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

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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

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 and at

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



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

This postcard is from the BAR-D collection.

Find additional poems and more in a Thanksgiving feature at

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



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

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.)



by Baxter Black

It came from outta nowhere,
like a prolapse in the night.
Which, in fact is what it was, my friends,
the cow vet’s scourge and plight.
That pudgy pink projectile
from those monster movie scenes
Like some whopping giant burrito
filled with attitude and beans.

I was soon laid down behind it
on a hillside in the muck
While the cowboy shined his high beams
from his perch there in the truck.
His rope stretched from the bumper
to her front legs tied in haste.
As I wallowed in the darkness
like a frog, stripped to the waist.

It was bigger than a tree trunk.
It was slick as old chow mein.
It was heavy as a carpet
someone left out in the rain.
I tried to gain some purchase
as I pressed my fist in tight,
It was thrashing like a porpoise
and was putting up a fight.

I got it in a hammerlock.
It was like a rabid dog.
I wrapped my legs around it
like a monkey on a log.
I pushed until my shoulder
disappeared inside the mass
As I scrambled for a foothold
in the mud and frozen grass.

But alas, with one huge effort
she expelled me from her grip.
I shot out like a cannon,
rolled and did a double flip.
But I grabbed her tail in passing
and with strength born out of war,
I dove at the appendage
like some punch drunk matador.

I lifted her hind quarters,
and I swung her side to side,
Then, like smart men do,
I used my head to push it back inside!
It was dark there for a second,
it was hard to catch my breath
But there she lay, my patient
I had saved from certain death.

The cowboy rolled his window down, said,
“Doc, are you alright?”
He gunned the engine several times.
The headlights got real bright.
“I’ve seen a prolapse done before
but never quite like that!”
“Oh, they taught us that in vet school…
But I think it ate my hat.”

© Baxter Black, used with permission

You must watch Baxter Black performing this poem. Find one video from the Heber Valley Music and Cowboy Gathering and another video here.

Poet and writer Rod Miller, in “Fine Lines and Wrinkles,” an essay at, writes, “Alliteration, assonance, consonance, and a completely off-kilter view of the world are apparent in these fine, wrinkled lines from ‘Prolapse from the Black Lagoon’ by Baxter Black. (Note that even his name uses alliteration and assonance.)”

In his official bio, where he is described as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses,” Baxter Black comments, “My audience is my inspiration. Every cowboy, rancher, vet, farmer, feed salesman, ag teacher, cowman and rodeo hand has a story to tell, and they tell it to me. I Baxterize it and tell it back to ‘em! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

He recites Bruce Kiskaddon’s “They Can Take It” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD from and S. Omar Barker’s “Cowboy Saying” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO.

This message comes from Baxter’s office, a policy announcement:

Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit.”

His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”

This version of “Prolapse from the Black Lagoon” comes from Poems Worth Saving, Baxter Black’s 2013 collection of 164 poems and stories. Find more about Baxter Black at,  on Facebook; and find much more, including a weekly column, at

This photograph is courtesy of Baxter Black.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but request permission for any other use—except recitation.)

WATCHIN’ ‘EM RIDE, by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

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S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

Isom Like was seventy-odd
Straight in the back as a steel ramrod,
And the whiskers that growed on his leathery chin,
They bristled out instead of in.
Six growed sons had Isom Like:
Jake, Joe, John, Jess, Noah and Ike.

Ridin’ men was Isom’s sons,
Salty, straddlin’ sons-o’-guns.
Once a year they chipped in change
To pay for the best hoss on their range,
And held ridin’ to settle who
Should git that hoss when the show was through.

Nearin’ eighty was Isom Like:
“Pa,” said the son whose name was Ike,
“You’re stiffed up like an ol’ pine tree.
Better leave this to the boys an’ me!”
Ol’ Isom grinned his grizzled grin.
“Nope,” he says, “Just count me in!”

Seven broncs on the high pole pen,
Seven saddles and seven men . . . .
Ma Like watched as the show begun,
And when Jake straddled a dusty dun,
You guessed right off that her joy and pride
Was Jake, from the way she cheered his ride.

Jess spurred out on a big-foot bay.
Up on the fence you could hear Ma say:
“Ride him, Jess! Boy, kick him out!”
And you knowed right quick from the tone of her shout,
Of all six sons Ma Like had bore,
By this here Jess she set most store.

Joe clumb on and you heard Ma squall:
“Joe, you’re the ridin’est son of all.”
Noah an’ John purt near got piled–
But both was Ma Like’s favorite child.
Two broncs left, and the one Ike took
Bucked like the broncs in a storybook;
Pawed the moon and scraped the sky.
Up on the fence you could hear Ma cry:
“Boy, that’s ridin’ to suit my taste!
I got one son ain’t no panty-waist!”

One bronc left, a big blue roan . . . .
“Never mind, boys, I’ll saddle my own!”
Over the saddle Pa flung his shank,
Raked both spurs from neck to flank.
The big roan rose like a powder blast,
Buckin’ hard and high and fast,
But deep in the wood Pa Like set screwed,
Strokin’ his beard like a southern dude!
And every time that blue roan whirled,
Ma Like’s petticoats come unfurled.

