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13th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Montrose, Colorado, September


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September, 2010
National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo  Montrose, Colorado

story and photos where noted by Smoke Wade

additional photos by  Jim and Stella Cathey

additional photos by Paul Martin

See our feature on the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo here



photo by Paul Martin


The 13th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo (NCPR) took place in Montrose, Colorado September 17 & 18, 2010 as a feature event held in conjunction with the San Juan Western Heritage Festival.

photo by Smoke Wade
2010 Participants

With poets and participants arriving from Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, North & South Carolina, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington, Canada and Australia, the event, billed as the "World’s Only Cowboy Poetry Rodeo," truly became an international event.

photo by Stella Cathey
Jo Lynne Kirkwood

The one-of-a-kind competition kicked off on Thursday, September 16, with contestant registration followed by a cowboy poetry workshop conducted by Jo Lynne Kirkwood of Utah. Later in the evening, the poets, sponsors, judges and accompanying entourage gathered for a catered social and open mic session at the Turn of the Century event center in downtown Montrose.

The NCPR was an event where poets competed in a stock rodeo format. The poets were called "riders" and their poems were their "mounts." A panel of five rodeo judges scored the riders and their mounts based on quality, theme and presentation. Quality and theme were how well the "mount" performed while the presentation scores were the way the "riders" spurred their "mount." The "rodeo" event crew included a gate person, a timekeeper, an arena director, score keepers or "tally bosses" and a rodeo announcer.

The first NCPR took place in Cedar City, Utah as the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in 1998. The NCPR moved to Kanab, Utah in 2000 and the event enjoyed a long run there through 2006 where it was held each August in conjunction with the Western Legends Roundup. The 2007 NCPR took place in Hot Springs, South Dakota, while 2008 was a hiatus year for the rodeo. Montrose was the home of the NCPR in 2009 and 2010.

photo by Stella Cathey
Ed Nesselhuf and Sam Jackson

To keep the scoring fair for all contestants, the high and low score of the five judges were tossed aside and the three middle scores were added together for a total maximum score of sixty points for the ride. This year the judges were: Ed Nesselhuf, South Dakota (foreman of the judges); Darrell Arnold, Colorado; Dennis Judd, Utah; Sam DeLeeuw, Utah; and Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Utah. Sam Jackson of Utah was the arena director and rodeo producer. Volunteers from the event’s sponsor’s organizations manned the timer, the tally table, the scoreboard and the gate. All contestants were allowed a set amount of time to complete their rides. Exceeding the time limit resulted in point deduction.

photo by Stella Cathey

Judge and poet Darrel Arnold

There were nine events for the riders to compete in. The Rising star division featured both serious and humorous poetry in two sections. The Poet section allowed only original work. The Reciter section allowed the poems of other authors to be used. In the Rising Star division, only poets who had not won first place as a Rising Star in the past were allowed to compete. There were four silver buckles up for grabs along with a share of the nearly six thousand dollar purse.

The second division was the Silver Buckle division where only those who had won a silver buckle in the past could compete, though the event was open to all other contestants. The same serious/humorous and poet/reciter events took place in this division. And the concluding event on Saturday was the high dollar Shoot Out open to all contestants. Trophies and prize money were awarded in all divisions. In addition, there was a trophy for the high money winner of the weekend—the All Round Cowboy Poet.

photo by Paul Martin
Emcee Smoke Wade

Competition got under way early on Friday morning with the first contestant coming out of the chute at 8:00 a.m. at the Turn of the Century. The rodeo announcer, Smoke Wade of Nevada, kept things flowing throughout the day by introducing the next rider, calming the riders waiting in the gate, and providing tidbits of information about past rodeos. The rodeo event ran throughout the day until 5:00 p.m. As the day progressed and the scores were posted, tensions mounted and nerves became jangled. Only the top fifty percent of each event would advance to the finals on Saturday. When the dust had settled in the late afternoon, Steve Porter of South Carolina had completed the high point score of the day with fifty-five points in the Rising Star Recitor/Serious event.

photo by Stella Cathey
Jim Cathey

After a hurried dinner break, the crowd gathered back at the Turn of the Century for the San Juan Western Heritage Festival Friday night show. The evening program, emceed by Smoke Wade, featured an opening musical act by Dave Boyd of Montrose. Texas poet Jim Cathey presented a stirring patriotic opening followed by a warm welcome from event co-chairperson, Francie Smiles.

photo by Stella Cathey
Steve Porter

The evening variety show featured Colorado poet Duke Hunter with a bagpipe serenade. Poets for the evening were Caib Brian, Utah; Steve Porter, South Carolina; Dale Page, Indiana; Dave Proust, Australia; and Linda Kirkpatrick, Texas. Jo Lynne Kirkwood, Utah; Susie Knight, Colorado; and Paul Harris, New Mexico, provided the music for the evening.

photo by Stella Cathey
Poet and Judge Sam DeLeeuw

Sam DeLeeuw gave a special presentation of poetry and western humor. And the audience was treated once again with a bagpipe serenade in the courtyard as folks exited the event center. After the evening show concluded, poets and musicians gathered for a late night jam session at the Black Canyon Motel.

