HORSES VERSUS HOSSES by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

kcphoto by Carl Johnson

 
HORSES VERSUS HOSSES
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

I heard an oldtime cowboy swappin’ off some drawlin’ talk
about them nags men used to ride, who didn’t like to walk.
He spoke of them as “hosses,” so I up and asked him why
he didn’t call them “horses.” Well, a gleam come in his eye,
and here is what he told me—be it right or be it wrong—
some salty information that I’d like to pass along:

“You go out to the race track or some modern ridin’ school,
And what you’ll find ’em ridin’ there is horses, as a rule.
You’ll see ’em wrapped in blankets when they raise a little sweat,
And bedded in warm stables so they won’t git cold or wet.

Their saddle is a postage stamp; they’re combed and curried slick:
Their riders bobble up an’ down like monkeys on a stick.
Them purty tricks are horses, son, but that there ain’t the word
We used to call them shaggies that we rode behind the herd.

They might not be so purty, but they stayed outdoors at night.
They maybe weighed 900 pounds—all guts an’ dynamite.
They took you where you had to go an’ always brought you back,
Without no fancy rations that you purchase in a sack.

They loped all day on nothin’ but your two hands full of grass.
On a Stetson full of water they could climb a mountain pass.
They swum you through the rivers an’ they plowed you through the sand—
You an’ your heavy saddle, an’ they learned to understand

Which end of the cows the tail was on, till all you had to do
Was set up in the saddle while they did the cow work, too!
Sometimes they sorter dodged your rope, sometimes they bucked you high,
But they was sure the apple of the oldtime cowhands eye!

These stable-pampered critters may be horses sure enough,
But them ol’ cow range hosses, they was born to take it rough.
So that’s the way they took it, till they earned a tougher name
Than these here handfed horses, all so delicate an’ tame.

So you can have your horses, with their hifalutin’ gloss—
I’ll take four legged rawhide—or in other words, a hoss!”

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker from “Songs of the Saddlemen,” 1954

S. Omar 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… named after his father Squire L. Barker, but went by Omar, he often signed his books with his initials and trademark brand, ‘Lazy SOB.'”

Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America (and twice the winner of their Spur Award) and was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum ‘s Hall of Great Westerners, the first living author to receive that recognition. His poems were frequently published by Western Horseman and appeared in many other publications. He published four collections of his hundreds of poems, edited many books, and wrote novels and non-fiction.

Paul Zarzyski does a great recitation of this poem.

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

This photo of ranch “hosses” is from third-generation South Dakota cowboy and poet Ken Cook. Taken by rancher Carl Johnson several years ago, the image includes two of Ken’s sons; it was a part of Picture the West in July, 2014.

Find more about Ken Cook at CowboyPoetry.com.

Events: January

Find links to all months here.

 

 

•   Dates not yet received for 2019
Cowboys of Color Rodeo Fort Worth, Texas

•   January 18-20, 2019
230th Annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering Golden, Colorado

•  Dates not yet received for 2019
Cowboy Poets of Utah Symposium Payson, Utah

•   Dates not yet received for 2019
6th Annual “A Night of Western Music & Cowboy Poetry” Tooele, Utah

• Dates not yet received for 2019
73rd annual Montana Winter Fair Lewiston, Montana

• • •

• January 28-February 2, 2019
The 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Elko, Nevada

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Visit our Sponsor supporters: The Western Folklife Center

• • •

• Dates not yet received for 2019
12th Annual Silver State Trade Show Elko, Nevada
(during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering)

 

A COWBOYIN’ DAY by Gary McMahan

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A COWBOYIN’ DAY
by Gary McMahan

Morning is just a thin line to the East
As you steps in the corral and captures a beast.
Cold saddle blankets, hey cock-a-doodle-doo—
Don’t buck now, you booger; you’ll break me in two.

