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