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

Schemmer Studios, Valentine, Nebraska


Schemmer Studios, Valentine, Nebraska

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...Frost feathers cling to fence lines, and remnants of summer rainbows glimmer in sun-dogs. Swinging down to open the gate, I breathe in the familiar fragrance of horse and bury my face in a tangle of mane to warm frostbitten cheeks. Snow lies beneath the shelter-belt like a lace tablecloth woven by tracks of wildlife...      From "Stringing Pearls," in My Sister Mariah; the Journal of a Windwalker


Third-generation Nebraskan rancher, writer, and poet Lyn Messersmith shares her world through luminous prose and poetry.



About Lyn Messersmith


Books and Recordings

Contacting Lyn Messersmith



Lyn Messersmith is featured on the Elko! A Cowboy's Gathering
CD (2005), reciting her poem, "The Time it Never Rained," from her book,
Ground Tied




About Lyn Messersmith

I’m a third-generation rancher, freelance writer, and itinerant entertainer. My grandparents homesteaded in Cherry County, Nebraska in the late 1800s. Dad was the youngest of seven, and the only one who stayed. He married a city-born school marm who became a stayer in her own right. She outlived him by a quarter century and owned cattle until her death at age 95. With genes like that, my fate was sealed.

Dad left school in 9th grade, to ranch, but never stopped learning. Mom taught me to read at age four, and all of us had a horror of being snowbound with nothing to read. As a result, our home overflowed with books and the twice-weekly mail delivery brought publications ranging from The Saturday Evening Post to The Wall Street Journal. Mom wrote poetry in the little spare time she had. With genes like that, my fate was sealed.

My first husband and I ranched with the folks and raised our four children on the place. I was widowed at fifty. A son was in business with me and Mom by then, which allowed me to return to school and get a degree in mental health. I worked in that field for a number of years, while continuing to ranch and write a newspaper column.

In 1991, on a dare, I applied to the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and promptly forgot about it. The invitation to participate got me furiously writing poems in order to have sufficient material to present. That first day in Elko, I sat in the back of the auditorium listening to Wally McRae recite "Things of Intrinsic Worth," as tears streamed from my eyes. My fate was sealed.

Later the same year, I helped organize the first Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Valentine. On a dare, a third generation rancher from Sheridan County, by the name of Bruce Messersmith, signed up for an open session I hosted. Once more, my fate was sealed.

Deb Carpenter was in that session as well. We discovered a mutual interest in stories of pioneer women, and have since written, recorded, and performed a variety of historical programs about people who opened the West. We are affiliated with the Nebraska Humanities Council and South Dakota Humanities Council.

Bruce and I were married at Elko in 2001, and now reside on his family ranch in Sheridan County. I continue to write, ranch with my son, and throw my lot in with the cows. Our communities have changed with the times, but our commitment to be stewards of the land, and to write about that, has not.

I’m ever more aware that in order to have clarity about where we are headed, we need to know where we have been. In 2009, I sat in Elko, weeping, as I listened to Wally McRae read stories of his ranching heritage, knowing my writing career is at a crossroads, and that once again, my fate has been sealed.

Schemmer Studios, Valentine, Nebraska





Unfinished Business



You lean out of the picture,
pitch a loop that catches and
jerks my heart up short.

Here you are again, next page,
same summer, deep seated,
at the top of a sun fishin' dive,
wearin' a grin as wide as Texas,
hat in hand to fan, and looking
for all the world like my Uncle Clate,
the way they say he  rode, back
when he still could, back before he
crawled way down in that bottle to die.

In the album of my mind, I see another
snapshot summer day, me watching
breath-caught, you hung up, dangling
like a rag doll, finally flung free; landing
on your feet like always, both of us
on an adrenaline high, both of us
actively ignoring the evidence that
you'd already sold your soul for
a membership in Clate's club.

He died alone, you know, ahead of
his time like losers and loners often do.
No cheers; the glamour and glitter long gone. 

I shut the scrapbook, still seeing your
face when you speak of the rush;
that instant when you nod, holler
"Outside!" and they give you the gate.
God knows, but you don't, how I hope
you'll draw out of the deal before
tradition ties a hangman's knot.
You're loosing your grip, and
there's not a single pickup man in sight.

© 2002, Lyn Messersmith, All rights reserved; from Ground Tied
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



He always rode good horses
and damn; he sat ‘em well.
Uncounted times, I've seen him
trailin’ a few ol' mamas home
in the slantin’ light of a day worn down
to shadows, just like him.
His wife or boy’d be leadin’ in the pickup.

Folks who knew no better, might ask,
“How’s come an old man like him
is the one horseback?”
One of us ‘ud grin an’ say,
“That ol’  man’ll be a horseback
long’s he can walk.”
And he was.

