Your comments and additions are always welcome.
With great sadness, we learned of the passing of T. R. Stephenson from his friend Jim Fish. T. R.'s friend Tim Graham wrote to us with details about funeral arrangements from Debra C. Hill, a long-time friend of T. R.'s, and Tim wrote "We have lost a part of the West."
Jim Fish shared this information: TR was born on March 26th, 1935, in Victoria, Texas. He graduated from Sonora High School, in Sonora, Texas, in 1952 and maintained relationships with his high school friends right up to the evening before he passed away.
Debra Hill wrote: TR was a grandpa to me after my own passed away. He was an incredible historian and storyteller...His stone at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery will read "TR Stephenson, Texas Outlaw Poet." The military honors ceremony was beautiful...
And in a later note, Debra wrote: Texas Outlaw Poet TR Stephenson rode through the gate Sept. 20, 2002. An historian of Texas, singer, songwriter and poet, TR left a grand legacy of words about the west that will stand as a tribute for ages... We have received many calls as to where to send donations instead of flowers. TR was wealthy in friends and words, but not worldly riches. His funeral is yet to be fully paid for and his wife Margo and his sister Evelyn could use all the help they can get. Please send your donations to Margo Cramer Stephenson, 1405 CR 3820 San Antonio, Texas 78253.
Debra sent the following two poems she read at TR Stephenson's funeral, one by him and one she wrote for him:
It's hell to be a warrior
in a land that's growing tame,
The good times have all passed and gone
and nothing is the same.
My old friends are buried somewhere
no tombstones with their names,
I guess I'll just die of old age
in a land that's growing tame.
A young man fights for glory,
then he fights for gold;
When he wears the hat of wisdom
he holds on to his own soul.
His arms grow weak, his spirit strong;
it is a terrible shame,
To wind up an old warrior
in a land that has grown tame.
You sleep at night with memories
of things that might have been;
Of places that enthralled your heart,
and the love of pretty women.
Now you wake and the night is there,
nobody but you to hold it;
No arms to help you pull it in,
no one to help enfold it.
If someday you find me here,
asleep upon a sandhill;
You'll know I found the truth,
the only way the brave will.
I would not trade my trail of dreams,
let all forget my name;
Remember me as a warrior,
in a land that grew too tame.
© TR Stephenson
Somewhere West of San Antone
Gone to the Mountains
Sometimes the mountains call so strongly
that I shall never know peace
Until I stand where Heaven begins
and the bonds of this life cease.
I do not wish to leave you;
I've not but words to leave behind.
I pray, when you read, you'll remember me,
as strong and loyal an kind.
I rode the trail for which I was called,
in my mind regrets have no place;
The adventure was there for the living,
my heart says I ran a good race.
So listen for me in the laughter
that comes easy among true friends;
In the sounds of men and horses
beneath a sky that has no end.
And know that I loved you one and all,
when you hear music or smell sage in the air,
Dance hard and live for the moment,
my spirit will always be there.
Celebrate life and love and the West;
be fearless and funny and bold;
Please take the time to finish
any stories that I've left untold.
Past the meadow where blue bonnets grow,
near the creek by the gate;
My horse stands rigged for an easy ride,
and I can no longer wait.
So tell them I've gone to the mountains,
to the land I loved and called my home;
That I ride with the wild Texas wind,
somewhere west of San Antone.
© Debra Coppinger Hill
With love for TR, who gave me words and love and taught me how to be an outlaw.
Texas Outlaw Poet TR Stephenson and Debra Coppinger Hill
When Debra Hill won the Academy of Western Artists' Best Female Poet Award in July, 2002, T. R. wrote to us: "I'm as thrilled as if I had won the dang prize!"
Debra Hill provided the background for the following poem, written by David Kelley: "Jorton (pronounced Horton) is TR's alter ego...a javelina who was a roving reporter...we (TR, Margo [his wife] and I) came up with him in a hotel room in Texas one night when we were all so sleep deprived that all we could do was giggle. TR had many characters who appeared in his conversations on Jorton, who traveled the Cowboy Poetry circuit and who were great friends with all. TR was the recipient of the Jorton Javelina Hog of the Year Award. We will miss the laughter, but Margo and I intend for Jorton to live on."
In June 2001 T. R. had written to us: "I was on the 1st internet radio show featuring cowboy poetry. It was from KOKL in Okmulgee OK. Debra Hill was on it too...She
called and talked an hour about our Javalina, Jorton. We brought him to being one night in a Ft. Worth motel, or maybe it was Dallas. Now he is a minor celebrity here in the Southwest."
