photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Kanab, Utah 2005

 

Below

Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007

Special Words from Colen Sweeten III 

Tributes 

Funeral program   

Generations of family photos  separate page

More...


Your remembrances are welcome. Email us.

Colen Sweeten Memorial Scholarship

 



photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Kanab, Utah 2005

 

Colen Sweeten, a friend and a favorite to all who knew him, died August 15, 2007. He was survived by his wife of 63 years, Ruth, and a loving family. [Ruth Sweeten died March 21, 2009.]

Colen Sweeten had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he "wasn't even using them all."  He will be missed terribly, leaving a hole in the hearts of many.

Colen participated in every National Cowboy Poetry Gathering except one. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was the recipient of the American West Heritage Pioneer Skill Preservation award, presented to him by Michael Martin Murphey at the Festival of the American West in 2004. He was honored with the Esto Perpetua Award from the Idaho Historical Society in 2005.

Read more about Colen and some of his poetry in our feature here.

You can write to Colen's family at: 286 S. 1700 E., Springville, UT 84663.

 


photo courtesy of Colen Sweeten III
Colen Sweeten
Bryce Canyon

Following is an obituary received from the Sweeten family:

Colen H. Sweeten Jr., formerly of Malad, passed away from cancer on August 15, 2007 in his home in Springville, Utah.

Colen was born January 11, 1919 in Lewisville, Idaho to Colen H. and Mary Ann Casper Sweeten of Holbrook, Idaho. He attended school in Holbrook and Malad and graduated from high school in 1938 in Malad, Idaho. From 1940 to 1942 he served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in southern California. There he met his future wife, Ruth Gerber, who was also serving a mission at the time. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 29, 1944 while Colen was on furlough from the U.S. Army where he served as a radar operator in southern California during W.W. II.

Colen spent his early years farming in the Holbrook Valley and was also the Oneida County Clerk, Auditor and Recorder from November 1957 to January 1978. Colen and Ruth raised their family in Malad and then lived for nine years in Boise, Idaho where they both worked and retired. They moved to Springville in December of 2000.

Colen was a member of the L.D.S. Church and held many positions including that of Bishop of the Malad Fourth Ward.

Colen was a noted speaker and historian but the role closest to his heart was that of Cowboy Poet. He was a member of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho and Utah and has published five books of poetry. He received many awards for his work including the Idaho “Governor’s Millennial Award for Excellence in the Arts,” in the year 2000; the Idaho State Historical Society’s 2005 “Esto Perpetua Award” for outstanding accomplishments in preserving Idaho’s heritage; the American West Heritage Foundation’s 2004 “Pioneer Skill Preservation Award;” the Cowboy Poets of Utah 2006 “Pioneer Heritage Award” and has been nominated for the National Commission on the Arts “Award for Excellence in Literature.”

Colen was preceded in death by his parents, three brothers: Owen, Lloyd and George; and three sisters; Mary, Nellie Christophersen and Florence Hubbard, his daughter, Jan Isom, her husband Charles, and their daughter, Jennifer. He is survived by his wife, Ruth Gerber Sweeten and their four children: Susan (Bill) Erickson, Pleasant Grove, Utah; Eileen Hess, Springville, Utah; Christine (Bryce) Goodwin, Orem, Utah; and Colen H. (Cindy) Sweeten III and one sister and three brothers: Fay (Steven) Cottle, Malad, Idaho; Elbert (Joyce) Sweeten Malad, Idaho; Cecil (Gloria) Sweeten, Malad, Idaho; and Garth (Diane) Sweeten of Logan, Utah, 15 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Funeral Services were Tuesday, August 21, 2007 at the Malad Stake Building in Malad, Idaho. Burial was in the Malad City Cemetery.


