In a Manger
It was cold and late when I came to the gate.
The big dipper was upside down.
I had rode hellbent and my horse was spent,
And it was still thirty miles to town.
I watered my horse as I looked at the house,
Its windows were showing no light
So I fumbled and scratched for the barn door latch,
And we borrowed their barn for the night.
I felt my way to the timothy hay,
And filled the manger in one empty stall.
It turned out all right, there was enough moonlight,
Squeezin' in through the cracks in the wall.
Then I climbed into the manger and burrowed down some,
Being careful to cover my feet.
For that comfortin' hay o'er the spot where I lay,
Was the supper old Tony must eat.
I lay there just thinkin', mostly 'bout home,
And my wife and my two year old boy
About fifteen below and the miles I must go,
Or I knew there'd be no Christmas joy.
I'm laying in a manger, just like my Lord!
The thought brought a tear to my cheek.
I wanted to pray, but no words I could say,
Just too overcome and humbled to speak.
Then I thought of the shepherds who had traveled as I
To the place where the bright star shone.
And wise men drawing nigh to the light in the sky,
With their gifts to acknowledge His own.
I thought of the hand carved gifts made of pine,
In my saddlebags dripping with foam.
Not really so fine, but the carvin' was mine,
And he'd know that his father was home.
Then the wind settled down and dawn came around,
And my eyes were still open wide.
Still hungry and tired but newly inspired,
I set off on the thirty mile ride.
"Lying in a manger," when I read it now,
Has a much broader meaning, I've found.
That night in a manger that was owned by a stranger
Turned my way of livin' around.
© Colen H. Sweeten Jr.
You can read more of Honored Guest Colen Sweeten's poetry here at the BAR-D. Colen Sweeten is a prolific poet and impressive reciter who has been invited to every Elko gathering. He is the author of four books, three with accompanying tapes; the above poem is included in Cowboy Poetry:
In the Barn on Christmas Eve
Horses nicker gently, eyes adjusting to the light
What's that ol' fool, doin' here this time o'night?
Their greetin' is a welcome to my longin' ear
In the barn, Christmas eve, as I am every year.
Mother often told of the beasts talkin' Christmas eve
If you'd listen at midnight and if you would believe;
If your heart was good, you loved your fellow men
Cared for his creations, you'd hear them now & then.
Listen with your ears, but with your heart as well
In such a time of magic, why you could never tell;
Might stare at you silent, or speak of peace on earth
Dependin' on your outlook and on your inner worth.
The cattle are lowin' softly, in the run-in-shed
Look up as you enter, not a single word is said
Chew a cud, cock an ear, give you a blank stare
Not the slightest notion of what I'm doing there.
Elk out in the hayfield, flooded buy the full moonlight
Sneak into the hayrack, sometimes, just to bum a bite
Heads turn as your shadow is backlighted in the door
Like a livin' Christmas card from the One we all adore.
So every year, I'll be here, while you're at midnite mass
Rememberin' the story of the Child... that came to pass
His story is an old one from a land of palms and sand
So very near to them of us who work and love the land
Have I ever heard them speak?, Guess you could say so
Their words not spoken as we do, not in the way we know;
Spoken of care for all His works, land, critters-- other men
A star that shone, then, for us all and will shine for us again
© 12-01-02, S. J. Passamonte
You can read more of S. J. Passamonte's poetry here at the BAR-D.
It Happened One Christmas
The biggest snow I ever know'd
came one Christmas a few years ago,
It started early in the mornin' on Christmas eve,
and by dawn it had rapped up the ground and the trees.
We got out early that day to bring in the cows,
Figurin' on getting them feed then we'd be oft to the house.
We got 'em all in and gave 'em some food,
That's when something changed our mood.
I counted the cows as we stood in the barn,
one was missin' there was cause for alarm.
It was ol' Bessie my oldest old girl,
I was worried she had wondered off in this snow covered world.
In all of the years she had never gave birth,
and now in old age this would be her first.
Her time was near, I guess it was any day,
and now in 3 foot of snow she had wondered away.
I grabbed my hat and saddled my horse,
I prayed that the snow would let up of course.
Soon I was out looking over the snow covered ground,
but Ol Bessie just was nowhere to be found.
Morning melted to afternoon and afternoon to night,
Darkness fell fast as there was no moon for light.
The ground and the trees melted into one,
it was hard to tell which direction you were goin'.
I tried to yodel "Deck The Halls" to lift my spirit,
but in the north wind and the snow falling I couldn't hear it.
It was and eerie weird almost scary quiet
yet I know'd I couldn't turn back on this silent night.
Then I saw something dark a shadow in 'gainst the snow,
it was old Tom Wheezer's donkey done got loose you know.
That was his pride, the donkey was his joy,
no-one had ever sat on it not even his little boy.
So I tied him up and I led him along,
praying all the way that my Bessie wasn't gone.
But at her age, and carrying a child you just never know,
'specially now as the bitter winds blow the hard drivin snow.
It was about midnight when my horse stumbled, almost knelt down,
I heard a strange, never before heard of sound.
I thought at first it was the mow of a cow,
yet it said "help me I'am here" somehow.
I looked all around and then beneath a tree,
I spied a sight I had been wanting to see.
Old Bessie looked tired when I first saw here there,
and I saw a new born calf laying in her care.
He was to weak to walk and it was to cold to stay
so I laid him on that donkey to be carried away.
I reckon old Tom Wouldn't be mad,
if a beautiful calf was the first rider his donkey had.
Now to get back home was going to be another worry,
there was no light to lead us in the squalls and the flury.
In the distance I saw the glimmer of a light,
It was the Wheezer place man what a sight.
