Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

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Gathering Reports
2007

 

Prescott (Arizona) August

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This is page two. See a report by William Merritt and photos by Lori Faith Merritt on Page 1.

Below are photos from Andrea McWhorter Waitley, Susan Parker, Paulette Tcherkassky, and Jo Lynne Kirkwood
and some additional comments on the gathering with some additional photos of participants.

More Photos...

Photos below by Andrea McWhorter Waitley


 photo by Andrea McWhorter Waitley

Georgie Sicking and Abi McWhorter

Andrea McWhorter comments that Georgie Sicking is "passing on to Abi the legacy of the western way of life." Georgie, 86, has worked as cowboy, (a term she prefers), rancher, and poet, and is a National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee (read more about her here).

Abi is the daughter of the late Larry McWhorter. She appeared in many sessions and on the evening stage, reciting her father's poems, her own work, and that of others. Abi, 12, was there with her proud mother and step-father, Frank Waitley. Abi and Frank recently won a team roping competition and Abi was sporting the buckle. Look for a forthcoming feature about Abi at CowboyPoetry.com.


 photo by Andrea McWhorter Waitley
Georgie Sicking and Jean Prescott

Jean Prescott is a frequent performer at Prescott, and this year her husband Gary joined her in performances. (Georgie Sicking says that Gary's "catching wild cattle" song ("Bustin' Brush) is one of her favorites, as it reminds her of her own cowboying days.  She says, "Only a real cowboy who has done that work could write a song like that.")

Jean has always been close to Abi McWhorter, and they performed together on an evening show and in other sessions. Jean's song, "The Boots Her Daddy Wore" (co-written with Kip Calahan) is inspired by Abi. Read more about Jean Prescott here.

 

Photos by Susan Parker


photo by Susan Parker
Don Edwards performs on the Amphitheatre stage

Don Edwards gave outstanding performances on the evening stage, and entertained as well during the daytime on the Sharlot Hall Museum grounds. Read more about Don Edwards here.


photo by Susan Parker
Randy Huston and his daughter Hannah on the Amphitheatre stage

Fourth-general rancher Randy Huston appeared with his daughter Hannah (the inspiration for "Let There Be One Cowboy Left") and his father traveled with them to Prescott. Read more about Randy at www.randyhuston.com.


Michael Tcherkassky, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Jim Jones
photo by
Susan Parker
 

Singer and songwriter Michael Tcherkassky performed in day sessions. Many are familiar with his performances on horseback at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.

Wildly popular poet Yvonne Hollenbeck was featured on the evening stage and on day sessions. She could not live down the tale of mistaking an AA meeting for one of the side venues ... when she realized her mistake and insisted she was a poet, the group assured her that even poets were welcome and questioned her state of denial.  She introduced her evening show by saying, "My name is Yvonne Hollenbeck and I am not an alcoholic."  Read more about Yvonne here.

Singer and songwriter Jim Jones seems to manage to be everywhere at the same time. He was featured on day sessions, and also accompanied Kip Calahan and Audrey Hankins on the evening stage. Read more about Jim at www.jimjonesmusic.com.


photo by Susan Parker
Woody and Byrd Woodward and Lori Faith and William Merritt.

Poet Byrd Woodward, a veteran at the gathering, was again an invited performer. Read more about her here.

Photographer Lori Faith Merritt provided the photos on page 1, and William Merritt wrote the report posted there. View more of Lori Faith Merritt's photography at www.photographybyfaith.com.

Photos below by Paulette Tcherkassky


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky

Bimbo Cheney

Cowboy, poet and storyteller Bimbo Cheney hosted and performed in a number of sessions and hosted some informal evening jam sessions. He is frequently featured at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

 


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Bimbo Cheney and Deanna, Dave, and Rusty McCall.

The McCall family comes from many generations of ranchers and includes several generations poets and reciters.

Deanna McCall and her husband ranch in New Mexico, and she has been featured at Prescott and in Elko many times. Read more about Deanna McCall here.

Dave and Deanna's son,  Rusty McCall, recovering from serious surgery, gave great performances on the evening stage and in day sessions, and celebrated his recent 21st birthday in Prescott. 

Rusty's sister Katie McCall Owen is also an impressive poet and reciter, who took part in a number of sessions. Her twin sister Terri and other family members were together for the events in Prescott.
 


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Sandi Snider, Chris Isaacs, Tom Weathers, and Jay Snider relax on the Sharlot Hall Museum grounds.

Cowboy, packer, poet, reciter, and humorist Chris Isaacs is a favorite at events across the West. He's been "everywhere." Read more about Chris here.

Tom Weathers is a familiar face at the Prescott gathering, always a popular emcee, reciter of classic cowboy poetry, and singer of cowboy songs.

Oklahoma rancher and poet Jay Snider is known for his impressive deliver of classics as well as his own poetry. He's performed at many gatherings, including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  Read more about Jay here.

