ART SPUR “Just for the Fun of It,” Winter 2018-2019

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Photo by Carol M. Highsmith; Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

WINTER ART SPUR

Our 49th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a 2016 photograph by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A horse rolls in the snow, apparently just for the fun of it, as others head out for a winter romp at the Midland Ranch, in the shadow of the Wind River Range of the Northern Rockies in remote Sweetwater County, Wyoming.”

The photographer explains, “The closest town, Farson, is 26 miles away. The ranch, whose first cabins served as a Pony Express remount station in 1860, was homesteaded in the 1890s and settled by French Basque immigrant John Arambel, the patriarch of the current owner, in 1909….” Find more at The Library of Congress.

Submissions are now closed. Find selected poems below.

The photograph is included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection description notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

 

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POEMS – WINTER THEMED

“Snow on the Sage” by Marleen Bussma
“Folks Who Do Know Horses” by Tom Swearingen
“A Blessin’ of the West” by Ol’ Jim Cathey
“Snow Day” by Jeff Campbell
“Horse Feather Marks in the Snow” by Ken Howry

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SNOW ON THE SAGE
by Marleen Bussma

Flat bottoms of the vagrant clouds sail low-set as they scud
on undersides stained dark and grimy as if dipped in mud.
The nearby mountains hooded white by recent gifts of snow
bask in the weakened winter sunlight’s intermittent glow.

The herd is on the move. The lead mare duly breaks the trail.
Impatient gusts of wind comb through each horse’s flowing tail
and catch the fleecy strands of breath exhaled like ropes of silk.
The frosted whiskers shimmer white as if just dipped in milk.

Small snow-clods fly from feet that carve the rangeland with their bite,
like frosty weapons used in a ground-level snowball fight.
The horses’ cadence steps into a snow-waltz on the range.
The timeless instincts of the migrant herd will never change.

The primal urge to revel, rub, and roll in winter’s dress
takes one horse to his knees. He lies and lets his brown back press
into the snow. White stocking legs wave lamely in the air.
His playful romp is frisky, but the others do not share

his sense of fun, this wintry mischief as he takes a break.
He gets back on his feet, bucks high, and cleans off with a shake.
A horse snow-angel birthed by play lies lonely in the snow.
It will remain an only child. The herd is on the go.

The lead mare walks with purpose as she presses to the west.
In frontier times this was the course where bold men did their best.
It was the new, where man could reinvent himself or flee
to where he’d melt away and float like mist aloft and free.

Wind scribbles messages on clouds. Dried sage leans from the gusts.
A hawk soars on transparent currents where he dives and thrusts.
The horses are a liquid flow that fade and disappear.
The mustangs are the only trace left of the old frontier.

© 2018, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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FOLKS WHO DO KNOW HORSES
by Tom Swearingen

I’m sure folks who don’t know horses
Must think them pretty strange
When observing their behavior
Unbridled on the range.

See them running for no reason
Than buck and fart’n fun,
Out there chasing their own shadows
In spring and summer sun.

And then when the temps are dropping
And autumn’s run its course,
When the winter snows are falling,
That’s when they’ll see a horse

Do some things that defy logic,
That must seem near insane
To those folks who don’t know horses
And workings of their brain.

Like, why would horses drop and roll
In snow instead of stand
So they look like they’re cavorting
On sunny beach’s sand?

Why, they must just think ’em loco.
Undisciplined at best.
Wondering why such energy
Is spent instead of rest.

‘Course that horse might just be itchy,
Or easing something sore.
Or strugglin’ with a twisted gut,
Too hard to walk much more.

But just as likely reason is
The horse rolls in the snow
Is instinct. Hard-wired survival,
Ingrained from years ago.

Yes, the folks who do know horses,
They know they’re plenty bright
To know that’s how to dry off hair
When ground is frozen white.

© 2018, Tom Swearingen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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A BLESSIN’ OF THE WEST
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

He pulled up on a small rise to watch nature’s scene,
An’ was spellbound sittin’ there,
An idyllic picture, crisp and so serene,
There was music in the air!

He sat horseback, just watchin’ the ponies run,
The weather was bitin’ cold,
But it was good to see them cavort in the sun,
A sight that never got old.

Bunched his collar ‘round his neck, tucked his hat down tight,
That ol’ wind was blowin’ strong,
Probably heralded a snow durin’ the night,
But for now, she’s nature’s song.

