What were you thinking?
I wrote this poem when I was young and raw, and now that the Good Lord has seen fit to put some age on me, I often stop and reflect on bygone days. It’s said that oldtimers regularly do this sort of thing. And why not?
When you think of the good times, it brings a smile to your face. While, if you reflect on mistakes, it brings a sigh of relief and a thankfulness that God put his loop around you and drug you to safety out of the muddy bog.
But that brings a bit of responsibility to you also. While the Lord was keeping you safe in spite of yourself, He was also instilling a wisdom that you are obligated to pass on to the younger generation. Not that they are always open to receiving, yet the mere method of relating these past indiscretions floods across their being and inevitably a certain amount seeps in.
Thus, revealing the age old question, “How did old cowboys get to be old cowboys?” Well, for starters, they have that “never quit” mentality and also by, “Not by being stupid!”
So, as the Good Lord allows us a chance to grow in age and wisdom where we have the ability to reflect on bygone days, we find that we can be thankful that our paths were guided by our God and that we now have the ability to share this wisdom with the young whippersnappers that are prone to making the same mistakes we embraced in our youth.
The main character in this story is Tom Blasingame, but first I must tell you about his brother Nash Blasingame. Nash accompanied Tom on his trip to Texas from Oklahoma when they were just teenagers.
Nash and his wife Aunt Ann helped raise my ol’ Pard, Freddie Scott Dunham. These two brothers came to Texas and embraced the cowboy way of life, following the cowboy code and living up to the mantra of “never quit.” This poem was inspired by a quote from Tom Blasingame.
Tom was a cowboy on the JA ranch that is located in the Panhandle of Texas just off the Cap Rock in the Palo Dura Canyon. A partnership of John Adair and the famous Texas pioneer, Charles Goodnight, founded the JA Ranch in the mid 1877’s. Charley died December 12, 1929. Tom Blassingame rode into the JAs in 1916. He cowboyed on the JA and other ranches for 73 years.
Tom married his wife Eleanor in 1933 and moved her to the Cherokee Camp on the JA. But Eleanor declined to stay at the remote camp without electricity or running water and Tom moved her to Claude, Texas. Tom rode some forty miles into Claude for a visit and was later asked in an interview what he thought about when he made those trips? Tom’s reply was the inspiration for this poem.
He said, “Why, I wasn’t thinkin’ about anything. I was just enjoyin’ the ride.”
This is Tom’s final chapter an old cowboy on the JA ranch got on his horse at daybreak on December 27, 1989. He was born in 1898 and was 91 years old and he was recognized as the oldest living cowboy at the time.
Tom Blasingame was living at the JA’s Campbell Creek Camp down in the Palo Dura Canyon. He rode out to do his regular daily tasks of checkin’ windmills and watergaps on Bullrun Creek. At some point, he stepped off his mount and lay down on a grassy knoll, crossed his arms over his chest and died. Now, that was how he lived, quiet and uncomplicated, and he was buried just the way he lived. His gray horse was saddled, and his boots put in the stirrups backward to signify that” his empty saddle would be a tough place to fill.”
Then the procession rode to the JA Cemetery, located in Goodnight, Texas, in full cowboy style for his burial.
This is a poem I wrote to honor Tom Blassingame and other old cowboys.
What Were You
He sat horseback hearin’ the cattle bawl,
good medicine…these days in early fall,
memories of old times he would recall.
Shore made him teary eyed!
The peaceful quiet at early break-o-day,
a winter’s morn when ponies tend to play,
sittin’ horseback, as the Lord guides your way.
The sudden crash of early springtime storms,
a warm day with honeybees in their swarms,
daybreak’s chill that hot cup of coffee warms.
Wal, what were you thinkin’?
The beauty of the summer flowers that grow,
the clear crisp nights with twinklin’ stars all a-glow,
while cool, windin’ creeks tumble an’ flow.
Late summer’s dry an’ heat will scorch the land,
dry skies with gusty winds an’ hot blowin’ sand,
waterholes, stagnant an’ dry, taunt the cowhand.
Dang! What were you thinkin’?
The welcome crisp cool of an autumn night,
as you sit by the chuck wagon’s campfire light,
the fall gather an’ all seems to be right.
Cattle shipped an’ the wagon has come back,
Christmas time stars in skies of inky black,
jolly old Saint Nick with his loaded pack.
Whew! What were you thinkin’?
The Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddlin’ clothes,
and now, Mary’s sweet, radiant smile glows,
Angels sing praises as shepherds repose.
That day long ago when you took a wife,
the lovely smile as she birthed a new life,
kids an’ grandkids help you deal with all strife.
My, what were you thinkin’?
You stop an’ ponder back over the years,
how the Lord helped you overcome your fears,
as you remember, an’ blink back the tears.
You worked an’ played in the open air,
both hard times an’ good times came to you there,
it was shore easy to live your life square.
It’s been a good life with wife by your side,
not everything got done, but you shore tried,
an’ now it’s dang hard to contain your pride.
Shucks, what were you thinkin’?
Why, I warn’t thinkin’ about nothin’ atall,
That’s how it is when you’ve got it all,
An’ life is too short to think of a fall.
Heck! I’ve just been enjoyin’ the RIDE!!
© 2012, Ol’ Jim Cathey
Thank you to the western men and women that developed our western heritage.
God bless each of you and God Bless America!