An Old Man's Dream
In his youth he had dreams of the Cowboy Life
Of riding far and wild and free
Across rivers and snow-capped mountains
And open range as wide as the sea
In his dream he was always riding
Nothing could hold him back
If his trail in life had no challenge
He'd follow the steeper track
Nobody said it would be easy
The Cowboy Life can be mean
Nobody gave him the details
If they did, he didn't listen, it seems
As a young man he learned of the harness
That hard work comes before play
Of dust and sweat and blood and cursing
And long hours for not much pay
In his middle years he learned yet more
Of this Cowboy life that he chose
Riding endless days 'neath the blistering sun,
Daybreak so cold his shadow froze
He collected lines and creases and scars
The marks of his work that he wears
And broken bones and a crooked walk
From a wreck that he had somewhere
In his older years he grew wise enough
To know he'd never stop yearning
For the dream of his youth, still in his heart
Like an ember, ever burning
Time and life passes each of us by
But we may choose how we live it
The greater reward is down the tougher road
Life returns what we give it
Now, he can see the end of his road
He can see what lies beyond
There's a new road that he'll be riding
New trails that go on and on
He will, at last, find that place of his dream
And there, he will ride wild and free
Across rivers and snow-capped mountains
And open range as wide as the sea
© 2002, L. H. Wilkinson
A Strange Cow Tale
I was trackin' a cow down by the swamp
Just a bog hole full of tules and quick sand
When I came upon the strangest sight
My lost cow and a sorry lookin' old cowhand
It was the weirdest thing I ever did see
And not easy to describe, I fear
Here was my cow, hog-tied fore and aft
And this cowhand with his arm poked up her rear
I mean clear on up to his armpit
He was gropin' around in there, plain as day
I could not imagine what he was doin'
And of course the cow wouldn't say
I didn't step down off my horse too soon
This old man made me uneasy somehow
At first the old man didn't notice me
He just kept on explorin' the inside of that cow
When at last he did see me, he wasn't much surprised
He just waved his clean arm around and said
"You shoulda been here, friend, it was a terrible struggle.
I durn near ended up dead!"
It did look pretty awful:
Here was the remains of a barbed wire fence
Up the slope, pieces of a saddle lay in the weeds and grime
The ground was all tore up 'round about
My cow and this Old Hand were spattered with mud and slime
Now I had no idea what went on here
And the odd lookin' old hand just kept yakin' away
So I just shut up and listened
He was determined to have his say
His story went something like this:
He came upon my lost cow at this place
Her forelegs tangled in the fence wire.
Her rump end was bogged down and stuck,
In the muddy bottom of that quagmire
So, he made a loop, dropped it 'round her horns
And backed his horse on up the slope.
But they just chewed up the ground
Slippin' and slidin', it looked like there was no hope
Then the Old Man got his 'brilliant idea'
What that cow needed was a little boost
Maybe, if he got behind her and shoved
Maybe together they could bust her loose
Well he did it. . .
He slogged out into that swamp
'til he was in above his knees just a mite
Put his shoulder to that cows' rump
And whistled his horse to pull the rope tight
The rope stretched as taut as a banjo string
The Old Cowhand gave a mighty shout
The cow made a noise like a fog horn
And sure enough, she moved up and out!
But then, somethin' snapped, the whole rig let go
Busted saddle, rope and all went a flyin'!
The cow slid back toward the mire
Bellowin' bawlin' and crying!
The Old Cowboy struggled, stuck in the mud
He tried to jump clear, but instead
The cow slipped back into the mud hole
And sat down on that cowboys' head!
Maybe he was under water too long
Or the collision busted his brain somehow
'Cause just like Jonah in the belly of the Whale,
He thought he was inside that cow!
(Here it is in his own words):
"There was I on the bottom of that swamp
Deep inside the bowels of that cow.
Well, I said a prayer, without movin' my lips
Please get me outa this somehow!"
"Don't let me suffer this awful fate
This is a terrible way to die
To be digested into a - - nasty lump
Just an ugly Cowboy Cow Pie"
"I think He heard me. . .
