Never forgotten

See more recent postings on page one here.

Additional postings previous to those below are here.

See more previous postings on our page of Respects.


Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights


  Teresa Dobrowski 1912-2010

Teresa Dobrowski, 97, of Wibaux, Montana, passed away January 15, 2010.

She is survived by her husband of 76 years, Joe, and six children, including Robert Dobrowski, married to Jeri L. Dobrowski.

You can write to Jeri and Rob Dobrowski at 1471 Carlyle Road, Beach, ND 58621.

Jeri Dobrowski shared the obituary she wrote:

Teresa Teckla Marciniak was born Sept. 22, 1912, in rural Wibaux County, Mont., one of six daughters born to John and Paulina (Efta) Marciniak. The family lived on a well-kept farm along Beaver Creek, south of Wibaux.

Since there were no boys in the family, Teresa helped her father. She spoke fondly of herding cows on horseback and working the fields with horses, but disliked milking the cow that would only stand for her. She taught one horse to jump a gate so she wouldn’t have to get off to open it. Her favorite places to relax were in the hayloft of the barn and along the creek.

When Teresa was six years old, her mother died of the Spanish Influenza. Her father remarried, taking Paulina’s sister Veronica as his wife. Two boys and five girls were born in John’s second family. Teresa attended the one-room Massey School, completing the 8th grade.

On April 25, 1933, Teresa married Joe Dobrowski at St. Philip's Catholic Church, St. Philip, Mont. They made their home five miles west of Golva, in Wibaux County, where they farmed together for over 40 years. They raised grains, corn silage, cattle and pigs. Teresa enjoyed gardening, especially raising flowers. She started her own tomato and cabbage plants and raised a bountiful garden. She canned, froze and pickled hundreds of quarts of produce each year, including sauerkraut, peas, beans, and strawberries.

Teresa and Joe also raised chickens. They kept 500 egg-layers. Twice a week, they delivered crates of eggs to restaurants and cartons of eggs to stores in Glendive, Mont. They raised fryers too, butchering 100 chickens each year which they froze for their own use. It wasn’t Sunday unless Grammy Teresa made chicken for dinner!

Teresa served as clerk for the Douglas School Board. All of her children attended the one-room which stood one-half mile south of the farm. She was a member of the St. Philip’s Catholic Church Rosary Society for over 70 years, serving on the board for many years. She was a lifetime member of St. Philip’s Catholic Church. Teresa enjoyed doing counted cross stitch and made quilts for every member of her family.

In 1979, Joe and Teresa built a new home and moved to Wibaux. They took their incredible gardening abilities with them, starting a new garden plot in town that flourished just like the one on the farm. She and Joe often spent their evenings playing gin and wild card rummy. They moved to the Wibaux County Nursing Home in the summer of 2006 after Joe broke a rib while working in the garden. He was 100 at the time; Teresa was 93.

Teresa was preceded in death by an infant son, Joseph; an infant grandson, Bruce; son-in-law, Dean Dormanen; sisters: Helen Bruski, Sophia Goroski, Pauline Dobrowski, Edwegan Marciniak; Cecelia Marciniak, Rosie Granat,; and brothers: John Marciniak Jr. and Ray Marciniak.

Teresa is survived by her husband of 76 years, Joe Dobrowski, Wibaux County Nursing Home; children: Cecelia (Jim) Samuels, Dickinson, N.D; Teresa (Ed) Kremers, Gillette, Wyo.; Francis (Pat) Dobrowski, Reno, Nev.; Marie Dormanen, Fargo, N.D.; David (Mary) Dobrowski, Missoula, Mont.; and Robert (Jeri) Dobrowski of the family farm in rural Wibaux County, Mont.; sisters: Verna Sokoloski, Elizabeth Susa; Anna Marynik; and Marian Wosepka; sister-in-law, Genevieve Marciniak; 13 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to the St. Philip’s Rosary Society, c/o Kim Miske, 261 Red Top Road, Wibaux, MT 59353. Remembrances and condolences may be shared with the family at


Posted 1/19

Larry J. Pawlowski  1934-2009

Jeri Dobrowski sent the sad news of the death on December 28, 2009 of Larry J. Pawlowski of Billings, Montana. Jeri comments that Larry, a stand-up bass player, "was a fixture at cowboy poetry and music gatherings in Medora and Cody."

From an obituary in the Billings Gazette:

Larry J. Pawlowski, age 75, of Billings, and formerly of Circle, passed away Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, at home in Billings, after a battle with cancer.

Larry was born in Circle on March 24, 1934, to Leonard Pawlowski and Lydia (Bartels) Pawlowski and raised by Irene (Reinemer) Pawlowski. He attended school through the eighth grade until work came calling at the age of 15 herding sheep. Larry was married to Edith S. Kasten on Oct. 20, 1956....

Larry enjoyed farming, hunting, fishing, playing cards and having a good time with family and friends. There was no greater joy than his music; Larry started playing music at a very young age. He would play and sing, with anybody at any place at any time. So play a tune, sing a song and have a drink on him….

A viewing will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1, 2010, followed by a family service at 6 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church in Circle. A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010, at the First Lutheran Church in Circle followed by interment in Riverview Cemetery in Circle. Memorials may be sent to: Gina Hove, PO Box 311, Circle, MT 59215. Condolences may be sent to  or Clayton Stevenson Memorial Chapel has been entrusted with the arrangements.

Posted 12/31

  Curly Musgrave, 1943-2009

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share the sad news that singer, songwriter, poet, and musician Curly Musgrave—so dearly loved and respected, a man whose grace and goodness touched all who had the privilege of knowing himdied Sunday, December 13, 2009.

Find a tribute pages here.

Curly had been challenged by a number of undiagnosed illnesses in the past few years, and on Monday, December 7, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor.

Curly's long-time performing partner, Belinda Gail, was at the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, upholding their performance commitment, when Curly died. Throughout the event, she received the support of the entire festival, which had been dedicated to Curly. (Read an article here.)

Curly was a proud and wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and, quite recently, he became a great grandfather.

You can send condolences to Kathi Musgrave and her family at PO Box 512, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352, and you can write to Belinda Gail at PO Box 729, Crestline, CA 92325.

A "Celebration of Curly's Life" was held January 9, 2010; read more here.  Andy Nelson shared the the program from the Celebration of Curly's Life, which is posted on page 3 where there is also a link to the photoshow at

Our tribute page also includes a song, "A Cowboy Farewell," written by Diane Tribitt, Curly Musgrave, Belinda Gail, and R.W. Hampton.

Your recollections are welcome for posting on our tribute pages. Email us.

[photograph of Curly Musgrave by Lori Faith Merritt (]

Tribute pages updated 2/16

  Gene Semingson

Dave Nordquist and Smoke Wade sent news that well-loved cowboy poet Gene Semingson died November 19, 2009 at age 79, in Pullman, Washington. Dave wrote:

Gene was one of the founding cowboy poets of the Palouse Country Cowboy Poetry Association and a good friend of mine. Our association goes back to 1948 when we were both incoming freshman at then Washington State College. He later was instrumental in getting me interested and started in cowboy poetry.

Gene was a tireless promoter of Cowboy Poetry and the Palouse Country Cowboy Poetry Association. Back in the 1990's he taught an extension class at the University of Idaho on Cowboy Poetry. Way back in his high school days (1948) he won a convertible car in a state grange contest for his recitation of a poem he wrote.

Smoke wrote:

Gene was one of those poets you immediately liked - he was always warm and friendly, and funny. I often think of my first meeting with him. It was a few years back and we were performing at the pizza place in Juliaetta, ID. Gene was there and after I presented a few poems, he introduced himself to me and asked me to join the ranks of the Palouse Cowboy Poetry Association. He really made me feel good that night. Ride well, Gene Semingson, you will always remain in our hearts.
As reported here in the Lewiston Tribune: The memorial service for Eugene H. (Gene) Semingson will be at 2 p.m. Dec. 1 in the View Room of the Gladish Cultural and Community Center in Pullman. A family graveside service will be held at the Pullman Cemetery. Kimball Funeral Home of Pullman is handling arrangements.

[Thanks to Dave Nordquist for the photo of Gene Semingson]

Posted 11/23

  Wally Bazyn

Yvonne Hollenbeck shared the sad news of the death of Wally Bazyn, age 74, of Valentine, Nebraska. Wally Bazyn was a popular performer at many Western events. An America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee, he was known as a master radio personality, yodeler, vocalist, musician, recording artist, and performer.

Funeral services were held Monday, October 5, 2009 at the United Methodist Church in Valentine. Wally is survived by wife Dorothy of Valentine, son Doug of Broken Bow, daughter Beth Ferrell of Lincoln, and brother Gene of Norfolk.

UPDATED 10/8: Broadcaster Jim Thompson (Live! with Jim Thompson) comments: 

Wally Bayzn was one of the most influential men in my early radio life. He was the sales manager at KVSH in Valentine, Nebraska, my first radio job. He would stop in often and offer advice on the music I selected and the order I played them. I can't say that I appreciated him sufficiently then, but later as my career as a disc jockey grew, and later in sales and management and training, I found that what he taught me, I was teaching to others, because it made so much sense. What a wonderful man. He will be missed

[photo courtesy of Yvonne Hollenbeck]

Updated 10/8

Rose Mary Allmendinger 1939-2009

We were sad to learn of the death of rancher and poet Rose Mary Allmendinger on September 10, 2009. Her work appeared at from its earliest days.

From her obituary:

Rose Mary Allmendinger, 70, owner of the historic Hitch Rack Ranch, south of Colorado Springs, died suddenly at home on September 10. Rose Mary was born in Rocky Ford, Colorado on August 14, 1939. She attended Colorado State University, majoring in textile fabrics. After getting married and starting a family, Rose Mary worked in the fashion industry, modeling for Vogue magazine. She enjoyed a successful career in real estate, designing and developing Creekside Condominiums, a project which won the Governors Award for Design.

As a rancher and breeder of quarter horses, she was selected as the only woman in the first Agricultural Leadership Program, which traveled to Japan and China. Rose Mary is survived by her children, Blake of Los Angeles, California, and Cindi (husband, Dale Sivils) of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and her grandchildren, Taylor and Matt Stratton...In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Animal Welfare Protection Society, PO Box 11208, Pueblo, CO, 81001.

Read some of Rose Mary Allmendinger's poetry here.

