Where the cactus grow
And the sunsets glow
Like a fire across the sky
The daylight heat might have you beat
But the nights are cold and dry
Oh, the desert heat
Has no relief
For the dust on a cowboy’s brow
Or the dripping sweat under blankets wet
On a horse that’s chasing cows.
But the winter cold
They’ve all been told
Is the worse you ever felt
And to climb aboard a fresh young colt
Oh, cowboy, cinch your belt.
When you saddle up
On a green broke pup
The cold will alter his course.
A most unpleasant incident?
Cold weather, and one fresh horse.
He’ll grow some wings
And learn new things
About how to unseat his load,
And the cold just seems to amplify
Whatever he already knows.
So, down on the desert
Where cactus grows
And the sky burns red with fire,
If its mid-winter there
Then best beware
And horses gone haywire.
© by Sally Harper Bates.
Used here with the author’s permission.
Sally Harper Bates was raised on an Arizona ranch, immersed in Western culture and traditions like multiple generations of her family before her. A singer, songwriter, novelist, and poet, she’s frequently featured at cowboy poetry gatherings around the country and has been nominated Female Cowboy Poet of the Year three times. Active in her church as well as in 4-H, the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Association, and other organizations, Sally lives with her husband in Chino Valley, Arizona.
Great images, Sally! I appreciate that someone takes the time to train the horses so those of us with less experience can ride safely.
Posted 05/14/2023 10:51 PM
Poem feels like I'm back in time. In 1962, Prescott, Arizona in a black 4-door-Oldsmobile-sedan with no air conditioner in the hot desert. It makes me think of my dad. He has since been since been buried in an the VA cemetery in Prescott. A cowboy at heart.
Posted 01/20/2023 06:22 PM
I really enjoyed this poem - Great imagery.
Posted 01/20/2023 05:43 PM
oh how love the syncopation of this lovely rhyme. It feels like the rock and roll of being in that saddle ....for as long as you can stay seated that is.
Posted 01/20/2023 05:08 PM
Tough country requires tough horses and makes good cowboys. Good poem Sally.
Posted 01/20/2023 05:05 PM
The cactus and glow of the sunset pulls me into the poem, and I feel like Im there.
Posted 01/20/2023 01:33 PM
Mounting that fresh horse in cold weather can be about the only thing a cowboy thinks about the night before and the morning of his actually having to do it. You know there's a good chance for an uplifting moment before a down-to-earth experience. You're always happy when you get it all behind you, and you can get on to other things. I can hear that colt snortin'.
Posted 01/20/2023 09:34 AM
Love this!! Great rhythm and rhyme,,,and something to learn about horses!!!
Posted 01/20/2023 09:25 AM
Only a true rancher could write this poem, making the often hard reality of the ranching life beautiful. "And the cold just seems to amplify
Whatever he already knows" Insight and beauty
Posted 01/20/2023 07:30 AM