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

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.

We are lucky to have Rusty McCall’s recitation on our forthcoming CD, MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, a double CD celebrating S. Omar Barker’s poetry, with over 60 poems from many of today’s top poets and reciters.

Andy Hedges recites “Grand Canyon Cowboy” on his COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast with Ross Knox (episode 3).

MASTERS: VOLUME TWO will be released in April. A great way to reserve a copy is to become a supporter of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry / at the $40 level or higher. You’ll also receive the 2018 Cowboy Poetry Week poster by Clara Smith. Everything we do is made possible through the generous donations of this community and we need your support. Find more here.

CDs will also be available for purchase.

S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of theWestern 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, and that explanation is included with his introduction about S. Omar Barker on the forthcoming MASTERS: VOLUME TWO CD).

The late Elmer Kelton wrote an introduction to to the 1998 Cowboy Miner book on Barker, and it is excerpted at It begins,

How can anyone begin to tell who S. Omar Barker was?

The easy way would be to give the statistics: that he was born in a log cabin on a small mountain ranch at Beulah, New Mexico, in 1894, youngest of the eleven children of Squire Leander and Priscilla Jane Barker, that he grew up on the family homestead, attended high school and college in Las Vegas, New Mexico, was in his youth a teacher of Spanish, a high school principal, a forest ranger, a sergeant of the 502nd Engineers in France in World War I, a trombone player in Doc Patterson’s Cowboy Band, a state legislator and a newspaper correspondent.

That he began writing and selling stories, articles, and poems as early as 1914 and became a full-time writer at the end of his legislative term in 1925. That he married Elsa McCormick of Hagerman, New Mexico, in 1927, and she also became a noted writer of Western stories….

Find more about S. Omar Barker at

This c.b1903 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 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.