Below you'll find a continuation of the story about the competition.
Thanks to Lloyd Shelby for all the photos on this page.
Elsewhere at the BAR-D you'll find more about the 2002 Rodeo:
The 2002 Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and Western Legends Roundup
And you'll find more information on additional pages at the BAR-D:
About the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo
What is Cowboy
Poetry and How do You Write It?
During the competition in the Old Barn,
the time clock is at the upper left,
and the judges are seated between privacy panels.
The Competition (continued)
The Cowboy Poetry Rodeo finals got off to an early start and a full house on Saturday morning. Finalists in the Poet/Serious competition included:
The Poet/Serious group began the competition, and the competitors included Dan Bradshaw of Utah, Doug Keller of Utah, Bill Brown of Texas, Allen Clark of Utah, Phil Kennington of Utah, Mike Dunn of Arizona, Jeff Burkhart of Arizona, Stan Tixier of Utah, Trey Allen of Oklahoma, Mike Dunn of Arizona, Hank Mattson of Florida, and Lloyd Shelby of Texas.
Every poem was a "winner" in this section. Dan Bradshaw recited two of his poems, including I'll Be Go Ta Hell (below), dedicated to his grandfather, with whom he was sent to live when he was 14, and who he said taught him about horses, and life. (You can read a bit more about his grandfather, Ken Tanner, here). Doug Keller did his inventive poem about an early 1800's trip through the Grand Canyon. Bill Brown's work concerned the people who make sacrifices to live close to the land. He introduced his poem, "Life's Permit," by explaining how in his native Texas, there is little "public" land. When Texas joined the union, it was under the condition that the people would own the land. He said "We read about the BLM and the Forest Service and then we go about our business." Allen Clark, who does several collaborative poems with one of his young sons, recited his touching "Me and the Boy."
Phil Kennington helped put things in perspective when he commented that the two categories for poetry, humorous and serious, were "like life." He explained:, "if your spur is caught in your lariat and your rope is tied to a mad cow...that's serious. A while later, when you're telling the story, it's humorous -- especially if it happened to another guy." At home with either category of poetry, Kennington presented his "Carina Ray," the story of an old man remembering his only love.
Mike Dunn went next, telling about his belief in the relationship between the here and now and the hereafter. It was a fitting introducing to the performance of his poem, Ben's Family, (below) which held the audience spellbound. Dunn is a master storyteller, whose gentle and pleasing personality comes through in his polished performances. (You can more about the inspiration for this poem here.)
Jeff Burkhart offered several of his poems, one written for his mother when he left Texas to work in Arizona, "A Soul for Every Cowboy," with the beautiful ending "For when a Cowboy finds his freedom/On new trails he's chose to ride,/His soul is now accompanied/By the stars in his mother's eye." Another, "Making a Hand," was inspired by a child he encountered while working dude ranches, and the last, The Cowhand Calls Again, (below), which is a sequel to the poem he did the in the preliminary competition (A Cowhand's Prayer).
Stan Tixier's poem, A Day's Work, (below) was a complex feat of both composition and performance, delivered with near perfection. Trey Allen performed a unique work he co-wrote with Western musician Stan Jones, "Cowpoke," a poem that included verses sung a capella, along with the spoken verses. Hank Mattson mentioned a subject on everyones' minds, so close to September 11 ("I was thinking of the Statue of Liberty, and how she couldn't even shield her eyes") and he performed another of his excellent works, this one about a pocket knife.
Lloyd Shelby began his performance commenting on the number of new friends he had made. A serious student of Texas history with strong ties to his family and cowboy life, he also commented that he was "born in the first half of the last century, and my grandad said that, too. He began with his mystical Rainman (below) and brought the session to a beautiful end with "Not Forgotten," about which he says in his award-winning book, Rainman, "Sometimes, the thing we don't say, say more than any words. This story is a long one, but short in words."
Following are some of the Poet/Serious poems. The final competition for the Poet/Humorous section starts below.
I'll Be Go Ta Hell
The man was old and tired
as he lay there on the bed,
and except for a fringe of silver
there weren't much hair upon his head.
His eyes were closed most all the time,
even when he was awake.
And those hands, those hands that once had seemed so strong
would tremble, twitch, and shake.
My momma was his daughter,
and I'd loved him all my life.
He'd taught me how to ride a horse,
and use a pocket knife.
But now he lay here dyin'
and there was nothin' I could do.
Oh, occasionally we'd talk a bit
whenever he'd come to
And then we'd reminisce
'bout horses we had known,
and folks that both had come and gone,
and the wild oats we both had sewn.
But then one day he told me somethin',
I've since come to understand,
about life and death and dyin'
and livin' best ya can.