We went out to it, though it was a rough ride,
the calf on the donkey and ol Bessie beside.
We made it to the Wheezers after a while,
old Tom saw his donkey and greeted us with a smile.
He told me to take his donkey to get my calf back.
He gave me some java a nice little snack.
Wrap your calf in this blanket to help keep him warm
He should do fine until you get back to the farm.
Tom was one of the wisest men I know'd,
no here he was helping me out of the snow.
and his prize donkey he was letting my calf ride,
It gave me a warm feeling way down inside.
What's the smell on the blanket I thought?
Must be spices and fragrances his wife had bought.
We finally made the track back home,
and I never knew what caused ol Bessie to roam.
In the farm there wasn't one stall for Bessie,
So I led ol Bessie to a corner that wasn't messy.
I made the calf a bed of stray in the farm,
and he laid down and slept peaceful and unharmed.
I couldn't help but wonder as I went home,
Why of all nights, tonight Bessie had roamed?
'Tween the barn and the house the dawn started breakin'
It was Christmas mornin' soon they'd be wakin'
I reckoned I had had harder days or harder nights
As I looked back and saw the mother and child what a sight.
That Christmas was one that in my mind will always stay,
I hope you and yours have a blessed Christmas day!
© 2002, Bobby Cohoon
You can read more of Bobby Cohoon's poetry here at the BAR-D.
A Helping Hand
The wind nearly rips the gate
From the fingers numbed with cold
He could barely feel the icy reins
Just the same old story told
He'd found the heifer kegged up
She's not wantin' to trail out
But there's a bad storm bruin
It would be a hell of a night no doubt
He knows her mother
She's a loner too
Bout' an hours ride to the barn
Not much else a feller can do
She's a wringin' her tail all the way in
Springing' heavy and bagged up tight
Lest' he misses his guess
She'll a mother before first light
Best be puttin' her in the barn tonight
They'd not make it in this storm
He'd be checkin' her every hour or so
Case' they needed help bein' born
A Cayote's howl hastens them in
She's been in their sights
Their patience is a virtue
Sorry boys but not this night
There's just somthin' about a heifer
They don't seem to understand
Seems' they like bein' different
They make it a point to need a hand
Two hours of strainin' and the story is told
He's tail-end first and upside down
Looks like a night out for the Doc
Best be makin' that call to town
"Doc I know it's Christmas Eve
And you should be stayin at home"
"But that's the price we all gotta' pay
Cause this one I can't get alone"
"It's bad out Doc, I'll watch for your lights
I'll start looking' if you don't show"
"If you see the Ole Elf and his sled
Just follow his tracks in the Snow
They're both laughin' as the line goes dead
It's just wait and see for now
He dawns his gear and heads for the barn
God how he loves these ol' cows
It's ghostly quiet outside
Just the sound of his boots in the snow
Then he sees the barns all lit up
It ain't lights but kind of a glow
He's sittin'now by the old wood stove
A steamin' cup in his knarled hands
He hears Doc stomp on the old plank porch
Peering through the window at the old man
Without looking he motions him in
"I'm sorry Doc to get you out".
"But I just came from the barn Doc
I can't understand what it's all about"
" I thought I'd left the lights on
Thought maybe you's already there"
"There was this Halo 'round the barn Doc
With a quiet fillin' the air
"I don't know how or when Doc
But as I slid back the door"
"There lay this little calf in the manger
With the heifer standing o'er"
"An old feed sack been hangin'
Up there In the rafters for years"
"Fell for some damn reason n'
Covered all but the little fellers' ears"
"As I slipped back to the house Doc
You can't believe what I hear"
'That ol' Granddad clocks strikes Midnight
Now it ain't made a sound in years"
They chunk the fire and both lean back
They relive the events of that night
Doc swears he was plumb lost
Until he saw those glowin' lights
Then he just winks and pours another cup
He pulls a pint from his vest and grins
"Hell man remember, it's Christmas and
A child was born again"
© 2002, Lee Earl
You can read more of Lee Earl's poetry here at the BAR-D.
The First Christmas
I am just a lowly cowboy,
I'm not perfect in any way.
But I'll tell you about a story,
of that first Christmas Day.
I was sitt'in upon my dapple gray,
watching the cattle from afar,
When I gazed up to the Heavens,
and seen the brightest star.
It seemed to give a message,
though I didn't know what about.
Ole gray and I started follow'in it,
when I heard the shepherds shout.
"Come and see the Christ Child,
He'll be our Savior and our King.
As I rode a little further,
I could hear the Angels sing.
As I started on that trail,
I could see this ancient town.
In the distance was a stable,
there were folks from all around.
I rode up to the stable,
climbed down off from my Ole gray.
I seen this babe in the manger,
fast asleep up on the hay.
Then there came three wisemen,
bringing gifts and bowing down.
To this baby they called Jesus,
on the edge of this lil' town.
As I stood outside the stable,
watching these events taking place.
I bowed my head in silence,
and thanking God for all His grace.
The Angels waved me closer,
so I could get a better view.
Of this baby wrapped in swadlin' clothes,
cause He'd be my Savior too.
As I stood beside the manger,
and seen baby Jesus with my eyes.
I knew He came to save me,
and later on the cross, to die.
So I climbed upon my dapple gray,
and headed back to my cattle herd.
I bowed my head while riding,
and didn't utter a single word.
As I was overlooking the cattle,
and much to my surprise.
I heard a tiny voice saying "cowboy,
You forgot to say goodbye."
© 2002, Timothy Carrier
You can read more of Timothy Carrier's poetry here at the BAR-D.
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