Isom grinned and waved his hat,
And Ma, she squalled like a ring-tailed cat:
“Straddle him, Isom! Show your spizz!
Learn these buttons what ridin’ is!”
Throwed her bonnet high in the air,
Whooped and hollered and tore her hair:
“I got six sons and nary a one
Can ride like that ol’ son-of-a-gun!”
Yelled and cheered so dang intense
She fell plumb off of the high pole fence.
“Wawhoo, boys! Watch Isom spur!”
Isom’s six sons grinned at her.

Seven broncs and the ridin’ done . . . .
Nary a doubt but Pa had won!
“Sons,” says Ma, “are a mother’s pride,
But ol’ Pa Isom, he can ride!
The trouble is, you boys ain’t tough–
But you’ll learn to ride–when you’re old enough.”

(Based on a true incident related by the late Col. Jack Potter. Isom Like died at the age of 102.)

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

Here’s a poem in anticipation of Father’s Day.

Keith Ward recites “Watchin’ em Ride” on our 2018 MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, a double CD celebrating S. Omar Barker’s poetry, with over 60 poems from many of today’s top poets and reciters.

Wyoming’s Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Cowgirl Hall of Fame honoree, poet, writer, day worker, and rodeo historian shared vintage family horse photos a while back in Picture the West at and an accompanying piece, “Horses Are My Heritage” in Western Memories.

She comments on this photo,”Dad had a bunch of mares and bought a registered Thoroughbred stallion from Eph Hogg who came to Wyoming from Kentucky. His head and neck are shown in this photo, they called him “Little Eph”; Dad’s at far right.”

When we asked her about pairing this poem with her photograph, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns was pleased. She told us that while she was a columnist Rodeo Sports News, she was looking for a photo of a particular horse and was in touch with a man named Bill King from Kim, Colorado, whose family provided rodeo stock to the region. She writes, “As we corresponded Bill soon began to tell me of the manuscripts he wanted to get published. He had stories of not only the King’s (his father and several brothers who traded horses in every state, Canada, Mexico and Cuba in the 1800’s!) but also two other families deeply entwined with horses.

“He gave me the manuscripts to read. One family was the Like’s?—and in the Like family story was this poem of S. Omar Barker’s.

“Bill said the six Like boys and the old man each owned outfits and ran a lot of horses along the Cimarron River border country between New Mexico and Colorado; and that they truly did have this competition every fall when they gathered their horses to brand and cut. Bill’s story was that Barker had actually come out to Isom’s place one fall to observe the show, and wrote the poem from live inspiration. What he had in his manuscript was from a copy Barker gave to the Like’s when he wrote it.

Poets Valerie Beard and Floyd Beard live on one of the Like brothers’ original homesteads in Southeastern Colorado. Valerie told us that, “… a few years ago we saw the name, “Ike” chiseled into the cliff face just below our house. We were thinking that it was “Like” at one time and the “L” wore off even though it didn’t look like it. After getting familiar with the poem, it is all clear. Ike Like chiseled his name into the cliff face himself…”

J. Frank Dobie also wrote about the Like family in his book, The Longhorns. Find the poem and more about it at, where there is also much more about S. Omar Barker and more of his poetry.

Rhonda commented further on this photo, “The old man with the suspenders is Charlie McEndeffer, originally from Sterling, Colorado. They were a big ranching, cowboy family and Charlie was a magnificent, amazing horseman. I remember him very well from my early childhood, although by that time he was pretty stove up and I never saw him ride. He worked for my grandfather for years and he and Dad were breaking horses and baching in an old cabin on Robbers Roost Creek south of Newcastle when that photo was made…”

Rhonda is a great storyteller, and you can find her “Rodeo Roots” stories at; some of her poetry here; and more about her at her site,

Find more poems for Father’s Day and other special features at

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



by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

I’d heard of the Canyon (the old cowboy said)
And I figured I’d like to go see it.
So I rode till I sighted a rim out ahead,
And reckoned that this place might be it.

I anchored my horse to a juniper limb
And crawled to the edge for a peek.
One look was a plenty to make my head swim.
And all of my innards felt weak.

If I’d known how durned deep it was going to be,
I’d have managed, by some hook or crook,
To tie my ownself to the doggoned tree
And let my horse go take the look!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar
Barker from Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West, 1958

S.Omar Barker’s poem was a favorite poem of two popular poets who are sorely missed: Rusty McCall, 1986-2013, son of Deanna Dickinson McCall and David McCall; and Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007.

We are lucky to have Rusty McCall’s recitation on last year’s MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, a double CD celebrating S. Omar Barker’s poetry, with over 60 poems from many of today’s top poets and reciters.

Andy Hedges recites “Grand Canyon Cowboy on his COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast with Ross Knox, Episode 3. Episode 43, devoted to S. Omar Barker, includes an interview with the late Georgia Snead, Barker’s grandniece and a devoted friend to cowboy poetry, who tells great stories about Barker and his wife Elsa. Top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell reminisces about his introduction to Barker, the quality of his poetry, and his conversations with the poet.

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. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB” (but Andy Hedges tells that it never really did become his brand, and that explanation is included on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO).

Find more about S. Omar Barker at

This c.1903 photo, titled “Descending Grand View Trail – Grand Cañon of Arizona,” is described, “Stereograph showing a man, with a horse and two pack mules, descending the Grand View Trail in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

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

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.)