About TR Stephenson
Books and Such
Read tributes to T. R. Stephenson here.
We received this last poem from T. R. in early September, 2002:
Ten Thousand Years
When I was a young man I traveled this land
Seekin' a somethin', a travelin' man,
I sipped of its blossoms, I drank its sweet wine,
And I lived my livin', one day at a time.
I rode from the Rockies, to the dark Rio Grand,
Observin' the beauty, didn't have me no plan,
But to do as I wanted, and then move along,
To love all the women, and sing all the songs.
One night in a barroom, in a West Texas town,
I was sittin' half loaded, while the dancers went round,
A tattered old drifter, there walked up to me,
Asked would I buy him, a beer and some cheese.
We was talkin' a nickel, I had it to spare,
The waitress came by, and I ordered a pair,
It's coolin' refreshment, put his heart at ease,
And he started recitin, as smooth as you please.
The verses were flowin', their words did impart,
The wisdom of agein', from the old drifters heart,
They spoke of a lost love, just like my own,
And the hollowed out feelin, of being alone.
He talked about runnin', till you give out of breath,
How wantin' revenge, ate a hole in your chest,
We live life too quickly, and then we move on,
And all that's remembered, is the words to our songs.
Lovers forget you, and children do too,
Dogs don't live long, we're just passin' through,
If we meet in Heaven, or deep down in Hell,
We made our own choices, we paid our own bills.
I ordered another, but he pushed from his chair,
On the face of this poet, I noticed shed tears,
I watched as he passed from me, into the night,
And he left me some verses, handwritten and tight.
Time walked on past and I find I am old,
I do not have riches, I did not find gold,
The library lady, helped me find a book,
And I saw an old favorite, in it as I looked.
It said if you've heard this, or read it before,
I wrote it one midnight, outside a bar door,
I'd begged me a beer, and some cheese and sat down,
With a grey eyed young gunman, in a West Texas town.
I tried hard to tell him, but I don't think he heard,
He was too busy drinkin', to hang on to my words,
I left him a copy, to later read through,
The wisdom of livin', I'll pass on to you.
The library lady, then showed me a shelf,
Of the best loved of poets, some dead, in bad health,
The old poets real name, lo, lead all the rest,
She said "He's the one, all the thinkers love best."
I suppose he is buried, where nobody knows,
Where the thunderheads rain, and the cold northers blow,
I remember his seamed face, all glistenin' with tears,
And his verses will surface, for ten thousnd years.
Wisdom ain't wantin', and hope you will find,
Somebody's done it, back in olden times,
There's a record of sayin's, to find you must seek,
It may take a life time, it might take a week.
You that write verses, and think they're so grand,
Consider this story, of a talented man,
He wrote what was happenin', he scribed it with tears,
And his words we'll remember, for ten thousand years.
T.R.Stephenson-Somewhere West of San Antone
About TR Stephenson
Most of this first bio was kindly loaned to us by TD of the former Poetic Dreamer web site. It's followed by the bio TR sent to us:
T.R. is a sixth generation Texan who can trace his ancestors back to San Jacinto.
He is a past member of the Louisiana Hayride and has toured with several name bands back in the 'fifties. Bands such as Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, Jim Ed Brown and artist, Andy Williams recorded one of T.R. songs. T. R. quit the life of a road musician and got married.
T. R. knows the country he writes about, having been a surveyor and cowboy on most of it. He was raised in the Trans Pecos of West Texas, from the Rio Grande to the Sacremento mountains of New Mexico. In 1981 he began writing and became the associate editor of Texas Country magazine, interviewing interesting Texans. His best selling book, Tales Old T.R. Told, was nominated by the Academy of Western Artista as the Best Book of Cowboy Poetry for 1998.
He is a Texas historian, familiar with the Paleo Indians who lived in the Southwest as well as those who came later. T. R. is also is a Korean War veteran and member of the V.F.W. in Brownwood, Texas.
T. R. now lives in the Castroville area of central Texas and travels the country entertaining people and groups interested in a look inside the Old West.
He is Poet Laureate for the Republic of Texas. He has been published in Boots and The Dry Crik Review, nationwide cowboy poet magazines. Currently, he has two albums on the Cove label. One is Hardside, a selection of poems about those in dire straits, and the other is Blood Memories.
T. R. has released several albums, with his latest, Stand and Deliver, getting wide air play across the U.S. and in Europe. His song from this album, Wild Desperado, was up to number twelve on the European most requested hit parade for Winter, 1998. He is currently recording both poetry and songs, for Texoma Music Group in Nashville Tennessee.
