RANCH MOTHER, by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)


by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

She knows the keen of lonely winds
The sound of hoofs at night,
The creak of unwarmed saddles in
The chill before daylight,
The champ of eager bridle bits,
The jingle-clink of spurs,
The clump of boots—lone silence, too,
For cowboy sons are hers.

She knew the dust of cattle trails
While yet she was a bride,
And tangy smell of branding iron
Upon a dogie’s hide.
The yelp of coyotes on a hill,
The night hawk’s lonely croon,
The bawl of milling cattle: thus
Her cowcamp honeymoon.

Her hands are hard from laboring,
Her face is brown from sun,
But oh, her eyes are deep with dreams
Of days and duties done!
The hand of hardship forged her love
That first far rangeland spring.
Now he is gone its memory lives,
A gentle, deathless thing.

Her days knew little neighboring,
Less now, perhaps, than then,
Alone with years she gleans content:
Her sons are horseback men!

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

Deanna Dickinson McCall is known for her fine recitation of this poem and we’re pleased to have it on recordings, including the latest MASTERS: Volume Two, the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Popular songwriter Jean Prescott put the poem to music on her Traditions CD.

Find much more about S. Omar Barker and his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1904 photo by W.D. Harper is titled “101 Ranch, Rita Blanco Cañon,” and described, “Photograph shows seven cowboys from the 101 Ranch near Dalhart, Texas, on horseback. A ranch house, outbuildings and corrals are in the background.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.

We don’t know much about W.D. Harper, though he made many iconic photographs. This one also shows the photographer’s wagon in the background.

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