COWBOY’S OPINION by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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COWBOY’S OPINION
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Of all God’s creatures I endorse
most heartily the one called “horse.”
That on this creature man might sit
no doubt is why God made him split!

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

Barker wrote some 2,000 poems in his long career, including many pithy short ones, like this one.

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).” (Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing the article, which he received from Vess Quinlan, who received it from Joel Nelson who received it from Kay Kelley Nowell.)

S. Omar 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 him at CowboyPoetry.com: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/sobarker.htm.

Oregon poet and horseman Tom Swearingen is pictured in an August, 2016 photo. Tom recites “Cowboy’s Opinion” on a forthcoming recording from CowboyPoetry.com.

Tom is among the poets and musicians featured at the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, February 2-4, 2018 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Known for its enthusiastic community and school involvement, the theme for the 2018 Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering is “Barn Dance and Western Swing.” Find a history of the gathering, which started in 1993, here.

Featured performers are 3 Trails West, Floyd Beard, Almeda Bradshaw,,Patty Clayton,,The Cowboy Way, Doris Daley, Peggy Godfrey, Hanson Family, Joe Herrington, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Carolyn and Dave Martin, Syd Masters Band, Doc Mehl, Notable Exceptions, Trinity Seely, Tom Swearingen, Barry Ward, and Joyce Woodson. Saturday Daytime Performers are Vic Anderson, Janet Bailey, Valerie Beard, Cimarron Sidekicks, Dean Cook, Joel Eliot, Thatch Elmer, Jessica Hedges, Ron Hinkle, Randy Houston, Steve Jones, Susie Knight, Mary Matli, Dave and Kathy McCann, James Michae, Mark Munzert, OK Chorale Trio, Ramblin’ Rangers, Dennis Russell, Gail Star, Rocky Sullivan, Miss “V”, and Washtub Jerry.

Find more at the gathering site, cowboypoets.com.

See Tom Swearingen also at the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, February 16-18, 2018, in Ellensburg, Washington.

Find more about Tom Swearingen on Facebook and at his web site, oregoncowboypoet.com.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Happy New Year, all!

S. Omar 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.

Jay Snider recites this poem in a forthcoming CD from CowboyPoetry.com.

This photograph is by Colorado rancher Terry Nash, taken in late 2013. Terry has a new CD, A Good Ride. Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and at his site, terrynashcowboypoet.com.

 

Winter/Christmas Art Spur, 2017-2018, “Coyote” (and poems for inspiration)

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(Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, made possible by Carol M. Highsmith and the Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We know many that are worthy of a poem or a song. In Art Spur, we invite poets and songwriters to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry and songs.

Our 47th piece offered to “spur” the imagination is a special Winter/Christmas Art Spur, a photograph by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “A lone, and lean, coyote makes the best of wintertime the northernmost Wyoming reaches of Yellowstone National Park.”

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 http://www.carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

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SUBMISSIONS

Submissions are welcome from all. Christmas-themed poems and lyrics had a deadline of Thursday, December 21, 2017. Winter-themed submissions have a deadline of Thursday, January 18, 2018.

Poets and songwriters are invited to be inspired by the photograph; a literal representation of the art is not expected.

•  Please follow our regular guidelines for content.

•  You may submit one poem, either Christmas- or winter-themed.

•  Send your poem to poems@cowboypoetry.com and note “Art Spur” in the subject line.

Selected poems will be posted.

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

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Selected Christmas-themed Poems

“The Coyote Christmas Carol Choir,” by Marleen Bussma of Utah
“Christmas Song,” by Ol’ Jim Cathey of Texas
“Coyote Kin,” by Jean Mathisen Haugen of Wyoming
“Lonesome Coyote,” by Tamara Hillman of Arizona

Thanks to all who participated.

 

THE COYOTE CHRISTMAS CAROL CHOIR
by Marleen Bussma

Contrary Harry gnaws and chomps the tip of Walter’s nose.
He mouths and grunts then side-steps as his satisfaction grows.
Impulsive Henry plans to hold a banquet as he steers
his body in position where he’ll serve up Chester’s ears.

