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MAG MAWHINNEY
Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
About Mag Mawhinney 
Mag Mawhinney's
web site


photo by Vern Mawhinney

 

 Recognized as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for her poem, "Winter Range"

 

 

Winter Range

The gauge measured four below zero
with a dustin' of snow on the ground.
We bounced through the meadows in a flatbed truck
to a lake with a fence all around.

Sittin' on the truck was a big water drum,
a shovel and four ranch dogs.
When the pump started up, all the dogs ran off,
sniffin' tracks through the bush and the bogs.

We rattled on past a big rail gate
and sidled up to the water trough tanks,
with a dog runnin' point, another on drag
and two closin' in on our flanks.

Ice was scooped out and the tanks topped up
from the drum on the back of the rig,
while the dogs played about with their tongues hangin' out,
flappin' 'round like four whirligigs.

Then the cows and the calves were all counted
as they grazed on the rich meadow grass
and pretty horses with thick, heavy coats
turned their heads to watch as we passed.

It was a scene of Christmas card beauty
that can't be expressed in a word—
happy dogs in a snow-covered meadow
and a cowboy out waterin' the herd.

© 2006, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mag told us about her inspiration for this poem:

In November 2004, I was staying at Meadow Springs Ranch, preparing for a concert a few miles past 100 Mile House in the Cariboo. I was especially nervous because I was going to perform with Juno Award winning singer, Gary Fjellgaard, and the concert was being held in a little town where I spent part of my childhood. Mark McMillan, the owner of the ranch, saw me pacing around the room of the cabin and mumbling my rhymes like a hermit who had spent too much time living alone. He said, "Mag, you're getting all bent out of shape. Get away from those poems for awhile and come help me with the cows." Then he laughed and added, "Who knows, you might get a poem out of it."

That whole experience compelled me to put my thoughts on paper and "Winter Range" was born. The beauty of that meadow and surrounding forest, the contrast between the inquisitive actions of the dogs and the other animals grazing peacefully on grass stubbles protruding through the snow, gave me a feeling of pure joy, a completeness beyond words. The scene was God's winter masterpiece! And it's moments like that when I understand why a cowboy is willing to work for short pay.

 

We asked Mag why she writes Cowboy Poetry:

Why do I write cowboy poetry? Well, the phrase "helping to keep the west alive" just came up in a conversation with a singer/co-writer friend not long ago. We were working on a compilation CD and that very phrase was one of the lines in one of my songs, "Singin' the Songs of the West." I got the concept for the song when I thought about why I write and perform cowboy poetry. One of the reasons is to promote and preserve our western heritage. Actually, all festival performers are "helping to keep the west alive."

North Americans' roots come from many cultures and homesteaders and ranchers were among those who blazed the trails for future generations. Over a century ago, adventurous souls from other parts of the world brought their ballads and stories with them, some of which are still sung and talked about today. When we write about modern-day experiences of the rural west, that tradition lives on. And what better way to do it than in rhyme, which is so pleasing to the ear.

Another reason why I write cowboy poetry is because I simply enjoy the challenge of expression confined to a rhyme scheme. I also love to see the reactions those verses evoke—a nod of the head when a listener has had the same experience; maybe a grin if the poem strikes a funny bone; or perhaps a tear if the poem tugs at heartstrings. Then I know I've done my part in "helping to keep the west alive."

 


A Cowboy's Romance

He raised himself up in the stirrups
And held the reins loose in his hands;
He leaned on the horn of the saddle, well-worn,
As he gazed at the rich meadowland.

He smiled to himself, adjusted his hat,
And patted his saddlebag load;
He shifted his weight to open the gate,
Then nudged the old Paint that he rode.

He headed due west on a cow trail
Which circled the old Johnson place;
'Twas a shortcut around to his ranch near the town
Where he'd soon see his sweet Jenny's face.

He remembered the night that he met her
At a hoedown in the old, country hall;
He had hastened the chance to ask her to dance
And they whirled to the square dancer's call.

They married in the spring, after roundup,
And they worked side by side every day;
There were three hundred head on their small valley spread
Which they built as their dream hideaway.

When he reached the corral near his fence line,
The sunlight had started to fade;
He then opened the strap on the saddlebag flap
And took out the gift he had made.

His arms held her tight when he kissed her,
Then he handed to her, all aglow,
A buckle so fine, with two hearts intertwined,
And the name of their ranch just below.

