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San Antonio, Texas
About J. S. Hurst




The Modern Texan
(Texas Cowboy's Lament)

Coyotes still may sing their song
The sagebrush still may bloom
The cactus still is on the hill
And there's still a lot of room

but the modern Texan's come a ways
Sophistication has arrived
The horse is tethered in the barn
There's a pickup in the drive

His boots now have a "walking" heel
The spurs no where in sight
He seldom herds his cattle now
And he hits the clubs at night

Not quite an "urban" cowboy
Or a city slicker guy
but he's not the same as yesterday
And he sits and wonders why

The beef is not too healthy
Now it's chicken dish cuisine
The rustlers and the Indians
Are only on the screen

Oh yes, there's still the rodeo
But it's now about the clown
And not about the cowboy
And the steer that he throws down

And the music isn't cowboy
With "The bloom is on the sage"
It's that country crap with sex and stuff
That the kids and dancers crave

So I'll head back to the bunkhouse
And I'll turn on the T.V.
Yes, the cowboy's life has changed a bit
As we all can plainly see.

© 2002, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


About this poem, J. S. says:  I was thinking about Ol' Rusty one day...about him cussin' the traffic and yelling at his pickup and I realized that Ol' Rusty just was not living in the right time for a real cowboy.  Like most cowboys, Rusty never was much for a lengthy conversation.  A "yup", "nope", or a nod of the head describes his primary communication skills.  Anyhow, I got to thinkin' about what he must really think of the Modern Texas Cowboy.   

The Bar-B-Que of Joe McGee

Thar's weird things done in the Southwest sun
By them cowboys out on the trail;
The cattle trails have thar secret tales
That would make yur face turn pale;
Them starry nights have seen strange sights,
But the strangest they ever did see
Wuz that night near the back of 'n ol' line shack
I Bar-B-Que'd Joe McGee.

Now Joe McGee wuz from Tennessee,
Him 'n Sam, his only brother.
Sam choose the sights of the Northern Lights,
While, Joe listened to his mother.
She said he'd do best by headin' southwest,
Whur the sun is warm 'n bright
It seemed like each brother wuz like the other;
They got chilled in the cool of night.

So this 'mother's joy' b'cum a cowboy,
In the heat of the West Texas sun.
He wander'd the west in his chaps n' his vest
Seekin' work or some cattle to run.
It wuz late one fall, as we cowboys all,
Wur roundin' up strays on high land.
Joe showed up at our camp, like 'n old saddle tramp
Said, "Boys, could you use one more hand?"

There wurn't much work to do, we wur 'most nearly through,
Not many more doggies to find.
But, "Joe", I replied, "you're welcome to ride,"
'Cause that cowboy looked plum' in a bind.
He 'n I doubled back by an ol' line shack,
Whur we thought some more strays might be found.
And before sunset, we figured we'd get
Them strays back to lower ground.

Thur wuz storm clouds in sight, it wuz close to night,
When we got to the ol' line shack
But, we found no strays, in that rocky maze
And I figur'd we'd better'd head back.
Well, Tex, said he, "It appears to me,
Thar's a blizzard in them clouds so black.
It's gittin' cold I'm afear'd, 'n I'm mighty skeered
We'll be frozen right here in our track.

So, we both quit our ride 'n we went inside
Of that line shack to sit out that storm.
We lit up a fire, 'n we piled the wood higher,
And soon it wuz cozy 'n warm.
Ol' Joe wuz O.K. 'bout havin' to stay,
He just wanted to hol' up that night.
We wuz out of the storm 'n the shack wuz warm
While outside, that cold wind wuz a fright.

Well, the blizzard hit 'n Joe had a fit
He wuz afraid that he'd surely freeze.
He sat in the corner like he wuz a goner,
He wuz prayin' down on his knees.
Well, that storm raged fur days, 'n Joe b'cum crazed
When the grub 'n the wood wuz gone.
First he froze his toes 'n later his nose
Then his face looked all pale 'n drawn.

Then, Tex, said he, we might not get free,
>From the wrath of this Hellish storm.
Promise me now, though I don't know how;
Just take me someplace whur it's warm.
I told ol' Joe, "Yes", but I couldn't guess
How I'd keep that promise I'd said.
In a day more or so, it wuz Joe's time to go
And he lay on the bunk cold 'n dead.

