Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch



photo by Jessica Lutz,

About Kay Kelley Nowell



The Yearning

While driving down the highway to get an early start at work
I see a sight that never fails to give my poor heart a jerk.
Five or six trucks and trailers -- out near some pens parked in a line
The cowboys already out of sight as I start to repine.

Wish I was trotting out with that crew—part of the works this spring
Riding my "go to" gelding—ready to handle anything.
Gaily singin' an old cowboy tune—a - whoopee ti yi yea
If I hadn't met my sweetheart—I'd be out there still today.

I recognize those rigs from back when I was a loose day hand.
Those carefree days I spent riding, roping calves and helping brand.
How I loved my independence, and exploring new country
Wonder what's up that canyon, bet there's water under that tree.


It seems like plans must be rewritten when your life turns a page
'Cause it was hard to raise a family on a cowboy's wage.
So I up and took this job in town with benefits and such
Never expecting just how I was going to miss it so much.


Oh, but I'll stick by my sweetheart, and just dream of yesterday.

© 2016, Kay Kelley Nowell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.


This song was a part of the 2016 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur.


Kay included a version with chords:


The Yearning

D  A  E  A

           D                    A                         E               F#m

While driving down the highway   to get an early start at work

   D                          A                        F#m                     D

I see a sight   that never fails    to give   my   poor heart a jerk.

                                     A                                             D

Five or six trucks and trailers -- out near some pens parked in a line

                                    A              E                 A

The cowboys already out of sight    as I start to repine.



                 D                          A                        E                                 A

               Wish I was trotting out with that crew -- part of the works this spring

                 D                      A                           F#m           D

               Riding my "go to" gelding -- ready to handle anything.

                                       A                                               D

               Gaily singin' an old cowboy tune -- a - whoopee ti yi  yea

                                   A                            E                         A

               If I hadn't met my sweetheart -- I'd be out there still   today.



 D                      A                          E                      F#m

I recognize those rigs from back   when I was a loose day hand.

            D                       A                     F#m                        D

Those carefree days I spent riding,  roping calves and helping brand.

                  A                                                       D

How I loved my independence,   and exploring new country

                  A                               E                         A

Wonder what's up that canyon,   bet there's water under that tree.




D                         A                              E                      F#m

It seems like plans   must be rewritten   when your life turns a page

                D                     A           F#m                      D

'Cause it was hard to raise a family     on    a cowboy's wage.

                         A                                                D

So I up and took this job in town    with benefits and such

                    A                                       E                  A

Never expecting    just how I    was going to miss it    so much.




F#m                  D                 A                                 E                 A 

            Oh, but I'll stick by my sweetheart,   and just dream of yesterday.

© 2016, Kay Kelley Nowell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.






The Old Dog's Christmas

It’s the first bad storm of the winter
And it’s raging cold outside.
And the cowboy’s already dreading
What will be a long, hard ride.

He’s got to check that new bunch of steers
And be sure they haven’t strayed,
‘Cause the fence in the river pasture
Still has holes the elk had made.

For cowboy responsibilities
Don't cease on a holiday,
He can only quit when work is done
Even though it's Christmas Day.

As he downs one last cup of coffee,
His wife clears the breakfast plates.
From his privileged spot near the fire,
An old dog watches and waits.

He’s been with them for so many years,
Worked their ranch, helped raise their kid.
But now he’s getting a little stiff
Can’t hear as well as he did.

Long, cold rides are just part of the job
When you’ve got livestock to tend.
But the cowboy’s concerned how this storm
Might take its toll on his friend.

The old dog lifts his graying muzzle
As the cowboy dons his coat.
With quiet dignity in his eyes,
A soft whine escapes his throat.

He has to go—‘cause he always has
He never before was stopped.
No matter how big the circle or
How low the mercury dropped.

He follows the cowboy out the door
To the barn to saddle up,
Where they receive a bouncing greeting
From the eager, new young pup.

Though he’s one big wag from nose to tail,
He’s been snapped a time or two.
He gives the old dog a little room
And shows the respect he’s due.

