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photo by Jeri Dobrowski

SMOKE WADE
Lewiston, Idaho and Mesquite, Nevada
About Smoke Wade


Recognized as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "Trailing the Herd"

 

Trailing the Herd

They moved often then,
From warm winter grounds by the river's mouth,
Where mothers gave birth,
On rocky hillsides that faced the sunny south.

Up steep trails, they moved,
Through saddles bathed in late spring showers,
Above the canyons filled with pine,
To mountain meadows with purple flowers.

Past green ponds, they moved,
Through huckleberries on the summit high,
Then swiftly down the Devil's run.
To the land of endless sky.

Through rolling hills, they moved,
Down dusty lanes in August sun,
To fall pasture with ample room,
For cows to rest and calves to run.

Behind barbed wire, now they move,
There to fatten and to graze,
The winter grounds sit idle now,
Modern times with different ways.

Yes, they moved often then,
Through sumac gullies and mountain streams,
Before trailing the herd became a part,
Of our memories and dreams.

© 1991, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Smoke told us that he wrote this poem "back in the early nineties. I was trying to re-capture the memory of the days when we used to trail large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River as the herd followed the seasons. Those days are gone now along with the cattle ranches in Hells Canyon.

When I read the poem, I can recount my life of an entire year from these few words—of many years. In retrospect, I now use the poem when I am conducting cowboy poetry workshops as an example of how to say a lot with 24 short lines of poetry. The poem works as an example of how to tell the story without writing a story. It also works as an example of how to put a hook in the poem, though I never realized I was doing it at the time.

We asked Smoke why he thinks Cowboy Poetry is important, and he responded:

The lifestyle of Hells Canyon cowboys was a way of life that was often considered to be thirty years behind the rest of the world.  Lacking other forms of entertainment, stories, tall-tales and poetry were standard fare in the cow camp and they helped relieve boredom while on the trail. Often, the "telling" was a way of recalling the significance of events, the lives of other cowboys, or perhaps the general history of the range we rode.

After the fall of the Hells Canyon ranching industry, cowboy poetry was a natural way for me to recall the history of the life I once lived and the cowboys I had known. Likewise, the importance of cowboy poetry today is that it continues to document  the memory of western events, people, and the cultural significance of the cowboy way of life that is quickly disappearing from the American West. Cowboy Poetry in itself, is part of the cowboy culture.

There will come a day, when the working American cowboy, as we know him, will become a part of America's past. Though cowboy poetry continues to evolve with the modern day cowboy lifestyle, this too may pass. When the cowboy is gone, his songs, his stories and his poems are all that will be left to document his inner self. Through these words of poetry, we will always know who the cowboy was. It may well be that the cowboy's poetry final mark—his epitaph—will be in rhyme and meter.

You can email Smoke Wade: smokewade@clarkston.com.


Smoke Wade was recognized previously as one of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
for his poem, "A Change of Season"

 

A Change of Season

We don't summer at Chesnim' these days,
Not since the For' Service shut 'er down;
They took away our permit to graze,
Now we pasture on the edge of town.

We don't fall ride at Cold Springs anymore,
In the teeth of an early winter storm;
Or hitch our boots by the cow camp door,
And play cribbage inside where it's warm.

We no longer winter by the Snake,
On benches carved below the rim;
The land was sold for the public's sake,
To the For' Service and to the BLM.

No, we don't spring calve on Cactus Flat,
Since it sold to the State Fish and Game;
They say the Chinook ain't comin' back,
And the cowman must carry the blame.

So, we gather now, at Third and Grand,
A beer garden after the parade;
And, here we'll make one final stand,
Until this season begins to fade.

© 1994, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


We asked Smoke about the inspiration for this poem, and he told us:

The busy way of life in Hells Canyon came to an end during the 1970's when the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was formed. The ranches were forced from the canyon and today, little is left of what was a western way of life. This exodus mirrored the 1877 removal of the Nez Perce Indians from the canyon. One day, at a beer garden after the parade, I noticed a bunch of old cowboys hanging out - talking, remembering old times. It dawned on me that with the fall of the Hells Canyon ranches to the U.S. Forest Service, that these cowboys didn't have a range to go back to.  "A Change of Season" was spawned at that moment. 

The message of the poem is timely with the recent Supreme Court ruling that local governments may force the sale of private property for the purpose of financial betterment of a community.  Often, I open the poem at live performances and on my CD with the following statement:

For ten thousand years, mankind lived along the banks of the Snake River in Hells Canyon, until 1877, when the United States Congress decided it was time to evict the residents of the canyon. They gave the order to the U. S Army, and under the command of General Howard, Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce people were forced to leave their homeland forever.

Over time the canyon once again became populated with outlaws, sourdoughs, miners, horse thieves, homesteaders, sheepherders and cattle ranchers, until almost one hundred years had passed. And then, congress once again decided it was time to evict the residents of Hells Canyon. This time the order went down to the U. S. For' Service and one by one the ranches fell, condemned, evicted and forced out, until today there is little sign left of what we once called home. And thus began our change of season.


 

Leather Gods

What have they become
These cowboy poets,
With big felt hats
And handlebars
Dipped in wax?
And what of their poems
About how tough they were
So long ago?

With bulging jaws,
And crowfeet eyes,
They give testimonials,
In that down home drawl,
About a favorite horse
That was better than the rest;
Or tales of favored dogs,
And little dogies;
Or how they beat ol' Satan,
And how they lived to tell.

