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Buck Ramsey's "Christmas Waltz"

Updated on December 9, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Buck Ramsey


Introduction and Text of "Christmas Waltz"

Buck Ramsey's "Christmas Waltz" dramatizes a holiday celebration on the ranch.The song/song stages a cowboy Christmas with a tree from the big ranch that was selected way back in summer. The ranch hands then experience a rambunctious good time as they celebrate the birth of a "baby boy born in a cow shed."

Christmas Waltz

The winter is here and the old year is passing,
The sun in its circle winds far in the south.
It's time to bring cheer to a cold, snowbound cow camp,
It's Christmas tree time of the year for the house.

Go ride to the cedar break rim of a canyon,
Down by where the river takes creek water clear,
And saddle-sleigh home us a fine shapely evergreen
Picked out while prowling the pasture this year.

While Fair strings the berries and popcorn and whatnots
And Ty braids the wreaths out of leather and vines,
Old Dunder, he whittles and whistles old carols
And fills them with stories of fine olden times.

He talks of a baby boy born in a cow shed,
All swaddled in tatters and laid in a trough,
Who, growing up, gave away all he could gather
And taught us that what is not given is lost.

It's morning of Christmas and long before dawning
The camp hands are risen to ready the feast.
But with the fires glowing they don warm apparel
And go out to gaze on the Star of the East.

They cobbler the plums they put up back in summer,
They bake a wild turkey and roast backstrap deer,
They dollop the sourdough for rising and baking,
And pass each to each now the brown jug of cheer.

The dinner is done and they pass out the presents,
Their three each they open with handshakes and hugs,
Then Ty gets his guitar and Fred gets his fiddle
While Dunder and Fair laugh and roll back the rugs.

The tunes that they play melt the chill from the winter
As Dunder and Fair waltz and two-step along.
They play, sing and dance till the next morning's dawning
Then all of the their slumbers are filled with this song.

Musical Version Buck Ramsey's "Christmas Waltz"


This song/poem dramatizes a holiday celebration on the ranch.

First Stanza: "The winter is here and the old year is passing"

The cowboy/speaker starts off his celebration of the Christmas season by reporting, "winter is here"; he continues to offer a description of the time of year by averring that the old year is almost over, and the sun has moved "far to the south. "

Around Christmas time, the sun is in the Topic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere; thus the speaker colorfully reports that scientific fact, "sun in its circle winds far in the south." He then states "[i]t's Christmas tree time of the year for the house." A big Christmas tree will soon stand tall in the ranch house.

Second Stanza: "Go ride to the cedar break rim of a canyon"

The cowboy/speaker then reports to his audience where that big Christmas tree comes from: during the summer, while looking over the pasture, the speaker had spotted the perfect tree that stood down along the river where the water was clear as crystal.

The speaker had made a mental note to remember exactly where it stood so he could send another cowboy to fetch it as Christmas time was on its way.

Third Stanza: "While Fair strings the berries and popcorn and whatnots"

A gal named "Fair" will help decorate the grand tree with berries and popcorn on a string. Another cow-hand named "Ty" will put up wreaths fashioned out of vines and leather.

While each ranch hand attends to his part in the decorating, the old cowboy they call "Old Dunder" will be whittling while he whistles old Christmas carols, and he will be telling stories of the olden days.

Fourth Stanza: "He talks of a baby boy born in a cow shed"

Old Dunder will be the one who will offer testimony regarding the reason for the season, "a baby boy born in a cow shed." He will mention how Jesus "gave away all he could gather" and how he taught humanity the importance of giving.

Fifth Stanza: "It's morning of Christmas and long before dawning"

Finally, Christmas day has arrived. Even well before the light of day, the camp hands are up and wide awake, getting ready to start blazing up fires for cooking. Before they commence their chores for the big celebration, they go outside, "to gaze on the Star of the East." This annual ritual is the heart of their cowboy prayer that they gratefully offer as part of their celebration.

Sixth Stanza: "They cobbler the plums they put up back in summer"

Finally, the cooking begins. They whip up plum cobbler using the plums they had stored up back in summer. The revelers bake wild turkey and roast backstrap deer; they also bake sourdough bread, as they continue to pass around "the brown jug of cheer."

Seventh Stanza: "The dinner is done and they pass out the presents"

They all enjoy their big dinner, and then they all gather around the beautiful Christmas tree to exchange their gifts. Each partier receives at least three presents for which they are very grateful. They hug and shake hands to show gratitude for their bounty.

After the gift exchange, they are now ready for music and dancing. Old Dunder and Fair roll back the rugs for the dancing. Fred starts his fiddle-playing, while Ty warms up his guitar.

Eighth Stanza: "The tunes that they play melt the chill from the winter"

The music is rollicking and lively, and everyone has a great time. It seems the robust celebration takes the chill off the bitter winter weather. The dancing continues way past dawn; every one sings and dances until morning.

After the partiers finally say good-night and drift off to sleep, the music and singing will keep on playing in their dreams.

© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes


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