THE COYOTE and COW WORK WON’T WAIT by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)


Photo by Carol M. Highsmith


by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

The coyote of the western ranges
Survives despite all modern changes.
He views the world with duantless drollery—
And does not practice birth controllery.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

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…” He enjoyed signing his work with a “Lazy SOB” brand. He was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman.

Many of S. Omar Barker’s short pieces were collected in a 1998 book, Ol’ S.O.B. Sez: Cowboy Limericks. In the introduction, top cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell writes:

I really don’t think Omar had any idea of the impact his poetry had. He rode on before the cowboy poetry gatherings emerged. He didn’t see the number of cowboys who had taken his words to heart and memory. He had become one of the top three recited poets of the genre.

Why? Because he lived, worked, understood, and spoke cowboy. Not the ethereal, but the day-to-day sweaty, freezing, long-trot, leather-clad, rope-burned, calf-pullin’, brush-scarred, dally-slippin’ kind.

Then he boiled it down to its essence…He would write about things so common in the cowboy world that cowboys often overlooked them, but they’d recognize immediately the truth in those writings because Omar wrote of that life “from the inside-lookin-out” point of view.

Another from the book:

by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985)

We hear unions speak of a four-day week
As if it would simple be heaven
But folks who raise cattle still find it’s a battle
To get all their work done in seven.

…S. Omar Barker, used with the permission of the S. Omar Barker estate

Find more about S. Omar Barker at

This 2016 photograph is titled, “A lone, and lean, coyote makes the best of wintertime the
northernmost Wyoming reaches of Yellowstone National Park.”

It is another fine one by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about the photograph here.

Find the collection here, where it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

MAYBE IT’S YOUR CALLIN’ by Janice Gilbertson


by Janice Gilbertson

Maybe it’s that certain way
Early morning smells in June
The fragrance of the damp leftover heat

Maybe it’s the rise and fall
Of golden dust at dawn
From the milling of the saddlehorses’ feet

It could be the slap of leather
The jangle of the bridle chains
The cadence of the hoofbeats down the lane

There’s that friendly cowboy banter
And the planning of the gather
Some spittin’ and some razzin’ to sustain

There’s the frolic of the cowdogs
In their rough and tumble glory
There’s the quiver of excitement in a mount

In the mid-light of the coming
Of the sunlight o’er the ridge
Maybe that is what it’s really all about

Then there’s that swagger on your jog
And that ole sense of satisfaction
You can get when you bring in that ornery stray

And when you water at the crossin’
Give your horse a little rub
Maybe that would be the best time of your day

Ah! Maybe it’s the headin’ home
Followin’ your shadow
Anticipatin’ supper and your bed

Maybe it’s the certain way
The night air smells in June
Or a hundred things that never could be said

Could be the knowin’ where you fit
That easy comfort in your soul
Like that ole saddle that you ride most every day

Just maybe it’s your callin’
Or, you were just born lucky
Cuz you know you couldn’t live no other way

© 2008, Janice Gilbertson
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

California poet, novelist, and horsewoman Janice Gilbertson commented on her poem, “Wouldn’t life be grand if we could each be doing the work we know and love every day, and have the comfort that comes in knowing that we are exactly where we are meant to be.”


Janice Gilbertson’s second novel, Canyon House, published by PEN-L publishing, has just been named a Willa Award Finalist. The respected award from Women Writing the West “…honors the best in literature, featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the West that are published each year…The award is named in honor of Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather, one of the country’s foremost novelists.”

Read Chapter One of “Canyon House” at PEN-L Publishing.

Janice has been an invited poet at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry
Gathering and performs at other events across the West. Her work has appeared in anthologies and compilations, and she has poetry books and recordings and another novel, Summer of ’58. Find more at her web site,, and at

The photo above is of Janice Gilbertson on the Glen Aulin Trail high above Yosemite Meadows.

THE GOOD OLD COWBOY DAYS by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922)



by Luther A. Lawhon (1861-1922)

My fancy drifts as often, through the murky, misty maze
Of the past—to other seasons—to the good old cowboy days,
When the grass wuz green an’ wavin’ an’ the skies wuz soft and blue,
And the men were brave an’ loyal, and the women fair an’ true!
The old-time cowboy—here’s to him, from hired hand to boss!
His soul wuz free from envy and his heart wuz free from dross,
An’ deep within his nature, which wuz rugged, high and bold,
There ran a vein uv metal, and the metal, men, wuz, gold!