He said "Dan boy, I'm eighty-five years old
and I've lived a life complete.
I've owned good stock, and I've rode the best,
and my wife's been true and sweet."
"And I think I've finally figgered out,
this life I've lived so well,
but I've also come ta understand
this thing that we call hell."
"Ya see, in my mind I'm stll eighteen'
I'm young and strong and free.
But I'm trapped inside this old man's hide
with no mobility."
"I still want ta do all those things
that I could used ta do,
but this old man's body can't get it done'
I'm saddle worn clear through."
"So if it's all the same
I think I'll mosey on my way
ta some other spot where this worn out riggin'
won't get in the way"
Well, Grandpa died , and went away
happier bein' free.
And he left his worn out body here
with his love and his memory.
But I remember what he told me,
'bout bein' trapped inside that shell,
and I reckon it wont be too long
'till I'll be "go ta hell."
© Dan Bradshaw
His wife left him at childbirth.
No... she wasn't the type to run.
The Lord reached down and took her away,
in her place, he was left a son.
A better closeness there never was,
between a father and son.
And to them, ranching was other then work,
so they'd play 'til the work was done.
While mending fence or working stock,
the Dad shared stories of another age,
When a ring of wire couldn't be found
stretched out along the range.
The boy wanted to learn it all,
he's so full of life.
He'd lived more in 16 years
than those confined to city life.
Creating challenges, he worried his pa,
the boy thought himself so clever.
Like bulldogging steers on the open range,
calling out to his Dad to be the timer.
To young the boy was called away,
while doing what he loved the best.
Working cows from dawn to dark
on a day much like the rest.
It was just a ranching accident,
the boy was helping to pull a calf.
The cow kicked, caught him wrong,
went down as if he were dead,
But life left the boy in his father's arms,
Ben felt the spirit go.
Like with his wife, this can't be right,
it was tearing out his soul.
Then, a presence was felt, a whisper he heard,
Ben uttered the name of his wife.
She was there, telling his heart,
"In time, all will be made right."
But life took more than its share this time.
The lad turned cold in his arms.
And this time the hurt came permanent,
only death would stop the burn.
Next to his mother, the Boy now rests
and has for 30 years.
Ben's only comfort, they're together,
which yielded silent tears.
Tears of both joy and sorrow,
a loss to heaven's care.
Never again, his heart to give,
alone, deaths pain he'd bear.
One more time Ben's left alone,
this would be the last,
He lived his life an honest man,
but his heart stayed in the past.
Help's now hired to work the ranch
but for years he'd gone it alone,
Living in the house with memories,
his wife and son called home.
His brother's kids checked on him,
when ever the neighbors call.
He liked it when they came around
but he'd be OK 'til fall.
When fall came and the leaves turned,
he got cold, stiff and sore.
Well meaning, he's pushed to move to town,
a request he learned to ignore.
And the cowhands looked in on him
but never caused a fuss.
They respected him more then that
though some thought he's nuts.
Cause he spent time in reminisce,
deep... in his own cowboy way,
Then saddled up to visit those graves,
every couple of days.
Ben wouldn't go, cause what he loved,
was buried on the hill.
Time could not get him to leave
nor the winter's northern chill.
But one cold evening his horse came in,
saddled, dragging a bridle rein.
They found the old man frozen dead,
sitting between the graves.
There seemed to be an air easiness
though his passing was hard to take.
As I approached I thought I heard
a quite discussion taking place.
As others rode up, they stop to listen,
they too, thought they'd heard a sound,
The sound of voices, coming from where...
he sat upon the ground.
The voice of a boy and a woman,
we listened then it was gone.
Words came and went, barely heard,
in wonderment, we listened on.
There was light laughter, distant and faint,
the cold had lost it's bite.
A feeling of being in the presence of good,
that all the world was right.
A rider's sent back for the buckboard
to take him down the hill,
But returned instead with shovels and picks,
which gave the crew a chill.
Cause the boys had already been talkin'
to take him away didn't seem right.
So the cowboys stayed and dug the grave,
through frozen ground, that night.
Now the voices, some say was only the wind
but I say it was more then that.
I seldom speak of it but when I do,
with reverence, I take off my hat.
Figuring out what happened that night,
is speculation at it's best.
But by dawn, between the wife and boy,
the old man was laid to rest.
It's easy to say it was just the wind,
of course, I don't guess I really know.
But the last thing I believe I heard,
was the boy to say, "Dad, it's time to go."
The voices then stopped, air went cold,
there came a feeling of being alone.
The cowboys all stood quiet
while the wind continued to blow.
That night I felt a testimony
to the bond of Ben and his wife,
And for some, families carry on,
into another life.
I visit those graves when the wind wants to blow,
with the hope... the cold will loose its bite,
And when it does, I listen for the laughter,
as I remember it, so well, that night.
