Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

Events and Festivals

Gathering Reports


We invite folks to send in reports about gatherings.

Following are reports about events that 
are linked from event listings on the Events page. 

(Some links may be out of date.)

2003 Reports

January - April

(see May-December reports here)

Arvada (Colorado) January

Elko (Nevada) January/February

Eloy (Arizona) February

Houston (Texas) February

Lander (Wyoming) February

Sierra Vista (Arizona) February

Lewiston (Idaho) February

Kingsville (Texas) February

Glendale (Arizona) March

Kamloops (B. C.) March

Ft. Scott (Kansas) April

Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) April


See links to all gathering reports since 2000 here


Back to Events page . . .
Back on home . . .


January, 2003
The 14th Annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering
 Arvada, Colorado

by Pat Richardson

It was a great show. Liz & her little group work hard at running a tight ship. They work you like a quarry slave (7 performances in 2 days) Elizabeth Ebert's husband, S.J., turned 89 Friday night. Dave Stamey wowed 'em (as usual). Curly Musgrave wasn't half bad himself - Rod Nelson from N.D. is sure a great poet & performer - Howard Parker (the ol' bronc rider from Nebraska) was in rare form (he and I rode broncs for three hours straight one night) and as I recall neither one of us got bucked off - seems weve gotten better with age.  Milton Taylor, Jennifer Haig, and Carmel Dunn represented Australia in flying colors (I just love to hear those Australians try to talk). Milton
emceed one night show & he's ! a genius - but Jennifer's not far behind. Elizabeth Ebert showed up all of us poets - as usual - Yvonne Hollenbeck didn't cut anybody any slack either.
Liz Masterson and Sean Blackburn were GREAT! Liz has a broken wrist so Dave Stamey joined their merry little band as rythm guitarist and only embarrassed himself a couple of times (kidding) Brenn Hill is just as cute and great sounding as ever (dang he's a nice kid). I didn't get to see everyone 'cause they worked me so hard and I'm sure I left out so many great performances. Just pick a name - they were all great!! Jon Chandler, Georgeann Wearin, Ann Sochat, Buckshot Dot, Peggy Godfrey, Richard Elloyan, Gary Robertson, Duane Dickinson, Jean Prescott, John Nelson -- and all the ones I left out - Hell I'm not a reporter --- Pat.

Photos from Yvonne Hollenbeck:

Pat Richardson and Curly Musgrave in Arvada
photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck

Buckshot Dot and Ann Sochat in Arvada
photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck


January/February 2003
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Elko, Nevada 

Multiple reports

by Rod Miller

As usual, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko gathered more top-notch poets and musicians in one place than anyplace else. The low spots were few and far between and maybe more a matter of taste than lack of quality. The legendary Waddie Mitchell spent the bulk of his appearance presenting political polemics rather than poetry (although they did rhyme). Audience reaction was mixed, with seemingly equal numbers delighted, disagreeing, disappointed, and ambivalent. I was saddened to learn after all these years that the great Don Edwards hates yodeling.

Some of my favorite poets and reciters were in rare form: Pat Richardson, Andy Hedges, Red Steagall, Paul Zarzyski, Joel Nelson, Randy Rieman, and Colen Sweeten to name a few. Doris Daley is one I have heard from a little in the past and would like to hear more in the future. And a ten-year-old Texan named Oscar Auker stole the show with some fine recitations of Red Steagall and
Larry McWhorter poems [see note about Oscar Auker below].

Larry McWhorter himself was missing because of ill health and was the subject of tributes and best wishes and prayer requests from every stage. An auction was organized by other poets to raise money for medical bills. I was unable to attend but it was announced that a considerable sum was raised [see the report here].

For some reason, I seemed drawn more to music this time around. Wylie and the Wild West have long been favorites. I never pass up a chance to see Glenn Orhlin, but it isn't his singing that attracts me. Cowboy Celtic is always a treat, as is Brenn Hill. I already mentioned Red Steagall among the poets, but he is a master in both categories so I must list him here as well.

I saw for the first time some musicians whose names I had heard, but not their music -- Dave Stamey and the Gillette Brothers. They were outstanding. I had never heard of Kevin Davis, but he is a fine singer and I'm sure we will be hearing more of him. Everyone seemed to enjoy the Burson Family, who seemed genuinely surprised at their reception. [see note about Brittany Burson below].

One question concerning music: when is Hot Club of Cowtown coming back?

That's it for the Year of the Horse. See you next year for NCG XX.

**Interesting side notes: Oscar Auker got his start at the Cal Farley's Boys Ranch Youth Gathering in 2002. He won two open-mike sessions and performed on stage with The Sons of the San Joaquin on Friday night and with Red Steagall Saturday night. Brittany Burson began writing her hit song, "Dancing with Daddy" during a songwriting seminar at our that gathering, taught by Andy Wilkinson and Stephanie Davis. See our feature on Cal Farley's Boys Ranch Youth Gathering here.

Steve Dirksen, photo courtesy of Mr. Dirksen

by Steve Dirksen

Friday January 31, My brother Mike and I drove to Elko for the big weekend. We started from Sacramento, California, and got to Elko about 6:30pm.  Our first show was the 7pm show called "Year of the Horse" in the Convention center.  It featured Red Steagall, Joel Nelson, Laurie Wagner Buyer, Gail Steiger, Wally McRae, and The Burson Family (Dale, Ross and Brittany). The Burson Family really plays and sings some great cowboy songs.  [see note about Brittany Burson above]. Joel Nelson recited his poem, "Equus Caballus," that graced the back cover of the program.  After the show we explored the various downtown venues like the Stockmen's Casino that featured Michael Martin Murphy and a late evening jam session with various groups. 

