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SUSIE KNIGHT
Conifer, Colorado
About Susie Knight
Susie Knight's web site

Recordings

 Western Music Association
Female Poet of the Year
2014

Academy of Western Artists
Cowgirl Poet of the Year
2013
 

 

 

Memories of Doris

Almost every mornin’, she’d rise before the dawn,

mixin’ up the makin’s for the dough.

She’d knead the double recipe and form it in a ball,

then let it rise about an hour or so.

 

Her kitchen was her office; you could always find her there

fixin’ breakfast, dinner, supper ev’ry day

for her husband and her children and at least four hired men.

This rancher’s wife had little time for play.

 

The first day that I met her, she was cookin’ for the crew

that was workin’ toward their annual horse sale.

With a dozen extra mouths to feed for ten days in a row,

she kept us fed like kings without fail.

 

I was almost 21; she was 34,

Her husband (a much older man than she)

had a son from his 1st marriage, and we chose to tie the knot.

So, this young lass now was mother-in-law to me.

 

She became my mentor and took me by her side,

and taught me everything that I should know:

How to read a recipe, fry chicken, and bake bread,

can vegetables, make jam, and learn to sew.

 

It was at her kitchen table that she told me ‘bout the Lord

after gathering mares and colts one day in May.

She opened up the Bible; I saw Jesus in her eyes.

She held my hand as I bowed my head to pray.

 

I often paused to notice the collection on display

on the old upright piano in the den.

Several trophy buckles from bareback broncs to bulls

awarded to her husband way back when.

 

Among all those honors was the focus of them all;

a single trophy buckle lay between.

Engraved around a golden crown was “1961

Hot Springs, South Dakota Rodeo Queen”.

 

She’d rarely talk about it; said the Past was in the past.

Daily chores were always high demand.

But one snowy day in winter, we shared a pot of tea.

She opened up and helped me understand.
 

“I was raised the daughter of a cattle ranchin’ man,

and my older brothers calf-roped in their teens.

I rode horseback every day helpin’ Daddy out,

and held my own at barrel racin’ scenes.

 

But the day I won that buckle, I was certain that I’d lose.

The competition there was mighty tough.

When they called my name and crowned me Queen, I couldn’t even breathe!

But I was beamin’ as my horse and I loped off.

 

That was just so long ago; I was very young.

I’ve children of my own to care for now.

‘Sides, ranchin’ keeps me hoppin’ from the dawn till way past dark.

There’s no time for lookin’ backwards anyhow.”

                                 

Then, one day in the summer on a quiet Sunday morn,

she left a note for all of us to find

on the empty kitchen table: Help yourself to toast and jam…

I’m takin’ time today to clear my mind.

 

One by one, the others in the family woke up.

“Where’s Mom?” All insisted that they know.

“She’s always in the kitchen. I’m hungry for some eggs!

Where would she, so early, have to go?”

 

I peaked out of the window and there beyond the hills,

she urged her sorrel gelding ‘cross the wheat,

pursuing all those memories that whispered in her soul.

Determination blurred her horse’s feet.

 

Silently, I smiled cuz I knew she needed this,

to feel her horse’s power in his stride.

She was still a cowgirl, and a good one, there’s no doubt!

And if nothing else…a cowgirl’s gotta ride!

 

A little while later, she trotted Sorrelly home.

Unsaddled him and turned him out to rest.

Then, returnin’ to her kitchen, she started fixin’ lunch

whistlin’ while she did what she did best.

 

That’s how I remember her and prob’ly always will.

She’s like no other woman that I saw.

A rancher’s wife, equestrienne, a lovely rodeo queen,

so much more than just my mother-in-law.

 

Cuz I arrived a greenhorn, but she loved me anyway.

She overlooked my ignorance and flaw.

Though my marriage to her stepson didn’t last, and I moved on,

I’m forever friends with the World’s Best Former-In-Law!

© 2010, Susie Knight
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Susie comments:  I wrote the poem as a way to honor the memories of one of the finest ranch women I'd ever met...my former mother-in-law, Doris Merrill. She's still a beautiful woman, inside and out, and remains one of my most treasured friends....
 