Posted 9/21

Elizabeth (Bette) Thompson Kirkpatrick, 1925-2009

Elizabeth (Bette) Thompson Kirkpatrick, mother of Texas poet and writer Linda Kirkpatrick, died September 9, 2009.

Linda wrote about her mother in her book, Somewhere in West. Her mother worked for the Stetson Hat Co. in Philadelphia, and met her Texas rancher husband while he was in the service during World War II. She writes about her parents and her grandmothers:

They fell in love; she recorded "Let the Rest of the World Go By" for him to play while he was overseas. They married when the war was over and moved to Texas...sixty miles from the nearest town, no electricity, no phone—West Texas. My mother said her mom would cry every time she heard "Let the Rest of the World Go By." If my grandmother had only known what challenges faced my mother, she probably would have been panic stricken.

My grandmother didn't come to Texas for a year or so and was she shocked when she arrived. She had to adjust to the desolate ranch and ranch house...My dad added to the stress of her adjustment by putting an old broom handle by her bed. He told her she needed to run it between the remove all the rattlesnakes that hid between the coolness of the sheets! Somehow she survived her visit to Texas...she returned to Philadelphia realizing that my mom and dad were building their "sweet little nest, somewhere in the West."

Before my mom and dad tied the knot, they made a train trip to Texas from Philadelphia...My grandmother Kirkpatrick was a wonderful lady and a perfect hostess. When nature called, my grandmother pointed my mom to the "outhouse"...the worst was yet to mom carefully turned the small pieces of wood (the lock) that was secured loosely to the door...I am sure her shock caused her to close the door a little too hard and that same little piece of wood fell into place on the outside, capturing her in the "outhouse" for a time. Well, first she cried, then she prayed, then she got an idea. She remembered she had a comb in her pocket so she stuck the comb through the crack...and lifted the latch. She was so embarrassed and she would not tell anyone what had happened. My dad finally got the whole story from her on their way back to Philadelphia. Rumor has it he laughed for miles.

Linda wrote, in a Picture the West feature about the women of her family:

My mother, Bette, came to Texas straight from Philadelphia. She and my dad Alton Kirkpatrick were married during WWII. She worked for the Stetson Hat company and fell in love with the cowboy that was printed in the hat lining of the western hats, “The Last Drop.” She decided that she would one day marry a cowboy. She left the easy life of Philadelphia and came to a ranch in Texas there the house had no running water, electricity, or her beloved radio. Notice the holster, it is now on my wall.

A viewing will be held Friday, September 11, with a funeral service on Saturday, September 12.

You can email Linda:

Posted 9/9


  Elmer Kelton, 1926-2009

Respected Western novelist and historian Elmer Kelton died Saturday, August 22, 2009, at age 83.

Raised on a Texas ranch, Elmer Kelton wrote 62 books, and was named "Greatest Western author of all time" by the Western Writers of America.  He received seven Spur awards from the Western Writers of America for best Western novel of the year and the career Saddleman Award. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum awarded him four Western Heritage Wrangler awards.

In addition to his novels and non-fiction books, Elmer Kelton wrote many articles. He graciously lent his foreword to Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker (Cowboy Miner Productions, 1998).

Poet and writer Rod Miller writes, "Elmer Kelton was a gentleman of the highest order and one of the nicest people ever. At WWA conventions he always had time for upcoming writers and I will always treasure his memory... my rodeo poem “Number 16” that was published in Western Horseman years ago was inspired by a passage in his novel The Day the Cowboys Quit. When I wrote asking permission to steal his idea, he was kind enough to grant it, as well as praise me for catching his meaning in the passage which, he said, not many people caught or appreciated..."

Read an obituary here at the Western Writers of America web site, which includes comments from fellow writers. 

The San Angelo (Texas) Times, which includes an obituary and an article with photos reports that "The funeral service for Elmer Kelton will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the First United Methodist Church, 37 E. Beauregard Ave. Burial will follow at Lawnhaven Memorial Gardens Cemetery."

A Kelton family web site includes a biography, here.

A New Yorker commentary appears here at the magazine's web site.

The December, 2009 issue of Roundup magazine from the Western Writers of America includes many tributes to Elmer Kelton.

[photo courtesy of Darrell Arnold]

Posted 8/24, updated 12/8 and 2/11


  Daniel Dixon, 1928-2009

Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival founder Gary Brown sent the sad news of Daniel Dixon's death, July 10, 2009, from a brain hemorrhage suffered earlier in the week:

Daniel Dixon, husband of Dixie, a true friend and a faithful supporter of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival; father of Leslie Dixon, gifted screen writer; and son of Maynard Dixon, one of the greatest western artists of the 20th century and Dorthea Lange, whose photography graphically captured the Dust Bowl era and "Okie migration"...

Daniel was a gifted person in his own right. A successful marketing genius, Daniel was witty, engaging, true intellect and a great story teller. He was working on a book on the ukulele, a genuine hobby. I thoroughly enjoyed Daniel's lectures on his famous parents at the Monterey cowboy festival.

Dixie Dixon shared an obituary that was written by her daughter:

Daniel Rhodes Dixon was born May 15, 1925 and died July 9, 2009. The scion of two celebrated Californians, photographer Dorothea Lange and painter Maynard Dixon, Daniel was 84.

Daniel did not like standard obituaries. He found them "lifeless" and "without heartbeat." As a journalist for the Monterey County Post, Mr. Dixon displayed witty self-deprecation in preparing his own obituary, "Autobiobit," wherein he quoted his famed mother, the late photographer, as describing her (first) son as "irregular." He admitted he was "an incorrigible truant who dropped out of school in the tenth grade to become a wandering delinquent." Mr. Dixon humorously boasted that he "was probably the only man ever to be offered and to turn down the job of picture editor for Playboy Magazine."

Daniel's life and career were marked by excellence. His career ranged from writing articles for such publications as Pageant, Life, and Look magazines to advertising for agencies that included Carson & Roberts and Doyle Dane Bernbach, rising to creative director at both McCann Erickson and Ogilvy & Mather by the 1980s. Among his prize-winning campaigns were the famed Volkswagen ads of the early to mid-60s and the billboards and TV spots which defined the Bug as a charming and reliable, if eccentric, companion. Directing his creative talents into politics, Mr. Dixon helped shape campaigns for the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, mayors of New York and Chicago, and President of the United States.

Indeed, to his final days he maintained a remarkable acuity of mind, with an ability to bring to light the contours, values, and colors of life and relationships. In later years, he traveled the world giving presentations about his parents' lives and work, describing his impressions of his mother as "perhaps blurred by emotion, but unclouded by scholarship." He wrote a memoir of his father called The Thunderbird Remembered.

While his father was a painter with pigments, Daniel was a painter with words. Cooking and communication were his main fortes. He had a unique friendship with the English language and used words with a courting nature. Of cooking, he wrote, "Beats writing—nobody dares tell you when it's lousy."

He also rejoiced in the company of his ukulele, which he believed had a mind and heart of its own. He played it proudly, mostly ditties from the 20s and 30s "guaranteed to induce groans of dismay." He was certain that his old comrade would miss him when he was gone. His last work, the capstone of his life as a writer, is a book on the ukulele.

Mr. Dixon described his wife as "his greatest joy and comfort in or out of this world." In "Autobiobit," he wrote that in death he is only temporarily apart from his wife Dixie. "Mr. Dixon did not know whether or not he believed in God, but he did believe that this marriage would last forever, even after death."

Daniel is also survived by his daughter, screenwriter Leslie Dixon, his brother John, his grandson Thomas, 3 stepchildren, 8 step-grandchildren, a niece, 2 nephews, and "at last count, more friends than enemies."

At the request of Daniel, no memorial services will be held. A smile upon his memory may be given in a moment of quiet reflection upon his words:

"From somewhere out yonder, Mr. Dixon says 'Hello!' Nobody there ever says goodbye."

The obituary appears here in the Monterey Herald, where there is also a guestbook.

See a 2005 photo of Daniel and Dixie Dixon here, from a Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival report.

Find an interview with Daniel Dixon here. In 2008, a documentary Daniel Dixon produced with Jayne McKay, Maynard Dixon: Art and Spirit, received the Spur Award for Best Western Documentary from the Western Writers of America. (Don Edwards performs the voice of Maynard Dixon in the documentary.)

[photo courtesy of Dixie Dixon]

Updated 7/22

photo courtesy of the Bowman family,  Joe Bowman, 1925-2009
photo courtesy of the Bowman family,

Jim Gough sent the sad news of the death of his friend, Joe Bowman, who died June 29, 2009 at age 84. Joe Bowman was an expert marksman, known as "The Straight Shooter."

An Associated Press article tells, "Joe Bowman was a Tennessee-born bootmaker turned shooting expert who once made a pair of boots for Roy Rogers. In his Wild West exhibitions, Bowman could hit an aspirin tossed in the air and a playing card’s edge from 50 paces. He served as a consultant to actor Robert Duvall for his role as Gus in Lonesome Dove."

Jim Gough writes, "...he was a longtime exhibition shooter. A bigger-than-life 'western hero' kind of guy who originally was a bootmaker from Tennessee. Joe made Houston his base for many years and he and my band, The Cosmopolitan Cowboys played lots of shows together over the years. Joe was respected in Hollywood and taught many stars to handle pistols. He spent much time with Robert
Duval teaching him before Duval did his great role in Lonesome Dove. Joe Bowman, 'The Straight-Shooter,' will be greatly missed in the
Western entertainment field."

There is a web site at with additional information, including information about services.

Posted 7/6

  LaVonne Houlton, 1925-2009

Sadly, we've learned that poet, writer, and horsewoman LaVonne Houlton died June 11, 2009, at age 83. Lavonne Houlton raised and showed registered Morgan Horses for 35 years at the Viking Morgan Ranch, in Modesto, California. She wrote many articles for publications including The Morgan Horse Magazine, Western Horseman, Thoroughbred of California, Horse Lovers, Horseman's Courier, and California Horse Review. In the 1960s she wrote a monthly column, "LaVonne's Line," that ran in Piggin' String magazine for many years.

LaVonne Houlton was a Lariat Laureate at In addition to poetry, she contributed stories and photos to Western Memories and Picture the West. Recently, Lynne Pedler Boren shared photos of her father for Picture the West; he was the subject of a poem written by LaVonne Houlton.

A short obituary is here in the Modesto Bee, where you can leave a message in the guest book.

