Ride for the Brand
by Paul Harwitz
The dismounted young cowboy asked the old hand,
"What does it mean when they say 'Ride for the brand'?"
The grizzled old-timer's age seemed to drop years,
And he sat straight up in the saddle as he surveyed the steers.
"It means a lot of different things, son.
It has a lot to do with what's lost and what's won.
I ain't talking about gambling, but earning a living,
Hard work, trust, respect, taking, and giving.
"It means you don't never foul up the land,
And you don't take unfair advantage or rob.
You work hard, even when the work's rough as a cob.
That's part of what it means to ride for the brand.
"It means you help your neighbors and your friends,
And you help even strangers just passing through.
It means you hire on a hungry saddle-tramp
Who needs a place to winter past the cold and damp.
"It means you don't let the poor folks go hungry
Just 'cause they're down and short on grub and luck.
And it means that you don't work just for a buck,
But 'cause you need work like water's needed by a tree.
"It means you can be trusted, and that you trust each pard,
To do the chores that are needed, no matter how hard,
'Cause you're all riding for the same outfit,
And you're all striving together to benefit it.
"It means you keep searching for that one last stray,
Even though it's the end of the day,
Even though you'd rather stop and go to town.
It means you don't lay your responsibility down."
"It means you give an honest day's work for an honest day's wage,
Whether you're in the corral or out riding the range.
Every job's important, and there ain't none that ain't.
It's not the cowboy way to quit though it'd be easier to say 'I cain't.'
"It means you'll not complain when you help dig a well,
Nor even have to be asked to spell a tired cowpoke who's stove-up.
It means you'll work with others as well as you'll work alone,
And that even when you're tired to the bone, you'll cowboy-up.
"That's what it means, that, and a whole lot more.
It means that you've got pride in yourself, your job, and the land.
So saddle-up. Toughen-up. Cowboy-up. Be a man.
Ride for the brand."