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Bruce Kiskaddon

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Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.
                                                Frank M. King, from the foreword to Rhymes of the Ranges

Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) is one the most admired "classic" cowboy poets and his poems are frequently recited. Most are in the public domain.

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado's Picketwire area.

The late Mason Coggin and Janice Coggin of Cowboy Miner Productions assisted with many of the poems in the original posting of this feature and much of the background information. In their introduction, the Coggins present a chronology of Kiskaddon's life and writings. Their award-winning book, Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, was long the only in-print collection of Kiskaddon's work.

In 2007, Bill Siems and Old Night Hawk Press released the important Open Range:Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, a monumental 600-page work that includes almost all of Bruce Kiskaddon's poetic output (481 poems); extensive illustrations and rare photographs, and biographical and historical information.



Poems by Bruce Kiskaddon

Chronology of Kiskaddon's Work and Life

Books by Bruce Kiskaddon

Index of poems in Western Poems
Index of poems in Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems (1947) 
Index of poems in Cowboy Miner's Classic Rhymes
Index of poems in Rhymes of the Ranges (1987)
Index of poems in Shorty's Yarns

About Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon

Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon  separate page

Selected  Recordings

See our separate feature here about Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, Bill Siems' monumental 2007 collection of all of Kiskaddon's poems.

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See our separate feature here about Shorty's Yarns, Western Stories and Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, edited by Bill Siems. The feature includes poems, photos, and stories.



Selected Poems by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

All Dressed Up

The Army Mule
The Balky Horse
The Bell Mare
The Brandin' Corral
The Broncho Twister's Prayer
The Buckaroo
The Bundle Stiff
The Bunk House Mirror

Christmas at the Home Ranch
The Chuck Wagon
Cold Mornin's
Cow Boy Days
The Cow Boy's Dream

Cow Sense
The Cowboys Christmas Dance
The Creak of the Leather
The Days of Forty-Nine

Doing Her Best
Drinkin' Water
The Drouth
The Duel
The Dutch Oven
An Experiment
Feedin' Time
The General Store
Ghost Canyon Trail
The Ghosts at the Diamond Bar
Git Him Slicker Broke
Going to Summer Camp
A Habit
Half Broke
He Didn't Belong
Headin' Fer the New Deal
Her Colt
Her Neighbor's Kids
His Old Clothes
Hook 'em Cow
Hosses and Flies
How a Cowpuncher Rode
It Might Have Been Me or It Might Have Been You
Judgment Day
Leaving the Wreck
Long Eared Bull
The Long Horn Speaks

Looking Backward
The Lost Flannins
Makin' a Break
The Midwinter Bath
Movin' to Winter Range
New Boots
The Old Night Hawk
separate page
The Old Time Christmas
An Old Western Town
On Foot
Pullin' Leather
The Quitter
Second Guard
Shoveling the Ice Out of the Trough
Sidin' His Dad
The Stampede

Startin' Out
Stringin' Along
Summer Time

A Tangle
The Tangle
That Letter
That Little Blue Roan
Then and Now
They Can Take It

They Don't Thank You
Thinkin' it Over
The Time to Decide
A Tough Start
The Veiled Rider
Wet Boots
When He Cold Jaws
When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall
When You're Throwed
Winter Time
Workin' it Over
You Never Tell That

The Christmas Tree (separate page)
Merry Christmas (separate page)

shortybk1.jpg (9386 bytes)
separate feature

The Long Horn Speaks (illustrated)
The Old Night Hawk (poem)
Concernin' Bill (story)

...and more

Separate feature

A Good Cowboy

...and more



The following poem was written as in introduction to Rhymes of the Ranges published in 1924 by Bruce Kiskaddon.

These are just a few rhymes of old friends and old times,
     And I hope before I am through—
Just once in a while they will bring a broad smile,
     To the face of some old buckaroo.

Wherever he worked in the days that are past,
     On the mountain, the plain or the valley,
What matters is now if he tied hard and fast,
     Or tumbled his steer with a dally.

If he wrangled the bunch, if he rode gentle strings,
     If he topped off the wild ones that shimmy—
If he rode with his leathers through centre fire rings,
     Or sat on a double-rigged rimmy.

If he worked for big outfits far out on the plains,
     Where they never had use for a packer,
Or back in the hills in the snow and the rains,
     With the regular old greasy sacker.

If he worked as a drifter and trusted to luck,
     If he managed a bunch of his own;
If he cooked at the wagon and put up the chuck,
    Or held down a line camp alone.

They are plain simple tales, of the round-ups and trails,
    When he worked on the range with the cattle;
Not of wild woolly nights, nor of gambling hall fights,
    But the days and the nights in the saddle.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998


When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall

Though you're not exactly blue,
Yet you don't feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
For your feelin's and the weather
Seem to sort of go together,
And you're quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;
And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin'
To the home ranch with  the wagon—
When they've finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin'
On the job for winter brandin',
And your pardner, he's a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin',
But you never hear him speakin',
And you feel it's goin' to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother—
He is friendly but he's quiet, that is all;
For he' thinkin' while he's draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin'
At an easy walk a swingin'
In behind the old chuck wagon movin' slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they've waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin' sporty,
Not a hoss is actin' snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they 're gentle, when they're draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled 'way down furr'wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
'Cept his old cob pipe is smokin'
As he lets his team go pokin',
Hittin' all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin'—
He's just settin' there and thinkin'
'Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin'
And two little clouds a sailin',
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you're lonesome when you're draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin' bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin'
Up there in the soft blue linin'
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin'
As your memory starts driftin'
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you're far away and draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue—
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin' but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did—
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done—
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
'Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede—
'Twas away up north, you helped 'em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn't reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his'n—
Boy that killed him's still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he's rich and livin' high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances—
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead 'em down the middle
Jest a prancin' to the fiddle—
Never thought of goin' home till the break of day.
No! there ain't no chance for sleepin',
For the memories come a creepin',
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon—
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

From Kiskaddon's 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges


The hills git awful quiet, when you have to camp alone.
It’s mighty apt to set a feller thinkin’.
You always half way waken when a hoss shoe hits a stone,
Or you hear the sound of hobble chains a clinkin’.

It is then you know the idees that you really have in mind.
You think about the things you’ve done and said.
And you sometimes change the records that you nearly always find
In the back of almost every cow boy’s head.

It gives a man a sorter different feelin’ in his heart.
And he sometimes gits a little touch of shame,
When he minds the times and places that he didn’t act so smart,
And he knows himself he played a sorry game.

It kinda makes you see yourself through other people’s eyes.
And mebby so yore pride gits quite a fall.
When yore all alone and thinkin’, well, you come to realize
You’re a mighty common feller after all.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

The Balky Hoss

The pleasant recollections if the ones
   that mostly last,
But there’s sometimes other memories
   come a creepin’ from the past.
How you lost your summer’s wages,
   on a horse you thought could run.
How a big buck stood and watched
   you when you didn’t have a gun.
Then one evening at a shindig,
   you thought you was doin’ fine
Till some people come and told you
   you was gittin’ out of line.
You rode ten miles to a dance once.
   When you got there you was sore.
You had got your dates all tangled.
   It had been the night before.

You have got some recollections
   of some gal that let you down,
But remember when your hoss balked
   on the main street right in town.
Yes, you had a sneaky feelin’
   that you mebby wasn’t boss
When he turned around and throwed
   his head across the other hoss.
You would like to took a rifle and
   have downed him with some slugs.
He was lookin’ at you pig eyed
   standin’ crosswise in the tugs.
You hated the old critter
   till you wisht that he was dead.
You would like to took a hammer
   and just knocked him in the head.

Then the crowd all gathered round
   you fer to git in on the show.
Every one of them could tell you
   what to do to make him go.
There was some that said he’d ort
   to be jest tickled with a switch.
Some said beat him with a stay chain,
   others said to git a twitch.
Some said to git a jocky stick
   and that would help perhaps
While others said to put one ear
   inside the head stall straps.
Some said punch him in the belly.
   Others said pick up his feet.
And one allowed he ort to
    have a little bite to eat.

The tough guys said to choke him
   and to shut off all his wind.
Or mebbyso to knock him down
   and let him up ag’in.
One said that he could start him
   with some paper and a match.
Or put a rope behind his knees
   and saw to make him stretch.
Oh yes, there was a hundred things
   they wanted you to try.
One was to take tobacker juice
   and squirt it in his eye.
You tried to keep your temper.
   You was shakin’, you was pale.
Every now and then some wise guy
   asked you if he was fer sale.

But it wasn’t no use tryin’
   and your temper got plum lost
When some feller on the side walk
   yelled and asked how much he cost.
And when you got to hatin’
   every body in your heart,
The hoss got tired waitin’,
   straightened out and made a start.
It surely was a big relief
   to git out on the road.
Got some cuss words off your stummick;
   eased your mind quite a load.
You swore to God you’d never drive
   that hoss to town ag’in.
You swapped him to another man.
   You thought he didn’t know.
But he hadn’t any trouble gittin’
   that old hoss to go.
It sort of set you thinkin’
  and the idee come to you,
That there might be balky hosses,
   but there’s balky drivers too.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

The Broncho Twister’s Prayer

This poem was recited at Bruce Kiskaddon’s funeral.

It was a little grave yard
   on the rolling foot hill plains:
That was bleached by the sun in summer,
   swept by winter’s snows and rains;
There a little bunch of settlers
   gathered on an autumn day
‘Round a home made lumber coffin,
   with their last respects to pay.

Weary men that wrung their living
   from that hard and arid land,
And beside them stood their women;
   faded wives with toil worn hands.
But among us stood one figure
   that was wiry, straight and trim.
Every one among us knew him.
   ‘Twas the broncho twister, Jim.

Just a bunch of hardened muscle
   tempered with a savage grit,
And he had the reputation
   of a man that never quit.
He had helped to build the coffin,
   he had helped to dig the grave;
And his instinct seemed to teach him
   how he really should behave.

Well, we didn’t have a preacher,
   and the crowd was mighty slim.
Just two women with weak voices
   sang an old time funeral hymn.
That was all we had for service.
   The old wife was sobbing there.
For her husband of a life time,
   laid away without prayer.

She looked at the broncho twister,
   then she walked right up to him.
Put one trembling arm around him and said,
   "Pray. Please won’t you Jim?"
You could see his figure straighten,
   and a look of quick surprise
Flashed across his swarthy features,
   and his hard dare devil eyes.

He could handle any broncho,
   and he never dodged a fight.
‘Twas the first time any body ever saw
   his face turn white.
But he took his big sombrero
   off his rough and shaggy head,
How I wish I could remember what
   that broncho peeler said.

No, he wasn’t educated.
   On the range his youth was spent.
But the maker of creation
   know exactly what he meant.
He looked over toward the mountains
   where the driftin’ shadows played.
Silence must have reigned in heaven
   when they heard the way Jim prayed.

Years have passed since that small funeral
   in that lonely grave yard lot.
But it gave us all a memory, and a lot
   of food for thought.
As we stood beside the coffin,
   and the freshly broken sod,
With that reckless broncho breaker
   talkin’ heart to heart with God.

When the prayer at last was over,
   and the grave had all been filled,
On his rough, half broken pony,
   he rode off toward the hills.
Yes, we stood there in amazement
   as we watched him ride away,
For no words could ever thank him.
   There was nothing we could say.

Since we gathered in that grave yard,
   it’s been nearly fifty years.
With their joys and with their sorrows,
   with their hopes and with their fears.
But I hope when I have finished,
   and they lay me with the dead,
Some one says a prayer above me,
   like that broncho twister said.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

The Long Horn Speaks

The old long horn looked at the prize winning steer,
And he grumbled, "What sort of a thing is this here?
He ain't got no laigs and his body is big,
I sort of suspicion he's crossed with a pig.
Now me! I can run, I can gore, I can kick,
But that feller's too clumsy for all of them tricks.

They're breedin' such critters and callin' em Steers!
Why the horns that he's got ain't as long as my ears.
I cain't figger what he'd have done in my day.
They wouldn't have stuffed me with grain and with hay;
Nor have polished my horns and have fixed up my hoofs,
And slept me on beddin' in under the roofs.

Who'd have curried his hide and have fuzzed up his tail?
Not none of them riders that drove the long trail.
They'd have found mighty quick jest how fur her could jump
When they jerked a few doubles of rope off his rump.
And to me it occurs he would not look so slick
With his tail full of burrs and his hide full of ticks.

I wonder jest what that fat feller would think,
If he lived on short grass and went miles fer a drink.
And wintered outdoors in the sleet and the snow.
He wouldn't look much like he does at the show.
I wouldn't be like him; no, not if I could.
I caint figger out why they think he's so good.

His short laigs and his white baby face--
I could finish him off in a fight or a race.
They've his whole fam'ly hist'ry in writin', and still,
He ain't fit fer nothin' exceptin' to kill.
And all of them judges that thinks they're so wise,
They look at that critter and give him first prize."

          From Western Poems, 1935


Drinkin’ Water

When a feller once comes to a pond or a tank,
It is better to ride out a ways from the bank.
Fer the water is clearer out there as a rule,
And besides it is deep and a little more cool.

And out toward deep water, you notice somehow,
You miss a whole lot of that flavor of cow.
You can dip up a drink with the brim of yore hat,
And water makes purty good drinkin’ at that.

You mebby spill some down the front of yore shirt,
But any old waddy knows that doesn’t hurt.
There may be some bugs and a couple insecks
But it all goes the same down a cow puncher’s neck.

I know there is plenty of folks would explain
Why such water had ort to be filtered or strained.
Sech people as that never suffered from thirst,
Or they’d think of it later and drink it down first.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

The Duel

Old Pan Handle Johnny was quick on the draw,
And a wonderful shot was old Billy McGraw.
Old Billy McGraw he expresed the belief
That Pan Handle Johnny was eatin his beef.

Well, Johnny got mad when he heard about that,
and he started to look fer where Billy was at.
And all kinds of wagers was goin’ right soon,
When the boys laid their bets in the Lone Star saloon.

We knowed when they’d finished they’d only be one,
And some fellers bet that they wouldn’t be none.
The only thing gave ‘em reason to bet,
Was the lay of the land when the two fellers met.

If they fought at close quarters or after ‘twas night,
Well, Pan Handle Johnny would finish the fight.
But take it in daylight at thirty five paces
Old Billy could shoot the spots out of the aces.

They was ten steps apart when them two fellers met.
The sun had gone down but it wasn’t dark yet.
Johnny fired four shots before Billy could draw.
Three of ‘em went wild and one shot hit McGraw.

Old Billy shot once and he knocked Johnny dead
Then he deemized plum sudden the bystanders said.
And the fellers all won that had bet on a draw
Between Pan Handle Johnny and Billy McGraw.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998


Yes, he used to be a cow hoss
   that was young and strong and fleet
Now he stands alone, forgotten,
   in the winter snow and sleet.
Fer his eyes is dim and holler
   and his head is turnin’ gray,
He has got too old to foller

   "Jest a hoss that’s had his day."

They’ve forgotten how once he packed ‘em
   at a easy swingin’ lope.
How he braced his sturdy shoulders
   when he set back on a rope.
Didn’t bar no weight nor distance;
   answered every move and word,
Though his sides were white with lather
   while he held the millin’ herd.

Now he’s stiff and old and stumbles,
   and he’s lost the strength and speed
That once took him through the darkness,
   ‘round the point of a stampede
And his legs is scarred and battered;
   both the muscle and the bone.
He is jest a wore out cow hoss
   so they’ve turned him out alone.

They have turned him out to winter
   best he can amongst the snow.
There without a friend and lonesome,
   Do you think he doesn’t know?
Through the hours of storm and darkness
   he had time to think a lot.
That hoss may have been forgotten,
   but you bet he aint forgot.

He stands still. He aint none worried,
   fer he knows he’s played the game
He’s got nothin’ to back up from.
   He’s been square and aint ashamed.
Fer no matter where they put him
   he was game to do his share
Well, I think more of the pony
   than the folks that left him there.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



How a Cow Puncher Rode

I have often been asked by the people I knowed,
To tell ‘em the way that a cow puncher rode.
Now them cow hands they didn’t all ride jest the same.
They rode a’most every old style you could name.

Of course, most of the hands that was workin’ around,
Would ride with long stirrups, and straight up and down.
Some rode with ‘em medium, some rode with ‘em short.
In fact there was stirrups, and len’ths of all sorts.

I know of one feller that quarreled with his brother,
Because he rode with one stirrup longer than t’other.
Some stuck their laigs foreward and held their heels low.
Some held their laigs back and turned down their toe.

Some held their feet still, but some figity cuss
Would keep kickin’ his feet and makin’ a fuss.
There was some that set straight,
   but there’s others that humped
Till they set on their hoss as a sort of a lump.

There was some of them riders kep’ close to their seat.
While others was half of the time on their feet.
Some bogged on the cantel and rode away back,
While others would jig like they rode on a tack.

There was some kep’ their elbows down close to their side.
And others ag’in that would let ‘em spread wide.
While some of ‘em flopped up their elbows so high,
You would think mebbyso they was tryin’ to fly.

There was them that would ride with their hand on the horn.
Some looked plum contented and some looked forlorn.
There was them, fer some reason I couldn’t explain,
Whirled a piece of their rope or the end of a rein.

There was some of them fellers set off to one side.
In fact I can’t tell how a cow boy did ride.
When I figger it out, there is only one guess.
They rode like they thought they could do it the best.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

Judgment Day

Once I dremt while I was sleepin’
That the earth had passed away,
And the boss of all creation
Made a work on Judgment Day,
They was folks of every color
They was folks of every breed
And they cut’ em into bunches
"Cordin’ to their race and creed.

Top hand angels done the cuttin’
They knowed how to handle things,
Some would change and help the others
While they’d smoke and rest their wings.
And I seed a bunch of fellers
They was holdin’ on the side.
Grazin’ soter loose and easy
And the angels workin’ wide.

He had judged and classed the others
By a book of rules he used,
Then he called out to the angels
"Now bring on the buckaroos!"
Angels bunched and shoved ‘em forward,
Some surprised but not dismayed.
Amblin’ up to face the judgment
Came that grizzled wild brigade.

Each one pulled his hat on tighter
That they done from habit’s force,
It’s a trick of most rough riders
When they mount a buckin’ horse.
Some was young and some was older,
Some walked with a limpin’ stride.
Some still had the high healed boots on
They was wearin’ when they died.

They all stood in line to answer
Fer the way they’d spent their days.
And they faced the boss of Heaven
With a cool and level gaze.
And the boss of all creation
Give them boys a kerful look,
And sez to a top hand angel,
"Bring me out that range law book."

Well, I turned and asked an angel
Why the judgment book was changed,
And they judged that bunch of cow boys
By the laws that ruled the range.
And he answered very solemn
That the reason was because
You could never judge a cow boy
By another feller’s laws.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

Pullin’ Leather

Yes, a cow boy has his troubles,
   and he shore is out of luck,
Out a dozen miles from nowheres
   and his hoss begins to buck.
And he picks a place to practice
   on some mighty ugly grounds,
For you’d land amongst the cactus
   if he ever got you down.

So you aim to keep a straddle
   and you’ll ride him if you can,
‘Elst they’ll be a dehorned saddle,
   or they’ll be a one armed man.
You don’t look like much vaquero,
   he is floppin’ yore shirt tails.
You have lost yore old sombrero
   and you’ve broke some finger nails.

