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Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights



  Harry Hanson, 1914-2012

Deepest condolences to Yvonne Hollenbeck and her family on the death of her much-loved father, Harry Hanson, December 21, 2012.

From a Father's Day feature here that Yvonne created about her father:

Yvonne has written about her father, Harry Hanson, of Gordon, Nebraska, a many-times National Champion Old Time Fiddler

Harry Hanson's music is featured on Yvonne Hollenbeck's CD, My Home on the Range, which was named the Academy of Western Artists' Best Poetry CD in 2003. She wrote at the time:


He's won over 200 first place trophies at contests in the past and won the National Championship at Weiser, Idaho, in 1967.  He was born in a sod house in a Norwegian settlement in northern South Dakota (real near the North Dakota border) where he was raised.  He started playing for house dances when he was 7 years old and would stand on a chair because he was so small, and from what I was told many times by older relatives and neighbors, was as good or better than any of the men fiddlers.  He's the kindest, sweetest person the sun ever shown on and we have had a lifetime of fun together.  He taught me to chord with him when I was little (he says I was 4) and we've spent many hours making music together.


Harry Hanson taking Yvonne to school

Find more about Harry Hanson and and more photos in the feature here.

Services will be held Thursday, December 27 at 2:00 PM at the Methodist Church in Gordon, Nebraska.


Posted 12/23. updated 12/25

  James Allison "Jim" Ross, 1916-2012

From David Stanley:

I regret to report the death of James Allison Ross of Stevensville, Montana age 96. Jim and his brother Bob (who survives) came to several of the early cowboy poetry gatherings [in Elko] as Montana cowboy poets. Here's his obituary—a classic of the Greatest Generationwith poem:

The obituary tells that Jim Ross died November 13, 2012, "...'Cowboy Jim' was born May 8, 1916, to Joseph Allison Ross and Elsie Catherine Hogan. He was raised on a small dryland grain and stock ranch at the head of Carter’s Coulee in the Bull Mountains of Musselshell County [....]Upon retiring, Jim and Mary moved to their 'Sheep Camp' south of Stevensville, where they enjoyed pursuing their many hobbies and traveling. In 1991, Jim was a Montana State Cowboy Poetry Representative at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., and was inducted into the Montana Cowboy Poets Hall of Fame. He published three cowboy poetry books..."

Those books are Get Down and Come In, Pull Up a Chair, and Saddle Up and R-i-i-i-de. His work was also collected in anthologies, including Riding the Northern Range: Poems from the Last Best-West, Humorous Cowboy Poetry, A Knee Slappin' Gathering;Ten Years' Gatherings; Montana Poems and Stories.

The obituary notes, "A private memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please send memorial donations to the the Bobcat Club, Montana State Athletics, P.O. Box 173270 Bozeman, MT 59717-3270; Friends of Musselshell School Inc., Musselshell, MT 59059; or Hilda's Room at Community Medical Center, 2827 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804."

Posted 12/12

 Virginia Ann Hosford, 1920-2012

Deepest condolences to Idaho photographer and filmmaker Betty K. Rodgers, whose mother, Virginia Ann Hosford, died December 17, 2012, at home in Placerville, California. Betty says her mother was "a true woman of the West."

An obituary here in the Sacramento Bee tells that Virginia Ann Hosford, "...embraced life, friends and family with steadfast vigor and fierce loyalty. Music was an essential part of her life, as she was a pianist and a vocalist. She served in the Red Cross during World War II and always held veterans close to her heart. She was a teller and a secretary, a genealogist, a community activist and a passionate volunteer. Virginia loved a high-spirited game of cards and was legendary for her cheesecake and persimmon pudding..."

A celebration of her life was held November 24, 2012.

Donations in her memory can be made to Snowline Hospice or her constant companion, KVIE Public Television. Please include family contact information for acknowledgement.

Posted 11/26

  Betty M. (Hornecker) Mathisen, 1928-2012

With great sadness, we learned of the death of Betty M. Hornecker Mathisen, the mother of Wyoming poet, musician, and local historian Jean Mathisen Haugen.

From the family:

Betty M. (Hornecker) Mathisen passed away at the age of 84 on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, at Lander, Wyoming.

Betty Hornecker Mathisen was born May 10, 1928 at the now ghost town of Milford, Wyoming near Lander and grew up on the ranch her grandfather homesteaded on Squaw Creek near Lander. As a girl she was an avid horsewoman, broke horses and worked with cattle with her father and 5 brothers. She also had two sisters.

Betty married Bob Mathisen, a cowboy and newly returned sailor from World War II, at the home ranch on June 4, 1946. They had one daughter, Jean. Bob, Betty and Jean's Aunt Jean Irvine attended many cowboy poetry gatherings in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

Betty is survived by her daughter Jean Mathsien Haugen, brother Don Hornecker of Lander, Wyoming and sister Marietta Twitchell of Ft. Washakie, Wyoming; a grandson, Josh Haugen, of Fairbanks, Alaska and two granddaughters, Alyssa and Kaylee; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins and friends.

Her family had lived in the Lander area for eight generations and were among the first ranchers in the Lander Valley in the early 1870s. Her brother, Don, still owns part of the home ranch, dating from 1884. Betty was preceded in death by her husband Bob, son-in-law Ronald Haugen, sister Jean Hornecker Irvine and brothers Albert, Jack, Kenneth and Ralph Hornecker and parents John and Mary (Doane) Hornecker of Lander. She will be buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery next to her husband and son-in-law.

In the picture above, Betty Hornecker Mathisen is on the right with her late sister Jean Hornecker Irvine, in front of the log cabin where they grew up on the Hornecker Ranch on Squaw Creek near Lander, Wyoming.

