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TOM SWEARINGEN
Tualatin, Oregon
About Tom Swearingen
Tom Swearingen's web site

 

 

Winter Pleasure Ride

We started out with slickers
On or carried just in case
Wild rags tied to warm our neck
Or to pull up on our face

Layered up with woolies on
Two shirts and a heavy vest
And blanket-lined canvas coats
Figured that should stand the test

Now past three the skies are dark
And the wind is blowing mean
The forecast folks reporting
We’re due squall like we’ve not seen

Yet, we’re on a “pleasure ride”
‘Least we say that’s what we do
Hard to ‘magine that today
With this big ‘ol storm ‘a brew

'Cause all the time we're riding
That sun has been getting low
The temperature's been falling
Eating at our inner glow

Our cheeks are getting tingly
And our noses have a run
This little “ride for pleasure”
Why, she’s stopping to be fun

So we ride in to the wind
Find our way back to the road
Then in the barn unsaddle
Warm, and get the tack all stowed

Later with the horses groomed
We reflect upon our ride
Was that a ride “for pleasure”?
“It sure was” we all decide

Because time in the saddle
Is what we’ve come to treasure
Don’t matter the conditions
We’ll always find some pleasure

Be that pleasure of senses
Those, the seeing touching kind
Or pleasure that takes place deep
In the thinking of a mind

Just give us time with horses
And as long as we’re astride
Won’t matter what’s encountered
We’ll make it a “pleasure ride”

© 2013, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.
 

This poem was a part of a 2013 Winter Art Spur


 

 

Nightwind. Gentle Spirit, Noble Soul.

Twenty two years. A good long time
To spend with an equine friend
So, there's no getting around
Sadness when coming to the end

Good night Nightwind. We'll miss you girl
Time you just rest peaceful now
Won't be the same without you
Here but we'll get through it somehow

I expect you'll often find us
Out lingering by your grave
Recalling all the good times
We had and memories to save

We'll be listn'n for your nicker
In the rustling of the trees
And the call of your whinny
In the soft whistle of the breeze

Then in the evening darkness
We will scan the far fence line
And imagine your outline
Walking and you’ll be doing fine!

Sound as you were when we showed you
And we rode the trails for miles
Or took kids on their first rides
And you gave ’em all such big smiles

We'll take comfort in our mem’ry
Now you rest your noble soul
Rest easy gentle spirit
For there are no more miles to go

© 2013, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

 

Tom comments: A few years back my wife and I had the good fortune of meeting Kent and Linda Phillipps while on a week-long ride in eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains. They are dear friends to this day. I wrote the poem from their perspective when it was time to say goodbye to their wonderful Paint, now buried out on their far pasture fence line.


 


 

Dogies in Our Band

In every band of livestock
You might find a few that's weak
Some through trouble at their birth
Their prospects are most times bleak

Some weakened by lack of food
Or poor shelter in bad climes
Or accident or sickness
Motherless calves often times

"Dogies" is what you call them
They're the trailers in the band
First to suffer, fade, and fall
When some hardship hits the land

“Dogies” just like in the song
“Little dogies git along
Your misfortune not my own
Little dogies git along"

And so it is with people
We've sure got some dogies too
Those driftin’ through misfortune
So just what are we to do?

Do we just say “git along
Your misfortune not our own
Git along little dogie
You just drift along alone”?

No, I say if we're able
We extend a helping hand
Their misfortune is our own
'Cause we're part of the same band

You of course do what you will
And I’ll do what I decide
But if you were the dogie
You’d want someone at your side

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

 

Tom comments: I wrote “Dogies in our Band” in the wake of the 2013 South Dakota blizzard that resulted in huge losses for livestock producers. 

For some time I’d been noodling on a poem based on the “Don’t be a dogie” advice my great great uncle Oswald West (Oregon Governor in 1911-1915, former cow puncher, and lifelong horseman) wrote his nephews on their graduation from high school in 1934.  In that advice he shared that in a band of livestock the “dogies” were the weaklings, by birth or circumstance, and therefore the first to suffer and die when faced with hardship and shortage.  Not a man to mince words, he warned the nephews they were bound to drift into being dogies if they didn’t apply themselves.   Good advice, but not particularly charitable should they encounter negative circumstances out of their control. 

The “lend a hand” message of my poem is a personal point of view that I’m pleased to share with a number of family and friends. Never know when any of us could find ourselves “dogies.”

