There are a few, classic, cowboy songs that consistently grab my heart. No matter how often I may hear them, they'll send me into a pleasant nostalgic pause. One of those tunes is, "Night Rider's Lament". I'm at an age where friends are plagued with health problems and some are passing on. That song, combined with an intensified consciousness of mortality around me, prompted me to write a poem rejoicing in a life well-lived; a life of great adventures, achieved dreams and exceptional love.
Sendin' Cooper Home
Cooper had lived a life fulfilled
He cowboyed more'n fifty-seven years
Before that reaper come a'gatherin'
Leavin all his pards, us hands, in tears
Then in his vest we found the letter
He had written from his deathbed
He'd instructed friends and family
"Don't mourn me gone, rejoice instead"
"Few men get to live the life", he wrote,
"They dreamed so hard as a kid
Look at all them wantin’ to cowboy
But rare was the one who ever did"
"Oh they might have sat a horse
Now and then at the county fair
Or busted mutton one time
At some rodeo here or there"
"Could be older as an adult
Man-growed and rakin' in the loot
He went to Lucchese at The Hotel Drover
Orderin' Italian Calfskin boots"
"Mighta' bought himself one time
A five hundred dollar Stetson in black
Done so just just because he could
Hangin’ it stampede-string on his back"
"That sure could'a been me boys
Growin up in a city soft and spoiled
Dad wanted me doin' accounting like him
But God's plan got me cowboy embroiled"
"No doubt I lived the dream all spent
Ol’ Boss takin’ me in at nineteen
Dad, let-down, had set me clean adrift
For rejectin' his college-for-me scheme"
"I used up my days in wide open spaces
Livin' life simple and outta’ hock
Breathin' clean air a'horseback
Gettin’ paid to tend Tumblin' R stock"
"I had me some fine horses through the years
And a coupla’ dogs who done what I asked
Gathered me some fine pards along the way
Most of them now have up an passed"
"Ah but I've surely gazed on them Northern Lights
And common's been the hawk on the wing
Even spent seasons on the Great Divide
Many's the night I danced while Cookie would sing"*
"Any glory for this life that I've lived
Goes to Jesus whom I found along the trail
He took me in and partnered me up
Daily ridin' 'longside me without fail"
"So it's rightly time for celebratin' boys
For a life that was blessed every day
Somehow He taught me to be grateful
No matter what mighta’ come my way"
Well we loaded ol' Coop on the buckboard
Getting the drafties hitched up and teamed
Rusty ridin' tall with his bugle
Softly playing taps for a life redeemed
We drove him to the rocky knoll
Where Cooper'd liked to ride and reflect
The ranch followin' column of twos
Tryin’ his "no-mourning" order to respect
After we'd placed his body under
And all said our last so-longs
We galloped full-tilt back to the barn
And put on one of Cooper's favorite songs
Jerry Jeff Walker could be heard 'round the ranch
Singin’ out “Night Rider’s Lament”
He called it the cowboy philosophy song
Provin’ Cooper’s dream-life was well spent
Cooper wasn’t much of a drinkin’ man
But he was mighty partial to root beer
So we raised up some root beer floats
"Vaya con Dios Coop, we're glad you were here"
by Rik Goodell
© 2023 All rights reserved
*I gratefully acknowledge Michael Burton for my adaptation of a stanza from his song, "Night Rider's Lament".
This painting is by Andy Thomas and clearly evokes a good time around Cookie's kitchen.
To see more of his work, go to his website: