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Powell Butte, Oregon
About Roger Traweek

Photo by Lloyd Shelby

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

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for his poem, The Home Place



About Roger Traweek

My roots go back to the family ranch in eastern Montana where I was a boy in the 1940’s. Although I chose to pursue “book learnin’" and ultimately a different  line of work than ranching, my childhood was and remains to this day among the happiest periods of my life. Although  life on the ranch hadn’t changed all that much over the previous hundred or so years - no conveniences, no electricity, no telephone, no television, no running water, no indoor plumbing - nonetheless, I enjoy a wealth of good memories of those times which I try to preserve in my writing.  As The Home Place suggests, no one lives on the ranch any longer, my parents and an older brother having passed away, leaving no one to operate it.   I wrote The Home Place on-site during a recent visit there in an effort to confront and lay to rest the many “ghosts” of my memories.

I went to Elko in January 2000, met some nice people (some of whom have contributed to this website) and left feeling inspired.  I have always enjoyed writing both prose and poetry, and now that I’m retired I can devote more time to it. I’m currently working on my autobiography, chronicling in particular ranch life as I knew it in an era long gone now. An older brother and I still own the ranch, which, coincidentally, has been in our family’s ownership for 100 years.  We lease it to a neighbor and only return now for short visits to touch our roots.

When we asked Roger why he writes Cowboy Poetry, he replied: I write poetry (I tend to think of mine more as "western" than pure "cowboy") because it is a part of me...who and what I am wherever I am.   Sometimes I simply have to write to express the nostalgia I feel inside for that particular lifestyle.  I've strayed a long way from the range in my lifetime, and it's nice to have a comfortable place to which I can childhood, family, friends and experiences on the ranch offer me that. It's a unique environment where the basic values have changed very little, if at all, over the years and merit preservation.   I hope I can accomplish that in my writing.

You can email Roger Traweek.


The Home Place

I stopped at the old home place today to pass a little time;
Both of us now show our age -- a long ways past our prime.
Since Grandad put his roots down here, a hundred years have passed;
Three generations called it "home"; mine will likely be the last,
Though not the first to claim this place;  the Cheyenne and the Sioux
Loved this land and danced their dance, and they must miss it, too.
Our souls are joined in this good earth where no one really leaves,
Yet Time rolls on, the sands run out, the generations grieve.

Abandoned and neglected now, the living here is done,
No one keeps the home fires burning to greet a wandering son.
It sees the seasons come and go, silent and alone,
A ghost ship adrift in a sea of grass, now tossed and overgrown;
Its windows stare out vacantly, and no light shows within,
To light the night or warm with pride for the home it once had been.
The sunburned paint is peeling; once tidy rooms now gather dust,
Where in bygone days our family thrived on faith and love and trust.

Inside, I wander through the rooms, awash in memories;
The fun and laughter I still recall with clarity and ease.
I can hear my mother humming as she went about her chores,
Cooking, mending, and polishing those worn linoleum floors.
The kitchen was her palace where she reigned as sovereign queen,
And we ate like kings on simple fare, not knowing times were lean.
She lent courage, grace, and comfort to our simple way of life,
And held her tears and hid her fears, good mother and good wife.

My dad worked hard from dawn to dark and did it every day,
Broad shoulders in a rancher's world of horses, cows, and hay.
With stubbornness and steady hand he steered our family's course
Through Depression, drought, and other fits of Nature's fickle force.
Where Dad's chair sat, a patient spider plays a waiting game,
As Grandad did for forty years, and then Dad did the same,
Until my brother took it up as keeper of the trust;
Their unraveled dreams now lie among the cobwebs and the dust.

In the bunkhouse where we brothers slept I hear a keening noise,
The mournful moan of prairie wind grieving for those missing boys.
The calving shed is falling down, in its roof a gaping hole;
As snow and rain and sun and wind exact their steady toll;
Where new-born calves in decades past drew first breath safe within,
And stood on trembling legs to fall and struggle up again,
Now only relics of those days remain as memories pale;
A burlap bag, a tattered rope, hang stiffly from a nail.

The horse barn stands in protest and with false hope bravely waits
For return of horse and rider through the sagging corral gates.
In muffled cadence hoofbeats mark the life I left behind,
Where now Champ and Snips and Rocket gallop only in my mind.
Today I stand between two worlds, as different as white from black;
One beckons me to turn around; the other calls me back.
But memories change...are milled by the river wears the stone,
And I know nothing stays forever, when it's too long left alone.

  November 1999, Roger L. Traweek 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Home Place II - Requiem

A rider stopped by here today. A boy that I once knew
Got down to have a look around. Well, I looked him over, too.
'Course he's a man now, an' I see that Time has had its way;
‘Cuz his walk is slower than it was, and his hair is turning gray.
There’s a sadness in his eyes for sure, an’ he’s put on some weight,
And he doesn’t look as tall somehow, standin’ out there at the gate.
Like me, I guess he's gotten old, and wrinkles took the place
Of the bloom of youth and better times...I am the old home place.

