Gary Brown: Yeehaw! It’s a ‘Cowboy’s Life’ for me
The bawl of a steer
To a cowboy’s ear
Is music of sweetest strain;
And the yelping notes
Of the gray coyotes
To him are a glad refrain.
The words of “The Cowboy’s Life,” taken from the 1921 collection “Songs of the Cowboys,” were submitted to www.cowboypoetry.com by an individual who “heard this sung at a little round-up at Seven Lakes, N.M., by a puncher named Spence.”
Poetry doesn’t get more cowboy than that.
Sunday started Cowboy Poetry Week, celebrated annually in April, which is National Poetry Month. To some, no doubt, poetry is all pretty much the same. To those who are captivated by the ways of the West, it is obvious that Cowboy Poetry is just a little more at home on the range.
Cowboy Poetry Week is dedicated to “preserving and celebrating the arts and life of rural communities and the real working West,” says the special week’s website, cowboypoetry.com/week.htm.
The poem “The Cowboy’s Life” describes its subject in words that appeal to senses and sensitivities.
His eyes are bright
And his heart as light
As the smoke of his cigarette;
There's never a care
For his soul to bear,
No trouble to make him fret.
What adult in a steady job can read those words and not yearn for the carefree life of a cowboy? Well, at least he’ll sigh and relive for a few moments the young days when he owned six-shooters, child-sized fringed chaps and a 10-pint — not yet big enough for gallons — cowboy hat given to him by his parents for Christmas.
There is a certain romance about the image of a cowboy — an air of independence, a hint of a solitary existence, an assumption of manly behavior, a look of ruggedness, an expectation of honesty, a manner of speaking, and the comforting dependability of a man who will get done what needs to be done at his own pace.
Cowboy poetry reflects all that, along with cow-punching, chuck wagons, brandings, saddle horses, round-ups, campfires, green pastures and ridin’ the range. It often speaks of those things with such words as “down yonder,” “fellers,” “raisin’ dust,” “cowboyin’.”
As if to prove that a cowboy’s heart may be tough, but also tender, some of the poems talk about cowboy love. “She Tied Her Hearts to Tumbleweeds” was written by Don Gregory. “My Cattle Pennin’ Angel” was completed by Jim Fox. “Maverick Love Affair” is a poem by Dee Strickland Johnson, otherwise known as “Buckshot Dot.”
Lariat laureates, the Cowboy Poetry website calls those writers. The website prints some of their offerings, and those of others, in a section called “Folks’ Cowboy Poetry.”
According to the Cowboy Poetry Week website, several cowboy poets of note have passed away this year. There is an urgency to preserve the legacy that they’ve left, say surviving poets. That’s why Cowboy Poetry Week, with its poetry readings and songfests, is held.
Surely “The Cowboy’s Life,” in its earnest simplicity, must have been one of the favored of its nine-decade-old era to have survived over the years. If you can’t be one, it seems to make you want to at least be with cowboys.
Saddle up, boys,
For the work is play
When love's in the cowboy's eyes,
When his heart is light
As the clouds of white
That swim in the summer skies.
Contact Gary Brown at email@example.com.