by Lona Tankersley Burkhart
Rancher, Packer, Cowgirl, Poet, & Author
All text and black & white graphics are courtesy of Lona Burkhart's book,
Cow Tracks on the Land unless otherwise noted.
This and That
My Favorite Song
When I was a tiny child, upon my fathers knee,
the thundering storm, was a frightening sound to me.
But he taught me storms were, but a promise kept,
by the Lord above to keep, the land nourished and wet.
That each raindrop, was a single blade of grass,
every snowdrop a flower, before the summer would pass.
Now the velvet hush, of the falling snow,
is a sound that every rancher, comes to know.
And the raging blizzard, in a winters night,
can fill an ol' cowman's heart with fright.
For the drifting snow, packs cold and deep,
and visions of stranded cattle, rob his sleep.
When the black clouds burst, under the strain,
and the earth is washed, with a driving rain.
The creeks tear at their banks, with an angry roar,
until they become rivers, and they are no more.
Yes, storms come to the land, in many ways and speeds,
each fills a different purpose, and different needs.
Once I cussed the rain, when I was young,'n' cold 'n' wet,
and an old cowman told me something, I'll never forget.
He turned and looked at me, with cold distain,
he said I was cussin' God, when I cussed the rain.
I've learned there's truth, in what he had to say,
for it cleanses my soul, and washes my troubles away.
Ah, the gentle blessing, of a steady rain,
falling on the mountain, valley and plain.
It runs in a little stream, from the brim of my hat,
and caresses my slicker, with a soft pit'a'pat.
The whole world sings, a glad refrain,
to the steady beat, of a driving rain.
But it's best of all when, the stocks all fed at night,
and I'm sittin' 'n' readin', by the yellow lamplight.
The good Lord's in His heaven, there's living proof,
In the steady beat of the gentle, rain on my roof.
Government Men and Environmentalists
We Are Not Alone
Love thy God, thy Father,
and for thy sins atone.
Love thy neighbor,
you shall not be alone.
As He suffered upon the cross,
from our sins, us to save.
I am with you always,
was the promise that He gave.
The Roman soldiers
that guarded the tomb,
Stared in disbelief,
at the empty room.
The stone had moved!
"What is this," they cried.
"We cannot see Him,
and yet we know he died."
Ah, woe to them,
that they could not see.
For He was there,
where He said He'd be.
Look for Him,
He lives, everywhere.
He walks with us,
shoulders our every care.
See Him in the tinest blossom,
we crush beneath our feet.
Watch Him on the eagles wings,
where sky and mountian meet.
for He is there.
In the scent of summer roses,
that fill the air.
Listen for Him,
you can hear Him speak,
In the flowing waters,
of a mountian creek.
He awakens us,
with thunders mighty roar.
His voice comforts us,
when waves kiss the shore.
Feel the passion vine,
that climbs a wall of stone.
We are not alone.
The Final Solution to the Permit Problem
Horses in My Life
Sometimes I get to thinkin', about the horses that I've had.
There were a dozen good ones, for every one that was bad.
I go back in my mind and, each one has a place.
Some were better working cows, some I liked to race.
When you've had a lot of horses, and I've had a few.
You know your lifes been richer, for each horse you knew.
The first horse I ever broke, he made a special one.
Just a little paint Indian poney, but golly could he run.
We won lots of ribbons, and a little cash too.
Working cows on the ranch, was what he really liked to do.
Silver Tip was big and powerful, I always felt astride,
a lightnin' bolt wrapped up, in his glossy, grey hide.
Lots of days I made, a sixty mile circle on him.
And he'd shy at the gatepost, as we were goin' in.
We'd hit a high trot, long before the dawn.
And we'd get home hours, after the sun was gone.
I'm too stiff to crawl aboard, his kind anymore.
But Lord, I'm glad I got to ride him, long before.
BUCK STEW ART
My old buckskin gelding, first papered horse I owned.
