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MONTE McDONALD
Hermiston, Oregon
About Monte McDonald

 

 

 

Cowboy Poetry

Seems there's an awful lot of people
Picking up a pen
And writing cowboy poetry
Just because it's in.

I'd read quite a lot of it
And It kind'a seemed to me
That mostly it weren't cowboys
Who wrote that poetry.

They don't tell about the work he does
Nor the way he lives and thinks.
They're mostly 'bout his trips to town
And the whiskey that he drinks.

So I figured that I'd write one
That would tell for a change
How a cowboy lives and thinks
And works out on the range.

I thought about a cattle drive,
Nope, that wouldn't be so hot.
It wouldn't be exciting
Unless I lied a lot.

How about a branding?
Cows and calves a bawling,
The smell of burning hair.
Nope, just men and horses working
Not much excitement there.

Or a day spent classing cattle
When you think you're gonna freeze
'Cause it's edging down to zero
With a mighty bracing breeze.

The harder I tried to write a poem
The plainer I could see
I couldn't put on paper
What this life means to me.

A morning on the desert
About the first of June
When coyotes are still howling
A talking to the moon.

Where new spring calves are playing
And kicking up their heels,
Trotting out to make your gather
The way a good horse feels,

Some mustangs on the skyline
Leaving on the run
Their dust trail blue as willow smoke
In the early morning sun.

The first sight of a wagon camp
With teepees scattered round,
Wrangling in the darkness
When it's mostly done by sound.

A mountain meadow in the summer
Full of yearling steers,
A good horse sorting cattle
The way he works his ears,

Getting on a horse
You know you just can't ride.
Wishing your saddle horn was bigger
So you'd have more room to hide.

There's many things I'd write about
If only I knew how,
About good men and horses
The handling of a cow.

I've wrestled this all evening
And just can't make a start
At putting down on paper
What I'm feeling in my heart.

So maybe it was cowboys
Who wrote that poetry.
Next time I'll try a subject
That don't mean so much to me.

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

This poem is also posted in our collection of poems about cowboy poetry.

 


 

Springtime In Nevada

I hear the cavvy trottin' in
Lord, I love that sound.
Reckon that's what woke me
The tremblin' of the ground.

Old Joe is up a coughin'
And cussin' cigarettes.
He says he's gonna quit them
But I'm not makin' any bets.

The kid is still a sawin' logs.
I'll roll him out right soon.
If someone didn't wake him,
I think he'd sleep till noon.

I know the boy is tired.
He's growin' like a weed.
And those two big broncs he's ridin'
He doesn't really need.

He's gettin' mighty forked though;
Stays deep down in his wood.
The other day the bay blowed up.
He rode him out real good.

The mornin' star is fadin';
The east is gettin' gray.
So I guess I'd better wash up
And get ready for the day.

The crew is at the wagon
Crammin' beef and biscuits down.
While my old belly's churnin'
Like I'd just brought it back from town.

A couple cups of coffee
And the same of cigarettes
And I'll be set till supper;
Then I'll eat, you bet.

The boys are headin' for the trap.
There go Bill and Joe.
Would like another cup of coffee
But I guess I'd better go.

The boss just slipped his halter on
His long-eared Cross E bay.
You can bet your bottom dollar
We'll be goin' some today.

Better ride old Sad Sack,
Though it really ain't his turn.
Cause for gettin' over country
He's got nothin' left to learn.

You can't call old Sack pretty;
His head's longer than his back.
But when he hits a long high trot
There's some ground between his tracks.

The kid's 'bout to have a bronc ride.
That colt's got his left ear set.
He'd better keep him trottin'
Till he gets him in a sweat.

Smell the sagebrush and the willers;
It sure got damp last night.
The dew drops shine like diamonds
In the early mornin' light.

The sun is hittin' on the peaks;
They're shinin' pink and gold
While the deeper canyons
Purple shadows still enfold.

There's some mustangs on the skyline
Leavin' at a run.
Their dust trail blue as willer smoke
In the early mornin' sun.

A meadowlark is singin'
His pretty little tune.
Lord, it's great here on the desert
Around the first of June.

By the time we've made our gather
And the last calf's drug to the fire,
The long hard trot back to camp
I really won't desire.

