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

Rusty Calhoun

Queen Creek, Arizona
About Rusty Calhoun

We were saddened to learn of the death of Rusty Calhoun, July 24, 2013. Read Jane
Morton's poems in tribute to her memory here.



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


One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

Recognized for her poem, Shye Anne and the Card Game


About Rusty Calhoun

When we asked Rusty to tell us something about herself, she replied:

I am a fifth generation member of horse and cattle ranchers beginning in Virginia and the Carolina’s before the Revolutionary War,  where they raised gaited horses, carriage and wagon horses, as well as mules for the U.S. Army.

I was raised on the B BAR V Ranch in Clear Creek County, Colorado.  Our Upper Bear Creek Canyon ranch house, at one time, served as the last stage coach stop of the Butterfield Stage Coach Lines before its Denver terminus. We raised Black Angus cattle and Tennessee Walking Horses,  as well as trail and ranch ponies.

Besides ranching, I've operated a base camp and pack string for hunters in the Colorado Rockies.  My husband and I did some limited rodeoing in the early years of our marriage.

I am the Poet Wrangler for the annual Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona and I perform at Cowboy Poetry Gatherings throughout the west as well as other gatherings and festivals including: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Nevada where I’ve  been a featured poet along with  most of the well known cowboy poets. At  the Western Heritage Festival  in Las Vegas, my work was singled out by Baxter Black during one of his performances.  I considered this quite an honor.

It is a great privilege to be able to chronicle our western heritage in poetry and prose.   The cowboy life deserves to be portrayed with  all of the respect   possible.  Of course this does not preclude showing the rich sense of humor that  is at the heart of the cowboy life.  Pranks, jokes, and tall tales are included in every cowboy poet's collection.

When we asked Rusty why she writes Cowboy Poetry, she replied:

In my family and its history cowboy poetry isn't something that began with the Elko Gathering -that's only when many people became familiar with it.   Part of my legacy was listening to my menfolk recite their poems, spin yarns, try to outdo each other with tall tales, and sing songs like "Long haired Preacher's," "Springtime in the Rockies," "Red River Valley,"  "Froggy Went a Courtin'," and any number of old tunes that took their minds off the bitter cold, aching joints, tired bodies and weary minds from worry and overwork.  Those who glamorize and wax philosophical about the hard, lonely, grueling, dangerous, gut-bustin' work of ranching probably ain't never done it. 

Most cowboys before my dad's time ( turn of the century) were illiterate and their poems were the only way they had of sharing their stories.  Cowboy poetry was like the "range newsletter" of its day and cowboys would memorize each others poems and spread them - in this way we learned of the doin's and whereabouts of many of our kin.  That's why true cowboy poetry is filled with references to "Slim" and "Shorty" "Gus" and "Greasy John" - These men sent their messages along through the campfire network.  Much like we, here at the  Bar -D Ranch send our ranchin' stories along to other pards who see and know the truth of our words.  We all know who the real cowboys are. It's a hard life even in this day and age, and we sure need the contact with our pards to stay focused on the trail ahead, and ride it out with cowboy honor and dignity as our guides.  That's why I write cowboy poetry.


Shye Ann and the Card Game

The barroom was all quiet when Shye came on the scene.
Black Bart was playin' poker. She stood there long and lean.
"A long neck beer," she called, and tossed a coin on the bar.
"I rode into town today,  I'm dry from ridin' s'far."

"Don't serve ladies at the bar, pull up to a table.
Better yet, the way you're dressed, we'll serve you in the stable."
"Never claimed to be a lady. Hard work is all I've known.
So before I blow your head off, my leave me alone."

She turned and stared at ol' Black Bart a calm look on her face.
"I'll take my beer to that table, and fill the empty place."
"Don't like ladies at this table," Bart quickly shuffled the cards.
"Then let's admit I ain't one, and both let down our guards."