Won cuttin's on him', he was a ropin' horse of renown.
My little grey Arab mare, she could do it all.
We chased a lot of wild ones, never once did she fall.
I could ride her, with a string around her neck.
Run, and spin, stop, and never get in a wreck.
We roped wild burros, and showed in stock horse classes.
Lead strings of mules across, snowpacked mountain passes.
Life on the Ranch
Some crave the company,
of others of their kind.
The need to be alone,
never enters their mind.
Me, I need the solitude,
of God and I alone.
His land, His creatures,
His earth, His stone.
Please don't crowd me in,
give me air, give me space.
Let me see the mountains,
feel the wind in my face.
I feel like I am shackled,
with people close around.
Let me wander free, alone,
across the Good Lord's ground.
The early sunrise ride,
like the midnight stroll.
Renews my mind, and
they refresh my soul.
Mother and the Bobcat
The Deepest Valley (Owens Valley)
It's storming in the High Sierra's,
clouds hang angry and low.
The lofty peaks are hidden,
from those of us below.
I have looked at the sky above,
How mighty was the lightning,
How small are we,
Here in the valley.
Then, the beauty of the valley,
is singing in my heart.
The beauty of the valley,
is tearing me apart.
The beauty of the valley,
is crying in my soul.
The beauty of the valley,
has made me whole.
Almighty God, above,
I feel Your presence there.
Infinite man, below,
to small for prayer.
Then, the sun,
at last begun,
And I know,
the earth below,
belongs to You.
Mt. Whitney from the Elder Corral off of Tuttle Creek Road
(Photo courtesy of Ray DeLea)
Owens Valley (photographer- unknown)
Packin' in the Eastern High Sierra's
I've heard quite a few cowboys,
that followed a wagon or two.
Make fun of the packers, and say,
it's something that they wouldn't do ........
But I'll tell you, there's somethin' about packin',
that gets in your blood.
Early in the spring, when the snow starts to melt,
And the willows to bud……..
I long to be travelin' the high trails again,
and to be on top of the world.
To look down from the high passes, to the valley below,
Where a river lies curled……..
The sound of a fish, jumpin' in the dark,
as you're campin' at night, by the quiet lakes.
The song of the nightwind in the pines, why
just thinking about it is all that it takes ....... .
To fill my ol' heart, with a rememberin'
and a longin' that realy is strong.
For the feel of a good horse between my knees,
And some mules a’followin’ along ……..
The squeaky, creaky little song,
that the loads and the riggin' sings.
Makin' music with the little bells,
That I hung from the britchin’ rings ……..
As over my shoulder, a good string of mules,
a' travelin' right.
With the packs all balanced, top loads straight,
And lash ropes tight ……..
They are a'followin' down, the steep narrow,
switchbacks, head to tail.
And my hearts in my mouth, when a big rock,
Rolls down, off the trail ……..
Shod hooves strikin' fire, on slick granite faces,
that glisten in the noon day sun.
Granite that was polished, by a glacier's travels,
Long ages before mankind begun ……..
Old Time Cowman - His Ways
I've got a couple of neighbors, live up the road from me.
Difference between them, this story makes it plain to see.
One came to ask me a favor, a couple of years ago.
And what he said to me, made his personality show.
"I need your trailer, to haul my old red horse to town.
He's fat and I'd better do it, before the price goes down."
He said "I rode his mother, when I was just a kid.
And I could always depend on him, no matter what I did".
"I raised him from a colt, he was the best I ever had.
Little kids could ride him, and he'd not do one thing bad."
"My youngest daughter, learned to barrel race on him.
She sure was proud, of all the ribbons she used to win.
"But he's old now, got ringbone, in both his front feet.
And all he's good for anymore, is to stand around and eat."
When he brought my trailer home, he said "he sure was glad.
Ol' Red had brought two hundred bucks, that ain't so bad."
