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Western New York State
About S. J. Passamonte



For Cocoa

Today, we put down the old buckskin mare.
On her back a hundred kids learned how to ride.
I feel the emptiness all around.
My throat's all sore inside.

For thirty years she did her best.
Her patience knew no end.
She'd babysit the smallest kid
Take grandma up around the bend.

Tho' her back was swayed 'n' her lip drooped down,
she had big hollows o'er both her eyes
Had a knee bunged up 'n' she'd trip at times
But she always gave you an honest ride.

So today I led her out, behind the barn
the Vet said," I promise, she won't feel a thing".
And 30 years was gone in in a minute, or two
She was gone on a prayer and a wing.

And so it ended with a sigh, a big mouthful of grass
on a warm fall day, up on a lonely hill.
I remembered all the good years, as I walked back to the truck.
I remembered 'n' I guess I always will.               

© S. J. Passamonte
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Cocoa, 1996

S. J. tells us that Cocoa was a mare in the riding program he runs at a western New York Children's Home.  "For Cocoa" and this picture hang in the hall of S. J.'s barn. 

Them What's Gone Before

By fire's light I'm thinkin' of them, what's gone before
Pushin' "Matagorda knotheads"  back in the days of yore
Endured a life of hardship , legs bowed and saddle sore
Injuns, rustlers, floods and hail, a knockin' at their door

They wasn't super heroes like ya' see in all them books
Ordinary fellers, most young boys with common looks.
A trail boss, mostly cowboys, wranglers and some cooks.
From the Salt fork , an' Canadian to where the Rio hooks.

Scots, Germans, Irish, Negros, Swedes, Mexican an' White
Some mixtures of two or more, differ'nt as day "n" night.
Didn't  judge a man by his color , whether  dark or light
As long as he held his own and he'd be there come a fight .

Didn't feel that they was heroes nor, knights upon a quest
Just signed on to do a job and was obliged to do their best.
They didn't own a whole lot saddle, bridle, bedroll an' a vest
But, etched an everlastin' image of himself  upon the west

© 2001, S. J. Passamonte
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

He Sits Alone 

He sits alone in the bunkhouse slowly she enters his mind
The whirlwind that once overtook them and left them somehow entwined.

She sits alone in her brownstone somehow her thoughts turn to him
The easy way that he rode horseback as they rode the rough canyon rim.

They met while she was vacationin', visitin' friends in the west
At first they weren't drawn to each other at all and both would of thought that was best.

She'd seen the world in the best style, he'd never been anywhere
He was her guide for the weekend, they made an unlikely pair.

She thought him bashful and backward, rustic ,provincial and such
He thought her opinionated and rude, he didn't like her very much.

But, that last night by the campfire, he'd brought a banjo along
They laughed and they sang, touched and they kissed, both wondrin' where they'd gone wrong.

All the way back to the ranchouse, neither was willin' to speak
They awkwardly shook hands and parted both of their knees feelin' weak.

Now she's back where neon shines brightly; He's in the dim lamplight glow
She's sittin' there at the opera tonight; He's playin' on the banjo.

She's invited back there for Christmas, there'll be a party and a dance
Surely they'll see one another again, each wondrin' if, there's a chance

Now he can't stop thinkin' about her, the taste of a kiss soft and sweet
She closes her eyes and she feels her heart pound, like the rhythm of a horse's hoofbeat

Now he's all alone in the lamplight; she's in a crowd but alone
Somethin' has drawn them together, somethin' that neither has known.

He sits alone in the bunkhouse, slowly she enters his mind.

© 2000, S. J. Passamonte
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Where The Tall Wildflowers Grow

Up in summer pastures, high peaks covered still with snow
In the lonesome Valleys, where the tall wildflowers grow
There's a peaceful easy feelin' that rekindles a man's soul
After waitin' out the winter, in the country far below
And you ride out in the mornin' and the sun comes up-real slow
Up in the high country, where the tall wildflowers grow

Tall grass whispers past your stirrups, as you move the herd along
Jingle-bobs are a ringin' and the birds and the birds all sing along
And your pony, shed of winter hair, he feels the need to buck
You'e a waitin' for it smilin', feelin' game to try your luck
You ride it out until he quits, roll a smoke and let him blow
Up in the high country, where the tall wildflowers grow.

