THE WHITE MUSTANG, by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

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THE WHITE MUSTANG
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

Wherever rhythmic hoofbeats drum,
As galloping riders go or come,
Wherever the saddle is still the throne,
And the dust of hoofs by wind is blown,
Wherever the horsemen young or old,
The Pacing Mustang’s tale is told.

A hundred years on hill and plain,
With comet-tail and flying mane,
Milk-white, free, and high of head,
Over the range his trail has led.
Never a break in his pacing speed,
Never a trot nor a lope his need,
Since faraway days of the wagon train,
Men have followed his trail in vain.

A dozen horses spurred to the death,
Still he flees like a phantom’s breath,
And from some hill at horizon’s hem,
Snorts his challenge back at them.
A bullet drops him dead by day,
Yet white at night he speeds away.
Forever a thief of tamer steeds,
Stallion prince of the mustang breeds,
Coveted prize of the men who ride,
Never a rope has touched his hide.
Wherever the saddle is still a throne,
The Great White Mustang’s tale is known.

O Phantom Ghost of heart’s desire,
Lusty-limbed with soul of fire,
Milk-white Monarch, may you, free,
Race the stars eternally.

… © 1968 S. Omar Barker, from “Rawhide Rhymes,” reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker’s spooky poem fits the post-Halloween mood.

Barker notes that Washington Irving (1783-1859) was the first to write about the “ghost horse of the plains.” In 1832, Irving traveled to Eastern Oklahoma, and wrote about it in his 1835 book, A Tour of the Prairies. In Chapter 20, “The Camp of the Wild Horse,” Irving writes:

…We had been disappointed this day in our hopes of meeting with buffalo, but the sight of the wild horse had been a great novelty, and gave a turn to the conversation of the camp for the evening. There were several anecdotes told of a famous gray horse, which has ranged the prairies of this neighborhood for six or seven years, setting at naught every attempt of the hunters to capture him. They say he can pace and rack (or amble) faster than the fleetest horses can run. Equally marvelous accounts were given of a black horse on the Brazos, who grazed the prairies on that river’s banks in Texas. For years he outstripped all pursuit. His fame spread far and wide; offers were made for him to the amount of a thousand dollars; the boldest and most hard-riding hunters tried incessantly to make prize of him, but in vain. At length he fell a victim to his gallantry, being decoyed under a tree by a tame mare, and a noose dropped over his head by a boy perched among the branches…

Find more at CowboyPoetry.com.

Irving is well known for his own ghostly story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” published in 1820. A bit of trivia: a 1922 silent movie version of the story, “The Headless Horseman,” starred Will Rogers.

Irving also has a connection with this image. This nineteenth century engraving, “Lassoing Wild Horses,” was made by by W. W. Rice from a painting by Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888). Darley illustrated many works by authors of the time and did the first illustrations for Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.”

S. Omar Barker as described in Cowboy Miner Productions’ collection of his work, “…was born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico… a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator… named after his father Squire L. Barker, but went by Omar, he often signed his books with his initials and trademark brand, ‘Lazy SOB.'”

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

Rex Rideout has a great recitation of “The White Mustang,” with creative sound, on the “MASTERS: Volume Two: the poetry of S. Omar Barker” CD from CowboyPoetry.com.

The image is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

(You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission. The image is in the public domain.)

RANCH MOTHER, by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

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RANCH MOTHER
by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

She knows the keen of lonely winds
The sound of hoofs at night,
The creak of unwarmed saddles in
The chill before daylight,
The champ of eager bridle bits,
The jingle-clink of spurs,
The clump of boots—lone silence, too,
For cowboy sons are hers.

She knew the dust of cattle trails
While yet she was a bride,
And tangy smell of branding iron
Upon a dogie’s hide.
The yelp of coyotes on a hill,
The night hawk’s lonely croon,
The bawl of milling cattle: thus
Her cowcamp honeymoon.

Her hands are hard from laboring,
Her face is brown from sun,
But oh, her eyes are deep with dreams
Of days and duties done!
The hand of hardship forged her love
That first far rangeland spring.
Now he is gone its memory lives,
A gentle, deathless thing.

