June 28, 2009

Christine Gelineau

BREAKING BABIES

Nobody breaks ranch stock the old way now,
leaving those youngsters wild till two or three
then snub ’em down, cinch ’em up, and pow,
spring to the saddle and set ’em free.

They’d sunfish, crow-hop, leap and roll, frantic
to lose the catamount hooked to their back.
The cowboy had to ride out the antics,
a feather in the storm—some had the knack

but it was hard on leather, broncs, and men.
You didn’t need to come off to get hurt;
when a bronc pile drives you, the jolt can
rattle your bones even without biting dirt.

Mostly these days we leave the rodeo
riding to the rodeo cowboys, let them
win their buckles and busted bones—you know,
ease a youngster in, avoid a problem.

Nowadays we gentle ’em while they’re foals,
teach long yearlings commands in the round pen:
jog, lope, whoa, some even get ’em to roll
back and reverse in lines, soften and bend

with the long lines, make ’em bridlewise
’afore you ever climb aboard that first time.
Trained, not busted, the way to go in my eyes.
They’ll steer soft as butter, stop on a dime.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Tribute to Cowboy & Western Poetry

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