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About Melvin Whipple
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About Melvin Whipple

Melvin Lee Whipple was a part of the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko in 1985.  A book of his poetry, Echoes of the Past was edited by Jim McNutt in 1987, "the result of a field trip to Melvin Whipple's home in Hereford, Texas, undertaken in November 1984 at the behest of Hal Cannon and the organizers of the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering..."  In his forward to that book, McNutt writes that "Melvin Whipple... grew up on his family's ranch in the Arizona Strip, the rugged country north of the Grand Canyon where his father, Clement Leroy Whipple, had homesteaded in the 1920s..."

Melvin Whipple wrote about himself in the Preface to Echoes of the Past:

I started writing poems the winter of 1962 and '63.  I was working for the Arizona Livestock Sanitary Board at the time and had lots of time to kill in the winter months.  I really don't know why I write.  It seems to give me a certain amount of satisfaction, writing about something that happened on the days worked or cowboys I've known or horses I've ridden.

Born in Utah, raised in northern Arizona, I can't remember when I learned to ride; it seems I always knew how. I didn't get much schooling except lots of hard knocks.  I've known lots of cowboys and worked for lots of different outfits.  I have owned and run three outfits of my my own.

                                                                                                                                continued below ...

 

Poems

Old Time Bronc Rider

Down on the Ground and Walkin'

Underneath Hidden Canyon Rim

 

Old Time Bronc Rider

When you hang out yer sign fer bronc ridin', Son, you better savvy the game,
The foreman will cut you some ponies, that earned their reputation un fame.
My boy you will find it comes sudden, just take a tip from yer ol' pard,
You can't pick the spot fer yer landing, but you'll find that ol' ground is shore hard.

You may not of wanted green horses, but regalia reads plain as a sign,
Your saddle un gear tells yer story, if you've follered the bronc ridin' line.
By the way, you'll find lots of excitement, un yer gonna get plenty of jolts,
But that's all part of the life style, when ya ride them ol' hammerhead colts.

The sun hasn't yet started shinin', un you've done saddled a mean lookin' roan.
You pull down yer hat un step on him, he sighs un lets out a big groan,
Then he shoots straight up like a rocket, un comes down un spins like a top,
Yer spurs pull like lead at yer boot heels, un you hear those ol' saddle strings pop.

All the boys set around on their horses, grinning and watchin' the show,
As soon as the excitement is over, the roundup boss hollers let's go.
You're  way out behind, but yer comin', when agin, he swallers his tail,
Yer alone now un quit ridin' fancy, as the crews lopin' on up the trail.

Or maybe you stayed back at headquarters, the colts you are breakin' were green,
You found that it wasn't no party, those young hosses can be rough un mean.
Some will come right up to meet you, un they'll greet you with front feet un teeth,
It takes experience, action un savvy, ta keep yer ol' hide in one piece.

A three quarter rig in yer saddle, a Tipton er Ellensburg tree,
A sack full a strings, ropes and hobbles, yer stirrups swing easy un free.
A hackamore un snaffle bit bridle, the both of 'em go with yer trade,
You ride broncs in the morning un evening, in the heat, you stay in the shade.

It's a challenge un fun when yer twenty, at twenty eight yer shore feelin' old,
You've been kicked, bucked off un tromped on, un yer ol' bones shore ache when it's cold.
At thirty yer tryin' ta remember, how many times you've been broke up un lame,
Bucked off in the rocks er the cactus, now yer planning on quitin' the game.

Thirty five un yer still a good rider, but you've seen a many unpleasant sight,
Of the boys you've seen hung up to a pony, with a boot in the stirrup caught tight.
Now yer cautious, ol' boy yer plum careful, your nerve's not so good anymore,
You think while you lay in yer blankets, and listen to the young fellers snore.

You're up on a bronc early next morning, ya saddled some ornery ol' black,
He's big, got a bad reputation, but you squall un feed him the slack.
Once again you leave the boys ta ride circle, un yer on an ol' flea bitten gray,
He shore made you reach for the leather, un it's lookin' like you've had yer day.

It all seemed to happen so sudden, when the gray horse hung his ol' head,
The ground come right up ta meet you, un you'd shore felt better off dead.
You knew it's time to admit it, yer buffalo'd un done lost yer grit,
Yer pride's hurt, but you better admit it, you're scared and it's time that you quit.

At forty, you've quit bronc ridin', lotta  waters went under the bridge,
They've built cities un miles of highways, since you rode yer first bronc, off the ridge.
But, there's times you wish for the power, to turn back the pages of time,
Sack yer gear un yer saddle, un go out, un hang up yer bronc ridin' sign.

