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


Ventura County, California
About Risky Betts

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




The Rich and Wealthy Shoer

He wakes early in the morning
To the breakfast of a champion
A gallon of black coffee
And a dip of Copenhagen

He tinkers with his truck
And gets it started for the last time - again
Then in darkness he drives on down the road
To where his work will begin

Pullin, cuttin, and trimmin
On the Iron he will beat
This cowboy makes his living
Under hosses with long feet

Pidgin toed, knees bent
His torso facing toward the ground
Sometimes makes this farrier
Feel like he weighs a thousand pounds

To straighten up his body
Is like prying open a rusty hinge
And the six pack he drank the night before
Is sweated out by ten

Stomped, bruised, and plumb wore out
He'll be finished around two
Then he hauls his abused body home
Where he'll surely ride a few

He can slap the steel on any ole bronc
He'll hold their feet down low
You may see a twitch, or even a bent ear
But the rasp marks will never show

Sure, he likes his job just fine
Hard work doesn't bother him
But theirs a certain kind of client
That really gets under his skin

They'll own a fricken Pickle
That knows all the tricks
He leans and stomps his rock hard feet
And he also pulls and kicks

After wrestling this dink, with half a brain
For two hours and a-half
He wipes his sweat, hands them their bill
Then he loads up all his crap

In the same time it took this patient man
To shoe their faithful mount
He could have finished three or four
And not have been wore out

But out of the kindness of his tired ole heart
He charges just the same
As if ole faithful had been a good hoss
And stood there plumb tame

Then to top it off, and don't that beat all
With the look of surprise
They examine their bill in pure astonishment
With wide open eyes

Their attitude changes, and not for the good
Then they gripe, moan, and bitch
And say, "well at this high rate"
"You must be getting rich"

They hand him his check, load up in their car
And swiftly they depart
Leaving this "rich and wealthy shoer"
In his ole truck that he can't start

© 1997, Risky Betts  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Conversation

This cowboy and his dog
Were travelin in his truck
From a Rodeo
Were they'd left their last buck
The cowboy needed to talk
He was feelin worn and beat
So he turned to his best friend
Sittin next to him on the seat
He said "Dog we've seen better days,
When it seemed I couldn't lose."
"When you were eatin Alpo,
And I didn't have the blues."
The dog let out a moan
And laid his head on his owner's thigh
Then looked up at his pal
With a sad and compassionate eye
As the cowboy stroked his dog
He vented his frustrations of the day
He talked of missed opportunities
And his recent lack of pay
He said, "The things I used to do with ease,
Now make my body sore,
I don't bounce like I used too,
You know, we're not pups anymore.
It seems the simple tasks we do
Get harder with every day,
Shoot, It wasn't that long ago
When our work seemed more like play.
Dog gone it!, I know what you're thinkin,
That nothin stays the same,
And feeling sorry for myself won't stop
Anything from makin change."
And as the dog let out another moan
He rolled over on his back

Then as his owner scratched his belly
He stretched his body out long and flat
The cowboy said, "You know I've tried
To give you the best life that I could,
And when things weren't the greatest,
It seemed you always understood
So hold on to your understanding ways
While I enter this next go-round
And we'll find out together what happens next
And which new road we'll travel down
Yea, I know, quittin this way of life
Doesn't mean my life's at an end
It's just I feel sad, like at a funeral
Where I'm sayin good-bye to an old friend."
Then the dog whimpered, as if he understood,
And pawed the cowboys chest
His compassion made the cowboy feel better
So he scratched his friend's wide breast
"Relax old friend and be calm," he said,
"You know, sometimes change is good
Heck maybe now our lifestyle will improve
Like we always knew it could
Come to think, we've been kinda bored
With this danged ole' rodeo trail
Shucks, it seems like here lately
That we've both been chasin our tail
And besides it's not like we have to completely quit
There's still plenty of fun to be had
You know the more we talk about it
Being a weekend warrior doesn't sound half-bad."
The cowboy took a long deep breath
And let out a bittersweet sigh
Then smiled down at the friend
Laying a-sleep, upside down on his thigh
"I think it's a good thing we had this talk"
He said as the dog exhaled a loud snore
"I see it did you some good,
And you're not so worried anymore."

© 2000, Risky Betts  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


First Try

 With concern she trotted over
Just after winning her first, first place
 And said, "Hey are you O.K.?,
You have a strange look on your face"
 "I thought that you'd be happy,
I did everything that you said,
 But I see your eyes are misty
And you're lowering your head".