Your head starts working on the last pass around;
Saddle horses are wrangled, draft horses cut out.
You shuts the gate and steps to the ground—
It’s hot, black coffee you’re thinking ’bout now.

Then it’s biscuits and gravy and eggs over light,
And the foreman’s wife is a beautiful sight.
Jokes and jabs and the cowboss’s orders,
A chew and a toothpick, and you’re out the door

To saddle the horse you’ll use for the day,
Makin’ sure your riggin’ has no extra play.
You steps aboard light with him all gathered up
’Cause you know first hand this critter can buck.

Ease him out at a walk and head north towards the dump.
You’ll be askin’ a trot when he loses his hump.
You hits a slow lope on the badger highway;
It’s a cool morning, blue-sky cowboyin’ day.

And the brooks are babbling down through the holes,
The meadowlarks sing the song in your soul,
And the wildflowers blaze any color you s’pose
As the smell of sagebrush and pine fill your nose.

Now the horse that you’re on is big, and he’s lean—
Quick, tough, smart, and a little bit mean.
His saddle’s no place for the meek or the green;
He’s a sho-nuff rip-snortin’ cowboyin’ machine.

And the place that you’re headed is pretty intense;
Continental Divide is the back fence.
There’s ten thousand acres of mountain and rock there
And twelve hundred head to check and to doctor.

And to make matters worse (or better, you think),
They’re all yearling heifers—unpredictable dinks.
They’ll run and they’ll hide ’til hell freezes twice
Then kick up their heels as you skate on the ice.

But this ain’t no colt, and you ain’t no kid,
So you whips out your rope and pulls down your lid,
And you climbs and cruises the sagebrush and aspen
’Til you finds you a cow brute what’s droopy and raspin’.

And maybe you’ll tag ’er ’fore she gits to the brush
And trip ’er and tie ’er in a big rush
And pack her with sulfa and penicillin.
She’ll turn for the better, good Lord a willin’.

Lots of footrot and pinkeye today,
But that don’t mean the boogers can’t play.
They’ve ducked and they’ve dodged ’til who laid a chunk,
But you managed to capture a pretty good hunk.

A line-backed old heifer with a sly side dart
Almost upset the whole apple cart,
And a bald-faced old bag sure slammed on her brakes
When we dived off a ledge and got in her way.

It’s the heat of the day now—sun’s straight overhead—
And you and your horse are packing some lead.
You hanker for rest and a biscuit or two,
And you figures you got that much coming to you.

Now your horse likes the grass that grows ’neath the aspen,
And the shade there is welcome as peace everlastin’.
So you finds such a place with a creek close by
To soothe the bruises of a hard ride.

You hobbles, unbridles him, loosens his girth
Then sets yourself down in the cool, green earth,
Surrounds your grub and drinks your fill
And takes a siesta way back in the hills.

Well, a catnap is all you require;
Still, you lay there and ponder your thoughts . . .
The world sure has its briars.
Take, for instance, this good old cow-hoss—

He was a wild-eyed, ring-tailed dandy.
Heck, they give up on him ’fore they give him to me,
But it’s the same for horses as it is for men—
He just needed a job and a kick in the shin.

Well the afternoon’s spent with the usual flair:
A close call here, a catastrophe there.
But still we saved more than a couple of hides;
That’s why we get paid for making these rides.

A storm blew through for about thirty minutes,
And you’d swear that Satan hisself was in it.
You’re sure glad your pony is seasoned plumb through—
Close lightning’s unloaded a few buckaroos.

You’re wet as a fish, but you ain’t gonna melt,
And the sun feels the best it ever has felt.
You’re all steamed up like an overdue freight,
But you’re dry as a duck time you get to the gate.

Now, there are those who thinks a cowboy’s a crude, ignorant cuss.
Truth is, we no-savvy them; they no-savvy us.
But there’s one thing that sticks in my mind
When a cowboy’s job cuts into sublime.