Added 8/6:

From Jan Gingold:

In Memoriam


LaVonne Houlton

July 24, 1925 - June 11, 2009


Morgan Horse Breeder, Historian and Poet


It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of LaVonne Houlton. The Morgan world has lost a real treasure and she will be missed by many.


LaVonne was a meticulous researcher who wrote extensively over the years about the western Morgan's history. She referred to this unique horse as the Sellman/Hill/Hearst Morgan. LaVonne wrote, "Their history began with California's Gold Rush, when men of great wealth and social prominence chose Morgans imported from New England, and prized them highly. Late in that century, Morgan blood was crossed on Standardbred stock, to add stamina to the speed of trotters and pacers. The first two decades of the 20th century contain no ongoing California Morgan history. Then, in the early 1920s, Roland Hill, Reginald Parsons and F. A. Fickert brought fine Sellman Morgans from Texas to California. They were the men who sold Morgans to Dr. C. C. Reed, Sheldon Potter, William Randolph Hearst and others. Today, breeders of Western Working Morgans cherish any portion of those old bloodlines that can be found."


LaVonne was a renowned cowboy poet and many of her poems and prose have been published on the Cowboy Poetry website, which honored LaVonne as a Lariat Laureate for her poem "Town and Country", and 8 Seconds awards for "Ern Pedler" and "Ace." She has received Golden Poet, Silver Poet and Who's Who in Poetry awards from the World of Poetry.


In 1999 AMHA recognized LaVonne with a Master's Certificate for her many historic articles published in The Morgan Horse, Western Horseman, Horse Lovers, Horseman's Courier, Piggin String and California Horse Review.


It has been my privilege to know and work with LaVonne for the past six years on a compendium of her life's work, which will be published posthumously. For further information or to reserve a copy of the book, please contact me. Thank you. 


Jan Gingold

5660 Paseo de la Tirada

Tucson, Arizona 85750


Updated 8/6


Edward M. "Bud" Comly 1941-2009

Popular rancher and poet Edward M. "Bud" Comly of Shepherd, Montana died June 9, 2009.

An obituary in the Great Falls Tribune tells: "Bud became a cattle rancher on his parents' homestead in Hoskins Basin. Writing cowboy poetry and Christian music became his passion. He and Joan traveled across several states, including North Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho, and into Canada for about 12 years, attending cowboy poetry gatherings and hosting cowboy churches at those gatherings."

Memorials may be made to Rocky Mountain Hospice, 2110 Overland Ave., Suite 111, Billings, MT 59102.

Condolences may be posted online at and at

[Bud Comly at the 2006 Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Medora, N.D., photo by Jennifer Dobrowski]

Posted 6/15

  Travis Edmondson, 1932-2009

Greg Scott sent the sad news of the passing of Travis Edmonson on May 11, 2009:

Travis Edmonson died today in Mesa. He was 76. For those of us who love traditional music and were lucky enough to have lived in southern Arizona in the '60s and '70s, Travis, either as a solo act or with his partner Bud Dashiell, provided us with many opportunities to hear his soaring tenor, superior guitar work and folk songs, especially Mexican folksongs.

Bud and Travis recorded many albums. Their album of Latin folk music was always their best seller. For fans of cowboy music, Travis' work with Katie Lee demonstrated his love for traditional works such as "Little Joe the Wrangler" and "A Border Affair." He also made an album of traditional cowboy songs and poetry called The Liar's Hour.

Travis grew up in Nogales, Arizona. It was in this border city that he learned the guitar techniques and dozens of Mexican
folksongs he would become famous for. I got to know Travis over the years and loved to play music with him even after a stroke left him unable to perform. A couple of years ago it was my privilege to have Travis attend an evening of music in his old family home here in Nogales. A good buddy of mine (and by coincidence one of the best musicians in town) has lived in
Travis' old home for the last twenty years or so. We invited many fine traditional musicians over for an evening of music and remembrance. Travis was as happy as I've ever seen him, singing and smiling and sharing.

In the days to come I'm sure that many tributes to Travis will be written. They will tell of his ability as a song writer and performer. Hopefully, they will also remind us of the inspiration he gave to a generation of younger musicians and his willingness to teach and share his passion for all sorts of traditional music. Thanks, Travis.

Read an Associated Press article here in the Tucson

Visit the Travis Edmondson web site:

Posted 5/12

  Lydia Hampton 1955-2009

Our condolences to the family of Lydia Hampton, wife of Ralph Hampton of Ralph's Back Porch internet radio and best friend of Tamara Boatright; Lydia died May 5, 2009 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Visitation was Thursday, May 7, from 5:00-8:00 PM at Starr Funeral Home in Hemphill, Texas. Services were Friday, May 8 10:00 AM at the Rosevine, Texas Baptist Church, followed by a graveside service at the family ranch.

From the family's announcement:

Lydia Hampton, wife of Ralph Hampton (co host of Ralph's Back Porch Radio Show) passed away Tuesday May 5th. Lydia loved life, loved laughter, and loved her family and friends beyond measure. Lydia is survived by her husband Ralph and their six children, Jess Allen, Dallas Lee, Travis Houston, Coleman Tyler, Sterling Wade and Alana Caitlan Blair, six grandchildren Harley, Lea, Trinity, Destiny, Faith, Trevor and her very dear friend Tamara Boatright. Lydia always had a kind word, a radiant smile and a giving heart. she will be missed by the many lives she touched. She has gone to be with our Lord and the family is thankful for the friends who have kept her in their prayers through her battle with cancer.

You can write to the Hampton family at: Double H Ranch, RR 2 Box 218, Bronson, TX 75930; or email

Updated 5/11


Cortlandt "Cort"Parker, Jr.,  1930- 2009

Our condolences to poet Susan Parker on the death of her husband, Cortlandt "Cort" Parker, on April 1, 2009, at their home in Benicia, California. An historian, artist, and sailor, Cort Parker was the author of four books, including Up-Delta In the Early Days; a cruise into the past of the California Delta (2000).

Susan Parker provided his obituary:

Edward Cortlandt “Cort” Parker, Jr.

Decked out in his favorite Hawaiian shirt and faded navy blue Lady S baseball cap, Edward Cortlandt “Cort” Parker hopped aboard the Heaven-bound bus to be with Jesus on April 1, 2009, finally relieved from years of suffering with a variety of cancers. Ever the jokester, April Fool’s Day was appropriate!

This larger-than-life, tender and sensitive man was born in Washington, D.C. in 1930.  His early schooling at St. Alban’s in D.C., followed by boarding school at McDonogh Military School, established his independent spirit.  Enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1947, he proudly served his country in Japan, Okinawa, China, and Korea. 

Discharged from the service in 1951 in California, he rode a motorcycle across the country to New York where he attended Delehanty Institute of Machine Design. Employed by General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut as a mechanical designer, he worked on the manual control system of the nuclear reactor for the Nautilus and the Sea Wolf, the first two atomic submarines.

Moving to Chicago in 1953, Cort spent 2 ½ years as a “Practical Engineer” for AMF’s Mechanic Research Department, a problem-solving group for industry. His project responsibilities ranged from the design of milk cartons with built-in straws, to the investigation of UFO’s for Project Blue Book, to developing the EEG computer for the Aero Medics at Wright-Patterson Field in Ohio.  He holds 18 patents jointly with AMF. While in Chicago he attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology to obtain his degrees in Commercial Illustration and Engineering Mechanics.

In 1956 he moved to San Diego, California where he was a commercial illustrator for Convair, charged with illustrating the operation manuals on the Convair 880 and F-102 aircraft.

In 1957 he formed Promotional Design Associates, an industrial design firm in San Diego that contracted to control the aesthetic design of building projects.  During this period he designed and constructed unique hillside homes in El Cajon, California which were featured in Sunset Magazine and House and Home as “NUTONE House of the Year.”

In 1959 he became a licensed Real Estate Broker and directed his experience to the field of real estate brokerage for clients through creative sales and exchanges.  Moving to North Lake Tahoe, California in 1961, he expanded his business to include clients suffering from the more exotic problems of resort and recreationally oriented investments throughout the states of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

In 1973 he moved his offices to Sacramento, California where he continued these activities.  He was an active member of the National Society of Exchange Counselors and Chairman of the Investment Division of the Sacramento Board of Realtors.  During these years he taught his course, “Marketing the Problem,” to real estate marketing groups throughout the nation.

A boater from the age of 7, Cort was happiest on or around the water.  Owning some 30+ sail and power boats throughout his life, he spent 17 years of his later life living on a boat.  While living on the Lady S berthed at the Sacramento Yacht Club, he met his soon-to-be-bride, Susan, at a dock party on the Sacramento River.  In 1996 he moved “The Lady” to the Benicia Marina.  In 1997 Susan followed.  They were married in December of 1998, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Cort had always said he wouldn’t get married again until hell froze over.  Waking up the morning after they were married it was snowing, the first significant snow Las Vegas had experienced since 1976. 

Cort was a multi-talented artist, sailor and author. His latest book, UP-DELTA In the Early Days is available at the Benicia Library, The Capitol Book Store, and the Benicia Historical Society. Cort and Susan enjoyed road trips across the United States, cruising on Lady S on the Sacramento Delta and down California’s south coast, as well as being passengers on commercial cruise ships to exotic locations.

Always at the helm, Cort was able to spend the last days of life in the comfort of his home, cared for by Susan and the wonderful staff of the Kaiser Hospice program. He is survived by his wife, Susan Gallagher Parker; brother J.B. Riggs Parker and his wife Helen; brother Anthony Parker and his wife Joyce; daughter Ronanne Michele Parker; step-daughters Patti Tilton and Peggy Reedy; step-son Tim Tilton; along with numerous nieces and nephews. He will be missed by the many friends he’s left behind.

A Celebration of Cort’s life will be held at the Benicia Yacht Club, 400 East Second Street, Benicia, California on April 17th from 2-4 pm. His ashes will be cast upon the Sacramento River at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution in Cort’s name to the Kaiser Foundation Hospital Hospice Department, 975 Sereno Drive, Vallejo, CA  94589, or the charity of your choice.

You can write to Susan Parker at P.O. Box 865, Benicia, CA  94510,

Updated 4/6

Nevin Alexander Criddle, 1928-2009

Our condolences to poet Van Criddle and his family, on the death of Van's father, Nevin Alexander Criddle, who died March 26, 2009 in Davis County, Utah, where he was a lifelong resident. Mr. Criddle is survived by his 7 children, and by 28 grandchildren and 52 great-grandchildren.

