Part of the Mare Herd at the 4DH Ranch in Oklahoma. For More Works by Debra Coppinger Hill Click Image.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Dear Santa,

I know you are just trying to do your job, but do you think you could see your way clear to not land on the barn roof this Christmas? Last year the clattering of your reindeer and sleigh caused quite an expensive mess. My chickens must have thought that the barn was going to collapse on them and in their fright fourteen of them died from the over-exertion of trying to escape. (This cost us in loss of eggs and meat for our Sunday dinners.) The commotion caused the horses to blow up and kick holes in the walls of their stalls and the barn door thus injuring them to the tune of a $700 veterinary bill. (By the way, the Vet really hates coming out to do her job on a holiday!) The goat was so upset by all the other confusion that she jumped up on the feed barrels and knocked them over. The old cow, who was the most calm in the midst of all this, proceeded to eat grain to the point of bloat. (Please note this added another $250 to the Vet bill.

Startled by the noise, my husband and I leapt from our bed and ran for the door. We collided in the process and I received a black eye from his elbow. Husband dashed across the yard to the barn and in an effort to yank open the horse-damaged door, herniated himself. (Did I mention that emergency rooms are very crowded and expensive on a holiday? Also, did I tell you none of this is covered by insurance as there is no provision in our policy that covers our property or livestock in the event of damages caused by a mythical being?)

Each year we ask simply for peace on earth, healthy animals and good crop weather. Each year you bring us Chia-pets and fruitcake. We don’t want to sound unfriendly, but this has got to stop. We recommend that you get a one ton diesel truck and a stock trailer. These do not frighten our livestock. We also recommend honking before you get out of the truck as our cow-dog is getting old and has become very aggressive with strangers in furry red suits. (Nothing personal, he’s just doing his job.) As for all previous damages, we are willing to absorb the costs and chock it all up as part of what it takes to live our rural lifestyle. However, you need to be made aware that there are laws against trespassing and we have discussed our options with the District Attorney. (He’s just doing his job too.)
We hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

The 4DH Ranch Family

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html

Sunday, December 19, 2010


The Stranger stood above the clearing,
  on that dark, clear silent night,
and listened to the voices clear and strong,
  singing of a star so bright.
He rode on in and haled the cabin,
  and much to his surprise,
was met at the door, by a man with a beard,
  and in the window, saw five pairs of eyes.

“Come in, Friend”, said the man of the house,
  “and join us, for we celebrate.”
He found himself seated by a fire,
  he was given food and he ate.
In the course of conversation,
  it became abundantly clear,
that this family had very little
  yet, they all welcomed him here.
With “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”,
  the woman sang the children to sleep.
Four times she placed a kiss in their hands,
  and said “Hold this tight while you sleep.”
Then around a pot of thin coffee,
  a story began to unfold,
of sacrifice and hardship;
  The Stranger felt honored being told.

It seems each time they had been nearly out,
  of all of their supplies,
they had prayed for abundance,
  and enough would appear before their eyes.
Their prayers, they said, had been answered,
  it had been a long time since The Stranger had seen,
people so anchored in their Faith,
  no matter that times were lean.

He saw, as they prepared for morning,
  that the larder was nearly bare;
yet they did not give a second thought,
  to sharing their meager fare.
The woman said there was enough flour,
  that in the morning they’d have a flap-jack feast;
then they gave him their bed, said “Merry Christmas”,
  and the Stranger felt happy and at peace.

When the woman awoke the next morning,
  The Stranger had been gone for an hour,
and in preparing for their Christmas breakfast,
  she went to get the flour.
She went into the pantry,
  and gave the barrel lid a pull,
and could not hold back a gasp,
  when she saw it, and the others, were full.

Now, there are scriptures I could quote you,
  of loaves and fishes and that God provides,
or the one about abundance,
  and through Him, being strengthened inside.
But the search that lies within us,
  teaches us, with Faith, we can persevere,
and that though Christ the Son, is often unseen,
 He is always standing right here.

No proof can I give you,
  just a book of promises that He made;
that the Father will never forsake us,
  and that His love never fades.
And there are those among us,
  who give their best with unselfish care;
and through their most innocent actions,
  have entertained Angels, unaware.

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at
 ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet.
Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events.


At nineteen degrees our breath freezes in the air as we walk to the barn. Inside the cold clings to us and makes us thankful for heavy coats and fleece liners. As we work we warm some, but still keep on our gloves and coats. How fortunate we are to have clothing to keep us warm, work to do and a place to live that sustains us. We have worked hard all year and earned this quiet time. We feed the horses and cattle; watch the steam rise from their backs as we hold our hands deep in warm pockets and revel in the goodness God has given us.

