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This is page 2; see more recent columns and find submission information
and read about Jeri Dobrowski on page 1, here
























Special December, 2006 Edition


Special Black Hills Stock Show Edition 





See more recent columns on page 1, here.


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
December 2010

Christmas Gift Ideas: Part  2

In today’s world of rapid-ship, all types of merchandise can be delivered in a matter of days. Having said that, it is impossible for anything to reach our outfit overnight. I don’t care where it’s coming from or which delivery service is utilized, there is no way for a package to be sent overnight to my front door. Besides, such expedited service adds significantly to the cost, and I’m pretty frugal. 

If that’s the case at your place too, and you’re down to the wire and want to give one of the items below, consider this:  Clip the article. Highlight what you’ve ordered. Wrap it in a pretty package. Slip it under the tree.


Stick Horses and Other Stories of Ranch Life by Wallace McRae (Gibbs Smith, 2009, 6" x 9", 192 pages, hardback, ISBN: 978-1-4236-0591-1). Wally McRae’s adventure into prose may surprise folks who know him only as a poet. The Cowboy Curmudgeon, McRae’s collection of cowboy poetry, has sold more than 25,000 copies. But, if you've ever heard the Montana rancher telling stories around a dining table or relaxing in front of a fireplace, you’ll be glad Paul Zarzyski exhorted him to put them down on paper.

My brother-in-law spied a copy of McRae’s book on an end table during a recent visit. He thumbed through and found his favorite: “Census.” Suffice to say, if you’ve ever been vexed at how to fill out the long form of the USDA Farm Census, you and Wally are kindred souls. Let’s hope you never meet in jail.

I gave up keeping a count of my favorites. However, I especially liked “Icing,” about harvesting river, creek, and pond ice before the days of electric refrigerators. Not only was it entertaining, I learned a lot! In another, McRae mentions Hokey Pokey  and reveals what it is: carbon disulfide. I just read a rancher’s reminiscence from the turn of the century in which he mentioned Hokey Pokey on two occasions. I was clueless as to what it was, although I was able to deduce what kind of an effect it produced.

If Dad were still alive, I’d give him a copy. And, sitting in his easy chair reading on a long winter’s evening, he would snicker, chuckle, and laugh out loud. He’d recognize a lot of the names. Dad knew just about everyone in southeastern Montana from his days as a water well driller. McRae includes a story about a well driller entitled “Dangerous Dan Imlah.” You needn’t be from Montana to enjoy the 27 stories presented by this masterful storyteller.

Stick Horses and Other Stories of Ranch Life lists for $19.99. It is available from bookstores and on-line book sellers, including Amazon.com, which also offers it for Kindle readers at $7.99. For more on McRae, see his Featured Guest page here at CowboyPoetry.com.


American by Don Edwards. This country’s most respected cowboy balladeer, Don Edwards, is out with a brand-spanking new album of patriotic songs. Western Jubilee Recording Company describes it as “timeless musical selections, both old and new, that pertain to yesterday and today from a Western patriot.” Edwards penned two of the 12 tracks: “Hard Times” and “The Devil’s Hatband.” A friend of mine expressed surprise that “Hard Times” was a recent composition. It is reminiscent of the Great Depression. Credits on the others range from Marty Robbins to Ed Bruce; Andy Wilkinson to Woody Guthrie.

Edwards received a lifetime achievement award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla., this year. It was in recognition of 50 years of studying and performing cowboy music. If you’ve ever heard him sing, you understand.

American sells for $15 + postage from Western Jubilee Recording Company, PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932; (800) 707-2353; www.westernjubilee.com; www.donedwardsmusic.com.


Antiques Roadshow Insider. My husband and I were introduced to this 16-page, full-color monthly newsletter during the June filming of the Public Broadcasting show, Antiques Roadshow. Our daughter submitted our names for the ticket lottery, and my name was selected for the Billings, Montana event. Never mind that my husband put his hand in the path of a dado blade and had the pinky finger on his left hand amputated two days prior. Pain meds and family heirlooms in tow, we made our way to the appraisers.

Included in our informational packets were a copy each of this monthly that tracks the news and trends from the world of antiques and collectibles. It was a perfect fit for the antique junkie on my list. I’ve already subscribed for him, and am giving him the two back issues along with a note saying it will arrive in his mailbox for the next 12 months. 

Antiques Roadshow Insider is 6 issues for $14.95; 12 issues for $29. Order from Antiques Roadshow Insider Subscription Services, PO Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235;(800) 830-5125; www.antiquesroadshowinsider.com.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Christmas Gift Ideas: Part 1

Christmas can’t be far off.  We sampled the season’s first lefsa Sunday. Hot off the griddle. Two ladies were rolling and baking the delectable rounds at a benefit for the local retirement home. They were offering the Norwegian tortillas in take-home packages and on the spot—brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. The pair worked steadily to fill orders. Other folks have been busy preparing for the holiday season, too:

Christmas on the Range and other Christmas Poems is a book by Yvonne Hollenbeck (Pine Hills Press, 2010, 5.25 x 5.75", 74 pages, 8 b/w photos, hardback, ISBN: 978-1-57579-430-3). This beautiful little book, about the size of a CD case, would make a treasured hostess gift, stocking stuffer, door prize, or addition to your own library. If you cherish the spiritual significance of Christmas, or have fond memories of spending holidays in the country, this pint-sized collection of poems and photos will warm your heart. Hollenbeck draws on her experiences growing up on the Great Plains for this gem. She even included her mother’s recipe for rollout sugar cookies.

Christmas on the Range and other Christmas Poems sells for $15 plus $3.50 shipping. Order from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291st St., Clearfield  SD 57580; www.yvonnehollenbeck.com; (605) 557-3559.


Several of Hollenbeck’s poems are included in Sleigh Belles, a CD by The Sweethearts in Carhartts. Comprised of Hollenbeck, Jean Prescott, and Liz Masterson, the trio worked diligently to select 24 tracks of seldom-heard material. Indeed, half is original, written by members of the group. Prescott’s cowgirl tunes and Masterson’s swanky vocals alternate nicely with Hollenbeck’s endearing poetry. If you’ve ever heard the glorious chime of brass sleigh bells on a team of horses, you might want this for that sound alone. For a track listing and audio snippets, go to www.thesweetheartsincarhartts.com.

Sleigh Belles sells for $22 postpaid. Order at www.thesweetheartsincarhartts.com (PayPal accepted) or from Prescott Music, PO Box 194, Ovalo, TX  79541; (325) 583-2553.


Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue released Christmas Shopping at the General Store, a CD with a cheerful nod to tradition and family. The cover photo was taken at the Waitsburg (Washington) Hardware and Mercantile, where squeaking wooden floors and a pot bellied stove are still in vogue. Included among the 11 tracks are six original songs and two noteworthy recitations. Sue presents S. Omar Barker’s “Three Wise Men,” while Slim gives his rendition of Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.” As I listened, I was reminded of the annual Christmas program at a one-room country school. In true country-school fashion, “Silent Night” brings the album to a close. Listen to snippets at www.cdbaby.com/cd/slimnsue5.

Christmas Shopping at the General Store sells for $12.97. Order from www.cdbaby.com/cd/slimnsue5. Downloads are available. Contact Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue at (509) 849-2422; www.nevadaslim.com.


The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla., released volumes 7 and 8 in their Western Legacy Series this year. Luis Ortega’s Rawhide Artistry: Braiding in the California Tradition by Chuck Stormes and Don Reeves, with a foreword by Mehl Lawson, is volume 7 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, 9x11", 160 pages, 31 b/w illustrations, 71 color photos, ISBN-13: 978-0806140919). The most comprehensive overview of Ortega’s life, art, and career, the book chronicles the acclaimed rawhide braider’s love affair with horse gear.

Grounded in the Spanish vaquero tradition, Ortega was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as a Master Traditional Artist. The photography within the book is outstanding, offering close-ups of his intricate hackamores, headstalls, reins, quirts, hobbles, and reatas. It is sure to please the braider or cowboy who appreciates fine craftsmanship. 

Luis Ortega’s Rawhide Artistry lists for $29.95 in paperback; $55 in hardback. It is available from online book sellers or University of Oklahoma Press, 2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK  73069-8216; (800) 627-7377, www.oupress.com.


Volume 8 from the Western Legacy Series is Arena Legacy: The Heritage of American Rodeo by Richard C. Rattenbury, foreword by Larry Mahan, collection photography by Ed Muno (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, 10 x 12", 432 pages, 620 color and b/w illustrations, hardcover, ISBN-13: 978-0806140841). As the page count indicates, this is a BIG book. It weighs a whopping seven pounds!

A historical review traces rodeo from the first recorded competition among Colorado cowhands in 1869 to today’s big-business world of the National Finals. Showcased are items within the collections of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum:  costumes, trophies, buckles, riding equipment, posters, and programs. I was thrilled to see a pair of chaps that belonged to Bob Askin. Released in October, this is going to create a lot of excitement among rodeo aficionados, participants, collectors, and historians.

Arena Legacy lists for $65. Look for it at your favorite bookstore or order from University of Oklahoma Press, 2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK  73069-8216; (800) 627-7377, www.oupress.com.      

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Days of Open Range and Northbound Cattle Trails

One topic that perks my ear in a crowd is people discussing books about old-time cowboys. I’m not talking novels but memoirs and biographies. Unfortunately, many of the best are hard to find and can command a handsome price. On the upside, your local library may have them or be able to locate them through an interlibrary loan.

Regrettably, few new titles are being released on the subject. That’s why I was so excited to receive Cowboy’s Lament: A Life on the Open Range by Frank Maynard, edited and introduced by Jim Hoy, foreword by David Stanley (Texas Tech University Press, 2010, 248 pages, 6x9", 12 b/w photos, 2 maps, hardback, ISBN 978-0-89672-705-2). Released in September, it is notable for three reasons.

It’s a first-person narrative penned by Maynard, probably in 1888, while the events were relatively fresh in his mind. Time can alter the retelling of events, especially if the events are put to paper decades after the fact. There’s a book within the book: Rhymes of the Range and Trail, a collection of Maynard’s cowboy poetry published in 1911, accounts for about one-quarter of the pages. Lastly, Maynard is credited with reworking an old Irish ballad, recounting the demise of a gun-shot young cowboy. He entitled the song "The Cowboy’s Lament." It is also known as "The Streets of Laredo."

Maynard’s skillful writing gives readers a clear and engaging sense of the hardships encountered on the Plains by homesteaders, cowboys, and native Indians. It was a turbulent time with adventure, lawlessness, and millions of acres of grass. The majority of the book is set in Kansas, although Maynard traveled into neighboring states and Indian Territory. Of added interest is a 15-page glossary of names.

As a family historian and archivist, I found the tale of how the manuscript came to be published nearly as interesting as the book itself. It gives me hope that other firsthand accounts of early-era cowboys are out there waiting to be discovered.

Cowboy’s Lament retails for $29.95. It is currently sale priced for $20.97 from Texas Tech University Press, Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037; 800-832-4042; www.ttupress.org.


Look for these other titles about trail drive cowboys at bookstores and in libraries. Most have been reprinted:

The Trail Drivers of Texas, Vols. 1 & 2, compiled and edited by J. Marvin Hunter (Jackson Printing Co. / Old Trail Drivers Association, 1920). Elmer Kelton described this biographical collection as "the most monumental single source on the old-time Texas trail drives north to Kansas and beyond." Reissued by the University of Texas Press in 1985, the 1,000-plus page reprint contains the full text, illustrations, and name index of the original.

We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher by E. C. "Teddy Blue" Abbott and Helen Huntington Smith (Farrat and Rinehart Inc., New York, 1939). A spirited self-portrait of an English-born cowboy who drove herds from Texas to Montana and married a daughter of Montana pioneer and stockman Granville Stuart.

Bob Fudge, Texas Trail Driver, Montana-Wyoming Cowboy, 1862-1933 by Jim Russell (Denver: Big Mountain Press, 1962). Born in 1862 in Lampasas County, Texas, Fudge trailed cattle to Montana where he worked for the famous XIT and eventually owned a ranch in southeastern Montana. He is buried in Broadus. Mont.

Dakota Cowboy: My Life in the Old Days by Ike Blasingame (G P Putnam’s Sons, 1958). Blasingame came to South Dakota from Texas in 1904. He worked for the Matador Land & Cattle Co., which leased three million acres of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

Memories of Old Montana by Con Price (Highland Press / Trails End Publishing, 1945). An Iowa native, Price was a friend of Charles M. Russell. Curley Fletcher wrote that Price "knew much about horses, cattle, pioneer and Indian, and the lands over which he and they ranged prior to the arrival of the ‘dude,’ the sheepherder, and the sod-busting ‘nester’ who fenced them in."

Trails Plowed Under: Stories of the Old West by Charles M. Russell (Doubleday Page, 1927). This collection of 43 adventurous short stories is told by Russell’s alter ego, Rawhide Rawlins. The original included illustrations by Russell and an introductory eulogy by Will Rogers. Russell died in October 1926, shortly after he finished the project.

The Log of a Cowboy by Andy Adams (Houghton Mifflin Company / The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1903). Technically fiction, this is considered by some as the best and most accurate account of cowboy life written. It chronicles an 1882 drive from Texas to Montana, delivering 3,000 head of cattle to the Blackfoot Agency.

Hungry for more? There’s no better listing of writings on the U.S. range cattle industry than The Rampaging Herd: A Bibliography of Books and Pamphlets on Men and Events in the Cattle Industry by Ramon F. Adams (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1959). This bibliography contains 2,651 listings.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Pendleton Done Right

Quality endeavors stand out as surely as cream rises to the top of a pitcher of whole milk. Three projects released in celebration of this month’s 100th annual Pendleton Round-up are examples of quality research, writing, and editing.

More than five years went into producing Pendleton Round-up at 100: Oregon’s Legendary Rodeo (Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 2009, 12 x 10.5 x 1.5 inches, 302 pages, 900 b/w and color photos and illustrations, hardcover ISBN: 9780882407739; paperback ISBN: 9780882407746). Co-authors Michael Bales and Ann Terry Hill were hard at work during that time, chronicling the only PRCA-sanctioned event ever held on a grass field. They dug into official Round-up archives, prospected in photo albums, gleaned from scrapbooks, winnowed through troves of family and business memorabilia.

The result is a comprehensive 24-chapter coffee table book that includes many previously unpublished images. Started in 1910 as a nostalgic western exhibition, the authors cover it all: bucking contests, the cowgirl era, tribal participation and encampments, clowns and bullfighters, the Hollywood connection, legendary performers. Appendices include complete listings of winners, royalty, presidents, Indian chiefs, and hall of fame honorees. (See a book video at YouTube.)

Located in northeastern Oregon, the host town of approximately 17,000 residents saw full-house crowds of 17,731 fans in the grandstands on Friday and Saturday nights of the four-day centennial extravaganza. Along with the colorful pageantry by the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla tribes and standard rodeo events, there was an old-fashioned snub-bucking competition. (Visit the official Pendleton Round-up website: http://pendletonroundup.com.)

Whether you’re a regular at the Round-up or have never attended, Pendleton Round-up at 100 will provide hours of enjoyment. It is available both in hardback ($60) and paperback ($35) from online booksellers, in bookstores, and directly from the University of Oklahoma Press; www.oupress.com; 405-325-2000.


Award-winning western singer/songwriter Juni Fisher captures the history and heartbreak of Pendleton in Let ’Er Go, Let ’Er Buck, Let ’Er Fly: A Round-up to Remember. Celebrating 100 years of the Round-up, the album is part storytelling, part music, and completely engaging. Like Bales and Hill, Fisher did her research. But, she connects on a spiritual level, something her fans have come to expect.

Among the 16 tracks are songs about the Round-up’s famous bronc-riding, relay-racing, trick-roping, bull-dogging cowgirls Bonnie McCarroll, Prairie Rose and Kitty Canutt; the Nez Perce bronc rider Jackson Sundown; and the bronc saddle ridden by Jerry Ambler. Hands down, my favorite is “Yakima,” written by Fisher about bronc rider Yakima Canutt. (His picture appears on the cover of Pendleton at 100.) She sang the song for me and my husband when she was working on the album, still making corrections and additions to a sheaf of yellow legal papers she carried with her. (Listen to “Yakima” at www.junifisher.net.)

Fisher is the reigning Western Music Association (WMA) Female Performer of the Year. Her last album, Gone for Colorado, was the 2009 WMA Album of the Year. Gone for Colorado also received the 2008 Wrangler for Album of the Year, as presented by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

To order Let ’Er Go, Let ’Er Buck, Let ’Er Fly, send $15 (ships for free; discounts on orders of three or more) to Juni Fisher c/o Red Geetar Records, 2105 Granville Rd., Franklin, TN 37064; 615-289-1292; www.junifisher.net.


Shirley Morris combines vintage photographs, film footage, and interviews from the Pendleton Round-Up in a documentary entitled Oh, You Cowgirl! A True Story About America’s Unsung Heroes. But, that’s not all. Tracing the development of Wild West shows and the cowgirl’s role in the golden age of rodeo, the DVD also includes clips from Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Los Angeles Rodeo.

Buffalo Bill Cody hired colorfully clad cowgirls and sharpshooters for his Wild West shows in the late 1800s. Not long after Cheyenne, Wyoming hosted the first organized cowboy skills contest in 1896–the forerunner to today’s rodeo–cowgirls helped fill grandstands with their daring feats. (Watch a trailer of the DVD at http://thecowgirlmovie.com/oh_you_cowgirl.)

Among those profiled in the 63-minute film are Bertha Kaepernik, Bonnie McCarroll, Mabel Strickland, and the women who went by the name of Prairie Rose. Juni Fisher appears both in interview segments and performing “When I Was Prairie Rose” from Let ’Er Go, Let ’Er Buck, Let ’Er Fly.

Oh, You Cowgirl! sells for $27.50 (checks, credit cards or PayPal). Order from Oh, You Cowgirl!, 20728 Valentine St., Bend, OR 97701; http://thecowgirlmovie.com; (541) 550-7495.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

At Home in the West

Owing to decisions made by my ancestors a century ago, I am a child of the Great Plains. Had my Great Grandfather Janssen chosen otherwise, South Dakota may have been the state of my nativity instead of Montana. No matter, I find beauty in the arid landscape, expansive horizons, and demanding seasons. The worst traffic delays I encounter are caused by pheasants and deer. However, it is an hour-long drive to the nearest supermarket and 90 minutes to a supercenter.

My view of the American West is different from someone living 100 miles to the northeast. They are closer to the supercenter but must contend with traffic woes caused by booming oil activity. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, subdivisions sprawl on either side of roadways where native grasses and forbs once flourished.

Linda Hasselstrom writes candidly about subdivisions, disappearing traditions, and the challenges facing the West in No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life (University of Nevada Press, 2009, 224 pages, 6x9, hardcover ISBN 978-0-87417-796-1; ISBN 978-0-87147-831-9, softcover). The book is the 2010 WILLA Literary Award winner for creative nonfiction.

Raised on the South Dakota ranch she now owns, Hasselstrom is a writer, publisher, teacher, and outspoken steward of the land. (Follow her blog at www.windbreakhouse.com/blog.htm.) Rodney Nelson once wrote of Hasselstrom: “She can deliver a calf and a poem on the same day–after mending a fence.” Accepting that as accurate, she nonetheless feels the same could be said of a great many women living on farms and ranches, women “who choose to be where we are because we love the wide land, the independence, even the occasional harshness of the prairies.” (For more on Hasselstrom: www.cowboypoetry.com/lindahasselstrom.htm)

There were times while reading No Place Like Home that I swore Hasselstrom was writing about me. In other instances, I was dumbfounded to learn what was happening in her neighborhood; what was being ignored. An admonishment against living for the moment, it is filled with hard-earned wisdom. There is no happy ending, just as there is no happy ending to the growth that threatens to tame the West.

Hardback copies of No Place Like Home are $24.95; the paperback is $18.95. Add $5 for media mail; $7 for priority. Send checks to Linda M. Hasselstrom, PO Box 169, Hermosa SD 57744-0169; (605) 255-4064; www.windbreakhouse.com.

Yvonne Hollenbeck shares a glimpse into her life on the Plains with Sorting Time. Ranching with her husband in south-central South Dakota, Hollenbeck’s life is rife with material for the award-winning poet. She selected something old, something new, and something tried-and-true for this 14-track poetry collection, composed primarily of humorous tales.

There’s nothing contrived about the mayhem described in the title track. If you’ve ever been assigned the daunting task of running the gate, you’ll see the reality in the scenario. Likewise, there’s great truth in Hollenbeck’s bittersweet tale of sitting with a widow while the auctioneer works his way through carefully arranged rows of tools, equipment, and furniture at a farm sale. (Read “The Auction” at www.cowboypoetry.com/yh.htm.) Rounding out my favorites are “The Ranch Wife’s Top Ten List.” The fiddle music is provided by Hollenbeck’s father and Old Time Fiddle Champion, Harry Hanson.

Sorting Time sells for $18. Order from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291st Street, Clearfield, SD 57580; (605) 557-3559; www.YvonneHollenbeck.com

Jerry Brooks’ window on the West looks out into a canyon near Sevier, Utah. It wasn’t always the case. Brooksie, as she is known to friends and fans, was raised in New England. At the age of six, she was reading books by Jack London. Not long afterwards, she delivered “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes at a poetry recital. (For more about Brooks: www.cowboypoetry.com/brooksie.htm.)

I was excited to hear Brooksie was working on an album. Her first, it was long overdue. Shoulder to Shoulder, released in conjunction with the 2010 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, could aptly be described as audio theatre. Despite its unassuming package, it is much more than a typical CD; more than a rudimentary recitation. Brooks’ inflection and delivery put flesh on words and give them life.

Among the 12 tracks is “The Walking Man” by Henry Herbert Knibbs, the first piece I heard Brooksie recite. Other knockouts are “Morning on the Desert” by Katherine Fall Pettey; “The Free Wind” by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.; “When They’ve Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall” by Bruce Kiskaddon; and “In the Droving Days” by A.B. (Banjo) Paterson.

If you’ve never before purchased a poetry recording this should be your first. If you are a discerning fan, you will delight in Brooks’ ability to finesse the spoken word. It is easily one of the finest recitation albums ever made.

To purchase Shoulder to Shoulder, send $15 to Jerry Brooks, 4845 W. Clear Creek Canyon Rd., Sevier, UT 84766.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Shade Up During the Afternoon  
We’ve yet to hit the 100 degree mark, but we’ve clearly entered the Dog Days of summer. Last Friday, as I strode to and from the mailbox, the thick, oppressive scent of pine trees hung heavy in the air. Grasshoppers, super-charged by the elevated temps, clicked and clacked and rattled in the drying grass.

As noted by The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the 40-day span of Dog Days begins July 3 and ends August 11. It coincides with the sunrise-rising of Sirius, the Dog Star. Here on the Northern Great Plains, it also coincides with haying, harvest, and rapidly maturing gardens. The race is on to bring in the crops before pests, hail, fire, or drought beat you to it.

When the thermometer exceeds the century mark—and not even a kitten-sniff of a breeze interrupts the baking rays—it’s a treat to shade up during the worst of the afternoon heat. Birds do it. Beeves do it.

Riders In The Sky Live in Concert can keep you entertained while you wait out the heat. The 75-minute DVD was recorded in celebration of their 30-year career in the entertainment industry as keepers of the flame passed on by the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. The songs and shtick are a cross section of the tunes and hijinks they’ve performed in concert, on the radio, and in the movies: Bob Nolan classics;  instrumentals; a bit of jazz; the "Clarinet Polka" (sans clarinet); the oft-requested "Lonely Yukon Stars";  a Toy Story medley; "The Orange Blossom Special"; and Gene Autry’s "Call of the Canyon" and "Mexicali Rose." Not to disappoint, they bring the show to a close with "Happy Trails." 

With the goals of keeping old-time cowboy songs alive, as well as writing new songs, the Grammy-award-winning cowboy quartet marked 28 years as members of The Grand Ole Opry in June 2010. Listen to an assortment of tracks from various albums by Ranger Doug, Joey the CowPolka King, Woody Paul, and Too Slim under MUSIC at ridersinthesky.com.

The 19-song Riders In The Sky Live in Concert DVD was released in 2010. Filmed at Utah's Heber City Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair, it sells for $25.50 (postpaid). Order from Too Slim’s Mercantile, 4865 Little Marrowbone Road, Ashland City, TN 30715; (615) 414-1278; ridersinthesky.com

The Gypsy Cowman...a Vanishing Breed might make you appreciate the heat. There are several winter scenes included in the documentary. Filmed over a 10-year period, primarily in eastern Montana, the 41-minute film focuses on Montana-born Owen Badgett. His mother’s family came to Montana Territory in the 1880s, establishing the Knowlton community east of the Powder River. His father’s side came to Otter Creek in 1893. Both families learned to survive in below-zero weather or 100-degree-plus heat.

A project of longtime newscaster and public television producer Linda Lou Crosby, it captures the essence of Badgett’s life: honor and friendship. The two met when Badgett was working as a wild horse wrangler for the Bureau of Land Management in California. Badgett eventually returned to Montana where he hired on with several cattle outfits.

An itinerant cowboy, Badgett says he never owned a square foot of the land on which he rode, but that it was all his. He used the term "gypsy cowman" to describe an arrangement whereby he ran a small herd of his own cattle on the various ranches where he worked as partial payment for his labor. The ranches where Badgett worked were remote; the camps where he lived often lacking electricity. Crosby takes the viewer to the camps, corrals, and kitchens of Badgett’s day-to-day existence. As a bonus, she includes additional film footage accompanied by Bob Petermann’s original song, "In the Badlands of Montana."

The Gypsy Cowman ... a Vanishing Breed sells for $25 (postpaid). Order from Inyokern Horse Hotel, PO Box 1149, Inyokern, CA 93527; (760) 377-5001; inyokernhorsehotel.com

Spectacular scenery and an engaging story await in Return to Little Hollywood. The 38-minute documentary chronicles the history of movie making around Kanab, in southern Utah. Watch the trailer at vimeo.com/7933573.

In 1924, Fox Studios sent a film crew to Utah’s red-rock country to film Tom Mix in The Deadwood Coach. Kanab liked what the movies did for the economy. Hollywood liked the scenery and the one-stop convenience. Since then, more than 200 movies and television seriespredominantly Westerns—have been made there, earning Kanab the nickname of Little Hollywood. For more on Kanab and Kane County go to kaneutah.com

Return to Little Hollywood sells for $18.50 (postpaid), Visa or Mastercard, no checks. Order from Frontier Movie Town, 297 W. Center St., Kanab, UT 84741; (435) 644-5337; frontier@kanab.net. For more about the Frontier Movie Town / Little Hollywood Movie Museum, go to frontiermovietown.com.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Haste Makes Waste

When folks give me a CD for consideration, I’m up front with them. It’s likely going to be several weeks before I give it a listen. I like to play submissions from start to finish, devoting my full attention to the task at hand. It seems that I am invariably interrupted at home. Turns out, the best place for serious listening is in my car. A recent road trip provided the necessary quiet to get through several items.


While in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, I picked up Michael Martin Murphey’s Buckaroo Blue Grass and an advance copy of Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song. Many associate Murphey with the pop hits “Wildfire” and “Carolina in the Pines,” but he is the #1 best-selling cowboy music singer in the world. Murphey’s association with the cowboy genre began in 1990 with Cowboy Songs, which achieved Gold status. Not since Marty Robbins had a western album seen such popularity.

Buckaroo Blue Grass I and II (track lists at michaelmartinmurphey.com) include a good many of Murphey’s most recognizable compositions spanning the four decades he has toiled as a singer and songwriter. Mandolin, fiddle, banjo, bass, and guitar meld the collection. It’s easy to see why Buckaroo Blue Grass was nominated for a Grammy! 

I gleaned several things from the liner notes: At 19 years of age, Murphey wrote “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Around?,” which was recorded by the Monkees. He penned “Backslider’s Wine,” made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker. The station in “Cherokee Fiddle” is the Durango-to-Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad Station, the starting point for one of the most spectacular rail excursions you can take. 

Buckaroo Blue Grass and Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song are priced at $15.98 each + shipping. Order online from murphsranchmarket.com; 877-734-2724; Wildfire Productions, Inc., 2516 Cedar Elm Lane, Plano, TX 75075.

A respected horseman, singer, and songwriter, Mike Beck’s latest album is entitled Feel. The clean lines of the handsome cover are indicative of the 12 tracks, performed by Beck with solo acoustic guitar accompaniment. The cover illustration, “A California Buckaroo,” is by the late Jo Mora.

Beck wrote all but “Poncho” (alternatively “Chopo”), credited to Jack Thorp; co-writing “In Old California” with the legendary Ian Tyson. That song and “Don’t Tell Me”—also on the album—were included in a list of “The 13 Best Cowboy Songs of All Time” appearing in the April 2009 issue of Western Horseman.  (Find lyrics to both at cowboypoetry.com/mikebeck.htm.)

Born and raised in Monterey County, California, Beck worked on the nearby Dorrance Ranch. “Patrick,” written as a tribute to the late Bill Dorrance, came from that experience. Today, Beck conducts horsemanship clinics across the West and abroad. He often plays a concert in conjunction with a clinic. Be on the lookout for him in Montana, as he has been known to spend time in the Big Sky Country. If you have a chance to catch Mike solo or with his band, The Bohemian Saints, don’t pass up the opportunity. Either way, you’re in for a grand evening of entertainment. (Check tour dates at  mikebeck.com.)
Feel and/or order the album or individual tracks at www.cdbaby.com/cd/mikebeck4. The CD is priced at $12.97 + shipping; the album download is $11. Individual tracks are 99 cents.

While I’ve yet to see Paul Harris perform in person, I’ve heard a great deal about him from folks who have, and it’s all been good. At the urging of one of those individuals, Harris sent me a copy of his Cross Halo album. He wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 11 musical selections; there are also three original poems. I was surprised to see that one of his collaborators is Randy Huston. Huston got quite a bit of play on Willie’s Cowboy Gathering when Eddie Kilroy hosted the show on XM Radio Channel 13.

A native of Arkansas, Harris learned to play music in the bluegrass style from his grandfather. Drawn by the lure of cattle and horses, he made his way to the West as a young adult. Since then, he has worked as a packer and cowboy, most notably in Wyoming and New Mexico. (More at cowboypoetry.com/paulharris.htm.)

Three songs stand out in my mind: the lively “Kelly Green,” “El Mejor Vaquero” with its moral of the story, and the celebratory “It Took New Mexico.” They have a rich and authentic flavor seasoned with originality and creativity. Listen to a selection of full-length songs at www.myspace.com/tmf3ph.

Cross Halo sells for $18; individual tracks are priced at 99 cents each. Order from paulharriscowboymusic.com/home.cfm.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Honoring Family and Ranching Heritage 

Months of snow and unrelenting fog have given way to lush grass and an explosion of dandelions. I’ve mowed our small patch of lawn twice. My husband is sharpening the blades on the riding mower, preparing to tackle the outlying expanses.

In a few short days, families will pool their collective mowers and trimmers to spruce up rural cemeteries in advance of Memorial Day. Observed the last Monday of May, Memorial Day was once called Decoration Day. It commemorates U.S. men and women who died in military service. The first casualties so honored were Union soldiers of the American Civil War.

A good many small cemeteries hereabouts are distinguished from the surrounding pasture or crop land by an unremarkable barbed-wire fence and perhaps a sign proclaiming the parcel’s official name. Most often, locals simply refer to them by the communities’ names they once served, such as the Carlyle Cemetery. Unlike their manicured city cousins, it’s rare to find piped water within rural cemeteries, but cactus and gopher mounds are plentiful. Despite their shortcomings, these remote–but beloved–grounds are tended with respect, honoring the memory of those buried within.

Wyoming poet, humorist, emcee, radio host, and all-around nice guy Andy Nelson honors his late father, James Francis Walker Nelson, in
Riding with Jim: Adventures with Cowboys and Farriers (2010, 256 pages, photos, illustrations, hardback ISBN 978-0-9706459-5-1). The younger Nelson describes the book as the most meaningful project he has undertaken. It’s easy to see why. Pairing his own poetry and prose with stories written by his father, Nelson delivers a book that contains twice the fun and twice the hi-jinks of any other cowboy/farrier title currently available in stores. There are some serious, poignant selections too, including “Ridin’ with Jim”:  www.cowboypoetry.com/jamesnelson.htm

For those of you who have met Andy, you’ll have a much better idea of what makes him tick after reading his father’s stories. For those of you who haven’t made his acquaintance, let’s say that his father is likely the source of Andy’s wit. Be forewarned, parts of this book are difficult to read quietly to yourself. It is not a good choice to read on an airplane or while your spouse is trying to sleep. Even if you don’t like to read, you can still enjoy the photos and illustrations by cowboy cartoonist Bonnie Shields (www.bonnieshields.com).
To purchase
Riding with Jim, send $25 to Andy Nelson, PO Box 1547, Pinedale WY  82941; (307) 367-2842; www.cowpokepoet.com.

Liz Adair, who teaches workshops on using family history in fiction, brings facets of her own relatives’ experiences to the page in Counting the Cost (Inglestone Publishing, 2009, 335 pages, softback ISBN 978-0-9778814-6-8). I read very little fiction, and even fewer romance novels, so committing to read this was stepping outside of my comfort zone. (Watch a book trailer at www.youtube.com/watch?v=moiORkCKbYM)

What enticed me to start reading the tale was Adair’s statement that though it is fiction, the novel has its roots in her family history. I fully embrace the notion that fact can be better than fiction! What hooked me was Adair’s skillful description of the landscape, ranch life, and housekeeping in Depression-era New Mexico, along with the creativity fostered by hardship. Fueling my interest in homestead history, the story about a cowboy who falls in love with a married woman from back east became secondary to their daily struggles amid harsh circumstances.

Order Counting the Cost for $19.45 (postpaid; check, credit card, PayPal) from Inglestone Publishing, 120 S. LeSueur, Mesa, AZ  85204; http://inglestonepublishing.com/. Book clubs: order seven or more hardback copies for half price, or download a free PDF at www.lizadairfreebooks.com.

As a rule, biographies refer to people. However, Nancy Heyl Ruskowsky brings us Two Dot Ranch: a Biography of Place (Pronghorn Press, 2009, 400 pages, 100+ photos, ISBN 978-1932636475). Beginning with John Coulter’s foray in the Yellowstone region, Ruskowsky traces Chief Joseph’s attempt to lead his people to safety, through what would later become part of the historic ranch near Cody, Wyoming.

From fur trading to open range, homesteading up until January 2000, the narrative traces the succession of owners and lease holders of what was once considered the largest ranch in the world. I was fascinated by the 1964 account of the Curtis and Skoglund partnership relocating from Browning, Montana. Arriving in Cody by rail, it took 70 Burlington box cars to accommodate their 2,027 mother cows, 1,500 yearlings, 100 bulls, and 250 horses, which were then trailed northward to the ranch. Additional flatbed cars carried equipment and machinery.

Softcover copies of Two Dot Ranch are $27.50 (postpaid); hardback copies are $41.49. Contact Nancy Heyl Ruskowsky, 331 Rd 6 RT, Cody, WY 82414; (307) 587-3968; fvhomestead@dishmail.net.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Cowboy Poetry Week: April 18-24

Snug your hat down before inserting The Bar-D Roundup Vol. 5 in your CD player. The initial hot air might send you chasing after your chapeau. Recorded in 1959 by Harry Jackson, “Some Cowboy Brag Talk” is the first big windy. It’s followed by “The Legend of Boastful Bill,” written by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. and recited by Jerry Brooks.

Not unlike heading out from the corral in the morning, things settle down once these two work through the kinks. Then the crew gets down to the business at hand. Red Steagall, songwriter, poet, entertainer, and past Texas Poet Laureate offers “The Fence That Me and Shorty Built,” explaining the satisfaction that comes from a job done well. Steagall’s “Born to This Land” inspired the painting by Cowboy Artist of America member, Bill Owen, that was selected for the 2010 Cowboy Poetry Week poster. (For more on Owen and to view the poster: www.cowboypoetry.com/billowen.htm)

Released in conjunction with the ninth annual observation of Cowboy Poetry Week—April 18-24, 2010—The Bar-D Roundup is a compilation of vintage and contemporary cowboy poetry recordings. A project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, the album is dedicated to those who proudly carry on the ranching tradition. The Center defines cowboy poetry as “recording the heartbeat of the working West, a tradition—stories of cowboys, ranchers, and Western writers—that spans three centuries.”

Mixed in amongst the rhymes about blowhards and good hands doing what they ought are images of warm creaking leather, tomboys, proud ranch mothers, pitiful ranch vehicles, cowboy soldiers, pranksters, buck-offs, and life-sustaining rain. Voices and experiences for the fifth annual edition were gleaned from across the United States and Canada. Recently named a National Endowment of the Arts Fellow, Texas rancher and horseman, Joel Nelson recites “Awakenings.” Nevada poet and storyteller, Waddie Mitchell, does “No Second Chance.” Canadian Doris Daley recites “Goodnight to the Trail.”

The circa-1940 cover image is of a beautiful, youthful, and smiling Georgie Sicking. It was taken on her first date with the man who was to become her husband. A cowboy, poet, and Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, Sicking gathered wild cattle and wild horses, ranched, and raised a family, all while riding thousands of miles horseback in Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming. An octogenarian, she contributed “Be Yourself,” an account of the advice women gave her on catching a husband—all of which she ignored.

This year’s vintage find spotlights Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957). Recorded in 1956, Clark introduces and recites “The Cowboy's Prayer.” Both tracks are from Dakota Voices and courtesy of the Badger Clark Memorial Society (www.badgerclark.org). It is magical to hear one of classic cowboy poetry’s masters talk about the piece. Clark tells how others frequently claimed the piece as their own, to the point of arguing with him and challenging his authorship. He eventually came to take such instances as a compliment. “The Cowboy’s Prayer,” penned at the behest of his mother, was the most popular thing he wrote.

Some poets provided previously recorded works. Some pieces were recorded especially for the album, in which instance, they aren’t available anywhere else. Rounding out the list of those on the compilation are Janice Gilbertson; Larry McWhorter; Linda Kirkpatrick; Randy Rieman; Susan Parker; Dee Strickland Johnson; Diane Tribitt; Rodney Nelson; Yvonne Hollenbeck; Andy Nelson; Pat Richardson; DW Groethe; Rex Rideout; Jim Thompson; Buck Ramsey; Marty Blocker; Jay Snider; Ken Cook; Hal Swift; and Chris Isaacs. Radio personality Joe Baker recorded the Public Service Announcement. For a complete track listing, narrative description of the contents, and poem excerpts, see www.cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm.