Jean Mathisen Haugen has contributed many photos and stories about her family through her poems, Picture the West, and Western Memories. See some of those and find additional links here.

Posted 11/6

Patricia Jane Galt Gustafson (1927-2012)

Sincere condolences to Wylie Gustafson and all of his family on the death of his mother, Patricia Jane Galt Gustafson, on October 26, 2012, in Conrad, Montana.

An obituary here tells, "Patsy lived a long and illustrious life as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and community builder. She was an avid and accomplished artist, golfer, skier, horsewoman, and bridge player. Her life was devoted to her family and extended family of friends and neighbors, and to her husband and his veterinary and ranching businesses.[....]Patsy married the Rapelje cowboy Raymond Walter 'Rib' Gustafson in Great Falls on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1953...."

Her funeral is 11 a.m. Saturday, November 3, at St Michael Catholic Church in Conrad.

The family requests that memorials be given to Pondera Medical Center Bridge Fund or Conrad Library Foundation.

You can write to Wylie in care of Hi-Line Records, 527 Furlough Road, Conrad, MT, 59425.

[thanks to Stan Howe for the sad news; photo courtesy of Wylie Gustafson]

Posted 10/30

  Martha Nelson (1916-2012)

Deep sympathy to the Nelson family on the death of Martha Nelson, October 21, 2012 in New Salem, North Dakota. Mother of popular poet and rancher Rodney Nelson, Martha Nelson was widely known and loved by her community. She was an admired public speaker and reciter of poetry. In a recent Up Sims Creek column, Rodney Nelson commented, "My Mom is 96 years old and can still recite a ton of poems like, ‘The Village Blacksmith,’ ‘Somebody’s Mother,’ or ‘The House with Nobody in It.’"

In an obituary here, it tells that Martha and Farrel Nelson, "... in 1951 moved to a ranch near Towner where they ranched and raised their family. Martha continued to live on the ranch after Farrel died in 1983...." and that she "...was well known and loved across the state for the numerous inspirational and humorous talks she gave. She enjoyed reading, reciting poetry, baking bread, sewing, visiting with friends and rodeos."

The obituary notes that she is survived by: her sons, Orrin (Donna) Nelson, of Towner, and Rodney (Teri) Nelson, of Almont; daughters, Genevieve (John) Skogberg, of Belle Fourche, S.D., and Julie (Charles) Cannon, of Minot; grandchildren, Cody, Todd, Chris, Neal, Paul, Lafe, Cari, Susan, Marybeth, and Annika; great-grandchildren, Katy, Riggin, Bridger, Dori, Abby, Mataya, Claire, Karly, Benjamin and Haakon; sisters, Dora Birkeland, of Sherwood, Ore., Venoie Amey, of Lancaster, Ohio, and Metta McDowell, of New Rockford; and many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

Funeral Services were held October 26, 2012, at Zion Lutheran Church in Towner.

Her granddaughter Annika G. Plummer kindly shared this photograph. She told us that she took it "on August 11, 2012, the day she met her new great-grandson Haakon."

Rodney Nelson's October 31, 2012 Up Sims Creek column is a warm tribute to his mother. Read it here.

You can write to Rodney Nelson and his family at 4905 44th St., Almont, ND 58520.

[photograph courtesy of Annika G. Plummer,]

Updated 11/1

Carol Jordan Fitzgerald, died October 7, 2012

Deepest condolences to the family of Carol Jordan Fitzgerald of Van Horn, Texas, who died Monday, October 7, 2012, after an auto accident. Carol Jordan Fitzgerald, 75, was married to popular cowboy and poet Ray Fitzgerald and often joined him at gatherings. Find a news article here.

Thanks to Linda Kirkpatrick and Doris Daley for information.

Details about services will be posted as they become available.

Posted 10/9

 Lisa Vernon, 1959-2012

We learned, with the deepest sadness, of the death of Lisa Vernon, October 4, 2012. Lisa—warm, cheerful, and always full of funwas a part of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering since its inception. She was married to Mick Vernon, who served for several years as the Artistic Director of the event. They were both recognized by the gathering in 2009 for their contributions to its success.

Lisa and Mick had recently moved to Hawaii.

Find an obituary here.

A memorial service will be held in Pacific Grove, California, on Saturday, October 27, 2012, at noon, at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church, 9th & Lighthouse.

Thanks to Dixie Dixon, Gary Brown, and Susan Parker for sharing information.

You can email Mick Vernon:

[2005 photo of Lisa Vernon from the Salinas Cowboy Poetry Gathering]

Updated 10/25

budstromj.JPG (18990 bytes)  Bud Strom, 1931-2012

With great sadness, we learned of the death of Roy "Bud" Strom, July 28, 2012. Bud Strom, 80, was a popular Arizona rancher, poet, retired Army Brigadier General, and co-founder of the Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering. His death was reported by the Sierra Vista Herald in an article here.

Steve Conroy, his friend and Cochise gathering co-chair, let many friends know that Bud had been working at his ranch all day before suffering a massive stroke on July 25.

Bud Strom was instrumental in the development of the Cochise gathering's programs for young people. Two 2010 videos include interviews with him about the programs. One includes his recitation of his poem, "Race on the Wind." Find them here and here.

The author of two collections of cowboy poetry, Bud Strom was a popular performer at Western gatherings. Find a biography and some of his poetry in our feature about him here.

Bud Strom and his wife Joan were married for 57 years.

From Steve Conroy:

The Services for BG (Ret) Roy “Bud” Strom will be held on Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 10:00 AM at the Ft Huachuca Post Chapel. If you come, give yourself 15 minutes to clear the gate (you will need driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance).

