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The Western Folklife Center's 23rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held at Elko, Nevada, January 27 - February 3, 2007 and below we have reports and contributions from a number of people..

Our thanks to those who shared photos, reports, and comments, including Janice Gilbertson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Susan Parker, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Rodney Nelson, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Ken Cook, Smoke Wade, Paulette Tcherkassky, Jeri Dobrowski, and others. 

Many photos were shared generously by Jeri Dobrowski. View more of her Gathering photos at her site here, where prints are available.


Visit the Western Folklife Center web site for archived webcasts of events,  audio and video coverage, and more.


The 2007 Gathering

Janice Gilbertson's reports on a horse clinic and French gardian demonstration, and the open mic sessions

Susan Parker's report on Paul Zarzyski's two-day writing workshop

Yvonne Hollenbeck's comments

Rodney Nelson's story from his "Up Sims Creek" column

  Jo Lynne Kirkwood's report from the Cowboy Poets of Utah newsletter

  Ken Cook's report and photos

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearn's comments from her "Over the Corral Fence" column 

  Smoke Wade's report and photos from Rope Burns and Cowboy Troubadour  separate page

Jeri Dobrowski's report and photos from Tri-State Livestock News and Cowboy Troubadour  separate page

  Photos from the Gathering  separate page

Some poetry heard at the Gathering   separate page

Selected books and recordings featured at the Gathering

Gathering media releases and information from the Western Folklife Center  separate page


Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here, where prints are available.
Special thanks to Jeri Dobrowksi (at right, pictured with Juni Fisher) for her photos


The 23rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
January 27 - February 3, 2007

Yes, you can see the absolute best in cowboy poets and Western musicians in Elko. That's expected, and many of those performers grace stages across the West at other top gatherings. But the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is equally impressive for the things that happen only there.

A number of such diverse, unique sessions and events took place at the 2007 Gathering. For example, French cowboys (called "gardians") from the Camarque region shared their history, poetry, cooking, and cattle techniques; Deep West videos were shown, the "first-hand stories from the rural West that are rooted in the values of life on the land," made by ranch family members; a panel of thoughtful essayists and poets considered the role of a "radical center" in the future of the rural West; songs, stories, and poems from sheepherding were presented in a special concert event; a panel of New Mexico ranching families shared their important stories of how they have managed to keep their ranches in their families; the keynote speaker presented a provocative speech about children and nature.

Great programming brought more rare sessions: Top poets and reciters shared favorite "non-cowboy" poems; Stephanie Davis produced a sort of cowboy's "A Prairie Home Companion," a staged radio broadcast that was an enormous hit with audiences; Bill Siems' monumental volume of Bruce Kiskaddon's poetry was released with an impressive array of talent who performed Kiskaddon's works and provided informative and enlightening background information; Andy Wilkinson's "A Way West: Women on the American Frontier" was presented at a dinner theatre; and there were many more more unique events—from cooking workshops to film screenings—along with all of the poetry and music sessions.

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Glenn Ohrlin, Paul Zarzyski, Rodney Nelson, DW Groethe, and Fred Newman
perform in the Trail's End Ranch Radio show

The more serious attendees study the complex program for hours, plotting out a schedule. But no matter how much one plans, there is no way to be in many places simultaneously. 

Veteran Gathering favorites performed, including Baxter Black, Don Edwards, Linda Hussa, Ross Knox, Wallace McRae, Paul Zarzyski, John Dofflemyer, Glenn Ohrlin, Henry Real Bird, Stephanie Davis, Colen Sweeten, Randy Rieman, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Pat Richardson, Georgie Sicking, Gail Steiger, Ian Tyson, Jack Walther, Jesse Smith, Waddie Mitchell, Wylie and the Wild West, and Michael Martin Murphey.

Other popular returning performers included Oscar Auker, Bar J Wranglers, Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks, Dave Bourne, Bimbo Cheney, Doris Daley, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Leon Flick, Dennis Gaines, Frank Gleeson, Skip Gorman & Connie Dover, DW Groethe, Alice Hancock, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jill Jones and the Lone Star Chorale, Lowell Long, Gary McMahan, Michael & Dawn Moon, Lorraine Rawls, Ringling 5, Sandy Seaton, Jay Snider, Dave Stamey, and Milton Taylor. 

First-time poets and musicians included Ken Cook, J. Parson, Bob Petermann, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Trudy Fair, Johnny Gimble, The Gitano Family, Stephen Lindsey, and Clark Morris.

