COW BOY DAYS by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

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COW BOY DAYS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

Can you recollect the country
That we knew in days gone by?
Where the prairie met the sunrise
And the mountains met the sky.
Where you rode through rugged canyons
And o’er rolling mesas wide
Or you crossed the wind swept prairie
On a long and lonely ride.

How your bits and spurs would jingle
And the only other sound
Was the creaking of your saddle
And the hoof beats on the ground.
Almost any where you landed
There was something you could do
You were happy in that country
With the people that you knew.

No the people wasn’t plenty
In the good old days of yore
But you always found a welcome
At most any cabin door.
You would get off of your pony
And you’d stretch and stomp your feet
When you got that invitation
“Better light a spell and eat.”

That was one of the traditions
Of the easy going West
You were just a drifting cow boy
But you were an honored guest.
No it wasn’t always funny
In them early days old pard
You was often out of money
And the work was plenty hard.

How you rode with Death behind you
When you milled the wild stampede
And you felt the lightning blind you
As you fought to bend the lead.
How you drifted with the blizzard
Till you got a fire lit
You was froze plum to the gizzard
By the time the storm had quit.

No you hadn’t no bay window.
Fact is you was soter lean
You had coffee and some biscuits
And some salty pork and beans
You could tell there had been cattle
In the water that you drank
And you swallered bugs and wigglers
At some muddy old ground tank.

When you landed at a bunk house
You was welcomed by the crew
But you have some recollections
How the bed bugs met you too
When you went to meet the round up
You can recollect some day
When you couldn’t find the wagon
Or your hosses got away.

When you went out greasy sackin’
In the summer in the hills
You was shoein’ brandin’ packin’
Cookin’ workin’ fit to kill
For there wasn’t any wagon
And you hadn’t any bunk.
Packed your bed on sweaty hosses
Lord the way them blankets stunk.

Now you tell it with a snicker
But it griped you then I’ll bet
Standing’ all night in a slicker
‘Cause your bed was wringin’ wet.
You was young and you was happy
You was never really sick
But you often travelled limpin’
When a leg got jammed or kicked.

Now old hurts come back and pain you
And you have some tender toes
That date back some forty winters
To the time your feet was froze.
You’ve a scar upon your forehead
That for years you packed around
Where some cranky tricky pony
Throwed you on the frozen ground.

Your eyes are dim and bleary
From the wind and dust and sun
And the time you got snow blinded
Didn’t seem to help ’em none.
Almost any old cow puncher
Has some fingers or a wrist
Busted when he tried to dally
And the saddle got his fist.

Things are not the way they once was
There has been a lot of change
Since the days of drives and roundups
When we worked the open range.
In the wide and grassy valleys
Where the cattle used to roam
There are irrigation ditches
And there’s farms and barns and homes.

Now there’s signals and there’s sign boards
Where we bedded cattle down
Where we met with other outfits
There are villages and towns.
Neon signs are blazin’ brightly
Where our camp fires glowed dim
Concrete bridges span the rivers
Where our hosses used to swim.

No, you haven’t made a fortune
And your hair is white. You’re old
But you wouldn’t trade your memories
Not for heaps of shinin’ gold.
And whenever you get lonely
You just hold a grand review
Of the places and the hosses
And the people that you knew.
You can hear the songs and stories
You can see the camp fires blaze
As you live again the glories
Of your grand old cow boy days.

…from Kiskaddon’s 1924 version in Rhymes of the Ranges

We wind up a great Cowboy Poetry Week with a lesser-known poem by the master, Bruce Kiskaddon. Kiskaddon’s ten years of cowboying informs many of his works. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems.

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.” Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

In Open Range, Bill Siems includes a later poem by Kiskaddon, “Looking Backward,” which is nearly identical to “Cow Boy Days.” You can view both at CowboyPoetry.com.

Randy Rieman includes the poem, which he calls, “Looking Back,” on his Where the Ponies Come to Drink CD. That recording is also on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Six from CowboyPoetry.com.

This c. 1904 photograph by W. D. Harper “…shows fourteen cowboys from the F.D.W. Ranch in New Mexico posed on a tree trunk.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

Thanks to all who participated in this 17th annual Cowboy Poetry Week by sharing poems and posts, commenting, planning and taking part in events, obtaining recognition from governors, writing an Art Spur poem, being a part of the new MASTERS: VOLUME TWO CD, supporting the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, and more.