People say that pullin’ leather
   don’t show ridin’ skill. That’s true.
But you’d like to stick together
   till the argyment is through.
When you’re a slippin’ and a slidin’,
   you’ll admit at all events
If it doesn’t show good ridin’
   that it shows a heap of sense.

When you’re throwed it ain’t so pleasant
   with a dozen miles to walk.
No there ain’t nobody present,
   and the hoss of course cain’t talk.
You are hangin’ on and prayin’.
   You ain’t makin’ no grand stand.
You jest aim to keep a stayin’
   and you’ll do the best you can.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

That Letter

I rode to that box a settin’ on a post beside the trail,
That our outfit used fur getting’ all their messages and mail.
There I got a little letter and the envelope was pink,
It shore set me feelin’ better but it soter made me think.
Yes the feelin’ was surprisin’ onderneath my Stetson hat.
I could feel my hair a risin’ like the bristles of a cat.

Well I tore the letter open and I read it through and through.
All the time I was a hopin’ I would savvy what to do.
Men is quick upon the trigger, comes to tangle ups and fights,
But a woman, you can’t figger what she means by what she writes.
It was purty and invitin’ like a sunny day in spring,
She had done a heap of writin’ but she hadn’t said a thing.

Now, when men folks start to writin’ you can mostly onderstand,
And the stuff that they’re a sightin’ stands out plain jest like a brand
They don’t never do no playin’ they’ve a sort of sudden way,
For they start right in by sayin’ what they started out to say.
Men is given to expressin’ what they mean, right then and there,
But a woman keeps you guessin’ till your mind goes everywhere.

Fer a spell I’d do some thinkin’ then I’d start again and read;
I kept frownin’ and a blinkin’ till at last I got her lead.
In that letter there was lurkin’ jest one simple plain idee.
When I got my mind a workin’ it was plain enough to see.
Fer she said her and her mother, come a Saturday next week
Would be over with her brother to the dance on Turkey Creek.

On the start, you see, I never had no notice what she meant.
She had fixed it up right clever in the way the letter went.
Man! I shore did whoop and beller when the idee hit me fair.
She would come without no feller and she aimed to meet me there.
It shore made me like her better for that bashful gal of mine,
Went and built that whole durned letter, jest to write that single line.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998

From a postcard copyright 1908, Richard Parry Jr., Denver, Colorado


The Old Time Christmas

I liked the way we used to do,
   when cattle was plenty and folks was few.
The people gathered frum far and near, and
   they barbacued a big fat steer.
The kids tried stayin' awake because,
   they reckoned they might ketch Santa Claus.
Next mornin' you'd wake 'em up to see,
   what he'd been and put on the Christmas tree.

It was Christmas then fer the rich and pore,
   and every ranch was an open door.
The waddy that came on a company hoss
   was treated the same as the owner and boss.
Nobody seemed to have a care,
   you was in among friends or you wasn't there.
For every feller in them days knew
   to behave hisself as a man should do.

Some had new boots, which they'd shore admire
   when they warmed their feet in front of the fire.
And the wimmin folks had new clothes too,
   but not like the wimmin of these days do.
Sometimes a drifter came riding in,
   some feller that never was seen agin.
And each Christmas day as the years went on
   we used to wonder where they'd gone.

I like to recall the Christmas night.
   The tops of the mountains capped with white.
The stars so bright they seemed to blaze,
   and the foothills swum in a silver haze.
Them good old days is past and gone.
   The time and the world and the change goes on.
And you cain't do things like you used to do
   when cattle was plenty and folks was few.






The Cowboys Christmas Dance

Winter is here and it aint so nice tendin'
   the feeders and choppin' ice.
Nasty weather to stir about.
   Cold in the morning's a gittin' out.
Puts a sting in your ears and nose;
   gotta watch out or you'll freeze yore toes.
Blowin' your breath on a frosty bit.
   Makes you feel like you want to quit.

You like one part of it any way,
   That's when you git yore Christmas day.
Plenty of feed and a right good chance
   to shake yore feet at a country dance.
Fiddles a playin' jest watch 'em go.
   "Aleman left an' doce do!"
Don't keer none for the cold and storms.
   Dancin' around you soon git warm.

Folks all in from the hills and flats.
   Ears tied up onder their hats.
Tough on the horses they drove and rode
   shiverin' there with their backs all bowed.
It's the only time that folks has to spare
   so the hosses had got to stand their share.
You turn 'em out when they git rode down
   but you got to keep workin' the year around.

Winter time but it aint so bad.
   When it comes around yore sorter glad.
Even though it's nasty weather
   folks has a chance to git together.
And plenty of folks that was half way mad
   found out their neighbors was not as bad
Yes lots of trouble is checked in advance
   by a sociable crowd at a Christmas dance.

Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998


The Chuck Wagon

She ain't what she was in the days of her glory.
Fer years she has stood in the cotton wood shade.
But if she could talk, she could tell you some story,
Of her days on the range, and the part that she played.

The old mess box built in her back, is still standin'.
But the canvas is gone that we put on her bows.
Each year she went out fer the round up and brandin',
And came back from the beef hunt along with the snows.

When we got on the camp ground I sure did admire,
How the cook and the wrangler would unhitch the team.
Then they throwed the old dutch oven into the fire--
Them biscuits he baked I can taste in my dreams.

With the boys sleepin' 'round her she looked sort of lonely,
Like a small country church in a little grave yard.
But she looked plenty good when you slid off your pony,
When you came into camp fer to wake the next guard.

But the wagon was home and we gathered around her'
Chuck riders came in when the pickin's was short;
Some of 'em would eat till they'd mighty nigh founder--
It was there in the night we held kangaroo court.

I liked them old hands with their gaze cool and level.
They furnished the subject fer many a tale.
It was little they feared either man, beast or devil,
Them riders that follered the chuck wagon's trail.

But the time I liked best, as I clearly remember;
Is one every cow puncher likes to recall.
When the work was all finished along in November,
And he follered the chuck wagon home in the fall.

Bruce Kiskaddon

This poem is included in our collection of Chuckwagon poems.


It Might Have Been Me or It Might Have Been You

You have heard lots of stories how cow boys behaved,
There was some of them reckless and some of them brave;
And some jest plain waddies that worked with the crew.
Such as might have been me or they might have been you.

But the boys acted different I generally found,
If there chanced to be people hangin' around,
Than they did out alone where nobody could see.
Was it that way with you? It was that way with me.

On the round up a man with a hoss that would buck
Didn't seem to consider he'd met with bad luck.
While the boys helped him saddle he'd laff and he'd joke.
He would pull down his hat and he'd roll up a smoke.

His head might be poundin' in onder his shirt,
But he'd pull off the blind and he'd give him the quirt.
And he'd ride or get throwed like a real buckaroo.
Yes, that might a been me or it might a been you.

But out in a water lot some where alone
A boy trapped a fresh hoss, a big mean lookin' roan.
How gentle and easy he got in the saddle
Jest to see how he'd act when he once got a straddle.

He eased him around the corral on a walk
And give him an ear full of kind gentle talk
He sure didn't hurry although it was late.
He slid off real careful and opened the gate.

He set about like he was ridin' on eggs.
And he felt him out light with the calves of his legs.
Yes he jest stole a ride fer the fust mile or two.
Well, that might a been me and it might a been you.

Bruce Kiskaddon

His Old Clothes

The chuck wagon trailer had just got his card
To attend the spring round up. He stood in the yard
And studied a minute and scratched his gray head,
Then brought in a gunny sack out of the shed.

He emptied it out on the clean kitchen floor
And took a good look at the clothes he once wore.
Yes tehre was the hat, stained with sweat and with grease
And some faded worn Levis that bagged at the knees.

A brush coat and chaps that were scarred up and wrinkled
And a pair of big spurs that still jingled and tinkled.
A pair of old boots and a heavy wool shirt,
Two long hoggin' strings and a Mexican quirt.

He grinned mighty cheerful and said to his wife,
"I'll give them old waddies the start of their life.
I'll wear my old chaps and my boots and cross L's
I was wunst a brush popper, a rider from Hell."

His wife sure looked wild when she heard what he said.
She begun to get mad, she was sure turnin' red;
Of a sudden she changed and she said with a smile,
"Sure, put 'em on Daddy and wear 'em a while."

The first was the shirt. How that old waddy swore.
It jest wouldn't go on and it ripped and it tore.
The boots they jest wouldn't go onto his feet
And the old Levi pants was too small in the seat.

In the last twenty years he had gained forty poing
And the old leather brush coat it wouldn't go 'round.
Now chaps on a street suit don't look very well
And them low oxford shoes isn't built for cross L's.

If he wore decent clothes he could not wear the hat
So his plan to play cow boy was finished at that.
He would have to go dressed like he always had done
Though to wear his old outfit would sure have been fun.

But his woman she really surprised him at that
Fer she got him new boots and a new Stetson hat.
He got in the front seat but she drove the car.
You know how old fellers with younger wives are.

When he got to the round up he met all the boys
And had him a day such as old folks enjoys.
He looked 'em all over and right then he knew
They had all wore the clothes that their wives told them to.

Bruce Kiskaddon

All Dressed Up

Things is pickin' up as most folks knows,
So I sent to town fer to git new clo'es.
Some onderwear and a big hat box,
A couple of shirts and a passel of socks.

Some overalls and other truck,
Three red bandannys throwed in fer luck.
My boots aint new but they'll do right well,
I reckon I'll make them last a spell.

I'll be the pride of the whole derned spread.
With a fust class Stetson on my head.
A bran new slicker tied on behind--
It's strange how yore clo'se improves your mind.

Nice new clo'es purtects the hide
And sorter contents a man inside.
Clo'es does a heap toward makin' the man.
Try goin' without and you'll onderstand.

Bruce Kiskaddon


Second Guard

You are sleepin' in your hot roll when some body kicks your tarp.
When you roll out of your blankets why the wind feels cold and sharp.
It was Tex come in to wake you, but he needn't kick so hard.
Ain't no need to kill a feller 'cause he's pulled fer second guard.
Johnnie's over at the fire with the old black coffee pot.
Coffee like all hands admire, plenty stout and plenty hot.
You both drink a shot of coffee and you roll and light a smoke.
Then you crawl up on your night hoss. Neither one of you has spoke.

You relieve old Lonesome Barry, him that's got the squeaky voice.
Allus singin' Annie Larry, Lord he makes a rotten noise.
Well, you sing "The Texas Ranger" and you give your hoss the rein.
Johnny starts around to meet you singin' "Good Bye Lizy Jane."

Your old hoss walks slow and steady, with his nose close to the ground.
Though your ears is cocked and ready, still you don't git nary sound,
'Cept the creakin' of your saddle and the singin' of your pard,
And the breathin' of the cattle, as you ride the second guard.

Stars is out so bright they're blazin' and sometimes you see one fall.
Joshuas a standin' 'round you like old men that's bent and tall.
You can see the old moon risin' and you hear the sand rats play.
Second guard is awful lonesome, but it's int'restin' some way.

Now you wish there was a country were they allus had good feed.
Where there ain't no buckin' hosses and the cattle don't stampede.
Pretty women and good likker, and where shootin cranks, ain't barred.
Where the cooks all make good biscuits, and there ain't no second guard.

Bruce Kiskaddon


The Midwinter Bath

I'm home plenty early, I reckon—
It's too soon to start cookin' grub,
So before I begin with my bakin'
I'll take me a bath in that tub.

I'll build up a plenty big fire,
And git all the kittles well filled;
If there's one thing that I don't admire,
It's gittin' in water that's chilled.

That wind is some cold and plum nosey—
It's comin' right in through the cracks—
But I'll fix the place up warm and cozy,
And stuff that broke window with sacks.

Wow! Wow! But it sure makes you shiver—
A man wouldn't really suppose
It would chill him plum into the liver,
The minute he takes off his clothes.

Now, there is old Billy McRady—
He's eighty, and got his third wife.
She's quite a respectable lady—
And old Bill never bathed in his life.

When did I bathe last—I remember,
Although I ain't put the date down—
I had one the first of November,
The last time I went into town.

It's weak'nin', a man can't deny it,
But I'm takin' a chance, anyway;
It won't hurt a feller to try it,
For this here is Volunteen day.

I'll git that new bar of Fels Napthy
And doll myself sweet an' clean,
And come out all purty an' happy—
Like somebody's sweet Volunteen.

Ouch!  Say, but my feet must be tender—
But then a man should understand,
When he feels of the water, remember,
That his feet ain't as tough as his hand.

I don't think it hurts your endurance,
Except when a feller just soaks,
For baths is a common occurrence
Among the society folks.

The men, kids and the women
Put on little short-legged skirts,
And goes in the ocean a swimmin';
They don't reckon as how that it hurts.

I've read about them in "The Tattler,"
Great goodness!  jest look at them heels;
I'm sheddin' my hide like a rattler—
It's turrible how a man peels,

I'v got some clean under-clothes ready,
But the others is still warm for me;
I'll got at this thing sort of steady—
Too much of it mightn't agree.

Les' see, now-November, December—
And this here is Volunteen Day;
I'll mark down the date and remember
I'm good 'till the first of next May.

It may cause a feller to weaken,
It may sort of shorten Life's path;
But I'll tell you right here, plainly speakin',
I sure do enjoy a good bath!

Bruce Kiskaddon

According to Bill Siems this poem appeared first in Kiskaddon's 1928 book, Just As Is minus verses 10-12), and then as it is above in Kiskaddon's 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges.

This poem is included in our Cowboy Valentine and Love Poetry collection


The Time to Decide

Did you ever stand on the ledges,
On the brink of the great plateau
And look from their jagged edges
On the country that lay below?

When your vision met no resistance
And nothing to stop your gaze,
Till the mountain peaks in the distance
Stood wrapped in a purple haze.

On the winding water courses
And the trails on the mountain sides,
Where you guided your patient horses
On your long and lonesome rides.

When you saw Earth's open pages
And you seemed to understand
As you gazed on the work of ages,
Rugged and rough, but grand.

There, the things that you thought were strongest
And the things that you thought were great,
And for which you had striven longest
Seemed to carry but little weight.

While the things that were always nearer,
The things that you thought were small;
Seemed to stand out grander and clearer.
As you looked from the mountain wall.

While you're gazing on such a vision
And your outlook is clear and wide,
If you have to make a decision,
That's the time and place to decide

Although you return to the city
And mingle again with the throng;
Though your heart may be softened by pity
Or bitter from strife and wrong.

Though others should laugh in derision,
And the voice of the past grow dim;
Yet, stick to the cool decision
That you made on the mountain's rim.



The Creak of the Leather

It's likely that you can remember
A corral at the foot of a hill
Some mornin' along in December
When the air was so cold and so still.
When the frost lay as light as a feather
And the stars had jest blinked out and gone.
Remember the creak of the leather
As you saddled your hoss in the dawn.

When the glow of the sunset had faded
And you reached the corral after night
On a hoss that was weary and jaded
And so hungry yore belt wasn't tight.
You felt about ready to weaken
You knowed you had been a long way
But the old saddle still kep a creakin'
Like it did at the start of the day.

Perhaps you can mind when yore saddle
Was standin' up high at the back
And you started a whale of a battle
When you got the old pony untracked.
How you and the hoss stuck together
Is a thing you caint hardly explain
And the rattle and creak of the leather
As it met with the jar and the strain.

You have been on a stand in the cedars
When the air was so quiet and dead
Not even some flies and mosquitoes
To buzz and make noise 'round yore head.
You watched for wild hosses or cattle
When the place was as silent as death
But you heard the soft creak of the saddle
Every time the hoss took a breath.

And when the round up was workin'
All day you had been ridin' hard
There wasn't a chance of your shirkin'
You was pulled for the second guard
A sad homesick feelin' come sneakin'
As you sung to the cows and the moon
And you heard the old saddle a creakin'
Along to the sound of the tune.

There was times when the sun was shore blazin'
On a perishin' hot summer day
Mirages would keep you a gazin'
And the dust devils danced far away
You cussed at the thirst and the weather
You rode at a slow joggin' trot
And you noticed somehow that the leather
Creaks different when once it gets hot.

When yore old and yore eyes have grown hollow
And your hair has a tinge of the snow
But there's always the memories that follow
From the trails of the dim long ago.
There are things that will haunt you forever
You notice that strange as it seems
One sound, the soft creak of the leather,
Weaves into your memories and dreams.


Her Colt

Other hosses takes an interest in a colt that's young and small.
The way they act you'd think they'd never seen a colt atall.
They would nip him and torment him if his mother wasn't there.
But they don't do much inspectin' when they meet up with the mare.

It's her that makes 'em savvy not to monkey with that colt.
She backs her ears and peels her teeth; you bet she'll take a holt.
If that don't make 'em understand, they'll learn the way it feels,
When she lashes out and takes 'em in the ribs with both her heels.

She must watch the other hosses, she must teach that colt to mind,
And there's times perhaps the bosses gits a little out of line.
She knows he ain't no problem child.  He's just like all his brothers,
And she's a mare that's got a colt, the same as all the others.

Of course she hasn't read no books how children should be raised.
She doesn't keep a record of her familie's birthdays.
But if you watch from day to day you'll find she'll make it through.
And do about as good as job as anyone can do.

Calendar Poem

Startin' Out

When the boys start out on circle, they most always travel slow.
'Cause their breakfast isn't settled, and they've got a ways to go.
And perhaps a couple fellers is a little stiff and sore,
From the ridin' and the brandin' that they did the day before.
The hands do a little talkin' but they watch the country 'round.
And the hosses keep a walkin' while the saddles settle down.
The old Boss he "Gives the powders," as he lets 'em ease along;
There won't be no time for no talkin' when they once get goin' strong.
He keeps chawin' his tobacker, and he spits and works his jaws,
While he talks about the water holes, the canons and the draws.
Purty soon they start a ridin' and they throw the circle far.
Puffs of dust along the sky line show you where the riders are.
You might think there were no cattle in that country anywhere,
Till the circle starts to narrow and the dust hangs in the air.
By noon time the round up's gathered, and it makes you wonder how
Such a little bunch of riders ever found so many cows.

Calendar Poem

He Didn't Belong

In camp he was awkward, the sort of a man
That would upset a bucket or step in a pan.
He never took notice of what you was doin'.
He would ride up too close to a hoss you was shoein.'

When you was corralin' the hosses some mornin'
He'd show up in the gateway without any warnin'.
He would leave a gate open fer jest a short while,
Then furgit it and ride off fer several mile.

He would finally go back there and shut it ag'in,
Never thinkin' of stock that got out or got in.
If he knowed any scandal he'd spill it all right,
Where it started a quarrel or mebby a fight.

He was friendly and kind, he was honest and willin'.
But a feller folks lots of times felt just like killin'
No matter how hard that pore feller would try,
He did everything wrong and he didn't know why.

Calendar Poem, 1944 and also in  Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems


Thinkin' it Over

It's odd but there is one thing most people like to do.
To spend a while beside the grave of some one that you knew.
You do it when you've time enough to make a quiet ride.
To see the fleecy clouds above and watch the shadows glide.

You think of things he did and said, and of the ways he had.
And now to think that he is dead. It makes you feel plum sad.
It brings the old days back again, you live them one by one.
You think of things that happened then, and what you should have done.

They say there'll be a Judgment Day when dead men rise again.
So I suppose he'll have to stay just where he is till then.
But then you reckon that the one who made the world knows best.
He takes them when their work is done and lets them have their rest.

And when at last our strength has failed we make our last long ride.
We leave this world and take the trail across the great divide.
So when it's time to make the change we'll go where they have gone.
We'll meet them on another range somewhere in the beyond.

Calendar Poem


The Army Mule

Sometimes mules got in the army 'cause they'd pulled a wicked trick.
Had some trouble with a feller and the feller he got kicked.
That man's neighbors joined in singin', while the parson blessed his soul;
"Shall We Meet Beyond the River Where the Surges Cease to Roll."

But the mule he liked the army when he got his trainin' done.
And the soldiers didn't seem to hold his past against him none.
For the packer and the "Skinner," take 'em as a general rule,
Has a past a heap more shady than the average army mule.

No they didn't starve or beat him, and he did his share of work.
They knowed how they ort to treat him and the mule he didn't shirk
If you know the way to use him he's a mighty handy tool,
And the people that abused him rank a lot below the mule.

There mebby is a stubborn streak that runs among the breed.
Don't try to move a wheel mule up and work him in the lead.
That works in both directions and you buck the self same deal
If you try to make the lead mule back and work him on the wheel.

He will keep a heavy wagon movin' right along the road.
In among the hills and mountains he will pack a heavy load.
He might light out for some reason that you never could explain,
But you'll find him at the picket line in time to get his grain.

'Course you have to be admittin' that a mule has got his tricks.
He ain't harmless like a kitten, and he means it when he kicks.
But you'll find him mighty useful, and you'll find he ain't no fool,
If you chance to get acquainted with a real old army mule.

Calendar Poem


Summer Time

There's a heap of times when ridin' after cattle shore is tough.
When every thing is goin' wrong, or else the weather's rough.
The whole world seems ag'in you. You can do yore level best,
But you ain't a gittin' nowheres and yore nearly dead for rest.

But it's purty in the summer when yore ridin' through the hills.
Where the tall green grass is growin' and the air is soft and still.
Cows and calves is fat and gentle.  They jest look at you and stare.
You can hear the little insecks go a buzzin' in the air.

You may run onto some places that is mighty steep to climb,
But you ain't in any hurry, and you give the hoss his time.
You figger that it ain't so bad, a bein' a cow poke,
And you feel so plum contented you don't even want to smoke.

No, a cow boy's life ain't easy when you git it figgered down.
He don't have a lot of comforts that the people have in town.
But he don't deserve no sympathy fer how his life is spent.
Fer there's times he's jest a bathin' in a ocean of content.

There is nothin' there to bother him, he doesn't have to hurry.
He is doin' what he wants to do, he isn't in a hurry.
Yes, it pays up fer the frost bites, all the falls and all the spills,
On them lovely days in summer when he's ridin' in the hills.

Calendar Poem

Hosses and Flies

It is right interestin' how hosses flight flies.
They stand so both tails protect both pair of eyes.
They git close together, a touchin' the hide,
So the flies only git a good chance at one side.

But them flies bite their bellies and crawl up their legs
They light and they walk and they eat and lay eggs.
And the hosses keep fussin' and stompin' around
Till they wear themselves out and tromp holes in the ground.

The flies keep a workin' and give 'em no rest
Till they take out and run to get rid of the pests.
But them flies seem to figger that hoss blood's worth while
Fer they'll keep after hosses fer several mile.

You know that I never could make out jest why,
But a hoss seems a natural feed fer a fly.
He will leave any thing that he happens across
If he sees any chance to git bitin' a hoss.

Calendar Poem


The Dutch Oven

You mind that old oven so greasy and black,
That we hauled in a wagon or put in a pack.
The biscuits she baked wasn't bad by no means,
And she had the world cheated fer cookin' up beans.
If the oven was there you could always git by,
You could bake, you could boil, you could stew, you could fry.

When the fire was built she was throwed in to heat
While they peeled the potaters and cut down the meat.
Then the cook put some fire down into a hole.
Next, he set in the oven and put on some coals.
I allus remember the way the cook did
When he took the old "Goncho" and lifted the lid.

He really was graceful at doin' the trick.
The old greasy sackers they just used a stick.
Boy Howdy! We all made a gen'l attack.
If the hoss with the dutch oven scattered his pack.
You mind how you lifted your hoss to a lope
And built a long loop in the end of your rope.

You bet them old waddies knowed what to expect.
No biscuits no more if that oven got wrecked.
We didn't know much about prayin' or lovin'
But I reckon we worshipped that greasy old oven.
And the old cowboy smiles when his memory drifts back
To the oven that rode in the wagon or pack.

This poem is included in our collection of Chuckwagon poems.


A Habit

Now most old cow punchers don't take off their hat,
They nacherlly wear 'em wherever they're at.
There ain't nothin' he really should take it off for;
Some wears 'em in bed if they're sleepin' out doors.

Now this here old feller is washin' his hide,
It's likely the cabin ain't chilly inside,
He has got him some soap and has started to rub;
He kept his hat on when he got in the tub.

His head isn't cold and he hasn't been drinkin';
He just put his hat on without ever thinkin'.
He mebbe ain't used to a bath tub at that.
But he's shore plum accustomed to wearin' his hat.

But there ain't any reason to worry at that,
When he washes his head he'll run on to the hat.
And when he does fine it, I really don't know
If he'll take off the hat, or jest let his head go.

Calendar Poem



When You're Throwed

If a feller's been astraddle since he's big enough to ride,
And has had to throw a saddle onto every sort of hide;
Though it's nothin' they take pride in, most of fellers I have knowed,
If they ever done much ridin', has at various times got throwed.

It perhaps is when you're startin' on a round up some fine day,
That you feel a bit onsartin' 'bout some little wall eyed bay.
Fer he swells to beat the nation while yore cinchin' up the slack,
And he keeps a elevation in your saddle at the back.

He starts rairin' and a jumpin' and he strikes when you git near.
But you cuss him and you thump him till you git him by the ear.
Then your right hand grabs the saddle and you ketch a stirrup too,
And you aim to light astraddle like a wholly buckaroo.

But he drops his head and switches and he gives a back'ards jump.
Out of reach your stirrup twitches and your right spur grabs his rump.
And, "Stay with him!" shouts some feller.  But you know it's hope forlorn.
And you feel a streak of yeller as you choke the saddle horn.

Then you feel one rein droppin' and you know he's got his head,
And your shirt tail's out and floppin' and the saddle pulls like lead.
Then it ain't no use a tryin' for your spurs begin to slip
Now you're upside down and flyin' and horn tears from your grip.

Then you get a vague sensation as upon the ground you roll,
Like a vi'lent separation twixt your body and your soul.
And you land again a hummick where you lay and gap fer breath,
And there's sumpthin' grips your stummick like the awful clutch of death.

Yes the landscape round you totters when at last you try to stand,
And you're shaky on your trotters and your mouth is full of sand.
They all swear you beat a circus or a hoochy koochy dance,
Moppin' up the canon's surface with the busom of your pants.

There's fellers gives perscriptions how them bronchos should be rode.
But there's few that gives descriptions of the times when they got throwed.

The Bunk House Mirror

That old bunk house mirror that most of us knew
I remember it yet, and I know that you do.
One corner broke out, and a sort of a crack
That run half way across and a quarter way back.
The cheap wooden frame with the varnish all gone,
But the grease and the dirt and the fly specks stayed on.

And then the quicksilver was missin' in spots,
But that didn't bother a cow hand a lot.
He picked the good places and managed to shave
As he looked at his face in the ripples and waves,
No wonder the mirror was terribly wrecked
When you thought of the voices it had to reflect.

And the comb that hung down from a string underneath.
It was chuck full of gum though it lacked a few teeth.
And there on the bench was a rusty wash pan
Where we smeared yeller soap on our faces and hands.
The bosses them days didn't go fer expense.
You could buy the whole outfit fer ninety five cents.

But boy let me tell you that old lookin' glass
Has reflected the faces of men with a past.
I wonder it didn't back up with surprise
If it read what was lurkin' just back of their eyes.
I will bet there's a lot of old hands can recall
That battered old mirror that hung on the wall.

Calendar Poem



They Can Take It

Yes, it's just a bunch of hosses standin' out there in the rain.
The reason they are doin' it is easy to explain.
There is no shelter handy, so to travel ain't no good;
And they wouldn't go into a barn, not even if they could.

It is just a little weather, and they're plenty used to that.
Like a cow boy in the open, livin' onderneath his hat.
All the hosses and the people that has lived their life outside,
Seems to have a constitution that can take it on the hide.

Without a bit of thinkin' I could tell you right from here,
Of hosses livin' on the range as long as thirty year.
While the hosses that's in stables, and was always roofed and fed,
Lots of them before they're twenty, has been hauled off plenty dead.

So it seems the way with people, and it seems the way with stock,
And the cedar grows the toughest when it's right amongst the rocks.
That's why hosses, men, and women, if they're made of proper stuff,
Gits along a whole lot better if they're raised a little rough.

Calendar Poem




There's a time that you remember,
In October or September.
Mebbe early in November,
When the summer work is done.

When the air was soft and meller
And you met up with some feller,
That's a right good story teller,
And you set there in the sun.

Yes, you done a little jokin',
And some whittlin' and some smokin',
While your hosses went a pokin'
And a nibblin' in the grass.

There was really nothin' to it
And you didn't mean to do it;
But before you hardly knew it,
Why a lot of time had passed.

Well, it wasn't so excitin',
Like a buckin' hoss or fightin',
Or a rattle snake a bitin',
But when all was said and done;

All your life you never tire
Of the yarns told by some liar,
That you really did admire,
As he set there in the sun.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


Ghost Canyon Trail

There are strange things told of spirits bold,
And the trail to Sante Fe,
There is many a tale of the Chisholm trail,
And the trail to Laramie.
But this is the tale of an obscure trail
That few men travelled on;
Where a spirit was known to ride alone,
'Twixt the midnight hour and dawn.

It would wind and creep through canyons deep
And over the mesa wide.
The men who knew this trail were few,
Where the phantom used to ride.
At times was heard a careless word
Some drinking man let fall,
But 'twas held a joke by the rangeland folk,
That no one believed atall.

I learned the truth from a hard youth.
He was one of those reckless men
Who could ride in the lead of a night stampede,
Ot the dust of the broncho pen.
On a winter night when the stars were bright
And the dying moon was low,
He was holding his course on a jaded horse
And the pace that he made was slow.

The cow horse flinched and cringed, till the cinch
Was almost against the ground.
His quivering ears showed deathly fear
And the cow boy looked around.
He felt the thrill of a clammy chill,
As it travelled along his spine,
For he saw at his side a phantom ride,
With never a word or sign.

He kept his place, for he set his pace
To the cow boy's jogging speed.
There came no sound on the frozen ground
From the tread of his phantom steed.
He showed a flash of a long moustache
And a tilted campaign hat.
There straight and strong with stirrups long
The phantom trooper sat.

They were all alone. And the pale moon shone
Through the ghost at the cow boy's side.
His courage fled as he rode with the dead
Alone on the mesa wide.
No sign of flight, no show of fight
The buckaroo displayed,
For slugs of lead won't hurt the dead,
Through the mist of a vapor shade.

With the mesa past they came at last
To a canyon wide and dark,
Where some stone huts stood in the cottonwoods
That had long been an old land mark.
Each ruined shack had a chimney black,
And a roofless crumbling wall.
A living spring was the only thing
That was useful to men atall.

The chilling breeze through the leafless trees,
Gave a dreary, dismal moan.
The trooper stayed in the ghastly shade
And cow boy rode alone.
Strange tales are head of what occurred
At that place in the years gone by,
Ere that restless soul of the night patrol
Rode under the starlit sky.

What the trooper knows, or where he goes,
Nobody has ever found.
But the tale is told of the lone patrol
By the older settlers 'round.
There's a cow boy trip with a face that's grim,
Will never forget that ride
On a winter night in the pale moon light,
By the phantom trooper's side.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



Movin' to Winter Range

Way up along the mountain side and up on the mesas high.
You watch the silent shadows glide as the clowds go driftin' by.
The leaves on the brush turns red and brown. It's fall up there you know
And it's time to bring the cattle down, it won't be long till snow.

Back down to the winter range agin; they have been up there since spring
You must move 'em out or they'll git snowed in, jest hear the cow boys sing.
They reckon it aint so bad at that; they're travellin' right along
The hosses and cows and steers is fat and the calves is big and strong.

A lot of them old cows knows the road. They're out on the point and walkin'
They're a going back down just like they knowed the same as if they'd been talkin'
But man if them steers knowed what was ahead they'd give it another look.
It won't be long till they'll all be dead and on the butcher's hook.

The fall is the cow man's harvest time; it's then he collets and pays
And the cow boy shore earns every dime he makes through the summer days.
September is when the fall begins; it won't be long till the snow
And so they are driftin' the cattle in to the winter range below.

From Western Poems, 1935

(spelling and punctuation as in the original)


Turnin' the Summer Hosses Out to Graze

Now the summer time is over and the winter time is here
You can feel it in the cold and frosty days.
You have done put up the bull boards when you shipped the old last steer,
And you've turned the summer hosses out to graze.

If you watch you'll often see 'em stringin' up along the pass,
Mostly led by old white "Tarp" and "Pinto Bill."
They have been down to the water and they're goin' back fur grass,
Where the warm sun hits the south side of the hill.

There is "Jug" and "Buck" and "Brownie" and that cuttin' pony "Chow."
Them there laigs of his ain't longer than a duck's
He's been in the work all summer and he's kind and gentle now,
But you wait till spring and see the way he bucks.

Yes they watch the sun a shinin' and they watch the bright stars blink,
All that bunch of hosses, blacks and sorrels and bays.
And you know I sometimes wonder what a cow hoss really thinks
When you turn your summer horses out to graze.

From Western Poems, 1935


An Experiment

I'm jest a old hard and fast "Rimmy"
That's allus worked one certain way.
I was talkin' to Eddie and Jimmie,
And it's better to dally they say.
You often have heard people talkin'
That it don't hurt a feller to try.
Now I never was much hand fer knockin',
But I'm willin' to state that's a lie.

It was on the beef hunt last September
I jumped a big three-year-old steer.
He gave me a few to remember,
He went through the bresh like a deer.
He certainly knowed how to do it.
He was leavin' from there like a bat.
But I sez, jest you help yourself to it,
I'll soon be around where you're at.

The hoss I was ridin', I'm saying,
Was lazy but not very slow.
He had the world cheated fer stayin',
If you'd spur him you bet he could go.
That steer? Hadn't no chance to turn him,
He wasn't the turn around breed.
So I reckoned I'd start in and learn him
By breakin' the critter to lead.

I sent my old loop his direction,
I jerked at it and let my rope cross,
Then I aimed to establish connection
Betwixt that said steer and my hoss.
I dabbed fer my winds on "Old Sally,"
But the hoss sort of shirked and hung back.
I thought I had room fer a dally
But the steer got away with my slack.

Then my whole constitution jest buckles,
Like when somebody tromps on your corn.
Fer the end of my rope and my knuckles,
Was all that I got on the horn.
My hand was all busted and mangled.
Got one crooked finger now. See?
Well, I follered the steer till he tangled,
And got him tied up to a tree.

There is certain sad memories that lingers,
And I reckon that this one will last.
I may break my neck, not my fingers,
But I'll risk it and tie hard and fast.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


On Foot

That night hoss he got the gate open. You find the next mornin' he's gone.
And there by the fence lays your saddle, but nothin' to put the thing on.
Might walk up to one with a bridle, and that's jest about your last hope;
On foot you can never corral 'em; they'll run at the sight of a rope.

There's water out there in the paster, them hosses don't have to come in.
You may be their owner or master, but when will you ride 'em ag'in?
You git near "Old Paint" with a bridle, he generally lets you walk up,
But now he starts runnin' and dodgin' and playin' around like a pup.

You notice a couple of buzzards up yonder twixt you and the sun;
A sailin' around and a watchin'; well, mebby they reckon it's fun.
They call man the "Lord of Creation," I never could figger out why.
All the critters on Earth can outrun him and even a buzzard can fly. 

He may be allright when he's ridin but once he gits down on the ground,
He's about as much good as a turtle, with nothin' to pack him around.
On hoss back or in a big city, a man may show up purty fair,
But he's only an object fer pity, on foot twenty miles frum nowhere.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



That Little Blue Roan 

Most all of you boys have rode horses like that.
He wasn't too thin but he never got fat.
The old breed that had a moustache on the lip;
He was high at the wethers and low at the hip.
His ears always up, he had wicked bright eyes
And don't you furgit he was plenty cow wise.

His ears and his fets and his pasterns was black
And a stripe of the same run the length of his back.
Cold mornin's he'd buck, and he allus would kick
No hoss fer a kid or a man that was sick.
But Lord what a bundle of muscle and bone;
A hoss fer a cow boy, that little blue roan.

For afternoon work or for handlin' a herd,
He could turn any thing but a lizzard or bird.
For ropin' outside how that cuss could move out.
He was to 'em before they knowed what 'twas about.
And runnin' down hill didn't faize him aytall.
He was like a buck goat and he never did fall.

One day in the foot hills he give me a break
He saved me from makin' a awful mistake,
I was ridin' along at a slow easy pace,
Takin' stock of the critters that used in that place,
When I spied a big heifer without any brand.
How the boys ever missed her I don't onderstand.
Fer none of the stock in that country was wild,
It was like takin' candy away from a child.

She never knowed jest what I had on my mind
Till I bedded her down on the end of my twine.
I had wropped her toes up in an old hoggin' string,
And was buildin' a fire to heat up my ring.
I figgered you see I was there all alone
Till I happened to notice that little blue roan.

That hoss he was usin' his eyes and his ears
And I figgered right now there was somebody near.
He seemed to be watchin' a bunch of pinon,
And I shore took a hint from that little blue roan.

Instead of my brand, well, I run on another.
I used the same brand that was on the calf's mother.
I branded her right pulled her up by the tail
With a kick in the rump for to make the brute sail.
I had branded her proper and marked both her ears,
When out of the pinions two cow men appears.

They both turned the critter and got a good look
While I wrote the brand down in my own tally book.
There was nothin to do so they rode up and spoke
And we all three set down fer a sociable smoke.
The one owned the critter I'd happened to brand,
He thanked me of course and we grinned and shook hands
Which he mightn't have done if he only had known
The warnin' I got from that little blue roan.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


The Cow Boy's Dream

A cow boy and his trusty pal
Were camped one night by an old corral;
They were keeping a line on the boss's steers
And looking for calves with lengthy ears.
The summer work was long since through
And only the winter branding to do.
When he went to rest there was frost on his bed
But he pulled the tarp up over his head;
And into his blankets he burrowed deep,
He soon got warm and was fast asleep.
He dreamed he was through with his wayward past
And had landed safe in Heaven at last.

A city was there with its pearly gate
And the golden streets were wide and straight
The marble palaces gleamed and shone
And the choir sang 'round the great white throne.
Outside there were trees and meadows green--
Such a beautiful range he had never seen,
Great rivers of purest waters flowed
Though it never rained nor it never snowed.

He stood aside on the golden street,
There were heavy spurs on his booted feet,
His bat wing chaps were laced with whang,
But he listened and looked while the angels sang.
He noticed he was the only one
With a broad brimmed hat and a big six gun.

So he said to a saint, "I'd shore admire
To be dressed like one of that angel choir,
Instead of these chaps and spurs and gun;
And I reckon as how it could be done."
So they took him into a room aside
And they fastened wings on his toughened hide.
They fitted him out with a flowing robe,
Like the lady who looks in the crystal glove.
They gave him a crown and a golden harp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy's tarp.

He twanged his harp and he sang a while,
Then he thought of something that made him smile.
Said he "I reckon these wings would do
To show some mustangs a thing or two.
I'll jump a bunch and I'll yell and whoop,
I'll kick their tails and I'll flop and swoop;
I'll light a straddle of one of the things,
And I'll flop his flanks with my angel wings.
I'll ride him bare-back, but if I fail,
And he bucks me off, I'll simply sail."
He hunted wild horses in his dream,
But all he found was the charist team
That Old Elija drove in there,
And to pick on them would hardly be fair.

So he seated himself beneath a tree
And rested his crown upon his knee.
He watched the beautiful angels go
Flying and fluttering to and fro.
At last one landed and started to walk,
She came up close and began to talk.
She had lovely hair of golden brown
And was dressed in a flimsy silken gown.
She had dimpled cheeks, her eyes were blue,
And her fair white skin was beautiful too.

The cow boy gazed at the angel's charms
And attempted to clasp her within his arms.
"Stop!  Stop!" She cried, "Or, I'll make complaints
To the great white throne and the ruling saints."
So the cow boy halted I must confess
And failed to bestow that fond caress.

Said he, "Miss Angel," It's shore too bad.
This sort of a country makes me sad.
Where there ain't no night and it's always day,
And the beautiful ladies won't even play.
When there's wonderful houses and golden streets,
But nobody sleeps and nobody eats.
Them beautiful rivers, it's sad to think.
There ain't no hosses or cows to drink.
With all this grass a goin' to seed
And there ain't no critters to eat the feed.

A man can't gamble--There's so much gold
He could pick up more than his clothes would hold.
What's the use of the Judge and the great white throne
Where troubles or fights was never known?
I'm sorry miss but I'll tell you true,
This ain't no place for a buckaroo."

Then she asked him about his former life
And learned he had never possessed a wife.
But this angel lady so sweet and nice,
Informed him that she had been married twice.
Her husbands had both been quiet men
But if she had it to do again,
She's have to decide between just two.
A sailor boy or a buckaroo.
She seated herself upon his knees
And gave his neck such a hearty squeeze--
Just then they heard an excited call,
'Twas a gray old saint on the city wall.

He flopped his robes and he waved his arm
Till the crowd all gathered in great alarm;
And then the cow boy stood alone,
Before the judge and the great white throne.
"What's this?" the Judge of Creation cried.
"How come this fellow to get inside?
Age must be dimming St. Peter's eye
To let a spirit like that get by.
Just look at his face with its desert brown,
And his bandy legs 'neath his angel gown.
He's a buckaroo, I know them well,
They don't allow them even in Hell.
He hasn't been here a half a day
And he started an angel to go astray.
We can't permit him to stay atall.
Just pitch him over the outside wall."

So the saints and the angels gave him a start
And he went toward the Earth like a falling dart.
He never remembered the time he lit
For he wakened before the tumble quit.
The winter wind blew cold and sharp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy's tarp.

His beautiful vision had come to grief,
So he baked his biscuits and fried some beef.
And drank some coffee black and strong;
But all that day as he rode along
He thought of the saint who had butted in,
And he said to himself with a wicked grin,
"I wish I had holt of that old saint chap,
I'd grab his whiskers and change his map.
I'd jump on his frame and I'd stomp aroun'
Till I tromped him out of his saintly gown."

And all of his life as he roamed and toiled,
He thought of his vision so sadly spoiled.
And the meddlesome saint that has caused it all
When he gave the alarm from the Jasper wall.
He didn't repent nor he didn't pray,
But he always wished they had let him stay.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


The Bell Mare

She was nothin' much to look at, that there old fleabitten gray.
She'd a cranky disposition, but you liked her any way.
Wasn't big nor wasn't little, wasn't no particular breed,
But you kep her fer a bell mare 'cause she always took the lead.

When you had to work rough country where a wagon couldn't go;
Climbin' up onto the mesa with yore pack train movin' slow.
Through the pinnacles and ledges they would foller where she led,
It was good to hear the jingle of the bell mare up ahead.

In the swampy river bottoms, in the early mornin' hush;
When you started out to wrangle in the fog and in the brush;
If you once could git the bell mare why the rest was easy found,
And yore horse would chomp the bridle while you listened fer the sound.

'Round the campfire in the evenin' when they had big yarns to tell,
Faint and dim off in the distance come the jingle of the bell.
Or a driftin' down a canyon when the sun was blazin' hot,
How she kep the bell a ringin' to her steady even trot.

Years have gone, there's been big changes, but sometimes when yore alone.
Some sound you didn't notice, makes you recollect the tone.
And it starts your memory driftin' till at last you feel the spell.
Of the country where you wrangled, and the jingle of the bell.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


An Old Western Town

An old western town lay asleep in the sun
Of a long summer day that was then almost done.
The shadows were long and the hosses stood 'round
Sort of restin' one leg and their head hangin' down.
Two cow punchers down at the "Last Chance" saloon
Was tryin' to sing. They was both out of tune.
At one end of the street that was dusty and narrow
A scratchin' the dirt was some chickens and sparrows.

The dogs slept in the shade and the people they strolled
Like they felt plum contented in body and soul.
If you looked just a little way off to the west
You could see the high mountains with snow on their crest.
The shadows of clouds drifted over the flat
And it shore made a right purty pitcher at that.
A drunken cow puncher was ready to go
And he figgered he'd ort to put on a big show.

He spurred and he hollered and shot his six gun,
And he aimed to take out with his hoss on the run;
But he didn't remember his cinches was slack
Until after he got his old pony ontracked.
That cow hoss he started to buck and to bawl
And got rid of that cow puncher saddle and all.
And before that drunk waddy got clear of the wreck
He was bit by two dogs, which he didn't expect.

The hoss he bucked into a long hitchin' rack
Where a team was hitched to a wagon raired back.
They lit out a draggin' the old rattle trap
And swingin' the broke ends of two hitchin' straps.
A whole lot of people come from everywhere
The sparrows and chickens they took to the air.
The kids made for cover, the women all screamed
And the dogs was all chasin', that runaway team.

A feller run out like some man allus did
A yellin' and jumpin' and wavin' his lid.
When the hosses got close why the man lost his nerve.
He got out of the way but he made the team swerve.
They tore down the porch posts in front of the store.
They busted the winder and several things more.
They was off of their feet when at last they got stopped
Piled up in a heap with the wagon on top.

They was fast in the harness, one hoss nearly strangled,
But the crowd went to work and they got 'em untangled,
But just when they started to take 'em away
The storekeeper come out with plenty to say.
His place had been wrecked, but what made it worse still
The man with the team owed the store man a bill.
He swore he would take it all out of his hide
He shore wasn't bluffin, he got in and tried.

But most of the citizens present they reckoned
That the storekeeper come off a mighty pore second.
The town marshall come with his badge and his gun
Just in time for a drink when the whole thing was done.
The sun soon went down. Then a few golden streaks
From the afterglow showed on the snowy peaks.
The kerosene lamps shed a soft yellow light
Where the town folks was cookin' their supper that night.

'Twas a real western night with no fog or no haze
The stars hung in clusters so bright that they blazed.
Some neighbors they gathered to visit and talk
You could hear the slow foot steps along the board walk.
There sprung up a soft gentle breeze from the west
One after another the lights went to rest
And the curtain of night settled quietly down
On that best of all places, an old western town.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


You Never Tell That

You are jest an old waddy that's been everywhere.
You've about held your own and done more than your share.
You wind some big windies you like mighty well,
But there's now and then things that you never do tell.

You tell of the days when you was a top hand
And you rode that wild outlaw that bucked off the brand.
But the mornin' that old wrangle mule got you down,
And he laid you out cold when you lit on the ground,
And he drove your head out through the top of your hat;
Well, somehow or other, you never tell that.

You tell of the time when you went to a dance,
And none of the other boys there had a chance.
How you wore your new clothes, and you outshined 'em all.
And you rode away home with the belle of the ball.

But the time that you travelled for over ten mile
Jest to set that and talk to some gal for a while;
And you looked in the winder and happened to see
She was settin' in there on another boy's knee,
And you sulked and you pouted for weeks like a brat;
You remember all right, but you never tell that.

You can tell about gamblin'. It shore was a shame
How you pulled a fast trick and broke up a slick game.
Perhaps you remember one evenin' old pard.
You was watchin' a feller that marked the third card;
And you fell fer the trick and they busted you flat.
When you talk about gamblin', you never tell that.

Another big windy you shore like to tell.
How you got drunk in town and would holler and yell.
How you took down the street with your hoss on the run
And the people all ducked when your rolled your six gun.

But the time the town marshall, that quiet old man,
Grabbed the back of your neck and you went to the can;
And he throwed you in jail and went south with your gat,
Well somehow or other, you never tell that.

And all of them women that follered you 'round.
They jest wouldn't keep off when you once turned 'em down.
Do you ever remember one gal that you met?
You was drinkin' I know, and a little upset.

And when you got sober, you found out next day,
She had gone out of town with your whole summer's pay.
And you never discovered jest where she was at.
No, you haven't forgot, but you never tell that.

Then there was that time when a warnin' came through,
That the sheriff was out with a warrant fer you.
You went from there jest a foggin' your tail,
And thanked God fer the snow storm that covered your trail
And you changed hosses twice 'fore you took off your hat.
And you never went back, and you never tell that.

Never mind my old pardner, in times long ago,
We all did a few things we don't want folk to know.
Most people we knowed in the days that's gone by
Acted foolish sometimes, so did you, so did I.

If you know some old feller that made a mistake;
Say nothin' about it and give him a break.
If you know sumpthin' bad, keep it under your hat.
Tell the best that you know, but don't ever tell that.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



A Tough Start

This calf is just a baby yet.
     He isn't very old.
If could talk atall, I'll bet
     He'd say this world was cold.

He never felt the breath of Spring,
     Or saw the green grass grow.
In fact he doesn't know a thing,
     But winter, cold, and snow.

And if that cow don't get to feed,
     She soon will be half dry.
The calf won't have what milk he needs
     In fact he won't get by.

He's havin' hard luck sure enough.
     That calf will have to take it.
Well, let us hope he's plenty tough,
     And mebbyso he'll make it.

Calendar Poem



The Drouth

The blizzards and the cold of the North take their toll
In the regions that lie farther south.
You will see cattle die when the water runs dry
And the grass shrivels up in the drouth.

When they figger the cost of the cattle they lost,
The balance is on the wrong side.
There is so many head they can tally as dead
And not even the price of a hide.

This little calf stands on the burnin' hot sand
And he knows he has come to the worst.
He is left on his own and he can't live along;
He must die off of hunger and thirst.

It is cruel and sad and it surely looks bad,
To see cattle suffer that way.
And it ain't any joke when an owner goes broke
With a mortgage he never can pay.

When you go any place there is drawbacks to face,
In every direction you look.
But the cows don't know why they must lay down and die
For the chances someone else took.

Calendar Poem



The General Store

Would you like to saddle your hoss once more,
And take a ride to the general store?
To meet the boys around the fire,
And find out who was the biggest liar.

They all had windy fer to spill.
They might be tickled fit to kill,
But every feller would tell his lie,
And never grin nor bat an eye.

You bet you remember the winter days
When you rode through the snow fer a long long ways,
To meet a few of the boys you knowed
In the store that stood at the old cross road.

You never had long enough to stay,
Fer it didn't last long; a winter day.
Yes, you'd like to saddle your hoss once more,
And take a ride to the general store.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



The Veiled Rider

It was down at the home ranch, a bunch of cow pokes
Got in an old hoss that was only half broke.
They saddled him up and they hazed him around,
But none of them rode him. They stayed on the ground.
The cook he laffed at 'em and laffed mighty hard.
Then the boys they allowed that the cook wasn't barred.
But it shore did amaze 'em to see the cook crawl
Right up in the saddle, yes apron and all.
The hoss took to buckin' all over the place.
The cook's apron flew up and covered his face.
His stirrups was long and he had to pull leather,
But the cook was on top when they finished together.
One waddy he grins and remarked to the boss,
"Seems they blindfold the rider now, 'stead of the hoss."
The cook looked at the boss soter mournful and said;
"This whole crew aint wuth seven dollars a head.
I buried my face in my apron all right,
But I done it to shut out the pitiful sight.
Them pore rannies hoppin' and yappin' around
Like a bunch of fresh toad frogs that been rained down.
I will own up right now, I'm a cranky old cook,
But there's sights where really upsets me to look.
And an outfit like that would disgust any man
That had been out and cooked for a bunch of real hands."

Calendar Poem


Half Broke

This man is busy saddlin' up a skeery half broke colt.
It is too soon yet to trust him and he has to keep a holt.
He don't know you use a blanket fer to save the hosses' backs.
In fact right now he doesn't know a blanket from an ax.

He gits his eyes wide open till the white around 'em shows.
He snorts! Oh man you'd ort to hear the "Rollers in his nose."
It takes a sho'nough horseman and a level headed man
To git a colt to workin' and to make him understand.

It makes a heap of difference in the way a hoss is broke.
He may be a first class cow hoss or a good fer nothin' joke.
If he learns, you've got to use him, and you generally will find
It's a bad thing to abuse him, but you got to make him mind.

Some people never seem to know the time and work it cost
To train some high strung colt into a smart and gentle hoss.
There's some folks that can never git a hoss to understand,
And I think there's cases where the horse is smarter than the man.

Calendar Poem



The Ghosts at the Diamond Bar

'Twas a winter night at the Diamond Bar,
The wind was blowin' cold.
The Dipper swung 'round the dim North Star
And the night was growin' old.
But I had some wood that was dry and good,
So I let the cold wind whine.
I was safe and snug with a gallon jug
Of Death Valley Slim's moonshine.

Across the stove from where I sat
Stood a figger straight and tall.
He had no coat, he had no hat,
He must have come through the wall.
He pointed away toward the rocky shelf
That was up on the side of a hill.
He was one of the bunch the Injuns skelped
When they raided the old ore mill.

I nodded and passed the gallon jug.
He needed a drink or two.
But he only shrugged and shook his head;
That was sumpthin' he could not do.
I set the jug down on the floor;
Then my eyes popped open wide.
There had been jest one; now a couple more
Was a standin' there by his side.

They would each one point with a ghostly hand
Where my old harmonica lay.
By signs they made me understand 
They wanted that I should play.
So I played 'em "The Grave on the Lone Prairie,"
And "The Dyin' Ranger," too.
And twenty odd ghosts surrounded me
Before I was halfway through.

I played 'em the old "Rye Whisky" tune
And they waltzed it 'round and 'round.
But I felt no weight on the floor of the room
And their feet made never a sound.
Then "Rosie O'Grady" and "Over the Waves,"
They waltzed with keen delight.
Them wandering spirits out of their graves
Was havin' a time that night.

They motioned that I should drink once more.
That was easy to understand.
With noiseless feet they stomped the floor
And patted their phantom hands.
When I seen 'em smile I changed my style.
I played old "Larry McGee."
They wanted something with a lilt and swing,
And they stepped it light and free.

But jest as the thing was goin' grand,
There was sumpthin' spoiled the show.
There wasn't a drop in the coal oil can
And the lamp was burnin' low.
I stopped and drunk me a hefty slug
And a thought came to my mind.
I filled the lamp from the moonshine jug
And she blazed like a neon sign.

There was battered hats on the buckaroos.
Old miners with unshaved jaws.
Three Wallapi bucks were in there too,
And a couple Mohave squaws.
The next was the old time "Chicken Reel,"
And you'd orta seen em go.
The would jig in the corners before they'd wheel
And give it the heel and toe.

I knew they wouldn't be there fer long.
It would soon be breakin' day.
And I wanted to sing 'em a good old song
Before they went on their way.
So I sung like I had never sung before,
Till the last of the crowd was gone.
And when I opened the ranch house door,
The day was beginning to dawn.

Yet the desert trails have their own weird tales
That few of us mortals know.
And I'll never forget the crowd I met
On that night so long ago.
Some time I will meet them again, maybe,
Though I don't know where they are.
But why did they come to visit me,
That night at the Diamond Bar?

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



Winter Time

Cattle are walkin' along in the snow.
Riders beside 'em are travellin' slow.
No need to hurry, no time for speed.
Takin' their cattle to where they get feed.

Cows are in right good condition at that.
Some of 'em there you could really call fat.
I reckon that's how a man ort to begin,
Start givin' 'em rations before they git thin.

Now they must git the hay out of the stack
Load up the wagon and fill up the rack.
Plenty to do with the hay knife and fork.
Start feedin' cattle you run into work.

A cow man he figures the trouble and cost.
It's better than countin' up what he has lost.
If he keeps his stock fat there is one certain thing,
He will have his cows there with their calves in the spring.

Calendar Poem


The Stampede

The afterglow fades and the daylight is failing,
Deep gloom settles over the valley so wide;
The slow moving column of cattle goes trailing,
The men that were silent, now sing as they ride.
For the cattle are nervous—They break and they rally;
They've been getting worse since the set of the sun.
They're used to the mountains, they fear the wide valley;
They're off of their range and they're ready to run.

The leaders break back, and the herd ceases drifting;
The cordon of riders looks pitifully thin
For the army of steers that are surging and shifting,
But the boys from the mountains are holding them in.
The horses are ready and up on their mettle,
They know what it means, they're giving them room.
But slowly the herd is beginning to settle—
The cow-boys are bedding them down in the gloom.

"Oh beat the drum lowly and play the fife slowly."
Two cow-punchers sing as they meet and turn back.
One jolly vacquero sings "Billy Vaniero."
Another one sings of "The Tumble Down Shack."
You hear the old tune, with its sad wailing minor,
Of "Oh Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie."
While faint from the distance, but clearer and finer
Rings out the old melody "Mother Machree."

The hours drag on and the cattle are sleeping.
Except for the singing it's silent as death.
Through the yuccas and greasewood
   the night wind comes creeping,
So softly you scarce hear the sound of its breath.
A gopher hole does it—a horse makes a blunder—
He recovers himself but he snorts as he leaps.
The cattle are off with a rumble like thunder
And over the valley the avalanche sweeps.

Race! Race for the front, every man that's behind them.
Get out on the point and help mill the stampede.
The holes and brush and the ditches, don't mind them
And ride for your life if you're caught in the lead.

There's tons upon tons in their onrushing forces,
These wild mountain cattle unruly and large.
They're bigger than mules and they're stronger than horses,
And swift in their rush as a cavalry charge.
The well-seasoned riders are not a bit tardy—
The cattle are quick but the men are the same.
On tough mountain horses, sure-footed and hardy,
The cow-boys are taking a stack in the game.

They're skillful and willing, they start the herd milling;
They circle around them, they sing and they call.
The mad pace grows slower, the dust clouds sink lower;
At last they stop running; They've started to bawl.
They halt and start backing; they jam—they are packing.
They stop. They are standing all silent and still!
Don't crowd them! Be steady! Keep wide but be ready.
They may settle down, but they're likely to spill.