Our reports barely touch on the rich experience of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Our best advice: Go, and join with the many thousands of people to see for yourself how this premier event offers the best in a wide spectrum of entertainment, education, and inspiration.

See reports from others below.

We welcome additional reports and photos.  Email us.


Reports and Comments

  Janice Gilbertson was an invited performer to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2004. She attends the event whether or not she is an invited performer. She encourages everyone to attend, for the many opportunities to perform at open sessions, jam sessions and other venues; to meet people; to be inspired by and learn from sessions and workshops; to see the "best of the best" on stage; and for the great overall experience that the Gathering has to offer.

She reports below on the open sessions and about a horse clinic and demonstration that featured the French gardian cowboys, special guests at the 2007 event:

On Wednesday of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, my self-appointed duty was to drive out to the Spring Creek Horse Palace and take in Joe Wolters Ranch Horsemanship and Roping Clinic. I have read and heard of Joe's reputation for ranch horse knowledge and kind and gentle way with horses and their riders.

I also looked forward to seeing the French cowboy, or "gardian," Patrick Laurent demonstrate how they herd and handle their cattle in the Camargue region of France. Having seen the beautiful and informative exhibit curated by Lorraine d' Entremont Rawls in the Wiegand Gallery at the Western Folklife Center, my curiosity about the the demonstration was running high.

Little did I know, as I drove out of town, that I was in for a triple bonus day. Before I knew it, I was happily lost, or as I prefer to say, temporarily confused. I say happily because my wandering trail gave me the opportunity to see the area and views of those beautiful, jutting Ruby Mountains for the first time. They were a sight to behold with there snow dusted peaks and rugged ridges! Bonus #1!

Eventually, I wound my way around (way around) to the "you can't miss it" Horse Palace. I was pleased to see that so many people turned out for the clinic in spite of the blustery weather. The temperature was not so low, but the gusty wind convinced this California gal to bundle up. The Horse Palace is a huge indoor arena housed in a metal building so it was chilly to say the least.

My second bonus of the day was watching Joe Wolter help a young horse learn how to move around the cattle in the arena. As he rode, he explained the why's and how's of his training methods. I was delighted to learn some things to apply to my own horsemanship here at home. His know-how for reading cattle and then allowing his horse to get the feel of her job was presented in a way that made me wish I was a clinic participant.

Seeing Patrick Laurent enter the arena accounts for the third bonus of the day. In France, he would have been astride one of the grand, white Camargue horses that the "gardians" carefully breed for herding and tending the Camargue cattle. They are an extremely hardy breed with great endurance and speed. I was surprised to learn that, even thought they live on a marshland, their hooves have evolved to withstand the moisture. There is no worry of hoof rot or hoof disease that our horses would encounter in an environment like that. Also, they are not shod. In France, Patrick would have been riding a saddle crafted with a very high cantle and no horn. Just like our cowboys, the gardians' tack is designed to accommodate their own horsemanship skills.

So, on a big sorrel horse and seated in a western saddle, Patrick waited patiently while an interpreter, Guy du Galard, explained what was about to take place. On the Camargue, the cattle are extremely wild and aggressive toward humans and horses. They are not confined in corrals or even pastures, but are more like wild free-range animals. Instead of a rope, Patrick carried a trident in his right hand. The trident is a wooden pole that looked to be about seven or eight feet long with a three pronged end. The gardians race along side the wild cattle and push the pronged end against the hip of the fleeing bovine to trip it up and cause it to fall. If the animal needs to be doctored or branded, people on foot gather quickly and hold the animal down and tie three legs together with a rope for control. After the job is complete, the knot it pulled loose and everyone runs away for their safety.

As I stood near Estelle Laurent, Patrick's wife, we watched as he tried several times to race up beside a steer and be within reach of its hip. Estelle, with obvious amusement, explained the difficulty in using this method in the confines of the arena. These steers repeatedly turned back to the herd, where as on the Camargue they tend to run far distances in a straight line. Finally, in spite of riding a different horse and a strange saddle, Patrick was able to overtake a steer and with the thrust of the trident to the hip knocked him to the ground. The audience was overjoyed to see him succeed and applauded his effort and skill.

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Janice Gilbertson and Colen Sweeten at the Gathering

I am out of bed extra early on Thursday morning. My excitement boosts me to get my primping done in record time. With one eye on the clock, I double check that I have everything I need to spend an entire day at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. I head for the closest cup of coffee, then on to the Elko Convention Center to sign up for an open mic session.