They gather on occasions
About the west; and,
Cloned in buckskin jackets,
Versed in country rhyme,
They weave their tales
So carefully,
Each taller than before.

With celestial charm
They have become
Leather Gods,
Or more,
These avatars
In boots and chaps.

© 1991, Smoke Wade 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

 

Read Smoke Wade's
"Mom Was a Cowgirl," both in prose and poetry in a
special Mother's Day tribute to his mother
here

and

From Sheepherder to Cowboy—My Dad (prose) and Don's Song in a
special Father's Day tribute to his father
here

 

 

Smoke Wade has shared stories and photos in Picture the West and for the Western Memories features. Among those stories and photos:

vintage pack string photos, posted here

photos and recollections that center around summer haying, posted here

photos and recollections that center around log troughs, posted here

photos from the 1952 branding of the Hashknife calves at the Cactus Flat branding corral, posted here

a 1905 photo of the one-room school in Joseph Creek, Washington, which he attended for six years (and which his grandmother, mother, brother, cousins, aunt and uncles attended), more photos, and some history and recollections, which you can see here.

smokevintagesmo.JPG (17853 bytes) a circa 1915 photo of his grandfather, J. H. "Jidge" Tippett, taken at the Tippett home ranch on Joseph Creek in Asotin Country, Washington, and other photos of the area, which you can see here.

  photos of the gold mining ghost town, Bodie, California, which you can see here

and some contemporary photos from Rachel, Nevada, posted here.

 

 

 About Smoke Wade:

Smoke Wade, of Mesquite, Nevada, is a cowboy poet, storyteller, emcee, cowboy poetry event organizer, freelance journalist and cowboy poetry laureate of the KRLC 1350AM Western Heritage Show. Smoke was born and raised on a Snake River cattle ranch in Hells Canyon, Oregon, where he rode horseback 6 miles to a one-room school house through the 6th grade. He is a fourth generation Wallowa County, Oregon, cowboy and range land manager.

Smoke has written cowboy poetry and western nostalgia for 20 years and has been performing since 2001. His poetry and stories reflect the memories of a lifestyle that once flourished in the Snake River canyon country along the Idaho-Oregon border.

Smoke was awarded the 2003 Poet of the Year Award, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame Award for the Christian Cowboy Balladeers in 2004. He was also the 2005 Top Hand Award Winner at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering,
and received the 2005 8 Seconds award in the Lariat Laureate competition on CowboyPoetry.com for his poem, "A Change of Season."

In 2006, the Palouse Country Cowboy Poetry Association awarded Smoke the Lifetime Achievement Award. Always truthful, Smoke was the champion teller of tall tales at the 2004 and 2005 Lewis-Clark Cowboy Poetry gathering in Lewiston, Idaho.

Smoke won the Silver Buckle for first place at the 2006 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Kanab, Utah in the Rising Star Serious Reciter division. He also won first place in the Silver Buckle Reciter Humorous division at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Smoke is a member of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho, the Cowboy Poets of Utah, the Christian Cowboy Balladeers, the Palouse Country Cowboy Poets Association, the Academy of Western Artists, the Western Music Association. He has published in Rope Burns, Cowboy Troubadour, The North West Agri-times, The Angus Journal and Happy Trails as well as www.cowboypoetry.com and www.cowboyentertainer.com (where he has an additional web page).

You can email Smoke Wade: smokewade@clarkston.com.

Smoke has produced one CD: SMOKE WADE, A LEGEND IN HIS OWN MIND (2004)


The CD is a collection of original and classic poetry that Smoke Wade most
often performs live. The original poems tell of cowboy life in the Hells
Canyon region of the Snake River, a way of life that became extinct with the
formation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Original poetry
tracks are: Leather Gods; Real Cowboys; Change of Season; Trailing the Herd;
Chasing the Wind; Trail Boss Charlie; Ol' Mose; Bear Hunting with a Buggy
whip
; and Silver Dollar Girls.

Classic favorites by anonymous authors are: Marriage; Silver Bells and
Golden Spurs
; and Silver Jack. The poem Poker Bill was written by a family
friend about Smoke's Great Uncle, Bill Tippett.

Production and art work by John Westbrook, Westco Music and Sound.

The CD may be purchased for $15.00 ppd. from:

Smoke Wade
716 Pear Tree Lane
Mesquite, NV 89027

 email


Smoke Wade is a regular contributor of gathering reports to Rope Burns, Cowboy Troubadour, CowboyEntertainer.com, and CowboyPoetry.com and he writes cowboy poetry CD reviews for those publications and web sites and others. 

Additionally, he reviews CDs and features poets on the weekly Western Heritage Show with Toe Tappin' Tommy Tucker on KRLC 1350 AM in Lewiston, Idaho, broadcast each Friday at noon, Pacific. (The show won the Radio Station of the Year award in 2005 from the Western Music Association and in 2003 from the Academy of Western Artists, and Tommy Tucker was named 2004 Academy of Western Artists DJ of the Year.)

You can send new cowboy poetry books and CDs for consideration for reviews ( and the CDs for KRLC airplay) to:

Smoke Wade
716 Pear Tree Lane
Mesquite, NV 89027

 email

Read Smoke Wade's Cowboy Poetry Reviews here.

 

Member of the
Cowboy Poets of Utah


www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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