Joan has asked that any donations be sent to either:

St Stephen’s Episcopal Church Building Fund
2750 Cardinal Drive
Sierra Vista, AZ 85635


Horse ‘n Around Rescue Ranch
PO Box 698
Hereford, AZ 85615

Peggy Malone sent her words:

The day we honored cowboys,
on the 28th of July

Respectfully paid tribute
To show our Cowboy Pride

This very day in heaven
It seems there was a need

To have a special cowboy
I guess Bud took the lead..

'Cuz God needed a Top Hand
Who ranked among the best

I bet that's why he chose Bud
He surely passed the test

For Heaven's Gate swung open
The Angels showed the way

Yes, Bud you had the honor
To enter on this day

Nona Kelly Carver sent her words:

His chaps hang there limp in the tack room.
His spur chains will jingle no more.
His worn hands lay silent and folded.
His boots sit alone by the door.

The Angel of Death came and called him
to follow where he’d never been.
We will at some point go to join him.
We don’t know just quite how or when.

Bud served his country with honor.
His comrades on him could depend.
He trained and he taught men around him
to be brave and to fight to the end.

His life has set forth an example
For those who would ranch in the west.
He showed love for those who worked with him.
He truly was one of the best.

His family was always important.
His friends scatter out far and wide.
He gave from his heart to those near him,
with his faithful wife Joan by his side.

His poetry spoke of devotion
To a way of life he came to love.
He spent long, hard days in the saddle;
was ready when push came to shove.

His friendships were deep and long lasting.
Our memories of him will not cease.
We treasure the time he spent with us,
And pray his soul now rests in peace.

Find a news video about Bud Strom with footage from the memorial service here.

Updated 8/3

  Paula Wright, 1952-2012

Via Andy Nelson and others:

The Western world is saddened to learn of the death of Paula Wright, popular long-time owner of Elko, Nevada's J. M. Capriola company.

The company's web site tells that the business was owned by Paula Wright's parents, ranchers Paul and Betty Bear, since 1958, and handed down to their children, eventually being owned by Paula and her husband, Doug Wright, since 1985. The site comments here, "The shop has continued to grow over the years but its mission has remained the same—to provide the best quality gear for the people who really use it. Over the years, J.M. Capriola Co. has also become something of a central information center for Nevada's ranchers and working cowboys."

Cowboy Showcase includes an interview with Paula Wright.

Find an article here in the Elko Daily Free Press. An employee comments, “It’s just a shock to the community—the ripples are amazing. She knows everyone and is a friend to everyone...She was so community-minded. She knew what needed to be done to accomplish things. The community will miss her.”

A later article appears here in the Elko Daily Free Press.

There are many condolences posted on the J.M. Capriola Facebook page.

There is an obituary here, which states:

Funeral services will be Friday, June 29 at 10 a.m. at Elko Convention Center.

In lieu of flowers, donation may be made to Silver State Stampede Centennial Event, J.M. Capriola Co. 500 Commercial Street, Elko, NV or any other charity of donor’s choice.

Updated 6/26

  Jim Packard 1942-2012

Via Ron Wilson:

Veteran radio announcer, producer, and host Jim Packard, well known for his part in Wisconsin Public Radio's popular Whad'Ya Know? program, died Monday, June 18, 2012.

There are many articles about the popular radio personality, including one here by Duane Dudek at JS Online, which tells about his career and comments, "Packard also wrote cowboy poetry, and his works have been published on In his biography on the site, Packard wrote: 'My daddy was born in Coffee Creek, Montana, so I've always been partial to the West. My grandpa was a ranch foreman and grandma was the cook.'"

Jim Packard was among the first poets at Find some of his poetry here.

Posted 6/20

Bob Edgar 1939-2012

From Jeri Dobrowski:

Bob Edgar, a Wyoming-born historian, archaeologist, artist, author, naturalist and conservationist died April 20, 2012. A resident of Cody, Wyoming, Edgar founded the Old Trail Town Museum which preserved a good many buildings from the historic Pitchfork Ranch. In 1974, the remains of John "Liver Eatin'" Johnston were re interred there, along with those of several other notable frontiersmen.

Edgar penned the introduction to Cowboy Dreams: Cowboy Nostalgia, Photographs from the Range, published in 1996 and edited by Richard Collins. It was reprinted in 2005 as The American Cowboy: A Photographic History. The books contain a wide-ranging collection of images from such frontier photographers as Belden, Huffman, Koerner, Smith, and Kendrick.

 Find an extensive obituary in the Powell Tribune here and another here in the Billings Gazette.

Posted 5/4

  Rolland "Rollie" Block, 1926-2012

Condolences to Minnesota rancher and poet Diane Tribitt on the death of her father, Rolland "Rollie Block, April 2, 2012.

From the announcement and obituary:

Rolland "Rollie" Michael Block was born on November 19, 1926 in Buckman Township, Morrison County, Minnesota to the late Herman H. and Angeline T. (Merkling) Block where he grew up on the family farm. He was united in marriage to Lea M. Rauch on June 12, 1950 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pierz. The couple farmed for seven years and then moved to Babbitt, MN where Rollie worked in the taconite mines for three years.He then went to East Grand Forks where he owned and operated a gas station for two years. He then took a job with Markfort Construction in St. Paul, MN, where he worked as a mason for 18 years. He later started his own business, Rollie Block Masonry until his retirement. Rollie enjoyed auctions, hunting, fishing, raising Labrador Retrievers, planting pine trees and helping on the farms. One of Rollie's greatest interests was promoting and helping build the softball fields in Genola.  He was a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pierz.