I’m wonderin’ why you came today? To spend some time alone
With ghosts of memories?  To hold a requiem of your own?
Or are you only passin' through with time upon your hands,
A ghost yourself, like those before whose spirits haunt this land?
Yet there's something 'bout the easy way you lift the gate and then
Close it with a gentle kick tells me you’re ‘home’ again.
And if you are, Son, while you’re here, I’ll try to help you see
The parts of you I’ve held inside since you left them here with me.

Inside these walls which held you close, you gather up the past:
As dusty rooms call out to you, ‘Son, you’re home at last.’
Here’s where you sat for supper, served up with your mom’s love;
And over there you hung your coat and parked your boots and gloves.
At Christmas time the tree stood here, and the excitement in your face
When Santa came, lit up the room and filled its every space.
In this room where you dreamed your dreams and slept, a small gray mouse
Is my only company these days, for I’m a lonely house.

Though the old tin tub is now long gone, here’s a memory sharp and clear:
By amber glow of soft lamplight you took your baths just here;
And here, you sat at nightfall and let your imagination go,
As you laughed and sang songs with your dad to the family radio.
Love and Home were all you knew and all you needed then;
How sharp the pain of knowing who we are and who we’ve been!
Though I feel it too, best  leave it to these memories to explain
The hollow shells we’ve now become - where only they remain.

Pausing in the bunkhouse now, the traces of a smile
Cross your face and give you cause to linger there awhile;
Brotherhood remembered, easy laughter without  care,
Before the innocence was lost, and troubled dreams were rare.
The weathered barn still wears its brands -  burnt scars upon Time’s face,
Bearing silent testimony to another time and place,
While you remember white-faced calves and each year’s hopeful start.
Oh, little cowboy, don’t you see, you’re branded on your heart?

The horsebarn and the corral outside where Champ and you first met
To take each other’s never will forget
How pinto horse and buckeroo bent to each other’s will,
When you were twelve and he was two... so long ago, yet still
You hear him softly calling for his grain at end of day,
And you rub his ear...then quietly...the moment fades away.

Through Life’s meanderings currents surge against the passing years,
Carving memories from the bedrock...sluicing Time away with tears.

I’m glad you came.....I’m always here......

     I am the old home place.

November 2000 Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Atop the hill the old horse stood, cast in sharp relief,
Against a flat and graying sky, a monument to grief;
An ache within gnawed at him and gorged its empty maw,
And stripped away his spirit with dripping fang and scaly claw.

For today they'd taken Blue away, his partner for so long;
They'd been a team for 16 years, and something now felt wrong,
Like they'd torn apart his own great heart and left an open sore;
And without Blue there for comfort, nothing mattered anymore.

Seventeen hands, big-boned and lean, the color of raw steel,
And just as strong; a gentle giant harnessed to the wheel;
But once begun, Time was the one that finally brought him down,
Caused him to tremble, then to lunge and stumble on flat ground.

 'No place on a working ranch to carry useless freight,'
And Blue fell victim, as old horses do, to a pre-determined fate.
Though his strength had paled, he'd never failed to give his very best;
And would it have mattered now to give him just a few days' rest?

Like brothers, joined in common toil through every kind of weather,
Shoulder to shoulder and heart by heart they'd worked this ranch together.
They'd done their share to earn their fare from the time they came of age,
Their only debt paid back with sweat, their keep their only wage.

In Spring they plowed the stubbled ground and turned the sleeping earth
To sow a crop that with some luck might make its money's worth.
Yet they never had a day so bad they couldn't face tomorrow;
Still Time was slowly slipping away, and that they couldn't borrow.

They worked the bottoms in haying time and mowed and bunched the hay,
And hauled it home in autumn to be used another day
When winter's ice holds like a vise each life in claws of steel,
And the hair's breadth between life and death is the only thing that's real.

Bone-tired and weary at end of day, the cool night gave them rest.
They never left each other's side. they knew loyalty at its best.
And when the first ray of golden day chased shadows through the sage,
They stood together in the gathering light, as Life turned another page.

Their work had been a performance, melodic in the way
Each great hoof pounded out the rhythm of the day;
But now the song, played sweet and long, is done, the music still,
As Roaney stands alone and looks for Blue beyond the hill.

2002, Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

So Long, Cowboy

All alone in the bunkhouse one Saturday night
After the younger boys had all gone to town,
An old cowboy sat in the amber lamplight
And pondered his life up and down.
Was it bad times forgotten, or good ones remembered?
Just why'd he stuck with it so long?
He looked for the answers in the dyin' fire's embers,
An' at the choices he'd made, right and wrong.

Long days in the saddle, bein' chilled to the bone,
The lonesome he felt in his heart
From spendin' too many of his nights all alone,
Argued strong that a cowboy ain't smart.
He'd squandered his good years without savin' a bit
For a stake when his cowboyin' was done;
Now he was too old to work and too broke to quit,
And that part of cowboyin' ain't fun.

