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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

RIDING DRAG / Transformation



They say when you live with someone for a long enough period of time that you will eventually become very much alike. I have a hard time believing this as Husband and I have been married almost thirty-one years and we are really nothing alike. For example, he loves fish and I would rather go hungry than to eat fish in any form or fashion. He can watch bull-riding for hours and after three or four rides I pretty much have the idea and go on to something else. I read anything and everything in print and he considers reading (unless it is about bull-riding or horses) a huge waste of his time.

But yesterday we found common ground while out working in the yard. It seems as if flies blossomed over-night. One day we were sitting on the porch enjoying the evenings and the next flies of every type and size were tormenting us the moment we walked outdoors. Our hatred of flies is one way that we are very much alike. We detest them so much that we have actually given one another decorative fly swatters as gifts.

I have been trying to finish planting the rest of my garden and was hard at work last evening when a large, good-old-fashioned horse-fly began to torture me. It landed on the back of my knee, so I stomped my leg. It flew up and landed on my cheek so I shook my head to get it off and shimmied it off of my shoulders. Repeatedly it landed on me; first one place and then another. I shook and blew and moved around trying my best to avoid the little devil.

You know that spot on your back that you just can’t reach when it itches? In the very middle just below your shoulders and higher than the small of your back that is inaccessible no matter how you twist or turn, no matter how you contort your torso or your arms. That is where it landed next and to add to the aggravation, it began to bite me! To have a horse-fly biting with all its might just out of reach adds injury to insult! I twisted, I turned, I hopped about and I shook some more, all to no avail.

Some of you know that I have hair that goes down below my pockets. As a rule, when I am working outside I keep it in a long braid. This braid was hanging over the front of my right shoulder, and without thinking I grabbed it and slapped it over my shoulder hitting that unreachable spot on my back. I knocked the fly to the ground where I was able to give it a good stomp. “Way to go there Sheza,” quipped Husband. (Note: Sheza is my paint mare and has the longest tail of any horse on the ranch and is seldom tormented very long by any fly.)

I was about to snipe something back when it occurred to me that he was right. I have spent thirty-one years with him, but I have spent my entire fifty-five years with horses. I have become very much like them. I am a creature of habit when it comes to feeding time with two of my favourite foods being oatmeal in the mornings and corn pudding at night. I am more comfortable in a herd of like beings and I respect pecking order and age. I can carry a heavy load and I do not mind pulling my fair share. And last night I proved I can swat a fly with my ‘tail’. Looks like that old saying is true; over time we have become very much alike. I guess it could be worse and I could be more like Husband after all these years. He has a long, thick moustache and instead of a ‘tail’, I could be growing one of those instead. Thank God for small favours!

*For more about Debra go to the Cowboy Poetry section at AlwaysCowboy.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 and Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html



Sitting here listening to it rain and thinking about how much good this will do the garden. I knew it would rain because my hay guy started talking about cutting and baling. Never fails! Come on rain anyway!

Read Debra's Cowboy Poetry at http://alwayscowboy.net
Read Debra's Weekly Column RIDING DRAG at http://ridingdrag.blogspot.com

Monday, May 21, 2012


Riding Drag with Debra Coppinger Hill

Sixteen years ago I was asked if my column could run in a paper called the Cowboy Gazette. The Gazette was put out monthly by the Great Falls Rodeo Club and their faculty advisor and editor for the paper was Jeff Streeby. Over the years we have become great pals. Jeff and his wife raise good horses and good kids and such as we did the same we had a great deal in common. Even more, Jeff is an incredible writer. I have been fortunate to have been allowed to do a great many first reads of Jeff’s poetry and character sketches for his book Sunday Creek.

