With deep sadness, we learned that Rod Nichols died December 22, 2007.

Rod was a prolific writer, and in recent years he performed at many events and gatherings, including the recent National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. A friend to all, he hosted a poetry board (no longer available) where he was unfailingly welcoming and encouraging to all who participated. He was the "official poet" of the Live with Jim Thompson show, and had appeared twice at the Heritage of the American West show.

He published three books of his poetry, the recent Old Trees 'n Tumbleweeds, Drover Diaries, and A Little Bit of Texas (recipient of the Will Rogers Medallion Award, and produced several CDs, In God's Hands, Yep, A Little Bit More of Texas, and Cowboy Christmas.

Rod was a part of CowboyPoetry.com from its earliest days, and was the first Lariat Laureate. His work is included on the first two editions of The BAR-D Roundup and in The Big Roundup anthology.

Rod's son, Michael, posted a message on Rod's poetry board: "Rod passed away suddenly late Saturday evening. Rod gained a great deal of enjoyment in reading your posts, and this page was very important to him. He was a devoted father, a loving husband, an outstanding teacher, an immensely talented artist and poet, and an extraordinary man. We will all greatly miss him."

A memorial service took place Saturday, December 29, 2007. Scott Hill Bumgardner's account of the service is below.

There is an obituary and guestbook here at the funeral home site.

A December 30, 2007 article by Mike Tolson in the Houston Chronicle, "Admiration for the West Heard in His Words," tells about Rod Nichols' life and quotes several poets and others.

You can write to his wife Judith at P.O. Box 215, 6140 Hwy. 6, Missouri City, TX 77459.


Read more about Rod Nichols and many of his poems in our feature here.


Below

Rod Nichols' poems:

In God's Hands
Yep
A Pinpoint of Light

Remembrances and Tributes

From:

Catherine Lilbit Devine
Merv Webster
Glen Enloe
Rhonda Sedwick Stearns
Alf Bilton
 
Mag Mawhinney
Gene O'Quinn
Dick Morton
Hal Swift
Diane Tribitt
Jan Price

Jim Hawkins
Bette Wolf Duncan
Slim McNaught
Lloyd Shelby
Bruce Satta 
Kip Sorlie

"Farewell to Rod Nichols" by Scott Hill Bumgardner, an account of the memorial service

Links updated 12/22/08

Your remembrances are welcome. Email us.


 

In God's Hands
(A cowboy's poem)

There was laughter and trail talk that evenin'
as the campfire had slowly grown dim,
then the usual joshin' and grumblin'
as the boys got themselves settled in.

I could see by the small fire still burnin'
that one of the boys was up late,
he was writin' a letter I reckoned
with his paper laid flat on a plate.

I watched for a spell then I drifted
these old bones just needed to rest,
and I slept through til daylight was breakin'
then washed off my face and got dressed.

Two biscuits and one cup of coffee
some sidemeat and breakfast was done,
a blanket then up with my saddle
firm cinched for a brisk mornin' run.

The day started off like the others
I'd chased down a couple of strays,
when I spotted some cowboys a-wavin'
so I headed my pony their way.

There's a hundred bad things that might happen
when a man's herdin' cattle it's said,
and a cowpoke had slipped from his saddle
been dragged, broke his neck and was dead.

There wasn't much talkin' among us
we each saw our end in his fate,
then I got a good look at that cowboy
the same one I'd seen stirrin' late.

I spotted the note he had written
in the dirt by his tattered old jeans,
"What's that?" asked a hand as I read it
"A poem he had written it seems."

"Well read it fer us," said another
"Jest what did the boy have to say?"
"It ain't very much," I responded
"but I think he would want it this way."

"There's a time in each life," the poem started
"when a cowboy has done all he can,
and it's then as he faces the long night
he puts all his cares in God's hands."

"That's it?" asked a soft-spoken cowboy
"That's it," was my only reply,
"That's enough," said a somber-faced trail boss
"and more when it comes time to die."

So we buried him there before sundown
with a marker of stone for his head,
the date of his passin' and three words
"In God's Hands" was all that it said.