Guess 'til now he hadn't done too much thinkin' about
Just what it meant bein' a cowboy.
But it was the life that he knew, and he'd lived it flat out,
An' getting' up every mornin' brought joy
In the meadowlark's song an' the sounds of the herd,
An' the comfortable creak of his saddle,
Or the view from a ridge, an' the feelins' that stirred
When he rode Smokey out checkin' cattle.

He thought of his old pards, Lefty and Ted
And the years they'd spent chasin' their dream
Of savin' a stake to buy their own spread
'Til their hopes finally ran out of steam.
Cuz' they'd got too old, an' their cowboyin' was done,
An' they wound up tradin' their ways;
'Stead of ridin' a bronc, it's a bench in the sun
An' talkin' about "good ol' days."

Was it friendships he'd had with some trustworthy men
He could count on if his luck ran out?
An' he knew in his heart he'd do it over again;
Maybe that's what bein' a cowboy's about.
He stared at the fire and couldn't help feelin' proud
Thinkin' over the lifetime he'd spent
With his pards on the range, and he wondered aloud,
"Maybe that's what cowboyin' meant?"

"Yep, me'n the boys have rode a trail or two
Together as we gathered the strays;
And you kinda get to know what a man can do
When you've ridden alongside him for days.
You learn what it is that makes your pards tick,
An' the things that they just won't abide;
What brings on a grin and the fights that they'll pick,
An' the soft spots in their hearts they can't hide.

"How they'll always stick up for the little guys,
An' teach 'em to stand tall and straight;
An' the code that they'll live by 'til the day that they die,
An' the things they plum' won't tolerate.
How they always think before dallyin' their rope
To some problem they want to sort out,
And how important it is to keep a heart full of hope,
Cuz' for cowboys that's what life's about.

"Yep, we spent time together in all kinds of weather,
An' sometimes the goin' was tough,
But a cowboy'd rather die than give up or grab leather,
'Cuz they're made out of pretty good stuff.
Why, if we found a stray, or if a fence needed fixed,
We'd just "cowboy up" for the chore,
An' there was always a measure of fun to the mix,
But we don't do that as much anymore.

"An' I remember the times at the end of the day
When we'd all gather 'round the campfire,
And we'd joke and swap yarns just to pass time away;
Guess my sperits was never much higher.
We never backed off from a chore to be done;
Lord, there's nuthin' that I wouldn't give
To be young again when cowboyin' was fun,
An' I'll miss that as long as I live.

"Now the herd's gittin' harder to bunch up each day,
An' they don't stick together at all;
Makes me wonder if I shouldn't get out of the way,
An' let someone else do the gath'rin' this fall.
'Cuz I'm gettin' tired, an' I've got aches and pains,
Maybe it's best if I just step aside,
An' let some young buckaroo take his turn at the reins;
Shoot, all it'll hurt is my pride.

"Tho' I don't want it said that I let the boys down,
Or that I quit without doin' my part;
But before roundup time I think I'll look around
And do the thing that feels right in my heart.
The Big Boss upstairs has done alright by me,
An' if He'll give me some more time to spend,
With ol' Smokey to ride and new country to see
I'll follow this trail to the end.

"But if I mosey on now, I ain't comin' back.
Maybe I'll hook up with some old pards I know
Who could use a good hand to help take up the slack,
An' who won't mind if I'm a little bit slow.
Tho' I'll always be a cowboy, that sure won't erase
Bein' put out to pasture to wait
'Til the end of the trail hits me smack in the face.
 Guess the boys put it to me real straight."

" 'Don't you worry,' they said, 'cuz it's all understood
There weren't nuthin' wrong with your style;
An' you can ride away knowin' you done all that you could,
An' remember that once in awhile.
You done it the "cowboy way" to the letter,
An' you never was careless or sloppy.
Pard, ridin' with you has made all our lives better,
'Cuz it's top hands like you that we copy!' "

March 6, 2002, Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


My brother had an Angus bull he couldn't keep at home
To do the things he'd oughter, 'cuz thet critter liked to roam.
Seemed the grass was always greener, an' he'd jump over any fence
To give away his paternity at my brother's sole expense.

With his nose an' tail up in the clouds, an' his body stretched out thin,
Like Pegasus thet little bull soared over fence an' pen;
An' hit the ground a-runnin' to find his next conquest;
His appetite for amour would put Casanova to the test.

Even when he'd get put out with some heifers so arousin',
He'd be gone the followin' morning, 'cuz he'd spent the night carousin'
Amongst the brown-eyed darlin's on the neighbor's summer range;
An' my brother's anger daily grew at this free gene pool exchange.

He named the bull Fosbury in commemoration of the "flop"
By the kid who'd made it famous as a style to clear the top.
So my brother called him "Fozzie" when women an' kids might hear,
But when it was just the two of them, his names would scorch your ear.

