Califonia Bountiful

Young cowboy poet attracts statewide attention

Mar./Apr. 2005 California Country magazine

Rancher John Greber Jr. turns to cowboy poetry and stories to recapture the simple life.

John Greber Jr. works on his Elk Grove ranch.

A natural ability to entertain, combined with a love of ranching, have led to a creative outlet for Elk Grove rancher John Greber Jr.

The 31-year-old poet and horseman is well known among family, friends and farmers for performing cowboy poetry, jokes and stories.

"People everywhere are starting to search for a slower way of life. They want to escape from their cul-de-sac homes, and cowboy poetry is an escape from the rat race that holds them in," Greber said. "Not only are poems and music good family entertainment, the cowboy is still the symbol of America. Cowboy poetry and music takes you back to the old days when times were simpler."

A third-generation farmer, Greber grew up on his family's cattle and hog ranch where he continues working today. A true cowboy, Greber is a horseback riding instructor and horse trainer. He also serves as second vice chair of California Farm Bureau Federation's Young Farmers and Ranchers organization.

As a hobby and passion for 12 years, Greber writes material and performs before rural and urban audiences throughout the state. His poems and stories capture important relationships including those between man and wife, a cowboy and his friends, a cowboy and his horse, and a rancher and livestock. He paints a verbal picture of the hardworking cowboy and the common struggle with Mother Nature.

An underlying theme in his poetry and stories is an appreciation for his life as a cowboy and rancher. He never fails to give thanks for the people around him and his chosen profession.

"Living the life of a rancher helps when writing the poems. I know what it is like being bucked off of a horse; I know what it feels like to work outside in the mud and the rain," Greber said. "It is these moments that give me inspiration."

Greber has maintained such a great reputation among farming circles, he has been asked to entertain for many cattle and farm groups, as well as for friends and family members throwing weddings and parties.

For weddings, a highly requested poem of Greber's is "A Cowboy's Vow."

"My dreams have all come true, of meeting a lady like you, and finally
settling down
My days of a wild buckaroo, my darlin', those days are all through, and
I'm not about to frown...
For you've made me the happiest cowboy alive, and with my word as my
promise, I'll be there
for you until the day I die, to make you proud to be the wife of
this very thankful man."

Greber performed "A Cowboy Vow," at the wedding of longtime friends Ken and Charlotte Mitchell, fellow farmers and members of the Sacramento County Farm Bureau.

"Johnny's reading of the poem was a very special moment that my wife Charlotte and I will remember forever. It was very special to us that Johnny was in the wedding and did a reading of something that he had written," Mitchell said. "Johnny has grown up as my little brother. He used to be pretty secretive about his poems and stories. We asked him about it one time and real shyly, he shared one poem with us. We said, 'Wow, Johnny, you are a real talent.'"

John Greber Jr.
John Greber Jr., a young cowboy poet and Elk Grove rancher puts words to paper.

In "A Reason for Thanks," Greber writes,

"...tonight should be better, the stars are shining bright and proud
over the crew tonight.
I peacefully lie back on my bedroll and relax, as I hear the cattle bawl,
and the coyotes call, as I stare into the night.
God blessed us with horses to ride, and cattle to tend with pride.
So before I falls' asleep, Lord, please hear this cowboy's thanks for this
life, and to watch over all my cowboy friends,
who have passed over the great divide."

"When performing the poems, you have to be theatrical; you have to like to tell stories. You have to like the subject you are telling stories about and know the subject well. And when it comes to ranching, I do," Greber said.

Inspiration for Greber's poems comes not only from his daily routine as a rancher and cowboy, but also from his father and grandfather, who always liked to tell jokes and stories. Greber says he grew up around cowboys and farmers who always seemed to have a story to tell or a joke to spin.

Other influences include famous cowboy poets Baxter Black and Nevada buckaroo Waddie Mitchell.

"Baxter Black is a big influence because he is such a theatrical and comedic performer. He is so sharp-witted. Plus he is another guy that's lived the life as a rancher," Greber said. "I do some of Baxter Black's poems in my recitals."

(Christine Souza is a reporter for California Country. She may be contacted at

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