BREED OF THE BRAVE, by S. Omar Barker


by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

The wind rode chill on the wings of snow
From a sullen northeast sky,
As the ice-fanged “norther” swooped to blow
Down the staked plains bare and high.

A young steer bawled and an old cow’s nose
Swung up to sniff the storm.
“Let’er rip!” said Bill, “Till the air’s plumb froze!
In town it’s snug an’ warm!”

“Let’er tear!” said Spud, “We’ve drawed our pay
At the toe of the old man’s boot!
Let his damn cows drift! For my part, I’m
A-foggin’ to town for a toot!”

Six men rode fast from the wind’s cold bite—
“I’m turnin’ back,” said one.
“Them cows’ll drift in the storm, come night.
You fellers go have your fun!”

Five men rode on, but the kid called Mac
Struck a lope for the southeast rim;
And the drifting cattle he cut them back
To a down-trail faint and dim.

To the canyon’s breaks down a narrow trail,
Out of reach of the norther’s breath,
He cut them back lest the knife-edged gale
Whip them over the rim to death.

But the ice-fanged wind bit sharp and deep,
And the drift came crowding fast;
And the kid called Mac fought hard to keep
Them turned ‘cross the norther’s blast.

All night on the sifty wings of snow,
All day, all night again,
Like a broom of death the wind swept low
Where the old man’s herds had been.

It was then five men left the warm saloons,
And grim they faced the gale.
The norther crooned its dying runes—
They found Mac riding trail.

For the sake of cows what man rides so—
Dead, to his saddle, bound?
On the great high plains where the northers blow
This breed of the brave is found.

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

According to a family biography, poet and writer S. Omar Barker’s parents set out for New Mexico in 1889, with “fifty-six head of cattle, twelve head of mares and colts, a yoke of oxen, two teams of horses and three covered wagons loaded to the top of the sideboards…”

Andy Hedges’ current Cowboy Crossroads podcast includes interviews with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry and with top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. Georgia Snead tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa and about Barker’s work. Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet.

The MASTERS: VOLUME TWO,the poems of S. Omar Barker CD from has over 60 tracks of Barker’s poetry, presented by many of today’s top reciters and poets—including individuals, siblings, couples, parents and their offspring—who bring forth Barker’s humor and humanity. Andy Hedges introduces the CD and the life of Barker.

Find more of S. Omar Barker’s poetry and more about him at

This c. 1881 photograph is from Picture the West at, in a submission by Nevada horseman and poet Daniel Bybee, about his family’s cowboy and ranching roots, from France to New Mexico.

His great uncle Fred was persuaded to record memories of his life before he died at age 95 in 1980. Dan writes, “He was a cowboy and a freight wagon driver in New Mexico, worked at a sawmill, worked the docks in San Francisco, and drove a cab there. When he was 11, he helped his parents and my grandfather drive 100 head of cattle and a remuda of horses from New Mexico to Oklahoma. He took a turn riding night hawk every night along with my grandfather who was 13. One of his uncles was killed in a gun fight when Fred was 5 [pictured on right]. After his family moved to Oklahoma, he returned to New Mexico to cowboy for a few years with his uncles.”

Find much more of the family’s story and more photos here.

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

“PURT NEAR!” by S. Omar Barker

barkeronrocks 800dpi.jpgphoto © estate of S. Omar Barker. Request permission for use.

by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

They called him “Purt Near Perkins,”
for unless the booger lied,
He’d purt near done most everything
that he had ever tried.
He’d purt near been a preacher
and he’d purt near roped a bear;
He’d met up with Comanches once
and purt near lost his hair.
He’d purt near wed an heiress
who had money by the keg,
He’d purt near had the measles,
and he’d purt near broke his leg.

He’d purt near been a trail boss,
and accordin’ to his claim,
He’d purt near shot Bill Hickock—
which had purt near won him fame!
He’d purt near rode some broncs
upon which no one else had stuck
In fact he was the feller
Who had purt near drowned the duck!