Rollie is survived by his wife, Lea Block of Pierz, MN, children, Sharon (Robert) Streasick of Alexandria, MN, Nita (Doug) Hayes of Maple Grove, MN, Denise (Joe) Brenteson of Zimmerman, MN, Carol Block (Mark Piasecki)  of Forest Lake, MN, Diane Tribitt (Sam Scott) of Hillman, MN, Lisa (Marne) Gall of Pierz, MN, Sandy (Dan) Meyer of Hillman, MN; foreign exchange daughter, Sandra Mara (Gutenberg) Brasil of Vitoria, Brazil; siblings, Verena Otremba of Pierz, MN and Elaine Grittner of Pierz, MN; 23 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren.

Rollie was preceded in death by his parents, Herman H. and Angeline Block; daughters, Marie Block, Sheila Block, Annette Block; brother, Donald Block and great-granddaughter, Nevaeh Kloss.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pierz, MN, with Fr. Gerald  Dalseth officiating. Interment will be in the parish cemetery.

Visitation will be held from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. on Monday, April 9, 2012 at Emblom-Brenny Funeral Service in Pierz, MN with a Rosary at 4:30 p.m. followed by parish prayers at 7:00 p.m.

Visitation will continue on Tuesday at the funeral home from 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.

Find the obituary and a guest book here.

Posted 4/6

   Doc Gordon Stovall, 1937-2012

With the deepest sadness, we have learned of the death of Doc Stovall, popular singer (Georgia's Official Balladeer), songwriter, radio host, poet, and Entertainment and Sponsorship Manager for the Booth Western Art Museum. He died in an auto accident on Wednesday, March 21.

Doc was the organizer of the Booth Museum's two annual cowboy gatherings and was an important force in their educational outreach.

From a March 21st Booth Museum media release:

It is with great sadness Booth Western Art Museum shares the news of the sudden passing of Entertainment & Sponsorship Manager Doc Stovall.

Executive Director Seth Hopkins states, "Booth Western Art Museum is so sorry to have lost our long-time friend and employee, Doc Stovall, in a tragic accident this morning. He will be sorely missed."

A native Virginian, Doc was well known as a Western singer and cowboy poet throughout America, having performed in twenty-five of the fifty states. Honored in 2002 as Georgia's Official Cowboy Balladeer by the Georgia State Legislature, he entertained audiences both young and old as he strived to keep alive the history of the West in music and song. In November of 2004, Doc was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame, the first cowboy singer so honored, and in October of 2009 he received the Cowboy Keeper Award from the National Day of the Cowboy Association for his contributions to the preservation of Western heritage and cowboy culture. He had been employed as the Entertainment and Sponsorship Manager for Booth Western Art Museum since 2004.

Continued Hopkins, "We are appreciative of the condolences and kind words received throughout the day. We will let people know of arrangements as they become available.

Photographer Mike McLean ( was working with Doc Stovall on an album project. He commented on the image below, "He was a special man who touched so many lives. Of all the images I shot last  year this was the one we all agreed captured his spirit most."

Mike McLean/
Mike McLean/ 

Mike McLean also shared additional images:

Mike McLean/    
Mike McLean/ 

Mike McLean/
Mike McLean/ 

Mike McLean/
Mike McLean/ 
Doc Stovall with friend and performing partner Jerry Warren, above and below

Mike McLean/
Mike McLean/ 

Mike McLean/
Mike McLean/ 

Find a March 24, 2012 news article from the Atlanta Constitution here.

Doc Stovall has several recordings and was working on a book of his cowboy poetry and an album.

Doc Stovall and his Tumbleweed Band in a video here. Find some of his poetry and lyrics in our feature here.

Services information, received from the Booth Western Art Museum: Family visitation will be Saturday from 5-8 pm, and his funeral will be Sunday, March 25, at 2 pm. The funeral home is Whitley-Garner at Rosehaven, 8640 Rose Avenue, Douglasville, GA 30134 - ph# 770-942-4246.

Find more, including a guest book at the funeral home web site, here.

Doc Stovall is survived by his wife, Margaret, two sons, two daughters, two brothers, and 15 grandchildren.

UPDATE APRIL 6: There is to be a memorial tribute, as announced  by the Booth Western Art Museum:

Booth Western Art Museum will honor the life, spirit and legacy of the late Doc Stovall with a Tribute Concert on Saturday, April 21. The event will celebrate the influence Stovall had in preserving the cowboy culture, and will include performances by members of his band, The Tumbleweed Cowboy Band, several people reciting cowboy poetry, and gun tricks and humor by Emcee Jim Dunham, who also serves as the Booths Director of Special Projects.

Doc Stovall was very influential in passing along the love and interest in cowboy music - and especially cowboy poetry,` said Booth Museum Executive Director Seth Hopkins. This Tribute Concert is meant to honor him and the legacy he has left and also to allow those he influenced to share some of Doc`s favorite cowboy music and poetry. It will be an uplifting event, and we invite everyone interested in honoring his life to attend.

Free and open to the public, Doc Stovall Remembered: The Tribute Concert, will be held in the Booth Ballroom beginning at 2:00 pm on April 21.

For more information about Doc Stovall Remembered: The Tribute Concert, please contact Jim Dunham at 770-607-6362

[photo at top by Jeri Dobrowski]

Updated 4/6

Clarence Carnal, 1909-2012

We were sad to learn of the death of Colorado cowboy poet Clarence Carnal, age 102, on March 11, 2012. His friend, Colorado rancher  and poet Terry Nash, shared the news. Clarence Carnal's brother and his wife were neighbors of Terry Nash and Terry says they and Clarence often shared stories, "most of 'em true." Terry Nash will speak at the memorial service.

Known particularly for his colorful renditions of long classic pieces, he was a regular performer at the Grand Junction Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He also performed at the 2012 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this February, to large and appreciative audiences.

