The Fire at Ross's Farm
The squatter saw his pastures wide
Decrease, as one by one
The farmers moving to the west
Selected on his run;
Selectors took the water up
And all the black soil round;
The best grass-land the squatter had
Was spoilt by Ross's Ground.
Now many schemes to shift old Ross
Had racked the squatter's brains,
But Sandy had the stubborn blood
Of Scotland in his veins;
He held the land and fenced it in,
He cleared and ploughed the soil,
And year by year a richer crop
Repaid him for his toil.
Between the homes for many years
The devil left his tracks:
The squatter pounded Ross's stock,
And Sandy pounded Black's.
A well upon the lower run
Was filled with earth and logs,
And Black laid baits about the farm
To poison Ross's dogs.
It was, indeed, a deadly feud
Of class and creed and race;
But, yet, there was a Romeo
And a Juliet in the case;
And more than once across the flats,
Beneath the Southern Cross,
Young Robert Black was seen to ride
With pretty Jenny Ross.
One Christmas time, when months of drought
Had parched the western creeks,
The bush-fires started in the north
And travelled south for weeks.
At night along the river-side
The scene was grand and strange --
The hill-fires looked like lighted streets
Of cities in the range.
The cattle-tracks between the trees
Were like long dusky aisles,
And on a sudden breeze the fire
Would sweep along for miles;
Like sounds of distant musketry
It crackled through the brakes,
And o'er the flat of silver grass
It hissed like angry snakes.
It leapt across the flowing streams
And raced o'er pastures broad;
It climbed the trees and lit the boughs
And through the scrubs it roared.
The bees fell stifled in the smoke
Or perished in their hives,
And with the stock the kangaroos
Went flying for their lives.
The sun had set on Christmas Eve,
When, through the scrub-lands wide,
Young Robert Black came riding home
As only natives ride.
He galloped to the homestead door
And gave the first alarm:
"The fire is past the granite spur,
And close to Ross's farm."
"Now, father, send the men at once,
They won't be wanted here;
Poor Ross's wheat is all he has
To pull him through the year."
"Then let it burn," the squatter said;
"I'd like to see it done --
I'd bless the fire if it would clear
Selectors from the run.
"Go if you will," the squatter said,
"You shall not take the men --
Go out and join your precious friends,
And don't come here again."
"I won't come back," young Robert cried,
And, reckless in his ire,
He sharply turned his horse's head
And galloped towards the fire.
And there, for three long weary hours,
Half-blind with smoke and heat,
Old Ross and Robert fought the flames
That neared the ripened wheat.
The farmer's hand was nerved by fears
Of danger and of loss;
And Robert fought the stubborn foe
For the love of Jenny Ross.
But serpent-like the curves and lines
Slipped past them, and between,
Until they reached the bound'ry where
The old coach-road had been.
"The track is now our only hope,
There we must stand," cried Ross,
"For nought on earth can stop the fire
If once it gets across."
Then came a cruel gust of wind,
And, with a fiendish rush,
The flames leapt o'er the narrow path
And lit the fence of brush.
"The crop must burn!" the farmer cried,
"We cannot save it now,"
And down upon the blackened ground
He dashed the ragged bough.
But wildly, in a rush of hope,
His heart began to beat,
For o'er the crackling fire he heard
The sound of horses' feet.
"Here's help at last," young Robert cried,
And even as he spoke
The squatter with a dozen men
Came racing through the smoke.
Down on the ground the stockmen jumped
And bared each brawny arm,
They tore green branches from the trees
And fought for Ross's farm;
And when before the gallant band
The beaten flames gave way,
Two grimy hands in friendship joined --
And it was Christmas Day.
by Henry Lawson, 1891
You can read more of Australian Henry Lawson's poetry here at the BAR-D.
The Gate Cut
Mr. Avery said this morning we could all have Christmas off,
In fact, knock off at noon on Christmas Eve.
That tickled all the boys with families here in Silver City,
but there's no time for me to drive to Tennessee.