I look forward to entering those big front doors and looking for familiar faces. We will be some of the first early birds to enter the building on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. After warm hellos, and a couple of nice hugs from those we have come to know, we get to know the names of new faces. Each of these mornings there is a friendly shuffle to claim a place in line that will give us the opportunity to perform our poetry on Elko's open mic. Most of us have spent some time poring over our program book's schedule of shows and sessions and have high hopes of getting an open mic slot that won't interfere with something we especially want to see. We want to do it all!

This year I took the opportunity to talk to some of my fellow poets about the experience of "Elko." Though we are a diverse group from far separate places and backgrounds, we have much in common. First of all, we are poets. Whatever our individual style, we strive to write good poetry and look forward to sharing it. We begin preparing way ahead of time to be ready to do our best at this Gathering. We are delighted to be here.

This year, I was happy to see so many new faces. The first person I met was a pretty Texas Bluebonnet named Virginia Taylor. She and her husband had made the long trek at the prompting of friends who convinced her to come to Elko to share her poetry. It was a pleasure to get to know her and hear her recite some classic poems and her own original writing.

Several California poets filled the sessions. David Richmond comes from Jackson and has been coming every year since 1988. He remembers when many more local ranchers and townspeople came to the Gathering to share their poems and stories. For her first time,
Susan Parker from Benicia came to Elko and shared her beautiful and soulful poems. Jim Cardwell, from Oroville, whose amazing memory I envy so, always entertains us with his performances.

A poet named Clarence told me he has also missed only one Elko Gathering. He shares a poem entitled "the Pony Express" that is one of my favorites. There was a poet from Oklahoma and a husband and wife from over in Ely. On Friday and Saturday, the sessions filled and there were poets from far and wide.

This year we also had the pleasure of enjoying the talent of long-time poet and journalist Smoke Wade who now lives in Mesquite, Nevada. Smoke knows how to perform and has won the Silver Buckle award at Kanab, Utah's Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. Sweet, pretty, poet Jo Lynne Kirkwood, from Utah, also joined in open mic sessions this year. Her poetry always touches my heart and her poem "The Auction" is now on my favorites list.

Another subject some of the poets talked about was the Open mic venue's audience. Just like the invited poets, most of us long to share our stuff with a full room of intent listeners. We agreed we would like to see an extra little write-up about us in the program. We worry that a lot of Gathering goers do not know know how much talent there is behind the closed door of the Cedar Room. We also enjoy having those well known Gathering entertainers sit in on our sessions when their schedules allow them a few minutes. Dennis Gaines, Doris Daley, and Baxter Black have all been among the audience. Their presence prompts us to give our very best performances.

I would like to encourage all cowboy poets to experience the Elko Gathering's open mic. It is fun. It is inspiring. It is addictive. And you meet the nicest people.

© 2007, Janice Gilbertson

  Susan Parker reports on Paul Zarzyski's two-day writing workshop, and  notes, "We had talked about the death of Barbaro at the beginning of the workshop and it stayed with me the whole week, hence the "race-track tone" of this piece. I just couldn't write it any other way, try hard as I might."

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Paul Zarzyski and Susan Parker in the workshop


Spending two days with Paul Zarzyski, wordsmith extraordinaire, running at breakneck speed down the racetrack of words bound to "ring and ricochet off  the stirrup bone of your middle ear," how can any poet, writer, or musician not be inspired to observe all facets of life, to see the poetry in every day experiences when it hits you smack-dab up the side of  your frazzled face?

Blanketed in the warmth of coffee and saddled with bagels and cream cheese, each participant shared what he or she hoped to take home from the workshop. The consensus was to be a better writer, to gallop down the homestretch of a poem, and to cross the finish line KNOWING that it was a winner.

From the clang of the bell, the gate doors of our minds were open to whatever words of writing wisdom Paul chose to impart, such as, "infusing music in each line, turning the 'inner kid' out to play, allowing the imagination to run wild, trusting the unknown and killing the editor voice in your head."  Running hell-bent-for-leather, in true Zarzyski fashion, he titillated us with tidbits from his brain which, even he had to admit, may work just slightly different than most of ours.  Ever the renegade, he reminded us that sometimes to make the poem work you need to tweak the facts.