© 2002, Mike Dunn
The Cowhand Calls Again
It's me again.
I'm writing you this time
With a ball point pen.
The last time I called ya
I was watchin' the herd.
Since I last spoke to ya
I've been readin' your word.
I read in the Good Book
How folks treated your son,
And How he forgave 'em
For the wrongs that they'd done.
How he traveled the world
Helping all those who seek,
The blind and the ill
And the timid and week.
He fed those with hunger
And helped them that were lost,
He gave them salvation
But his life's what it cost.
Yeah, Jesus was a top notch hand
I'll sure admit that,
He had to have been a cowboy
To have worn thorns for a hat.
Them outlaws they called Romans
Who didn't treat him well,
Had to face their day of judgment
In the fires of hell.
Revelations says he'll come again
On a big white horse he'll ride,
And I hope that when that day comes
We can ride side by side.
Well Lord, I guess I'll close for now
But I'm sure I'll call ya again,
For this night that I've been riding herd
Is about to come to its end.
© September 2001, Jeff Burkhart
A Day's Work
Now I'm not one to fuss a lot or get all sad and whiny,
But that day on the X Bar hadn't started off too shiny,
I'd slept out on the bunkhorse porch and in the open air,
That pole-cat musta' been attracted by the snorin' there,
He chewed off half my boot top, it was salty I assume,
And 'fore he left he sprayed my bed and me with his perfume.
Then Cookie burned the biscuits when the fire got too hot,
I think he dropped his wad of snoose down in the coffee pot,
The eggs were slick and slimy and the bacon limp and tired,
So breakfast on that morning left a lot to be desired,
And when I headed toward the barn and glanced at the corral
I weren't surprised to see the gate wide open sure as hell.
The wranglin' pony'd slipped the latch and exited from there,
Went grazin' near the ranch house like he didn't have a care,
I coulda' overlooked that much and issued him a pardon,
But that gol-dern cayuse was trompin' in the boss's garden,
He'd et the peas and carrot tops and chomped off all the corn,
I'd cause him to regret the very day that he was born.
I caught him up and whacked his rump and then I led him back,
I threw my saddle on the rough and jerked up all the slack,
I stepped aboard and wheeled him 'round and raked him with a spur,
What happened next ain't all that clear, it's sorta' like a blur,
That gentle wranglin' pony musta' had enough, I think,
He bogged his head and turned me over quicker than a wink.
I finally got him all lined out and started lookin' 'round
The horse and milk and cow pasture for some tracks there on the ground.
That'd give a clue to where the saddle horses might be at,
The wind came up a-gustin' and it blew away my hat,
It rolled a hundred years or more to where the fence was down,
It 'peered the whole remuda was just nowhere to be found.
I spent the whole darn mornin' huntin' horses that had strayed
And workin' on the pasture fence and bleedin', I'm afraid,
Cause barb wire's sharp and rusty and it sure can tear your hide,
Good thing I'd had a a tetanus shot before I took that ride,
I got the horses in at last and caught my favorite one
And started on my all-day ride, the afternoon half done.
I rode the big south pasture checkin' fence and water-gaps,
But in my rush I'd plumb forgot my slicker and my chaps,
And don't you know that was the day we finally got some rain,
We needed it so bad that I'd for certain not complain,
It was a soakin' shower and the kind that helps, I'm told,
But I'd be lucky if I didn't catch my death of cold.
While ridin' down a gully in a soft and sandy track
I found myself a-starin' at a Western Diamondback
At just about eye-level, it was coiled up on the bank,
Instinctively I jabbed the spurs into my horse's flank,
He jumped about ten feet or so just as that rattler struck
And missed me by a whisker in a welcome turn of luck.
I found an old cow upside down, her back down in a hole,
I couldn't tell you how she'd done it, not to save my soul
And she was nearly all done in, a strugglin' to get free,
She'd been a dead old critter soon if it were not for me,
I got my rope around her horns, my horse was toward her rear,
He pulled with all his might and turned her upright, pretty near.
While she was a gropin' groggy, on her belly, in a daze
I got down to retrieve my rope, then go our separate ways,
And as I grabbed the honda she awoke, it was a stunner,
She came up fightin' mad despite the favor that I'd done her,
She needed somethin' handy to combat and she chose me,
But I turned tail for sure and scrambled up a Cedar tree.
That X Bar cow lost interest in the cowboy that she'd treed.
She never did seem grateful for my beneficial deed,
And I crawled down and caught my horse and turned him headin' home,
The sun ball had become a sorta' fadin' yellow dome,
It'd be hear dark exceptin' for the risin' big full moon,
But I would be all done with my day's ridin' pretty soon.