Special Words from Colen Sweeten III

 


photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Colen and his son, "Semi Colen" (Colen H. Sweeten III)
Cowboy Poets of Utah 2006 Tribute
 

We're honored to share the words of Colen's son, Colen H. Sweeten III:
I have wanted to post something to thank all of you for your kindness and love during this hard time, but found it hard to find the words to express myself. Thanks to you all...

Being the only son, needless to say, Dad and I were very close. I tell you I’m the luckiest of all, because he was my dad. I was blessed with a whole lifetime with him. I could fill volumes with the experiences together. He was a great example, my hero, my idol, and my ideal. Having him next door as my neighbor for the past 6 years has been a real treat. My kids have gotten to know him and Mom and the knowledge and wisdom that they have shared is an education I couldn’t have bought for them. He will be missed.

When my schedule permitted, I was able to attend many of the Gatherings and trail rides with Dad. It always touched me how everyone showed him love and respect. It was like he was everyone’s grandpa. A number of years ago his good friend Michael Martin Murphey hung the title on me of “Semi-Colen” and it has stuck. It is a great honor to bear his name and I have some huge boots to fill. I can only pray that I will never do anything that would cloud the great legacy he has left.
Dad always encouraged me to write. And I have done some, but I will never be the poet he is. Back in the early 80’s just after I was married, I wrote a poem called “My Best Friend.”
My Best Friend
It is important to all small boys,
To have much more than simple toys.
I had something as a little lad,
I had a best friend, a pal—my dad!
 
I would always anticipate the trips to the farm,
And the loving hugs from his strong arm.
But, the greatest of the things we shared,
Was always knowing that somebody cared.
 
Constantly aware of the need for learning,
Dad fulfilled my every yearning.
Once, in a wheat-field in prayer we knelt,
Together there, His presence we felt.
 
Many such an example will never perish,
But forever will be mine to cherish.
Now full of the memories of the times we had,
I have a best friend, still my dad!

© Colen H. Sweeten III
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.
 
Dad loved life. He loved the land. Nothing gave him more pleasure than to see a newly plowed field or a rich green cornfield or the rolling waves of a ripe field of wheat. Many times I walked with him into a freshly plowed field and watched him stoop down and scoop up a double-hand of fresh soil. He would stand and smell the dirt and let it sift through his fingers and smile. I know he was thanking God in his heart. He loved his family and his friends and always said he had “so many that he wasn’t using them all.” He loved his country and was proud to have served in W.W.II. He loved the Lord which was evident by the life that he lived.

If he were here to leave a message to you all, I’m sure he would say, “Keep smiling. Be a little kinder and love a little more. Take the opportunity everyday to help someone, be it temporally or spiritually.”

We love you Dad, and we will miss you.

Colen Sweeten III shared this poem by his father:

The Soul of a Pioneer 
Dad's big hands could tame the land,
He could pull out the brush by the roots;
When luck played out on the things he planned,
He lifted himself by his boots.
 
The graves he dug and the hearts he cheered,
As he struggled to till the earth,
Are all that remain and more endeared,
Than anything of worth.
 
Oh, the wind that tolls the lonely chimes,
Where the city folks can't hear it,
Nearly broke his heart a thousand times,
But it couldn't break his spirit.
 
For there was sod to turn and stock to sell,
While the West became of age;
There are rewards mere words can't tell,
When men push back the sage.
 
Hands, made for work, they knew no play,
A heart that knew no fear;
The courage to plod on day after day—
That's the soul of a pioneer.
 
© Colen H. Sweeten, Jr.
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 


photo courtesy of Colen Sweeten III
"Two Colens Milking"


photo courtesy of Colen Sweeten III
Three generations of Colen Sweetens: Colen Sr., Colen III, and Colen Jr.

 


Colen Sweeten Jr.'s 1980 book, Father to Son, includes poems for his father and his son, Colen H. Sweeten III, pictured with on the cover. The elder Colen's introduction to that book speaks volumes about Colen and the wonderful legacy he leaves us in his children:

Better to Give

The other night as I was about to retire, I walked into the bedroom where my small son was undressing. As he tugged at his show, he looked up and said,

"Next time we sleep in the mountains, Dad, I am going to sleep in the old sleeping bag and let you try the new one. It sure is neat!"

