The Fifteenth Annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering at Prescott, Arizona has a special connection for us at CowboyPoetry.com: Bill Anton, whose painting, "Spellbound" (pictured at left) was on the gathering's 2002 poster, is also the cover artist of our anthology, The Big Roundup.
Each year at Prescott, poets are asked to write a poem about the painting used as the poster. We're pleased to have the poster poems written by several favorite BAR-D poets, and a selection of poems chosen by the gathering.
Click this link for information about the poster from Sharlot Hall Museum, producers of the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering
Below you'll find:
You can read our report on the 2001 gathering here.
Prescott Cowboy Poetry Gathering 2002
by Marshall Considine III
Prescott, AZ: It's hard to believe that the Prescott Cowboy Poetry Gathering is already 15-years old! But like fine wine, this Gathering gets better with time and the crowds just keep getting bigger.
This year's Gathering kicked off at the Yavapai College Performance Hall with a Thursday night performance hosted by Sally Bates and featured the King of the Cowboy singers, Don Edwards. As always, Don put on a great show. Jean Prescott also performed and proved that she has one of the prettiest voices in the business. Former Gail Gardner award winner Audrey Hankins recited her poetry from the heart giving the audience an honest slice of ranch living. Audrey wanted to ensure she stood out from all the other top poets that night..so she wore a skirt! Joel Nelson proved that he is a walking encyclopedia of cowboy poetry (how can he remember all that??) and Grand Canyon packer Ross Knox and Texas Cowboy Larry McWhorter rounded out the show in fine fashion. Don Edwards closed the show with all the performers by singing "Home on the range" along with the audience. Talk about getting your $12 worth!
Friday night's show was hosted by Ray Owens who rode herd over Elida, New Mexico, Leon Autrey, Manti, UT (where there is no Minimart by the way) cowgirl "Sam" DeLeeuw, Colorado rancher Frances Wheeler, South Dakota cowboy Bill Wood, and newlywed and former Parker Ranch cowboy/horseman Randy Rieman. Also on hand was Prescott's favorite group: The Desert Sons, who had some new faces in the group. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the 2002 Gail Gardner award local poet Sally Bates who has been instrumental in keeping the Prescott Gathering going over the last 15-years.
Saturday's early evening show was hosted by Timber Springs rancher Neil Abbott (a graduate of two MC schools) who MCed a great show that included talents such as Sally Bates, Georgie Sicking, Rolf Flake, Arizona rancher Steve Lindsey, and Larry McWhorter. Music was provided by the 2002 Academy of Western Artists Group of the year, Jill Jones and the Lone Star Chorale. Jill may be the best female yodeler in the business and Doug Floyd is one of the best pickers around.
Saturday night's show was hosted by Flagstaff's own Tom Weathers. Tom introduced Ely, Nevada rancher-poet Deanna McCall, Joel Nelson, Randy Rieman (I don't think I've ever heard "The Man from Snowy River" recited any better), Spider ranch cowboy Gail Steiger, Porterville, CA cowboy Jesse Smith, the trio Syd Masters and the Swing Riders, and Jill Jones and the Lone Star Chorale (whose CD's sold like hotcakes and they are working on a new CD) closed the show.
I've had the pleasure of attending a few gatherings in the Southwest, the nice thing about Prescott's is that besides the 4 evening shows, there are over 100 other sessions on everything from yodeling to cowboy humor to ranch life going on for 3-days on the beautiful grounds of the Sharlot Hall Museum that are all FREE to the public. These sessions featured Prescott Gathering veterans such as Mary Abbott, Chris Isaacs, Ted Edmundson, Carole Jarvis, Sue Jones, Shag Reimer, Gail Starr, Marge Tucker Woodhurst, Vance Wampler, Ray Owens, Barbra Hall, Barry Rumsey, Ray Fitzgerald, Bill Beam, Joette Conley, Ken Graydon, Phee Sherline and a host of others.
The Gatherings' poster and program cover this year was "Spellbound," painted by Prescott's own Bill Anton who graciously sat at the Gathering's cowboy mercantile to sign his posters and visit with the crowd.
A raffle for a working cowboy saddle made by master saddlemaker Olen Miller of Goshen, Indiana was won by Dave Johnson of Glendale, Arizona..
A couple of poets that were missed this year: Gary Robertson who was busy taking care of his sick father and "Buckshot Dot" Dee Strickland Johnson whose son was in a car accident. Hope to see them both at the Gathering next year!