 


 

Just a Solitary Chimney

Just a solitary chimney
Stands rising from debris
That used to be a family's ranch
Before they had to flee

Range fire pushed by relentless wind
Came roaring through the pass
Nothing between them and the fire
But timber and dry grass

No time to gather much at all
As Hell raced on its path
They left their stock and memories
To face the fire's wrath

Just minutes to gather fam’ly
Leave on a hope and prayer
Take a last glance in the rearview
At smoke and ash-filled air

Now back to see that it's all gone
All they worked hard to build
Just a scorched footprint of what was
And all that the fire killed

There's no way we can know their grief
There's nothing we can say
To take away the pain and loss
Experienced that day

What we can do is support them
Find ways to lend a hand
Help them rebuild when they're ready
Their dream on that burned land

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

Tom told us, "Summer here in the northwest brought wildfires that burned hundreds of homes and scorched thousands of square miles of land in Washington and Oregon, terrible fires that burned out of control for days and weeks. While the fires burned an image seen too many times in news stories and photos shared by friends affected or threatened by the fires, that of chimneys rising from the burned rubble of what had been homes. Those images inspired this poem, written while waiting for word from friends evacuated from the fire area."

 

 

Teddy Franke Is One Tough Hand

Teddy Franke of the Morrow Ranch
Was out mendin' fence alone
When coming to his attention
Was a charging wild-eyed roan

Closing fast that big spooked-crazed mare
Was running for all she's worth
Her nostrils flared and ears pinned flat
A cyclone of hooves and earth

The mere sight of that hell-bent hoss
Would leave most men quite rattled
Especially if like Teddy was
Surprised, on foot, unsaddled

We'll most men would duck, dive, or run
But not Teddy, no siree!
He conjured himself up a plan
He'd not let this wild mare flee

Teddy, recall, was all alone
Some people would say outmanned
But not those who know Teddy Franke
Because he is one tough hand

Surveying his situation
He figured his only hope
Would be one chance when she ran by
He'd collect her with his rope

He'd toss a big 'ol floatin' loop
That would sail out o'er her ears
She'd know right quick she was bested
And let go her primal fears

She'd settle down real sudden like
They'd become the best of friends
But that's not how the story goes
That's not how the story ends

'Cause the only little wrinkle
In Teddy's quick thought-up plan
Was the absence of his saddle
Can't just dally one by hand

But now that horse was upon him
In a flash she'd be on by
So now or never he figured
And he let his catch twine fly

Right then his plan adjusted some
‘Cause that horse sped up her run
And that's when Teddy realized
The battle had just begun

With no horn wraps to slow her down
He ran with her best he could
And all the time he's a-thinkin'
"'Nuther hand would sure be good"

That horse was picking up some steam
They were cover'n lots of ground
Teddy sure had his hands full now
But took time to look around

Spots a lone white oak approachin'
Figured that'll slow her down
So siezin' opportunity
Teddy ran some dallies 'roun

He figured now he'd won the fight
With three dallies on that oak
Breathed a big 'ol sigh of relief
And detects a whiff of smoke

Was an odor some familiar
But not that of burning tree
Didn't take Teddy long to know
"That there burning smell is me!"

Three dallies around an oak tree
Teddy says he has now learned
Ain't near enough to stop a horse
Which is why his hand's now burned

Rather than feelin' defeated
Teddy looks on the bright side
Says it's just skin and a jump start
On callusin' up his hide

But next time he says if needin'
To stop a runaway hoss
Next time he'll be in the saddle
And he'll prove just who's the boss

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

 


 

Tom comments: A friend of mine named Teddy Franke manages Morrow Ranch in Central Oregon. A while back he posted a photo of his rope-burned hand with this comment on Facebook: "Note to self. Three dallies around an oak tree isn't enough to hold a hold a runaway hoss. It's only skin though, right? On another note... I'll be horseback next time I toss my twine."

I figured there was a poem there…so I wrote it. With the only facts known to me being the few words in his post, I made the rest of the story up. Understand that Teddy is an experienced buckaroo and I had some concern he might take exception to my story portraying him in such an unlikely situation. So it was quite a relief when I shared it with him and he used that same hand to give me a "thumbs up."
 

