Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

 

Sunny Hancock passed away peacefully May 15, 2003.
See tributes and more here.

 

About Sunny Hancock
Some Poems
Books and Recordings


Never Forgotten

About Sunny Hancock

Sunny Hancock was in the vanguard of the cowboy poetry movement, starting with the first gathering in Elko in 1985. He performed poetry all over the United States, including at the Library of Congress and Smithsonian.  Sunny won several awards, including the Gail Gardner Award at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, Arizona, and the Cowboy Poet of the Year in 2001 by the Academy of Western Artists.

He was known mostly for his humorous poetry, but did an occasional tearjerker as well. He cowboyed all over the western U. S. and after he retired, he devoted most of his time to taking care of his place and traveling to poetry gatherings and shows. He and his wife Alice lived on a little place outside Lakeview, Oregon with a house and five acres where he "raised a few beef steers in the summer to supply meat for the table and help pay the taxes."

A Few Poems

 

Change on the Range

The Horse Trade

The Bear Tale

 Ode to My Lady, My Wife

 

All poems 2002, Sunny Hancock, reprinted with permission from Horse Tracks Through the Sage, published by 
Cowboy Miner Productions, Phoenix, Arizona

No poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 

Change on the Range

The way the times and customs change
   these days is sure a fright.
If you want to sell a product then
   you've got to name it right.
Today's he-man still shuns perfume
   but change the name I'll bet,
And they'd buy it by the gallon
   if you called it "Stud Horse Sweat."

I see one guy wearin' earrings
   as he minced across the floor,
And another with some hair spray,
   fluffin' up his pompadour.
I thought cowboys was exceptions
   but we're all the same, I guess
If you go back, say, fifteen summers,
   note the changes in our dress.

Where did this new dress code come from?
   Hell, nobody's sure, I s'pose,
But I think a lot of it was culled
   from cowboy TV shows.
Remember one back in the sixties?
   Hero's name was Marshal Dillon.
Rode a switch tailed buckskin workhorse,
   always did a lot of killin'.

The bad guys all wore floppy hats,
   no creases in the crown,
Lace-up boots and lots of whiskers
   and they'd terrorize the town.
Marshal Dillon brought 'em in, though,
   to the hoosegow in Dodge City
Then he'd stroll down to the Long Branch
   for a drink with Doc and Kitty.

Kids a-watchin' them old TV shows
   them days was some impressed.
And they probably figured that's the way
   those old-time cowboys dressed.
So then when they'd growed up some
   and no longer was a boy,
Why, they'd buy them kind of clothes
   so they'd look the real McCoy.

I go clear back to the thirties
   gosh, it seems like yesterday.
On Saturday us kids
   would get to watch the matinee.
Remember those old heroines?
   They sure was pretty things.
They'd let their hats hang down their backs
   on big long leather strings.

To keep their hair from looking like
   they'd just been in a scrap,
And the cowboys promptly
   named that rig a "Cinderalla Strap."
No cowboy ever wore one dangling
   down across his face.
They'd have branded him a "gunsel"
   and then laughed him off the place.

Not long ago some swingin' bad man
   rigged up one of them things,
And told the boys somebody'd
   named the buggers "Stampede Strings."
So now days most young fellers wear 'em
   and I guess they have their place.
If you keep your head a-bobbin'
   blowflies won't land on your face.

Those neckerchiefs we used to don
   when winter hit the hills
And you put on all the clothes you had
   to ward off cold and chills.
Them navy surplus was the kind
   that always got my vote
Take two tight wraps and tie it off;
   it beat another coat.

They was strictly worn for comfort,
   then along came "Cowboys Lib."
So now they call them wild rags
   and they wear 'em like a bib.
But hats was always special
   and they had to be just right.
It might take a week to get one creased,
   but if you want to start a fight,

Why, just reach up and grab some cowboy's hat,
   and it was fight or run,
'Cuz he was gonna come a-swingin'
   or a-goin' for his gun.
These days they don't have much for crease
   and the brim are mostly flat
Like Mennonites or Amish folks,
   they're all topped off like that.

Or them big old lace-up brogans
   like the farmers used to put
On because they had a lot of work
   to do afoot.
Now the buckaroos all wear 'em
   chargin' up and down the chutes.
They swear they're "cowboy riggin,"
   and they call 'em "packer boots."

