Lariat Laureate

 

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We're pleased to announce the winner of the:

Lariat Laureate

of  Minnesota,

recognized for her poem

Half the Hand

 

and

8 Seconds

(alphabetically)

G. M. Atwater
"Cowboy Life"
Nevada

Ken Cook
"Grandpa"
South Dakota

Michael Henley
"Packin' Sammy"
Arkansas

Stuart Hooker
"Ever Seen a Cowboy"

Slim McNaught
"Where The Hard Grass Meets the Sky"
South Dakota

Mag Mawhinney
"Winter Range"
British Columbia

Dale E. Page
"Once We Were Kings"
Indiana

Kip Sorlie
"In Living Memory"
South Dakota


 


Below you'll find the poems and more information about the winners and our media release.

Biographies below are supplied by the poets.

You can also view separate pages for each winner with the links below
or through Folks' Poems and the Index of poems.

There are pages for previous Lariat Laureate and 8 Seconds' winners:

First Lariat Laureate Rod Nichols and 8 Seconds are here.
Second Lariat Laureate Neal Torrey and 8 Seconds are here.
Third Lariat Laureate Verlin Pitt and 8 Seconds are here.
Fourth Lariat Laureate Jo Lynne Kirkwood and 8 Seconds are here.
Fifth Lariat Laureate Jay Snider and 8 Seconds are here.
Sixth Lariat Laureate Sam Jackson and 8 Seconds are here.
Seventh Lariat Laureate Rod Miller and 8 Seconds are here.
Eighth Lariat Laureate Jane Morton and 8 Seconds are here.
Ninth Lariat Laureate Jay Jones and 8 Seconds are here.
Tenth Lariat Laureate LaVonne Houlton and 8 Seconds are here.
Eleventh Lariat Laureate Jack Sammon and 8 Seconds are here.
Twelfth Lariat Laureate Paul Kern and 8 Seconds are here.
Thirteenth Lariat Laureate Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw and 8 Seconds are here.

Fourteenth Lariat Laureate Diane Tribitt and 8 Seconds are on this page.

Fifteenth Lariat Laureate Ken Cook and 8 Seconds are here.

 

 

You can enter the next Lariat Laureate competition.


Lariat Laureate

recognized for her poem, "Half the Hand"


photo by Faust Photography

 

 

About Diane Tribitt:

Diane Tribitt, Minnesota's Cowgirl Poet, is a rancher from Hillman, Minnesota. She also runs a construction crew that erects grain bins across the United States, and has served on the rodeo circuit for many years as an events secretary. Diane brings this wealth of experience to every poem she writes. But the special feelings that her works evoke is also rooted in a deep spirituality and faith that comes from years of hard work in the open air, the special love of family and friends, and devastating losses that raise the question of what life is really all about.

Diane loves crossing trails with other poets, musicians and audiences as she travels to various cowboy gatherings.

Diane was a featured poet at the 24th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Her poetry is featured on the 2007 edition of The BAR-D Roundup. She is the Senior Executive Editor of I.M. Cowgirl magazine.

You can email Diane Tribitt.
 

We asked Diane why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she responded:

Poetry is the window to the heart and soul of a poet. I write with passion and intensity, determined to help someone know something, or to understand something, or to feel something…that they wouldn’t have otherwise known or understood or felt…especially when it comes to the cowboy way of life. 

Cowboying is about battling every imaginable obstacle out there to maintain that position. It’s about surviving the droughts, blizzards, diseases, floods, and heck: even the banker! It’s about living and working with God.  It’s about raising your children to know, understand, and appreciate this lifestyle. It’s about getting up every night to check on first calf heifers and feeding cattle in wind chills of -50. It’s about round-ups and roping the renegades.  It’s about the perils and mishaps; the romance and love. It’s about the horses and the cow dogs. But mostly, it’s all about the cowboys and cowgirls who keep it all alive.  

 

This is Diane Tribitt's's winning poem:

Half the Hand

I gazed upon my mother’s hands
That rivaled those of any man’s
                         Undoubtful
The hands that taught me wrong from right
Enfolding mine to pray at night
                         Devoutful

Those callused hands told voiceless tales
Of ranchin’ life and weary trails
                        They’ve weathered
Kept wild mustangs lizzy-tied
Until their devils deep inside
                        Were tethered

They’ve throw’d down calves in Satan’s lair
While turnin’ hide and singen’ hair
                       Transcended
They’ve strung up miles o’ fencin’ wire
And under stars a kindled fire
                       They’ve tended

They’ve punched out dough and put up chow
Pulled calves out of the rankest cow
                       And branded
They’ve scattered dirt on broken sod
When those she loved rode off as God
                       Commanded

And should God let me live to be
As tough as her I guarantee
                       I’d ruther
But if He don’t, I’ll understand
Just so He makes me half the hand
                       As mother…

2007, Diane Tribitt
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Diane told us about her inspiration for this poem: 

Diane told us this poem was written with Georgie Sicking, well-loved octogenarian poet and cowboy—the term Georgie prefers—in mind.

In a 1992 interview in American Folk's Biscuits and Gravy Quarterly, Georgie talked to interviewer Jack Lamb about being a woman who wanted to be a cowboy and a mother:

...I've spent a lifetime of doin' things that couldn't be done. And yet I look at it now, and it's been worth while. I feel like I've lived, I haven't just existed. I had women tell me, "you'll never find anyone that will marry a cowboy like you, and someday you'll want kids and you won't be able to because you'll be in a wheelchair from your work." It was cruel, but the friction they gave me made me more determined to be straight and be somebody.