This unexpected outburst set me back a little. I started to speak, then something stopped me. I just looked at him. I think I was about to say something like this.

"Oh no, that old sleeping bag was good enough for me in the war, it was good enough for Scout Master, and it was just fine for elk-hunting trips into the wild. I like it. You keep the new one."

I looked down at the 8-year-old boy pulling at his shoelace. At that moment he looked so unselfish and so satisfied that it finally struck me that this was a great moment for him. It could be a great opportunity for me also. I put my hand on his head and gently ruffled his hair.

"Thanks," I said, "I'd like that very much. It was nice of you to think of it."

Reprinted with permission from Father to Son.

 


photo courtesy of Colen Sweeten III
Colen Sweeten Jr. and Colen Sweeten III
Elko, 2006


 



photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Chris Isaacs and Colen Sweeten
 Elko 2005 



Tributes
     (most recent below here)

 

Jld07.jpg (9383 bytes)  Photographer and journalist Jeri Dobrowski, who provided many of the photos on this page, has a photographic tribute to Colen Sweeten, "Remembering Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007," in her on-line photo galleries here,


  Poet Virginia Bennett, first shared the sad news of Colen's passing, and writes:

We have been blessed to have known him and his poetry will help to keep him alive in our hearts forever...he was such a blessing in my life. He reminded me of my own Dad, he loved the old ways and honored the ones who went before him. At the poetry gatherings, he always dressed up and was a shining example of what a ranch gentleman should be.

His stories were honest and true, and he brought all of us along for the ride. Audiences listened to his every word, and crowded 'round to meet him when the show was over. I'm proud to have known him and to have called him my friend. I loved him and will miss him so much.
 


Poet Denise McRea writes:

Colen Sweeten was my friend for many years. I am honored to be able to say that.

 

Colen was a great ambassador for cowboy poetry. He never had to tell a story that was off-color to get a laugh. He wrote so well about real life that the day-to-day humor on the ranch carried its own weight. Then he could turn around and make me cry with that same truth about life.

 

Colen was generous with his wisdom, and helped me to become a  better writer with his honest and useful comments on my rhyme and meter. It is Colen's poetry I looked to as a standard for perfection. His poetry had no unnecessary words, no sloppy rhymes, and always told a good story. I tell people who ask about writing poetry to read Colen Sweeten's and they will see how it should be done.

 

My best memory of him is on the stage at St. Anthony, Idaho, reciting "Prime Time Pigs", imaginary hammer in hand, Ellie Corrigan's laugh in my ear, and a warm glow around me knowing that this wonderful, funny, talented man was my friend. In all the many years I knew him, he was always a fine and gentle gentleman. I will miss him and his wonderful poetry. 

 


  Reciter Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks recited Colen Sweeten's poem, "Meadowlark Song," in his memory at the Arizona Cowboy Poets gathering on August 18, 2007. She comments that the poem, which she and Colen often shared, has such an appropriate message, especially the line, "I'll gladly share all the magic..."  She says that she recited it as her way to tell Colen, "thanks for sharing the magic."

Meadowlark's Song

Sometimes I look out at the waving grass
Spread far as the eye can see,
This beautiful world we live in
Must be a part of eternity..

Then I scan the distant horizon
And look up at the hawk on the wing
And everything comes together for me
When I hear the meadowlark sing.

Suddenly the bluebells are up to my knees,
The buttercups cover the sod,
Perfumes that please on the gentle breeze
And in the distance the sunflowers nod.

I hear sandhill cranes high above in the sky
As they migrate North in the spring,
My youth passes by in the blink of an eye
When I hear the meadowlark sing.