© 2001, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

Rod Nichols
Rod Nichols
1942-2007


 


photo by Jeri Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights
Rod Nichols (far right) with other individual event winners
at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo
 

  From Catherine Lilbit Devine:

 

The Cowboy Way

I’ve ridden many a trail in my life and regrets I have few
For I lived the life I chose and to the Cowboy way stayed true
I will not ask for a mansion when I stand before God’s throne
I’ll be happy with a bedroll, a good herd and a sturdy roan

A cowboy’s dream is what I lived for so many happy years
I had my spread and family, made a good living from the calves and steers
So do not cry when you think of me, for I would rather see you smile
Rest easy in the knowing that because of you, my life was not a trial

Do not stand around and speak in hushed and hallowed tones
For there is nothing in this casket, except for husk and bones
My Spirit saddled up and hit the trail, heeding the Master’s call
And though I ride for him now, I’ll miss you one and all

In the creak of saddle leather and the jingle bobs you hear
I hope you think of me and know that I am ever near
I ride a range that knows no end, no stampede or rain
And I’ll keep one saddled for you until we meet again

© 2005,  Catherine Lilbit Devine
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

I was very shocked to open up my email and find one from Hal Swift which told of Rod's passing. Rod was one of my most ardent supporters. The Board that he created for all of us to share our works made a huge difference in how I present my works.

I will miss him, as will so very many others. My Heart goes out to his family who must deal with all of this in the midst of what should be a season of Joy. May they find some small comfort in knowing that he is now settled around a campfire sharing stories and poems with God's cowboy angels.


Merv Webster  From Merv Webster:

Rod, I was left with tears and a heavy heart mate when I went to the Old Rockin' R last Monday and learnt of your passing. At a time of the year when you had expressed how happy you were with having your son Dennis home and Christmas celebrations pending, it certainly came as a shock.

Thank you for the past few years and the friendship we shared through our love of rhyming verse and your willingness to share the site with an Aussie bush poet. You always expressed that, "There's always a light on for you Merv at the Old Rockin' R" and that was very much appreciated. Thank you for the memories old son and my heart felt sincerity goes to your family and may they too find comfort in the many memories they shared with you throughout the years.

You have left a wonderful legacy of your works at the Bar D and through your books and CD's for others to enjoy and I know you inspired many other poets and I'm sure your unselfishness will help keep the tradition of Cowboying alive for many years to come.


Thank you for the Friendship Mate

In a world of new technology you get to make new friends

with many kinds of gadgets and the list it never ends.

They have this thing called cyber space where folk the whole world round

can interact together without leaving their home ground.

 

For years the storytellers they just used the spoken word,

to share their tales with others and folk loved what they all heard.

Then came the written form it seems and then the radio,

but now they use the Internet, it really is the go.

 

Down under there are poets, who like Banjo Paterson,

use rhyming verse to spread the word and mate I too am one.

Bush Poets we all call ourselves and our main aim is clear;

preserving this lands culture;  a thing we all hold dear.

 

But then I found in cyber space the Cowboy Poets too

who love to keep their history alive like Aussies do.

The Rockin’ R was one such place and it was clear to me

the Boss of this here outfit was as Cowboy as can be.

 

That man became a real good friend and other pards as well.

We shared our nations' cultures and the company was swell.

Rod Nichols you where what we call a true blue sort of bloke

and well respected by your peers and lots of other folk.

 

Your passing it was sudden like and took us by surprise

and all your pards, including me, had tears well in their eyes.

The memories will carry on, I have no doubt of that

and thank you for your friendship mate.  To you I lifts me hat.

© 2007, Merv Webster
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Glen Enloe  From Glen Enloe:


The Cowboy from Cutter Bill’s
(for Rod Nichols)

Oh, he rode in from Texas
On that sweet, high road trail—
His bright light was infectious—
His goodness did not fail.

He made us a warm campfire
And welcomed friend and foe—
Passed along gentle wisdom,
Drinkin’ a cup of joe.

He always had a poem
On any cowboy theme—
I’m glad I got to know him
And share that Old West dream.

He often was too modest
And hemmed and just said “yep”—
We cherish things he taught us—
Into our souls he crept.

But true cowboys always leave
Treasures we never see—
And for him we should not grieve
A life of memory.

He rides now on higher ground,
But we won’t soon forget—
His words leave a wondrous sound,
A soft glow in God’s sunset.

© 2007, Glen Enloe
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


photo by Smoke Wade
Scott Hill Bumgardner, Glen Enloe, Rod Nichols, and Slim Farnsworth at
the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo

 



Rhonda Stearns, photo by Jeri Dobrowski  From Rhonda Sedwick Stearns:

Will and I never had the privilege of meeting Rod until Hot Springs this year [at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo] and we were very impressed with him. We'd always loved hearing his poems, but it was wonderful to finally meet the man. I'll always remember him most as he broke into serious laughter after beginning his timed competition on stage...because he was thinking about the Confucius joke Andy Nelson had told just before introducing him. 