It's been a tremendous fight, but I know I have enjoyed the best of two worlds. I know what it is to rope a wild mustang and have him hit the end of the rope, and I know what it is to rock a baby. I think I've truly lived...


Georgie Sicking, in a photo taken
 at a carnival while on her honeymoon

Georgie is the subject of an inspiring and award-winning documentary, Ridin' & Rhymin', and the author of several poetry collections. Her poem about "mustanging," "The Greatest Sport," is included in the 2006 and 2008 editions of The BAR-D Roundup. Read some of her poetry and more about her, here.

Diane continues about her inspiration for the poem:

I had only met Georgie once at the time, at a gathering in Arvada...and was mesmerized by her. After fencing one day I was whining about my hands to Yvonne Hollenbeck. She chuckled and said it sounded like a poem coming on.

Later I thought about Georgie, and I remembered her hands. I thought about all the things those hands had done—as a woman, a horseman, a cowboy, a mother, a widow. I just plain admire her. I admire what she stands for. I admire what she’s done in her life. I thought about how she lived, and I thought about her children...She probably has no idea of how inspiring she is to us. She has earned every right to be called a cowboy, and she is one of the best ever.


You can read more poetry by Diane Tribitt here at the BAR-D and at her web site.

 


 

8 Seconds

G. M. Atwater

 

Cowboy Life

You know how there's days when you hate it?
When you cuss everything that you know,
and it seems like the whole crew is slacking,
and the cattle won't line out and go.
It's hot and your mouth's like a flour sack,
so there's no chance of taking a chew.
And you'd swear since you got up this morning
you've screwed up everything that you do.

You'd swear that the boss has a toothache,
and piles and perhaps indigestion,
'cause his mood since before it was sunup
is darn short of tact or discretion.
Plus, the horse that you saddled this morning
is brain-dead, and cold-jawed to boot.
There's no recompense for such headaches
if you had six months' pay coming due.

You'd as soon move these cows with a 'dozer,
or maybe some Number 6 shot,
since the drags just won't move 'less you make 'em,
and the leaders do nothing but trot.
By the time the whole herd's fin'lly lined out
and moving along pretty well,
here comes some ol' kid with a dirt bike,
and scatters the outfit to hell.

It's an hour 'fore you get that wreck sorted,
your horse is darn near on its knees,
and you're thinking that driving a beer truck
beats driving a darn herd of beef.
Then you finally get where you're going—
a four-hour job that took eight—
and next you are faced with the project
of putting them cows through the gate.

Of course, the ol' biddies can't see it.
It's a strange sort of bovine psychosis,
that sometimes they can't see a gate 'till
the moment you dare try to close it.
But you get them all through and all counted,
but the last one, who breaks for the hills.
The boss laughs, saying, "Well, boys, go get 'er!"
and the whole crew takes off with a yell.

She's shot through that gate like an eightball,
but the boys are all wanting revenge.
It's a wonder you don't rope each other,
but she's head 'n heeled right, in the end.
When you fin'lly get home and unsaddled,
you collapse while you're waiting to eat,
wore out, used up, and run over
from your hat to the soles of your feet.

Then you think, while you're quietly drifting
on edges of sleep, nice and slow,
that if cowboying weren't so darn romantic,
you'd have quit it a long time ago.

2006,  G. M. Atwater
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


"Cowboy Life" appeared in American Cowboy magazine, in August, 1995.
 

 

Gloria told us about her inspiration for the poem:

I wrote "Cowboy Life" mainly as a reflection any working cowboy may have, about the irony of the romantic vision of western living as opposed to the grimy, grungy, manure-in-the-bootheels reality of it—although he's still damn proud of the work he does.

We asked Gloria why she writes Cowboy Poetry and why she thinks it is important, and she commented: 

Cowboy poetry is, in my view, a historic tradition. I think it is no stretch to say that it traces its roots back hundreds of years to the very earliest bardic traditions. The purpose of cowboy poetry has always been to tell a story, to capture a moment or thought or ideal, or even just a gut-busting laugh—because it's worth remembering. Cowboy poetry captures something that others can hear or read and say, "Yeah, this is sure familiar." To outsiders it may seem a quaint, anachronistic genre set in predictable four-beat measures, but it's so much more than that. Cowboy poetry presents the heart and soul of a way of life: the good, the bad, the tragic and the hilarious, and as we rocket headlong into the 21st century, I think it's important to retain past traditions. Just in the past 15 years we've all seen the ranges and ranching change. Cowboy poetry is a way to make sure that life is not forgotten.  It is a way to remember who we still are.

  I am a mule packer and cowhand, having worked together with my husband for twenty-some years on pack stations and cow outfits in Nevada, eastern and northern California, and northern Arizona.  I've been blessed to ride some of the most magnificent country in God's creation, and along the way get to know some awfully good folks. Nowadays we live near town on the California/Nevada border and work in the "modern" world, but we still get horseback and day-work when we can, and we've never sold our saddles. Psst, and don't tell anybody, but I've also taken up border collies and sheepdog trials.  ;-)


You can email us to contact G. M. Atwater.

  

G. M. Atwater's poetry is here at the BAR-D.


Ken Cook

 

Grandpa

This tale's about my Grandpa sittin' tall up in the saddle.
He's a tough old bird, a cattleman, dang he's hard to rattle.

I've seen him stand his ground with men who had the upper hand,
He'll prove his point, make them think, and then they'll feel their stand

Was off a bit, perhaps he's right.  The words he says are true.
The gate will close, the trucks will leave, Grandpa's gained a dime or two.

