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Cowboy Poetry: Spirit of the Cowboy Lost in Yesterday Today

Tim Truzy is a poet, short-story author, and he is currently working on several novels.

Playing outdoors can encourage children to fantasize about being heroes or villains like cowboys.

Playing outdoors can encourage children to fantasize about being heroes or villains like cowboys.

My Relationship with the Wild West as an Easterner

As a child, I loved to play outdoors with my siblings, pretending to tame the Old West. We had hangouts in trees, pretended we were sheriff deputies, or we were pioneers moving West from the eastern part of the country. Sometimes, we were Native American tribes, defending our homelands against the invading settlers. I liked these times most of all – We listened to birds, studied plants, and looked for signals from the sun as to when Mom may be calling us in for dinner.

As I grew up, I realized how influenced my perceptions a bout the Wild West were by movies and dime store novels which I devoured. The life of the cowboy was dangerous. Violence was a common fact of life during the frontier period. Although brave individuals dwelled in the frontier, the territories west of the Mississippi River were teeming with opportunistic people. Yet, some aspects of the Wild West still persist in America.

Indeed, people still wear hats dating to the Wild West era. Country songs often glamorize the period. Movies are still produced about the cowboy way of life, and poetry is always being created about various characteristics of the Wild West. In this poem, I explore some facets of the cowboy’s spirit. As I wrote this I tried to call upon the often terminal cowboy sense of humor. Enjoy: Spirit of the Cowboy Lost in Yesterday Today. Please, leave comments if you prefer.

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A cowboy’s life could be violent occasionally.

A cowboy’s life could be violent occasionally.

Spirit of the Cowboy Lost in Yesterday Today

I loved the saloons,

Romancing the dance halls,

Battling Native people,

Until I met my fall.

Shooting the frontier,

Shooting out my scars,

Shooting alcohol,

Shooting for gold bars.

Some cowboys’ lives were like storms on the horizon.

Some cowboys’ lives were like storms on the horizon.

Lightning my father,

Thunder is my mother,

Rain brings my siblings,

Wet sisters and brothers.

I throw my lasso,

Leaving the chute,

Slipping through thick grass,

Tying my own noose.

I ride for my honor,

I ride for the range,

I ride for love’s sake,

I ride for my name.

Beneath the hat often hid a mystery for most cowboys.

Beneath the hat often hid a mystery for most cowboys.

Bottle took my dad,

Guns quiet prairie noise,

Mom sings it in the choir,

Pass it on to the boys.

Tell the girls to dance,

Show them those high steps,

Don’t cross those drawn lines,

My sisters know death.

I ride for my horror,

I ride a bit deranged,

I ride to fight hate,

I ride for my name.


When the sun leaves his reign,

Crappy light moon has thrown,

And the stars wink at me,

I’ll still be at home.

Father now the dirt,

Mother Earth turns well,

Tumble weed and chew,

Religion and Hell.

Brothers are lawyers,

Sisters run empire,

Let them have city life,

‘til urban dreams expire.

Willy sing a song,

Rock-a-bye, good James,

Cattle and trails my suits,

Gambling to stay sane.

I ride with honor,

They say I’m just strange,

I ride to ride on,

I ride with no shame.

When you see me pass,

Please, tip your proud hat,

On my own lonely,

I got it like that.

And when the sun leaves his reign,

And the moon takes her throne,

I’ll be dreaming of riding,

I’ll always be at home.

Cowboys often find peace with their horses.

Cowboys often find peace with their horses.

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Fun Facts about Cowboys and the Wild West

  • Although there are different estimates on how long the period known as the Wild West existed in the United States, many scholars consider the extent of the time to be from the end of the American Civil War in 1865 to about the first decade of the 20th-century. Due to western movement of pioneers, conflicts over the possession of land erupted between settlers and Native Americans in land between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. Many of these conflicts concerned use of land by ranchers for grazing cattle. Cowboys would work with herds of cattle, moving and managing them. Cowboys usually lived in bunks on a ranch, and they were also called cowpunchers, cowhands, cowpokes, and buckaroos in North and South America.
  • The Wild West is so named because during this time frame lawlessness reigned supreme in the territories west of the Mississippi. Gun fighters and bank robbers, such as James “Wild Bill” Hickock (1837-1876) and Billy the Kid (1859-1881), created havoc on the American frontier. The favorite weapon of cowboys, including gun fighters, was the six shooter, a durable revolver which men carried primarily in holsters. The current states which were a part of the Wild West included, but was not limited to: Texas, California, Wyoming, Utah, and the Dakotas.
  • The English word cowboy comes from Ireland as a translation of the Spanish word vaquero, which means a human being who takes care of cattle while on horseback. This term did not refer to everyone initially. During the Old West period, Black males were referred to as cowboys while White males were called cowhands. In fact, nearly 25% of cowboys were Black and they performed such jobs as cooking and providing music at the end of the day on the trail. Black cowboys usually handled the task of “horse breaking.” Eventually, the term “cowboy” came to mean any person who took care of cattle. Finally, the cowboy hat originated in northern Mexico. The stitson hat came about later.

References

American frontier – Wikipedia. Retrieved August 12, 2018, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_frontier

Cowboy hat – Wikipedia. Retrieved August 11, 2018, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowboy_hat

The Lesser-Known History of African-American Cowboys | History. Retrieved August 11, 2018, from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lesser-known-history-african-american-cowboys-180962144/

© 2018 Tim Truzy

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