A steer snuffs and bellows; two dare-devil fellows
Are caught in the front, but they're off at full speed.
You can hear them both singing—their voices are ringing—
Grim death's at their heels but they're crowding the lead.
The herd starts to scatter, but that doesn't matter;
It's every one now to do what he thinks best.
In front or behind them, they race where they find them;
They do what they can and turn over the rest.

At last the light comes and the stars have all faded,
The bleary-eyed riders look haggard and drawn.
Their strong mountain horses are weary and jaded
But slowly they gather the herd in the dawn.
On comes the "Remuda" and every one changes;
They breakfast in relays—they're back on their way.
It's little they worry—these boys of the ranges.
It's just what a cow-puncher calls a long day.

They are every one used to that sort of a battle.
It's just a hard night; they're glad it is gone.
It's nothing, so long as they don't lose their cattle,
And every one's there when they meet in the dawn.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


Hook 'Em Cow

You read of fierce bulls in the stories and books,
But you don't hear a heap 'bout an old cow that hooks.
A bull charges blind, but an old cow is wise.
She keeps her head shakin' and opens her eyes.
If you git to a post I have generally found
She runs right up to it and reaches around.

And yore biddin' fer trouble as shore as yore born
If you git yore old belly mixed up with her horn.
You  have seen a cow scatter a whole brandin' crew
When they drug a calf in and the cow follered too.
Think a cow boy caint run? Well you ain't seen one sail
When a cow blows her nose on some waddy's shirt tail.

Sometimes when you pull a cow out of a bog
She will charge with a rush like some salty brush hog.
If an old cow gits down cause she's weak and she's pore,
If you help git her up she will fight you jest shore.
If you judge by her actions toward hosses and men,
She's by nature a heap like an old settin' hen.

I'll bet you was glad that you wasn't too late
When you lit with yore belly across some old gate,
And an old cow hit right underneath with a crash.
Jest a little more and she'd settle yore hash.
You fell on across and was mad when you heered
How the rest of them ranahans hollered and cheered.

Yes cows is odd critters; it shore is plum strange.
The pet cows is gentle, but them on the range
Is a sp'ilin' fer fight if they once git a skeer,
Or you make a calf bawl when the old cow can hear.
They're onreasonable cusses I'll tell you right now,
Fer you can't explain much to a fightin' old cow.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947

The Long Eared Bull

The long eared bull was three years old.
He was swift and cunning, strong and bold;
His horns were wide, and his neck was full,
He walked with pride, did long eared bull.
He bellowed the notes of his challenge call
Till they echoed back from the mountain wall.

One day there chanced to hear him sing,
A waddy who dangled a wicked string,
When he caught a glimpse of the singer's ears
His lips when shut like a pair of shears.
They were both untouched and stood out wide.
He knew that no brand adorned that hide.

He made quite sure that his cinch was tight,
For he knew he was starting a full grown fight.
He built a loop for a hasty swing
And spurred his horse toward the mountain king.
Away they went like a pair of deer
The buckaroo and the big long ear.

He cut down the distance yard by yard,
Till the bull found out he was crowded hard.
He thought he'd retreated far enough,
So he whirled about with a charge and snuff,
The cow horse dodged with a sidewise leap,
The cow boy threw and he caught him deep.

He caught the bull with a "Shot pouch hold"
On the ground the horse and rider rolled.
The puncher saw that it was no use
So he dropped his dallies and turned him loose.
The bull was off like a prairie gale
With a dragging rope and a waving tail.

The cow boy hung his head in shame;
He had lost his rope and his horse was lame;
His hands were skinned and his clothes were torn,
He had gone for wool and had come back shorn.
For if either of them got the wool,
The honors lay with the long eared bull.

Now a far old cow man came one day
On a gentle old flea bitten gray.

This wise old gentleman had a hunch
He could humor him in, if he took the bunch.
So he worked them along at an easy pace
And avoided all signs of a fight or race.

He kept well back and circled wide
To corral the bull and to brand his hide.
But just as they got where the brush was thick,
The long eared bull threw a trump on the trick.
When they got in the open the bull was gone,
And the rest of the bunch were travelling on.

A beardless youngster, lithe and slim,
Was riding one day by the canyon's rim
The happiest youngster in the land,
For just one week he owned a brand.
He saw the bull and how he smiled,
For the soul of a cow man was in that child.

He descended the hill with a cheerful heart,
For little he knew the fight he'd start.
His horse had been ridden some before,
But was hardly wise to the hackamore.
Yet he felt his pulses throb with hope
As he tied the end of his old grass rope.

Well over his saddle horn he humped
And took to the race when the long ear jumped.
He was one of the kind that never leaned back,

He grabbed his horse and he pitched him the slack,
He wrapped his flanks with the ringing steel
While the long eared bull shook a nasty heel.

He built a loop that was big and wide,
He made a throw but the broncho shied,
Then he set right back and buried his tail
And that button thought he had hooked a whale.
Down went the horse—the youngster fell
And he used some words that don't print well.

His face was white but his blood was up,
And he stayed with the fight like a bull dog pup.
As they buck and bellow, plunge and pull;

The broncho horse and the long eared bull.
For the rope was tied and the saddle big
Was cinched with the old time "Rimmy" rig.

The kid gave a squeal of joy and thanks
As the rope went under the long ear's flanks.
The horse went bucking off to the right,
To the left the long ear took his flight.
When they took up the slack the two of them flopped
Right down on their backs and the old rope popped.

The kid was there with an agile spring
His teeth still clinched on his "Hoggin' string"
He won by a hair but he did not fail,
For he got his hold on the long ear's tail.
He tied him down and he swelled with pride
As he run his brand on the glossy hide.

The boy has lived to be old and gray;
He has been successful in every way.
It wasn't by luck,
it wasn't by pull,
But the spirit that branded the long eared bull.
In spite of the fall that ended the ride,
And the whirlwind fight on the mountain side.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, from Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



Her Neighbor's Kids

Most cows will give their calves good care.
They make the best of mothers.
She knows her own calf anywhere
Among a hundred others.

But if a strange calf muzzles in
He finds out mighty quick.
She moves him out from there ag'in,
And does it with a kick.

It aint' because she hates tha calf
She starts to gittin' rough.
But if she cuts her milk in half,
She own won't have enough.

There ain't a lot he understands
When he's too young for weanin',
But any time a hard kick lands
You bet he gits the meanin'.

Cows don't get out and lead parades,
Nor speak fer missionaries.
She hasn't got no ladies' aides,
Nor no auxiliaries.

She has a calf that's all her own.
She's tryin' to get by.
She figgers to be left alone
Or know the reason why.

Calendar Poem

Doing Her Best

This cow is in trouble, she's left on her own.
She has more than one cow can take care of alone.
She's protectin' her baby fer all she can do;
One wolf would be bad, but she's dealin' with two.

She can beller and call but there's no other cattle
To gather around her and help her do battle.
The calf's just a baby. There's no help in sight.
There is only one end for that kind of a fight.

The varmints feel sartin'; they ain't in a hurry.
They will soon have that calf and they don't have to worry.
They could pull down the cow if they tried hard enough,
But the calf is a-plenty and not near so tough.

A wolf is a might mean varmint at heart.
He is cruel and wicked, and man! is he smart.
So I never could pity a wolf a whole lot
If he got caught in a trap. I was glad he was caught.

Calendar Poem

The Tangle

It looks like he's due for one whale of a spill.
He has roped a wild hoss while he's comin' down the hill.
There has two other hosses run into his rope.
He is tied hard and fast and there isn't much hope.

About all he can do is roll off and quit.
When the tangle is over he'll find where he lit.
He will likely discover his hoss is jerked down,
And a half strangled broncho a plungin' around.

Both him and his hoss may git hurt purty bad,
And I don't need to tell you that boy will be mad.
Things look mighty bad fer that waddy right now,
But if he's a cow boy he'll manage somehow.

He is takin' long chances on breakin' some bones,
Or of lamin' his hoss when a long way from home.
But he's been in a few of sech tangles before.
If he lives long enough, he'll be in a few more.


In Bill Siems' monumental 2007 book, Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, which includes all of Kiskaddon's poetic output, he includes "The Tangle" with Katherine Field's illustration, as it was printed among "the 1936 through 1942 Stock Yards Calendar" poems. A footnote states it was also included in the Western Livestock Journal in 1939.



A Tangle

Well, it looks like he'd tangled with one of them steers
That has dodged the beef round up a couple of years.
One that gits through the circle on every drive,
And you've got to lead out if you git him alive.

He runs with the wild ones way up in the tops.
He's the kind that won't turn, and the kind that won't stop.
The boy made a good throw and he caught by the neck,
But a cow crossed the rope, and he's due for a wreck.

There is always a chance that you might git a spill
When you rope a big critter a runnin' down hill.
But this boy widened out and was doin' it fine,
Till that crazy old "Sooky" run into his line.

The hoss may keep his feet if the steer hits the ground.
If the steer keeps his feet it might tear the hoss down.
And if that cow tangles she'll be on the fight.
Yes, that boy has shore tied onto trouble allright.

But his pardner is comin' to join in the fun,
With a loop in his rope and his hoss on the run.
And the boy that is tangled up in this affair
Will be more than plum glad when his pardner gets there.

Calendar Poem

In Bill Siems' monumental 2007 book, Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, which includes all of Kiskaddon's poetic output, he includes "A Tangle" with Katherine Field's illustration, as it was printed among "the 1936 through 1942 Stock Yards Calendar" poems. A footnote states it was also included in the Western Livestock Journal in 1942. 

Our copy of "A Tangle" comes from a scrapbook of Kiskaddon calendar poems, a gift we received from Teddie Daley, of Idaho's Blaine County Historical Museum, from the collection of D. A. Outzs of Hailey, Idaho.  



The Bundle Stiff

Can you feature a man with no home and no neighbors,
And often no roof that would cover his head?
Who lived by the roughest and hardest of labor
And carried the blankets that served for his bed.

He lived on the cheapest and coarsest of rations.
They worked him long hours for miserable pay.
Though his was the work helped develop the nation
He was always unwelcome and sent on his way.

He helped to build railroads, he helped to dig ditches,
He helped to build bridges, he graded the road.
But all of it brought him no leisure or riches;
On the highways he built he could walk with his load.

Too sullen for fear and too hardened for pity
He worked with the toilers and travelled with tramps.
His soul had been seared by the sins of the city,
His body was hard from his toil in the camps.

In the cities the parasites hounded him, craving
To get their vile hands on what money he made.
To steal the few dollars he'd gathered by slaving
In the gloom of the mine or the dust of the grade.

The buffalo hunter, the trapper, the trader.
They roamed through the West and collected their spoil.
But all that the bundle stiff got was hard labor
While other men reaped the result of his toil.

The cow boy was famous in song and in story.
Of the trooper and scout you hear many a tale.
But into his life came no honor or glory;
'Twas hunger that drove on the bundle stiff's trail.

Speak not of the Hindu oh misguided dreamer
Nor scorn his belief with its castes and its cults.
You live in a nation that worshipped the schemer
And sneered at the man who obtained the results.

I ask for nor stature in heroic mould
Of Labor performing some gigantic task,
Of the trades of the empires, the arts have oft told
But this for the stiff with his bundle I ask.

Show a broad shouldered man that is weary and jaded
And slung from his shoulder a roughly made pack
In ill fitting clothes that are battered and faded
As he trudges along on the road or the track.

Yes, that was the bundle stiff, shunned and neglected.
A child of the old West; her youngest and last.
She handed him nothing, just as expected,
When he took the dim trail that led into the past.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



They Don't Thank You

When a feller tails up an old cow that is down,
She don't thank him for it. I've generally found
That as soon as she's standin', the miserable wreck,
Will start shakin' her horns and git right on the peck.

She comes chargin' at you, you dodge her, and then
She loses her balance and falls down again.
That's the sort of a thing that will make a man swear,
This workin' and fightin' and gettin' nowhere.

But then there's some people that's just like a cow;
I bet you can think of a few of them now.
You remember the times when you put yourself out
Fer some feller you didn't care nothin' about.

And just about time when you thought it was through,
He was back into trouble and huntin' fer you.
It made you so mad that you swore there and then
You would never start helpin' that feller again.

But then when you find an old critter that's weak
And is down, or some cuss with an unlucky streak;
In spite of the things that you promised and swore,
You go right to work and start helpin' once more.

Calendar Poem

Our copy of "They Don't Thank You" comes from a scrapbook of Kiskaddon calendar poems, a gift we received from Teddie Daley, of Idaho's Blaine County Historical Museum, from the collection of D. A. Outzs of Hailey, Idaho.  

In Bill Siems' monumental 2007 book, Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, which includes all of Kiskaddon's poetic output, he includes "They Don't Thank You" with Amber Dunkerley's illustration (the same as the above) as it was printed among "the 1943 through 1948 Stock Yards Calendar" poems. A footnote states it was reprinted in the Western Livestock Journal in 1954. 

Siems tells how Dunkerley took over the illustrations for Kiskaddon's poems, after his former illustrator, Katherine Field, was unable to continue their collaboration. He also comments, "In the mid-forties the Western Livestock Journal began to reduce the appearance of Kiskaddon's poems. When price controls were removed at the end of World War II livestock prices shot up, improving economic circumstances throughout the industry, and perhaps Kiskaddon began to seem old fashioned to the enlarged editorial staff of the Journal...."

Read more about Open Range in our feature here.  Editor Bill Siems recites Curley Fletcher's "The Strawberry Roan" on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three.


It's sumpthin' a feller caint hardly explain
The way that a cowpuncher feels about rain.
It makes the feed grow and it fills up the tanks,
And generally speakin' he'd orta give thanks.
He wakes up some night when the rain hits his bed
And pull the tarpolian up over his head.
It's warm when it rains and he gits overhet
And he lays there all night in a miserable sweat.

He wakes up next mornin', his boots is all soaked
Jest laugh that one off if you think it's a joke.
He pulls at the lugs and he stomps and he knocks
Till he drives both his feet through the toes of his socks.
He gits his boots on but you know how it feels;
No toes in his socks and them wrinkled up heels.
When he goes to ketch out it ain't no easy trick
With a rope that is wet and as stiff as a stick.

He dabs for his hoss and he makes a good snare
But the hoss downs his head and backs right out from there.
Fer a cow pony knows you caint tighten a loop
When you ketch with a rope that's as stiff as a hoop.
When he gits saddled up he must climb up and ride
And that wets the last dry spot he had on his hide.
The hoss starts to buck but that cow boy is set
Fer a man's hard to throw when his saddle is wet.

All day he keeps ridin' the flats and the hills,
A slippin' and slidin' and likely he spills.
When he gits into camp he must stand up to eat,
And his clothes is all wet from his head to his feet.
He stands 'round the fire, he cusses and smokes,
Fer he hates to git into a bed that's all soaked.
But his slicker's wet through fer it's old any way,
And there's mighty few slickers turns water all day.

And while he turns in, and as strange as it seems
He goes off to sleep and he sweats and he steams.
Next mornin' it's clear and the wind's blowin' sharp
He shivers and crawls out from under his tarp.
By the time he eats breakfast he's feeling all right
And his bed will dry out by a couple more nights.
But the old saddle blankets are still cold and wet,
And the hoss humps his back and looks wicked you bet.

Old cow boy is tired, he's stiff and he's sore,
He's had lots of trouble, he don't want no more.
So he takes that old pony and leads him around
Till he gits his back warm and the saddle sets down.
Fer the man that's been rained on two nights and a day,
Ain't lookin' fer trouble; he ain't built that way.
He wants feed and water but let me explain,
A waddy ain't comf'tble out in the rain.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



The Quitter

You find a big calf that the roundup has missed.
You shake out your rope with a whirl and a twist.
You dab the loop on as you come alongside,
And figger to run the old brand on his hide.

A run down the rope, and you git a flank hold;
Then the trouble begins fer the hoss he quits cold.
He keeps goin' faster, he's gettin' away—
That rattle brained pony, he never would stay.

Here comes the calf's mother; she's bowin' her neck,
She is shore plenty mad and she's right on the peck.
You got to be quick, and there's only one hope;
Let go of the calf and go back up the rope.

When you git to the bridle you feel mighty tough.
You cuss the fool brute and you handle him rough.
It don't do no good, and it don't help a bit.
But it makes a hand mad when a hoss starts to quit.

from the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendar, 1936

See a larger image of the front and back of this calendar here.

Kiskaddon had hundreds of poems printed in the Western Livestock Journal and the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendars. Bill Siems' impressive book, Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, includes all of those poems, along with extensive background information about the publications. The book notes that "The Quitter" appeared also in the Western Livestock Journal in April, 1936. See our feature about Open Range and the complete table of contents here.

The Los Angeles Union Stock Yards, built in 1923, became the largest stock yards in the West. The Global Road Trips site has information and photographs here. There are photos from the California Historical Society in the University of Southern California Digital Archives: the stock yards under construction, a 1929 panoramic view, a 1940 aerial view, the offices, and a 1940 photo of a monument unveiling. The stock yards were closed in 1958.

"The Quitter" is illustrated with a drawing by Katherine Field. Bill Siems, in his introduction to Shorty's Yarns (Kiskaddon's collected short stories) comments, "One of the reasons that Kiskaddon's poems have been remembered when the stories have not, why they were clipped from the Western Livestock Journal and pasted in ranch family albums or saved from the monthly calendars published by the Los Angeles Union Stockyards, is that many of the poems are beautifully illustrated with line drawings created in ink by Katherine Field. ..."  Field and Kiskaddon collaborated for twenty years; they never met face-to-face. Read the entire introduction in our feature here.


Headin' Fer the New Deal
(Dedicated to Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States)

We're headin' fer the NEW DEAL now. We've had some awful years.
We recollect them two cent cows, and them there four cent steers.
Besides the calves that got so cheap; the wust I've ever seen.
It made their mothers stand and weep the day that they were weaned.

We won't furgit them awful days; we're jest about all in.
We hope that they have gone to stay and won't come back ag'in.
Nobody seemed to onderstand. The folks was all in doubt.
There didn't seem to be no hand could git things straightened out.

It isn't always them that lags that gits a drive all sp'iled.
It ain't no use to charge the drags and let the lead run wild.
You hadn't ort to git ahead and hold 'em back too slow;
Fer then the herd takes on a spread and jest won't hardly go.

A new Trail Boss come ridin' in to soter see us through.
He see what we was up ag'in and figgered what to do.
Franklin D. knowed the herd was out of j'int. He steadied down the lead,
And put some old hands on the p'int to regalate the speed.

And then he put the flank and swing 'bout where they'd ort to ride.
Not too close up and crowdin' things, nor keepin' out too wide.
The drags is safe from fightin' stock, and crazy riders too;
They're goin' at a steady walk, they'll easy make it through.

He doesn't let 'em git TOO DRY. He keeps 'em on the feed,
He knows his herd and that is why he savvys what they need.
He saved us from a total loss. That's why the boys allow,
They're stringin' with the new Trail Boss that's in the saddle now.

          From Western Poems, 1935


The Lost Flannins

Old greasy John Blair had a shootin' affair
Way back in the year ninety three
I don't know if it's true, but I'll tell it to you
Just the same as John told it to me.

Said Greasy, as he tipped back his cahir,
"That story shore puts me in mind
Of a suit of red flannins I got down to Shannon's,
And some trouble I had with O'Brien.

You see I rode line with this Jimmy O'Brien,
That winter I shore do recall
We got, as you knows, our tobacker and clothes,
When we went out of town in the fall.

