Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

MARIE SMITH
1927-2010

 


 

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A few years ago, at the National Poetry Gathering, I performed with Marie Smith, a fine poet who recently died, and noticed that she was going to read her work. I told her how pleased I was to see someone else reading, since I had been given a hard time by stage hands and others for requiring light for my reading.

“Humph,” she said. “In the time I spend memorizing a poem, I could write another one.” So I stopped feeling guilty about reading.

Sadly, that was my only meeting with Marie Smith, and she gave me such a boost of confidence with those few wordsI wish I'd known her better.

                 South Dakota writer, rancher, editor, and poet Linda Hasselstrom
 


 

Australian born, Marie Smith married cowboy/artist Cecil Smith (1910-1984) in 1952. Well known in cowboy poetry circles, she had been seriously involved in writing and performing her own work since 1986. She presented her work in seven western States, Canada and Australia. Inducted in 1996 into the Cowboy Poets of Idaho Hall of Fame, she served on the cowboy poetry section of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Western Artists (AWA). She was nominated Female Poet of the Year in 1997 by the AWA, was a charter member of both the Authors of the Flathead in Kalispell, Montana, and the Charlie Russell Western Heritage Association. (Adapted from Exchanging Courtesies, 2000)

 

Below:

Poetry and Prose
If
The Roundup
Authenticity—To a Friend
The Bluchers

Rose

Remembering Marie Smith
Keven Inman
Family obituary

Books and Recording

Anthologies

 

    

 


 

Poetry and Prose

If
The Roundup
Authenticity—To a Friend
The Bluchers

Rose (prose)

If

If I hadn’t become a cowboy’s wife
I’d have never seen the glow
Of nightlights on the crusted drift
Of freshly fallen snow.

I’d never have heard a barn owl cry
Outside my cabin door.
I’d never have raised Rhode Island Reds
And lost them all but four

To a mother sow, a badger,
The owls in roosting trees,
Then to coons and rattlers
And someone else’s big deep freeze.

The chicken-every-Sunday dream
Never did materialize,
But if we had had no problems,
It would be hard to realize

That there’s more to raising chickens
Than picking up from the Shoshone stage,
The box of mash and fluffy chicks
When raising your own was all the rage.

If I hadn’t been a cowboy’s wife,
I’d have never known the grief
Of losing steers to river breaks,
Of doctoring those retrieved.

I’d never have known the coyote
Who’d visit me at four
Each day against the winter sky,
Up a Wapshili draw.

I’d never have known the smell of sage
Right after a welcome rain,
Or known the sounds of bawling cows
From the corral at waening time.

I’d never have known what it was like
To hush a two year old,
And watch a doe and this year’s fawn
Behind my cabin, while the gold

Of Indian summer’s final fling
Touched the meadow’s ripened grass,
And blue jays screamed a warning
That summer was nigh past.

I’d never have learned to love
The joys and trials of Western life,
If I’d stayed and lived Down Under,
And not become a cowboy’s wife.

© Marie Smith; from An Aussie Turned Cowboy Wife
This poem may not be reposted or reproduced without permission

 



 

The Roundup

 

I was a bride of just three weeks
When my husband said to me,
“I’ll be gone tomorrow for about three days,
it’s the round up, d’y’see?”

I figured I knew what a roundup was,
I’d seen Gene Autry in one.
And I envisioned campfires bright,
Music, a full moon above.

“But where will we sleep?” I naively asked.
“Aw, honey, our wives don’t come.”
“No women at all?” I asked aghast,
the movies couldn’t be THAT wrong!

“Well, a couple of ‘em, Juanite and Mrs. Knight.
They cook, but that’s all there’ll be.
Roundup’s a man’s work honey.
I’ll be back in no time, you’ll see.”

‘How’ll I ever live for three long days
Without you? I could cry!”
Helpless, he said, “W-a-a-l MAYBE you can,
I’ll take a pup-tent and we’ll tie

It up to an arm on the Reo’s bed,
But, I’ll be gone ridin’ hard each day.”
“Oh, that’s all right.” I was happy now.
“I won’t get in your way.”

