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The following reviews of Cowboy Poetry, storytelling, and some Western Music are written by Margo Metegrano, managing editor at  CowboyPoetry.com.

We select books and recordings to review from new publications and releases of those poets not competing for the Lariat Laureate. For those poets competing for the Lariat Laureate, we welcome reviews of their work by others.


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Below, the reviews are:

listed alphabetically by title

posted chronologically 






Alphabetically by title:

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On this page:


Arizona Herstory: Tales From Her Storied Past Dee Stickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot)

Chuckwagon Cooking & Stories and Poems  Kent Rollins

Cowboys 'Round the Campfire Cattleman's Trading Company (Larry Maurice, Les Buffham, 
Dave Stamey, and Sourdough Slim) 

'Fore the Coming of the Wire Charlie Camden

Hot Biscuits Max Evans and Candy Moulton, editors

I Was Born in the Night But Not Last Night Ellie Corrigan  

My Home on the Range  Yvonne Hollenbeck

No Borders British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS)  

Smarten Up, and Put Your Hat Back On! Mike Puhallo & Matt Johnston

Time Not Measured by a Clock Carole Jarvis

Where Prairie Flowers Bloom Yvonne Hollenbeck

Where the Buffalo Rhyme, Dakota Cowboy Poetry  Elizabeth Ebert, Yvonne Hollenbeck, 
Rodney Nelson, and Jess Howard with Jim Thompson

Why the Cowboy Sings Hal Cannon and Taki Teldonis, producers 

The Verse & the Voice, Reflections of the West Jim Thompson

Yep, a Little Bit More of Texas Rod Nichols


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  Where the Buffalo Rhyme, Dakota Cowboy Poetry  Elizabeth Ebert, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rodney Nelson, and Jess Howard with Jim Thompson

Can you tell a CD by it's cover?  Where the Buffalo Rhyme shows the faces of Elizabeth Ebert, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jess Howard and Rodney Nelson expertly chiseled into Mount Rushmore.  Baxter Black gets credit for the title.  That's the beginning, and a strong indication of what's inside.

I'll gladly go out on a limb and say Where the Buffalo Rhyme, Dakota Cowboy Poetry, is one of the funniest CDs ever. I'm not alone. Everyone I talk to who has heard it has the same reaction. Recorded live at the Boss Cowman Opry in Lemmon, South Dakota, the CD captures a show that stars four top poets, with well known radio personality Jim Thompson as emcee.

Things get off to a great start with Yvonne Hollenbeck's "What Would Martha Do?," a poem that has become as well known as its notorious namesake.  She has five more pieces, all winners. In any other crowd, Jess Howard (who also has the dubious distinction of being funnyman and AWA Poet of the Year Pat Richardson's brother) would be a hard act to follow with his jokes, perfect delivery, and tall poetic tales like "Duckin' the Law." AWA Female Poet of the Year (2001) Elizabeth Ebert is up to it, though. Her mastery of understatement mixed with humor creates memorable stories about her ranching life and her husband of 57 years; "Ranch Romance" and "It Takes Real Love" ("...to kiss a man whose whiskers poke and scratch, whose morning breath smells just like eggs, last year's that didn't hatch..." ) stand out in particular.  Rodney Nelson, North Dakota rancher, long-time Elko participant and popular columnist, rounds out this great group with a selection of his funniest poems, including "Getting Started," a classic "Honey, do you have a minute" poem, and "Cowboy Laundry."

This CD and these poets set a new standard for quality in performing and recording production.  They are all the real deal and real poets. The generous 19 tracks in this flat-out hilarious CD are guaranteed to leave you smiling.

Where the Buffalo Rhyme, Dakota Cowboy Poetry, is available for $15 postpaid from any of the poets, and from SilverCreek Books and Music at http://www.silvercreekmusic.com

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in April, 2004 
A version of this review appeared in the March/April, 2004 edition Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists


You can read some of Yvonne Hollenbeck's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

You can read some of Jess Howard's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

You can read some of Rodney Nelson's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

You can read some of Elizabeth Ebert's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

You can read about the Cowboy Opry at CowboyPoetry.com:

You can read about Jim Thompson at CowboyPoetry.com:

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
February, 2004


  The Verse & the Voice, Reflections of the West by Jim Thompson

Popular radio and rodeo broadcaster Jim Thompson, host of "Live With Jim Thompson!" and "Heritage of the American West" is a great fan and supporter of Cowboy Poetry, writes a bit of it himself now and then, and recites it often, with a voice that draws in the listener like a powerful magnet.

Now he's embarked on a project to record some of the best poetry by the best poets, and who better to start with than his friend and top poet Yvonne Hollenbeck, whose poetry is showcased in the first CD, "The Verse & the Voice, Reflections of the West." While Hollenbeck has her own award-winning recordings (her "My Home on the Range" won the AWA's Will Rogers Award last year for Best Cowboy Poetry Recording) Jim Thompson has such a feel for her work that even familiar poems are heard in a brand new light, illuminated by his powerful delivery and special nuance.

He's selected some of her most well known poems, both the humorous, such as "Baxter's Famous Column," and "The Heinous Husband Award," and the serious, such as "Where Prairie Flowers Bloom," and "The Auction Sale."  Thompson handles the "ranch wife" poetry selections well, and helps show what makes Hollenbeck so popular: those poems appeal as much to men as women, poems such as "Why Debbie Quit Day Workin'" and "A Plain ol' Ranchwife."  There are real treasures in some of the lesser known but excellent poems, such as "The Fiddler," about her 89 year old champion fiddler father Harry Hanson and "Some Cattle Man," a tribute to a local rancher.  Thompson adds interesting introductions to many of the poems, often tying them together as neatly as one of Yvonne Hollenbeck's prize-winning quilts, a further display of his understanding and admiration of Hollenbeck's work.

