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Western journalist and photographer Jeri Dobrowski's monthly column, Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews, welcomes submissions for consideration. 

We're pleased to carry her monthly Cowboy Jam Session column, which is posted below.

Jeri is an award-winning writer and photographer with works appearing in publications nationwide. Among others, she has had feature and cover articles and photos in American Cowboy, Cowboy Magazine. Persimmon Hill, Country Woman, Grit, True West, and other publications.

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews debuted in the Tri-State Livestock News in January 2005. Not just a book review column, Cowboy Jam rides a slightly wider circle encompassing an expanded offering of audio recordings and films. It’s a bigger herd but one whose bloodlines are familiar: historical characters and events; ranchers and ranches; cowboys, cowgirls and rodeos; poets and poetry; singers and songs. The delivery may be different but the common thread encourages readers to ponder, preserve, and perpetuate the heritage of the American West.

Dobrowski explains, "When cowboy poets and entertainers get together, one of their favorite things to do is 'jam.' Simply put, they circle the chairs or lay claim to a chunk of ground, pull out the guitars and start picking and telling. You never know what you'll hear: a timeless campfire classic, a freshly-penned composition, an occasional poem. Cowboy jammin' exposes participants and onlookers to fresh material and different voices. It broadens the horizons and excites the senses of Western heritage devotees."

Dobrowski welcomes submissions for consideration. Send CDs, DVDs, books, and magazines to Jeri L. Dobrowski, Cowboy Jam Session, 1471 Carlyle Rd. S, Beach, ND 58621. You may reach her at 406-795-8168 or email.


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

Tri-State Livestock News is published weekly with a focus on the cattle industry. Additional coverage is devoted to the equine, sheep and bison industries, as well as pork, crops and hay. Established in 1963, the paper boasts a paid circulation of 10,700 households, rural addresses and ag-related businesses in all 50 states. The primary circulation area includes South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Colorado and Iowa. 

Jeri Dobrowski is in good company at the Tri-State Livestock News, along with with Baxter Black and other columnists. 

Books, CDs, videos and event announcements can be sent to:

Jeri L. Dobrowski
Cowboy Jam Session
1471 Carlyle Road S
Beach, ND 58621
406-795-8168
email
 


 copyright 2008, Jeri Dobrowski
National Folk Festival, Butte, Montana, 2008

Working as a free-lance photographer/journalist since 1981, Jeri Dobrowski’s images appear on and in cowboy poetry and music recordings, books, programs and posters.

Visit more of Jeri Dobrowski's professional photo galleries here, which include photographs of Western interest and from various gatherings and events: the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering; the National Folk Festival; the Heritage of the American West show; and others. Also view the Western Entertainers and Personalities Gallery.

The site also includes examples of her CD package and web banner designs.

View the galleries at www.jeridobrowski.com, where you can also order photos.

Read more about Jeri Dobrowski below. Also see some of her photography here at the BAR-D.

 


 

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photo by Jen Dobrowski Rogers

About Jeri Dobrowski




 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       

December 2015

Christmas gift ideas: Part 2 (or a Charlie Russell Christmas)

Canadian singer and songwriter Ian Tyson is best known for the 1960's hit “Four Strong Winds,” which he recorded as half of the folk duo of Ian and Sylvia. In 2005, listeners of the largest radio network in Canada, CBC Radio One, voted it the greatest Canadian song of all time.

Although not the commercial success of that classic, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Tyson’s “The Gift,” which pays homage to artist Charlie Russell. Tyson included it on Cowboyography, released in 1987, and on his first “best of” collection, All The Good'uns, released in 1996. There have been evenings when a vivid sunset brought to mind Tyson’s words: “When the Lord called Charlie to his home up yonder/He said, “Kid Russell, I’ve got a job for you/You’re in charge of sunsets in old Montana/‘Cause I can’t paint them quite as good as you.”

 

Jane Lambert included the lyrics to “The Gift” in Charlie Russell: The Cowboy Years (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2013, 325 pages, b/w photos/illustrations, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0878426157). A fifth generation Northern California rancher, Lambert relocated to Montana due in large part to Russell’s art. The book is a result of her quest to learn more about the special horses that figured prominently in the artist’s life.

Edited by Nancy Morrison and Linda Grosskopf, the book takes readers back to 1882-1893, eleven formative years when Russell worked as a nighthawk in central Montana. The decade spent herding horses at night, sharing campfires and swapping stories with working cowboys, and painting during the day influenced everything about Russell’s art. The book is chock-full of quotations, anecdotes and recollections from Russell and his friends, seasoned with photographs (many of which I’d not seen before), sketches and paintings. It is a captivating account of how one of America’s most recognized western artists captured and preserved the waning days of the Plains Indians and the open range cowboy. 

Charlie Russell: The Cowboy Years retails for $20. Look for it from online booksellers. For an autographed copy, send $24 (check or money order) to Jane Lambert, 677 Pine Hollow Rd, Stevensville, MT 59870; 406-777-5988.

 

 

Cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and NPR commentator Baxter Black named “Bronc to Breakfast” as his favorite Charlie Russell painting. (Lambert recounts the circumstances leading up to the melee beginning on page 70 of her book.) Baxter has done for contemporary cowboy performing arts what Russell did using paint, ink and wax. Like Russell, Baxter enjoys a reputation of being a great storyteller, able to capture an event and retell it for the enjoyment of the crew, whether that be subscribers, a live audience or television viewers.

Before going on an indefinite hiatus from traveling and performing, Baxter recorded a live two-hour show in Alliance, Nebraska. The resulting Baxter Black Amongst Friends contains his most popular poems and stories: some classic, some new, all hilarious. It’s a double audio CD set with bonus DVD, the latter an animated presentation of his suspenseful epic poem, The Buckskin Mare.  

The triple-disc Baxter Black Amongst Friends sells for $22.95 (Visa and MasterCard accepted) from Coyote Cowboy Company, PO Box 2190, Benson, AZ 85602;  baxterblack.com; 800-654-2550. Sharing with family and friends is easy with a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” offer. Want them autographed or personalized? Add the names in the Comments box, subject line “Please Autograph To...”

 

Charlie Russell’s legacy lives on in The Sons of Charlie Russell: Celebrating Fifty Years of the Cowboy Artists of America by B. Byron Price (The Joe Beeler Cowboy Artist Foundation, 2015, 248 pages, photos/artwork,  hardback ISBN-13: 978-0996218306). The handsome hardback recounts how a nucleus of western artists met in 1965 in Sedona, Arizona, and resolved to keep the representational style and artistic traditions of Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell alive. For them, the open range has never closed.

Decorated by an embossed, faux-tooled leather dust jacket, the interior is generously illustrated with representative examples of members’ paintings and sculptures. Starting with the founding artists and carrying through to active and emeritus members, each is recognized with a brief bio and photo. It’s truly a Who’s Who of western fine art. 

The Sons of Charlie Russell retails for $95. At the time of this writing, it was sale priced at $71.25 from University of Oklahoma Press, 2800 Venture Dr., Norman, OK 73069-8216; 800-627-7377; oupress.com.

         

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       

November 2015

Christmas gift ideas: Part 1

There are two lists on my desk today as I write this. One is for the grocery store; it contains ingredients for Thanksgiving Day pies. The other is Christmas gifts; it records items I’ve already purchased. I shop year-round for the modest number of gifts we give and find it helpful to keep a spreadsheet of what has been purchased. It’s also handy to check to see what was given to who in the past.  

I’ll let you in on a little secret, but please don’t tell:  Some of the items mentioned here in my annual Christmas gift suggestions will be under our family’s tree. Check back next month for more gift ideas with a western flair. 


 

Pack your suitcase and hit the rodeo road in Summer of ’58, a novel by Janice Gilbertson (2015, Pen-L Publishing, 250 pages, paperback ISBN: 978-1-942428-11-4). Gilbertson, who lives in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains in California, guides a convincing cast of characters on a summer-long adventure as expertly as the bronc riding protagonist cruises between contests. Told by the cowboy’s young daughter, the storyline speeds along two-lane highways in the American West. Warning: Detour ahead! (Read chapter one online at Pen-L Publishing.) I thoroughly enjoyed Gilbertson’s step back in time with this, her first novel, and look forward to her upcoming release.  

Order autographed copies of Summer of ’58 from the author by sending $18 (check or money order) to Janice Gilbertson, PO Box 350, King City, CA 93930; janicegilbertsonwriter.com. For credit card orders, purchase from Pen-L Publishing or online booksellers, where it is also available for e-readers. 

 

    

Wibaux County, Montana rancher and entertainer Bob Petermann wrapped up production of his latest album just in time for you to wrap it up for your favorite cowboy music fan. Dance in the Round Corral is Petermann’s third CD, and like his previous works, contains a satisfying mix of original and contemporary western music with a dash of cowboy gospel. The title track, co-written with Jody Strand, pays tribute to the give-and-take between a man and a horse that occurs  in the breaking pen. Among the other 10 tracks are “Doggone Cowboy,” “A Bad Half Hour/Annie Laurie” and the standout, “Who’s Gonna Wear Their Spurs?” A takeoff on the George Jones’ hit, “Who’s Gonna Wear Their Shoes?,” Petermann does of bang-up job of capturing the heritage of ranching in this arrangement.    

Dance in the Round Corral sells for $15 postpaid from Bob Petermann, 942 Pine Unit Rd., Wibaux, MT 59353; 406-486-5618. If you don’t  have his other albums, consider ordering Thanks for the Rain (classic cowboy gospel) and Takin’ up Slack (original and contemporary cowboy/western music). These albums are $15 postpaid as well.

The cover art of Dance in the Round Corral, an oil painting by Montana artist Trish Stevenson, is available as a 10" x 10" canvas giclee print. View it and others, including pastels, charcoals and graphites, at trishstevenson.com. Contact Stevenson at 34408 County Road 115, Savage, MT 59262; 406-789-777.

 

Here’s a gift that’s perfect for any season, any reason:  A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail (2015, Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 256 pages, color photos, hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0544275003). Written by Oklahoma chuck wagon cook extraordinaire Kent Rollins, with photos by his wife Shannon, it’s part cookbook, part history book, part travelogue and totally entertaining. I mentioned this in May 2015, shortly after it was released. Since then, I’ve given it for a wedding gift, a birthday present, and have an autographed copy ready as a Christmas gift.

Obviously I’m not the only one who thinks this book is a winner. Strong online sales have propelled Taste of Cowboy into the #1 position in Amazon’s “West” regional cookbooks, #4 in “Midwest” and #4 in “Southwest.” As of this writing, it was #11,536 from among the 30+ million  titles offered by Amazon. That folks, is amazing! 

If you’d like an autographed copy of A Taste of Cowboy, order directly from the Rollins at kentrollins.com; 580-471-3775. It sells for $30 plus shipping. Contact them for wholesale pricing. If you’ve already purchased a copy, Kent and Shannon will be happy to send you a signed bookplate. While you’re at their mercantile, check out the embroidered apron bearing Kent’s motto: “Can’t Get Full on Fancy.”
 

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       

October 2015

Inspired by the Southern Great Plains

A friend once summed up his affinity for North Dakota saying he was “a child of the Plains.” I’ve pondered his statement many times over the years, concluding that the description fits me as well.

Searching for a definition of the Plains, I found this on The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, a project of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln devoted to what is vital and interesting about the Great Plains:

“The Great Plains is a vast expanse of grasslands stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri River and from the Rio Grande to the coniferous forests of Canada—an area more than eighteen hundred miles from north to south and more than five hundred miles from east to west. The Great Plains region includes all or parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The region, once labeled “the Great American Desert,” is now more often called the “heartland,” or, sometimes, “the breadbasket of the world.” Its immense distances, flowing grasslands, sparse population, enveloping horizons, and dominating sky convey a sense of expansiveness, even emptiness or loneliness, a reaction to too much space and one's own meager presence in it.”

 

 

R. J. Vandygriff hails from Lipscomb, Texas, in the northeastern corner of the Texas Panhandle. In 2010, census takers identified 37 people living there. They counted 3,302 in the whole of Lipscomb County. I can only imagine how excited townsfolk were to see R. J. on the CBS series, Walker, Texas Ranger, where he appeared with Chuck Norris. He played Ranger Mike. (For more on R. J. go to CowboyAintDeadYet.com.) 

Vandygriff has a new album out entitled Cowboy to the Bone. The 14 tracks are a mix of contemporary and classic cowboy and country/western songs. The album opens with Randy Huston’s “Hurricane Deck,” a roughstock cowboy anthem that will surely appeal to rodeo contestants and fans. Working cowboys will find a lot to like in “Mr. Jimmy Bussard,” recounting the respected cattleman’s funeral. R. J.’s renditions of  “The Auctioneer,” made popular by Leroy VanDyke, and “Big Blue Diamonds” are both dandies. 

Cowboy to the Bone sells for $20. Send check or money order to Centerstage Productions, PO Box 85, Lipscomb, TX 79056; centerstageproductions1@yahoo.com.

 

 

Jack “Trey” Allen hung his hat in the Oklahoma Panhandle town of Hooker for a time before hiring on as manager of the Rod Moyer ranch near Manhattan, Kansas. The ranch lies within the Flint Hills, a rocky region that escaped the settler’s plow. Today, the region boasts the densest  coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. It’s cattle country.

Kansas watercolorist Don Dane captured Trey’s likeness in a painting that was selected for the 2015 Cowboy Poetry Week poster. (See the poster at Western Horseman.)

A detail from the painting graces the cover of Trey’s latest album, A Remnant Gather, containing 16 poems. They’re a mix of his own original works, a couple by friends and “The Quitter” by Robert Service. It’s an impressive collection of smartly written pieces delivered with flair. Trey is as proficient with words as he is with a lariat. (For more, see trey-allen-amigos.com or his Featured page at CowboyPoetry.com.

A Remnant Gather is available for $20 from Trey Allen, 15601 Hannagan Rd., Manhattan, KS 66502; (785) 477-3514; treyallen44@gmail.com.

 

 

Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee Barry Ward tips his hat to America’s farmers and ranchers in Distant Furrows: Pluckin’, Plowin’ & Playin’, an album containing 17 original songs. It opens with “Wheatfields” and includes “Harvest in the Fall,” which is featured in the documentary, The Great American Wheat Harvest. “How Great Thou Art” is included as a bonus track. (Listen to song clips on the Mercantile page at BarryWardMusic.com.)  

Barry’s affinity for the Plains is evident in these moving songs of faith, family and farming written while he lived near the small town of Copeland, Kansas, about 40 miles west of Dodge City. His great-grandparents settled in the area in the late 1880s; Barry  worked alongside his father and grandfather on the farm. 

Distant Furrows sells for $18 postpaid from Flying W Productions, 2782 CR 98, Elbert, CO 80106; (303) 648-3547;  barry@barrywardmusic.com.

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 




Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       

September 2015

On the Highway That’s the Best

Lemmon, S.D., is home to the world’s largest petrified wood park. Conceived by amateur geologist Ole S. Quammen and built as a tourist attraction in the early 1930s, it provided employment during the Great Depression. Encompassing an entire block, it was constructed of superabundant petrified wood, fossils and stone gathered from the surrounding area. Building and promoting a “world’s largest” attraction was an oft-used ploy exercised by townsfolk to entice travelers to stop and spend some time—and money—in their community.
 

The park stands today, five blocks north of U.S. 12, a testament to those who sought to capitalize on the Yellowstone Trail. (Take a one-minute tour of the park at vimeo.com/117624738.) Established in May 1912, the brainchild of J. W. Parmley of Ipswich, S.D., the Yellowstone Trail was the first transcontinental automobile highway through the northern United States. Calling for “A Good Road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound,” supporters lobbied for road improvements from Plymouth, Mass., to Seattle, Wash., via Yellowstone National Park.

Before the interstate highway system, before state highways connected far-flung towns and villages, before county roads connected farms with the county seat, pioneering motorists faced a myriad of obstacles. They jounced along crude trails fraught with muddy quagmires when it rained and bone-jarring ruts when it dried, unbridged streams and rivers, fallen timber, quicksand and formidable mountain ranges.
 

 

In his introduction to an essay by Charles B. Shanks from a 1901 issue of Scientific American Supplement, Peter J. Blodgett describes the conditions faced by pioneering motorists as “almost unimaginable to the modern reader.” Blodgett researched scores of magazine articles, company brochures, books and pamphlets in his effort to chronicle American automotive tourism in the first half of the twentieth century. The resulting collection is entitled Motoring West: Volume 1: Automobile Pioneers, 1900–1909 (2015, The Arthur H. Clark Company, 360 pages, b/w illustrations, hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0870623837).  

The first of a planned multivolume series, Motoring West uncovers facets in the development of automotive travel that are largely unknown to contemporary readers or drivers. Far from wondering what fast food franchise might be located near an off-ramp, the earliest automobile owners had to wade through a dizzying discussion of which fuel source was the most reliable, accessible and safest (steam, electric or gas) and how to provision yourself with supplies and repairs.

Car makers put their models to the test in cross-country adventuress decades before tourist courts and campgrounds were commonplace. Blodgett selected several accounts detailing the challenges faced by barnstorming teams bent on proving the superiority and flexibility of their vehicles. Fascinating and informative, Motoring West may lessen your frustration at having to slow down or stop next time you’re in a road construction zone.  

   

 

What J. W. Parmley did for travel between Plymouth and Seattle, Cy Avery did for motorists traversing the country between Chicago and Los Angeles. Avery’s commitment to the Good Roads movement and his dogged promotional efforts turned U.S. 66 through Oklahoma into the storied Route 66. Former newspaper reporter and publisher Susan Croce Kelly brings us his biography in Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery (2015, University of Oklahoma Press, 288 pages, b/w illustrations, hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0806144993). 

While Avery is best known for his dedication to ending chronically muddy highways and streets and building public access bridges, Avery’s proudest accomplishment was the 50-mile pipeline that brought good drinking water from Spavinaw Creek to Tulsa. Avery donated portions of his farm for the 2,800-acre Mohawk Park and the Tulsa Municipal Airport. 

Through a comfortable narrative, Croce Kelly takes readers back to Avery’s roots in Colonial America, setting the stage for his family’s western migration. Weaving an engaging account of historical events and politics, she describes Avery’s role in designing the national highway system.
 

Also of interest by Susan Croce Kelly is Route 66: The Highway and Its People (1990, University of Oklahoma Press, photographs, 224 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0806122915).

Look for all of these books from online booksellers and in bookstores.

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 

 


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       

August 2015


Out Where the West Begins  

Denver newspaper columnist Arthur Chapman penned one of cowboy poetry’s most enduring poems when he dashed off the 21 lines of “Out Where the West Begins.” Legend has it that Chapman was inspired by participants at a gathering of western governors who were arguing about where the West begins. Published in 1917 in a book by the same name, the poem captured the imagination of the country at the time and remains a favorite at cowboy festivals and events. (Read it and others by Chapman here.)
 

 

Philip Anschutz included Chapman’s poem in the introductory material of Out Where the West Begins: Profiles, Visions, and Strategies of Early Western Business Leaders (2015, Cloud Camp Press, 392 pages, hardcover ISBN-978-0990550204). Written with western scholars William J. Convery and Thomas J. Noel, the book is a captivating collection of essays examining 50 individuals who, between 1800 and 1920, helped lay the groundwork for development of the American West.

Anschutz, a Kansas native with holdings in communications, transportation, natural and renewable resources, real estate, lodging and entertainment, studied these self-made men and their tactics, analyzing what made them successful. The likes of John Jacob Astor, Cyrus McCormick, Fred Harvey, Samuel Colt, J.P. Morgan and Buffalo Bill Cody are presented in seven categories:  Early Trade and Commerce; Agriculture and Livestock; Railroads and Transportation; Mineral Extraction; Manufacturing; Finance and Banking; and Communication and Entertainment. Be prepared to be amazed at the vision, creativity, tenacity and generosity exhibited by these men.

Out Where the West Begins is available from online booksellers, in bookstores and directly from the University of Oklahoma Press: 800-627-7377; oupress.com.

 

 

A friend with whom I trade books introduced me to Angle of Repose, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Wallace Stegner. Based on letters written by Mary Hallock Foote (1847- 1938), who came west with her civil engineer husband, the historical novel focuses on the feminine frontier experience. The inch-thick paperback kept me engrossed for the better part of three weeks as I crisscrossed the continent behind a steam locomotive and jounced over mountain terrain in a Democrat wagon following Stegner’s character, Susan Burling Ward.

Mary’s husband, Arthur Foote, surveyed and mapped precious metals mines in California and Colorado and designed the irrigation system that waters the arid environs near Boise, Idaho. For a time, he worked for mining entrepreneur George Hearst at his Homestake Gold mine in Deadwood, S.D. Hearst is profiled in Out Where the West Begins.

Both Mary and Susan raised families while following their husbands from isolated mining camps to sagebrush-covered wastelands. Both worked as illustrators and writers, producing illuminating stories of frontier life for East Coast magazines. Stegner’s character labored at her desk and drawing pad to support the family and pay for a nanny to educate her children. In reality, Mary illustrated editions for top-selling authors and poets of the day such as Henry Longfellow, John Whittier and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her own short stories appeared in print alongside those of Rudyard Kipling, Henry James and Mark Twain.

Angle of Repose earned a place on Modern Library’s ranking of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, coming it at #82. (Find the complete list at modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels.) Despite the many accolades it has received, I thought it had a sluggish beginning. Persevering, I was rewarded with a story that was penetrating and compelling.

 

Stegner’s liberal use of passages from Foote’s letters, and the body of her work archived in magazines and books, provides legitimacy to the locations and events contained within the plot. On numerous occasions I wondered what was real and what fictional. To satisfy my curiosity, I’ve ordered a copy of Foote’s letters as edited by Rodman W. Paul. Published after the novel, it is entitled A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West.

 

A second text, a biography by Darlis Miller, promises additional information. Mary Hallock Foote: Author-Illustrator of the American West (2002, University of Oklahoma Press, 320 pages, hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0806133973) is book 19 in The Oklahoma Western Biographies series of readable life stories of significant westerners.  

Look for all of these books from online booksellers and in bookstores.  

 

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       
 

June, 2015

Faces of Classic and Contemporary Cowboy Music

 

For more than thirty years, the cowboy music and comedy quartet Riders In The Sky have been keepers of the flame passed on by the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Reviving and revitalizing the genre, the group previously honored Autry with Public Cowboy #1: A Centennial Salute To The Music Of Gene Autry. 

Consisting of guitarist and lead vocalist Ranger Doug, upright bassist Too Slim, fiddle player and vocalist Woody Paul and accordionist Joey, the CowPolka King, the group’s way-out Western wit and velvety, harmonious tones have earned them a following among all ages. Riders’ fans, affectionately called buckaroos and buckarettes by the band, are encouraged to live life “The Cowboy Way!” 

Since their first performance in 1977, the Riders have chalked up more than 6,100 concert appearances in all 50 states and 10 countries. To date, they are the only exclusively Western music artist to join the Grand Ole Opry, the longest running radio show in history. Ranger Doug also hosts Ranger Doug's Classic Cowboy Corral heard weekly on SiriusXM Channel 56.

Western movie, music and TV star Roy Rogers is celebrated in a 2015 release by the group. The 14-track album, Riders In The Sky Salute Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys, pays homage to Rogers (1911-1998) who rose to the top in an era when Western stars were at their zenith. The Grammy Award-winning Riders salute Rogers, founding member of the Sons of the Pioneers and undisputed “King of the Cowboys,” with favorites from his long career including “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Happy Trails (To You)” “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “My Adobe Hacienda,” “Along the Navajo Trail,” “Roll On Texas Moon,” and “Blue Shadows On the Trail.” 

If you appreciate old-time cowboy songs, this is a must-have album for your collection. The Riders’ treatment of these classics is nostalgic yet sophisticated, taking the listener back to the days when cowboy heroes ruled the box office and airwaves. You’ll enjoy riding down the trail with this group of accomplished entertainers. 

Tangible copies of Riders In The Sky Salute Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys sell for $20 plus shipping from ridersinthesky.com. Downloads are available.        

 

Daron Little is one of the faces of contemporary cowboy music in the real working West. Making his home near Encampment Wyoming, he cowboys for a living. Describing himself as a “bovine relocation engineer and cowpunch music guitar picker/singer at Silver Spur Ranches,” Little shares glimpses into his lifestyle via Facebook. Photo offerings on any given day vary from selfies to a cowboy’s vantage point from the saddle. Far removed from Hollywood, it’s the sweat-stained, sunburned, all-weather, all-terrain world of a working cowboy. (For more on the Wyoming division of the ranch, see silverspurranches.com.)

Earlier this year Little released his fourth recording, a 6-track EP of original songs entitled Dos Amigos. Butch Hause musician and proprietor of the Ranger Station, Berthoud, Colo., joins him on the acoustic session. Those familiar with today’s cowboy music genre may find a hint of Tyson or a dash of LeDoux in the selections, maybe a bit of Corb Lund. (Listen to the full-length tracks under “Store” at ranchcowboymusic.com.)

Little’s songs reflect his life and experiences in an occupation that is as often misunderstood as it is romanticized. In the opening track, “The Outside Circle,” he explores the myth and realities of the lifestyle, preceded by an impressive guitar introduction. (Find the lyrics at cowboypoetry.com/daronlittle.htm.)

Order Dos Amigos for $10 from Daron Little, PO Box 314, Encampment, WY 82325; 307-761-3251; ranchcowboymusic.com. Downloads are also available. While you’re there, take a listen to samples from his other albums. Ranch Cowboy Music is a favorite of mine.

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       
 

May, 2015

A Larrupin’ Good Cowboy Cookbook

My Oklahoma-born grandmother used “larrupin” to describe an exceedingly tasty dish or dessert. She delivered the pronouncement with a slightly exaggerated inflection for added emphasis. 

 

It had been years since I thought of Grandma’s term for great food. Then I read the introduction to the last recipe in Kent Rollins’ much-anticipated cookbook,  A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail (2015, Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 256 pages, hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0544275003). There it was, on page 238, at the end of Kent’s description of his You-Ain’t-Goin’-to-Believe-This Strawberry Balsamic Pie. He concluded the introduction with, “And as folks say in my country—it’s larrupin’ (dang good)!”    

Arguably the most recognizable ranch cook rattlin’ pans and pots today, Kent was raised near Hollis, Oklahoma, not far from the Red River that divides Oklahoma and Texas. Inspired by the good food his mama, aunts, neighbors and friends prepared, Kent was motivated to improve upon the bad food he too often ate off chuck wagons and in hunting camps. To that end, back in 1993, he bought an 1876 Studebaker chuck wagon and started a catering business. Since then he’s cooked for cowboys and corporations, roundups and receptions, and become something of a celebrity hash slinger. Wearing his trademark black hat, he’s appeared on the Food Network’s Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, Chopped: Grill Masters, and Chopped Redemption and on NBC’s Food Fighters.

The book is chock-full of tried-and-true, nothing-fancy-but-plumb-delicious recipes Kent perfected while cooking in what he describes as “every condition known to mankind except an earthquake.” The 80+ recipes have been adapted for home use and are augmented with Kent’s stories of cowboy life and characters who color the American West. It also features photographs taken by his wife, Shannon. It’s the next best thing to taking part in the couple’s Red River Chuck Wagon Boot Camp. (For information on the 5-day cooking experience, go “More” at kentrollins.com.) 

Recently, in conjunction with the release of the cookbook, Kent and Shannon were profiled on CBS News’ Sunday Morning (video and text at cbsnews.com/news/cowboy-cook-kent-rollins-at-home-on-the-range). Having cooked alongside Kent during boot camp and knowing what a genuinely nice man he is, I was busting with pride watching the piece. Kent’s appreciation for the history and tradition of chuck wagons, his no-nonsense approach to good food, and his down-home hospitality, wit and wisdom shine through in the segment.

Those same attributes come through on the pages of the cookbook, seasoned  with Kent’s quips and sage observations. Two prime examples are, “Food is the best GPS of all,” and “Around the wagon, every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet.”

When my copy arrived, I excitedly thumbed through it to see which of my favorites from boot camp were included. I was delighted to not only find the recipes but also an introduction written by Kent explaining a bit of background behind Upside-Down Pizza, Cabbage Salsa, Sourdough Biscuits, Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Hop-Along Hominy Casserole, Sparklin’ Taters, and Bread Pudding with Whiskey Cream Sauce. (As Kent suggested one morning during camp, leftover Whiskey Cream Sauce makes a fabulous coffee creamer.)

I was impressed with Shannon’s stunning photographs, taken while working the wagon with Kent. A “Look Inside” at Amazon reveals a sampling of the on-location photos. That’s her photo of Kent on the cover, as is the picture on the home page of kentrollins.com, which shows Kent driving a team during spring works on New Mexico’s Bell Ranch. (Watch a 2-part video on why the Bell revived the tradition of taking a wagon out for spring work in an August 2012 post on Kent’s blog, From the Chuck Wagon, at fromthechuckwagon.com.)

Autographed copies of A Taste of Cowboy are available for $30 plus shipping from the author at kentrollins.com or by calling 580-471-3775. Look for it from online booksellers in hardback and for e-readers. Prices vary. Whichever form you prefer, be assured it’s a top-notch combination of food, Western lore, storytelling, tips on how to care for cast iron, and photography. It’s real. It’s simple. It’s authentic. It’s a larrupin’ good cookbook!    

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       
 

April, 2015

Western Traditions in the Limelight

Western traditions take center stage in April with two events honoring those who embody the heritage of the American West: the Western Heritage Awards and Cowboy Poetry Week.

 

Held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City (nationalcowboymuseum.org), the Western Heritage Awards honor and encourage the legacy of those whose works in literature, music, film and television reflect the significant stories of the American West. As the Oscar statuette is to the Academy Awards, the Wrangler—a bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback—is to the Western Heritage Awards. Winners in 15 categories were recognized April 18. 

