TACKIN’ ON THE SHOES by S. Omar Barker


by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

Of all the ol’ back-achin’ jobs
a cowpoke’s got to do,
There’s mighty few as tough as when
he’s got a bronc to shoe.
There’s horses that stand gentle
and don’t ever try to kick,
Not even when a hammered nail
goes plumb into the quick;

But even when they’re thataway,
their hoofs ain’t nothin’ light
To hold up when you rasp and trim
to fit the shoe just right.
Some ponies are such leaners
that I’ve heard ol’ cowboys say
That once they’ve had to shoe ’em,
they can tell you what they weigh.

You’ve got to hold the foot up snug
and tight between your knees,
And horny hoofs ain’t soft to trim
like whittlin’ on a cheese.
You hammer all stooped over
when you do a job of platin’,
Until you sometimes wonder if
your back will ever straighten.

You’ve got to set them nails in true
while sweatin’ blinds your eyes,
And watch out that the horse don’t jerk
and take you by surprise.
This job of platin’ ponies
takes a heap of patient skill,
Along with sweat and muscle,
even when the horse holds still.

Some outfits hire a horseshoe man,
but on the ones that don’t,
Cowpokes have this chore to do.
They never say they won’t,
But if a horse gits wringy
and they bang a careless thumb,
There ain’t much doubt but what
you’ll hear them cowpokes cussin’ some,

For tackin’ on the horseshoes,
just to tell it fair and square,
Can’t never be done proper
if you ain’t learned how to swear!

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, from Rawhide Rhymes, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker

This week we’re all about shoeing.

S. Omar Barker, born in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico, was a rancher, high school teacher, college professor, forest ranger, soldier, outdoorsman, and legislator.

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.

Our 2018 MASTERS: VOLUME TWO has 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 their offspring—bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity.


These US Army photos are from The Library of Congress. Find more about the one at the top here, dated sometime between 1909-1940, here. The date of the second photo is estimated to be between 1909 and 1923.

(Please respect copyright. Request permission to share this poem. The photos are in the public domain.)