Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

Prescott, Arizona
About Willie P. Smith




Winter of '79

I remember well that bitter cold winter
back in 79.
We rode high to bring the herd down,
me and a friend of mine.

Bob was up in his 60's I'd guess.
He always talked 'bout dyin' and such.
We all figgered' he'd live ferever,
so we never pondered on it that much.

Bob got the idea fer us to split up.
That sounded pretty good at the time.
It got to snowin' so hard, we couldn't see.
Tracks was impossible to find.

I looked fer Bob, so we could find shelter,
until it snowed itself out.
I searched high and low, where I thought he might be,
but he wouldn't answer my shout.

My hands was numb, I couldn't feel my reins.
I figgered frost bite had sure set in.
I found a dry place, fer me and my horse,
to get us out of the wind.

In the mornin', I'd start lookin' again.
He'd be o.k. I had no doubt.
He probably found a safe place fer himself
and rode the snow storm out.

I found Bob's horse wanderin' around.
He was lame and half froze as well.
How fer away he had wandered from Bob,
was somethin' I couldn't tell.

I finally found my friend, later that day,
sittin' with his back again' a tree.
His horse had thrown him, he had froze to death,
sittin' there waitin' fer me.

I think about Bob every now and then
and all the things he said.
"I wanna be buried high on that mountain,
with a pine tree at my head".

He always talked about dyin' up there.
He sure loved that high, cold place.
He looked real natural, up again' that tree,
with a big smile froze on his face.

I couldn't bury Bob, the ground was too hard.
I took him back to the ranch with me.
Bout' three days later, we buried him deep,
head again' the roots of that tree.

The sky is blue, the trees are tall,
why he loved that place is easy to see.
He's probably layin' there now,
with that smile on his face, patiently waitin' fer me.

2003, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie told us: I am a member of the Yavapai Sheriff Search and Rescue, mounted division.  This poem came to me while on a search in some of the coldest weather I've been in.



Charlie's Fence

He was just an old man, or so I thought,
when I saw him sittin' on the corral fence.
A cowboy walked up, put his hand on my shoulder
and said, "That there's old Charlie Spence."

Charlie was the best of the best, a king of cowboys,
his name was well renown.
But, an endangered owl gets more attention
than an old hero, when he's down.

He's like so many other great cowboys,
they cheered him when he was hot.
Now he's old, crippled and stove up,
just another hero they've fergot.

When he was young, success come easy
and Charlie didn't handle it well.
He spent his money fast as he earned it,
far as ever' one can tell.

I guess he should'a quit long ago,
but you know how that story goes.
Them ol' boys all think they're unbreakable,
when workin' them rodeos.

Some years past, his horse stumbled
while workin' a bunch of cattle
I don't know exactly, but he said it happened
somewhere around Seattle.

People say they figger' him lucky,
he lost his leg and not his life.
Charlie said he'd be better off dead,
it cost him his kids and wife.

He just sits on a the fence and watches the men,
with very little to say.
Once in awhile he yells at a cowboy,
bout' how it was done in his day.

We let him do what he wants
and ask his advice now and then.
Charlie's no bother, he's a hero to us.
We consider him a man among men.

Kids all love him, he tells em' stories,
bout' all the things he's done.
He pulls in his stomach, points to his belt buckle
and talks bout' the trophies he's won.

Little children still  need heroes
to help them through each day.
I can't think of anything better,
than to grow up the cowboy way.

We should let em' all know they're not through,
when the last eight second whistle blows.
We still want em' at the front of the parade,
at all the rodeos.

One sad day, we'll look around
and heroes like Charlie'll be gone.
We should erect a monument, in their honor,
and carve their names in stone.

Charlie's done it all, we look up to him
and to us it makes good sense.
We treat him like the hero he is
and just call it Charlie's fence."

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Willie says: Charlie was a rodeo cowboy in the 40's and 50's.  He lost his leg, below the knee, while working on a ranch.  He would sit on the corral fence and whittle.  The men admired him and respected him.  He had the run of the
ranch.  One of the hands made him some wooden steps so he could climb up on the fence.  Charlie passed away shortly after I left the ranch and moved to Arizona.  Before he died, me and one of the cowboys went to the hospital to visit him.

We were told he had Alzheimer's and his body was shutting down.  He did not recognize us but he did remember some of his past cowboy days... Charlie and what he stood for, comes to mind every now and then when I think of how he lived.  He was a cowboy and very proud of it.  He used to say, "I was born 150 years out of my time." 