During the two days, each person took turns reading a couple of his or her own poems or other writings. With gentle words from Paul and the other participants, we were encouraged to improve where needed, to work on line breaks, and to "look for the rhythm and music" in our work.  Like an alfalfa high, my brain started to tweak just a little and I couldn't wait to get home to put these words of encouragement to work.

Heading down the backstretch after two days of being spurred on, we were all winners, each stretching his or her nose to find the perfect word in Roget's Thesaurus, itching to pick up pen and paper or tippity-tap lickety split over the computer keyboard to write that winning poem or article in the Run for the Roses of Writers.

I do not intend to tell you everything that he shared. You will have to attend a Zarzyski workshop, with hope, coming to a town near you soon!

© 2007, Susan Parker


You can read Paul Zarzyski's "Workshop Manifesto" at his on-line journal at the journal Western Folklife Center site.


Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Workshop participants

   Yvonne Hollenbeck made her fourth appearance at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2007.

Receiving an invitation to perform at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is always exciting and to me it must be the same feeling as rodeo cowboys have when they qualify for the National Finals Rodeo.  Actually, the Gathering at Elko is the western entertainment business equivalent to the NFR.

After attending a number of gatherings, both large and small, in the past few years I tend to analyze what sets one gathering apart from another. Of course, they all seem to have their own agenda, however, it seems that the ones that are constantly striving to improve are the ones that just keep getting bigger and better.  The Elko Gathering always has new entertainers and new venues and seem to be willing to accept new ideas.  You will also find many committee personnel from other gatherings, news media, and folks in search of ideas to take home to their own events.

One of the greatest improvements at the Elko Gathering this year was in the products room. The head wrangler, Lucy Miller and her staff of mostly volunteers, set up a wonderful products area. They had transformed an empty room into a well organized gift shop to be envied by gift store personnel anywhere. It was not only a pleasure for the many shoppers but for the entertainers as well.

I probably should be reporting on all the many great entertainers at Elko, but I would rather capitalize on the dedication of the many folks that put on a gathering such as the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  This goes for all of the gatherings throughout the land, all of which are basically a spin-off from the Elko Gathering.  Without the hard work of all these folks there would not be a venue of any type for folks such as me and my many entertaining friends to perform at.

I would like to tip my hat to Charlie Seemann, Kevin Davis, and all of the many folks that staff the Western Folklife Center and produce what is without a doubt, the number one cowboy poetry gathering in the world.

To see a list of all the many great entertainers featured at Elko in 2007 (and other years), go to their website, www.westernfolklife.org and for all of you interested, check out the requirements for applying for the 2008 gathering.

© 2007, Yvonne Hollenbeck

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Yvonne Hollenbeck at Elko

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns wrote about her Elko experience in her "Over the Corral Fence" column, which runs weekly in the Tri-State Livestock News. Below is the excerpt from her February 10, 2007 column.  Rhonda made her first visit to the Gathering in 2007 as a featured performer. She comments, "I  will say, right now, Elko was far beyond my expectations and the best gathering I've ever been involved in or seen; and I believe their insisting upon performers who have strong ranch roots and experience is the reason for that."

....The "family" you find and develop while traveling rodeo road—or the trail of any other interest you pursue—is priceless. That was brought home to us forcefully as we enjoyed last week's experience at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.  It was truly a "family reunion" for three days, plus lots'a new "family members" being added.

It was my great privilege to share the stage the first morning with the Western Folklife Center's special cultural exchange guests from the Camargue in France, Estelle and Patrick Laurent.  They are ranchers there, breeding the beautiful, talented white horses and black bulls the region is famous for. They recited, in their own delightful dialect, poems by Patrick's father and others, about the bulls, the horses and their lifestyle. A translator then repeated the poems in English; and Estelle recited one in English.

It thrilled me to sense their emotions, ideas, and feelings, which relate so strongly to those of ranchers here...or anywhere. They are faced with very similar issues threatening their livelihood and lifestyle, and the Folklife Center plans a cultural exchange tour there next October, during which discussions searching for resolutions of those issues, there and here, will be highlighted.

Photos of the Laurents—and our own Tri-State Cowboy Poet Rodney Nelson of North Dakota— can be seen in the Elko newspaper here (registration required) and an amazing video of the beautiful Camargue horses and awesome Camargue horseman Lorenzo is available at: http://www.lorenzo.fr/page2.html.

