2015 October Issue- Week 5

October 29, 2015

“Longhorn Grazing” by Merle Grabhorn


by Karla K. Morton

The world is tethered,

strung too tight for too long,

coiling the only way it knows –

wild riot, chaos, mob;

looting neighbour’s stores

for vodka and cell phones;

knots like this bobbin,

spinning wrong;

winding worse with each half hour;

God straining to hear

through screaming, torched police cars,

spewing cans of tear gas.

I stop for a moment

to listen to the night,

the soft nicker of the horses;

the pull and munch of grass.

Somewhere in Ferguson, Missouri,

New York, LA and Dallas,

grass grows just like this,

offering up its gentle hands.

Slowly I unwind

and wind again the bobbin,

ease the grey thread

into the slim steel eyes.

All the colours of the world combined

make grey.

I like the way such tiny stitches

move into two fabrics;

the way they bind through tug and storm;

the way the sewing machine hums as it works,

though no one else but the horses can hear;

the way mothers and grandmothers

reach for needle and thread;

the slow mending of the ravel.



by Max Sparber

There’s a town I know in Arizone

And a stagecoach hauling scrip

There’s a bandit waiting up for it

And she’ll rob that brother whip

She’s a pistol with a .38

And a thatch of well-shorn hair

And Pearl she is on the shoot

As she rides her crowbait mare

She’ll relieve whatever is in the boot

And the bullwhacker his gun

She’ll lighten the load of each passenger

But give a dollar to every one

O will you stop her

On the Butterfield Overland Mail

O when Pearl Hart comes for you

On the Globe to Florence trail

There’s a town I know in Arizone

Where a girl bandit can be found

And there’s a posse headed there for her

She’s the grave or prison bound



by Mark F. Geatches


The man watched the red-brown glob ooze down the pitted face of the spittoon. His expression held a twisted smirk like a man trying to drop a stubborn ordure. The saloon was aphonic except for a couple of whores weeping and such. Wiping his forehead with a checkered handkerchief the man propped himself against the tired bar. He counted eight, mostly men, sprawled dead in odd comfortable positions.


“Damned if I ain’t still got it,” he croaked.

Walking toward the doors the man tipped his hat and wheezed, “Ladies.”

The mahogany doors continued to beat the air as he crumbled onto the parched road.



By Seth Ehret

From far down the valley the two riders struggled through the ever deepening snow. The heavy flakes plummeted down, blurring the image of the approaching riders. Had there been anyone to watch from the top of the valley, their straining eyes would have become confused by the dark spots that dashed and disappeared and reformed into shapes that tricked the mind and blinded the eyes.

The two riders were returning from a hunt. The burlap sacks tied to their saddles were empty and their rifles sat frozen in the scabbards. They were named George and Bill, and the horses were a reflection of the men they carried. In the lead, George rode a tall, dark, young gelding, whose strong legs propelled him forward in lunges that shook the snow from George’s shoulders and cleared a trail behind him. Following was Bill, atop a tired grey gelding whose best days lay behind him. It had a shrunken appearance as it shambled along through the late October storm. Its head hung low collecting ice and snow. Both men had their hats pulled down and their bandannas tied tightly around their faces to protect from the driving snow that began to sting as the wind increased and the temperatures dipped.

The sky was a leaden veil, heavy and foreboding, a couple hours till daylights fail. Every once in a while, George had to stop and look back to make sure that Bill still followed behind. The visibility was now so poor that if they were to become separated by more than fifty feet they would be lost to each other. As George and his horse blazed on ahead the gap between them would increase. The farther behind Bill fell the more George’s trail would get filled in and the harder it became for Bill to follow. Each time George stopped to wait it would be a little longer until Bill and his old grey horse caught up and they could start out again.

One of these times, when George stopped, it was in front of an especially deep drift of snow. He twisted his body in the saddle to look back and saw no sign of Bill. Instead of waiting hunched over letting the cold grab hold of him, he decided to jump off and do some of the work to break trail himself, giving the horse a rest and warming himself up in the process. He slid off the saddle and sunk down to his knees, and he wasn’t a short man. Leading the horse behind him, he began fighting his way into the drift, shoveling snow out of the way with his arms and stomping down to force a path. The snow on either side of him was level with his waist by the time he stopped to take a rest. He glanced back to see that Bill had caught up and was leaning down close to his horse’s neck. To curse it to hell or lift its spirits George couldn’t tell. George threw himself back at the snowdrift, forcing his way through the last ten feet and coming out of it with a pretty good sweat worked up beneath his coat. Bill and the horses followed close on his heels into the slightly shallower snow on the other side.