And here is TR's life in his own words:
I'm an old man who outlived all his enemies and most of his friends. I started robbin' and stealin' when I was 25 and only quit when I got to feeble to do the work needed to be a success. Raised 4 kids and 3 wives and won't ever go down that road again. In 1989 I was stricken with Mileo fibrosis, up until then a terminal disease. I was kept alive by 4 units of blood, transfused every 14 days. This went on for three years. I was found guilty of stealing a fair amount of change right in the middle of this and had to do 36 months in Federal custody. I was placed on interferon therapy in '93 because I had no chance to live but that and lo and behold, it put the disease in remission. Now, as long as I get 3 million units of this drug 3 times a week, I can function after a fashion. I was released from prison in '96 and went to writing poetry and music. I've had a lot of fun with them and have made a lot of money. Made a lot of people mad too cause I have little use for the drugstore cowboy type of western entertainers. If a feller don't know the difference between a rim fire saddle and a center fire, and tries to Hollywood it up, we fall out in a hurry. In my career, I robbed banks, trains, casinos, and a truck full of money from the Meskin government. I concentrated on drug dealers the last few years of my run. Sure had a good life and made more money than I needed. Luckily, I had 3 wives that spent it as fast as I hauled it to the house. I've been shot, stabbed, hit with hatchets and thrown from cars. Horses have kicked me, stomped me and once I stomped a skunk! Damn lucky to be alive and still kicking.
West Texas Wind
The Live Oak Tree
Listenin' to Their Prayers
I Was the Lady
Back to Texas
Long Way from Texas
Snow in Oklahoma
The Crimson Creek
WEST TEXAS WIND
The West Texas wind, never stops blowin',
It'll promise you rain, it'll promise you snow,
All that you'll get, is a sky full of dust clouds,
From the country their plowin' up, in New Mexico.
So woman don't promise me, riches and favors,
I've been a loner, a little too long,
I can not accept, the offer you made me,
I hope you find comfort, in the words of this song.
There'll be other full moons, and other young cowboys,
Perhaps from Nebraska, or old Tennessee,
Where the sound of a cool wind, don't mean broken promises,
But I'm a West Texas drifter, and it sure does to me.
Dec. 23-24, 1999, on the road to New Mexico
Most of my life, I lived by the river,
That flows 'long the border, of Old Mexico,
I've learned how to talk, the silibant Spanish,
Folks think I'm a Mexican, where ever I go.
I do not like white bread, I ain't long on biscuits,
Except to make puddin', a real sweet delight,
I sleep though the heat, of the hot Texas sunshine,
Just like a varmint, I prowl most at night.
Breakfast ain't breakfast, without "Huevos Rancheros",
Some aig on tortillas, covered with sauce,
Made up of onions, tomaters and peppers,
Them Yankess can't eat it, it's damn sure their loss.
Tortillas, tortillas, oh how I love them,
I use them like shovels, to scoop up my food,
A mouth full of beans, or green enchiladas,
On a quarter tortilla, pardner thats good!
I fry them and bake 'em, sometimes I make tacos,
I fill up with beef, chicken or stew,
If I got some lettuce, I fill in the middle,
Some chopped up tomater, a chile or two.
Cut them in strips, scrambled with hen aigs,
Some hot chili salsa, to give "migas" zing,
Eat 'em with pork chops, or maybe some bacon,
A tortilla's tasty, with any old thing.
So don't cuss us cowboys, who live on the border,
We may not be classy, some of us ain't neat,
We owe all the women, down south of the border,
Who use the tortilla, in all that they eat.
Somewhere west of San Antone-12-1-00
THE LIVE OAK TREE
Here I sit beneath this tree, where a young Comanche killed me,
He shot me with an arrow, and left me here to die,
I didn't see him sneakin' up, I guess I was day dreamin',
Instead of lookin' all around, and keepin' my powder dry.
In 1828, I rode with old Jim Bowie,
We camped on the San Saba, and found some silver there,
But times got rough and I went east, and played among the Creoles,
I figgured if I stayed out here, I'd prob'ly lose my hair.
I worked awhile at soldierin', I tried my hand at rangerin',
And then I did remember, the silver in the hills,
I took my Hawkens rifle, my Bowie and my hatchet,
Went back to the San Saba, my silver sack to fill.
I fought last year at Plum Creek, we whipped a slew of Indians,
And got us back a thousand head, of ponies stole away,
Somebody said they counted and there must have been as many,
Comanches on the warpath, and one killed me today.
As the Indian looked down at me, I thought I saw a flicker,
Of somethin' kin to kindness, we wuz brothers him and me,
Or maybeso he saw himself, where he wind up someday,
Layin' all alone and cold, beneath a live oak tree.
The folks back home will never know, what happened to their baby,
Someday they'll forget me, in my Alabama home,
They'll think I'm in a grave somewhere, while my old bones are dryin',
Under this tree, upon the ground, arrow shot and gone.
If someday, someone passes by, and finds me quitely molderin',
Let 'em dig a shaller grave, to put my leavin's in,
Scribe today upon a rock, and gently put it o'er me,
Say "arrow shot in 'forty one, he did right good till then."
