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This is page three of our report on the Western Folklife Center's 21st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

See the first page here.



The 21st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
January 22-29, 2005

continued from page two...



It was standing-room-only in an outstanding session, "Up Crazy Woman Creek," which included Gwen Petersen, Katie McCall-Owen, Deanna McCall, Jane Morton, Linda Hasselstrom.

photo by Linda Kirkpatrick
Nancy Curtis, Linda Hasselstrom, Gwen Petersen
Jane Morton
, Katie McCall-Owen, and Deanna McCall at lectern


The session was built around Crazy Woman Creek, a new anthology of women's writing about the West, edited by Linda Hasselstrom, Gaydell Collier, and Nancy Curtis.  Each participant read a selection from the book and then offered one of her own poems or stories.

The audience was diverse, including as many men as women. Soon all were taken in, with palpable interest, by the varied tales, the "what was usually left out," as the stories were characterized by session host Nancy Curtis. Heads often nodded in recognition as the stories and poems were shared.

Linda Hasselstrom, always full of life and energy in her presentations, read from the book's introduction, which includes an intriguing discussion about why places are called "Crazy Woman." She also read B. J. Buckley's "Superior Laundry, Sheridan, Wyoming," a free verse poem about branding and bonding.  

Many of the book's stories carry the common thread of community, particularly of the connections among women helping each other. Deanna McCall told about her experiences moving to a new community. She recited her own "Cowboy Church," about such experiences, and read Mary Lode's "Alone, Not Lonely," a story that echoed her own.

Rancher Gwen Petersen read Pat Frolander's "I Suppose it was the Food," about fellowship, with wonderful lines such as "like woven saddle blankets, each year we plied skeins of friendship over coffee," describing branding time.

Jane Morton read "City Folks" from her own book, Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind, and the poem met with thunderous applause. She chose Mary Alice Haig's "Tapestry Woven of Stories" from Crazy Woman Creek, about the importance of "story" in small, rural communities.

Katie McCall-Owens read an untitled story about her own move to a new place, followed by Phyllis Dugan's "Far-Flung Neighbors," which includes the observation, "...the smaller the population is in an area, the stronger the community ties are."

There was time for another round, and among the highlights were Linda Hasselstrom's reading of a piece by Susan Minyard, "On Watermelon and Stout Roads," about the sense of belonging; Jane Morton's poem about her family as community; Deanna McCall's humorous "Advice," written for her son-in-laws' and Gwen Petersen's likewise light-hearted "Mail Order Cowboy." 

Copies of Crazy Woman Creek quickly sold out at the book signing that followed the session. But even the empty handed came away with stories they would long remember.

A Saturday open session, one of several that day, was hosted by Jens Lund and included Dick Morton, Diane Coggin Merrill, Linda Kirkpatrick, Janice Gilbertson, and others. 

Among the highlights:

Linda Kirkpartrick's spellbinding recitation of JW Beeson's "Rosie's Eagle."

Janice Gilbertson's tribute to the ranch horse, which she wrote for the 20th Gathering, where she was a featured performer.

Diane Coggin Merrill's recitation of "Rex" by Ken Graydon.

Dick Morton introduced Badger Clark's "A Cowboy's Prayer" with an account of how the poem gained new meaning for him as he was being treated for acute lymphatic leukemia.  He told how while in the hospital, he recited the poem for another patient, and the nurses overheard it and asked for a copy. They posted copies around the hospital for others, and read the poem on the evening spiritual program that was broadcast to all patients. His recitation was heartfelt and flawless, and there were few dry eyes at its finish.  

Earlier in the session, Morton also gave some interesting background information about Badger Clark before giving another flawless recitation, of Clark's "The Lost Pardner."

The beautiful G Three Bar Theatre in the Western Folklife Center was a fine setting for "Ballads," featuring R. W. Hampton and DW Groethe, with plenty of genuine entertainment from genuine cowboys.  As only a folklorist might, session host Debbie Fant had discovered what names stood behind the initials and shared those in her introductions (Richard Wade and David Williams).

photo by Jeri Dobrowski
DW Groethe, Kelly Moon (WFC volunteer), and RW Hampton mugging for the camera backstage

DW Groethe gave the crowd a satisfying ride through his varied repertoire, opening with his upbeat, happy love song, "When We Get Hitched."  His light-hearted "Bunny Poem," accompanied by his comical delivery, full of expression and intonation, put listeners right inside the wild story. His talent radiated through "Long Train Gone," a dark ballad with impressive guitar playing, written in memory of Hank Snow. The set was full of prime selections, from a song for "working cowboys who just can't be penned"; his ode to coffee; a tribute to the place he lives, "at the end of the western trail...with a lot of grand history, "West River Moon"; the near-reverent poem, "There's a Silence"; and a rousing anthem of cowboy independence that is the title track from his latest CD, "What Ever It Takes." 

R. W. Hampton, who has appeared at over 15 Elko Gatherings, romanced the audience with his warm baritone in his opening with "Wayward Wind." The snow the night before had made him think of "Whispering Pines," and he sang it as if he had penned each word.  He wistfully recounted how it used to be to before he "tried to write." He said he'd be working ranches and all of a sudden get an itch ... like one that gave life to his song, a favorite of his many fans, "The One That I Can't Ride." All of his his set was pure pleasure in listening.  

There were three "Ballads" shows in the G Three Bar that afternoon, with Don Edwards and the Gillette Brothers playing before the "W's" and Sourdough Slim and Dawn & Michael Moon playing after.

Some of the greatest shows at Elko aren't on any program. They are spontaneous jams, often starting after all the scheduled shows are over, and often lasting well into the early morning of the next day.  Attending the Gathering is a marathon, and if you've found time to sleep for more than a few hours any night, you are in a minority.

Late Saturday night, two jams got started in the Pioneer Saloon at the Western Folklife Center. At one end, Tom Russell, Stephanie Davis, Ian Tyson, and others were playing up a storm. At the other end, Sourdough Slim held together an amazing array of fiddlers, guitar players, bass players, and others.  Elana Fremerman of Hot Club of Cowtown set the jam on fire, and her band mates fanned the flames.  Western Folklife Center Executive Director Charlie Seemann joined in with his fiddle, and Ian Tyson came over and joined in song.  It may still be going on.  Jo Lynne Kirkwood caught some of the spirit with her camera: 

photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood


More on page four...



This is page three of our report on the Western Folklife Center's 21st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

See the first page here.








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