Thet little bull was feisty, too, an' delighted in a fight
With a man on foot or horseback any time of day or night.
So every time my brother set out to bring ol' Fozzie  home,
It was mano a mano an' World War III.with lots of snot an' foam!

Thet little bull would paw the dirt an' beller somethin' awful,
An' the tactics thet my brother used stopped just short of unlawful.
They'd circle round each other sizin' up each other's measure;
To do the other in fer sure would be the other's pleasure.

With a chunk of hard-twist rope in hand an' a big knot at the end,
My brother an' his big horse Buck would finally get him penned.
An' let him soak there in the corral a day or maybe two,
In hopes he'd do, when he got turned out, what he was s'posta do.

Ol' Fozzie would sorter sniff the air an' stick his tail upright,
An' head out like a buckaroo to the dance on Saturday night.
He'd clear a fence with a fancy roll an' never break his stride,
"Til he was with the neighbor's cows again, loungin' on the other side.

Thet got my brother's goat so bad he opened the loadin' pen,
An' he whupped an' hollered Foz towards home an' brought him back again.
Then he backed his truck up to the chute an' threw the tailgate down;
An' set out to load thet dad-gummed bull an' haul him off to town.

He cussed an'' Foz did, too.An' the ruckus thet they made
Took most of the afternoon, I guess, 'til the daylight began to fade.
But he finally got him in the truck an' slammed the gate down hard,
An' aimed to head non-stop for town an' straight to the auction yard.

He started the truck an' dropped the clutch; then he heard an awful thump,
'An 'fore he'd gone ten feet he knew ol' Foz made one more jump!
'Cuz he was hangin' half-ways over the cab an' dentin' in the roof,
Blowin' snot an' bellerin' an' a- poundin' with his hoof.

Well, don't ask me how he did it; somehow he got ol' Foz stuffed back
An' wove barbed wire like a maze through the side stakes of the rack.
"You're captured now" my brother said, "an if you jump out of that,
I'll change your name to Houdini, an' I'll even eat my hat!"

Then he grinned an evil grin to think his troubles were at a close,
An' he looked down at Fozzie fumin' there, an' slapped him on the nose.
Sez he, "I reckon yore libido's wrecked from cavortin' on the range,
But when you hit thet sale ring, pard, your life is gonna change."

"So set yore hooks an' settle down in the back of this ol' truck,
An' to show I don't pack grudges, hell, I'll even wish you luck;
'Cuz we might meet again, who knows? An' I wouldn't be surprised
If you jumped out a MacDonald's window, as my Big Mac.Super-sized!"

June 9, 2002, Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Roger told us that this "story is true in every detail, particularly the last two lines which are a direct quote from my brother."



We moved him from Montana when he was one year old,
Twelve hundred miles away from home an' the ranch where he'd been foaled.
He was just an awkward colt an' barely halter broke,
But we knew that he had promise 'cuz all his breeding spoke
Of top-notch quarter horses up an' down the Three Bars line;
The way he proudly carried his head was a sure an' trusted sign.
We named him "Casey" to remind us of his proud an' rowdy spirit,
An' still today my ol' heart smiles every time I hear it.

When Casey was a two-year-old, our education started,
His, an' mine, 'cuz we neither one came at a thing half-hearted.
On a gray an' misty afternoon I gathered up my tack,
An' it was my sole intention to get my saddle on his back.
Seemed Casey's script read different about what he would an' wouldn't do,
An' we took turns at bein' student for at least an hour or two.
We reached an understanding midway through the afternoon,
If we treated each other with respect, we'd dance the other's tune.

Throughout the coming days we worked 'til that lesson was perfected,
An' slowly Casey came around an' knew what was expected;
But havin' me get on his back he'd never even dreamed,
An' as Lesson Two got underway the trust was gone, it seemed.
It wasn't that he fought or bucked, an' no bad wrecks resulted,
But to see me off the ground...on him...why, he was danged insulted!
He sulked an' pouted 'round that corral an' cussed his equine fate,
But I worked him slow an' easy, an' he learned to bear my weight.

By then the "rough" was off him, an' my cowgirl other half
Soon had him followin' her around like an orphan bucket calf.
When they'd strike out on the trail, they made a handsome sight;
A closeness grew between them, an' they suited each other right.
But in the ways of man an' horse, things sometimes go astray,
An' Casey rightly stayed with her when we went our separate way.
That's maybe how the story should end, ridin' off toward the sunset,
But didn't I say things go astray?  He hadn't finished with me...yet!

Days turned to months an' then to years an' Casey grew up strong,
But he'd learned some tricks from other folks that I think sure was wrong.
He'd spent some time at "finishin' school," where he was handled rough,
An' got mistreated by a farrier, an by then Casey'd had enough,
'Cuz he come away a-hatin' men of every shape an' size.
But the handsome cuss, he sure liked girls. Guess he thought he'd specialize!
No man could lay a hand on him, an' he mocked 'em, runnin' free,
But when his "cowgirl" sold her place, he came back to live with me.