 The words she said had meaning
That she didn't understand
 They reminded me of a time
When I was a young, impatient man

 I lay awake in bed that morning
Waiting for the sun's first rays
 The time had finally come
I couldn't wait to start the day
 The late two year olds were gathered
I could hear them walking around
 Getting used to their new halters
Dragging lead ropes on the ground

 Exiled from my childhood
Out from under my fathers hand
 Now the time had come
When I could prove I was a man
 For fourteen years of youth
I had been imprisoned by my age
 While he taught me fundamentals
Finally, I'm let out if my cage

 But as we tightened down the cinch
On the first one that we caught
 I marveled at how fast the time had come
Hoping I'd remember what I was taught
 For years I saw myself atop
These rank Colts my Dad would break
"I'm a darn good hand", I'd thought to myself,
"Shucks, it would be piece of cake".

  It wasn't at all like I had imagined
As the colt drove me in the ground
 I shamefully looked up at dad
But he didn't make a sound
 As he calmed the wild young bronc
And prepared him for the next ride
 He said, "You're gonna have to try harder son,
Now reach down farther inside".
"Stay forward inyour saddle,
Sit tall and tuck your chin,
 Remember what we talked about,
And trust the real man that you have within".

 So I did just as he told me
I sat forward with chin tucked
 And I rode that angry colt
Through all his twists and bucks

 But I was shocked to see, after I'd rode him out
And had him trottin smoothly around
 My dad had become misty eyed
And was looking at the ground

 Now I finally know what my dad meant
When he answered me through welled eye
"You'll know how I feel someday son,
When your own kid gives it that much try".

© 2001, Risky Betts  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


It had been quite awhile
Since I started roping steers.
I got tired of two-bit jackpots
Where a win brought no cheers.
So I practiced long and perfect
I tried to use my head,
So I could go to Rodeo's
Just like the video's said.

It took awhile before I placed
And even longer before I'd won.
But this year my points are adding up
And for the finals I will run.

Ropin' one or two a-day
It doesn't sound too tough,
But the miles between the shows
Are long, hard, and rough.

It depends on how you use it,
Rodeo can be a noun or verb.
But I bet you didn't realize,
They left a vowel out of this word.
It took a million miles
To figure out this secret code,
That the first part of this word
Is actually spelled road.

I've driven every pigtrail
And traveled every state.
I drink coffee by the gallon
Just to stay awake.
I pass by local arenas
On my way to make a run,
Where I see carefree cowboys
Ropin' steers and havin' fun.
When they're done they'll load their horses
And go home to relax.
While I'll be speeding down the road
Cause I'm late again for slack.

Sometime I wonder how I got
Into this awful mess.
And questions is this Roadeo
Worth all this distress.
I think about what I'd do
If I didn't Roadeo.
Maybe settle down, get a job,
....Naa, I couldn't stoop that low.

So I guess this way of life
Is worth all of this pain.
Cause if I had to start all over
I'd do it all again.

© 1998, Risky Betts  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Good Preparation

  It had been a long hard winter
And the ground had begun to thaw
  When Beetle called ole Spodie  
And said "Hey guess what I just saw"
  It was down at Rogers feed store
Taped up on the wall
  A flyer for a jackpot
This Saturday at Mendenhall

  All the boys hangin' around
Said they expect a bunch to show
  I figure we can slip in there
Spank em, and make some dough

  Now that deer season's over
I can hock my thirty ott six
  That'll give me enough money
For the draw and all the picks

  I noticed on your trailer
That one of the tires wasn't flat
  I figure we can use it on mine
Where the odd size rim is at
  And pard, How's your truck runnin
Lately mine's been actin' ill
  We should probably haul in yours
Mine won't pull up Hogback Hill
  Roany should be sound by now
After three months in front of the trough
  I'll leg him up on friday
So he'll be in good shape and not buck me off

  I'll have his front end re-set
With the two shoes still left on his hind
  The shoer's pay can wait for my winnings
He ropes too, so I don't think he'll mind

  I hear you can give an old rope new life
With a come-along and a swivel on one end
  So I've got a few stretched between the posts
Out in the practice pen

  I haven't picked up a rope since fall
So I'll tune up on the dummy tonight
  That way I'm assured to be draggin knots
And keeping my slack pulled tight

  Makin' these plans gets me excited
We'll fill our pockets to the brim
  Heck, we might even make the Sports News
With all the money and prizes we win
  So I'll pour the grain to old Roany
I'll fix the breast strap I broke last May
  I've got a feelin with all this good preparation
We've finally seen our last poor day!