"Ain't here to waste your time, I'll play a high stakes game."
She pulled out a roll of bills, yea thick, "Winnin's why I came."
Two cowpokes up and the table there were three,
Bart, Shye Ann, and a rancher with a dance girl on his knee.

Bart said he'd be the dealer, Shye asked for a fresh new deck.
The rancher ordered a stiff drink, got the dance girl off of his neck.
They played 'til two in the morning. Shye, she held her own.
Black Bart was gettin' twitchy 'cause her stack of bills had grown.

He was tryin' hard to beat her, but his cards had turned to trash.
Without cheatin', he couldn't skin her of her worldly cash.
Shye watched as ol' Bart stretched, and palmed at least one ace.
The same trick had fooled her daddy, and won Bart, Shye Ann's homeplace.

Daddy had took to drinkin', Ma came down with the cough.
The baby was near to starvin' when Shye saddled, and took off.
She wrapped her chest with a cinch strap, cut her hair real short.
Then rode, and worked, with some drovers, who thought the "lad" a good sort.

So they taught her the game of poker 'til she played her a "manly" hand.
She busted all their flushes, and put her winnings in a can.
Once the tin overflowed, she took it to the bank.
And turned it into greenbacks. She had them boys to thank!

She went out lookin' to find Bart, and face that ruthless cad
Who cheated and robbed the innocent and stole the ranch from her dad.
And now he sat across from her wearing that nasty grin
Thinking that he'd break her, too. That's when the sheriff walked in.

Shye lifted her hand from her pistol grip, she was gettin' ready to fire.
But she didn't want to get hung for killin' a cheat and a liar.
She looked at her hand with four cards drawn, and realized with a rush
That she was one card away from a win, if she got her a royal flush.

She turned to the sheriff and said "Sir, watch 'til we end this game.
I nearly killed Bart for cheatin' but I'd like to see him in pain."
The last card was dealt to all of 'em. Shye ran her hand through her hair.
"I'll just feel better about it when I win here, fair and square."

The rancher called and raised her, Bart up and doubled the bet.
Shye matched his bet, and doubled again, her hands were startin' to sweat.
It was time to turn over their cards, the table held all of her dreams.
Bart rolled over a full house. It was aces over queens!

The rancher sighed and showed his cards he only had two pair.
Aces and eights, "the dead man's hand," five aces a game is rare!
Shye turned her cards, one at a time, her cheeks began to blush.
For there on the table, for all to see, was Shye Ann's Royal Flush!

"I never seen six aces show up natural in a game."
"Someone's cheatin'," the Sheriff said, "and I bet I know his name."
The sheriff grinned as he sauntered up intendin' to cuff ol' Bart.
But Bart whirled 'round like lightnin' and shot him straight through the heart.

The sheriff's body hit the floor 'fore you could count to three,
Shye ducked under the table and bit Black Bart on the knee.
He let out a whoop you could hear for a mile, Shye pushed him out of his chair.
She came onto him like a wild cat, ol' Bart never had him a prayer.

She knocked him out with a left hook, and tied him up like a hog.
Remember, she was a drover, and sturdy as a log.
Then she gathered up her winnings, and saddled her horse to ride.
She'd avenged her family honor, and had justice on her side!

1999, Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Rusty Calhoun was also recognized as

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up

 for her poem, The Appaloosa



Where arctic winds howl
And sweep the Palouse,
The brave Nez Perce Indian
Bred a Spotted Cayuse.

“A gift of the wind?”
They whispered in wonder.
Sired by the lightning,
Born of the thunder.

Eyes wide and wild
They could see all around,
one orb cold blue
Its partner dark brown.

The face powdered white
By the hard driven snow,
Its mane looked like smoke
The tail black as coal.

Ayeee!  This one’s rump
Stands many hands high
with freckles as thick
As  stars in  the sky.

Sprung from those  roots
Came “Frosty,” my horse,
A knot head Appaloosa
The devil its source.

I groomed and fed him
He stared with wild eyes,
And faster than lightning
His temper would rise.