It Didn't do no harm; I took his clothes to keep warm.
And it looked like I'd starve 'fore I froze.
Well, my hunger wuz great, I begun to berate
This life as a cowboy, I'd choose.
Then I stared at that chunk that wuz Joe on that bunk
And a strange thing I started to see.
Though the thought wuzn't sweet, that carcass of meat
Started lookin' like vittles to me.

I devised me a plan to cook a dead man
And I knew just what I had to do;
I ripped boards from his bunk, like a man wild 'n drunk.
I wuz fixin' to Bar-B-Que!
As the snow finally stopped, I gingerly hopped,
Out the door, in a ragin' fit
To clear off some snow 'n drag out ol' Joe,
To a quickly made Bar-B-Que pit.

With an ol' piece of wire, I strung Joe o'er the fire,
Then, I piled on the wood from inside.
As the flames roared higher from off'n that fire,
Poor ol' Joe's frozen eyes opened wide.
His mouth opened then, 'n he said with a grin,
"Kept yur promise just like ya said.
I'm sure warmed up now, 'cause ya figured out how
To thaw me out, from my toes to my head!"

"I wuz thinkin' that blizzard had frozen my gizzard
And my life as a cowboy wuz through.
But, I'm thaw'd out it seems, 'cause them Bar-b-Que schemes,
Wuz exactly the right thing to do.
So, pile more wood on, 'til it's finally gone,
'Cause I still need some heat on my hide,
Since I left Peachtree, down in Tennessee,
This has been my most memorable ride."

Thar's weird things done in the Southwest sun
By them cowboys out on the trail;
The cattle trails have thar secret tales
That would make yur face turn pale;
Them starry nights have seen strange sights,
But the strangest they ever did see
Wuz that night near the back of 'n ol' line shack
I Bar-B-Que'd Joe McGee.

With apologies to Robert Service and
my utmost respect for his work.

© 2003, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

About this poem, J. S. says: As a fan of Robert Service, I've long enjoyed the subject matter, flow and rhyme of many of his poems.  While searching through several biographic accountings, I discovered that he had spent almost two years during the years of 1898 to 1890 traveling throughout the American Southwest taking various jobs.

What if Robert Service had stayed on in the Southwest?  Perhaps he would have written poems about cowboys, trail rides and roundups instead of the goldfields of the Klondike.  Or would he even have been prompted to embark on his now famous writing career with treasures like, "The Cremation of Sam

If Robert Service actually had traveled in that opposite direction, what stories would his poems have told?   What if Sam McGee had a brother, Joe, who wandered down to cowboy country instead of going north with Sam? Perhaps a 'Southwest version' of Robert Service may have instead written about Sam's brother, Joe.

Considering those possibilities prompted me to write the parody.

Though written in fun, I hope that it will be taken as a tribute to that fine poet.  If Service had chosen the Wild West...well, then "The Bar-B-Que of Joe McGee" just might have been a real Robert Service Poem.


Grandpa's Saddle

Thar's a saddle in the tack room
That I polish now and then
It's over in the corner
That's whur it's always been

Pa told me it was Grandpa's
A man I didn't know
He died when I was very young
He didn't get to see me grow

But, Pa often tells me stories
'Bout Grandpa's cowboy days
Mendin' fence and ranchin'
And roundin' up them strays

He was a simple cowboy
Went about his work 'n such
Pa told me he wuz quiet
He didn't talk too much

Pa can spin some Grandpa yarns
When we sit around at night
He usta ride with Grandpa
And it musta been a sight

Grandpa wuz quite a roper
Though, I guess he didn't brag
The best one in these parts, they say
Him 'n his ol' nag

And that saddle in the tack room
Wuz Grandpa's pride and joy
It served him well for many years
From the time he wuz a boy

Why, it roped a million doggies
While he branded all them years
He durn'd near wore that saddle out
Or so that it appears

So, I listen to them stories
Then I head out to the barn
I walk into the tack room
Remembering a yarn

Then I pick me up some saddle soap
And set out thar a spell
I polish Grandpa's saddle
I hope that he can tell

Don't guess I'll ever use it
When I saddle up my horse
'Cause it b'longs here in the corner
With lots a memories of course

I never really knew him
But we're close as we can be
As I polish on that saddle
That Grandpa left for me

© 2003, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ol' Lightnin'

When I wuz just a youngster
On my Pa's ol' cattle spread
There wuz an Ol' Cayuse named Lightnin'
That I watered and I fed

Well, I always ask'd to ride him
But my Pa would just say, "No,
He's a mean and evil critter
That Cayuse would lay ya low"