He smiled when he saw that it pleased her,
Hooked the buckle on the belt that she wore;
Then they danced to a tune 'neath the bright, summer moon
Just like they had done years before.

© 2002, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mag told us about the inspiration for this poem:  I used to live in the Cariboo country of B.C. and have always loved the cowboy way--back when I played cowboys and Indians as a kid. An old cowboy my family knew at that time recently showed me a belt buckle he cherishes and I got to thinking how I could put this into a poem. I also know what an important role the rancher's wife plays in a cowboy's life and incorporated this with my memories--hence the Cowboy's Romance.


Holding On

He looked at me with his sad, blue eyes,
then grimaced and bit on his lip.
He shifted his weight and smiled again
when the pain eased away from his hip.

He started to talk about the old days
when he was only a fresh-faced kid,
about how he loved being a cowboy
and doing all the things that he did.

But his eyes lit up when I asked him
about competing in those rodeos.
He said that was his favorite part
of the cowboy's life that he chose.

He pointed to a few of his trophies
and some pictures hanging there on the wall,
then he spoke with a pride that was humble
for a cowboy who's truly done it all.

I thought he was just a free spirit
who marches to his own kind of drum
when he said, "I'm a broken-down cowboy
who's lived a little harder than some."

He said he keeps a good eye on the ranch
through the window right there by his chair
and he still goes for coffee at Smittys
'cause his friends pick him up to go there.

As he raised himself up real careful-like
and shuffled across to the door,
he said, "I can hardly put my old boots on
and I can't even ride anymore."

"But I'm gonna take it up for therapy,
I hear it's good for you," he grinned.
I laughed at his wry sense of humor
that was still a great part of him.

As I watched him holding tight to his walker
with hands that were big and so strong,
in my mind, he was holding a buck rein
and riding for eight seconds long.

© 2002, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mag tells us that the old cowboy who inspired her poem above, "A Cowboy's Romance," is the same cowboy who inspired this poem.

 

 

A Dying Breed

They stood just outside
a no-name diner--
both wore Stetsons
sweat-stained and pushed back
jeans, frayed at the bottoms
over wrinkled cowboy boots
big, western buckles
propping middle aged bellies

they talked through
cigarette butts and toothpicks
about high feed costs
poor beef markets
the encroachment
of a new condo site
the old Thompson spread
going under

fears of their own fates
were left unspoken

© 2007, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mag told us about the inspiration for her poem: "In our travels, my husband and I were eating at a truck stop diner and I overheard two men discussing their concerns about the ranching industry.  They were definitely aware that it was becoming more difficult to make a living in ranching when there were never-ending amounts of obstacles to contend with on a day-to-day basis.  They seemed to be overwhelmed with it all, even though they skirted the issue of personally losing everything if things didn't improve...almost like it was only happening to someone else and their discussion was just yesterday's news. I could sense their underlying fears and frustrations in trying to keep their heads above water, battling today's bureaucracy and the lack of respect for their contribution to society."

 

 

Those Who Have Gone Before

History was made in the pioneer days
by men on a perilous quest—
to seek out their fortunes on cattle drives
destined for Canada’s west.

They stumbled through piles of buffalo bones,
driving shorthorns in from the east
and plodded over desolate landscapes,
unforgiving to man or beast.

They sold powerful horses and breeding stock
to settlers met on the trails
and brought cattle to feed all the hungry,
moving one step ahead of the rails.

Some followed the miners, with hopeful dreams,
to the north on the Cariboo Trail,
though the dangers endured were endless,
their spirits would always prevail.

There were deaths by outlaws, rivers, and storms
and animals prowling the night
and they suffered the cold on high plateaus,
knowing only the colour of white.

In the Cariboo and the Chilcotin,
when the land was free of barbed wire,
they raised beef on low-lying meadows
where the swamp grass pushed through the mire.

And in the Thompson-Nicola valleys,
where the bunchgrass has always grown,
they built some of the biggest ranches
that this country has ever known.

Like adventurous men from across the seas,
setting out to explore new lands,
they tapped the wealth of the wilderness
and shaped it with the strength of their hands.

The trails blazed by pioneer cowboys
will be followed for evermore
and now empty saddles are reminders of
all those who have gone before.

© 2008, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mag comments, "I was inspired to write this poem when I saw the painted poster for the 2007 Kamloops Cowboy Festival. It was a resting horse with an empty saddle. I then thought it would be good idea to do some research on the history of the pioneer cowboys. I read three books on the subject and put this poem together with some pertinent facts. The result was that I won Honourable Mention in a poetry contest to promote the festival, sponsored by the Pacific Horse Journal magazine from Sidney, B.C. and the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS). The poem was also published in that magazine and on the BCCHS web site.
 

