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Alpine (Texas) February 


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February, 2007
21st Annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering  Alpine, Texas 

report by Doris Daley, photos by Yvonne Hollenbeck and Linda Kirkpatrick


Alpine, Texas: Like the 20 gatherings before it, this year’s 21st annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held at Sul Ross University Campus in Alpine, was a weekend of fun, reunions, poetry, music, cowboy trappings, and high times. Steering committee members Bill Brooks, Chuck Jividen, Joel Nelson, Nelson Sager, Michael Stevens, Betty Tanksley and Jerry Yarbrough are onto a successful festival formula made up of 50% entertainment, 50% family reunion and 50% serendipity (this is Texas, after all, where even the math is bigger.)

photo by Linda Kirkpatrick
Doris Daley

Without a doubt, one of the highlights at this year’s gathering was the opening keynote address by Red Steagall. Red’s remarks should be required listening by every aspiring and existing cowboy poet. Part exhortation, part history lesson and part battle cry, Red urged every writer in the audience not to settle for “okay.” “When cowboy poetry began its resurgence 20 years ago,” he said self-deprecatingly, “I was a 'successful' Nashville song writer so I thought I could crank out poems with the snap of my fingers. I didn’t pay attention to meter. I settled for sympathetic (slant) rhyme….because I knew I could get away with that kind of writing in music. But what works in music isn’t always the same as what works in poetry,” said Red. When a real-deal cowboy friend in Oklahoma pointed out to Red that some of his lines didn’t rhyme and that his meter didn’t measure up to the classic writers, Red realized that ideals like excellence and integrity needed to be evident in cowboy poetry as well as other cowboy endeavors. “There are three non-negotiables in poetry,” he said. “Original thought. Meter. Rhyme. And to paraphrase John Deere when he started his farm machinery business: 'I’ll never put my name on something that’s not the result of the best in me.' That goes for cowboy poetry as well as anything else I do in life.”

Red also remarked on the bond that is felt in Alpine among participants, performers, cowboys, fans and volunteers. “We renew old friendships. We expand the cowboy family. This is a real community of friends. We bless each other with respect. We give our lives more depth and meaning. We poets tell you things we would normally keep to ourselves through our work. Every generation thinks it’s going to be the last in the cowboy life, but it endures. This gathering is one reason why.”

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Rolf Flake, Chris Isaacs, Randy Huston, Jill Jones and Gail Steiger 

In random order, other highlights from this year’s Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering:

Standing Room Only: Daytime sessions run concurrently in nine different locations throughout the campus. It takes some effort to trek from building to building, read the map, find the right staircase, and get situated. When you’re a poet dashing across campus to the next set, you think, “Who the heck is going to find this classroom?”—only to arrive (out of breath) to a room jammed to capacity, every seat taken, folks standing and sitting on steps and in the aisles.

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Ray Fitzgerald and Jean Prescott 

Night Shows: Evening shows were emceed by Red Steagall and featured Stephanie Davis and Randy Rieman (Friday night) and Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks and Dan Roberts (Saturday night). Headliners for sure, but it’s also true to say that in Alpine, the only “stars” are the ones that shine bright at night deep in the heart of Texas. There’s an uncomplicated, authentic feeling here where it’s all about community and family. There’s not much glitz or glamour in Alpine but there’s a whole lot of handshakes, hugs and camaraderie.

photo by Linda Kirkpatrick
Joel Nelson, Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks, and Randy Rieman

Trappings of Texas: The Museum of the Big Bend has moved to a new location in the newly renovated, old University Center. What a spacious, spectacular space in which to display the best in cowboy fine art and craftsmanship.

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jean Prescott, and Doris Daley

Jam Sessions: Sheriff Jim Wilson and Jim Jones hosted an informal Friday night jam session/concert-in-the-round and judging from the enthusiastic numbers and response, this will be an annual event. Thanks to the Bread and Breakfast bakery-café for providing the space and the treats.

photo by Linda Kirkpatrick
Mike Beck

Hats off to Sul Ross, the entire Alpine community, the wonderful crowds and especially to the organizing committee for 21 years of cowboy fun and celebration. This year’s entertainers were Mary Abbott, Apache Adams, Oscar Auker, Leon Autrey, Sally Harper Bates, Mike Beck, Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks, Don Cadden, Kip Calahan, Bob Campbell, John Campbell, Craig Carter, Ivan Cates, Robert Chaison, Doris Daley, Stephanie Davis, Ray Fitzgerald, Rolf Flake, Doug Foshee, Jeff Gore, Andy Hedges, Don and Shug Hedgpeth, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Jill J ones , Kay Kelley, Suzi Killman, Linda Kirkpatrick, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Rusty McCall, Karen McGuire, Pat Meade, Chuck Milner, Glenn Moreland, Joel Nelson, Nika Nordbrock, Biscuits O’Bryan, Ray Owens, Terra Peters, Jean Prescott, Mike Querner, Randy Rieman, Chris Roach, Dan Roberts, Matt Skinner, Red Steagall, Gail Steiger, Michael Stevens, Rod Taylor, Texas Sand, Washtub Jerry, Andy Wilkinson and Jim Wilson.  

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Chris Roach and Doris Daley



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