I had a little pasture ideally suited for a horse,
An' I gave him time to settle in an' let Nature take its course.
Though I never planned to ride him, I only hoped to be his friend,
But Casey made it clear it took his feelin's time to mend.
I tried hard to win his trust an' was gentle in every way,
But if I reached out to touch him, he'd just snort an' run away,
An' prance around the pasture like he was built on springs,
An' then stop an' whistle at me as if to say, "I learned some things."

So I gave up, or maybe he won, but we finally agreed;
In summertime he'd trim my grass in trade for winter feed.
That made us "partners" an' knowin' that kept us on an even keel,
'Cuz I guess what we worked out was just a simple business deal.
We made it work for fifteen years an' never had a fight;
He whinnied at me mornings an' when I'd go in at night.
We were back to where we'd started some twenty years before,
With just respect between us, nothing less an' nothing more.

We headed towards the sunset; it got closer every day,
Then my life changed directions, an' I made plans to move away.
Well, Casey couldn't make the trip; 'cuz arthritis had taken hold,
An' I knew how he was feelin'; yep, we both had gotten old.
A sore old man an' an old sore horse, our ways were gonna part,
When danged if that ol' rascal didn't have a change of heart.
Seemed now he was my buddy, an' he no longer shied away,
Invitin' me to pet him while he ate his grain an' hay.

I tried hard to find a home for him; all he needed was a friend,
Some place where he could spend his days while waitin' for the end,
But no one wanted to take him in, an' I understood, of course,
An' I hated knowin' what'd happen to this fine old worn-out horse.
Well, I sure didn't have the heart for it...I couldn't bear the thought
That I'd be the one to betray him, an' dang, that hurt a lot.
So I called upon his cowgirl pal, an' I said, "You owe me one.
Will you take care of Casey?  Call the vet an' see it's done?"

Passin' on the buck to her was cowardly, I guess,
But she was always strong that way, an' she quietly answered, "Yes."
So plans were made; the vet was called, an' I picked out Casey's grave
'Longside a couple spruce trees that more than often gave
Him shelter from the winter storms an' from the summer sun
In the pasture that was his alone, where he'd liked to play an' run.
It hurt my heart to do it, an' though others told me it was kind,
I wondered if it really was in the corners of my mind?

Casey'd had it his way all his life, I don't deny;
That's maybe why it hurt, knowin' how he had to die.
'Cuz friends don't do such things to friends 'til there isn't any hope;
But I guess our luck ran out that day; we'd both run out of rope.
I'd never start a day again with him talkin' for his grain,
Or see him prance away so proud, an' I knew I'd feel the pain,
'Cuz Casey was a lot like me, or I, a lot like him;
We were mostly diamonds in the rough more than a polished gem.

The last time I saw Casey was in the mornin' light,
An' the bright sun there behind him cast him in an aura bright.
I fed him grain an' talked to him when I said goodbye that day,
An' with tear-filled eyes got in my truck an' slowly drove away.
It's been a year now an' some months since I last saw Casey there,
But I often think about him when the chill is in the air,
An' I'm lonely as I stand there in the early mornin's glow,
'Cuz I packed up my life an' I moved' Casey couldn't go.

June 13, 2002 Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Roger says: This is another true story based on a horse I knew for 26 years. He wasn't much good for all those "horsey" things like ridin', ropin', and such, but he was a heckuva good friend and business partner.  We put him down about a year and a half ago...not one of my better days!


Pickled Eggs An' Slim Jims An' Hot Mamas In A Jar

'Most every cowboy's done it, an' for some it's even habit;
If he gets a chance to go to town, he'll dang near always grab it.
He'll check his list for what he needs...some grub an' calf vaccine,
Two rolls of wire  an' some fencin' pliers, but he'll get caught between
The horns of a dilemma before his shoppin's done.
His thirst will overcome him, an' he'll just hafta stop for one.

Now, I'm referrin' to those "barley pops" that cowboys fancy so
To wash down days of trail dust an'' produce that mellow glow
That transcends their present circumstance an' helps them ferget how
The scenery never changes at the rear end of a cow.
So when he sees those flashin' neon lights, it's one of his natural reactions
That he'll stop in to have just one of those frosty satisfactions.

'Course it rarely ever works that way, an' keen observation shows
That stoppin' in for one's a joke, an' every cowboy knows
That by the time he's said "Budweiser," an ol' pal will materialize
From within those dark an' cool confines, an' they'll start swappin' lies.
Well, a man can't walk on just one leg, an' for this companionship he's found,

He'll grin an' order number two,' then the barkeep buys a round!
So he's in it now for three, well, shoot, any man can han'le that,
An' besides how long's it been since him an' ol' Rusty chewed the fat?
They talk about the weather, pink-eyed calves, an' gath'rin' steers,
An' pretty soon they're playin'' the loser buys the beers!
Now playin' Eight-ball ain't like gamblin' an' some of them other sins,
'Cuz if you're only playin' for beers, why everybody wins!