I have waited a long time to see this book in print and my patience has been rewarded. Sunday Creek is now available at Amazon.com. If you search Jeff Streeby, Sunday Creek you too will be rewarded. I recommend this book; no, I insist that you get it. It is a masterful piece of Western literature. Based in the mythical Montana town of Sunday Creek the residents are all based on actual characters of the old West. Their posthumous dialogues weave together a story of pioneers, miners, cowboys, western businessmen, lady entrepreneurs, wagon trains, soldiers and Native Americans. Below is one of my favourite pieces, young cowboy Wiley Rawlins.

Wiley Rawlins
I pulled my weight like all the rest--
rode the outside circle on the roundup in the broken country east of Sunday Creek--
did rough service for my outfit in the breaking pen
twisting the wild out of snuffy broncs--
stood my turn at guard under Montana stars thick as snowflakes--
and no complaint--
rode a freight train to Chicago once when Nedringhaus shipped steers--
At 22, I'd had my share of fun--
And then topping a rise one bright August afternoon
wondering at the length of shadow that we, man and horse, cast down the hillside,
the world went white and hot at once
and I, my last flash of wit caught in the like instant when flint strikes steel,
tried to say

"By God. Lightning."

Who'd have thought?

*Jeff Streeby

*For more about Debra go to the Cowboy Poetry section at AlwaysCowboy.com. You can also see more by Jeff in the Cowboy Poetry section there or at JeffStreeby.com  

Go to Amazon and order your copy of Sunday Creek!

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

RIDING DRAG / My Mother's Tatted Lace

To this day my Mother’s hands are never idle. She tatted the lace for my daughter’s wedding handkerchief and crosses that she gives to others. She never has to look at her hands, but I have watched them and listened to the song of the shuttle for hours on end.

Tatted Lace
     Her hands were never idle,
she could quilt, and she could sew.
She made the clothes, that we wore,
and the curtains for the window.

She could make something out of nothing,
it appeared as if from thin air,
And each thing, that she made us,
was filled with love and care.

 The materials came from feed sacks,
opened and washed, then neatly pressed,
And from odd bolt ends of yard goods,
into which she made our Sunday best.

To make it all so special,
make a feed sack dress stylish and grand,
She edged it with the finest lace,
that she tatted herself, by hand.

We’d watch the balls of ecru thread unwind,
as her magic, she did weave,
The shuttle moving at a pace so quick,
our eyes it would deceive.

We watched her tat for hours,
and a certain peacefulness it did bring,
Drifting to sleep at her knee,
the clicking shuttle, a lull-a-bye would sing.

I’m grown and can afford store-bought clothes,
the very best money can buy.
But I never find anything that I like,
and I’ve begun to understand why.

The workmanship cannot compare,
to that crafted by her hands.
For I still have pieces of that lace,
and the test of time, it does withstand.

And like the love she put in it,
when she crafted it for me,
I know where-ever I am in the world,
there also, She will be.

And in the twilight, through the window,
I still see her hands and face,
The shuttle clicking to and fro...
making tatted lace.

*For more about Debra go to the Cowboy Poetry section at AlwaysCowboy.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, Events. http://alwayscowboy.net/debra_coppinger_hill_poetry.html

Thursday, May 10, 2012



The first time you see her, she will steal your soul away,
And replace it with a being of her own,
Her white sands will glisten, underneath turquoise skies,
And make your heart always long, for New Mexico.

There is magic in her mountains, secrets in her sage,
A special kind of wisdom, that only comes with age.
The music of her canyons, will echo and roll,
And fill your life with desire, for New Mexico.

She'll captivate your spirit, keep it in possession there,
No matter where you are, you smell cedar in the air.
The song she sings you, comes from long ago,
And haunts you with a passion, for New Mexico.

You understand the stillness, of a desert afternoon,
You're enchanted by the beauty, of yucca in bloom,
As you wonder at the colors, transformed by the sun's glow,
Your thoughts are of being, in New Mexico.

Voices of the past, warriors and pioneers,
Urge you with their stories, of laughter and tears.
An unsettled feeling, is all you have to show,
As you roam familiar trails, back to New Mexico.

