Who's Who in Cowboy Poetry

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S. Omar Barker (1894–1985) was born at Beulah, New Mexico, in 1894, the youngest of eleven children. He grew up on the family homestead, attended high school and college in Las Vegas, NM. He lived in New Mexico all of his life where he was a rancher, teacher and writer, publishing many books including the better known Vientos de las Sierras (1924), Buckaroo Ballads (1928) and Rawhide Rhymes: Singing Poems of the Old West (1968). His best known poem is probably "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer," which has been printed and recorded numerous times.

Omar Barker

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Earl Alonzo (E. A.) Brininstool (1870 - 1957) was a cowboy poet, but not a working cowboy. He lived most his life in Los Angeles although he was a native of Warsaw, NY. In Los Angeles he counted among his acquaintances humorist Will Rogers and western artist Charles M. Russell whom he met as part of a western artists group at the University Club in LA. Colt Firearms used his poem “Old Six Gun” in its advertising for years. He is best known for his book of poetry, Trail Dust of a Maverick (1914) and his historical work, The Bozeman Trail (1922).

E. A. Brininstool

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Robert Van Carr (1879 -1931) was a member of “Seth Bullock’s Cowboy Brigade” and was the "official poet" for the band. He was born in Illinois, but went to Dakota Territory  in 1890 with his parents, settling at Rapid City.  He was a newspaperman by trade, having worked for the St. Paul Dispatch, the Chicago Evening Post and the Denver Times. He later became editor of the South Dakota newspaper, the Whitewood Plain Dealer.  His best known works are his collection of cowboy poetry, Black Hills Ballads, published in 1902 and Cowboy Lyrics, published in 1912.

Robert Van Carr

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Arthur Chapman (1873-1935) was native of Rockford, IL, a journalist with the Denver Times and the New York Herald Tribune and a cowboy poet. Chapman wrote numerous poems, the best known among them being “Out Where the West Begins,” which he published in 1917. It was set to music in 1920 by Estelle Philleo and was quite popular in its day. Arthur Chapman's best known poetry books are Out Where the West Begins, in which he published his famous poem by the same name, and Cactus Center, a collection of 71 of his poems.

Arthur Chapman

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William Lawrence (Larry) Chittenden (1862–1934) was a native of Montclair, New Jersey where as a youth he worked in his family’s dry goods store and as a newspaper reporter. In 1883 Chittenden made his way to Texas where he began writing cowboy poetry. In 1890, his best known poem, “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball” was published in the Anson Texas Western and in 1893 G. P. Putnam's sons published a collection of his Texas poems, Ranch Verses. The book went through sixteen editions resulting in his being named the "Poet-Ranchman." In 1904 he moved from Texas to Bermuda, and in 1909, Putnam's published his book Bermuda Verses.

Larry Chittenden

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Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957) was born in Albia, Iowa, but moved with his family to Dakota Territory where his father served as a Methodist preacher in several towns. Clark attended Dakota Wesleyan University, but dropped out, traveling to Cuba then to Deadwood where he contracted tuberculosis. He moved to Tombstone, AZ for the drier climate, which was considered beneficial for his illness, and in 1910 moved back to South Dakota. In 1917 he published his cowboy poetry collection, Sun and Saddle Leather, which included poems “A Border Affair” a.k.a.”Spanish is the Loving Tongue," “The Glory Trail,” a.k.a “High Chin Bob” and "A Cowboy's Prayer." Clark was named the Poet Laureate of South Dakota in 1937.

Badger Clark

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John Wallace Crawford (1847–1917), a.k.a. "Captain Jack" and "The Poet Scout", was an American adventurer, educator, and author. He told stories about the Wild West was a popular performer in the late nineteenth century. He became a national celebrity from his historic ride of 350 miles in six days to carry dispatches from Fort Laramie to the New York Herald, telling of the victory by Gen. George Crook at the Battle of Slim Buttes during the Great Sioux War of 1876-1877. His publications include The Poet Scout: Verses and Songs (1879), Campfire Sparks (1893), Lariattes (1904), The Broncho Book (1908) and Whar the Hand of God is Seen (1910

Captain Jack Crawford

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Carmen William "Curley" Fletcher (1892—1954) was born in San Francisco in 1892, but grew up in Bishop, CA with his three brothers and two sisters. Throughout his career, he held several positions including cowboy, prospector, poet, rodeo rider, musician, publisher, movie actor, and advisor for Hollywood films. He is best known for his much recorded cowboy song "The Strawberry Roan", written in 1915, and for his 1931 book Songs of the Sage.

