Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch


Santa Rosa, California
About Tom J. Mariani




It May Not Seem Fair

Our family has a picture of my great grandparents, Jim and Birdie Boots, taken in 1907, the year they were married. They are aboard Jim's six-horse-team wagon. With high sideboards, it is fully loaded with tanbark in Briceland, west of Garberville, California. The poem I have written is about my great aunt telling me what it was like growing up on the family homestead with three sisters and her mother running the ranch.

Her father hauled railroad ties. The end of the line from San Francisco was Willits. He later drove a mail coach. So he was away from the ranch for several days at a time. When he was there, while he helped, he also had to prepare his horses and equipment for his next scheduled run. The poem is through the eyes of a young girl who may have not thought it was fair that she, her sisters and mom were left behind to run the ranch.

I also have a short memoir written by Jim Boots before he died in 1963 that was published in the Humboldt Historical Society. It is about how Jim set out on his own in Southern Humboldt at age of 14, "The Life of an Old Stage Coach Driver and Mule Skinner." I am the first of the fifth generation of our family born in Northern California. Our grandchildren are the seventh. Here is my poem:

It May Not Seem Fair

She was part
Of what held
This family together

When it didn't want or
Didn't think it needed
To be held

Now she tells me
Of growing up on the ranch
In the early nineteen hundreds

Why their father left
Coming by with money
Putting in a couple days' work

Then heading back out
As they held together
Four young girls and their mother

On a ranch
That needed the hands
Of at least two strong men

Just to hold the horses
Horses that were halter broke
Yet still needed to learn

To respond
To the bridles
They would wear

They needed
To be taught
But never question why

They would turn
Trot canter pause
Cut gallop stop short

When they felt
The pull in their mouths
The slap on their flanks

Expected to be saddled
Carry pull
And be ridden

For the rest of
Their lives
Working a ranch

Herding a small
String of beef cattle
And milk cows

Guess he was not ready for that
He drove a six-horse team
Trained to haul railroad ties

Or with high sideboards
On the wagon
Loads of tanbark

The girls had turkeys and pigs
To raise
Cows to milk

Chickens to feed
Kill pluck and clean
Eggs to collect candle and sell

Deer they shot
Needed to be dressed out
Venison jerky seasoned hung to dry

Tall green stalks of corn to harvest
Apples to pick and put up
Pots to clean

A garden to tend
Vegetables to sell or barter
For flour salt coffee fabric

Lanterns to trim and light
Clothes to mend and wash by hand
And then hang out to dry

All by hand
Without his
He was in town or

Out of town on the road
In the winter he drove
The mail coach

It took three days north to Eureka
Overnight stops for supper
Fresh horses

After meals for the passengers
He played his fiddle
Drinks for the driver

The trip by car now takes
Only about an hour
Up the Redwood Highway

Not a fair race
We don't go by the way of
Ettersburg Briceland

Redway Garberville
Out Bells Spring Road
To pick up and deliver mail

On to Harris Alderpoint Fort Steward
And in between
Laying up overnight

Back to Phillipsville
Through Miranda Meyers Flat
Shively Pepperwood

Stafford Scotia Rio Dell
Alton before again
Overnight in Fortuna

She showed me where the coach stop was
More fresh horses drinks and dancing
Next morning early start to Eureka

She has told me
More stories this morning
As I listened

She has outlived
Her three sisters
She is the last

Now giving me
Her explanation of why
Their father left

A wife to run a ranch and raise
Four young daughters by herself
On her mother's family homestead

2009, Tom J. Mariani
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Tom shared the photo mentioned above and others:

Jim and Birdie Boots (my great-grandparents) newly married circa 1907 aboard Jim's six-horse-team wagon loaded with tanbark for the Wagner Leather Tannery, This picture was taken on her family's homestead near Ettersburg, West of Garberville on US 101 south of Eureka.

Jim Boots, log loaded, 1948

Jim and three of his four daughters standing, their husbands sitting, circa 1950. The girls' birthdays were in November and December, so they had one party. 


My great grandfather holding me, 1948


These photos are featured in Picture the West.

About Tom J. Mariani:

Tom J. Mariani was the first of the fifth generation of his family born in Northern California. His grandchildren are the seventh. After an eighteen-year career in bank management with Wells Fargo and Exchange Bank in Santa Rosa, and an eleven year career in corporate risk management, Tom retired to become a full time freelance writer and poet. He has been published in San Francisco's SoMa Literary Journal ( and in the Santa Rosa Junior College annual art and literary journals, First Leaves 2002 and First Leaves 2009.  




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