Back at the Ranch: Cowboy Poetry & Music / Laughter is the Best Medicine

Boomer Johnson
Written by Henry Herbert Knibbs. Sung by Glenn Ohrlin.
Audio Source: Cowboy Songs and "Pomes" by Glenn Ohrlin

"Line Camp Batchin'" Photo © Barbara Van Cleve. All Rights Reserved.

"Line Camp Batchin'" Photo © Barbara Van Cleve. All Rights Reserved.

BOOMER JOHNSON, HenryHerbertKnibbs

Now Mr. Boomer Johnson was a getting’ old in spots,
But you don’t expect a bad man to go wrastlin’ pans and pots;
But he’d done his share of killin’ and his draw was getting’ slow,
So he quits a-punchin’ cattle and he takes to punchin’ dough.

Our foreman up and hires him, figurin’ age had rode him tame,
But a snake don’t get no sweeter just by changin’ of its name.
Well, Old Boomer knowed his business-he could cook to make you smile,
But say, he wrangled fodder in most peculiar style.

He never used no matches-left ‘em layin’ on the shelf,
Just some kerosene and cussin’ and the kindlin’ lit itself.
And, pardner, I’m allowin’ it would give a man a jolt
To see him stir frijoles with the barrel of his Colt.

Now killin’ folks and cookin’ ain’t so awful far aprart,
That musta been why Boomer kept a–practicin’ his art;
With the front sight of a pistol he would cut a pie-lid slick,
And he’d crimp her with the muzzle for to make the edges stick.

He built his doughnuts solid, and it sure would curl your hair
To see him plug a doughnut as he tossed it in the air.
He bored the holes plum center every time his pistol spoke,
Till the can was full of doughnuts and the shack was full of smoke.

We-all was getting’ jumpy, but he couldn’t understand
Why his shootin’ made us nervous when his cookin’ was so grand.
He kept right on performin,’ and it weren’t no big surprise
When he took to markin’ tombstones on the cover of his pies.

They didn’t taste no better and they didn’t taste no worse,
But a-settin’ at that table was like ridin’ in a hearse;
You didn’t do no talkin’ and you took just what you got,
So we et till we was foundered just to keep from getting’ shot.

When at breakfast one bright mornin’, I was feelin’ kind of low,
Old Boomer passed the doughnuts and I tells him plenty: “No,
All I takes this trip is coffee, for my stomach is a wreck.”
I could see the itch for killin’ swell the wattles on his neck.

Scorn his grub? He strings some doughnuts on the muzzle of his gun,
And he shoves her in my gizzard and he says, “You’re takin’ one!”
He was set to start a graveyard, but for once he was mistook;
Me not wantin’ any doughnuts, I just up and salts the cook.

Did they fire him? Listen, pardner, there was nothin’ left to fire,
Just a row of smiling faces and another cook to hire.
If he joined some other outfit and is cookin’, what I mean,
It’s where they ain’t no matches and they don’t need kerosene.


The Gol Darned Wheel
Recited by Sunny Hancock. Author unknown
Audio Source: Cowboy Poetry—The Best of the Gathering / Western Folklife Center.
Recorded live at the 1985 Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

THE GOL DARNED WHEEL, Author unknown

I can rope and ride the wildest bronco in the wild and woolly West,
I can rope and I can ride him, let him do his level best,
I can handle any critter ever wore a coat of hair,
But I had a lively tussle with a ‘normous grizzly bear.

I can rope and tie the wildest longhorn in the wildest Texas land,
And in any disagreement I can play a winning hand.
But at last I met my master and I surely had to squeal.
When the boys got me straddle of the gol darned wheel.

It was at the Eagle Rancho, on the Brazos as a jest
Ran across the darn contrivance that upset me in the dust.
Naturally up and throwed me, stood me on my cursed head,
Put my face in lightning order, as the foreman said.

It’s a tenderfoot that brought it, he come wheelin’ all the way,
From the sunshine end of freedom, by the San Francisco Bay.
He tied up at the Ranch, to get on the outside of a meal,
Never thinkin’ that I’d monkey with his gol darned wheel.

Arizona Jim begun it when he said to Jack McGill,
That’s a puncher broke the record riding on his braggin’ skill.
Said as how there was a puncher not a million miles away,
He thought his self a rider and he’s terrible gay.

Such a slur upon my talents made me madder than a mink,
And I told’em I could ride it for amusement or for chink.
For it’s nothing but a plaything for the kids and such about,
And they’d have their ideas shattered when they trucked the critter out.

Well the grade was kinda sloping from the rancho to the creek,
And we went a-gallaloppin’ like a crazy lightnin’ streak,
With a-whizzin’ and a-buzzin’ first to one side and to that
The contrivance kinda wobbled like the flyin’ of a bat.