Defiant Chester opens wide to munch on Harry’s tail.
They’re worked into a frenzy and most dining’s done by braille.
And then there’s Walter, meek, subdued, not joining in the stunt.
He doesn’t pester anyone, because he is the runt.

The coyote pups have been evicted from the family’s den.
Their mother is fed up with all the mischief there has been.
Just yesterday she caught them sneaking out to cross the range.
They wanted to be free and see some country for a change.

Mom saw the last tail bobbing like a cork on heavy seas
as naïve pups plunged down the precipice like refugees.
The terror of the coyote traps took hold and energized
her into action with the strength she never realized

she had to save her pups from danger. Chaos framed the scene.
Mom sputtered, fumed, and bristled like she’d had too much caffeine.
She scolded, chastised, lectured in a voice so very loud.
“Why can’t you canine pups behave and mind to make me proud?”

As Harry opened up his mouth she dared him to object.
Their shoulders slumped. Their heads dropped down. She thought she could detect
remorse. They now looked sheepish, sorry, and chagrined.
She hoped their youthful deviltry subsided like the wind.

The night is peaceful as the pups perch on a sandstone ledge.
They’ve promised to behave and not be wayward in a pledge
to mother. It’s no fun to be obedient they find.
Frustration brings out yips and yaps with howls. They’ve even whined!

Their outcry is more organized when Harry sings the lead.
Soon Henry joins with Chester and they blend the notes they need
for harmony that rises over rim rock and the trees.
Poor Walter struggles, tryin’ hard, but shrieks in sev’ral keys.

They sing the carols that drift high above the country church
where men and women congregate to worship as they search
for Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men, an annual crusade.
The coyotes sit in silence as they let the last note fade.

Each night the siblings’ serenades are symphonies that teem
with Christmas cheer as mother listens to her life-long dream.
They raise their voices singing to the starry skies and moon,
including warbling Walter still stuck slightly out of tune.

© 2017, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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CHRISTMAS SONG
by Ol’ Jim Cathey

Indian summer soon changed to cold winter snow,
Heralding that Christmas time was near.
‘Course, it was just me an’ that that ol’ lineshack, you know,
That lonesome feelin’ was purty severe.

Lonely? It dang shore was! Made worse by the coyote’s yip.
A shiver went up an’ down my spine,
I’d best shake this off, calm down an’ get a grip,
Cup of hot coffee will make things fine.

Then my thoughts drifted through time, back to yesteryear,
I could see Pa readin’ from The Book,
‘Bout the Baby Jesus an’ Kings an’ Angels near,
An’ how shepherds, with their flocks, came to look.

The Christ Child lay in a manger that Holy night,
While Angels sang “Hosanna to the King.”
Then I could hear that coyote’s yippin’ at first light,
An’ I swear… I could hear the angels sing!

The angels sang a song of love with peace and hope,
Then joy seemed to seep into my heart,
An’ my troubled thoughts left me in a lope,
An’ I was feelin’ good, anxious for a fresh start.

Right then, my lonesomeness just seemed to melt away,
An’ a smile struck my face like a warm kiss,
So I bowed my head an’ with Christmas joy began to pray,
An’, that ol’ coyote yippin’ pure bliss.

I don’t often see ‘em, not more’n a glimpse at most,
But I was glad that he had come along,
As he slunk t’ward the river, sorta like a ghost,
An’ I said a silent thanks for his song.

Wal, Christmas is shore ‘nuff good, but chores must get done.
So I says, “Thank You Lord for yore way.”
Then I saddles up, head out to seek warmth from the sun,
Joggin’ along on that Christmas Day!

© 2017, Ol’ Jim Cathey 
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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COYOTE KIN
by Jean Mathisen Haugen

Slow up, coyote,
no need to run.
I’m just riding out,
don’t have my gun.

