finally headed out to the ranch,
and unloaded all the stuff they'd bought—
Pete's wife and the rancher's glared at them
and wondered where they'd got

such a notion into their heads,
the barn was full of stuff.
But Pete and the boss unloaded the mare
and told them that they'd said enough.

Auctions and yard sales now were their plan,
so this is the end of our tale—
Never let a cowboy (or his boss)
get loose at a cowboy yard sale!

© 2013, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

The Cowboy Angel

He was just a rough old cowboy,
and somehow he'd come to fail—
for years he'd been riding broncos
and headed down a long, wide trail.
But all of a sudden, here he was,
wearing wings and oh, what a sorry tale,
somehow, he'd done something right
and ended up as a cowboy angel!
Ole Carl, he was rather puzzled,
so he wandered over to St. Pete
and Pete asked if he could help him
and told him to take a seat.
There were no logs or stumps to sit on
and there seemed to be quite a crowd,
so Carl pulled up what he could find—
it was a soft and fluffy cloud.
"Boss," he said in a wary tone,
there's something wrong, I fear,
Yah know I ain't angel material,
so what am I doing here?
Ya know I shot a man or two,
and I cussed like a lightnin' streak,
so is this heaven or what's going on?
The answer I need to seek."
St. Peter smiled and glance at the tally book
he kept on the new souls there,
and said, "Sorry, you're upset, Carl,
but we've decided this is where,
an old cowpoke like you is needed
to wrangle the others along—
I don't expect you can play a harp
and you sure can't carry a song.
But sometimes we need special angels
and when you'd come to die,
we did a lot of talking
and figured you'd qualify."

Carl sat and rubbed his old bald head,
he was puzzled purely plumb through.
"Wal, if'n I got to be an angel here,
Jest what do I have to do?"
Pete smiled and handed him a bridle
and pointed out a handsome horse,
grazing out on heaven's meadows—
"You'll take him, of course,
and ride on out to greet your pards.
Yes, cowboys are angels too.
Just give ‘em a cup of coffee storng
and they'll be glad to see you.
You see, just before you passed,
you took a bullet for Billy's wife.
She tried hard to save you, old pard,
but it was the end of your life.
And as the Lord is wont to say,
when life comes to an end—
there is no greater sacrifice
than to lay down your life for a friend.
So, Carl, you didn't mess up
and we've headed you up the right trail—
get some new duds and a Stetson—
‘cause now you're a cowboy angel!"

© 2013, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 



He's Back Home

Off he goes,
as the wild wind blows,
and he's loping his horse along.
Not much to see,
but wide open prairie,
but the sight gives his heart a song.
Oh the sagebrush is high,
and the creek has run dry,
and the fences go on for miles.
Over that rough dirt road
where he has often rode,
he glances 'cross the range and smiles.
He's been gone, you see,
in a far country--
where bullets and bombs were the call.
In Iraq he began,
then sent to Afghanistan,
and being back home is best of all.
--That is what I'd like to see,
as he rides past me,
but his name is on a stone on the hill.
Still his spirit is back home
and forever will roam,
with a smile, a song and a will . . .

© 2013, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

Jean comments, "The poem was inspired by Chance Phelps who was the first Wyoming soldier to die in the Iraq war around 2003. There was an HBO movie, 'Taking Chance,' made with Kevin Bacon who played the part of the soldier who escorted Chance's body home. Chance was from Dubois, Wyoming, 75 miles northwest of Lander."

She tells, "Chance was killed on April 9, 2004 (Good Friday) at Al Anbar, Iraq and was with the Third Batallion, 11th Marine Regiment. He would have been 20 years old on July 14, 2004." She shared this photo:

Chance was killed six months after his father, sculptor John Phelps, created the centerpiece for the Fremont County War Memorial, for which he was a model. The Memorial honors the memory of area soldiers from many wars.

Find more at chancephelps.org.

 

 

A Little Cowboy

He's just a little feller
who has energy to spare.
For 'most the day he's doing things
and running here and there.
John wants to be a cowboy,
and he has his hat and chaps.
He hasn't got a horse yet,
but dreams of them in his naps.

