Barney Hill from Emmett, Idaho, is a Cowboy Poet.
Watch a video clip of Barney Hill.
I write cowboy poetry because it's fun, mainly. I started writing poetry because I've always been interested in the stories that my mother and old-timers would tell. My wife's granddad was born here in 1880. He had some fantastic stories. But whenever you try to retell a story it never comes out quite right; so what I did with some of my poetry was to take the basic idea of a story and try to make it a kind of history. Some of them come from personal experiences.
I think cowboy poetry is popular in Idaho because most Idahoans are very much individuals. Whether they truly understand a cowboy's way of life or not, they are still individuals with an appreciation for someone else who is an individual. It doesn't matter if they're river rafters, kayakers, cowboys, or whatever. I think people just appreciate each other in Idaho, maybe more than in some other states.
I've never had critics or anybody just come and tell me what I was doing was wrong... I put together words that rhyme. Some poets put together words that don't rhyme and call it poetry. I reckon it is, but I always figured it's supposed to rhyme...
Every cowboy poem has to have a basic honesty about it to be authentic cowboy poetry. It's hard to just take a subject someone brings to you to make a poem out of it. You get away from being authentic, because you weren't there and didn't see what happened.
I had a story told to me the other day about a fellow who roped a washtub up here while several others were gathering some cows. He started dragging it toward this other guy riding a green horse. There was quite a wreck anyhow. They said I ought to make a poem out of that, but I wasn't there. It would be awful hard to do.
I think most cowboys like to take a look at themselves and laugh about their experiences. It's like slapstick comedy; it's funny when it happens to somebody else. It might not be funny when you're getting bucked off a horse or drug under or have a bull run over you or knock you down or something, but later on it is. You can retell that story and make it funny...
Speaking for myself, because I can't speak for anybody else, cowboys do have different values than a lot of people today. We like simple things, a simple way of life. When you get down and start being serious, you're just plain afraid people are going to laugh at you.
by Barney Hill
I used to chew tobacco, lower lip ahangin' loose. Oh I love to fill it full of that Copenhagen snoose.
I went out to check the stock one cold and windy day, and the horse that I'as aridin' was a half broke little bay.
Well I dug my can out of my pocket when much to my surprise I'as about to fill my lip when it blew right in my eyes.
I just dropped everything. My eyes they burned and itched. My pony knew there's something wrong, so he swallered his head and pitched.
I started to reach for something to try and hold me down. Didn't do no good cause I'as alayin' on the ground.
I couldn't move my leg, I had a busted knee. and I'as asittin' on a thistle and it was ajabbin' me.
I had three teeth a missin' and my eyes was swollen shut. And on my little finger I'as asufferin' from a cut.
I had some busted ribs where that horse had stepped on me. I couldn't find a place that didn't hurt and I still wasn't able to see.
Well I quit a-usin' tobacco. They'll get no more of my wealth. You see, I believe that surgeon general 'Cause it sure was harmful to my health!
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