Next year, the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week will be celebrated April 21-27, 2019. It’s not too early to start planning your involvement.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker

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Praise for previous CD volumes:

“This album [MASTERS (2017)] represents four of the finest poets to ever come out of cowboy culture. We are not likely to see their kind again and the world should be grateful to Cowboypoetry.com for preserving their voices.” Andy Hedges, songster and host of COWBOY CROSSROADS

“…The annual anthology takes listeners on an oral excursion to places throughout the West, introducing them to colorful cowboy characters, explaining their connection to the land, and telling their tales of tough times and the rewards they receive from living the Western lifestyle…” Jennifer Denison, Senior Editor, Western Horseman

“The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry’s annual anthologies are creating a valuable, high quality and thoroughly enjoyable resource for everyone…” Steve Green, Archivist, Western Folklife Center

“…without peer…intelligently produced… I equate them to one of those Ken Burns specials, like his Civil War, Jazz, or Baseball….the best of the best.” Rick Huff, Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews

“For those of us who love cowboy poetry, this is perhaps the best anthology we’ve yet heard.” Cowboy Magazine

The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry produces compilation CDs of classic and contemporary poetry recitations. The CDs are offered to libraries in the Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week Rural Library project, given as premiums to the Center’s supporters, and available to the public.

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Our twelfth CD (following ten volumes of The BAR-D Roundup and the first MASTERS volume) is MASTERS: VOLUME TWO (April 2018).

MASTERS: VOLUME TWO has 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 their offspring—bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity.

Andy Hedges introduces the CD and it includes the voices of J.B. Allen, Amy Hale Auker, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Baxter Black, Almeda Bradshaw, Jerry A. Brooks, Marleen Bussma, Jim Cathey, Ken Cook, Geff Dawson, Sam DeLeeuw, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Jessica Hedges, Maggie Rose Hedges, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Chris Isaacs, Linda Kirkpatrick, Susie Knight, Ross Knox, Jarle Kvale, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Rusty McCall, Gary McMahan, Rod Miller, Waddie Mitchell, Dick Morton, Terry Nash, Andy Nelson, Jim Nelson, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Kay Kelley Nowell, Kent Reeves, Rex Rideout, Randy Rieman, Kent Rollins, Sandy Seaton Sallee, Jay Snider, Red Steagall, Gail Steiger, Tom Swearingen, Smoke Wade, Keith Ward, and Paul Zarzyski.

S. Omar Barker (1894-1985) wrote some 2,000 poems in his long career. He was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman.

It’s told that Barker enjoyed signing his name with his brand, created from his initials and laid sideways for “Lazy SOB,” but, that’s not a completely accurate story. In an article written by Barker for Hoofs and Horns magazine, Barker introduces himself, “This S.O.B. (my initials, not my ancestry) has never claimed to qualify as a sure ‘nough cowboy.” Later in the article, he comments, “Incidentally, when I applied for (Lazy S O B) for our cattle brand, they wrote back that some other S O B already had it. So we had to be satisfied with (Lazy S B).”

The photo below of S. Omar Barker and his horse, which appears inside MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, is courtesy of the S. Omar Barker Estate. Find more about Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

barkerhorserifle© Estate of S. Omar Barker; request permission for reproduction

The MASTERS CD is dedicated to all those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition.

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The Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—takes place each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, a compilation CD and the celebration’s poster (by Clara Smith in 2018) have been offered to libraries in the Center’s Rural Library Program. The outreach program is part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

The annual CD is a premium for our supporters and also available for purchase. Find information about past years’ CDs here.

We need your support to continue and expand these programs. Join us and be a part of it all.

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Below:

Track list and sources
Acknowledgements
Order information

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Track list and sources

Tracks were recorded for MASTERS: VOLUME TWO except where noted.

