While attending the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Lewistown last year, I was fortunate to hear my friends, "The Fosbery's", perform their Cowboy Music. Judy fiddles and sings and Terry picks a lively guitar. Terry is a historian so he often weaves in stories of Montana's history as they play their music. I took some notes during one of Terry's "history lessons". That entertaining story was the inspiration for this poem. Then, recently, I ran across David Graham's painting, "Checking the Herd" and it struck me as a picture of a grandfather working the stock as he appreciates and shares his life with his grandson. Clearly, it was time to get this poem written.
Pops and his grandson were a'horseback
Checking on the fences and the herd
Plenty of feed remained in the high pasture
This might be a good time to have a word
"Let's you and I have us a chat Jake
Though I reckon you've heard all this before
But bear with your old Grandad
While I reminisce sharin' our family's lore"
"Ya' know my great-grandfather Stephen
Came here in eighteen eight-five
After pushin' horns north from Texas
On a long and dangerous cattle-drive"
"They started on the Goodnight-Loving
A trail that ended in Cheyenne
But they kept on north to Montana
Which is how this, our ranch, began"
"It took those boys more'n three months
Engaging innumerable threats and tests
Crossing too many rivers to count
Survivin' those run-ins that are The West's"
"When they got near Miles City, Montana
With the railroad it seemed too packed
So they drifted north for their piece of heaven
'Til they found this place which was exact"
"As you know, winter gallops in fast
Here on the open Shortgrass Range
Cowboys had to decide real quick
Return to Texas or make a big life-change"
"Grandpa Stephen stayed in Montana
After askin', 'Can I have the slick calves?'
He worked hard, helpin' winter the herd
Startin' his own to become one of the 'haves' "
"They settled here between The Belts
Stephen eventually stakin' out a claim too
Along with the help of the 'slicks'
He started this ranch for me and for you"
"So Grandson, you're sixth generation
On this spread God entrusted to our name
Your family has sure been devoted to it
I smile knowin' you wanna do the same"
"It ain't often been a smooth trail
Not for any one single generation
But we’ve tamed a rugged land
Feedin' our family and our nation"
"The cowboy life matures folks early
But I can't imagine a better one
And it keeps us in touch with our Maker
So I'll be here 'til my life’s all done
Your dad is running things now
Since I've turned it over to my son
And one day he'll pass it on to you
Then it'll be yours to run
There's a burden attached to this land
Beyond obvious physical toil
It's the duty to honor the work
Of our ancestors buried in this soil
No question you're up to it
I've watched you learn and grow
You'll be ready when your time comes
But there's something else you oughta' know
It's more than your good cowboyin'
And your husbandry of this land
I've seen the lovin' look in your eyes
So I know you really understand
This precious way of life is a gift
That's prodded and pushed every day
It seems someone is always comin' at us
Tryin’ to take our good lifestyle away
It gives me peace and comfort knowin'
You're devoted to the Cowboy Way
That tells me this land will remain ours
For another generation our family will stay
Well that's all my speechifyin' for now
Thanks for hearin' while I shared our story
I love this land but you more Grandson
I can rest knowin' you'll carry on God's glory
by Rik Goodell
© 2022. All rights reserved
I am grateful to David Graham once again, for his allowing me to post his beautiful western art alongside mine. If you do a search here on my website for "The Fencin' Crew" and "The Cowboy Way" or "Handles and Horse Thieves", you'll see other paintings of his that have inspired my poetry.
To see a lot more of his work, go to his website: https://www.davidgrahamart.com/