That whole summer long he’d watched and learned
As the old dog taught him how
To obey commands and use his brain
When he's working with a cow.

The young pup’s showing lots of promise
And it’s clear that he sure tries.
But he’s lacking that look of wisdom
That’s found in the old dog’s eyes.

The cowboy reaches a decision
As he pulls his latigo.
He takes the old dog back to the house
To take shelter from the snow.

He tells him to guard the fireplace,
As he rides off with the pup,
Promising that he’ll go help him feed,
Ridin’ shotgun in the truck.

The old dog sighs, then he settles in
And he soon drifts off to doze,
While he’s soaking up the welcome warmth
As the cheery fire glows.

His well-worn paws start to twitch and jerk
And he gives sporadic yips,
As he dreams of wranglin’ the horses—
Loading cows with timely nips.

So, this Christmas he'll stay warm and dry
Underneath the family tree.
It's younger paws that run in his tracks
Building on his legacy.

The time has come for him to slow down,
For he’s more than earned his keep.
And by that fire he’ll live out his days
Till he takes that last, long sleep.

© 2014, Kay Kelley Nowell
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



    About Kay Kelley Nowell:
provided 2016

Kay has raised and trained Quarter Horses and some other breeds for most of her life. She was the first girl on the Livestock Judging Team at New Mexico State University where she left graduate school to marry her first husband, the late Jack Sanderson, who was a cowboy poet. She later cowboyed for ZR Hereford Ranch in the early 80’s. When she was in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband, the late Bryan Kelley, she day worked for nearby ranches. Her own poetry writing began there from rancher friends’ requests for poems.

Kay has felt privileged to have taken part many cowboy poetry gatherings from the first one in Elko to her current favorite regional events. These include the Texas, Montana, North Dakota, Prescott and Sierra Vista (a Featured Artist in 2013), Arizona and New Mexico gatherings and entertaining at Longhorn Cattle Drives and other events. She attended the first eight gatherings in Elko and was a featured poet there in 1988, 1989, 1991, 2009, 2011, 2013 and in 2015. She performed at the first three National Cowboy Symposium and Celebrations in Lubbock, Texas. In 1989, she recited one of her poems on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson but much prefers the down-home atmosphere and authenticity of the traditional gatherings. She performed at the first and second Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gatherings. She also performed on a Night Show at the 2016 Arizona Cowboy Poet's Gathering.

She treasures the friends she has made through cowboy poetry.

She loves to day work and neighbor along with her husband, Gene Nowell. They run their own Gelbvieh cow/calf herd on leased country.

Back in September of 2010, they purchased Hilltop Livestock, a pre-conditioning and custom feeding operation. So when she is not processing cattle, loading trucks, feeding a crew, running the T& S Trip Hopper or training horses—she gets to keep the books. They recently bought out a Pipe and Steel business to run along with the feedlot. She is definitely not bored.

In her spare time, she enjoys playing bass or rhythm guitar in the “No Chicken Wire Band” for Big Bend Cowboy Church (52 gigs a year plus the dances) and working on her fiddling and mandolin playing.

She is addicted to cutting and ranch roping and is always searching for the time to pursue and excel at them.

In 2011, Kay was invited to be on the committee for the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering and was able to help with putting on one of the best, favorite regional gatherings that “keeps it ‘cowboy.’” She now volunteers for that organization.

Her poems come from her experiences of breaking colts, working cattle and the cowboys she has known. They have been published in the following anthologies:

Dry Crik Review
The Cowgirl Companion by Gail Gilchriest
Cattle, Horses, Sky, and Grass edited by Warren Miller and illustrated by Joe Beeler
Cowgirl Poetry edited by Virginia Bennett
New Cowboy Poetry: A Contemporary Gathering edited by Hal Cannon
Thanks for the Poems edited by Sally Harper Bates
Wrangling Rhymes by Kay Kelley Nowell

She was thrilled to have two poems included in National Cowboy Poetry Gathering The Anthology compiled by the Western Folklife Center.

And “To Foxy” was published in the Canadian magazine Horses All October 2012 issue.

She also enjoys reciting the classics by her favorite poets.




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