Find an obituary here in the Deseret News, which includes this information:

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 11 a.m. at the Kaysville Brookhaven LDS Chapel, 190 No. Country Lane. Friends and family may call Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Lindquist's Kaysville Mortuary, 400 North Main and Wednesday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the church. Interment, Kaysville City Cemetery.

Posted 3/30

Ruth Sweeten  1922-2009 

Our condolences to the Sweeten family on the loss of Ruth Sweeten, who died March 21, 2009. Ruth Sweeten had been living at the home of her daughter, Christine, in Orem, Utah, since the 2007 death of her husband, beloved poet Colen Sweeten. Ruth and Colen Sweeten were married for 63 years.

Find many wonderful Sweeten family photos in our feature here.

Cards and notes may be sent to the family through Ruth and Colen's son, known affectionately by many as "semi Colen": Colen Sweeten III; 302 South 1700 East; Springville, UT 84663; email.

Colen Sweeten III sent the following obituary:

Ruth Gerber Sweeten
February 2, 1922 – March 21, 2009

Ruth Gerber Sweeten, formerly of Malad, Idaho, passed away from natural causes on March 21, 2009 in the home of her daughter, Christine Goodwin of Orem, Utah.

Ruth was born February 2, 1922 in Spring Lake, Utah to Ether Lyman and Cornelia Hanks Gerber. She was the second of four children and the only girl. Ruth attended many schools as her father was a carpenter who moved the family from job to job. Ruth graduated from Shasta Union High School in Redding, California where she was on the diving team. Ruth served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in southern California where she met her future husband, Colen H. Sweeten Jr., who was also serving a mission there at that time. They were married in the Salt Lake temple on June 29, 1944 while Colen was on furlough from the U.S. Army during W.W. II.

Ruth spent most of her married life living in Malad and Holbrook, Idaho. She worked in the Ford Garage as bookkeeper and later in the Malad Department Store. Ruth developed the well deserved reputation of a great candy maker and sold many, many boxes of her wonderful chocolates over the years. Ruth and Colen raised their family in Malad and then lived in Boise, Idaho for nine years where she worked for Boise Cascade. She and Colen both worked and retired in Boise and then returned to Malad. They moved to Springville, Utah in December of 2000 to be closer to family.

Ruth was a member of the L.D.S. Church and held many positions over the years as she loved to serve her Heavenly Father.

Ruth was preceded in death by her husband, Colen H. Sweeten Jr., her daughter, Jan Isom, her son-in-law, Charles Isom, her granddaughter, Jennifer Isom, Ruth’s parents and her three brothers, Dale, Clyde and Glade Gerber. She is survived by her children Susan (Bill) Erickson, Pleasant Grove, Utah; Eileen Hess, Springville, Utah; Christine (Bryce) Goodwin, Orem, Utah and Colen H. (Cindy) Sweeten III, Springville, Utah; fifteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.

A viewing will be held Friday, March 27 from 6 to 8 pm at the Horsley Funeral Home at 132 West 300 North in Malad, Idaho and also one hour prior to funeral services. Funeral services will be at 12 noon on Saturday, March 28 at the Malad 6th Ward building at 200 West 400 North. Burial will be in the Malad City Cemetery.

Updated 3/24

Ray Hunt, 1929-2009

Legendary horseman Ray Hunt died March 12, 2009. As described at the American Quarter Horse Association, "He took the mantle of natural horsemanship from the Dorrance brothers and spread it to a larger audience. He, in fact, was the first traveling clinician, taking his teaching methods on the road more than 30 years ago...."

A memorial and celebration of Ray Hunt's life, open to the public, will be held March 21, 2009 at the Oak Valley Ranch in Era, Texas at 1:00 p.m. A memorial and celebration, also open to the public, will be held March 28, 2009 in Mountain Home, Idaho at Mountain Home Junior High School at 2:00 p.m.

Find additional information at the Ray Hunt web site.

Posted 3/20

Georgia Ann Schleicher, 1922-2009

Our condolences to Missouri writer, poet, and performer Jerry Schleicher on the loss of his mother, Georgia Ann Schleicher, who died at age 86 on February 13 at the Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Jerry writes, "The daughter of pioneer homesteaders, Georgia married Gene Schleicher in 1942, and they began raising crops, cattle and children in western Nebraska following his return home from World War II. In 1973, her husband deceased and her sons grown, Georgia enrolled at Nebraska Western College, earning her Associates Degree with honors at age 52. Georgia is survived by three sons, two sisters and a brother."

The Scottsbluff Star-Herald includes an obituary.

We asked Jerry if had written works about his mother, and he shared the following:

Our mother was a woman of strong opinions, and one of her opinions was that she expected her sons to send her flowers for Mother's Day. In her words, "If you don't send me flowers when I'm living, don't you dare send flowers to my funeral." I adopted that theme for these song lyrics, which I was honored to present at our mother's funeral last Valentine's Day.

The Last Bouquet

My mother always loved fresh flowers
And I recall the day she said,
"If you don't send flowers while I'm living,
Don't send them when I'm dead."

So I picked bouquets of wildflowers
From the fields when I was small.
Just sunflowers and wild daisies.
But, oh, my mother loved them all.

We sent flowers to my mother
For the last time yesterday.
Two dozen long-stemmed roses
For the funeral home display.

My mother's words stayed with me
In the years after I moved away.
So I made a vow to send her flowers
On each and every Mother's Day.

Most years we couldn't be there
Cause we lived so many miles away.
But each year we sent her flowers
In brilliant bloom for her birthday.

We sent flowers to my mother
For the last time yesterday.
Two dozen long-stemmed roses
For the funeral home display.

So, Mom, I hope you like these roses.
They're not red this time, but white.
I hope it's okay we sent this last bouquet,
And that we've earned the right.

© 2008, Jerry Schleicher
This song may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Posted 2/19

  Billie Snyder Thornburg, 1912-2009

Yvonne Hollenbeck shared the sad news of the death of her friend, noted Nebraska writer and publisher Billie Snyder Thornburg, who died February 14, 2009.

Yvonne told about Billie Snyder Thornburg, her sister Nellie Snyder Yost, and their family and shared photos in a 2007 Picture the West feature here. Yvonne wrote, "Books written by Nellie Snyder Yost and Billie Snyder Thornburg give the reader a true account of life in the early ranching frontier of America and the photographs provided by Billie provide a glimpse into that life." The sisters grew up on a Nebraska Sandhills ranch, "two of the four children of Albert Benton Snyder, an early-day cowboy, and Grace McCance Snyder, a world renowned quilt maker. Albert was more commonly known as 'Pinnacle Jake' or 'Jack Snyder,' a named given by fellow cowboys on the old 101 Ranch when he was a horse breaker for Buffalo Bill."

There is an obituary here at Carpenter Memorial Chapel in North Platte, where it states: Online condolences may be shared at A memorial has been established in her memory. Memorial services will be 10 a.m. Wednesday, February 18, 2009 with the Rev. James Novakowski officiating at Carpenter Memorial Chapel. Inurnment will be at Ft. McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell. Those wishing to sign memorial book may do so 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday (February 17) at Carpenter Memorial Chapel, which is in charge of arrangements.

Posted 2/17

John B. Corso, "Johnny Kit Carson" 1924-2009

From Smoke Wade, who wrote to "friends of the Western Heritage Show, KRLC, 1350 AM, Lewiston, Idaho":

I am greatly saddened to spread the news of the passing of Johnny Kit Carson this past Friday, February 13, 2009.

Tommy Tucker called today to let me know. Tommy and I were in Ellensburg for the Spirit of the West the past few days, and we didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

If you have ever been a guest on the Western Heritage Show, or participated in a live telephone interview with Toe Tappin' Tommy Tucker during the show, then you knew of Johnny Kit Carson.

Johnny had been a permanent fixture on the radio show for quite a long time. He was always first to arrive for the show each Friday prior to broadcast time. He always greeted the guests and the interview folks with such a warm smile and a friendly hello, often sharing bits of old time music history with all the folks.

Upon his death, Johnny Kit Carson took with him a wealth of knowledge of old time music. He often drew upon his time touring with the legends of the Grand Ol' Opry, or perhaps the time he spent playing fiddle on the Louisiana Hayride. He could always tell us who wrote the old songs, and who toured with the old bands, where they played, what their habits were, and he would always share a funny story about the old time legends of Country & Western music.

I didn't know that his real name was John Corso, and I didn't know that he was 84 years old on his passing, but I do know that I will miss him greatly.

Johnny Kit Carson, ride well my friend, and I know you are now playing your fiddle once again.

There is an obituary here.

Smoke Wade writes:

We had a wonderful two hour tribute to Johnny Kit Carson this past Friday (February 20, 2009) on the Western Heritage Show, 1350AM, Lewiston, Idaho.

Tommy Tucker had carefully selected the music and poetry for the show. The tracks were either Johnny's favorites, or fitting songs like "The Good Lord's Tugging on My Lead Rope."

Bodie Dominguez produced a CD, "Johnny" with wonderful cover art. There were photos of Johnny in the studio with others. The sound tracks were from a past concert at the Moose Lodge in Clarkston, WA featuring Johnny on the fiddle and vocals. I didn't know that he sang.

I recited several poems and read a "Tribute to Johnny."

Jim Aasen read a poem and closed the show with "Tumbling Tumbleweeds."

A guest on the show was Johnny's employer and friend, Kelly Seidel of Seidel Music in Lewiston.

And as we were all sharing stories about Johnny, and talking about the "empty chair" in both the lobby and studio, the phone began to ring with callers wanting to talk about Johnny. I think it was the most calls we have ever received on the Western Heritage Show.

Two of the calls came from children of Johnny, a son and a daughter. The son, Damion, lives in Las Vegas, while the Daughter, Marie, lives in Florida. Both were in Lewiston and they had been listening to the radio show. They shared many things about Johnny Kit Carson - stories of what it was like to be the children of a traveling fiddle player. We learned that after Nashville, Johnny performed for many years in Las Vegas. And we learned stories about his wardrobe. Johnny was always the well dressed man, and his wardrobe was full of embroidered and sequined shirts and jackets which were a common part of dress in his era of Grand Ol' Opry and Louisiana Hayride.

Updated 2/23

Joette Conley (Trombi), 1949-2009

We learned the sad news of the death of popular Arizona poet Joette Conley (Trombi) on February 7, 2009. She performed at gatherings including the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering, the Gila Valley Arts Council Annual Cowboy Poetry and Music RoundUp, and other events. She will be missed by her many fans, friends, and family.