And bein' off my schedule then I hit a gentle lope,
A-mutterin' to myself 'bout how I'd almost lost my rope,
And neither horse nor rider saw the hidden badger hole,
But both his front feet found it and we fell just like a pole,
I landed twenty feet or so amid some prickly pear,
The horse unhurt thank goodness, so I'd had another scare.
And then I saw a heifer layin' stretched out near the trail,
A calf's front feet were stickin' out and showin' 'neath her tail,
So I got out my O. B. chain with links so flat and strong
And I hooked it on those slippery legs and then before too long
I worked the head out gently and I gave a final pull,
And out there slipped a fine big healthy brawlin' baby bull.
So Mama and her baby boy were both okay that night.
The moon was high as I rode home a feelin' quite all right,
And even if some things went wrong a-startin' off the day,
And didn't seem to get a whole lot better right away,
That last small chore was somethin' that sure caused my face to smile
It made the whole day's effort seem a little more worthwhile.
© 1993, Stan Tixier
Mike Dunn and Lloyd Shelby during a break in the competition,
pictured in front of one of Sam Jackson's sheep wagons
He walked out from the rain cloud, yet he was dry as the desert heat.
Clothed in buckskin and beads, and nothing on his feet.
People called him Rainman, a name thatís a natural fit,
But his gaze could stop you in your tracks, like a horse with a long shank bit.
If he spoke, you just listened, for thunder was in his tongue,
I can still see him now that Iím old, just like when I was young.
His long hair was like the ravenís, black as midnight, deep.
Hands as hard as iron, yet soft as a long nightís sleep.
He came into town, unexpected, no one else looked that way.
So he was immediately noticed by everyone, a Ďcharacterí in lifeís long play.
The drought had gone on for three years, and was stretchiní on into four,
What was it about this stranger, who said nothing, but chilled your core?
Well, he said little or nothing, at least thatís what some did say,
When some of the local folk decided, to approach him together one day.
The conversation was one sided, as they asked him what he was about.
Could he help bring back the rain, and maybe end the drought?
He listened to the townsfolk, and heard their earnest cry.
For if we didnít have rain real soon, our town was gonna die.
Many times heíd been in places, where the rain had refused to fall.
The withering grass and dying land, were a story that told it all.
Yes, he could help them, and call down the living rain.
That provides that vital life-blood, for cattle, men and grain
When could he get started, they all wanted to know?
Now that he had said yes, he seemed to move so slow!
But the Rainman just looked up to the sky, and back down at the ground.
Then he stood and slowly walked away, never uttering a sound.
The people were a little confused, on that you can surely bet!
If he was supposed to bring back the rain, why hadnít he started yet?
Well, we didnít see the Rainman, for two days, or maybe three?
When some of us kids came upon him, the strangest sight we ever did see.
He was standing in his buckskins, with feathers in his hair.
But his eyes were the strangest color, at the sky they seemed to glare!
The sounds he made werenít human, they scared us kids to death!
Cause as he uttered every one, smoke came from his breath!
We watched in pure amazement, we never questioned why,
We could see he was locked in a battle, the earth versus the sky!
And then we saw it happen, lightning on a cloudless day.
Followed by rolling thunder, and only then did the sky turn gray.
The Rainman stood there silent, black hair blowiní in the wind,
It seemed that he had found the rain, and brought it back again.
But that donít end this story, for the strangest part was to come.
He stretched his arm to the sky, and lifted up his thumb.
And then the rain engulfed him, as it blew on toward our town.
But the Rainman had just disappeared, with no warning or a sound.
We told them what had happened, they told us not to lie.
But Iím telling you, we saw the Rainman disappear into the sky.
That was in 1950, when I was still a lad,
But itís still the single most amazing time, I think I ever had!
© 3/2001 Lloyd Shelby
,reprinted with permission
The Poet/Humorous group was as satisfying as the earlier serious poems. owd was ready for the Poet/Humorous group. The poets in that group included: Phil Kennington of Utah, Doug Keller of Utah, Colen Sweeten of Utah, Andy Nelson of Wyoming, Stan Tixier of Utah, Allen Clark of Utah, Hank Mattson of Florida, Trey Allen of Oklahoma, LeRoss Apple of Oklahoma, and Sam DeLeeuw of Utah.
The highlights were many, including Colen Sweeten's poem, "Style Show," about what was missing from beneath the city slicker's fancy chaps; Allen Clark's "Riding for the Brand," which had to do with wrangling frozen food and other jobs at the local food co-op; Trey Allen's perfectly acted dialogue between husband and wife, You Ain't Sittin Bull, the husband him pleading his case with the checkbook-holding wife for an increase in funds to feed what she considers too many horses; Phil Kennington's funny bathing poem; and Stan Tixier's tale of a Cowboy's first day.
