CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY, by S. Omar Barker

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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

Geff Dawson, who with Dawn Dawson heads the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, recites this S. Omar Barker poem on the 2018 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.

The National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo takes place this year August 2-3, 2019 in Abilene, Kansas. The associated Chisholm Trail Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Show is August 3, 2019.

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 at the event.

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

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

RANCH MOTHER, by S. Omar Barker

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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

Here’s to celebrating mothers, Mother’s Day and every day.

S. Omar Barker’s mother, Priscilla, was the eldest of nine sisters. A family biography tells that she and Squire Barker set out from Texas for New Mexico in 1889, with “fifty-six head of cattle, twelve head of mares and colts, a yoke of oxen, two teams of horses and three covered wagons loaded to the top of the sideboards…” Priscilla had four of children with her on the 500-mile journey that took six weeks. The biography tells, “Priscilla drove a heavy team of horses. Squire had made a box bed for 6-week-old Grace at the back of her mother’s seat…”

Award-winning New Mexico poet Deanna Dickinson McCall is known for her fine recitation of this poem and we’re pleased to have it on recordings, including 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 photograph is from a 2010 Mother’s Day feature at CowboyPoetry.com by poet, reciter, and popular emcee Smoke Wade and his sister, Sharon S. Brown, in memory of their mother, Betty Jean Tippett (1921-1993). Betty Jean Tippett was the daughter of a homesteader, sheepherder, and cattle rancher who became a cattle baron in a remote area of southeastern Washington near the Hells Canyon of the Snake River. She married and raised her children on a ranch near Rogersburg.

Smoke Wade writes, “My first memories of riding a horse were with Mom. She was often called upon to take lunch to a branding crew working in a remote area. Mom would tie the bundled food in pillowcase to the saddle horn and strap me on behind her with a large belt and we would go riding to take lunch to the branding crew.

“Other times while moving cows up to spring or summer pasture, mom would have me strapped on the saddle behind her. When evening came and the work was yet to be finished, mom would unsaddle her horse and make a place for me to lie down on the hillside with the saddle blanket for a bed and the saddle for a pillow. Then she would ride her horse bareback as she finished helping dad and my older brother move the cows farther up the draw in the dark…Yes, mom was a cowgirl.”

She was also a Princess of the Pendleton Round-Up (Oregon) in 1938 and Queen of the Lewiston RoundUp (Idaho) in 1940.

Find many more tributes and poems to mothers at CowboyPoetry.com.

Smoke Wade recites “Augerin'” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon and “Rawhide Rooster” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Find more about him and his own recording at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

GRAND CANYON COWBOY, by S. Omar Barker

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GRAND CANYON COWBOY
by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

I’d heard of the Canyon (the old cowboy said)
And I figured I’d like to go see it.
So I rode till I sighted a rim out ahead,
And reckoned that this place might be it.

I anchored my horse to a juniper limb
And crawled to the edge for a peek.
One look was a plenty to make my head swim.
And all of my innards felt weak.

If I’d known how durned deep it was going to be,
I’d have managed, by some hook or crook,
To tie my ownself to the doggoned tree
And let my horse go take the look!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar
Barker from Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West, 1958

S.Omar Barker’s poem was a favorite poem of two popular poets who are sorely missed: Rusty McCall, 1986-2013, son of Deanna Dickinson McCall and David McCall; and Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007.

We are lucky to have Rusty McCall’s recitation on last year’s MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, a double CD celebrating S. Omar Barker’s poetry, with over 60 poems from many of today’s top poets and reciters.

Andy Hedges recites “Grand Canyon Cowboy on his COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast with Ross Knox, Episode 3. Episode 43, devoted to S. Omar Barker, includes an interview with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry, who tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa. Top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet.

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. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB” (but Andy Hedges tells that it never really did become his brand, and that explanation is included on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO).

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

This c.1903 photo, titled “Descending Grand View Trail – Grand Cañon of Arizona,” is described, “Stereograph showing a man, with a horse and two pack mules, descending the Grand View Trail in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but any other use requires permission. This photo is in the public domain.)

BREED OF THE BRAVE, by S. Omar Barker

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BREED OF THE BRAVE
by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

The wind rode chill on the wings of snow
From a sullen northeast sky,
As the ice-fanged “norther” swooped to blow
Down the staked plains bare and high.