George stepped into the saddle and let Bill ride up close beside him. “You ever seen anything like it?” he shouted, leaning over to the older man.

“Plenty of times, sure, much worse than this.” Bill boomed back.

“Oh? Well in that case why don’t you lead the way?”

“Because this horse is too tired and lazy. You’d have been home a long time ago already if you didn’t have to wait for us all the time.”

“To tell you the truth I don’t know if I could even find my way home right now.” George admitted. “You’ll have to tell me if I’m still heading the right direction.”

“You know as well as I do to just stick to this incline till the top of the valley, and besides, the horses would probably find their way home without our help anyway.” Bill said with a sharp edge to his voice. “Just stop wasting time already.”

At that George spurred his horse ahead, once again taking the lead. Bill was right, George did know the way home, and he wasn’t worried, he had just wanted Bill to feel like he was contributing something. With Bill having such a hard time, George tried to look appropriately miserable, but he was weathering the storm with relative ease. All George had to do to forget the biting cold and stinging snow was to think of his wife and baby waiting for him at home by the fire, probably with some hot food prepared. Bill had no one waiting for him at his nearby cabin. George would have to invite him to stop so that he could warm up and wait out the storm. Besides, it had been quite a while since Bill had come over for supper.
They pushed on through the snow, George holding his horse back so that he didn’t get too far ahead, and Bill pushing his harder in an effort to keep up. At that pace, their progress was steady, but it was taking a hard toll on Bill’s horse. They could tell that they were nearing the top of the valley because the slope was getting gradually steeper. The last stretch before they reached the flat plain would be difficult, even for George’s horse, who was doing a lot of work to forge a trail through the deep snow. Behind them the bottom of the valley was swallowed in a grey, swirling abyss that grasped after the fleeing men to pull them down into its darkness and despair.

George stopped when he heard a yell from Bill and turned around to look. They were on the steepest part, Bill’s horse had stopped and wouldn’t move forward. Its sides were heaving and even through the snow the hot air shooting from its nostrils was easily visible, shaking the built up frost and ice around the horse’s mouth as it stood and trembled. From the horse’s back Bill was feverishly kicking his boots into the horse’s sides and whipping the reins against its rump. All of this effort exhausted Bill, he dropped his arms to his side and slumped his shoulders, his own chest heaved trying to catch his breath.

George called back to Bill. “Should we use my rope to try to pull it the rest of the way?”

Bill took a while to answer. “What’s the use? I should just leave the damn thing here. It wouldn’t make any difference.” He looked down at the horse. “What good are you anyway?”

Looking back at his old friend, George could think of nothing to say. There was nothing he could do to help Bill if he didn’t want to help himself. “It’s not very far to the top now, we’re almost there.” George said to him before he turned and let his horse plunge ahead the rest of the way. From up on the plain the sky looked clearer towards home and the wind had blown some of the snow away so that it wasn’t as deep. Back down the trail, it was still hard to see, but through squinted eyes he was sure he could make out Bill’s figure standing in front of his old horse, and it looked like he was leading the way out of the valley.

Seth Ehret is a a young rancher from south-eastern Alberta. He attended the University of Alberta where he took creative writing courses instructed by Thomas Wharton. Seth Ehret enjoys writing about animals and nature and draw much inspiration from my horses.

2015 October Issue- Week 4

October 26, 2015

“Windmill 2” by Leroy Trussell


by Richard Manly Heiman

Bill hunkered down in his four bit room. He shrank
Inside his own legend. He cursed
His treacherous eyes, without no tears.

I’ll tell you, once the man saw keen!
Quick as a bobcat he picked up the infinitesimal move, the slight shift of a finger
Before a hand jerked and the tranquil exploded and somebody died.

Bill wiped with his sleeve, once snowy, now
All stained with road grit. Bill stared bat-like through the window grime and curtains
Film before his eyes, he dimly made out Jane.
Disheveled girl, that Jane. Tumbledown, all drunk on whiskey
Lurching along in the hell-flea-bit town. Hell, Jane.

Sister of mercy, Jane/ Scout of the Black Hills, Jane
Swam the Platte /Wrote her legend
Lied about Custer she /Freak talked old Sitting Bull/Jane.

Bill slept a lot, threw cards
Stroked his mustachios, aimed at targets
Missed, had visions, saw dark spots on a tall sun he
Dreamed of gold and endless buffaloed plains.

Bill heard shadows wailing out of Abilene
From Hays and nameless places, pushing him to some foregone
Conclusion, facing the wall
Staring down black aces, turning to stone.