This time of year seals into our souls those things we treasure. Family, home and friends have more meaning when winter comes and we are snug and warm in our house with those we love around us. We are more thankful when the cold batters things about outside and we are sheltered against it. But while we gather in the barn, the elements so close to us, we know how little we need to truly make us happy.

As we stand in this old barn we are reminded of the first Christmas so long ago. The Christ Child had a manger for his bed, the animals bowed down before him and Kings lay gifts before His feet. It is easy to believe, for in this place we find our greatest peace each day. We need little when we know that Christ who rules our lives was born in surroundings as humble as these. A dirt floor, some hay to sleep on and loved ones close to Him and yet, He had all…and gave all. How could we want for more?

We stand in the icy air, lift up our eyes towards Heaven and thank God for the gift of His Son. We send our prayers skyward, our breath mixing with that of the livestock and we know that we have all we need. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  Luke 2:10

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html

Monday, December 13, 2010


“Dear Santa,

We’re remodeling, it’s a wreck you see,
  I want one thing or maybe two or three.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or real formal,
  just basics to make things feel normal.

This year can I have a kitchen floor,
  so I can let company through the door?
And some new walls would also be nice,
  to keep out little critters, wind and ice.

Would I be considered a Grinch,
  or perhaps a grabby, greedy louse,
If I just went ahead and said it,
  Santa, can I have a whole new house?

It doesn’t seem like Christmas
  with the remodeling mess and all;
I just want to be more organized,
  before the snow starts to fall.”

Then my friend Jimmie stopped by,
  and I apologized for the destruction,
She said “This mess is not a big deal,
  it’s just some temporary construction.”

“I didn’t come to see your house,
  I came here today to see you,
It will be done when it is done.
  Until then, God will see you through.”

So I laid my Santa letter aside,
  before I laid me down to sleep,
I asked the Lord to bless our friends,
  and their precious souls to keep.

Because they love us the way we are,
  despite circumstances and disruption;
Reminding us God’s love never fails,
  through our own temporary construction.

I think I will finish that letter now,
  to dear old Santa Claus,
And ask for something we all need,
  I hope it gives him pause.

“Dear Santa,
I’d like to ask you to please make sure,
  that people know this holiday season,
That this special day is called Christmas,
  and Christ the Son is the reason.”


RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


My buddy Heath once did a little deer hunting with a motorcycle. It wasn’t intentional, just one of those accidents that happen late at night on a country road. Unfortunately, it took a couple of years out of his life while he healed and got mobile again. But there is good in every situation. Heath had to sit still while he healed. No horseback riding, no motorcycles, no two-stepping; just lots of time to sit and think.

I am a hat wearing girl. Around home, to town, to events, while sitting at my desk (it’s a signal that I am not really there but have left to go to work) and I wear one when performing. I was even allowed to wear one on the Floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives when my buddies and I were invited to perform Cowboy Poetry there. A Cowboy hat is a symbol to me; a symbol of my culture, my family history and more important, I consider the Cowboy Hat a symbol of Freedom. (But that’s another story.)

Back-track nearly 5 years when Heath and I became friends and he gave me one of the handiest presents I have ever received. Having had my favorite hat crushed by a guitar case, I was not in a very good mood the day he called. He was looking for some Cowboy Poetry to put on his website. I scanned the site and called him back and told him he could use some of my poems. Then I told him what had happened to my hat and asked him about the Hat Lasso he had for sale on the site. He offered to send me one to try out. As my grand-daddy used to say, “It was better than sliced bread!” I have had one in every vehicle ever since. No drilling, no metal to leave marks on my hat, just the neatest little hat holder ever.

As Heath sat and healed, he worked on improving the Hat Lasso so as to make it easier to get your hat in and out of. I am now the owner of a new and improved Hat Lasso and I have to say it works great. Sometimes we just have to take a very bad situation and make something good out of it. Heath’s injuries made him have to sit still, but he didn’t waste that time. He took a good thing and made it better. He looked towards the future and knew he had to make changes in his life, and he did. He and Hat Lasso are both new and improved. I have decided to take a page from his book and think outside my world; a good idea for any of us in this day and age. Don’t let anything get you down, face forward and fear not!

As for Heath’s hunting abilities, he recently killed a pack-rat with a fishing rod; but that too, is a whole other story.

