Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

near Tucscon, Arizona
About Norm Popp




The Last Cowpoke

There was an old cowpoke from Tucson
Who wanted to die with his boots on.
For his hope was, you see,
That 'twas workin' he'd be,
When the time came for his final move on.

His belongin's all fit in his bedroll,
Some old clothes and a few bucks all told,
In a worn pair of jeans,
He hadn't much means,
For great wealth was never his goal.

You might think he'd not much to show
For those years in the heat and the blow,
For the cattle he'd chased
Were long gone to steaks
And his health was the last thing to go.

His knees crippled and fingers all curled up
Like the leather enclosing his stirrups.
And his arms could no longer
Pretend they were stronger,
Like a flag he was nearly all furled up.

And he knew every mornin' when dawn broke
It could be the last one for this cowpoke.
And he hankered to be
On the range runnin' free
Herdin' stragglers out there in the scrub oak.

When he died ridin' fence he was lucky,
Far out there where he'd wanted to be.
And we found him, of course,
Where he'd slid off his horse
In the shade of an old mesquite tree.

It's been a year now since he left us,
No grumblin', complainin' or fuss.
He's back with his friends
Where the dry river wends
Through the brush and the sahuaro cactus.

And sometimes I think I still see him
On the dusty horizon so dim,
The last of his kind,
Like a burr in my mind,
Is it any wonder I miss him?

2004, Norm Popp
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Legend of Speckled Chief

I had an appaloosa once who gave me lot's of grief.
Because of all the spots he had I called him "Speckled Chief".
He  had a head that was too large and ears that were too short.
So passers-by would laugh at him and tease him just for sport.

He had one curious habit that I could not figure out;
The sight of just one mailbox made him dance and jerk about.
He'd eye that box with U.S. Mail writ large upon its side,
And never fail to make a fuss, gol darn his orn'ry hide!

And more than once I lost my seat when he was sideways bound.
I learned the where of ev'ry box for miles and miles around.
You'd think he couldn't be worth much, so homely and deformed,
But put him near a three rail fence and, oh, could he perform.

He was a jumpin' fool, you see, a talent very rare;
And though he didn't look like much, could he fly through the air.
He hadn't been to school, of course; he jumped au natural'.
He put to shame more costly steeds considered nonpareil.

His form was less than perfect and his landings often rough,
But he always cleared the highest point by more than just enough.
He seemed to know instinctively how far it was across.
I never had to guide him much, he knew he was the boss.

It got so folks around me knew in truth what Chief could do.
I could'nt place a bet on him, the wagers were so few.
I trucked him clear across the state to where he was unknown.
It was a fancy hunting club, all posh and overblown.

Chief's tack looked kind of shabby next to all their fancy gear.
My borrowed duds and half-worn boots said they had nought to fear.
Arenas vary, that's for sure and this one was ideal,
For every jump was painted fresh and everything looked real.

Some poles went down, a rider too, and the pace was very fast.
The thoroughbreds went first, of course, and our turn was the last.
We cleared the poles, the brush, the bricks, and every jump but one.
We had the shortest time of all and I was having fun.

Just thinking of the bets I'd made with all these stuck-up folks,
And spending money left and right when I suddenly awoke.
The final fence was in our sight and Chief must surely see
A mailbox on one corner post where none should ever be.

The three bar fence before us stretched.  It wasn't all that high.
It might as well have been a mile for Chief let out a cry.
He leaped aside to get away and landed with a wail.
He was, of course, disqualified, but escaped the U.S. Mail.

2005, Norm Popp
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Musical Steed

I don't know what led me to choose a
horse like that old roan appaloosa,
And why did I ever
(It should have been never)
Name a horse after John Phillips Sousa.

The answer is really quite easy.
Though some horses honk when they're sneezy.
It's no tale I've spun,
There is only one
Whose back end is musically breezy.

It's truly amazin', that sound,
The volume alone will astound,
How the bowel of this horse,
By itself is the source,
Of a trumpet that rattles the ground.

Though clever, he is no Rasputin,
On one point there is no disputin'
He's the best in the land,
A one horse brass band,
There's no doubt his forte is tootin'

The trouble with fame, as you know,
Is that it continues to grow,
When known all around,
As the source of that sound,
I knew then that he'd have to go.

So I put a small ad in the News,
In hopes that somebody would choose,
To buy my cayuse,
And put to good use,
His talent for playing the blues.

Too anxious to wait for a good time,
I confess I sold him in the meantime,
For some cash underhand,
To the school marching band,
He blows them away now at half-time.

So the next time you see our parade,
Like me, you'll think you've been repaid,
For all the sour notes,
From this eater of oats,
Who is leading our town cavalcade.

Now against him you'll not hear a word
Since his musical debut occurred,
With his tail in the air,
For the greatest fanfair,
That our staid little town's ever heard.

For there's no finer sight to behold,
One that never could have been foretold,
As he leads the school band,
Past the reviewing stand,
Making sounds like the trumpets of old.

2005, Norm Popp
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



I saw a most intriguing sight,
Just north of Bullhead city,
A pair of vacant cowboy boots,
Along the shoulder, gritty.

One was upright, standing tall,
It's mate reclined beside;
One toe north, the other west,
Content there to reside.

I couldn't help but wonder,
How they'd come to find that place,
And where indeed had gone the feet,
The body, or the face.

For surely someone must have worn,
Them to that very spot;
The one perhaps who wore them,
From the store when they were bought.

And what transpired in all that time,
What folly, what excess?
How many trails had they trod down,
To failure or success?

And were they witness to misdeeds,
And choices made in error?
How often did they carry him,
To joys beyond compare?

I saw the shiny spots where bony,
Ankles rubbed them smooth,
Against the painful stirrup edge,
His tender flesh to soothe.

Were they replaced by leather new,
Or simply cast aside?
Or did they fall from someone's truck,
An occasion never spied.

Is some poor cowboy limping now,
In boots not broken in,
Lamenting every scuff and tear,
And soles worn bare and thin.

Though his old boots were shabby, true,
They fit him like a glove,
Unlike the brand new handsome ones,
He's not yet grown to love.

And does he walk with tender stride,
To ease his painful toes,
And grin with easy cowboy grace
And drawl, "That's how it goes."

And what about those boots so worn,
The ones no longer pretty,
Do they still rest beside that road,
Just north of Bullhead City?

2005, Norm Popp
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



About Norm Popp:

I live now in a retirement community south of Tucson.  I've been here going on five years, although I'm originally from southern Michigan.  I worked for 35 years as a tool and die maker for General Motors and have been around horses off and on since I was a boy.  Two years ago I went back to work as an Instructional Aide for multiply handicapped middle school students where my interest in poetry was re-kindled.



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