Don't get me wrong, he's family, the first to visit for a spell.
But he's constantly a thinkin' 'bout the cattle and the sale.

Money in the bank to Gramps is money layin' dead.
Buy some stock, a cow, some calves, then work to get' em fed.

Be it winter, spring, or summer, don't fret the grass will grow.
If it's short, we'll sell' em early, gotta buy back 'fore the snow.

The snows come each year to Dakota Territory.
Calves are weaned, the trucks are here, the boughten calves are all the story.

Grandpa says treat' em right, get' em on that feed real fast,
Perhaps a bale, or maybe not, gotta make that baled hay last.

The cows will need the hay 'fore the grass begins to grow.
Cows and calves, steers and feed, round and round we go.

2006, Ken Cook, from I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
 

Ken told us about his inspiration for the poem:

During the 1980's at Buckles Ranch we sold yearlings right off the place. Grandpa Buckles and I moved thousands of steers from holding pens to the scales to be weighed over the years. Cattle buyers would nervously pace from the scale house to the door watching the cattle, the weights, and the number of head. Grandpa would always have the final word on the sale of the cattle and the price. More than once I watched him 'gain a dime or two.' No matter what time of year it was and regardless of our feed supply or grass conditions...cattle needed bought or sold according to my Grandpa.

Read more about Ken Cook's "Grandpa Buckles" here, which includes photos.

  Ken ranches in southeast Bennett County, South Dakota. His wife Nancy has all four of their kids pert near raised. Ken, on the other hand, will probably never grow up!

Ken's cowboy poetry cuts a wide path, from the humorous "who'd a thunk it"  mishaps involving kids, cattle and horses, right down an emotional trail reliving the years he spent horseback with his grandpa, Frank Buckles. 

He has had the privilege of entertaining folks in several states including a trip to the 23rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, as a featured performer. January 2008 found him entertaining at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Ken has recorded two CD's of original poetry, "Dad We'll Rope Today" and "I'm Gonna Be a Cowboy." He is currently working on his third. Ken's poetry is featured on the 2008 edition of The BAR-D Roundup.

To learn more about Ken and his poetry visit his website, www.kencookcowboypoet.com

You can email Ken Cook.

Photo of Ken Cook by Jeri L. Dobrowski

 

Ken Cook's poetry is here at the BAR-D.

 


Michael Henley

 

Packin' Sammy

Don't put that meat on Lucy
cause she don't take to blood.
And probably not on Kate
she ain't travelin' like she should.

Pay heed behind Lil' Satan boys
you know that outlaw kicks.
Don't put no dudes on Molly
Bob say's she'll buck off ticks.

Picket Dan with hobbles on
he's bad to want to roam.
If he takes a notion boys
he'll beat us all back home.

Slick's the stoutest thing we got
but he's a chore to pack.
With a belly like a barrell stove
and that hog ridge on his back.

Don't tail the roan to Shilo cause
them two don't get along.
This is a damn fine pack string
so gents don't take me wrong.

Just put the quarters on Ol' Sammy
and girt that decker tight.
Then start him down the trail
and he'll take it down all right.

Nope, you don't need to lead him
cause he's seen the trail before
and he won't cause no problems
he always accepts the chore.

He'll be standin' at the trailers
when we all cross Eagle Creek.
He'll be the first into camp boys
when we start 'em back next week.

See he's the one I seem count on
when the tough works needin' done.
When it has to be done perfect
Sammy's gonna be the one.

Packin' dudes or catchin' calves.
Pullin' feed sleds in the snow.
Sammy's never shirked a task.
He's never told me no.

Cause of that he gets mistreated
overused while others coast.
Seems we put our biggest burdens
on the ones we trust the most.

2008, Michael Henley
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This poem was submitted for our Art Spur Project which featured Pat Richardson's drawing.

 

Michael told us about his inspiration for the poem:

I've often used pack stock as examples of how we mistreat the folks in this life who we count on the most. The most trusted child, sibling, friend or employee will get the call on all the tough stuff and it's sure true with our horses and mules. I saw the great Art Spur sketch and thought of Ron Dube's outstanding pack string in Wyoming and the "politics" of who went where in the string before beginning a 26-mile, one-way trip.
 

We asked Michael why he writes Cowboy Poetry and he told us

My home, sometimes to my wife's chagrin, is a temple to all things "Cowboy."  While, I've had horses and cows most of my life, I'm a far piece from the "real thing," but like a lot of folks I know a little more about the West than the average dude. I just came home from a horseback trip to the Gila Wilderness area in New Mexico. One million acres untouched can give a man a glimpse of what once was. My cattle raisin' teaches me about genetics and the folks who left the security of the towns to cross that country or settle it or even drive a herd through it were the best of the breed. Their descendants represent the spirit of those folks today. I love to talk cattle with them, share a camp with them or just listen to their thoughts and try to imagine a whole nation full of people like that. The "Cowboy" is not a Hollywood manifestation for me, he lives in those deep lines in the faces of people who still live there, still do it right. I try to take that to paper and know that at best it's awkward sometimes, but I do it, always, to honor that image, the Cowboy.

  I've been a fan of cowboy poetry all my life. My pickup is littered with tapes of Baxter and Waddie as well as my favorite Red Steagall. I'm a business owner and rancher here in central Arkansas. I've hunted the western states and Canada for the last 25 years and share your love of the heritage of cowboy poetry. I am married with three children. There are not many ways to accurately describe the freedom, independence or spirit of the west and the cowboy life, but to my friends who seek an explanation, I've found poetry to do it best. I've been playing the guitar and writing cowboy songs all my life.