Wylie Gustafson, who fronts Wylie & the Wild West, won Outstanding Original Western Composition for “Where Horses are Heroes.” Gustafson sang his award-winning song during the gala. (Listen to a track snippet at wyliewebsite.com.) Randy Huston and daughter Hannah Huston won Outstanding Traditional Western Album for “Cowboys and Girls.” Young Hannah also took home the New Horizons award. (Listen to four full-length tracks from their album at randyhuston.com.) 

In literature, Linda L. Osmundson’s How The West Was Drawn: Women’s Art was named Outstanding Juvenile Book. The Poacher’s Daughter by Michael Zimmer was selected as Outstanding Western Novel. The Outstanding Nonfiction Book went to A Lakota War Book from the Little Bighorn: The Pictographic “Autobiography of Half Moon,” Castle McLaughlin, author.

 Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society, Jennifer Bottomly-O’Looney and Kirby Lambert authors, was named Outstanding Art Book. Debra Bloomfield’s Wilderness was selected as Outstanding Photography Book. The Goatherd by Larry D. Thomas was recognized as the Outstanding Poetry Book.

“Not For Sale,” an article by Bob Welch that appeared in American Cowboy Magazine, was named Outstanding Magazine Article.  

In the film category, Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture award went to “The Homesman” by The Javelina Film Company and Ithaca Films. Outstanding Documentary went to “The Road to Valhalla” by Lone Chimney Films.

The “Klondike” Miniseries by Discovery Networks, in association with Entertainment One and Nomadic Pictures, won Outstanding TV Feature Film. Outstanding Fictional Drama went to Hell on Wheels Episode 410: “Return to Hell,” AMC/Endermol/Entertainment One/Nomadic Pictures. Outstanding Western Lifestyle Programming went to “Stateline: Cowboys of Color,” by OETA, the Oklahoma Network. 

Additionally, Cotton Rosser and John Hughes were inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners, James Coburn and Ken Maynard were tapped for the Hall of Great Western Performers, and Harvey Dietrich was presented the Chester A. Reynolds Award.

This year’s ceremony was streamed live at wranglernetwork.com. The Wrangler Network offers video coverage of rodeos and bull riding plus western lifestyle and country music events. Look for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s logo among links to assorted rodeos, ropings and country music events.

 

In ranching communities and beyond, from Florida to Washington, poets, musicians and others are taking part in events celebrating the 14th annual Cowboy Poetry Week. Running April 19-25, the official poster features a painting of cowboy, ranch manager and poet Trey Allen by artist Don Dane. Allen and the poster are featured in the April 2015 issue of Western Horseman. 

Hundreds of libraries in Cowboy Poetry Week's associated Rural Library Program have received this year's poster and invitations to receive the forthcoming CD, The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten. Each year, a new compilation CD of top classic and contemporary cowboy poetry is offered to many rural libraries across the West.

The prices of six of the available previous volumes of The BAR-D Roundup CDs (3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) have been lowered to $10 each, postpaid ($15 outside the U.S.), while quantities last.

A bundle of all the available CDs, Volumes 3-9, including the 2013 double-CD Christmas collection, is available for $75 postpaid ($90 outside the U.S.). Volume 8 is $25 separately; Volume 9 is $20.  

Order through PayPal: Bundle (Volumes 3-9); Volume 3; Volume 4; Volume 5; Volume 6; Volume 7 or by mail to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 695, St. Helena, CA 94574.

 A project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry and CowboyPoetry.com, Cowboy Poetry Week brings together artists and web visitors from around the world in celebration of the arts and life of the real working West. Stop by CowboyPoetry.com for news and poetry or visit the CowboyPoetry.com Facebook page for postings. You can also follow them on Twitter (@cowboypoetry).

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

 

 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       
 

March, 2015

Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives         

March is National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme, “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives,” presents the opportunity to weave women’s stories–individually and collectively–into the essential fabric of our nation’s history.

As stated on the National Women’s History Project website, “There is a real power in hearing women’s stories, both personally and in a larger context. Remembering and recounting tales of our ancestors’ talents, sacrifices, and commitments inspires today’s generations and opens the way to the future.” (For more on the 35th anniversary of the Women’s History Movement and the National Women’s History Project, go to nwhp.org.)

 

Ankle High and Knee Deep: Women Reflect on Western Rural Life, edited by Gail L. Jenner (TwoDot, 2014, 256 pages, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0762792115), is a collection of memoirs and reflections exploring the world of modern rural women. Grouped into chapters on Fortitude, Horse Sense, Community, Self-Reliance, Memory, Resilience and Lessons, their insights represent a wide range of ages, backgrounds, experiences and localities.  

More than 50 women are counted among the writers and photographers whose works are represented, including Wyoming Poet Laureate Emeritus Patricia Frolander, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Jane Ambrose Morton, Trinity Lewis, Amy Hale Auker, Deb Carpenter-Nolting and Lyn Messersmith. Some grew up in the country. Others gravitated there from the city. Their essays speak of connection to the landscape and the lifestyle. Find a complete listing of authors in the “Look Inside” feature at Amazon.com. In its first week on Amazon, the book reached #3 among top-selling books on rural/country living. It is available in paperback and as an e-book.

 

 

Marisa Silver constructs a poignant historical novel, intertwining photographer and subject, in Mary Coin (Plume, 2014, 336 pages, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0142180785). Based on  “Migrant Mother,” Dorothea Lange’s photograph of Florence Owens Thompson and three of her children, Silver delves into the lives of both women whose trails crossed alongside a dusty California road in 1936. Their chance meeting, captured on a 4"x5" Graflex negative, resulted in what arguably may be this nation’s most recognizable image. The caption as provided by the  Library of Congress reads: “Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California.” (See this and other photos taken of Thompson that day at loc.gov/rr/print/list/128_migm.html.)

A New York Times bestseller and an NPR Best Book, Silver’s fictionalized treatment of the characters leading up to and following the making of the Depression-era image is skillful, sensitive and mesmerizing. It’s a compelling read, pulling you westward at an increasing speed and leaving you forever touched for the experience of traveling in their company.      

Mary Coin is available in hardback, paperback, e-book and audio book. Look for it in bookstores and from online booksellers. Read an excerpt at npr.org/books/titles/172904173.

 

Veteran western historian Richard W. Etulain dissects the myth behind Martha Jane Canary in The Life and Legend of Calamity Jane, book #29 in the Oklahoma Western Biographies series (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014, 400 pages, hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0806146324). Analyzing events that inspired the legend, Professor Etulain mines more than 150 years of fodder churned out by newspaper editors and dime novelists who embellished the Wild West heroine’s often rebellious antics.  

Etulain’s research tracks the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, profanity-prone Martha Jane from the Missouri farm where she was born in 1856, to mining boom towns across the West, to performance venues in the East, and finally to Terry, SD, where she died in 1903. He dispels a myriad of fables linked to Calamity Jane’s colorful persona through a careful study of newspapers, biographical information, novels and films. Etulain also reveals her softer side as a mother and an unflinching angel of mercy to the infirmed.                    

Calamity roamed throughout the West, never staying in one place for long. Newspapers in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota were rife with accounts of her comings and goings. While familiar with a photograph of Calamity Jane taken by notable frontier photographer L.A. Huffman, Miles City, Montana Territory, I was unaware that she lived near there. In fact, Calamity lived about 20 miles west of Miles City in 1882-83. She also lived near Ekalaka, in what is now Carter County, Montana. 

The Life and Legend of Calamity Jane is available in hardback and as an e-book. 

 

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       
 

February 2015

Browsing the ND Museum Store Bookshelves

President Benjamin Harrison approved statehood for North and South Dakota on Nov. 2 1889, dividing Dakota Territory into the country’s 39th and 40th states. In 2014, in conjunction with its 125th anniversary of statehood, North Dakota unveiled a newly renovated Heritage Center and State Museum in the capitol city of Bismarck. The museum’s new galleries trace the chronological development of the land and its people from 600 million years ago through the present day. (For more see history.nd.gov/exhibits/index.html.)

 
photo courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota
The round objects are Cannonball concretions, a sandstone geological feature
unique to areas in the Dakotas and Montana.

 

Along with the galleries, the Museum Store benefitted from the $51.7 million, 97,000-square-foot expansion. Moved from its former location in the glass-walled entrance, it’s now located deep within the corridors and exhibit spaces that house artifacts and high-tech displays.

On a recent visit to the facility, which some have called “the Smithsonian on the prairie,” I spent an enjoyable afternoon perusing the bookshelves. They held a mixture of titles that have stood the test of time and new offerings that piqued my interest.  

Among titles I’ve previously recommended were Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden by Gilbert L. Wilson, Ph.D. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987); Bleed, Blister & Purge: A History of Medicine on the American Frontier by Volney Steele, M.D. (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2005); and Evelyn Cameron: Montana's Frontier Photographer by Kristi Hager (Farcountry Press, 2007).

 

The store has an extensive selection of books dealing with homesteading, including a particular favorite of mine that I’ve not yet shared with readers, Checkered Years: A Bonanza Farm Diary 1884-88 by Mary Dodge Woodward (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1989). Mary’s diary recounts life on a 1,500-acre bonanza wheat farm in the Red River Valley where she lived with her son who managed the farm. It is a vivid account of day-to-day life. The author’s home is preserved in the Bonanzaville Pioneer Village, West Fargo, ND. (See photos of the house at bonanzaville.org.)

 

Among a host of books beckoning from the shelves was The Horse Buggy Doctor by Arthur E. Hertzler, M.D., with a foreword by Milburn Stone (Bison Books, 1970). The story of country doctors in general and of Dr. Hertzler in particular, the book promises to take readers on rounds with the kindly Doc who practiced near Halstead, Kansas, shortly after the turn of the century. It’s a discussion of medical science at the time as told through first-person accounts.

 

Four Indian elders recount their stories of growing up and living in Minnesota and the Dakotas in a collection of oral histories entitled Honor the Grandmothers: Dakota and Lakota Women Tell Their Stories by Sarah Penman (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2000). Originally broadcast as a radio documentary, the book tells of the grandmothers’ roles in teaching tribal language, medicinal lore and spiritual beliefs to the young people.

 

The children’s section offers an engaging assortment of nature and history books. I was captivated by a reproduction of the 1879 McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader (McGuffey Readers) by William McGuffey. The first widely used textbook in the U.S., children and adults alike learned to read from the series. First published in 1836, they’ve sold an estimated 120 million copies, and are still in use today.     

 

My vote for most intriguing cookbook went to Ewiger Saatz - Everlasting Yeast: The Food Culture of the Germans from Russia in Emmons County, Logan County and McIntosh County, North Dakota by Sue Kaseman Balcom (Tri-County Tourism Alliance, 2013). The 12 x12-inch hardback coffee table book is written by Germans from Russia about the foods and culture of their ancestors who homesteaded in south central North Dakota. More than a recipe book, it contains wonderful narratives about how families raised and prepared their daily meals and holiday specialties. Lavishly illustrated, this heartwarming tribute includes chapters on milking, gardening, threshing, canning, butchering and baking.


The North Dakota Museum Store is located at 612 East Boulevard Ave., Bismarck, ND 58505. For more information on the books mentioned here or to order, call 701-328-2879. The store’s online site is under construction.

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski       
 

January 2015

31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

In the pensive “Good Bye, Old Man,” cowboy poet Baxter Black chronicles an old cowboy’s passing as retold by his 22-year-old buckaroo pal. It’s a bittersweet piece, that concludes, “I thought I heard above the coffee sloshin’ in my cup / The far off, easy, pleasured sound of old friends catchin’ up.” (Read the poem in its entirety here.)

 

The last two lines evoke similarly joyous scenes that will play out in cafes, coffee shops and watering holes in Elko, Nevada, when the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (NCPG) convenes the end of January. In its 31st year, the NCPG draws artists and fans from around the world to northern Nevada for a week of poetry, music, stories, films, dances, exhibitions and workshops inspired by ranching and the rural West. Some of the fans and performers have been coming to the gathering for decades. For them, returning to Elko is like a homecoming. They look for friends in favorite haunts and restaurants, catching up over beverages or a meal. 

More than 55 poets, musicians and musical groups from the U.S., Canada and Australia will perform at this year’s event which runs January 26 - 31, 2015. Additionally, vaqueros, leatherworkers, musicians and community scholars from the desert highlands of Baja California Sur, Mexico, will be in attendance, sharing an insight into their ranchero culture. Visit westernfolklife.org for a full list of artists, bios and audio samples.

Most of the invited musicians and poets are represented in the Western Folklife Center’s gift shop, which operates in two locations during the gathering as well as being accessible online. Artists often release new projects in conjunction with the NCPG, holding autograph signings following a performance.  

 

 

Making her twelfth appearance at the gathering, Clearfield, South Dakota ranchwife Yvonne Hollenbeck will debut both a book and an album. The book, Rhyming the Range: Poetry about My Life on a South Dakota Cattle Ranch, contains Hollenbeck’s newest poems and favorites from her first two books, which are now out of print. It sells for $25. The CD, Rhyming the Range: Poetry from a South Dakota Cattle Ranch, features 21 original poems from the book recited by Hollenbeck. The CD sells for $15. Buy both for $35. (All prices include postage.) Order from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291 St., Clearfield, SD 57580-6205; 605-557-3559; geetwo@gwtc.net.

Hollenbeck and her husband, Glen, own and operate a working cattle ranch in south-central South Dakota near the Nebraska state line. Her involvement with day-to-day activities serves as inspiration for her poetry, including the self-explanatory “Pulling the Caking Trucks Blues” and “The Big ‘Oh No!’” The latter is only 60 seconds in length, but in that amount of time Hollenbeck conveys the dread and horror of accidently washing a rancher’s indispensable calving book. (For more see yvonnehollenbeck.com.)

 

Making his first trip to Elko as an invited guest, Al “Doc” Mehl of Westminster, Colo., also has a new release. Entitled Doc & Tub Live!, the 13 original tracks are a mix of music and poetry performed with the Littleton Chorale. “Tub” refers to Washtub Jerry, who joins Doc in the live concert performance on the washtub bass.

Mehl traces his roots to central Kansas, where his grandfather raised six children on the family homestead. His poem “Fence Posts Made of Stone,” tells of the limestone posts used in that area of Kansas that is devoid of trees. “Graduation” follows an academically-challenged lad who, through dogged determination, managed to graduate top of his class, albeit at the age of 21. (Listen to tracks and order the CD or download at CD Baby, accessible through docmehl.com. I also highly recommend a previous release by Mehl, The Great Divide.) 


The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a project of the Western Folklife Center, 501 Railroad St., Elko, NV 89801; 775-738-7508; westernfolklife.org. Follow the festivities on Facebook at Western Folklife Center. Mark your calendars now for the 32nd Gathering which runs January 25 - 30, 2016. 
 

© 2015, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski        
 

December 2014                                                                                                             

Christmas Gift Ideas: Part 2

 

If you enjoy serene Christmas music without the cacophony of clanging cymbals and blaring horns, you’ll be pleased with the arrangements on Joel Mabus: A Parlor Guitar Christmas. The 14 tranquil tracks on the album date from before 1920—some much earlier—in a time when acoustic parlor music was performed in a family’s front room. 

Mabus renders the  peaceful tunes on a six-string finger-style guitar with capos to achieve the key and timbre selected for each piece. You’ll recognize some of the sacred and festive yuletide melodies. Others may be new to you. In any instance, the soft guitar will set the mood for wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, writing cards or enjoying a meal with guests. It will also provide quiet relaxation on the drive home from work.

A Parlor Guitar Christmas sells for $16 US per CD, postage and tax included. Send a check to Joel Mabus, PO Box 306, Portage, MI 49081; joelmabus.com. For sales outside the U.S., contact Mabus. Downloads are available at CDBaby, iTunes, and Amazon. Listen to track samples where downloads are sold.

 

 

Got cowboy? Need gift? Baxter Black, cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses, is out with his latest book, Cave Wall Graffiti from a Neanderthal Cowboy (Coyote Cowboy Co., 2014, 160 pages, hardback ISBN-13: 978-0939343591). Measuring roughly 5" x 8", it will slip easily inside most stockings and some boots.

In it, he ponders what Third Millennium folklorists will think when studying today’s cowboys. Black notes, “So much of what we understand and believe to be true today will barely be a footnote in a thousand years.” Serious as that may sound, there’s plenty of humor packed between the covers.

Illustrations by Montana cowboy cartoonist Wally Badgett, creator of Earl, enliven the poetry, prose and sundry afterthoughts that conclude each page. For those who are familiar with Earl, you’re going to see a whole new side of him as he romps across the pages with his prehistoric cowboy cohorts. You never know when he or his magpie might turn up, but chances are excellent they’ll greet you under chapter headings such as “Cowboy Mentality,” “Cow Bidness,” “Hunting and Fishing” and “Farming, Sheep, Tractors.”

Cave Wall Graffiti from a Neanderthal Cowboy sells for $19.95 plus shipping from Coyote Cowboy Company, PO Box 2190, Benson, AZ  85602; 800-654-2550; baxterblack.com. If you’re shopping for a bunkhouse full of cowboys, you’ll appreciate their “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” holiday special. The book is also available from online booksellers.

 

 

Yards and gardens in much of the country are tucked away for the winter, their splash and splendor mothballed until spring. But as surely as bills arrive after the holidays, Mother Nature will awaken the earth for another growing season. Here’s a surefire idea for those who find as much enjoyment in planning their garden as they do working in it: Taming Wildflowers: Bringing the Beauty and Splendor of Nature's Blooms into Your Own Backyard by Miriam Goldberger (St. Lynn’s Press, 2014, 208 pages, color photographs, hardback ISBN-13: 978-0985562267).

Goldberger’s passion for wildflowers is clearly evident in this user-friendly guide to more than 60 plants. A wildflower farmer since 1986, she and her husband established Canada’s first pick-your-own flower farm.

Celebrating wildflowers’ many attributes including erosion control, pollinator-enticement, climate adaptability and habitat protection, Goldberger’s colorful reference is as beautiful as it is informative. There’s a bit of history, some plant science, some how-to on growing them, advice on designing with wild blooms, arranging as fresh bouquets and drying for everlastings.

The founder and visionary of Wildflower Farm, one of Canada's oldest and largest wildflower seed companies, she has devoted her life to propagating native plants. Look to them for a variety of wildflower and native grass seeds. They also sell a “moss milkshake” for establishing the lush velvety groundcover in shaded areas. (See wildflowerfarm.com.)         

Taming Wildflowers sells for $19.95 plus shipping from wildflowerfarm.com. It is also available from online booksellers.
 

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

November 2014                                                                                                             

Christmas Gift Ideas: Part 1


Living in Montana, we’re accustomed to white Christmases. With an early blast of Arctic air and snow, it already looks the part here. Even if there’s no snow where you live, it’s not too early to be shopping. Consider these suggestions for gifts with a Western flair. Look for more next month. 
 

 

The Bar-D Roundup Volume Nine: 2014, a 30-track compilation of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry from CowboyPoetry.com. It sells for $20, postpaid (check or money order U.S. funds; $25 international) from CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 695, St. Helena, CA 94574; cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm.

This year’s anthology continues the tradition of gathering the best in vintage and modern cowboy poetry. There are works by two National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellows, a past Wyoming Poet Laureate and three recipients of the Wrangler Western Heritage Award. The special classic track is a rare recording of “Home on the Range” from the Alan Lomax collection at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. There is also a collection of poems from ranch women’s perspectives, which I found particularly engaging. 

The CD is dedicated to all those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition. Proceeds support the programs at CowboyPoetry.com, a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry.

 

 

Al Gustin's Farm Byline:  Reflections on North Dakota Agriculture 1974-2013 (DakotaBookNet, 2013, 250 pages, illustrations, softcover ISBN:  978-0615783482). Priced at $19.95 plus shipping, order from DakotaBookNet.com; 701-222-0947.

For 45 years, agricultural journalist Al Gustin was the source for ag news and markets in the Dakotas and eastern Montana. Rising each weekday before sunrise, he reported to the Meyer Broadcasting/KFYR studios in Bismarck, ND, where he dispensed news to radio listeners and television viewers. For 40 of those years, Gustin also wrote Farm Byline, a column that appeared in North Dakota Living magazine, formerly North Dakota REC/RTC Magazine.

Now retired, Gustin compiled 162 columns that are both a history of agriculture on the Upper Great Plains and a study of those producing food and fiber. He introduces each chapter before taking readers on a journey through the decades of consumer trends, weather patterns, buzz words, markets and changes in labor and equipment. One such example was the advent of stock trailers which replaced farm trucks for transporting livestock. It’s a fascinating trek that will bring back memories for those who lived them and educate those who didn’t.    

 

Allegretto / Espinoza, a 13-track Western music album. The CD sells for $15 plus shipping and the MP3 is $12.87 at allegrettoespinoza.com.

Please trust me when I tell you this album of harmonica and guitar music is gift-worthy. Harmonica virtuoso and baritone vocalist Gary Allegretto’s talents are augmented by Ian Espinoza’s vocals and fingerpicking style on a 1929 model National Steel guitar. Combining covers and original compositions, the album is an eclectic blend of mournful blues, traditional cowboy and Western, swaggering honky-tonk and playful country with a dash of bluegrass.  

Their treatment of the classic “Along the Navajo Trail” is impressive. Likewise for “When I Was a Cowboy” by folk and blues icon Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter) and the traditional “Cowboy Waltz.” Allegretto and Espinoza’s originals tracks hold their own. Stand outs include “Bard of San Antone,” reminiscent of a Tom Russell ballad; “Abilene,” a mystery cloaked in a lovely melody; “Hard Times,” with a sense of the Great Depression; and “You Don’t Have to Go Home,” chock-full of wisdom as dispensed by a barroom bouncer. (Listen to track snippets at allegrettoespinoza.com.)

 

Max Evans' Animal Stories:  A Lifetime Collection (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013, 440 pages, illustrations, softcover ISBN-13: 978-0806143668). Available from online book sellers as a paperback and ebook.   

With more than 25 books to his credit, Max Evans has a reputation for spinning a good yarn. His first two books, The Rounders and The Hi Lo Country, are considered classics of the Western genre. One of New Mexico’s most prolific and beloved writers, Evans has assembled 26 animal tales written during his career in Animal Stories.

Illustrated by cowboy artist Keith Walters, the fiction and nonfiction short stories feature wildlife and domesticated animals, among them prairie dogs, rabbits, deer, moose, coyotes, cattle, dogs, horses, burros, goats and a hyena. Considering Evans’ life experiences as a rancher, miner, trapper, prospector, movie producer, artist and cowboy, expect equally varied adventures.

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
October 2014                                                                                                             

Rollin', rollin', rollin'

A convoy of cattle trucks whizzed past our house this morning. They made a return trip four hours later. It’s a sure bet that they loaded at a neighboring ranch that weaned calves.

Last week my husband redirected four bull racks—semi-trailers built to haul cattle—that had been given inexact directions. They were much relieved to find a local who advised them they were close, telling them to keep going north five miles and take the well-marked left off the highway onto a scoria-surfaced county road.



Jack Bailey and his cohorts didn’t have the luxury of county roads, highways or road signs when they drove a herd of cattle to market from Texas to Kansas in 1868. Bailey, a North Texas farmer, signed on for the adventure, recording the events in what is the earliest known day-by-day journal of a cattle drive, A Texas Cowboy's Journal: Up the Trail to Kansas in 1868 (The Western Legacies Series) (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006, 160 pages, 13 illustrations, 2 maps, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0806137377).

Measuring just 5 inches x 7 inches, near the same size as the original, the slim volume contains substantive materials that enhance the experiences Bailey set to paper in black ink. The foreword, preface, introduction and footnotes add immensely to the interest and historical significance of the document. Unfortunately, the first 18 pages of the journal are missing. Readers are left to ponder what transpired prior to August 5, 1868, when Bailey’s narrative picks up. The group, including several women and children, had already crossed the Red River from Texas into Indian Territory. 

In the pages that survived within a tattered cardboard cover, Bailey describes the difficulties encountered by the group traversing the route some three years after the Civil War. They frequently came in contact with settlers, soldiers, freed slaves, Indians and other cattle herds. Wild cattle, including a large number of bulls, roamed the countryside. Among other maladies and inconveniences noted during the three month journey, Bailey suffered from rheumatism which was aggravated by rain and nights spent sleeping on the ground.

The softcover version of A Texas Cowboy's Journal retails for $14.95. Order from University of Oklahoma Press (oupress.com) and online booksellers. It is also available in hardcover and as an e-book. 

 

 

Rod Miller, a contemporary poet, novelist, historian, biographer, journalist, essayist, reviewer, screenwriter and all-around nice guy, gives a nod to the season in “Migrations” from Goodnight Goes Riding and other Poems (Pen-L Publishing, 2014, 104 pages, softcover ISBN-13: 978-1940222639). The last stanza reads: “And I think how fall works really ain’t that distant; Shipping calves under sundown pewter skies / Wherein arrowpointed flocks are winging southward, Trailing echoes of urgent, mournful cries.”

A versatile writer in tune with the people and places of the American West, Miller’s work appears in books, magazines, anthologies and online. (Visit Miller’s blog at writerrodmiller.blogspot.com.) As comfortable portraying the past as he is the present, his work has won numerous awards. To list all his accomplishments would embarrass the humble Utah native. Suffice to say, Miller is respected in many circles.

So it was with gladness that I learned of Miller’s latest collection of cowboy and Western poetry. Released in September, Goodnight Goes Riding is divided into three sections: The Wild West, Arena Dirt, Ruminations. Typical of Miller’s scope, it encompasses subjects and styles as far-ranging as the western horizon.    

“Keeping the Books” salutes the ranch bookkeeper, whose contributions are every bit as important to the success of an outfit as the cowboys. “Riding Old Red” extols the virtues of an ATV for working cattle. “Gear Bag” inventories a 38-years-idled roughstock rider’s duffle bag. Other poems speak to action within the arena: pondering what a piggin’ string has come in contact with before a roper puts it in his mouth; accessing the dangers of the grand entry. “Boot Salute” and “Don’t Just Sit There” pay homage to the ubiquitous boots and hats that are as functional as they are fashionable.                

The softcover edition of Goodnight Goes Riding and other Poems sells for $12.97 from pen-l.com/GoodnightGoesRiding.html and Amazon. The Kindle version is $3.97. 

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
September 2014                                                                                                             

Pioneering Documentaries

Saturday dawned with an abundance of opportunities from which to choose. Lacking a clone of myself, I prioritized, designating the morning and late afternoon hours for photographing an ongoing harvest series. The midafternoon was set aside for an intriguing documentary showing at the Bijou Theater in Beach, N.D.
 

 

Hardship to Freedom by photographer/videographer Ken Howie was playing at the Bijou. It celebrates the spirit of Ukrainian pioneers who immigrated to the prairies of western North Dakota in the early 1900s. A native of Belfield, N.D., Howie produced the documentary in partnership with the North Dakota Ukrainian Cultural Institute located in Dickinson, N.D. Premiering in July, it was inspired by a book by Agnes Palanuk, Ukrainians in North Dakota: In Their Voices (2011, Ukrainian Cultural Institute, 152 pages, photos and illustrations, softcover).  
 

Palanuk, whose name is synonymous with the Ukrainian Cultural Institute, was in attendance at the showing. Passionate about preserving the traditions and cultural heritage of the Ukrainian people, she advocates nurturing, preserving and sharing one’s heritage with children, grandchildren and generations yet to come.

Such tenacity served her ancestors and their countrymen when they came to America. Some came for political freedom, others religious freedom and some for free land offered under the Homestead Act. Impoverished and suppressed by more than 200 years of Russian rule, the hardships they faced were the price they paid for freedom. Watch the trailer at vimeo.com/68162582.

Howie weaves video interviews he conducted in with vintage photos and first-person accounts from interviews Palanuk conducted in the 1980s. Often sobering and sometimes amusing, the stories portray the determination of people who had no alternative but to prosper. While focusing on the Ukrainians, the film crosses ethnic boundaries. It is the essence of the homestead experience. See hardshiptofreedom.com.

The Hardship to Freedom DVD sells for $25 plus $5.60 shipping (check or money order) from the Ukrainian Cultural Institute, 1221 West Villard St., Dickinson, ND 58601; 701-483-1486; ucitoday.org. Discounts apply on multiple purchases.

Palanuk’s Ukrainians in North Dakota: In Their Voices is available from the North Dakota Historical Society for $24.95 plus shipping. Contact the museum store at 701-328-2822 or museumstore@nd.gov.




James “Scotty” Philip, the man for whom Philip, S.D., was named is the subject of The Buffalo King, a documentary by director Justin Koehler. Like Howie, Koehler was drawn to a subject from his home state. Koehler grew up about 30 miles from Philip. Many of the on-location scenes and interviews were filmed between Philip and Fort Pierre during the Historic Bad River Trail Scotty Philip Memorial Ride held in 2011.

Internationally screened and distributed to public television stations in all 50 states, Koehler’s 58-minute film tells the story of the bold and adventurous Scotty Philip, who emigrated from Scotland in 1874. Drawn to the Black Hills following the discovery of gold, Philip worked as a teamster, a scout and a cowboy before establishing his own ranch in Stanley County, Dakota Territory. During that time, he witnessed the massacre of Indians and the slaughter of the bison.

An early-day preservationist who was sympathetic to the Indians’ struggles, Philip purchased a bison herd built from calves spared from one of the Northern Plains’ last buffalo hunts. He prepared a pasture for the animals along the western side of the Missouri River north of Fort Pierre, gathering and driving the herd there in 1901. In years to come, Philip would be credited with saving the American bison from extinction. (Mary Ann Goodnight is credited with saving the Southern Plains bison. Descendants of those animals roam the grasslands of Caprock Canyon State Park, Quitaque, Texas.)

