ed brownEd Brown: Mt. Whitney Pack Trains Packer and Cowboy Poet

Cowboy Poetry by Ed Brown
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It was in the winter of eighty-nine
A year that's frozen in my mind.
When my frail life was snatched from the jaws of death.
I was up high near the mountain peaks
Been running trap line for six weeks
So cold that you could see and touch yer Breath.

I had a good cabin to spend the nights
Complete with stove and white gas lights
And beans and flour and bacon to see me through.
One day the sun was overhead
And I crawled out of my warm fur bed
To check the mercury - minus fifty-two!

Now a trapper's got to check his sets
No matter how the weather gets.
So I threw on all the clothing I could find
Grabbed my muzzle loader and my powder horn
And I set out on that fateful morn
Not knowing I'd left my bullet pouch behind.

The sky was clear as British gin
Without a single breath of wind.
I threw my heavy knapsack on my shoulder.
As I commenced my pursuit of fur
I glanced at that thermometer
I don't know how but it was getting colder .

Now trapping is both luck and skill
I checked them one by one until
I'd travelled way up high in timber black
Crouched down examining one set.
I had this eerie feeling that
Somebody - or something was at my back.

This Boone and Crockett grizzly bear
About eight feet of teeth and hair
Was raring up much higher than my head.
I quickly figured what he's doin'
And even though his meal I'd ruin
It was time to fill Ol' Bruin full of lead.

I stared into his hungry eyes
You can't imagine my surprise
As I groped for the bullet pouch that wasn't there.
Of course I had my Bowie knife
A weapon suited to take a life
But should I stab myself or that damn bear?

My forehead broke into a sweat
Of shiny beads, salty and wet
And I had a sickening feeling in my gullet.
Then the Artic air caused me to smile
For there weren't no puddle, but a pile
Of AMMUNITION - I was sweating bullets!

So I rammed a load of powder in
Then those ice bullets, eight or ten
And I aimed Ol' Betsy twixt the grizzly's eyes.
I'd barely pulled the hammer back
When he decided to attack
You can't imagine each of our surprise.

'Cuz when the hammer hit the cap
That bear began his winter nap.
Now the scientific part I will explain
When it gets past fifty below
Ain't nothing; hard as H2O -
O'l Grizzly died of water on the brain!

grizzly bear


That cowboys are all dead and gone
Is commonly repeated
By folks who never saw a cow
'Cept maybe when they eat it.

Technology has reached the stage
These folks are prone to say
That there no longer is a need
For men who ride for pay.

Helicopters, jeeps, and three-wheelers
These fellers say, of course
Are simply more efficient than
The cowboy and his horse.

These well-intentioned experts
I'm sure are quite sincere.
I'm just glad I'm not helping out
With their Yamaha rodear.



We heard of a place called Cuyama
That held an old-time rodeo.
So we shined up our old Tony Lamas,
And decided we just had to go.

It said it was held in the open;
That they snubbed broncs and roped brandin' style.
So we mailed in our entries a hopin'
To get off the ranch for a while.

Well we got there a way after midnight,
Parked our camper and commenced to snore.
When we opened the curtains at daylight
Our view was a green outhouse door

Now this outhouse had no kind of hitchrack
And was obviously occupied
'Cuz there stood an old horse with a swayback
Being held by the reins from inside.

Sure enough something spooked the old cayuse,
And he just might have run off before,
'Cuz this good lookin' gal never let loose
And the nag yanked her plumb out the door

You probably think this was rotten
But the whole thing just happened by chance,
And would most likely all be forgotten
If she'd had time to pull up her pants.



I've been places where it's cold
Where the wind and snow have blowed
Where January gets to be plumb mean.
This may sound a trifle bold
But I've never been as cold
As in that fog along the old San Joaquin.

You're tryin' to move a bunch of steers
And you can't see your horses ears
Yet you now the grass beneath your feet is green.
It could be colder, heaven knows
But it crawls in right through your clothes
That fog along the old San Joaquin.

You can't remember havin' feet
It's hard to keep your moustache neat
And it can make a truly funny scene;
When frozen fingers numbly try
To negotiate a button fly
In that fog along the old San Joaquin.

In a field you've rode a hundred times
It makes you think you've lost your mind
There's not a single landmark to be seen.
You wander slightly back and forth
And find the south gate just moved north
In that fog along the old San Joaquin.

You wonder how you can survive
And make it through 'til spring arrives
And sort of let your old mind drift and dream;
Of summer when its so danged hot
That by July you have forgot
That fog along the old San Joaquin.
steer in fog


When campfires settle down to coals
In a roundup camp at night
And the boys are tired and needin’ a night's sleep
All the favorite stories been retold
The stars are shining bright
That's when philosophy can get real deep

It was on just such an evening
That the boys had argued long
On a matter that has never quite been settled
Just what is cowboy music?
Now please don't get me wrong
I spoke up and told 'em, "Boys, it's HEAVY METAL!”

Explanations were in order
Every ear was on me then
As cowboys are defensive 'bout their music
lt was time to do some talkin'
Or else lose a bunch of friends
Either drop the bomb right now or else defuse it

“The answer, boys, is simple,"
And I do simple well
“lf ya think a bit I’m sure you’ll settle down
When yer workin on these ranches
It ain’t really hard to tell
Our lives are filled with heavy metal sounds.”