Richard Manly (Rick) Heiman lives in the Northern California “Gold
Country” where there is currently little gold left and no water from which
to pan it. He works as a substitute teacher and writes mornings, evenings,
weekends and when the kids are at recess. He is in his fourth quarter of
the Lindenwood U. MFA Writing program. Rick rides horses whenever he can
find one slow and low enough to mount up!






Pine Creek Clocks c. 1982 *

By Denis Robillard

In a far off place I hear duelling clocks
In a room on a ranch.
The burdens of the day lie deep and heavy
Inside the entrails of clocks.
Breathing expanding
Exhorting themselves in slingshot time.
Above the scene a gun totting Brautigan
Takes pot shots at these dueling clocks,
His poem bullets splitting the targets
Like rotten logs,
Mind dangling metaphors
Splitting through amnesiac veil of booze
Trying to find another blackberry motorboat.
Another watermelon waterfall trapped






Summer in Del Rio

by Suzanne Bailie

Two years since a drop of rain whispered through town,

Even tress withered right out of the ground.

Folk clung to the shade afraid of day light hours,

Their petrified souls cried for cool water.

Under the dark of a new moon a lone

Silhouette appeared on the outskirts of Del Rio.

A rider, an angel of sorts, with icy blue eyes darting with fire.

God’s eternal foe in black hat and buckskin.

Whispered thoughts led him to the saloon.

Where he flowed on a motionless breeze.

All drinking ceased.  Even the flies held their breath.

The place became as still as a cathedral.

Glancing round the room with predator knowing.

He strode right by their hollow desperate souls.

Wisps of smoke curled from his dark skin boots.

“Large whiskey,” the simple order.

“I’m powerful thirsty and I’ve a fiendish ride.

Pour me your best golden fire.”

With shaking hands, the barkeep filled an empty glass.

Whiskey downed through pale thin lips.

On the wooden counter, he tossed a gold coin.

It burned forever all who tried to claim it.

With a Sulphur sigh, he left the bar

and people still claim to this day.

When Lucifer, himself, needs a shot.

It must be summer in Del Rio.




2015 October Issue- Week 3

October 15, 2015

“Just About Lost” by Leroy Trussell


by Leroy Trussell

Shucks just got ’em

maybe two hours ago

can’t say where from

tried to buy American, but these

came from Mexico.

I just had them in my hand,

must uh’ laid them down somewhere.

sure nuff messes up my working plans,

been uh lookin’, but can’t find em anywhere.

Looked out in the old barn

wudn’t in the pickup seat

dat-burn, wish they’d transform

thank gudness I always keep that store receipt.

Not long ago in town I got ’em

at Crownover Feed, Marble Falls, Texas

boy this is such a cowboy mayhem,

for blisters I don’t want ’em, but for sure ’nuff I need ’em.

Guess I could borrow my Sons’,

but they seem a bit small.

and by their looks, they are far gone

an pert near be a bad judgment call.

Well guess I’ll drive back to Town, buy another pair

gonna get ’em in rawhide leather

back Home, well shoot, there the others sittin’ in my lazyboy chair

you bet it’s good to have a spare, when hard work comes ta’ gather.


In The Hay Loft

by Scott Lennox

Boys of ten or eleven, we sat in the shadows,
avoiding the sunlight that spilled across the dusty wooden floor.
Looking down at the horses and riders circling in the corral,
I tried to imagine the years and the comings and goings
in the old barn with its smells of horses, manure and hay.
I pictured Texas cowboys, saddled up and riding out,
proud and alone, heading west across open prairie.

When I pushed back against a half-strewn bale,
I struck something hard and reached behind me to find
a sawed-off shotgun, its double barrels aged but clean,
the pistol-grip handle rubbed smooth.
Our chatter stopped as, trembling, heart racing,
I thumbed the latch and slowly opened the breech,
relieved to find no shells inside.

“He could still be here!” one boy whispered,
sure that we were being watched. “If he finds out…”
“Shhhht,” I hushed, sliding the weapon back where I found it,
but hand and mind reluctant to let go.
For a moment, each of us studied the others,
then scattered like cat-spied mice from a feed bin.
For no reason I can tell, we never spoke of it again.

But my mind, for more than fifty years, has climbed that ladder,
over and over, inventing stories about the loft,
about the one with dreadful secrets to be kept,
his murderous plans, his treachery carried out.
Strange, the way the past hangs on, retelling itself,
when we would just as soon be done, but fascinated,
ask to hear the story one more time.

