GRAND CANYON COWBOY by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)


by S. Omar Barker (1894–1985)

I’d heard of the Canyon (the old cowboy said)
And I figured I’d like to go see it.
So I rode till I sighted a rim out ahead,
And reckoned that this place might be it.

I anchored my horse to a juniper limb
And crawled to the edge for a peek.
One look was a plenty to make my head swim.
And all of my innards felt weak.

If I’d known how durned deep it was going to be,
I’d have managed, by some hook or crook,
To tie my ownself to the doggoned tree
And let my horse go take the look!

© S. Omar Barker, reprinted with the permission of the estate of S. Omar Barker from “Rawhide Rhymes; Singing Poems of the Old West,” 1958

Andy Hedges recites it on his latest COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast, as a way of introducing his guest cowboy, packer, and noted reciter and poet Ross Knox.

Ross Knox tells tales of old cow outfits; stories about Larry McWhorter and his pranks and assorted shenanigans; talks about his cowboying and mule packing; recalls how he started reciting poetry; offers stories of Waddie Mitchell many years ago; recounts the earliest days of the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering; tells of the origins of the song he co-wrote with Ian Tyson, “I Outgrew the Wagon”; addresses his open-heart surgery; relates the story behind an iconic photo; recites his poem, “Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day”; and much more.

Andy Hedges is a deft interviewer: curious, knowledgeable, and a great listener.

Find the COWBOY CROSSROADS episodes here, on SoundCloud, and on iTunes, where you can subscribe. Don’t miss the first episodes, a two-part interview with Waddie Mitchell.

S.Omar Barker’s poem was a favorite poem of two popular poets who are sorely missed: Rusty McCall, 1986-2013  and Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007.

S. Omar Barker was one of the founders of the Western Writers of America, Inc. and many of his poems were published by Western Horseman. He enjoyed signing his name with his brand, “Lazy SOB” (but Andy Hedges tells that it never really did become his brand).

Find more about S. Omar Barker at

This c.1903 photo, titled “Descending Grand View Trail – Grand Cañon of Arizona,” is described, “Stereograph showing a man, with a horse and two pack mules, descending the Grand View Trail in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

WINTER HOSSES by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)


photo © Ken Rodgers; request permission for use


by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

You wake up in the mornin’
and you get yore coffee made.
The thermometer is ten degrees
‘bove zero in the shade.
But when once you get the taste
of good strong coffee in your throat.
You don’t mind the frosty mornin’.
You don’t even wear a coat.

You do put on yore overshoes
fer wadin’ in the snow.
You fill up all three nose bags
and then yore set to go.
The hosses come a nickerin’
and snuffin’ from the shed.
Each one reaches fer the nose bag
when you put it on his head.

You go back into the shack
and git youre breakfast started cookin’.
But you don’t furgit the horsses.
You have got to keep a lookin’.
When they finish, you have got to take
the nosebags off their heads.
Or they’ll grab ’em off each other
and they’ll tear ’em all to shreds.

Hosses act a heap like humans,
and they ain’t so much to blame.
There is shore a lot of people
that is doin’ jest the same.
And it’s mighty hard to stop ’em
at the stunts they try to pull;
Gittin’ sassy and destructive
jest because their belly’s full.

So I reckon there is some one
that has got to take a hand.
Lookin’ after brainless critters
that don’t seem to onderstand.
There’s hosses, cows and people
that you dassent leave alone.
They’d go plum to ruination
if you left ’em on their own.

…by Bruce Kiskaddon

Master poet Bruce Kiskaddon was a great observer of livestock and humans.

Bruce Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898 in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He published short stories and nearly 500 poems. His poems are among the most admired and the most recited in the “classic” cowboy poetry canon.

Much of what is known about Kiskaddon and his work comes from Open Range, Bill Siems’ monumental collection of Kiskaddon’s poetry. Bill Siems also collected Bruce Kiskaddon’s short stories in a book called Shorty’s Yarns. Find more in the Kiskaddon features at

This impressive photograph is by documentary filmmaker, teacher, poet, writer, and photographer Ken Rodgers. Ken and Betty Rodgers are co-producers of I Married the War, a documentary-in-progress about the wives of combat veterans. They also created the award-winning film Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor. Find more about I Married the War at and on Facebook, and more on “Bravo!” at and on Facebook.

