RANCHMAN’S RESOLUTIONS by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

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RANCHMAN’S RESOLUTIONS
by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

Of New Year’s resolutions
I could think up quite a few.
But since I’m pretty busy,
Maybe two or three will do:
Resolved to raise still better beef,
To market when they’re fat;
To build new chutes, to buy new boots–
But wear the same old hat!

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

These resolutions may be easier to keep than most. One recent study says that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.

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.

Gail Steiger, Arizona ranch manager, cowboy, filmmaker, songwriter, and poet recites this poem on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker.

The poem seemed a perfect choice for him. These hat pics are courtesy of Gail’s partner, writer and cowboy Amy Hale Auker Author.

Gail Steiger is a featured performer at the Western Folklife Center​’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 28 through February 2, 2019. Find more about the event and see the great lineup at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

After Elko, find Gail at the popular Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering​ in Alpine, February 22-23, 2019. Learn all about it and see the outstanding list of performers at texascowboypoetry.com.

Find more about Gail Steiger at gailsteigermusic.com.

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COWBOY’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS, by S. Omar Barker

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COWBOY’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
by S. Omar Barker

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; this poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Happy New Year, all!

S. Omar Barker (1895-1985) 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 on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker from CowboyPoetry.com: .

The photo below of S. Omar Barker and his horse, which also appears inside MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, is courtesy of the S. Omar Barker Estate.

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

A COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS PRAYER, by S. Omar Barker

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A COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS PRAYER
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

I ain’t much good at prayin’,
and You may not know me, Lord —
For I ain’t much seen in churches,
where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me
out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin’ after cattle,
feelin’ thankful when it rains.

Admirin’ Thy great handiwork.
the miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit,
in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback
and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night,
and know we’ve got a Friend.

So here’s ol’ Christmas comin’ on,
remindin’ us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will
into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain’t a preacher, Lord,
but if You’ll hear my prayer,
I’ll ask as good as we have got
for all men everywhere.

Don’t let no hearts be bitter, Lord.
Don’t let no child be cold.
Make easy the beds for them that’s sick
and them that’s weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride,
no matter what we’re after,
And sorter keep us on Your side,
in tears as well as laughter.

I’ve seen ol’ cows a-starvin’ —
and it ain’t no happy sight;
Please don’t leave no one hungry, Lord,
on Thy Good Christmas Night —
No man, no child, no woman,
and no critter on four feet
I’ll do my doggone best
to help you find ’em chuck to eat.

I’m just a sinful cowpoke, Lord —
ain’t got no business prayin’
But still I hope you’ll ketch a word
or two, of what I’m sayin’:
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord—
I reckon You’ll agree —

There ain’t no Merry Christmas
for nobody that ain’t free!
So one thing more I ask You,
Lord: just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom
for the future Sons of Man!

…by S. Omar Barker

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

S. Omar Barker earned more from the publication and uses of his “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” than from any other poem. A December 23, 1998 article by Ollie Reed Jr. in the Albuquerque Tribune, “Church on the Range,” tells about the poem:

In November 1962, New Mexico author S. Omar Barker received a telegram asking permission for his poem “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” to be read on the Lawrence Welk TV show.

Barker, a sunup-to-sundown, every-day-of-the-week professional writer for much of his more than 90 years, telegraphed back that for $100 they had a deal.

Back again comes a telegraph from the TV show’s agent asking if Barker would settle for $50.

“Fifty bucks no steak. Beans,” Barker wired in response on Nov. 26, 1962. “But will accept anyway to help TV poor folks.”

Jodie Phillips, wife of Barker’s nephew Bob Phillips, smiled as she pointed out copies of the telegrams pasted in a thick scrapbook put together by Barker himself….

“If he didn’t sell a poem, he didn’t eat,” Jodie Phillips said of Barker, who died in Las Vegas, N.M., in April 1985, just a couple of months shy of his 91st birthday.

Apparently the Welk show decided not to use the poem.

That was a rarity. Tennessee Ernie Ford and sausage king-country singer Jimmy Dean read it on national television, and it has been reprinted much more than 100 times in collections of Barker’s works, anthologies, magazines and Christmas cards.

Leanin’ Tree cards of Boulder, Colorado, has used the Barker verse…more years than not for more than two decades…

Jodie Phillips said she never heard Barker talk about what inspired him to write the Christmas prayer, but she thinks it’s based on his own brand of theology.

“There were no churches where Omar grew up,” she said. “He believed in God, and I think he had a very strong religious conviction. But he belonged to no sect. He never went to church services.”

The Jimmy Dean recitation of this poem is on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight, a double CD of Christmas cowboy poetry.

The 2018 double CD, MASTERS: Volume Two, contains over 60 tracks in a double CD of the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and children—bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Jim Cathey recites “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer.”

Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB.” Find more of S. Omar Barker’s Christmas poems and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

In December, 2013 the S. Omar Barker estate let us know that this poem is now considered in the public domain.

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

(You can share this photo with this post but please request permission for any other use.)

THANKSGIVING, by Charles Badger Clark

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THANKSGIVING
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

Accept my thanks today, O Lord—
But not so much for bed and board—
Those stodgy items of good cheer
I share with chipmunks and with deer—
But rather gifts more fine and fair
That come upon me unaware.

Those priceless incidental things—
Flower fragrance and bird flutterings,
The sudden laughter often caught
From some fantastic kink of thought
A pine’s black fretwork lifted high
Against the tranquil sunset sky,
Kindness from strangers all unnamed
That makes me wholesomely ashamed,
A friend’s warm, understanding eyes,
A book’s communion with the wise,
The dreamful magic of a tune
And slim white birches in the moon—

I thank you, Lord, for daily bread
But I am so much more than fed,
For you, with nought deserved or won,
Indulge me like a favored son,
Flinging profuse along my ways
These jeweled things that deck the day
And make my living far more sweet
Than just to breathe or just to eat.

…by Charles Badger Clark

South Dakota native Charles Badger Clark worked as a ranch hand in Arizona ranch and became the first South Dakota Poet Laureate. His father was a minister; his poems often express gratitude. “A Cowboy’s Prayer” is the best known. This one is likewise full of grace. Find more at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo is of Badger Clark and his friend and fellow poet, Bob Axtel (1887-1976). The photo, by Charles Axtel, is from Arizona historian Greg Scott’s Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark. The book includes all of Badger Clark’s short stories; poetry, including more than two dozen previously unpublished or long out-of-print poems; essays; letters; and photos. See our feature about the book,  and another about Axtel.

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

Find Thanksgiving poems and more at CowboyPoetry.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post. The poem is in the public domain. Request permission for any other use of the photo.)

THANKSGIVING ARGUMENT, by S. Omar Barker

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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.

We were honored to have Waddie Mitchell’s recitation of “Thanksgiving Argument” recorded for MASTERS: Volume Two, the poetry of S. Omar Barker. This photo of S. Omar Barker appears inside the CD.

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

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

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

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.)