  That Danged Horse

I'm no great horse trainer,
but thought I'd give it a try.
Figgered' we'd both learn somethin,
bye and bye.

We worked in the arena,
day after day.
we was gettin' pretty good,
if I do say.

He didn't seem to scare
at any big noise.
Things blowin' in the wind
didn't change his poise.

He was a good learner,
right from the start.
He was smart, eager
and had a big heart.

My confidence was growin',
he was a real giver.
I decided to ride him
along the Verde river.

When we reached the river,
he stopped fer a look.
I spurred him a little
and that was all it took.

He jumped in the water
and before I could think,
He bent his neck down
like he was goin' fer a drink.

He pawed a couple times
then dropped like he was shot.
He decided to take a bath
right there on the spot.

I guess he was gettin' even
for what I put him through.
I reckon I should've known
what he was up to.

Crossin' the river
wasn't that big'a task.
But, that danged horse soaked me
right up to my - - - - - don't ask ! ! ! !

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

We asked Willie what inspired this poem and he told us:  A few years back, I traded a paint mare for a big black gelding.  As it turns out, he is one of the best horses I've owned.  Before I take a horse out, I like to work him in the arena a few days so we can get used to each other.  I call it our bondin' period.  I did everything with him except go through water.  His temperament indicated water would be no problem.  I took him out with the friend I had traded with.  When we got to the Verde River, we stopped to let the horses have a little water.  Well, he bent his head down, took a couple gulps, pawed a couple times then laid straight down.  I was so taken by surprise, I didn't know what was happenin' until I was soaked.  I pulled his head up and he got right back up on his feet. My friend was waitin' for me on the bank, laughing his fool head off.  As we crawled out of the water, my friend said, "Oh! by the way Willie, he likes to lay down in the water."



You Keep the Mule

I've always heard mules was great
and more sure footed than a horse.
Bein' a cowboy that has ta' be showed,
I decided ta' try one, of course.

I found a mule that looked real good,
about fifteen hands and stout.
I wanted ta' make shur' what I was gettin',
he was a good looker no doubt.

I rubbed him on the back and neck
and give 'em that Tellington look.
I knowed I was doin' everything right,
fer I had read her book.

His eyes was soft and gentle.
He showed no sign of fear.
I soon learned about his attitude change,
whenever a saddle was near.

I walked up to 'em like I would my horse,
and put ma' saddle down.
He looked it over, laid his ears back
and started pawin' the ground.

He snorted and bucked
and looked me over, like I was somethin' ta' eat.
I got outta' his way, quick as I could,
'lest he mangle ma' feet.

I don't rightly know what happened next.
I guess I was kinda' in shock.
I didn't believe ears like that
could grow in solid rock.

Now, I can tell an attitude
and his seemed ta' have no cure.
I picked up ma' saddle and walked away,
I was busted up enuff' fer' sure.

In ma' younger days, id'a rode im'.
I tried everything in ma' youth.
I'm not the man I wus' back then
I'm gettin' a little long in the tooth.

I had a picture of me flyin' thru the air
and breakin' another bone.
With that in mind, it was plain ta' me,
ma' passion fer a mule wus gone.

I still don't know what mistake I made.
I'm far from perfect of course.
But, here's the deal, you keep your mule
and I'll jus stick ta' ma' horse.

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie told us how he came to write this poem: A friend of mine, a search and rescue tracker like me, owns a couple good lookin' mules.  He told me how smooth they rode and how sure footed they were. He finally talked me into lookin' at a mule another friend owned and had for sale.  Lookin' at him, you'd think he was everything a mule rider was looking for. He was fine up until I brought out my saddle.  It was like he had a bee in his ear.  He went about as crazy as any animal I've seen.  I have had many broken bones from my occupation as well as from horses that didn't want to be rode.  I decided right then and there I would keep my horses and some one else can ride the mules.


The Diamond Back

A friend asked me to bring ma horse an' help em look fer some steers.
He raises Texas Longhorns, ya' see, and has fer many years.
Two of em' had strayed away, sometime durin' the night.
The thot' of em' feedin' a mountain lion, gave ma' friend  an awful fright.

Lions are ofen' spotted, roamin' round' his land.
It's not uncommon fer ranchers here-bouts' ta call and ask fer a hand.
We saddled up an' headed out.  Didn't know what direction they went.
We looked fer them critters fer hours. Me an ma horse wus spent.