It’s when you and your horse form a leathery feather
And drift two, three yearlings out of a gather
And trail ’em up someplace they don’t want to go
When they’re needing a vet or what ever, y’know.

You set ’em just so when you go through a gate,
And don’t rile ’em up, for heaven’s sake.
Folks that have tried it say it’s kind of an art
To pen ’em in the home corral before dark.

And we’re trailin’ two of em home this night.
We’ll prolly ship the one; the other’ll be all right.
But one wrong move now the air’s turning cool,
And these two yearling heifers’ll make you look like a fool.

Punch ’em into the catch with a “whoop” and a smile.
You been walkin’ on eggs for the last two miles,
And if one woulda broke, the fur woulda flew—
No tellin’ when you’da got another crack at them two.

Your horse rolls in the dirt while you put up your tack,
Then savors his grain while you scratch his back.
It’s an evenin’ ritual you both enjoy;
You don’t covet nothin’ when you ride this ol’ boy.

An he heads for the timothy down by the lake
Whilst you saunters to the house for soup and steak
To mix it up with compadres and finish your pie
Like folks do when they’re satisfied.

When supper’s done, there’s little time for play—
You sleep hard all night if you work hard all day—
But ’fore you fall off your log to float in the air,
You may have time for a little prayer:

“Lord, I thank you for this cowboyin’ day.
I sure had me some fun a-earnin’ my pay,
And I like to think I put meat on the table
For a country that needs to stay fit an’ able.

“But a cow with no horse is boring as hell,
And a horse with no cows don’t ring my bell.
It’s a good life you gave me, these horses and cattle,
And I wanted to say thanks Lord for my day in the saddle.”

© 1986, Gary McMahan, used with permission
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission.

Cowboy, poet, songwriter, and yodeler Gary McMahan’s vivid “A Cowboyin’ Day” is a contemporary cowboy poetry standout.

In his book, Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song, he writes about it, “One of my favorite things is working cattle on a good horse in the high country. I used to do a considerable amount of it, and even though this poem doesn’t have a ‘Hollywood plot,’ a lot of ranch folk have told me how much they like it, especially those who’ve ever run a bunch of yearlin’s.”

At Gary McMahan’s, singingcowboy.com, you can listen to “A Cowboyin’ Day” and the full-length tracks of all his albums of his music and poetry.

The poem is also on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten, a double CD of the top classic and modern cowboy poetry.

Gary returns to the Colorado Cowboy Gathering in Golden later this month, January 19-22, an event he had a hand in starting. An award-winning film that features Gary and others including Yvonne Hollenbeck, Everything in the Song is True, will be screened at a special dinner event at the gathering. The film has been chosen as an official selection of the Sedona International Film Festival, which takes place February 18-26, 2017. See the film’s trailer and find more about it here and on Facebook.

Other performers at this month’s Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering include Floyd Beard, Jon Chandler, Doris Daley, Richard Elloyan & Steve Wade, Skip Gorman, DW Groethe, Kristyn Harris, Carol Heuchan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jill Jones & Friends, Susie Knight, Liz Masterson, Al “Doc” Mehl, Rodney Nelson, Mark Gardner & Rex Rideout, Yampa Valley Boys, Pop Wagner, and the Flying W Wranglers. Find more about the event at coloradocowboygathering.com and on Facebook.

Find more about Gary at CowboyPoetry.comon Facebook, and at his site, singingcowboy.com.

Gary describes this photo, “Waitin’ for Spring. Me on the T Lazy 7 ranch outside of Aspen in the late ’70s or early ’80s…”

RESOLUTION by Sandy Seaton Sallee

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RESOLUTION
by Sandy Seaton Sallee

I catapulted yesterday
Atop my brand new steed
We somersaulted off the hill
I didn’t even bleed.

Today I crept out of my bed
My tailbone’s in revolt
I ignored his warning signs
I’d by-gosh ride that colt!

Last year I led a spooky mule
Tied to a spotted App
The mule was calm but Appy ran
A fast Olympic lap.