At its peak, Philip’s herd numbered nearly 1,000. When he died, he owned the largest domesticated herd of buffalo in the country. Animals from his ranch populated herds across America. Philip was inducted to the Hall of Great Westerners at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Okla. Watch the trailer at youtube.com/watch?v=YZYqxXuyLlY.

The Buffalo King DVD sells for $19.95 plus shipping from Amazon.com.

Koehler is currently working on a documentary about 9-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Casey Tibbs. Updates are posted on Facebook at Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs (facebook.com/CaseyTibbsFilm).
 

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
August 2014                                                                                                             

Thanks for Coming West

Depending upon the circumstances, descendants of those who homesteaded on the Great Plains may celebrate the wisdom exhibited by their ancestors coming West or rail at the folly. It was a demanding life. An estimated 60,000 of the 191,064 claims filed under the Homestead Act between 1900 and 1920 were abandoned.  
 

Tom Swearingen counts himself among the former, sharing two original poems on his Horses and Happiness album that speak to his family's "comin' West and plantin' my roots here." Making his home in Tualatin, Oregon, near Portland, Swearingen doesn't consider himself a cowboy, although some of his friends have hung the title on him. His poetry will resonate with those who appreciate wide open spaces and time spent in the saddle. (Read several of his poems at www.cowboypoetry.com/tomswearingen.htm)

In “Blessed to be Western,” Swearingen tips his hat to those who "left all their world behind" and made their way West without the benefit of modern navigational devices. He credits them for having sparked in him the desire to ride.  

“Replanted Roots” is inspired by a sale bill listing Elmer Blake's belongings when he relocated from Nebraska to Oregon to take a job in the shipyards. Blake was Swearingen's grandfather. It was evident from the inventory that the family had worked the land and equally evident they were closing that chapter in their lives. The poem is a poignant glimpse into what would have been found on a Plains farmstead, right down to the milk pail.

Recorded live, the 12-track Horses and Happiness sells for $15 plus postage at www.oregoncowboypoet.com. If you prefer downloads, they are available at CDBaby and iTunes. Contact Swearingen at oregoncowboypoet@gmail.com or at (503) 936-1621.

 


In the October 2009 installment of this column, I wrote about One Night in a Bad Inn (ISBN 978-1-57510-142-2), a mesmerizing family history written by Christy Leskovar. Testament to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction, the project was unleaded when a family member casually mentioned to Leskovar that her great-grandmother, Sarah, had been arrested for murdering her husband. Sarah would eventually be imprisoned at the Montana State Penitentiary for bigamy, but she wasn't the only family member incarcerated there.

Quite accurately described by the author, the book is "A lively true story of scandal, war, murder, and mayhem, and courage and fortitude, stretching across the parched plains of eastern Montana to the raucous mining town of Butte (Mont.) to the bloody battlefields of the First World War."

Leskovar spent eight years researching and chronicling the mind-boggling account. Her travels, correspondence and research taking her from Butte to Ireland, from Wilkes-Barre, Penn., to the battle fields of France, from the remnants of her great-grandparents' homestead in Rosebud County, Mont., to the penitentiary where both her great-grandmother and great-grandfather served time. And even at that, they weren't the only family members incarcerated there.

A native of Butte, she shares the story behind the story in Finding the Bad Inn: Discovering My Family's Hidden Past (Pictorial Histories Publishing Co. Inc, 2010, 291 pages, hardback ISBN-13: 978-1575101507). Genealogists, family historians and history buffs will appreciate the methodology that went into gathering the material for One Night in a Bad Inn and understand why some meaty passages were left out. Leskovar shares freely of what she learned through her labors. One tip that I can vouch for is the value of a preparing a timeline showing dates and events in an individual's life. 

Writers will value the attention to style that made the can't-put-it-down One Night in a Bad Inn a finalist for the 2007 High Plains Best New Book Award for first time authors. Leskovar's engaging style effectively transports the reader to another place and time. For more on both books, see www.onenightinabadinn.com.

Finding the Bad Inn is available from online booksellers as an unabridged hardback, abridged paperback, and abridged and unabridged e-books. It also available as an unabridged digital audiobook read by author. Look for it at CDBaby, ITunes, Amazon and other audio sites.

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News

 


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
July 2014                                                                                                             

Youthful Adventurers

While visiting friends in Oklahoma, we toured the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan. Part history museum and part art gallery, it commemorates the trail over which an estimated 9,800,000 Longhorn cattle were herded between Texas and the railhead at Abilene, Kansas. A life-size 34-foot-long monument and a trail map embedded in the plaza set the stage for the indoor exhibits. (See Exhibits: onthechisholmtrail.com)

The movie shown in the Chisholm Trail Experience Theater is exceptional, both in production and in the creative staging. Designers synchronized fans with the rustling of leaves on the trees, misters to propel rain during a thunderstorm, the aroma of chuck wagon food to waft through the room, and seats to rumble as a stampede ensues. (For more on the Center: youtube.com/watch?v=DBYn76ZXrk4.)               

 

My host and hostess were savvy to a book in the gift shop. They presented me with a copy of Bud & Me: The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys by Alta Abernathy (Dove Creek Press, 1998, 162 pages, b/w photographs, 2 maps, hardback ISBN-13: 978-0966216608). Jam-packed with first-person accounts, newspaper clippings, photos and maps, the book was my introduction to the wild undertakings of Louis “Bud” and Temple Abernathy. The boys crisscrossed the nation early in the 20th century in a series of long-distance adventures that are inconceivable in today’s world. What a treasure Temple’s wife, Alta, left for us to enjoy!

Temple was only five years old and his brother was nine, when in 1909 they set off on their first trip, a jaunt from Guthrie, Okla., to Santa Fe, N.M., and back. Covering approximately 50 miles per day horseback, the boys were inspired by the stories of their father, “Catch-‘em Alive Jack” Abernathy. The elder Abernathy served as U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Oklahoma Territory, appointed to the position by President Theodore Roosevelt. 

Emboldened by that ride, the boys made subsequent trips horseback:  from Oklahoma to New York City, and from New York City to San Francisco. They also drove a car from New York City to Oklahoma, and they rode a specially built 2-seat motorcycle from Oklahoma to New York City. (See maps in the photo gallery at budandme.com.)

Bud & Me is available in hardcover, as a digital download, and as an audio book. Order from Dove Creek Press, PO Box 3209, Waxahachie, TX 75168; (972) 259-1608; budandme.com.

 

 

Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., Sees the Civil War, edited by Byron R. Abernethy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1985, 224 pages, photographs, softcover ISBN-13: 978-0806119212) relates the adventures of a 15-year-old Wisconsin farm boy who enlisted against his father’s wishes and fought in the American Civil War. Before the war ended, Stockwell wished he had listened to his father. 

As with the previous title, I learned about this book from a friend. It was written by his grandfather, who in later years lived in Beach, N.D. Blinded by cataracts, Stockwell wrote his memoirs with the aid of a special ruler attached to his desk that provided an evenly spaced edge to write against. The manuscript filled several notebooks and remained largely unknown–even within the family—until 1951, when it was entrusted to Byron Abernethy, a relative, for transcription.    

Seven years later, a project intended for distribution among family members was published by University of Oklahoma Press. Stockwell’s common-man viewpoint of battles, sieges and campaigns—corroborated by footnotes—is presented without  hyperbole, yet is captivating. Among the daily struggles, Stockwell details how he and fellow soldiers foraged for food to supplement meager or inedible rations. It concludes with six letters written by the young soldier to his parents.

A copy of the book is included in the permanent White House Library. Elisha’s Model 1863 Springfield musket is housed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.   

Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., Sees the Civil War is out of print but is readily available from online booksellers, through interlibrary loan, and as a digital download. Happily, I found my copy at a secondhand bookstore.     

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
June 2014                                                                                                             

Good Reads from Gordon, Nebraska’s Old-Time Cowboy Museum

Located in the Nebraska Panhandle between the Pine Ridge Bluffs and the rolling Sandhills, Gordon is home to the Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Memorial Museum. Originally constructed in 1969, the log structure serves as a tribute to the old-time cowboys who worked as ranch hands in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming and to those who performed at the Sheridan County Rodeo. Inductions into the Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Hall of Fame are held in conjunction with the Sheridan County Fair and Rodeo, also in Gordon. 

Cowboy memorabilia from the late 1800s through the present day are displayed within the building situated in Winship Park at Fourth and Oak streets. Exhibits include arrowheads, a chuck wagon, saddles, chaps, spurs, hats, barbed wire, tools, gear, photographs, paintings, rodeo programs, and other artifacts and relics pertaining to ranching and cowboys.

Recently expanded, admission to the museum is free. It is open afternoons June 1 through September 15 from 1-5 p.m., and anytime by appointment. To schedule an appointment call David at (308) 282-1115 or Willis at (308) 282–0662.

The museum offers quite a nice selection of books for sale, the proceeds of which help maintain the facility. Several are unique to the museum, published by the organization to preserve the history of its members and of the region. They are filled with great old stories and historical tidbits you won't find anywhere else. Any of them will provide hours of entertainment in addition to serving as genealogical resources for those with ties to the area. Send orders to Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Memorial Museum, PO Box 202, Gordon, NE 69343.

 

Cowboy Trails & Trials by members of the Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Association (published by Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Memorial Museum, Inc., 1981, 262 pages, b/w photos, softcover, no ISBN) retails for $25. Add $3 for shipping/handling.

This collection of biographical histories of early settlers, cowboys and cattlemen includes correspondence sent to Frank O’Rourke in his capacity as charter member and secretary-treasurer of the Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Association during the organization’s development. Included are stories of the early outfits that ran longhorn steers, how rodeo developed, the coming of immigrant trains carrying settlers, and life on the ensuing homesteads.

 

 

More Cowboy Trails & Trials by Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys and Tri-State Old-Time Cowgirls (published by Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Memorial Museum, Inc., 1987, 132 pages, b/w photos, softcover, no ISBN) retails for $20. Add $3 for shipping/handling.

More family histories are contained in the second volume of collected stories, poetry, and photos from rodeos in Cody, Gordon and Burwell, Neb.; Hot Springs, S.D.; and others. Included are accounts of horse trading, chuck wagon races, horse thieves, riding night guard, murder, and the days of the big cattle ranches.


Dusting off the Saddles by members of the Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Association (published by Tri-State Old-Time Cowboys Memorial Museum Inc., 1993, 153 pages, b/w photos, hardback, no ISBN) retails for $25. Add $3 for shipping/handling.

Preserving the names of first- and second-generation westerners, this volume opens with “To the Good Old Boys ... The Passing of an Era,” about the buying, processing, breaking, and training of horses at the Ft. Robinson (Neb.) Remount Station. It’s a fascinating look at the work that 25 civilian cowboys performed while caring for the 4,500 to 6,000 head of horses that were typically at the fort at any given time. Other offerings recount blizzards, moonshine, cattle rustling, and roundups.

 

Cowgirl Capers and Cookin’:  Recollections and Recipes of the Members of the Tri-State Old-Time Cowgirls Association (published by Tri-State Cowgirls Association, 2005, 178 pages, b/w photos, spiral-bound, no ISBN) retails for $15. Add $3 for shipping/handling.   

A 1942 photo of washday on the Ravenscroft home ranch graces the cover of this volume devoted entirely to women’s histories. In addition to more than 75 submitted biographies, there’s a generous offering of favorite recipes from several generations of Great Plains cooks. The dishes range from staples such as chokecherry jelly and baking powder biscuits to angel food cake and cream sugar cookies, from suet pudding to broiled skunk.


© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
May 2014                                                                                                             

Lilacs mark the spot

A protracted winter on the Northern Great Plains has at last given way to greening pastures, lawns blanketed with a profusion of dandelions, and farmers putting in long hours seeding their fields.  

As surely as grass grows and farmers sow, lilacs awaken with an array of fragrant blossom clusters. Varying in shades of purple, with an occasional bush sporting white blossoms, they are favored as much for their hardiness as for their looks. Generations of gardeners planted them near the front door of a house or in mass as a hedge. Knowing what to look for, keen observers can use old-growth thickets to pinpoint the locations of abandoned homesteads.  

Stories are oft-told of bone-tired women who packed dishwater to a parched lilac, Harison's Yellow rose or cottonwood, supplementing what meager precipitation Mother Nature provided. Although all other traces may have disappeared, lilacs remain, rising up from the prairie as if to announce, “Here was a home.” The tenacious lilacs serve as living memorials to pioneering women of the West.  
 

Susan Cummins Miller preserves the woman’s frontier experience in A Sweet, Separate Intimacy: Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1922 (Texas Tech University Press, 2007, 447 pages, paperback ISBN 978-0874806380). Selected poetry, essays, short stories, travelogues, diaries, letters, journals and novel excerpts were published during the settlement years of the American frontier. 

What lilacs only hint at, the first-person perspectives of 34 published writers, crossing almost every cultural segment of the West, depict in detail. Isolation, mystic attachment for the land, death of loved ones, mourning, and the frustration when drudgery got in the way of writing are recurring themes in what Miller describes as the “stranger in a strange land experience.” But, there’s also joy and humor sprinkled amongst the challenges women endured.

The anthology begins with Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (1800-1841), born to an Irish fur trader and his Ojibwa wife, and concludes with Alice Corbin Henderson (1881-1949), who moved to Santa Fe, N.M., in hopes of curing her tuberculosis. Among Native American, Hispanic, Chinese, and Anglo writers are recognizable names—Willa Cather, Frances Dana Gage, Sharlot Hall—and obscure writers whose work had not been read since being printed. Biographical introductions are set within historical context.  

Originally published in 2000 by University of Utah Press as a hardback and reissued in paperback by Texas Tech University Press, it is lauded for its contribution to Americana and Western and women’s literature. A Sweet, Separate Intimacy is available from online booksellers and from the publisher at ttupress.org.   

 

Born on a Montana homestead in 1887, pioneer and rodeo cowgirl Fannie Sperry Steele is memorialized in The Lady Rode Bucking Horses: The Story of Fannie Sperry Steele, Woman of the West by Dee Marvine (TwoDot, 2005, 289 pages, b/w photos, paperback ISBN 978-0762731336). Facts for the historical novel were gleaned from family archives, augmented with interviews of Steele and those who knew her. Steele was a charter life member of the Rodeo Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

The story begins with Fanny’s mother making her way up the Missouri River from Bismarck, Dakota Territory, to present day Fort Benton, Mont., aboard the steamboat Montana. The 1,300-mile trip took 43 days. Parents and children alike labored on the family homestead, where Fanny excelled at breaking horses. She was torn between helping her parents and the thrill of participating in the emerging sport of rodeo. Gradually, her contributions included prize money won in bucking horse contests and relay races.

Marvine’s engaging storyline takes readers along as Fanny travels to stampedes and Wild West shows, twice claiming the title of Lady Bucking Horse Champion of the World. Fanny also ranched and was the first woman in Montana to be granted an outfitter’s license. She always had a soft spot in her heart for a pinto horse.

The Lady Rode Bucking Horses is available new and used from online booksellers.


© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
April 2014                                                                                                             

Wrangler Awards honor stories of the American West
 

Sixteen Wranglers were presented during the 53rd Western Heritage Awards held April 12, 2014, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla. Not to be mistaken for the jeans, the Wrangler Award is an impressive bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback presented for achievement in music, literature, and film and television.

I make the distinction because the late cowboy singer Kyle Evans confused the two. Recounting the day in 1989 when a caller told him his South Dakota centennial tribute album, Celebrate the Century, had won the Wrangler, Evans initially declined the honor. He said, “I told the caller I already had lots of Wranglers in my closet, and I wasn’t going all the way to Oklahoma for another pair.” After a bit of explaining, Evans acquiesced. (For a listing of all past winners see Information-Awards at nationalcowboymuseum.org.) 
 

Additional categories have been added since Evans’ album was recognized as the lone music winner. “Portrait of a Cowgirl,” written, performed and co-produced by Canadian recording artist Eli Barsi (elibarsi.com/) won for Outstanding Original Western Composition. The title track from Barsi’s 13th album, it is a touching tribute to her prairie-born grandmother. The album was previously highlighted in the July 2013 installment of this column entitled “If You Ever Plan to Motor West.”  
 

 

Don Edwards (donedwardsmusic.com/) took home his eighth Wrangler for Just Me and My Guitar, which won for Outstanding Traditional Western Album. The New Horizons Wrangler Award went to 17-year-old Mikki Daniel (mustangmikki.com/) for her album Gotta Be A Cowgirl. 


Seven literary awards were presented. The Outstanding Photography Book went to A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette, written by Andy Wilkinson. The collection of black-and-white images dating from the 1940s chronicles a half century of ranching and small-town life in East Texas. Shot in and around Crockett and Lovelady, I was drawn to the photos and accompanying text of this University of Oklahoma Press publication. My ancestors lived for a brief time in Lovelady, and Wilkinson’s narrative helped me understand the climate and the culture they would have experienced. 

Philipp Meyer won for Outstanding Western Novel with The Son, a multi-generational saga that follows the rise of a Texas family, from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the oil booms of the 20th century.  

A book that examines a century of travel writing won for Outstanding Nonfiction Book. Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression was written by David M. Wrobel.

The award for Outstanding Art Book went to Karl Bodmer’s America Revisited: Landscape Views Across Time, co-authored by Robert M. Lindholm and W. Raymond Wood. Juxtaposed with contemporary photos, it examines how areas have changed since Bodmer documented Prince Maximilian’s 1832–34 North American expedition.

Grandma’s Santo on Its Head: Stories of Days Gone By in Hispanic Villages of New Mexico won for Outstanding Juvenile Book. Written by Nasario Garcia, it is a collection of bilingual short stories based on popular children’s tales told in rural New Mexico. 

Top honors for Outstanding Magazine Article went to “Coyote: An American Original.” Written by Dan Flores, it was published in Wild West Magazine.
 

Brushstrokes and Balladeers: Painters and poets of the American West, a compilation of 84 poems and 80 paintings, won for Outstanding Poetry Book. It was edited and published by CJ Hadley of RANGE magazine and the Range Conservation Foundation.                    

Three film and television awards were presented. A feature-length motion picture, The Cherokee Word for Water, won for Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture. It was inspired by the struggle of a rural Cherokee community to bring running water to their families. Behind the Gate, which examines the horse racing industry, won for Outstanding Documentary. And, the Wrangler for Outstanding Fictional Drama went to Hell on Wheels, a television series centered on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. 


© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
March 2014                                                                                                             

West of the Pecos

Texas is long on history and ripe with interesting personalities. Both are represented at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering (texascowboypoetry.com) held on the campus of Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas. The event showcases artists of the Trans-Pecos–Big Bend region, with added guests from across the US and Canada.

Alpine is located within the arid, mountainous region of Texas, separated from the bulk of the Lone Star State by the Pecos River. A major tributary of the Rio Grande, the Pecos empties into it near Del Rio, the waters filling the International Amistad Reservoir. The second largest lake in Texas, it is a popular recreation venue. South of Alpine and north the Mexican border, Big Bend National Park is another notable tourist destination.

 

 

Fort Stockton, Texas rancher and storyteller Apache Adams was among the artists featured during the 28th annual gathering held February 21-22, 2014. He’s a regular. Raised on a 10,000 acre ranch bordering the Rio Grande and Big Bend National Park, Adams is a living legend. You need only to hear him tell his stories or read Don Cadden’s book Tied Hard and Fast: Apache Adams, Big Bend Cowboy (2011, Outskirts Press, 155 pages, 25 photos, softcover, ISBN-13: 978-1432771171) to understand.  

Unlike the tall tales about Pecos Bill, Adams’ stories are real and delivered without boast or bluster. The fact that Adams rode before he could walk was a matter of necessity. Born in 1937, Adams says his family was “ahorseback every day, drank water from the river, cooked on wood stoves, and read by coal oil lamps.” He learned the ways of the vaquero from Mexicanos who worked for his father, a rancher, whose operation included 500 head of brood mares. Ranching where a section supports five to 10 head of cattle, horses are essential. At 76, Adams still saddles up for a day’s work on his ranch.

Cadden did a first-rate job of portraying Adams’ life and adventures in the book. Whether recounting his days as a Houston horseshoer or everyday tasks on the ranch—breaking mules, crossing rivers, piloting his own airplane, gathering wild cattle, goats, and burros, or tracking cattle thieves—the stories are captivating. Photos add to the appeal. (For more on the book see dcadden.com/Site/Home.html.) 

Tied Hard and Fast retails for $15.95 (plus $3 shipping) from Don Cadden, HC 65 Box 28-V, Alpine, TX  79830; (432) 364-2520; dcadden@bigbend.net. It is also available from online book sellers.    

 

 

Ranch-raised singer and songwriter Craig Carter from Marathon, Texas, was another local appearing at the gathering. Mournful and contemplative or upbeat and danceable, many of Carter’s country-western songs bear a Spanish influence. He and his Spur of the Moment Band have a solid following of fans who appreciate the group’s old school “border country” sound. Carter has toured Europe where he’s known not only for his music, but also as the host of a Western-themed TV show. 

For those who lament the direction today’s country-western music has gone, rejoice. Carter’s 12-track Texas Frontier album is a breath of fresh air. With his authentic western writing and talented studio players on keyboards, fiddle, and steel guitar, there’s a lot to like about this album. It has earned a place among my favorite travel CDs. The miles melt away with Carter’s original songs spinning, some reminiscent of Dwight Yoakam and Jimmy Buffett. Four tracks standout as favorites: “Lorena,” “Texas Frontier,” “Because of You,” and “Let Go.” 

Texas Frontier sells for $16 (postpaid) from Craig Carter, PO Box 94, Marathon, TX 79842; (323) 697-2808; craigcarter13@msn.com.

 

Alpine is home to renowned cowboy poet Joel Nelson. He is joined by fellow reciters Andy Hedges and Jerry Brooks on a collective recitation of “Anthem” written by Buck Ramsey: youtube.com/watch?v=ZS7ruJL2ztU. A project of the Nevada Museum of Art and the Western Folklife Center, it was filmed near Alpine. Often called the spiritual leader of the cowboy poetry movement, Ramsey (1938-1998) hailed from Texas. For more on Ramsey and “Anthem,” the prologue to his epic poem “Grass,” see cowboypoetry.com/grass.htm.
 

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News




Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
February 2014                                                                                                             

Evelyn Cameron: Pioneer, Photographer, Historian

Over the past weeks, I’ve spent considerable time delving into the life of Evelyn Cameron. Hours spent reading her diaries, studying her photographs, reading books about her, and watching an award-winning documentary deepened my appreciation for her tenacity as a pioneer and skill as a photographer. If you’re unfamiliar with Evelyn, please allow me to introduce you. 

Born into a wealthy British family, Evelyn came West on her honeymoon. The year was 1889; Montana had just been admitted to the Union. Evelyn and her husband, Ewen, were so enamored with the landscape and wildlife they vowed to make it their home. Much to her family’s dismay, the couple relocated. At first, they camped east of Miles City, Mont., near the Powder River. Evelyn’s 1893 diary opens as they’re settling into a cabin, a short distance south of Terry, Mont. 

Over the next 35 years, until her death in 1928, Evelyn documented life in the American West, combining diary entries and images made using a glass-plate negative camera. A contemporary of L.A. Huffman, she recorded the final days of open range, embodied by XIT Ranch cowboys. She was there for the construction of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which carried a flood of homesteaders to the Plains.  

Evelyn enjoyed local success as a photographer, and her work appeared in British and American publications. Still, it wasn’t until 1990 that her life’s story, illustrated with her photos and excerpts from her diaries, was told in glorious detail. Time-Life Books editor Donna M. Lucey brought Evelyn’s saga to the public in Photographing Montana 1894-1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron. Originally published as a hardback by Alfred A. Knopf, the large-format title has since been released as a paperback (2000, Mountain Press Publishing Company, 250 pages, 150 b/w photos, paperback, ISBN-13: 978-0878424252). It lists for $40. 

Lucey spent seven years writing the book, recognized as the definitive work about Evelyn. Her discovery of Evelyn’s original glass-plate negatives and diaries and subsequent research is lauded  by historians and laymen. The Montana Historical Society, Helena, maintains these items and more in the Evelyn Jephson Cameron Collection. Diary transcriptions are available online within the Society’s Montana Memories Project at http://cdm103401.cdmhost.com.

Terry, Montana, is the official Home of the Evelyn Cameron Gallery. Maintained by the Prairie County Museum, the gallery displays more than 100 enlargements and selected Cameron artifacts. Copies of Evelyn’s diaries are available for research in the reading room. A collection of approximately 1,800 of her images is housed in the museum. The gallery and the museum are open anytime by appointment at (406) 635-4529. Volunteers’ phone numbers are posted on the doors. 

Also on display in the gallery is the Emmy Award for the documentary, Evelyn Cameron: Pictures from a Worthy Life, directed by John Twiggs (2005, Montana PBS, 60 minutes, ASIN: B000E6FVXQ). I first saw the film at the Custer County Art and Heritage Center in Miles City and was mesmerized by the vivid colors and powerful script. The DVD retails for $19.95 (shipping extra). It is available from Montana PBS at montanapbs.org and at Amazon. I purchased a copy in the Prairie County Museum’s gift shop.

Also available in the gift shop as well as online is Meetings With Mrs. Collins: Sketches of Life and Events on Montana's Open Range; from the Diaries of Frontier Photographer Evelyn Cameron, 1893-1907 by Colleen Elizabeth Carter (2008, Outskirts Press, 196 pages, 22 b/w photos, softcover, ISBN-13: 978-1432727093). The lively narrative, written by the great-great-granddaughter of one of Evelyn’s friends, is a delightful read. It draws heavily upon Evelyn’s diary entries, in which she often mentioned Mrs. Mary Collins. Mary operated a boarding house in Terry. The paperback lists for $13.95.  

Another book about the intrepid Briton is Evelyn Cameron: Montana's Frontier Photographer by Kristi Hager (2007, Farcountry Press, 128 pages, 118 b/w photos, softcover, ISBN-13: 978-1560374657). Hager has lectured on Evelyn through the Montana Committee for the Humanities Speakers Bureau. An Honor Book from the 2007 Montana Book Awards, it contains nearly 120 images. Long on pictures and short on text, it includes quintessential images from Evelyn’s body of work. It lists for $14.95.

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
January 2014                                                                                                             

Holed Up and Hunkered Down

The new year broke cold on the Northern Plains with temperatures and wind chills the lowest in two decades. Weathermen blamed the frigid conditions on a Polar Vortex–a term I think would make a good name for a bucking horse. It was the kind of weather that makes you hurry every chance you get while outside.  

 

It was also the perfect opportunity to watch Bayou Cowboys of Louisiana:  Vaquero Ten, released in December 2013. In it, directors Susan Jensen and Paul Singer continue their cross-country excursion examining the cowboy lifestyle, this time focusing on southern Louisiana. I’ve previously highlighted other titles in the series, including The Californio; The Buckaroo; Holo Holo Paniolo: Hawaii; Houlihan: Northern Range; and Texas Cowpunchers.

While cattle ranching is a facet of the South, both past and present, the cowboy of the American West is most often depicted in books, photographs, poetry, and movies. Fact is, the U.S. cattle business got its start in Mexico and what is now Florida when explorers offloaded cattle from their ships. Hard as it might be to imagine, New Orleans was once a thriving cowtown.

This 95-minute installment opens in a bayou where Spanish moss hangs from bald cypress trees and alligators glide silently in muddy waters. The action quickly switches to a marshland roundup where air boats are used. In a land of bogs and marshes, where it takes only one to two acres to graze a cow, getting around horseback has it challenges. The maneuverability of boats makes them equal to roughly 15 or 20 riders and reduces the chances of horse and rider getting bogged down. (Watch a 6-minute YouTube clip at www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnhHhGB5sK4.)

Footage from a roundup on the beach got my attention, as did talk of death losses attributed to hurricanes. There’s discussion of the cattle breeds best suited to the climate of this coastal region, the role Creole cowboys have played through the generations, and the Zydeco music of rancher and horseman Geno Delafose. It’s an adventure that I think you’ll find enlightening and entertaining.          

Bayou Cowboys of Louisiana:  Vaquero Ten sells for $22.95 check or money order (US orders only) from J&S Productions, PO Box 91560, Santa Barbara, CA 93190; www.tapadero.com. Order by phone using a credit card at 805-695-0164. The complete 10-DVD set with over 16 hours of cowboy entertainment sells for $160 plus $15 (US priority).

 

 

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Jeff Streeby’s Sunday Creek, a collection of 85 posthumous monologues, is available in paperback (2012, InCahoots Film Entertainment LLC, 274 pages, b/w photos, ISBN:  978-0982742372). I’ve followed Streeby’s ongoing work on the project for more than a decade. To hold this version in my hands is akin to revisiting a beloved museum: checking to see if my favorite items are still there; looking to see what’s been added.  

The “Six Black Horses” in the prologue still pull the hearse that takes the deceased to the cemetery. There was “Wiley Rawlins,” (1867-1889), his life cut short by a lightening bolt. More recently added to those interred is railroad laborer “Huge Murphy” (1844-1883). (Read these and others at www.cowboypoetry.com/sundaycreek.htm.)

A horseman, educator, cowboy poet, and performer, Streeby drew heavily on all of these aspects of his life to craft the historically-inspired, first-person epitaphs of the now-deceased citizenry of Sunday Creek. To be certain, Sunday Creek as a tributary of the Yellowstone River exists, however, there was no such settlement. Streeby constructed the frontier town just as he assembled the farewell soliloquies, masterfully assuming the personas of his characters and interpreting their lives: Native, immigrant, gallant trooper, cattle baron, wild young cowboy, lawdog, pious preacher, blushing maid, painted jade, miner, gambler.

An appendix serves as a walking guide for readers considering the headstones. In it, Streeby cites historical references, stating if the character is real or fictional, and providing sources for additional reading. Many are composites, based on historical figures and incidents, stories in the oral tradition, and myths. The poems–often reading more like stories–are complex, poignant, and sometimes funny. They encompass more than 150 years of life on the Northern Plains. 

