But writing poetry and song lyrics and tall tales to be told and sung around a campfire was his passion.
He stood 6 feet 4 and, in his prime, weighed 220 pounds. His idea of a fine time was mixing with friends from the disparate worlds of poetry and classic cars, and swapping songs and stories long into the night. His voice was a strong baritone, and he was generous with praise for other versifiers.
Graydon, devoted to the craft of telling stories through rhyme, stories about men who worked outdoors with their hands, often the rough-hewn men who, in his view, are the backbone of the real America, died July 30 at his home in Fallbrook, Calif., after a monthslong fight with cancer. He was 77.
The characters in Graydon's poems are often a mix of saint and sinner, like real people.
"The Parson" tells of a frontier preacher and horse trader who hoodwinks a stranger into buying a bad nag whose "ribs and shoulder bones stuck out / He looked like walkin' death."
The parson has no regret when his congregation accuses him of being ungodly in the deal.
No clouds passed o'er the parson's brow.
His face assumed a grin.
He spoke 'He was a stranger,
And me, I took him in.'
Graydon's poems often have a wistfulness for bygone days, particularly "In Congress," his look at the cemetery in the ghost town of Congress, Ariz.
Here in silent rows convene
You delegates, at rest, serene
To represent the citizens
Of times we will not see again.
For decades, Graydon, wearing his 10-gallon hat and strumming his guitar, was a favorite at cowboy-poetry fests in the Southwest and other gatherings. He liked that word because "gathering" is the term cowboys use to describe herding cattle together. He served as master of ceremonies at the annual Death Valley Encampment.
He compiled his stories, poems and lyrics in a collection called "The Way I Heard It… The Book," and folk singers Glenn Yarbrough and Tommy Makem recorded Graydon songs.