Montgomery Wards supplied the ranch with life's necessities.
We had so little money though, there were darned few of these.
My father called them, "Monkey Wards," as if he knew them well,
As if their long relationship meant more than buy and sell.
Enclosed in plain brown paper wraps, their books were sent by mail,
And long before the seasons changed delivered without fail.
I eagerly awaited each of Ward's new catalogs.
Then I could cut the old ones up for paper dolls and togs.
We flipped through sepia pages. I'd say about a ream.
We wanted things we couldn't have. Their wish books helped us dream.
Aunt ordered chicken feeders sent and Dad bib overalls.
Mom bought a pressure-cooker for her canning in the fall.
Montgomery Ward and Christmas time are hard to separate.
Most all our presents came from them by parcel post or freight.
I got my Shirley Temple doll for Christmas '36.
When I found her beneath our tree, I thought my eyes played tricks.
Their pictures of long underwear still linger in my mind.
The models were well covered, though, especially their behind.
Wards played a part in my young life and childhood memories,
But they could not survive the malls and rising postage fees.
So I was very sad to hear Montgomery Wards had closed.
I didn't shop there any more, though some did, I'd supposed.
To me it signifies an era coming to an end.
Wards was an institution and the rural rancher's friend.
To earn some extra Christmas cash
In years when times were hard,
My Grandma raised some turkey chicks
Who ran free in the yard.
Those birds weren't penned like those today,
They thought they owned the place.
They chased the bugs and scratched for seeds,
And guarded well their space.
They grew to be big ugly birds
With wattles hanging down.
Their fearsome gobbles scared the kids,
Especially those from town.
When any child dared get too close,
The Big Tom would attack.
The kid ran shrieking toward the house,
And never did come back.
That turkey was about as mean
As rocks inside a boot.
And he liked nothing better than
To run in hot pursuit.
My grandma sold the others off,
But no one wanted him.
The chance of selling one so big
Was something less than slim.
What ranchers couldn't sell they ate,
That's what we had to do.
We knew that when we at Big Tom,
We'd chew and chew and chew.
By Christmas he weighed 40 pounds.
We ate him Christmas day.
Although he tasted dry and tough,
Revenge was sweet I'd say.
Read more of Jane Morton's
poetry here at the BAR-D.
I've had a lot of Christmases,
But the best I ever did.
Was the time that I played Santa Claus,
For a bunch of orphan kids.
I was down in town, one day,
Just pickin' up some feed.
When I saw a note, stuck to the corkboard,
And I took it down, to read.
We could sure use your help, it said,
Could you kindly volunteer?
Could you make a difference to some kids?
Could you spread some Christmas cheer?
We have lots of little things,
That anyone can do.
Cooking, and serving Christmas dinner,
Maybe bring a gift or two.
Well, I got to thinkin',
I was free on Christmas day.
All the hands would be at their homes,
And my kids had moved away.
So, drove on down to see 'em,
Told 'em I was there to see,
Just what it was they needed,
From an old cowhand like me.
Well, they was glad to see me,
And they give me several chores.
I'd be there to decorate,
Then serve, and sweep the floors.
When Christmas finally rolled around,
It was a fine west Texas day.
I was gonna take the pick-up truck,
But decided to ride the bay.
Weren't but an hour, to town,
Sittin' astride old Chalk
And I could enjoy the scenery,
And he could use the walk.
I tied Chalk to a picket fence,
Plenty of grass there all around.
Loosened up the cinch a mite,
Then I rubbed him down.
When I rode up, them womenfolk's,
Was upset, I could see.
Worryin' and a fussin'
I thought, Lord, what could this be?
One of the ladies come up to me,
Tho I can't recall her name.
Said, "I can't believe this happened,
Christmas just won't be the same."
"Ma'am, don't look so sad,
Is there sumpin' I can do?"
She said, "it's just that Santa Claus,
Has come down with the flu."
Then I saw her eyes light up,
Seems she had some great idea.
"Sir "said she, "do you think that you,
Could be Santa Claus, for me?"
"It won't be that hard, "she said,
"Inside, we got the suit.
Come on cowboy, would you please?
It could be a hoot."
Well I ain't ever thought about it,
But, I could be old Saint Nick.
I said "ma'am go git that suit,
I can see you've made yore pick."