Find eight videos of his recitations, including the "The Zebra Dun," here on YouTube.

An obituary here tells, "A memorial service in celebration of his long and wonderful life will be noon, Friday, March 16, at Callahan-Edfast Mortuary. A reception will follow. (Location will be announced.) Memorial contributions may be made to: The Museum of Western Colorado, Attn. Ronna Lee Sharpe; The Salvation Army; or the N.R.A."

The obituary notes that Clarence Carnal " survived by his wife of 76 years, Rose; a daughter, Dolores; seven grandchildren; eleven great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; a sister, Lois..." and many other relatives.

Ronna Lee Sharpe, who heads the Grand Junction Cowboy Gathering and is a Cultural Heritage Specialist at Colorado Creative Industries/Museum of Western Colorado, shared the following. She writes that it is "....part of a traveling exhibit I have been touring around the state for the past year and a half. It was called 'Harvest of Heritage: Colorado Masterpieces Celebrating Agricultural Life and Art.' It visited ten sites including the Colorado State Fair and the National Western Stock Show and is now at the Telluride Historical Museum."


A March 16, 2012 article by Sharon Sullivan in the Grand Junction Free Press, "Happy trails, Clarence!," quotes Ronna Lee Sharpe, "“He was a gift to us all.”

[photo of Clarence Carnal  by Wes Allen Museum of Western Colorado, via Ronna Lee Sharpe

Updated 3/16

Bill Brown Jr., 1929-2012

From Jeri Dobrowski:

Central Montana cowboy and rancher Bill Brown Jr. passed away March 2, 2012. Educated in a one-room country school east of Buffalo, Wyoming, Bill earned a degree in animal science from the University of Wyoming, where he served as 1952 student body president. In 1960, the family purchased a ranch and moved west of Sand Springs, Montana. Bill was a leader in the Montana cattle industry, a life-long student of range management, and a mentor to a great many young men who aspired to be the kind of horseman and top hand that he was. He loved nothing more than to work a big herd from horseback, or to help a green colt finally learn to duck a cow. Bill especially enjoyed the most difficult cow and horse challenges, like figuring out a river crossing, or a four-day trail with a roundup tent and a chuckbox, or working a big new piece of country that he hadn’t ridden before.

His survived by his wife, Phyllis, his four children, Taylor (Shannon) ag broadcaster from Huntley; Martha (Marty Clague) retired university administrator from Red Lodge, Beth Ann (Lyle Hodgskiss) office manager of the Double Arrow Veterinary Clinic in Choteau, and Reeves (Penny) Colorado’s state Executive Director of Local Affairs, of Fruita, Colorado; 14 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren.

Find the full obituary at here at the Northern Ag Network.

[image courtesy of the Brown family]

Posted 3/6

  Tyler Plummer 1978-2012

We learned, with great sadness, of the death of Tyler Plummer, age 33, on January 25, 2012. Tyler Plummer was Rodney Nelson's son-in-law, married in August, 2009 to his daughter Annika.

The Nelson family photo above, Tyler Plummer top right, was taken January 22, 2012. In 2009, Annika Nelson Tyler wrote about her marriage in her popular blog, here.

Read a moving obituary, find services information, and a guestbook here.

Read Rodney Nelson's tribute in his Up Sims Creek column, "Mourning the loss of Tyler - one of the good ones."

[Thanks to Jeri Dobrowski for the guestbook and services link]

Posted 1/26

  Louise Serpa, 1925-2012

Noted rodeo photographer Louise Serpa died January 5, 2012. An article after her death, here in the Tucson Sentinel, comments:

Her work captured all the elegance, essence and grit of a 900-pound horse, or a 1200-pound bull, giving its rider eight seconds, more or less, of sheer terror and excitement. But beyond the arena, Louise explored the people and places that made rodeo. After all, rodeo is a way of life – not a sport, despite corporate attempts to make it one.

In 2008, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum had an exhibit of her work. Arizona poet Chris Isaacs wrote in response to our article about it:

Your article on Louise Serpa brought back a lot of memories from a long time ago. Louise and I were at a lot of the same rodeos in the 60s and I'm proud to say she was a friend although I haven't seen her in years. I'm glad to hear that she is being remembered and honored for her work. She's a great Lady. Here's a photo that Louise took of me in about 1963 or 1964. If you look close in the bottom right hand corner you can see her Walking S brand that she signed her photos with [see the detail below the photo].

Find another recent article here in Inside Tucson Business and another here in a Cowboys & Indians blog. There is a January 12, 2011 article and slide-show tribute to Louise Serpa in the New York Times, "Sweetheart of the Rodeo,"

Posted and updated 1/12

 Jim Cook, died January 10, 2012

Dee Strickland Johnson sent the sad news of the death of Arizona humor writer Jim Cook, brother of songwriter, poet, and musician Dean Cook, on January 10, 2012.

Jim Cook, an Arizona Culturekeeper, was known for his columns for Arizona newspapers, "The Journal of Prevarication," and as "Arizona's State Official Liar."

He was the author of several books, including the recent Half a Sack of Cats; Jim Cook's Version of His Raffish Youth. Its description tells a bit about him:

For sixty years, Arizona native Jim Cook has been writing about the Grand Canyon state in newspapers, magazines, and books. In 2005, Jim and his brother Dean, a songwriter and storyteller, were named Arizona Culturekeepers for their work in keeping alive the lore of Arizona. After a long career in journalism, Jim became the Official State Liar of Arizona. He is director of the Wickenburg Institute for Factual Diversity, which is a think tank for recreational liars, and a treatment center for recovering newspapermen. He also edits the institute's organ, The Journal of Prevarication....

