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I Do Not Lead a Cowboy's Life

I do not lead a cowboys life, though I was raised by some.
I did not wish to fill my fridge by riding on my bum.
So off I went to hi-tech school, computers as my trade.
I thought I had escaped the ranch with choices I had made.

Some years went by and I decided I should get a wife.
I found a town along the beach where we could make a life.
Then traipsed down to the Square Dance Hall to see who I could find.
Her dancing style and beach physique sure made up my mind.

It wasn't long 'til we were hitched, and entered wedded bliss.
Just us, three cats, two dogs, a horse; Hey! what the heck is this?
I looked around at my new life, and I just had to stare --
My wife sure seemed just like my ma, with critters everywhere.

Before I knew it we were raising horses, cats and dogs.
We pondered whether we should add chickens or maybe hogs.
We sold the kittens and the pups to buy our horses hay.
Horses though, take several years 'til they begin to pay.

We had to move away from town, our critters didn't fit
The house we had, its tiny yard.  The neighbors said to git!
We moved again, across the land, with our menagerie,
Our herd had grown to where we had to get some feed for free.

Now we live on our small ranch, with pastures growing hay,
But all them critters sure do make for one long day.
I'm up each day way too soon for morning chores and such.
Then finally get to my computer, the job I love so much.

My commute is longer than I'd like, to go down the hill to work.
But critters need to eat, so my duty I won't shirk.
These days with any car, you know, my gas bill weighs a ton.
We live up in the hills, in the Valley of the Sun.

When my brain is just too tired, I head home to relax.
And learn that fences need repair, and pipes have brand new cracks.
Those horses seem to think that breaking things is fun.
We've fifteen now, and all their play sure keeps me on the run.

More years go by, our kids are grown, with lives they call their own.
I think about retiring soon, to reap what I have sown.
But I can't quit my job, not yet, I'll tell you true --
The cowboys life (that I don't lead) would consume me if I do.

When I'm not out riding fence, or stacking bales of feed,
Or taking cats to some big show, or fixing where there's need,
My fridge stays full, I can't complain, and I do love my wife,
But all around I turn to look and see a cowboy's life.

Oh sure, it's different than it was back in my grand-dad's day,
But a cowboys life don't change that much, is what I've got to say.
Cowboys work too hard for me, I'd rather sip my Rum,
Just typing at my computer screen, yep -- riding on my bum.

2006, Jesse Chisholm
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jesse told us about his inspiration for this poem, which he said came to him in part when he read the BAR-D submission guidelines.  He wrote:

I was reading through various poems on the Cowboy Poetry site.  On your page about submissions, you indicated you like auto-biographical pieces that focus on "The Western Life."

I'd always considered myself a "Western" person, but that phrase "The Western Life" caused me to pause and realize that I do not, in fact, live the "Western Life."  So I started from there, writing about how I do live a reflection of what I think of as a "Western Life." Some aspects of my life would fit nicely in that "Western Ideal" while others are quite at odds.

My grandfather operated a farm.  He called it that, though his primary crop was Brangus Beef.  At that time of my life, he lived in Louisiana.  He said it wasn't a "ranch" unless there was so little water you had to measure your property in "acres per cow."  Since Louisiana was wet enough he could measure it in "cows per acre," it was only a farm.  My father joined the Navy, to escape the "farm."  But then he married a woman who liked having horses around.  I'm the number three child of five, so by the time I came along, we had a horse or two, a couple of dogs and a few cats. We don't count the lizards, as they were volunteers in the rafters in Louisiana.

So, with visits to my grandparent's "farm" and helping with my mother's critters, I felt I was growing up on the "ranch."  It wasn't until I worked one Summer on a New Mexico ranch that I realized I'd had it easy when I was a child.

Not wanting to work that hard, I went off to college and studied computers as my preferred method of not going hungry.  I've been working full time in the computer industry for 23 years now.  But when I got married, I found that I, too, had married a woman who liked having horses around.

So, my poem evolved to shows the full circle that my life has been. Growing up with lots of critters.  Trying to "escape my roots."  And ending up right where I started, surrounded by critters.

The poem does go a little into the future.  We still have about 15 horses and 20 some odd cats in our breeding programs.  We gave up the dogs as three species got to be too much.  The youngest of our two daughters is still in college, not quite out on her own yet.  I'm not giving serious thought about retiring until she is on her own and shows some success in whatever she decides to do.

About Jesse Chisholm:

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  I grew up in Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, and Colorado.  Once I moved out on my own, I lived in New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California.  No, I'm not a military kid.  My dad worked as an engineer for university research projects. When one project was over, the next project just might be at a different university. 



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