Find more about Ken Rodgers at  and here on Facebook. Follow his daily photo posts on Instagram.

WAITIN’ ON THE DRIVE by Larry McWhorter (1957-2003)


photograph by Kevin Martini-Fuller; request permission for use

by Larry McWhorter (1957-2003)

It’s four o’clock when the cook’s bell calls,
Raisin’ cowboys up from their dreams.
I pull on my boots and watch the red dust
Come puffin’ up through the worn seams.

Spring works are on and we’re leavin’ ‘fore dawn
And we won’t strip our kacks ’til night.
As I jingle the horses I wonder
How the bunkhouse looks in daylight.

We’re met with growls from a grouchy old cook
As his “sacred shrine” we invade,
But the table’s stacked high with good steak and spuds
And fresh biscuits he has just made.

We’re no better thought of at the corral
Where the snorts guide our way through the dark.
“Ol’ J.J. today,” I hear David say,
Ol’ Dave’s ride will be no gay lark.

The strawboss aims true as we call our mounts,
Ropin’ horses his privilege for years
‘Cause he knows each horse in the stars’ murky light
By “skyin'” the tips of their ears.

Finally we’re mounted and ready to go
As the cowboss leads out the way.
We ride by the “wagon,” long since retired,
Just a relic of yesterday.

How many good meals were served from its box?
How many good hands called it home?
Though it’s been idle for ten years or more
The sight of it stirs young men to roam.

Ol’ cowboss, he come here just as a kid
Of sixteen short summers or so.
Raised choppin’ rows for his sharecroppin’ pa
‘Til he worked up the nerve to say no.

“I almost went home many times,” he’d say.
“Things was tough on buttons back then.
But I’d think of that hoe and that ten yard sack,
Them rough horses didn’t look so bad then.”

I’ve heard that old story a hundred times
From men showin’ frost in their hair.
Them cotton fields sure made lots of good hands
But I’m happy I wasn’t there.

These thoughts and more kinda flow through my mind
As I sit on this caprock so high.
I run my fingers through Black Draught’s dark mane
And watch the last star wave good-bye.

Shadows stretch out as Ol’ Sol makes his call
Climbing slowly up toward his domain,
And does away with the morn’s early fog,
Remnant of last night’s gentle rain.

Movement catches my eye from the west.
The herd filters out of the brush.
That outside circle’s sure comin’ ’round fast.
I’ll bet due to J.J.’s mad rush.

Cows callin’ calves and hoots from the boys
Are the only sounds that I hear.
Bob Wills’ old fiddle playin’ “Faded Love”
Ain’t as sweet to this cowboy’s ear.

Little white faces made bright by the sun
Bounce high with their tails in the air.
That little red calf’s chargin’ Jake and Ol’ Eight
Bawlin’, “Come on big boy, if you dare.”

And I think as I gaze on the South Pease below,
“I really get paid to do this.”
My wage is low next to that paid in town
But look what those poor townfolk miss.

Well, the herd’s gettin’ near the draw I must guard,
Like many before me have done.
If I don’t get there to head ’em off soon
They’ll sure have a long ways to run.

But ‘fore I drop off I draw a breath of crisp air,
The kind that brought Adam to life,
And I thank God that He made this feller that’s me
As I sit, waitin’ on the drive.

© Larry McWhorter, reprinted with permission
This poem should not be used without permission

The great, late poet and cowboy Larry McWhorter wrote that this poem was “…born from a nostalgia of the deep respect a cowboy has for his heritage. So many little ‘tricks of the trade’ which have been unnoticed or forgotten have played an important part in the development of the American cowboy as an individual.”

He added,”Riding and roping can be accomplished by almost anyone with little regard for anything except the enjoyment of the moment. I’d be willing to bet, however, there is not a ‘cowboy’ anywhere, who, upon performing the most obscure of tasks, doesn’t take a moment to remember the man, horse or situation which taught him those little ‘tricks,’ or feel those mentors looking over his shoulder.”

