Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

Events and Festivals

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(Some links may go out of date.)

2012 Reports


15th Annual Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Music & Stories, Hot Springs, South Dakota, September  (report 2)

On the previous page:


8th Diamond Field Jack Cowboy Gathering, Rupert, Idaho, November

Grand Junction Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Grand Junction, Colorado, November

21st Annual Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Old West Days, Valentine, Nebraska, October

15th Annual Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Music & Stories, Hot Springs, South Dakota, September (report 1)

Third Annual Stanley/Sawtooth Cowboy Gathering Stanley, Idaho, September

20th Annual Stony Plain Cowboy Gathering, Stony Plain, Alberta, August

25th Annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Prescott, Arizona, August

27th Annual Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering Lewistown, Montana, August

15th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Kanab, Utah, August (separate page)


January 2012 reports.
February-May 2012 reports

See reports from 2011 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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September, 2012
15th Annual Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering  Hot Springs, South Dakota 

report by Sam Day, illustrations by Cal Brackin


15th Annual Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering

Poets: Yvonne Hollenbeck, Ken Cook, Marty Blocker, Robert Dennis, Slim McNaught, Gale Patzlaff


© 2012, Cal Brackin

You don’t have to be a cowboy to write about cowboys. You have to be a cowboy to write Cowboy. Once you’ve dirtied your boots, cinched your saddle, seen the sunrise, and rounded the cattle....once you’ve ridden your horse through a hard winter storm, taught your children how to rope a calf, and fought a drought...then you can sit down and start to write with dirt under your fingernails and the smell of the ranch in your coat. Scribble in a notebook, on a napkin, on a piece of bark. Let your words start to paint pictures of the ranch. Let them convey the soft light of the sky just before sunrise, and the sharp nature of the stars over open range. Write them all down so that when the labor is done, you can work them like leather into something smooth and worn.

© 2012, Cal Brackin

At the Badger Clark gathering in Hot Springs, South Dakota, men who’ve spent their whole lives working from the backs of horses and with their hands showed their tough skins in humble poetry. They live the Western tradition day in and day out, and find passion in conveying the beauty of their land and labor to those who care to listen. These men stand square-legged with hands on belt buckles, and speak in deep voices through their thick moustaches about the real Western way of life. In their words is a desire to preserve the spirit of the pioneer; in their performance is a solemn manner that is as enthralling as a rope around a calf’s neck. Each line is a taste of a life outdoors, of hard work and sweat, and of time spent under a hat and over a horse, in sun and snow and wind and dark.


© 2012, Cal Brackin

© 2012, Cal Brackin

These ranchers and cattlemen translated their perspective of Western tradition and lifestyle into carefully metered rhymes. The poems themselves are simple and literal, but their recitation is rich with enthusiasm and keen intent. The words that spill from the mouth of a Cowboy are earned and full of purpose. For those of us who’d like to craft a poem of our own, the Cowboys have a few tips on how to work the reins. First, do the work. Edit your poem to make it readable by a stranger. Craft the lines to be effortless, and allow the story to flow without needing explanation. Avoid distractions in the meter like near-rhymes. If you’re stuck in a writer’s block, try sticking your first line in the middle of the page. In regards to the length, Marty Blocker stated, “You can curry it and clean its feet” but keep your early poems to less than three-minute performances.

© 2012, Cal Brackin

Second, address your audience. Use a rhythm in your writing that develops an exciting performance. Avoid diluting your poem with a lengthy introduction, telling the poem before it’s told. Expect the audience to come with a healthy appetite for this heritage and tradition, and recognize that they want you to succeed. Remember, Cowboy poetry doesn’t require recital, but the performance is a tradition, as these poems keep roots in stories and songs chattered around the campfire. 

© 2012, Cal Brackin

Finally, find yourself in your words. Write with authenticity about your own experiences. Make them tangible and distinct, but direct. Simplify your lines, and then do it again. As Ken Cook says, “A poem is never finished, you just finally quit.” Be true to your own diction and write how you talk. In the end, it’s you who must be satisfied with the art. You must perform your poem...your words, your vision. Above all, a Cowboy poet needs courage to be both the main character and narrator in his poems of life on the range.

© 2012,
Cal Brackin

The Cowboys cherish their heritage as fervently as they provide for their family. Their fear is not of a hoof or bone-breaking fall or coyote, but that their carefully preserved tradition will be lost to a generation of cubicles and computers. They fear their love for ranching and the Western way of life will fade in the youth, and thus their words and rhymes will fade with them. Cowboy poet Slim McNaught expressed, “We have an obligation to keep the heritage alive for the next generation and to honor the cowboys that came before.” We must all grasp a rein on this colorful culture and show our support for the lifestyle of the American Cowboy. It’s been said that “as long as there’s someone swinging a leg over a horse or punching a cow, somebody’s gonna talk about it.” Let’s keep the conversation going... hats on, eyes on the horizon, and seat in the saddle.

© 2012, Cal Brackin


About the illustrator, Cal Brackin

I am a born and raised Wyomingite and currently in a Master's International Peace Corps Program at the University of Wyoming. I became interested in cowboy poetry when I brought a cowboy poetry book on a trip to Argentina where I enjoyed reciting poems while I was hiking. My interest in cowboy poetry inspired me to study intangible cultural heritage and see if related anthropology practices can be used to help non-profit organizations tell better stories about the people they are serving and to serve for the right reasons!

As an illustrator and student, I am working on a project to tell stories in graphic novel form about cowboy poets and cowboy poetry. I am always open and searching for collaborators if anybody is interested in helping me with my project!

An example of my work can be found on in the book, Tom, which is an illustrated book about my grandfather's life stories.

Cal Brackin
514 1/2 South 10th Street
Laramie, WY 82070


Find another report from this event here, written by Slim McNaught with photos by Bill Bolte.


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



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