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Ron McDaniel: Cowboy Poet


By Nancy Brannon

Photos by Patrick Dixon Photography

Ron McDaniel claims, with his dry wit, that he’s probably the least known Cowboy Poet you’ve never heard of. And becoming a Cowboy Poet came about as a mistake, he also claims. It all happened when he wrote a poem one year for a Christmas card about an odd predicament with a donkey that he was in. Since then, he’s been performing Cowboy Poetry for about ten or eleven years, and those donkey-featured Christmas cards have continued as well.

Skipping ahead… When his first daughter got married, Ron had a reputation/history of pranking weddings. With a stern warning, his daughter asked him to write a poem about growing up on a ranch for the rehearsal dinner – and then disappear until the wedding!

Six months later, he went to a Cowboy Poetry Gathering as a spectator. As a joke, his buddy put him into an Open Mic session. Ron had 20 minutes to fill in the Open Mic! Since the poem he had written for his first daughter’s wedding was the only one he had memorized, that’s the poem he recited in the Open Mic. The poem talked about cowboy life, but in the audience was a group of commercial fishermen! They were bewildered by cowboy culture, so Ron became their ambassador, explaining the cowboy life to them.

One month later, the fishermen were having their tenth anniversary Fisher Poets Gathering. Ron was invited to attend and read poetry. Ron said he was flattered, but he would either have to write more poems or tell stories about cowboy life. They sent him books about commercial fishing, and after reading them, Ron found that fishermen and cowboys have a lot in common. As a result, he wrote the poem, “We’re Not Too Far Apart.” Now, Ron is their adopted cowboy, and this February, he’s going back to the Fisher Poets Gathering for the 11th year. He’s the only Cowboy Poet they allow on stage!

Lest you might think he’s a full time poet, Ron actually works full time in the equine division for Merck Animal Health. Ron was an animal science major in college. “I own just enough cattle to be in constant debt to the bank and not enough to put food on the table. I have been fortunate to make a living in animal agriculture. I worked in the beef division [at Merck] and for the last 12 years I have worked in the equine division. I manage a group who call on equine veterinarians on behalf of Merck Animal Health,” Ron explained.

Most of the poetry he writes is for charity events or for groups who don’t know about the cowboy life. In 2015 and 2016, he entered the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. He won first in the humor division both years, and he won first in the reciter’s senior division, a section in which a reader recites someone else’s poetry. Ron says he’s never published his poetry. He just writes it to entertain folks.

In December, Ron attended the AAEP convention, where he recited poetry in one of the sessions. He mainly went there to “man the booth” for Merck and represent the company. Ron says the AAEP convention is his favorite event of the year. Equine veterinary medicine is his life and at the AAEP convention, “there are more horse veterinarians gathered in one spot than any place else – thousands of them, all focused on the care of the horse! There are educational sessions going from 6 am to 6 pm and they tackle all issues, from new emerging diseases to prevention, to preparing, training, feeding, and protecting the equine athlete. There’s so much information it’s like trying to drink from a fire hydrant!”

Ron lives in northwest Arkansas with his wife, three children, horse and donkey. Following is a sampling of Ron’s Cowboy Poetry. The Christmas Gift was sent out as a Christmas card with the photo of Ron with golf club, the horse, and the donkey.

“Not The Quitting Kind” is a true story “without much embellishment,” Ron says about his experience at Golden Hills Riding Resort. The resort has 1500 acres in the Missouri Ozarks where folks spend a week or so to go trail riding. Curt in the poem is Curt Pate, one of the experts, along with Buck Brannaman, whom Robert Redford hired for the movie “The Horse Whisperer.” Ron and Curt were friends and both at the resort, where Curt was giving a colt starting clinic and Ron was there to entertain folks. The poem tells the rest of the story.

Read more about Ron and his cowboy poetry at:
*note: Tote isa large container used to hold fish or shellfish. Fresh seafood is iced and held in plastic totes until processing.
Not Too Far Apart

You prefer the Ocean, the freedom of the Sea
I prefer to always have dry land under me.

For you it is so natural, riding waves that roll and pitch,
But only a Caballo can satisfy my itch.

Our diets are quite different: you eat fish with Saltines;
Me, I often get by on cold biscuits and beans.

Our clothes are also different, you might predict as well;
Their function to protect us both from different kinds of hell.

You wear boots of rubber, good for any kind of weather,
I prefer my boots be made entirely from leather.

The clothes you don for work, Grundens, turtlenecks, and caps;
We wear felt hats, wild rags, and leggings some call chaps.

You use strong lines to hold your nets, when filled they cause resistance.
I call my line a rope, to catch a cow that needs assistance.

We’re misunderstood by many, that is one thing we share;
They ask us why we do it, this demanding life we bear.

It’s sure not for the money, though we both keep on believing
If we just hold on ‘til next year, we’ll be lucky to break even.

We both share Mother Nature, for better or for worse.
One day she smiles upon us, the next she sends a curse.

Unleashing all her fury, like she will now and then,
She shows no favoritism to cowboys or fishermen.

We both sure are afflicted, this addiction we can’t shake;
Like tobacco and whiskey habits, this life is hard to break.

