ROPE MUSIC by S. Omar Barker


by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Oh, I’ve heard a lot of music, human-made and Nature’s own,
Fiddled tunes an’ hummin’ thrummin’ melodies,
With sometimes a squealin’ clarinet or sobbin’ saxophone,
And at others just a wind-song in the trees.

Once I heard “O Sole Mio” and it kinder choked my throat—
Just the way she sorter sung it from her heart.
Crickets whirrin’ in the evenin’—runnin’ water’s quiet note—
Oh, such singin’ might ‘nigh bust your soul apart.

I can catch a drift of music in the howl of wolves at night,
In the cud-a-r-rupp of hosses on the lope,
But the song that never fails to make the world and all seem right
Is the swishin’, swingin’ singin’ of my rope!

Just the whisper-whistle hummin’ of a momentary tune
Every puncher knows the rope song of the West—
Though there may be grander music than my loopin’ lasso’s croon,
I’m a cowboy, and to me it sounds the best!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker from “Buckaroo Ballads,” 1928

Barker’s poem also appeared in Top-Notch Magazine, March 15, 1925. 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. Find more about S. Omar Barker at

“Rope Music” makes for a great recitation in the right hands; Arizona cowboy, ranch manager, songwriter and filmmaker Gail Steiger ( does a fine rendition, with the addition of just the perfect amount of sound effects. He recorded the poem for MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.

This 1905 stereograph is titled “Fancy ‘roping’ at a cowboys’ camp, Oklahoma.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post; any other uses require permission. The stereograph is in the public domain.)