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

barkerwatch (1)

WATCHIN’ ‘EM RIDE
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 CowboyPoetry.com 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 CowboyPoetry.com, 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 CowboyPoetry.com; some of her poetry here; and more about her at her site, doublespearranch.com.

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

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

THE BLACK BEAUTY, by Johnie Schneider

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THE BLACK BEAUTY
by Johnie Schneider (1904-1982)

I’ll tell you a story of a thing that makes me blue.
Please listen for a moment, for the words I speak are true.
For two years I’s been riding and scheming for to get—
My hands upon a beauty that no one will ever get.

I’d caught many a wild horse and never failed until,
I started on this youngster at the foot of Rocky Hill.
He was nothing but a baby, when first I saw him there—
Standing by his mother, a little old grey mare.

And when he’d grown from colthood to a big strong handsome black
There was always by his hoofprints, the little old grey mare’s track.
I lay awake many a night, trying to scheme a way
For to make a big black beauty, be my saddle horse some day.

But this beauty always dodged them ‘spite all that I could do.

Til one day I dug a pit—down by the waterside,
I covered it over with sticks and leaves and climbed a tree to hide.
I hadn’t been there very long; the sun was shining still,
When I saw the couple coming thru the rocks up on the hill.

And as they came down closer to the waterside,
The old mare done the leading and the black stayed close beside
Another step was all it took till she’d be in the pit.
She bowed her head and snorted and then stepped back a bit.

She turned her head as if to say—there is danger here my son.
And at the twinkle of an eye, my right hand grasped my gun.
I jerked it from its holster, for now I knew the truth;
I’d never catch the beauty with the old mare running loose.

I peeked out thru the branches—drew a fine sight on my gun,
My finger clutched the trigger, and the old mare’s days were done.
The great black reared straight in the air then sort of settled down
And stretched his long keen neck to smell the blood upon the ground.

He blew a loud shrill whistle, his nostrils flaming red,
And with his sleek foreleg he stroked—his mother lying dead
Then a sudden fear seemed to seize him and he whirled and with a bound—
Crashed into a pine tree than sank back to the ground.

I climbed down thru the branches and ran to where he struck,
And lifting up his small keen head I found he broke his neck.
I knew that I was beaten as they both laid cold and still—
I laid the beauty’s head back down and started up the hill.

My heart was sure heavy with the whole thing on my mind,
For now I knew the very truth—the black had been born blind.

© 1923, Johnie Schneider, used with permission

Johnie Schneider (1904-1982) was the first official World Champion Bull Rider. This memorable poem is included with more about his life in the “Rodeo Roots” collection of articles at CowboyPoetry.com by rodeo historian, poet, and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame honoree Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns.

An entry on the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame web site tells that Johnie Schneider “… had a soul of a poet and the heart of a cowboy. He began rodeoing in 1923 and quickly established a reputation as one of the most versatile performers around.” Johnie Schneider is quoted, “The best thing about rodeo was that it gave a lot of us a start in life. There weren’t many options back then for a fellow trying to make it.”

jsBuckle

Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1931 photo of Johnie Schneider and the buckle image are courtesy of Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns and the Schneider family.

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

THE HELL-BOUND TRAIN, anonymous

glennohrlin.jpg

 

THE HELL-BOUND TRAIN
(anonymous)

A Texas cowboy lay down on a barroom floor,
Having drunk so much he could drink no more;
So he fell asleep with a troubled brain,
To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train.

The engine with murderous blood was damp,
And was brilliantly lit with a brimstone lamp;
An imp for fuel was shoveling bones,
While the furnace rang with a thousand groans.

The boiler was filled with lager beer,
And the Devil himself was the engineer;
The passengers were a most motley crew
Church member, atheist, Gentile and Jew.

Rich men in broadcloth, beggars in rags,
Handsome young ladies, withered old hags.
Yellow and black men, red, brown and white,
All chained together — O God, what a sight!

While the train rushed on at an awful pace,
The sulfurous fumes scorched their hands and face;
Wider and wider the country grew,
As faster and faster the engine flew

Louder and louder the thunder crashed,
And brighter and brighter the lightning flashed;
Hotter and hotter the air became,
Till the clothes were burnt from each quivering frame.

