THE OLD TIME CHRISTMAS and MERRY CHRISTMAS, by Bruce Kiskaddon

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THE OLD TIME 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.”

Our 2019 triple-disc compilation, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poems of Bruce Kiskaddon, has poems recited by a great community of cowboy poets. 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” and Gail Steiger recites “Merry Christmas” on MASTERS: VOLUME THREE.

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.)

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, during the season. Christmas Art Spur poems will be posted before Christmas.

Please consider pitching in to ensure BAR-D programs can go forward in 2020.

“Supporting the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry supports the entire community of cowboy/western artists. Before the holidays run up yer back, maul you around, and leave you wondering what happened, step up here and help out this tremendous resource if you can. You won’t regret it, and we can all thank each other! Please donate.”  Jerry Brooks 

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

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2019 POSTS

Santa Shoer
Santa Must Be a Shoer,” by Andy Nelson

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Rudolph’s Night Off,” by Baxter Black

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

timartspurThe Star and the Humble Cowboy,” by Dee Strickland Johnson (“Buckshot Dot”)

img523Wild Turkey Christmas,” by Jo Kirkwood

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Fox Waits in the Meadow,” by DW Groethe

Christmas Day…
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The Old-Time Christmas,” by Bruce Kiskaddon
Merry Christmas,” by Bruce Kiskaddon

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CLASSICS FROM THE COLLECTION

bustedcowboypic2018A Busted Cowboy’s Christmas,” by D.J. O’Malley

serenadereedyChristmas Serenade,” by J.W. Beeson

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Line-Camp Christmas,” by S. Omar Barker

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2019 SUBMITTED POEMS

“Santa on My Heels,” by Dan “Doc” Wilson
“No Regrets,” by Morgan Wilson
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“Christmas, 2019” by Robert Dennis
howrycow“The Christmas Cow,” by Ken Howry

 

 

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ART SPUR

“Cattle at Christmas (or) Homage to Fake News”
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
“A True Country Christmas” by Michelle Turner
” A Christmas Memory” by Ol’ Jim Cathey

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The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight (2013) is a double CD compilation of vintage and contemporary recordings of some of the  best Christmas cowboy poetry.

In this eighth annual edition of The BAR-D Roundup, a diverse chorus of voices presents contemporary and classic Christmas works. Opening the collection is a beautiful rendition of the shaped-note “Christmas Waltz” by National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow Buck Ramsey (1938-1998), accompanied by his sisters and brother. Great cowboy troubadour Don Edwards recites Badger Clark’s “The Christmas Trail”; top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell offers his original “Good Gift”; Red Steagall, past Texas Poet Laureate and the state’s official cowboy poet delivers S. Omar Barker’s “Three Wise Men”; and the voice of Jimmy Dean (1928-2010) is heard in a vintage recording of S. Omar Barker’s “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer.”

Forty-three additional poets and reciters present a spirited range of poems, many of them from the CowboyPoetry.com archive of Christmas at the BAR-D, started in 2000. Some of the poems are from Christmas Art Spur projects at CowboyPoetry.com, where poets are invited to be inspired by art and photography.

Print

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Available for $25 postpaid in the US ($35 international)
Click above for credit card payments, or mail to CowboyPoetry.com,
PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450

Every year’s CD includes a radio public service announcement about the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. For this CD, it is delivered by ranch-raised rodeo broadcaster Totsie Slover.

The BAR-D Roundup cover images are usually vintage photos of poets or their forebears. This special Christmas collection veers slightly from that tradition with a photo of “Little Buddy” a steer from the Granley Ranch near Bainville, Montana (thanks to poet, picker, and ranch hand DW Groethe). Inside is a photograph of the annual live Nativity at Dick Noble and Jim and Tina Noble Nelson’s Flying U Ranch, in Cora, Wyoming.

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Find more at CowboyPoetry.com.

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Lost to us in 2019: Dennis Gaines, Cleve Rice, Tim Johnson, Leo Naumann, Diane Coggin Merrill, Mike Logan, Lucky Whipple, Rusty Feathers, Bruce Matley, Janice Mitich, Leon Rausch, Marion Manwill, Del Gustafson, and Carol Reffold.