I got off old Rowdy, under a big scrub oak, ta give us both a rest.
The shade wus cool, the grass wus green.  I found a place I liked best.
I set again' a big tree lim', knocked down by a summer storm.
I wus feelin' pretty lazy, fer it wus sunny and very warm.

I herd' a noise, not far away, from somewhere behind that log.
Bein' so tired and half a-sleep,ma mind wus in a kinda' fog.
He wus coiled behind ma restin' place, when I first caught his stare.
If id'a knowed he'd staked a claim, I would'n uve' set down there.

His tail wus stickin' up in the air an' rattlin' like a tambourine.
It looked like he was bout' ta strike an' just plain devil mean.
He had so many rattles, I figgered he wus older'n me.
He musta' thot' he was the property owner of all behind that tree.

I wus tryin' ta stay as still as I could, but ma body started ta shake.
If I could'a got ma hand on ma gun, I would'a shot that snake.
The sweat wus rollin' down ma face an' drippin' on the ground.
I wus crampin' up an' wanted ta move, but fraid' ta make a sound.

His mouth wus open, his fangs wus down. I wus waitin' fer the bite.
I wus shakin' so bad the log wus movin'.  I guess I was a pitiful sight.
I turned ma head in another direfction, ta try to avoid his stare.
But, I couldn't get ma mind off the fact that old boy wus coiled back there.

I wus gettin' pretty fed up.  I wus perched there, felt like all day.
I finally got the nerve ta look and that rattler had slithered away.
I don't know how long he waited back there, or what he wanted me ta believe.
But, he sure as thunder could'a let me know earlier, if he wus plannin ta leave.

I got back on Rowdy an' found ma friend.  We headed back ta his ranch.
I told em' bout' that old diamond back, coiled behind that big branch.
We never found them longhorn critters.  They rejoined the herd ya see.
I got scared half to death, we wus sunburned and beat. The joke wus on him an' me.

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie told us: A year ago, June, a friend of mine called me and asked me to help find two of his longhorns.  There were so many tracks, scattered around, it was impossible to determine which was theirs.  Not knowing what direction they went, my friend went west and I went east.  

We knew the area well, so there was no danger getting lost. We had both ridden the area, alone, many times.  Besides, our horses knew the way around as well as we did.  I covered the complete east end of his property and saw no signs of the longhorns.  About four or five hours had passed and me and Rowdy were dead beat.  The area is very hilly and covered with lava rock and brush.  We had agreed to fire a shot into the air if we found the critters.  Since I had covered my area well and had heard no shot, I decided Rowdy and I would rest before heading back. 

I found a good shady place, under a very large scrub oak. Needless to say, as soon as I discovered the rattler had "left the area," I immediately got on Rowdy and also "left the area."  When we got back to his ranch, we discovered the two longhorns had returned by themselves.  I told my friend about my snake encounter and he has made it his favorite story to tell on all our outings.


Rowdy in 1997

Sadly, on April 7th, 2004, I lost Rowdy.  He and I had done everything a man and a horse could do together.  When I got off him, no matter where it was, I never tied him.  Not many times in a cowboy's life does he find that perfect horse.  I found it in Rowdy.  He was a true friend and is sorely missed.  I had him since he was about five years old.  He was 26 when he died.   His stall is the emptiest place I have ever seen.

A truer friend does not exist.  If it could be done, Rowdy and I did it.  He was a trained cutter and loved to work cattle.  I found him in his stall one morning, shaking and wet with sweat.  I called the vet. and he didn't give him any  hope for survival.  Although the vet didn't say, I believe he had a stroke or aneurysm. He died sometime during the night.  For those who believe grown men don't cry, I'm here to tell you they are wrong. His empty stall still brings tears to my eyes.  I buried him in the exercise arena he used to love to play in with his buddy, Star.



Cowboy's Talk With God

Lord, this old cowboy don't know what ta' do.
I'm battered, broken and worn clean thru.

I still have the desire ta' keep on goin'
but ma' body says whoa !  and ma' age is showin'.

I don't mind gettin' older, cuz that's what we do.
It's been a good life, many thanks ta' you.

But, there's still some trails I'd like ta' ride,
before I cross over that great divide.

Just a little more time is all I ask.
With all your mercy, that shouldn't be a big task.

When I leave this old world I love so much,
take me ta' a place where there's horses and such.

I want ta' go where old cowboys roam
and ride the range of ma' heavenly home.

Lord, I know ya' have more important things ta' do,
jus' thout' it was time I had a talk with you.