Curley Fletcher

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Gail I. Gardner was born Christmas day 1892 in Prescott, AZ. He was a cowboy, a scholar, athlete, storekeeper, cowboy, rancher and postmaster. Gardner was a 1914 graduate of Dartmouth College with BS degree in math, but he is best known as a cowboy poet and for his famous poem “The Sierry Petes,” a.k.a. “Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail.” The famous poem appears in his book, Orejana Bull and was written in 1917 while riding the Santa Fe Limited to Washington, DC to join the Army. Orejana Bull was first published in 1935, but has since been reprinted and published by the Sharlot Hall Museum Press in Prescott, ZA.

Gail I Gardner

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Bruce Harvey Kiskaddon (1878–1950) worked as a cowboy from 1898-1908. He served with the U.S. Cavalry in France during WWI, worked ranches as a “jackaroo” in Australia, and took a job in Hollywood as an extra in the movie Ben-Hur. He stayed on in Hollywood, working the rest of his life as an extra, taking bit parts in Westerns and supported himself mainly working as a bellhop in Hollywood hotels. Throughout this time he continued to write cowboy poetry, publishing his first book, Rhymes of the Ranges in 1924, and followed this in 1928 with his second book, Just As Is. His poetry and reminisces of life on the range appeared in the Western Livestock Journal, and in calendars from the Los Angeles Union Stock Yards until 1959. Other collections were published in 1935 and 1947.

Bruce Kiskaddon

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Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945) was born in Clifton, Ontario (later known as Niagara Falls) to American parents. Though he never earned a college degree, Knibbs attended Woodstock College and Bishop Ridley College in Ontario and studied English at Harvard. He eventually left college and spent two years as a hobo in the American Midwest. In 1910 He moved to California and wrote Lost Farm Camp, his first Western novel. He followed this with 12 more novels and six books of poems. Knibbs never worked as a cowboy, but he wrote in the western genre, and among his best remembered western poems are “Boomer Johnson” and “Where the Ponies Come to Drink.” Seven films made between 1919 and 1930 were based on his stories and novels.

Henry Herbert Knibbs

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John Avery Lomax (1867-1948) was an American teacher, a pioneering musicologist,  and a folklorist who did much for the preservation of American folk music, especially cowboy songs. In 1906 he attended Harvard University as a graduate student where his interest in preserving cowboy songs was encouraged by professors Barrett Wendell and George Lyman Kittredge. He spent much time collecting cowboy songs and poems first hand from working cowboys. The result of this was publication in November 1910, of his anthology, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, and in 1919, Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp, both of which have since become standard references in the westerners’ library. His Son, Alan Lomax, was also a collector and promoter of American Folk music.

John A. Lomax

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Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, CBE (1864-1941) was an Australian "bush poet,"  a journalist and author who wrote many ballads and poems about Australian rural life. His more notable poems include "Clancy of the Overflow" (1899), "The Man from Snowy River" (1890), which served as the basis of a Hollywood film in 1982, and "Waltzing Matilda" (1895), which is regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem. His nickname "Banjo," was derived from an early poem published in 1885 under the pseudonym of "The Banjo,” the name of his favorite horse.

Banjo Paterson

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Robert William Service (1874-1958) was a British-Canadian poet and writer best known for his poems “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” which appeared in his first book, the highly successful Songs of a Sourdough (1907), also published as The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses. He was born at Preston, Lancashire, England the third child of Robert Service, Sr., a Scottish banker who had been transferred to England. Robert Service, the poet, began writing at an early age and continued through his life. He traveled widely but did much of his writing in Dawson City, a town on the road to the Yukon Gold Rush.  He finally settled in Paris in 1912.  

Robert Service

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Nathan Howard "Jack" Thorp (1867 -1940) was an American collector and writer of cowboy songs and cowboy poetry. He began collecting 1889 while living in New Mexico and in 1908 published his first book, Songs of the Cowboys. It contained  the words to just 23 songs, including the now-classic  “The Streets of Laredo” and “Little Joe the Wrangler,” a song that Thorp wrote.  An expanded edition was published in 1921. Later publications included Tales of the Chuck Wagon (1926) and Pardner of the Wind: Story of the Southwestern Cowboy (published posthumously in 1941 with Neil M. Clark), both prose. Thorp is generally considered to be the first serious collector of homespun tales and songs of the American West.

Jack Thorp