photo by Stella Cathey
Susie Knight on stage, Smoke Wade at left

Sunrise came all too early for the poets competing in the Saturday finals. Rodeo announcer Smoke Wade started the final event sharply at 8:00 a.m. and the top fifty percent of the contestants of each event from Friday once again took their positions in the chute and nervously waited for their turn on stage. The tension mounted again and the excitement began to build. As the day progressed, the winners of the various events were announced, often separated from the money by only a half a point.

photo by Stella Cathey

David "Prousty" Proust

photo by Paul Martin
David "Prousty" Proust on stage

Each poet raised the bar for the next. Some poets challenged another poet by reciting the same poem in a head-to-head competition. Australian bush poet Dave Proust brought a new kind of energy to the NCPR, much to the delight of the audience. High scores were set only to be raised higher by the next rider, and through it all a generous audience rewarded each performer with their applause and show of appreciation.

photo by Stella Cathey
Michael Kirkwood and Linda Kirkpatrick

The highlight of the afternoon came when Texas poet, Linda Kirkpatrick and bush poet, Dave Proust tied in the Sliver Buckle Recitor/Serious event with the high scores of the weekend, one hundred nine point five points. This resulted in a rhyme-off with Dave Proust, affectionately known as "Prousty," emerging as the winner. Following the eight main events, six poets took turns on stage in the high dollar Shoot Out event where they alternately presented both a serious and a humorous poem.

photo by Stella Cathey
Dale Page

As the afternoon concluded, the winning names of each event were posted. The Silver Buckle winners for the Rising Star division were: Poet/Serious, Dale Page, Indiana; Poet/Humorous, Dave Proust, Australia; Reciter/Serious, Steve Porter, South Carolina: and Reciter/Humorous, Keith Ward, North Carolina.

photo by Paul Martin
C.R. Wood

photo by Paul Martin
Doug Keller

The winners of the Silver Buckle division were: Poet/Serious, C. R. Wood, Utah; Poet/Humorous, Doug Keller, Utah; Reciter/Serious, Dave Proust, Australia; and Reciter/Humorous, C.R. Wood, Utah. The Shoot Out first place went to Dave Proust, Australia, and second place to C.R. Wood, Utah. (Find additional rodeo results here.)

photo by Smoke Wade
Winners Keith Ward, Dave Proust, Steve Porter, Doug Keller, Dale Page, and C.R. Wood

Once again after a brief dinner break, folks gathered back at the Turn of the Century for the Saturday night headliner show. Early arrivals were treated to the bagpipe music of
Duke Hunter in the courtyard.

photo by Stella Cathey
Duke Hunter

By seven o’clock the event center was packed. After a special patriotic opening by C. R. Wood and a welcome from the San Juan Western Heritage Festival committee chairperson, Mary Snyder, the emcee, Smoke Wade warmed the audience and got the show on the road.

photo by Stella Cathey
Braden Brian

Poet Braden Brian, Utah, opened the show followed by the NCPR awards presentations. Bush poet, Dave Proust, received the All Round Cowboy Poet award for most money won over the weekend along with a silver buckle and three trophies. Poets for the evening included Steve Porter; Keith Ward, North Carolina; Doug Keller, Utah and Dave Proust. The musicians were Paul Harris, New Mexico, and Dale Major, Utah.

photo by Stella Cathey
Dauna & Dale Major

After a brief intermission, award-winning poet and noted reciter Jerry Brooks of Utah, treated the audience to her accomplished presentations of classic poetry. The headliner for the evening, Brenn Hill, Utah, then took the stage for the next hour. Hill’s music was superb and he kept the audience in a wild state of applause and appreciation for the rest of the evening with his original songs.

A large group of poets, musicians and friends gathered for a very late night jam once again back at the motel. It was difficult to say good night to each other. The NCPR had been one of the best in thirteen years. The weekend had been an awesome amount of fun and many new friendships were made. Reluctantly, the group disbanded in the wee hours of the morning with a great amount of handshaking and hugging.

photo by Stella Cathey
Poet and Judge Ed Nesselhuf

photo by Stella Cathey
Gathering for Cowboy Church

photo by Stella Cathey
Jim Cathey and C.R. Wood

Ed Nesselhuf conducted a cowboy church on Sunday morning at the garden area of the Montrose Pavilion. After the church was over, cowboy poets quietly said their last goodbye, promising to meet again next year at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, wherever it may be. Trunks were loaded with suitcases, guitars, bragging rights and trophies, as well as local corn, melons and peaches. The long journey home had begun. Tired, weary and hoarse from reciting poetry, the poets set out to all points of the compass, knowing they had contributed to the experience—an experience of friendshipfriendship that was bonded and sealed in their hearts and minds by a simple gathering of cowboy poets. They seemed to know they would carry these warm memories for many years to come. Memories of friendshipmemories that would last a lifetime.


Additional photos

photo by Stella Cathey
Stella Cathey, Kathy and Steve Porter, and Francie Smiles (of the San Juan Western Heritage Festival)

photo by Stella Cathey

Del Gustafason

photo by Stella Cathey
Jan and J.B. Barber

photo by Stella Cathey
Terry Nash

photo by Stella Cathey
B.J. Smith

photo by Stella Cathey
Jim Cathey & Mark Kerr

photo by Stella Cathey
Jan Michael Corey and Keith Ward

photo by Stella Cathey
Susie and David Knight


photo courtesy of Stella Cathey
Jim and Stella Cathey



See our feature about the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo



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