Some will call her savage, some will call her wild,
In ever fleeting shadows, she remains but a child.
This boldness of character is restless and untamed,
Gentled only by The Power, that takes on many names.

You'll hear her in the night, when Westward breezes blow,
And to fill that empty feeling, you know you have to go,
For once you hold her in your eyes, nothing else can make you whole,
And you're never really home again, until you're in New Mexico.

 ©1999 Debra Coppinger Hill, All Rights Reserved


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

"ALWAYS COWBOY: For Those Who Live the West and For Those Who Dream of Living It!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

RIDING DRAG / Creak Speak



When we walk through our house the floor makes a creaking sound. It is the same sound that was made by the floors in my great-grandmother’s house in Keifer, our cousin’s homesteaded house in Mangum, my husband’s grandmother’s house in Red Bank, Tennessee and a myriad of other old houses that we have lived in across the years. It was that sound that attracted us to this 107 year old house that we live in now. It is a soft creak; a sound that says “Other’s have lived here and called this place home; you call it home too. Be safe and comfortable here.”

When we first moved here we knew we would have to do some extensive remodelling work. We even considered applying for one of those home makeovers when that program was still on television. Then, instead of remodelling, we saw that they simply bull-dozed the houses they were renovating and started from scratch and our hearts sank. Bulldoze the history here? Never! This house is partially built on what was once a trading post. The stories people have shared with us about their great-grandparents trading here are golden. The stories of the people just prior to us, who lived here for fifty-one years, are priceless. She was a nurse of 42 years who talked a retired doctor into coming and running a clinic for the farm families of this area and he a farmer himself. The WPA built our terraces and put in the “Eleanor” outhouse; named so in honour of a program put in place by Eleanor Roosevelt so that all rural homes would have a sanitary facility. The concrete base sits in the yard. It would be a sin to bulldoze that kind of history.

So alone and other times with the help of family and friends, we have remodelled ourselves on and off for fifteen years. Behind the barn wood panelling  in the master bedroom there is an area where we traced our hand prints, the hands of our children, the paw prints of our three dogs of the time, the hand prints of the friends and family who came and helped. It is dated and everyone signed their names. I added a poem and my kids drew pictures. Then we sealed it up with the last of the panelling. Each room we have re-done has a similar hidden message inside a wall, between the flooring and the sub-floor and even written on floor-joists and new stem-walls. Little hand prints of our children grew as we went and our family history is played out in story and rhyme. We know it is there and with luck, a hundred years from now, no one else will know it is there because this house will still be standing.

With all the work we have done, we still have been unable to stop the creaking in the floors. This is not a big deal to us; it is how the house talks to us, reminds us we are part of its history. In the quiet of night, when one of us gets up and walks through the house softly it says “Creak” and stories unfold. “Creak”, it says. “Children played here. Creak. Families were raised here. Creak. People loved and prayed here. Creak. I am a home.”  Why would we ever want to change that? We wouldn’t. And we won’t. “Creak!”

*For more about Debra go to the Cowboy Poetry section at AlwaysCowboy.com.

This is Our Eleanor, a concrete outhouse base that was built during the Roosevelt administration and named in Honour of his wife Eleanor Roosevelt who promoted a program that would make sanitary facilities available to rural homes. We have had people stop by to take photos because we are on an "Out-house Tour" as explained by one of the van driver's. We are on an out-house registry and have been given a membership in an Out-houses of America listing as well as having one lady send us the plans for rebuilding the exterior historically accurate. Eleanor sits near the drive (To make it easier for the Out-house tourists to get photos.) and my plans this year were to have Husband move her into the side yard where I planned to make her into a decorative 'flower-pot' (pun totally intended). However, Mommie Cat saw fit to have her babies in here so all moving and planting plans are temporarily on hold. And yes, the rusty old tactor seat is on there because someone told me it really needed some sort of a seat.

"Ride Hard, Laugh Often, Live Free!
Debra Coppinger Hill

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

RIDING DRAG / Snakes in My Decolletage

* The following is a reprint of one of my past Riding Drag columns. Today I am dedicating it to my wonderful Cowgirl Poet Pals Linda Kirkpartick and Virginia Bennett.

