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The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Elko, Nevada
Below here, we have a variety of reports about the 2002 Elko Gathering.
There are also a few photos of BAR-D pards at Elko, including Honored Guest Andy Hedges and BAR-D poets Risky Betts, Norm Rourke, and Debbie Burdic.
There's a short article about the gathering below by our managing editor Margo Metegrano that appeared in the March/April 2002 issue of Rope Burns.
See the separate page here about the all-star benefit that was held at Elko for poet Joel Nelson. It includes information about the resulting video and a thoughtful account of the event by Honored Guest Virginia Bennett.
Many thanks to BAR-D poets who shared their impressions of the gathering:
Lariat Laureate Runner Up Janice Gilbertson
I would like to say that I enjoyed every minute of every poetry session we attended. I laughed and cried...and laughed and cried...sometimes both at the same time! All of the poets touched my heart in some way. I have to say my most favorite session was Thursday afternoon when I heard Woven on the Wind. The prose those women read and the poetry recited will stay with me for a long long time. My heart about burst as I listened to them talk of the strengths and emotions of those modern pioneer women. I didn't want the session to end.
[Read Virginia Bennett's inspired account of the Woven on the Wind session below. Read more about Janice Gilbertson and read her poetry here at the BAR-D.]
Honored Guest Virginia Bennett
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada was the first such event in the world. Back in 1985, it created a pattern that has remained throughout the years, and which has been picked up in varying degrees by other "gatherings" which have humbly followed in its footsteps.
The recipe which has proven so successful at Elko is the combination of larger, night shows (these are held at the Convention Center Auditorium and at the G3Bar Theater at the Western Folklife Center) and daily "theme sessions" which can include titles such as "Good Rides, Bad Wrecks," or "Good Horses," or "Cowboy and his Creator," or "It Wasn’t Funny At the Time." These themes help to keep the performers corralled into presenting poems pertinent to the topic at hand.
One such "theme session" occurred on Thursday, January 31. Known as the Woven on the Wind session, it included women writers from the book, Woven on the Wind (Laurie Wagner Buyer, Carolyn Dufurrena, Diane Josephy Peavey, Lyn DeNaeyer-Messersmith, Echo Roy, and myself, Virginia Bennett) and was hosted by two of the editors: Nancy Curtis and Linda Hasselstrom. Curtis is a ranch owner/operator and proprietor of High Plains Press, a Wyoming publishing house. Hasselstom is a well published and anthologized poet and writer (Land Circle, Feels Like Far, and Bittercreek Junction, among others) from South Dakota. The women on this session were but eight of the almost 150 talented women writers represented in the collection.
Photo © 2002, Sweet Light Photography
Back row: Echo Roy, Lyn Denaeyer-Messersmith, Laurie Wagner Buyer, Nancy
Curtis (co editor and contributor)
Front Row:: Virginia Bennett, Linda Hasselstrom (co editor and
contributor), Carolyn Dufurrena, Diane Josephy Peavey
Some background is perhaps necessary here. Woven on the Wind is a collection of Western women’s writings published by Houghton Mifflin (2001) with essays and poetry depicting women’s relationships with other women in their families and communities. Woven is the second in a series of books published by Houghton Mifflin, the first being Leaning into the Wind. The third editor joining Curtis and Hasselstrom in these endeavors is Gaydell Collier of Wyoming, who was unable to attend the Elko Gathering. [See more about both books below.]
Each of the above mentioned authors shared in turn her piece from Woven on the Wind in the theme session. The Turquoise Room at the Convention Center was filled to about two thirds of its capacity. A rough guess would place about 200 people in the room. Many of these listeners would later reveal that this session was the most moving experience at the Gathering for them. Many who missed the program would later say that they’d heard about it, that there was a "buzz" about the session, and how they’d wished they hadn’t missed it. Quite frankly, who suspected that six women standing up, and for the most part reading (not reciting) their work, work which was for the most part not humorous in nature, would be considered by many as the best session at the Gathering? Go figure!
But heartfelt work should never be underestimated. Dufurrena of Nevada read her "free verse" poem from the book, which was titled "Ghost of April, 1978." Carolyn read of following in the footsteps of an unknown woman who had climbed on a ridge above a western mining town, both searching for answers.
"To a smooth blond ledge in the blustery dawn.
There, a woman’s fur coat, black karakul lamb,
As though she had shrugged out of it
Watching the moon last night.
The wool curls brittle, satin lining crumbling into dust,
Its only perfume juniper and thunderstorm."
Carolyn Duffurena (from Woven on the Wind, pg. 86)
Buyer read her poem and essay ("There Were No Women") describing the loneliness and hardships of the young girl she once was, struggling to keep a relationship alive in the remote areas of the Canadian border.
"So I sang to goats, hugged the cats,
conversed with the sad-eyed dog,
whispered words to shaggy horses,
held close a pine tree’s roughened bark,
wept silly tears, hurt and harsh,
because there were no women."
Laurie Wagner Buyer (from Woven on the Wind, pg 119)
The poignancy of this piece, for me, comes in the knowledge that when challenged to write about a relationship with a woman, Laurie chose to share what it was like without women friends, thereby even more strongly sealing the importance of female companionship amongst women.
DeNaeyer-Messersmith read her anthologized essay, "Resurrections," a piece bringing forth the commonly-shared experiences between herself and a Lakota woman, both of whom had grown up in the far flung West, attending boarding schools far from home and family. DeNaeyer-Messersmith hails from an isolated ranching area in the Nebraska Sandhills. She read in the session, "It was a long night’s journey out of that darkness, but we hung on to each other, and we made it to the light."
Peavey, a ranch woman from south central Idaho, read her tale of her elderly mother in law, Mary, and her friend, Gertrude, of how women care for and affect each other through the humorous foibles at creating chokecherry jelly.
"I remember this chokecherry adventure clearly because it was the day that I began to understand the friendship of these two women and their gift to me," read Peavey.
Echo Roy, a fourth generation Wyoming rancher, shared her piece called "Prairie Ocean," in which she tells of her grade school teacher, Mrs. Evans, who transported a small, isolated ranch girl to worlds beyond the endless sea of sagebrush.