And now I have told you my secret,
You know why I stand here so long;
To you it may seem just an old man's dream
If you don't hear the meadowlark's song.

So I'll gladly share all the magic
If you want to give it a fling,
Come along with me for memories are free
When I hear the meadowlark's song.

Old memories are still clear as crystal
And who knows what tomorrow may bring,
All those places I've been, are here once again
When I hear the meadowlark sing.

© 2006, Colen H. Sweeten, Jr., from Hoofprints and Heartbeats
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 


photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Brooksie delivers a hug—from everyone—to Colen
Cowboy Poets of Utah 2006 Tribute
 

Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks photo at top by Jeri Dobrowski


 

  Singer, songwriter, and poet Stephanie Davis writes:

My favorite memory of Colen came a few years back at a cowboy gathering on a remote ranch in Southern Utah. I'd just driven through the rainy night and arrived at the camp at around 3:30 a.m., only to find that all the cabins were full, except, I was informed, for the spare single bed in Colen's room. Exhausted, I took a deep breath and hesitantly knocked on Colen's door, unsure what his reaction would be to sharing his nest with a girl at 3:30 a.m. I can still see his sleepy, shocked face as I stood explaining my plight. It only took him a moment to break into a grin and say "Sure, come on in!"....in no time we were trading stories, poems, and wisecracks from our respective bunks, and giggling like two kids at camp...Of course, the next morning, the entire camp was chuckling about our "night together"... Colen, and I was delighted and not all that surprised to receive an envelope in the mail some weeks later, which held Colen's hilarious poem about the whole thing.

Stephanie Davis photo by Clark Marten
 

 


  Singer, songwriter, poet, and disk jockey Dallas McCord writes:

Colen Sweeten was one of the best cowboy poets in the Western movement. Many of his poems have been put to music by some of the best song writers. Colen was one of my heroes. He left a mark on the cowboy genre that will remain as long as Buck Ramsey, Henry Herbert Knibbs, S. Omar Barker, and all the other greats.

 


  Poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick writes:

There are times in your life when you are somewhere and you just know that something important is about to happen or that you are about to meet someone very special. Over the years I had heard the name Colen mentioned here and mentioned there and each time it was said with such love and respect, I didn't know if I would ever get to meet this man but certainly hoped that one day I would. A few years in ago in Elko, Nevada I was introduced to Colen and wouldn't you know it....I then realized he was everything that had ever been said about him. He made me feel so comfortable and important right there in the middle of a room full of people! I have the greatest respect for people like Colen and regret that I didn't have more time with them.

Thanks Colen for sharing your magic with me!

Linda Kirkpatrick photo by Jeri Dobrowski
 


  Poet Byrd Woodward writes:

Colen Sweeten was one of Woody’s and my cowboy poetry heroes; it’s amazing to us that we hadn’t heard of him or his beautiful work until we met Ruth and Colen in Kanab in 2002.

I’ve seldom met folks as gracious and supportive to a rank amateur than they were and continued to be each time we saw them. Colen became one of my mentors and his words were always straight from his heart.

Now our hearts and prayers are with Ruth and the Sweeten family and will continue to be in the difficult time ahead. The many lives Colen touched won’t be the same without him.

Colen was and will ever be one of the sweetest, kindest men I’ll ever know…This poem was written in haste but from deep in my heart…he always called me “his little byrd”…I can hear his the serenity in his voice now… through my tears.

For Colen Sweeten: mentor, beloved friend and one of the sweetest men we’ll ever know.

A little piece of my heart has been taken
Away on a trail I’ve been trying to track…
The loss makes my life a bit smaller but then
I won’t ask Colen to give the hunk back.

Now the rest of my heart persists on his trail
The footprints have become fainter to see.
Colen’s carrying my heart’s scrap in his mind;
Look ahead… see where he dropped to his knees.

Be still…we’ll just wait here a few moments…
While he visits family and friends left behind.
Colen’s reaching out while on his way to Heaven
Helping we who grieve find some peace of mind.

