Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

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Gathering Reports


We invite folks to send in reports about gatherings.

Following are reports about events that 
are linked from event listings on the Events Calendar. 

(Some links may go out of date.)

2011 Reports



Bodie Hills Ride with Dave Stamey, June


On page 1:

Heritage of the American West Performance Series Spearfish, South Dakota, July

16th Annual Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering, Fort Scott, Kansas, June

Fourth Annual Tyrone Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, Tyrone, New Mexico, May

Tenth Annual Torrey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, Torrey, Utah, May

1st Annual Foot of the Blues Cowboy Gathering, Pendleton, Oregon, May

25th Annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Medora, North Dakota, May


Find January-February reports here.
Find March-April reports here.
Find August-September reports here.

See reports from 2010 here
See reports from 2009 here
See reports from 2008 here
See reports from 2007 here
See reports from 2006 here
See reports from 2005 here
See reports from 2004 here
See reports from 2003 here
See reports for 2002 here
Reports from 2000- 2001 are here


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June, 2011
Bodie Hills Ride with Dave Stamey  Mono Lake to Bodie, California

  report and photos by Jim Cardwell
with one additional photo by Melissa Stamey


A Ride With Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit


Fifty rugged miles in four days, and an unforgettable four-day ride, were provided by John Summers and the Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit from June 23rd to the 26th. Our group of about thirty folks rode from Mono Lake to Bodie California, through Aurora, Nevada, dessert mountain peaks, and loose lava rock inclines. Dave Stamey served as guide and entertainer for the Outfit. At first I was amused by Dave’s composed opinion, “It’s no fun taking the roads.” By day four, he won me over.

Dave Stamey

On a warm, cloudless Thursday morning, we saddled up on the sandy flats bordering Mono Lake. Our wranglers checked every rider's gear, watching how well we took to our mounts. John headed us up into the Bodie Hills. These “hills” might better be described as a 9000 foot tall mountain range. Sandwiched between the Sierra and White Mountain ranges, they were designated only as hills. The first leg was easy, winding up an old wagon trail to a dismantled railroad bed. This pace gave an occasional rider, like me, time to learn a little about his mount and settle into the saddle. My horse (also named John, took well to me. Mile by mile the terrain roughened, becoming more lush. A cool, wet spring had lingered into summer. Switchbacks ascending the mountain made for a pleasant climb. Wildflowers in full bloom changed varieties as we ascended in elevation.

On top of the ridge, nearby peaks still sporting pockets of snow, horse and rider relaxed to a walk crossing the crest. A meadow with good grazing ran gently downhill. The horses munched at every tall cluster of grass within reach. Dave Stamey’s lyrics, “…Don’t let ’em eat…” weighed on my mind until I saw all the horses doing the same. Riding into full sun with just enough breeze to clear dust from the trail, I couldn‘t imagine being back in the maddening world..

Friendships grew swiftly among our diverse population. I especially enjoyed getting to know Forrest Newman, a packer for over 30 years (and owner of a place in Lone Pine named “Jakes“). A diversion from the trail gave us much time together. I’ll certainly be dropping into “Jakes” next time I’m down in Lone Pine.

Our camp was centered around the 21st century chuck wagon and a tall canopy mess hall. You pitched your tent where you wished in this Bodie Creek valley. Sizzling on the grill, a wonderful western dinner awaited us. Seconds were in order. Three young girls, about the age of ten, bonded into a trio of entertainment for the entire trip. More will be said about them later.

When the campfires were lit, chairs assembled around three fire rings, Dave unpacked his guitar. He warmed up quickly, unshaken by the cool night. “Come Ride With Me” was universally requested as his first song. This campfire environment revealed a side of Dave I had not before seen. Where as he is completely comfortable on stage, the campfire was more like his living room.

After a short set he said, “Jim, have you got something for us?” “Son of California” drew laughter, particularly from the Pre-Teen Trio (kids understand how badly their parents drive in the rain). The story of “Buckaroo Vang” thoroughly pleased the circle. Dave followed with "Buckaroo Man," taking the humor high ground when he sang the last line, “…I’m a Buckaroo Vang.”

When the music ended, the fire waning, a cool night and bright Milky Way covered us. We retired to our tents and a deep, well-earned sleep.


Brilliant morning sun proved an unavoidable alarm clock. I awoke early, refreshed, proving a life-long night shifter can quickly adjust to the trail. Activity had begun. The young wranglers had already saddled preparing for a long day’s work. Breakfast’s aroma floated sharp and sweet throughout camp in the clear morning air. Hands rode out, driving our horses back from their comfortable far pasture. Today we were riding into Bodie.