Let the live oak stoutly stand, and shed it's shade around me,
A monument to better days, and things that used to be,
It's leaves will fall, and as they twirl, you might just see two faces,
The painted ones a Comanche brave, the dyin' one, is me.
TR adds: It ain't funny but it's true. I found that old boy stuck to a tree in
1944 up on the San Saba. It skeered me for a minute but my mother
suggested I take a shovel back to the river and bury him and I did. Got
a good flint head out of the tree behind the bones. He must have been
there a hundred years or so.
Honored Guest Debra Hill based her poem, "Outlaw?" on a conversation she had with TR Stephenson. She wrote: I based this latest piece on a line from a conversation with Texas Outlaw Poet TR Stephenson. He sent me a poem about an outlaw listening to his children say their prayers. I contacted him to tell him how wonderful and profound the sentiments of his poem were. In our conversation he said "Sometimes outlaws ain't evil men. Sometimes they're just men whose ideals went astray." I asked TR if I could use those words and he said to go for it. This is the result.
TR Stephenson was kind enough to let us reprint the poem that inspired Debra Hill (her poem follows):
LISTENIN' TO THEIR PRAYERS
I remember back when I was young, a long long time ago,
The many things that used to bring, me tears, or maybe joy,
The one example that I hold, the one I lovge the most,
Was listenin' every bedtime, to the prayin' of my boys.
"Daddy listen to me, I'm gonna talk to God,
And tell Him 'thanks' for givin' me these things",
They'd kneel on the cabin floor, things would quieten down,
In the softness of the twilight, their little voices ring.
"God please bless my Mama, she's in my sister's room,
And look out for my Pa, in the work he does for pay,"
Inside my heart would quiver, my little boys don't know,
I am a wanted outlaw, a bandit cold and grey.
It's funny how a man can be, two men at one time,
It makes a feller wonder, whats happenin' to his soul?
I was one man with my family, they sure knew me best,
I tried to give them love, and keep them from the cold.
The other man who rode alone, was sinister and dark,
There's no place in a bandit's heart, for anything but sin,
I kept my one face hidden, when dark deeds I did do,
The eyes that looked out at the world, hid the man within.
Time slid by like butter, came the day I had enough,
I packed away my bandit's mask, and my pistol too,
The people in the little town, never learned the truth,
They only knew the man, they'd often spoken to.
Now I am old, I live alone, my wife has gone away,
My children are all grown up now, and gone,
In thee twilight's gloamin', I watch the fireflies play,
And try to find the strength, to carry on.
The one thing that sustains me, a simple memory,
Of a time back in the past when life was fair,
The way my heart would swell with pride, a sweet soliloquy,
When I listened to my children, say their prayers.
TR Stephenson, The Texas Outlaw Poet
© TR Stephenson, All Rights Reserved
And this is Debra Hill's poem:
I knew his face from a poster,
That said he was wanted by the law,
It had little affect on me,
For I went by what I saw.
Two eyes of blue looked up at me,
So thin they looked like steel,
And a moustache so thick and bushy,
I wasn't sure if it was real.
Out on the plains of Kansas,
It is a hard and fast rule,
That to take in and hide a wanted man,
Are the actions of a fool.
But I'm not known for my reason,
Common sense is my only art,
And it told me I was safe,
Go on and follow my heart.
I took him to the old dugout,
Beside little creek,
Tended to his bullet wounds,
Nursed him while he was weak.
And I kept him there...a secret,
Made him strong and well,
An listened to the stories,
That he began to tell...
Of his life as a farmer,
Becoming a raider after the war,
He'd had a good reason once,
But couldn't remember "why" anymore.
When he tried to walk away,
The band refused to let him go,
They shot him and left him to die,
Where I found him in the cold.
I considered the sins of this man,
Waged them against my own,
Knew that for the right reasons,
My life would have taken a different tone.
And I knew there was no judging,
His past actions, or mine,
For his taking life, and my saving his,
Were both considered a crime.
So I hid him, and I'm not sorry,
For a time he was my own,
He told me once he loved me,
I was the closest he had to a home.
I procured a horse and a rifle,
Once he was mended enough to ride,
And politely refused his offer,
To join him by his side.
My last glimpse was the back of his hat,
As he dropped into the draw,
And I knew I'd not been wrong,
About the things I saw.
Deep inside those steel-blue eyes,
Lay a soul that had changed it's ways,
And his punishment would be in running,
Wanted...for the rest of his days.
And me, I'm still not repentant,
I'd do it all over again,
For sometimes Outlaws ain't evil,
Sometimes they're just men,
Who started out with good intentions,
And no matter what they may be,
The final call to judgement,
Won't come from you or me.
Because all of us are sinners,
By bad luck or circumstance,
And the only way out is common sense,
Prayer and a second chance.
So, pray with me for the Outlaw,
Cheer him on in his second try,
And start your prayer with the words,
"But for the Grace of God, there go I..."