After half a dozen games of that, an' he can't hardly make a shot,
He remembers that he's hungry, an' says, "Barkeep, whatcha got?"
Well, there's pickled eggs an' Slim Jims an' Hot Mamas in a jar."
"Well," he says, "I'll take a pair of each, an' I'll eat 'em at the bar."
These gastronomic landmines make him belch an' make him frown,
An' he says, "Barkkeep!  Another wash these suckers down!"

By now the tally stands at ten, if you've been keepin' score,
He's lost his list, an' his ol' pal Rusty...well, he went home to do his chores.
So he rolls dice for the jukebox an' plays his favorite country star,
An' 'bout then a little blue-eyed thing comes a-waltzin' in the bar.
They look each other over, an' she decides to take a chance,
An' sashays over to him an' says, "Cowboy, can you dance?"

"Dance!" he says.  "Well, I reckon so...I prac'kly wrote the book!"
An' in the soft lights of the jukebox she gives him a tender look.
An' they dance that tune an' a couple more, an' he says, "Here's what I think;
Le's you an' me get acquainted, gal. C'mon, I'll buy us both a drink."
So they sit an' drink an' dance an' talk, 'til the barkeep says, "Last Call."
An' the blue-eyed thing disappears, when he's in the men's room down the hall.

So now he's back in his pickup truck, headin' out from town;
The mornin' sun is on the rise; his luck is on the down.
A hint of her perfume remains to haunt him from afar;
Not like those pickled eggs an' Slim Jims an' Hot Mamas in a jar!
Volcanic an' nauseating...Whee-e-e-e-e-w! He musta had some fun!
But his world would be a kinder, sweeter place, if he'd only stopped for one!

  September 6, 2002, Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Sam and Emma

Twenty years of marriage - Sam an' Emma did their time;
Just a hard-workin' ranching couple, savin' every dime.
They'd managed through some hard years, an' a few were just plain bad,
But what held the two together was all the fun they had.
They knew each other inside out, each little quirk and flaw,
The habits they displayed at times, an' the things that rubbed 'em raw.
Like how Emma couldn't leave the house with dishes in the sink,
An' how Sam always scratched his rear when he really had think,
An' how Emma organized the cupboards when she had somethin' on her mind,
An' Sam never scraped his muddy boots - My God, was that man blind?
But their affection never wavered - they were just old married folks,
Tho' their marriage wasn't borin' 'cuz they both liked playin' jokes.
One night Emma went to town, leavin' Sam home on his own,
So he set out to do some mischief for leavin' him alone.
He got her sewin' basket out and with a needle and some thread
Sam sewed the sheets together tight on her side of the bed.
He put away the evidence and got into bed to wait
'Til she'd come home to join him there; she'd said that she'd be late.
When he finally heard her footsteps coming softly down the hall,
He closed his eyes and faked a snore and turned to face the wall.
Emma undressed in the dark and slipped her nightgown on;
An' quietly made her way to bed and gave a little yawn.
Ol' Sam could hardly stand it, and he had to bite his lip
' Cuz when Emma found herself 'sewed out', he guessed that gal would flip.
She pulled the covers back but when she tugged upon the sheet
It wouldn't give, and after several tries she gave up in defeat.
Sam thought when Emma left the room, she'd be back to claim her half
With scissors to cut those stitches loose, an' then they'd both have a laugh.
Well, Emma didn't come back to bed, an' Sam finally fell asleep.
An' when morning came, he's still alone an' feelin' mighty cheap.
But there upon the dresser were clean clothes for him to wear,
Shirt and pants were folded with his one-piece underwear.
Sam dressed and headed for the kitchen and prepared to greet his mate;
He gave Emma  a good morning kiss an' said, "You got home late."
Emma just smiled sweet an' said, "I was afraid I'd wake you up. "
An' I had some mendin' that needed done...Here, let me fill your cup."
"I fell asleep there in my chair and by the time I woke
It was time to be fixin' breakfast. Now ain't that the biggest joke?"
Sam said, "Well, I missed you, Hon," and breathed a sigh of great relief
That Emma wasn't mad at all in spite of last night's grief,
And not to bring it up again seemed like the prudent course,
So Sam just set the table - he was hungry as a horse.
The good smells of Emma's cookin' surely tantalized ol' Sam;
She'd fixed his favorite breakfast: hot cornbread, beans an' ham,
They sat down to the table, and Sam ate like it was his last meal
'Cuz Emma was a top-hand cook and this was a full-meal deal.
Sam ate his fill and then he dressed to go out and tend the stock
It was snowing hard already and too windy to pick rock.
The temperature stood at -20, and that made his front teeth rattle
As he loaded his truck with cake and hay and went out to feed the cattle.
By the time he found the critters, the day was really gettin' raw,
But he called to them, an' they came out from the shelter of a draw.
He'd scattered the five sacks of cake and was headin' for the truck
To spread the hay around when he had a bad change in his luck.
See, there's a chore he hadn't tended to before he left the ranch;
An' relievin' yourself in a blizzard makes even tough guys blanch.
But there weren't no way to put it off, an' Sam knew he had to go.
So he took off his gloves and dropped his pants an' crouched there in the snow.
The seat of his union suit was shut, and he nearly had a fit
When with fingers almost freezing he found he couldn't open it.
Time was runnin' out on Sam, and a curse froze in his mouth,
'Cuz as he was headed north, the beans and cornbread headed south.
A few more frantic fumblin's, an' then he found the cause of his dilemma.
Somebody'd sewed his trap door shut, and that someone was Emma!
Those ol' cows must have giggled when Sam shed his coat an' shirt in haste,
Next thing they saw his union suit a-danglin' from his waist.
He was turnin' blue from top to bottom, though he was in no mood to check;
He was just glad to exit his drawers and head off an awful wreck.
Emma never cut him slack - that part he understood;
An' he knew for sure that he'd been had and that she'd got him good;
But he knew why they made a pair as he pulled up his britches;
It's gol-danged hard to grow apart when your spouse keeps you in stitches!

