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JIM LYNCH
California

 


Beddin' Down

When the day’s drive is over
And the cattle have bedded down
The sun has long since settled
There’s just the crickets’ sound

The cook’s cleaned up the fixin's
The cows are mooin’ soft and low
We’re sittin’ ‘round the campfire
A gentle breeze begins to blow

The old songs have all been sung
The stories all been told
We’ve bragged about our horses
And the cowboys brave and bold.

Then hear the quiet of nighttime
We feel the warmth of God
Our spirits gently settle
Our heads begin to nod

Stars light up the heavens
The air is getting’ cool and damp
It’s night time on the prairie
It’s bed roll time in camp.

© 2014, Jim Lynch
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

 

Jim comments: A few years back, I was a buckaroo on a cattle drive from Timbuctoo, California, off of HWY 20, to Marysville, California. We did this for four or five years. We drove two hundred head of cattle for five days through the foothills and fields. There were three or four buckaroos, eight to twelve dudes, a couple ranch hands and cooks. Of the two hundred cattle, twenty-five were longhorns. We pushed the cattle from sun up to sunset.

"At night we camped out and after supper we would sit around the campfire, and a couple of folks played guitar and sang. I would recite cowboy poetry. It wasn't the only cattle drive I had been on, but it was so great: being under the stars, the fresh air, the songs, the stories we all told, the sounds of the cows and horses. Then to bed and up early for another day. The drive was the poem. 

    

 

The Gate

It’s a finger mangling closer that drives slivers right on through,
Clothed with boards of thorns, grown in hot sun, wind and blue,
Steel, held with barbed wire, it’s mean and stout and bleak,
That gate will take your pride away, and leave you mild and meek.

But someone’s got to man the gate, and your moves best not be slow,
When separating cows and calves, at the corrals of Slim Marrow.
It was almost shipping time, we were there to help ole Slim,
Branding, cutting, giving shots, there was six of us and him.

“Get in the chute,” Slim says to Mel, “And you three mount and ride,”
“King, you do the cutting on that horse that you call Pride,”
“And you,” Slim turns and says to me, “You go get in the gate.
We only have about two hundred pair to separate

“Now put the slick ears to the left, and let the rest go right.
Keep the bulls and mama cows back, don’t let those dang dogs fight.
Watch yourself, being afoot, while everyone else is mounted,
Keep that gate swinging fast, make sure those calves are counted.”

Well everything was going good, and then all hell broke loose,
Pride kicks the gate and then me, I swallow my plug of snoose.
The gates swings fast toward my head, I try to keep it in check,
A cow gets wedged, a big calf jumps, here comes the bloody wreck.

My boot gets caught, I twist my knee, my hat and gloves are gone,
I reach and grab those boards of thorns, drive slivers through my palm,
I hear a crack, see shooting stars; the corral spins around,
Someone yells, “Oh, he’ll be alright, just get him off the ground.”

I stagger up, clear my head, there’ll be no more backing down,
Next time we have a wreck, it won’t be me that’s on the ground,
We’re all most done, just one last bull, he’s coming like a train,
No time to think, he must be stopped; now I’m really praying.

I throw the gate to slow him down, it hits his head and feet,
A roaring crash, wood falls like rain, revenge is so damn sweet,
No one mourns….as they keep warm, around the branding fire,
That’s being fed with boards of thorns, it’s that dang gate's funeral pyre!

© 2014, Jim Lynch
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

 

Jim comments: This poem was in the making for years after doing day work at gatherings in the fall and spring for rancher friends who operated on leased ranges. The corrals were usually in rough condition, because the land owner had not used them for many years and had sold off his herd. The lessee rancher didn't want to invest very much in repairs because he wasn't sure he be back next year. Only absolute necessities were fixed.

There were always several greenhorns who were invited and enjoy their day in saddle as they played "cowboy for a day." Being in the separating gate was a great experience for them and usually produced a great deal of excitement for them and laughs for everyone.

The orders to let the heifer go or keep the steer back usually were greeted with a look of wonderment as they stared at the cattle down, face to face. Slivers, pinched fingers, and cowboy guacamole were their pay badge of initiation that was wore with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Most learned to climb a corral fence faster than they ever thought possible.

In the early '90s I took a poetry writing seminar from Paul Zarzyski in Elko, Nevada, at the National Poetry Gathering and those experiences came to life in this poem. He told us two things I will never forget: Let the words ring the anvil of your ear, and, a poem is never finished. The memories will last forever. In the middle '70s I was one of those greenhorns.

 

 


 

 

 

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