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“Supporting the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry/CowboyPoetry.com supports the entire community of cowboy/western artists. Before the holidays run up yer back, maul you around, and leave you wondering what happened, step up here and help out this tremendous resource if you can. You won’t regret it, and we can all thank each other! Please donate.”  Jerry Brooks 

At CowboyPoetry.com (also known as the BAR-D) and the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, our mission is to preserve, celebrate, and promote the arts and life of the real working West. Thanks to a great community of supporters, we have fulfilled that mission for twenty years. Right now your help is needed to continue the work of the BAR-D.

Now is a great time to renew your support or become a donor for the first time. Donations of any amount are valued. Donors at the $50 and higher level will receive the 2020 poster and CD.

You can donate here with a secure, on-line credit card payment.
You can also donate by mail: CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450. Find a printable form here.
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.There are gifts for you, too: U.S. donors of $50 also receive our annual CD and Western art poster. Read about all of the donor gifts here and find information for Canadian and international donors.

Thanks to all of our great sponsors and individual 209 donors to date. Find them all here.

If you have not supported the BAR-D recently, now is the time that your support will make the most critical difference. No amount is too small.

Generous donors make the Center’s work possible.
Through CowboyPoetry.com, our blogCowboy Poetry Week, the Rural Library Program, and social media (Facebook and Twitter), we reach many. All of this work is done on a small and careful budget. Your support is essential for it to continue. Find more here.

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.

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

FOX WAITS IN THE MEADOW, by DW Groethe

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FOX WAITS IN THE MEADOW
A Christmas Poem
by DW Groethe

Fox waits in the meadow
crescent moon floats on the rise,
As aurora borealis sweeps
…..her hair across the skies.
Far off in winter’s corners
reach her tresses, dipping low,
skiff the slumbering frozen,
…..wake the restless ‘neath the snow.
Restless is it, yearning,
in the year’s end looming night,
yearning for the calling
…..of its deep mid-winter flight.

As, on a sudden, starshine
seems to concentrate its glow,
and the bit of ice it lights on,
…..glimmers some, begins to flow.
Welling up and out about,
a mighty castle grows,
grand and handsome, tall
…..it rises stately from the snows.

A breeze sighs through the parapets
and softly off the walls,
as a roar of jubilation
…..rouses castle rooms and halls.
All work is done, the day has come,
for Christmas Eve is here
and elves are busy hitching up
…..eight prancing antsy deer.

Ol’ Santa climbs up in the sleigh,
his hands latch on the reins
as castle gates sweep open wide
…..on boundless arctic plains.
Reindeer rise. And off they soared
to make their yearly flight.
Yeehawing loudly, joyfully,
…..they sail into the night.

Elves hanging on to runners
as they head out on the ride.
Elves pile next to Santa
…..and elves bury deep inside
a wondrous sack that somehow
holds a million jillion toys,
and other nifty goodies,
…..for a world of girls and boys.

(It should, perhaps, be pointed out
that ’cause he’s him,
calls everybody boys and girls,
…..it’s just a Santa whim.)
So anyway, the night begins,
they take their fabled route,
stopping pert near everywhere
…..so no one does without.

A doll house here, toy ponies there,
soccer balls galore,
shirts and clocks, argyle socks,
…..blue yoyos, games and more.
How do they do it? Who can know.
It’s magic sure and true.
Best just believe…don’t waste your time
…..to stop and think it through.

And when the ballyhooing’s done.
the presents given ’round,
with tired grins, they all agree,
…..it’s time for homeward bound.
Now, truth be told, just where home is,
there’s no one really knows,
’cause magic keeps the place well hid
…..from prying eyes and those
who think they might get one more gift
(that kind’s not hard to find)
so things just sort of disappear
…..when elvin folk unwind.

Gates close tight behind them,
day’s light peers on yonder hill.
Santa, elves and castle slowly fade away…

Until,
one year’s turn
around the sun…

© 2019, DW Groethe
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D (where there are many additional cowboy Christmas poems).

Eastern Montana poet, picker and ranch hand DW Groethe has created an annual Christmas card, with a handwritten poem and illustration, for 25 years.

“Fox Waits in the Meadow” is his 2019 poem. He’s collected all the poems in a book, The Christmas Poems, that will be available in 2020.

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DW performs his poetry and music at venues small and large. He’s appeared many times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and has been invited to the the National Traditional Council for the Arts’ National Folk Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Library of Congress, and other places. He has books and recordings.

