Folks' Poems

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MARY BURSELL MAUPIN
Austin Springs, Tennesse and Sedona, Arizona
About Mary Bursell Maupin

 

 

Peculiar Characters

Grandpa led an old mule named "Donk" and he rode a buckskin horse.
He staked them out along the Canadian, the one that heads up north.

While all day he worked on the railroad, laying track an driving spike
They stayed there by the cold stream until he came in at night.

One day he saddled up the buckskin to ride down the tracks for the day
When they failed to come in the evening , old Donk began to bray.

All night he sang out his indignation, loud and clear through crisp thin air
He wasn't hungry or lacked for water, he was lonely just being there.

Late into the following day, Donk's stake pulled loose from the ground.
He headed down the railroad tracks in giant leaps and bounds.

Somewhere down the railroad tracks, Donk's stake jammed under a tie
He pulled and tugged and walked around. then finally laid down and cried.

Then he heard the whistle of an oncoming train, it's low and mournful sound
Reminding him he was stuck on the tracks of a train that was westward bound
.
In the beam the engineer observed an object.  He called the firemen to look down the track
He thought his eyes were deceiving him.  They agreed it was a long eared Jack.

He pulled the rope for the whistle at the same time reversing the Johnson Bar.
The train came to a screeching halt and the trainmen sprang from the car.

Old Donk lay there plumb give out;  he hardly had strength to move.
He had worked himself into a tight knot, between cross ties he'd dug a groove.

The trainmen looked over the situation.  The firemen pulled out his knife,
Took hold of the halter and cut the rope.  Donk's eyes were wild with fright.

Donk lay there  catching his breath.  He had thought he was defunct
He raised upon his forelegs and began rotating his painful rump.

Quickly he stepped across the rails and turned to look back at the men
Who had released him from his prison.  He was off and running again.

Down the right-of-way he trotted, braying the call to his old friends.
Somewhere toward the west, he thought he could smell them in the wind.

The gandy dancers were grouped 'round the fire, drinking coffee from their tins
When old Donk loped into view, he knew there were his friends.

They stood back, their eyes agape at the sight before their eyes
Old Donk stood there bewildered, all the hair rubbed off one side.

One ear hung lopsided, his legs were cut and bruised
But still hanging around his neck were a pair of Grandpa's cowboy boots.


  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin

This poem is "about my granddad who worked as a 'gandy dancer' on the Frisco Railroad in the early 1900's after his wife died.   He raised 3 little kids in a wagon traveling about trying to find work.  I'm the product of the 9 year old girl who took care of the two little boys ages 3 & 5. He still had Donk and Buck in 1943 when I stayed with him."



The Rim of August

I love to see your towering ponderosa pines
And smell the aroma of cedars in the rain;
Sniff the blossoming manzanita growing along
Your magnificent red rock terrain.

Your deep and bottomless canyons I have ridden
From Colcord to Dick Haught Ridge;
Echoing Zane Grey's memories of
UNDER THE TONTO RIM and RAINBOW BRIDGE.

I've fished your flowing waters,
Cold and clear from natural springs;
Picked wild flowers from you meadows,
Watched the skies for impending rains.

I've stroked the tombstone by the roadside
Where a fallen soldier lies.
I've searched the field at Battleground Ridge
For mementos of the Mescalero Apache tribe.

Your history is still vivid but ancient.
You have preserved its memories in depth
And I'm so awed by your splendor
Each time I traverse your crest.

  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Mary says this poem is about "the Mogollom Rim area of Arizona where I spent lots of time, hunting, fishing and dreaming."


Tales of the Plains

The cowboys were sittin' 'round the campfire spinning yarns and telling tales
About some of the happenings that had occurred along the dusty trails
That all of them had ridden at sometime or another
When Ed spoke up to tell about an incident of he and his older brother.

It seems they were travelin' along with their papa in a wagon
Work was slack and food was scarce and all their stomachs naggin'.

They chanced upon this roundup outside Adobe Walls.
They smelled something good cookin' and heard those bovines bawl.

Cowboys were standin' round the fire where there was something sizzlin'
Art sidled up to one of the men, friendly asked, 'Mister, whatcha' eatin'?"

When the cowhand told him what it was, his face looked pale and pasty,
But his little stomach told him he ought not to have been too hasty.

Art saw Ed standing off to one side; knew how hungry they all were.
So he went back to the cowhand and gently kicked at his spur.

