cowboy poetry

Cowboy Poetry

Cowboy poetry has been part of the western tradition from the first cowboys, who entertained themselves and one another at the end of a work day with poetry, songs, music and storytelling.

Kay El Bar's head wrangler Norm has studied cowboy poetry for years, and shares the poems with guests at the ranch during evenings in the lodge and on the trail. READ MORE in the November 2, 2018 blog post.

RIDIN' (1915)

There is some that like the city-
Grass that's curried smooth and green,
Theaytres and stranglin' collars,
Wagons run by gasoline-
But for me it's hawse and saddle
Every day without a change,
And a desert sun a-blazin'
On a hundred miles of range.

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'-
Desert ripplin' in the sun,
Mountains blue among the skyline-
I don't envy anyone
When I'm ridin'.

When my feet is in the stirrups
And my hawse is on the bust,
With his hoofs a-flashin' lightnin'
From a cloud of golden dust,
And the bawlin' of the cattle
Is a-comin' down the wind
Then a finer life than ridin'
Would be mighty hard to find.

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'-
Splittin' long cracks through the air,
Stirrin' up a baby cyclone,
Rippin' up the prickly pear
As I'm ridin'.
I don't need no art exhibits
When the sunset does her best,
Paintin' everlastin' glory
On the mountains to the west
And your opery looks foolish
When the night-bird starts his tune
And the desert's silver mounted
By the touches of the moon.

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'-
Who kin envy kings and czars
When the coyotes down the valley
Are a singin' to the stars,
If he's ridin'?

When my earthly trail is ended
And my final bacon curled
And the last great roundup's finished
At the Home Ranch of the world
I don't want no harps nor haloes
Robes nor other dressed up things-
Let me ride the starry ranges
On a pinto hawse with wings!

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'-
Nothin' I'd like half so well
As a-roundin' up the sinners
That have wandered out of Hell,
And a-ridin'.

by Charles Badger Clark Jr. (1883-1957)

graphic of cowboy hat atop cowboy boots

HOOFS OF THE HORSES (1922)

The hoofs of the horses!—Oh! witching and sweet
Is the music earth steals from the iron-shod feet;
No whisper of lover, no trilling of bird
Can stir me as hoofs of the horses have stirred.

They spurn disappointment and trample despair,
And drown with their drum-beats the challenge of care;
With scarlet and silk for their banners above,
They are swifter then Fortune and sweeter than Love.

On the wings of the morning they gather and fly,
In the hush of the night-time I hear them go by—
The horses of memory thundering through
With flashing white fetlocks all wet with the dew.

When you lay me to slumber no spot can you choose
But will ring to the rhythm of galloping shoes,
And under the daisies no grave be so deep
But the hoofs of the horses shall sound in my sleep

by Will Ogilvie (1869-1963)

graphic of cowboy hat atop cowboy boots

THE TIME TO DECIDE

Did you ever stand on the ledges,
On the brink of the great plateau
And look from their jagged edges
On the country that lay below?

When your vision met no resistance
And nothing to stop your gaze,
Till the mountain peaks in the distance
Stood wrapped in a purple haze.

On the winding water courses
And the trails on the mountain sides,
Where you guided your patient horses
On your long and lonesome rides.

When you saw Earth’s open pages
And you seemed to understand
As you gazed on the work of ages,
Rugged and rough, but grand.

There, the things that you thought were strongest
And the things that you thought were great,
And for which you had striven longest
Seemed to carry but little weight.

While the things that were always nearer,
The things that you thought were small;
Seemed to stand out grander and clearer.
As you looked from the mountain wall.

While you’re gazing on such a vision
And your outlook is clear and wide,
If you have to make a decision,
That’s the time and place to decide

Although you return to the city
And mingle again with the throng;
Though your heart may be softened by pity
Or bitter from strife and wrong.

Though others should laugh in derision,
And the voice of the past grow dim;
Yet, stick to the cool decision
That you made on the mountain’s rim.

by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)