Lendin’ music to the flight of the wild horse,
As they tumbled down that trail,
In full gallop, a vision of joy of course,
As they plunge o’er hill an dale.

Ahhh the beauty an’ glory of natures stock,
That unfolded in his vision,
The feelin’ of the cold an’ sound of hoof on rock,
The glory of God’s provision.

The magnificent view of distant mountain range,
With snow coloring their peak,
Caused one to hope, this pony race would never change,
But their future sure looks bleak!

He turned away with grateful heart, knowin’ he was blessed,
A grand life was his reward,
Manifested in the glory of the west,
An’ he quietly thanked his Lord.

© 2019, Ol’ Jim Cathey
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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SNOW DAY
by Jeff Campbell

Change comes quick as we sleep through the night
A pasture of green now sugary white
It sure does sparkle in the morning sun
But makes it hard to get all the work done

Roads are frozen and travel is slow
It’s not often down here that we get a big snow
I stare in frustration, my daily plan shot
So I pour another cup from the old coffee pot

I think back on the days when I was a youth
My dad was a hard worker and that’s the truth
But on these occasions he always took time
To help celebrate this rare change of clime

So I rustled the kids out of their bed
Went out to the barn and rigged up a sled
We spent the day in this winter wonderland
Even constructed a Texas snowman

As I sit and ponder this night serene
Tomorrow I’ll be back to my old routine
Soon all this snow will just melt away
School will be open to the kids’ dismay

But down the road when they’re both grown
Out in the world with kids of their own
Hope they recall Dad put work away
And shared in the joy of a Texas snow day

© 2018, Jeff Campbell
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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HORSE FEATHER MARKS IN THE SNOW
By Ken Howry

I ain’t never been the sociable kind,
Reckon loner’s more o’ my style.
While others jest faller in tracks head ta tail;
That view, well it can’t make me smile.

There’s lots o’ things that I’d rather do,
An’ they’re durn sure a heap-full more fun.
Why just breathin’ this cold, crisp an’ clean winter air,
Makes me wanna start buckin’ an’ run!

Y’all go on ahead, I’ll catch up real soon,
Heck, the whole herd’s a movin’ real slow.
But, as for me, I must dance to a whimsical tune….
Leaving horse feather marks in the snow.

© 2018,  Ken Howry
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

 
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POEMS – CHRISTMAS THEMED

“Savior,” by Mark Munzert
“A Sack of Tobac,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen

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SAVIOR
by Mark Munzert

A special foal was born that eve beneath stars above the shed.
Hoof drops melted frosty ground trailing towards a straw cast bed.
The Mare’d been quietly pacing. Three dogs were huddled near.
The Sire shaking off the snow, as sentry, quelling fear.
T’was an uncanny silent night, no sound from cows or sheep.
A babe was born, stood and fed, whence nourished, fell asleep.

Those three wise dogs blocked the wind, sheep laid woolen cover warm.
Moonlit parts of dust and dew revealed angelic form.
Donkey’s bray cracked the night to tell the world of this One.
To Sire, Mare and all soulful there was born anointed Son.
Awakened to life’s melodies by softly cooing dove,
Astute and strong he grew with God’s abundant love.

Meadows he paced sharing goodness, kindness, and light.
Modeling forgiveness, salvation, and ample crucial might.
Lone survivor of rebellion, conqueror of demise.
Truly humble of all beings, steadfast faith in his eyes.
It seems his mission was to curry all living being’s favor,
It’s only fitting, for this horse, to have the name of SAVIOR.

© 2018, Mark Munzert
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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A SACK OF TOBAC
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

I’m pondering on
a time long ago,
just around Christmas,
when the winds began to blow.

It was cold out there and covered
the grass in way that was strange,
for we had never fed hay
out on the Sweetwater range.

Not back in those days,
when the drifts piled up high,
and the cattle died in droves,
‘neath a fearsome snowing sky.

Lige and I were out there,
checking on the stock.
It would nearly break your heart,
to see them frozen in blocks.

We finally took refuge in a cabin
out there in the Sweetwater Rocks,
didn’t have much food on hand
and sure couldn’t thaw those cattle blocks!

Then the hoar frost came down–
the Paiutes called it “The White Death”.
Yep, it’s kind of pretty to see,
but it sure takes your breath.