Saturday February 1st was the last day and we had three shows to attend.  I also was excited about getting into an open mic session.  Although the main venues were filled up I found a chance at the Sherman Station which is a log building which is used as Elko's Chamber of Commerce during the year.  It has a great second story where they have room for about 40 people to view the artists not on the main programs.  Well I got my time to do some poems at 2:45 pm and it was great with a very receptive audience.  So my dream of reciting in Elko was accomplished.  Then we went to a show called "The Ranch Family." Then at 7 pm we attended "Breakers in the Pen" hosted by Waddie Mitchell and featuring Joel Nelson and Randy Reiman. We capped off the weekend with "Minstrels of the Range" featuring Don Edwards, Cowboy Celtic and the funniest cowboy poet alive, Pat Richardson.  It was so great to meet and greet some of the best poets and musicians entertaining today.  I do hope we get back again, but if I never go again this will hold me for a long time.

Pat Richardson (left) and Steve Dirksen at Elko, 2003
  Photo by Mike Dirksen


Steve Dirksen and Waddie Mitchell at Elko, 2003
  Photo by Mike Dirksen

(Photos by Mike Dirksen,  See more at Steve Dirksen's web site.)



Went to Elko some days back to see what the ruckus was for
folks reciting poems and some singing songs
you had to buy tickets for sure
they want folks gathered together in places
to sit and observe the shows
better to see all the talent
the folks who organize it are pros
my brother and I drove out to see
some folks suited up to the nines
hats and boots and hair and coats
brought out for the lights and lines
we got us a room at a motel
and commenced to enjoy the parade
searching for someone who might be someone
then while we're sayin' "We got it made!"
we spot Waddie Mitchell ordering food
then we figure this deal is ok
we came to find out all the folks entertaining
had something important to say
cowboys and cowgirls full of crackle and pop
had worked hard to be in this place
and the crowds didn't want them to stop
cause you find yourself caught by the words of the poems
and songs sung so true that you cry
you're gathered with folks who don't push and shove
but politely let you get by
nobody cares how you're dressed
or if you have something to show
just glad to be in this place
where the west gives off its glow
then the next thing you know it's all over
and we're driving where the cattle still run
with the snow laying out cross the land
filled with memories and gathering fun

© 2003, Steve Dirksen

by Janice Gilbertson

I am writin' and smilin'! I just had to tell you what a great time I had in Elko! This was my second year to attend the Gathering and I tell you, I am hooked! My husband and I attended the last three days and heard the best poetry and music anyone could ever hope to hear. They made me laugh 'til I cried, and cry 'til I laughed again. I was brave enough, this year, to read/recite some of my own poetry at several open mic sessions. What a great experience it was!. They made me feel so welcomed. They do a wonderful job for the open mic folks. I was surprised at how many people came in to hear us and really listened to what we had to say. I met such nice people and I sure hope to see them again somewhere along the trail! As I was last year, I am just amazed at the work and dedication it takes to put this Gathering on. I wish I could personally thank each and every one who has a hand in doing it. Virginia Bennett has already sent you all the good words about the auction for Larry McWhorter. [Read the report here.] A perfect example of the kind of folks that go to Elko.

  Read Virginia Bennett's report on the special benefit auction that was held for Larry McWhorter here,

And don't miss Honored Guest Andy Hedges' photos at his site

You can hear a cybercast of some of the shows at the Western Folklife Center site


February 2003
Eighth Annual Picacho Peak Trail Ride and Cowboy Poetry Gathering  
Eloy, Arizona

by Bob Spittler 

10:30 a.m. The weather was Arizona perfect. The riders assembled near historic Picacho Peak*. Gene Wilson, as imposing a figure as trail boss can be, rallied the four plus hour ride along the base of the peak. They chowed down in the desert. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a small group of singer,
poet and storyteller folks entertained those who stopped by the campfire, a preview of the afternoon presentation for the returning riders.

The campfire action started around 3 p.m.  Well-loved veteran entertainers performed for several hours. Trail riders Lyle Suttill and Gene Wilson made several enjoyable recitations, Rusty Calhoun and Janice Mitich were the queens of the day with their exciting humorous stories and poems. Connie Spittler read some of her thoughtful maverick writings. Both Lon Austin and Bob Stanstedt had some hilarious stories songs and unique music. (Bob makes an ordinary saw sing like a Stradivarius.) Chow time: steak and/or chicken with all the other good stuff. At sundown the Gathering began to trailers were loaded...foot folks wandered off. But few hung
around 'til the sun was out, just relaxing, talking quietly to not disturb those who chose to snooze.

*The most significant Civil War battle in Arizona took place near Picacho Peak on April 15, 1862, when an advance detachment of Union forces from California attacked a Confederate scouting party. The battle lasted for 1-1/2 hours, and three Union soldiers were killed. Every March, "The Civil War in the Southwest" comes alive again as over two hundred re-enactors converge on Picacho Peak on foot and horseback. Visitors enjoy viewing exciting mock battles that took place in Arizona and New Mexico during the Civil War.

Pard Bob Spittler has over 30 photos and some poetry from the Eighth Annual Picacho Peak Trail Ride and Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Eloy, Arizona right here

February 2003
Cowboy True 
Houston, Texas

by Judy Hadaway

"Cowboy True" stars
Linda Kirkpatrick, Lloyd Shelby, Jim "Curly" Musgrave
photo by Lennie Brown

February 7th, 8th, and 9th, Lloyd Shelby introduced his two act cowboy stage show titled, "A Cowboy True" to the Houston area.  The performers included Jim "Curly" Musgrave, WMA Male Performer of the Year and Songwriter of the Year; Lloyd Shelby, AWA Will Rogers Medallion Award winner and Poet/Storyteller; and Linda Kirkpatrick, AWA 2002 nominee for Poetry Book of the Year and renowned female cowboy poet.

