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Rustlin’ Rustlers

Trailside Troubadours
March 17, 2024
Protection Tools
April 29, 2024

In preparation for the Arizona Cowboy Poet’s Gathering in 2024, we poets who were invited to perform were asked to write a new poem that would be inspired by the poster-painting for that year’s gathering. I’d entered these "challenges" before. It's always a lot of fun to write a poem and then see the “view”, or angle, that other poets would take from their perspective. Call it my maverick nature if you will, but I often tend to see a painting and write contrary to the title the artist had given the piece.  Most artists, I expect, find such departures amusing. Here then is my story inspired  by Steve Atkinson's fun and very different painting.

Rustlin' Rustlers

You might think, lookin’ at a painting,
Of a biplane buzzin' some steers,
That it was some fool pilot
Flyin' after too many beers

But what if those horseback hombres
Runnin' in the dust of the herd
Were actual caught-up rustlers
Cattle and them bein’ air-spurred?

Back in the late 1930s
Gramps cowboyed over on a spread
Somewhere's a mite south of Prescott
Best job he ever had he said

Folks quite often actually
Think cattle rustlin' went away
By early nineteen hundreds
'Bout that Gramps had somethin’ to say

Rustlin’ was a common problem
Still in the 30's and after
It was a big cut in profits
It was a beefin' disaster

One of his favorite stories
Was about rustlers they had fought
He bragged on use of modern ways
Of gettin’ all them outlaws caught

There was an airstrip on the ranch
Ol’ Boss, he was a World War Ace
He parked his open-air Stearman
In a hangar 'longside the place

Gramps would never forget the day
He was a new-hire of eighteen
Three men had rustled yearling steers
They were gettin' away plumb clean

They knew the rustlers had pushed south
Headin' to hide-out they supposed
The boys tracked 'em cross rocks and draws
Those men were not capture-disposed

Shorty raced back to the ranch house
Tellin’ the story to the boss
Who grinned while tellin’ ol' Shorty
These cattle would not be a loss

Before long that yellow Stearman
Roared loudly by low overhead
Disappearing towards Phoenix
Huntin’ those three rustlers who'd fled

We kept on movin' south a spell
Hopin' to pick up their lost trail
When suddenly that Stearman was
Stampedin' ten head back to jail

Not only was that yellow plane
Pushin' horns back where they belong
But Boss was herdin’ rustlers too
They were 'bout to pay for their wrong

Well we got those three no 'counts tied
And rode into town for the law
That night we all gathered proudly
Havin’ a sure-good shuck and jaw

Three no account rustlin' outlaws
Carelessly stole from the wrong place
Failin' to take into account
A yellow Stearman and her Ace

by Rik "Yonder" Goodell

© 2024 All rights reserved

This painting by Steve Atkinson is the poster art for the 2024 Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.

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

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