*Check out Hat Lasso at http://www.hatlasso.com/ 


RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


PHOTOS: Mammaw Guffey with one of her Great-Great-Grand-babies and in a Five Generation Photo with l-r front- Mammaw Guffey, Ruth Guffey Hill, back l-r -Great-Grest-Grandson Hoss Hill, Grandson David Hill, Son Grady Guffey and Great-Grand-Daughter Dara Hill Steele. (November 2009, Red Bank/Chattanooga, TN)

                A ROSE AMONG THORNS

We headed east from Oklahoma as soon as David made it in from Colorado. It was not how we planned on spending Thanksgiving, but life makes changes as it passes by. Our Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a package of sunflower seeds and a Hershey bar that were in the truck when we pulled out. It was enough though, because our minds and our hearts were not on feasting. We were going to Tennessee, not for Thanksgiving but to celebrate the life of my husband’s Mammaw Guffey. She danced through the gates of Heaven on Nov. 22nd at the age of 93.

In the last 30 years I have been allowed to claim her as my Mammaw too. To have been loved by her is my greatest honor. I am not always the easiest person to get along with. I told her someone had described me as prickly, but she put it in perspective. She told me that roses aren’t roses without thorns around them. We laughed that day, and it brings a smile to my face now as I thank God for all she was and all she will remain in our hearts. She loved us each and every one just the way we are. So, I remain a thorn among many and she…she was, and always will be Our Rose.


In our Family Garden,
  among the many blooms,
God sometimes stops to pick a flower,
  for one of His many rooms.

Among the colorful blossoms,
  the one perfect bud grows,
Our precious one and only,
  Mammaw Guffey, our treasured rose.

To those who love her,
  she is cheerful, bold and bright.
The heart of our garden,
  loving and full of light.

With a spirit true and perfect,
  she gives love and does try,
To give us each our wings,
  with which to soar and fly.

She stays in the garden,
  holding our place to come home to,
A place of hope and peace,
  for when the day is through.

And in all the beauty,
  of her garden when she’s alone,
She too, longs for her own wings,
  for which to fly her Home.

God heard her silent wish,
  He gave her wings to fly,
And took her soaring Heaven-ward,
with one...soft...sigh.

He looked down and considered,
  then carefully He chose,
And from our family garden,
  He picked our sweetest Rose.

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


The kitchen remodel continues slow but sure and my and Angela’s job this week was to make the supply run. Our mission was to search for and secure 10 lbs of three and a half inch deck screws. We ended up at the local farm and ranch store where luckily they had a ten percent off sale going on. Screws secured, discount taken and out the door we go! (Bonus…they were giving away free bags of freshly popped corn. Yum!)

Outside a group is selling chances on a restored Corvette and various other prizes. The group selling the chances turned out to be a square-dancing club. The ladies selling the chances were personable and charming with natural, infectious smiles. They played off of one another and laughed the kind of laughter that draws you in and causes you to laugh along. Angela and I bought 5 one dollar chances. The possibility of us winning the Corvette is next to none, but the tickets were worth every penny for the entertainment.

I mentioned that my Pappaw Gass used to call square dances. I remember listening to him when I was little, sometimes falling asleep laying on the edge of the stage. The sound of his voice mixed with the tunes of fiddle and guitar made for a cheerful, up-beat lull-a-bye. One lady took hold of my arm, looked me in the eyes and said, “Honey, you have to write that down; stories like that are gold. You have to tell that and write it down for your kids and grand-kids.”

So, I wrote it down and now you know that my grandfather called square dances. I will also share with you that I have a collection of his square-dance music records, some LPs and some 78s and an old book that belonged to him called “Cowboy Dances”. I will also tell you that he picked a little flat-top guitar and played a mean jaw-harp and had an incredible laugh that came from deep-down and made you laugh too. Just like those two delightful ladies.

On and off all weekend we talked about our grandfathers and the things we remembered about them. We shared and laughed and the work seemed to go faster. Tonight I thank God again for my good friends Angela, Mike, Peyton and April and all their help. I will thank Him also for two lovely ladies who caused me to remember my Pappaw and the music of my childhood. And as I lay me down to sleep I will think of my friend Tom who recently asked me, “While you’ve been working on that old house of yours, have you found any treasure?” Yes Tom, as a matter of fact we have; just yesterday we found gold.

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


Last night I raked up the loose hay in the east feed room. Then I stood there and breathed in that indescribable smell of good Oklahoma Bermuda/Bluestem and Colorado Alfalfa. It’s a smell that fills your senses and follows you for days. Men’s cologne should smell like this; rich, full, useful and nutritious. I would pay good money for that smell in a bottle.