All too rare is that rich sense of humor and honest, natural laughter. We're very thankful we got to at least meet Rod Nichols and watch him perform his wonderful poems.


Alf Bilton  From Alf Bilton:

Since hearing Rod stepped back from the fire, I've been kind of stuck for words beyond these. He was a talented man who will be sorely missed by all of us.


The Arts

In life, necessity walls up our hearts,
But sometimes selves, inside alike, escape
Their solitudes with tools we call the Arts:
The abstract keys that master concrete shape.

Communicate how beauty feels inside;
Or humor, hurt, uncertainty, and such;
And you'll achieve what ev'ry artist's tried:
Extend to someone somewhen else—a touch!

The Arts unlock the final waiting gate;
Reach past that barrier, mortality;
Touch generations born long after Fate
Declares our sentence served and sets us free.

Art speaks, defying deaths that we are dealt:
"I too once lived; and this ... is what I felt."

© 2006, Alf Bilton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Alf Bilton added this poem in January, 2008:

Regret

Its tenant all preoccupied with dreams of yesterday,
A swollen grave looks back at me with nothing left to say.
I am in a place so lonely, even grief has gone astray,
A place where all with any choice have long since walked away.

With hat in hand, I bide a while, imagining what was,
The kindnesses and laughter, like any mourner does.
A heavy-laden bumblebee commiserates in buzz,
"Remember, Pard, life just goes on. It don't go on because."

We'd like to think we know the path we're on and where it goes,
We hope and pray, insure and say, but no one really knows.
We're here for just a short time, like anything that grows.
But born to die, its best we try and emulate the rose.

Though picked the very moment that it's blooming at its prime,
Its half-remembered heartaches all washed away like grime,
Each yellow rose of Texas lives on in heart and rhyme.
So flowers' sunny beauty can last for all of time.

While cowboys watch a sunset, they don't forget the strays,
And though their thoughts may seem to be of where the herd will graze,
They're often watching memories as each event replays.
No rose will stop its blooming to count the passing days.

Against a long tradition, each life's a silhouette.
In living, we make memories can't be remembered yet;
But what we label Living, may be a sobriquet.
What half-baked batch of cookies could fathom real regret?

This one's for Rod Nichols: poet, mentor, friend.
Again he's out there breaking trail for the rest of us.

 

© 2008, Alf Bilton
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 


  From Mag Mawhinney:

When I logged onto the Rockin' R, like I always do each day, I was truly shocked to see Mike's message about Rod's passing. I want to give my heartfelt condolences to all of Rod's family and friends and hope that they find solace in remembering all the happy times they spent with him. He was a wonderful human being.

Just over a year ago, I started sending my own poems and comments to the Rockin' R. Since then, I've made some great friends and I can thank Rod for that. Through the venue he created, many talented poets from various parts of the world were able to share their thoughts. I'm sure that we've all cried, laughed and dug deep into our own souls through reading each other's poetic works. Not only that, we were able to get to know each other even better through the chat line Rod set up.

Rod was very kind and generous in the use of the web site that I referred to as "Rod's Place." I learned a lot from the messages in his own writings and he was always very encouraging to me. Even though the Rockin' R was a cowboy poetry site, Rod welcomed other poems, including free verse, that fit certain themes. His enthusiasm for sharing the written word was very powerful...and communication is the way we all learn from each other.

I miss you Rod.
 



photo by Jan Spiller
2003 Academy of Western Artists annual meeting
Rod Nichols, Gene O'Quinn, Janice Chapman, Carl Condray, Debra C. Hill
 


 

  From Gene O'Quinn:
 

Concerning Rod, I can't post a remembrance for Rod. The creative juices seem to have dried up as far as my writing poetry is concerned.

However I can tell you a little of what I feel.

When I first became interested in cowboy poetry, I found Rod's poem "In God's Hands" on the internet. It touched me so, and I printed a copy of it and put it in my notebook. It was the first of many inspirational poems that I have collected by numerous authors.