Our own great cowboy songwriter and guitar-pickin' vocalist Bob Petermann of Wibaux, Montana, made the front page of the Elko Daily Free Press, along with Indian cowboy poet Henry Real Bird from Garryowen, Montana. You can view that here (registration required).

As long as I'm braggin' on our Tri-State talent, I should tell you that Baxter Black personally requested Bob Petermann to open his session at Elko with his original song "A Couple Good Horses to Ride"... and of course Bob obliged..

My cowboy and I, along with American treasure 86-year-young Georgie Sicking of Kaycee, Wyoming, were blessed to accompany Bob and Kay Petermann to Elko in their van, making the entire trip a very special treat.

I'd never submitted material to be considered for Elko until this year, and I'm really grateful to Georgie for insisting I do so, because it totally exceeded my expectations and is an experience we hope to repeat again and again.

The Western Folklife Center and their sponsors and benefactors have created a window through which the world is able to catch a glimpse of the true West and what true westerners are and do and stand for...and we desperately need their understanding.

On one small shuttle bus, hauling people to downtown Elko from the Convention Center where much of the entertainment was held, we talked to people from San Francisco, Missouri, Wisconsin, and far northeastern California. Along with the French, I also visited with attendees from Australia and Canada...so you can see the impact of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is widespread....

© 2007, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, reprinted with permission; excerpted from Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns' February 10, 2007 "Over the Corral Fence" column, which appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

More from Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns' February 24, 2007 "Over the Corral Fence" column:

A couple weeks ago I commented on our "Elko experience" to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Space limitations kept me from mentioning, at that time, a few more fine folk who represented our region with so much class and talent at that event.

I had never met three of them, and they all bowled me over with their talent—both in writing honest, true-to-the-life poems, songs and other cowboy material—and in delivering them with a depth of true professionalism and individuality that delighted their audiences.  

Ken Cook ranches in the Martin, South Dakota country, where he and his sons and daughter strive to pursue and live up to the heritage of his grandpa Frank Buckles. Like me, Ken was a first-timer in Elko, but he performed like he'd been there all his life, and really "wow-ed" his listeners.  He also has a very lovely wife, and my cowboy and I sure enjoyed getting' acquainted with them as much as our limited time allowed.

Stephanie Davis hangs her hat at her ranch near Reed Point, Montana, and is an all-around talent, beyond any I've ever met. Not only is she a rancher, a writer, a poet, a songwriter, guitarist and consummate performer onstage, she can also sing like a bird and play the fiddle like an angel.  She wrote and produced a rib-aching stage adaptation of a "Prairie Home Companion"-style radio show for Elko that had audiences rolling in the aisles with her rich satirical glimpses into the cowboy mind. She's tried out the Nashville scene and found it didn't fit, for reasons she poignantly encapsulates in her haunting melody "Some Things Cost Too Much." Watch for this gal, you'll be hearing a lot about her.

Sandy Seaton is another awesome young Montana talent, though she's now working alongside her husband as a packer and guide out of Jackson, Wyoming. She paints hilarious word pictures of that lifestyle, complete with kids, mules and hounds; and you can guess just how entertaining that can be coming from one who's been-there-done-that!

Then there's our leader...Yvonne Hollenbeck from Clearfield, South Dakota, already known to most of you readers for her humorous poems and entertaining bent...as well as her many deeply serious books and CD's honoring her pioneering heritage and lineage. If you're really lucky, you may have also seen her awesome quilt show—can that gal ever create a quilt!!

As you can see, Tri-State Country had a very imposing presence at Elko.  To read more, go to http://www.cowboypoetry.com/elko2007 as well as www.westernfolklife.org. And watch for what our resident guru of cowboy culture Jeri Dobrowski has to say in future columns!

© 2007, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, reprinted with permission; excerpted from Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns' February 24, 2007 "Over the Corral Fence" column, which appears in the Tri-State Livestock News

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Rhonda Stearns at Elko

  Rodney Nelson wrote about his trip to Elko in his "Up Sims Creek" column, which runs in the Farm and Ranch Guide.  This year, Rodney made his thirteenth appearance at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

I like a good visit. I was raised to appreciate it. When anyone came in to my folk's house, if the TV was on Dad would irritably say, "turn that darn thing off!" Dad always lamented the fact that TV destroyed good conversation. A visit from a neighbor or friend always took precedence over other types of entertainment.

