The Cowboy’s Broken Dream

The old man sits quietly in his chair

His dark eyes narrowed by the sun

The light begins to hide behind the trees

Another long, hot summer day is done

And though the day is put to bed

His mind drifts back to long ago

To the hot, dry winds of west Texas

Just out east of El Paso…

Cowboy4 

I was a boy of twelve in 1870

My daddy was an old ranch hand

He’d be gone for weeks on end

Driving cattle ‘cross the Rio Grande

But one day he came up missin’

No one had seen hide nor hair

Rumor was, he’d crossed on Sanchez’s land

So we said our goodbye’s in a prayer

 

Times were hard out in west Texas

I worked, and my momma, she prayed

I made a little money at the sawmill

And momma sold a few quilts that she made

But the days were long and the dollars were short

And only the banker got paid

So like my daddy, and his daddy before

I took up the cowboyin’ trade

 Cowboy6

My momma asked me not to do it

She knew, too well, the life ahead

“You’ll end up just like your daddy”, she cried

“Broke down, used up, or dead”

But there really was no option, ya see

I could find no other choice

“I promise that I’ll be careful, momma”

I said

With just a hint of a crack in my voice

 

So I left home, high in the saddle

Looking back only a time or two

I left my home as just a boy

But doing what a man should do

They showed me to my bunkhouse

It smelled of old leather and of firewood

I could tell by the look in them other boys eyes

They saw my sadness, and they understood

 Cowboy5

A decade’s now passed since that first lonesome night

And I was now a seasoned old hand

A man now stands where a boy once stood

I rode long and hard for the brand

But this life that I chose was a lonesome one

My nights under the stars, spent alone

So I scraped and saved up every dollar I had

And then I ventured out on my own

 

I bought up my first lot of heifers

From a Mexican man, outside

Santa Fe

In the little town of Chimayo

I spent up all the money I’d saved

My herd was strong and they were healthy

Even though our numbers were small

So we turned our horns toward Texas

To graze the Palo Duro in the fall

 Cowboy7

That winter was a hard one, in west Texas

And the wind and snow took quite a few

Those losses took a cut out of profits

And I just didn’t know what to do

The banker said he couldn’t help me

I guess he thought that I was a bad bet

But I would not give up so easily

And I’d soon do some things I’d regret

 

Back in them days, there weren’t many fences

The cattle ran on wide open plains

So I laid my claim on some stragglers

I just gathered ’em up in the rain

I knew a man down south of

Acuña

He said, for the right price, he’d take the whole lot

For sixty five cents on the dollar

He paid cash money, right on the spot

 

With my pockets now full of paper

And some healthy calves now on the ground

I made many more trips to Acuña

This was a prosperous endeavor, I’d found

Well, my herd, it just kept on growing

And I’d bought up some good grazing land

People were startin’ to take notice

I was making a name for my Brand

 Cowboy-vintage-150x150

Well, I was now a man of means

But my nights were still spent alone

Every man needs a good woman, they say

And it was time that I found my own

There was a slew of pretty girls in town

But only one had caught my eye

I didn’t know if she’d ever have me

But I knew that I was sure gonna try

 

Evie was short, for Evangelina

Her long hair was as black as coal

Her skin was as brown as tanned leather

And her dark eyes looked down in my soul

Her mama was a Mexican maiden

And her daddy had died in the war

Every man in this town had wanted her

But I knew that I wanted her more

 

So I began my courtship of Evie

And it seemed too good to be true

It wasn’t long before we spoke of marriage

Because I felt sure that our love was true

Her mother gave me her blessing

And we planned for a warm day in June

Some friends thought I may have gone crazy

Guess they thought that I was moving too soon

 Cowboy3

I had money and land and love now

Everything was falling into place

We built a big log home on the hillside

Filled with china and velvet and lace

Evie fit right in to high society

She was quickly accustomed to the finer things

I, on the other hand, became restless

So I took back to the trails in the spring

 

It felt good to be back in the saddle

It had been my home for so many years

Though, Evie hadn’t agreed with my leaving

It had brought on some anger and tears

But I wasn’t cut out for society

On the trails was where I belong

So I headed to the east, to Fort Worth

Where the beef prices were still runnin’ strong

 Cattle drive

So we gathered up a few hundred

And pushed the herd toward that horizon line

The trip out east would take all of two weeks

But if it took longer, to me, that was fine

We fetched a fair price on the cattle

The boys headed straight for a saloon

Me, I took a ride down to the river

And just laid back and stared up at the moon

 

This life was the one that agreed with me

Much more than the one did back home

Although I truly loved Evie

This old cow hand was destined to roam

I bought a small herd in Abilene

Just to have one more night under the stars

Then we headed on west, at daybreak

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it too far

 Cowhands

Some rustlers, I guess, had been scoutin’ us

And they waited til the time was right

First they shot my swing man, Rodrigo

And then hit my point man, Tom White

The next shot hit my right shoulder

Followed by one to my best hoss’s neck

We flipped head over hoof into a creek bed

I felt sure this would be my last wreck

 

