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May Day Bouquets with Cowboy Poetry

Jim Hoy

Folks, when I was a boy, we gave May Day flowers to everyone we could find home on the first of May.  Well, I don’t have flowers, so I decided this year on a different kind of bouquet.  Words. 

I went to a book put together by my young friend Jim Hoy, who grew up in the Flint Hills and has made good as an English Professor at Emporia.  In Prairie Poetry: Cowboy Verse of Kansas, Jim has gathered up the best of the "rich storehouse of cowboy verse" from the Sunflower state:  from the hundreds of "classic cowboy ballads of the trail drive era to free verse from contemporary poets." 

Jim calls these verses "authentic":  seems each author knows "what the hell he or she is talking about."  That makes for an authentic gift, and one that ought to be shared.

So I went through the book and found lines that described the authentic people of Here, Kansas, and I put them in May Day cards.

For Claude Anderson, of the Co-op, I copied these lines from "Blusterin' Bill," by Mike Bates:

He argued at the Co-op over seed and feed and hay.

Bill hated politicians.  He'd mock everthin' they'd say.

The cost was never low enough ever time he bought.

And when he sold, he never got the prices that he sought.

For Elmer Peterson, who's lived next to me on Kansas Street all these years, I penned these lines from "Neighbors," by Jeff Davidson:

But age has started to change us,

We're not the same as we were.

And that brings questions about the "hereafter."

There's some things I don't know for sure.

I wish I could check with St. Peter

About my address in that "sweet bye and bye."

Cause if my mansion's not right next to yours,

Then neighbor -- I ain't gonna die.

For Mabel Beemer, who hates her trips to the doctor in Wichita, I found these lines from "Livin' in Kansas," by Jack DeWerff:

So, you keep your skyscrapers, I'll keep my sky,

There's no way I'd want to exchange.

Oh! we might come to visit, but you can bet we'll be back

To our home out here on the range.

And to Iola Humboldt, my sweetheart who sometimes has trouble putting up with me, I copied these lines from "Why Horses Are Better Than Men," by Diana Russell:

They can't ever walk out when you're mad;

Just hold the reins good and tight.

And I've never had a horse laugh at me

Right in the middle of a fight.

Horses communicate better than men

'Cause their signals are easier to read,

And they don't require near as much care          

And cost about half as much to feed.

You can tell there's a poem for everybody in Prairie Poetry.  Why, if you give it to yourself as a gift, you might even be inspired to write a little poetry yourself.  I was, and here goes:

Folks, if you're thinking of blue sky, or your home on the range,

Your fine old horse, or those meetings at the grange,

If you're thinking of rodeos, or those days at the fair:

Bulls, broncs or tractor pulls--diesel fumes in the air,

Yep, if you're thinking of verse about the farmer or cowboy

You'd best think of Prairie Poetry, a gift from Jim Hoy.