I groped around 'til I found some cow plumbing
grabbed it and twisted it into a knot
That musta pinched some vital nerve
She jumped up outa there like she was shot!"
"Well, I popped clean outa that dark place
I was spittin' and gaspin' for my breath
I tell you friend, it was a close call inside there,
I have looked at the face of death!"
"Now that cow lay there kickin' and thrashin',
Still caught up in the tangle of wire
She didn't seem to appreciate
That I just saved her from that mire."
"Usin' what was left of my ropin' rig
I trussed her up like a Christmas Goose
When she quit kickin' and calmed down some
I cut all that barb wire loose"
"That, my friend is the honest truth
It's what got me into this peculiar spot
I wish there was another way to tell it
But it's the only story I got."
Now that was a mighty strange yarn
And I had some good reasons to doubt it
There was one real odd thing still bothering me
And I had to ask him about it.
"Ever since I came along," sez me,
"You've been actin' unnatural somehow
Down on your knees there, flappin yer jawbone
With yer arm shoved up the rear of my cow
What the hell are you doin'?"
"Why you pea brained, numbskull, idjit," he says.
"There's a simple explanation for that.
Any durn fool with eyeballs can see,
I'm tryin' to locate my hat!"
© 1999/2000 L. H. Wilkinson
I wanna be a Cowboy
When I grow up
I wanna cruise the town
In my pick up truck
With a gun rack and a rifle
That really shoots
Wear a big silver buckle
And snake skin boots
And a big black Stetson
With a concho band
I'll strut all around
Lookin' oh so grand
Yeah, I wanna be a Cowboy
When I get big
Wear chaps and spurs
The whole Cowboy rig
I'll hang out with the boys
At some noisy dance hall
And talk real slow
With a Texas drawl
I'll chew that stuff like
Like Clint Eastwood do
And spit on bugs and dogs
And the Sheriff too...
Wait just a minute.
What's that you're sayin'
Real cowboys don't do that
It's just movie actors playin'?
Well, I know that
Do I look stupid to you?
I'm just dreamin'
I like to play-act too
Besides, I got a letter
From the Chee-ca-go Health Department
Gotta get this stinkin' horse
Outa my high-rise apartment!
I knew they'd catch me
Sooner or later
Because of all the horse manure
In the elevator!
© 1999/2000 L. H. Wilkinson
The Legend of Old Rusty Stub
We called him "Old Rusty" for the color of his hair
"Old Stub" for the piece of his arm that wasn't there
I never knew his real name until we dug his grave.
As we lowered his box into the hole somebody said, "Goodbye, Uncle Dave"
Each one of us gathered there turned and looked around,
wonderin' who could know this man we were putting in the ground.
Old Stub was just a crazy hermit, for years, a legend 'round this land.
Nobody knew where he'd come from or how he'd lost his hand
Now, here was this young woman at his graveside, in the rain
saying goodbye to the old buzzard and callin' him by name
While an Elder mumbled kind words and read some scripture from his Book
I was searchin' my brain for a clue glancin' sideways at the gal, tryin' to catch a look.
The first time I saw Old Stub was way back in '33
bouncin' across Boulder Creek in what was left of a Model "T"
In that part of Utah seein' an automobile was rare,
especially on this set of ruts 'cause they didn't lead nowhere
I tried to ask him if he was lost but that "T" was mighty loud,
poppin' and bangin,' pieces fallin' off it disappeared in a dusty cloud.
The ruts ran on for just a few miles on up through a narrow pass,
ending at a high mountain meadow, still green with late summer grass
Deer grazed along side the cattle there, icy, cold brooks meandering by.
Timber covered the ridges all around reaching almost to the sky
It was to this place I was goin' leadin' a short string with supplies,
enough to last a few more weeks. We'd be movin' before the snow flies
It was just a mountain cow camp, but the most beautiful spot I know
Come time to move the herd back down I'd be real sorry to have to go
That's where I found the stranger settin' along side his smokin' junk pile
What used to be a Model T Ford had chugged its' very last mile
He was long boned and spare, stood about six foot two.