Then when I attended my first CHAPS meeting, I felt so alone, I was new to the genre, and I didn't know anyone. I located the meeting hall in Houston without too much difficulty and then found a chair near the rear of the room. Shortly thereafter a man and woman entered and asked if they could sit next to me. When the meeting started and Scott asked everyone to introduce themselves, after Rod introduced himself and Judith, I leaned over and whispered that I had one of his poems. He responded, with that humility that I came to know so well over the years, "You do?"

I asked if he would please autograph the poem for me, after he had done so, he stated, "that's the first autograph anyone has asked me for." I blurted, "Well, I guess that makes me your number one fan."

When we worked on various projects, Rod would often tell me that "In God's Hands" was my favorite Rod Nichols poem. I would reply, "That is not necessarily so, there are many of his poems that could fit that category." But I can't get away from that poem and I know Rod is in God's hands now.

Rod was a prolific writer. He once told me that he had written between six and seven hundred poems. Besides his books, Rod sent me many discs with unpublished poems requesting my input. Why? I haven't the slightest idea. But I was more than happy to proofread his books and to help with formatting his CD's.

And he wrote a number of poems for which I had inadvertently provided the subject material, while we were just shooting the bull. My interest in cowboy history led to his poems, "Brushy and Bill," "A Fateful Game of Pitch," and others. In 2003, the year we went to the AWA, on the way home near Waco I spotted a herd of Black Angus cattle in a bright green pasture and commented that I didn't believe there was anything prettier than a black cow belly deep in green grass. A couple of days later he sent me his draft of "Walnut Creek."

What a lot of people didn't realize, Rod was legally blind. Before his eyesight went bad he painted many canvasses. Then when he performed his poetry he couldn't read the poems, he had to recite from memory. And I have heard him recite twenty or so poems in rapid fire fashion. He probably could have recited well over a hundred. Once a fan approached him after a performance and asked if he was a painter. He told the lady that yes, he used to dabble in paints, and inquired as to how she knew. "Because," she replied, "your poems are like paintings."

When Rod was taken advantage of (frequently), I would snort and growl and kick up the dust. But he would always speak well of the perpetrators) and then make me feel ashamed because I was so upset over something that really wasn't any of my business. Well, no, that isn't true, he was my "saddlepal" and dammit I didn't want anyone taking advantage of him.

By happenstance I introduced Rod to Jim Thompson in an elevator in Fort Worth, and we know where that led to.

This sounds like I'm bragging on me, but no, I am relating that Rod was so humble, and everyone knows that he would not talk about himself nor would he publicize the many honors that he received.

In closing, I can truthfully say that I have never known anyone as talented, and he was a true gentleman in every sense of the word.

He has left a void that will be difficult to fill.
 



photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck (also a winner)
2004 Academy of Western Artists' Team "Penning" Championship winners
Rick Huff, Jim Jones, Misslette the Singing Cowgirl, Rod Nichols, Belinda Gail, Curly Musgrave, Kip Calahan, Pat Richardson and Supervising Judge Larry Maurice on microphone.
 


Most recent:


 

  From Dick Morton:

I was saddened to learn of Rod Nichols passing. He captured life of the west in his poems. As an example his poem "Yep"'  is so typical of a short response that many of us guys use. I started using that expression as a young boy and of course I still do. I even recall hearing the late movie actor Gary Cooper saying it.Consequently when I heard Rod recite "Yep" I knew I had to learn it. I emailed Rod and asked his permission stating that I would like to put it in my repertoire of poems and that If ever we were on the same stage together I wouldn't use it. He emailed me back saying "Yep."

"Yep." Rod will be missed by all.
 


 

Yep

"It's been awhile," the cowboy said.
"Yep," replied his friend.
"It must be nearly fifteen years."
"Yep," he said again.

"I guess you been a driftin' some?"
"Yep," his friend replied.
"I guess I've done about the same."
"Yep," the old friend sighed.

"Remember Shorty Winkleman?"
"Yep," friend answered slow.
"I hear he up and passed away."
"Yep," he answered low.

"Sure looks like we may have some rain."
"Yep," his friend allow'd.
"Lord knows that we can stand relief."
"Yep," the other scowled.

"I guess you need to head on out?"
"yep," his friend intoned.
"I sure am glad we got to chat."
"Yep," the old hand droned.

The cowboy, after supper, said
he'd run into Ray.
The other boys now gathered 'round.
"What'd he have to say?"

"He said that it had been awhile,
nearly fifteen years.
he said that he had drifted some
workin'  with them steers."

"He said he knowed 'bout Shorty's death,
 that it made him sad.
He figured we was in fer rain,
fer relief was glad."