The generous 21 tracks in this inspired collaboration are a perfect marriage of  "the verse and the voice."  Listeners will be looking forward to the next in the series.

"The Verse & the Voice, Reflections of the West" CD is available for $15 from: Creative Broadcast Services, Inc.; 125 Colorado Blvd. Suite 2E; PO Box 1101;  Spearfish, SD 57783  605/722-2511

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in June, 2004 
A version of this review appeared in the March/April, 2004 edition Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists

You can read some of Yvonne Hollenbeck's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

You can read about Jim Thompson at CowboyPoetry.com:

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
February, 2004


  Yep, a Little Bit More of Texas by Rod Nichols

Poet Rod Nichols is back with a new CD of his Cowboy Poetry, "Yep, a Little Bit More of Texas."  It's welcome news, and a fine followup to his 2002 book, "A Little Bit of Texas," which won the AWA Will Rogers Medallion Award. His well-crafted poetry celebrates the American Cowboy and his inspired humorous pieces ride comfortably alongside sincere tales of the spiritual life, all delivered with a natural ease.

There are many winning tracks, including "Headin' In," a poem that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor used in her book about growing up on the Lazy B Ranch; "A Little More Rope," that shows off nimble wordsmithing in a Cowboy's "shoulda, woulda, coulda" tale; and the poem that possibly inspired the title, "Yep," a humorous modern classic that paints a perfect picture of
"Cowboy communication."

Nichols' warm and easy recitations draw in the listener, and the well selected occasional music by "Lonesome" Greg Lowry makes for a nice package, all around.  The CD was produced by poet Lloyd Shelby. The twenty original poems on this recording celebrate Nichols' love of the West, Cowboy life, and of course, his native Texas. This Lone Star poet does his state -- and Cowboy Poetry -- proud.

"Yep, a Little Bit More of Texas" The CD is available for $15 postpaid from Rod Nichols, PO Box 215, 6140 Hwy 6, Missouri City, Texas 77459

You can read some of Rod Nichols' poetry at CowboyPoetry.com

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in March, 2004 
A version of this review appeared in the March/April, 2004 edition Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists


Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
February, 2004



Time Not Measured by a Clock by Carole Jarvis

In Carole Jarvis's long-awaited book, Time Not Measured by a Clock, she tenders her world and her experiences in impressive prose and poetry -- and every word rings true. Whether she is telling a humorous ranch-wife story or waxing poetic about the land, her knowledge and honesty lay a firm foundation for engaging work. Her memorable tales leave you feeling that you've shared her well-lived days.

Jarvis grew up riding in the Southern California orange groves and fields that gave way to what is Disneyland today. She was raised on matinee Westerns and longed for "a ranch, a cowboy, and a horse."  After that cowboy (or his horse, maybe) swept her off her feet, she left the worlds of make-believe for years of cowboying and ranching across the West.

One of her best known poems, "I'm Glad I Still Live With There's Cowboys" gets the collection off to a strong start, and its last stanza shows where the heart of her writing begins: "'...cause they're men on good terms with life.  And in them, the spirit of the West still lives; I should know, I'm a cowboy's wife."  Another, "The Home Ranch," addresses even deeper roots: "It could be in Montana or Idaho...the sandhills of Nebraska, Utah's red rocks, Arizona's wide-open ranges..." because in all of those places "Life out there means cattle, and horses and land, and the ranchers who still meet the test, Because somewhere, ever, even as today, they remain the soul of the West." Complementing those poems, "Winter Years," a prose piece, is a polished gem, an exceptional view of what's "inside" a cowboy.

Jarvis moves expertly and effortlessly among moods and styles, at ease with humor as well as quiet reflection.  "Lovin' the Life They're Livin'" is a tribute to working cowboys, written as only someone who has served countless meals to hands and who respects them and their ways could.  "A Cowdog's Life" takes a creative look at ranch life from a fresh, four-legged perspective. "Catch" is a heart rending poem about a hard-working cowhorse, from his catch colt beginnings to the day he's turned out to pasture. "His Only Son" is a touching poem originally written during the Vietnam War, and is as relevant today as it was then. In "Curse on It!," her visiting mother, new to life among cowhands, gets an education and a broadened vocabulary.

Jarvis's writing often sparkles with humor, particularly in its descriptions of day-to-day ranch life as seen from a ranch wife's point of view. "Attention Ranching and Farming Wives!" captures some of her hard-earned wisdom in its "night school courses" for women who are "married to, or thinking of becoming, the wife of a cowboy, rancher, or farmer" with course offerings from "Creative Hairstyles" to "How to Make $1000.00 or More a Year Profit in Ranching."  Classes are held on Sundays, from 11PM to 3AM, "the most likely time women interested in these subjects could make the class."

"Payin' Attention" captures some of the natural differences in perspective between a working ranch couple. He says: "I told ya' once, it's the second gate, and leave the dang thing open! Close the one with the fingertrap; that's where they'll water -- I'm hopin'." But she sees more than fence and cattle, and other things capture her attention: "... above me there's a red-tail hawk, and I watch him circle and soar,  Then into the wind he dips and turns, with the grace of a matador."  The work gets done, though each would tell about their day differently.

Her husband, Dan Jarvis, does get his say in this book.  He was the cowboy on that shining black filly who rode into her life over forty-five years ago. His four solid poems of cowboy life add fitting counterpoint to the collection.

The book ends with moving observations in the story of "When the Time Comes to Leave" and its eloquent companion poem, "Leaving the Homeplace," where "...what remains of what used to be, are memories, shadows, and space."

