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Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

About Virginia Bennett
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About Virginia Bennett

Virginia Bennett has been performing cowboy poetry since 1988. Regularly featured at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, she has also shared her work at the Smithsonian Institute, and has been featured many times on PBS  and NPR specials. She has been working on Western ranches since 1971, alongside her ranch manager husband, Pete. She started colts for the public for 20 years,  has shown hunter/jumpers, driven draft teams for a living, and drawn cowboy wages on big outfits.

She was frequently a featured poet at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and other events until she suffered a serious horse-related injury in 2004.

Virginia Bennett edited Cowgirl Poetry, One Hundred Years of Ridin' and Rhymin', published by Gibbs Smith Publishing. We have a feature about the book and a selection of poems (including Virginia Bennett's "All That is Left") and her introduction to the book, here

She is also the editor of Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion, published by Gibbs Smith Publishing.  The book was printed in celebration of the 20th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko, Nevada.  We have a feature about the book, along with its contents and introduction here.

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She has published volumes of her poetry, including Canyon of the Forgotten and Legacy of the Land:

    

and her most recent collection, In the Company of Horses:

107 poems reflecting a lifetime well chosen, well spent, in the presence of these noble creatures. Including 30 previously unpublished works, 25 photos, introduction and textual notes on most poems. 

"I really admire Virginia Bennett's work. She not only has total command of
the English language, she also has the ability to use the language in a manner that paints a vivid picture of her subject matter and creates emotion in the reader. Virginia is one of the great poets of our time and I am proud to call her my friend. Her work will live forever. Enjoy this new collection. You won't be disappointed."   

Red Steagall Official Cowboy Poet of Texas and host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Cowboy Corner


"Virginia Bennett is one of the rare writers whose words evoke an immediate,
authentic sense of place. She leads readers through worlds forged by her
experience, spirit, wisdom and humor, and the journeys are memorable."
Margo Metegrano, editor www.cowboypoetry.com and The Big Roundup

"Virginia, you're gettin' out of our league. Now, the poem "Tapestry of Knots," slidin' in those 'yesternews' and 'traveling at the speed of ink,' just sparkle on top of a deep, disquieting pool of a poem."
Baxter Black, cowboy poet

"Virginia Bennett's poetry celebrates the traditions and reality of the American West. She has a fresh eye and a distinctive voice that confirm her standing as a true poet."
Sir Christopher Ball, chancellor of the University of Derby, Oxford, England

In The Company of Horses also includes a chapter of cowboy poetry for cowkids, titled "Whistle Britches," complete with photos. About this selection of children's poetry, respected author Teresa Jordan writes: "Cowboy Poetry has finally found its Dr. Seuss. In these delightful poems for children, Virginia Bennett weaves her playful celebrations of language with a lifelong knowledge of the rhythms of work and nature. This great-hearted collection is a rare gift for children of all ages."

Available for $18.95 postpaid from 
Virginia Bennett, PO Box 268, Goldendale, WA 98620

Read our review here.
 

a December, 2005 release:

A collaboration with Monterey, California artist Anne Burnett, Uncle Lou, a fun activity book for kids, features Virginia Bennett's cowboy-poetry-children's poem, "Uncle Lou."  The book is hand-crafted and includes eleven pages of imaginative coloring images to the verses of Uncle Lou; a "barnyard" word search; a cowboy maze, and three instructional pages on cowboy knot-tying. Also included is a box of 4 Uncle Lou crayons, a pencil, and also a special cord, complete with glow-in-the-dark beads, for trying out those clever knots. Available for $13.95 postpaid from Anne Burnett, 457 Spencer Street, Apt. 1, Monterey, CA 93940

See Virginia Bennett's complete "artistic resume" below.

 

Virginia Bennett has many enthusiastic endorsements:

Click for Amazon

"Cowboy Poetry has finally found its Dr. Seuss.  In these delightful poems for children, Virginia Bennett weaves her playful celebration of language with a lifelong knowledge of the rhythms of work and nature. This great-hearted collection is a rare gift for children of all ages."  
Teresa Jordan, author Riding the White Horse Home; Cowgirls

  

Click for Amazon "We were pleased to be able to include a poem by Virginia Bennett in the collection Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West. Virginia is one of the West's most prominent rural poets. We were honored when she chose to recite her poem from Leaning at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, where she received a very enthusiastic audience response to all of her performances." Nancy Curtis, co-editor, Leaning into the Wind 



Home on the Range -- Click for Amazon

 "Thank you for allowing us to use your very moving poem, "You Probably Know This Guy," in the collection (Home on the Range). It is a project that I loved working on and was delighted to publish."  
Diane Arico
, Senior Editor
Dial Books for Young Readers

 

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"About Canyon of the Forgotten, this book was amazin'! Virginia, you're gettin' out of our league. Now, the poem, "Tapestry of Knots," slidin' in those "yesternews," and "traveling in the speed of ink," just sparkle on top of a deep, disquieting pool of a poem." Baxter Black, cowboy poet, author Croutons on a Cow Pie, The Buckskin Mare, Cow Attack

 

Poems

Such Control
On the Brink of Forever
I Like to Think I Know
Nature Lessons
Uncle Lou
The West Had Its Way With Me
Songs on the Nightwind
Tapesty of Knots
As You Ride
Canyon of the Forgotten
Ty and I
Hazards of Braggin'
Bells of December
Truth of the Matter
Inheritance
Home....again