Each year, a copy of The Bar-D Roundup and a commemorative poster are offered to rural libraries in celebration of Cowboy Poetry Week. The outreach by the Center of Western and Cowboy Poetry is part of the Center’s commitment to serve rural communities and to preserve and promote our Western heritage. At its inception, Cowboy Poetry Week was recognized by a unanimous U.S. Senate resolution. In 2010, it was bolstered by proclamations from 22 states’ governors and officials.

The Bar-D Roundup is $20 (postpaid to US and Canadian addresses. Send check or money order (US funds) to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133. You can also pay online by secure credit card payment at www.cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm.

Special offers are available for those wanting to complete their collection of the annual release: Vols. 4 and 5 are $35 (postpaid); Vols. 2, 3, 4, and 5 are bundle-priced at $65. Vol. 1 is no longer available.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

In the Mood for Spring

A neighbor succinctly summed up the prevailing mood in this area of the Northern Plains. After experiencing some of the most significant snowfall in decades, and looking upon a sea of white for months, we’re heartened at the sight of grass, stubble, dirt, and mud. Likening himself to a sailor, he said he looked out the window of his shop this past week, and spying a patch of brown revealed by the receding ocean, exclaimed, “Land!”

Ah, yes, spring! It seems much sweeter this year because of the harshness of the winter. In celebration of both spring and Easter, I’ve selected three albums that seem a perfect fit for the season:

Heaven on Horseback
by Don Edwards

Edwards choreographed this 2009 release to commence with “Master’s Call” by Marty Robbins. I was immediately taken with Edwards’ rendition the first time I heard it. Every bit as powerful as Robbins’ version, Edwards enhanced it with the addition of a short spoken introduction. The few brief lines set the stage for the classic, the last one proclaiming: “A stampede beat the best camp meetin’ when it come to gettin’ men to pray.”

Fourteen tracks of traditional and contemporary songs praise the Lord in this celebration of faith. Among them are “Amazing Grace,” “Why Me Lord?,” “Rounded Up In Glory,” “The Great Speckled Bird,” and “Wayfaring Stranger.” (Listen to selected samples at www.westernjubilee.com.) The Grammy-nominated cowboy balladeer delivers them all with richness of voice and masterful guitar accompaniment, hallmarks of the man James Earl Jones called “a singing scholar of the old West.” (For more on Edwards:  www.donedwardsmusic.com.)

Heaven on Horseback sells for $18 (postpaid to US addresses) from Western Jubilee Recording Company, PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932; (719) 635-9975; www.westernjubilee.com.


Joy Sweet Joy by Barry Ward
You’ll find upbeat inspirational songs and hymns in Barry Ward’s first gospel recording. Six of the 11 tracks are originals written by Ward, the title track anchored with a bass and punctuated by tinkling ivories. “Ridin’ along the Cimarron” recreates a leisurely ride amid God’s creation with subtle guitar and accordion accompaniment.  
Raised in Copeland, Kansas, Ward shares in the liner notes that his mother played piano in the small community church the family attended. For years, she’s been after Barry to record her favorite hymn. Mrs. Ward’s request was honored in a medley combing Hank William’s “I Saw the Light” with her favorite by Albert Brumley, “I’ll Fly Away.” I bet she also appreciates “Mansion over the Hilltop,” presented with a swing beat. (Listen to 30-second mp3 sound bites at

Joy Sweet Joy sells for $17 (postpaid to US addresses). They accept checks, American Express, MasterCard, VISA, and Discover. Contact Flying W Productions, 2782 CR 98, Elbert, CO 80106; www.BarryWardMusic.com.

The Poetry of Larry McWhorter, Cowboy Poet

One of  cowboy poetry’s most authentic and respected voices went silent in March 2003. Raised in the Texas Panhandle, Larry McWhorter lived a pure cowboy life, punching cows horseback. At the time of his death at the age of 46, he was living on a small outfit near Weatherford, Texas, and was a frequent performer at Western gatherings and festivals around the United States. (For more:  www.cowboypoetry.com/larrymcwhorter.htm.)

Sensing the profound loss to the genre, friend and fellow Texan Jean Prescott produced a 2-CD set of McWhorter’s poetry. It was released at this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Resurrected on CD One are 17 poems presented by McWhorter. CD Two contains 11 poems Larry never recorded. Prescott recruited his peers to recite them in his absence: Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchell, Chris Isaacs, Andy Hedges, Gary McMahan, Dennis Flynn, Oscar Auker, and Jesse Smith. Also on the second disc are two pieces that McWhorter had hoped to record with Mitchell: “The Retirement of Ashtola” and “Cowboy Count Yer Blessings.” (For a complete track listing: www.cowboypoetry.com/mcwhorter3.htm.)

Whether you knew Larry McWhorter and mourned his passing or you’re reading about him for the first time, this is a milestone project. I concur with Prescott who says: “I am thrilled to be able to present this double CD to the world of cowboy poetry knowing that young cowboy poets and fans alike will be able to enjoy and recite Larry's classic contemporary cowboy poems for years to come.”

The Poetry of Larry McWhorter sells for $25 (postpaid) from Prescott Music, PO Box 194, Ovalo, TX 79541; (325) 583-2553; www.jeanprescott.com.

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

© 2010, 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 2010

Alligators and Swamp Cowboys 

photo by Jeri Dobrowski
Iris Wall and Georgie Sicking at the
26th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Last week over pie, I shared a few tidbits about the cracker cowboys of Florida with a saddle maker friend who lives nearby. I had just finished reading a brief but interesting collection of stories by
Iris Wall, owner of the High Horse Ranch near Indiantown, Florida, entitled Cracker Tales. Cracker cowboys are so named, in part, for the sound their traditional bullwhips make as they “crack” in midair, causing cattle to move along. Dogs also play a vital role in moving cattle through trees and thick undergrowth, the habitat of bears and panthers.

I had my friend’s attention when I told him they use nylon latigos on their saddles because of the belly-deep water they frequently encounter. His eyes lit up when I mentioned that alligators and water moccasins inhabit those same waters.

Savoring pecan pie at the same table just so happened to be a gentleman from Houma, Louisiana, Houma located south of New Orleans. With a Cajun drawl, our acquaintance offered that the only gators they really worry about are those over 10-12 feet in length that have become accustomed to people and are looking for something to eat. My saddle maker buddy made some quick computations–and like me–deduced that living and ranching in Montana and the Dakotas suits us just fine.

Iris Wall, whose 51-page book started the discussion, was among a contingent of Florida cracker and Seminole Indian cowboys invited to Elko, Nevada, for this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Sponsored by the Western Folklife Center, the theme of this year’s gathering was Ranching Roots in the Deep South.

Cattle ranching in Florida dates back to 1521 when Spaniards brought the first cattle and horses to the continent. Today’s decedents of the diminutive and hardy Spanish imports are referred to as cracker cattle and cracker horses. With more than one million cattle within its borders, the state ranks 12th in the nation in the number of beef cows.

A vivacious octogenarian, Wall was named Florida’s Woman of the Year in Agriculture in 2006. She’s a fifth-generation Floridian, cow hunter, storyteller, and member of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. Much like the Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive of ’89 honoring my state’s centennial, Floridians drove 1,000 head of cracker cattle across their state in 1995 celebrating 150  years of statehood. Wall participated in that ride and organized a similar event benefitting the Florida Agricultural Museum several years later.

Cracker Tales sells for $10. Send checks to Seminole Country Inn, PO Box 1818,  Indiantown, FL  34956. Place credit card orders at (772) 597-3777. Watch a video on Iris Wall produced by the Florida Department of Agriculture at www.florida-agriculture.com. Select Video; Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award Video #4.


Should Wall’s chapbook leave you hungry for more about ranching in the Sunshine State, consider Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier by photographer Carlton Ward Jr., (University Press of Florida, 2009, 11"x9", 264 pages, photos, essays, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8130-3408-9). Look for it in bookstores and online. It retails for $49. Publication of this full-color photo book was made possible with support from the Florida Cattlemen’s Association (FCA) and Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation (FCF).

The FCA and FCF provided funding, along with the National Endowment for the Arts/Folk & Traditional Arts, Florida Humanities Council, Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Cracker Cattle Association, Lalla Rook Tompkins, Iris Wall, and Susanne and Pete Clemons for an impressive exhibition on cattle ranching displayed in the Western Folklife Center's Wiegand Gallery during the gathering. Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition was produced by the Florida Folklife Program, Florida Department of State, and Florida Cultural Resources, Inc. The traveling exhibition was made possible by the Museum of Florida History.


Cattle have been an important part of Louisiana’s economy since the mid-18th century. Remember that cattle pushed north in the late 1800s originated from Texas. They had to make their way across Louisiana to get from Florida to Texas. Swamp cowboys have a saying: “Anyone can herd cows on dry land.”

Creole cowboy Geno Delafose and his band, French Rockin’ Boogie shared music of the Louisiana swamp cowboy with their fast-tempo zydeco (think Rockin’ Sydney’s “Don’t Mess with My Toot-toot"). This style of roots music developed in the bayou country of east Texas and southwest Louisiana. Delafose’s Grammy-nominated instrumentation features an accordion, rub board, guitars, and drums. His official site is genodelafose.net.

When not performing, Delafose can be found on his bayou ranch near Eunice, Louisiana, where he breeds cattle and raises Quarter Horses. I am happy to confirm that Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie will appear at the 72nd annual National Folk Festival. The festival runs July 9-11, 2010, in Butte, Montana.

Meanwhile, the 27th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is scheduled for January 22-29, 2011. The deadline for applications is April 30, 2010. Those wishing to apply need to submit three audio selections representative of their repertoire along with a brief biography. 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 

© 2010, 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 2010

Catching up with Old Friends

As I headed out the door to run an errand this past week, I grabbed Gary McMahan’s Goin’ My Way? I hadn’t listened to it yet and was anxious to hear his first studio album since 1992. The first recording of Gary’s that I bought was a cassette tape version of Saddle ‘em up and Go! That tells you how long I’ve been listening to his music.

A Colorado native, Gary describes himself as "a singer, songwriter, yodeler, humorist, cowboy poet, and general nuisance." He’s all that and the recipient of a National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award for “The First Cowboy Song,” co-written with Doug Green. The song appears on his album, A Cowboyin' Day. Folks who have recorded Gary’s songs include Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Riders in the Sky, Dave Stamey, and Juni Fisher. 

But back to Goin’ My Way? It was good to catch up with Gary after so many years without a new recording. He scored a hat trick with three tracks in succession that I especially liked: “Yodel Poem,” “Okeechobee Joe,” and “Chaps.” Come to think of it, they’re the perfect combination of his talents: a yodeling poem, a song, and a poem. I also thought his arrangement of Sunny Hancock’s “The Horse Trade” was among the best I’ve heard. You can hear all 10 tracks and those from previous albums at www.singingcowboy.com under "Music."

Order Goin’ My Way? online at www.singingcowboy.com for $15 + shipping. To order by mail, send $17 to Horse Apple Records, PO Box 90, Bellvue, CO  80512.

It’s been too long since I’ve seen South Dakota cowboy poet Slim McNaught. We keep in touch via email, but it’s been a while since we’ve been in the same place at the same time. I hear him every now and then on Live! With Jim Thompson. Slim serves as the official cowboy poet laureate for the afternoon radio show which broadcasts from beautiful downtown Spearfish, S.D.

Raised on a ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the South Dakota, Slim started writing poetry in high school. He and wife, Darlene, ranched and raised a family in the Buzzard Basin area south of Eagle Nest Butte. Since 1976, they’ve operated a custom leather shop. Nearing his 70th birthday, Slim started reciting his Western heritage-based poetry in public. (Read several of poems at www.cowboypoetry.com/slimmcnaught.htm.)

Incredibly resourceful, Slim designs and prints his own poetry books and maintains a My Space page: www.myspace.com/slimthe1st I suppose a keyboard and printer aren’t that much of a challenge after carving and assembling leather projects for 35 years.

He did enlist the aid of a couple fellows when he recorded his album of cowboy poetry. His first spoken-word project, entitled Reminiscin’, was selected as the 2009 Cowboy Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. Preview the 11 tracks at www.cdbaby.com/cd/slimmcnaught, where you can also order. If you prefer to order directly from him, send $18.50 to Slim McNaught, PO Box 274, New Underwood, SD  57761; 605-754-6103; www.slimscustomleather.com. Call or write to inquire about his selection of poetry books. He has several.

Among the folks I hope to see in Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering the end of January are Belinda Gail and Kathy Musgrave. Belinda and Jim “Curly” Musgrave performed as a duo at festivals and venues across the country; Kathy and Curly were married. Curly died December 13, 2009, succumbing to an aggressive brain tumor. (For more on Curly and tributes to him: www.cowboypoetry.com/curlymusgrave.htm)

Curly and Belinda sent me an autographed copy of Forever West in July 2008, shortly after Belinda’s husband passed away. The 14 tracks include several Western and cowboy genre standards: “Roly Poly,” “Silver Spurs,” “Wheels,” “Texas Plains,” and several you might not expect on a cowboy album: “I Gave My Love a Cherry/The Twelfth of Never,” “Last Thing on My Mind,” I'll Twine 'Midst the Ringlets/For Lovin' Me.” There are also titles penned by Curly and Belinda, such as “This Cowboy's Missing You” and “Mule Ears in the Sand.”

To order Forever West, send $17 to Curly J. Productions, PO Box 512, Lake Arrowhead, CA  92352. Order online at www.belindagailsings.com.

Curly and Belinda were working on a gospel album at the time of his death. The Musgrave family has announced that memorials given in Curly’s honor will go toward production of that album. I’ll let you know when it becomes available.

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

© 2010, 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 2009

Christmas Gift-giving Ideas #2

If you’re like me, you receive a lot of glossy, color catalogs that are of little interest. Lately, I’ve made a point of calling customer service as soon as they arrive, asking them to remove my name from their mailing list.


One catalog I’m always excited to see in the mailbox comes from Western Jubilee Recording Company (WJRC). The 2010 edition is hot off the press with a new CD release by Wylie & The Wild West entitled Unwired, and Michael Martin Murphey’s first-ever solo album, Lone Cowboy. Both were recorded live at the Warehouse Theatre; each is priced at $15, plus postage.

Two other offerings from among a collection of award-winning titles are from WJRC’s Moving Picture Collection: Don Edwards, America’s Cowboy Balladeer and Sons of the San Joaquin. The concert segments run an hour; both titles feature additional footage. The Sons’ is their first live recording in over two decades of performing. Their “From Whence Came the Cowboy” bonus video is stellar! The DVDs are $20 each, plus postage.

Here’s another reason to like the Western Jubilee Recording Company catalog: catalog customers can buy three CDs and get the fourth one free (offer applies throughout 2010). For Web purchases, there’s free shipping on domestic orders over $50. Contact WJRC at PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932; (800) 707-2353; www.westernjubilee.com

Cowboy poet Baxter Black is offering holiday pricing on his new book, The Back Page (Western Horseman, 2009, 174 pages, 8.5x11", illustrated; hardcover ISBN: 0911647856). For more than 15 years, Baxter’s “On the Edge of Common Sense” column has appeared on the inside back page of the Western Horseman. The book is a collection of these columns, accompanied by the original illustrations.

The Back Page is priced at $29.45 (priority shipping included). Baxter is offering a buy-two-get-one-free holiday special for $54.25 (priority shipping included). He proffers buy six, get three free and buy 428, get 214 free. You do the math. Send checks and money orders (US funds) to Coyote Cowboy Company, PO Box 2190, Benson, AZ 85602; 800-654-2559; www.BaxterBlack.com. Visa and MasterCard accepted.

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for the camp cook or Western heritage buff in your life, check into the Chuckwagon Boot Camp. The motto of Hollis, Oklahoma rancher, hash slinger, and camp ramrod, Kent Rollins, is “We’ll teach you how to burn food the right way!” I met Kent at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Besides having mastered cooking for a crowd, he can entertain one with his stories and poetry.

Raised near the banks of the Red River, Kent and his family own and operate the Red River Ranch Chuckwagon. They cater traditional Western meals at company picnics, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and brandings. Twice a year–March and October–they share their knowledge with campers at an old cow camp in southwest Oklahoma. Students sleep in ranch teepees, on a cot and cowboy roll. Participants learn how to cook chuckwagon staples like those served up on old cattle drives and wagon trails. Kent also teaches the proper ways to season and clean cast iron and shares his experiences and knowledge from the catering business.

Expect your gift recipient (or yourself) to have fun. Kent says, “I like people who like to laugh and have a good time. I ain’t going if we’re not going to have fun.” Special rates are available for couples. For details and pricing on the Red River Chuckwagon Boot Camp, contact Shannon Keller at 303-219-0478; www.kentrollins.com

Should an easy chair next to a fireplace sound more inviting than a cowboy teepee next to a campfire, relax with this new book on Western artist Charlie Russell: The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell, A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009, 304 pages, 12x10x1.2”, 133 color and 81 b&w illus; paperback ISBN: 978-0-8061-4097-1; hardback ISBN: 978-0-8061-4081-0).

Edited by Joan Carpenter Troccoli of the Denver Art Museum, it’s a beauty that will most certainly be cherished by the recipient! The generous format pages are brimming with reproductions of more than 150 of Russell’s finest examples of oil, bronze, and mixed media, most in full color. There are also select examples of his drawings, watercolors, and illustrated letters, as well as archival photographs placing Russell’s paintings and sculpture in historic and artistic context.

Order this sumptuous volume in either hardback ($58.50 + shipping) or paperback ($27.97 + shipping) from University of Oklahoma Press, Attn: Order Dept., 2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069-8218; www.oupress.com; 1-800-627-7377.

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

© 2009, 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 2009

Christmas Gift-giving Ideas #1

Regular readers of this column know that come November and December, they’ll find holiday gift-giving suggestions with a rural, Western flavor. There’s a little bit of something for everyone: young and old; those who enjoy books; those who like music.

My pick for the little cowpoke in your life is Cora’s Cowgirl Yodel by 8-year-old Cora Rose Wood. I had the pleasure of meeting Cora at the Western Music Association Convention. She was there with her parents, Duane and Laurie, and little brother, Bonner. The family made the trip from near Encampment, Wyo., where Duane is the cow/calf manager on Colorado State University’s One Bar Eleven Ranch.

I was delighted to learn that Cora had recorded an album, and even happier once I listened to it. The album contains three poems penned by Cora and seven songs, the title cut co-written by Cora and Paul Harris. (See a complete track listing at www.cowboypoetry.com/corawood.htm.) Cora does a fine job all the way around. I was especially taken with her vocals on “Cora’s Cowgirl Yodel,”  “Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” and “Daddy Was a Yodeling Cowboy.” 

Earlier this year, Cora was interviewed for a New York Post travel article. It's safe to say the writer got more than he bargained for out of the deal. Besides discussing her upcoming appearance at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., Cora gave detailed instructions on how to pull a calf. This pint-sized entertainer writes and sings from experience. (Watch Cora at   www.myspace.com/woodwesternmusic)

Cora's Cowgirl Yodel sells for $13 postpaid from Wood Western Music, c/o Laurie Wood, HC 63 Box 18C, Saratoga, WY 82331; www.woodwesternmusic.com.


Here’s a sure-to-please item for the cowboy poetry fan, a four-CD bundle of the highly acclaimed Bar-D Roundup. Edited and produced by the folks at CowboyPoetry.com and the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, The Bar-D Roundup is distributed annually to libraries through the Rural Library Project and offered to Center supporters as a premium. Through Dec. 11, 2009, you can order the full set–all four volumes–for $65 postpaid. That’s a savings of $15.

Each CD offers recordings of yesterday’s and today’s best cowboy poetry, both classic and contemporary. Among the 25+ tracks on each album are vintage recordings of Badger Clark reciting “Ridin,” Robert Service’s rendition of “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” and Gail Gardner reciting his famous work, “The Sierry Petes (Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail).” The CDs have consistently received wide airplay and excellent reviews. Find links to all four volumes and complete track listings at www.cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm

Send $65 to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133. (U.S. and Canadian orders are postpaid. Add $5 U.S. funds for other countries.) Order online by a secure credit card (Paypal account not required) at https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=9444828

If you prefer your poetry in print, consider My Father's Horses by Bainville, Montana day hand, DW Groethe. The 44-page chapbook contains thirty poems. Among them are two excellent examples of how a hard-working poet can effectively convey imagery in verse: “My Father's Horses” and “This Old Post.” (Read the former at www.cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm#Father)             

Like Cora, DW has been invited to appear at the 26th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. The 2010 gathering, which runs Jan. 23-30, will be the sixth appearance for the Montana singer/songwriter/poet.

To order My Father's Horses, send $15 postpaid to DW Groethe, PO Box 144, Bainville, MT 59212. Groethe also has a hardback book, West River Waltz, and several recordings. For more on these items, go to www.cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm#Books or contact him at (406) 769-2312.

For a gift that will be enjoyed all year long, give the farmgirl in your life a subscription to MaryJanesFarm magazine. Developed by MaryJane Butters (www.maryjanesfarm.org)–who has 20 years of organic farming and ranching experience–the publication is devoted to healthy, eating, homecooking, and getting back to the farm. Besides having a charming outward appearance, the magazine is full of helpful and enjoyable features.

To get a feel for the magazine, take a peek at recipes and project instructions at www.maryjanesfarm.org/Recipes-Patterns-Instructions/ In the event you’re skeptical about just how down-to-earth it is, check out the slide show from the June-July 2009 issue: “Watch my milk cow, Chocolate, Giving Birth to Molasses.”

One year gift subscriptions (6 issues) of MaryJanesFarm are $19.95 U.S. for the first subscription; $14.95 for the second. You may pay by credit card or have them bill you: MaryJanesFarm Magazine Customer Service, P.O. Box 420235 Palm Coast, FL 33142-0235; www.maryjanesfarm.org/magazine.html; 1-800-476-4611.)

Back issues are available in bundles of 4-6 magazines. Prices vary. Back issues ship from MaryJaneFarm headquarters, PO Box 8691, Moscow, ID 83843; (888) 750-6004; www.maryjanesfarm.org/backissues.html.

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

© 2009, 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 2009

Time Travel

For the past several weeks, I was completely and blissfully lost in a great book. Each evening, I anxiously rejoined the characters in Christy Leskovar’s One Night in a Bad Inn (Pictorial Histories Publishing, 2006, 608 pages, 200 photos, 6 maps, paperback ISBN 978-1-57510-142-2). It’s been a while since I was so absolutely transported to another place and time. It was a let down when I came to the acknowledgments and notes at the end. 

An engineer, Leskovar left her job to research a series of family scandals, about which she had only the briefest of details. The quest began decades after the fact, 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, Montana. Eight years later, after traveling to every location where anything significant happened, Leskovar published the true story. It was a 2007 High Plains Best New Book Award finalist for first time authors. (Read an excerpt: www.onenightinabadinn.com/OneNight_ix-x.pdf)

One Night in a Bad Inn is described succinctly 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” (www.onenightinabadinn.com). It’s all that and a Montana-and-world-history lesson too. I am in awe of Leskovar’s tenacity and devotion to the project. As I write, she is finishing a second manuscript, this one detailing the detective work behind her award-winning book. (Listen to a Montana Public Radio interview with the author: www.onenightinabadinn.com/Leskovar.mp3)

Order One Night in a Bad Inn for $24.95 from Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc., 713 S. 3rd Street West, Missoula MT 59801; (406) 549 8488. It is available nationwide from the Montana Talking Books Library for the Blind.

On a recent drive, while listening to a CD with a cool retro design, I was transported back to the golden days of Western swing. Herdin’ Cats, by the San Francisco Bay area Saddle Cats, celebrates California’s contributions to Western swing. Far from a simple matter of artwork or song selection, it feels as if the four-piece band is channeling the up-tempo beat that evolved in the 1920s and faded with America’s involvement in WWII.

An outgrowth of jazz, blues, Cajun music, and the Mexican polka, Western swing is further enhanced and identified by the distinctive sounds of the Hawaiian steel guitar. For audio samples of “Roly Poly,” “You Just Take Her,” and “Along the Navajo Trail,” plus a television news story about band leader (and classically trained violinist) Richard Chon, go to the band’s website: www.saddlecats.com. The group’s stated goal is “to celebrate the swing tradition of Bob Wills, Milton Brown and Spade Cooley with abandon, finesse and exuberant spirits.” I’d say they’re right on target.

The 13-track Herdin’ Cats sells for $17. For credit card orders, go to www.saddlecats.com. If you prefer to pay by check, mail to Saddle Cats, 4131 Oakmore Road, Oakland, CA 94602; (510) 469-8991.

David Wilkie and Cowboy Celtic took me back even further in time with Gunsmoke, Whisky & Heather, back to the American Civil War, to a father bidding his son farewell as the lad emigrates to North America, to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, to the time of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Known for blending traditional cowboy music with the music of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, this Canadian group performs using old-world Celtic instrumentation. Expect to hear a flute, harp, bodhran (Irish drum), mandola, mandocello, and Scottish smallpipes, in addition to more familiar stringed instruments.

Folk music from the British Isles served as the basis for a great many classic cowboy songs, one such being “The Cowboy’s Lament.” The melody is the same as that of Scotland’s “The Unfortunate Rake” and Ireland’s “The Bard of Armagh.” Wilkie’s talents in melding the styles were honored with a Wrangler from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Cowboy Ceilidh was named the Outstanding Traditional Western Music Album in 1999.

Liner notes and audio samples from the 11-track Gunsmoke, Whisky & Heather can be found at www.cowboyceltic.com/gunsmoke_whisky_heather.htm. You’ll hear “Saltwater Buffalo,” “I Want to Be a Real Cowboy Girl,” “Black Diamond,” The Day that Billy Cody Played the Auld Grey Toon,” and “Marnie Swanson of the Grey Coast.”

The CD sells for $17.50 plus $3.50 shipping. Two CDs ship for $3.50, so consider ordering a second title. I’m partial to The Drover Road. Order from Centerfire Music, Box 868, Turner Valley, AB T0L 2A0, Canada; www.centerfiremusic.com; (403) 933-2210.

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

© 2009, 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 2009

Telling Tales:  Celebrating Family, Ranch & Community

A December 1 deadline is foremost in my mind these days. That’s when submissions are due for Beyond Echoing Footsteps, a sequel to Echoing Footsteps. The latter, published in 1967,  chronicles the history of individuals and communities in Montana’s Powder River County. Broadus, the county seat, is celebrating its centennial in 2010.   

I vividly recall my paternal grandfather–seated at our family’s dining table, in front of a newfangled, reel-to-reel tape recorder–recounting how he, his father, and one brother came to Miles City and southern Custer County in 1910. (The Montana legislature created Powder River County out of Custer County in 1919.)  The question-and-answer session I eavesdropped on in 1964 provided information on both my father’s family and the Coalwood community where I was raised. That information later appeared in Echoing Footsteps. My mother and a neighbor designed the cover of the book, tweaking and refining pencil sketches until it met committee approval. The entire process was intriguing to me.

Fast forward; it’s my turn to contribute to a second edition. Over the past several months my brothers, mother, and I have discussed what photos and information to include as we prepare our individual stories. The process has prompted a lot of reminiscing along with one of my favorite pastimes–looking through old photographs. [Ed. note: see some links with family photos and stories below.]

A handful of Montana ranch families completed a similar task this year. In commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, owners of ranches that have been in operation for more than 100 years were invited to submit photos and a 1,000-word narrative about their heritage. Despite attempts to get the word out, co-editor Linda Grosskopf admits that not all the qualifying ranches are represented. Having said that, more than 142 ranches are included in The Weak Ones Turned Back, The Cowards Never Started: A Century of Ranching in Montana.  

The 472-page hardback has a full-color dust jacket and b/w historical images. Three thousand copies are to be printed. They will be delivered in early December 2009, in time for Christmas.  Approximately half of the books had already been sold as of mid-September. To order your copy send $50 to MSGA, 420 N. California, Helena, MT 59601; (406) 442-3420; http://aghost.net/images/e0242501/RanchBookOF.pdf


If you’ve ever attended an auction sale conducted by South Dakota native Bob Penfield, you’ve heard him stop the sale to expound on the history or significance of an item. Most of his stories relate to pioneering, homesteading, and ranching in the Dakotas and Montana. Penfield’s knowledge goes beyond providing bid-enhancing banter. He is a walking, talking treasure trove of regional facts and lore.

A couple years back, Bob told me he was writing a book and sent me a sample chapter entitled “Hill Brothers Horses.” Set in 1951, it chronicles the adventure of gathering 200+ head of range delivery horses near Lindsay, Mont. It is one of 18 stories from the 40s, 50s and 60s in Horse Tails.

I caught up with Bob at a book signing last month and discovered that he has a second book: Dad Lemmon’s Friends. Dad is Ed Lemmon (1857-1946), the boss cowman after whom Lemmon, S.D., was named. Lemmon once managed the largest fenced pasture in the world–865,000 acres–an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. He bossed the single largest cattle roundup in history and held the record for largest number of cattle (900) cut out, roped, and brought to the branding fire in a single day.

The 128-page Horse Tails, with horses as the common theme, sells for $19. Dad Lemmon’s Friends is 220 pages about the characters who lived in and around Lemmon prior to the 1950s. It sells for $21. Ever the salesman, Bob offers both books, postage included, for $35. Send orders to Bob Penfield, PO Box 111, Bowman, ND 58623; 701-523-3652; www.penfieldauctions.com/books.html (Note: Horse Tails is currently sold out. A fourth printing is expected to arrive by the first of November.)

Bob has two other titles for sale, both by Wyoming author Paul Hennessey. Paul moved into a nursing home not long ago, and Bob purchased his remaining inventory of books. Tipperary: The Diary of a Bucking Horse, 1905-1932 (1989, 157 pages) is available in paperback for $14 and in hardback $24. The hardback 'Tin Horn Hank' Keenen and the World's Youngest Cowboy (1993, 184 pages) is $19.

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

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.



Find some of Jeri Dobrowski's photos of Coalwood, Montana Post Office, Janssen Mercantile, the Coalwood Community at her web site here and her photos of "William M. Janssen: All the Things He Ever Rode" here.

Jeri Dobrowski has contributed some of those photos and many additional family photos to Picture the West, including:

  Photos of her family's veterans for Veteran's Day

  A special Fourth of July photo

Family photos of generations of veterans and some additional World War I photos

Family photos from Yellowstone, from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s

  1940s-era photos about McNierney Livestock


Read Cowboy Jam Session at the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
August 2009

Western Gypsy

A half-dozen communities in our area celebrated centennials this summer. With each came a smorgasbord of activities, in addition to the usual summer offerings of rodeos, fairs, weddings, milestone birthdays, and festivals. It was easy to be entertained and hard to completely unpack before heading off again. I was beginning to wonder if my English ancestors might not have had a bit of Gypsy in them.

Photographer John Hockensmith, who produces the official Kentucky Derby Winner’s Print and Winner’s Collection, spent two summers traveling with the Romani Gypsies of northland country  England. His adventures are chronicled in the superb Gypsy Horses and the Travelers Way: The Road to Appleby Fair (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007, 184 pages, 235 travel images, 15 historical images, 40 artistic images, hardback, ISBN: 1599755971). Peek inside this exquisite coffee table book that is part travel log and part history lesson: www.finearteditions.net/book.htm

Invited to join a prominent Gypsy family during their annual 60-mile horse-drawn pilgrimage to Appleby Fair, Hockensmith was allowed unusual access to the shielded society. Camera in hand, he traveled with the caravan of bow-topped wagons as they made their way through quaint villages, along busy and often dangerous highways, camping in lush pastures as families have for more than 300 years.

Chartered in 1685 by King James II, Appleby Fair has been conducted ever since without fail.  It’s a spirited gathering where thousands of Gypsies and non-Gypsies assemble to participate in and watch the festivities. The Romani heritage is celebrated with music, food, drink, fortune telling, trading, and contests.

Gypsies prove their horsemanship and the prowess of their beloved “cobs” in contests. They also sell the colorful, calm-natured horses. Essential to work and play, the Gypsy cob is thought to be a combination of Shires and Clydesdales, Dales and Fell ponies, Friesians and Galloway trotting ponies. There are no written records of bloodlines; no breed registry. Horses are sold and traded on the seller’s word. To question his word is an insult.

Gypsy Horses and the Travelers Way: The Road to Appleby Fair retails for $49.95 and is available at Amazon.com. You may also order from the author at www.finearteditions.net/books.htm; Hockensmith Fine Arts, 146 E. Main St., Georgetown, KY 40324; (800) 972-8385. 

Montana’s horse culture—and that of the American West—was the focus of the 2009 National Folk Festival held this summer in Butte, Montana. Performers and craftsmen from across America made their way to the Richest Hill on Earth to share their talents. As one of the Nation’s largest and most prestigious celebrations of the arts, there was traditional music, food, crafts, dance, culture, and plenty of family fun:  www.nationalfolkfestival.com/2009/  We joined friends at the festival and immersed ourselves in the rich and colorful atmosphere. I encourage you to attend the 72nd National Folk Festival when it concludes its run in Butte, July 9-11, 2010. It’s an amazing gathering. Best of all, admission is free!


On our way back from Butte, we passed through Reed Point and Columbus, Montana. Singer/songwriter Stephanie Davis makes her home in between on a working cattle ranch. (Find out what’s happening at her Trails End Ranch at www.stephaniedavis.net/ranch%20news.htm.) Whether or not you’re familiar with her name, it’s likely you’re familiar with her work. Davis wrote “We Shall be Free” and “Wolves,” both recorded by Garth Brooks. Others who have cut her songs include Don Edwards, Trisha Yearwood, Maria Muldaur, Roger Whittaker, Daniel O'Donnell, and Martina McBride.

A Montana native and frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion, Davis released two albums this year: Western Bliss and Western Bling. I knew she was working on the pair and was anxious to hear what she did with the standards she selected. You read right—standards—with a dose of Western swing. Think Bob Wills, Bobby Darin, Billie Holiday. (Davis talks about the CDs and studio musicians at www.stephaniedavis.net/Bliss%20and%20Bling.htm.)

Davis’ rich, almost sultry voice is reminiscent of the days when couples flocked to ballrooms to enjoy an evening out with their favorite dance band. (Listen to sample tracks at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/StephanieDavis.) On Bling, I favor “Nevertheless,” “Beyond the Sea,” “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” “Goin’ Away Party.” On Bliss you’ll find “Montana Cowgirl,” “Leanin’ on the Old Top Rail,” “Navajo Trail,” “Texas Blues.” For complete track listings and liner notes: www.cowboypoetry.com/stephaniedavis2.htm

Western Bliss and Western Bling sell for $17 each (postpaid) from Recluse Records, 838 Countryman Creek Road; Columbus, MT 59019; (406) 326-2180; www.stephaniedavis.net

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

© 2009, 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 2009

Hay Days

No matter which direction you travel in our neighborhood these days, you’ll find haying equipment running full tilt. Following on the heels of last year’s dismal crop—fed down to the last leaf during a Plains winter that would not go quietly—producers are reveling in record-setting yields. Alfalfa, tame grass, barley, oats ... balers are churning out compressed bundles that polka-dot the landscape from creek to ridge; borrow pit to backyard.

Hay was nonexistent in Hollywood’s romanticized West. A movie cowboy spent his day in the saddle fighting the bad guy. No thought was given to what his horse or the cattle might eat. All was well as long as the hero was horseback and could ride off into the sunset in the end. In reality, all available hands are put to work during haying season. It’s serious business. How much hay you are able to put up for the winter—to supplement pastures and crop residue—determines how many animals you can “carry” or feed. Farmers and ranchers are joined in the endeavor by wives, sons, daughters, hired hands, nephews, city cousins, former classmates, retirees, banker friends ...

Barry Ward knows a thing or two about hay. You sense it, and you hear it in his latest album, Whispers of the West. A fourth-generation farmer, stockman, and singer/songwriter, the Kansas-raised Ward now resides in Colorado. Sound-board guru and musician Butch Hause produced the CD, which easily ranks among the year’s best Western genre releases.

The title track describes a few of the things that Ward loves about the West, presented in a comfortable, soothing style. “Dance around the Barn” was written for his wife, Victoria, who favors old-fashioned barn dances: “We’ll dance around the barn my dear, we’ll shuffle through the loft, we’ll waltz through the hay ...” (Listen to audio snippets at www.barrywardmusic.com/recordings.html)

Ten of the 12 tracks are Ward originals. Eli Barsi joins him on the cover, “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma.” Whispers of the West sells for $18 (postpaid). Order from Flying W Productions, 2782 CR 98, Elbert, CO 80106; www.FlyingWProductions.com; (303) 648-3605.

Sweethearts in Carhartts: Ranch Life 101 is a collection of poetry and song by Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jean Prescott, and Liz Masterson. The 18-track album, inspired by a DW Groethe song, invites the listener into the work-a-day world of the ranch wife. The trio’s offerings capture the beauty, joy, angst, and rewards of the life. 

Hollenbeck’s “Ranch Wife in the Making” was written about her granddaughter who helps out on the family’s South Dakota ranch. Although less than a minute in length, it says much about the heritage and tradition associated with ranching. “The Old Felt Hat” is another of Hollenbeck’s poems that I find especially meaningful.

Prescott (www.jeanprescott.com) does a bang-up job with Randy Huston’s “One Cowboy Left” (when it’s time for Sarah to marry). It’s a touching tale of family values and connection to the land. S. Omar Barker’s “Ranch Mother,” which Prescott set to music, is a beautiful tribute to women whose “sons are horseback men.” 

Colorado singer and songwriter Liz Masterson (www.lizmasterson.com) brings a traditional flare to the ranch tutorial. Her “Little Green Valley” is a delight. For those who enjoy yodeling, she offers “Cattle Call” and “Wide Rollin’ Plains.”                
Sweethearts in Carhartts is available for $22 from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291st Street, Clearfield, SD 57580, 605/557-3559, www.YvonneHollenbeck.com.

