September 26, 2008

Caroline was a Cowboy's Wife

Lee Jacobsen rode with us up until his 94th year. He now lives in an assisted living center in Idaho Falls surrounded by women of his same age who would love to have his attentions, but Lee says that he already has a wife and that she is waiting for him. Caroline and Lee were our neighbors in Island Park, Idaho. I guess I was reminded of this poem the other day as I was working on a new pole barn we are building out of rough cut lumber I am bringing down from Idaho. Since I don't have any more kids at home to help with the heavy lifting, I have had to employ the efforts of my wife Kathie to lend a hand, hold the level, steady the ladder and so on. Caroline was a woman with caloused hands and a heart as big as all outdoors. The photo is one I took of Lee some years back in the Bridger Teton Wilderness Area at the Ranger Station at Hawks Rest. We had found a pretty but stoved up palomino mare along the trail that had been abandoned. Here we are alerting the Rangers so they can go and rescue her by letting her rest in the ranger corrals for a few days before they take her out to the road.

Caroline Was a Cowboy’s Wife
by Paul Kern

Caroline was a cowboy’s wife,
She could have chosen an easier life,
Well bred and pretty she let it all be,
To marry that Jacobsen boy - Lee.

She fell in love and Lee did too,
He was a 1910 vintage buckaroo,
Who first wandered into Island Park,
On horseback where he left his mark.

A young cowboy on the Railroad Ranch,
The Harrimans gave him his chance,
To live out his dream on the back of a horse,
Caroline followed with no remorse.

From there they worked the Flying R,
A ways up the road but not too far,
Two sons she bore him - one for each knee,
They named ‘em Cody and Larry Lee.

Two lives entwined in the livestock trade,
Caroline made the cowhand grade,
She rode and trailed and fenced and hazed,
Making a home where the cattle grazed.

Caroline knew livestock better than most,
She helped Lee build fences post by post.
All the same she would cook and sew,
Her favorite mare she called Latigo.

In time they bought a place of their own,
The kids were big now, nearly all grown,
Their brand was the Quarter Circle J Bar,
Still they kept on working at the Flying R.

They shared their cowboy ways with me,
How to find strays and where they’d be,
How to run cattle throughout the year,
And how to use old-time cowboy gear.

I’d got thrown off by a horse named Buck,
Caroline came over in her pick-up truck,
She always said to just get back on,
I would have, but that horse was gone.

Lee claimed never to have lost a steer,
Or a heifer or bull regardless the year,
And so the years came and then flew by,
Caroline departed for the sweet by and by.

One quiet morning Lee opened the door,
Caroline’s sewing room was left as before,
Just as she left it before she left him,
Lee’s eyes were misty but not all that dim.

He told me on his headstone next to hers,
There’d be an empty saddle, a rope and spurs.
Someday when he crosses that great divide,
Caroline will be riding at his side.

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1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful. I appreciate how you use your gift with words to honor such super people who were so much a part of Island Park. John and I miss seeing Lee and chatting with him when he stopped by our old office on Hwy. 20.

    Elizabeth Laden
    Island Park News