It led me to consider other smells that might attract Ranch/Farm Women. Warm, cuddly puppy smell is nice. But how many men would agree to smell like a puppy? (Although I have met several who have worn cologne that reminded me of wet dog.) Freshly dry new foal is high on my list of favorite smells. Almost any horse smells as a matter of fact. Even horse sweat has its merits. Then there is saddle leather, real saddle leather, cleaned and rubbed down with oil; not that swamp water smelling stuff they sell at Christmas by showing a guy on a horse. My favorite, however, is the smell that clings to a coat on those sharply cold days where your breath hangs in the air; a blend of barn, feed and livestock mixed with tiny crystals of ice. It waifs into my senses, makes me close my eyes and quickens the pace of my heart as I breathe deep. It is the smell of honest, hard work. Real men already smell like this. We do not have to go in search of it. It is here, where we live. It is land, livestock, love and home in one sniff.

My Grandmother used to joke that all men should smell like Lincoln Continental cars and one hundred dollar bills. That too might be nice, that is, if we can change the vehicle to a Chevy 4-wheel drive, Duramax crew cab one ton. But I still think I would prefer those afore mentioned smells.

Husband detests all women’s perfume. He believes in addition to no smoking ordinances that there should also be no perfume zones. When I asked him what women’s perfume should smell like he instantly answered, “That’s easy! Perfume should smell like fried chicken and German Chocolate cake. Or cocoanut pie…yeah, pie, that would be good too.” Then he wandered out of the room muttering something about bacon sandwiches, chili, fried catfish and butterscotch pudding, but by then I wasn’t really listening. I was hatching a business plan.

If only I had known it was just that simple to smell attractive to a man! I think I will make my own signature scent. I’m going to call my new line ‘Yummy’. I’ll get a really pretty bottle, go into the kitchen and mix up my patent pending secret recipe. A few teaspoons of vanilla, a hint of cocoanut, three pinches of chocolate and a dash of chicken drippings! Since I am sure it will be immensely popular, with husbands everywhere who will be buying it up as gifts for their wives, I will need to have more than one scent. At this point I am considering replacing chicken drippings with bacon grease, chili powder and the oil you fry fish in. And actually, that butterscotch kind wouldn’t be bad on a guy either.

This is totally not where I was going with this when I started writing; but just like with the rest of ranch life, you learn to go with the flow…or in this case, with the smell!

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


This has not been one of those weekends I call fun. My friends Angela and Mike came up and we started pulling up my kitchen floor. It had sunk over an inch on the north side over the last 16 years and it was time to find out what was wrong under our 100 plus year old kitchen. Ripping up the floor was not the hard part as the wood was so rotted in places that I could not believe someone had not fallen through the floor. Water and old termite damage had taken its toll and the stem wall was like paper. So a weekend project has become a heaven-only-knows-when-there-goes-the-budget project.

My body hurt, my mind was reeling at what lies ahead and my general mood was one of ‘why is it everything is always a major production around here?’ Oh, I know why…Murphy’s Law strikes again! Any trace of my sense of humor went the door with the rotted flooring.

We ran into town to get some supplies and when we got back my daughter was there. She had come to feed the horses and while feeding the two miniatures had discovered that a mouse had chewed through the rubber bin that holds their oats. As she was explaining all of this to me I noticed that her shirt was wet as well as her hair around her face. She said the mouse was still in what was left of the oats and she shook the bin to disorient him and tried to hit him and missed. Her second attempt was successful and she smashed him, which brought her to why she was wet. When she hit him his destructive rodent guts had splattered up and across her shirt and her face. “What did you hit him with?” I inquired. With a sheepish grin she answered “I hit him with the sledge hammer.”

My perspective began to change. My situation paled in comparison to what had just happened to her. “You hit him with a what?” (a giggle from me) “The sledge hammer, Mom.” (a bigger giggle from her). “His guts hit you in the face?” (another giggle) “Yup, he just exploded.” We looked at one another, at Angela and Mike and then there was another explosion…of laughter. Peels of hysterical laughter and snickers, giggles, guffaws and that sputtering noise we make when trying, unsuccessfully, to straighten up and not laugh anymore.

This is what I learned this weekend: Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. I have great two friends willing to give up not just one, but however many weekends it takes to help me fix my house. I have a wonderful, responsible, Ranch Diva daughter with an iron stomach who is not afraid of anything. I also learned that Murphy’s Law which has always applied to me now applies to my precious daughter whom I love, but will not be kissing on the cheek any time soon.

