Featured at the Bar-D Ranch

This is Page 4.

See Page 1 for an index to the questions, answers, and poems.

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new 5/4/06

There's a lot about life as I've lived it ... 

Ray has been seeking info about a poem that goes: 

  There's a lot about life as I've lived it, a lot about this and that,
  I've been content by the wayside, when I might have been rolling in fat.
  I've stirred up my chow in the jungle, 'long side an old water tank,
  Done time in the stir house in Folsom, for blowing the poke in a bank.

  That taught me a lot about shysters, lay off that bad breed when you fall.
  A good yeggman now Bro is more honest, he lacks that bad traders rank gall.
  Then up through the drifts to Alaska, where gold is the hard god of lust.
  I was dead on the square but a hustling she bear, squandered my poke of its dust.

 Then off for a cruise in the tropics, I got into some bad politics,
 Was washed from the deck of a hurricane wreck, while running in guns for the sp__ks
 Then back to the states on a freighter, that was smuggling Ch__ks and hop, 
 And I starts kickin' logs with the heathen, in the Nassau and New Orleans flops.

That place reeked the smell of a paradise hell, plumb rotten with vice ridden dirt,
 But I shook off the yen in this sin crusted den, for the likes of a straight little skirt.
Then back to the old straight and narrow, with a job as cashier in a bank,
 Four walls and a clean roof above me, a good little woman to thank.

When out of the past like a serpents head, with the fangs of a white livered rat,
A good pal that I trusted betrayed me, but I forgave the poor devil for that
That taught me a lot about silence, I'll never squeal on a pal that I know.
That cost me a year in Atlanta, the judge said I was shoving queer dough.



Ray writes:  As I type these lines, tonight, I am not sure if I have the verses and stanzas in the right order.  I haven't seen this poem in print.  I learned it while following a herd of cows with a man named Wayne (Lopey) Heller. Lopey was a Dakota cowboy that served this country as a GI during World War Two.  He was captured by the Germans and spent considerable time in the infamous Nazi prison camp. During the 1950s Lopey was the wagon boss on he ZX ranch that
Sunny Hancock wrote about.  I'm not completely sure, but I think Lopy is the man that got the ZX buckaroos a bunkhouse to winter in.  I didn't work there until 1955 but I was told that before Lopey's time they lived in tents year round.  They considered it very posh to get to sleep two or three months under a hard roof and  have a cook-house with a dinner table you could set a plate on instead of their setting it on their knees in the wagon tent.  In those days they said the teats hung out of the back of the cow's bag from the calves suckling between the cows back legs as they moved
on up the trail. The ZX wagon used to be on the move from the middle of February until sometime in December.  In December they would start right away to make up herds so that by the middle of Feb. they would be ready to throw a big herd together and head for the high desert.  Lopey's crew went to the desert one year with 8500 head of dry cows.  Now I don't know if you know how many cows eight thousand five hundred head of is but that is a bunch!!  In the days of the big trail drives they didn't take bunches that big.  They had to break them up into smaller bunches so they could get feed. Lopey was only an the trail about four to seven days so feed was not a problem.  At the end of the drive these cattle would be dropped in great stands of bunch grass left over from the year before.

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updated 7/13/06
new 5/4/06

Cowboy's prank about coveralls                                               Answered!

Phil writes: 

I remember many years ago hearing a really funny poem at a Cowboy Poet & Old time Fiddler's gathering. I can't remember which cowboy poet performed it, but I think it was called "A Cowboy's Prank"  or something close to that.  It was about some cowboys working some cows in the dead of winter.  All were wearing insulated coveralls.  One of them got a pain & had to go over behind the corral to do his business.  A cowboy snuck up behind him just as he was finishing his job & with a shovel,  took away the pile that he had deposited on the ground! He was convinced that it had dropped into his coveralls, causing him to completely disrobe.  If you know the name of the author of this or the correct name for the poem, I would love to get a copy of it! 

Sam sent a copy of the poem. He told us, "The author has always been unknown to me.  A friend of mine, who is 
Sioux Indian, gave it to me over ten years ago.  He lives in Wolf Point Montana."  It begins:

In the cowboy west all pranks are fair,
And some could only happen there.
This prank that I am about to share,
Is not so nice, but extremely rare.

...

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new 4/20/06

"Bruin Wooin'"                                                                     Answered

 

Phil, and a number of others, have asked us S. Omar Barker's classic, the widely recited "Bruin Wooin'."  of S. Omar Barker).

Bruin Wooin'

The track of the bear that had killed Carson's pig,
It wasn't so small and it wasn't so big
But what when this cowboy come ridin' a-past,
He claimed he'd go git him--an' go git him fast.

"The dogs took his trail," the nester gal said.
"But Pa couldn't make it--he's down, sick abed.
We'd be mighty glad if you'd foller the dogs
And shoot that ol' bear 'fore he gits all our hogs!

"Well, ma'am," says the cowboy, a gleam in his eye,
"To please a fair maid, there ain't much I won't try,
For I'm Bill Maginnis, a buckaroo which
Kills panthers bare handed and bears with a switch!
So if this pig-killer ain't handy to shoot,
I'll grab me a tail holt and pop off his snoot!"

And so, spizzered up by the nester gal's smile,
Bill rode up the canyon not more than a mile,
And there found the nester's dogs bellerin' brave,
A-bayin' that bear in a little ol' cave.
To git to this openin' up there in the rocks,
Bill had to shuck boots and climb in his socks.

The ledge was plumb narrow, the cave mouth was small.
Bill stopped to peek in and saw nothin' at all,
For to this here hunter of bears with a switch,
All inside the cavern was darker than pitch.
The nester's two mongrels kept raisin' a din
Around the cave's mouth, but they wouldn't go in.

Ol' Bill tried to "sic 'em," but them dogs was wise.
They wouldn't go in--and the look in their eyes
Was purt near reproachful, up there on the shelf,
As much as to say: "Whyn't you try it yourself?
We holed up your bear--that's all we can do!
If you want him UNholed, mister, that's up to you!"

Bill knowed by the smell he was in there all right.
He struck him a match and peered in by its light.
Two little red eyes in the glow was reflected--
And then somethin' happened Bill hadn't expected:
A sweet maiden's voice drifted up from the crick:
"Could you poke the bear out if I hand you a stick?"

The nester's fair daughter had follered to view
A bear gittin' switched by her bold buckaroo.
The sight of this maiden shore give Bill a sweat,
Recallin' some braggin' he'd like to forget.
But you take a cowboy, and what he won't try
To dazzle a damsel's admirin' blue eye!

"I'll crawl in an' git him!" Bill's voice was plumb bold
In spite of the blood in his veins runnin' cold.
"I'll grab a tail-holt and I'll show you the art
Of whip-snappin' bears till they plumb fly apart!"
But when he stooped down--with his hand on his gun
'Twas bruin hisownself that started the fun.

With a growl and a squall and big whoosh of wind
He came out of there like a cat bein' skinned.
Bill riz up plumb sudden, his legs spraddled wide,
To find hisself straddlin' a hairy black hide.
The bear give a beller, Bill's gun give a boom,
They both give a lurch, and the dogs give 'em room.

Bill wrastled the bear and the bear wrastled him.
Bill grabbed for the tail-holt--and fell off the rim!
And who was on top as they rolled down the hill?
Sometimes it was the bear and sometimes it was Bill!
Then just when pore Bill thought his last blood was shed,
The gal grabbed his pistol and shot the bear dead!

Bill lived to git married--a right happy hitch--
His wife, she won't let him hunt bears with a switch.
Now this story's moral, if a moral you crave,
Points straight at you hombres that talk up too brave.
It's a plenty good rule, Mister Big-Braggin' Male:
When wrastlin' a bear, never reach for his tail!
Though reasons for this are both mighty and many,
It's mainly because he ain't got hardly any!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

Click to view at Amazon.com  This version is from Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker by Cowboy Miner Productions (reprinted with their permission and the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker).

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new 3/7/06

The Last Longhorn                                                                     Answered

Lefty wondered, "who wrote 'The Last Longhorn"?

Well, we looked around and found: 

thorpsongslgz.JPG (28188 bytes)  In the 1921 edition of Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, he writes, "I have been unable to trace the authorship of this song. Have heard it sung in many places and also recited."  (See our feature and selections from this book here.)

lomaxcsj.JPG (2471 bytes)  In John Lomax's 1938 Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads, he writes the song was "Said to have been written by Judge R. W. Hall, Amarillo, Texas."

Later collectors identified the author as John Wesley. 

In the 1969 

  In Jim Bob Tinsley's 1981 He Was Singin' This Song, he profiles Wesley, includes his photo, and says "The Wesley poem was popularized by R. Walker Hall of Vernon, Texas, a prominent jurist and writer of western verse." He notes, "The Cattleman published "The Passing of the Old-Time Cowboy and Texas Longhorn" by John Wesley in 1916, eleven years later reprinting an altered form under the title "The Last Longhorn, without credit to the poet. Lone Star cowboy and range detective Charles A. Siringo printed it as "The Tough Longhorn" in a booklet of old cow-camp favorites."

  Johnny Kendrick includes the song on his Western CD, and his liner notes say it was written in 1889, and, "John Wesley was a Civil War veteran who settled in Pease City, Texas, about 1880. Several of his topical verses appeared in local newspapers and he originally wrote this requiem to a way of life for a Saturday night literary meeting..."

The song was maybe best known for the recording by Carl T. Sprague back in the 1930s. In more modern times, Skip Gorman (www.skipgorman.com ) has also recorded the song.

Here is Thorp's 1921 version:

The Last Longhorn

An ancient long-horned bovine
Lay dying by the river;
There was a lack of vegetation
And the cold winds made him shiver;
A cowboy sat beside him,
With sadness in his face,
To see his final passing,--
This last of a noble race.

The ancient eunuch struggled
And raised his shaking head,
Saying, "I care not to linger
When all my friends are dead.
These Jerseys and these Holsteins,
They are no friends of mine;
They belong to the nobility
Who live across the brine.

"Tell the Durhams and the Herefords
When they come a-grazing round,
And see me lying stark and stiff
Upon the frozen ground,
I don't want them to bellow
When they see that I am dead,
For I was born in Texas,
Near the river that is Red.

"Tell the coyotes, when they come at night,
A-hunting for their prey,
They might as well go further,
For they'll find it will not pay:
If they attempt to eat me
They very soon will see
That my bones and hide are petrified,--
They'll find no beef on me.

"I remember in the seventies,
Full many summers past,
There was grass and water plenty,
But it was too good to last.
I little dreamed what would happen
Some twenty summers hence,
When the nester came with his wife, his kids,
His dogs, and the barbed-wire fence.

His voice sank to a murmur,
His breath was short and quick;
The cowboy tried to skin him
When he saw he could n't kick;
He rubbed his knife upon his book
Until he made it shine,
But he never skinned old longhorn,
'Case he could n't cut his rine.

And the cowboy riz up sadly
And mounted his cayuse,
Saying, "The time has come when longhorns
And cowboys are no use."
And while gazing sadly backward
Upon the dead bovine
His bronc stepped in a dog-hole
And fell and broke his spine.

The cowboys and the longhorns
Who pardnered in eighty-four
Have gone to their last round-up
Over on the other shore;
They answered well their purpose,
But their glory must fade and go,
Because men say there's better things
In the modern cattle show.

 

Jim Bob Tinsley's He Was Singin' This Song notes that the original poem ends:

They answered well their purpose when they used to ride the line,
But their glory has departed in 1889.

A version in the 1969 Cowboy and Western Songs by Austin E. and Alton S. Fife includes a verse:

It was only one short year ago that some of them remained,
But they were embalmed to feed the boys who were a-fighting Spain
The heel-fly will soon be around and they torment me so,
I would not die in springtime so now is the time to go.

A note on The Ballad Index site comments on that version, which has the same ending as the original poem described by Tinsely, "The dating of the Fifes' version is rather strange; the final verse says that the cowboys' 'glory has departed in 1889,' but earlier it said that the last comrades of the longhorn 'were embalmed to feed the boys who were a-fighting Spain' (placing the song after 1898). Since the cow also refers to the 1880s as 'some nineteen summers past,' the correct date in the final verse is probably 1899..."

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updated 5/6/06
new 2/27/06

Airplanes and broncs

Doyle wrote to us that he was after "a poem/song about a dude going out to a ranch and the boys got him on bucking bronco, then one of them went to the city and the dude got him in an airplane and he describes the maneuvers in cowboy terms.  I believe the poem I'm after is well over fifty years old as it was at least that long ago that I heard it.

(We had suggested "Turbulence" by Murray Hartin, but that's not the one.)

Bill Black suggested "The Flying Cowboy" by Gail Gardner, but that's not the one, either.

Have an answer for Doyle?  Email us.


new 2/14/06

The Cowboy's Dance Song (The High-Toned Dance)                  Answered!!

Terry wrote: I heard this cowboy poem, I can't remember the title or the author, but its about a cowboy dance and the only line I can remember is "I cut me a heifer out from the herd."  

We happened to know that one: it's James Barton Adams' "The Cowboy's Dance Song" (sometimes called "The High-Toned Dance"). 

The Cowboy's Dance Song

      Now you can't expect a cowboy to agitate his shanks
      In the etiquettish fashion of aristocratic ranks
      When he's always been accustomed to shake the heel and toe
      At the rattling rancher dances where much etiquet don't go.
      You can bet I see them laughing in quite an excited way,
      A-giving of their squinters an astonished sort of play,
      When I happened into Denver and was asked to take a prance
      In the smooth and easy mazes of a high-toned dance.

      When I got among the ladies in their frocks of fleecy white,
      And the dudes togged out in wrappings that were simply out of sight,
      Tell you what, I was embarrassed, and somehow I couldn't keep
      From feeling like a burro in a purty flock of sheep.
      Every step I made was awkward and I blushed a fiery red
      Like the principal adornment of a turkey gobbler's head.
      The ladies said 'twas seldom that they had had the chance
      To see an old-time puncher at a high-toned dance.

      I cut me out a heifer from a bunch of pretty girls
      And  yanked her to the center to dance the dreamy whirls
      She laid her head upon my bosom in a loving sort of way,
      And we drifted into heaven as the band began to play.
      I could feel my neck a-burning from her nose's breathing heat,
      And she do-ce-doed around me, half the time upon my feet;
      She peered up in my blinkers with a soul-disolving glance
      Quite conducive to the pleasures of a high-toned dance.

      Every nerve just got a-dancing to the music of delight
      And I hugged the light sagehen uncomfortably tight;
      But she never made a bellow and the glances of her eyes
      Seemed to thank me for the pleasures of a genuine surprise.
      She snugged up against me in a loving sort of way,
      And I hugged her all the tighter for her trustifying play,--
      Tell you what, the joys of heaven ain't a cussed circumstance
      To the hug-a-mania pleasures of a high-toned dance.

      When they struck the old cotillion on the music bill of fare,
      Every bit of devil in me seemd to bust out on a tear.
      I fetched a cowboy whoop and started in to rag,
      And cut her with my trotters till the floor began to sag;
      Swung my pardner till she got sea sick and rushed for a seat;
      I balanced to the next one, but she dodged me slick and neat.--
      Tell you what, I shook the creases from my go-to-meeting pants
      When I put the cowboy trimmings on that high-toned dance.

 
      by James Barton Adams 
       above version from the  Songs of the Cattle Trail by John Lomax (1919)

James Barton Adams (1842-1918) cowboyed for a short time in New Mexico and later was a Denver journalist. He published a book of poetry, Breezy Western Verse, in Denver in 1899. Read more about James Barton Adams here

"The Cowboy's Dance Song" is not included in Breezy Western Verse, but it appears with other Adams poems in Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp by John A. Lomax and in other anthologies.

"The Cowboy's Dance Song"  is sometimes called "The High-Toned Dance."  

  Wylie and the Wild West recorded the song (as "The High-Toned Dance") on their Cowboy Ballads and Dance Songs CD.

  Glenn Ohrlin has several recordings of the song, and he performs it on the Cowboy Poetry Classics CD from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

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updated 2/22/06
new 2/17/06

One Rank Bull Named Psycho ("Distractions")                         Answered!!

Jerry wrote to us: I am working with a group of 6th-8th grade students in a Texas Poetry reciting competition.  One of the students wants to do a Cowboy poem entitled “Distractions” that another teacher Found in her files from several years back.  In order to compete, We must have documentation proving the author of the piece. As of yet, we haven’t been able to find the name of the person Who wrote this humorous poem.  Can you help?  

The poem begins: 

He wuz one rank bull, PSYCHO wuz his name,
His only purpose in life wuz to inflict pain!

Linda Kirkpatrick recognized the poem, and identified the author: cowboy cartoonist A. W. Erwin.  We were in touch with him, and he kindly gave permission to post the poem.  He told us, "I did a few other poems that are in a couple of my other books...I only do a poem once in a blue moon, when the mood hits me, as almost all of my time is spent drawing my cowboy cartoons. Also, for any of your poets out there, I also do a fair amount of illustrations for poems or short stories, so keep me in mind."  

Visit A. W. Erwin's web site.

Here's the entire poem:

Distractions

He wuz one rank bull, PSYCHO wuz his name,
His only purpose in life wuz to inflict pain!

I wuz really depressed, I didn't have a chance!
Maybe I'd skip all this, and go straight to th' Dance.

Then what I saw next, made me really sweat;
He had notches on his horns for each victim he'd met!

"HE'S A NIGHTMARE COME TO LIFE," I heard someone say,
"HOPE YER INSURANCE IS PAID UP, YOU'LL SHORE NEED IT TODAY!"

With encouragement like that, I should've gone on back home,
Cuz one thing I'm allergic to, is badly broken bones!

But I climbed on his back, as he stood in th' chute,
An' I wrote out my WILL, then stuffed it in my boot.

Now th' chute boss wuz hollerin', an' shakin' his fists;
"GIT THIS SHOW ON TH' ROAD, I AIN'T GOT TIME FER THIS!"

So I yanked my hat down, plumb over my ears,
Took a deep firm seat, an' prepared to shift gears.

With a nod I signaled, "BUT WAIT, I CHANGED MY MIND!"
"NOPE, IT'S TOO LATE!" said someone from behind.

We exploded outta that chute, like a clap o' thunder,
Th' gravitational pull almost sucked me under!

He grunted an' bellered, an' slobbered everywhere,
He wuz buckin' so high, I 'bout fainted fer lack o' air!

But worse came to worse, as he broke into a spin,
I heard th' announcer call out, "CONTACT HIS NEXT O' KIN!"

Suddenly my hat flew off, an' my boots did too!
HECK, I was comin' undressed ridin' this wild corkscrew!

When that buzzer finally sounded, I wuz happy as could be;
Cuz I was still on top, an' he wuz still under me!

Now gittin' off wuz easy; with such style an' grace!
I fell like a rock, an' landed right on my face!

Now th' clown, he left; he had to take a phone call,
Least that's whut he said as he jumped over th' wall.

As I got up from th' ground; all I could see;
Wuz this huge T-BONE comin' after me!

Then he hooked an' stomped me, right there in th' dirt!
He hit me in places I didn't know could hurt!

He finally trotted away with his tail in th' air,
Leavin' me busted an' broke, jus' barely standin' there.

I waited fer th' judges, to give out my score,
But they wuz watchin' this gal, up on row number 4!

They turned an' smiled, then said with a grin:
"WE DIDN'T CATCH ALL THAT, YOU'LL HAFTA DO IT AGAIN!"

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


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updated 5/4/06
new 2/17/06

Jack McGee of the Double E ...

Pat wrote to us: I'm trying to track down an old poem which begins "Jack McGee of the Double E was king of the cattle trail.  He was six foot two and beef clear through, and hard as a keg of nails."  I was eight years old in about 1939 or 1940 and we lived with my three uncles who were in high school.  They were always bringing poems home and I would try to memorize them. 

John added: I don't have an answer for Pat as I,too, am looking for this recitation. I heard it recited by a taxi driver in 1960 and only remember that first verse that went like this:

Big Jack McGee from the Double D
Was boss of the cattle trails
He was six foot two and beef all through
And hard as a keg of nails.

