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STEVE DIRKSEN
aka "California Steve"
Redlands, California
About Steve Dirksen

  
With sadness, we learned that Steve Dirksen died on June 9, 2005. 

 

In February, 2005 Steve's brother Mike, who maintains Steve's web site, sent news of his health challenges:  

Steve got Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) sometime before he and I attended the 2003 Elko event. I know he'd like to be writing poems again and chasing down his favorite poets at the gatherings, but it just hasn't turned out that way.

Despite the difficulties and confinement, Steve visits with family, shares his favorite cowboy movies with family and friends, is sharing cowboy lore with anyone who visits and has encouraged others to study "the Cowboy Way" of life.  He has a "Cowboy Wall" in his room which is a wonderful collection of cowboy photos, artwork and memorabilia that he has received from his brother, family and health care workers and friends. He's even instilled the love of poetry and spawned future poets during his days at the Assistencia Villa.  Steve's not a whiner. For the most part, he makes the best of each day, and tries to treat everyone with the respect and patience they are due.

Steve loves the "Cowboy way" and is proud to be a cowboy poet.

 

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for his poem, Face the Day

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

 

About Steve Dirksen:

Steve writes:  "Moved to California as a preteen from Kansas. Been a classroom teacher for 25 years.  K thru 6.  Passions are history, art and poetry of the West (past and present).   As an artist my work turned toward the west about 20 years ago.  I was doing ceramic western figures and started doing portraits of my favorite western actors.   Got in a few shows but no real success. About 15 years ago I started a weekly cowboy day in my room.  Got a rope and saddle to let the kids get a feel for it.  We go out on Thursday to let each kid throw a loop at whatever target we have that year (tree stump, bench). I teach them at least 2 cowboy songs (Pecos Bill and Back in the Saddle) I started my poetry in 96 and got one published in American Cowboy Dec/Jan 97.  I took that as a sign. I have had one published each year since.  Also I have hooked up with Desert Cowboy out of Yucca Valley, CA and have had two articles published there.  In April 2000 I had a poem published in ReadtheWest.com.  I participated in my first gathering as a "local poet" in Yucca Valley in 1999. I continue to look for gatherings to perform my work at.  Gatherings are filled with people who find the Western arts a way to make that step into tomorrow easier."

We asked Steve why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he replied:

I always wanted my art to be something anyone can look at and respond  to in a positive way. The poets that we have around us are special folks coping with everyday life.  I am proud to be a part of the "Cowboy poetry" variety of special folks It's such a bonus to be amongst you all.

We asked Steve about the inspiration for "Face the Day" and he replied:

What inspired me to write "Face the Day" were the events of 911 and its aftermath.  But beyond that was the historical fact of all hard times in American History where we have rallied to rebuild, unite and overcome the odds.  But from the point of view of the "hand" (you and I) who does it every day.  No matter what comes you still have to get up and "face the day."


Pat Richardson (left) and Steve Dirksen at Elko, 2003
  Photo by Mike Dirksen

 

 

Face the Day 

Just when the world is cracking up
and it seems to be all lost
you pull your boots on one more time
to face the heat or frost
cause the day will come no matter what
and the chores won't go away
so you hit the saddle and head on out
it ain't about the pay
you don't know what will happen
that ain't in your routine
but you blink your eyes and greet the day
and hope the grass is green
so all the critters get a meal
to turn life's endless wheel
and when tomorrow gets here
you can look em in the eye
and know that when you rode out
you gave it "cowboy try"

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.


 

Technology 


Later in the day, after Brownie settled down
to a cup of fresh brewed coffee
he called Ed,
Ed was closing up his "House of Hair Repair"
when his phone rang and Brownie said,
"Ed, what is the deal with "cable"....
is plain old television dead?
Should I sign up for a coaxial line?"
Ed gave a sigh and said,...
"Brownie, down here at the shop,
I've got that satellite dish instead,
but I swear there's no more cowboys
coming in from overhead."
a pause occurred as Brownie pondered
sipping at his coffee.
"Thank you, Ed. he said.
and after a minute of silence...
I'm gonna put my TV
with that junk out in the shed."

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.


On the Go

One day when I was on the go
I stopped to watch a rodeo
I'd settled in to eat a dog
n' watch bull riders play leap frog
the sun was hot and soda cold
the ropers arms would not unfold
I must confess I nodded some
started wondering why I'd come
then a bronc came out to play
this guy was on him bound to stay
he wore a necktie and starched shirt
we knew he wouldn't hit the dirt
what a ride, the crowd yelled too
they jumped in sync till 8 was through
with a flying dismount he disengaged
"Hawkeye" Henson! the announcer paged
a saddle bronc artist of the first degree
I was glad he came so I could see.

