An Old Cowboy Writes

“So I’ll fix you greedy gluttons so you cannot feed your cows / So the crops all burned and withered; even grass it cannot grow” Cowboy poetry of the 1930s could get pretty intense.

Cowboy poets, saddle-bound bards who record life on the range in verse, have been the subject of much media attention. But Nebraska cowboys were rhyming and writing long before anyone thought to call them “poets.” The following poem, “An Old Cowboy Writes,” in the History Nebraska collections, was written, “by an old-time cowboy of Cheyenne County, to be read at the chuck wagon feed at the Potter Days celebration.” Beyond that, little is known about the poem. It may date from 1938–or a bit earlier. Its author signed himself simply, “Ex-Cowboy.”

“You can look about, Old Timer, and see a heap o’ change,
There are corn fields and there’s wheat fields where the cattle used to range,
Say, can you remember how you hated with righteous hate
The nester, when he moved in; starvation was his fate.
Well, they dried out in the ’90s; pulled out and left ‘er flat,
Was only a few ranchers between Pole creek and the Platte.
Boys, then she was a country, all the range and grass was free,
There were horses’ heads and cattle just as far as you could see.
Then a gink they called Kincaid hatched a great big homestead law.
Ye Gods, here came the farmer, such a rush you never saw;
They gobbled every quarter, they settled far and wide,
In the rough lands and the canyons, where the cattle used to hide.
Started raising corn and barley, taters, wheat and kids and beans,
You’ve seen it all, old timer, so you sure know what it means.
Well you cut the herds a plenty, with the farmers fall in line,
You plowed with old cow-horses; Ye Gods you had a time.
Then along came a man named Campbell, he hit upon a plan,
And they thought he’d saved the bacon of the high dry farmer man.
Now dame Nature says you’ve built a desert with your engines and your plows

“So I’ll fix you greedy gluttons so you cannot feed your cows.”
So the crops all burned and withered; even grass it cannot grow,
But I guess old Timer, we will stick; we have no place to go.
Now the passing of old timers is growing every day.
We always miss the ones with whom we used to work and play;
Let us hope that they are riding on that range of mystery,
And when our time comes, there will be a place for you and me.”

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Robert Ball Anderson’s journey “from slavery to affluence”

Robert Ball Anderson’s journey “from slavery to affluence”

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

No Father’s Day for Nebraska in 1915

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.