"Git some meat upon yer bones, son
'Fore ya tackle that ol' horse
He'd throw ya clear to Kingdom Come
Or maybe even wurse"

Ever year, I got some bigger
And with Lightnin' gettin' old
He wuz lookin' a whole lot tamer
And I wuz gettin' purdy bold

So, one day I bridled Lightnin' up
And I threw a saddle on
And as my foot slipped in the stirrup
That Ol' mangy horse wuz gone

He flew out past the corral thar
And he headed up the way
Though I yelled "Hey, Whoa" to Lightnin',
I just couldn't stop that bay

Then that head went down between his legs
And he begun to buck
I wuz wishin' I had heeded Pa --
I wuz runnin' out a luck

Then I heard my Pa a yellin'
"Don't bail off that crazy horse"
He wuz  tellin' me to rein him in
Which I couldn't do, of course

Lightnin' headed toward the pasture
But, he left me by the gate
With a bruised and dusty body
Twisted in a figure-eight

Well, we never found the saddle
Just a tattered bridle rein
And I knew that years would go by
'Fore I rode that nag again

But the very next tomorrow
Pa saddled up that Ol' Cayuse
Then he motioned me to climb on board
For some more of his abuse

But a mighty strange thing happened
As I climbed aboard that day
Ol' Lightnin' left me in the saddle
He didn't buck - or run away

"Son", my Pa, he later told me
"When life's trials get ya down
Just climb back into the saddle
And ya can turn yer luck around"

That Ol' horse taught me a lesson
I remember to this day
Just climb back up in the saddle
And keep tryin', 'til ya stay

© 2003, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


J. S. says:  When I was a young boy, we had an old horse that were just plain mean.  Nobody rode him much except my Pa.  I made the mistake of thinkin' that I was big enough to handle him...but as the poem points out, he was just as mean as his reputation. and he became a big part of my early education!  


The Cowboy and the Preacher

Hank had come to town and wuz sitting around
At a dusty ol' saloon
Played a hand of cards with some of his pards
While the piano man played a tune

He'd rode in from the range with a bit of change
And thought he would try his luck
But his luck ran low and it wuz time to go
He wuz down to his last sawbuck

He strolled up to the bar with some others thar
And had him a drink or two
Then he thought it wuz wise to say his goodbyes
And find somethin' else to do

Hank left the saloon a whistlin' that tune
In his head from the piano man's beat
He straightened his hat and said "Howdy" to Matt
As they passed on the dusty street

The sun wuz low and it wuz time to go
To check on his faithful horse
But as he turned in the street he happened to meet
The preacher, ol' Reverend Morse

Now the preacher man had developed a plan
To approach Hank concerning his soul
With a smile on his face he turned and kept pace
While the verses just started to roll

"You know, Hank, Heaven waits past the Pearly Gates
Fur the cowboy that changes his ways
Give up cards and rye; I'm a tellin' ya why
You'll be headin' fur brighter days."

"Fur gamblin' s a sin that'll do ya in
'N drinkin' will just bring ya down"
But ol' Hank just smiled while the preacher piled
Them righteous words all around

When ol' Morse had his say to Hank on that day
The cowboy looked down at the ground
Then Hank lifted his head to the preacher and said
"Let me tell ya some things that I've found"

"I've read the Good Book (at least gave it a look)
but readin' s not easy fur me
But I've heard the story 'bout the good Lord's glory
And how he wuz hung on a tree

I once't knew a man that followed the plan
And lived like a saint all his life
Still the times wuz hard even with all his regard
Fur religion...he still had his strife

Now I'm 'n ol' cowpoke, a simple bloke
Not much book learnin' up thar in muh head
But I know right from wrong and muh feelings is strong
So I'll just do muh best 'til I'm dead

As fur me and the Lord; well, we're both in accord
That I'll live until this life is through
I'll work night and day and occasionally play
A hand of stud poker or two

And I also think an occasional drink
At the bar won't blaspheme the Lord
When that ol' Glory stagecoach makes its final approach
Well, I'm expectin' to be right on-board!"