After breakfast, as we prepared for the day’s ride, the California state historian assigned to Bodie joined us. Terri Lynn Geissinger knew every rock pile, every mine shaft, every significant event in the story of this reputedly wicked town. Her book, Bodie: 1859-1962, tells the story well using both word and photo. A day long history lesson was in store.

We set out along side beside Bodie Creek through its narrow canyon. Soon we encountered one cowboy, two dogs, and forty or so cattle being moved from here to there. Heavy brush beside the creek gave momentary hiding places for renegades. Our pace slowed. Dave cut across the wash to scout a quicker path, and perhaps help push stragglers. Or he might have just have been having some fun. Either way, we were stuck behind the cattle.

Bodie's Richest Mine

When the cows left the road, we arrived at the edge of the Bodie mining district. Our guides took us up the hillside to the East of town. At every stop, Terri delivered short lessons, answering every question. She knew her subject well. We meandered between mine shafts and debris up to the highest hill above town, then back down. When we rode into town, we took the original southern road.

Tourists looking through the remaining buildings, artifacts, and mines, were taken by surprise as our troop rode up Main Street. They called to others. Most of the park’s visitors lined the walkways, eager to include cowboys in their photographs. For their sakes, I tried to look tall in the saddle, ignoring an increasingly sore rump.. Our unique vantage point, expert guest and guides, gave us the kind of tour that visitors on foot could not experience.

Riding into Bodie

We would have liked to extend our stay in Bodie. This was our prime destination. But the day was getting late with miles still to go. The horses set their own pace down Bodie road as we plodding back to camp. They wished to get back to pasture as soon as possible. Tomorrow we would split into two groups, some riding to Aurora, Nevada, and the rest to the high mountain where wild mustangs roamed.

Warm showers, and a clean Buckaroo Loo soothed trail soreness. Smoke from grilled pork tantalized us as we shared our common experience. The Pre-Teen Trio painted their faces gray and black with soot from the fire rings, stumbling through camp, pretending to be zombies. Somehow the wranglers had managed to unsaddle, groom, doctor, and feed the remuda before the triangle rang.

Soon campfires were set. The night’s entertainment began. Our Pre-Teen Trio again had their requests honored. Dave Stamey both worked the crowd and stayed a step ahead of drifting smoke. (some day he should do “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"). Favorites, and standards were delivered, as always, with excellence.



Most of our party rode to see the cemetery at Aurora, Nevada. Many came back moved, perhaps invigorated by its tombstone inscriptions. While none of the buildings still stood, the graveyard remained much intact. Pristine carvings traced a different side of history.

I choose to ride with the smaller group headed for the peaks. The ride was shorter than Aurora. But as Dave said, it’s no fun taking the roads We would ride through high country, past spring fed creeks and aspen outcroppings, hopefully stumbling upon wild horses, which we did.

John Summers led us close in, then brought us to a halt facing down two mustangs holding a small herd of heifers and calves, perhaps eighteen in all. After a short standoff, the mustangs turned, taking their lost herd down the banks of a spring fed creek to a small green valley.

We circled over the eastern ridge and came back above that valley where the pair had taken their cows for safe grazing. They turned, protective at first, then walked forward. Whinnies were exchanged, and likely understood, between both groups of horses. When the wild ones moved their herd out of the valley, we took our party down into the meadow. Brisk flowing crystal clear water refreshed our horses throughout the meadow. To the North lay the state line, and an outcropping of volcanic residue that would be our turn-around point.

photo by Melissa Stamey

From here, we could see below to the old Bodie Road taken by the rest of our group, and over mountain tops for a hundred miles. Aurora lay over a distant high ground. Once rested, we returned toward the meadow, this time on the West side. Again we came upon the mustangs and their herd. This standoff was short. We chose to ride on, leaving them undisturbed in their grazing.

Our descent from the ridge crossed no established trails. John (the horse), strode quickly toward the front. I had learned enough to trust his sure footedness. Soreness again began to set in. I welcomed seeing the old abandoned homestead that stood above our valley. Camp awaited about one mile away.

After refreshments and a well earned clean-up, I competed in my ever first Bocce Ball game. The field of play was anywhere within camp. John and I, (different from John Summers, or my horse-John) kept a slim lead over Mary’s team until their final four-point-throw defeated us. I did claim two holes-in-one on the same hole. A ground squirrel tunnel twice sucked down my throws. Riders returning from Aurora now returned to the playing field and thus the games came to an end.

