Desert Cowboy's Christmas
The bells this cowboy's hearin',
aren't off of any sleigh.
They're 'round the necks of the old milk cows
comin' in for their mornin' hay.
There've been other times and places,
where there weren't snowflakes fallin',
But he can't remember a Christmas,
when there weren't cattle bawlin'.
The desert air is chilled,
as daylight tints the sky.
It's plenty cold enough for frost
but the air is just too dry.
Against the graying pre-dawn
there's a darker silhoutte.
A remuda horse has just come in,
but he can't tell which one yet.
The faint scent of creosote brush
drifts on the mornin' breeze,
And prob'ly because of the day
makes him think of Christmas trees.
Pausing, he watches the sunrise
break the hold of the night.
Objects begin to emerge from the dark
changing form in the light.
Saguaro, arms reaching skyward,
cottonwood trees, bare limbed.
A rooster up on the big corral fence
sittin' there crowin' at him.
An old cow begins to bawl,
knowin' it's time for feed.
He breaks the bales and scatters the hay,
and the others follow her lead.
Cattle and man have a bond,
they've always been his life.
Over the years they've taken the place
of a family and a wife.
As seasons follow seasons,
he's never changed direction.
Horses, cattle, and wide-open spaces,
the "cowboy connection."
"Merry Christmas, Girls," he calls,
"here's a little extra hay.
An old cowboy likes to do his part
to make this a special day!"
His Christmas seldom means presents,
or bright lights on a tree,
More a time to pause and reflect
on the way a man ought to be.
Some folks don't understand this,
but it really isn't so strange.
It's what a cowboy's life's all about,
to a shepherd of the range.
© Carole Jarvis
You can read more poetry by Honored Guest Carole Jarvis here.
Illustration by Dee Strickland Johnson
The Star and a Humble Cowboy
Lord, you cared so much for the shepherds,
you sent the glad news first to them --
Before the kings and the wise men,
so you might just speak again
To some other humble herdsman
out here on the range abiding --
A brilliant star, an angel choir
proclaiming "Peace! Glad tidings!"
The shepherds were common people
who slept in the fields near their flocks;
Their clothes might be dirty and ragged
and rugged and rough their talk.
So, Lord, I needn't apologize
for my appearance or my words.
I know you're right here beside me,
and it seems that I've just heard
The shepherds hastening, excited,
Extolling the star they had seen,
A baby born in a manger;
Not to some great king and queen,
But to people who do the menial tasks
That housewives and carpenters do,
And farmers and desk clerks and waitresses --
Just people like me and you.
But famous rich men brought presents,
Which should prove what I know to be true --
Christ came for shepherds and wise men
And kings and cowboys too.
© 1996, Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")
You can read more poetry by Honored Guest "Buckshot Dot" (Dee Strickland Johnson) here at the BAR-D and at her own site, here. She's the author of several books of poetry and has recordings of her music and poetry (see all her books and music her web site mercantile here, where there is a 25% Christmas discount on all items until January 1).
Buckshot Dot's son Tim was the model for her drawing that accompanies this poem. There are cards with this image available at Buckshot Dot's mercantile here.
Tim was seriously injured in an auto accident in August, 2002. You can send a message to Tim and the Johnson family at their web site, here.
Buckshot Dot is:
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