Scott Lennox is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with more than 20 years of clinical experience in mental health working in hospital and private practice setting He has developed his own training program, Compassion In Action, teaching professionals and others the measurable actions of compassion toward more effective relationships.

Scott’s friends know him to be a true renaissance man. As an accomplished artist, poet, photographer, musician, gourmet cook, horseman, and public speaker, Lennox demonstrates his passion for being fully alive and helping others to do the same.

His background includes radio and television, commercial photography, and more than three decades of facilitating personal excellence with individuals and groups in educational, clinical, and corporate settings.

Lennox’s drawings and paintings are held in public and private collections and two of his drybrush watercolor landscapes hung in the United States Embassy residence in Geneva, Switzerland and later, in the United States Embassy in Moscow.  Scott self-published In Brazos River Country, a limited edition volume of twenty-four poems.  He is currently in production of a recorded version and is collaborating to develop a bilingual printed version in English and Spanish.

After serving as a medic in combat in Southeast Asia, where he was decorated for valor, Scott earned his Bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University and his Master’s from the University of Texas at Arlington.



by Larry Bradfield

He was just a boy when he rode out-
Long legs and knobby knees
Rode drag to Denver from Santa Fe
An’ grew by twos and threes

He learned the trade of punchin’ cows
An’ silence of the men
He was alone but so were they –
Not like it was back then

Not like the days of sweepin’ floors
In brothels and the bars
An orphan lookin’ for a meal
An’ washin’ whiskey jars

Now he crossed the plains wide and free
And saw the mountains rise
It was almost, almost enough
‘Til he recalled her eyes

She’d been sixteen an’ so had he
They didn’t know ’bout love
So they held hands and talked all night
An’ counted stars above

Then she was gone, just slipped away –
An’ he was punchin’ cows
He had the world to call his own
With all the heres an’ nows

And so he looked at all the world
An’ marveled at its size
It was almost, almost enough
‘Til he recalled her eyes

Larry Bradfield is a retired physicist / aerospace executive who was born and raised in the midst of sand, oil and cattle in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. After living and working on both coasts and the borders of Mexico and Canada, he has retired to  Texas and still feels his roots in the cattle country. He is the author of two books of cowboy poetry – One Foot in the Stirrup and Out Where the Blacktop Ends – and has publshed a number of poems in the on-line world.
His wife, Joyce, is a proud Pennsylvania native who has taken easily to the Texas soil.


Cowboys We Are

by Karla K. Morton

Into the night, the steer fear the dawning
Skittish of the dark, they low and they bray
So we, before bed, hum through our yawning
These heavenly moments under star spray.

Come sing the night song, come stoke the old fires
Drink makes us young and drink makes us liars.
Girls make us bold, old dogs make us criers
But cowboys we are at the end of day.

A little more padding under our bed,
Coffee we drink now with sugar and cream.
Callouses softened, our belly’s, well fed
But time can’t erase our open range dream.

Come sing the night song, come stoke the old fires
Drink makes us young and drink makes us liars
Girls make us bold, old dogs make us criers
Cowboys we are at the end of the day.

We might work in banks or a bar in town
Be plumbers or lawyers — cleaning what sours
Watching the clock as it makes its countdown,
For long weekends here – these rich, sacred hours.

Cities are charging each pasture and tree,
The world is changing from trail to highway
But as long as man needs sky to be free
Horses we’ll saddle to round up each stray

Come sing the night song, come stoke the old fires
Drink makes us young and drink makes us liars
Girls make us bold, old dogs make us criers
Cowboys we are at the end of the day.

Karla K. Morton, the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters, member of the Western Writers of America, and graduate of Texas A&M University. Described as “one of the most adventurous voices in American poetry,” she is a Betsy Colquitt Award Winner, twice an Indie National Book Award Winner and a North Texas Book Award Festival Winner. Morton is the recipient of the Writer-in-Residency E2C Grant, and has ten collections of poetry. She is widely published, is a nominee for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and established an ekphrastic collaborative touring exhibit titled: No End of Vision: Texas as Seen By Two Laureates, pairing photography with poetry.


2015 October Issue- Week 2

October 7, 2015


Herding Longhorns  (Authors Collection) – Merle Grabhorn


by Richard Manly Heiman

I blear down from beyond the canyon rim
out there
where shadows still refuse the light
that clearing where you justify the night

The funneled wind up the arroyo breathes
a murmur of your name
stirring the leaves
gaunt cottonwoods on fire with the dawn

And on the thermal, rising with the day
a red-tail takes flight
screaming forth her elemental life

My palomino paws the chalky earth
tosses his head
he strains against the girth
impatient with my hesitation now

But I will linger still
and set it down
to memory
where I laid you in the ground

Richard Manly (Rick) Heiman lives in the Northern California “Gold Country” where there is currently little gold left and no water from which to pan it. He works as a substitute teacher and writes mornings, evenings, weekends and when the kids are at recess. He is in his fourth quarter of the Lindenwood U. MFA Writing program. Rick rides horses whenever he can find one slow and low enough to mount up!