Snakes in My D├ęcolletage

 When it’s cold I dress in the height of rural western fashion Carhartt® insulated overalls and coat. Though my insulated underwear beneath might not match, I am totally coordinated in tan canvas as I make my way to the barn through mud and ice. As I go about the morning feeding of horses, cattle, goat, cats and dogs I consider myself fortunate to be living my life as a ranch woman.

I try to do my chores efficiently, using as few steps as possible and wasting little time. To save trips back to the barn I leave the shoulder straps of my overalls loose, forming a chest pocket into which I stick supplements, tools, etc. as I go about feeding the mares nearest the barn.

This morning I walked into the feed room, reached up and pulled down a square bale of hay. Stretching higher up for a second bale I pulled it towards me, tilting it against my chest for balance. It was early morning and it was dark...but not so dark that I couldn’t see the snake on the other end of the bale. I started to step back to allow the bale to just fall when my legs encountered the previously dumped bale. I sat down with the second bale square against my chest. As the snake slid forward, I swear to you, not since Eve in the Garden had a snake smiled in such a mischievous way.

I am not afraid of snakes. I have a healthy respect for them; especially when I have a hoe or shovel in my hands. As I pushed the bale away the snake slid tail first into the "pocket" of my overalls. At this point I would like to tell you that I was calm and used lady-like language; however, that would be a bold-faced lie. Falling off the first bale onto my back I had a sudden flash of what it must be like to be a turtle. Thick, insulated clothes make it very hard for short, round women to get back up once they are in a prone position. Grabbing the wire of the bale, I managed to turn myself over and get to my feet. Once standing I began "the zipper dance". You know the steps...pull, tug, pull, stomp, pull, pull, pull!

I made my way out of the feed room and into the corral. Gathering my wits, I grasped the top of the zipper and the tongue and moved the zipper on the front of my overalls about halfway down. Unfortunately, this also loosened them at the waist and instead of falling out as I had hoped; Mr. Snake proceeded down into the left leg of the overalls, which fit me just snug enough that I could feel his every movement. Hope springs eternal when you are in a desperate situation; I figured he would go on down and would simply fall out the bottom of the leg of his insulated prison. That, was entirely too optimistic on my part. It was wet and muddy and I had pulled on my big rubber boots, with the bottoms of my overalls securely tucked inside.

As I danced about, my daughter came around the corner of the barn. Throwing myself onto my back in the muck of the corral I shouted, "Quick, peel me out of these overalls! Snake! Snake! Snake!" Kicking and struggling with the side zipper on the leg, I awaited her help; but she was nowhere to be seen! The mental image of a turtle on its back once again invaded my mind. As I screamed her name I saw her coming from the barn with a hoe and looking at the ground. "Where, Mom? Where?!" she kept asking.


Grasping my boots she tossed them aside and began to tug at my overalls, which were still secured by their straps over my shoulders…inside my coat. I was grappling with the coat while my daughter dragged me around the muddy corral. I had the sudden realization that I was a turtle on its back and had the irrational thought "What would a turtle do?" (However, pulling my head in and ignoring the situation was not an option at this point.)

"COAT!" I screamed, "OFF!" Fortunately my daughter speaks fluent screech and was able to translate my cries into directions. Sitting me up, she jerked my coat off and returned to tugging at the legs of my overalls. With one industrious yank they came off and as they flew into the air, so did the snake.

I love old Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons, especially when impending disaster is played out in slow motion. This is the first time in my life that real time took on all the qualities of that poor Coyote having a boulder fall off a cliff onto him. The snake flew up, went into a stall, hung momentarily (still smiling, I assure you), curled into position, straightened out like an Olympic diver and propelled himself straight onto my stomach! My daughter, also in slow motion, watched the snake go up and down and made one comment, "Duh-ang!"

