CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY
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 Barker
Geff Dawson, who with Dawn Dawson heads the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, recites this S. Omar Barker poem on the 2018 double CD from CowboyPoetry.com, 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 CowboyPoetry.com.
The National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo takes place this year August 2-3, 2019 in Abilene, Kansas. The associated Chisholm Trail Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Show is August 3, 2019.
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 at the event.
This photo of S. Omar Barker is courtesy of the estate of S. Omar Barker.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)