But nothing pleased the crowd and the audiences more than Sam DeLeeuw's amazing and hilarious "Spreadin Sunshine" (below), which involves a "proper lady from back East" charmed by the "antique art" she sees and the skeptical and perplexed rancher who looks at the same thing and sees a rusting old manure spreader. Sam defines "stage presence" with her deft changing of character -- including magician-like switching of her hat from flowered monstrosity for the city gal and battered straw for the farmer, inserting huge teeth for the rancher. Sam DeLeeuw's performance illustrates how reading cannot compare to the experience of an oral performance. Penn, Teller, and Baxter Black and could not have outdone her.
Sam DeLeeuw, "Spreadin' Sunshine"
Drivin' through the country side,
A proper lady from back East,
Spied a quaint country ranch house
With all manner of foul and beast.
There were little peeping chickies,
Piggies, porkies and a puppy!
And MOOEY COWS and calves were grazing,
An encounter for this yuppie.
She steered her sports car 'round the silo
And slid right to the ranch house door.
She basked in all the rural fragrance (cough)
And to the rancher she did implore,
"Could you find it in your heart, sir,
To escort me at your leisure?"
The rancher winched and stuttered some,
"I guess it would be my pleasure."
What was this and what was that?
Every detail she would question.
(It was enough to cause a man
To develop indigestion!)
But then, the socialite stopped short!
Her eyes grew wide and sparkled green!
"Oh, my, that's the most beautiful
Rustic sculpture, I've ever seen!"
The rancher looked in disbelief
At what captured her attention!
The rusty old manure spreader
Had changed her phys'cal direction.
"Whatever do you call this piece?"
The rancher seemed a little miffed.
"It spreads the sunshine," he snarled low,
If'n yer smart 'nough to catch my drift!"
"What is the value of the piece
As it stands this very day?
I wish to prrrrrrrrrrocure this masterpiece
And add it to my own display!"
"Ya mean you wanna buy this thing?
Just look at the sh..., uh, crud and rust!
Not to mention the dings and dents!"
"That's why having it is such a must!"
"It's been here over fifty years.
A bunch of sunshine it has spread!"
"Oh, others have come to admire it, too?
Like I have done this day?" she said.
"So, is this sculpture not for sale?
Has no one tried to take it?"
"I've borrowed it out a time 'r two,
But they always seemed to break it.
"Now the sunshine doesn't scatter,
It more dribbles, seeps and oooozes!"
"You can tell a gifted artist
by the vivid words he chooses!
"Let me take it on consignment!
I'll not abuse it like the rest!
It's sunshine will be spread abroad,
It's beauty to their souls caressed!"
Get a grip! You have my blessing
To pro..., pro..., to buy this spreader here today.
So, git, take off, get out o' here
And spread yer sunshine where you may!
"'Cause if yer set on ownin'
This spreader as yer very own.....
YER NUTS! And full of more sunshine
Than this spreader has ever thrown!"
The lady laid her money down.
The rancher hitched it to her car.
She screeched off t'ward the city
With sunshine spewing near and far!
The rancher's parting words were heard
Of that lady, oh so fine,
"Her common sense has long been shoved
And jostled where that sun don't shine!"
The other ranch machines were sold.
Travlin' the world is now for sure!
He's wanted as a guest ARTISTE,
On the rustic sculpture lecture tour!!!
© 2002, Brenda "Sam" DeLeeuw, reprinted with permission
Once the audience recovered from Sam DeLeeuw's Poet/Humorous performance, the Reciter/Serious finalists were up. They included Trey Allen of Oklahoma, Gordon Thomas of Utah, Jerry Brooks of Utah, Dan Bradshaw of Utah, Hank Mattson of Florida, and Phil Kennington of Utah.
Category champion Trey Allen shared some of his background, telling the audience that at age 12 he was labeled "incorrigible" and sent to Cal Farley's Boys Ranch. He spoke eloquently about that second chance he was given there (and he and so many others have praised the first annual youth Cowboy Poetry Gathering that was held in June, 2002). Trey, a confident and expert performer and proud father of four is a fine example of the success of that organization. Trey presented several poems, including Bruce Kiskaddon's "Alone":
The hills git awful quiet, when you have to camp alone.
Its mighty apt to set a feller thinkin.
You always half way waken when a hoss shoe hits a stone,
Or you hear the sound of hobble chains a clinkin.
It is then you know the idees that you really have in mind.
You think about the things youve done and said.
And you sometimes change the records that you nearly always find
In the back of almost every cow boys head.
It gives a man a sorter different feelin in his heart.
And he sometimes gits a little touch of shame,
When he minds the times and places that he didnt act so smart,
And he knows himself he played a sorry game.