Back corkscrewed but chiropractor
Got me cranked in place
No one could see the black-and-blue
‘Cept marks on my face.

Three surg’ries on my shoulders
The screws have been removed
A walking cast repaired my foot
My insurance approved.

I broke my neck while roping steers
That gelding sure could buck
I’m wired now from end to end
I’m tight with Lady Luck.

Both knees are orthoscopic-fixed
My right wrist has a pin
My skull sports quilted stitching marks
I have a crooked grin.

An old friend watched me limp one day
The words he said still lash
“Your mind is writing checks for you
Your body just can’t cash.”

Next time I’m sure I won’t buck off
I’ve discovered the solution
I’ll have no choice for now that goal’s
My New Year’s Resolution!

© 2017, Sandy Seaton Sallee, used with permission
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission.

Popular poet and wilderness guide Sandy Seaton Sallee shared a photo earlier this week, and it’s a pleasure to have one more poem about resolutions and another photo from her. She says the poem is, “All true, unfortunately!”

Sandy Seaton has just been named as the “Buck Ramsey Cowgirl Poet of the Year” by the Academy of Western Artists.

Sandy and her husband Scott run Black Mountain Outfitters, located in the heart of Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and also Slough Creek Outfitters, offering world-famous Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout fishing. Find more about Sandy Seaton Sallee at CowboyPoetry.com.

TYRONE AND TYREE by Jay Snider

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photo © 2016, Sandy Seaton Sallee

TYRONE AND TYREE
by Jay Snider

I’ve learned lots of lessons
’bout cowboyin’ up
’cause I’ve been a cowboy
since I was a pup

And my dad taught me
just like his dad taught him
rewards without effort
come seldom and slim

And if workin’ for wages
or bossin’ a crew
a job left half finished
reflects upon you

And good leaders of men
who while bossin’ the crew
won’t ask of their men
what they wouldn’t do

‘Cause men are just men
and it’s by God’s design
we all pull on our britches
one leg at a time

But some men are leaders
while others hold back
they stray off the trail
and are hard to untrack

But with proper persuasion
will likely fall in
’cause that’s just the nature
Of hosses and men

Which put me to thinkin’
’bout Tyrone and Tyree
the best team of Belgians
you ever did see

Why they’d lay in those collars
and pull stride for stride
work sunup to sundown
till the day that they died

But Tyree would get balky
not pull like he should
so Tyrone would reach over
and scold him right good

Then the load they were pullin’
would even right out
that’s the lesson in life
that I’m talkin’ about

‘Cause some hosses are leaders
while some will pull back
they’ll stray off the trail
and are hard to untrack

But with proper persuasion
will likely fall in
see, that’s just the nature
of hosses and men

Which put me to thinkin’
’bout what Dad had said
and a couple of visions
then danced in my head

In my mirror, while shavin’
which one will I see
could I be Tyrone
or would I be Tyree

And to leaders of men
let’s all raise a cup
here’s to pullin’ your weight
and to cowboyin’ up

© 2005, Jay Snider, used with permission
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission.

Here’s a poem that might inspire some New Year’s resolutions.

Popular Oklahoma rancher, poet, and songwriter Jay Snider is a crowd pleaser on stages across the West. He is appreciated as well for his fine reciting.

Jay Snider has a grand new CD, Classic Cowboy Poetry: The Old Tried and True, which showcases his fine reciting. Like some poetry time traveler, he delivers poems by Bruce Kiskaddon, Henry Herbert Knibbs, Will Ogilvie, Sunny Hancock, and others, to carry you back to time when, to quote Kiskaddon, “cattle were plenty and people were few.” Find more at http://www.jaysnider.net (and more about him and more poetry at CowboyPoetry.com).

Enjoy his rendition of Sunny Hancock’s (1931-2003) “The Bear Tale” in a video from the Western Folklife Center’s 2011 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

See a Western Horseman video about Jay Snider by Jennifer Denison here.