Find more about him at cowboypoetry.com.

See him at the Western Folklife Center’s 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 27-February 1, 2020, in Elko, Nevada. Read all about the premier event and all it has in store at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

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

WILD TURKEY CHRISTMAS by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

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WILD TURKEY CHRISTMAS
by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

The cows were pastured for the winter, and for about a week or two
Apart from barn chores, chopping wood,
there weren’t much the boys could do,
So the foreman says, Augustus, you go scout along the rim,
See if you can spot an elk, or deer for venison.
Cookie says, There’s turkeys in the pinions, looking for pine nuts,
And I’ve seen them in the pasture, scratching in the ruts.
Gus says he prefers Wild Turkey in a bottle.
He ain’t pluckin feathers from some bird he’d have to throttle.
The foreman says, You boys all git, ‘fore you make me lose my mind.
Go shoot a bird, or elk, or cat. Bring back what you can find.

So the boys went out to scout for turkeys, and found to their surprise
A great big gouged up swath of land. And there, before their eyes,
A pile of splintered boards all heaped up in a stack,
And a little feller covered up with toys spilled from a sack.
They dragged the body from the wreck, observed he wasn’t dead,
And hauled him back to the bunkhouse, put a washrag on his head,
Then sat around and stared at him. They hadn’t much else to do,
‘Til he woke up. He looked around, then grinned at the whole crew,
And laughed. HO HO, Merry Christmas to you all, he said.
Thanks for the rescue! An angel, or wild turkey,  made me crash my sled!
I was listening to the Heavenly Host. Had the GPS turned on,

And I was singing harmony to my favorite Christmas song,
Tho’ it might have been a wind sheer. But those cherubim kept singing
While I dropped right out of the sky! Me and the gifts that I was bringing
To all the little girls and boys from Jolly Old St. Nick.
He sighed and said, Oh shoot. I guess I’m in a fix.

Gus snorted, said, You’re Santa Claus? You’ve fell right off your rocker.
I’m Kris, he answered, And you’re Gus, and you are a big talker
Who has never believed in Santa. Why? I’m here, and living proof,
And besides, you can’t discount the sound of reindeer on this roof.
The boys all stopped to listen. There was a skittering on the shingles
That maybe could be caused by squirrels, with the jingle-belly jingles.
Them ain’t reindeer, Gus responded, the image of denial.
Them’s turkeys. Wild turkeys. We been scourged with them awhile.
Kris said, I’d like to argue, but that’s going to have to wait.
There’s ten million places I’ve got to be and it’s getting pretty late,
So thanks for your hospitality. You’ve been kind, and that’s a fact.
But now it’ll take the Host of Heaven to get me back on track.
And he gazed up toward the ceiling, put a finger by his nose,
And like a cloud of smoke up the chimney pipe, heavenward he rose.
He was swept up in a whirlwind of feathers, and of toys,
And bits of shattered sled and sack, and with a softening of noise,
The bunkhouse filled with spectacle, With a symphony of light,
And old Kris Kringle shouted, Happy Christmas, and Good Night!

Then the gentle hush of muted wings fluttered all around,
And for a minute, just a minute, the boys all heard a sound
Like waterfalls in springtime, like a torrent or a tide,
Of carols from their childhoods, of all the gifts they’d been denied,
Of a thousand hallelujahs, or hosannas to a King.
They heard the sound words can’t describe. They heard the angels sing.

© 2019, Jo Kirkwood
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D (where there are many additional cowboy Christmas poems).

Utah teacher, poet, artist, and storyteller Jo Lynne Kirkwood delights many each year with her Christmas card poem and drawing, and this is her 2019 offering.

She is also the artist featured in the current Art Spur. Find her 2017 card and its poem there, accompanied by her poem, “Cattle at Christmas (or) Homage to Fake News.”

Jo Lynne Kirkwood has a fine book that collects her poetry, Old Houses, and recordings. Find more about her at cowboypoetry.com.

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

THE STAR AND THE HUMBLE COWBOY by “Buckshot Dot” (Dee Strickland Johnson)

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THE STAR AND THE HUMBLE COWBOY
by “Buckshot Dot” (Dee Strickland Johnson)

Lord, you cared so much for the shepherds,
you sent the glad news first to them—
Before the kings and the wise men,
so you might just speak again

To some other humble herdsman
out here on the range abiding—
A brilliant star, an angel choir
proclaiming “Peace! Glad tidings!”