Although I don't know any more of the verses I do know that the story is about Big Jack going into a bar and while ordering his drink a little short guy comes in and Big Jack begins to taunt him about his size. A gunfight ensues and the little guy is lightning fast on the draw. The last line goes: And Big Jack cashed in his chips. For an identical story one only has to listen to a western song sung by
Marty Robbins called "Mr. Shorty."

[You can read the lyrics to Mr. Shorty here:  http://www.cowboylyrics.com/tabs/robbins-marty/mr-shorty-2395.html]

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new 2/17/06

Old Brown Dogs

Todd writes: I'm trying to find a poem called "Old Brown Dogs"  I heard it on the radio in El Paso about 1998 and have not been able to find it since.  The poem was about the good things about old brown dogs. The phrase "old brown dogs" was repeated through out the poem.  

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new 2/17/06

Steer Hide Sled

Bob writes:  While at a cowboy poets gathering in Prescott, Arizona in 2004 I heard a poem about some cowboys having some winter fun.  Seems they used an old steer hide as a sled and going under a barbed wire fence that was a little lower than they thought!  Seems part of their anatomy got caught on the wire with predictable results.  The whole thing was hilarious!...It was on the big stage and I believe it was on the first night.  As the group sat around one cowboy came up with this one.  One part in particular was a "sleigh" ride on a steer hide under a barbed wire fence that was lower than expected with an ear being caught on a barb.

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new 2/17/06

Saloon Fire Act of God

Bob wrote about two poems he heard at a gathering near Grand Canyon: The first is a story of a preacher who objects to a saloon being built across the street, and prays for it to burn down.  When it does, the saloon owner sues him for causing the fire with his prayers.  In his defense, the preacher claims he had nothing to do with it, as it was an act of God.  The punch line is that we have a case in which the saloon owner believes in the power of prayer, and a preacher who does not.

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Updated 2/28/06
new 2/17/06

Types of People Tongue Twister  ("People Are Funny Critters," by Baxter Black) Answered!!

Bob wrote about two poems he heard at a gathering near Grand Canyon: The second is a fast, tongue-twisting categorization of the many types of people in the world.  Some lines include, "There are Kleenex people, hanky people, scratch golfers, duffer golfers."  Other lines might be (I'm making this up, but you get the idea) "There are short people, tall people, fat people, skinny people" and so on.  Makes you smile at the cleverness as the recital rambles on.

Robert Dennis knew that Bob was thinking of Baxter Black's poem, "People are Funny Critters," which is in Baxter's Coyote Cowboy Poetry book and other publications and recordings by Baxter. The poem begins:

People are funny critters.
There's apple pie bakers,
And crooked book makers,
And blondes and brunetters,
And birthday forgetters
...

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new 12/27/05

Forever More May You Ride

Sally wrote to us: I am a crafter and sell a lot of western items. I had a young girl come in asking for a cowboy prayer that had a line in it "wind at your back" and the ending was "Forever more may you ride." She read it when she was little and her husband just died and she is trying to find it to put on her husband's monument. If you can help us please let us know. 

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Updated 1/8/07
new 12/27/05

Christmas Stranger

Greg wrote to us: I'm looking for a copy of a cowboy story I read 20 years ago.  It's about a wrangler in up in the mountains who finishes his work on a Saturday night and rides down the snowy mountain roads at breakneck speed, to the dance in the valley below, on Christmas Eve.  However he is delayed by a poor homesteader family, father ill, mother trying to prepare a Christmas for her young
children.  He spends the night, doing chores and giving of himself so that there will be a Christmas for this family. Then he rushes out, jumps on his horse, and realizes that he's too late for the dance.  Then, in the snowy mountain night, he meets a Christmas stranger, that makes his efforts all worthwhile.

Karen writes:

I'm pretty sure that the gentleman is looking for the magnificent short story by Jack Schaeffer "Stubby Pringle's Christmas"...I read it every year, and have never made it all the way through without crying.  The gentleman likely knows of Mr. Schaeffer's other works, such as Shane and Monte Walsh.

See an item about the story here on another Who Knows? page.

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new 12/27/05

The Last Fight of Cocklebur Bill

Bruce wrote to us: Growing up in the East, I was blessed to have a "mentor" (closest word I can find to describe what he was to me), who was a cowboy in the 1930s (mostly in Wyoming and Montana).  In addition to classical violin, he taught me many cowboy songs and shared his cowboy stories.  One involved a fight he was part of that was recounted in a song sung to him in a typical song exchange around a "road fuddler's" campfire some years after the fight. The song was called "The Last Fight of Cocklebur Bill."  It described the fight between "Highpockets" Bob Johnson (my mentor) and Cocklebur Bill, a huge one-eyed half-breed Indian.  Although Bob lost the fight and was only saved from God-knows-what-end by Cocklebur Bill's ferocity by the intervention of the foreman, a big Swede called "Heavy Handsome," the song turned the truth on its head and made Bob the winner. I've been searching for years for this song without success and finally decided to memorialize both the fight and the phantom song by writing my own song (which I call "Highpockets Bob").

Would any of you out there know anything about the original "Last Fight of Cocklebur Bill," any of the characters (all real) mentioned in the story, or even the term "road fuddler," (itinerants, maybe like gypsies)  which no one else I've ever mentioned the term to ever heard of?

There's a version of Bruce's song elsewhere on the web: http://www.homepages.dsu.edu/jankej/oldwest/brill.htm



Have an answer for Bruce?  Email us.


new 12/27/05

The Old Men

Mike wrote to us: I am looking for a poem I saw some years ago, I believe it was titled "The Old Men." The theme of the piece was a man recalling his younger days listening to the "old men" talk about the old days and wondering to himself if he would have "made a hand." As the poem finishes he is at his dad's funeral, and commenting to a childhood friend that now we are "the old men."

Have an answer for Mike?  Email us.


new 12/27/05

Dumb Herd of Cattle                                                                    Answered!!

Berneta wrote to us:  My Dad (would be 78) use to recite part of a poem that he learned in High School.  No one seems to know who wrote it - or its name. It had one line that I remember and it is: "Don't be like a dumb herd of cattle...." Would you happen to know what the poem would be?  My Dad was a dairyman and the line of the poem is just a memory.  I hope you can help me.

Ray found this one.  It is "Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882):

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
    Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
    And things are not what they seam.
 
Life is real! Life is earnest!
    And the grave is not it's goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, 
    Was not spoken of the soul.
 
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
    Is our destined end nor way,
But to act that each to-marrow,
    Finds us farther then today.
 
Art is long , and time is fleeting,
    And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still like muffled drums are beating,
    Funeral  marches to the grave.
 
In the world's broad field of battle,
    In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven  cattle!
    Be a hero in the strife!
 
Trust no future, howe'er pleasant!
    Let the dead past bury it's dead!
Act,-act in the living Present!
    Heart within, and God o'erhead!
 
Lives of great men all remind us,
    We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us,
    Footprints in the sands of time.
 
Footprints that perhaps another,
    Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
    Seeing, shall take heart again.
 
Let us then be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
    Learn to labor, and to wait.  

1838


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new 11/15/05

It Was Cold and Damp....

Jeanie wrote to us:  A geezer my husband works with recites these lines often. They are rattling around in both their heads. I have to agree it sounds familiar. None of us can come up with the who or what of it all...

 "...it was cold and damp when we entered the camp, it was buffalo meat we eat, they shot a man dead for what he said but they always treated me ok......"

Have an answer for Jeanie?  Email us.


new 11/15/05

Ride the Clay

Sylvia wrote to us: I am looking for the name of an old poem, the poem is about a cowboy having his morning coffee, and ... he declares to the other cowboys that he is going to ride the clay, and the other cowboys comment that the clay can not be rode. Then the poem proceeds,  he saddles the bronc and he begins to buck it out, and after a hell of a ride, the cowboy and the bronc ride out of sight and the last line of the poem "the cowboys shouted out with pride, as he bucked over the rise, Ride, Bolly, Ride."

Have an answer for Sylvia?  Email us.


new 11/15/05

Cayenne Pepper Bill

Jean wrote to us:  My husband's dad used to say this poem around Christmastime when my husband was a little tyke. Little did we know after he passed away, that we would be trying to find it. The name of it was: "Cayenne Pepper Bill."

Have an answer for Jean?  Email us.


updated 12/27/05
updated 11/15/05
updated 10/14/05
new 3/25/05

Bunkhouse Christmas                                    Answered! With some questions remaining

Ray wrote to us to tell us about his favorite poem for our Favorite Western and Cowboy Poems project, and that poem comes with a mystery. He told us:

... With this Iraq conflict going on, last Christmas I thought of a poem that was published  in about 1942 in either the Western Livestock Journal or Ranch Romance magazine.  I believe it was called "Bunkhouse Christmas" ... I was a little boy of about eight or ten years of age my older brother (11th armored division) and his wife-to-be (an army nurse) were in Patton's army in France and my older sister was in the Women's Army Corps here in the states.  Her husband to be was in the Asian (China - Burma - India ) theater working on the Burma Road.  This poem really stuck in my mind.  If anyone has access to this poem I would like to hear from them.

The junipers whiten with snow softly falling,
Somewhere down the draw there's an old cow a bawling.
There aint nothing ails her we're plumb sure of that,
For the  grass has been good and the stock is all  fat.

...

Well Mary Lou came to the rescue.  She told us:

The real name of this poem is "Empty Saddles at Christmas" by S. Omar Barker. He won a Spur Award for it in 1967. 

Sure enough you can see the poem title listed here in the Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, where they note it was in Western Horseman in 1966.  With the kind permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, here is the poem:

Empty Saddles at Christmas

The junipers whiten with snow softly fallin';
Somewhere down in the draw there's an ol' cow a-bawlin'.
There ain't nothin' ails her -- we're plumb sure of that,
For grass has been good and the stock is all fat.
And yet, driftin' in on the snow-feathered breeze,
The sound brings a feelin' of wishful unease
To us old hands settin' here cozy and warm,
Snug-sheltered and safe from this Christmas Eve storm:
A strange, lonesome feelin' we can't push away,
Rememberin' tomorrow will be Christmas day;
Rememberin' it's Christmas and wonderin' when
Them two empty saddles will be rode again.

There's two pairs of spurs and two hats on their pegs,
And two pairs of chaps meant for young cowboy legs
A-hangin' unused on the old bunkhouse wall--
But the boys they belong to ain't hearin' cows bawl.
They're hearin' machine guns, the whine of a shell,
And all them strange sounds of a war that's plain hell;
The sea waves a-slappin' the side of a boat,
The ominous roar from a big bomber's throat;
The strange, alien language of little brown men--
The same sounds all over and over again,
While deep in their hearts what they're longin' to hear
Is wind in the cedars, the bawl of a steer.

Us oldsters, we set here this Christmas Eve night
A-thinkin' of cowboys that's gone off to fight.
If our thoughts could reach 'em, here's what we would say:
"We're doin' our best, boys, since you went away.
The ranch is still here and the cattle well-tended.
Your horses are fed and the fences are mended.
Looks like a white Christmas will show up at dawn.
We hope it's the last one you boys will be gone.
There's an old cow a-bawlin'--she claims her calf's missin'--
Sure wish that you boys was here with us to listen.

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

In November, 2005, after Ray got a copy of the poem, he commented:

I still carry a vivid memory of reading and learning this poem in an old log house in Montana that burned to the ground in January of 1943.  The lines I remember "The sea slappin soft 'ginst the side of a boat, The four motored roar of a big bomber's throat" date it more to the aircraft and the big Navy of the Second World War.  I remember "Three pair of spurs, three hats on their peg and three pair of chaps meant for young cowboy's legs", not two.  I guess I'll always wonder if S.O.B. wrote this poem back in the early 1940s and reworked it in 1966 or if over the years I've rewritten it in my mind to fit my life story.

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posted 9/29/05
Geese Flying South by E. E. Kirkpatrick

Poet Linda Kirkpatrick is looking for info about E. E. Kirkpatrick, the author "Geese Flying South," a book of cowboy poetry published in May, Texas, in 1953. 

Have any info for Linda?  Email us.


updated 2/24/06
updated 11/16/05
posted 9/29/05
Texas A Paradise/Hell in Texas                                                       (Answered...?)

JB wrote:

In the 1880s, one E. U. Cook migrated to Texas and became a ranch manager in Frio County.  In 1887, thoroughly fed up after three years of drought, he wrote "Hell in Texas," gave it to Albert Friedrich, founder of the famed buckhorn Curio Museum in San Antonio, and left the state.  Realizing that his memories of "back home" were not as good as realities of Texas, he came back and in 1892, with the drought forgotten, wrote and equally popular poem entitled "Paradise in Texas."

I have several different versions of "Hell in Texas" but have been unable to locate "Paradise in Texas."  If you can assist my search with one or more versions of this poem I will be forever grateful.  I also have heard other versions of the writing of these poems but am unable to verify or deny any of them.

When we asked, he added:

The information that I have concerning E. U. Cook comes from a small paperback book entitled Texas Brags.  It is offered in a footnote to the poem "Hell in Texas" on page 51 of my 1960 edition.  This encyclopedia of Texas facts and fun was collected by John Randolph and published and printed by him at Tomball, Texas.  My printing is dated 1960, but there are several earlier versions copyrighted back to 1944.  I also have 1951 version and a 1968 version.

  There are copies of many editions of the Texas Brags book available.  We searched www.addall.com to find one for just $1.49.


Well, we had this much (or little, depending how you look at it) to say:

In the 1921 Songs of the Cowboys, N. Howard ("Jack") Thorp writes, "This song was originally entitled 'The Birth of New Mexico.' I have five different versions of it. As each version is supposed to be by a different author, and I can only procure the names of three of the, I shall brand it as a 'maverick' and let it go at that."  (See our feature and selections from this book here.)

You can see it as a postcard here with the poem and where it says it is by the author of "Hell in Texas" (but doesn't name him).

Here's a site that has both poems on old postcards: http://www.cowboysong.com/cards/cardsb1.html

Now, just who that author is, is a good question.  At the Fife Folklore Archives, they have both poems in their collection, but no author:

http://library.usu.edu/Folklo/folkarchive/westerncowboypoetrycoll.html  (box 6, folder 3)

Here's a whole board about E. U. Cook, but they seem to have more questions than answers, too:
http://www.emule.com/2poetry/phorum/read.php?7,154649,155145

We checked out the Library of Congress, too, with no luck there.

In American Ballads and Folk Songs by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax (1934) they write several pages about the song, never referring to E. U. Cook. They mention that the song has been called "The Devil in Hell" and "The Founding of New Mexico," and note that N. Howard Thorp's 1908 Songs of the Cowboys prefaces "Hell in Texas" "with the remark that 'this song was originally titled "The Birth of New Mexico." They trace one version of the song to a man who asserts he "learned it in 1907 at a summer camp in Maine, from a man named Scott who had been a cowboy in New Mexico and learned the song there."  There are notes about many other claims to the song's origin, and a forerunner song, "Arizona, How it was made and who made it."

We found there were lots of variations on the "Hell in Texas" poem, with different states and locations using different endings and such, mostly offensive to the local minorities.  It's been recorded often as a song, and there is a version with music here and another here.  It starts off like this:

Oh, the Devil in Hell they say he was chained,
And there for a thousand years he remained;
He neither complained nor did he groan,
But decided he'd start up a Hell of his own,
Where he could torment the souls of men
Without being shut in a prison pen;
So he asked the Lord if He had any sand
Left over from making this great land.

The Lord He said, "Yes, I have plenty on hand,
But it's away down south on the Rio Grande,
And, to tell you the truth, the stuff is so poor
I doubt if 'twill do for Hell any more."
The Devil went down and looked over the truck,
And he said if it came as a gift he was stuck,
For when he'd examined it carefully and well
He decided the place was too dry for a Hell.

But the Lord just to get the stuff off His hands
He promised the Devil He'd water the land,
For he had some old water that was of no use,
A regular bog hole that stunk like the deuce.
So the grant it was made and the deed it was given;
The Lord He returned to His place up in heaven.
The Devil soon saw he had everything needed
To make up a Hell and so he proceeded.

...

Find the 1921 Thorp version here.

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updated 9/29/05
new 9/16/03

Podner Yo're Welcome...   Dude Sands?                                     (Answered...?)

Lisa asked: I was trying to find an old saying from when I was a kid.  Since I don't know the author or title, I have had no luck. Though maybe you could help. The only words I remember anymore are: "Partner your welcome to such as we got, the leaks in the roof and the beans in the pot. . ."  Well once and then we know one (or Google knows). 

We answered:

We think that ditty is by that rascal Anonymous, and goes like this:

Podner, yo're welcome to such as we've got-
The leaks in the roof an' the beans in the pot-
The butter that's soft an' the bunks that are hard,
The weeds that are growin'
All over the yard.

git up when yo're ready, Be plumb at yo're ease-
Don't worry 'bout us
Just do as yuh please.

yuh don't have to thank us-- Or laff at our jokes-

Sit deep-and often
Yo're one of the folks.

We found it several places on the internet, all by "unknown."

---

In September, 2005, we had a note from MP who has a copy of this poem, illustrated, with the name "Dude Sands, 1951" 

We found a vintage postcard for with Dude Sands' image along with his horse Mac at Knotts Berry Farm (you might be able to still view it here) but we don't know any more about him.  If you do, give us a holler.

 

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Posted 9/29/05

What Makes a Cowboy

B is after a poem called "What Makes A Cowboy" and has seen a copy  that says it was by Mike Hodges.  She sent a few verses:

It's the saddle sores
and the river fords
and the wind that just won't stop.

It's frozen toes
and a frost bit nose
and coffee that's never hot.

It's all this and more
that makes my neck sore
but wait, then again

It's a newborn calf
and a belly laugh
from a friend you'll always keep.

B says, "From what I can remember the poem starts off telling about all of the hard stuff that comes with being a cowboy.  Then about half way through it the tone changes and it tells of all of the good stuff."

Have an answer for Brandi?   Email us.


updated 10/14/05
updated 9/29/05
updated 1/20/05
new 5/2/03

Arthur "Slim" Vaughan (or Vaughn) and the 5-H Ranch Rodeo

Tom wrote:

I am looking for any information or publications concerning Arthur "Slim" Vaughn. I know he was a cowboy poet back in the 40's. My mother passed away last year and going through her things we found a poem written by him that was dedicated to my mother.  At that time she was a performer with the 5-H Ranch rodeo in Roscoe, California. As near as I can tell the poem was written in Sept. 1946. Any information I could get would be much appreciated.

This is how the poem reads:

Dedicated to the pretty little girl in blue, (Dottie) Cowgirl of the 5h Ranch Rodeos, Roscoe, Calif.

You Fascinate and Captivate
No sculptor could, with all his skill,
 Carve from marble, wood, or stone,
The likeness of, fair lovely you,
 Like a queen, upon a throne.

An artist ne'er, could sketch or paint,
 Upon a canvas, true;
With all his art, and color schemes,
 Have beauty there, to equal you.

No song or story, could tell in full,
 A million volumes long;
Nay, angels of the heavenly choir,
could sing of you, in song.

Nor a poet, with his heart aflame,
 As even mine, how true;
Could ever speak, his heart aloud,
 Of what he sees in you.

In a garden of violets, and roses,
 With gardenias, and camellias so rare;
Butterflies, and humming birds,
 Would pass them by, kiss you; it there.

No writer, artist, sculptor, poet,
 Or even I, my dear;
Could ever write, tell, paint, or make,
 The equal of you, in many years.

My inspired heart, could for ever write,
 A million verses, how true;
Of an adorable, lovely, beautiful girl,
 And whom I speak of, is you.

Composed by Arthur "Slim" Vaughn,
Cowboy Poet, Adventurer,
Tumbleweed Ranch,
Tujunga, Calif.
Sept. 15, 1946

I would like any information anyone could provide about this cowboy poet, or even the 5h Ranch Rodeos. This poem was a dedication to my mother. She is gone now but by far, not forgotten. At that time we believe she was part of "The wild Bunch" program or "Teddy's Rough Riders" program with the 5h.

Chuck added in January, 2005:

Roscoe changed its name to Sun Valley in the late 1940s.  Tujunga is a few miles north and east of Sun Valley.  Sun Valley is in the north central part of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.