He also wrote The Arizona Liar's Journal and The Arizona Liar's Almanac.

Don Dedera, former Arizona Republic columnist and former editor-in-chief of Arizona Highways magazine writes a January 15, 2011  
tribute column, "A place unbelievable without its prolific liar" in the Arizona Republic.

Services are pending.

Updated 1/16

Bob Huff, 1931-2011

We were sad to learn of the death of Colorado poet Robert Allen (Bob) Huff, December 10, 2011. Bob was a popular performer at gatherings, including the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering and the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Find an obituary here.

Thanks to Pauline Young, who send the following, with the permission of Bob Huff's family (who provided the photo):

July 25, 1931-Dec. 10, 2011

Long time Pagosa resident, Bob Huff, departed this world on Saturday, Dec. 10,with his wife by his side.

After moving to Pagosa Springs 23 years ago, Bob became an active member of the community. He was a member of the local Rotary Club, serving as president of that organization in 1997-98. He also served on several boards, including the Upper San Juan Health Service District and Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Foundation Board, the Archuleta County Planning Commission, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the Citizens Bank Board of Directors.

Bob is perhaps best remembered for his writing and reciting of cowboy poetry. He published two books of poetry and became well known as a cowboy poet throughout the state and region.

Bob kept a few horses and grazed a few cows each summer on his Little Bit Ranch. He spent endless hours as a volunteer for the local Forest Service district. He deeply loved the high country and helped pack in trail crews, maintain trails and monitor leased grazing allotments. His poetry — sometimes humorous, often thoughtful, but always truthful — reflects the connection he felt with the San Juan Wilderness.

After growing up on a small farm in Kansas and receiving a scholarship at the University of Kansas, Bob started his career as a biology teacher at Punahou Academy in Honolulu, Hawaii, with his wife, Mary Ann, at his side. After receiving a doctorate in educational administration at the University of Oregon, Bob embarked on a series of moves that took him and his family to a number of college towns across the country. He became a sought-after higher education administrator and teacher. Among other positions, Bob was associate director of the National Center for Higher Education Management systems, professor of higher education at Virginia Tech University and executive secretary of the Board of Educational Finance in Santa Fe, N.M. He served as associate vice president of academic affairs at Arizona State University and as executive director of the Arizona University System Board of Regents. Bob served on the governor’s cabinet in Arizona and represented Arizona on the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.

He completed his busy career by returning to Arizona State University as a tenured professor and, in 1989, Arizona State named Bob Professor Emeritus.

Bob led a modest, calm and untroubled life. In many ways he was a man “before his time.” In the late 1950s he took a survival training course, learning how to live off the land. Before it was trendy, Bob loved to cross country ski, play and coach tennis, fly fish, go backpacking and, when he was 50 years old, he ran the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. But perhaps where Bob felt most at one with nature was on top of a good horse.

Bob considered himself a fortunate man. He had the love of a life partner for 58 years, his wife Mary Ann. He had a couple of good children, a couple of wonderful granddaughters and some good horses. He was a trusted mentor to many people in ways he knew and in ways he sometimes never knew.

Memorial services for Bob Huff will be held this spring. The date, time and other specifics will be announced in The Pagosa Springs SUN.

This is Bob’s final poem, for his family and friends.

The View from the Top

It’s been my nature to explore.
On a high country ride,
Climbing up a mountain ridge,
What’s on the other side?

In every part of life,
Adventures without end.
I always want to know,
What’s just around the bend?

I want to see God’s plans,
Whatever they may be.
What’s in that great beyond?
What is God’s plan for me?

And now it’s time at last,
My earthly ties to sever.
On top of this final hill,
I now can see forever.

Bob Huff

Updated 12/16

Tom Ryan, 1922-2011

The Cowboy Artists of America (CAA) reported the death of celebrated artist and long-time member Tom Ryan, on December 10, 2011.

Tom Ryan was widely known for his paintings of the famous 6666 Ranch in Guthrie, Texas. The CAA comments: "When Ryan paints a cowboy, you know it is the real thing," says one fellow artist.  "You can just tell by looking at the figure that that man has been around.  His horses are real cow horses.  His men are real ranch hands. They always have just the right feel; there is never anything in the
painting that does not fit the scene exactly. He may not have grown up in the West around ranches and cattle, but he captures them better than anyone else."

Find more about Tom Ryan at the CAA web site and a detailed biography at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

A service will be held Friday, December 16, 2011, at 2:00 pm at the First Baptist Church, 214 N Swenson St, Stamford, Texas (phone 325-773-2781). Cards may be sent to the family at 1018 N 6th, Haskell, TX 79521.

Posted 12/15

Bill Horn, 1938-2011

Jay Snider sent the sad news of the death of the legendary Bill Horn, Texas, member of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Hall of Fame and the first NRHA member to reach Million Dollar Rider status. One of the founders of the organization, he died December 9, 2011.

The NRHA web site comments, "Sadly, today NRHA and Reining lost one of its most beloved legends when Bill Horn succumbed to illness.  The void his passing leaves behind cannot be filled."

See the NRHA web site for updated information, which includes information about a memorial service:   

Posted 12/15

Marvin Lee Brown, Jr. 1925-2011

Our condolences to popular storyteller and radio host Waynetta Ausmus on the death of her husband, Marvin Lee Brown, Jr., on November 24, 2011.

Waynetta has written, "For those who knew my husband, Marvin Brown, he is now at peace today after a long struggle with heart trouble the past few years. Even though he passed away today, I am so THANKFUL for the adventures we shared together and for Marvin filling the past 11 years with happy memories. He will be remembered lovingly every day....

Find a December 18, 2011 obituary here.

