RETIRED BRONC RIDER by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)


by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

These tame ol’ plugs you ride these days (remarks ol’ Baldy Bill),
They maybe buck a little, but they just ain’t got the will
To throw a man or bust a gut a-tryin’, like the kind
We used to ride when I was young. I calloused my behind
On rank ol’ mustang outlaws that was born to buck and pitch
The way that some cowpokes are born to scratch it when they itch.
I used to comb the mane hair of them mustangs with my spurs
Until both wheels was all gobbed up with hair and cockleburs.
Meanwhile I’d roll a cigarette, and with my other hand
I’d wave my hat at all them folks a-cheerin’ in the stand.

I win a heap of ridin’s when the broncs was tough as hell,
But had to quit bronc bustin’ back yonder quite a spell,
Because, although them buckers was the wildest ever born,
My ridin’ broke their spirit till they wasn’t worth their corn.

Yessir, these broncs you youngsters ride (Ol’ Baldy kinder grins)
They ain’t got what it takes to make you sorry for your sins!
Seems like they lack the dynamite them old ‘uns had inside ’em—
But just the same, I’m glad I’m old—so I don’t have to ride em!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

Songster Andy Hedges brought our attention to this lesser-known Barker poem in his latest “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast, the second part of an interview with iconoclast “rodeo poet” Paul Zarzyski. Few reciters can interpret a poem as skillfully as Andy, and he offers a fine recitation of the poem at the beginning of the broadcast. Listen to it here.

Andy told us he was inspired to include the poem when Paul told him that he used to recite the poem at every show. Read an interesting post at Paul’s web site that mentions the poem.

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. Find more about him at

This 1907 photo by noted photographer Erwin E. Smith is titled “In the bronc pens,” with a summary description, “Photograph shows two cowboys breaking or busting a bronc in a corral at the LS Ranch in Texas in 1907.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

At the Amon Carter Museum, the largest holder of Smith photographs, they tell, “Erwin E. Smith (1886–1947) always wanted to be a cowboy and an artist. When he was a boy growing up in Bonham, a town in Fannin County in North Texas, the era of the great trail drives was over, and he feared that the old ways of the cowboy were disappearing… For his part, Smith resolved to honor the life of the cowboy by presenting as true a portrayal as possible.” See their on-line gallery of his works here.