His first day of riding, he’d been gone two years,
They were ready before dawn.
From Belleview, Hailey and Carey they came,
Association cowboys all.

I helped with the meals, I was glad that I’d come,
And my heart skipped a beat
When I saw my love returning,
I wanted to run and greet

Him, but I shyly held back
And listened to cowboys all tease.
“She’s still there awaiting, Cec,” they said.
“Looks like she’s aimin’ to please!”

He laughed, then I blushed and turned
To help with the spuds and the meat.
He winked and grabbed and loaded a plate.
My heart flopped and I ached to greet.

We’d rigged up the tent, just crawled thru the flap,
And bone tired, he doffed hat and boots.
And there he was, asleep in a minute
Like he didn’t give two hoots

For the bride at his side. I snuggled and slept.
All of a sudden there were horses stomping around.
I shook him, “Quick, we’ve overslept!”
“Damn.” Was his only sound.

And then we heard the voices
Of Sherm and Lowell a little away.
“Ain’t it disgustin’”, I heard Lowell drawl,
“To sleep this long in the day?”

“It surely is,” Sherm answered him.
“What do you think we oughta do?”
“Why, cut it down on ‘em,” said Lowell with a laugh,
“That’ll teach ‘em not to snooze.”

Horrified, I turned to Cec,
“They’re gonna cut down the tent!”
“Naw, they wouldn’t do that,” he said,
As he pulled on his high crowned hat.

I rolled to grab clothes, and he his boots,
But neither was fast enough.
The tent tumbled down about us
And then it was really tough.

We must have looked like two cats in a sack,
As we struggled to find clothes and dress.
“I should’ve stayed home,” I thought to myself,
“Gosh, what a terrible mess!”

When we’d finally dressed,
Cec like a gentleman, said, “O.K. dear, ladies first.”
I was glad he was so polite
With little air my lungs felt to burst.

I found my direction, crawled right out
Through the flap, only to view
Not two pair of legs clad in chaps and boots,
There must have been twenty two.

I felt that I should make
Some excuse for being late.
The only one that came to mind,
Was, “Cec couldn’t find his hat.”

Then I followed the bow in old Frank Knight’s legs,
As he said with a crusty chuckle.
“Y’ mean to say he took his hat off to sleep?
How about his belt buckle?”

The cowboys roared, Cec laughed with them,
And O.K.my lesson I learned,
That a roundup’s no place for a greenhorn bride.
You knowI’ve never returned.

© Marie Smith; from An Aussie Turned Cowboy Wife
This poem may not be reposted or reproduced without permission

 


 

 

Authenticityto a Friend

Is it a cowboy poem if I write of a cowboy poet?
Do I have to prove he’s trailed a herd,
Or will I really blow it if I see him show up
looking smart with Levis, boots and hat,
And I find he’s from…Wisconsin! Do I stand
a chance at that? Then, when I look into his life,
find diplomas, I think rashly, that maybe
he’s one of those academics who seem
to grind Ray Lashley. But I’ve heard
this cowboy poet, his work has teeth and guts,
Some folks can’t seem to find the meter
but it’s got all the bolts and nuts that go
into making poetry that stirs the soul
or breaks the heart and tickles fancies.
Word-music is what he makes. He’s tried
a hand at Rodeo, two decades he’s put in
to ride those bulls or broncos, always out
for an eight-second win. So, yes, I reckon
my poem’s authentic as a spur’s sweet,
tinklin’ tune, cos I’m writing about the poet
who sees a buckin’ horse in the moon.

© Marie Smith; from Exchanging Courtesies
This poem may not be reposted or reproduced without permission

(This poem refers to Paul Zarzyski.)

 


 

The Bluchers

Back in the thirties he had them made
When fancy tops were few.
He designed his own with red thunderbirds,
And tulips of yellow and blue.

Three inch undershot heels
stretched his six-four frame,
‘Til he reached above all the rest.
His high arched feet slipped in easily,
That was always the final test.

