Tag Archives: James Byous

Poetry from the past

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By Jim Byous

The following is a true story embedded in verse, a bit of cowboy poetry. It is from my youth when I was in my first year of college.  The names have been changed or avoided to protect the innocent.  I wrote it about 30 years ago, but recently revised and expanded it a bit to better tell the story.  As my friend Dave Marston would say, “It is the truth…… as I remember it.”


Oh… for all of my city friends or the Easterners that might read this, the word “brimmer” is a Western-American term for a Brahman bull.  A brimmer is a mean, vicious animal that is best eaten with A-1 sauce but otherwise should be avoided at all cost.


Also to explain – as is so around Ceres and Turlock, California where I grew up – in the West, you can drive out across open country seeing miles of nothing, then find empty, seemingly orphaned rodeo arenas.  However, on certain days of the week or month the site becomes a crowded place for the gathering of the testosterone-numbed minds of young men who engage in actions that result in the procurement of broken bones, twisted limbs and dirt-injected orifices, all to the ooohs and awwws of young women of a similar age.  I know.  I’ve been there… on the male side.


But, thankfully simple logic dictated, in my way of thinking, that the cause and effect of such actions is to predictively hurt like hell or perhaps die looking like a rag doll being ripped apart by a pit-bull terrier.  I learned to suppress the hormone-induced stupor of my youth and am quite proud of that decision.  As a result, I am still here as of this writing.


I call the poem:


My True Life Experience at Bull Riding

and Why I Was Able to Live To Be So Damned Old


By J.D. Byous


When I was a boy

And feelin’ quite manly

I went down to Turlock to ride


With the other boys

On the backs of bulls

And show off our manly pride


As we waited our turns

We sat on the fence

And talked of how good we’d look


Then we cocked our hats

To the sides of our heads

And spoke of the guts that it took


Well… the first boy out

We called Whirlwind Bill

And he crawled on a mean lookin’ brimmer


But, under his backside

Down beneath that bovine hide

You could see the hate start to simmer


I spoke –

“Well, it’s my turn next”

I bragged to my friends

Those bulls have this boy to fear


I then talked about courage

That I was never discouraged

As my time for ridin’ came near


But then…


Over in the chute

Bill’s bull started to boil

About the time they opened the gate


That bull articulated himself

As anyone could see

‘Cause he was spoutin’ and seethin’ pure hate


And then…


An obvious hush

came over the crowd

As we viewed the horror and awe


The image that day

Is burned in my mind

As I watched with fear-slackened jaw


‘Cause that bull squealed like a demon

As he launched like a jet

Then he bounced, and he bucked, and he flipped


And threw poor Bill

High up in the air

For a landing, he was poorly equipped


‘Cause Bill landed flat

As prostrate and spread

As a cheap, second-hand, yoga mat


Now Bill’s feelings I know

Were not the bull’s worry

That animal just didn’t care


His sensitivities for Bill’s comfort

Were not on his mind

See… he had no emotion to spare


‘Cause he reared straight up

Rammed his head back down

And he buried Bill about a foot deep in the mud


Then he backed up again

And he took a nosedive

And the whole arena shook with a thud


And he pushed poor Bill

clear …across… to the fence

… And I flinched


‘Cause back behind him

Wasn’t nothin’ but a bunch of bull tracks

…And Bill’s shape in the form of a trench


Grab your gear, cowboy

I heard my friend say

‘Cause now it’s your turn to play


But when he turned around

Ol’ Jimbo weren’t there

I was in my truck about five miles away


Now I’ve had years to think

Of my retreat from the brink

Of death, or of mind-numbing pain


That the flight-fright notion

Is a valued emotion

That God planned and instilled in our brain


And to see the condition

Of all my old friends

All bent, all crooked and lame


I’m standing right tall

Not ashamed, feelin’ small

For my bovine hoppin’ refrain


You see…

It’s bronco bustin’

For some of the guys

And I’ve been known to try that some


But when it comes to ridin’

On the back of a bull

This Okie boy

Sure as hell

… Ain’t that dumb


©J.D. Byous 2016, all rights reserved


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Southeastern Bound

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Jim and Bec in Charleston

Two Boomers travel the USA looking for realistic, low-cost places in interesting and historic places.  The have traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific finding hidden, less-known sites that inspire stories and pictures.