Andy Hedges and Andy Wilkinson cut right to the chase about citizenship of the cowboy nation in the title track from Welcome to the Tribe. The 12 eclectic tracks are smart with a bit of fun thrown in. Combining spirited originals with time-honored classics, the two Andys serve up a heapin’ helpin’ of principled Western music.http://www.andywilkinson.net I was immediately taken with the Texans’ album when I first heard it, but couldn’t quite put a finger on what I was hearing. They describe it as cowboy folk music.

Besides being songwriters, poets, and performers, Hedges (www.andyhedges.com) and Wilkinson (www.andywilkinson.net) are also folk historians. Perhaps that’s the source of the energy and depth they bring to the classics. Hearing them sing “Diamond Joe” and “Old Paint Medley” is like hearing the songs for the very first time.   

Welcome to the Tribe sells for $18.50 (postpaid). Order from Yellowhouse Music, PO Box 505, Snyder, TX 79550; www.yellowhousemusic.com.

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

© 2009, 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 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Last weekend, business took me on a 425-mile loop on either side of the quartzite monolith-marked boarder separating North and South Dakota. The area received record snow this past winter. Ranchers and farmers managed the best they could as roads and corrals clogged, feed-and-bedding inventories dwindled, and yet more snow fell. Livestock death losses were high, then the snow melted, causing more agony.

Effects of the bonanza-turned-bane were evident as my husband and I navigated state highways running alongside the 46th parallel. Neither of us could remember a time when we’d seen the Dakota hills and meadows so green, the cattle so fat, horses so sleek, and stock dams universally filled to near-overflowing. No matter which direction we turned, the green rolled on before us. After a tenacious winter that only begrudgingly released its hold, we felt that surely this was the most wonderful time of the year.

The drive was as humbling as it was enjoyable. Sitting in air-conditioned comfort, I marveled at vital ranch headquarters and derelict, abandoned homesteads. It took courage, faith, stamina, and determination–and no small amount of careful planning and good fortune–to make a go of homesteading on the Plains. When all those ran low, it helped to have resiliency, ingenuity, and good neighbors.   

More than a century later, we live a life of relative leisure. Much of the day-to-day toil for survival has been resolved; as a whole, we have grown soft and demanding. Let’s reconsider those who settled the West–and live here yet today–producing food and fiber for a hungry, and sometimes unappreciative, world.

Ace Canadian poet, emcee, and church pianist Doris Daley honors her great-grandmother with “Mary’s Window” from her Beneath a Western Sky CD. The introduction alone is fascinating. In it, Daley tells of the diary that pioneer and ranchwife Mary Daley kept, of her marrying an Irish-born Canadian Mountie, and settling down to ranching and raising a family 18 miles from Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada. In the diary, Mary confesses if it weren’t for the knowledge of winter coming and all the rivers she’d have to cross, she would have headed back to Ontario.

Another of Daley’s stand outs on the album is “100 Years from Now,” in which she addresses those who will come after us in the next century. Read it at www.cowboypoetry.com/dorisdaley.htm

There are two songs on the 18-track album. “Riding Home to You” and “Shades of the West” are collaborations written with, and performed by, Eli Barsi. The latter is exceptional, a fine example of Daley’s mastery of words. In it she describes green: “Green is the sweet smell of April, green runs the frost from the ground, green is the jingle and jig in your step when beef brings a dollar a pound.”

To order Beneath a Western Sky, send $18 US ($23 Canadian) to Doris Daley, Box 103, Turner Valley, AB  TOL 2AO; (403) 933-4434; www.dorisdaley.com.

Ken Cook’s  new CD, Cowboys Are Like That, is drawing quite a bit of attention, and rightly so. Cook and his wife, Nanc, raised their family horseback, working on ranches in southern South Dakota. Besides being a better-than-average poet, it’s obvious that this cowhand knows what he’s talking about. It comes through in the original poetry Cook writes, as well as the pieces penned by others that he selects for recitation. (Read examples of his poetry at www.cowboypoetry.com/kencook.htm. Give a listen to  “Come with Me” and “The Conversation” at www.kencookcowboypoet.com/cds.htm.)

When Cook says, “A good day spent horseback feels like sittin’ in God’s hand,” you know it comes from deep within his soul. When he describes rain as “every drop’s a gift,” you know he’s needed it, prayed for it, rejoiced when it finally fell from the omnipotent sky. In his world, spurs are worn for work, “never just for show.” Here’s a man who finds joy in doctoring sick cattle with the help of his boys, sorting pairs with his daughter, and showing up at a neighbor’s place with four good hands who will make a difference in the day’s work.

Cowboys Are Like That is available for $15 from Ken Cook, 23154 Teal Lane, Martin, SD 57551-6601; (605) 685-6749; www.kencookcowboypoet.com

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

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.

Ed. Note:  Ken Cook was recently named the Lariat Laureate at CowboyPoetry.com.


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
May 2009

Going to the Blogs

A recent after-branding conversation touched on blogs. Not dogs, although there was a stray at the corral earlier in the day. Blogs.

“Blog,” short for weblog, was coined in 1999. Think online diary—a running account of the author’s personal life or viewpoint—written for public consumption and accessed via the computer. Beyond posting short essays, some bloggers share breaking news, opinions, gossip, recipes, and poetry. Others use the format as a marketing tool. Most allow readers to write a comment or respond to a question within a forum or chat room. Some offer contests. The more ingenious the author, the more varied the features.

Annika Nelson, a staff assistant with North Dakota Horizons and contributing member of the blogosphere, triggered the discussion as we visited after supper at the Box O. She likes to embellish her posts of seasonal North Dakota happenings with photos: horizontal-lines.typepad.com. Unfortunately, her camera battery ran low that day, so she went home with only a few images. That’s too bad. Had handing her camera to someone been an option, she could have been photographed doing duty as half of an all-important calf wrestling team.

As a blogger, Annika likes to stay on top of what’s happening in the genre. She mentioned her favorite, Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, touting the author’s engaging writing and incredible photography. I wanted to know more and discovered that Annika has excellent taste in blogs.

Confessions took honors for best-designed weblog, best photography, and best weblog of the year at the 2009 Bloggies, which recognizes the best in blogging. City-girl-turned-ranchwife/blogger, Ree Drummond, married a cattle rancher. They live in rural Oklahoma, where she home schools their four children. “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” is the continuing saga of their courtship and marriage. But wait, there’s more! Ree also dishes on topics such as home schooling, cooking, and home & garden. It’s easy to see why fans voted it tops: thepioneerwoman.com.

Here are several other ag-related blogs I hope you’ll enjoy:

Western South Dakota rancher and saddle maker Robert Dennis has been blogging from Red Owl since September 2006. His Dennis Ranch Blog, dennisranch.wordpress.com showcases a refreshingly simple snapshot of work and family life on a northern Great Plains cattle operation. It’s a horse-and-saddle outfit. No four-wheelers here. Robert’s photos add a great deal to the ongoing dialogue. His “After the Blow” is exceptional, portraying winter in the bucolic setting: dennisranch.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/after-the-blow/p3310012.

Sharon O’Toole started her weblog in 2006 as well. She and husband, Pat, ranch in the Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. Her blog traces the activities and life on their six-generation family ranch, “from the mundane to the fabulous.” Sharon is one of the most disciplined bloggers whom I follow, faithfully chronicling what’s happening with the sheep, cattle, dogs, horses, and family. As with Annika and Robert, Sharon’s photos add depth to the narrative. Be sure to check out the entry for May 23, 2009, entitled “Shearing, shearing, shearing, lambing”: westernfolklife.org/weblogs/artists/sharono.

College student and South Dakota cattle producer Amanda Nolz launched her BEEF Daily Blog in the fall of 2008. The subject of her first installment was Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling. On May 11, 2009, Amanda posted a photo and caption taken on the occasion of her graduation from South Dakota State University. She has since returned home to work with her parents on the family ranch. I like Amanda’s Quick BEEF Daily Fact at the end of each post: blog.beefmagazine.com/beef_daily.

Raised on a corn and bean farm in Ohio, Alex Tiller runs a national farm management company based in Denver, Colorado. As such, he visits a variety of farms in different areas of the country, and around the world, that grow all kinds of crops. He shares his experiences and news about commercial farming, family farms, organic food production, sustainable agriculture, the local food movement, alternative renewable energy, hydroponics, agribusiness, farm entrepreneurship, farm economics, and farm policy in his blog on agriculture and farming: blog.alextiller.com.

Washington State’s MaryJanesFarm includes not one but two farmgirl blogs on the website devoted to organic gardening, life skills, and community. Rural Farmgirl Blog™ is hosted by René Groom at maryjanesfarm.org/RFBlog. City Farmgirl Blog™, penned by Rebekah Teal, is at maryjanesfarm.org/MJFBlog. (Learn more about MaryJanesFarm magazine at maryjanesfarm.org.)

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

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
April 2009

Cowboy Poetry Week: April 19-25, 2009

Rural librarians across the West are hanging a poster featuring vibrant artwork by noted Western artist Bob Coronato and busting the shrink wrap off The BAR-D Roundup, Vol. 4. The poster and CD are made available at no cost to participating libraries by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. The Center sponsors Cowboy Poetry Week and CowboyPoetry.com.

Cowboy Poetry Week is celebrated during April–designated as National Poetry Month in the U.S. and Canada. This year marks the eighth annual celebration of Cowboy Poetry Week. It runs April 19-25, 2009. The United States Senate passed a resolution recognizing the celebration in 2003. Since then, it has been recognized by 21 states’ governors and other officials. A variety of festivities take place in communities across the West and beyond.

Through the outreach of the Rural Library Project, even the smallest communities in the rural West can experience the folklore and tradition associated with cowboy poetry. Each year, an exciting new CD is offered to libraries, along with a Cowboy Poetry Week poster. Some libraries host events and exhibits to celebrate:  www.cowboypoetry.com/week2009.htm#Events

This year’s official poster (http://www.cowboypoetry.com/bobcoronato.htm) features artwork by Bob Coronato, courtesy The Greenwich Workshop, Inc. An East Coast native, Coronato now divides his time between Hulett, Wyoming (near Devils Tower), and Atascadero, California. His works are often set in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming. An astute observer of detail, Coronato gets the details right, as evidenced by the title of the painting: “The Horse Wrangler Gather’d The Morning Mounts: ‘One That Had’n Lived The Life ... Couldn’t Paint a Picture ...To Please The Eye, of One That Had!’”

This year’s 28-track, fourth-edition BAR-D Roundup combines classic and contemporary cowboy poetry from a Westerner’s viewpoint. Like Coronato, the poets and authors represented on the album “get it right.” Joel Nelson, one of the genre’s most respected contemporary poets, opens with “The Men Who Ride No More.” There’s also the epic “The Red Cow” by the late Larry McWhorter, and “Tracks that Won't Blow Out” by the late Ray Owens.

Classics by Bruce Kiskaddon and Henry Herbert Knibbs are recited by Randy Rieman and Jerry Brooks. Dick Morton offers the traditional “The Cattleman’s Prayer,” and the late JB Allen  does “Roundup in the Spring.” Jesse Smith recites the melancholy “The Black Beauty.” There is a fourth annual selection from Grass, by the late Buck Ramsey, the recognized spiritual leader of cowboy poetry.

The viewpoints expressed are not just from men. On the contrary, there’s a refreshing abundance of womens’ perspectives: “The Cows Came First” by Jane Morton; “Housewife” by Georgie Sicking; “A Plain Ol’ Housewife” by Yvonne Hollenbeck; “Average Girl” by Doris Daley; “Ida’s Bread” by Jo Lynne Kirkwood, and “Half the Hand” by Diane Tribitt. Even Rodney Nelson’s crowd-pleasing favorite, “Cowboy Laundry,” gives voice to a cowboy’s wife.

The adorable lad pictured on the album cover is Gail Gardner. Reproduced from an 1890's tintype, it hints at the vintage recording of Gardner (1892-1988) reciting/singing his famous work, “The Sierry Petes (Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail).” Gardner’s grandson Gail Steiger recites another of his grandfather’s works, “The Dude Wrangler.” 

Other poets serving up contemporary and classic poems on the Vol. 4 include Allen Clark, Ken Cook, Elizabeth Ebert, DW Groethe, Linda Kirkpatrick, Slim McNaught, Rod Miller, Pat Richardson, Jay Snider, and Andy Nelson. Nelson, a Wyoming poet, humorist, emcee and radio host, co-produced the project. Baxter Black sticks a fork in the project and calls it “done” with a radio public service announcement, written and delivered as only he can.

Continuing a tradition of excellence established with The Bar-D Roundup Vol. 1-2-3, this latest release is a must-have for those who savor cowboy poetry.

Look for The BAR-D Roundup, Vol. 4, at your rural Western library. To purchase your own copy, send $20 to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA  94133. Previous years' releases are available. Purchase Vol. 3 and 4 together for $35; Vol. 2, 3, & 4 for $50. (U.S. and Canadian postage included. Add $5 for all other addresses.) Pay by a secure, on-line credit card at www.cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm. Proceeds support the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry.

Posters are not available for purchase. They are offered to libraries and to supporters of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. Become a supporter at www.cowboypoetry.com/donors.htm#joinus.

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

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
March 2009

Musical albums substitute for family photo albums         

’Long as I can remember, I’ve been enthralled by vintage photographs. As a child, I spent hours entertained by black-and-white images held fast to black paper stock lashed firmly within hand-tooled leather albums. Although I knew each scant description written beneath, I read them nonetheless, committing to memory the dates and information noted. I relished the occasions when Grandad Bill or Dad unfurled a fragile, shimmering projection screen on which we’d watch home movies and 35mm slides.

The best songwriters are every bit as capable and effective in capturing memories of the human experience. And, in the instance where no camera was present, can reconstruct the events with such vivid clarity that you’ll never miss the picture.

Zion Canyon Song Cycle captures the landscape, heritage, and contemporary work-a-day world of Utah’s Zion National Park. Written by composer Phillip Bimstein, the 16-tracks are based on oral histories he collected from friends and neighbors. They portray the area’s imposing rocks, river, and ubiquitous red soil, inhabited–but never completely tamed–by a cast of local characters (and maybe a ghost or two). The research, composition, and performance were funded by a grant from the nationwide Continental Harmony commissioning program of the American Composers’ Forum.

As with any family album worth its salt, Zion Canyon Song Cycle covers both the milestones and the mundane. Performed by the 6-piece ensemble, Red Rock Rondo (redrockrondo.com), it is not Western music, but rather music of the West. The vocalists and musicians employ an assortment of folk and orchestral instruments: guitars, violins, oboe, English horn, mandolin, banjo, mandocello, harmonica, button accordion, jaw harp, and upright bass. (Listen to six full-length tracks at profile.myspace.com/redrockrondo.) Members of the ensemble are Kate MacLeod, Hal Cannon, Phillip Bimstein, Harold Carr, Flavia Cerviňo-Wood, and Charlotte Bell.

Included within the above-mentioned files are two of my favorites: “Marvelous Flood,” recounting Nathan Tenney’s son’s birth amid an 1862 Virgin River flood, and “Boy Who Never Saw a Train,” about Tom Mix’s fascination with Lloyd Crawford, 14-year-old boy growing up so rural that he’d never seen a train in the early 1920s.

The Salt Lake Tribune named Zion Canyon Song Cycle among their 2008 Top Ten Albums, tapping it as the best local album of the year. It also appeared in the top ten of the International Folk DJ Charts with “When President Harding Came to Zion.”
Zion Canyon Song Cycle by mail for $18. Send a check to Red Rock Rondo, 983 Lincoln St., Salt Lake City, UT  84105. Order online from CD Baby: cdbaby.com/cd/redrockrondo.

Cowgirl balladeer Juni Fisher imprints her great-grandfather’s story in our minds in the award-winning Gone for Colorado ... to live a cowboy’s life. Fisher, known for her masterful, multi-layered storytelling, takes the listener along with John E. Overstreet as he journeys from the family farm in Missouri, to Colorado and New Mexico. She reins-up at the ranch of her own childhood, in the San Joaquin Valley of California. 

In 1880, at 14 years of age, Overstreet ran away from home and headed west to be a cowboy. Processing genealogical research, family lore, and supposition, Fisher develops poignant and touching snapshots of his experiences along the way, family members lost, and family members never known. Dovetailed with her own original compositions are the traditional “Railroad Corral” and “Colorado Trail,” and tracks written by Ian Tyson and by Gary McMahan. Texas record producer extraordinaire, Rich O’Brien, one of the genre’s greats, lent his talents to the album.

Listen to Fisher’s folksy, cowgirl style and you’ll understand why Gone for Colorado was selected as the outstanding traditional Western album, as presented by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla. (nationalcowboymuseum.org) The awards honor and encourage the legacy of those whose works in literature, music, film, and television reflect the significant stories of the American West. Dating back to 1982, previous  traditional Western album winners include Don Edwards, Buck Ramsey, Riders in the Sky, David Wilkie, Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchell, Sons of the San Joaquin, and R.W. Hampton.

Order the 16-track Gone for Colorado (plus other titles) online from junifisher.net or by mail. Send $17 for 1; $32 for two; $46 for 3 (postage included) to Red Geetar Records, 2105 Granville Rd, Franklin, TN 37064. Her albums are also available from Amazon.com and CD Baby. While you’re at it, order a copy of Tumbleweed Letters: cdbaby.com/cd/junifisher.

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

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
February 2009

What is it with girls and horses?
Abbie’s attraction to horses was apparent. The walls of her bedroom were tacked and taped with images of horses: pictures cut from pages of magazines, photos of her family’s beloved mounts, renderings she had drawn and colored. Stiff-legged model horses stood at attention in a sturdy handmade barn and corral that overtook a large portion of the floor. I felt right at home. The decorations and toys reminded me of my room at her age, along with the rooms of most of my friends.

What is it with girls and horses? Kids and horses? Adults and horses?

On Horses’ Wings, a lovely and insightful collection of music, spoken word, and poetry, celebrates the mystical bond between humans and horses and the life lessons learned through developing such partnerships. The album opens and closes with Buck Brannaman ("the horse whisperer") reciting “The Man in the Arena” by Theodore Roosevelt. Brannaman also recounts meeting his stepfather for the first time, drawing a parallel between his experience and that of a young horse. Joining him on the 19-track CD are country-and-cowboy musicians from Nashville and the Northwest: James Cain, Wylie & The Wild West, Mary Ann Kennedy, Templeton Thompson, Antsy McClain, and Patty Hall. Kerry Anderson’s equine artwork, worthy of display in Abbie’s room, enhances the album package. Listen to several full-length tracks at www.myspace.com/onhorseswings 

Produced by Hall, On Horses’ Wings sells for $20 plus s/h. All proceeds go directly to Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center (www.littlebit.org), 19802 NE 148th St., Woodinville, WA 98077. Little Bit provides weekly therapeutic horseback riding lessons and Hippo therapy to more than 250 children and adults in the Puget Sound area. Riders experience not only physical benefits (greater strength, balance, and prevention of bone weakness and joint dislocation), but also emotional, cognitive and social benefits. (For more on Little Bit, watch the YouTube videos at www.myspace.com/onhorseswings.) Order On Horses’ Wings from The Eclectic Horseman at www.eclectic-horseman.com.

Amid rows of gear, boots, and bling displayed in the Las Vegas Convention Center during Cowboy Christmas, I came across a copy of Cowgirl Living—Lifestyle Magazine for the Western Woman. Canadian barrel racer Lindsay Sears and her horse Martha were featured on the cover. I’d not seen nor heard of the publication previously and was pleasantly surprised by it.

A glossy bimonthly, the publisher touts Cowgirl Living “for women who choose a Western way of life”more specifically: horsewomen. The purpose of the magazine is to provide horsewomen with articles that help better their lives outside the arena. Articles focus on day-to-day challenges of “juggling family, career and horse activities,” covering Western fashion, cowgirl celebrities, tips for barn and home, and a recipe section. To get a feel for the magazine, check out the premiere issue. Elementary school teacher and National Finals Rodeo barrel racing finalist Kelly Mabin is pictured on the cover, along with her daughter, Macye. You’ll also find a feature article on planning your indoor arena:  www.cowgirl-living.com/images/CLM0308_lowres.pdf

Cowgirl Living is available at Tractor Supply Stores and other western retailers. Subscriptions are $18 for one year (six issues) from PO Box 296, Lohrville, IA  41543; 866-894-1108; www.cowgirl-living.com

The popular Cowboy Songs & Range Ballads at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, is on hiatus until 2010. A statement issued by the Buffalo Bill at www.bbhc.org/events/cowboysongs.cfm says the move was made “to ensure more time for planning and fundraising. Please understand how much this disappoints us, and we know our faithful performers and attendees are disappointed as well.” Responding to numerous requests for something to take up the slack, Leslie Keltner, Runumuk Cowgirl Productions, is spearheading a one-day festival celebrating the music, poetry, and lifestyle of the cowboy.

Songs of the Cowboys is scheduled for Sat., April 4, 2009. Open-mike sessions will be held during the day at Cassie’s Supper Club, with spotlight presentations at businesses throughout the downtown area. Two different concertsone at 3:00 p.m. and the other at 7:00 p.m.will be held at Wynona Thompson Auditorium. Performers scheduled to appear, with more to be confirmed, include Bill Chiles, Rex Rideout, Bob Lantis, Otto Rosfeld, Gwen Petersen, Georgie Sicking, Pop Wagner, Open Range, John Shreve, Jim Garry, Larry Thompson, the Yampa Valley Boys, Glenn “Ike” Hall, and Leslie Keltner.

For more information on Songs of the Cowboys, contact Keltner at (307) 587-1558; cowpoet@vcn.com       
Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road S, Beach, ND 58621 .

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
January 2009

Silver State hosts silver anniversary of National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Back in 1985, Elko, Nevada, played host to a little get-together. Meant to be a one-time event, the gathering brought together practitioners of the obscure folk art of cowboy poetry. They came from cow country, got together, got acquainted. They shared poems, shared phone numbers, and headed back from whence they had come—back to raising beef cattle. 

Charlie Seemann, executive director of the Western Folklife Center, which produces the gathering, says: “They all had too much fun, the press loved it, and they said, ‘Let’s do it again next year.’ Frankly, I think everybody’s a little surprised at the longevity of it and the fact that it just seems to keep getting a little bigger.”

Fifteen poets who participated in that first gathering are among more than 130 artists who are heading to Elko for the 25th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (NCPG). An eight-day event—January 24-31, 2009—the gathering also features cowboy and western music, prose, storytelling, films and visual arts, workshops, lectures, dancing, regional foods, and traditional cowboy crafts. The events-a-plenty, silver-anniversary edition of the NCPG offers performances on seven simultaneous stages around Elko.

In the past, I’ve noted those artists who hailed from the Tri-State Livestock News coverage area. In honor of this year’s milestone, I’m including all of the official 2009 poets, musicians and musical groups. (As an added bonus, the Western Folklife Center has added an audio clip along with the biography and photo of each performer. These full-length clips provide a next-best-thing glimpse of the gathering—without having to stop for gas every 400 miles or pass through airport security:  http://www.westernfolklife.org/site1/index.php/2009-NP-Performers/):

Adrian Brannan (CA), Oscar Auker (TX), Baxter Black (AZ), Dave Bourne (CA), Jerry Brooks (UT), The Burson Family (TX), Jon Chandler and the Wichitones (CO), Bimbo Cheney (NV), Bob Christensen (WA), E.T. Collinsworth (NM), Cowboy Celtic (CAN), Rick “Sourdough Slim” Crowder (CA).

Doris Daley (CAN), Jay Dalton (NV), Duane Dickinson (MT), John Dofflemyer (CA), Carolyn Dufurrena (NV), Elizabeth Ebert (SD), Don Edwards (TX), Leon Flick (OR), Dick Gibford (CA), Janice Gilbertson (CA), The Gillette Brothers (TX), Peggy Godfrey (CO), Skip Gorman (NH) & Connie Dover (WY), DW Groethe (MT).

R.W. Hampton (NM), Linda Hasselstrom (SD), Andy Hedges (TX), Don Hedgpeth (TX), Yvonne Hollenbeck (SD), Hot Club of Cowtown (TX), Jess Howard (ND), Yula Sue Hunting (UT), Linda Hussa (CA), Chris Isaacs (AZ), Teresa Jordan (UT), Echo Klaproth (WY), Ross Knox (AZ).

Walt LaRue (CA), Ray Lashley (CO), Bill Lowman (ND), Corb Lund (CAN), Rusty McCall (NM), Betty Lynne McCarthy (MO), Wallace McRae (MT), Lyn Messersmith (NE), Waddie Mitchell (NV), Clark Morris (OR), Michael Martin Murphey (NM), Joel Nelson (TX), Rodney Nelson (ND), Kay Kelley Nowell (TX).

Glenn Ohrlin (AR), Gwen Petersen (MT), The Quebe Sisters Band (TX), Vess Quinlan (CO), Henry Real Bird (MT), Duane Reece (AZ), Pat Richardson (CA), Riders In The Sky (TN), Randy Rieman (MT), Tom Russell (TX).

Chris "Sandman" Sand (ND), Bob Schild (ID), Georgie Sicking (WY), Jesse Smith (WY), Dave Stamey (CA), Gail Steiger (AZ), Kent Stockton (WY), Milton Taylor (AUS), Ian Tyson (CAN), Jack Walther (NV), Bill Wood (SD), Wylie & The Wild West (WA), and Paul Zarzyski (MT).

By and large, the performers live in rural locations across the West; a handful make their home east of the Mississippi River. However, more than 40 percent of those who make the trek to the NCPG travel from urban areas.

“People want to hear something authentic, from the heart and rooted in the land,” explains Hal Cannon, founding director of the Western Folklife Center. “When we started in 1985, there was an energy that came out of cattle country, that took hold of talented and creative men and women from every generation, and brought a representative group together for the first time in Elko to express their art. The response was greater than anything we could have imagined; and it's stronger than ever today. People are writing and sharing poetry who might never have dared before. Had it not been for the gathering, this creative energy from ranchers and cowboys may have never found voice.”

The Western Folklife Center’s Website (http://www.westernfolklife.org/site1/) is extensive. I encourage you to investigate it for yourself. Don’t miss these highlights:

2009 Schedule:

Podcasts:  http://www.westernfolklife.org/site1/index.php/Podcasts/
Gathering Moments on Film:

Gift Shop:  http://www.westernfolklife.org/site1/index.php/vmchk/Gift-Shop/View-all-products.html

For an index of all invited performers, swing over to http://www.cowboypoetry.com/elkolist.htm.

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

© 2009, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
December 2008

Christmas Gifts Ideas: Part 2

December 25 is coming, racing as fast as yearling heifers through an open gate. Relax! Take a deep breath. Do only what really needs to be done; let the rest go. For the harried homemakers amongst you, ask each family member what one Christmas goodie they want, and make only those. You’ll reduce money spent on ingredients, hours spent in the kitchen, calories tempting you at every turn, and stress.

If you have a few gifts yet to purchase, consider the following:

Evelyn Cameron: Pictures from a Worthy Lifea documentary film about the frontier photographer who left behind 35 years of diaries and thousands of images taken in eastern Montana at the turn of the 20th century. Born into a life of privilege in England, Cameron homesteaded on the eastern Montana prairie with her husband. An independent spirit, she started a photography business which contributed significantly to the couple’s meager ranch income. Produced by John Twiggs for KUFM/Montana PBS, UM Missoulaand airing on Public Television Stations nationwideit is exceptional!

The documentary is available as either a DVD or VHS (be sure to specify) for $24.95. Order from The Evelyn Cameron Foundation, PO Box 497, Terry, MT 59349; (406) 635-4966; www.evelyncameron.com. Also available from the foundation is Photographing Montana, Donna M. Lucey’s book showcasing more than 150 of Cameron’s photos taken between 1890-1920. Send $44.95 for the softcover; $67.95 for the hardback.

Houlihan: the Cowboys of Montana and Wyomingfourth in The Vaquero Series by filmmakers Susan Jensen & Paul Singer, detailing the history and regional differences among America’s cowboy cultures. Released in May 2008, and running 95 minutes, there’s scenery to please the eye and Western music for the ear. Previously released were  #1 Tapadero (California vaquero),  #2 The Remuda (Great Basin buckaroo), and #3 Holo Holo Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy). A fifth title, released December 5, 2008, is #5 Los Primeros (first vaqueros; filmed in Spain, Mexico, and throughout the American West).

Individual DVD titles sell for $21.95 in the US (shipping included); $22.95 in Canada; $28.95 Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Order from J&S Productions, PO Box 91560, Santa Barbara, CA 93190; (805) 695-0164; www.tapadero.com.  Purchase all five (Tapadero, Remuda, Paniolo, Houlihan, Los Primeros) for $90 US, $95 in Canada, and $105 in Europe, Australia, New Zealand. Or, find a store that sells the series: www.tapadero.com./html/locations.html.

Southwestern Souvenirs—a relaxing and nostalgic collection of guitar music by Rich O’Brien. Himself a member of the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame, the CD won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. You’ll find “Wheels,” “Blue Skirt Waltz,” and the theme to “Gunsmoke,” with lyrics sung by Don Edwards. See the full track listing and listen to three samples at www.westernjubilee.com/SouthwesternSouvenirs.htm.

Send $15 + shipping to Western Jubilee Recording Company, PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932; (800) 707-2353; www.westernjubilee.com. (NOTE: Free shipping on domestic orders over $50 placed via the website!)

Pieces of the Past—a CD by South Dakota ranchwife, Yvonne Hollenbeck, featuring songs by Jean Prescott. This 15-track collection is the 2008 Cowboy Poetry CD of the Year as presented by the Western Music Association. Hollenbeck and Prescott each bring considerable talent to the project produced by Rich O’Brien. The down-home subjects range from “Grandma’s Homemade Apron” to “The Little Red Geranium.”

Send $18.50 to Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291st Street, Clearfield, SD 57580; (605) 557-3559; www.YvonneHollenbeck.com. Listen to “Prairie Patchwork” from the CD at www.yvonnehollenbeck.com/books.html.

The World According to Baxter Black: Quips, Quirks & Quotes—the annual Christmas release from everyone’s favorite veterinarian-turned-cowboy entertainer. Baxter describes the delightful little “crossbred collection” of quips, quotes, quirks, truisms, exaggerations, philosophical observations, cowboy humor and perspective–with illustrations by A-10 Etcheverry–as a happy book: “It’ll make you or whoever you give it to happy ... it’ll make us happy, and happiness will spread like cheap wine on a white tuxedo!”

I like to think that it is also a handy book. You can read for a few moments and put it down without worry of marking the page. Pick it up later and continue reading. There’s no real beginning or end (even though there is a page plainly labeled “The End”).   
The 156-page hardback sells for $19.95 + shipping. (Buy two for $39; get a third one free; offer expires Dec. 15, 2008). Order from Coyote Cowboy Company, PO Box 2190, Benson, AZ 85602; (800) 654-2550;

Also from Coyote Cowboy Company is Baxter’s double CD, Blazin' Bloats & Cows on FIRE!, with more than two hours of cowboy poetry and tall tales. It features such favorites as “Sixty Foot Rope,” “Taxidermy Heifer,” plus a personal favorite of mine, “I Know You’ll Miss This Man.” It sells for $24.95 + shipping.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
November 2008

Christmas Gifts Ideas: Part 1

Books have always been one of my favorite gifts to give. There’s one for every interest. There’s no worry about the format becoming outdated. They’re portable and can be shared with others. (If you haven’t already set up such a record-keeping system, keep a written record of books you have out on loan.)

Out of chute number 1 is Gwen Petersen’s humorous handbook for country living, How to Shovel Manure & Other Life Lessons for the Country Woman. My Montana-raised brother-in-law and sister-in-law, now living in Reno, Nevada, each gave it two thumbs up. He liked the progression of stories starting in the spring–proceeding through each seasons’ activities–concluding with an appropriate poem. She appreciated the accuracy, having experienced many of the same things growing up on a ranch. Her particular favorite was opening the refrigerator and having calf vaccine fall into the Jell-O.

The publisher notes, “For good measure, the book includes poems and recipes that will transport you to a country state of mind–whether you hail from the city’s busiest streets or the ranch’s quietest gravel roads.” Called the Erma Bombeck of the farmhouse and the Ann Landers of the barnyard, Gwen makes country life sound like a lot more fun that it really is. 

How to Shovel Manure & Other Life Lessons for the Country Woman (Voyageur Press, 2007, 224 pages, hardback, illustrations & recipes; ISBN: 0-7603-2862-5) retails for $17.95 at bookstores and is available at Amazon.com. Contact Petersen at PO Box 1255, Big Timber, MT 59011; (406) 932-4227.

A decidedly more somber view of life in the American West is represented by the letters and diaries in
Best of Covered Wagon Women, edited by Kenneth L. Holmes. Originally appearing in the 11-volume series, Covered Wagon Women, eight selected works appear in “Best,” along with an introduction by Michael L. Tate.

The firsthand accounts of women who braved the westward migration between 1848 and 1864 convey the hardship, adventure, and camaraderie that made the overland experience tolerable. They tell of rough roads, rickety bridges, quicksand, swarms of mosquitoes, downpours that soaked bedding, birth and death, children with cold feet, foul drinking water, and the stench of dead livestock littering the roadside. But, there were also joys: fresh water; plentiful grass; breathtaking vistas; wild strawberries and currants.

Look for Best of Covered Wagon Women (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, 304 pages, paper; ISBN: 978-0-8061-3914-2) in bookstores or order from http://www.oupress.com/ where it sells for $13.97.

Another group of individuals who saw their share of hardship in the nineteenth-century American West were soldiers. Jeremy Agnew shares the challenges of an enlisted man in Life of a Soldier on the Western Frontier. Bad food, substandard quarters, uncomfortable uniforms, harsh conditions, and tedious drills were hardly what young soldiers envisioned. Far from the glories they imagined, they were often bored and lonely, working seven days a week in desert heat and winter’s worst.
Mountain Press says: “In addition to describing the nitty-gritty details of a soldier’s daily life, this fascinating study explores the Indian Wars from the perspective of both the military and the Indians and examines all aspects of the post-Civil War army, including its organization, its weapons, and its personnel.”
Life of a Soldier on the Western Frontier sells for $16 from http://mountain-press.com. Buy it as a reference; buy it for the great stories. (Mountain Press Publishing, 2008, 272 pages, photos, maps & appendices, paper; ISBN: 978-0-87842-541-9)

Robb Kendrick’s suite of tintype photographs,
Still: Cowboys at the Start of the Twenty-First Century, earns my vote for this year’s most unusual coffee-table book. The positive images captured on primitive metal plates (versus film’s negative process) are captivating. Tintype photography was cutting edge technology back in 1856, but hardly considered newsworthy nowadays–until Kendrick used the process to portray today’s working cowboy.

Kendrick, a sixth-generation Texan whose work is seen in National Geographic, logged 41,000 miles traveling to where cowboys ply their skills. His figures his quest took him 16 weeks (over the course of six years), while traversing 14 states, Mexico, and Canada. Despite being characterized as a dying breed, Kendrick found the cowboy culture intact and functioning. Accompanying the 144 images is an essay by Marianne Wiggins and an afterword by Jay Dusard, both Pulitzer Prize nominees.   

National Geographic hosts a video on the process behind photographing and developing tintypes:

National Public Radio has a multimedia slide show narrated by Kendrick:  www.npr.org/programs/day/features/photo_op/kendrick/slideshow/index.html

Purchase Still: Cowboys at the Start of the Twenty-First Century (University of Texas Press, 2008, 232 pages, 144 b&w photos, hardback; ISBN: 978-0-292-71438-0) in bookstores or from www.utexas.edu/utpress/, where it’s priced at $33.50.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
October 2008

Cowboy Crooners

Last month I touched on the difficulty of defining Western music. Often associated with cowboy music, fans would never lump them together with country and Western. While they share a common genesis, each has developed its own personality, much as any child might. To read what others are saying on the subject, rein on over to CowboyPoetry.com: www.cowboypoetry.com/whatiswesternmusic.htm. You’ll find submissions on the topic, along with a similar discussion on “What is cowboy poetry?”

But back to cowboy music ... thumbing through CDs submitted for consideration, I selected three artists whose work falls within my personally-defined parameters. Each brings something different to the table: a Texas cowboy’s viewpoint, a hint of Nashville, a Montana rancher’s life experiences.

Gary Prescott was born and raised in deep South Texas. Working on his family’s ranch with 1,500-head of momma cows, he also rode bulls and bareback broncs. He explains: “For the first 23 years of my life, I was either riding horseback or riding a tractor. All I knew was cowboy. Then I went to work in the oil field to save up money for my own place. In 1993, I went to my first cowboy gathering. It was like coming home again.”

Rough Country, Wild Cattle is the result. Gary wrote or co-wrote eight of the 12 tracks. He shares credit with his wife, Jean, on “Shootin’ the Gap” and “Cowboy Blues,” the latter being one of my favorites. The title is deceiving in that the collection is actually quite mellow and soothing.

Gary and Jean have several recordings between them, including a double CD entitled Cowboy Forever. To order Rough Country, Wild Cattle, send $18 to Prescott Music, PO Box 194, Ovalo, TX 79541; www.jeanprescott.com

Robert Joe Vandygriff’
The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet: Vol. 1, is the most stereotypical. I don’t say that in a negative way. Described by the Dallas Morning News as “one part Gene Autry, one part Will Rogers, and one part Zig Ziglar,” Vandygriff stars as Joe Texas in a historically-accurate, one-act musical comedy dispelling the rumor that the cowboy is a dying breed. The 13 tracks on Vol. 1 tell the story of the American cowboy in song and verse. You’ll find the likes of  “I’d Like to be in Texas,” “Cattle Call,”  “Rawhide,” “Colorado Trail,” and “Mariah,” along with lesser known titles and a handful of factual tidbits. Vandygriff presents them all in fine style. Listen to snippets at www.cowboyaintdeadyet.com

The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet: Vol. 2 contains 20 tracks–most of them contemporary–plus bonus Joe Texas sayin’s. Vandygriff, who played Ranger Mike in Walker, Texas Ranger, had some commercial music success in Nashville in the 1970s. Returning to the Lone Star State, he and his wife, Deb, make their home in Lipscomb County, in the state’s northeastern panhandle. It’s there that he penned two of my favorites from Vol. 2: “A Cowboy’s Promise” and “The Ballad of Charlie Kidd.”