The Bandit and the Hog
T.R. was a bandit... but, maybe T.R. weren't his name.
He never sought to add a wit to likely growing fame,
But a feller's got to pay bills, it's the name of the game.
There's places, here and yonder, he ought not venture still,
For knowledge that a wayward star might lurk on yonder hill.
Laying low's the order of the day, he don't look for a thrill.
His ticker tells a woeful tale for youngun's keen to try,
The life of a highwayman; a yearning of a youthful eye,
For the pounding grows faint and foretells the time draws nigh.
But, T.R.'s fiery spirit wards off a phantom hooded soul.
Cheating death yet another of the outlaws vaunted role,
And all the while a wary eye is on St. Peter's scroll.
His hideout is the open plain, a desert for his home,
With critters and varmints in the cactus and sandy loam.
At peace with himself and others with no more need to roam.
A javelina named Jorton, is his vision of a child,
Raised from a little piglet, he grew up meek and mild.
But T.R. taught him all the ways his folks knew in the wild.
The bond grew strong, but ties were cut and Jorton left to stray,
And cast his seed within the tribe along life's narrow way,
Until there's little Jortons around ol' T.R.'s feet today.
Would he do things different were life like a rolling log?
Would he try harder to come out from amidst the darkened fog?
Naw,..now who could have fought against the Grandpa of a hog.
© 12/99, David Kelley, All Rights Reserved
Linda Kirkpatrick wrote: "I did not know him that well but felt like I had known him forever. The last time that we had talked on the phone we did discover that his ancestors and mine had been in the same part of Texas at the same time."
With words of wisdom he spoke to me
This outlaw friend of mine.
He told of how our paths had crossed
In another place and time.
He spoke of the old cowboy days,
And what they did back then.
He told stories of our ancestors,
I'd love to hear them again.
His voice was that of knowledge,
Wisdom, wit and grace
His words of rhyme were full and strong
But delicate as old worn lace.
Our ancestors met and gave their sweat
To this rugged Texas land.
They prepared for us a wonderful place
And we have carefully placed our brand
They are all gone now along with TR
But across the Jordan they wait.
They'll all be there to welcome us
When we arrive at that Pearly Gate.
We want them to live forever
And we hope so that they will,
But then one day they go to find
That Mansion just over the hill.
We will miss this ole Outlaw
As on this final trail he will ride.
We know that he'll be welcome there
Across that Great Divide.
September 27, 2002
The Texas Outlaw
He said he was an outlaw, I had no reason to doubt it
His gravely voice and attitude, certainly did shout it
He played an old 12 string guitar, like the one Willie plays
He used six strings; it was enough to hear old cowboys in the haze
He shared his music, he shared his words, then he shared his soul
He told me of old warriors, and how it feels to get old
Of living and riding in a wild land, a land that has now gone tame
Not having any strength to fight, but too much spirit to quit the game
You haven't heard of him you say, I'm surprised, he is a legend
A sure enough, by God, Texas Outlaw, singer, poet and my friend.
Remember, "Sometimes outlaws ain't evil men.
Sometimes they're just men whose ideals went astray"
© 2002, G. Casey Allen
Our thanks to Debra Hill who first told us about this poem and said of Casey Allen and T. R. Stephenson: "They were great friends... and kindred spirits."
Rod Nichols shared his tribute:
Daybreak came early, and day's end was late;
no change in a routine grown old
'til late after supper we got a surprise
as somethin' began to unfold.
Done with our jawin' and joshin' and such,
tweren't nuthin' to do 'cept turn in.
when T.R. just stood up and gave an "Ahem!
Can I have a word with you men?"
This caught our 'tention as somethin' brand new;
and not what we'd come to expect.
We hunkered right down and kept our mouths closed
not knowin' just what would come next.
"You boys here all know me," ol' T.R. went on,
"and Lord knows I know you boys too.
and bein' this might be our final go-round,
I'd like to share somethin' with you."
Now T.R. was one man we all cottoned to:
he stood out among that there crew.
And he'd never asked us to lend him an ear
so we stayed to hear the man through.
Seems he had written a poem for the time
the long trail would come to an end.
But hearin' the words as he read them aloud,
a spell sort of fell on the men.
In words that were honest and ones that we knew,
he started to speak of this life.
The scenes that he painted not only ran true,
they proved that ol' T.R. was right.