Suzanne added in September, 2005:

I don't have any new information about Arthur "Slim" Vaughan, but I'd like to tell you that he was a contestant on the CBS game show "What's My Line?" - EPISODE #413 - which was originally broadcast on May 4, 1958.  His episode was shown on GSN on August 10, 2005.  His occupation was listed as a "Tree Surgeon" and his hometown was still Tujunga, California.  The name of his company was the All American Tree Surgeon and Landscaping Company.

I manage the What's My Line? database at TV.com and Arthur "Slim" Vaughan's episode guide is here:

http://www.tv.com/whats-my-line/episode-413/episode/95896/summary.html

He had a great personality!

Suzanne also pointed out that his name was spelled "Vaughan" (not Vaughn) on the program and found two great links to photos:

http://digital-library.csun.edu/cgi-bin/viewer.exe?CISOROOT=/ValleyHistory&CISOPTR=219

http://digital-library.csun.edu/cgi-bin/viewer.exe?CISOROOT=/ValleyHistory&CISOPTR=198

Have any info for Tom?   Email us.


Updated 2/11/09
Posted 9/29/05

Tingle of the Shingle

Paul came by with this poem, which is referenced in a letter with a Mormon Battalion reference (in a PDF file here: http://www.jnjtreeclimbers.com/attachments/EdwardHunter/EdwardHunterHistory.pdf ) but no author is given:

The Tingle of the Shingle

When the angry passions rising on my mother's face I see,
When she leads me to the bedroom--lays me gently on her knee,
Then I know that I will catch it and my flesh in fancy itches,
As I wait for the tingle of the shingle on my britches.
Every tingle of the shingle brings an echo and a sting,
And a thousand burning fancies into active being spring.
And ten-thousand bees and hornets 'neath my coattail seem to swarm,
As I listen to the tingle of the shingle, oh, so warm.
In a sudden intermission which appears my only chance
I said "Strike gently, mother, or you'll split my Sunday pants."
She stops a moment, draws a breath, the shingle holds aloft,
And says, "I hadn't thought of that, my son, just take them off."
Holy Moses, and the angels cast your pitying glances down,
And, thou, oh family doctor, put a good soft poultice on,
And may I with rogues and wretches ever lasting intermingle,
If again I say a word when my mother wields a shingle.

In 2009, Susan wrote:

My grandfather—of Irish descent—used to sing this is St. Maries, Idaho many years ago. He died about 1960 at the age of 80, and my mother remembered him singing this song when she was young. She is now 87. I grew up laughing at the lyrics. I always assumed it was an Irish vaudeville song.
 

Have any info for Paul?   Email us.


Posted 9/29/05

Where's a cowgirl gonna ...                                              

Patricia writes:  In 1998 I attended the cowboy poetry gathering in Alpine, Texas.  I was impressed with a poem presented at the Saturday night stage performance of the 'best of show'.  I believe the title of the poem was "Where's a cowgirl gonna pee?"  At least, this line was repeated several times in the poem.

There were only 8  cowgirls presenting:
       Sandra Culpepper
       Kay Kelley
       Karen Roach McGuire
       Sheryl, Tiffany, and Misty McLaurey
       Jean Prescott
       Ann Sochat

I am hoping you can find out who wrote that poem and if it appears in a  magazine or book of Cowboy Poetry or how I can contact the author.

Have any info for Patricia?   Email us.


Posted 9/29/05

Horse Hubby ....

Darla wrote hoping to find the author of a poem that circulates in email and on the internet.  She had it as:

The Horse Hubby

My wife has a Quarter Horse, with shortened mane and extra long tail.
She thinks he is the finest thing that ever jogged a rail.

and it ended ...

He'd scratched his nose a little bit, and the memory galls me yet......
She left me lying in the mud, and ran to call the VET!!!

We told Darla that we found the  poem all over the internet, often also called, "The Horse Husband's Lament," often is posted with no title,  and often with a first line about a "flaxen mane" rather than  "shortened mane."  Everywhere we see it, it shows the author as "anonymous."

Darla's interested in finding the real author.

Have any info for Darla?   Email us.


Updated 9/29/05
First posted so long ago we don't have a date

A Humble Donkey

Joyce wrote to us: 

I am looking for a poem about a donkey.  It has something to do with a beautiful horse in a pasture next to this donkey.  The horse is bragging about how beautiful he is and the donkey replies humbly that he was chosen to carry the "precious newborn King", our Christ.  It is a precious poem.  Would you be able to help me find it?  I want to read it for our Christmas program in my little Baptist Church near Cordova, Maryland.  Thanks so much.

A California writer tells us this is "The Little Gray Donkey" recorded many times by Tennessee Ernie Ford.  You can hear a clip of Johnny Cash doing it here: http://www.mp3.com/albums/101243/summary.html

Have anything to add?   Email us.


Posted 9/29/05

I'd Like to be in Texas                                                                      (answered)     

A lady (who prefers to remain anonymous) came by the BAR-D who remembers a fellow she met and words he recited.  She told us, "He had gone to the Cowboy Poetry Festival in Nevada, and he actually quoted quite a long poem for me, by heart.  I don't know who
wrote it, or even what it was called, but at the end of every stanza was the line 'At the round-up in the spring.'  I managed to fall in love with that man that night, and those words, just written on a computer screen make my heart start to beat...It's very special to me."

We were glad to oblige.  

Over time there've been many variations of this song, which was written by Carl Copeland & Jack Williams in 1927. 

You can find one here and another here.

  Don Edwards has a version on his Saddle Songs CD and Skip Gorman has one on his Lonesome Prairie Love CD  (you can hear a short clip on Amazon here)

Have anything to add?   Email us.


Posted 8/24/05

Mustang Gray                                                                             answered!

Lefty wondered if we had the words to "Mustang Gray." Here's one version of the traditional song:

Mustang Gray

There was a brave old Texan,
They called him Mustang Gray;
He left his home when but a youth,
Went ranging far away.

But he'll go no more a-ranging
The savage to affright;
He has heard his last war whoop
And fought his last fight.

He ne'er would sleep within a tent
No comforts would he know;
But like a brave old Tex-i-can
A-ranging he would go.

When Texas was invaded
By a mighty tyrant foe,
He mounted his noble war- horse
And a-ranging he did go.

Once he was taken prisoner,
Bound in chains upon the way;
He wore the yoke of bondage
Through the streets of Monterey.

A señorita loved him
And followed by his side;
She opened the gates and gave to him
Her father's steed to ride.

God bless the señorita,
The belle of Monterey;
She opened wide the prison door
And let him ride away.

And when his veteran's life was spent,
It was his last command,
To bury him on Texas soil
On the banks of the Rio Grande;

And there the lonely traveler,
When passing by his grave,
Will shed a farewell tear
O'er the bravest of the brave.

Now he'll go no more a-ranging,
The savage to affright;
He's heard his last war- whoop
and fought his last fight.

attributed to Tom Grey by Jack Thorp, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 

The Handbook of Texas Online notes that "Mustang" Gray was written about a Texas Ranger, Marbry B. Gray, who was born in South Carolina in 1817.  He went to Texas in 1835 and served with Capt. William W. Hill and participated in the battle of San Jacinto.  You can read here about how he came to be called "Mustang."

There's another good article here by Mike Cox at TexasEscapes.com

One of our favorite versions of "Mustang Gray" is by Andy Hedges on his City Boys CD:

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Updated 7/13/06
Posted 8/24/05
Maverick follows his own way                                                Answered!!

John is lookin' for a poem about a maverick.  He told us the poem is "about how the Maverick goes his own way, where others won't go, and finds strength in not being part of the crowd...What caught my attention was that the maverick should not be thought of as
running loose, but following his own path, and forging new trails."  
 

Sharon had the answer for John:  It's Red Steagall's poem, "The Maverick," from his Ride for the Brand book. It begins:

A Maverick's never worn a brand,
At least not one that shows,
He's free to travel where he will,
The trail is one he chose.

(Thanks too, to John, for the note that Riders in the Sky do a version of "Reincarnation," as noted below.)

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Posted 8/5/05

Zebra Dun                                                                                        answered!


We get a lot of questions about the words to the old Cowboy song, "Zebra Dun," and about who wrote it.

Glenn Ohrlin, in his classic reference to Cowboy songs, The Hell-Bound Train, tells about the song, and says, in part, "The song...seemed to be well known or at least familiar enough since long before my first working days, and it just seems I've always known the story to it. I remember a fellow called 'Cactus Mac' singing it at the late Jerry Ambler's Pickwick Bar in California. While "Mac" sang 'Zebra Dun' it was worth your front teeth to make too much noise, which would keep someone from hearing the words. The words are the main thing in this song ..."

You can see a long version by  Glenn Ohrlin, posted here http://www.smsu.edu/folksong/maxhunter/0728/ with many verses and an audio file of his performance of it. 

In Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John Lomax, he writes, "This song is said to have been composed by Jack, the Negro camp cook for a ranch on the Pecos River belonging to George W. Evans and John Z. Means.  It was first sung to me by W. Bogel, a student in the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas.  

Here is a version from Jack Thorp's 1921 Songs of the Cowboys (See our feature and selections from this book here.):

We were camped on the plains at the head of the Cimmaron
When along came a stranger and stopped to arger some.
He looked so very very foolish that we began to look around,
We thought he was a greenhorn that had just 'scaped from town.

We asked him if he had he been to breakfast;  he had n't had a smear;
So we opened up the chuck-box and bade him have his share.
He took a cup of coffee and some biscuits and some beans,
And then began to talk and tell about foreign kings and queens,

About the Spanish War and fighting on on the seas
With guns as big as steers and ramrods big as trees,--
And about old Paul Jones, a mean-fighting son of a gun,
Who was the grittiest cuss that ever pulled a gun.

Such an educated feller, his thoughts just came in herds,
He astonished all them cowboys with them jaw-breaking words.
He just kept on talking till he made the  boys all sick
And they began to look around just how to play a trick.

He said he had lost his job upon the Santa Fe
And was going across the plains to strike the 7-D.
He did n't say how come it, some trouble with the boss,
But said he'd like to borrow a nice fat saddle horse.

This tickled all the boys to death; they laughed ' way down in their sleeves--
"We will lend you a horse just as fresh and fat as you please."
Shorty grabbed a lariat and roped the Zebra Dun
And turned him over to the stranger and waited for the fun.

Old Dunny was a rocky outlaw that had grown so awful wild
That he could paw the white out of the moon every jump for a mile. 
Old Dunny stood right still--as if he didn't know-- 
Until he was saddled and ready for to go.

When the stranger hit the saddle, old Dunny quit the earth,
And traveled right straight up for all that he was worth.
A-pitching and a-squealing, a-having wall-eyed fits,
His hind feet perpendicular, his front ones in the bits.

We could see the tops of mountains under Dunny every jump,
But the stranger he was growed there just like the camel's hump;
The stranger sat upon him and curled his black moustache,
Just like a summer boarder waiting for his hash.

He thumped him in the shoulders and spurred him when he whirled,
To show them flunky punchers that he was the wolf of the world.
When the stranger had dismounted once more upon the ground,
We knew he was a thoroughbred and not a gent from town;

The boss, who was standing round watching of the show,
Walked right up to the stranger and told him he need n't go--
"If you can use a lasso like you rode old Zebra Dun,
You are the man I've been looking for ever since the year one."

Oh he could twirl the lariat and he did n't didn't do it slow;
He could catch them fore feet nine out of ten for any kind of dough,
There's one thing and a shore thing I've learned since I've been born,
That every educated feller ain't a plumb greenhorn.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 

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updated 8/2/05
updated 1/20/05
updated 6/10/04
new 11/29/02

"The Pearl of the Them All"  by Will Ogilvie                                                answered!

It was a long and windy road to find Will Ogilvie's "The Pearl of Them All."  Here's the poem:

The Pearl of Them All

Gaily in front of the stockwhip
The horses come galloping home,
Leaping and bucking and playing
With sides all a lather of foam;
But painfully, slowly behind them,
With head to the crack of the fall,
And trying so gamely to follow
Comes limping the pearl of them all.

He is stumbling and stiff in the shoulder,
And splints from the hoof to the knee,
But never a horse on the station
Has half such a spirit as he;
Give these all the boast of their breeding
These pets of the paddock and stall,
But ten years ago not their proudest
Could live with the pearl of them all.

No journey has ever yet beat him,
No day was too heavy or hard,
He was king of the camp and the muster
And pride of the wings of the yard;
But Time is relentless to follow;
The best of us bow to his thrall;
And death, with his scythe on his shoulder,
Is dogging the pearl of them all.

I watch him go whinnying past me,
And memories come with a whirl
Of reckless, wild rides with a comrade
And laughing, gay rides with a girl -
How she decked him with lilies and love-knots
And plaited his mane at my side,
And once in the grief of a parting
She threw her arms round him and cried.
And I promised - I gave her my promise
The night that we parted in tears,
To keep and be kind to the old horse
Till Time made a burden of years;
And then for his sake and one woman's...
So, fetch me my gun from the wall!
I have only this kindness to offer
As gift to the pearl of them all.

Here! hold him out there by the yard wing,
And don't let him know by a sign:
Turn his head to you - ever so little!
I can't bear his eyes to meet mine.
Then - stand still, old boy! for a moment  ...
These tears, how they blind as they fall!
Now, God help my hand to be steady ...
Good-bye! - to the pearl of them all!

by William Henry Ogilvie

Here's some of the history of the search.

Some while back Dale asked:

Bill Gunn performed "The Pearl of Them All" at the 10th Elko Gathering.  I can't find him on the internet, can you tell us anything about him and if he is still performing?

In June, 2004 Bill Gunn wrote and told us he was a mining company executive, and was interested in performing.  Stay tuned, he's sending us more...

We heard from a few other people interested in the poem. Joanne asked us recently, and then JF wrote, thinking it was by Banjo Paterson.  She told us she saw it on an Elko video and  "I had heard Bill Gunn recite it back in 1990 at a FOXHUNT Ball of all places." So we pulled out our Elko video, not remembering that part, and once we did, we recognized that we had headed in the wrong direction.

We had gone along thinking this poem was by Bill, but in fact it is by Will Ogilvie (1869-1963).  Bill Gunn performs it on the Elko 10th anniversary video, Live At Elko (the poem's author isn't mentioned in the video). The poem is included in Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion.

     Live At Elko, Cowboy Poets  

This video, recorded at the 10th Gathering, includes Buck Ramsey, Joel Nelson, R. W. Hampton, Virginia Bennett, Gwen Petersen, Waddie Mitchell, Bill Wood, Ian Tyson, Michael Martin Murphey, Don Edwards, Wallace McRae, Stephanie Davis, Riders in the Sky, the Sons of the San Joaquin, Paul Zarzyski...and many others.

cpreunionbk.jpg (25377 bytes)  Virginia Bennett  edited Cowboy Poetry:The Reunion, a volume published by Gibbs Smith in celebration of the 20th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Read our feature here, which includes Virginia Bennett's introduction and the complete table of contents.

Read Will Ogilvie's "Hoofs of the Horses" here in our Strays section, where there is more about him.

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new 6/21/05

Charlie and the Calumet Can                                                           Answered!

Steve wrote looking for a poem:

 ".....where the old cowpuncher dies on the trail, wants to be cremated, his pards do the job( a la " Sam McGee " maybe?) somehow the cookie get the ashes in a baking powder can, maybe cookie goes to town and the new cook makes the biscuits with...well, you can guess the rest..

BAR-D favorite Dennis Gaines, a riding encyclopedia of cowboy poetry, knew right off that what Steve was after was "Charlie and the Calumet Can," written by Charley Hendren and, as Dennis says, "recited very well by our good pard, Andy Hedges. It's available on Andy's CD, Days and Nights in the Saddle." 

  The CD is available from Andy Hedges' web site.  Read more about it here at the BAR-D.

You can also hear a clip of Charley Hendren reciting the poem at his web site, where he says it was inspired by cowboy singer RW Hampton.  It's on Charley's CD, The Trail Home.

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new 6/21/05

Never Sold My Saddle

Millicent is looking for a poem with the lines: 

    "I never sold my saddle and I never bred them black." 

(There are plenty of poems and songs with "never sold my saddle," but she's looking for the one that includes the line "never bred them black.")

Have an answer for Millicent?  Email us.


new 6/21/05

Little Frankie

Sherry wrote:

I have a couple of verses from a poem supposedly written about a relative. Don't know exactly when or by whom.

Little Frankie

He was just an old cowboy
who rode these rocky peaks
and mavericked on the mesas
and camped along the creeks.
He was known among the cowboys
as the kind they liked to be with
for he had the wild girls numbers
and he generally had a fifth

There are said to 13 verses and it may have been written by Pecos Higgins who supposedly cowboyed with Dan Jackson, who is a relative of "Little Frankie."

The verses I have of "Little Frankie" were on the last page of a handwritten anthology of my genealogy on my mother's side of my family. It is written about George Franklin Jackson who was born in 1911 in Alma, New Mexico after his parents, Dan and Mollie Jackson came from Texas. They may have lived on a ranch owned by Hugh and Mae McKeen. Mae was a daughter of one of my Jacksons. Sheesh....

Have an answer for Sherry?  Email us.


new 6/21/05

1921 Ladies Grand Championship at the Wild West Show in Ogden, Utah

Diane wrote: 

Several years ago, I purchased a ladies saddle.  On one side of the saddle it reads, Ladies Grand Championship 1921 on the other side it says, Wild West Show, Ogden, Utah 1921.  The saddle is in great shape and I was wondering if you had any information about this race, this saddle, or how I could obtain this. 

We did suggest that she contact the Dickinson Research Center at the National Cowboy and Western Museum.  She asked us to also post her question. 

Have an answer for Diane?  Email us.


updated 11/16/05
new 6/21/05

Keith Avery Poems

Kurt wrote looking for a source for these poems and a title for one:

I read two Keith Avery poems... while we stopped at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. One poem in entitled, "Respectful Letter To God," The other poem, Keith wrote for Ben Johnson's funeral and I don't know the title of it.

Have an answer for Kurt?  Email us.


new 3/25/05
My Wyoming

Connie is looking for the words to and author or  "My Wyoming."  She has this fragment:

One last favor, My Wyoming, I am going to ask of Thee. 
And I'll be highly honored if you grant it unto me.

Tis a space a little larger then is needed for a grave.  
Take me then OH My Wyoming, let me lie upon thy Breast. 

With the skies of splendor o'er me, in a place of perfect rest.
Where the sagebrush and the cactus in their glory doth abound. 

Flowers of every hue and colors form a carpet for the ground.
With thy mountains for a headstone, I'll be richer oh by far, than
with any marble tablet for no human hand can mar.

None can rob thee of thy beauty, that thy Maker
Gave to thee, so I give thee MY WYOMING all thy maker made of ME.

Have an answer for Connie?  Email us.


new 3/25/05

High Stepping Critters

Lee writes:

I have been looking for a poem I found in a book 20 years ago.  I think it was a book of Texas poems. The first line goes something like "There are some high stepping critters for some folks that will do". And the last line is something like "I want to ride across Heaven on an old cow hawse."  

Have an answer for Lee?  Email us.


updated 12/27/06
new 3/25/05

Broken Down Cowboy

Jerry's looking for the words to a song he said he first heard about 50 years ago that goes something like:

I'm a broken down cowboy
I've had my wild swing
No more in the saddle
Will I ever roam

Took into drinking
Just started in fun
It led me to gambling
And the use of a gun

Now  my days are all over
No more will I roam
From drinking and gambling
Just started in fun

Audrey's looking for the song as well. She wrote, "I heard part of it on the internet from a 30 second play of a Wilf Carter
record" and sent these additional words:

and after the roundup, I'd draw all my pay
no thought of the future of some rainy day

I wished I had followed the straight narrow trail
that leads to green pastures or that hidden veil

Have an answer for Jerry and Audrey?  Email us.


new 3/25/05

Faith, Hope and Charity ...                                               Answered!!

Jim asks:

Have you ever heard a song that contains these words: "faith, hope and charity, that is the way to live successfully."  

We found a reference that said "...television heroes of the 1950's and the theme songs, Roy Rogers' 'faith, hope and charity, that is the way to live successfully'...."  but we don't find any authoritative source.