And out of the distance there arose a yell,
“Ha, ha,” said the Devil, “we’re nearing hell!”
Then, oh, how the passengers shrieked with pain,
And begged the Devil to stop the train.

But he capered about and danced with glee,
And laughed and joked at their misery.
“My faithful friends, you have done the work,
And the Devil never can a payday shirk.

“You’ve bullied the weak, you’ve robbed the poor,
The starving brother you’ve turned from the door;
You’ve laid up gold where the canker rust,
And you have given free vent to your beastly lust.

“You’ve justice scorned and corruption sown,
And trampled the laws of nature down;
You have drink, rioted, cheated, plundered, and lied,
And mocked at God in your hell-born pride.

“You have paid full fare, so I’ll carry you through;
For its only right you should have your due.
Why, the laborer always expects his hire,
So I’ll land you safe in the lake of fire —

“Where your flesh will waste in the flames that roar,
And my imps torment you forever more.”
Then the cowboy awoke with an anguished cry,
His clothes wet with sweat and and his hair standing high.

Then he prayed as he’d never had prayed till that hour
To be saved from his sin and the demon’s power.
And his prayers and pleadings were not in vain;
For he never rode the hell-bound train

…Anonymous

The version of “The Hell-Bound Train” above comes from Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys, and he prefaces it with “Heard this sung at a cow-camp near Pontoon Crossing, on the Pecos River, by a puncher named Jack Moore.” See our feature about the 1921 book at cowboypoetry.com.

The Western music world lost legendary cowboy singer and historian Glenn Ohrlin (1926-2015) a few years ago. A revised edition of his important book, The Hell-Bound Train; A Cowboy Songbook, a treasury of information about cowboy songs, was released soon after his death by Texas Tech University Press.

Editor Charlie Seemann (past Executive Director of the Western Folklife Center) told us, “The original 1973 book was a landmark classic, a collection by a working cowboy and singer in the tradition of Jack Thorp. It’s been out of print for a number of years, and it’s great to have it available again, revised and updated with information about Glenn’s life
since 1973.”

In the book, Glenn Ohrlin tells he learned the title song (sometimes recited as a poem), from an aunt, and that its origin is “a minor mystery.”

A National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, Glenn Ohrlin’s career is described in a biography there, “As a boy, he heard and liked cowboy songs, and by the age of five, he was singing himself. ‘In Minnesota, where I was born,’ Ohrlin said, ‘everyone sang cowboy songs, even my aunts and uncles. My father was musical; my mother wasn’t, particularly. I used to listen to the radio a lot. When I was growing up in the 1930s, every reasonably big radio station had its own singing cowboy. In those days, it wasn’t too hard to find one. If a station wanted a cowboy singer, they’d go out and find a working cowboy who knew a few songs.'”

A standout show at the 2016 Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, hosted by Charlie Seemann, celebrated the life of Glenn Ohrlin. It included Brigid and John Reedy, Andy Hedges, Don Edwards, Randy Rieman, Sourdough Slim, Mike Hurwitz, and a short film. You can watch the entire show, in which Andy Hedges recites “The Hell-Bound Train.”

This 1946 photo of Glenn Ohrlin comes from a series of articles at CowboyPoetry.com by Wyoming rodeo historian, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honoree, and poet Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns. He is shown at a rodeo in Japan on an ox named “Double Trouble.” He commented, “It was hard to keep your rope from slipping over their withers . . . flat back. We had lots of saddle horses, borrowed broncs from local trucking companies. They had very few motor vehicles in private use. Right after the war the civilians had very little. They rode trains, street cars in larger cities and bicycles.”

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

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

barkerwatch

WATCHIN’ ‘EM RIDE
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; this poem should not be re-posted or reprinted without permission.

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 CowboyPoetry.com 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.

I was so inspired by it that I immediately memorized it, and have done it for years at gatherings and here and there.

J. Frank Dobie also wrote about the Like family in his book, The Longhorns. Find the poem and more about it at CowboyPoetry.com, 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 CowboyPoetry.com, as well as some of her poetry. Also visit her site, doublespearranch.com.

Find much more about S. Omar Barker and more poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.