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Culver, Oregon
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Ole Suicide

The start of the wreck I don't recall
Can just remember being quite small
Standing there, eyes & mouth opened wide
Dad was a-top, OLE SUICIDE!

Buck'n & baul'n through the wood pile
Dad still on top, don't talk about style
The hair on my neck, it stood straight out
Mom tried to haze him but, had no clout.

He bucked right by her, into the fence
In ugly rage, that horse lost his sence
Four rusty wires all barbed & tight
Dad just ponder'n to ride or lite.

The options were bad, as bad can be
Stomped, or, a barbed wire entree'
Fence posts broke & the mess got bigger
Come out alive was now to figure.

Time to unload was finally clear
Dad came up miss'n part of an ear
For sure I'll always remember wide eyed
Dad's wreck that day, on, OLE SUICIDE!

© 2002,  Jo Lee T Riley

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

What My Mom's Made Of

Some of us are made of muscle and blood
Some of us are made of clay, sand and mud
My Mom is made of Grit and Glory
These next few lines will tell of her Story.

Born a cowboy rancher in twenty-two
She learned what this country gal was to do
She joined a brother, who four years older
Helped make this girl much sharper and bolder.

The family grew but tragedy came
Mom & baby lost, life's never the same
Dad's got to go on and raise his children
No easy task when your heart is sink'n.

In summers they ranched along side their Dad
Where they enjoyed life, the good and the bad
The house caught on fire, a horse in a bog
Drove a horse to school, but couldn't take the dog.

Later they stayed with Gram to go to school
Always escorted . . . Victorian rule
You took life as it came, never forewarned
Vanity was a plague much to be scorned.

"Eastern" School, experience to be had
It molded this Lady, the good and the bad
Tough, modest, sweet, proud, polite & full of life
A hand, lady, teacher, mother & wife.

Trials she had many in life, death, & health
Examples she set were greater than wealth
Losing a son was probably the worst
Tho with arthritis she has been cursed.

Nothing stopped her from being a good hand
Doctors, family or bronc that won't stand
We rode inside, then in front till three
Three and Four were bad- behind you can't see.

She had class and style, a rodeo queen
A ropin' buckle entered on this scene
She enjoyed ropin' with all of her friends
Then fed em all, her spirit never ends.

Children she had us three, two boys and me
Raised to be hands but, with breeding you see
We gave her six grandkyds that she helped raise
She made them mind, mostly, then filled with praise.

Now with 10 great grandkyds she's still quite hip
With their lineage on her computer chip
She lifts me up when in frustration
She's my proof reader and inspiration.

© 2002, Jo Lee T Riley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(Posted also in the collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms)


The Rancher

There's still a few ole hands around
Who can read a cow, know where she's bound
The slightest shift of his horse's nose
Because he is always on his toes
Will make most any cow change her mind
Even do what he wants if given her time.

Many out there don't know that cows think
Get in a panic, push to the brink
Learn'n their whims & watch'n their eyes
Handle them right, there's no surprise
Real, good, cowmen, they don't write the books
They learned by watch'n & elders looks.
Ranchers, special'y with gray in their hair
Taught by the Bible, know when to care
Before short course & great fish & game
They love the land & creatures that came
Take mother nature, go with the flow
Stock it real hard or save it & sow.
It says right there in that "Great" big "Book"
"In moderation"...the path, least took
"Love," alone, to be spread far & wide
"Respect" & Love, they hold with great pride
May not admit it...let it show thru
The real rancher knows his Lord, tis true.

Their "Country" church, the largest around
Sky is the ceiling, walls are not bound
By limits made, with boards from the trees
The choir a blend, of bird, beast & breeze
"His" eminence, fills sky, air & ground
Reminds, to the "Creator," he's bound.

© 2002, Jo Lee T Riley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


A Tip of the Hat

He was from a "different" age
He chased cows thru cedar & sage
Could also top an outlaw bronc
Then how arena horns would honk.

When he'd alight, he'd tip his hat
All in a day's work, that was that.
There was no great big glory show
To those who mattered they would know.

Back then hands were a quiet breed
Cept howl'n late that nite by creed
Mostly toot'n each others horn
At today's self show, they would scorn.