© 2000 Debra Coppinger Hill, All Rights Reserved
I Was The Lady
I was the lady, that loved the Old Timer,
The one who everyone knew,
We traveled the trails, of trouble together,
Creatin' a legend or two,
Sometimes we lived, in a tough Texas cowtown,
And he'd keep the peace on the street,
The town women acted, like they did not know me,
If ever by chance we would meet.
Rode stages to Denver, up in the high mountains,
A city that everyone knows,
I remember mud streets, froze hard in the winter,
And houses, all covered with snow,
Cook stove a'smokin', livin' on coffee,
And bacon at six bits a pound,
And my young Old Timer, brought me a red ribbon,
When there wasn't no ribbons around.
We lived in a square tent, held up by some guy ropes,
And a dozen wood tent pegs or two
I had to bake biscuits, in a cast iron Dutch oven,
Long before daylight broke through.
I washed on a washboard, and dried on the bushes,
And bathed in creek water ice cold,
And slept on a pallet, with my give out prospector,
Exausted, from searchin' for gold.
I helped with the hayin', branded the yearlin's,
I even helped him build a fence,
And when he was ailin', I doctored and nursed him,
A patient who paid not a cent.
He did what he wanted, went where the trail wandered,
And me?, he left sittin' at home,
I did the raisin', of the kids we created,
And learned to live lonely, too long.
As time moved along, kids grown up and married,
People would stop by to see,
If the Old Timer'd tell them, a tale about old days,
Back when the West was still free.
We'd set on the porch, in the cool of the evenin',
And writers would write and take notes,
About the old places, we lived in the old times,
And all the tough trail towns he broke.
Sometimes they'd ask questions, and mem'ry would fail,
At me, he would cut his grey eyes,
I'd say "You remember," and clear all the cobwebs,
As my Old Timer went back in time.
We weathered the hard times, we didn't have nothin',
And the times when the blessin's were free,
Then the winter of livin', finally took my Old Timer,
And nobody misses him, like me.
Now in the evenin', I sit in the rocker,
And sometimes I'll look down the road,
I'm lookin' for someone, someday to come ridin',
And tell an old lady, "Get on."
Right up behind him, holdin' on to whatever,
Knowin' where this trail will wind,
Sittin' forever, on a solid gold front porch,
Me, and that Old Timer, of mine.
© TR Stephenson, from his book Tales Ole T.R. Told.
This soil grows good tomaters boy, and squash and turnip greens,
The roastnin' ears are full and sweet, like none you've ever seen,
I've spent most all my lonely life, plowin' bloody ground,
This was a battle ground 'tween me, and a lot of Yankee men.
I rode away from Texas young, a stripling just fourteen,
The bugle called to go and fight, fulfill a boyish dream,
I dedicated my young life, to livin' with a gun,
But when the war was over, the killin' had just begun.
I came home to settle down, raise cattle, colts and kids,
When the shootin' started up, raisin' hell was what I did,
I killed a half of dozen of the state poleece and then.
Stole a horse and headed west, out where the new began.
Old Trouble must have follered me, out to New Mexico,
I took the side of the little men, swore we would not go,
I'd bought this land, there was a girl, an answer to a dream,
Her paw wanted all my land, and damn her paw was mean.
I was buyin' food one Friday, in the village general store,
When a group of hands from her poppa's spread,
Said "Don't hang round no more,"
One pulled a gun and I did too, black powder filled the air,
I was the lone survivor, bleedin' everywhere.
Summer came and Fall it fell, winter found me stronger,
I practiced with my forty four, can't put it off no longer,
If I do, what I set out to, my love I know I'll lose,
But I can't let him buffalo me, not walkin' in my shoes.
I found him in a bar room, his back was turned to me,
My cold voice spun him plumb around, I counted 1, 2, 3,
Her frantic "No!" behind me, made my vision stray,
Her father drew and fired at me, but she stepped in the way.
Two cold men knelt and wept, upon a saw dust floor,
She smiled at us, said "Promise me,you won't fight any more,"
The greyhaired doctor looked at us, said, "She'll be alright,
Sometimes it takes a sacrifice, to make things come out right."
"You see that old man sittin' there, with the long grey stringy hair?
Don't wander to close to him, there's things that you might hear,
He's just a worn out cowboy, sittin' all alone,
I wish he'd order somethin', or just get up and go."
The waitress weren't no beauty queen, although quite neat and clean,
She shouldn't have talked to me like that, a man she'd never seen,
I might have been a preacher, that spoke of love and flowers,
But I was just a rounder, whilin' away an hour.
I hadn't ordered breakfast yet, so I went to where he sat,
"Mister, can I sit with you, and have a friendly chat?"
He raised his head and looked at me, his face cracked in a grin,
I'm much obliged for company, I ain't got many friends."