From Joette Conley's niece, Karma:

Joette Conley-Trombi died February 7, 2009 in Elfrida, Arizona, at the age of 59. She was born in 1949 in Buckeye, Arizona.  She graduated from both Salome High School and Glendale Community College (Associate of Arts). Joette was an amazing artist. Along with cowboy poetry, her other mediums also included painting,
photography, sculpting, music, metal, pottery, the desert landscape, hair (wigs), anything her imagination got a hold of! 

She is survived by her mother-Dorothy Conley; brother-John Conley; husband-Bob Trombi; 3 boys-Randy
Heil, Brian Conley, Jeb Jaquish; granddaughters-Kyla Jaquish, Maris Hiel; grandsons-Gehrig & Maddus Hiel; devoted family and friends.  She was a very well-loved person and will be missed. 

A memorial will be held Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 11:00 AM in Mayer, Arizona (call for directions 480-330-0204). All condolences can be sent to Dorothy Conley, 1510 W. 5th Place, Mesa, AZ 85201.

[Photo courtesy of Karma Conley. Our thanks to Deanna McCall and others for forwarding the sad news]

Posted 2/10

Mary Mulligan-Hollopeter, died February 1, 2009

Our condolences to cowboy poet and writer Willard Hollopeter of Wood Lake, Nebraska on the death of his wife, Mary Mulligan-Hollopeter. Mary was one of the founding members of the Old West Days Committee for the Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering held in Valentine each October, and just recently retired from board.

Funeral services for Mary Mulligan Hollopeter will be 10 a.m. Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at the United Methodist Church in Ainsworth, Nebraska. Burial will be at the East Cemetery, Ainsworth. Visitation will be Tuesday from 6 to 9 pm at Sandoz Chapel of the Pines in Valentine, Nebraska.

[Information from Yvonne Hollenbeck and Slim McNaught]

Posted 2/3

Pete Graves

We received news of the death of popular country singer and songwriter Pete Graves. He is perhaps best known for his song "Bumming Around," which was sung by Hank Snow, Dean Martin, Jimmy Dean, and others, and for his performances with his band, Pete Graves and the Bunkhouse Buddies. He performed at the 2005 Columbia River Cowboy Gathering in Kennewick, Washington (see a report on the event here).

Services will be held in White Salmon, Washington, at the Gardner Funeral Home, Saturday, January 16, 2009 at 2 p.m.

[photo by Smoke Wade]

Posted 1/15

Bobby Lynn Boatright, 1939-2008

Western Swing fiddle legend Bobby Boatright died December 28, 2008. An obituary in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram tells that he "began playing his fiddle professionally at the age of 11...Bob was a member of the Original Texas Playboys, under the direction of Leon McAuliffe, from 1977 to 1986, when the group retired...Bob was presently working with the Texas Playboys, under the leadership of Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup. He played on several cruise ships as well as having worked with Don Edwards, representing the State Of Texas Tourism in Great Britain. Bobby also taught math and physics in Bells and Cedar Hill."

There was a graveside service December 30 at Mansfield Cemetery. 

Posted 12/30

Judy Stevens, died December 21, 2008

Our condolences to Monica Sanderson and Tim Graham on the death of Monica's mother, Judy Stevens, on December 21, 2008.

Tim Graham writes: "Services will be at Mount Olivet in Ft. Worth. Visitation will be from 6 to 8:00 pm Tuesday the 23rd and services will be Wednesday the 24th at 11:30 also at Mount Olivet. Interment will be at the National Cemetery in Dallas that afternoon. We wish to thank all of you for prayers and thoughts at this difficult time."

You can email Monica or write to her: Monica Sanderson, 2361 Old Agnes Rd. Weatherford, TX. 76088.

Posted 12/23

  Betty Lou (Iiams) Hornecker, 1925-2008

Our condolences to poet, writer, and historian Jean Mathisen Haugen of Lander, Wyoming, and to her family. Jean writes:

My Aunt Betty Lou (Iiams) Hornecker passed away at age 83, November 4, 2008. She was a very remarkable person.

She was born two months premature on Jan. 1, 1925 and weighed 3 pounds and a few ounces—they kept her alive by heating grain sacks and keeping her warm. It worked, because she grew up on the old Iiams Ranch at the foot of Table Mountain south of Lander, worked on her father's ranch and helped with the dances they put on in the Iiams Barn for years.

Betty married my Uncle Albert Hornecker at age 17 in 1942 and moved to a ranch up Squaw Creek near Lander and lived there for 20 years—without running water or an indoor toilet. They raised two kids and killed a lot of rattlesnakes there. Later they had a ranch on Mill Creek on the Wind River Reservation for 30 years and Betty was very active in Farm Bureau, Cowbelles, the Cattlewomen, on the board of directors of Mountain Bell, the Indian Youth Council on the Reservation and in many, many other activities. She also taught a lot of the nieces and nephews how to work on a ranch and ride horses (including me!).

This photo of Betty was taken a few months ago with her friends from the Netherlands, Dionza and Anton, who had traveled back from there to see her after 25 years.

Betty had a stroke 11 years ago and had to ride a wheelchair, although she did well with some horse therapy for a while. I wrote this poem for her and they used it at her funeral. More than a hundred relatives and friends came to say good-bye to her.

Saddle and Ride

She lived to range the hills
riding horseback, counting cattle,
cussing cow dogs and watching wildflowers,
and teaching kids
how to saddle their old plug horse
and get up there and ride along;
putting them to work
and out to hear the song
of the wild red hills.
She can smell the rain on the air
as the wind whips by.
She can hear the rush of water,
and then slowly starts to cry,
for imagination and memory
are all she has to touch,
for her hands fail her
from the stroke that took so much.
She feels there in her heart
the thump of hoofbeats on the trail.
She's kept on trying therapy
and hoped it would not fail,
but pain is ever present,
frustration a lasting enemy,
and yet, she stretches one lone finger
and hopes she yet will see
the sun coming down the mountain,
like on the morning she was a bride,
shining on the new spring grass
and she will once again saddle up and ride.

© 2008, Jean Mathisen Haugen
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Posted 11/13

Reese Kern, 1922-2008

We extend our deepest sympathy to Paul Kern and his family, on the death of Paul's father, Reese Kern, October 29, 2008.

Paul wrote eloquently about his father, including in an invited Father's Day feature here at Another of Paul's moving pieces was a poem written last fall and featured in Picture the West, November 19, 2007, along with this photo and commentary:

This photo was taken in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area to the north of the Teton Range in the meadows right before a place called Hidden Corral. This is one of Dad's most favorite places on the planet. The fireweed was in full bloom that day. When I saw him last, he just wanted to go and be with his horses at a place near Stringtown, Colorado we call "the homestead." This poem attempts to capture that day.

On Smokey Before I Go 

Eighty-five and still a horseman, been a good run these long years,

He’s owned a string of good ones, but as he reins it in he hears,

Just one last ride if at all I can, on Smokey before I go.

Doc says my days are short, I suppose he’s right—I know.


He keeps a saddle in his truck; it forks an old grain sack.

His wife says just take it in; put it up with the other tack.

Know what I would like to do? Since for today I can’t ride,

Go up to the old homestead and watch the horses hit their stride.


If I rest for a couple of days, and save up the strength I lack,

Maybe I can lift that saddle up, and throw it on his back.

For today just let me be, in cool grass just sitting down,

In the company of horses, miles away from the noise of town.


I’ll gladly trade just one good day, with horses and sky and grass,

For the chemo and the feeding tubes and clinic with walls of glass.

Cancer caught him in its snare—it came stalking an evil way,

Where some pray to heal and others just curse the day.


Eighty-five and still a horseman, been a good run these long years,

He’s owned a string of good ones, but as he reins it in he hears,

Just one last ride if at all I can, on Smokey before I go.

Doc says my days are short, I know he’s rightI know.

© 2007, Paul Kern
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Added November 3, 2008

Reese Kern's granddaughter (Paul Kern's niece) Kristi Boyce shared the poem below and comments, "Reese Shipley Kern was, without a doubt, the greatest man I have ever known or been in the presence of. Together with his wife, Rae, he made each and every one of his posterity extremely proud to call themselves a Kern. We (his seven children and 40 grandchildren) take it upon ourselves a solemn responsibility to honor that name and carry his example throughout generations."

Farewell to a Cowboy

I’ve heard people say a few times here and there
An old adage that maybe you know—
A piece of advice for cowpokes who step up
And face enemies toe-to-toe.

“It ain’t the size of the man in the fight,
It’s the size of the fight in the man.”
But no man can knock out the mortal result
Of our Heavenly Father’s plan.

You can battle and brawl till you’re red in the face,
You can holler and scream till you’re hoarse.
It’ll all be in vain, take a breath, let it be—
Don’t swim upstream of eternity’s course.

Sure, it ain’t fair and it’s rough and it’s mean
When a loved one is taken away.
You put your head in your hands and the tears start to fall
When you realize they’ve seen their last day.

There’s no more tomorrow’s or next time’s or later’s
No more hi’s or good byes or I love you’s—
No more hoping for Death to forget his appointment
With the cowboy you can’t bear to lose.

But although your heart’s breakin’ and bleedin’ and sore
There’s a fact of which you can be certain:
Life doesn’t end after one’s final bow
When they vanish behind nature’s curtain.

You can bet that old wrangler of yours is still ridin’
Through heaven’s green pastures above—
Sittin’ high on his horse, smilin’ down on the earth,
Keepin’ watch over all those he loves.

Someday you’ll join him and pull on your boots
To embark on eternity’s trail ride—
Never again will you want for a pardner,
Nor wander alone without guide.

But until that day comes, cowboy up! He’s alright—
And with time you’ll be alright, too.
Though your heart may be heavy, don’t you dare underrate
The size of the fight in you.

© 2008, Kristi Boyce
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Posted 11/3

  Jim Rutledge, died October 25, 2008

Lori Faith Merrit sent the sad news:

It is with great sadness that I report to you that Jim Rutledge passed away last evening (October 25, 2008) at 11:13 PM at the University Medical Center. Jim’s system had been very compromised and when he developed an infection two Sundays ago, the battle back was too much. Jim Rutledge was a co-chair for Artist Liaisons (along with his wife Regina) for The Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering for many years. Often the first to offer a smile and a hug or handshake and welcome you to the gathering, his face was kindness itself. Many attending artists commented on how well he treated them. He will be sorely missed and the gathering will not seem the same without him there. Jim was also a volunteer for C.A.N.T.E.R. (Cochise Area Network Therapeutic Equestrian Resources), a Hippo-therapy and Therapeutic Riding program in Cochise County.