The focus of the show was to introduce audiences to our cowboy heritage through cowboy poetry, stories and music.  The three performers were a good mix and each performed a variety of works which included original and classic cowboy poetry and music.  Lloyd Shelby presented his popular "Ole Blue" and "The Lone Ranger and Tonto," then held everyone breathless with his story of "Rainman."

Linda Kirkpatrick told her spellbinding story titled, "The McLaren Massacre," a poem about the last Indian massacre in Texas.  She also performed a moving rendition of AWA Female Poet of the Year, Debra Coppinger Hill's "The Old Yellow Slicker."

The show continued with the ever popular Curly Musgrave singing "Annie Laurie" while Lloyd Shelby detailed the loneliness of a cowboy in Badger Clark's memorable, "A Bad Half Hour."  The rest of the show allowed Curly Musgrave to demonstrate why he is considered to be the best male cowboy singer to come down the line in many years.  His warm personality won over the audiences as the rare use of his guitar and wide ranging vocals charmed and delighted everyone in attendance.

As a finale, the three performers thanked the crowd by having everyone join in to sing the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans theme song, "Happy Trails." 

Lloyd, Curly and Linda each contributed to three memorable performances that thrilled receptive crowds.  Comments were overwhelming in praise for "A Cowboy True," and included such remarks as, "the best show I've ever seen," and "I never knew this type stuff existed. I want to hear more!"

Lloyd and Curly plan to present "A Cowboy True" in several venues across Texas and other areas in the next year.  "The idea," says Lloyd, "is to feature local artists where ever possible during the first act and then introduce the local crowd to a performer known on a much wider basis, such as Curly Musgrave in the second act."  The show usually runs about two hours and includes a brief intermission.

If you are interested in learning more about "A Cowboy True" or would like to schedule this great show, call 1 888 313-0334, or email

February, 2003
Cowboy Poetry Gatherin'  Lander, Wyoming

by Lynne Hendrickson
photos by Jean Mathisen

Hey!  It was a ragin' success!!!!!!  We had a great crowd and everyone had a great time.  Sold a few books and just enjoyed the heck outta things.  We also included a benefit for a young cowboy poet from the Crowheart, WY area recently diagnosed with Hodgkins.  Rick Pitt and Verlin Pitt did great and Verlin even had his boss, the Sheriff of Fremont County to compete with.  

Photos and captions by Jean Mathisen:

      The fellow with the flag at the side of the photo is Don Kennington, a great cowboy poet from Ogden, Utah.  He does some great comic poetry.  

The fellow with the black neckerchief is our new Fremont County Sheriff (and my cousin!), Skip Hornecker.  

  The group playing guitar and mouth harp is Lynne Hendrickson, Ray Bowlsby on the guitar and Tom Lucas on the mouth harp.  

  The artist painting the boots is well known local artist, Tom Lucas (same fellow who plays the mouth harp like nobody's business!). He specializes in western and Indian paintings and also does flint-knapping.  

February, 2003
Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering  Sierra Vista, Arizona

by Mike Dunn 

The Sierra Vista Gathering, or "Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering," as they like to call it, has got to be one of the finest gatherings in the world and we've got some mighty good ones here in Arizona.  Like most gatherings, having community involvement is an essential part in making for a memorable gathering along with the volunteers, sponsors, host families, artists, the list go on.  What makes the Cochise Gathering different?  The youth program that provides for a fun and meaningful experience through the writing and sharing of Cowboy Poetry.  It's called the "Western Heritage
Writing Program."  This year, 3000 plus young folks from the 3rd grade to the 12th grade, submitted writings trying for scholarships and a spot on the headliner stage to perform their work with the top poems published in booklet form.  The poems I had the privilege to hear were amazing.  I believe it's that fresh, young, enthusiasm, which is making a difference in Cochise County.

Although the gathering officially started on Friday the 7th of February this year, there was a little known pre-gathering in the historic town of Tombstone, Thursday evening the night before.  This was a gathering for the artists (poets and musicians) that would be participating in the school
program.  Going into the schools Friday morning and sharing poetry and music under the direction of the Education Language Arts & Social Studies standards.  Of course this was only a small part of the exposure required to keep this educational partnership going.  Folks like Bud Strom and Fred Jones, two local cowboy poets, volunteer their time all year long in the promoting and encouraging of this art form to the youth.  The gathering was held in the historic" Big Nose Kate's Saloon" on main street in the town too tough to die.  What a night, and the gathering hadn't even officially started yet.

Mid afternoon on Friday, after most folks had checked in, there was a reception to meet and greet both old and new friends.  This was the perfect warm-up for the first nights headline stage performance.  Performing to a packed house at the Buena Performing Arts Center were Sue Harris, Mike Querner, Shannon Storey and Amanda Wheat (student contest winners), Due West Trio (all four of them), Pretty Patty Clayton, Ray Owens, Sid Hausman, Tony Norris, and Ken & Lynne Mikell.

The next day (Saturday) was a full day of free entertainment for those that were willing to make their way to the Performing Arts Center.  Seven stages, all going on at the same time for six sessions.  From Headliner Artists to Open Mike, it was all there.  Invited Artists included Mary & Neil Abbott, Buckshot Dot, Joette Conley-Tromb, Dean Cook, Jim Cook, Jack DeWerff,
Mike Dunn, Ken & Phee Graydon, Allen Hill, Fred Jones, Nona Kelley-Carver, Steve Lindsey, Ann Owens, Frank Rodrigues, Greg Scott, Ann Sochat, Gail Starr, Vance Wampler, Jim Dunham, Rolf Flake, Lessa Greenwood, Larry Harmer, Doc Jordan, Jane Morton, Lindy Simmons, and Jim & Nancy Sober. The only thing bad about the daytime performances was you could not go to them all.  

On a sad note:  Invited artist Buck Shrader, Grand Canyon's favorite in-town entertainer, passed on a few weeks earlier.  He was sorely missed and will be missed as a cowboy poet and incredible musician.