Chris, Tom and Jay all appeared on evening shows and at day sessions

 


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Rolf Flake

Fifth-generation Arizona rancher and poet Rolf Flake is a favorite at the Prescott Gathering. He has been the recipient of the gathering's Gail I. Gardner Award for a Working Cowboy Poet. His book, Cloudwatchers, received both the Will Rogers Medallion Award and the Buck Ramsey Best Poetry Book from the Academy of Western Artists.

 


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Popular poets Chris Isaacs and Gary Robertson

Ranch Manager and poet Gary Robertson appears at many Western Gatherings. He was featured on an evening show and participated in many day sessions. Read more about Gary at garyscowboypoetry.com.

 


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Suzi Killman, Kip Calahan, Jean Prescott, and Sally Bates

Ranch-raised singer and songwriter Suzi Kilman trains horses, teaches Western riding, team ropes, and wrangles for neighboring dude ranches in Wickenburg, Arizona.

Award-winning Kip Calahan sets the stage on fire with her music, both original songs and other top songwriters' work. Read more about Kip Calahan at www.kipcalahan.com.

Top Texas songwriter and singer Jean Prescott continues to win awards for her outstanding music and to be recognized for her collaborations in songwriting. Jean may have worked with more poets' work than any other songwriter. She and Yvonne Hollenbeck won the Western Music Association's first-ever award for Best Collaboration Between a Songwriter and a Poet in 2006. Read more about Jean Prescott here.

Writer, songwriter, poet, and photographer Sally Harper Bates is an important force in the Prescott Gathering and a popular performer. She edited the gathering's tenth anniversary collection of poems (Arizona Cowby Poets: A Rendezvous) and was a co-editor of the new twentieth anniversary collection (Thanks for the Poems). Read more about Sally Bates here.

Suzi Kilman, Kip Calahan, Jean Prescott, and Sally Bates have recorded a gospel CD, Covered in Crimson. All were featured performers.

 


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Nika Nordbrock  (at right, Michael Tcherkassky)

Nika Nordbrock has been a member of the gathering's planning committee since 1988. She's a reciter of classic and contemporary poetry, and in the session pictured above and at others, presented poems by Ray Owens and other gathering poets who died in the past year.

 


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Utah's Jo Lynne Kirkwood is a poet and songwriter who often writes about her deep roots in the Arizona Strip. She teaches high school English and is an important member of the active Cowboy Poets of Utah. Read more about her here.


photo by Paulette Tcherkassky
Sam DeLeeuw and Paulette Tcherkassky

Utah poet Sam DeLeeuw writes from her ranching experiences, which usually result in humorous tales. Read more about Sam here.

Paulette Tcherkassky is an artist and photographer, an energetic presence with many friends at many gatherings.

Photos below by Jo Lynne Kirkwood


Woody and Byrd Woodward
photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood

Poet Byrd Woodward often writes about the many generations of her family who settled in Idaho, in Payette River country.  Read more about her here.

 


photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
R. P. Smith

Fourth-generation Nebraska humorist, poet, and radio host R. P. Smith delighted audiences in evening and day performances. He has been featured at gatherings in sixteen states and Canada, including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Read more about R. P. Smith at www.rpsmith.us.

 


photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Mike and Jean Prince

Mike Prince is a third-generation cowboy and English teacher who writes Western stories and poetry for young people. He participated in workshops and sessions.

 


photo by Jo Lynne Kirkwood
Marge Tucker

Cowgirl, rancher, and poet Marge Tucker received the Prescott Gathering's Gail I. Gardner Award for a Working Cowboy Poet.

 

And more about the gathering ...

 

The Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering keeps a serious focus on cowboy poetry. There are two music stages for the day sessions and music is sometimes heard in other sessions, but, unlike any other gathering, there is a determined concentration on poetry.

On the two full days of the gathering, Friday and Saturday, there are nine venues, with sessions that change hourly. Most venues are just steps apart from each other on the beautiful Sharlot Hall Museum grounds (there were a few special sessions at the 1905 Elks Opera House, a few blocks away, and the evening performances take place at the Yavapai College Performance Hall).

Even the most dedicated attendee would find it impossible to go to all of the sessions he or she would like to, or to see all of the outstanding invited performers. Following are just a few gathering highlights from the sessions attended...


photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski from Elko, 2007; see her gallery of western performers and others here.
Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks

At the Thursday evening show, among other entertainment, Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks recited Buck Ramsey's "One Seraphic Ride"; Mike Dunn delivered his poem, "Mom's Kitchen Table"; Sid Hausman played the bones as he delivered a powerful piece about Bill Pickett; Sue Jones recited "Grandma's Pulling Up Drag"; and Rolf Flake recited one of his well-known humorous poems. Also on that show, Vess Quinlan captivated the audience with tales from his life, particularly "Conversations with Clyde," about a trail driving cowboy Vess met when Clyde was in his 80s.