An’ dance! Well now,
you know, he could!
It plumb pleasured us to watch.
Was like his whole self heard the music
instead of just his feet.
Used to play for dances
when I was just a pup. 

I can see him yet;
that silvered head swayin’ in time,
face near ‘bout split in two
by laugh lines. He pretty much opined
a man ain’t dressed without a smile,
but I reckon at the last
he had to hang his on the bedpost.

My son carried the news of his goin’.
Called him the last of the legends.
I nodded. Felt the weight
of all his old time stories
settle on my shoulders,
and a sudden brush of chill
as my own ghost tiptoed past.

© 1997, Lyn DeNaeyer Messersmith, All rights reserved; from Ground Tied
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Unfinished Business

While Mama lit the coal oil lamps
Dad and I pretended it was me
that pulled off his dusty boots.
I set them up straight as could be,
leaving the long roweled spurs
still attached. Traced the graceful
stitching of green, blue, and red,
stepped in, teetered on underslung heels,
and as always, hopefully said,

“Next time let’s order the ones
with yellow stars and butterflies.”
“They cost too much. These wear better.”
An answer we both had memorized.
Teasing now… “Who’d see ‘em anyhow,
Only dudes tuck pant legs in.”
I sighed; turned a dog-eared page
in the Blucher catalog, and
pointed out my favorites, once again.

Then clomped around the kitchen
To the tune of frying taters;
twisted an ankle, finally fell
down in a jingling tangle,
scrambling, amid Ma’s orders
to please go fetch the broom
and quit tracking up her floor.
Dad growled, “What the hell?
It’s gold dust, nothing more.”

I never quite grew into the boots.
I’ve frequently fallen behind
attempting to follow his tracks,
livin’ out Dad’s dreams, and mine.
Didn’t own custom built Bluchers,
just other brands, with names long forgot.
Pitched about a ton of gold dust.
Blucher’s out of business now.
That seems odd, though. We’re not. 

© 2005, Lyn Messersmith, All rights reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Books and Recordings


  My Sister Mariah; the Journal of a Windwalker, by Lyn Messersmith  (prose, 2007) 


from the Preface: 


...I don't recall hearing the theme from Paint Your Wagon for the first time. It seems always to have existed in my consciousness. In those wildly exhilarating musical notes, thunder rolls, lightning flashes, and a wall of flame leaps to devour everything in its path. The wind is there, always the prairie wind I know by heart; her banshee howl echoing across a hollow sky; a wild haired rider galloping in the grasses, her fingers gently caressing cottonwood leaves or teasing windmill fans at twilight.

These elements of prairie life I understand in ways I'll never know a human heart. They are my heritage, my birthright; my next of kin. Who am I? Why sister of the wind, of course.



  Ground Tied, by Lyn Messersmith  (poetry, 2004) 

Recipient of the of the Will Rogers Medallion Award.

from the Introduction:


There's nothing a cowboy hates worse than being set afoot in a pasture far from camp. When the rider dismounts to mend fence, tend a sick animal, or some other chore, there is often not time to secure the horse, and in my part of the west there's nothing to tie anyway. So horses are "ground tied" by letting the reins trail. The animal is free to graze, but never wanders far and is easily caught. Likewise the contents of this book.This isn't necessarily cowboy poetry, though you will meet cowboys of both genders and all ages in these pages. Women's stories are here, but it isn't feminist poetry either. These poems and I were born of the land, and we don't stray far from it....

 Downwind from the Smoke, by Lyn DeNaeyer Messersmith  (poetry, 1994) 

The Heart's Compass; a Journey of Faith, book and CD by Lyn DeNaeyer Messersmith and Deb Carpenter; recordings produced by Andy Wilkinson, Lubbock, Texas    (poetry and music, 1999)


A stirring account of pioneer women crossing the Plains in the 19th century, The Heart’s Compass is a multidimensional journey following the quest of Western women for identity, spirituality, and a sense of place. You don’t have to take the trip to make the journey.



  Leaders and Legends, CD by Lyn Messersmith and Deb Carpenter  (poetry and prose, 2003)


Original poems, stories and songs highlight twelve different leaders and legends who helped shape the American West.



Prices include postage and handling:


My Sister Mariah; the Journal of a Windwalker  $20

Ground Tied  $15


Downwind from the Smoke  $10  


The Heart's Compass; a Journey of Faith  $15


Leaders and Legends  $15


Order three or more titles at regular price and receive Downwind from the Smoke free.

Order all five for $65.00


Please make checks to Lyn Messersmith and send orders to: 

Lyn Messersmith

4241 269th Trail

Alliance, NE 69301



Contacting Lyn Messersmith

Schemmer Studios, Valentine, Nebraska


Lyn Messersmith
4241 269th Trail
Alliance, NE 69301



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