He said, "Mister, are you sure that there is fitten' to eat?"
The cowboy spread a great big smile reaching from cheek to cheek.

"Why son, these are delicious, roasted in coals like that
They taste a lot like steak and not at all like pork fat."

The cowboy looked at the little tyke, no bigger than a lamp pole.
From the pocket deep inside his pants, he pulled out a shiny nickel.

He said to Art, " I'll give you this, if you will try one little bit."
Art clenched his teeth over the shiny coin to see if it were real or counterfeit.

The cowboy hunkered over to get a fresh one from the coals,
But Art said he could pick his own; after all he was almost six years old.

"Here, I've got one for you and your little brother over there
And the best part about these 'steaks', they come without any hair.

So the little boys just barely nibbled the roasted meat and then
Each one looked up at the cowboy with a bashful little grin.

"This ain't so bad, sir.  Fact, it's mighty good.  Lots bettern' we first thought.
Might we have another, please, for the nickel we just got?"

Eat as many as you want.  We're cuttin' plenty more.
Take some to your Pa there.  He looks like he could eat some for sure.

The little boys ate their fill, then stuffed their pockets full.
They lay down beside the corral fence while the cowboys cut out the bulls.

And just to show you what kind of a smart-elec person I am, here's one to jar ya'

  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This is based on Mary's uncles' actual experience and it happened about 1907 or 1908.

 

Stage Flight # 1993

It was Sunday morning in January at the National Livestock Show
After the Cowboy Church was over, only a few got up to go.

Most stayed on to listen to the poet recite her version
About a drunk and his homely bride, hankerin' to be the richest son-of-gun.

When I had finished, Chuck Laken took over and commenced to do his thing
About the cowboy's Arbuckle coffee and then  WHAM!  CRASH!  BANG!

I had repositioned myself upon the chair, tipping it backwards as I did
While Chuck recited his coffee story, up and over backwards I slipped.

I lay there behind the stage, one boot heel hanging from the platform,
The other draped over a fallen chair, not knowing where it came from.

I heard not a sound from the audience, although I knew they were there
On stage, boots tramping towards me and one set bounding the stairs.

I looked at the faces before me, their concern and worry;  they cared.
Then I caught sight of someone I knew,  "Hey, Mom!  What are you doing down there?"

I asked if I had fallen gracefully, like I had once seen Governor Mofford do.
By the look and concern on their faces, they thought I had been tasting that brew.

Some gentleman gave me a hand up and again I sat gently down on a chair
Not wanting to be more of a nuisance, I was content to be just sitting there.

But while listening to another poet's reading, the EMT's  suddenly appeared
Out of nowhere they came rushing in, bringing all of their medical gear.

No I didn't feel any broken bones.  "But what about your head?" she asked.
I didn't even have stage fright.  Only humilation of a graceless.....AS---pirant.

  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is based on Mary Maupin's brothers' experience.


The New Mechanical Age

Our ranch out on the prairie was a family run business;  Mom handled the cooking the kids and the chickens
Pa did the managing of the crops and the cattle.  My brothers kept the equipment running with balin' wire to stop the rattles.
These boys were a new breed -- in this mechanical age; designing new gadgets for threshing the hay.
Pa knew nothin' bout engin's and such.  Done all his traveling through the snow and the dust
In a horse drawn buggy or drivin' a wagon of sorts.  But most time he rode Nip, his old sorrel horse.

Together they had traveled more miles than he knew.  Gone places, done things few men ever do.
But the boys needed engines to get them over the roads.  So Pa bought an auto, but the boys always drove.
Going into town, for groceries and things, Pa sat in the front like he was a king.
Letting them chauffeur him where ever he went, he didn't think about all the time that was spent
Keeping it greased with water and gas in the tanks; Nip needed only feed and he got his own drink.

One day the boys were stringin' fence on the north side of a wheat pasture there were going to divide,
When they noticed dust traveling down the road their way.  What it could be, neither of them could say.
It wasn't a cyclone, too late in the year.  Maybe a dust storm blowing in here.
Then as they watched, they saw something crash into the wheat field and now making a path
Right down the fence line they had just built, to the right of the ridge because it ran at a tilt.