He'd captured the meaning of cowboy for sure
and each of us nodded a head.
None ever done it in quite the same way:
we'd all understood what he'd said.
I'm writin' this mem'ry by campfire tonight
set low neath a blanket of stars,
Callin' on thoughts of a man I respect
that ol' cowboy poet, T. R.
© 2002, Rod Nichols
Read T. R. Stephenson's poetry here.
There are additional tributes to T. R. Stephenson at the:
Academy of Western Artists site, Empty Saddles, here
Cowboys~n~ Cowgirls site here
Honored Guest Mike Puhallo sent this sad news: "For those who have not heard, Bud McKague, cowboy poet, and member of the BC Cowboys Hall of Fame, passed away at 8pm Sunday June 16, 2002 less than twenty four hours after receiving a standing ovation for his performance in the Saturday night feature show at Pincher Creek Alberta Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He was a great cowboy, a great poet, and a good friend. His final performance was a superb rendition of two of his favorite Banjo Paterson poems and like the great race horse Pardon, ol' Bud was there at the finish!
On The Passing of a Poet
(In Memory of Bud McKague -- March 30, 1935 - June 16, 2002)
The passing of a mighty king,
leaves no greater hole.
For poets craft each song we sing,
and shape the nation's soul.
A brave ballad of a bygone time,
or the beauty of her face,
He sculpts his masterpiece in rhyme,
sets each polished gem in place.
His was an ancient call,
and this gift he did not choose,
For Bards are driven
one and all,
by a most relentless muse!
To carry forth the tale of man,
such is the minstrel's lot,
that great stories and emotions
should never be forgot.
Troy and Athens lie in ruin,
Phoebes and Rome are gone,
we may have forgotten the minstrel's tune
But the poets' words live on!
The passing of a mighty king,
Leaves no greater hole,
For poets craft each song we sing,
and shape the nation's Soul!
Bud McKague was a great poet, I will remember all my life.
© 2002, Mike Puhallo
Mike Puhallo says "Bud was cowboy to the bone, BC saddle bronc champion in 1960, he hunted wild horses and followed the rodeo circuit until he was well into his forties and raised and trained race horses right up to the end. He was one of the originals who kept cowboy poetry alive at a time when no one else seemed to notice. In his rodeo days he earned a reputation for being able to recite cowboy poetry for many hours on end without ever repeating himself. In those days tape decks and cd players were unheard of and car radios did not have much range but Bud could recite rhymes from Calgary to Denver and hardly ever take a break."
A photo and biography of Bud McKague are posted on the BC Cowboys Hall of Fame web site. The biography tells that he was "born in Porcupine Plains, Saskatchewan, where he learned poetry from his parents who recited poetry as family entertainment" and that he was "the first BC Cowboy Poet to be invited to Elko, Nevada."
His recitation of "Rodeo Cowboy's Prayer" from that 1993 Elko appearance is included on a recording, The Cowboy Poetry Gathering:
The liner notes say: "Bud McKague is an old rodeo hand from Peachland, British Columbia, who showed up last year with a head full of his own poetry, old classics remembered from his youth, and a good supply of what he calls 'the finest blended Canadian trail shortener' -- all of which he shares with his friends, the cowboys and poets he encounters. This year he attended as one of the invited poets, and 'Rodeo Cowboy's Prayer' is one of his own."
Our old pard Keith L. Adams sent us the sad news that beloved poet Jon Pentz of Morgan, Utah died May 27, 2002.
Keith told us "Jonny was well known around this area for his poems and tall tales. He was a big influence on me and what I'm trying to do. I spent some time with him at his camp on Lost Creek where he would go to think and reminisce about his life on the range and about his family who he cared about very much... I liked Jonny a lot and will miss his smile and sense of humor." Keith added "I knew him well when I worked in Morgan, Utah for two years about 1977 till about 1980. I left Morgan to work in Layton, Utah. I saw him a few times after that at his camp in Lost Creek but then we went our own separate ways but I always considered him a good friend."
Jon Pentz' obituary said "Jon was a natural born poet, he wrote many poems, and the words of each came right from his heart." It also told that he shared 44 years with "his sweetheart and soul mate, Ethel Rose (Doddie)" who had died just 16 days before he did.
Jon Pentz performed at the second Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1986.
Keith sent this tribute:
My tribute to Jon Pentz. Cowboy Poet & good friend.
About twenty some years ago,
An old sheepherder I got to know.