There are nearly 50 pieces in this well crafted book, along with photographs and sensitive illustrations by Larry Bute that unfailingly match the spirit of the writing. In the foreword, Gary Vorhes, retired editor-in-chief of Western Horseman, praises Jarvis's poetry, and says that when it was received at the magazine, it "fit us like a warm coat on a cold morning."  The book is published by Cowboy Miner Productions, and reflects their usual high standards. 

Time Not Measured by a Clock is available for $19.95 postpaid from Carole Jarvis, 43909 West Highway 60, Wickenburg, Arizona 85390 and on-line from www.CowboyShowcase.com/cowboypoetry4.htm.

You can read some of Carole Jarvis's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
December, 2003

A version of this review appears at Amazon.com
A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in January, 2004 
A version of this review appeared in the January/February, 2004 edition Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists




Arizona Herstory: Tales from Her Storied Past by Dee Strickland Johnson (Buckshot Dot)

Dee Strickland Johnson's new book, Arizona Herstory:Tales from Her Storied Past, is an impressive work that celebrates the history of her beloved native state with careful scholarship, captivating tales, and no small amount of humor.

Her expertly crafted, engaging stories in verse never speak in a detached historian's voice, but rather through the colorful and convincing words of the native people, vaqueros, soldiers, cowboys, outlaws, sheriffs, mule skinners, chuckwagon cooks, and settlers who populate this book.  She brings the past alive vibrantly, and this unique volume delivers a panoramic view of the history and the settlement of the West.

Nearly 60 poems appear in chronological groupings.  Those in the "Heroes and Hard Cases" chapter are full of Old West excitement. "Johnny Behind the Deuce" tells of a little known episode in Wyatt Earp's life, which the author says many historians view as his finest hour. There's the story of "The Rhyming Robber" and cowboy W. R. "Red" McNeill, who in taunting his victims with verse was perhaps was inspired by Black Bart.  Johnson, with her signature wit, writes in a footnote (they are all worth reading) "Some of Red's verses have been slighted edited for meter.  I am sure he could have done as well himself but, after all, he was often pressed for time." In the amusing and quick-moving tale of "one of the most notorious cattle rustlers and elusive prisoners in northern Arizona territory, "Climax Jim," nicknamed for the famous chewing tobacco, puts his habit to good use during a courtroom appearance.

In the "Just Plain Folks" chapter, one moving and timeless poem is "Shadows," narrated by a weary rebel soldier who heads west seeking work and comes to some profound realizations about war and the men he used to fight against, saying "...they'd risk hell for my damn sake/ And I fight as hard beside 'em, battlin' cows in wild stampede / As I used to fight agin' 'em -- just 'cause someone said I needed."  "Belle of the Bar" is the intriguing tale of the baby who appears among the gamblers on Prescott's Whiskey Row, and is won with a roll of the dice.

Several poems concern the "Them Hash Knife Cowboys," the Aztec Land and Cattle Company that went from Texas to Arizona in 1885.  The poem of that name tells how some of the Arizona cattlemen changed from their Spanish (California) methods and took on Texas ways: "They looked at our long tapaderos / That flip-flapped and flopped as we rode; / Called us "chaps, taps and latigo straps" / And it wasn't too long till we'd stowed / Our seventy-foot long reatas / Away with the rest of our gear. / We just gave up takin' our dallies, / All tied hard and fast in a year."

One chapter holds legends, lore, myths, "lies told as practical jokes,
" and finally, "unlikely stories told as fact," those latter two categories having particularly creatively told tales.  One gem is "Stilt Stock Stampede," which is said to be based on an accident during an ostrich stampede in 1914. Johnson dedicates this poem to "the brothers Cook"; Jim Cook is the "Official State Liar of Arizona," who she writes "has graciously suspended his Liar's commission when supplying information for this book."  Other fun poems in this section include "Cyclone Bill's Big Windy" and "Swap Me a Biscuit."

There's a glimpse of Johnson's own history in several poems in the "Later History: 20th Century" chapter.  A poignant note after her poem "Two Old Hash Knife Cowboys," about two kind old hands who told her stories and were an audience for her cowboy songs when she was a girl, tells "Much later I learned that [one] had explained his kindness to me with these words: "Poor little devil; she ain't got no mama."

The multi-talented  Johnson (also known as "Buckshot Dot") is a recipient of the AWA's Best Female Poet award) and is a sought-after performer, singer, and artist. The book includes her distinctive scratch board illustrations, many inspired by historical photographs and with subjects as varied as Wyatt Earp, Sharlot Hall, and the Yuma Indians of 1800.

For reciters, there are some "performance cut" versions of a number of poems, particularly crafted for stage delivery. Those interested in  history will be further gratified by the well-researched timelines, footnotes, maps and bibliography. Others who simply appreciate good writing and engaging tale spinning will be equally pleased with this large collection of entertaining tales in verse. This is one of those lasting volumes that you can give as a gift to most anyone, and one that you'll be glad to have in your own library.

Arizona Herstory: Tales from Her Storied Past, hardcover, published by the respected Cowboy Miner Productions, is available for $24.45 postpaid from Buckshot Dot Enterprises, HC 3 Box 593F, Payson, Arizona  85541 (928) 474-8305

You can read some of Dee Strickland Johnson's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
October, 2003

A version of this review appears at Amazon.com
A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in November, 2003 
A version of this review appeared in the November/December, 2003 edition Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists


My Home on the Range by Yvonne Hollenbeck

Yvonne Hollenbeck describes herself as a "South Dakota cattleman's wife" and her latest CD, My Home on the Range, opens the door on her ranching life in poems expertly crafted with her unique blend of humor and wisdom.