Now mostly all the cowboys
On the Lazy S B spread,
They took his talkin’ with a grin
And let him fight his head.
But one named Tom Maginnis
Sorter told it to him rough:
“You’re ridin’ with an outfit now
Where ‘purt near’ ain’t enough!
We tie our lasso ropes to the horn,
An’ what we ketch we hold,
And ‘purt near’ is one alibi
We never do unfold!
In fact, right now
I’ll tell you that no word I ever hear
Sounds quite so plain damn useless
As that little pair: ‘purt near’!”

That’s how ol’ Tom Maginnis
Laid it out upon the line,
And like a heap of preachin’ talk,
It sounded mighty fine.
But one day Tom Maginnis,
While a-ridin’ off alone,
He lamed his horse
And had to ketch some neighbor nester’s roan
To ride back to the ranch on.
But somewhere along the way
A bunch of nesters held him up,
And there was hell to pay!

Tom claimed he hadn’t stole the horse—
Just borrowed it to ride.
Them nesters hated cowboys,
And they told him that he lied.
The cussed him for a horsethief
And they’d caught him with the goods.
They set right out to hang him
In a nearby patch of woods.
They had pore Tom surrounded,
With their guns all fixed to shoot.
It looked like this pore cowboy
Sure had heard his last owl hoot!

They tied a rope around his neck
And throwed it o’er a limb
And Tom Maginnis purt near knowed
This was the last of him.
Then suddenly a shot rang out
From somewhere up the hill!
Them nesters dropped the rope an’ ran,
Like nesters sometimes will
When bullets start to whizzin’.
Tom’s heart lept up with hope
To see ol’ Purt Near Perkins
Ridin’ towards him at a lope.

“Looks like I purt near
Got here just in time,” ol’ Perkins said,
“To see them nesters hang you!”
Tom’s face got kinder red.
“You purt near did!” he purt near grinned.
“They purt near had me strung!
You’re lookin’ at a cowboy
That has pert near just been hung!
And also one that’s changed his mind—
For no word ever said,
Can sound as sweet as ‘purt near’,
When a man’s been purt near dead!”

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

Tune into Andy Hedges’ current COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast—it’s outstanding—to hear his entertaining recitation of “Purt Near.” He also offers stories and information about Barker and engages his interview guests.

The episode includes interviews with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry, and with top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. Georgia Snead tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa and about Barker’s work. Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet. He recites “Ranchman’s Widow.”

New Mexico’s S. Omar Barker gave many humorous poems to the world of cowboy poetry. A good number of them, including this one, remain widely recited today. He inserted a bit of himself in this poem in referring to the “Lazy S B spread.”

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).”

Last year we released MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems 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. Andy Hedges introduces the CD and the life of Barker.

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

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

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but any other use requires permission of the S. Omar Barker estate.)





by John Dofflemyer

It was dry in the fall of seventy-six
and the cows were calvin’ in the dust,
nothin’ to see but acres of chips,
a drought year when cowmen went bust.

Their hides were rough ‘n’ just cover’d bone
‘n’ ribs caught most of your eye,
spindly calves seemed to wander alone
as if lookin’ for a place to die.

Cows were bringin’ two-bits a pound,
a hundred bucks less than the spring,
and all you could do, was throw hay on the ground,
and pray to God it would rain.

Their toes would clack like castanets
in the cloud that’d boil ’round your truck,
the bawlin’ skeletons and weak silhouettes
would bring tears to the drought of good luck.

Reckon Ma Nature’s showed me who’s boss,
as she’ll do some time and again,
but she’s never caused me half of the loss
that politicians create with a pen.

© 1989, John Dofflemyer, used with permission

California rancher and poet John Dofflemyer is Andy Hedges’ guest on the most recent Cowboy Crossroads podcast—the 41st in this excellent, not-to-be-missed series.

