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Happy New Year!

Below are some New Year poetry selections, both new poems and favorites from past years.

James Barton Adams
A Cowboy Toast   

S. Omar Barker
 Cowboy's New Year's Resolutions

Jack Thorp
The Cowboys New Year Dance

Janice Gilbertson 
The Right Way

Mike Puhallo
Never Look Back

Rod Nichols
New Year's at Cutter Bill's

Steve Dirksen
New Year

Steve Dirksen, photo courtesy of Mr. Dirksen

You can also enjoy the poems from past years' Christmas celebrations: 20052004, 2003, 2002, 2001, and 2000 and see a list of all those poems and additional New Year poems here.




A Cowboy Toast

Here's to the passing cowboy, the plowman's pioneer;
His home, the boundless mesa, he of any man the peer;
Around his wide sombrero was stretched the rattler's hide,
His bridle sporting conchos, his lasso at his side.
All day he roamed the prairies, at night he, with the stars,
Kept vigil o'er thousands held by neither posts nor bars;
With never a diversion in all the lonesome land,
But cattle, cattle, cattle, and the sun and sage and sand.

Sometimes the hoot-owl hailed him, when scudding through the flat;
And prairie dogs would sauce him, as at their doors they sat;
The rattler hissed its warning when near its haunts he trod
Some Texas steer pursuing o'er the pathless waste of sod.
With lasso, quirt, and 'colter the cowboy knew his skill;
They pass with him to history and naught their place can fill;
While he, bold broncho rider, ne'er conned a lesson page, --
But cattle, cattle, cattle, and sun and sand and sage.

And oh! the long night watches, with terror in the skies!
When lightning played and mocked him till blinded were his eyes;
When raged the storm around him, and fear was in his heart
Lest panic-stricken leaders might make the whole herd start.
That meant a death for many, perhaps a wild stampede,
When none could stem the fury of the cattle in the lead;
Ah, then life seemed so little and death so very near, --
With cattle, cattle, cattle, and darkness everywhere.

Then quaff with me a bumper of water, clear and pure,
To the memory of the cowboy whose fame must e'er endure
From the Llano Estacado to Dakota's distant sands,
Where were herded countless thousands in the days of fenceless lands.
Let us rear for him an altar in the Temple of the Brave,
And weave of Texas grasses a garland for his grave;
And offer him a guerdon for the work that he has done
With cattle, cattle, cattle, and sage and sand and sun.

James Barton Adams


James Barton Adams was born in Ohio in 1843. He cowboyed for a short time in New Mexico and later was a Denver journalist. He published a book of poetry, Breezy Western Verse, in Denver in 1889. 


Cowboy's New Year's Resolutions

As one who's been a cowhand since the wildcats learned to spit,
I've made some resolutions for the comin' year, to wit:
Resolved, to ride a shorter day and sleep a longer night;
To never come to breakfast till the sun is shinin' bright;
To draw a top-hands wages when they're due or quit the job
And hunt a wealthy widow or an easy bank to rob.
Resolved, to quit the wagon when the chuck ain't up to snuff,
To feed no more on bullet beans nor chaw on beef that's tough.
Resolved, to straddle nothin' in the line of saddle mount
That ain't plumb easy-gaited, gentle broke, and some account.

Resolved, that when it blizzards and there's stock out in the storm,
To let the owner worry while I stay in where it's warm.
Resolved, that when it comes my turn next spring to ride the bogs,
I'll don the bib and tucker of my town and Sunday togs,
And tell the boss, by gravies, if he craves to shed some blood,
Just try to make me smear 'em tailin' moo-cows from the mud.
Resolved, that when a thunderhead comes rollin' up the sky,
I'll lope in off my circle to the bunkhouse where it's dry.

Resolved, to do such ropin' as a ropin' cowhand must,
But never when the air ain't free from cattle-trompled dust.
Resolved to show no hosses, and resolved, to swim no cricks;
Resolved, no dead-cow skinnin', and resolved, no fence to fix.
Resolved, to swing no pitchfork, no pick, no ax, no spade;
Resolved to wear my whiskers -- if I want to -- in a braid!
Resolved, to take this New Year plenty easy through-and-through,
Instead of sweatin' heavy like I've always used to do.

As one who's been a cowhand since before who laid the chunk,
It may sound like I'm loco, or it may sound like I'm drunk
To make such resolutions as you see upon my list,
And others purt near like 'em that my mem'ry may have missed;
But gosh, they sound so pleasant to a son of saddle sweat!
And New Year's resolutions -- well, I never kept one yet!
So why make resolutions that bring furrows to your brow?
Let's make 'em free and fancy -- 'cause we'll bust 'em anyhow!