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

A Cowboy Needs

A cowboy needs a wide brimmed hat cause a face in shade is cool like that
A cowboy needs a wild rag to shield his face on dusty drag
A cowboy needs a pair of chaps leg protecting leather wraps
A cowboy needs to wear tall boots for working close to rough stock brutes
A cowboy needs two jingly spurs the metal music he prefers
A cowboy needs a heavy saddle to sit a horse and see the cattle
A cowboy needs a coiled rope to stop the bovine on the lope
A cowboy needs a brand to ride the range for as a hand
A cowboy needs some open space big cowboy land in his face
A cowboy needs homecooked food 'cause eating from a can is crude
A cowboy needs some family fun every Saturday night with everyone
A cowboy needs a dream or two while sleeping the short night through
and a cowboy needs an early start cause being cowboy is from the heart

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

This poem appeared in American Cowboy, December/January 1997

 

 

Night Class

Over at the Junior College I am in a class at night
concrete walls and map rolls hanging, overhead fluorescent light
I signed up for Poetry 101 cause I'm gonna learn to write
about the cowboy ranch life, clever rhymes that will delight
but it's been six weeks since class began and I'm having pangs of fright
nobody's mentioned Waddie Mitchell, can you sense my dreadful plight?
How can I learn to coin a phrase with a caustic cowboy bite
if all I read is ancient meter, will Shakespeare give insight?

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

 

Across the Plains

I took a train across the plains
where the wagons rolled so slow
and carried folks who came to fashion
fields with plow and hoe
to feed the hungry ranchers
who used ropes that they would throw
building herds to push to market
cross these plains not long ago
I thought about the miles
reaching out from where I go
they were empty then of buildings
just nature's course did show
each family stood the test
facing hardship toe to toe
digging in to stay for good
like the winters melted snow
that seeped into the earth
to make our country grow
thanks to all the folks that came
when the wagons rolled so slow

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.



The Singing Cowboy

On the silver screen he rode along
a guitar strumming son of a gun
his horse had a name that everyone knew
with a look or a whistle it came on the run
this hero of ours had a sidekick to boot
comic relief when the show needed fun
the outlaws he fought had a boss, Mister Big!
the guy in the suit, he was always the one
and the girl whose father had a business in trouble
could depend on the cowboy when bad things were done
save the ranch! help the kid! put the bad guys in jail!
then sing us a song, our true native son.

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.



I've Cussed

I've cussed my thumb, I've cussed my toe
I've cussed my horse when it won't go
I've cussed the ground, I've cussed the sky
I've cussed myself when I've told a lie
I've cussed the sun, I've cussed the moon
I've cussed when it got cold too soon
I've cussed the stories on the news
I've cussed when I have had to choose
I've cussed when my old car broke down
I've cussed the tow truck ride to town
I've cussed because of things I've done
I've cussed when I have lost someone
but I never cussed my wife you see
cause she might think of leaving me!

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.


An Old Hand

He's working in the kitchen of a little cafe
this guy I knew, who was a good hand in his day
back in younger years we'd worked the O bar K
and another spread off to the East, called the Circle Jay
but after being stove up by a rank bull in his way
he hired on to cook instead of cuttin' cows for pay
it's been some years since he used to say
"Gather round the coffee boys, drink n' eat n' pray."
he's over there, I see him, smiling in a friendly way
serving eggs and hash to folks who never may
know this guy's a cowboy
right here in this cafe

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.


Bill's Show

Bill stumbled and fell one night by his tent
a bottle clenched in his hand
the show was not making the money it should
a new century was stomping the land
the old scout lay in his buckskin suit
his legs wouldn't help him to stand
the business of show was taxing
keeping an audience was the demand
Bill struggled pulling himself to his feet
in the hangover dawn, with no helping hand
being a hero was hard, at his age
but a show must go on as planned
he would rally again for the people
who could cheer for their hero so grand
as his portrait of the old West
played out with the help of a band

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

Thinking

A group of cowboys at a table
in a cafe close to here
were jawin' about the weather
and  a horse that had no fear
when one old puncher's voice
broke in to recollect
how his wife set a table
and it made em all reflect
on silverware and tablecloths
fresh flowers in a vase
food prepared with loving care
and maybe saying grace
Arturos' wife could doctor cattle
then cook with little muss
Sam could see his wife fix stew
and how she made a fuss
Bill could see his wifes' hands setting fork and spoon
and in her sly way asking
"Fixing coffee soon?"
 a partner full of strength
who could be gentle as a feather
helping ease the burden
of life out in the weather
and how each day was special
at the beginning or the end
cause they could sit and eat,
and talk with their best friend

© 2000 Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

This poem appeared in ReadTheWest, August, 2000

Short a Few 

We're short a few cowboys and cowgirls
they've been off the screen growing old
living in places like Victorville,
or Thousand Oaks, so I'm told
we hear of them every so often
being awarded boots of gold
stars not quite so active
cause the fans haven't been polled
mostly the studios think they're passť 
but our memories never grow cold
of the voice or the hat or the theme
or where the toy with their name was sold
cowboys in movies still ride some today
cause they can't seem to break the mold
a fresh crop of westerns is needed
mixing new hands with some of the old
we're short a few cowboys and cowgirls
but don't let your saddle be sold
salute both the past and the present
cause the West just won't ever fold.

