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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!

Isolation was a major problem for some pioneer women in Wyoming, according to one written account about a couple Cowboy state ranches.

An owner of the A Bar A brought his young bride Margaret, just out of finishing school at Washington, D.C., to the valley. She could sing and paint very well but was in no way prepared for a rigorous and isolated life on a Wyoming ranch.

Upper valley ranches were high, cold and far from town. In winter, folks could cross the river on the ice if it was strong enough to hold them. Otherwise, they took the long, snow-bound route down the east side of the river to the Butler Bridge at Bennett’s Peak and on into Saratoga or Encampment.

Margaret often rode miles on horseback to visit her neighbor, Mrs. Charles Sanger, and remembered once dismounting and crawling on her hands and knees on the icy trail. Mrs. Sanger was a valued friend and offered great help and strength including showing Margaret how to make bread, but by the time Margaret got home, the “yeast foam” was frozen, so the effort was a failure.

It was not long before Margaret’s husband realized that, happy as the men were here and romantic as was the setting, it was no place to rear a family, so he took her to California.

However, most pioneer ranch women proved to be of sturdier stock and remained to thrive.

One of those sturdy pioneer women was Josephine Brown, who after a failed courtship with one of Wyoming’s most famous cowboys – Corporal Skirdin, better known as “The Virginian” in Owen Wister’s famous novel – went on to operate a creamery and serve as postmistress before marrying a local rancher.

When Josephine came to realize that Skirdin would never be acceptable to her mother and with a broken heart, she set off to a different life at a ranch owned by her brother Jackson.

A creamery was a good-looking enterprise to Josephine and Jackson. In June of 1902, they put in a complete creamery, which was operated by steam. They were well on their way to supplying the valley towns with butter. The Browns turned out some 300 pounds of butter each week. To supply the cream for the plant, some 40 cows were needed, and for a number of years, butter was sold at 35 cents a pound.

When Jackson died his sister inherited the property and was able to finish paying for the ranch with the creamery profit.

In 1907, Josephine was appointed postmistress of French, Carbon County and moved the post office to the Brown Ranch.

The local weekly hometown newspaper reported, “Miss Brown must be commended for the public spirit she shows in accepting the position as it is a large nuisance with practically no remuneration.”

She continued to operate that post office for many years.

Josephine and her neighbor, Charles H. Sanger, were married at the Episcopal rectory in Saratoga March 2, 1908 and moved to Sanger’s ranch home, thus incorporating the adjoining property. She continued to serve as postmistress and became a noted homemaker, as well as a good neighbor, friend and mentor to Margaret and many other pioneer women.

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!”

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.”

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.