Then ol' Hank tipped his hat and well, that wuz just that
And he left to go git his ol' horse
While the preacher just stood like ol' Hank thought he would
With no more to say, of course

'Cause the good Lord cares fur a cowboy's prayers
And He listens thar out on the range
A cowboy knows much more than he shows
But he's set in his ways and won't change

He'll spend his days with his cowboy ways
Riding and tendin' his herd
He's a simple man that fits in God's plan
And he lives purdy close to the word

Guess ol' Hank just rode by his own simple code
'N it served him all right I suppose
Why, just breathin' air wuz his own simple prayer
Fur livin' the life that he chose

When Hank cashes in, it's sure that he'll win
A trip to that Pearly Gate
Fur he's done no man wrong 'n his feelings is strong
On livin' his days good and straight

Oh, some folks will still judge with nary a budge
From thar thinkin' what's right and what's wrong
But the Man upstairs hears everyone's prayers
'n only He decides who'll come along

© 3/16/04, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


J. S. says: My Pa never drank or played cards, but he carried a bag of tobacco and rolled a smoke or two now and then.  He was a good man but the preacher seemed to think that Pa's smokin' wuz gonna keep him out of heaven! Sure did confuse me when I was a, well I reckon this poem set a few things straight!


Campfire Coffee

Thar's n' ol' pot in muh saddle bag
With dents n' stains n' chips
With a battered ol' tin drinkin' cup
That I take on fencin' trips

That pot's made a lot of coffee
It wuz my Pa's fur many a year
Guess it's heard a lot of stories
Settin'  'round a campfire's cheer

Spinnin' yarns while drinkin' coffee
'Round the campfire on the range
Is a welcome time fur cowboys
That I hope will never change

'Cause that coffee warms yer body
N' the stories fill yer soul
It's a peaceful time fur a cowboy
'Fore spreddin' out his ol' bedroll

Life is full of simple pleasures
Fur a cowboy now and then
Like that dented up ol' coffee pot
And that cup made out of tin

© 2004, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


J. S. told us: My Pa had an ol' blue and white flecked granite coffee pot that had sure seen more than a few gallons of coffee as well as being in on a few of my Pa's yarns!


When the Lord made this land He had Him a plan
Fur the mountains and prairies and streams
And I love the ol' west, 'cause it's simply the best
Of God's country to hold in yer dreams

But thar's one thing it seems to mar them thar dreams
It's a thing that I don't understand
It's how God when He planned this wonderus land
Figured cactus would help a cowhand

Thar's hardly a day they ain't in the way
And they stick in yer hide at a touch
Though some blossom rare on the dusty land there
I really don't like 'em too much

They're "a thorn in yer side" each time you ride
As they clutter the edge of the trail
'N if ya git throwed from yer bronc on the road
Just hope thar ain't one 'neath yer tail

'Cause they stick like a leach and if you can't reach
One stuck in yer ol' backside
It'll fester and burn with each bend and turn
And it hurts plum like hell when ya ride

So, as I take that last ride past the Great Divide
And I peer through that Pearly Gate
Hope St. Pete sez to me "Pard, heaven is free
from them cactus down thar that ya hate!"

© 2004, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Ol' Stock Tank

Over 'cross the valley
Thar's a stock tank on the ranch
Been thar fur lotsa years now
By an' ol' dried-up creek branch

Thar's a worn n' rusty windmill
That's been running thar for years
Pumpin' cool and crystal water
Fur them bulls n' cows n' steers

You might say that's it's a landmark
'Cause it's been thar fur so long
With it's creakin' windmill standin'
crankin' out its lonesome song

Why, back when I wuz a youngster
We used it fur a swimming hole
We could even do some divin'
Offn' a juttin' cedar pole

And further down a draw thar
Wuz a place I learn'd to shoot
Aimin' guns at cans and bottles
And a gnarly cedar root

I could share some wondrus stories
'Bout the days spent as a boy
growin' up with a ranchin' childhood
where jus' livin' wuz a joy

Oh, we all had work and chorin'
And things we had to do
But we knew thar wuz that stock tank
When the chorin' all wuz through

Me n' Billy Joe McKinley
Used to play n' swim n' joke
And we'd talk about the future
When we'd be a grown cowpoke

Well, this spread is mine, I reckon
Since my Pa passed on it seems
But those days I still remember
When recallin' childhood dreams

It wuz just a week last Tuesday
When I saddled up my bay
And rode down there to the valley
Thinkin' back along the way

And when I finally got thar
In that warm ol' Texas sun
I just peeled my shirt and boots off
Thought I'd have a bit of fun

So I quenched my thirst for yesterday
By divin' in that ol' tank
And I swum around a while thar
Thinkin' all the folks to thank

Thanks to God fur all His mercy
Thanks to Pa fur this ol' spread
Thanks to all my childhood memories
Nestled in this cowboy's head

© 2005, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

J. S. told us, "Well, it seems that just about anybody that growed up in a farm or ranch area could spin a tale or two about "the ol' swimmin' hole".  With all the changes in this ol' world...sometimes our ol' swimming hole ain't even thar no more.  But, even if they're gone,  they live forever in our memories of being young.  And sometimes, it shore feels good jus' to take a cool dip in our own memories of a childhood swimmin' hole."



