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Shorty's Yarns: Western Stories And Poems Of Bruce Kiskaddon written by Bill Siems

 

Shorty's Yarns: Western Stories And Poems Of Bruce Kiskaddon written by Bill Siems

Overview:

Set in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, the stories are a loosely tied string of old timer's yarns with a continuing cast of engaging characters, whom Kiskaddon avoids reducing to cowboy stereotypes. They include, as Siems describes them, "Kiskaddon himself as the character Shorty. As a common waddy with a small man's feistiness and a young man's mischief, Shorty encounters the wicked world with a succession of companions: Bill, high-headed and a bit of an outlaw; Rildy Briggs, untamable and unstoppable young cowgirl; and Ike, an old-fashioned dandy and 'a very fortunate person.' More or less in the background is the Boss-actually a series of Bosses-generally affectionately respected as long as he remains democratic in his dealings with the waddies. Buffoonery is provided by a succession of pompous characters, from townspeople who look down their noses on wild, unwashed waddies to professors from the East who have read books on how ranches should be run."

Synopsis:

Set in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, the stories are a loosely tied string of old timer's yarns with a continuing cast of engaging characters, whom Kiskaddon avoids reducing to cowboy stereotypes. They include, as Siems describes them, "Kiskaddon himself as the character Shorty. As a common waddy with a small man's feistiness and a young man's mischief, Shorty encounters the wicked world with a succession of companions: Bill, high-headed and a bit of an outlaw; Rildy Briggs, untamable and unstoppable young cowgirl; and Ike, an old-fashioned dandy and 'a very fortunate person.' More or less in the background is the Boss-actually a series of Bosses-generally affectionately respected as long as he remains democratic in his dealings with the waddies. Buffoonery is provided by a succession of pompous characters, from townspeople who look down their noses on wild, unwashed waddies to professors from the East who have read books on how ranches should be run."

Excerpt:

Shorty's Yarns

Western Stories and Poems of BRUCE KISKADDON

Utah State University Press

Copyright 2004 Utah State University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-87421-580-9


Chapter One

Autobiography

Answering the requests of many readers of Western Livestock Journal, Bruce Kiskaddon, famous cowboy poet, writes his autobiography. His book "Western Poems" has had tremendous sale. There is hardly a cattlemen's meeting but what someone adds to the occasion by reciting a Bruce Kiskaddon poem. Probably his "Little Blue Roan" is the most popular. Now we'll let Bruce tell his own story. -The Editor, WLJ, May 31, 1938.

My first work with cattle was down in southwest Missouri. I was twelve years old. Four of us, all about the same age, were day herding a bunch of cows on what unfenced country there was around that place. We had quite a lot of room and at night we put them in an eighty acre pasture. We four kids worked at it all summer. We rode little Indian horses and went home at night. Not much cow punching, that's a fact, but it was big business to us. The talk of opening the Indian territory for settlement had started, and already the open country was beginning to be occupied by boomers' camps. People were coming from everywhere to be ready for the opening. They were a mixed up lot. Some honest folks and a few mighty tough hangers-on. Two things I always remember. One was a poker game. They had tied up the sides of a tent and got to playing on a tarp on a bed. The place was crowded and many men from other camps had set in. There was more money stacked there than us kids had ever seen. The man that owned the bed and tent had to go and sleep at a neighbor's wagon. He said, "We started that game yesterday and it was just a little game, and Lord, it's growed till it's plum beyont us now."

The other one was a scare I got. My Father sometimes allowed me to ride a horse he had instead of my pony. Older folks shook their heads. I was riding a horse that was too much for me and besides there were a lot of fellows that would take a horse like that away from a kid and ride him out of the country. There was a lot of truth in what they said. I was undersized. In fact, I weighed about sixty-five pounds.

One day I had been hunting strays and was coming back on a hillside road that was only used in muddy weather when the lower road was impassable. I rounded a turn and right ahead of me met two men on horses that had been ridden till they were ready to drop. I knew what breed of cat they were at a glance. I jerked a knot in my reins. A horse like I was on meant everything to one of them. As I turned off the road they yelled at me to stop, but I turned the horse off the side hill and gave him the quirt. He took down through the rocks and jack oaks and I had to go leather with both hands to stay on top. They fired a shot at me but I could not have stopped if I wanted to and I sure didn't want to. I got to the lower road and managed to get the horse slowed down. I knew what I had met. Those fellows were trying to get away from the law.

A couple of years later we went to Trinidad, Colorado. I was too small to work in a mine or in the railroad shops and that was about all there was to do in that town. I was not being raised for an ornament, anyone could look at me and see that, and I sure wasn't being raised for a pet.

My first job was in a furniture store. One day we had loaded a one horse wagon and the driver got on the seat. I was to sit beside him and hold a dresser mirror. I took it off the load but I turned it with the face toward the horse. He had on an open bridle. When he looked up and saw that other horse coming down on him upside down, he tore out and wrapped that load of furniture around one of the few [telephone] poles [they] had in Trinidad. I never disappointed him. I lit on top of him, mirror and all. I didn't get hurt but the driver of the wagon and the furniture were all in need of repairs and the horse had lamed himself. That ended my mercantile career.