A tangled red beard hid his scarred up face.
His eyes were clear, sky blue.
To my young eyes he seemed old, real tired and sad of eye
Thinkin' back on it more clearly now, he must have been about forty-five
I was still just a skinny kid back in nineteen thirty three,
workin' summers movin' cattle for an outfit called the Double "D"
'twas just me and Tom Hatch and his brother, Bob in camp that day.
Seein' that his automobile was dead, we welcomed the stranger to stay
He just smiled and shook his head. I knew, somehow, he'd be movin' on.
It was then we noticed the pinned up sleeve and, that part of his arm was gone.
He wore knee high lace up boots like a surveyor or mining engineer,
carried a canvas pack or rucksack from the Great War, filled with gear
He had a sheep-lined canvas coat, rolled in a yellow oilskin tarp,
a small hand ax and a sheath knife, both, I'm sure, kept very sharp
With a powerful but graceful move he hoisted this gear to his back,
slung a canteen over his shoulder and headed for the timber, leavin' no track
The "Legend of Old Rusty Stub" was born that summer day.
Nobody knew who he was or where he came from.
And, where he'd gone to, nobody could say
I didn't see him again for a year or so. Like most folks I thought he'd died.
Seemed like he scaled that mountain and disappeared into the sky
Then one day
He came walkin' in to Escalante Town leadin' a burro he'd got somewhere
Paid in cash for a few supplies and sent off a letter from the Post Office there.
He left town headin' northeast toward Boulder and the Double "D"
I had no plan to go out to the ranch but I followed him, out of curiosity
It's wild, slick-rock country, canyons cut in stone, narrow and deep
Names like Death Hollow and Dirty Devil, Hell's Backbone and Dead Sheep
"A hell of a place to lose a cow" one old time rancher had said.
'Twas a haunted place of echo's and ghosts where the ancient people buried their dead
The wagon track to the Double "D" cut through a part of this rocky maze.
There was a much easier and safer way but it was longer by about two days
I had gone just a mile or two and came 'round a blind switch-back
There was Old Stub and his burro stopped, waitin' in the middle of the track.
I pulled up short, got down off my horse embarrassed to be caught that way.
I was grinnin' like an idiot, tryin' to figure what I should say
But Old Stub just stared at me without a word, for the longest time
measurin' me with his eyes and turnin' me over in his mind
Then he spoke clear and strong: "Take good care of yourself, Jacob,"
he said. Then turned and went his way
I just stood there feelin' stupid. How he learned my name I couldn't say.
Over the years, after that day, I'd catch sight of him once in a while,
passin' near town or through the high meadows When I did, for some reason, it made me smile
It's natural for folks to try to explain or figure out things they don't know.
It matters little about the facts, it's stories that make a legend grow.
Tales of Old Stub grew with the years. He was a bandit, or gambler hidin' from the law,
his arm chewed off by a Grizzly Bear, or ripped off by a lumber mill saw.
One story said he was a lost little babe, adopted by a wolf pack,
Grew up to be a wild, wolf man, lost his arm to the jaws of a trap.
But I knew he was an ordinary man 'cause I was there when he first came.
I've looked into his clear blue eyes and I've heard him speak my name
In my final year at High School I had a real simple plan:
quit foolin' with the school books and sign on at the Double D as a regular hand.
To work there was a cowboys dream. It was a real "Cowman's" operation
run by a Rancher and Foreman not some big Eastern Corporation
Some rich family owned the Double D, lived in Salt Lake City, but never came down.
They must've knew the cow business 'cause the "D" was the best outfit for miles around
My mom had a different idea about me quittin' school.
She mostly let me have my way but, about this, she was makin' a rule.
