It's been awhile since this space was used to highlight any cowboy poetry, a favorite genre of mine. I came across "That Spotted Sow" by Carlos Ashley recently and instantly knew that it was something that I would like to share. As someone who once ran a small farm (petting zoo, actually), I occasionally came into contact with the odd animal that felt he controlled me, and not the other way around. (A particularly bossy goose comes to mind!) The old sow in the poem that follows has a big streak of independence and will not be tamed. She is the type of character who is easy to "root" for!
or The Ballad of Cedar Mountain
Of that famous hog of mine?
She’s a razorback and spotted
Black and white from hoof to spine;
With a snout made outa granite,
She can root just like a plow;
And the fence ain’t been invented
That can turn that spotted sow.
Born and bred on Cedar Mountain
She is wilder than a deer;
And she’s known by reputation
To the ranch hands far and near.
Though a sow of mine had raised ‘er,
On that mountain she was free;
And I always kinda doubted
That she really b’longed to me.
She didn’t claim no owner—
Save the God who put ‘er there—
And for mortal man’s relations
She just simply didn’t care.
She preferred the solemn silence
Of her Cedar Mountain home,
And most of all she wanted us
To let ‘er plum alone.
Ever Fall I’d try to mark ‘er
But she’d get away agin;
And I reckon that my cussin,
Though artistic, was a sin.
Well, I sold my brand in ’30—
Moved out ever hog and cow;
Rounded-up…yea…all but one head,
All but that blamed spotted sow.
So we organized against ‘er—
Got the best of dogs and men;
But we never got good started
Puttin that hog in a pen.
Now we really went a-huntin
When we tried to catch Ole Spot;
We left the ranch at daylight
And her trail was always hot.
She might be pickin acorns
On the banks of Sandy Creek.
Or in somebody’s turnips
Cultivatin, so to speak.
But let the foot of dog or man
Disturb the morning dew.
And you might as well a phoned ‘er,
Cause somehow she always knew.
She’d light out for Cedar Mountain
Where the land and sky divide—
There ain’t no spot on earth nowhere
A better place to hide.
We’d hear the pack a-bayin
Up the mountain loud and clear.
But before we rode up to ‘em
That ole sow would disappear
Or she’d rally ‘gainst a boulder,
Bristlin like a porcupine,
Till a dog forgot his caution—
Then she’d cut him into twine.
Killin dogs was just a pastime
To that hog; I’m tellin you
With them long, curved, knife-like tushes
She could slice a houn in two.
She could whip most any critter
On four legs I ever saw,
And she had a perfect record
'Cause she never fought a draw.
Now the more I tried to catch her,
And the more I give it thought,
I begin to get the notion
She’s opposed to bein’ caught.
I couldn’t help admire that sow,
When all was done and said;
For, to tell the truth about ‘er,
She was really thoroughbred.
She had character and courage
And the heart to do the right;
And when it come to fightin
Now she shore as hell could fight.
Well, the Fall froze into Winter,
And the Winter thawed to Spring.
April watered hill and valley;
Maytime painted ever’thing.
Late one evenin just at sundown
I was ridin home right slow,
When I passed a lonesome waterhole
And saw…..it was a show.
Ole Spot was trailin down the hill
And right behind her trotted
Ten baby pigs not ten days old,
And ever one was spotted.
I stopped and stared; she studied me;
My eyes filled like a fountain;
And there I gave ole Spot a deed—
A deed to Cedar Mountain.
Now I was taught that folks who try,
You oughta help and praise em;
So, “Boys,” I sez, “Ole Spot's got pigs,
And, damn sure gonna raise ‘em."
She’s still on Cedar Mountain
Though I seldom see ‘er now;
You can bet that’s one dominion
Where the Queen’s a spotted sow.