I am a 7th generation Florida Cracker cow hunter (cowboy), and I did not inherit the family ranch. My family moved to Florida in the early 1840’s, and they were involved in the early development of the State and its cattle industry. Cowboys, in the Sunshine State are often called cow hunters. During the days of open range, the only way pioneers could gather their wild cattle was to hunt for them. Territorial Florida was dense with tropical vegetation and offered wild Spanish cattle a good place to hide. These wild cattle headed for the closest scrub or swamp whenever they saw or heard a human. The cow hunters learned to use long cow whips to help scare the cattle from their hiding places. They also used the crack of a whip to communicate with other cow hunters, letting them know where they were and signaling for help. The cracking of these whips could be heard from far away. A good whip, in a cow hunter’s hand, sounds as loud as a gun. Through the years, the term “Cracker” has been used as a term to describe these pioneer cowboys. Even though there are negative meanings for this term today, true descendants of Florida pioneers have learned to take pride in the term.
My family history and cowboy heritage is more precious to me than silver and gold. Early pioneering families of Florida were sometimes very large. Unless a family had lots of kids, there were few people around to assist with day to day work and chores. The life expectancy of infants and disease during those early pioneer days made raising a family difficult. When the old folks passed away, their property was usually divided until there was little left for my generation, except the heritage and pride.

I have worked on cattle ranches from the time of my birth in 1948 until I joined the United States Air Force in October of 1967.  I didn’t plan to make the Military a career but considered that any job I took was worth “riding for the brand,” so the military became a career. In 1987, I retired from the Air Force after 20 years.  I decided that it was time to move on to greener pastures. The Air Force had been good to me, but I was no longer willing to be on-call seven days a week and be forced to move around at someone else’s directive. I never got totally away from my cowboy heritage during my military career. I had enough time on the side to train a few horses, become involved in Team Roping, and I even trained a few bird dogs.

In 1993, I took a job with Texas A&M University as a Laboratory Animal Facility Manager, and that job evolved into a Facilities Coordinator position. I have had an interesting and productive career with Texas A&M University, and I’m about to retire for a second time.  When I got to TAMU, it didn’t take long to recognize the quality of the people I was working with.  I decided soon after arriving, that it would be easy for me to ride for the Texas A&M University brand.

I have enjoyed my life through two full careers, but I still love and miss my days of ranch life and all things cowboy.  It is too late in my life to start a third career, but if I could, I’d go back to being a simple ranch hand and cowboy.  I still love the feel of a good horse under me, and seeing mama cows and calves on green grass still makes me smile.  I have always relied on my cowboy heritage and love for nature in everything that I attempted to do, including my writing.

My first attempt at writing poetry was in high school. I was interested in communicating with the opposite sex and felt like poetry would get me where I wanted to be.  I gave a girl one of my poems, and she didn’t find it very amusing. She just handed it back to me and laughed.  I realize today that I probably made her as nervous as I was at the time. That was end of my poetry writing until many years later when I sat down one night with a pencil and paper and without much effort penciled a three page poem. I was surprised how easy that poem came to me, and I still find it so today. I have written poems on many subjects, but through the years, I have found that my cowboy poetry seems to take up most of my recreational writing time.

I have published a collection of some of my work, Poetry of a Florida Cowboy, through Authorhouse Publishing Company, and it can be purchased online or through your local favorite book store. I try to keep a few copies on hand for people who want signed or personalized copies. I hope that you enjoy my work, and that you can recognize something in it that helps you connect with memories from your past or helps you to connect with your heritage.


You Can Find All of David’s Poetry on this site


“The Poetry of David Carlton”


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