Waynetta sent information about the memorial service:

We are having a memorial evening on Dec. 27. We're having some local cowboy poets and musicians perform in a Memorial/Tribute. Marvin and I used to put on a monthly "storytelling" night at a local restaurant so we are hoping that  friends and family will attend. Cowboy poets and storytellers Bob Upchurch, Lanny Joe Burnett, Edward Sutherland, Jerry Young from Mesquite, Texas and some fine local musicians will perform.

Updated 12/19

Lynn Owens

Heidi Koch sent the sad news that California poet and reciter Lynn Owens died on November 4, 2011.

Lynn Owens was a popular performer at Northern California events, Livermore's first Cowboy Laureate. He was the Division Chief of the Livermore Fire Department, retired fter 32 years of service.

Find an obituary here.

[2009 photo by Frank Thornburgh]

Posted 11/23

Kell Robertson, 1930-2011

Poet, songwriter, and storyteller Kell Robertson died November 7, 2011, at his home near Santa Fe.

His work appeared in the Dry Crik Review in 1991 and 1993.

An article here in the Santa Fe New Mexican tells about his life and work. It quotes poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "I would say Kell Robertson is one fine cowboy-poet, worth a dozen New Yorker poetasters. Let them listen and hear the voice of the real America out there."

The article notes, "...a public memorial featuring music and poetry by Robertson's friends is being planned for February."

Posted 11/9

  Rene Heil, 1944-2011

Yvonne Hollenbeck sent the sad news of the death of Rene Heil, ranch photographer, on July 25, 2011 in Follett, Texas.

For over 15 years, Rene Heil traveled from Mexico to Montana "photographing the working ranches and the working cowboys during their spring roundup." Those were his words, from a communication in May, 2010, when he also wrote, "...I am in the midst of 2010 Ranch Tour with a branding every day. I average 2500 photos per day..."

At Rene Heil's web site, he posted daily photos.

He published six books of his work. His last book, Dust & Smoke: Top Hands and Pretty Loops includes the Hollenbeck Ranch in South Dakota. Find more about the book here.

See an obituary here.

Posted 10/5


  Ronald Haugen, died September 6, 2011

Deepest sympathy goes out to Jean Mathisen Haugen on the death of her husband, Ronald Haugen, 65, on September 6, 2011, in Lander, Wyoming.

Jean told us, "He learned to love cowboy poetry and western music (although his rock band had opened for Ike and Tina Turner in Seattle, WA back in the late 1960's). He had been very ill for a long time and his passing was a mercy, but I will miss him very muchwe had been married 8 years on July 3rd this summer...."

Jean offers this poem:

My Ron

Ron had done many things in his life,
and I was privileged to be his wife.
He loved rock music and mushing dogs,
loved the Northern Lights and Alaska,
and had come to love Wyoming.
He had been a psychologist,
a car racer and a rabble rouser,
a trapper, a carpenter,
and knew his way around plumbing.
He could play a great rock guitar
and loved sail boats and
sailing them around Puget Sound.
That was my Ron

he had learned to love western music
and cowboy poetry.
Life was never easy, but he knew
to look upwards and know
A Gentle Shepherd
kept an eye on his wanderings
and had finally come to take him home.
May the Good Lord bless and keep him

I was privileged to be his wife.

Jean Mathisen Haugen, September 8, 2011



Jean wrote a poem back in 2003 about their meeting, which you can read here. Jean, who is also a local historian and writer, has been a part of since its earliest days, and has shared her poetry and many photos and stories in Western Memories and Picture the West.

The funeral is Tuesday, September 13, at 10:00 a.m. at the Hudson's Funeral Home Chapel in at Lander.

Posted 9/12

Ben Buckles, 1930-2011

Yvonne Hollenbeck first sent the news of the death of Nebraska rancher Ben Buckles on August 8, 2001. Ben Buckles was South Dakota cowboy and poet Ken Cook's great uncle, one of the many respected cowboys and ranchers in the Buckles family.

Ken told us:

Ben was the youngest brother of my Grandpa Frank Buckles....Years ago. I wrote the poem 'Let the Hammer Down,' inspired in part by Uncle Ben. It's on the Dad We'll Rope Today album:

Throw caution to the wind, if you're gonna ride with Ben,
'Cause careful ain't the way that he was raised.
The boy was weaned on rank ones, that could buck a sunset down,
For courage in the storm he should be praised.

An obituary here tells of Ben Buckes, "He never would allow a tractor on his property because he was no 'damn' farmer. He raised and broke his own saddle horses and didn't want a horse on the place under sixteen hands. 'When I rope something, I don't want to be tied to it, I want it tied to me.'"

Ben Buckles is survived by four daughters, a son, four grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Posted 8/15

Ken Graydon, 1933-2011

The Western music and poetry world mourns the loss of beloved songwriter and singer Ken Graydon, who died July 30, 2011.

Dave Stamey has said of Ken Graydon, "Singer, writer, historian and gentleman, Ken Graydon is one of my heroes and a genuine California folk music treasure." 

See a tribute here, written by Ross Altman shortly before Ken Graydon's death. He writes, "Ken and Phee (Ken Graydon and Phee Shirline) are rarely seen apart; they appear almost like one musician with two instruments—she plays the hammer dulcimer and he plays a big twelve string guitar—matching his booming bass voice with its powerful bass runs. Ken doesn’t play anything “fancy on a stick,” as Woody Guthrie once described his own playing, just the right chord and the right strum at the right time, always keeping the song and its story front and center."

The Los Angeles Times has an moving two-page piece on Ken Graydon here by Tony Perry, in which he writes, "Admirers compare his work to that of Walt Whitman."