Late nights by the campfire, moon and stars light up the sky.
There's a feelin' you can never get with things you own or buy
You feel that if you raised your hand, they'd be within' your reach;
And it stirs your soul much deeper than any sermon man can preach.
So, you fall asleep and your at peace, and you know your not alone
Up in the high country where the tall wildflowers grow

You're up there in God's country, where the tall wildflowers grow

© 1999, S. J. Passamonte
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Prairie Fire

I've rode thru the wind in the sleet-driven gale
Been pounded by twisters, freezin' wind an' hail
Froze' in winter, ridin' line when storms blow hard
Got lost between the shack and barn, lessen 60 yard.

I've almost drowned a dozen times, drivin' herds up north
Ridden hard with runnin' steers, prayin' fer all I'm worth
Stood fast with my carbine when Injuns held us up fer meat
Backed herd-cutters down, Colt's in hand, in the blazin' heat.

Faced down a man, wearin' two guns in Abilene one night
He fancied the gal I's dancin' with, spoilin' fer a fight
I took his guns away from him an' fought him fair 'n' square
The boys wouldn't a believed it, if'n they hadn't a been there.

This is just my way to tell you, there ain't much that rattles me.
But there is one thing that I do fear, way out on the lone prairie
An' that's a ragin' prairie fire, tryin' hard to scorch yer hide
Smoke so thick that ya can't see, or breathe, as on an' ya ride

My horse is game but, gettin' winded, hocks an' tail is singed
Eyeballs a rollin' round in his head,  a runnin' like the wind
Critters all around us, an' the smell o' burnin' hair
We's headin' fer the river, some won't make it there

Down deep inside ya, a prayer forms and leaps into yer head
Lord, if this is a glimpse o' hell, I shore hope I ain't dead
Cattle bawlin, horses screamin' men yell fer all their worth
Like lonely souls that must pay fer their sins upon this earth

Suddenly they's a splashin', then water cool an' deep
Air that's fresh 'n' cooler, some men dismount an' weep
They vow to God to change their ways 'n' thank him fer his good grace
They splash the water,l ike baptisin', on their heads an' in their face

I tell ya boys, I been there an' it ain't no purty sight
I Still can see it in my dreams, sometimes, late at night
I smell the smells, can taste the fear, feel the awful burnin' heat
I feel the devil's breath, a comin' hard, behind my horse's feet.

© 2001, S. J. Passamonte
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



Memories Etched In Leather

I found it in the rafters of a barn I was hired to tear down,
While recoverin' from a bronc wreck,  livin' close to town.
It was an old Texas Sam Stagg rig, of a size to fit a child
An' from the condition of it..... he musta been quite wild.
The leather riggin' cross the horn was was loose, just hangin' on,
It was weathered, dry, "n" dirty, one whole fender off it was gone.
The narrow gullet held an old bird's nest from many year ago,
The strings was all chewed up from mice ,along with the latigo.

I pulled it down an' brushed it off, and took it into the light,
Like a child who'd found a treasure an' was filled up with delight.
I dunked her in the water trough an' wiped it off with a feed bag.
In it's day it was something of which any boy would want to brag.
I could see a shinin', smilin' face..... on a snowy Christmas morn;
Or, maybe a birthday present celebratin' the day that he was born.
An almost fer certain a small horse or, a Pinto pony came along;
At times such in a young boy's life it seems nothin' can be wrong.

The marks upon the saddle was from more'n just a single storm;
Cuts 'n' scrapes, 'n' gouges , deep creased rope burns on the horn.
The sheepskin linin', it once had, was nowhere to be seen;
The one ancient oaken stirrup, was once formed with steam.
I wonder'd if, he'd outgrown it an' just hung it there one day?
Or, had someone hung it there, when the boy had moved away.

I asked the owner of the barn, if I could have it for part of my pay?
He told me just to take it, he thought dad would like it that way.
It had belonged to an uncle, born fourteen years before his dad;
Dreams of cowboyin' 'n' horses was the only ones he'd ever had.
The saddle was one o' present he'd gotten on his 10th birthday,
With a peacock Morgan pony; Jesses James he'd named the bay.
The next five years he rode, with the hands, learnin' the cowboy trade;
The hands told Gramps, quite often; " a shore 'nuff puncher he had made."

