A Cowboy’s Christmas PrayerWritten by Dick Perue
The following poem is taken from an undated yellowed newspaper clipping found in the Bob Martin/Dick Perue collection. No author was listed, but it could have been written by any cowboy, on any range, at any time for all of us who love America and especially the West at this joyous time of Christ’s birth. – Dick Perue
I ain’t much good at prayin’, and You may not know me, Lord.
I ain’t much seen in churches where they preach Thy Holy Word,
But You may have observed me out here in the lonely plains,
A-lookin’ after cattle, feelin’ thankful when it rains.
Admirin’ Thy great handiwork, the miracle of grass,
Aware of Thy kind spirit in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night and know we’ve got a Friend.
So here’s to Christmas comin’ on, remindin’ us again,
Of Him whose coming brought good will into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain’t no preacher, Lord, but if You’ll hear my prayer,
I’ll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere.
Don’t let no hearts be bitter, Lord; don’t let no child be cold.
Make easy beds for them that’s sick and them that’s weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride, no matter what we’re after,
And sorter keep us on Your side, in tears as well as laughter.
I’ve seen old cows a-starvin’, and it ain’t no happy sight.
Please don’t leave no one hungry, Lord, on Thy good Christmas night.
No man, no child, no woman and no critter on four feet –
I’ll aim to do my best to help you find ‘em chuck to eat.
I’m just a sinful cowpoke, Lord – ain’t go no business prayin’ –
But still I hope you’ll ketch a word or two of what I’m sayin’.
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord – I reckon You’ll agree
There ain’t no Merry Christmas for nobody that ain’t free.
So one thing more I’ll ask You, Lord, just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom for the future sons of man!
Hell’s Half AcreWritten by Dick Perue
That Demon claiming this half-acre
Possessed a mind both lithe and active.
He well knew how, were he the maker
To make its weirdness quite attractive.
Those gray-green slopes invite your sliding
Down to see what’s that queer shape,
That seems to be a gnome a-riding
Upon a surface once a lake.
There’s no lake there, the water frightened,
Fled through a gateway deep and wide.
For fire-fiends roared and glowered and tightened
Their hold, and fought on every side.
Great rocks seem to have been their weapons
As angry their emotions spent,
Themselves to grind to flakes and atoms
Old Mother Earth her bosom rent.
A feeling somehow quite uncanny
Creeps o’er you as you stand and gaze
At shades and colors, oh, how many,
That leave your thoughts all in a maze.
Pray do not miss it, for its beauty
Will stay with you for many a day,
Forsake a little work and duty
To learn a bit from gnome and fray.
– Elizabeth Binns Moreland
While looking through a Christmas present from a friend, who also is possessed with history and historical photographs, I discovered the above poem and accompanying photo. The gift was a 1938 magazine aptly called “Wonderful Wyoming,” published by Wyoming Department of Commerce and Industry with Charles B. Stafford as editor.
In the forward Gov. Leslie A. Miller writes, “This tabloid is designed to briefly picture the scenic beauty spots, unusual attractions, recreational opportunities and outdoor life resources of our state.”
Old Buck By C. E. “Rusty” FryerWritten by Dick Perue
See this horse in this picture?
Man he was a cracker jack.
And say, friend, you were mounted
When you were on his back.
Just a range-bred cayuse,
No blue blood or pedigree.
A shaggy buckskin critter,
But horse enough for me.
For when it came to cuttin’ cattle,
He was lightning on his feet.
And at times he would keep you guessin’
If you were going to keep your seat.
And talk about a rope horse,
There wern’t no steer he couldn’t hold.
Around a bunch of doggies,
He was worth his weight in gold.
He was a tricky devil,
As cunning as a hound.
And if he could catch you nappin’,
He would plant you on the ground.
He knew every trail in the country,
And every ranch and town.
But too many years of roundup
Finally got him down.
He got so stiff and lame
That I knew we had to part.
So one fall I left him home,
And I guess it broke his heart.
For he stood out there in the pasture
With his head a-hanging low.
For he knew it was time for the roundup
And he knew he couldn’t go.
He kept a-looking sadder
And a getting powerful thin,
‘Till along about October
The old horse, he cashed in.
But the coyotes and the magpies
Didn’t polish those faithful bones.
For I drug him down in a wash
And covered him up with stones.
My eyes, they sort of blurred,
As I thought of the days on the plains,
And I wished him knee high in bunch grass
At rest on the final range.