I’m getting a remodeled kitchen…sooner or later. Life is good!

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


Will we actually have a real fall this year? For the last several years we have gone from 100 degree days to below 40 in a matter of weeks. This morning I sit here on the east porch in the cool air while enjoying a cup of hot tea. I love when the mornings are cool enough to start drinking hot tea. Something about wrapping my hands around a warm cup conjures images of sitting around a campfire. I scan the trees for a slight change in color in the leaves and pray for a real fall.

As the mares and babies come up to the east pasture for breakfast I am reminded that it is weaning time. We wait for the cooler days to wean as it seems to stress both mothers and babies less. It does not stress me less however. I feel deep sympathy for the mares as they stand at the gate and call for their offspring. This year will be worse as my daughter married this year and lives south of us. I see her nearly every day, but she is not here full time. I know she is safe with the wonderful man she married, but I do not know where she is at all times as I once did. My desire to protect her, to keep her in my sight is much like the mares’ own fears that cause them to call out for days. My heart goes out to them.

Suddenly I lose my desire for fall. Can summer not stay? Can things not remain as they are a little longer? Of course not; life marches on and we must move with it, like it or not.

Tomorrow I will call my daughter and she will come and we will separate the mares and babies. Until then, I will sit and wrap my hands around the warm cup and listen to the wind. “Fall, is coming”, it whispers. I sigh and get ready to march.

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


Each year October seems to scurry past at full speed. There is no time to enjoy the days of fall; we are consumed with getting ready for winter. Tank heaters needing to be tested and put in, hay and grain stocked, tack cleaned and oiled for foul weather, animal medical kits replenished, barn secured and horses that have run free across the large pasture brought in closer. Add to this a major house renovation, Husband announcing he would be spending another 3-5 years working in Colorado, Daughter and Her Husband trying to renovate their own older home, a three and a half year old grandson who needs attention and other family obligations. Over-whelmed is an understatement of life around here at present. I suppose the good thing is that I am not alone. I know so many other folks going through their own version of ‘life over-extended’.

Once, long ago lived a girl named Debra who was young and bullet-proof; ahhh…I remember her fondly. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, she was ready to take on the world at a moment’s notice. Lately though she has begun to realize that she has limitations. Her body has started to complain of past auto accidents, cancer surgeries, horse wrecks and sleep deprivation. Her once sharp wit has dulled to where she finds herself many hours later, with the perfect come-back line. She also knows she possesses certain things, like truck keys, a hammer and a sewing box but is never quite sure where they are. Tired and sleepy, she does not sleep once she crawls into bed because her mind is racing with all the things left undone that MUST be done before winter sets in. And again she realizes that she is not alone, there are so many other people like her who are rushed, extended beyond their means and tired of holding it all together while seeing little return.

Once, long ago on a very cold day, an angel walked into a busy Tulsa intersection where Husband was holding a survey rod while dodging traffic as part of a job he was not happy with. She handed him a small piece of blue paper and said “I’m supposed to give you this.” He took what she was holding out to him, glanced towards his instrument man and then back to her. She was gone and in his hand was a nickel coin wrapper. On it were two things; ‘Isa. 41.13’ and ‘Jer.29.11’. He stuck them in his pocket and went back to work. When he got home he went straight to the Bible and looked them up. Then he came to the kitchen to talk to me. He had been thinking about quitting his job and taking a job in another state. He considered this is sign; a promise from God that everything would be alright if he just walked in faith. Husband did quit, we did move and though life has its moments, those two little scriptures scribbled on a coin wrapper have cheered us and sustained us through the ups and the downs that the world has thrown at us.

So today, when I thought I just couldn’t possibly put up with one more job to do, with one more whine or complaint or with one more ache or pain, I opened our Bible, took out the coin wrapper and read those scriptures. Isaiah: 41.13 - For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say unto you, “Fear not, I will help you”. And Jeremiah:29.11 - For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Yes, I am feeling much better now. I slept well, I have a more certain outlook and just like long ago, I am ready to take on the world. Oh, I’m not saying I won’t get over-whelmed again; I am practically sure I will. But in between the pages of the Bible is a coin wrapper with two of many promises that He, has made to me…to all of us, who live close to the land and to Him.

So bring it on winter! I have my family, my home and His promises. Who could ask for anything more?