They never did much walking,
Though several times over fifty years,
He’d had ‘em soled and heeled again,
Regardless of scoffs and jeers.

“Sole them old Bluchers again?
Why you could buy a shelf brand for less.”
But he stolidly packaged and sent them.
He knew when he had the best.

© Marie Smith; included in An Aussie Turned Cowboy Wife and Exchanging Courtesies
This poem may not be reposted or reproduced without permission


The original design plans for those boots:

 

 

 

The boots in 2010:

 

 


Rose

 

"Rose is dead." My uncle's voice broke and he turned away. I was nine and I knew men never cried. Death was something I had experienced little of until that hot, January day in 1937.

 

My aunt just said, "Oh, Jack," in a voice so drenched with emotion it hurt to listen. She went inside to churn her rich, yellow butter that made such good cakes, and the screen door she warned us to never just let go, slammed hard.

 

My uncle stood, his back to me, and looked out across the thousands of Australia's acres we called Welland. A hush seemed to still the perpetual rustling of the pepper trees that edged the homestead fence, as if they realized that never again would they see Rose. Never again hear the sound of her black hooves, muffled by summer's dust and winter's grass, as she passed them, my Uncle mounted, to turn the mob of sheep with the kelpie, Old Blue.

 

I wanted to cry but couldn't. My belly screwed itself into a knot I could feel with my fingers. My uncle turned and said, Come. You can help me carry wood for the fire."


I wondered why he would light a fire this scorching day. He led me to the pile of ancient mallee roots we used for firewood, the ones that burned to a fine ask, white and powdery, and never left coals. He filled a wheelbarrow full of the dry odd-shaped roots, and I carried two. We passed the machine shed, the scrubby mallee trees to the left and the tall salmon gums. Around the back of the barn he stopped at a string wire gate.

 

And then I saw Rose, lying on her side, legs stiff and stretched, like she might roll in the dust, kick back, raise her head and whinny. Her brown hide shone in the hot sun, belly rounded with foal that died with her.


He wouldn't let me near the horse, stopping me with a motion of his sturdy brown arm. I placed my roots onto the barrow. He opened the gate and pushed through. I watched him pile that first load against Rose and suddenly, I understood.

 

He planned to burn her!

 

I couldn't believe he would do this to the beloved horse I rode every summer. He had ridden her since her breaking after he returned from the Great War. I knew she was old, almost as old as my Mum.

 

"You can't burn her," I whispered, but he didn't hear.

 

All morning we carried roots and he piled them against and then on top of Rose. We did not speak. He was, by nature, a man of few words and this was no time to be garrulous. I wondered whey he didn't load the back of the run-about, but never thought to voice the question. A wheelbarrow seemed good enough. Perhaps it delayed the time he would strike the match.

 

He piled roots until I could see not more of Rose and my stomach churned when he said, "By morning she'll be cooked enough for the pigs." He smiled gently at the horror which must have manifested itself across my face, and his soft voice, husky now, said, "The ground's too hard this time of year to dig a grave, love. The pigs would root it anyway. This is the best way. The cleanest way."

 

A five-gallon tin of kerosene stood near the gate. He wheeled it over, doused its contents onto the pile of roots and ordered me to stay behind the fence.

 

Pausing a moment, he struck the match.

 

I thought of his rosary beads hanging on the post of his bed on the open verandah and wondered if I should run and get them for him. I wasn't Catholic and not sure if prayers were appropriate. It seemed to me that they should be, but I didn't have time before the match flared and he stepped back from the immediate heat of the blaze. It was even hotter than the day and the waves, hitting me, hurt.

 

Placing the empty, square tin into the barrow, he bent to the shaves and wheeled through the open gate. He turned, pulled the slack wires taut and twisted the mallee branch closure. Every action seemed deliberate, important.  I followed him back to the machine shed. All the way, neither of us said anything. Then he patted my head.

 

"Go and help Aunty, now," he said and without saying a word, I ran to the house.