Again to a sold-out performance, Saturday Night included Due West Trio, Dennis Gaines, Liz Masterson & Sean Blackburn, Ken & Lynne Mikell,
Andy Hedges, Bud Strom, Gail Steiger, and Belinda Gail, and student contest winners Hunter Barrett, Faith Hefty, and Laura Wheat.  There were Jam Sessions after each evening performance at the very accommodating Windemere Hotel along with a dance on Saturday night.

Sunday morning was the scene of a banquet type breakfast served by the Windemere Hotel.  The breakfast was for Host Families, Sponsors, Volunteers, Artists and a few special guests.  Great food, sharing of a few stories in poem, thank yous and presentations, including the awarding of a scholarship to Lessa Greenwood, Sierra Vista AZ, for her years of dedication and achievements.  The scholarship is to help her in her college endeavors, which brought on a standing ovation.

To close the gathering was the final performance Sunday afternoon to another packed house at the Performing Arts Center.  Those performing were Happy Kip Calahan, Gentleman Poet Ron Brinegar, Sid Hausman, Belinda Gail, Texas' Dennis Gaines, Carole Jarvis, Patty Clayton, Liz Masterson & Sean Blackburn and student contest winners Lisa Bennett, Jennifer Golden and Tory Moschetti.

A sad commentary to the gathering was the announcement that Bud Strom and John Shaver, the drive and the heart of the gathering, co-chairs for more then a decade, were stepping aside.  Steve Conroy, who'll be helping to hold the reins, made mention that they'd not be allowin'm to stray too far.

February, 2003
Lewis Clark Cowboy Entertainment and Western Arts Festival 
Lewiston, Idaho

by Charlie Camden

Well the Festival is over for this year.  What a lineup we had!  Just to name a few: Mickey Dawes, Janet Bailey, Joni Harms, T. J. Casey, John Westbrook, Terri Taylor, Wyoming RedFrancine Robison, Jake White, Steve Blanchard, Milton Taylor from Australia, and many more.  There were 52 performers.  

The Friday Night Show was well attended, but the Saturday Night Show was unbelievable.  The Elks Lodge is a huge facility with a dining area and stage that can seat and feed 800+.  There is a dance floor and two bars besides, and rooms downstairs where performers can tune up and practice. From these rooms, the performers can come upstairs and enter from behind stage.  There is a system of wide halls built of native stone that makes a semi-circle around the whole performing area that are approximately 12 ft. wide.  

On Saturday Night it was so packed with ticket holders that it was impossible for me to go from one side to another without going downstairs and using the lower halls to pass through.  When I went on stage to begin the show, I could look out upon a sea of faces that extended from one wall to another.  All seats were filled, and all standing space was filled shoulder to shoulder.  The audience was very appreciative of all the performers, and it actually inspired the performers to new heights of
excellence.  It was something to see!

On Thursday the 6th of Feb. the artists and exhibitors arrived and started setting up for their displays.  Bronzes, Oils, Pastels, Water Colors, Bootmakers, Hatmakers, Carvers, Western Clothing makers, Hitchers and Braiders, Silversmiths, Spurmakers, and many more.  In all there were 38 Artisians of Western Art that rank among the top in the world.

Thursday Night we had a Band Scramble that was a instant hit with the audience and performers alike.  My partner and good friend Bodie Dominguez was MC for this.  All the performers, (and a bunch of local performers) threw their names into a jar, then later, Bodie drew 4 names at a time out. They then had 15 minutes to pick a song, name their band, and perform the song.  Most of the participants had never played with each other before, and it was fun watching all the heads looking at each other to see what key they were in.

Friday Morning began (early for Kathy and Me) at 9:00 AM for the performers. Many came in before 8:00AM as they had to go out to the school systems of Lewiston, Clarkston, and Asotin.  The performers performed for the students, and later judged the final ten entries into the Poetry, Music, and Art Contest that the students participated in.  This year we went over the 500 mark for participating kids.  This is really growing at a phenomenal rate each year.  

Within the next few weeks we will have representatives of the Festival going to new schools and communities that have expressed an interest in participating in our program.  We have had inquiries from all school districts within 100 miles, and as far away as Pasco, Wa. which is 200 miles away.  At the school systems in which we started 5 years ago, we are actually part of the school curriculum in English, Music, and Art.  We give a beautiful certificate to each student who participates regardless of their position of finish.  Last year we gave out over 300 certificates, this year we will give out over 500.  Next year we expect between 600 and 700. Regardless of the number they will all receive a certificate.  It is our goal to inspire a sense of heritage in the young people.  They must know where they come from, what their parents, and grandparents, and Great Grandparents went through to get where we are today.  

On Saturday at 12:00PM all of the winners from all the schools perform their poetry, music, and exhibit their art on the Main Stage.  Poetry and song are often backed by Cowboy performers who line up for the opportunity to play guitar, and work with the kids.  I have heard many stories of how these kids went up to their grandparents and asked, "What did you do in the Old Days?"  Many of these kids are 10 -12 years old and had never asked that question before.  What does that say?  I say I think we are making progress. I can't overemphasize the value of, or give enough thanks to Mr. Lee Earl of Asotin, Wash. for all of his work.  He appears at schools, talks with the kids, sits down with them and helps them write and sing songs, and does Cowboy Poetry that they love.  Makes everyone laugh, (teachers as well) and generally feel a whole lot better.   He gives them confidence to write their own material and often stands with them while they perform in front of hundreds of strange faces.  Lee Earl is one of the many fine people in this business that give of themselves unselfishly.  I am always amazed, and feel enriched because they are my friends.