The Lion

Dad Was Like a Colt
It Sorta Makes Sense

We Are The Poets (separate page)

Such Control

With just one movement of the hands
    One mindless lifting on the sash
Across the peeling windowsill
   The world rushes in, in a flash.
                                       The evening killdeer cry their fears,
                                       The nightbirds croon their nocturnal tune.
                                       A flirty mare greets wished-for lovers,
                                       While, far-off, a coyote courts the moon.
A lonesome calf calls for its mother
    A burdened branch creaks beneath its load
And a half-mile distant, a semi-truck
    Shifts gears to travel the rambling road.
                                       Arriving like an unwelcome guest,
                                       A scented, wanton wind drifts in.
                                       Her heady perfume hypnotizes...
                                       Alluring hints of where she's been.
A waft of frozen mountain meadows,
   A touch of sagebrush on the hill.
Infant cheatgrass, re-emerging
   All march across the windowsill.
                                       They toy with curtains, set them dancing
                                       Have their way with skittish papers
                                       The way they act, you can be sure
                                       They've not been disciplined for their capers.
They next travel up and down the spine
   Now it's time to turn this thing about
And, with just one movement of the hands...
   The sash is closed...and the world is locked out.


© 1997, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

On The Brink of Forever

I cannot explain the why of it
I barely know the how
And were it not for God's goodspeed,
I'd not be telling you now...

Of a hair-raising ride down Little Andrews Crik,
When the wind raised a witch's wail
As my horse stumbled over washed-out roots
and his hooves rolled rocks from the trail.

For you know, past the edge, it's damn steep,
(tho' it's so dark, your eyes ache from peerin')
when the rocks rolled off never hit bottom,
least not while you're within hearin'.

It's no time to be out in the mountains.
It's no time to be leavin' camp.
When the air is crystalled with flecks of ice,
only fool leaves fire and lamp.

But, I'd stayed out later than I thought,
lookin' for that one, last, crazy steer.
Stubborn-pride driven, I'd searched and searched
for that brand and double-notched ear.

Because the Forest ranger said he had spotted
a yellow steer up on a Cal Peak ledge.
For three days, I'd ridden and finally gave up
when I saw winter comin' fast over Coleman ridge.

Tho' I hated to do it, I knew what must be done,
to get down off that mountain, neat and quick.
For the Pasayten's unforgivin' when winter's comin' on.
So I hurried toward that trail down Little Andrews Crik. 

At first, she weren't bad, as Pasayten roadways go.
She wound down just like a timber rattlesnake.
And I was mounted good, on a leggy, line-back dun.
Whatever that ol' hill'd dish out, I  figgered he could take.

But the wind began to bluster and I could it hear it risin' up,
Trees snappin' in the gale, and when it hit us, Dunnie staggered.
Clouds blotted out what little moonlight that we had,
And,in Nature-forced humility, I cursed myself the braggard.

I dismounted, and with bridle reins in hand,
I felt our path by inches--it was the better way.
For I knew up ahead lay the Devil's Hairpin Turn
One step straight or right, and we'd have no time to pray.

Then I stopped, in complete confusion, didn't know which way to go.
Was it my gnawin' hunger, or a tired mind unclear?
My eyes refused to focus as I tried to see the trail,
when up ahead, I thought I saw the yellow, yearling steer!

Standing on the brink of forever, he gazed off to the right.
For a long time, I figgered that was just the way to turn.
But, then he doubled left and disappeared into the snow.
If he was an apparition or not, was none of my concern.

I cast my fate onto his trail, gambling all my chips.
I was willing to trust in the route that he was picking.
We inched our way around the Devil's Hairpin Turn,
and I strained my ears far up ahead to hear his ankles clicking.

One time, I thought I'd lost him. I could see him hide nor hair.
And in the dark and the deepening snow, I could sense no track.
So, I struggled on without him, with Dunnie close behind,
his muzzle pressed up tight against my shivering back.

Then, again on a wicked corner, stood the yellow steer,
as if waiting to be sure I'd make it 'round.
As soon as I caught up to him, he continued on ahead
and I took the right just like he did and made it safe and sound.

For hours, we traveled, in this macabre dance
He'd lead and I would follow in this waltz for life and death.
And when I tripped over the rail into the Andrew's Crik corral,
I just laid there, exhausted, and finally took a ragged breath.

I spent the night in the cab of a local outfitter's truck
and Dunnie feasted on some poor hunter's hay.
In the mornin', tho' I searched, I found no further sign
of the yellow yearlin' steer who had guided out our way.

Thirty miles and three weeks later, while workin' thru the herd,
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a steer.
We had finished shippin' all the yearlin's, and yet I'm very sure,
He was distinctly yellow... and he had that familiar double- notched ear!

© December 31, 1995, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

                          

I Like to Think I Know

The chinook wind that always comes and exhales its warm breath,
Slipping down from off of Oso Ridge to brush the bottom lands,
To toy with naked branches, rattle weeds dried up near death,
Where underneath an old cottonwood, the bald-faced sorrel stands.

We bought him as a ten year old, no one seems to know his past
With pigeon toes and slight sway-back,  his price had been quite low.
They said his name was "Grandy," and that no trophies, he'd amassed.
Tho' no one cared where he came from, I like to think I know.