It didn't take Patricia long to tell us that it is a part of  "The Bible Told Me So" written by Dale Evans, and it appears on her "Greatest Hits" recording, which is available over at RoyRogers.com

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new 3/25/05

Bill Simpson

Robert Dennis asks: 

Is there anyone out there who knows what ever happened to Bill Simpson? He is a wonderful poet and had a tape out back in the late 1980's. One of the poems was called Coyote and the Freight Train.  Wish I could get my hands on another of his tapes and just wonder if he's still out there and still writin'. Met him in Elko in 1989.

We asked around and so far have come up empty. Bill Simpson, from Grandview, Idaho was at Elko in 1985, 1986, and 1987 (see our Elko Program indexes) is included in Cowboy Poetry, A Gathering (see our Anthologies Index)

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updated 6/6/06
updated 3/25/05
new 6/15/04

Coyote and a bell...                                                      Answered!!

Rae writes

Back in the 80's when I was a jockey, I occasionally rode to the races with an old cowboy name Larry Daniels.  He would pass the miles reciting numerous poems.  Larry never wrote them down, nor would he let me record them.  Most of the poems were the old standbys, but he had one about a coyote that I would sure like to have a copy of. The gist of the story was that a cowboy caught a coyote that had been hitting the herd, but instead of killing it right then, he put a bell around its neck so the coyote wouldn't be able to sneak up on any prey.  And all the other coyotes shunned him as well.  The coyote was starving to death the next time the cowboy saw him.  Soooo the cowboy took aim "and shot off that damned ol bell." 

Rae adds: Larry was born in 1917, was in the PCR, also one of the first members of the Turtle Assoc., a pugilist, did rodeo announcing, and trained race horses. I met him when I rode his race horses and traveled with him to minor stake races.  I loved his poems.  He had a million of them, but my favorite was the coyote saga.  he would never write them down, or allow me to record them.  He had his cantankerous streak.  He died in 1997 in Kennewick, Wa.  I consider myself lucky for knowing him, and it would be great to recover this poem and pass it on.

If any one can help me find the total poem, I would sure be thankful.

CW took exception to the description above, and wrote:

Lary Daniels (spelled correctly with one "r") was born in Wallowa, Oregon, on December 15, 1914.  Not as Rae states, "1917."  He died, not in Kennewick, Washington as suggested by Rae, but in Medford, Oregon, on February 22, 1997.

If we are going to remember these people, we should get it right. Lary was one of the best rodeo cowboys of his day. He was as good as any bullrider in the game.  Men like Jim Shoulder's would attest to that.  Lary was 82 years old when he died.  If I were to sum him up with one phrase, I'd say that "Lary took life by the horns and wrestled it to the ground."  He wasn't afraid of anything in the rodeo arena and not much outside of it.  He made every rodeo in the country from Madison Square Garden, the Cow Palace, Calgary and Cheyenne...to hamlets like Omak, Washington and Joseph, Oregon. There was only one Lary Daniels and believe me, he wasn't the "old man" who hit the road to minor stake races with... a "million" poems. He was the guy who '"wanted" his bulls and when it was time to ride, he'd yell, "Open the gate and let him have me."  He competed in all of the rodeo events. There wasn't anything he couldn't do and do to win. He liked to fight but he wasn't a fighter. He read cowboy poems from the announcers stand because he loved the spotlight. Let's face it. But it wasn't what he did best...nor did he spend much time doing it. His family loved him. I feel strongly that if you are going to mention people on your website, the information you use about them should be correct. Thank you for your courtesy in making these corrections public.  CW

 

As to the poem:  Jan said she heard it on Red Steagall's Cowboy Corner, and Red's office was able to tell us it was by Robert Fletcher, called "The Belled Coyote."  We located Fletcher's Corral Dust (1934) and here's the poem:

The Belled Coyote

Aint no one loves a coyote
That I ever heard about.
He aint nuthin' but a pestilence
Requirin' stampin' out.
A sneakin', thievin' rustler,--
A gray, ga'nt vagabone
Whose locoed vocal tendencies
Are lackin' depth and tone.

Seems like he's always hungry
And Lord, man, when he wails
It's the concentrated sinfulness
From lost and vanished trails.
Well, there's one of them Carusos
Hangs about the Lazy B
And makes hisself obnoxious
Most plum' consistently.

So, one day, a cayuse dyin'
We surrounds the corpse with traps,
Where we'd cached it in a coulee
A thinkin' that perhaps
In a moment inadvertent
That coyote will come around
And meet up with some damn tough luck,
And we will have him downed.

Sure enough, he made an error
For he let his appetite
Prevail agin his judgment
And we cinched him that same night.
He got one foot caught in a trap
And jumpin' 'round about
Another gloms him by a laig
And sort of stretched him out.

Naw, pard, we didn't shoot him,--
Jest aimed to give him hell,
We took and strapped around his neck
A jinglin' little bell
And turned him loose to ramble,--
Yes,--I reckin' it was cruel,--
Aint a cotton-tail or sage-hen
That is jest a plain damn fool

Enought to not take warnin'
When they heard that little bell,--
So he don't get too much food nor
Company, I'm here to tell.
He's an outlaw with his own kind
And his pickin's pretty slim,
'Cause ev'rywhere he goes that bell
Gives warnin' that it's him.

And sometimes when it's gettin' dusk
And ev'rything plum' still,
I can hear that bell a tollin'
As he slips around a hill.
It kind of gets upon my nerves,--
That, and his mournful cry,
For I know the skunk is fond of livin'
Same as you or I.

One day I'm in the saddle
A twistin' up a smoke,
When he sneaks our of a coulee,
And pard, it aint no joke,
When I see him starved and lonesome,
A lookin' 'most all in,--
Well, perhaps I'm chicken hearted,
But it seemed a dirty sin,

And besides, that bell, it haunts me,
Till there doesn't seem to be
A way t' square things but to put
Him out of misery.
So I takes my 30-30,
As he sits and gives a yell,---
I drawed a bead, and cracked away,--
And busted that damn bell!

Read Robert "Bob" Fletcher's Open Range, the poem behind the popular song "Don't Fence Me In" and more about him here.

 

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updated 3/25/05
new 5/2/03

The ghosts are dancin' at Frisco Kate's                                       Answered!!

Diane writes:

I memorized a poem about mumble-years ago (several decades), and am hoping to find the title, text and author, but have had no luck.

Does this sound familiar?

The ghosts are dancin' at Frisco Kate's
To the wail of an old violin
They are pounding the floor with their bony feet
In the ancient haunt of sin.

(many more verses)

PJ to the rescue!  She wrote us: 

I saw the following request on your website as I was doing some research. I am currently going through a collection of Gold Rush and Mining ephemera, listing pieces from it on eBay Auction, and in a booklet called GHOST TOWNS AND RELICS OF '49 published in the 1930s by the Stockton, California Chamber of Commerce I found the poem Diane wants.

PJ also told us, "I also have two books on sale you might be interested in: Remuda Dust (Cowboy Poetry) and Poddy - The Story of a Range Orphan.  Email me if you or anyone you know is interested in these - I have more than one
copy of them."  She's listed as "pjburt" on eBay


The Ballad of Frisco Kate's

The ghosts are dancing at Frisco Kate's
To the wail of the violin;
They are pounding the floor wth their bony feet
In the ancient haunt of sin.
They are shouting for drinks, for whisky straight,
Bellied up toe the broken bar -
And down through the roofless rafters shines
The ghost of an evening star
Past the broken windows the girls dance by
In the arms of the men they knew;
They dance them down the middle, and back,
Just like they used to do.

For the moon is up on the mountian rim;
And down in the chaparral
The ghosts are yawning and empty, wide
In the gleam of her ruddy spell.
The ghosts are coming to Frisco Kate's
For an old time jamboree
 From dusk to dawn, with the limit off -
It's drinks on the house and free!
Down over the trail from the hills above
The boys are trouping in,
By sand and sage and the canyon rock,
Drawn by the drunken din.

Old Peg-leg Sam comes limping up;
HIs crutch is a coffin lid;
His rotted pockets are filled with dust
 From the golden hoard he hid.
The mouldy ghost of the Texas Kid
Sits down at the battered keys,
And the tinkling tune of an old-time song
Drifts out on the shivering breeze.
Now Frisco Kate's at the faro box;
The cards turn one by one,
And many a ghost has lost his gold
When her crooked deal is done.

They dance with Moll and the Reno Rose,
Fat Nell and the Paris Queen -
But Frisco Kate was the prettiest girl
That ever the hills  have seen!
There's Mono Jack with Big Marie;
There's Slim on the other side -
They dance and drink and turn the cards
Till their dust is a golden tide
Where the bony fingers of Frisco Kate
Pile it high in it's yellow waves.
But who gives a damn for a fortune lost
When they're free of their lonely graves!

There's a shouted curse, and the flash of guns,
And the burning of ancient hates,
And once again a dead man lies
By the bar in Frisco Kate's.
They drag him out with a chuckling laugh,
While still on the bloodless floor
The dancers whirl in their endless dance,
And the drinkers shout for more.
For what is a murder when all are dead?
And how can a dead man die?
Full many a murder these ghosts have seen;
Full many a dead man lie

It is one mad night in a hundred years -
They have waked from their troubled sleep;
They have clambered out from the sunken graves
Where the sage and the sand lie deep.
They have gathered again in the old dance hall -
It's a tryst of the sacred clan;
For years have vanished and years have gone,
And broken the ancient ban.
The ghosts are dancing at Frisco Kate's
In the mad moon's ruddy spell -
The devil rides high on the crimson ball,
And it's lonely tonight in hell.

by Harry Noyes Pratt

We learned that Harry Noyes Pratt (1879-1944) was a poet and editor who ran the Claremont Hotel's art gallery in Berkeley, California. At least two of his books are listed at the Library of Congress, Hill Trails & Open Sky: a book of California verse, 1919 and Mother of Mine, and other verse, 1918.

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updated 3/25/05
new 5/2/03

Harriet Kritser, illustrated Badger Clark's work

Harry is looking for information about Harriet Kritser, who did the block artwork on an illustration of Badger Clark's "A Cowboy's Prayer."  She is said to have made the linoleum block print while at the Y Ranch in Texas. She had an art exhibition in Amarillo in November 1929.  Harry sent this photo of her work, where she crossed out "anonymous" and inserted Badger Clark's name:

 

Tom came by with this info in March, 2005:

I just received a book that I purchased titled The Relief Print Woodcut, Wood Engraving & Linoleum Cut see:
http://www.woodblock.com/encyclopedia/entries/011_01/011_01.html

and the book was signed

"Harriet W. Kritser
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma"

The book was printed in 1945. Because Harriet was an artist in Amarillo in 1929 and in Oklahoma City in 1939 -see:
http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/v017/v017p087.html I think she was too old to be a student at the University of
Oklahoma in 1945, so it is more likely that she was on the art faculty there.  If you turn up more information about
her, please let me know as it's interesting for me to know who first owned this book  -I do woodcut and linocut work
myself. 


Have any info for Harry and Tom?   Email us.


new 1/20/05

The Ballad of William Sycamore                                                        Answered!

The C. O. W. boys (Andy and Jim Nelson of Clear Out West) wrote and said:

We had a request from a listener who grew up in the 40's and remembered reading a poem in an old farm magazine. She has no idea the name of the poem or who wrote it, but she remembers it was about a young couple traveling by wagon through the west. They camped by a stream where the woman delivered her baby son. She puts in quotes, "A tall green tree was her doctor______, and a ______ watched o'er her labor". The boy then grew up to be a wild cowboy.

Linda Kirkpatrick knew this one:  "The Ballad of William Sycamore," by Stephen Vincent Benét.  She mentioned the powerful presentation of this poem that's on Joel Nelson's The Breaker in the Pen CD:

Joel Nelson has said that the poem, written about 1922, was one of the poems that made him "fall in love with" poetry.  Here it is:

The Ballad of William Sycamore


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updated6/21/05
new 1/20/05

Montana Waltz                                                                            Answered!  Or is it?

Some time ago we ran a news item and mentioned "Montana Waltz."  We should note that there is more than one song called "Montana Waltz."  Song and book titles are not covered by any copyright restrictions.

We were pleased to hear from Shea, whose great aunt Rita Ward wrote the tune.  Shea told us:

The song "Montana Waltz" was written by my late Great Aunt, Mrs. Rita Ward of Nine Mile Valley, Montana.  I have audio tapes of all the singers she auditioned before she chose LeGrande Harvey to record it.  It was first released on a 45 record as the "B" side to his "Montana Melody", which was soon chosen to become Montana's state ballad. "Buffalo" Standley, who produced the 45, tells the story on his website www.geocities.com/olemissoula/mt1.htm

At the age of eighty she was involved in lobbying for LeGrande's song and was so proud and forever grateful to him for including her song on his album of Montana songs released shortly thereafter. 

Since there were some who credited Marcus Crowley with the song, we asked Shea to share some of the lines from Rita Ward's song, and she wrote back with:

  The Montana Waltz is echoing still.
  Whispering to one over valley and hill.
  The memory haunts me, the memory calls.
  Come back to me darlin' and the
  Montana Waltz.

I can't remember all the words, LaGrande Harvey's record was ruined a long time ago... some of the other lines:

  I remember an evening I hold to my heart.
  My dreams take me back as the melody starts.
  I sit here just dreaming the evening away.

... It will be interesting if someone else has more information to add now that you have it online. [See below that in December, 2006 Jodi was able to transcribe all the words from her 45 record by LeGrande Harvey.]

Then we heard from Charles, who wrote:

I was reading about some information on the "Montana Waltz."  I know there are many versions.  However, Bill Long, a fiddler of national standing wrote the music and Marcus Crowley (my late grandfather) submitted the words in a contest in 1971 and was awarded the honor.  He is a cowboy poet who has published many articles.  One of his publications is Bunkhouse Ballads. This can be obtained from www.cybernet1.com/streamsong/web/books.htm.  I have three copies of the books. 

So of course we asked for more about his version, and he wrote:

In March 1971, my Grandfather, Marcus Crowley entered a contest to write lyrics for a melody chosen as the Montana Waltz.  This melody was called "Bill's Waltz,"  composed by Bill Long, a Billings fiddler of national  standing.

Grandpa was very surprised when his words were chosen.  This was done at the Strings Festival in Colombus, Montana.  A presentation was made by Montana  U.S. Senator, Mike Mansfield. The words are as follows:  

  With the moon shining down on that gay little town
  From its path to the big sky above;
  Such a beautiful night with a soft glowing light,
  What an evening for falling in love.
  I lifted my eyes to the glittering skies
  And I gazed at their wide starry vaults;
  As we entered the hall to attend The Grand Ball,
  They were playing The Montana Waltz.

  As we danced to the strains of The Montana Waltz,
  I was carried away by their charms,
  With the beat in my mind and a song in my heart,
  And a beautiful girl in my arms.
  We clamored for more, so they played an encore;
  They gave out with their musical charms.
  What a feeling supreme, more a beautiful dream,
  And the girl of my choice in my arms.

  We promised, we two, that our love would be true;
  Through our lifetime, we never would part.
  She told me she loved me more than life in itself;
  Oh, sweet words for the song in my heart!
  I told her that I, too, would remain always true,
  And I vowed I would never be false;
  As we circled the hall at the Grand Harvest Ball
  To the tune of the Montana Waltz.

We didn't find any references to the song in our library, but out on the cyber range, we found a few other folks who have written a "Montana Waltz":

Ian Tyson and Wyoming Red have recorded versions of "Montana Waltz."

In December, 2006, Jodi went to great lengths to transcribe the lyrics of Rita Ward's version of "Montana Waltz," from a 45-record recording by LeGrande Harvey:

Montana Waltz
   by Rita Ward

There's a song in my memories
At twilight time calls
I hear it so clearly
The Montana waltz
I remember an evening
I hold to my heart
My dreams take me back
As the melody starts

I sit here just dreamin' the evenings away
Forgetting the lonely hours
I've spent through the day
A long ago waltz keeps my memory bright
And if wishes could take me
I'd be there tonight

The Montana waltz is echoing still
Whispering tonight over valley and hill
The memory haunts me
The melody calls
Come back to your darlin's
And the Montana Waltz

(music)

There's a place where the mountain tops reach to the sky
And there my love and I kissed goodbye
We danced until dawn and the tune lingers yet
The Montana Waltz I will never forget 
 
The Montana waltz is echoing still
Whispering tonight over valley and hill
The memory haunts me
The melody calls
Come back to your darlin's
And the Montana Waltz
 
Come back to your darlin's
And the Montana Waltz

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new 12/02/04

Barefoot Boy Who Drives the Cattle Home

Suz is counting on the "cowboy poetry detectives" to find the author of "The Barefoot Boy Who Drives the Cattle Home."  She said it is on a war-time personal recordin' from a dad to a daughter: 

The Barefoot Boy Who Drives the Cattle Home

'Tis evening and the round red sun sinks slowly in the west.
The flowers close their petals and the birds fly to their nest.
The crickets chirrup in the grass and the bats wheel to and fro
While tinkle, tankle up the lane the lowing cattle go.

The rich man from his carriage looks out upon them as they come,
Out upon them and the barefoot boy that drives the cattle home.
And the barefoot boy says to himself, "Gee, I wish I were that millionaire.
I'd have a palace for my home and never want nor care."

And the rich man sighs unto himself, "My wealth I'd gladly give
If I could lead another life but that which I now live.
I'd give my palace and my yacht that sails the ocean foam
To be once more the barefoot boy that drives the cattle home."

Have an answer for Suz?  Email us.


updated 2/06/06
updated 12/02/04
new 5/2/03

Isom Like was seventy-odd...                                                 Answered!!

Dusty writes:

This is a great poem and my Daddy's favorite.  I just wish I could remember
all of it and the author.  The poem starts out this way:

       Isom Like was seventy-odd
       an' straight in the back as a steel ramrod,
       an' the whiskers that growed on his leathery chin
       they bristled out instead of in.
       Six grown sons had Isom Like:
       Jake, Noah, Joe, John, Jess and Ike.

       ...

       Seven broncs in a high pole pen,
       Seven saddles and seven men.
       Ma Like watched as the show began...etc.

Our old pard Tim Jobe found this one.  He wrote "This poem is titled "Watchin' Em Ride"  It was written by S. Omar Barker and
published in his book  Songs of the Saddlemen but was first published in "Wild West Weekly"  magazine. According to the Songs of the Saddlemen book the poem was based on a true incident related to the author by Col. Jack Potter. Isom Like died at the age of 102.

The poem is also included in the Cowboy Miner Productions' book of Barker's poetry:

Click for Cowboy Miner

Here's the poem:

Watchin' 'em Ride

Isom Like was seventy-odd
Straight in the back as a steel ramrod,
And the whiskers that growed on his leathery chin,
They bristled out instead of in.
Six growed sons had Isom Like:
Jake, Joe, John, Jess, Noah and Ike.

Ridin' men was Isom's sons,
Salty, straddlin' sons-o'-guns.
Once a year they chipped in change
To pay for the best hoss on their range,
And held ridin' to settle who
Should git that hoss when the show was through.

Nearin' eighty was Isom Like:
"Pa," said the son whose name was Ike,
"You're stiffed up like an ol' pine tree.
Better leave this to the boys an' me!"
Ol' Isom grinned his grizzled grin.
"Nope," he says, "Just count me in!"

Seven broncs on the high pole pen,
Seven saddles and seven men . . . .
Ma Like watched as the show begun,
And when Jack straddled a dusty dun,
You guessed right off that her joy and pride
Was Jake, from the way she cheered his ride.

Jess spurred out on a big-foot bay.
Up on the fence you could hear Ma say:
"Ride him, Jess! Boy, kick him out!"
And you knowed right quick from the tone of her shout,
Of all six sons Ma Like had bore,
By this here Jess she set most store.

Joe clumb on and you heard Ma squall:
"Joe, you're the ridin'est son of all."
Noah an' John purt near got piled--
But both was Ma Like's favorite child.
Two broncs left, and the one Ike took
Bucked like the broncs in a storybook;
Pawed the moon and scraped the sky.
Up on the fence you could hear Ma cry:
"Boy, that's ridin' to suit my taste!
I got one son ain't no panty-waist!"

One bronc left, a big blue roan . . . .
"Never mind, boys, I'll saddle my own!"
Over the saddle Pat flung his shank,
Raked both spurs from neck to flank.
The big roan rose like a powder blast,
Buckin' hard and high and fast,
But deep in the wood Pa Like set screwed,
Strokin' his beard like a southern dude!
And every time that blue roan whirled,
Ma Like's petticoats come unfurled.