The Sunday morning after the Gathering has become a tradition on Jim and Barb Buchanan's beautiful ranch. Year after year they host all the artists and volunteers for an authentic chuck wagon breakfast of eggs, dutch oven biscuits with fresh sausage gravy and campfire coffee, all cooked by the Steve Rafters (Rafter 6) crew.
Jigger Boss Warren Miller and his cast of volunteers have made this yearly Gathering a "don't miss" event, so mark your calendar for August 14-15-16, 2003!
Submitted to Rope Burns, printed with permission
Lariat Laureate runner up Byrd Woodward sent us an email that was full of wonderful description; we received her permission to post it:
The gathering, I think must have been the best ever....it surely was of the four we've attended...it was one of the best as far as the quality of the show is concerned........we'd never seen Randy Reiman before.....Holy Smoke!!.....and of course, Don Edwards is one of our all time favorites. The daytime sessions were run so smoothly they appeared seamless, the music was uniformly wonderful... There were lots of sessions begun with a prayer for Dee's son ["Buckshot Dot" Dee Strickland Johnson's son suffered a serious accident two weeks earlier] and so many special thoughts were flying his way ....Joel Nelson was looking so good and says he's just feeling great...Jesse Smith and his wife and little Jesse Jr. were there with bells on....little Jesse got to draw the ticket for the Olen Miller saddle Saturday night and his stage presence is just as relaxed and genuine as his Dad's...he must be about five.... (the fellow who won the saddle was there!)....Sally Bates, Suzi Killman and Jean Prescott did a show together at the amphitheater stage and left their audience on their feet and breathless.....so much good stuff happened and you know, having been there, the atmosphere in Prescott is like a family reunion where everybody likes each other......I've only just skimmed a little cream off the top here but it was truly an almost magical gathering, except for the sad news regarding Tim ....and then at the end, even that had an uplifting effect when we heard he was better....maybe that was part of the magic......
Dear friends came together and joined their hearts
For a weekend of tradition and rhyme....
We were all blessed by the cowboy spirit
May it linger on throughout time.
by Bill Anton
Each year, poets are asked to write a poem about the gathering's poster painting. Our thanks to the poets who have shared their work below.
The first group of poems was selected by the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.
by Lee Brimhall, Prescott, Arizona
When day is done on Burro Creek I top out on the rim
And see that country far and wide as day begins to dim
I gaze across that wide expanse of canyons wide and deep
A way off in the distance stands a mountain tall and steep.
Away from town and city life 'mid rugged rocks and hills
I hear the sounds of night set in and get a pleasant thrill.
Then back across the other way a mountain looms up high
With granite peaks and ridges there that point up to the sky.
Side draws, slopes and turtlebacks all shaped by nature's hand,
To be there in the midst of it the feeling sure is grand.
I realize how small I am compared to that vast land
And how to take good care of it I try to understand.
I hear a night owl start to hoot then the callin' of a quail
A cow then bellows for her calf below her on the trail.
While it's still light I look across and view that canyon side
Where many times I've worked with stock and where I soon will ride.
To get down to the old ranch house before the night sets in,
To rest up and be ready when the new day will begin.
My trusty steed has worked for me all through the long hard day
And I dismount and set a bit as daylight fades away.
The sinking sun is almost gone with western skies ablaze
And as I watch the setting sun I sit there all amazed.
I see a vast array out there of colors, shades and hues
And I just sit there all entranced, enjoying that awesome view.
Those high and grassy mesas there above those canyons deep
Their picture in the setting sun in memory I will keep.
That wild and rugged country there just stretches out for miles
And I remember working there has had it's hopes and trials.
The Great Creator sure must like wild country like that there
Because He made so much of it, with lots of it to spare
Where stock will thrive if managed well and wildlife do well too,
For we improve the forage here because of what we do.
I hear a soft and rustling sound that's coming from the trees
And I feel things cool off a bit because of that mild breeze
I know that my description just will not tell the whole story
So I give thanks to artists who paint it in it's full glory.
So I must mount up and head for home but I am still spellbound,
Then soon I hear folks doing chores and it's a welcome sound.
Then once again I think how much I love this vivid land
And how to live and work with it is where I make my stand.