 

That night, lying on the verandah on the opposite side of the house to his bed, I wondered if he were using his rosary now and if Rose had to go to purgatory because she was a Catholic horse.

 

The Albany Doctor started to blow, that blessed, cooling wind from the Southern Ocean, moving across the thousands of parched acres to bring relief so we could sleep.

 

And with the cool came the smell of scorched horse flesh.

 

Next morning I watched from a distance as my uncle turned the pigs into the paddock that held Rose's remains.

 

He found me in tears and his eyes squinted as he said, "This is right, love. This is right. We should waste nothing." And somehow I stopped crying; somehow I understood.

 

I slipped my hand into his hard, calloused one. He squeezed gently and we walked back to the house for morning tea.

 

© Marie Smith; excerpted from Bush, Beaches and the Rockies, an autobiography
These words may not be reposted or reproduced without permission

 


Remembering Marie Smith
by Keven Inman


I met Marie twenty some years ago. Salmon, Idaho. I had written my first cowboy poem and was set to recite it during a session at a gathering there. I was in the same session with a heavy-set, older lady with red hair and an Australian accent. I don’t know what poem she read—I was so nervous and was completely self-absorbed. When I finally recited my poem and sat down, Marie patted my knee with her hand and said, “Good job sonny, keep it up.”

So, I met Marie because of her poetry and I started to get to know her through her poetry. I was at the gatherings with my friends and cousins, and I am sure that we were more like "groupies" at that time. We were in awe of this classy lady that wrote poetry that would just reach out and grab you. We found out that she was a featured poet at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, she was always on the "night shows" and she was held in high esteem by all the other poets and performers. We found out about her cowboy/artist husband, and about her eleven children. She told us that she took college classes to learn how to write poetry after Cecil passed away, and that she wrote more poems to him after he was gone than she ever did while he was here. I think she used poetry to help heal her own spirit after his death. She was introduced to cowboy poetry and found that she had "lots" of material for that.

This next event really cemented our relationship. My cousins and I wanted to have a cowboy poetry gathering in Puyallup, Washington, and we wanted to bring in a famous, big name cowboy poet for our event. I invited Marie and she accepted. It was in the spring; my parents picked her up at the airport and on the way home they drove down through the Puyallup Valley and looked at all the daffodils. Each spring after that, my dad or I, or both of us would send her daffodils. While she was there I gave her the one-day Puget Sound/Seattle tour. Early morning donuts at my favorite donut shop in Lakewood—across the Narrows Bridge—Late breakfast at the Oak Table restaurant in Port Angeles—Take the ferry across Puget Sound to Seattle—Quick tour of Pikes Place Market—Up and down the Space Needle—Pick up some fast food and be home in time for the Gathering that evening. All this time together gave us time to talk.

In conversation we found out what a small world this is. My mother and Marie found out that my mother’s older sister was a good friend of Maries’ when she lived in Nevada. She would tell stories about taking a whole line of her kids in to primary and trying to get them to sit quietly. My aunt would help her try to keep them at least part way under control (no small task). The part I remember about that story is that Marie would say, “When we went to church there, I always hoped that no one would noticed that I only owned one dress.” In all of our time of talking and listening, we got past the surface stuff and I got to hear much about her life history. About traveling from Australia to Canada and her marriage to Cecil and the problems at the Canada/United States border; Endless stories about Cecil and the kids, and she listened to me tell about my wife and kids; all the good things that life is all about. And, we would talk about some of the frustrations that life tends to deal us, and we would shore each other up. Marie would encourage me in reciting poetry. She has been one of my mentors in cowboy poetry and in life.

Marie gave much to cowboy poetry and the people involved in it. Let me tell you a little about that.

Marie was always a featured performer at any gathering that she attended. That is not easy to do. (I talk from experience). She was talented, prepared, presented well and pleasant to deal with. (However, she would tell you how things really are, if need be.)