I like to think that he was born in California, on the coast.
And when the wealthy breeder spied his sore thumb pigeon toes,
Gave him to an old vaquero, saying, "Here now, make the most
Of this stockin'-legged, crooked colt, I have no use for one of those."

The way that Grandy packs a bit and flexes at the poll,
I like to think that somewhere, he was started by a hand.
The way he turns from off his haunches, can avoid a gopher hole
Makes me know he's seen lots of cattle, and covered miles of rugged land.

He trusts a man completely, never shows an ounce of fright,
And I can catch him anywhere, Grandy never tries to run.
And I know that old vaquero held the reins with fingers light,
'Cause Grandy softly spits out the bit when our day's work is done.

Because the red horse caught on so fast when he was just a colt,
They used him awfully hard, for he'd sure lean into a load.
He never acted snorty, would never buck or bolt,
So, as a reward for his willingness, he lives with a back that's bowed.

But, the Mexicano cared for him, he knew his priceless worth,
That even with crippled legs and all, Grandy still could do his part.
For the old man would agree with horsemen all throughout the earth,
That good looks just ain't nothin', compared to an honest heart.

Well, how he ended up with us is hard for me to guess.
We use him when we need a good horse, and to  him, it's just a game.
But I like to think I know what that old vaquero would confess:
We can call  him "Grandy" all we want, but... "el Grande" is his name!

© Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Nature Lessons


Just ask the summer range rider
       He'll tell you it's actual fact
For he's been in those high mountain meadows
       He'll tell you it's nothin' abstract
                           His pony has trotted the rutted trails
                                 and made a few trails of his own.
                           And the rider has sat, profound at the sight
                                 of the harvest of seeds scattered, unsown.
It's been sort of his entertainment
     and he's mused over the muted irony
To think that that ol' Creator Himself
     Did all this for just him to see.
                          And no matter how many times he sees it
                                  He tips his hat back, says, "Ah, ain't that grand?"
                          He'll stop for a spell, downright awestruck
                                  At the wildflowers spreading over the land.
And he thinks of those folks in the valley,
    And he wonders if they'd listen and learn:
That it's the highest, true alpine flower
    That blooms brightest, each one in its turn.
                           And if you think about what it has gone through
                                  (that blossom putting on the most splendid show)
                           It's withstood the frost, the wind and the gale,
                                  And twelve-odd foot of drifting snow.
Life is just like that, he surmises.
     It's those folks who have suffered pain and shock
Who flourish and learn to stand strongest
     Just like a columbine growing out of a rock.

© 1997, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Uncle Lou

Uncle Lou loves ropin' snakes.
Why does he do that? For goodness sakes!
Ropin' snakes is hard to do,
Unless you're Uncle Lou!

To Uncle Lou, it just don't matter
If it's a garter snake or a rattler.
He ropes 'em in the day or night.
He ropes 'em on Christmas, just for spite.

'Cause ropin' snakes is Lou's avocation.
He even does it while on vacation.
He seeks 'em out high on the ridge
Or maybe under the river bridge.

And, he does it so fast, you just can't see
What Uncle Lou's secret might be.
To get that little loop a-foggin'
And settle over that reptilian noggin!

It's a whole lot more harder than snarin' a cow.
Uncle Lou says, "You just gotta know how!"
And, if he says it, you know it's true,
Because....he's Uncle Lou!

And, I know my Uncle Lou can do it,
'Cause one time, a tobaccy plug, he did chew it,
And he spit a sluice right over the moon,
And it landed on an Egyptian dune!

And, another time, he chased down a deer,
On his own two feet, and did you hear
How he built a fire out of just two sticks,
And branded that buck just for kicks?

He chopped down a redwood with his pocket knife,
And whittled it into a wooden fife,
And whistled in ten thousand moose,
Twenty cougars, and a one-winged goose!

Uncle captured the outlaw, Billy the Kid.
He wrassled a grizzly, and what else he did:
He rode a wild bronco down the Grand Canyon
With Theodore Roosevelt as his companion!

He fought in the war next to ol' Daniel Boone!
He lassoed a star at the dead of noon!
He walked twenty miles to school each day.
Barefoot, through the snow, is what he'd say.

So, if he says he can rope a little old snake,
Then, I figure it must be a piece of cake.
And if he says it, you know it's true,
Because he's Uncle Lou!

© 1997, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



The West Had Its Way With Me

Like an unruly garden given over to weeds,
    Years ago, the dream within me grew wild.
Uncurbed, unleashed, encouraged to be free,
    Seeds of discontent overtook the child.

Born with a heart ache for horses
     (inherited from a grandmother I never knew),
I was raised on blazing Gunsmoke fire,
     Maverick, Fury, and Bonanza, too.

Why wouldn't I want to escape the East?
    And find that trail I knew was best.
So, I stood with lifted arm and pointed,
    "Someday, I'm heading out West!"

To a land I somehow knew was better
    and a destiny beyond my control
Thirty years later, I have no regrets
    for the West has encamped in my soul.

I've chased wild cows through the wilderness,
    I've ridden through stirrup-high sage,
Close-in trees and obscured views,
    look to me, like bars in a cage.

For miles, through the malpais desert,
    a coyote has dogged my course.
I've found a ten-point shed antler
   and I sold it for feed for my horse.