"We wiggled our toes in the sand and then soaked our feet in the horse trough," read Roy. "When Mom asked what we had done that day, I’m sure she was a bit confused when I said we’d gone to the Pacific Ocean and walked barefoot on the beach."
A highlight of the Gathering for me was when I was afforded the opportunity to recite my poem, "Tapestry of Knots." I have recited this poem several times in programs before, but never before when the subject was sitting before the audience and they had just heard her poignant story of a young woman, star-crossed in love and making the best of it.
I wrote "Tapestry of Knots" with a faceless, nameless subject, a picture of women throughout the West who spend their time writing, perhaps with little encouragement from their spouses.
The poem ends:
"How many more are like her?
We can only guess.
Those women who write heartbroke words
Emboldened to confess.
They fold, they stamp and they mail
Their souls from coast to coast
And share their work with all the world
Except the one they love the most."
(from Canyon of the Forgotten by Virginia Bennett)
I wrote this poem about and for Laurie Wagner Buyer, and it was a delight to share it with the audience. [Read the entire poem here.]
Perhaps this session was so powerful because all of the presenters were often-published authors and poets. Or perhaps it was simply because women have that way of looking at things, of shedding the facade and getting down to the bare bones of a subject. You know what I mean...that "way."
Virginia Bennett, 2002
[Read more about Virginia Bennett and read her poetry here at the BAR-D.]
Lariat Laureate Rod Miller
As always, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko provided the opportunity to see more and better Cowboy Poets in one place at one time than anywhere else on earth. The usual suspects were outstanding: Paul Zarzyski, Baxter Black, Randy Rieman, Joel Nelson, Virginia Bennett, Pat Richardson, Waddie Mitchell... And there were some outstanding new poets and reciters I saw for the first time. "Straw" Berry from Oklahoma writes and presents well. Andy Hedges of Texas is relaxed and resonant while reciting
the classics -- reminiscent of Randy Rieman.
But I also saw a few poets who did not live up to the (at least my) usual Elko standard. I heard poems with nothing to say, poorly made poems with forced rhyme and meter, poems that seemed never to end and some that should never have started, silly sophomoric embarrassing attempts at humor, punch-line jokes masquerading as poems, and predictable and simplistic political rants -- the kinds of things you often hear at smaller gatherings but which are usually sifted out at Elko.
Likewise, the music. It ranged from performers old and new I'm still listening to on CDs purchased at the gathering, to some I had never heard before and, well, once was enough.
All in all, it was still a good time and well worth the price of admission. I'll keep looking for a better gathering -- but until I find it, I expect I'll keep going back to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. See you there next year. Dress warm.
[Read more about Lariat Laureate Rod Miller and read his poetry here at the BAR-D.]
Poet Dan Faught
Several thoughts come to mind when I think about the "Elko Experience" of the last nine gatherings.
Each year I listen with anticipation as contemporary poets like Waddie Mitchell, Joel Nelson, Randy Rieman and newcomers like Lavern "Straw" Berry stir our imaginations and emotions with their words and rhymes from a hundred years ago to the present. Each poet brings a different style and personality to each session yet when all are finished one realizes that they have all expressed the same heartfelt sentiments about the land, their
animals and their relationships to the people they have known in the cowboy life.
The musicians always do their part to present the cowboys values and experience to us with meaning and purpose. Anyone attending R.W. Hampton's Cowboy Church Service a few years ago will always appreciate how his music and testimony led the group to a greater level of contemplation and appreciation of shared belief.
Don Edward's singing of "There's A Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" this year ended with a standing ovation which I sensed was a sign of respect for him but also a sign of solidarity and love for the "Stars and Bars" and this country it symbolizes. Lorraine Rawl's singing of "Promised Land" was a stirring and definitive anthem of the "Pioneer Spirit" that we all come to Elko each year to re-capture. This song was a beautiful history of the west!
The gathering is over for another year and we are left to return to our homes and lifestyles with the variety of words and songs from a hundred poets and musicians. The magic of each gathering is that this wide variety of cowboy expression sends us to those homes with a common bond and the knowledge that the "cowboy way" is alive and well all across the country.
[Read more about Dan Faught and read his poetry here at the BAR-D.]
Some BAR-D pards and poets had a chance to get together for a quick breakfast one morning in Elko:
From left: Ron and Janice Gilbertson, LouAnn and Billy James,
Rod Miller, Kiley Timmons and Andy Hedges.
You can read Honored Guest Andy Hedges' poetry here at the BAR-D.
You can read Billy James' poetry here at the BAR-D.
From left: Cody Broyles and Risky Betts
You can read Risky Betts' poetry here at the BAR-D.
It was also great to catch up other BAR-D poets: Oklahoman Norm Rourke was on assignment to interview Ian Tyson, and Elko poet Debbie Burdic was one of the many volunteers who helped keep things running smoothly:
Norm Rourke Debbie Burdic
You can read Norm Rourke's poetry here at the BAR-D.
You can read Debbie Burdic's poetry here at the BAR-D.
A version of this article appeared on page one of the March/April 2002 edition of Rope Burns, the publication of the Academy of Western Artists (AWA).
Elko Has Heart and Humor
Story by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
Most photos by Teddie Daley of Ketchum, Idaho
Chris Isaacs and daughter Lisa performed together
(photo courtesy Chris Isaacs)
At the end of January, nearly 8000 people gathered at the 18th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. This is the "granddaddy" of gatherings, the one that "started it all," reviving an interest in Cowboy Poetry that helped spawned the hundreds of gatherings held today across the country.
Elko is a "poets" gathering, a place where many of the same poets and musicians gather each year, and no last names are needed for performers such as: Waddie, Baxter, Wally, Don and Ian. Most have been around since the first gathering and will tell you stories about it all began, and often their poems and songs celebrate each other and those early times.