© 2002, Lee Brimhall
by Ray Owens, Artesia, New Mexico
Sittin' here and lookin' yonder,
Just a-lettin' my thoughts wander
Sorta' soakin' in the scen'ry all around.
Takin' time to muse and ponder
Why it is folks seem to squander
All the beauty that's so often easy found.
Hard to figure why they do it,
As if there was nothin' to it,
This awesome, lonely ruggedness so grand.
No consideration given
To the folks who make their livin'
A-carin' for the livestock and the land.
"We'll make millions!" they all rave,
"Sub-divide, and fence and pave,"
And I reckon that's exactly what they'll do,
But for the moment I'll enjoy
Scenes I've known since just a boy,
Land I've never once got tired of ridin' through.
It's hard to say just how you feel
Though you know it's dang sure real
These emotions deep inside you so profound
But if I had to choose one word
From all the many ones I've heard
To describe it, I'd just simply say "spellbound."
But if the money men succeed
And destroy this with their greed
They'll never kill the mem'ries in my mind
'Cause through the years I'll hold on tight
To times like on this star-filled night
When for a while I left my worries far behind.
© 2002, Ray Owens
Read more of Honored Guest Ray Owens' poetry here.
by Carole Jarvis, Wickenburg, Arizona
Seems I've spent a thousand nightfalls
Watchin' evenin' stars grow bright
As the old earth slowly darkens
In the sun's last fadin' light.
It's a time to shed my worries
Let the rest of the world go by
Alone out here, just me and my horse,
Underneath God's big wide sky.
Hear that old coyote howlin', Blaze?
Bet he feels a lot like me
Satisfied with the life he's got,
Content at just bein' free.
'Cuz the trails are never too rough
And the days are never too long
If you're livin' this cowboy life
And know it's where you belong.
I can't see into the future
But I've seen into the past
Through the eyes of cowboys gone now
And the wide loop that they cast.
For their lives were never hollow
And their dreams were never small
But you didn't want to push 'em
With their back against a wall.
Sittin' quiet like, this evenin',
I can feel their spirits near
As though in some mysterious way
What I'm thinkin' they can hear.
Guess it's part of the connection
Us old cowboys come to know
That ties the life we're livin' now
To those days of long ago.
For much of what our life's about
Goes beyond cows and the land
It's bein' in the company
Of cowboys who made a hand.
© 2002, Carole Jarvis
by Jane Morton, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Out here there's room in which to think
There's solace nature brings,
And I rest easier near these rocks
Than on a bed with springs.
All my concerns don't seem so large
When measured 'gainst this space.
The panoramic landscape here
Downsizes what I face.
I feel connected to this earth,
A part of one great whole.
I don't pretend to understand,
But it relates to soul.
Earth time goes back for centuries,
A million years like days.
I only have a minute here.
It's earth itself that stays.
I read its past in rocks and soil.
I hear it speak to me
Of previous inhabitants
And time beneath a sea.
This land was here before I came,
Will be here when I go.
Out here I find an inner peace
That makes my spirit glow.
© 2002, Jane Morton
Read more of Lariat Laureate Jane Morton's poetry here.
by Howard Norskog, St. Anthony, Idaho
He's just a man who lives in his dreams
Of rivers and mountains, pastures and streams,
Of a ranch house in a valley, restin' up high,
Those days with the family that's long since gone by.
Now he's all alone as the years disappear.
The night closes in and darkness draws near.
The bones seem to tell him that he'll be the last
As another generation moves into the past.
But horses and dogs all move through his mind,
Memories of friends, the good and the kind,
Pictures of trails that pass through the land
Where he lived and he loved, the life of a man.
Memories come flooding as the light fades away,
His mother and father in those bygone days,
And there in the twilight he sees once again
A life out behind him that sings on the wind.
© 2002, Howard Norskog
Read more of Honored Guest Howard Norskog's poetry here.
by Larry McWhorter, Weatherford, Texas
Dear Lord, I left her crying,
But I had to get away,
And though we've been together many years,
She's crying more here lately
And I don't know what to say,
'Cause I feel that I'm the reason for her tears
Lord, what happened in those years
That made us drift apart?
When used to we saw most things eye to eye?
But now she just looks past me
Like she's lost her hope and heart
And given up and now won't even try.
I can't blame her much I guess
I'm not much company
With drought and eco-bandits on the prowl,
And both of them seem bent on
Takin' what belongs to me
While I can't do a thing but snap and growl.
