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About Ralph Colvin Wambaugh




Croppie was an Indian pony,
   That lived many moons ago,
In South Dakota and Nebraska,
   Twenty five years, or more, I know.

He was a scarred veteran,
   When in Eighteen Ninety One,
Father bought him from a trader,
   And his new life began.

That was shortly after,
   The Battle of Wounded Knee,
And a survivor of that battle,
   He was thought by some to be.

Perhaps a Sioux war horse,
   Left riderless by fallen Brave,
A secret known only to him,
   and by him carried to his grave.

He bore all the markings,
   of a veteran of his time,
One who had seen a lot of action,
   In the years of his prime.

His tongue was slashed,
   To hold a buckskin rein,
A practice then common,
   Among Indians on the plain.

His ears were cropped short,
   For reasons unknown,
Perhaps a tribal mark,
   Having a meaning of its own.

A Three Bar brand on his thigh,
   Which I understand meant,
That he'd once been owned,
   By the U.S. Government.

Strawberry Roan was his color,
   With white star in forehead,
Just as gentle as a kitten,
   And by a child, could be led.

In fact, this is the horse,
   That taught me to ride,
And carried me many a mile,
   Across the prairie wide.

In sun and wind, and rain,
   We herded cows together.
We always had our work to do,
   No matter what the weather.

And from him I also learned,
   That it is really quite true,
That animals have body and mind,
   Just like humans do.

They have their aches and pains,
   And their worries too.
And they do appreciate kindness,
   Just the same as you.

They learn to love their masters,
   When they are treated right,
And respond to every attention,
   No matter how slight.

Thus Croppie lived his life,
  Just as many humans do,
With his trials and sorrows,
   And perhaps some pleasure too.

At last there came the time,
   When his working days were past,
And he was turned out to pasture,
   To a life of ease at last.

He grazed in luscious meadow,
   And dozed on sunny hill,
Till at last he came to rest,
   As all earth's creatures will.

His grave is near a hilltop,
   Facing the setting sun,
A resting place most fitting,
   For the life of a horse, well done.

© 1962, Ralph Colvin Wambaugh
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.



Old Baker

Come all of you Horse Lovers
   And gather around a spell,
For I have a good horse story,
   I'd like right now to tell

Now talk about your lessons,
   Bein' learned the hard way,
It's not the nicest way to learn,
   But it sure makes 'em stay.

If you live throughout the day,
  You'll be wiser when you're done,
And you won't need refreshin',
   After you've had Lesson One.

And one of the best teachers,
   I ever came across,
Was a little old animal,
   We called a "Saddle Hoss."

He taught me some manners,
   You might say; "With a smile,"
That, I think, are going to last me,
   For a good long while.

It happened in Nebraska,
   Many, many years ago,
When I was a punk of a kid,
   And there was lots I didn't know.

Out on a Sandhill ranch,
   In Cow Country you see,
Where work comes the hard way,
   And the air and water are free.

"Old Baker" was the horse's name,
  How he came by it I wouldn't know,
But he sure was handy with his feet,
  And Mister! Could he go?

His color was coal black,
   His build, just medium size,
A bit of white on one front foot,
   And a touch of gray around his eyes.

He was cut out for a saddler,
   And evidently had done his time,
He could run like a Jack Rabbit,
   And easy turn on a dime.

It really was a thrill to ride,
   A saddle horse like that,
For every time he set his foot,
   He knew exactly where he was at.

He carried you so easy,
   Just like you weren't there,
And you felt as comfortable,
   As you'd be in a rockin' chair

Well, he got shipped off to town,
   I never knew the reason why,
To play buggy horse for the ladies,
   For he still was plenty spry.

He should have made a good one,
   If they'd a treated him right,
But they put the harness on wrong,
   And cinched it up too tight.

I know the ladies meant no harm,
   But they sure done him wrong,
Soon they had his back all sore,
   And it wasn't very long,

Till he wouldn't let 'em touch him,
   And run 'em out the stall,
They couldn't once get near him,
   Nor put hands on him at all.

He just give 'em to understand,
   He wasn't any fool,
He'd learned a lot of things,
   They didn't teach in school.

So they put him up for sale,
   And sent him on his way,
That's how it happened,
   He came to the ranch to stay.

We turned him out to pasture,
   To rest him for a spell,
And soon he was getting fat,
   And doing very well.