An obituary here tells that:

There will be a memorial service for Jim at Jensen’s Sierra Vista Mortuary at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008.

In lieu of flowers, friends and relatives are encouraged to make memorial gifts to CANTER, The Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering or the American Diabetes Association.

[Picture by Lori Faith Merritt (  shows Jim Rutledge on left and Cowboy poet Royce Hodge on right, from the 2008 CCPMG event]

Posted 10/29

  Frank Wolking, 1955-2008

Yvonne Hollenbeck sent the sad news of the death of Frank Wolking, founder of the popular Sons and Brothers band, who died October 15, 2008 after a hard-fought battle with cancer. A tribute at the band's web site notes, "We intend to do just what he always wanted for us to do—play more music. His voice, enthusiasm, leadership, stewardship, and love will be sorely missed but never forgotten."

The site also includes a moving biography and tribute by Ron Thomason.

There is an obituary here in the Pueblo Chieftan.

Gifts may be sent to the Frank Wolking Medical Fund c/o CO Mt. Bank, 1000 Main St., Westcliffe, CO 81252.

A memorial service was held on October 25

photo by Yvonne Hollenbeck
Frank Wolking of Sons and Brothers, Juni Fisher, Pop Wagner, Jean
Prescott, Ray Owens and Liz Masterson at the 2007 Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Andy Nelson offers this tribute:

Frank Wolking’s farewell was attended by many and cherished by all. With an estimated 1000 friends, family, and loved ones, we enjoyed reminiscing this wonderful man’s wonderful life. Frank’s final instructions to the Pastors in charge of his service was this, “do not make me a saint.” Too late pard, you already did that yourself by how you lived your life.

Welcome Home 

Come on back home, my son,
A voice whispered soft and low;
I know you don’t want to leave,
But it’s time for you to go.

I need you on the home place now,
Your work on earth is done;
A final reward beckons you,
And your battle has been won.

You fed my sheep as I commanded,
Well done, good and faithful pard;
You’ve raised your family as I wished,
I know leaving them is hard.

But I promise to watch over them,
And guard those left behind;
I’ll hold and embrace your loved ones,
As they keep this thought in mind.

That you will always be with them,
Peace and comfort you will bring;
Every time they stand up to play,
And with every note they sing.

Heaven rejoices on your return,
You no longer need to roam;
Come and rest from your worldly cares,
It is good to have you home.

In memory of my friend Frank Wolking. Andy Nelson, October 2008


Posted 10/20


Georgene Conley, 1920-2008

Chris Maupin sent the sad news of the death of Georgene Conley, well-loved South Dakota poet, on October 17, 2008.

Georgene Conley was a member of the Dakota Writers Group and attended area gatherings.

Chris Maupin writes, "Her services are planned for Friday, October 24 at 11 AM at the Congregational Church in Belle Fourche, SD. It is located across the street from the city park. I am so glad she got to attend the 20th Annual Alzada Cowboy Poetry, Music and Art Show as I know that was a goal she had set for herself. She will be missed by all of us."

There is an obituary with more about Georgene Conley's life here.

Posted 10/21

Thomas Tescher, died September 25, 2008

Jeri Dobrowski sent the sad news of the death of rodeo great Thomas Tescher, September 25, 2008. One of the early inductees in the North Dakota Rodeo Hall of Fame, an article in the Bismark Tribune tells, "Tescher loved horses from early on, entering rodeo competitions when he was a boy of 17. He went on to rank among the country's top 10 bronc riders throughout the late '50s and qualified for the first-ever National Finals Rodeo in 1959 and again in 1960, declining the second year so he could be with his family on Christmas Day."

Find an obituary, which includes family photos, here.

Updated 10/1

  J.A. "Jack" Cooke, died September 16, 2008

From the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum:

A.J. “Jack” Cooke, Chairman of the Board of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, died Tuesday, September 16, 2008. Cooke, 83, of Paso Robles, California, served on the Museum’s Board of Directors since 1981 and assumed the chairmanship in November 1997.

A graduate of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture, Cooke had a long career in the livestock industry that took him from the Chicago stockyards, where he worked as a cattle buyer, to farm, feedlot and ranch operations across the nation. He moved into management of ranching, farming, timber, mining and real estate interests of the Hearst Corporation, a position he held from 1964 to 1999.

Cooke’s connection to the Museum extended well beyond his Board service. He is survived by his wife, Phoebe. Together, they were instrumental in a major expansion to the gardens. Formally reopened in 2001 as The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens, the area today includes flagstone walks, native plantings and winding streams designed around several sculptures and memorial tributes to famous livestock in rodeo and the West.

In 2003, Jack Cooke was selected as the recipient of the Ben Johnson Memorial Award, presented during the Rodeo Historical Society’s annual awards weekend. On stage to receive his award, Cooke remained the quintessential leader. In a soft voice, he thanked those responsible for selecting him to join the prestigious group of recipients.

“Jack Cooke was an important figure in the life of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum for more than half of its existence. His leadership and caring will be greatly missed not only by this institution, but by his many friends across the West,” said Museum Executive Director Charles P. Schroeder.

Cooke had many ties to the livestock and rodeo industries. He was a longtime member of the Cow Palace Board of Directors in San Francisco and was president of the Grand National Foundation. Many of his philanthropic interests centered on helping youth through livestock and equestrian activities.

In 1999, he was named Livestock Man of the Year by the California Chamber of Commerce. Until recently, he could still be found cutting, roping and riding on his California ranch.

A memoriam in Cooke’s honor may be made to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum online at or by contacting the Development office, (405) 478-2250, Ext. 233.

[Photo courtesy of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum]

Posted 9/22

  Ruth Knudtson, 1923-2008

Jeri Dobrowski sent the sad news of the death of poet Ruth Knudtson, age 85, of Wibaux, Montana, on September 8, 2008. Ruth Knudtson appeared at the third annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1987 and was a frequent performer at the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Medora, North Dakota. From her obituary:

Ruth loved the ranch life and was blessed to have "the best neighbors that anyone could ever ask for." She loved to visit and was always interested in knowing more about anyone she met or knew. She had a knack for making everyone feel special and made the world feel smaller with her talent for making connections among people. After Carl's death she began to write cowboy poetry about the experiences of an eastern city girl turning into a western cowboy's wife. She has published three books of poetry as well as writing occasional columns to be published in local papers. She was also an excellent pianist who often shared her talents with others.

Visitation is Sunday, September 14, 2008, 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM, at Silvernale-Silha Funeral Home Chapel in Wibaux. A service will be held
Monday, September 15, 2008, 2:00 PM, at the United Methodist Church, Wibaux.

[photo of Ruth Knudtson, 1992, Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering, by Jeri Dobrowski]

Posted 9/12

  Ann Blackford

With great sadness, we learned about the May, 2008 death of Ann Blackford of Arizona's Gila Valley Cowboy Poets.

A great friend to cowboy poetry, Ann was a tireless worker and organizer, always actively involved in Cowboy Poetry Week activities. She sought the Governor's proclamation each year for Cowboy Poetry Week and organized many regional events, often working with libraries and local businesses. Shortly before her death in May, she helped organize a Cowboy Poetry Week event with Michael Martin Murphey:

Ann Blackford is deeply missed by her family, friends, her community, the Gila Valley Cowboy Poets, and by us.

[Our thanks to Maggie Bryce for the photos of Ann Blackford, and to Gale Boyd]

Posted 9/11

Tony Reed

Tommy Tucker sent the sad news of the death of popular rancher, singer and songwriter Tony Reed of Ellensburg, Washington, on September 2, 2008.

Tony was a frequent performer at Northwest gatherings and throughout the West. He leaves behind many, many friends.

You'll find Tony Reed's MySpace page here.

There is a September 4, 2008 article about Tony's death here in the Daily Record.

Services  will be held 2 p.m. Thursday, September 11, at Steward & Williams Tribute & Cremation Center in Ellensburg.

[photo courtesy of Molly Morrow,; thanks to Sam Matisse for additional information]

Updated 9/5

  S.J. Ebert

Sadly, S.J. Ebert, 94, husband of South Dakota poet Elizabeth Ebert, died August 18, 2008.

Jeri Dobrowski sent the obituary from the Bismark Tribune:

S.J. Ebert, 94, Thunder Hawk, S.D., died Aug. 18, 2008, at Five Counties Nursing Home, Lemmon, S.D. Services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at Calvary Lutheran Church, Lemmon.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; his daughters, Jonni Roush, Menomonee Falls, Wis., and Jayne Horton, Thunder Hawk; his son, John, Thunder Hawk; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and two sisters, Marie Edwards, Lemmon, and Eldora Johnson, Eagan, Minn. (Evanson-Jensen Funeral Home, Lemmon).

You can write to Elizabeth at 10930 208th Avenue, Lemmon, SD 57638.


The above photo of Elizabeth and S.J. Ebert was taken by Yvonne Hollenbeck in 2004 at the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering. From a report from the event:

Opening a trunk on stage—an innocent looking decorative prop—[Yvonne Hollenbeck] pulled out a beautiful handmade quilt. Hollenbeck explained that the quilt contained 187 hand-stitched signatures of friends of SJ and Elizabeth Ebert. A labor of love, Hollenbeck had rounded up autographs of folks who had performed with Elizabeth over the past 15 years and made the quilt in honor of SJ's 90th birthday. SJ was celebrating his birthday that very night.

Hollenbeck went on to explain that 60 years ago that night, SJ was overseas fighting for America during World War II. Her own uncle lost his life during the war. Hollenbeck then gave a brief but intense history of her grandma's quilt pattern that she used on the Ebert quilt and gave the most incredible rendition of her poem, "The Christmas Quilt."

Pat Richardson describes what ensued: "I, and everyone else in the room, cried like babies! Even the rough ol' bronc rider Howard Parker was clutching the lady sitting next to him. Both of them were crying. I have never seen 500 people as thoroughly stunned as they were by Yvonne and her poem—it was so powerful! They sat in awed silence for a full minute before erupting in a thunderous ovation with tears streaming down their faces."

Perhaps most stunned were SJ and Elizabeth Ebert. Tipped off by gathering organizers that the surprise was afoot, immediate Ebert family members, children and grandchildren of this honored (and honorable) couple, had made a special effort to attend.