Wyoming cowboy, ranch hand and camp cook Rusty Fryer composed this poem in the 1940s. It is reprinted from his book of poems called “The Spell of the West.” Rusty often worked for my dad building fence, baling hay and cooking the best grub in the country for a hungry crew.
While working, he often recited this and many other poems. Rusty also liked a drink or two, and at times, wetted his whistle for free after entertaining the local boys with his poems and sage advise. His writing often appeared in the hometown newspaper.
Ranch Roustabout’s Christmas – 1890 By Maude WillfordWritten by Dick Perue
It’s rough to be a button, and a roustabout at that,
When Christmas snow comes driftin’ deep and white across the flat,
And all the older cowboys are a slickin’ up for town,
You’ve got to swaller mighty hard to keep the blubbers down,
For someone’s got to stay behind, the way a ranch is run,
To feed the stock, and it’s just your luck to have to be the one.
Slims got a gal he aims to spark, Toms goin’ on a toot.
They’re all plumb full of vinegar for a Christmas gallyhoot.
Frank aims to celebrate at church, have dinner with his Ma.
Your own folks will be missin’ you way back in Arkansas.
In town, there’ll be a Christmas ball for Breezy’s dancing feet,
With old friends meetin’ up again and bright lights on the street.
Ol’ Slim he makes the offer that he’ll stay and you can go,
You savvy what it means to him, so you just tell him no.
You’ve hired on as a roustabout, and you’ve got no folks in town,
Too young for gallyhootin’, so you’ll hold the rancho down.
You don’t make no complaint, of course, no whimper and no sob,
For you’ll never make a cowhand if you can’t hold down your job.
You watch ‘em mount to ride away across the frosty morn,
And you’ve never felt so lonesome since the day that you were born.
You hear Breezy holler as he gives his pony slack.
We’ll fetch you out some candy, kid, whenever we git back.
It snows some more on Christmas Eve, and so you go to feed.
You fork the hay out generous, it’s more than they will need.
But Christmas kinda gits you and your feelings overflow,
Towards every livin’ critter that’s stuck out in the snow.
Come Christmas day you try to read some wore out magazines,
But all you hear is lonesome wind, and all you eat is beans.
You’re 40 miles from nowhere and the days go draggin’ by,
Before the boys come driftin’ home, wore out and red of eye.
You don’t barge out to meet ‘em, for by now you’re kinda sore,
You slip into the kitchen when you hear them at the door.
“Come git your stick of candy kid,” you hear ol’ Slim's command.
You have to swaller hard because it’s more than you can stand.
So Slim, he comes and gits you, and it make your gizzard drunk,
To see your brand new cowboy gear that’s piled up on your bunk.
There’s chaps and boots, a saddle and a pair of fancy spurs.
“Well, there’s your candy kid,” grins Slim, your vision kinda blurs.
You being just a button and a roustabout to boot,
You purt near bust out bawlin’. You sure don’t give a hoot.
For though you’ve sure been lonesome while you held the rancho down,
It’s sure ‘nough Merry Christmas when the boys git back from town!
Yes, I know it’s after Christmas, but it’s such a good story that I couldn’t pass it up. Anyway, what I really want to say is, “Wishing you a joyous, peaceful and prosperous Happy New Year!”
What a Difference a Century MakesWritten by Dick Perue
This will boggle your mind, I know it did mine! The year is 1910, 106 years ago. What a difference a century makes! Here are some statistics for the year 1910:
The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
Fuel for the car to the right was sold in drug stores only.
Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
Only eight percent of the homes had a telephone.
There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 miles per hour.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!
The average U.S. wage in 1910 was $0.22 per hour.
The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.
Ninety percent of all doctors had no college education! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and the government as “substandard.”
Sugar cost $0.04 a pound.
Eggs were $0.14 a dozen.
Coffee was $0.15 a pound.
Most women only washed their hair once a month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.
The five leading causes of death were: Pneumonia and influenza; Tuberculosis; Diarrhea; Heart disease, and Stroke.
The American flag had 45 stars.
The population of Las Vegas, Nev., was only 30.
Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet.
There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write and only six percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores.
Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.” (Shocking? Duh!).
Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
There were about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.A.!
And, you couldn’t forward this message to someone else without hand writing or typing it yourself. In 1910, it would take weeks to get across the county, while now it is sent to others all over the world – all in a matter of seconds! Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years.