Just a few of the places you’ll find Jay Snider in coming months include: the 4th annual Western Music & Songwriters Series, January 28, 2017 in Tooele, Utah; the 31st Annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, February 24-25, 2017, in Alpine; and the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, February 3-4, 2017, in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Find more about Jay Snider at CowboyPoetry.com, and visit JaySnider.net.

This photo is by popular poet and wilderness guide Sandy Seaton Sallee, from December, 2015. She described it, “Fred and Frank, our big blue Brabant/Percheron team, near our home above the Yellowstone River. Airedale pup Kate enjoyed the ride!” Sandy and her husband Scott run Black Mountain Outfitters, located in the heart of Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and also Slough Creek Outfitters, offering world-famous Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout fishing. Find more about Sandy Seaton Sallee at CowboyPoetry.com, .

Cowboy Crossroads podcast with Andy Hedges

cowboycrossroads

Songster, reciter, and cowboy music and poetry historian Andy Hedges hosts and produces Cowboy Crossroads.

Each episode features a guest who Andy engages to “share stories and discuss music, poetry, and culture from the working cowboy West and beyond.”

Cowboy Crossroads is available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, and on other podcast providers.

Find more about Cowboy Crossroads at Andy Hedges’ web site.

COWBOY’S NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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COWBOY’S NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

As one who’s been a cowhand since the wildcats learned to spit,
I’ve made some resolutions for the comin’ year, to wit:
Resolved, to ride a shorter day and sleep a longer night;
To never come to breakfast till the sun is shinin’ bright;
To draw a top-hand’s wages when they’re due or quit the job
And hunt a wealthy widow or an easy bank to rob.
Resolved, to quit the wagon when the chuck ain’t up to snuff,
To feed no more on bullet beans nor chaw on beef that’s tough.
Resolved, to straddle nothin’ in the line of saddle mount
That ain’t plumb easy-gaited, gentle broke, and some account.

Resolved, that when it blizzards and there’s stock out in the storm,
To let the owner worry while I stay in where it’s warm.
Resolved, that when it comes my turn next spring to ride the bogs,
I’ll don the bib and tucker of my town and Sunday togs,
And tell the boss, by gravies, if he craves to shed some blood,
Just try to make me smear ’em tailin’ moo-cows from the mud.
Resolved, that when a thunderhead comes rollin’ up the sky,
I’ll lope in off my circle to the bunkhouse where it’s dry.

Resolved, to do such ropin’ as a ropin’ cowhand must,
But never when the air ain’t free from cattle-trompled dust.
Resolved to show no hosses, and resolved, to swim no cricks;
Resolved, no dead-cow skinnin’, and resolved, no fence to fix.
Resolved, to swing no pitchfork, no pick, no ax, no spade;
Resolved to wear my whiskers—if I want to—in a braid!
Resolved, to take this New Year plenty easy through-and-through,
Instead of sweatin’ heavy like I’ve always used to do.

As one who’s been a cowhand since before who laid the chunk,
It may sound like I’m loco, or it may sound like I’m drunk
To make such resolutions as you see upon my list,
And others purt near like ’em that my mem’ry may have missed;
But gosh, they sound so pleasant to a son of saddle sweat!
And New Year’s resolutions—well, I never kept one yet!
So why make resolutions that bring furrows to your brow?
Let’s make ’em free and fancy—’cause we’ll bust ’em anyhow!

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, from Rawhide Rhymes, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

Barker’s prolific writing was described by his friend Fred Gipson, “…It’s as western as sagebrush, authentic as an brush-scuffed old boot, and full of the warm-hearted humor that seems always to be a part of ‘the men who ride where the range is wide’…”

Find more about S. Omar Barker and more of his poetry here: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/sobarker.htm

This postcard, with a December 4, 1913 postmark from Oleander, California, is from our collection.

Find more New Year poems at CowboyPoetry.com.