It’s a little sad
and passing strange
why you and me
can’t share the range.
We’re loners both
and you’re crippled some.
I’ve nearly forgot
where I come from.
Old dog coyote,
we should be pards.
Food’s scarce to come by.
Life has been hard
for both of us,
I’d tend to think.
So when I see you
I just wink
and head my horse
the other way
and tell the boss,
“No coyotes today.”
Slow up, coyote,
no need to flee,
’cause we are kin,
dog coyote and me.

© 2017, Jean Mathisen Haugen 
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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LONESOME COYOTE
by Tamara Hillman

Just look at that coyote
lurkin’ a far over there,
he reminds me of my younger days
when I had nary a care.

It didn’t matter the season—
snow or summer sun,
I lived my life plum’ for myself
an was an ornery son-of-a-gun.

Only foraged for food in my gut
an’ clothes to fit my need,
an’ a dog who loved me spite of it all,
an’ a wild horse for my steed.

I wondered ‘cross the country
an’ stopped but now & then,
hung my hat in a bunkhouse
when needin’ rest from sin.

I scuttled about from ranch to ranch—
pay poor, an’ work was mean,
hours from sunup ‘til darkness,
an’ like that coyote, I was lean,

But I never got discouraged
‘cause I was livin’ single
‘til a filly down ol’ Texas way
taught me how to mingle.

I’m still like that ol’ coyote
but in a different way,
got six kids an’ a pretty wife
who gave my life some sway.

I settled on a gnarly ranch—
a place to call my own,
an’ work the place from dusk ‘til dawn
with nary a grunt nor groan.

‘Cause now, ya see, that ol’ coyote
has matured into a fox,
I’ll not be freezin’ in the snow,
nor livin’ in a box.

I got me a real warm fire now,
a dog layin’ by my chair,
six kids an’ a wife who love me
an’ I sure ain’t got no cares.

© 2017, Tamara Hillman 
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

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A  few coyote poems, for inspiration:

THE BELLED COYOTE
by Robert Fletcher (1885-1972)

Aint no one loves a coyote
That I ever heard about.
He aint nuthin’ but a pestilence
Requirin’ stampin’ out.
A sneakin’, thievin’ rustler,—
A gray, ga’nt vagabone
Whose locoed vocal tendencies
Are lackin’ depth and tone.

Seems like he’s always hungry
And Lord, man, when he wails
It’s the concentrated sinfulness
From lost and vanished trails.
Well, there’s one of them Carusos
Hangs about the Lazy B
And makes hisself obnoxious
Most plum’ consistently.

So, one day, a cayuse dyin’
We surrounds the corpse with traps,
Where we’d cached it in a coulee
A thinkin’ that perhaps
In a moment inadvertent
That coyote will come around
And meet up with some damn tough luck,
And we will have him downed.

Sure enough, he made an error
For he let his appetite
Prevail agin his judgment
And we cinched him that same night.
He got one foot caught in a trap
And jumpin’ ’round about
Another gloms him by a laig
And sort of stretched him out.

Naw, pard, we didn’t shoot him,—
Jest aimed to give him hell,
We took and strapped around his neck
A jinglin’ little bell
And turned him loose to ramble,—
Yes,–I reckin’ it was cruel,—
Aint a cotton-tail or sage-hen
That is jest a plain damn fool

Enought to not take warnin’
When they heard that little bell,—
So he don’t get too much food nor
Company, I’m here to tell.
He’s an outlaw with his own kind
And his pickin’s pretty slim,
‘Cause ev’rywhere he goes that bell
Gives warnin’ that it’s him.

And sometimes when it’s gettin’ dusk
And ev’rything plum’ still,
I can hear that bell a tollin’
As he slips around a hill.
It kind of gets upon my nerves,—
That, and his mournful cry,
For I know the skunk is fond of livin’
Same as you or I.