2004, Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

A Cowboy Operation

I just had an operation that sure opened up my eyes;
Pipes runnin' up my neck wuz plugged, an' it came as a surprise
To learn all the grub I'd put away, in me had turned to fat
An' kept the blood from goin' to the place I hang my hat.
The sawbones says, "If they're not cleaned, you'll surely have a stroke."
"Now, hold on, hoss," I says to him. "Are you sure this ain't some joke?"
An' in words I barely understood he told me just enough
To get my full attention, an' I said "Well, Doc, do your stuff."
But there wuz lots he didn't tell me, 'an I'm here to tell you straight
What happened to me after that embarrassed me first rate.
He sent me to the hospital to check in with this nurse,
Who had me write my whole life down, an' then to make things worse,
She gave me the third degree like I'se a common crook;
"How's your sex life?" "Do you smoke?"' (Hell, I'd never thought to look!)
She gave me a frosty stare an' then handed me a cup,
An' sent me to another room an' said, 'Now, fill it up."
Well, I looked at her an' said, "With what?" as I prepared to go.
"Your'n," she said, an' I said, "Mine? My 'what', I'd like to know?"
"You dumb cowpoke, the stuff you pass first thing when you arise!"
 "Well, I usually break some wind, Ma'am; this ain't the proper shape or size!
Do you have a long an' curly one with a funnel at one end?"
An' she said, "Do I hafta draw a picture? I ain't got all day to spend;
Now just get in there an' take a leak," which didn't make no sense,
An' I figured she wuz surely makin' jokes at my expense.
I told her it wuz my neck wuz plugged an' not my little "Willy,"
An' that all the things she asked of me I thought were sorta silly.
She wuz gettin' purty cranky now, an' I thought I'd best comply,
So I filled the cup up to the rim; I'm just that kind of guy!
Next, she handed me this nightgown like some floozie oughta wear,
'Cuz it wuz open in the back an' would expose one's derry-aire.
She said, "Shed your clothes an' put it on."  I quickly stammered, "What?"
I'm danged if she wuz gonna see my skinny, hairy butt!
So, I looked her in the eye an' said, "Now, Ma'am, this just can't be -
You can plainly see that I'm a "he," an' this here's for a "she!"
She just rolled her eyes an' scowled at me an' motioned with her thumb
An' penned me up behind a curtain, an' oh boy, did I feel dumb
The way she ordered me around, I'm sure ashamed to say,
But I could tell that this ol' heifer was usta havin' things her way.
I kicked off my boots an' dropped my clothes, an' fin'ly put it on,
An' when she had to help me tie the thing, my dignity wuz gone!

