Are you celebrating the life of a cowboy, rancher, farmer, or anyone else who lived off the land? Then you may be looking for funeral poems that have a different tone than most. You probably want to find verses that were written for people who chose country living.
Tip: Choosing funeral poems and readings might be just a small part of your post-death responsibilities. If you need helping sorting it all out, check out our post-loss checklist.
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The most important part of planning a memorial service is picking the right tone to match the deceased’s personality. Here are some poems to add to a memorial card, to use during the funeral service, or to share on social media pages.
COVID-19 tip: If you're officiating a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still share your poems with your online guests. Coordinate with your planning team, make sure you have the right mics and speakers, and send online guests digital funeral programs with the full poems.
Modern Poems for a Cowboy’s Funeral
Even though the number of people living in rural America may be dwindling, the western lifestyle continues to be popular. You can purchase cowboy-themed “happy birthday” cards and western-themed cards that offer “get well” wishes. If someone recently died, you can find funeral program covers showing the image of wheat, and thank you notes that have horseshoes on the cover.
And there are modern cowboy poets who still write about life in the country. Here are some poems that were written by somewhat-modern writers. Some celebrate country living, and some are specifically about the death of someone who made their living off of the land.
1. “Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon
This poem describes all the things that continue, even after a loved one dies. From the late afternoon sunlight shining through the barn to the “hoe abandoned in long grass.”
While these images and things may be painful reminders to the one you lost, the final stanza offers comfort. “Let it come, as it will, and don’t be afraid. God does not leave us comfortless, so let evening come.”
2. “Never More Will the Wind” by Hilda Doolittle
When you think of your loved one, do you envision him working outside, in good weather and in bad? This melancholy poem may remind you of him. It begins, “Never more will the wind cherish you again, never more will the rain.”
3. “Question” by May Swenson
While this poem certainly has a different tone from the others on the list, it may be appropriate for your loved one’s funeral. The speaker in the poem asks difficult questions about what will happen when his soul leaves his body.
The reason it appears on this list is because of the western imagery that is used. The first stanza reads, “Body my house, my horse, my hound, what will I do when you are all fallen? Where will I sleep? How will I ride? What will I hunt?”
4. “Rider’s Song” by Federico Garcia Lorca
This poem is written from the perspective of a cowboy on a long journey. The rider knows that he will never arrive at Cordoba, his final destination, because he knows he is dying.
5. “Close the Gate (For Dad)” by Nancy Kraayenhof
Anyone who has lived in the country understands the importance of closing the gate to keep the cattle and horses in the pasture. This poem celebrates that lifestyle and includes this line, “You raised a fine family, worked the land well and always followed the Son, Hang up your shovel inside of the barn; your work here on earth is done.”
6. “The Farmer” by Amelia Barr
This rhyming poem extols the virtues of those who feed everyone on earth. It includes the couplet, “The farmer’s trade is one of worth; He’s partner with the sky and earth.”
7. “The Farmer” by Sue Ikerd
Many farmers find themselves in the profession because they are children and grandchildren of farmers. If your loved one was such a person, this poem might speak to you.
8. “A Cowboy’s Prayer” by Charles Badger Clark Jr.
In this poem, a cowboy offers a prayer to the Lord. He admits that “I know that others find You in the light that’s sifted down through tinted window panes, And yet I seem to feel You near tonight
In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains.”
9. “A Cowboy’s Last Request” by Terry Ike Clanton
The speaker in this poem is a deceased cowboy who has ridden off into the sunset. He calls himself a “proud and thankful cowboy who has just passed away.”
Traditional or Older Poems for a Cowboy’s Funeral
Here are some more traditional poems to use at the funeral of a cowboy, farmer, or rancher. You may consider reading them during a funeral service or sharing them on social media.
10. “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden
This famous poem describes a child’s regret for not appreciating his hard-working father. He later remembers how his father got up every day of the week to start a fire in the home to heat it before anyone else awoke. He regrets not thanking his father for taking care of small things to make his life more comfortable.
11. “Psalm 23” from The Bible
It’s not just people who live in the country who find comfort in hearing the words of the 23rd Psalm. But the peaceful place in this Psalm is described as a “green pasture” by “still water,” so it would certainly appeal to someone who lived off the land.
12. The Pasture” by Robert Frost
Even though Robert Frost was certainly not a cowboy, he does incorporate nature into a lot of his poems. In particular, this poem would be extremely appropriate for the funeral of a person who raised cattle. This short poem ends, “I’m going out to fetch the little calf, that’s standing by the mother. It’s so young, it totters when she licks it with her tongue. I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.”
13. “So God Made a Farmer” by Paul Harvey
You may remember this poem from a Super Bowl ad several years ago. Even though it looks more like an essay, this piece reads like a poem. It was written by a radio commentator named Paul Harvey, and it describes the characteristics of these special people who feed the world.
14. “I’m Just a Farmer, Plain and Simple” by Bobby Collier
This plain and simple poem describes the hard life of living off the land. It includes the line, “I know not of riches, But rather, of patches on my britches. I know of drought and rain, Of pleasure and pain.”
15. “I Know You’ll Miss This Man” by Baxter Black
Baxter Black has worked as a cowboy, large-animal veterinarian, a radio and television commentator, and a poet. In this poem, he describes how the Lord needed a cowboy, and even though he knew that the cowboy would be missed on earth, he took the man to Heaven.
16. “When I Leave This Life” by Elizabeth Ebert
Elizabeth Ebert spent her life in South Dakota, where she raised cattle and wrote poetry. She wrote her funeral instructions in this poem. Her final stanza reads, “And later, whenever the time seems right, On a sunny day from a greening hill, Scatter my ashes into the wind. Then I shall be part of the prairie still.” We hope her family followed her end-of-life instructions to a T.
17. “Reincarnation” by Wallace McRae
Are you looking for a funny, cowboy poem to use at a funeral? You may get a few laughs from “Reincarnation” by Wallace McRae.
18. “Out Where the West Begins” by Arthur Chapman
This poem was first published in a collection written by Arthur Chapman in 1917. It begins, “Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger, Out where the smile dwells a little longer, That’s where the West begins.”
Choosing the Right Words
There are certainly times in life when it is essential that you choose the right words. You need to say the right things when you propose to your love. You need to correct your darling grandson carefully when he uses a grandmother name that you despise. And you need to take time to choose your words when you write someone’s eulogy.
Hopefully, this list of cowboy poems will help you choose the right words for your loved one’s funeral. But if you are trying to find a poem that was meaningful to your family member, you may want to become an amateur sleuth. Look through his or her books for well-worn pages. Search the house for poems that were taped up on mirrors decades earlier. Look for newspaper clippings or yellowed pages that are stuck inside the family Bible.
You have one chance to choose the right word’s for your loved one’s funeral, so do what you can to make those words count.