My family has gotten used to me not being 'round the tree
and I've not been to church in twenty years,
'Cept for Billy Meecham's wedding and to bury Grandpa Tom,
just the memory of it still brings me to tears.
So I feel a little distant from the whole religious thing
As I put my saddle on this fleabit gray,
And if some one ask, "what's this Christmas all about?"
I'm not sure I'd know exactly what to say.
So I decided to do some thinking while puttin' out some salt,
'bout how the Christ Child's birthday should fit in with me,
And what I should be doin' when Christmas finally comes,
and I'm a long way from my family's Christmas tree.
It seems the celebration should be about the Man himself,
and the turkey and the tree are just for trim.
Cause what matters is the feeling a believer's got in his heart
That wouldn't be there if it weren't for him.
So maybe if I get my mind right, I can still have me some Christmas
Just by thinkin' on the things that matter most.
"bout how he was born and lived and died, and everything he said,
About the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
If I close my eyes I can almost see my family,
as they bow their heads to say the Christmas prayer.
And I'll bet the first out of Mama's mouth is how she's wishin'
That her saddle tramp son could just be there.
Tonight I'll pull that Bible out she gave me, when I went off to the Army,
And in the campfire light I'll try to read His Word,
And hope this worthless cowboy has a chance to make the Gate cut,
When old Gabriel comes to gather in the herd.
© 2002, Michael Henley
You can read more of Michael Henley's poetry here at the BAR-D.
Christmas Time's Around the Bend
When you hear all the songs and see all the seasonal pictures and photos
depictin' Christmas, you are more than likely to see snow, sleighs, holly
and folks by fireplaces roasting chestnuts. What's a chestnut anyway? Things are purdy different here in West Texas at Christmas. I've seen Christmases so warm, I could go swimming; and have!
It is my habit to study people an' around the Christmas time of year, I've seen some remarkable changes in the behavior of some folks. I suppose the one thing that seems to link us with Christians around the world is the virtues that seem to come from us all. When you the read "Christmas
Time's Around the Bend," I'm sure you'll find some similarities with folks
in just about any region.
Christmas Time's Around the Bend
The time has come to string the lights and decorate the tree,
Fix-up the barn an' house a mite for all the folks to see,
Cause Christmas time's around the bend, an' Santa's underway
A-makin' toys for girls an' boys, an' gifts to fill his sleigh.
The widder Jones, from down the road, her cook-stove's bellerin' smoke,
She makes tamales ever year for passin' city-folk.
But through the year she cusses 'em for just a-passin' by,
An' raisin' dust she's gotta sweep when that ol' road is dry.
The school put on their annual play and that turned into fun.
They cast my nephew as the babe; he played the Holy Son!
The Wise Men never had a chance. They got a real surprise,
When baby Jesus tossed his milk an' caught one in the eyes.
But ever year I'm still amazed by changes folks can make,
Like Mister Groves, a stubborn coot I'd often like to shake.
He turns a leaf at Christmas time, an' acts just like a saint,
He'll drive to town an' do for folks that's crippled, sick an' cain't.
On Christmas Day, the kids in town get stockings filled with loot.
For some it's still a mystery but it's that "stubborn coot".
I saw him late one Christmas Eve a-tendin' to the chore;
For ever kid, in ever house, he left one at the door.
It never snows on Christmas Day, it's mostly never missed.
No sleighs to ride or sleds to slide, the things could fill a list,
But there's no other place on Earth at any time of year
That holds a light to what we have, the people livin' here.
We've shared our lives an' memories, each dream, desire an' plan.
We've touched each other ever way that God designed for man.
With all their strengths and weaknesses, we love 'em still the same
When Christmas time's around the bend, an' times that have no name.
© 2000 by Jim Fish
You can read more of Honored Guest Jim Fish's poetry here at the BAR-D and at his TexianCowboy.com site.
What's New | Poems
Features | Events
Poetry Submissions | Lariat Laureate Competition
Subscribe | Newsletter | Contact Us
Authors retain copyright to
their work; obtain an author's
permission before using a poem in any form.
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc., a Federal and California tax-exempt non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.
Site copyright information