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Canyon Country, California
About Joe Herrington
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The Ole Rancher

The ole cowboy was a crusty coot
As seasoned ranchers go.
He was hard as nails and tough as hide
From sun and winter snow.

He'd spent his years on horseback
Where he could do it all.
Among the toughest of the cowboys
 He stood strong and tall.

But now he's aged and seasoned well
His youth behind, well spent.
His legs are bow. His back is sore
And just a little bent.

We visit now on his front porch
And he tells me all he's done.
'Course he talks about his horses
An' how he just turned ninety-one.

His wife came out and joined us
She rocked her chair and smiled.
A gracious, gentle lady
That I'm sure could not be riled.

Well we talked the afternoon away
And when I stood to leave,
His old eyes pleaded I should stay.
He reached up and took my sleeve.

"Honey," he said to his lovin' wife
"Get this young sprout a snack.
And while you're at it, Precious
Come here and scratch my back."

Before she left she rubbed his back
And talked of days gone by.
Of dogs and kids and the lack of rain
And how it'd been so hot and dry.

"Your right my precious punkin.
This heat and dust is tough.
But remember back in '23
Now honey that was rough.

"But did you notice Darlin'
The newsman said it'd rain.
Oh, ouch, my little dumpling
I need somethin' for this pain."

Now the way he called his wife I thought
was sweet and rather rare.
"Honey, this" and "sweetie that"
With such tender love and care.

If I could just grasp the secret
To what makes this love light burn
For sixty years of marriage,
Why, for this, I'd pay to learn.

So before I left, I found my chance,
When he had gone out back,
To ask my simple question
"Ma'am, what keeps your love on track?

"I've never heard him use your name," I said
"Just sweet words. I've got to know,
What lovin' potion do you possess
That makes this romance grow?''

A sly smile came across crossed her face.
She said ''for years it's been the same.
Don't be fooled by what you hear
The ole coot's just plumb forgot my name."

© 2003, Joe Herrington 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



He rode to the ranch one late afternoon
On a hot summer day way down in June.
He was burley and big with a strut to his walk
And spit when he chewed like he cussed when he talked.

"Name's Rooster" he said as he stepped to the ground.
"I've worked the top ranches and I've been around.
I'm tough and I'm fearless with a measure of cool.
Ain't no man'll cross me 'less he's a fool.

"'Cause I have done it all," he proudly said
"Even rustled a few and left men dead.
'Course they had it comin' t'wern't no disgrace
They were lookin' for trouble. I just gave it a face.

"Now, I can rope and ride whatever you've got.
I can brand and cut and I know quite a lot
'Bout horses and cows and grasses and grain.
I know how to ranch when there's been little rain.

"I'll work for fair wages and give all I've got.
I'll ride hard and long and give my best shot.
So you'll get what you pay for make no mistake
'Cause I'm a top hand, the best in the state."

Now our boss was a lady as fair as you please.
She could make a man stutter and weak at the knees.
There was nothin' about her that paled from neglect.
Man she was a looker but she had our respect.

She pulled off her work gloves and pushed back the gate.
Stuck out her hand... said "You can call me Miss Kate.
I'll hire you on 'cause we're short on good men
I'll keep you 'till winter but only 'till then.

"But there's things you should know and things I won't stand
You'd best toe the line and ride for the brand.
Don't ever gossip or steal and of course...
Don't ever lie or be mean to a horse."

We saw in her eyes and knew he'd impressed
Our fair lady boss about bein' the best.
But we saw it different, a gut feel I s'pose
We figured his poison would wilt our fair rose.

But Miss Kate was trustin' and he hired on.
Rooster changed that quiet ranch. The good days were gone.
Oh he worked mighty hard but his manner was grim.
He was evil and cold and meaner than sin.

And it wasn't long 'fore tempers were flared.
Old friends turned selfish and nothin' got shared.
Most all of the hands would bicker and fuss.
Good men turned sour and started to cuss.

We knew it was Rooster and hated those days.
We wanted him gone and we tried different ways.
But he'd always work hard and impress Kate again
While he ate like a cancer at the hearts of the men.

So, we plotted against him. It was all we could do.
But we had to do somethin' so she'd see him true.
And she'd never agree if we pushed him by force,
But she'd fire him for sure if he was mean to a horse.

So we doctored his cinch just a bit so's it'd slide
Then we angered him up 'till he's fit to be tied.
He climbed in the saddle, growled "Open the gate!"
While he kept on a cussin' and spewin' his hate.

Then he rode for a steer in his smooth, easy lope
And threw a quick loop and dallied his rope.
His mustang stopped quick and dug his hooves in
Sendin' Rooster and saddle flyin' end over end.