"He said he was a headin' out,
glad we got to jaw.
Ol' Ray is quite a talker, boys.
Beats all I ever saw."

© 2003, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  written permission.

 

Rod Nichols
Rod Nichols
1942-2007

 


  From Hal Swift:

All of us, who have been close to Rod, for however long or short a time, are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. And we extend our condolences to his family. And, we'll be consoling ourselves and each other, too, for some time to come. There's a big gathering taking place in Heaven these days, and I can just see Rod there, right now, that familiar big smile on his face, welcoming all who come riding in after him. God bless you, Rod, and God keep you always in His Circle of Love.

During my short tenure as a pastor of churches in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, I was privileged to officiate at several cowpoke funerals. I was impressed with the genuine love and caring shown by friends of the bereaved family, and the people's deep spiritual conviction of Eternal Life. Everything is just as I describe it in my poem of tribute to all those whom I served, and to all who grieve for our dear friend and partner, Rod Nichols.
 

Cowpoke's Funeral

A cowpoke's funeral is different than most
For one thing there's poetry read
For cowpokes love poems and write 'em themselves
About all the things in their head

They tell about loved ones an' things that they've done
An' places they've been through the years
The horses they've rode, an' the friends that they've knowed
An' things that'll bring you t'tears

For cowboyin' jist ain't a safe way t'live
Yeah, cowpokes are quick on the mend
Most all have got hurt, sometimes really bad
But sometimes you'll lose a good friend

An' that's when you learn things that you never knowed
They all act like sister an' brother
These people will see what a family needs
An' quietly help one another

Some of the stories that people will tell
Bring tears that can help you to heal
While others'll make you jist laugh right out loud
No matter how sad you may feel

The names'll be different but one thing's fer sure
What comes through each time loud and clear
Is how there's a love that helps everyone through
It's something we all want to hear

An' then, of course, there's the riderless horse
Bringin' tears to everyone's eyes
They know their friend won't be ridin' again
At least not under these skies

An' after each person has gone up an' spoke
The preacher man's said his last word
Someone'll say stay an' eat up if y'like
An' tell some more stories you've heard

Yeah, cowpoke funerals are different than most
For everyone's doin' their best
To jist be good cowpokes, I guess you could say
'Cause that's how it is in the West

© 2005, Hal Swift
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


  From Diane Tribitt:

Rod is one of the greats— leaving a legacy through his many talents as an aritist, poet, husband, father and friend. I have to chuckle thinking about the last time I saw him in person, in Hot Springs, South Dakota, at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. One of the poets came off stage, into the drawing room where the rest of the us awaited our turn. He walked into the room bellowing out a Tarzan yell, beating his chest with both fists. I happened to be sitting next to Rod at the time, at a little table. Rod just looked at me, straight-faced, and said, “Good God, I wish I could do that!”

Rod’s Rockin’ R was home to many of us, filled with a family of “pards” who gathered under Rod’s roof. We laughed and cried with each other many times, offering advice and guidance—like a family does. Rod was the Head Of The Household, disciplining and commending with a loving hand…always.

I have not been able to sit and pen any poetic words yet, as my heart is filled with much pain over this tremendous loss. It may take a while, so in its stead I am offering this little piece of my heart. We miss you, Rod! Keep the light on.


  From Jan Price:

How does one say in a few short words how much this gentle soul was admired and loved. He taught so much to so many...words cannot express my heartfelt sympathy for his family and all who knew him. May I please write here the last stanza of my last poem, as it somehow seems befitting:

A Cowboy's Guiding Star

....
As I stand here pond'rin' this Christmas Eve
and reflect on the miles I've come,
I hear the words, whispered softly to me,
"I'm the star sent to guide you on home."

© 2007, Jan Price
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 


  From Jim Hawkins:

It's times like these that make my words seem so insignificant, when called upon to say thank you for a gift from God, like Rod Nichols. We, as poets, use our words (as Rod taught us) to paint pictures and lead and guide our readers and listeners along the trail of ink from our pens. We try to do this in the most creative way that we can, impacting our readers and listeners in a most memorable way. No one could do this better than Rod and I know that those of us who admired and respected the man and his work will continue to strive to be like Rod and keep his memory alive through our work until we again sit with Rod on that great open range above.

I will sure miss you, Rod, and thanks one last time for all you've done to help so many of us!


