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ROY JERDEN
Georgia
About
Roy Jerden

 

 

Call me Tex

When I was just a teenage lad, and growing up out West
I never wore a cowboy hat or fancy leather vest
Never put on cowboy boots or western shirts with snaps
Never wore tooled leather belts, much less a pair of chaps

To be in style the Ivy League was what one wore to school
A skinny tie and button-down was how you dressed up cool
We wore Weejun penny loafers and tapered chino slacks
The boys all sported flattops, kept up straight with wax

Rock and roll and sock hops, my dance was then the twist
Cotton-eyed Joe and two-step didn't even make the list
Good ol' Willie Nelson could hardly make a sound
'Cause the King and Frank Sinatra were the coolest guys around

But when I joined the service, and moved outside the state
It didn't matter where I went or if I spoke my name out straight
For a while I thought I had some kind of omnipresent hex
'Cause anywhere outside Texas, they'd always call me Tex

When I said over yonder, they'd all say “Over... Where?”
When I talked about a horny toad, I'd get a funny stare
It didn't matter if my name was Buck or Roy or Rex
'Cause anywhere outside Texas, they'd always call me Tex

When they shipped me overseas, I thought that I would die
Couldn't get a Dr. Pepper there, or any Frito pie
When I wanted longneck Lone Stars, all they had was Beck's
And all those Europeans would always call me Tex

Any label kind of burned me, so right then I made the call
I'd learn to talk just like those guys, to hide my Texas drawl
I practiced on my diction, with elocution persevered
And soon the sideways looks and grins had finally disappeared

I traveled all around the world, got married overseas
Learned myself a few more tongues and got a few degrees
Now if I talk to British lords or English-speaking Czechs
When I masticate the lingo, they never call me Tex

Finally made it home one day, after way too many years
Came back to salute old pals and maybe share some beers
I wondered how the touch of time had treated all those lads
To my surprise, those preppy guys had all turned into their dads

Each one wore a cowboy hat and dandy leather vest
Some sported a bandana, some with bola ties were dressed
Some shod those M.L. Leddy boots with fancy pull-on straps
Each had a set of bootcut jeans and western shirts with snaps

Something then came over me, something that felt right
I heard my voice inside me say "Well boys, ain't y'all a sight!”
That educated accent that I'd worked so hard to gain
Had evaporated quicker than a light West Texas rain

I guess that you can travel, and learn lots of fancy stuff
But with friends who knew you when, there's no way that you can bluff
They might be polite with you, and humor you no doubt
But you're better off to cut it loose and let it all hang out

They all let out a holler, yelling “Waitress bring the checks!
Give 'em to that ugly hombre yonder with the handle Tex.”
Now if I were any other place, I'd likely wring their necks
But when I'm home in Texas, then you can call me Tex
         
© 2012, Roy Jerden, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.

 

Roy Jerden comments:  "Call Me Tex" is quite autobiographical, but I did take some license toward the end. My first trip back home to Texas after coming back to the South was in the mid-1980s when everyone was dressing Western style. I got quite a kick out of seeing my old school buddies new change of duds. Western wear was always around before that, but was a lot more conservative than the way out styles that took over in the '80s.


All Hat and No Cattle

They hung around the beer joint with the finest Western wear
With thumbs tucked in their belt loops and such a studly air
But those boots weren't made for stirrups and were polished to a sheen
And on those fancy cowboy hats not a sweat stain could be seen

You could be sure they hadn't spent much time around a branding pot
For the only brands they recognized were ones on stuff they bought
And if they ever passed the time just musing 'bout their spread
I'd be the one around their middle or the one they put on bread

Just a bunch of blowhard braggarts in a cowboy masquerade
But they had the biggest pickup trucks that Detroit ever made
The beds were wide and beautiful without a scratch or scuff inside
'Cause the only thing they hauled around was a horse's big backside

As they stood around outside the joint, in a smartass state of mind
In pulled an ancient pickup with an old horse trailer hitched behind
The truck an old green Chevy, year 'bout nineteen fifty-nine
With two high wooden sideboards and hay bales bound with twine

Out stepped a skinny hombre, with steel-blue eyes and bandy legs
But he had a rippling six-pack while all the boozers sported kegs
His cowboy hat was sweat-stained, high-heeled boots were dusty gray
He kicked off a chunk of cow pie, then he grabbed a bale of hay

He was mighty parched and dusty, but he wouldn't quench his thirst
'Cause you're not an honest cowboy unless you water horses first
The pack of fools gave out a hoot, yelled "Hey there, Texas Pete!
Get yourself a man-sized truck and take that geezer off the street!"