1966, S. Omar Barker,
from Rawhide Rhymes
reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker; further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

The Cowboys New Years Dance

We were sitting 'round the ranch house some twenty hands or more
Most of us Americans but a few from Arkansas
One Dutchman from the fatherland one Johnny Bull from Leeds
A Cornishman from Cornwall all men of different creeds.
They were a sittin' an a arguin' busy as a hill of ants
How they'd get rid of the money they had buried in their pants
That they'd made by hard cow punching working all the year around
From sunup until sundown an' a sleepin' on the ground
Where at night the polecat saunters round the chuck box after grub
And in passing by your hot roll gives your head a friendly rub
Where the rattlesnake lays dormant his fangs are like a lance
'Twas with them that I attended The Cowboys New Years Dance.

The town it was Roswell City old Chaves' county seat
Where they raise fine shorthorn cattle that are mighty hard to beat
Where they send the frail consumptive in search of instant health
And the hills is just a bustin' with their pent up mineral wealth.
Where the wells are all artesian and flow fish and water too
'Least so says the Roswell people so I sorter guess it's true
Where laughin' Joe the darky bust up Mulkey's show one day
By laughin' at prayer meetin' and old Abe he went away
Charles Perry he was a sheriff and G Curry county clerk
Where they caught Bill Cook the outlaw and sent him off to work
Where the moonbeams on the Pecos seem to glitter and to glance
I received an invitation to the Cowboys New Years Dance.

The boys had been invited and they just come in herds
The ladies more numerous had flocked to town like birds
Old Roswell was just crowded there was horses everywhere
Looked like some long procession headed for a county fair
Where everything was orderly as I remember well
Invitations were extended to the Roswell Stone Hotel
The music was a fiddle a guitar and a banjo
And the way those three boys played em'
It was fully half the show the women folks set together
All the boys stood in the door 'till the caller commenced yellin'
For just one couple more
And the music started windin' an' a wailin' like some hants
That had come to cast their hoodo on the Cowboy New Years Dance

The caller was a feller one of Atkinson's men
Who had the reputation of once being in the pen
His outfit sort of gaudy big spurs an' concha's bright
Fringed leggin's and gold buttons six feet about his height.
He was tall an' angular an, a broncho buster right
An' at callin' out the dances he was simply out of sight
Soon he commenced to beller now fellers all begin
Grab your lovely partners an' every one jine in
First bow to your partners now four hands cross an' change
An' chase those pretty footies once around the range
Join once again your partners around the circles prance
It was getting interesting the Cowboys New Years Dance,

Next dance will be the Lancers round up your ladies boys
Cut them all to the centre and never mind the noise
Chase your lovely critters all into the branding pen
Everybody swing everybody else's girl and swing them once again
Dash your line on the nearest filly and drag her from the herd
Re-sume your former places and swing her like a bird
Now Brownfield strike out in the lead all grand right and left
Swing each one when half way round never mind their hat
Now ladies to the centre all hands do se do
Right hand in left hand out swing and let her go
Trail block Jack to your settees for that winds up the lance
My but it was getting furious the Cowboys New Years Dance.

The refreshments came round often till all hands had their fill
Past round uncerimonous like by Broncho Buster Bill
Though his gait was quite uncertain he never lost his feet
And at complementing ladies he was mighty hard to beat
To close up the night proceedings we ragged "Turkey in the Straw"
Till we wore out musicians and they could play no more
We were served with soda water red eye and pilsner beet
And the conversation never lagged 'twas most penetrating clear
'En those who never danced before would dance with all their might
'En the most peaceably inclined citizens went hunting for a fight
So we saddled up our horses drifted homeward to the ranch
With a happy recollection of the Cowboys New Years Dance.

from Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, 1908

Thorp attributed "The Cowboys New Year's Dance" to "Mark Chisholm" in Songs of the Cowboys, but evidence indicates it was Thorp's work.  Mark L. Gardner, editor of the 2005 book and recording, Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, comments:

"The Cowboys New Year's Dance" was one of several songs that Jack Thorp sent to music publisher Kenneth S. Clark in 1934 and claimed as his own.  "The Cowboys New Years Dance" is mentioned at least twice in correspondence between Thorp and Clark, now in the Thorp collection at the Huntington Library.  Here's a telling quote from a letter from Clark to Thorp of June 22, 1934:

As to the verses in the book [1908 edition of Songs of the Cowboys] which
were written by you, can you tell me if the following were written to any
particular tune or if some tune has been set to them: "Chopo," "Pecos River
Queen," "The Cowboys' New Year's Dance" and "Speckles."  If so, I'd be glad
to reproduce them in the new book with credit to you as the author.

