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Western Women: Deanna Dickinson McCall

Image by Brittany Colpitts from Pixabay

Welcome back!

Incredible Western Women Series

For those of you just joining us, here’s a little background…

Born in the small town of Colville, WA, I was raised in the Spokane suburbs and moved to rural America with my husband a little over three decades ago. Country life is an amazing place to raise our sons and grandkids. Here on the Colville Reservation, we have lakes, rivers, and creeks to fishing and swim in, hills and mountains to ride horses and hike on, and plenty of space to enjoy family time.

Four generations have grown up and enjoyed this land and all it provides.

I’d like to share rural America with you through the words and photos of incredible western women.

And if you are a western woman or have someone in mind who can share their stories with us, please pass on their name and contact information to me. I’d love to include them on this journey.

So now, let’s open the corral gate and hear from this month’s western woman!

It is a pleasure to introduce Deanna McCall to you all. She is an amazing writer and storyteller. I met her online and have come to admire her cowboy poetry. She’s got a lot to share, so let’s get started!

Real Hands

My husband, Dave, had recently undergone knee surgery and was grumbling about some fairly wild yearlings we hadn’t been able to gather before his operation.  Every time the calves managed to get away. I told him a friend, Shantel, and I were going to go look for them. He snorted.

We ranch in rocky, steep country, covered in brush and trees. We use small traps (corrals or pens) to catch our cattle.  While my friend and I hooked up the trailer and loaded our horses, Dave hobbled down to the barn on crutches. He proceeded to tell us where and how to look for the remnants. I rolled my eyes while sarcastically telling him I was so glad to know that.  Geez.

Shantel and I drove to where I figured the cattle would be. Below us lay a small pasture in a steep canyon, with a small creek running through it. Growing up on a ranch, I was taught to think like a cow and if I were a cow, this is where I’d be.

There was a wire trap on the hill that we would use if we were successful. We rode down the steep ridge, weaving through the brush and trees. In this country we often “hunt” and “trap” cattle. You need to move quietly, to get in a position that ensures the natural direction for them to go is the right direction, away from you.

You also pray they won’t take off like deer when they spot you. We try to tame our cows, calling them and making them come to us for feed. Life is a lot easier when they come to you, rather than run away from you. However, this was a bunch of yearlings we were after. Gathering yearlings is sometimes compared to gathering quail. They blow up in your face and scatter all over.

We spotted the cattle and split up, Shantel easing to one side of them, while I went to the other side. We gradually got the cattle together, taking our time and letting them ease along. We came to the gate leading to the trap. This would be the place where they’d take the trail uphill, or we’d lose them. Cattle don’t like going uphill and look for the path of least resistance.

One of the bigger heifers turned into the gate and the others followed. We looked across at each other and grinned. We’d caught the buggers who had evaded capture several times! I crossed my fingers they’d take the gate on the top and not turn around.

As the cattle scrambled up the trail, I heard a 4-wheeler above us. Crap. I hoped it wouldn’t scare the cattle and have them run back over us. I then heard my husband calling the cattle. I should have known he couldn’t stay home.

We shut the gate on the cattle and he insisted on backing the trailer up to the chute. I watched him hobble over to the truck and back it up. He parked so close we couldn’t open the doors, so Shantel used the escape door and got them open from the inside.  She manned the back gates while I got them into the alley.

Dave squeezed through the brush to prod the cattle up the alley with his crutch while he hung on to the boards. Now, no one could say he didn’t help.

We left the horses and 4-wheeler in the trap. We’d come back for them. As we were driving home, Shantel and I were pretty proud of ourselves. Dave told us it was all luck we caught the yearlings. We rubbed it in more. Shantel was still laughing when she remarked a calf standing alongside the road was a twin to one we loaded. Dave looked out his window and swore while sliding to a stop. He yelled, “The damn calves are getting out!”

I jumped out and ran back to the trailer to see the last calf jump out of the escape door. We caught the yearlings, but we sure forgot to shut the darn escape door. Some hands we were.

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A Treat for You!

Courtesy Deanna Dickinson McCall


She watches cows on the hill thru the window pane, thru the drizzling rain

Looks to see if there’s calves by their sides, thinks maybe she should ride


Been told again it is time to go eat, she needs to find her seat

She notes the green has begun, it just needs some sun


She wonders if they are her cows, or maybe her daddy’s, she allows

Can’t see a brand from here, or any mark on the ear


Go catch her horse in a bit, she never did like to just sit

Her slicker was in the saddle shed, right by the cat’s bed


The walker’s wheels begin to slide, she’s thinking she’ll ride

There’s a tug on her sleeve, someone telling her she can’t leave


She decides to try ol’ Dunny today, she doesn’t care what they say

When she needs to ride, she’ll ride, they can’t keep her inside


Supple leather in her hands, a communication she understands

His willingness to always please, that unity ‘tween her knees


She wonders if that’s right, the memories begin to fight

A sorrel, a paint, a buckskin, a bay, who’d she ride yesterday?


