A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer
I ain't much good at prayin',
and You may not know me, Lord --
For I ain't much seen in churches,
where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me
out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin' after cattle,
feelin' thankful when it rains.
Admirin' Thy great handiwork.
the miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit,
in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback
and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night,
and know we've got a Friend.
So here's ol' Christmas comin' on,
remindin' us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will
into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain't a preacher, Lord,
but if You'll hear my prayer,
I'll ask as good as we have got
for all men everywhere.
Don't let no hearts be bitter, Lord.
Don't let no child be cold.
Make easy the beds for them that's sick
and them that's weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride,
no matter what we're after,
And sorter keep us on Your side,
in tears as well as laughter.
I've seen ol' cows a-starvin' -
and it ain't no happy sight;
Please don't leave no one hungry, Lord,
on Thy Good Christmas Night --
No man, no child, no woman,
and no critter on four feet
I'll do my doggone best
to help you find 'em chuck to eat.
I'm just a sinful cowpoke, Lord --
ain't got no business prayin'
But still I hope you'll ketch a word
or two, of what I'm sayin':
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord--
I reckon You'll agree --
There ain't no Merry Christmas
for nobody that ain't free!
So one thing more I ask You,
Lord: just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom
for the future Sons of Man!
S. Omar Barker;
In December, 2013 the S. Omar Barker estate let us know that this poem is now considered in the public domain.
Christmas Beneath the Stars
The cattle were bedded down on the hill,
It was a peaceful sight that I saw.
The winter moon hung high in the sky
Casting shadows on the side of the draw.
The Christmas lights on the ranch house below
Sparked a thought of a night gone by.
When shepherds, watching over their flocks
Heard the message from the sky.
I stopped and looked at the stars above
And listened where all was quiet,
Then into my heart came the message
The angels delivered that night.
I stepped from the saddle, whispering aloud,
"Shepherds watching over their flocks."
My mount rubbed his head on my shoulder
As he shifted his feet on the rocks.
The horse held his breath while we listened,
I could almost hear the heavenly choir.
Then the spirit bore witness once again
And burned in my heart like a fire.
Yes, the ranchers, herders and cowboys
Who work beneath the wide open sky,
Can understand how the shepherds felt
When they heard the voice from on high.
Let the rich and the powerful pity me,
Let the city folk think I am strange;
My silent prayer shall continue to be,
"Lord, thanks for my home on the range."
© 1996 Colen H. Sweeten Jr.
Reprinted with permission from Hoofprints and Heartbeats
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 accompanied by tapes; the above poem is included in Hoofprints and Heartbeats:
Sermon on the Mount
I sit here on my steadfast horse
while the moon begins its nightly course
I'm ridin' nightherd, so I guess there's time
to reflect upon this life of mine.
My right leg is crooked over the saddle horn
as I wait for signs of the imminent morn'.
It's not hard for a cowboy's thoughts to dwell
upon his Creator, and the Lord's words, as well.
The wind carries the sound through the night air
of the grazing remuda, and the belled mare.
My horse would like to join them, I can imagine,
and I'd like to be sleeping, like the others, by the wagon.
But, instead, I'm here, and I'm wonderin' how
anyone who's ever worked with a cow
Could disbelieve that there is a God
who put us upon this wonderful sod.
Ain't it amazin' how an old mama cow
will go off by herself, away from the crowd
And for the most part, calve out, without hardly coughin',
tho' we take it for granted, we see it so often.
And what about those geese I saw fly by today?
Who tells them to fly southward, and which is the right way?
And my horse's winter coat, now that's a strange thing,
and who tells him he should shed it when winter turns to spring?
A cowboy might think that an eclipse is a mystery,
tho' we've seen them many times, all down through posterity.
But, ain't it something how the sun and moon have their charted courses?
And how a mighty river springs from the smallest of mountain sources?
This manger scene before me reminds me of my Saviour's birth,
and that God would give His only Son to die for all the earth.
I'll never understand it all, I can only believe...
just like I'll never savvy how a spider learns to weave.
My horse stomps his forefoot, and champs at his curb bit.
Our job tonight is over and I'm right glad of it.
I believe there is a God, if my opinion you would count,
and I hope that you will pardon...this sermon on my mount.
© Virginia Bennett
You can read more of Virginia Bennett's poetry here at the BAR-D. She is the author of several books of poetry, her work is included in many anthologies, she is the editor of Cowgirl Poetry published by Gibbs Smith (see our feature about the book here):
and her story "Nightwatch" is included in Hot Biscuits, a collection of short stories edited by Candy Moulton and Max Evans and published by UNM Press (see our feature about the book here.)
Virginia Bennett is:
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