Two miles of fencing, over a week in the making.  Five strands of barbed wire appeared to be quaking
Under the strain of the car and the speed it was going.  Looked like a thresher the way it was mowing.
Breezing right towards them, lickety split.  When it hit a post it slowed down a bit.
Then it hit a prairie dog hole and made a sharp turn out into the wheat field; the boys took off in a run.
Dodging the barbs trailing behind, it was picking up speed as it went over the line
On the Anchor D, cattle were lowing.  It hit a big boulder, only then it began slowing.

Now one of the bulls in this herd of cattle was always eager to take on a battle.
Protecting his herd was a skill he had learned back in the days when his was the sperm
To breed this herd into reputable stock and he wasn't about to let this stranger destroy his prize crop.
He pawed the earth, he bowed his head low as the car came nearer he began to blow.
His nostrils flared;  you could see the steam rise.  He knew he could whip this one;  it was just middle size.
But upon closer inspection he saw by the nose it wasn't a bull from the ranches below.
It must be one of them new breeds; a STAR hung in front, and on the back side was an oversized trunk.

He circled around and gazed at the sight.  On the inside sat a man stiffened with fright.
His hat askew, he couldn't utter a word.  He just sat there a starin' ahead at the herd.
The bull turned to look at the two men who were running, hollering and yellin',  "Pa, we're a comin'.'
Out of breath on arriving at this odd situation, reaching into the car, one tried the ignition.
No sound from the engine, it would have to be cranked.  One climbed on the hood and over the tank.
He raised up one side and tinkered a bit.  The spark ignited, the engine began to spit.

Throwing it in gear, they bumped across the pasture.  So many rocks and holes, they couldn't go much faster.
One boy clung to the fender, hoping with all his might, they would make it to the fence line and get it strung tight.
Before the herd got to moving with the bull in the lead.  Then he noticed the actions of his own saddled steed.
He was walking to meet them, reins dragging behind.  He too, was curious about that new fangled kind Of an animal that was drifting across the field there.  He thought it must be one of those new breeds of mare.

He sniffed at the engine and kicked at the wheels, not realizing this mare was made out of steel.
He stuck his head through the window just to make sure, but all  he could smell was a funky kind of manure.
That evening at supper the table was quiet.  No chatter from the younger ones, not even a fight.
Pa sat at his place, pale from the morning's  misfortune of driving a car without any notion
Of how the thing run, or where it could go.  After starting the engine, it wouldn't stop at Whoa!!

Well, Pa went out riding this bright sunny morn, his old sorrel horse and his saddle well worn.
Astride old NIP, he knew he was safe.  Nip could jump a bar ditch and stop at a gate.
Going after a stray, Pa would just slap his thigh and he stayed where he left him, even ground tied.
He's side-step a chuck hole or a prairie dog den and he could stop on a dime or jump any fence.
Yep! There's nothing like riding your own, as any cowboy knows.  A man's horse will always compete with the allurement of the auto.

  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Government Help Wanted

The BLM and its employees are now on the prowl
They're out there in the pasture counting calves and mother cows
Now this one group is giving lectures for the city folk to hear
About the ranchers over grazing, no forage left for deer.

They don't consider that we work long hours, often late into the night
There's no one out here helping us.  No one to fight our fight
They want more of the Federal Land for hiking trails and such
Many of them don't eat red meat.  It's watercress and tofu brunch

One of those BLM men was here from Washington, D.C.
He wanted to know how many cattle guards were employed here by me
When he found the guards worked for nothing, he reminded me of the law
Minimum wage must be paid to all ranch hands, guards and all.

As we walked across the pasture I began to pick up chips
Tossing them into a tow sack slung over my left hip
"What are you doing with those nasty things?  Don't you know they are impure."
"Well, I was gonna make your lunch with 'em, but now I'm not so sure.

A water cress salad made with tuna from a can
Might be enough for you fellers, but not for my ranch hands.
They're mighty hefty eaters and they like their food fresh and hot
I just thought I'd toss a few under the cooking pot."

I hear there's a new break through, thanks to scientific research
They've found a way for cows and calves to put more manure upon this earth
The department of Agriculture's new development is to cattlemen, a gem.
Instead of raising just one calf, now they will be raising twins.

These do-gooders want the land where my livelihood's at stake
Then they go back home and gripe about the cost of T-Bone steaks
Now why so much confusion among the would-be land preservers
Why don't they clean up their own back yard and leave the ranching chores to us.