Marie is a legend in cowboy poetry circles. With her ability and class, she got in a position to know some of the Big Names in cowboy poetry today. I once called her and told her that I would be at a gathering and it would be my first time to see Paul Zarzyski perform. She said, “Tell Paul I said hello.” At the gathering, I passed by Paul out in the hall and said something like “Hey Paul, we have a mutual friend” (I imagined that his attitude would be, 'I guess I have to listen to this cowboy poetry groupie, but hurry up, I got things to do.') I told him that Marie Smith asked me to tell him “Hello.” His whole person changed as he asked about Marie and we stood and talked about her for a few minutes. I later found that he called her after that to catch up on the years inbetween.

In 1996 the Cowboy Poets of Idaho recognized that Marie had earned the rare honor to be inducted into the Cowboy Poets of Idaho Hall of Fame.

Marie would stay with Layle Bagley when she went to the St Anthony Gathering. Layle and I were talking about Marie a few years ago and through that conversation another friend and cowboy poet, Bobbie Hunter, sent a note to Marie and they became pen pals. They exchanged letters, poetry and pictures of family. Marie was always upbeat and easy to talk to, even with people that she never met face to face.

Let me read you a note that I received this last week. This represents the feelings of a great many people that are involved in cowboy poetry. A note from my cousin Sue:

Oh how we loved her. How she touched our hearts. I have read tons and tons of poetry and none has meant more to me than the one she wrote about skipping rocks. I will go read it now in memory of her. I am sorry to hear of her passing, and am glad that I was fortunate enough to have crossed her path. I am glad to hear you will speak at her funeral, and you will carry love from our "gang" with you.                                                                                                          


I study classic cowboy poets and Marie’s poetry is some of the best. After Susan stated by email that her favorite poem is "Skipping Rocks," Debbie said that her favorite was the "Quilt" poem, and then she asked which one was my favorite? Well, I started slobbering all over the screen, and after listing eight or nine poems that could be my favorite—I just gave up. She wrote some great serious poems that just get a hold of you and will not let go, and then she writes about meeting face to face in an outhouse, or being tempted between lust or hunger, and choosing to eat every bean in the house. One Heck of a Lady.

The cowboy poetry community is better because Marie is a part of it. I am a better person because I knew Marie Smith and she was my friend.

Keven Inman

A blog entry here by Keven's cousin celebrates Marie Smith's life and includes two of her poems ("A Star's Legacy" and "Skipping Rocks") and photos.

 


Family Obituary
 

Marie Valma Weedon Smith, 82, our mother, passed through the veil of mortality on Feb. 4, 2010, at 3:30 a.m. at Kalispell Regional Medical Center surrounded by her children.

Marie was born June 15, 1927, to William James Weedon and Myrtle Esther Newton Ray Weedon in Subiaco, West Australia. Marie married Cecil May 28, 1952, in the Latter-day Saints temple in Cardston, Alberta, after immigrating to the United States. She gave birth to and raised 11 children.

By her beautiful spirit, Marie touched the lives of many people both far and wide. She was a woman of many God-given talents. She performed at numerous events and poetry gatherings throughout the West. She had a great appreciation and love of beautiful music, literature and fine art. She was an avid quilter, reader, poet and short story writer.

Marie has published several books of poetry on her experiences of love and family life in both the United States and Australia. Marie touched the lives of everyone she met. She was always anxious to help the downtrodden where she could, either financially or spiritually. Those that knew Marie will always remember her as the woman with beautiful auburn red hair, an Australian accent, an engaging smile and a true joy to be around. She loved good conversation and was always eager for a game of Scrabble.