Smell of institutional food is in the air, it seems to hang there

A tv blares from the wall, there’s handrails in the hall


She hears the laughter and some clangs, singing and some little bangs

She knows the sound of pans and tin, the smell of coffee drifting in


Knows she’s expected at the table, but, her minds at the stable

Wondering about the horse eating, not silly place-name seating


The cattle on the hill are black, she tried to think back

Red necks only came to mind, she didn’t remember that kind


She stares down at the wrinkled hand, at the worn thin wedding band

Tries to conjure up his face, to only find an empty place


He’d been gone for so darn long, she was alone but strong

The visions were so bleary, recollecting made her so weary


She found a seat facing the hill, eyes closing against her will

Rest a bit ‘fore going outside, she really needed to ride


No one thought anything of her nap, hands slowly sliding off her lap,

The gentleness of her smile as she rode her very last mile.

©2021Deanna Dickinson

Photo Courtesy Pixabay

Rough Country

Saddles scarred, sturdy and plain

On the ground sits one split rein

Leggins hooked over the horn

Armor from branch and thorn

Short stout taps hang down

On rigs not seen in town.


Old tin coat with raveled cuff

Rests on hands dark and tough

Shirt pre-torn from the other day

Worn once more ‘fore thrown away

Battered hat with torn brim

Faces scratched from a limb.


We wide the rough country.


Cinches checked one last time

‘Fore into saddles we climb

On horses steady and sure

Savy of the snakes whirr

Scent of javelina and bear

The cholla and prickly pear.


Slide down a rocky slope

Slippery as a bar of soap

Duck under branches too low

Following where cattle go

Through brush heavy and thick

Knowing the old cows’ trick.


Cactus and algerita abound

Cracking branches sound

Cattle and thicket collide

Gouging your ornery hide

As a cowpony parts the way

On another brush poppin’ day.


We ride the rough country.

~©Deanna Dickinson McCall, 2018~

Connect with Deanna

Deanna’s Website

Amazon Author Page





Deanna Dickinson McCall currently ranches in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband, Dave.  She is from a long line of ranchers, people who revere the land and livestock, and love their livelihood.  Deanna and her husband spent 22 years raising their 3 children on a remote Nevada ranch without electricity or phones. Besides ranching in several states, she’s ridden for paychecks, sold feed, and received cattle at sales yards to make ends meet when necessary.

The stories she writes are generous slices of this life. They are tales of gritty existence, simple honest love, a code of honor still upheld, and beating overwhelming odds. They are about the people and land of today’s West. Her voice of experience cannot be mistaken as you read and are drawn into her writing.

Her poetry opens a door allowing you deep into her world, often touching a heartstring as she writes of the ranch life and people she loves, or sends her reader into laughter as her wry humor rings true.

Deanna has won various awards for her writing, including Academy Of Western Artists, Western Music Association, Women Writing The West, Will Rogers Medallion Award, NM/AZ Book Awards.

Deanna is the author of 4 books : Mustang Spring,  Rough Patches, Rough Patches II, & Split Reins. You can hear her poetry in her own voice on her award-winning CD Riding and her newest release and winner of the prestigious Wrangler award: I’ll Ride Thru It.

Deanna and coauthor Gay Gardella now have their cookbook, Cowboy Cuisine: Beyond Biscuits and Beans available on Amazon.

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  1. Thanks to all who commented. For decades I felt I was alone, that other women wouldn’t understand what it was that I did, that they would not possibly be interested or care. It is such a comforting feeling to know there are others like myself out there, that was brought home at the very first cowboy poetry gathering. We are out there, scattered thru the valleys and plains and mountains. I love to hear the other voices Carmen has brought to us. Thank you!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Deanna, I’m glad you’ve found other women. It can be lonely at times, especially for ranchers and writers. I too often feel that way. But thanks to Women Writing the West, I’ve found my tribe and I’m thankful you are a part of it! Keep being who you are…a true inspiration to the rest of us!

  2. KC LaCourse says:

    I have always admired the ranch life , the get your hands dirty life , an adventure for sure and to be able to write about that kind of life and live it , that’s a real gift .
    Deanna is a great writer n reciter

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      I have too, KC. I’ve dabbled in it but that’s all. Deanna’s talents are unlimited.

  3. Jean Emmons says:

    Delighted to read Deanna’s stories.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Jean, thanks for taking the time to stop by and give Deanna some love.

  4. This was a touching post. Loved the poem She Needs to Ride. Brought a tear to my eye.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Judy, I’m glad you liked hearing from Deanna and her words touched you so deeply. Be blessed.

  5. What fun! I love true ranching stories. Thanks for sharing this remarkable woman with us.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      You are welcome, Mary! I love these stories too. Such inspiration.