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“Pipes”, A Picker

Risk and Reward
June 27, 2023
A Tale of Whoa!
August 3, 2023

Handles (nicknames) have always intrigued me. You hear a person is called Drifty or Coop or Patches and you might have a hint of how he acquired that moniker but most likely you won’t know the whole, intriguing, unique story of how that man or woman earned, or was simply given, such a label. Obviously, I love stories and my passion is writing and telling them. This story was inspired by the Gregory Mayse painting he calls, “Old Tyme Picker”

"Pipes", a Picker

I was a new-hire on the Tumblin' T
My cowboyin’ background was still purty slim
Back then I'd get hired for my ‘yes-sir’
Takin’ me on, Patch’d gone out on a limb

So there were a bunch of the boys
That, as of yet, I still did not know
I'd done some day work here and there
But now we were fixin’ a drive to go

One mornin' before startin' the drive
I shared a bench with a white-bearded hand
The boys respectfully called him "Pipes"
A handle I'd soon come to understand

Lookin' back to those naive, early days
I was yet a mite moist back of my ears
I'd have to put in some saddle time
To earn my 'set-to-table' with these peers

But I sure fancied the cowboy-handles
Carried by some cowpoke hands I'd known
Seems most men earned their labels
While some, whimsically, just got thrown

Here’s an example of a nonsensical one:
Why Harry called me “Big-Foot” for a laugh
The origins I never figured out
My boot was only a nine-and-a half

I'd come across a “Shorty” or two
And more'n one cowboy they called “Slim”
Seems a lot of nicknames came natural but
"Big-Foot", must'a come on a whim

So I couldn't wait to hear the story
Of how a man would get "Pipes" as a handle
He seemed to carry that title with pride
So I reckoned it weren't due to no scandal

We started those horns north at sunup
Later, settlin’ the herd while 'twas still light
Cooky had my chuck spooned onto a plate
Pleasin' me and my hunger that tired night

I watched Pipes put on his spectacles
Makin' him appear even older
As he settled to get comfy and eat
Adjustin' braces on his shoulder

I really wanted to ask about his handle
As it turned out I hadn't long to wait
Old Pipes rummaged through the chuckwagon
After droppin' off his biscuit-wiped plate

Returnin' with a much-used old banjo
Carried familiar over his back
Pipes took him a seat by the campfire
Lightin' his face against the night so black

QT jovially asked of Pipes,
“How ‘bout singin’ my favorite ol' song?
‘Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie’
I love your way doin’ it sad but strong"

Pipes swung ‘round his banjo easy-like
Closin’ his eyes and pickin' out the tune
Then he began moanin' out the lyrics
Fillin' the vast night 'neath that prairie moon

And goodness those Pipes could sing!
It was our first night on the lonely trail
And that was such a melancholy tune
It trapped cowboy's home-thoughts behind a veil

Well that was the first of many nights
While pushin' on'ry horns north to the rails
That I had the lonesome chased away
By hearin' Pipes smooth-croon one of his tales

by Rik Goodell
© 2023 All rights reserved

Thank you Gregory Mayse for once again providing your excellent artwork to accompany my poetry. You've provided a number of fine art pieces to either inspire or flesh-out my rhyming stories.

To see more of Mr. Mayse's work, visit his website:

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