From Bette Wolf Duncan:


The Blue Ribbon Words Of The Blue Ribbon Man

The winds out of Texas
will write once again
the blue ribbon words
from his blue ribbon pen.
They’ll sweep cross the prairies
and plains of the West,
with the blue ribbon words
of one of the best.
With indelible ink
on the pages of time,
they’ll write down the words
of his blue ribbon rhyme.
And his pen won’t be stilled.
We’ll read o'er again,
the blue ribbon words
from his blue ribbon pen.

© 2007, Bette Wolf Duncan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


  From Slim McNaught:

Rod's Pinpoint of Light 
Rod Nichols wrote this touching poem
about a pinpoint of light
That  (discovered on the desert)
was picked up by satellite
A NASA engineer zoomed in,
            showed a cowboy bowed in prayer,
The daddy of that engineer
            knelt down by camp fire there.
 
When I was just a gangly lad
            trailin’ my own pa around,
And roundup days were in full swing
            and we’re sleepin’ on the ground.
Just big enough to fork a bronc
            and still wet behind the ears,
We’d sit there ‘neath that starry sky
            while my dad recalled the years.
 
He told me of our family
            all his kin and mother’s, too,
And recalled our salty granddads
            that rode up a trail or two.
He did his best to teach me there
            what the cowboy life’s about,
Rasin’ cattle and savin’ range,
            and to work my problems out.
 
Then he told me of this story
            that his grandma swore was true
About what happens to our folks
            when their life on earth is through.
She told him when this caused him grief
            to look up to Heaven’s sky
And see at night a new star shine
            for each loved one who’d gone by.
 
She said God put those stars up there
            so we’d see the folks were safe
He put them there to comfort us,
            know they’re in a better place.
The stars send out their twinklin’ beams
            sayin’ all is well tonight,
And give us all that piece of mind
            knowin’ now they’re in God’s light.
   
Tonight I see this brand new star,
            Rod finally made it home,
He rides a horse with golden tack
            on a perfect range to roam.
That bright and twinklin’ star up there
            soothes the sadness death has dealt,
Like grandma told us, God is there,
            He will ease the grief we felt.
 
So watch for Rod’s pinpoint of light
            while he works on Heaven’s range
And our hearts are blest just knowin’
            that the Bosses there won’t change.
He’ll always have a steady job
            with a good horse and a spare,
And God will keep our bunks made up
            ‘til we meet with Rod up there.

© 2007, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


A Pinpoint Of Light

A cowboy sat stirrin' a campfire,
as sparks and smoke rose in the night,
alone on a prairie for hundreds of miles,
from heaven, a pinpoint of light.

He listened to sounds on the night wind,
some close and now driftin' away.
He thought of the son he was missin' tonight
and lowered his head, then, to pray.

By a monitor station in NASA,
a young engineer looked at lights,
received from a satellite's cam'ra
recording the path of its flight.

He heard the Director explaining
to the current Commander-In-Chief,
"The cam'ra is so sharply focused,
it can show a man's face in relief.

The President looked at the image.
The Earth seemed all lit up by night,
except for a fairly dark region
and one tiny pinpoint of light.

"Zoom in on that one darkened section.
Let's see what your cam'ra can do."
The engineer did as was ordered,
a cowboy, at prayer, came in view.

"Just where is that image located?"
"A prairie down in the Southwest,"
"Texas," affirmed the Director,
"most likely a drifter's my guess."

"No, sir," said the stunned engineer, now,
"I don't know how I can explain.
That cowboy, at prayer, is my father,
where we used to camp on that plain."

The President pondered a moment.
"It's more than a man could expect.
Between those two worlds of a cowboy and space,
the Lord found a way to connect.

A cowboy sat stirrin' a campfire,
as sparks and smoke rose in the night,
alone on a prairie for hundreds of miles,
from heaven, a pinpoint of light.

© 2005, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 

 


  From Judy and Lloyd Shelby:

Rod Nichols. What a man. I have read the many tributes to this special and gentle man and would like to say that every single one captures a facet of Rod. I always told Rod that he was this generation's Badger Clark. He would just grin and say, "You really think so?"

I had the unique privilege and honor of publishing his books and getting him started doing CDs. He didn't think his voice was good enough for making a recording. I laughed and told him his voice was perfect and no one could do his work better than he could. So I made arrangements with a studio in Manchaca, Texas to do his first CD. Since he was legally blind and his wife was working, I drove him to Austin three times to complete the CD. Each trip involved considerable travel time and I got to talk with Rod about poetry, his family, and of course, to listen to many unpublished poems. The first day of recording, he did "Yep" and the engineer and I told Rod that he should name the CD after the poem. His answer, after some not so serious thought was, "Yep"!