Sunday Creek retails for $19.95 from Amazon.com. For more on Streeby, visit jeffstreebyauthorizedsite.com.

© 2014, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
December 2013                                                                                                             

Christmas Gift Ideas: Part 2

Ready or not, here comes Christmas! Adding to last month’s ideas, here are more suggestions for the Westerners on your list.

The first is both practical and decorative. It comes from my cousin who mentioned she was taking her new cotton duck coat to the embroidery shop to have her brand stitched onto it. As a means of identifying whose is whose on a rack or in a pile of similarly-colored jackets, they apply the wearer’s brand to the garment. If it’s a hip brand, it’s stitched toward the bottom edge near the back pant pocket–on the right or left side according to the brand registration. A rib or shoulder brand goes on the chest or lapel. This can be done on new or previously worn garments. A note of caution regarding gift apparel: make certain it’s the right size before having the embroidery done.

 

Baxter Black’s just-released collection of 164 poems and stories, Poems Worth Saving (2013, Coyote Cowboy Co., 279 pages, hardback, ISBN-13: 978-0939343577), is guaranteed to be the right size. Finding it difficult to keep all of his many books in print, the mustachioed Black cherry-picked 164 poems and stories from 25 previously published works. They have a “best of” feel including these favorites of mine: “The Vegetarian’s Nightmare,” “Lucky to Be an American,” “The Range Fire,” “One More Year,” “Cajun Dance,” and “Good Bye, Old Man.” Your favorites may vary, but I’m certain you’ll find more than a few that have touched you through the years. 

Hidden in amongst Black’s oft-requested tales are several I didn’t remember. It’s likely I read them years ago, but for some reason they stood out as new. Among them are “If Herefords Were Black,” a Dr. Seuss-like romp about this region’s most popular cattle breeds, and “A Parent’s Thoughts at Graduation,” a sentimental piece penned as Black’s daughter prepared to stroll across the auditorium stage into adulthood. 

Poems Worth Saving sells for $24.95 (plus shipping). The buy-two, get-one-free holiday special is $49.90 (plus shipping). Order from Coyote Cowboy Company, PO Box 2190, Benson, AZ  85602; baxterblack.com; or (800) 654-2550.

 

Historian, poet, writer, reciter, and part-time chuck wagon cook Linda Kirkpatrick is out with her second collection of stories devoted to the history of the West and those who played a role in making it. Tales of the Frio Canyon: Stories of the Texas Hill Country (2013, Frontier Books, 189 pages, paperback, ISBN-13: 978-0615886954) debuted in October. Sales have been brisk with overwhelmingly positive response to the 13 selections within. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll echo it here in print, “A Pig’s Tale: Git Along Little Piggie” is worth the price of the book if it’s the only story you read. In it, Kirkpatrick tells of the courageous and resourceful Texas drovers, who in the late 1800s, rounded up wild hogs and trailed them to railheads where they were shipped to market. While the concept may lack the romance associated with cattle drives, let me assure you, it stands its own with danger and excitement. Other stories recount Indian wars, early-day cattle ranchers, cattle rustling, bootlegging, train robbers, ghostly apparitions, Texas Rangers, and a shooting precipitated by wild honey.                                       

Tales of the Frio Canyon sells for $20. Order from Linda Kirkpatrick, PO Box 128, Leakey, TX 78873; somewhereinthewest.blogspot.com/; (830) 591-8177.

 

 

A friend tipped me off to this little gem for the horseman: Developing the Art of Equine Communication by C. L. “Lee” Anderson (2012, Moonlight Mesa Associates, 160 pages, paperback, ISBN-13: 978-0982758533). This is not a training manual, although establishing communication obviously enhances training. With more than 60 years of experience in training horses to his credit, Anderson identifies four types of stimuli horses sense: auditory, visual, physical, and odor. He states that horses can smell fear in humans, endangering the rider/trainer.  

Here are some other nuggets:  Mother Nature gave horses an adrenaline pump with a hair trigger; everything a human does by instinct adds fuel to the fire. Raising your voice confuses a horse and makes them nervous. Discomfort makes a horse think; pain will cause it to fight. It is imperative to establish your authority over a horse at the slightest indication of potentially dangerous aggression by a horse.                                       

Developing the Art of Equine Communication retails for 16.95 (plus $3.95 s/h) from Moonlight Mesa Associates, 18620 Moonlight Mesa Rd., Wickenburg, AZ  85390; www.moonlightmesaassociates.com. It’s also available in print and as an e-reader download from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. (Moonlight Mesa Associates also sells the delightful young- reader Western by J. R. Sanders, The Littlest Wrangler. I mentioned this title back in June 2012.)

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
November 2013                                                                                                             

Christmas Gift Ideas: Part 1

What’s on your calendar? A whimsical cow jumping over the moon greeted me when I turned mine from October to November. The change reminded me it’s time for my columns devoted to Christmas gift suggestions with a western flair. Look for more in December.

 

Last week a friend showed me her 2014 Real Buckaroo Calendar from RANGE magazine. The large-format calendar features superb color images of cowboys, cowpunchers, buckaroos, horses, cattle, sheep, and dogs. It includes moon phases and has generous spaces in which to write. Whether you’re shopping for your home or someone else, be assured this calendar represents the “cowboy spirit on America’s outback.”

At only $10, the Real Buckaroo Calendar is a great value. Order 10 or more and pay just $9 each. For phone orders, call 800-RANGE-4-U (800-726-4348). Send mail orders to RANGE, PO Box 639, Carson City, NV 89702. (Nevada residents MUST add sales tax. Add $8 per calendar for postage to foreign addresses.)   

 

Jan Swan Wood, South Dakota rancher, writer, artist, cowboy poet, and equine pedigree announcer, has two collections of her Outtagrass Cattle Company cartoon that would fit nicely in a stocking:  It’s A Great Life If You Don’t Weaken (2010) and A Miss By An Inch Is As Good As A Mile (2012). The series appears weekly in the Tri-State Livestock News, published in Spearfish, SD.  

Thumbing through the two books, I found myself chuckling at the things Wood’s characters were doing, thinking, and saying, largely because I’ve done, thought, and said many of the same things myself. The single panels run the gamut of experiences in a ranching and horseback world–calving, turnout time, chopping ice, markets, fences, tall horses and tight pants–with an occasional piece of mechanical equipment thrown in for added amusement.   

Wood’s books are $15 each plus shipping: $2.50 for one book; $3.50 for two. (SD residents, please add 60 cents sales tax per book). Send orders to Jan Swan Wood, 13340 Hope Rd., Newell, SD 57760; 605-456-2559.

 

Likewise entertaining, but filled with oodles of experiences I never had, is Montana Stirrups, Sage and Shenanigans: Western Ranch Life in a Forgotten Era (Flying Diamond Books, 2013, 408 pages, 260 b/w photographs, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0918532763). Written by three ranch-raised sisters, Francie Brink Berg, Anne Brink Sallgren Krickel, and Jeanie Brink Thiessen, the book is a collection of nearly 100 stories from their growing-up-years on the family’s eastern Montana ranch (approximately 1939-1950). Enhancing these gems are an incredible array of family photos and sidebars on topics such as preparing a cowboy bedroll and how a cream separator works.

Suitable for all ages, the stories capture a time when children were given a great deal of responsibility and relied on their imagination for entertainment. The book is brimming with tales of hard work, adventure, near misses, and resourcefulness that set the sisters on a course for professional success. In addition to providing hours of personal enjoyment, it would be an excellent choice for reading aloud to students or seniors. (See MontanaStirrupsandSage.com)  

Montana Stirrups, Sage and Shenanigans is available in softcover ($29.95 plus shipping) or hardcover ($39.95 plus shipping) from Francie M. Berg, Flying Diamond Books, 402 South 14th Street, Hettinger, ND 58639; 701-567-2646; fmberg@ndsupernet.com.

 

Festooned with a holiday wreath, Little Buddy the Christmas Steer graces the cover of this year’s compilation of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry produced by CowboyPoetry.com. A double CD, The Bar-D Roundup Vol. Eight: 2013 features 48 Christmas poems by artists from across the West. Many were recorded especially for the series’ first Christmas compilation. (See a complete track listing at cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm.)   

Among the classics are those penned by Charles M. Russell, William Lawrence Chittenden, Badger Clark, and S. Omar Barker. Jimmy Dean’s 1965 recording of Barker’s “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” is the album’s vintage highlight. Ranging from serious to humorous, the offerings give voice to those who often find themselves tending animals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, tossing the stock a little extra hay in celebration. 

In one aspect, the mix of voices and material brought back memories of Christmas programs staged in schools and churches, where nervous children flanked by white-sheet curtains recited selections for family and neighbors. Again, recognizing many of the voices as my friends, I got the sensation that it was Christmastime and they had come to spend the day, joshing, laughing, and telling stories in our living room. In either instance, I felt the joy and commitment of those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition.

To order The Bar-D Roundup Christmas compilation, send $25 to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 695, St. Helena, CA 94574. For online orders, go to cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm.

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
October 2013

Leaning into the Harness

Penning this monthly column is a privilege. It provides me the opportunity to review projects produced by people from across North America. I understand the commitment that goes into researching, writing, editing, and designing, and the financial resources necessary for production and distribution. I don't take it lightly when a parcel arrives for my consideration. 

There's not enough space to mention every book, CD, or DVD that crosses my desk, so I sort through the submissions, evaluating them for quality and gauging which will appeal most to my readers. I set them aside until I find a common theme with which to group two or three in a column. This month it's leaning into the harness, as in a horse pulling a wagon.

 

 

Having just finished Wolf Teeth, poems by Henry Real Bird (Lost Horse Press, 2013, 84 pages, illustrations, ISBN: 978-0-0883166-4-5), I was struck by the effort that went into the poems, which look so deceivingly perfect on paper. Preparing a book for printing is a marathon of selecting material, editing, layout, and proofing. That's not taking into account the hours spent writing. 

Real Bird's astute observations span a life lived on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation, following the rodeo circuit, teaching, and raising bucking horses. I could hear the sound of his voice as clearly as if he were standing next to me while I read, the text vividly capturing his tone and philosophy. He honors and examines his culture and the history of his people, longing for bygone days and aspiring to better times ahead. I was touched by a number of deeply romantic pieces, written to a love that is never clearly defined, and warmed by this from "A Blessing," "So may you be covered with love for many winters to come."

Wolf Teeth is available for $16.95 plus postage from Lost Horse Press, 105 Lost Horse Lane, Sandpoint, ID  83864; (208) 255-4410; losthorsepress.org.

 

 

Award-winning singer, songwriter, and entertainer Juni Fisher is also an accomplished horsewoman. She nurtured the vision of Listen ... to the horse for several years before heading into the studio to record the album. Long before she made arrangements with the producer and musicians, she wrote nine of the 11 tracks-collaborating on three. (Hear the title track at junifisher.com) Fisher selected "Stewball" and Mike Beck's "Patrick" to round out the collection that speaks of her love and respect for horses.  

In a revealing narrative, Fisher traces her equine journey from Western saddle horses to point-to-point racing and fox hunting and back to reined cow horses and the cutting pen. There were some bumps and bruises along the way. Fisher shares that she found the writing process cathartic. 

Fans are cheering the results, among them farriers given their five minutes of fame in the bluesy "For Want of a Nail." Master of the ballad, Fisher's "Fillinic" tells the story of a wild-eyed filly trained by the late Greg Ward that became the foundation of the National Reined Cow Horse Association. Have a box of tissues at hand for this sentimental favorite.      

Listen sells for $17.50 from junifisher.com. Downloads are available at iTunes. Contact Fisher c/o Red Geetar Records, 2105 Granville Rd., Franklin, TN 37064; (615) 289-1292; info@junifisher.net.

 

 

Cowboying for a living, Daron Little's third album, 307, reflects his life spent in the saddle. Although the title refers to Wyoming's area code, these original songs are about ranches and cowboys from across the modern American West. With lyrics that include brindle-hided ladies and half-top trailers, you know he's writing from experience. Those who appreciate authenticity in their cowboy music will find that Daron Little delivers, and those who like it with a dash of rock n' roll are going to enjoy "Long Days." (Listen to "Bell Song," "The Branding Song," and "307" at ranchcowboymusic.com.)

In "Bell Song," Little makes mention of the spring wagon rolling out at the 290,000-acre Bell Ranch north of Tucumcari, N.M. Little works for the Silver Spur Ranch, headquartered at Encampment, WY, which purchased the historic Bell in 2010. Ranch managers there brought back the century-old cowboy tradition of sending a chuck wagon out for spring works. (This video captures the inaugural outing (youtube.com/watch?v=qIpSxRxnS3Q.)

The 12-track 307 sells for $18. Send checks to Daron Little, PO Box 314, Encampment, WY  82325. For credit card orders and downloads, go to ranchcowboymusic.com.
         

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
September 2013

The Dust Bowl: It was that bad

Farmers in our area of the Upper Great Plains are trying to finish this year’s grain harvest. Unseasonably wet planting and growing conditions have made for a protracted harvest. Dryland small grains are running above average at 45 to 50 bushels per acre, with equally impressive protein and test weights.

Long lines of trucks waiting to unload at elevators weren’t in the forecast back in April, nor were bunched clusters of hay bales waiting to be hauled. With little carry-over moisture in the ground, farmers and ranchers were more than a little concerned about the prospects for the growing, grazing, and haying seasons. And then in May, it started raining.
 

This area’s current good fortune was not lost on me as I watched acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns’ four-hour, two-episode documentary The Dust Bowl (PBS, 2012, two discs, 240 minutes). Combining firsthand accounts of those who lived through the Dust Bowl with photos, home movie clips, and news reels, the film is a sobering portrayal of the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history—beginning in 1932 and coinciding with the Great Depression.

The footage and stills capture dust clouds 200-miles wide moving at 65 mph that turned midday to midnight. Diary excerpts and interviews capture the experiences of those who witnessed the blowing topsoil in disbelief, who donned masks and goggles in an attempt to keep fine particles out of their lungs and eyes, whose skin was abraded by the wind-driven sand, who saw families, crops, herds, and communities torn asunder.
 

The DVD, paired with the companion book The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns (Chronicle Books, 2012, 232 pages, 300+ photographs, ISBN 978-1452107943), was a gift. Many of the images in the documentary are contained within the book, as are interview transcripts of people who lived through the horrific, decade-long ordeal—the epicenter in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Don Wells, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, is one of 26 Dust Bowl survivors appearing in the documentary, recounting daily struggles and milestones. Some toughed it out with their families waiting for the rains to return. Some migrated to California. Others were sent East to live with relatives. Wells is quoted on the book’s back cover saying, “Let me tell you how it was. I don’t care who describes it to you, nobody can tell it any worse than what it was. And no one exaggerates; there is no way for it to be exaggerated. It was that bad.”

Despite the heartbreaking sadness, a silver lining of perseverance and determination shines through, a resolve that carried them until the soil was stabilized and rain returned. Moods lifted in 1938 when, with some decrease in the winds and a slight increase in rain, a 10 bushel/acre wheat harvest was recorded. 

The Dust Bowl DVD and The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History are available from online retailers. The documentary is available in DVD and Blu-ray formats; the book in hardback, paperback, and e-reader versions.
 

Andy Hedges:  Cowboy Songster, a just-released album of traditional songs from the 1920s and ’30s, is reminiscent of the Dust Bowl era both in tone and substance. There’s a gritty honesty to the 14 tracks of folk, blues, and old cowboy songs. Part of that comes from Hedges’ voice and sensitive interpretations, part of it from being recorded in real time, in analog, with minimal accompaniment, and without overdubs. (See video trailer at youtube.com/watch?v=5HTJF7QH3gs.)

Inspired by the lost tradition of traveling songsters–solo performers known for their repertoire of traditional songs who accompanied themselves on guitar or banjo–Hedges played his father’s 1960s Harmony Sovereign guitar, a friend’s 1938 archtop guitar, and a handmade six-string banjo. For good measure, he used one of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s old guitar picks. (Listen to “Diamond Joe” and “Old Chisholm Trail” under Music at andyhedges.com).

Hedges rolled out renditions of “Black Snake Moan” and “Chuck-Wagon Blues” from a collection of recitations and songs he started when he was 14. Also included are “Boll Weevil” and “West Texas Blues,” standouts from previous albums re-recorded for this old school, solo acoustic offering. 

Andy Hedges: Cowboy Songster can be downloaded from iTunes or CD Baby. Purchase the album for $15.88 plus $3.50 shipping (Texas residents add $1.60 tax) from Yellowhouse Music, PO Box 505, Snyder, TX 79550; 325-574-9448; yellowhousemusic.com. Contact Hedges at cowpoet@gmail.com; 806-790-5555.

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
August 2013

Summer Reruns

Standing in line at the local fair, an acquaintance told me she recently reread a book I researched and edited back in 2001. “It made me feel so good to read it again,” she said, noting it brought back fond memories of the late Father William Fahnlander, the individual whose life and works it chronicled.

I was touched by her comment, pleased to know someone enjoyed the book enough to read it a second time. The discussion reminded me of books I’d like to read again, books I find myself recommending to others:
 

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (Mariner Books, 2006, 352 pages, b/w photos, softcover, ISBN: 9780618346974).

Egan dug deeply for the story buried beneath the disaster, seeking out survivors’ firsthand accounts and enhancing them with diary entries, newspaper and magazine articles, books, and museum archives. He recounts how the soil was laid bare by well-intentioned homesteaders and suitcase farmers looking to make a quick buck. Both succumbed to a wheat-farming frenzy, plowing under fragile grasslands where cattle once grazed—including the famous XIT.

After several prosperous years, weather patterns changed. Rain ceased. Temperatures vaulted into the triple digits. And the wind began to blow. Animals and humans suffocated and went blind from dusters. Farmers fed thistles and yucca to their cattle; farm wives prepared the same to feed their families. Babies, adults, and livestock succumbed to dust pneumonia.

Egan slips his readers’ feet into the shoes of his characters. Native Americans, cowboys, con artists, hoodwinked-homesteaders, compassionate businessmen, students, and government officials tread across the pages. The reader is helpless but to follow.
 

One Night in a Bad Inn by Christy Leskovar (Pictorial Histories Publishing, 2006, 608 pages, 200 photos, 6 maps, softcover, ISBN: 978-1-57510-142-2).

Christy Leskovar left her job to research a series of family scandals about which she had only the briefest of details. The quest was ignited by a family member who casually mentioned Leskovar’s great-grandmother having been arrested for murdering her husband. The year was 1912; homesteaders were settling the remote recesses of Rosebud County, Mont. Eight years later, after traveling to every location where anything significant happened, Leskovar published the true story.

The book is succinctly described on the official Web site as, “A lively true story of scandal, war, murder, and mayhem, and courage and fortitude, stretching across the parched plains of eastern Montana to the raucous mining town of Butte to the bloody battlefields of the First World War.”

It’s all that and a Montana-and-world-history lesson too.
 

Bucking the Sun by Ivan Doig (Scribner, 1996, 412 pages, softcover, ISBN: 978-0684831497).

A complex mystery novel, the story opens in 1938, with a Ford truck and two bodies being pulled from the Missouri River at Fort Peck Dam. The plot centers around the construction of Fort Peck–the world's biggest earthen dam–which at the depth of the Depression put more than ten thousand people back to work.

Doig describes the time spent researching and writing the book as "A three-year roll of the dice," during which he invested "everything I've ever learned as a wordsmith." With him at the helm, it’s practically impossible to tell a memoir from biography from novel. Historical incidents stampede, mix with fiction and gallop across the page as engrossing copy.
 

Lessons from a Desperado Poet: How to Find Your Way When You Don't Have a Map, How to Win the Game When You Don't Know the Rules, and When Someone Says it Can't be Done, What They Mean is They Can't Do It by Baxter Black (TwoDot, 2011, 232 pages, hardback, ISBN: 9780762769971).

Before multiple appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, a book deal with Random House, and a presence on NPR, Black navigated a road fraught with setbacks. Lessons is filled with personal photos and accounts of his challenges, successes, and failures. Unmasked, Black is surprisingly frank in sharing entrepreneurial-and life-lessons learned since he took his first job with Bumper’s Grocery at age 14.       

It’s not a get-rich-quick story but rather a strategy of making the most of what you have, thinking creatively, developing dogged persistence, doing the right thing, and winning against seemingly hopeless odds. His credentials? Known by millions for dispensing cowboy lore and logic, Black travels the world making his living speaking at agricultural banquets, writing a weekly column, and selling books, recordings, and videos.   

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
July 2013

If You Ever Plan to Motor West

For the past year, I’ve been making a monthly trip west to Miles City, Montana. The outing provides a glimpse of ongoing construction projects and seasonal farm and ranch work along the way. The last trip out, I listened to three CDs for this column. A vehicle is an excellent venue in which to gauge mastering–the process of taking a studio mix and preparing it for distribution. If you’ve ever had to turn the volume up because one song was too quiet, then turn it down because another was too loud, that CD could have benefitted from mastering.
 

 

Johnny Kendrick’s Tales of the Perilous Trail passed the road-trip test, yielding approximately 60-miles of traditional songs and stories reminiscent of the American West. The 13 tracks, including one original, share the theme of trials, troubles, and joy found along the trail. Kendrick’s wrote “Echoes of the Trail” for a cowboy poetry gathering by the same name in Fort Scott, Kansas. (For more on Kendrick, see www.cowboypoetry.com/johnnykendrick.htm.)  

Having said that, this album has an earthy-folk feel. It was a pleasure to discover several tracks that were new to me, including “I Wish I’d Stayed in the Wagonyard,” recorded in 1929 by Peg Moreland. “We Were Buddies” by Maybelle Carter, and “On the Banks of the Old Pontchartrain” by Ramona Vincent and Hank Williams, are two other stand outs in my estimation. (Find track listing/notes under STORE at www.johnnykendrick.com.) 

I was taken by the simple acoustic instrumentation–guitar, piccolo banjo, tenor guitar, and fiddle–on tunes by the Carter Family, Hank Williams, and Tex Owens, among others. Providing accompaniment for the western Missouri farmer-stockman, are his sons Jackson and Samuel. 

Tales of the Perilous Trail sells for $14 postpaid from Johnny Kendrick, RR Box 25, Richards, MO 64778; 417-484-3344; www.johnnykendrick.com. Downloads are available at www.cdbaby.com/johnnykendrick.


 

Halfway through my westward travels, I popped singer/songwriter Eli Barsi’s Portrait of a Cowgirl into the disc player. With that, I was transported to the Canadian Prairies. The title track from Barsi’s 13th album is a touching tribute to her prairie-born grandmother. “A Real Partner,” co-written with Doris Daley and sung with Brett Kissel, tells of the husband/wife team that started the Calgary Stampede. To get the full impact of the song, complete with vintage and contemporary photos, watch it on Barsi’s Facebook page.   

Having worked as a professional musician for the past 25 years, Barsi is known throughout the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. She’s also familiar to Branson visitors who saw her during the eight years she played with the legendary Sons of the Pioneers. This album, with the dance-able western swing “Prairie Skies” and “Country Music Was Made for Saturday Night,” is representative of her own five-piece grandstand show that combines a variety of standards and originals. (Watch the album trailer at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-qCCZlb5FU.) 

The 12-track Portrait of a Cowgirl sells for $20 postpaid from Copper Star Productions, PO Box 1843, Moosomin, Saskatchewan  S0G 3N0  Canada; (888) 941-4149;  www.elibarsi.com. Downloads are available from iTunes.


 

Kristyn Harris, in the form of her 2013 release Let Me Ride, rode shotgun with me on my return trip. I was glad to have her cheerful, upbeat company after a long day. The second album from the 18-year-old western artist, it includes her favorite traditional cowboy and western swing songs, one by Randy Huston, and one that she wrote. Harris won the 2012 Western Music Association Crescendo Award and was also the group’s Female Yodeler of the Year. As you might expect, there’s yodeling on the album.

Three of the 12 tracks are garnering attention from, and airplay by cowboy/western disc jockeys: “Yodel Western Swing”; “Let Me Ride Down in Rocky Canyon”; and “Texas Bluebonnet Waltz.” Add to these my favorites, “Mockingbird Yodel” and “Roll Along Prairie Moon.”

Playing rhythm guitar and standup bass, Harris, who hails from Collin County, Texas, is as comfortable on stage as she is horseback. She successfully trained two mustangs and competed in the 2012 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth. 

Let Me Ride sells for $18 postpaid from Kristyn Harris, PO Box 6807, McKinney, TX 75071; 214-901-6391; www.kristynharris.com. Downloads are available at Amazon.com, iTunes, and cdbaby.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
June 2013

Comforts of Home


 copyright 2010, Jeri Dobrowski
Quilt from Yvonne Hollenbeck's "Patchwork of the Prairie" trunk show

A recent photo shoot took me to Gordon, Neb. It was a continuation of project started several years ago when Yvonne Hollenbeck and I spent a day near Medora, N.D., photographing five generations of her family’s quilts. That first session yielded colorful images of handmade quilts set against wild roses and lilacs and draped over twisted cedar stumps and split-rail fence. They depict items in Yvonne's always-popular quilt trunk show, “Patchwork of the Prairie.”  

During the shows, Yvonne enlists two volunteers to hold the bedcovers, displaying each for the audience as she shares the history behind them. It’s a captivating journey through time combining the quilts with narrative and poetry. Included among the blocks, quilts, and coverlets–spanning 140 years–are those made by Yvonne, who is both an award-winning quilter and cowboy poet. She lives on a cattle ranch 50 miles north of Valentine, Neb., with husband, Glen. The oldest full-sized quilt in the collection, a nine-patch circa 1890, was made by Jane Hellyer Kayton of rural Butler County, Neb. Most of the quilts and their makers have ties to Nebraska.          
                                                           

Dating back 173 years, California quilts take center stage in Quilts: California Bound, California Made 1840-1940 by Sandi Fox (University of Oklahoma Press, 2012, b/w and color photographs, paperback ISBN 978-0971918405). The former Collection Curator of Quilts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fox combines letters, diaries, and historical records to detail what was happening when each made its way to, or was constructed in, the Golden State.  

Utilitarian and works of art, most were pieced by women. However, two were made by men, one a soldier recovering from wounds received in Spanish-American War. Some have cutout corners to accommodate four-post beds, others were used on the ground as a cowboy’s sugan. Some made the trip to California tied onto the back of a saddle or strapped to a mule. Yet others were conveyed in wagons, aboard ships, and once the tracks were completed, via trains. Several were made en route, the maker bringing the materials along on the westward trek.

Pieced, appliquéd, embroidered, and embellished. Wool, cotton, velvet, silk, and sateen. New, recycled, discarded, and home-dyed. The styles and materials are as varied as the makers. So too are the designs and purposes for which they were made: everyday bedding; a going-away gift; a family register of births, marriages, and deaths; to raise money for charity. You may never look at a quilt the same again. 

Quilts retails for $40 from www.oupress.com. It is also available from online book sellers.
 

The most basic of necessities were hard to come by in the American frontier. That included medical care. Volney Steele, M.D., presents the challenges in the engrossing Bleed, Blister, and Purge: A History of Medicine on the American Frontier  (Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2005, b/w photos, 367 pages, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0878425051).

Dr. Steele, the son of his hometown’s only physician, grew up hearing stories his father told of medicine before anesthetics, antibiotics, and modern hospitals. He augmented that with his own time as a physician and extensive research–much of it conducted in Montana–where he practiced from 1959 to 1986.  

Transporting the reader to the days of rotgut whiskey anesthetics, castor oil, and barroom surgery, it sheds light on effective cures and the lack of understanding of what caused some maladies. I was enthralled with the discussion of scurvy. Caused by a simple lack of Vitamin C, it rivaled cholera as the number-one killer on the frontier. Soldiers were commonly affected by the condition, so much so that once the cause was determined, post surgeons were responsible for managing vegetable gardens.

Dr. Steele wrote Bleed, Blister, and Purge “to shed light on and celebrate the dedication and humanitarianism of those many physicians, nurses, shamans, and people of sound practical sense who saw their patients–often friends and family–through the adversities that bedeviled them.” With the authority of a scholar and the bewitching magic of a storyteller, Dr. Steele educates and entertains. The book was a semi-finalist in the 2005 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Bleed, Blister, and Purge lists for $18 at http://mountain-press.com. It is also available in bookstores and through online sellers. 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
May 2013

In Search of Dirt

Recently while scouting the stacks in a used bookstore, I spotted a copy of From the Steppes to the Prairies by Monsignor George P. Aberle. It’s the third book of the Monsignor’s I’ve gleaned from the nonfiction corner, each a different title. Born in Strassburg, Kutschurgan, Russia, Aberle was among thousands of Germans from Russia who emigrated to America when western states were opened to homesteading. He arrived in 1908, at the age of 17. 

Privy to stories passed down through generations, Aberle relates the saga of  farmers and artisans leaving southern Germany for Russia in the middle 18th and early 19th centuries. Approximately 100 years later—enticed by opportunity and free land—a second wave of migration set them sailing for Canada, South America, and the prairies of Dakota.

One of the world’s most comprehensive collections about this ethnic group is archived in the Germans from Russian Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University (library.ndsu.edu/grhc). Included are the Dakota Memories Oral History Project,  clothing and textiles, photo, publications, translations, and heritage tours.

Prairie Public Broadcasting (PPB), the network of public television stations covering North Dakota, portions of Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, and the three Canadian provinces produced a series on the Germans from Russia. I’ve watched many of the programs, some several times, including my favorites which deal with food and the distinctive wrought-iron cemetery crosses.

In a 2000 media release, co-producer of the film Michael Miller stated, “These were a people who overcame much adversity.” Touting the importance of Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia, he said, “It preserves a legacy of a very self-sufficient group. The film is a chronicle of the prairie women who left no records of their lives, but who are remembered every day in the recipes and rituals of the kitchen: the heart of the home.”