  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

The Rebellious Ostriches

There were these two old cowboys drinkin' at the town saloon
Discussin' how they could make some easy dough,
When up steps a stranger, asked them what their names were,
Then offered them a job in his big wild westward show.

He plied them with questions as to their handing of livestock.
They finally settled upon a wage he could afford.
He told them to meet him at the stockyards; they could decide who would ram-rod
The drive to the great Buckeye Rodeo.

Next morning bright and early, they decked out in their finest
Thinkin' they would be hailed by those out on the streets.
Drivin' this stranger's herd of cattle, lookin' so handsome in the saddle
Into the Great Buckeye Arena, would be a simple feat.

As they rode into the stockyards, the stranger hailed them from the gate.
They dismounted and walked over to where he sat.
"Where's yore cattle?" says one.  "Over yonder." he says to Vern
When they looked a light exploded under their hats.

"What 'ere them funny lookin' creatures with those scrawny necks and features?"
"Thems ostriches.  I'm enterin' them in a race.  
All ya gotta do is drive 'em and ya better be able to fly if'n
Your gonna keep up with their forty mile an hour pace."

Vern took the lead and Hank brought up the rear
As those ostriches filed from the stockyard gate.
They was a kickin' and a scronkin';  Vern's horse was a dancin' and a stompin'.
Them critters left feathers all over the place.

It was nearly half past seven when they whizzed past Lateral Eleven,
It looked like they would be in Cashion at least by eight.
So what's the difference drivin' cattle or ostriches without saddles;
It all paid the same at the end of the day.

Somewhere near the Aqua Fria a couple decided to strike free of
And took off North up the sandy wash.
No need goin' after them, they could still make the show by ten
And as far as could be seen, they was better off.

They hit Lateral Twenty -Three.  Another escaped along the way,
While them others arched their necks and began to squeal.
Now they're down to nine.  What the heck!  It warn't no crime
For them critters to want to lunch at Laken's Mill.

Now it's just minutes over that rise to the bustling town of Buckeye
With near five hundred people and several Native American Tribes.
Four of them varmints are fannin' out across the desert headin' south
Don't think there'll be much of a race with only five.

Then one of them hens espies a nest of palm fronds beside a shack
And decides she'll make it permanent for a while.
She plops right down in the center while two old men are havin' dinner
In the shade of the clapboard shack on the other side.

In the excitement of the melee, those ostriches were goin' wild,
Kicking and fighting everything that moved.
The bystanders began to chatter, the ostriches began to scatter.
No one, especially the drovers knew what to do.

Now if you're wonderin' why them ostrich feathers got so high
And no longer worn by the ladies of this day.
Why, you can see how unpredictable and even how despicable
Them critters would be saddled up for any kind of parade.

  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

(They still have ostrich races in Casa Grande, AZ sometime in February.  During the Scottsdale Rodeo I think.  I appeared at West World one year during that time and the afternoon session was a bust because of it.)


Nighthawk Cowboy


Here I am down by the creek, ain't had a warm water bath in months.
Been herdin' cows and brandin' steers, been a long time since I seen a bunk.

But late last night on the nighthawk watch, I heard a horse a neyin'.
I turn my steed in towards the sound and  I hear this cowboy a prayin'.

So I trotted on down to the voice I heard and there was this cowboy a kneelin'
In front of him, his tail erect, stood a civet cat, just a P'n.

I reined in, got down off my horse and stood there not knowin' what to do.
Thinkin' I could distract that cat by tossin' a rock; Lord! How'd I know the direction he'd spew.

I leaped on my horse, even missin' the stirrup and spurred him into a gallop.
In my hurry to get away from the fumes and the stench, I forgot all about the other fellow.

We galloped through the darkness to the safety of the water, my horse kept shakin' his head.
The stench was so thick, my stomach got queasy.  Whew! It was worse than somethin' dead.

So here I am down  by the creek, my horse is slurpin' up the water.
But the more I think of that icy cold stream, the more I wish I hadn't oughter.

I look around and  espies a place to sit down on a near by rock
I pull off one boot and see that dirty black thing creapin' up from the hole in my sock.

I pull off the other boot and my hol-e-sock, my horse in now grazin' on the grass.
I slip off my jeans and long underwear and stand there a barin' my-- tush.

My horse looks up and around, sniffs the sir and quickly moves down the bank.
I grab for my clothes and tiptoe down to stick my foot in the hole where he drank.