He was a role model, great friend and poet
Who watched me perform in Kanab my first time.
He caught up with me later that afternoon
Urging me to keep writing words that rhyme.

I recall the first time I joined him onstage...
In Cedar City…Lord! what a day that was.
This world needs many more people like Colen…
Stand up…he so richly deserves our applause.

© 2007, Byrd Woodward  
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 

 


 

  Poet Donna Hatton writes:

Goodbye Until Tomorrow...We met at the first Cedar City Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. He was laconic, laid back, kind, gentle, fatherly, I fell in love with him and learned from him. To say that he will be missed cannot express the empty place I feel in my soul tonight. He was a remarkable person, tenderhearted, with a surprising wit and forever a gentleman. I am grateful for the time we spent together in Cedar City this March and for the precious time shared in a patriotic session at the Cedar City Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He spoke of his love for his beloved country and shed tears for the men and women who have given their lives to protect her. He was a man of honor, conscience, devoted to his creator, his church, and his family, and he leaves us with a legacy to be passed to the generations. Tonight I am remembering a great man, my friend, Colen Sweeten. Tom and I send our respects to his family and to his many friends.

Donna Hatton photo by Lori Faith Merritt


  Poet, humorist, and radio host Andy Nelson writes:

My children have never had the privilege of knowing their grandfathers, both their paternal and maternal grandfathers passed away before they were born. Each child, sensing the void in their lives, methodically chose a patriarch whom they “adopted” as their Grandpa. Our third child, Will, was 10 years old and was an awful shy little feller when he met Colen for the first time. Will gravitated to him like a mosquito to a carbon-based life form. It’s hard to say if Will adopted Colen or vice versa but one thing was for certain, Colen’s unconditional love engulfed Will, and me with it, and created a bond only felt by blood relatives. Colen gifted Will a copy of his book Father and Son and the hunt was over, Will at long last had a Grandpa. Colen, my friend, Will and I will miss you terribly but this is not goodbye, it is simply farewell for now.

Andy Nelson photo by Jeri Dobrowski
 


photo by Will Nelson
Colen Sweeten
Sevier Valley Roundup, 2005
 


photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Andy Nelson, Will Nelson, and Colen Sweeten
Sevier Valley Roundup, 2005
 


photo by Andy Nelson
Colen Sweeten at the Johnson Ranch
2005

 


Folklorist Ronda Weaver of Utah Valley State College (Orem) who had been working with Colen on his biography, writes:

I stitched Colen's motto onto some rough muslin, framed it in a barnwood frame, and the family placed it in Colen's coffin. This was also on the back of the funeral program. It was definitely how Colen lived:

Let my heart be filled with kindness,
Let my big hands be ever gentle,
Let my friendship be without guile;
And may my conversation be uplifting
To all I meet
As I walk this mortal mile.




  Poet Hal Swift writes:

I've been thinking about Colen since he crossed over.  He was ten years older than I, but he never let on like I had very far to go to catch up to him.  We met a few years back, at the cowboy poetry rodeo in Kanab, Utah.

The motel, where most everyone stayed, had cabins that dated back to World War Two. And maybe even further than that. The cabin Carol and I were in was just back of a shaded area near the swimming pool.  We had only to step off our porch, and we could sit beneath trees that were planted—I'm sure—so that folks like Byrd and Woody Woodward, Dick and Jane Morton, Colen and Ruth, and my Carol and me, could have some place to sit and try to top each other with our tales of lives lived, perhaps not too wisely, but too well.

Sometimes we talked beneath the trees and under the stars until it got so late that all of us were yawning.  But we were too interested in whatever tale was bein' spun at the moment to want to say goodnight—which is kind of the way I felt when I got the message Colen had passed away. I remember thinking something like, "Nawww, it's too early yet!  I want to stay out a little bit longer, and talk just a little bit more!"