His ears pinned  back
his nostrils held wide,
He whirled round and bit me
Right in the side.

I led him to pasture,
I put out his lick,
I curried his coat
Until shiny and slick.

He kicked me and dumped me,
Scraped me out of the saddle
On low hanging limbs,
I was losing the battle!

At last I decided
to give him his head.
I’d ride Frosty  out
Until he was dead!

With the bit in his teeth
and his wild crazy eyes,
He bucked,  then he screamed,
And reared t’ward the skies.

Just when my seat
was incredibly sore
from slapping the saddle,
He crow-hopped some more.

I flew through the air,
I soared like a bird.
His pawing the ground
was the last thing I heard.

Our wrangler named Payute,
Asked for that horse
“Take him,” I said,
“I’ve sure had the course.”

The next time I saw them
I watched from the porch,
A proud, handsome Indian
Sittin' tall on that horse.

I knew as I watched them,
That some ancient  force
Reunited that Indian 
and Frosty, his horse.
1999 Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

The Butterfield Stagecoach Stop Elegy

When silver was king, and Denver the kingdom
Butterfield built some new lines.
They served the young miners,  as well as the barons,
Bringing them both to the mines.

Every few miles ‘long treacherous roads,
Ranchers  were put to the test.
Changing the teams, repairing the spokes,
and giving the travelers rest.

Corrals full of horses bred for the height
Of eight thousand feet and more!
Trail savvy steeds, up  to the task
Of  hauling the payroll and ore.

Men were broken and women crushed,
In those mountain mining towns.
But the horses and stages were fit for the job,
And  nothing was slowing them down.

The drivers laid bets on how soon they’d arrive,
Paring some time off of their trip.
The wheels would groan,  the reins would slap.
They’d  “yeehaw” and crack  the long whip.

The horses galloped, full-out where they could,
Forging ahead day and  night.
The marks of their hooves engraved in the trails,
From straining with all of their might.

Coming  ‘round curves, high over a bluff.
Hugging  cut banks  on the creek.
Forcing those teams to all pull together,
Neither  man, nor the beast could be weak.

So,  began the tradition of  our mountain horses,
Too powerful  to become “windbroke.”
Their snorting and huffing could be heard for a mile,
And their tales were told by my folk.

My  dad,  a fine horseman, and his fathers before,
Raised their  mountain horses with pride,
And manned the last station for Butterfield Lines,
At Clear Creek,  until it’s last ride.

By the time I was born,  The old ranch was quiet.
No sounds from the lodge or the forge,
The “gee”and “haw” were only  murmured
By Gramps, as he  rocked on the porch.

Whenever I rode those old stagecoach trails,
I saw  hoof- scars in the stone.
Thoughts of those drivers and all of their teams
Made me know that I wasn’t alone.

I forded the rivers,  the bridges were gone.
I followed the rutted trail,
It led me safely over the mountains,
and always back home without fail.

When  I rounded the bluff, and looked down the draw,
There stood our lodge and our barns.
And in that split second I saw plain as day,
The stage drivers waving their arms!

“Hurry,” they’d say, “we need all the hands
To harness these horses with speed.
And tell your dear mother to wrap up some vittles,
Then give these spent horses their feed.”

They shut down  the  Butterfield Clear Creek run,
When silver  prices suddenly  plunged.
But,  on my family ranch , it was easy to see,
Dirt fly,  where the horses had lunged.

Some said “dust devils,” born on the wind,
But I knew better than they.
It was  phantom horses galloping out,
Pulling the Butterfield dray.

And I thank the Lord, near’ every day
For giving me these special  eyes,
That not only register just what they  see,
But  the hundred year old coach on the rise.

Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

For my pal, Pete Stout, who rode these same trails over on the Singin’ River Ranch.

See Rusty Calhoun's bio below, where she tells that her family's Upper Bear Creek Canyon ranch house at one time served as the last stage coach stop of the Butterfield Stage Coach Lines before its Denver terminus.



