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Arlington, Texas
About Mike Boothe



Ode to Four-Wheeler Wranglers

Uncle Tom Boothe was raised, learnin’ ole cowboy ways
     from his dad, who had ranched since ‘ought-one,
On the West Texas plains, where so rarely it rains,
     and blue northers blot out winter’s sun.
When he was only a lad, a real job he had
     (on a workin’ ranch, that’s no surprise).
While he was still a young sprout, Tom stalked the starve-out,
     to catch the day’s mounts before sunrise.
Ridin’ his line-back dun, ropin’ steers on the run,
     and then hazin’ ‘em through the dip vat,
And trainin’ green horses, were some of the courses
     he mastered on that ranch habitat.
Although he’d been dusted, off broncs he had busted,
     he had never sustained injury.
Tom had confidence, and hard-won experience,
     and he sat a horse most dashingly.
Later on in life, Tom took his son and young wife
     up to Wheatland County, Montana,
To build a new home, and to ranch all on his own,
     and improve that tall-grassed savanna.
Bein’ Texans by birth, we can always find mirth,
     in Life’s challengin’ adversity.
So we’ll take a short glance, at how Fate called the dance,
     with humor as the best remedy.
Now I can’t make any quips, ‘bout his horsemanship,
     but this tale takes a rather odd twist.
Rather than saddles, new contraptions are straddled,
     and they pose a significant risk.
Last year in Montany, Tom busted his fanny,
     and broke part of his backbone to boot.
He just laid in a ditch, makin’ nary a twitch,
     when his four-wheeler whacked a tree root.
It was there he was found, lyin’ still on the ground,
     by his pardner in life: Aunt Betty.
She knew what to do, and called the ambulance crew;
     when their help arrived he was ready.
The healin’ came slowly. For months he felt lowly,
     and the hip pain had caused him to limp.
But that dearly loved coot, is more though than a boot,
     and is fine now, except for a gimp.
This story gets stranger, ‘bout four-wheeler danger,
     as we get to the month of July.
Enter Cheryl and Steve, and you just won’t believe
     how the best plans can go so awry.
These are the Stewarts, who’ve been wonderful stewards,
     of that ranchland for many a year.
They’re the salt of the earth, more than gold they are worth,
     and true friends whom we all hold so dear.
Steve was raised on that ranch, and well knows ev’ry branch
     of each coulee, box canyon and bench;
And with Cheryl, his bride, often goes for a ride,
     as four-wheelin’ those hills is a cinch.
But while out ridin’ alone, without his cell phone,
     he flipped over and busted his wing.
Though he’d thumped his noggin, afoot he went sloggin’
     to get help, for he knew he was dinged.
So let’s light a cheroot, for the big ole galoot,
     and pop open a bottle of brew,
Then raise a toast to our pard, and ask the good Lord
     that Steve’s collar bone heals good as new.
Technology does change. Even out on the range,
     the four-wheeler replaced the cayuse.
Instead of buyin’ fresh hay, folks gladly will pay,
     for four dollar-a-gallon go-juice.
Those machines are a hoot. Down the trail they will scoot;
     you can use them to haul quite a load.
There’s no hill they can’t climb, and they’ll stop on a dime,
     then just up-shift to speed down the road.
Now four-wheelers are cool, but I’m not such a fool,
     as to ignore the fate of these men.
I’ve learned a good lesson, and bet you’ve been guessin’
     how this epic is likely to end.
Round the campfire we’ll sit, swappin’ yarns for a bit,
     and discuss how cowboyin’ has changed.
Tom still holds the notion, the best locomotion,
     no longer has four legs and a mane.
On four-wheelers he’ll ride, where stray heifers can’t hide,
     and to easily inspect the fence.
Bein’ loyal, of course, to a good Quarter Horse
     is the real cowboy way, I’m convinced.
But, I’m just an ole hick, from the Sweetwater sticks;
     for modern ways I don’t give two bits.
Astride a good saddle, to stop or skedaddle,
     it’s leather reins I want in my mitts.
Sure, horses are flighty, and good gosh a-mighty,
     some just look for a reason to spook.
I’ve been bucked off and bit; I’ve been kicked where I sit,
     but a horse is still tops in my book.

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

Mike comments: Coming from a ranching family, dealing with the cyclical  boom-and-bust nature of the Texas economy, and the vagaries of weather, market conditions, and disease, we learned early on not to take ourselves or our circumstances too seriously and that a little humor can assuage even dire conditions. This poem was written to allow me to poke good-natured fun at family and friends who have turned to the use of  four-wheelers for ranch work, and at myself for my curmudgeonly resistance to change, and my devotion to the horse as the primary implement of ranch work.