As he finished with the horses, up walked two ladies smokin' hot
The cowboy promptly doffed his hat, while the posers there did not
The cowboy got a long admiring look and the rounders just a sneer
As the sham was so apparent when a real cowboy was near

They flashed the dusty cowboy a big ol' smile 'bout ten miles wide
Said "Honey, would a gent like you care to escort us gals inside?"
He winked, then gave the trucks a look and spat a stream of juice
Said, "Boys, y'all's might be bigger, but mine gets a sight more use."

© 2013, Roy Jerden, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.


Roy Jerden comments: The Texas slang term for someone who is all talk and no action is “All Hat and No Cattle.” Back when I was a kid growing up in Texas, the phrase was also used to refer to the townies who liked to play the part of a cowboy by dressing up like one, but never did the hard work required to actually be one. In the old days, they would hang out at the soda fountain in the old time drugstore, hence they were also called Drugstore Cowboys. I’m just poking a little fun at them, no harm meant.
 


The Whittlers

The Tom Green County courthouse was their gathering place
A Greek Revival building and such a lovely public space
They'd be sitting on their benches under lofty pecan trees
Wood shavings on their ankles, a piece of cedar twixt their knees

They called them the whittlers, but that was just a disguise
They came to speak of mice and men and hang out with the guys
Born before the television went and addled peoples wits,
They could tell some stories that would cause your sides to split

They'd kid me 'bout the pile of books that I had just checked out
Said that I was sure to ruin my eyes and fry my brain no doubt
But I could see they got a kick out of their one devoted fan
Cause they would trot out all their stories and tell them once again

They told me stories of big ranches and oil boom shanty towns
How they worked on rigs as roughnecks and toured as rodeo clowns
How they used to ride the rails when no employment could be found
And the way they told those stories had me rolling on the ground

And in between a whittle and another spit and chew
They showed me how to whet a knife and tie a buckaroo
They had lots and lots of stories and lessons to impart
But I'd have to hear the cowboy code before I could depart

“Give a man a good hard shake and look him in the eye
If you mess up, tell it straight; don't cover with a lie
Always give a full day's work; live out each day with heart
A man's no good without his word, so finish what you start

Protect the weak and help them; respect your elders, too
Never leave a friend behind, nothing else will ever do
And when your time is done, according to God's plan
You can face up to the reaper, and meet him like a man.”

If that was all I learned from them, that lesson was enough
For a kid without some guidance, this life can be quite tough
I guess folks made fun of them, and thought them no account
For me they were my heroes, that I would trade for no amount

The Tom Green County courthouse still stands upon those grounds
But now I see those shaded benches are nowhere to be found
And where once the mighty whittlers carved and held their court
Squirrels gather up pecans and chase each other now for sport

© 2013, Roy Jerden, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.


Roy Jerden comments
:  This poem was really inspired by my grandfathers, who were both great storytellers, and the one on my father's side actually did whittle, but never in public. And like most nostalgia, it's really about loss. Loss of the men for sure, but also loss of a generation who didn't grow up with a lot of entertainment and had to make their own. The fine art of storytelling used to be widely practiced, and was a part of every family gathering. Oh stories are still told, but the finely honed techniques of that generation, the home-spun wisdom and the funny expressions they used are mostly lost, except as practiced by some professional story-tellers. But that experience is quite different, isn't it?

 


  About Roy Jerden:
                                                     
provided 2013


I just starting writing poetry again in 2012 at the age of 66 after a 50 year hiatus.

Born and raised in West Texas, I lived all over the area as a child until my mother remarried, as my father was in the oil drilling business, which required constant moving. I grew up in San Angelo, but spent quite a few summers working on my grandpa's spread in the Texas Hill Country.

My wife Toni and I spend time traveling the world and visiting our grandchildren in California and North Carolina from our home near Atlanta. We also spend some time in Europe almost every year visiting and traveling with our Italian friends. My other passions are mushroom hunting (the edible kind), gourmet cooking and bread baking.


 

 

 

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