John Dofflemyer speaks to a sweep of modern history, from his young life in the turbulent ’60s, its music and politics, through the birth of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He also reflects on his boyhood, the deep roots of his ranching family, and how he came to work on the ranch and later take on full responsibility. Throughout, his thoughtful and open-minded maverick spirit shines through, from his publication of Vietnam War poetry by the late Rod McQueary and William Jones to his views on environmental issues to the nature and forms of cowboy poetry.

“Drought of Seventy Seven” was one of John Dofflemyer’s earliest poems and was included in his first book, Dry Creek Poems (1989), where it appears all in lower case. The poem was collected in New Cowboy Poetry: A Contemporary Gathering, edited by Hal Canon (1990). A 2011 entry in Dry Crik Journal also includes the poem.

John Dofflemyer’s innovative periodical, the Dry Crik Review of Contemporary Cowboy Poetry, published fourteen print volumes, 1991-1994, and an electronic double volume in 2005. Find a comprehensive index at Currently the Dry Crik Journal blog includes frequent poems, commentary, and photography.

The Cowboy Crossroads podcast with John Dofflemyer is the last of the series for this year. Don’t miss Andy Hedges’ fine recitation of a Charlie Russell Christmas poem. Find the podcast and many others here where you can listen to past interviews with Waddie Mitchell, Don Edwards, Jerry Brooks, Gary McMahan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Randy Rieman, Amy Hale Auker, Ross Knox, Dom Flemmons, Mike Beck, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Wallace McRae, Amy Hale Auker, and many others.

John Dofflemyer returns to the Western Folklife Center’s 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 28 – February 2, 2019 in Elko, Nevada. The lineup includes 3hattrio, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie, John Dofflemyer, Joshua Dugat, Maria Lisa Eastman, Mary Flitner, Jamie Fox & Alex Kusturok, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Brenn Hill, Tish Hinojosa, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Ross Knox, Ned LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band, Sid Marty, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin Murphey, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Diane Peavey, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan, Halladay & Rob Quist, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, Matt Robertson, Olivia Romo, Trinity Seely, Sean Sexton, Sourdough Slim, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Colter Wall, and Paul Zarzyski. Find more at and check out their YouTube channel for a great archive of cowboy poetry and Western music performances and more.

This c. 1993 photograph of John Dofflemyer by Kent Reeves appeared in the 1995 book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West and is used with his generous permission. View a gallery of all of the book’s photos here.

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

CATTLE, by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)


by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

Other states were carved or born
Texas grew from hide and horn.

Other states are long and wide,
Texas is a shaggy hide.

Dripping blood and crumpled hair;
Some fat giant flung it there,

Laid the head where valleys drain,
Stretched its rump along the plain.

Other soil is full of stones,
Texans plow up cattle-bones.

Herds are buried on the trail,
Underneath the powdered shale;

Herds that stiffened like the snow,
Where the icy northers go.

Other states have built their halls,
Humming tunes along the walls.

Texans watched the mortar stirred,
While they kept the lowing herd.

Stamped on Texan wall and roof
Gleams the sharp and crescent hoof.

High above the hum and stir
Jingle bridle rein and spur.

Other states were made or born,
Texas grew from hide and horn.

…by Berta Hart Nance
Hear Andy Hedges’ outstanding recitation of this poem on the current Cowboy Crossroads episode. The episode is part one of a riveting interview with respected cowboy, horseman, reciter, and poet Joel Nelson, made at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering earlier this year. Joel Nelson tells great stories about his earliest ranch memories; time spent with his father, who was a cowboy and deputy sheriff; and about his early cowboying work, including his time at the 06 Ranch; and other formative experiences.

The popular Cowboy Crossroads podcast, a growing, lasting archive of engaging interviews with those involved in the working West and beyond, includes episodes with Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Dom Flemons, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, Wallace McRae, Amy Hale Auker, Ross Knox, and others.