You can email Michael Henley.

Michael Henley's poetry is here at the BAR-D.

 


Stuart Hooker

 

Ever Seen a Cowboy

 Have you ever seen a cowboy on a windswept ridge alone,
Starin' across the country like he's chiseled there in stone,
His horse standin' beside him, ears up, he's lookin' too,
And way off, in the distance, are the mountains, far and blue;
 
Have you ever wrangled horses in the dim pre-light of dawn,
Smelled woodsmoke from the cabin where there's hot, black coffee on,
Have you climbed into the saddle with your fingers stiff and cold,
Then felt your sorrel hump up, so you took a real good hold;
 
Have you ever roped a "big 'un" when no one knew where you were at,
Then had to go back lookin' for your "stompled" trompled hat,
Have you ever heard the wisdom in an old hands' tales,
Then had to run from a mad old cow, when that wisdom fails;
 
Have you ever wished for a faster horse, or at least, a slower steer,
Have you looked back up the trail and wondered, "Can I get outta here,"
Have you ever seen a bad old cow guard her sickly calf,
Or watched a youngster smile 'cause he made an old hand laugh;
 
Have you ever seen a cowgirl when she brought a wild one in,
Or heard her Daddy proudly say, "She did it, again,"
Have you ever seen a dust cloud boil behind a herd of steers,
Or seen a rancher smile at the first "good" rain in years;
 
Have you ever stood in a dry corral with so many calves to brand,
That you couldn't see how you'd get it done, then a kid makes a hand,
Have you ever tracked a wild cow wonderin' who's gonna find who first,
Or drank from a murky dirt tank 'cause you had to quench your thirst;
 
Have you ridden back to cow camp after you turned the cattle out,
Knowin' you've done a good job, that's what cowboyin's about,
Have you sat outside the bunkhouse after all the chores were done,
Thinkin' the roan did good today, watchin' the settin' sun;
 
Have you ever seen a cowboy on a windswept ridge alone,
Starin' across the country like he's chiseled there in stone,
If so, well, we've been blessed, my friend, to know the cowboy ways,
I've seen that cowboy, on that ridge, I've helped him gather strays. 

2007, Stuart Hooker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Stuart told us about his inspiration for the poem:

My grandfather, Joe Hooker, and my brother, David Hooker, were my inspiration for this poem. Their dedication and hard work at raising cattle have always amazed me. I can still see my grandfather on a ridge looking for cattle during a gather. My brother has followed suit and can still be seen out in the pasture working cattle.

 


About Stuart Hooker:

I was raised on our family ranch near Gila, New Mexico. I was born in Silver City, New Mexico. I learned to work cattle at a young age and still enjoy helping family that are raising cattle. I've worked at many jobs, mining, deputy sheriff, truck driving, and construction, but I like ranching and farming over everything I've done. Writing is my relaxation. My daughters, Tammy and Sandra, and my grandchildren bring light to my world. I am truly blessed.
 

Stuart Hooker's poetry is here at CowboyPoetry.com.
 


Slim McNaught

 

Where the Hard Grass Meets the Sky

When time began God promised man
        a lifetime of sweat and toil
So we started our clan where the coyote ran,
        in the west, on hard grass soil.
Where winter's snow and summer's blow
        took it's toll on those who'd try
To tame this land with calloused hand
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

We were young and free with a need to be
        out where the rivers run
And we did our work with nary a shirk
        from dawn 'til the settin' sun.
We stomped our broncs while the wild geese honked
        and the prairie sharpened our eye
Of dangers there we had our share
        where the hard grass meets the sky.
 
We'd mount our horse and set our course
        by the stars of early dawn
Each trail we rode by the cowboy code
        'til the sun had come and gone.
Then squat on heels and eat our meals
        with campfire smoke in our eye
And we thanked our God for this prairie sod
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

When winters hold on a range so cold
        gave cowboys a dangerous trip
And horses then were our best friends
        as the blizzard tightened it's grip.
With each comrade lost we counted the cost
        of hardships we all lived by
And inside we cried as the night wind sighed
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

But our faith was true 'til our work was through,
        we finished each job with pride,
Each blessing received because we believed
        made us thankful we'd stuck to the ride.
When my time comes and my roundup's done
        and Heaven is waitin' close by
I'll ride o'er the ridge when my Master bids
        where the hard grass meets the sky.

2007, Slim McNaught
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Slim told us about his inspiration for the poem:

I was driving home after doing the Heritage of the American West Show in Spearfish, South Dakota, with Joel Gothard and Lew Vasquez. Performing seems to inspire more poetry, and as I looked across the Black Hills landscape, which was a high ridge that appeared to go right into the sky, this poem came to me.

We asked Slim why he writes Cowboy Poetry and why he thinks it is important:

Cowboy Poetry is a heritage passed down to us from our ancestors who came up the trail and settled this land with their herds. We have not only the opportunity but also the responsibility to their memory to carry on their cowboy poetry style and their principles, the Code of the West.


   In 1935, when Slim was one year old, his folks moved to a ranch in the Badlands country on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota. They lived in a log house on Bear In The Lodge Creek for a few years and later moved east of there into the Buzzard Basin area south of Eagle Nest Butte. They raised cows and horses and put up a lot of hay. 

In 1954 Slim married Darlene Brodkorb and they purchased the Buzzard Basin ranch. They were blest with a daughter and three sons. After several years, they sold the ranch and started "Slim's Custom Leather," a saddle and boot repair shop and hand tooled leather business, which they have operated for nearly 40 years, starting in Kadoka, South Dakota and later moving to New Underwood, South Dakota. They are now trying to downsize to the hand tooled and handmade leather items and Cowboy Poetry gatherings.