J. M. John, who had some ranches down the river and a small spread on the dry Cimarron, was good enough to give me a job. I was a sort of chore boy on the start. He had a lot of patience with me and finally loaned me a saddle. No rattle trap outfit either. A good one. I was very small for my age and had a mean temper, and used mighty poor judgment a lot of times, but he kept me on the outfit. I had two good points. I could stand all sorts of weather and I would work like a nigger. I was easy on horses and had a lot of endurance. From then on I drifted around from one small outfit to the other. At Bowen's ranch I met up with a man by the name of Johnson. He was half Cherokee Indian. He was breaking horses and he and I went into pardnership. I had learned by then to hog it out with most cold back horses but knew little of real breaking.

Johnson was about forty years old and what I learned from him about handling raw horses helped me all through my life on the range. I also worked for a man named E. B. Templin who raised large horses and broke them to work. He was a splendid horseman and made good money. One of my bosses was J. S. Gresham who was afterwards sheriff of Los Animas county, Colorado. He was buying and shipping horses when I worked for him. The summer of nineteen two I worked for Nels Nelson who had a small spread between Limon Junction and Deer Trail. That was the first I had ever seen them dip cattle. I just stopped there and stayed much longer than I had intended to. I had bought a swell fork saddle from Mueller in Denver and it was the only one in that part of the country then.

The next summer I remember I was back in the southern part of Colorado. We had gone down on the lower Picket-wire for some cattle. We had to gather them. One night we corraled a big bunch of cows and calves in a rincon and went to stay all night at Leonard Richardson's place on the other side of the river. That night it rained hard on some of the canyons above and when we woke up the river was over its banks. The water was so deep in that corral that the calves would soon be swimming. We caught our horses and were ready to cross when two little kids rode up on a pair of little three year old hackamore colts. It was Johnny Cordova and Tommy Carter. Leonard Richardson and Charlie Carson, a J. J. man, rode in and I followed. I heard somebody yell at another one to come back. I looked back and that little Tommy had put that colt into the river. He was hanging to the back whangs of his saddle and coming right along. Tommy was about twelve years old. We got the gate open and the cattle took to the water pretty well. They seemed to know they were cornered. The trip back was a tough one for the river was coming up fast and the current was swift, but we never lost any cattle. Tommy came back with us. I never saw him again for over twenty years and when I did he was working as a riding actor in Hollywood.

The country I learned in was a "tie hard" country. Sometimes a Dally man would drift in, and most of the hands dallied a little if working in a corral. But in the main they were short rope men and most of them rode double rig.

A couple of years later I got hurt and thought I would never be able to ride again and went to the cities. But seven years later I drifted down to Australia. I got up into West Queensland and somehow I got to riding again. I worked for a British company that had three stations, as they call ranches. One was twelve thousand acres, one was fifty thousand, and the other was ninety thousand acres. That was the station where I worked longest. It was odd to me for they rode flat saddles with knee grips and carried long whips. They worked their cattle in chutes and "yards," as they called corrals. A round up was a "Muster" and the remuda was the "Draft." They called their cinches "Girths." But let me state they were good stockmen and horsemen and most of them had the nerve of the devil. There were lots of bad snakes there. One morning I was riding a saddle with one "girth." My horse bucked with me. I was getting along all right for those bush saddles are good to ride a bucker in, but the "girth" broke. I lit on my back with the saddle between my knees. A big drover laughed and said. "You cawn't say as the yankee bloke didn't stick to his flamin' pig skin," meaning the saddle.

They were a fine set of fellows to work with and I stayed a year longer than I meant to, then the war in Europe started. Most of my friends enlisted and times got hard, so I came up to the states again. I went to work in the cities again till the sixth of April, 1917. Then I lied five years about my age and enlisted. I was in the army twenty-six months and was sixteen months over seas. When I came back I never expected to go outdoors again, but in 1922, I went out for a two-weeks visit with G. T. Duncan. He had a spread sixty miles from Kingman, Arizona. The crew was busy, so I went out to help on one work. Well, I kept making one more work and one more work. It was late in November of 1924 that I finally decided my two weeks was up and came back to town. Duncan, "Tap" as his friends call him, was a character. One night in the fall, it was cold and raining, and he took his bed into an old shed where we camped. I went to take my bed in and a belated rattle snake buzzed at me. I warned him about it. "I know it," he said, "but I got here first and if he don't like it let him get to h- out of here." Well the rest of us slept outside but old Tap was snoring loud in twenty minutes.

That was my last job with a cow outfit. My eyes were bothering me and I was getting gray. In short I found out I wasn't young any more. Punching cattle in a rough country is not an old man's job. That is if he really gets in and makes a hand. As you get older a bucking horse can outguess you mighty quick. You are not so active if you get a horse jerked down, or if one falls with you it stoves you up a heap worse than it did years ago. And you don't go down a rope to many big calves before you get that all gone feeling, especially if you are about five feet five.

But I still like the smell of a camp fire and like to hear the creak of saddle leather and the rattle of spurs. And I like the smell of cows. Yes even if I can tell there have been cows in the drinking water, it don't bother me much if the mixture ain't too strong.

