Cowboy Poetry: “Workin’ Day” by Lloyd Huggins

This poem is about a city kid working cattle for the first time.

A skinny kid, raised in town, come to help out for a day

Of workin’ calves; ear taggin’, castratin’, vaccinatin’

Or anything else that needed doin’, come whatever may.

The cattle were all gathered, penned, the old man had done the sortin’.

The boy gave a wide berth to the old ranch hoss,

Who stomped, threw his head and commenced to snortin’.

New Justin boots, crisp blue jean.

Gangly, gawky, all legs and arms, about fourteen.

A hunnerd pounds, soakin’ wet,

Steppin’ careful to avoid the stuff that’s green.

“Git in the pen,” the old man said, “You’ll have to mug ‘em down.”

“Lean on his neck, hold that leg tight,

I’ll cut ‘em, tag ‘em, we’ll do it right.

Don’t worry ‘bout them new britches, boy, we won’t have lunch in town.”

The boy was game, he jumped right in and grabbed the first calf comin’ by.

Leaned over its back, grabbed a front leg, then the flank

Pulled that calf up over his knee, and really let it fly.

The calf flew up, then hit the ground, a solid-soundin’ “WHUMP”

The boy jumped on its neck, grabbed a hind leg, lost his grip,

The old man heard a solid “THUMP”

As the calf kicked out and touched the boy;

It had to leave a lump.

The calf arose, but the boy hung on, he wasn’t givin’ up.

He’d throw that little rascal just to show he weren’t no buttercup.

Round and round the pens they went, with the boy hangin’ on astride,

His butt to front, his head to rear, makin’ the backwards ride.

As they went by old hoss, it was too much.

He rared back against the reins.

Broke his headstall, then went to buckin’,

Tore down the gate and galloped to the plains.

The cows all followed, wild-eyed and panicky with fright

The gangly thing upon their young ‘un was just a very scary sight

The calf hit the fence rail, it made a crackin’ sound

The other calves all bunched against it and broke it truly down.

The calf with the boy leaped out the hole a lungin’ for its freedom

The boy finally lost his grip and found he couldn’t beat him.

The old man just laughed and laughed and said “Too bad you let him go,

I don’t mind tellin’ you son, I love a rodeo.”

The boy got up, all torn and beat up pretty mean

Covered in dust, and blood, and stuff that’s kinda green.

“Come on,” the old man laughed, again

“Let’s get cleaned up and have some lunch.”

As they washed, the boy finally shed a tear

“My hands won’t get clean, and I can’t eat I fear.”

The old man quit grinnin’, the laughter faded out.

He spoke to me so quietly, but his words were like a shout.

“Your fingers may git dirty, son.

The blood and dirt resist the cleanin’.

Don’t worry about it; it’s just like life, boy;

The grit adds extra seas’nin'."

 

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