I woke up to find the herd missing

My friends and workers crumpled on the ground

I was 12 miles to the west of Abilene

And there weren’t a cayuse to be found

I made a sling for my shoulder from a cinch strap

But I had a blinding pain in my side

The trip back to town was a long one

When I made it, I broke down and cried

 Daltons

When I woke, it all seemed so blurry

Like it had happened in some horrible dream

But my right side was pert’near useless

And I had a rib in my lung, so it seemed

The doc told me that the arm was shattered

And the ribs would take a good while to heal

It hurt to cough or take a deep breath

And I’d yet to finish a meal

 

I’d telegraphed back home to Evie

And after two weeks, I’d got no reply

I thought it odd to not hear a word

But soon, I’d figure out why

I hired a driver to carry me back west

The trip would take a few days

I was both anxious and nervous to see Evie

I really didn’t know what it was that I’d say

 

But it seemed that she’d beat me to it

She had packed up her things and she’d gone

But just to make sure I paid for my leaving

She made a trip to the Savings & Loan

She withdrew every last damn dollar

I guess she thought I owed her, her share

Some folks saw her waitin’ at the train station

And then she disappeared into thin air

 Cowboy1

The next several months were some tough ones

I rarely even ventured outside

My arm strapped down against my body

Made it difficult for me even to ride

There ain’t much good in a one armed cowboy

I couldn’t even handle a rope

I just sat all alone in my big, empty house

And I began to give up all hope

 

That fall soon became winter

The year was 1886

It was a winter like no one had ever seen

And it put me in a helluva fix

It soon became known as the Winter of Death

The cattle were dropping like flies

I’d already lost a couple thousand head

Was the best number that we could surmise

 

The costs are great, to run a ranch of this size

And thanks to Evie, my funds were mighty low

But after shaking the hand of the banker man

I’d borrowed myself some cash flow

I used the land as collateral to secure the note

And I’d pay it all back in the spring

I’d sell off the calves and some yearlings, as well

I’d have the ranch runnin’ back, in full swing

 Cowboy9

But things don’t always work out

Just the way you planned ’em in your head

And the winter of death didn’t let off

Til more than half of my herd was dead

Well, the banker still wanted his payment

And land and cows was all that I owned

So I sold some of both to a neighbor

To pay back some of the money he’d loaned

 

Well every month, it got a little harder

And my herd was a dwindlin’ fast

I was selling off more cattle, each month

Just to pay off the bills from the last

I was losing all that I’d worked for

I could no longer even pay all my crew

As much as it pained me to do it

I had to let go of all, but a few

 Cowboy2

I’d now sold nearly all of my cattle

And most of the land was gone now too

I missed the payment that was due in July

And I knew now what the banker would do

First, he sent me a letter

I had a week to settle up my debt

It reminded me of our first meeting

Back to when he figured me to be a bad bet

 

Well I had no more money to pay him

The auction was set on a cool October day

It seemed the whole county had turned out

To watch them sell my whole life away

Piece by piece they sold my belongings

Right down to the pictures that came off the walls

I rode off on the horse that they let me keep

Hearing the echoes of the auctioneer’s calls

 Cowboy rides away

A rancher hired me to look after his horses

With room & board and a little bit of pay

I had a bunkhouse like the one I’d first slept in

The day my mama watched me ride away

I oftentimes thought about my mama

And the last words to me that she said

“You’ll end up just like your daddy,

Broke down, used up or dead”

 

Well, as it turned out, my mama was right

And I’ve found that they usually are

I’m a broke down, old used up cowboy

With only memories and bruises and scars

I sit here alone every night with the sunset

The only thing left, I s’pose, is death

I close my eyes and think of a happier time

And then I take my last, lonesome breath

 Broken

One thought on “The Cowboy’s Broken Dream”

  1. Hello,
    My name is Val Enders. Almost a year ago I came across a photograph of an gentleman cowboy with a wonderful face. He was just the kind of interesting face I was looking for. You see, I am an amature artist, and was learning to draw portraits a the time. Since it was just a practise piece and not for competition, I picked up my pencils and started to draw.
    Too get to the point, I have been searching for the last year for this image, and today by sheer luck I came across this website and here he was! I was estatic! My portrait of the gentleman ( his photo is the one under the line”and then she disappeared into thin air) turned out my favorite drawing. The reason I’m contacting you is to ask you if you know this man, and if you have the copywrite to this photo. I can’t show my drawing at our gallery unless I have permission from the owner of the copywrite. I don’t want to take advantage of anyone and have not shown my drawing. I would love to enter it into our Local juried members or open art competion. I would be most grateful if you could email me any information you might have. I have been looking for info for a year now. Email me please at rvenders@shaw.ca
    thanks for any help you can give me
    Regards,
    Val

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