RANCH MOTHER By S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

ranchmother

RANCH MOTHER
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 Barker

Here’s to celebrating mothers, Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 13) and every day.

Deanna Dickinson McCall has a great rendition of this poem on the new MASTERS: VOLUME TWO double CD from CowboyPoetry.com.

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…”

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 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 in 1938 and Queen of the Lewiston RoundUp (Idaho) in 1940. Find more in the feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find many more tributes and poems to mothers here.

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

>>>This is a scheduled post. We’re on a (rare) break through May 23. There will be scheduled posts, but we won’t be able to fill orders or to respond quickly to email.<<<

A CHANGE OF SEASON, by Smoke Wade

smokepack

 

A CHANGE OF SEASON
by Smoke Wade

We don’t summer at Chesnim’ these days,
Not since the For’ Service shut ‘er down;
They took away our permit to graze,
Now we pasture on the edge of town.

We don’t fall ride at Cold Springs anymore,
In the teeth of an early winter storm;
Or hitch our boots by the cow camp door,
And play cribbage inside where it’s warm.

We no longer winter by the Snake,
On benches carved below the rim;
The land was sold for the public’s sake,
To the For’ Service and to the BLM.

No, we don’t spring calve on Cactus Flat,
Since it sold to the State Fish and Game;
They say the chinook ain’t comin’ back,
And the cowman must carry the blame.

So, we gather now, at Third and Grand,
A beer garden after the parade;
And, here we’ll make one final stand,
Until this season begins to fade.

© 1994, Smoke Wade
This poem should not be re-posted or reprinted without permission

Popular emcee and cowboy poet Smoke Wade was raised on a remote Hells Canyon ranch. He’s written a number of stories about his ranching family for Picture the West and Western Memories at CowboyPoetry.com.

In an introduction to this poem, particularly timely today, he comments on the history of the area and about how the family’s way of life ended in the 1970s:

For ten thousand years, mankind lived along the banks of the Snake River in Hells Canyon, until 1877, when the United States Congress decided it was time to evict the residents of the canyon. They gave the order to the U. S Army, and under the command of General Howard, Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce people were forced to leave their homeland forever.

Over time the canyon once again became populated with outlaws, sourdoughs, miners, horse thieves, homesteaders, sheepherders and cattle ranchers, until almost one hundred years had passed. And then, Congress once again decided it was time to evict the residents of Hells Canyon. This time the order went down to the U. S. Forest Service and one by one the ranches fell, condemned, evicted and forced out, until today there is little sign left of what we once called home. And thus began our change of season.

One day, at a beer garden after the parade, I noticed a bunch of old cowboys hanging out—talking, remembering old times. It dawned on me that with the fall of the Hells Canyon ranches to the U.S. Forest Service, that these cowboys didn’t have a range to go back to. “A Change of Season” was spawned at that moment.

This photo is of Smoke Wade, age 15, leading a pack string.

Find some of Smoke Wade’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com. Don’t miss his stories and photos in Western Memories.

Smoke hosts and produces the Cowboy Idol Competition at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival (April 13-15, 2018) at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Washington. This is the competition’s 10th year, and the 15th anniversary of the Gathering.

Smoke writes in his media release:

The 10th season of Cowboy Idol is billed as The Reunion show. All contestants have competed before as Cowboy Idol contestants or People’s Choice award winners but have yet to win the title of Cowboy Idol.

The 2018 Cowboy Idol Poet contestants are: Smokey Culver, Texas; Dave Nordquist, Washington; Geoff “Poppa Mac” Mackay, Manitoba, Canada; and Duane Nelson, Oregon. The Cowboy Idol Musician contestants are: Charley Root, Washington; David Wilson, Washington; Janet Bailey, Oregon; and Lois Goodman & Einar Jensen, British Columbia, Canada. Lois & Einar are the 2017 People’s Choice award winners from the open mic sessions.

Find more information at columbiarivercowboygathering.com and on Facebook.

 

TRAILING THE HERD by Smoke Wade

smoketrail

TRAILING THE HERD
by Smoke Wade

They moved often then,
From warm winter grounds by the river’s mouth,
Where mothers gave birth,
On rocky hillsides that faced the sunny south.

Up steep trails, they moved,
Through saddles bathed in late spring showers,
Above the canyons filled with pine,
To mountain meadows with purple flowers.

Past green ponds, they moved,
Through huckleberries on the summit high,
Then swiftly down the Devil’s run.
To the land of endless sky.

Through rolling hills, they moved,
Down dusty lanes in August sun,
To fall pasture with ample room,
For cows to rest and calves to run.

Behind barbed wire, now they move,
There to fatten and to graze,
The winter grounds sit idle now,
Modern times with different ways.

Yes, they moved often then,
Through sumac gullies and mountain streams,
Before trailing the herd became a part,
Of our memories and dreams.

© 1991, Smoke Wade
This poem should not be re-posted or reprinted without permission

Popular emcee and cowboy poet Smoke Wade was raised on a remote Hells Canyon ranch.He’s written a number of stories about his ranching family for Picture the West and Western Memories at CowboyPoetry.com.

Smoke told us that when he wrote this poem, “I was trying to re-capture the memory of the days when we used to trail large herds of cattle out of the Hells Canyon of the Snake River as the herd followed the seasons. Those days are gone now along with the cattle ranches in Hells Canyon…”

When asked about the importance of cowboy poetry, he responded, “The lifestyle of Hells Canyon cowboys was a way of life that was often considered to be thirty years behind the rest of the world. Lacking other forms of entertainment, stories, tall-tales and poetry were standard fare in the cow camp and they helped relieve boredom while on the trail.Often, the ‘telling’ was a way of recalling the significance of events, the lives of other cowboys, or perhaps the general history of the range we rode.