I've ridden beyond the distant hills
   to the point where the weather is made.
When I came in off the unbeaten trail,
   no one knew the Laws I'd obeyed.

My watch, I kept on horse-time
   he didn't know the government saved daylight.
I've stood in the 100 degree sunshine
   with goose-bumps over some mountainous sight.

I've been drawn to the mesas and arroyos
   where the pale night was alive with the past,
And I've led my horse up ridges too steep to ride,
   through tears, 'til I topped them at last.

Yet, I've been like a herded dogie,
   in some respects, it's a mystery.
For, as I look in the mirror, I know,
   the West had its way with me.

© 1997, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Songs on the Nightwind

Pennies saved on a rough-cut shelf,
  safely hidden in a Log Cabin tin,
behind a Clabber Girl can, it seemed a sweet place
  to be banking daydreams in.

She was the bride of a prairie pioneer,
  building her home from a shanty of sod.
And each day, she labored til she was all used up,
  and only inwardly questioned her God.

Each day, seeing no one but her husband,
  no solace could her wounded heart find.
Grubbing out sagebrush, she even led a blind mule,
  while her man, bless his heart, trudged behind.

Harder than the mule did the homesteader work.
  He chased daylight from dawn til dark.
Night-time would find him exhausted and spent,
  with no strength for laughter or lark.

"You work, you survive. You don't, you die,"
    was the homesteader's philosophy of life.
 Too busy surviving, he couldn't perceive
   the tender yearnings of his prairie wife.

So, she pored over the ragged, worn pages
  of a Sears Roebuck Consumers Guide.
Yet, only one item enticed her spirit
   and caused her to light up inside.

It was a canary she dreamed of
  in a dandy, brass-wired cage.
A canary who'd sing softly, yet listen
  to all her pent-up longings and rage.

So, she squirreled away her savings
  from the sale of her Barred Rock hens' eggs,
and she sneaked in her secret Sears order
  right after liniment for her husband's sore legs.

On the day the mysterious order arrived,
  her husband's wrath openly vented.
For he hated (or feared) her defiant act,
  and the freedom the bird represented.

But the bird, blessed with ignorance,
  sang and trilled, bringing the sod shack back to life.
And each evening, in rosy glow of kerosene lamp,
  a smile graced the face of the wife.

'Til the day that she ran to the cabin,
  astonished at there what she'd find.
The door stood ajar, the cage door, as well.
  Done either by accident or design.

Days later, she found her canary.
  He lay under a tree, stone dead.
And she cried no tears as she carried him home,
  for they would have been bitter tears shed.

She wrapped him a white linen hanky,
  embroidered, the way wives sometimes do.
And she kept him to remember that sad day,
  when out the door, her heart's melody flew.

© 1995, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

          

 

Tapestry of Knots

In the quiet-time of morning,
   when the moon is going down,
She builds a cookstove fire
   with yester-news from town.
 And, as warmth creeps into the cabin,
   measured slowly by degrees,
She sits with pen at kitchen table
   with a quilt to warm her knees.

And she writes of thoughts she garnered
     during chores of day before
While she pitched the hay from feed sled
     which she prayed would travel slower.
Upon her pad of yellow paper
    dormant words came into life,
Her mind crept beyond the mundane walls,
    before she became a rancher's wife.

She could travel (in the speed of ink)
    to those places in the heart
When romance bloomed like summer's rose
    or a dream broke and fell apart.
She still could see, with clarity,
    a dozen years gone past,
When love was new or love was cold
    or a spirit had been slashed.

With open, honest invitation
    to explore her hidden thoughts,
She scribed haunting, hunted images
    like a tapestry of knots.
And she typed them up on linen paper
    So they'd be worthy to be read
Then, she donned her crusted coveralls
     For there were cattle to be fed.

How many more are like her?
    We can only guess.
The women who write heart-broke words,
     emboldened to confess.
They fold, they stamp, and they mail
     their souls from coast to coast
And share their work with all the world
      except the one they love the most.

© 1997, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

As You Ride

As you ride the high sierras
with your packstring and your pony
and your heart beats strong and lonely,
as the waves upon the sea,
does that eerie pull which drew us
into this moth-like dance,
cause your musings `neath the moonrise
to ever stop and think of me?

Do you ever take my picture
from your saddlebag of mem'ries,
hold it backlit by the campfire,
view its facets in the flame?
And when the coyotes' music
rings out over lonesome ridges
on a starry eve, I wonder,
do they ever sing my name?

When the breezes comb the treetops
of a spruce and aspen forest,
and the stones of unforgotten longing
make you toss upon your bed,
do you lie awake and listen
to wind sweeping through the valley
wishing you could somehow capture
whispered words of what I've said?

I will watch, with glances lingering,
the rimrock trail above my cabin,
and strain to see your silhouette
against a twilight sky.
I will bide, in expectation,
to hear your bit-chains jingling,
and hope to soon see northern lights
reflected in your horse's eye.

© 1994, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Canyon of the Forgotten

Hawk-shadow skims gracefully over the land
       Filling jackrabbit's heart with dread...
He leaps, mindless of ancient travois tracks,
       And races through the twisting riverbed.
From out of the shade of sheer redrock walls,
      The eighteen point buck appears...
Shaking his head, irritated by flies,
      Oblivious to the spirits he hears.