If you’ve ever been loved by a cowboy,
You’ll know what I say is true;
They know how to love a woman,
And you thank your stars that it’s you.

It’s not in the fancy talkin’
Or tryin’ like heck to impress.
It’s in the deep, honest  carin’
That makes these men of the west.

They learn from the world around them,
That life is precious to hold.
See how they carry the lost calf,
Until it’s back home in the fold?

They know  the hand of our Maker
In the work that they do everyday.
They protect the herd  from danger,
And keep them from gettin’ away.
They  see the glory of sunrise,
Work hard to make things right.
When they tuck back into the bunkhouse
It’s  usually the dark of the night.

In their powerful hands there is healin’.
Rough and scarred,  you can see,
But when  they gently touch you
You know what tender can be.

For the hands that punch the cattle,
And break a cayuse just right,
Can brand a calf  in the daytime
And deliver a foal  in the night.

They stroke  and comfort the skiddish
They guide and lead the lame,
They work to heal the wounded
And  treat the sickly  humane.

There may  be some maverick cowboys
That can’t keep their word to be true,
But  there aren’t very many  bad ones
Believe me their numbers are few.

Most stretch the truth in their “tall tales”
And fib to put on a good show,
But you’ll rarely catch one lyin’
It’s a matter of honor, you know.

When you put all these things together
You see it’s a gift, plain as day.
God gave us these fine, good  men
To  keep us from runnin’ astray.

To be held in the heart of a cowboy,
To hear him call you “m’am”
To snuggle in his big, strong arms
And be his  “darlin’  lamb”

Can make you more a woman
Than you could ever guess,
For when you’re loved by a cowboy,
You’re loved by the very best!

Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

This next poem is a  tribute to Diamond, my cowpony:


Diamond,  Black As Night

Head held high with nostrils wide,
Young and proud,  and strong inside.
Gallopin’ out on hardpan roads
Livin’ up to the western codes.

Lightnin’ blaze upon his face,
Symbol of speed  and  endless grace.
He’d skid and twirl and drop his head.
For cuttin’ and pennin’ he’d been bred.

Hunkered down,  pounding hooves,
Keep ‘em penned!  Don’t let ‘em loose!
Lather flies and  leather creaks,
Workin’ a herd’s not for the weak.

Without a mount, that reads your mind,
Cattle gatherin’s a futile time.
Cowboy and hoss of one accord,
Left, now right!,  get ‘em aboard.

Doggies loaded and headin’ out,
Time for grain and waterspout.
He did his work, he got his pay,
Sweet timothy, and clean fresh hay.

Prance along my black cayuse.
We’re headin’ home, there’s no more use
For pokes and hosses stiff in the rump
With achin’ joints and a couple of lumps.

We had our day my fine, old black
But those old days ain’t comin’ back.
Look proud, and flick that long black tail,
We’ll ride ‘er out to the end of the trail.

Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

When our family ranch shrunk down to 630 acres,  and running the ranch fell
to me,  I wrote this poem:

Barbed Wire

I’ve heard the stories all my life
of how it used to be
when the range was wide as Montana skies
and the cattle and horses ran free.

Granddad talked about his life
before the long drives were over
and  sat with me on the porch
rememberin’ when he was a drover.

“When  men were men,” he used to say,
“there weren’t no girl buckaroos.
Y’all wore skirts down to there
and high topped button shoes.”

But the range was closed when dad was young,
by the time I was whelped barbed wire’d been strung.

Barbed wire’s my life, it’s all I know,
it’s  been surrounding me.
Times I felt like one of the herd,
fenced in and never free.

I learned to work the B-V herd
and bring ‘em down in the spring,
trained by the best to rope and brand,
to talk to the cows and to sing.

I can work a herd,  help drive ‘em in,
bring ‘em on down to the chutes,
load ‘em in and head ‘em out
then scrape the dung from my boots.