Texan Andy Hedges is headed to the top
But one of this year's shining stars was just a toddler when the first gathering took place, 21-year old Texan Andy Hedges. Hedges opened Baxter's sold-out show, performing classics and his own work to an enthusiastic audience. Off stage this tall, sweet looking young man seems almost shy. But he is completely confident on stage, and his recitations are always flawless, from his own hilarious "Texas Braggin'" to classics such as S. Omar Barker's "Jack Potters Courtin'" and "Bruin Wooin."
Montana's Mike Logan is always a favorite
Elko's daily sub-zero temperatures didn't deter the crowds. The only real problem at Elko is deciding among the many great simultaneous shows. With at least four venues operating simultaneously, people had to choose, for example, whether to see Ian Tyson, Tom Russell, and Jesse Smith; or Ray Lashley and Randy Rieman; or Peggy Godfrey, Larry McWhorter, and Bill Wood. And that was just one hour of one day.
The audience was wild for Wylie Gustafson and his Wild West band. Wylie (the voice behind Yahooooo!) has an enormous range, and when his deep rich voice switches from a ballad to "Yodelin' Fool," he is just getting warmed up for the swing, rockabilly, and honky-tonk selections yet to come. Wylie is well over 6 feet --mostly legs--and he covers the stage like a rock star, those legs bending and flying in every direction. In fact a stage almost can't contain Wylie and his band, and the best place to catch them was at one of the dance venues.
Chris Isaacs brought down the house
Two-time AWA Will Rogers Award winner Chris Isaacs was the real crowd pleaser. Chris opened his first show with a perfect rendition of the classic "Pert Near Perkins" and brought out laughs at every turn. The audience was so taken by his own poem, "The Flying Horse" that the idea of "bringing down the house" with laughter started to seem dangerous. No other performer was so warmly received. But Chris isn't all laughs. He is also "heart," and that showed in his closing with his flawless recitation of the classic "When They're Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall," accompanied by his daughter Lisa singing "Shenandoah" in the background, like an angel (see photo above).
Friends came out for poet Joel Nelson
And heart is also what was shown at the most exciting event at Elko, which wasn't even on the official program. Friends of poet Joel Nelson gathered to help raise funds pay medical bills he incurred after being kicked in the face by a horse. An extraordinary array of talent and a large audience gathered to hear performances guided by one rule: the poetry and music had to have "never before been performed in Elko." All ticket sales went to the fund, and each performer made a donation before performing his or her work.
Paul Zarzyski emceed the benefit for Joel Nelson
One by one, favorites including Waddie Mitchell, Baxter Black, Don Edwards, Wallace McRae, Chris Isaacs, Ian Tyson, Tom Russell, Mike Logan, Randy Rieman, Michael Martin Murphey, R. W. Hampton, Larry McWhorter, Stephanie Davis, Dave Stamey, Brenn Hill, Kent Stockton, Sunny Hancock, Jesse Smith, Paul Zarzyski, New West, and countless others surprised and delighted the audience --until 4 AM! There has never been a show like that before, and there is likely never to be one again. A video is available, with all funds going to Joel Nelson, for $25 postpaid from: High Country Video Productions,
1375 Outer Marker Road Castle Rock, CO 80104. [Read more about this event here.]
Oregon poet Dan Faught, attending the Elko gathering for the ninth time, best summed up the closing events and what the audience takes home from Elko: "Don Edward's singing of "There's A Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" this year ended with a standing ovation which I sensed was a sign of respect for him but also a sign of solidarity and love for the "Stars and Bars" and this country it symbolizes. Lorraine Rawl's singing of "Promised Land" was a stirring and definitive anthem of the "Pioneer Spirit" that we
all come to Elko each year to re-capture.
"The gathering is over for another year and we are left to return to our homes and lifestyles with the variety of words and songs from a hundred poets and musicians. The magic of each gathering is that this wide variety of cowboy expression sends us to those homes with a common bond and the knowledge that the 'cowboy way' is alive and well all across the country."
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Annual Lewis-Clark Cowboy Poetry, Music and Western Arts Festival Lewiston, Idaho
contact: Kathy Camden, PO Box 208, Nezperce, ID 83543, 208-937-2352 fax: 208-937-9899
Report on the Fourth Annual Lewis-Clark Cowboy Poetry, Music & Western Arts Festival
February 8th, 9th, & 10th, 2002
Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington lie in a deep canyon at the convergence of the Snake and the Clearwater Rivers. The elevation of these two cities is approx. 720 ft. above sea level. Just a few miles in any direction the elevation rises dramatically. To the north lies the Palouse Prairie, to the south The Waha, and the Camas Prairie, to the East lie the mountains that surround the Locsha, The North, South, and Middle Forks of the Clearwater, plus the Selway River which carves its way almost from beginning to end, deep in the Wilderness of Idaho's backcountry.
The morning of the 8th of Feb. dawned cold, foggy, and lots of Black Ice on the highways in the higher elevations. Motorists were stranded, highways were closed, and eighteen wheelers were upside down in canyons and along the rivers. But in Lewiston, due to the elevation difference, it was 48 degrees, the grass was green, and the sun was shining. By 8:30 AM the parking lot of the Elks Lodge was filling up fast. Artists had arrived the day before, and somewhere around a million dollars of Bronzes, Oils, Pastels, Silver and Gold Jewelry, Saddles, Western Hats, and Bits and Spurs,
were on display. Clothiers, and an array of Vendors of Western Art filled the Exhibit Area to overflowing. Poets and Musicians were beginning to arrive to begin their sessions, and the smell of hotcakes, bacon, eggs, and hot coffee drifted out of the kitchen. The Elks Lodge is a large facility,
with a full kitchen manned by three chefs. Believe me, they were busy. They are equipped to seat and serve 1200 dinners, and still have a dance floor area plus a Main Stage.
Due to many calls of performers being stranded, schedules were set aside and open sessions for those who had flown into Lewiston or had driven in the day before began. Many people arrived early and had missed the overnight bad weather, so although we were short poets and musicians, once we got the ball rolling things really took off. All in all, 52 performers and 32 Artists made it through for the weekend. PBS out of Spokane made it down and filmed most of the shows, and interviewed Performers and Artists. Local newspapers carried blown up pictures of the performers, along with interviews, and many performers were featured live on our weekly radio show on KRLC 1350 AM. Performers were scheduled at and scattered out among the schools of Asotin, Wash., Clarkston, Wa., and Lewiston, Id.
