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Virginia Bennett


He gets up in the morning, way before dawn.
Feeds the wood heater, turns a pot of coffee on.
Tunes in the radio for the market report.
He could stay in bed, but he’s just not that sort.

He scrambles some eggs as his family sleeps upstairs.
Thinks over coffee until first light appears.
He climbs into his coveralls when it’s light enough to feed.
Some folks wait ‘til it’s warmer but he’s not of that breed.

The snow crunches as he walks, his breath rises in the air.
Tiny icicles begin to form on his moustache hair.
The cows beckon softly, the horses toss their heads & nicker.
Stamp their impatience when the tack room lights flicker.

When most folks are asleep, he’s out there loading up hay.
He could do it blind-folded, since he does it twice every day.
He pauses to stroke a barn cat, and listen to it purr.
Tousles the ears of his cow dog, and pulls out a burr.

Last year’s calves chew their alfalfa as the rancher waters.
He's proud of his cows that produced these sons & daughters.
He checks for bad eyes and cows that are due.
The herd needs him badly, and he needs them, too.

He does this every day, every winter, every year,
But it’s never monotonous, routine, boring, or drear.
To the rest of the world, those are just cows out by the shed.
But to this honest cowboy,
They’re his reason for getting out of bed.

From In the Company of Horses (Timberline Press, 2004).
Used here with permission.

Virginia Bennett has been performing her original cowboy poetry since 1988. A regular reciter at the National Cowboy Gathering, her work has been featured at the Smithsonian Institute, on NPR and PBS specials, in numerous anthologies, and she was named Cowgirl Poet of the Year in 2014 by the Academy of Western Artists. Virginia knows her subject matter firsthand, having worked on many western ranches over the years. In addition to her horse- and ranch-related skills, she played mandolin, guitar, and banjo in the bluegrass/cowboy trio, Hickory Wind. Virginia edited two books, Cowgirl Poetry: 100 years of Ridin’ and Rhymin’ (Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2001) and Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion ( Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2004). She and her husband are now retired and living in Goldendale, Washington.




Post New Comment:
The dedication not just to duty, but to tending the animals he has chosen to care for, is wonderfully expressed. Thank you, Virginia!
Posted 01/20/2024 10:32 PM
No wonder it's been shared with pupils for 20 years. I wonder why the world isn't full of cowboys and cow girls. Splendid!
Posted 01/20/2024 02:24 PM
Lori Levy:
Love how the poem shows that, for him, they are NOT "just cows out by the shed."
Posted 01/20/2024 01:39 PM
Very nice. An excellent contribution to cowboy week!
Posted 01/20/2024 10:13 AM
Joan Luther:
Such a lovely poem. What a motivational way to portray someones life! Thx so much for sharing!!
Posted 01/20/2024 09:50 AM
This well-written, descriptive poem is very inspirational, conveying a message about the value of a strong work ethic and making life worth living.
Posted 01/20/2024 09:33 AM
Susi Eastin :
Touches my heart, brings memories (never far away - except for the mustache!) Glad to be reading this - before dawn- in front of the fire, cup of hot coffee, that cat now warms my lap. So thankful for those keeping these stories alive - and those out there this morning, keeping the herds alive on cold mornings like this. Now teaching in a small town high school, I'm encouraged by the young cowboys in my classes, the 'Yes,ma'am' boys in the jeans, hats,kerchiefs and boots. Thank you for sharing this!
Posted 01/20/2024 08:58 AM
Darrell Arnold:
Virginia's poem about Pete Bennett could be told about every rancher who lives in winterish country. He can't survive without the livestock, and the cattle and horses can't survive without him. No matter how bitter and brutal the raging storms might be, he gets up and feeds and chops ice so the animals can get to water. They are more than just his animals. They are his dependents, and he will agonize over any loss. He can't not take care of them. God Bless the rancher, and God Bless Virginia Bennett. Those of us who know her, adore her.
Posted 01/20/2024 08:50 AM
A great snapshot of devotion!
Posted 01/20/2024 08:28 AM

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