And I’ll tell you  there ain’t no way
you dad can work this place,
cause you got old, had no sons,
only had me to chase

Them skitterish cows that run and hide
and get all lost in the breaks.
So what’s it matter that I’m a girl?
I was born with what it takes.

This place ain’t huge like it used to be
but  I can hire and fire
and we’re in the black in spite of the fact
I’m a cowgirl who’s fenced in with wire.

Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Dedicated to Lass Rivers

Just up Yankee Creek from the B-V spread are two rock promontories - one on each side of the canyon.  One looks like an eagle and the other an Indian  maiden.  I guess you know what they're called.  And  the old timers said that  the Indians told a legend of a beautiful Indian maiden who fell in love with an eagle - he peeped, she leaped . . . and the rest is in my poem.



I just saw him.
There, on the hill.
It’s oh, so long,
But he watches me still.

Time was when
We both were young.
Our expression of love
Was the song we’d  sung.

I’d call to him
From the highest peak.
He’d fly o’er me
And swoop to seek

The honey of love
upon my lips,
Where he’d rest his beak,
And wrap my hips

In his shiny wings
Of  sleek grey feathers,
And lay  me down
Upon mountain heathers

And embrace and hold me
‘Til I lost my breath
From the want of him
Over all of the rest.

“I love you more
Than the stars in the sky,”
I’d whisper to him,
Then he’d reply

“And I love you
‘Til the end of time
‘Til the gods who made us
Change their minds.

And make you an eagle,
Or me a man,
Then you’ll fly with me
Or hold  my hand.”

“An Indian maiden
Is all I can be.
But,  I’ll close my eyes
And try to see

The world you know
From high above
Floating on air
And singing our love.”

I closed my eyes
And  heard him say,
“We’ll be together
  One of these days.

But until then
I’ll hold your heart
And watch to see
That we never part.”

My heart  took wing
He screeched,  “Not now!”
I began to sing

One sweet note
As  high as the peak
One passionate kiss
  Upon his beak.

I spread my wings
And leaped to the sky
He flew close beside me.
I started to fly!

For a moment in time
We dipped and flew,
The music of my heart
Was all that I knew.
We rose on the drafts,
Kissed and made love,
Then  swiftly I plunged
From high above.

He screamed  and cried
As I dropped to the ground,
“A trick of the gods
  And now she is gone!”

I’m  turned to  stone,
A part of this place.
I know that I’m loved
For all time and space.

As the wind whistles
softly over my face,
It calls to Grey Eagle
Who flies to this place.

He pecks at my lips,
Cries and shrills.
He guards and waits,
Beckons and wills

That from this stone,
I’ll be set free,
To fly  with the eagle
Who watches o’er me.

1998 Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Dancin' On My Toes

Got all het up
And took a chance
Goin’ with Poot
To a Saturday Dance.

I pressed my jeans
With the seams just so.
Polished my boots
Down to the toe.

Put some foo foo
Behind both ears
And brushed  my hair
‘Til it brought tears.

Out on the floor,
dancin’ real sloooow,
Poot  missed a step
And stomped on my toe.

These dang boots
I been wearin’  for years
Have pinched up my toes
And brought  me to tears.

My big toes are pointin’
Off to Jones,
Got arthur- itis in
All them tiny bones.

My little toes are curved
To fit down in that point,
And every single toe
Is swollen  in the joint.

It may be time for
A big ol’ steel toed boot,
So I can  dance the two step
With my ol’ pardner Poot.

Even though I still think
Hug dancin’s mighty sweet,
Gotta keep that clumsy  man
Off my sorry feet.

I’m gettin’ to that point,now,
Fashion’s got to go.
Can’t have no big galoot,
A dancin’ on my toe.

1999 Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Cowboy Hats

Out in the west we wear our hats,
for a lot of different reasons.
Some for work, and some for show, 
but mostly we follow the seasons.

Jaunty and low,  the brim just so
means he has some pride.
Straw in the summer, felt in the fall,
and he’s sure to catch a bride.