"The kids all used to hang around,I'd tell them real tall tales,
'Bout how it was in yesterday, and the time I spent in jail,
But their ole mommas drug 'em off, some fightin' and some fussin',
They didn't want 'em hangin' round, they might hear some cussin'."
"I dang shore ain't no angel, I admit I cuss a bit,
To me they're words that help me show, the happenstance of it,
I don't mean nothin' by them, an occasional 'Damn or Hell'
It punctuates the way I talk, like the ringin' of a bell."
I ordered him some coffee, he saucer'd it and sipped,
I guess it was a little hot, it must have burned his lip,
What I heard him call that cup, would make a madame blush,
I knew then I'd found a friend, and how that man could cuss!
My mother thinks I have a job, as a bouncer in a brothel,
She shore don't know I sell the poems I write,
I hate to think about the way my father would react,
If he found out that I never have to fight.
There is no way I'd ever sink, so low that I would tell them,
There's some things that a real man will not do,
I'd rather have the reputation, of a man who works in sin,
Than have them know the sissy thing I do.
It ain't my fault I learned to read, and write and do my sums,
Hell, bein' smart's the natural way I be.
If some folks enjoy my way with words, I sure will let 'em,
As long as I can keep it secret, from my family.
I wear a gun, a stick and knife, and really do look mean,
Although inside I'm gentle, meek and mild,
I admit I sometimes slip, with my girl down at Nelly's
Of course she thinks my talkin', gives me style.,
If ya'll will keep my secret, I'll whip you up a verse.
About the men who herd the longhorn cows,
How they come to down to drink, and really shoot their guns off,
Then wind up spendin' all their cash, on women anyhow.
Cowboys do not have, an inkling of an idea,
About the things a woman ought to know,
They think they paint and powder, and lie and simper some,
Before the cowboy's hurry up and go.
I'd rather be an Indian, livin' in a teepee,
Or eatin' chile peppers from a pot,
Than let my parent find out, I make my livin' writin',
Them verses that are passed around a lot.
I don't think I will ever be, no Browning nor Longfellow,
For sure I ain't no Edgar Allen Poe,
I'm just a whiskey drinkin', worthless lyin' cowboy,
Who found a better, cleaner row to hoe!
Back to Texas
It was spring in Oklahoma, flower's fragrance filled the air,
With the sweetness know to those who live outside,
An old cowboy was sittin', by himself out in the yard,
Of an old folks home where he'd taken his last ride.
On weekend and the good days, his grandkids gathered round,
The family really loved their grandpa so,
His brawny arms had shrunk a bit, from the way they were back when,
He would give them each a quarter, for the down town picture show.
The lady that looked after him, asked "Do you need a drink,
Or maybeso a bit of food to eat?"
He looked at her with age dimmed eyes, asked "When will he leave?"
Said he was goin' back to Texas, in the middle of the week.
That weekend when the family came, she asked about his trip,
The whole bunch looked confused and no one knew,
They had no plans to take him there, although it was his home,
He'd lived in Oklahoma, since the time the state was new.
"I'm goin home to Texas," somebody heard him say,
But every body knew how old men talk,
His health was bad, he had no way, hell he, could hardly breathe,
And Texas is a long long way, for a man who barely walked.
They got the word and rushed right down, in the middle of the week,
The sawbones said the old man passed away,
Some body said they seen him, a'saddlin' up his horse,
And headin' out to somewhere far away.
Inside the room, beside the bed, where his body was,
Run over boots were missin' from the floor,
They never found his Stetson hat, one girl she had his gun,
But all of his old cowboy stuff, was gone forever more.
"I'm goin' back to Texas," they remembered him a'sayin',
And I suppose, that's just what he did,
His body could be anywhere, his soul went where he loved,
South down into Texas, somewhere across the Red.
My grandpa, went to Wyoming in the '80s but got drifted back to Texas by the army or somebody. Had to do with a fight in Johnson County.
Long Way From Texas
The inside of bar rooms, don't ever change,
After four or five bottles, most beer taste the same,
The woman I'm holdin', would scare me in the light,
I'm a long way from Texas, tonight.
I'm down on my luck, and God only knows,
Why the bad always stays, the good always goes,
I wish Maria, was holdin' me tight,
But I'm a long way from Texas, tonight.
I was a king in Del Rio,
Maria was a border town queen,
She was the only thing I ever wanted,
Tthe only thing I could not keep,
Now I ain't got money, whiskey's not free,
I lost ever thing, that meant somethin' to me,
All I got left I can lose is my life,
And I'm a long way from Texas, tonight.
He put down the bottle, walked out on the street,
Where a Wyoming gunman, was waitin', to meet,
A challenge was answered, Death had his say,
Now one man lay dyin', one, walked away.
Somewhere in South Texas, Maria don't know,
She just lost a lover, she loved long ago,
Her mem'ry was the last thing, erased from his sight,
He died a long way from Texas, tonight.