But early in the mornin'
While the day is bright and new
Life's still a bowl of cherries
For this wore out buckaroo.

© 1980, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Monte comments: "Most of my poems started between 1955 and 1985. Something I saw, did or heard about would get me started on one. I worked for the big outfits, mostly the wagon outfits in northern Nevada. Places where I was hired just to ride. Places big enough and roadless enough that the buckaroos and horses had to stay out on the range from spring to fall. I don't think I write cowboy poetry, I'm just a cowboy who writes poetry about things no one but a cowboy knows about."

Of "Springtime in Nevada," Monte writes, "I was thinking about the Little Humboldt and how much I used to enjoy the spring work there."

 

How It Otta Be

 I saw my heaven in a dream;
 I hope that it comes true.
 I dreamed I went to the last big range
 Where you could buckaroo.

 The sun was coming up behind me
 When I crossed that great divide.
 I had to stop and stare in awe
 When I saw the other side.

 There spread out below me
 As far as I could see
 Was a mat of native grass 
 Like most range used to be.

 When I got down to the home place
 It was neat and clean.
 There was pickups and trucks and trailers and such
 But not one farming machine.

 The man catcher met me at the door;
 He said his name was Pete.
 ďSit down old son and roll a smoke
 And kind of rest your feet.

"How did you ever find your way
 Here to the last good grass?
 How did you stay on that narrow road
 That winds through yonder pass?

"The Boss found your brand
 In his tally book,
 And said youíd be a hand
 At any job you took.

"Here at the home place
 Weíre working quite a crew.
 Weíve got wagons out and camp jobs;
 What would you like to do?Ē

 Iíd been working with a bunch of kids
 Which I didnít like to well.
 So, I said I thought a camp job
 Would suit me for a spell.

 He said,Ē Youíve had a long hard trip;
 You look a little tired.
 Would you care to have a snort
 Now that you are hired?Ē

 He pulled a quart of Jim Beam 
 Out of a bottom drawer
 And a couple water glasses,
 My God, that man could pour.

 After years in sagebrush
 This country sure looked fine,
 Lots of grass and water
 Aspen trees and pine.

 The camp was on a little meadow,
 A mighty pretty sight,
 The buildings all in good repair,
 The fences high and tight.

 Standing in the horse trap
 Pricking up their ears,
 Were all the extra special geldings
 Iíd ridden through the years.

 Trotting out to meet me,
 It filled my heart with joy,
 Were all the good dogs that Iíd had
 Since I was a boy.

 I drove on to the cabin
 And headed for the door.
 When it was opened by a woman
 Iíd known from long before.

 She wore a little apron,
 A big and happy grin.
 And said, ďSupperís almost ready.
 Youíd best come on in.

"This place is really something;
 Come and have a look
 At a batch camp with a wet bar
 A TV and a cook."

 Thatís how Iíd like my heaven.
 It would suit me mighty well.
 And if it ainít about like that
 Iíll just go to hell

© 2005, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Wild Bert

 Iíll tell you a story
 About Wild Bert,
 The time that he used
 A snake for a quirt.

 We were riding that fall
 For the Old Derby Hat;
 Weíd camped for a spell
 On Sunflower Flat.

 The cook had some trouble
 With a camp robbing bear
 Till one night he caught it
 In a wire rope snare.

 We rolled out of bed
 When it let out a bawl;
 Spent the night by the fire
 No one was sleepy at all.

 We sat drinking coffee
 For a year I swear
 Before it got light
 And we could see that old bear.

 The ground all torn up;
 The bark chewed off the tree.
 That bear in his rage
 Was fearful to see.

 His eyes gleaming red
 Like two coals from the fire;
 Popping his teeth
 And showing his ire.

 Then Wild Bert says,
 ďYouíve all heard me swear
 I could ride anything
 What was covered with hair.

 Iíve said it so much
 I believe that itís true.
 Iíll ride this here bear
 Just to prove it to you.

 When Pecos Bill rode the Wowser
 And according to Yellow Pine Pete,
 When riding this kind of varmit
 A snake for a quirt canít be beat.Ē

 While we was talking it over
 Shorty lit out for the rim.
 And he soon returned with a rattler
 Chock full of vigor and vim.

