4-21-2019 Reviewed by Bob Kiskin for Rope Burns Magazine
Yes Ma’am Just Call Me Slim by Michael S. Robinson
Michael “Boots” Robinson is a four time winner of the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in the Serious Poet Reciter category. He has released a new book “Yes Ma’am, Just Call Me Slim”. Through the diaries and thoughts of an old fictional rancher, he explains where and what he was doing when the poems were written, and gives a brief background about the poem itself. It is a novel approach and well worth reading. The first section “Mostly Serious” covers ranching subjects such as summer rains, storms, dogs, livestock, saddles, bits, rodeos, dying young, bankruptcy, drought, etc. It is obvious that Boots knows what he writes about. I have included the first poem, Fences, so that you can see the format.
April 17, 1938, near Donkey Ears Bluff. Written on lunch break. Rode the fence all mornin’, worked my butt off stretching and mending,
The west is a darned-sight different today than it used to be. Back when I was still a young-un, most of the land in our country was open range, and we still drove the herd, twice a year, between the high country leases and our home spread. Freedom was the one word that described the difference between the city and God’s country. That was the meaning of “The West.” Ain’t the same today, a grid of fence posts, wire and complicated rights of way. To move a herd, cross-country, even for a short distance, takes research and permissions, not always so easily obtained. Everyone’s got a goal; at least I figure that’s so. Pa always told me it was a good attitude that made the difference. Without that, you simply wouldn’t make it, cuz there would always be plenty standing in your way. If your view of the work ahead centers on how difficult it’s going to be, you’re already half-beaten, but strong determination and having your head in the right place will get you there.
A fence is a border constructed in order to keep things contained or outside.
It keeps cows from wand’rin’, dries laundry, post-laundrin’, and barbed ones leave scars on a hide.
A fence makes good neighbors and fosters behaviors, harmonious, kind, and benign.
It’s a perch for a bird or a home for the herd or an excellent spot for a vine.
A fence guards the melons, incarcerates felons, keeps chickens from fleeing the coop.
It keeps your yard cleaner, makes neighboring fields greener, and it keeps your best steeds in a group.
There are fences of bricks, There are fences of sticks. There are ones made of wire and blocks.
There are gates for your pards and recessed cattle guards, for security, latches and locks.
There are times, you may say, that a fence blocks the way to that place you consider your goal,
and the only solution to get where you’re choosin’s becomin’ a bird or a mole.
Fences high, fences low, they control where y’ go, so it’s worth sproutin’ wings, you will find,
‘cause the only un-climbable fence, in a sense, is the one you create in your mind.
My favorite is probably the poem about what a saddle would say if it could talk. My favorite, all time, two lines: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away, But not the obstetrician”. Heck, get the book and find your own. The second section of the book is devoted to puns. I happen to like puns and corn, both kinds. Boots has a strange mind and some verses will prove it.
(1) “…but this horse is just plain stubborn, and it always answers “Nay””. (2) “So if your cowboy is sick in bed, and tells you that he’s dying, just totally ignore him, for you know he’s surely lying.” (3) “I pondered it a moment, then, I answered “What the hell, Cows always wear those bells, because their horns don’t work too well””. (4) “Just thank the Lord beef price is up, and that the chips are down?” As far as I am concerned, the puns are worth the price of the book and the rest is free and gravy. The third section, Travel Memories, consists of a few poems about the rancher’s travels after he sells his ranch. Be sure to read the poem, “Dog Tags”, The rest of the book consists of poems and musings on trail drives, early death, moldy hay, line shacks, Mexican culture, cap guns, cowboys, night watch, levis, etc., The book, for me, humanizes the cowboy. One can leave it on a table, pick it up and read a few poems, and then go back to what one was doing, satisfied and enjoying the break.. Get the book, you will not regret it.
Reprinted from the “Western Way” magazine, Summer 2019
MICHAEL S. ROBINSON“Yes Ma’am Just Call Me Slim”
ISBN-13: 9781 7221 1055 01
ISBN-10: 1722 1055 0X
It’s pretty safe to say Michael S. Robinson has brought us something unique here! The book’s back cover notes will introduce you to the “Slim” of the title as being Mickey “Slim” Robbins, Sr., “a successful New Mexico rancher who developed his Rockin’ Robbin Ranch into the largest in the state.” In a truly unusual mounting for a poetry collection, the works are said to have been written by Slim at various points in his winding life. There are exotically detailed mini-essays about his adventures with commentary from Robinson on both essay and verse. Since grandson Mickey Robbins III saved and annotated Slim’s poems, what would that make Robinson in the flow of things...the editor? It may also align Michael Robinson with Rod Miller’s fanciful creation “Rawhide Robinson” since the whole thing is a creation of one fertile imagination! It makes for a good yarn but, lest you be strung along, yarn it is! However, the details of the cowboying life as depicted are real and accurate, and the poems and lyrics themselves are particularly well crafted...thoughtful, expansive and poignant. In the final analysis, the book comes off as being a very literate combination of verse and short story. And in a way doesn’t all fiction purport at some level to be fact, if only to further engage its reader? As Slim often does, I’ll use a double-edged pun to sum it up: It’s a “novel” approach....and I’ll recommend it highly. 398 pages. Softbound book: available through www.broncojockeybooks.com or by mail from Bronco Jockey Books, P.O. Box 592, Draper, UT 84020 phone (801) 403-6450.
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