© 2001 Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

This poem was written in honor of Dale Evans. See other poems dedicated to her here.

Get Back Mr. Black  

I did not steal this Baxter Black, these words are mine, I'm a cowboy hack
I wrote some poems in a cheap motel, just some toilet paper and I couldn't spel
printed them up on a copy machine, sent them in to a magazine
they didn't use em they sent em back, said "Sorry pardner, we got Baxter Black"
today you're sellin books and tapes, while I'm at Dennys' flipping crepes
or crackin my bones sailin off a horse, there's no more fun then writin' of course
like that time when I was lost in a storm, froze three fingers n still wrote a poem
I'm a writin fool and someday soon, me and you will meet at noon
maybe then you'll explain to me why a writer like me is writin for free
but watch out pardner cause I got rhymes, about those heartfelt cowboy times
like who I'd like to give a chance . . . American Cowboy or the BAR-D Ranch.

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

 See our feature about Baxter Black here.

 

Bob's Hat

Bob never touched the brim of his hat
It was planted each day and stayed where it sat
working or sleeping he never took off his hat
so the boys got to wondering if his hair was flat
or if he was bald underneath that old hat
then one day as he slept where he sat
they played a trick with the ranch house cat
they sat the old cat right on his hat
then watched as quiet as mud on a mat
when "BANG!" went a gun and the cat gave a spat
flying off Bob with his claws in that hat
after laughing like fools their laughter went flat
when they saw what was under Bobs' beat up old hat
his hair was not gone nor was it flat
but grown in the shape of the crown of his hat
molded like being poured from a vat
a sight to behold astounding at that
Bob jumped up and ran after the cat
zigging and zagging like some kind of bat
and when he had found it and replaced his hat
nobody wondered again about that.

© Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

 

Western Writer 

I was gonna write a western novel about a desperado
a blazing tale about the west filled with male bravado
the good guy was a bad guy that had learned to cuss and shoot
but changed his ways in chapter five when his ma gave him the boot
so he rode through Arizona doing good in lawful ways
helping catch the outlaws on windy, dusty days
then I woke up from my daydream in time to eat my lunch
and got a pad and pencil to scribble down my hunch
but after writing down a hundred words my hand got kinda sore
I thought I'd take a break and catch a nap behind the store
seems one thing or another has kept me from the thrill
of writing that western novel, I just never had the will
and since that day I wonder how I'd fill two hundred pages
with the hijinks of a cowboy riding through the sages
so I'll leave that to a person that can write for days and days
and keep on trucking bottled water through the California haze


© 2001 Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

 

Mom

I was sittin' with mom in her kitchen
just the other night to visit some
she pushed a bowl of peaches cross the counter
"Been a couple days, glad you've come"
her fish tank purred and I saw that she was older
been six years since dad  has passed away
then she laughed at some comment that I made
and I thought about her folks and Kansas hay
she'd learned to drive back when she was a kid
inside a truck her dad drove hauling lime
I'm pretty sure gramps taught her how to laugh
and to cowboy tough it through depression time
then we talked some more and ate a piece of pie
and she let me know a lights out in the back
there's a note taped on the wall to remind her of a pill
as we look through some old pictures from a stack
then I hugged her and told her she's alright
glad this Kansas girl is my mom
as she winks and says, "Don't forget about the light."

© 2002 Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

 

(Posted also in the collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms)

Take a Chance 

At one AM in the circle K a clerk behind the counter
was bored stacking bags of chips and was thinking of his daughter
she was married to a guy that was a few years older
and the clerk thought about some pictures his wife kept in a folder
just then a guy came in and asked how to get to Interstate ten
which made the clerk think to ask his wife how long it had been
since they'd busted loose from work to take a midnight ride
then he tilted back his cowboy hat and thought of her with pride
wishing they could ride their horses to a desert rendezvous
maybe spend some time in Vegas where they'd have a skyhigh view
but his life was tied up in routine away from things like that
between their crazy hours their lifeline screened as flat
back in his early days he'd had time to take a chance
on rodeo and cowboy life out at his Grandmas' ranch
seasonal work to learn what some generations took as fact
but his turn to city life had left his cowboy mirror cracked
now thirty years had come and gone but he'd always shined his boots
no matter what trail he'd traveled even when he wore those suits
so after work that day he told his wife to pack some things
and they would hit the road for western air and what it brings
perhaps they'd see their daughter and stop to bring some cowboy cheer
taking one more ride out through the steel and chrome frontier