© 2001, Risky Betts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Some, Other, Poem

I've learned a few things,
 in this short life of mine.
Some 'bout horses,
 and others 'bout bovine.
Some things are useful,
 others are not.
Some I remember,
 others I forgot.
Some lessons came easy,
 others at a price.
Some I wouldn't have done,
 if I'd only thought twice.
I have some regrets,
 from when I was young.
Some with excuse,
 others with none.
I've set my goals,
 way up high.
Sometimes I'd fall,
 other times I'd fly.
I've learned a true friend,
 can say many things.
Some that feel good,
 others that sting.
I've had dogs,
 and I've had equine.
Some were great,
 others just fine
Don't buy a horse,
 and expect a pet.
Treat em like a dog,
 and you'll lose their respect.
I've known some ladies,
 sent from above.
Sometimes it was lust,
 other times true love.
Just remember to make,
 a friend of your gal.
So when some things aren't working,
 You still have a pal.
I've seen the good lose,
 I've watched the bad win.
And despite it all,
 the world continues to spin.
I've felt loss,
 so bad I wept.
I've made mistakes,
 and I have regret.
I've found out no matter,
 how big the pain.
The world doesn't stop,
 for me to regain.
So I bear down hard,
 to recover from grief.
Because its up to me,
 to give my relief.
And not worry about those,
 that have stolen my laughter.
For justice waits them,
 in the forever after.
I'm an imperfect human,
 in an imperfect place.
But I'll do my best,
 to run a good race.
Trying not to look,
 So far ahead.
That I miss that around me,
 Which later I'd dread.
What I'd like you to learn,
 From these words that rhyme.
Is to run your life,
 on your own time.
Quit riden your pony,
 like your packin the mail.
Slow down a little,
 and enjoy the trail.
Enjoy your family,
 have fun with your friends.
Cause tomorrow the Maker,
 may call you in.

I've seen people look back,
 during their older years.
Some with smiles,
 and others with tears.

© 2000, Risky Betts 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Ropin Good, Drawin Bad

Stranded out of gas
  I left the horses tied
Dern near took two hours
  to thumb down a ride
A teenage boy
  riden the dreams of a man
until they bucked me off
  out in this hot desert sand

I left home in the spring
  with confidence and pride
but now broke and bewildered
  my rodeo dreams had died
With a big lump in my throat
  I made a collect call home
Mom's voice sure sounded good
  when she picked up the phone
She knew right away
  that things must be bad
As she said, "hold on Son
  let me get your Dad"
With my heart poundin hard
  my voice shakey and tired
I had to say these words
  to this man I so admired

"I've been ropin good
  but drawin bad
it seems I've lost
  all the good luck I had
my spirits are down
  and my hopes are dashed
don't need your sympathy
  .....but I sure could use some cash"

Raised from rugged stock
  Dad was a stern man
taught to do for himself
  and never hold out his hand
I didn't ask for much
  only a temporary loan
just enough money
  for the gas to get back home
He said "Son don't look for me
  to send you money in the mail
I think you need some lessons
  from the good ole rodeo trail
So tell me where you're at
  and I'll get there when I can
then we'll discuss what you've been doin
  and make you a new plan"

I fell asleep while waitin in my truck
  remembering every mistake
getting prepared for the chewin
  I'd surely have to take
Then a knock at the window
  scared me fast awake
Dad said "Better let me drive
  or we're sure to get there late
I said you need some lessons
  well I'm here to teach you some,
the same way your grandpa
  taught his teenage son
when he found himself one night
  stranded and alone
and he called his dad and asked him
  on the telephone

"I've been ropin good
  but drawin bad
it seems I've lost
  all the good luck I had
my spirits are down
  and my hopes are dashed
don't need your sympathy
  .....but I sure could use some cash"

© 2001, Risky Betts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Cowboys Purpose 

   From my childhood there's somethin I remember
It seemed no matter which place we lived in
    Somewhere in the living room
Hung Grandma's picture of Him
   And whatever house that picture was in
Could be found what we called the Good Book
   On the coffee table with its pages wide open
Inviting all to come take a look
   Simple enough that a fool could understand
Too complex for any genius to conceive
   To some the stories seemed farfetched
But not for those who believed
   The stories go back to the beginning
They're many a thousand years old
   But they're as meaningful to us today
As they were when they were first told
   I've read the incredible stories
And I'm impressed with what Gods done
   From parting the Red Sea for Moses
To sending down His only Son
   If someone needed a lesson
He knew just how to teach em one
   Or if they were in need of a miracle
He was the Guy to get things done
   I was reading in His book one day
That there's a reason for every man
   So I naturally started to wonder
How did cowboys fit into His plan?
   I pondered this question for days
Comparing cowboys to regular man
   Wondering what a motley crew such as this
Could have to do with God's great plan
   We don't mingle so well with regular folk
We tend to spit, fight, and cuss
   We sure don't look like those men of old
Heck, a hippie is closer than us!
   The weight of this problem grew heavy
After thinkin of all we do wrong
    There's no possible way we could earn our wings
It's the hot place we all belong!
   Then one day my burden was lifted
A big smile came to my face
   Of course the cowboy had purpose
It's because of us he invented grace

