MEMO ON MULES by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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MEMO ON MULES
by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

There ain’t no use in talkin’,
When a feller rides a mule,
He’s got himself a saddle mount
That’s mighty hard to fool.
Some horses step right in a bog
without a second glance,
But jassacks simply don’t believe
in takin’ any chance.

They’ll fool around a barbed wire fence
the same as horses, but
You purt near never see a mule
that’s got a barbed-wire cut.
You let a horse get to the grain,
he’ll founder on the stuff,
But mules, by instinct, seem to know
when they have had enough.

Some mules will spook and run away,
some throw a buckin’ fit,
But panicky is something that
they seldom ever git,
For when they pull a ruckus,
they are always plumb alert
To see that Mr. Jackass
never winds up gittin’ hurt.

Most cowboys think a jassack
is a plumb disgraceful mount,
And it is true that some of them
ain’t very much account
For anything but harness
or to tote a heavy pack,
And horses have some virtues
that a mule may often lack;

But ol’ Kit Carson rode a mule,
and other pioneers
Sure viewed a heap of country
over some ol’ hard-tail’s ears.
And all of them reported that
upon the longest trail,
The mule was one tough critter
that was never knowed to fail.

He’d stay plumb fat on grass so short
a horse would starve to death.
He never lathered easy
and was seldom short of breath.
Kit claimed his gait was easy
on the rider in the kack,
And that he’d always git you there
and always bring you back.

This ain’t no fancy eulogy
on big-eared saddle mounts,
But some oldtimers rode ’em,
and by most of their accounts
Of jassacks under saddle,
in the smooth or in the rough,
There seems to be some evidence
that mules have got the stuff!

…by S. Omar Barker, from Rawhide Rhymes; used with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

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.

Award-winning poet and wilderness guide Sandy Seaton Sallee recites this poem on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, a double CD of the poems of S. Omar Barker. It makes a great Christmas gift.

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

Sandy Seaton Sallee shared this photo, in which she says she is, “in my most natural habitat, riding a mule.” She’s on Kahlua.

Sandy and Scott Sallee run Black Mountain Outfitters, located in the heart of Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and also Slough Creek Outfitters, offering world-famous Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout fishing. Find more about Sandy Seaton Sallee at blackmountainoutfitters.com and at CowboyPoetry.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and this photograph with this post, but for any 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.

Coming in 2020:  MASTERS: VOLUME FOUR, the poetry of Badger Clark.

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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.

 

THANKSGIVING ARGUMENT, 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 are honored to have top cowboy poetry Waddie Mitchell’s recitation of “Thanksgiving
Argument” on last year’s double cd, MASTERS: Volume Two, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

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 and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. Find more about S. Omar Barker at CowboyPoetry.com.

This postcard is from the BAR-D collection.

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

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

HORSES VERSUS HOSSES, by S. Omar Barker

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HORSES VERSUS HOSSES
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

I heard an oldtime cowboy swappin’ off some drawlin’ talk
about them nags men used to ride, who didn’t like to walk.
He spoke of them as “hosses,” so I up and asked him why
he didn’t call them “horses.” Well, a gleam come in his eye,
and here is what he told me—be it right or be it wrong—
some salty information that I’d like to pass along:

“You go out to the race track or some modern ridin’ school,
And what you’ll find ’em ridin’ there is horses, as a rule.
You’ll see ’em wrapped in blankets when they raise a little sweat,
And bedded in warm stables so they won’t git cold or wet.

“Their saddle is a postage stamp; they’re combed and curried slick:
Their riders bobble up an’ down like monkeys on a stick.
Them purty tricks are horses, son, but that there ain’t the word
We used to call them shaggies that we rode behind the herd.

“They might not be so purty, but they stayed outdoors at night.
They maybe weighed 900 pounds—all guts an’ dynamite.
They took you where you had to go an’ always brought you back,
Without no fancy rations that you purchase in a sack.

“They loped all day on nothin’ but your two hands full of grass.
On a Stetson full of water they could climb a mountain pass.
They swum you through the rivers an’ they plowed you through the sand—
You an’ your heavy saddle, an’ they learned to understand

“Which end of the cows the tail was on, till all you had to do
Was set up in the saddle while they did the cow work, too!
Sometimes they sorter dodged your rope, sometimes they bucked you high,
But they was sure the apple of the oldtime cowhands eye!

“These stable-pampered critters may be horses sure enough,
But them ol’ cow range hosses, they was born to take it rough.
So that’s the way they took it, till they earned a tougher name
Than these here handfed horses, all so delicate an’ tame.

“So you can have your horses, with their hifalutin’ gloss—
I’ll take four legged rawhide—or in other words, a hoss!”

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker from Songs of the Saddlemen, 1954

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.

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).” (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 Nowell.)

Last year we released MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry 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. Paul Zarzyski  does a great recitation of this poem on the CD. Andy Hedges introduces the CD and the life of Barker.

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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.

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

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

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

LONGHORN CUPID, by S. Omar Barker

 

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LONGHORN CUPID
by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

Jack Potter was a buckaroo
who never looked at girls—
He claims—not even purty ones
that wore their hair in curls.
His job was drivin’ longhorns,
and he set up in his kack
as sure and straight as if
he wore a ramrod up his back.