Sue Jones


Mike Dunn

Don Edwards gave a lively performance, regaling the audience both with his renditions of great cowboy songs and with the stories behind them, referring to Will James, Walt Larue, Gene Autry, Marty Robbins, Rex Allen, Badger Clark, and others in a performance that was part history, part music, and all pleasure for the audience, who begged for encores and were thrilled to get them.


Some Friday highlights:

 
Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, Elko 2007; see her gallery of western performers and others here.
Randy Rieman

The "Poems of a Different Nature" session included Joel Nelson, Randy Rieman,  Audrey Hankins, and Vess Quinlan. Among the highlights:  Randy Rieman recited Gail I. Gardner's "The Dude Wrangler" and a poem by Eugene Field, and Joel Nelson recited Rod McQueary's "For Life" and his own "On Finding Someone." Audrey Hankins offered poems by Ron Chappell ("Broken Dreams") and another by Alfred Lloyd Tennyson. Vess Quinlan told a great tale about a logger and recited poems by Carlos Ashley ("Blondie") and Henry Herbert Knibbs ("Borrowlea").


photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller, used with permission


"Fresh Out" was hosted by Nika Nordbrock and included Rolf Flake, Jo Lynne Kirkwood, and Michael Tcherkassky. Nika read a poem by the late Ray Owens in his memory, and Jo Lynne Kirkwood read one of her poems in honor of the late Barbara Hall.  All offered additional new poems and music.



photo by Smoke Wade of Barb Hall at Cedar City in March, 2007



Jane Morton

"Y'All Come" included long-time friends Jane Morton and Byrd Woodward. Jane, recently named Cowgirl Poet of the Year" by the Academy of Western Artists, writes about the many generations of her family's ranching history, and did several poems from her Will Rogers Medallion Award-winning book, Turning to Face the Wind.  Byrd Woodward, too, draws on the stories of her homesteading family, and she delivered poems recently collected in her chapbook, There...Just Over the Ridge.


"Classics" with Tom Weathers, Jay Snider, and Don Cadden included Jay Snider's strong recitations of Bruce Kiskaddon's "The Bronco Twister's Prayer" and "The Good Old Cowboy Days"; Tom Weather's signature recitation of Sharlot Hall's "The Old Cowman's Parade"; and Don Cadden's moving interpretation of  Badger Clark's "The Bad Half Hour" and other vintage cowboy songs.


The later evening show was filled with memorable and touching moments, including Sally Harper Bates performing a Gail I. Gardner poem, "Sunshine and Shadow; Jean Prescott singing "The Boots Her Daddy Wore," co-written with Kip Calahan, inspired by Abi McWhorter's loss of her father, poet Larry McWhorter; twelve-year-old Abi McWhorter's recitation her father's poem, "Peaches and the Twister"; Ray Fitzgerald's recitation, Audrey Hankins several poems, some accompanied by Jim Jones' music; and Chris Isaacs' delivery of Larry McWhorter's "Johnny Clare."

Gail Steiger, grandson of Gail I. Gardner, told about his grandmother, Delia Gist, who at age 18 homesteaded and built her own house. She later married Gail I. Gardner, and he told how she always smiled at laughed at his poems, which she must have heard hundreds of times, which were often performed for friends who stopped by. After her death, the family found her own exceptional poem, "Hail and Farewell," which he recited. (His recitation of the poem is included on the The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two).


 Some Saturday highlights:

"Classics" with Katie McCall Owen, Randy Rieman, Gail Steiger, and Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks was another excellent session.  Among other poems, Randy Rieman gave great recitations of "Boomer Johnson" by Henry Herbert Knibbs, Bruce Kiskaddon's "Alone," and S. Omar Barker's "Horses vs Hosses." He introduced "Brooksie" as a "favorite reciter" of his, and she didn't disappoint the crowd with her renditions of Badger Clark's "Free Wind," Henry Herbert Knibbs' "The Walking Man, and Breaker Morant's "Who's Riding Old Harlequin Now?"

Gail Steiger gave some interesting background for his grandfather, Gail I. Gardner's famous poem, "The Sierry Petes," telling about how cattle were rounded up and branded  in his day, and then performed the words, singing them a capella in a unique, humorous fashion.  Recognizing a good friend and poet recently departed, J. B. Allen, Gail Steiger also performed "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor, saying he did it because "it would have irritated J. B. Allen." Katie McCall Owen chose excellent poems and matched them with excellent delivery. They included "Cowboy's Dream" by Charlie Hart and S. Omar Barker's "Jack Potter's Courting."



Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot")

"Range Romance" was the perfect showcase for Gary and Jean Prescott, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Abi McWhorter, and Dee Strickland Johnson ("Buckshot Dot"). Gary and Jean entertained with their duets and also on solo pieces, including "Flat Tire Ranch," "Money Counts," and "Cowgirl Blues." Jean backed up others, including Abi McWhorter when she recited Yvonne Hollenbeck's poem, "How Far is Lonesone," a poem that Jean Prescott set to music. Abi, 12, also performed her late father Larry McWhorter's poetry, and a poem that her mother Andrea McWhorter Waitley helped her write, about her father.

Yvonne performed several poems, including "Name Calling," and she treated to crowd to her always-a-hit poem, "What Would Martha Do?"  Dee Strickland Johnson looked beautiful, sang like an angel on her "Old Hank Morgan's Place," and performed her fine poems, including the humorous "Tomboy" and "Cowboy Goes a'Courtin'," each selection fitting the session's title.


The "best" in the "West is Best" session was definitely reflected in its group of poets and reciters: Jay Snider, Bimbo Cheney, Ray Fitzgerald, and Randy Rieman.

Bimbo Cheney performed several strong poems, including his popular "Quakie Braille" and a poem about Eldon Walker, an old cowboy who he tells happened to be the first cowboy and poet that Western Folklife Center Founding Director Hal Cannon met. Jay Snider did impressive pieces from his repertoire, including Bruce Kiskaddon's "The Bronco Twister's Prayer" and "Tyrone and Tyree."  Randy Rieman quipped that he would take advantage of Joel Nelson's absence from the room to recite Joel's poem about Charlie Russell, and also performed Bruce Kiskaddon's "Forgotten" and other poems.

Veteran cowboy, poet, and storyteller Ray Fitzgerald kept the audience riveted with his performances, including his poem about rounding up the last FC Ranch cow over 50 years ago, and he paid tribute to the late J. B. Allen by reciting his "Kindred Spirits."



Dick Morton

There are open session poetry and music opportunities for all throughout the event. In one open session,  Dick Morton and Susan Parker offered top recitations to appreciative audiences. Dick performed Henry Herbert Knibbs' "So Long, Chinook,"  Badger Clark's "The Old Cow Pony" (with harmonica accompaniment), Buck Ramsey's "Anthem," and other poems. Susan Parker gave dramatic, flawless recitations, including "Old Bull," by Ethel Romig Fuller; Sally Harper Bates' poem,"Generic Titles," and Virginia Bennett's "A Tapestry of Knots."


Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski; see her gallery of western performers and others here.


"Ranch Family" featured three of the McCall family poets and reciters: Deanna McCall and her son Rusty and daughter Kate McCall Owen. They were joined by Daisy Dillard, who shared poems from her family's ranching and homesteading life.

Kate McCall Owen, as always, chose excellent poems to recite, including Wallace McRae's "Urban Daughter," "Bill Venero," which she learned from her grandfather, Bruce Kiskaddon's "Diamond Bar" and others. Rusty McCall, despite having recently had serious surgery, delivered one excellent poem after another, including S. Omar Barker's "Hanging'," Bruce Kiskaddon's "Working it Over," and his own poetry.  Deanna McCall recited her own poetry, drawn from five generations of her family's ranch life, including "Hot Iron," "The Branding Crew," and a recent poem, "Feral Words."


At the later Saturday evening show, Randy Rieman did a grand job of emceeing, delighting the audience with stories, humor, and his fitting recitation of Bruce Kiskaddon's "An Old Western Town." Later in the program, he recited Henry Herbert Knibbs' "Where the Ponies Come to Drink," particularly for Kip Calahan, who was celebrating her birthday and had requested the poem.

Kip performs as if she's always celebrating, and the audience loved her energetic music, backed up by Jim Jones. Among her selections were Dave Stamey's "Buckaroo Man" and "What Cowboy Means," which she wrote for her father-in-law, the first cowboy inducted into the Hidalgo County Cowboy Hall of Fame. Other poets and musicians graced the program, and standouts were Joel Nelson's recitation of his own "The Men Who Ride No More" and master reciter Ross Knox' rendition of Bruce Kiskaddon's "The Old Nighthawk."

California poet and ranch manager Gary Robertson, a favorite in Prescott, recited his original poems.  And speaking of original, Nebraska rancher and poet R. P. Smith had the full attention of the audience as he spun his stories and poems with a deadpan delivery that made them all the more humorous.

A particular audience treat was a surprise appearance by Don Edwards, who performed "The Goodnight Loving Trail," "The Wayfaring Stranger," and the "Yodel Song."


And, even with all of those sessions covered, that left unseen nearly half of the other excellent poets and musicians who were featured. They are on the top of the list for next year, when the 21st Annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering takes place, August 14-16, 2008.

 

This is page two. See a report by William Merritt and photos by Lori Faith Merritt on Page 1.

 


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