© 2001, Risky Betts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

The Organic and the Yuppie

She sports a big straw hat
From the local department store
She wears sandals and loose clothes
And drives a Jeep with four doors

Not a cowgirl by any stretch
And a yuppie she's sure not
She's an organic tree hugger
She loves Mother Earth a-lot

She's a left coast liberal
And I lean toward the right wing
But we get a-long quite well
Our differences considering

I saw her just the other day
As I do on frequent occasion
She seemed very anxious to tell me
About her recent vacation

It seems this Mercedes driving, apartment dwelling
Yuppie friend of hers
Decided to see some big sky country
In order to settle her nerves
So to a dude ranch they would go
And looking forward to this quest
The Organic and the Yuppie
Set out to tame the west

When they arrived Monday morning
The first thing that they saw
Where young and handsome Cowboys
Bringing cattle down a draw
With smiles from ear to ear
Showing their flawless whitened teeth
They wished that they had signed up
To stay on an extra week

The ramrod rode up and greeted them
A lean sun-baked man
They thought he was real charming
As he referred to them as ma'am
With a long trip behind them
They asked to use the facility
He gave them A Sears and Roebuck
And pointed to a tree
He said "and ladies while your there,"
Put on your boots and chaps"
Then looked at the bare-headed Yuppie
And said "don't forget yur hat"

From behind the Pine Tree Powder Room
He detected some disgust
As he heard Organic say to her friend
"What have you done to us"

Like from a Spiegel Catalog
Yuppie stepped out nice and neat
Then the Organic one came out struttin'
With sandals on her feet
All in khaki, Organic was outfitted
For a safari through the jungle
The other resembled a genie
That materialized from an old bottle

A wrangler came over and legged them up
On the ponies they were to ride
The Organic and the Yuppie
Began their cattle drive

Split reins tied in a knot
And looped over the horn of the saddle
With Hosses trottin stiff legged
It was a fight between ass and cantle
A hand rode over to try and help
And says "jist move along with her"
But they would've had a smoother ride
A-straddle a cement mixer

Sore and bruised by lunch
Their nice clothes now merely rags
Their complainin' finally stopped
Now they were just plain mad!

By camp that night they'd had enough
And decided to abandon ship
They sternly told the man in charge
That it was time for them to quit

"Quit!" he says, "I don't think so,
We've only just begun,
Now come on girls, hang in there,
In a few days it'll seem like fun"

Yuppie dug in like a stubborn mule
And let him know in no uncertain terms
She was leavin this Godforsaken place
And to this Hellhole she'd never return!

The Organic was more philosophical
As she spoke in her monotone way
"I came here to get close to nature
But nothing came natural today"

By now the cowhands had circled around
For the rest they wanted to hear
They watched the ramrod tilt his hat back
And say "now let me say something dear"

"You see these Cowboys around you
They've all come here by choice
Slim Johnny there's from Baltimore
And Buster is here from Detroit

Daniel here's from the east coast
The slums of ole D.C.
And Earl here is a graduate
He has a P.H.D.

They all came here just like you
And had a discouraging rough first day
They thought they'd made a big mistake
But I talked them in to stay

"Now they return every summer
Even though this life is tough
They discovered like I hope you will
That there's a Cowboy in all of us"

"I hear you talk about nature
Like it's something hard to figure out
Well look hard at these cattle
And they'll teach you what it's about

Those calves won't go to college
To expand their weak young minds
They just do whatever comes natural
To live like a simple bovine

Oh sure they have emotions
You'll see them both happy and sad
But they don't stand around complainin
Cause they haven't been taught about bad"

"Some days are worse than others
They may stand in the rain all day
Their jist happy God blessed them with life
And they'll take it any ole way

The bad make the good days seem better
Till they enjoy the sun on their backs
And eat the grass the rain brought forth
See, that's the natural way to act"

"The future they don't worry about
They don't toss and turn all night
They don't see a Cattle Psychologist
Or look to the stars for insight"

"So be content like these cattle
Get stronger and a little more tough
Enjoy each day for what it is
And be less concerned 'bout not havin enough"

The Cowboys quietly stared
The tattered ladies looked at the ground
The silence was only broken
By the crackle of the campfires sound

Finally Organic said to Yuppie
"Well if it's all right with you
We might as well stay another day
We have nothing else to do"

It's a good thing the horses were tethered tight
Cause at this they really spooked
When the Cowboys through their hats in the air,
And let out a big YAHOO!