All of Friday is free to the public until 4:00 PM when we have to clear the building in preparation for setting up tables, tablecloths, crystal and silverware, for the catered dinner which precedes the night show.  There is a pre show during the dinner hour.  All of the dinner and show tickets are
sold out in advance, and tables as well as tickets are numbered to match the seating arrangement.  Early ticket buyers have choice of seating.  There is a big surge of ticket buying on the morning tickets go on sale.  Early on Friday morning KRLC 1350 AM Radio begins broadcasting live from the Elks lobby, and our weekly 2 hour show is done live with people packed in, standing by, and listening.  We interview performers and have them do some live radio all day long.

Saturday is the same as Friday, and the day proceeds with thousands of people from all over the U. S. arriving and walking through all the exhibits, sitting having lunch, and checking out the performers at three stages that are totally separate, but all going at the same time.  Saturday is usually our big day as people make our festival a big shindig over the weekend.

Sunday concludes with a Cowboy Church that is conducted by Howard Norskog on the main stage.  The Elks have a breakfast following that is available to all at a modest cost.  The Art Exhibits stay open till 2:00 PM on Sunday for browsers to have a last chance to pick up a once in a lifetime piece of Art. Many are one of a kind.

As we say goodbye to the performers, we are always happy to talk about where we will meet up again, but in another sense Kathy and I are always worried about their safe travel.  In Lewiston it is common to be playing golf in January and February in a short sleeve shirt, for flowers to still be in
bloom, or to be out in one of the hundreds of boats on the river system fishing for steelhead or salmon.  But the passes surrounding us are a different story.  Winter reigns supreme in the mountains, and can throw a tantrum at any time.  So if you come to Lewiston in the future, it may be best to land at the airport in Lewiston.  Travel within the city is easily arranged, and nothing is more that 10 minutes away.  Even counting the traffic lights.

See our feature about the Lewis Clark Cowboy Entertainment and Western Arts Festival Youth Program right here.

February, 2003
11th Annual South Texas Ranching Heritage Festival   Kingsville, Texas

by Scott Hill Bumgardner

Each year you might find a reason to visit south Texas.  Perhaps to escape the northern climates like so many winter Texans or perhaps you would just like to have another opportunity to experience some good ole western entertainment.  Kingsville, home of the world's most famous ranch, the King
Ranch recently celebrated ranching and the cowboy with their 11th annual, South Texas Ranching Heritage Festival.  Western entertainers performed throughout the two-day celebration, which was held February 14th and 15th.

A number of the performers came from the Houston area's Cowboy History and Performance Society (CHAPS).  CHAPS members poet Ted E. Dennison, musician Miss' lette, storyteller Dirk Weisiger, storyteller Jerry Young, and poet /storyteller Scott Bumgardner joined other old friends to sing, recite, and spin yarns of the cowboy life.  The ever hilarious storyteller-poet Dennis Gaines, poet David Williams, poet Stephen Klatt, singer John Honeycutt, singer Diane Berry, walk on Idaho singer-yodeler Rod Erickson, and Doc Toler's Medicine Show wrapped up the western performance duties.

This show was about much more that just poetic and musical performance; it also featured one of the best ranch rodeo's around.  Eleven ranches had their best hands competing for the honor and pride of being the best in south Texas.  The eleven teams were made up of five divisions of the King
Ranch and six other vast and historic ranches.

The winning team was the AT Canales Ranch, family owned for more than one hundred and twenty-five years.  Lyn Lamon, of the King Ranch Feedyard won Top Hand honors.  There were even events for the ladies and kids.  Ladies competed in Trailer Hauling and kids sprinted about the arena in a greased pig contest.  A working horse clinic and competition along with several symposiums created a wide variety of events to round out the festivals ranching commitment.

You could even enjoy hanging out around the chuckwagons with the likes of CHAPS members Delbert and Shorty Castleman.  Non-ranching types from the northern plains flocked to this warmer climate and sampled the western flavor that this rich environment had to offer.  Ranchers and hands cheered for their pards or learned more skills to use in their work. Hal Ham, of the Texas A&M, Kingsville, John E. Conner Museum acted as the event coordinator. Hal and his cadre of volunteers made sure that there was truly something for everyone.

So friends, when you are looking for another gathering to visit next February, remember south Texas.  We hope to see you there when they host their 12th event.

Dennis Gaines


Doc Toler's Medicine Show from San Marcus, Texas and their Master of Disaster Diaper System, with storyteller Dirk Weisiger of Houston as the infant.  This will save you changing diapers for a week or more.

Scott Bumgardner


Front row: Robert Raney, Miss'lette, John Honecutt, Diane Berry, Hal Ham, Scott Bumgardner, Doc Toler, Jerry Young 

Back row: Ted E. Dennison, Dirk Weisiger, Dennis Gaines, Stephen Klatt & Friend, David Williams

March, 2003 
Sahuaro Ranch, Back to the Past Festival 
Glendale, Arizona

by Byrd Woodward

On March 8th, 2003, Sahuaro Ranch State Park in Glendale, Arizona hosted their third annual "Back to the Past" event that includes a Cowboy Poetry/Singers and Pickers gathering.  The park contains the last 20 acres of a famous citrus ranch, specializing in grapefruit and blood oranges, and
includes several well preserved buildings that were part of the original ranch.  The museum is housed in the original rancher's beautiful brick home. Though the event isn't very well-known, the quality has gotten steadily better and it has been drawing a larger audience each year.

The action really starts on Thursday when 4th grade school kids come to the park and participate in a five-rotation schedule of hands-on old time activities, including 'how to write a cowboy poem', hop-scotch and other games along with history and homesteading demonstrations.  On Friday the
activities are repeated for another set of kids from a different school.

Saturday's living history and cowboy events are open to the public, free of charge, beginning at 10 am.  This year the galleries in the old packing shed exhibited wonderful-hand made quilts including both modern and historic patterns, and the maintenance shed was full of bins of grapefruit ready to
send to charitable organizations throughout the greater Phoenix area.

