The Cowboys' Christmas Ball
To the Ranchmen of Texas
'Way out in Western Texas, where the Clear Fork's waters flow,
Where the cattle are "a-browzin'," an' the Spanish ponies grow;
Where the Northers "come a-whistlin'" from beyond the Neutral Strip;
And the prairie dogs are sneezin', as if they had "The Grip";
Where the cayotes come a-howlin' 'round the ranches after dark,
And the mocking-birds are singin' to the lovely "medder lark";
Where the 'possum and the badger, and rattlesnakes abound,
And the monstrous stars are winkin' o'er a wilderness profound;
Where lonesome, tawny prairies melt into airy streams,
While the Double Mountains slumber, in heavenly kinds of dreams;
Where the antelope is grazin' and the lonely plovers call--
It was there that I attended "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."
The town was Anson City, old Jones's county seat,
Where they raised Polled Angus cattle, and waving whiskered wheat;
Where the air is soft and "bammy," an' dry an' full of health,
And the prairies is explodin' with agricultural wealth;
Where they print the Texas Western, that Hec. McCann supplies
With news and yarns and stories, uv most amazin' size;
Where Frank Smith "pulls the badger," on knowin' tenderfeet,
And Democracy's triumphant, and might hard to beat;
Where lives that good old hunter, John Milsap, from Lamar,
Who "used to be the Sheriff, back East, in Paris sah!"
'T was there, I say, at Anson with the lovely "widder Wall,"
That I went to that reception, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."
The boys had left the ranches and come to town in piles;
The ladies--"kinder scatterin'"-- had gathered in for miles.
And yet the place was crowded, as I remember well,
'T was got for the occasion, at "The Morning Star Hotel."
The music was a fiddle an' a lively tambourine,
And a "viol came imported," by the stage from Abilene.
The room was togged out gorgeous-with mistletoe and shawls,
And candles flickered frescoes, around the airy walls.
The "wimmin folks" looked lovely-the boys looked kinder treed,
Till their leader commenced yellin': "Whoa! fellers, let's stampede,"
And the music started sighin', an' awailin' through the hall
As a kind of introduction to "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."
The leader was a feller that came from Swenson's ranch,
They called him "Windy Billy," from "little Deadman's Branch."
His rig was "kinder keerless," big spurs and high-heeled boots;
He had the reputation that comes when "fellers shoots."
His voice was like a bugle upon the mountain's height;
His feet were animated an' a mighty, movin' sight,
When he commenced to holler, "Neow, fellers stake your pen!
"Lock horns ter all them heifers, an' russle 'em like men.
"Saloot yer lovely critters; neow swing an' let 'em go,
"Climb the grape vine 'round 'em--all hands do-ce-do!
"You Mavericks, jine the round-up- Jest skip her waterfall,"
Huh! hit wuz gettin' happy, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"
The boys were tolerable skittish, the ladies powerful neat,
That old bass viol's music just got there with both feet!
That wailin', frisky fiddle, I never shall forget;
And Windy kept a-singin'-I think I hear him yet-
"Oh Xes, chase yer squirrels, an' cut 'em to one side;
"Spur Treadwell to the centre, with Cross P Charley's bride;
"Doc. Hollis down the middle, an' twine the ladies' chain;
"Varn Andrews pen the fillies in big T Diamond's train.
"All pull yer freight together, neow swallow fork an' change;
"'Big Boston,' lead the trail herd, through little Pitchfork's range.
"Purr 'round yer gentle pussies, neow rope 'em! Balance all!"
Huh! hit wuz gettin' active-"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"
The dust riz fast an' furious; we all jes' galloped 'round,
Till the scenery got so giddy that T Bar Dick was downed.
We buckled to our partners, an' told 'em to hold on,
Then shook our hoofs like lightning, until the early dawn.
Don't tell me 'bout cotillions, or germans. No sire 'ee!
That whirl at Anson City just takes the cake with me.
I'm sick of lazy shufflin's, of them I've had my fill,
Give me a frontier break-down, backed up by Windy Bill.
McAllister ain't nowhar: when Windy leads the show,
I've seen 'em both in harness, and so I sorter know--
Oh, Bill, I sha'n't forget yer, and I'll oftentimes recall,
That lively gaited sworray--"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."
by William Lawrence "Larry" Chittenden
Read more classic poetry by William Lawrence "Larry" Chittenden here.
I will always remember that day in December
when I first saw that wild, raucous sight.
And with nary a word I can still see that herd
and how it moved with a powerful might!
Some cowboys looked tattered and some even lathered
as they fought to gain on the lead.
Yet some seemed quite handy, perhaps even dandy
and sure footed as any a steed.
The leather was slapping and bandanas flapping
As each man rose to answer the call.
The hoots were all hollered and the stray doggies collared
and drug into the midst of it all!
The dust was a flying as onward they were trying
to move the herd steady and sure.
The hooves were a stomping, and dragging and clomping,
it was more than some could endure.
I remember the sound when they made it to town
and how the dear ladies did swoon.
They found themselves swaying to twin fiddles playing
as the caller began a sweet croon.
And such was the night 'neath the winter moonlight,
that I first fell in love with it all.
With the sights and the sounds; with the twirling around's
of a dance called the "Cowboy Christmas Ball."
© 2002, Carl Bennett Condray
Read more of Carl Condray's poetry here.
A Christmas Star
While drivin' cattle from high ground to the winter range below,
Mother Nature played a dirty trick, and covered us with snow.
We found a fairly sheltered spot and then we set up camp;
we lit a campfire too 'cause we was mighty cold and damp.
It was a bleak December nite, unfit for man or beast,
and we had spotted in the sky a bright star in the East.
We didn't recognize this star and watched it quite a while,
then Cookie lost his usual frown and he began to smile.
"We plum lost track of time:, he said, "And would you boys believe,
tomorrow's Christmas Day and so, this here is Christmas Eve."
Well, suddenly our spirits rose and we stoked up that fire
while Cookie fried some little pies he knows we all admire.
Then Slim pulled out his old French harp and played a hymn or two,
and we began to join rite in with Christmas songs we knew.
the Christmas spirit was gittin' a rite good hold on all of us
'til Jake got off night duty and created quite a fuss.
He brung a new-born calf to camp whose maw had up and died;
but what of earth we'd do with her had us plum mystified.
She had a markin' on her head that looked just like a star;
to call her by another name would start a campfire war.
We worked to keep this dogie warm thoughout that stormy nite
while prayin' for a miracle with all our earthly might.
Now all the time that Eastern star kept shinin' up above
as cowpokes gave that little calf some tender care and love.
Well, sure enough that very morn a still-birth had occurred,
and we took Star to meet this cow; the meanest in the herd.
Now what would happen we didn't know, and this gave us a fright;
but that ol' mossy longhorn loved our Star at very first sight.
Her ornery disposition changed a lot, in fact she got real good.
I think she knowd we cowpokes had restored her motherhood.
We vowed that even if the Cow Boss called us on the carpet,
these two would live rite on the ranch and never go to market.
Well, Christmas Day the clouds of gray were gone and sky was clear,
and we knowd next nite we'd be home with folks that we held dear.
We looked real hard to find that star that had so brightly shone
upon our camp on Christmas Eve, but it was surely gone.
We talked it over thru the nite, and most of us believe
most miracle, for man and beast, occur on Christmas Eve.
© 2003, Tex Tumbleweed
Read more of Tex Tumbleweed's poetry here.
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