Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

1927-2011

Lloyd M. Gerber died July 16, 2011. Find an obituary here in the Washington Post.

 

About Lloyd Gerber
Some Poems
Book: It's a Matter of Taste

 

 

About Lloyd Gerber

From the Preface to It's A Matter of Taste:  

During the Great Depression in Wellington, Carbon County, Utah, money was hard to come by. The Irvin Gerber family barely got by on what the ranches could make.

Nothing was thrown away. Bolts, nails, rivets, rope, and leather straps were usually replaced with baling wire. Straw-filled ticks served as mattresses—cockleburs and all.

Flour sacks provided material for clothes, and bread, soap, and sometimes even shoe polish were homemade.  Recreation came in the form of games such as Relievio, Dare Base, Kick the Can, Hide the Belt, marbles, Guinea Peg, and jacks.

Since the whole town was in it together, we didn't feel inferior when we had holes in our shoes.  Those times made great memories, great fun, and great friends.  I have seen nothing like it since.  They were the Good Old Days.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s things got better.  Prices for cattle, sheep, and crops improved.

In 1946 we bought the Rock Creek ranch in Desolation Canyon on the Green River.  Pop immediately called it "Seldom Seen" and it was so named on some maps.  That ranch was accessible only by a two-day pack trip along difficult trails.  A year or so later we bought the Range Creek ranch, which was one day's ride toward town from Rock Creek.

With a two-day commute to get to work at Rock Creek, we didn't get out to the valley as often as we would like, and it made family life difficult.  This led to my seeing the benefits of an education.  Accordingly, I became a lawyer and practiced in New Mexico and Utah.

In 1969 I accepted a management position in a subsidiary of The Washington Post in Washington, D. C., and later became the CEO of that company.

I retired from there December 31, 1985, in order to return to the West.  I now reside in Eagle, Idaho with my wife, Betty.

In 1988 I started writing cowboy poetry and in 1989 was a featured poet at the Elko, Nevada, Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  There a scout for the Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson (the most popular late-night show on TV at the time) invited me to perform—which I did, reciting "It's a Matter of Taste."

...

 

A Few Poems
 

They Rode for the Brand

Cattle Fever

It's a Matter of Taste

 

They Rode for the Brand

Out West in the way back yonder
   When cowboys wore spurs and sweat,
When cattlemen needed good waddies
   But had to take what they could get,

There grew up a breed of cowboys
   Who in the winds of the range would stand,
Dependable, honest, and loyal,
   These men who rode for the brand.

They didn't know they were heroes,
   No credit for the roles they played.
When others saddled up and were leaving,
   They saddled up and stayed.

Though dark forces arrayed against them,
   They stood for the outfit's name,
And through the depth of the storm's dark fury
   Were there when morning came.

Against indolence and backbiting whispers
   They defended the ranch they manned.
When they accepted their pay they backed up the play,
   These men who rode for the brand.

When cold drifted through their clothing
   And the cattle were dropping dead,
You wouldn't find them in a line shack
   Warming a bunkhouse bed.

The battles that started o'er boundaries,
   O'er cattle or water or range,
Were fought by these men for scant wages,
   Their lives on the line in exchange.

Now when you talk about men of courage,
   Of loyalty and sand,
Don't forage for words to describe them,
   Just say, "They rode for the brand."

Reprinted by permission, from It's A Matter of Taste, © 1996, Lloyd Gerber, All Rights Reserved,

 

Cattle Fever

Lloyd Gerber told us that this is the first poem he wrote.  This introduction to the poem is from his book, It's a Matter of Taste:

"You are sick," my wife said to me, "plain cow sick. You think this world revolves around cows. You think being frozen and wet all day is fun as long as you are chasing a cow." She glowered, and I squirmed as I sat at the breakfast table and raised the paper in front of my face. "Somehow you are always able to make yourself believe that your losses are really profits. That means you're sick."

Now, my wife is a city girl from California, and she can't be expected to understand the various nuances of the cattle business.  She can't be expected to understand how much fun it is to outwit a cow and bring her back, even if it takes all day in freezing weather.  What could she know about the joy of getting into a nice, warm house after working cows all day in a fifty-mile gale?  And she can't possibly know the relief one feels when the cattle market finally stops dropping.

She continued, "And the rest of those cowboys are just as sick as you are.  And none of them knows it."