Isom grinned and waved his hat,
And Ma, she squalled like a ring-tailed cat:
"Straddle him, Isom! Show your spizz!
Learn these buttons what ridin' is!"
Throwed her bonnet high in the air,
Whooped and hollered and tore her hair:
"I got six sons and nary a one
Can ride like that ol' son-of-a-gun!"
Yelled and cheered so dang intense
She fell plumb off of the high pole fence.
"Wawhoo, boys!  Watch Isom spur!"
Isom's six sons grinned at her.

Seven broncs and the ridin' done . . . .
Nary a doubt but Pa had won!
"Sons," says Ma, "are a mother's pride,
But ol' Pa Isom, he can ride!
The trouble is, you boys ain't tough--
But you'll learn to ride--when you're old enough."

(Based on a true incident related by the late Col. Jack Potter. Isom Like died at the age of 102.)

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, further reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

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new 11/16/04

"Buckaroo Poet" Video                                                           Answered!

 

Susette wrote to us:

I'm looking for a video called "Buckaroo Poet," I think. It features Waddie Mitchell, performing his poetry. There is a song at the end called Upcoming Cowboy by Rand Hillman. It was produced by Brigham Young University. I saw it on TV about ten years ago. I would very much like to get a copy but haven't been able to find one.

We told Susette: 

One version is available from Waddie's page on the Western Jubilee site. It is described as "The late great Richard Farnsworth and cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell bring back the romance of the Old West in these poetic portrayals of cowboy life. Farnsworth sets an authentic tone as Mitchell paints a vivid picture of the world of the real cowboy. Life on the range is brought home with poems about rainy days sitting by the campfire, starlit nights dreaming of a lost sweetheart, and dusty afternoons punching cows with a horse between your knees."

 

It looks to us like there were two versions, or at least two different covers and different release dates.  At Amazon, we saw a number of used copies of both: 1988 and 1993.

You can see some details about the earliest version at the IMDB site.

 
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updated 12/02/04
new 10/27/04

The Old Kids Horse                                                               (half answered)

Kathi wrote:

I have been searching for a poem that was in a Western Horseman magazine back in the 1960's or 70's  It was by Harold Sloan and it was titled The Old Kid Horse. I really liked it. A friend of mine lost her old horse of 30 years the other day and that old poem came to mind. I would sure like to find/buy a copy of that poem to give to her. 

I remember a little of how the poem went...something like this...

Two years ago I turned him out, he got to old to ride. He wasn't with the bunch today that's how I knew he died. I rode up on the highest hill, today was cold and raw and there I saw him lying dead down in the biggest draw. The kids had learned to ride on him, together they had fun. He always brought them back from school through snow or rain or sun. If they fell off he'd wait for them he didn't seem to care how much they thumped him in the ribs or hung onto his hair.

It went on to say ...a boy would make a better man that had a friend like him.

Well, we found the poem, but we're still looking for the author.  We told Kathi:

We were able to find two places on the net that have the poem listed as "Anonymous":

  http://perfectharmony.bizland.com/id86.html
  http://www.witez.com/memorial6.html#TheOldKidsHorse

We would like to put the right author's name with this poem.  We don't have any info about Harold Sloan. We'd like to do right by the author.

Kathi said:

I don't know anything about Harold Sloan, but I know I had that much written down in a sketchbook that I had made when I was a kid. It was for a school project. 

Western Horseman has a lot of poems in its archive index, but not for that time period. They cover July, 1936 through July, 1940 and July, 1984 through now. 

We found a reference to:  "A Rancher's Writings by Harold D. Sloan, Belle Fourche, South Dakota, Sloan Family, 1961?"  listed in the index to the  Skaggs Foundation Cowboy Poetry Collection at the Fife Folkore Archives at Utah State University.

Have any info?  Email us.


new 10/27/04

Silver Bells & Golden Spurs                                                           (answered)

Cassandra wrote:

I'm looking for a poem called "Silver Bells and Golden Spurs" and who wrote it.  Think ya'll could help?

Well, we could.  We told Cassandra:

That poem was written by that rascal "Anonymous."  Here's one version:

Silver Bells & Golden Spurs

      'Twas a mining town called Golden Gulch
      While the West was yet untamed.
      There two bad men met, made a bet,
      And the winnings never claimed.

      The boys had ridden into town
      One payday afternoon
      To line the bar at the Lucky Star,
      Which was Dandy Ran's saloon.

      Now the dandy was an onry cuss
      If by chance you made him sore,
      His only law was the lightning draw
      Of the heavy guns he wore.

      On his watchchain hung a dozen bells
      Of the finest silver spun,
      Each tiny bell for a man that fell
      When the dandy drew his gun.

      They seemed to jingle merrily
      To a tune that brought him luck,
      But they rang the bell for the man that fell
      When the dandy rang them up.

      Well the boys had finished a round of drinks
      When the bar room door swang wide,
      And a man walked in with a reckless grin
      And a funny cat-like stride.

      On his dusty boots were golden spurs,
      His face was lean and brown,
      And at each hip the well-matched grips
      Of six guns holstered down.

      He spoke in a voice that was deathly quiet
      And said, "I've come to waste some shells
      On a man they say whose draw is quick
      With a chain of silver bells.

      "A dozen bells for a dozen men
      Buried somewhere on the plain,
      It's my intent to beat that gent,
      I've come for the dandy's chain."

      Well the dandy faced the stranger's gaze,
      His coat was buttoned tight,
      A gun swang free above each knee,
      But the bells were hid from sight.

      "So, it's the dandy's silver bells
      On which your heart is set.
      That's a fancy pair of spurs you wear,
      Would you care to make a bet? 

      "The silver bells for the golden spurs,
      But I'll warn you from the start.
      You'll lose that bet and all you'll get
      Is a bullet through the heart."

      Well the stranger smiled his reckless grin
      And said, "If the dandy tries
      They'll find him dead with a chunk of lead
      Placed neat between the eyes."

      Then the stranger unbuckled his golden spurs
      And slid them along the bar,
      Said, "I'm callin' the hand of Dandy Ran,
      Come out wherever you are."

      Then slowly the dandy's hand went down
      And unbuttoned his lapel,
      And there it rest on checkered vest,
      The chain of silver bells.

      The stranger watched with narrowed eyes,
      The time had passed for talk.
      He hadn't drawed but his hands were clawed,
      Like the feet of a diving hawk.

      Then suddenly the dandy's hand went down
      For his right-hand gun.
      No one saw the stranger draw,
      But two shots rang out as one.

      The dandy stumbled to his knees
      With a look of wild surprise, and
      With a chunk of lead, like the stranger said,
      Placed neat between the eyes.

      The stranger stood at the end of the bar,
      Apparently unhurt,
      Except for a spot of red that slowly spread
      Beneath the left pocket of his shirt.

      The Golden Gulch is a ghost town now,
      Its mining days are done.
      There are coyote tracks in the tumbled shacks
      Bleached white by the desert sun.

      The Lucky Star is deserted, too,
      All littered with sand and straw,
      Where the laughter rang and the dandy's gang
      Once drank to his lightning draw.

      And the silver bells and the golden spurs
      Still hang in their place of fame,
      Above the bar at the Lucky Star
      Still waiting the victor's claim.

      Anonymous

Click to view at Amazon.com  "Silver Bells and Golden Spurs" is included in Cowboy Poetry, A Gathering (1986) where the editor notes "...Some say it is a Bruce Kiskaddon poem." 

  Larry Maurice has recorded the poem on his "Purt Near!" All My Favorites CD.  You can hear a sample of the poem performed by Larry at the Western Music Network

 

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new 10/19/04

Oh, the Indians an' the cowboys

Gene M. wrote to us:

I have a poem, or partial poem that I have wondered about for years. This piece is hand written on old, ruled note book paper. No title and unsigned.

I found it folded up in an old book that I acquired at a farm auction many years ago. A few years ago, I read the second verse in a book who's author (I believe) was Ramon Adams. Adams, I'm sure you know had written many books about the Old West, cowboy ways and ranching.

My question is: just who wrote this poem? My best guess is Curly Fletcher, but I don't know that. It's only a hunch.


Oh, the Indians an' the cowboys
They used to live in peace
Til the Goddamned dryland farmers
Come adriftin' from the east

Oh, down along the coulees
Where we used to run our steers
They're raisin' big potatoes now
An' little roastin' ears

Oh, where once was chaps an' saddles
Spurs, boots an' Stetson hats
The big steam tractors are rollin'
A tearin' up the flats

So, we'll have to sell our ponies
We'll throw away our twine
An' eat the sow down
Right close to the rind

Have an answer for Gene?  Email us.


answered 10/27/04
new 10/19/04

Never mind lord...                                                                       (Answered)            

RG writes:

I'm tryin to find a poem about a guy who is falling off a cliff and askin the lord for help;  the last line of the poem is ''never mind lord, I handled it myself.''  I think it is by Baxter Black, but I'm not sure.  Got any ideas?

It didn't take Tim Jobe long to answer this one...

It is the poem "Typical" by Waddie Mitchell.  

    It is in his book Waddie's Whole Load and also on his CD, Waddie Mitchell Live.  You can listen to part of the poem at the Western Jubilee site here.  

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new 10/19/04

Powder River, Let'er Buck                                                        (some answers)

Ed wanted to know if there was a poem with the words "Powder river, let 'er buck...A mile wide and an inch deep.  Too thick to plow, too thin to drink." 

We told him what we know: 

In short:  There's a traditional song called "Powder River, Let'er Buck" and in some versions, there are words similar to "A mile wide and an inch deep..."

The song or poem's origins are the subject of some disagreement.

Here's a selection of some sources on the song and the matter in general:

This web site discusses origins of the phrase that include an 1893 cattle drive and World War I soldiers:
http://wyomingathletics.collegesports.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/051104aaa.html


In The Hell-Bound Train (1973) author Glenn Ohrlin writes: 

The old World War I cry of the cowboys fighting in France became the title of one of Powder River Jack Lee's best songs.  Since Jack Lee wrote and sang this song, it is natural they would be thought of together.  This is a difficult piece to remember, as it doesn't have a story that unfolds but just mentions all the elements of a big roundup in Wyoming or Montana.  I heard him sing this in Arizona but couldn't remember how it went.  Years later, when I got to doing college concerts of cowboy songs, a discophile and folklorist, Harlan Daniel of Chicago, gave me a tape of Powder River Jack's old recording of this song.  It was a real pleasure to hear it again after some twenty-one years, and a lot of it seemed familiar.  Harlan also gave me a copy of Powder River Jack's book West of Powder River, which contains this poem.  Elements of the poem and the "hollers" between verses have entered tradition by themselves.  For instance, former rodeo announcer Chip Morris would say of a bucking horse, "This horse is from Powder River; Powder River is a mile wide, an inch deep, too dusty to swim, and too muddy to plow!"  Maybe Jack made the song partly of traditional sayings.  Anyway,
it's a good description of a big roundup in the northern cow country.

In "Poems and Songs on the Rodeo Trail" in Cowboy Poets & Cowboy Poetry Glen Ohrlin also writes this amusing bit:

...I was happy to find that lots of cowboys still know a bunch of this stuff when I started my own working life.  In Tucson, Arizona in 1944 I met Powder River Jack Lee, a great performer of real cowboy songs.  He seemed to know them all, so I learned early on it was possible to know a hell of a lot of songs.  Once in Tucson about 1977, an elderly gent stepped up to me during intermission of a concert and said he recalled songs that Powder River Jack had sung at his ranch near Sasabe. He said that he gave Jack his brother's address in New York, and that eventually Jack looked him up.  His brother hauled Jack down to the New York Stock Exchange for a look-see, and Jack stopped everything with an ear-splitting holler, "Powder River, Let 'er buck!" So he couldn't have been all bad.

Powder River Let'er Buck by Jack H. Lee (1930) includes a poem called "The Roundup," which is like many of the traditional versions of "Powder River," but does not include "A mile wide and an inch deep."

There are many references to Jack Lee in music histories, many about whether he was the author of several poems and songs now attributed to others (most notably, "Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail (or The Sierry Petes" by Gail Gardner and "The Strawberry Roan" by Curley Fletcher).

In The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing and Other Songs Cowboys Sing collected and edited by Guy Logsdon, it says:  

One of the colorful characters in cowboy songs and poems was Jack H. "Powder River" Lee, who, along with his wife Kitty, was a cowboy entertainer in the twenties and thirties.  The Lees told stories and sang about cowboys, and left the
impression that "Powder River" Jack was a genuine, old-time cowboy.  He also claimed to be the author of some traditional songs such as Gail Gardner's "Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail."  No matter what he claimed--from being in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to being the friend of five different presidents and on and on and on -- Lee was an entertaining singer.  His
first book, "Powder River Jack and Kitty Lee's Cowboy Song Book, " was privately printed in 1926.  In 1936 he re-printed it and published three more volumes, but there was repetition within each.  Even allowing for his propensity for elaboration and exaggeration, Lee did know many songs; Glen Ohrlin credits "Powder River" Jack as the source for many of his songs, and Dallas "Nevada Slim" Turner also praises Lee.

In Old-Time Cowboy Songs (1988), editor Hal Cannon introduces the song:

Powder River Jack Lee, a performer in early wild west shows, probably wrote this one, though his claims to authorship of certain other poems throws a shadow on his credibility -- who knows.  Anyway, it's a great song full of imagery and a lexicon of cowboy lingo.

At the end of the song, included is:

(Shout)
She's one mile wide, an inch deep, and she rolls uphill from Texas.

In Git Along, Little Dogies; Songs and Songmakers of the American West (1975), author John White, in writing about Curley Fletcher's "The Strawberry Roan," says:

...Curly Fletcher's authorship of his best-known poem once was challenged in print by an itinerant cowboy troubadour and poet named Powder River Jack Lee, who hailed from Deer Lodge, Montana.  In 1934 Lee published a song folio which contained "The Strawberry Roan," with a statement that the text was the work of one Frank Chamberlain of Burbank, California....Powder River Jack made other extravagant claims in the same book...I knew Jack Lee and am convinced that he suffered from an overactive imagination.

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updated 11/17/04
posted 10/19/04

Turbulence                                                                            (answered)

Tara wrote to us looking' for ""Purt Near!" by S. Omar Barker and she also asked:

I am also wondering about another poem I heard by a campfire about a cowboy on an airplane that hits turbulence.  He grabs his bag and rides that turbulence like it was a bull. Do you know of this poem and where I can get a copy?

Now we knew Chris had asked about this before and so we asked Tara if she had any more clues.  She said:

It's about an Australian cowboy that has never flown and has to get on a plane to go to a wedding. In the poem, a flight attendant asks the cowboy for his bag, which is on the floor between his feet, and he says something like "I'll keep it myself, and it's called a swag..  The plane hits turbulence.  He's never been bucked yet, so he tightens his belt, grabs the swag between his feet and says "Buck you b******, buck!"  This is all I can add, it's a really great poem.  

Well that helped!  We discovered:

The poem is "Turbulence" by Australia's Murray Hartin, and here's his web site: http://www.murrayhartin.com/  He has it on a recordin' noted here:  http://www.nakedpoets.com/PoetsWhat'snew.html  and here: http://www.nfspublicity.com.au/nfs89/8917.htm

We were pleased to hear from Murray, himself in November, 2004.  He wrote: 

...I just thought I'd drop you a line having noticed there had been inquiries with regard to my poem "Turbulence" on your
website. I wrote the poem about a real-life character in Billy Hayes, a fourth-generation station-owner (ranch) from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Australia. You can make up your own mind about the poem but the man himself exists and he and his wife Jan run a home-stay tourist camp on Deep Well station called Ooraminna Bush Camp. Deep Well is 450 square miles and they run Hereford cattle. If anyone is planning a trip to Alice Springs MAKE SURE you take a trip ut to meet Billy and Jan at Ooraminna. Billy was a top rodeo rider, jockey and stockman. He's slowed down a bit now. 

I do have my own CD out called "Muz!" that features "Turbulence" as well as a number of my other pieces.  You can obtain this by contacting me on this e-mail address. If anyone is interested in distributing the CD in the US, please contact me.
I am also member of a successful comedy poetry troupe called The Naked Poets and we have just released our fourth CD.

Cheers

Muz

Read another poem by Murray here at the BAR-D.

Visit Murray's web site: http://www.murrayhartin.com/ 

      

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updated 10/19/04
new 12/18/02

Santa and Emissions Control                                                           (Answered)

Karen wrote to us:

"I'm trying to find a copy of a poem which one a cowboy poetry award at a competition in Colorado (I think). I don't know by who or where, but my mother described it as ah hysterical description of Santa receiving notification that had had to submit the sleigh and team to an emissions inspection."  

Her mom added: 

I heard the poem on a Denver talk show, probably AM KOA, a number of years ago at Xmastime when Denver was trying out the new auto emissions stations and trying to decide whether to keep the program.

It went so - Santa received a notice that his vehicle was not in compliance and to appear at his nearest emissions testing center promptly.  At the station, as the inspector proceeds to insert the analyzer into Santa's exhaust system, i.e. reindeer butts, Santa warns the inspector, "You outtn't do that."  Inspector proceeded with the test anyway and particulant matter flies everywhere.

If you can locate this poem I'd love to have it.  It was my understanding that it came from a cowboy poetry contest that year - is there a Rocky Mountain annual contest?

 

And we stumbled on the answer:

Click for Amazon  We came upon "Santy's Emission Sticker" in Baxter Black's A Cowful of Cowboy Poetry.  The poem starts:

"The word came down last Christmas that Santy was not in compliance...."

and has a line:

""Connect the hoses!" the head man said.  The reindeer got suspicious."

The book is available through Baxter Black's
web site and also at Amazon and from SilverCreek Books & Music

 

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updated 08/24/05
updated 11/16/04
new 10/19/04

Reincarnation set to music?                                               Answered!

Larry wrote: Someone told me that Wallace McRae's poem, Reincarnation, has been set to music.  I couldn't find anything on the net.  Can you help?  

Well, we couldn't....but a visitor came by and told us that Michael Martin Murphey had recorded that on his Cowboy Songs CD:


You can see details on Michael Martin Murphey's site and over at Amazon you can listen to a clip.

Then John came by and told us it was on the Riders in the Sky Cowboy Way CD as well.


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new 9/25/04

Early Prescott Rodeo Photo 


Mayme and Oscar Connell

We hope someone out there can help our  Honored Guest, Georgie Sicking find a photo she's been after for some time: Her mother Mayme Belle Tennille (Connell) and her friend Mae Imus (Young) put on an exhibition in Prescott, Arizona about 1916 -- give or take a few years -- at the Prescott Rodeo to show that  "women could do these things." Georgie remembers a photo of the two with a steer stretched out between them.  She'd very much like to find a copy of that photo.  

Can you help?  Email us.


updated 7/12/07
updated 5/16/06
updated 2/22/06
new 9/24/04

Bill Venero  and "The Ride of Paul Venarez" by Eben E. Rexford                                                              (Answered)

Robert wrote to us about the widely known traditional song, "Bill Venero":

But what of the original poem by Eben E. Rexford, "The Ride of Paul Venarez"?  I have yet to see a copy of this, though it is the undisputed origin of the song "Billy Venero."  According to Jim Bob Tinsley in He Was Singin' This Song, the poem was first published in the weekly newspaper Youth's Companion on Dec. 29, 1881.  It was also included in The Peerless Reciter (pub. 1894) as well as The Speaker's Garland and Literary Bouquet (pub. 1899),

The poem is also included in One Hundred Choice Selections for Reading and Recitations, No. 21, edited by Phineas Garrett (1884) and  Songs of the American West, edited by Richard W. Lingenfelther & Richard A. Dwyer (1968).

The Ride of Paul Venarez

Paul Venarez heard them say, in the frontier town that day,
     That a band of Red Plume's warriors was upon the trail of death;
Heard them tell of a murder done—three men killed at Rocky Run.
     "They're in danger up at Crawford's," said Venarez under breath.

