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About Jody Fergerstrom

one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
recognized for her poem, The Bottom Line

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



The Bottom Line

There's units in cow-calves, supply and demand
Emotional links that tie to the land
You build in a margin and hope for the best
Things sure are changin' out here in the west!

Where do Herefords and Angus, Bramers or cross
Fit into the puzzle of profit and loss?
Sell now to a buyer? Retain ownership?
Will the value of cows take a rise or a dip?

Is a branded program the best way to sell?
Your current break-even is one way to tell.
Crunchin' the numbers, assumption of costs
All these decisions are sure to exhaust!

How can you get the best price for a steer?
Do you need the cash now? Or hold 'till next year?
Is a liquidation of cows coming up?
How do you get the most bang for your buck?

Should you invest in a purebred bull?
Or start raising sheep for their thick fluffy wool?
Are the bloodlines you're running the best for your spread?
All of these questions stampede round your head!

Do you do work 'a horseback, or on ATV?
You realize ranching has no guarantee.
Next time this year you'll be working in town
You fear, as you survey your land with a frown.

Dust clouds hover low just off the ground
The grass - brown and cracklin' for acres around.
Thunder is rumbling up in the hills
A lightin' struck fire would add to your ills!

You're up and you're running from dawn's early light
And work like a martyr through cold, sleepless nights.
You check calvy heifers, sweet talk and cajole
Live calves on the ground is your primary goal.

Workin' the young 'uns with brands and ear tag
'Tween shoein' and fencing, you fix gates that sag.
The pump's running rough and the trucks' sounding strange
The Feds are rethinkin' your lease on the range

Your origins are humble, your workplace sublime
Your cowboy pride hangs a bit heavy at times
At the end of the cycle you're happiest when
You made enough money to do it again!

2003, Jody Fergerstrom
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


We asked Jody what inspired her poem "Bottom Line" and she told us: My inspiration for "The Bottom Line" came after spending a couple days working at Kapapala Ranch.  My friend who runs these 29,000 acres with her Dad, family and friends, and is on the board for the Hawai'i Cattle Producers Co-op is always looking at options.  I started listing them on paper and was boggled by the decisions that she considers for her family ranch and the Co-op.


The Horseman and the the Cowboy

This tale is about my brother when he came to visit me
It’s a long way across the ocean to my home in Hawai'i
He’d always been a cowboy, albeit a weekend one
So on this trip we set out to ride and have some fun.

Well, I ain’t no cowboy but I like to fork a horse
Rodeos and trail rides and some cattle work of course
We have some friends with ranches, they can usually use a hand
When it's time to work them dogies they are often undermanned.

A cowboy in Hawai'i?  You think I’m funnin’ you?
Sit back and learn some things about us that I’ll bet you never knew
Cattle arrived with Capt. Vancouver in 1793
Many days by sailing ship, their journey ‘cross the sea.

Our cowboys are a special breed, we call them “Painolo”
Trained ‘bout 1832 by Mexican Vaquero.
And in case your history needs a boost, that’s about three decades longer
Than the first cowboys who rode the range in Texas or Montana.

A fair amount of ranches still grace our hills and shores
Over a million acres in cattle, for Hawai'i, that’s one in four.
That day we worked one corner of a 24,000 acre spread
Moseyed moms and babies down to work them in the pen.

My brother covers a lot of miles as an Oregon Buckeroo
But up until this day I must say I never knew
That working cows was new to him, he’d always ridden trails.
He learned fast from ten cowboys, and only four of them were males!

“The bawling of the cattle.” It ain’t just an pretty phrase
It sounds peaceful in the song, but it’s different in the craze
Of a couple hundred head milling round in small corrals
With mamas calling babies calling mamas ‘cross the walls.

Upper cut or under cut or swallow fork their ears.
Left if it’s a heifer, on the right for bulls and steers.
Branding and ear tags, there’s a separate pen for culls
Worm, dehorn, and vaccine, and the knife for little bulls.

The day’s end finds you tired but you know your job’s done well.
You’re still caring for your pony when you hear the dinner bell
Fellowship with ranchers, proud stewards of their brand
Who walk the walk and talk the talk of cowboys cross the land.

At the ranch that night, my brother lay upon his bed.
Considering the day’s events a'spinning through his head
He’d always thought he was a cowboy, at least a bit of one
But by working cows this day he’d learned that title is hard won.

It bothered him to think that “cowboy” is a compound word that means
This boy works with cows and  that’s how he earns his beans
He turned to me and said, as he let the thought sink in,
“I can’t call myself a cowboy, when a Horseman's all I’ve been”

2000, Jody H. Fergerstrom
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Tall Tales

It was poetry in motion as they threaded through the trees
The horse Tall Tales doing his job between the boss' knees
The bull was right up on them, speed was their only hope
With the drag rope loose and trailing as they galloped down the slope

On the flanks of Hawaii's mountains, the legacy is old
Of the daring bullock hunter, Oh! The stories they have told
The tradition of generations, this work continues still
By the brave and fearless cowboys that work back in the hills.

They started hunting cattle where the wild ones like to hide
The boss man on his favorite horse his daughter by his side
Together they had worked this land, twenty years and more
But today again she saw what all those years were really for.

The work was moving steady on the section left to clear
The cows and calves had all been moved but the bull had disappeared
They found him on a little knoll, looking mighty mean
The boss he got his dart gun out, and he always shoots 'em clean.

You never know how it will go when you take a wild bull down
She inched on up to check him as he lay there on the ground
Off the dirt he came alive in one blink of an eye
Hooked her horse under the belly and threw them toward the sky!