This was on Saturday night, after the show, where a group of entertainers gathered around Elizabeth and SJ (in the front center) and the quilt.  In front, left to right, is Ginger Evans;  then Peggy Godfrey (in red jacket); Mike Fleming of New West; Buckshot Dot; Jean Prescott; Liz Masterson; SJ and Elizabeth Ebert; and Denise Withnell & Keri Zwicker of Cowboy Celtic. 

Middle Row, is Anita Brauch of the committee; Duane Dickinson; Maryann Patterson of the committee; Jill Jones; Howard Parker; Yvonne Hollenbeck; the quilt; Pat Richardson and David Wilkie of Cowboy Celtic.  

Back is Barry Ward; Larry Glenn; Dick Warwick; Raul Reynoso of New West; Sean Blackburn; Bill May; Chuck Larsen; Echo Roy Klaproth; Stan Howe  (unfortunately, there were many more on each end...).

Thanks to Robert Dennis for information and updates

Updated 8/19

  Frederic L. Fridborg, 1947- 2008

From Curly Musgrave:

Dear friends,

In a week that has brought sadness to our Western community, there is another tragedy to report.

Early this morning, Tuesday, July 8, while preparing for work, Frederic Fridborg, husband of Belinda Gail suffered what appears to have been a massive heart attack and died suddenly. Belinda asked if I would pass on the news to loved ones and friends in the Western community today. For now, there is much to attend to with their sons and other family converging on Visalia, as well as attending to all the necessary details in the midst of her own shock and grief. Needless to say, this is totally unexpected.

Belinda has asked that, for the next day or so, efforts to contact her personally would be minimal until she gets her bearings and the familial support is in place. I'm sure there will be an overwhelming outpouring of love and support for Belinda, and she knows that you are there for her. I would imagine that there will be an overload of her mail system, but that would probably be the best way to express our sentiments in the short term, Cards and letters can be sent to: 2120 E. Harvard Ct., Visalia, Ca. 93292

Kathi and I would be happy to document and pass on calls and concerns on her behalf. For the moment, due to the immediacy of Frederic's passing, no details for funeral/memorial have been made. We will pass that information on as soon as we know.

I am best reached by email but can also be reached at 909 223-7062, my cell phone.

Warmest regards to you all,


Curly furnished this information:

The family has opted for an informal "Celebration Of Frederic's Life" to be held at the home of Frederic's cousin in Tulare, California, near their Visalia home on July 12, 2008.

Find information about a benefit fund here.

Andy Nelson and Jim Nelson have created a special web-only "stay-at-home" benefit show for Belinda Gail. The show airs on a special broadcast of the award-winning Clear Out West (C. O. W.) radio show.

The show will be available for listening on demand here at the Clear Out West web site.

The special show includes cowboy poetry and Western music by Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave, Jesse Smith, Sons of the San Joaquin, Colen Sweeten Jr., R.W. Hampton, Les Buffham, Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle, and Pat Richardson.


photo courtesy of Lori Faith Merritt;


July 25, 2008

Kim Wescott Photography

Belinda Gail asked us to share her message:

To my precious Western Music family,

As I try to express the fullness in my heart for you all, I find that the words don't come easy, but the love and gratitude is overflowing. I continue to be extremely humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers, phone calls, emails, cards and gifts these past two weeks. This is definitely the steepest mountain the Lord has set before me ... but I feel all of you supporting, and sometimes carrying me up that slope. I believe I can literally "feel" your prayers wrapping around me, and with it comes the peace of God that passes all understanding. How blessed am I to have all of you in my life!!!!

It has only been two weeks since my Frederic's passing, it is difficult to talk about, and there is still so much to attend to and complications continue to arise. But even in that short period of time, I am growing in faith and optimism about my ability to handle what has been and what lies ahead. There is much to grieve, but that is a process in which I am sustained and held up by your love, and the Lord's love and mercy...and it is that which allows me to see the path more clearly, the "light" at the end of the tunnel, and even to experience the joy that is available to us in moments like these, when we love and are loved. Thank you for your love and I'll update you again soon....

With deepest love and gratitude,

Belinda Gail


[photo at top courtesy of Lindalee Green]

Updated 7/25

Jane Richardson, 1935-2008

Jane Richardson, wife of poet Pat Richardson, died July 6, 2008. 

Everyone who knew Jane loved her for her kindness and humor and her devotion to her husband of 49 years, which was mutual in every way. They are blessed with a loving and caring family.

Services are private.  You can write to the family: 562 Breeze Avenue, Merced, California 95348.

An obituary is posted here.

As announced previously:

To help offset the many expenses of care and treatment, a fund has been established. Find details here.

Andy Nelson and Jim Nelson have created a special "stay-at-home" benefit show for the Richardson family.

The show airs live during the week of July 14, 2008, broadcast on many radio stations. It is available for listening on demand on line from the Clear Out West web site starting Monday, July 21, 2008.

The special show includes cowboy poetry and Western music by New West, Doris Daley, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Kip Calahan, Pat Richardson, Sourdough Slim, DW Groethe, Elizabeth Ebert, and Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave.   

Updated 7/10

Terry Brown, died June 28, 2008

Robert Dennis shared the sad news of the death of rancher and poet Terry Brown of Rosebud Texas, who was killed in an auto accident on Saturday, June 28, 2008.

Terry Brown owned Brown Brothers Cattle Company with his brother, which includes a herd "primarily composed of registered breeding longhorn stock composed of old family bloodlines."

Terry Brown will be buried at his ranch on Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

Posted 7/1

William (Jack) Stuart,  1926—2008

From British Columbia's Mike Puhallo:

Jack Stuart ranched all his life a Criss Creek, He suffered a major heart attack and passed away June 1, 2008. He was out on his tractor working in the field at the time.  I have known Jack all my life and ran cows on range bordering his for most of my adult life. 

Regardless of the weather he and his wife Donna seemed to always make it in to town for the Cowboy Festival. People like Jack and Donna are the reason I keep writing!

Jack Stuart

A lifetime as stockman,
Raising cows and making hay.
He ran his ranch and raised his family,
And made some friends along the way.

A man of gentle humour,
And a fair hand with a horse.
He took the good times with the bad,
As the seasons ran their course.

Poor prices, droughts or winter storms,
Jack took them all in stride.
In his lifetime up on Criss Creek,
With Donna at his side.  

He lived the life he chose,
A rancher until the end,
The World may not mark his passing,
But I was proud to call him a friend!

© 2008, Mike Puhallo
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Posted 6/6


  Howard Staub, 1940-2008

Howard Staub, host of the popular radio show, The Real West from the Old West, and a friend to so many in the Western music and cowboy poetry world, died May 7, 2008. Howard loved people. He had boundless enthusiasm for musicians and poets and enjoyed going to gatherings and events.

Howard Staub was diagnosed with a brain tumor in January. He and his devoted wife, Totsie Slover, put every effort in the fight against the cancer. Totsie had kept a blog to keep Howard's many friends informed.

This is the obituary from Totsie Slover's blog:

Howard G. Staub lost a short, hard-fought battle with brain cancer on May 7, 2008.

Staub was born December 18, 1940 to Everette and Claudina Staub in Harlan, Iowa. He spent his growing up years in Missouri, Gregory South Dakota and moved to O’Neill, Nebraska to start the 7th Grade and to graduate from O’Neill High School. It was there that he made a host of lifelong friends. Upon graduation Howard enlisted into the US Air Force to make more long time friends over the 20 years of service to his country. During those 20 years he was stationed at Shepherd Air Force base, George AFB, Okinawa and Thailand among other places. He retired as a Master Sergeant from the Air Force in June of 1979. After working for Northrop in California he moved to Deming, New Mexico in 1985.

While in Deming Howard was very active in the community. He started life here working as a Mac Tool salesman in Deming, Silver City and Lordsburg. Later he worked as a sales rep for Desert Winds Magazine and it was during that time that he met and married his wife Totsie Slover. He spent 6 years as Chairman of the Luna County Republican Party, served on the Tourist Development Commission for 3 years as an appointed member from Luna County. He was contracted by the Deming Chamber of Commerce Board of Director to run the Great American Duck Races form 1993-95. He also sponsored several antique shows in Deming

Staub is well remembered as the promoter and organizer of the Old West Gun Show in Deming for 11 years. Shooting was a passion with him and he helped many people with reloading information, location of gun shows around the state and just how to get started with shooting sports. His latest passion was Black Powder Cartridge Rifle shooting. In this capacity he was active in the Picacho Gun Club in Las Cruces and was in charge of the BPCR monthly shoots.

In 2007 Howard talked to Candie Sweetser, station manager of KOTS Radio and convinced her to let him do a 2 hour radio show, “The Real West from the Old West” where he played Cowboy Music and Cowboy Poetry. It was his goal in life to keep Cowboy Music and Poetry alive and he did a really good job of it for about 16 months. During that time he and his wife attended “Gatherings” or events in Lordsburg, New Mexico; Alpine, Texas; Ruidoso, New Mexico; Willcox, Arizona, and the Western Music Association Festival in Albuquerque. Staub was elected to the Western Music Association. Board of Directors with his term starting Jan. 1, 2008. This new venture in life gained him another large group of friends.

Howard is survived by his wife Totsie Slover of Deming; stepson Fred Seybert, IV, his wife Rhonda and daughter Haley of Rio Rancho, New Mexico; stepdaughter April Morales, husband Ernie, children Josh and Tessi of El Paso, Texas; mother-in-law Ethel Slover, Deming; aunt Eldora Peterson; as well as several nieces and nephews and numerous cousins.

Staub was preceded in death by his father Everette Staub, mother Claudina Staub, brother Joey, and sister Loretta.

Visitation and prayer service will be Sunday, May 11, 2008 at the Living Word Church on Gold St. in Deming from 4:30 til 6:00 PM and Funeral and burial will be at the Ft. Bayard National Cemetery at 10:00 AM Monday, May, 12, 2008 with a Masonic Service and full Military Honors.

In lieu of flowers please make a donation in Howard's name to Mesilla Valley Hospice/La Posada, 299 E. Montana, Las Cruces NM 88005. Their wonderful care of Howard and his family was very much appreciated.

You can write to Totsie Slover at and Drawer 2249, Deming, NM 88031-2249.

She chose this poem for Howard Staub's funeral program:

Men in the Rough

Men in the rough—on the trails all new-broken—
     Those are the friends we remember with tears;
Few are the words that such comrades have spoken—
     Deeds are their tributes that last through the years.