Old rough string riders er has-beens, not used anymore on the range,
But you've still got your memories un longin', ta go back before the big change.
You'd shore like ta be back workin' cattle, un the peeler, who rides the rough string,
It's not bad in the fall er the winter, but the feelin' comes back ever spring.

Melvin Lee Whipple
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.


"Past Tense of a Bronc Rider," by Lucky Whipple

 

 

Down on the Ground and Walkin'

A cowboy is King, when he's horseback, the saddle's a cowpuncher's throne,
But he don't do to well, when he's walkin, ten miles frum camp, un alone.
I know this too well, I'm not lyin, a few times it's happen, to me,
Shore makes a man feel just like cryin, un he gits so dern mad, he can't see.

I was ridden the range, one spring morning, when I spies a small mustang band,
When I seen em, the whole bunch was runnin, but, I'm planin on makin a hand.
I pulled down my rope, un got started, my saddle horse just sprouted wings,
Un I'll tell you, the way I was thinking, I plan  to kech, one of those things.

Down off the hill, we go flyin, those mustangs, er just in the lead,
I build a quick loop, as I'm  tryin, ol' pal, just a little more speed.
Then, I seen a roan mare, un she's draggin, her speed has begin ta decline,
She was close, un I see that she's branded, un her owner, had posted this sign.

Ten dollars reward, fer her kechin, un good folks, I'm right on her trail,
Now, she's headed up hill, un I'm crowdin, I'm a kickin her, right in the tail.
At the top, I stands up in ma stirrups, I'm a getting all ready, ta throw,
That's when my ol' partner stumbled, un he's fallin, that's all that I know.

The ground, comes right up ta greet me, my ol' carcass, slammed down, in the dirt,
As I lay there, I think I'm a dyin, then I find that, I'm not, all that hurt.
Ma ol' pony, he pulled out, un leaves me, he's now draggin, ma ol' seagrass line,
I spits out some blood un some gravel, damn that feller, who posted that sign.

Those big bat wingchaps, er plum heavy, un ma sixshooter, pulls at ma hip, 
I'm a tryin, ta kech ma ol' cyuse, but the ol' booger, gives me the slip.
These high heeled boots, er not made fer walkin, my feet er startin ta burn,
Ma ol' pards, just ahead, but he's laggin, the ol' fools, not got the slightest concern.

When up in ma saddle, I'm feelin, like maybe,I'm bout ten foot tall,
But, ten miles frum camp, un a walkin, I'll admit, that I feel purty small.
Wul, I'm cussin, I'm runnin, I'm a tryin, ta get hold, a the end a ma rope,
But, that ol' pony just keeps on a driftin, un ever now un then, hits a slow lope.

Wul, he makes one mistake, un I see's it, as he heads through a small clump a trees,
I runs up un keches, ma rope end,  it'll put me back in ma saddle, with great ease.
But, I'm steppin ten feet, as I'm holdin, un I gets ma loop over a dry limb,
Then I laughed, un said got ya, you ol' buzzard, I knowed I'd soon fork, the top part, of him.

As he hits the end, un finds, that it's solid, un like a good cow hoss, he then turns,
Now, he's facen the down the line, like he otta, I kin see now, he's got true, concern.
Wul, he knows that, he's got hell, a commin, as he snorts un shakes his ol' head,
I got ya now, you blasted ol' buzzard, un I should, fill ya plum full a lead.

Wul, I proudly steppes up in his center, un It's a mighty good feel, ta have back,
Un that ol' bronc, he struts out, like he missed me, as I leasurely recline, in ma kack.
Now, once agin, I'm back up in ma saddle, un feelin plum good, as I ride,
But, back down on the ground, un a walkin, that kin shore harm, a cowpuncher's pride.

Melvin Lee Whipple
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.


"Head Up And Spraddled Out"  by Lucky Whipple


Underneath Hidden Canyon Rim

The summers sun was scorchin hot, the grass was short and dry,
In those dusty skies, the buzzards soared, and looked down, with a hungry eye.
Our cistern, held some twenty barrels of water, for to drink,
That my Dad, had hauled fer meny miles, un filled er to the brink.

The slimy green, in our stock tanks, in a few days, would be gone,
That ol' man cursed, the blazin sky, un said, we'll move em, out at dawn.
Such was life, in the summer time, when, as a kid, I use to dread,
The cattle poor, the water gone, there on the old homestead.

