Cowboy Jam by Jeri Dobrowski: Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’
November 6, 2014
A convoy of cattle trucks whizzed past our house this morning. They made a return trip four hours later. It's a sure bet that they loaded at a neighboring ranch that weaned calves.
Last week my husband redirected four bull racks–semi-trailers built to haul cattle–that had been given inexact directions. They were much relieved to find a local who advised them they were close, telling them to keep going north five miles and take the well-marked left off the highway onto a scoria-surfaced county road.
Jack Bailey and his cohorts didn't have the luxury of county roads, highways or road signs when they drove a herd of cattle to market from Texas to Kansas in 1868. Bailey, a North Texas farmer, signed on for the adventure, recording the events in what is the earliest known day-by-day journal of a cattle drive, A Texas Cowboy's Journal: Up the Trail to Kansas in 1868 (The Western Legacies Series) (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006, 160 pages, 13 illustrations, 2 maps, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0806137377).
Measuring just 5 inches x 7 inches, near the same size as the original, the slim volume contains substantive materials that enhance the experiences Bailey set to paper in black ink. The foreword, preface, introduction and footnotes add immensely to the interest and historical significance of the document. Unfortunately, the first 18 pages of the journal are missing. Readers are left to ponder what transpired prior to Aug. 5, 1868, when Bailey's narrative picks up. The group, including several women and children, had already crossed the Red River from Texas into Indian Territory.
In the pages that survived within a tattered cardboard cover, Bailey describes the difficulties encountered by the group traversing the route some three years after the Civil War. They frequently came in contact with settlers, soldiers, freed slaves, Indians and other cattle herds. Wild cattle, including a large number of bulls, roamed the countryside. Among other maladies and inconveniences noted during the three month journey, Bailey suffered from rheumatism which was aggravated by rain and nights spent sleeping on the ground.
The softcover version of A Texas Cowboy's Journal retails for $14.95. Order from University of Oklahoma Press (www.oupress.com) and online booksellers. It is also available in hardcover and as an e-book.
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Rod Miller, a contemporary poet, novelist, historian, biographer, journalist, essayist, reviewer, screenwriter and all-around nice guy, gives a nod to the season in "Migrations" from Goodnight Goes Riding and other Poems (Pen-L Publishing, 2014, 104 pages, softcover ISBN-13: 978-1940222639). The last stanza reads: "And I think how fall works really ain't that distant; Shipping calves under sundown pewter skies / Wherein arrowpointed flocks are winging southward, Trailing echoes of urgent, mournful cries."
A versatile writer in tune with the people and places of the American West, Miller's work appears in books, magazines, anthologies and online. (Visit Miller's blog at http://writerrodmiller.blogspot.com/.) As comfortable portraying the past as he is the present, his work has won numerous awards. To list all his accomplishments would embarrass the humble Utah native. Suffice to say, Miller is respected in many circles.
So it was with gladness that I learned of Miller's latest collection of cowboy and Western poetry. Released in September, Goodnight Goes Riding is divided into three sections: The Wild West; Arena Dirt; Ruminations. Typical of Miller's scope, it encompasses subjects and styles as far-ranging as the western horizon.
"Keeping the Books" salutes the ranch bookkeeper, whose contributions are every bit as important to the success of an outfit as the cowboys. "Riding Old Red" extolls the virtues of an ATV for working cattle. "Gear Bag" inventories a 38-years-idled roughstock rider's duffle bag. Other poems speak to action within the arena: pondering what a piggin' string has come in contact with before a roper puts it in his mouth; accessing the dangers of the grand entry. "Boot Salute" and "Don't Just Sit There" pay homage to the ubiquitous boots and hats that are as functional as they are fashionable.
The softcover edition of Goodnight Goes Riding and other Poems sells for $12.97 from http://pen-l.com/GoodnightGoesRiding.html and Amazon. The Kindle version is $3.97.