Which came first - the cowboy or the cowboy poet?

The best that I can figure things out, this poem pert near covers my thoughts about other’s question about cowboys and cowboy poets and maybe the other way around. 

I grew up doing the things expected from a rancher’s kid, mostly getting in the way and working out of a few jams. I finished high school at Dublin back when Everett Colburn partnered with Gene Autry to produce the last professional rodeo of the season before the National Finals at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was billed as the Pre-Madison Square Garden Rodeo and occurred in Dublin, Texas for many years.

I went to college at Tarleton, known as a premier rodeo school, and then to Texas A&M to become an Ag Teacher. Along the way, in a variety of weather, I built fence, hauled hay, and made a hand at many a cow work, and never taught in an ag classroom. 

Over the years, I was fortunate to have two dogs and two horses that forged a special place in my life. There was JackRabbit, young unbroken stallion that eventually became a rideable gelding. He had bottom and developed into a good cow horse. 

And then there was Ol’ Bald…he could have been the horse Bruce Kiskaddon described in his poem “That Little Blue Roan.” Dogs…? Well, there was Bullet, named after Roy Rogers dog. I grew up with him and he was a dandy. Then in later years Dusty came along to bless me and my family’s lives. There were others, but these stand out.

I say all of that to say this…I’ve been there, done that, and more. I had a bushy mustache for more than three decades before I started doing cowboy poetry and through the years, I’ve done a lot of things that ain’t cowboy, but my heart and soul was cowboy. I’ve known an’ worked with some of the best, like my younger brother Bill, who most folk know as Willy. He is a cowboy’s cowboy! 

And that’s been so from his early days to his retirement place in the country near Ballinger, Texas where he enjoys his horses, dog, grandchildren, and his wonderful wife, Sissy.

My answer to the question about cowboys and cowboy poets ... well, it’s in the words of this poem.




You may see the truth of an age-old debate.

Can cowboys an’ poets intertwine?

Well son, leave it to the Lord to savvy that fate,

The answer is His to divine.


Oh, I’ve heard that ol’ story ‘bout cattle an’ hats,

The Sage an’ the Bard with their tale,

An’ the café coffee drinkers with their chats,

Tho their claims to the truth often fail.


Yet when it comes up in polite conversation,

There is always one there that knows,

‘Course, he’s been there, done that, met all expectation,

Often that is just the way it goes.


The truth lies with the ones that ply the cowboy art,

That breathe the dust an’ face the day,

An’ all of this as they strive to do their part,

With pride, livin’ the cowboy way!


Yes, they are a hardy lot, tryin’ to make a hand,

They’re loyal and strive for fair play,

True to their word, these men that ride for the brand,

An’ it’s known far an’ wide that they ride for short pay.


What binds them to this hard rugged life on the range,

Full of hardship, sufferin’, an’ strife,

Are they somehow kindred to matters so strange,

Tethered to this nomadic life?


The answer lies in the scent of a prairie rain,

Or maybe the eagle in flight,

The distant sunset or a coyote’s refrain,

As stars fill the sky at night.


The lowing of the cattle driftin’ through the breeze,

The clatter of horn upon horn,

Or the feel of a good horse between your knees, 

 Thankful that to this you were born.


Oh the dancin’ of sun sparkles on canyon wall,

Or the craggy ol’ trees on the rim,

The smell of coffee an’ bacon, waitin’ for chow call,

An’ the stories in rhyme by Ol’ Jim.


The feel of the fire on a chilled early morn,

With rattle of cook pots an’ pans,

The clatter of hooves followed by jingler’s scorn,

Knowin’ that he has altered their plans.


Then the hawk’s shrill whistle circlin’ there in the sky,

As the sun begins its climb,

An’ those that ride the outside circle fortify,

A poetic day in rhyme.


Of course there’s more, so much more, God’s creation in view,

So take a knee, as the day you face,

An’ thank the Good Lord for the gift that He gave you,

A free gift if you will, God’s own Grace!


You may see the truth of an age old debate.

Can cowboys an’ poets intertwine?

Well son, leave it to the Lord to savvy that fate,

The answer is His to divine.

©  Ol’ Jim Cathey


Tip o’ the week -- Don’t brag about how many broncs you’ve stomped or cows you’ve roped.

God Bless you and God Bless America!






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