But... some things we don't have much say-so about, and this is one.

Colen, I wish you could've stayed out a little longer—I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask you.  I guess now I'll just have to wait until we can sit and talk beneath the trees and under the stars...someplace else.

Until then, goodnight, ol' buddy.
 


  Poet Jim Hawkins writes:

Unfortunately, I never got to know Mr. Sweeten as well as many of my fellow poets and performers, but I did have the pleasure of making his acquaintance in Elko. I enjoyed immensely listening to his stories told only the way Mr. Sweeten could tell them. He will be dearly missed by us all. 
 

  Poet Jo Lynne Kirkwood writes:

I've only had the honor of knowing Colen Sweeten for about the past ten years, but during that time we became good friends, and I developed a great respect and admiration not only for his poetry but also for the man that he was.  Colen endured more than his share of heartache during this decade, but he was never bitter and he never complained. He was also not the kind of friend who kept his feelings inside, and with a few words he could share his fears, worries, and sorrow.  But he was always an anchor for Ruthie, and a pillar of strength for the entire
family.

I have many favorite memories of Colen, but a few do stand out.  Once, about three or four years ago, Colen, Kenny Hall, Michael and I drove to Ogden together for a dinner meeting.  Things ended early and we headed south, but Colen was in no rush to get home so we detoured over to John Hall's house.  John is Kenny's brother.  We sat out on John's patio the rest of the afternoon and well into night, making music and telling stories.  Colen had us all laughing until our bellies hurt with anecdotes about George and life in the old days around Malad, but with Colen's strategic timing he knew just when to insert a serious memory from WWII, or tales of run-ins with bureaucracies.  Even when relaxing with friends, Colen was a consummate entertainer.

Another time we'd hosted a concert, and someone turned in a pocketknife that had been left in a seat.  I thought it looked like Colen's, so I called him and asked if he'd lost his.  He told me he hadn't, that he hadn't brought his with him to the concert.  About a week later I got a letter from him, telling me that he'd been "missing old friends" and hoped to see "us" soon.  And he enclosed $3.00 for postage.

Colen was always witty and quick with the right responses.  The morning after his heralded "one night stand" with Stephanie Davis, he put on quite a show at her expense at breakfast.  I saw her during her sound check at the Blackhawk a few hours later, and said something to her about the previous night's scandals.  Stephanie laughed, and then told me to let Colen know she'd lost an earring sometime during the night. ha, ha.  I did tell Colen, when I saw him—and he immediately responded, "Oh!  And I thought I must have a loose filling."

There was a day during this past summer when Colen told me the doctors had said this cancer was the one that would kill him.  I didn't believe it.  He'd some so close, so many times, then pulled back from the edge. I guess I thought he'd live forever.  I will miss Colen.  I don't think I'll ever again look at a windmill, or a hay baler—or a school bus—without seeing Colen.  He's a part of me, and I'm glad for that.  I loved him.




photo courtesy Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Jo Lynne Kirkwood and Colen Sweeten
Cowboy Poets of Utah 2006 Tribute


photo courtesy Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Colen Sweeten and Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Sevier Valley Roundup, 2003


  Poet Smoke Wade writes:

Upon returning from a recent trip to California, I was saddened to find my inbox loaded with emails telling of the passing and of the funeral of Cowboy Poet and friend, Colen Sweeten Jr.

 

It would be easy to give testimony to his abilities and accomplishments as a cowboy poet, for he set the standard for achievement in cowboy poetry. It could easily be said that Colen raised the bar for all aspiring cowboy poets. Yet, it is something else that I will miss.

 

I will miss the way that Colen Sweeten shared life with others. A casual “hello” could turn into an hour of exchanged conversation. Whether it was on the bench in front of Houston's Trails End Restaurant in Kanab, Utah, or standing on a frozen street corner in Elko, Nevada, Colen would take the time to share life… to swap yarns about cows, horses and people. He would take the time to make others feel good with words of encouragement and acknowledgment of their accomplishments. It is this sharing of friendship that I will miss now that Colen is off riding another range.

