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Cowboy Poetry: "The Handshake" by Jim Kenshalo

This poem describes the meaning of a cattleman's handshake.

Stockmen, family and friends,

Tired neighbors, nervous strangers

All look each other in the eye


Bare-handed, firm and confident,

Calloused palms, knobby-knuckles,

Dusty, swollen, frail and old


Sometimes stiff and cold

Sometimes smooth as silk with a weak wrist, I suppose 

the breath of a rose


Some hands may have a trimmer and won't let go

Some hands crackle and pop

Some hands are like an old wet mop


A reach-around for a rag

A quick wipe and rub

A thumbs-up on a open right hand


Eyes meet with the press of flesh.

The handshake.

A promise to be kept.


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