When I’m short on inspiration, in life generally but especially when I’m writing, I’ll flip open my copy of my grandfather’s cowboy poetry. For a rough old coot, he had the heart of an artist and could make you laugh or make you cry in nearly the same stanza. I recently read one of his poems that I don’t recall reading in the past. The topic was a perfect fit for this audience. It is about him and his friend Dean, the summer they were about 13, working for a farmer named Oliver, or at least that’s how the story goes. There's no crying, just a good laugh, exactly what I needed to get me the final push to spring.

Louder erica
Freelance Writer
Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

It's the Finish that Counts

By Bill Ramsey

Now, hayin' ain’t what it used to be
When it was done by man and horse
And there was plenty of excitement
Oh, there was runaways of course

Now, one that had stuck in my mind
Was a long, long time ago
Now Dean and me, just a couple of kids
And a lot of things we didn’t know 

But guaranteed, we did learn fast
Oh, we’d made plans to live awhile
And horses those old ranchers hooked
More than half were plumb dang wild 


Well, I was helpin’ Ollie
A-patchin’ up an old buck rake in the yard
We was just a-gettin’ started good
Not workin’ very hard 

He’d sent the mowin' crew to the meadow
To start a-cuttin’ hay
I figured they’d be plumb lucky
If they got any down that day

About half the mowers had a snubber
On a saddle horse to lead the team
And a safety rope from bit to double tree
A-runnin’ in between 

Oh, them horses had their heads up
They was ready for doin’ battle
I knew all hell would sure break loose
When that mower starts to rattle

It wasn’t long till the show began
A cloud of dust a-comin’ down the lane
Clanging’, bangin’ and poundin’
It sounded like a runaway train 

And in front of all that dust
Two horses a-runnin’ neck and neck
Oh, that mowin’ machine was reduced
To a complete and total wreck!

They tried to make a corner
To come up to the horse corral
But that mower hooked an end post
And a hundred yards of jeck fence fell 

Ollie’s old Plymouth car a-sittin’ there
Kinda by the hitching rail
One horse went left, the other right
Mower tongue harpooned it like a whale 

They both ended up right on top
In the middle of that old hack
One was kinda on his side
The other lyin’ on his back 

They was kickin’, pawin’ and a-clawin’
Glass and tin flyin’ all around
They finally got the edges hammered
And then they rolled off on the ground 

Circled the year, a-gainin’ speed
Saw an open side barn door
It was meant for one horse at a time
Now it will let in three or four! 

Well at last, we got them cornered
There was things we need to do
Luke, unhook what was left of that mower
There should be four tugs; I can only find two

Now, them horses wasn’t hurt nor crippled
They had made it through right fair
Oh, that hide will all come back
And they can always grow new hair

But what about the driver
We took the old truck to go and check
He come a-walkin’ down the lane
Plumb unconcerned about that wreck 

Pickin’ rock to chuck at gophers
As they went dodgin’ through the grass
Then he’d stop and stand a-lookin' up
To watch the birds fly past 

“Now,” Dean said, “I ain’t hurt, just thirsty
And I’d like to have a drink
They must have run off with my water bag
At least, that’s what I think" 

Says Ollie, “How’d that runaway start?”
As he handed Dean a cup
Dean says: “They started dang near even
Tell me, how did they end up?"