He’d stand up—drunk or sober—’gin a thousand fer his rights;
He’d sometimes close an argument by shootin’ out the lights;
An’ when there was a killin’, by the quickest on the draw,
He wern’t disposed to quibble ’bout the majesty uv law,
But a thief—a low down villain—why, he had no use for him
An’ wuz mighty apt to leave ‘im danglin’ from a handy limb.
He wuz heeled and allers ready—quick with pistol or with knife,
But he never shirked a danger or a duty in his life!

An’ at a tale uv sorrow or uv innocence beguiled
His heart wuz just as tender as the heart uv any child.
An’ woman—aye, her honor wuz a sacred thing; and hence
He threw his arms around her—in a figurative sense.
His home wuz yours, where’er it wuz, an’ open stood the door,
Whose hinges never closed upon the needy or the poor;
An’ high or low—it mattered not—the time, if night or day,
The stranger found a welcome just as long as he would stay.

Wuz honest to the marrow, and his bond wuz in his word.
He paid for every critter that he cut into his herd;
An’ take your note because he loaned a friend a little pelf?
No, sir, indeed! He thought you wuz as worthy as himself.
An’ when you came and paid it back, as proper wuz an’ meet,
You trod upon forbidden ground to ask for a receipt.
In former case you paid the debt (there weren’t no intres’ due),
An’ in the latter—chances wuz he’d put a hole through you!

The old-time cowboy had ‘is faults; ’tis true, as has been said,
He’d look upon the licker when the licker, men, wuz red;
His language weren’t allers spoke accordin’ to the rule;
Nor wuz it sech as ye’d expect to hear at Sunday school.
But when he went to meetin’, men, he didn’t yawn or doze,
Nor set there takin’ notice of the congregation’s clothes.
He listened to the preacher with respect, an’ all o’ that,
An’ he never failed to ante when they passed aroun’ the hat!

I call to mind the tournament, an’ then the ball at night;
Of how old Porter drawed the bow and sawed with all his might;
Of how they’d dance—the boys an’ girls; an’ how that one wuz there
With rosy cheeks, an’ hazel eyes, an’ golden, curly hair;
An’ I—but here I’m techin’ on a mighty tender spot;
That boyhood love, at this late day, had better be forgot;
But still at times my heart goes back agin’ and fondly strays
Amidst those dear remembered scenes—the good old cowboy days!

The old-time cowboy wuz a man all over! Hear me, men!
I somehow kinder figger we’ll not see his like agin.
The few that’s left are older now; their hair is mostly white;
Their forms are not so active, and their eyes are not so bright
As when the grass wuz wavin’ green, the skies wuz soft an’ blue,
An’ men were brave, an’ loyal, and the women fair an’ true,
An’ the land wuz filled with plenty, an the range wuz free to graze,
An’ all rode as brothers—in the good old cowboy days.

…by Luther A. Lawhon from “The Trail Drivers of Texas”

Those fortunate enough to have have heard Oklahoma rancher and poet Jay Snider’s ( recitation of “The Good Old Cowboy Days” on his CD, The Old Tried and True or at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo or the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering or the Westernfolklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering or other events have experienced a fine performance of a little-heard poem. Jay Snider brought the poem to our attention, and he recites on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three and it is included on Volume Ten “best-of-the-best” double CD.

Listen to Jay Snider recite the poem on YouTube.

The poem was written by Luther A. Lawhon and is included in The Trail Drivers of Texas, a book best described by its subtitle, “Interesting Sketches of Early Cowboys and Their Experiences on the Range and on the Trail during the Days that Tried Men’s Souls—True Narratives Related by Real Cowpunchers and Men Who Fathered the Cattle Industry in Texas.”

Lawhon worked in newspapers and was involved in local politics, as a congressional candidate.

The book, with over a thousand pages, was originally published by the Old Time Trail Driver’s Association, where Lawhon served as Secretary. An article by Lawhon, “The Men Who Made the Trail,” is also included in the book.

There were at least four editions of the book published before a 1925 edition that was reprinted in 1992 by the University of Texas Press and includes an introduction by B. Byron Price and a full index. The early editions of the book are rare, as are copies of Lawhon’s other collections, which include Songs and Satires (1901) and Cactus Blossoms (1905).