Here is the true story of my Old Man and his false teeth. He gave $30.00
for them and whittled on them ten year till they fit!
Daddy needed new teeth, he had but four or five,
We went out to El Paso, 'cross the Davis Mountains high,
He asked an old time cowboy, where to go for dental work,
The feller said to Juarez, a shop right by the church.
He left us at a cafe, eatin' big baked big mouth bass,
Strong with the taste of garlic, yet sweet as sassafras,
He had some Habanero, perhaps a glass or three,
He tipped his hat and whistled, as he left my mom and me.
It must 'a took two hours, till he walked back thru the door,
His face was swollen somewhat, I could tell his mouth was sore,
He went back to the outhouse, then ordered up a shot,
Of hundred proof tequila, and a double sshot he got.
He used it as a mouthwash, then swallered it right down,
My ma was lookin' worried, he's too big to carry round,
He said the Meskin dentist, had pulled his old teeth out,
And measure him for new ones, perfect without a doubt.
We hung around almost a week, till his teeth were ready to go,
We went back down to Juarez, across from El Paso,
Dad got his teeth and showed us, then put them in his mouth,
He looked just like a beaver, in Mexico, down south.
He tried to wear them everyday, the proper thing to do,
The problem was, they hurt his mouth, and he ran out of glue,
But daddy was a thinkin' man, he pulled hiss Ka-Bar out,
And started in a whittlin', on them teeth from in his mouth!
He'd first take out the top plate, and scrape awhile on it,
He must of worked a full six months, until the top plate fit,
He finally got where he could chew, soft foods like pinto beans,
He pulled the bottom plate out then, and set it on his jeans.
He had a terrible time alright, it was a bit too big,
Talkin' made his jaw hurt worse, he sounded like a pig,
A' gruntin' and a mumblin', when he would try to chew,
Finally he'd take it out, until the meal was through.
When he first got his false teeth, I was prob'ly ten,
By the time he'd got the teeth to fit, I'd finished school and then,
They sent me to the service, to help ole Uncle Sam,
He sent me where I'd get shot at, he didn't give a damn.
I was over twenty, when I came back home at last,
There was daddy and his pocketknife, like time had hardly passed,
A' whittlin' on some new teeth, he wore the old ones out,
Not chewin' with but cuttin' on, so they would fit his mouth!
The Back Trail
I was feelin' as bad, as yesterday's coffee,
And daylight was somewhere, some hours away,
My nose was as red, as a prickly pear apple,
And I wondered, why I live this way.
My mem'ries went scrollin', down 'long my back trail,
When I was a young'un, first learnin' to ride,
The first thing I'd know, when my eyes would pop open,
Was the rich smell of bacon, mama was fryin'.
I remember the wild days, when I was a cowboy,
The smell of the blue smoke, in a rowdy saloon,
The laughter of good friends, the taste of bad whiskey,
Then sick as a hound dog, neatth a pale, yeller moon.
Time made me smarter, I found me a woman,
A fragrant young flower, to cheer up my life,
We started off poor, then I got lucky,
I bought all the pretties, I owed to my wife.
She was only a girl, when the cholera took her,
I started back drinkin', so I would not cry,
It's been a long time, I admit I still wonder,
Why God let her shine, on a fool such as I?
All I have left, is a herd of dumb cattle,
And young ornery cowhands, to help me work cows,
A big empty house, and a grave on a hill side,
No hope for the future, I'm existin' somehow.
Someday they will find me, asleep in my bedroll,
Sleepin' the sleep, that comes to all men,
You know I don't care, how soon it comes to me,
I know I'll be holdin', my flower again.
Snow In Oklahoma
Far away from here and all my feedin',
My haulin' hay for cows that just don't care,
Inside I feel old Christmas feelin's stealin',
Here in this land of sand and prickly pear.
We've had no rain since sometime in the summer,
And winter grass is eaten to the ground,
Thank God, I made a hay crop in the springtime,
'Cause there ain't no grass down here for miles around.
But someone said there's snow in Oklahoma,
Around the old Red river once again,
If the winter winds hold true, and the norther keeps on blowin',
Then Oklahoma's snow, might be our rain.
The kids here on the ranch ain't seen White Christmas,
Mostly they've been warm, with sunny skies,
And as for me, I'd like to see it snowin;,
Once more on Christmas Eve, before I die.
I don't care how it falls out in my pastures,
If it's sleet or rain or cold wet snow,
My cows will all be thankful for the moisture,
They know it takes some wet, to make grass grow.
Tonight I'll go to bed and ask my Maker,
To give each one of us, the things we need,
I don't care how He does it and He'll do it,
He always sends some water for the seeds.
And someone said there's snow in Oklahoma,
Up around the old Red river once again,
If the winter wind keeps blowin', the norther keeps on comin',
Then Oklahoma's snow, might be our gain.