His latest book, Old Trees and Tubleweeds, is probably the best he has done. 

My wife and I were in shock when we got the news on Sunday, December 23. We were in Colorado and had to stop what we were doing for a while. However, we both felt that a part of us had gone. We will miss him.


  From Bruce Satta:

I once remarked to Rod how I admired that his poetry was always so "polished."  He said he "liked polish,"... and it showed.  I've always admired how someone could be so prolific and yet maintain such a consistently high quality.  So then I asked him what the "secret" was to that (knowing full well that it wasn't anything that could be bottled—otherwise, every poet would be as talented.)  Anyway, he told me that he wrote every single day, whether he felt like it or not.  I don't know if that qualifies as a secret, but I do know that if he believed it, then there must be something to it.
 
I considered Rod a mentor as well as a friend and, a few years ago, decided to write a tribute to him, of sorts.  It was not much more than an exercise, but I posted it on his poetry board and asked if anyone saw anything unusual about it... 
 
Checkin’ Every Post
 
Ridin’ fence ‘n fixin’ wire:
One tired fixxer-upper.
Darb’ is preachin’ to the choir,
Nickerin’ ‘bout ‘is supper.
It’s a long ‘n tirin’ day,
Checkin’ every post;
Horse is anxious for some hay:
Ol’ cowboy - potted roast.
“Lord, the day is passin’ slow:
Six hours down, six more t’go!”

© 2004, Bruce Satta
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 
 
Not that Rod spent 12 hours a day fixing fences, but the first letter of each line does spell out his name.  He saw that right away, and said he thought it was neat—which made me very happy.
 

 

  From Kip Sorlie:

Rings

Along the meadow's edge
     The green grass rings appear.
They tell of olden times,
     When cowboys gathered here.
 
They would collect the fuel
     From dead and fallen trees,
To ready evening camp
     Against a sudden freeze.
 
Their bedrolls on the ground,
     Their horses tended too,
They'd quickly fall asleep,
     Expecting crystal dew.
 
As they awoke to stars,
     All fading with the night,
The sky off to the East
     Would glow in gentle light.
 
A frosty morning calm
     Would grip their aging bones.
Perked ears of the horses
     Would hear their murmured moans.
 
To a nest of tinder,
     A striking flint and steel
Would offer up in birth
     A spark that would anneal.
 
Old eyes would see inside
     The smoldering within
And in a quiet puff
     They'd see the flame begin.
 
A helpless babe at first,
     But slowly it would grow,
Igniting twig and branch,
     To set the camp aglow.
 
Creation of a child
     From mating steel and stone
Portended tender care
     For a flame, not yet grown.
 
Spreading through the kindling,
     Both arrogant and proud,
A youthful blaze, enticed,
     Would pop and snap aloud.
 
Heat it generated
     Would defend from the cold
And warm the wrinkled hands
     Of cowboys growing old.
 
Towards larger logs they'd watch
     The adolescent race,
Bigger chunks resisting
     A growing fire's embrace.
 
They'd drink steaming coffee,
     Poured from a boiling pot,
As flames turned wood to coal,
     With embers glowing hot.
 
Replaced by steady heat,
     More comforting and tame,
The arrogance and pride
     Would decrease with the flame.
 
In time, each hand would pause
     To silently admire
How much like life it was,
     The slowly dying fire.
 
From dead and fallen trees
     A homage had been made,
Assuring next year's green,
     Where once just ashes laid.
 
This ritual unplanned
     Was once performed each Spring.
The birth and death they found
     Were both bound to a ring.
 
The cowboys, old, are gone.
     Their blazing flames have died,
But somewhere in their young
     The stone and steel reside.
 
Along the meadows edge
     The green grass rings appear.
They tell of recent times,
     As cowboys gather here.


© 2008, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Kip Sorlie comments:

The memories of my father are strong.
They influence me daily.
He died years ago.
I miss him.
 
Upon learning of the loss of Rod Nichols, similar thoughts and familiar emotions returned.
 
A man is little more than what he leaves behind.  That said, both men will impact the balance of my years.
 
The writing of "Rings" was an attempt to honor his passing and the future he left us to extend.
 
Perhaps he would approve, perhaps not.
 
