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

Ottawa, Kansas
About Robert C. Atkin



The Longest Trail Home
(A Christmas Mystery)

The whispering white crept through the night
The cold gnawed right to the bone
The eerie hue of cobalt blue
Gave shadows a life all their own

The rider 'n' horse stayed their course
Ice drooped from bridle and brim
While waves of snow continued to grow
Making trails heavy and dim

Vapors were steamin' and lungs were a screamin'
Icy spears penetrated inside
Limbs paid the cost as fingers of frost
Gave warmth no place to hide

Forward they surged and soon emerged
In a labyrinth of pine scented bough
A welcome respite from the hellish cold night
Where the norther continued to howl

Out of the weather he unhitched the leather
And of branches he made a soft bed
His thirst was slaked from melting of flakes
The warming flames danced orange and red

Another dusk; another dawn the storm raged on
A savage but hypnotic symphony
A wild moan and whistle that made life bristle
Entombed all in that white canopy

The winter has passed it's spring at long last
Summer's heat has made its yearly call
And nights become longer; winds seem to get stronger
Caressing trees and leaves start to fall

Old Sol in the sky marks years passing by
A century has soon come and gone
A Bible's pages have yellowed through ages
Listing those born and those who've passed on

A blurred entry remarked on page three
Of a grandfather missing along the way
Never resolved and this mystery unsolved
Puzzles all to this very day

In a thicket of pine grown up over time
Rest the bones of horse and rider unknown
And in the cold of December folks pause to remember
A cowboy who didn't get home.

© 2010, Robert C. Atkin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Wild Horses

Wild horses, wild horses
Are a mystery it seems
Wild horses, wild horses
Are they real or just dreams?
Come sit for a moment
I'll tell you a tale
'Bout wild horses; old cowboys
Out on the trail

Down to the corral, saddle on up
Hit the trail at the crack of dawn
Head out for Wild Horse Valley
'Tho all the wild horses are gone
Four riders with ropes at the ready
Me 'n' Jack 'n' Alf 'n' old Slim
The luster was gone from our past
' N' the future was a lookin' a might dim

Gone now were the free rangin' mustangs
Where once roamed a thousand head
Not captured for ridin' or pullin'
But shipped off to the “canners” instead
There was rumor that a renegade stallion
Still traveled 'bout the plains
A throwback to the old days
Like us “twisters” out here on the range

We set up camp on a mesa
Overlookin' Big Dog Crick
Unloaded supplies from the pack mare
Set up the tepee right quick
Then it was off to the wide open spaces
In search of this mystical steed
A futile effort to most folks
But important to old cowboys indeed

We tracked the brush 'n' the coulees
'N' couldn't find nary a trace
If this damn old stud horse existed
He sure had a good hidin' place
So back to camp we headed
For “vittles” 'n' a bit of shut-eye
Alf had a jug of moonshine
'Course we all had to give it a try

I don't know how long we'd bin sleepin'
When suddenly; all hell broke loose
Somethin' was trashin' the camp site
Jack yelled “Bear”;Slim hollered “A moose”
We scrambled for ropes and rifles
Tryin' to get boots and britches on
But as quick as the “kerfuffle” had started
The night raider had come and gone

We surveyed the destruction at sunrise
No trace of moose nor bear
We all kinda gasped in unison
When we saw hoof prints everywhere
All our mounts was still on the stake-line
The pack mare was on higher ground
Could it be our mysterious mustang
Was close by a hangin' around?

Now Alf come up with a plan
Somethin' he'd read in Safari Guide
We'd dig a pit six feet deep
'N' trap that wild rascal inside
Jack and Slim climbed a tree
While I laid low on a hill
They'd drop their loops over his head
Me 'n' Alf would make him be still

The day wore on to evenin'
We sat still; not movin' a muscle
All at once we saw a shadow
And heard the bushes rustle
We sprang our plan to action
More chaos than systematic it seems
Hobbles 'n' ropes missed their marks
'Midst flailin' legs 'n' arms 'n' screams

After the skirmish was over
A sorry lookin' lot were we
We hung our heads 'n' headed home
Lesser men than we used to be
Not even sure we'd encountered
What we had come to find
Our cronies laughed and jeered at us
Said we was losin' our mind

Well, almost a year passed by
Glory be!!! That pack mare dropped a foal
It looked a mustang through and through
Had a coat as black as coal
Slim was smilin'; pleased as punch
Alf 'n' Jack screamed out "Redemption"
There must be a mustang out on the range
This wasn't "Immaculate Conception"

There is no moral to this story
And it really doesn't have an end
Just four old cowboys havin' fun
Enjoyin' memories with their friends
And memories to us old twisters
Sure does mean a lot
After all when the skills start fadin'
It's all an old cowboy has got

Whether it be in search of rainbows
Ahhh!! That elusive pot of gold
Or should this need for fulfillment
Be cast aside when one grows old
But this is part of the agin' process
A time we all must face
Through life's trials and tribulations
We all have wild horses to chase.

