photo by Barbara Richerson for the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering
LAVERN "STRAW" BERRY
About Lavern "Straw" Berry
Cowboying With Jace
I've rode the mountain ranges, drug wild cattle from the brush.
Tore through mesquite and prickly pear, dodgin' rocks and limbs and such.
I rodeoed for several years, though I didn't usually place,
But the best cowboyin' I ever done, was yesterday, with Jace.
I started colts for lots of folks, rode some rough strings to a standstill.
Wore a hole plumb through a saddle, chasin' cows through these old red hills.
I worked in desert sun so hot you'd swear your eyes were burnt.
Worked for lots of outfits big and small, some was named and some that weren't.
And I've branded, doctored, dehorned, till I was plumb blue in the face.
But the best cowboyin' I ever done, was yesterday, with Jace.
With Jace I rode the mountain's crest, where just real cowboys go.
We camped in verdant valleys green, rolled our bedrolls in the snow.
We heated a cinch ring in a greasewood fire, to brand some maverick stray.
Then we necked him to a blackjack tree, we'll lead him out someday.
We breathed the same air Goodnight did, saw huge herds of buffalo,
Pointed some longhorns up the old Western Trail, talked of things just real cowboys know.
We tried to catch and rope the sun, but we finally lost the chase.
And the best cowboyin' I ever done, was yesterday, with Jace.
Jace said it made him feel so tall, being horseback where he sat.
I said the best view in the world is looking out beneath your hat.
Then we turned around and headed in, using landmarks for a map.
Wound up at Nanny's for cookies and milk, then Jace laid down and took his nap.
You see, my rootin', tootin' puncher pard, so daring, brave, and bold,
Is really the son of my son Jay, and he's only four years old.
And we crossed deserts, streams, and badlands, and forded icy streams,
On an 80 acre red shale farm, the rest was in our dreams.
And the fiery charger Jacer rides, is really my old gelding Joey.
And he never was a flashy horse, more dependable than showy.
And when Jace rides, I walk by his side, leading Joey by the halter.
Making sure that I could catch him, if Joey stumbles, spooks or falters.
And all the daring deeds we done, was in about two hours space.
We rode from Canada to Mexico, and never left the place.
And the best paycheck I ever drawed, was the grin on that boy's face.
I wouldn't trade a million dollars, for my cowboyin' with Jace.
And Jace thinks I'm the best cowhand, that ever twirled the twine.
He wants to grow up just like me, and that suits me just fine.
But he hangs on every word I say, you can see it in his face.
It's a big responsibility, out cowboyin' with Jace.
A grandpa has so little time, and what he has is gone so soon.
I need to use that time right now, while he thinks I hung the moon.
So I pray that I can teach him things he will use in later life.
How to take care of an orphan calf, how to take care of a wife.
How to build a fence, and build a life, and keep both straight and true.
How to train a colt and train up a child, earning trust and respect, too.
How to shake out a loop and shake a man's hand,
How to give your word and keep it.
And how whatever crop of seeds you sow,
Someday you're gonna reap it.
Always tip your hat to ladies, look menfolk in the eye.
Be gentle to your horses, and don't make your mama cry.
There ain't no better feelin' than a conscience that's clear, and the warm sun on your face.
I'm tryin' to teach him all these things, while I'm cowboyin' with Jace.
Lord help me be the kind of man, that Jace thinks me to be.
Don't never let me let him down, cause he's lookin' up to me.
Help me to teach him what I should, I'll need Your wisdom and Your grace.
Cause the biggest job You've given me, is cowboyin' with Jace.
© 2007, Lavern "Straw" Berry
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.
"Cowboying With Jace" is a poem Straw wrote for his own grandson Jace, after Jace had an accident on one of Straw's horses and broke his arm.
Selling Off the Place
They're sellin' off our place today,
The place where I grew up.
They're throwing out a lifetime,
Just like coffee from a cup.
The first part, the machinery,
That didn't faze me much.
Cause I never had no warm spot,
For tractors, plows and such.
But then they started sellin cattle,
And I sorta had to blink.
Cause I felt a lump come in my throat,
And I couldn't help but think.
Bout' when Dad brought home
that old roan cow,
And she put us on the fence.
She broke the gate and three hot wires,
and we ain't seen her since.
And there's that old red number 10,
She might not look so great,
But she raised a calf each single year,
And twins in '88.
And that black bull, that left his mark
On every calf we sold.
And sired some sons that carried on,
When he had got too old.
And now they've moved on down the line,
And stopped at Dad's old truck.
I'd hoped that I could get it bought,
with just a little luck.
Cause it ain't worth much to no one else,
No one that is, but me.
And I can't hardly look at it,
Without I think I see,
My dad come drivin' down the road,
And he's been gone five years.
I can't hardly tell who bought it now,
For blinkin' back the tears.
And there goes Mom's old dinner bell,
Stuffed down in someone's trunk.
Funny, one man's treasure
Is just another's junk.
She used to ring that bell so loud,
To call us in to eat.
She'd say, "You boys, wash your face and hands,
And be sure you wipe your feet."
I almost think I hear her now,
But no, that couldn't be,
She passed away right after Dad,
Got lonesome, don 't you see?
And now the land, this precious land,
Dad loved it, that 's for shore,
And I've heard him say "Hang on to it,
cause they ain't makin' any more."
And Dad, I tried. I scrimped and scraped,
I did my level best.
I worked in town six days a week,
And ranched in what was left.
But when it came right down to it,
Hard work just weren't enough.
If you ain't tried to ranch these days,
Then you don't know what's tough.
Cause two dollar wheat and fifty-cent calves,
Can only stretch so far.
But there ain't no pricing cycle,
On tuition, trucks, and cars.
And everything we buy goes up,
And what we sell goes down.
And it won't take too much of this,
Till we'll all have to move to town.
Oh, but now I've started gripin',
And the auction's at an end.
And the banker that foreclosed on us,
Why heck, he's still my friend.
This ain't his fault, it ain't his doin'.
He didn't wish for this.
There really ain't no one to blame,
It's just the way it is.
But they're sellin' off our place today
It's been my home since birth.
And as they drive away I wonder,
What was a lifetime worth?
© 2000, Lavern "Straw" Berry
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Straw comments, "I saw so many ads for land and estate auctions posted in the banks and the Coop and I got to thinking, 'There must be a story behind every ad.' Many people have told me that something very similar to this happened to them. I sympathize with them and am proud to say that it is not autobiographical."
Read Lavern "Straw" Berry's A Christmas Ride/Jinglin' Bells, posted with 2008 Christmas poems.
About Lavern "Straw" Berry:
"Straw" Berry lives in Cordell, Oklahoma in the west-central part of the state. He grew up on a ranch raising sheep and cattle (and believe it or not, turkeys), and was part of the third generation of Berry's to work on the ranch. He and his father work a small cow/calf and wheat operation in Washita County, Oklahoma, and he starts a few colts.
He has been doing cowboy poetry since about 2000, and has been an invited performer at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas.
He has a CD of original poetry called Red Hill Reflections (available from the Western Folklife Center gift shop).
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