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


I see him sometimes in some old cowboy or another. Maybe he is walking down the street or getting into a truck at a gas station. I recognize that beat-up hat, the faded jean jacket or the limp. Yes, I know he is gone these many years, but I catch glimpses of him here and there. Mostly I have noticed that I think I see him when I am unsure of my own direction. Remembering him sets me straight and reminds me that sometimes you just have to stand up and face the bull.

He was just a stove-up old cowboy,
  who only drank to ease the pain,
And he really didn’t need it,
  except when it was cold or gonna’ rain.

He’d spent his life bull-ridin’,
  until he had that wreck,
The bull threw him high, he came down hard,
  and busted his legs all to heck.
He’d been my Daddy’s best friend,
  up until the day my Daddy died,
They rodeo’ed together,
  at the funeral, he cried.

I’d see him every now and again,
  at one or another rodeo,
He always had kind words for me,
  acted like he hated to see me go.

He gave me my first pony,
  and a saddle with a dally horn;
They say he drove my Mamma to town,
  the icy night that I was born.

I heard he’d talk about me,
  and only had good things to say,
He never told me to my face,
  but I knew that was just his way.

It came as a surprise to me,
  when I heard that he was dead,
I couldn’t forget the last time I saw him,
or the last thing he ever said...

“I wish you’d been my own son,
  I’m proud to know ya’ as a man,
I wanted to say ‘I love ya’,
  while I’m sober, and I can.”

Then he turned and strode off,
  and his back seemed straight and strong,
I’m not real sure, but I’d have sworn
  that limp of his was gone.

So, on those nights when I’m alone,
  and hurt gets in my way,
I think of him and the guts it took,
  to say what he had to say.

And now, when I see an old Cowboy,
  a little drunk and broken down,
I stop and listen to the stories he tells,
  ‘cause I know he’s been around.

And Somewhere, Jake is bull-ridin’,
  hittin’ in the eighties on every ride,
Young , Free, and Wild again,
  in that place, called The Other Side.

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html

RIDING DRAG / Coordinated

My family laughs at me for buying duct tape in different colors. I take their ribbing with a grain of salt; but I have only one question. If pink and yellow duct tape is so humorous to you guys, why is it that the colored ones are always the rolls missing from my tool kit and truck?

I cannot explain my fascination with colored tape. It must be a girl thing, like high heels and nail polish. It makes me feel coordinated. I was going to say ‘stylish’ but that really isn’t true and might make me sound a little strange. I have a hidden stash of various colors of rolls, but don’t count on me revealing where it is hidden as it is a closely guarded secret along with where I hide the chocolate covered caramels and a bottle of emergency Dr. Pepper.
I have fixed more things than I count with colored tape. There have been repairs to radiator hoses, camper windows, tarps and toys with blue while yellow fixed a swing, a slicker and was made into a make-shift dog water bowl. Then there was white which fixed clogging shoes and purple which repaired a tear in a stage curtain. The weed-eater repair was inspired as I had no orange and instead used black in tribute to OSU. (Not because I am a football fan but because it makes my OU graduate cousin crazy to see orange and black.) I’ve used to it fix a tent, boots, a purse, the porch light, a bike tire, a lamp, made the kids book covers, hats and a basket when we were at an Easter egg hunt and had left theirs at home.

The veterinary uses are endless from wrapping a packed hoof to keep it dry to temporary tags on calves being sorted to different pens for shots and weaning. I used it to wrap my fractured wrist years ago when my cast crumbled after it got wet while I was feeding. And I once used it instead of stitches on my knee and barely have a scar. I heard you could use it as a beauty aid by substituting it when waxing your legs but I think that would truly be going too far. Still, I can’t imagine doing without it around here as I use practically every day.

Just because I purchase a wide variety of colors for a wide variety of types of uses, doesn’t mean I am strange or obsessive. I like to think I am creative and resourceful. I also think that I do not have to explain myself as I have no truly bad habits other than not being able to pass up a new color of duct tape and collecting pennies you mash in those machines at tourist places.

I’m prepared to take the ribbing and smile when they call me the ‘duct tape queen’. But as Queen I demand some respect. After all, it is my tape that fixes your stuff. So listen up family of mine! I know that deer season is coming up and that you have deer blinds in need of repair, but someone had better make sure my new roll of camouflage tape is returned unharmed, ASAP! You have twenty-four hours. If it is not back in my possession please make sure you have something you can use to cut through 6 layers of pink tape (it was on sale so I bought a case) which I will use to seal the doors of your truck with your deer rifle inside. I’m not sure how many layers it will be wrapped in, but be aware that I recently found four rolls of fluorescent lime green. Not so funny now, is it?