One day I’m in the saddle
A twistin’ up a smoke,
When he sneaks our of a coulee,
And pard, it aint no joke,
When I see him starved and lonesome,
A lookin’ ‘most all in,—
Well, perhaps I’m chicken hearted,
But it seemed a dirty sin,

And besides, that bell, it haunts me,
Till there doesn’t seem to be
A way t’ square things but to put
Him out of misery.
So I takes my 30-30,
As he sits and gives a yell,—
I drawed a bead, and cracked away,—
And busted that damn bell!

…by Robert H. Fletcher, from “Prickly Pear Pomes,” 1920 chapbook

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THE COYOTE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

The coyote of the western ranges
Survives despite all modern changes.
He views the world with dauntless drollery—
And does not practice birth controllery.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

____

THE COYOTE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Cry, coyote! Cry lonely at dawn
For days of a past unforgotten but gone;
For buffalo black on the wide, grassy plains,
In a land still unfettered by civilized chains.

Cry shrill for a moonrise undimmed by the glare
Of cities and highways. Who is there to share
With a slim little wolf all the longing he wails
From moon-mystic hilltops and shadowy trails?

Cry, coyote, gray ghost of the rimrock! Your cry
Still echoes in hearts where old memories lie.
Cry, coyote! Cry lonely at dawn
For open-range freedom now vanished and gone!

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

DRAGGIN’ IN THE TREE by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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“Bringing Home the Tree,” © 2004, Joelle Smith (1958-2005)

 

DRAGGIN’ IN THE TREE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

The cowboy ain’t no lumberjack,
an’ if you want the facks,
One thing he ain’t the fondest of
is choppin’ with an axe.
But when December snow has got
the range all wrapped in white,
There is one job of choppin’
that he seems to like all right.
A sharp ax on his shoulder,
he will ride off up the draw
Until he finds an evergreen
without a single flaw.
A spruce, a fir, a juniper
that’s shaped just to a T
To set up in a corner
for the ranchhouse Christmas tree.

As like as not, last summer
while a-ridin’ after cows
He noticed just the tree he wants,
with green and graceful boughs
That’s stout enough to ornament
without no droop nor saggin’,
But still a tree that ain’t too big
to fetch without a wagon.
It may be that he picked it out
when August sun was hot,
But he knows where to find it,
For his mind has marked the spot.

It ain’t no chore to chop it down,
an’ if the snow is deep
He drags it in behind his horse.
It warms him up a heap
To see them rancher kids
run out a-hollerin’ with glee
To watch him an’ admire him
when he’s bringin’ the tree.

Them kids may not belong to him,
but that don’t matter none—
His boss’ brood, a nester’s brats—
It’s still a heap of fun
To some ol’ lonesome cowpoke,
an’ it sets his heart aglow
To come a-draggin’ in the tree
across the Christmas snow.
Sometimes when there’s a schoolmarm
an’ she wants a tree at school,
She gets half a dozen.
for you’ll find that as a rule
At least that many cowboys,
in sweet education’s cause,
Will somehow get to feelin’
That they’re kin to Santy Claus!

Sometimes the rangeland’s lonesome
an’ sometimes it’s kind o’ grim,
But not when every ranchhouse
has a Christmas tree to trim.
An’ though the wild cowpuncher
ain’t no hand to swing an ax,
Across the white December snow
you’ll often find his tracks
A-leadin’ to the timber,
then back out again once more,
A-draggin’ in the Christmas tree—
his purt near favorite chore!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker wrote many excellent Christmas poems.

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 a 1972 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].” (Thanks to Andy Hedges for sharing the article, which he received from Vess Quinlan, who received it from Joel Nelson who received it from Kay Kelley Nowell.)

We’ll have news in January about the forthcoming double CD of S. Omar Barker poetry, with recitations by many of today’s top poets and reciters.

This drawing,”Bringing Home the Tree,” © 2004, is by much-missed artist and horsewoman Joelle Smith (1958-2005). It depicts Joelle and her niece Clara Smith, who is grown up now and is also an impressive artist. Stay tuned for news about her, too. The image was the subject of a previous Christmas Art Spur at CowboyPoetry.com.