My woman wants to make the kids snow candy,
With milk and sugar over clean packed snow,
And maybe she'll mix in some real vanilla,
And stir it with a sprig of mistletoe.
And still the TVs talkin' 'bout the cold front,
It's movin fast, the freezin' rains still blow,
It's crossed the state line south of Oklahoma,
Got a feelin' Texas kids, will see their snow.
The Crimson Creek
There's a canyon in the mountains, just across the desert wasteland,
Where a coolin' spring is flowin', to the flatland from the top,
Among the rocks and cedar trees, that's clustered round it's coursin',
Is a place where them that ride the ridges, seldom ever stop.
In the long ago of mystery, in the time before the red man,
An ancient race of warriors made a stand against their foe,
By the runnin' spring they battled, till the little creek with blood ran,
And the water red and crimson, stained the canyon floor below.
They fought all through the mornin', with their numbers growin' smaller,
In the darknin' twilight shadows, as the sun sank in the west,
Underneath the shinin' "Little Bear", and one a whole lot bigger,
They found the kind of dyin', a warrior loves the best.
A thousand years of moonbeams, softly shone upon the mountain,
Then a Time of icy breezes blowin' from a world of cold,
Till once again the warmin' winds, caressed the bones still sleepin',
In a red rock creek cut canyon, with it's bottom flecked with gold.
The Old Ones found the canyon, they used it's still stained waters,
They planted corn and pumpkins, green chiles and some beans,
In baskets made of desert grass, they stored fruits of their labor,
Brought to life by water flowin, cool in a crimson creek.
Three hundred times a dozen, they lived and died and birthed there,
Generations generated things, the Old Ones never knew,
Scarlet water flowin', soakin' in the ground they planted,
The end result a mystic gift, of corn bluebonnet blue.
I came across the canyon, headed west to California,
Runnin' from the demons, of cannon shot and shell,
A band of Mescaleros chased, me up the creek's red water,
Then left me by my lonesome, where the spirit warriors dwell.
Darkness fell like velvet, all across high lonesome desert,
Song birds stopped their singin' as, the sun sank out of sight,
Off in the flats, I heard the huntin' coyote start it's howlin',
And spirits waked from slumber, gathered in the mountain night.
"Why do you come among us, do you seek the quiet of silence?
We who will live forever, can not talk to you of peace,
The years furl up like pennants, we too keep on rememberin',
Seeking for a knowledge that will bring us all relief."
A man who talks to spirit wraiths, can not go back to others,
They'll surely talk about him, make circles round their heads,
I tried to tell them all about, thee place up in the mountains,
And of the creek cut canyon, with its water crimson red.
Now I am old and all alone, except for those around me,
A legion of old legends, who walked this world before,
The crimson creek is dry now, and I know I'll soon cross over,
And join my ancient spirit friends, upon its scarlet shore.
Fog from the Hills
Lonesome just rolled in on me, like fog down from the hills,
When I awoke this mornin', it was here.
It's silence is a masterpiece, it overwhelms the mind,
The future now can not be heard, just feared.
I'm sure the sun will burn it off, azure skies will show,
Once again my heart will fill with peace,
Some one said, you'll never bear, more hurt than you can handle,
It's time for all my lonesomeness, to cease.
It's funny how a foggy day, makes a man grow pensive,
And think back over all the wrong he's done.
What if I'd been a round up cook, and fried up greasy bacon,
Instead of makin' money with my gun.
© 2002, TR Stephenson
The Bible and the Pistol
By the bed where Grandpa slept, and dreamed in every night,
Was a Bible worn and read a lot, that showed him wrong from right,
He was a smilin' gentle man, his later years were free,
A shiny Colt's and Bible, hinted at his used to be.
Sometimes he'd take the pistol out, and we'd shoot off a few,
He showed me how to hit the mark, like when the West was new,
He told me that the man who lived, stood fast and didn't flinch,
When the bullets buzzed by him, he never budged an inch.
When at night I'd go outside, the kerosene lamp would glow,
I'd peek around the door at him, I thought he did not know,
It got to where he'd read to me, the way things were back then,
'Bout Adam and the great big flood, God saved eight good men.
I learned a lot of Abraham, and Samson I loved the best,
He took the blame for what he did, and prayed, you know the rest,
Of David, he of lusty loins, God took his child away,
To show that what was wrong, was wrong, that message true today.
I learned of gentle Jesus, a boy who always knew,
His fate was all cut out for Him, before His life was through,
Love is great and love is real, His dyin' saved us all,
As long as we do what He did, and heed the Master's call.
My Grandpa Bill was murdered, as he came from work one night,
A speeding car pulled off the road, in the soft grey Texas light,
The law never found out who, the guilty parties were,
Mama said someone who had, less courage than a cur.