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


I was feeling a little over-whelmed earlier today when I started making a mental list of all the things I have to do in the next weeks to come. After transferring the list to paper because there was too much to remember otherwise, I realized that I have a common ranch-wife condition. ‘Too many irons in the fire’ is a malady common to many of those of us who live a rural lifestyle.

It starts innocently enough; “Can you make the feed run?”-sure, “Can you design a new sale flyer?”-sure, “Can you sell stuff for the fundraiser, clean out that shed so the calves can get in, wash and vacuum the truck, get the tractor serviced, iron me some shirts and jeans, look up some internet information for me, get the dogs their shots, take the baby to his Dr. appointment, see how much Bermuda sprigs will be next spring, go get lumber for the trailer project, go back and get screws, caulk and saw-blades, put the new filters in the fridge, trucks and heat-pump, feed all those guys coming over to look at horses AND by the way, can you run by the bank and set the mouse traps in the feed room?”-SURE.

We say ‘Sure’ because it is easier than explaining why we can’t or even why we don’t want to. We also say it because we all think we are Superwoman. It’s not that we really believe we are, but because most of us are raised by women who we know without a doubt truly are or were Superwoman. We marry men who work as hard as we do and we wouldn’t think of not holding up our end. We also have kids who work hard and as mother’s we will do anything to lighten their loads. And don’t get us started on what we will do to make things go well for our grand-kids.

Friends are another matter as most of us have friends just like us, who wouldn’t dream of adding fuel to the fire where all our irons are heating up. They ‘get it’ and will do anything to help us, thus adding another iron to their own fire.

I was going to write a cute little poem about the Superwomen I know, but after doing all the things I said ‘sure’ to I still have my own set of irons to take care of before bed. Dishes, laundry, letters and bills to go out tomorrow, trash needs taking out…oh, and writing and sending this column, all hopefully will be done before midnight. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Super-Ranch Woman! Is that a branding iron in her hand?

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


After the recent loss of our old Kelpie cow-dog MiMi, I received a lovely condolence letter and some poetry from one of my readers in Albion, NE. She said I wouldn’t know her from a bale of hay but that they had raised farm dogs since 1945 and she wanted to share a couple of pieces of poetry with me. They couldn’t have come at a better time. It has been a month since MiMi passed through the gates and it is finally hitting home that she is really gone. The opossums have grown bold and come up to feed from the cat bowl and we miss having her warn us of approaching storms. There is a hole we can never fill.

No, I don’t know Donna from a bale of hay, but is because of people like her that I write each week. Our lives as stewards of land, livestock and ranch critters are filled with stories worthy of being told. These tales of truth document people and animals that comprise rural America and preserve a way of life vital to this country of ours. With this in mind, I dedicate this week’s column to Donna M. and I thank her for her lovely expression of sympathy.

*Tuff pads across the hot gravel at the end of the drive, his shadow following long and lean. He is old this dog. I do not say “this dog of mine”, for he is independent; owns me more than I own him. No longer youthful, he has long ago given up chasing rabbits, so Mr. Bunny sits among the nasturtiums and gobbles the bright blossoms.

At the corner of the garden Tuff pauses to drink from the old turkey roasting pan left just where the leaky faucet can drip fresh water all day. I could fix it, make it like new and save on the water bill; but then who would make sure he has a cool drink when I am away? My day job is in town now; an office position taken when the horse market went thin and kept ‘just in case’.

Tuff used to lie at my feet where-ever I was. His rhythmic panting setting the pace as I went about my chores. We were constant and consistent comrades and I missed him once the job started. I snuck him to work once when I thought the Boss would be gone all day. Tuff lay beneath my desk, his head on the toe of my boot, content like the old days to just be touching me. As co-conspirators we’d have gotten away with it too, if the Boss and his son hadn’t showed up late in the afternoon.

Tuff could ignore the Boss, but he doesn’t like the son, so he stuck his head out and growled real low. I made the excuse that I had to take him to the veterinarian immediately after work and needed to save gas and time by not back-tracking home. The Boss said it was ok just this once and petted Tuff, while his son said he never could understand why dogs don’t like him much. I allowed that some dogs are just that way and they went on about their business. Tuff and me, we know the truth and agree that some folks just deserve growling at.

I watch as Tuff settles on his rug on the side porch and stares off towards the east pasture where the cows and calves used to stand in the shade. Sometimes I think he misses them and that he is reflecting on the old days, when he was a real jaw-snappin’ cow-dog with the world by the tail. Maybe it’s just me, sliding into old memories of when I was just as young and bullet proof.