A young steer bawled and an old cow’s nose
Swung up to sniff the storm.
“Let’er rip!” said Bill, “Till the air’s plumb froze!
In town it’s snug an’ warm!”

“Let’er tear!” said Spud, “We’ve drawed our pay
At the toe of the old man’s boot!
Let his damn cows drift! For my part, I’m
A-foggin’ to town for a toot!”

Six men rode fast from the wind’s cold bite—
“I’m turnin’ back,” said one.
“Them cows’ll drift in the storm, come night.
You fellers go have your fun!”

Five men rode on, but the kid called Mac
Struck a lope for the southeast rim;
And the drifting cattle he cut them back
To a down-trail faint and dim.

To the canyon’s breaks down a narrow trail,
Out of reach of the norther’s breath,
He cut them back lest the knife-edged gale
Whip them over the rim to death.

But the ice-fanged wind bit sharp and deep,
And the drift came crowding fast;
And the kid called Mac fought hard to keep
Them turned ‘cross the norther’s blast.

All night on the sifty wings of snow,
All day, all night again,
Like a broom of death the wind swept low
Where the old man’s herds had been.

It was then five men left the warm saloons,
And grim they faced the gale.
The norther crooned its dying runes—
They found Mac riding trail.

For the sake of cows what man rides so—
Dead, to his saddle, bound?
On the great high plains where the northers blow
This breed of the brave is found.

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

According to a family biography, poet and writer S. Omar Barker’s parents set out for New Mexico in 1889, with “fifty-six head of cattle, twelve head of mares and colts, a yoke of oxen, two teams of horses and three covered wagons loaded to the top of the sideboards…”

Andy Hedges’ current Cowboy Crossroads podcast includes interviews with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry and with top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. Georgia Snead tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa and about Barker’s work. Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet.

The MASTERS: VOLUME TWO,the poems of S. Omar Barker CD from CowboyPoetry.com has over 60 tracks of Barker’s poetry, presented by many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and their offspring—who bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Andy Hedges introduces the CD and the life of Barker.

Find more of S. Omar Barker’s poetry and more about him at cowboypoetry.com.

This c. 1881 photograph is from Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com, in a submission by Nevada horseman and poet Daniel Bybee, about his family’s cowboy and ranching roots, from France to New Mexico.

His great uncle Fred was persuaded to record memories of his life before he died at age 95 in 1980. Dan writes, “He was a cowboy and a freight wagon driver in New Mexico, worked at a sawmill, worked the docks in San Francisco, and drove a cab there. When he was 11, he helped his parents and my grandfather drive 100 head of cattle and a remuda of horses from New Mexico to Oklahoma. He took a turn riding night hawk every night along with my grandfather who was 13. One of his uncles was killed in a gun fight when Fred was 5 [pictured on right]. After his family moved to Oklahoma, he returned to New Mexico to cowboy for a few years with his uncles.”

Find much more of the family’s story and more photos here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and this photograph with this post, but for other uses, please 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 THREE contains over 60 tracks in a three-disc CD of the poetry of  Bruce Kiskaddon. Voices from the past and from today’s top reciters and poets celebrate cowboy poetry’s popular classic poet.  Kiskaddon expert Bill Siems introduces the CD.

Find more about MASTERS: VOLUME THREE here.

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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 Shawn Cameron in 2019; 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.

 

“PURT NEAR!” by S. Omar Barker

barkeronrocks 800dpi.jpgphoto © estate of S. Omar Barker. Request permission for use.

“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

Tune into Andy Hedges’ current COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast—it’s outstanding—to hear his entertaining recitation of “Purt Near.” He also offers stories and information about Barker and engages his interview guests.

The episode includes interviews with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry, and with top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. Georgia Snead tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa and about Barker’s work. Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet. He recites “Ranchman’s Widow.”

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).”

Last year we released MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker, with over 60 tracks on a double CD, with many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and their offspring—who bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Andy Hedges introduces the CD and the life of Barker.

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 photo is courtesy of the S. Omar Barker estate.

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

JACK POTTER’S COURTIN’ by S. Omar Barker

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JACK POTTER’S COURTIN’
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

Now young Jack Potter was a man
who knowed the ways of steers.
From bur-nests in their hairy tails
to ticks that chawed their ears.