 

Wait Here

They were saddled up by seven.
          The sky was clear and blue.
‘Twas a dandy of a mornin’
          for April, and I knew
that I would wait here at the house,
          so I felt a bit forlorn
as the men rode south to gather
          mares and colts this early morn’.

I wouldn’t saddle up ol’ Buck.
         He, too, was left behind
and stayin’ home to graze all day.
         He didn’t seem to mind.
A quarrel gripped my reason;
         pinched my eyes to hide a tear.
I questioned why I couldn’t be
         content in waitin’ here.

I watched the riders mount up;
        one by one, they rode away.
My chin began to quiver
        as I wondered of this day.
I almost shouted, “Wait for me!”
        But bit my tongue and sighed,
“It’s no use!” All I wanted
        was to saddle up and ride!

My imagination saw it all…
        they’d head on down the hill,
cross the gravel road,
        then lope along until
they’d reach the giant pasture
        where mares and colts reside.
One rider’d hop off, unlatch the gate,
        and throw it open wide.

Then, they’d separate and search
        every canyon, every creek.
‘Twas sorta like a cowboy’s version
        of playin’ hide-n-seek.
Then, with a whoop ‘n a holler,
        they’d head ‘em toward the gate.
That’s where Bud, in his pickup truck,
        would patiently await.

When all were gathered up
        then the truck would roll away.
My husband, Mike, would ride out first
        to show the band the way.
He’d whistle to the mama mares;
        they knew their way back home.
But if colts could speak, I think they’d ask,
        “Where we goin’, Mom?’

Then, a tappin’ on my shoulder
       resumed Reality.
It was Bud, my husband’s father.
       He was standin’ next to me.
“Where’s your horse?” he asked me
        in his jolly sort of way.
For a sec I thought I’d get my wish
        and all I had to say

was, “Can I…can I really
        go along today and ride?”
He’d say, “Sure! Take Mike, Jr.
        to his grandma. She’s inside.”
But a little voice within my heart
        Parlayed to me and said,
“You’re a mama now; your place is
        here at home instead.

‘Sides, don’t you think that Grandma
        was, at one time, in your shoes?
She was once a real cowgirl,
        but she also had to choose
what was best for her children…
        so, she hung up her spurs.
If you’d give yourself half a chance
        you might learn some things from her!”

As the riders disappeared
        beyond the hill that day,
I faced Grandpa Bud
        and heard my own voice say,
“I sold my horse, remember?”
        I blinked…and no tears fell!
He didn’t say another word
        but grinned, and I could tell

that he understood my meanin’
        and hugged my shoulder tight.
And then, I felt much better.
        My decision had been right.
He drove off in his pickup.
        There was ranchin’ to be done.
And I would wait here at the house.
        Just me…and my newborn son.

© 1994, revised 2012, Susie Knight
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

 

Susie told us, "I wrote 'Wait Here' a few years after I lived on my in-law's Circle M Ranch in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. I missed my life on the range; my memories were so vivid that I could 'see' every detail whenever I'd reminisce. The desire to jot it all down for the sake of my children became my passion. Decades have passed, and the ranch (as it used to be) has changed. The realization that all good things come to an end is bittersweet. Yet, I'm privileged that my former in-laws still call me 'daughter,' and they've welcomed me 'home' many times. They are thrilled in knowing that I've taken the time to capture, in poems and stories, some of the meaningful moments of their beloved ranch and how it impressed me when I was one of the fortunate few to call it my home."
 

Croppie

Look yonder…there stands Croppie among the remuda out west.
He’s that big, white gelding that stands out from all the rest.
While grazin’ on some clover, a docile horse, you guessed.
But don’t be fooled! Just saddle him up! You’ll be ridin’ the Circle M’s best!

He was born in South Dakota on the Circle M Ranch, you see,
where pastures are big as cities and where cattle and horses roam free.
There came a freezin’ blizzard the night this colt was born.
The tips of his ears were frozen off when they found him the very next morn.

