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Cowboy Camp Christmas


by Baxter Black, DVM

It was Christmas Eve at
daybreak when we found
him in the yard.
His horse was porcupine
with frost, the ground was
frozen hard.
He must’a drifted in last
night after we’d all gone to
And had a fatal heart attack,
‘cause, fer dang sure
he was dead!
We recognized him right
away as Tater Jack, the
A fire and brimstone hardnosed
man, with one redeeming
He believed! And took
it on himself to spread the
Holy Gospel
In places where the reg’lar
church had deemed it near
We got to see him twice
a year ‘cause we wuz out a
He usually came by
Christmas and he’d stay a
couple days.
Now, Christmas in a cowboy
camp’s a pretty lonely
And folks like us, that live
alone, build a sorta carapace
Like turtles have. Which
insulates our heart from too
much feelin’
But Tater Jack cut no
one slack! He preached like
thunder pealin’!
And got just down to the
question…What did Christmas
really mean!
Was it just another winter
day to ply the old routine?
He’d dump the whole
load on us, but what the
heck, we had the time.
And he was a grand diversion.
Thumpin’ Bibles ain’t
a crime.
But he’d end each Christmas
sermon with the passages
from Luke.
He explained, we were the
shepherds which he meant
as no rebuke,
Then he’d traipse us all
out in the dark and point
straight up and say,
“Fear not, I bring good
tidings. Upon you is born
this day
A savior, who is Jesus
Christ the Lord! See them
stars and us below…
They were shinin’ on
them shepherds then, two
thousand years ago!
So ya see, that’s how it
started, with a bunch of guys
like you
Who could see through all
the hoopelah and give this
day its due.
That’s why He told the
shepherds first. See, God
trusts a simple man.
So he signed yer kind up
early, ‘cause He knew you’d
Well, Tater Jack would
ramble on but what he said
held water
And it made us cowboys
kinda proud, and humble,
like it ought’er.
Sam would play his ukulele
and we’d sing a song
or two
I reckon we were better
men ‘cause ol’ Tater drifted
So findin’ him this mornin’
put a damper on the day.
We thawed him out and
combed his hair and stored
his stuff away.
Then buried him this afternoon.
On his final Christmas
We’ve all been sorta aimless
since, maybe just too
numb to grieve.
Russell Don had shot a
sagehen and we saved it for
It was good, and we sure
ate it all…but Christmas ain’t
quite right.
Tater Jack made it official,
a snubbin’ post to tie to.
He gave Christmas real
meaning. So, maybe we
should try to
Carry on, like he would
have us. Ain’t none of us
But no line camp bunch of
cowboys ever had a better
“Sam, if you can play Hark
the Herald Angels on your
I’ll try and read that cowboy
part…in those passages
from Luke.”

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