We was both plenty tough, but the weather was rough,
And it made us go prowl our war sacks.
All the clothes we could find, either his'n or mine,
We put 'em right onto our backs.

The red flannins of mine was most sartinly fine,
I didn't begrudge what they cost.
But a turrible thing happened long toward spring,
My suit of red flannins got lost.

There was jest I and Jim so I blamed it on him,
And Jim, right away he got tough.
He was never right mild, and when once he riled,
I am present to state he talked rough.

Well a'most every day we'd get started some way,
About where them red flannins had gone.
And the more that I thought, the plum shorer I got,
That my old pardner Jim had 'em on.

We had et a big bait and was startin' out late;
The weather was perishin' cold.
I walked up to him and sez, look a here Jim,
I want them red flannins you stoled.

Jim's eyes they got mean, and he sez, we'll come clean.
I been hearin' this talk quite a spell.
And I caint onderstand how a reasonable man,
Would be wantin' red flannins in Hell.

It wasn't no fun, fer he took to his gun,
And we shot till the cabin was fogged.
The chinckin' shore flew where the bullets cut through,
While some others plowed into the logs.

When the smoke cleared away, there my old pardner lay,
And I sez to him, Mister O'Brien,
Since at last you have got to a place where it's hot,
I'll be takin' them flannins of mine.

I onbuttoned his clothes and what do you suppose?
He didn't have any onderwear.
I searched all around and they couldn't be found.
Them red flannins wasn't no where.

'Bout the time the grass rose I began sheddin' clothes.
My onderwear started to stick.
It clogged up my sweat when I got overhet,
So I took me a swim in the crick.

When I dove in at fust I washed off some loose dust,
And then quite a coating of muck.
I finally come to a layer of tough gum,
But I still was as dry as a duck.

Well I suwm around some till I soaked through the gum,
And the water got into my pores.
It shore made me shiver, chilled plum to the liver.
I waded out onto the shore.

I stood in the sun; I'm a son of a gun;
I thought in my soul I'd a died.
I had them clothes on that I figgered was gone,
They'd been plastered down next to my hide.

I know Jim O'Brien that old pardner of mine;
He's a settin' down there on the coals.
And I reckon he'll wait right up close to the gate
And be ready to bull dog my soul.

It drives me to drink every time that I think
Of Jim fixin' it up with Old Satan.
I know all these years he's been backin' his ears,
And jest itchin' and watchin' and waitin'.

I might make a try for a home in the sky,
But that wouldn't be treatin' Jim fair.
I made the mistake so I'll give him a break,
And we'll settle the matter down there.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947



A little colt is purty, you can see it mighty plain;
With his little feet and curley tail and fuzzy little mane.
It's fun to watch him playin' the way he jumps and squeals;
He keeps by his mother's shoulder, but she never tromps his heels.

And when you're chasin' hosses, the colts they ain't so slow.
It is really plumb surprisin' just how far a colt can go.
It seems a shame to brand 'em fer it always seemed to me
That their hide was like a baby's, jest as tender as could be.

All the same you watch your business if you start to brand a colt.
Don't handle him too careless when you go to take a holt.
He might kick you in the stummick, and there's jest a chance again,
That he'd either bust your knuckles or mebbe crack your shin.

Now a colt I hate to brand him, he's so pretty and so sleek.
But you bet I onderstand him, he ain't innocent or weak.
Long before he leaves his mother he has learned a lot of tricks,
And I want to tell you brother, he can hurt you when he kicks.

From Western Poems, 1935


Wet Boots

A cowboy goes under a turrible strain,
When he tries to wear boots that's been soaked in the rain.
He pulls and he wiggles, and after he's tried,
He gits him some flour and sprinkles inside.

Then he gits him two jack knives; puts one in each lug
And he stomps and he pulls till his eyes start to bug.
Next he tries a broom handle—an awful mistake.
Which same he finds out when he feels the lug break.

The toes and the heels they bust out of his socks,
And it's awful to hear how that cowpuncher talks.
He opens his knife and it shore is a sin,
Fer he cuts his new boots till his feet will go in.

I reckon, old-timer, you know how he feels.
You have kicked bunk house walls and the chuck wagon wheels.
And you know when yore older, there's nothin' to gain
From buyin' tight boots if you work in the rain.

From Western Poems, 1935


Cow Boy Days

Can you recollect the country
That we knew in days gone bye?
Where the prairie met the sunrise
And the mountains met the sky.
Where you rode through rugged canyons
And oer rolling mesas wide
Or you crossed the wind swept prairie
On a long and lonely ride.

How your bits and spurs would jingle
And the only other sound
Was the creaking of your saddle
And the hoof beats on the ground.
Almost any where you landed
There was something you could do
You were happy in that country
With the people that you knew.

No the people wasn't plenty
In the good old days of yore
But you always found a welcome
At most any cabin door.
You would get off of your pony
And you'd stretch and stomp your feet
When you got that invitation
"Better light a spell and eat."

That was one of the traditions
Of the easy going West
You were just a drifting cow boy
But you were an honored guest.
No it wasn't always funny
In them early days old pard
You was often out of money
And the work was plenty hard.

How you rode with Death behind you
When you milled the wild stampede
And you felt the lightning blind you
As you fought to bend the lead.
How you drifted with the blizzard
Till you got a fire lit
You was froze plum to the gizzard
By the time the storm had quit.

No you hadn't no bay window.
Fact is you was soter lean
You had coffee and some biscuits
And some salty pork and beans
You could tell there had been cattle
In the water that you drank
And you swallered bugs and wigglers
At some muddy old ground tank.

When you landed at a bunk house
You was welcomed by the crew
But you have some recollections
How the bed bugs met you too
When you went to meet the round up
You can recollect some day
When you couldn't find the wagon
Or your hosses got away.

When you went out greasy sackin'
In the summer in the hills
You was shoein' brandin' packin'
Cookin' workin' fit to kill
For there wasn't any wagon
And you hadn't any bunk.
Packed your bed on sweaty hosses
Lord the way them blankets stunk.

Now you tell it with a snicker
But it griped you then I'll bet
Standing' all night in a slicker
'Cause your bed was wringin' wet.
You was young and you was happy
You was never really sick
But you often travelled limpin'
When a leg got jammed or kicked.

Now old hurts come back and pain you
And you have some tender toes
That date back some forty winters
To the time your feet was froze.
You've a scar upon your forehead
That for years you packed around
Where some cranky tricky pony
Throwed you on the frozen ground.

Your eyes are dim and bleary
From the wind and dust and sun
And the time you got snow blinded
Didn't seem to help 'em none.
Almost any old cow puncher
Has some fingers or a wrist
Busted when he tried to dally
And the saddle got his fist.

Things are not the way they once was
There has been a lot of change
Since the days of drives and roundups
When we worked the open range.
In the wide and grassy valleys
Where the cattle used to roam
There are irrigation ditches
And there's farms and barns and homes.

Now there's signals and there's sign boards
Where we bedded cattle down
Where we met with other outfits
There are villages and towns.
Neon signs are blazin' brightly
Where our camp fires glowed dim
Concrete bridges span the rivers
Where our hosses used to swim.

No, you haven't made a fortune
And your hair is white. You're old
But you wouldn't trade your memories
Not for heaps of shinin' gold.
And whenever you get lonely
You just hold a grand review
Of the places and the hosses
And the people that you knew.
You can hear the songs and stories
You can see the camp fires blaze
As you live again the glories
Of your grand old cow boy days.

From Kiskaddon's 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges


Looking Backward

Do you recollect the country that you knew in days gone by?
Where the prairie met the sunrise and the mountains met the sky.
Where you trailed through rugged caňons and on windy mesas wide,
Or you crossed the rollin' prairie on a long and lonely ride.

How your bits and spurs would jingle. And the only other sound
Was the creaking of your saddle and the hoof beats on the ground.
You was happy in that country, and among the folks you knew,
Almost any where you landed there was something you could do.

You would light off of your pony and you'd stretch and stop your feet,
When you get that invitation fer to "Light a spell and eat."
They was faithful to the customs of the easy goin' west.
You was just a driftin' cow hand but you wan an honored guest.

But things wasn't always funny in them early days, old pard.
There was times you had no money and the work was plenty hard.
You was young and you was healthy, you was never really sick,
But you often travelled limpin' when a leg got jammed or kicked.

You could tell there had been cattle in the water that you drank.
And you swallered bugs and wigglers, now and then at some ground tank.
Them big springs in the arroyos, well, you mostly passed 'em by.
They was nice and clear to look at but full of alkali.

How you rode with Death behind you when you milled the wild stampede.
You could feel the lightnin' blind you as you raced to bend the lead.
How you went out greasy sackin' in the summer through the hills
You was shoein', brandin', packin', cookin', workin' fit to kill.

No there wasn't any wagon and there wasn't any bunk.
Packed your bed on sweaty hosses. Man the way them blankets stunk.
Now you tell it with a snicker, but it griped you then I bet.
Standin' all night in your slicker 'cause your bed was wringin' wet.

Too, you might remember kneelin' down beside some dying man
While you wrote his last short message in the book among your brands.
Or you might have seen a quarrel, Men that had been friends for years.
One or both was dead or dyin' by the time the smoke was clear.

When you rode up to a bunk house you was welcomed by the crew
But you got some recollections how the bed bugs met you too
When you went to meet the round up, you can recollect some day
When you couldn't find the wagon or your hosses got away.

Now old hurts come back and pain you And you've got complainin' toes
That dates back some forty winters to the time your feet was froze.
And your eneyes are weak and tender from the wind and dust and sun,
That there time you got snow blinded didn't really help 'em none.

Things are not the way they once was. There has been a heap of change
'Mongst the places and the people since you worked the open range.
In the wide and grassy valleys where the cattle used to roam.
Now there's irrigation ditches, and there's farms and barns and homes.

There's signs and service stations where the cattle bedded down.
Where we used to meet the round up now there's villages and towns.
And the Neon lights is blazin' where our camp fires glowed so dim.
Concrete bridges span the rivers where our hosses used to swim.

No, you haven't made a fortune, and your hair is white. You're old.
But you wouldn't swap your memories; not for heaps of shinin' gold.
For whenever you get lonely you put on a big review,
Of the people and the places and the hosses that you knew.
You can hear the songs and stories, you can see the camp fires blaze
As you live again the glories of your grand old cow boy days,

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


In Bill Siems' Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, which includes all of Kiskaddon's poems, he points out that Kiskaddon's poem "Looking Backward" has just slightly different wording from "Cow Boy Days."

Shoveling the Ice Out of the Trough

It's frosty in the mornin' when you wake up in the shack.
When you roll out of yore blankets, makes the chill go up yore back.
By the time you've got yore breakfast it is nice and warm inside,
But it's time to git a goin'. You must saddle up and ride.

There is thick ice every mornin' and you've got to chop it off.
Ice is all right in a highball, but it's no good in a trough.
If the cattle don't git water it soon begins to show,
They don't keep in good condition jest a lickin' up some snow.

I read once in a paper what some wise perfessors think.
They claim it's only water that us humans ort to drink.
I'm jest speakin' fer the cowboys, and I reckon as a class,
They'll drink nothin' else but water, when perfessors lives on grass.

The cows and calves look sorry, a walkin' through the snow,
With their backs humped up an shivverin' and bawlin' sorter low.
A cowboy's life's a tough one but I reckon anyhow,
I'd sooner be a cowboy than I would to be a cow.

From Western Poems, 1935


The Days of Forty-Nine

The rush for gold brought spirits bold in the days of Forty-Nine.
They came to pan in the River’s sand or to toil in the hillside mine.
They came through the mountain passes high, they forded the swollen streams,
They toiled and cursed in the desert’s thirst till they got to the land of their dreams.

In the wet and cold they toiled for gold. They sweat in the gloom of the mine.
And the men would fight for the wrong or right in the days of Forty-Nine.
There were gamblers too with the tricks they knew, they haunted each Western dive;
In the greed and lust and the quick distrust where the cunning and strong survive.

There were gangs that stole and took their toll from the earnings of honest men.
Those left alone with the gold they owned would never be seen again.
That sort of a gang they had to hang to the limb of an oak or pine
For a quick clean draw was the only law in the days of Forty-Nine.

Near the missions there grew large orchards too and vineyards with laden vines.
The men from the “Stills” of the Eastern Hills drank the California Wines.
But we read few words of the Don’s vast herds that roamed over valley and hill.
There was plenty of meat for them all to eat. There was always some beef to kill.

The bold “Vaqueros” in chapareros were the men who tended the stock.
They feared not the least either man or beast. They only dreaded to walk.
We hear tales still of their speed and skill and to this very day
There is little change in the open range, they work in the Spanish way.

No more men tramp from camp to camp; the stages and long line teams
Have had their day and have passed away to live in the land of dreams.
And the river craft with the big wheel aft is a picture lost and gone.
The truck, the train and the aeroplane are the ones that are carrying on.

Now the day of the Don is passed and gone. Those padres pray no more.
The shadows fall on the crumbling wall where they walked through the open door.
For the rush for gold brought spirits bold that changed the lives of men,
And the quiet ways of the Mission Days that will never return again.

From  Brand Book 1949, Los Angeles Corral of the Westerners

In 2006, when Bill Siems published his 600-page book, Open Range: Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, it was thought that the book contained Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950) entire poetic output (481 poems). In 2012, he came into possession of two previously uncollected poems, including "The Days of Forty-Nine."

Bill Siems told us "The Days of Forty-Nine" was included in The Westerners Brand Book—Los Angeles Corral—1949. Bill Siems explained that this Westerners group at the time included Hollywood people and "...literary and artistic lights of the West... Bruce's pal Billy Dodson belonged to the Los Angeles Corral, and arranged for Bruce to become an honorary member." The organization is still active today.


The Buckaroo

The old Forty-Niners could tell some big stories
Of the West at its best, of its hardships and glories.
They tell about gamblers and claim jumpers too,
But they never say much ‘bout the durned buckaroo.

When they landed here he was the feller they found
A razzin’ the Spanish Don’s cattle around.
If we can believe half the stories they tell
He was shore a cow hand and a rider from Hell.

They say he was handy at sailin’ his twine.
He snubbed with a dally and throwed a “Gut line.”
He was good readin’ sign, he could foller a trail.
He could ride in and throw a big steer by the tail.

They rode a good hoss with a single cinch rig.
They could catch anything that was little or big.
Two of ‘em together could go anywhere
They could ketch a jack rabbit or waller a bear.

Their hosses was swift and they shore handled fast
They could stop ‘em so quick that their shadder went past.
If the wind took their hat when the breezes was strong
They could pick it right up while they galloped along.

The sported moustaches and broad brimmed sombreros.
They wore their wide sashes and stout chapareros.
And all of them wore the big spurs on their heels,
With shanks that curved down and with mighty big wheels.

He could dance at a “Baille” or drink at a bar.
He could serenade ladies and play the guitar.
And at a Fiesta he shore was a darb
From the time he arrived in his buckaroo garb.

The poets and authors tell many a story
Of the Padre and Don at the height of their glory.
But every old cow puncher lifts his sombrero
To that daredevil rider, the Spanish Vaquero.

From  Brand Book 1949, Los Angeles Corral of the Westerners

In 2006, when Bill Siems published his 600-page book, Open Range: Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, it was thought that the book contained Bruce Kiskaddon's (1878-1950) entire poetic output (481 poems). In 2012, he came into possession of two previously uncollected poems, including "The Buckaroo."

Bill Siems told us "The Buckaroo" was included in The Westerners Brand Book—Los Angeles Corral—1949. Bill Siems explained that this Westerners group at the time included Hollywood people and "...literary and artistic lights of the West... Bruce's pal Billy Dodson belonged to the Los Angeles Corral, and arranged for Bruce to become an honorary member." The organization is still active today.


New Boots

I got my new boots and they fit me jest right
Of course all the other hands sez they're too tight.
Some sez they're too small, and some sez that they figger
They're shore big enough, but my feet's a bit bigger.

Last night a dumb waddy was springin' a joke,
How I pulled the tape measure so tight that it broke.
I've got the Lumbago—the hands all got cute.
Said I ruint my back pullin' on my new boots.

The boss sez the heels is too high fer his likin'.
Well he shore ort to know I don't use boots for hikin'.
They fit me jest perfect. The tops is stitched fine.
The bosses boots never was e'kul to mine.

I ordered them boots and I paid the cash down
And they's no better boots in the country around.
I know why them fellers won't let me alone.
When they look at my boots they're ashamed of their own.

From Western Poems, 1935



You take a good look at the rim of the sky,
A queer feelin' comes in yore gizzard.
You notice the landmarks; right well you know why,
Yore about to lock horns with a blizzard.
You wrop up yore ears and you tie down your hat,
Yore hoss gives a worrisome nicker.
It comes with a rush and it's sweepin' the flat
By the time you git into yore slicker.

The force of the wind and the dust and the snow
Has you and yore hoss a'most strangled.
You drift along with it because you both know
That you and the blizzard has tangled.
Through the gloom on each side you see shadders and forms,
The wind makes you reel in the saddle.
No critter a livin' will face such a storm
And yore driftin' along with the cattle.

The night settles in, it is awful and black,
You know several hours have passed.
You go up and down hill, then the wind seems to slack;
You are right in the cedars at last.
The night is so dark that a feller caint see,
He's so cold that he hardly can feel.
You pile up dry twigs at the foot of a tree
When you've scraped the snow back with yore heel.

One hand's in yore shirt. You've been keepin' it there,
And now it is warm and plum steady.
You bunch up some matches and rub in your hair
And crouch where yore kindlin' is ready.
You strike them ketchin' the ends on yore teeth.
About then you're thinkin' a lot.
You shore give a plenty big grunt of relief
When you see that yore kindlin' is caught.

All night in the storm you keep feedin' the blaze,
At daybreak it's jest about quit.
Them storms mightn't hurt you but then anyways,
They don't help a fellow a bit.
You git onto high ground till you find where you are.
It's rough breakin' trail through the snow.
You see smoke in some timber, it looks mighty far,
It's the ranch of a fellow you know.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947

Christmas at the Home Ranch

It was Christmas at the home ranch and the line camp boys rode in;
Jack the cook was busy fixin' fer his Christmas feed agin.
No, we didn't have no turkey but a turkey wouldn't last,
For the boys that work in winter wreck the grub pile mighty fast.
But we had a big fat yearlin' that his mother failed to wean
And you bet that home ranch Christmas was the last he ever seen.

Dusty built a loop and ketched him. Shore did stop him in his tracks,
Old Romero heeled and stretched him while we hit him with the ax.
How the boys did git around him, workin' like a bunch of bees,
Why we hadn't hardly downed him 'fore we'd hung him up to freeze.
Yes, they had the Christmas sperrit, all the boys was feelin' good,
Didn't even have to ast 'em fer to chop and carry wood.

We had beef and beans and taters, biscuits, gravy too, likewise,
Good stout coffee and tamaters and a passel of real pies.
When the cook yelled, "Come and git it!" and the bunch had all got set,
Our old boss sez "Here's some Christmas to be took before you've et."
I don't need to be a tellin' 'bout the smile on ev'ry face
Fer the old jug held a gellun and was in a handy place.

We was feelin' soter holler when we set up to that stuff,
We could chew but couldn't swaller when we 'lowed we'd had enough.
Then we set around the fire, didn't hardly laugh or joke,
So filled up that we was tired, all we did was set and smoke.
We stayed in till afer New Years fer the outfit had the chance
On a special invitation to attend the New Year Dance.