The Germans from Russia Food Pantry Collection DVD brings together three award-winning favorites: Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia and Recipes from Grandma’s Kitchen Volumes I and II, plus bonus footage and recipes. Among the dishes are Fiegele (little birds bread), Pfeffernuesse Brot (pepper-spiced bread), Fleischkuchla (Volga-style meat turnovers), and Knoepfla Supp (dumpling soup). The DVD  sells for $29.95 plus shipping from NDSU Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Dept #2080, PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050; (701) 231-8416; prairiepublic.org/shop.
 

 

Jared Rogerson’s latest CD release, Dirt, gives credence to the adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Raised with the majestic Rocky Mountains as his backyard, Rogerson writes from a contemporary Westerner's viewpoint, what he calls “Cowboy Music from the New West.” As the title song from the 14-track album proclaims, “Dirt, it’s what this land’s made of / Work, it’s what this ranch is made of ... It’s a hard, hard life / But we got what we came for ... Dirt, is where the best roads lead / Dirt, it’s how I know I’m really free / And I wouldn’t trade this way of life for anything.” (Read the lyrics in their entirety at cowboypoetry.com/jaredrogerson.htm.

While Rogerson’s message is rooted in the age-old desire for personal freedom and the lure of  land, his sound is decidedly modern. Co-produced with Brenn Hill and Ryan Tilby, Dirt will remind more than a few Chris LeDoux fans of the late singer’s message, style, and intensity. (Take a glimpse into “Where Dirt Comes From,” the story behind Rogerson’s music at youtube.com/watch?v=D1qQ7yOXQBs&feature=youtu.be.)      

Acknowledging today’s fast-paced world, Rogerson laments the loss of individual purpose. In his biography, the bronc-rider-turned-songwriter says great challenges face those living in today’s American West, just as the courageous men and women who traversed the country 150 years ago. Of the opportunities that exist, he says, “Now is the time when every single person can make an impact on the world. For me, it is music. My hope is to inspire others to dream big and then chase down those dreams. Now is the time. Life’s too short to ride a slow horse.”

Dirt sells for $20 from Roughstock Records, PO Box 2071, Pinedale, WY 82941; (307) 231-0610. Listen to samples and order online at www.JaredRogerson.com. Downloads are available on iTunes. 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
April 2013

Waiting For the First Spring Day

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.
The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. 
Henry Van Dyke

Although the calendar declares it's spring, a deep-and-lingering snow cover with temperatures well below average has the region's residents wondering if they'll ever see May flowers. Stockmen who scheduled calving and lambing for April are dealing with record-breaking snow and cold.

It's a double-edged sword. A wizened rancher whose land adjoined my folks used to say that you needed a calf-killing storm to grow grass for the ones that survived. Caring for herds in knee-deep snow takes longer and requires additional feed and bedding. Already weary from round-the-clock checks of the maternity pens, the added duty of ministering to chilled newborns tips the scale of human endurance all the more toward exhaustion. 

 

 

Raised on a cow-calf operation on the High Plains of Colorado, Terry Nash captures one such wintry birthing scene in "Cowman's Lot" from his recently-released album, December Stragglers. His description of waiting for a heifer to calve is spot-on, right down to the baby "nose-diving' into the ground." It's apparent from this original poem and the title track (read "December Stragglers" at cowboypoetry.com/terrynash.htm) that Nash writes from experiences. Most ranch folks will be able to put a face to the "hunter a-hoofin' it into town" and the cow he calls "Wild old Snort."  

Nash includes several pieces by others on the 13-track album, including classics by Henry Knibbs, Bruce Kiskaddon, Badger Clark, and S. Omar Barker. It was a pleasant surprise to find Larry McWhorter's sentimental contemporary "Black Draught" among them. 

December Stragglers sells for $16 postpaid from Terry Nash, 1278 N Road, Loma, CO  81524; 970-261-6037; tknzoo@acsol.net. Listen to and purchase  MP3 files at TerryNashCowboyPoet.com.

 

Also from Colorado, Al "Doc" Mehl released The Great Divide in 2013. The 17 tracks of original poetry held my attention much like an old-time radio show. Doris Daley's summation of Mehl's style captures it succinctly: "Refreshing, original, witty, and loaded with clever wordplay about contemporary cowboy life." (See docmehl.com)    

For all the cowboy gatherings and festivals I've attended, this was my first exposure to Mehl's substantive storylines and Olympic-caliber rhymes. From the first track to the last, I wondered how the stories would end and from whence his inspiration came. His mastery of words, whether describing everyday scenes or relating stories from his family's past, left me in awe of his ability to transport me to another place and time.

"The Brand New Year," about family members and turkeys coming home to roost, struck a chord with me. And his account of the old cowboy in "Dancing with Doris" was so effective that I pictured Otto Rosfeld in my mind without realizing that he was who the poem was written about. It wasn't until I read the liner notes that Otto's identity was revealed. Mehl nailed our mutual friend's zeal for dancing. Other favorites of mine, including the playful "Graduation," the picturesque "A Quilt in North Nebraska," and the poignant "The Great Divide," are at cowboypoetry.com/almehl.htm.

The Great Divide sells for $18 postpaid from Al "Doc" Mehl, 9140 W 107th Place, Westminster, CO  80021; theasphaltcowboy@comcast.net. Listen to snippets and purchase downloads at www.cdbaby.com.

 

Rounding out this month's offerings, selected in recognition of Cowboy Poetry Week, April 21-27, 2013, is Prairie Song: A meander of memory by DW Groethe (2013, 111 pages, paperback ISBN: 978-0-615-75316-4). Hot off the presses in January, Groethe describes the mix of approximately 75 new-and-previously-published pieces as "new and used poems." It's much more than that. It's a chance for his fans to revisit some of their favorite pieces ("The Bunny Poem," "Yearlin' Heifers-Part 1," "This Old Post," "My Father's Horses") and catch up on what he's been writing of late. Those who haven't yet made his acquaintance will find a treasure-trove of material that's new to them. (For more see cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm

Groethe is a well-read, disciplined Montana day hand who works exceedingly hard at crafting rhyming and free-verse poetry and songs. Paring close to the bone and eliminating all but the most essential of words, he transforms the mundane into the majestic. From the newly-minted "My Grandfather's Heart":  "There are days / when my grandfather / sneaks up behind me / and breathes life / into the failing memory / of his spirit." And from "Somewhere in the Night": "A little rain. / Good medicine."

Prairie Song sells for $18 postpaid from DW Groethe,  PO Box 144, Bainville, MT  59212; (406) 769-7312.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
March 2013

What's in Your Library?

 

Bronc riders Bob Askin and Paddy Ryan pronounced Mary Rose Kasten the prettiest baby ever born in Ismay, Montana. As a young school teacher, Mary caught the eye of Daniel Haughian, the second oldest of 10 children born to Irish immigrants. Daniel and Mary married in 1945, and raised nine children in the Yellowstone River Valley 15 miles west of Terry, Mont. Mary Haughian passed away in Miles City, Montana, on March 11, 2013, at the age of 87. 

Mary’s name would come up on occasion in our family, when talk turned to our ancestors who settled in the Powder River area. The north-flowing Powder empties into the Yellowstone between Miles City and Terry. At one time, before a bridge was built, my great-grandfather operated the county-supported ferry that shuttled wagon traffic and riders across the Powder River near the mouth. Mary mentioned this in one of her history collections.

Perusing her obituary, I was surprised at the number of books Mary had to her credit, either having written, edited, or coauthored them with family and community members: Mildred Memories on the O'Fallon; Ismay: Little Chicago of the West; Home on the Range (a cookbook); By the Banks of the Yellowstone; Wheels Across Montana’s Prairie; Wheels Keep Rolling Across Montana’s Prairie; The War Years: Prairie County, Montana; Terry Does Exist: a History of South Eastern Montana; and They Came to Montana: Homespun Tales of Billing & Haughian Families.
 

I knew of less than half the titles. A search for used-and-out-of-print books at used.addall.com and Amazon.com confirmed they’re scarce. I suspected most would be available in libraries, so I went to the Online Computer Library Center’s WorldCat—a Web-driven bibliographic database—itemizing the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories. Participating libraries maintain the global cooperative database. Anyone can access worldcat.org to identify and locate items, and there is no charge.

My search for Wheels Across Montana’s Prairie identified at least 10 copies held in state, county, and public libraries within Montana. One copy made its way to Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library in New Haven, Conn. The status on the books varies from “Montana material” to “reference material,” “non circulating” to “standard shelving.” Additionally, the search offered to locate similar items or items on the same topic.

The Miles City Public Library holds three copies, one of which is in the Montana Room. Most libraries—no matter the state—have a room or a stack where items of local, state, or regional significance are shelved. This streamlines a patron’s search and sets the stage for serendipitous discoveries. If you’re making your first visit to such a collection, allow extra time.

In Miles City, the Montana Room is housed in the original Andrew Carnegie library. Built in 1902, two major additions now obscure much of the edifice. Ascending the steps to the research area, you soon realize the old building is still there, with its stately oak bookcases, beefy moldings, soaring ceilings, and schoolhouse-style light fixtures (flickr.com/photos/edithosb/3814198756).

At our Wibaux, Montana Public Library—located in a former bank and listed in the National Register of Historic Places—the historical section is housed in a walk-in vault. There’s a small table and chair to accommodate a patron studying an assortment of books, magazines, and photocopied diaries. Among the materials are items donated by a Wibaux County High School graduate, the late Dr. Donald H. Welsh, who earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Missouri at Columbia. His 1955 doctoral dissertation was Pierre Wibaux, Badlands Rancher.

I hope you’re starting to wonder what books might be in your library or thinking about using WorldCat to search for a title. If the latter is the case, you’ll need a library card to facilitate an interlibrary loan—a transaction between two libraries to lend materials on a short-term basis. This is not a new idea. U.L. Rowell, librarian at the University of California–Berkeley, sought permission to begin interlibrary loan in 1886.

Conditions are set by the American Library Association and participating libraries. Some items such as bound journals, fragile, or one-of-a-kind manuscripts may not be available for borrowing. It is the lending library’s prerogative to refuse to lend materials or restrict materials to use within the library. In some instances, photocopies may be scanned and delivered electronically.

Another place to look for hard-to-find titles is your state’s library or historical society. Montana provides access to digitized copies via the Montana Memory Project: http://cdm16013.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm. Included are county and community histories from the homestead era, a selection of drawings by Western artist Will James, and 10,000 pages of historical livestock brands from 1873 through 1980.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
February 2013

The View from Out West

 

Italian cowboys from the Maremma region, the butteri, were featured during the 29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (NCPG) in Elko, Nevada. Butteri, plural, comes from the Latin phrase for “leader of oxen.” A cultural display at the Western Folklife Center spotlighted the cowpunchers from the region along the Mediterranean Sea, from southwestern Tuscany to northern Lazio, who are among the world’s earliest cowboys. Several participants were fluent in English, while others spoke through interpreters. Two communicated with their traditional instruments: guitar, accordion, and Sicilian bagpipes. One prepared peasant food eaten by the locals, which is now popular in chic cafés.

Besides workshops, day sessions, tours, and concerts, the NCPG is a time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. With two bookstores operating during, and autograph sessions at both, it’s also a grand opportunity to see current cowboy and Western Americana releases. 
 

One of the books honored with a signing was Go West: The Risk & The Reward, C.J. Hadley, editor/published; Rod Miller, senior writer (Range Conservation Foundation & RANGE Magazine, 2012, 9"x11", 128 pages, photos & illustrations, hardback, ISBN-13: 978-0964745605). C.J. Hadley, the editor of RANGE Magazine, and Rod Miller, award-winning poet, historian, biographer, journalist, and essayist, are familiar faces at the gathering. It was good to see them taking their turn at the autograph table.  

In visiting with Rod, I confessed that I hadn’t yet read the book. Too bad. I could have told him in person what a masterful job he did of writing the sparse-but-effective copy for the coffee-table book. Having since returned from the gathering, I found time to read the text and savor the photos devoted to the region he pinpoints as “west of the 100th meridian and east of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges.” 

Rod’s knowledge of, and affection for, the topic is evident. So too, is his implementation of the “less is more” narrative. Kudos, Rod, for making the history of settling the West as inclusive and effortless to follow as you did. From Indian nations to prospectors, building the transcontinental railroad to the Homestead Act, it’s there. Also documented are the hazards of westward travel on the Oregon and California Trails: cholera, accidents, starvation. 

Rewards envisioned at the end of the westward trails were as varied as those who traveled them. Thousands died. Those who succeeded in reaching their destinations were determined and resourceful. Only about half of the homesteaders who filed ultimately received title to their claims. As Rod notes, “Now, as then, community, companionship, and camaraderie coexist comfortably with fierce self-reliance, independence, and individuality.” 

“Now” is portrayed in images taken by photographers who ventured off the main thoroughfares into a semi-arid land dotted with cattle, sheep, horses, wildlife, and the occasional human. Tenacious and hopeful, they inhabit the plains, mountains, and deserts, daring to call them home. As Rod notes, Wallace Stegner once wrote, “One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope.”

Purchase Go West from RANGE Magazine for $25 at 1-800-726-4348; RANGE Magazine, PO Box 639, Carson City, NV 89702-0639; www.rangemagazine.com. Subscribers to RANGE Magazine receive a $5 discount.
 

 

Deanna Dickinson McCall could have been pictured in Go West. A fifth-generation rancher, she spent more than two decades raising her family on a remote Nevada ranch without phones or electricity. Currently, she and her husband and son ranch in the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico. She dedicates a new collection of short stories and poetry to them entitled Mustang Spring: Stories & Poems (The Frontier Project Inc., 2012, 154 pages, softcover, ISBN-13: 9780985342531).

Writing from the viewpoint of a daughter, a hand, a wife, and a mother, Deanna speaks my language. I'm not a big fan of western fiction, largely because I hold authors to a tough standard for authenticity. With Deanna, I visualized the scenes as I read and they rang true: a horse dropping out from under a rider in a blizzard; the bright-eyed little queen candidate and her shabby horse; a young ranch wife going about her chores with a baby asleep in the pickup.  

Deanna has been featured at the NCPG and other events throughout the West. Her CD, Riding, was selected as 2012 Poetry Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. For more, see www.cowboypoetry.com/deannamccall.htm, where you’ll find a sampling of her poetry, including these from the book: “Old Corrals,” “Cow Country Code,” and “The Hired Hand.”

Mustang Spring sells for $22 (postpaid) from Deanna Dickinson McCall, PO Box 376, Timberon, NM  88350-0376; dmcattle@yahoo.com.


Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621;
email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
January 2013


Gardening in the West

For all the bravado associated with the West—and mentions of hardtack, beans, biscuits, salt pork, and coffee—wise inhabitants consumed edible native plants and cultivated gardens. True, the basic staples were relatively easy to transport, but soldiers, pioneers, prospectors, chuck wagon cooks, and the cowboys for whom they cooked, longed for something fresh in their diets. Beyond providing a change of pace, fruits and vegetables helped prevent scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. Better known as the bane of seafarers, scurvy rivaled cholera as a dreaded frontier killer. 

While vitamin C’s role in preventing scurvy wasn’t identified until the early 20th century, wisdom of the day pointed to a produce-and-greens-rich diet. In 1885, French cattle baron Pierre Wibaux brought a professional gardener to the plains of eastern Montana to landscape the grounds of his 10-room house and keep the household supplied with fresh vegetables. Military post surgeons were charged with planting a garden to augment standard rations. In the interim, they scoured the countryside in search of indigenous flora. Among those sought after were the lowly pigweed, wild onions, dandelions, semi-aquatic watercress, and herbs. 

The Native American diet was rich in herbaceous plants, berries, and fresh, raw meat including fat, adrenal glands, and organ meat—all sources of vitamin C. This region’s Hidatsa and Arikara tribes cultivated corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers. Consequently, they weren’t subject to scurvy like the immigrant population.


 

Last year I happened across a book at a used book store detailing the field preparation, planting, harvest, cooking, and preservation of the Hidatsas’ staple crops:  Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden by Gilbert L. Wilson, Ph.D. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987, 129 pages, photos & illustrations, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0873512190). Originally published as Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians: An Indian Interpretation, copyright 1917 by the University of Minnesota, it is a useful gardening guide nearly 100 years later. We implemented several of the techniques in our 2012 garden with great success.

The book is available from online sellers. It is also offered at no cost from the University of Pennsylvania Digital Library at  digital.library.upenn.edu/women/buffalo/garden/garden.html.

 

 

Spurred on by the narrative, I went in search of seeds Buffalo Bird Woman would have planted. I found the small red Hidatsa beans at Seed Savers Exchange. They also had the yellow Arikara bean that the Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery ate during the winter of 1805 while camped at Fort Mandan. (And, I was able to purchase hard-to-find ground cherry seed, a plant I remember fondly from my childhood. The husk-shrouded fruit makes a marvelous pie.)

Located in northeastern Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange has been promoting the preservation and utilization of heirloom varieties for 37 years. Their mission is to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. It is one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America, storing varieties in back-up locations at the USDA Seed Bank in Fort Collins, CO, and at Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

Shop the online catalog or request a printed copy from Seed Savers Exchange, 3094 North Winn Rd., Decorah, IA  52101; (563) 382-5990; www.seedsavers.org.


Along with seeds, seed potatoes, and tomato and pepper transplants, Seed Savers Exchange offers a selection of gardening and food preservation books in addition to titles on beekeeping and raising poultry. I can vouch for the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine (Robert Rose, 2006, 448 pages, photos, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0778801313). I’ve used it for several canning seasons and have given it as a gift. 

 

 

After much deliberation, I narrowed down my list of likes to one book I felt would be the most beneficial in our no-nonsense, homestead-inspired "yarden": Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books, 2010, 384 pages, photos and illustrations, paperback ISBN-13: 978-1578051540). It is chock-full of ideas for raising produce in spaces previously considered floral territory. Examples include formal and casual designs, raised beds and containers. Creasy’s eye for the practical and whimsical have me eager for spring.

Nearly half of the book is given to “An Encyclopedia of Edibles,” a helpful compendium of plants that provide delicious food and beautify the home landscape. Each entry comes with a hardiness zone rating for perennial, shrubs, and trees and an effort scale to give aspiring gardeners an idea as to the time involved in planting, weeding, harvesting, use, and preservation of the crop.  

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2013, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
December 2012


Wrapping up a Western Christmas: Part 2 

If you missed last month’s gift ideas, find them at www.cowboypoetry.com/cowboyjam.htm.

 

I anxiously watched my mailbox for the latest in the Vaquero series from J&S Productions. It was well worth the wait. Released in November, the 116-minute Vaquero Nine: Texas Cowpuncher, Part Two is a continuation of the 98-minute Part One. Others in the series are Tapadero: The Californio; The Remuda: The Buckaroo; Holo Holo Paniolo: Hawaii; Houlihan: Northern Range; Los Primeros: The First Vaqueros; Tierra Encantado: New Mexico Cowboys; Mula: Long-Eared Hero of the Old Spanish Trail.

The opening scene in Nine–filmed on the White Ranch in East Texas, with background music by nouveau zydeco accordionist and cowboy/western singer Geno Delafose–breaks all the stereotypes about American cowboys. Raised in eastern Montana, I was spellbound watching cowboys push a herd of Brahma-cross mother cows into an inner-coastal waterway. The multi-colored herd swam in a serpentine fashion, guided across the currents by a motorboat. The Charolais bulls running with the cows were sorted off and transported via stock trailer.

As Nine closes, a 06 Ranch cowboy from near Ft. Davis picks cockleburs from a horse’s tail, and a dune buggy is utilized to move a branding camp and chuck wagon. In the interim, viewers are squired through the brush country where a helicopter helps gather wild cattle, and a pint-sized cowboy practices his roping skills. There’s discussion of tying hard-and-fast vs. dallying; hurrying to get a job done vs. taking your time; and the merits of practical vs. stylish gear. I heard some dandy new songs from real working cowboys, along with some old favorites.

The 06 is included in Eight, Part One, along with the JA, the 6666, XIT, the Matador, and others. It contains a wealth of information about the development of longhorn cattle, cowboys, catahoula dogs, and quarter horses.

I’ve always enjoyed the Vaquero stories, finding them enlightening, but the Texas segments stand out from the rest. Maybe it’s the sheer size of the state or the role it played in the cattle industry. Perhaps it’s a subtle refinement in writing and production. Regardless, Texas Cowpuncher, Parts One and Two would make a first-rate gift for the cowboy, rancher, or western history buff. Savvy retailers would do well to add it to their inventories.

Vaquero Eight and Nine: Texas Cowpuncher, Parts One and Two sell as a 2-DVD set for $35 plus $4 shipping (in US). The complete 9-DVD series, running a total of 14 hours, is $145 plus $10 shipping (in US). Individual titles are $19.95 plus $2 shipping. Order from J&S Productions, PO Box 91560, Santa Barbara, CA  93190; (805) 695-0164; www.VaqueroSeries.com

 

 

Photographer Heather Hafleigh captures the feel of the series in deluxe note cards featuring contemporary California ranchers, horsemen, and craftsmen carrying on the Vaquero tradition. Several of her images appear in One: Tapadero, others are in the permanent collections of the Autry National Center, the Oakland Museum, and the Western Folklife Center. 

A thoughtful friend introduced me to Hafleigh’s cards when she mailed one to me. I was struck by the beauty and quality. Measuring a generous 5"x7," the cards are available in two sets: one color; one sepia. Send $15 per set plus shipping ($2.50 for one set; $5 for two) to Maverick Photos, PO Box 7279, Berkeley, CA  94707; (510) 528-1031; www.HeatherHafleigh.com

 

 

Contemplating the obsession with the American West—at once a Utopia and a brutal land of dust and drought—Lars Strandberg, Lars Åberg, and Ronnie Nilsson collaborated on WEST (Gibbs Smith, 2011, 264 pages, 9"x12", b/w and color photos, hardback, ISBN-13: 978-1423623502). I had the good fortune of meeting Lars and Lars in Nevada, during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The pair was visiting from Sweden. The gathering provided an opportunity for them to connect with artists from across the West, yielding both photos and fodder for the thought-provoking essays.  

I was taken with the materials and construction of the debossed cover, spending considerable time admiring it before venturing inside to study the essays, portraits, scenery, and action shots. Small wonder it received the prestigious 2012 Swedish Design Award. It encompasses, among other locations and subjects, the ghost town of Bodie, Calif.; Cape Flattery on the Olympic peninsula; rodeo; ranching; pueblos; sagebrush; abandoned vehicles; derelict signs; and Butte! The varied format–black-and-white and color, wallet-sized up to 2-page spreads–adds to the appeal of the images taken on their Western odyssey. 

WEST lists for $45. It is available in bookstores and online. Amazon.com features an enticing  “Look Inside.” Find WEST also on Facebook,facebook.com/pages/WEST/223019061097463.
 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
November 2012


Wrapping up a Western Christmas

Raised on a Montana ranch, my Christmas wish list included things my city cousins would never have asked for: spurs, a horse halter, a saddle pad. I could gauge the likelihood of a request being honored with a quick glance under the tree. Furstnow’s and Miles City Saddlery, the local sources for such items back then, had distinctive western-themed gift wrap. A package from either establishment was easily identified by their trademark paper. 

With an eye toward filling a western gift list, I present the following suggestions. Look for more next month.

 

Seamstresses and quilters may want to check out patterns for Christmas stockings that resemble a cowboy boot. These can be made as a stocking or integrated into a pillow or quilt top. Designed by Prairie Moon Quilts, there’s a new one each year. The 2012 boot is “Prairie Stars.” It joins “Rhinestone Cowgirl,” “Prairie Paisley,” and “Cowboy Kris,” among others. Patterns and accompanying instructions are available either as a downloadable PDF for $3.75 or printed for $4 + shipping at etsy.com/shop/prairiemoonquilts.

Prairie Moon Quilts (prairiemoonquilts.com) proprietor Shelly Pagliai and her cowboy husband recently moved from Missouri to Nebraska. She has other western patterns including table runners, Americana bunting, a “Forever Fencin’” quilt, and a big-block “Prairie Moons and Stars” quilt that would bring a smile to any recipient.
 


 

Colorado native and western novelist Eugene C. Vories (www.fnbtrinidad.com/FirstNews/winter2010/Page1.asp) has re-published Ride the Rough String, bringing to 13 the number of his books currently in print. The central character goes undercover to find cattle missing from a pool roundup. Originally released in 1994, there were binding and distribution problems, then the publisher went bankrupt. The 2012 edition contains all the intrigue and real Old West ranch work of the first printing, with the addition of a colorful new cover by rodeo cowboy and artist Walt LaRue. 

Eugene’s books are realistic and historical. He notes, “I write fiction about the kind of real people who lived and worked in the West to make this country what it is and try to put some history in, as I, or my family, remembers it. I don’t write shoot ‘em ups.”

Grouped in three series, they are suitable for teen readers on up. The Button Benton series, about a young boy who takes a job on a ranch to learn to become a cowboy, is set in the late 1800s. Piñon Mesa and Return to Piñon Mesa are set on the western slope of Colorado where Eugene ranched for many years. They’re about the sheep wars and land development. The humorous Monte series, about an old cowboy and his escapades with widows, bankers, forest rangers, oilmen and newcomers, is set in the present day.

Ride the Rough String sells for $24 (postpaid) from Eugene C. Vories, PO Box 363, Grand Junction, CO  81502-0363. For a complete listing of his books, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Eugene with your request. 

 

   

Out of chute #2 comes Baxter Black’s latest comedy novel, Ride, Cowboy, Ride! 8 Seconds Ain’t That Long! (TwoDot, 352 pages, hardback, ISBN-13: 978-0762780464). Crafted with a cast of improbable characters including Cooney Bedlam, Straight Line, Nova Skosha, and Lionel Trane, Baxter plots their moves like a devilish chess master. From the Tucson Fiesta de los Vaqueros, to the Miles City (Montana) Bucking Horse Sale, and culminating at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas, Black orchestrates the wild, tactical plays of his quirky assemblage. Most are honest, hardworking folks, but there are also a few scoundrels afoot.

As with Baxter’s first novel, the protagonists are chasing a spot in the top 15 of their event(s) who advance to the NFR. Saddle bronc riding takes center stage. Guffaws, snorts, and chortles aside, Black’s attention to bronc-riding minutiae and descriptions of our heroes’ rides are impressive. He credits Wally Badgett “for saddle bronc riding quality control.”

Don’t grab your buck rein too short assuming you know how this bronc is going to buck. You will guess wrong. (Think daytime soap opera co-scripted by the staff at ProRodeo Sports News and Mad Magazine.) Friendship prevails and the good guys win, but not without some time spent kicking and a’ gouging in the mud, and the blood, and the beer. Checkmate.

Ride, Cowboy, Ride! retails for $22.95 from Coyote Cowboy Company, PO Box 2190, Benson, AZ  85602; (800) 654-2550; baxterblack.com. Buy two of Baxter’s new books, including this year’s Christmas tale for children, Reindeer Flu priced at $19.95, and you’ll get a third one free—mix or match.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
October 2012


Judging by appearances, it’s fall

Without looking at a calendar, there are ways to tell it’s fall. The honking from v-shaped flocks of geese is usually the first. Most evident is the color change of deciduous trees from verdant hues to vivid reds, oranges, and yellows. Far less perceptible are the chores taking place on cattle ranches.

Family and friends who live and work on ranches have been, or soon will be, attending to matters of herd management:  pregnancy testing, preconditioning, and weaning and shipping this year’s calves. Some are posting photos on Facebook; others are blogging about it. Unlike fall foliage, fall ranch work is not so readily visible. As Baxter Black said, “As long as there are cows, there will be cowboys. You just can’t see ’em from the highway.” Black collaborated with Jack Hannah on “He Just Can't Be Seen from the Road,” a song expressing the sentiment. It appears on the Horses, Cattle and Coyotes album by the Sons of the San Joaquin, of which Hannah is a member.

 

 

The Montana Stockgrowers Association released Big Sky Boots: Seasons of a Montana Cowboy in October (192 pages, photos, hardback, ISBN 978-0-615-64585-8). The coffee-table book is the first of a five-part series portraying Montana family ranching. Through photos and impressions by Lauren Chase, the book follows raising cattle, from calving through shipping. Designed to teach the public about where their beef comes from, it focuses on men and the seasons. The next book features women, an essential part of ranching families. (Meet some of the ranchers at YouTube and on Facebook.)

Big Sky Boots sells for $75 (postpaid for addresses in continental US) from Montana Stockgrowers Association, 420 N. California St., Helena, MT  59601; www.mtbeef.org; (406) 442-3420.

 


Dennis Ranch blog

South Dakota blogger Robert “Jinglebob” Dennis mentioned two aspects of fall work in his Dennis Ranch Blog at dennisranch.wordpress.com: shipping and preggin’. A rancher, saddle maker, and father, Dennis told me he started the blog in 2006 to record everyday experiences for future generations. He laments that no such records exist from his grandfather’s years working the ranch near Red Owl. 

Dennis’ blog, short for weblog, is a snapshot of life on a horse-powered, northern Great Plains cattle operation. Some of my favorite entries are about him passing along the traditions to his grandsons. Photos are plentiful. One example is “Rick S gettin’ the gate” from Oct. 2, 2012. It made me feel like I was horseback, helping them gather that day. 

From Oct. 3-13, 2012, Dennis posted the stories behind the 10 tracks on his recently-released music album, Rusted Rowels. Dennis wrote the majority of the songs and collaborated with fellow South Dakotans Ken Cook and Slim McNaught on several others. After listening to it, I suggested it might be helpful for listeners to know the background of the songs, especially those based on local lore. Through the flexibility offered by a blog, Dennis is able to share these post-production notes with readers. Suffice to say, this is an album that Dennis fans, cowboys, and the ranching community will appreciate.

Rusted Rowels is available for $17 (postpaid) from Robert Dennis, 17410 Indian Creek Road, Red Owl, SD  57787, or through PayPal at rdennis@gwtc.net.