DW Groethe, from Bainville, Mont., called me a few months ago and asked if he could ride with me to Elko, Nev., for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. I was glad to have someone to visit with and share expenses so I happily agreed to the offer. I'll admit I am always cautious about taking a trip with someone. I have known DW for years, always liked him, but can't say I ever knew him really well.

I picked him up at Doug and Mary Ellingson's Western Edge Bookstore in Medora. It was a good place to meet because it is no hardship for someone to have to wait a little in such an interesting place.

I'll admit I wondered a bit about what kind of a traveling partner DW would be. Would he be a good listener, would he tell good stories, would he have any nasty habits, could he drink coffee steadily and never beg me to stop before we needed gas? Would he find little need for eating or for stretching his legs.

There was no need to worry. The conversation that started when we crawled into my weathered Oldsmobile, never slacked up until we rolled in to Elko some 1,000 miles and 16 hours later. We got a room, visited a bit and turned wearily into our bunks.

The days I spend at Elko are mostly conversation. I have no idea how many people I visit with, but it is a lot. I have friends who are fans of the gathering that have come there for many years. I have friends who, like myself and DW, have performed there for many years. It is a fun time for great visiting.

My favorite time in Elko is breakfast the morning after the gathering is over. I always think it is fun to have a last quick cup of coffee, say a few goodbyes, and hit the road. That last quick breakfast in Elko has never lasted less than four hours. It may be the first chance to really have a nice conversation with Wally, Margo, Buzzy, Baxter, Jesse, Pat, Yvonne, Doris, Stan or countless others. I was worried that DW may want to hit the road, but he had no problem with the last breakfast. He and Gary were having a grand discussion.

We left Elko weary and tired at noon and visited nonstop 850 miles to Miles City where we finally thought it was a good idea to get a room.

The next morning I asked DW if he minded stopping for breakfast at the truck stop in Glendive. I only know a few people in Glendive, but for some reason one of them will always show up at the truck stop caf/. Sure enough, in walks Jimmy Baisch who always knows the most recent news about the old cowboys. He pulled us over to the next room where we visited with Howard Orgaard and Marvin Ley. It took some doing but we hit the road for the final dash to Medora and we continued our conversations about rural life, ranching, experiences we have had in our travels as small time entertainers and banquet speakers, common acquaintances, and countless other topics.

Normally when I get close to home after such a long trip I could cheerfully gun down my traveling partner. This time when we arrived at the bookstore, I shook DW's hand and said, "Darn, DW, I wish we had another 500 miles to go!"

© 2007, Rodney Nelson, reprinted with permission; from Rodney Nelson's February 14, 2007 "Up Sims Creek" column, which appears in the Farm and Ranch Guide

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Old friends Pat Richardson and Rodney Nelson at Elko

  Utah poet, songwriter, and musician Jo Lynne Kirkwood shared her report from the February, 2007 newsletter of the active Cowboy Poets of Utah.

The 23rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada has just concluded, and many of our members attended. Colen Sweeten and Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks were both featured poetsColen for the 22nd timeand as expected both of them gave outstanding performances.  Brooksie made the front page of the Elko Free Press (local paper) on Wednesday, for her part on the Tuesday night show which apparently was pretty dang impressive. We’re proud of you, Brooksie. 

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks on stage Wednesday night

Colen was featured on Michael Martin Murphey’s Friday night concert at Stockmen’s, and Murph was still braggin’ him up when I saw the show on Saturday. CR Wood and Rod Miller were both there, and I shared a set with Smoke Wadewho was very, very good. 

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Rod Miller at the Gathering

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Smoke Wade performed in open sessions

Kenny Hall had a couple of sets on stage in the auxiliary, as did STAMPEDE! (Terri Taylor, Steve Taylor, and David Anderson)who also performed at the museum on Friday night as part of the opening reception. Our good friend Jeff Wolf had an exhibition at the museum, and demonstrated the process of creating in clay at the opening.

This year Elko brought in some of my favorite poet buddies, DW Groethe, Jay Snider and Bimbo Cheney, as well as the usual crowd of names we all recognize, and it’s always fun to cheer on friendsespecially when they’re so awfully good! 

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Jay Snider was a featured performer in 2006 and 2007

Michael and I of course would have gone out just to hear Dave Stamey, who was featured this year, and he surely did not disappoint us. He shared songs from his new CDstill in the worksand it seems he’s come up with a new collection talking about the Indios during the mission years in old California.  Some powerful stuff.  Can’t wait until the CD is actually available.