Hollenbeck is a popular entertainer at gatherings (she received a rare standing ovation at Elko in 2003) and this CD includes some of her best performance pieces.  The recording received the AWA's 2003 Best Poetry CD Will Rogers Award and it reflects her exacting standards and sets a high bar for future recipients.  Harry Hanson's fiddle makes gentle connections among the poems, and her natural, careful recitations make it clear why she took away the top prizes in both humorous and serious divisions at the recent Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Kanab, Utah.

"Rebel Rouser" is a long, funny, satisfying story with a moral and more turns than the ranch couple's wild ride on what is to be "a nice vacation." The husband's mid-life crisis gets the best of him as he grows his hair, gets a motorcycle, and takes his wife off to the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Everyone lives happily ever after, but in a way that only this inventive poet could imagine.  In "Cowboy Fashion Show," the commentator eventually discovers that it's her own husband whose "wife must never patch...His poor old hat is filthy and badly out of shape./ His boots would be in pieces if it wasn't for Duct Tape."  "Oh No!" reveals the one thing that no ranch wife must ever do.

Her poems always reflect the ranching realities and necessities of partnership and community, which are sometimes accompanied by some sort of sacrifice. In "Mother's Day Branding," which she laments is always the day of their neighbor's annual branding, she thinks she's at least made her point when she threatens to leave her husband alone the next Father's Day: "But when I thought I'd won the war, he winked and grinned at me / and said that there's a roping and that's where he'd probably be." It's a story from her "real life":  If her champion calf roping husband Glen didn't say it, he probably thought it.

There's a serious -- but always entertaining -- side to her work, too. Hollenbeck's great-grandfather arrived in the Dakotas with the Texas trail herds, and she has firmly bloomed where her past was planted. Several poems honor her pioneering ancestors, including the Red Steagall favorite, "The Little Red Geranium"; and "Unsung Heroes" and "The Old Folks."  The CD also includes a poignant story of friendship with a modern setting, "The Auction Sale."

This poet has it all:  humor, sensitivity, good writing, flawless delivery, and a rock-solid sense of place.  She invites you into her world on the prairie and after all the enjoyable listening, you find yourself looking forward to your next visit to her home on the range.

My Home on the Range is $12.00 postpaid, available from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549  291st Street, Clearfield, South Dakota 57580 605/557-3559 email 

You can read some of Yvonne Hollenbeck's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
October, 2003

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in October, 2003 
A version of this review appeared in the November/December, 2003 edition Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists



Cowboys 'Round the Campfire  featuring Larry Maurice, Les Buffham, Dave Stamey, and Sourdough Slim, produced by Cattleman's Trading Company

It's an inspired idea: the "best of the best" on one CD. Cowboys 'Round the Campfire; Music and Poetry of the American West showcases stellar performances by Dave Stamey, Larry Maurice, Sourdough Slim, and Les Buffham. Each of these entertainers has lived the life they write and sing about and the recording comes together with a perfect blend of talent and authenticity.

The first strains of AWA and WMA award-winning musician Dave Stamey's "Buckaroo Man" immediately draw you in to this Western celebration. An impressive singer and songwriter, his unsentimental anthems to Western life are finely crafted, and the wisdom of his experience comes through in his sincere delivery. The whole CD would be worth having just for his "Montana," which pays homage to his native state.

Cowboy, horse wrangler, packer, poet, and storyteller Larry Maurice further sets the mood with "Cow Camp Symphony" and "The Journey" and you nearly feel the warmth of the campfire. He does an energetic rendition of S. Omar Barker's "Purt Near" and fine performances of his original works, including "The Legacy," a poetic salute to the American Cowboy.  Maurice is a recipient of the AWA's Will Rogers Award for Best Male Poet, and he and Stamey often perform together.

Sourdough Slim livens the pace with an upbeat interpretation of D. J. O'Malley's classic "When the Work's All Done this Fall," and follows as only he could with a great low down "Cowpuncher Blues." You never know what's next from Sourdough Slim, and that's a good part of the pleasure of listening to this versatile musician who has performed everywhere from Elko to Carnegie Hall, and who has received the AWA's Will Rogers Award for Best Yodeler.

Known for his humorous poetry as well as for his award-winning lyrics, Les Buffham gives one good performance after another, showing off his many talents. "Below the Kinney Rim," which he wrote with Mike Fleming, is a moving view of a vanishing way of life.  Buffham's signature wit is as sharp as ever in "The Auction Fly" and "Fascination."  Among other outstanding pieces is his "Belle of the Ball," made popular by others--like so much of his sought-after work--but his own touching delivery is unmatched.  The CD ends with another Buffham/Fleming gem, "Cowboy Blessing."

This generous helping of entertainment was produced by Cattleman's Trading Company, which offers a line of food products under the Chuckwagon's Best trademark (coffee, flour, corn meal, beef strips and more). The company is the brainchild of former Republic Pictures President Bob Sigman, who has combined his boyhood enthusiasm for the West and a grown-up appreciation of Western arts and cooking to create a fast-growing company.

If the ingredients in those products are as fresh and select as the music, poetry, and stories on this CD, the company has a bright future.  Every one of the 22 carefully selected tracks is a winner in this tribute to the Cowboy and the American West.  Cowboys 'Round the Campfire is available for $14.95 postpaid from Cattleman's Trading Company, P.O. Box 8044, Charlottesville, Virginia 22906 www.chuckwagonsbest.com


You can read some of Larry Maurice's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

You can read some of Kent Rollins' poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:


Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
June, 2003

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in August, 2003 


Chuckwagon Cooking by Kent Rollins


Stories and Poems by Kent Rollins

If you find yourself headed for that proverbial desert island and can take only one thing, quick, grab Kent Rollins.  He can entertain you with his stories and poetry, and he can cook!  His new book, Chuckwagon Cooking from The Red River Ranch is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, and his "Stories and Poems" tape is the perfect accompaniment.