We figured we'd killed him and that wasn't our plan.
We were after his pride and his place as a man.
But he limped back to his horse and as we watched in awe
He clobbered that critter right there on the jaw.

Then we did start to kill him and end all the strife.
When Miss Kate stepped in and pulled out her knife.
"Rooster," she said "I told you my rules
But you strutted around thinkin' we were all fools.

"I might be a lady but when you hit that horse
 I figured I'd fix you and feel no remorse.
You think you're a rooster? A man among men?
Well hold him down boys I'm gonna make him a hen."

He screamed like a Banshee as he dodged left and right
Then ran for the pasture and was clean out of sight.
We laughed our relief as she said with a grin
"I'm real sorry boys, I was wrong about him."

Now, I'm not a wise man as good cowboys go.
I've got lots to learn. There's ways I could grow.
But one thing I've learned. I'm nobody's fool.
When the boss is a woman, you'd best mind the rules.

© 2004, Joe Herrington 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



I've seen it all old friend of mine
I've rode hard for ninety years.
I've done some things that brought me joy
And some that swelled up tears.

Now some folks weep in sad regret
Like they never measured up.
But life's been good to me, old friend,
And God has filled my cup.

Now to say I've had no hardships
Would stretch the truth a might.
'Cause I've always plowed a rocky field
And my money's mighty tight.

But I've never known another way.
To struggle is to make it count.
It's those who have it easy, friend
That crash when trials mount.

I've seen the rugged hill to climb
And the cactus on the trail.
I've known the loss of things I loved
And felt what it is to fail.

But every time I hit my knees
From burdens that spilled my cup,
I'd use that time and place, old friend
For God to pick me up.

And when He'd lift me from my fallin'
I'd be stronger...I could tell.
But when I tried it by myself
I's weaker than before I fell.

So, life's been hard but it's sure been good
And I've learned along the way,
To hold on tight to those we've loved
And the memories we file away.

No greater treasure is ours, old friend
Than rememberin' days gone by.
Like when we rode our first cayuse
And fell but didn't cry.

And quiet times with Mom or Dad;
Childhood at the old home place.
The kitchen smells and all the kids
At the table saying grace.

It's that old brown dog that tagged along
And never left our side.
And the bully down the street a piece
That maybe bruised our pride.

It's sunsets on the prairie
The first smell of ocean foam,
The hills we thought we had to climb
And pastures we had to roam.

It's puppy love and our first kiss.
The way we felt inside.
The wife we took and our first kid;
The swellin', burstin' pride.

Precious memories of times long gone,
God's gift to an aging soul,
For learnin' lessons and growing strong
Or pleasure when growin' old.

Precious memories, oh they linger
They fill my soul with joy.
A precious diary of how I grew
To a man from a little boy.

They're all the journeys that changed my path.
The horses wild and fast;
The folks that taught me how to love
And how to make it last.

It's that sorrel colt that tried my patience
With his stubborn, wild oats ways.
It's what he taught me 'bout myself
In my prideful, teenage days.

 It's country roads in Springtime;
Lowing cattle on the range.
It's peaceful nights in moonlight.
And it's learning how to change.

The most important times click by
And we don't notice. they're just a blur.
It's only later when we're lookin' back,
We see how grand they were.

See, it's makin' memories that make a life
More precious than fame or gold.
And we'll have 'em when we meet our Maker.
 'Cause our memories don't grow old.

So friend,
When life gets long and tomorrows fade,
Or when joy is replaced with strife,
It's Precious Memories... it's lookin' back
That's the touchstone of a life.

© 2004, Joe Herrington 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Rat Traps

Hank and Cal and Willie
Showed up on round-up day.
They said they'd to do their share of work
And earn their share of pay.

But they'd never wrangled horses
And didn't know much at all.
They hadn't learned a lot about the ranch
Since I'd hired 'em on last Fall.

But they had try. I'll give 'em that
And though they were dumb as bricks
They'd work hard at any task
And take their scrapes and licks.

I reckon I'm just getting' soft
'Cause I figured to keep 'em on
And let 'em do the odd jobs
That come new with every dawn.

But they wanted to be cowboys.
And they begged to do their part
So against my better judgment
I agreed and let 'em start.

Well, they most near killed each other
With their lack of common sense.
'Cause right off, they roped a Brahma bull
And tore down a mile of fence.

Then Hank broke off the snubbin' post
As he hit it hard and square
After bouncin' high behind that bull
Through forty feet of air.

And Will took out the bunkhouse porch
When fate and pure dumb luck
Let him rope a movin' pipe.
The smoke stack on the cattle truck.

 Well their ropes were quickly taken;
Took away by the crew.
We gave those boys another new job
Somethin' safer they could do.