When I saw that suit, I said,
"Have you got another plan?
This here suit was meant to fit,
On some other man."
I hope it don't seem rude for me to say,
That suit was meant for lesser men.
It woulda been okay, if I's six foot tall,
But I stand six foot ten.
"Oh my!" says she, "this just won't do,
You can't even get it on.
Would you have anything that's red,
Hanging around your home?"
"Ma'am, says I, I only have,
Two things, in red that I can wear.
One is this here flannel shirt,
The other's, trap door underwear."
"I'll just stuff this shirt, a mite,
With throw pillers here, and there.
And I'll come up with a story,
That'll please the kids in there"
Things went kinda smooth from there,
If you don't count one small child.
Most all of them, were satisfied,
But this one just went wild.
He just wouldn't settle down,
His head as hard as a Bois D'arc knot.
An ornery little cuss,
In need of a woodshed, like as not.
He said "If you are Santa,
Tell me where's your sleigh?"
I said I didn't need it,
Cuz there ain't no snow today.
He said "Santa don't wear flannel,
I ain't gonna be surprised."
"I spilled some Java, on my suit," I said
it's out gittin' martinized"
"Why don't you and me,
Go outside, and have a talk."
The other kids needed a break,
And I needed to check on Chalk.
As we was walkin' thru the kitchen,
He was givin' me what for.
And to this day I ain't seen a more drastic change,
As when he walked out that door.
He was yappin' to beat the band,
But he stopped in mid complain.
I turned to see what was wrong.
And thought I'd gone insane.
That little feller, that just one minute before,
Was givin' me such grief.
Was quiet as a church mouse,
Starin' at Chalk in disbelief.
"Where did that horse come from?
It wasn't here before"
The little feller queried,
As he stood there in the door.
"Well I saddled him this mornin',
And rode him into town.
You're right, I don't own a sleigh,
I like a horse, is what I've found."
That little guy, that had been so tough,
Well, he just sat there, and cried.
"We used to have some horses,
Before my mom, and daddy, died."
Well, all the air left me, right then,
I shore was taken back.
I reached down and snatched that feller up,
And set him in my kack.
I lead him 'round the yard,
A time or two, or three.
Then I asked the Headmistress.
If he could take a ride with me.
We took off at a gallop,
Old chalk, that kid, and me.
That boy was in seventh heaven,
And that was plain to see.
We rode thru all the dusty streets,
Yup, we rode all up and down.
When we got back, he was so high,
His feet wouldn't touch the ground.
Then he did somethin', that to this day,
Brings a tear, and gives me pause.
He wrapped his arms around my neck, and said.
"You really ARE Santa Claus"
Cowboys and Christmas "Spirits"
Let me tell ya 'bout the year,
When chock full of Christmas "cheer,"
A foolish bet, I was fortunate to win.
It was late December,
And a nighttime to remember,
If just to see it don't take place again.
There was snow there on the ground,
All the waddies gathered 'round,
The bunkhouse's glowin' sheet iron stove.
When outside we heard,
What sounded like a herd,
And we knew our pardner, Rusty, had arove.
Now the gang, it was complete,
And we could hit that city street,
And have ourselves the party that we planned.
Well, I saddled up my roan,
But I wouldn't a went, had I just known,
How whiskey and pride can get things out of hand.
Well, when we hit that town,
Cowboys commenced to jumpin' down,
They all tied their snides up with a hitch.
They all hooted and ahollered,
And I jumped down, and follered,
I'd never drank, but I had me the itch.
Cowboys from near and far,
We all bellied to the bar,
Figured I'd just start off, with a beer.
Old Red, he hollered loud,
To be heard above the croud,
"YEEHAW, how 'bout some Christmas cheer"
Well, they struck banjo, and fiddle,
And we split right down the middle,
So.'s the folks that wanted to could dance.
I thought. I'll stand right here,
Just sippin' on my beer,
Maybe later on, I'll take a chance.
Later on Joe says to me,
Just as serious as can be,
"Throw away that beer, and have a drank"
Well, I started drinkin' whiskey,
And it left me feelin' frisky,
For what happened next, I guess old Joe's to thank.
