Featured Poem

By Larry Maurice

Growing up on New England farms the west came alive for me
Saturday mornings on the Silver Screen, front row center is where I'd be.
Saturday mornings at the Colonial Theater with Hoppy and Roy and Gene.
2 big westerns for 30 cents 8 cartoons and "Flat-Top" ice cream.

My youth was spent in darkened bliss. A new world came suddenly alive.
Those movies made the west exist and stirred me deep inside.
Joel McRae and Randolph Scott, Ridin' the High Country.
Red River, Shane, The Searchers. This was heaven for me.

Dad passed away when I was young. Mom worked hard to keep us fed.
It was my Cowboy heroes that gave me values, by what they did and what they said.
Good guys in big white hats taught me right from wrong.
Tip your hat to the ladies and when it hurts, be strong.

The Duke, Wild Bill and Jingles, They got me through some pretty tough times.
Gabby always made me laugh. They were all pals of mine.
Cheyenne and Sugarfoot helped show me the way. Do what you know is right.
When it's just you, turn the other cheek but when it hurts others, fight.

Where are they today those heroes of mine? Who taught these lessons to me.
Brave and strong and always right on the silver screen and on my T.V.
With The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Hoppy and Topper, you always knew right from wrong.
There wasn't much that Roy and Dale couldn't fix with Trigger and Bullet and a song.

With my fancy stitched shirt and cardboard Cowboy hat I'd tackle the Black Hat
Gang. On my knotty-pine steed, I'd ride for the pass to cut 'em off, if only I can.

My shootin' iron strapped on tight and whistling a tune, my youth was spent taming
the West. When I think back on those times now and again it is the Cowboys that I
remembered best. While other kids used bikes and baseball to spend their growing
up time. You could usually find me out in the backyard, roping my older brother
with mom's new clothes hanging line.

Time passed like most young boys and I outwardly gave up the quest,
To ride with Coop and Ben and Marshall Dillon and tame the lawless west.
The trappings of youth gave way to suits, briefcases and wing tipped shoes.
But as I reached my middle years I realized I had better choose.

To be the man of business and commerce that everyone expects
Or to go and find my heroes again and gain my self-respect.
Things have come full circle for me. I've regained my visions of youth.
I've traded in my three-piece suits for Wranglers and Cowboy boots.

My heroes have sustained me, though I left them for a spell.
They waited for me and never wavered in the message that they tell.
I don't know where the youth of today can find heroes to fill their eyes.
When drugs, scandal and greed and glitz turn their heroes into lies
I' have been so very privileged to meet some of my silver screen heroes, to stand and
shake their hand. They did not disappoint me in their words or in their stand.
Their grip was firm and steady and their eyes looked straight at you.
Now I know that the things they gave me were JUST and FAIR and TRUE.

Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
November 1990

by Larry Maurice & Bob Sigman

Cowboys, the west and poetry... Not a combination that most would put together.  But this popular form of entertainment has been with us since the eighteenth century and perhaps before that.   In the early 19th Century, rhyming poetry was the style of the day and poets like Longfellow, Wordsworth and Walt Whitman were read, memorized and passed on.  In the cow camps, along the trail and at the campfire, it was not unusual to hear in a rough breed of young fifteen and sixteen-year-old "COWBOYS," reciting from the bible, the singing of hymns and gospel songs or Paul Revere's Ride.

The Cowboy life was rough and a dangerous job; men working with livestock and battling against the forces of nature.   Moved to put their individual feelings and experiences into words - they shared their stories in the quiet of a smoky campfire or across the fence of a branding corral.  It became known as "WESTERN VERSE." Sometimes auto-biographical, sometimes fact, many times fiction - ribald stories, often put to rhyme as it made it easier to remember and gave a song-like quality to the recitation.  In many cases, they became songs and the telling of these stories became as prevalent in the cow camps and bunkhouses of the old west as Chaps and Spurs.

In the early 1980's a blurb in the newspaper about a little "gathering" of Cowboy Poets in Elko, Nevada caught the eye of TV host, Johnny Carson's staff.   Thinking it "folksy" and a little odd they invited Cowboy Poets, Waddie Mitchell and Nyle Hendersen on the show.  Upon hearing Waddie Mitchell's recitation of Wallace McCrea's now famous "Reincarnation."  Carson quickly realized that what he was hearing was some great "original Americana" sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but from the heart.   It's verse and rhythms a direct documentation of the spirit, courage and character of the American Cowboy.   He publicly apologized, and invited the Cowboy's back. A commitment he kept for many years.

The gathering at Elko and Johnny Carson's national exposure to such poets as Mitchell, Hendersen, McCrea and Baxter Black gave an almost immediate transition of the poetry from mere "Western verse" to a recognized art form now commonly know and accepted as "COWBOY POETRY"; celebrating the life and lifestyle of the American Cowboy.  Since then it has grown into a popular entertainment media for people from all walks of life.

And Music Too...

Tales of cooks and crooks and good rides and bad horses dominated the Western Verse and song of the early days and continue to be exemplified in today's modern Cowboy poetry and music. The more things change the more they stay the same in the Cowboy life.  Horses are still horses, good and bad.   Cattle still need to be attended too, and nature still shows and Challenges the Cowboy.  The Cowboy of today is still moved to express his feeling for all these things.  But the modern world has intruded somewhat into the Cowboys life. Along with saddle and rope the Cowboy of today is likely to have laptop computer in his saddlebags and the merits of a 450 horsepower diesel "dually" truck and stock trailer are written about, along with Wrecks and Rodeos.

Through all the changes good Cowboys on good horses are still going to work cattle everyday all around the world.  And it still moves them to poetry and music.  While a few of these storytellers became noteworthy, the author of many a Cowboy poem or song has become anonymous today, lost to the dusty trail of long ago. Their heritage still celebrated and read and recited today, they left an indelible mark in history no different than the aborigines who left their petrography in the dark caves of Europe and Asia

From the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock to the Vaqueros of old California, Mexico to the grass beyond the mountains of British Columbia: the story of the Cowboy is still being written… No, not in the hard dust of yesterday, but in the west of today.  And it is through the telling of his story, in the bunkhouse, at the campfire, and in the classroom that the Spirit, Lore, and the Legacy of this amazing thing called "COWBOY" will never-ever fade away

Check out CowboyPoetry.Com's comments on other Late Night Cowboy Poets on the Tonight Show

We hope you enjoy our selection of poems and songs and share them with your friends.

Reincarnation ...Read at CowboyPoetry.com


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