 


Dry Crik Journal, Perspectives from the Ranch blog

Describing themselves as fifth-generation grass harvesters, John and Robbin Dofflemyer have been blogging since Dec. 2005. Combining narrative, poetry, photography, weather statistics, a garden journal, audio poems, and opinion, their Dry Crik Journal, Perspectives from the Ranch chronicles life in California’s southern Sierra Nevada foothills (drycrikjournal.com). It’s a land of western diamondbacks and tree frogs, blue oaks and monkey flowers, wild turkeys and feral hogs. An exception to the rule, they calve in the fall, so their weaning takes place in the spring.   

In explaining why they blog, John and Robbin say theirs is “an alternative lifestyle, a rural activity dependent upon three variables: weather, market and politics ...” I found a common bond in their assessment that, “We are familiar with solving basic problems, with repairs and maintenance, with raising food, besides beef – we are fairly independent and self-sufficient, finding great joy and rich satisfaction with the often mundane work we do ...”

Steeped as I am in generations of farming and ranching, I never considered ranching as an alternative lifestyle. Despite how few farmers and ranchers there are, and how many generations removed from the land the majority of the population is, I never pictured agriculture an alternative life style. John’s writings are like that. They challenge a person to reexamine their place in the world.   

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
September 2012

Passing Along Family and Cultural Traditions

There’s a brisk 22-mile-per-hour breeze blowing from the northwest today. It’s perfect for winnowing the chaff and pod hulls from dried beans and black-eyed peas. This past winter, as we were planning our garden, I came across an account of my Great-Grandmother Warkins raising Great Northern beans as a cash crop. It inspired me to plant dry, edible beans in our garden this year.

The story, handed down from my paternal grandmother’s family, tells how Grandma Warkins planted a large patch–several acres in size–of beans. Her children, my grandmother included, tended, hoed, and harvested the patch. Keeping back what they needed for their staple meal of cornbread and beans, Grandma Jessie hauled the rest to Miles City, Montana, a 10-day, 130-mile trek through rugged hills, over a gumbo prairie, and up and down precipitous creek banks. The proceeds paid for winter supplies for the family.

Family traditions can be born of necessity or fueled by celebration. From western Canada to southern Oklahoma, this month the focus is on preserving and passing down traditions.
 

  

Canadian poet and songwriter Mag Mawhinney preserved her experiences from the Canadian West in a 31-track CD of original Western/cowboy works entitled Passin’ It On: Cowboy Poems and Songs. Abe Zacharias provides background guitar accompaniment for the poems and lends his voice on the vocals.

Born in Duncan, British Columbia, Mawhinney lived in a float house on Vancouver Island and later in the Cariboo Region near 100 Mile House. Set north of the Medicine Line, her stories have a wilderness flavor about them. Still, there’s a common thread to be savored in “Christmas on the Homestead,” with its exceptional imagery of days past; in “Winter Range,” about hauling water to cattle; and in “The Standup Radio,” which reminded me of my grandfather’s cabinet radio that stood near his chair. For an audio sample, go to www.magmawhinney.com. Additional information and poems are at www.cowboypoetry.com/magmawhinney.htm 

Passin’ It On is available for $15 Canadian (postpaid; PayPal or check) in the US and Canada from Mag Mawhinney, 835 Chapman Rd., Cobble Hill, B.C., Canada V0R 1L4; mvmawhinney@shaw.ca. Mag’s new 122-page book, with 8-song CD, entitled Western Spirit is $30 Canadian from the same address.
 

 

Rancher, author, storyteller, Crow elder, and past Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird shares tribal traditions in Rivers of Horse, a 23-track CD. Recorded and produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis, Real Bird intertwines his native tongue with English as he relates proud and painful traditions passed down among his people. It is a frank and enlightening collection.

In a delivery that is both spoken and sung, Real Bird probes his culture through the generations, going far beyond the feathers and finery displayed at pow wows. Describing the importance of the horse to the Crow, he says great horses made great warriors; great horses made a great people. Amid mentions of gathering wild turnips and a litany of names bestowed by a horse culture, Real Bird addresses contemporary topics such as “Alcohol Fetal Syndrome.” For more about Henry Real Bird, his poetry, and books, see www.cowboypoetry.com/henryrealbird.htm.

Rivers of Horse is available for $18 (postpaid) from Lucy Whiteman Runs Him, PO Box 144, Garryowen, MT  59031. Real Bird’s Horse Tracks, published in 2010 by Lost Horse Press, was the recipient of Montana’s 2011 High Plains Book Award. It is $23 from the same address.
 

 

Ken Cook, who hangs his hat in Martin, S.D., and Jay Snider, who hails from Cyril, Okla., teamed up to share insights into their work-a-day worlds in a chapbook entitled Passing It On: Poetry by Great Plains Cowboys (Lamesteer Publishing, 2012, 56 pages, illustrations, audio CD, ISBN: 978-0-9857659-0-3). Artwork by Tyler Crow and Roger Archibald enhances the selections, 10 of which are included on an audio CD tucked in at the back of the book.   

Raised at opposing ends of the Great Plains, Cook (www.cowboypoetry.com/kencook.htm) and Snider (www.cowboypoetry.com/js.htm) share a deep respect for family and acquaintances who passed cowboy and ranching traditions on to them through their words and deeds. They are doing the same for a new generation, through the medium of poetry. Both are favorites at cowboy gatherings across the country. Those who are already familiar with them will certainly want to add this book to their collection. Those who are not will find two-for-the-price-of-one satisfaction awaiting between the covers. 

Passing It On is available for $20 (postpaid) from Ken Cook, 23154 Teal Lane, Martin, SD  57551-6601, (605) 685-6749, www.kencookcowboypoet.com, and/or from Jay Snider, Rt. 1, Box 167, Cyril, OK  73029; www.JaySnider.net.
 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
August 2012

Enjoy What's Left of Summer

Nearly everyone in a small group of our friends who gathered recently marveled at how summer is charging headlong into fall. We talked about gardens, vacations, haying, the small-grain harvest, county fairs, football practice, and the start of school.  

Raised on a cattle-and-grain operation, summer was an all-hands-on-deck season for our family. Everyone had a job. Children working off-ranch was nearly unheard of at the time, unless they were working for a neighbor. Aside from an occasional 4-H activity, picnic, dance, or rodeo, we stayed pretty close to home in June, July, and August. 

If there was time between haying and harvest, we might make a quick trip to western Montana to visit relatives. Depending on how the harvest was progressing, we might drive to Billings. My grandmother lived there. We’d buy a few things for school and take in a couple days of the fair. Another last-chance getaway destination was the Black Hills of South Dakota. We could leave after dinner, drive to Rapid City, and get settled in our motel room before supper. Whatever the destination, we tried to pack as much fun as possible into the time available.


Dick Warwick may have had the same thought in mind as he selected the 14-tracks for Cowboy Poetry Lite (Nuthin’ Serious). Twelve of the tracks on the 2012 release are Warwick’s own, including “The Barnyard One-Step.” I saw Warwick perform this poem in person last year at the  National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Kanab, Utah, where he won several events. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, his smartly-crafted poetry or his ability to balance on one foot while delivering it. Suffice to say, if you’ve ever ventured into the boot-sucking quagmire of a muddy corral, you’ve done the barnyard one-step. It wasn’t nearly as much fun when you were doing it.  

Hanging his hat in Washington State, Warwick refers to himself as a “barnyard yarnbard.” That should give you some indication as to levity employed by this writer and performer of original and classic cowboy poety. So should the warning printed on the album:  “CAUTION: Contains phonemes, syntax, trochees, anapests, tetrasyllables and iambic pentameter. Dispose of properly–do not alliterate.” 

Two poems have an Aussie flavor: “Said Hanrahan” by Fr. Patrick Joseph Hartigan, who wrote under the pen name John O’Brien; and “Backfire” by award-winning Australian bush poet, sheep shearer, and Warwick-mentor, Milton Taylor. Having spent considerable time soaking in Australian culture, both here and down under, Warwick deftly delivers a believable mate’s speaking voice. (For more on Warwick and a complete track listing, go to cowboypoetry.com/dickwarwick.htm. 

Cowboy Poetry Lite sells for $16 (postpaid within U.S. and Canada) from Dick Warwick, PO Box 111, Oakesdale, WA  99158; 509-285-4084; dwarwick@mindspring.com.
 

 

You can’t help but smile looking at the cover of Andy Nelson’s latest CD, Andy Nelson Stew: Most Requested Stories and Poems. Illustrated by Western cartoonist Ben Crane, the colorful artwork places Nelson smack-dab in the middle of a chuck-wagon scene, stirring a bubbling Dutch oven with a microphone stand. It hints at the light-hearted material Nelson is best known for, but you’ll also find a few sincere and contemplative selections thrown in for good measure. A Wyoming radio personality, Western entertainer, emcee, rodeo announcer, and farrier, Nelson is known for his quick wit, infectious good nature, and professionalism. He’s also an all-around nice guy.  

Subtitled Most Requested Stories and Poems, I was anxious to see which selections made the final cut on this project. I’m happy to report to Andy’s fans that there are 24 spoken tracks, plus “Thank You for Your Support,” a tongue-in-cheek musical spoof of the tourist season in Andy’s backyard–Yellowstone National Park. Nelson co-wrote the ditty with Kip Calahan, whose voice you hear on the song.  

Some of the requests are from previous recordings; others were recorded especially for this album. First into the stew pot is “License Plate Mottos,” a popular ice breaker Nelson uses to warm up a crowd. His rapid-fire delivery of these in a live performance setting never ceases to amaze me. Another fast-paced crowd pleaser is “The Horse Race” by Nick Sanabria, which Nelson revised with permission. I found these favorites of mine in the poetry category: “Ridin’ With Jim,” “The Cat Wrangler,” “The Old Crockett Spurs,” “Mud Season,” and “My Shoeing Rig.” For more about Nelson, or to read the above-mentioned poems, go to cowboypoetry.com/andynelson.htm.

Andy Nelson Stew sells for $18 (postpaid) from Andy Nelson, PO Box 1547, Pinedale, WY  82941; (307) 367-2842; www.CowpokePoet.com.


Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621;
email

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
July 2012

Wind, Water, and Songs of the West                                     

Weeks of hot, dry, and windy weather, following a winter and spring with below average moisture, have left our county thirsting for rain. A small area of average precipitation exists to the east of us, but nationwide 1,297 counties in 29 states have been designated by the USDA as disaster areas. It is the most widespread drought in seven decades.  

Short grass, withering crops, and disappearing stock ponds have stockmen and farmers on edge. Those who don’t have pipelines or windmills to supply water for livestock nervously eye reservoirs designed to fill with runoff. They wonder if the water will last through the grazing season; they wonder about the quality of the water. 

Before the advent of the internal combustion engine and the Rural Electrification Administration, windmills brought ground water to the surface. They’re still in use, but in declining numbers. They’re most common in remote locations where building power lines would be difficult or cost prohibitive.       


 

University of Oklahoma Press reissued American Windmills: An Album of Historic Photographs in February, 2012 (168 pages, b/w photographs, paperback, ISBN-13: 978-0806142494). Written by windmill historian T. Lindsay Baker, this engaging book contains historic images from across the U.S., with an emphasis on the Great Plains. Nearly 200 photos are featured, gleaned from more than 2,000. 

Included among them are a good many from the personal collection of professional windmiller B. H. “Tex” Burdick, who chronicled his employees erecting and maintaining windmills from the 1920s through the 1940s. I marvel at Burdick’s faithfulness in photographing what once was  mundane. Also featured are Salomon D. Butcher’s glass-plate images taken in Nebraska from the 1800s to the 1900s. He’s known for capturing the homesteads that sprang up around the wood-and-metal towers. Windmills made settlement of the arid West possible.    

Still other photographs come from the corporate archives of windmill manufacturers. The book offers a glimpse inside windmill factories, including the Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company, Beatrice, Neb. My paternal grandfather was born in Beatrice. When his father established the Janssen Mercantile at Coalwood, Mont., he stocked Dempster windmills along with Massey Harris implements and general merchandise. 

Not only were windmills a standard fixture for watering livestock and quenching thirsty gardens, they harnessed the wind to grind grain, pumped water for steam locomotives, and provided domestic water in both rural and urban settings. They made it possible for resorts to offer city conveniences in a rural setting. In the introduction, photography historian John Carter discusses the importance of windmills and our decades-long obsession with photographing them. The sweeping cover photo was taken circa 1880 in San Diego, Calif.

American Windmills retails for $24.95. Look for it in bookstores and from online sellers, including OU Press. It would make an excellent gift for those who remember the era of the windmill or simply appreciate their form.


 

Trinity Seely knows extremes in the availability of water. She grew up on an isolated cattle ranch near Chilcotin, British Columbia, where her family operated a guest ranch. While their father took guests fishing in the many back-country lakes, Trinity and her sisters ran the dude string, milked the cows, cleaned cabins, and prepared meals. In the evenings, the family entertained guests, playing acoustic instruments and singing.  

Today, Trinity lives on the historic Handcart Ranch, formally known as the Sun Ranch, in central Wyoming. Pioneers traveling on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails passed through the area, drawn by the Sweetwater River Valley’s life-giving water and grass. Trinity says the isolation is much the same as in Canada. But, it’s cowboy country, and that suits her, her husband, and their young family. 

Her love of the West, wide-open spaces, and the cowboy culture come through in her debut album, Trinity Seely. Released in December, 2011, the 12-track CD is chock-ful of original music written from a cowgirl’s point of view. Among my favorites are “Rides for the Brand,” “A Cowboy Song,” and “Middle of Nowhere.” The nuances of her writing reveal the depth of Trinity’s experiences. 

Country music singer/songwriter Brenn Hill and multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Ryan Tilby produced the album. The quality of the studio work, and Trinity’s smart songwriting and strong vocals, earn high marks all around. (Listen to two full-length tracks at trinityseely.com.) I sincerely hope to hear more from Trinity. She has a lot to share about the real, contemporary West.         

Trinity Seely sells for $18.95 (postage paid). Order online at trinityseely.com or from Trinity Seely, 47510 W Hwy 220, Alcova, WY  82620; (801) 636-7513.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
June 2012

Curing the Summertime Blues                                   

School has been out in our area for about a month. Classes in Montana and North Dakota typically start before Labor Day and dismiss around Memorial Day. Week-long sessions of vacation Bible school were held right away to get ahead of T-ball and swimming lessons, all which help occupy children accustomed to classroom routines. Still, there are times when a parent hears a child lament, “There’s nothing to do.” 


 

The Littlest Wrangler by J.R. Sanders (Moonlight Mesa Associates, 2010, 80 pages, illustrated, paperback, ISBN: 978-0977459384) may help head off a stampede among those ages 8-12 who are exhibiting signs of boredom. Based on “Little Joe, the Wrangler,” a song written by Jack Thorp in the late 1800s, the story follows young Joe Monday on his quest to become a real cowboy. An orphan living in New York City, Joe travels to Kansas City aboard an orphan train. The ensuing series of events takes him from living on a farm to being a wrangler to being a full-fledged cowboy.  

I was anxious to see how Sanders converted the song to a book. (For those familiar with the song, the book has a happier ending.) It gives me pleasure to report he did it very well. Evidently I’m not the only one to feel this way. The book was a 2010 winner in the Arizona Authors’ Literary Contest. 

The Littlest Wrangler sells for $12.95 plus $2.95 postage. Order from J.R. Sanders, PO Box 615, Redlands, CA 92373; www.jrsanders.com. It is also available from online booksellers.         


 

Little cowgirls ages eight and up, and their moms, will like Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls by Sylvia Branzei, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Running Press Kids, 2011, 96 pages, illustrated, paperback, ISBN: 978-0762436958). A companion to Rebel in a Dress: Adventures, the series is a winner on two fronts. Not only are the biographical stories and period factoids interesting, the graphic design is a feast for the eyes. Scrapbookers won’t be able to resist thumbing through the pages embellished with vintage postcards, photographs, faux sticky notes, maps, advertisements, and colorful collages.  

Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls would be an excellent selection to read aloud on a road trip, with time to discuss how society has changed. Among the 12 women featured is Tillie Baldwin, who broke with convention of the early 1900s, daring to wear bloomers in the rodeo arena. Rounding out the dozen daring cowgirls are Georgie Sicking, Annie Oakley, Charley Parkhurst, Tad Lucas, Lucille Mulhall, Charmayne James, Lillian Riggs, Calamity Jane, Sally Skull, Johanna July, and Mary Fields. 

Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls retails for $10.95. It is available in bookstores and from online booksellers.


 

 

If music would be a better fit for your young ones, I highly recommend Cowboy Playground by Putumayo Kids. Released in May 2012, Cowboy Playground is one of 105 titles produced by Putumayo World Music. Established in 1993, the goal has been to introduce people to the music of the world's cultures. Cowboy Playground is a cheerful, dance-able 12-track compilation, accompanied by a beefy 24-page booklet with information about the artists and archival photos from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. (The visual appeal of the album package and booklet is exceptional.) Other titles that sound appealing include French Cafe, Rumba Mambo Cha Cha Cha, Music from the Coffee Lands, Latin Lounge, Acoustic Dreamland, Rhythm & Blues, Espana, and Turkish Groove.  

Among the songs and artists selected to represent the cowboy culture are “Saddle Bum” by Wylie & The Wild West; “I'm an Old Cowhand” by  Riders In The Sky; “Close 'Em on Up” by Kerry Grombacher; “Back in the Saddle Again” by Liz Masterson and the late  Sean Blackburn; “It's the Cowboy Life for Me” by David John and the Comstock Cowboys, “May the Trail Rise Up to Greet You” by Dave Stamey; and “Take Me Back to the Range” by Peter Rowan and Don Edwards. The latter is from the High Lonesome Cowboy: Appalachia to Abilene album produced in 2002 by Western Jubilee Recording Company. A combo that goes by the name Cowboy Envy closes with “Happy Trails.” I’d never heard of this group before, and I’m wondering why. Harmonizing on Western songs of the 1930s and 40s, they are excellent.    

Cowboy Playground retails for $14.98 plus shipping. The album states the CDs are “available in thousands of children’s, record, book, gift and other specialty stores,” so look for them in your area. If you can’t find them, visit www.putumayokids.com or call 1-888-788-8629.


Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621;
email

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
May 2012

Keeping the Herd Together

Last month, I highlighted The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Seven (2012), a compilation of cowboy poetry recordings produced by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc. (www.cowboypoetry.com ). I had hoped to mention books by two of the artists but ran short on space. I thought I’d pick up where I left off, in essence, keeping the herd together.


 

A photo of Montana ranch hand DW Groethe appears on the album, a nod to today’s working cowboy. He recites “Over Yonder,” which speaks of “a diff'ernt sorta breed / them that take to horse an’ saddle / restless souls that’re mighty prone to wander.” 

Groethe, a favorite at cowboy and Western gatherings across the country, has produced two chapbooks since the release of his critically acclaimed hardback, West River Waltz, published in 2006. The most recent, The Night Ol’ Flukie Foundered, contains 25 poems, including the aforementioned “Over Yonder.” As might be expected, it also includes “The Night Ol’ Flukie Foundered,” plus “The Ballad of Murphy’s Outhouse,” two romps that have been known to leave some listeners queasy and unsettled.   

Proving his mastery of the silly, as well as the sublime, Groethe counters with “Star Cavvy,” a cowboy’s stroll through celestial pastures; “Lilacs, Rhubarb, Horseradish,” about the vestiges of Plains’ homesteads; and the introspective “When There’s Frost Upon the Ponies.” There are also two of his Christmas poems, written and distributed annually to those lucky enough to be on his “nice” list. (Read “Over Yonder,” “The Night Ol’ Flukie Foundered,” and “When There’s Frost Upon the Ponies” at cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm.)  

The Night Ol’ Flukie Foundered is $15 postpaid from DW Groethe, PO Box 144, Bainville, MT  59212; (406) 769-2312.


 

Fifth-generation California rancher John Dofflemyer recites “Our Time” on the seventh BAR-D Roundup. The piece appears in Proclaiming Space, his thirteenth collection of poetry, published in 2012. Dofflemyer began writing poetry in high school, attended the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., for the first time in 1989, and was awarded a Wrangler from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City for Poems from Dry Creek in 2009. (For more:  cowboypoetry.com/johndofflemyer.htm)

Dofflemyer carries on a family tradition:  harvesting grass from the Sierra Nevada foothills with cattle. His poetry captures contemporary ranch issues, some mundane, some milestones. Since 2005, he and his wife, Robbin, have maintained Dry Crik Journal: Perspectives from the Ranch, a blog that features poetry, prose, and photography (drycrikjournal.wordpress.com). John says his writing “has evolved into a pleasant habit that helps me sort and incorporate all the odd and wonderful realities of this uncertain way of life.”

While the flora and fauna in John and Robbin’s world are often foreign to my Montana eyes and ears, I am nonetheless appreciative of this glimpse into their world. I’ve a new appreciation for John’s free verse poetry, his inherent connection to land, his keen eye, and willingness to share his innermost thoughts.

Contained within Proclaiming Space, “Docs No Sox 1666851” is a tribute to a beloved equine partner, buried beneath a lone oak tree. “Waiting for Daylight” recounts an anxious night before the all-important branding day. “Sideshow” is timely in its hope that political candidates are genuinely interested in the duties of the office.        

Proclaiming Space sells for $15 (cash or check) from John Dofflemyer, Dry Crik Press, PO Box 44320, Lemon Cove, CA  93244-0320.           

 

While I’m tending to details, I want to mention an album by the late Doc Stovall. Doc sent me a copy of The Place Where I Worship not long before his untimely death in March. The professionally produced 14-track CD contains a refreshing selection of gospel favorites and less-familiar, cowboy-themed offerings, including my favorites, “Fingerprints of God,” “From the Rim of the Canyon,” “Reins of Glory,” “The Place Where I Worship/The Cowboy’s Prayer,” and “When the Roundup’s Over.” (For a complete listing, see: cowboypoetry.com/docstoval.htm.) Besides being just plain good listening, it would be excellent for cowboy church.  

Doc made his home near Cartersville, Georgia, where he was the entertainment and sponsorship manager at the Booth Western Art Museum ( www.boothmuseum.org/). It was in this capacity that I came to know him. Doc once worked and toured with Ray Price. This experience served him well at the Booth, where he organized the Southeastern Cowboy Festival & Symposium and developed the Georgia Youth Cowboy Poetry Contest into a statewide activity.

To purchase The Place Where I Worship, send $18 (cash, check, or money order) to Margaret Stovall, 4396 Bluebird Lane, Lithia, GA 30122.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email


© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
April 2012

Sure Signs That It’s April

This past weekend my husband and I made a quick trip to the Red River Valley of the North. The  troupe in the small community where our daughter lives staged their annual theatrical production. Since 2008, our daughter has either had a part in or directed the plays, the proceeds benefitting the local community betterment club.  

Scheduling conflicts have prevented us from attending every year. Once, I headed to Oklahoma City for the Western Heritage Awards at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Unfortunately, a spring snow storm in Denver kept me from reaching my destination. I missed out on both the play and the awards! 

 

I hope Wyoming Poet Laureate Patricia Frolander makes it to Oklahoma City to accept the 2012 Western Heritage Wrangler Award for outstanding poetry book. Her book, Married Into It (High Plains Press, 2011, 80 pages, paperback ISBN-13: 978-0931271960), was selected as the winner of the prestigious Wrangler. 

Born and raised in the city, Frolander added “rancher” to her résumé seven years into her marriage when she moved with her husband to his family’s ranch. She captures the transition to life in the Black Hills in the title poem. It includes a painful litany of comments offered by neighbors watching and waiting for her to fail. Decades later, they’re still waiting. (Read “Married Into It” and others at cowboypoetry.com/patfrolander.htm.)

In “Old Reliable,” Frolander tells of putting the feed truck in granny gear before jumping onto the back to feed hay bales, the driver-less vehicle making its way across the feed ground. Right there, I knew she had earned her spurs. She outlines the rest of the class syllabus in “Long-Term Education.”

Purchase a signed copy of Married Into It for $14.95 (postpaid) from Patricia Frolander, #10 Frolander Rd., Sundance, WY 82729. It is also available at highplainspress.com, your favorite local bookstore, or from Amazon.com. The cover illustration is by award-winning Wyoming artist Sarah Rogers (sarahrogersart.com).

 

If the folks in Oklahoma City are presenting the Wrangler awards, it must also be Cowboy Poetry Week. Organized and promoted by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc. (www.cowboypoetry.com) this year it runs April 15-21. In conjunction with the observation, the Center released The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Seven (2012), a compilation of vintage and contemporary recordings of some of the best classic and contemporary cowboy poetry.

The heartbeat of the working West shines in this outstanding collection, one of my favorites in the series. Texas poet, songwriter, playwright, and editor Andy Wilkinson opens with “The Poet’s Catch Rope,” an a cappella piece written for Buck Ramsey. Oklahoma poet Jay Snider brings it to a close with “Four Little Words,” which on occasion has been offered at memorial services for cowboys and ranchers. In between are 23 other works, presented by men and women hailing from Canada to Arizona.  

Long overdue for inclusion in the series is “Reincarnation” by Wallace McRae. Although quite likely cowboy poetry’s most recognized poem, McRae is not particularly fond of the conversation between a cowboy and his friend that he penned decades ago. Also overdue is a piece by McRae’s neighbor, Henry Real Bird. A rancher, Crow elder, and past Montana Poet Laureate, Real Bird delivers “Rivers of Horse.”

Joel Nelson recites one of the poems he credits for nurturing his love of poetry: Stephen Vincent Benét’s “The Ballad of William Sycamore.” This year’s special vintage recording is of Benét reciting the classic, as captured by the Library of Congress in 1940.

Randy Rieman, recognized as one of the genre’s best classic reciters, offers Bruce Kiskaddon’s “The Creak of the Leather.” Jerry A. Brooks delivers her interpretation of Andy Wilkinson’s modern classic, “Saddlin’ Up Time,” from his Wrangler Award-winning Western opera, Charlie Goodnight: His Life In Poetry And Song.

Several artists recorded tracks especially for the 2012 release, among them Rod Miller. Widely published but rarely heard, the Utah poet presents “The Beauty of Mountains.” Likewise, Keith Ward brings S. Omar Barker’s “Purt Near!” to life especially for the project. (Find a complete track listing, background on the pieces, and excerpts here at CowboyPoetry.com.)

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Seven is available for $20 postpaid. Proceeds support the Center. CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the Center. Send $20 (check or money order in U.S. funds) per copy to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA  94133. (Postage included for U.S. and Canada; add $5 US for other countries.) Order online and pay with a credit card at www.cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm#Order.  

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email


© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
March 2012

Top Sellers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Gift Shop

It rained in much of Oklahoma last week, enough to produce runoff. Some gains were made in replenishing dugout stock ponds that dried up during a summer of record-setting heat and drought, including three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures. Cowboy poet Jay Snider and I took advantage of the weather and drove from Cyril, Okla., to Oklahoma City to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (NCWHM). Many still call it the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, even though the name was officially changed in July 2000. (See www.nationalcowboymuseum.org).

Jay left me off under the canopy shielding the entrance from the downpour and parked the pickup. While I waited for him, I savored the sight, the smell, and the sound of the rain coursing  over the Oklahoma redbuds before tumbling down a terrace of native rock. My visit coincided with the flowering of the redbuds–Oklahoma’s state tree–their lavender blossoms brightening lush pastures, rugged creeks, and manicured lawns.

In advance of traveling to Oklahoma City, I inquired as to what the NCWHM gift shop’s top-selling books, CDs and DVDs were. The Museum Store manager obliged, sharing the following titles, authors, and artists:   

A Western Legacy: The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum by Grafe, Hallsten McGarry, Rand, Rattenbury, and Reeves; photos by Muno; introduction by Dary (University of Oklahoma Press, 2005, 256 pages, 274 color & 50 b/w photographs, paperback, ISBN-13: 978-0806137315). Prepared in celebration of the Museum’s 50th anniversary, this book is an overview of its holdings. For the hurried visitor who needed more time, someone who hasn’t been there is awhile, or anyone who has yet to walk the galleries, it combines images of the signature artworks and artifacts with an accompanying essay. You’ll get a glimpse of Western and Indian art, Native and cowboy gear, photographs, rodeo trophies, military artifacts, firearms, and more. A Western Legacy retails for $29.95.

 

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2012, 304 pages, hardback, ISBN-13: 978-0061997181). Drummond built her Pioneer Woman brand blogging about life on an Oklahoma ranch with her husband and four children:  http://thepioneerwoman.com/. Her first cookbook, Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, earned her a #1 New Times bestselling author ranking. Bolstered by that and her show on the Food Network, her second cookbook is likewise enjoying brisk sales. The same photo-intensive style of her blog carries through to this cookbook. Food from My Frontier retails for $29.99.

 

Adults and children alike are crazy about Hank the Cowdog by John Erickson:  www.hankthecowdog.com. Hank, a smelly, smart-aleck, four-legged Head of Ranch Security, keeps things in line on his ranch in the West Texas Panhandle. The series, with 59 books at last count, has sold more than 7.6 million copies. Hank has been a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and the winner of the Audie for Outstanding Children’s Series from the Audio Publisher’s Association. Books in the Hank the Cowdog series retail for $5.99; audio books for $19.99.

 

The DVD of Lonesome Dove, the 1989 miniseries adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the same name, is a perennial best seller in The Museum Store. Set in the late nineteenth century, the saga follows former Texas Rangers Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call and their crew as they drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana. The winner of seven Emmy Awards, the television adaptation is every bit as popular today as when it first aired. The series, available in DVD and Blue-ray, runs six hours. Prices vary.