 The bear was a mean looking critter
 And he was sure on the fight.
 But finally we got some ropes on him
 Throwed and tied him down tight.

 He was a hard one to saddle;
 He had no withers at all.
 And when we slipped on the snaffle 
 You otta heard that critter squall.

 Bert stepped in his middle
 And pulled his hat down tight.
 Standing there holding his wiggly quirt
 He sure was a wild looking sight.

 He says ďNow boys turn him loose,
 Step back and give us some air.
 Iíve rode everything Iíve ever tried
 And Iíll ride this dang bear.Ē

 Bill pulled off the foot rope
 Then jumped behind a tree.
 The bear just laid there groaning
 Not knowing he was free.

 Then Bert stuck a spur in his shoulder;
 And thatís what started the show.
 Soon, we could see as a bucker
 Thereís nothing that bear doesnít know.

 Bertís spurring high
 Every long crooked jump
 While dragging his quirt
 Off that black furry rump.

 The bear is putting on a show
 Through the rocks and trees,
 While Bertís still up there spurring
 Riding him with ease.

 Then the bear quit bucking
 And began to run.
 While Bertís doing all he can
 To bend the son of a gun.

 He gets his feet out ahead
 And goes down on one rein;
 But itís like trying to bend 
 A runaway train.

 Theyíre still gaining speed
 When they went off the flat;
 When they sailed off the rim
 Old Bert lost his hat.

 They went off the point
 Like a bird on the fly
 Plowed through the creek
 While the water splashed high

 On round the mountain
 Through the juniper trees;
 Iíll tell you that bear
 Was a splittiní the breeze.

 By then we were mounted
 And all joined the chase.
 Though the bear was a gaining
 At a God awful pace.

 When they broke through the middle
 Of a mahogany draw
 And thatís the last 
 Of the bear that we saw.

 I found Old Bert;
 He was hurt pretty bad.
 From the way he was cussing
 We could tell he was mad.

 He said ďNow boys,
 That bear didn't get me, 
 In the midst of the ruckus
 My dang quirt bit me.Ē

 Old Bert died that night
 And we buried him there
 Beneath the same tree
 Where heíd got on the bear.

 We carved on the tree
 ďHere lies Wild Bert
 Who while riding a bear
 Got bit by his quirt.Ē

 Which just goes to show
 What we already knowed;
 If you ride enough critters
 Youíre bound to get throwed.

  © Monte McDonald
  This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Monte comments, "This is the first poem I ever saved. Was on my first camp job at Wild Cat Springs, Wilson Prairie. My first summer alone, 1956. Broke Laddie and several more horses."
 

Badger Mountain

 It happened at the Roundup
 Many years ago
 When I was a youngster
 I reckon twelve or so.

 The horse was Badger Mountain
 Leo Moomaw's joy and pride
 And that wild Indian cowboy
 Was the one who made the ride.
 
 The horse was Badger Mountain
 Jerry Ambler was the hand
 Fifty thousand people
 Were setting in the stand.
 
The horse was bucking high and hard
Not like the ones today;
Jerry in perfect rhythm,
It was like a strange ballet.
 
Fifty thousand cheering
From jump number one.
Fifty thousand standing
Before the final gun.
 
He curried Badgers mane
And he scratched him on his back
With his buck rein waving loosely
And he never pulled the slack.
 
Fifty thousand cheering
From jump number one.
Fifty thousand standing
Before the ride was done.
 
It wasn't just a bronc ride
That we saw that day;
It was a thing of beauty,
The cowboy and the bay.
 
Fifty thousand screaming people
At the final gun,
For Badger never lost
And Ambler never won.

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

 

Monte comments that the poem comes from "an experience with my Dad at the Pendleton Roundup. Watching this ride impressed me more than any ride Iíve ever saw just for I guess you would say the sheer beauty of it. He was a big pretty horse, slick and shiny, wearing a silver mounted halter, jumping four feet in the air. I called the Roundup board to check on my facts and audience numbers a while back. They said I wasnít the only one to remember the ride. Old timers in the Pendleton country still talk about it at reunions and such."
 


The Race to Poker Flat

I grew up on the Verde
Beneath the Mogollon.       
Rims, brush and wild cattle
Are all Iíve ever known.