This article don't deal much with the tragedies and romances of the range countries I was in, but it is just a little sketch of what happened to me.

* * *

Startin' Out

When you have to start out on a cold winter day, The wind blowin' cold and the sky is dull gray. You blow on the bit till you take out the frost, Then you put on the bridle and saddle yore hoss.

He squats and he shivvers. He blows through his nose. The blanket is stiff for the sweat is shore froze. Then you pick up yore saddle and swing it up high, Till the stirrups and cinches and latigoes fly.

The pony he flinches and draws down his rump. There's a chance he might kick, and he's likely to jump. He rolls his eye at you and shivvers like jelly When you pull that old frozen cinch up on his belly.

It is cold on his back and yore freezin' yore feet, And you'll likely find out when you light on yore seat, That you ain't got no tropical place fer to set. It is likely the saddle aint none overhet.

But a cow boy don't pay no attention to weather. He gits out of his bed and gits into the leather. In the winter it's mighty onpleasant to ride, But that's jest the time when he's needed outside.

Chapter Two

Startin' Out Rough Hands

A rough hand is a heap of help pervidin he has sence with it. No boss wants a feller that is allus tryin' to make a good hoss buck and holdin' up the crowd in the mornin' to see him put on a wild ridin' exhibition, and most owners would a heap ruther hear a waddy talk about how to shoe and how to keep a hoss in shape and learn him the work than about how high he can kick him in the shoulder when he's buckin'.

A real forked hand is wuth plenty all the time but he ort to use jedgement with it. A wrangler that charges a bunch of shod saddle horses in a narrow place and gits some of their heels tromped or a good hoss kicked and lamed is a loss. Fer hands don't train hosses and bring them twenty or thirty mile to a work jest to have 'em lamed up in the remuda.

Then take on a drive there is allus the fellers that bunch up and ride along visitin' and readin' their saddle horns till the herd takes on a whale of a spread, and then takes down their ropes and runs their hosses and chases weak cattle or fat steers neither of which aint so good. And the feller on day herd that is either pullin' up bresh with his rope to see how much his hoss will pull or else makin' or fixin' at sumpthin' till the cattle scatter and then gittin' out and raisin the Devil.

The hand that allus has his rope ready when it is calf brandin' time or that is there to pull 'em out of a bog or doctor screw worms, or can take an ole moss back out of the bresh or a rough mountain is a real man and no foolin'. But the feller that sets in a winter camp and bakes his boots at the fire when he ort to be out choppin' ice so the critters can drink is like enough to be the one to git out along in the afternoon and bust some ole lame steer on the froze ground to look at his foot when him and all the world knows he's jest tender from bein' up around the rim rocks.

I ain't sayin' but what I've tried to show off some times and I've lamed up hosses and crippled and even killed stock when I could have got around doin' it but I am plum ashamed of it and the bosses was better about it than I would have been if I had been in their place. But I will say that I mostly tried to take care of things and not to do damage and I allus figgered that the boys and the cook and boss would a heap ruther a feller drug in a little wood and was willin' to help cook a little if need be than to put on a wild west show when there wasn't no use in it. Lots of boys that is top hands is settin' on the fence some wheres or hangin' round town or [mebbyso] chuck ridin' and don't know why they caint work twicet fer the same outfit. But if they would take a couple of drinks to sorter give 'em a broad view of things and generally speakin' set down and git wise to theirselves they could figger out why some awkward hands that caint ride fer sour apples or throw a rope into the crick is allus workin' and they aint.

The rough hand with sense is a find fer any boss but the rough hand without no sense is as about as much use as a fly wheel on a curry comb or a bull dog in a sheep camp.

Hair Cuttin'

Mind how we used to clean up after the work was made and most of the boys had pulled into the home ranch with the wagon?

Yessir. We sunned blankets, washed clothes and got right busy. By the time we was all sudsed out and shaved it was about time to do some hair cuttin'. Some times there was a chair or two around the bunk house, but most of the boys would ruther set on a box because it seemed a heap more nat'rl and then, too, any cow puncher that really could cut hair had learnt on a box, and a chair sort of cramped his style. And some of them boys could shore cut hair.

We got out the old comb and worked it on a tight string till we had most of the gum out of it and then we got a whet stone and sharped up the best pair of shears that was around the place. After that all we had to do was to set 'em on the old store box and take to it.

To be sure the shears might pull some and the old comb might be a little shy of teeth in spots but that wasn't our fault and it didn't worry us none. I don't know what you would call the style of hair cuts we got, but any how they wasn't no pansy pompadores among 'em.

Then, too, we had sort of a clearin' house balance. All the little fellers that had sent off fer clothes mostly found when they got 'em that they was so big that if they went out in a high wind them shirts and pants would have whupped 'em to death, but that was all right fer they jest fitted the big fellers and the big fellers found out that the first time they washed their clothes they shrunk till they fitted the little fellers. It was only the medium sized boys that was out of luck.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Shorty's Yarns Copyright 2004 by Utah State University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Title: Shorty's Yarns: Western Stories And Poems Of Bruce Kiskaddon

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