Folks' Poems

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KEITH K. ANDERSON 
Pasco, Washington
About Keith K. Anderson 

 

 

Accidental Shooting?

In the 1940's in my home town
There were remnants of Old West still to be found
Horses on streets, a wagon or two
The high heeled boot had it over the shoe

No developers there, yet, in that place in the West
Country for cows, not pavement, was best
No asphalt or sprawl or suburban trash
Just cactus and sunshine, no outsiders' cash

Guns were commonly worn on the hip
Especially by cowhands there on a town trip
Folks paid no mind if they saw someone packin'
Just every day stuff if you needed some backin'

This story takes place in a hotel of fame
Santa Rita 'twas called. You may know the name
Named after a saint, had seen way too much
Of life's sordid details, sharp dealin's and such

Friday nights like clockwork the boys drifted in
And faithfully gathered in a private room at the inn
Smoked cigars, sipped the whiskey, turned into braggards
A rich poker game, private only, they broke out the cards

The game was truly a weekend affair
All night, two nights, plus a two day-er
By Sunday the crew was quite bleary eyed
They went home richer or poorer but certainly fried

John Bull was one of the boys of this class
He owned a big spread up in Reddington Pass
His foreman (Jim Few) took care of ranch life
Jim did a good job, included Bess, John's wife

Unknown to ol' John, Jim and Bess carried on
A torrid affair when John went to town
All the cowhands they knew it, but no one would tell
Not their business they thought, not their angel that fell

Back to a game the third weekend in June
John and four men, just them in the room
The door opened up and there stood Jim Few
Why he went there then, not a man ever knew

"Howdy, Jim, old partner, old friend, yer pockets full?"
Hollered his boss, the husband, unsuspecting John Bull
"Come on in. Git in the game. Pull up a chair"
"Yer money is good. Draw some cards. Win yer share"

So they played their game into the wee morning hours
A banker, a lawyer and four cattle growers
How much whiskey they drank no one ever kept track
'cept the 'keep in the bar on his tab kept in back

The braggin' and stories got taller and louder
And manly topics like guns, shootin' and gun powder
And who was the best shot, at long or short  range
John Bull claimed the title, his claim wouldn't change

To prove his main point, he said "Hell let me show you
And what better assistant than my best friend, Jim Few
Stand 'gainst the wall, man, put a glass on yer head
You know how I shoot so there's nothing to dread"

So the stage it was set, the main players in place
The room got real quiet, folks backed up just in case
John stood, pulled his gun, was wobbly, unsteady
Trustworthy Jim straight and tall, glass on head, was on ready

John's gnarled fingers wrapped the grips on that old .44
Slow trigger pressure, then more and then more
Accordin' to some folks it seemed for an instant
The gun stopped a shakin', John's eyes gleamed intent

The desk clerk on duty heard the bang through the door
Rushed in and found Jim Few dead on the floor
Dead as could be, as any man dies
From a perfect placed shot direct as such 'tween the eyes

The Marshall he came, took John Bull's gun
Took eye witness accounts: "Accident." "Havin' fun"
Said John "As you've seen, I am drunk as a skunk
Check the tab in the back, go figger just how drunk"

The judge he agreed. Jail time it was light
Now what do you think? Did John ever bite
On what went on at the ranch when to town he was gone?
Think an accident 'twas? Or Old West justice well done?

2002, Keith K. Anderson 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


This poem is based on a story told to me by the son of a man who was one of the card players in that game. While the names are fictitious, two landmarks in the story are authentic.

 

Slim 'n Vern's Hootch

In 1932 when laws was blue
And good whiskey was hard to acquire
Bein' so far from town, makin' yer own
Was better'n bein' a retail buyer

Slim and Vern, they started to yearn
For somethin' good to drink
So they made 'em a still that should turn good swill
Even though the tubin' had many a kink

The parts all from junk, no money was sunk
A boiler from this and a vat from that
A Model A radiator became the condensor
Wired and taped out in the barn it sat

Sugar they'd hook past Charlie the cook
Buckets of grain from the box in the barn
Complete with mouse leavin's, added apple cleavin's
The mash a cookin', on the road now, by darn!