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie adds: I guess there comes a time in every cowboy's life when he starts taking stock of his life.  I am 66 years old and hope I have many more good years, but none of us know.  Star (my horse) and I were out alone one day, as we often are, and it came to me that one day I would have to give up my cowboy way of life.  I got to thinking about how I've been blessed.  The life I've lived has been a very good one.  I have no complaints nor regrets.  So, under the shade of a big pine tree, I stepped down  from Star and rested. While there, looking at the beautiful blue sky and watching Star graze on the green grass around the tree, this poem came to me.  I always carry a note pad in my saddle bags, so I wrote my feelings down.  I hope you all enjoy this poem as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It is short, but sometimes true feelings get lost in too many words.

Forgotten Heroes

"I crossed the desert and mountains,
in the cold an' in the burnin' sun.
I herded cattle east an' brought settlers west,
my day wus never done.

I carried calves 'cross ma' saddle'
cause' they wus too weak ta' walk.
I rode by cowboys, ridin' herd,
that wus too dern cold ta' talk.

I saw spooked cattle run fer miles
at the sound of a snappin' twig.
I buried cowboys under stacks of rocks,
cause' the ground wus too hard ta' dig.

I eat all kinds of trail drive cookin',
some wus good an' some wus bad.
But, I filled ma' plate an' gobbled it down,
cause' that wus' all I had.

I fit off Indians and Rustlers too,
jus' ta' make it thru' another day.
Some days wus was tough and some wus tougher
but that wus the cowboy way.

I used ta' be praised in western movies.
Kids called me hero and such.
But, only a few 'member me now,
nobody seems to care that much.

I guess i'm jus' disappointed,
that I wus fergot so fast.
Remember, you wouldn't have a present or future,
if I hadn't rode thru' the past." 

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie told us what inspired this poem: I was thinking one day, about the life of the old cowboy.  What would he think if he returned to the present and learned how many have forgotten him? Years ago, his memory was kept alive by western movies.  Today, western movies are rare.  I believe if he could communicate with us, this is what he
might say.



Her hair wus long
and the color of gold.
She wus a beautiful girl
at twelve years old.
He wus a big sorrel gelding
about twice her size.
Their love for each other
showed in their eyes.
I used ta' watch her,
out in the corral.
The love she shared
with her big red pal.
The years have passed now.
She's a lady full grown.
She still visits him often
in a spot all his own.
Flowers grow wild
around a cross that reads,
"Here lies Rowdy,
King of steeds".

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Rowdy and Willie

Above we posted the sad news about the death of Rowdy in 2004.  Willie wrote, "... As I told you before, he was an exceptional horse.  I don't know who loved him most, me or my grand daughter. When she comes to visit, his grave is the first place she visits when she arrives and the last thing when she leaves.

  Ode to Jake

One day while ridin' out on the Spoke.
I got to thinkin' about a real cowpoke.

I got down off Star and settled under a tree.
I started to write about Jake and me.

He wus a friend of mine for many long years.
We roped, herded and branded many steers.

He came from "Kentuck" so he said.
He wus the youngest of three boys, his brothers wus dead.

He wus always smilin' at every days start.
He had a good singin' voice and played the French harp.

He never complained about the work he done'.
"Cowboyin' is tough", he thought it wus fun.

He talked about his family most all the time.
I never did meet them, Tho' he wus a friend of mine.

We parted ways a few years ago.
He quit cowboyin' said he wus gettin' too old.

I got a letter just the other day.
Jake is gone now, he passed away.

Another real cowboy laid to rest.
A cowboy and friend, one of the best.

I guess it's normal, he went before me.
He wus a few years older, ya' see.

The words of his death chilled me to the bone.
That Ol' Reaper is hittin' pretty close to home.

2004, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie comments: After receiving the letter about Jake, I was inspired to write this poem. We lost touch after we parted ways. Heard he had returned to "Kentuck" and was living with a daughter. After someone is gone, you think of all the things you could have done, bur didn't. I try to keep in touch with my friends but sometimes they get away.

When I got the letter about Jake's passing, I realized how little time we have on this earth. Life's been good to me, I've done about everything I wanted to do. I realize my real cowboying days are over and now, my friends are starting to leave me behind. I still have two real good horses, Star and Patches. Star is 23 now but Patches is only 12. They'll be with me until I'm gone. I couldn't stand to look out in the corral and not see them.


$1,500 OBO

I was shoppin' for a horse, mine had gone lame.
I wanted a good one, not wild but not tame.
He seemed to stand in the same old place.
A jet black gelding, with a snow white face.