“After the fall of the Hells Canyon ranching industry, cowboy poetry was a natural way for me to recall the history of the life I once lived and the cowboys I had known. Likewise, the importance of cowboy poetry today is that it continues to document the memory of western events, people, and the cultural significance of the cowboy way of life that is quickly disappearing from the American West…”

Smoke Wade shared this photo from a 1952 branding. Read more about it here. He comments it is, “…the old branding corral on Cactus Flat. Not a trace of the corral or the branding fire pits remains today.”

Find another poem and more about Smoke Wade, along with links to photos and stories at CowboyPoetry.com.

 

A CHANGE OF SEASON by Smoke Wade

smokepack

A CHANGE OF SEASON
by Smoke Wade

We don’t summer at Chesnim’ these days,
Not since the For’ Service shut ‘er down;
They took away our permit to graze,
Now we pasture on the edge of town.

We don’t fall ride at Cold Springs anymore,
In the teeth of an early winter storm;
Or hitch our boots by the cow camp door,
And play cribbage inside where it’s warm.

We no longer winter by the Snake,
On benches carved below the rim;
The land was sold for the public’s sake,
To the For’ Service and to the BLM.

No, we don’t spring calve on Cactus Flat,
Since it sold to the State Fish and Game;
They say the chinook ain’t comin’ back,
And the cowman must carry the blame.

So, we gather now, at Third and Grand,
A beer garden after the parade;
And, here we’ll make one final stand,
Until this season begins to fade.

© 1994, Smoke Wade, used with permission
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Popular emcee and cowboy poet Smoke Wade was raised on a remote Hells Canyon ranch. He’s  written a number of stories about his ranching family for Picture the West and Western Memories at CowboyPoetry.com.

In an introduction to this poem, particularly timely today, he comments on the history of the area and about how the family’s way of life ended in the 1970s:

For ten thousand years, mankind lived along the banks of the Snake River in Hells Canyon, until 1877, when the United States Congress decided it was time to evict the residents of the canyon. They gave the order to the U. S Army, and under the command of General Howard, Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce people were forced to leave their homeland forever.

Over time the canyon once again became populated with outlaws,sourdoughs, miners, horse thieves, homesteaders, sheepherders and cattle ranchers, until almost one hundred years had passed. And then, Congress once again decided it was time to evict the residents of Hells Canyon. This time the order went down to the U. S. Forest Service and one by one the ranches fell, condemned, evicted and forced out,
until today there is little sign left of what we once called home. And thus began our change of season.

One day, at a beer garden after the parade, I noticed a bunch of old cowboys hanging out—talking, remembering old times. It dawned on me that with the fall of the Hells Canyon ranches to the U.S. Forest Service, that these cowboys didn’t have a range to go back to. “A Change of Season” was spawned at that moment.

This photo is of Smoke Wade, age 15, leading a pack string.

Find some of Smoke Wade’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.  Don’t miss
his stories and photos in Western Memories.

Smoke hosts and produces the Cowboy Idol Competition at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival (April 14-16, 2017) at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Washington.This is the competition’s 9th year, and the 14th anniversary of the Gathering.

Competitors have been chosen for Cowboy Idol: poets A. K. Moss, OR; Dick Warwick, WA; Linda Nadon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and Terry Raff, ID; and musicians Paul Larson, SD; Pat Threewit, ID; Ed Wahl, BC, Canada; and Last Ride (Duo) featuring Randy Berg and John Lazzarini, ID.

Find a complete media release from Smoke Wade here.

Performers at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering include Gary Allegretto, Billy Dean, Lacy J. Dalton, and Mike Morgan.

Find more information at columbiarivercowboygathering.com and on Facebook.

Cowboy Idol Competition at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Music Festival, April 14-16, 2017

cidol

 

From Smoke Wade:

The Cowboy Idol finalists have been selected for the 9th Annual Cowboy Idol competition to take place in conjunction with the 14th Annual Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival, April 14 -16, 2017, held at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, WA. The festival is organized by Budd & Judy Massengale along with the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering and Western Music Festival Board of Directors.

The Cowboy Idol Poet contestants are: A. K. Moss, OR; Dick Warwick, WA; Linda Nadon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and Terry Raff, ID. The Cowboy Idol Musician contestants are: Paul Larson, SD; Pat Threewit, ID; Ed Wahl, BC, Canada; and Last Ride (Duo) featuring Randy Berg and John Lazzarini, ID.  Cowboy Idol is hosted and produced by Smoke Wade.

News on Cowboy Idol; featured performers, open mic sign up, tickets, schedule and special events can be found at – www.columbiarivercowboygathering.com

Scheduled daytime performances will be presented on Friday and Saturday, April 14 – 15, 2017, along with open mic sessions. Headliner shows will take place at 6:00 p.m. each evening. A cowboy church will be held on Sunday morning following the gathering.

The Cowboy Idol contestants compete for trophies along with a $1400.00 purse divided $500.00 for first place and $200.00 for second place in both the poet and musician competition. In addition, all open mic performers will be judged throughout the weekend for the People’s Choice Award with prize money and a trophy to the winner.