Cowboy Poetry: “Brandin’ ‘Neath the Missions” by Jerry Laskody

Jaskody tells the tale of trailing the cows home.

The sun hasn’t rimmed the Missions yet

As we start to gather the bunch,

With only a few pairs to work today,

We’ll have this job through ‘fore lunch.

 

The cows are spooked and high headed,

As we head them out of the gate,

They‘ll settle down and move slowly soon,

At their normal traveling pace.

 

The women in the trucks move out ahead,

To block the various lanes,

The riders work to keep the cows moving,

But the cows stop again, and again.

 

We hit the corrals with a sigh of relief,

No lawns or flower beds have the girls trod.

So we sort off the calves and begin the work,

‘Cuz this is why we’re here, by God!

 

Each hand to their job, they all know the tasks,

They’re quick and nobody lags,

Hot iron, vaccine, and sharp needle,

Sharp knife, horn iron, and fly tags.

 

The smoke of burned hair drifts in the air,

Mingling with the bellowing of the cows

The shouts of the crew add to the brew

It’s a cow country symphony now.

 

In no time at all we’re back on the road

The cows trail easy toward home.

They’ll soon be in green, grassy pastures,

And these men will leave them alone.

 

As I move with the bunch in that dreamy state,

You’re in when the job is near done,

I thank God for putting me ‘neath these mountains,

I’m one blessed son of a gun!

 

But as we’re finishing this age old task

Of taking care of our bovine stock,

I look up and glance at the Missions,

At the snow-covered, ancient rock.

 

How many times have these mountains,

Watched man and beast move together,

Performing the springtime ritual,

Of the burning of a brand on leather?

 

And how many more years will they see this?

For each year there are less and less,

Of people who steward the land and the stock,

And each year more who just come to nest!

 

They pay a big price for a chunk of ground,

That no local can afford to pay.

Then build ‘em a big house and move in,

For the summer months only to stay.

 

Their grounds are covered with pretty white flowers

That the neighbors all know are just weeds,

As the newbies spout of the beauties of Spring time,

The winds are a’ scattering the seeds.

 

The small rancher struggles to hang on,

To the only life that he’s ever known,

And his kids can no longer help him,

‘Cuz they’ve all taken jobs in town.

 

He’s cash poor and land rich

And his is a heritage is of old,

If nest builders want a piece of his land, ‘sez he,

They best have big pile of gold.

 

But he knows he never could do it,

‘Cuz it’s not about money or riches,

There some things that just can’t be bought,

Even by them big money son’s ‘a bitches.

 

How do you sell the sight of a newborn calf?

Or the glimpse of a fox near its den,

Or the sight of first snow on the Missions,

Or the thrill of the brandin’ pen?

 

Seein’ yer kids run through a hay field,

With the grass wavin’ over their heads

And drivin’ the tractor first time,

Or findin’ that ol’grizzly’s bed.

 

What will these mountains see in the future,

After my time here is long passed?

Will it be acres and acres of subdivisions,

Or sections and sections of grass?

 

And we all set there and watch it happen,

As another valley is lost,

To those who don’t really know her,

And it can’t be replaced at any cost.

 

This must be how the Salish people felt,

When they passed the Allotment Act.

The Hellgate Treaty gave ‘em this place,

Then Congress took parts of it back.

 

What goes around comes around,

And I guess it’s our turn at last.

The cowboys join the Indians,

And become a part of our past.

 

Well we’re gettin’ near to the home place,

And the pairs all run through the gate.

It’s time to get back to the job at hand,

But I worry about this place’s fate.

 

The boosters all say that this is progress,

So I reckon I’ll just savor the years I have left,

I’ll run a few cows ‘neath the Missions,

And just live in this place I love best!

 

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