"Crawford's"—thirty miles away—was a settlement that lay
     In a green and pleasant valley of the mighty wilderness;
Half a score of homes was there, and in one a maiden fair
     Held the heart of Paul Venarez—"Paul Venarez' little Bess."

So no wonder he grew pale when he heard the settlers' tale
     Of the men he had seen murdered yesterday at Rocky Run.
"Not a soul will dream," he said, "of the danger that's ahead;
     By my love for little Bessie, I must see that something's done."

Not a moment he delayed when his brave resolve was made.
     "Why, my man," his comrades told him when they knew his daring plan.
"You are going straight to death." But he answered, "Save your breath;
     I may fail to get to Crawford's, but I'll do the best I can."

O'er the forest trail he sped, and his thoughts flew on ahead
     To the little band at Crawford's, thinking not of danger near.
"Oh, God help me save," cried he, "little Bess!" And fast and free,
     Trusty Nell bore on the hero of the far-away frontier.

Low and lower sank the sun. He drew rein at Rocky Run;
     "Here these men met death, my Nellie," and he stroked his horse's man.
"So will they we go to warn, ere the breaking of the morn,
     If we fail. God help us, Nellie!" Then he gave his horse the rein.

Sharp and keen a rifle-shot woke the echoes of the spot.
     "Oh, my Nellie, I am wounded," cried Venarez, with a moan,
And the warm blood from his side spurted out in a red tide,
     And he trembled in the saddle, and his face had ashy grown.

"I will save them yet," he cried. "Bessie Lee shall know I died
     For her sake." And then he halted in the shelter of a hill.
From his buckskin shirt he took, with weak hands a little book;
     And he tore a blank leaf from it. "This," said he, "shall be my will."

From a branch a twig he broke, and he dipped his pen of oak
     In the red blood that was dripping from the wound below the heart.
"Rouse," he wrote, "before too late, Red Plume's warriors lie in wait.
     Good-by Bess! God bless you always." Then he felt the warm tears start.

Then he made his message fast, love's first letter, and its last;
     To his saddle-bow he tied it, while his lips were white with pain.
"Bear my message, if not me, safe to little Bess," said he.
     Then he leaned down in the saddle, and clutched hard the sweaty mane.

Just at dusk, a horse of brown, flecked with foam, came panting down
     To the settlement at Crawford, and she stopped at Bessie's door.
But her rider seemed asleep. Ah, his slumber was so deep
     Bessie's voice could never wake him, if she called forever more.

You will hear the story told by the young and by the old
     In the settlement at Crawford's, of the night when Red Plume came;
Of the sharp and bloody fight; how the chief fell, and the flight
     Of the panic-stricken warriors. Then they speak Venarez' name

In an awed and reverent way, as men utter "Let us pray,"
     As we speak the name of heroes, thinking how they lived and died;
So his memory is kept green, while his face and heaven between
     Grow the flowers Bessie planted, ere they laid her by his side.

by Eben E. Rexford (1848-1916)

 

Eben E. Rexford (1848-1916) was a prolific writer, widely published. He was best known his lifetime for "Silver Threads Among the Gold," which became a top-selling song.

You can read about him at the Songwriters Hall of Fame web site and there is a piece about him at the Northern Illinois University Library web site, in their digitized version of The House of Beadle & Adams and its Dime and Nickel Novels: The Story of a Vanished Literature by Albert Johannsen, University of Oklahoma Press, c. 1950.

 

More on Bill Venero

Author and historian Stan Brown shared an article he wrote originally for for the Payson Roundup about the cowboy classic, "Bill Venero" (it's also known by "Billy Venero," "Billy Vanero" and other variations.)  Stan, who now lives in Prescott, was the Payson, Arizona town historian and an archivist for the Rim Country Museum.  He wrote two historical articles a week for the Payson Roundup (search the Archive there for many of his articles).  He's a retired Methodist minister (more about Stan here).

Following is Stan's essay and the words as they are printed in Cowboy Songs & Other Frontier Ballads by John Lomax. 

 

          BACK WHEN ...

Billy Vanero Brought A Warning
By Stan Brown

It was 120 years ago this summer when a horse rider came racing to Payson with a warning that the Apache were coming this way on a bloody raid.  It was only a few decades later that a lengthy poem was set to music and sung throughout the Rim Country about that rider, Billy Vanero. and how he tried to save the love of his life, Bessie Lee, before the raiders could get to her. 

 

Like many, if not most of the stories, the versions grow with the years and each teller of tales clings to his story.  Being a fool to go where angels fear to tread, I took another look at Billy (sometimes spelled Billie) Vanero (variously spelled Venero, Vinero).

 

Frank Gillette, in his book Pleasant Valley (1984), remembers Julian Journigan singing “Billy Vanero” around the dying embers of a campfire.  Gillette called it “the most tender & touching love song ever written, particularly since it was based on an actual happening.”  Billy was shot by Apaches while racing to warn his Bessie, and as he died he scribbled a love note with a warning of the attack.  His horse carried it to her door, and when she buried him she planted flowers around his grave “till they lay her by his side.”   

 

A 1958 edition of Tonto Trails (a vacation guide published by Norm's Publishing House in Mesa , Arizona ) carries a fanciful story by Jack Grant identifying Billy Vanero with the Apache raiders who left a trail of blood through the Rim Country. However he has the wrong year (1881 instead of 1882), says the two Meadows boys were killed and the father escaped (which is not true; father and son were killed), and insists that Tonto Chief DelShay was the leader of the band.  But of course DelShay was killed in 1874 and it was not a Rim Country Tonto band that made the raid.  When one reads that many errors the tendency is to question the veracity of the author, but when things are in print they take on a life of their own.

 

In Guy Logsdon’s 1989 book of cowboy songs, (The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing, University of Illinois Press) he writes, “After singing `Billie Vanero’ Riley Neal said, `It’s wrote about the Verde Valley and Prescott.’”  Then in an interview with a couple of local ranchers (who are still living and shall go without names), Logsdon heard another version.  He quotes the rancher saying, “The ride occurred between Pleasant Valley and Payson…The ride was to warn ranchers about a band of Apache raiders (in July 1882).  Billie Vanero was in Pleasant Valley when the escape and raids started, and he made his courageous ride to warn the William Burch Ranch in Payson.”  Logsdon goes on, “It is speculated that the Vanero of the song was buried in one of the unmarked graves near Pleasant Valley or Payson.”

 

It is no wonder the troubadour from Idaho had come this way looking for the Vanero grave.  Terry Raff, “The Singing Mountain Man,” was visiting Payson looking for the story behind this song in his repertoire.  "I sing about old Billy,” he told me, “but I want to find his grave. I understand it was while he was riding to warn the people of Payson about the Apache renegades that they shot and killed him. Do you know where he was buried?"   We talked to Ana Mae Deming, whose roots go as deep as anyone's in these parts, and she spoofed the whole idea. She knows the cowboy poetry about old Billy, but insists it had nothing to do with Payson, nor is there any grave of his to be located.

 

Let’s consider some other sources for the Billy Vanero story. On December 29, 1881 a popular national weekly called the Youth’s Companion published a poem titled “The Ride of Paul Venarez,” written by Eben E. Rexford of Wisconsin .  The poem mentioned an Indian chief named Red Plume, the settlement of Crawford and a district called Rocky Run. Though mortally wounded, Paul Venarez fought off a band of Indian warriors and rode to warn the village of an impending attack. The long narrative poem became a favorite recitation for dramatic speakers, though Rexford was seldom if ever given credit for the poem. In 1910 a song titled “Billy Venero” appeared in the collection Cowboy Songs & Other Frontier Ballads by John Lomax (MacMillan Publishing Co. NY).  It followed almost to the letter details of “The Ride of Paul Venarez.”  From that date on variations of the song were published by others, usually set in the wild west of Arizona , and the cowboy poets had taken it up. In 1969 an edition of Cowboy and Western Songs by Austin and Alta Fife announced that the “real Billy Veniro” story occurred near Payson, and said his grave is in our town.

 

It is a matter of record that in the summer of 1882 L. P. Nash, who at the time was postmaster at Fort Reno in Tonto Basin , sent a rider to Payson, Pine and Strawberry (where his wife and children lived) with news of the outbreak. Fort Reno was a rendezvous point for several units of cavalry who were in pursuit of the renegades. Thus Nash was one of the first to learn of the renegades and the direction they were headed, toward Green Valley (then the name for Payson). However, the rider with the warning was not the legendary Billy Vanero, nor did he encounter any Apaches on the way.

 

Of course, every cowboy poem has a life of its own, so let’s just leave a good song and its story right here in the Rim Country.

© Stanley Brown, All Rights Reserved
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Stan who now lives in Prescott, was the Payson, Arizona town historian and an archivist for the Rim Country Museum.  He wrote two historical articles a week for the Payson Roundup (search the Archive there for many of his articles).  He's a retired Methodist minister (more about Stan here).

Here's the version that appears in Cowboy Songs & Other Frontier Ballads by John Lomax, along with the note about the title:

Bill Venero*

Bill Venero heard them say
In an Arizona town one day
That a band of Apache Indians
Were up on the trail that way
Heard them tell of murder done
Three men killed at Rocky Run
"They're in danger at the cow-ranch"
Said Venero under his breath.

The cow-ranch, forty miles away
Was a little place that lay
In a deep and shady valley of the mighty wilderness;
Half a score of homes were there
And in one a maiden fair
Held the heart of Bill Venero: Bill Venero's Little Bess.

So no wonder he grew pale
When he heard the settler's tale
Of the men that he'd seen murdered yesterday at Rocky Run.
"Sure as there's a God above
I will save the girl I love,
By my love for little Bessie I will see that something's done."

Not a moment he delayed
When his brave resolve was made
"Why, man," his comrades told him when they heard of his daring plan,
"You are riding straight to death."
But he answered, "Save your breath,
I may never reach the cow-ranch, but I'll do the best I can."

As he crossed the alkali
All his thoughts flew on ahead
To the little band at cow-ranch not of danger near;
With his quirt's unceasing whirl
And the jingle of his spurs
Little brown Chapo bore the cowboy o'er the far-away frontier.

Lower and lower sank the sun;
He drew rein at Rocky Run.
"Here those men met death, my Chapo" -- and he stroked his glossy mane.
"So will those we got to warn
Ere the coming of the morn
If we fail -- God help my Bessie."  And he started on again.

Sharp and clear a rifle shot
Woke the echoes of the spot
"I am wounded," cried Venero, as he swayed from side to side.
"While there's life there's always hope;
Slowly onward I will lope--
If I fail to reach the cow-ranch, Bessie Lee shall know I tried."

"I will save her yet," he cried.
"Bessie Lee shall know I tried."
And for her sake then he halted in the shadow of the hill;
From his buckskin shirt he took
With weak hands a little book;
Tore a blank laef from its pages saying, "This shall be my will."

From a limb a pen he broke,
And he dipped his pen of oak
In the warm blood that was spurting from a wound above his heart.
:Rouse," he wrote before too late.
"Apache warriors lie in wait.
Good-by, Bess, God bless you darling," and he felt the cold tears start.

Then he made his message fast,
Love's first message and its last;
To the saddle horn he tied it, and his lips were white with pain.
"Take this message, if not me,
Straight to little Bessie Lee."
Then he leaned down in the saddle and clutched the sweaty mane.

Just at dusk a horse of brown
Wet with sweat came panting down
The little lane at cow-ranch, stopped in front of Bessie's door;
But the cowboy was asleep
And his slumber was so deep
Little Bess could never wake him though she tried for evermore.

You have heard the story told
By the young and by the old
Away down yonder at the cow-ranch the night the Apaches came;
Of that sharp and bloody fight,
How the chief fell in the flight
Of the panic-stricken warriors when they heard Venero's name.

In an awed and reverent way
As men utter, "Let us pray,"
As we speak the name of heroes thinking how they lived and died
So the heavens and eart between
Keep a little flower green
That little Bess had planted ere they laid her by his side.

*In other versions "Paul Venerez."

 

Another version, sung by Marty Robbins, ends:

Many years have passed away
And the maiden's hair is gray
But still she places roses
On Bill Venero's grave.

 

Cy wrote to us:  The third line of Billy Venero is not "were up on the trail that way."   It is" were upon the trail of death."  It has to be. That's the way I learned it and its obvious: "death" rhymes with "breath" in the sixth line.

We acknowledged that most folk songs have many different versions.  Many sources cite the version above, but in Glenn Ohrlin's The Hell-Bound Train, the first verse agrees with Cy's recollection:


      Billy Venero heard them say in an Arizona town one day
      A band of Apache Indians were on the trail of death.
      He heard tales of murder done, three men killed at Rocky Run.
      "They're in danger at the cow ranch," cried Venero under his breath.

Douglas wrote to us:

....were upon the trail of death..... [scans better and that's the way I first heard it]
 
.....how the chief fell, and the flight of the panic-stricken warriors, and they breathe Vanero's name
 
in an awed and reverent way            
                       [the way I heard it from the old folks and it lets "in an awed and reverent way" make sense and deepens the image and meaning] 

 

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new 8/19/04

Where I Once Had Cattle I Now Have Sheep

Billy wrote to us: 

Can you help me locate the rest of this poem?

'Once when the west was mine, the rolling grasslands and the mountain slopes were dotted with my herds of deer and antelope.  Then whiteman came and claimed it all except the barren desert and that was left for me.  Where I once had cattle I now have sheep.

My grandfather read it in a Pittsburg newspaper published in the mid to late 1930's <1936, 37, 38>-- either the Pittsburg Sun Telegraph or the Pittsburg Press.

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updated 10/19/04
new 8/19/04

Up and Turbulence                                                          (half answered)

Chris wrote to us: 

I recently heard some cowboy poetry at the Winthrop, Washington 49'er Days, Ride to Rendezvous.  I heard two poems that I am interested in finding.  One is about the use of the word "Up." The other is called "Turbulence," about a man flying for the first time.  I don't know who wrote either one and the man reciting them didn't know either. 

Reciters should certainly give credit to poets...we hope to find the answer.

In October, 2004, we found the answer to the "Turbulence" poem.  See above.

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new 8/19/04

Buckaroo and Angel                                                                        (Answered)

Dick wrote to us: 

Gang, I'm looking for the lyrics to a poem I've heard recited a few times over the years, but have never heard the title of the poem or the author's name.  It's a poem about a buckaroo that gets tossed out of heaven for trying to make time with an angel.  I remember a few lines:

"He's only been here half a day,
And already he's led an angel astray..."

It's a fairly old and fairly long poem - Can anybody supply the rest of the words?

We did happen to know that one.  We told Dick: That poem is Bruce Kiskaddon's "The Cow-Boy's Dream."  It is in his collected poems and also a book of his poems published by CowboyMiner.com.  We have a feature about Kiskaddon here and we list the contents of those books.

The Cow Boy's Dream

A cow boy and his trusty pal
Were camped one night by an old corral;
They were keeping a line on the boss's steers
And looking for calves with lengthy ears.
The summer work was long since through
And only the winter branding to do.
When he went to rest there was frost on his bed
But he pulled the tarp up over his head;
And into his blankets he burrowed deep,
He soon got warm and was fast asleep.
He dreamed he was through with his wayward past
And had landed safe in Heaven at last.

A city was there with its pearly gate
And the golden streets were wide and straight
The marble palaces gleamed and shone
And the choir sang 'round the great white throne.
Outside there were trees and meadows green--
Such a beautiful range he had never seen,
Great rivers of purest waters flowed
Though it never rained nor it never snowed.

He stood aside on the golden street,
There were heavy spurs on his booted feet,
His bat wing chaps were laced with whang,
But he listened and looked while the angels sang.
He noticed he was the only one
With a broad brimmed hat and a big six gun.

So he said to a saint, "I'd shore admire
To be dressed like one of that angel choir,
Instead of these chaps and spurs and gun;
And I reckon as how it could be done."
So they took him into a room aside
And they fastened wings on his toughened hide.
They fitted him out with a flowing robe,
Like the lady who looks in the crystal glove.
They gave him a crown and a golden harp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy's tarp.

He twanged his harp and he sang a while,
Then he thought of something that made him smile.
Said he "I reckon these wings would do
To show some mustangs a thing or two.
I'll jump a bunch and I'll yell and whoop,
I'll kick their tails and I'll flop and swoop;
I'll light a straddle of one of the things,
And I'll flop his flanks with my angel wings.
I'll ride him bare-back, but if I fail,
And he bucks me off, I'll simply sail."
He hunted wild horses in his dream,
But all he found was the charist team
That Old Elija drove in there,
And to pick on them would hardly be fair.

So he seated himself beneath a tree
And rested his crown upon his knee.
He watched the beautiful angels go
Flying and fluttering to and fro.
At last one landed and started to walk,
She came up close and began to talk.
She had lovely hair of golden brown
And was dressed in a flimsy silken gown.
She had dimpled cheeks, her eyes were blue,
And her fair white skin was beautiful too.

The cow boy gazed at the angel's charms
And attempted to clasp her within his arms.
"Stop!  Stop!" She cried, "Or, I'll make complaints
To the great white throne and the ruling saints."
So the cow boy halted I must confess
And failed to bestow that fond caress.

Said he, "Miss Angel," It's shore too bad.
This sort of a country makes me sad.
Where there ain't no night and it's always day,
And the beautiful ladies won't even play.
When there's wonderful houses and golden streets,
But nobody sleeps and nobody eats.
Them beautiful rivers, it's sad to think.
There ain't no hosses or cows to drink.
With all this grass a goin' to seed
And there ain't no critters to eat the feed.

A man can't gamble--There's so much gold
He could pick up more than his clothes would hold.
What's the use of the Judge and the great white throne
Where troubles or fights was never known?
I'm sorry miss but I'll tell you true,
This ain't no place for a buckaroo."

Then she asked him about his former life
And learned he had never possessed a wife.
But this angel lady so sweet and nice,
Informed him that she had been married twice.
Her husbands had both been quiet men
But if she had it to do again,
She's have to decide between just two.
A sailor boy or a buckaroo.
She seated herself upon his knees
And gave his neck such a hearty squeeze--
Just then they heard an excited call,
'Twas a gray old saint on the city wall.

He flopped his robes and he waved his arm
Till the crowd all gathered in great alarm;
And then the cow boy stood alone,
Before the judge and the great white throne.
"What's this?" the Judge of Creation cried.
"How come this fellow to get inside?
Age must be dimming St. Peter's eye
To let a spirit like that get by.
Just look at his face with its desert brown,
And his bandy legs 'neath his angel gown.
He's a buckaroo, I know them well,
They don't allow them even in Hell.
He hasn't been here a half a day
And he started an angel to go astray.
We can't permit him to stay atall.
Just pitch him over the outside wall."

So the saints and the angels gave him a start
And he went toward the Earth like a falling dart.
He never remembered the time he lit
For he wakened before the tumble quit.
The winter wind blew cold and sharp
And the frost lay thick on the cow boy's tarp.

His beautiful vision had come to grief,
So he baked his biscuits and fried some beef.
And drank some coffee black and strong;
But all that day as he rode along
He thought of the saint who had butted in,
And he said to himself with a wicked grin,
"I wish I had holt of that old saint chap,
I'd grab his whiskers and change his map.
I'd jump on his frame and I'd stomp aroun'
Till I tromped him out of his saintly gown."

And all of his life as he roamed and toiled,
He thought of his vision so sadly spoiled.
And the meddlesome saint that has caused it all
When he gave the alarm from the Jasper wall.
He didn't repent nor he didn't pray,
But he always wished they had let him stay.

From Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947

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new 5/13/04

I Taught My Dog to Set                                                                         (Answered)

Jen writes: I am looking for a poem that I think is new. I believe it begins "I taught my dog to set." It is a short poem that was read on NPR during a cowboy poetry segment, but it is not by Baxter Black. The poem is about a dog owner who teaches his dog to set and lay, and when he teaches the dog to speak the dog corrects the owner and says "it is 'sit' and 'lie.'" Any ideas?

Mike Dunn knew the answer. It is Wallace McRae's poem, "Maggie."  The poem is in Wallace McRae's book, The Cowboy Curmudgeon: 

and the poem is posted in a news article right here.

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updated 6/23/14
updated 8/24/05
updated 6/15/04
new 5/13/04

We Don't Know How You Take It    (This God Forsaken Land)           (Answered)

Candace writes: I am a native of Wyoming and have been digging for quite awhile now to try and find a specific poem.  It is one myself and others in my family vaguely remember, but we can't seem to finish it.