In the night of the lunar revealing,
     With the moon reflected in a puddled spring,
The coyote gives ghosts a physical voice
      As she teaches her pups how to sing.
And their staccato chorus beats drum-like
     In a rhythm that is all of their own,
Yet it joins with eons of echoes
     And it's captured in eternity's drone.

For, the specters of ten thousand Anazazi
     Still hunt along this valley floor,
Where time has eroded the landscape,
      and memories are erased evermore.
They came and they left, and no one knows why
     Unaware of the story they left behind,
But, when the wind plays on the strings of the willows
     The desert plays tricks on the mind.
The untamed cries of some haunting party
     Blend with all other calls reckless and wild
And they collect in what we name "silence,"
     In the canyon of the undefiled.

© 1997, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Ty and I

They had no way of knowin'
What they were doing that day.
Those two boys outside the sale barn
Didn't know what they were giving away.

They had a box full of puppies,
And each one was black and white.
Two just laid in there, dreaming,
While the other two were on the fight.

I didn't really want a dog,
The ranch was peaceful as it was.
But I couldn't resist one of those scrappers,
His big, brown eyes and black fuzz.

So, I took him home and put him
In a box behind the woodstove.
And, his instincts dreamed of cattle
And of the fields he'd one day rove.

We had a real hard winter
And working horses was out of the question.
So every day, out where the snow had been plowed,
Ty and I had a cowdog session.

He learned to obey voice commands
Like "way," and "back" and "here!"
And I could send him out on a wide swing
And to the left or right make him veer.

The skills he learned that winter
Served ol' Ty his whole life long
And I wondered how I'd ever survived
Before that Border Collie came along.

Now, things have come full circle,
And again he spends most of his time
Curled up behind the old woodstove.
And, as he dozes, he whimpers and whines.

But those boys had no way of knowing,
Yet they altered my plans, it seems,
For I'll never look at life the same way again
When ol' Ty goes herding his dreams.

© 1997, Virginia Bennett (originally titled "Dally and Me") 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Ty, when he was 4, in 1990

Gone to his reward on April 29, 2004


 

 

The Hazards of Braggin'

"I always have a walkin' horse,"
the cowboy said with pride.
"The one that's walkin' fastest
is the only one I'll ride.

"And if I'm workin' with a colt
who's a little lazy or slow,
I just whittle me a willow switch
and teach him how to go.

"There ain't a one that I can't train
to pick 'em up and put 'em down.
You'll recognize the ones I've broke,
They can really go to town.

"No, I've never failed to school one
to walk way ahead of his bit.
And if any horse is walkin' slower
then, I ain't the one who's ridin' it."

Well me and Gus and Bonnie
rode along and let him have his say.
'Cause, while the old feller was braggin'...
he was openin' every gate that day!

© Virginia Bennett  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Bells of December 

There's a heavy strand of engraved, brass bells
That hang on a dusty peg along a barn wall
And if lifted alone or slung over a shoulder
Their sound seems too loud, too noisome to haul.

Yet if buckled, just barely, around the stout girth
Of my winter-coated, black Percheron mare,
Their jangling is muted, their harshness transformed
Into a bouncing, sublime snowy prayer.

As with the instrument in a handbell choir
Whose tone is muted when held to the breast
This solstice symphony sings to frosted land
A rare melody both gifted and blessed.

It's a lesson that skims through the psyche
Like sled runners through a snow covered dell
A poem, a song or the words of a lover
Ring truest when to the heart they are held.

© 1999, Virginia Bennett  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Virginia Bennett said this poem is based on experience: "Our bosses had these huge set of bells they wanted me to use and I didn't want to, because my teams listen to my voice and I thought they'd never hear me, because the bells were so loud when you just picked up the string and jingled them. But when they were cinched up on the horses, they were muted...then I went to a Christmas handbell concert and noticed how they quieted the tones of the bells...that is all how this poem came about"  And she added that one year "... I drove teams for sleigh rides up at a mountain resort all winter and loved it. Lots of times, we were in the dark, no lights, but the horses knew the track...which was important because we drove on groomed trails and if they got off of it, we were floundering in 4 feet of snow or more... every sleigh ride, I recited this poem and Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Nice memories..." 

 

The Truth of the Matter

I run for the complete joy of living
Hindered neither by human weight nor reins
I shift and spin and almost fly
As unleashed adrenaline throbs through my veins.

With rider aboard, I might stumble or fall.
I might be made to quit before I am through.
But alone, no obstacle stands in my way
My hooves lay claim to all within my view.

I leap when I should and I land when it's right
No one judges me or tells me I'm wrong.
Some spirit takes hold of my muscles and bones.
Don't blink, 'cause in a moment, I'm gone!

I am like a searing lightning bolt.
You only think you've harnessed my essence.
Yet, without you, I swap leads, collect and depart.
You "train" me to make up for your presence.

I might take a liking to your companionship,
If not, you couldn't catch me when day is done.
You believe all I need is a job to perform...
But I'm a horse, and God made me to run.


© 2001, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Home....again

When the echo of a thousand thunders rolls across the barren plain
And I'm called beyond the silver-dusted peaks.
As lightning flashes from east to west in one brilliant, unbroken chain,
I will answer to the One whose shadow speaks.

