by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)
About this here Thanksgiving there are two opposin’ views,
One helt by ol’ Pop McIntyre, one helt by Smoky Hughes;
And how them two ol’ cowpokes will debate the pros-and-cons
Produces in the bunkhouse many verbal marathons.
“I’ve always worked,” says Smoky, “For whatever I have had,
Since first I wrangled horses as a rusty-knuckled lad.
I’ve rode my share of broncos, and I’ve punched a heap of cow,
And earned my own danged ‘blessings’ by the sweat of my own brow!
Why should I be a-givin’ thanks for what I’ve duly earned
Is a lot of bosh and bunkum that I just ain’t never learned!”
Pop McIntyre, he sucks his pipe a thoughtful draw or two,
Then says: “Well, Smoky, I’ll admit that you’re a buckaroo
Who sets a steady saddle and ain’t stingy with his sweat,
But maybe there’s a thing or two you stubbornly forget.
You’re noted as a peeler that is seldom ever throwed—
To what good luck or blessin’ is your skill at ridin’ owed?”
“There ain’t no good luck to it, Pop,” says Smoky. “I’m a man
Who ain’t obliged for nothin’ when I do the best I can.
For when I earn my wages bustin’ out a bunch of colts,
It’s me, myself in person, that is takin’ all the jolts.
That’s why I claim Thanksgivin’ Day is mostly just a fake
To give some folks a good excuse for turkey stummick-ache!”
“My friend,” says Pop, sarcastic, “you have spoke your little piece,
And proved you’ve got a limber tongue that’s well supplied with grease.
You scoff at all thanksgivin’, but a fact you surely know
Is that some Power beyond your own learned blades of grass to grow.
You spoke of ridin’ broncos—I’ll admit you ride ’em good,
And set up in the saddle like a salty peeler should.
For this you take the credit, and you claim to owe no thanks
For the buckarooster blessin’ of the muscles in your shanks!
Instead you should feel thankful,” says Pop’s concludin’ drawl,
That the good lord made you forkéd—or you couldn’t ride at all!”
© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker
S. Omar Barker wrote several Thanksgiving poems. This one appears in his 1954 book, Songs of the Saddlemen.
Look for more info on a special forthcoming MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com that includes Waddie Mitchell’s recitation of “Thanksgiving Argument,” recorded for the project.
Barker’s prolific writing was described by his friend Fred Gipson, “…It’s as western as sagebrush, authentic as an brush-scuffed old boot, and full of the warm-hearted humor that seems always to be a part of ‘the men who ride where the range is wide’…”
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 postcard, from the early 1900s, is from our BAR-D collection.
Find poems and more in a Thanksgiving feature at CowboyPoetry.com.