Some time during high school Slim started writing poetry. Over the years he has had poems, stories and articles published in various anthologies plus many cowboy, horse, and agriculture magazines and newspapers. Currently, his page on cowboypoetry.com shows several poems published, plus some gathering reports at other locations on that site.

In 2005 Slim started his own publishing company, adding it to their leather business, to publish his books. The company is now called Slim's Leather & Publishing. Since 1981 he has published five books. Four are cowboy poetry and short western humor stories, and one book contains some of Slim's original works and some of his mother's original poetry. He also has published two books for his mother, Troy McNaught Westby, with another on the way for each of them. In March of 2006 Slim published his first CD, A Life of Rhyme, and has another CD in the works. Slim feels he has been blest in living and working in ranch country and dealing with horse and cow people all of his life and this carries over into his cowboy poetry.

Slim and Darlene have four children, seven grand children, and (at last count) ten great grand children.

You can email Slim McNaught.

[Slim McNaught photo by Jen Dobrowski]

 

 

You can read more of Slim McNaught's poetry here at the BAR-D and at his web site.

 


Mag Mawhinney

 

Winter Range

The gauge measured four below zero
with a dustin' of snow on the ground.
We bounced through the meadows in a flatbed truck
to a lake with a fence all around.

Sittin' on the truck was a big water drum,
a shovel and four ranch dogs.
When the pump started up, all the dogs ran off,
sniffin' tracks through the bush and the bogs.

We rattled on past a big rail gate
and sidled up to the water trough tanks,
with a dog runnin' point, another on drag
and two closin' in on our flanks.

Ice was scooped out and the tanks topped up
from the drum on the back of the rig,
while the dogs played about with their tongues hangin' out,
flappin' 'round like four whirligigs.

Then the cows and the calves were all counted
as they grazed on the rich meadow grass
and pretty horses with thick, heavy coats
turned their heads to watch as we passed.

It was a scene of Christmas card beauty
that can't be expressed in a word—
happy dogs in a snow-covered meadow
and a cowboy out waterin' the herd.

2006, Mag Mawhinney
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mag told us about her inspiration for this poem:

In November 2004, I was staying at Meadow Springs Ranch, preparing for a concert a few miles past 100 Mile House in the Cariboo. I was especially nervous because I was going to perform with Juno Award winning singer, Gary Fjellgaard, and the concert was being held in a little town where I spent part of my childhood. Mark McMillan, the owner of the ranch, saw me pacing around the room of the cabin and mumbling my rhymes like a hermit who had spent too much time living alone. He said, "Mag, you're getting all bent out of shape. Get away from those poems for awhile and come help me with the cows." Then he laughed and added, "Who knows, you might get a poem out of it."

That whole experience compelled me to put my thoughts on paper and "Winter Range" was born. The beauty of that meadow and surrounding forest, the contrast between the inquisitive actions of the dogs and the other animals grazing peacefully on grass stubbles protruding through the snow, gave me a feeling of pure joy, a completeness beyond words. The scene was God's winter masterpiece! And it's moments like that when I understand why a cowboy is willing to work for short pay.

 

We asked Mag why she writes Cowboy Poetry:

Why do I write cowboy poetry? Well, the phrase "helping to keep the west alive" just came up in a conversation with a singer/co-writer friend not long ago. We were working on a compilation CD and that very phrase was one of the lines in one of my songs, "Singin' the Songs of the West." I got the concept for the song when I thought about why I write and perform cowboy poetry. One of the reasons is to promote and preserve our western heritage. Actually, all festival performers are "helping to keep the west alive."

North Americans' roots come from many cultures and homesteaders and ranchers were among those who blazed the trails for future generations. Over a century ago, adventurous souls from other parts of the world brought their ballads and stories with them, some of which are still sung and talked about today. When we write about modern-day experiences of the rural west, that tradition lives on. And what better way to do it than in rhyme, which is so pleasing to the ear.

Another reason why I write cowboy poetry is because I simply enjoy the challenge of expression confined to a rhyme scheme. I also love to see the reactions those verses evoke—a nod of the head when a listener has had the same experience; maybe a grin if the poem strikes a funny bone; or perhaps a tear if the poem tugs at heartstrings. Then I know I've done my part in "helping to keep the west alive."
 

  I was born on Vancouver Island and that's just about as "west" as you can get in Canada. At that time, we lived in a floathouse in the little logging hamlet of Lake Cowichan. When I was eight years old, we moved to the Cariboo Region of B.C. and that is where I was introduced to the "real west". My family preempted land and started a homestead logging business in the bush near 100 Mile House. There were homesteads and ranches all around us and it wasn't long before I was riding horses, running through the woods with our dogs and playing "cowboys and Indians" with my sisters. I loved everything (and still do) about that rural lifestyle, and in particular the cowboys, who have always fascinated me.

Throughout my childhood, I had a passion for art and writing and that seemed to follow me into adulthood. Because of my family's logging roots, I painted old-time logging scenes on crosscut saws. I won a few ribbons at the Cowichan Exhibition and, as a result, six of my painted saws now hang in the Kaatza Museum in Lake Cowichan.

The paintings inspired me to write about logging and many of these poems appeared in my first chapbook of poetry, "Echoes of the Past--Old Times in Rhymes". Then I branched into short stories about our life on the homestead in the Cariboo. Fond memories flooded back about cowboys and my love for the rural west. Next thing you know, I'm writing cowboy poetry.