The Tenderfoot And Nasty

by Larry Bradfield

“Well, lookey here !” Bob said with glee
“We’ve got a tenderfoot !
He’s got all this brand new gear , you see
He don’t know where to put ”

“He says he comes from way Back East
Teach him a thing or two
Let’s put him on that unbroke beast
And see what he can do”

The hoss they gave him don’t look mean
Though Nasty was his name
He did seem sometimes really keen
On makin’ riders lame

It seemed so like an awful match
New guy on this terror
This plot somehow just didn’t hatch
We all judged in error

The greenhorn climbed upon that hoss
A move as slick as rain
He spurred to show him who was boss
And let him have the rein

Now Nasty gave him all he had
He bucked and whirled and screamed
The rider smiled, said “This ain’t bad !
It’s nothin’ like I dreamed.”

That hoss gave up, plum’ tuckered out
The rider just stepped down.
Bob said “The East you lied about!
You’ve rode before this town !”

The new guy said, “Not in the least.
This here’s New Mexico.
The whole of Texas lies Back East
I do believe it’s so !”

They called him tenderfoot no more
He made a real smart hand
He came from Texas that’s for shore
And that ole boy’s got sand

Larry Bradfield is a retired physicist / aerospace executive who was born and raised in the midst of sand, oil and cattle in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. After living and working on both coasts and the borders of Mexico and Canada, he has retired to  Texas and still feels his roots in the cattle country. He is the author of two books of cowboy poetry – One Foot in the Stirrup and Out Where the Blacktop Ends – and has publshed a number of poems in the on-line world.
His wife, Joyce, is a proud Pennsylvania native who has taken easily to the Texas soil.


Chimney Rock Cemetary

Melbita, Nebraska

by Andrew Hubbard

This speck of land

On the Oregon Trail

Is a tiny cemetery.

In the high plains vastness

In the cold, cold wind

Below the tumbled gray sky

Untended for fifty years,

Maybe a hundred.

The picket fence is missing slats,

The hand-hewn, wooden markers

Are bleached, askew,

Some fallen over.

Each marker has a full name

And dates of birth and death.

Some have a few words of a Bible verse.

But it’s the dates that tear at me:

This one lived four years…

This one seven.

I try to imagine

Being seven, sick, fevered,

So far from home

And so afraid.

This is the high plains:

There was no wood for a box,

The parents would have wrapped her

In a blanket—if they could spare one.

Digging a hole in the tough sod

Was a day’s work for the man

And the brothers.  The sisters

And mother sat back in the wagon

And didn’t look.

Father came back stone-faced

Wiping his hands on his pants.

The horses needed tending,

And then it was westward,

Westward toward the great ocean.

It was a shame:

His wife died before the house was finished,

And on a farm

The work is never done.

Thirty years went by

Before he could sit back

And finally cry for his baby girl

Dead and buried

On the Oregon Trail.

In the high plains vastness

In the cold, cold wind

Below the tumbled gray sky.

Andrew Hubbard holds degrees in English and Creative Writing, from Dartmouth College and Columbia University respectively. He is the author of three business-related books, one book on gemology, and one book of poetry, “Things That Get You,” produced by Interactive Press. He lives in rural Indiana with his wife, intermittent children, two Siberian huskies and a demon cat. When not writing poetry, he is a passable outdoor and wildlife photographer, a licensed handgun instructor, a former competitive weightlifter and martial arts instructor, and a collector of edged weapons.


2015 October Issue- Week 1

September 30, 2015


Longhorns Eating Cactus-Living on Poor Forage

From an old Postcard (Authors Collection)


by Merle Grabhorn

It may surprise you that, by the beginning of the 20th century, the icon of the American West, the Longhorns, were virtually extinct.  Thirty years previously, they had been the dominant breed of cattle in the US; however,  by 1900 Longhorns were considered trash or” scrub cattle.“ What happened?    Longhorns were hardy, had evolved disease resistance, ease of calving, strong mothering instincts, and other traits such as hard hooves and dangerous horns to protect themselves.  What’s more, they could walk for miles for water, utilize poor forage, and raise strong healthy calves year after year.   They were the perfect breed for the American West.  It was ranching economics, not genetics, that led to the decline and near extinction of the Longhorn.