Find Andy Hedges next at the 9th Annual Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering in Shoshone, Idaho on September 14-15. The lineup also includes Kristyn Harris, Brigid & Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, John Reedy, Lynn Kopelke, Panhandle Cowboys (Dave Fulfs & JB Barber), Tony Argento, Prairie Wind Coyote (Joseph Sartin & Little Joe McCutcheon), Open Range (Linda Hausler & Ric Steinke), Thatch Elmer and David Anderson.

Andy Hedges has many other performances coming up at interesting venues. See for his schedule.

In his 1941 book, “The Longhorns,” J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964) writes, “The map of Texas looks somewhat like a roughly skinned cowhide spread out on the ground, the tail represented by the tapering peninsula at the mouth of the Rio Grande, the broad head by the Panhandle. But ‘Cattle,’ by Berta Hart Nance, goes deeper than the map.”

Berta Hart Nance (1883-1958) was the daughter of a rancher, who was also a Confederate veteran, Indian fighter, and cousin of Jefferson Davis,” according to the Texas Almanac, which includes more about her life and writings. In 1926, her book-length poem about Texas was published, “The Round-Up.” She had two other books of poetry published, and her work was included in many anthologies.

Find more about her and her poem at

This 1938 photograph, “Cattle range on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle,” is by noted Depression-era documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). It’s from The Library of Congress U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs.

Dorothea Lange is best known for her Depression-era photograph of a migrant woman. See that photos and others in a 2013 Picture the West at

Find a brief biography of Dorothea Lange, a part of Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl, at PBS. The Museum of Modern Art has a gallery of photos.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)

LIVESTOCK MAN by Amy Hale Auker



by Amy Hale Auker

I need to write a new poem about what it is like, as a woman, to cowboy for a living.

All I can come up with is how much I hate it when my toes get cold.

All I can think of is that last old cow we put on the trailer for the sale barn, about the scorpion that ran away when I rolled my bed out on the ground at Alkali Spring in August, about how I alone can catch that roan mare when she won’t let the men lay a hand on her.

All I can come up with is that I like cows and like them, I have ovulated, copulated, gestated a miracle in my body, and lactated… for months.

I think I’m qualified to be a herder of mammals.

And that is what I am. I am a herder, a custodian, a caretaker, a steward.

I am a livestock man.

I grow food.

I need to write a new poem about what is like, as a woman, to cowboy.

But there are no new poems and we’re never finished shipping cattle in the fall.

There may be new foxes in the night and new orioles in the canyon and new griefs to be born and new ways of looking at the world, and oh don’t let me become blind.

And I might become blind if you put me in your cage of expectations.

For I have a rebel heart and that rebel heart gives me the grit to stay in my saddle even after it turns sideways when the bullfight breaks and we’re in the way.

And that rebel heart says this poem… doesn’t have to rhyme.

I need the language to tell about what it is that I do,
but all I have are nouns:
weather and wind and wool
and rock and rattle and remuda.
Smoke and sweat and sunrise and savvy.
Tracks and tinajas and trails and tally.
Cow and count and coffee and canyon,
logistics and latigos and loops.
Moonshadow and mother and manure
and moisture in the air.
Hooves and javelin and how sharp is your pocket knife?

I need the words to tell this story but all I have are verbs:
pee in the dirt
and dally up and build again
and don’t cry when you get yelled at.
Back off that little heifer and ride up! Don’t let that bull bluff you out. We’ll never get him again.
Thaw the frozen coffee pot.
Blink the smoke out of your eyes.
Wipe the blood off your chin.
Dig the snowballs out of your horse’s hooves.
Hurry up and get the gate; there’s a storm moving in.
Open a can of chili. Let’s eat before it gets plumb dark.

I need to tell about working for $75 a day, but all I can come up with is that little cow we left behind up on the mesa. We’d been gathering into the trap for four days and our first calf heifers run in the general herd and our bulls are out year ‘round…

but she didn’t bring her newborn in to hay
…and we had to go.

We cut her back with that old hooky cow’s daughter and her calf because the hooky cow’s daughter is mean, meaner than that ol’ hooky cow ever thought about being

…and no coyote or lion is going to get that baby.

