In 1995 I wrote this poem, “More Than Just a Fable”, which was published in AMERICAN COWBOY MAGAZINE.
Image credit: Charles Russell, THE artist of the cowboy.
More Than Just a Fable
I reckon you’ve heard what a cowboy is, so I’m probably wasting my time,
Sitting here remembering a cowboy’s life and putting it down in rhyme.
But I guess I’d better do it, if only for myself,
Before there ain’t no words about us in the books upon your shelf.
A cowboy’s led a rugged life, since he first chased through the brush;
Since he first heard a man scream out “stampede!” and heard the heated rush
Of a thousand sweaty, dusty steers come pounding down the plain,
Leaving a cowboy dying in the mud, in the lightning and rain.
A cowboy’s cared for his boss’s cows most as much as he cared for his own hide,
And there’s many a boy who rode for the brand, and for that same brand he died.
He’s spent thirsty miles searching the plain, looking for some lost calf.
He’s broke his teeth on rocks in his beans, and took it with a curse and a laugh.
He’s slept on the ground when caught out late, when autumn nights were chilly,
And his only mattress was his back, his only blanket was his belly.
He’s pulled a mean bull from a river of mud, risking his own life,
And watched them put good friends in the ground, while playing the drum and the fife.
They say a cowboy’s good for nothing, and he’s about played out his string,
And he’s “batching’” because he missed his chance to give some girl a ring.
So he’s going to die out there alone, on some lonely windswept hill,
And no one will remember him . . . But history always will.
He’s made his bed in a lonely land, and forsaken any wife
To bring the beef to market, and so live out his life.
You folks at home, cutting up your steak, there at the kitchen table,
Remember the man who rode for the brand—he’s more than just a fable.
—Kirby Jonas April 8, 1995