Three Strikes and You’re Out

There were three causes that led to the decline and near extinction of Longhorns.    The first strike against Longhorns was that new breeds of cattle began showing up in the West.  Towards the end of the 19th century, purebred cattle breeds from Europe and Asia became available such as Hereford, Shorthorn, and Angus.

Since Angus beef is often marketed in grocery stores and even fast food chains, a comparison between Angus and Longhorn tells the story.    An Angus cow can reach an average weight of 1,200 to 1,800 pounds, while a Longhorn cow will average 1000 pounds.   Thusly, an Angus can easily average about 25 percent more weight than a Longhorn.   That’s a 25 percent increase in profit per head.    Further, Angus have what cattlemen call “Superior Feed Conversion” which means that an Angus will return larger amounts of beef for the same amount of feed.    The Angus reaches maturity relatively early in comparison to the Longhorn.   Calves are born sooner and they mature faster.  That said, the return on Angus is both greater and quicker.

Strike Two-The Need for Fat

The Longhorn is a very lean animal.  Compared to an Angus it has about 80percent less fat per pound.    Historically, candles, soaps, lubricants and cooking all required tallow.  The demand for the tallow and hides was a driving force for the cattle business.    Hides could be obtained from Longhorns but not much fat.    Cattle processing companies were willing to pay more for cattle with fat that could be rendered for tallow.   Also, Longhorns had a reputation for producing tougher, stringier, and less appetizing meat.

To the steak connoisseur, the rib-eye is a choice cut, taste of which comes from the marbling of fat around the steak.   Sure, there is fat around a Longhorn ribeye, just not very much.  Longhorn beef cooks quickly due to its low fat content.    The less fat, the quicker the cooking time.  It’s very easy to overcook meat that is lean and when you overcook it, it toughens up.   The “old-time” cowboys knew the trick was to eat their Longhorn steaks rare.  But as America became more urban, the knowledge of how to cook very lean meat all but vanished and the ads from meat packing companies advertising the “better” beef didn’t help.  We know today not only that Longhorn beef is leaner than that of other breeds, it is also lower in saturated fats.  Longhorn beef even has less cholesterol and calories than chicken, a very healthy meat.

Strike Three-Cattle Tick Fever

It is ironic that one of the strengths of the Longhorn was also a cause of its near extinction.  Fever in cattle is carried by ticks and, unlike other breeds, the Longhorns had developed immunity to this disease.  In the good old days, when Longhorns were moved along cattle trails during the great drives, the ticks dropped off and found local cattle to feed on.  In this way, the ticks transmitted the deadly disease that would decimate entire herds.   It took a little time but ranchers soon realized that tick or Texas fever as they called it, was somehow related to the Longhorns.  They didn’t know the how of it, but they knew the results:   the loss of their herds of valuable Angus, Herefords, and Shorthorns.

Longhorns were disease carriers that no one wanted.  Soon, cattle drives were met with armed resistance.  This led to an event recorded in Western history as the “Winchester Quarantine”.   Texas Panhandle cattlemen, Charles Goodnight of the JA Ranch and Orville Nelson of the Shoe Bar Ranch, posted cowhands armed with Winchester rifles at their southern boundaries to keep out tick-infested South Texas Longhorns.  The cowhands were armed with Winchesters.   Goodnight warned the drivers, “You will not treat this as idle talk.   I simply say you will not pass through here in good health.”    Years later, movie and TV Westerns would draw on this event for some of their stories.

It’s Almost Too Late

As ranchers began the transition to other, more profitable cattle breeds, they sent most of their Longhorns off to slaughter.    However, some did retain a few Longhorns to try to crossbreed with the more valuable cattle in hopes that they could combine the desirable attributes of both.  This hybridization further led to the decline of pure Longhorn stocks.   Eventually the remaining pure Longhorns were sent to slaughter or died.   Mostly, they were just bred out of existence.

However, there were a few cattlemen who saw that the Longhorns were disappearing and started to bring some of the best they could find to their ranches.   They were sometimes hidden on remote parts of the ranch to prevent scorn from neighbors who scoffed at the “relics.”        A total of six ranchers, Butler, Marks, Peeler, Phillips, Yates and Wright saved what was thought to be the last pure Longhorns.   They kept their other cattle separate so there were no mixing of the herds.   These ranchers were diligent and strict purists in breeding, record keeping and maintaining their Longhorns.    This created six isolated gene pools.   All Longhorns alive today come from these six gene pools plus one more, the WR herd.

