GRAND CANYON COWBOY by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)


by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

I’d heard of the Canyon (the old cowboy said)
And I figured I’d like to go see it.
So I rode till I sighted a rim out ahead,
And reckoned that this place might be it.

I anchored my horse to a juniper limb
And crawled to the edge for a peek.
One look was a plenty to make my head swim.
And all of my innards felt weak.

If I’d known how durned deep it was going to be,
I’d have managed, by some hook or crook,
To tie my ownself to the doggoned tree
And let my horse go take the look!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker from “Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West,” 1958

Andy Hedges recites it on his latest COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast, as a way of introducing his guest cowboy, packer, and noted reciter and poet Ross Knox.

Ross Knox tells tales of old cow outfits; stories about Larry McWhorter and his pranks and assorted shenanigans; talks about his cowboying and mule packing; recalls how he started reciting poetry; offers stories of Waddie Mitchell many years ago; recounts the earliest days of the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering; tells of the origins of the song he co-wrote with Ian Tyson, “I Outgrew the Wagon”; addresses his open-heart surgery; relates the story behind an iconic photo; recites his poem, “Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day”; and much more.

Andy Hedges is a deft interviewer: curious, knowledgeable, and a great listener.

Find the COWBOY CROSSROADS episodes here, on SoundCloud, and on iTunes, where you can subscribe. Don’t miss the first episodes, a two-part interview with Waddie Mitchell.

S.Omar Barker’s poem was a favorite poem of two popular poets who are sorely missed: Rusty McCall, 1986-2013  and Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007.

S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB” (but Andy Hedges tells that it never really did become his brand).

Find more about S. Omar Barker at

This c.1903 photo, titled “Descending Grand View Trail – Grand Cañon of Arizona,” is described, “Stereograph showing a man, with a horse and two pack mules, descending the Grand View Trail in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.