DISC 1

1.  INTO THE WEST by S. Omar Barker;  Andy Hedges
from Cowboy Songster Vol. 2 (2016)

2.  ABOUT S. OMAR BARKER  Andy Hedges

3. “PURT NEAR!” by  S. Omar Barker;  Randy Rieman
from Old Favorites  (2003)

4. COW COUNTRY SAYING  by S. Omar Barker; Brigid Reedy

5.  THE MAIN ITEM by S. Omar Barker;  Gary McMahan .

6.  COWPUNCHER’S CREED by S. Omar Barker;  Amy Hale Auker

7.  COW WORK WON’T WAIT  by S. Omar Barker;  Ken Cook

 8.  COWBOY’S COMPLAINT  by S. Omar Barker;  Dick Morton
from Cowboy Classics (2006)

 9.  ROPE MUSIC  by S. Omar Barker;  Gail Steiger

10.  RAIN ON THE RANGE  by S. Omar Barker;  Joel Nelson courtesy of the Western Folklife Center, recorded at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (2015)

11.  SNOWED UNDER by S. Omar Barker;    Johnny Reedy

12.  COWBOY SAYING by S. Omar Barker;   Baxter Black

13.  CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY by S. Omar Barker;   Geff Dawson

14.  COWPUNCHER PRAISE by S. Omar Barker;   Floyd Beard

15.  WELL GROUNDED by S. Omar Barker;   Keith Ward

16.  COWBOY’S OPINION by S. Omar Barker;   Tom Swearingen

17.  HOSSES VERSUS HORSES  by S. Omar Barker;  Paul Zarzyski
from Spurrin’ the Words (2005), Montana 4-H

18.  GRAND CANYON COWBOY  by S. Omar Barker;  Rusty McCall (1986­-2013) from an unreleased CD, Contemporary and Classic Cowboy Poetry  (2006)

19.  SOME HORSES I HAVE RODE by S. Omar Barker;  Floyd Beard

20.  MEMO ON MULES  by S. Omar Barker;  Sandy Seaton Sallee

21.  YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED by S. Omar Barker;  Kent Reeves

22.  BEAR HUNTERS BOLD by S. Omar Barker;  Ross Knox
from  Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day (2006)