The Government Steps In with the WR Herd

In 1927, conservationists and historians asked Congress for money to establish a federal herd of purebred Texas Longhorn cattle with the object of saving Western Heritage.  The cattle were supposed to be established in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge located in Southeast Oklahoma as a “for show herd” to allow tourists to see and photograph.  Three thousand dollars were appropriated for the task.  It was also supposed to have been be easy to assemble the herd, as at one time there had been somewhere between four and six million Longhorns in Texas alone.   However, it did not turn out to be so easy.

For several years, two U.S. Forest Service rangers searched South Texas and Northern Mexico for Longhorns.  They inspected over thirty thousand head of cattle and found only twenty cows, three bulls, and four calves (two bulls and two heifers).   Those found did not include any from the six other herds then known to exist.      This became the basis for what would eventually be known as the WR (Wildlife Refuge) herd and would become the seventh gene pool.    The search continued and a few years later, two more Longhorns were bought from Zunigas Y. Cia of Monterey Mexico for sixteen dollars each.     Shipping was more than seven times the value of the animals and one of them later had to be discarded as there were indications of a Jersey cattle bloodline.   Strict conservation of the breed was and as is the mandate of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and this herd is highly regarded due to its pure and strict Longhorn lineage and distinctive conformation.


 Meat Packers wanted “good” beef and not Longhorn beef

(Saturday Evening Post Ad  1927 Authors Collection)

The Turnaround

About 1943 the-refuge herd had increased and the Forest Service began to hold annual sales of surplus animals. The six other herds sold a few of their Longhorns beginning about this time as well.  At first, Cowmen purchased them as curiosities, but interest began to grow.   New herds began to appear and gained recognition.  Two these were the SPEAR-E  herd which Elvin Blevins of Wynnewood, Oklahoma started in 1952 (primarily from WR and Yates stock), and the Ox-Yoke T herd bred by Ken Humphrey of Okreek, South Dakota in 1950 (50 percent Niobrara  Refuge, 25 percent WR and 25 percent Yates).

In 1964, a small group of cattlemen banded together to preserve the unique heritage of these and started the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association.  The mission was to maintain a pure breed registry and to increase the population.     Although interest was renewing, there was still danger to the Longhorns.   When Milby Butler, one of the breeders, died in 1971, the Longhorns on his ranch were rounded up and sold.  Some 80 percent of his cattle were never accounted for said to be sold for slaughter.  The remaining 20 percent were scattered among different breeders who had been fortunate to hear that they were for sale.   This led to the almost total destruction of one of the last Longhorn gene pools.    Today, it is estimated that only 5 percent of existing Longhorn cattle have the Butler Bloodline.

As time passed, interest continued to grow even more and today, every Longhorn carries registration papers similar to those of American Kennel Club show dogs.  Most present day Texas Longhorn cattle are descended from those seven families, each of which had its own distinctive attributes. To a Longhorn cowman today, it is vitally important to have an understanding of an animal’s pedigree and the degree to which it has been genetically influenced by one or more of those families.  DNA testing is often performed to insure that a bull or cow falls in the acceptable range to be a true Longhorn.

Today, Longhorns are far from the “worthless relics” they once were.  Their numbers have grown since the 1920’s to well over three hundred thousand today.  Although  cattle for the WR refuge were purchased for $16 dollars apiece (about two-hundred twelve dollars in 2015) today, a Longhorn with outstanding genetics can fetch upwards of forty thousand at auction with a record price for a cow of one-hundred seventy thousand dollars.

Longhorns are once again being raised for their “healthier” meat which is often seen in organic grocery stores.  Ranchers prize these cattle on their ability to live on marginal pasture land.  So, if you happen to see a true Longhorn, you are seeing a real piece of American history that was almost lost.   From trash to distinction, not bad for worthless old relics.

Author’s Biography:

Merle Grabhorn is a rancher living in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. And like many ranchers, has an interest in cattle, horses, and Western History. Like all ranchers, he diversifies so Row Crops such as Wheat or Soybeans are part of the Ranch Economics. Of course he feels, part of Ranching is attending State Fairs and other venues to show cattle or horses, enhancing the value of the herd.

Shown below, Merle with his favorite Paint Horse: “Radified” or “Rad” for short. Rad is a Registered Paint, Registered Pinto, and is an APHA Breeders Trust Horse.  In competition and shows, Rad has won over 300 awards, including a number of Grand and Reserve Championships. He has been in Multiple National and World Championship competitions where he has won recognition and awards.