 

Perhaps most, I will cherish the book he gave me, Father & Son. We had briefly shared thoughts and feelings on the loss of a child. Like magic, Colen produced the book of poetry and photos and asked me to take it. Once again he had shared life in the special way that only Colen could do.

 

My condolences and heartfelt sympathy go out to Colen’s loved ones during their time of loss and sorrow. His passing will shake the very roots of Cowboy Poetry, and from those roots perhaps something that Colen taught us will grow.

 

Ride well, Colen Sweeten—ride well.

 


Most recent:

  Poet and National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo organizer Sam Jackson writes:

I first met Colen Sweeten at Idaho's St. Anthony poetry gathering in 1993, and was immediately taken in by his "Will Rogers"-like wit and wisdom." For some strange reason he put up with me, then as the years rolled by we became close friends. Some of it had to do with my sweet wife Reneé who made bolo ties for him with clasps of her pottery and our Ausspuppy Suzy, who would play "balloon volley ball" with Colen until they were both pooped.

In the mid-1990s I received a teaching grant from The Idaho Commission on the Arts, choosing Colen as my sidekick, and for three years running, we periodically visited rural Idaho schools teaching, putting on assembly programs, and in general, encouraging students to get involved in cowboy poetry. What a hit he was. If you think grown-ups loved him, you should see the response he would get from those kids.

He partially loved telling about the time we were teaching a class in the library of the Mackay, Idaho middle school. While we were sitting at a table surrounded by 4th, 5th, and 6th grade kids, the library door opened and in walked the cutest little girl you have ever saw (she reminded us of the Clabber Girl baking soda model).  She came over to me and said; "Mr. Jackson, I would like to learn how to write poetry but I'm not old enough to be in your class." We both agreed that with that kind of desire we could change the rules and showed her where to sit. In a few moments she came back and said; "Mr. Jackson, I don't have any paper or pencil." After furnishing her with that she once again returned to her seat, then came back a minute later, tugging on my sleeve and announcing; "Mr. Jackson, I don't know how to write!"

That evening after the kids put on a program for their parents, we were standing in the lobby when my coat was once again was tugged.  Looking down, I saw this same little girl, who announced that if we came to the Mackay School again next year, and would teach her to write poetry, she would be willing to "give up her long recess." Now, how's that for dedication? We often wondered whatever became of her, as we never got back to her school.

Over the years I mostly gave up reciting poetry and went into organizing poetry functions, inviting Colen to just about all of them.

Colen made some phone calls while he was still able, one of them was to me.

Just what do you say to a dear old friend,
as they're trying to tell you goodbye?
Though message be subtle, you follow the trend
and a tear starts to threaten your eye.

Any words you might speak would seem hollow
in response to this veiled farewell
now your throat turns to dust as you swallow
for the message rings clear as a bell.

There's no way now to miss what he's sending,
just pretend that you ain't catchin' on,
keep it light as the phone call is ending—
time for cryin' is after he's gone.

© 2007, Sam A. Jackson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 




photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Colen Sweeten, Reneé Jackson, and Sam Jackson
Kanab, Utah 2006
 


photo courtesy of Colen Sweeten III
Colen Sweeten Jr. teaching

 


photo by Lloyd Shelby
Colen Sweeten and Sam Jackson
Kanab, Utah 2002
 

 

 

Your remembrances are welcome. Email us.

 

 


photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Kanab, Utah 2006
 


More

  • See photos in our Picture the West feature and many wonderful family from generations of the Sweeten family here.
  • You can leave a remembrance for the family at the Deseret News in a special Guest Book here.
  • The Salt Lake Tribune has a story by Brandon Griggs, "Cowboy poets take off hats for a humble storyteller," which includes Colen's poem, "The Golden Years" here.