 

Steens Mountain Cow Camp

We've been working out of cow camp
Up at Cucamonga Creek
On a late summer gather
For now going on a week

My wife and I are helping out
A friend named Tim O'Crowley
He and his wife Susan run
The cattle in this valley

Each day some dif'rent work to do
Maybe ailing cows to tend
'Course rounding up the strays and
There's a fence or two to mend

Diamond Valley lies before us
On spectacular display
A big 'ol slice of heaven
On a bright September day

Southeast Oregon high desert
Where the Kigers still run free
Among the sage and paintbrush
And the quaking Aspen tree

Looking southward up the canyon
Miles of rimrock walls our right
To our left windswept mesas
Not another soul in sight

Steens Mountain in the near distance
Just flat takes our breath away
Beauty on the summer range
Makes our work feel more like play

More than once I've heard Tim share a
Thought that I now know is true
Cowboying is easier
When it comes with a great view

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

 

See some accompanying photos in Picture the West.

 

 

Scotty’s Christmas Tree

We were coming up on Christmas.
In fact, it was Christmas Eve.
Which found me out with Scotty Dee
And a brand new hand named Steve.

We'd all recalled our younger days
When at home this time of year,
With mom and dad and family,
How a Christmas tree brought cheer.

But despite our recollections,
We'd not thought to bring one in.
And so, better late than never,
Our searchin' would now begin.

'Course, we wanted a real nice one
To drag to the waiting crew.
We were lookin' for perfection,
Not just any one would do.

So we passed on middlin' prospects
And continued on our quest.
We'd cover ground 'til we were sure
We had dang sure found the best.

That plan was working pretty good
Until daytime turned to night.
Which is when we all decided
The next one'd be just right.

And that's when good ol’ Scotty Dee
Let out with a whoopin' yell,
"Looky up there boys, on the ridge!
It's a tree, and gosh, she's swell."

Well sure enough he'd spotted one.
So we rode up to it quick.
It was small and kind’ scraggly,
But it’d have to do the trick.

So we drug it to the bunkhouse
And revealed the evening's find.
Well, if there was disappointment,
The boys kept their comments kind.

"Come on let’s get this tree spruced up",
Bob said, grinnin' at his pun.
"If we get to decoratin'
We can pronto get her done."

Danner hung the silver buckle
He'd won buckin' at the fair.
Which got us all t’ pitchin' in
Our own bits of cowboy flair.

Chester wired on some conchos,
Jingle bobs and fine headstall.
Strung romel reigns like popcorn strings,
With a "Merry Christmas all!"

Ned eased a few loose silken threads
From the seams of his best vest.
Pretendin’ they shined like tinsel,
He hung ‘em where they looked best.

Ev’ryone participated.
We all added what we could.
And then stood back and all agreed,
Scotty's tree looked mighty good.

Next year I 'spect we'll look farther,
And get an earlier start.
But I don't think we'll ever find
Any tree that holds more heart.

© 2015, Tom Swearingen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.

 

 


 

See Tom Swearingen's

One to Ride the River With in Art Spur

and

Well Howdy Little Feller in Art Spur

and

Spot-on Perfect Balance in Art Spur

and

Before Days End in Art Spur

 


   About Tom Swearingen
                                                                 
provided 2014

Tom Swearingen of Tualatin, Oregon writes poetry that is often inspired by his own experiences and observations, many which occur as he and his wife ride their horses on Oregon’s mountain trails. 

Winner of the National Finals Rodeo 2013 Cowboy Poetry week contest, Tom is a popular presenter at cowboy gatherings, horse camps, rodeos, and wherever else you find folks who live and appreciate cowboy life and western heritage.  A number of Tom’s poems have been published on Western Poetry Publishing’s westernpoetry.org, and his work has been featured by Cowboys & Indians Magazine and recognized by such organizations as the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Ft. Worth, Texas, and South Dakota’s Heritage of the American West.  

Tom writes poetry ranging from the humorous to serious and reflective. His debut CD Horses and Happiness covers that spectrum with I Don’t Call Myself a Cowboy, Blessed to be Western, Bombproof Pinto Mare, Cowgirl From Nantucket, Winter Pleasure Ride, Thurman the Beer Mule’s Dad Takes a Spill, Oregon’s Outlaw Henry Vaughn, When a Horse Hoof Hits the Ground, Replanted Roots, and Nightwind. Gentle Spirit, Noble Soul, in addition to the title poem.

 


 

Horses and Happiness is available for $15 plus postage from oregoncowboypoet.com and from CD Baby, iTunes and other outlets. And, of course, direct from Tom at his performances. See oregoncowboypoet.com for Tom’s appearance schedule and more information.


www.oregoncowboypoet.com



 

 

 

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