The droughty years, has taken toll, out there, on my old home range,
A homesteaders wife, lead a hell of a life, just longin for a change.
My Uncle, took what cows he had, un throwed em, with our drive,
T'was thirty odd miles, to Last Chance spring, could we get em there alive?

Those little calves, would lag behind, and the cows would, bawl un fuss,
On a give out horse, I brought up the drags, there this button, learned to cuss.
The ol' man said, brace up my boy, fer things er not all, that bad,
I learned a lot, un also respect, fer that tuff little man, called Dad.

We finally reached, the Hidden Rim, a canyon, steep un rough,
We pointed em down, a narrow trail, un around a limestone bluff.
The sand rock level, down below, was only, one more day.
We'd bout reached our destination, about twelve miles away.

I thought, of my mother, back at home, un my little sister to,
Un I wondered if, I would ever be, a full fledged, buckaroo.
The sand stone ledge, had us hemmed in, below a lime stone wall,
Those echoes, ricocheted a thousand times, ever time a cow, would bawl.

The cowman had posted, around his spring, with a legal no trespass sign,
But, we watered em at, the spring called Lynx, un we rested em up, real fine.
Wul, the cowman un the nester feud, was at that time, goin on,
So, we gathered up our little herd, un moved em out, first crack a dawn.

To Last Chance spring, we arrived at last, just found mud un dampened earth,
There, the yeller jackets, had choked to death, and the big steers, died of thirst.
So, we turned em around, un headed em back, we trailed em clean back, to Lynx,
Wul, that ol' cowman, he could  go to Hell, we let em at the pool, of drinks.

At ol' Lynx spring, I learned to cook, made baken powder bread'
These biscuits, hard as any rock, un much heavier, than lead.
Wul, the cowman un his cowboys come, they got down, un helped us dine,
But never, was made mention, of his nester trespass sign.

The nights was hot, un the days were worse, with the mosquitoes and the gnats,
Where the rattle snake thrives, un the sand rats play, it's the home, to the mountain cats.
We rode back home, to spend a day, as we had, not one thing to gain,
Then, Dad said son, go round up our cows, I believe it's gonna rain.

On a skinny horse, I rode back to Lynx, and I'm scared, as kids are easy, to rattle,
What I found, was all of our grub was gone, my ol' Uncle, had pulled camp, with his cattle.
That night, was hot, but, my spine was chilled, as I knew that I, was scared,
The coyotes howled, un cattle bawled, un the echoes, continuously blared.

If ever, I've done one thing in life, that I could take credit for,
It all goes back, to that droughty year, the summer of thirty four.
I learned a lot, bout the ways of life, and the makins of a man,
It shore takes guts, and a lot of grit, just to do, the best you can.

1969, Melvin Lee Whipple
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.


"Leadin' in a Stag," by Lucky Whipple

 

About Melvin Whipple (continued from above)

The most of my poems are about the bygone years in northern Arizona.  I ranched and worked there for 43 years. I would like to dedicate this book to the memories of my Dad, my mother and sisters, and my wife and the days we spent on the Arizona Strip. It was damned sure hard on horses and women.

I have been asked at different times why I didn't publish my poems.  Well, I didn't know how, for one reason, and I didn't think they was good enough.  But I do hope they paint a picture for those that read them and that illustrations by my son Lucky Whipple are enjoyed by the readers as much as I enjoy looking at them.


Melvin Whipple

View a page of wonderful family photos at Lucky Whipple's web site.

Melvin Whipple died in 2001.


Melvin Whipple's poetry is included in anthologies and in his own book and recording, Echoes of the Past.

 

Echoes of the Past
The Cowboy Poetry of Melvin Whipple

illustrated by Lucky Whipple
edited by Jim McNutt
published in 1987 by the University of Texas, Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio

includes:

Foreword by Jim McNutt
Preface Open Range

Electric Storm
The Cowboy
Cold Irons
It's Been a Long Time, Pardner
A Bad Night at the CL Ranch
The Little Bar Zee
Escape from Reality
Do Ya Think Ya Could Do It Again?
How They Lived
Memories of the Past
Tranquilizer Pills
The Orejana Bull
Cowpuncher's Wife
When the Homesteader Came
Back on the Old Home Range
The Big Horseshoe Bend
Why Am I Ball-Headed?
Lonesome Nights
The Big Hell Hole
glossary

The book and and an accompanying cassette are available from the Institute for Texan Cultures

 

 

Thanks to Rina Whipple Flanagan for her assistance with this feature.

 

 

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