It kinda makes you see yourself through other peoples eyes.
And mebby so yore pride gits quite a fall.
When yore all alone and thinkin, well, you come to realize
Youre a mighty common feller after all.
Reprinted with permission from Classic Rhymes by Bruce Kiskaddon, Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998
Phil Kennington also gave a notable performance of D. J. O'Malley's "After the Roundup (When the Work's All Done This Fall)":
After the Roundup
(When the Work's All Done This Fall)
A group of jolly cowboys discussed their plans at ease,
Said one, "I'll tell you something, boys, if you please --
See, I'm a puncher, dressed most in rags;
I used to be a wild one and took on big jags.
I have a home, boys, a good one you know,
But I haven't seen it since long, long ago.
But I'm going back home, boys, once more to see then all;
Yes, I'll go back home, boys, when work''s all done this fall.
After the roundup's over, after the shipping's done,
I'm going straight back home, boys, ere all my money's gone.
My mother's heart is breaking, breaking, breaking for me, that's all;
But with God's help I'll see her when the work is done this fall.
When I left my home, boys, for me she cried,
Begged me to stay, boys, for me she would have died.
I haven't used her right, boys, my hard-earned cash I've spent,
When I should have saved it and to my mother sent.
But I've changed my course, boys, I'll be a better man
And help my poor old mother, I'm sure that I can.
I'll walk in the straight path; no more will I fall;
And I'll see my mother when the work's done this fall."
That very night this cowboy went on guard;
The night it was dark and 'twas storming very hard.
The cattle got frightened and rushed in mad stampede,
He tried to check them, riding at full speed;
Riding in the darkness loud he did shout,
Doing his utmost to turn the herd about.
His saddle horse stumbled and on him did fall;
He'll not see his mother when the work's done this fall.
They picked him up gently and laid him on a bed;
The poor boy was mangled, they thought he was dead.
He opened up his blue eyes and gazed all around;
Then motioned his comrades to sit near him on the ground:
"Send her the wages I have earned.
Boys, I'm afraid that my last steer I've turned.
I'm going to a new range, I hear the Master call.
I'll not see my mother when the work's done this fall.
Bill, take my saddle; George, take my bed;
Fred, take my pistol after I am dead.
Think of me kindly when on them you look--"
His voice then grew fainter, with anguish he shook.
His friends gathered closer and on them he gazed.
His breath coming fainter, his eyes growing glazed.
He uttered a few words, heard by them all:
"I'll see my mother when the work's done this fall."
*this version from Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O 'Malley, published by Cowboy Miner, reprinted with permission
The Reciter/Humorous competition was the final session of the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. Riders included Stan Tixier of Utah, Trey Allen of Oklahoma, Allen Clark of Utah, and Dan Bradshaw of Utah.
Stan Tixier started off the competition with his recitation of S. Omar Barker's "The Tie-Fast Men" and Baxter Black's "Five Flat," and never lost his lead. Trey Allen put in another near-perfect performance, which included Larry McWhorter's "Cowboy, Count Your Blessings," a great choice after the Barker poem (Two waddies rode together/O'er the western half so great/A buckaroo from Utah/And a hand from the Lone Star State....The sticky part as you might guess/In talk of right and wrong/Was whether you should dally up/Or if you should tie on..."
Allen Clark gave a warm and spirited performance of another S. Omar Barker poem, always an audience favorite, "Jack Potter's Courtin'." (Cowboy Miner publishes the definitive collection of S. Omar Barker's poetry. Read about it at their site, here.) Dan Bradshaw did a fine recitation of Wallace McRae's "Reincarnation":
"What does Reincarnation mean?"
A cowpoke asked his friend.
His pal replied, "It happens when
Yer life has reached its end.
They comb yer hair, and warsh yer neck,
And clean yer fingernails,
And lay you in a padded box
Away from life's travails."
"The box and you goes in a hole,
That's been dug into the ground.
Reincarnation starts in when
Yore planted 'neath a mound.
Them clods melt down, just like yer box,
And you who is inside.
And then yore just beginnin' on
Yer transformation ride."
"In a while, the grass'll grow
Upon yer rendered mound.
Till some day on yer moldered grave
A lonely flower is found.
And say a hoss should wander by
And graze upon this flower
That once wuz you, but now's become
Yer vegetative bower."
"The posy that the hoss done ate
Up, with his other feed,
Makes bone, and fat, and muscle
Essential to the steed,
But some is left that he can't use
And so it passes through,
And finally lays upon the ground
This thing, that once wuz you."
"Then say, by chance, I wanders by
And sees this upon the ground,
And I ponders, and I wonders at,
This object that I found.