Oh, they could recall, that, great ride
An tell just how, they raked his hide
If "you'd" brag, about how he sat
He'd just nod, smile, an' tip his hat.

That gentle style became them all
Rider, roper, rancher, stood tall
When they received an accolade
It would be a humble parade.

Now they're on a different range
With no jackpots it must be strange
They must smile from where they are at
Watch'n a hand just, "tip his hat."

© 2002, Jo Lee T Riley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Big Bear

Was chowse'n steers out'a the timber on Brown
Lots a Banchee-Ky-yi'n brush crash'n sound
Top'n a rise I run on to a bear
He kept get'n bigger, as he did unfold
His arms raised up, way up, my blood it ran cold.

A mouth so big and a noise so eerie
My skin still crawls when I bring up that mem'ry
Twas clear he objected to being disturbed
That long dark gray hair grew white at its tips
Ripl'n when he ran like waves from a ship.

We stood there in shock, too petrified to move
I came to first, with a touch, Brown found his groove
We were head'n down hill till we hit the trail
Last look back, were ahead just one stride
Yelled, "Mom, get out, a Big Bear, just got my hide."

Mom's sit'n out in the clear, & Buck runs fast
No reason for her to be Bear food at last
She just set there, I thought, she's plumb lost her mind
Little did I know, when we hit the trail
He done turned up country, just tuck'n his tail.

They went a hunt'n, my Dad & my brother
Must have scared him too, or somethin or other
As nary a sign have we ever seen yet
Of ole silvertip, who raises my hackles
Brown vanished that fall & doubt it was jackals.

© 2002, Jo Lee T. Riley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jo Lee adds: My folks moved up to Knockholt BC Canada when I was 15.  After completing my junior year of high school I joined them, finishing high school by correspondence.  Knockholt is a railroad siding about 10 miles south of Houston, which is 200 miles North of Prince George.  Knockholt is about 15 feet above sea level.  Our ranch was at 3600 feet under China Nose Mountain. We would get cattle in by rail from Edmonton Alberta, summer them and send them back by rail in the fall.  When they didn't leave them on the siding for 3 days without food and water it worked not too bad.  The cattle never forgot where they unloaded though and every few days we would have to go down the mountain and gather and take them back up to pasture.  It was during one of these trips back up the mountain than I disturbed the silvertip.  When I went back the next day to see where we had come out thru the down fall I saw that Brown had cleared a 6' high brush pile and normally he wouldn't jump a foot high log.  And, yes, the bear was less than a stride behind when I looked back.  It is a true story and yes I still get goose bumps when I think about it.


The Braymer Affair

When out on the high desert did you hear the story? 
Of the time that Bill Brewer about met his glory?
Brewer—now he's a good hand—
of this there's no dispute.
Be it on the open range or at the bucking chute.

Don't recall her number though her face is clear as glass
She went slippin' out 'a the herd on the way to grass.
She was very fertile though her ears were way too long.
And she caught AI drug in behind two horses strong.

Buck, the other figure in this tragic day's events
A young horse just a learnin' the thing we call cow sense.
The cattle were moved to pasture just the day before
Bill & Buck went back huntin' the ringy black Nalore.

Shockingly they found her without looking very far
Yes, she was a crossbred and she left like a Jaguar!
Being the hand he is they caught up at next clearin'
His rope was true and tight, but now he was a fearin'.

She dropped just like she'd been shot, as she'd been known to do.
Beatin' on or lots of slack won't rise
her, this is true.
Brewer he will tie her down, and there he'll leave her lie.
When he hits the ground she's up and looks him in the eye.

Now young Buck he didn't think that this made any sense
So he bailed out, at a lope, until he hit the fence.
Leavin' Bill standin' there, on foot with a hungry cow.
No option but to hook it, to the nearest tree, NOW!

Bull fighting in his younger days likely saved his life.
He'd turn a smaller circle just like a pocketknife.
When he got to the tree she was right there—just behind.
And kept a hittin' at his hands she was plumb unkind.

Here's a time for praying 'though he said he had no time.
God was watchin' out for him, since he's not in his prime.
It pays to be a Christian and Bill knows well his Lord.
his life was on the line he had some blessings stored.