He's just a little feller
with a spirit that runs free,
just a little cowboy
who is cute as he can be.
He's got the backbone of a cowboy,
and he keeps real long hours,
running through the house
and the food that he devours.

He's got a little devil in him,
but have to say when he's asleep,
he looks just like an angel
any mom would surely keep.
He keeps his mama running,
gives her lots of exercise.
He's just a little feller
who ropes in a touch of paradise.

© 2014, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission

 

She told us, "That poem was inspired by my cousin's little boy, John, who just turned five. John has it in his mind to be a cowboy and likes to ride horses, handle chickens and just about anything else. He is a cute little guy and they live on a ranch near Hudson, Wyoming. He is the 7th generation of my mother's family, the Horneckers, who came to this area 145 years ago in 1869.
 




Christmas in a Cowboy Town

The little town was new-hatched
that Christmas of "way-back-when,"
just a few folks living there
with a few moving through now and again.

A school had started up that year
in a patched up trapper's cabin—
and the children were all excited
that education was going to happen.

The new teacher had heard of Christmas trees
and thought a community celebration
would be just the thing for the kids to do
in this far western part of the nation.

There were Indians, trappers and cowboys
and also few children and women—
quite a few saloons were there
and ambitions were fairly swimming.

The cabin school was much too small
for all the folks that might show up there,
so they commandeered the trading post
and planned a sort of Christmas fair.

Some old coots went to the mountains
to bring in a handsome tree—
but they'd been visiting a saloon,
and that explained their calamity.

Those boys weren't seeing too straight
and the tree they brought in was—pathetic.
The teacher wanted to "crown" them all,
but with help, it was soon copacetic.

They'd made strings of colored paper chains
and popped some popcorn too—
but the loppy tree was leaning and bare
and the teacher didn't know what to do.

So the owner of the trading post
donated spurs to hang on for the cowboys,
and silky hankies for the ladies too
and folks added some handmade toys.

Christmas came and so did the snow,
but that didn't stop the operation—
they ate, and danced and shared the gifts—
it was a regular inspiration.

That was close to 140 years ago—
and the town of Lander is thriving still—
thanks to a teacher and a trading post—
Christmas continues here with a happy will.

© 2014, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Jean comments
: This is based closely on the first Christmas celebrated at Lander, Wyoming in December, 1877, two years after the town sprang up on the site of an old fort.
 

 

A Rusty Surprise

My great uncle's homestead cabin
had long since fallen down.
But years back I picked up some tiles.
he'd decorated it with from town.

Now they were blue and pretty
when he put them up long ago
and when I stopped by his old cabin,
I found two of them in the snow.

They were a little bit rusty,
but the blue on the tiles showed through,
and I had an idea I'd take them home
and think about what I would do.

For Gillis had passed over long ago
and I got a kick out of the way he talked—
you would nod your head and let him go on,
And he crippled some when he walked.

Well 25 years later I came across
those two rusty, dusty old tiles.
I decided to paint a picture on each
and maybe bring back some smiles.

On one I painted his cabin
and I kept it for myself.
On the other I painted his brother's cabin
and I tucked it up on a shelf.

For when Red's daughter comes to visit,
for Christmas I'll have a surprise,
a picture of the cabin she never saw
and I hope I'll see joy in her eyes.

It's a simple little present,
that was easy enough to do.
And when I hand her that rusty memory—
I'll wish her a Happy New Year too!

© 2015, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission


Jean shared one of her horseshoe paintings:

 


 


 

Jean has shared photos and articles in Picture the West and Western Memories features, including:

 Family photos

  A vintage Lander photo

  Early Wyoming ranch life

   A photo of her great uncle's old cabin

Christmas Memories in the China Cabinet

"Great-Great Grandpa Gambled—With a Ranch and a Daughter" in Picture the West and Western Memories

A story about Western artist and "flintnapper" Tom Lucas from Lander, Wyoming

A story about her grandfather, Walt Mathisen; eight generations of Jean's family have ranched in the Lander area.

