Tag Archives: Cowboys



Up North working the neighbour’s calves

One of those mixed farm forty cow
no corral kind of operations
good folks though and they help us out

We’re branding and cutting and vaccinating
in a lean-to off the barn in shit eight inches deep

No room for a horse or a rope
so you just have to grab those calves
and throw them down right side up
so they’re dry enough to brand

The farmer’s son loses his grip on a catch
and the calf tries to bolt past me

I turn quick, grab the head and come ‘round
fast to where the farmer stands flat footed
with that big syringe in his hand
needle pointed forward

Into my shoulder, skin, flesh and the bone
dumping the whole shot of multi-task

The next day the arm hurts bad
and it doesn’t look too good

So we drive down to Mossbank
to see the old Aussie flying doctor
who must have gotten off course
to land in Saskatchewan

He gives me some medicine
and says come back in three days

I say I’ll probably be fine by then
and it’s sixty miles round trip

He says “don’t worry mate
you’re vaccinated for shipping fever”

And I’ve been traveling ever since



There is no longer
a wild wild West to tame
or outlaws or Red Indians
to join in the old macho game

Of the testing of his manhood
and the building of his fame

And yet he retains the rugged look
of a steel-eyed firebrand
that can only be seen in the fearless few
who daily face death at every hand

Though now his risks are reduced
to trippin on the scenery
where he rides for a phony brand

And that cigarette in his hand



This is not the poetry of pulling calves
in a cold wind and a foot or so of spring snow
with only a vest and a bottle of rye
to keep you dry

is the poetry
of that calf that would have died

standing on shaky legs
to drink warm milk
from the cow that would have died



I didn’t kill a b’ar when I was only three
but I did start to chew before I was two

They say Copenhagen cowboys have a tendency to lie a bit
usually it’s how young they started and how far they can spit

Now I ain’t got many silver buckles to brag about
but this is for sure and without a doubt
I’ve got the record when it comes to snuff
for the earliest, and shortest, addiction to the stuff

Now my memory’s a little foggy but the legend’s quite clear
that somewhere between my first and second year
My daddy leaned over the crib to kiss me goodnight
with the can in his pocket not sittin’ too tight

It seems from the beginning that I sure liked the stuff
and, in no time at all, ate that whole box of snuff
Legend doesn’t tell my exact shades of green
but I hear there were some that had never been seen

Though out behind barns and sometimes in bars
I’ve tried cigarettes and pipes and a few good cigars
Still when folks pull out that old round can of thar’s
all my colour comes back and they think I’m from Mars



I bought a pair of boots one time
made from an old sea turtle’s hide
The prettiest boots you ever saw
but a little bit tight along the side

I figured it would only take a while
to break these babies in just right
and in the meantime at least I’d have
the pleasure of taking them off at night

Now a hundred years don’t seem long
to an old sea turtle, or his next of kin
but it appeared it was gonna take that long
to break those miserable damn boots in

I tried everything to ease that constant pain
I soaked ‘em, I oiled ‘em, I bent ‘em, I boiled ‘em
If anyone had suggestions, no matter how wild
I got out those boots and sure enough tried ‘em

But those son of a guns just continued to pinch
I couldn’t get them to move 1/16th of an inch
wild thoughts of destruction started filling my day
but the boots were too pretty I’d just give them away

I gave them to my younger brother first
by logic his feet should be smaller you see
but after a month or so he gave them back and said
he just couldn’t accept all that charity

So I gave them away to friend after friend
but I guess gratitude ain’t what it used to be
and the results were always the same in the end
I got those turtle boots back, but I mostly lost
the friend

and every time I got them back
I’d put them on and wear them a while
and never could figure how one pair of boots
could cause so much pain and still have so much

But I gave them at last to a chiropractor down in
and I didn’t get ‘em back, so I expect he’s got ‘em

because if he can’t adjust those boots
he can always adjust his feet



A poet will try to dissect the world
and he’ll try to show you each part
and he’ll write it all down with a pen
that he’s dipped in an old carin’ heart

While pilots have the eyes of a hawk
and a strut in the way that they walk
and they give all that’s in them to give
and they live every moment they live

And most cowboys are gentle not loud
and they’re not all that good in a crowd
and they talk like they’re about half asleep
but what they know boys and girls
they know deep



You can know your native language
and still feel all alone
as pilots talk to pilots
in a code that’s all their own

Yet not even one to one
can they share that love of air
or touch the other’s feelings
of the fear and beauty there

Sailors talk to sailors
of wind and sail and rope
of nights upon the ocean
of courage and of hope

Yet the words just can’t convey
their love of sea and air
nor touch the other’s feelings
of the fear and beauty there

And though cowboys talk to cowboys
in a special kind of drawl
there’s still a space between them
the words can’t tell at all

Not those nights of cold and stars
with coyotes on the air
nor the call of open spaces
with the fear and beauty there

Watch as lovers talk to lovers
in ways only two can share
as they build between them
a framework light and fair

While a web that’s spun of maybes
hangs so fragile in the air
that one false word can shatter
into pain, the beauty there

And yet

There are still some crazy poets
out riding hatless in the sun
still trying to do the very thing
we all know can’t be done

Still Quixoting for a language
that can speak to everyone



For years you’ve been cleaning up your act
But now the good old boys are coming back

And the guy they’re coming back to see
Is the good old boy that you used to be

You broke some broncs and drank some
And played tough football in those

Cruised to front and back seat double
And took big guns to kill small timid

Since then you’ve passed through many a
But can’t say to them. I’m not that person

Of course they may have changed too

But how oh how could they tell … You