A mule's mighty tough 'n when workin' gits rough
They're right handy fer doin' a chore
They'll out-work a horse, but they're stubborn of course
'N ya jus' got to watch 'em much more

Mules 'r strange 'uns indeed, a cantankerous breed
A "handful" to manage it seems
Right hard to per-dict and yer patience is licked
When workin' them stubborn mule teams

I once't used some mules to pull wagon 'n tools
Along with some fencin' supplies
They wuz doin' okay 'til the end of the day
Then they dealt me an ornery surprise

With the sun settin' low, it wuz 'bout time to go
So, I headed on back to the ranch
As I stopped fer a gate, it wuz gittin' real late
When them mangy ol' mules saw thar chance

As I stepped off the wagon, with my poor ol' tail draggin'
To git down and open a gate
Them-thar mules saw thar chance to head fer the ranch
'Cause them loose-lying reins sealed my fate

As the gate opened wide, I wuz off to the side
When them mules pulled their ears sorta back
They took off like a shot and this cowboy wuz caught
Jus' standin' right thar in muh track

Whal, as I yelled, "WHOA!"  to ol' Jenny 'n Flo
Them mules headed off in a rout
They wuz runnin' 'n brayin' but, they sure weren't a stayin'
'Cause thar plans left this ol' cowboy out

I run after the wagon, with my hopes now a saggin'
While they clean disappeared from muh view
I yelled 'n I cussed, kicked muh boots in the dust
Thar wern't nuthin' this cowboy could do

I pulled muh hat low, then I started to go
I slowly walked back to the ranch
Soon the moon shone bright, it wuz into the night
When the lights at the ranch met muh glance

Whal, I reached the corral, with muh temperament foul
'N thar wuz ol' Jenny 'n Flo
With remains of the wagon that they were still draggin'
Standin' thar with no place else to go

I unhitched the pair and continued to swear
As I hung up the harness 'n then
Got 'em curried and fed and started to head
To the bunkhouse, I sure wuz done in

It wuz all quite a joke that this careless cowpoke
Had been 'bested' by ol' a pair of mules
I'd done lost muh ride and had wounded muh pride
And scattered 'most all of muh tools

'N so to this day, if I worked fer pay
At ranchin' with fencin' 'n such
Whal, I ain't no quitter, but I wouldn't consider
Usin' mules . . . I don't like 'em that much

© 2005, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

J. S. told us, "My Pa had a team of mules when I was growin' up and this poem's mostly a true story though the mules' names have been changed to protect their privacy."


Goin' to Town

I jumped into the pickup
It's our buckboard now-a-days
'N I headed out fur Rios
A little town down thar a-ways

It's been a month or two
Since I even left the ranch
But, I take the time to go to town
When 'n if I git the chance

Well, I stopped in at the corner
Jus' to have a cup of joe
'N to catch up on the news around
With a waitress, name of Flo

Billy Mack wuz in the corner
Havin' breakfast don't you know
So's I sit a spell 'n talked with him
B'fore I had to go

Seems the rain has been a bit sparse
'N they're drillin' up the ways
Fur some oil on the McFarland Ranch
It's done a lot these days

'N the Callahans had themselves a girl
And Marci's doin' fine
Ben wuz wishin' for a son this time
Just to carry on the line

Sheriff Becker caught some fellers
Tryin' to rustle up some steers
It's first time thar's been rustlin' here
Fur nigh on to twenty years

Well, I bought muhself some coffee
'N a sack a pinto beans
Then I got me a replacement
Fur them sorry wore out jeans

Then I climbed into muh pickup
'N headed back out to the ranch
But I'll go back into to town again
Next time I get the chance

© 2006, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


J. S. told us, "If you never lived around a small western town, just stop by a diner or gas station when you're passin' through. Grab a cup of coffee and stick around a few minutes. You'll hear more real news in 15 minutes than you can read in the New York Times in a month! (not to mention insightful political commentary)... With radios, TV and periodicals these days, seems the news would be covered.  But if you want the real just got to go into town once in a while to get caught up with the latest."