“There’s heavy rowels a jinglin’
Trottin' out before first light
Have you ever really listened all these years?
And the hames bells on a feed team
Pullin' sleds with all their might
Can ya tell me that ain’t music to your ears

"The single clink that gives the bell mare’s
Hiding place away
You must admit that's quite a purty sound
And the three o'clock wind-up alarm'
Announcin' a new day
At least we get our bones up off the ground

"That anvil struck so often
Conversations start with 'HUH?'
Could be one metal sound that's over used
But it's honest labor, fellas
That we all have heard enough
And it beats the sound of horses losin' shoes

The clangin' of the headcatch
On that dreaded cattle squeeze
Is an awful, but a necessary sound
As for me I kinda like it
It might even seem to please
Compared to drivin' T-posts in the ground

"I think yer minds are changing now
Yer rage has turned to chuckles
Now my final reason won't be hard to sell
It's the pure, melodic music
Of a barrel racing buckle
As it chimes upon the floor of a motel."







Just a nosy, bossy spinster
Allergic to all fun
Her life's devotion:  GOSSIP
Every town's got one

Just last week my truck was parked
In front of our one bar
Miss Busybody saw it
Amongst the other cars

So my status has been altered
"The town drunk" now I'm called
With gossip, instant, lightning speed
The whole town knows it all

What goes around then comes around
I didn't want to fight
So I just parked my pickup
In her driveway all last night




Old Jules, our herd sire was aging
Seems he'd lost his old get up and go
Or maybe our cows were just ugly
So I called up this cow vet I know

'Cuz we'd just had a miserable calf crop
And we sure had to blame it on Jules
I said, "Doc, have you some kind of potion
That'll help him remember his youth?"

"I'll bring out this new stuff they're sellin'
We'll give him a dose then we'll see
The company says it'll restart his fire
There's a hundred percent guarantee."

Just one gulp and Ol' Jules tore the chute down
Jumped two fences to get with the cows
He was done before noon and then pretty soon
He was chasin' the dogs round the house

He pollinated our entire cowherd
And two or three neighbors just west
So I called up the doc to inform him
His potion had sure passed the test

"Just what in the heck ya thinks in it?"
Was the question I phrased to ol' Doc
"Not a clue," he replied, "It's a secret
But to me the darn stuff tastes like chalk."




When I signed on with this outfit
They explained to me real clearly
All the things you need to know
To work this ranch, well nearly

They told me all the minor things
That might not work just right
And anything that they left out
I'm sure was oversight.

Like heel flies and rock fences
I would find them soon enough
No-see-ums and bad crossings
Shouldn't scare me, hell, I’m tough

They admitted that the housing
Faced imminent collapse
But I don't remember hearing 'bout
Those fifty water gaps.

There finally come a great big rain
I'm hazy on the dates
And then those fifty water gaps
Were fifty open gates.

I got to know my neighbors well
As the cattle got all mixed
It takes more than a day or two
To get those fences fixed.

Then two days a horseback
We finally got them split
And driven back where they belonged
We thought that that was it.

Then we discovered six stray cows
Whose brand I hadn't seen.
I called around and found they'd come
From across the San Joaquin.

So this outfit sent two cowboys
To gather up these cows
And I just happened to drive up
As they got near the corrals.

I knew these two vaqueros
And they were both good hands
Had learned their skills a cowboyin'
South of the Rio Grande.

Now five cows marched into the pens
The sixth one out she broke
Two ropes uncoiled, her plan was foiled
Yep, these boys they could rope.

They roped her up real fancy
And turned her round about
But twenty yards from that corral
This old rip just give out.

That wasn't a big problem
To lose her would be failure.
So they just backed their outfit up
To drag her in the trailer.

They ran the rope out through the aide
And dallied up real tight
The cow threw on the parking break
And plumb got on the fight.

So the pony lunged into the line
Like a fullback with a handoff
The cow was firmly anchored, though
A genuine Mexican standoff'.

The air was blue in Spanish
They were runnin' out of luck
But I had me a hotshot
In the toolbox of my truck.

I gave it to one hombre.
He understood of course
And promptly pressed the button
As he jabbed that big old horse.

The pony, he jumped forward
The cow shot right inside
I ran and slammed the trailer door
And the horse just kind of sighed.

This shows you how much I know.
I blamed the cow, of course
When the real problem was obvious
An uninspired horse.

ranch hand

bunk house

mending fences

roping a cow

cattle prod


cattle brand



I keep a pocket record book
So when I want I take a look
And see just what it is I've done this year;
How many cows are in what field,
The number sold and what they yield.
The in and out weights of the pasture steers.

And when I take a trip to town
To buy some things I jot this down
Its a regular record of my life.
I keep it handy in my pocket
The system works just fine don't knock it
It's just as handy as my pocket knife.

Now my dear wife she teaches school
The income's needed as a rule
To keep the wolves from knocking at our doors.
Even though I work ranching hours
Calving cows and doctoring scours
I sometimes help out with the household chores.

One day I got home before she did
And she still had to shop and pick up the kids
But the house condition put me in a quandary.
The floors were clean, the beds were made,
The dishes done and put away
So I decided I would do the laundry.

I gathered up a bunch or clothes
A few of these, a few of those
So nice that in the housework I was sharing.
I put in soap, just half a box
And half a bottle of Clorox.
To top it off I threw in the shirt I was wearing.

When the washer stopped I lifted the lid
It still hadn't dawned on me what I did
But the clothes were covered with funny little specks.
Like paper shredded up real small
And only then did I recall
And slapped the empty pocket on my chest.

I pulled the clothes from that machine
And let me tell you they were CLEAN
But my record book now it was badly beaten
My year had vanished, every letter
The cover hadn't fared much better
It looked like something that an owl had eaten.

Now my wife she had sympathy
For the stupid thing I'd done to me
And that night I overheard her on her knees.
"Dear Lord" she said “Help him remember
Everything he did up 'til September
And a special thank you that he can't blame me".

pocket watch





cattle drive


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This page was last updated on 20 May 2017