We don't know how you take it
Those city folks declare
Or how you make a livin
Or do you live on air?

We tell them of our fertile fields
And flocks of golden sheep....

As you can see, we have left out quite a bit.  Could you please let me know who wrote this and what they called it?

Lisa wrote to us and sent the poem. She said: This was given to me on a postcard when I first moved to Wyoming many years ago. I recognized the paragraph right away as this has always been a favorite of mine. She typed the poem.  We're a bit hesitant to post it because we don't know the correct copyright information.  But since we've seen this on the internet attributed to "anonymous," we'll post it and hope that someone might know the author or have more information:

This God Forsaken Land

This "God Forsaken Land" they call it,
As they gaze with pitying eye,
"Nothing here but sand and sage brush,
And a vast expanse of sky"

"We don't know how you stand it,"
These city folks declare,
"How do you make a living-
Or do you live on air?"

We could tell them of our ranches
Where great herds of cattle roam,
Or of the flocks of woolies
That claim Wyoming for their home

We could show to them our oil wells,
That pour forth liquid gold,
And in these places they call "barren"
There's deep, rich veins of coal.

They may not see our fertile valleys
With there fields of hay and grain,
But nestling there among the hills,
We have them - just the same.

The "loneliness" they talk about,
To us is God's own peace.
There's so much beauty all around,
Our thanks shall never cease.

Our streams are full of rainbow trout.
We've antelope and elk and deer,
We're a mile up nearer heaven,
And the air is pure and clear.

Our sunsets glow with color,
And in the pearly dawn of morn
The pungent scent of sage drifts down
On a breeze thats mountain born

If they only lived here for a while
Those folks would understand
Why we only smile at them
About this "God Forsaken Land."

We don't know much of city life
Or where they seek God there,
But we do know in Wyoming
That we find him everywhere.

So we'll leave to them the cities
Where the living is so grand
And we'll stay in Wyoming
In our God Beloved Land.

by Juanita M Leach

(We'd welcome any copyright information -- and Lisa, we tried to thank you but our mail was returned.)

This just may be "the rest of the story," received in August, 2005, just as it is posted here:

I am V. June Blevins Collins. My husband Gerald J. “Jerry” Collins is the brother in-law of Veltie Pruitt, and he the husband of Ina B. (Collins) Pruitt, Jerry’s oldest sister. (1905- 1991), she was a well known Western Artist of Oregon, she has to her credit, many paintings of Steens Mountain grandeur. Veltie a well remembered guide, and outfitter on the Steens those many years, was also a well known prominent early day boating, and fishing trip guide, on the Mckenzie, Deschutes, Rogue Rivers .

Robert Pruitt a brother of Veltie Pruitt had a son Kenneth Pruitt,  who owned the Hotel at French Glenn, Oregon located on the lower reaches of the Steens Mountains, on the Harney Valley side.  Kenneth and wife lived there, and run the hotel for many years.  

Kenneth Pruitt wrote the poem “This God Forsaken Country.”  It hung on display over the fireplace in the hotel for many years, in an approximate of 30” X 40” size. Verses dispersed among drawings done by his aunt Ina B. Pruitt,  there many travelers, and guests read, and enjoyed.

We then heard rumors that Kenneth’s poem had been plagiarized by some one.  

Along in the 1970’s my husband Jerry, and I were in Cody Wyoming, where we both saw, and I bought the card from a display rack. The poem had been changed only to meet qualifications to fit Wyoming, and was signed by a woman by the name of Leach. I brought the card home, and showed it to my sister in-law Ina Pruitt. She was actually saddened on seeing proof, that such a sneaky act had been committed. Finances however, prevented any action from being taken to reverse this disclosure.

“Here The Truth Be Known,”  and felt like a long awaited token of appreciation, by those which remember.

Sincerely,

V. June Collins
[Ed. note: sadly, V. June Collins died in 2010]
 

Here are just a couple of the Wyoming postcards:

 


In June, 2014, Cory Meacham contacted us, determined to track down the rightful author of the poem. He has written two articles about his search, which include additional information and images: on published in Wyoming,
"Who Wrote This Godforsaken Poem?," and the other in Oregon, "Literary Intrigue: Did Wyoming author steal poem from Oregon or vice versa?"
 

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updated 10/30/06
new 5/13/04

Chittenden's "Old Fort Phantom Hill"                                                         Answered

Kelly is looking for a poem by William Lawrence "Larry" Chittenden about "old Fort Phantom close to Abilene."   

The poem is in Chittenden's 1893 book, Ranch Verses:

 

Old Fort Phantom Hill
(An abandoned fort in Jones County, Texas. Supposed to be haunted.)

On the breezy Texas border, on the prairies far away,
Where the antelope is grazing and the Spanish ponies play;
Where the tawny cattle wander through the golden incensed hours,
And the sunlight woos a landscape clothed in royal robes of flowers;
Where the Elm and Clear Fork mingle, as they journey to the sea,
And the night-wind sobs sad stories o'er a wild and lonely lea;
Where of old the dusky savage and the shaggy bison trod,
And the reverent plains are sleeping 'midst drowsy dreams of God;
Where the twilight loves to linger, e'er night's sable robes are cast
'Round grim-ruined, spectral chimneys, telling stories of the past,
There upon an airy mesa, close beside a whispering rill
There to-day you'll find the ruins of the Old Fort Phantom Hill.

Years ago, so runs the legend, 'bout the year of Fifty-three,
This old fort was first established by the gallant soldier, Lee;
And to-day the restless spirits of his proud and martial band
Haunt those ghostly, gloomy chimneys in the Texas border land.
There once every year at midnight, when the chilling Northers roar,
And the storm-kind breathes its thunder from the heights of Labrador,
When the vaulted gloom re-echoes with the owls—"whit-tu-whoo!"
And the stealthy cayote answers with his lonely, long "ki-oo!"
Then strange phantoms flit in silence through that weeping mesquite vale,
And the reveilles come sounding o'er the old McKenzie Trail,
Then the muffled drums beat muster and the bugles sadly trill,
And the vanished soldiers gather 'round the heights of Phantom Hill.

Then pale bivouac fires are lighted and those gloomy chimneys glow,
While the grizzled veterans muster from the taps of long ago,
Lee and Johnston and McKenzie, Grant and Jackson, Custer, too,
Gather there in peaceful silence waiting for their last review;
Blue and gray at length united on the high redoubts of fame,
Soldiers all in one grand army, that will answer in God's name.
Yes, they rest on heights of glory in that fair, celestial world,
"Where the war-drum throbs no longer, and the battle-flags are furled."
And to-day the birds are singing where was heard the cannons' roar,
For the gentle doves are nesting 'midst those ruins of the war.
Yes, the mocking-birds re-echo: "Peace on earth, to men good will,"
And the "swords are turned to ploughshares" in the land of Phantom Hill.

by William Lawrence Chittenden, from Ranch Verses, 1893

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updated 9/28/06
new 5/13/04

The Hell-Bound Train                                                               (Answered)

Loron wrote to us "In search of old poem that was dear to me": 

I'm looking to find a copy of an old poem my Uncle George used to recite to me.  I'm 65 years old and I was real little when we used to have family reunions.  He was among the last of the old cowboys who rode for the XIT Ranch in Texas.

It starts out, "A drunkard fell on the bar room floor, he had drunk so much he could drink no more.  He fell asleep with a troubled brain and dreamed that he rode on a hell bound train.  There were gents in fine suits and beggars in rags, pretty young women and withered old hags... I don't remember the rest of it.  Please help me find out if any of the poets know of it and where I could obtain a copy.

We recognized the old folk song, "The Hellbound Train."  Like most folk songs, there are many variations, and here's one:

The Hell-Bound Train

A Texas cowboy lay down on a barroom floor,
Having drunk so much he could drink no more;
So he fell asleep with a troubled brain,
To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train.

The engine with murderous blood was damp,
And was brilliantly lit with a brimstone lamp;
An imp for fuel was shoveling bones,
While the furnace rang with a thousand groans.

The boiler was filled with lager beer,
And the Devil himself was the engineer;
The passengers were a most motley crew
Church member, atheist, Gentile and Jew.

Rich men in broadcloth, beggars in rags,
Handsome young ladies, withered old hags.
Yellow and black men, red, brown and white,
All chained together -- O God, what a sight!

While the train rushed on at an awful pace,
The sulfurous fumes scorched their hands and face;
Wider and wider the country grew,
As faster and faster the engine flew

Louder and louder the thunder crashed,
And brighter and brighter the lightning flashed;
Hotter and hotter the air became,
Till the clothes were burnt from each quivering frame.

And out of the distance there arose a yell,
"Ha, ha," said the Devil, "we're nearing hell!"
Then, oh, how the passengers shrieked with pain,
And begged the Devil to stop the train.

But he capered about and danced with glee,
And laughed and joked at their misery.
"My faithful friends, you have done the work,
And the Devil never can a payday shirk.

"You've bullied the weak, you've robbed the poor,
The starving brother you've turned from the door;
You've laid up gold where the canker rust,
And you have given free vent to your beastly lust.

"You've justice scorned and corruption sown,
And trampled the laws of nature down;
You have drink, rioted, cheated, plundered, and lied,
And mocked at God in your hell-born pride.

"You have paid full fare, so I'll carry you through;
For its only right you should have your due.
Why, the laborer always expects his hire,
So I'll land you safe in the lake of fire --

"Where your flesh will waste in the flames that roar,
And my imps torment you forever more."
Then the cowboy awoke with an anguished cry,
His clothes wet with sweat and and his hair standing high.

Then he prayed as he'd never had prayed till that hour
To be saved from his sin and the demon's power.
And his prayers and pleadings were not in vain;
For he never rode the hell-bound train.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921, collected by Jack Thorp

See our feature and selections from Songs of the Cowboys here.

In musician and music historian Glenn Ohrlin's book, The Hell-Bound Train, he tells how he learned it from an aunt, though its origin is "a minor mystery."
 
In John Lomax'  Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads he notes the song was "Said to be written by J. W. Pruitte, the Cowboy Preacher. Clipped from the Fort Gibbon Post, April 8, 1909." 

See a list of Western music history books here.

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new 5/13/04

Equus Caballus                                                                                  (Answered)

Patsy wrote: "I recently heard a segment on NPR "Morning Edition" about the event at Elko and cowboy poetry. There was piece of a poem read on the air by the author I thought that had a wonderful description of a horse.  I missed the name of the poem or author and am desperately trying to identify this piece."  

This was an easy one for us.  We told Patsy:

That poem is a masterpiece, we agree.  It is Joel Nelson's "Equus Caballus."  It was used in the program book in 2003 for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  It is in a new book called Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion and, it's been recorded and put to music by Wylie and the Wild West where they have the lyrics posted on their site.

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new 5/13/04

The Men Who Ride No More                                                                (Answered)

Zoe and plenty others have asked about "The Men Who Ride No More." 

That is by Joel Nelson and is on his Breaker in the Pen recording, the first and only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award.  It is mentioned in our Favorite Poem Project, and is included in the anthology, Cowboy Poetry Matters, which is described here.

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new 5/13/04

Cowboy Time                                                                                    (Answered)

Cindy wrote: 

This last February, Darci Robertson - Miss Rodeo America, honored us with her presence at the "Old Timers Cowboy Breakfast" here at the Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota.  She recited a poem for the crowd that I just loved and would like to get a copy of.  It was called "God Works On Cowboy Time"  or just "Cowboy Time" - I'm not sure which and I don't know who the Author is.  Can you help me find this piece of art? ...It talked about how was there enough time for God to create the world in just 7 days, allowing for the ice age, dinosaurs, floods, etc... ?  The way he did it was by working on "Cowboy" time - which moves slower than the rest of the worlds "normal" time.

Darci recites a lot of Baxter Black's poems, and it was likely his "Cowboy Time" that Cindy was seeking.  It starts off "If Genesis was right on track concerning Adam's birth/And seven days was all it took to build the planet earth..."

That poem can be found in Baxter's:

Croutons on a Cow Pie, (Book)
Cactus Tracks & Cowboy Philosophy (Book)
Baxter Black : Box Set (Cassette)

Visit Baxter Black's web site, where you can search for any poem among all of his books and recordings.

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new 2/14/04

The Sufferers

Edie writes: I'm looking for a prairie poet by the last name Roberts, mom thinks the first name is J.D.  He was from Calgary, Alberta and wrote a poem called "The Sufferers" featured in a book something-something And Other Stories copyright 1917... can  you help me?

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new 2/14/04

Little Breeches                                                                                (Answered)

Chris writes: My grandfather used to tell me poem about a "Little Britches."  This was one about a baby on a sled in the middle of a snowstorm I think.  I remember a few lines scattered somewhere throughout it that go something like: "He'd he scoot o'er the prairie" and the last line is something like: "But I believe in God and angels ever since that night last spring."

Gene M. put us on the track of this. He wrote: This poem was written by John Hay (1836 - 1905): Private Secretary to Pres. A. Lincoln. I'm sorry I don't have all the poem, but one verse follows.

That led us to the entire poem, which is actually called "Little Breeches."

Little Breeches     
             
            I DON'T go much on religion, 
              I never ain't had no show; 
            But I 've got a middlin' tight grip, sir, 
              On the handful o' things I know. 
            I don't pan out on the prophets          
              And free-will and that sort of thing,- 
            But I b'lieve in God and the angels, 
              Ever sence one night last spring. 
             
            I come into town with some turnips, 
              And my little Gabe come along,-          
            No four-year-old in the county 
              Could beat him for pretty and strong,- 
            Peart and chipper and sassy, 
              Always ready to swear and fight,- 
            And I 'd larnt him to chaw terbacker          
              Jest to keep his milk-teeth white. 
             
            The snow come down like a blanket 
              As I passed by Taggart's store; 
            I went in for a jug of molasses 
              And left the team at the door.          
            They scared at something and started,- 
              I heard one little squall, 
            And hell-to-split over the prairie 
              Went team, Little Breeches, and all 
             
            Hell-to-split over the prairie!         
              I was almost froze with skeer; 
            But we rousted up some torches, 
              And sarched for 'em far and near. 
            At last we struck hosses and wagon, 
              Snowed under a soft white mound,          
            Upsot, dead beat,-but of little Gabe 
              No hide nor hair was found. 
             
            And here all hope soured on me 
              Of my fellow-critter's aid;- 
            I jest flopped down on my marrow-bones,          
              Crotch-deep in the snow, and prayed. 
            By this, the torches was played out, 
              And me and Isrul Parr 
            Went off for some wood to a sheepfold 
              That he said was somewhar thar.          
             
            We found it at last, and a little shed 
              Where they shut up the lambs at night. 
            We looked in and seen them huddled thar, 
              So warm and sleepy and white; 
            And thar sot Little Breeches and chirped,          
              As peart as ever you see, 
            "I want a chaw of terbacker, 
              And that 's what 's the matter of me." 
             
            How did he git thar? Angels. 
              He could never have walked in that storm:          
            They jest scooped down and toted him 
              To whar it was safe and warm. 
            And I think that saving a little child, 
              And fotching him to his own, 
            Is a derned sight better business          
              Than loafing around The Throne.              
       

             By John Hay

We also learned that being secretary to Lincoln was just the beginning for John Hay. He went on to be Assistant Secretary of State during the Hayes administration, Ambassador to Britain in the McKinley and Roosevelt (Theodore) administrations.

Our thanks for the whole poem to the great Bartleby.com, whose mission is to publish " the most up-to-date collection of reference works, as well as classic works of reference, fiction, nonfiction and verse—all free of charge for the home, classroom and desktop of each and every Internet user."

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new 2/14/04

Mouse-Colored Horse

Philip is looking for a poem he heard "a couple years ago on a public television special that featured cowboy poetry. It was about a cowboy telling about his mouse colored horse. It was really a fine poem."

Have an answer for Philip?  Email us.


updated 11/16/04
new 2/14/04

Cowyard of My Heart

Glenda asks: "Just wondering if any one can help me find a poem that my granddad use to say.  I think the title or first line goes like- "The little Jersey heifer in the cowyard of my heart."

Gene M. wrote: Way back in the recesses of my mind, I seem to recall a song that Smiley Burnett used to sing that included a line "...in the cowyard of my heart." Smiley Burnett was quite a singer even before he became the comic sidekick of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Many of his songs were comedy, but he was by no means limited. There's more on this great old Silver Screen cowboy at this link:  http://www.westernmusic.org/HallOfFamefiles/SmileyBurnette.html


Have an answer for Glenda?  Email us.


new 12/11/03

Ridin' down that Jubilee Trail

John writes, looking for a poem he thinks is from the 1890's:

I'm looking for a poem, probably about the West, don't know the author.  All I know is the last part:


                     'T'ain't no place for the law-abidin'
                     'Tain't no place for the peaky or pale.
                     You gotta be tough to keep ridin',
                     Ridin' down that Jubilee Trail.

Have an answer for John?  Email us.


new 12/11/03

Paul Smith/Schmidt   For Tom -- Man from Pine Creek

Richard writes: 

I am looking to contact a man who "recorded" For Tom - Man from Pine Creek.  I believe that his name is Paul Smith or Paul Schmidt.  He lived in Stagecoach, Nevada. I think that it was recorded in the 1990s.  The Pine Creek Ranch is located in the Monitor Valley, south of Austin, Nevada and north of Belmont Nevada."  

Anybody know Paul or about this recording?  

Have an answer for Richard?   Email us.


new 12/11/03

Wind in the Mountains

Lynn wrote to us that she was glad to find the lyrics to "Life Gets Tijus" and said:

"... on the flip side of that 40's record was a song called 'WIND IS BLOWIN ON THE MOUNTAIN' ...I HAVE BEEN TRYING FOR AGES TO GET THESE LYRICS.  Can you help me??"  

The most help we could give was to tell Lynn that the title was "Wind in the Mountains" and that there are some old records out there with the song and even a new recording here and there, but we couldn't find the lyrics. 

Have an answer for Lynn?  Email us.


updated 2/14/04
new 12/11/03

Road Kill Fur Coat                                                                         (Answered)

Thse Tonight Show Cowboy Poets are the subject of yet another question.  Karen asks: 

A number of years ago there was a cowboy poet on the Johnny Carson show (yes, it was that long ago)...who had written a poem about a politically correct way to have a fur coat by collecting road kill. It was the funniest thing I'd ever heard...and to this day I still remember it & want a copy." 

John Nelson knew this one right off.  It's Baxter Black's "AARP!" and it is in his Croutons on a Cow Pie and other books.  John is the author of "Never Eat Oranges," which was the subject of a Who Knows? question here.  You can read the poem at John's site right here.

Joyce Miller also weighed in and said it is also on one of Baxter's videos.  You can use the search feature on Baxter's site and you'll find it is in several books, on a video, CD, and some tapes.

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new 12/11/03

Roll Over Cowboy... Billy the Kid?

Joyce wrote to us and said:

I have been searching the web for a long time with no luck looking for a cowboy poem my grandfather used to recite all the time when I was young. The only lines I can remember are:

Roll over cowboy,
Roll over where you lie,
For the one who learns the lightning draw,
By the lightning draw must die.

I believe it was a poem about Billy the Kid. I am not sure on that though as I am going by my memory as a child. Any help you have to offer would be greatly appreciated.

Have an answer for Joyce?  Email us.


new 12/11/03

Saddle on his Breast

Leah writes from Canada:  

Have you heard of a very simple poem, only about four lines or so; and it is something about a cowboy who when he dies has his saddle on his breast?" 

Have an answer for Leah?  Email us.


new 12/11/03

Cowboy Up Cowboy Down

Sioux wrote to us looking for:

... a poem about a cowboys last ride as a bull fighter. It is called "Cowboy Up Cowboy Down."

Have an answer for Sioux?  Email us.


new 12/11/03

All the States Rodeo Poem

A young friend writes: 

I am in the 7th grade and in oral reading. We have to read a poem every year in a competition against other schools. When I was in the 5th grade I read a poem about a little girl and her dad were at a rodeo. Her dad had to ride a bull in the rodeo. She was nervous watching her dad ride the bull so she started naming the states of the USA. I LOVED that poem. And have been looking for it ever since I read it in the 5th grade."  