He was working for the city at that time,
But he would write a poem at the drop of a dime.
He brought some by the shop one day,
And I made some copies that I still have today.
I only knew him for two years or so,
But in them two years our friendship would grow.
I found out one day just by chance,
That at one time he worked on a Nevada ranch.
The name Red came up one day,
And Spanish Ranch is where he would stay.
My father-in-law the ol buckaroo,
Told me he used to work there too.
Tuscurora was mentioned too,
But the two of them each never knew.
He spent his time out on the flats with the sheep,
The ol buckaroo with the cattle where it was steep.
Although they never met one another,
I could sense a bond that was like no other.
I was lucky to have known these two,
The sheepherder & the ol buckaroo.
Jon Pentz gave me a poem about a night out on the plains,
With the high winds and all the rain.
He said it really gave him a scare,
And he was wondering what he was doing there.
The rain turned to snow and he couldn't see,
He had no idea where the sheep might be.
When he got back to the tent it had blown down,
Oh how he wished he was back in town.
He got the tent put back up all right,
Then he found one dry match and lasted through the night.
He sat out the storm for a day or so,
And he swore back to Morgan Valley he would go.
For two years Jon Pentz was a friend of mine,
A friendship I hope will last for all time.
I've got more stories I could tell about Jon,
But I've got to give them more thought now that he's gone.
Jon Pentz passed away May 27th at the age of 67,
To join his sweetheart waiting for him in Heaven.
She passed away only sixteen days before,
And now they'll be together forever more.
© 2002, Keith L Adams
Lariat Laureate runner up Janice Mitich wrote:
It is with deep sadness that I tell you that Carol Malnar, fellow cowgirl poet, joined the Lord's brand on Tuesday, April 9, 2002 at her home in Paulden, Arizona after a long battle with cancer. Her husband, Rick, two sons, Levi (now in the Army) and Shiloh (senior in high school) were with her along with family members and friends.
I am enclosing a poem that I wrote Thursday night until midnight, just before leaving for the services Friday in Chino Valley. Carol was buried in Prescott's Pioneer Cemetery about 20 feet from Sharlot Hall's grave.
My twin sister Joyce, Carol, and I went up to Cedar City, Utah, a couple of years ago to a cowboy poets rodeo. We were gone about 5 days and had such a good time. We always exchanged small Christmas gifts at Wickenburg's "Cowboy Christmas" gathering.
A Prairie Rose
January 7, 1952 ~ April 9, 2002
Like the lowly prairie rose, ya spread beauty 'crost the land,
Concealin' strength and courage which made ya a top hand.
A sweet smile, an honest heart, a soul of goodness and of grace,
Clad in cowboy boots and leather, not calico or lace.
Callused hands with gentle touch broke horses by the score
Who'd quit pastures at a lope hearin' the call they all adored.
A loving husband, Rick, who gave ya enough rein
To raise two boys and record it all. The poetry remains.
How we laughed and cried, told stories of workin' on the range.
If we had the chance, doubt there's anything we would change.
In yer final battle, ya fought with all yer might
'Til a hoot owl called yer name just before midnight.
We gathered on a Prescott's hilltop where pioneers lie at rest
Watchin' Dazzle, led by Rick, pass, with dignity, one final test,
Breakin' trail up Iron Springs Road, holdin' folks enthralled,
To yer final restin' place near the poet, Sharlot Hall.
Roses draped yer saddle that was cleaned with lovin' care
Yer turquoise inlaid spurs sparkled in lilac-scented air.
We shared our love of horses, of all who'd gone before,
Placing trust in God, as He leads us through that Final Door,
That He's given us a heaven filled with paints, 'n' roans 'n' grays,
Who gallop up ta greet us as we start that Endless Day.
A Christmas star hangs by my desk. The center an embossed rose.
The last gift from my pard, Carol, a genuine Prairie Rose.
For Carol Malnar, the Prairie Rose, and cowgirl poet who was called to Heaven on April 9, 2002. and laid to rest at the Arizona Pioneer's Home Cemetery. Please take care of Smoke, Checkers, 'n' Champ, 'til I get there.
© April 12, 2002 by Janice E. Mitich. Picture Rocks, AZ. 85743 All Rights Reserved. Special Permission for personal use given to the Malnar Family.
Janice Mitich contributed a biography of Carol Malnar, and with the kind permission of her family, a thoughtful selection of Carol Malnar's fine poetry. A page devoted to her life and her poetry is here.