Two weeks at that leaking cabin
and supplies were mighty low,
we scratched the days on a log,
while those winds continued to blow.

One day it dawned upon me
that Christmas was right near–
Lije said, “What’s the difference,
we’re still stuck out here!”

I dug around in my duffle bag
and mainly saw the lack
of something I could give to Lije,
just a partial sack of tobac.

He figured out what I was up to
and he took out a mouth harp,
played a raggedy Christmas tune
and we jigged a bit in the dark.

We hauled in a big sagebrush,
and hung some empty cans,
here and there all around it
and I banged on a pan.

We had shot a jack rabbit
that we cooked on the stove.
He was tough and not too tasty
and we had no bread or loaves.

We crawled into our old soogans
we used as our beds,
and soon went off to sleep–
and then something struck our heads!

The sun was purely shining,
it was a glorious dawn,
with hoar frost on the aspen,
though soon it was all gone.

That winter still goes down
and one in the history books,
1886-1887, a disaster
and so by the looks,

of what all of us went through,
you’d think we’d like to forget
that cold and snowy windy time,
but we really don’t regret.

Heck, at least we survived,
with jackrabbit and a sack
of roll-your-owns we shared
that little bit of warming tobac!

© 2018, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

 

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SUBMISSIONS

Submissions were welcome from all. Thanks to all who participated.

Find previous Art Spur subjects here and at CowboyPoetry.com.

THE OLD TIME CHRISTMAS and MERRY CHRISTMAS, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE OLD TIME CHRISTMAS and MERRY CHRISTMAS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

I liked the way we used to do,
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.
The people gathered frum far and near, and
they barbacued a big fat steer.
The kids tried stayin’ awake because,
they reckoned they might ketch Santa Claus.
Next mornin’ you’d wake ’em up to see,
what he’d been and put on the Christmas tree.

It was Christmas then fer the rich and pore,
and every ranch was an open door.
The waddy that came on a company hoss
was treated the same as the owner and boss.
Nobody seemed to have a care,
you was in among friends or you wasn’t there.
For every feller in them days knew
to behave hisself as a man should do.

Some had new boots, which they’d shore admire
when they warmed their feet in front of the fire.
And the wimmin folks had new clothes too,
but not like the wimmin of these days do.
Sometimes a drifter came riding in,
some feller that never was seen agin.
And each Christmas day as the years went on
we used to wonder where they’d gone.

I like to recall the Christmas night.
The tops of the mountains capped with white.
The stars so bright they seemed to blaze,
and the foothills swum in a silver haze.
Them good old days is past and gone.
The time and the world and the change goes on.
And you cain’t do things like you used to do
when cattle was plenty and folks was few.

… Bruce Kiskaddon, 1934

And here is another Kiskaddon poem, with a similar sentiment:

MERRY CHRISTMAS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

We was whistlin’, we was singin’ on a winter afternoon;
The hobble chains and fryin’ pans was jinglin’ to the tune.
Fer we knew the day was Christmas and the line camp was in sight,
No, it wasn’t much to look at but it suited us all right.

We onpacked and we onsaddled, then we turned our hosses out;
We cooked lots of beef and biscuits and we made the coffee stout.
We et all we could swaller, then we set and took a smoke,
And we shore did work our memory out to find a bran new joke.

No, it wasn’t like the Christmas like the folks have nowadays—
They are livin’ more in comfort, and they’ve sorter changed their ways—
But I sorter wish, old pardner, we could brush the years away,
And be jest as young and happy, as we was that Christmas Day.

… Bruce Kiskaddon

 

Merry Christmas, all!

We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

This image is an original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page from December, 1954. The poem and drawing first appeared in the Western Livestock Journal in 1934. It was also included in Kiskaddon’s 1935 book, Western Poems.

Poet Bruce Kiskaddon and artist Katherine Field (1908-1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. The
two never met in person.

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns.

Siems tells that Kiskaddon wrote an annual Christmas poem for the Chuck Wagon Trailers, a group organized in 1931 “by old-time cowboys who were Hollywood’s first stunt men and western stars.”

Look for our new CD, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, recited by a great community of cowboy poets, in April, 2019. CDs are offered to libraries across the West in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program. If you’d like your library to be included, email us.

