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Poetry Friday: Cowboy Christmas Waltz

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Jack Sorenson
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The life of an open-range cowboy can be a solitary one. They often work alone in remote, rough country for long periods of time. Famed cowboy poet Buck Ramsey knew that when he wrote the song ‘The Christmas Waltz.’ It tells the story of a group of lonely cowboys who manage to find each other during Christmas and put together a festive celebration with their dwindling provisions. In this week’s Poetry Friday segment, local cowboy poet Tom Weathers performs the song for us and sheds a little light on the loneliness of the range.

TW: You may be at a line camp. There may be only 2 people there. Some guys hold down camps alone. So to be invited to another outfit or to have, in this case, 4 people to be able to celebrate Christmas together and each one brings the best that they have to offer. But you make Christmas out of what you have.

I’d like to share with you a poem/song by Buck Ramsey. Buck Ramsey was a notable cowboy poet, and this is a Christmas piece by him called ‘The Christmas Waltz’:

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Credit Tom Weathers
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The late cowboy poet, Buck Ramsey, 1938-1998

CHRISTMAS WALTZ

by Buck Ramsey 1938-1998

The winter is here and the old year is passing,

The sun in its circle winds far in the south.

It’s time to bring cheer to a cold, snowbound cow camp,

It’s Christmas tree time of the year for the house.

Go ride to the cedar break rim of a canyon,

Down by where the river takes creek water clear,

And saddle-sleigh home us a fine shapely evergreen

Picked out while prowling the pasture this year.

While Fair strings the berries and popcorn and whatnots

And Ty braids the wreaths out of leather and vines,

Old Dunder, he whittles and whistles old carols

And fills them with stories of fine olden times.

He talks of a baby boy born in a cow shed,

All swaddled in tatters and laid in a trough,

Who, growing up, gave away all he could gather

And taught us that what is not given is lost.

It’s morning of Christmas and long before dawning

The camp hands are risen to ready the feast.

But with the fires glowing they don warm apparel

And go out to gaze on the Star of the East.

They cobbler the plums they put up back in summer,

They bake a wild turkey and roast backstrap deer,

They dollop the sourdough for rising and baking,

And pass each to each now the brown jug of cheer.

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Credit Gillian Ferris / KNAU
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KNAU
Arizona cowboy poet, Tom Weathers, performing at KNAU

The dinner is done and they pass out the presents,

Their three each they open with handshakes and hugs,

Then Ty gets his guitar and Fred gets his fiddle

While Dunder and Fair laugh and roll back the rugs.

The tunes that they play melt the chill from the winter

As Dunder and Fair waltz and two-step along.

They play, sing and dance till the next morning’s dawning

Then all of their slumbers are filled with this song.

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu. 

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