“Bringing Home the Tree,” © 2004, Joelle Smith (1958-2005)
DRAGGIN’ IN THE TREE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)
The cowboy ain’t no lumberjack,
…an’ if you want the facks,
One thing he ain’t the fondest of
…is choppin’ with an axe.
But when December snow has got
…the range all wrapped in white,
There is one job of choppin’
…that he seems to like all right.
A sharp ax on his shoulder,
…he will ride off up the draw
Until he finds an evergreen
…without a single flaw.
A spruce, a fir, a juniper
…that’s shaped just to a T
To set up in a corner
…for the ranchhouse Christmas tree.
As like as not, last summer
…while a-ridin’ after cows
He noticed just the tree he wants,
…with green and graceful boughs
That’s stout enough to ornament
…without no droop nor saggin’,
But still a tree that ain’t too big
…to fetch without a wagon.
It may be that he picked it out
…when August sun was hot,
But he knows where to find it,
…For his mind has marked the spot.
It ain’t no chore to chop it down,
…an’ if the snow is deep
He drags it in behind his horse.
…It warms him up a heap
To see them rancher kids
…run out a-hollerin’ with glee
To watch him an’ admire him
…when he’s bringin’ the tree.
Them kids may not belong to him,
…but that don’t matter none—
His boss’ brood, a nester’s brats—
…It’s still a heap of fun
To some ol’ lonesome cowpoke,
…an’ it sets his heart aglow
To come a-draggin’ in the tree
…across the Christmas snow.
Sometimes when there’s a schoolmarm
…an’ she wants a tree at school,
She gets half a dozen.
…for you’ll find that as a rule
At least that many cowboys,
…in sweet education’s cause,
Will somehow get to feelin’
…That they’re kin to Santy Claus!
Sometimes the rangeland’s lonesome
…an’ sometimes it’s kind o’ grim,
But not when every ranchhouse
…has a Christmas tree to trim.
An’ though the wild cowpuncher
…ain’t no hand to swing an ax,
Across the white December snow
…you’ll often find his tracks
A-leadin’ to the timber,
…then back out again once more,
A-draggin’ in the Christmas tree—
…his purt near favorite chore!
© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker
S. Omar Barker wrote many excellent Christmas poems.
He was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman.
It’s told that Barker enjoyed signing his name with his brand, created from his initials and laid sideways for “Lazy SOB,” but, that’s not a completely accurate story. In a 1972 article written by Barker for Hoofs and Horns magazine, Barker introduces himself, “This S.O.B. (my initials, not my ancestry) has never claimed to qualify as a sure ‘nough cowboy.” Later in the article, he comments, “Incidentally, when I applied for (Lazy S O B) for our cattle brand, they wrote back that some other S O B already had it. So we had to be satisfied with [Lazy S B].” (Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing the article, which he received from Vess Quinlan, who received it from Joel Nelson who received it from Kay Kelley Nowell.)
We’ll have news in January about the forthcoming double CD of S. Omar Barker poetry, with recitations by many of today’s top poets and reciters.
This drawing,”Bringing Home the Tree,” © 2004, is by much-missed artist and horsewoman Joelle Smith (1958-2005). It depicts Joelle and her niece Clara Smith, who is grown up now and is also an impressive artist. Stay tuned for news about her, too. The image was the subject of a previous Christmas Art Spur at CowboyPoetry.com.