Duane Rossi: Big Pine Packer, Cowboy and Cowboy Poet
Cowboy Poetry by Duane Rossi
Monache Meadows Rodeo - 1951
L to R: Wilson Thomas, Wendell Still, Pete Olivas, Freddie Simpson, Leaky Olivas, Clesar Girand, Roy (Gabe) Gill, Pete Garner, Buddy Garner
(Photo courtesy of Donna Reynolds)
I stepped out of the cabin, at the break of day,
And out in the desert I heard a donkey bray.
He was announcin', in his jackass way;
that the Rose Valley Opera would open today.
The cattle were settled and the fences were tight.
I decided to take in the show that night.
It started at four, in the desert heat.
I stepped off my horse into a front row seat.
The leadin' lady was a beautiful thing.
A little gray jenny with a promise to bring.
The young jacks gathered round
And pawed the ground.
They didn't hesitate.
They all wanted that little mare for their steady date.
The lava and cinders fairly did rattle,
as they all joined in the battle.
Boy what a sight to see I got to wondering.
Just who the winner would be.
There was blacks and bays, pintos and grays,
And none of them figgered to lose.
I's on the edge of my seat,
To see which one she'd choose
When out of the malipi, came trottin' a jack,
that looked like a bunch of bones in sack.
His ears were lopped, his tail was cropped.
He'd seen some better days.
But when it came to winnin' a jenny's heart
He sure knew all the ways.
While the other jacks were enjoying the fight.
He was slippin' through the Joshuas, out of sight.
There on the desert was romance scene,
that could never be duplicated on the silver screen.
Not Hudson, Newman, Gable or Peck,
could ever follow that jackass wreck.
He nibbled her neck, she kissed his nose,
And the Rose Valley Opera came to a close.
Rose Valley is in between Little Lake and Haiwee Dam on U.S. Highway 395. The ground is covered with red volcanic cinders. There are several red volcanic cones in this area. The Sierra Nevada ranges is to the west and the Coso's to the east. When the sun rises and sets the whole valley is a rose color. The nicest winter I ever spent was in 1985 at the old Lubkin Cow Camp out behind the Red Cinder Hill on the east side of the highway.
In the spring of 1977, I was working for Rancho Samataguma and staying at the Lubkin camp. It was a dry year on the desert and the burro roundup and burros were coming in by the hundreds to water at the camp trough. Before the burros became so numerous and caused ecological damage to the desert, cowboys, miners, and anyone who lived on the desert in the spring of the year was serenaded nightly by the desert canaries, alias desert operettas or long-eared Carusos.
I hope this poem will preserve part of their history.
Well it all took place on Monache Flats.
Ringin' spurs and lots of big hats.
The Boys were ridin' in from all over the maps.
Leadin' in broncs with lots of sap.
Every outfit's got one that's too tough to ride.
And to watch him buck swells a man with pride.
Nobody knows why it's so funny,
to see a man thumped and to lose his money.
Stagger around in a daze like he'd fell out of a well.
But we'd all go tomorrow if they held a rodeo in hell.
Well a silence fell and something wasn't right.
Tom was leadin' in something little and white.
We gathered around and asked what's the deal.
He just looked at the ground and kicked dirt with his heel.
On the whole Anchor outfit there ain't nothing bad.
This little fellow is all that I had.
The man that draws her is down on his luck.
I don't suppose she'll even buck.
Well a yell went up it was tie to go.
We were going to start the Monache Rodeo.
Now Dan drew a buckskin that sure did look prime.
Guaranteed to put a kink in old Dan's spine.
Ronnie drew a bronc off of the R.S.
that some fool had named Old Caress.
Dulhart drew Star off the Double O Bar.
Well it was Tom's turn to draw.
He stepped up with a set in his jaw.
A gasp for air and a look of despair.
We all knew he'd drawn his own little mare.
He climbed on her back, and pitched her some slack.
But the colt just stood there hangin' her head.
If she wasn't standing up you'd swear she was dead.
Go to her belly you got to make her hump.
Your disqualified if she don't even jump.
He spurred her in the belly with all of his might.
And right there he started one helluva fight.
She went into a spin like a wooden top.
