A poem in honor of an old friend

Sometimes, you have a friend or acquaintance that have characteristics that literally beg to be immortalized in a poem or a story. These characters walk this earth leaving footprints on your heart, such as Charlie! 

I recently learned that Charles Prentiss passed away. You say, “Who the heck is Charles Prentiss?” Well, he’s a top hand that God has brought home to ride herd up in Heaven’s range. 

I met Charlie in Alpine, Texas. I had sponsored a Cowboy Poetry and Western Music jam in the lobby of our hotel when Charlie Prentiss stepped up and asked if I needed another hand. That night began our friendship and I learned that Charlie was a top hand. 

He rode for the brand on some big outfits in the west, and he had also written about his experiences. He could recite just about any poem, his or another poets, that you might ask him to. And to say Charlie was a character, would be an understated fact! He asked me to join him to do cowboy poetry at a dude ranch in Bandera and my young bride Stella and I got to know him and his sweet wife, Janet, just a bit better. I wrote this poem to honor the memory of my friend Charlie Prentiss.


Dang it, Charlie!

The cook house was dark and quiet

at the early break  o’ day.

Clyde’s words were very clear,

an’ Charlie could hear him say,

“Dang it, Charlie, listen to me!

You can’t aggravate the cook.

Now cool off an’ leave it alone;

don’t even give him a dirty look!


If you name him, don’t let him know.

Look here! Don’t put him in a snit,

‘cuz  I’m tellin’ you right now

that cook will jest up an’ quit!”

…They’d shore ‘nuff had a hard day,

an’ it jest warn’t the bad weather,

ner them wild unruly critters

that kept them grabbin’ fer leather.


Nope, dang signs must have been wrong.

Started out first thang this mornin’

when they had got to the cookhouse an’

found the cook had quit without warnin’.

Clyde knew Charlie had done somthin’

‘cuz Ezra Burke wuz solid stock.

But Charlie had it in for him

an’ had a mind to wind his clock.


Wal, a cowboy has gotta eat

‘cuz work is hard an’ days is long.

So each one pitched in to help,

doin’ somethin’, even if it’s wrong.

What a sight them cowboys made

as each one of them gave a try,

heatin’ up that ol’ coffee pot,

slicin’ up some sidemeat to fry.


But somehow they got it done.

Then caught up their broncs to ride,

knowin’ them hosses would shore act sporty,

but them cowboys up an’ tried.

Cold mornin’s an’ them green broncs

can cause a cowboy plenty grief,

beat his innards to a pulp,

an’ clean his saddle like a thief.


But soon they had them bad boys rode.

An’ the cold mornin’ had warmed up.

They headed fer the Haynes pasture

with two cowdogs an’  a young pup.

All day they wuz workin’  them beeves,

catchin’, draggin’, an’ burnin’ hide.

Their ponies were pert near wore out,

when the boss sez,”That’s it. Let’s ride.”


Wal, Charlie gathers up the irons

to put on that ol’ pack mule,

ties ‘em tight  then grabs the lead rope

...with that ol’ mule actin’ the fool.

Wal sir, Charlie gets a good holt an’

sings out, “Whoa you dumb Ezra Burke!”

Then he sees Clyde  lookin’ at him.

…He knew…Charlie had been the jerk.



Yeah, he’d named that mule for the cook!

Heck, their temperament was the same,

an’ it  jest seemed the thang to do…

The mule an’ the cook share the name.

Clyde sez, “You up an’ named it what?

I shore ‘nuff don’t quite get yore drift.

I’d hoped fer once you’d use yore head,

guess you see how you caused  a rift.”


“Now look here, Charlie, at what you’ve done!

But I ‘spect you already knew.

How’ll  we ever work this out?

Dang it, Charlie, what you gonna do?”

Charlie had a bewildered look,

an’ his eyes were open wide.

He shook his head in disbelief,

scratched  his jaw, an’ sighed,


“Wal, what the heck did I do wrong?

You said it was a shore ‘nuff plan.

So, I figgers it was all right.

Besides, I never did like that man.”

He slapped his thigh to show disgust

at a plan that had gone awry.

But there was still a slight hope;

at least he could up an’ try!


So Charlie took a big apple

to make amends… to that mule.

Figgered that wuz the least he could do.

No sir, he warn’t  nobody’s  fool.

Clyde looked at him an’ shook his head;

this wuz turnin’ out quite poorly.

So he looks up towards the sky,

an’ all he said was, “Dang it!  Charlie!”

©  Ol’  Jim Cathey    


So long, Charlie. God Bless You and God Bless America.

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