Just like in the stories up high she hugged a tree.
Her horse went down and took some licks, but managed to get free.
The bull turned his attention on her, she started losing hope.
He was working on her second boot, when the other got him roped.

They got him neck-tied to a tree to leave him for the night
You leave 'em there to think and stew and take out some of the fight.
They came on back the next day to lead the pollie in
Boss and daughter got him roped and were ready to begin.

With two ropes pullin' tightly, they held the demon still
With the daughter holding anchor, the boss lead him down the hill
But the trees were thick and tangled; they could barely hold him clear
"Drop your rope!" the boss man yelled, "I'm runnin' him out of there!"

In horrid fascination, she watched the old man ride
Duckin', dancin', slidin', turning, side to side
A lot has been sung about a man and his ride
But that horse and man in motion, filled her with great pride.

It was poetry in motion as they threaded through the trees
The horse Tall Tales doing his job between the boss' knees
You can sing about your famous rides, but I can guarantee
That you'll never top the ride that burned in the daughter's memory.

2001, Jody Fergerstrom
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Running in His Mind
for Jasper

"Away to me!" and off he leaps like a dragster from the line.
A blurry streak of black and white, of finely bred canine.
Experience is built by time and can't be passed along.
Each new pup must learn anew which moves are right and wrong.

There is nothing better in his day than the work he's meant to do.
He thrives on doing the job at hand and does his best - for you.
The morning's cool, but sunny there's a full day's work ahead.
A good dog makes the difference when you gather on this spread.

Reluctant head are bushed up in the koa and ravines.
Ohi'a trees hang wet with dew, Mauna Loa reigns supreme.
The ringneck and the quail flush as we go by.
Wild pigs watch warily and the hawks ride currents high.

He's got them bunched now, on the move.  You can almost sense his glee.
The chaos of the chutes and pens in where he longs to be.
To a dog, each day is Saturday; they live to do their job.
The hightest praise that he can get is the simple words, "Good Dog!"

But now he's running in his mind, the years have seemed to fly.
A favorite dog is hard to leave when he watches you walk by.
He's up in years and crippled and partly blind you see.
With longing looks he watches as he naps beneath the tree.

He always waited in the morning to see what I'd put on.
Work shoes barely raised his head.  But boots?  He was up and gone!
Many debts I owe him for keeping me from harm.
From dawn's first light until the twilight settled on the barn.

Now his workplace is the mottled shade 'neath the old magnolia tree.
His failing body lets him down.  Still, he yearns to work with me.
His feet move in endless voyages.  His whimpers still remind
That dreams are filled with escapades as he's running in his mind.

2003, Jody Fergerstrom
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Jody told us:  Jasper is an aging Border Collie and one heck of a cowdog and friend to one of my great friends that runs Kapapala Ranch here on the Big Island of Hawaii.


Wishes for Grandpa

God must have been short rancher today
‘Cause he beckoned and he called Grandpa away.
He must have needed a real top hand
And what he got was one hell of a man.

A strong willed Scot, blue eyes burning bright
Always ready to stand for a cause that was right.
His motions deliberate, his direction was sure.
At jobs smooth or difficult, he would endure.

A lifetime of cowboying, up with the dawn.
Adapting and changing as time wore on.
Working with family who stood by his side
From the beginning, through the night that he died.

The trail he rides now is a mystery to us.
But here’s to you Grandpa, our wishes are thus:
May the good dogs you’re missing now run at your side.
And spills never pain you from green colts you ride.

May your cinch always hold and your loop land true.
And good memories surround you in all that you do.
May the rain be warm and your reservoir full.
And may you have a chance at one more wild bull!

May your fences not rust and your posts never rot.
And may we remember the lessons you taught.
Have faith in those now who will honor your brand.
Heaven sure gained a heck of a hand.

2007, Jody Fergerstrom
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Written in memory of Gordon Cran, Kapapala Ranch, Ka'u Hawai'i.

Jody told us:  I wrote this poem in honor of my good friend’s Dad who passed away in November 2007. He and his family have Kapapala Ranch on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Although he was not born into ranching, Gordon was a cowboy for more than 55 years, taking over the 30,000 acre Kapapala in 1977. In 2002, Gordon was inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame.

His family asked me to recite this poem at his funeral. Getting through this while missing him, in front of 400 people was one of the toughest things I've ever done.

His daughter now heads the crew that runs the ranch.

Read more about John Gordon Cran in an obituary here.


Gordon and Jody

John Gordon Cran



About Jody Fergerstrom:

Jody was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai'i.  She's had backyard horses on and off for 30 years.  Lots of kids she grew up with were ranch kids and she spent a fair amount of time on ranches and still does.  Jody works as a substitute teacher and carpenter and spends summers guiding ocean kayak and backpacking trips.

She says, "Although I've always had love for a good ballad and traditional cowboy music, credit for my true start in Cowboy Poetry belongs to my Oregon buckaroo brother Mark and his pards.  I joined them a few years back on a weeklong trail ride through about 170 miles of Oregon wilderness.  Evenings were spent around the campfire swapping song and poems.  I soon started learning some poems, then writing my own.

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

Part of my vision is to keep Hawai'i recognized in its place as a true part of both modern ranching, and ranching history.  A good poem usually consists of taking a fond memory, an unexpected success, or a near-disaster situation and molding it into verse.  They're all personal.  I also I enjoy introducing people to the genre of Cowboy Poetry.

You can email Jody Fergerstrom.



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