Her days knew little neighboring,
Less now, perhaps, than then,
Alone with years she gleans content:
Her sons are horseback men!

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

Deanna Dickinson McCall is known for her fine recitation of this poem and we’re pleased to have it on recordings, including the latest MASTERS: Volume Two, the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Popular songwriter Jean Prescott put the poem to music on her Traditions CD.

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

This 1904 photo by W.D. Harper is titled “101 Ranch, Rita Blanco Cañon,” and described, “Photograph shows seven cowboys from the 101 Ranch near Dalhart, Texas, on horseback. A ranch house, outbuildings and corrals are in the background.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.

We don’t know much about W.D. Harper, though he made many iconic photographs. This one also shows the photographer’s wagon in the background.

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

PANTS POLISHER, by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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PANTS POLISHER
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

They asked me “What’s a saddle?”
So I told ’em it’s a kack,
A rig of wood and leather
shaped to fit a horse’s back.
You set up in its middle
with a leg hung down each side,
Some horse meat in between ’em,
and that is known as “ride.”

I could have stopped right there,
of course, and saved a heap of steam,
But when they speak of saddles,
my old eyes take on a gleam,
For the saddle is an implement
that’s bred a breed of man
Who rides the range of history
plumb back to Genghis Kahn.

Two legs was all us humans had,
but men that wanted more,
They figgered out the saddle,
and its magic gave them more.

The Saracen, the Cossack,
the Arab and the knight,
The Mongol and the chevalier—
they all was men of might,
Because instead of walkin’
like a tamer breed would do,
They climbed up in a saddle
when they had a job in view.

King Richard was a saddle man,
and Sheridan and Lee,
And Grant and “Black Jack” Pershing—
just to mention two or three.
Remember ol’ Sir Galahad
of that there poet’s tale?
His pants was saddle-polished
while he sought the Holy Grail!

Of course them heroes never rode
no Texas applehorn,
But they’re the cowboy’s kinfolks,
just as sure as you are born.

They ask me, “What’s a saddle?”
It’s a riggin’ made to fit
A man (sometimes a woman)
in the region where they sit.
It’s made of wood and leather,
with a cinch that goes around
A chunk of livin’ horse meat
‘twixt the rider and the ground.

It’s just the apparatus
that a cowhand climbs upon
To start his day of cow work
at the chilly hour of dawn.
It’s just a piece of ridin’ gear
that, when it’s had a chance,
Has give the world some heroes—
while it polished up their pants!

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

The late Elmer Kelton wrote an introduction to to the 1998 Cowboy Miner book on Barker, and it is excerpted at CowboyPoetry.com. It begins:

How can anyone begin to tell who S. Omar Barker was?

The easy way would be to give the statistics: that he was born in a log cabin on a small mountain ranch at Beulah, New Mexico, in 1894, youngest of the eleven children of Squire Leander and Priscilla Jane Barker, that he grew up on the family homestead, attended high school and college in Las Vegas, New Mexico, was in his youth a teacher of Spanish, a high school principal, a forest ranger, a sergeant of the 502nd Engineers in France in World War I, a trombone player in Doc Patterson’s Cowboy Band, a state legislator and a newspaper correspondent.

That he began writing and selling stories, articles, and poems as early as 1914 and became a full-time writer at the end of his legislative term in 1925. That he married Elsa McCormick of Hagerman, New Mexico, in 1927, and she also became a noted writer of Western stories….

The most recent MASTERS CD from CowboyPoetry.com 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.

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

This 1941 photo by respected photographer Marion Post Wolcott (1910- 1990) is titled, “Detail of saddle on cowhand’s horse at Ashland rodeo,  Montana.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A collection of Marion Post Wolcott’s photographs at The Library of Congress tells that she produced more than 9,000 photographs for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1938 to 1942. Find more at a web site created by her daughter.

We thank the S. Omar Barker Estate for its generous permissions.

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

CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY, by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

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CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY
by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

It don’t take such a lot of laws
To keep the rangeland straight,
Nor books to write ’em in, because
There’s only six or eight.
The first one is the welcome sign—
True brand of western hearts:
“My camp is yours an’ yours is mine,”
In all cow country parts.