Read more about the University of Texas edition of The Trail Drivers of Texas, and read B. Byron Price’s introduction and view the table of contents at the university’s site.

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee 1903-1986 is titled, “Old-time trail driver in front of kitchen cabinet. Crystal City, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. Find more about it here. There are other photos of the same man, and the captions note that he lives “…alone in quarters furnished by the town. He also receives sustenance from town. He is an old-time trail driver.”

Find a feature about noted photographer Russell Lee and a gallery of photographs from the University of Texas at Austin.



photo by Karen Gilbride, Captured By Karen

by Dale Page

It’s a half day’s ride to this cabin door
Where I spent my eighteenth year.
There are spur marks there on the old wood floor,
But the crew’s no longer here.

So it’s silent now, where a noisy gang
Gathered round to lie and spar
Or to ponder life while some waddy sang
To his battered old guitar.

All the bunk bed slats have been long since burned
By the hungry cast iron stove.
In the corner there lies a chair, upturned,
With the leather seat I wove.

There an old grass rope and a horsehair rein
Hang forgotten on the wall.
That old Frazier rig won’t be rode again.
Whose it was, I can’t recall.

Through the flyspecked, broken out window there
Stands an empty pine pole pen.
All the broncs are gone, but I don’t know where.
And what’s worse, I don’t know when.

And the boys who rode for their meager wage,
Which was thrown away each week,
Were a part of a wild and woolly age
Which gave way to mild and meek.

I can see them there, ‘round the coosie’s fire
When the herd was bedded down.
We would swear our oaths we would not retire
To a lesser life in town.

We would toast our lives with a strong black brew
While we dined on beef and beans.
We looked down on the suit and necktie crew
Who don’t know what living means.

For we ruled the world from our leather thrones,
Cinched atop a half-broke mount.
And we spent our youth as if kings, not drones.
We were rich in things that count.

When we tally dreams that can still come true
We will find our herds are short.
But we won’t regret what we didn’t do
When we stand that final sort.

For a few short years we were pleased to live
As the luckiest of men.
We enjoyed the best that this life can give
Because we were cowboys then.

© 2007, Dale E. Page
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission

Dale Page tells about the poem’s inspiration:

The location in this poem is the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Cimarron, New Mexico, where I spent the summer after graduating high school. The barn where our bunkroom was located is 10 miles off paved road at an elevation of about 8,000 feet. We had 50 horses up there and that many pack burros. I had only one day off the entire summer, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

After 40 years, I returned to the camp and found it pretty much the same. I have to admit it showed a little less wear than I. Standing there brought back a lot of memories of good horses and good friends. In my mind, I could still see the palomino paint at the corral gate, waiting for me to go jingle up the rest of the horses. It was a great place and a great time of my life. That summer changed me from a city boy to a pretty decent rider and a lover of New Mexico.

He adds, in liner notes to his 2014 Once We Were Kings CD, “…It’s about times to which we can’t go back, but times we don’t want to forget.”

Listen to Dale Page recite his poem on the most recent Back at the Ranch Radio show from Jarle Kvale.

Dale Page is also included in the lineup at the Fourth Annual Cimarron Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering, August 25-27, 2017 at New Mexico’s Philmont Scout Ranch, just south of Cimarron. Other performers include Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Broken Chair Band, Dale Burson, Janice Deardorff, Doug Figgs, Purly Gates, Danner Hampton, Randy Huston, Washtub Jerry, Jill Jones, Jim Jones, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Peggy Malone, Terry Nash, Claudia Nygaard, Dale Page, Ramblin’ Rangers, Sandy Reay, Dennis Russell, Mark Smith, Rocky Sullivan, Rod Taylor, and Jim Wilson.

The event continues to grow, and this year there is a great-looking chuck wagon. Find more about that and the event on Facebook,  and at   Find more poetry and more about Dale Page at, and at his web site,

This photograph of Dale Page, which he calls “Colorado Sunset,” is by Karen Gilbride of Grand Junction, Captured By Karen.



authorship uncertain

Backward, turn backward, oh, Time with your wheels,
Aeroplanes, wagons and automobiles
Dress me once more in sombrero that flaps,
Spurs, and a flannel shirt, slicker and chaps
Put a six-shooter or two in my hand.
Show me a yearling to rope and to brand
Out where the sage brush is dusty and gray,
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