Now, he was all winded—and the cow—she was still loose.
A duckin' and a dodgin' he tightened up the noose.
A cowboy who is walkin'—left afoot by his horse
Has too much time to ponder a suitable recourse.

By the time he found young Buck, the sky had turned plumb blue.
Bucky's attitude would change—dead or alive he knew.
That plan finally chosen, would surely kill or cure.
Learn to handle ornery cows
now thatBuck would for sure.

At the tree Bill tied the rope hard and fast to the horn.
Then he bailed out and left Buck, though he looked so forlorn.
Before the wreck had ended both cow and horse were sore.
Brewer said that Buck for sure, don't run off any more.

Tom, when talkin' later said it would have done no good
To have them there a helpin', they could have hardly stood
Doubled o're in belly laughs and tears in both their eyes
They would be no help at all, to prevent Bill's demise.

© 2006, Jo Lee T. Riley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jo Lee adds: "The Braymer Affair" relives the event accurately. Bill, my husband Tom, and myself were all working for Lark Ranches at Powell Butte, Oregon. Ray and Lita Kilpatrick, owners of Lark Ranches were running a Brangus operation that included the base Angus and Brahman herds which they bred up to Brangus. There were crosses of each percentage up to 15/16 which is considered purebred Brangus.  The first and second crosses had the greatest high-bred vigor which occasionally came across in undesirable traits as well as gained performance.  The cow in this poem was a wild, independent creature that gave us all fits for several years until Bill got even with her. 

The day we drug her in to AI (artificial insemination) we had tried to bring her with several other cows very gently, then alone with two good cow ponies, so about on the fourth or fifth try Tom stuck a rope on her.  She dropped to the ground like she'd been shot (as many Brahman-influenced cattle do) so he started dragging her toward the corral, some 100 yards away. It was hard on his horse so I dropped another rope on her and we skidded her to the corral on her side. With two horses on green grass she slid fairly easy. Dean Pettyjohn (another employee) was at the corral by then so he offered to take the ropes off. As soon as the last rope was off she jumped up and helped him over the fence.  We bred her like all good hands do, but we prayed that she wouldn't catch.  She did and calved on schedule. To finally get rid of her (have a reason to take her to the auction) Bill left her in a pasture without a bull so she came up open. 

Every time the cattle were moved to new pasture said cow stayed behind or as soon as cowboys started gathering the herd she moved herself to a different, not necessarily the preferred pasture. It was no surprise when she came up missing so someone would come back and move her the next day or so. 
Luckily it was Bill Brewer who went after her. He had performed at rodeos for years and judged bull riding so had some practice with fighting cattle when he was younger. However, he was about fifty years old and retired from rodeo when this happened.  Bill was alone with his young horse who needed to be a trusted partner that wouldn't bail out during a crisis.  This mode of education was harsh but successful, and Buck became Bill's favorite horse for many years. He tied the cow down and rode back for the trailer to haul her where she needed to go.


Read Jo Lee T. Riley's:

This Cowhand's Life posted with other 2007 Christmas poems


Hold'n On, in our Art Spur project





  About Jo Lee T. Riley:

Born, Jo Lee Trotter, to a ranch couple in the badlands of North Dakota, and raised on that ranch until I was 15. Then my folks moved to Canada to ranch and I finished school and married in Montana. Have lived on ranches in Dakota, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta and now have been in Oregon the last 20 years, married to Tom M Riley.

We raise registered Simmental, Fleckvieh strain, we prefer muscle and calving ease and never went to the tall slab sided ones, or the hard calving ones.

I've never been without a horse or a cow since I was born. At the present time we are running cattle on a 38 section place that we lease.

You can email Jo Lee T. Riley.

Roundup in the Sky

Jo Lee T. Riley says her latest book "is full of color pictures and old time black and white photos to go along with the 33 poems.  It is available in 8.5" x 11" and 5.5" x 8.5" and can be ordered from my website:"


Stuff 'n Things from Cow Country

Visit Jo Lee T. Riley's web site for information about her book, 
Stuff 'n Things From Cow Country



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