The poetry and music events began at 11 am and continued on two stages until 4 pm; several old pards from the Bar-D participated this year including Dick Morton and Jane Morton, Rusty Calhoun, Byrd Woodward, and singer/songwriter Dean Cook.  Other performers included Joe Bethancourt, Sue Harris, Jim Dunham, Jim and Ellie Cook, Andy Hurlburt, Lon Austin and the Mexican Beaded Lizard Band and the head-wrangler for the outfit, Wally Bornmann.

The organizer and director of the Ranch, Carole De Cosmos, is planning to change the time of year for this event to November, so we're looking forward to another "Back to the Past" gathering this fall. 

March, 2003 
Kamloops Cowboy Festival Kamloops, B.C. Canada

by Mike Puhallo

"Prit Near Bustin' at the Seams"

The Seventh Annual Kamloops Cowboy Festival March 6 to 9 2003, was a runaway success with near capacity crowds filling the Calvary Temple Church all weekend and a sold out feature concert on Saturday Night.

With total admissions topping 4200 The Kamloops Festival has firmly established itself as the biggest cowboy culture event North of the Medicine Line. Entertainers and fans came from virtually all over North America and were treated to some of the best cowboy picking and poetry on the planet.

This years event got off to a running start with a four part "Western Heritage Lecture Series " hosted by the Kamloops Museum, getting the local folks in the right frame of mind. The lectures held on the four consecutive Wednesday nights leading into the Festival explored the rich ranching
heritage west of the Great Divide and it's continuing value in today's economy.

Thursday March 6, the entertainers began rolling into town, and fanning out into the community for performances at elementary schools and seniors homes. A special addition this year were The Cactus Cowboy Corral Larieteers who came all the way up from Arizona to dazzle young and old with their trick roping skills. I want to commend these exceptional youngsters not only on their roping skills but also their manners, behaviour and obvious dedication to all the best ideals and traditions of "the Cowboy way"! They performed a various venues throughout the weekend and were a great asset to
our event!

The Songwriters Circle Thursday night at Jack's Dancehall featured Stephanie Davis, Matt Johnston, John Clinch and Roxanne Hall. Fans got the chance to enjoy four great songwriters in a very up close and personal setting. This was followed by a mini showcase and CD release party for poets and singers with new recordings to debut. The whole evening was a lot of fun and a great
kick-off for the festival.

The doors opened at Calvary Temple at noon Friday March 7, and folks from all over the West (and a few from the East) began pouring in. At Least 400 out of town guests had converged on Kamloops for the festival filling every hotel within walking distance of the venue.

Friday Night Feature Show and Hall Of Fame Inductions 7pm March 7 2003

A near capacity crowd took in the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductions and Friday Night Feature Concert. Bud Sharpe, Red Allison and George Haywood-Farmer were inducted into the BC Cowboys Hall Of Fame these three great cowboys received a standing ovation for their lasting contributions to our western heritage. Hugh McLennan was the MC for the Friday concert which included stellar performances by Ben Beveridge, Fred Millar, Danny Mack, Terry Mason, Shirley Field and Wayne Nelson. The rising star show case was a special treat this year featuring 17 year old Ginny Mack from Fort Worth Texas and 12 year old Brett Kissel from Alberta. Those two kids absolutely stole the show!

The Saturday Night Concert was sold out, but we never turned anyone away.

Once the advance ticket holders were all seated, we managed to find standing room for the other two dozen folks waiting on standby . It was a tremendous performance, opening with
Mike Puhallo's tribute to the Indian Cowboy, Followed by Tammy Gislasen beautiful vocal styles and yodeling, then wandering from the off-the-wall humour of Frank Gleeson and Ben Crane to the songwriting magic of Stephanie Davis and Matt Johnston, there was not a weak spot in the Show. Two great poets Debra Coppinger Hill and Bryn Thiessen both gave outstanding performances that were a perfect blend of serious poetry and humour.

California Coyboy poet Jeff Streeby teamed up with Calgary's Terri Mason as MCs for an evening of cowboy entertainment that would be mighty hard to beat. Once again the highlight of the show for most of the fans I talked to was the rising star showcase. Brett and Ginny both made a lot of new friends and fans and are each bound to be back soon as feature performers!

In addition to the main stage shows, this year's cowboy festival featured our largest Art and Gear Show so far with 3 dozen exhibitors, including; 12 saddle makers, as well as braiders, sculptors, cartoonists, a hat maker, boot maker, silversmiths, fashion designers and painters. There were two
open mike stages going throughout the weekend as well as seminars, workshops and demonstrations. After hours the bar at the Days Inn and the Lounge at the Ramada Hotel were the venue for cowboy jam sessions that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Both of these Hotels generously provided free rooms to the entertainers who volunteered to host the sessions!

Cowboy Church, Sunday morning also set a new attendance record as at least 600 showed up to worship and give thanks, in an entertaining and joyous service conducted by Sharkey Shauer and Bryn Thiessen.

Much of the crowd hung right in there with us until the final session ended at 5pm Sunday afternoon .
The 2003 Kamloops Cowboy Festival has been an outstanding success from every angle. We had a great turn out in less than ideal weather, the shows were great. We made the first steps towards becoming a truly city wide festival by putting performers into, Schools, Senior's centres, Lounges and Bars and Dance Halls. We received tremendous support from our sponsors, fans and the performers. The Kamloops Cowboy Festival has built solid reputation as one of the best events of it's kind in the world.

Our total attendance has nearly tripled in the last 4 years the challenge now is to keep on growing without destroying the things that brought us here!

We are bustin' at the seams, and already planning for next year!

As President of The BC Cowboy Heritage Society , I am absolutely thrilled to bits with the success of our festival and the BC Cowboys Hall of Fame. The growth in interest in Cowboy Poetry and Western Music as well as our ranching heritage is not a surprise to me. I always believed we could do it, but friends I have to tell it sure feels good to see it actually happen !