23.  BRUIN WOOIN’ by S. Omar Barker;   Andy Hedges
from Cowboy Recitations (2017)

24.  BEAR ROPIN’ BUCKAROO by S. Omar Barker;  Terry Nash
from December Stragglers (2013)

25.  RULE OF THE RANGE by S. Omar Barker;  Chris Isaacs

26.  RAWHIDE ROOSTER  by S. Omar Barker;  Smoke Wade

27.  THE RING­TAILED WOWSER by S. Omar Barker;  Jerry A. Brooks

28.  THE BUFFALO by S. Omar Barker;  Susie Knight

29.  THE COYOTE by S. Omar Barker;  Jarle Kvale

30.  CRY, COYOTE! by S. Omar Barker;  DW Groethe

DISC 2

1.  OLD TIME COWBOYS by S. Omar Barker;  Jay Snider

2.  THE RIDERS by S. Omar Barker;  Andy Hedges
from Episode 3 of the Cowboy Crossroads podcast (2017)

3.  ONE OR THE OTHER by S. Omar Barker;  Rod Miller

4.  WHAT’S A BRONCO? by S. Omar Barker;  Gary McMahan

5.  RULE FOR RIDIN’ by S. Omar Barker;  Geff Dawson

6.  FOUR­ FOOTED DYNAMITE by S. Omar Barker;  Chris Isaacs

7.  MUSTANG MANNERS by S. Omar Barker;  Almeda Bradshaw

8.  CORRECTION PLEASE  by S. Omar Barker;  Maggie Rose Hedges

9.  NO DIFFERENCE by S. Omar Barker;  Jim Nelson

10.  USELESS QUESTION  by S. Omar Barker;  Kay Kelley Nowell

11.  TEXAS ZEPHYR  by S. Omar Barker;  Linda Kirkpatrick

12.  THE CHUCKWAGON by S. Omar Barker;  DW Groethe

13.  BUCKAROO BREW by S. Omar Barker;  Kent Rollins

14.  CANNED TERMATERS by S. Omar Barker;   J.B. Allen (1938­-2005)
from Classics (2005)

15.  JACK POTTER’S COURTIN’ by S. Omar Barker;  Randy Rieman
from Old Favorites  (2003)

16. MUSSED MISS by S. Omar Barker;  Andy Nelson

17.  OPEN AND SHUT CASE  by S. Omar Barker;  Yvonne Hollenbeck

18.  CAREFUL, COWBOY!  by S. Omar Barker;  Jessica Hedges

19.  DOUBLE ATTRACTION by S. Omar Barker;   Valerie Beard

20.  BEDTIME STORY by S. Omar Barker;  Sam DeLeeuw

21.  WATCHIN’ EM RIDE by S. Omar Barker;   Keith Ward … 3:19dutchcreektrails.com

22.  RANCH

MOTHER by S. Omar Barker;  Deanna Dickinson McCall

23.  RANCHMAN’S WIDOW by S. Omar Barker;  Almeda Bradshaw

24.  TRAIL DUST  by S. Omar Barker;  Marleen Bussma

25.  COAL MINE  by S. Omar Barker;  Jerry A. Brooks

26.  THE WHITE MUSTANG  by S. Omar Barker;  Rex Rideout

HOLIDAY POEMS

27.  THANKSGIVING ARGUMENT by S. Omar Barker;  Waddie Mitchell

28.  THREE WISE MEN  by S. Omar Barker;  Red Steagall

29.  COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS PRAYER  by S. Omar Barker;  Ol’ Jim Cathey

30.  COWBOY’S NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS  by S. Omar Barker;  Jay Snider

31.  RANCHMAN’S RESOLUTIONS  by S. Omar Barker;  Gail Steiger

32.  A COWBOY TOAST  by S. Omar Barker;  Rodney Nelson

33.  CENTER FOR WESTERN AND COWBOY POETRY RADIO PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (PSA)  Andy Hedges

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the poets, reciters, and families and to the estate of S. Omar Barker, Andy Hedges, Margaret Allen, Montana 4-H, the Western Folklife Center, the Cowboy Crossroads podcast, Andy Nelson and Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio, Totsie Slover and The Real West from the Old West radio, Craig Stuke, and Chris Kirby. Produced by Margo Metegrano and compiled and mastered by Butch Hause at the Ranger Station Studio, Berthoud, Colorado, all with generous funding support from Laura and Edmund Wattis Littlefield, Jr. and our community’s all-important sustaining donors.

Dedicated to all those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition.

 

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Order information

The MASTERS: VOLUME TWO CD is available for $25 postpaid. Order with a credit card at Paypal or by mail: CowboyPoetry.com, Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450.

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Cowboy poetry records the heartbeat of the working West, a tradition that spans three centuries. Its enduring popularity is celebrated at today’s cowboy poetry gatherings and daily in social media and at CowboyPoetry.com, a program of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc.

The Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—takes place each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, a compilation CD and the celebration’s poster (by Clara Smith in 2018) have been offered to libraries in the Center’s Rural Library Program. The outreach program is part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

WHERE THE PONIES COME TO DRINK, by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

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© 2016, John Michael Reedy

 

WHERE THE PONIES COME TO DRINK
by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

Up in Northern Arizona
there’s a Ranger-trail that passes
Through a mesa, like a faëry lake
with pines upon its brink,
And across the trail a stream runs
all but hidden in the grasses,
Till it finds an emerald hollow
where the ponies come to drink.

Out they fling across the mesa,
wind-blown manes and forelocks dancing,
Blacks and sorrels, bays and pintos,
wild as eagles, eyes agleam;
From their hoofs the silver flashes,
burning beads and arrows glancing
Through the bunch-grass and the gramma
as they cross the little stream.

Down they swing as if pretending,
in their orderly disorder,
That they stopped to hold a pow-wow,
just to rally for the charge
That will take them, close to sunset,
twenty miles across the border;
Then the leader sniffs and drinks
with fore feet planted on the marge.

One by one each head is lowered,
till some yearling nips another,
And the playful interruption
starts an eddy in the band:
Snorting, squealing, plunging, wheeling,
round they circle in a smother
Of the muddy spray, nor pause
until they find the firmer land.

My old cow-horse he runs with ’em:
turned him loose for good last season;
Eighteen years; hard work, his record,
and he’s earned his little rest;
And he’s taking it by playing,
acting proud, and with good reason;
Though he’s starched a little forward,
he can fan it with the best.

Once I called him—almost caught him,
when he heard my spur-chains jingle;
Then he eyed me some reproachful,
as if making up his mind:
Seemed to say, “Well, if I have to—
but you know I’m living single…”
So I laughed.
In just a minute he was pretty hard to find.

Some folks wouldn’t understand it,—
writing lines about a pony,—
For a cow-horse is a cow-horse,—
nothing else, most people think,—
But for eighteen years your partner,
wise and faithful, such a crony
Seems worth watching for, a spell,
down where the ponies come to drink.

…by Henry Herbert Knibbs, from Songs of the Outlands, 1914

Here’s another outstanding classic poem for Cowboy Poetry Week.