As a cowhand, I get by,
I can rope, n throw, n tie,
My talents, tho' they really ain't the best
But with the whiskey's fire,
My cockiness grew higher,
Till I jumped up on the bar, and thumped, my chest.
"Now y'all know, I'm long and lean,
And I'm blind rattler, mean,
I can saddle, and ride anything with hair.
And when is comes to pitchin' twine,
Can't nobody outdo mine.
Why, if you find one, I can rope a grizzly bear."
Well I sure talked the talk,
And was sure I'd walk the walk,
When from down the bar this townie up and said.
"I can see ya got your pride,
But in my livery, there's a snide,
That'll shake you loose, and toss you on your head."
I said, "that just can't be,
No liv'ry plug, will e'er pitch me,
Here's a twenty, that will shorely, back my brag.
And come this time tomorrow,
You'll hang yore head in sorrow,
And be a twenty light, cuz of that nag.
When we walked out on the street,
And this old pelter, I did meet,
A mangier critter I had never seen.
He had a Roman nose,
And was hogbacked I suppose,
And his disposition, I could tell was mean.
With courage, from a shot,
I said,"Boys, like as not,
Y'all best stand back, this shapes up like a fight."
Well, I'd only grabbed one rein,
When I screamed out in pain,
Cuz from my back, that snide, had took a bite.
Them townies all guffawed,
And my bunkmates hee'd and hawed,
Somebody yelled,"Looks like he ain't had lunch."
With gritted teeth, you see,
Cuz his were sunk in me,
I drawed back and let go with a punch.
Well, that plug, he kinda flinched,
My fate by now was cinched,
And I jumped and threw my leg over his back.
I managed to sink spur,
Into this mangy cur,
'Bout the time my backparts met the kack
We danced out in that street,
Flyin' hooves, and spurrin' feet,
And that nag, he sunfished, once or twice.
He crowhopped up and down,
Scatterin' all those folks from town,
And they was hollerin' things, that wasn't nice.
But the shouts I couldn't hear,
I had a ringin' in my ear.
From the whiskey, or that horse, I'll never know.
But I was stickin' tight,
Less from talent, more from fright
Horse and rider fightin' in the snow.
Well, my teeth got such a jar,
When we crashed right thru, the bar,
Breakin' glass, and scatterin' their beer.
That snide kept jumpin' higher,
Dang near set my hat on fire
From bangin' my head into the chandelier.
With me still hangin' tight,
We crashed back into the night,
With screamin' cussin' cowboys all around.
I seen that street, lit by a torch,
Just as that pelter, cleared the porch,
Looked like this ride was tearin' up their town.
But I guess the final straw,
That left them townies, feelin ' raw,
Was the action that was fixin' to take place.
For unbeknownst to me,
There was this municipal tree,
Topped off by an angel's smiling face.
Well, you guessed it, yessiree,
We wound up there on that tree,
All decorated nice, and oh so green.
They said their eyes went wide,
As me and that there snide,
Smashed their pretty tree, to smithereens.
Ornaments was scattered,
Mostly they was shattered,
By the stompin' of that rangy wild cayuse.
And I recall it snowin',
As that bronc stood there a blowin'
I had popcorn strung around me like a noose.
Well, the cowboys was a shoutin',
And them townies, they was poutin'
Cuz it was over, n I was still sittin' in the kack
I heard over the din,
Someone holler,"Curley wins"
And then this cowboys' world just turned to black.
Well, I woke up in a cell,
My ears ringin' like a bell,
Seems the local sheriff, didn't care.
For my midnight ride,
Aboard that liv'ry snide,
And the Christmas carnage, we left, everywhere.
He said, "Since this is Christmas Eve,"
And if you will just retrieve,
A tree to replace the one that you tore down.
I'll let you out of jail,
The tree, for fine, and bail.
And you can get your hindparts out of town.
Well, I up and paid my debt,
And I've drank no likker yet,
No sir, not another drop, has passed my lips.
Cuz while I won my twenty,
I had bruises plenty,
And I figure I come close to cashin' chips.
So now on Christmas Day,
While the cowhands are away,
Sleepin' it off, and wakin' in a funk.
I can reminisce,
About that time, and this,
Gazin' at a framed twenty, o'er my bunk.
Read more of Lariat
Laureate Runner up Don Gregory's
poetry here at the BAR-D.
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