Far past the point of my control, a slave to natural order I must be
And the power of His voice will chill me to the bone.
Yet, I've been gifted with the confidence that when that passing comes to me,
I will never have to make that trip alone.

Through gilded clouds, beneath fields of stars, toward a land unimagined in my dreams,
Where east meets west and up finally touches down.
Where surreal landscape passes by, as ghostly as the seascape gleams,
And the rugged wilderness receives her crown...

There, I see a river glisten in a moonlight night,
And a wagon waits with horses handy, all hitched up to offer me a ride.
And I see the wise, young driver, he flashes me a smile...
It's my father, fine and dandy, and he's waiting on the other side.

© Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

This poem is included in our collection of
poems about Cowboy Dads and Granddads.

Inheritance

Sharp as his long-term memory,
Dad's pocket knife unfolds in my hand.
Too keen an edge to run your finger over...
His touch, long ago, wore off the brand.

This was something important to him
And I can still see him wipe and hone
The thinning blade, rhythmic, along the strop
Or swipe it across his smooth whet-stone.

It's a long-lost, antique art that was valued
And a man was often judged by the blade
Of his scythe or his axe or pocket knife,
His sickle, his runners or his spade.

At first, I reveled at its feel in my pocket
And thought of him whenever I cut a string
From a bale of mountain meadow hay,
In awe of the treasure of such a thing.

But, then I realized that this little knife
Was my inheritance and could not be replaced
And the fine, cutting edge put there by his hands
Seemed something too precious to waste.

© 1998, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This poem is included in our collection of
poems about Cowboy Dads and Granddads.

 

Superstitions

Ask him about those gritty miles,
  Hoss scramblin' out of sandy washes,
    Eyes squintin' against a brilliant sky,
      Lips bloodcracked from a merciless sun.
Inquire how he fared that time,
  When he forgot about bein' cautious,
     And the rattler raged against his leathered flesh
        And he'd almost been undone.
 
A life-time meted out in grains
   Of antediluvian desert sands
     Siftin' through the hour-glass' neck
       To measure sacrifice untold.
Untold, undone, unseen, unheard,
   Secret maps held in shaking hands,
     Fifty years paid out in fiscal fines
        All to find the Dutchman's gold.

No one understands his obsession
   Savin' those of his brotherhood.
     He's lost wife and kids and normal job
        And aged eons before his time.
He's threaded the Weaver's Needle
   In ways only he's understood
     And at night, he's haunted by ghosts who guide
       Him down lost trails to the Dutchman's mine.

'Cause the desert ain't user-friendly, pard,
   She guards her secrets beneath her breast
     With cactus thorns and scorpions
        Aligned in a mischievous plan
To fence you out or hem you in
   Like you're some unwelcome guest
      And the man who spends a lifetime there
         Might be loco, but he's sure 'nough a man.
 
Behind each bleached volcanic boulder
   Round every turn in a dry riverbed,
     Might lurk ol' Jacob's legacy
       Or the barrel of a claim-jumper's gun.
Yet, it's his mind that's been his enemy,
   His addiction to a search gone dead,
      And the mirage of a myriad daydreams
        That simmers in the summer sun. 
 
So, just ask him if he'd known back then
    Those things he knows today...
       that his hoss would plod a fifty year trail
          With an unfound goal before it.
Listen to those words whispered over vocal chords
   The wind has rasped away:
      He said, "the treasure was never in finding the gold,
        But the treasure came in looking for it."
 
© 1998, Virginia Bennett

This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

The poem below was written for a "roast" of poet Paul Zarzyski at the 2003 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Paul calls himself the "Polish rodeo hobo poet" and he writes and performs like no one else, with poems such as "Escorting Grammy to the Potluck Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed at Bowman’s Corner," "How the Lord Throwed in with Mom to Make Me Quit the Broncs," "A Wild-'n-Wooly Western Episode from Rodeo Rider Afterlife in the Erroneous, Erogenous Twilight Zone," and "The Heavyweight Champion Pie-Eatin' Cowboy of the West."  His delivery is as quirky and energetic as his titles. By all accounts, this poem, in his "style," stole the show at the Elko roast.

 

Addressing Paul, stocked and pilloried,  at a ceremony of public humiliation (have you ever heard of "private humiliation?"), Elko, 2003


Ricocheting off the stirrup bone of my inner ear like the
well-oiled, rapid fire, cocked-and-loaded
kick from a 16.2 hand saddle-bronc
of a monorchid stallion named "High Ball,"
Zarzyski's electric babbling
zings through my cerebellum like an
antebellum...nay, antediluvian idea
that bounces back and forth between glistening days
fraught with hapless fly-fishing and
rich, frothy rides on April Showers.

Days fraught? Nay, phrases wrought with
Freudian slips or slips of tongue like
"Bucking Horse Moon," an entendre (make mine a double!)
if I ever heard one! Sentences that never seem
to end and
lines laced with analogy and alliteration
almost ambiguous, leaving no word unturned
until every single noun, verb, adverb and adjective
in Webster's (and I mean the New Collegiate size)
is wrangled into one great and glorious epic
of a masterpiece,
which leaves me exhausted, spent and breathless,
heart racing beneath my clavicle,
chewing gum at warp speed,
applauding and shouting for more
until I realize:
What the hell was he just talking about?

