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Fairfax, Virginia
About Joyce Badgley Hunsaker
Joyce Badgley Hunsaker's "Fanny and Friends" web site





Old Cowboy's Lament

Bein’ a cowboy these days

Just ain’t what it used to be.

We gave up somethin’ important

When we traded horses for ATV’s

And all them big ol’ showy outfits,

Rigs with more style than guts.

Y’ask me, them swaggerin’ wannabes

Love a West that never was.

            They’re searchin’ for the feelin’

            They’re dressin’ the part to find.

            But cowboyin’ ain’t no costume bash.

            It’s more than a state of mind.

            It has less to do with “Gunsmoke”

            Or “Rawhide” or John Wayne

            Than getting’ yourself out on the land,

            Bein’ baptized by toil and pain

                        And tedium and judgment

                        That don’t always turn out right,

                        And learnin’ to do a job clean through

                        With all your know-how and your might.

                        It has less to do with lassos,

                        Your boots, your hat, your guns

                        Than the certainty when you’re ridin’

                        That you and the land are one.


It’s like you and your long-time pardner

Understandin’ without a word.

Well, the land and you communicate

But the heart is where it’s heard.

You get to know its valleys

Its slickrocks and its swells

You get to know where water is

And all the signs that tell

Its seasons, quirks, and moods.

You’re the lucky so-and-so

The land allows upon it.

That’s trust –as deep as it can go.

You don’t own the land, not really.

‘Tis the ‘tother way around.

In fact, you get to feelin’

You are that sky, that ground.

         'Specially when you’re sittin’

In the saddle, lookin’ far

Cross any ol’ wide-opens

Where they ain’t no roads nor cars.

You can just about believe it then

That time is standin’ still

And breathin’ out….and breathin’ in….

Is the best there ever will

        Be for you: this moment

        When your heart is full and proud,

        Yet humbled at the same time

        That Creator would allow

        Ol’ sorry you to live it

        And know its worth, all right.

        No king in his palace, no Donald Trump

        Will sleep richer than you tonight.


See, that’s the West that used to be.

I’ve lived it, and I know

The honor is in the doin

It ain’t all about the “show”.

So if you can really walk the talk,

Then, Friend, I’ll shake your hand.

And let’s saddle up, together,

And get us back out on the land.


© 2007, Joyce Badgley Hunsaker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Joyce told us about her inspiration for this poem, "Overhearing a remark made to my son at a County Fair when he was wearing his good hat, good buckle, good boots, pearl-snapped western shirt, and clean levis: 'Boy, you look like a trucker!'"



The Whittler


I been workin’ this wood a long time, you see….

Whittlin’ off the places that’s rough

Till it looks like somethin’ else altogether.

I’ll keep goin’ till I know it’s enough

To free the real purpose of the wood,

To reveal the true shape inside

With blade and breath and a good scrape of sand;

Just my mind’s eye, my only guide.

Kinda like life did to me, you see,

Made me something I wasn’t, startin’ out.

Knocked off my edges, planed me deep

Till I fit to the land, toe to snout.

Now I heard about men matchin’ mountains

In their spirit and in their flesh

But I never knew the full measure of that

Till I seen a photo a’me, green and fresh,

Straight off the rails, with a swagger

That I knew all there was, fit to know.

The land’s whittled most’a that off’a me now

I ain’t nearly so quick to crow

‘Bout all I will do to change the ground,

To bend it to my dreams.

Nope, somethin’ the land taught me years ago

Is life ain’t hardly ever what it seems.


Man is just one creature in it, just one.

And the goal? That ain’t always in sight.

Sometimes you dig your dang heels in,

Just to discover your certainty ain’t right.

Then the land rasps you nekked and calls you a liar

Says, “It’s my way or nothin’.  Which for you?”

You curse, or you pray…or you blister agin’ it

Till there ain’t nothing more you can do.

Then you gotta decide for yourself at last

Whether you’ve backbone enough to change

To fit yourself into the landscape.

Hang on, re-invent, re-arrange.

For if the earth finds you worthy,

If it whittles you out till you’re done

Your flesh may be gone, but in your soul is a song

Of muscle, and gristle, and bone

In service to somethin’ bigger’n you

That matters, regardless of time,

Intention or vision, stubbornness or hope.

The only thing true’s that last line

Of the blade,  that last flashin’ slice

To reveal what was hidden deep down.

Who coulda’ guessed?  Yep, passed the test.

The Whittler knew what He was doin’, all along.


© 2007, Joyce Badgley Hunsaker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Joyce told us about the inspiration for her poem, "I never knew any working cowboy to be without a good pocket knife....and it occurred to me life itself is a process of whittling away. Maybe that's what the Big Trail Boss in the Sky had in mind in the first place."


About Joyce Badgley Hunsaker:

I am a Westerner by birth, by culture, and by choice. Though my husband's career has taken us all around the map (like now, in Washington, DC) our hearts remain in the high country...out on the land. My family has always been close to the land. We learned early on to listen to what it had to say -- to read the signs, learn the lessons, and respect the power of it. First...and always...there is the land.


Joyce Badgley Hunsaker is the author of a number of books, including Seeing The Elephant, Voices from the Oregon Trail, a 2004 Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist for Western literature and a finalist for History Book of the Year, and Sacagawea Speaks, Beyond The Shining Mountains With Lewis & Clark, which was named History Book of the Year in 2001 and was a finalist for the 2002 Benjamin Franklin Award.

Read more about Joyce Badgley Hunsaker, including more about her publications, at her "Fanny and Friends" web site.



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