Find more about Ken Graydon at

Paulette Tcherkassky shared this 2008 photo of Jerry Brooks, Jo Lynne and Michael Kirkwoord, Marianne and Gary Robertson, Ken Graydon, Melissa and Dave Stamey and Catherine "Lilbit" Devine, taken at the Palace Saloon in Prescott, Arizona, during the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.

The Los Angeles Times reports, "A memorial party is set for 2 p.m. Sept. 4 at his home in Fallbrook."

Updated 8/11

Don Atkinson, 1929-2011

Tom Morgan sent the sad news of the death of respected Texas boot and saddle maker Don Atkinson, who died July 15, 2011.

An obituary here tells:

Don was born in Hickory, Missouri on March 6, 1929 to Isaac and Elva Atkinson. His education was the school of hard knocks. He never graduated high school but was a very astute businessman. His father died when Don was a young boy and when he was nine years old, he met Monroe Veach, a renowned boot and saddle maker. Monroe gave Don his first piece of leather to make a holster for a Hopalong Cassidy cap pistol and instructed the boy to bring it back so he could see it. When Don returned, Monroe saw a talent in the raw. So went the beginning of a successful career of saddle making that would make the boy a legend in his own right.

....Over the years he garnered a legendary reputation in the fields of boot making and saddle making. There was nothing he couldn’t do with leather that didn’t turn out beautifully. He made boots for Slim Pickens, Hank Williams and Gene Autry. Don took such pride in his craftsmanship, he was truly a master.

Read the entire obituary here.

Tom Morgan shared a photo of the last ‘’fancy saddle’’ that Don Atkinson made (that's how Don Atkinson described it), which is in Tom's collection:

Find more about Don Atkinson here at the American Saddle Makers Association web site.

Posted and updated 8/1

  Lloyd M. Gerber, 1927-2011

We were sad to learn that Idaho sheep-ranch-raised cowboy poet Lloyd M. Gerber died July 16, 2011 at his home in Eagle, Idaho.

An obituary here in the
Washington Post states that, "He was one of eight siblings and grew up on his family's sheep farm in Wellington, Utah.
In the 1940s, the Gerbers moved to a sprawling cattle ranch along Utah's Green River in Desolation Canyon." In his bio in our feature here he tells:

In 1946 we bought the Rock Creek ranch in Desolation Canyon on the Green River. Pop immediately called it "Seldom Seen" and it was so named on some maps. That ranch was accessible only by a two-day pack trip along difficult trails. A year or so later we bought the Range Creek ranch, which was one day's ride toward town from Rock Creek.

With a two-day commute to get to work at Rock Creek, we didn't get out to the valley as often as we would like, and it made family life difficult. This led to my seeing the benefits of an education. Accordingly, I became a lawyer and practiced in New Mexico and Utah.
In 1969 I accepted a management position in a subsidiary of The Washington Post in Washington, D. C., and later became the CEO of that company.

I retired from there December 31, 1985, in order to return to the West....

In the cowboy poetry world, he was perhaps best known for his poem, "A Matter of Taste," which he recited on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in 1989. He performed at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1989 and 1994.

Another obituary here that appeared in the Idaho Statesman notes, "Lloyd is survived by an adoring family including three sons, Steven, Mark, and Nathan; five daughters, Kathy, Julie, Lisa, Susan, and Lori; 37 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren; and his sister Elma.

Services were held July 19, 2011.

See our feature about Lloyd M. Gerber here.

Posted 7/20

    Mike Puhallo, 1953-2011

We mourn the loss of Mike Puhallo, popular poet, cowboy, artist, Kamloops Cowboy Festival organizer, and friend to so many. Mark McMillan, at the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS) sent the sad news:

Mike passed away peacefully in his sleep in the wee hours of June 24th. There will be a Celebration of Mike's Life at 1:00 pm, on Thursday, June 30th, at the Calvary Community Church in Kamloops. Bryn Theissen and Pastor Don will officiate. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the BC Cowboy Heritage Society Student Scholarship fund.

Mike had been battling brain cancer. Find a link for the fund here, where there is also a PayPal donation button.

In an announcement in April, Mark McMillan of the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS) commented, "Mike Puhallo could be referred to as Mr. Kamloops Cowboy Festival, Mr. BC Cowboy Hall of Fame, and Mr. BC Cowboy Heritage Society. Mike is one of the founders of all three, and has put a big chunk of his life over the last 15 years towards the betterment of all three, and everything connected to them. He's put on many Cowboy Concerts over the years, many of which have been benefit concerts for others...."

Find more at the BCCHS web site, including a moving article by Mike's daughter Shar, here.

A June 28, 2011 article here in the Kamloops Daily News comments, "Kamloops has lost a leading voice and an energetic hand close to its heart and western heritage." Find an obituary here.

A few years ago, Mike sold his part of a ranch shared with his brother so that he could do what he said he always wanted to do: "Just cowboy." And, he enjoyed doing just that.

Mike was the author of a number of poetry collections, had a solo CD recording and was included in other audio collaborations. He performed at many events and gatherings, and was invited to the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2010.

Mike was one of the first poets with work at, and shared many of his syndicated weekly "Meadow Muffins." See many poems by Mike Puhallo and more about him in our feature here.

Updated 6/29

Woody Woodward 1933-2011

Jane Morton sent the sad news of the death of Woody Woodward, on June 5, 2011, in Arizona. Woody and poet Byrd Woodward were married for 52 years.

An moving obituary here tells, "...His Grandpa Sherrill had taught Woody to cowboy on the family ranch in northern Idaho, and though he was a working cowboy for only a few years, he lived his life the cowboy way filled with love and joy, hard work and honesty. He was good with all animals but especially so with horses and dogs. He loved telling stories ..."

Posted 6/14


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