Thereís ways of working cattle
That I donít know to do,
So I came up to Nevada
To learn to buckaroo.

I started on the desert
Clear down at Star Ridge Well,
Twelve Mile, and then the Desert Ranch
Where weíd stay a spell.

We were shaded up one evening
By the Old Rock House,
Everybody thinking
As quiet as a mouse.

When the old man on the outfit
Leaned back agin a rock,
Rolled himself a cigarette.
And then began to talk.

ďEvery man who works a horse back
Has rode one he thought was best,
And uses him to measure
When he compares to the rest.

Mine was down in Arizona
Between the Verde and the Rim,
And so far thereís been nothing
That could measure up to him.

The kidís brush popper rigginí
Has got me thinking back
To when I was about his age
And used Old Baldy Jack.

Iíve never told this story,
But boys I swear itís true.
Itís about a good and honest horse
And what nerve and guts can do.

It was in a canyon off the Verde
That Baldy made his run
On a day both hot and sultry
Beneath that Arizona sun.

I was headed up the canyon
To check a couple springs,
Planning on two cow traps
If I liked the look of things.

I could hear some thunder;
It was storming on the rim.
I wished that it would rain on me
And cool things off agin.

Baldy was getting nervous;
I thought he smelled a bear.
We stopped to look and listen
But couldnít spot it anywhere.

Then I began to hear a rumble
From way on up ahead,
And I knew there was a flash flood
Coming down the canyon bed.

When I heard the water
It chilled me to the bone.
ĎCause I knew the bossís little daughter
Would be swimming all alone.

Nancy spent her afternoons
Playing in the water.
Her Mom could sit out on the porch
And watch her little daughter.

The buildings on this little place
Sat a hundred yards or so
Back up on this little bench
With a big flat down below.

Thereís a big rock basin
Where  waterís always at.
Had been a killing oíre a card game there
So they called it Poker Flat.

Just above this water hole
The canyon made a bend
And narrowed sharply to a gorge
A half mile to its end.

She wouldnít hear the water coming
Till it hit the canyon floor.
No way she could out run it
Two hundred yards or more.

I was rimrocked in the bottom
So didnít try for speed.
Just rode as careful as I could,
And tried to hold our lead

Till the trail went on the bench
Where I let Baldy run.
But we had too many draws to head
And the water nearly won.

Weíd run out of choices,
So I took that awful trail
With that mighty wall of water
A rumbling on our tail.

Baldy hit that gorge a running
Where a cow could hardly walk
Through piles of loose round boulders
On water polished rock.

The water hit behind us
And went boiling toward the sky;
Baldy knew the danger
And was as scared as I.

If youíve been in them kinds of places
You know what we was running through,
And can kindía sit and picture
What Baldy had to do.

Then we hit the place Iíd dreaded,
A slick and glassy slide.
All I can do to help the horse
Is just stand up and ride.

There for a few long seconds
I thought Iíd join my friends in hell,
But the Lord was watching out for Nancy
Little Baldy never fell.

That put us at the bottom
And we sailed around the bend.
Sure enough there by the basin
I saw my little friend.

Just before we reached her
I heard the water roar
And watched it come a spilling out
Across the canyon floor.

Nancy saw the danger
And met me on the run.
Another couple hundred yards
And Baldyís race was won.

His legs were beat and battered
Up to his knees and hocks;
Shoes gone and feet all broken
From running in those rocks.

He was mighty gaunt and weary
But not crippled anyhow.
So they turned him in the meadow
Where the missus kept her cow.

I kept on catching cattle
Till it got to wet that fall.
They hauled forty-six to Payson
The best I can recall.

I come here to Nevada
And never did go back.
But there ainít a week goes by
I donít think of Baldy Jack.

He rolled himself another smoke
And then stared off in space;
His mind in Arizona
On how they won the race.

I told him, "Baldy died at thirty
Shiny, slick and fat.
Nobody ever rode him
Since his run to Poker Flat.

"Heís buried out there on the point
Beneath a tall rock monument.
And Nancyís always wondered
Where her other hero went.

"Iíve heard your story before you see;
I even know your handle.
At least back then and there my friend
You went by Jimmy Randall.

"Iíve rode that awful trail myself;
I know that you ainít lyiní.
My mama named me after you,
James Randall OíBrian."