Treat with respect all womankind,
Same as you would your sister.
Take care of neighbors’ strays you find,
And don’t call cowboys “mister.”
Shut pasture gates when passin’ through;
An’ takin’ all in all,
Be just as rough as pleases you,
But never mean nor small.

Talk straight, shoot straight, and never break
Your word to man nor boss.
Plumb always kill a rattlesnake.
Don’t ride a sorebacked hoss.
It don’t take law nor pedigree
To live the best you can!
These few is all it takes to be
A cowboy—and a man!

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

We interrupt our week of poems about rain with information about this year’s 21st annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, August 2-4, 2018 in Abilene, Kansas.

Geff Dawson, who with Dawn Dawson heads the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, recites this S. Omar Barker poem on the latest double CD from CowboyPoetry.com, MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

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 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.

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The National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo describes their events, “…There are competition levels for beginners and Silver Buckle winners, cash prizes, trophy buckles and more. Anyone can compete—bring your best poetry or recited poetry and compete with us. It’s tons of fun and you get to meet a whole lot of people who love the same thing you do—cowgirl/cowboy poetry. Competition dates are August 3-4, 2018, in Abilene, Kansas, during the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo and Kansas Free Fair! For more information, click our web site at www.ncpr.us. Entry forms, rules and our 2018 schedule are all available on the web site…”

Many poets have participated over the years, and have high praise for the experience, including Yvonne Hollenbeck, Doris Daley, Linda Kirkpatrick, DW Groethe, Andy Nelson, the late Pat Richardson, and many others. A celebration of “excellence through competition,” many lasting friendships are made.

The associated Chisholm Trail Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Show is August 4, 2018 in Abilene, Kansas.

Find more about the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo at ncpr.us and on Facebook.

These photos include Geff and Dawn Dawson (far right, horseback) and the judges of the 2017 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, including Oklahoma poet and rancher Jay Snider and others. Thanks to Geff and Dawn for the photos.

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

 

COWBOY’S COMPLAINT by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

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COWBOY’S COMPLAINT
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

I wouldn’t be a cowboy for a skunk-boat full of gold!
It’s swim with sweat in summer an’ it’s freeze in winter’s cold.
It’s roll out with the morning star an’ lace your saddle on
An’ swaller bitter coffee long before the the gray of dawn.

At snoozin’ time for city folks, you step acrost your kack
To get your innards jolted as your pony warps his back.
It’s round ’em up an’ swing a rope an’ wrestle down a calf,
An’ earn your daily wages—’bout a dollar an’ a half!

It’s herd dust down your gullet with the air too thick to chew,
An’ plenty times the water’s such you’ve got to chew it, too.
It’s set-fast on your hunkers an’ your legs so sprung an’ bent,
That your pants would fit a wagon-bow without no argument.

You eat so much hawg-boozem that a grunt’s your greetin’ hail,
An’ you dassent take a look for fear yo’ve growed a curly tail!
It’s take the ramrod’s powders when he wants to swim the crick,
An’ lean against a bullet when the rustlers try a trick.

It’s hunt a trail or slide the groove or ride a lonely line,
It’s cut the herd an’ herd the cut an’ watch for injun sign.
It’s lay upon a Tucson bed amongst the centipedes
An’ dream about the easy life them city fellers leads.

I wouldn’t be a cowboy for a skunk-boat full of gold—
It’s ‘cut a rusty’ when yo’re young an’ ‘cut back’ when you’re old.
“I wouldn’t be a cowboy”—Thus the snort of Soogan Sam,
An’ then he kinder grins and says, “I wouldn’t—but I am!”

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

Poet and reciter Dick Morton, who just turned 90, recites this poem on the new double CD from CowboyPoetry.com: MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

S. Omar Barker 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. Andy Hedges sets the record straight in an introduction on the new CD.