So you just think about the future
   as you watch those TV shows.
One day you'll hear a conversation;
   this'll be the way it goes.
A bunch of modern buckaroos,
   all tough as shingle nails,
In the cookhouse over breakfast
   tellin' salty cowboy tales.

One says, I thought I was a goner
   and I'm sure I would be gone
If I hadn't had my brand new
   little Buckin' Britches on.
Did you see her when she took her head
   and blowed by that big tree?
I knew the wreck was comin';'
   she was runnin' off with me.

"She went down across the pasture
   then she hit that row of ditches.
Boy! I sure was glad
   I had put on my little Buckin' Britches.
'Cuz if I hadn't had 'em on
   there'd by a different tale to tell
You know, a runaway three wheeler
   is just pure and simple hell.

"But them Buckin' Britches saved me;
   I ain't got no cause to doubt 'em
If I live to be a hundred,
   I won't never be without 'em."
Now the cook's an old-time buckaroo;
   he gives his microwave a kick,
Says, "You gunsels and your stupid Buckin' Britches
   make me sick.

"Way back yonder in the eighties,
   buckaroos wore manly things.
Flat-brimmed hats, brogan shoes,
   wild rags, and stampede strings.
They had Buckin' Britches back then, too,"
   he muttered through his nose.
"But back in those days
   folks all called them damn things PANTY HOSE."

2002, Sunny Hancock, reprinted with permission from Horse Tracks Through the Sage
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 

 

The Horse Trade

I traded for a horse one time,
   he wouldn't take no beauty prize;
A great big long-eared, blue roan gelding,
   not too bad for weight or size.
I had to make some tough old circles
   and this trader guaranteed
This horse would show me lots of country
   and not need too much rest or feed.

He said "Now this here ain't no kids' horse
   but he'll pack you up the crick,
He will bump up on some occasions
   and he has been known to kick.
I wouldn't trade him to just anyone
   without having some remorse
But if you're a sure enough cow puncher,
   mister, he's your kind of horse.

I stepped on that horse next mornin';
   he began to buck and bawl.
That trader maybe hadn't lied none,
   but he hadn't told it all.
Because we sure tore up the country
   where he throwed that equine fit
And I almost ran out of hand holds
   by the time he finally quit.

I guess that musta' set the pattern;
   things just never seemed to change,
Although I showed him lots of country,
   every corner of the range.
But every time I'd ride that booger,
   why, he'd keep me sittin' tight.
I knew I'd make at least three bronc rides
   'fore he'd pack me home that night.

Which woulda been OK
   with lots of horses that I knowed.
But that old pony had my number;
   I'd just barely got him rode.
And the thing that really spooked me
   and put a damper on my pride
Was he was learning how to buck
   faster than I was learnin' how to ride.

I pulled into camp one evening;
   it was gettin' pretty late.
I see this grey horse in the corral
   and there's a saddle by the gate.
I looked that grey horse over
   and I sure liked what I seen,
Then this kid showed up around the barn;
   he musta been about sixteen.

He said he'd lamed that grey that morning
   coming down off the granite grade,
And he wondered if I had a horse
   I'd maybe like to trade.
He said he didn't have the time to stop
  and rest and let him heal,
And since that beggars can't be choosers,
   he'd make most any kind of deal.

When a feller's tradin' horses,
   why, most anything is fair,
So I traded him that blue roan
   for his grey horse then and there.
But them my conscience started hurtin'
   When I thought of what I did,
To trade a "fly blown" dink like that
   off to some little wet-nosed kid.

So next mornin' after breakfast,
   why, I tells him, "Listen lad,
If you want to know the truth,
   that trade you made last night was bad.
That old blue horse is a tough one,
   bad as any one you'll see.
He'll kick you, strike you, stampede.
   He's a sorry SOB.

"It's all I can do to ride him
   and I'll tell it to you straight,
I think you'll be awfully lucky
   just to ride him past the gate.
There's two or three old horses
   out there in the saddle bunch.
They ain't got too much going for 'em
   but I kinda got a hunch

"They'll probably get you where you're going
   if you just don't crowd 'em none,
But damn, I hate to see you ride
   that blue roan booger, son!"
He said, "I told you there last night
   I'd make most any kind of trade,
And I appreciation your tellin'
   what a bad mistake I made.