Vol. 1 sells for $12; Vol. 2 is $15. Send check or money order payable to The Cowboy Ain't Dead Yet, PO Box 85,  Lipscomb, TX 79056; www.cowboyaintdeadyet.com  (806) 852-2432.

Leave Texas, head up the trail to Wibaux County, Montana, and you’ll find Bob Petermann. A rancher/poet/singer/songwriter, Petermann has lived his entire life in the rugged badlands of eastern Montana. He’s comfortable amid the short grass, cedars, cottonwoods, and plums that grow wild around the home place. He’s equally at home horseback or with a guitar in hand. His music is pure cowboy.

Following on three previous recordings, Petermann released Thanks for the Rain in 2007. A gospel album, it contains 12 tracks with standards such as “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” “Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet,” and “Consider the Lillies,” along with three originals: “Where the Grass Grows Green All Year Long,”  “Don’t Look Back,” and the title track. Petermann’s humble nature and deep-seated faith shine through in every verse. (For more about Petermann: www.cowboypoetry.com/bobpetermann.htm)

Besides Thanks for the Rain, I wholeheartedly recommend Petermann’s Takin' up Slack. It is one of cowboy music’s most honest portrayals of the lifestyle. Order the pair. You won’t be sorry. Send $15 for each CD to Bob Petermann, 942 Pine Unit Road, Wibaux, Montana 59353; 406-486-5618.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
September 2008

If I Hadn’t Seen the West

Aboriginal artists were the first to honor the sweeping beauty of the American West, paying homage with voice, drum, and paint. Ever since, man has attempted to capture its essence in song, on canvas, paper, and film. As a result, Western music and art encompass a range of styles as sweeping as the geography they seek to embody. 

I count among my most memorable concert moments a brief five minutes last fall when California singer/songwriter Joyce Woodson performed “If I Hadn’t Seen the West.” Seated in the audience at the Western Music Association Festival in Albuquerque, N.M., I was mesmerized by Woodson’s one song during the Barn Dance. Accompanying herself on a guitar, she sang with eloquence and heart, recounting her affinity for the West in a rich alto voice.

For whatever reason, our trails had not previously crossed. That was why I was in New Mexico, to get acquainted with artists I’d not heard or met. Far from being a newcomer to the festival circuit, Woodson has performed folk music from coast to coast–at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo.; at the Autry Western Heritage Museum in Burbank, Calif.; in Nashville, Tenn.–and as an invited guest at the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, Belfast, Ireland.

Woodson serves up pure Western melodies reminiscent of the Sons of the Pioneers (www.cmt.com/artists/az/sons_of_the_pioneers/bio.jhtml), but the words and melodies are her own. Famous for such classics as “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water,” Woodson says of the group founded in 1933 by Leonard Slye, better known by his stage name of Roy Rogers: “Those harmonizing voices brought the cowboy life and landscape clearly into focus for me–so much so that I felt like I was in the saddle with them, and I never wanted the trail or the song to end.”

To that end, Woodson wrote and recorded 11 tracks for her latest CD, If I Hadn’t Seen the West. Aside from the title track, I think she did a bang-up job on “I Heard about it in a Song,” “Waddie, Get Your Boots on,” “The Question,” and “I Don’t Want to be a Cowboy Anymore.” Listen to sample tracks under “discography” at www.joycewoodson.com, where you’ll also find lyrics to “If I Hadn’t Seen the West.” 

To order If I Hadn’t Seen the West, send $17 to Joyce Woodson c/o Radish Records, 32158 Camino Capistrano #366, San Juan Capistrano, CA  92675; reach her at (949) 493-4791.

Aside from meeting artists at festivals and gatherings, I also meet them at my mailbox. CD shippers and padded envelopes show up every now and then, bearing addresses from across the United States and Canada.

It’s exciting to open a package and see what’s inside. I don’t take it lightly when I receive such a parcel. Whether it’s from a poet or singer, author, publisher, or film maker, I understand the time, effort, and expense that go into producing such a project. Unfortunately, space doesn’t allow me to tell you about them all. 

Rich Flanders is one of those artists whom I met down at the mailbox. His album,
Yondering: Songs of the American West, arrived with of all things, a New York State address. An address means little to me if the material inside is good, and Yondering is good.

Like Woodson, Flanders (www.richflanders.com) shares an enduring fondness for the Sons of the Pioneers. A former Broadway performer, he too tips his hat to the group in the acknowledgments, commenting that of the many kinds of music he’s performed, the songs on the album are the ones he most often sings to himself. A labor of love he contemplated for years, Flanders provides fresh lead and harmony vocals on the 16 tracks.

Songs were selected based upon their universal appeal. You’ll instantly recognize the majority of the songs celebrating the peaks and prairies. Five were penned by Bob Nolan, including “Chant of the Plains” and “Blue Prairie.” Other cowboy/Western classics include  “Blue Shadows on the Trail,” “Ridin’ down the Canyon,” “River of No Return,” and “Song of the Trail.” For generous track samples, head over to cdbaby.com/cd/richflanders and take a listen. If you like what you hear, order directly from CDBaby. Yondering sells for $16 plus $2.25 shipping.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears at the Tri-State Livestock News.

Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
August 2008

Oklahoma ... Where the West Remains!

This past winter I spent many a late night following genealogical crumbs left by my ancestors. One trail led to a branch of the family tree rooted in Oklahoma. My maternal grandmother, Lucille, was born in 1911 in Pawnee County. Her parents, Vinton and Susie (Lancaster) Wildman, married in Osage City on Christmas Day 1897. Susie’s father had acquired land in the 1889 Land Run, homesteading on the Osage and Pawnee Nation, Oklahoma Indian Territory. The Lancasters came to Oklahoma from Texas.

Vinton was not present when Grandma Lucille was born. He had gone to Montana to file on a homestead claim. Suzie and the couple’s four children joined Vinton in Custer County, Montana, making the trip by train just days after Lucille’s birth. 

While ankle-deep in familial photos, faxes, and photocopies, R.W. Hampton’s Oklahoma ... Where the West Remains! Centennial Journey in Story & Song: 1907-2007 serendipitously arrived in the mail. Recorded at an official Oklahoma Centennial Commission event, the 32-track CD captures Hampton, the Enid Symphony Orchestra, Rich O’Brien, and the Chisholm Trail String Band as they chronicle the state’s history. Three years in the making, Oklahoma native Edna Mae Holden brought the project to life with the assistance of a great many folks–historians and musicians alike: www.wherethewestremains.com/about.html.

Hampton, with his rich baritone voice, narrates the show and provides vocals. The music is a mix of old standards and original compositions, including “The Run of the Cherokee Outlet,” of which my Great, Great Grandfather Lancaster was a participant. Just over an hour in length, the musical time capsule weaves together the lives of Native Americans, cowboys, settlers, Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans, immigrants, favorite sons, and outlaws.

In my family’s case, there are plenty of the latter. Included among Great Granddad Wildman’s shirt-tail cousins are Texas gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, train robber Sam Bass, and cowboy-turned-robber Thomas Edward Ketchum. Also add to the list of interesting cousins gun company owner, and manufacturer of the Winchester repeating rifle, Oliver F. Winchester. But, I digress ...

Oklahoma...Where the West Remains! received the 2008 Wrangler award for best traditional Western album as presented by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Listen to all the songs from this award-winning CD, in their entirety, at www.rwhampton.com under “Music”. Like what you hear? Order online or send $25 to Hampton Land & Lyrics, PO Box 150, Cimarron, NM 87714; 800-392-0822.

I’d been hearing about Kent Rollins for a couple of years before meeting him in Elko at the 2008 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Proprietor, cook, and bottle washer of the official Oklahoma State Chuckwagon, Rollins spins a hilarious yarn and recites an occasional poem. If his cookin’ is anywhere as grand as his stories, he must leave a mess of satisfied diners in his wagon’s wake. For more on Rollins: www.cowboypoetry.com/kentrollins.htm.

Once I got a-holt of the Oklahoma ranch cook’s CD, Kent Rollins: Live in Branson, it only took a matter of minutes listening to “The Olympics” before I realized why people appreciate his storytelling. Two other tales from the 12-track collection that I found especially entertaining are “The Exterminator” and “Ben Hur.” To order Kent Rollins Live in Branson, send $17 to Kent Rollins, Rt. 1, Box 318, Hollis, OK 73550; (580) 688-3693; www.KentRollins.com. (Regrettably, his chuckwagon cookbook is out of print.)

Rollins teaches a Chuckwagon Bootcamp for wannabe pot rustlers. The open-air classroom is near Hollis, on the banks of the Red River, northeast of Childress, Texas: www:westernmusicnetwork.com/Bootcamp.html.

Cyril, Oklahoma cowboy poet Jay Snider introduced me to his amigo Kevin Davis last fall at the Western Music Association Festival. Born and raised in southwest Oklahoma, Davis made quite a stir with his swarthy good looks and equally appealing voice. This year he’s in the running for the Crescendo Award, chosen from among the associations’ rising stars.

Davis worked as a ranch hand before becoming a fire fighter. He also rode saddle broncs and roped steers. He knows of what he writes and sings. In 2003, he was invited to perform at Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. His music is authentically cowboy and realistically Western. His 10-track CD, Every Horse I Ever Rode, is smartly written and professionally produced. I’m betting it will become one of your favorites. To order, send $16.50 to Kevin Davis, PO Box 131, Walters, OK 73572.   

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears here at the Tri-State Livestock News.


Cowboy Jam Session:  Western Culture News & Reviews
- by Jeri L. Dobrowski
July 2008

Sounds for the busy season

As summer takes the bit in its mouth and races across the horizon toward the first frost, I can only glance wistfully at the books and magazines clamoring for my attention. Colorful stacks, sorted by size and subject, are growing beside my desk; there’s another bedside. For me, outdoor demands take precedence over reading during the brief growing season here on the Northern Great Plains. While I can’t devote as much time to reading as I’d like, I can listen as I scrub radishes, dice rhubarb, and make a parts run. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been playing lately:

Beneath a Western Sky by Texas cowgirl Linda Kirkpatrick

Gaining a reputation for her quality poetry recitations, Kirkpatrick is joined by saddle pals Frank Roberts and Joe Wells on this 2005 recording. The trio, known as Sunset Serenade, is familiar on the southern cowboy and folk festival circuit, presenting Western history in story and song. Subtle, well-chosen sound effects and background music add to the selections without overpowering. You’ll find 17 tracks on this CD, including one of my all-time favorite contemporary cowboy poems, Debra Coppinger Hill’s “Old Yellow Slicker.” Another track worthy of mention is Bruce Kiskaddon’s “Bronco Twister’s Prayer.” I never tire of hearing Kirkpatrick recite this classic. She does such a grand job.

“When Roundup Time Comes Around” and “Cupful of Mem’ries” are Kirkpatrick originals. Raised on a ranch near Leakey, Texas, she was fortunate to have known a good many cowboys, the subject of both pieces. Kirkpatrick is best known for “Cathay Williams,” the true story of a female Buffalo Soldier. (Read the poem at www.cowboypoetry.com/lk.htm)

Besides her interest in poetry, Kirkpatrick writes a monthly column that appears in Texas Escapes, an on-line magazine dedicated to Texas travel and history. Her column, Somewhere in the West, focuses on the Texas Hill Country: www.texasescapes.com/LindaKirkpatrick/Linda-Kirkpatrick.htm

To order Beneath a Western Sky, send $15.50 to Linda Kirkpatrick, PO Box 128, Leakey, Texas 78873. Contact her at lbrice@hctc.net; 830-232-5308.

Vaudeville Cowboy by singer-yodeler-accordionist Sourdough Slim

Despite his goofy demeanor and retro appearance, Sourdough Slim is a serious musician, well versed in American folk music. It’s easy to be blinded by his 1920's-era cowboy duds and Vaudeville shtick–which is exactly where he wants you. During the Depression, cowboys were popular on the big traveling tent show circuit. Vaudeville Cowboy is a 17-track tribute to the cowboy entertainers of the first half of the 20th century: Tom Mix, Jimmie Rodgers, Col. Tim McCoy, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Will Rogers. Augmented by Sourdough’s own compositions, you’ll hear such period classics as “Jean From Abilene,” “Golden Slippers,” “Man on The Flying Trapeze,” and “In the Jailhouse Now.” The arrangements are made all the more authentic–and endearing–having been recorded with novel instrumentation of the day.

As much as I like
Vaudeville Cowboy for its historical significance, it’s not been the commercial success of Sourdough’s Classics. Featuring great old-time cowboy and hobo songs, it’s little wonder. You’ll find “High Noon,” “Cool Water,” “Boots and Saddles,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “The Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” and “Back in the Saddle,” among others. Sourdough performs these songs mostly solo, accompanying himself on guitar, accordion, tenor banjo, baritone ukulele, and harmonica. (Give a listen Sourdough’s sound clips at www.sourdoughslim.com)

Order either Vaudeville Cowboy or Classics for $15 each (postpaid/US funds). Send cash, check or money order to Sourdough Slim, PO Box 2021, Dept. CJS, Paradise, CA 95967. Contact Sourdough at 530-872-1187.

Calling All Cowboys, hosted by Charley Engel
Charley Engel, a.k.a. Chuckaroo the Buckaroo, has been hosting
Calling All Cowboys on  KPOV-LP FM, Bend, Oregon, since the community station began broadcasting in June 2005. A writer for the Central Oregon Horse Journal,
he enjoys trail riding and performing music. As Chuckaroo the Buckaroo (don’t let his radio moniker scare you off), Engel shares a pleasing, eclectic mix of old-time and contemporary cowboy and Western music, cowboy poetry, Western swing, old-time radio, and artist interviews with his radio audience.

The two-hour show is available on demand through the magic of the World Wide Web. Listen at your convenience: www.kpov.org/index.php?option=com_shows&task=view&id=57. Select “Most Recent” or “Previous” from “Show Archive.” It’s that simple. Take Engel up on his invitation to “Ride the dusty high-desert as we explore music, poetry and old-time radio, all with a decidedly Western bent.”

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the
Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

June 2008

Gas Mileage and Summer Escapes

Trying to get away between haying and harvest is hard enough without stratospheric fuel prices. Near-$4/gallon gas could deflate all but the most pressing travel plans. Rabid news reporters are quizzing consumers on how they’re cutting corners, cutting back, preparing for the next torturous trip to the pump.

The answers aren’t exactly cutting edge: Families are cooking from scratch and eating at home. They’re baking bread, planting gardens, stocking up on sale items. (One desperate Lois Lane, trying to make the most of the situation, labeled buying and freezing sale-priced beef, pork and chicken as “food hoarding.”) Folks are walking, riding bikes, riding horses, sharing rides. They’re spending weekends at home, discovering the backyard, reconnecting with family, meeting their neighbors, and driving slower.

Which brings me to Baxter Black’s audio book, Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? Released in 2007 and touted as “the best-selling rodeo novel ever written,” Baxter presents the adventures of Lick and Cody on their quest to qualify for the finals–in its unabridged entirety. Notice I didn’t say he “reads” the book. It’s more like theater of the mind. Kudos to producers Brent Reason and Gail Steiger.

I took the seven-CD, PG-13 rated book on a recent trip. Unable to find a run time on the package, I wondered how much of the tale my husband, Rob, and I would hear. Then I saw it printed on the case: “Almost 450 miles of listenin’!” But, traveling at what speed, I wondered.

Baby calves were soaking up the sun as we headed west with Baxter. It was much like a trip in 1989 when Rob and I met Baxter at the Rapid City, S.D. airport for an in-car interview en route to Winner, S.D. As was the case then, laughter filled the car and the miles fell quickly behind us. It occurred to me that there should be a warning on the case: “Listening to this book while driving may constitute a hazard slightly less dangerous than painting your toenails, reading a book, or using a cell phone.”

We interrupted Baxter and stopped at the Basque coffee shop in Miles City, Mont. I knew he’d second the motion. Back on the road, eagles glided along the Yellowstone River, a military honor guard presided over a burial at Custer, bulls lolled in a pasture awaiting turnout. We were engrossed in Lick and Cody’s quest for the finals.

Returning home, I took my question regarding Baxter’s mathematical computations to the “arthur” himself and was told that the 450 miles of listenin’ is at 75 mph. By my calculations, that’s 420 miles at 70 mph; if you slow down to 65 mph, it’s 390 miles. Of course, your mileage may vary. Even if gas is expensive, it will hurt less while listening to Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? Order your copy online at www.baxterblack.com or send $29.95 to Coyote Cowboy Company, PO Box 2190, Benson, AZ 85602; 1-800-654-2550.

Despite what’s happening with fuel, I expect a full house in Cody, Wyoming, for Brian Lebel’s Cody Old West Show & Auction. The auction is Thurs., June 26; the show Fri.-Sat., June 27-28. A 144-page, full-color sale catalog arrived in my mailbox last week. Gracing the cover is a 1870s Mexican saddle made for a wealthy vintner in the Republic of Mexico (estimated selling price: $50,000-$100,000). Decorated with cactus fiber and silver, it is exquisite!

Also pictured are a Missouri River and Black Hills Stage Company ticket; Winchester 1876 Serial #4; original artwork by Will James, O.C. Seltzer, Edward Borein; 27 first-edition Will James books; 1889 Colt Navy revolver with Furstnow and Coggshall holster, once the property of Texas Ranger and first sheriff of Miles City, Montana, Bill Hawkins; Luis B. Ortega quirt; J.A. Garrett’s (Johnson County War) Colt. Saddles carry the marks of such makers as Shipley, Visalia, Meanea, Frasier, and Bohlin. There’s even one with an AM radio built into the pommel. As a kid, I dreamed of just such a thing.

I’ve attended the event on several occasions and give it two spurs up. But, if a trip to Cody doesn’t fit within your budget, order yourself a copy of the catalog. It’s a great reference that you’ll pick up again and again. Order online at www.codyoldwest.com or send $30 to Cody Old West Auction, PO Box 2038, Carefree, AZ 85377; (307) 587-9014.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the
Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

May 2008

A Father’s Day hat trick

If the dad in your life is a rancher or a horseman, here’s a Father’s Day suggestion that will be as welcome as a second cutting of alfalfa to a dryland producer—Holo Holo Paniolo. In Hawaiian, holo holo means "to get around." That’s exactly what the documentary producers do in episode three of their ongoing Vaquero Series, this time featuring island cowboys called paniolos.

By chance I caught a screening of Holo Holo Paniolo at December’s Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, Monterey, Calif. I couldn’t have been happier to see the footage, and I finally met Susan Jensen and Paul Singer.

Jensen and Singer, J&S Productions, have undertaken what can only be described as a labor of love, showcasing the history and regional differences among America’s cowboy culture. The 90-minute Paniolo follows #1 Tapadero, the California vaquero, and #2 The Remuda , the buckaroo. (For more on these previous releases see Cowboy Jam Session May 2007 below). Number 4, Houlihan (northern range), was just released May 12, 2008. But, back to Paniolo.

The story of how cattle came to the islands, and became a menace, is every bit as interesting as the traditions of those caring for them. In 1833, King Kamehameha recruited three vaqueros from California to train Hawaiians to ride, rope, and catch the wild cattle that were running rampant in his kingdom.

J&S spent six weeks filming across the five islands. Naturally, there’s footage from one the largest cattle ranches in the United States–the Parker Ranch–running 17,000 head on 175,000 acres. But, you’ll also see smaller homesteads of the native Hawaiians.

Adaptations to a rocky and wet environment can be seen in the construction of stone corrals and the Hawaiian saddle. Because of the high humidity, a traditional high Plains saddle is ill-suited to the tropics. Instead, paniolos adopted a stripped down tree that is waterproof for swimming cattle to boats and dries quickly.

As with previous episodes, there is a cowboy music component to the DVD. In the case of the Hawaiians, it’s the slack-key guitar tradition, a remnant of the vaqueros’ Spanish guitars.

Individual DVD titles from the Vaquero Series sell for $21.95. Bundled, episodes #1-3 sell for $55; episodes #1-4 sell for $77. All prices include shipping. Order from J&S Productions, PO Box 91560, Santa Barbara, CA 93190; (805) 695-0164; www.tapadero.com. To locate a store that sells the series–from Hawaii to Montana, Texas to Germany–visit www.tapadero.com/html/locations.html.

A recent arrival in my mailbox that I’m delighted to recommend is Ray Doyle’s The Emigrant Trail: a Journey West. The Dublin-born Doyle is familiar to fans of Wylie & The Wild West as Wylie’s longtime band leader. That alone says a lot, but Ray is a class act in his own right. This CD makes that point perfectly clear.

In liner notes, Doyle recounts his family’s journey aboard "an overcrowded ship for a turbulent nine-day voyage from Ireland." Eventually, they settled near the Hollywood Hills in California. While not biographical, the 11 tracks successfully condense the immigrant experience that is America, spanning both the continent and the centuries.

Doyle did a masterful job of selecting and choreographing the songs, which are a mixture of original compositions and traditional tunes, plus Jimmy Driftwood’s "Tennessee Stud," Gordon Lightfoot’s "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," and "The Vaquero Song" by Dave Stamey. From the gut-wretching title track to the lovely guitar instrumental "Rosalba," from Doyle’s award-winning Yellowstone National Park tribute, "The Jewel," to a mournful 7th Cavalry ballad set to a leisurely-paced "Garryowen," it’s a grand journey.

The tempo changes from track to track are smooth and effortless; the subject matter interesting and refreshing. A surprisingly educational "The Jigger Boss" is a fine example of the latter. And, yes, that’s Cowboy Celtic you hear on Doyle’s arrangement of "The Water is Wide" and several others.

Order The Emigrant Trail for $18 (postage included) from Ray Doyle, PO Box 661111, Mar Vista, CA 90066; ray@raydoyle.net. It would be wise to order two copies. It’s the type of CD you want to listen to again and again, and you won’t want to part with it once you’ve heard it.


If your dad prefers books to videos or music, consider Ray Hunter’s 135-page hardback, Dim Trails. Hunter lived the life of cowboy and rancher, with most of his years spent in South Dakota. In 1995, he started writing stories about how things used to be.

Born in 1928 near White River, S.D., Hunter was six years old when his father died. Hard pressed to make ends meet, Hunter’s mother farmed him out to earn his keep. He and a brother bounced between an aunt in California and farms and ranches in southwest South Dakota.

At 13, Ray came to live with Baxter and Lyndall Berry on their ranch south of Belvidere. The Berry family ran several thousand steers on three townships near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Baxter’s father, Tom, was an old family friend of the Hunters and South Dakota Governor from 1933-37.

Art Thode, brother to 1929 All-Around Cowboy Earl Thode, was on the Berry payroll when Hunter arrived. Thode could have taken credit for teaching the lad to ride broncs, as related in "Horse Manure in the Milk Bucket." As a 15-year-old, Hunter wrangled the horses in the morning, riding a green two-year-old colt. Thode, who milked the Berrys’ cow, would step out of the shadows, holler at the wrangler, and toss the milk bucket under the colt. Naturally, the colt would blow up and buck out the gate. Hunter writes, "This went on all spring until I got so I could set up and ride, and he never bothered me again."

Ray served two years in the Marines, from 1946-48. Back home, he again earned his living horseback. He worked as a cowhand on several outfits, was cowboss for Frank Greenough’s Antler Land & Livestock at Wyola, Mont., and managed the Berry Ranch for 10 years. He also ran a few cows of his own, ran a bar near Cottonwood, S.D., worked construction, sold real estate, and learned the auction business. He married and raised two sons and two daughters, who he describes as "all good hands with a horse."

Hunter worked for the Berrys, off and on, for 30 years. Most of the work pertained to raising cattle and breaking horses, but there was the annual hog drive, related in "Shippin’ Hogs." The Berrys ran range sows–similar to range cows. When it came time to take them the market, they’d get a wagon load of corn and feed them a little. The next day, they’d move the wagon a couple hundred yards and feed a little more. Pretty soon, the hogs would follow the wagon. It was 15 miles from the ranch into Belvidere; the trip took about a week. The Berrys raised between 600-700 hogs each year. Proceeds paid the grocery bill and the land leases.

Stories like these put a fresh face on the Old West, challenging some stereotypical notions about cowboys and ranchers. But, don’t worry, there are still plenty of entertaining, enlightening and engaging stories about horses, roundups, and rodeos.

Hunter sold the last of his cattle in 2004 and moved to town. While you might wonder how an old cowboy is taking retirement in town, don’t worry. Hunter says, "It don’t bother me a damn bit to sit and look out the window and remember the things I’ve done. I did a lot of interesting things."

To order a copy of Dim Trails, send $25 (postage included) to Ray Hunter, 1220 Cedar St., Apt #409, Sturgis, SD 57785; 605-347-0218.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the
Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

April 2008

When a cowboy’s fancy turns to poetry

It’s spring on the Northern Great Plains, the time when a rancher’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of calving. Among cowboy poets, spring also brings Cowboy Poetry Week, observed this year from April 20-26. The inauguration of Cowboy Poetry Week came in 2002, building upon April’s designation as National Poetry Month in 1996.

Released in conjunction with Cowboy Poetry Week, The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008) is an audio anthology showcasing 26 cowboy poetry recordings. The compilation was conceived and orchestrated by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. The Center sponsors CowboyPoetry.com, the world’s largest, ongoing cowboy poetry gathering.

If you’re a regular follower of this column, you are likely aware of The BAR-D Roundup: Volume One (reviewed, below, in April, 2006) and Volume Two (reviewed, below, in April, 2007). Both received critical acclaim. I expect the same will prove true of Volume Three.

This year’s collection takes listeners across the breadth of the North American West: from the days of the early Texas cowboy to the Yukon gold rush, from once-legendary cattle ranches to  modest, modern-day family outfits. In large part, the collection is a reverent retrospective honoring those who toiled in the West. A sprinkling of humorous selections provides just the right amount of comic relief:        
Texas horseman Joel Nelson opens with “Shadow on the Cutbank,” an intelligent salute to the “horseback man for hire.” Jay Snider recites Luther A. Lawhon’s “The Good Old Cowboy Days.” Lawhon was a founding member of the Trail Drivers’ Association in 1915. Snider hails from Oklahoma. D.J. O’Malley’s classic “The ‘D2’ Horse Wrangler” receives a playful presentation by Arizonan Ross Knox.

Canada’s poetic darling, Doris Daley, provides “Bones,” assessing the bodily damages incurred by three fence-sitting cowboys. Deadly accurate with meter and rhyme, California’s Pat Richardson—king of the spoofspins a yarn about the time he befriended “Bigfoot.”

Aspiring cowboys could learn a lot from Wyoming cowboy and octogenarian Georgie Sicking as she recounts what it takes “To be a Top Hand.” There’s more sound “Advice” from New Mexico cowgirl and rancher Deanna Dickinson McCall.

Montana’s Wallace McRae, National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow, contributes “Urban Daughter,” a touching piece recorded live in Elko, Nev., at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. I was in the audience when the recording was made and was delighted to hear it again!

Wyoming emcee, funny man and radio host Andy Nelson gets serious and pays homage to his brother in the well-crafted rhyme “The Old Crockett Spurs.”

Henry H. Knibbs’ classic, “Where the Ponies Come to Drink,” gets the star treatment from noted Montana reciter Randy Rieman. This is as close to perfection as you’ll get when pairing a classic poem with a contemporary reciter.

DW Groethe, a Montana day hand, calls an endearing roll of horses in “My Father’s Horses.” Fond sights and smells from Paul Kern’s Utah childhood take center stage in a short but powerful,  “At Codding’s Place.” South Dakotan Ken Cook comes clean about his family’s horseflesh in his spot-on-the-money “Bloodlines.”

“The Memories in Grandmother’s Trunk” by past Texas Poet Laureate Red Steagall should inspire us to leave such a treasure for future generations. South Dakota master quilter and poet Yvonne Hollenbeck showcases her dual talents in “Prairie Patchwork,” a tribute to one woman’s “life out on the plains.” “Fiddleback Headquarters” by Wyoming’s Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns is part family history and part guided tour. 

Listening to Bill Siems, Spokane, Wash., recite “The Strawberry Roan” by Curley Fletcher is akin to hearing the classic for the first time. Take the music away and really listen to the wordsit’s glorious! Known for making words sing, Paul Zarzyski performs  “Luck of the Draw.” Zarzyski is the recipient of the Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature.

Utah miner Jerry Brooks recorded Badger Clark’s “The Free Wind” especially for this project. Fans who have long been asking for a full-length recording will be pleased with this offering.

“Chapter Two” is the third annual selection from the late Buck Ramsey’s master work, Grass. An NEA National Heritage Fellow, Ramsey is recognized as the modern spiritual leader of the genre.

Smoke Wade tells of his family’s Idaho ranch that was lost through changes in land management policies in “A Change of Season.”

Susan Parker recites “The Homemade Cigarette” by A.V. Hudson, a vintage piece she uncovered while doing research for her Wild Women of the West program. It brings to mind a neighboring rancher from my childhood who rolled his own smokes.

“Bill’s in Trouble,” by James Barton Adams, is skillfully and humorously recited in perfect character by Hal Swift. Following on his heels is “Jack Potter’s Courtin’” by S. Omar Barker. Recited by Mick Vernon, it is a delightful rendition of the tongue-tied puncher trying to purpose to his gal.

Linda Kirkpatrick’s eloquent recitation of Bruce Kiskaddon’s classic “The Bronco Twister’s Prayer” slows the collection, signaling the approaching end.

Gene Kern, CKWX, Vancouver, introduces the final cut—and it’s a dandy–a 1948 recording of Robert Service reciting “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” Service lavishes more than nine minutes on the tale, infused with a hearty Scottish accent and lengthy pauses. Kudos to the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry for making it available to the public!

A radio Public Service Announcement by South Dakota radio personality and Heritage of the American West producer Francie Ganje brings the collection to a wrap. Wyoming cowboy entertainer Andy Nelson engineered and co-produced Volume Three. A vintage photo of Texas cowboy Perry Preston Dickinson, circa 1912, appears on the cover. Deanna Dickinson McCall, who recites “Advice” is his granddaughter.

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three (2008) sells for $20 postpaid. Order from CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133; or by credit card or Paypal from CowboyPoetry.com.

If you don’t already have the two previous compilations, I encourage you to complete your set now, while the others are still available. Volumes Two and Three are available for a special price of $35 postpaid. Volume One (quantities limited) sells for $20 postpaid.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

March 2008

Till Leap Year gives it twenty-nine

Superman and my cousin Cassie celebrated a birthday this year. Both were born on February 29. Though Cassie was born three years after I was, she’s technically only 12. I sent her a vintage Leap Year postcard early in January, wanting her to have the fullest opportunity to celebrate the big day. Things get turned a bit upside down in a Leap Year. I figured I’d get into the spirit with this month’s selections.

The Banjo Monologues by Joel Mabus is not cowboy, nor especially Western by today’s standards. But it is magical, historically significant, and completely entertaining. 

Mabus plays a 5-string banjo in the clawhammer style, sharing tunes and tales from his family’s career as professional hillbilly musicians. The Mabus family barnstormed the Midwest in the 1930s with road shows for the Prairie Farmer Magazine, parent company of WLS Radio, which produced the popular National Barn Dance. It was a good gig during the Depression. Through Joel’s yarns you’ll meet, among others, Gerald Mabus and his twin brother, Jerald, interspersed with licks from  “Cindy.”

Head on over to CD Baby for generous two-minute clips of the 18 tracks:  www.cdbaby.com/cd/mabusjoel. Besides “Cindy,” give a listen to “Uncle Joe,”  “Three Nights Drunk,” and “The Uncloudy Day/Leonard Lively.”

Purchase The Banjo Monologues as either a CD or MP3 file from CD Baby for $15 (postage extra). If you prefer to order directly from Joel Mabus ($16 postpaid), send requests to PO Box 306, Portage, MI 49081. Stop by Joel’s Web site at http://joelmabus.com/ for an assortment of other titles, including How Like The Holly, songs for the holidays with (mostly) guitar accompaniment, and Parlor Guitar, songs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.      

John Reedy describes his musical style as Western-Americana. It’s a fitting assessment.

John sent me his Twisted Vignettes last fall. I took it with me on a road trip to South Dakota, among an assortment I saved specifically for the drive. Being alone in a car with several hundred miles of road allows me to focus entirely on the subject at hand.

I was stunned at what I heard. The sound was fresh, eclectic, and skillfully presented. It made me sit up and take notice. When I’d finished listening to the 12 tracks, seven written by John, I listened again. When I met up with friends in the Black Hills, I loaned them the CD, and they listened to it. One vehicle after another, John’s CD made the rounds. The response was the same from everyone: WOW!

This isn’t your grandfather’s Western music. It’s frisky, edgy and smartly written. It’s a kick in the pants.

John’s CD and book of poetry by the same name (with stunning black and white photography) are available from CD Baby: www.cdbaby.com/cd/reedyj2. Give a listen to three of my favorites: “Buckaroo Girl,”  “That Buckin’ Song,” and “Combover Blues.” Buy the CD alone for $13; the CD and book for $25 (plus postage.)

Order from John’s Web site at www.twistedcowboy.com. Prices are the same, but postage is free. Send orders to Twisted Cowboy Music, 2905 N Montana Ave. #113, Helena, MT 59601; (406) 465-0468.

Properties along the U.S.-Mexico border are at ground zero in a debate over economics and national security. In an attempt to keep illegal aliens from crossing into the United States, a 700-mile fence is being built to aid border enforcement.

You know where you stand on the issue. But, do you have any concept of what it’s like to be a border patrol agent? I didn’t until I read Patrolling Chaos: the U.S. Border Patrol in Deep South Texas by Robert Lee Maril (Texas Tech University Press, 2004, 368 pages, softcover, ISBN: 978-0-89672-594-2).

A professor of sociology at East Carolina University, Maril spent two years doing field work among 300 agents at the McAllen Station, McAllen, Texas. He followed 12 agents in particular, riding with them on their ten-hour patrols along the border. Maril describes in detail the risks and frustrations faced by agents; the reactions and situations of the apprehended aliens. It provides enlightening insight into the situation. 

Order Patrolling Chaos directly from Texas Tech for $24.95 (plus postage): www.ttup.ttu.edu/BookPages/0896725944.html; (800) 832-4042. It is also available from online wholesalers.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

February 2008

Western Folklife Center prepping for 25th anniversary

Snowstorms pummeled the western United States as folks headed to Elko, Nevada, for the 2008 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Some bemoaned the fact that the gathering is held in winter. As I heard the story, organizers settled on late January as the time when ranchers could most easily get away from the demands of land and livestock. It’s a formula they’ve stuck with for 24 years.

The sponsoring Western Folklife Center, a regional nonprofit based in Elko with offices in Salt Lake City, is planning for the silver anniversary event January 24-31, 2009. They hinted at things to come in this year’s program: inviting all participants back for an ongoing reunion stage; recognition for those who have attended for 20 to 25 years; honoring deceased poets and musicians.

But, hold the phone, here’s what I consider the most exciting news to date: a performance tour of cowboy poetry and music that will play five sites in the western United States. There were rumors, but the Western Folklife Center (WFC) has made it official. The tour hits the road in the spring of 2009. They are looking for host communities.

Each site will host a two to three-day residency, including a concert, school program, writing workshop, and film screening. The WFC is looking for communities with small to medium-sized theaters and a community-based organization to assist on a local level. I encourage readers to find out more about this marvelous opportunity. Contact Meg Glaser or Christina Barr at (775) 738-7508 to get the ball rolling.

The WFC is open for business 12 months out of the year. It’s an oft-overlooked fact. WFC staff are busy year-round, documenting, preserving, and presenting the heritage of the American West. Resulting exhibits, films, radio programs, recordings, and public presentations are archived at www.westernfolklife.org.  If you haven’t spent time digging into what’s there, allow me to highlight a few of my favorites. 

A series of five-minute videos entitled The Art of Gearmaking profiles four cowboy craftsmen:  Doug Groves of Nevada’s TS Ranch demonstrating rawhide work; Mark Dahl, Starr Valley, Nevada, bit making; Doug Krause, Eaton, Colorado, mecate making; and Dale Harwood, Shelley, Idaho, leather carving. The videos, along with an in-depth discussion of cowboy gear, award-winning contest entries, and resources, are part of a larger exhibit entitled Back at the Ranch: an Artful Life. Start your tour at http://www.westernfolklife.org/site1/batr/tools_landing.php

I reconnected with Sharon O’Toole at this year’s gathering, discussing the delicious leg of lamb that she and husband, Patrick, grilled for the Wyoming party. The O’Tooles ranch in Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. They are among a handful of diarists who log onto the WFC Web site with candid insights on life in the American West (earning them the title “Webloggers”). Blog authors welcome readers with customary Western hospitality, minus the coffee. Sharon faithfully posts her entries, augmented with powerful, workaday photos. You’re there as they calve heifers, rake hay, shear, supply the herder’s camp, and walk their daughter down the aisle at a ranch wedding: www.westernfolklife.org/weblogs/artists/sharono/

Three other notable Weblogs are those of John and Robbin Dofflemyer, ranchers from the Sierra Nevada foothills near Visalia, California: www.westernfolklife.org/weblogs/artists/dofflemyer/; Jeremiah Watt, Coalinga, California saddlemaker: www.westernfolklife.org/weblogs/artists/watt/; and Linda Dufurrena, photographer from Winnemucca, Nevada: www.westernfolklife.org/weblogs/artists/dufurrenal/.

Trying another technological term on you for size, let me tell you about the WFC’s Podcasts—something akin to a free radio show that’s available on the internet. You can listen to the programming on your computer or download it to an iPod or digital music player. The WFC’s first Podcast was a 1990 recording of  Texas poet Joel Nelson reciting Bruce Kiskaddon’s “When They Finish Shipping Cattle in the Fall.” The most recent features Don Edwards’ performance of the Jack Thorp classic, “Chopo.” To access Ranch Rhymes: Cowboy Poetry and Music from the Western Folklife Center, paste the following link into your browser: www.westernfolklife.org/site1/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=24&Itemid=241.

I leave you with one last on-line jewel, the complete set of National Cowboy Poetry Gathering programs. I’m not talking a representative photo of the covers. No, the entire program from each of the past 24 years can be viewed in its entirety, along with the corresponding poster. You can also read or listen to the keynote address. Paste the following into your browser: http://www.westernfolklife.org/site1/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=100&Itemid=265

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

January 2008

Elko’s 24th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering 

Vaqueros from the Sonora region of northern Mexico and the western United States will be spotlighted at the 2008 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Invited guests will share examples of their customs and traditions honoring land and livestock. The humanities lecture by folklorist Norma Elia Cantú, University of Texas at San Antonio, will address the connection between the vaquero and the American cowboy in work, traditions, poetry and literature.