From Nona Kelley Carver:
In Memory of a Prairie Rose
Written for Carol Malnar, my friend.
She was a ray of sunshine to those who knew her well.
And in God's wondrous great outdoors was where she chose to dwell.
She loved her ponies running free. She watched their supple grace,
And bid them come again to her, and let them touch her face.
To the mountains in the springtime, beside the rippling streams,
She'd go to ride where splendor invades one's hopes and dreams.
And in the whispering forests, where birds send forth their song,
Her heart was full of happiness, as she would sing along.
She knew the joy of young love, of her man and family.
They brought her so much pleasure. That was quite plain to see.
She treasured time spent with them. She did not choose to leave
When her time on earth had ended, for she had seen them grieve.
But God had seen her struggle, and from pain He did release
Her from her daily trials into everlasting peace.
He sent his angels for her when life was ebbing low,
Though those who loved her dearly were sad to see her go.
She was an inspiration to those who knew her best,
And may God give us comfort as we lay her down to rest.
God sees beyond tomorrow. Perhaps that's why He chose
To draw into His presence this lovely Prairie Rose.
© 2002, Nona Kelley Carver
From Lariat Laureate runner up Rusty Calhoun:
Wickenburg! Cowboy Christmas!
Carol would be onstage
A tiny cowboy poet
Dressed in brown and beige.
The colors of the desert,
The ones she wore the best.
Long hair flowing down her back,
A woman of the west!
Ardent look upon her face,
Words aimed straight at you!
Pictures from her cowboy heart,
You knew she felt them, too!
A little glisten in her eyes
Talkin' 'bout "long ago."
Or a tribute to her family ranch
Over in New Mexico.
She knew the desert, and its wealth,
Her words spun from its gold.
She painted pictures of its critters,
Horses brave and bold.
You couldn't simply hear her words,
You felt them in your bones.
Now she's gone, and left her pards
But we're not left alone.
We have her words down in our hearts,
Of one thing we are sure,
She's waitin' in cowboy heaven
Where we'll ride again with her!
© 2002, Rusty Calhoun
Last time I saw Carol was at the K Bar L.
The sun was setting, and it highlighted her beautiful hair
and made her glow. That's how I'll always remember her -- radiant!
Our pard Joseph A. Harris Sr. touched our lives briefly but meaningfully. His moving account of the poem he wrote for his wife speaks volumes about this kind and generous man. He was loved very much by his family, and his son told us "He was a great man, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather."
Until we meet again Joe, thanks for making the world a brighter place.
All his pards miss Bob E. Lewis, a fine man and fine poet who died April 24, 2001. When Bob's friend Louie Carle died in 2000, Bob wrote us "It was an awful sad day in my life when I got the word about Louie. He was my inspiration about my health, my religion, my family, my friends and yes my poetry. . . I always thought Louie would be the one doing the writing. . . I hope Louie keeps the pot full and hot and that the Good Lord sees fit for me to join him. God Bless each and all of you."
And you, Bob. There should be a mighty fine poetry gatherin' goin' on up there now.
Bob's pard Lariat Laureate runner up David Kelley wrote this tribute:
AN OLD COWBOY'S TIME
I beheld the man, and shook his old hand
like many times in the past.
Without spoken word, the thought still heard,
these times he knew were his last.
His face ne'er showed a glossy pink glow
but his eyes wanted for more.
I scarce heard him say, "I'll be on my way,
and wait for the wife on a distant shore.
For this much I know, the place where we'll go
is a mansion by God's own strong hand,
A place made for me, I can't wait to see
a beauty there we'll ne'er understand".
Hands no longer rough, he tries to be tough,
his last fence finally mended.
Asking those close, 'bout those he loved most,
making sure things would be tended.
The arms that should ride, hung frail at his side,
faint gestures now arduous chore.
We read from his rhyme, 'bout a happier time
and we always pleaded for more.
His cowpuncher way, never questioned I'd say,
he's a "shore 'nuff", the old adage goes.
Though his time will pass, his memory will last,
his legacy continues to grow.
He spoke for us all, that some might recall,
western folklore and the cowboy way.
Heritage and honesty, hard work and modesty,
he tried living it every single day.
So, don't be too sad, it ain't all that bad,
these old cowboys don't ever die.
Their spirit lives on, in poem, verse or song,
And his pards will pass it on in due time.
Ol' Bob was my friend, seems he's always been.
He's not known to say a word unkind.