From the bottom of my heart, Thank you to all our Volunteers, Sponsors and Fans!

Mike Puhallo, BCCHS President

Debra Hill
© 2003, Deanna Kristensen

See official Cowboy photographer Deanna Kristensen's many photos of the Kamloops Cowboy Festival at the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS) web site,

April, 2003 
Echoes of the Trail Fundraiser 
Ft. Scott, Kansas

by Judy Howser

(see our feature on Echoes of the Trail here.) 


Report on April 4, 2003 Echoes of the Trail Fund Raiser

Friday evening, April 4, 2003, about 250 people filled the Liberty Theatre on Main Street in Fort Scott, for a dinner, show, and auction to benefit the Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Celebration of the West held each June at FSCC, and its parent organization, the local Historic Preservation Assn. (HPA).

Members of the HPA served a barbecued beef dinner to guests, and cowboy poets/musicians Gerry Allen, Olathe, Kan., Harold Carpenter, Sedan, Kan., Johnny Kendrick, Richards, Mo., Cliff Sexton, Uniontown, Kan., Neal Torrey, Bolivar, Mo., and Jerry "Jake" White, Springfield, Mo.  gave the rapt audience a taste of what it will be like to attend the gathering at Fort Scott Community College June 14 and 15. Will Read, Mound City, Kan., drew whoops and hollers from the audience as he demonstrated his skill at spinning a lariat, while proud papa Marty Read announced intricate rope
trick. Torrey and White heard about the planned fundraiser and showed up to contribute to its success. Jerry White is the President of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association (MCPA), members of which perform annually at the June event. Such impromptu participation is common at cowboy poetry
gatherings, where poets love to tell both humorous and dramatic tales of the old west and are dedicated to preserving the memory of the American cowboy. In June, Torrey will have audiences rocking with laughter at repartee with his homemade wooden sidekick, "Mossback Charlie."

Halfway through the evening, auctioneers Lanny Ireland, Cosby, Mo., Marty Read, Mound City, Kan., and Charlie Johnson, Prescott, Kan. auctioned 8 pieces of art donated by Don Dane of Olathe, Kan., Gary Hawk of Iola, Kan., Ellen Law Kendrick of Richards, Mo., Mark Parker of Parsons, Kan., and Neal
Torrey of Columbia, Mo. Also donated for auction were an exquisite, Moore Maker bone-handled, limited edition knife from Matador, Texas, engraved and donated by B.E. Eichorn of Oswego, Kan.; an anthology of poems from the MCPA; and three CDs by the Roy Rogers family (including one signed by Roy's grandson) from Westheart of Ottawa, Kan. Kathy and Jim Reed of Westheart will be at the June event with many more hard-to-find western music tapes and CDs.

Committee member Laura Hyer had planned to hold stick horse races and other outdoor activities for children during the evening, but Friday's unusually cold weather prevented her from doing so.  Hyer says she hopes all the children who were disappointed Friday night will bring their parents to the
June event for a "rain check" on the kiddy fun. The Hyer family also provided the western tack and rustic "fence" décor that added atmosphere to the stage.

The Echoes of the Trail Steering Committee wishes to thank HPA board member Mike Flannelly for donating use of the Liberty Theatre for the fundraiser, and a big thank you to the three wonderful auctioneers who donated their time. Thanks also to HPA President Liz Meyers and members Bill Meyers, Don Miller, Ken Lyons, Marlene Braker, Steve Mason, and Beverly and Oliver Wright for serving the meal, and FSCC Director of Food Services Joe Acri for cooking the barbecued beef. Thank you also to Josh McClellan of The Frame Up for framing of the Don Dane prints.

The Committee thanks all who attended the April 4th event, and a special thank you to Don and Peggy Cummings of the Bourbon County Arts Council, who were unable to attend but donated anyway; and auction buyers Jim Adams, Dale Johnson, Dr. John and Jan Spencer, the Tucker Brothers, Ryan and Cody White, and John and Betty Wunderly.

Organizers say Echoes of the Trail netted over $1,200 after expenses and payment to the HPA general fund for the barbecue dinner, which is a good start toward funding June's gathering. This year, the City's Transient Guest Tax Fund will reimburse Echoes of the Trail for only $420 of its advertising expenses, a big cut from last year's $1,500.  Therefore, as Master of Ceremonies Gary Wimmer told Friday's audience, the Committee will be looking for sponsors for various components of June's non-profit event, such as Cody Holmes' restraint-free colt starting clinic, the chuck wagons, and performer fees/lodging.

April, 2003 
Western Heritage Awards
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

story and photos by Sandra Herl of the Academy of Western Artists and

A version of this report appears in the May/June issue of Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists

(See an additional report from Larry Thomas below)

Steven Herl , Buck Taylor

Steven and I went down to Oklahoma City, to the opening of the new Museum wing at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the Western Heritage Awards. Now I did not tell Steven he was going to have to wear a suit and tie till the last minute, as I was having a hard enough time getting him to go. I tried to sneak his suit and tie to the car before he saw I had it, it didn't work, but it was to late for him to back out on me. We also had fun stuff on the agenda while in Oklahoma City, find new mats for the stock trailer, go to Sears and look at tools, bribes like that. I have not decided if this is a man thing in general or a Cowboy thing, but I have found bribes help when getting your husband to go to a dress up affair. We arrived late Thursday night and Friday morning went off shopping found our mats and some good sales on shirts at the western store in Moore. Back at the hotel, we ran in Dean and Debbie Smith for lunch and then Ernest Borgnine joined the table and I have to say the man is a delight and can tell the stories. 