Then she told a story, of a bandit who killed men,
He sold his gun for shiny gold, folks fought a lot back then,
He had to leave the land he loved, wound up in Mexico,
His wife a young Apache girl, with hair black as the crow.
The Mexican army found them, killed off most her tribe,
Grandpa woke and found he was, the only one alive,
He walked and crawled and finally found, water and some corn,
Upon that hill, a boy was dead, a warrior fierce was born.
From then he gave no quarter, no mercy to anyone,
He sold his soul to who could pay, that and his pistol gun,
After years of roamin', he came back to stay,
This is the man I loved so much, we're buryin' him today.
I still have his Bible, my sister has his gun,
The ink inside has all turned brown, the words forever young,
I hope when they pat me down, plant flowers on my grave,
I'll be the one who read and learned, one that Jesus saves.
© TR Stephenson 5-9-02 Somewhere West of San Antone
Never Get Old Man
By the Delaware river, due east of the mountain
They call Guadalupe, on the West Texas line,
There's a tumbled down 'dobe, battered by climate,
Pocked marked by raindrops, forgotten by time.
In the days of the real men, who rode where they wanted,
And sunup and sundown, was a man's only clock,
Someone built this cabin of sunbaked adobe,
Higher'n his hat band, with a sod roof on top.
The Delaware's water, he used for his farmin',
To wet down some blue corn from New Mexico.
Along with green chiles, much hotter than Hades,
Some squash and frijoles, in his garden did grow.
Along about sundown, he'd sit facin' westward,
Watchin God's finger paintin', great pictures so grand,
Pale colors from Heaven, combined with the beauty,
Of far away vistas, to mystify man.
He's a never get old man, unchangin' reminder,
Somethin' behind him, keeps pushin him on,
Got a holstered Colt's pistol, wrapped round with old mem'ries,
And a young woman's picture, of a love that's long gone.
Sometime in the midnight, when the moon's softly hangin',
Like a slice of me'lon, in the soft summer sky,
He'd sit midst the sound, of the desert's sweet silence,
Surrounded by spectors, softly sayin' "goodbye."
I passed by the cabin, and found it deserted,
A notebook of verses, I found on a shelf,
The last one inside said, "Don't cry at my passin',
Your tears of compassion, you owe to yourself."
A never get old man, unchangin' reminder,
Somethin' behind him, kept pushin' him on.
Had a holsrered Colt's pistol, a sack of old mem'ries,
And a young woman's picture, of a love that's long gone.
© 2002, TR Stephenson
TR adds: The 'dobe is still there. That place really exist right where the Delaware River and a spring fed spring come together. I stumbled up on it deer hunting one day about fifty some odd years ago. It's a comforting spot for a lonesome man, one like my hero.
The Onion and the Rat
It ain't that we was really pore, or went to bed real hungry,
Naturally we had somethin' we could eat,
Likle rabbit stew or armadiller or maybeso some beans,
And once a goat my Daddy caught, it fed us for two weeks.
We made our shirts from feed sacks, we had to feed the stock,
Cause they was all we ever had, them pigs and hungry cows,
Nobody else had nothin' neither, they was just like us.In them depression
years, we carried on somehow.
I'd been to a pickle eatin', when I was about thirteen,
They held it in the church house on the hill,
We women made some sour pickle, we had no cash to pay,
We'd work it out in labor, and pay our funnin' bill.
You don't know what I'm talkin' about, ain't never been to one?
You yuppies sure have got a lot to learn,
You take a big sour pickle, your best girl on one end,
We'd meet down in the middle, boy how our lips would burn!
Anyhow when I got home, there in the coal oil's glow,
Was a big grey rat with tears upon his cheeks,
He was knawin' on an onion, that's all he found to eat,
Left over from the beans and grits, we had sometime last week.
He looked at me, I looked at him, then politely walked on by,
What could I say to a critter that was gaunt?
If I hadn't et the pickle, I'd rasssled him for it,
Cause times were hard back in them daays of want.
Today I hear some damn fool say, how good it was back then
And how he misses the long gone good old days.
He oughta lived in my house, where the soup was always thin,
We learrned the way to do wwithout, as we traveled on life's way.
Today I can look back and smile, at the pictures in my mind,
Of wore out boots, not near enough to eat,
And of that rat 'a sittin', eatin on that onion,
With tears as big as horse apples on his cheeks.
© 2002, TR Stephenson
Books and Such
Some of TR's books and recordings are mentioned in his bio above. He told us: My new CD is From Durango to Dallas and the song with the bullet has the same name. 1st time I've cut with meskin brass and a marimba. The album is decidedly meskin flavored. . .My books are titled Tales Old T.R. Told and my cassettes are Stand and Deliver and Hardside. . . . I am in the process of having another book of poetry and a cookbook published. The poetry will be called By My Ownself and the cookbook is How to Cook a Hoot Owl and other recipes from the owlhoot trail.
(TD really did send us his family's 150 year old fruitcake recipe).
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