Friendships growing since the first day now blossomed. Before supper, groups congregated around the table, sharing stories and photos. Some of us shared my guitar, playing favorites from Dylan to Denver. Conversations moved briskly from horses, to olive oil, to solar astronomy.

A few mischievous adults sent the Trio on a Snipe hunt. All provisions for their hunt were assembled, and instructions confirmed. Scattered just beyond the furthest of our tents lay three Snipes. Exuberance echoed off the canyon walls until one sharp yell said “I found one!” All three burst into squeals of laughter. Soon the second, then the third were found. When all were discovered, the trio returned triumphantly. I never saw any of the Snipes.

The crowd around the campfire was larger than the prior nights. Drifting smoke again followed Dave as he played,. Though he attempting to stay one step ahead, it would soon find him out. Moving from one side of the circle to the other, it was almost like music in stereo. His biggest fan has always been Melissa Stamey. Her delight in listening to and singing along with Dave’s songs was unmistakable. Her encouragement for others to join in spread a spirit of celebration. The Pre-Teen Trio still sat mid circle when Dave introduced the special last request of the night. They sang with loud delight to the chorus, “…So bye bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry…”. If you had gone to bed early, you probably weren’t asleep.

Some of us stayed around the campfire, savoring this last night, spotting shooting stars, sealing relationships. In the morning we would ride back to Mono Lake. My seat had suffered its share of soreness, but still was up for the long ride. I believed the adventure to be largely over, covering much of the same ground we had rode in on the first day. Boy was I wrong.


I woke too early, wanting another hour sleep. Cold clear air filled the canyon. The scent of coffee drifted my way. I was glad to lose an hour in the sack. When folks arose, they struck their tents and packed their gear. Our community slowly dismantled. Breakfast, served hardy and delicious by Mary and her crew, brought our congregation together once more before the trail.

Today I would ride Judge, a gray gelding (a little leaner than John). He turned his head away when I tried to greet him, as though saying, “You’ve got the wrong horse.” But after offering him a piece of apple, he warmed up. One mile up the road, we cut through a meadow, climbing up the Bodie hills. This ride was a little less formal. We picked our own way up the hills using cattle and wildlife trails, sometimes making a new one. Across two ridges, navigating creek beds both wet and dry, we came to a high crest overlooking Mono Lake and its basin.

Lunch was relaxed with Judge sharing my remaining apple. Mono Crater stood to the South of the lake. From this elevation you could easily see its volcanic signature. Mammoth Mountain shone bright white down to its base. To the East, on the flats of the basin, would be our pick-up point. The slope below us was steeper than our first day's ride in, but appeared less daunting. John Summers was looking for a Mustang trail that would take us out of the hills.

Winding down the first slope, we cut through uneven rocky ground dotted with small pinions. Going was slow but steady. Although weathered traces of horse droppings dotted the hill, if this was a wild horse trail, they were wilder than I had imagined.. The slope steepened with loose volcanic rock covering much of the ground. As often as I could, I’d follow hoof prints of other riders. If I hit a dead end, at least I wouldn’t be trapped alone. The scrape of iron against stone and crack of rock falling on hard rock kicked up by horses, echoed throughout the landscape as a hundred shod hooves maneuvered the toughest terrain we had yet faced. My respect for the horses grew with every drop-off. Four days of saddle soreness were forgotten until the decsent was over.

Sandy rises and recently dried vernal pools made up most of the remaining miles. The horses became impatient with riders who chose to travel at a walk. They’d burst into a swift trot if they felt they were falling behind. Once we turned onto the dirt road and saw trailers at the far end, both horses and riders quickened their pace. We were glad to be done riding for the day. While the riders were a little sad at journey’s end, the wranglers still had to transport, feed, and tend to the herd; the happiest of our crew were probably the horses. They had worked hard and performed perfectly. They would now have several days to rest. Tomorrow some of us would be back at work.

Mammoth Mountain Pack Outfit delivered an outstanding Western experience. The comforts of their well planned camp, hardy meals, Dave Stamey’s skills on the trail and around the campfire, sure-footed mountain horses, John Summers and his crew, left no doubt that I will come back again. Next time with a better prepared backside. And in Dave’s words I whole heartedly recommend “Come ride with me.”


Jim Cardwell and John


We invite you to send in reports about gatherings and other events.



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