by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)
They called him “Purt Near Perkins,”
for unless the booger lied,
He’d purt near done most everything
that he had ever tried.
He’d purt near been a preacher
and he’d purt near roped a bear;
He’d met up with Comanches once
and purt near lost his hair.
He’d purt near wed an heiress
who had money by the keg,
He’d purt near had the measles,
and he’d purt near broke his leg.
He’d purt near been a trail boss,
and accordin’ to his claim,
He’d purt near shot Bill Hickock—
which had purt near won him fame!
He’d purt near rode some broncs
upon which no one else had stuck
In fact he was the feller
Who had purt near drowned the duck!
Now mostly all the cowboys
On the Lazy S B spread,
They took his talkin’ with a grin
And let him fight his head.
But one named Tom Maginnis
Sorter told it to him rough:
“You’re ridin’ with an outfit now
Where ‘purt near’ ain’t enough!
We tie our lasso ropes to the horn,
An’ what we ketch we hold,
And ‘purt near’ is one alibi
We never do unfold!
In fact, right now
I’ll tell you that no word I ever hear
Sounds quite so plain damn useless
As that little pair: ‘purt near’!”
That’s how ol’ Tom Maginnis
Laid it out upon the line,
And like a heap of preachin’ talk,
It sounded mighty fine.
But one day Tom Maginnis,
While a-ridin’ off alone,
He lamed his horse
And had to ketch some neighbor nester’s roan
To ride back to the ranch on.
But somewhere along the way
A bunch of nesters held him up,
And there was hell to pay!
Tom claimed he hadn’t stole the horse—
Just borrowed it to ride.
Them nesters hated cowboys,
And they told him that he lied.
The cussed him for a horsethief
And they’d caught him with the goods.
They set right out to hang him
In a nearby patch of woods.
They had pore Tom surrounded,
With their guns all fixed to shoot.
It looked like this pore cowboy
Sure had heard his last owl hoot!
They tied a rope around his neck
And throwed it o’er a limb
And Tom Maginnis purt near knowed
This was the last of him.
Then suddenly a shot rang out
From somewhere up the hill!
Them nesters dropped the rope an’ ran,
Like nesters sometimes will
When bullets start to whizzin’.
Tom’s heart lept up with hope
To see ol’ Purt Near Perkins
Ridin’ towards him at a lope.
“Looks like I purt near
Got here just in time,” ol’ Perkins said,
“To see them nesters hang you!”
Tom’s face got kinder red.
“You purt near did!” he purt near grinned.
“They purt near had me strung!
You’re lookin’ at a cowboy
That has purt near just been hung!
And also one that’s changed his mind—
For no word ever said,
Can sound as sweet as ‘purt near’,
When a man’s been purt near dead!”
© S. Omar Barker, from his 1954 book, Songs of the Saddlemen, and reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker
Watch top reciter and respected horseman Randy Rieman recite the poem on the Western Folklife Center’s YouTube channel.
New Mexico’s S. Omar Barker gave many humorous poems to the world of cowboy poetry. A good number of them, including this one, remain widely recited today. He inserted a bit of himself in this poem in referring to the “Lazy S B spread.” He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB.”
Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.
This image is from an old trade card for Wiedemann Beer. In the late 1800s, it became Kentucky’s largest brewery.
The picture is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.