© 2003, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Lookin' for Cows, Fawn Creek, 1993

Oh, my surprised lungs catch for a breath.
Tho' my eyes keep starin' on down the road.
Was it you, with mystified and cursed intention,
That caused my heart to nearly explode?

Or was it your horse, that renegade bay,
The one with an eye purely demonic?
Did he side-pass right to avoid a sharp rock,
And make my spirit sing something symphonic?

Or was it my mare, 'cause she is in heat,
And she's been looking all day at that bay?
She's a flirty ol' hussy, and I wouldn't put it past 'er
To swing that big butt over your way.

It couldn't have been me, tho, I guess it is true
That my right spur was embedded in 'er side.
And I know full well, I trained 'er to leg cues
Back when I broke 'er to ride.

It coulda been the moon, I hear it's been waxin'
And there's just no accountin' for nature.
Them hosses know better, but they're plumb confused
When it's the moon manning their legislature.

And, now a cowboy don't really know it.
He's about as perceptive as a blind porcupine.
But when he's calculatin' some on where the cows are
That ol' moon can sure put a knot in 'is twine.

So, it might just have been the hosses' fault
And it mighta been some birds on the wing.
It coulda been the hint of sage on the air,
'Cause I know a gal won't fall for sech a thing.

Hey, now, buster, we're workin' today!
There's no time for this, you scruffy ol' pard,
To be sparkin' or considerin' our options.
Heck, gettin' this job done with you is dang hard!

Yep, we been cowboyin' together for more'n twenty years
 I count it somethin' so rare and so fine.
And I still get that shiver up and down my back
Whenever your stirrup rubs up against mine.

© 2005, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This poem is included in our Cowboy Love Poetry collection

 

 

The Lion

She waits in the deep, dense forest
Lurking in the shadows where the sun is defied
Lapping water from an ice-incrusted stream
She is stealth wrapped up in a tawny hide

She hears more by instinct than by listening.
Her paws like radar upon the glistening shale.
And, she's keenly aware, when you are two miles away,
Of your horse as he plods up the trail.

She has ample time to consider her options,
Whether scientists believe she can reason or not.
She could stay where she's at, undetected,
Or head back up the slope at a trot.

Yet, she crosses your path when you're almost upon her
Like a dancing sunbeam teasing a child.
Leaving one track in the trail just to inform you...
You've come that close to something that wild.

© 2005, Virginia Bennett
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Dad Was Like a Colt

Dad was like a colt to me
His spirit fought to be let free.
I tried like hell to hold him tight
I tied 'im fast, and tied 'im right.
I invested more than I ever should.
I hobbled him down (as if I could!)
He kicked against my ropes and reins
I tried new bits with new curb chains.
'Til finally, I learned, since he struggled so,
I might just well as let him go.

© 1997, Virginia Bennett
 This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Virginia Bennett and her father, New Mexico, 1970s


Virginia Bennett comments:
 

I lived alone with my dad while I was growing up, and he and I had a special closeness. Later, even thousands of miles did not separate us in spirit, and we called each other every Saturday night, when I'd tell him of horse-training predicaments or challenges I was having. He delighted in putting himself mentally into those situations and giving me ideas and pointers. When he died unexpectedly, it was darn hard for me to let go of that relationship with a guy who was my champion and cheerleader for all of my life. I was blessed to have such a dad, and this poem is for him.

Virginia Bennett recites this poem on the first volume of The BAR-D Roundup.

 

 

It Sorta Makes Sense

A friend of mine, (I'll call him Pete)
was watching TV the other day.
He listened to some reporter,
believin' all he had to say.
It was a "human interest piece"
tho'some would call it fluff.
And, it showed a lot of fancy folks
with their poodles struttin' stuff.

And, the reporter said, "It has long been
established as a scientific fact
that dogs look like their owners
and by data this has been backed."
Well, Pete looked down at his old dog
lyin' faithfully on the floor:
His tongue lolled out (the dog's, not Pete's)
as he laid there in full-snore.

His one good eye was swollen shut
from one of the milk-cow's kicks.
He'd lost patches of his mangy fur
from diggin' at his ticks.
A trophy brought home gallantly
from a coyote fight last week,
was one ear torn completely in half
and a new scar on his beak.

He had porky quills stickin' out of his gums
the only had one dew claw...
And since the stud horse aimed just right
he drinks his toilet water through a straw!
Yes, Pete looked down, then looked at the screen
his cowboy mind in a muddled fog.
And said, "If it's true that dogs look like their owners...
then, I gotta get a better lookin' dog!"

© 2004, Virginia Bennett
 This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Read Virginia Bennett's

El Fuego in our Poets and Songwriters column

and

and her tribute to Joelle Smith

and

 Sermon on the Mount posted with Holiday 2002 poems

and

Ramona's Christmas Box, posted with Holiday 2001 poems.