Those Montana boys like to wear ‘em wide,
and the Texans,  high and mighty!
But the Colorado pokes have all the style,
And they wear 'em neat and tidy.

We Colorado gals can pick our men
not by his manly size,
not by the fit of his tight blue jeans,
but by the hat he wears over his eyes.

It never fails to fan our tails
when a tall one comes in sight
with his best boots on, his jeans all pressed,
and his hat pulled down, just right.

The man I met never showed his sweat,
his band was gleaming white.
A fancy scarf wrapped ‘round the crown
........with both eyes out of sight.

At the  Valentine  Dance he wore those pants
that fairly made me shy.
When he slowly looked up,  to take me in,
it was to the side - with just one eye.

He winked, I blushed,  he tipped his hat.
We danced to the cowboy band.
From that moment on, and for the rest of our lives
he held my heart in his hands.

Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

For Larry, my  forever Valentine - the man who held my heart
b. 1936 - d. 1993

Where Colorado Mountains Touch the Sky

My mind takes me  to the place of our dreams,
High in the Rockies where cold water springs
From little rock crannies
Where the Columbine grows
Beside a small pool,  that nobody knows.

Perfume of the pines,  sweet on  the air
Alpine  meadow  flowers, entwined in my hair,
Placed there as gently as an angel’s touch
By the calloused hands I loved so much.

The taste of your  lips pressed to my own,
There in the mountains our true love had grown
We’d lie on our backs , staring up at  the sky
To watch soft, fluffy clouds meandering by.

Or behold the stars that appeared in the blue,
Close enough to pick, from the heavens for you,
And put them into your gentle blue eyes,
To see them twinkle like the lovely night skies.

As you laid me down on a pallet,  so  cool,
and placed on  my finger a hand plaited jewel
of braided pine needles so strong it held fast.
An unbroken promise that our  love would last,

And so it did,  from that time to this
And now I must give you my parting kiss.
By God, dear cowboy, our ride was the best!
Now,  you’ll  lie down for this long final rest.

I’ll join you one day at our spread in the sky,
And we’ll watch His dear angels fluttering by.
But not even heaven could  ever compare
to our Colorado home with its clear mountain air.

1999 Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Rusty noted that her poem above, Cowboy Hats was "For Larry,  my  forever Valentine - the man who held my heart
b. 1936 - d. 1993"
She said of this poem, "
Same guy, same girl, same ranch." 

The Photo Album

A 1940 picture of Daddy
Holding his newborn babe.
Cradled in his strong hands, a daughter.
He cherishes the life that he’s made.

A lady, is how he’ll raise her,
All satin and laces and curls.
Dolls, ruffles, and tea sets,
Nothin’s too fine for his girl.

A 1942 picture of Daddy
Holdin' Miss Scally-Wag.
Little fingers in Daddy’s pocket,
Pullin' on the Bull Durham tag.

A 1946 picture of Daddy
Ridin' his big Walkin’ horse,
And taggin' along right behind him,
His darlin’ daughter, of course.

She’s ridin’ out hell bent for leather
Tall in the saddle like dad.
Old cowboy hat pulled down over her ears.
Best little partner he’s had.

A 1955 picture of Daddy
Watchin’  his little girl
Ridin’ like hell ‘round those barrels.
No satin, no lace and no curls.

He’s prouder than punch of this daughter,
More than he’ll ever say.
Sorry he never had  a boy child?
Naw, look at her ridin’ that bay!

A 1960 picture of  daughter,
Two years after dad died.
She’s ridin’ his Walker and workin’ the ranch.
She never broke down and cried.

‘Cause she knows her Daddy’s sittin’
On a spirit mount,  right by her side.
No, she wasn’t Daddy’s fluffy, prissy girl.
She was his strength, his life and his pride!

Rusty Calhoun

This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Rusty says this poem is  
For my Daddy,  Doc Emerson 
1898 -1958


Happy Trails, Dale Evans, 1912 -2001

Childhood's End

Our innocence is gone
Our childhood dreams are dust
The cowboys that graced the silver screen
Will no longer ride with  us.