Started in 1985 by a handful of folklorists, poets and musicians, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is produced annually by the Western Folklife Center. The Center describes the event as “the premiere festival celebrating the expressive arts of ranching and cowboy culture.”

My Northern Great Plains heart swells with pride when I read the names of artists from the region who have been invited to perform in Elko later this month. The doors for the first show open Saturday, January 26, with the last curtain closing on Saturday evening, February 2. In between are workshops, ranch tours, museum displays, daytime sessions, ticketed concerts, and dances.

Among those packing their bags for the trip are poets and singers, perennial favorites, and those making their first appearance. Colorado is represented on all four accounts by the Sons and Brothers Band—Frank Wolking and sons Mike, Joe, and Aaron—from Westcliffe, and Vess Quinlan, Alamosa.   

Wyoming is home to four featured poets: Echo Roy Klaproth, Shoshone; Andy Nelson, Pinedale; Georgie Sicking, Kaycee; and Jesse Smith, Cora. The musical duo of Vince Crofts and Mindi Reid, better known as Tumbleweeds, hail from Firth.

Clearfield ranchwife Yvonne Hollenbeck is the lone artist invited from South Dakota. North Dakota is represented by Rodney Nelson, Sims, and Bill Lowman, Sentinel Butte. To the east, from across the Red River of the north, comes Diane Tribitt, Hillman, Minnesota. 

Montana could charter a bus for the artists and family members coming from Big Sky Country: Stephanie Davis, Columbus; DW Groethe, Bainville; Mike Logan, Helena; Wallace McRae, Forsyth; New Frontier comprised of Ron Kane, Meghan Merker, and Linda Svendsen, Dillon; Bob Petermann, Wibaux; Henry Real Bird, Hardin; Randy Rieman, Dillon; Sandy Seaton, Emigrant; and Paul Zarzyski, Great Falls. Back by popular demand for the Saturday night dance is Montana native Wylie Gustafson, who fronts Wylie & The Wild West. Although he now lives in Washington state, he maintains family ties to Montana, which proudly claims him as one of their own. 

Representing the Plains of Canada with her eloquent and entertaining poetry is Doris Daley, Calgary, Alberta. Also hailing from Alberta is music legend Ian Tyson.

For a complete listing of invited artists, along with photos and brief biographies, visit the Western Folklife Center’s site: www.westernfolklife.org. Contact the Western Folklife Center at 501 Railroad Street, Elko, Nevada 89801; (775) 738-7508; email: wfc@westernfolklife.org.

If you can’t make the trip to Elko to hear these artists in person, there is an alternative. Nearly all of them have recordings. Here’s a sampling of CDs released in 2007 by those mentioned above:

To Be a Top Hand, by National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee Georgie Sicking, contains 16 poems. Send $18 to Georgie Sicking, PO Box 11, Kaycee, WY  82639. For more information on Georgie, see her honored guest page: www.cowboypoetry.com/sicking.htm.

From clear out west comes Andy Nelson’s Full Nelson Shoeing, with 25 poems and bits of wacky wisdom. Send $18 to Andy Nelson, PO Box 1547, Pinedale, WY  82941; email: www.CowpokePoet.com.

Bob Petermann’s long-awaited gospel collection contains 12 songs. Thanks for the Rain sells for $15. Send orders to Bob Petermann, 942 Pine Unit Road, Wibaux, MT  59353; 406-486-5618; email: pet7410@midrivers.com.

Yvonne Hollenbeck teamed up with Texas singer and songwriter Jean Prescott on Pieces of the Past. The CD contains 15 tracks of poetry and music. Send $18.50 to Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291st Street, Clearfield, SD  57580; 605/557-3559; www.YvonneHollenbeck.com.

Montana Legacy is the title of Sandy Seaton’s 13-track collection of  poetry and vocals. Order for $17 from Sandy Seaton; PO Box 117, Emigrant, MT 59027; (406) 222-7455; email: www.blackmountainoutfitters.com.

Diane Tribitt’s latest is entitled Ranchin' Rhymes. Included are 15 poems and one song. Send $18 to Diane Tribitt, 38034 193rd Street, Hillman, MN  56338; 320-277-3389; www.dianetribitt.com.

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

© 2008, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

December 2007

A Bookish Christmas  

From lighthearted yodeling lessons to probing cowboy poetry, from vintage quilts to sublime images of the Grand Canyon, these books have it covered. For good measure, there’s a collection of short stories guaranteed to satisfy your minimum daily dose of comic relief. Any of these will be enjoyed long after the cutout sugar cookies are gone:  

Wylie Gustafson, of Wylie & the Wild West, brings us How to Yodel: Lessons to Tickle Your Tonsils. Suitable for children and adults, it offers lessons, tips, and techniques pertaining to the high art of yodeling. It includes a CD of warm-up exercises, examples of yodeling styles, and yodel-along-with-Wylie tracks. Illustrated by Robert Payne, the drawings are as much fun as the recording and Gustafson’s hilarious prose. (Gibbs Smith, 2007, 96 pages, 6"x6", illustrations & instructional CD, softcover, ISBN: 1423602137)

How to Yodel sells for $10 (plus $3 shipping). Order from www.wyliewebsite.com and your copy will be personally signed by the original Yahoo® yodeler! Mail orders to Two Medicine Music, 24502 SR 127, LaCrosse WA 99143; fax them to (509) 549-3684. (Did I mention it’s just the right size to fit in a Christmas stocking?) 

The late, contemporary cowboy poet JB Allen is remembered in JB—the Circle, edited by Duward Campbell and Chuck Milner. Sorting through files left behind following his death in 2005, the duo selected Allen’s newer and unpublished works for inclusion. A chapter entitled “The Circle” contains remembrances penned by friends and fellow poets. Campbell’s ranch-savvy drawings and paintings are sprinkled throughout. (Dry Camp Press, 2007, 90 pages, 9"x6", 65 poems, artwork, illustrations; softbound, ISBN: 0976183439)

JB the Circle sells for $25 postpaid from Duward Campbell, 2515 Second St, Lubbock, TX 79415; (806) 762-2343.

If you have a quilter on your list, or perhaps a history buff, consider Texas Quilts and Quilters: A Lone Star Legacy by Marcia Kaylakie, with Janice Whittington. The recipient need not be from Texas to enjoy this colorful collection showcasing 34 remarkable quilts. Ten years of travel and research went into this interpretation of Texas history. It’s a journey from the 1870s to the 2003. Photos by Jim Lincoln give an intimate perspective of the textiles. (Texas Tech University Press, 2007, 264 pages, 11"x11", 182 color photos & map, hardcover, ISBN: 0896726061) 

Texas Quilts and Quilters sells for $39.95 plus shipping from Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, Texas. Call (800) 832-4042 to order. For more on Texas Quilts, go to www.ttup.ttu.edu.
Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography by Stephen Trimble won a Wrangler Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. More than simply pretty pictures, Trimble melds 125 years of photos, of one of the most photographed subjects on earth, with essays by experienced Canyon photographers. (Northland Publishing, 2006, 210 pages, 12"x11", 115 photos, hardcover, ISBN: 0873588940)

If you’re ever stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon and attempted to capture the color and grandeur before your eyes with a camera, you know the challenge. These photographers—working with glass-plate negatives, film, and digital images—succeed where others fail. And, they've been to the bottom of the Canyon, capturing images few of us ever see, in glorious detail.

Lasting Light lists for $40. Call Northland Publishing at (928) 774-5251 or mail them at P.O. Box 1389, Flagstaff, AZ 86001.

Montana’s Ken Overcast can brighten the darkest winter day with his storytelling. Case in point, his latest collection of knee-slappin' stories from the real West, Tradin’ Tales: Stories from a Montana Back Porch. Augmenting 48 tales are illustrations by cowboy cartoonist Ben Crane. (Bear Valley Press, 2007, 240 pages, 5.5"x8.5", illustrations, paperback, ISBN: 0971848122)
Every copy carries a “Genuine Montana Cowboy Guarantee.” If you're not completely satisfied with your purchase, you may return the unread portion of your book, and Ken will cheerfully refund the unspent portion of your money. In case this logic sounds familiar, you may already be an Overcast fan. His weekly column,
Meadow Muffins, appears in numerous weekly publications.  If you’re not familiar with his work, take a listen to a sample chapter at www.tradintales.com.

Tradin’ Tales sells for $16.95. (Shipping is just $3 whether you buy one or a dozen. So check out Ken’s other books as well as his CDs at www.kenovercast.com) Give a toll-free call to the Overcast outfit at (888) 753-7611 and they’ll take care of you. Guaranteed!

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

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

November 2007

Music and Books for the Christmas Season

In my husband’s opinion, Christmas music should be played in December. Period. He was chagrined to hear me playing it in September this year. I told him, "It’s for work." Read on for news of those CDs, as well as two books from my gift-giving suggestion list: one for the baker; one for the little buckaroo.

Montana singer/songwriter Stephanie Davis delivers a sophisticated, Western-swing feel in the 11-tracks of Home for the Holidays. Traditional favorites such as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" take you on a leisurely stroll through the season. Ray Price joins Stephanie on "All I Want for Christmas Is You." If you’re not already familiar with Stephanie’s "The Gift," you’re in for a treat. It is rapidly making inroads as a modern classic. There’s a rich array of accompaniments on the waltzes, two-steps and ballads, including piano, fiddle, steel, and guitar.

Home for the Holidays sells for $17. Send checks to Recluse Records, 838 Countryman Creek Rd., Columbus, MT 59019. Place PayPal orders at www.stephaniedavis.net/order.htm

Wylie Gustafson—of Wylie & the Wild West—is debuting his first Christmas album. The 10-track Christmas for Cowboys celebrates the birth of a Savior with a Western spin. The title track was made popular by John Denver; Wylie adds a light touch with his trademark yodel. He dug deep, beyond the standards, for "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" and "In the Bleak Midwinter." His version of "Christmas Time’s a-Comin’" will have you dancing while decorating cookies.

Christmas for Cowboys ships on or about Dec. 5, 2007. Preorder for $18 (postpaid) from Two Medicine Music, 24502 SR 127, LaCrosse WA 99143; or www.wyliewebsite.com/Product_Catalog_01.htm.

Western Jubilee Recording Company assembled a baker’s dozen of cowboy-friendly holiday standards, contemporary tunes and cowboy poetry on Christmas Trail. You’ll recognize the headliner artists: Sons of the San Joaquin, Don Edwards, Rich O’Brien, Waddie Mitchell, Cowboy Celtic, Michael Martin Murphey, and Wylie Gustafson. Songs include "Ridin’ up the Christmas Trail," "Away in a Manger," "O, Holy Night," and "Cowboy Christmas Ball."

Christmas Trail sells for $15.00 plus postage. Call 1-800-707-2353 or order online at westernjubilee.com/ChristmasTrail.htm.

Kim Ode pegged my favorite way to eat bread in Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club: Recipes, Tips & Stories, as she describes her mother’s too-hot-to handle loaves: "Too tender to cut, she would slice the end off of one and pass it to me. There is nothing like a slice of hot, fresh bread, the steam still rising through a sheen of butter. Especially the heel of a loaf."

A member of the St. Paul Bread Baking Club, Ode bakes her loaves in a wood-fired brick oven in her backyard. She’s serious about bread! But, she demystifies the art with sections on "Bread Wisdom for Beginners" and gives instructions for traditional home ovens. More than 70 recipes are included for novice and master bakers. Ode recommended four to me: Aunt Anna’s Swedish Rye, Ihla’s Oatmeal Bread, Milk Bread, and Cheddar Cheese Bread.

Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club sells for $24.95 (Minnesota Historical Society, 2006, 160 pages, 8"x9", 70 recipes, hardcover; ISBN 0-87351-567-6). Look for it in bookstores nationwide or order directly from Ode at www.kim-ode.com.

First Dog: Unleashed in the Montana Capitol is a delightful romp through the halls of the Treasure State capitol with Jag, a border collie. Written by Jessica Solberg and illustrated by Robert Rath, First Dog is the true story of a black-and-white cow dog that accompanies Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer wherever he goes. Far from just entertaining, it’s educational and interesting.

Jag, canine special assistant to the governor of Montana, was born on a Whitefish ranch. When his human family left to occupy the governor’s mansion in Helena, he went too. (He has his own seat in the governor’s airplane!) Written for kids ages 6 to 9, the story is supplemented with facts about Montana, the duties of a governor, and an overview of how Montana government works.

First Dog is available in softcover and hardback. The softcover sells for $11.95 plus postage (Farcounty Press, 2007, 40 pages, 8.5 x 11, glossary, illustrations and photos; ISBN 13: 978-1-56037-419-0). A portion of the proceeds is donated to Ronald McDonald charities of Montana. To order, call 1-800-821-3874; Farcountry Press, PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604; www.farcountrypress.com.

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

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

October 2007

The Many Faces of Western Entertainment

Performance venues across the country are showcasing Western entertainers. Beneath the broad umbrella of the genre are individuals who bring diverse talents and experiences to the stage:

Utah-born singer/songwriter Brenn Hill celebrates the West with a contemporary flavor. His sixth recording, What A Man’s Got To Do, is described on www.brennhill.com as "a potent collection of songs filled with interesting characters and eagle-eyed observations on life, love and the indomitable Western spirit."

The first time I heard it, I was struck by the Chris LeDoux overtones. When I mentioned this to Hill’s manager, he seemed both surprised and pleased. Come to find out, LeDoux was a big fan of the 30-year-old Hill. The late singer’s band, Western Underground, recorded one of Hill’s songs on their new album. That’s not to say Hill is a LeDoux wannabe, but if you liked LeDoux, give him a listen. "Simple Things," with simple piano accompaniment, brings the 15 tracks to a surprisingly touching conclusion.

Billboard described Hill as "a bridge between Western music’s best traditions and the future of the genre ..." Truly in step with the times, Hill has a My Space page where visitors can listen to four full-length songs: www.myspace.com/brennhill. You can also purchase CDs and mp3 downloads. What A Man’s Got To Do sells for $18 plus $2 s/h. Direct inquires to (615) 369-0810.

A 16-track CD of Georgie Sicking's poems, To Be a Top Hand, was released this summer. The first recording devoted exclusively to Georgie’s poetry, it’s long overdue. Kudos to Andy Nelson, Pinedale, Wyo., for recording and producing the album.

Among the poems is "Housewife." Sicking takes umbrage at the term bestowed upon her by a banker, declaring, "never, was I ever, married to a house!" Don’t think for a minute these stories are fictional. Raised near Kingman, Ariz., Sicking captured wild cattle and horses, tended a ranch by herself, and wrote poetry to help pass the time alone.

Georgie performed at the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering 22 years ago. A National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame Honoree, the Nevada Cattleman’s Association recognized her for having ridden 100,000 miles horseback. (Read more about this no-nonsense octogenarian at www.cowboypoetry.com/sicking.htm. Send $18 (postpaid) to Georgie Sicking, PO Box 11, Kaycee, WY 82639.

South Dakota ranch hand Ken Cook is capturing the essence to modern ranch life, much as Sicking did during her era. The father of four, Cook is committed to sharing agriculture’s work and reward with his family. A good many of the lessons are captured on two recordings, I’m Gonna Be a Cowboy and Dad, We’ll Rope Today. Hear selected tracks at www.kencookcowboypoet.com. For additional photos of the Cook kids and the words to several of Ken’s poems, drop by his featured guest page at www.cowboypoetry.com/kencook.htm. The CDs sell for $12 each (postpaid) from Ken Cook, 23154 Teal Lane, Martin, SD 57551-6601; (605) 685-6749.

Cook recently competed in the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo held in Hot Springs, S.D. He took home a buckle and prize money for winning the poet/serious category and placed in two other events. What that means is he knows the cowboy life, does a decent job of crafting his poems, and delivers them in a pleasing and effective fashion. (For more on the rodeo see www.cowboypoetry.com/ncpr.htm#2007)

Patty Clayton, Academy of Western Artists’ 2007 Western Music Female Vocalist of the year, salutes the West with a folk/bluegrass flair. More than half of the 13 tracks on her recently released Astraddle a Saddle are Clayton’s own works—honoring a rich family heritage. In addition to the vocals, Clayton plays guitar, clawhammer-style banjo and acoustic upright bass.

The title track has a delightful, old-time feel. Clayton proves that beauty’s in the eye of the beholder with "Wyoming Wind," painting the Cowboy State’s gusts and gales with a lovely melody. In "The Vaquero and Me," Clayton tells how Hawaii became home to the paniolo (cowboy), causing heartache for one Mexican senorita.

Listen to two-minute clips of all these, and more, at cdbaby.com/cd/pattyclayton3. Order directly from CD Baby for $15 plus postage. Write Clayton at PO Box 140772, Edgewater, CO 80214 or via www.pattyclayton.com.

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

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

September 2007

Anthologies corral entertaining mix

Anthologies—collections of stories, poems or audio recordings—are an excellent way to sample a variety of artists’ works without breaking the bank. Consider these:

A generous 26 tracks are included on Cowboy Songs & Range Ballads: 25th Anniversary Album. Held each April at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, the music festival noted its silver anniversary in 2007. To celebrate, the BBHC assembled recordings from 24 years of live stage performances. That’s both the good news and the bad news. There are gems among the titles, but a handful lack technical quality. Thank goodness somebody had the foresight to make the recordings!

Skimming the list of performers, several are deceased; others, to my knowledge, never released a recording of their own. It’s an amazing time capsule featuring, among others, Jim Bob Tinsley, Lyle "Wild Horse" Cunningham, Liz Masterson and Sean Blackburn, Otto Rosfeld, Gary McMahan, Joe Bain, Duane Dickinson, Howard Parker, Stan Howe and Kelly Wells, Kyle Evans, Jean Prescott, Gene Davenport, and Buck Ramsey, Richard Dillof and Amanda Ramsey.

Described by the BBHC as "capturing the essence of cowboy music," the CD sells for $19.99 plus postage. For a complete track listing and audio clips, go to www.bbhc.org/events/cowboysongs.cfm. Write the BBHC at 720 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414; call (800) 533-3838.

I first heard A Western Jubilee: Songs and Stories of the American West on a drive-hard-till-you-get-there road trip. It was well after midnight when my traveling buddy slipped it into the CD player. The tunes and tales added considerable interest to an otherwise uninteresting stretch of blacktop. Released by Western Jubilee Recording Company in 2004, it showcases artists in the company’s catalog at the time.

Don Edwards kicks off the 20 tracks with "The Old Chisholm Trail." He’s heard several more times, solo and with special guests, including the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Waddie Mitchell. A poet, Mitchell recites on two additional tracks. The velvety harmonies of the Sons of the San Joaquin are featured on four tracks: "Sierra Nevada," "He's Runnin' out of Roundups," "From Whence Came the Cowboy" and "Unclouded Day."

Red Steagall offers "My America"; David Wilkie & Cowboy Celtic deliver "The Drover Road to Amulree"; Katy Moffatt sings "The Brazos"; Wylie & the Wild West set Ogilvie’s "Hooves of the Horses" to music; Glenn Ohrlin spins the tale, "International Glenn." Instrumentals by Rich O’Brien fit nicely within the collection, as does "Velociraptor Rag" by Tom Morrell.

Selling for $15, that’s only 75 cents per track! (Shipping to U.S. addressees is free on website orders over $50). Order from Western Jubilee Recording Company, PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932; 1-800-707-2353; westernjubilee.com.

Perhaps not technically an anthology, The Deadwood Songbook feels like one. Hank Harris, singer, songwriter and musician, presents 15 popular songs from the early days of historic Deadwood, S.D. A project of the Adams Museum & House, the collection reproduces the music of Deadwood’s concert and dance halls at the turn of the century.

Liner notes reveal that before a disastrous fire in 1879, "Deadwood boasted more entertainment venues than any town of its size in the nation." Some venues were honorable; others more lascivious. Regardless, Deadwood was filled with music day and night. "Spirituals, patriotic and political music, minstrel songs, ethnic samplings, opera and dance hall music converged on Deadwood streets during an era unlike any other."

This is the music captured in A Deadwood Songbook. And what a grand compilation it is! A rousing "Short’nin Bread" opens the show. "On Top of Old Smokey" brings it to a close. In between are "Gary Owen," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/Wade in the Water," "Camptown Races," "Red River Valley," "Dixie," and Yankee Doodle," among others.

A second collection, The Deadwood Songbook II, further investigates early-day music of the Gulch. (Of the two, my own personal favorite is #I. But, what’s not to like about "Goober Peas" and "Oh, Susanna/Polly Wolly Doodle", appearing on #II?) Both use instruments of the era: banjos, tambourines, spoons, hambone, wooden flute and Chinese pipa.

The CDs sell for $16 each, plus postage. Shop for them on the Adams Museum web site: www.adamsmuseumandhouse.org.

Contact the museum at 605-578-1714; 54 Sherman St., Deadwood, SD 57732. 

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

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

August 2007

Sure-Fire Western Heritage Winners

Since the early 60s, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum® in Oklahoma City, has recognized individuals whose work preserves the stories of the West. Winning entries in literature, music, film and television are awarded the museum’s prestigious Western Heritage Award—the Wrangler.

This month I’m spotlighting two of the 2007 recipients. (Look for more in my Christmas gift-giving suggestions.) A complete listing of past winners, interesting in itself, is available at www.nationalcowboymuseum.org: "Events & Exhibitions," "Western Heritage Awards." Guidelines for submitting entries are also posted. Should you prefer, call the museum at (405) 478-2250, Ext. 221.

Timothy Egan, New York Times National Enterprise Reporter, won for nonfiction book with The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (Mariner Books, 2006, 352 pages, b/w photos, softcover; ISBN-13/EAN: 9780618346974). It also received the National Book Award and was named a best book of the year by both the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. The Seattle Times called it "a flat-out masterpiece of historical reportage." And for good reason.

Egan dug deep for the story buried beneath the disaster, seeking out tenacious survivors’ firsthand accounts. Focusing on a dozen families and the communities where they lived, Egan enhanced the stories through diary entries, newspaper and magazine articles, books, and museum archives. This is not an account of those who left, rather the tale of those who persevered against all odds and stayed.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been so totally swept up in a book. From the moment I studied the map outlining the Dust Bowl region, through the last acknowledgment, it tore at my emotions—just as the dusters themselves tore at soil 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 and productive years, weather patterns changed. Rain ceased to fall. Temperatures vaulted well into triple digits. Crops failed. Trees died. 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. Storm-generated static electricity shorted out automobile starters. People breathed through masks and sponges and tried in vain to keep the dust out of their homes. Babies, adults, and livestock succumbed to dust pneumonia.

And yet, people stayed. With the Depression gripping the country, moving was more frightening than not.

Egan deftly 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. A fictional plot could not have been more spellbinding.

The Worst Hard Time retails for $14.95.

Don Edwards earned his sixth Wrangler for Moonlight and Skies, named best traditional western music album. The Grammy-nominated Edwards had me from the start with "My Blue Heaven." I spent hours at the piano practicing the tune for a recital when I was in grade school.

You may wonder how "My Blue Heaven" made the cut on a Western music album. Edwards explains, "It was a monster number one hit in 1927 for America’s number one pop singer Gene Austin." Austin served as a significant role model for Jimmie Rodgers—considered the father of country music.

Rodgers’ title track, and his "Land of My Boyhood Dreams," bring the album back to its Western roots. Others among the baker’s dozen that I especially like include "Boots and Saddle," "The Long Trail," "Coyotes," and "Can’t Shake the Sands of Texas from My Shoes."

A musicologist, historian and author, Edwards is well versed in cowboy lore and musical traditions. The son of a vaudeville magician, he grew up listening to classical, jazz, blues and Western-swing. He was drawn to cowboy life by the books of Will James.

Moonlight and Skies, and a fistful of other Edwards’ releases, are available from Western Jubilee Recording Company, PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932; 1-800-707-2353; westernjubilee.com. Single CDs sell for $15; double sets are $25. (Shipping to U.S. addressees is free on website orders over $50).

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

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

July 2007

The Cowboy Way

Trying to define a cowboy is something akin to deciding which came first, the chicken or the egg.

America’s folk hero has been likened to Europe’s knights and Japan’s samurai warriors: young, brave, hard working, their lives replete with danger and excitement.

Figuratively and literally, people from around the world look up to the cowboy. The image has been blurred by time, legend, and the entertainment and fashion industries. What are the truths of the American cowboy?

Paul H. Carlson, professor of history at Texas Tech University, undertook the task of answering that question. Sixteen resulting essays and an annotated bibliography are assembled in The Cowboy Way: An Exploration of History and Culture (Texas Tech University Press, 2006, 236 pages, 26 b/w photos, softcover; ISBN-13: 978-0-89672-583-6).

Carlson’s insights on "Myth and the Modern Cowboy" are presented in chapter one. From 19th-century lads tending cattle horseback to urbanites flocking to Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, he examines the historical record and the mythical notions.

Carlson is joined by other scholars who explore the music, dress, humor, films, and literature of the cowboy. Included in the examination are African American, Hispanic, Native American, French, and English cowboys. There’s a chapter about the great cowboy strike of 1883. Still others address cowboy songs, the origins of rodeo, and how today’s cowboys compare with the myth.

I found "Work Clothes of American Cowboys" especially interesting. For instance, cowboys often wore suspenders to keep their wool or denim overalls in place. Some elected to wear bib overalls to further simplify their garb. John Stetson’s first cowboy hat, patterned after a Mexican sombrero, was made from a rabbit pelt.

"Cowboys and Sheepherders" are compared in chapter nine. At an average age of 24 years, cowboys were full of energy, well suited to a life of demanding, physical labor. The more mature sheepherders were considered to be thinkers, philosophers, careful with their charges—bands of sheep numbering from 1,000 to 2,500 head.

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield oft complained of getting no respect. Sheepherders suffered the same lot. While both cowboys and sheepherders tended livestock on the range, the lowly herder’s life lacked the romance of the cowboy. The sheep industry as a whole missed out on the adoration given over to the cowboy and rancher. Truth be known, sheep paid for many a cattle ranch in the West. And, sheepherders and sheepmen were generally accepted as more financially secure than cowboys and ranchers.

Carlson’s collection provides an amazing amount of information. Additionally, the bibliography directs readers to dozens of other titles of interest. Whether reading for pleasure or research, The Cowboy Way has something for everyone. This title is worthy of gift giving. Order now for Christmas, and get a head start on your shopping.

The Cowboy Way is available directly from Texas Tech and through booksellers. The softcover retails for $18.95. Contact the publisher at 800.832.4042; Texas Tech University Press, Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037; ttup@ttu.edu. Visit their Web site at www.ttup.ttu.edu.

Multi-talented Pop Wagner has a recording that cowboys of any era will enjoy. Ranging from classic to contemporary, Cinchin’ Saddles and Pullin’ Bridle Reins is the type of music, poetry and ballads that old-time cowboys might have recited or sung. It’s also the type of music that Wagner, a singer, picker, fiddler, trick rope artist and storyteller, performed on a George Peabody Award winning episode of A Prairie Home Companion.

Wagner opens the 15-track CD with Bruce Kiskaddon’s "Hittin’ the Trail Tonight." Hal Cannon set the classic poem to music. You’ll also find Curly Fletcher’s "Strawberry Roan," Jack Thorp’s "Choppo," and the traditional "Old Paint." There’s "Roving Cowboy," Ken Maynard’s adaptation of an old trail song; "Platonia" by Powder River Jack Lee; and Jimmy Driftwood’s "Tennessee Stud." (The last time I heard the latter performed in public was at the funeral of a dear neighbor who passed away in her 90s.) For good measure, Pop threw in "Buddies in the Saddle" by the Carter Family and two of his own compositions.

Hear track samples and order at https://www.cdbaby.com/all/popwagner. CDs are $14 plus $2.25 shipping. Contact Wagner at (612) 817-5898; popwagner@mac.com. Visit his Web site at www.popwagner.com.

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

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session:
Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

June 2007

Summer Fare

Summer is fast approaching. Time to grease the baler, fill the tank on the barbecue grill, and spiff up the parade rig.

Nothing says "summer" quite like a road trip. And there’s nobody I’d rather travel with than Andy Nelson (unless, of course, his big brother, Jim, is along for the ride). I’ve twice made the drive with the duo from Andy’s home in Pinedale, Wyoming, to Kanab, Utah, and back again—and lived to tell about it!

If you can’t travel with the Nelsons, listening to Full Nelson Shoeing will get you pretty close to the experience. The 25-track CD substitutes nicely for the banter and shenanigans. You’ll still need to swing by the convenience store for a dozen fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a couple 12" Subway sandwiches, bag of potato chips, pack of Snickers bars and a 32-ounce Mountain Dew before you can consider it an official Nelson road adventure.

Second-generation farriers, Andy and Jim co-host the weekly, syndicated "Clear Out West (C.O.W.) Radio" show: www.clearoutwest.com. They were named DJs of the year by the Western Music Association (WMA) and Academy of Western Artists. Andy is the WMA’s reigning outstanding male poet. He is also an ace emcee, able to handle whatever organizers might throw at him and make it look effortless.

Andy’s rib-tickling material is appropriate for ranch-savvy kids and grannies. Listen to full-track samples from Full Nelson Shoeing and others at www.cowpokepoet.com. Don’t be caught unprepared for summer travel, order now! Send $18 to Nelson at PO Box 1547, Pinedale, WY 82941; 307-367-2842; andy@cowpokepoet.com.

I never leave home without a book or magazine. Call it travel insurance. If I’m delayed, I have something to read. With road construction season in full swing, here’s a sure winner to have along: Diane Tribitt’s Trail Mix: Cowboy Language, Lingo, Poetry & Recipes (Beaver’s Pond Press, 2007, 303 pages, softcover, ISBN: 1-59298-171-2).

Part recipe book, part dictionary—augmented by cowboy sayings, poetry and photos—Trail Mix can be read anytime, anywhere. A couple gems nestled between the covers include "Never cry over spilt milk—it could have been whiskey" and "Speak your mind, but ride a fast horse."

Diane, who bills herself as Minnesota’s cowgirl poet, ranches near Hillman. A former rodeo events secretary, she also runs a construction crew that erects grain bins. Deep spirituality and faith have helped her overcome devastating losses in her life. That comes through in the introduction and the meaty text of several pieces. But, you’ll also find a lighthearted flare to the offering. The collection is an enjoyable, authentic ride. And, you’ll find tips, techniques and recipes for Dutch-oven and cast-iron cookery to boot!

Send $20.95 to Tribitt, 38034 193rd Street, Hillman, MN 56338. You may also order online from www.dianetribitt.com or at Amazon.com. Contact her at 320-277-3389; tribitt@brainerd.net.

A Cowboy’s Prayer, by Canadian singer-songwriter Barry Hertz, features 11 Badger Clark classics set to music. Among the tracks are "Jeff Hart," "The Song of the Leather," "A Cowboy's Prayer," "The Bunkhouse Orchestra," "To Her," and "Ridin'."

In the liner notes, Hertz tells of having heard a 1951 recording of Clark reciting "Ridin." Hertz said: "His poem sounded so lyrical that I wanted to set it to music." In 2001, he came across a copy of Clark’s Sun and Saddle Leather. After reading the introduction, Hertz came to the realization that you don’t have to be a cowboy to enjoy Clark’s poems, saying, "I too have the wind and the open skies of the West in my blood."

While this isn’t the first time Clark’s words have been set to music, I believe it’s the first audio project comprised entirely of his work. The tracks are sung pretty much as Clark wrote them—without a chorus. It’s a contemplative recording, not a toe tapper. Allow yourself time to truly listen to the words. Put your feet up and watch the sun set from the deck.

Order A Cowboy’s Prayer directly from Hertz, 132 Bracebridge Cres. SW, Calgary, Alberta Canada T2W 0Y7; b.hertz@telus.net (U.S. order, $17.50; in Canada, $20). CD Baby at www.cdbaby.com/cd/barryhertz2 carries the title and offers sample tracks of Barry’s folksy style with acoustic musical arrangements.

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

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

May 2007

Vaqueros, Buckaroos and Cowboys

On the West Coast in centuries past, they were vaqueros. Today, in the Great Basin region, they’re buckaroos. On the Plains and in popular culture, they’re cowboys.


A series of documentaries by Susan Jensen and Paul Singer, J&S Productions, explain the evolution—and distinction—of America’s horseman. Tapadero and The Remuda trace the origins of the continent’s earliest cowboys through film footage, photos and illustrations.

It’s a story that began in Mexico in 1775 when an expedition of 240 people and 1,000 head of cattle headed north toward what is today California. Franciscan friars and three vaqueros accompanied 20 families on the 1,200 mile trek. Funded by the Spanish government, the company was instructed to populate the land, convert the Natives to Catholicism and advance the Spanish Empire. To that end, they built a series of missions along the coast.

Vaqueros are considered among the world's greatest horsemen. Tapadero examines their role in establishing the missions and America’s cattle ranching sector. Ironically, beef wasn’t the focus of these pioneering ranchos. The cattle industry was driven by the hide and tallow trade. The bulk of a carcass was left to rot—which spawned a prolific bear population.

Filmed in California, Tapadero runs 82-minute in length. Besides providing a view of coastal ranching, there’s a detailed look at the vaquero way: the use of the hackamore, the spade bit and reata roping; his dress and gear.

Picking up where Tapadero leaves off, The Remuda was filmed in Nevada, Oregon, Arizona and California. Running a generous 92-minutes, it chronicles how the Great Basin buckaroo evolved from the vaquero. Figuring prominently in the transformation were large cattle operations like Miller & Lux, who moved cattle up the Great Basin of Nevada and Oregon when California’s open range was fenced following the Gold Rush. California vaqueros moved with these operations and became known as buckaroos.

Included in The Remuda are scenes from historic and modern ranches. For added entertainment, there’s footage from Jordan Valley, Oregon’s Big Loop Rodeo—known for its wild horse roping competition where competitors use 20-ft. loops. It also touches on riata braiding and educating children who reside on remote ranches.

The film makers wanted to put the history of buckaroo traditions in perspective. Such a discussion would not be complete without a demonstration of the hackamore, two-rein and straight-up-in-the-bridle process of horse training—a process that can take from eight to nine years. Isolated as they were from the rest of the world, early vaqueros had an abundance of time to devote to such training. To test their horses, they would attach a string from a Bull Durham tobacco bag between the reins and head stall. If they could ride all day without breaking the string, the horse was considered a well-trained bridle horse.

My favorite segment in The Remuda shows how horses are roped out of a Nevada cavvy. The mounts are trained to stand around the perimeter of the corral, facing outward. I had heard about this but had never seen it. It’s an everyday occurrence for these cowboys.

That’s what I like about the series. The films tell the stories of historic working ranches, families, long-time employees, day hands, and skilled gear artisans within each region. It’s good stuff.

And, they’re filled with good music too—cowboy music. You’ll hear Mike Beck, Christina Ortega, Dave Stamey and Ian Tyson on Tapadero. Beck, Stamey and Tyson are joined by Pedro Marquez on The Remuda. If you're not already familiar with these folks' music, you're in for a treat.

Two other films in the series are in production: Paniolos and Roughstring Rider.

Paniolos are Hawaiian cowboys, which is native for Espanol. Vaqueros from Alta, California, taught the Hawaiians how to handle cattle. They also introduced the guitar to the islanders. These cowboys ride and rope across a landscape of volcanic lava beds, tropical rain forests, deserts and wide-open grasslands.

Roughstring Rider portrays the cowboys of Montana and Wyoming. Adding to the challenges of their work are the hazards and difficulties associated with Northern Plains’ winters. J&S describes this horseman as a cross between the Texas-style cowboy who came north with the cattle drives and the Vaquero-style, Great Basin buckaroo, whose cattle populated the ranges of Wyoming and Montana.

You’ll have to wait until late September 2007 for Paniolo; November for Roughtstring Rider. However, Tapadero and The Remuda are available today. They sell for $20.95 each (postage paid. Canadian orders, please add $1.) Contact Susan Jensen, J&S Productions Dept. CJS, PO Box 91560, Santa Barbara, CA 93190; susanjensen@verizon.net; 805-695-0164; www.tapadero.com. Retailers nationwide also carry the series: www.tapadero.com./html/locations.html.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

April 2007

Celebrating Cowboy Poetry Week: April 15-21

It’s not everyday you hear Badger Clark—named South Dakota's first Poet Laureate in 1937—recite his first published poem. Acknowledged as one of cowboy poetry’s masters, Clark died a half century ago. To hear the classic "Ridin" as delivered by him in a vintage recording sure got my attention! It’s the first track on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two.

An annual project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, the CD is the second released in conjunction with Cowboy Poetry Week. The Center’s popular website— CowboyPoetry.com, home of the BAR-D Ranch—inaugurated Cowboy Poetry Week in 2002. The U.S. Senate recognized it by unanimous resolution in 2003. This year it runs April 15-21.

A central resource for Western and cowboy poetry and associated arts, CowboyPoetry.com posts thousands of contemporary and classic poems, classic cowboy songs, and works by current Western songwriters. A vibrant community of readers contribute poetry, news, gathering reports, stories and photos. The CDs archive an audio sampling of what’s posted therein. Not just a retail effort, CDs are distributed to rural libraries across the West, honoring the Center’s mission to promote and preserve Western heritage and serve rural populations.

This year’s selection brings a freshness to the genre, from the seldom-heard "Ridin" to South Dakota radio personality Jim Thompson’s recitation of Arthur Chapman’s classic, "Out Where the West Begins." The 27 tracks cover a lot of country.

Geographically, contributors live throughout the West. There are a few southern drawls and one who has the opposite issue—eh? Most appear on stage at regional and national gatherings: Doris Daley, Elizabeth Ebert, Paul Zarzyski (reciting S. Omar Barker’s "Horses vs. Hosses"), Jay Snider, Smoke Wade, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Peggy Godfrey, Ken Cook, Darrell Arnold, Pat Richardson, DW Groethe, Don Kennington, Kent Rollins, Virginia Bennett, Janice Gilbertson, Rod Nichols, Diane Tribitt, and Yvonne Hollenbeck.