"But my old daddy told me when you're tradin'
   that no matter how you feel,
Even if you take a whippin'
   that a deal is still a deal.
That horse, you say has lots of travel,
   and he's not too bad for speed.
Well, sir, I'm kinda' in a tight
   and that's exactly what I need.

"I traded for him fair and square
   and damn his blue roan hide,
When I pull outta' here this morning,
   that's the horse I'm gonna ride."
I watched him cinching up his saddle
   and he pulled his hat way down,
Stepped right up into the riggin'
   like he's headed straight for town.

Stuck both spurs up in his shoulders,
   got the blue roan hair a-flyin'
Tipped his head straight back and screamed
   just like a hungry mountain lion.
You know, I've heard a lot of stories
   'bout the bucking horse ballet.
I've heard of poetry in motion,
   but the ride I saw that day

Just plumb complete defied description
   though I can see it plain,
Like it had happened in slow motion
   and was branded on my brain.
I don't suppose I could explain it
   to you even if I tried.
The only thing that I can say is,
   by the saints, that kid could ride.

He sat there plumb relaxed
   like he was laying home in bed,
And every jump that pony made,
   that kid's a-half a jump ahead.
When it was over I decided
   I could learn a few things still,
And I said, "Son, I'm awfully sorry
   I misjudged your ridin' skill."

He just said, "Shucks, that's OK, mister,"
   as he started on his way,
"But if you think this horse can buck,
   don't put your saddle on that grey."

2002, Sunny Hancock, reprinted with permission from Horse Tracks Through the Sage
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 

 

The Bear Tale

I was up in the Sycan Black Hills Camp
   workin' for old Z-Cross,
This was my own piece of country,
   I was cook and crew and boss.
The afternoon of that year
   was comin' on as I recall,
Meanin' summer'd hit the cap rock
   and slid right down into fall.

The days was warm and pleasant
   though the nights were kinda sharp.
I had a nice snug little cabin
    to keep the cold wind off my tarp.
Aspen leaves was turnin' yellow,
   bees was buzzin round the hive,
And it was just one of them there days
   when it was great to be alive.

So, I'm a-ridin' along that mornin'
   lookin' out beneath my hat.
I thought I'd make a little circle
   down through Silver Dollar Flat,
And maybe brand some big slick yearlin'
   with the address of this farm,
Because I sure did need to limber up
   my old stiff ropin arm.

I'd been just kinda' travelin'
   down this little open draw
When I came around a corner
   and I's amazed at what I saw.
I pulled my horse up, sat there a-gawkin'
   and my eyes went plumb agog,
'Cuz there's a big old brindle he-bear
   diggin' ants out of a log.

My old heart commenced to poundin'
   and I couldn't get 'nough air,
I knew I'd never have a better chance
   to rope myself a bear.
I was trying to jerk my rope down,
   my old horse began to dance.
Hell, old Bruin, hadn't seen me,
   he's still busy diggin' ants.

I got my rope tied hard and solid
   so I said a little prayer,
Then I let out a cowboy war whoop
   and I built right to that bear.
The old beast heard me comin'
   and he beat it for the trees.
They weren't no moss a-growin' on him
   and he sure did split the breeze.

But I pulled right in behind him
   and like that bible story told,
I cast my bread upon the water,
   and it came back a thousand fold!
Well, I pitched the slack right at him
    and I turned my pony neat,
And I heard him grunt as he hit the ground
   as I jerked him off his feet.

Then I towed him toward the timber
   just the way it should be done.
Hell, there wasn't nothin' to it;
   ropin' bears is lots of fun.
In the timber I got busy
   dodgin' limbs and brush and such,
And I ain't had time
    to check up on my cargo very much.

I'm gonna start by breakin' him to lead
   or at least that's what I hope.
Then I looked back and here that bear come
   hand over hand right up my rope.
Well things sure started lookin' different
   so I tells him, "OK Bruin,
I'll start payin' more attention
   to this little job I'm a doin'.

"I'll just zig and zag and circle some
    now you just follow me
'Cuz you're about to meet your maker
   on some big old Jack Pine tree."
Well I zigged and zagged and circled
   but it seemed to no avail
And next time I checked,
   old Teddy's right behind my horse's tail.