Kent Rollins runs a cattle operation and catering business, has been named AWA Storyteller/Humorist of the year, AWA Chuckwagon Cook of the Year, and is the Official Oklahoma State Chuckwagon Cook. If you haven't had the luck to meet him in person at his 1876 Studebaker Chuckwagon, you may have seen him on the Food Network, QVC, or the Family Channel.

The book's recipes cover breakfast to dessert, with some great standouts including Sourdough Cornbread, Hash Brown Potato Casserole, and Aunt Ola's Chocolate Cake, which the author first made when he was 9 years old. The book has a selection of Rollin's photographs that capture the beauty and mood of the places he roams and of his cooking gear. The well made book includes poetry, tales, musings on meals, and useful primers on cast iron and coffee, "the most important part of any ranch meal."

There's an enthusiastic foreword from QVC videographer Paul B. Kelley who spent time on the trail with Rollins ("Have you ever had a meal that everyone agreed was at the top of their all-time list...a meal that is consistently held up as the holy grail of mealdom? That was what we experienced that night under the Oklahoma stars..."); words from his friend, cowboy and poet Leon Autrey; and from the book's editor who spent time in Rollins' "Cook Camp" ("It was the most peaceful, and good-for-soul camping I'd ever done.").

Kent Rollins mixes words as well as ingredients, and his tape, Stories and Poems, would be a treat to listen to as you cook up his recipes for Chocolate Syrup and Sourdough Biscuits ("Most cowboys tell me 'we ain't never had that.' But after the first couple bites they figure out why I just make it on the last morning.")  Even if you're not cooking, you'll want to sit back and enjoy the tape's 16 original poems and stories and the occasional music of Snuffy Elmore and Steve Schick, which adds just the right amount of seasoning.

Rollins has a lot of hilarious tales, some with city dwellers and his wife's kinfolk as the focal points; some about cooking; some cowboying adventures such as "Cowboy Midwife"; and some about childhood antics such as "Ben Hur," which gets as vivid as the movie that inspired it.

In "Cowboy Midwife," a cowboy who has been assured he needs no horse or rope for a "gentle" heifer about the calve, becomes attached by OB chain to the calf and heifer and is whipped across pens and under fence posts, joined by an eager cow dog who "has never got to chase cattle with cowboys tied to 'em."  As they all head through an open gate into 160 acres of grub mesquite, the cowboy remembers a trick his Daddy taught him "that works on anything of the female species as long as you're wearing headgear... just turn that hat sidewise to where the brim is over lookin' where your ears were...they think you are lookin' in a different direction than what you are and they'll circle and go way wide..." There is no happy ending to that story.

In what could be a recollection from his own childhood, the kids in "Ben Hur," who get dropped off in town on Saturdays for a movie and have already "seen so many shoot-em-up Westerns that we'd killed nearly all the neighbors' chickens as well as mama's too," so they look for something new to inspire their later adventures at home. Impressed by Ben Hur's chariot and gear (except the "'little skirt'" deal") and the fact that even though "people was always chunkin' rocks and spears and everythin' at him" he was always the hero, the kids go home to make elaborate re-enactments of Ben Hur's exploits. They replace a wagon's front wheels with tricycle wheels; gather up ammunition to throw, which consists of "sail rabbits" and "sail possums" (road kill that has baked in the Oklahoma sun; the possum were better because they have "a hook tail and you can get more leverage when you throw 'em"); make that "little skirt" of baler twine and feed bags; and use a half watermelon that "the chickens had holed out a week ago" for a helmet, secured by a chin strap made from something found in mama's dresser drawer, with "padded ear protectors on both sides and sorta buckled there under your chin..."  The results would impress Cecil B. DeMille

Rollins has a serious side, too, and shows it in the poems about his beloved Red River, "The River," and "Springtime on the River" and in his respect for the past in "The Vision" and "12 Days Down the Trail."  There may be no finer tribute to a father's wisdom than "Horseshoes and Heaven," which is also in the cookbook, accompanied by a great vintage photo. 

It's hard to improve on Paul B. Kelley's description of Kent Rollins: "The man himself is a little magical, and he puts genuine cowboy love in everything he cooks, everything he does."  You'll be left with no doubt about any of that after enjoying his book and tape.  Chuckwagon Cooking from The Red River Ranch is $19.95 postpaid and Stories and Poems is $10 postpaid, available from Kent Rollins, Rt. 1, Box 318, Hollis, OK 73550 www.KentRollins.com

You can read more about Kent Rollins and some of his poetry here at CowboyPoetry.com.

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
June, 2003

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in July, 2003 


I Was Born in the Night But Not Last Night by Ellie Corrigan

Just the title of Ellie Corrigan's new CD, I Was Born in the Night But Not Last Night, gives you an idea of the entertainment inside.  A thoughtful poet with an engaging delivery, Corrigan covers many subjects and goes effortlessly from the reverent to the raucous, with listeners content to follow every word.  Selections on this CD include stories of her cowboying father and his friends, remembrances of her youth, and just plain fun tales.

This popular Idaho poet has never strayed far from where she was born, in a log cabin that was a stage coach stop and relay station in pioneer days.  And many of her themes stay close to the values passed down by her parents and the ranchers, cowboys, sheepherders, and strong women who made up her extended family. She says she writes about "a place and time where a handshake was all that was needed for a deal, children roamed free, loved and respected the soil, and life was hard but living was easy."

The first two poems are dedicated to Corrigan's father, and the opening lines of "Slim" are as sharp as a photograph: "I've an early recollection about a giant of a man/he was tall and straight and heavy, gentle heart and calloused hands."  History flows through many of her poems, and the epic "Charlie Jenson" is more than a local history; its wild horse herds and vivid descriptions embody the story of the West.  There's a sensitivity in many of the poems that echo the past, but her work is never overly sentimental.  Her story of "Listening for the Chains" transports you to that log cabin where she grew up, and you share in the anticipation as she hears mom and dad coming ever closer to home.