This year we had a record breaking 288 student entries in Poetry Writing, and Song Writing Competitions from the schools. This is getting bigger and more accepted each year. We now have students in High School that entered our first years competition while in grade school in '99. Entries are narrowed down by teachers and school personnel, and final winners are selected by poets and
musicians. The winners appear during the day sessions on Saturday's shows.
A few of the performers that appeared throughout the show were Joni Harms, Curly Musgrave,
Charlie Camden and Bodie Dominguez, Dallas McCord, the Fletcher Girls, Wyoming Red, Ellie Corrigan, Mickey Dawes, Leon Flick, Kathy Moss, Howard Norskog, Carmel Randle, Milton Taylor, Dave Tingey, Don Rice, George Thompson and Sharon Glenn, plus many more.
Saturday Night on the Night Show, Mickey Dawes, Charlie Camden and Bodie Dominquez, did a Patriotic Opening which received a rousing standing ovation. Charlie said he did the last two sentences of Alan Jackson's song "Where were you when the World Stopped Turning" and couldn't hear them himself. This year the entire two days were recorded so that the performers will get CD's of their own performance, and of everyone's performance. If you are interested in performing in Lewiston on the 2nd weekend of February, 2003 contact: Kathy Camden; P O Box 208; NezPerce, Id. 83543; Phone 1-208-937-2352; e-mail email@example.com; Fax 1-208-937-9899
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Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering Sierra Vista, Arizona
Our thanks to Diane Merrill, Honored Guest Buckshot Dot, and Lariat Laureate runner up Byrd Woodward for their reports on the 2002 Sierra Vista event.
We first got these photos from Diane Merrill (daughter of Janice and the late Mason Coggin, of Cowboy Miner Publications). Diane told us "Dee Strickland Johnson, also known as Buckshot Dot, knocked the crowd dead at Tombstone's Notorious Big Nose Kate's Saloon...she was there with many other musicians and reciters as a kickoff to the 3-Day Cochise County Cowboy music and poetry gathering."
We asked Buckshot Dot if she got arrested for looking so...arresting... and she told us:
The floozy number was a blast! It was the most fun! I sang "They'll Know Who I Am" by John Maynes (recorded by Rosalee Sorrels). When I finished the MC (Bud Strom) said, "Who Was That Fancy Lady?" and the crowd roared "Buckshot Dot!"
Bud loaned me his duster and I held a black jacket over the front when I came on stage. Then the fellow took the duster and the jacket and I, as the MC said on a later show, "came forth like a big bird."
Oh, my. You should have heard the reference to feathers all weekend! I fear I dropped a few. One fell in a cowboy's hat (which was, of course, upside down). The next night I saw him at the evening show. He motioned wildly toward his hat -- where he was proudly wearing the black-tipped red feather.
The next day there was a reference to Bud's wearing "Dot's duster" -- another cowboy commented wryly, "I liked her in that feather duster better!" I'm now being called "Dangerous Dot" and "The Toast of Tombstone."
My attorney friend, Nancy, loaned me the dress. A lady asked me, "Where on earth did you get that dress?" I told her "From my lawyer!"
"And what is his name?" her husband inquired. What fun!
You can read some of our Honored Guest Buckshot Dot's poetry here at the BAR-D.
There was more that went on at Sierra Vista, and following are excerpts from the reports that Lariat Laureate runner up Byrd Woodward shared with us:
"Hey, you guys, these folks put on a pretty good show....and Bud said out of 60 poets, only two couldn't make it!...I told him if he only lost two cows in a gather, he was doin' purty good and he shot right back that he didn't figger to lose any.....couldn't afford it!!...
We caught one show at the Folklore Preserve...cowboy bluegrass group called Raw Deal...they were good.....very crowded venue but worth it as it's located 2 miles below the Nature Conservancy Preserve up Ramsey Canyon!...Saw the Friday night stage show at the rather spectacular Buena High School....with Fort Huachuca across the road (5000 Army personnel), the town gets federal impact funds and obviously some was spent there because they have a Performing Arts Center with huge seating capacity, a wonderful stage and lighting.....you should have seen the sets!....if Friday wasn't sold out, it was close.....Two of my friends, Kip Callahan and Ron Brinegar, one of my mentors, were on stage that night...And the group I first saw in Prescott, Due West Trio + two....Kerry Grombacher played with them and a bass fiddler I didn't recognize, but who is really a fine player.....That lady, Rena is her first name....has one of the prettiest voices you'll hear and they do great stuff...'Shenandoah' and some other great old tunes....We had a wonderful time."
Byrd told us more about the impressive lineups and the venues, which were mostly filled to capacity. She told us a story that doesn't surprise us about our old pard "Gentleman Poet" Ron Brinegar.
She said "Ron Brinegar, who is one of the most generous people I know, thought I needed a boost and at his 4:00 session, gave up his last turn to me...he'd told me ahead so I was prepared to do Who is This Feller...that's the piece he heard me do in Prescott, when I cried... it was the first piece I'd ever done in public...and it touched him...he's a 'step'-father and raised three of his wife's kids along with one of their own and asked to have a copy to send to his kids...said he hoped and believed they felt that way about him...
Then...the real highlight for us other than the personal one...we got to hear Dennis Gaines for the first time!...what a guy...he did one about a compacted mule that had the audience roaring, then came back with one about his mother, whom he lost not long ago, and he had a hard time keeping his composure, ...it was so moving, I have tears in my eyes as I write... So all in all we had a great time, saw lots of new and old friends ...."
(Our Honored Guest Dennis Gaines' poem to his mother became the inspiration for our special collection of poems about Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms. His beautiful poem mentioned by Byrd, "A Life Well Lived," is posted here.)