For more than half a decade, Mag has been writing cowboy poetry and performing at major cowboy festivals, as well as other events, across Western Canada. Her recitations have also been aired on TV and radio. Contributions of her rhymes and festival reviews have frequently appeared on the BC Cowboy Heritage Society web site and in their quarterly newspaper, the Cowboy Times.

For the past ten years, she's enjoyed freelance writing and has been published internationally in numerous magazines, anthologies, newspapers and web sites, winning some awards for her articles and for poetry, in all genres.

She has written three books of poetry, Echoes of the Past--Old Times In Rhymes, Country Chronicles, Now and Then, and Dreams of Fast Horses. Besides painting, writing and raising a family with her husband, Vern, she has worked as a secretary and fitness instructor.

Mag presently lives in Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island, near her birthplace.

You can email Mag Mawhinney.
 

You can read more of Mag Mawhinney's poetry here at the BAR-D.

 


Dale E. Page

 

Once We Were Kings


It’s a half day’s ride to this cabin door
Where I spent my eighteenth year.
There are spur marks there on the old wood floor,
But the crew’s no longer here.

So it’s silent now, where a noisy gang
Gathered round to lie and spar
Or to ponder life while some waddy sang
To his battered old guitar.

All the bunk bed slats have been long since burned
By the hungry cast iron stove.
In the corner there lies a chair, upturned,
With the leather seat I wove.

There an old grass rope and a horsehair rein
Hang forgotten on the wall.
That old Frazier rig won't be rode again.
Whose it was, I can’t recall.

Through the flyspecked, broken out window there
Stands an empty pine pole pen.
All the broncs are gone, but I don’t know where.
And what’s worse, I don’t know when.

And the boys who rode for their meager wage,
Which was thrown away each week,
Were a part of a wild and woolly age
Which gave way to mild and meek.

I can see them there, ‘round the coosie's fire
When the herd was bedded down.
We would swear our oaths we would not retire
To a lesser life in town.

We would toast our lives with a strong black brew
While we dined on beef and beans.
We looked down on the suit and necktie crew
Who don’t know what living means.

For we ruled the world from our leather thrones,
Cinched atop a half-broke mount.
And we spent our youth as if kings, not drones.
We were rich in things that count.

When we tally dreams that can still come true
We will find our herds are short.
But we won’t regret what we didn’t do
When we stand that final sort.

For a few short years we were pleased to live
As the luckiest of men.
We enjoyed the best that this life can give
Because we were cowboys then.

2007, Dale E. Page
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Dale told us about his inspiration for the poem:

The location in this poem is the Sangre de Cristo Mouintains near Cimarron, New Mexico, where I spent the summer after graduating high school. The barn where our bunkroom was located is 10 miles off paved road
at an elevation of about 8,000 feet. We had 50 horses up there and that many pack burros. I had only one day off the entire summer, but I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

After 40 years, I returned to the camp and found it pretty much the same. I have to admit it showed a little less wear than I. Standing there brought back a lot of memories of good horses and good friends. In my mind, I could still see the palomino paint at the corral gate, waiting for me to go jingle up the rest of the horses. It was a great place and a great time of my life. That summer changed me from a city boy to a pretty decent rider and a lover of New Mexico.

This poem was written to illustrate the feelings of looking back to where we can't go, to times we can't forget and don't want to. Thanks to author Owen Ulph for the image of the "leather throne."
 

We asked Dale why he writes Cowboy Poetry:

I try to take my readers or audience with me to times that are gone but not forgotten. I want them to see characters that epitomize the best man is capable of being. I write things the way I think they should be rather
than the way they might be.

Poetry demands an economy of words which keeps me on track. I look at writing as "wordsmithing." The English language has more words for the same thing than most other languages. The words are out there; I just have
to find the right one. Writing poetry rather than prose makes me organize the story to fit a rhyming pattern. Rhymes make the words more interesting to listen to and easier to memorize. It is very important to me that I not
use near-rhymes or force a rhyme by using an awkward sentence structure. I take pains to insure the meter of the lines is consistent. Without this, the poem loses something. It's like a song that doesn't fit the music.

One of the best things about writing is being able to make the characters, the plot, and the action whatever I want them to be. I outline the story before I begin writing the lines. This keeps me focused and less prone to
stray from the idea. Without a good story, I believe the poem will be of questionable value to the reader or listener. The story develops as I write, but I know where it's going.

I believe I experience the same satisfaction when a poem is completed that an artist gets when he finishes an oil painting or a sculpture. It's a great feeling to give life to a story and to the characters it contains. I enjoy sharing my words with folks who will listen or read them, but I would write cowboy poetry even if no one else ever heard or saw it.

 

  Dale E. Page was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. While attending Oklahoma State University, he worked as a horseshoer, dude wrangler, bull rider, and on the movie set of "The Cheyenne Social Club." Page majored in English, but after graduation in 1970, worked as the farm and ranch reporter for the Amarillo Globe News.

He joined the United States Air Force that fall, and retired after 20 years of flying fighter-type and trainer aircraft. While in the USAF, his feature articles on western artists and saddlemakers appeared in The Quarter Horse Journal, The Western Livestock Journal, The Western Horseman, and Persimmon Hill, the quarterly magazine of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Page combined his learned appreciation of poetry with his horseback experiences and began writing cowboy poetry in the mid 1970's. He writes mostly narrative poems and inserts both known and fictional characters into plots taken from actual experiences. In 2005, he self-published a
book of his poems, A Fork in the Trail. He has performed for trail rides, charity events, private parties, church classes, cowboy church services, Friends of the Library, and the Indiana State Museum.