Knibbs never worked as a cowboy, but he was a student of the West and his friendships, including one with cowboy, rancher, and writer Eugene Manlove Rhodes, informed his work. His poems are still often recited today, including this one and “Boomer Johnson,” “The Walking Man,” “Shallows of the Ford,” “So Long, Chinook!,” and others.

View poet and rancher Vess Quinlan reciting the poem here at the Western Folklife Center’s 2012 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He introduces the poem saying that “I think Mr. Knibbs wrote this poem for anybody that’s ever been owned by a horse.”

Find more about Knibbs and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This beautiful photograph is by Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet John Michael Reedy.

John Reedy has another claim to fame: he and Heather Reedy are the parents of the talented Brigid and Johnny Reedy, popular performers on gathering stages. Their recent CD, Handmade, showcases their impressive talents with poetry, original musical compositions, and traditional tunes. Find more about the CD at brigidreedy.com.

Brigid and Johnny Reedy also appear on the just-released MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker from CowboyPoetry.com.

See more impressive photography at John Reedy’s site and find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, www.twistedcowboy.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photograph with this poem, but for other uses, request permission. The poem is in the public domain.)

“PURT NEAR!” by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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“PURT NEAR!”
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

They called him “Purt Near Perkins,”
for unless the booger lied,
He’d purt near done most everything
that he had ever tried.
He’d purt near been a preacher
and he’d purt near roped a bear;
He’d met up with Comanches once
and purt near lost his hair.
He’d purt near wed an heiress
who had money by the keg,
He’d purt near had the measles,
and he’d purt near broke his leg.

He’d purt near been a trail boss,
and accordin’ to his claim,
He’d purt near shot Bill Hickock—
which had purt near won him fame!
He’d purt near rode some broncs
upon which no one else had stuck
In fact he was the feller
Who had purt near drowned the duck!

Now mostly all the cowboys
On the Lazy S B spread,
They took his talkin’ with a grin
And let him fight his head.
But one named Tom Maginnis
Sorter told it to him rough:
“You’re ridin’ with an outfit now
Where ‘purt near’ ain’t enough!
We tie our lasso ropes to the horn,
An’ what we ketch we hold,
And ‘purt near’ is one alibi
We never do unfold!
In fact, right now
I’ll tell you that no word I ever hear
Sounds quite so plain damn useless
As that little pair: ‘purt near’!”

That’s how ol’ Tom Maginnis
Laid it out upon the line,
And like a heap of preachin’ talk,
It sounded mighty fine.
But one day Tom Maginnis,
While a-ridin’ off alone,
He lamed his horse
And had to ketch some neighbor nester’s roan
To ride back to the ranch on.
But somewhere along the way
A bunch of nesters held him up,
And there was hell to pay!

Tom claimed he hadn’t stole the horse—
Just borrowed it to ride.
Them nesters hated cowboys,
And they told him that he lied.
The cussed him for a horsethief
And they’d caught him with the goods.
They set right out to hang him
In a nearby patch of woods.
They had pore Tom surrounded,
With their guns all fixed to shoot.
It looked like this pore cowboy
Sure had heard his last owl hoot!

They tied a rope around his neck
And throwed it o’er a limb
And Tom Maginnis purt near knowed
This was the last of him.
Then suddenly a shot rang out
From somewhere up the hill!
Them nesters dropped the rope an’ ran,
Like nesters sometimes will
When bullets start to whizzin’.
Tom’s heart lept up with hope
To see ol’ Purt Near Perkins
Ridin’ towards him at a lope.

“Looks like I purt near
Got here just in time,” ol’ Perkins said,
“To see them nesters hang you!”
Tom’s face got kinder red.
“You purt near did!” he purt near grinned.
“They purt near had me strung!
You’re lookin’ at a cowboy
That has pert near just been hung!
And also one that’s changed his mind—
For no word ever said,
Can sound as sweet as ‘purt near’,
When a man’s been purt near dead!”

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

It’s here! We’re pleased to release MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker.

With over 60 tracks on a double CD, many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and their offspring—bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity.