Linda Marie Kirkpatrick recites “The Old Time Christmas” on the forthcoming CD.

On The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 8, a double CD of classic and modern Christmas cowboy poetry, Jay Snider recites “The Old Time Christmas” and Gail Steiger recites “Merry Christmas.”

Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

(These poems are in the public domain.)

20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D

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Welcome to the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D. We’ll be posting poems, classic, old, and new, throughout the season.

Find a collection of poems, first started in 2000, here.

 

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New poems added often during the season.

Newest:

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The Christmas Tree,” by Bruce Kiskaddon

jsbringing500“Draggin’ the Tree,” by S. Omar Barker

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Rudolph’s Night Off,” by Baxter Black

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Christmas Again,” by Bruce Kiskaddon

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A Busted Cowboy’s Christmas,” by DJ O’Malley

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A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” by S. Omar Barker

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“‘Neath a Christmas Eve Sky,” by Rod Nichols

“The Old Time Christmas,”  and “Merry Christmas” by Bruce Kiskaddon

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LINKS

  Baxter Black, “Reindeer Flu” poem

  Wylie Gustafson, “Christmas for Cowboys” video

  Don Edwards. “Riding Up the Christmas Trail” audio (Badger Clark poem)

  Jean Prescott, “Santa’s Yodel” audio

  Waddie Mitchell, “A Cowboy’s Night Before Christmas” audio

  Michael Martin Murphey and Suzy Bogguss, “Cowboy Christmas Ball” video

  Red Steagall, “Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer,” audio S. Omar Barker poem

  Brenn Hill’s “North Pole Rodeo” video

  R.W. Hampton’s “Cowboy Christmas Eve” audio

  Bob Wills’ Original Texas Playboys’ 1949 “Cowboy Christmas Song”

  Tex Beneke’s 1951 “Root’n Toot’n Santa Claus”

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WESTERN RADIO with CHRISTMAS PROGRAMS

Spalding Labs’ Flying SL Ranch Radio

Totsie Slover’s The Real West from the Old West

Andy and Jim Nelson’s Clear Out West Radio

Jarle Kvale’s Back at the Ranch

Chuckaroo the Buckaroo’s Calling All Cowboys

Judy James’ Cowboy Jubilee

Barbara Richhart’s Cow Trails

Hugh McLennan’s  Spirit of the West

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SUBMITTED AND INVITED POEMS

“The Farm Cat Christmas Ball,” by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
“Christmas at the Line Camp,” by DW Groethe
“Dutchy,” by Lynn Kopelke
“Corriente Christmas,” by Robert Dennis
“Rompin’ Roy, Cowboy Elf,” by George Rhoades
“Merry Christmas,” by Gregory Matthews

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ART SPUR

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“Savior,” by Mark Munzert
“A Sack of Tobac,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen

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Lost to us in 2018: Elizabeth Ebert, Georgia Snead, Del Gustafson, Neil Abbott,  Marion Manwill, Rhonda Whiting, and Bruce Matley.

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The BAR-D serves a very important purpose: To keep in peoples’ minds an awareness of cowboy poetry, and in doing so, to help keep our Western heritage alive, which in my mind is a responsibility no cowboy poet should lose sight of. If you trail up the BAR-D, you’ve found the best source for cowboy poetry. Hands down. Colorado rancher and poet Terry Nash

Here at CowboyPoetry.com and the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, our mission is to preserve, celebrate, and promote the arts and life of the real working West. CowboyPoetry.com heads into its 20th year in 2019, and thanks to a great community of supporters—people like you—we’ve been able to keep our promises. Right now your help is needed to continue the work of the BAR-D.

The Center reaches out to rural communities each year during Cowboy Poetry Week, in its associated Rural Library program. Rural libraries across the West receive the year’s original Western art poster and an invitation for our annual CD for their collections. Poets and musicians bring their programs into libraries and other community centers during Cowboy Poetry Week. To keep those programs going—and all of the work of the Center including CowboyPoetry.com and our social media—we need your help.

Whether you are a renewing supporter (thank you) or a new supporter, your donation will make a crucial difference in the success our programs. Be a part of it all.

You can make a donation by check or money order, by mail (use the form here for mail to PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450) or by a secure, on-line credit card payment through PayPal (a PayPal account is not required):

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CowboyPoetry.com is a project of The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, a tax-exempt non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Act. The Center seeks grants and donations from individuals, corporate entities, foundations, and private sources.