But then it snowed.

And I don’t know what it is you think about in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep…

Do you think of soft tender hooves and fresh new life up under a cedar tree at 6000 feet with a mama who’s new to this gig?

I need to write a new poem about what it is like to cowboy.

Without the requisite body parts.

……Wanna see my tattoos?

© 2016, Amy Hale Auker, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

To fully enjoy and appreciate this poem, tune into Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads. In the most recent episode, cowboy and writer Amy Hale Auker delivers an outstanding recitation.

In the program, she also talks about the roots of her love of language; the inspiration of the writers and livestock men in her family; how she developed her writing and her daily practice; her life as a ranch wife and later as a working cowboy; and more. She speaks of her writing mentors, particularly Andy Wilkinson, who today is one of her editors.

She tells that the form of this poem—a poem that so eloquently speaks to her cowboying life on the Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona—was inspired in part by slam poetry, which she explains has similarities with cowboy poetry.

Livestock Man is also the title poem of her latest book, a poetry collection from Pen-L Publishing. The cover is from a photograph by photojournalist Jessica Lifland. Andy Hedges comments on the new release, “Amy Hale Auker combines her experience as a working cowboy with her love for language and writes verse that tears down any fences one might try to put around cowboy poetry.”

See more about Amy Hale Auker at and at, where there is information about all of her books, and more.

Catch Amy Hale Auker next week, August 9-11, at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.


Listen to Cowboy Crossroads at The popular podcast, a growing, lasting archive of engaging interviews with those involved in the working West and beyond, includes episodes with Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Dom Flemons, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, Wallace McRae, and others.

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

THE BORDER AFFAIR by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)


by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

Spanish is the lovin’ tongue,
Soft as music, light as spray.
‘Twas a girl I learnt it from,
Livin’ down Sonora way.
I don’t look much like a lover,
Yet I say her love words over
Often when I’m all alone—
“Mi amor, mi corazon.”

Nights when she knew where I’d ride
She would listen for my spurs,
Fling the big door open wide,
Raise them laughin’ eyes of hers
And my heart would nigh stop beatin’
When I heard her tender greetin’,
Whispered soft for me alone
“Mi amor! mi corazon!”

Moonlight in the patio,
Old Señora noddin’ near,
Me and Juana talkin’ low
So the Madre couldn’t hear—
How those hours would go a-flyin;!
And too soon I’d hear her sighin’
In her little sorry tone—
“Adios, mi corazon!”

But one time I had to fly
For a foolish gamlin’ fight,
And we said a swift goodbye
In that black, unlucky night.
When I’d loosed her arms from clingin’
With her words the hoofs kep’ ringin’
As I galloped north alone—
“Adios, mi corazon”

Never seen her since that night,
I kain’t cross the Line, you know.
She was Mex and I was white;
Like as not it’s better so.
Yet I’ve always sort of missed her
Since that last wild night I kissed her,
Left her heart and lost my own—
“Adios, mi corazon!”

…Charles Badger Clark, 1907

Badger Clark’s poem has been sung by many, from Ian Tyson to Bob Dylan, best known as “Spanish is the Loving Tongue.” In Git Along, Little Dogies (1975) John I. White tells that Prescott, Arizona cowboy singer Bill Simon put it to music in 1925, a few years after he did the same for Gail I. Gardner’s “The Sierry Petes.”

Badger Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote many lasting poems, and others that found their way into song include “The Old Cow Man,” “Riding’,” and “To Her.”

Find much more poetry and more about Badger Clark in features at

Enjoy Dave Stamey’s great rendition of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” from a 2013 Western Folklife Center National Cowboy Poetry Gathering performance.

Michael Martin Murphey has a likewise outstanding recording.

Michael Martin Murphey is featured on the current episode of Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads podcast. He talks about his influences and his influence on cowboy poets through his WestFest event and much about Buffalo Bill Cody. Find it here.