Thorp seems not to have had a tune or melody for "The Cowboys New Year's Dance," and Clark, in a letter of July 7, 1934, wrote that he tried to compose an original melody for the song but "came to the conclusion that the best plan would be to publish it in the book to the tune of 'Turkey in the Straw', which fits it perfectly and which, indeed, is mentioned in the song."

Later that same year, Clark did publish "The Cowboys' New Year's Dance" to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw" in his The Happy Cowboy and His Songs of Pioneer Days (New York: Paull-Pioneer Music Corp., 1934), pp. 5-7.  On page 5, under the title of the song, it states "Words by N. Howard (Jack) Thorp."

See our feature about Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys here.


"The Cowboys New Years Dance" is a parody of Larry Chittenden's "The Cowboys Christmas Ball": 


The Cowboys' Christmas Ball 
To the Ranchmen of Texas

'Way out in Western Texas, where the Clear Fork's waters flow,
Where the cattle are "a-browzin'," an' the Spanish ponies grow;
Where the Northers "come a-whistlin'" from beyond the Neutral Strip;
And the prairie dogs are sneezin', as if they had "The Grip";
Where the cayotes come a-howlin' 'round the ranches after dark,
And the mocking-birds are singin' to the lovely "medder lark";
Where the 'possum and the badger, and rattlesnakes abound,
And the monstrous stars are winkin' o'er a wilderness profound;
Where lonesome, tawny prairies melt into airy streams,
While the Double Mountains slumber, in heavenly kinds of dreams;
Where the antelope is grazin' and the lonely plovers call--
It was there that I attended "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The town was Anson City, old Jones's county seat,
Where they raised Polled Angus cattle, and waving whiskered wheat;
Where the air is soft and "bammy," an' dry an' full of health,
And the prairies is explodin' with agricultural wealth;
Where they print the Texas Western, that Hec. McCann supplies
With news and yarns and stories, uv most amazin' size;
Where Frank Smith "pulls the badger," on knowin' tenderfeet,
And Democracy's triumphant, and might hard to beat;
Where lives that good old hunter, John Milsap, from Lamar,
Who "used to be the Sheriff, back East, in Paris sah!"
'T was there, I say, at Anson with the lovely "widder Wall,"
That I went to that reception, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The boys had left the ranches and come to town in piles;
The ladies--"kinder scatterin'"-- had gathered in for miles.
And yet the place was crowded, as I remember well,
'T was got for the occasion, at "The Morning Star Hotel."
The music was a fiddle an' a lively tambourine,
And a "viol came imported," by the stage from Abilene.
The room was togged out gorgeous-with mistletoe and shawls,
And candles flickered frescoes, around the airy walls.
The "wimmin folks" looked lovely-the boys looked kinder treed,
Till their leader commenced yellin': "Whoa! fellers, let's stampede,"
And the music started sighin', an' awailin' through the hall
As a kind of introduction to "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The leader was a feller that came from Swenson's ranch,
They called him "Windy Billy," from "little Deadman's Branch."
His rig was "kinder keerless," big spurs and high-heeled boots;
He had the reputation that comes when "fellers shoots."
His voice was like a bugle upon the mountain's height;
His feet were animated an' a mighty, movin' sight,
When he commenced to holler, "Neow, fellers stake your pen!
"Lock horns ter all them heifers, an' russle 'em like men.
"Saloot yer lovely critters; neow swing an' let 'em go,
"Climb the grape vine 'round 'em--all hands do-ce-do!
"You Mavericks, jine the round-up- Jest skip her waterfall,"
Huh!  hit wuz gettin' happy, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The boys were tolerable skittish, the ladies powerful neat,
That old bass viol's music just got there with both feet!
That wailin', frisky fiddle, I never shall forget;
And Windy kept a-singin'-I think I hear him yet-
"Oh Xes, chase yer squirrels, an' cut 'em to one side;
"Spur Treadwell to the centre, with Cross P Charley's bride;
"Doc. Hollis down the middle, an' twine the ladies' chain;
"Varn Andrews pen the fillies in big T Diamond's train.
"All pull yer freight together, neow swallow fork an' change;
"'Big Boston,' lead the trail herd, through little Pitchfork's range.
"Purr 'round yer gentle pussies, neow rope 'em! Balance all!"
Huh!  hit wuz gettin' active-"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The dust riz fast an' furious; we all jes' galloped 'round,
Till the scenery got so giddy that T Bar Dick was downed.
We buckled to our partners, an' told 'em to hold on,
Then shook our hoofs like lightning, until the early dawn.
Don't tell me 'bout cotillions, or germans. No sire 'ee!
That whirl at Anson City just takes the cake with me.
I'm sick of lazy shufflin's, of them I've had my fill,
Give me a frontier break-down, backed up by Windy Bill.
McAllister ain't nowhar: when Windy leads the show,
I've seen 'em both in harness, and so I sorter know--
Oh, Bill, I sha'n't forget yer, and I'll oftentimes recall,
That lively gaited sworray--"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

by Larry Chittenden, from Ranch Verses, 1893


See our feature on Larry Chittenden here.