Contributions to the Center are deductible for federal income tax purposes (except for the value of any CD received, $15).  As in all professional journalistic endeavors, no editorial preference is given to financial sponsors or supporters.

There are gifts for you, too: donors of $40 or more before January 1, 2019 ($50 after), also receive our annual CD and Western art poster. Donations of any amount make a difference. Read about all of the donor gifts below.

For 2019, we are honored to have the work of ranch woman and outstanding Western artist Shawn Cameron on the Cowboy Poetry Week poster. The 2019 CD is a multi-disc collection of the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, with 60 tracks of recitations by voices of the past and voices you hear at today’s cowboy poetry gatherings.

Join others in this community in supporting the BAR-D programs. Find the names of those generous current donors here.

 

‘NEATH A CHRISTMAS EVE SKY, by Rod Nichols

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‘NEATH A CHRISTMAS EVE SKY
by Rod Nichols (1942-2007)

There’s a halo that’s circlin’
’round a moon shinin’ bright,
adding wonder and glory
to the heavens tonight.

And it seems to be sayin’
to this cowboy at least,
it was on such an evenin’
came the young Prince Of Peace.

And I know without doubtin’
as the bunkhouse draws nigh,
that it’s Christmas I’m feelin’
neath a Christmas Eve sky.

There’s a wind slightly blowin’
through the needles of pine,
and the shadows are loomin’
where the moonbeams now shine.

And the soft sound of singing
come a-driftin’ to me
as the hands are now gatherin’
’round a small lighted tree.

And it brings me a smile, Lord,
and a tear to my eye,
as I’m headin’ home fin’lly
neath a Christmas Eve sky.

© 2007, Rod Nichols, used with permission.

We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

Texan Rod Nichols will forever be missed by his many friends and family. This is just one of his memorable poems and one of his last Christmas poems. Find many more at CowboyPoetry.com.

This beautiful photograph was made near Boulder, Montana two years ago by photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet John Michael Reedy.

See more impressive photography at his site and find more at CowboyPoetry.com and twistedcowboy.com.

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

A COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS PRAYER, by S. Omar Barker

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A COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS PRAYER
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

I ain’t much good at prayin’,
and You may not know me, Lord —
For I ain’t much seen in churches,
where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me
out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin’ after cattle,
feelin’ thankful when it rains.

Admirin’ Thy great handiwork.
the miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit,
in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback
and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night,
and know we’ve got a Friend.

So here’s ol’ Christmas comin’ on,
remindin’ us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will
into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain’t a preacher, Lord,
but if You’ll hear my prayer,
I’ll ask as good as we have got
for all men everywhere.

Don’t let no hearts be bitter, Lord.
Don’t let no child be cold.
Make easy the beds for them that’s sick
and them that’s weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride,
no matter what we’re after,
And sorter keep us on Your side,
in tears as well as laughter.

I’ve seen ol’ cows a-starvin’ —
and it ain’t no happy sight;
Please don’t leave no one hungry, Lord,
on Thy Good Christmas Night —
No man, no child, no woman,
and no critter on four feet
I’ll do my doggone best
to help you find ’em chuck to eat.

I’m just a sinful cowpoke, Lord —
ain’t got no business prayin’
But still I hope you’ll ketch a word
or two, of what I’m sayin’:
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord—
I reckon You’ll agree —

There ain’t no Merry Christmas
for nobody that ain’t free!
So one thing more I ask You,
Lord: just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom
for the future Sons of Man!

…by S. Omar Barker

We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

S. Omar Barker earned more from the publication and uses of his “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” than from any other poem. A December 23, 1998 article by Ollie Reed Jr. in the Albuquerque Tribune, “Church on the Range,” tells about the poem:

In November 1962, New Mexico author S. Omar Barker received a telegram asking permission for his poem “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” to be read on the Lawrence Welk TV show.

Barker, a sunup-to-sundown, every-day-of-the-week professional writer for much of his more than 90 years, telegraphed back that for $100 they had a deal.

Back again comes a telegraph from the TV show’s agent asking if Barker would settle for $50.

“Fifty bucks no steak. Beans,” Barker wired in response on Nov. 26, 1962. “But will accept anyway to help TV poor folks.”