Then we ketched our winter hosses, lots of grub and bed we took,
While the boss held down the home ranch with the wrangler and the cook.
It was mighty cold them mornin's and it made a waddly flinch,
When the frost hung on his whiskers while he pulled his frozen cinch.
And nobody didn't miss us, didn't anybody keer,
For we'd and been to Christmas and it had to last a year.

From Western Poems, 1935

Keith Ward recites  "Christmas at the Home Ranch" on our 2-CD collection of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry, The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8.


Cold Mornin's

I been out in the weather since I was a boy,
But cold mornin's is sumthin' a man cain't enjoy.
It makes me feel like I wanted to quit
When I ketch up my pony and thaw out my bit.

There ain't any cow puncher needs to be told
That my saddle is stiff and the leather is cold.
The blankets is froze and the hoss shakes like jelly
When you the pull the old frozen cinch up on his belly.

He snorts and he's got a mean look in the eye.
He is humped till the back of the saddle stands high.
He ain't in no humor to stand fer a joke,
But I belt on my chaps and I light me a smoke.

There may be some trouble between me and him.
It is like goin' into cold water to swim.
It gives me a sort of shivver and scare
But once I git started; well then I don't care.

1937, Western Livestock Journal and Union Stockyards Calendar


When He Cold Jaws

When you set in the saddle and up on a hoss,
You get the idea that yore mebbyso boss.
Yore feet in the stirrups, yore hands on the reins,
You feel like the Lord of the mountains and plains.
Like you run the whole country and made all the laws;
But the difference it makes when yore pony cold jaws.

You jump a few wild ones and start to turn 'em.
Then try to break past and you reckon you'll learn 'em.
You raise in your stirrups and lift fer a run,
But you haven't gone far till you see what you've done.
They race down a hill and make fer a draw,
Then yore hoss slings his head and you feel him cold jaw.

His head in the crown piece, he shore does know how,
He is after his head and he's got it right now.
You use all the stren'th in yore arms and yore shoulders.
He knocks the sparks out of the slide rocks and boulders.
A mighty sick feelin' comes into yore craw,
Fer you never did think that this hoss would cold jaw.

It ain't no use to pull. The reins tear through yore grip.
He crashes through brush and you feel yore clothes rip.
About all you can do is to hang on and ride.
You feel the cold sweat breakin' out on yore hide.
You had run past yore cattle the last that you saw
And yore horse races on with an iron cold jaw.

At last he gets winded. You bend the old brute.
One sole is tore loose from the toe of yore boot.
The stock you was after, you nere will know
Which way or direction they happen to go.
You have left half yore shirt on a bunch of cat claw,
Fer it shore wrecks a hand when his hosses cold jaw.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


Then and Now

There were officers, outlaws, and gamblers and scrappers,
That lived their wild lives in the stirrin' old west.
There were bull whackers, mule skinners, soldiers and trappers;
But the old time cow puncher was there with the best.

The old frontier cattleman, cool and unhurried,
Though the danger was close, or the goin' was tough:
Went on with his work, and he never once worried;
If he had a few cowboys, well, that was enough.

Now the bobbed wire fences have cut up the ranges.
The cattle themselves is a different breed.
There has been some improvement and plenty of changes.
There's a heap in the blood, but there's more in the feed.

The old time cow puncher, the dare devil ranger,
With a gun on his hip and the spurs on his heels,
Is replaced by a cow hand that works in less danger.
He is surer of shelter and regular meals.

Now the herdsman today has his troubles and losses,
But he still has the heart of the old time cow hand.
He is doin' his best just the same as his bosses,
To raise the most beef, the best way he can.

Bruce Kiskaddon,
1942 Western Livestock Journal and Union Stockyards Calendar



Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal.

In 1939, Frank M. King, editor of the Western Livestock Journal, wrote, "...Sometimes Bruce's poems are mailed up there to Katherine in her mountain home, and pretty soon it comes back with a drawing that just fits the poem. Then for a change she sends her drawings over here to Los Angeles and Bruce squints them eyes over 'em that he used to use for spying out long eared calves up there on them Colorado and Arizona mountain ranges, and in a right short time he comes out with one of them poems that exactly matches the picture, so they make a good team for matching up pictures and poems."

The two never met in person.

This image is from our collection of Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendars.



He's in the past'er left behind,
a hoss that's had his day,
what might be goin' through his mind
is mighty hard to say,
Yes, time and age has made a change,
he can't do work that's hard,
nor carry men who ride the range
or take their turn on guard.

He knows about the rop corral
at morning, night and noon.
He knows the wrangler's voice and call;
the night hawk's droning tune.
He knows the way a circle's thrown
and how to point a drive;
and now they leave him here alone,
too old but still alive.

He dimly recollects with pride
the way he used to buck.
The hand that topped him had to ride
or he was out of luck.
He dreams of summer and of Spring,
and then those days of grief,
the snow and mud and every thing,
the late fall work for beef.

It seems he sort of understands
the reason he must stay,
just like a lot of old cow hands
whose hair is thin and gray.
His work upon the range is through.
He's not so quick and strong;
in fact there's nothing he can do,
so he can't go along.

This image is another original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page, this one from nearly 70 years ago, April, 1945. The poem and drawing also appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1945 and in The Westerner in 1946.

The illustration is by Amber Dunkerley (1893-1973), who illustrated Bruce Kiskaddon's poems from 1943-1948. Kiskaddon's previous illustrator, Katherine Field, had to stop working to take care of her ailing parents and her children.

This image is from our collection of Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendars.


Cow Sense

You have heard people a sayin' "As dumb as a cow."
Well they ain't seen much cattle I'll tell you right now.
A cow she knows more than some people by half;
She's the only thing livin' that savvys a calf.
A cow don't know nothin? Well, how do you think
They suckle young calves and walk miles fer a drink?

You have watched an old cow; or I reckon you did,
If she's got a young calf why she keeps it well hid.
She has planted it out where it jest caint be found,
And she won't go near there if there's anything 'round.
You just make that calf give a jump or a beller
And that old cow is there to charge into a feller.

If there's several young calves in a bunch, you will find,
When their Ma's go to drink they leave one cow behind.
And when they git full and come back to the bunch
She goes to git her a drink and some lunch.
You kin talk of day nurseries. I reckon as how,
They was fustly invented and used by a cow.

Perhaps you have noticed some times on a drive
With cows, men and hosses more dead than alive,
When you got near the water, as soon as they smelt,
Them old cows went fer it jest Hellity belt.
Then the drags was all calves but they didn't furgit 'em;
When they drunk they come back and they shore didn't quit 'em.

They let their calves suck and kept out of the rush,
So them calves didn't git in the mud and the crush.
I'm telling you people without any jokes,
Cows make better parents than plenty of folks.
If folk thought the thing over, I reckon as how,
They wouldn't be sayin' "As dumb as a cow."

From Western Poems, 1935



Stringin' Along

It's nice to see a herd of cattle travelin' in a string
With the riders workin' easy on the point and on the swing.
If you keep the cattle stringin' you can walk 'em quite a ways
But if you let 'em spread or bunch they'll settle down and graze.

And if you keep a herd strung out there's not so many lags,
And you ain't makin' distance if you have to "chouse the drags."
The man that's ridin' on the lead should regalate the pace,
Then every critter mighty soon will find himself a place.

Any time they git to spreadin' and you want 'em narrowed in;
If you take a lope up forward, then come walkin' back ag'in.
If you meet your stragglers facin', at a slow and easy walk,
It's more good than all the racin' and a lot of noisy talk.

And every critter gits his place you mighty soon will find
Where he ain't afraid of critters that's a walkin' just behind.
If a man would think and reason he could see the way it feels
If some critter he is skeered of was a trompin' on his heels.

Now there's not much cattle trailin' on the hills and on the plains.
They move the stock in motor trucks and on the railroad trains.
But I think of men and hosses and the trails I used to know,
When we moved a lot of cattle over fifty years ago.




Makin' a Break

From the way he is movin' it looks like this steer
Had made up his mind to git in the clear.
What they're fixin' to do, he don't know. He don't care.
When the doin's comes off he don't aim to be there.

He has been on the range since the day he was born.
And he's got a few notions stashed onder his horns.
He never had shelter, his feed wasn't sure,
And his life was a thing he had to endure.

He looks on all men as a foe and a pest.
Every time that they met he came off second best.
So he figgers this way; any time there's a doubt
The best thing to do is fer him to light out.

The system he's got ain't a bad one at that.
He does his own thinkin' wherever he's at.
He may lose in the long run, but then just the same,
It is better than playin' the other man's game.




Git Him Slicker Broke

When yore breakin' out a broncho,
Better get him slicker broke;
Or sometime you'll have to try it
When it isn't any joke.
When the wind begins a blowin'
Till it snaps his mane and tail,
And you see a black cloud comin'
Full of lightnin' rain and hail.

And you know if you git off him
He will likely pull away
So you try it in the saddle
And yore hopin' that you stay
But yore horse starts a buckin'
When you git it halfway on.
While yore arms and sleeves is tangled
Then he throws you and he's gone.

It's a mighty nasty feelin'
That a feller caint explain;
When yore standin' there bare headed
And plum helpless, in the rain.
Fer yore slicker's tore and busted
And the wind has took yore hat;
And you see yore hoss and saddle
Go driftin' down the flat.

'Bout that time you git an idee
And you don't furgit it, pal.
Better slicker break a broncho
In a mighty good corral

by Bruce Kiskaddon, From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947


Feedin' Time

You are warm in the cabin, and doin' yore cookin'.
But you know that yore hosses are there, without lookin'.
It's 'long about time they come in to be fed,
And to be put away fer the night in the shed.

Both hosses and mules seem to have their own way
Of tellin' exactly the time of the day.
And I've noticed besides they don't often get lost,
Like some human bein's you've happened acrosst.

Yore feet is so warm that you don't like to go
And git yore boots wet, wadin''round in the snow.
But it's feed makes 'em stout, and it's feed brings 'em back;
So you pull on your boots, and you start makin' tracks.

You pull down yore hat and you turn up yore collar.
You start fer the shed and the hosses both foller.
They are glad to see you, and I've generally found,
A man don't git so lonesome with hosses around.

Calendar Poem




Going to Summer Camp

The winter time is over,
and the warm wind melts the snow.
He is headin' fer the summer camp
where wagons couldn't go.
I'll bet that old boy's happy
fer I know the way he feels;
Way up in that high country
where there never has been wheels.

He has got his grub and blankets,
and his cookin' outfit now.
And later on he'll have to pack s
ome salt in fer the cows.
Before he's through he'll have to make
a few trips there and back.
Fer every thing that gits to camp
goes up there in a pack.

But he'll see the big fat cattle
standin' in the grass knee deep.
He will hear the pines and quakin'asps
before he goes to sleep.
Them rapid little mountain streams
is home sweet home for trout.
They taste mighty good for breakfast;
he knows how to fish 'em out.

He'll be glad to git to camp
and see the cabin once ag'in.
He wonders how it stood the snow
and if the roof fell in,
Fer the high country in summer
is the finest place of all,
And he aims to stay until
the snow has run him out next fall.

Calendar Poem




The Brandin' Corral

When the west was all onsettled
and there wasn't no bob wire,
They had a way of workin'
that was sumpthin' to admire.
Every thing was done on hoss back,
and I've heard old timers talk
How the kids in cattle countries
didn't hardly learn to walk.

They worked cattle in the open,
and they laid 'em on the ground.
It was cuttin', flankin', ropin',
and a tyin' critters down.
But the present cattle raiser
aint so strong fer that idee,
And he has a way of workin'
that's as different as can be.

'Taint so hard on men and hosses,
and it's better for cow brutes
When you got a place to work 'em
in corrals and brandin' chutes.
When we heard of brandin' fluid,
fust we took it fer a joke.
Jest to think of brandin' cattle
when you couldn't smell no smoke.

Well a feller caint deny it
that the new way is the best,
Fer there's been a heap of changes
in the ranges of the west,
Most of the outfits then was bigger,
and a cow was jest a cow,
And they didn't stop to figger things
as close as they do now.

Calendar Poem




Sidin' His Dad

Now can't you remember when you was a lad
and you started out ridin' along with your Dad.
You first rode behind him. How awkward you felt
when you grabbed at the saddle or hung on his belt.

Then you rode an old gentle hoss bare backed, alone,
till at last you'd a saddle and hoss of your own
and you was so tickled and happy inside,
you was ready to bust, you was so full of pride.

You think of it now lookin' back through the years,
that was long long ago, but the memory is clear.
It is likely your father has gone to his rest,
and the saddle and pony, of course they "went west."

And the wide open country you used to admire
is dotted with houses or shut in with wire.
The motor cars crowded the hosses away.
They do in an hour what took you a day.

There was years of hard work and a lot of hard rides,
and many a range pal you travelled beside.
But never a thrill like when you were a lad,
and you rode your first saddle, 'longside of your Dad.

Calendar Poem




Leaving the Wreck

Well, it looks like this boy aint a doin' so good.
Things didn't turn our like he figgered they would.
He has tied hard and fast on a hoss that was green,
The hoss started to rair and the old cow got mean.

He's been tangled and jerked from out under his hat,
And he rather be somewheres than where he is at.
He couldn't find no place right handy to sit,
So he reckoned the best thing to do was to quit.

From the way that he looks as he's leavin' the wreck,
When he lands there's no danger of breakin' his neck.
But as soon as he lights he'll have plenty to do
With a cow on the fight and his rope broke in two.

It is one of them things that take place now and then,
To remind the old cow boy a rope has two ends.
And he shore finds out quick that there isn't much hope
When things start goin' wrong at both ends of the rope.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1943




Workin' it Over

It don't matter much what a cow boy may own,
You never can git him to leave it alone.
He always has some fool idee in his head,
'Bout his saddle or pack outfit, even his bed.

Supposin' his saddle is made with square skirts.
It worries that waddie ontil his soul hurts.
He gits out his knife and he cuts the skirts round;
Then he stitches the edges, or laces 'em down.

Then, mebby he'll cut the chafes off from his cinches.
He will splice out some straps or cut off a few inches.
He will cut at his pack outfit and rip out the stitchin'
While he changes the breast rig or mebby the britchin'.

He will whittle his bridle, and 'fore he gets through,
He has got both his spur straps cut half way in two.
When his outfit's plum ruint he goes to the store;
He buys some new stuff and starts whittlin' once more.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1940




When you wake up in the mornin' at the breakin' of the dawn;
When you ketch the wrangler pony and you throw yore saddle on.
Startin' out to git the hosses, watch fer tracks and travel slow.
You can't always be so sartin jest which way they're apt to go.

All the world begins to waken from the shadder of the night.
Little birds and hoot owls callin' and the East is getting bright.
Then at last you find the hoss tracks, and you foller on their trail
Leadin' up across a hog back, down into a grassy swale.

You can see yore hosses grazin', little bunches here and there.
When they see that you are comin' they look up and sniff the air.
They're soon rounded up and started. Joggin' in a ragged line,
As the shoulders leave the valleys and the sun begins to shine.

All the crew is out to meet you at the camp or the corrals,
And nobody but a wrangler, knows how good a breakfast smells.
You still recollect them mornin's and I guess you always will;
When the mornin' breeze was blowin' and the sunlight hit the hills.

by Bruce Kiskaddon, 1940




Books by Bruce Kiskaddon

Bruce Kiskaddon wrote four books of poetry:

All of those books are out of print.

There are four major contemporary compilations of Kiskaddon's work, and their indexes are included below:

Cowboy Miner, along with Walt "Bimbo" Cheney and Jana Marck, produced two collections of calendar poems. Read more below.



  Western Poems, 1935 



I have been asked to publish a selection of poems by Bruce Kiskaddon, acknowledged by cattle folk themselves as their own "poet laureate" of the cow camps.  Wheaton Hale Brewer of San Francisco, pays tribute to Bruce Kiskaddon in his preface to "Western Poems."  It is a real privilege to make possible the publication of these poems with the hope they may be enjoyed as much as I have enjoyed them.

                                                                                                                          Nelson R. Crow
Western Livestock Journal


To know and love the ranges of the west--their people and their story and their songs--has been the privilege of many a man.  But to recapture and give voice to the simple poetry of cow country is indeed a gift that is beyond purchase, and is a rare and lovely thing.  That gift has been given to Bruce Kiskaddon.  And his cowboy songs are as authentic and real as the scent of sage, or the jingle of spurs on a frosty morning.

The true poet is he whose poetry rings true--as Bruce's poems ring true.  He has lived the life of which he writes--a life which rapidly is vanishing, its people already taking to themselves the qualities of legend and of high romance.

But every hardy soul who ever followed a herd through the night, or drank his steaming coffee at the tail gate of a chuck-wagon, or forked a bronc to haze a bunch of wild ones out of a canyon, will read these singing rhymes and live again in the olden days.

As the years roll on and history appreciates the folk-lore of the plains and ranges, these poems by a real cowboy will take on deeper significance and mightier stature.  When Bruce turns his pony into the Last Corral--long years from now, we all hope--he need feel no surprise if he hears his songs sung by the celestial cowboys as their tireless ponies thunder over the heavenly ranges, bringing in the dogies for branding at the Eternal Corrals. For poetry will never die.

                                                                                                             Wheaton Hale Brewer

The following poems are included in Western Poems, published by Western Livestock Journal, Los Angeles, California, c1935.

All Dressed Up
The Brandin' Corral
A Calf's Troubles
After the Fall Roundup  
Caught Nappin'
Challengin' the Trail
The Chuck Wagon
The County Fair
Cow Sense
Cuttin' Out the Calves
The Cow Boy's Shirt Tail
The Cow and the Calf
The Cowboys Christmas Dance
High an' Wicked
The Livestock Show
Lockin' Horns
The Long Horn Speaks
The Marking Knife
Matching Wits
Movin' to Winter Range
New Boots
The New Cook
The Old Time Christmas
Pullin' Bog
The Purebred Bull
Ridin' Fence
The Rope Hoss
Savin' the Baby Calf
Shoveling the Ice Out of the Trough
That Little Blue Roan
That Letter
The Thoroughbred
Turnin' the Summer Hosses Out to Graze
Wet Boots
When the Grass is Short and the Old Cows Die
When Winter's Nigh Done

  Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947. 



There has been an increased demand for a complete collection of the Western poems I have written.  Previously I have published three small books of Western verse. This volume contains most of my western verses although it was impossible to find or reproduce all of them.

In 1898 I started riding in Colorado.  Since that time I have put in ten or twelve years around horse and cow outfits.

During the summer of 1922 I was working for G. T. (Tap) Duncan in northwestern Arizona.  Sometimes I would parody songs to suit local happenings or write verses and different jingles about what took place on the work.  Duncan insisted that I try writing some Western Verse. "Just what really happens," he said.  I have done so and there has been an ever increasing demand for them.

I never really completed grammar school and my powers of imagination are not what some writers are gifted with. Do you will find these rhymes are all written from actual happenings or the old legends of the cow country.

Hoping it brings back memories to the old boys and that the younger ones enjoy them.

                                                                                 BRUCE KISKADDON


A Foreword

Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Pickett Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a rider for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as rider on big cattle stations in Australia.  All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse.  He had no college professor teach him anything.  he is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business.  The best cowhand poems I ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.