But, somethin' happened to the boy. What it was no one would say.
It remained an unspoke family mystery, it still is up to this very day.
When Dad was young 'n' growin' up, they'd not mention brother's name;
An' accordin' to old hands on the place, Jesse James was not seen again.
About that time, the foreman had advised all the hands fer miles around;
To, "hunt up the brindle cross-bred bull...find  'im fast an' put him down"!

So, I guess we all can sort it out, if we put two an' two together;
The story's told , between the two, remembrance an' scarred leather.
It sits ,cleaned up, in my tack room, in memories, tho' not of joy;
Of  someone, whose only thought in life, was....to be a real cowboy.
An' tho his time at it was short, he measured up true an' did it right:
How many of us can look back, on our lives, & say the same tonight.

© 2002, S. J. Passamonte
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

S. J. shared the story about the saddle in the poem:

The saddle was found in the rafters of an old barn, near Buffalo N.Y. I was not the finder but bought it from an elderly lady (which is difficult to do when you're 59 yourself). It had been in her family's possession for many years. She shared some of her speculations and theories on it and told of years of wonderin' about its' origins. It was thought the people who owned the property had moved here from out west in the early 1900's. I likewise have pondered many times on its age, size and condition. I have started several times to try and write a song or poem about it. Just never got very far. Well, my friend Mark (Wadetree) wrote a poem about a saddle and as is his practice; he challenged me to write one in return. We do this from time to time as an artistic exercise. I am not usually an "on demand" writer. I believe, as Ian Tyson says, in his book, " The great songs are like chimeras that the songwriter must catch before they disappear. The antennae must be up to receive them." So, I went down to my shop and looked at the old rig and ran my hand over it and stood there a minute. It was really cold down there, so, I went back in to my computer and the poem wrote itself. 

Right after I bought the saddle, my wife found a huge framed print ,in a shop, that depicted a similar saddle; in like condition sitting on a fence rail. She bought it and we have the print hung, with the saddle under it. The saddle is in such poor condition that, I am considering having it professionally rebuilt. I will then display it with the print, this picture and a copy of the poem. 


Her One Mistake

A girlfriend that I had onetime, was somethin' to behold ;
Curves in all o' the right places, long hair spun from gold.
When we'd go t' jackpot ropin's, other fellers was agog;
When she'd ride by on Roanie, a movin' to his jog.

An' when we's out a dancin she hardly got to sit;
The boys was always linin' up, a chompin' at the bit.
She'd dance with 'em an' flirt a bit, that was just her way:
Never was no doubt, but what she was with  me to stay.

She cook you anythin' to want, kiss you day & night
Never preach, nor lecture you if you'd got into a fight.
Ironed my shirts and knew just how to crease my jeans, just right.
Didn't even seem to mind a bit when they'd fit my waist a little tight.

Sound like a dream? I guess she was: I won't argue none;
The whole time we's together her mistakes was only one.
When Roanie died, last week o' colic: I was blurry-eyed, o' course;
Tryin' her best to cheer me up said, "Hon, he was, just a horse".

©2002, S. J. Passamonte
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read S. J. Passamonte's In the Barn on Christmas Eve posted with other 2002 Holiday poems,


Jinglebobs a Ringin' and A Christmas Thought
posted with other 2001 Holiday poems.



  About S.J. Passamonte:

S.J. told us: "My dad took me to a rodeo, near here that was one of the earliest in the East, at age four and I was ruin't for life. Have an extensive library of cowboy literature, songs and poems. I write some poetry but, mostly western songs. Have only really been at it 2 and 1/2 years in earnest. I've been going around to Western Festivals trying to sell a song or two. Waddie Mitchell & Belinda Gail were very encouraging... I have been lucky enough to have been involved with horses over the last 35 years. Have owned several riding stables, did some training, stood a couple of Appy studs, gave some lessons and bought and sold a couple hundred horses. Also do some Cowboy shooting (on foot and mounted—I prefer mounted.) Am a certified riding instructor, have worked with kids for over 30 years and am a member of The Western Music Association."

S.J. Passamonte retired at the end of 2008. the Jamestown, New York Post-Journal features him in an article, "Passamonte Retires After Years of Equestrian Therapy Work." Sam worked for almost 33 years at Randolph Children's Home, where, the article tells, "has helped hundreds of youth with emotional and behavioral problems find healing through the equestrian program." Sam is quoted, ''I get to work with kids and horses every day. You can't ask for a heck of a lot more than that." in early 2009. 






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