The ladies said, “He’s ugly!” The cowboys snorted jeers,
“That colt ain’t worth a nickel cuz he’s got cropped off ears.”
But there was one young cowboy who paid their jokes no heed.
He saw something special in the eye of the snow-white steed.

The cowboy volunteered to break that “worthless colt” to ride,
but this was just the horse for him. He knew that deep inside.
Soon the other cowboys heard news of something strange…
rumors linked the name of “Croppie” with the “Best Horse on the Range”!

When pointed toward the cattle for cuttin’ cows or steers,
he’d crouch down like a bobcat and pin those stubby ears!
Then he’d pivot side to side like a hunter after prey.
“Ain’t no other cow-horse like him!” That’s what all the cowboys say.

Ranchers miles around asked for Croppie to attend
their round-ups and their brandin’s and their rodeos on weekends.
For years, he's been a cow-horse: honest, true, and sound
to the one and only cowboy who looked at him and found

not a misfit, but the finest saddle horse he ever had!
And just in case yer wonderin’, well, that cowboy…he’s my dad.
Yeah, the cowboys call him “Croppie” cuz he froze off the tips of his ears,
but he’s been the all-'round, fav'rite horse at the Circle M Ranch for years!

© 2013, Susie Knight; copyright #TXU672-984
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Susie told us, "The first time I saw Croppie in the spring of 1981, I thought he was the ugliest horse I'd ever seen! His white coat hadn't completely shed out yet, he had thick ooze weeping from one eye, his confirmation was that of a draft horse crossed with a Quarter Horse which made his feet too big, neck too thick, and hip too narrow...and he had cropped off ears! But, my future husband said he was the best horse on the Circle M Ranch, so I had no choice but to do what I was told...and ride him. Well, by the end of that day (we gathered studs in a nearby pasture to be brought back to the ranch corrals for vaccinating, worming, and sorting to be pastured with their prospective mares for the summer), I changed my mind about riding Croppie. He was sure-footed, responsive, and FAST!!! It seemed he already knew needed to be done, and I was merely a passenger. I rode him often for the next year and a half till his retirement.

"We became quite a team, Croppie and me. A few times, I should've come off...but that horse stayed under me! I am convinced that he taught me everything I needed to know about cutting cattle, gathering horses, and making a hand horseback."
 

 

Ernie Snare


I'll have to wake up early; tomorrow is the day.
His ranch is south of Florissant, and that’s two hours away.

But, I’ll get to ride his gray horse. He’s the best one anywhere.
Yep, tomorrow is the day that I’ll ride for Ernie Snare.

I met him several years ago when I was passin’ through,
there at the Grange on Thursdays where the local folks all knew

that the pot luck always satisfied, and the music’s mighty fair.
And dancin’ with Miss Carolyn was the rancher, Ernie Snare.

He wore a strip-ed western shirt, Levi’s blue and slim.
His boots were classic western-style; no square toes for him!

And on his head, he wore a hat that covered silver hair;
shorter-brimmed, uniquely creased by the hands of Ernie Snare.

I introduced myself to him and told him I could ride
in case he needed day help on his ranch, and he replied,

“Well, listen, my friend, Carolyn’s a city gal, y’know.
But she’s taken quite a likin’ to my ranch and wants to go

along with me on cattle drives, and she’s so new at this.
I’ve no time to teach her, so could you assist her, Miss?”

He didn’t have to ask me twice! I shook his leathered hand.
And so those riding lessons for Miss Carolyn began.

Petite and kinda delicate, I took it slow to start.
But this Golden Gal was love-struck, and she had a mighty heart!

I showed her how to cue her horse, to turn her on a dime,
and to stand up in the stirrups during long-trots time to time.

Day by day, she rode despite her tender derriere,
and grinnin’ behind his gooseneck was that rascal, Ernie Snare!

He nodded his approval, so we opened up the gate,
and she rode around his yard until the clock chimed half past eight!

