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Another Day

This week’s blog features a poem from my collection of western poems. While working as a park ranger for the National Park Service, I received an assignment to guard the gate to a historic ranch that bordered the national park. Because of the active wildfire situation, no one but residents was allowed to pass. Inspiration struck at the end of my shift after I replied to a co-worker about my day at the gate. “It was a long, lonely, but necessary task––you know, just another day at the ranch.”

Enjoy the rhyme. Thanks for stopping by.

Another Day

Ol’ Sol hasn’t yet made his bold presence known

As the bunkhouse stirs with a few muffled groans

With eyes bugged wide, Hank scurries toward the door

Gus flops from his bunk, face-first on the floor

An’ still half-asleep, Slim straps on his chaps

A toothless snort follows from an old pard named Paps

The cause for his chortle I spot at a glance

Once again Ol’ Slim has forgotten his pants

A new-hired, twice-round cowpoke we named Chubs

Scratches his belly and yawns, “How’s the grub?”

“Fair to middlin’,” Ol’ Tincup replies

“Least-wise––so far––nobody’s died.”

Sam stretches and sighs then leans for his boots

An’ as he bends over, his rump gives a toot

A sneeze from Tim Three-thumbs, a belch from Ol’ Pete

I cough once or twice––mornin’ rounds are complete

Dressed and topped-off with weather-worn hats

With brims drooped and twisted this way and that

We scuff toward the cook shack, usually hardtack and beans

Drowned with black coffee, but now Cookie has the means

There’s bacon and flapjacks—big as a plate

A Cookie Smith tradition since his Great-Grandpa Nate

Now slathered in butter, drippin’ over the sides

I slice from a double-stack, and then open wide

While Paps spins another of his tales during chow

’Bout’ how things have changed ’tween the old days an’ now

“When I was a pup,” he says with a toothless smile

“The range was wide open, no souls for a hunnert miles.

Cattle roamed free––weren’t jailed by no fence

These modern day ranchers just don’t make no sense.”

“But they still pay your wage, you ornery old coot,

Now pass me the coffee, ’fore I pop ya in the snoot.”

Tincup’s staunch glare hushes Paps for a bit

  But the old man recovers from his short-lived snit

An’ slides the pot down, toward Tincup’s end

Then commences tellin’ stories all over again

While Three-thumbs fumbles with his fork and his knife

A clumsier cowpoke no one’s known in their life

Then followin’ a trip to the one-hole latrine

Slim finally discovers he’s missin’ his jeans

With breakfast all through we set to our chores

There’s plenty to do, and most often more

New calves need brandin’, there’s fences need mendin’

Horses need breakin’ and the wood pile needs tendin’

With hardly a word we set to our tasks

We each know our duties, there’s no need to ask

Busted and bent in more places than not

Slim breaks the horses—–he’s the best of the lot

While Hank stokes the fire for the S Bar H brand

And I test my grit with our youngest cowhand

Tim knows how to dally, but there just ain’t much hope

He’s always got his fingers hung up in the rope

Yep, Three-thumbs is a name that’s been rightfully given

Most likely his brand for as long as he’s livin’

Though I’m certain Tim’s daddy is proud of his son

I’m sure mighty grateful Three-thumbs don’t own a gun

Ol’ Gus hefts and swings a double-bit axe

And the valley resounds with each solid whack

Hefty pine logs pop and splinter in half

As Tincup sets the iron to the first snot-nosed calf

Pete and Hank hold ‘em, rank smoke taints the air

With the odor of bawlin’ critters’ singed hide and hair

Always cravin’ coffee Tincup fills his to get by

 From a flask that’s flavored with just a bit of rye

While Sam, Paps, and Chubs head straight to the barn

Ol’ Paps still a yackin’, still spinnin’ his yarns

He always lags behind, always suckin’ hind teat

While Chubs keeps on askin’ “Hey, when do we eat?”

Sam stocks up a wagon with wire and tools

Feelin’ just plain sorry it’s his turn with those fools

All day on the range with two complainin’ men

Till the sun leans low and they’re back home again

When we carry in the bunkhouse the smells of the day

Clingin’ to our clothes like freshly mowed hay

Burnt hide and hair, horse and cattle manure

An’ many sweat-soaked shirts, yep, that’s for sure

But now washed and fed, with Ol’ Sol outa sight

We head to our bunks to settle-in for the night

Then we end the workday as we most often do

With a bottle of whiskey passed amongst the crew

Ol’ Paps ain’t quit yappin’ ‘bout tales from his past

Seems that ornery ol’ codger never runs out of gas

From sun-up to sundown and day after day

It’s how we earn our livin’––it’s the cowboy way

A job we’ve all chosen, and seldom by chance

For pards like us, just another day on the ranch

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