Tag Archives: Cowboys



I want to be able to bring home to you

Not only what I caught today
but the rope burns from
the ones that got away

Not only the buckles for the ones
that I stayed on for the eight
but the taste of the dirt
and other stuff I ate

Not only the meat from that old bear
but all the claw marks he left there

That you’re the one I want to kiss them well
also shows the love that I can’t tell



It’s about the hardest dustiest best work a man can get

The pride of the heeling rope, thrown snake quick from a
good horse and the slow steady pull, dragging the white face
out where the boys with the hot irons
can record the feat

Three hundred cows sing of calves lost and found, and above
all through it all the full strong laugh of one of the boys,
where a slip was made or a kick well placed

At the end of the day, you wrap a rope sore hand around a
spring cold beer, and lean back against the old pole fence
deep in the pain, and the sweat, and the moment

Completely released from the wheel of desire

There’s no place you’d rather be
There’s no one you’d rather be with
and you’re too damn tired to move anyway


(or Ranching at Eighteen)

Together we were young
and strong and very bold

And together we could drink
more beer than we could hold

We could drive home late and fast
singing every Johnny Horton song

And then fall asleep for minutes
and still answer the morning gong

We would work it out in the hot hot sun
(so easy then did the poisons yield)

As we sweated bales with pith forks
and passed gas
in a thousand acre field



I remember at Christmas getting a great threshing machine
a block of wood with wooden spools nailed to the side
but I loved it as I loved the threshing

All through the long summer days I would walk
the fields with my dog
At night my mother rubbed strong liniment on four year old
legs: growing pains she said, although one always hurt
more and didn’t seem to grow any faster

And the grain grew too, and passed me, and was higher
than I was. And then the harvest and the wonder of it falling
to the binder and the magic of the machine as it tied the
sheaves and ke-chunked them into the carrier

Then the stooking – little teepees covering the prairie again
and the golden warmth of everything

And the threshing machine; they wouldn’t let me too close;
it might eat me like it ate those sheaves and like the men
in the crew could eat, and they could eat
even when it rained

While I sat for hours nose to wet window
watching the great gray dinosaur
deep in the timeless mists

And hot clear windless days when everything sang and
the big belt slapped and the machine came to life again
and wagons were on both sides
and the big horses were standing strong and ready
and switching flies with dignity

The sun caught the arch or the long plume of straw and
the chaff lifting and the old hands fed the machine in a
sort of easy sweat-oiled rhyme and the new hands stood
on the sheaves they tried to lift each time

And the old hands laughed, and the new hands laughed
and they were men together



You could see her shine from miles away. She had
a movie star way of standing out from other horses.
Her rich chestnut coat always looked oiled and
polished with a deep inner glow that some people
have and you can’t describe. Sort of an abundance
of life that can’t be contained in the body and
radiates from every pore

And she wasn’t easy, coming from a line of
aristocrats. No one could ever ride her mother
or grandmother and her father bucked in rodeo

My brother tried to ride her first, the place where
she broke his arm still hurts when it rains. Not a
frequent problem in Saskatchewan

She bucked me off twice, both times for arrogance

Once in front of relatives from Oregon when I
dropped a rein and leaned over her neck to get it.
I was off balance and soon off of her onto the hard
ground in front of the shed. She did step on me
some too, just to drive home the point

The other time was in a soft field where I was
teaching her to neck rein and making circles to the
left and right. A car was coming down the lane and
I turned a little in the saddle to wave

It was enough, I was loose and I was gone. She piled
me so hard and high that I came down standing up
with reins still in my hands. Pretty good I
thought and started to take a bow for the people in
the car, but the lesson wasn’t over. She came
around full force with her back end like Babe Ruth
with a bat and knocked my flat

Every morning she would buck for the first half
mile, sort of an ongoing initiation; earning the
right to be with her again and again. She would
never be taken for granted and I knew that I would have to
face that test every day, and I was scared but I always
wanted to be there

And I stayed with her every time

I guess I had my fear to keep me tight
and my butterflies to keep me light

As I partook in some small way in Alexander’s feast
and took my classics lesson there

Only the brave
Only the brave
Only the brave deserves the fair



Their little dark houses still dotted the prairie

when I was growing up


They all seemed to cling to the soil as if their

life force had all been used up in the long and

difficult transplanting, and they could hang on

but no longer grow


Or they stood alone and surrounded by sadness

and the small and smaller markers of what had

fallen to the reaper’s scythe


Their roots, loosened year after year

by the hot winds and the deep frosts

became more and more brittle


Until one by one they broke off

like tumbleweeds

and were gone



Steam rises off the backs of big horses

The old Holstein in the second stall
shifts her weight from side to side
matching the rhythm of the milking

and flicks her tail at memories
of summer flies

Across the width of the barn
I stand with mouth open
in my biggest five year old oval

catching most of the milk
squirted dead eye straight
by the laughing hired man

In the tack room
kittens wait by a tin plate
to put their morning moustache on

In my memory it is always warm in the barn

The Cowboys The Pilots and Poets

Neil Meili, Zen Cowboy Poet, Photo ©Carolyn Meili


The Cowboys, the Pilots and Poets
The girls they say love them all

For the pilots have an air of the danger
of those who can die if they fall

While a poet’s crushed-petal scent
reflect all their beauty and pain

And a cowboy has a feel of the open
and a smell we won’t speak of again

Maybe the pilots help them feel
life’s edge of purest blue
While the poets act as mirrors
to depths they never knew

And the cowboys oh the cowboys
can touch them where it hurts
And they’ve got those fast
snap button shirts