She defied all the critics; loved his chestnut mare.
She couldn’t wait to ride beside her cowboy, Ernie Snare.

And I was mighty privileged to join ‘em as they’d ride
to move his herd of mother cows and calves ‘long mountain side.

It pleased my soul in knowin’ that I helped her ride that mare
so she could saddle up and lope along with Ernie Snare.

But the autumn wind was blowin’, and it urged me on to go
into the arms of a western man who’d love me too, and so…

I followed him to Evergreen and live a simple life
in a cabin in a canyon where I’m his lovin’ wife.

Now every day at sunset, when I’m in my rocking chair,
I tell myself, “Tomorrow, I’ll ride for Ernie Snare!”

© 2014, Susie Knight
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


This poem was featured in Colorado Life magazine in July/August 2014


See some accompanying photographs in Picture the West.


 

Cliff

The moon shines through his window.
He greets the mornin's sounds.
He lights a flame beneath the pot
'n throws in coffee grounds.

He’s old 'n stiff in places
That ache each morn the same.
His lower back, his knees, 'n hips;
Arthritis staked its claim.

He sets his jaw this mornin'
'n pours a cup o' joe,
Then takes some time to reminisce
'bout days from long ago.

The ranch he used to manage,
Not far from Valentine,
Was 60,000 acres
By 1969.

Top hand 'n overseer,
He led the ranch’s crew.
Most times he managed twenty men
To delegate them through

The February calvin's,
The brandin’s late in May,
The fences fixed all summer
Clear through till weanin’ day.

And, oh, the saddle horses
He rode each held a prize
There in his golden mem’ries
Secured behind his eyes.

But few will ever grasp it,
The life he’s lived 'n known.
The calves he’s pulled from heifers;
Cesareans he’d sewn.

The hope of life each springtime
That wars against the curse
Of certain death from coyotes,
The cold, 'n somethin’ worse…

…the older cows that weaken.
They’d just lay down 'n die.
As labor’d overtake 'em,
He kept a watchful eye

'n did his all to save 'em
To satisfy the boss.
Kept cattle profits in the black,
Preventin' any loss.

He earned his compensation
For forty years or so,
'til one day in the winter when
He learned he’d been let go!

See…

…the boss had died a-sudden.
The ranch was gettin' sold.
New corporation owners felt that
He was too dang old

To run the ranch the kinda way
(On paper) they saw fit.
Dazed 'n numb, he headed west
To mend his soul that split.

He settled west of Denver,
Near foothills out o' town.
A place where he could view the sky
From sunup till sundown.

Then, he perused the papers
To find a job or two.
But, workin' in Home Depot or
McDonald's wouldn’t do!

Persistent in his searchin',
Stayin’ focused and on track,
He found a dandy full-time job
Where he’d remain horseback.
It's at a little stable
In a thousand acre park.
He wrangles dudes on horseback rides
From dawn until it's dark.

He doesn’t pay attention;
Their antics don’t disturb
As hoofbeats meld with heartbeats
In percussive, low reverb.

With one eye on his riders
And one eye in the past,
He’s found a way to reminisce
The life that didn’t last.

He never would ‘o guessed that
His path would go this way…
Guidin’ trail ridin’
For city folks at play.

He knows they’re on vacation;
They’re “cowpokes” for a while.
They have no clue who’s guidin'them
Behind that wrinkled smile.

He’d never brag 'n tell 'em.
(That ain’t the Cowboy Way.)
He’s horseback still, 'n will remain
Until his dyin’ day!
 

© 2014, Susie Knight
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

Susie Knight comments, "I met Cliff Andre in the spring of 2011 when I was hired to be the Kids'Horse Camp Instructor for Bear Creek Stables in Morrison, Colorado. A quiet old cowboy, it took most of the summer for me to learn Cliff's story. I watched him handle horses gently with seasoned wisdom. Once I learned that he ranched most of his life not far from Valentine, Nebraska (a mere 100 miles from my family's ranch in Pine Ridge, South Dakota), I pried out of him these bits and pieces of his life's story. To date, Cliff is 85 years young, still guiding trail rides and driving the team of Belgians for Bear Creek Stables' private events."

She took these photographs of Cliff (and Hippie) in May, 2015.

 


 

 

 


 

Bud and Doris

Just look at that lady, petite ‘n’ so lovely.
She’s beautiful, inside ‘n’ out.
That big guy beside her, well…he is her husband.
They sure are in love, there’s no doubt!

But how in the world did that burly, gruff cowboy
Win over that rodeo queen?
He seems like the brute that once kidnapped a damsel
We’d seen on a cinema screen!

Well, those are the words that this couple has heard all
These years, yet, they pay them no mind,
Cuz they’ve stuck together defyin’ all odds ‘n’
They know that their love sure ain’t blind.

I asked them one day if they’d tell me the secret
That held ‘em together so long.
They grinned ‘n’ proceeded to tell me their story;
‘Tis one that belongs in a song.

Now, he goes by ‘Bud”, that’s what everyone calls him,
And Doris is her lovely name.
The southwestern corner of ol’ South Dakota
Is where they have risen in fame.

Those were the days when they always rode horseback.
No “gasoline cowboys” like now.
They rode to check windmills, ‘n’ rode to check fences;
They rode to check bull, calf, ‘n’ cow.

His dad never bought him a horse that was gentle,
Just them with four legs and a tail.
To ride, it was better than walkin’ so he had
To prove to the horse he’d prevail!

So, ridin’ each day, Bud became mighty handy
At stickin’ with horses that buck.
It wasn’t for contest nor rodeo show, no,
To him, it was work ‘n’ tough luck!

Rodeos, then, were a-gainin’ momentum.
The sport mixin’ broncs, bulls, ‘n blood.
When Harry Vold needed a pickup horse trainer
He knew he could count on ol’ Bud.

Meanwhile, then, a dear baby named Doris
Was born to Bush Lockhart ‘n’ Blanche.
She grew up a-horseback ‘n’ helped her dad daily
With all that went on at his ranch.

She learned very young how to ride at a gallop
On Bush’s good gelding or mare.
Well-balanced ‘n’ poised, ridin’ fast was her fav’rite
As wind swept the curls in her hair.

One day, Bud showed up to help Bush with his cattle,
While Doris was ridin’ along.
She watched as Bud danced with his bronc-twistin’ pard to
A rodeo rock-n-roll song.

That cayuse was tryin’ its best to be leadin’,
But Bud would have no part in that!
He spurred as he spun that ol’ bronc to submission
While fannin’ him hard with his hat.

Now, Doris, was dodgin’ the offers from fellas
That wanted her heart for their brand.
But once she saw Bud ride like no other cowboy,
She held out her heart in her hand.

They soon fell in love ‘n’ decided to marry.
His birthday was their weddin’ day.
They hit the ground runnin’ ‘n’ haven’t slowed down as
They raise kids ‘n’ livestock ‘n’ hay.

Aw, sure, in these past sev’ral years, he’s been slower.
Arthritis ‘n’ injuries old
Have made it a struggle to keep up the pace, but
Their heartstrings remain strong ‘n’ hold

These two hearts together in such a strong bond that
Most everyone now understands…
This giant, gruff cowboy ‘n’ his little lass are
Remembered to be holdin’ hands.

And so, for that secret that I meant to mention,
Well, Doris ‘n’ Bud told me this,
“Those tough days that we’d never want to live over
Were softened each night with a kiss.

“We look on those years with their hard times ‘n’ struggles…
We’d toil ‘n’ push through ‘n’ plod.
No, it ain’t a secret. We learned long ago that
The glue in our marriage…is God.”

© 2014, Susie Knight
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Susie Knight comments, "When I met Bud and Doris Merrill in the fall of 1980, I was almost 21 years old. I came to their Circle M Ranch in Pine Ridge, South Dakota to help mutual friends with the prep and production of the annual Merrill Ranch Horse Sale. The Merrill's were well-known all over the region and beyond for their quality American Quarter Horses, Percherons, and rodeo bucking stock. They also raised beef cattle and farmed hay and wheat.