The story of a tree planted by her family over 117 years ago

A story about her family's brand, "Saga of the Old ND Brand Continues for 123 Years" in our Western Memories pages

 

 

Read Jean Mathisen's

A Dandy Cowgirl in Art Spur

and

The Little Christmas Stray in Art Spur

and

Poetry in Motion in Art Spur

and

Prime Time in Art Spur

and

When the Sundogs Danced in Art Spur

and

Some Christmas Cheer in Art Spur

and

Caught Up in the Moment posted with Art Spur poems

and

A Good Christmas Deed posted with 2011 Christmas Art Spur poems

and

Fairfield and Mornings on Horseback posted with Art Spur poems

and

Sitting in the Sun posted with 2011 National Day of the Cowboy Art Spur poems

and

Life's Long Trail in our Art Spur Project

and

Trail to Glory for Edna Jean Hornecker Irvine

and

New Year Toast posted with New Year Toasts for 2009

and

The Valley at Home posted with 2008 Cowboy Poetry Week information

and

 God Rest Ye Merry Grumps posted with 2007 Christmas poems

and

 The Cost, posted in our Veterans Day feature

and

Wrong Turn! posted with Holiday 2003 poems

and

  God Rest Ye Merry Cattlemen, posted with Holiday 2002 poems

and

  An Encounter and Carol of the Wild, posted with the Holiday 2001 poems

 

About Jean A. (Mathisen) Haugen

   I'm a native of Lander and Wyoming--my family has been here in the Lander Valley since 1869 and eight generations have been on ranches here.  I have been writing poetry (much of it cowboy poetry) since I was 8 years old and have published 6 books of poetry, along with poems appearing in about 25 chapbooks.  I also had poetry appear pretty steadily in the Wyoming Rural Electric News for 20 years.  I have participated in Gatherings in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I retired from the State of Wyoming DOT in October, 2003 and am now busily pursuing my writing.

I am a member of Cowboy Poets of Idaho, have been performing cowboy poetry about 15 years and writing it a lot longer!


We asked Jean why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she said:

I write cowboy poetry because it is a large part of my culture and heritage--six people that I know of in my family have written cowboy poetry. I have written it since before I was old enough to know it was cowboy poetry! I get a lot of enjoyment writing it and associating with the folks who also write it.

We also asked Jean about her books and she replied:

I have published 6 books of poetry over the past 25 years:  Wild Song, Wyoming Gate, Cache, Eagle Born, Wild Flour Rhymes: Poems and Songs of a Winter Moon" (these last two won the Wyoming State Historical Society fine arts poetry award and The Bucker.  I am currently working on a history book about Lander, Wyoming (which I have been going to write for 20 years!) and it may take me another 20 years to get it done!

If anyone wants one of the books they can write me at P.O. Box 167, Lander, WY  82520.

My first book, Wild Song which mostly has poems about Jackson Hole when I lived there and worked at the National Elk Refuge in the '70's, is out of print.  I have some of all of the rest of them and they cost about $5 each plus a couple bucks postage.  I am working on a seventh book, Cowboy Spoken Here, which will mostly be some of the historical articles I've written about Wyoming with a few poems scattered in--that one is still in the chute ...

Jean Mathisen at the Riverton, Wyoming gatherin' September 2000


Wyocpbk.jpg (7975 bytes) 

Jean Mathisen Haugen's poetry is included in Wyoming's Cowboy Poets. The 201-page book contains brief profiles of 28 Wyoming cowboy poets, their photos and samples of their poetry. The introduction is written by Montana humorist/poet Gwen Petersen.  The editor, Jean Henry-Mead, is a novelist and award-winning photojournalist, founder of the Western Writers Hall of Fame, and former teacher in the Wyoming Poetry in the Schools Program with Peggy Simson Curry. Read more about the book and at Jean Henry-Mead's Sagebrush and Sleuths web site, where you can order the book.  Wyoming's Cowboy Poets is also available by check or money order from Medallion Books, 8344 Shady Lane, Evansville, WY 82636 for $19.95 postpaid (paperback) or  $27.45 postpaid (hardcover). Please add 5% sales tax if ordered within Wyoming.

 

 

 

 

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