True Grit and Glory

This is a poem, ‘bout a man I’ve been knowin,’
     since I was just knee high to short sheep.
He’s a hero to me, and I’d like you to see
     the rewards, from travail, that he reaped.
Tom Boothe is his handle, and eighty-five candles
     were planted in his last birthday cake.
With his nose to the grindstone, he always has shown,
      he can still outwork me, for Pete’s sake.
Now Tom found himself raised, where the sun’s all ablaze,
     and the dust storms will sandblast your hide.
Through mesquite thorns and thistles, wind always whistles;
     in Sweetwater, he took it in stride.
He learned the cow bidness, while just an apprentice,
     workin’ his dad’s Diamond  O brand.
Leavin’ the saddle, treatin’ screw-wormy cattle,
     he soon learned how to be a top hand.
And they were believers, in fightin’ tick fever,
     and were always out scoutin’ for sign;
They once dipped all the cattle, to win that battle,
     at least north of the quarantine line.
Tendin’ brandin’ fires, pullin’ bogged calves from the mire,
     of those muddy, half-empty stock tanks,
Gettin’ downright bone-tired, stringin’ miles of bob wire,
     they worked hard just to pay off the banks.
White-faced Herefords they bred—what a life to have led—
     and remounted the Horse Cavalry.
Through the Great Depression, Tom learned many lessons,
     but he was young and mostly care free.
On a date in December, we all remember,
     the derned Japs came and opened the ball.
Tom walked out of the door—up and joined the Air Corps—
     determined that the Axis should fall.
We were taken aback, by that sneaky attack,
     but the bad guys were soon on the run.
Ahead lay tough days, and when he joined the foray,
     Tom fought Huns from his P-51.

Returnin’ safe from the War, he searched near and far,
     for a ranch he could build on his own.
He knew what he wanted, cash poor but undaunted,
     he embarked on a quest to find home.

Cross the Yellowstone River, he went aquiver,
     seein’ country that sure did look fine.
Past the ole Bozeman Trail, and the famed Musselshell,
     the perfect land he knew he would find.
Near the forested park, named for Lewis and Clark,
     with the Crazies a few miles away,
From the top of the bench, he surveyed ev’ry inch,
     and knew it was the right place to stay.
Close to Two Dot he bought, the green pastures he’d sought,
     so he bid ole West Texas adieu.
Then he and Aunt Betty, worked non-stop and steady—
     by themselves, there was so much to do.

Havin’ livestock to raise, and a young’un named Ray,
    their free time must have surely been short.
But they stuck to their guns; there was no time for fun—
     no vacation from toil of that sort.
Workin’ cattle horseback, fixin’ homesteaders’ shacks,
     diggin’ thousands of postholes by hand,
They soon made the ranch pay, so that even today,
     they still own all that beautiful land.
Sixty years have now passed, and they’ve leased out the grass,
     to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
In their hearts they’re content, havin’ earned retirement,
     but time on the ranch they still savor.

When the clouds start to snow, and winter blizzards blow,
     back in Texas they’ll stay warm and dry.
But at onset of Spring, they get ready to bring
     their gear back to Montana’s Big Sky.

I’ll now end this story, ‘bout true grit and glory,
     and I hope it is well understood,
The respect that I give, is ‘cause Tom’s really lived,
     the life I’ve just dreamt of since boyhood.

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


Mike comments: This work is an historic narrative written to honor the life of my uncle Tom Boothe, Sr. from his time growing up on the family ranch in Nolan County, Texas to buying and improving his own ranch in Wheatland County, Montana after World War II.  However, it is also meant as a  salute to all the old-time ranchers and working ranch cowboys.  The ranching allusions and geographic references are meant to enhance the realism of daily ranch work so new readers of cowboy poetry can grasp the tough conditions faced daily by cattlemen, and to allow experienced ranchers and cowboys to nod with understanding, and think: "Yep, been there and done that."

Unfortunately, Tom crossed the Great Divide on March 28, 2009.  Thus, this poem means more to me than ever, and [the opportunity] for potentially thousands of readers to come to know him through these verses. He was a man's man, yet full of kindness, generosity and Texas hospitality.  He was, for me, the personification of America's Greatest Generation and will be sorely missed.


   About Mike Boothe:

Mike Boothe was born in Sweetwater, Texas in 1951. Coming from a  ranching family, he has always been an ardent student of horsemanship—from the use of working ranch horses, to English equitation, to the Californio style of Reined Cowhorse competition and use of the hackamore with horsehair mecate, to which he was introduced by Benny Guitron, of Merced, California.

"True Grit and Glory" and "Ode to Four-Wheeler Wranglers" represent his first attempt at writing poetry. Heeding the advice of Dr. Baxter Black (to all aspiring poets) to "write what you know about," both works revolve around his uncle, Thomas Nelson Boothe, Sr. Originally written as one long poem, suggested re-writing it into two poems, which has been done. Thus, they share a common metrical pattern and syllabling which was selected to subliminally recreate the steady three-beat gait of a horse at the lope. The author would like to recognize the vicarious assistance of Rod Miller, whose excellent monographs: "You Call THAT a Poem?" and "Are You All Talk and No Trochaic Tetrameter?" (which appear right here at the Bar D Ranch) helped Mike navigate through some difficult phrasing and word selection.

Mike received a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Pan American University, and a Doctor of Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio. Since leaving active duty with the U.S. Navy in 1992, after Operation Desert Storm, he has resided, with his wife, Trina, in Arlington, Texas. He is active in the practice of bariatric and occupational medicine in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. He is a member of the Potomac and Ft. Worth Corrals of Westerners International.



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