Byrd wanted to make two important points: "The head wranglers there are Bud Strom and John Shaver....this is their tenth year.....and....they have a very strong program for youngsters interested in writing Cowboy Poetry called the Western Heritage Writing Program....19 elementary and secondary schools participate ....it's a competition for scholarships (eventually) the top one is for $1000...not sure of the value of the second....Bud Strom is heavily into this and volunteers his time in the fall to promote poetry, cowboy life and our grand western heritage.....there were over 3000(!) poems entered this year from 1st grade to seniors in High School.....24 winners, with the nine major winners performing their poems onstage at the headline performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday!!..pretty heady stuff for the 4th grader, Amanda Wheat, 2nd grand in the elementary category ,whom we saw Friday night, along with the $1000 winner, a senior and an 8th grade girl who took 2nd grand in the middle school category. It was terrific and really shows the heart of the west.....we should do better for our greatest resource and Bud and John are making a fine effort."
You can read Lariat Laureate runner up Byrd Woodward's poetry here at the BAR-D.
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Winter Cowboy Poetry Festival Brigham City, Utah
This was an official 2002 Olympic Event
Lariat Laureate Jo Lynne Kirkwood sent us some comments about the Winter Cowboy Poetry Festival. You can read some of her poetry here at the BAR-D.
Here are some excerpts from what Jo Lynne wrote to us:
Randy Stokes wanted me (and I wanted) to let you know how the festival went - which was pretty darn well. I figure he just wanted me to do the tellin' 'cause he's some shy about braggin' himself up too much. But he did a heck of a job. Charlie Camden was there - did some singin' mostly - and Rod Miller came up Saturday afternoon just to visit. I got to meet Francine Robison - and Paul Bliss was there. Curly Jim Musgrave was there all three days, and besides being a fine singer and a heck of a guitar picker he's a gentleman and a real sweet feller. There were a couple of local musicans I should mention -- Terri Taylor was yodeler of the year last year (WMA) and she (and her husband Steve) did a little something at about every performance -- from yodelling over dinner (yep. That's what I said) to nightly renditions of "God Bless America" to open the evening shows. Not only are they cute and talented, they are also just good
people. Steve also plays the bag pipes - although not to any western tunes that I'm aware of. He's a member of the black guard - or whatever the official designation is... AND - there's a group from northern Utah who call themselves "Saddle Strings," and if you haven't already heard of them you likely will sooner or later. They have a fiddle player named Kathy who is just past amazing.
There were lots of other good poets and musicians there, but if I start tryin' to name 'em all I'm bound to forget a few, and then I'd feel bad. So I'm just stickin' with old friends and favorites for now. Okay. Don Kennington. Have to say that name, and I'm hopin' you've had the experience sometime, somewhere. He did earn an invitation to the Gene Autry ranch last year, and he has been in Elko.
Jo Lynne Kirkwood and Randy Stokes are working on a children's book, "I'm Just a True Blue Cowboy," and we'll bring you more news as it develops.
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Annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Sul Ross) Alpine, Texas
From Lariat Laureate runner up Jack Sammon:
I would just like to let you all know what a great poetry gathering they put on at Alpine Texas from an Australian's point of view. The organisers should be congratulated on the work they do in making it such a success.
The Alpine gathering is not at all commercialised or franchised, it is just run by a group of volunteers who are dedicated to keeping alive the cowboy culture for future generations and they run the gathering like a good old fashioned country gathering that is very hard to find now days any where in
It was a pleasure to meet other poets and entertainers who have the same interests as I do and to find them not at all pretentious, they don't seem to want to out do the other person or prove them selves any better, I find that they all have a love of the history, the life and culture of the land they belong to and wish to convey it to others.
In closing I must congratulate your country and people on the way that you are getting on with your lives after all the trouble you have had in the past year it just shows what a resilient people you are. I have travelled to the U.S. quite a lot over the years and this year I noted that people talk to each other more, before you would sit beside someone on an aeroplane or restaurant or bar and they would not speak but now every one seems more united and proud.
I also met another Bar D contributor by the name of Ray Owens and his wife Verna; he writes great poetry and is a top hand at reciting and I am proud to call him friend
As an Australian I found it refreshing to see and meet real down to earth American people and see the country as it really is and not as we see it on T.V. and movies.
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Second Annual Shanghai Days Cowboy Gathering Wharton, Texas
From Gene O'Quinn:
Howdy, just a short report on the gathering in Wharton, TX hosted by Doc Blakely, March 23. A rousing success, the weather cooperated with nice gentle breezes and 70 degree weather. CowboyPoetry.com pards performing were Lloyd Shelby, Ted E. Dennison, and myself. A couple of musicians also performed a few poems within their acts, Purly Gates recited Wallace McRae's "Reincarnation" and Cherokee Poet "Man Wolf" Strayhorn worked some of his poems between flute solos. There may have been others, that I missed. Regards, Gene, "The Kid from Victor's Switch."
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Sahuaro Ranch, Back to the Past Festival Glendale, Arizona
From Lariat Laureate runner up Byrd Woodward:
...since it was my first 'invited' affair, I think it was wonderful!...there were a lot of terrific performers there, including Dean Cook and his brother, Jim and his wife, Miss Ellie, Ken Ralston, Dick and Jane Morton, Vance Wampler, Rusty Calhoun, Andy (girl) Hurlbut, Ron Brinegar, Lyle Suttill, Lon Austin, Greg LaCosse, Ken Clemmer, (I was onstage with him; what a hoot!) Buckshot Dot (Dee Strickland Johnson), Jim Dunham (what a wonderful rich voice for the tunes he sings..the really old cowboy stuff), (Rolf Flake and his wife were at Wally's chile feed, but he couldn't stay to perform, he manages 50 sections and is running 6 to 800 head of cows and steers; he's become a real supporter of mine and I like and respect him so much)....and Steve Linsey, from Sierra Vista....gosh, that man is f-u-n-n-y!! ...he writes his stuff and he's got a new one that tells how you tell a cowboy from a rancher...."a cowboy has a buckle that covers his belly, a rancher has a belly that covers his buckle!"....Jay Dorris, Larry Harmer, Stan Young, Barb Herber and Dave Bauman were also there...I think I just named everybody who was there.....there were two stages running at the same time and the sessions ran from 10 am til 3pm on both days....we got a continental style breakfast Saturday and a nice cowboy breakfast on Sunday morning.