© 2005, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Monte comments: I spent a winter trapping between the Verde and the Rim.  A canyon and a good imagination got me started on this one.

 

The Old Man

Heís rode for most big outfits
Throughout the cattle land.
Is mighty good with horses,
An all around top hand.

From the ROís in Arizona
To the ZX up Paisley way,
To the Padlock in Montana,
And Nevadaís Circle A.

The Four Sixes down in Texas,
Also the Matador.
The Bug out in Wyoming,
And many, many more.

Heís left a lot of horse tracks
Scattered through the west,
And wherever he was working
He ranked among the best.

But heís getting older now
And just canít stand the grind
When the days get long in summer
And winterís none too kind.

He knows the day is coming
When heíll have to make a change,
But all he knows is cows and horses
And work out on the range.

Heís not a darned bit worried
Nor loosing any sleep.
Come fall, heís going down to Utah
And start in herding sheep.

Where the horses are all gentle
And the ridingís pretty slow
And the wages beats a buckarooís
By a hundred bucks or so.

Heíll end up in some cheap hotel
On social security
Swapping yarns with others like him
About how it used to be.

He wouldnít do it different
If he could start anew;
For all that ever mattered
Was to be a buckaroo.

Heíll be alone in some dingy room
When his earthly race is run.
No family left to mourn him
He didnít have time for one.

Some countyíll have to plant him
In a pauperís grave.
He says your pay is meant to spend
On memories you can save.

And if he gets a tombstone
For an epitaph,
They should carve, ďHe was a hand.Ē
And let it go at that.

© 1970, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Monte comments: I was thinking about some good old boys who ended up at the Star in Winnemucca when this poem came along.
 

The Buckaroo

He rides an a-fork saddle
Pretty badly worn
And that sure as hell ainít rubber
Thatís wrapped around his horn

His chinks are worn and shiny
With the bottoms badly frayed;
The bit his horse is packing
Is a Santa Barbara spade.

Silver conchos on the headstall
Good long bridle chains
Two weeks hard earned wages
In his braided rawhide reins.

His vest is made of sheep skin;
It too shows lots of wear.
And he packs a coil of rawhide
That will reach from here to there.

His high topped bench made riding boots
Are Blutchers made by hand.
His long shanked big roweled inlaid spur
Are the good old Garcia brand.

His horse, a well made thoroughbred
Built to turn or travel
That can trot across a lava flat
Like it was roadside gravel.

Heís big and might snorty;
Sure not a backyard pet.
Heíd be hard to get off center
When the morningís cold and wet.

A tight rolled yellow slicker
Tied neatly on behind.
The McCarty on his two rein
The softest mane hair kind.

His hat a flat brimmed Stetson,
Worn without a crease,
Pretty well protected
By a coat of sweat and grease.

Around his neck he wears a scarf
He calls a wild rag.
And from his left shirt pocket
Hangs a Bull Durum tag.

Thereís a long and ragged mustache
Growing on his lip.
A little bright red Levi tag
Showing on his hip.


This feller that Iíve just described
Might seem strange to you, 
But heís a pretty fair example
Of a high desert buckaroo.

© 1999, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 

 

Monte comments: I wrote this one camped at Wild Cat Well on the Alvord the winter after the Western Horseman magazine had went to the Jordan Valley Rodeo and discovered there was a whole bunch of good hands a horseback here in the Northwest that had never even been to Texas or Oklahoma. Cactus Smythe was around headquarters quite a lot that winter and I pretty well described him except by that time he needed gentle horses.
 

 

The Working Cowboy

A different kind of cowboy
From what most people know
Is the one who does the cow work
Out where the beef steaks grow.

They do it cause they like it
Itís all they want to do.
There ainít no other reason
Why a man would buckaroo.

Some cowboys like to migrate
Like the wild goose.
That way for winter clothing
They havenít any use.

They summer in the northern states
Among the skeeters and the pines,
And winter on the desert
Where the sun most always shines.

Some like to work big outfits
Where itís still done outside:
Where buckaroos ainít ranch hands,
Theyíre hired just to ride.

Some like to work small ranches
That use a man or two,
And will help with general ranch work
When thereís no riding jobs to do.

Some just work the camp jobs
Where they can be alone;
Others work a family ranch
Where they kinda find a home.