The girls tearfully apologized
Hugging hatless Cowboys one by one
Even their eyes got misty
Before the sorry's were done

Borrowed clothes over sore bodies
Oversized boots on blistered feet
They worked hard like real Cowgirls
And made it through the entire week

So Organic says to me
"I guess that's all there is to say,
Except that it was quite an adventure
And I found nature along the way"

As she left she stopped and turned
And said the words I was hopin to hear
In a deep voice uttered in Cowboy slang
Says, "I be headed back next year!"

© 1998, Risky Betts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Top Hand

He's an ole bronc peeler
       From south of Dodge
West of Tulsa
       And east of Red Lodge
He lives north of the border
       Up in the dry land
And in all this country
        He's sure-nuff top hand

The skin on his hands
        As tough as rawhide
From pullin the reins
        On the twisters he rides
The lines in his face
         Look deep and mean
His bushy brows
         Squint over eyes of green
His upper lips covered
         With thick black hair
He grows stubble on his cheeks
         Like a prickly pear
His long legs are bowed
         And he toes in a-bit
Like the perfect bronc rider
         He's made to stick
He's chewed twist tobacco
          Since he was one
And hasn't spit yet
          To him it's bubble gum

He rides an A-fork saddle
          Rigged center fire
Wears a 20x Stetson
          For head attire
Steel ox- bow stirrups
          Provide a good hold
For the sunfishin colts
          That might be feelin bold
He sharpens his rowels
          On an Arkansas stone
He's had since twelve
          When he left home
He'll fan them baddins
          With his ten gallon hat
And for his own pleasure
          Rakes em front to back

When Death comes a-callin
          For this cowboy some night
He'll find himself hobbled
          And snubbed up tight
There'll be no blanket
          'Tween the saddle an hyde
When this cowboy mounts up
          For the good ride

Death will jump and bawl
          And kick out straight
As this top hand rides him
          Over the Pearly Gates
Then he'll top him off
          In front of the Almighty One
Where He'll surely say
          "Cowboy, that's a job well done"

© 2002, Risky Betts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The Packer

His nose is way too long
Kinda Roman in its shape
His ears are extra large
And wiggle funny at a gait
He was born to be a packer
Donít care for cows and such
And from happenings in the past
He donít like people all that much
He has a sour disposition
When mad heís quick to fight
He can spin like a tornado
And heís bad to kick and bite
His narrow-set pig eyes
Reflect a hundred percent outlaw
He has scars across his face
Above his square-set iron jaw
He has no formal training
But he sure ainít no fool
Heís sure not much to look at
But he owns a handsome mule

© 2012, Risky Betts
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Risky told us, "I wrote the poem about a good friend I have named Sam. He has the personality of another Sam you've probably heard of named Yosemite Sam, only this Sam is a little bit meaner and truly does have the disposition of a mule. Of course all these characteristics are why he will always be one my best friends."



  About Risky Betts

Risky is a third generation cowboy. His grandfather, Glen Betts, was a professional rodeo producer, stock contractor, and showman. Glen was widely known in the Northwest for having the famous trick horse, "La Paloma."  His father, Chuck Betts, ranched, showed western pleasure horses, rode rough-stock, and fought bulls as a young man. After serving in WW II as a naval officer, Chuck's outgoing personality led him back to the arena as a trick roper and rodeo clown. He clowned his last rodeo at the age of 50.

 Risky's poetry draws from experiences growing up on a cattle ranch in Utah, spending time on his grandfather's orange groves in California, and later working as a cowboy in Missouri and Arkansas. He also shares the passion for rodeo that his ancestors had. As a child he helped his father prepare his acts, and by the age of 14 was traveling to rodeos riding rough-stock.

Growing up with a rope in his hands, Risky soon found himself competing in roping competitions. He later qualified for several year-end Rodeo Association finals, winning numerous saddles, buckles, and other prizes.  He is also the former Arkansas Rodeo Cowboys Association State Champion Team Roper. 

Risky has experienced the highs from success in the arena, and the rewards from ranching, like saving a sick calf, training a colt, or just a hard day's work. He's also experienced the down side of ranching and rodeo like traveling endless miles across the country, living for weeks in a pick-up and camper, and working long hours in the middle of nowhere for puny wages, and bad food.

But as he says in the poem "Roadeo," I guess this way of life is worth all of this pain, cause if I had to start all over, I'd do it all again!

Risky lives in Ventura County, California. He trains horses and is very active in competition team roping.



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