"Pack Rat" is among the several humorous selections that showcase her ability to spin an engaging tale. The poem looks at some young working cowboys sharing a cabin with a pack rat, from the rat's point of view: "They come home mean and on the fight and try to kill me every night." Another inventive poem, "Frisbee Cat," points out that country kids make do with what they have, and that the Frisbee has been around as long as rocks and balls: "Have you never seen a tomcat that's used up all his lives/ now he's flatter than a fritter and he's dryin' out real nice./ If his tail is still connected, and most the time they are/ then a kid can throw that kitty and sail him just as far." And that's just the beginning of their fun.

"Satan Stallion," a tale about the devil's rodeo challenge that has become her signature poem, is also now a song on Curly Musgrave's new CD, "The Heritage." A stirring recitation of "Taps," accompanied by one of the stories behind its writing lends a graceful end to the compilation.

Corrigan began writing Cowboy Poetry after attending the Elko gathering in 1987.  That event inspired her to start an annual gathering in Salmon, Idaho along with her sister Effie Corrigan and their aunt, Roberta Green.  She also wrote for the respected publication, "Boots," which was edited by her sister from 1991 until her untimely death in 1995.  Today Ellie Corrigan performs at events in and around her native Idaho.

I Was Born in the Night But Not Last Night was produced at Stanley Idaho's state-of-the-art Peach Creek Studio. The CD is available for $15 plus $1.80 postage ($2.50 outside US) from Ellie Corrigan, P.O. Box 569, Challis, Idaho 83226, 208-879-4483, butch@custertel.net

You can read some of Ellie Corrigan's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
June, 2003

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in July, 2003 

A version of this review was submitted to Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists


'Fore the Coming of the Wire by Charlie Camden

Charlie Camden and his new CD, 'Fore the Coming of the Wire defy conventional categorization.  Is it poetry, songs, or stories with backup music?  It's at least all three, frequently in innovative combinations. Charlie Camden is a master tale spinner, and whether he's talking or reciting or singing, you find yourself captivated by his storytelling gifts.

Camden's voice and delivery sound like something out of the past that he writes about. He imparts a sincere nostalgia for the open range and its adventure and challenges, and for the sometimes harder but often simpler ways of life. The title track transports you to the early cattle drives when "We were first to hear the longhorns bawl/ or to hear coosie's triangle ring/ late at night when the herd was quiet/ we could hear the nighthawk sing/ we would bed down close together/ by the embers of a sagebrush fire/ in the last good years/ 'fore the comin' of the Wire."

Camden gets you under his spell in his original yarns and poems and it's not hard to imagine the dusty old shop where "The Saddle" takes place ("perhaps no one alive in the world today knew the times that this saddle had seen") or to picture "Grandma" (the story of his own grandmother) who tells she "'was born in Eastern Montana, in 18 and 64/ in a two room cabin, with sod on the roof, the prairie was my floor.'" She traveled across the country in a wagon train, walking most of the way, knew Sioux and Crow and Jesse James. Camden honors her history and that of other pioneers in this rich poetic account.  "Let 'em Ride" is a hypnotic, dramatic piece, in which he conjures up the atmosphere of old West Texas and makes her ghosts come alive in this tale of a time "back when."

Six of the ten tracks are original lyrics by Camden, and the other well chosen tracks include a rendition of Brenn Hill's "Bitter Creek" and Henry Herbert Knibbs' "Where the Ponies Come to Drink."

Even unaccompanied, the selections on this CD would be powerful, but Bodie Dominquez's sensitive music and collaboration skillfully tie these pieces together. The obvious depth of connection between these two artists makes 'Fore the Coming of the Wire a complete, imaginative listening experience and an enchanting trip back in time.

Camden and his wife Kathy produce the annual Lewis and Clark Cowboy Poetry Entertainment & Western Arts Festival in Lewiston, Idaho each February.  The festival draws some of the best talent from the U. S., Canada and Australia, and Charlie Camden and Bodie Dominquez are equal draws, offering their top notch entertainment. 'Fore the Coming of the Wire is available for $12.50 postpaid from Charlie Camden, PO Box 208, Nez Perce, ID 83543, (208-937-2352) allwest@cybrquest.com

You can read some of Charlie Camden's poetry and stories at CowboyPoetry.com:

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
June, 2003

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in June, 2003 

A version of this review was submitted to Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists


Smarten Up, and Put Your Hat Back On!, by Mike Puhallo & Matt Johnston

Veteran Cowboy Poet Mike Puhallo has teamed up with singer, songwriter, and musician Matt Johnston, a relative newcomer, to create an impressive recording that is pure cowboy:  "Smarten Up and Put Your Hat Back On."

The prolific Mike Puhallo delivers his work in a comfortable style with such ease that you wonder if he doesn't speak, count, and order his breakfast in verse. His wit and wisdom with fresh perspectives on ranching and current events is often delivered in short, polished pieces.  Poems such as "Cowboy's Guide to Gravity" (about shoeing), "Like Wow...Man," and "Hurling Defecation" (only he could do it with such style) leave you with a lasting smile. "Not Another Bear Roping Story?" is worth adding to all the others, and "In the Beginning" and "Vancouver" are good examples of his wacky imagination. Yet another side of Puhallo's talent takes you to the heart of matters in sensitive poems, often about horses, such as "Babies," "Cinnamon," and his modern classic, "Sacred Orb," which shines brightly among the 23 original poems on this recording.

