Back in the wild, smartphone-less days of the west, sometimes all a man had to do with his time was to kick back, reflect, and write a bit of poetry.
Kip Wood was one such man. Kip was an early Colorado pioneer and cowboy who spent a winter with Butch Cassidy and befriended local legend John “Peg-Leg” Foster, a pioneer who shot and killed a deranged man terrorizing the community of Paradox, Colorado. He resided in Telluride, Colorado much of his life but ended up in Mesa County where he was kind enough to allow the Museums of the West to set up an interview. The Mesa County Oral History Project has his 1975 interview available here.
Kip led a life of excitement and occasional crime amidst his poetic years. He was once arrested on a charge of cattle-rustling but escaped, leading the sheriff on a wild goose chase in the middle of the night during the fall of 1913.
Below is a poem Kip recited to interviewer Al Look about hard days for old-timers in the west. Some of the words were difficult to decipher while listening to the 1970’s interview file, but if anyone is up on their cowboy lingo and wants to take a guess at what a “sink buckle” is, please enlighten us!
“Last of the West”
Our brandin’ irons is rusted
We’re old and broken men
We’ve drove the longhorn cattle
All through the slaughter pens
My latigo (?) is rotten
My sink buckle (?) is gone
And the fact that stands is only
This useless set of poems
My curled saddle leather is hangin
In a dryin’ tree
Same as the (undecipherable)
To mother here and me
The rats have chewed my home up
Built nests in the ropes
Their trail leads down the valley
They will crawl on down on the slope
There’s nothing looks quite natural
Except perhaps the sky
The roof is cavin in
And the water hole is dry
Old timers, they’re all sleepin’
In the rocks beneath the buttes
They crawled into their rough box (coffin)
Soon all will follow suit
For the Taylor Bill has broke us
And we’ve got no more to say
So we’ll step into our pickup
And slowly drive away
If God above provides for me
He surely will for you
Let us be up there smilin’
While the stars are shinin’ through…
Kip was 88 years old during his Mesa County Oral History Project interview and recited his poems from memory, some of which he had written 60 years prior. His interview is full of stories about outlaws, bar brawls, and corrupt jailers selling him moonshine. If you’d like to listen to interviews that feel like stepping into an old-timey cowboy soap opera, head over to the Mesa County Oral History Project for hundreds of tales from our county’s original settlers.