I thinks of reincarnation,
Of life and death, and such,
And come away concludin': 'Slim,
You ain't changed, all that much.'"
© Wallace McRae, reprinted from Cowboy Curmudgeon (1992) with permission from Gibbs Smith, Publisher
The winners in each section (listed below) received impressive buckles, which were officially presented at the Saturday evening show, which included performances by each of the winners. Read more about that show and more events on Page 3.
Read what the participants have to say about the competition below.
Thanks to visitors Jane Goodner and Carolyn Bateman of New Braunfels, Texas, for the following group photos of the competing poets:
2002 Purse Winners
The 1st Place winners performed at the Saturday evening show,
described on the next page.
1st Place: Mike Dunn $1,027.00
2nd Place: Stan Tixier 513.00
3rd Place: Trey Allen 308.00
4th Place: Dan Bradshaw 206.00
1st Place: Sam DeLeeuw $812.00
2nd Place: Trey Allen 406.00
3rd Place: Phil Kennington 244.00
4th Place (tie): Colen Sweeten 81.50
4th Place (tie): Stan Tixier 81.50
1st Place: Trey Allen $514.00
2nd Place (tie): Dan Bradshaw 205.50
2nd Place (tie): Jerry Brooks 205.50
4th Place: Hank Mattson 103.00
1st Place: Stan Tixier $346.00
2nd Place: Dan Bradshaw 173.00
3rd Place: Trey Allen 104.00
4th Place: Allen Clark 70.00
What the Competitors Say About the Event
As mentioned in our introduction, nearly every 2002 Cowboy Poetry Rodeo participant, winners and others, came away commenting on the value of the challenge and the exceptional camaraderie among poets. Most felt they had become better poets and reciters (poet Lloyd Shelby said "I learned something from every poet there") and all had made new friends (poet Colen Sweeten quipped "I've made a lot of new friends, and I wasn't even using all my old ones.") Here's what others had to say:
Trey Allen: ...even though it is a "competition" it can also be construed as a school/clinic of sorts. There is no way that I could ever measure what I've learned in Kanab -- regardless of the competitive outcome. A "don't knock it 'til you've tried it" approach might be another comment I would include to those who disagree with the competition concept. The judging of course is subjective and in no way meant to be critical if a score is low. I honestly feel that any poet who attended is capable of winning any or all the events they were in and consider myself extremely lucky to have done well.
Jeff Burkhart: The experience has left my wife and me with memories of a wonderful weekend and lots of new friends . I felt very grateful to have been in such a "crowd" and hope to continue to stay in touch with many of the excellent poets we met there.
Stan Tixier: Kanab was tougher than ever this year with 31 contestants from all over the country, even Florida.. The two "poet" categories were especially tough. I won the reciter, serious event last year and didn't even make the finals in it this year.
Dan Bradshaw: The Kanab event was great. 2001 was the first time I attended. This year, the competition was tougher. It is a kinda pressure packed event, just because you want to do your best with so many great performers. Win or lose, the preparation that Sam and Reneť Jackson put into it make it one of the best events I've ever participated in. I've been attending gatherings for many years. This one is a top drawer deal.
Denise McRea: I had never been to a poetry competition before, just regular gatherings. I think that the competition aspect of it made people polish up their poems to be the best they could be. I really admire people who can memorize and recite their poems, or someone else's, for that matter. I just write them, I have a really hard time memorizing them. (Too much crammed in my brain... if I put one thing in, something else falls out). I think Sam Jackson did a wonderful job, (putting on the competition), but I think Sam would be good at anything he attempted. I have been to many gatherings he has participated in. He is one of the best I have ever seen. His poems are well thought out, with nearly always perfect rhyme and meter, and the way he delivers them is what other people aim for. Besides that, he has a very good voice. He could read you the phone book and make it pleasant to hear.
Mike Dunn: Kanab was a wonderful experience for Linda and me. Sam and his committee put on a great gathering and the town made us feel welcomed at every turn. Met some new friends and was humbled by the talent. The gathering felt more like a sharing than a competition. The two poems I shared in the "Poet Serious" category (Mom's Kitchen Table and Ben's Family) are special to me. It was good to feel how well they were accepted by such a talented grope of folks. Thanks to all for that experience.
Byrd Woodward: Sam Jackson sure knows how to put on a show!! I was invited this year and my husband, Woody, and I weren't sure what to expect but it was wonderful!.....the words 'competition' and cowboy poetry' in the same sentence filled me with some trepidation as I'd never considered anything about writing it or reciting it competitive...but...we were there for every performance and if you hadn't known it was a competition, you'd never have guessed it was anything but an informal gathering of friends...each participant was rooting for and encouraging every other poet or reciter and the ambience was, in every way, supportive and fun! I believe it was healthy for all of us and gave each of us a standard against which to measure our skills.