THANKSGIVING ARGUMENT by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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THANKSGIVING ARGUMENT
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

About this here Thanksgiving there are two opposin’ views,
One helt by ol’ Pop McIntyre, one helt by Smoky Hughes;
And how them two ol’ cowpokes will debate the pros-and-cons
Produces in the bunkhouse many verbal marathons.
“I’ve always worked,” says Smoky, “For whatever I have had,
Since first I wrangled horses as a rusty-knuckled lad.
I’ve rode my share of broncos, and I’ve punched a heap of cow,
And earned my own danged ‘blessings’ by the sweat of my own brow!
Why should I be a-givin’ thanks for what I’ve duly earned
Is a lot of bosh and bunkum that I just ain’t never learned!”

Pop McIntyre, he sucks his pipe a thoughtful draw or two,
Then says: “Well, Smoky, I’ll admit that you’re a buckaroo
Who sets a steady saddle and ain’t stingy with his sweat,
But maybe there’s a thing or two you stubbornly forget.
You’re noted as a peeler that is seldom ever throwed—
To what good luck or blessin’ is your skill at ridin’ owed?”
“There ain’t no good luck to it, Pop,” says Smoky. “I’m a man
Who ain’t obliged for nothin’ when I do the best I can.
For when I earn my wages bustin’ out a bunch of colts,
It’s me, myself in person, that is takin’ all the jolts.
That’s why I claim Thanksgivin’ Day is mostly just a fake
To give some folks a good excuse for turkey stummick-ache!”

“My friend,” says Pop, sarcastic, “you have spoke your little piece,
And proved you’ve got a limber tongue that’s well supplied with grease.
You scoff at all thanksgivin’, but a fact you surely know
Is that some Power beyond your own learned blades of grass to grow.
You spoke of ridin’ broncos—I’ll admit you ride ’em good,
And set up in the saddle like a salty peeler should.
For this you take the credit, and you claim to owe no thanks
For the buckarooster blessin’ of the muscles in your shanks!
Instead you should feel thankful,” says Pop’s concludin’ drawl,
That the good lord made you forkéd—or you couldn’t ride at all!”

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

 

S. Omar Barker wrote several Thanksgiving poems. This one appears in his 1954 book, Songs of the Saddlemen.

Look for more info on a special forthcoming MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com that includes Waddie Mitchell’s recitation of “Thanksgiving Argument,” recorded for the project.

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

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.

This postcard, from the early 1900s, is from our BAR-D collection.

Find poems and more in a Thanksgiving feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

THE CHUCKWAGON by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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photo © Shannon Keller Rollins; request permission for use

 

THE CHUCKWAGON
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

They asked me: “What’s this wagon
that we hear so much about.
Aren’t wagons simply wagons?”
Well, it kinder laid me out
To realize such ignorance
was still a-runnin’ rife
About cow country customs
and the facts of cowboy life.

And so I found a sunny place
and squatted on my heels
To try and make them savvy
that a double pair of wheels
Ain’t all that makes the wagon,
in the meanin’ of the word,
The way us cowboys use it
that have been out with the herd.

For a wagon ain’t The Wagon
on the roundup or the trail
Unless it totes a chuckbox
handy-like upon its tail.
This chuckbox is the cupboard
where the coosie keeps the gear
With which he wrangles rations
for the cowboy cavalier

Who comes in off the cow work,
like a farmer to his shack,
To save his hungry stummick
from a-growin’ to his back.
He may git whistle-berries
and shotgun-waddin’ bread,
It may be beef and biskits,
but it gits the cowhand fed.

Yer chuck ain’t all The Wagon means
to sons of saddle sweat.
It means dry clothes, a bed, a fire.
and somewhere he can set
To do what little talkin’
that the cowboy’s life allows
About the thoughts he’s thinkin’
while he’s out there with the cows.
It’s where his comrades bring him
when he’s sick or hurt or shot;
It’s his anchor, it’s his haven,
it’s the only home he’s got.
So when he throws his bedroll in
The Wagon for a “work,”
It means he’s swore allegiance
to a job he’ll never shirk.
You’ve heard of soldiers loyal
to the flags of regiments—
The cowhand’s flag’s The Wagon
and the brand it represents.

