The Old Time Christmas
I liked the way we used to do,
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.
The people gathered frum far and near, and
they barbacued a big fat steer.
The kids tried stayin' awake because,
they reckoned they might ketch Santa Claus.
Next mornin' you'd wake 'em up to see,
what he'd been and put on the Christmas tree.
It was Christmas then fer the rich and pore,
and every ranch was an open door.
The waddy that came on a company hoss
was treated the same as the owner and boss.
Nobody seemed to have a care,
you was in among friends or you wasn't there.
For every feller in them days knew
to behave hisself as a man should do.
Some had new boots, which they'd shore admire
when they warmed their feet in front of the fire.
And the wimmin folks had new clothes too,
but not like the wimmin of these days do.
Sometimes a drifter came riding in,
some feller that never was seen agin.
And each Christmas day as the years went on
we used to wonder where they'd gone.
I like to recall the Christmas night.
The tops of the mountains capped with white.
The stars so bright they seemed to blaze,
and the foothills swum in a silver haze.
Them good old days is past and gone.
The time and the world and the change goes on.
And you cain't do things like you used to do
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.
Reprinted with the kind permission of Cowboy Miner Productions, publishers of the finest in classic and modern Cowboy Poetry. This poem is from their book Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon. That book is now out of print.
You can read more classic poetry by Bruce Kiskaddon here at the BAR-D.
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.
Dee Strickland Johnson is:
Dee is the author of several books of poetry and has just released her latest, Arizona Herstory. (See all her books and music her at web site mercantile here).
Dee'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 and free e-postcards 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.
Dee's daughter Becky, who maintains Dee's site, has a letter about what transpired after Tim's accident. Please read it here, as the situation could not be explained any better.
A family trust has been established to help Dee and her husband John continue to be able to live near Tim. Even the smallest donation will help. Read about it here, where you can donate on line or by check to the JC Johnson & DS Johnson Revocable Living Trust, Bank of America, 5755 N 19th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85015-2460
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.
Christmas on the Trail
I was up in the hills, checkin' fence for Dad,
while home from school on vacation.
It started to snow, and soon covered the trail,
but I knew my exact location.
I put up a lean-to for my mare Bill,
then put up a tent for me.
I started a fire, then started a stew,
then I boiled me some sassafras tea,
It was Christmas Eve, and it snowed all night,
but by mornin' the sky was clear.
I found myself thinkin' that this has to be
my favorite time of the year.
I got the feedbag and gave Bill some oats,
then got my fire goin' again.
I thought of my folks and all of the guests,
that for days had been wanderin' in.
They'd be on the carpet in front of the fire,
and passin' their gifts around.
And here's old Bud, snowed in, in the woods,
my carpet, the frozen ground.
I spotted a pine tree, with cones that hung
like ornaments Nature had made.
The green of that tree was somethin' to see,
like beautiful Chinese jade.
A hidden choir of coyotes sang carols,
while a brown bear watched from a hill.
I boiled me some more of that sassafras tea,
then sat there and drank my fill.
Three mountain jays came to check me out,
and flitted from branch to branch.
They too were like ornaments on our tree
in the livingroom back at the ranch.
There, by now, all the folks would be sorry
I'm missin' their Christmas cheer.
But when I get home, I'll have to tell 'em
how I had Christmas here.
© 2003, Hal Swift
Read more of Hal Swift's poetry here.
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