Michael Martin Murphey brings back his popular American WestFest, July 4-8, 2018 in Red River, New Mexico. Performers include R.W. Hampton, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Michael Hearne, Mikki Daniel, Gary Roller, Carin Mari, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, Robert Mirabal, Max Gomez, Gareth, Shake Russell, Clint Chartier, Brennan Murphey, and Ryan Murphey. Find more, including artist bios here.

This 1936 photograph by noted Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange seemed to fit the mood. It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. See more here.

(This poem and photo are in the public domain.)


FROM TOWN by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)


photo: Wallace McRae and Andy Hedges in Elko, Nevada, 2018;
photo courtesy of Andy Hedges


by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

We’re the children of the open and we hate the haunts o’ men,
But we had to come to town to get the mail.
And we’re ridin’ home at daybreak—’cause the air is cooler then—
All ‘cept one of us that stopped behind in jail.
Shorty’s nose won’t bear paradin’, Bill’s off eye is darkly fadin’,
All our toilets show a touch of disarray,
For we found that city life is a constant round of strife
And we ain’t the breed for shyin’ from a fray.

Chant your warwhoop, pardners dear, while the east turns pale with fear
And the chaparral is tremblin’ all aroun’
For we’re wicked to the marrer; we’re a mid-night dream of terror
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

We acquired our hasty temper from our friend, the centipede,
From the rattlesnake we learnt to guard our rights.
We have gathered fightin’ pointers from the famous bronco steed
And the bobcat teached us reppertee that bites.
So when some high-collared herrin’ jeered the garb that I was wearin’
‘Twasn’t long till we had got where talkin’ ends,
And he et his illbred chat, with a sauce of derby hat,
While my merry pardners entertained his friends.

Sing ‘er out, my buckeroos! Let the desert hear the news.
Tell the stars the way we rubbed the haughty down.
We’re the fiercest wolves a-prowlin’ and it’s just our night for howlin’
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town.

Since the days that Lot and Abram split the Jordan range in halves
Just to fix it so their punchers wouldn’t fight,
Since old Jacob skinned his dad-in-law for six years’ crop of calves
And then hit the trail for Canaan in the night,
There has been a taste for battle ‘mong the men that followed cattle
And a love of doin’ things that’s wild and strange,
And the warmth of Laban’s words when he missed his speckled herds
Still is useful in the language of the range.

Singer ‘er out, my bold coyotes! leather fists and leather throats,
For we wear the brand of Ishm’el like a crown.
We’re the sons of desolation, we’re the outlaws of creation—
Ee—yow! a-ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

Andy Hedges, fine reciter and songster, recites this poem with brio on his most recent COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast. Equally important, he interviews octogenarian Montanan Wallace McRae, respected rancher, poet, deep thinker, and maverick.

“My father was a cowman…” are the first words from Wally McRae. He talks about his father and grandfather, their settling and ranching history, his own ranching struggles and early life, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and his friendship with another rebel, poet Paul Zarzyski.

Wally McRae has written some of the most recognized cowboy poems, including “Reincarnation” and the exceptional “Things of Intrinsic Worth.” He is a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and has been a part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering from its beginning, in 1985.

Andy Hedges is owed great thanks for capturing his story and that of others. COWBOY CROSSROADS has a wealth of such oral histories, all of which are also full of entertainment. Other episodes feature Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, and others. Find more about COWBOY CROSSROADS and all episodes at Help support his efforts if you are able.

Badger Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote many lasting poems, and some found their way into song, including “The Old Cow Man,” “Riding’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”

In a foreword to a 1942 edition of his Sun and Saddle Leather, a book that has been in print continuously since its 1915 publication, he refers to his poems as his children. He comments, “…I sit here alone my mountain cabin–an old batch, and yet, without the slightest scandal, a happy father–every now and then hearing tidings of how my children have visited interesting places where I shall never go and met fine people whom I shall never see. How delightful it is to have good children!”

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

Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark at

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photo with this post, but for other uses, request permission. This poem is in the public domain.)