About the second week they sprung a leak
Then some juice ran out on the ground
Horses lost their hair, hen quit bein' a layer
And the dogs they were no where to be found

As the puddle it spread, she developed a head
The stuff was makin' a life of its own
The odor quite sweet, would hint it's a treat
Nothin' like it anywhere could yew clone

When the cat gave up on mice, took on the bull twice
And the rooster tried courtin' a cow
The boys parleyed a bit, "Before we sip
Need a scientific opinion, and now!"

They collected a cup, and bottled it up
Off to the State Lab they mailed 'er
Began the long wait for the report on the fate
Of this hootch that would sink any sailor

A month later it come, no roll of drum
But the drama for the boys it was dread
Such a moment as this, like a young man's first kiss
Time stopped, hands shook as they read:

We've run every test, done our most very best
The conclusion to which it would lead us
It's sad news we bring, most unusual thing
Boys,your horse has diabetes


2002, Keith K. Anderson 
 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

 

The Enemy

All a feller needed to learn 'bout a horse
Was wrapped in that Shetland as a short course
I was only eight, a skinny kid on the ranch
The pony, just gettin' near him was takin' a chance

Gosh durn, what a tormentin' beast he was all in all
If  I weren't on my guard when I went in the stall
He'd  sidle up and squeeze me 'gainst the boards
Several times a goner, cheated death, prayed thanks afterwards

Had to keep an eye out fer both ends all the time
Sneak attacks on his part, he'd commit any crime
His ears was always back, so there weren't no early alarm
Like a rattler he'd strike and bite the back of my arm

I always rode bareback despite his gait like a post
Walkin' he preferred, never run, a trot at the most
When I'd kick him and urge him and use the rein as a quirt
He'd stop, lie down and roll to get me to hurt

Always knew some day this would all come to a head
One of us would win or we both would be dead
I knew it was comin' and it had to be soon
It shaped up for reckonin' on that warm day in June

We was out ridin' when he decided to have fun
Took the bit in his teeth and go for a fast run
At least it was fast to me as a small kid I was
Couldn't turn him no way, hangin' on was my cause

When things happen like that, stuff goes through your brains
I remembered that this bridle had extra long reins
Tied the ends together as we ran close along a fence
Threw the loop over a post, things were about to get tense

Cain't recall 'xactly all the details of the wreck
Have a strong recollection of flyin' into the deck
When I finally got up, dug the dirt outta my eyes
Looked around for my pony and got quite a surprise

He was standin' there shakin' as humble could be
I said, "You jug head, take that, you can't mess with me"
Went to get on him, leaped, saw a look in his eye
The consarned devil side stepped me, and I fell in a pie

2002, Keith K. Anderson 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Keith says this poem "is based on my personal experience ...That pony was a present from my grandfather to ride one summer. I do believe that it was an intentional educational opportunity."

 

The Pitcher Show

"Who wants to go to town this week?"
Old Ben he asked of us one day
"Pick up supplies and mail and eat
At Beverly's fine Hitchin' Post Cafe?"

This time it was our turn for a-goin'
And we'd surely saved our dough
For Charlie and me'd been a- dreamin'
Of  Beverly's food, then a pitcher show

So we brought out the bar lye soap
And put us on a clean long tailed shirt
Combed in Cowboy Magic with hope
That them snarls some way wun't hurt

Then off to Bisbee town we packed
In that old '36 truck a hummin'
For confidence we nothin' lacked
Look out world, it's us, we're a-comin'

Town chores was finished quick as could be
Padded out bellies on Beverly's best slaughter
Seen on the Rialto movie house marquee:
"Hoot Gibson and the Sheriff's Daughter"

We paid our way in and took our seats
The show was about to come out of the chute
This was the grand daddy of all the treats
For two punchers: a talkin' picher starrin' Hoot!