The article by Merle, about the History of Longhorn cattle, is mostly from research– coming from an interest in starting a herd of Longhorns. The herd hasn’t been established….yet. Only the future knows.

Alan Birkelbachand Spur Award

Managing editor, Elizabeth Akin Stelling (left), Sherry Monahan, President of WWA, and Alan Birkelback (right)

Cowboy Poetry Press and Red Dashboard LLC Publishing are proud to announce Alan Birkelbach has won the 2015 Spur Award for his poem, A Little Longer Than the Moment, first published in October 2014– Week 6. It also means CPP and Red Dashboard get the award!

The Spur Award is given to many categories, and if you feel your work merits any submission to Western Writers and other journals, then do so, we encourage it.

RedD has already seen an increase in readership in its books, and CPP’s Facebook page has gotten many many likes over the past week since Alan emailed our managing editor the good news.

We appreciate everyone submitting to the ezine and anthology each year!

Here’s to another great year, and to those of you well on your way to winning an award…

October 2014 Issue- Week 6

November 9, 2014

Let’s keep Rodney Nelson in our thoughts this week, he ventured out for a much needed surgery. Red Dashboard will also be publishing his newest book, Words For The Deed. He is a fine westen observer and poet!


 It’s been busy around the pub office since we began 1 year ago October with publishing authors poetry and flash fiction books.

We would love to see some western genre manuscripts come out way, since there are so many of you submitting to this ezine.

See our submission guidelines at http://www.reddashboard.com for more information, dates are Oct 1st – Feb 28th.

Enjoy this months previous issues 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5!



It takes a certain kind of person to step into the ring with wild animals, a certain kind of person to love it enough to get close for a good shot! And we’ve are fortunate to have a number of rodeo submissions come our way this summer! Keep a scrollin’ on down and enjoy! Click on photos to enlarge for a closer look…



My name is Chrystal Berche, I am a writer, photographer and artist living in North Central Iowa. The following photographs were taken at the fourth of July celebration in my town of Osage Iowa, at the rodeo. I have included five, per the submission guidelines, however if there is anything particular you like about these and wish to see more of, I have well over a thousand images taken on that way.



Arroyo Al on Loyalty

Through the doors came a yellin’, “What’s tied to that thar post?”
“Ne’er have I seen such crowbait; I thought it was a ghost!”

I downed my pint and at once that youngin’ I engaged,
That thar is my ol’ pony, it matters not that he is aged.

For we have ridden through snow and rain and that ragin’ sun,
To him thrice o’er I owe my life for outpacin’ the blazin’ gun.

O’course, ol’ fella, he’s a beaut – he said it with such sass,
And in His honor, with one hook, I laid him on his ass.

Nicholas R. Larche is currently attending the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. While native to Rochester, New York and a current resident of the greater Detroit metropolitan area, Nicholas has set his eyes westward and will be relocating to Colorado this May. An adept researcher, Nicholas has recently accepted an offer for publication with the Seton Hall Legislative Journal for his work involving an interstate comparison of sex trafficking laws. In addition to his academic studies, Nicholas enjoys writing flash fiction and poetry. His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Literary Hatchet, From the Depths, Penny Ante Feud, Superstition [Review], and Drunk Monkeys.





by Rodney Nelson

a narrow rain cloud brought the pink
of sundown into one draw of
the valley and the ravens were
at work around your camp until
oh holy night which you would not
have given a thought to if you
had not heard drunken caroling
a mile off down there at the wells
and you could see the building with
a piano bar no doubt and
a tower sign in red and white
you could not read from where you were
but the unwindy desert air
let the singing carry and now
you got to sleep to it and with
an odor of wet mineral
maybe weed even though the four-
minute rain had long gone away
and the stars were brightly shining

when you drove into sunup on
oh holy day the building with
no doubt a piano bar looked
hung over but somewhere within
the revelers would be waking
to pine in sin and error and
the ravenhood were up meanwhile
and you could not have named a few
of the colors the valley had
begun to take on as you rode
your way in clarity out of
the valley of not a shadow




The Photographer’s Bio:

Chrystal Berche dabbles, lots, and somewhere in those dabbles blossoms ideas that take shape into images. Many of her current pieces of artwork start out as three minute gesture drawings and eventually get paired with some sort of still life photography and a lot of playing in photoshop. She loves to take pictures, especially out in the woods, where she can sit on a rock or a log and wait quietly, jotting notes for stories until something happens by. A free spirit, Chrystal digs in dirt, dances in rain and chases storms, all at the whims of her muses.

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