Several years ago Jean Prescott produced an important CD,  The Poetry of Larry McWhorter. The CDs include Larry McWhorter’s recorded recitations of his poetry, and eleven of his poems that were never recorded, recited by some of today’s top performers, including Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchell, Chris Isaacs, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Dennis Flynn, Oscar Auker and Jesse Smith.

Find a feature about the CD at The CD is available from Jean Prescott at

Read more poetry by Larry McWhorter and more about him at

This photo of Larry McWhorter is by Kevin Martini-Fuller, and is a part of the forthcoming CD, Masters, from, which features recitations by Larry McWhorter, Sunny Hancock, J.B. Allen, and Ray Owens. It will be released this spring, in conjunction with the 16th annual Cowboy Poetry Week, April 16-22, 2017.

Kevin Martini-Fuller has photographed participants at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for over three decades. See more of his work here.

Thanks to Andrea McWhorter Waitley for her kind permission for use of this poem.


photo and obituary provided by Jean Prescott

The Leavin’ of Texas


Ed was born in Macon, Georgia on July 26, 1942 to Robert “Doc” M. Stabler & Sarah “Sally” (Hamilton) Stabler. He passed on January 26, 2017 after a brief illness with pancreatitis following surgery at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Ed’s rich history began in the Navy communications division; he had the fortune to be assigned to an open schooner in Hawaii.  As he moved from service life to civilian life he chose to stay in the communication genre.  However, he was a newscaster-weatherman, steam locomotive engineer, liquor store owner, Moffat County Colorado deputy, part time rancher/horse owner/breeder/trainer but always came back to his passion for music performing arts. He, along with his wife Mary traveled to many Cowboy poetry gatherings and festivals. Ed was a member of the Western Music Association and a past member of the WMA Board of Directors.  His passion for firearms was almost as great as his passion of and for music as he was a life member of the NRA.

It was amazing to watch Ed learn a new instrument, song or style of playing. From Old Country, Jazz, Slat Key, to Classical.

For the past couple of years he spent every Thursday night at Back Beat Music Co. mentoring the youth as well as learning from them.  He often played at the Chicken Farm Art Center and for local nursing facilities and other functions.

He was preceded in death by his wife Mary and his parents. He leaves a son Daniel, daughter Janine (Rowdy) Stehle-Doehling, granddaughter Lindsey (Matthew) Stehle-Doehling and soon-to-be-born great grandson Timber.

There will be a small Memorial Gathering of Friends at Back Beat Music Co., 102 N. Chadbourne St.,  on Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 7:00pm and a larger Memorial Gathering of Friends at the Chicken Farm Art Center. 2505 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., San Angelo, Saturday, February 4, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

In lieu of flowers, his family asks that you send monetary donations to the Western Music Association for their youth scholarship fund, P. O. Box 648, Coppell, TX  75019, or to the Yampa Valley Friends of the NRA, supporters of the Moffat County 4-H Shooting Sports,  c/o J. Stehle-Doehling P.O. Box 1504 Craig, CO  81626.

To say he will be greatly missed is truly an understatement.

Events: October

Find links to all months here.

•  through October 2, 2020
Roots on the Narrow Gauge (Denver to Santa Fe)

•  October 1-4, 2020  CANCELLED
32nd Annual Durango Cowboy Gathering Durango, Colorado

• October 1-12, 2020
8th Annual Clear Out West (C.O.W.) Cruise  (Canada-New England)

• October 2-3, 2020 RESCHEDULED FROM APRIL, 2020
Western Heritage Awards at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

•   October 8-10, 2020  RESCHEDULED FROM APRIL, 2020
49th Annual Bob Wills Day Festival Turkey, Texas

•  October 8-11, 2020
All American CowboyFest Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico
(formerly the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium)

•  •  •  •  •

•  October 16-17, 2020 CANCELLED
Winnsboro Cowboy Poetry Gathering Winnsboro, Texas


Visit our sponsor supporters:

•  •  •  •  •

•   October 17-18, 2020 POSTPONED FROM APRIL, 2020
Folkfest New Braunfels, Texas

•  October 23-25, 2020 POSTPONED FROM APRIL, 2020
Stagecoach Indio, California

• October 29-31, 2020 POSTPONED FROM JUNE, 2020
Rendezvous 2020 National Trail Ride Winchester, Tennessee