We thought we'd let 'em brand some calves
Maybe flank and mug awhile.
That'd tire 'em out and we'd have fun
Just a grinnin' at their style.

Well that first calf kicked up commotion
And a frightful cloud of sand.
Cal couldn't see what he's aimin' at
And scorched Willie. with my brand.

That was it! They weren't cowboys!
This just wouldn't do.
Why I'd never seen boys so dumb
Or brains with no IQ.

Now I'm sure you think I'm jokin';
That I'm pullin' on your leg.
But these dumb bucks would surely buy
A hard-boiled rooster egg.

Why just last week I bought some feed
And we were stackin' it away
When a dozen rats started linin' up
Like we were spreadin' their buffet.

Then Willie said they'd shoot those rats
So they wouldn't ruin the feed.
 "We'll mow 'em down 'fore they can blink."
And ole Hank and Cal agreed.

"Just hold on." I said. "You soon forget.
You did that once before.
And we patched holes for about a month
And had to buy a brand new door!"

"So Hank, go back yonder to the tack room
Over near the foalin' stall,
Hanging just above the saddles
You'll find rattraps on the wall.

"You get those traps and bring 'em here
And if you learn to set 'em right.
You'll outsmart those rats." I said.
But I was stretchin' that a might.

They watched in pure amazement
As I cocked and baited one.
Then they stepped in and set the other
And were proud of what they'd done.

Next mornin' bright and early
They brought those traps to me.
They were snapped down tight on two dead rats
And they were pleased as they could be.

Well, I figured I'd misjudged 'em.
They were smarter than I'd guessed.
I said, "You boys are off to a real good start.
Now, go back and catch the rest."

Hank stared off and pondered deep
Like genus was about to erupt.
Then said, "Boss, I think we'll need more traps.
Cause these are all used up."

© 2006, Joe and Mike Herrington 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



About Joe Herrington:

I was born a Texan and grew up the way most West Texas boys grew up...with rugged, outdoor adventure and a passion to be out under that big, West Texas sky.

I grew up at the feet of storytellers in a day before television had assaulted the young imagination. My Grandfather and my Uncle Jack both talked in stories and from them I learned to weave tales and appreciate the power of words.

In my own stories I discovered that I could safely go wherever I wanted to go, be whatever I wanted to be, or conquer any evil and always win.

I grew and served my country in the Army as a Drill Sergeant at Ft. Knox, a Mortar Platoon Sgt in Korea and finally as a tactical officer for the Army National Guard's officer training school.

While at Ft Knox, I became a Scoutmaster with a hundred red-blooded American boys eager for the same stuff I grew up on. It was an exciting time and I came to love the world of Scouting. I continued for twenty-five years as a Scoutmaster with various troops as I moved around the country.

In my Scouts I made a wonderful discovery. They loved the telling of a story the way I had loved it. They encouraged me and insisted that I always have a story for the end-of-day campfire. For years I told my stories to only them but time proved that others too could be spellbound by a story of goodness and honor and justice.

For the last quarter century I have earned my living as a Media Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. I live in California where my wife and I have raised four children. I serve as an Elder in the church and teach 4th-6th grade Bible school.

I still love that big western sky and the wilderness beneath it. I still love, and have never forgotten, the Western ways and traditions. I write my stories and my poems about those times and those amazing people of unblemished character and honor. And when the campfire flickers, I get a stir in my soul. A yearning swells within me to recall the events of good days past and tell their story.




The Fence
Drinkin’ From My Saucer
The Broncho Twister’s Prayer
Shoulda’ Done It
Night Hawk
The Wounded Post
The Ride
Precious Memories
The Shadow of a Man

Joe Herrington is much more than a cowboy poet. He is a true Western philosopher. Not only can he completely captivate and entertain you—he can teach you the meaning of life. Herrington reaches to the very core of the Cowboy Code to touch your very heart and soul. Kevin Rafferty, Writer/Director

Shalako is a beautifully produced collection of stories written as cowboy poetry, full of truth and heart and honesty. These are campfire stories, built like a good fire, that produce a warm and lasting heat. The words, so carefully chosen, fit together so right and so tight; it’s a genuine pleasure to hear Joe Herrington unwind them. And the music underscore is clean and pure as running water. Michael Sprout, Senior Concept writer, Walt Disney

Available for $18 postpaid
Joe Herrington tophand@smallpond,net


MEN OF HONOR  Cowboy Poetry and Western Stories

Joe's double-length, 72-minute CD, 
MEN OF HONOR  Cowboy Poetry and Western Stories

is available for $18.00 postpaid from:

Joe Herrington
27965 Lost Springs Rd
Canyon Country CA 91387

Visit his web site for additional information.



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