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updated 12/11/03
new 9/16/03

Silver Jack                                                                               Answered!!

Bill asks: I'm looking for a poem, and I wonder if you might help me.  I know very little about this poem, except that I heard it probably twenty five years ago, and it was very funny.  For some reason, it recently popped into my head, and I'd like to see if I can find it.

It was the story of cowboys sitting around a campfire, talking about religion.  One of them is an atheist.  Another one is a Christian.  The two start fighting, and the atheist is converted in the process.  I think it's simply called "The Night "..." Got Religion."  I can't remember the name of the cowboy who got religion, and I have no idea who wrote it.  

Tim Jobe of Cal Farley's Boys Ranch answered:

I think you may be talking of a poem called "Silver Jack."  It is in the book Cowboy Poetry; A Gathering. It is by Anonymous.  It was a guy named Robert Wait/Waite that got religion.

And then we were able to add:

It is also in the classic Cowboy Songs by John Lomax, who says it was "a lumberjack song adopted by the cowboys.  The fight might have occurred in a cow camp though the song first came from Michigan."


Silver Jack

I was on the drive in '80 working under Silver Jack
Which the same is now in Denver and ain't soon expected back
There was a fellow 'mongst us by the name of Robert Wait
Kind of cute an' smart and tonguey, guess he was a grad-u-ate.

He could talk on any subject from the Bible down to Hoyle
And the words flowed out so easy, just as smooth and slick as oil.
He was what they call a skeptic and he liked to sit and weave
High fa-loo-tin' words together tellin' what he didn't believe.

One day we all were sittin' round,
Smoking burly-type tobacco and hearin' Bob expound:
Hell, he said, was all humbug, and he made it plain as day
That the Bible was a fable and we 'llowed it looked that way.

Miracles and such like were too rank for him to stand
And as for him they called the savior, he was just a common man.
You're a liar! someone shouted, and you've got to take it back
Everybody started--'twas the words of Silver Jack.

He cracked his fists together and stacked his duds and cried
'Twas in that thar religion that my mother lived and died.
And tho I haven't always used the Lord exactly right
when I hear a chump abuse him he's got to eat his words or fight.

Now this Bobby weren't no coward and he answered bold and free
Stack your duds and cut your capers, for there ain't no flies on me.
And they fought for forty minutes; the crowd would whoop and cheer
When Jack spit up a tooth or two and Bobby lost an ear.

At last Jack got him under and slugged him once or twice
and straightway Bob admitted the divinity of Christ.
But Jack kept reasonin' with him til the poor cuss gave a yell
and 'llowed he'd been mistaken in his views concerning hell.

Then the fierce encounter ended and they riz up from the ground
Someone took a bottle out which he kindly passed around.
We drank to Bob's religion in a cheerful sort of way
But the spread of infidelity was checked in camp that day.

Anonymous

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more on 9/21/03
answered 1/5/03
new 8/21/02

"...good to his horses" A Virtuous Man                                          (Answered)

Greg in England wrote to us:

Please help! I'm trying to find a cowboy poem that I heard on BBC Radio 4 about 10 years ago. The theme of the poem is what makes a virtuous man. All I can remember about it is the last 2 lines, which went like this:

     "The best you can say is he's good to his horses,
     And the worst you can say is he ain't. "

Well that's all I can tell you about it. It's been bugging me for ten years, so I'd be grateful if you could help me track it down.

Honored Guest Chris Isaacs knew this one.  He writes:

I think the poem you are looking for is one of the old "Star Crossed" poems by Buck Ramsey entitled "Dunder Defining"  I'm lucky enough to have a home video of Buck doing that poem in my living room several years ago.  Buck sure left us a great legacy didn't he.

Bette Ramsey shared the poem with Greg and all of us:

Dunder Defining
(Being a one-sided conversation with the Kid about his daddy)

"Yeah he'd be called a 'daisy hand'
If this was bygone days
Before the meanings changed their names
And cowboys changed their ways.

"Those punchers out of real old rock
And of the long, long shadow,
Those graduates of the camp and trail 
Who shunned the fenced-in  meadow

"When all the range was grass-side up
And all the cows wore horns--
They'd call your dad a 'ranahan'
Well to the leather born."

Old Dunder, augering the Kid,
Was brushing on the paint
In strokes that made the Fiddle look
A downright cowboy saint.

He paused, and then commenced to rake
His hand across his whiskers,
But realized that rasp he grew
Might raise some awful blisters.

He soothed his palm upon his knee
And gazed the air a hole
And gave the Kid the look that showed
The secrets of his soul.

"You set out definin' you're ridin' for boggin' --
There's not a pure way to describe
The reason and rhyme of the cowpuncher callin',
The jist of the cowpucher tribe.

"But say we start up with an idy of Santee --
Like Russell, a cowpuncher saint --
The best you can say is, he's good to his horses,
The worst you can say is, he ain't.

The kind out of old rock and of the long shadow --
Your daddy is of the same leather --
You'd say of his makin's his water runs deep,
And he'd do with to ride the wild river.

"You can't call his rank by the crease of his hat,
By his get-up, now matter how fine.
You go by the moves that he makes on his horse --
Is he in the right place the right time?

He knows what the mother cow says to her calf,
He's a regular webster on cattle,
He hears what the wind says and listens to grass --
He's plumb simply at home in the saddle."

© Buck Ramsey, reprinted with permission

 

Greg wrote back and said:  I'm over the moon...A million thanks to you and Mrs Ramsey!

See our feature about Buck Ramsey and read more of his work here.

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updated 9/21/03
new 9/16/03

Spider Bite --Cowboy Prayer                                                            (Answered)

Jim writes:  My daddy ( a West Texas country banker) loved cowboy poetry and back in the 1960s he used to tell me about a prayer by a cowboy out on the range who gets stung by a poisonous spider.  All alone, miles from anyone, he decides he better get right with the Lord.  As he prays, he's very sincere and ends the prayer by saying "... and Lord, I'm just too good a man to die at the hands of a @#&* spider !".  My father said it was a great prayer and I've been looking for it ever since.  Any ideas?  Ever heard of it?  Apparently it was popular in the Texas panhandle many years ago.

Texas poet Gene O'Quinn may know more Cowboy prayers than anyone.  Gene recognized Curley Fletcher's "The Cowboy's Prayer":

The Cowboy's Prayer

Out on the Western prairies,
While riding after stock,
A cowboy met a shepherd
A-tending to his flock.

The herder asked the cowboy
If he would like to stay
To join him in a little drink
And put some grub away.

The cowboy said, "That's good enough.
When my belly's full of stew,
We'll bury the old tomahawk
And have a drink or two."

The herder cooked up quite a feed
And the cowboy ate his share
The herder got the jug out
And they started in from there.

The cowboy said, "Let's have a drink,
We'll forget about our war.
Well, sure let's have another one
And then we'll have one more."

"Your liquor's good," the cowboy said
"It surely hits the spot."
"Help yourself, " the herder says,
"And we'll have another shot."

Back and forth they passed the jug,
Until they went to sleep;
This puncher of the cattle
And this herder of the sheep.

The cowboy slept beneath a sage
And he was awful tight;
He rolled and tumbled all about
And snored with all his might.

His arm fell o'er a triantula's hole
Which made the spider mad;
He sank his fangs into the arm
And gave it all he had.

The cowboy waked and sobered up,
His arm was swelled and black.
He awakened the sheepherder
And they started for the shack.

The herder said, "That's pretty bad,
Looks like your judgment day.
If I was in your boots, cowboy
I'd start right in to pray."

"I'd like to pray," the cowboy said,
"But I don't know just how;
I'm doin' to do the best I can,
And I'd better start right now."

So he braced himself upon his knees
And raising up his head,
He cast his eyes toward Heaven,
And this is what he said:

"Oh God, if You see this poor cowboy,
Come down and lend him a hand.
Don't send Your Little Son, Jesus,
Boys sometimes don't understand.

"Oh God, I'm not one of them sinners
That's callin' You right along
I wouldn't take Your time up
Unless there's something real wrong.

"I'm a damned good bronk buster
And a ropin' son-of-a-gun;
It's many an outlaw I've ridden,
And it's many a dollar I've won.

"I've always been good to my horses,
Till today, never ate sheep,
I never did shirk on no roundup,
And I've always been worth my keep.

"I never have rustled no cattle,
I ain't never took up with no squaw
I ain't never fought 'less I had to,
Then I never went first for the draw.

"Of course, You know better than I do,
But it don't seem to be hardly right
For me to be cashin' my chips in
From a pot-bellied spider's bite.

"He crawled up while I was sleepin'
And he bit me while I was drunk;
I don't want to be belly-achin'
But that was the trick of a skunk.

"If I was hurt ridin' a broncho,
Or ropin' a steer, don't You see,
I wouldn't be here a beefin',
I'd figger it was comin' to me.

I've lived by my creed as I saw it,
And all that I ask is what's fair;
If You have been keepin' the cases
You know that I've been on the square.

"I never was strong for sky-pilots,
There's no place on them for to lean;
'Cause they ain't much better than I am,
I guess You know what I mean.

"I'm usin' a lot of Your time, I guess,
'Cause I don't know just how to pray,
But I won't ask any more favors
If You find time to help me today."

This was the prayer of the cowboy,
A prayer that was frank and sincere,
When he called on his God as he saw Him
To lend him a listening ear.

And the cowboy's God must have heard him
Out on the plains that day,
For He healed the suffering rider
And sent him upon his way.

Curley Fletcher 1892-1954

See our feature on Curley Fletcher here.

 

Jim wrote back:

Hallelujah, Pardner !!!!

That's it !!!

I distinctly remember the line about the pot bellied spider.

Muchas gracias and much obliged to you and the amigo that found it.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  It gives me another fond memory of my deceased daddy, a West Texas pioneer and banker who loved cowboy stories, legends, wisdom, poems, and prayers.

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updated 12/12/03
new 9/16/03

Scotty's Wild Stuff Stoo                                                               (Answered)

D. writes: A friend of mine is desperately trying to locate a poem that starts this way:

The cause of all the trouble was McCabe the jackeroo
Who had caught a brace of pigeons and has brought them home unplucked

Travis knew the answer:

The poem is called "Scotty's Wild Stuff Stoo" by Francis Humphris Brown:

Scotty's Wild Stuff Stoo

The cause of all the trouble was McCabe, the jackeroo,
Who had ordered what, facetiously, had been christened "Wild Stuff Stoo."
He had shot a brace of pigeons, and had brought them home unplucked;
It was not the first occasion, and no wonder Scotty bucked.
As aside he threw the pigeons and addressed the jackeroo:
"Ye'll pluck those blinded pigeons, or ye'll get no blinded stoo."
But the jackeroo objected, and objected strongly, too.
Said he, "I'm not your slushy; you can keep your blinded stoo."
But Scotty didn't argue much, he winked across at Blue
And, turning to the slushy, said, "I'll give him 'Wild Stuff Stoo.'"

The next day it was Sunday, and, not having much to do,
We all assisted Scotty in the making of a stoo.
We raked along the wool-sheds, in the pens and round about--
It was marvelous, all the wild things that us rousies fossicked out;
There was Ginger found a lizard, which they reckoned would go through--
It was rather rough to handle but it softened in the stoo;
Then Snowy found some hairy things inside a musterer's tent;
And Splinter found a lady frog-- and in the lady went.
From MacGregor, who'd been foxing, we obtained a skin or two,
It should have gone to bootlace but it went into the stoo.
Then someone found a "Kelly" that the boundary-rider shot--
It was more or less fermented, still, it went inside the pot;
And Scotty found some insects with an overpowering scent,
And the slushy trapped a mother mouse-- and in poor mother went.
There was some hesitation 'bout a spider in a tin:
We didn't like the small red spot, but Scotty dumped it in.

There were a host of other things-- I can't recall the lot--
That were cast into eternity as they fell into the pot.
And when the jackeroo arrived a happy man was he
To find that Scotty, after all, had cooked a stoo for tea.
He rolled his eyes, and snuffed the fumes, 'twas dinkum stuff he swore;
He complimented Scotty, and he passed his plate for more.
And when we'd let him have his fill, we took him round to view
A list of what had left this world to enter Scotty's stoo.

I grant you there were wild things connected with that stoo,
But there was nothing wilder than McCabe the jackeroo.
He got the dries and then the shakes, and we felt shakey too;
We were thinking of the spider with the red spot in the stoo.
We rushed him to the homestead, they told him there 'twas flu,
But us rousies, we knew better-- it was Scotty's "Wild Stuff Stoo."

by Francis Humphris Brown

 

We found that Brown was an Australian Bush Poet who died in 1933.

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updated 12/15/03
new 9/16/03

Dying Cowboy Drifting in and Out of Reality

Kendall told us he read a poem at the BAR-D a while back:  I don't remember the name or the author and I haven't read it for 8 - 10 months and I was hoping you could help me find it.  It was about an older cowboy who was dying.  During the course of the poem he kept drifting in and out of reality and his past.  It was a really powerful poem and I really want to find it again. 

Mike Dunn wonders if Kendall isn't referring to "Goodbye Old Man" by Baxter Black, from his Croutons on a Cow Pie, Volume II.  

Melanee suggests the poem is The Parson's Son by Robert Service...

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new 9/16/03

A Mule Shoe of Solid Gold

A Tacoma librarian asks: A patron asked me if I could find this poem for him. He remembers reading it in some western magazine for young people sometime in the fifties. All he remembers is the last line: "A mule shoe of solid gold."

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new 9/16/03

Bear Ropin' Buckaroo                                                                   (Answered)

Louis asks: I've been trying for a long time to find a poem or dance call I heard from a square dance caller (Glen Riggs) in New Mexico about 50 years ago.  The short snatches I remember go something like:

"Ropin' bears they say is really lots of fun,
 couldn't say for sure though,
'cause I never roped but one..."

He had the rope cinched to his saddle and turned to look to find the bear
"....Comin' up the rope hand over hand."

It ends like,

"....ropin' bears is lots of fun, but it's Hell to turn 'em loose"

The piece I'm looking for is similar to but not the much longer piece by Sunny Hancock.  Do you recognize it and know the author?

It didn't take Gene O'Quinn but a minute to come up with the answer for Louis. Gene recognized S. Omar Barker's "Bear Ropin' Buckaroo" right away. That poem is included in Cowboy Miner's fine collection:

Click to view at Amazon.com 

 

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updated 12/15/0s
new 9/16/03

The Number 10 Washtub                      

Leon asks:

Years ago I heard a poem about "the number 10 wash tub" and taking a bath. Would you know where I might find it?

Someone replied:

I read where someone was looking for a poem named "No. 10 Washtub."  This could be it:

Ma's Old Galvanized Washtub

Did you ever take your Saturday Bath
An' try to wash an' scrub,
While squattin' down on your haunches
In a galvanized washing tub?
If not, then you ain't missed a thing.
But now I'm telling' you what's right.
I done it 'til I wuz almost grown
An' every doggone Saturday night!
In summer it was bad enuff
But, in winter it was rough.
Spreading papers, buckets and kettles
An all of that sort of stuff.
Getting ready for that ordeal
Was only half the rub
Of takin' a bath on Saturday night
In a galvanized washin' tub.
Did you ever stand there stripped to the skin,
A wood stove bakin' your hide,
A dreadin' to put your dern foot in
Fer Fear you'd be burned alive?
Finally you'd git th' temperature right
An' into th' tub you'd crawl.
That cold steel 'ud touch your back
An' you'd squeal like a fresh stuck hog!
Then you'd get outa the tub next to the stove
And stand there drippin' and shakin'.
The front of your body is freezing to death
While the back of your body is bakin'.
Shiverin' 'n' shakin', burnin' 'n' bakin',
That's the awful price I had to pay.
That awful ordeal'll haunt me'
Until I'm old and gray.
I ain't done yet?there's something' else
That I've been wantin' to say.'
I wuz the youngest of all us kids
Who bathed on Saturday.
We all bathed accordin' to age
And I fell last in order,
Which meant I had to wash myself
In their dad-blamed dirty water.
Now, I'm a guy (gal) o'clean habits
And believe in a bath a week.
It helps to keep me healthy
And freshen my physique.
But if I had my druthers,
I'd rather eat a bug
Than to take my Saturday bath
In a galvanized washin' tub!

Author Unknown

Leon wrote:

Thanks for the poem. it wasn't the one, but it was great.

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updated 12/12/03
new 6/16/03

Noonday Sun                                                                            (Answered)

Candy in Idaho is seeking a poem. She says:

All I remember is one line (and I may have remembered it incorrectly):

 "But there never was one
    Like the horse Noonday Sun;
    Now there was a horse that was PRIME."

I have looked for it everywhere with no luck...I read it eons ago though I can't remember WHERE...

Several folks, including David, a research librarian at the Library of Congress, helped find a source for the poem "Noonday Sun." The librarian told us that the poem is by Kathryn and Byron Jackson, and it "appears in Helen Ferris's anthology, Favorite Poems Old and New.  It is also available in full text in the online version of Granger's Index to Poetry...." We found a reference to the poem also being in the books Cowboys and Indians published by Avon Kiddie Books in 1951 and Tenggren's Cowboys and Indians by Kathryn and Byron Jackson. Michael helped with information and Alex sent the poem, which begins:

Oh, I've ridden plenty of horses
And I've broken a score in my time,
But there never was one
Like the colt Noonday Sun -
Now there was a horse that was prime!
Oh, yippi ippi ai - Oh, yippi ippi ay,
Now there was a horse that was prime!

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updated 3/13/06
updated 2/27/06
new 5/2/03

Forty Miles From Nowhere          

Chuck asks:

I have been looking for a poem that features the phrase "forty miles from nowhere" in several places.  I think the phrase "twenty miles from water" occurs once right after one of the "forty miles from nowhere" phrases.  I have heard it read on the radio a couple of times.  One time we were traveling through Arizona.

Doyle gave us a clue that led us to find this song by Wayne Raney called "40th and Plum."

You can read the words at this site: http://www.cowboylyrics.com/tabs/raney-wayne/40th-and-plum-2632.html

However, Chuck says:

I appreciate the answer and I'm sorry,  but this "40th and Plum" isn't it.  It really is the phrase "Forty miles from nowhere"  not "forty miles from town" that is featured.  Perhaps I got it wrong.  It may not really be cowboy poetry, but it does have a Southwestern feel to it.

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new 5/2/03

You and I, Just Once More

Gene writes: 

I've been trying to identify this "mottogram" that is being sold on t-shirts, etc:

I am living the old trail drives over again,
    And in my dreams
Again I see and work with some of the gay old boys,
    I wish that we could live the old days over,
Just once more.
    I wish we could hit the trail together, just once more.
Say, Pal, the years are slipping by with many a dream
    And many a sigh—let’s chum together,
You and I, just once more.”

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new 5/2/03

Amarillo, "Away down in Texas..."

Linda wrote:

I'm looking for a poem about Amarillo...I think it started with something like ..." away down in Texas, a cowboy he rides..."  So far I have been unable to locate it...it has a lot of  meaning to me...a long ago romantic relationship with a man from Amarillo...I had this poem in a notebook until about 2 months ago when I threw it out while moving to CO from the east coast...now, I have found my soldier again...have been with him in Amarillo after all of these years (21) and will be going back to be with him...it's kind of a big sentimental story to find this...

Have an answer for Linda?   Email us.


new 5/2/03

Cowboy Prayer about Final Paycheck

Val writes:

Need the cowboy prayer that talks about the final paycheck and has something about the luck of the draw?  

Have an answer for Val?   Email us.


updated 5/13/04
new 5/2/03

The West, Where Men are Men and Collars are Celluloid                        Answered?

Jack wrote:

I believe this was the title of one of my Father's favorite poems.  He grew up in western Colorado, born in 1900.  It was a humorous poem.  I remember only snatches - "Where the prairie dog kneels on the back of his heels and fervently prays for rain."  "Where the hot wind blows just after it snows and a man can spit for a mile and a quarter."  If there is any way it would be possible to find this poem in its entirety I would surely appreciate it.

We found a close match here, where they say it is an original poem from a diary.  Often, people copied down poems in diaries, poems that were popular in the time.  It may be that this was one of those "anonymous" poems that took many different verses as it went along...or ?

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Always more to come....

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