July 05, 2008

Only a Cattleman Knows

A couple of summers ago I jotted down all the complaints I heard from the ranchers and cowboys on several ranches in the Island Park Idaho area, including some of my own. Then, by some quirk of fate they starting to rhyme and I put them down in stanza and verse. This poem is included on my CD "Rimrock - Where Memories Rhyme" and is set to a blues guitar sequence that carries the listener through the myriad of complaining done by grown men that summer to the final punch line. The whole thing wouldn't be so funny except that every single one of the complaints listed here was actually said by someone who had to deal with the problem personally.

Only a Cattleman Knows
by Paul Kern

Give the land back to the Injuns! - I’ve been heard to cuss and say,
If the open range came under wire, it don’t seem to hold much sway.

What a holy mess! – the fences on land the State has leased,
To range-bred cattle barbed wire’s just an inconvenience to the beast.

And furthermore ya’ never know to whence the State is goin’,
If they’ll re-up your lease or not – can’t plan much without knowin’.

We found our branded bally steer down by the Seven Bar,
They say wild cattle ain’t much for herdin’ - how right they really are.

They’re wild as a March hare and four’ve died of brisket disease.
But we hazed ‘em down despite the snow – right before the freeze.

Them cowboys won’t get off their horse and go and do some work,
If they ain’t dodgin’ duty - they’re findin’ somethin’ else to shirk.

I hold it to them the broken fences and the cattle we found dead.
Their rope burn scars on the sorrel mare are healed - but still are red.

Those squatters on the Bureau’s land just don’t respect a herd,
Due to the damage they inflict - a loss of eighteen head occurred.

Never to be found a horseback, they’ve been run off through the trees,
The squatters broke the fences down - and run them o’er with ATVs.

At preg checkin’ time an open heifer broke loose and found her bull,
In workin’ cattle – to stay on top - there’s hardly time to lull.

Hanged if on that parcel I’m dickerin’ on, they ain’t upped the price,
I thought we’d made a deal but now they say – “Not yet, no dice!”

Why, I figgered we had settled things - again and once‘n fer all.
Well I’m as mad as spit and more’n likely - won’t move on it this fall.

That Smoky turned out a good cow horse he only bucks up in the cold,
But calms pert much when lunged a bit - after which he’s good as gold.

But the contract price per live-weight pound has turned out pretty fair,
So next spring when things get up and rollin’ – ya’ bet that I’ll be there.

In life’s remuda there’re tamer mounts, but a green broke one I chose,
For I sure do relish a good complaint - as only a cattleman knows.

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