Sometime before 1990, Dad put out a small book of poems titled RANCHLAND POEMS. One of those poems, "OLD COYBOYS", was read at my folks' 50th wedding anniversary in 1991. At that time, I wrote a reply to the "Old Cowboy" and presented it at the same time.
It seemed fitting to present these same poems 16 years later at his funeral. I made some minor changes to the reply to place it in the proper tense. Here is "OLD COWBOYS" by Don Ian Smith, followed by my updated reply.
There comes a time when we're past our prime
and the campfires flicker low;
When we ride the ranges of yesterday
in the mountains of long ago.
Tough stock we've rode, we were seldom throwed;
we rode 'em as they came.
There wasn't a calf we couldn't catch,
or a bronc we couldn't tame.
Those were the years when we had no fears;
how we loved to greet the day.
We rounded up and we moved 'em out,
and we sang along the way.
When the day was hot we'd sweat a lot,
when the wind was cold we froze.
There was work to do and the hours too few;
we thawed out our frozen toes.
If we lost some hide on a real rough ride,
who minded a bruise or two;
We'd crawl back on and push along,
there was always a job to do.
Some times were tough and the goin' rough,
but we didn't know how to quit;
Borrow more money and fix the fence,
it was baling wire, guts, and grit.
Life was right and the sun was bright,
There’d be more grass next year;
So we'd mend the troughs and pack out salt,
and bring in a bigger steer.
There wasn't a critter we couldn't head;
or a bronc we couldn't ride;
We had our youth and we had our strength,
and by God, we had our pride.
Then came the time when we passed our prime,
and the winters got too damn cold.
It seemed like the future was yesterday,
and our neighbors were gettin' old.
That nice young colt is a thunderbolt
and he likes to jump and prance.
I'm sure I can ride him good enough,
but the grandkid needs the chance.
The things I know ain't always so,
and my good advice is cheap.
Things ain't quite like they used to be
and the hills are a lot more steep.
We're told old cowboys never die,
but we sure get out of style;
So we shoot the bull and we learn to lie,
and we do it with a smile.
For there comes a time when we're past our prime;
when the campfires flicker low,
And we're riding the ranges of yesterday
in the mountains of long ago.
REPLY TO THE OLD COWBOY
He was feelin’ old, or so I’m told
When he said those words to me.
But I listened up as best I could
‘Cause I knew what he used to be.
He rode ‘em rough and he was tough
And he was seldom beat.
He stood tall and he stood proud;
No finer man you’d meet.
He calmed my fears o’er all those years
As I grew to know this man;
I would follow him as best I could
And still do, the best I can.
He said it’s time he’d past his prime
And the campfire flickered low;
But from where I stand I’ve more to learn
From his memories of long ago.
When the times were tough and goin’ rough
He never knew when to quit;
But when the work got done and we were home
We could all smile a little bit.
He felt some times he’d past his prime,
And his future was yesterday.
But he gave to me his philosophy
That tomorrow is another day.
And I said to him as his eyes grew dim
And the campfire flickered low –
You’ll always be what you always were;
The best father I could ever know.
Now the sun’s still bright and life’s still right
And there’s still more grass next year –
For the rest of us will carry on
From the examples of yesteryear.
For in that time when your past your prime
We follow where we saw you go;
Over those ranges of yesterday
In the mountains of long ago.
For from that past the mem’ries last
Of stories we’ve all been told.
Your journey’s done, your race is run
To us, you’ll ne’er grow old.
Updated April 28, 2007