Give me a broncho that knows how to dance,
Buckskin of color and wicked of glance,
New to the feeling of bridles and bits
Give me a quirt that will sting where it hits,
Strap on the poncho behind in a roll,
Pass me the lariat, dear to my soul,
Over the trail let me gallop away.
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

Thunder of hoofs on the range as you ride
Hissing of iron and the smoking of hide,
Bellow of cattle, and snort of cayuse
Shorthorns from Texas as wild as the deuce;
Midnight stampede, and the milling of herds
Yells of the cowmen too angry for words
Right in the thick of it all I would stay.
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

Under the star-studded canopy vast
Campfire and coffee and comfort at last.
(Bacon that sizzles and crisps in the pan
After the roundup smells good to a man.)
Stories of ranchers and rustlers retold
Over the pipes as the embers grow cold—
These are the tunes that old memories play,
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

…as in Leslie’s Weekly, 1910

Our great American troubadour Don Edwards includes “Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day” in his Saddle Songs—A Cowboy Songbag, an invaluable reference book. See his version at

The poem is not recited much and the song is not heard or recorded frequently these days. In Saddle Songs, Don Edwards writes, “I always used to love to hear my friend Dick Farnsworth sing this old song…Dick sang it to the tune of ‘One Morning in May.’ It is also interchangeable with ‘Wild Rippling Water.’ Dick was a real good and cherished friend and I miss him a lot. Kind of like these old songs if folks quit singin’ ’em…they’ll be gone someday and won’t be comin’ back.” The same page in the book includes a quote from Richard Farnsworth, “I sing a little better than a crow but not as good as a canary.”

Don Edwards sings “Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day” on his Wrangler Award-winning album, Saddle Songs II Last of the Troubadours.” You can hear it on YouTube.

“Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day” is included in Songs Texas Sings (1936), a small songbook created for the Texas centennial for schools, which has an introduction by John Lomax. No author is given.

In a search for the earliest printing of the poem or song, we found the above version in Leslie’s Weekly, the October 6, 1910 edition. The author was given as “Rorodore Theovelt,” which looks like an awkward re-arrangement of Theodore Roosevelt. Earlier in 1910, Roosevelt’s secretary, William Loeb, Jr. became a member of Leslie’s board. Perhaps it was meant as a spoof.

Glenn Ohrlin notes that George B. German, in the 1932 Cowboy Campfire Ballads credits the song to an 1890s creation by Joe and Zack Miller of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. Other references mention that it is similar to the popular-at-its-time “Rock Me to Sleep Mother” (written by Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen in 1866; sometimes attributed to Florence Percy, which was the pen name of Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen, and Ernest Leslie, composer) that begins “Backward, turn backward, Oh Time, in your flight, make me a child again just for tonight.”

Find more about the song and poem, including some alternate lines, at

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Services Administration (FSA). It is titled, “Custer Forest, Montana.”

Rothstein was a student of Roy Styker, who conceived the documentary photography project for the FSA. Find more about Arthur Rothstein at Wikipedia.

Find more about the photo here.




RAIN lyrics by Daron Little


“Sunrise at Pass Creek” by Daron Little; request permission for use

lyrics by Daron Little

Neighbor shipped his spring calves early today.
It don’t seem to make much sense at all.
But this years been all wrong since I can’t remember when
And it’s got our backs up against the wall.

And it’s hard to pray when the dust devils dance
Nine months of drought leaves little to chance.
And Lord, I ain’t asking you to take the swear and pain,
But we sure could use a little Rain.

Something so simple that means so much
To those that feel the earth’s touch.
Ranchers and wives and Cowboys out on the broken plain
Sure know the meaning of just a little Rain.

And it’s hard to pray when the dust devils dance
Nine months of drought leaves little to chance.
And Lord, I ain’t asking you to take the swear and pain,
But we sure could use a little Rain.

And I don’t know if you can hear me tonight
You know I ain’t scared of a fight
And I’m thankful for this life I’ve been given
And I’ll do what it takes to make it worth livin’

And it’s hard to pray when the dust devils dance
Nine months of drought leaves little to chance.
And Lord, I ain’t asking you to take the swear and pain,
But we sure could use a little Rain.

© Daron Little
These lyrics should not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission

In Monday’s post, Ken Cook mentioned respected cowboy and songwriter Daron Little’s song, “Rain.” Ken commented, “My favorite piece about moisture comes from Daron Little’s 307 album. The song is ‘Rain,’ masterfully crafted by Daron. ‘Sure could use a little rain.’ He says it all right there.”