Ernest Borgnine, Harry Carey, Jr. and Wilford Brimley telling tall tales

Friday night was the Cocktail Party and opening of the new Wing of the Museum for Western Performers and we enjoyed ourselves and stayed up way to late visiting and talking. Visited with Oklahoma bootmaker Ray Dorwart, Royal Wade Kimes, Mr. and Mrs. Cliff Teinert, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Funk, Buck and Goldie Taylor, Marilyn Carey, Don Reeves and many more. The new wing is worth a special trip to go see. We plan to go back and spend some more time in the Museum when we have the chance.

Goldie and Buck Taylor, Dean and Debbie Smith

Saturday we went to the mall and did some window shopping (when the closest mall is a couple hundred miles from where you live it's kind of nice to get to go to one once in awhile). We had dinner back at the hotel with Dean and Debbie and Wilford Brimley and Steven was thrilled that he was able to talk mules (Lucille) and horseshoeing with Wilford. I think that made his trip. Wilford told some great stories, one about breaking Zebras to hitch, it didn 't happen. Wilford started out as a Cowboy on ranches in Idaho and shoeing horses before he went to Hollywood.

Dean and Debbie Smith let us know that the Dean Smith Celebrity Rodeo will be held in November of 2004. They are looking at the dates but it should be around the middle of November. They will not be doing one in 2003. 

It seems like time just flew by and of course it takes me forever to get ready if I have to dress up. I can be ready and out the door in 5 minutes here at home, but at a event I need at least 2 hours and then it doesn't look like I did anything different. We had to head out to the Museum at 4 to be at the press room to take pictures and do interviews. Bob Funk from Express Ranches had his Stage Coach at the Hall and they where giving rides to those who wanted to climb aboard.

Bob Funk and Al P. Qualls, Jr in front of Bob's Stage

Waddie Mitchell, Red Steagall, Michael Martin Murphey, Dean and Debbie Smith, Buck and Goldie Taylor, Annie Lockhart, the Carradine brothers, William Devane, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Carey Jr., and Wilford Brimley were all present. Others in my wanderings I ran into were Bill Owen, Rich O'Brien, Bob Funk, Al Qualls, Barbara Hayden, Royal Wade Kimes, Lynn Anderson, and Mentor WilliamsJoni Harms and Mickey Dawes joined us at our table.

Ernest Borgnine, Robert Carradine, Keith Carradine & William Devane

The pre-dinner welcome was given by Charles P. Schroeder and Martin Dickinson and was followed by Michael Martin Murphey singing National Anthem and everyone joining in. The supper was great, the steak tender and delicious, pecan pie, what more could you ask for. The Master of Ceremonies was William Devane, and the co-hosts were the Carradine brothers, Ernest Borgnine, Wilford Brimley, Buck Taylor, Bill Kurtis, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin
, Dean Smith and Howard Terpning.

Barbara Hayden, Royal Wade Kimes, and Waddie Mitchell

Red Steagall and friends performed and as always Red was great. Besides being a great performer, he is truly a nice man, and I love getting a hug from him; his beard is so soft.

Michael Martin Murphey Red Steagall, and Royal Wade Kimes


Awards were given to:

Art Book: Cowboy Artists of America, Michael Duty, author, The Greenwich Workshop Press, publisher

Factual Narrative: Spirit of Colorado~Cowboys, Rocky Mountain PBS, John W. Burshtan, executive producer; Lisa D. Olken, producer/director; Kim Kendrick, producer

Magazine Article: Tales of Texas Rangers, Robert Utley, Author, American Heritage Magazine, Publisher

Hall of Great Westerners:  Captain G.W. Arrington, Texas; Walter Merrick, Oklahoma,
Red Steagall, Texas

Poetry Book: Amazing Grace, Larry D. Thomas, author, Texas Review Press, publisher

Juvenile Book: The Great Storm: The Hurricane Diary of J.T King, Lisa Waller Rogers, author, Texas Tech University Press, publisher

Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award: John Donaldson, Arizona

Traditional Western Music Album: Wagon Tracks, Red Steagall, composer/recording artist, Rich O'Brien, producer, Western Jubilee Recording Company

Non-Fiction Book: Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy, Douglas B. Green, author, Vanderbilt University Press/Country Music Foundation Press, publishers

Original Western Music Composition: Bob Fudge, from the album, "Live at Longview," Ian Tyson, recording artist, Rick Fenton, producer

Television Feature Film: King of Texas, A TNT Production

Novel: Moon of Bitter Cold, Frederick J. Chiaventone, author, Forge Books, publisher

Television Documentary: Daniel Boone and the Great Western Movement, Gary L. Foreman, executive producer/director, Native Sun Productions

Theatrical Motion Picture: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Dream Works Pictures

Hall of Great Western Performers: Harry Carey Jr. California; John Carradine, California

After the awards we adjourned back to the Marriott and visited some more, ran into Dan Roberts, Mentor Williams, Buck and Goldie Taylor, Joe Horton and others. Another late night. 

Sunday it was time to pack and head home. So all in all we had a great time and hope to head to the Awards next year. So after 2 days of driving and 2 days of too much fun we are home to wind, rain,
calving and pounding on the computer. 

  Larry D. Thomas, whose book Amazing Grace, received a bronze Wrangler Award (Outstanding Poetry Book of 2002) from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, adds his story:

Some of the prominent co-hosts for the event were Michael Martin Murphey and the Carradine brothers, David, Robert and Keith.  These fine folks schemed up a surprise for the audience and certainly for yours truly.  As a tribute to my poetry collection, Amazing Grace, which received a bronze "Wrangler" as the Outstanding Poetry Book of 2002,the Carradine brothers performed "Amazing Grace" during their touching tribute to their father, the late John Carradine, who was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers.  They sang to the accompaniment of their acoustical guitars, and it was the most beautiful rendition of the great hymn which many of us in the audience had ever heard. It meant every bit as much to me as my "Wrangler."  


We invite you folks to send in reports about gatherings.



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