Theyíll fool with the garden
If thereíd nothing else t do,
And teach the kids to ride straight up
And how to buckaroo.

The men that Iíve been thinking of
Have crossed the great divide.
I hope they found cow country
Down on the other side.

Iíve done a bunch of thinking and
Think Iíve thought it through.
Theyíve gotta have a special place
To keep a buckaroo.

A place without no farmers
And the populationís thin
Where theyíve fenced the others out
Or else theyíve fenced us in

© 2010, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 

 

Forty Years Gatherin'

When we pulled in off the desert
I was feeling might low
Too stove up to stay the winter
And no warm place to go.

The ground keeps getting harder
And I chill plumb to the bone
When winter comes a creeping
And the cold wind starts to moan

I can't ride those big stout geldings
Like I used to could
And make the outside circles
Like a good hand should.

I'm not so old and feeble
That I get in the way,
But there's men here on this outfit
That help me earn my pay.

I've had a life of freedom
But I guess my story's told
Cause my hair has turned to silver
And my body's getting old.

That night I took my warbag down
And started in to count
My forty years gathering;
It weren't no great amount.

I laid aside some faded jeans
Some patched and worn out shirts
Then a faded photograph
And a memory that still hurts.

My favorite old Garcia spurs
Worn and scuffed with age
They've rode out a bronk or two
But that's another page.

An old time horse hair headstall
Made in the Deer Lodge pen,
A fight and too much whiskey
Once cost me five to ten.

A German Lugar pistol
I brung home from the war
A grim and cold reminder
Of three years of blood and gore.

A sixty foot riata
That Red Olster made.
These youngsters like their nylon
But I sure wouldn't trade.

An old red handled pocket knife
Made in Baker Oregon,
It's whittled on the calf crops
Till its blades are nearly gone.

A pair of chaps that Sandy made
In Burns so long ago.
A loaded quirt that a rat half ate
From Grangeville Idaho.

A nice mane hair macarty
From up Jordan Valley way.
The mate to a spur I lost
Out on the Circle A.

'Ceptin' for my saddle
And my gear out at the lot,
Hell, laying on my bedroll
Is everything I've got.

This pile of junk don't mean much
To anyone but me.
But to me it's priceless,
It's a lifetime's memory.

I'll go down to Winnemucca
And Hole up in the Star
Where everything is handy
And I won't need a car.

My riding days are over
My race is nearly run.
But figure all the fun I've had
And by God I think I've won.

© 2010, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 
 

Monty comments: Not many end up like this anymore, but it used to happen more or less this way to a lot of men. I was lucky enough to get hurt bad enough to quit while I still had time to make another life. This poem, "The Old Man," and several others, while not totally my own experiences, got started when I was in my forties, usually when something happened that would make me wonder where my trail would end.
 

King of the Rattlesnakes

A buckaroo was riding down
A steep and rocky trail
When he met a rattlesnake
Near big as Jonah's whale.

The feller he stepped off his horse
And picked him up a rock.
The snake by gosh quit buzzin
And then began to talk,

"I'm the king of rattlesnakes,
This is your lucky day.
I'll give you a million dollars
If you' throw that rock away."

The cowhand said, "A million dollars,
What good would they do me?"
Could I buy a drink from yonder spring
Or shade from that pine tree?

"I've got a mattress in my bedroll;
My teepee doesn't leak.
The cook cuts his pies in quarters
And we get them twice a week.

"I've got clothes to go to town in
When I hear the sirens call.
And some I can stay warm in
When the snow flakes start to fall.

"My saddle's like a new one;
My other gear's the same.
My horses are gentle
And every one's dead game.

"No, a million dollars
It wouldn't mean a lot.
Ain't no way that it could buy me
What I haven't got.

"I reckon though old rattlesnake
You don't have to die,
If you can give me something
That money cannot buy

"I've never been a roper.
In fact, I'm just the pits.
So I'd like to have a magic rope
With a loop that always fits."

© 1990, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 
 

End of the Trail

I took this job one winter
as I was passing through.
They needed help a feeding
and I'd nothing else to do.

They used four head of horses
to keep the cattle fed.
I tied a gentle saddle horse
on behind the sled.

so I could lass a critter
if there was a need.
That's the way to doctor
if you watch them while you feed.