He knowed the ways of cattle
from their burr-tails to their ears—
‘Twas even said he had the knack
of understandin’ steers
the same as if they spoke in words
instead of with the eye.
But when it came to women
he was spooky-like and shy.

One day some rancher girls ran out
to watch his passing herd.
And Jack, he kinder tipped his hat,
but never said a word.
It may be that he noticed
one girl lookin’ mighty sweet and fine,
But if his heart was smitten—
well, he never showed no sign.

Then, up there in the lead,
a steer that Potter called Randau,
he quit his lead position
and he stepped out with a bow,
to gaze at Miss Cordelia
with a most admirin’ stare,
as if he hadn’t never saw
a girl so sweet and fair.

He looked at her a minute,
then he turned to look at Jack,
And kinder twitched his sunburnt hair
upon his long ol’ back.
It gave Jack quite a start, I guess—
him such a bashful man—
To have that ol’ steer tell him,
“Boy, git this one if you can!

“For she’s not only purty,
but she’s got the kind of stuff
it takes to stick right with you
when the trail of life gits rough!”
Jack swears that ol’ steer winked at him
and rolled his big brown eyes,
Then added as an afterthought,
“And Boss, this girl’s a prize.

“There’ll be some competition for!
So now it’s up to you.
I doubt if you can win her—
but you’re mighty lucky if you do!”
Then Randau stepped back to the lead
and Jack, he scratched his head.
A’wonderin’ if Miss Cordy knowed
what-all that steer had said.

But if she did or didn’t,
when Jack looked at her he saw
The sweetest smile that ever
brought a cowboy’s heart to taw!

That all was way back yonder
more than 60 years ago,
But last November, underneath
a sky that promised snow,
Ol’ Jack and his “Miss Cordy,”
at their home in Clayton town,
invited all their folks and friends
to come and gather roun’

to help them celebrate with joy
the 60 years they’d spent
a-provin’ Jack was right about
what that ol’ longhorn meant.
“Them ol’ lead steers was smart,”
says Jack, a twinkle to his grin.
“Without Randau’s expert advice,
just think where I’d have been!

© 1947, S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of
S. Omar Barker

Our thanks to great friend of the BAR-D Georganna Kresl, who located this long-lost poem by S. Omar Barker in a 1947 issue of Zane Grey’s Western Magazine.

Many will be familiar with Barker’s popular, fun poem “Jack Potter’s Courtin’,” which was based on the real-life romance of trail driver and storyteller Jack Potter and Cordelia Eddy.

Georganna Kresl is the great granddaughter of “Jack” and “Cordy.” She knew Barker had written a second poem about the couple, and after many years of searching, recently located it.

In 2006 she wrote to us about her great grandfather:

…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 at cowboypoetry.com.

See our most recent post of “Jack Potter’s Courtin’” from Valentine’s Day.

Top reciter Randy Rieman presents “Jack Potter’s Courtin'” on the recent 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.

This photograph of Cordelia Eddy and her children is courtesy of Georganna Kresl.

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

USELESS QUESTION and TEXAS ZEPHYR by S. Omar Barker

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USELESS QUESTION
by S. Omar Barker

No Texan ever asks you where you’re from. In fact they say
He views such questions as but idle chatter.
Because if you’re from Texas, you will tell him anyway,
And if you’re not, it really doesn’t matter.

TEXAS ZEPHYR
by S. Omar Barker

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!

…poems courtesy of the S. Omar Barker Estate, used with permission.
These poems should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Though he hailed from New Mexico, S. Omar Barker seemed to know something about Texas. 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 him at cowboypoetry.com.

On MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker, Texan Kay Kelley Nowell recites “Useless Question” and Texan Linda Marie Kirkpatrick recites “Texas Zephyr.”

Both Kay Kelley Nowell and Linda Kirkpartick are involved with new Texas gatherings.

Kay Kelley Nowell is part of the committee for the new Lone Star Cowboy Gathering in Alpine, Texas, formed by an energetic group of people in response to this year’s retirement of the venerable Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The event is scheduled for February 21-22, 2020. Visit their site for more information and stay tuned for more news here.

Linda Kirkpatrick is a part of the lineup for the first annual Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry Gathering at the Winsboro Center for the Arts, October 19, 2019. She’ll be joined by Lavern “Straw” Berry, Joe Dan Boyd, Teresa Burleson, Don Cadden, Bob Campbell, Allan Chapman, “Doc” Davis, Pipp Gilette, Chris Isaacs, Gary Robertson, Hailey Sandoz with Kristin Harris, Jay Snider, Doug Tolleson, and Conrad Wolfman.

And the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering, started last year and already making its mark as a don’t-miss event, holds its second annual gathering November 8-9, 2019, in Fredericksburg. The lineup includes Mike Beck, Andy Hedges, Brigid and Johnny Reedy, Joel Nelson, Cowboy Celtic, Krystin Harris, Pipp Gilette, Sourdough Slim, Rodney Nelson,
and Mike Blakely.

This c. 1901 photograph by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) is titled “A group of Texas cowboys” at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

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

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.)