Along with Clark's, voices of some other respected poets who have passed on are preserved on the CD, including those of Sunny Hancock; J.B. Allen, reciting Gail I. Gardner’s famous "The Sierry Petes"; and Buck Ramsey, known as the "spiritual leader of cowboy poetry."

Noted reciter Randy Rieman delivers Bruce Kiskaddon’s classic, "When They’ve Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall"; Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks performs Katherine Fall Pettey’s "Morning on the Desert"; and Arizona rancher Gail Steiger recites "Hail and Farewell," by his grandmother, Delia Gist Gardner, wife of Gail Gardner.

Prepare for a trip through time. There are classics and pieces written about times long gone. Also included are glimpses into the lives of modern cow hands, ranchers, ranch wives, farriers, and poets.

Close your eyes and be carried along with an ebb and flow of emotions and imagery. Wrapped within the subject matter and interpretations there’s sincerity, intimacy, good-natured joshing, wisdom, respect, hogwash, poignancy, and spirituality.

Should you have a homebound or ranch-sick cowboy in your life, The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two is worth the price just to hear a horse’s nostrils rattle on Joel Nelson’s "Breaker in the Pen." It will put a smile on your face if you’ve ever worked around horses.

For rural readers, check your library for a Cowboy Poetry Week poster featuring Tim Cox’ artwork, "At His Own Pace." That will tell you they’ve received the CD through the Center's Rural Library Project. A 1920-era Texas cowboy, Orville Bennett, is pictured on the CD, father-in-law of one of the poets. Inside, there's a modern-day picture of South Dakota rancher and poet Ken Cook and his sons. Test drive it at the library; see what you think. I’m betting you’ll want to order a copy of your own.

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two will be officially released April 15, 2007. It sells for $20, postpaid. (Those making new or renewal donations to the Center at the $100 or higher level will receive The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two and the 2007 Cowboy Poetry Week poster featuring the Cox painting. The poster is not for sale, but donors at the $40 level can obtain it.)

Volume 1, released in 2006, is also available for $20, postpaid. Order both from CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133 or online at http://www.CowboyPoetry.com/cd.htm. You can pay by a secure, on-line credit card payment (Paypal not required).

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

March 2007

Classic and Contemporary Women of the Plains

Raised in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Willa Cather (1873-1947) was eight years old when her father moved the family to a homestead near Red Cloud, Webster County, Nebraska. The prairie was just as flat in the 1880s as it is today, but it had a cultural richness lost through subsequent generations.

Cather’s 1913 novel, O Pioneers!, reverses more than 100 years of ethnic homogenization. Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Bohemians and a few English-speaking characters toil throughout the narrative that brought her acclaim as one of America’s foremost novelists.

The Willa Cather Foundation at www.willacather.org hosts an impressive collection of all-things-Willa. "Cather Links" connect to more than 50 information sources including Nebraska National Register Sites, teaching guides and interviews.

An interview that appeared in the Philadelphia Record shortly after the publication of O Pioneers!—and 10 years before she won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours—is insightful and inspiring. The writer, identified only as F.H., allowed Cather to talk about her work in lengthy, quoted passages. Lamenting the loss of her lush Virginia hills, Cather described how her ethically-diverse neighbors lessened the homesickness:

"I liked them from the first and they made up for what I missed in the country. I particularly liked the old women, they understood my homesickness and were kind to me. I had met "traveled" people in Virginia and in Washington, but these old women on the farms were the first people who ever gave me the real feeling of an older world across the sea. Even when they spoke very little English, the old women somehow managed to tell me a great many stories about the old country. They talk more freely to a child than to grown people, and I always felt as if every word they said to me counted for twenty.

"I have never found any intellectual excitement any more intense than I used to feel when I spent a morning with one of those old women at her baking or butter making. I used to ride home in the most unreasonable state of excitement; I always felt as if they told me so much more than they said—as if I had actually got inside another person’s skin..."

Of F.H.’s sparse commentary, one line succinctly summed up O Pioneers!. He, or she, described the book as "this magnificently grave and simple and poetic picture of early days on the uplands of Nebraska." If you haven’t yet discovered Cather’s powerful narratives (I confess to being a johnny-come-lately), start with O Pioneers!

Works published during Cather’s lifetime are listed chronologically at www.willacather.org/bibliography.htm. Clicking on the title links you to public domain, no cost, e-text editions. In addition to O Pioneers!, other titles available in e-text form include My Ántonia and One of Ours. Contact the Cather Foundation at 402-746-2653; info@willacather.org.

Yvonne Hollenbeck is capturing both contemporary and homestead-era tales of life on the Great Plains. A daughter of Harry and Ruth Hanson, she was raised near Gordon, Nebraska. When she married her rancher/roper husband, Glen, she packed up and moved north—across the state line to Clearfield, South Dakota. The Hollenbecks make their home on an outfit that has been in Glen’s family for several generations.

I mentioned previously that Yvonne was named as the Western Music Association’s first female poet of the year. That’s quite an honor for a ranchwife who divides her time between helping with chores—feeding cows and feeding the men, getting Glen packed and ready for his next big roping, quilting, and traveling to cowboy festivals across the West. It’s the time spent on the ranch that gives her poetry its authentic flavor.

In addition to three previously released CDs and an equal number of books, Yvonne has a dandy new recording out entitled What Would Martha Do?. You’ll find her popular poem by the same name on the collection, along with 13 other tracks (see complete track listing at www.cowboypoetry.com/yh.htm#bks). This isn’t Yvonne’s first recording, but it is easily her best. Her writing keeps getting better, and with the talented Rich O’Brien as producer, you know it’s gonna be good.

What Would Martha Do? is available for $18 postpaid from Hollenbeck at 30549 291st St., Clearfield, SD 57580; 605-557-3559; geetwo@gwtc.net; www.yvonnehollenbeck.com/.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

February 2007

Stylish New Release of Classic Kiskaddon

I hope this bit of news isn’t too late and that Open Range—Bill Siem’s monumental collection of Bruce Kiskaddon poetry—is still available. If the book has already sold out, my apologies. If, on the other hand, you read this and don’t act, that’s your own misfortune.

Kiskaddon, who penned "When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall" and "The Broncho Twister’s Prayer," easily rates inclusion on a shortlist of classic cowboy poets. Some have offered that he was the best cowboy poet who ever wrote a cowboy poem. Others say he is the most respected of the classic poets.

Attend a cowboy poetry gathering or festival these days and you’ll likely hear Kiskaddon’s work recited by the top reciters: "The Old Night Hawk," "The Long Horn Speaks," "Ghost Canyon Trail." What a fabulous resource this new collection is for these folks. Siems’ intent was to include all the poems Kiskaddon ever published during his life. Describing that body of work, Siems says Kiskaddon "wrote poetry of authentic cowboy experience that was uniquely unromantic, and its unflinching realism and artistic strength still set it apart and keep it fresh and relevant for modern readers."

Margo Metegrano, editor of CowboyPoetry.com and Director of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, states: "Open Range may be the most important contemporary cowboy poetry book to be published. Bill researched and collected the poems from many sources, including family collections. Hundreds of the poems haven't been seen by most readers. All of Kiskaddon’s own books are rare now, and even the modern collections of his work are scarce and garner high prices."

Kiskaddon wrote during the 1920-1950 era, when as Siems says "cowboy fantasy swept American popular culture." His work appeared regularly in the Western Livestock Journal published in Los Angeles and also on calendars printed by the Los Angeles Union Stockyards. Examples of his poetry may be found online: www.cowboypoetry.com/kisk.htm.

Beyond poetry, Kiskaddon (1878-1950) also wrote short stories. That’s where my association with Bill Siems began. His previous Shorty’s Yarns: Western Stories and Poems of Bruce Kiskaddon (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2004, 171 pages) delighted me for several weeks as I read one story per evening. Last year at the National Cowboy Gathering in Elko, Nevada, I was fortunate enough to dine with Siems. He spoke of this second book dedicated to Kiskaddon’s poetry and shared the mockup with our group. It was a beauty even at that stage.

Because he was such a prolific writer, Kiskaddon’s work was widely scattered. Siems went to great lengths, literally, traveling from his home in Spokane, Washington, to Los Angeles, Denver, and Trinidad, Colorado, while doing research. Culminating four years’ effort by Siems and his wife, Dawn Holladay, Open Range contains Kiskaddon’s entire poetic output of 481 poems, illustrated with 323 line drawings by Katherine Field, Amber Dunkerley and others. Field (1908-1951) and Kiskaddon collaborated for 20 years in the creation of illustrated poems, according to Siems. Two hundred and forty-two of Field’s line drawings appear in the collection.

In addition, the book features biographical and historical introductions by Siems, prefaces by Hal Cannon, Waddie Mitchell and Lynn Held, bibliography, glossary, variant wordings and notes. Siems himself is a skillful writer. His introductory pages turn far too quickly. All of this adds up to 638 7x10" pages. It is Smyth-sewn to open flat at every page. Adding further to the package are colored end papers and a cover that is stamped in blind and dark brown with a paste-down illustration by Field.

Open Range will officially be released at the National Cowboy Gathering in Elko, Nevada, January 28 - February 3, 2007. It will be offered for sale there and is also available from the publisher. That’s where things get dicey. I’m thinking the book may sell out in Elko. Only 300 clothbound copies on acid-free, archival paper were printed. Another 26 were leather-bound. Clothbound copies are $125 postpaid until February 28, 2007; $150 thereafter. Deluxe leather-bound copies are $400. For more information or to order contact Old Night Hawk Press, 2521 S Hatch Street, Spokane, WA 99203; 509-868-8402; www.oldnighthawkpress.com.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News



Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

January 2007

Western Music Association Honors

A great many of the folks stepping forward to receive 2006 Western Music Association (WMA) awards have been mentioned in this column. (Previously published columns containing these mentions are noted below.) Yep, it was pretty much old home week last November when WMA members met in Albuquerque for their 18th annual International Western Music Festival.

The WMA’s purpose is to preserve and promote the traditional and contemporary music of the American West and the American cowboy. It is committed to the community at large, with members taking Western music, history and literature to children across the nation to teach them about the American West. For more on the organization, go to www.westernmusic.org.

New to the WMA festivities were categories spotlighting cowboy poets. Named the organization’s first Female Poet of the Year was Clearfield, South Dakota ranchwife, Yvonne Hollenbeck (Cowboy Jam Session January 2006 & September 2005). Hollenbeck has a dynamite new CD, What Would Martha Do?, which includes her oft-requested poem by the same name. For more on Hollenbeck, go to www.YvonneHollenbeck.com

The Male Poet of the Year title went to Andy Nelson of Pinedale, Wyoming. Nelson is earning the reputation as a consummate festival emcee. Catch him the end of January at the Sierra Vista gathering: www.CowpokePoet.com.

Hollenbeck and Texas cowgirl singer/songwriter Jean Prescott (November 2006) won the third new category, Best Collaboration of Poet and Musician, for "How Far is Lonesome." Several other collaborations by the two can be heard on Prescott’s Sweethearts in Carhartts: www.JeanPrescott.com.

Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave took home Traditional Duo/Group honors. From classic cowboy music to original and gospel, Belinda and Curly (August 2006) have a masterful stage presence and are just really nice folks: www.BelindaGailSings.com and www.cowboypoetry.com/curlymusgrave.htm.

Female Vocalist of the Year went to Juni Fisher (May 2006 & September 2005). Dedicated to crafting imaginative ballads, Fisher makes her home near Nashville, Tennessee. Besides her latest release, Cowgirlography, she can be heard on Wylie & the Wild West’s Bucking Horse Moon: www.JuniFisher.com.

Montana-born Dave Stamey, now living in California, took home both Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards. Stamey is a rare songwriter, able to deliver poignant and meaningful compositions right along with rib-tickling tunes: www.davestamey.com.

Traditional Album of the Year went to the Sons of the San Joaquin for Way Out Yonder (March 2006). Jack Hannah, of the Sons, was named Songwriter of the Year: www.thesons.com.

Honors as Instrumentalist of the Year went to Joey (the CowPolka King) Miskulin of Riders in the Sky. Miskulin wrote and produced music, including "Rust-eze Polka," for Disney/Pixar’s animated feature, Cars: www.musicwagon.com/news.

Andy Nelson, along with big brother, Jim, claimed a second award: Radio DJs of the Year (September 2005 & February 2005). The duo hosts the always-entertaining, weekly Clear Out West (C. O. W.) radio show: www.clearoutwest.com.

Wylie & the Wild West went home with the Western Swing Album of the Year hardware for Live! At the Tractor. Perennial favorites of mine (December 2006, September 2005 & July 2005), their latest release, Bucking Horse Moon, was produced by John Carter Cash: www.wyliewebsite.com.

Western Swing Duo/Group honors went to The Texas Trailhands, who call Fort Worth home. If you haven’t yet heard this Grammy-nominated group, do yourself a favor and check them out: www.texastrailhands.com.

There was a tie for the Crescendo Award between Canadian singer/songwriter Eli Barsi www.elibarsi.com and Utah’s Stampede! comprised of Steve Taylor, Terri Taylor and David Anderson: www.saddlepalmusic.com.  Barsi is a frequent headliner in Branson, Missouri.

"For the Freedom" was recognized as Song of the Year. It was written by New Mexico’s R. W. Hampton (March 2005). Hampton, with his incredible baritone voice, has 10 albums to his credit: www.RWHampton.com.

Selected as Radio Station of the Year was KNMB—Ruidoso, New Mexico. KNMB is home to Joe Baker’s Backforty Bunkhouse: www.backfortybunkhouse.com.

Voted on by members, WMA awards are given to its members. Additional tribute awards were presented: the Bill Wiley Award went to Stan and Alma Tussing, the Pioneer Trail Award to Liz Anderson and Hall of Fame inductions to the Sons of the San Joaquin and Carl T. Sprague. Jon Messenger delivered a special tribute honoring Willie Schooler.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

© 2007, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

Special Edition: December 2006

BULLRIDER: a PBR Documentary

BULLRIDER, a documentary on the winning-and-losing, living-and-dying world of Professional Bull Riders came to my attention too late for inclusion in previous gift lists. Long on quality, content and message, the film rates a column all its own:

Professional bull riding (www.pbrnow.com) attracts more than one million live-event attendees each year to 100+ PBR-sanctioned competitions; 100 million viewers watch televised broadcasts. With more than 450 hours of prime-time programming annually, PBR ranks among the most prolific sports on the air.

Producers William Chessman and Maureen Holmes embedded a camera crew with the 2004 PBR tour. They followed 45 cowboy athletes to 28 cities over 10 months to tell the story of friends and brothers vying for the world championship. Oscar-nominated director Josh Aronson and Emmy-winning editor Kate Hirson winnowed live footage and taped interviews down to a whirling 90-minute, wince-and-cheer study of the sport.

Viewers leave home at sunup with rodeo-bound cowboys, attend church services, venture into the bowels of arena locker rooms, duck and dodge with bodyguard bull fighters and witness surgery—up close and personal—in the operating room. The cast runs the gamut: bull riders Adriano Moraes, Justin McBride, Mike Lee and Tony Mendes; bull fighter Rob Smets; former bull riding champions Jim Shoulders, Ty Murray and Tuff Hedeman; PBR Physician Tandy Freeman; PBR Minister Todd Pierce; stock contractor H.D. Page; celebrity bucking bulls Little Yellow Jacket, Mossy Oak Mudslinger and Bodacious. And then some.

Adriano Moraes won an unprecedented third Professional Bull Riders’ title in November 2006. For his efforts, the 36-year-old Brazilian earned a $1.346 million dollar payday. It put him over the $3 million dollar career-earnings mark and made him the PBR's all-time money leader with $3,369,623.

The 2006 storybook ending was a far cry from how Moraes finished the 2004 season. With PBR World Championships in 1994 and 2001, Moreas was intently focused on a third. At the finals in Las Vegas, he tore the biceps in his riding arm. Cameras captured the grimace on his face the instant the injury occurred. Remarkably, Moreas continued to ride in successive rounds, at one point managing a more-than-respectable 93-point ride. In the end, 21-year-old Mike Lee, himself riding with a dislocated shoulder, took the title.

An unforgiving sport, bull riding pits a cowboy’s fragile body against the fury of an animal that knows no rules. It isn’t always pretty, but it’s not the bulls who are harmed. A vivid example replays Tuff Hedeman’s October 1995 encounter with bull riding’s bad boy, Bodacious.

Wimps don’t make it in the PBR.

Those who succeed overcome any number of falls, fractures, concussions, contusions, dislocations and disappointments. Faith, family, friends—and the talents of a proficient orthopedic surgeon—carry them to the pay window. There are no atheists in a fox hole or in bull riding. Moreas says he and other riders rely on God for protection, strength and knowledge to ride bulls. "When we nod our heads [for the gate to open], we feel so alone. We pray, God help us."

Issues of animal welfare are addressed, leaving no doubt that those who own the bulls have a vested interest in keeping them fit and healthy. One stock contractor admits developing deep attachments to the bulls he raises, making it difficult to part with them when the time comes to sell.

The cinematography and editing are exceptional. The slow motion action/audio sequences are stellar. BULLRIDER will make a memorable gift for the bull riding fan in your family. But, you don’t have to be a cowboy or even be aware of the PBR to be mesmerized by the content. This film captures the illogical drive of the sport, the humanness of the contestants and their profound faith.

The DVD sells for $24.95 plus $4.95 priority shipping. Order BULLRIDER on-line at www.bullridermovie.com. One dollar from every purchase goes to the Resistol Relief Fund. The fund benefits anyone injured in the sport of bull riding: high school, college and professional bull riders, as well as those who work in the sport of bull riding.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

December 2006

Rounding up Western Gifts: Part 2

Continued from last month–suggestions for the cowboys and cowgirls on your shopping list:

If it’s cowboy music you’re searching for, may I suggest Ken Overcast’s Montana in My Soul (2006). The 13-track CD was inspired by a lifetime in the saddle under the Big Sky. Through original and traditional tunes, Overcast guides the listener up an imaginary cattle trail from Texas to Montana. There, he puts down roots in the Bear Paw Mountains, an area where "the snow banks get deep and the cold north wind will take your hide off."

Honky-tonk piano, harmonica, fiddle and guitar accompaniment on Overcast’s own "Too Far Back to Texas"set the tone. The old-timey feel continues with accordion, mandolin, banjo and clarinet back-up on a snappy "Five Foot Two," "Lilly Dale"–a duet with Joni Harms and "The Cowboy Blues." Overcast penned the title track with its refrain: "They’ll never bury me back in Texas, this cowboy’s found his home ... I’ve got Montana in my soul." For a complete track listing and audio samples go to www.kenovercast.com. CDs sell for $14.95 + $3 shipping (regardless of order size). Contact Ken Overcast at Bear Valley Records, Dept. CJS, PO Box 1542, Chinook, MT 59523; 1-888-753-7611; 406-357-3824.

The nation’s heartland is the subject of Monte Hartman’s America’s 100th Meridian: A Plains Journey (Texas Tech University Press, 2005; ISBN-13 978-0-89672-561-4; hardcover; 176 pages; 113 color photos, 2 maps). Traveling the 100th Meridian, Hartman photographed the great "empty middle" from North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation to Laredo, Texas. His photos and text, and an essay by Western writer William Kittredge, take the reader along the vertical dividing line between East and West. The large format photo study is devoid of any human subjects, focusing solely on landscapes and man-made structures. The title retails for $39.95 from Texas Tech University Press, Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037; 800-832-4042; www.ttup.ttu.edu.

North of the Medicine Line, up Calgary way, is where cowgirl poet Doris Daley hangs her chapeau. A quick wit and a masterful emcee, Daley delivers smartly-written lines with just a hint of "Canuck speak." Her humor makes her a favorite among audiences and other performers. If you’ve not seen Daley in person, you are missing a delightful experience. (Catch her in Arvada during January’s Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering and in Elko, Nevada, at the 2007 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.)

Attempting to capture the essence of a live performance, Daley recorded Good for What Ails You (2005). True to her humble roots, the concert venue was a neighbor’s living room. You’ll hear my personal favorites, "Bones," "Answering Machine," "A Letter to Mr. Russell" and "Hands." All appear in print at www.cowboypoetry.com/dorisdaley.htm. Send $21 postpaid to Fiddle DD Enterprises, Dept. CJS, Box 4427, Station C, Calgary, AB Canada T2T 5N2. You may order online: www.dorisdaley.com. Contact Daley at 403-217-4340.

Every so often I like to listen to a relaxing instrumental. Recently added to my collection is Bob Boatright’s Take the A-Train. It’s a dandy to put on while fixing supper. Included in the 18 tracks of Western swing fiddle music are "Maggie," "Lady Be Good," "Farewell Blues," Nobody's Darling But Mine" and "Maiden's Prayer." See a complete track listing at www.backfortybunkhouse.com/boatright.htm If you like what you see and hear (there are two sound clips), send $15 (shipping included to lower 48) to West Texas Country, Dept. CJS, 1400 Benton. Big Spring, TX 79720. If you prefer, order online through PayPal. (Joe at Back Forty Bunkhouse Productions introduced me to Bob’s music.)

Christmas morning without yodeling is like a country school program without Santa. Don’t be caught without Wylie & the Wild West under your tree. Live! At the Tractor, honored as the Western Music Association’s 2006 Western Swing Album of the Year, is available as a CD and a DVD. Both contain 16 tracks of Wylie Gustafson’s original and traditional Western tunes. The DVD (2 hr. 15 min.) contains bonus footage, including music videos, for a total of 30 songs. Individually, the CD and DVD sell for $15. As a pair, they’re $25. Add $3 per order for p/h; $4 for Priority Mail; $10 outside the U.S. Order online at www.wyliewebsite.com; by fax at 509-549-3684 or by mail at 24502 SR 127, LaCrosse, WA 99143.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

November 2006

Rounding up Western Gifts: Part 1

Our first snow here in eastern Montana fell September 17 and has been refreshed several times since. There’s nothing quite like a dusting of white to make me start thinking of Christmas. Here is the first of two installments focusing on gift ideas for the saddle pals on your list:

Whether the poetry enthusiast on your list prefers to read or listen, we’ve got ‘em covered. Turning to Face the Wind is the name of a book and a CD by Colorado native Jane Ambrose Morton. The CD (2006) includes 19 carefully-crafted, original poems found within the book (Cowboy Miner Productions, 2004; ISBN 1-931725-08-X; hardcover; 232 pages). The book has been honored with a Will Rogers Medallion, Fred Olds Cowboy Poetry Award, Glyph Award and Willa Literary Award. It contains over 75 poems and photographs that tell the story of Morton’s family's ranch.

These are stories of people and traditions. All families should be so fortunate as to have a storyteller/historian of Morton’s ability in their midst. A generous sampling of her poetry appears online at www.cowboypoetry.com/janemorton.htm.Two of my favorites found online, in the book and on the CD are "Summer of ‘34" and "Grandma’s Roses." The CD is $18 postpaid. The book is $24.45. Contact Jane Morton (October through April) at Dept. CJS, 7961 E. Natal Ave., Mesa, AZ 85209; (April-October) at Dept. CJS, 12710 Abert Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80908 or at dickandjane2@earthlink.net.

Wilderness, landscape, wildlife and Western artist Kaye Burian has quite a following in these parts. Part owner of the Lazy 77 Ranch, Manning, N.D., she finds inspiration right outside her studio window: buffalo, cattle and horses. Check out a few of the locals at www.kayeburian.com. Burian knows her subjects and does a fine job of capturing the Plains in authentic and realistic views.

A perfect example is "Living the Legacy" commissioned by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association for their 75th anniversary. Asked to depict the generations of stockmen and stockwomen, the painting shows mystic longhorns and riders in the background with a modern branding scene in the foreground. The site is an actual location on the Gene Harris Ranch near Killdeer, N.D. Limited edition prints, 16x24" in size, are available for $55 postpaid. View "Living the Legacy" at www.ndstockmen.org; click on Association Programs. Order from ND Stockmen's Association, Dept. CJS, 407 S. Second St., Bismarck, ND 58504; 701-223-2522.

Fellas, if your idea of a swell gift for your sweety is a spanky new chore coat or pair of coveralls, for gosh sakes, get her a copy of Jean Prescott’s Sweethearts in Carhartts too! Prescott, an award-winning Texas cowgirl singer, had lots of help on the newly released CD. She collaborated with ranch wives and poets from across the US and Canada to honor women who work the land. For a selection of poems and lyrics, reviews and order info, go to www.cowboypoetry.com/jeanprescott.htm#Some. I hesitate to call this a women’s album, as men will enjoy it too. But, truth be told, women are gonna like this a lot.

While you’re at the Prescott outfit, check out Merry Christmas from Our Camp to Yours (1997). Prescott teamed up with her friends Chris Isaacs, Buck Ramsey and Sky Shivers to record this gem. Those who ever attended, produced or participated in a country church or school program will travel back in time. It has all the elements of a good program, opening with Isaacs reciting S. Omar Barker’s "A Cowboy Christmas Prayer." He also reads Luke 2:1-19. Ramsey sings "Silent Night" and "White Christmas" with guitar accompaniment. Prescott offers Stephanie Davis’ "The Gift" and "A Cowgirl’s Christmas Wish" penned by Prescott and Fran Hedrick. Heck, it even includes Shiver’s telling of a regrettably unforgettable church pageant! Order either CD for $17 (postpaid) from www.jeanprescott.com; Prescott Music, P.O. Box 194, Ovalo, TX 79541; (325) 583-2553.

I already have my 2007 calendar: Cowgirls Of the Old West–Historic Photographs & Illustrations by ZON International Publishing. The collection of full-color, vintage scenes is reproduced in a generous 12x12" format. Last year it sold out well ahead of the new year. Buy one for $11.95 or three for $23.90 (plus postage). Order now from Zon, PO Box 6459, Sante Fe, NM 87502; 505-995-0102; www.zonbooks.com or from Amazon.com. Zon also sells Americana picture books, posters and postcard books.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

October 2006

Plan Now for National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Although the 23rd annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering isn’t until January 2007, now is the time to make plans to attend. Held in Elko, Nev., the event runs January 27 through February 3. While the event is best known for bringing poets, musicians and musical groups to town for cowboy poetry and music, the sponsoring Western Folklife Center also organizes exhibits, workshops, films and lectures.

Workshops are scheduled early in the week, before the major influx of performers and fans hit town. Among this year’s offerings are Rawhide Braiding with Doug Groves and friends; Back to the Beginning in Photography with Kevin Martini-Fuller; Songwriting with Mike Beck; Set Your Words Free (writing workshop) with Paul Zarzyski; What’s Cooking in Harding County, N.M.; and Joe Wolter’s Ranch Horsemanship and Roping Clinic.

As the workshops conclude, more than 60 performing artists begin arriving in Elko for a whirlwind Thursday, Friday and Saturday schedule. Invited guests will present more than 80 hours of non-ticketed daytime performances. Poets and singers from the region participating in 2007 include Paul Zarzyski, Great Falls, Mont; Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Newcastle, Wyo.; Georgie Sicking, Kaycee, Wyo.; Sandy Seaton, Emigrant, Mont.; Jesse Smith, Cora, Wyo.; Ringling 5, Wilsall, Mont.; Henry Real Bird, Garyowen, Mont.; Bob Petermann, Wibaux, Mont.; Rodney Nelson, Almont, N.D.; Wallace McRae, Forsyth, Mont.; Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, S.D.; DW Groethe, Bainville, Mont.; Stephanie Davis, Columbus, Mont.; Ken Cook, Martin, S.D. Everybody’s favorite cowboy poet/large animal vet, Baxter Black, Benson, Ariz., will also appear.

A complete list of performers can be found on the Western Folklife Center’s Web site: http://www.westernfolklife.org/site/. But, wait. There’s more! The Center also includes information about workshops, ticketed shows, exhibits and dances. Curious as to what a ticketed Elko show is like? Listen to one of 2006's cybercast, archived performances – there are 17 to choose from. Scroll through the 2007 brochure—it’s online! Hungry for more? Sign up for their no-cost electronic newsletter. Better yet, become a member (levels start at $40), and have it delivered right to your mailbox. For more information contact Linda Carter at lcarter@westernfolklife.org or by telephone at 888-880-5885, ext 222.

Annually, more than 200 cowboy artists apply in hopes of being selected to perform at Elko’s famed gathering. Deadline for submissions for the 24th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (January 26 to February 2, 2008) is May 1, 2007. Poets and musicians alike need to submit a short biography and three samples of their repertoire. A more detailed summary appears on the Center’s Web site. You may also call 775-738-7508 or write: Western Folklife Center, National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Applications, 501 Railroad St., Elko, NV 89801.

As mentioned above, Bob Petermann will be making tracks for Elko early next year. Bob is a Wibaux County rancher and a neighbor of mine. I simply could not be happier that the selection committee sent him an invitation. He is most deserving of a place on the roster.

Bob is as handy with a vintage Gibson guitar as he is with a rope. And, he’s a pretty fair roper—the kind you like to have dragging calves to the fire at your branding. Bob plays and sings like he ropes—nice and easy. His mellow, soothing music and poetry (yep, he’s both a cowboy singer and poet) are straight from the ranch. There’s no embellishment to take away from the down-home sound developed over the nearly six decades since he learned to chord and sing with his family.

Bob has a book, two cassettes and one CD to his credit. A gospel collection is in the works. Takin’ up Slack, a CD, was released in 2003, and it’s a good one. You don’t have to take my word for it. Baxter Black tells me that it’s one of his favorites. He especially likes "A Couple Good Horses to Ride," a song Bob wrote. There are 12 music and two poetry tracks. Besides Bob’s own compositions, there’s "Take Me Back to the Prairie" by Jimmy Wakely and "God Must Be a Cowboy at Heart" by Dan Seals. To order, send $15 to Bob Petermann, HC71 Box 7410, Wibaux, MT 59353. You may reach him at 406-486-5618 or Pet7410@midrivers.com.  

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

September 2006

Telling Tales of the American West

Ivan Doig was named by the Missoulian as one of the 100 most influential Montanans of the century. He joined Senator Mike Mansfield, artist Charlie Russell, author A.B. Guthrie, rancher/poet Wally McRae, newsman Chet Huntley and cattle baron Pierre Wibaux. Despite that, Doig may hesitate at having his work included in a Western culture column.

Born in White Sulphur Springs in 1939 and raised by a sheep herding Scotsman, Doig’s memoirs and novels are set in the American West. That said, he doesn’t consider himself a Western writer. He feels "that writers of caliber can ground their work in specific land and lingo and yet be writing of that larger country: life."

Works of fiction are minimal on the shelves of my library. I find authentic accounts preferable to contrived characters and circumstances. Unless the characters have been assembled and nurtured by Ivan Doig. With him at the helm, it’s practically impossible to tell memoir from biography from novel. Historical incidents stampede, mix with fiction and gallop across the page as engrossing copy. (Cowboy poets striving for a more authentic feel to their poetry may want to read Doig's novels focusing on working ranches: English Creek and Ride with Me, Mariah Montana.)

Acclaim for Doig’s This House of Sky (1978) took him from editorial and free-lance writer to respected author. A finalist for the National Book Award, the memoir of growing up on the Rocky Mountain Front made a San Francisco Chronicle poll for best work of non-fiction. Doig’s English Creek made the same poll in fiction. He was the only living writer with books in the top 12 in each category. Even though I’ve read both, two other Doig books are my personal favorites.

The seeds of Bucking the Sun were planted during Doig’s research for the Two Medicine trilogy: Dancing at the Rascal Fair, English Creek and Ride with Me, Mariah Montana. A reoccurring comment about work during the Depression interested him: work on the Fort Peck Dam in northeastern Montana. A complex mystery, Doig describes the time spent researching and writing it as "a three-year roll of the dice," during which he invested "everything I've ever learned as a wordsmith."

Doig provides reader’s guides to his nine of his 11 books at http://www.ivandoig.com/. Of Bucking the Sun he notes: "The epic project of the New Deal, at the depth of the Depression the Fort Peck Dam put more than ten thousand people back to work, with money in their pockets. And along with the five years that it took to build the world's biggest earthen dam came a roiling collection of construction boomtowns where there had been only snakes and gopher holes. Wheeler, Delano Heights, Square Deal, Free Deal and the other wage-fueled shantytowns famously captured by Margaret Bourke-White's camera in the first issue of LIFE magazine disappeared as fast as they came, but the Fort Peck experience stayed in people's lives. By capturing the water of the Missouri River, it launched them."

Dancing at the Rascal Fair is the chronological start of the Two Medicine trilogy (even though any one can be read in any sequence with clarity). Angus McCaskill narrates as he and best pal, Rob Barclay, leave Scotland. Montana bound in the belly of a steamship, they arrive in time to celebrate statehood: 1889. As winter 1919 breaks and thawing livestock carcasses appear across the Rocky Mountain Front, the pals are sworn enemies. In between, Doig – with his mastery of fact and fantasy – weaves an engrossing tale of Montana’s early homestead era. It is his best selling book.

I had the pleasure of hearing Doig speak while promoting Mountain Time. Likeable and low-key, he discussed his meticulous research methods and paid homage to his wife, Carol, who figures prominently in his literary success. One invaluable tool he uses is a pocket-sized notebook. When a catchy figure of speech tickles his ear, he jots it down and files it for later use. The result is well-crafted dialogue – his credible heroes and despicable villains expressing emotion through a colorful vernacular.

Doig’s latest is The Whistling Season (Harcourt Books). Many of his titles are available on audio tape. Incidentally, his is the voice behind Norman Maclean’s audio edition of A River Runs through It. The audio recording industry awarded it an Audie, equivalent to an Oscar.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

August 2006

Cowboy Tried and True and Rhyming Too

Few have risen to the level of this month’s featured entertainers: Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave. Whether performing together as a duo or solo, Belinda and Curly are talented, hard working, dependable, family friendly, personable and professional. Their names on an event roster assure ticket holders of money well spent. Likewise, laying down the purchase price for a CD is a sure bet.

As a team, the pair was named as the 2005 traditional group/duo by the Western Music Association. In addition, Belinda took home the group’s female vocalist title – for the fifth straight year. In 2002, Curly was selected by the group as their male performer and songwriter of the year – repeating both wins again in 2003. Beyond awards and accolades too numerous to list in their entirety is the sense that both enjoy what they’re doing. It is equally apparent that they work hard at their craft.

Titles produced by the cheerfully bantering on-stage duo include the recently released Red Rock Moon, When Trails Meet and Our First Noel (14 Christmas tracks with Kip Calahan and R.W. Hampton). When Trails Meet has traveled several thousand miles with me, spinning merrily in the CD player of my car. It’s a collection of beloved standards and contemporary cowboy tunes, with something for everyone. "Gallivantin’ Galveston Gal," first recorded by Gene Autry kicks off the 13-track collection, followed by "Prairie Gal," "Yodel Blues," "Nevada Moon," "Montana Lullaby," "Place Where I Worship" and "Singing on the Trail."

To Curly’s credit are Range & Romance, The Heritage, Cowboy True and Born to be a Cowboy. Lyrics to eight of Curly’s songs and a complete listing of CD tracks are posted at www.cowboypoetry.com/curlymusgrave.htm. Order any of these for $17 postpaid directly from Curly J Productions, PO Box 512, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352; 909/338-3508.

The modest, Canadian-born Curly makes his home in Lake Arrowhead, California. He writes many of the songs he is best known for: "Father to Father," "My Daddy’s Hat" and "Cowboy True." Least you think all is trouble free in the cowboy world of which he sings, consider "Escalante Adios." Featured on National Public Radio’s "What’s in a Song," it tells of the federal government closing Utah grazing lands to make a new national park. The segment is archived at www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4462801.

Belinda, also from California, performs gospel and traditional country in addition to Western and Western swing. Labeled America's Western Sweetheart, Belinda’s recordings include She is a Cowgirl, Blessed Trails, Cowboy Code and Lass of the San Joaquin. Among my favorite gospel CDs, Blessed Trails includes "Wings of a Dove," "Detour," "If That Isn’t Love" and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." (For selected song lyrics and link to ordering information go to http://www.cowboypoetry.com/belindagail.htm). Titles sell for $17 postpaid.

If you have youngsters in your family, 4-H Club enrollment is on the horizon. Ask your child if they would be interested in Spurrin’ the Words, a cowboy poetry curriculum. (Even some older than average "kids" will find this resource invaluable. You need not be in 4-H to purchase these materials!)

Developed by Kirk Astroth, director of the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development at MSU-Bozeman, the materials provide a background on cowboy poetry, discuss stereotypes and encourage participants to learn about family and local history. The basics of writing poetry – rhyme and meter – are covered using classic and contemporary examples. (This should be of interest to budding poets of any age or anyone serious about improving their craft.) Astroth says writing cowboy poetry can help kids experience a sense of validation, a realization that their experiences are as valuable as anyone else's.

The project, supported by a grant from the Montana Arts Council, includes an instructional book and leader’s guide, along with an audio CD. Performances are by Montana poets Mike Logan, Gwen Petersen and Paul Zarzyski. The CD alone is worth the purchase price for Zarzyski’s vivid dialog on, and examples of, "falling in love with the sound of words." The zany Zarzyski takes the listener on a runaway romp encouraging creativity, careening downhill, all the while listening for the music in language, and rattling at last to a rewarding – if not completely truthful – end. If this doesn’t ignite creativity in a writer, ain’t nothing gonna make it burn.

Spurrin’ the Word was recognized by the American Folklore Society for encouraging K-12 educators or students to use or study folklore. Read more at www.montana4h.org. A popular resource with youth and adults, 4-H and public schools (home schoolers, check this out), it aligns with U.S. national educational standards for English.

The booklet with CD costs $10. Order directly (with a credit card) from MSU Extension Publications at 406-994-3273. Contact the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development at PO Box 173580, Bozeman, MT 59717-3580; 406-994-3501; kastroth@montana.edu. Several museums and bookstores carry it among their selections.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

July 2006

National Day of the American Cowboy: July 22

Organizers across the country are putting the finishing touches on plans for the National Day of the American Cowboy, Saturday, July 22. The resolution establishing the observation was conceived and drafted by folks at American Cowboy magazine. (For more info, including an events listing, go to http://www.cowboyday.com/about.php.) Jesse Mullins Jr, editor, has an insightful letter regarding the celebration in the July/August 2006 issue. It’s obvious that he put a great deal of thought into his remarks; get a copy and savor them. While you’re at it, savor this month’s entertainment selections:

Ridin’ & Rhymin’ is a documentary chronicling the life of 85-five-year-old Georgie Sicking, Kaycee, Wyo. I met Georgie and film maker Dawn Smallman, Far Away Films, at the 2003 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, where Dawn was filming. It was a lengthy process as they retraced Georgie’s childhood, married life and widowhood – up to the present. The resulting 57-minute film is humorous, heart breaking and inspiring.

