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Cowboy Poetry

Cowboy poetry is a type of rhymed, metered verse written by someone (a cowboy) who has lived a significant portion of his or her life in Western North American cattle culture. 

Cowboy Poetry

After being on long cattle drives and living on ranches, the cowboys would sit around the campfire at night and tell stories about their adventures and what their work was like. It was these stories that depicted the Cowboy and what he went through in the Wild Wild West. These were daring, bold poems about what these cowboys went through on an everyday basis and were told mostly in North America as their origin. Thus, the verse reflects an intimate knowledge of that way of life, and the community from which it maintains itself in tradition.

While many cowboys wrote these poems, there were also others who wrote Cowboy poetry. A well-known Cowboy poem was "The Ride of Paul Venarez" by Eben E. Rexford, a 19th-Century freelance author. These Cowboy poems were contemporary in nature and derived from all of the hard work of a cowboy's life. A strong depiction of the way a cowboy truly lived formed the basis for this Cowboy poetry. 

Examples of Cowboy Poetry

The Ride of Paul Venarez (an excerpt)

5. O'er the forest trail he sped, and his thoughts flew on ahead
To the little band at Crawford's, thinking not of danger near.
"Oh, God help me save," cried he, "little Bess!" And fast and free,
Trusty Nell bore on the hero of the far-away frontier.

6. Low and lower sank the sun. He drew rein at Rocky Run.
"Here these men met death, my Nellie," and he stroked his horse's mane.
"So will we we go to warn, ere the breaking of the morn.
If we fail, God help us, Nellie!" Then he gave his horse the rein.

7. Sharp and keen a rifle-shot woke the echoes of the spot.
"Oh, my Nellie, I am wounded!" cried Venarez, with a moan,
And the warm blood from his side spurted out in a red tide,
And he trembled in the saddle, and his face had ashy grown.

8. "I will save them yet," he cried. "Bessie Lee shall know I died
For her sake." And then he halted in the shelter of a hill.
From his buckskin shirt he took, with weak hands, a little book;
And he tore a blank leaf from it. "This," said he, "shall be my will."

9. From a branch a twig he broke, and he dipped his pen of oak
In the red blood that was dripping from the wound below the heart.
"Rouse," he wrote, "before too late. Red Plume's warriors lie in wait.
Good-bye, Bess! God bless you always." Then he felt warm tears start.

- by Eben E. Rexford


We’ve shared the trail, kicked up some dust,
An’ stood a storm or two.
We’ve rode the plains, the wide frontier,
The easy trails were few.
You’ve listened like some wise old sage
To ever thing I’ve said,
An’ as a friend, supported me,
No matter where it led.

I wished I coulda carried you,
The times you were in pain;
Or rustled up some kinda shed
To turn the blowin’ rain.
I’ve come up shy with some your needs,
You gave me more’n you got,
But in your silence, seemed to know,
I needed you a lot.

Compadre, friend, amigo, pard;
I called you all them things,
But there’s been times, I swear to God,
You musta had some wings,
An’ He sent you to care for me
Like no one had before.
If you’as a man an’ not a horse,
I couldn’t a-loved you more.

We gave this ranch our sweat an’ blood,
It’s yours as much as mine,
An’ raised our young’uns through the years,
An’ Lord they’re doin’ fine.
They’re blazin’ trails an’ raisin’ dust,
They’re off an’ runnin’ free.
We’ve taught ‘em well an’ made ‘em strong;
Compadre, you an’ me.

I always knew the day would come
When we would fine’ly ride,
To join the Maker’s round-up time,
Up on the Great Divide.
I sorta hoped we’d share the trail
But this was not to be,
So, you go on, we’ll ride again;
Compadre, you an’ me.

- by Jim Fish

Related Information

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