So he'll shore not fail to leave a clear trail
He knew some of us weren't too far behind.
In memory of Bob Lewis, a good cowboy poet
and friend to all.
© David Kelley, April 2001
Bob's pard First Lariat Laureate Rod Nichols wrote a Christmas poem that honors the memory of Bob and Louis Carle.
Bob E. Louis was recognized as one of the 8 Seconds in the first Lariat Laureate contest. When Bob decided remove himself from competition in further contests, we asked him to be our Honored Guest, so that in some small way we could give recognition to his fine poetry. You can read more about Bob and his poetry here at the BAR-D.
Bob E. Lewis expresses the feelings of many when he says "It was an awful sad day in my life when I got the word about Louie. He was my inspiration about my health, my religion, my family, my friends and yes my poetry. I know he has a loving family, many, many friends and a loving God. I wish I was half the man that he was. I hope Louie keeps the pot full and hot and that the Good Lord sees fit for me to join him."
Friend Rod Nichols wrote the following:
I'm thinkin' tonight of you, Louie,
as I sit here with pen in my hand,
rememberin' that old was-been cowboy
I met when I needed a friend.
I remember the doubts I was havin',
not certain if people would read,
but you were the first to say somethin'
and that meant the whole world to me.
Later when things would seem darkest,
and hope seemed somehow to be gone,
your humor and way of respondin'
were the reasons I kept holdin' on.
I guess this should be about cowboys,
and that was the thing I had planned,
but the Lord knows you're more than a cowboy,
He knows when He's met a real man.
So I'm thinkin' tonight of you, Louie,
as I write these few words as a friend,
may the Good Lord look out for you, pardner,
til we meet on the trail once again.
Friend David Kelley wrote the following:
A cowboy left in peaceful sleep, and well miss the ol Was Been.
Hes now in the arms of the man upstairs, his long awaited friend,
With all new body young and firm, a new heart bold and strong.
New eyes to view his Lord, a new voice singing all day long.
longside the muddy banks of Jordan, hes blazed a worthy trail,
Its left to us, to follow his lead, and well not surely fail.
Hes cleared some bumps, and took some lumps, so wed not be at loss,
And all with one intention he was looking for a place to cross.
Hes had some help along the way, and he loved her it was clear.
Shell miss him more than all, but Kelly, hed tell you, have no fear,
That parcel of dust that Louie called home, returns to dust again.
Hes not there, this I know, of my Cyber Cowboy friend,
His appointed time has come and gone, in Hevn hell ever be.
One day soon, us cowpokes will meet again, just you wait and see!
See, old cowboys never die, they just go to work for another brand,
And wait for another time to give a new greenhorn a helping hand.
See ya Louie,
We Love You
The Texas Crew
And friend Janice Chapman wrote this poem to honor Louis A. Carle:
Our Friend Went Home
One winter day as the snow was pelting down,
We lost one among us who should have worn a crown.
A favorite among his fellow men,
A true upright and worthy friend.
A man, a legend in his time
Through a helping hand, a word in kind.
But Jesus took him home one winter day.
Our Friend went Home, we had to stay.
We have our memories, each his own
Of this worthy fellow man we each have known.
Perhaps one day we'll all be there,
And once again his love we can share.
For the memories that linger here with us
Are an added bonus, a definite plus.
And we thank our Lord for sharing him,
And that each of us knew him as a friend.
For he was a treasure on loan to us,
And in his poetry he shared his life with us.
And now he's sharing Heaven's throne
With better spirits than the ones he's known,
Although he'd never trade us in,
He counted all of us a friend,
But this year our Friend went home,
An honored guest, one of God's own.
© 2000, Janice N. Chapman
Janice Chapman wrote: A special thanks to David Kelley for letting me know about us losing Louis Carle. The last poem Louis Carle sent to me, which I received just five days before he passed away, was:
3AM Night Herd
These sleepy eyes won't close
The tired won't go away.
The herd is bedded down--
So ends another day.
I pull my blanket 'round and try.
I want to sleep but sleep won't come.
I rise and drink a cup of milk
And hope that it may help me some.
I think of pards who once rode by my side.
Most scattered to the wind or have moved on.
So many of my friends have up and died,
How many days until I, too, am gone?
As I write I think of you
And how you keep the west alive.
I thank you for the poems that you write
And for the friendship that shall long survive.
Goodnight, Old Pards, I'm goin' to try again
To get the sleep that I so sorely need.
Goodnight, sleep well, dream pleasant dreams.
