CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY, by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)


by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

It don’t take such a lot of laws
To keep the rangeland straight,
Nor books to write ’em in, because
There’s only six or eight.
The first one is the welcome sign—
True brand of western hearts:
“My camp is yours an’ yours is mine,”
In all cow country parts.

Treat with respect all womankind,
Same as you would your sister.
Take care of neighbors’ strays you find,
And don’t call cowboys “mister.”
Shut pasture gates when passin’ through;
An’ takin’ all in all,
Be just as rough as pleases you,
But never mean nor small.

Talk straight, shoot straight, and never break
Your word to man nor boss.
Plumb always kill a rattlesnake.
Don’t ride a sorebacked hoss.
It don’t take law nor pedigree
To live the best you can!
These few is all it takes to be
A cowboy—and a man!

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

We interrupt our week of poems about rain with information about this year’s 21st annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, August 2-4, 2018 in Abilene, Kansas.

Geff Dawson, who with Dawn Dawson heads the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, recites this S. Omar Barker poem on the latest double CD from, MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

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


The National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo describes their events, “…There are competition levels for beginners and Silver Buckle winners, cash prizes, trophy buckles and more. Anyone can compete—bring your best poetry or recited poetry and compete with us. It’s tons of fun and you get to meet a whole lot of people who love the same thing you do—cowgirl/cowboy poetry. Competition dates are August 3-4, 2018, in Abilene, Kansas, during the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo and Kansas Free Fair! For more information, click our web site at Entry forms, rules and our 2018 schedule are all available on the web site…”

Many poets have participated over the years, and have high praise for the experience, including Yvonne Hollenbeck, Doris Daley, Linda Kirkpatrick, DW Groethe, Andy Nelson, the late Pat Richardson, and many others. A celebration of “excellence through competition,” many lasting friendships are made.

The associated Chisholm Trail Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Show is August 4, 2018 in Abilene, Kansas.

Find more about the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo at and on Facebook.

These photos include Geff and Dawn Dawson (far right, horseback) and the judges of the 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, including Oklahoma poet and rancher Jay Snider and others. Thanks to Geff and Dawn for the photos.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and these photos with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)