Your First Ride on a One Man Merry Go ‘Round – or – (The Sloan’s Liniment Archives)

From Folks’ Poems – Doc told us: “Back when I was a young feller in Flagstaff, Arizona in the mid ’40s, my Dad used to do business with the Kellum Ranch near there. I used to ride along with him, and that is where I got my first interests in cowboy stories and poetry. Many years later, when I was first getting into cowboy poetry, I was introduced to Sunny Hancock, by way of Chris Isaacs. In talking with Sunny I found he had started out with the Kellums and as Sunny and Chris have been two of my main inspirations, I occasionally run a poem for one or the other of those two fine poets and great examples of what this trade is all about. This poem is a reflection on some of my own experiences many, read that many/many, years ago, before I settled in and became a university professor. But it really reflects on the generation just before me and is written as a tribute to those cowboys I used to dream of becoming when I was a young feller.

Remember first you ever held a horse’s head while your pard tended to the”kack” and found yourself swinging in circles like a one man merry go round, coming loose, coming down and coming to think of a broken back?

Pulling yourself up, swaying, wondering what was moving the ground But knowing your job and knowing you had to get to it You grabbed him once again, held on ’til your pard was able to do it.

There that horse stood, shivering all over, and shaking like a leaf.
 Saddled for the first time, eyes glaring, hating you boys for putting it on Promising you in that moment how he was going to give you grief.

In that glare, you knew he was wishing you to Hell and gone. Your pard caught him, and then, with silent prayer, you swung up in the saddle
 And raked hard, scratching tracks from neck to rump and back to neck.
 Pile driving, spine crunching ride that caused your bones to rattle.

And ended in a dust cloud and an awe inspiring example of a goodly wreck,
 That horse down on his side, hard, your leg pinched deep in the corral dirt.
 You weren’t dusted. You rode him down. You were bruised but not really hurt.

He staggered up and trotted, you can still see that trot, saddle dragging, blowing snot,
 Trying to bite them on the rails and stopping over to the other side of that pen.
 Glaring back, same as telling you “Come on, Cowboy! You ain’t got it to do it again!”

That night, in your bunk, you contemplated the stink of Sloan’s Liniment and a thousand aches, 
You pushed past your pain and thought: “Horse you were wrong. I got what it takes!”

And you still remember what the foreman said, ‘fore he blew out the coal oil light.
”You did a good job, kid, with that horse today. Yep! You did all right!”

© Dale “Doc” Hayes 4/2002. All Rights Reserved
 (Dedicated to Sunny Hancock)