A Texican and cowhand,
to the saddle bred and born,
He could count a trail herd on the move
and never miss a horn.

But one day on a tally,
back in eighteen-eighty-four,
He got to acting dreamy,
and he sure did miss the score.

The Trail Boss knowed the symptoms.
“Jack you ain’t no good like this.
I’ll give you just ten days
to go and find what is amiss!”

A “miss” was just what ailed him,
for he’d fell in love for sure
With a gal named Cordie Eddy,
mighty purty, sweet and pure.

So now Jack rode a hundred miles,
a-sweatin’ with the thought
Of sweetsome words to ask her with,
the way a fella ought.

“I’m just a humble cowhand,
Miss Cordie, if you please,
That hereby asks your heart and hand,
upon my bended knees!.”

It sounded mighty simple
thus rehearsed upon the trail.
But when he come to Cordie’s house,
his words all seemed to fail.

‘Twas “Howdy, ma’am, and how’s the crops?
And “How’s your pa and ma?”
For when it came to askin’ her,
he couldn’t come to taw.

He took her to a dance one night.
The hoss she rode was his.
“He’s a dandy little hoss,” she says.
“Well, yep,” says Jack, “he is.”

They rode home late together
and the moon was ridin’ high,
And Jack, he got to talkin’
’bout the stars up in the sky,

And how they’d guide a trail herd
like they do sea-goin’ ships.
But words of love and marriage—
they just wouldn’t pass his lips!

So he spoke about the pony
she was ridin’, and he said:
“You’ll note he’s fancy-gaited,
and don’t never fight his head.”

“He’s sure a little dandy,” she agrees,
and heaves a sigh.
Jack says, “Why you can have him—
that is—maybe—when I die.”

He figgered she might savvy
what he meant or maybe guess,
And give him that sweet answer
which he longed for, namely, “yes.”

But when they reached the ranch house,
he was still a-wonderin’ how
He would ever pop the question,
and he had to do it now.

Or wait and sweat and suffer
till the drive was done that fall,
When maybe she’d be married,
and he’d lose her after all.

He put away her saddle,
led his pony to the gate:
“I reckon I’ll be driftin’, ma’am.
It’s gittin’ kinder late.”

Her eyes was bright as starlight,
and her lips looked sweet as flow’rs.
Says Jack, “Now, this here pony—
is he mine, or is he ours?”

“Our pony, Jack!” she answered,
and her voice was soft as moss.
Then Jack, he claims he kissed her—
but she claims he kissed the hoss!

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, from “Rawhide Rhymes,” reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker;  This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Happy Valentine’s Day, Thursday.

S. Omar Barker’s poem is based on the real-life romance of trail driver and storyteller Jack Potter and Cordelia Eddy. In July, 2006, we received correspondence from Georganna Kresl, great granddaughter of “Jack” and “Cordie,” commenting on the poem about her great-grandparents.

She wrote, “…Though Jack Potter may be best known as a trail driver, throughout his life he was first and foremost a story teller—an oral historian in the folk tradition. After he retired from the range, sold his ranch, and moved into the town of Clayton, New Mexico (1928), Potter wrote down some of his personal recollections, entered them in a contest sponsored by the Pioneer State Tribune and, astonishingly, was awarded second place. The result was that, though in his 60’s at the time, Jack Potter coincidentally created a new career for himself as a writer…

“Though Potter wrote primarily for Western magazines and newspapers, he also published two books, Cattle Trails of the Old West (1935, 1939) and Lead Steer and Other Tales (1939). In the third chapter of Lead Steer, titled “Courtship and Engagement,” Jack talks about how he and Cordie met and tells about proposing to her. Barker must have been familiar with this story through his association with Potter during the ’30s, because the heart of Potter’s narrative version of events forms the basis for Barker’s poem; in effect, Barker translated Potter’s prose into verse. The resulting rhyme was then subsequently printed in Ranch Romances in September 1941.”

Find much more and a photo of Cordie and her children at CowboyPoetry.com.

Top reciter Randy Rieman presents “Jack Potter’s Courtin'” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker, from CowboyPoetry.com.

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.

Find more cowboy love poems for Valentine’s Day here.

This postcard image is from the BAR-D collection, postmarked Fraser, Colorado, 1909.

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