Rite of Passage

by Jesse Smith

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Rite of Passage

You’ve been out with the wagon,
Spent your share of time in camp.
You’ve never been nobody’s hero,
Never been some big world champ.

In fact, you’re just a cowboy
Out in your part of the West.
You make your livin’ horseback,
‘Cause that’s what you like to do the best.

Some say it’s an addiction,
Bad as any booze or dope,
But this addiction revolves around
A horse, a cow, a rope.

Some say, “Oh, how romantic.”
Now me, you’ve got to show
The romanticism in it
When it’s zero, or below.

And you’re a long ways from camp
And you can’t feel your toes,
And you’ve got this great big icicle
Danglin’ underneath your nose.

Or when it’s hot and dusty
And you can’t see or breathe
The boss man ain’t around to quit
And you just can’t up and leave.

‘Cause you gotta wait ‘till payday
Of that, there’s little doubt.
Payday comes, you still can’t leave
After they hold your taxes out.

Or when the rain’s a-pourin’ down
And your hat dye streaks your face,
And the cattle that you’re tryin’ to move,
Moves along at a turtle pace.

You think about your camp
With the stove so nice and warm,
And your horse and cattle turn their heads,
Tryin’ not to face the storm.

Or when they lead you out a horse
You know it’s your bad luck,
And you can see with one eye
This old pony’s gonna buck.

But you throw your saddle on him,
Throw caution to the wind.
About the time you slam the ground,
You get your caution back again.

You lay there a-gaspin’
Tryin’ hard to catch your breath.
The world around you teeters,
You feel that awful clutch of death.

But you know that you ain’t dyin’
When you hear some damned fool say,
As he comes trottin’ up,
“Hey, pard, are you okay?”

Or when you got a camp job
And the holidays come ‘round.
You know you’ll spend them all alone
‘Cause you’re far from home and town.

You think it’s just another day
But when that day begins,
Though you tried hard not to think about it,
Loneliness sets in.

Now you’re gettin’ old
And your hair’s a-turnin’ gray,
But you think back with fond memories
Of all the yesterdays.

You’ve never made a fortune,
And you’ve never gained no fame,
But you’ve earned the right to have “Cowboy”
Written right beside your name.

© Jesse Smith

JESSE SMITH has been a working cowboy all his life, growing up in the small ranching community of Glennville, California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. His great grandparents were some of the first to homestead the area in the mid-1800s. Smith began his first formal cowboy job working on the Tejon Ranch and quickly learned the traditional ways from old-time cowboys there. He started writing poetry at an early age and, though considered a traditionalist, he is also known for his humorous poetry. He and his family now make their home in the ranch country of Cora, Wyoming.