Bronc Ridin'

He took his chance and he knew at a glance
He had drawn him a wily brute
You just never know how long  you can go
Until you get out of the chute

Out through the gate to meet  his fate
The seconds begun to tick
The bronc left the ground and spun around
Then begun to buck and kick

Those spurs dug in through  another spin
And a hat flew high in the air
With the saddle a quakin'
and his bones a shakin'

He wuz a workin' to stay up there
He made a correction as he changed direction
But it didn't seem hardly enough
He lost his seat but lands on his feet
Gol-darn, but that bronc was  tough

With his hat back on and his ride long gone
He waves to the crowd with a grin
That cowboy know'd that he might get throwed
But the next time he just might win

© 2006, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



J. S. Hurst was prompted to respond to our What is Cowboy Poetry? feature:

You folks solicited opinions. Iím not much for getting in the middle of controversy, but I do feel strongly about a few things.  So, here goes:

My Pa told me that opinions were like rear-ends . . .ever body has one.  I reckon itís time I shared mine (opinions that is) with the folks at the Bar D Ranch.

Is cowboy poetry only rhymed, metered verse?

Iíve been writing poetry since 1956, at least thatís the first one I saved. Iíve only written cowboy poetry for about six or seven years.  I write every day and write all kinds of poetry including metered and rhymed, blank verse, Haiku and old style (triolets, sonnets, etc.). I usually write two or more poems a day and I write for the love of writing.  I always hope that sometime, someone, friend or kin, or even a total stranger may run across one and get some enjoyment from it. But even if no one ever read them, I would still write them.

I write cowboy poetry because itís the most honest, direct way to spin a poetic yarn and itís simply a pleasure and challenge to write one well. Also, it takes me back to memories of my childhood and times with my father. 

 Somewhere most contemporary poetry got Ďevolvedí into something that the plain olí regular man on the street (or in the saddle) canít always relate to.   Sometimes I sort of get the feeling that the contemporary poet is laughing up his sleeve while all the academics try to figure out the symbolism and deep meaning in their work. 

I have no problem with blank verse; however, for me, the rhyme and lyric flow of metered verse only adds to the pleasure of reading or hearing it.

The thing about cowboy poetry is that the reader is never left hanging as to what the poet is talking about.  If one can paint a picture or tell a story that is pleasing in blank verse whether itís about cowboy-ing or just a beautiful sunriseÖwell, I really donít have a problem with that. 

Itís simply that for my eyes and ears, rhymed and metered verse is just more pleasant.  And if contemporary thinking is that the old, tried and true rhyme and meter are archaic or without present value, let them try to match all those great poets who wrote in rhymed and metered verse with timeless style and content. They are timeless in their genius.  I think that cowboy poetry just goes down better; that is, it is more palatable and enjoyable if we stick to the tried and true traditions.    

Must poets be cowboys or ranchers?

I may be wrong, but Iíve seen high dollar cattle dealers and ranch owners with lots of holdings that didnít seem to have a cowboy bone in their bodies. I think that being a cowboy is from the inside; not the outside. 

I havenít lived on a ranch for nearly sixty years. I used to wear cowboy boots, but I quit wearing boots years ago because they hurt my feet and I didnít need them for my work.  I gave my favorite Stetson to my brother-in-law because he admired it, I didnít wear it much and I didnít need it to remember and admire the western tradition. Iím not a rancher or living on a ranch any longer Ė why should I make myself up to look like something that I no longer work at. Urban cowboys are just that.  Most can do the two-step but have never set a horse, harnessed a team or threw a rope.  I have done those things; just because Iím off the ranch doesnít mean Iím not a cowboy somewhere in my heart.  To me, being a cowboy is a way of thinking. Itís being true to a tradition.  Itís a love for the basic good in our heritage and western culture.  Itís shooting straight and doing the right thing no matter what you choose to do. 

I do think that itís almost impossible to write about something that you havenít experienced or know nothing about.  And, I think that without being exposed to the cowboy life and western culture, I would be at a loss to write about it. Of course thatís just me.  The poems I write are mostly what Iíve lived or they have been gleaned from stories told by my father and his friends just sitting around and relating their experiences.  Sometimes, though, they simply appear to me because of my love and admiration of the west and its tradition.  If someone can write authentic and honest cowboy poems without knowing or feeling them insideÖmore power to them.