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission. View more photos from Elko at her site here.
Dave Stamey is the Western Music Association's Entertainer of the Year

One of the highlights of the festival for me was an open mic session when two fisher-gal singer/poets from the Northwest stood up and belted out a couple of Celtic/Native American folk tunes, a capella and in great voice. Very gutsy little ladies. I also sat in on a jam session with Juni Fisher, Patty Clayton and Jill Jones, and felt very privileged for the opportunity. Some of the best shows in Elko are unscheduled.  Got to play music with Dave Bourne, Kenny Hall and Mike Tcherkassy (they tolerated me) at Bimbo’s house, and there is ALWAYS something going on at night at the Folklife Center or upstairs at Stockmen’s.

Margo Metegrano from Cowboy Poetry.Com was in town, although as seems to happen at busy events we didn’t get much time to visit.  And I heard that Janalee Martin had come home for the festivalbut unfortunately for me our paths never crossed. I did have a nice visit with Carol Edison, from our own Utah Arts Council, and found dozens of other reasons to grin, nod enthusiastically, or just be thrilled. I know there are CPU members who’ve never been to Elko, and I’m going to offer the suggestion once more that you make it a point to be there for the 24th gathering, next year!  Don’t wait for an invitationthey don’t invite me, either! There is plenty to do without one, and lots of performance time available if that’s what you’re looking for. We always come back glad to have been there, rejuvenated and spiritually invigorated. Ja, sure, you betcha. 

(You would’ve had to have been in Elko…)

© 2007, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, reprinted with permission; from the February, 2007 edition of the Cowboy Poets of Utah newsletter.

Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski used with permission.
Michael and Jo Lynne Kirkwood in 2006 at the Gathering


  Ken Cook was a featured performer at the 2007 Gathering, his first time at the event.

Nanc and I enjoyed every minute of our first trip to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Kevin Davis and the folks at the Western Folklife Center treated us like family and took excellent care of us during the gathering.  Elko town felt like being home...and that's a good feeling. And a bunch of friends showed up in Elko, we just hadn't met'em yet!

Thursday's session with DW Groethe, Stephen Lindsey, Leon Flick and me found us at the Elko Convention Center doing our best to live up to the show's title of "Make Me Laugh." Those boys held up their end just fine and I tried to keep pace.  We had a good time swapping poems. Steve and Naomi Lindsey and Nanc and I had the best time becoming friends. Good people them Lindseys!

photo courtesy Ken Cook
Naomi and Steve Lindsey with Ken and Nanc Cook

Friday rushed in and it was an afternoon show in the G Three Bar Theatre with Glenn Ohrlin, Gary McMahan and Leon Flick called "Storytelling Bout." Glenn kept folks laughing and I think the rest of us just did our best to keep from rolling off the stage while he was talking!  Nanc and I got to spend some time getting to know Glenn before our show began. When Glenn learned that we were from South Dakota, he shared with us a memorable trip he had through our neck of the prairie.

photo courtesy Ken Cook
Glenn Ohrlin and Ken Cook

The "Great Plains" session rolled in on Saturday and since the day I got my performance schedule I had been lookin' forward to this one. DW Groethe sang one of my favorites, "Rodeo Sweetheart."  Rodney Nelson's poem "Not Enough Snuff" is one of the best. Yvonne Hollenbeck gave the audience a taste of Sturgis, South Dakota, with "Rebel Rouser." The reason I was looking forward to this session was it gave me a chance to do a poem or two about ranching with my Grandpa and my kids. "Dad We'll Rope Today" and "I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy" fit right in. After the show people just wanted to visit about their kids and Grandpa's. The magic of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is not only the cowboys and the poetry; it's the people who come to share, if only for a day or two, this life we call ranching through poetry and music. I am proud to have been a part of that.

Best Memory?  Getting to spend time with my friend Georgie Sicking.  But that's another story.

© 2007, Ken Cook

photo courtesy Ken Cook
Georgie Sicking and Ken Cook


Visit the Western Folklife Center web site for archived webcasts of events,  audio and video coverage, and more.



More about the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering 
posted here at the BAR-D



With special thanks to Archivist Steve Green of Western Folklife Center, in a feature celebrating the 20th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we have program information that includes program covers, information and lists of invited performers for each year's Gathering.  

Other features in that section include:

  • recollections from the performers and from the audience about their "first time" at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
  • poems celebrating the Gathering

We also maintain an index of all of the invited performers to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, since its inception in 1985.  





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