Marie was a devoutly faithful human being, with God s purpose always first and foremost in her life. She was a stellar example of kindness, love and faith towards all mankind. She will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her, a tribute to her parents, family and husband. We loved her so.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Cecil Alden Smith, in 1984. Marie is survived by her 11 children, Pauline Smith of Somers, Greg and Betsy Smith of Somers, Rocky and Reta Smith of Somers, Kent and Diane Smith of Bigfork, Guy and Jean Smith of Farmington, Minn., Rin and Michelle Smith of Kalispell, LaPriel and Doug Bergstrom of Phoenix, Stephen and Lisa Smith of Kalispell, Raychelle and Scott Fischer of Carver, Minn., Carey and Michelle Smith of Farmington, and Charlotta and Seth Sorensen of Rock Springs, Wyo. Marie also has 36 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren; with dozens of beloved nieces and nephews both in the United States and Australia; a dear sister, Bethney Joy Pilling, of Perth, West Australia; and her beloved brother, William Ray Weedon, of Albany, West Australia.

Burial was at the Carey Cemetery in Carey, Idaho. Memorials can be sent to Stephen Smith at 119 Buffalo Square Court, Kalispell, MT 59901. Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Home is caring for Marie's family. You are invited to go to www.jgfuneralhome.com to offer condolences and view Marie's tribute wall.

 


Books and Recording

 

  An Aussie Turned Cowboy Wife, 1988

The Roundup
Juanita, Do You Remember
Miracle on the Mountain
The Jack Knife
The Bluchers
Strangers on the Plain
The Cowboy's Wish
The Last Notch
A Long Way Home
Bamboo and Beans
A Different Breed
The Cast Iron Skillets
The Southern Cross
The Winter Cowboy
September Aspens
An Evening Ride
If
 

  North and East of Down Under, 1994

Cotton Black
Between Sage and Destiny
Willows Gold
The Blue Velvet Box
Catalogs
Observations on a Wednesday Morning
A Cowboy Dad
A Cowboy's Christmas
The Big Sky
Montana Cabin
The Dance
Morning Moment
The Hat Maker
Mating
Kent's Tree
Cowboy Vernacular
Guy
Skipping Rocks
The Levis
Finding
The Littlest Buckaroo
Love and Suggestion
The Ballad of House Thief Pass
None This Year, Either
Before Twilight
To Paul
My Home in the West
 

  Exchanging Courtesies, 2000

Welcome, Two Thousand
Bluchers
Authenticity
Already Home
Through Apsen and Pine
Sons
The Eternal Optimist
Cloud Song (song)
And They Coulda Done it Without Us?
A Cowboy's Hat
Finding
And All the While Grass Grows (song)
A Cowboy's Lunch
The Red Felt Hat
From Here on Up
Reaching Out
A Star's Legacy
Lousy Bill
The Missions
Mister Meadowlark
Rose (excerpt from Bush, Beaches and The Rockies, an autobiography)
Redemption, A Lower Valley Tale (short story)
Petunias (short story)
Reunion (short story)
 

  Tellings from a Gathering (cassette tape), 1994

The Old Clapboard Barn
Buck
Lousy Bill
The Blue Velvet
Box
The Littlest Buckaroo
The Dance
A Cowboy's Christmas

A Cowboy Dad
Finding
Skipping Rocks
Between Sage and Destiny
The Roundup
To Paul
A Different Breed
If
 


Anthologies

 

Among the anthologies that include Marie Smith's work are:

  Graining the Mare : The Poetry of Ranch Women includes "Catalogs," "The Diagnoses," "Finding," and "Via Satellite"

  Ten Years' Gatherings; Montana Poems and Stories includes "Finding," "Flathead's Lower Valley," "If," and "The Roundup"

  Cowgirl Poetry, 100 Years of Ridin' and Rhymin' includes "Skipping Rocks"

  Humorous Cowboy Poetry, A Knee Slappin' Gathering includes "A Cowboy's Lunch," "Cowboy Vernacular," and "The Dance"

Click to view at Amazon.com  New Cowboy Poetry:  A Contemporary Gathering includes "If" and "The Roundup"

and

  Cowboy Poetry Cookbook includes "A Cowboy's Lunch"
 


Marie Smith
1927-2010


Thanks to
Keven Inman for the photo of Marie Smith above and for the preparation of many materials that made this feature possible. Thanks also to Marie Smith's family for their kind permissions and for all of Marie Smith's work that was shared.

 

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