by Frank C Humphrey
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During my years as a cowboy, I spent some of my time writing cowboy poetry and cowboy songs.
In the west, in the past, it was not uncommon for out of work cowboys to ride from one ranch to another, hoping to get a warm meal. This poem depicts such a man, and the character he meets when he rides up to a cookshack on a large ranch. Standing on the porch of the shack is a crippled old man, at least that is his appearance, wearing a dirty torn apron.
Well, Howdy, Stranger
Come in the cook shack and pull up a chair, take a load of yore feet for a spell.
Why am I crippled? Here, have some stew and while you're eatin' I'll tell you my tale.
I once was a cowboy on this here ranch, I rode wild broncs for my pay. Why, I was the best rider that you ever saw, until that one fateful day.
It was early in the spring, the weather was cool, I remember that morning quite well. I buckled on my spurs and strapped on my chaps and stepped right off into hell.
Hell came in the form of a little black horse with a star 'bout the size of a dime. Satan was his name, and pain was his game, to my misfortune, the pain was all mine.
I slipped on a hackamore and cinched'im up tight, he stood there as nice as you please. Then in the wink of an eye he whirled in the sky and kicked me right in the knee.
I went down in a pile in that dusty corral, wonderin' if my leg was still there. Satan gently nudged the hat off my head, and bit off the top of my ear.
Well, I let out a howl and grabbed my ear, and I guess I spooked him a might, 'cause he took two laps around the pen, cleared the fence and ran out of sight.
I lay there a'cussin' 'til I could get up, then I slowly limped toward the house. Ol' Satan was waitin' up there by the gate, head hangin' as meek as a mouse.
I gathered his reins and opened the gate and led'im back into the pen. My ear had stopped bleedin' and one knee still worked, so I figgered I'd try'im again.
Slowly I climbed up into the saddle and gently gave him some slack. I trotted him around in a great big circle, then stopped and slowly walked back.
I figgered i fin'ly had Ol' Satan whipped, and I started in to relax. Then a chore-boy came out of a near-by feed shack with an armload of torn gunny sacks.
You'd a-thought Ol' Satan had seen a ghost, the way he planted all fours in the ground. He let out a big snort, then went high in the air, a'twistin' a-half way around.
He rammed my good knee right into a post, and my foot caught under the rails. He sat back so fast I rode over the horn, one good buck and I was head over tails.
When I come to, the doctor was there, he was slowly shakin' his head. "Young man", he said, "I've never seen such a mess! You're lucky that you ain't dead!"
"Stay offa wild horses and take care of yoreself and you'll be fine in a year or so." So the boss lets me cook and garden and such, since I got no place else to go.
Yea, now I'm the cook on this here ranch and complaints of my vittles are few. Ol' Satan? He just plumb vanished 'bout a week ago! Heh, heh, heh. Here, stranger, have another helpin' of stew.