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
31st Annual Alzada Cowboy Poetry, Art & Music Show Alzada, Montana

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
29th Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days Valentine, Nebraska

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
3rd annual Cowboys in the Hood Hood River, Oregon

•  •  •

25th Annual Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering Heber City, Utah


Visit our Sponsor supporters: Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering

•  •  •  

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
Traditional Cowboy Arts Exhibition and Sale  Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
48th Annual National Storytelling Festival Jonesborough, Tennessee

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
69th Annual Rex Allen Days Willcox, Arizona

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
42nd Annual Folk Music Festival Prescott, Arizona

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
24th Annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival Hailey and Ketchum, Idaho

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
Annual Lone Pine Film Festival and Cowboy Poetry Lone Pine, California

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
26th Annual Women Writing the West Conference  San Antonio, Texas

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
The NILE Stock Show, Pro Rodeo and Western Expo Billings, Montana

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
18th Annual Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium Cartersville, Georgia

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
Cedar Livestock & Heritage Festival Cedar City, Utah

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
Cow Creek Cowboy Gathering  Pittsburg, Kansas

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
30th Annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and Western Swing Festival Fort Worth, Texas

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
Will Rogers Medallion Awards Fort Worth, Texas

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
36th Annual Texian Market Days George Ranch Historical Park, Richmond, Texas

•  Dates not yet received for 2020
West End Cowboy Gathering  Nucla, Colorado




Events: February

Find links to all months here.

• Dates not yet received for 2021
29th Annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering Sierra Vista, Arizona

• Dates not yet received for 2021
Crooked River Roundup Prineville, Oregon

• Dates not yet received for 2021
21st Annual 100 Mile House Cowboy Concert  100 Mile House, British Columbia

• Dates not yet received for 2021
20th annual Heart City Bull Bash Valentine, Nebraska

• Dates not yet received for 2021
17th Annual Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering Ellensburg, Washington

• • •

• Dates not yet received for 2021
2nd annual Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Alpine, Texas


Visit our sponsor supporters: Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering

• • •

• Dates not yet received for 2021
15th Annual Mesquite Western Round-Up Mesquite, Nevada

• Dates not yet received for 2021
Folk Sessions 18th Anniversary Concert Prescott, Arizona

• Dates not yet received for 2021
Art of the Cowgirl Phoenix, Arizona

• Dates not yet received for 2021
24th Annual Fisher Poets Gathering Astoria, Oregon

• Dates not yet received for 2021
Glendale Folk and Heritage Festival  Glendale, Arizona






ELKO by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)


photo © 2012, Betty K. Rodgers; request permission for use

by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

They came to the mid-winter gath’ring,
Leaving haystacks and dehorning chutes.
Dressed true to old west tradition,
Levis, Stetsons, and high heeled boots.

A few were in casts or on crutches,
Some looked like I’d seen them before.
Each wore the hat no one touches
And had high polished boots on the floor.

The faces were brown as a saddle.
Some mustaches wide as a door.
And they walked with a half-cocked straddle,
Like the part that they sit on was sore.

Their poetry, sprinkled with sagebrush,
Was not meant for the city galoots.
And there each one sat in his ten gallon hat,
And a cow and a half worth of boots.

© 1987, Colen Sweeten, used with permission of the Sweeten family

The Western Folklife Center’s 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, often referred to simply as “Elko,” is taking place this week (January 30- February 2, 2017) in Elko, Nevada.

During his lifetime, Colen Sweeten was a part of every Elko gathering, except one. He had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he “wasn’t even using them all.”

Colen Sweeten appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1991, and you can watch a video of the performance, which also includes the late Rod McQueary.

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry at
and also see tributes to him..

Find some other poems about Elko at

Idaho photographer and filmmaker Betty K. Rodgers caught this image of Montana rancher and poet Wallace McRae’s boot in 2012 at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Betty K. Rodgers is co-producer (with Ken Rodgers) of I Married the War, a documentary-in-progress about the wives of combat veterans. They also created the award-winning film Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, about Ken Rodgers’ company of Marines during the siege of Khe Sanh in the Vietnam War. Find more about Betty K. Rodgers in a feature at Find more about I Married the War at and on Facebook, and more on Bravo! and on Facebook.