"I rest my case," I said.  "You will never understand."  I headed out the door to doctor a herd of pinkeyed cows.  "Besides," I muttered, "what does profits have to do with this anyway?"

Cattle Fever

They call it cattle fever,
   Those who haven't got it do.
Its victims think it's heaven
   Just to own a cow or two.

It's a virus or a microbe
   Or a germ or other thing
That makes a man buy cattle
   For the torture that they bring.

Once he becomes an owner,
   They deal him naught but pain.
He thinks it's all a pleasure;
   Can't get it through his brain.

They break into the neighbor's corn,
   His oats or grass or hay;
He puts them into his corral
   Then sends a bill for pay.

He's with them in the snowstorms,
   In the mud and in the rain.
He gets them out of bog-holes,
   And they walk right in again.

He pulls his rope and throws 'em
   To doctor them up good.
They don't appreciate him AT ALL;
   They'd horn him if they could.

Then for market he does load 'em
   Into his shining truck,
Right out of green-grass pastures
   With their tails a'swishin' muck.

Ere the truck's half loaded
   The deck's a sea of dung,
And the sides are fairly splattered
   Where spurts of green stuff hung.

While he pushes here and pushes there
   To keep them safe from harm,
They swish their mucky tails
   'Crost his mouth and down his arm.

Through darkness and through snow and mud,
   He hauls them to the sale
And fixes two flat tires
   In a forty-mile gale.

The sale ring's almost empty;
   The buyers aren't there
'Cause they've all gone a'hunting
   For pheasant, deer, or bear.

The auctioneer begins his spiel
   To sell the "victim's" crop.
"I'm sorry, Joe, it would be more,
   If it weren't for the drop."

He pulls out bills and ledgers
   And those keeping track of time.
If it weren't for his wife's good job,
   He wouldn't have a dime.

Reprinted by permission, from It's A Matter of Taste, © 1996, Lloyd Gerber, All Rights Reserved,

 

It's a Matter of Taste

Lloyd Gerber performed this poem on the NBC Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in February, 1988. This introduction to the poem is from his book, It's a Matter of Taste:

While this poem might offend the tender sensibilities of some, many will recognize and remember the "way it was done" on a sheep ranch.

As I used to hold the lambs on the docking pole and see Pop earmark, cut off their tails, and castrate them, I was glad that he was doing the castrating and that I was doing the holding.

Pop's bloody chin attested to the castrating, and I wondered if he would ever ask me to pull those things out with my teeth.  As long as he had the teeth for it, he seemed to be satisfied with his role. So was I.

Over the years, however, I watched Pop's teeth become fewer and fewer, and I hoped that I would be gone from the sheep business before his teeth were gone.

I was not.

When Doc Jones separated Pop's last tooth from his mouth, I was still around, and we still ran sheep.

I had no choice but to get on the other side of the docking pole.  After the first couple of buck lambs, I got used to the blood and the grease.

After a little practice it got to be kind of a blood of honor, and I didn't mind it at all.  It was a matter of taste, anyway.

It's a Matter of Taste

Some say castrating a calf is a matter of taste;
   Some do it slowly and others in haste.
Some gently saw, while others pull
   While making a steer out of a bull.

Some use heavy rubber bands;
   Don't want blood to get on their hands.
Some use heavy tools that crush;
   Some cut them straight off--they're in a rush.

But lambs are another matter, you know;
   Those little round things so slick they grow.
They slip an' slide in their woolly sheath,
   'Till you finally give up and use your teeth.

And that's not the easiest thing to do,
   'Cause you've got to remember not to chew,
And if your teeth aren't all in place,
   They'll slip and slide right through the space.

You've got your nose right in their wool;
   You want to gag 'cause your mouth is full,
And when in ticks and grease you wallow,
   You hold your breath 'cause you dare not swallow.

Finally, when you come up for air,
   You bring only one and not a pair.
Back you go to grope for the one,
   And when you tooth it you are finally done.

Now calves, it is true, shouldn't be done in haste.
But when you cut lambs, it's a matter of taste.

Reprinted by permission, from It's A Matter of Taste, © 1996, Lloyd Gerber, All Rights Reserved,


Lloyd Gerber's father at Wellington

 

Book: It's a Matter of Taste

  It's a Matter of Taste, a collection of over 45 poems, with photos and drawings (large format, 90 pages).

 

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