The night shows were splendid, filled with terrific, talented singers and poets and we're eagerly anticipating next year's event.
Verlin Pitt: The Kanab Cowboy poetry rodeo is an adventure I'm glad I took the time to attend. The people and the poetry were among the finest I've ever had the privilege of associating with. Look out Elko, you have some heavy competition in Kanab, Utah. This event promises to get bigger every year and rightly so. This rodeo is for anyone who likes cowboy poetry and wants to hear the best of the best. Sam Jackson is a fine host and makes you feel right at home. Thanks Sam, for a great time and the privilege of competing with the best.
Sam DeLeeuw: Did I enjoy the rodeo? Why, Heck, yes!!! ... What beautiful country! Kanab nestles itself in the red cliffs with green cedars. I bought a new hat at Denny's Wigwam ...Then I went to eat at Houston's Restaurant, being treated, as usual like I was somebody special!
My host family, Ross and Bobbette Ray, from Fredonia, gave me the run of their beautiful refurbished "barn house" and treated me like one of their own.
The competition was tough and made a person dig down deep and pull out all the ingenuity, creativity and "stage presence" one could muster. It's amazing what you find you can do when you are competing against the talent that was there in Kanab!
I got to ride in the parade behind a well match team of red mules. There was something familiar about their tushes!! Can't quite put my finger on just what or who.............. I'm sure it will come to me!
Waiting for an hour and half for Michael Martin Murphy to arrive Saturday night was fun.......(he broke down somewhere along the way, only to be stopped and arrested n Page for speeding!) He was in good humor as he arrived in Kanab, however, and was ready to perform, despite the trauma of getting to Kanab.
There are a hundred other reasons I loved this weekend! The good friends, all the new friends, excellent poetry and music, shopping, sight seeing, educational films and tours, good food, after hour jam sessions, laughter, tears, applause............ and oh yeah, I won a buckle, too! Just icing on the already delicious proverbial cake!!!
Thanks for the experience, Kanab! And a big hug and kiss to Sam Jackson for puttin' up with us all!
Hal Swift: Carol and I enjoyed the camaraderie, and the easy git-along in the folks there at Kanab.
Allan Horton: As the lowest-scoring "rider" in the poetry rodeo in Kanab, Utah, I can only say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience...And, as a professional writer and editor of some 30 years' experience - but a brand-new published poet - I can only compare Kanab to the only other writing experience I ever paid money to attend - a "professional" writers' workshop in Key West several years ago... I no sooner read one of my works in the first class when the instructor critiqued it (in open session) by saying it was trite, poorly written, fatally dated and besides, "no true poets waste time any more making poems rhyme or have meter - that's passť. Real poets write free verse." I said that was an excuse for lazy people unwilling to take the time and effort to make poetry "sing," as I feel it should, same as a song. Then I left and did what anyone who ever goes to Key West should do - found the nearest bar and spent the rest of the workshop making the weekend worthwhile and, by the way, thinking up a couple more (angry) poems that rhymed and had meter.
So, Kanab was, for this poet, an epiphany. The atmosphere could not have been more encouraging and supportive, from the performances by other, more accomplished poets to the individual encouragement everyone proffered, including every individual who walked away with a prize buckle (and now I want one of those shiny front bumpers). Not only that, the organization was superb; there may have been a lot of scrambling behind the scenes, but if there was, I didn't see it; from my viewpoint, it ran as smooth as molasses.
And the criticism? Several folks told me they liked my writing, and added what I knew already - I need to work on my delivery. I knew I could have read my poem, but I thought I knew it cold - and then I stood up on that little stage and acted like a deer caught in the headlights.
That's OK; what I've done since coming home is work on landing some experience. I recited it and a second poem I've written since at a roundup to a bunch of Florida cowboys and their families, and read another poem I've not yet had time to memorize - and they liked them all. As a result, one of them, formerly president of the local county cattleman's association, asked if I'd be willing to read for their group; and, I've been asked to read also at a weekly poetry "slam" in a town about 30 miles distant.
The lesson? Without the confidence gained at Kanab, I probably would have done what I did after I came back from Key West - nothing. I put those poems in the drawer and went back to work writing newspaper editorials for a living. And, the invitation to Kanab came as a result of having "Brothers at Heart" published in The Big Roundup," the first affirmation since rejection in Key West that I might have something to say about the spoken music I think poetry should be.
I guess in conclusion, I'd call Kanab the chorus of confirmation. I now feel like a member of the choir. Maybe, someday, I can even say it in a poem.
We welcome additional comments from poets. Just email us.
See Page 3 for more photos and more about the events
at the Western Legends Roundup
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