But his back was slow to heal,
   And the flies kept it sore,
So we had to be careful riding,
   Not to hurt it any more.

He didn't follow the rest of the herd,
   But sort of hung around the place,
Guess he just wanted to be handy,
   In case we had a job to face.

He turned out to be a real Cow Horse,
   Didn't need a bridle to guide,
Just jump on his back,
   And Mister, you were off for a ride.

Well, haying time came along,
   And the way we did things then,
There was a lot of work,
   For both horses and men.

At night we turned the horses out,
   To graze and rest you see,
Then when morning came,
   The wrangling job was up to me.

I had to be up at the break of day,
   No matter what time I'd hit the bed,
To get the horses rounded up,
   Corralled, harnessed, and fed.

So when the first ray of light,
   Spread across the bunkhouse floor,
I jumped into my clothes,
   And headed for the door.

Then hurried to the gate,
   And let myself outside,
And there stood Old Baker,
   Just a waitin' for his ride.

The old boy sure liked his fun,
   And gloried in the morning race,
Just to round up those young ones,
   And give them a merry chase.

He didn't need any coachin',
   Could have fetched 'em in alone,
But I always liked to have,
   A little fun of my own.

For at that time in the morning,
   I tell you, the air was grand,
There's nothing more refreshin',
   Anywhere in the land,

Than a ride in those hills,
   In the morning clear and cool,
To whet your appetite for breakfast,
   There is no better rule.

So I jumped upon his back,
   And we headed for the range,
If we couldn't find 'em in those hills,
   I sure would think it strange.

We climbed from hill to hill,
   A lookin' for some trace,
'Till we reached Old East Point,
   The highest hill on the place.

As we came over the top,
   There they were, sure enough,
All scattered out, a granzin',
   A rugged bunch, and tough.

Well, I let out a yell,
   And Old Baker started closin' in,
In a moment there were no horses,
   On the spot where they had been.

With their heads in the air,
   And tails a hangin' high,
They took off like greased lightin',
   Aimin' to bid us goodbye.

But Old Baker wasn't foolin',
   I knew from the mood he was in,
Their luck was plumb against 'em,
   For he was out to win.

A buckin' and a kickin',
   A bouncing like rubber balls,
They went down over those hills,
   Like water over falls.

Old Baker pulled no punches,
   He was gainin' all the time,
In jumping holes and yuccas,
   He could put those feet on a dime.

As for me, I was settin' pretty,
   A ridin' easy and free,
Enjoyin' every minute,
   As happy as could be.

Till we came to the last pitch,
   Before hittin' the valley floor,
I slipped down over the spot,
   Where Old Baker's back was sore.

The old boy let out a squeal,
   Ducked his head, and made one jump,
Up into thin air I sailed,
   Then came down with a mighty thump.

Landed in loose sand of course,
   But it wasn't so soft at that,
For I had butterflies in my eyes,
   And hardly knew where I was at.

"If you don't mind your manners,
   And sit just where you should,
You're going to get piled,
   And I hope it'll do you good."

"Now get up where you belong,
   And don't get funny with me,
For you're going along,
   To corral those horses, you see."

I understood, plain as day,
   What the old boy had in mind,
He was giving me another chance,
   The one in a million I'd find,

To prove to him I'd made a mistake,
   And it wouldn't happen again,
An understanding that sometimes comes,
   Between horses and men.

He stood still as I got to my feet,
   Climbed upon his back, and then,
Off like a streak he took,
   Right after the herd again.

The chase soon was over,
   And every horse in the pen,
All was peace and quiet,
  Old Baker, —had done it again.

© 1962, Ralph Colvin Wambaugh
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.





  About Ralph Colvin Wambaugh (1891-1970)

Ralph Colvin Wambaugh's great nephew, David Jarrell, writes:

Ralph Colvin Wambaugh was born in a sod house near Alliance, Nebraska in 1891.

He worked on the one-section homestead during his youth. He attended school and for a time became a clerk for the railroad.

He signed up for duty in WWI but the war ended before he was called. Between the wars he farmed and raised a family. During WWII he worked in Alaska with the Civilian Army Corps of Engineers. After the war he settled in Banks, Oregon and farmed until retirement.

In retirement he took time put down his remembrances in poems. They were self-published in Random Thoughts in Rhyme (1962), News-Times Publishing. He passed away in 1970.




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