The Golden Years

Four score and quite a few more,
The years have brought some changes,
I guess I've slowed since the days I rode
Almost forgotten ranges.

When balin' twine and duct tape
No longer did the trick,
I had to see a doctor
Whenever I got sick.

I know how folks feel who have to deal
With steel springs in their hearts
I'm cancer-free—what's left of me,
But I miss my factory parts.

I've seen a lot of doctors
In the masks and surgeons suits
Doctors I trust and love the most
Are wearin' cowboy boots.

© 2004, Colen H. Sweeten, Jr.
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

  • Idaho poet Wayne Nelson has a remembrance posted here.

  • Read some of Colen Sweeten's poetry here at CowboyPoetry.com.
  • The November/December issue of American Cowboy magazine includes a tribute to Colen Sweeten, printing two of his poems, "Dad's Old Hat" and "Taps."
  • The Clear Out West (C. O. W.) radio show for the week of September 24, 2007, hosted by Jim and Andy Nelson, features a tribute to the late, beloved poet Colen Sweeten. His recitations of his poems are featured, along with selections from his favorite singers, including Stephanie Davis, Michael Martin Murphey, David Anderson and Wayne Nelson's song inspired by Colen Sweeten's poem, "Daddy's Bells." You can listen to the show at the Clear Out West web site.  
  • The Western Folklife Center includes audio of two of Colen Sweeten's poems,  "Why Do Coyotes Howl at Night?" and "Dream Ranch," in their Ranch Rhymes feature here.
  • An engaging profile of Colen appeared in Range magazine in 2006, and can be read in a pdf file here.
  • In April, 2006, the Cowboy Poets of Utah honored Colen Sweeten at a special event and presented him with their Pioneer Heritage Award (read about the event and see photos here).
  • Former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne presents Colen Sweeten with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in a video here.

 


photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Kanab, Utah 2006
 


photo by
Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Colen Sweeten with Monica Durfew and Ken Stevens of Latigo
Sevier Valley Roundup, 2005

 

Your remembrances and links are welcome. Email us.


Colen Sweeten Memorial Scholarship

 

This scholarship was announced by Jo Lynne Kirkwood in the Cowboy Poets of Utah February, 2008 newsletter:

Colen H. Sweeten was a beloved and talented cowboy poet who touched the lives and hearts of many people through his generosity of spirit, his humor, his wisdom, and his courageous ability to face adversity without flinching. His poems describe a lifestyle where hard work is valued, and where folks believe in the basic goodness of mankind. Everyone who knew Colen called him Friend. Colen Sweeten passed away August 15th, 2007.

In order to preserve his memory and honor the western heritage and traditions of cowboy poetry Colen loved, the Sweeten family, Michael Martin Murphey, the Heber City Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Sevier Valley Service Foundation, CowboyPoetry.com, and Colen's many friends among the entire cowboy poetry community are joining together to establish a scholarship fund in Colen's name. The scholarship will be designed to help with school expenses for a student in his or her second (or higher) year of post-secondary education, who is working toward a career that will further the traditions and values of western culture. We can envision many scenarios for who might apply: perhaps a teacher, who plans for work in a rural area; or possibly a doctor or nurse who will move into a farming community. Our recipient could be a writer or a musician, a diesel mechanic or vet, or could be working toward almost any profession if the student understands and wants to preserve the values Colen believed in, and we all share. It is our hope that this scholarship will become an annual award.

A selection of Colen's books and CD's have been contributed by the family, and will be available for sale at gatherings in Utah and other places. Proceeds from these sales will go toward the scholarship.

You are also welcome to make a contribution to this scholarship fund. An account is being set up at Zion's Bank, and donations can be made in the name of the COLEN SWEETEN MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP. For now, please send donations in care of Jo Lynne Kirkwood, PO Box 570207, Sigurd, Utah 84657.

 


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