Think now and then of other pards—and me.
Theoldwasbeencowboy Louis A. Carle
© 2000, Louis A. Carle All Rights Reserved
Louis A. Carle was honored here at the BAR-D for his poem Winter of Life, a poem we think showed his special spirit in his love for his dog Freckles. At the time Louis told us "The poem was written as a prayer when Freckles was dying." You can read it here, where it is accompanied by his wife's beautiful illustration. There is more of Louis A. Carle's poetry, with more illustrations, on that page.
In 2006, we received this touching note, which is posted with permission:
... I was searching on the internet for the birth year of my grandpa, Louis A. Carle (for a Christmas present for my dad—and the information was needed without his knowledge...so as not to spoil the present!)...and the search led me to CowboyPoetry.com. Louis A. Carle was one of the poets
included; the specific page I was led to was a page in honor and memory of him. He passed on December 20, 2000, when I was 15. I just wanted to thank you... I love my grandpa more than I can say—to describe how much he is missed would never do the actual feelings justice, so I won't even try.
I am ashamed to admit that I never really read much of his poetry when he was alive—I never realized how talented he was. Though I was 15 when he passed, there was still much that I didn't understand about relationships and the bond of family. I wish I could sit and talk with him again, just for an hour or so. Since he passed I've read his words and truly appreciate the "rhyming autobiography," as he called it, that he's left for his kids, his grandkids...and all the rest to come.
What I really appreciate however, are the words of the poets who took the time to write about my grandpa, "the old was-been cowboy." The heartfelt words of these individuals —his friends— revealed a different side of my grandpa that I was never able to experience because of the dynamics of a grandpa-granddaughter relationship. These poems showed me the Louis A. Carle that was a poet, a friend, a "was-been cowboy," a father, and most importantly, a God-fearing man. When he was alive I only really saw him as my grandpa...oftentimes not realizing that he was once a kid like me, once in school, once an athlete, once a soldier, once in love, four times a daddy, even more times a grandpa, always a child of God, always a cowboy. What I read helped me to see all those things that I was unable to see, as I was only a selfish kid, when he was physically here on earth with us.
I know that "old was-been cowboy" is up there on that Heavenly range...praising his Creator while roping cattle or breaking a wild horse ...and that brings me a joy that I am incapable of expressing. I can't wait until I see him again....I appreciate the space to give my grandpa the commendation that I never had the chance to give him while he was alive... my family and I appreciate and have been touched by CowboyPoetry.com, through the life of my grandpa. I hope you understand the importance and necessity of family—remembering to thank the Lord every day for the things he has given you and for the people he has placed within your life. Thank you again for everything you cowboys are doin'! I wish you all the best while celebrating the birth of our Lord, during this Christmas season.
Texas poet Rod Nichols read Julie Carle's note and responded:
Louie was my friend and mentor. After his passing, I determined to do what I could to keep him with me in my poems. "Ol' Lou" appears in many of my poems, including "Christmas At The Bunkhouse," "Christmas Comes to Linecamp," Christmas Eve At Cutter Bills," and so many more. God bless his granddaughter for finding the side of Louie that so many of us knew.
Some of the poems Rod mentions are at CowboyPoetry.com, and others are at his beautifully designed site:
"Christmas at the Bunkhouse":
"Christmas Comes to Line Camp":
"Christmas Eve at Cutter Bill's":
Cowboy Miner produces some of the finest books of classic and contemporary cowboy and mining poetry. Publishers Janice and Mason Coggin generously shared information with us, particularly for our feature about Bruce Kiskaddon. So many will miss Mason Coggin, who passed on in November, 2000.
Just a few words from an obituary in the Sierra Vista Herald draw a quick portrait of this well-loved man: "Mason was a man who loved life and enjoyed people. He was quick on the draw with a greeting, a smile, sometimes a joke, and, most likely, a poem. If you knew him, he called you a friend, and when he did, you knew he meant it."
Mason Coggin's daughter Diane says "I have not met many people like my father, but those I have, touch the lives of those they meet in a real way."
And indeed Mason Coggin touched the life of his friend Buckshot Dot (Dee Strickland Johnson), who wrote "Mason was once Director of Mines in Arizona and has been extremely important in southwestern mining, cowboy, and historical circles for many years. He was a talented reciter of the works of respected mine and ranch poets. Mason was a member of a bunch of illustrious organizations -- and was one of small group of entertainers known collectively as "Trail Dust." . . . For me his most outstanding feature was that he was my friend."
