by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)
She knows the keen of lonely winds
The sound of hoofs at night,
The creak of unwarmed saddles in
The chill before daylight,
The champ of eager bridle bits,
The jingle-clink of spurs,
The clump of boots—lone silence, too,
For cowboy sons are hers.
She knew the dust of cattle trails
While yet she was a bride,
And tangy smell of branding iron
Upon a dogie’s hide.
The yelp of coyotes on a hill,
The night hawk’s lonely croon,
The bawl of milling cattle: thus
Her cowcamp honeymoon.
Her hands are hard from laboring,
Her face is brown from sun,
But oh, her eyes are deep with dreams
Of days and duties done!
The hand of hardship forged her love
That first far rangeland spring.
Now he is gone its memory lives,
A gentle, deathless thing.
Her days knew little neighboring,
Less now, perhaps, than then,
Alone with years she gleans content:
Her sons are horseback men!
© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar
Here’s to celebrating mothers, Mother’s Day and every day.
S. Omar Barker’s mother, Priscilla, was the eldest of nine sisters. A family biography tells that she and Squire Barker set out from Texas 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…” Priscilla had four of children with her on the 500-mile journey that took six weeks. The biography tells, “Priscilla drove a heavy team of horses. Squire had made a box bed for 6-week-old Grace at the back of her mother’s seat…”
Award-winning New Mexico poet Deanna Dickinson McCall is known for her fine recitation of this poem and we’re pleased to have it on recordings, including MASTERS: Volume Two, the poetry of S. Omar Barker.
Popular songwriter Jean Prescott put the poem to music on her Traditions CD.
Find much more about S. Omar Barker and his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.
This photograph is from a 2010 Mother’s Day feature at CowboyPoetry.com by poet, reciter, and popular emcee Smoke Wade and his sister, Sharon S. Brown, in memory of their mother, Betty Jean Tippett (1921-1993). Betty Jean Tippett was the daughter of a homesteader, sheepherder, and cattle rancher who became a cattle baron in a remote area of southeastern Washington near the Hells Canyon of the Snake River. She married and raised her children on a ranch near Rogersburg.
Smoke Wade writes, “My first memories of riding a horse were with Mom. She was often called upon to take lunch to a branding crew working in a remote area. Mom would tie the bundled food in pillowcase to the saddle horn and strap me on behind her with a large belt and we would go riding to take lunch to the branding crew.
“Other times while moving cows up to spring or summer pasture, mom would have me strapped on the saddle behind her. When evening came and the work was yet to be finished, mom would unsaddle her horse and make a place for me to lie down on the hillside with the saddle blanket for a bed and the saddle for a pillow. Then she would ride her horse bareback as she finished helping dad and my older brother move the cows farther up the draw in the dark…Yes, mom was a cowgirl.”
She was also a Princess of the Pendleton Round-Up (Oregon) in 1938 and Queen of the Lewiston RoundUp (Idaho) in 1940.
Find many more tributes and poems to mothers at CowboyPoetry.com.
Smoke Wade recites “Augerin'” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon and “Rawhide Rooster” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker. Find more about him and his own recording at CowboyPoetry.com.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)