I married their son, and we lived and worked on the Circle M Ranch until 1985. In those 5 years, I observed the strong bond that Bud and Doris had through "thick 'n' thin", when tensions ran high, and when there weren't enough hours in the day to get all the work done. For me, it was the hardest lifestyle I'd ever lived. Many sacrifices had to be made, the pay was meager...yet I never wanted to leave. Part of my daily hope to keep pressing on was by observing Bud and Doris and how they got along. It seemed to me that they had "true love" for each other that superseded circumstances and trials that life on a working ranch entails. I yearned for what they had.

I found my way back to the Circle M Ranch in 2010. I stopped by for a cup of tea and ended up staying three days! It was wonderful to reminisce the old days with them and pick up where we'd left off. A couple weeks later, I returned with my new husband, Dave, and (not surprisingly) they welcomed him with open arms!

During one of my regular visits afterward, I started to ask them to tell me all their stories. I scribbled down so many notes that I may have to write a book one of these days! What stuck out most in my mind, though, was their "love story"...and so, this poem was written.
 

 


In April, 2013, Susie Knight was awarded first place in the poet division of the 5th annual Cowboy Idol competition at the 10th Annual Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival in Kennewick, Washington. She is pictured above with runner-up Dale Page.


See Susie Knight's

Here to Remember in the 2011 Cowboy Poetry Week Art Spur

 

Recordings

 

Fillin' Tanks


2015

Original poetry.

Includes:

Fillin' Tanks
Meetin' the Master
Darby's Stampede String
Bein' a Neighbor
Cliff
Cookie Lockhart—Queen of Auctioneers
Bud & Doris
A Mother's Eyes
When Riders Come to Call
Three Saddle Horses
Bring 'em Home
Dreams
The Christmas Spider (bonus track)
 

Find Rick Huff's review here.
 

Fillin' Tanks is available for $15 postpaid from:

Susie Knight
PO Box 76
Conifer, CO 80433
 

Listen to samples at CD Baby, where you can also purchase the CD and individual tracks.

 


 

Leather Wings


2012

Includes:

Rodeo Chasin' Girl
Memories of Doris
Mountain Soliloquy
The Root Bear
Fallen in Love
Here to Remember
Sayin' Goodbye
Croppie
One Wish
Wait Here
The Spirit of Buffalo Bill
Ernie Snare
Rodeer
 

Leather Wings is available for $15 postpaid from:

Susie Knight
PO Box 76
Conifer, CO 80433
 

Listen to samples at CD Baby, where you can also purchase the CD and individual tracks.


Western Wordsmith


2010

Western Music Association (WMA)
Top Cowboy Poetry CD
2012

Includes:

Gotta Rodeo
Grandma
A Real Cowgirl
I Like Them Cowboys
My Western Man
B Western Trivia
Ode to Frosty
Clown of Tonight's Rodeo
The Need to Dance
Rodeo Ridin' Days
Calf-Ropin' Son-Of-A-Gun
Ol' Rose
Dakota At Night
Pep Talk
Mustang Man
The Visit
Down This Road Again
 

Western Wordsmith is available for $15 postpaid from:

Susie Knight
PO Box 76
Conifer, CO 80433
 

Listen to samples at CD Baby, where you can also purchase the CD and individual tracks.

 

 



  About Susie Knight
                                         
provided 2015

Susie Knight has been writing cowboy songs and poetry since age 15. She has owned and shown AQHA horses for 30 years, and in recent years, has schooled horses for private owners and been a Kids' Horse Camp Instructor. She's lived and worked on ranches in Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Colorado.

Susie married Dave Knight in 2010. It was due to his support and encouragement that allowed her to pursue her lifelong dream of participating in cowboy poetry gatherings and western cultural events to share her growing collection of original cowboy songs and poetry. They live in the mountains of Conifer, Colorado.
 

 

www.susieknight.com


 

 

 

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