Buckshot Dot wrote the following poem for Mason Coggin, which we reproduce with her permission, in remembrance of this special man:
Sad Day for Trail Dust
It's a sad day for Trail Dust.
All riders bow their heads
and sit hatless in the rain
That streams along our weatherbeaten faces.
We say a quiet prayer from grief
and deep appreciation
For one who rode among us
and made our lives better and brighter
For having ridden there 'long side us
God go with you on your journey, Mason
and may your trails be smooth --
-- and clear of dust.
Friend Janice Mitich wrote this fine tribute:
The Coggin's Test
I was camped out in the desert underneath a velvet sky
Listenin' to the lonesome songs of coyotes as they cry
Starin' at windblown, fiery embers rivaling the stars
When I thought I heard a voice of someone callin' from afar.
I walked out from the campfire's glow and looked into the night,
My horse raised his head and nickered pullin' the picket line up tight.
Then I heard the sound of hooves pickin' their way over rocky ground
When a shadow of a man and beast broke free from the background.
"Hello the camp," a voice called out. "Yer fire looks mighty welcome.
I've been prospectin' for six months and am gettin' kinda lonesome."
I poured him some hot coffee to help wash down the trail dirt.
Seemed he'd been all over Arizona, from the rim country to the desert.
Mason Coggin was his name, and we talked while the moon topped the rise.
I played my mouth harp, while he recited poems he'd memorized.,
About tyin' a knot in the devil's tail, ridin' horses that couldn't be rode,
Tales of men dyin' in stampedes or searchin' for the mother lode.
He knew the works of all the great, of Prescott's own Gale Gardner,
Kiskaddon, Curly Fletcher, and New Mexico's Omar Barker.
He took me back to a time when men lived by their word alone,
And were judged by the cattle, horses, and the grass that they owned.
Time passed unnoticed as shimmering stars pirouetted through the sky
The rhythm of his words seemed like a mother's lullaby.
I finally banked the fire, checked the stock, and rolled on into bed.
Mason wished me a good night and pulled his hat down o'er his head.
At daybreak I awoke alone with no trace of my evening's guest.
Yet, I know he was no phantom, but flesh and blood I will attest.
These many years I've pondered the reasons why he picked my fire,
And heard tales of other visits by this rhymin' desert squire.
So, if yer camped out in the desert underneath a velvet sky
Listenin' to the lonesome songs of coyotes as they cry
Starin' at windblown, fiery embers rivaling the stars
When ya think ya hear a voice of someone callin' from afar.
Then ya hear the sound of hooves pickin' their way over rocky ground
And a shadow of a man and beast break free from the background.
Welcome him to your camp, for by Mason you've been blest
And thank the Lord above, 'cause you've passed the Coggin's test.*
* A Coggin's test is a blood test for horses to see if they have equine
encephalitis. I employed it as a play on words.
In memory of Mason Coggin, who joined the Lord's wagon on November 7, 2000. He was an expert on placer gold mining having evaluated more than 100 properties around the world that produced millions of dollars in gold and wrote two books on mining history. In the past ten years Mason turned his talents to western poetry, becoming and accomplished poet, raconteur, author, editor, and publisher. But foremost he became a dear friend. Mason, your wide smile, sense of humor, and magnificent recitations are deeply missed.
© June 7, 2001 by Janice E. Mitich
See our feature about Mason Coggin here.
Leroy Watts says of Wayne Naylor: "He was a good poet, and a delightful performer. He was a true gentleman in every respect, and was a typical example of one who lived the true cowboy code."
Jimmi Naylor wrote much of the poetry that her husband performed. She told us that she had never realized that "he had touched so many people with his humor and his poetry" and she shared this poem:
At a rodeo sometime back,
The night wuz hot and clear.
From out of nowhere that I saw
This young lady did appear.
She wasn't dressed in cowboy attire,
Can't believe she had the gall.
Wuz dressed to go to a beach some where,
To play some volley-ball.
She wore Wranglers that were cut off to short,
And she'd cut'um off again.
Split the seams up to her waist
So they wouldn't hold nothin' in.
The tank top that she wore
Really made a big impression!
The ole cowboys didn't mind much
Course that wuz never a question...
She wuz put together,
Like most ain't never seen.
Cep't maybe in a Hustler
Or a Playboy magazine.
Her body in my mind
Will always be imbedded.
The only fault that I could find,
She sure wuz "Brahmer headed."