Are her eyes accusing me
Of one more dream that's failed?
Or is it just a disappointed stare
That leaves me with the feeling
Of a heart that's been impaled
And gives me one more burden I must bear.
Where do I go from here Lord?
I've tried most all I know
To meet my cattle's and my family's needs.
I've tried it on my own but now
I've nowhere else to go
So here I am, before You on my knees.
A man once told You, "I believe,
But help my unbelief."
Right now I know just what that feller meant.
Trusting what we can't observe
Don't give our hearts relief
When we can't see Your end or Your intent.
I guess You need to keep us close
Until the water clears
So we can see just what You have in mind.
I confess I've strayed a bit
Like one of my ol' steers...
Is that why she feels alone and left behind?
Have I let the world decide
How much my family's worth?
Have I got caught up too much in the race?
When all she says she wants for me
Goes far beyond this earth,
When side by side we face You face to face?
I love this life You gave me,
I'm grateful for the chance
To do some things most folks don't get to do,
But if I died tomorrow
There'd be another fill my pants
But that won't mean a thing to her and You.
Like You, she'll only be aware
Of if she felt my love
When it could do some good here in this life.
Will her memories of me
Be thoughts I'd be proud of?
Will she recall a man who loved his wife?
I can't see the future
But I can see the now
And I hope it ain't too late to change the end.
I'll leave tomorrow to You,
If I work machine or cow,
But right now, walk me home, we've hearts to mend.
© 2002, Larry McWhorter
Spellbound by the Legend
The cowboy's pony pricked its ears
As the moaning came up the draw.
The cowboy sat without a breath
Trying to make sense of what he saw.
He'd heard about the stories told
Of the cowboy and his love that died
In that rocky draw below him
Before he could claim her as his bride.
The moaning became incessant
The cowboy's attention it did peak
As the shadows formed an image
Of winged figures that seemed to speak.
He was spellbound by the story
The winds blew softly to his ears
About this love affair turned legend.
A legend retold for many years.
The maiden and the cowboy met
But, their young love was not to be.
She was Spanish, of royal blood,
He a gringo, with heart so free.
Secretly their love was bonded,
Lives and souls joined for ever more.
Love would blossom, but tragedy,
For them, was all that laid in store.
It was there where the cowboy sat,
That the young lovers met each night.
They shared their love, they made their vows,
And then, would hold each other tight.
In this canyon, her father found them.
The cowboy's life he vowed to take.
They felt there was only one escape.
Clutching hands, the ground began to quake.
The legend said that when they jumped,
The Spell of Ancients turned the two
Into soaring, floating sparrow hawks.
Touching wing tips, abreast they flew!
Now, sometimes on a moonlit night
Shadows of two sparrow hawks are seen
Gliding down the canyon's rocky walls.
Side by side they dive and careen
Above their place of wonder and dreams
Where they met and loved and then spent
Endless hours with one another,
Sharing what real devotion meant.
The cowboy hearing the haunting song,
Picked out two soaring shadows below.
And in awe saw how they moved as one.
Wings touched with a shimmering glow.
The young lovers are together still
As seen on that mystical night.
He had been one of the lucky few
To see the sparrow hawks in flight.
Disbelievers say it's whistling winds.
"No magic! No mystery!" come their mocks.
But those who've seen, and heard the night songs
Vow, it's the enchanted sparrow hawks.
But spellbound still, the cowboy watched
As the hawk's forms changed and paled!
Then just as quick, the image cleared!
And night winds blew; the night song wailed!
The images took final form.
The Spell of Ancients released the pair!
There stood the dark eyed Spanish maid,
And her Gringo, their love to share!
The beating of the lover's hearts
Echoed against the canyon wall.
He watched the Gringo kiss the face
Behind the lacy, Spanish shawl.
He was allowed to be a part
Of their transition to this life.
Hand in hand, they turned and walked away,
The Gringo and his Spanish wife.
The morning rays awoke the cowboy.
The night songs still cloudy in his mind.
He'd been dreaming 'bout the legend.
No other explanation could he find.
He'd have another story to tell
Around the campfire this very night,
About the dream he had envisioned,
Of the lovers, now gone from sight.
As the cowboy turned his pony,
Hat pulled low, his eyes to shade,
He noticed draped across the rocks,
The Spanish shawl, so neatly laid!
