The State of the Cowboy V, Oct 2017

November 16, 2017

This is our fifth and final installment of The State of the Cowboy, Oct 2017. We’ve enjoyed reading the work submitted, and all work plus new submissions will be considered for our annual Spring Anthology, Unbridled, Volume IV, 2018. Deadlines for new work is Feb 28, 2018, midnight. No work received afterwards will be considered, but put into a file for the fall online magazine (here).


Photo is property of Red Dashboard LLC Publications, Cowboy Poetry Press


By Max Sparber

Let me tell you of Rose of the Cimarron:
She was the beauty of the Unassigned Lands.
She fell in love with a desperado
And where his gang went,
Rose also ran.

He was the outlaw, Bittercreek Newcomb;
His Wild Bunch the bottom of the low.
They tore a path through the Indian lands there,
And Rose followed
Wherever they’d go.

Rose, rose, O Rose Dunn —
She was known as the Queen of the Cimarron.

She followed to Ingalls, Oklahoma,
Where John Hixon and his marshals they knew
That they could wait with their pistols unholstered
And leave Newcomb
His body pierced through.

They shot him like a dog in the street there,
And in the street he bad wounded lay,
And it was then that Rose of the Cimarron
Did every
Bullet repay.

Rose, rose, O Rose Dunn —
She was known as the Queen of the Cimarron.

They say she grabbed two belts of bullets;
A Winchester she then gladly slung.
They say she ran to the streets then
To the side of her
Fallen Newcomb.

Let me tell of you Marshall Tom Hueston,
Let me tell you of Marshal Shandley,
Let me tell you of Deputy Speed now,
All of them fell before the gun
On that day.

Rose, rose, O Rose Dunn —
She was known as the Queen of the Cimarron.

Let me tell you of Rose of the Cimarron:
She was the beauty of the Unassigned Lands.
She fell in love with a desperado
And four men they fell
By her hand.

Max Sparber is an author of cowboy poetry and weird western fiction in Minneapolis, MN. His poem THE BUTTEFIELD OVERLAND MAIL was previously
published by Cowboy Poetry Press as anthologized as part of the Unbridles
series. Sparber writes about the weirder side of frontier living on his
blog The Wildest West:

I Got a Gal in Ekalaka

by Nick Swartz

My wife Diana and I both come from butt-of-joke towns. Timbuktu and Walla Walla are butt-of-joke towns, as are Osh Kosh, Kadoka, Tucumcari, and Abu Dabhi. Hard K sounds are striking, and trochee sounds give words a goofy rhythm. Trochees are two-syllable words that have the vocal stress on the first. They’re Shakespeare’s pretty iambs in reverse—BUH-buh, not b’BUH. Think of the Little Caesar’s guy saying “Pizza Pizza.” Trochees explain why Diana’s hometown of Ekalaka gets stuck in your head and makes a good joke butt. Ekalaka, pizza pizza. In Montana, Ekalaka has become a synonym for the middle of nowhere. BFE: Butt Fuck Ekalaka.

Along those same lines, my Michigan hometown—Kalamazoo—is a word that should garner a gesundheit after it’s spoken. Though best-known for Glen Miller having a gal there and Johnny Cash uttering its name as evidence that he’d indeed been everywhere, man, Kalamazoo is also famous for producing Gibson Guitars, Checker Cabs, and Tim Allen’s mugshot. Derek Jeter grew up in Kalamazoo, and one of the Righteous Brothers died there. Malcolm X’s mother was locked up at the State Hospital in Kalamazoo, which was a place I knew well from my days of delivering pizza to its patients. I also grew up next to Asylum Lake, a nature preserve that sits atop the ruins of yet another homestead for the insane. Kalamazoo, it seems, has a rich history of hosting the mentally ill, and I assume it’s because it’s the city in Michigan that sounds most predisposed to be teeming with crazy people. One can imagine a judge sentencing some miscreant to twelve years of jigsaw puzzles and delivered pizza in the Kalamazoo Looney Bin, the Kalamazooney Bin. You can also imagine someone warning his friends: if you don’t cool it with those mushrooms you’re going to end up in Kalamazoo. Gesundheit.