Thank you, Rod!
 
You will be missed at the campfire, but your rings will persist.

 


Farewell to Rod Nichols
by Scott Hill Bumgardner



The Christmas season is one heck of a time to bid farewell to friends and loved ones. Yet, it may be the perfect time to pass from this world. Certainly, those who cared for the departed are saddened at their loss, but the faithful departed are stepping into their new life, living out the truly great gift of this season. Thus it is friends that we must say goodbye to Rod Nichols. Rod, a well respected cowboy poet, was taken from us with a massive heart attack on December 22nd at the age of 65.

His family and friends said farewell in grand style, Saturday the 29th. Judith his wife of 36 years made sure that he was remembered as a lover of the cowboy way. A memorial service was held in Sugarland, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston. The chapel was overflowing with friends, family, former co-workers, and a sprinkling of fellow western artisans. Judith arranged for several of us to perform in memory of Rod. Reverend Don Vicker, presided with upbeat messages of faith and family memories. He included stories of Rod and Judith’s meeting, his 31 years as an educator, and his pride in his children.

I was honored to speak a few words and read Rod’s hilarious poem, “Smiley’s Funeral”. Gene O’Quinn the “River Bottom Cowboy Poet” followed with a fitting and favorite poem by Rod, "In God's Hands."  Misslette, The Singing Cowgirl, singing a wonderful song that Rod wrote with her, wrapped up the western action. Her rich voice, guitar work, and the fine harmonica playing by John Pickul, did Rod proud.

Proud he should be, with his fine writing, his family and friends, and a new grandson set to be born in February. He will be missed, but remembered.

 


 Scott Bumgardner, Misslette the Singing Cowgirl, Gene O'Quinn, and John Pickul

 


 

Your remembrances are welcome. Email us.

 


Links


 

Eve Thornton, who has maintained Rod's cowboy poetry board where all are welcome to post poetry, invited all to "stop by the 'Ol' Rockin' R' on December 22, 2008 to drop off a poem or thoughts in remembrance of Rod." The submitted poems are archived at Eve Thornton's Cowboy Country Traveler.


The Live! With Jim Thompson show  honored Rod Nichols on the December 22, 2008 show. Rod, who died December 22, 2007, was a regular contributor to the show. The December 22nd show will include Rod Nichols' Christmas poetry.

You can listen to the show at the web site's archives, here.

Award-winning broadcaster Jim Thompson's radio program, Live! with Jim Thompson, airs every weekday at 1:00 PM (MT) on over 50 radio stations and live on the web. Read more in our feature here.


  Poet and artist Eve Thornton's The Cowboy Country Traveler web site of "cowboy country art, culture, and writing" is dedicated to the memory of Rod Nichols.

Eve Thornton comments, "The Cowboy Country Traveler website is dedicated to Rod's memory in hopes of keeping alive the culture he loved best, that of the cowboy. His talent was as huge as his beloved Texas, and although we've lost the man, we have not lost his voice, which will forever echo throughout his poetry and be read by poets and lovers of poetry in many generations to come."


The January 6, 2008  Radio Ranch show hosted by Mick Vernon, the Director of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, was dedicated to the memory of Texas poet Rod Nichols, who died December 22, 2007. Mick Vernon had planned to invite Rod Nichols to appear at the festival.


A December 30, 2007 article by Mike Tolson in the Houston Chronicle, "Admiration for the West Heard in His Words," tells about Rod Nichols' life and quotes several poets and others.


There is an obituary and guestbook here.


Minnesota poet Diane Tribitt has created Rod's Bunkhouse, a blog site, to help carry on the work of Rod Nichols' popular cowboy poetry board. The blog is open to all to read, and posts can be made by those who register. See the blog here.
 


Jim Thompson's Live with Jim Thompson show for December 27, 2007 includes many tributes to Rod Nichols. You can listen to the archive of the show on demand here. The previous day, Francie Ganje hosted the show with the announcement of Rod's death and there were addition details. Unfortunately, that show could not be archived due to technical difficulties.


Merv Wesbster organized "a wake over at the old Rockin' R" after Rod's memorial service,


You can listen to an archived broadcast of the Heritage of the American West show, from August 15, 2007, which featured Rod Nichols (and Mislette the Singing Cowgirl).

 

Rod Nichols

 

First Lariat Laureate Winner

 

Lariat Laureate
Rod Nichols

of Missouri City, Texas
recognized for his poem Rooster

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

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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