Matt Johnston makes his living as a farrier, starts colts, and is an apprentice saddlemaker. Though this is his debut recording, his accomplished acoustic guitar and harmonica playing along with a beckoning voice that draws you into his complex and interesting songs show his natural talent and a long practice in his art.  Once you hear the lonely sounds of his harmonica in the first track's beautiful ballad, "She's Only a Dream," you'll be hooked.  Among the other seven versatile, original songs are "When the Last Calf Hits the Ground," "Driftin' On," and the title track, "Put Your Hat Back On," about the making of a boy into a man. Johnston was nominated for the Rising Star Award by the Academy of Western artists last year and his star is destined to soar with this recording.

The careful arrangement and sequence of poems and songs make for fluid listening pleasure. Other fine musicians provide backup in this smooth recording:  Ray Goguen on bass, acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, steel guitar and back-up vocals; Mike Olexson on acoustic guitar and mandolin; Curly West on fiddle and steel guitar; and Frankie Schmidt on back-up vocals.

Puhallo's humor and keen observations and Johnston's heartfelt cowboy songs stay with you long after the last of the generous 31 tracks has finished. "Smarten Up and Put Your Hat Back On" is a model of collaboration that is sure to inspire similar recordings, though it will be hard to match the quality of this one and the perfect pairing of these two large talents.

Bud Webb at Shadow Mountain Music (www.shadowmountainmusic.com) produced "Smarten Up and Put Your Hat Back On," and it is available for $17 (CD) and $14 (tape) postpaid from: Twilight Ranch Productions,  RR # 1 site  8 comp 9, Kamloops BC Canada   V2B 8P6 (250) 579 -5667, www.twilightranch.com.

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
February, 2003

You can read some of Mike Puhallo's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com: 

A version of this review was printed in the March/April 2003  Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in March, 2003


No Borders by the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS)

The "No Borders" video from the British Columbia Cowboy Heritage Society (BCCHS) offers an inspiring example of how people can do good and have a good time doing it.

When neighbors need help, ranchers rally, and the recent drought -- the worst in seven decades -- brought out some exceptional models of that spirit.  Last year when horses, cattle, and livelihoods were in critical danger, the extraordinary "Hay West Campaign" was launched.  This Canadian effort knew no borders, as the provinces from the Atlantic to the Pacific came together to help those in need, with U.S. neighbors also joining in the effort.  Donations of hay, pasture land, boarding space, and funds saved the lives of countless horses and livestock, and saved farms and ranches.

The BCCHS  "No Borders" concert in Kamloops raised funds for the Hay West Campaign, and now that talent-packed evening is available for all to enjoy on video.  Top performers gathered, including Mike Puhallo, Dave Longworth, Danny Mack, Butch Falk, Lynn Shook, Matt Johnston, Frank Gleeson, Roxanne Hall, and Kraig Jodrey. Some of the standouts are the music of Butch Falk and Danny Mack (particularly his "Canada Cowboy" ) and the poetry of Mike Puhallo. Puhallo's recitation of his "Man in the Moon" -- ever more poignant now in light of the recent space shuttle disaster -- is a testament to camaraderie among cowboys and to the power of both nature and man.

Along with the entertainment, the "No Borders" video mixes images of ranches and scenery in a thoughtful way that helps the viewer remember what was at stake and what brought this great group of talent together. And their good works continue: Proceeds from the video now go to the BCCHS scholarship program, which is awarded to student writers and artists who best depict the
value of western and cowboy heritage in their work.  "No Borders" is $20 plus postage and handling.  Contact BCCHS for details at: Cowboys@bcchs.com, 888-763-2224, or visit their information-filled web site at: http://www.bcchs.com

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
February, 2003

You can read some of Mike Puhallo's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com: 

A version of this review was printed in the March/April 2003  Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists


Hot Biscuits co-edited by Max Evans and Candy Moulton

hotbiscuits.jpg (44025 bytes)

The true West lies far from Hollywood and the racks of romanticized genre novels.  It's a place every bit as compelling as the reel version, though its story is told much less frequently.  So for those who care about the real ranching West, it should be front-page news that Max Evans, the celebrated author of some of the most authentic Western writing (The Rounders, The Hi-Lo Country) joined with Candy Moulton, respected writer and editor, to co-edit the new book, Hot Biscuits.

The writers in this collection of short stories had to pass a strict credentials test:  men had to have at least five years of paid ranch hand experience and women had to have been double hire-outs for that period or raised on ranches.  The qualified writers' stories result in a wide variety of unique tales that touch every aspect of the trials, challenges, and joys of cowboying and ranching life. Despite the originality of each story, almost every one has one thing in common with the others: hot biscuits, the staple of life that the editors realized showed up so often that it became the book's catchy title.

Since Cowboy Poetry often tells the tales of the real ranching life, it is not surprising that several of the best stories are penned by the five writers who are also top Cowboy Poets (Virginia Bennett, Sally Bates, Gwen Peterson, Helen C. Avery, and Willard Hollopeter). Virginia Bennett's "Nightwatch" is a nearly cinematic ghost tale with well drawn characters and a plot that grips the reader more tightly with each word. Its ending is...well...pure poetry. The "spook" in Sally Bates' "Spooky Cook" has to do with a horse, not a ghost, and her perfectly wrought description of "just another day" in a ranch wife's life says more about cowboys than anything you could learn from the big screen.

J. P. S. Brown, who has been a cowboy "all but three of his seventy-one years" finds a way to get the soul of a cowboy on paper in his "Cowboys Fly."  For all of those "Why would you want to be a cowboy?" questioners, his story has the answer.  The packer in Slim Randle's "Night Ride" says "A string like this one, on a moonlit night, alone, can earn a packer a doctorate in this unique craft," and the writer's own High Sierra packing experience shines through. But his expertise in the also unique craft of writing brings forth descriptions that you remember long after finishing the rewarding story, such as a night that is "another gem in the necklace of life" and the observation "There is an unspoken holiness in silence."