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

Rick Huff reviews the MASTERS: VOLUME TWO CD in his latest “Best of the West Reviews“:

The MASTERS of cowboy poetry series from CowboyPoetry.com showcases both the masters of writing Western poetic words and masters of delivering those words. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

MASTERS: VOLUME TWO brings us the poetry of S. Omar Barker (1894-1985) on two jam-packed CDs. Included are the most famous of his works and plenty that may well become more famous now. As for the caliber of the reciters, the attuned who read this will only need last names of most: Hedges, Rieman, McMahan, Morton, Steiger, Nelson, Black, Beard, Swearingen, Zarzyski, Isaacs, Groethe, Snider, Hollenbeck and the list goes wonderfully on.

With a total of sixty tracks here to amuse and educate, this collection makes me, born and bred New Mexican, particularly proud to recall that Mr. Barker was one as well. Highly recommended. Lovers of content should be very contented!”

Find more of Rick Huff’s latest reviews here.

Each year, the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry/CowboyPoetry.com creates a compilation CD that is offered to libraries in the Center’s outreach Rural Library Program, part of Cowboy Poetry Week. CDs are also given to supporters and offered to the public. Find more about this latest double CD here.

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

MASTERS CD Series

 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.

The current CD series is MASTERS.

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MASTERS: VOLUME TWO (April, 2018) 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. Andy Hedges introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS: VOLUME TWO here.

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The first CD in the series. MASTERS (2017), includes the works of Larry McWhorter, J.B. Allen, Sunny Hancock, and Ray Owens, reciting their poetry in recorded poems, “live” performances, and their recitations of other masters’ works (Buck Ramsey, S. Omar Barker, and Henry Herbert Knibbs). Jay Snider introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS (2017) here.

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Previous to the MASTERS series, the Center produced ten volumes of The BAR-D Roundup.

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The Center’s Cowboy Poetry Week celebration—recognized by unanimous U.S. Senate resolution—is held each April during National Poetry Month. Each year, a compilation CD and the celebration’s poster—by Clara Smith in 2018; by Jason Rich in 2017; by Gary Morton in 2016; by Don Dane in 2015; by Jason Rich in 2014; Shawn Cameron in 2013; by R.S. Riddick in 2012, Duward Campbell in 2011, Bill Owen in 2010, Bob Coronato in 2009; William Matthews in 2008; Tim Cox in 2007; and Joelle Smith in 2006—are offered to libraries in the Center’s Rural Library Project. The outreach program is a part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage.

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

THE CUTTIN’ CHUTE by Linda Kirkpatrick and TEXAS ZEPHYR by S. Omar Barker

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THE CUTTIN’ CHUTE
by Linda Kirkpatrick

As the cowboy works the cuttin’ gate
There’s a few things he’s gotta know.
The first and foremost of these things
Is what must stay and what must go.

Now take that ole cow over there
The black with mottled face,
Why she ain’t calved in more than a year;
She’s got no business on this place.

So I’ll just cut her to the left
When she hits the cuttin’ gate,
So far of all the cows to go,
She’ll be number eight.

But when it comes to friends I know
And life is kinda in a tight
There is one thing fer darn sure,
I’ll cut you to the right.

© 2002, Linda Kirkpatrick, used with permission

Ranch-raised in Texas Hill Country, Linda Kirkpatrick is known for her poetry, recitations, writings about regional history, and chuckwagon cooking.

She wrote this poem for her friends Ginger and W. B. Patterson, who, like Linda, are from long-time Texas ranching families.

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Linda Kirkpatrick is featured on the new MASTERS: VOLUME TWO the poetry of S. Omar Barker double CD from CowboyPoetry.com. On it, she recites one of S. Omar Barker’s popular short poems:

TEXAS ZEPHYR
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

To figure how hard the wind blows
out on the Texas Plains,
You hang a fresh-killed beef up
with a pair of logging chains;
And if, on the morning after,
you find your beef’s been skinned,
And you have to ride to find the hide,
there’s been just a little wind!

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

Linda’s most recent book, Tales of the Frio Canyon, has traveled around the West and around the world, including Rome, Jerusalem, and beyond. Enthusiastic readers send her photos. This photo is from top cowboy cook Kent Rollins. Find more about Kent and Shannon Rollins and their Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon at kentrollins.com and see great things on their YouTube channel.

Find more about Linda Kirkpatrick, including her books and recordings at CowboyPoetry.com, and find her “Somewhere in the West” column in The Hill Country Herald.

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