She had me lay down on this cot an' wheeled me down the hall
To meet the an-es-theez-i-ol-o-gist an' that's the last I can recall.
When I woke up my neck wuz sore; my mouth wuz parched an' dried;
I had tubes an' wires a-stickin' out, just like I'd been hog-tied.
There's another nurse a-tendin' me, a purty nice surprise,
An' compared to ol' Grunhilda, she's an angel in disguise.
She fluffed my pillow for me an' fetched me a nice cold drink -
Even asked me how I'se feelin', an' I answered, "In the pink!"
She said the doctor told her that my surgery went well,
An' that I might go home tomorrow - or the next day - time would tell.
Then she handed me this box an' said, " Just push this button, Doll,
If there's somethin' I can do for you; I'm at your beck an' call."
"If you don't mind my sayin', Ma'am," I told her with a grin,
That other nurse could learn from you the way to treat us men."
She went on about her business, writin' things down on a chart -
Just the sweetest little thing that ever roped a cowboy's heart.
I wuz feelin' kinda sleepy an' laid back an' took a nap,
An' when I woke up my gown had crept clear up above my lap.
I tried to cover up myself an' used my one free hand,
To keep that little nurse from seein' places I ain't tanned.
I finally sat up in the bed an' it wuz there I met defeat;
Those gol-derned tubes an' wires were all tangled in the sheet.
I wuz tryin' to unsnarl the mess an' not havin' any luck,
When my little angel nurse came in an' said, "Looks like you're stuck."
There wuz tubes an' wires everywhere - even underneath my gown -
I'd made such a mess of them, there's no tellin' up from down.
So she just grabbed a fistful, an' then she gave a mighty yank,
An' I flinched an' yelped a little, an' my opinion of her sank.
Now, have you ever seen a chain saw that wuz just plain hard to start?
Well, that's how she went at it an' like to tore me plumb apart!
With every tug I yelled some more, an' it wuz anybody's guess,
Just who got more frustrated as she tore into that mess.
For the final pull she'd gathered all the gear in her right hand,
An' said, "Why this's so dad-blamed hard I'll never understand."
When she pulled, I nearly fainted - my pain wuz off the charts!
"The reason is," I croaked, "they're wrapped around my private parts!"
That seemed to slow her down a bit, an' she slipped off the noose,
An' by the time that I could breathe again, she finally had me loose.
I got sent home the followin' day an' wuz plenty glad to go;
I'd had my fill of hospitals an' nurses, too, you know.
Now, if you find yourself in such a fix, recall you heard it here -
Just lay still an' keep your mouth shut, or you might go home a steer!

2005, Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Strong Medicine

Mottled shades of brown, you are the colors of the prairie
The day I found you and carelessly lifted you
From your centuries-old resting place on Mother Earth,
From your solitude...from your past.
Mute, hidden amongst buffalo grass and sage,
Your purpose perceived in that moment,
A simple stone, laid naked by my prying fingers,
Raising questions where before there were none.

Who laid you here...before Montana...on this sun-baked prairie?
  A woman, now faded into the swirling mists of memory,
No doubt found you appealing and useful enough
To carry you with worn brown hands
And carefully place you to anchor her modest tipi home.

Whose home...whose this quiet, lonely place?
You hint that Cheyenne or Arapahoe stopped here:
Father...mother...children...laughing, loving, living,
Awaiting dawn, anticipating the hunt of nearby buffalo,
Feeding upwind in the spring-fed marshy creek bottom.

Were you there for the hunter's triumphant return,
Bloodied with haunches of fresh kill for the evening feast,
And the retelling of the old stories of glory days and other hunts,
As the Spirits weave in and and out
Of the smoke and shadows from a dying campfire?

Or, was it flight from an approaching and uncertain destiny,
Where The People, like tethered eagles, live on reservations,
Their pride, like the great herds of buffalo, driven
To the very edge of extinction
At the hands of white men like me?

A heaviness weighs on me, and I struggle with words inadequate
To imagine and portray the enormity of your story.
I am overcome at how a woman and a man,
Separated by more than years, now forever joined in Life's circle,
Came to hold you in their hands.

Your silence, resolute and impassive, counts coup, and I surrender;
Your medicine is stronger than mine.

2005, Roger L. Traweek
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Roger comments:

This poem came about following a personal experience in August 2006 on my ranch in Montana. I was showing a friend a tipi ring on the ranchone which I had known about all my lifeand it occurred to me unearth one of the stones. I selected one and pried it out of the ground with my fingers. Shortly after, as I was holding it in my hands, I realized that I was in all likelihood only the second person to ever hold that stone, the first, of course, being the person who laid it there two centuries ago.  It was the kind of experience which nearly brought me to my knees, and one which I knew I would have to write about it someday.

I did a little research on tipi rings and the Native Americans who frequented the area in the past (primarily Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe). I also learned that the tipis themselves and the horses that packed them were generally the property of the women of the tribe; giving rise to my assumption that the original handler of the stone was a woman.  Because of the size of the tipi ring (about 18 - 20 feet in diameter) my research told me it would have been transported by horses which didn't appear in North America until after the Spaniard's influence  in the middle 1500's. I "guess-timate" the age of this tipi ring to be somewhere between 125 and 250 or more years old.  The tipi ring is situated about one-half mile downwind from a marshy area fed by natural springs on the ranch. As a child I remember we found large bones (buffalo, no doubt) and buffalo horns in the immediate area.  I'm positive it was a good place to hunt, and I! can imagine a family camped there for that purpose.  However, in a darker frame of mind I can imagine a family fleeing the prospect of life on a government reservation. Either could be true...take your choice.

I thought about this poem off and on for nearly three months, but nothing would form itself in my mind and in my usual style of poetry. I couldn't even get a start at telling the story; it was as if the stone was defying me every inch of the way. Finally I set the stone on the desk before me and virtually asked it, "Alright, what do you have to tell me?," and "Strong Medicine" is the story that resulted.  I just grabbed a hold on it and followed it along to its conclusion. Free verse isn't my style of choice, but it seems to fit that tipi stone just fine.

Read Roger Traweek's The Gift, posted with other Holiday 2000 poems.



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