WHAT’S A BRONCO by S. Omar Barker


by S. Omar Barker

They asked me “What’s a bronco!”
since they seemed to crave to know.
I kinder chawed it over,
then I fed it to ’em slow.

“A bronc,” I says, judicious,
“which is what you mean, no doubt,
Is an equine son of cyclones
with the hairy side turned out.
His soul is filled with cockleburs,
and when this inward itch
bursts forth in outward action,
he is said to buck or pitch,
Which means he comes unraveled,
paws the moon to make it spin,
and agitates his muscles
like he aimed to quit his skin.

“One jump he views his belly,
and the next he chins the stars.
Was you ever kicked by lightnin’?
That’s the way his landin’ jars.
His color may be anything
from black to flea-bit roan;
a sorrel, bay, or chestnut,
he is still the devil’s own
until he’s been unspizzled
by some hairpin on his back
with two prongs hung acrost him
and their juncture in the kack.

“A pinwill or a r’arback
or a circlin’ pioneer,
The bronc’s a welcome widow-maker
when he throws himself in gear.
Though he’s the toughest red meat
you will ever come across,
If you’re man enough to ride him,
then you’ve got yourself a hoss!”

…by S. Omar Barker, from “Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West,” (1968); reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

Cowboy, poet, songwriter, and yodeler Gary McMahan does a great recitation of “What’s a Bronco” on the forthcoming double CD of S. Omar Barker’s poetry from CowboyPoetry.com (April 2018).

S. Omar Barker, as described in Cowboy Miner Productions’ collection of his work, “…was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico… a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator…” He 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.

The photo above is among those you’ll find in a new book, Way Out West: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration 1936-1943, Charlie Seemann, retired Executive Director of the Western Folklife Center.


See our review here.

This 1940 photo by Russell Lee from FSA collection at The Library of Congress is titled, “Quemado, New Mexico. Bronc busting at the rodeo.” Find more about it at here.