Ranch raised, Georgie grew up in Arizona. Put out of the house in their teens, she and her brother ran a desert ranch. Georgie managed the place by herself while her brother worked for wages. It was then that she started writing poetry to pass the time. A National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, Georgie participated in the first Elko gathering and has been invited back several times since.

The winner of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival's award for best film about the American West, Ridin’ & Rhymin’ sells for $23.95 ppd. (For more about the film: : www.cowboypoetry.com/randr.htm#Order.) To order, send check or money order (specify DVD or VHS format) to Far Away Films, 1148 SE 50th Ave., Portland, OR 97215; (503) 295-6832; www.farawayfilm.com.

If you’re looking for light entertainment – something you can read every now and again that coaxes a smile – Ranchers, Rounders & Ropers by Robert "Jinglebob" Dennis fills the bill. Corralled between the covers of this 132-page, softcover book are poems and stories of northern Great Plains ranchlife.

A South Dakota rancher, Robert is an accomplished saddlemaker, cowboy poet and storyteller. (For more on Dennis: www.cowboypoetry.com/robertdennis.htm.) What amazes me most about Robert’s prose is that he writes like he talks. Nothing gets lost in the translation. All the details and all the fun are there!

Adding to the enjoyment of the selections are illustrations by Kaye Sperb, Belle Fourche, S.D., and a foreword by Darrell Arnold, editor of Cowboy Magazine. Robert is a frequent contributor to the publication, with several stories having appeared previously there in print. Ranchers, Rounders & Ropers (ISBN: 0-9765969-2-X) is available for $15 ppd from Dennis at 17410 Indian Creed Rd., Red Owl, SD 57785; 605-985-5419.

Spunky New Mexico cowgirl singer Kip Calahan has claimed her share of awards: the Western Music Association’s Song of the Year for "What Cowboy Means" and the Academy of Western Artists’ Female Vocalist of the Year and Western Album of the Year. To see Kip in person is to be drawn into her high-energy force field. Before you know what’s happened, you’re hooked. Music is her passion; she really puts on a show.

Kip’s sassy performance style comes through on the 12-track Dust Devil Angel, opening with Dave Stamey’s "Buckaroo Man," and concluding with Tom Russell’s "Last Thing Smokin." Sprinkled in between are three of Kip’s compositions (one co-authored with Clearfield, S.D. poet, Yvonne Hollenbeck) and a lilting rendition of "Tumbleweed." This isn’t your grandmother’s cowboy music: it’s largely up tempo and slightly edgy. For a complete track listing and samples go to www.kipcalahan.com. To order, send $17 ppd to Kip Calahan, P.O. Box 83, Animas, NM 88020; 505-548-2451.

Tri-State readers need to get tickets NOW for Creative Broadcasting Services’ salute to the cowboy, Wednesday, July 19. DW Groethe, Bainville, Mont., is featured on the Heritage of the American West: http://www.livewithjt.com/. Doors at the High Plains Western Heritage Center at 6 p.m.; show time is at 7. Senior citizens 62+ and kids 12 and under are $5; adults, $10; season pass with preferred seating, $100. Tickets include admission to the museum and a coffee and cookies reception prior to the show. Contact CBSI at 605-722-2511or jim@livewithjt.com.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

June 2006

Conjuring up Authentic Cowboy Memories
Lacking sound equipment or camcorders in the Old West, no recordings of early-day cowboy music performances exist. What today passes for classic cowboy tunes–although enjoyable and entertaining–fails to accurately replicate authentic cowboy music of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
A notable exception is Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys (Edited by Mark L. Gardner; recordings by Gardner and Rex Rideout; Museum of New Mexico, 2005). The book and accompanying 17-track CD are distinctly different from what is routinely classified “cowboy.” This historical study peels away the stereotypical layers, revealing the authentic, turn-of-the-century American West. A previously unpublished and unrecorded “Ti Ri Youdy” leads the way followed by such standards as “Grand Round-Up,” “Get Along, Little Dogies,” “The Tenderfoot,” “Windy Bill” and “Cow Boys Lament.    
Referred to by some as the godfather of cowboy music, N. Howard “Jack” Thorp compiled and published the genre's first songbook in 1908. The 50-page compilation was the result of 19 years spent among cowboys, sheepherders, saloon keepers, gypsies, medicine show professors, theater and circus performers, seeking the songs that cowboys sang. Further, he is credited with having written one of the most heart-rending, oft-performed cowboy ballads of all time, “Little Joe the Wrangler,” also on the CD.
Honoring Thorp’s ground-breaking work, Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys breathes life into the collection, making it more than merely words on a page. Sung solo and with minimal accompaniment, historian Gardner (www.songofthewest.com) and music historian Rideout (www.timetravelmusic.com) re-created the tunes using vintage instruments. Historically accurate  to the era, Gardner and Rideout selected a banjo, a diminutive piccolo banjo (Thorp traveled with one in his saddlebag), violin, concertina, parlor guitar, ebony bones and mandolin for accompaniment. Rideout notes that guitars didn’t make inroads into the West until after the Civil War and likely would not have been used.
With multiple editions of Thorp's work already in print, Gardner and Rideout chose to celebrate the historical aspect of his work. The resulting 80-page, softcover and CD is a grand celebration, indeed. From Gardner’s enlightening introduction to the lyrics, from eight superbly done line drawings by Ronald Kil to the recordings, from Thorp’s cowboy glossary to a suggested reading list and an attractive cover–the package is a bonafide treasure. 
Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (ISBN: 0890134782) is available for $24.95 plus $5 postage from the Museum of New Mexico Press, c/o UNM Press Order Dept., 3721 Spirit Dr. SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106 OR at 800-249-7737. Generous track samples can be heard at www.cdbaby.com/cd/markrex2, which also sells the title. Additionally, it is available from booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Since we’re riding the classics trail, let’s pay a visit to Dick Morton. Dick recites classic cowboy verse. Fifteen tracks are on his CD recording, Cowboy Classics, the subtle background music  provided by Gardner and Rideout.
A Colorado native, Dick was assigned to the 8th Cavalry at the end of WW II. Marrying a rancher’s daughter, he learned the daily and seasonal rhythms of ranching. When his wife, Jane, began writing and reciting poetry, Dick accompanied her to gatherings. He developed an interest in the classics and started memorizing his favorites. Dick won the title of top serious reciter at the 2005 Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Kanab, Utah (www.westernlegendsroundup.com/).
Poets of particular interest to him include Bruce Kiskaddon, Badger Clark, S. Omar Barker, E. A. Brinstool, Henry Herbert Knibbs and  D. J. O'Malley. Dick’s interest lies not so much in the perennial favorites of these legends as in their lesser known, more introspective pieces. His presentation isn’t flashy, but it connects in a powerful and charming manner. It's a recording to put in the player, push back in an easy chair, listen and relax. That's unusual for cowboy poetry.
My personal favorites include “Bunkhouse Christmas” by Barker; “The Broncho Twister's Prayer” by Kiskaddon; “The Walking Man” and “Where the Ponies Come to Drink” by Knibbs; and “The Cowboy’s Prayer” by Clark. For a complete track listing, go to www.cowboypoetry.com/dickmorton.htm
Cowboy Classics is available for $15 postpaid. Order by mail: (April–Oct.) Dick Morton (Dept. CJS), 12710 Abert Way, Colorado Springs, CO  80908 or (Oct.– April) 7961 E. Natal Ave., Mesa, AZ  85209. 

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

May 2006

Girls’ Night Out

Females on the cowboy frontier were rare. Respectable roles were generally confined to those of ranchers’ wives. In today’s world of cowboy poetry and Western music, women are more visible and considerably more vocal.

Virginia Bennett is one of the genre’s most respected poets – male or female. Reared in New Hampshire, Bennett headed West while in her teens. Since 1971 she’s broken and trained horses and worked on ranches throughout her beloved West. She now calls California home, working alongside her ranch-manager husband, Pete.

A veteran writer and performer, she’s appeared at Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering 12 times – her poetry included in several anthologies. Those praising her work use words like "authentic" and "wisdom." Sprinkle in "humor" and "traditions" and you have the basis for Bennett’s wide-ranging look into life in the American West. Read a sampling at www.cowboypoetry.com/vibennett.htm.

Among my personal favorites are "I Like to Think I Know"– speculating on the background of a dependable horse acquired as a 10 year old, "The West Had Its Way With Me"– about her journey west and " Home . . . Again"– contemplating crossing over. These can also be found within In the Company of Horses. Published in 2004, the 166-page softcover contains 107 poems, 25 photos from the Bennett family album, an insightful introduction and extensive notes on the poems. To order, send $18.95 to Virginia Bennett, PO Box 216, Paso Robles, CA 93447.

Juni Fisher’s voice is rising in the ranks of contemporary Western/Cowboy music. A singing storyteller, Fisher was raised on a farm and learned traditional cowboy songs from her father. She studied equine science, worked at a sales yard and rodeoed. She’s ridden reined cowhorses, cutting horses, foxhunters and steeple chasers and penned her own cowboy music. Fisher was named the 2005 Female Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. Voters were undoubtedly impressed by the originality of her writing. Some suggest she is the female equivalent of song writing heavy-weight, Tom Russell. For more www.cowboypoetry.com/junifisher.htm.

Cowgirlography is Fisher’s most recent release, saluting real cowgirls, horses and love. The liner notes for the title track warn, "If you wear ‘fashion hats’ and line dance, stop here. You may not understand . . . heck, you may even get mad." From her 17-point "Rules of Cowgirlography" are "#1. Treat men and horses nice and #7. Your hat: shape it well. It goes on your brow, not on the back of your head." Standout tracks are "Bring My Fiddle" – a dying cowboy’s request, "The West (Boys, She Ain’t Broke to Ride)"– by Baxter Black and Jack Hannah and "I Hope She’ll Love Me"– a touching duet with Joe (Sons of the San Joaquin) Hannah.

For details of her three CDs ($16 postpaid for one; any three for $40), go to www.junifisher.com. Order from Red Geetar Records, 2105 Granville Rd, Franklin, TN 37064. Note: Juni Fisher and Patty Clayton headline the 20th annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Medora, N.D. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., May 27 and 28. Contact Bill Lowman at 701-872-4746.

Add some fun to your backyard grilling with The All-American Cowboy Grill (Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, Ken Black & Jim Clark, Rutledge Hill Press, 2004). Rogers-Barnett, the daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, collected 200 recipes focusing on the grill and dedicated them to the American cowboy. Rodeo cowboys, film greats, TV stars and music legends contributed to the collection. A section at the back gives the Web sites for many of those who contributed, including Gene Autry, James Drury, Don Edwards, Chris LeDoux, Ty Murray, George Strait and Patsy Montana.

The majority of the recipes are entrees, but there are dishes that can be prepared on the grill and foods to accompany a meal. You’ll find Pilar and John Wayne’s Glamorous Meat Loaf; Donnie Gay’s Posse Potatoes; Montie Montana Jr.’s Hang ’Em High Jalapeno Cornbread; and Doug McClure’s Trampa’s Banana Cream Pie.

Adding to the delightful mix are 100 movie stills and publicity shots with Western pop culture trivia sprinkled throughout. Sidebars feature real Western history. The 240-page, comb-bound book retails for $16.99 from www.rutledgehillpress.com. It sells for slightly less from Amazon.com and may also be found at your local bookstore.

Submit items for consideration to Jeri Dobrowski, 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621 .

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

April 2006

National Cowboy Poetry Week: April 16-22, 2006

Saddle up and ride along with those celebrating National Cowboy Poetry Week. Proclaimed by unanimous resolution of the U. S. Senate in 2003, it’s a coast-to-coast salute to the meter and rhyme of the working West and its heritage.

Cowboy Poetry Week is sponsored by the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc. The nonprofit formed to serve a mostly rural community of Western writers, musicians and artists. Its aim is to help preserve Western and cowboy poetry; to provide a central resource for poets, libraries, schools and the public; and to educate the public about the history and value of Western and cowboy poetry. Individuals, groups and radio personalities are planning a variety of events. To find out about the festivities, go to www.cowboypoetry.com.

In honor of Cowboy Poetry Week 2006, a small group of dedicated folks produced the Center’s first CD compilation, The BAR-D Roundup. Recordings by some of today's best classic and contemporary cowboy poets were hand picked for inclusion. Mark L. Gardner leads off the 27-tracks with "What’s Become of the Punchers?" by Jack Thorp, America’s first collector of cowboy music and poetry. Red Steagall weighs in with "Born to this Land." Besides these two serious works, there are plenty of laughs to be had, supplied by poets from across the West. A detailed track listing can be found at www.cowboypoetry.com/cdnotes.htm.

The BAR-D Roundup is available for a $20 donation. Proceeds support the Center. Send check or money order to CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133, or order on-line at www.cowboypoetry.com/cd.htm#Order.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of cowboy verse or just getting a feel for it, Buck Ramsey’s Grass: with Essays on His Life and Work is a "must read." Edited by Scott Braucher and Bette Ramsey, Buck’s widow, "Grass" is a book-length poem. It tells the tale of Billy Deaver, who leaves the farm at 15 to pursue a cowboy's life.

In describing "Grass," author Bryan Woolley said: "The story of Billy Deaver’s entry into manhood and the world is a tale that was lived in the flesh by hundreds of young cowboys in the days of the big ranches and long cattle drives. It is a Texas story, a Western story, an American story. This book serves as tribute to a man who is sorely missed, but whose spirit lives gloriously in his work."

Buck Ramsey (1938–1998) completed the epic in the 1980s while confined to a wheelchair. He was paralyzed nearly three decades earlier – the result of a horse wreck. In between the accident and his death he learned to play the guitar, generated an extensive body of poetry and worked to preserve and perform historic cowboy songs. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and received the National Heritage Master Artist Award.

First published in 1992 under the title And As I Rode Out on the Morning, the commemorative Grass contains the poem, the short story it was based on and commentaries on Ramsey’s work from poets, musicians, historians and others devoted to the cowboy movement.

Not to be overlooked are 21 line drawings and 68 photos. Walt LaRue did the drawings for the original book. They were never used, however, as the publisher made the decision to cut them from the project. What a shame they were previously omitted; what a treat they were used this time. Photos gleaned from museum collections blend seamlessly with the text presented on opposite pages. Several came from the XIT Museum in Dalhart, Texas; the majority are from the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas.

Completing the package is a 1990 CD recording of Buck performing "Grass." The prologue, "Anthem," is often praised as the finest single piece of literature to arise from the cowboy renaissance. Buck rose to prominence among modern cowboy poets with his 1989 recitation of the prologue at Elko’s cowboy poetry gathering. (His first recording of "Anthem" is included on the previously mentioned Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry CD compilation.)

Order the 170-page hardback Grass from Texas Tech University Press, Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037; 800-832-4042; www.ttup.ttu.edu

It sells for $29.95.

To submit items for consideration contact Jeri Dobrowski at jamsession@robscabinets.com; 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621.

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

March 2006

Way Out Yonder and Then Some

While preparing this installment, I discovered the CD I planned to share with you had been named the 2006 Western Heritage Award winner for Outstanding Traditional Western Album. Way Out Yonder by Sons of the San Joaquin is a worthy recipient.

Presented by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (formerly the National Cowboy Hall of Fame), previous honorees include Don Edwards, Red Steagall, Riders In The Sky-– and the Sons of the San Joaquin. They have been recognized twice previously for outstanding original compositions "Charlie and the Boys" and "He Just Can’t Be Seen From the Road." (For more about this award: www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/e_awar.html.

For those of you who are not familiar with The Sons, they are a family trio based in Fresno – in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Brothers, Joe and Jack Hannah, and Joe’s son, Lon, sing Western songs in velvety, three-part harmony. The lyrics celebrate the life and work of the American cowboy. The late Roy Rogers said The Sons were the closest thing to the legendary Sons of the Pioneers, which he founded. That’s quite a compliment.

I had the pleasure of hearing The Sons in person last summer in Kanab, Utah, where they were headlining at the Western Legends Roundup. What a show these fellas put on!

They get right to business with the opening track, "There’s a Rainbow over the Range," written by Tim Spencer of Sons of the Pioneers fame. Jack Hannah penned most of the remaining tracks, including my favorites "It’s the Open Range for Me," "A Cowboy’s Heart is in the Saddle" and "The Lord of the Rollin’ Hills." For a complete track listing and 45-second audio samples: www.westernjubilee.com/WayOutYonder.htm

The Sons record with Western Jubilee Recording Company. Previous albums include 15 Years- - A Retrospective; Sing One for the Cowboy; Horses, Cattle and Coyotes; Gospel Trails and Christmas. CDs sell for $15 each plus $3 s/h from www.westernjubilee.com; PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932; 800-707-2353.

For generations, ranch folks have hung Charlie Russell prints in the livingroom, den and bunkhouse. Today, works by Tim Cox and Jack Terry are gaining popularity. All of these can be found at AllPosters, Emeryville, California, which claims to be the world’s largest poster and print store: www.allposters.com.

AllPosters on-line catalog lists 1,962 items under Americana - American West: 882 items pertaining to cowboys; 96 for cowgirls; 378 for Western. Additional artists represented include David R. Stoecklein; William Albert Allard; William Matthews; Donna Howell-Sickles; Frank Tenney Johnson; Bill Owen; Gordon Snidow; John Fawcett; and James Bama.

There are prints of photographs, paintings and pencil drawings (plain, matted and framed); tapestries; note cards; posters; magnets. Items range in size from 8x20" to 40x30". Prices range from $5 for a magnet to $445.99 for an artist’s proof of Michael Swearngin’s "The Mesa Is His Dwelling." Most prints and posters are in the $20-$60 range.

If you’ve been looking for affordable artwork for your home or office, consider such Russell classics as "In Without Knocking," "Partners," "Tight Dally and a Loose Latigo" or "Camp Cook's Troubles." Perhaps you’d prefer Frederic S. Remington’s "Running Bucker," "Stampede," "Fall of the Cowboy" or "In a Stampede." I’ve always been fond of Tom Ryan’s work. "Sharing an Apple," "A Split Decision" and "Heritage" are all available.

Besides such recognized paintings, there are images reproduced from vintage postcards, song books, rodeo posters, ads, fruit crate labels and Anheuser Busch Brewing Association’s "Custer’s Last Fight." There are studio promotional pieces featuring Roy Rogers and Tom Mix and hundreds of contemporary works by artists and photographers depicting the West. Unfortunately, the inventory is accessible only by computer.

Save the Memorial Day weekend, May 27-28, for the 20th annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Medora, N. D. Bill Lowman, organizer, announced the lineup. Headlining night shows on Saturday and Sunday are Juni Fisher and Patty Clayton. Saturday’s show also features Lowman and Jess Howard. Sunday’s includes the Larsen Brothers and The Old Five & Dime. Yvonne Hollenbeck presents "Five Generations of Quilts" at the Medora Community Center at 10 a.m., Saturday. Contact Lowman at 701-872-4746.

To submit items for consideration for Cowboy Jam Session contact Jeri Dobrowski at jamsession@robscabinets.com; 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621.

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column also appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

February 2006

Prospecting for Cowboy Poetry and Western History

Cowboy Miner Productions has released the latest in their series of contemporary cowboy poetry: West River Waltz by DW Groethe. Hal Cannon, Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center, penned a back-cover blurb for the book calling Groethe's work "fine craftsmanship."

A North Dakota native living in Bainville, Montana, Groethe was invited to perform at Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Library of Congress, The Kennedy Center and the National Folk Festival in 2005. Those invitations speak to his authenticity, writing ability and musical prowess. When he’s not on the road, he reports for work on a ranch north of Bainville.

Popular cowboy poet Pat Richardson wrote me recently about West River Waltz. He was obviously excited about the book: "It’s brimming with originality. Groethe is a genius!" Lamenting the sameness of topic and predicable rhymes employed by too many modern poets, Richardson continued: "Groethe writes with the depth and the confidence of someone who knows what he's writing about – which is refreshing. He does serious poems just as well as he does funny ones. It's the best cowboy poetry book I've seen."

Included in Groethe’s first hardback are more than 70 poems and the lyrics from his four recordings. (For a complete listing go to www.cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm#Waltz.) The 224-page West River Waltz is available from Cowboy Miner at www.cowboyminer.com/dw-groethe.html; 1614 E. Bell Road, Ste. 101 #33, Phoenix, AZ 85022. You may also order directly from Groethe for $24.50 postpaid: PO Box 144 – Dept. CPDC, Bainville, MT 59212. Request an autographed copy if you like.

Cowboy Miner started when Mason Coggin, a mining engineer, recorded and produced a cassette of underground mining poetry and another of Bruce Kiskaddon’s cowboy classics. The tapes quickly sold out, and Mason and his wife, Janice, made plans to publish a book of Kiskaddon’s most popular poems. Their goal was to produce a treasured book worthy of being willed to a favored heir. That hardback, Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, sold out and is available only on the secondary market. Subsequent collections featured works of S. Omar Barker and Henry Herbert Knibbs.

Of particular interest to the cow country region of eastern Montana, Classic Rhymes & Prose by D. J. O'Malley, was released in 2000. It began with an unpublished manuscript of poems and articles written by O'Malley and obtained from the Montana State Historical Society. O'Malley was the stepson of a cavalry officer on the burial detail for Custer's command at the Little Big Horn. He worked as a cowboy, stock inspector, deputy sheriff and guard at the Montana State Penitentiary. Many of the folks he encountered during his lifetime became Western history notables. Besides his famous "When the Work’s All Done This Fall," O’Malley wrote newspaper stories. These are the prose contained within the book, along with plentiful photos and illustrations. If you don’t already have this 293-page volume in your Western library, your library is incomplete.

Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, edited by Greg Scott, was released in 2005. I met Scott last April in Cody, Wyoming, where he spoke at Cowboy Songs and Range Ballads at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. As with the O’Malley collection, this 430-page hardback goes far beyond poetry, assembling 25 short stories and several essays credited to South Dakota’s poet laureate. Not to slight Clark’s legendary rhymes such as "A Cowboy's Prayer" and "A Bad Half Hour," I found his short stories captivating. At the end of three weeks – reading a story a night – I felt as if I had lost a good friend when the stories came to a close. Clark’s poetry can be found in print quite readily, but Scott and Cowboy Miner did a great service to the reading public by bringing his stories to print – along with his poetry.

The first in a series of modern-day cowboy poetry collections, Cowboy Miner debuted Contemporary Verse by Larry McWhorter in 2000. McWhorter passed away in 2003. Thankfully, his best loved and most requested poems were compiled in this one volume. Following McWhorter’s were similar collections by Duke Davis; Chris Isaacs; Sunny Hancock and Jesse Smith; Jane Ambrose Morton; Rolf Flake; Michael Whitaker; Kent Stockton; and now, Groethe.

See Cowboy Miner’s complete selection of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western tales at www.cowboyminer.com.

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

January 21, 2006
Special Black Hills Stock Show Edition

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Some links for the above article:

    Ken Overcast: www.KenOvercast.com
   North Dakota State Senator Ryan Taylor: www.mycowboylogic.com 
   Montana rancher, writer, and minister John L. Moore: www.johnlmoore.com

   Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo: http://blackhillsstockshow.com


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

January 2006

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held annually in Elko, Nevada, is as entertaining as Miles City’s Bucking Horse Sale, a county fair and talent show rolled into one week-long affair. Music, dancing, educational workshops, poetry, cowboy gear, documentaries, shopping and ethnic food abound in this celebration of traditional and contemporary cowboy life.

The 2006 edition runs January 28 to February 4. During the busiest days, performances run continuously and concurrently on multiple stages. Visit the sponsoring Western Folklife Center online at www.westernfolklife.org.  Contact them at 888-880-5885.

This region’s invited performers include Chuck Larsen and Jesse Smith from Wyoming; North Dakotans Jess Howard and Rodney Nelson; Montanans Wally McRae and Paul Zarzyski; native Montanan Wylie Gustafson, now of Washington; and South Dakota’s Yvonne Hollenbeck.

Three other performers I have to mention are Jay Snider, Jerry Brooks and Baxter Black. Snider, a rancher from southwest Oklahoma, and Brooks, an underground miner from Utah, are making their first Elko appearances. I’ve had the pleasure to hear both at Sam Jackson’s Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Kanab, Utah, where they’ve taken home trophies and prize money on a regular basis. Snider writes contemporary and classic-flavored verse. Brooks is a phenomenal reciter of classic cowboy tales. Plus, they’re both just really nice folks.

Black needs little in the way of introduction, except to say that he is as rare of a gentleman as he is a talent. It’s no wonder he was selected to deliver a foreword to Elko! A Cowboy’s Gathering, a 2-disk CD recorded live during the 2004 Gathering. If you can’t be in Elko in person, this is the next best thing. Still, you’d miss the legendary, late-night jam sessions at the Stockmen.

Summarizing the event, Black says: "Elko made cowboy poetry respectable. It put poetry, all poetry, on the national stage... It has proven poetry to be a salable commodity... It has breathed live into the careers of a herd of talented Western singers and song writers, not to mention thousands of folklorists, theatrical folks, Western artists, saddle makers, historians, Louie L'Amour lovers, Indians, Australians, Mongolians, film makers and publishers who have hooked up to the oxygen of Elko and breathed deep..."

A generous 40 tracks are included on the set released by Western Jubilee Recording Company. Elko! contains poetry, story telling, singing, accordion and harp playing. Among my favorites are "The Drover Road to Amulree" by David Wilkie & Denise Withnell; "Silver Spurs" by the Sons of the San Joaquin; Wally McRae’s "Things of Intrinsic Worth"; Joel Nelson’s "Equus Caballus"; R.W. Hampton’s "Born to Be a Cowboy"; and "Evening Chat" by Waddie Mitchell. It ends, appropriately, with Don Edwards’ "When the Campfire Has Gone Out." The collection sells for $24.95 plus $7.50 s/h. It is available through the Western Folklife Center at www.westernfolklife.org/giftshop/; 501Railroad St., Elko, NV 89801.

The Center’s best selling CDs are River of No Return and I'm Pullin’ Through by Stephanie Davis; Baxter Black's Double CD; And I Stood There Amazed, Eighteen Inches of Rain and Lost Herd by Ian Tyson; Then Sings My Soul by R.W. Hampton; Song of the West by Tom Russell; and Paul Zarzyski’s Words Growing Wild.

From My Window is Yvonne Hollenbeck’s recent release of 65 poems. As with her previous collections, Hollenbeck included photos and stories from the Great Plains homestead era. This versatile entertainer included selections from her five-generation quilt trunk show in the 115-page paperback. For those who are familiar with Hollenbeck, you’ll find the ever-popular "What Would Martha Do?" Send $15 to 30549 291 St., Clearfield, SD 57580; 605-557-3559. To see where Hollenbeck is performing after Elko, go to her Web site at www.YvonneHollenbeck.com

I couldn’t have been happier to receive Jay Snider’s Of Horses and Men along with a Christmas card from him and wife, Sandi. The CD features 15 tracks in his easy-going Southern drawl and is infused with masterfully edited background music. "Three Hundred Miles to Go" invites listeners into the world of the trail herd cowboy. A playful story about "Bankers" brings it to a modern close. Humor and wisdom are scattered throughout. Send $19 to Snider at, Rt. 1 Box 167, Cyril OK 73029; 580-464-3103. For more about Snider go to his page at www.JaySnider.net

©  2006, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News


Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

December 2005

Books for Christmas Gift Giving

Last month I promised gift ideas for the reader. These are titles I came across during the course of the year and saved especially for this. They are worthy of the season’s fanciest wrappings.

Let’s set the mood with Christmas in the Old West: A Historical Scrapbook by Sam Travers. Owner of North Pole West, a Cody, Wyoming Christmas shop, Travers assembled an incredible collection of stories, reminiscences, recipes, photographs, clippings and advertisements about Christmas on the American frontier. Read it cover to cover or jump in anywhere and read what tickles your fancy. The design of the 252-page paperback is especially attractive; it would be great for a teacher.

The scrapbook begins with Lewis and Clark and spans all aspects of Western life. There are menus, recipes and instructions for old-fashioned ornaments. The book sells for $31 postpaid and is available from Mountain Press Publishing Co., PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806; (800) 234-5308; www.mountain-press.com.

I am excited that L .A. Huffman: Photographer of the American West by Larry Len Peterson is available in paperback! Originally released in 2003 (in a run of just 2000 hardback copies), it quickly sold out. In a phone conversation with the publisher, I asked if there would be a second printing. He assured me that they would not reprint. Thankfully, Mountain Press Publishing saw the potential and released it in paperback in September 2005.

This handsome book contains 520 sepia-and-hand-tinted color photos in 308 oversized pages. Text and images chronicle Huffman’s career as a frontier photographer. A friend of Charlie Russell, Huffman is known for his images of plains Indians and working cowboys. Huffman served as post photographer at Fort Keogh, Montana Territory, and also maintained a studio in Miles City.

Send $48 (postpaid) to Mountain Press Publishing Co., PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806; (800) 234-5308; www.mountain-press.com. Order a copy for yourself, because once you see it, you won’t want to part with it.

My reading preference tends toward nonfiction, but when Western author Eugene C. Vories asked if I’d like to read one of his novels, I agreed. Vories, a frequent contributor to Cowboy Magazine, sent me a copy of Monte. Monte is a modern day rancher with strong feelings about what is right and does his best to defend a new neighbor against an unscrupulous banker. Vories spins a good yarn and keeps you guessing about what’s going to happen next. It’s obvious that Vories knows ranching, which I found refreshing.

The 123-page book (with regrettably small type) sells for $11.50 postpaid. Order from Vories at PO Box 214, La Veta, CO 81055-0214; (719) 742-5426; gvories@webcoast2coast.net. Other titles by Vories include Monte’s Revenge, Mr. Grant's Cowboy and Ride for the Brand.

If you’re searching for a gift for someone who appreciates quality poetry and fine Western art, consider Where Sagebrush Grows. Winner of the Will Rogers Medallion Award, "Sagebrush" is a collection of poetry by Darin Brookman with illustrations by Brian Asher. Either could have produced a book by themselves – together – the result is amazing.

Brookman works a fifth-generation farm and ranch straddling the Oklahoma/Texas state line. He is no wannabe. Same for Asher, whose eye for realism and detail is nothing short of astounding. You can read Brookman's poetry at www.CowboyPoetry.com/darinbrookman.htm. Visit Asher's web site at www.brianasherart.com. He sells prints at this site, and there’s one to suit most any horseman.

The 75-page, paperback is available for $23 from Pair'a Spurs Press; Rt. 2 Box 20, Hollis, OK 73550 or www.SilverCreekBooks.com. It is a small book, but one that you’ll find yourself picking up over and over again, thumbing through to gaze at the drawings.

Trixie, My Shetland Pony by Dr. Edward Keller is for the little cowpoke on your list. The third in Keller’s series of history picture books, "Trixie" tells of the adventures Keller shared with his pony while growing up near Stausburg, N.D. It will rekindle memories for older folks and enlighten today’s youngsters.

Other books in the series are My Mother’s Apron and My First Grade, 1932. All of the Early Dakota Prairie Series are illustrated by North Dakota artist, David Christy. The 56-page hardbacks sell for $19.95 each (include $2 per order for s/h) from Keller at 529 2nd Ave W, Dickinson, ND 58601; (701) 225-5302. You may also order online from http://www.lasercrafts.com/edkeller2.asp.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

November 2005

The Christmas Itch

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul, so here goes: I shop for Christmas gifts all year long. The upside is that I’m seldom wondering at the last minute what to get for someone. The downside is that sometimes I stash a gift and forget where I put it or forget I even bought it.

For those of you who might just be starting to think about the cowboys on your list, may I suggest an audio gift of music or poetry? (Suggestions for the readers in your bunkhouse next month.)

For those needing to get into the Christmas mood, let’s start with Christmas in Ol’ San Antone by Dicky Overby and Bobby Flores. A Western instrumental, there’s fiddle, guitar, mandolin, steel and piano. It sounds like the Christmases of my childhood. The 10 tracks, including "Away in a Manger," "Silver Bells" and "In Excelsis Deo" sell for $16.99 from www.yellowroserecords.com; P.O. Box 1526, Blanco, TX, 78606; 866-264-2400.

While you’re at Yellow Rose Records, check out Flores’ Too Many Rivers and Amber Digby’s Music from the Honky Tonks. This is Country/Western music the way it used to be, back in the 60s and early 70s, (Flores throws in a little Western swing). Some of the songs are classics, some just sound like the old standards. Either way, they’re a hit.

Songs of San Antonio: Western Swing by County Music Hall of Famer Billy Cate was brought to my attention by a music promoter. The steel guitar, drums, fiddle, bass and piano had my toes tappin’ from the start. Leading off with "Across the Alley from the Alamo" and ending with "Waltzing in Old San Antonio" every track salutes San Antonio. In between you’ll hear "Rose, My Rose of San Antone," "Rose of San Antone" and "San Antonio Rose." Send $15 to Texas Chisholm Trail Music, 100 Chisholm Trail, Cleburne, TX 76033; 817-641-7418; www.billycate.com.

Smoke from Distant Campfires: Classic Texas Tales Retold by Charles Williams takes you north on a mythical cattle drive. You’ll hear stories as cowboys might have while camped at night. A professional Santa, Williams is an effective storyteller. Accordion and guitar accompaniment blend nicely with the narratives. Ten tracks feature the works of historian/storytellers Andy Adams, Jack Thorpe, Caleb Pirtle and Williams. You’ll hear "Roping a Bear," "Night in Dodge City" and "Jim Red." Send $18 to Charles Williams, 6245 Chelsey Lane, Dallas, TX 75214; 214-750-1362; www.cowboypoetry.com/charleswilliams.htm.

If you have a baby-faced or grizzled cowboy in your bunkhouse, consider Writin’ for the Brand by Colen H. Sweeten Jr. A child of the Depression, Sweeten has a solid-gold personality that delights most who meet him. He recorded 60 poems on this two-disk CD where history, family and humor abound. Don’t tell him, but my dad is getting a copy of this in his stocking. "A Barnyard Ballet," "Goodbye Pard," "Livin’ in Town," "Memories of Christmas," "My Old Hat," "Reverence on the Range" and "Windmill " will delight and touch the heart of the listener. Send $17 to Colen Sweeten, 286 S. 1700 East, Springville UT 84663.

Heavens to Betsy is Betsy Bell Hagar’s debut album. An insightful songwriter in her own right, she set six Paul Zarzyski poems to music. The 12-track CD, produced by Rich O’Brien, alternates between the two. You’ll hear Zarzyski on "Star Light Star Bright." Beyond that, the vocals are all Hagar’s. Set aside time for serious listening, but be prepared for serious enjoyment. Zarzyski’s "The Christmas Saguaro Soiree" and "True Cowboy Love" and Hager’s "Santa Ann Nights" and "October Moon" stand out on this collaboration. Guitar, mandolin, piano, fiddle, viola, cello, steel, dobro, accordion and tenor sax take this project beyond ordinary. Send $20 to Side B Music, P.O. Box 1749, Monterey, CA 93942; www.paulzarzyski.com.

An upbeat "Payday" by the Flying J Wranglers opens Cowboy Dreamin. A six-piece house band that plays at the Flying J Ranch near Ruidoso, N.M., these folks are talented musicians! You’ll hear "Roly Poly," along with smokin’ fiddle tunes, including "Wild Fiddlers Rag." "Cowboy Blues," "Dakota Wind," "Mountain Railway" and a "Danny Boy/America the Beautiful" medley are highlights on the 13-track collection. Send $18 to Flying J Ranch, Box 2505, Ruidoso, NM 88355; http://www.flyingjranch.com; 888-458-3595.

Note: Christmas in Ol’ San Antone by Dicky Overby and Bobby Flores; Too Many Rivers by Bobby Flores; Music from the Honky Tonks by Amber Digby; Songs of San Antonio: Western Swing by Billy Cate; Heavens to Betsy by Betsy Bell Hagar; and Cowboy Dreamin by the Flying J Wranglers may be ordered for $13 each from Joe Baker, Backforty Bunkhouse Promotions, 106 Roswell St., Ruidoso, NM 88345; (505) 257-3955; www.BackfortyBunkhouse.com.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

October 2005

Talking Books

Shelter belts and wooded draws are announcing winter’s impending arrival. The autumnal color show reminds us that summer’s robust daylight will soon give way to evening’s lingering darkness. I welcome the shorter days. They provide the opportunity to revisit books previously set aside in haste – awaiting a less hectic season.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to enjoy a book. Diminishing eyesight can steal the joy of reading. If you have a family member or friend who finds even large print text difficult or impossible to read, consider books on tape. The name and lending policies vary from state to state, but most libraries call them talking books.

Congress established library services for blind adults in 1931. In 1952, the needs of children were addressed; in 1962, the program added instructional music and scores; in 1966, services to individuals with physical impairments who are unable to read standard print were included, and in 1981, individuals with a reading disability based on a physical dysfunction.

In addition to commercially-produced tapes and those recorded by volunteers, the program provides tape players and headphones. Before receiving materials, individuals need to register with their state library. For the program specifics in your state, contact The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20542; 888-657-7323; http://www.loc.gov/nls/.

North Dakota has a readily assessable 83-page, on-line catalog of titles available – not all states do. Among them are several favorites of mine. The Checkered Years by Mary Dodge Woodward contains excerpts from Woodward’s 1884-1889 diary, written while living on a Bonanza Farm in Dakota Territory. If you think your life has challenges, give this first-hand account a-listen! Up Sims Creek: The First 100 Trips by Rodney Nelson is as lighthearted as Woodward’s is stark. For cowboy tales, consider They Were Good Men and Salty Cusses and Both Feet in the Stirrups by Bill Huntington. These are Old West stories at their best.

North Dakotans should contact the North Dakota State Library, 604 E Blvd Ave - Dept 250, Bismarck ND 58505-0800; 701-328-2492; 800-472-2104; http://ndsl.lib.state.nd.us/.

South Dakota offers not only talking books but Braille materials. The South Dakota Braille and Talking Book Library has been in existence since 1969. Of particular interest in their collection is the autobiographical We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher by Edward Charles "Teddy" Abbott. Fiction fans will find an abundance of Zane Grey works.