The sun shifts and I realize it is getting late. I drive on down from the top of the hill where I have been watching and stop at the gate to pick up the mail. Tuff’s ears go up and he races across the yard and circles the fence to meet me. I open the truck door and he jumps up and wiggles in next to me. As I shut the door he sticks his head out the window. To anyone coming along our road it looks like he is driving; our little joke on passers-by.

I park by the chutes and like a young pup Tuff bounds out of the truck, barrels full speed across the yard and barks at the rabbit in the flower bed. I smile at his attempt to fool me into believing he stays on guard all day. I praise him, call him ‘good dawg’ and laugh as he picks up his rug and shakes it.

He dashes a few feet ahead of me as I follow a nightly routine of walking to the barn to feed the horses. His shadow and mine mix together and form a creature of mythological proportion. Looking back to where I lag behind, he pauses and waits for me. I envy his patience, his contentment with his life as it is; find comfort in his unconditional companionship. I catch up and we walk on, two shadows before us, touching now and then in that familiar way of kindred spirits.

I like to think that the road to Heaven’s gate is like this; an easy walk along a frequented path with a good friend. In these long-shadow days it is comforting to know there is someone there who loves us for no other reason than we are consistently there. As evening falls and the shadows stretch out far ahead of us I realize something. They do not show age. They are as we were. And with Tuff by my side, that is enough.

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html


In a time when so many women are complaining about what worthless men they are married to I would like to take this opportunity to voice my own complaint about the man I married. It really gripes me that he always gets his anniversary card for me into the mail and to me before our actual anniversary! There, I said it and I mean it! It’s not that I don’t get him a card because I do. It is sitting right here beside my computer and I had every intent to get it into the mail in time this year, but you all know how I am about good intentions.

Thirty years ago I met Husband (yes, he still refuses to be called by name in my column) at a birthday party. I was not impressed with him until we started talking and realized we had friends on common and that when we were kids we went to the same church where my uncle was preaching revivals. I also found out that he loved going to farm auctions, junk stores, cocoanut pie and old people. (He can spend hours listening and absorbing.)

We didn’t ever really date. Our ‘dates’ usually consisted of the two of us working out at the farm in Louisburg or him working extra hours for a portable building company. His proposal consisted of, “Hey, do you realize if we got married that my car insurance would go down $125 every six months? That would give us $250 a year to do something fun with. So, do you want to?” I told him he was an idiot and to get away from me. Over the next couple of weeks my best friend Chris told me I was the idiot and that I should take him up on the offer even if it wasn’t a very romantic proposal. “He’s practical and careful with his money. You won’t ever have to support him like you did your first one. Besides, he follows you around like you are queen and does all your dirty jobs around here for you.” She was right and I am forever grateful to her for her advice.

Twenty-nine years ago we got married in a Texas courthouse in a ceremony officiated by a judge who hadn’t married anyone in 20 years, his secretary as one witness and the fish & game officer (who showed up to turn in tickets for fishing without a license that he had written that day) as the other witness. It was 105 degrees and the air-conditioning in the courthouse was out. We laughed through the ceremony as sweat dripped off our faces, accepted the well-wishes of our impromptu wedding party and had our wedding lunch at a place called ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’ across the street. There was no honeymoon as we had not yet saved the $250 from the insurance going down. Instead we drove to Oklahoma to tell my folks that we had gotten married.

He was my friend before I married him. He is my friend now. We do not always agree but we know where to draw the line. He works on the road and is gone out of state a lot and I accept that because his hard work all these years has afforded me the luxury of staying home to raise our kids and now our grand-son. He trusts my judgment in running the ranch and gives me free hand in all decisions. He understands my afflictions and addictions (writing and horses), he is the best Dad and Paw-Paw ever and he has an ordained ability with horses. There is plenty there to like and even more to love.

I could go on, but I was supposed to be complaining about his faults. Let’s see…where was I? Oh yes, there’s that card thing AND when it comes to gift giving he can never seem to buy me clothes that fit. He seems to think I am still a size 10. Sheesh girls! What is his problem?

Is he perfect? No. Is he a real Keeper? Yes.

Thank you, Husband, for twenty-nine years of sharing, working, dreaming, laughing and darned little to complain about! And thank you, for still being my friend. By the way, I spent that $250 insurance savings on an airline ticket. Guess where I’ll be flying to come Sept. 5th? Happy Anniversary!

*Contact Debra Coppinger Hill at ridingdrag@gmail.com

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html