​Jim Byous writes about travel and history with a Southeastern perspective. In his life, he has been a cowboy, a construction worker, a fireman, a janitor, a journalist and photojournalist and now a historian/traveler. “I’ve had many jobs and done many things,” he says.  “But, I’ve always had a passion for history.” An expert in the history of Savannah, Georgia, he tends to write “a bit more on that topic.”  However, he loves to travel and tell others about what he and Becky have seen, “through the eyes of an old guy.”

​Rebecca Harrison Byous, aka Becky, aka The Beckster, is much younger and is a native of Georgia who was raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  A writer and photographer she founded Weddings for Warriors, Inc., an organization of citizen volunteers who provide free weddings and vow renewals to active duty military.  She shares Jim’s love of history and finding interesting stories to tell.

​They travel with their blog-writing Chihuahua, Gus, and review pet-friendly businesses including restaurants that have gluten-free menus from a mature view of the world.


Jim in Panama
Jim in Panama, 1998.

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Adapt, I Did Y’all. I’m a Son of the South.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net

My family is from the South. They lived in and migrated through Georgia but that was a bloody Civil War ago. They fought here in the Revolution; some fought in Savannah in 1779. So, though I am “of the South” I am not “from the South.” Manifest Destiny carried us with the wave of humanity that washed across the continent in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Like Mark Twain we are “American mongrels and proud of it,” a little Cherokee, a little Choctaw, some Scottish, some Irish, a butt-load of Scots Irish and a little English. The latter, however, we usually don’t talk about in polite company.

We are Southern Americans. Though I was not born here I have long-since been converted and baptized – sprinkled and immersed (to cover all bases) – into Southern-dom naturalization. Marrying a Georgia girl helped.  If you knew the peach you’d know why.

e bec n stratton

Bec, my Georgia peach, with movie producer, ice cream aficionado and Savannah native, Stratton Leopold.  A few years ago he reopened his family ice-cream business on Broughton Street.

It took a while to adapt after I moved to Savannah. That was twenty years ago. It’s different here. Or so it seems at first. To explain (and to risk mimicking Ted Knight 0n the Mary Tyler Moore Show) I was born in a tiny hospital in Central California, out in the sun-baked and cracked-adobe farmland that surrounds State Highway 33. My older brother and I were the first of our family to divert the lineage from those who were house-and-home-born; unknowingly, of course.

Our birthplace was named Westside Hospital. The structure was a stretch in healthcare nomenclature. Those who zip pass on the two-lane, dirt-shouldered road can easily mistake the building for just-another in the scores of cheap, flat-topped, ranch-style houses that had popped up after the World War II.

I remember from later visits it had five rooms; an operating/delivery room, waiting room, and a couple of cubical for examinations. My first experience there is still foggy, save the bright-light, tunnel-view and a subsequent roughing up by Dr. Jimmy Thompson.  I am his namesake since my mother had expected a girl.  I was not, however, and am not to this day though I have met ladies that carried the name, Jimmie.  I shall not interpret my mother’s intentions.

After a few months of crawling, then running, in the flat, furrowed fields of Dompe’s bean ranch near the town of Crow’s Landing we moved to the “city” where I was raised in one of the rural “Little Okie” settlements. These were semi-impoverished hamlets that housed upper-lower and lower-middle-class farm laborers and tradesmen. These communities punctuated many towns in the state but especially those in the rich farm-belt land that carried U.S. Highway 99 from Bakersfield to Red Bluff. In the fifties the burgs were a breeding and grooming ground for post-pubescent, pre-adult teens that inspired the slick-haired, hot-rod driving, main-street dragging screen characters depicted in American Graffiti and Happy Days. Harrison Ford’s cowboy-hat topped character depicted another faction from the cultural group.