 

Texas-born songwriter, recording artist, storyteller, television personality, and poet Red Steagall has 23 albums and four books to his name. Host of his own cowboy gathering in Fort Worth, Texas, and In the Bunkhouse with Red Steagall on RFD-TV, he’s also one of the most popular artists in the gift shop. Respected around the world for his preservation of the Western lifestyle, Steagall was inducted into the NCWHM Hall of Great Westerners in 2003. (See http://www.redsteagall.com/)

 

Michael Martin Murphey is the other top-selling artist among those carried by The Museum Store. His song “Wildfire” is one of the most played songs in the history of radio. With more than 35 albums to his credit, shoppers have a wide selection to select from, including original, classic cowboy, and Christmas titles. Murphey is a five-time winner of the Western Heritage Award as presented by the NCWHM. (See http://michaelmartinmurphey.com/


Contact The Museum Store, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63rd St, Oklahoma City, OK  73111; (405) 478-2250, ext. 228.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email
 

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
February 2012

Print or Electronic Books. What’s in Your Library?

Back when I served on the county library board, we discussed whether or not to add VHS tapes to our collection. Allocating funds to something besides traditional books was at the core of the discussion. Ultimately, we opted to include a small offering of video tapes in the children’s section. Patrons in our little town were pleased to have a source for wholesome, educational titles for their children to watch.

Today, libraries are lending electronic books (e-books), with some also offering the devices necessary to access them. For those who aren’t familiar with e-books, they are digital versions of new titles and digitized copies of previously-released titles. The material is downloaded via the Internet and viewed on hand-held devices such as an iPhone or iPad, on e-readers such as the Kindle or Nook, and on computers or tablets equipped with the appropriate software.

Some titles release both as a traditional print edition and as an e-book. Some release only in print; some only as an e-book. As with print books, prices vary for e-books, and some are free. A Jan. 26, 2012-item posted at Mediabistro.com reported the average price for an Amazon.com e-book, to be read on a Kindle reader, was $6.48. The average for an e-book from Barnes & Noble, which sells the Nook reader, was $8.94. These prices are based on the top 100 selling books at each. 

In a library setting, e-books and other online materials circulate similarly to traditional books.  The library can only lend as many copies of a title as they own. A user checks out an item by downloading it to his or her device. After the standard checkout time, the item disappears from the device and is once again available for checkout. Presently, there is no way to return an e-book if the patron finishes reading it before the due date, so a book remains checked out for the duration. (Check with your local library for lending specifics as they vary.)

Flying fairly frequently as I do, I see folks who bring books, newspapers, magazines, MP3 players, and computers on board. More and more, I’m noticing e-readers. Besides books, e-readers also accommodate newspapers, magazines, textbooks, movies, music, and kids’ interactive books. One traveler I overheard, having embraced the portability, said, “I don’t know why anyone would want to drag a big book along on vacation.” Across the aisle, another retorted, “I can spill a cup of coffee on a paperback and still read it. And, if I leave a book behind, I’m out $20.” E-readers start at less than $100 and top out at several hundred dollars.

Last fall, I asked a friend who was visiting from Texas to show me her Nook. She tapped and whizzed through a collection of thumbnail-sized book jacket images representing the titles it contained. Among them were two out-of-print, historical western references. Explaining that she had searched in vain for print copies, she was thrilled to find them as e-books–and at a substantial savings. The way she saw it, she paid for the e-reader with what she saved by buying e-versions of those two books. 

Up until then, I had never seriously considered an e-reader. I like the look, the feel, and the smell of books. I find a certain sense of satisfaction and security in being able to pull one off the shelf to research or verify something. I also remember when college students had their e-textbooks recalled, leaving them empty handed before the semester ended. Printed books will remain viable through whatever changes technology may bring, and they don’t require a battery.

However, what my friend told me next gave me pause. Functioning much like a laptop computer, the Nook automatically connects for free in AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing her to access her email. (Similar access also applies to the Kindle.) Since e-readers rely on wireless technology to download materials, Internet access is a necessary component of sales and distribution. It’s also a bonus for those who don’t have web access via a laptop or cell phone.

My friend was through in September, and even with her glowing recommendation, I haven’t purchased an e-reader. A study conducted in late 2011 by the book-marketing firm Verso Advertising showed 15.8 percent of avid book buyers own an e-reader. While that figure doubled from 2010, 52 percent of the respondents said they are “ not at all likely” to purchase one in the next 12 months. That’s up from 40 percent in 2009. Clearly, I am not alone in my affinity for the old-fashioned printed word.
 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email
 

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
January 2012

Paper Trails

A friend told me recently that a family member is posting installments from a homestead-era diary on Facebook. Descendants from around the world are sharing in the adventure as the entries are revealed bit by bit. My friend expressed the awe she feels at reading the entries detailing her ancestors’ emigration from Sweden to Minnesota.
 

Bette Wolf Duncan shares family stories in Dakota Prairie Memories (Xlibris, Corp., 2011, 102 pages, b/w photos & illustrations, paperback, ISBN: 978-1456853655). A comfortable blend of poetry and prose—illustrated with drawings, photographs, and paintings— Duncan introduces each chapter with a historical essay on the era. Using the essays as a springboard, she captures snippets of life on the Northern Great Plains. Characterizing the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, homesteaders, and cowboys who came and went in the region, she says, “... people of the West were unique—more independent, self-reliant, and imbued with a rock-hard inner strength. They were survivors that sacrificed blood and sweat to overcome severe hardships.”  

“First Year on the Prairie” is an account of what it might have been like inside a sod shanty for settlers on a wintry Sunday afternoon in the 1870s. The portrayal captures the close confinement in a cold and hostile climate, lacking even the most basic conveniences we now consider necessities. Other poems I particularly enjoyed are posted on Duncan’s page at cowboypoetry.com, among them “Empty-Cradle Sad,” “Westward Ho, Their Wagons Rolled,” “My Pretty Patch of Green,” and “Makin’ Do,” a Great Depression remembrance.

The paperback Dakota Prairie Memories sells for $19.99 plus shipping. It is also available as a hardback and e-book. Purchase online from Amazon.com (sneak peek inside), from Xlibris (excerpt posted) at www.bettewolfduncan.com, or from Bette Wolf Duncan, 1755 S.E. 108th Street: Runnells, Iowa  50237; (515) 966-2461.

In her acknowledgments, Duncan mentions the treasure trove of documents in her late sister’s genealogical archives:  immigration papers, property transactions, newspaper articles, homestead affidavits. Among others, federal land patents (also called land title records), were issued as a reward for military service, in return for cash payments, and to homesteaders who completed the proving-up process. 
 

Should you be interested in tracking down your family’s land patents, complete the form at the Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records Automation web site: www.glorecords.blm.gov. As noted, the database “provides live access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, including image access to more than five million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and the present.” There are also images related to survey plats and field notes, dating back to 1810.

Searching by state and last name is a simple process that generates remarkably fast results, including relatives who may have settled nearby. Each patent includes the legal land description and the date of issuance. Print them or save them as PDFs.
Either way, there’s no charge.                          

 

 

Amy Hale Auker shares her insights into the life of a modern day cowboy and his family in Rightful Place (Texas Tech University Press, 2011, 156 pages, hardback, ISBN: 978-0896726796). The 30 essays, with a foreword by Linda M. Hasselstrom, take the reader beyond the stereotypical setting sun, farther off the beaten path than some might be comfortable venturing. From the Texas panhandle to Arizona’s mountains, Auker travels on roads where 4-wheel-drive vehicles are a necessity, not a status symbol; where cell phone coverage is the exception, not the rule.  

Seduced by the prairie, Auker’s love affair with the wide-open took root in childhood. Her marriage to a working ranch cowboy only deepened her affinity for remote locations and the harsh, demanding lifestyle. Probing beneath the surface of cowboying for wages, Auker dissects the romanticized notions of the job. As a daughter, a wife, a mother, a cook, and a ranch hand, her experiences are varied. She is at once the woman on a neighboring ranch and someone I’ve never met. 

Painfully honest, Auker mines the marrow of her soul, refining everyday occurrences into precious vignettes from the contemporary American West. I caught my breath when she was startled by a rattlesnake, felt the tedium of moving cattle, peered into a stock tank watching goldfish flit about, longed to taste her homemade tortillas, and felt the rain drops as she miscarried alongside a muddy dirt road. 

Rightful Place sells for $20 plus shipping at www.amyhaleauker.com. It is also available at Amazon.com where most reviewers have given it the highest 5-star rating. Contact Auker at 101 N. Mount Vernon Ave., Prescott, AZ  86301.
 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email
 

© 2012, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
December 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas #2

As promised last month, this installment of Christmas gift ideas focuses on music and books:


Twelve Mile Road is the latest CD from Western entertainer Dave Stamey. The inspiration for the title track–dedicated to his father–came from Stamey’s growing-up years in Yellowstone County, Montana: “There’s an old gravel road / following the section line / out where lives are held together / with sweat and baling twine ...” [Find all the lyrics here.] 

Other highlights from the 12 original tracks include “Blackjack Was a Mule,” with its powerful images of a mule toiling in an underground mine; “Never Gonna Rain Again,” painting a picture of “cracks in the ground that run straight to hell”; and the playful “Comfortable Shoes,” an example of the fun Stamey injects into his live performances. 

Now residing in California, the personable singer/songwriter has been a cowboy, a mule packer, and a dude wrangler. Stamey says he prefers taking the stage to being stomped by angry horses. He’s done well for himself by staying out of harm’s way. Stamey’s "The Vaquero Song" was included among a 2009 Western Horseman article entitled "The 13 Best Cowboy Songs of All Time." (Listen to the song, illustrated with the photography of David Stoecklein at www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh0DQ80kZoY.)

Described in Cowboys & Indians magazine as the Charlie Russell of Western Music, True West magazine bestowed the title “Best Living Western Solo Musician” on Stamey in 2010. He’s taken home multiple awards from both the Western Music Association and the Academy of Western Artists, including Entertainer and Songwriter of the Year. 

Twelve Mile Road sells for $15 plus postage. Order from HorseCamp Music, PO Box 189, Orange Cove, CA  93646; 805-929-1543; www.davestamey.com. Check out his previous releases. I am partial to Wheels and It’s Just a State of Mind, but you really can’t go wrong with a Dave Stamey CD.

 

For the little farmers in your life, consider the Farm Country Tales series by Gordon W. Fredrickson. These beautiful, full-color hardback books are built to last, which is exactly what Fredrickson had in mind. His goal is to create keepsake books that accurately reflect what it was like growing up on a small farm. A retired teacher, he was raised on a 120-acre dairy farm near New Prague, Minnesota.

There are four titles in the series, which show the activities of the Carlson Family from January to December 1950. Written in delightful rhyme, they include Farm Country Picnic, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve. More are planned, including New Year, which begins with the parents waking the kids up on New Year's morning 1950, telling them it’s 30 degrees below and the water is frozen in the barn. These books would jump-start reminiscing among retired farmers and “senior” farm kids, so don’t limit potential recipients just to youngsters. 

Also by Fredrickson is the If I Were a Farmer series: Tommy’s Adventure; Nancy’s Adventure; and Field Work. Suitable for preschool through third grade, these stories feature contemporary youngsters daydreaming about living on a farm. Tommy likes tractors like his great-grandfather drove. Nancy is partial to big, modern tractors. (Double click on book cover for a peek at the storyline and illustrations: gordonfredrickson.com.)

If I Were a Farmer titles sell for $11.95 each (postpaid in continental US). Farm Country Tales are $17.95 each (postpaid continental US). Order online at gordonfredrickson.com. If you prefer to pay by check, contact Gordon Fredrickson directly at 952-797-6169. 

Skip Halmes has two lighthearted books that moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas will enjoy–especially the dads: The Cow Whisperer: Stories from the Big Sky Country of ranchin’, romance and rugrats (2001, 134 pages, paperback), and Dances with Hooves: More stories from the Big Sky Country of mad cows, mothers and beer ( 2007, 170 pages, paperback). Consisting of short essays penned for a newspaper column, the collections are long on humor.  

I had been told to expect a few laughs from Halmes’ stories, but his portrayal of everyday news from the Mission Road region west of Great Falls, Montana, exceeded my expectations. My husband agrees, as I read a good many of the stories aloud. Think Rodney Nelson, Dean Meyer, Lee Pitts, and Andy Nelson—with Garrison Keillor thrown in for good measure. The superb illustrations by R. Tom Gilleon (www.timberlinestudios.com) are a bonus.

The Cow Whisperer is priced at $9.95 + $3.50 s/h. Dances with Hooves is $10.95 + $3.50 s/h. Order from Quixote Press, 3544 Blakslee St., Wever, IA  52658; 800-571-2665. Autographed copies are available for $15 each (postpaid) from Skip Halmes, PO Box 89, Cascade MT  59421; 406-899-2603.
 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621;  email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
November 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas #1

Over the past few months I’ve made some great finds for those on my Christmas list. It is with delight that I report most of the items are useful, inexpensive, or something the recipient specifically requested. In some instances they are all of the above.   
 

Among the gifts I’ll be wrapping this season are bottles of Kent Rollins’ Red River Ranch Seasoning. My husband and I used the seasoning at Rollins’ Red River Ranch Chuckwagon Boot Camp in April 2011. After tasting pork chops, steaks, and  potatoes prepared with the blend, we’re hooked. We use it exclusively on steaks and chops. Seven ounces of Red River Ranch Seasoning sells for $9.95 plus $5.25 shipping. Order online at www.kentrollins.com or contact Shannon Rollins, 3930 Benvanue Rd., Byers, TX  76357; 580-471-3775. 

While you’re at it, order a copy of Kent’s soon-to-be-released cookbook, On the Trail and in the Kitchen, due out in late November or early December. We cooked out of Kent’s previous 54-page, spiral-bound cookbook while at camp, but it’s out of print. My two personal favorites from it are Green Chili Hominy Casserole and Upside Down Pizza. Kent indicated that he’s including such tried-and-true recipes in the new collection, along with recent additions to his campfire repertoire. On the Trail and in the Kitchen sells for $18 plus $5.25 shipping. (A container of seasoning and a cookbook comes to a total of $33.20, including shipping.) 

I previously suggested sending the hard-to-shop-for Western heritage buff in your life to the Red River Chuckwagon Boot Camp on the Oklahoma/Texas border. I’m reiterating that suggestion. Participants learn how to cook chuckwagon staples like those served up on cattle drives and wagon trains. Kent also teaches the proper ways to season and clean cast iron and shares his experiences and knowledge from the catering business. It is an unforgettable experience. Special rates are available for couples. For more on the class, go to the web site or contact Shannon (see above).
 

 

Earlier this year, I brought you word of the Buck Brannaman movie which was showing in theaters and making headlines at film festivals across the country. (Watch the trailer at www.buckthefilm.com) The 88-minute, PG-rated Buck continues to win awards, including Best Documentary at DocuWest, Golden, CO. Director Cindy Meehl followed Brannaman on his clinic circuit, capturing 300 hours of footage. A longtime student of horseman and clinician Ray Hunt—who learned from natural horsemanship clinician Tom Dorrance—Brannaman was the inspiration for the Nicholas Evans novel, The Horse Whisperer.

Recently released on DVD, the movie would be a superb gift. Buck is available from Amazon.com for $12.49. It is eligible for free shipping on orders over $25. Amazon also carries books by Brannaman which, depending on availability, may include The Faraway Horses: The Adventures and Wisdom of One of America's Most Renowned Horsemen, and Believe: A Horseman's Journey.

 

Even in this electronic age, wall calendars still serve a purpose—most especially in homes of busy families. I favor those with generous squares to record important dates and notes of interest. If they feature interesting artwork or photos, all the better. For years I’ve purchased the Cowgirls of the Old West Calendar: Historic Photographs & Illustrations published by ZON International Publishing. The 2012 edition features advertising illustrations and historic photos dating from1880 to1930. Cowgirls sells for $13.95 plus shipping. Buy two calendars for $27.90 and get a third calendar free. Order from ZON International, P.O. Box 6459, Santa Fe, NM 87502; 505-995-0102; www.zonbooks.com.
 

 

If your interests run toward farming, consider Mort Künstler's American Farm Wall Calendar by Lang. It features images of American farm life when horses and steam engines were commonplace, although early gasoline-powered tractors and vintage automobiles are also shown. Renowned for his detailed, historically-accurate depictions, Künstler painted this series under the pen name Emmett Kaye. The 2012 American Farm Wall Calendar retails for $15.99. I purchased mine from www.calendars.com and paid $1 for shipping. 

I first became familiar with Künstler's work (mortkunstler.com) on a visit to the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia (www.boothmuseum.org). His paintings are among those in the Civil War Gallery. The Booth houses the largest permanent exhibition space for Western art in the country.
             

Next month’s gift ideas includes music and books, among them the children’s series Farm Country Tales and If I Were a Farmer by Gordon W. Fredrickson.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
October 2011

Tackling Fall Chores

A mild autumn is providing ample opportunity to accomplish end-of-season chores. Around us, neighbors are planting winter wheat and hauling hay. Above average temperatures are a boon to those with sunflowers. Still, it’s a race to beat the snow. 

Here at home, we fixed fence so the cow/calf pairs could glean wheat stubble and grass around the edges of the fields and in fence lines. We also tackled some long-awaited landscaping, installed railing on the deck, and cleared off the garden. 

Back at my desk, the CDs submitted for this column caught my eye. It occurred to me that perhaps I should apply the last-hurrah-of-fall attitude to my indoor space as well. Three recordings in particular stood out. Although slated for inclusion, they missed out on previous thematic discussions. Maybe that’s a good thing, meaning they defy being pigeonholed.    

When working cowhands tell me they respect an artist, I want to know more about them. Such was the case with ranch cowboy and contemporary singer/songwriter Daron Little. He’s got a loyal following who suggested I give a listen to his latest project, Ranch Cowboy Music. (Hear full-length tracks of “A Cowboy’s Day,” “Ol’ Cowpuncher,” “Her Caballero,” and “Wyoming” at www.ranchcowboymusic.com.)

Growing up in central Louisiana, Little was exposed to country, bluegrass, rock-a-billy, and blues, all which flavor his guitar style. On a family vacation to Wyoming when he was 11, he got his first taste of the West. Today, Little cowboys at the headquarters of the Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming. His work-a-day world infuses his lyrics with muscle and blood. They ring clear in his own compositions and in those he sets to music, such as “Of Horses and Men,” a poem written by Jay Snider. Little's observations remind me some of Dave Stamey. He's a rare and authentic talent among today's cowboy/western genre.  

The 14-track Ranch Cowboy Music sells for $18 postpaid from Daron Little, PO Box 314, Encampment, WY  82325; 307-710-3174. For credit card orders, downloads, and music samples, go to www.ranchcowboymusic.com.

Rex Rideout sent me his Ladies’ Choice in January. I was bowled over by the package design, which is both elegant and playful. Rideout describes the CD as “a bouquet of courtship and affection by request.” Translated, it’s a collection of songs friends and family urged him to record through the years. It’s an eclectic lot. The 16 tracks are based in the Old West, with “a broad brush of styles ranging from the 1700s to this decade.” Two Stephen Foster tracks made the cut:  “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and “Hard Times Come Again No More,” and there are cowboy classics such as “Mexicali Rose,” “Border Affair,” and “The Colorado Trail.” For good measure, Rideout included a handful of original compositions he penned, as well as one by saddle pal Joyce Woodson. (Hear sound clips and/or order at www.cdbaby.com/cd/rexrideout.)

I first met Rex at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, where he and fellow Old West music revivalist Mark Gardner performed. The style in which Rideout plays (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, tin whistle) and sings is from another time, hence the name of his website: www.timetravelmusic.com. Watch for Rideout playing the fiddle during a saloon altercation in Cowboys & Aliens starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig

Ladies’ Choice sells for $17 postpaid. To order, contact Rideout at timetravelmusic@yahoo.com; (303)273-3839.

Almeda (Terry) Bradshaw, an Oregon native who now calls Montana home (www.almedam2bmusic.com), is among a handful of performers who have taken a fancy to the poetic works of Rhoda Sivell. In 2010, Bradshaw released the folk recording, Voices from the Range, Almeda Terry Sings the Poetry of Rhoda Sivell. It’s a quality project combing Bradshaw’s musical talents and Sivell’s words. Besides rhythm and lead guitar that Bradshaw plays on the album, she also plays the violin, cello, and piano. 

Born in Ireland in 1874, Rhoda Cosgrave immigrated with her family to Canada. They homesteaded near Whitewood, Saskatchewan, where they raised cattle and grain. Following her marriage to Charles Sivell, the couple lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, before homesteading near Medicine Hat, Alberta. A poet and author, Rhoda’s preferred subjects were the life of the pioneers, their hardships and joys. In 1911, she published Voices from the Range. It’s these images from the Canadian prairie that Bradshaw set to music. (Listen to “They Keep a-Stealing on You in the Night” at www.almedam2bmusic.com/discography.html)

  Voices from the Range sells for $18 postage from Almeda Bradshaw, 1650 Nahmis Ave., Huntley, MT  59037; 406-348-3282. It is also available at www.cdbaby.com. (For more on Siveill and to read her poetry go to www.cowboypoetry.com/rhodasivell.htm.)
 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
September 2011

Getting the Old-Time Cowboy Story Right


In a few weeks, a friend from Leakey, Texas, will arrive in Montana. A writer and historian, she wants to see where John Leakey lived. (The town of Leakey was named for his grandfather.) The younger Leakey came north, trailing longhorns and stayed. Corresponding from opposite ends of the now-defunct beef corridor, we’ve planned an itinerary that includes museums, libraries, a bookstore, and two ranches where Leakey resided.

Before running his own ranch in western North Dakota, Leakey was foreman of Pierre Wibaux’s W Bar Ranch headquartered in eastern Montana. Born into a family of French textile industrialists, Wibaux was a contemporary of Theodore Roosevelt and fellow French cattle baron, the Marquis de Mores. A savvy businessman, Wibaux bought up cattle that survived the winter of 1886-87, which killed up to 70 percent of the stock in the region. As such, he was in an advantageous position when prices and demand subsequently peaked. An article in Montana, the Magazine of Western History states that in the 1890s, Wibaux owned 65,000 head of cattle, making his one of the largest cattle herds in the world.

 

Leakey was a strapping fella who stood 6 ft. 6 in. A top cowhand, he also broke horses. He was among the founders of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, serving as the organization’s president from 1929-1939. When he died in 1959, Leakey left behind two books detailing life in the Old West: Grandad and I: A Story of a Grand Old Man and Other Pioneers in Texas and the Dakotas, as told to Florence Fenley (John Leakey Publisher, 1951), and The West That Was, from Texas to Montana, as told to Nellie Snyder Yost (Southern Methodist University Press,1958).

My pal wants to see the countryside Leakey described in his first-person accounts. She also has questions that aren’t answered by either book. I am more than happy to help her toward those goals.

 

As I considered her desire to get the story straight, I thought of Ramon F. Adams. Born in Moscow, Texas, in 1889, Adams was a trained violinist who, after breaking his arm and wrist, ran a wholesale candy company. He authored at least 20 books on cowboys and the American West. His research as a folklorist is regarded as exemplary, appealing to both serious scholars and casual readers. Adams’ stories tell what really happened on the frontier in an engaging style.

A web entry posted by the University of Texas says Adams’ literary production was so great and his books so highly regarded, that one Western author opined, “Except for O. Henry, Webb and Dobie, [Adams] is the most quoted author Texas ever had.”

I keep a copy of Adams' Western Words: A Dictionary of the American West (University of Oklahoma Press, 1944) near my desk. A collection of 5,000 words in the cowboy language, it serves not only as a dictionary but a thesaurus. It’s been reprinted and is readily available as a paperback.

Also close by is The Old-Time Cowhand (The Macmillan Company, 1961) with its grand Nick Eggenhofer illustration on the cover. Akin to an encyclopedia, it explores the cowboy in detail. As noted on the dust jacket: “Here is everything about the real, ungilded, old-time cowhand, what he did, wore, thought. His horse, guns, rope, clothing, sleeping bag; his eating and drinking habits; his attitude toward God, women, bosses, saloons, rodeos; his unwritten code of conduct–everything about this rare and fascinating breed is told with an absorbing authenticity.”

I adore Adams’ treatment of the chuck wagon in Come And Get It (University of Oklahoma Press, 1952). It’s not a cookbook–although there are directions for basics such as coffee and sourdough biscuits. Rather, it’s a study of the cooks and mobile kitchens that have fed cowboys for nearly 150 years.

There are several Adams’ books on my wish list: Cowboy Lingo (Houghton Mifflin, 1936), with cowboy saying and euphemisms by categories including the ranch, duties, tack, roundups, branding, and square dancing. Reprinted in 2000; available in paperback.

The Best of the American Cowboy (1957), an anthology of passages from books Adams considered to be the best about the cowboy.

Burs Under the Saddle: A Second Look at Books and Histories of the West (1964), an evaluation of inaccuracies regarding outlaws in 400-plus books. More Burs Under the Saddle (1979) is a revised version.

From the Pecos to the Powder (1965), cowboy Bob Kennon’s firsthand account of ranch life in the desert Southwest, as told to Adams.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
August 2011

Wet Cycle, Dry Cycle, the Great Depression

With unusually abundant moisture in the Northern Great Plains this year, the countryside was greener in August than we typically see in June. For miles in any direction, verdant pastures and fields met the horizon. Could this be, I asked myself, what this country looked like when my ancestors arrived, during the seductive wet cycle of the early homestead era?

Having worked as a carpenter and sharecropper, my paternal great-grandfather arrived in Montana in the fall of 1910. He came west with dreams of farming and ranching. By 1919, following an extended dry spell, he had disposed of his stock and was operating a road ranch, general mercantile, and United States Post Office.

Upon returning from WWI, his son–my grandfather–purchased the mercantile. In 1920, he married my grandmother. During the ensuing drought and Depression, they nurtured not only a family but a large vegetable garden, cattle, hogs, horses, and grain. Grandad said the main reason they stayed as others moved away was they couldn’t find a buyer. They were sustained by his partial veteran’s disability, his position as postmaster, and delivering government food aid. In the mid-30s, they traded the store and post office for a section of land. 
 

A new CD by Wrangler Western Heritage-award winners Andy Wilkinson and Andy Hedges captures the gritty essence of drought, despair, and survival. Mining the Motherlode embodies the struggles of those who experienced the Dust Bowl and Great Depression–along with those facing the current drought decimating Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of other states in the region. 

At the core of the album is the life-sustaining water of the Ogallala Aquifer. Lying beneath approximately 174,000 semi-arid acres in eight states (South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas), the underground reservoir is mined via water pump. Municipalities, agriculture, manufacturing, and recreation rely on the dwindling supply. The water table has been declining for years; it cannot keep up with demand.  

While I had previously read about the situation, nothing else so convincingly delivered the message as this album. Wilkinson’s original songs and poetry (www.andywilkinson.net), paired with arrangements of Dust Bowl and Depression-era songs by Woody Guthrie, Maybelle Carter, the Bently Brothers, and Uncle Dave Macon (the Grand Ole Opry’s first star), paint a picture that’s hard to shake. I’ve played the 18 tracks several times (see a complete listing here), listening again and again to the masterful word pictures, hoping to better understand those who lived through the economic and environmental disaster.

It’s the story of hundreds of thousands of American families and their communities:  part history lesson; part prophetic warning. Given the subject matter, it is surprisingly entertaining. Wilkinson’s writing is imaginative, colorful, and deeply insightful. Beyond his smart wordsmithing and performance, credit for a job well done goes to reciters and vocalists Andy Hedges (www.andyhedges.com), Alissa Hedges, and Emily Arellano. I will be very surprised if this fine example of Folk Americana isn’t rewarded with a repeat Wrangler Award–as presented by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Mining the Motherlode may be purchased as downloadable (MP3) files or as a traditional CD. Prices range from $9.99 to $17.98. Look for it at www.yellowhousemusic.com, on iTunes, or at CDBaby where you can listen to brief track samples: www.cdbaby.com/cd/andywilkinsonandyhedges.

 

Feeding and clothing a family during the Depression took a great deal of effort and ingenuity. All were admonished to “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” An unassuming collection of nostalgic and heartwarming, first-person accounts of getting by when times were hard is contained in Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's and More From Your Kitchen Today (Volume 1) by Rita Van Amber and Janet Van Amber Paske (Van Amber Publishers, 1986, 306 pages, wire bound, ISBN: 978-0961966317).

Part oral history and part cookbook, I reveled in both aspects. Given current economic concerns and rising food costs, it would be helpful for families looking for ways to stretch their budgets. Technically, it could have benefitted from a more thorough editing. However, that hasn’t deterred from its popularity. My copy is the 34th printing!

There are five volumes in the Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression series. Order directly from the publisher for $15 each, plus $5 shipping. Order as many books as you want, you pay only $5 shipping per order:  Van Amber Publishers, 862 E Cecil St., Neenah, WI  54956-3418; (920) 722-8357. Amazon.com also carries the books and offers a “Look Inside Feature” for your previewing pleasure.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
July 2011

Observing National Day of the Cowboy with Buck Brannaman and the Florida Crackers
 


 

In 2004, American Cowboy magazine launched the National Day of the Cowboy. The following year, the late Sen. Craig Thomas (Wyoming) introduced the first resolution designating the fourth Saturday of July as such. The date coincides with Cheyenne Frontier Days. The magazine continues to celebrate the event, as does the active National Day of the Cowboy organization headed by Bethany Braley (www.nationaldayofthecowboy.com).

This year, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi sponsored the resolution declaring July 23, 2011, the National Day of the Cowboy. The resolution has to be reintroduced each year until it is officially designated a national day of observance by the President. (Read the official resolution at www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=sr112-165.)

Communities and groups across the country sponsor events acknowledging the role ranchers and cowboys fill in the Nation’s history, economy, and entertainment. For my part, I thought it a perfect time to take a break from yard and garden work to watch two documentaries that recently arrived in my mail box.