What Ekalaka lacks in population (300) it makes up for in brand recognition. Rest assured that if you spend more than a week in Montana you’ll hear at least one reference to the town, usually in this manner: “where’s Scotty? Ah who the hell knows, probably cowboyin’ in Ekalaka or some damn place.” Diana lived there until she was seven, when her mother moved away and left her with her father and brother. Her dad moved the family several times during her childhood and eventually ended up in Newell, South Dakota, a small sheep-ranching community north of the Black Hills. Newell doesn’t have the same place name catchiness, but Diana’s high school mascot was the Irrigator, which just about makes up for it.

She comes from the real West, not the West in movies where it’s always green and summery. Her West was poor and hard. She lived in towns called Roundup, Colony, and Belle Fourche. She was raising livestock, haying fields, and operating heavy machinery at roughly the same age I was learning the equally valuable lifeskills of skateboarding, Super Nintendo, and trampoline wrestling. Sick of her hard scrabble hometown(s) and unstable home life, Diana moved, virtually by herself, a state away to Laramie at age seventeen. At that age I was still hosting sleepovers at my parents’ house and doing very suburban things like smoking weed and climbing buildings. Our paths crossed in 2011 when I moved to Laramie for school. By far the smallest city I’d ever lived in, it was Diana’s largest. I was trying to delve into the wild and rowdy West, while she was doing her best to escape it.

We met at a place called the Alibi Pub, and I remember thinking that she must have been the most beautiful girl in the West and probably all the other directions too. She was the kind of girl I had no business speaking to, but because she was a friend of a friend, and one of three seated at my table, I, alas, couldn’t avoid speaking to her, as was my custom with women of her caliber. So, as I am wont to do, especially when nervous, I ranted about grammar and word usage. After only a short “how are you?” offered by her, I launched into a treatise on the myriad responses to her question, and my distaste for what I viewed as the rampant snobbery exhibited by those individuals who respond by saying “I’m well.”

“You’re well?” I said, not to Diana or anyone. “You’re only well after you’ve had the flu. Me? I’m good. I know, I know, it’s not an adverb, but as long as you forgo the assumption that there is a ‘doing’ verb in your response, an adjective is just fine. I’m good. You’re good. The food is good. Life is good. And even if you do suppose you have to ‘doing,’ am I not ‘doing a good’ by exchanging pleasantries with a stranger? Well, schmell. My name’s Nick, by the way. Nice to meet you.”

To my astonishment, Diana was not visibly nauseated by my diatribe. She even offered a nod of approval. Although in Kalamazoo you’re taught to politely smile and nod at the many crazy people, so I thought that perhaps I was receiving that kind of treatment. But, no, it was the oddest thing. She too had opinions on grammar, which we discussed at length: Oxford commas, the overuse of the explanation point—your typical first date barroom banter.

By the time I found out that she came from a small town in Montana called Ekalaka, I was twitterpated, a word she taught me later. Kalamazoo meets Ekalaka, Midwest meets West, City meets Country. I went home dreaming about our lives together, maybe a Walla Walla wedding and a honeymoon in Timbuktu.

Nick Swartz live in a small town in Montana with my wife and one-year-old twin boys. He has degrees in English and Geography from Western Michigan and the
University of Wyoming, respectively. Nick makes maps for the Montana Department
of Natural Resources, and in his spare time enjoys quesadillas and writing
about the time when he used to have spare time. He and wife have another child due on April Fools Day, so he will soon drive a mini-van, probably a silver or tan one.


by Dan Cox

The rains came
after the heat
that fries your mind
then the icy cold drops beat
down your wet soul
there was no retreat

I felt as bad for Cody
as he did for me
this was all my doin
us riding an edge
up here on this crumblin limestone shelf

been with me for years
he’d seen the change
no direction, no ease up
only the pain
now just the driftin’
and these damn loose reins

How can a life and a partner go
so very wrong
everything I knew,
now………just gone

I gave her my all
then discarded and emptied
Felt no return
You can’t stay too tight on the loves
they will surely run
love and live
and then the turn

Watch that edge ol boy
What are we doin out here? Has our cover been blown?
Where is that view?…….was it around this next bend?
Neither of us made to be alone

Man this rain burns.

Dan Cox has published several articles in a now defunct outdoor magazine called River Runner, whose readers were kayakers, canoeists, rafters….explorers, etc. The longest article, the finale, was ~ 5 pages, including a very large centerfold (hand drawn) map of USA, plus ~~6 on my photos. I also sold ~~ 10 photos to them, including one in a calendar.
They went out of business after 10 years? And that niche is now filled by
Canoe & Kayak. All of my work for them was geology related.

I have published technical articles for geology/geophysics oil/gas
exploration industry. See my consulting website

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