Contact the South Dakota Braille and Talking Book Library at State Library Building, 800 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501-2294; 605-773-3131; 800-423-6665, http://www.sdstatelibrary.com/talkbook/Daniel Boyd is the librarian. Reach him at dan.boyd@state.sd.us.

Nebraska has quite a nice selection of Western and pioneer titles for their residents. Their selection includes cowboys, pioneers, frontiersmen, settlers, emigrants and Native Americans. Books described in this catalog may be fiction or nonfiction. Many are about Nebraska, the Great Plains and the Midwest. Others tell the tales of the California Gold Rush, frontier towns of the Southwest or fur trade in the Pacific Northwest. They also have radio dramas.

I see they have a recorded version of a book I purchased recently, The Old-time Cowhand, by Ramon Adams. While I haven’t read this particular title, it should be a good one. Adams authored numerous books on cowboys and the Old West and is recognized as an important and engaging historian.

Contact the Nebraska Library Commission, Talking Book and Braille Service at 1200 N St. Suite 120, Lincoln, NE 68508-2023 or http://www.nlc.state.ne.us/tbbs/. David Oertli is the librarian. Reach him at 402-471-4038; 800-742-7691; doertli@nlc.state.ne.us

Among Montana’s 48,000-title collection are fiction and nonfiction for all ages, including magazines. There’s folklore, biographies, family sagas, Montana authors, Native American, pioneer, frontier life and Westerns. I spotted three sure-fire winners among their offering: the 1956 classic about frontier photographer L.A. Huffman, Before Barbed Wire by Mark Brown and W.R. Felton; The Range by Sherm Ewing; Recollections of Charlie Russell by Frank Linderman.

To find out more about their lending policy and available titles, contact the Montana Talking Book Library, PO Box 201800, Helena, MT 59620-1800; 406-444-2064; 800-332-3400; http://msl.mt.gov/tbl.

If your state isn’t included among those mentioned here, contact your local or state library for more information or go to http://www.loc.gov/nls/.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

September 2005

Academy of Western Artists Winners

Members of the Academy of Western Artists met in July for their annual convention and awards ceremony. Singers, poets and craftsmen from the Northern Great Plains have done well through the years at the Texas gathering – taking home awards in their respective categories. Space prohibits listing all 37 winners, but I’ll bring you up to speed on regional names you’ll recognize:

A Billings, Montana saddle maker, Chas Weldon, received the Will Rogers statuette for 30 years spent building gear for working cowboys, recreational riders and collectors. In recent years he has concentrated his efforts on building saddles, though in the early years he made a variety of items. To date, he’s made 500 saddles. Some were built at Connolly's in Billings, others in Sheridan, Wyo., at King’s. Two were purchased by singing cowboy, actor and businessman, Gene Autry. One of those was a gift to Nolan Ryan when the California Angels retired his number. A photo gallery of Weldon’s saddles may be seen at www.cowboysaddlery.com.

Wyoming’s hitcher/braider, Sara Hegel was recognized for her talents in converting horsehair to rope. According to Hegel’s website, it takes 3-to-4 people to put a mecate – Spanish for horsehair rope – together using hand-operated equipment. The ropes are used as reins, lead ropes and for decorations. Mane hair, unlike synthetic materials, is not broken down by UV radiation, and because it’s slick, it stays cleaner longer than cotton. The Douglas cowgirl and her husband own Hagel's Cowboy Gear, where they make patterned mane-hair ropes and cinches, plain and fancy leather headstalls, chinks, hobbles, spur straps, slobber straps and curb straps. View Hegel’s craftsmanship at www.mecates.com.

Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, S.D., was named outstanding cowgirl poet. Playing gatherings and festivals from California to Arizona, Texas to Colorado, Hollenbeck brings authenticity and creativity to the stage. She and her husband, Glen, raise cattle and horses north of Valentine, Neb. Because of her close ties to production agriculture, her poetry is as honest as it is entertaining. Although known predominantly for her quick wit and rhymes, Hollenbeck is also an accomplished quilter. She offers a traveling trunk show filled with quilts spanning 130 years. Her narrative, seasoned with poetry, illustrates the evolution of quilting within her own family as she unfolds and displays 30 cherished coverlets.

Hollenbeck’s schedule and merchandise are posted at www.yvonnehollenbeck.com. Among items offered for sale are her award-winning book, Where Prairie Flowers Bloom, and Dakota Cowboy Poetry, a CD recorded live at the Boss Cowman Conference Center in Lemmon, S.D. The CD includes Hollenbeck’s poetry, along with performances by Elizabeth Ebert, Rodney Nelson and Jess Howard.

Ebert, from Lemmon, S.D., and Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Newcastle, Wyo., were previously selected as outstanding female poet by the AWA membership.

Montana’s native son, Wylie Gustafson, gathered the most votes as Western music yodeler of the year, giving him back-to-back wins. In addition, Wylie & The Wild West was named outstanding Western music group. Merchandise and tour dates can be found at www.wyliewebsite.com.

AWA Western Region Disc Jockey honors went to brothers, Andy and James Nelson, Pinedale, Wyo. The duo hosts the always lighthearted, routinely wacky and occasionally informative Clear Out West (C.O.W.) Radio Show. I’ve mentioned them before, and they’re worth mentioning again. You can tune into C.O.W. Radio anytime, anywhere, thanks to the magic of the internet. Shows are archived, so you can catch up on ones you’ve missed: www.clearoutwest.com.

Of timely, regional interest is outstanding Western female vocalist, Juni Fisher. While she makes her home in Tennessee, she will be featured on Jim Thompson’s September 21 edition of Heritage of the American West, Spearfish, S.D. Call or email now to get your tickets, as this show should and could easily sell out: 605-722-2511; www.livewithjt.com.

I have both of Fisher’s recordings which are available at www.junifisher.net. Tumbleweed Letters is filled with historically-based ballads from the immigration and settlement of the American West. Several compositions contain reoccurring characters, helping to advance the story line further along the trail. You’ll meet Irish immigrants, a Jersey cow, a Cavalry mule and the "wicked Felina" from Marty Robbin’s "El Paso." Her "Sierry Boots," an epilogue to "The Sierry Petes," is exceptionally clever and playful.

For a complete listing of this year’s Academy of Western Artists’ award winners, go to www.awa-awards.org/index.htm.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

August 2005

Gunsmoke and the Western Legends Roundup

Marshal Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc and Festus will be there – in spirit. Newly will be there in person. So will I.

Gunsmoke is being remembered on the 50th anniversary of its 1955 debut. Television’s longest running dramatic series, it is being honored at the Western Legends Roundup, August 23-28, in Kanab, Utah. It’s only fitting that the town on the Utah-Arizona border should make a fuss. Known as Utah’s Little Hollywood, Kanab served as a backdrop for several Gunsmoke episodes, in addition to 200 Western films.

The film industry got a foothold there in 1924 when Tom Mix starred in Deadwood Coach. Hard-working volunteers from the community of 3500 now pay homage to the movies and television series that followed: Stagecoach, Fort Apache, The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Lone Ranger. It is one of the finest events I’ve attended anywhere. I’m heading back for my third helping.

What makes the Roundup special? Naturally, there’s the spectacular vistas and rugged, red-rock mountains. The event offers free stage entertainment, a film festival, single-action shooters, art show, fiddle contest, quilt show, antique farm equipment display, cowboy parade, Western vendors, food booths, fashion show, working displays by blacksmiths and Navajo weavers, movie stars, movie location tours, a wagon train and Western heritage workshops. Many events are free; major shows require a $20-$25 ticket.

Of added interest this year is the release of Gunsmoke: An American Institution by Ben Costello. Published by Five Star Publications, the hardback promises biographies, photographs, episode logs and updates on cast members: www.fivestarpublications.com/book_detail.php?recordid=69. Watch for my report!

Actors honored include Buck Taylor – Newly O'Brien for eight seasons on Gunsmoke; Morgan Woodward of Dallas, with the record for most guest appearances on Gunsmoke; The Virginian, James Drury; Death Valley Days" star Penny Edwards; John Have Gun Will Travel Western and L.Q. Jones from The Wild Bunch and Gunsmoke. Don’t be surprised if you spot other familiar faces in the crowd. Clint Walker and Joe "Hoppy" Sullivan are regulars.

Unique to Kanab is the world’s only cowboy poetry rodeo. Sam Jackson serves as chute boss for the rodeo which encourages excellence through competition. Thirty or so cowboy poets enter to "ride" in four events: poet serious and poet humorous (original material by the rider); humorous recitation and serious recitation (works by another author).

Contestants pay an entry fee and are scored by five judges. The top half of the riders from the first day advance to the second go. A $5000 purse is split among the top five finishers in each event. First place winners also take home trophies and perform in Saturday’s always-a-sell-out night show. The Sons of the San Joaquin perform Saturday; Baxter Black is on tap Friday.

Contact Jackson at 4675 E. Vermillion Ave., Kanab, UT 84741; (435) 544-5459; lastcamp@kanab.net. Read a report on the 2004 event at CowboyPoetry.com, www.cowboypoetry.com/kanab2004.htm.

Another event in Kanab awarding serious prize money is the Dutch oven cook-off. The victorious team in the 3-pot contest (main dish, bread and dessert) advances to the World Championship Dutch Oven Cook-off. All dishes are prepared from scratch and cooked over a charcoal fire. Onlookers watch as teams rustle up a meal, the likes of which some fancy restaurants have never prepared

Last year I watched as C.O.W. boy Andy Nelson (www.clearoutwest.com) put fork to mouth and pencil to paper in his role as judge. The first dish presented for review was dessert. I had to find out how I could get in on the action. After asking around, organizers signed me up as a member of the 2005 Western Legends Roundup Dutch Oven Judging Team. I am looking forward to my assignment with zeal!

Kanab is as far south in Utah as you can get. Snuggled between Zion National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Grand Canyon National Park, it is only an hour’s drive to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The north rim is open May through October and far less crowded than the south rim. If you go to Kanab, set aside half a day for a drive to Grand Canyon Lodge and visitor center.

For detailed information on the Roundup, including advanced ticket sales, go to www.westernlegendsroundup.com. Call (435) 644-3444; email kane@westernlegendsroundup.com.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

July 2005

Road-Trip Tunes and Titles

Between trips to the dentist and photographing weddings, I am on the road more than usual. Besides packing a suitcase and my camera, I take a few CDs and books. The CDs keep me company while I travel. Books give me something to read in the evening or if I’m delayed by road construction or a doctor who is running late. Whatever I have with me is profoundly more interesting than the outdated potluck found in most waiting rooms.

It’s the rare trip that I don’t pack at least a couple Wylie Gustafson recordings. Of the ten in my collection, those most often in my car are "Paradise," "Hooves of the Horses" and "Ridin’ the Hi-Line." I bet I’ve traveled 10,000 miles listening to Wylie. His retro, old-school Western sound makes the miles fly. Known by millions as the voice behind the Yahoo yodel, Gustafson and his band navigate swing and traditional cowboy tunes with ease. If you aren’t already a fan, it’s because you haven’t heard them.

To order these and other titles ($15 plus shipping), go to www.wyliewebsite.com or call 509-549-3364. The web site includes the band’s itinerary should you want to catch a live performance.

Also entertaining me for many a mile is "Tales from West River" by DW Groethe. Of Groethe’s four recordings, this is my personal favorite and Baxter Black’s too. Black recently included the CD among those that he keeps in his pickup, singling out "When True Love Runs Thin." I am fond of "I Go Ridin" and "One for the Workin’ Cowboys." Acoustic guitar and bass are the only accompaniment you’ll hear behind the original Western songs and poems.

To get a feel for Groethe’s wide-ranging style, check out his honored guest page at CowboyPoetry.com: www.cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm. It contains the words to three of the offerings on this CD: "The Fence," " Fifty a Day" and "One for the Workin' Cowboys." It sells for $17 postpaid. Order directly from DW Groethe, PO Box 144 (Attn: CJS), Bainville, MT 59212.

A book that has been tucked in my saddle bag of late is "Bertie and Me and Miles Too: Growing up on a Sandhills Ranch" by Billie Lee Snyder Thornburg. A sister to famed Western biographer, Nellie Snyder Yost, Thornburg captures the essence of homestead life of the early 1900s in this delightful book. Appropriate for all ages, the stories are about the Snyder children’s youth lived in McPherson County Nebraska. While the stories themselves are entertaining and insightful, well-chosen family photographs are every bit as appealing. Really, the photos are excellent and add to adventuresome feel of the book. It is a sequel to "Birdie and Me: Kids on a Ranch."

Published by The Old 101 Press, the 144-page paperback sells for $16.95 plus $6.95 shipping. You may order directly from Old 101 Press at www.theold101press.com. Write them at 2220 Leota, North Platte NE 69101 or call 308-532-1748. Thornburg founded Old 101 Press at the tender age of 90 with the specific intent of publishing folks’ life stories.

Keith Norman’s "Great People of the Great Plains Vol. 1: 25 Biographies of People Who Shaped the Dakotas" is also in my car. Akin to stories that Norman produces for his daily radio show, "Great Stores of the Great Plains," these contained in the book were too lengthy for air play. Still, most are brief enough for a quick read before turning in for the night. They range from a short two pages on Calamity Jane to a more in depth 16 pages about Sitting Bull. Also included are bios of political leaders, soldiers, traders and ministers. While the editing could have been tighter, the stories are nonetheless interesting and varied.

The 134-page paperback sells for $14.95 + $3.95 shipping. Send check or money order to Tumbleweed Studios, 8255 37th St. SE, Jamestown, ND 58401. An order form can be printed at www.tumbleweednetwork.com. The site also lists the radio stations that carry Norman’s radio show.

If you have trouble locating any of the above items, check with Doug and Mary Ellison at Western Edge Books, Artwork and Music, PO Box 466, Medora, ND 58645; (701) 623-4345; ellison@midstate.net. They stock a dandy inventory of Western-theme items and carry several of this month’s picks.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

June 2005

It’s the Cowboy Life for Me

Mention the West and some folks think of mountains and cowboys. The two highest elevations we have in these parts are 2700-ft Blue Mountain, north of Wibaux, Mont., and 3400-ft Sentinel Butte, east of Beach, N.D. But, we do have cow-calf operations and the people who run them. Those residing and working on ranches may not be comfortable with the cowboy label, preferring rancher, cattleman, cowman, stockman or simply, hand. Whatever you call them, they are the ones putting meat on your plate.

Publisher Darrell Arnold calls ‘em cowboys. Debuting in 1990, he named his upstart publication in honor of them. He previously spent five years as an associate editor at "Western Horseman" and did a one-year stint with "Texas Longhorn Journal." Written by, for and about real working hands, "Cowboy Magazine" is a favorite among those who know which end of a cow eats hay. I have a few rancher friends who have let other subscriptions expire but wouldn’t think of being without "Cowboy Magazine." Featuring around 15 stories per issue, Arnold, his writers and illustrators, turn out a publication that’s a hit with those accustomed to the not-so-glamorous side of cowboy life. Even the advertisements are good!

To get a feel for what the quarterly offers, go to www.cowboymagazine.com. Arnold posts at least one story and a poem from each issue. A one-year subscription (4 issues) is $20.00; $35.00 will cover you for two years and eight issues. Contact Arnold at (719) 742-5250; P.O. Box 126, La Veta CO 81055; info@cowboymagazine.com.

In 15 years of publishing "Cowboy Magazine," Arnold has printed a variety of contemporary, historic, heroic, animal-tribute and humorous tales. "Good Medicine" is a collection of humorous offerings that have appeared between the covers since 1990. Believing that laughter is good for the soul, Arnold titled this, the first anthology he plans to release, "Good Medicine."

It is quite possible that among the 28 stories and seven poems contained within the 144-page softcover book that you’ll find one that sounds strangely similar to something you survived. Whether it’s a pickup-cow-roping mishap during calving season or working with snaky bulls, Arnold covered a good many reasons why the cowboy is an endangered species. A few of the talented contributors include Baxter Black, Robert Dennis, Etienne Etcheverry, Rolf Flake, DW Groethe, Jack Hanks, Willard Hollopeter, Walt La Rue, Mike Logan, Larry McWhorter, Bonnie Shields, Colen Sweeten and Eugene C. Vories. It sells for $12 plus $3 shipping. Order from the La Veta address above.

Duane Dickinson, Scobey, Mont., is one of the keepers of the music of the first cowboys – those working as trail hands in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In many instances, the songs started out as poems recited by trail-weary hands, eventually being set to music. Known for his extensive repertoire of classic cowboy songs, Dickinson learned many of them the old-fashioned way – from his father. A Montana native and retired rancher, he has performed at festivals and gatherings across the West.

"When the Work’s All Done This Fall" is Dickinson’s most recent recording. It contains 17 old-time cowboy songs, among them "When the Work’s All Done This Fall," "Texas in the Spring," "My Home’s in Montana," "‘Longside the Santa Fe Trail," "Little Joe the Wrangler," "Git Along Little Dogies," and one of Dickinson’s own compositions, "The Long, Long Texas Trail." The latter title will make northern Great Plains inhabitants feel right at home. With just the right amount of acoustic guitar, mandolin and fiddle accompaniment, you’ll like Dickinson’s easy-going style. The CD sells for $15 plus $2 shipping. Order from Liz Masterson, PO Box 12699, Denver, CO 80212; (303) 433-4949; www.westernserenade.com.

Cowboy life has long captivated the imagination of outsiders, who see it as romantic and adventuresome. "Music, Saddles & Flapjacks: Dudes at the OTO Ranch" tells the history of Montana’s first dude ranch, the OTO. Written by Roberta Cheney and Clyde Erskine, the duo explains how Dick Randall homesteaded on the northern edge of Yellowstone Park in 1898 and almost immediately began welcoming guests. The mountain ranch ran cattle and accommodated guests – offering trail rides and big game hunts.

Included within the 115 pages are stories of daily life with the dudes – as well as the off season – which was spent marketing the enterprise. Located near Chico Hot Springs, the ranch flourished in the 1920s, the heyday of guest ranching. Cabins ran at full capacity until the stock market crash and subsequent demise of the dude ranch industry. Originally published in 1978, a second printing from Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Mont., has put the title back in bookstores. It is generously illustrated with high-quality, vintage black-and-white photos. The cover price is $16.

If you have trouble locating any of the above items, check with Doug and Mary Ellison at Western Edge Books, Artwork and Music, PO Box 466, Medora, ND 58645; (701) 623-4345; ellison@midstate.net. They stock a dandy inventory of Western-theme items.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

May 2005

Attention horse trainers, sheepherders and cowboys

How many times have you heard the lament, "I wish somebody would reprint that book?" Saddle maker Rex Cook, Dickinson, N.D., and horse trainer Gary Gabrielson, Cottonwood, Minn., felt that way about Charles O. Williamson’s "Breaking and Training the Stock Horse." First copyrighted in 1950, Williamson’s method was a far cry from the techniques employed by old-time cowboys. He was an early advocate of rewarding a horse after it responded to pressure.

Cook used the book to start and train colts. He liked it because it told exactly what needed to be done – in the fewest words possible. Before tapes and classes, he could hold the book in one hand and the horse in the other, and get the job done. Cook recommended the book to lots of folks, including Gabrielson. Then, it went out of print. It sold on the secondary market for upwards of $40. Gabrielson suggested they reprint the title.

The 2005 soft-cover edition sells for a modest $15.95, plus $2 postage and handling. To order, contact Doug and Mary Ellison at Western Edge Books, Artwork and Music, PO Box 466, Medora, ND 58645; (701) 623-4345; ellison@midstate.net. The Ellisons not only stock the book, they are handling distribution. Pass this along to your local Western shop. They’ll want to add it to their inventory.

Folklorist Hal Cannon, credited with founding the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Elko, Nev., is scouring the countryside in search of sheepherdering poems, songs and stories. He’s looking for real-life experiences of people who lived and worked in the sheep ranching sector of the American West. He’s already recorded cowboy poems about sheepherders, poems about sheep dogs, Peruvian sheepherding songs, New Zealand shearing songs, Basque sayings and Navajo prayers to the sheep.

If you know anyone who should be included in this CD project, or know of existing sheep-related recordings, contact Hal Cannon, Western Folklife Center Media, 101 Wasatch Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. Reach him at (801) 582-9576 or online at hcannon@westernfolklife.org.

Montana’s cowboy cartoonist, Wally Badgett, has released the latest in his long-running series of "Earl" books. "Cowboyin’ with Earl #14" is now available

Badgett signs each misadventure of the all-too-autobiographical strip with the alias, M.C. Tin Star, a throw back to his days with the Rosebud and Custer County Sheriffs’ Departments. (He was one of the good guys.) Having followed Earl’s missteps and blunders through the years, it’s an absolute joy to see how Badgett continues to improve his craft. Artistically, his work just keeps getting better.

Besides Earl #14, previous titles are available. If you act now, you could have one or two in time for Father’s Day. When ordering, specify the title number from among Earl #2 through #8, Earl #10 through #14 and "Cowboy Spirit," co-produced with Rick Haines. Books are $12 each. Shipping is $4.50 for 1-5 books; $6.50 for 5-10 books. Send checks to Big Dry LLC, PO Box 906, Miles City, MT 59301. Order online at www.earlshot.com. You may reach Badgett at (406) 396-1132.

A person’s friends and associates speak volumes without uttering a word. Take cowboy singer Fletcher Jowers, for example. His "Sing Me a Cowboy Song" CD had me hooked from the first listen. When I read the names of his song-writing buddies and back-up musicians, I was even more impressed.

Jowers shares musical credits with the likes of Red Steagall, with whom he coauthored "Sleepin' in My Leggins Tonight," and Cowboy Magazine Editor Darrell Arnold. Richard O’Brien, master producer of the recorded project, rode herd on "Sing Me a Cowboy Song" and contributed banjo and guitar tracks. These are names that bespeak quality and respect – which pours out through the speakers as Jowers warbles.

A mix of 12 original and traditional cowboy tunes, there’s enough of Jowers’ material to keep the CD from being just another collection of tired cowboy music. I especially like "A Cowboy Lullaby," "Ol’ Diamond," "When the Roses Bloom Next Spring" and "Trail Drive."

Baxter Black and Robert Keen penned "Young Lovers’ Waltz." "Annie Laurie," another fine waltz, wraps the collection. In fact, the CD is loaded with waltzes. If there’s someone in your outfit who adores a waltz, this is the perfect gift! Send $14.95 (postpaid) to Fletcher Jowers, 150 Alesha Rd., Red Oak, TX 75154. You may order online at www.fletcherjowers.com. Phone Jowers at (214) 317-0835 or (888) 876-6038.

Suggesting you part with $30 for a catalog might seem outrageous – unless the catalog showcases the items consigned to Brian Lebel’s annual Cody Old West Auction. Lebel’s 16th annual auction and cowboy show are set for June 23-25, 2005, in Cody, Wyo.

My knowledge of the catalogs goes back several years, when a friend and I took in our first Cody Cowboy Auction. There simply isn’t a more readily available, current research tool than these 50-60 page, full-color catalogs. An approved appraiser, Lebel does his homework, providing provenance for many items, as well as an estimated selling price. Offerings typically include cowboy gear, artwork, furniture, photographs, Western movie memorabilia and firearms. Following the sale, catalog purchasers receive a list of realized prices.

At press time, auction items were being professionally photographed. The catalog will be ready first week in June. To reserve your copy, send $30 to Cody Old West Auction, Cowboy Legacy Gallery, P.O. Box 2038, Carefree, AZ 85377. You may order online at www.codyoldwest.com or at (480) 595-8999.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

April 2005

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

Cowboy Poetry Week

April is celebrated as National Poetry Month. Of significance to ranch folks, let me add, April 17-23 is Cowboy Poetry Week. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) sponsored a resolution recognizing the celebration in 2003.

The driving force behind the observance was, and continues to be, Margo Metegrano, boss at the Bar-D Ranch and editor of www.CowboyPoetry.com. Going on line January 1, 2000, the site is billed as the world’s largest, ongoing cowboy poetry gathering.

Visitors – one million annually – can subscribe to a free, quarterly e-mail newsletter. I prefer an on-line bookmark that takes me straight to "What’s New." A daily visit usually results in something new: features, newly posted poems, Western music news, events, award, "In Our Thoughts," and gathering reports – from the U.S. and Canada.

Then, there’s the archived poetry. Nowhere else can you access such an immense collection of classic and contemporary cowboy poetry in one location – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, free. In January 2005, postings at CowboyPoetry.com exceeded 3200 works by 731 poets. Among the tally are Classic Cowboy Poetry by Service, O'Malley, Paterson and Kiskaddon

You’ll find contemporary and regional writers too: Darrell Arnold, T.J. Casey, Robert Dennis, Elizabeth Ebert, DW Groethe, Linda Hasselstrom, Jean Mathisen Haugen, Lynn Hendrickson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Willard Hollopeter, Jess Howard, Chuck Larsen, Wallace McRae, Jane Morton, Andy Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Howard Parker, Gwen Petersen, Rick Pitt, Verlin Pitt, Sherri Ross, Earl Sampson, Georgie Sicking, R. G. Sowers, Rhonda Segwick Stearns. Biographical information and photographs are included for most, along with contact information, published or recorded works and where to order.

If that’s not enough, Metegrano and her sidekick, Bucky, camp out at the newsstand, keeping tabs on what’s hot off the presses. You’ll find that under Pards with New Books and Recordings. Bar-D Ranch wranglers have indexed more than 20 collections of cowboy poetry. The Cowboy Poetry Anthologies Index currently identifies works of more than 370 poets and songwriters.

Who Knows? tracks down the words to a poem or who wrote it. Poets and reciters wanting to improve their craft can learn about meter, slant or near rhymes, editing, copyrights and ethics under Cowboy Poetry Topics: Writing and Reciting Cowboy Poetry. There’s even a spot to weigh in on your Favorite Cowboy and Western Poems.

Until CowboyPoetry.com, there was no central repository devoted solely to cowboy poetry. It serves as a place to electronically publish poetry, encouraging writers’ efforts. And, poets say it’s responsible for putting them in touch with others and dispensing information about regional events.

Authors not given to verse can join in the Western Memories Project. Another kind of gathering, it celebrates and documents Western life in all its many facets. Readers are encouraged to share their memories or those of others at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/feats.htm#Writing.

Should you enjoy listening to others’ writings, there’s a schedule of radio shows: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/feats.htm#Radio. You’ll find links to regional favorites such as South Dakota’s Jim Thompson, Montana’s Ken Overcast, and Wyoming’s own Andy and Jim Nelson – all accessible on line.

Work around the Bar-D is largely a volunteer effort. They're currently organizing as a non-profit and looking forward to public, private and corporate support.

Whether you’re comfortable around a computer or green-broke to the ways of the electronic world, you’ll get along fine at the Bar-D Ranch. CowboyPoetry.com is as gentle and easy going as a prized kid horse. The only warning that needs be offered is that one ride won’t be enough. The spread is too big to be seen in just one day.

For those computer-shy outfits, and those who prefer a book they can hold in their hands, the Bar-D comes through once again. "The Big Roundup: Classic and Contemporary Poetry from CowboyPoetry.com" is 432 pages of poetry gleaned from the Web site’s early days. Published in 2001 by New West Library, it was edited by Metegrano. Details and order information can be found at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/tbrorder.htm. The paperback sells for $21.95. It is also available at Amazon.com and www.silvercreekmusic.com.

To get in touch with the BAR-D Ranch, give them a holler at hollerin@cowboypoetry.com.

Tell ‘em Jeri sent you.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

March 2005

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

Gearin’ up for Spring Roundup

Spring officially arrives this month. While there’s still ice to chop and the horses are looking pretty shaggy, it won’t be long ‘til there’s a new crop of calves, colts and crocuses.

In open range days, spring meant the big outfits were hiring. Ranches kept a skeleton crew through the winter, letting the bulk of the cowboys go in the fall. The first one rehired was likely the cook, who might draw wages for a couple months before showing up for work. Cowhands were plentiful; cooks were scarce. Tasty food prepared from a well-stocked chuck wagon went a long way toward keeping cowboys with an outfit. A "pot rattler" worth his salt received $10-to-$15 more per month than a cowboy.

Ramon F. Adams chronicles the life of a chuck wagon cook in "Come an’ Get It: the Story of the Old Cowboy Cook." Originally published in 1952 by University of Oklahoma Press, it has been reprinted and is readily available. Illustrations by Nick Eggenhoffer add to this delightful account of the cow-camp chef. But, rustling chow wasn’t the only chore assigned to a cook. He acted as the crew’s seamstress, doctor, barber, banker, cobbler and referee. For all these reasons, it was advisable to stay in the good graces of the man they called Cookie.

The 170-page paperback by University of Oklahoma Press sells for $14.94. It is available from fine bookstores and the University’s extensive American West catalog at 1-800-627-7377 or www.oupress.com/.

The Western Music Association’s 2004 Male Performer of the Year has a recording that pairs nicely Adams’ research. R.W. Hampton, New Mexico cowboy, singer and songwriter performs a one-man play entitled "The Last Cowboy." Although not identical to the play, his CD recording of "The Last Cowboy: His Journey" traces the span of the trail drive and open range cowboy. With his rich baritone voice, Hampton weaves his own "Born to be a Cowboy" and "Travelin’ Light" with traditional favorites such as "Night Rider’s Lament" and "Shenandoah."

Twenty-one tracks are contained on the CD which sells for $15. Shipping of $5 covers one title or four, so buy an extra for a gift. For a complete listing of his works, go to www.RWHampton.com or contact Hampton Land & Lyrics, PO Box 150, Cimarron NM 87714, 1-800-392-0822. You may also reach them via email at rw@springercoop.com.

On the subject of singing cowboys, I need to mention a film that was playing at the Western Folklife Center, Elko, Nev., during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. "Why the Cowboy Sings" was shot during the winter and captures everyday work and play on ranches in Montana, Nevada and Arkansas.

Produced and directed by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis, the film profiles Stephanie Davis, Henry Real Bird, Larry Schutte and Glenn Ohrlin, all of whom have performed at the Elko gathering. Cannon narrates the 57-minute Western Folklife Center production which asks each, "Why do you sing?"

For Shutte, the answer is his family’s love overflows, and they sing. Ohrlin says it chases away loneliness – although he knows solitude, he is not lonely. Real Bird says being a cowboy is as close to being as Indian as can be. He is both and sings the song of a food gatherer. Davis, a Montana native who lived for a time in Nashville, says music is the mainline from her heart. Cannon sums it up saying cowboys sing because it’s a tradition and because it’s natural. He asks why more lifestyles and occupations don’t sing.

Available as a DVD, it sells for $20 plus $5 shipping. To order, go the Folklife Center’s webpage at www.westernfolklife.org/wfcproductions.html or call them at 888-880-5885. If you prefer, write them at Western Folklife Center Store, 501 Railroad St., Elko, NV 89803.

If you can’t find the items mentioned here on-line or at your local cowboy shop, contact Doug and Mary Ellison at Western Edge Books, Artwork and Music, PO Box 466, Medora, ND 58645; 701-623-4345; ellison@midstate.net.  They are my one-stop, sure-to-have-it, western book store.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

February 2005

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski\

Long Winter Nights

If your schedule is like mine, things slow down a bit in winter. It’s peak reading and hobby season.

Should you like to listen to something while scrap booking, drawing or tooling leather, let me suggest "Clear Out West." The weekly C.O.W. show is carried on 20 or so stations across Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon. If you don’t live within the coverage range of these stations, not to worry! Through the magic of the Internet, you can listen to brothers Jim and Andy Nelson on your computer.

Originating from Pinedale, Wyo., "Clear Out West" is an hour of good-natured nonsense, cowboy music, poetry and hoof trimming pointers called "Farriers File." Past shows have covered such Western-seasoned subjects as cowboying during the great depression, the origins of rodeo, the Oklahoma land rush and country cooking. Jim and Andy do their homework, bringing forth tidbits and trivia that amuse and enlighten their listeners. At the end of each show they thank listeners for inviting them into their homes and feed trucks and remind them "Never stand behind a coughing milk cow." Tune into the Nelsons at www.clearoutwest.com/.

The winter issue of Persimmon Hill arrived in my mailbox recently. Named for the hill where the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla., was built, the full-color magazine covers Western history, art, rodeo, ranching and notable personalities.

I have a complete set of the magazine. It is an excellent resource reference. Past articles I’ve savored include the history of the Sons of the Pioneers; Basque sheepherders; Eaton’s Dude Ranch; watering holes of the West; American Indian beadwork; how cowboy songs came to be and the chuckwagon – commissary of the range.

A sampling of what’s covered in the latest issue includes artwork depicting the Lewis & Clark Trail; Arbuckle Coffee; an Army wife’s cooking adventures as she followed her lieutenant-husband to frontier Arizona posts; Justin Boots’ 125-Year Anniversary and Wrangler jeans.

The museum celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding in 2005. It would be a dandy time to start a subscription. Send $30 for one year to National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63rd St., Oklahoma City, OK 73111; 405-478-2250; www.nationalcowboymuseum.org

Dreaming of a midwinter getaway but can’t leave home? Consider the next best thing, a copy of "The Exploits of Ben Arnold: Indian Fighter, Gold Miner, Cowboy, Hunter & Army Scout." Written by Lewis F. Crawford and first published in 1926 as "Rekindling Camp Fires," the true story takes the reader on the Oregon Trail, to Montana for the gold rush and stops at every trading post along the Missouri River.

Ben Arnold (Conner) was a frontiersman with ties to much of the upper Great Plains. His descendants still live in South Dakota and Nebraska. From his mother’s death when he was only three days old, through the Civil War, till his passing in 1922, Arnold said his years spent as a cowboy were the happiest of his life.

The 336-page reprint by University of Oklahoma Press sells for $14.94. It is available from the University’s extensive American West catalog at 1-800-627-7377 or www.oupress.com/..

If you’ve ever longed for a collection from the days of the singing cowboy, this should set your toes-a-tappin’. "Songs of the West, Volume 1" takes you back to the days of Western movies with the first track. There is a total of 18 ballads, selected and remastered by Rhino Records.

"Back In The Saddle Again" by Gene Autry opens the gate; "Happy Trails" by Roy and Dale brings up the rear. In between there are such memorable classics as "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Cool Water," "Cattle Call," "Big Iron," "I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart," "Ragtime Cowboy Joe," "Mule Train" and "The Wayward Wind." By and large, the pieces are performed by those who originally made them popular: Walter Brennan, Patsy Montana, Tex Ritter.

If you can’t find any of the titles mentioned locally, contact Doug and Mary Ellison at Western Edge Books, Artwork and Music, PO Box 466, Medora, ND 58645; 701-623-4345; ellison@midstate.net.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

January 2005

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

- by Jeri L. Dobrowski

Elko Bound

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. 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. That’s what this column is all about.

Not just a book review, Cowboy Jam Session rides a slightly wider circle encompassing an expanded media offering. It’s a bigger herd but one whose bloodlines are familiar: historical characters and events; ranchers and ranches; cowboys, cowgirls and rodeos; poets, 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.

This month, we’re loading up the rig and heading for Elko, Nevada, and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Held annually the last week in January, it’s right around the corner.

Fifteen cowboy poets, singers and story tellers from our coverage area are on the program. From Wyoming, there’s Jesse Ballantyne and Echo Roy Klaproth. Montanans Stephanie Davis, Duane Dickinson, DW Groethe, Wallace McRae, Gwen Peterson, Hank Real Bird and Paul Zarzyski are on deck. South Dakotans Linda Hasselstrom and Bill Wood join neighbor-to-the-north, Rodney Nelson. Ray Lashley, Jane Morton and Vess Quinlan represent Colorado.

In its 21st year, the Elko gathering runs January 22-29, 2005. In venues from one end of the hospitable town to the other, stages and auditoriums celebrate the golden age and contemporary face of cowboy poetry and song. Among workshops offered are horsehair hitching, pulled wool saddle blankets and Dutch oven cookery. For a look at what all the gathering offers, go to the Western Folklife Center Website at http://www.westernfolklife.org/site/content/view/36/69/. They also run an on-line store stocked with performers’ wares. Here are a few examples:

An anthology by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, "Cowboy Poetry Classics," covers a lot of ground. Twenty-four tracks, each a guaranteed classic of the genre, are contained on the CD. McRae offers "A Cowboy's Soliloquy" by D. J. O'Malley; Klaproth recites "Our Last Ride;" Wood is paired with S. Omar Barker’s "Rain on the Range" and Lashley gives his rendition of "The Strawberry Roan." An added bonus is Georgie Sicking, Kaycee, Wyoming, reciting Gail Gardner’s "The Moonshine Steer." You may order directly from Smithsonian Recordings at www.folkways.si.edu/search/AlbumDetails.aspx?ID=2964.

"Up Sims Creek: The First 100 Trips" is Rodney Nelson’s collection of rural-life stories. An accomplished poet, performer and senior circuit rodeo hand, Nelson is every bit as accomplished at storytelling. This printed collection of yarns brings you up to speed on what’s happening in and around Sims and Almont – on the North Dakota plains.

Sheridan’s Jesse Ballantyne released "Cowboy Serenade" in 2003. The CD includes several songs I heard Jesse sing in Elko that same year. He’s a repeat performer and for good reason, he knows the cowboy life. Ranch folks will identify with the contemporary lyrics and sentiments contained on this album, especially "Grandfather’s Brand."

Songwriter Stephanie Davis has had her music recorded by the best in the business, including Garth Brooks. "Crocus in the Snow" is a music and poetry CD featuring Davis and joined by heavy-hitters Garrison Keillor, Ranger (Riders in the Sky) Doug and Ray (Asleep at the Wheel) Benson. Expect traditional western acoustic sounds and a bit of western swing.

DW Groethe debuts "What Ever It Takes" this month. The 18 tracks of original music and rhyme take listeners on a sentimental – and sometimes silly – range tour. Carefully selected, the pieces jog right along as Groethe shows us around his beloved world, that of a day work hand. Not yet available on the Folklife Center’s Website, you may order directly from the artist. Send $15 to DW Groethe, PO Box 144, Bainville, MT 59212.

©  2005, Jeri Dobrowski, All rights reserved
This column originally appeared in the Tri-State Livestock News

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights

Jessie (l.) and Suzie 

went to her reward
June 12, 2006

went to her reward
November 12, 2012





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