Crouchmas (May 3rd)

Some folks think I’m a lying cowboy when I talk about celebrating Crouchmas. It really did exist as a religious Celebration of the Cross for about 15 centuries. “Crouch” is Old English for “cross” hence the name of the celebration.

When the holiday was dropped by the church in 1969 we adopted it as a secular holiday, sending out a few greeting cards and enjoying an Old English dinner. The Jones family down the way thought that was a great idea and had a vision of celebrating Jonesmas…somehow that just didn’t ring true!

This poem expresses the cowboy’s rationale and the economic reality of continuing the celebration out on the ranch…herd management!

It’s said that St. Helena,
in the Fourth Century A.D.,
found remnants of the true cross
and so Crouchmas came to be.

For near fifteen centuries
each and every May the third
Crouchmas was celebrated
and the Latin Mass was heard.

But in nineteen-sixty-nine
that old holiday was dropped,
no longer celebrated,
and the Latin Mass was stopped.

But in Scandinavia
the Crouchmas is still observed,
although as a holiday,
it’s not really been preserved.

It’s when they let the bull in
to bewitch and woo the cow…
it is an age-old custom,
still observed and practiced now.

It’s a way of controlling
that the calving will occur
in the very early Spring
which the cattlemen prefer.

The logic does make good sense…
the holiday’s worth having…
so we celebrate Crouchmas
to manage our herd’s calving.

From the book, Sun, Sand & Soapweed. © 2005

Arbor Day (1872)

Today, as one born and raised in Nebraska, I celebrate Arbor Day, a day initiated in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton a Nebraska newspaper editor who served as President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture. As a youth in the 1930s, I remember observing the day by helping to plant trees in the ranch lands of the Nebraska Sandhills.

“Proposing for the future”
was J. Sterling Morton’s theme
planting trees on Arbor Day
was J. Sterling Morton’s dream.

The cowboys hooted loudly
when they first learned the news
breaking sod to plant some trees
was contrary to their views.

Next they’ll plant a garden
around the water hole
and where then will cattle drink?
Their thirst will take it’s toll.

Then they’ll want a barb wire fence
surrounding all that grows,
cutting up the prairie
and handing out the hoes.

They’ll take away the horses
and drive the herds away
to save all those blasted trees
planted on Arbor Day.

Cowboys slapped their knees and laughed
at their thought’s absurdity
and, returning to their herds,
thought of Morton’s verity.

From the book, Where Horses Reign, © 2004.