 

 

Artistic Resume for Virginia Bennett

 

Highlights of publication history:  

  Poem, "Uncle Lou," in an illustrated activity book for kids, in collaboration with artist Anne Burnett

   Story "My Heroes Have Always Been Horses" appears in Unbridled: The Western Horse in Fiction and Nonfiction, edited by Michael Engelhard, Lyons Press, 2005

vbcompbk.jpg (12582 bytes)  In the Company of Horses, by Virginia Bennett, 2004

cpreunionbk.jpg (25377 bytes)  Editor: Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion (Gibbs Smith Publisher, Jan. 2004)  See our special feature about the book, along with its contents and Virginia's introduction here.

hotbiscuits.jpg (44025 bytes)   Story "Nightwatch" appears in Hot Biscuits (UNM Press, 2002), a collection of short stories edited by Candy Moulton and Max Evans (author of The Rounders and The Hi Lo Country). See our special feature about the book here.


  Poem "All That is Left" included in The Big Roundup, anthology from CowboyPoetry.com  (New West Library 2001)

  Poem "Tapestry of Knots" included in Woven on the Wind anthology (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) 

Editor: Cowgirl Poetry (Gibbs Smith Publisher, Jan. 2001) 

April, 2000-anthology, Cowboy Poetry Matters, Storyline Press

“Farm Romance and Adventure” Small Farmers Journal, 1999

“What’s the 411?” High school text book, One Reel, Seattle, WA  1999

  Canyon of the Forgotten,  by Virginia Bennett, 1998

vbelk89.jpg (55391 bytes)  Poem, “Kindred Spirits,” appears on cover of the program for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Elko, Nevada, 1998

  Included in Leaning Into the Wind, anthology (Houghton Mifflin, 1997)

Home on the Range -- Click for Amazon Included in Home on the Range, anthology (Dial Books, 1997)

Included in Humorous Cowboy Poetry, anthology (Gibbs Smith, 1996)

somecbybk.jpg (37305 bytes)  Included in Something That A Cowboy Knows,  (Utah State Univ. Press, 1996)

grainbk.jpg (149568 bytes)  Included in Graining the Mare, anthology (Gibbs Smith, 1995)

  Legacy of the Land, by Virginia Bennett, 1993, 1995, 1999

New York Times, 1992

Storms on the Divide, by Virginia Bennett 1991

Rode Hard and Put Away Wet, by Virginia Bennett, 1990 

 

Videos, Radio and Television

“Northwest Profiles,” feature segment, PBS, 1995, 1996
“Poets and Pards,”  Melody Ranch made for TV, 1996
Great American Music Company, North Carolina Public Television, 1992
National Public Radio, Voice of America (twice), Voices of the Trail, Cowgirl Poets
NPR--”Savvy Traveler”  1999

 

Recordings

"Cowboy Poetry Classics" Smithsonian Folkways, CD (recites "The Smell of Rain"
     by Sharlot Hall), 2003

“Canyon of the Forgotten,” by Virginia Bennett, book on tape
“Best of the 1993 Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Rhino Records, 1993
“Voices of the West,” Western Folklife Center and Western States Arts Federation
“Hittin’ the Trail,”  CD (2001) by Horse Crazy in which Virginia sings and plays mandolin 

Virginia Bennett sings and plays the mandolin along with Lauralee Northcott and Emele Clothier on acoustic guitar, electric bass, and banjo on their Horse Crazy band album, "Hittin' the Trail."  The classics and original songs include beautiful ballads and songs that are full of spirit and fun. 

 

Performance Highlights

Dec. 2002 Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Festival
Oct 2002 --Templeton Baptist Church
Sep. 2002 San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau Western Music, Poetry and Arts Festival, Paso Robles, CA 
Sept  2002; IBM International Conference, Santa Cruz, CA 
Templeton California Cowboy Poetry Show, 2001, 2002 
March, 2002 --Santa Clarita's Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Festival at Melody Ranch
Host of monthly program, “Foggy Dew Western Review”  
Sept. 2001--California Cowboy Gathering, San Francisco Bay Area, with RW Hampton
Dec. 2000- Second annual Monterey, CA Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival
April 1-2, 2000-Santa Clarita, Melody Ranch, Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival,
     (also appearing with the band, Horse Crazy)
January 2000--Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Arvada, Colorado
Dec. 1999--First annual Monterey, CA Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival,
Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Elko, Nevada--1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996,   
                             
1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004     
1860’s town hall, Webster, NH, April, 1998
Omak, WA Cowboy Jubilee, 1996, 1997, 1998
Western Wash. State Fair, 1995, 1996, 1997
Jay County Arts Council, Portland, Indiana--1997
The Pacific Institute Global Conference, Seattle Trade Center, 1996, 1997
Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle Center, 1996
Santa Clarita, CA, Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, 1995, 1996 
National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies annual convention, San Jose, CA , 1995
Voices of the West tour, 1994, sponsored by The Western Folklife Center and the
                  Western States arts Federation, featuring Virginia Bennett, RW Hampton,
                  Cipriano Vigil, and the Todi Neeshi Singers, touring 5 western states
Smithsonian Institute, Museum of American History, 1993
Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Colorado, 1990, 1991, 1992
Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, 1991, 1992, 1993
Battlement Mesa Cowboy Poetry Gathering, 1992
Grand Junction Cowboy Poetry Gathering, 1993

Virginia Bennett is a writer for many national and regional agriculture publications, including RANGE, The Fence Post, Cascade Horseman, Ag Pilot, The Capital Press, and Small Farmers Journal.

 

Contacting Virginia Bennett

 

Virginia Bennett
PO Box 268
 Goldendale, WA 98620

Bennetts Spurs on Facebook


You can contact Virginia Bennett by
email.

 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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