 

The Stranger

One dark and blustery winter night

when the gauge dropped to forty below,

our fam’ly and crew hugged the cookstove

‘neath the gas lamp’s flickerin’ glow.

 

Suddenly, interruptin’ the wind,

came a faint, muffled knock at the door.

Frozen hinges creaked out a welcome

as the snow swirled around on the floor.

 

Like a ghostly-white apparition,

a frost-covered stranger stood there.

Mom pointed to a place by the fire

and the seat of her old rockin’ chair.

 

He was wearin’ a broad-brimmed cowboy hat

and a scarf that encircled his head.

He tried to speak through the frozen wool,

but “hammer” was all that he said.

 

We were just a little bewildered

‘cause we were greenhorns, new to this place,

but our teamster understood his request

and a smile crossed over his face.

 

“We’ll get to that later,” the teamster said,

“but first sit awhile by the stove.”

Seems the stranger was on his way home

to a reserve beyond Forest Grove.

 

Mom offered a cup of hot coffee

and a slice of her homemade bread.

He grinned shyly and mumbled a “thank you”

and untangled the scarf from his head.

 

The crew carried on with their banter

while the stranger warmed himself as he sat,

then he rose, wrapped the scarf ‘round his face

and reached for his battered old hat.

 

His coal black eyes peered over the wool

that was coverin’ his nose and his chin,

and he left in a misty-white fog

just the very same way he’d come in.

 

The teamster said he gave him a blanket

‘cause the stranger was travelin’ light,

then he hammered the ice from his horse’s hooves

and watched him ride into the night.  

© 2009, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Mag told us:

This poem was taken from my memories when my family lived in the Cariboo, which is ranching country in the interior of British Columbia. At that time, we lived in a little tar paper shack beside a main dirt road, leading to the small village of Forest Grove.

The night was bitterly cold and when my mother opened the door, a fog appeared, created when very cold air meets the warmth. I saw a figure standing there and, to my eight-year-old eyes, he looked mysterious, almost scary, mummified in frost-covered clothing. When he mumbled the word "hammer," it only intensified my fright...but only for a few moments. (The poem tells the story about why he asked for that) Of course, we offered him warmth, food and shelter, but he seemed anxious to get home.

It was almost Christmastime and I guess he wanted to be with his family on the Canim Lake Reserve just past Forest Grove. Anyhow, our teamster helped him as much as he could and we all hoped he had made it home, safe and sound.

 

Read Mag Mawhinney's

Painted Ponies, in our Art Spur Project

Christmas on the Homestead, posted with other 2008 Christmas poems

and

Molly in our Art Spur project

and

A Cowboy's Christmas Eve posted with 2007 Christmas Art Spur poems

and

Time for Ponderin', posted with other 2007 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur poems

and

Winter Range, posted with other 2006 Christmas poems

 

 


About Mag Mawhinney:

I was born on Vancouver Island and that's just about as "west" as you can get in Canada. At that time, we lived in a floathouse in the little logging hamlet of Lake Cowichan. When I was eight years old, we moved to the Cariboo Region of B.C. and that is where I was introduced to the "real west". My family preempted land and started a homestead logging business in the bush near 100 Mile House. There were homesteads and ranches all around us and it wasn't long before I was riding horses, running through the woods with our dogs and playing "cowboys and Indians" with my sisters. I loved everything (and still do) about that rural lifestyle, and in particular the cowboys, who have always fascinated me.

Throughout my childhood, I had a passion for art and writing and that seemed to follow me into adulthood. Because of my family's logging roots, I painted old-time logging scenes on crosscut saws. I won a few ribbons at the Cowichan Exhibition and, as a result, six of my painted saws now hang in the Kaatza Museum in Lake Cowichan.

The paintings inspired me to write about logging and many of these poems appeared in my first chapbook of poetry, "Echoes of the Past--Old Times in Rhymes". Then I branched into short stories about our life on the homestead in the Cariboo. Fond memories flooded back about cowboys and my love for the rural west. Next thing you know, I'm writing cowboy poetry.


For more than half a decade, Mag has been writing cowboy poetry and performing at major cowboy festivals, as well as other events, across Western Canada. Her recitations have also been aired on TV and radio. Contributions of her rhymes and festival reviews have frequently appeared on the BC Cowboy Heritage Society web site and in their quarterly newspaper, the Cowboy Times.

