Monday, March 30, 2009


Every now and then a reader asks when I’m going to write another “cowboy column.” Maybe all the boyhood time I spent playing cowboy didn’t go to waste after all. Or the time spent watching cowboy movies and TV shows.

I can never qualify as a real cowboy poet. That requires a writer to actually be a working cowboy or cowgirl, or to at least own and operate a ranch. But at least I can try to think and write about the Wild West.

I’ve met a few real working cowboys along the way. And a whole passel of rodeo cowboys, including several of the very best. I’ve met only one real cowgirl. Last fall I wrote a column titled “Roman Rider.” It told the story of Prairie du Chien’s Elaine Kramer who once thrilled rodeo and circus audiences all across this country and Canada with her fantastic daring and exciting Roman riding act. I’m more than happy to say that this month Elaine will receive a great and well-deserved honor, when she is inducted into the National Cowgirls Hall of Fame down in Fort Worth, Texas .

Here is the tale of a barstool-riding cowboy:


“Rusty” Clayton is a cowboy,
Right out of the old Wild West,
Wearing hat and boots and Levis,
Jingling spurs and sheepskin vest.

He has a Southwestern accent
And can talk the cowboy talk.
He saunters into the barroom
With a John Wayne style of walk.

He tips his hat and says, “Howdy.”
No one feels it one bit strange
If he calls somebody “Pilgrim,”
That’s how it’s done on the range.

When people listen, he takes them
Back to his “cow punching” days
He tells about big fall roundups
Where they gathered up the strays,

And about those long nights when the
Dry, hard prairie was his bed,
When one small blanket warmed him and
His saddle pillowed his head.

Fighting rustlers is just one of
The risks a real cowboy takes,
Along with the prairie dog holes
And sidewinder rattlesnakes.

One night a short-tempered drinker
Snarled, “Tex, I think you’re all mouth.
Why not close your trap and mount your
Stick-pony and ride off south?

”For two hours I’ve sat and listened
To you till my ears were full.
I think your big cowboy talk is
Nothing but a load of bull.

”I’m sure I’m not wrong when I say
You’ve never herded a cow,
Or roped and branded young dogies,
Hell, I don’t think you’d know how!

”You ain’t killed any sidewinders
Or so much as a horned toad.
That barstool you’re straddling is as
Rank as any bronc you’ve rode.

”I’m declaring you’re no cowboy,
Here’s one thing that makes me sure:
You’re fancy old cowboy boots ain’t
Never tasted horse manure!”

Rusty slowly got to his feet,
Sneering, “I don’t take no lip
From no greenhorn who ain’t never
Slept west of the Mississip’.

”There’s just five guys who have tried me.
Three healed up, after a spell.
The fourth one still walks with crutches
And the fifth woke up in hell!”

The bar owner grabbed big Rusty
And rushed him right out the door,
Shouting, “Rusty, you’re just trouble,
You ain’t welcome here no more!”

Once outside, he whispered, “Rusty,
You know this is just an act.
That wise guy leaves town tomorrow,
And I know that for a fact.

”You know you’re the most consistent
Patron that we have, by far.
If you stayed away, we’d miss you,
You’re a fixture in this bar.

”You’re our only entertainment,
Best of all, you work for free.
Be back here tomorrow evening,
All your drinks will be on me.”

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