The lights they slowly dimmed a-way down
The screen lit up like the night prairie sky
When that food swolled me up, with a groan
I unbuckled, unzipped, depressurized my fly

Just when we thought that everything's fine
The show was about to go like they billed it
The pitcher machine broke down, first bad sign
Place went as black as midnight under a skillet

Two women come a- pushin' down our row
Excusing their way down to some perches
They'd spotted before the lights went low
With toe-stomping, tripping and lurches

The first one to me drug her bustle o'er my lap
And I reckoned it was time to get decent
When I pulled up that zipper, shore sprung a trap
Caught her skirt in that fly, things turned hell-bent

She hit the end of her slack and really strung out
Like a long yearlin' just heeled hard and fast
The harder she pulled the tighter she was caught
Sulphur in the air from outa her mouth passed

She was zipper-snubbed up purty durned tight
That dally wouldn't no way come loose
So out come my Barlow and took a big bite
Outen that skirt, and she fell, tender over caboose

Her tail come up stickin' straight in the air
She pawed the floor a-lookin' for blood
Figgered we should blow retreat and get outa there
And as direct and as fast as we could

We rushed trippin' and fallin' back down the line
In the same direction whence we'd earlier come
Her loud bellerin'and bawlin' followed behind
Shot straight to the truck and on a dead run

Could still hear her music as we drove outa town
And headed to where the tall grasses grow
Sportin'a flag stuck at half mast, a piece of bright gown
From that mule driver woman at the pitcher show

Us cowboys, all in all, if there's one thing we got
It's time for ponderin' like a monk in his temple
For years, 'bout me and her, I've wondered a lot
What might a-been, if only she'd handled me gentle!

2002, Keith K. Anderson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Courting the Country School Teacher

Something was stirring in that place, across that hard won land
Had happened many times before, many spirits it had fanned
Awakening from some deep sleep, their doldrums overcome
Like a tuning fork was struck, and every fiber made to hum

Calvin' time was over, the prairie flowers were in full bloom
A quilt of many colors 'neath the school with just one room
That staunchly crowned a hill, the highest point around
One lone tree a vigil kept, 'gainst the winds it stood it's ground

A loafin' shed out back for ponies rode from home
And, of course, several dogs who would not be left alone
The privy door sang a squeaky tune buffeted back and forth
One wood stove the sole defense 'gainst cold air from the north

Standin' there in the warmin' sun the cowboy and the teacher were
A contrast, she of lace and petticoat, and he of cow manure
The audience, the giggling kids who were told to read their books
But peered out the windows and around the door tryin' for better looks

Tall and straight in a fresh washed shirt, had even shined his spurs
Combed his buckskin horse's tail, common courtin' overtures
Had to get him up a lot of nerve to get it on to here
To come a-callin' at the school, for him, a spankin' new frontier

Her collar rode high and tight against her dainty neck
Light brown hair bunched up in back with a ribbon held in check
Barely older than the eldest lad, her apron white with chalk
The glow in her cheeks rose like the sun as she listened to him talk

"Well, Ma'am, a fine day it is, no better could it be
Yore dress, it shore is purty, and the color fits you to a tee"
"Sir, the cloth is from a catalog, sewed it up myself, of course"
And then she hit for distance with: "I really like your horse"

His thoughts went off a-runnin' "Smells real good, doesn't even bite
She 'ppears smart enough, and when she talks, she puts my mind to flight
Can't find the words to speak, can't get my mouth unlocked
But her teeth are good, strong bones and such, and ain't a bit cow-hocked"

Outside the conversation, she was thinkin', too
The more time they spent a-shiftin' feet the more her interest grew
"He's mysterious, a rough cut knight upon his noble steed
Quiet and sincere, but I'll be careful here, lest I get him treed

What was in store for these young folk, a country dance, who knows?
Or a buggy ride and a picnic where the spring creek freely flows?
The stage was set for nature's play, wedding bells might decree
That the cycle of life is on again. It's how I came to be.

2004, Keith K. Anderson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Keith says this poem is "about my grandfather and grandmother. She was a country school teacher in South Dakota, boarded at my great grandfathers place, and my grandfather competed with his brothers to win her favor. I guess a young woman in those days enjoyed favorable odds."