Daron Little cowboys on the TA Ranch north of Saratoga, Wyoming. His bio tells, “His area code is 307, a detail that is close to his heart. In fact, his third album is titled 307, a tribute to the land and the region.” He has performed at the WesternFolklife National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering,  the Western Heritage Classic Ranch Rodeo, the Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering, the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Heber Valley Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and other events.

Find some of his songs on his YouTube channel. Find more about him at his site,

RAIN by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

waitingoutbo“Waiting Out the Storm,” by Bill Owen (1942-2013) request permission for use.

by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It’s sumpthin’ a feller caint hardly explain
The way that a cowpuncher feels about rain.
It makes the feed grow and it fills up the tanks,
And generally speakin’ he’d orta give thanks.
He wakes up some night when the rain hits his bed
And pull the tarpolian up over his head.
It’s warm when it rains and he gits overhet
And he lays there all night in a miserable sweat.

He wakes up next mornin’, his boots is all soaked
Jest laugh that one off if you think it’s a joke.
He pulls at the lugs and he stomps and he knocks
Till he drives both his feet through the toes of his socks.
He gits his boots on but you know how it feels;
No toes in his socks and them wrinkled up heels.
When he goes to ketch out it ain’t no easy trick
With a rope that is wet and as stiff as a stick.

He dabs for his hoss and he makes a good snare
But the hoss downs his head and backs right out from there.
Fer a cow pony knows you caint tighten a loop
When you ketch with a rope that’s as stiff as a hoop.
When he gits saddled up he must climb up and ride
And that wets the last dry spot he had on his hide.
The hoss starts to buck but that cow boy is set
Fer a man’s hard to throw when his saddle is wet.

All day he keeps ridin’ the flats and the hills,
A slippin’ and slidin’ and likely he spills.
When he gits into camp he must stand up to eat,
And his clothes is all wet from his head to his feet.
He stands ’round the fire, he cusses and smokes,
Fer he hates to git into a bed that’s all soaked.
But his slicker’s wet through fer it’s old any way,
And there’s mighty few slickers turns water all day.

And while he turns in, and as strange as it seems
He goes off to sleep and he sweats and he steams.
Next mornin’ it’s clear and the wind’s blowin’ sharp
He shivers and crawls out from under his tarp.
By the time he eats breakfast he’s feeling all right
And his bed will dry out by a couple more nights.
But the old saddle blankets are still cold and wet,
And the hoss humps his back and looks wicked you bet.

Old cow boy is tired, he’s stiff and he’s sore,
He’s had lots of trouble, he don’t want no more.
So he takes that old pony and leads him around
Till he gits his back warm and the saddle sets down.
Fer the man that’s been rained on two nights and a day,
Ain’t lookin’ fer trouble; he ain’t built that way.
He wants feed and water but let me explain,
A waddy ain’t comf’tble out in the rain.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon, from Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, 1947

Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.

Near the end of his life, Bruce Kiskaddon collected many of his previously published poems and one hundred never-before-published poems for his book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems. This poem is one of those one hundred. Bill Siems writes in his monumental Open Range, which collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems, that the 1947 book “…has been the ‘bible’ of Kiskaddon’s poetry since it first appeared…”

Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ Open Range; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, Shorty’s Yarns; and more at

This painting, “Waiting Out the Storm,” is by the great Bill Owen (1942-2013).

Bill Owen was a cowboy’s painter. His web site tells, “Bill always felt compelled to record what he believed to be the true endangered species of our time: the contemporary working cowboy. He was extremely passionate about the importance of portraying each and every detail with complete accuracy.His greatest accomplishments and proudest moments were realized when a true cowboy looked at one of his pieces and said, ‘That’s exactly the way it is!’”

We were proud to have Bill Owen’s “Born to This Land” as the image for the official poster for the ninth annual Cowboy Poetry Week, 2010.

Visit for more about Bill Owen; find more about Bill Owen at; at the Cowboy Artists of America site; and see more on Facebook.

Bill Owen’s good work was also in good works: he founded the the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Scholarship Organization to help finance college educations for young people from the Arizona ranching community. The organization is now called the Bill Owen, Cowboy Artist, Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc.

Thanks to Val Fillhouer​ for her kind permissions.