She swapp'ed ends and wouldn't stop.
She was hittin' the ground every thirty feet.
She sucked her back at Soda Creek.
She bucked thru the jack pines and hit the flats on the run.
The dust she was risin' was blocking the sun.
She bucked she bawled she pitched and she moaned.
She had to be a colt out of the Strawberry Roan.
She was a natural bucker regardless of breedin'.
His clothes were torn and his nose was bleedin'.
The crowd was cheerin' there was a scream from Ethel.
That the puncher was going to ride to the whistle.
There had been no daylight between man and beast.
He was makin' a ride to say the least.
Then a mighty lunge and a powerful kick.
That white colt showed one more trick.
Now, believe me boys I was standing there.
The colt turned a summersault right in midair.
It left Tom stacked on the back of his neck.
No one had ever seen a worse wreck.
Well he'd lost the money, but the awful disgrace.
His little white colt was lickin' his face.
Monache Meadows Images
(Photo by unknown)
Monache Meadows and South Fork Kern River
(Photo by Woodschick
Old Olivas homestead cabins in Monache Meadows
When the sun sets on the Sierra,
the last day I'm on earth.
I don't want a lot of cryin' and flowers,
I've been happy since the day of my birth.
I've had a lot of good friends go on down
and I know when I get there we'll have
a mighty good time.
Now don't get me wrong Lord I like it
here just fine,
but sometimes I get to missin' them
ol' pals of mine.
We'll sit around on a sunbeam,
and lean back on a cloud.
We'll have a drink of heavens brew,
me and that old crowd.
We'll talk about the things we've done,
and the times that we were here.
We'll catch a lot of fish, and
we'll shoot a lot of deer.
We'll talk about the mules we packed.
And the ones that were tough to shoe.
And pard we'll even talk a time
We'll talk about our traplines.
The ones we ran in the snow,
and how they ripped us off at
But that's forgiven now.
We'll talk about our families,
and how tough it was to go.
But they'd feel a lot better,
if they could see us now.
From cradle to grave is such
a very short span.
We're all gonna go there
animal, plant, and man.
So when that sun sets on
the Sierra, and that river runs around the bend.
I don't want any cryin' and flowers,
I'll be with a bunch of my friends.
If you have ever looked upon a moutain meadow,
or drank from a snow-fed mountain stream,
Then you've been to a place where angels go,
when they feel like they want to dream.
It was here an old-time cowboy rolled out is bed,
he hobbled his stock for the night,
and laid down his tired head.
That night as the stars shone above,
his dreams went back to an old-time love.
Of a family grown that he'd loved so much,
They'll always be near, never out of touch.
He dreamed of his friends, and all he times he'd had.
Both the good and the bad.
As the grey dawn began to creep,
he woke from his dreamful sleep.
as he wrangled his stock, and packed his string.
In his homely voice, he was trying to sing.
Yes, this is the country that Pete loved best.
He went from here to his final rest.
He knew his time was only bidin'.
There was pain from a thousand rains,
he couldn't be hidin'.
That day the Lord reached out and took him,
From the horse he was ridin'.
Now they say, if a man is honest, kind, and true
The Lord will also be kind to you.
He'll let you choose the trail you love,
to make your Final Ride.
Pete chose his -- Big Whitney Meadows
June 25, 1975
**Pete Garner on his trusty steed, Ikey
On the west side of Carson Peak lies a meadow that
out-shines the rest.
When God made Spooky Meadows he was surely at his
The grass so green and sparkling streams
as peaceful as a lover's dreams.
I'd been traveling far and my stock was a weary bunch.
I turned them loose to graze and fixed myself some lunch.
When darkness came, the moon went over the crest.
I rolled out my bed to get some needed rest.
Then I heard that awful scream and it ended with a whine.
And I thought for sure I'd reached the end of the line.
Now I've never been a coward, the lily-livered kind.
But I'll tell you for sure there were chills running up my
Well I heard him hiss and I saw him leap and he hit where
I had been.
I swung my fist and hit him in the othere end and grabbed
him where his throat began.
A heave and a shout as I turned the beast inside out.
Now I know your going to say this story can't be true.
But if you'll look at this picture I'll prove the tale to you.