The shepherds were common people
who slept in the fields near their flocks;
Their clothes might be dirty and ragged
and rugged and rough their talk.

So, Lord, I needn’t apologize
for my appearance or my words.
I know you’re right here beside me,
and it seems that I’ve just heard

The shepherds hastening, excited,
Extolling the star they had seen,
A baby born in a manger;
Not to some great king and queen,

But to people who do the menial tasks
That housewives and carpenters do,
And farmers and desk clerks and waitresses—
Just people like me and you.

But famous rich men brought presents,
Which should prove what I know to be true—
Christ came for shepherds and wise men
And kings and cowboys too.

© 1996, Dee Strickland Johnson (“Buckshot Dot”)
This poem should not be resposted or reprinted without permission.
We’re celebrating the 20th annual Christmas at the BAR-D.

Popular poet, musician, and artist Dee Strickland Johnson grew up on Arizona’s Navajo and Hualapai (Walapai) Indian reservations, an Idaho farm, and at Petrified Forest National Monument. She and husband John ranched in the Arkansas Ozarks in the 1970s, where the entire family performed regularly at the Ozark Folk Center. Today she and John live in Arizona.

Her drawing depicts her son, Tim Johnson. Dee comments, “Tim posed for that scratch board picture of the campfire cowboy. I had him standing there with his back to me for quite some time—took a while to get those rivets on the Levi’s.”

Sadly, Tim Johnson died November 11, 2019. He was seriously injured in an accident in 2002 after leaving a gathering where his mother was appearing. Find an obituary and more elsewhere on this blog.

This image was also the subject of a 2007 Art Spur, which also includes Buckshot Dot’s poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Eve.”

Buckshot Dot has poetry and music CDs and books of poetry and books about Arizona history and more at buckshotdot.com.

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

LINE-CAMP CHRISTMAS by S. Omar Barker

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LINE-CAMP CHRISTMAS
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Some eighty miles from nowhere, in a line-camp all alone,
A cowboy set on Christmas Eve without no telephone,
No radio, no TV set, no autos passin’ by,
No sound but wind a-moanin’ and lonesome coyote’s cry

To wish him Merry Christmas. Lookin’ back through mem’ry’s eye,
He saw a happy fireside on an old Missouri farm,
With Pa and Ma and seven kids assembled snug and warm
Around a purty Christmas Tree a-gleam with candle-light,

With home-folks love a-shuttin’ out the boogers of the night;
He saw white popcorn on a string and big red apples hung
To ketch the light in ruddy rays whenever one was swung;
He heard a little sister that was doomed to use a crutch,

A-braggin’ on her presents even though they wasn’t much;
He saw his older sister with her beau a-lookin’ shy,
A-settin’ on the hoss-hair lounge. He used to wonder why
Young fellers took so strong to gals. Since punchin’ cows, he’d found

How heifer-lonesome you can git without no shes around,
Especially at Christmas time a ‘way out in the west
When all the company you’ve got’s the “makin’s” in your vest.

So there this lonesome cowpoke set and pondered what to do
To make it seem like Christmas, but of course he durn well knew
He might as well forget it, for a boar’s nest batcher’s chance
Of making Christmas merry wasn’t worth a preacher’s pants.

He listened to the wintry wind across the drifted snow,
And thought about the happy home he’d left so long ago
Against his mother’s wishes just to be a cowboy bold…
He wondered how the cattle would be standin’ all this cold.

Outside he heard some coyotes howl. They sounded lonesome, too,
And all at once this cowboy thought of somethin’ he could do.
He stepped outside the dugout, and the cold stars heard him yell:
“Merry Christmas, brother coyotes!” Well, there ain’t no more to tell.

He come back in and went to bed a-feelin’ like a fool,
But grinnin’ some to think how he had celebrated Yule
By wishin’ Merry Christmas to a yelpin’ coyote crew—
Because there wasn’t no one else around to wish it to!

© 1954, S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker, This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

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

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 of S. Omar Barker’s Christmas poems and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

This image is by journalist, photographer, and designer Jeri Dobrowski. It is the poem as it appears in S. Omar Barker’s scrapbook, photographed at the home of his grandniece,  November 2007.

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