He and his wife, Paula, live in the Indianapolis, Indiana, area near their two daughters and four grandchildren. They look forward to a retirement filled with family, trail riding the Rockies, and performing cowboy poetry.

You can email Dale Page.

You can read more of Dale Page's poetry here at the BAR-D.

 


Kip Sorlie

 

In Living Memory

The ones to admire
Still sit by the fire
     Of a camp, a days ride from town.
In the snapping blaze
They recall old days
     In stories, to be written down.

No smell of burnt hair
Remains in the air,
     Branding done by late afternoon.
The ropes are all slack
And hang with the tack,
     As irons are chilled by the moon.

With camp chatter gone,
An infrequent yawn
     Lightly stirs the quiet that grows.
The sounds of the night
Are always polite
     And partner with men as they doze.

From the shrinking fire
Shadows rise higher,
     Silhouetting each sleeping hand.
There is little doubt,
When the flame dies out,
     These cowboys will still ride the land.

With grub before dawn
And coffee all gone,
     The horses are saddled to ride.
Stubborn coals glow red
In a fire not dead,
     Fueled by the memories inside.

If I had my way
I would sit all day
     Gazing intently at embers,
Recalling the tale
We lived on the trail,
     Hoping that each man remembers.

One day there will be
A written memory
     Of life that we lived with the herd,
To spark the desire
Of boys by a fire,
     From a man who lived every word.

2006, Kip Sorlie
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Kip told us about his inspiration for the poem:

Kip told us about the inspiration of this poem: Look into the eyes of an old trail hand, as he tells a story by a campfire's light. Look into the eyes of a young boy listening to the story being told. What can be more inspiring than witnessing the connection of the past to the future?

We asked Kip why he writes Cowboy Poetry:

How do I interpret the expression in the eyes of a 4-year-old riding with grandpa, to find the herd and bring it home? How do I equate that expression to the seeds of honor, trust, respect and perseverance that are being planted? Who, if not an old cowboy, can nurture the sprout that grows? I will continue to plant and nurture! It is an imperative worth pursuing and preserving.

Choosing the right words, the words that reach down into your chest and rip your heart out, is a difficult task. I can splice a bunch of words together and rhyme the lines of verse, but if they do not trigger an emotion, heat up your blood or prompt a tear, then I will have failed in my efforts. More often than not, I fall short of my goals. Fortunately, there are many who will fulfill this calling far better than I. THEY are my hero's! They will interpret the expression seen in another's eyes.

  I am not a cowboy, ranch raised and trail hardened before being able to walk. In my case the condition was entirely adult onset.

More than half of my sixty years were spent on Drummond Island, in the far north of Lake Huron. In the fifties we would boat across to the mainland of the Upper Peninsula twice a year for necessities.  We had neither power nor plumbing. We filled our ice house in winter, made maple syrup in the spring and put up next year's firewood in the fall.  My father and grandfather taught me to hunt, fish and trap. Surviving 6+ months of snow covered ground required developing multiple techniques for staying alive.  It was a hard life, but I did not know that until power and plumbing found our island by the early sixties.

The balance of the sixties and the seventies found the island transformed into a tourist destination. In the early eighties a large corporation created an executive retreat on the island, which destroyed the fabric of our small community. Reluctantly, I packed up my family and headed west. We settled on a ranch in Sanders County, Montana. It was a fine place to raise both kids and cows, without power and plumbing, for a time.

The writing of verse began in high school.  It wandered in many directions for a lot of years. I found that writing poems of my experiences to by immensely satisfying. Rural and cowboy ballads just sort of evolved, as my family learned, adjusted and blended into the ranching community of the area.

When our children grew and settled in South Dakota, my wife and I exchanged our ranch for a hay farm near them. Today I write poems and look out over some mighty fine hay ground, with cows off in the distance, waiting for the third cutting to be removed.

I would suggest to anyone that they write down their stories, pass them to their children's' children and watch as the bonding takes place.

You can email Kip Sorlie.

You can read more of Kip Sorlie's poetry here at the BAR-D.


Media Release



COWBOYPOETRY.COM NAMES LARIAT LAUREATE

 

SAN FRANCISCO—March 3, 2008—CowboyPoetry.com officially named its fourteenth Lariat Laureate today—and "8 Seconds"—winners in a global competition on the internet's premier cowboy poetry site. This popular folk form celebrates and honors ranching and rural life.

Minnesota rancher, writer, and poet Diane Tribitt was recognized as Lariat Laureate for her poem, "Half the Hand." The poem was written with Georgie Sicking, well-loved octogenarian poet and cowboy—the term Georgie prefers—in mind. Tribitt recalls that after fixing fence one day and complaining about her hands, she later "thought about Georgie, and I remembered her hands. I thought about all the things those hands had done—as a woman, a horseman, a cowboy, a mother, a widow...she has earned every right to be called a cowboy, and she is one of the best ever."

Diane Tribitt performs her poetry throughout the West. She has just returned from being a featured poet at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. She is the Senior Executive Editor of I.M. Cowgirl magazine.

The "8 Seconds" finalists are, alphabetically,  G. M. Atwater of Gardnerville, Nevada; Ken Cook of Martin, South Dakota; Michael Henley of Cabot, Arkansas; Stuart Hooker; Slim McNaught of New Underwood, South Dakota; Mag Mawhinney of Vancouver Island, British Columbia; Dale E. Page of Monrovia, Indiana; and Kip Sorlie of Viborg, South Dakota.

CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. The site, updated daily, is a central resource for western and cowboy poetry and associated arts. It hosts thousands of classic and contemporary poems, and many features. April, 2008 marks the seventh annual Center-sponsored Cowboy Poetry Week, an event officially recognized by unanimous resolution of the United States Senate. As a part of that program, the Center's outreach Rural Library Project distributes a contemporary Western art poster and an annual compilation CD, The BAR-D Roundup, to libraries across the West. 

Most of the Lariat Laureate finalists share rural roots, and their poetry speaks to the importance of the preservation of an endangered way of life and its stories. In the face of challenges, there is often a celebration of the rewards of the lifestyle, its community, and its values. Many honor their Western heritage. All of the poems have a sharp realism at their center, in recognition of both the work and rewards of ranching and rural life.

In "The Cowboy Life," G. M. Atwater, a mule packer and a cowhand from Gardnerville, Nevada writes about the reality of hard work, and the balance of pride that comes from such the work. She says the poem is "...a reflection any working cowboy may have, about the irony of the romantic vision of western living as opposed to the grimy, grungy, manure-in-the-bootheels reality of it..." She comments about why she writes cowboy poetry: "Cowboy poetry presents the heart and soul of a way of life: the good, the bad, the tragic and the hilarious, and as we rocket headlong into the 21st century, I think it's important to retain past traditions. Just in the past 15 years we've all seen the ranges and ranching change. Cowboy poetry is a way to make sure that life is not forgotten.  It is a way to remember who we still are."

"Winter Range," by Mag Mawhinney of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, also acknowledges the challenges of the cowboys who work for little pay, but who reap great rewards. The poem was submitted for CowboyPoetry.com's annual "Christmas at the BAR-D" celebration, and was inspired by an experience working cows. She tells, "The beauty of that meadow and surrounding forest, the contrast between the inquisitive actions of the dogs and the other animals grazing peacefully on grass stubbles protruding through the snow, gave me a feeling of pure joy, a completeness beyond words. The scene was God's winter masterpiece. And it's moments like that when I understand why a cowboy is willing to work for short pay."

A love of the land and its beauty is also reflected in "Where Hard Grass Meets the Sky" by Slim McNaught of New Underwood, South Dakota. The Black Hills of South Dakota were the inspiration for his winning poem, "Where Hard Grass Meets the Sky." The preservation of the heritage of the West and respect "for those who went before" inspires his writing. He says, "We have not only the opportunity but also the responsibility to their memory to carry on their cowboy poetry style and their principles..."

Those who went before are important themes for cowboy poets. South Dakota rancher Ken Cook's poem, "Grandpa," honors his grandfather, Frank E. Buckles, a cowboy and rancher from a respected South Dakota family of working men. The poem speaks to his grandfather's industriousness and skill in his work, and the lessons learned by a grandson are woven in the words.

A ranching grandfather also inspired Stuart Hooker, who was raised on his family ranch near Gila, New Mexico. He tells that his poem, "Ever Seen a Cowboy," was inspired by his grandfather and brother: "Their dedication and hard work at raising cattle have always amazed me. I can still see my grandfather on a ridge looking for cattle during a gather. My brother has followed suit and can still be seen out in the pasture working cattle."

"Packin' Sammy," a poem by Arkansas business owner and rancher Michael Henley, was submitted for Art Spur, a regular CowboyPoetry.com project that invites poets to be inspired by selected pieces of contemporary Western art. The subject for Henley's poem was California poet and artist Pat Richardson's drawing of "Sammy," a mule. The poem delivers wisdom drawn from Henley's experiences. He comments, "I've often used pack stock as examples of how we mistreat the folks in this life who we count on the most. The most trusted child, sibling, friend or employee will get the call on all the tough stuff and it's sure true with our horses and mules..."

Dale E. Page looks back on an experience of forty years past in his poem, "Once We Were Kings." Page was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and lives now in Monrovia, Indiana. He has worked as a horseshoer, dude wrangler, and bull rider, and his featured articles on Western artists and saddlemakers have appeared in top Western publications. His lyrical poem reflects on his past, time spent at a camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mouintains near Cimarron, New Mexico. One stanza reads, "For a few short years we were pleased to live/As the luckiest of men./We enjoyed the best that this life can give/Because we were cowboys then." He comments, "This poem was written to illustrate the feelings of looking back to where we can't go, to times we can't forget and don't want to."

Kip Sorlie of Viborg, South Dakota, connects the past and the future in his poem, "In Living Memory." Asked about its inspiration, he responds, "Look into the eyes of an old trail hand, as he tells a story by a campfire's light. Look into the eyes of a young boy listening to the story being told. What can be more inspiring than witnessing the connection of the past to the future?" He shares, with many of the poets, a sense of duty to preserve and pass on the stories of the working West. When asked why he writes cowboy poetry, he comments, "How do I interpret the expression in the eyes of a 4-year-old riding with grandpa, to find the herd and bring it home? How do I equate that expression to the seeds of honor, trust, respect and perseverance that are being planted? Who, if not an old cowboy, can nurture the sprout that grows? I will continue to plant and nurture. It is an imperative worth pursuing and preserving. "

Cowboy poetry's popularity is celebrated year round at CowboyPoetry.com, in an ever-growing number of publications and recordings, and at hundreds of regional gatherings. No other way of life has spawned so many poets and so many compelling, enduring stories. Cowboy poetry's stories of the past and present preserve the heritage of an endangered culture, an important part of North America and North American history.


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