Jodie Phillips, wife of Barker’s nephew Bob Phillips, smiled as she pointed out copies of the telegrams pasted in a thick scrapbook put together by Barker himself….

“If he didn’t sell a poem, he didn’t eat,” Jodie Phillips said of Barker, who died in Las Vegas, N.M., in April 1985, just a couple of months shy of his 91st birthday.

Apparently the Welk show decided not to use the poem.

That was a rarity. Tennessee Ernie Ford and sausage king-country singer Jimmy Dean read it on national television, and it has been reprinted much more than 100 times in collections of Barker’s works, anthologies, magazines and Christmas cards.

Leanin’ Tree cards of Boulder, Colorado, has used the Barker verse…more years than not for more than two decades…

Jodie Phillips said she never heard Barker talk about what inspired him to write the Christmas prayer, but she thinks it’s based on his own brand of theology.

“There were no churches where Omar grew up,” she said. “He believed in God, and I think he had a very strong religious conviction. But he belonged to no sect. He never went to church services.”

The Jimmy Dean recitation of this poem is on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight, a double CD of Christmas cowboy poetry.

The 2018 double CD, MASTERS: Volume Two, contains over 60 tracks in a double CD of the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and children—bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Jim Cathey recites “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer.”

Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB.” Find more of S. Omar Barker’s Christmas poems and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

In December, 2013 the S. Omar Barker estate let us know that this poem is now considered in the public domain.

This photo of Omar and Elsa Barker is courtesy of the S. Omar Barker estate.

(You can share this photo with this post but please request permission for any other use.)

A BUSTED COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS, by D.J. O’Malley 1868-1884

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Image: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives,
Helena, MT: 944-212  D.J. O’Malley (Kid White) taken in Forsyth, Montana 1897,
photographer unknown. Catalog # 944-212

A BUSTED COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS
by D.J. O’Malley 1868-1884

I am a busted cowboy
And I work upon the range,
In summertime I get some work,
But one thing which seems strange,
As soon as fall work’s over
I get it in the neck
I get a Christmas present
Of a neatly written check.

I come to town to rusticate,
I’ve no place else to stay
When winter winds are howling hard
Because I don’t eat hay.
A puncher’s life’s a picnic?
It is one continual joke.
But there’s none more anxious to see spring
Than the cowboy who is broke.

The wages that a cowhand earns
In summer goes like smoke,
And when the snow begins to drift
You bet your neck he’s broke.
You may talk about your holidays,
Your Christmas cheer and joy,
They’re all the same to me, my friend.
Cash gone, I’m a broke cowboy.

My saddle and my gun in soak,
My spurs I’ve long since sold,
My rawhide and my quirt are gone,
My chaps, no. They’re too old.
My outfit’s gone, I can’t e’en bum
A cigarette to smoke.
For no one cares what happens
To a cowboy who is broke.

Just where I’ll eat my dinner
This Christmas, I don’t know,
But you can bet your life I’ll have one
If I get but half a show.
This Christmas holds no charms for me,
On good things I’ll not choke,
Unless I get a big handout
I’m a cowboy who is broke.

…D. J. O’Malley, 1893

We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

D.J. O’Malley was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1868. He worked on the open range for nearly 20 years, starting in Montana in 1884.

The University of Arizona’s Cowboy Songs and Singers: of Lifeways and Legend site comments on this poem: “This was written on a winter night after Mr. O’Malley had been parted from $2 by a fellow with a long spiel. He says that at that time there were many ‘summer hands’ or ‘mail order cowboys.’ They were only good enough to fill in as herders or extras during roundup time, but when they told it around the stove in winter they were all ‘top hands.’ The poem appeared in the Stock Growers’ Journal on December 23, 1893. It was signed Iyam B. Usted.”

See their collection of poems about D.J. O’Malley and commentary about him by John I. White.

Find more about the poem and about D.J. O’Malley at CowboyPoetry.com in our feature that includes selections of his poetry and prose.

This photograph of D.J. O’Malley is from the Montana Historical Society, used with permission. Credit: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT: 944-212 D.J. O’Malley (Kid White) taken in Forsyth, Montana 1897, photographer unknown. Catalog # 944-212

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post, but permission is required from the Montana Historical Society for this image. The poem is in the public domain.)