Hoppy, Gene and Roy are gone
And now, Miss Dale is, too
The Lone Ranger left,  some years back
Now, our heroes are so few.

Guess there’s Arnold also Bruce
There’s Norris and there’s Sly,
But those heroes seem to  kill and maim
And never bat an eye.

My heroes all wore white hats
Only drew their guns to scare
They saved the damsel in distress
Then bowed their heads in prayer

Silver, Trigger, Buttermilk and Champ
No longer ride the range
Like they did with me and my horse Hap,
My God, this world is strange.

Yesterday my cowboy heroes
All wore shiny stars!
Now bad guys seem to out-number the good
And you’re apt to get shot in your cars.

Guess I’ll go to the movies
And watch the good guys ride
Across the range and through the draw
I’ll be gallopin’  by their side

For I never want to let go of
The things that I know best
One of which is,  they just don’t make ‘em
Like they did in the Golden West

2001 Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

This poem was written in honor of Dale Evans. See other poems dedicated to her here.

When The Cowgirl's Heart Broke

Dry eyed she stands, straight and proud.
No one knows she's under a cloud
Of heartbreak and loss, heavy as lead.
She dusts off her boots, and holds up her head.

She's been bucked and thrown, a time or two
But never stomped 'til she was black and blue.
It hurts like her bones are all twisted and broke.
Her song is dead, it comes out like a croak

From deep in a throat that is filled with dirt.
Her insides burned out, she whisks off her skirt.
She'll tie her long hair up in a bow.
No wind will fluff it to remind her so

Of his calloused hands as he stroked her hair,
And whispered his words to the "lady fair."
He pledged his love, and carved their names
Then took her favors, and laid his claims.

His letter came, "So, Sorry," it began.
"Goodbye, to you, but thank you ma'am
I'll always love you, remember that,
But bein' tied down ain't where it's at."

The sound of her crying will be heard on the wind,
But her own soft voice holds her sorrow within.

The tears she sheds are like rain from the sky.
They'll splash and dance 'til nothing is dry.

The sharp thunder clap heard on the storm
Is her breaking heart! She'll never be warm.

Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Ranch Music

You hear it on the breeze,
The whisper of a song.
The notes tease your musical soul,
And you try to sing along.

It's the quakin' of the aspen trees.
The rushin' of a stream.
The screechin' of the hooty owl,
A mountain lion's scream.

It's a nicker or a whinny
That gently lets you know,
All's right in the upper meadow
When the chinook breezes blow.

The richness of the melody,
In the sound of your ranch's soul,
Comforts the babies born to the place
And soothes you when you're old.

Listen to high country symphonies
That echo off canyon walls,
No matter where, in the world, you roam
Your home place always calls!

So, hear it in my voice
And feel it in my song,
My Rocky Mountain ranch
Is the only place I belong.

2001, Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.



I Buckerooed With Belle Starr

Cattle stampedes don't scare me none,
Why, I'll start one up, just fer the fun!
Mean brahma bulls? Easy as pie!
Kick 'em hard and spit in their eye!

Bustin' tough broncs? I never "whisper".
I bite off their ears, I'm rough as a blister.
What made me so bold? Comp'ny I kept!
Rode with wild women I'll never forget.

Bravest of all? A ramrod name Sal
Rode for the brand, on the Rockin' Bar L.
When Sal punched them doggies,she punched 'em right out!
A left to the jaw, a right to the snout!

I once robbed trains with "Buckshot" Dot
Took the mine's payroll,and never got caught.
Ran a saloon with Big Nose Kate
Drank hard likker,danced until late!

Then rode on to Cripple Creek
Buckerooed with Belle Starr, for most of a week.
We rode 'em hard! Put 'em up wet.
The way that we cowboyed, is talked about yet!

Women of the West? We're wild 'n free!
And I'll break down and cry, if you disagree.

2001, Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.