And the boys began to holler, “Stay with him Uncle Bill,
Shove the steel in the critter turn his muzzle up the hill.”
Well I never said a word, and I didn’t look around,
Kept my two eyes busy lookin’ for the smoothest ground.

No I never said a word, and neither did I squeal,
I was building a reputation on the god darned wheel.
I held a sneaking idea as on down the hill I went,
That I ordered me a mix-up I couldn’t circumvent.

Then the ground flew up and hit me and the stars all tangled up,
And the last that I remembered was the punchers picked me up.
They packed me to the Rancho and they stretched me on the bed,
Cowboys gathered round me cause they knowed that I was dead.
Jesus Christ and all his prophets how we split the Texas air,
And the wind it made a popup on my sable skinny hair
How we met the Texas eagles and tore up the Texas sod.
I cussed all that was holy and I also cussed my god.

And a doctor he was sewing on the skin where it was ripped.
And old Arizona whispered, “Well, old boy I guessed you’re whipped.”
And I told him I was busted from sombrero down to heel,
And he grinned and said, “You ought to see that gol darned wheel.”


An Ordinary Morning
Written and recited by Elizabeth Ebert
Audio Source: 2000 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering / Western Folklife Center Archives

"High Country Get Together," Artwork by Larry Pirnie, 1999, for Millennial National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. All Rights Reserved.

"High Country Get Together," Artwork by Larry Pirnie, 1999, for Millennial National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. All Rights Reserved.

AN ORDINARY MORNING, Elizabeth Ebert

‘Twas just an ordinary mornin’
            Somewhere along in May,
When my husband hollered from the yard,
            And then I heard him say,
“I’m goin’ to the pasture,
            It’ll take an hour or two,
And if you’d like to come along,
            We’ll drive out in Old Blue.”

Now I don’t get to tag along
            Much, as a general rule,
But I’d finished with the chorin’
            And the kids were all in school.
‘Twould be just like we were courtin’
            I was happy at the chance,
For you take it where you find it
            When it comes to ranch romance.

Now Old Blue is kind of ancient
            And he’s got some scars and dents,
‘Cause we use him when we’re feedin’,
            Checking cows and fixing fence.
But the engine runs like clockwork,
            And the tires are pretty fair,
All except that right front whitewall
            That sometimes loses air.

And there’s a chunk of baling wire
            To fasten down the hood,
And a saddle blanket for the seat
            Where the cushion’s not too good.
The cab is kind of cluttered up
            With stuff we need, that’s true,
There’s vet supplies and fencing tools,
            And ropes and rifles too.

Well, we headed for the pasture
            (‘Course I opened every gate.)
And we found that little heifer,
            The one that calved so late.
Her bag was near to bustin’
            Milk was dripping’ from each teat,
For she’d kick that little feller
            Every time he tried to eat.
So my husband said, “I’ll fix her
            And I’ll do it slick as soap,
“Cause I’ve got you her to help me,
            And I brought along my rope.
Now I’ll ride Blue on the fender,
            And you steer him from the seat,
And I’ll rope that little mama
            And we’ll let her baby eat.”

Well, I lined up on that heifer,
            And he built himself a loop.
Then she took off at a gallop,
            So I just poured on the soup
And Old Blue was doing thirty
            When we topped that little knoll,
But he had her caught for certain
            --Then I hit that badger hole.

The cow kept right on goin’
            But we made a sudden stop.
My husband landed underneath
            And Old Blue was there on top.
But I saw that rope come trailin’ past,
            And it cheered me up a mite,
So I jumped right out and grabbed it,
            And I snubbed that critter tight

Around a most convenient rock.
            You should have heard her beller.
Then I went lookin’ for the calf,
            And I brought that little feller
And I held him to his mama,
            And it really pleased me some
To see his little belly
            Growin’ round, just like a drum.

Made me think about my husband.. …
            So I went back to Old Blue
To kind of take a look around
            See what I had to do.
Blue was standin’ kind of hip-slung,
            ‘Cause one wheel was up some higher,
But ‘twas nothin’ that I couldn’t fix
            With just some balin’ wire.

My husband lay there underneath,
            Said he thought his leg was broke.
But it made me pretty happy
            Just to know he didn’t croak,
So I twisted stuff together
            And I stuck Blue in reverse
And I backed out of that badger hole.
            Then I heard my husband curse;

And when I stopped to think of it,
            He was right, without a doubt,
Instead of backin’ over him.
            I should have pulled him out.
Well, I got him loaded in Old Blue
            ‘Mongst all those other things,
Propped his leg up with that blanket
            Though it meant I rode the springs

And we finally limped on into town,
            Not travelin’ very fast.
Old Blue, he got new tie rods,
            And my husband got a cast.
Just an ordinary mornin’
            Really nothin’ out of line.
By the way, I checked that heifer
            And that calf is doin’ fine.