In 1987 I went up to June Lake to work through deer season for Dink Getty. A few days before the deer season opened Robert Morgan and I were packing supplies and horse feed to the deer camps at Clark Lake. After we got the mules unpacked and the supplies taken care of, we sat down to drink a beer and enjoy the scenery.
We were going to loose-herd the mules back to the pack station, down the Spooky Meadows trail. It's a pretty rough trail, but it cut off several miles. While we were talking, Robert asked me why they call it Spooky Meadows as it was about as pretty a place as he'd ever seen. I had to agree it was a beautiful place. Carson Peak rises up on the west. The north drops striaght down to Agnew Lake. Thee is a nice stream, and in a good year the grass is up to a horse's hocks. Horses and mules love it.
When we would use the Clark Lake camp in the summer, we would take a sack of grain over to Spooky the first night and get the bunch settled. After that we would turn them loose in the evening at camp and they would go on their own over the ridge to the Meadows and stay there until we went after them in the morning. We never lost our stock once in the summer of 1985. Why anyone would name such a beautiful place Spooky, I'll never know.
With the help of a wild imaginaton, Henry's Taxidermy, and David Hefner's photography, I came up with this.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine.
Sit down here boys it's going to take some time.
Well cowboys usually don't care
about shiny boots or slicked-down hair.
But Andy was a Lady's Man.
We were running some cattle in the Coso range.
And Andy allowed he was ready for a change.
"I'll find me a woman this very day,
and you'll be stampeded if you get in my way."
Being young myself back a few years.
I knew what was causin' that ringin' in his ears.
So I nodded my head and said, "Roll your sack.
Your job will be waiting when you get back."
He gathered his life savings,
which was a dollar seventy-three.
Then he borrowed a dollar
and a clean shirt from me.
He jumped on his horse,
and hit a westerly course.
The Little Lake Hotel set about thirty miles away.
And the way he was riding he would make it today.
When he walked in the bar this Lady caught his eye.
She was as pretty as star in the desert sky.
He pulled up a stool as close as you can.
Oh, that Andy was a Lady's Man.
He ordered whiskey in a good clean glass.
And he left a two cent tip just to show class.
"Good evening my dear I didn't see you sitting there.
You sure freshen up this desert air.
I'm on my way to Seattle to buy a bunch of cattle."
"Yes, I own this country as far as the eye can see.
And you'd be wise to hook up with me.
And maybe in the morning if we get a chance.
I'll take you out and show you my ranch."
Well the Lady's lashes fairly did fan.
Oh that Andy was a Lady's Man.
Now down the bar sitting on a stool,
was a ugly old hag, that looked like a mule.
"Hold on there mister,
I overheard what your tellin' my sister."
"I've seen your type all over the West.
Ten gallon hat and a bright red vest.
At wooing young women your sure have a knack.
Bet you don't even own that shirt on your back."
"Good evening my lovely."
He covered his eyes with his hand.
Oh, that Andy was a Lady's Man.
What I was telling your sister is God's own truth.
I'm on a business trip with a night to linger.
Behind his back he crossed his finger.
To the old crony it came as a shock.
To hear God's name in barroom talk.
She gently reached out and held his hand.
Oh, that Andy was a Lady's Man.
"You win cowboy, you're a remarkable man.
And I'll gladly give you my sisters hand;
in the morning I'll sign over father's will
if you can just show me a five dollar bill."
Well I haven't seen Andy for many a day.
He drifted down Arizona way.
If you happen to see him say hello and shake his hand.
You know at one time he was quite a Lady's Man.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (#5 courtesy of Randy Tolle)
When I first discovered I could write poetry I was always looking for a subject to write about. My favorite subject is the people I work with. I also like to keep as much truth in a poem as I can and still make it rhyme. That's why if I happen to stretch the truth a little it's only for the sake of poetry. This one might be one of those, but then it miht all be true. I'll let you decide.
Maybe you know this guy.
Duane Rossi packing in drums of poison at Ramshaw Meadow for the California Department of Fish and Game
on the Golden Trout Project - 1977
Monache Rodeo stereogram - circa 1920
(Photo courtesy Rich McCutchan)