Said "Our neighbor is dumb, keeping his old horse around."
He'd bring twenty cents a pound, if he'd haul him to town."
Yes my other neighbor, he has an ol' yellow horse.
Hasn't rode him in years, keeps him as a matter of course.
He feeds him good thru, the hard winter days.
Then in the summer time, turns him out to graze.
The other day he said, "he had an awful favor to ask.
Yeller's gettin' feeble, he's afraid he couldn't last."
"If a bad storm was to come, with deep snow and arctic cold.
He knows he couldn't stand it, he's just too darn old."
Said" That ol' yellow horse, don't owe me one thin dime.
And I sure don't regret, feedin' him past his prime."
"But there comes a time, for each of us, when we have to go.
God, I'm gonna' miss him, but I guess, somehow he'll know."
Then he looked at me, and the tears filled his eyes.
"I just can't bring myself, to do it, you realize?"
"So tomorrow mornin', when, I'm goin' off to town.
I'd sure appreciate it, if you'd come and put him down."
"I'll leave a bucket of grain, by the door to the shed.
While he's eatin' it, please put a bullet in his head."
Now my little story, has come around to the end.
I guess you know which neighbor, I cherish as a friend.
Lee & Jennifer Roeser's Ranch in Independence, CA
(Photos courtesy of Ray DeLea)
|My Father's Spurs
As you get older, sense of history and family grow stronger.
You realize time, is not just today, but a whole lot longer.
Reach back in your mind, for something you heard as a kid.
Then you wish you'd paid, a lot more attention than you did.
These old Chawawa spurs, are a'hangin' on my wall.
Shanks are brown with rust, there's no silver there at all.
Rowells been changed, and the straps are cracked and worn.
These old spurs saw a lot of miles, before I was ever born.
They sang a quiet jingle, where-ever that my father went.
I hear them yet, when rememberin' days, long since spent.
Memories of my father, come a'crowdin' across the years.
Once again I can see him, come a'ridin' down thru my tears.
With his bridle reins a-swingin',
and his ol' Chawawa spurs a-singin'.
Standin' in his stirrups, his horse a'hittin' a long trot.
And I'm ridin' proud beside him, givin' it everything I got.
Little paint horse is eatin' up the miles, my side achin'.
Eastern sky is turnin' light, dawn will soon be breakin'.
That was on far-off desert range, and over fifty years ago.
These old Chawawa spurs been silent now, twenty years or so.
How I wish that they could talk, these ol' Chawawa spurs.
Tell me of my Father, when he was young and full of burrs.
He was plenty wild and soggy, and it was just his fate.
Folks said he wasn't bad, just born fifty years too late.
He sometimes talked to me of things, that happened long ago.
But he only told me things, that he wanted me to know.
His friends have told me stories, about the deeds he done.
Times a'fightin' for his life, other times just having fun.
I know that at ridin' bad horses, he was the very best.
And in cowboying in rough country, he always stood the test.
He wore these spurs, when he killed the sheepmen, on the Arizona Strip.
Where he roped lots of wild cattle, and threw his famous trip.
Trailin' renegade Mexicans, across the border in a running fight.
And bringin' the stolen horses home again, in the dead of night.
He once told me how the cattle stampeded, when the lightning hit.
Fire ran in little steaks, from the cattle's horns, spurs and bit.
He was wearing them, the night he hurried back across the muddy Rio Grande.
Because he'd surely worn his welcome out, in his own native land.
Oh the stories they could tell, about the things I'd love to know.
The trails he rode, and the things he did, in that long, long ago.
When his bridle reins were a' swing in'.
And his ol' Chawawa spurs a' sing in'.
I reach up and touch, the bootwom shank, as they hang upon my wall.
But these old Chawawa spurs, they have never talked at all.
Lona Burkhart's father - Drew Tankersley in 1924
on the Arizona Strip. Drew was also known as Jim Hudson