About that time, why, my old pony
   made a funny little jump,
And that old bear he started climbin'
   up my rope, across his rump.
I yelled and squalled and hollered
   and I slapped him with my hat,
But that old bear was plumb determined;
   he's comin' right up where I'm at.

You know, I've knowed a lot of people
   in the hills and on the plains,
and nobody ever told me
   I was over blessed with brains.
But it didn't take no Einstein
   with no special high IQ
Nor no call from God to tell me
   what that bear was gonna do.

I know a coward's way out's a bad one
   in most anybody's book,
But that's the only route left open now
   so that's the one I took.
I just bailed off and checked it to him,
   but a big rock broke my fall.
Old boy, I said, it looks to me
   like you just bought it all.

As they went crashin' through the timber,
   why, I realized, of course
That I'd just lost a damn good saddle
   and the company'd lost a horse.
And how's a man supposed to tell it
   with the boss astandin' there
You took a plumb good horse and saddle
   and just gave 'em to a bear!

These thoughts and lots more like 'em
   kept a-runnin' through my mind
As I went limpin down that cow trail
   tryin' to leave that wreck behind.
My clothes was sorta tattered
   and I'd lost some chunks of hide,
But my body wasn't hurtin'
    near as much as was my pride.

Then I heard a noise behind me
   and the sound began to swell,
Back the way that I'd just come from
   and I wondered what the hell?
Then I seen my horse a-comin',
   steppin' lively down the slope
That old bear's up in my saddle,
   got a loop built, swingin' my rope.


2002, Sunny Hancock, reprinted with permission from Horse Tracks Through the Sage
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

Ode to My Lady, My Wife

I had all my Christmas shopping done,
   all that I had to do,
All that I had left to get this year
   was one small gift for you;
The sort of thing I find
   with which is very simply dealt
A gift which would explain to you
   exactly how I felt.

Then my mind began to wander
   as my mind will sometimes do,
Running back along the days and times
   and years I've spent with you.
And as I got to thinking
   of those cherished yesterdays,
It dawned on me that we've been
   down the road quite a ways.

We've worked some tacky ranches
   and we lived in weathered shacks
Where the wind would blow the lamp out
   when it whistled through the cracks.
You'd take care of me and both the kids,
   and hold a job in town,
And still have time to smile
   and spread a lot of love around.

If I'd come home disgusted,
   grumbling 'bout the job I had,
Just a little time with you
   and then things wouldn't look so bad.
Then later when we'd bought the ranch
   and you cooked at the school,
I was workin' in the woods 
   all day so usually as a rule

You'd have to do the feedin',
   chop the ice and if you could,
Milk the cow and feed the 'leppies
   and then sometimes split some wood.
And if I'd get home way after dark
   from puttin' in my hours;
I'd find that you just pulled a calf
   or maybe doctored one with scours.

You never did complain much
   always had a lot of heart;
Only maybe just to mention
   that the tractor wouldn't start.
Then when school was out for summer
   golly, what a happy day.
You could spend it changing hand line
   floodin', workin' in the hay

Should have had three men
   to help with all the work you had to do.
I'd be there afternoons and weekends
   and somehow we made it through.
And now when you look in the mirror
   at the lady standing there,
Why there's some wrinkles in her forehead,
   and some silver in her hair.

She's maybe packin'
   just a little bit of extra weight
And you don't like what you see there
   but to me she sure looks great.
So while we're lookin' at that image,
   why, we maybe won't agree,
But here's what that reflection
   standin' up there means to me.

She's my Wife and she's my Partner,
   she's my Mate and she's my Friend,
She's the Mother of my children,
   she's my Lover, then again,
My Companion on life's highway;
   she'll light up the blackest night.
Life seems just a wee bit better
   any time that she's in sight.

She's my Teacher, an she's taught me
   that life really can be fun.
Don't you worry 'bout a few gray hairs,
   you've earned 'em every one.
Now as far as Christmas shoppin',
   guess I didn't do so good,
Bought you something pretty common
   like you might have known I would.

Since your present ain't so special
   and it ain't too big a deal,
I thought I'd write a note to you
   and tell you kinda how I feel.
If God would grant a wish for me
   (I'm sure just one would do),
I'd simply wish that I could spend
   a lot more years with you.

