George Rhoades owns a hay farm in Stephens County, but his book of poems, “Along the Chisholm Trail” (Outskirts Press, $9.95), offers a broad picture of life, past and present, on the plains of Oklahoma and West Texas.
His several careers — soldier, printer, rancher and journalist — are reflected in some of the poems, but the majority paint a picture of bygone days on the plains. In the nostalgic opening, on the hardships and joys of the cattle drives, he sets the stage in the first two of 22 verses:
The cowboys who came up the trail,
Dusty, grimy, gritty, sweatin',
Drivin' the long, windin' herds,
Didn't know they were creatin'
A myth, a legend, shapin' a dream
For a nation and ridin' into history;
Epics, icons, symbols, heroic images
Emerged later to build the story.
Danger on the trail is covered in “Crossing the Red,” in which animals and cowboys are lost when they pick the wrong place to ford the river. “Farm for Sale” and “Dyin' Small Towns” tell of tough times, while “In Troubled Times” encourages folks to follow the cowboy's way of meeting adversity.