His mane was tangled, his tail was shaggy.
His back was swayed and his belly saggy.
A for sale sign was nailed to a pole.
"$1,500 OBO."

I snickered to myself as I leaned on the fence.
"Why that ol' boy ain't worth 50 cents."
'Bout that time, up walked a drover.
Said, "If you want to ride em', I'll lead em' over."

He snapped a lead to his halter ring.
He walked him over, the poor old thing.
The cowboy threw a saddle, over the big black.
When he cinched it down, he threw his head back.

His back straightened and he drew his stomach in.
You could see the fun was 'bout to begin.
As I settled in the saddle, he left the ground.
He puffed and snorted and made an awful sound.

As I flew through the air, I thought this is for the book
You can't judge a horse by just a look.
Well, I didn't buy em', he was a little too much.
Now, I don't rush to judgment when buyin' horses and such.

2010, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie comments: My experience with a broke down horse (that wasn't) is what inspired me to tell this tale. This horse sure was a fooler. He looked like he was on his last legs. He proved he wasn't when I got on him. Come to find out, he was only 11 years old. The owner said he wasn't like that all the time. He also told me he would have pointed out his problems if I had chose to buy him. Yeah right!

I think we all want a good looking horse. Sometimes some real good horses are passed by because they don't meet the "good looks" category. I am as guilty of this as anyone. I almost passed by the best horse I ever owned because he wasn't beautiful. He wasn't a bad looking horse but not the best looking. I discovered his beauty came from inside.



Big Cat

While resting in my house one night,
me and my wife in a friendly chat.
We heard a scream like a woman in distress.
The sound of a big mountain cat.

The dogs started barking and raising cane.
My wife asked, "what was that?"
I answered her quickly with a concerned voice,
"That was a big mountain cat."

I heard the horses stirring around.
I heard them starting to run.
I got out of my chair, reached above the door
and got my hands on my gun.

I said to my wife, "You stay inside,"
while I go have a look see.
"You be careful," she said as I left,
showing her concern for me.

I stepped off the porch and looked around.
I waited for another sound from the cat.
I heard some noise in the brush nearby,
but didn't know where he was at.

The moon was full and shining bright
It was easy for me to see.
I saw him standing in a clearing close by,
staring straight back at me.

He started to leave in a real slow walk,
then stopped at the edge of the trees.
I raised my 94 and sighted him in.
I gently started to squeeze.

Just before the hammer could fall,
he again walked out of my sight.
I waited awhile for him to return
but he disappeared into the night.

He hasn't returned, as far as I know,
but I'm keeping an open eye.
Maybe after our last encounter,
next time he'll just pass us by.

2010, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie comments: I wrote this poem because of a visit we had with a mountain lion. I had heard from other nearby ranchers that a cat passed through once in awhile. I was contacted by a lion hunter shortly after this incident. He said he had been asked by the other ranchers to see if he could find the cat. As far as I know, it never killed any animals. I never did hear what the hunter found, if anything. I'm glad I didn't have to shoot it, I never kill anything unless it is a danger to me, my family or animals.



This mornin', I wanted to say in bed,
but I had to go shovel "It" instead.

There's lots of things I'd rather do for sure,
than go out there and shovel horse manure.

There'll be piles and piles of "It" you can bet,
and "It" gets soggy when "It" gets wet.

Very mean words come from my spouse,
when I track "It" into the house.

So, I'll hook my little wagon to my ATC,
and for the day, it'll be "It" and me.

With my handy shovel and my red rake,
I'll scoop "It" up for my horses' sake.

I'll put "It" where no one will see.
Nobody will know "It's" there but me.

Then, I'll wait for more of "It" to fall
and in a day or two, I'll repeat it all.

I'll bet you're also tired as you can get,
shoveling the stuff that rhymes with "It."

2011, Willie P. Smith
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Willie comments: I love my horses but shoveling their droppings isn't my favorite chore. I wrote this poem after good scolding from my wife for doing just what it says in my poem. To have a happy home, you have to have a happy wife. Scrubbing "it" from the carpet doesn't please her at all.


Read Willie P. Smith's

Ponderin', in our ArtSpur Project



About Willie P. Smith:

I was born on a farm in Illinois. Always been around horses. Served in the U.S. Navy from 56 to 63.  Joined the San Diego Police Department in July of 1964, retired in December, 1994.  Motorcycle Sergeant. Presently live in Prescott, Arizona with my wife of 47 years, Carol.  Have four children, 13 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. I am a member of the Yavapai Sheriff Search and Rescue, mounted division.



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