The cowboy's pony pricked its ears
As the love song came 'cross the draw.
The cowboy sat without a breath,
Having now made sense of what he saw.
The cowboy often comes and sits
Beside the canyon's rocky wall,
In hopes, sometime, he might return
The treasured, lacy Spanish Shawl.
© 2002, Sam DeLeeuw
Read more of our Lariat Laureate runner up Sam DeLeeuw's poetry here.
The Last Nail
Ya might not think I'm much t' look at with my ol' boots turned up at th' toes,
Th' heels is run down an' the sole's comin' loose from the nails workin' outta their holes.
M' hat is flat-out disgraceful and these batwings is wore down to bat-ears;
Th' belt I'm wearin' looks pretty fair since I been tight'nin' it up all these years.
M' shirts wore through at th' elbows, my kack's been rode down t' th' wood,
M' hair's curlin' round m' collar an' these pants ain't holdin' up like they should.
Nope, I never made or saved money, ridin' fer day work all over these parts,
Th' way I look prob'ly has somethin' to do with th' fact I ain't broke many hearts.
Maybe I oughta point out some I do have since what I ain't got's purty plain:
I got th' sense God gave a goose and I know to git outta th' rain.
Ya might think this rangy ol' geldin' is played out an' not up t' th' game,
But you turn him t' cuttin' an' ropin'. he'll put other ponies t' shame.
When he's worked all day an' half th' night, a bait of grain'll bring back his stout.
Been offered top dollar at round-ups but I'll keep this toppy ol' mount.
Looks don't tell much about what makes a hand an' my rep's sound as any round here.
My shake's good as gold, I don't raise much dust. any cowman'll buy me a beer.
I got 10,000 sunsets an' dawnin's packed under this ol' hat,
An' pards who'll trust me t' git 'em home, whether I say it's this way or that.
I got a daughter I'm proud of, dogs don't growl when I show up at th' gate.
That li'l gal I saved from drownin' that time's got a boy calls me Uncle Jake.
So. if I leave friends behind in Montany whenever or how come I die,
If I don't show up fer spring brandin' an' damp shows in somebody's eye.
If th' folks I worked with remember that when I said I'd do it.I did,
I b'lieve my maker'll be satisfied when they pound th' last nail in th' lid.
© 2002, Byrd Woodward
Our Lariat Laureate runner up Byrd Woodward said this poem is "sort of my definition of why cow folks become 'Spellbound' with the lives they lead..." You can read more of her poetry here.
The view is vast from the middle rim;
dismounted... he gazes across the land.
The same land more than a century before,
in settling, his family had taken a hand.
Weather's dry in a cloudless sky,
summer'll be hot, he can tell.
But the gathering, along with springtime chores,
has really gone quite well.
Three mama cows and earmarked calves
graze upon the offside ridge.
A quarter mile on, a doe and fawn
are near its upper edge.
Sister's mare with her new foal,
he watches down below,
Along with Dan, his old retired horse,
oh... it was hard to let him go.
The rim's edge... is a rugged ride,
checking for the last of the strays
But the trail is so, once starter down,
they'll pretty much find their own way.
And it's no chore, it's a welcome ride,
one he's done time and again.
When first he rode along that rim...
he'd had not yet reached ten.
The age, his kids are now far beyond,
which gives him cause to pause,
In awe... of how life's played out
and how it continues on.
Both up and down his eye are filled
with that of earth and heaven,
With wonders of life, more often then not,
only passing thoughts are given.
His horse stands quiet as stars appear,
the cowboy lingers longer.
Immersed in thought of past and present,
it's the cowboy's time to ponder.
He's got to go, he tells himself, but
suspended, gazing through time's eye,
His delay continues, even though the ranch
is still a two-hour ride.
With sounds of night, the skyline's lit,
the city's glow has sat upon,
Breaking the dark, above the ranch,
some thirty miles beyond.
In the valley there's a single, distant light...
from the ranch house his granddad built.
Humbled... knowing family is there,
far safer then their forbearers could have felt.
Thoughts are deepened, petition laid...
as if in prayer he asks to tell,
Why life, with all its blessings,
has cared for him so well?
Time holds fast the past and present
and for the cowboy... a glimpse is given,
The wonders of life that leaves him Spellbound, on a rim...
somewhere between earth and heaven.
© 2002, Mike Dunn
Read more of Mike Dunn's poetry here.
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