Gaunt, stooped and dressed in black
He tipped his hat to me,
Those haunting dark and flashing eyes
Were all that I could see.

He spoke of wealth and money,
How happy I would be
If I sold off my land to him,
And cut these horses free.

That's when I noticed his pallor
And tiny diminutive horns
Peeking from his ashen hair,
just where the cranium forms.

Then he smiled and clutched at me,
And I could smell the sulphur.
He penned new figures on the page,
And made another offer.

"It's only desert, and worthless as hell,
Sign here and you can go
Back up to those mountains that you love,
The land of drifting snow."

I looked back at the Santans,
The beautiful Valley below,
The Estrella Mountains Silhouette
Against the golden glow.

The proud sahuaro cactus,
The cholla  "teddy bear,"
The sage, jimsom, and prairie grass,
The soft sweet desert air.

I pulled away and bade him go.
"My spread is not for sale!"
"You'll be sorry, wait and see."
He turned and flicked his tail.

My neighbors couldn't resist him,
Now suddenly down the draw
I hear the sounds of bulldozers
Ripping the aroyos raw.

This pristine, fertile desert;
The Valley of the Sun,
Is exploding with heavy construction,
And very few cattle run.

They say that  it's called progress,
But I know it's damnation.
It's Lucifer still trying to destroy
The Glory of God's creation.

2001, Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.




Gunshots echo down  the canyon,
Most any time of year.
Daddy's ancient thirty ot six
has downed an elk or deer.

We head for the barn, and wait.
We sharpen skinning knives,
Prepare to dress and quarter
This sustenance for our lives.

The angus cattle that we raise
Rarely get to our table.
They're sent off to the feedlots.
Rich ranchin's just a fable.

You struggle with your mortgage.
You suffer from the heat.
The winter kill can break your back,
And wildfire's got you beat.

By the time you make your payroll,
And cover all your debt,
You still have to call the farrier
And pay the local Vet

You keep your herd as healthy
As it's possible to do.
So, the  heifer that looks so tasty
Goes in another man's stew.

So, here's Daddy's "poached" kill
Field dressed in a stall,
And the rancher's family, once again,
Will make it through 'til fall.

We'll eat steak and roast and liver
Mom'll make mincemeat galore.
Fried, and dried, and baked, and boiled
That elk will be no more.

Cookie will make the pemmican*
A flavor I'll never forget.
The government robbers from the BLM
Haven't skinned us ranchers yet.

One of these years, soon I hope.
Cattle prices will rise.
That's when we'll eat some of our beef
Like them overstuffed, rich, city guys!

2001, Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Rancher's Lament 

Mountain ranchers raised their herds
Challenged by the heights,
Thwarted by the weather, then
Cut off from ranging rights.

The BLM has soundly stuck it
To many a thriving spread
And over  the years that I recall
Most brands are retired, or dead.

Buffalo Park hasn't seen a bison
Since my grandad was a lad
And Redstone is now a "guest ranch"
They fired the cowboys they had.

Hiwan Ranch once spread for miles,
Their herds worked by rangy  pokes,
But now  those meadows only hold
Log homes for city folks.

The old Liston Lodge has been leveled
And in it's place a boutique
Filled with paintings of "real" cowboys
Riding 'long  Upper Bear Creek.

They no longer ride the  ridge
 in search of their  bawling calves.
The "have nots"  have all been replaced
By hundreds of duded out "haves."

And the one little street in our town
That once heard the jingle of spurs
Is now "all boots and no cattle"
With Range Rovers for him and for her.

2001, Rusty Calhoun
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.




14_Year_old_Doc.gif (57763 bytes)  

Read Rusty Calhoun's story of ranch life in our Western Memories feature. (Pictured: Rusty Calhoun's father Doc Emerson on their Colorado ranch.)

See Rusty Calhoun's Christmas Eve White-Out, Cookie's Christmas Puddin', and When the Animals Talk, posted with the other Holiday 2000 poems.




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