                                                                                 Frank M. King
                                                                                     Cowhand Author

The following poems are included in Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947:  

An Old Western Town
The General Store
Alkali Ike's Zippers
A Cowboy Funeral
A Spill
Ants in His Pants
A Fast Start
He Didn't Belong
Hook 'em Cow
The Marking Knife
An Experiment
The Bargain
After the Fall Roundup
The Army Mule
The Country Fair
The Old Time Christmas
A Cowboy's Brains
A Boy's Friend
A Bad Grizzly
The Ladies' Rifle Team
Bad Luck
Cow Boy's Pants
Between the Lines
Cow Boy Days
Bull Ridin'
Cow Milkin'
Bill the Snake Charmer
The Mule
The Bunk House Mirror
The Gentle Hoss
Ghost Canyon Trail
Graves by the Side of the Trail
Goin' to Town
The Other Fellow's Beef
The Old Shot Gun
Git Him Slicker Broke
He Knew his Goat
He Found a Home
How They Made the Royal Gorge
Honest John's Five Aces
How a Cow Puncher Rode
It Might Have Been Me or It Might Have Been You
Just Set and Let Your Feet Hang Down
Judgement Day
John Greer's Points
His Old Clothes
I Don't Have to Meet the Wagon
I'm Hittin' the Trail Tonite
High An' Wicked
Looking Backward
The Lost Mines
Over Loaded
Moccaison Mick
The Livery Stable
The Panther Track
On Foot
The Fight in the Dark
The Old Cow Pony
The Brahma Steer
Old Greenie
The Broncho Twister's Prayer
The Trinidad Boy
The Long Ear
The Ghosts at the Diamond Bar
The Stock Hoss
Turning 'em Out
Pullin' Leather
Second Guard
The Air That They Breathe Out West
The Long Eared Bull
The Medicine Show
The Gray Wolf
The Cow-Boy's If
The New Man Takes His Turn
The Hoss That Can Run on the Hobbles
The Hoss Round Up
The Law Steps In
The Duel
The Muley Steer
The Dutch Oven
That Little Blue Roan
The Bell Mare
The Bundle Stiff
The Homesteader
Hoof Beats
Old Frosty
Out of Turn
Pack Saddle Dan
Ridin' School
Ridin' In
Sidin' His Dad
Shoveling the Ice Out of the Trough
Them Store Clothes
Swimmin' the Herd
The Cook
The Pet Hoss
The Man That Chaws
The Willow Creek Wedding
The Stage Coach
The Line Camp
The Drouth
The Old West
The Rifle
The Balky Hoss
The Sour Dough Bucket
The Stampede
Taking it Easy
The Drifter
The Man on the Fence
The Parsons Shot Gun Chaps
The Lost Flannins
The Time to Decide
The Cow Boy's Dream
The Old Night Hawk
The New Gun
To Those Who Have Gone Before
The Mexican Mule
The Running Iron
The New Mexico Stray
The Creak of the Leather
The Don't Change
Wet Boots
The Long Horn Speaks
The Tinker
When the Stove Didn't Draw
What a Shame
Waiting for the Cars
Watch Him Drink
When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall
When to Get Tough
Who Told the Biggest
When the Old Cow Kicks
When Connors Rode Rep For the Lord
When You're Throwed
When You Buried Your Face in the Alkali Drink
Was It Scare
Women Drivers
Where the Saddles Galled
When the Morning Star Fades Into Dawn
When He Cold Jaws
You Never Tell That
Your First Trip
You'd Better Not Try It Again
Your First Saddle


Alphabetical list:

After the Fall Roundup
The Air That They Breathe Out West
Alkali Ike's Zippers
The Army Mule
Ants in His Pants
A Bad Grizzly
Bad Luck
The Balky Hoss
The Bargain
The Bell Mare
Between the Lines
Bill The Snake Charmer
A Boy's Friend
The Brahma Steer
The Broncho Twister's Prayer
Bull Ridin'
The Bundle Stiff
The Bunk House Mirror
The Cook
The County Fair
Cow Boy Days
The Cow Boy's Dream
The Cow-Boy's If
Cow Boy's Pants
Cow Milkin'
A Cowboy Funeral
A Cowboy's Brains
The Creak of the Leather
The Drifter
The Drouth
The Duel
The Dutch Oven
An Experiment
A Fast Start
The Fight in the Dark
The General Store
The Gentle Hoss
Ghost Canyon Trail
The Ghosts at the Diamond Bar
Git Him Slicker Broke
Goin' to Town
Graves by the Side of the Trail
The Gray Wolf
He Didn't Belong
He Found a Home
He Knew His Goat
High an' Wicked
His Old Clothes
The Homesteader
Honest John's Five Aces
Hoof Beats
Hook Em' Cow
The Hoss That Can Run on the Hobbles
The Hoss Round Up
How a Cow Puncher Rode
How They Made the Royal Gorge
I Don't Have to Meet the Wagon
I'm Hittin' the Trail Tonite
It Might Have Been Me or It Might Have Been You
John Greer's Points
Judgement Day
Just Set and Let Your Feet Hang Down
The Ladies' Rifle Team
The Law Steps In
The Line Camp
That Little Blue Roan
The Livery Stable
The Long Ear
The Long Eared Bull
The Long Horn Speaks
Looking Backward
The Lost Flannins
The Lost Mines
The Man on the Fence
The Man That Chaws
The Marking Knife
The Medicine Show
The Mexican Mule
Moccaison Mick
The Mule
The Muley Steer
The New Gun
The New Man Takes His Turn
The New Mexico Stray
The Old Cow Pony
Old Frosty
Old Greenie
The Old Night Hawk
The Old Shot Gun
The Old Time Christmas
The Old West
An Old Western Town
On Foot
The Other Fellow's Beef
Out of Turn
Over Loaded
Pack Saddle Dan
The Panther Track
The Parsons Shot Gun Chaps
The Pet Hoss
Pullin' Leather
Ridin' In
Ridin' School
The Rifle
The Running Iron
Second Guard
Shoveling the Ice Out of the Trough
Sidin' His Dad
The Sour Dough Bucket
A Spill
The Stampede
Swimmin' the Herd
The Stage Coach
The Stock Hoss
Them Store Clothes
Taking it Easy
They Don't Change
The Time to Decide
The Trinidad Boy
To Those Who Have Gone Before
The Tinker
Turning 'Em Out
Waiting for the Cars
Was It Scare
Watch Him Drink
Wet Boots
What a Shame
When Connors Rode Rep for the Lord
When He Cold Jaws
When the Morning Star Fades Into Dawn
When the Old Cow Kicks
When the Stove Didn't Draw
When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall
When to Get Tough
When You Buried Your Face in the Alkali Drink
When You're Throwed
Where the Saddles Galled
The Willow Creek Wedding
Who Told the Biggest
Women Drivers
You Never Tell That
You'd Better Not Try it Again
Your First Saddle
Your First Trip

  Open Range; Collected Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, edited by Bill Siems (2007)

Surely the most important contemporary cowboy poetry book publication in recent times, this monumental 600-page work includes Bruce Kiskaddon's entire poetic output (481 poems); extensive illustrations (including 323 line drawings by Katherine Field, Amber Dunkerley, and others); biographical and historical introductions; prefaces by Hal Cannon, Waddie Mitchell, and Lynn Held; rare photographs, and more. 

The collection, which Bill Siems has worked on for over four years, follows his impressive 2004 book, Bruce Kiskaddon, Shorty's Yarns, the first collection of Kiskaddon's short stories. See our feature about that book here

Open Range was produced in a numbered, limited edition of 300 copies. There was also a limited edition of 26 leather bound books (no longer available). Read more about Open Range, view excerpts and the table of contents. As of March, 2012 the book is out of print and no longer available from the publisher.

View the entire table of contents and other excerpts in a feature here CowboyPoetry.com.

  Cowboy Miner Productions' Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, is out of print. 

Excerpts from Janice and Mason Coggin's introduction to their Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon:

"Bruce Kiskaddon, born in Pennsylvania in 1878, began his ranch life in 1898 in the district called Picket Wire, cowboy pronunciation of Purgatory where the Purgatory River runs in southern Colorado. . .

In Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems published in 1947 Kiskaddon writes of his work on "Tap" Duncan’s ranch, the Diamond Bar in Mohave County, Arizona, and the encouragement he received from Duncan to put his songs, verses and jingles into writing. "Tap," an old time Texas and Arizona rancher, is featured in "Our Boss"  . . .

Kiskaddon served in the First World War in France with the cavalry . . . He was a buckaroo in Australia for a time before returning to Arizona.

In the late 1920, Kiskaddon went to Hollywood to wrangle horses and play bit parts in the movies, but found that it was easier and more lucrative to work as a bellhop in the hotels. Several of his poems relating to hotel life are found in his book, Just As Is, published in 1928.

For the rest of his life he wrote and consolidated his poetry. In 1935, he published a book called Western Poems . . .

The Los Angles Union Stockyards featured his poems and illustrations in calendars from 1939 through 1959. His work, accompanied by the illustrations was also published in the Western Livestock Journal. The poems became cherished collector’s items by westerners and found their way into many old scrapbooks."

The following poems are included in Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon:

Ants in His Pants
Alkali Ike's Zippers
All Dressed Up
The Balky Horse
Between the Lines
Bill the Snake Charmer
The Broncho Twister's Prayer
The Buckboard
The Buggy Shack
Bulls and Bears
The Bunk House Mirror
The Coming Change
Cow Boy's Pants
Cow Milkin'
The Cow-Boy's Dream
The Cow-Boy's If
A Cowboy Funeral
The Cowboys Christmas Dance
The Creak of the Leather

The Dark Horse
The Disaster
Doing Her Best
The Drag Driver
Drinkin' Water
The Duel
An Experiment
Feedin' Time
Figger it Out
The Fight in the Dark
The Gentle Hoss
Ghost Canyon Trail
The Ghosts at the Diamond Bar
Graves by the Side of the Trail
The Gray Wolf
The Hacamore Colt
Her Neighbor's Kids
High An' Wicked
Honest John's Five Aces
Hoof Beats
Hook 'Em Cow
The Hoss Round Up
How a Cow Puncher Rode
How They Made the Royal Gorge
The Joshua Shade
Judgment Day
The Line Camp
The Long Eared Bull
The Long Horn Speaks
Looking Backward
The Man on the Fence
The Marking Knife
The Muley Steer
New Boots
The New Mexico Stray
Old and Foxy
The Old Cow Pony
Old Frosty
The Old Night Hawk
The Old Time Christmas
The Old West
Our Boss
The Panther Track
The Parada Shark
The Pet Hoss
Pullin' Bog
Pullin' Leather
Puttin' on a Show
The Race for the Wagon
The Rifle
The Rope Corral
The Running Iron
Sidin' His Dad
The Silk Shirt
The Stage Driver
The Stampede
Swimmin' the Herd
The Old Time Christmas
That Little Blue Roan
That Smoke
Them Store Clothes
They Can Take It
The Time to Decide
To Those Who Have Gone Before
The Troop Hoss
The Veiled Rider
Warmin' One Side
Was It Scare
Wet Boots
When a Pony Slips His Pack
When Connors Rode Rep for the Lord
When He Cold Jaws
When to Get Tough
When You Buried Your Face in the Alkali Drink
When You're Throwed
Who Told the Biggest
Winter Work
Workin' It Over
The Wreck
You Never Tell That
Your First Saddle
Your First Trip
When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall


Cowboy Miner offers a Kiskaddon calendar: 

Click for Cowboy Miner


In 1987, Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City, published Rhymes of the ranges: a new collection of the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, edited and with an introduction by Hal Cannon; illustrations by Katherine Field.  This book is out of print and hard to come by.

The following poems are included in Rhymes of the Ranges:

After the Fall Roundup
Alkali Ike's Zippers
All Dressed Up
The Bargain
Between the Lines
A Boy's Friend
The Brandin' Corral
The Broncho Twister's Prayer
The Bundle Stiff
The Bunk House Mirror
A Calf's Troubles
Caught Nappin'
The Christmas Tree
The Chuck Wagon

Cold Mornin's
The Cow and the Calf
The Cowboys Christmas Dance
The Cow Boy's Dream
The Cow Boy's Shirt Tail
The Creak of the Leather
The Discovery
The Dutch Oven
An Experiment
A Fast Start
Ghost Canyon Trail
The Ghosts at the Diamond Bar
High an' Wicked
His Old Clothes
Hook em' Cow
How a Cow Puncher Rode 
I'm Hittin' the Trail Tonite
It Might Have Been Me or It Might Have Been You
Judgement Day
That Letter
The Line Camp
That Little Blue Roan
The Long Eared Bull
The Long Horm Speaks
The Lost Flannins
The Marking Knife
The Midwinter Bath
Moccaison Mick
New Boots
The Old Night Hawk
The Old Time Christmas
An Old Western Town
Our Boss
Out of Turn
Pullin' Leather 
Ridin' Fence
Second Guard
The Silk Shirt
The Time to Decide
The Tinker
Turnin' 'em
The Veiled Rider
Wet Boots
When Conners Rode Rep for the Lord
When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall 
When You're Throwed
Who Told the Biggest
The Willow Creek Wedding
Women Drivers


  Cowboy Miner Productions, along with Walt "Bimbo" Cheney and Jana Marck, produced two collections of calendar poems. Find a description here; the calendars are no longer in print.

The calendars were produced for 2001 and 2002. Each was a reproduction of a previous calendar, for years whose dates matched the modern publication year. At the time of the modern reproductions, few of the calendar poems had been collected and reprinted.


  A scrapbook of Kiskaddon poems from Los Angeles Union Stock Yards calendars was a gift from Teddie Daley, of Idaho's Blaine County Historical Museum, from the collection of D. A. Outzs of Hailey, Idaho.  D. A. Outzs' mother was one of the museum's founders, and her father was the Blaine County Sheriff, 1941-1962.

The book contains 51 poems, some with dates, as noted:

The Army Mule  (1943)
     Sometimes mules got in the army 'cause they'd pulled a wicked trick...

At the Water Hole
     Have you ever watched the cattle come a strollin' in to drink...

Be Careful (1945)
     From the looks of the pitcher this pore old cowboy...

The Buggy Shack (1944)
     Did you ever chance to waken in the middle of the night...

The Bunk House Mirror (1943)
     That old bunk house mirror that most of us knew...

The Coming Change
     This here Injun is a watchin', as he crouches on the plain...

A Cow Boy Race
     When a bunch of cow punchers pull off a hoss race...

Curiosity (1945)
     He's lookin' at a rattlesnake that's coiled up on a rock...

Doing Her Best
     This cow is in trouble, she's left on her own...

The Drag Driver
     There's pictures and there's stories of the men that ride the lead...

Drinkin' Water
     When a feller once comes to a pond or a tank...

The Drouth
     The blizzards and the cold of the North take their toll...

A Farmer's Troubles (1945)
     A farmer very often looses patience with his stock...

A Fast Start
     They are leavin' from there but they ain't goin' far...

Gettin' it Settled
     Well, it's got to the place where they started to fight...

A Habit
     Now most old cow punchers don't take off their hat...

Half Broke
     This man is busy saddlin' up a skeery half broke colt...

He Didn't Belong (1944)
     In camp he was awkward, the sort of a man...

Her Colt (1944)
     Other hosses takes an interest in a colt that's young and small...

Her Neighbor's Kids
     Most cows will give their calves good care...

Hosses and Flies
     It is right interestin' how hosses fight flies...

Layin' for Him
     You can see this mountain lion is a-watchin' for that colt...

A Lazy Hoss
     There's a heap of aggravatin' things a cow boy comes across...

Leaving the Wreck
     Well, it looks like this boy aint a doin' so good...

Makin' a Break
     From the way he is movin' it looks like this steer...

Not Welcome
     They have gone and turned this gelding out among some colts and mares...

Old and Foxy  (1943)
     It is likely he was in the drive among the other stock...
On a Stand
     This boy is makin' the gravel fly...

The Pensioner
     He's an old wore out hoss and he's standin' there dozin'...

Puttin' on a Show
     This boy is sure good and he takes lots of pride...

Range Brandin'  (1943)
     A feller don't need to be told that this hand...

     He's in the past'er left behind, a hoss that's had his day...

The Serenade
     This coyote's singin' to the moon...

The Stage Driver  (1945)
     The man that drove the stage coach didn't have no smooth paved road...

Startin' Out
     When the boys start out on circle, they most always travel slow...

Summer Time  (1942)
     There's a heap of times when ridin' after cattle shore is tough...
The Take-Off
     There's things you can't figger. A feller don't know...

A Tangle
     Well, it looks like he'd tangled with one of them steers...

They Can Take It
     Yes, it's just a bunch of hosses standin' out there in the rain...

They Don't Thank You
     When a feller trails up an old cow that is down...

Thinkin' it Over
     It's odd but there is one thing most people like to do...

The Tinker (1943)
     There is one sort of cow hand that never is idle ...

To a Finish
     This mountain lion and the mare...

A Tough Start
     This calf is just a baby yet...

The Troop Horse (1943)
     No more does the cavalry form in its ranks...

Turnin' 'Em In  (1944)
     They started to run from a rider they saw...

The Veiled Rider
     It was down at the home ranch, a bunch of cow pokes...

The Washed Out Trail
     This cow boy was careless beyond any doubt...

A Wet Rope
     I will bet all your life you will never forget...

When a Pony Slips His Pack
     When you hear a feller braggin' that he never has been throwed...

Winter Time (1945)
     Cattle are walkin' along in the snow...


shortybk1.jpg (9386 bytes)  Shorty's Yarns - Western Stories and Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon
Illustrations by Katherine Field
Edited by Bill Siems
Utah State University Press, 2004, 193 pages, 6 x 9

See our separate feature about Shorty's Yarns, with many excerpts, here.

"Bruce Kiskaddon's classic poetry is widely known and loved, and it is a delight to discover this collection of his autobiographical stories, originally published in Western Livestock Journal in the 1930s.   Readers who enjoy the unvarnished realism and wry humor of Kiskaddon's poems will find the same voice in Shorty, who narrates most of these tales of southwestern cowboy life in the 1890-1910 era.  A bonus for Kiskaddon fans is the book's Introduction, which contains biographical details not widely known.  The book is well-designed and attractive, and uses a dozen of
Kiskaddon's shorter, Katherine Field - illustrated poems as chapter introductions."

The following poems are included in Shorty's Yarns - Western Stories and Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon:

After the Fall Roundup
All Dressed Up
The Cow Boy's Shirt Tail
Going to Summer Camp
The Long Horn Speaks
The Old Night Hawk
The Old Timers
The Other Feller's Beef
Ridin' School
Startin' Out
That Letter
The Wrangler

$19.95 paper, ISBN 0-87421-580-3
$39.95 cloth, ISBN 0-87421-579-X
www.usu.edu/usupress, 1-800-239-9974

Also available online at Amazon.com and at other outlets.

Selected  Recordings


  Smithsonian Folkways' Buck Ramsey ~ Hittin' the Trail (2003) 2-CD set includes Buck Ramsey singing "Hittin' the Trail Tonight."  Read a review of the CD set here. You can read more about the CD at the Smithsonian Folkways site.

 Linda Kirkpatrick recorded "The Broncho Twister's Prayer" on her Beneath a Western Sky CD. That recording is also included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008) from CowboyPoetry.com.

  Randy Rieman recorded "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall" on his Old Favorites CD. That recording is also included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two (2007) from CowboyPoetry.com.

  Trey Allen recorded "Alone" on