We, like our neighbors, spoke with accents. Those with first-language English carried the twang of Oklahoma or Texas or the South or the Mid-West. Second-language-English speech was tinged with Mexican-Spanish highlights with a few from Portugal. The locals of Japanese descent had been there for generations, had no accent and, save a short stint at a war-relocation center across the mountains at Manzanar, worked the land and kept to themselves. They were represented by only a couple of families on acreage adjacent to the subdivision where the Okie drawl was predominant. Current-day academia sometimes calls the sub-culture, “Steinbeck’s Okies.”

In that area, just before I popped into the light of the world, the emigrant-Okies were often met with shotguns and with that’s-your-truck-and-that’s-the-road greetings from the locals. The Japanese kept silent, busy working their fields.

Also during that era signs on some movie houses declared, “Negroes and Okies in the balcony.” In most cases we got second billing.   The Japanese sat with everyone else – until the war. But by the 1950s and the time I was old enough for a movie matinee the rules had slackened – for all groups. In Modesto the Strand, the State and the Covell theaters were a weekend haunt for my cousins and me. Cartoons and newsreels were a highlight in the days before our first black-and-white TV and its fuzzy image of Sacramento’s champion of kid-dom, Captain Sacto.

Aside from a few brief attempts by my parents to return to the Holy Land – the area called Oklahoma by others – we tended to hover around the towns of Ceres and Modesto. I can think of no famous person who came from the area, at least at that time. Years later several notables sprouted including Olympian Mark Spitz, who didn’t stay long, film-maker George Lucas, who left as soon as he could, taking his hot rod with him, and actor Jeremy Renner, who did the same. I don’t know if Renner had a hot rod, but I am told by my daughters and grand-daughters that he is definitely “hot.” I have no opinion.

Other than those examples I might include two more, congressman and cleared murder-person-of-interest Gary Condit and a young man named Scott Peterson. Condit slipped from national headlines when commercial jets crashed into the twin towers on 9/11 only to have detectives drop their investigations of when the real murderer was found.

Peterson was convicted of murder. He killed, then dumped his beautiful-pregnant wife in San Francisco Bay so he could marry a blonde stripper. Go figure. I guess divorce wasn’t an option. Both I am told were of Okie origin. Few people in Georgia are familiar with the term, Okie. I constantly have to explain.

But, I digress. Savannah is different than my home in the West. It’s more cosmopolitan on the outside but distinctly Southern when you get to know her. You have to examine below and beyond the transient cultural façade of the military bases, the global influx of Savannah College of Art and Design and other area schools of higher learning. Then you must look past the society of “Old” Savannah, the NOG families as author John Berendt noted.

Once you look beyond those levels you find the “common” folk, those whose families have been here for generations; working people, river people, island people. They are like the townsfolk in the background scenes of movies, always seen but rarely noticed… with the exception of Paula Deen. They are like the people I knew in another life.

Here we have those with accents and those who talk Southern. Most locals have ancestors from other parts of the globe; Europe, Africa, Asia, India, Central, and South America. We even have the occasional South African and Kiwi. When they’re here long enough they unconsciously utter provincial terms like fixin’ and y’all.

Here and in the surrounding rural areas beyond the city limit you can find the same culture of my youth, the culture of my upbringing. The red-state people, people who will welcome you with open arms and love to get along with the throngs of in-moving blue-state folks. They are welcomed even though a few newcomers haven’t learned that locals don’t give a damn how it was done in New York or in New Jersey or on Nantucket, God bless ‘em.

Then, again, I have met a few locals with jackass traits. Some I’m told come with pedigrees of highly-selective, pure-bread jackass personae. But, that’s another storyline and that list is quite short. Then, again I’m of the South not from the South. Those who don’t understand… God bless their hearts.

– James Byous

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