Should it be written only for recitation?

Golly, I know thatís traditionally the way itís done; I could read aloud but, I can barely remember my own phone number.  If I had to get up and recite my poems by memory, Iíd be hard pressed to do it.  I love to hear someone else read or recite my poems or any other poems aloud, but even if the reader reads one silently and has a smile on their face when finished, I figure that the poet has done a pretty good job of it. 

However, Iíve heard some good poetry recited on stage by a fella or gal dressed up for the part.  Itís just plain pleasurable; but what about us folks that get tongue-tied.  And, what about those times just sitting at home by a good fire and reading cowboy poetry silently to yourself?  If a cowboy poet does his (or her) job right, youíre right there if itís read aloud or silently.  Cowboy poetry paints a picture and you should be able to see that picture clearly, when either reading it silently or aloud.

Has cowboy poetry lost its way or is it evolving?

Itís been said that nothing is permanent except change.  However, I think that we had better be careful.  There are some things better left as they are.  The magic of cowboy poetry is in the fact that it is what it is. 

Shucks, Iíve experimented with writing cowboy Haiku. (I pretty much keep it to myself) but when you look at what those original Haiku poets were trying to accomplish, well, itís not a lot different than what a cowboy poet has in mind when he paints a picture with words. Iíll leave the option open to those who will follow us, but as for me, I like cowboy poetry just the way it is.

Thanks for letting me get in my two-cents worth.

 Cowboy Poetry


I was thinkin' back a day or so
About cowboy poetry
Exactly what the idea was
And how it came to be

Perhaps back on a lonely trail
With no phones or radios
Cowboys began to think 'em up
'Cause it was handier than prose

And when they hung a rhyme on it
It was easier you see
To remember what they'd thought about
Stashed in their memory

Then in the evening over campfires
When the workin' day was through
Cowboys told 'em to each other
When there weren't much else to do

And later, some got printed
And spoke upon a stage
Them stories 'bout that country
Where the bloom is on the sage

Some got plum commercial
And lost real cowboy themes
When other writers got involved
Some things got changed it seems

Yet, still there is some poetry
About the cowboy way
That still holds up pretty well
And it's still around today

Has cowboy poetry evolved?
Well, I reckon that is true
But there's still some
cowboy poems out there
To be enjoyed by me and you

Let's not be getting' fussy
'Bout how a poem should be
Just judge it on its merits
And how it sounds to you and me

We can't be makin' lots of rules
In a country that is free
But the good stuff will survive, I guess
Good Cowboy Poetry

© 2006, J. S. Hurst
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Read J. S. Hurst's A Christmas to Remember, posted with 2006 Christmas poems.



About J. S. Hurst:

I had the good fortune to spend some time during my early youth back in the forties on a ranch in the sand hills of western Nebraska, where my father was the foreman.  "A ranch in Nebraska" you ask? Well, it sure weren't large by Montana and Wyoming standards, but if you're on foot and hoofin' across seven thousand acres, you know that it ain't no farm!  I attended school in a one-room schoolhouse and would return home to watch the wranglers going about their chores.

This was during the radio days of kid's programs like Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B with his Indian friend, Harka and his dog, Hero.  Saturday found me listening to Gene Autry broadcasting from the Melody Ranch-listening to those programs while, at the same time, seeing the activities of round up and branding cattle made me feel like a genuine cowboy.  I all too soon moved from the Taylor Ranch to a clod bustin' farm in Iowa.  I attended college at Peru State College in Nebraska and later became a "city slicker" after returning home from the military.  But I love the great outdoors. Camping with a bedroll under the stars always puts the world in perspective.

For the past nearly forty years, I have made San Antonio, Texas my home. Now let me tell you, there's still some real ranches and real cowboys in Texas!  A few years ago, I made the acquaintance of a cowboy named Rusty Gilbert.  He's not exactly a full time rancher any more and spends a lot of time providin' open range style cookin' for groups, outings and the annual trail ride before rodeo, complete with chili, beans and campfire biscuits. He dresses the part and he ain't pretendin'.  I've been writing poetry off and on since 1956, but my first cowboy poem was a long one about Rusty's campfire cooking and due to a crashed hard drive, I never printed a second copy and Rusty has the only one in existence hanging on his tack room wall. I also write some Cowboy Haiku, a bit of a dichotomy (but that's a whole 'nuther story).



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