The weather was just gorgeous and though the crowds were small, they were enthusiastic and appreciative....this is the second year for this event and I thought it went very well for a show with such a short history.....and the best part, personally, for me was all the wonderful support and acceptance these wonderful people, many of whom I've admired for a long time, showed this fluttering little Byrd....so many made an effort to come by and see me on stage and made an effort to come and tell me nice things....WOW....what a time we had.... there were other events that coincided including a lot of living history programs and kids stuff. All in all, I think a good time was had by all...
Here's me at the Sahuaro Ranch Gathering:
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Festival of the West Cowboy Poetry & Storytellin' Scottsdale, Arizona
From Lariat Laureate runner up Byrd Woodward:
Here's Jane Morton at the Festival of the West ...the poets behind Jane are, l. to r., Jerry Warren from Georgia, Don O'Barr, formerly of Idaho and now of Concho, AZ and Dean Cook, AZ. The wind blew and blew in Scottsdale and we all nearly froze!
The folks behind me in this one are: Kip Calahan, Animas, NM; Janice Mitich, Tucson, AZ; Emcee, Martha Wilson, partially obscured; Lyle Suttill, Phoenix, AZ; and Dick Morton, Jane's husband, from Mesa, AZ and Black Forrest, CO......Kip is a wonderful musician and song writer whose husband is the
manager of the Grey Ranch in the Animas Valley. Lyle is a pretty famous reciter around these parts, and fun-ney! >' )
L to r, Jay Dorris, poet and reciter; Ken Ralston, fine musician and reciter and Dick Morton, poet and reciter.
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Kamloops Cowboy Festival Kamloops, B.C. Canada
From Honored Guest Mike Puhallo:
The Best Little Cowboy Festival in the West, just keeps getting better!
The Kamloops Cowboy Festival set new attendance records and firmly established itself as Canada's premiere Cowboy festival. Folks came from as far away as Florida, San Francisco and Winnipeg to check out the entertainment and absorb the culture of BC's Cattle Country.
Seven hundred fans wandered into the Calvary Temple Church for the Saturday night feature concert, shattering an attendance record of 500 set the night before! All 700 of those fans were on their feet clapping and cheering in appreciation at the end of the evening. The BC Cowboy Heritage Society estimates the tally will come out about 40% above last year once all the ticket stubs are counted and the brands are checked! (total weekend attendance is estimated to be more than 2,500).
The Kamloops Cowboy Festival showcases the best in Cowboy Poetry, Western Music and Art from Canada's Cattle Country. Arnold Mosley of Merritt provided the art work for this years poster and was the featured artist. The Western Art and gear Show also showcased a half dozen of Western Canada's elite saddle makers, fine art , fashion and of course Wendy Liddle's Cowboy Cartoons. Business appeared to be brisk with, paintings, saddles and at least one bronze worth several thousand dollars changing hands!
Joni Harms, Wayne Nelson and Jerry White came up from south of the Medicine line to Join an all star cast of Canadian pickers and poets that included; Matt Johnston, Kraig Johdrey , Gary Fjellgaard, Shirley Field, Hugh McLennan, Bryn Thiessen, Casey and Rick Peden, Doris Daley, Don Wudel, Mike
Puhallo, Doris Bircham, Gordie west, Butch Falk, Glen Rafuse and Linda Robson, Mike and Emily Olexson, and others.
Cowboy poetry aint for wimps!
In spite of horrible road conditions approximately 100 fans from Alberta braved the avalanches and icy passes to attend the festival including 36 who came on a charter bus from Lacombe. About two dozen fans from Vancouver island paid the ransom on the ferry and joined the caravan of loyal fans
from the Frazer Valley who fought their way through a blizzard on the "Coke" just to come hear our rhymes and stories. There were also small bands of intrepid winter travellers from the Peace River country, Washington, the Okanogan, Cariboo and Chilcotin.
One lady came much farther, Donna Norris rode a Greyhound all the way here from Winnipeg for the sixth year in a row to be at our festival. Donna is the most dedicated fan of cowboy poetry I have ever met. She has been to a lot of cowboy gatherings over the years. The two events she never misses are Kamloops Cowboy Festival and America's original Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko Nevada. I'll leave her the last word. She said "THANK YOU This the best show I have ever been to!"
All I can add is that same "Thank You" to all the sponsors, volunteers and fans who made it all come together!
From Honored Guest Mark McMillan:
Hi everyone! Well it's just about time to start building the web page for the 2003 Kamloops Cowboy Festival and I finally got the 2002 Festival Review finished. Have a look if you get a chance - there's some good stories and quite a few photos. Some of the photos were sent in by Marg Chase, our volunteer coordinator, thanks Marg. Others were sent in by photographer Deanna Kristensen. They are all good and we will be adding more in the near future. There's also info on the festival videos that are for sale - these help support the BCCHS. Just go to www.bcchs.com and click on "2002 Kamloops Cowboy Festival". Hope that you enjoy it, Mark
Folkfest New Braunfels, Texas
From Janice Chapman:
I thought you might like to have a copy of this photo of Rod Nichols reciting at the New Braunfels Poetry Festival.
[Photos by Mary Sullivan]
I'm sorry you had to miss that. Saturday we had a little rain along, but had a great bunch of performers. Not only was Rod Nichols present, but also Dennis Gaines, Steve Stiles, Charles Ellis, Stephen Klatt, David Williams, Adrian Lopez, Cameron Bradfute, Diane Berry and John Honeycutt, Linda Kirkpatrick, Andy Hedges, Joe Wells, Tony Blisard and Randy Waller along with singing group Cowboy Sunset Serenade and "Trio" starring Dennis Schroeder, Dave Roland, and Noel Lovelette.
Charles Ellis and his lovely wife, Janice, fixed breakfast and lunch chuckwagon style. Great coffee and wonderfully cooked meals including fresh oven baked bread.
