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A Life Well Lived

It's a blessin' and a curse to always be the restless one
Never knowin' where to bed down with the setting of the sun.
A tumbleweed keeps rollin', and a cowboy does the same,
'Cause a drifter don't take roots just by the changin' of his name.

And the long days stretch to longer nights, with just the lonesome breeze
That stirs the dust in faded tracks and ripples through the trees
Where the line shack stands a beacon and the distant memories roam,
And a cowhand's restless slumber takes him back again to home,

Where his mama waits with patient smile to greet her wayward boy.
And though her heart is aching, still she claims her greatest joy
Is the knowing that her ramblin' son is running strong and free.
And this, my friends, is what my gentle mother gave to me.

The strength and pluck to face the trials that make a boy a man,
The pride I've known from never quittin' any race I ran.
The grit and gravel in my craw when luck is hard to find,
And grace and heart and charity towards all humankind.

In the ovens of the tropics where the Devil bakes his prey,
I've stood the test and took his best and never backed away.
Tied hard to the bad ones, and I've rode the hurricane
On pitchin' beasts no man would ride if he had half a brain.

I've stood upon the bowsprit, and I've braved the Arctic gales,
And tripped the long-eared outlaw bull on rocky canyon trails,
Where a stumble is a lifetime flashing swift before your eyes,
And the brave men and the foolish know the truth and tell their lies.

I've trod this whole world over, and I've sailed the bounding main,
Broke my bread with strong and true, in desert sun and rain.
And every grand adventure, born of Bible or of sword,
Is a tribute to my mother, who lies sleeping with the Lord.

A tomboy who was more at home in jeans than in a skirt,
And she worked beside her daddy in that red West Texas dirt.
A true born native daughter of a hardy Texas line
That helped to build this rugged state; I'm proud to call them mine.

But, oh, I've heard the stories of my mother's sassy ways,
For it's said she was a beauty in her young and fancy days.
And she tantalized the schoolboys with her crinolines and lace,
But she remained a lady, walking hand-in-arm with grace.

When country called, she never shirked; she served this nation well.
She was proud to wear the uniform, and I am proud to tell
Anyone who'd care to listen that my mother did her duty,
And placed all others first. My friends, that was her greatest beauty.

She raised four sons and raised them well, and sacrificed her dreams,
Her hopes of grand adventure giving way to common themes,
Of home and church and school and toil with every breaking dawn,
And a husband who was always there, but just as quickly gone.

But never did she break her stride; she ran the worthy race
Through years of work and worry, and she kept a steady pace
And sweat and prayed and cried to keep her precious family fed,
Then pawned the heirloom silverware to buy our milk and bread.

She paid the fiddler when he played, and gave me every chance,
And when her heart had sung its tune, too quickly left the dance.
She left no strife or enemy upon this mortal sod.
And I am sure she's resting in the tender arms of God.

A cowhand is a lonesome critter, born and bred to roam,
Though a cowboy with a loving mother always has a home.
But it's a long trail and a hard one; it's a sweet and bitter story,
When a cowboy keeps on ridin' . . . and his mother's gone to glory.

2001, Dennis Gaines
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Dedicated with love to the memory of my mother, 
Betty Lou Caton Gaines, 
a true daughter of West Texas.

Read more of Dennis Gaines' poetry here.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

 

Ranch Mother

She knows the keen of lonely winds
The sound of hoofs at night,
The creak of unwarmed saddles in
The chill before daylight,
The champ of eager bridle bits,
The jingle-clink of spurs,
The clump of boots--lone silence, too,
For cowboy sons are hers.

She knew the dust of cattle trails
While yet she was a bride,
And tangy smell of branding iron
Upon a dogie's hide.
The yelp of coyotes on a hill,
The night hawk's lonely croon,
The bawl of milling cattle: thus
Her cowcamp honeymoon.

Her hands are hard from laboring,
He face is brown from sun,
But oh, her eyes are deep with dreams
Of days and duties done!
The hand of hardship forged her love
That first far rangeland spring.
Now he is gone its memory lives,
A gentle, deathless thing.

Her days knew little neighboring,
Less now, perhaps, than then,
Alone with years she gleans content:
Her sons are horseback men!

S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

 

 

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