JACK POTTER’S COURTIN’
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)
Now young Jack Potter was a man
who knowed the ways of steers.
From bur-nests in their hairy tails
to ticks that chawed their ears.
A Texican and cowhand,
to the saddle bred and born,
He could count a trail herd on the move
and never miss a horn.
But one day on a tally,
back in eighteen-eighty-four,
He got to acting dreamy,
and he sure did miss the score.
The Trail Boss knowed the symptoms.
“Jack you ain’t no good like this.
I’ll give you just ten days
to go and find what is amiss!”
A “miss” was just what ailed him,
for he’d fell in love for sure
With a gal named Cordie Eddy,
mighty purty, sweet and pure.
So now Jack rode a hundred miles,
a-sweatin’ with the thought
Of sweetsome words to ask her with,
the way a fella ought.
“I’m just a humble cowhand,
Miss Cordie, if you please,
That hereby asks your heart and hand,
upon my bended knees!.”
It sounded mighty simple
thus rehearsed upon the trail.
But when he come to Cordie’s house,
his words all seemed to fail.
‘Twas “Howdy, ma’am, and how’s the crops?
And “How’s your pa and ma?”
For when it came to askin’ her,
he couldn’t come to taw.
He took her to a dance one night.
The hoss she rode was his.
“He’s a dandy little hoss,” she says.
“Well, yep,” says Jack, “he is.”
They rode home late together
and the moon was ridin’ high,
And Jack, he got to talkin’
’bout the stars up in the sky,
And how they’d guide a trail herd
like they do sea-goin’ ships.
But words of love and marriage—
they just wouldn’t pass his lips!
So he spoke about the pony
she was ridin’, and he said:
“You’ll note he’s fancy-gaited,
and don’t never fight his head.”
“He’s sure a little dandy,” she agrees,
and heaves a sigh.
Jack says, “Why you can have him—
that is—maybe—when I die.”
He figgered she might savvy
what he meant or maybe guess,
And give him that sweet answer
which he longed for, namely, “yes.”
But when they reached the ranch house,
he was still a-wonderin’ how
He would ever pop the question,
and he had to do it now.
Or wait and sweat and suffer
till the drive was done that fall,
When maybe she’d be married,
and he’d lose her after all.
He put away her saddle,
led his pony to the gate:
“I reckon I’ll be driftin’, ma’am.
It’s gittin’ kinder late.”
Her eyes was bright as starlight,
and her lips looked sweet as flow’rs.
Says Jack, “Now, this here pony—
is he mine, or is he ours?”
“Our pony, Jack!” she answered,
and her voice was soft as moss.
Then Jack, he claims he kissed her—
but she claims he kissed the hoss!
© 1966, S. Omar Barker, from Rawhide Rhymes, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker
It’s become a sort of tradition here to share this poem for Valentine’s Day.
S. Omar Barker’s poem is based on the real-life romance of trail driver and storyteller Jack Potter and Cordelia Eddy. In July, 2006, we received correspondence from Georganna Kresl, great granddaughter of “Jack” and “Cordie,” commenting on the poem about her great-grandparents.
She wrote, “…Though Jack Potter may be best known as a trail driver, throughout his life he was first and foremost a story teller—an oral historian in the folk tradition. After he retired from the range, sold his ranch, and moved into the town of Clayton, New Mexico (1928), Potter wrote down some of his personal recollections, entered them in a contest sponsored by the Pioneer State Tribune and, astonishingly, was awarded second place. The result was that, though in his 60’s at the time, Jack Potter coincidentally created a new career for himself as a writer…
“Though Potter wrote primarily for Western magazines and newspapers, he also published two books, Cattle Trails of the Old West (1935, 1939) and Lead Steer and Other Tales (1939). In the third chapter of Lead Steer, titled “Courtship and Engagement,” Jack talks about how he and Cordie met and tells about proposing to her. Barker must have been familiar with this story through his association with Potter during the ’30s, because the heart of Potter’s narrative version of events forms the basis for Barker’s poem; in effect, Barker translated Potter’s prose into verse. The resulting rhyme was then subsequently printed in Ranch Romances in September 1941.”
Find much more and a photo of Cordie and her children at cowboypoetry.com.
Top reciter Randy Rieman presents “Jack Potter’s Courtin'” in a delightful way on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.
Barker 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.
Find more cowboy love poems for Valentine’s Day at cowboypoetry.com.
This c. 1907 postcard image is from the BAR-D collection.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but for any other uses, request permission.)