Andy Hedges introduces the CD and it includes the voices of J.B. Allen, Amy Hale Auker, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Baxter Black, Almeda Bradshaw, Jerry A. Brooks, Marleen Bussma, Jim Cathey, Ken Cook, Geff Dawson, Sam DeLeeuw, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Jessica Hedges, Maggie Rose Hedges, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Chris Isaacs, Linda Kirkpatrick, Susie Knight, Ross Knox, Jarle Kvale, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Rusty McCall, Gary McMahan, Rod Miller, Waddie Mitchell, Dick Morton, Terry Nash, Andy Nelson, Jim Nelson, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Kay Kelley Nowell, Kent Reeves, Rex Rideout, Randy Rieman, Kent Rollins, Sandy Seaton Sallee, Jay Snider, Red Steagall, Gail Steiger, Tom Swearingen, Smoke Wade, Keith Ward, and Paul Zarzyski.

The CD is offered to libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week’s Rural Library Program; sent to Center/CowboyPoetry.com supporters (at the $40 and higher level), and available for $25 (order with a credit card or Paypal, or by mail from CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450).

New Mexico’s S. Omar Barker gave many humorous poems to the world of cowboy poetry. A good number of them, including this one, remain widely recited today. He inserted a bit of himself in this poem in referring to the “Lazy S B spread.”

It’s told that Barker enjoyed signing his name with his brand, created from his initials and laid sideways for “Lazy SOB,” but, that it was his brand is not accurate. In an article written by Barker for Hoofs and Horns magazine, Barker introduces himself, “This S.O.B. (my initials, not my ancestry) has never claimed to qualify as a sure ‘nough cowboy.” Later in the article, he comments, “Incidentally, when I applied for (Lazy S O B) for our cattle brand, they wrote back that some other S O B already had it. So we had to be satisfied with (Lazy S B).” Andy Hedges tells the story on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO.

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.

Watch top reciter and respected horseman Randy Rieman recite “Purt Near!” on the Western Folklife Center’s YouTube channel.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission of the S. Omar Barker estate.)

 

I’D LIKE TO BE IN TEXAS FOR THE ROUNDUP IN THE SPRING, traditional

jbposter

 

I’D LIKE TO BE IN TEXAS FOR THE ROUNDUP IN THE SPRING
traditional

In a lobby of a big hotel in New York town one day,
Sat a bunch of fellows telling yarns to pass the time away.
They told of places where they’d been and all the sights they’d seen,
And some of them praised Chicago town and others New Orleans.

I can see the cattle grazing o’er the hills at early morn;
I can see the camp-fires smoking at the breaking of the dawn,
I can hear the broncos neighing I can hear the cowboys sing;
Oh I’d like to be in Texas for the round-up in the spring.

In a corner in an old arm chair sat a man whose hair was gray,
He had listened to them longingly, to what they had to say.
They asked him where he’d like to be and his clear old voice did ring:
“I’d like to be in Texas for the round-up in the spring.

They all sat still and listened to each word he had to say;
They knew the old man sitting there had once been young and gay.
They asked him for a story of his life out on the plains,
He slowly then removed his hat and quietly began:

“Oh, I’ve seen them stampede o’er the hills,
when you’d think they`d never stop,
I’ve seen them run for miles and miles until their leader dropped,
I was foreman on a cowranch—that’s the calling of a king;
I’d like to be in Texas for the round-up in the spring.”

…authorship uncertain

Cowboy and poet J.B. Allen (1938-2005) recorded an outstanding recitation of this work at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The recording is on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten from CowboyPoetry.com.

Top cowboy balladeer Don Edwards sings it in a video here.

The great Buck Ramsey (1938-1998) sings the song here.

The authorship of “I’d Like to Be in Texas…” is uncertain. In the late Glenn Ohrlin’s The Hell-Bound Train, he writes, “Vernon Dalhart recorded ‘Roundup in the Spring’ on November 1, 1926… The song was first printed in sheet music copyrighted in 1927 by Lou Fishback (Fort Worth, Tex.); Carl Copeland and Jack Williams were listed as co-writers. The following year, the Texas Folklore Society printed an article by J. Frank Dobie, who claimed it was an old song he had obtained from Andy Adams.”

The Lomax’s include information from the Dobie article, writing that “…he found two lines in an unpublished play of Mr. Andy Adams. When he requested the full version, Mr. Adams sent him two stanzas and the chorus, which he had obtained fifteen years previously from W. E. Hawks, a ranchman now living in Burlington, Vt. However, he claimed to be responsible for most of the second stanza….”

Find more about “I’d Like to Be in Texas” at CowboyPoetry.com.