For the past ten years, she's enjoyed freelance writing and has been published internationally in numerous magazines, anthologies, newspapers and web sites, winning some awards for her articles and for poetry, in all genres.

She has written three books of poetry, Echoes of the Past--Old Times In Rhymes, Country Chronicles, Now and Then, and Dreams of Fast Horses. Besides painting, writing and raising a family with her husband, Vern, she has worked as a secretary and fitness instructor.

Mag presently lives in Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island, near her birthplace.

 

Passin' it On

Includes the following, all by Mag Mawhinney except collaborations with Abe Zacharias, as noted:

Cowboy Comfort 
Those Who Have Gone Before 
Passin' It On 
Dust On His Saddle - (song) - Mag Mawhinney/Abe Zacharias
Holdin' On
On The Road To Williams Lake
Jake and The Squirrel
The Stranger
Mama's Pride
Christmas On The Homestead
A Top Hand (tribute to Rod Nichols)
Singing The Songs Of The West - (song) - Mag Mawhinney/Abe Zacharias
The Long Branch Saloon
The Horse Auction
The Great Escape
Meggie
Winter Range
Starchild (tribute to Glen Rafuse) 
Dreams Of Fast Horses 
Run, Ponies, Run (song)  - Mag Mawhinney/Abe Zacharias
Tougher 'n Nails 
Makin' Tracks
The Viking Cowboy 
Over Easy
Molly 
That Dumb Cow Blues
The Standup Radio
Good Old Country Music (song) - Mag Mawhinney/Abe Zacharias
The Cowboy and The Butterfly
Festival Bound 
When The Cowboys Are Gone 
 

Mag Mawhinney describes the CD:

Passin' it On is an expression of my western roots and experiences I’ve had along the trail. It contains 31 tracks, 27 of which are original western/cowboy poems (well…I liked them all!) and 4 original songs, sung by award-winning singer/co-writer, Abe Zacharias. The poems, both serious and humorous, are set to music by Juno-nominated composer/producer, David K. Two of the poems have won awards: “Winter Range” and “Those Who Have Gone Before.”

Passin' it On is available for $20 postpaid from:
 Mag Mawhinney
835 Chapman Rd.
Cobble Hill, B.C.
Canada V0R 1L4
mvmawhinney@shaw.ca

Find additional information at www.magmawhinney.com and www.davidk.biz.

 


 

Dreams of Fast Horses

Dreams of Fast Horses

Information supplied by the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society:

In 1949, Mag Mawhinney's family moved to a homestead near Forest Grove in the Cariboo region of British Columbia and that is where she was introduced to cowboys and the western way of life. Many of her poems in this book recall those childhood memories, while others are stories about western people she's met and her experiences along the road. She writes with a humour that sometimes stretches the truth, but she also shows her sensitivity to the human spirit and her love for rural life. The beautiful pictures taken at Meadow Springs Ranch are a wonderful compliment to this book.

The first time I heard Mag on stage I knew I liked her poetry. It was well presented, rhymed well, and the stories in the poems sounded real - because they are real. Mag has taken a lifetime of stories, put them to verse, and corralled them inside the bindings of this book. Most of the material comes from the Cariboo in British Columbia where Mag lived as a child. She portrays the ruggedness of the pioneers (mainly her Dad), and the humour of everyday life (often picking on her Mum and Dad). It's obvious within her poetry that she loves the Cowboy way of life and I'm honoured that she is using photos of our ranch inside this book. I'm sure everyone that picks up a copy of this book will enjoy it.

        -Mark McMillan, Entertainment Committee Chair, Kamloops Cowboy Festival

Mag Mawhinney will be the first to tell you she is not a cowgirl, and her poems may not fit neatly under the label of Cowboy Poetry.

She uses her verse to paint a vibrant picture of rural life in the Canadian West - just simple stories of life on a homestead in the Cariboo, from a logger's daughter's point of view. That may be what I enjoy most about Mag's poetry, the little snapshots of day-to-day life on a homestead in the bush. Misadventures and cherished memories, woven carefully into rhyme, Western Folk Life at its best!
        -Mike Puhallo

Available for $15 postpaid from

Mag Mawhinney
835 Chapman Rd
Cobble Hill, BC, Canada
V0R 1L4
(250) 743-4431

mvmawhinney@shaw.ca

www.magmawhinney.com

 

 

 

 

 

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