It's icy cold, I wade out a bit and start to wash off this smelly gunk.
My teeth start to chatter, my legs grow limp so I hurry back out to the stump.

My body's wet and I'm shiverin' with cold.  I think what a fool I must be
Tryin' to get this stuff off with out any soap.  But the stench is killin' me.

I hurriedly dress in the same smelly clothes and slips down to my horse to ride.
He shies away and whinnies and nickers and looks me square in the eye.

As if to say, YOU SMELL TOO BAD TO GET ON MY BACK TIL' YOU BATHE.
I grab for the reins but he shakes his head, then turns and gallops away,

Leaving me standing with holes in my boots, not a dry thread to put around me.
Well the sun's comin' up and I gotta' get to my herd.  There I won't be so lonely.

 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

( A civet cat cat is the same as a skunk only smaller but just as dangerous).

          


The Patent Leather Sheriff


    He didn't look much like a cowboy when he rode into town.
Said he was from a place of little or no renown.
He didn't even have a pistol showing from his side.
In his patent leather boots, he sure didn't look like the other guys.

He walked into the office, took a chair behind the desk;
It was a job he liked doing and one that he knew best.
He had grown up on his daddy's farm, shootin' rabbits with a sling shot.
He was a tracker for the army, but a sissy, he was not.

When he took this job of sheriff, the town's people, they all laughed
About his patent leather boots.  They just knew he wouldn't last.
Then one day he was told of an early morning heist.
It was then he knew the suspects were in need of some of his advice.

Walking to the town's saloon where the suspects were playing cards,
He sat down at their table, stretched his long legs out a yard.
Says, "Deal me in, I'm playin'.  We're keepin' this game on the up and up.
Five card stud's my liken'.  Bartender!  Bring me brandy in a cup."

Well, the game lasted only three hands.  The sheriff's pile continued to grow.
The suspects eyed each other cautiously.  Was there something they should know?
As each took his turn at foldin', the sheriff scooped up his loot.
He thanked each of them personally, threw down a silver dollar to boot

He said it was for the entertainment and the drinks.
Told them he just hated to loose.
Little did they realize their hands were mirrored
In his Patent Leather Boots.

1986 Mary Bursell Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


BROOMSTICK COWBOY

                His head was made from grandpa's old woolen sock
                The eyes are buttons from Nonnie's old button box
                The mane from old rug yarn
                I've never seen a broomstick with so much charm
                                 But that's what my cowboy used to play.

                 There's a cowboy I know and he's good for any show
                                    He's my ideal cowboy.
                He hails from the west and he's one of the best,
                                    He's my ideal cowboy.
                He can ride a buckin' bronc, rope a calf then stomp
                To the breakfast bar at Nonnie's house in town.
                Though he's only three and growing, he's already in the showing
                            Cause he's the greatest cowboy all around.

                He stands his broomstick horse against the back yard wooden fence
                                He's my ideal cowboy.
                His face is aglow cause he's the best in the show
                                He's my ideal cowboy.
                He wears his sidearm on his hip, slung low so he can grip
                The handle of his plastic 45.
                His spurs are always dingling, his pockets always jingling
                Cause he' the greatest cowboy in my life.

1986 Mary Bursell Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


HOME ALONE


                    He slipped on his brand new blue jeans
                            Slapped his straw hat on his head
                                    Put the keys in the ignition
                                            Off to the rodeo he sped.

                   No money for a ticket
                            So he drove down to the chutes
                                   Where the cowboys were mulling round
                                            Kickin' dust off their old boots.

                    He walked up to one of the cowboys
                            Asked him if he would mind
                                    If he took a ride on one of the broncs
                                            Just to see if he could do the time.

                    The cowboys looked the kid over
                            Why, he couldn't be mor'n sixteen
                                But they agreed to give him the chance
                                        Even though he appeared a little green.

                    He climbed the rails into the chute
                            Eased himself down in the saddle
                                Grabbed the jerk line with his hand
                                        At last he was ready for the battle.

                    As an after thought, he asked the name
                            Of the bronc that he was on
                                  Someone replied out side the gate
                                        They call this wretched beast, CYCLONE.

                    The gate swung wide, the arena was clear
                            His beating heart was t he only sound
                                With a giant leap the horse sprang out
                                        And this greenhorn tenderfoot hit the ground.