Cameron Bradfute did a lot of the announcing both days, although one of the local Judges did some of it, and so did one of the local Sheriffs.
Adrian Lopez officiated the Sunday Morning church service, and did a beautiful job of it as he reminded us that God loves the cowboys, too, and accepts the wide open spaces as the church of His choosing for the cowboy prayers.
Few fiddlers can out do Noel Lovelette, who having fallen and injured himself was on crutches, and in pain while he presented us with his thrilling and untarnished talent.
Rod Nichols, this master of poetic writing, has a truly beautiful poem (see below) about this event; Rod was also in much pain, but gave a truly enjoyable presentation of his poetry. He also introduced me and my new book, "Chapman's Range - Sage and Cattle Country Poetry" to the audience.
That is the first place I have gone that I have walked into total strangers and felt totally at home.
And if I didn't say it, then Thank You God for Cowboys -- they're my kind of people.
Lariat Laureate Rod Nichols sent along this photo from Folkfest:
Rod wrote: Here is a picture of some of the cowboys and me taken on Sunday, April 7, 2002. That was the morning of the cowboy service I wrote about. It was a time in my life I won't likely forget.
First Lariat Laureate Rod Nichols doesn't let the grass grow under his feet. Soon after major surgery he was appearin' at a gatherin' in New Braunfels. Our old pard Janice Chapman liked a poem he delivered there so much that she named it as her favorite in the Favorite Poem Project. So of course we asked Rod if we could post that poem, Cowboy Service, and he kindly obliged.
One Sunday mornin' mistin' rain
beneath a Texas oak,
a canopy had been set up
where cowboy poets spoke.
Some cowboys had already 'rived
this early time of day,
so I sat down to rest a bit
and hear what they might say.
"Dear Lord" I heard a cowboy say
"We thank you for this time
and for the chance to praise your name
and speak our hearts and mind.
To some a cowboy may seem rough
and not what folks might say
would be the type of character
to ever stop and pray.
But Lord you know the hearts of men
and you know that ain't true,
no man could live the life we live
and not believe in you.
Perhaps it takes a cowboy Lord
who lives close to the land
to see the handiwork of God
and understand his plan.
Our work is neverending seems
and sometimes we forget
and sometimes we might slip a tad
or wander off a bit.
But given time we will return
on such a day as now
and raise our voice in thankfulness
beneath these oaken boughs.
And so we come in praise of thee
our Father's will be done
and ask your blessings as we go
God keep us ev'ry one."
I sat there at the service end
in silence, not a sound
and prayed dear Lord I thank you for
this cowboy church I'd found.
© 2002, Rod Nichols
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Miracle Ranch Cowboy Rendezvous Port Orchard, Washington
From Rudy Gonzales:
Rudy sent us a note sayin' Honored Guest Mike Puhallo was "caught with a tall redhead in Washington" and we were surely glad to find out who it was.
Rudy explained: On May 11, 2002 Mike and I along with other entertainers from the U. S. and Canada entertained at the Miracle Ranch Cowboy Rendezvous in Port Orchard, Washington. It was a great event to benefit a Christian camp for kids. Joanne Palmer A.KA. Pickles the Clown is from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She is part of the Cowboy Rudy Show and travels the nation with our program of cowboy humor, cowboy poetry and of course cowboy songs. She paints children's faces and dances with children of all ages during the entertainment along with making balloon animals for nearly everyone who comes to the events.
Mike swears he doesn't know any other redheads.
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Idaho City Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Festival Idaho City, Idaho
May 3rd, 4th, & 5th, 2002
by Charlie Camden
Idaho City always gives me the feeling that I am riding into town with both the Earps and the Clantons waiting for my arrival. The dusty little town boasts many Historical, and Famous buildings that date from the 1860's thru 1890's, with the usual sprinkling of false fronted stores along Main Street.
Today it is the type of Western Town where friends stop their trucks in the middle of the street, and carry on a 45 minute visit. Usually another friend or two happen along and before you know it, a half dozen or more rigs block the street, and till someone has to leave, traffic just stops. The good thing about it is that residents do not seem to mind very much. Old wagons, horse drawn equipment, and old mining relics are found at almost any location around town. Small stores carry mining supplies, complete with demonstrations, Western Clothes, 2nd hand junk, and paintings by local artists. Even the main hotel in town had a past life of a Bordello, and the Cowboy Poets and (Cowgirl Poets) love to stay there. The waiting room serves as a gathering place in the morning with hot coffee. Donuts too if someone was kind enough to run down to the highway and buy a couple dozen.
Those who have gone to previous gatherings in Idaho City never fail to tell and retell the stories of humorous events that have transpired there. This year, as in the past, the sign in place was the Event Center. It is also the center of the daytime on stage shows. Business sites around town
were also locations where a bard, or musician, could spout his tirade to an appreciative gathered audience. The highway to Boise passes the South edge of town, and tourists see the activity and turn in without fail. Approx. 15 businesses host performers that rotate from one spot to another for the entire day.
This year things kicked off on Thursday Eve with a jam session of performers who were there early. Performers took turns till they eventually drifted off to their rooms and suddenly the place was empty. Friday morning dawned sunny and cool. The parking area around the Event Center was full by 8:00 AM.
Scheduled performances began, and we were off and running. Approx. 40 performers were on hand all day, and as the day warmed up, the big audiences were in any spot that had shade.
The Friday Night Show was held at the Community Center. Performers were Linda and Carol, Howard Norskog, Jim Hunzaker, Garde Bowman, Roberta Green, Charlie Camden & Bodie Dominguez, Art Honey, Dean Wadsworth, Bill Ramsey, and Dave Tingey.
Saturday Shows were once again around town in various places. In the afternoon the Matinee Show started at 4:00 PM. Scheduled performers at this time were: Mallory Shiflet, Gary Trexler, Sam DeLeeuw, Don Kennington, Geneve Romrielle, Barbara Hall, Jack Morgan, Peggy Dunow, Vern Woodbury, Wyoming Red, Bad water Cattle Co., Dallas McCord, Terry Raff, Ellie Corrigan, A.K. Moss, Bill Chiles, Wayne Nelson, Writer Ray, and Mike Robinson. At 8:00 PM the Grand Finale began and requested performers, written down by the audience, were placed in a hat. When your name was called, you went up on stage and did your favorite poem or song. A big Jam Session was held afterward.