They asked me: “What’s The Wagon?”
It’s a thing words can’t explain,
Unless you’ve bedded ’round one,
under stars out on the plain.
Two lonesome riders passin’
pause to hail, like passin’ ships,
And “Whichaways The Wagon?”
Is the question on their lips.
So when a cowboy’s time has come,
St. Peter hears his hail:
It’s “Whichaways The Wagon?”…
And he points him up the trail!

…S. Omar Barker, from “Rawhide Rhymes,” used with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

The second cowboy poetry gathering in 1986 at the Western Folklife Center included a tribute to S. Omar Barker by New Mexico historian Marc Simmons. He commented, “If any man deserved the title “Poet Laureate of the American West,” it was S. Omar Barker…Author of 2,000 poems and 1,500 short stories and novelettes (the first one published in 1914), he was a writer who drew inspiration from his bedrock acquaintance with the western range country. When Omar described cattle, bronc riders, or moonlight in a mountain meadow, the reader knew he was getting an authentic picture from someone who had ridden trails on horseback.

“….Molded by the hard knocks of a rural background, the younger Omar tried his hand at ranching, then went on to work as a forest ranger, high school teacher, state legislator, and briefly, a college professor. All the while he was churning out novels, stories, and poems that dealt with what he knew best—the land and the people of the Great West….”

Find more about S. Omar Barker in our features here:

Shannon Keller Rollins shares this great photograph. Shannon and Kent Rollins run the Red River Ranch Chuckwagon. They take their 1876 Studebaker chuck wagon for cooking on working ranches and at other locations and events “from bar mitzvahs to brandings.” Their popular book, A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail, is filled with mouth-watering recipes, rollicking stories, and more of Shannon’s excellent photography. Kent is an award-winning cook and television personality as well as a popular storyteller and poet. He writes a regular column for Western Horseman.

Find them on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter . Visit KentRollins.com  for recipes, videos, a blog, A Taste of Cowboy, products, and much more.

 

THE COYOTE and COW WORK WON’T WAIT by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

coyotehx

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith

 

THE COYOTE
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

The coyote of the western ranges
Survives despite all modern changes.
He views the world with duantless drollery—
And does not practice birth controllery.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

S. Omar Barker, as described in Cowboy Miner Productions’ collection of his work, “…was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico… a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator…” He enjoyed signing his work with a “Lazy SOB” brand. He was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman.

Many of S. Omar Barker’s short pieces were collected in a 1998 book, Ol’ S.O.B. Sez: Cowboy Limericks. In the introduction, top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell writes:

I really don’t think Omar had any idea of the impact his poetry had. He rode on before the cowboy poetry gatherings emerged. He didn’t see the number of cowboys who had taken his words to heart and memory. He had become one of the top three recited poets of the genre.

Why? Because he lived, worked, understood, and spoke cowboy. Not the ethereal, but the day-to-day sweaty, freezing, long-trot, leather-clad, rope-burned, calf-pullin’, brush-scarred, dally-slippin’ kind.

Then he boiled it down to its essence…He would write about things so common in the cowboy world that cowboys often overlooked them, but they’d recognize immediately the truth in those writings because Omar wrote of that life “from the inside-lookin-out” point of view.

Another from the book:

COW WORK WON’T WAIT
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

We hear unions speak of a four-day week
As if it would simple be heaven
But folks who raise cattle still find it’s a battle
To get all their work done in seven.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

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

This 2016 photograph is titled, “A lone, and lean, coyote makes the best of wintertime the
northernmost Wyoming reaches of Yellowstone National Park.”

It is another fine one by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about the photograph here.

Find the collection here, where it 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.