  1993 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



STUMPY JOE'S SOW


                                My grandpa was a man of honor
                                        His word was as good as his bond
                                Until one day he met Stumpy Joe
                                        Things changed a mite one early dawn.

                                Seems Stumpy Joe was always finaglin'
                                        How to live without havin' to work
                                He went around town always tradin'
                                        Off something he had with a dearth.

                                He told Grandpa he has a sow
                                        Sixteen piglets were still in the sty
                                He wanted to trade her to Grandpa
                                        For one of his cows that was dry.

                                Grandpa agreed to the bargain
                                        They shook hands on the deal that was made
                                Then Grandpa went back to the farm
                                        To clean the stalls and rake the hay.

                                It was that quiet time before daylight
                                        When Stumpy drove into the farm
                                Grandpa had already done the milkin'
                                        And was waiting for him at the barn.

                                Stumpy unloaded the old sow
                                        Grandpa's cow took her place
                                Stumpy drove off with a smile and his prize
                                        Never looking at her in the face.

                                Grandpa knew the sow was abnormal
                                        But he was willing to trade this time
                                Because Grandpa knew the sow could only feed four
                                        But Stumpy didn't know the cow was blind.

1986 Mary Bursell Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Fowl Land Development

There was this family in South Dakota, whose elevators didn't go all the way to the top.
They didn't know nothin' 'bout sheep or cattle ranchin', let alone makin' a crop.
They bought a little place outside of town, just down the road from us a piece.
Settled down to farm and raise a fam'ly, but wonders never cease.

Their land was rich and fertile, every acre was lush and green.
Not like the German city they came from; this was a beautiful scene.
They had this son whose name was Hans; Hans Clinkerhoff, it was.
He was always doing something peculiar, and  of't times raisin' a fuss.

He got this idea of raisin' chickens; from the ground up, he would begin,
Gettin' little chicks from the feed store and raising them to be hens.
He went into town, gave his money to the clerk.
Took home a hundred baby chicks in his daddy's pick-up truck.

Two long weeks went by.   Hans solemnly returned to the store.
Handed the clerk the money.  He said he wanted a hundred more.
The clerk looked a mite bewildered, but what was this to him?
He knew Hans had trouble adding 2 and 2. But 200 cackling hens!!!!

When he unloaded them from the truck, Hans handled the boxes gently.
He reasoned the little chirps inside the box had begun to cost him plenty.
For two long weeks he waited, but these chicks were just like the others.
He wasn't having any success raising them, but he thought he would just try another.

For the third time, back to the feed store he went, but his expression gave him away.
The clerk asked him what the problem was and he sadly had this to say.
"Maybe you can tell me, sir, cause these chicks ain't comin' cheap.
I don't know what I'm doin' wrong, planten'em too close together or maybe too deep."

Mary Bursell Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


               



A Cowboy's Vision


The night was dark and starless.  A cold wind blew out of the north.
A lone cowboy, his brim turned down, astride a chestnut quarter horse,
Was riding across the open prairie where buffalo used to roam.
He saw the lightening flash across the sky and felt the approaching storm.

He rode in the blackened silence, thinking of his mother, there all alone
Praying she would last until he could make that last ten miles home.
They came upon the Canadian, its current swift and strong,
He didn't relish the thought of crossing it, he knew quicksand lay all along
Its sandy banks and bottoms.  Swimming it would be a treacherous task,
But he had to get to the other side or drown in that entangled mass.

At this place along the river it was near a half-mile wide.
The water was like a raging stampede, crashing into everything along its sides.
He knew he must hurry, his mission was a matter of life and death.
He kneed the chestnut to cross the sand but the horse spurned his request.

Suddenly a calm came over the place.  The north wind ceased to blow.
A bright light shown across the now calm river, forming a path where he could go.
His horse seemed to sense the signal and waded out into the water,
Up the muddy bank, through nettle-brush, the chestnut never faltered.

The chestnut seem to know that time was growing nigh
He raced across the prairie to meet the breaking morning sky.
 They arrived at the homestead just as the sun broke through.
The door slowly opened: it was the doctor from town, he knew.

"I'm sorry you couldn't make it, son.  She's been easy these past few days.
She was in a coma until the very last moment, then she opened her eyes to say,
(He's safely over the river.  It's my time to go, I think).
 "With a smile she closed her eyes and seemingly dropped off to sleep.