My mother had moved us out here from the city right after the Great World War,
Before I could remember much. I was just about three or four
I never did know my father. He was killed somewhere in France
(The famous battle at Belleau Wood)
I hope to visit his grave there some day, if I ever get the chance
We live in Escalante in an old house made of cut sandstone
My great-grandpa cut the rock himself wearin' his fingers off nearly to the bone
Mom works at the school and takes in sewing. Once in a while a check comes in the mail, always First Class
An army pension or insurance money we sure can use the cash.
Well, I finished up my high School and got accepted to a University,
An Agriculture-Business Major. When I'm done, I'll have a job and security
I was just startin' my second year, worried about tuition, books and things
I got an urgent telegram sayin' come home. I felt the anxious thoughts and
fear that such a message brings.
Somehow I knew Old Stub had died.
Stubb had come into town in the dark of night and went to Doc Kruger's place.
The doctor knew Stub's time had come He could see death in Stubs' tired face.
Old Stub died right after sunrise...
He gave the Doctor some letters just before he was set free.
One addressed to Salt Lake City, another to my Mom, and a third one to me.
We were asked not to open them until Old Stub was laid to rest.
The letters were to be read together This was his last request
Standing there in the high meadow beside Old Stubs fresh grave
I tried to connect a face to the voice that had said, "Goodbye Uncle Dave."
Among the small group of local folks stood an older man wearin' clothes of the city.
Beside him was a girl close to my age with red hair, blue eyes, clear and pretty.
My mom leaned against this city man and rested her head on his chest.
She spoke to me and said "Come son, there's something we must do, now that David has found his rest."
"This is your Uncle Jacob," Mom said, "And this is your cousin, Ann."
We have a lot to talk about and much to explain, if we can."
At the house we opened the letters and read them, aloud to each other.
Old Stub was David Daniels, my father, Uncle Jacob, his older brother.
My father was not killed in France. Critically wounded and out of his mind.
His Brigade, cut to pieces, retreated leaving him and many others behind.
He spent weeks in a German prison hospital, and more years in a prison camp.
When released, his identity lost, he roamed the countryside, begging like a tramp
A letter had come from The War Department tellin' my mother he was dead.
They sent his service medals. He was a brave Soldier the letter said.
My mother had cried over him for months. After a few years we came back to the old home place.
She grieved for most of these twenty years thinkin' that he'd never seen my face.
Then, Uncle Jacob told of how he and my father had made a fortune before the war came,
finding rich veins of silver ore, developing and trading the claims.
Uncle Jacob was the practical one, buying stocks and securities with his cash.
He lost a big piece of his wealth in the '29 Market crash.
My father, David, was a dreamer. Being rich or living high was not his plan
Against the advice of many he bought huge parcels of wild, undeveloped land.
Then he went off to fight in the war
Now, with tears flowing and my hands trembling, I read these words my father wrote to me:
"Son, I love you. I am so proud of you I would give you the world, if it could be.
I do give you all that I have."
It was signed: Dad (David Daniels) Enclosed, were the deeds to more than
nine thousand acres of Utah land, all signed over to me,
Including the mountain, the meadows, valleys and canyons of the ranch known
as the Double "D"
© 1999/2000 L. H. Wilkinson
About Lyle Wilkinson:
Lyle Wilkinson (The Geezer) BIO:
Professional artist, cartoonist and sometimes a poet of sorts. The Geezer was born in Missouri in 1934, raised in Utah and California, where for the last twenty-five years he has made his home in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, surrounded by horse ranches and cattle outfits.
The poem "Old Man's Dream" was inspired by my good friend and long time horse wrangler, Jake Copass. At eighty two, Jake is still very much alive and is still working as head wrangler at the Alisal Ranch. Jake is pretty well known as a cowboy poet, appearing at Elko and other events. Jake has had some small roles in movies, filmed locally, including "Of Mice and Men" with Gary Sinise. But above all else, Jake Copass is a true cowboy! His entire life has been dedicated to horses, cattle, ranching and the western way of life.
Drawing by Lyle Wilkinson
We were saddened to learn that Lyle Wilkinson died November 20, 2010
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