Co-editors Max Evans and Candy Moulton each have stories, and Evans' introduction "To the Wonder of Reality" and Moulton's afterword "Cowboy Truths" are thoughtful and impassioned bookends to these satisfying stories.  Other contributors include Elaine Long, Sinclair Browning, Lori Van Pelt, Gram Lee, Dick Hyson, Taylor Fogarty, Curt Brummett, Jimbo Brewer, and Paula Paul.

In a perfect world, this groundbreaking collection would open up opportunities for the publication of more stories of the real West, not by those who imagine it, but by those who live it.  Hot Biscuits' depth and variety entertains in countless ways as it achieves the important, crucial need to preserve authentic stories of an endangered way of life.

Hot Biscuits is published by the University of New Mexico Press, $24.95, ISBN: 0-8263-2889-X, available from all bookstores.

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
September, 2002

You can read:

Excerpts from the book's introduction by Max Evans here.

Virginia Bennett's poetry here:  http://www.cowboypoetry.com/vibennett.htm
Sally Bates' poetry here:  http://www.cowboypoetry.com/sallyharperbates.htm

A version of this review was printed in the November/December 2002  Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in October, 2002

A version of this review appears at WorkingCowboy.com


Why the Cowboy Sings, produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Teldonis

Why the Cowboy Sings is a new video produced by Hal Cannon, the founding Director of the Western Folklife Center and its National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko, Nevada and his associate Taki Teldonis.

The film premiered in January 2002 as a signature event of the Salt Lake City Olympics, and has been awarded a Rocky Mountain Emmy and a Gold Special Jury Award at the Houston Film Festival. The video features songwriter Stephanie Davis; the great traditional Cowboy singer, songwriter, and rancher Glen Ohrlin; Crow Indian Cowboy and poet Henry Real Bird; and Nevada Ranchers Larry and Toni Schutte. The lyrical introduction lets you in on the deep roots of Hal Cannon's love for Cowboy music and displays some footage of the earliest National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko, Nevada. As more contemporary shots of some of the Elko stars are shown -- such as Linda Hussa, Paul Zarzyski, and Wallace McRae -- Hal Cannon asks Waddie Mitchell: "Why does the cowboy sing?"  Waddie responds:  "Why does a frog croak?"

The film blossoms to show the profundity underlying the humor of that response. The in-depth pieces with the featured subjects shed some light on why the cowboy sings, but perhaps even more importantly, they show an authentic portrait of the people of the real West.

The video is available for $ 19.95 plus $3 shipping from the Western Folklife Center Store P.O. Box 1570 Elko, NV 89803, 888/880-5885


You can read more about Why the Cowboy Sings at CowboyPoetry.com: 

The Western Folklife Center web site is: http://www.westernfolklife.org

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
September, 2002

A version of this review was printed in the November/December 2002  Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists


Where Prairie Flowers Bloom and Other Poems, by Yvonne Hollenbeck

Yvonne Hollenbeck's Where the Prairie Flowers Bloom and Other Poems is one of those rare reading experiences where the whole becomes even greater than the sum of its gem-like parts. This collection of poetry, stories, and photos conveys the tales of western prairie settlers and their modern day ranch family counterparts, and the reader comes away with a nearly cinematic sense of place.

A generous sprinkling of accounts by pioneers and their descendants bring alive the spirit of the prairie settlers, with many memorable images: "We lived in a sod house...burned cow chips, wood and some coal..."; "We had to put kickers on some of the cows, but as a rule we just set down and milked them wherever we found them."; "There was not such a word as can't in my mother's vocabulary..."; "I made a necklace out of a lot of the rattles I had cut off the snakes I killed," accompanied by a photo of the spirited young girl (the author's mother-in-law) and her horse Topsy.

Other vintage photos complement the prose and poetry: a team cutting sod for a new dwelling, a bleak 1915 winter funeral procession, a 1935 dust storm, a peddler who calls on the isolated ranch women who rarely get to "town." 

The poetry is the heart of the book, where the patches of stories and photos -- like the quilts for which Yvonne Hollenbeck is also known -- come together in one perfectly stitched work. Red Steagall has read her poems on his weekly radio show, including "Where The Sweetest Grasses Grow," a tribute to Kyle Evans that was also used in a memorial tribute by Chris LeDoux, and  "The Little Red Geranium," an inspirational portrait of the connections shared among pioneer families.

The contemporary poetry focuses on the trials and joys of modern ranching, and Hollenbeck writes with honesty and humor in such poems as "The Saga of the Septic Tank," "Needin' a Pull," "Mortgage One Good Wife," and "The Cowboy Fashion Show."  In the latter, the narrator observes the appearances of the cowboys heading toward her kitchen after a branding, particularly critical of "the last one, my...his wife must never patch...His poor old hat is filthy and is badly out of shape/ His boots would be in pieces if it wasn't for Duct Tape.../Then I recognize the buckle "Champion Roper '64"/ Why it's Glen, my dear sweet husband that comes walking through the door!"

This beautifully produced volume captures the sweep of time.  Yvonne Hollenbeck has been featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada and will appear there again in 2003.  Where the Prairie Flowers Bloom and Other Poems is $15.00 postpaid, available from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549  291st Street, Clearfield, South Dakota 57580 605/557-3559 geetwo@gwtc.net

You can read some of Yvonne Hollenbeck's poetry at CowboyPoetry.com:


Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
August, 2002

A version of this review appeared in the Sep/Oct 2002 issue of Rope Burns, a publication of the Academy of Western Artists

A version of this review appeared at the Wyoming Companion in September, 2002

A version of this review appears at WorkingCowboy.com







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