 

Showing in theaters since June 17, 2011, Buck delves into the life of Buck Brannaman, the inspiration behind the main character in the Nicholas Evans novel, The Horse Whisperer. Evans spent 10 days with Brannaman while researching the book. A longtime student of horseman and clinician Ray Huntwho learned from natural horsemanship clinician Tom DorranceBrannaman shares his insight into the equine mind during his own four-day schools. On the road nine months out of the year, Brannaman says he more often finds himself helping horses who have people problems than people who have horse problems. (For more on his clinics, see http://brannaman.com.)

Directed by Cindy Meehl, the PG-rated Buck is amassing a string of awards, among them the 2011 Sundance U.S. Documentary Competition Audience Award. Following Brannaman from clinic-to-clinic, Meehl shot 300 hours of footage for the 88-minute narrative. Also included is vintage footage of Brannaman and his trick-roping brother, Smokie, back when the pair performed as an RCA/PRCA specialty act, back when the brothers were being physically abused by their father. (View the trailer at www.buckthefilm.com.) Throughout, viewers come to know the real Brannaman, portrayed by Robert Redford in the Hollywood adaptation of the novel.

Redford acknowledges that he was put off by Brannaman’s cowboy garb during a pre-production meeting, thinking it was a costume. Eventually, Redford came to understand Brannaman’s authenticity and no-nonsense depth of character. Brannaman hired on as a movie consultant and doubled for Redford, who was starring for the first time in a movie that he also directed. When a Hollywood stunt horse failed to accomplish a scene after a full day of shooting, one of Brannaman’s horses–with a bit of impromptu training–accomplished the task in less than 20 minutes. 

There are no Hollywood trick horses in Buck, only real-life horses with real-life problems. The most compelling is an aggressive, predatory stud brought to a colt-starting class. Brannaman remains calm, attempting to gentle and saddle the animal. When it becomes clear it presents too much of a danger to have it in the class, he patiently coaxes it into a trailer. The encounter delivers a message transcending horses and corrals. That was the director’s goal: “To inspire, motivate and teach through principles of respect, partnership and trust rather than anger, fear and intimidation.”

For a list of theaters showing Buck or to purchase the DVD, available in October, go to www.buckthefilm.com or www.facebook.com/BUCKFilm. For more information, contact Cedar Creek Productions, P.O. Box 1015, Georgetown, CT 06829; (203) 664-1509.    

Brannaman is talking to studio executives about a feature film based on his own book. Look for it in theaters in the next couple of years. 
 

 

I first became acquainted with representatives of Florida’s cattle industry at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. "Crackers," as they are called, were the spotlighted cowboy culture at the 2010 gathering. An 87-minute high-definition, feature-length documentary, Florida Crackers: The Cattlemen and Cowboys of Florida, was released in April 2011. (Watch video trailers at http://vimeo.com/floridacrackermovie.)

While cattle ranching may initially seem out of place in Florida, in fact the state has been home to cattle and horses since 1521. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon introduced the first animals into North America, in what is now Florida. In the early 1800s, settlers began moving into the region, rounding up herds that had not only survived but thrived.

Having experienced a summer of heat and high dew point temperatures here on the Northern Great Plains, I marveled at scenes of cowboys going about their business on the Coastal Plains. Running 100 head of cattle on 300 acres is appealing, but that enticement is tempered by the alligators and wild hogs that roam the area.

If you fancy yourself a cowboy or cattleman, you’ll enjoy Florida Crackers. It sells for $23.90. Order at www.selfdiscoveryproductions.com/florida.html; 954-891-4963.


Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621;
email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
June 2011

Red Books. Blue Books. Old Books. New Books.

As the school year came to a close, several of us from the area joined students at Lincoln Elementary for Local Authors’ Day. As published writers, we shared a bond with students who had recently completed their own books. We all understood selecting a topic, finding suitable artwork, and bringing it together for printing and binding.

To illustrate my presentation for the primary grades, I pulled a selection of books from the shelves in my home. Among them were what I consider to be my prettiest book, plainest book, most beloved book, oldest book (published in 1887), and newest book (released February 2011).
 

The latter had additional significance as the author had grown up in a bookless home. Despite having only a phone book to read, the writer’s father stirred a love for words in the boy as together they tramped and fished the Wisconsin woods. Coupled with an attentive ear that found beauty in ethnic names and the local vernacular and slang of a mining town, the boy went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Paul Zarzyski, the formerly bookless boy, is now one of this country’s most respected Western poets and an award-winning author. 

The ploy worked perfectly. Most of the students’ eyes widened; some mouths dropped as they tried to envision their homes without books. Having made a single copy of their project, one little first grade girl couldn’t fathom why Zarzyski wouldn’t have kept the book I was holding for all to see. Bless her heart, she didn’t understand that writers have lots of copies made and that they are quite happy when they sell. 

The teachable moment sprang from Zarzyski’s latest book entitled 51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview (Bangtail Press, 2011, 260 pages, paperback ISBN 978-0982860113). I knew he had been working on it for several years. In January, he sat across from me on the plane from Salt Lake City to Elko, Nevada, for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, studying a long-awaited proof copy.

A recipient of the Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature and a Wrangler Western Heritage Award Winner from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Zarzyski placed the probing self-interview after the poems and lyrics. I confess, I read the interview first. I reasoned that reading the prose would help me better understand the man behind the poetry and songs. It was like eating dessert first. Satisfied, but feeling a bit guilty, I then read the poems and lyrics as presented.  

Zarzyski’s works are rich and revealing, sweet and sorrowful, playful and poignant. Fans will recognize some of their favorites and find new pieces to savor. If you’re new to his style, take small bites and chew slowly.

51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview is available at Amazon.com and through other booksellers. For more on Zarzyski, go to www.paulzarzyski.com or www.cowboypoetry.com/paulzarzyski.htm.
 

 

Another new poetry book of note is by Utah writer Rod MillerThings a Cowboy Sees and other poems (Port Yonder Press, June 1, 2011, 98 pages, paperback ISBN 978-1935600077). Containing just shy of 50 pieces, Miller says the collection features some of his best attempts at using poetic form: “From the lighthearted to the contemplative, traditional to experimental, formal to unstructured, it is a representative travelogue of my journey through cowboy and Western poetry.”  

It is dedicated to Jesse Mullins, founding editor of American Cowboy magazine, whom Miller credits as “the editor who first saw fit to apply ink to my poetry.” Since then, more than 100 of his poems have appeared in print, many American Cowboy, Western Horseman, and RANGE. Indeed, Miller is one of the genre’s most published and respected writers.

 A graduate of Utah State University, Miller earned a journalism degree while riding broncs for the college rodeo team. Preferring to focus his time on writing, reading, and learning rather than memorizing, you’ll not find him on stage at a gathering. He will be seated in the audience. The introduction does a fine job of explaining cowboy poetry’s origins and evolution and Miller’s association with the art form. Other essays, as well as a generous sampling of his poetry can be found at www.cowboypoetry.com/rm.htm

Things a Cowboy Sees is available both in print and in a Kindle edition at Amazon.com. It is also available from the author. Send $11.95 to Rod Miller,1665 East Julho Street, Sandy UT 84093. For additional titles by Miller, including the historical novel The Assassination of Governor Boggs released May 9, 2011, go to www.writerrodmiller.com 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
May 2011

Feeding a Crew from a Chuck Wagon

More than two inches of rain fell in this part of the country over the weekend, much of it driven by 25-mph winds. We had house guests and planned a Dutch-oven cookout. Given the mud and the challenge of getting a fire to burn, we opted for grilling on the deck instead.

Pity the frontier chuck wagon cooks who didn’t have an option. They had to contend not only with rain and wind, but with scorching heat and blowing sand, snakes, insects, marauding varmints, and mischievous cowboys. Dry firewood and potable water were never guaranteed. Their pantry contained a precious few shelf-stable ingredients, and meat was kept without the benefit of refrigeration. Quite likely, they moved camp between meals, driving a team of half-broke horses. No wonder cookie had a reputation for being cranky! 

Tagged with handles as colorful as the characters filling the position–grub spoiler; biscuit roller; pot rustler; cocinero; lizard scorcher; stew builder–they customarily drew twice the wages paid to cowboys. A proficient hash slinger could satisfy a crew that worked from before dawn until near dusk or send them searching for a job with better grub.

Texan Charles Goodnight is credited with crafting the first chuck wagon in 1866. I’ve thought a lot about the challenges of feeding a crew from the back of one since participating in Kent Rollins’ Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon Cooking School in early April. Quite the opposite of the weather pattern we’re experiencing, temperatures in northwest Texas that week were more than 100 degrees, and the grass was tinder dry. (Watch a video on the school at kentrollins.com/media/cowboy-cooking-camp.

The most comfortable part of the day sped by while preparing coffee and a hearty breakfast for the 20 cowboys who arrived before sunup. In the predawn hours, the fire stoked in the cook stove was appealing. By midmorning it had lost its charm, but no matter, there were two more meals to prepare.  

Refilling water barrels with a garden hose hooked to a stock-water hydrant was a comparable luxury, as were ice chests that kept perishable foods cold. If those creature comforts threatened to dilute the chuck wagon experience too much, sleeping in a cowboy tepee added a bit of realism. Coyotes,  armadillos, scorpions, fire ants, and spiders scurried about the campsite. Kent cautioned us to turn our boots upside down before putting them on in the morning, in case one of the latter had settled in overnight. For more on the camp, contact Rollins at 303-219-0478; kentrollins.com.

Some of my favorite books are about old-time ranch cooks and the simple but ingenious fare they served. Here is a short list of the best from my library:

Come and Get It by Ramon Adams; illustrations by Nick Eggenhofer. My copy is a 1952 hardback edition published by the University of Oklahoma Press.  However, the 170-page book was reprinted as a paperback in 1976 and 1984. It is readily available from used booksellers at Amazon.com.

Adams was a prolific author who wrote extensively about range cowboys. This volume, with its colorful stories and engaging drawings, describes the role of the cook who went out with the roundup crew or signed on with a cattle drive. It details what he fixed and how: mostly fried meat, dried beans, sourdough biscuits, stout coffee, and occasionally dessert. It was a fortunate crew whose cook made sweets with any regularity.  

Authentic Recipes from the Ranch and the Range, National Cowboy Hall of Fame Chuck Wagon Cookbook, by B. Byron Price (Hearst Books New York, 1995, 301 pages, recipes, photos, hardcover, ISBN 0688129897). Footnoted and with an extensive bibliography, it is easily the most thorough study of the chuck wagon.

As the former executive director of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Price drew on the extensive resources of the famed western heritage museum. Part One contains dozens of fascinating vintage photos coupled with cowboy lore; Part Two contains 100 ranch-style recipes. It is a treat for both the eyes and the palate. Look for it in western museum gift shops or from used booksellers.

Chuck Wagon Cookin' by Stella Hughes (University of Arizona Press, 1974, 170 pages, paperback, ISBN  978-0816504329). A skilled cook in her own right, Hughes relates stories and recipes from other cooks and former cowboys. Their combined experiences and tales of ingenuity and mayhem make for a deliciously entertaining read. Consider the 100+ recipes and home remedies a bonus! It is available from Amazon.com.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
April 2011

Celebrating the 10th annual Cowboy Poetry Week, April 17-23

 


"Pilgrim" © 2005, by Duward Cambell, duwardc@yahoo.com

As a loyal follower of CowboyPoetry.com, I check in regularly to see what’s happening in the world of western and cowboy poetry, music, festivals, film, and print. Among my favorite features are News, Picture the West, Poets, Musicians, & Others in the News in Print & on the Web, and New Cowboy and Western Poetry & Music Releases. Included this month is word of The Bar-D Roundup: Volume Six (2011), released in conjunction with the 10th annual observation of Cowboy Poetry Week, April 17-23.
 

 

A spoken-word album, The Bar-D Roundup is an annual compilation of vintage and contemporary recordings of some of the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry. Co-produced by Margo Metegrano of The Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry (www.CowboyPoetry.com), and Andy Nelson of the Clear Out West Radio Show (clearoutwest.com), the 28-track album takes the listener on a memorable journey across the West. From the opening excerpt from Bruce Kiskaddon’s “Looking Back,” recited by Randy Rieman, to Sharlot Mabridth Hall’s “Beyond the Range,” delivered by Dick Morton, the selected poems speak to the toil and reward, solitude and friendships, sorrow and playfulness found in lives lived in the American West.  

Metegrano writes in a media release, “Cowboy poetry preserves a history as it tells the stories of our working West. As importantly, it conveys compelling modern accounts of an endangered way of life to those who may have little information about this important segment of our population. Cowboy poets are great ambassadors from the rural world.” 

Twelve tracks were recorded specifically for the project, adding freshness and energy to the sixth release in the series:  Linda Kirkpatrick reciting “Cattle” by Berta Harte Nance; Jay Snider reciting Sunny Hancock’s “The Bear Tale”; DW Groethe’s “This Old Post”; Jane Morton’s “Ground Tied”; Carole Jarvis’ “Lovin’ the Life”; Pat Richardson’s “The Evaluation”; Rod Miller’s “A Bolt of Broomtails”; Abi McWhorter reciting “Therapy” by her father, Larry McWhorter; Andy Nelson’s “The Box R Cavvy”; Jesse Smith reciting “Forgotten” by Bruce Kiskaddon; Dick Morton’s previously mentioned recitation by Hall; and lastly, a Public Service Announcement by singer and songwriter Brenn Hill.

The late Buck Ramsey’s 1993 recitation of “Windy Bill” is from the archives of the Western Folklife Center (WFC), recorded during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. Rodney Nelson’s “Gift Rift” is also from the WFC archives, recorded during the 2007 gathering.

Rounding out the selections are pieces gleaned from artists’ previous recordings: Waddie Mitchell and Larry McWhorter reciting “Cowboy Count Yer Blessings”; Red Steagall’s “McCorkle and the Wire”; Don Edwards’ “The Devil’s Hatband”; Joel Nelson’s “The Song of the Packer”; “The Medicine Keepers” by J.B. Allen; Jerry Brooks reciting “The Old Prospector” by Badger Clark; Linda M. Hasselstrom’s “Death of the Last Cowhand”; Andy Hedges reciting Larry McWhorter’s “Trilogy for Cissy”; Doris Daley’s “A Baxter of Blacks”; Elizabeth Ebert’s “Cowboy Courtin’ Time”; Yvonne Hollenbeck’s “Sorting Time”; Sam Jackson’s “Comfort First”; and Bob Schild’s “Ode to a Friend.”

A narrative description of the tracks is posted online. Nearly as entertaining as the recordings themselves, it includes an introduction to the poems and a snippet of each.

A photo of cowboy, ranch manager, and Western-swing fiddler Frankie McWhorter graces the cover–Frankie and an attentive canine pal. Frankie was the late Larry McWhorter’s father and Abi McWhorter’s grandfather. The photo celebrates the commonness of life in rural communities of the real working West and the arts that are passed from generation to generation.

Copies of the album, along with Cowboy Poetry Week posters—this year featuring a painting by Duward Campbell of the late J.B. Allen and his horse Pilgrim—are offered free to rural libraries across the West through the Center’s Rural Library outreach project. Depending on where you live, your local library may have this year’s title, or others, for listening or lending.    

If not, The BAR-D Roundup is available for $20. It is also offered to new and renewing supporters of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. Send check or money order in U.S. funds (postage included for the U.S. and Canada; add $5 US for other countries) to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133. If you prefer, you can pay by a secure, on-line credit card payment at www.cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm#Order.

Should you wish to order previous releases, take advantage of these special bundles: The BAR-D Roundup Vols. Six and Five (2011-2010) postpaid (first class) for $35. Or select The BAR-D Roundup: Vols. Six-Two (2011-2007) postpaid (media mail), for $75.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
March 2011

Spring Fling

Montana singer and song writer Stephanie Davis played to a full house in our county seat of Wibaux, Montana, on March 19. Fortunately, the performance fell between major snow and ice storms, which is always a concern on the Great Plains this time of year.  

To close the evening, Davis sang “Wolves,” quite possibly her best-known composition, made famous by Garth Brooks. She also sang “Talkin’ Harvest Time Blues.” The latter is a playful romp about an overzealous catalog-shopping gardener who works manically to get everything planted, enlisting unwitting family members who drop by for a visit the day the order arrives. (Lyrics at www.stephaniedavis.net/talkin%27_harvest.htm). My husband and I may have laughed loudest, having retrieved our seed order from the mailbox on the way to the show. The fun continued afterwards as Davis shared her ideas with us about making a music video of the song.

“Talkin’ Harvest Time Blues” appears on Davis’ Crocus in the Snow album. Other popular songs from the CD include the title track, also appropriate this time of year, “Good Night Little Cowpup,” “Ikey,” and “Somethin’ ‘Bout Montana.” To order, send $17 (postpaid) to Recluse Records, 838 Countryman Creek Rd., Columbus, MT 59019; (406) 326-2180; www.stephaniedavis.net.


With spring’s arrival and talk of videos, here are two DVDs dealing with ranching and agriculture:
 

 

The Ranching Way of Life: San Luis Valley, Colorado takes a look at sheep and cattle ranching in the 30-mile-wide, 100-mile-long high-mountain desert valley between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains in south-central Colorado. The video was designed to deepen the understanding and appreciation for ranching and those raising the food we eat. Released in 2008 by the Saguache County Sustainable Environment and Economic Development, it portrays the seasonal work, personalities, and scenery found outside city limits.  

A cultural heritage and occupational arts project, there is superb footage of calving and lambing, grafting an orphan calf onto a mother who has lost her calf, along with branding, irrigating, and haying. There’s a 30-minute general audience version and a 26-minute youth version, which would be excellent for use in the classroom and for those who home school. 

The Ranching Way of Life sells for $12 (postpaid) from Peggy Godfrey, 19157 Co. Rd. 60, Moffat, CO 81143; (719) 256-4989.
 


Sky Settles Everything: The Wayne James Story is a 90-minute film produced by Oregon poet Verlena Orr about her 73-year-old cousin. James and Orr grew up in northern Idaho. He spent his life in stewardship of animals on the land; she earned a degree in poetry and made her home on the West Coast. They get back together to reminisce in the film. Scenes shot on location show James at work on the ranch and Orr reading her poetry amid the landscape that inspired it. (Watch the trailer at www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuYwWPrihos)

Orr says she initially planned to tape old-timers telling stories. The idea evolved into a documentary about James, who makes his living on a small, family-sized feeder-calf operation. It probes the generations and examines a deeply personal side of rural life. Footage from a dance at the grange hall is especially touching. (For more about the family and the movie: www.cowboypoetry.com/photowk54.htm)

Sky Settles Everything sells for $12 (postpaid) from Verlena Orr, 1907 NW Hoyt St., Portland, OR 97209-1224; (503) 224-1849.
 

 

If all this talk of videos and documentaries has you hungry for more, look into the Deep West Videos that premier each year during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. A project of the Western Folklife Center, the videos and slide shows tell first-hand stories from the rural West rooted in the values of life on the land.

Using digital communication tools, Western Folklife Center staff assists storytellers with these simple yet elegant home-made productions. From humorous to heartfelt, the subject matter and geographical distribution make clear the diversity found within the American West. One of this year’s shorts that was an audience favorite was filmed in Wyoming. It’s Time for Dandelion Wine by Madeleine Graham Blake follows Miss V the Gypsy Cowbelle through the steps of making dandelion wine: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul2qABYLy9M. 

For more on the Deep West Video project select “Audio/Video” at www.westernfolklife.org Annual compilations of the Deep West Videos are available for $20 each (plus shipping) from the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop, 501 Railroad St., Elko, NV 89801; (775) 738-7508, ext. 234; wfcstore@westernfolklife.org

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


 

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
February 2011

New(s) from Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering 

Strains of old-time, saloon-style piano music spill out the double doors of the historic Pioneer Building during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Located in downtown Elko, Nevada, the Pioneer is home to the Western Folklife Center and the headquarters of the popular annual event that draws folks from across the country and around the world.

 

Holding court at the back of the room, past the information table, past the handsome mahogany-and-cherry back bar, past old friends laughing and catching up is Dave Bourne, itinerant piano player extraordinaire. As much of a fixture at the gathering as any poet or singer, Professor Bourne churns out the festive music that adds a bit of magic to the Elko experience.

You’ve likely heard Bourne’s music; maybe even caught a glimpse of him on television. Along with projects on the History Channel, he was cast as the piano player in the Gem Saloon in episode #9 through #12 of HBO’s Deadwood. (Watch a video of Dave at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwXQTjBRP1M.)

Bourne has a variety of CDs, each priced at $17 (postpaid). There are six volumes of Saloon Piano, plus 19th Century Favorites and Rarities and The Lobo Rangers Campfire Music Best of the Early Years: 1990-1995. For track listings or to order, go to www.saloonpiano.com. To order by mail, send check or money order payable to Dave Bourne, PO Box 173, Agoura Hills, CA  91376-0173.

 

Canadian poet and emcee Doris Daley was among those at the Pioneer enjoying the music and camaraderie. She is out with a new book: West Word Ho! The western poetry of Doris Daley (2011, 96 pages, 17 photos, paperback ISBN 978-0-9684530-5-6).

Known as one of the genre’s most disciplined writers and most polished stage performers, Daley selected some of her all-time, crowd-pleasing favorites for inclusion in this, her second book. Among my personal favorites are “Bones,” “Hands,” and “The Answering Machine.” If you’d care to take a bit of a test drive, read these selected poems at www.cowboypoetry.com/dorisdaley.htm.

Nestled within the book is an excerpt from Daley’s great grandmother’s journal. Mary Selves Daley came to Fort Macleod from Ontario in 1887, planning to live with her aunt for a short time. Mary’s uncle was stationed at the Royal North West Mounted Police barracks in Fort Macleod. But, Mary fell in love with a Mountie-turned-rancher and spent the rest of her life building a ranch and raising a family in southern Alberta. “From Mary’s Window” is Doris’ salute to the hardy pioneer women who came to a harsh frontier and stuck it out.

West Word Ho! The western poetry of Doris Daley sells for $25 (US), $22 (Canadian) postpaid from Doris Daley, Fiddle DD Enterprises, Box 103, Turner Valley, AB Canada  TOL 2AO; www.dorisdaley.com.
 


Standing head and shoulders above the crowd at the Pioneer, Hal Cannon made his way to the G Three Bar Theater next door for a show that debuted his first all-original self-titled album, Hal Cannon. As Founding Director of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Cannon is more often found working behind the scenes. On this occasion, he was joined on stage by Kate MacLeod and Phillip Bimstein for an enchanting set of history and mystery, jubilant celebration and soulful melancholy.

The playful tune of “Desert Home” still dances in my head from that evening. As I told Hal, it reminds me of something the Mission Mountain Wood Band might have recorded back in the mid-1970s. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Cannon delivered a tribute to soldiers affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Entitled "Soldier's Heart,” the term was used during the Civil War to describe the changes brought about by the traumas of battle. (For liner notes and lyrics: www.okehdokee.com.) 

There is great depth, vitality, and variety in the album’s 12 tracks, both in terms of the subjects and in the instrumentation. Kudos to Phillip Bimstein for the stellar arrangements which include fiddle, guitar, piano, bass, violin, oboe, English horn, mandolin, banjo, and drums. This is top-shelf Americana/Folk.

Hal Cannon sells for $16 (postpaid) from Hal Cannon, Okehdokee Records, 1257 E. 100 S., Salt Lake City, UT  84102; www.okehdokee.com.


The Western Folklife Center broadcasts shows from the Elko Convention Center auditorium during the Gathering. Watch cybercasts from the 27th Gathering free of charge at www.westernfolklife.org.

Applications are currently being accepted for poets and musicians interested in performing during the next Gathering (Jan. 28-Feb. 4, 2012). Submissions must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2011. For more information, contact the Western Folklife Center, 501 Railroad St., Elko NV  89801; (775) 738-7508; www.westernfolklife.org.


Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621;
email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
       
January 2011

The Old West and the New West

The boundaries of the American West have been in flux for generations. For my German-born great, great-grandfather, it was Illinois. He put down roots near Peoria prior to the Civil War. His eldest son moved westward from there-to Nebraska and Iowa-before homesteading in eastern Montana. With the dry and dusty '30s, some within the family left for western Montana. During WWII, a good number worked in the defense industry, or were stationed in naval and air force bases, up and down the West Coast.

 

One of the most intriguing concepts to cross my desk deals with the western frontier. The Remembrance Album of Harriet Pruden by Richard K. Pate (2009, 152 pages, 4 images, paperback ISBN 978-1-60910-033-9) follows the aspirations and trials of young Harriet Pruden, who longed to see the frontier of her era: northern Indiana. Pate fuses 100 heartfelt, 19th-century pioneer-settler poems with a fictional narrative to escort readers along on the adventure.

Born into a prosperous Ohio family, Harriet's parents expected her to marry and settle in the college town they helped pioneer. But, Harriet fell for a young man who shared her dream of adventure beyond civilization. In
desperation, her mother enlisted townspeople to write poems to Harriet, encouraging her to abandon the folly. The poems were copied into a remembrance album and presented to Harriet. Although touched by the gesture,
it did nothing to dissuade her. (Read an excerpt from the book at www.booklocker.com/books/4507.html)

The album remained a work in progress, the last entry added in 1909. At one point, it was used as a school text. Pate presents the poems in chronological order: 1831 to 1836, Athens, Ohio; 1837 to 1852, Logan, Ohio, and Elkhart County, Indiana; 1853 to 1909, California. As Pate notes, Harriet's album "was almost continuously on the far western edge of our country. As the border to the States moved further and further west, so did the album and its owners."

The Remembrance Album of Harriet Pruden sells for $15.95 + $3.00 s/h (media mail; US addresses only). Order online from www.rkpate.com or via mail (check or money order) to RK Pate, 5341 Todd Rd., Sebastopol, CA 95472.


Northeastern Colorado takes center stage in Jane Ambrose Morton's In This Land of Little Rain (Cowboy Miner Productions, 2010, 131 pages, 28 images, paperback LCCN: 2010931921). Morton selected nearly 60 poems-plus three pieces of prose-for this, her second book of cowboy and western poetry. Her previous, Turning to Face the Wind, was a 2005 Willa Literary Award Finalist. (For more on Morton: www.cowboypoetry.com/janemorton.htm)

In This Land of Little Rain spans ninety years of the ranch where Morton was raised. She familiarizes us with the country, the people who lived their lives in stewardship of the land and animals, their sacrifices, the cyclical labor that followed the seasons. While the poetry was spawned by personal experiences, the story belongs to all who have roots in ranching. It expertly captures the essence of what it means to be a ranch family.

Two non-ranch pieces are worthy of note: "Coloring the Horses" and "The Men Who Rode With Custer Dakota Territory, May 1876." Both relate to General George A. Custer. "Coloring the Horses," about Custer's plan to color-code the troops' mounts, is the result of historical research and many rewrites. I know, because Morton shared the piece with me while she worked to perfect it.

In This Land of Little Rain sells for $13.95 + $4.50 s/h. Send check or money order to Jane Morton, 7961 East Natal Ave., Mesa, AZ 85209; 719-495-9304; dickandjane2@earthlink.net.

 

It's hard to get much farther west than where Janice Gilbertson lives, in the foothills of California's Santa Lucia Mountains. The range juts up from the Pacific Ocean on the west and tumbles and rolls down to the Salinas Valley on the east. This is the West that she imbues in the poetry and prose in Riding In (BK Publications, 2009, 24 pages, chapbook ISBN 978-0-9794521-3-0).

Gilbertson's coastal West is inhabited by pasture frogs, white-faced calves, and oak trees; seasoned with biscuits and milk gravy and the smells of a good tack room. A past performer at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in
Elko, Nevada, Gilbertson successfully ventured into free verse with "The Rough Stock Rider's Kid," which appears in this collection. (For more on Gilbertson: www.cowboypoetry.com/jgilb.htm)

Riding In sells for $11 postpaid. Send checks to Janice Gilbertson, PO Box 350, King City, CA 93930.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621; email

© 2011, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News
 


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News



Find the 2005-2010 Cowboy Jam Session columns on page 2

 


About Jeri Dobrowski

 

Working as a photographer and journalist since 1981, Jeri Dobrowski has been recognized for excellence in writing, photography, graphic design, and editing. Her projects have appeared in magazines such as American Cowboy, Persimmon Hill, Country Woman, Cowboy, and Grit; on calendars, billboards, monuments, posters, and recordings; and in books, newspapers, in-house newsletters, programs, web pages, and promotional packages. They are also archived in the permanent collections of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Dobrowski and her husband live in eastern Montana, not far from where four of her great-grandfathers homesteaded at the turn of the century. Born in Miles City, Montana, and raised on her family's cattle ranch and small-grains operation south of there, Dobrowski attended a one-room country school through the sixth grade. She was active in 4-H and FHA, showed registered Quarter Horses, and rodeoed.

Interested in writing and photography from an early age, she sold her first article for publication to the Montana Farmer-Stockman while still in high school. She sold a second article as a student at Montana State University. Thousands of features, stories, and photographs have followed, the majority dealing with agriculture, rural life, cowboy and Western entertainment, cooking, and family history.

Her business, Lamesteer Publishing, offers graphic design, including CD packages, web pages, and books, photography, promotional and writing services. Traveling a four-state area, Dobrowski has captured the emotions and surprises of the marriage celebration for dozens of couples with her photo-journalistic style wedding pictures.

Dobrowski is a field editor for America’s #1 cooking magazine, Taste of Home. She became the review editor for Tri-State Livestock News in January 2005, authoring the monthly Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews.

 

Read Jeri Dobrowski's Cowboy Magazine (Winter, 2006) cover story about South Dakota rancher Robert Dennis here at CowboyPoetry.com.

A photo she took while preparing that story, "Leadin' a Spare," is featured in our Art Spur project. Art Spur invites poets to let selections of Western art inspire their poetry.

See larger versions of Jeri Dobrowski's patriotic photos from the 2005 Medora, North Dakota Flag Day parade here.

   

 

 

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