“Admit you’ve got a problem,” to us they would suggest,
“Who us?” We’ve got no problem; our life it is the best.

Whether sitting in the saddle, or rolling with a wave,
This is the life we chose, this is the life we crave.

And just like you, most cowboys often gather at a bar.
The distance in between us is really not that far.

You might expect this cowboy’d make some hairy-chested boast
But to the Fisher Poets, I offer up this toast:

We’re not too far apart. It’s finally dawned on me
Thanks to Moe & Joanna, the Ladies of the Sea.

So order some beef liver, or a steak which is more mild.
And I will order salmon, but only if it’s wild!
Not the Quitting Kind

My sense of cowboy chivalry usually causes me some trouble,
Often, resulting in my ego popping like a bubble.
A woman’s horse was bothered, lathered in a sweat,
120 days of training, but not a finished horse just yet.

“You sure look worried M’am,” I say, “is everything alright?”
She said, “I’d like to ride this horse, but I can’t overcome my fright.”
“Can you ride him Sir?” she said. Well if he’s got hair I can!
But the horse I put my saddle on had a different plan.

Now hindsight’s 20/20, but I didn’t use my head.
Why walk him to the round pen, I’ll ride him there instead.
So I cinch him up and step on, I’ll show him who’s the boss,
Well this wasn’t just a spoiled horse, this was a bucking hoss!

I had a good grip on my lariat, felt I had a real good start.
But when my rope strap broke, that’s when things came apart.
Oh, I gave it all I had, trying not to hit the ground.
But I started getting dizzy from his bucking all around.

Folks that saw this tell me, I put on quite a ride.
But I knew he had me beat with every bucking stride.
Yea, he was getting stronger with every buck and kick,
And I was getting weaker, thought I’d never make it stick.

I hit the ground real hard, kind of got up in a daze.
What happened next is lost on me, still in a cloudy haze.
Now the story from this point on, had to be told to me,
Cause the next 3 hours of my life are like a blank CD.

Instinct took over at this point, all wisdom shoved aside,
A cowboy couldn’t quit on such an unsuccessful ride.
So I caught that horse, checked my cinch, I’d give it another go.
When Curt came up, said “Hold my horse, I’ll use yours for the show.”

What I didn’t realize was, I held a green-broke horse,
Curt planned to keep me off the bucker, without the use of force.
He thought I’d lead his horse along, keep my dignity and pride,
But instinct says you never walk, if you’ve a horse to ride.

So I mounted like a drunk man, still in a daze you see.
My 6 foot 4 friend’s saddle allowed my feet to dangle free.
Right there that horse decided to get me off his back,
I made a few good jumps and then departed from the tack.

When I hit the ground I kind of landed in a heap,
My state of mind was in between conscious and asleep.
I failed the mental faculties test, a complicated game;
Questions like, “What day is it?” And “Can you say your name?”

So they strapped me to a backboard, though there really was no need,
They felt it would prevent my climbing on another steed.
Their exam had revealed that I’m not the quitin’ kind,
Restraint would stop my mounting any horse that I could find.

So if you see a cowboy take a tumble from the sky,
Keep in mind he’s short on brains, but very long on try.
He’s going to climb on something, his mind has just one track,
So lead him to the tack room, let him mount a saddle rack.
Where Cell Phones Never Ring

Gathering cattle, Driving in Montana, Teaching my son to cowboy, 
Working with my dogs, Putting out bulls;
Things I like doing…Where cell phones never ring.

The Southwest City Cafe, My son’s deer stand, 
The cowboy shack at Adams Cattle Company, my house;
Places I like being… Where cell phones never ring.

End of the day conversations with Nancy, Reading a book,
Cookouts with friends, Un-saddling my horse;
Things that I enjoy… Where cell phones never ring.

Mt. Zion country church, Opal Leonard’s living room to cast our vote, 
Our small town funeral parlor, small cemeteries in pastures;
Places our Community gathers… Where cell phones never ring.

Shoeing a horse, Comforting my child,
Doing chores alone, Holding my wife;
Things that help me grieve… Where cell phones never ring.

Loved ones, Family, Friends and Neighbors,
Too many to name all that have left us;
People in that Better Place… Where cell phones never ring.
The Christmas Gift
(from Ron’s 2006 Christmas card)
Christmas gifts should be fun, something
you would want to use
Not something useless, like a suit or Gucci shoes.
So when I received golf clubs, my face became sour,
My wife said, “Golf is a game for men of power.”
Well, I’d seen what golf had done to friends of mine;
It had consumed them fully, like a growing Kudzu vine.
Men who had once trod through mud and muck,
Are now so refined that they wear Cutter Buck.
Men whom you’d trusted, good hands on a horse,
Now riding, half naked, in carts on a course.
Where irons aren’t for branding, and eagle ain’t a bird,
Their view of reality surely must be blurred.
Good rangeland, now watered, manicured, and mowed,
Where few men fit in, whose legs might be bowed.
For we’d turn out some cattle and put out some salt,
And all that ball chasing we’d bring to a halt.
She says, “Golf’s a good game, just give it a chance.”
So I kept the darn clubs, cause she wears the pants.
Now Elmer and I play at home just for kicks,
But the clubs are used most as graphite, sorting sticks.

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