Sunday Morning Cowboy Church, Howard Norskog officiating was held, and as usual was a great success.
Shortly thereafter goodbyes were said, and performers headed home to chores, and neglected duties that are always lurking in the back of the mind while we are off having fun
Bodie Dominguez & Charlie Camden
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Fifth Annual Conejo Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Thousand Oaks, California
by "Calfornia Steve" Dirksen
On June 1st, 2002 I was privileged to perform at one of the best Gatherings in Southern California, the Fifth Annual Conejo Players Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering hosted by Marianne and Gary Robertson in Thousand Oaks, California. This is a three part show that goes on from 3 PM till late PM.
The first part of the showcased talents such as Wayne Austin who sings great western songs from the forties' cowboy movies and poets such as Gary Robertson and yours truly, plus Jake Copass. Other great talents included the Buckaroo Balladeers and the Lobo Rangers featuring Billy Beeman (a founding member of the Knotts Berry Farm Wagonmasters). Rounding out the talent was Paul Hendel, a fine singer/songwriter.
In between the shows they have a great Barbeque, then at 8 PM they begin the evening show. This show was truly a fine representation of great western talent. Christina Ortega sang some beautiful songs and was followed by one of the top poets today, Gary Robertson.
Then the musical treats just kept piling up: Ken Graydon and Phee Shirline, Mike Fleming of New West and Dave Stamey, each giving a great set of songs and dialogue. Finally a cowboy by the name of Pat Richardson had some of the funniest stories and poems of the show. This was all capped off by Mr. Gary Allagretto and his harmonica playing and singing.
I was so proud to be a small part of this show. Remember the first weekend of June if you happen to be in Southern California in 2003. Thanks, California Steve Dirksen.
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Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Celebration of the West
Fort Scott, Kansas
by Judy Howser
John Kendrick and Arnold Schofield founded Echoes of the Trail, and next year will be our 7th annual gathering. Fort Scott Community College graciously provide their buildings, grounds, maintenance
staff, additional funding, and more.
This year we added a colt starting clinic by poet-singer-rancher Cody Holmes and a cow dog demonstration by Duff and Laura Sandness, and we hope to continue with those next year. We had a great turnout for those events as well as around the chuck wagons all weekend and at Cowboy Church on Sunday morning. Our wonderful "cookies" fed everyone bacon, sausage, flapjacks,
biscuits 'n gravy, eggs, coffee, and juice after Cowboy Church out by the chuck wagons.
On the stage this year, Neal Torrey introduced his hand-made wooden friend "Mossback Charlie," whose comments had 'em rollin' in the aisles. Another highlight was when Barry "Bear" Ward performed a patriotic number from his soon to be released CD, which included a tribute to veterans. He received a standing ovation! Native American flute player Duane Feighner returned again to entertain the crowd with his haunting melodies and interesting stories of life on the "rez." Other memorable performances included Harold Carpenter's quips, poetry, and fantastic rope tricks; Cookies Don Collop and Dennis William hilariously tales from the chuckwagon perspective; Cody and Dawn Holmes singin' Roy and Dale type duets; Gerry Allen with his hilarious spoof on Ghost Riders in the Sky; Wanda Cothren's marvelous crooning and yodeling; Johnny Kendrick with his eyes closed, making the ladies swoon as he effortlessly wails out his Echoes of the Trail and other original songs.
Others giving 15 minute segments of heartfelt, original poetry and song were Cliff Sexton, Jerry White, Flint McPeak, Jay Jones and Richard Dunlap.
Next year, Judy and Lynn Doughty plan to display more of his elaborate western carvings as a special show indoors. He usually sets up outside, with his chuck wagon as a backdrop, and his intricate cowboy and Indian wood caricatures displayed there. I'm sure he'll do that again, too, but he has
done some larger scenes I'm sure the public will love to view. Each year we have new vendors of items like fine silver and turquoise jewelry made by Native American silversmith Shirley Willis or LaVern Watts (wife of MCPA co-founder Leroy Watts); fine hand tooled leather tack by poet-singer Joe Lester or Elby Magee's Owl Valley Saddle Shop; home made pottery by Fort Scott's Bobbi Kemna; fine pencil drawings by Arthur Armstrong; lots of western items from Judy Renard's Country Cupboard; great Frankoma pottery, toy pistol display, and much more from the Rock Bottom Gun Shop; etc.
In addition, we always have prints of Gary Hawk's wonderful "Echoes of the Trail" and other water color paintings of his on sale (for which he used our founders, Arnold Schofield and Johnny Kendrick, as models for reference drawings. Prints are $75 unframed, $150 framed). We own the original painting, but we would be willing to sell it for the right price, and we auction one or two of the first 10 prints each year.
Each year, we also raffle off an evening of cowboy poetry and music by John Kendrick, Cliff Sexton, and Arnold Schofield, in addition to other special items, like Wanda Cothren's fine hand-tooled leather work.
We sorely missed LaVern and Leroy Watts this year. LaVern fractured her sternum in a serious auto accident and was unable to attend. She's on the mend, though, and we know nothing will keep them away next year. Gary Hawk usually makes an appearance, and sometimes gives watercolor painting
demos. This year, however, his father was ailing, and he needed to be with him.
The same goes for vendors Jim and Kathy Reed of Westheart. Jim's dad was quite ill, and they were unable to be with us. Fans were disappointed when they couldn't buy any of those hard-to-find tapes of old favorite country musicians from the Reeds this year. Our hearts and prayers go out to them, and to Deb and Jay Jones, who recently lost their son. We pray for healing for each one.
Well, I could go on and on, as you can see. Echoes of the Trail is a wonderful gathering, and each year some heartwarming, serendipitous thing happens to make it even more special.
Read our feature about this event right here
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