 

Trailhead Rodeo

Set your clock for about eight in the mornin'
That's when the outfitters start rollin' in
With their trucks, pack horses, trailers and gear
Shore, it must be that Fall time of the year

Yep, tomorrow's the opening hunting day
At the trailhead there's the annual melee
With horses, wranglers, mules, and dudes
Seekin' antlered creatures at high altitudes

Now, if you can, picture this long row
Each parked rig it's own side show
Outfitters and clients milling around
Unloadin' supplies and gear on the ground

"Get the grain and food. Divvy up the weight
Hurry, now boys, it's a-gittin' late"
There's a light haze of dust filling the air
The race is on for the first to get there

Well, there's always at least one shrewd profiteer
And it sure 'nuff happened again this year
Shorty overbooked, and so, of course
Expanded his string with a cheap green horse

That bay stood steady and still well enough
As they piled on copious loads of the stuff
But as the boys started to hitch it all down
He ducked his head and flat left the ground

He come down the line, a-buckin' like sin
Folks was sure duckin' and fast scatterin'
As he charged through, pile drivin' the ground
Kickin' and squealin' with each mighty bound

That action started two more horses to buck
Even one that was tied to the rail on a truck
Another carryin' food humped to the creek
Wouldn't want to open that beer for a week

Panniers was flapping like big condor wings
At one moment the air was filled with things
As camp stoves, lanterns, tents he unloaded
Looked like a Sportsman Warehouse exploded

Shorty was grippin' the long lead rope
Draggin' behind but not givin' up hope
Hat over his eyes, face flat in the dirt
Toes diggin' furrows, ridin' the front of his shirt

After that bay unloaded everything clean
A whole Coleman display around him was seen
He settled right down and began to eat grass
Shorty got himself up, and gave him some sass

Shorty knew he wouldn' get much soft strokin'
And the walk back was filled with fun-pokin'
"We put a clock on you, Shorty, telling you now
You're fast but there's easier ways to plow"

Shorty's reply was straight faced and brief
"This horse never before has given me grief
I'll blindfold him when we go to load
And I've a plan to keep him on the road

Tie him to the tail of my steady lead horse
She'll keep him straight and on the right course
Guess ground transportation is the best way
This goin' by air didn't work good today"

So, you won't find us on the P-R-C-A charts
But, next year if you are around these parts
And if you are a-lookin' for a good free show
Drop by for our trailhead rodeo

2004, Keith K. Anderson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

Johnnie's Hair Piece

Johnnie was average when it come to ranch work
But one talent he had for sure was a perk
He made gear outa hair and couldn't be beat
Could outdo anyone who tried to compete

Horsehair, mohair, tails and manes
Turned into headstalls, girths, and reins
From horsehair reata to quirt and hat band
He outfitted our crew the best in the land

But despite all his talents for workin' with hair
He had none of his own, none grew up there
And if his hat wasn't screwed down tight
The shine put horses and wimmin to flight

Then one winter someone placed on his bunk
Ads from a men's magazine named Hunk
"Hair pieces for sale", suitable for swimmin'
Made a feller look smart and a sure thing with wimmin

But the prices were steep for low cow hand wages
And a thought crept in as he turned the pages
"Them toupe's just hair assembled by hand
By some foreigner in a far off land"

Why pay good money when he had the skill
Can't beat cowboy ingenuity if a guy's got the will
So he collected materials which weren't at a lack
Some bay and brown and chestnut and black

And when he was done, we had to admit
It was mostly real lookin' and a danged good fit
Then if he went hatless out at the door
We was happy 'cause he didn't scare horses no more

A right fine lookin' hair piece and designed for swimmin'
But, alas, didn't do a thing for his chances with wimmin
After he flopped at the dance we just had to say
"Johnnie, maybe it's the chin strap what gives you away!"

2005, Keith K. Anderson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

 

About Keith K. Anderson: 

Keith was born in southwestern Minnesota to grandchildren of South Dakota and Minnesota homesteaders. Many formative summers were spent at the grandparents' cattle and grain operations. He later moved to Tucson where he attended the University of Arizona and continued his passion for things Americana, particularly the cowboy life, by making many cowboy acquaintances. He and his wife currently live in Pasco, Washington where he works as a health care administrator and attends cutting horse shows and rodeos. Only recently starting to write cowboy poetry, Keith writes totally from his own experiences in South Dakota, Arizona, Eastern Washington, and numerous horseback elk hunting trips with traditional Colorado cowboy friends.



 

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