© 2011, Robert C. Atkin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Bob comments, "I'd always thought that dreams were like wild horses, elusive but obtainable. I was doing a TV interview and the young man interviewing me suggested that dreams were mainly for the young. This of course ignited the flame and I wrote 'Wild Horses.'"


Eagle Dancer

A silhouette cast in the morning sun
Dancing against a fire lit sky
The rolling thunder of unseen drums
Listen; you'll hear the eagle cry

With twists and turns and flowing limbs
It cuts the air with rhythmic grace
The crescendo cry of unknown song
Takes a mind back to another place

A place where horizons have no end
And skies reach to infinity
Where waters flow clear and deep
No fences and all live free

In this place the land is Sacred
Bequeathed for all to share
A mystic aura emanates
Protecting those within its care

The song, the drum, the dancer
Are they real or are they dreams
Is it fringe or is it feather
Is it wind or eagle screams

At last there comes a silence
And the silhouette is no more
I lift my eyes to clear blue skies
And watch the eagle soar.

© 2011, Robert C. Atkin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bob comments:

A friend of mine invited me to participate at their annual [Cree] "Pow-Wow." I was taken aback and wondered why they would want a cowboy poet at an Indian celebration. I "jokingly asked him if I was to be a sacrifice in payment for all the "pale face" injustices. Being good friends we were able to kid each other about such matters.

He said he was serious and had no doubt that I would be able to add something to the event. I accepted the invitation but had no idea what I could do that would be appropriate in the eyes of the Tribe and its Elders.

Months and months I racked my brain trying to come up with something. I drove myself crazy and suffered from insomnia over this matter. Nothing!! was all I came up with. I drove over to the site the day before the "Pow-Wow" and sat around talking to my friends. Still, Nothing!!!

I set up my little one-man tent and tried to get some sleep but all I did was toss and turn, rolling over a million thoughts and rejecting them all. As dawn broke I crawled out of my abode, rubbed sleep from my eyes and looked toward the east. I saw the "spark" that would inspire to write the poem that will follow. A magnificent figure silhouetted against the sky, practicing for his performance later that day.

I presented my poem to the Tribe and all I can remember was the row of Elders sitting stoically in front of me, not indicating like or dislike. I thought I must have failed miserably.

Later that day my friend said the Elders wanted to speak with me. "Oh, oh, here it comes"; I thought my doom was sealed. I strode slowly into the Tribal Office and stood before the wise men of the Tribe. The leader of this prestigious group came toward me, raised his hand in friendship. He told me they thoroughly enjoyed my presentation and ordered copies for everyone.


End of an Era (The Death of the Cowboy)

Cowboys are a tight knit group, it's their salvation on the range
Strangers are received with caution. They don't readily adapt to change
They're prone to accept the familiar. Old trails, old horses, old friends
Wide brims, worn saddles and bedrolls. Ignoring the modern day trends

They are blessed with sense and fortitude, not overly endowed with ambition
Ride the herds 'n' through deeds
not wordsuphold the western tradition
Their hardiness calms a rank cayuse, tenderness soothes a newborn calf
Their emotions run the gamut; from tears to havin' a laugh

In their world that is constantly shrinking, there's very few trails left to ride
Roundin' up strays has gone by the way, eyes reflect sadness deep down inside
The fires don't burn so bright anymore' spurs jingle a bit outta tune
Those loops that flew once straight and true, now grab air and tighten too soon

The brands are rapidly disappearin', irons hang rustin' on the post
Old twisters talk in the present; while greenhorns only see ghosts
The beauty that surrounds them is truly something they admire
White crosses cast their shadows; See old cowboys never really retire

Will their way become extinct? Will progress cause it to die?
Will legend and song still tell the tale of an era; that came 'n' quickly passed by?
When this earth's magical days are over and it succumbs to the coldness of night
One lone figure will ride to the hilltop and that COWBOY WILL BLOW OUT THE LIGHT.

© 2012, Robert C. Atkin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bob comments: In my travels I've been asked many questions about ranching and cowboy life. Usually the answers come quickly and I'm satisfied with my response. But I've been asked the question, "When is this cowboy thing going to end?" I felt I needed to write something that would relate my true feelings. This is the result.



See Robert C. Atkin's

Mind Grazing in our Art Spur project


Pilgrim, in our Art Spur project

About Robert C. Atkin:
provided 2010

Robert C. Atkin is a poet, songwriter and performer.

Born and raised on the Canadian/American border, Bob has been writing poetry songs and short stories for almost 60 years.

He has performed in Europe on several occasions and of course throughout North America. He has published two books of his poetry and has written a children's book and donated the proceeds to the "Dreams for Kids Foundation." He appeared on the CHUM radio network on a weekly basis and the CKLQ radio network on a daily show. He has had guest appearances on TV in the U.S., Canada, and England. He just finished a recording of some of his songs. Bob emcees at many functions and events, does a one man stage show and does everything from campfires to concert halls. He resides in Ottawa, Kansas.




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