Rolling to one side I dumped the snake into the mud, grasped a panel, scrambled to my feet and grabbed the hoe. I would like to tell you again that I was very lady-like and magnanimous and that I allowed Mr. Snake to make his escape unscathed. This also, would be a lie. I do believe however, that when Mr. Snake got to reptile heaven he told the gatekeeper that he was dispatched from earth by a United States Marine Corp drill instructor wearing muddy long johns and socks wielding a sharp hoe like a machete. I will admit I may have over-reacted a teeny bit, as Mr. Snake vaguely resembled stir-fry when I was done.

My husband made it in from his latest job in the Gulf and went out to do the evening feeding. I had not related the day’s events to him as I was in the shower for the second time that day. (More mud, a skittish bottle calf, you get the picture.) Fortunately for me, my daughter was with a friend and had not regaled her father with her version. (Which differs slightly from mine…I did not pummel the snake with my fists nor did I shout, "This is for women everywhere!" Not that I recall anyway.)

As my husband came back into the house I heard him ask, "Who killed my snake?"

"What do you mean by my snake, Cowboy?" I asked in that unnerving controlled "mommy" voice that children and husbands fear.

Silence from the hall.

"You knew, it was there?" I asked. "And you didn’t kill it?"

"Well, it eats mice and it never causes any trouble."

Wrong answer.

"It slid off a bale and into my overalls."

More silence.

"I think I’ll go back out and spend a little time in the barn before supper" he said as he retreated outdoors. Smart man.

There were lessons learned from this incident. I learned that children do listen to what we say. My daughter made me put seven dollars in the swear word fine jar for what she heard and told the whole county that her mother can kill a snake with lightning speed once it is outside her clothes. I learned that it doesn’t matter if your long-john tops and bottoms match as mud co-ordinates everything into barnyard brown. I learned that my husband is pretty savvy when it comes to knowing when to make a quiet exit. I also learned not to repeat this story to friends or Jon will write a song about it.

The snake learned a valuable lesson too…Turtles, are tougher than they look.

*The snake mentioned in this true story is a non-poisonous barn snake that survives on rodents and small mammals and birds.

"Ride Hard, Laugh Often, Live Free!"
Debra Coppinger Hill

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


There is no excuse for having not posted here! So here is my pathetic attempt at an explanation: I was just too lazy to learn how to use the blog site!

By the time I write my column and post it to my notes section on Facebook and to the 1200 other places I post it to (Ok, I post it to 12, but other folks pick it up and post it to the other places) I would find myself without enough time to post it here. Then my friend Duffy said "Why not just post it there and tell everyone the link and forget the rest of it?" Simple solution, I know.

Just this morning my pal Dave King and I discussed how we get tunnel vision and used to doing things one way. We find it very hard to change our ways.

Long ago in the far away I wrote for a magazine in Canada. My editor Mike liked my work which was typed and mailed to him. Things went very well until the mail system failed me and he called and I had to read my copy of the column to him over the phone. Several similar incidents later I received a call from him where he told me how much he loved my work and felt fortunate to have me writing for him, BUT if I didn't get a computer and an email address that I could use to send the column to him that he would have to fire me. He explained that he didn't want to do that because he considered me his friend.

Fact was, we already owned a computer; I had just been too lazy to learn to use it. However, I learned and my writing improved and my timing and delivery improved and my income increased because I could email my work to other places. Moral of the story: Get off your lazy behind Debra and learn to use the blog site!

So here I am on this lovely spring day redoing the blog page and learning how to post from my computer and from my phone when I travel. I promise, dear readers to get better at this blogging thing and get Riding Drag on here on a regular weekly basis. There are several of my friends out there who intend to hold my feet to the fire just like Mike did many years ago.

Please feel free to pass the link along when you receive it and don't forget to add it to your Facebook page. Also add your name to the Fans listing.

Thank you each and every one!

"Ride Hard, Laugh Often, Live Free!"
Debra Coppinger Hill

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