It was just and hour or so since she left us.  Seemed to be waiting out the time."
"Why, that was 'bout when I crossed the Canadian and saw that light begin to shine.
Shining clear across the river, it was.  Brightness, like I've never seen.
I thought it was a halo around a star or one of those bright moonbeams. 
It was like crossin' a bridge in the calm of the day, quicksand and rocks illuminated in detail
When the chestnut and I got to the other side, it slowly began to fail."

"You're lucky you survived it.  You couldn't have known the havoc it made
Upon some folk down river; that river is now their graves.
It rolled across the prairie, got miles out of its banks.
It flooded the ranches, drowned the cattle and contaminated the water tanks."

The sun already set and darkness began to fall
The cowboy sat astride his horse wondering if he had done his best for all.
He looked at the new earth, mounded high upon the grave
Surrounding the plot he had chosen, was a light now beginning to fade.

A light which had lit the semi-darkness, making it shine like morning sun.
He searched the sky in wonder.  Now, he was the only one.
There had been no time for tears and little was there to say
He wheeled his horse for one long look, for her sake he reckoned he'd stay.

 Mary Bursell-Maupin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

 

About Mary Bursell Maupin:

I write poetry about the places I've been, the things I've done and the people I've met along the way.  I ain't never been a cowboy but I've punched a few cows in my time.  I came from a long line of pioneers who rode from Virginia to the Texas line.  They later migrated into to Oklahoma in what was called "NO MAN'S LAND".  I  was born there during the Depression in Texas County amid the snow , the dust and the wind.  I've participated in several Cowboy Poetry Gatherings and read some of my poems. 

I was born Mary B. Bursell in Texas County, Oklahoma.  I went to 16 schools in 10 years, that includes the 3 years I spent in the first grade.( my grandkids (4) don't like for me to tell any one that I was a dummy).  I've been writing poetry since I used to hide under the table cloth and sing Redwings and Strawberry Roan to company at our house.  Well, I grew out of being bashful and when, at the age of 60+ my youngest son took me to the Cowboy Classics at the Arizona Livestock Show and I was allowed to read a poem or two.  It was then  I really got the bug. So you might say, I'm comparatively new at writing cowboy poetry.   I couldn't get anyone interested in publishing my stuff, so I published a small book of poems in 1993 called POPCORN POETRY dedicated to a real PIONEER, my MOM.  I also read my stuff at the Symposium in Lubbock, at the Classics in Phoenix a few times, Payson, Buckeye and some others I can't remember right now.

Besides that, I've had some short stories published in journals and magazines.  One just recently in GOOD OLD DAYS Magazine about a humorous incident that happened right here on this Tennessee farm.  Another last June in the Jackson Purchase Historical Journal published at Martin, TN.  I also took 3rd place in an Arizona Writer's Contest about 1980  something or other on a poem entitled "Of Athapaskan Stock," a language of the Navajo's. 

I learned to ride at an early age, I guess I must have been at least 3 or 4.  Not yet big enough to throw a saddle but able to get astride my horse by leading her under a Beau D' Arc tree and swinging down from a limb and off we'd go Ole Maud and me, westward, bracing the wind. And another where I threw a tantrum to go with my brother Rusty to take a herd of cows to a greener pasture by the dump.  He tied me to the saddle and left to search the dump.  The saddle slipped and I held tight to the saddle with no way out under Maud's belly.  Old Maud grazed until he saw her without a rider. I was reading this at a Jackson Tennessee writer's group and this lady jumped up and yelled, " "You must have had an unfit mother for her to let a 3 or 4 year old go off alone on a
horse." Guess I've always been a little independent, but this lady didn't understand the terrain of the area where we lived.  She didn't realize the times were different then, either.  The last time I saw the Sheriff of Texas County was in the 1950's and he reminded me he always thought of me riding down to the 'breaks' on Maud with my shirt tail flying in the wind. The breaks?  It's the cliffs that surround Golf Creek which no longer flows through Guymon, Ok. We lived right at the edge of it and there was quick sand in some places, but Maud wouldn't cross at those places with me on her. As long as I was on her back, my mom didn't worry about where I went. I was never to get off until I got home. And if you knew the look she gave you when she gave an order, you did not disobey.

(You can read some of Mary's family stories on a Reynolds genealogy web site.)

 

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