© 2002, Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

 

 

Standing Down 

Standing close to a horse holding reins in my hand
country bugs dive and land close on the land
I don't move quick just turn my head slightly
Listening and watching I see nothing unsightly

my horse shakes his head and the sound lands on my ear
I remain where I stand with my horse standing near
out away from things that make demands on me
it's a sense of freedom I feel, smell and see

I look off to the west where cows can graze
bowing my head to give the Lord praise
standing next to my horse I lose the urgency of time
that will keep me spinning like a loose change dime

just taking a minute to stand with the cinch loose
letting worries escape which have little use
course you have to deal with things that are hard
but my horse is eyeing me saying "Come on pard."

standing down can make the difference in a day
as you reflect on the world and what folks say
it feels good for a minute to stand on the land
thankful for a horse and the reins in your hand

© 2003, Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

 

The Shot Glass 

The shot glass sits on the bar all alone, the place is closed today
Shadows surround the tables and chairs, people have gone away
The swinging doors are silent and the piano plays no tune
Sam used to work as the barkeep here at the Longbranch saloon

Miss Kitty winked and strolled away, Doc Adams had the last beer
Matt Dillon, Chester and Festus found a fishin' hole to be near
The sets for Dodge City have been struck, the scripts are no more
Black and white gave way to color before they locked up the door

during our travels to Dodge, compadres rode the same trail
A man wearing black had a gun, and would travel on each tale
Palladin was a man of Letters although his time was brief
His logic was quick as his pistol, that always spelled relief

If you were "Wanted dead or Alive" Josh Randall found the track
And  Lucas McCain went to North Fork to break up the outlaw pack
"Johnny Yuma" the rebel rode through, never using a gold mining pan
The roads they traveled are empty now except on the rerun plan

It's been long ago that we saw these Westerners on TV
But traces remain in museums or drawers or our minds where we see
San Francisco, Dodge City, and North Fork and "Tombstone Territory"
The West they lived in was scripted to satisfy viewers like me

"Bonanza" with Hoss and his brothers rode up in color to begin
then it all became too much, as they spread the West too thin
but holding up well, even today, is the show that was the best
"Gunsmoke" on the Westerns channel still passes every test

The shot glass sits on the bar all alone, the place is closed today
Shadows surround the tables and chairs, people have gone away
The swinging doors are silent and the piano plays no tune
Sam used to work as the barkeep here at the Longbranch saloon

© 2004, Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

Steve writes: My poem "The Shot Glass" is inspired by the fact that James Arness recently turned 80, a respectable age for any cowboy to reach.   And the fact that "Gunsmoke" ran for over 20 years   Although it honors the "reel" west it also honors the many "real" cowboys who grew up during the TV westerns lifetime. The fictional storytelling of the West is a "cousin" inspired by the factual stories of  the West.  And my poem is saying goodbye to one era many cowboys grew up in.  After all is said and done we still seek the entertainment of both fictional and real western events.

No Spurs a-Jingling 

He died in the backroom of his house outside of town
a picture of Jesus above his bed kindly looking down

there were no spurs a-jingling as they walked him out
nor fiddle music swirling that he'd of liked no doubt

just a few old hands gathered at the cemetery plot
to say goodbye and laugh a bit while the sun was hot

they spoke about a guy with heart and friendship true
but every deal he made was never thought clear through

that's how they called him "Shorty" even if he was tall
yet he just plugged along like the bouncin' of a ball

but if you needed cow work done he'd offer you a hand
to work and sweat all day cause he could rope and brand 

though they was times  he took to drinkin' and was gone
he'd show up after a spell ready to work again at dawn

he had no family hereabouts anybody had ever seen
one ex who lived in Kansas from before things was lean

then he got stove up from a  fall and things went slim to bad
but he would smile and tell you old stories about his dad

lookin' past the stories you could see a guy who'd tried
using all his cowboy logic when any good had shied

he'd lived a simple life and his belongings were not much
just necessary things that had sat still from his last touch

another cowboy lost on the trail drive cross this earth
remembered by a few who'd ridden with him since his birth

and so the story goes about this cowboy from our town
with a picture of Jesus on the wall kindly looking down

© 2004, Steve Dirksen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  permission.

Read "California Steve" Dirksen's report on Elko, 2003 and his poem, Elko, posted with the gathering reports.


Steve Dirksen and Waddie Mitchell at Elko, 2003
  Photo by Mike Dirksen

 

 

Read Steve Dirksen's Special Day posted with the Holiday 2001 poems and If There's No Need posted with the Holiday 2003 poems.

 

 

 

 

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