by S. Omar Barker (1894-1985)

Now young Jack Potter was a man
who knowed the ways of steers.
From bur-nests in their hairy tails
to ticks that chawed their ears.

A Texican and cowhand,
to the saddle bred and born,
He could count a trail herd on the move
and never miss a horn.

But one day on a tally,
back in eighteen-eighty-four,
He got to acting dreamy,
and he sure did miss the score.

The Trail Boss knowed the symptoms.
“Jack you ain’t no good like this.
I’ll give you just ten days
to go and find what is amiss!”

A “miss” was just what ailed him,
for he’d fell in love for sure
With a gal named Cordie Eddy,
mighty purty, sweet and pure.

So now Jack rode a hundred miles,
a-sweatin’ with the thought
Of sweetsome words to ask her with,
the way a fella ought.

“I’m just a humble cowhand,
Miss Cordie, if you please,
That hereby asks your heart and hand,
upon my bended knees!.”

It sounded mighty simple
thus rehearsed upon the trail.
But when he come to Cordie’s house,
his words all seemed to fail.

‘Twas “Howdy, ma’am, and how’s the crops?
And “How’s your pa and ma?”
For when it came to askin’ her,
he couldn’t come to taw.

He took her to a dance one night.
The hoss she rode was his.
“He’s a dandy little hoss,” she says.
“Well, yep,” says Jack, “he is.”

They rode home late together
and the moon was ridin’ high,
And Jack, he got to talkin’
’bout the stars up in the sky,

And how they’d guide a trail herd
like they do sea-goin’ ships.
But words of love and marriage—
they just wouldn’t pass his lips!

So he spoke about the pony
she was ridin’, and he said:
“You’ll note he’s fancy-gaited,
and don’t never fight his head.”

“He’s sure a little dandy,” she agrees,
and heaves a sigh.
Jack says, “Why you can have him—
that is—maybe—when I die.”

He figgered she might savvy
what he meant or maybe guess,
And give him that sweet answer
which he longed for, namely, “yes.”

But when they reached the ranch house,
he was still a-wonderin’ how
He would ever pop the question,
and he had to do it now.

Or wait and sweat and suffer
till the drive was done that fall,
When maybe she’d be married,
and he’d lose her after all.

He put away her saddle,
led his pony to the gate:
“I reckon I’ll be driftin’, ma’am.
It’s gittin’ kinder late.”

Her eyes was bright as starlight,
and her lips looked sweet as flow’rs.
Says Jack, “Now, this here pony—
is he mine, or is he ours?”

“Our pony, Jack!” she answered,
and her voice was soft as moss.
Then Jack, he claims he kissed her—
but she claims he kissed the hoss!

© 1966, S. Omar Barker, from “Rawhide Rhymes,” reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker;  This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Happy Valentine’s Day, Thursday.

S. Omar Barker’s poem is based on the real-life romance of trail driver and storyteller Jack Potter and Cordelia Eddy. In July, 2006, we received correspondence from Georganna Kresl, great granddaughter of “Jack” and “Cordie,” commenting on the poem about her great-grandparents.

She wrote, “…Though Jack Potter may be best known as a trail driver, throughout his life he was first and foremost a story teller—an oral historian in the folk tradition. After he retired from the range, sold his ranch, and moved into the town of Clayton, New Mexico (1928), Potter wrote down some of his personal recollections, entered them in a contest sponsored by the Pioneer State Tribune and, astonishingly, was awarded second place. The result was that, though in his 60’s at the time, Jack Potter coincidentally created a new career for himself as a writer…

“Though Potter wrote primarily for Western magazines and newspapers, he also published two books, Cattle Trails of the Old West (1935, 1939) and Lead Steer and Other Tales (1939). In the third chapter of Lead Steer, titled “Courtship and Engagement,” Jack talks about how he and Cordie met and tells about proposing to her. Barker must have been familiar with this story through his association with Potter during the ’30s, because the heart of Potter’s narrative version of events forms the basis for Barker’s poem; in effect, Barker translated Potter’s prose into verse. The resulting rhyme was then subsequently printed in Ranch Romances in September 1941.”

Find much more and a photo of Cordie and her children at CowboyPoetry.com.

Top reciter Randy Rieman presents “Jack Potter’s Courtin'” on MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker, from CowboyPoetry.com.

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 CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more cowboy love poems for Valentine’s Day here.

This postcard image is from the BAR-D collection, postmarked Fraser, Colorado, 1909.

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


sylviajoelcolor© 2016, Walter Workman, walterworkman.com, request permission for any use


by Joel Nelson

If on some better than average day
I should be riding along
Observing—not expecting—well maybe
And should see just as hoof swept by
One flawless arrow point—
If on that shining morning
I should step down to lift this point
Turning it delicately—feeling its smoothness
Beneath my fingertips
I would marvel at its perfection
At the way some ancient one
Had tempered and crafted such beauty
And how it came to lie there
All these centuries—covered—uncovered
Until it came to me
To happen by this place
On this day made now more perfect.
And I would ponder such things
As coincidence and circles and synchronicity,
And I would pocket this treasure near my heart,
And riding on I would recall
Having seen such treasure as this elsewhere
But not this one—not this one.
And for one brief moment I would stiffen with fear
At how one quick glance in another direction
Could have lost this to me forever,
And I would touch my shirt over my heart
Just to make sure.

© 1998, Joel Nelson, used with permission.

It’s often said that anything a cowboy sings is a cowboy song, and that holds true for any poem a cowboy writes being cowboy poetry.

Respected Texas horseman, rancher, poet, reciter, and National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow Joel Nelson’s writing and reciting are masterful—he captures readers and listeners alike with his craft. His The Breaker in the Pen album is the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy Award. Baxter Black has commented that the recording “…raised the bar for cowboy poetry for 1000 years.”

Watch Joel Nelson recite this poem in a Blanton Museum of Art performance in 2012.

Sylvia and Joel Nelson ranch near Alpine, Texas. This great photo of them was taken by top cowboy photographer Walter Workman and was used inside The BAR-D Roundup: Volume 10 from CowboyPoetry.com.

Songster and respected cowboy music and poetry interpreter Andy Hedges liked this poem so much that he recorded it, along with other classics, modern and otherwise, on his latest project, Cowboy Recitations.

Find more about Joel Nelson, including this poem and others along with information about his CD, at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more about Walter Workman on Facebook and at walterworkman.com, where there are impressive photo galleries.

Find more poems for Valentine’s Day at CowboyPoetry.com.