Top Texas artist Duward Campbell’s 2005 painting of J.B. Allen and his horse Pilgrim was selected for the 2011 Cowboy Poetry Week poster. Find more about it at CowboyPoetry.com,  where there is also more about J.B. Allen.

This year Cowboy Poetry Week is celebrated April 15-21, and the selected poster art is “Out to Pasture” by Clara Smith (www.clarasmithart.com).

Find more about Cowboy Poetry Week here.

 

THE BRANDIN’ CORRAL by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

brandincorral

 

THE BRANDIN’ CORRAL
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

When the west was all onsettled
and there wasn’t no bob wire,
They had a way of workin’
that was sumpthin’ to admire.
Every thing was done on hoss back,
and I’ve heard old timers talk
How the kids in cattle countries
didn’t hardly learn to walk.

They worked cattle in the open,
and they laid ’em on the ground.
It was cuttin’, flankin’, ropin’,
and a tyin’ critters down.
But the present cattle raiser
aint so strong fer that idee,
And he has a way of workin’
that’s as different as can be.

‘Taint so hard on men and hosses,
and it’s better for cow brutes
When you got a place to work ’em
in corrals and brandin’ chutes.
When we heard of brandin’ fluid,
fust we took it fer a joke.
Jest to think of brandin’ cattle
when you couldn’t smell no smoke.

Well a feller caint deny it
that the new way is the best,
Fer there’s been a heap of changes
in the ranges of the west,
Most of the outfits then was bigger,
and a cow was jest a cow,
And they didn’t stop to figger things
as close as they do now.

…Bruce Kiskaddon, July, 1935

This image is another original Los Angeles Stockyards calendar page from over eighty years ago, July, 1935.

Times change. It brings to mind cowboy and rancher Ken Cook’s contemporary poem, “The Conversation“:

What has not changed ol’ cowboy friend”
Since you was young and men were men?”
….

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.

Frank King wrote, in his introduction to Kiskaddon’s 1924 book, Rhymes of the Ranges, “Bruce Kiskaddon is a real old time cowboy, having started his cattle ranch experience in the Picket Wire district of southern Colorado as a kid cowhand and rough string rider and later on northern Arizona ranges, especially as a writer for the late Tap Duncan, famous as a Texas and Arizona cattleman, and one time the largest cattle holder in Mojave County, Arizona, where Bruce rode for years, after which he took a turn as a rider on big cattle stations in Australia. All this experience is reflected in his western poems, because he has had actual experience in the themes he puts into verse, He had no college professor teach him anything. He is a natural born poet and his poems show he knows his business. The best cowhand poems I have ever read. His books should be in every home and library where western poetry is enjoyed.”

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. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.

 

THEN AND NOW by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

thenandnow

 

THEN AND NOW
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

There were officers, outlaws, and gamblers and scrappers,
That lived their wild lives in the stirrin’ old west.
There were bull whackers, mule skinners, soldiers and trappers;
But the old time cow puncher was there with the best.

The old frontier cattleman, cool and unhurried,
Though the danger was close, or the goin’ was tough:
Went on with his work, and he never once worried;
If he had a few cowboys, well, that was enough.

Now the bobbed wire fences have cut up the ranges.
The cattle themselves is a different breed.
There has been some improvement and plenty of changes.
There’s a heap in the blood, but there’s more in the feed.

The old time cow puncher, the dare devil ranger,
With a gun on his hip and the spurs on his heels,
Is replaced by a cow hand that works in less danger.
He is surer of shelter and regular meals.

Now the herdsman today has his troubles and losses,
But he still has the heart of the old time cow hand.
He is doin’ his best just the same as his bosses,
To raise the most beef, the best way he can.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, January, 1942

From 1936 through 1942, poet Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950) and artist Katherine Field (1908 – 1951) collaborated on works for the Los Angeles Union Stockyards calendar and the Western Livestock Journal. This image is an original calendar page from January, 1942.

In 1939, Frank M. King, editor of the Western Livestock Journal, wrote, “…Sometimes Bruce’s poems are mailed up there to Katherine in her mountain home, and pretty soon it comes back with a drawing that just fits the poem. Then for a change she sends her drawings over here to Los Angeles and Bruce squints them eyes over ’em that he used to use for spying out long eared calves up there on them Colorado and Arizona mountain ranges, and in a right short time he comes out with one of them poems that exactly matches the picture, so they make a good team for matching up pictures and poems.” The two never met in person.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from “Open Range,” Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at CowboyPoetry.com.