The Right Way

When we're risin' from our feather bed, with our spirits warm and rested
While we're sippin' morning coffee, warmin' boots beside the stove
When we think of who we've come to be and all that we've invested
And fond memories flood our morning with true blessings interwove.

As we ready for the day ahead, our senses sharp and crystal clear
We'll choose our trail with confidence, leave no time for ugly doubt
We'll know our destination, have a goal and persevere
We'll gladly saddle up the horses cuz,

                                                                Today we're riding out!


But when we wakin' in our bedroll, 'neath a black and frozen sky
When the chill of flesh and bone and mind crave warmth of blazing fire
When we try to find good reason and our weary conscience asks us why
We struggle to our duties and face the day with no desire

When our yesterday was burdened with the trouble that we bear
And we're robbed of restful darkness by the coyote's frenzied din
When it's hard for us to find the trail we'd left behind somewhere
Thanks be to God, we'll find our way,

                                                             Today we're ridin' in!


If we meet out on the prairie, on the mountain or between
And our hoofprints mask each other's ore the way that we have been
We'll not be lonely wanderers with trail's end unforeseen
One of us is just rindin' out, while the other's ridin' in

2005, Janice Gilbertson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

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

Read more of Janice Gilbertson's poetry here.

Never Look Back

(something might be gaining on you!)

Well good riddance, to Two Thousand Five,
Boy I'm glad it's finally done,
Because for this little wore out cowboy,
It aint been a lot of fun.

I bust my wrist, and then my leg,
seems like I was laid up half the year,
my bank account and self esteem,
both bottomed out I fear!

But I aint one to mope and whine,
about things I cannot fix.
I'm looking forward to good cow prices
and gentle colts, throughout 2006!

2005, Mike Puhallo
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

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

Read more of Mike Puhallo's poetry here.

New Year's At Cutter Bill's

'Twas New Year's Eve at Cutter Bill's,
the old year 'bout to pass.
The boys stood tall as one and all
prepared to raise his glass.

The room was filled with music now,
an ol' piano roll.
It had to do since losin' Lou
with midnight 'bout to toll.

"It don't seem right," a patron said,
" that Lou ain't with us here
a-bringin' in the New Year men
with song and glass of beer."

"You're right as rain," the barkeep said,
"I'll tell you what we'll do.
I'll draw a round and put it down
in mem'ry of ol' Lou."

And so a draft of foamy beer
was placed where all could see
atop that ol' piano roll
where Lou's spot used to be.

The barkeep, Slim, had set the clock
to signal in the year.
and as the stroke of midnight broke
the boys began to cheer.

When suddenly the room went quiet
the music now had changed.
the hauntin' rhyme of Auld Lang Syne
was playin' sure and plain.

"My Lord," the barkeep raised alarm,
"there's somethin' awful wrong.
That tune I swear weren't put on there
and half that beer is gone."

The impact of that bit of news
caught ever' man off guard,
and there and then them full-grown men
found need to swallow hard.

"It must've been," a cowboy said,
a roll don't change it's song,
and as for how it's half full now,
it likely was the foam.

Then sure enough as though on cue
the music weren't the same
that ancient roll returned as old
to Buff'lo Gals again.

Then all the boys began to laugh.
"That was a good'un Slim."
I know ol' Lou would sure approve
the way you honored him."

The boys now took their leave to go
twas time for headin' in.
The New Year here, the barroom clear,
of all that band of men.

The barkeep smiled; he had indeed
played tricks upon the crew,
then got a poke to help the joke
by askin' 'bout ol' Lou.

Ol' Slim was 'bout to laugh out loud
when somethin' struck him wrong,
and at the sight his face went white:
that entire beer was gone.

5, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

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

Read more of Rod Nichols' poetry here.


New Year

The New Year is waitin' down in the corral
for me to toss my loop
I'll approach it with confidence but easy like
don't need to yell or whoop
I'll ease on board that hurricane deck
like takin' eggs from the coop
with a firm hand on the reins
sittin' deep for the next ride
I'll stay calm and watch its ears
to better roll with its stride
the next eight seconds will go fast
hope to keep intact my cowboy pride

2001, Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without

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

Read more of Steve Dirksen's  poetry here

Steve Dirksen, photo courtesy of Mr. Dirksen



Make it your New Year resolution!



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