S. Omar Barker

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S. Omar Barker (1894–1985), an oft-recited cowboy poet [1] was born in a log cabin in New Mexico where he lived his entire life as a rancher, teacher and writer. He published many books, including Vientos de las Sierras (1924), Buckaroo Ballads (1928) and Rawhide Rhymes: Singing Poems of the Old West (Doubleday, 1968).

Squire Omar Barker, named after his father, was born on a small mountain ranch at Beulah, New Mexico, in 1894, youngest of the eleven children of Squire Leander and Priscilla Jane Barker. He grew up on the family homestead, attended high school and college in Las Vegas, New Mexico, was in his youth a teacher of Spanish, a high school principal, a forest ranger, a sergeant of the 502nd Engineers in France in World War I, a trombone player in Doc Patterson's Cowboy Band, a state legislator and a newspaper correspondent. He began writing and selling stories, articles, and poems as early as 1914 and became a full-time writer at the end of his legislative term in 1925. He married Elsa McCormick of Hagerman, New Mexico, in 1927, and she also became a noted writer of Western stories.

He once estimated his career output at about 1,500 short stories and novelettes, about 1,200 factual articles, about 2,000 poems. They appeared in a broad range of publications from pulp magazines to such prestigious slicks as Saturday Evening Post and a varied array of general newspapers and magazines. He produced five volumes of poetry, one book of short stories and one novel, Little World Apart, as well as one western cookbook with Carol Truax. He was even a co-writer for one episode of the TV western "Sugarfoot" in 1957.[2]

The work probably best known to the general public was his poem, "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer," which has been printed more than one hundred times, recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Jimmy Dean, and plagiarized more than once. He won the Western Writers of America Spur Award twice and was the 1967 recipient of the Levi Strauss Saddleman Award for bringing honor and dignity to the Western legend. In 1975 he was named an honorary president of WWA, of which he was one of the founding fathers and an early president. Elsa also served a term as president. In 1978 he was the first living author to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of Great Westerners in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City.

He was well known as the Sage of Sapello and the Poet Lariat of New Mexico.

Barker used to submit stories and poems to a bi-weekly Western pulp magazine called Ranch Romances. Sometime in the 1930s, he was asked by the editor to rewrite a story submitted by an old Texas cowhand about his life of driving cattle. This cowhand's name was Jack Potter. This started a collaboration between the two that lasted for years. Potter had two books of his published, including "Lead Steer and Other Tales" (1939). It that book he wrote how he met and courted his wife, Cordie, and how he proposed. With Jack's permission, Barker turned that narrative into a poem entitled "Jack Potter's Courtin'" That poem was published in Ranch Romances in September,1941. It has become one of S. Omar Barker's most recited poems.

Prior to publication, however, Potter sent out a copy of "Jack Potter's Courtin'" as a Christmas greeting in 1940. It was professionally printed on the letterhead of the Trail Drivers and Pioneers Association of New Mexico. The stationery also lists officers of the organization, including Jack M. Potter, President, and S. Omar Barker, Historian and Poet. So it seems their trails crossed in connection with involvements other than writing.

Jack and Cordie had a long life together. By the time she died they had been married for over 63 years. Following her death in 1948 Barker sent a letter of condolence to Potter, who responded, "It was awful nice in you writing that nice letter paying tribute to my dear wife. She though a lot of You and Mrs. B, She was always hearing something nice from you."

He often signed his books with his initials and trademark brand, "Lazy SOB."[3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher, Cowboy Poets and Cowboy Poetry, University of Illinois Press, 2000. ISBN 0-252-06836-X (p.66).
  2. ^ imdb.com
  3. ^ CowboyPoetry.com