I'd never worked alone before
where it's up to you,
you have to pay attention
when you're the whole darn crew.

Was supposed to be a batching
in the house they furnished me,
but somehow I ate mostly
with the family.

At the breakfast table
is where we planned our day.
At supper time we talked it over
if plans had gone astray.

The boys helped me on weekends
they thought it was more fun
than keeping up with Dad:
he was always on the run.

I watched them cows all winter
and done the best I could.
That spring when we quit feeding
and the calves were on the ground,
I thought my job was over
and planned to go to town.

Said I was going to Nevada
where I could buckaroo
but would like to come back that fall
when the outside work was through.

The boss said you can't leave us.
You don't have to roam.
If you'll just stay on here
we'll make this place your home.

I'v got the haying and the farming:
I'm running all the time
if you'll care for the cattle
it would suit us all just fine.

You won't do much riding
there ain't that much to do,
but the fencing and the water
take a man or two.

You can have the boys all summer
and they will understand
if the work they do don't suit you
you can talk to them by hand.

I said, "I'll try it for the summer,
but there's one thing I won't do
I won't use a motor bike
for what a good horse otta do."

I met a gal that summer
who liked this kind of life,
and before we weaned the calves that fall
I'd married me a wife.

I began to run the cattle
like they was my own
and it's been just like they promised
I've found myself a home.

© 1990, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Monte comments: Just about everybody who worked on a wagon or with a pack outfit and lived outside most of the time had day dreams 'bout like this.

 

 

How it Really Was for an Outside Buckaroo

From the way they tell it nowadays
you won't believe it's true.
But here's the way it really was
for an old time buckaroo.

Back when a wagon
was a necessity
and not because some youngster
thinks that how it otta be.

When buckaroos were single
not many had a wife.
There weren't no place for wimmen
in an outside cowboy's life.

We didn't wear a cowboy suit:
we wore what we liked best.
Cept"n for our spurs and chaps
we dressed like all the rest.

There always was a riding job
where ever we would roam.
Our saddle was our workplace:
our bedroll was our home.

The way we ate was simple:
our grub was canned or dried.
And when we got fresh garden truck
we'd think we'd up and died.

We had a way of thinkin
I guess was all our own.
It didn't suit most people
with a family and a home.

When we got a few days off,
most went on a spree:
we wasn't really welcome
in high class company.

Whiskey, cards, and redlight girls
was all the fun we had,
but to my way of thinkin
it didn't make us bad.

We worked all kinds of weather
until the job was done.
Being cold ad wet all day
just wasn't that much fun.

We weren't out there for romance
or for living out our dreams.
We were working for the money
the biscuits, beef and bean.

© 2012, Monte McDonald
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


 


About Monte McDonald:

I like to write about things that you wouldnít know unless youíd worked a-horseback ďout where the beef steaks grow.Ē I try to paint a picture with words that shows what Iím seeing and feeling.

I was born in eastern Oregon a long time ago. My Dadís side of the family worked for the Hudson Bay Company and beat Lewis and Clark here. My Momís Grandmother Bleakman was the first postmistress of Hardman, Oregon. One of my cousins has the original charter. When I was a kid, I worked on the ranches in that county and logged some. I kept going south and working on bigger ranches until I thought I was a good enough hand. Then I went to Winnemucca, Nevada, and got a job on the Quarter Circle A wagon and I soon knew that was the kind of ranch work that Iíd been hunting for. Outside buckaroos were hired just to ride. It helped if you could. I worked for all the big outfits through the years. The ones I liked, several times.

Like most riders I had some things broke or banged up pretty bad. Every once in awhile it got so it hurt just to ride a horse, let alone fall off one. The ground kept getting harder, the summers hotter, and the winters colder, until the time came where the pleasure wasnít worth the pain. Iíve had my back operated on and they totaled me out. Iíve spent the last 20 years writing poems and short stories about ďhow it was back then.Ē

Monte adds: Would enjoy hearing from old buckaroos I knew, ones who've heard stories about things I didn't do or anyone who's interested in how it was back then. My email address is montesageratbuckaroo@yahoo.com. My address is  P.O. Box 370, Hermiston, Oregon 97838. 

 

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