Your Loving Husband

2002, Sunny Hancock, reprinted with permission from Horse Tracks Through the Sage
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

'leppies, orphan calves
hand line, short irrigation pipes moved by hand

 

With sadness, we learned of the death of Alice Hancock in an automobile accident on June 28, 2013 in Lakeview, Oregon.

Her bright and lively presence made her a friend to all who knew her. A working ranch woman, she was also known for her humorous recitations of poems such as "Rindercella," and her knowledge of classic cowboy poetry. She was the wife of the late cowboy and poet Sunny Hancock.

These photos are from Horse Tracks Through the Sage by Sunny Hancock and Jesse Smith, and posted with the permission of the publisher, Cowboy Miner Productions:


 

 

May, 2003:

Members of the Cowboy Poetry "tribe" have established the "Friends of Sunny Hancock Donation Fund" for the Hancock family. Funds can be sent to:

Zions Bank
Foothill Branch
1304 S. Foothill Dr.
Salt Lake City, UT  84108
Attn:  "Friends of Sunny Hancock Donation Fund"

In writing to the family, Teresa Jordan said that the fund is "a small way for us to acknowledge the big beautiful world that Sunny and Alice and your whole family have nurtured for the rest of us."

Virginia Bennett, in helping to spread the word, writes "This fund is a wonderful way to help Alice Hancock with the medical expenses and other financial burdens that occurred during Sunny's illness. I love this because it is a great way for us to show our love and support for all that Sunny and Alice have meant to us over the years. I encourage you to reread Sunny's poetry, and see again what a great traditionalist he was. His book, HorseTracks Through the Sage, published in collaboration with Jesse Smith, just won another award from an Arizona book publishers' organization. With the photos of Sunny and Alice working on the ZX Ranch over the years and the purely rhymed and carefully metered poetry (of both Sunny and Jesse), it is a treasure to read.

Contributing to this fund will not only help to cover some of the costs that always arise with a catastrophic illness such as this, it also shows the family how much Sunny meant to us. Sunny was at the very first cowboy poetry gathering in Elko in 1985. And we enjoyed him so much at the most recent one in 2003, and all the years in between.

No gift would be too small, as it all adds up! Alice will receive a list of contributors to the fund."

 

Books and Recordings 

 

Books

  Sunny Hancock and Jesse Smith have a book, Horse Tracks Through the Sage, which contains over 50 of their poems, a foreword by Baxter Black, an introduction by Larry McWhorter, and a second foreword by Chris Isaacs. The book is published by Cowboy Miner.  This book is a 2003 winner of the Will Rogers Medallion Award and also the 2003 winner of the Buck Ramsey Award.

 

 


CD

  Created in 2005 from existing tapes, Sunny includes some of the best-loved recitations by Sunny Hancock:

The High Steppin' Kind by Sunny Hancock
The Sailor by Sunny Hancock
Pack Rats by Sunny Hancock
Me and the Hippie on the Greyhound Bus by Wallace McRae 
A Bad Situation by Sunny Hancock
Cow Dogs, Generally Speaking by Sunny Hancock
Ode to the Spotted Owl by Sunny Hancock
The Sycan Barn by Sunny Hancock
A Bear Tale by Sunny Hancock
The Horse Trader by Howard Parker
The Deer Hunters by Sunny Hancock and Lona Burkhart
The Horse Trade by Sunny Hancock
Change on the Range by Sunny Hancock
E. I. S. by Sunny Hancock
Doggerel, Plain and Simple by Sunny Hancock
 Ode to My Lady, My Wife by Sunny Hancock
Rosie's Eagle by J. W. Beeson
A Cowboy's Brains by Bruce Kiskaddon
When You've Finished Shippin' Cattle in the Fall by Bruce Kiskaddon

 

Also available:

   Alice Hancock's often-requested recitations, Rindercella and the Bugly Itches and Gir Salahad.

 


 

 

Tapes  (no longer available)

OLD TIME COWBOY POETRY
Includes: An Old Western Town and Gol Darn Wheel

COWBOY POETRY, NEW & USED
Includes: Bear Tale and The High Steppin' Kind

DOGGEREL, PLAIN & SIMPLE
Includes: Horse Trade and Change on the Range


Video (no longer available)

Sunny Hancock appears with his partners Chris Isaacs and Jesse Smith as The Cardiac Cowboys, and their video, In Camp with the Cardiac Cowboys.

 

   

 

 

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