Men in the rough—sons of prairie and mountain—
     Children of nature, warm-hearted, clear eyed;
Friendship with them is a never-sealed fountain;
     Strangers are they to the altars of pride.

Men in the rough—curt of speech to their fellows—
     Ready in everything, save to deceive;
Theirs are the friendships that time only mellows,
     And death cannot sever the bonds that they weave.

Arthur Chapman, from Out Where the West Begins, 1917

Howard's close friend Joe Baker wrote the following:

It seems like just yesterday that a fellow disc jockey sent me an email requesting western music and cowboy poetry for his newly formed two-hour radio show. If you've been in the business as long as I have, you can feel almost instantly, if you're witnessing a greenhorn or someone who's been doing radio for a while. I picked up on this guy almost immediately: not a greenhorn, of course, but close to it. He must have emailed me five times that day. I finally emailed him and asked for his phone number.

Computers are a cheap form of communication but if you have questions that would make a short chapter in a book, a phone call works better. So, I called this fellow and we had to have talked for what seemed to be over an hour. I can sincerely say to everyone reading this that, on that day in the Spring of 2007, I met a good friend.

As time went by, he would call or email me about artists who he had just discovered, and would offer to get me their material for my show. Every time, I would tell him that I knew the artists and already had their material. He told me one day, "You know everybody!" I told him, Yes and if you continue what you're doing, you will too." As time went on, we began to cross trails at some events and festivals, all the time bonding our friendship. His knowledge of people, music, poetry and the industry as a whole was beginning to form. I was beginning to feel as though he was making a difference, not only in my life, but in many others as well. Every conversation we had, I could sense the feeling of his  sincerity in the western culture and his striving every minute to do his part in preserving and promoting the cowboy way.

I had a rare opportunity on April 28, 2008 to visit on the phone for about thirty minutes with our dear friend, Howard Staub and just ten days later he's no longer with us. My heart, and the heart of everyone who knew him, is broken. I know he went to the Lord peacefully and now he's in no pain. I also know that all of us who knew him will never forget him or his passion for what he loved. May God Bless.

Totsie Slover has a moving account of the Howard Staub's funeral service on her blog.

[Thanks to Joe Baker for the first information, which is now included in the obituary.]

Updated 5/12

Raymond Austby 1921-2008

Jeri Dobrowski sent the news of the death of Raymond Austby, father-in-law of poet Jess Howard (and father of his wife, Judy Howard), who died Friday, April 11, 2008, in Billings, Montana.

Funeral services will be held 2:00 P.M. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 in the Break Forth Bible Church in Glendive, Montana with Pastor Larry Phalen officiating. Interment will follow in the Dawson Memorial Cemetery in Glendive.

From an obituary: Ray was born June 10, 1921 in Glendive the son of Ed and Esther (Peterson) Austby. He was raised and educated in Glendive, graduating from Dawson County High School with the class of 1939. Ray married Fern Casey on December 4, 1943 in Glendive. They ranched near Glendive on Belle Prairie and raised their family there. Later they moved South of Glendive and then they moved to the Powder River where they ranched for seven years and then to Marmarth, North Dakota. Ray and Fern then moved to Wibaux in 2001 and continued to stay active ranching until the time of his death.

Ray was involved in the Makoshika Riders in his younger years and the Little Missouri Saddle Club in Marmarth. He enjoyed hunting, carpentry, cards and dancing. Ray particularly enjoyed spending time with his children and their families.

Remembrances and condolences my be shared with the family at:

Posted 4/15

Henry Benson (1946-2008)
photo by Rita Costa-Hollmann

Dixie Dixon sent the sad news of the death of award-winning photographer Henry Benson on March 4, 2008. Henry was familiar to many for his striking photographs of the performers at California's Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival and also for his photos of the Monterey Jazz Festival and other area events.

There is an obituary in the Monterey Herald. A tribute here comments, "Henry Benson was recognized around the world for his emphatic photos of the Central Coast of California lifestyle. Whether capturing the many moods of such famed artists as Clint Eastwood, Dave Brubeck, Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Etta James or the internationally renowned scenery of Big Sur, Monterey, and Carmel, Benson's photos reflected the beauty, peace and harmony of the region."

See Henry Benson's photos from the 2005 Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival in our report here.

Henry Benson produced Central Coast Magazine.

A memorial service for Henry Benson was held on March 16, 2008 at Weston Beach, Monterey County and a moving video of the service, created by Joyce Snyder Hopkins, is available here on YouTube.

Henry Benson's long-time partner, Raisa Betsi, shared the following obituary and photos:

Henry McKinley Benson III, born on October 25, 1946, passed away on March 4th, 2008. He was a renaissance man with an artistic ability that spanned jewelry, water color painting and photography.
Henry Benson was an active member of the Image Makers organization. Henry was well known for his outstanding images of Jazz and Blues artists. 

For more than 10 years, Henry Benson worked as a volunteer photographer for many events on Monterey peninsula: Monterey Blues and 
Jazz Festivals, Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Car Shows, Santa Cruz Blues Festival, Big Sur Marathon and many more.
In 2006-2007 he worked as freelance photographer for 65° Magazine (of Monterey Peninsula).

Henry is survived by his son, Stacy Benson, his daughter-in-law, Cheri Gyuro-Benson, two lovely grandchildren: Hayley and James, and by his long-time partner Raisa Betsi. In Raisa's words, "Henry was a father, loving grandfather, an honest partner, an inspiring colleague, with an unique creative vision."

His friendly discussions, jovial personality and remarkable artistic abilities will be greatly missed by many.

photo by Rita Costa-Hollmann


photo by Henry Benson

Henry named this Rock "Martian Rock" (at Point Lobos Park/Reserve. All this landscape looks like an image from space... was taken by Henry Benson in 2005 with an unique Collectors' film camera GLOBUSCOP... This kind of camera was used mostly for movie makers/photographers. They were made in limited number of 700.

See a special feature with photos by Henry Benson (1946-2008) from the 2006 Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival and Western Art and Gear Show.

[with thanks to Raisa Betsi, Dixie Dixon, and Andrea Stuart]

Updated 4/29


Dave Weinmaster (1916-2008)

Our condolences to Nancy and Ken Cook, on the death of Nancy's father, Dave Weinmaster, on Tuesday, February 26, 2008, in Martin, South Dakota. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds declared March 3, 2006 "Dave Weinmaster Day" in the state of South Dakota, honoring his 90th birthday. The family shared the following information about Dave Weinmaster's life:

Dave Weinmaster, 91, of Martin, South Dakota, passed away on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at the Bennett County Hospital, Martin, South Dakota.

Dave was born on March 3, 1916 to Henry and Elizabeth Weinmaster in Gering, Nebraska, one of five children. Dave grew up in Gering and later moved to Batesland, South Dakota, where his two younger sisters lived.

In 1942, Dave joined the U.S. Army as a member of the Engineer Division that helped build the Leido road in India and was honorably discharged on June 24, 1944.

Dave married Jean Liggett on June 5, 1943 and to the union four children were born. They farmed near Martin, South Dakota for nearly 50 years and retired in 2000 when he and Jean moved into Martin.

Dave was a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge and enjoyed water skiing, bowling, and golfing as leisure activities.

Dave is survived by his wife Jean, two daughters Roslyn (Kenneth) Bolzer, Nancy (Ken) Cook, both of Martin, two sons David (Sandi) of Rapid City, Mark (Bev) of LaSalle, CO, one sister, Elsie Rothe, Kearney, NE, ten grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters, and one brother.

Services will be held at 10:00 am MST Friday, February 29, 2008 at the  American Legion Auditorium. Burial will be at the Gordon Cemetery.

You can write to the Cook family at: 23154 Teal Lane, Martin, SD 57551-6601.

Posted 2/29


Paul Hendel, February 12, 2008

Western Music Association Board member Lindalee Green delivered the sad news of the death of California musician Paul Hendel ( on February 12, 2008.

Paul Hendel was a musician, singer, and songwriter who appeared at many cowboy music and poetry festivals. He was a member of The California Ole Time
Fiddlers and active in the Southern California Branch of the Western Music. His website bio describes some of his other accomplishments, including:

In addition to performing at live venues, Paul has performed on Murder She Wrote, been a regular performer on the regional television show, Country Review, appeared in the video Ladies Night Out, and has radio commercials to his credit. His song writing ability has been rewarded by many of his compositions being played in movies and television programs such as The Howard Cosell Story, and on ESPN events. One of country-recording star John Schneider’s popular performance songs Lincoln County Queen was written by Paul, and was on John’s first country album on CBS records. Credited with co-writing the opening theme song in the movie The Painted Forest starring William Sanderson (Deadwood Series) ...Paul can also be heard singing two of the songs in this movie.

Services were held on Friday, February 15, a memorial gathering took place Sunday, February 24, 2008, and a celebration of Paul Hendel's life took place March 1, 2008.

Lori Faith Merritt shared this photo of her friend Paul,  created during a private photography session with Paul while he was at the October, 2007 Tombstone Gathering:

photo by Lori Faith Merritt:

You can write to Madelon Hendel at 5014 Island View St., Oxnard, CA 93035.

[photo at top courtesy of Lindalee Green]

Updated 3/5

Robbie Benoit, August 24, 2007

  Yukon poet Alf Bilton sent the sad news of the death of poet Robbie Benoit August 24, 2007. A Wikipedia article tells about Robbie Benoit,

"Benoit was born in northwestern Quebec. After moving to the Yukon as a young man, he worked for many years in the mining industry. After a fall down a mineshaft at Ketza River, he quit mining and left the Yukon. Shortly after this he took up dog breeding and showing, and won Best of Breed at the Westminster in 2001 with his Komondor named Oscar...."

Alf introduced us to Robbie Benoit and his CD of "Yukon poetry," Tall Yukon Tales., which is reviewed in the New in 2006 feature. We wrote, "Some of the poems set you to thinking about what would happen if Robert Service met Baxter Black, but it's not easy (or fair) to compare Benoit to others: his poetry has a great quirky originality, and it offers an intriguing look at life way up north. You can hear tracks and read more at CD Baby ..."

YouTube has a video of a benefit for Robbie Benoit, which includes his recitation of some of his work.

Posted 2/19

Frankie McWhorter 1931-2008

Legendary fiddler Frankie McWhorter died Saturday, February. 2, 2008 in Higgins, Texas.

His 1997 autobiography, Cowboy Fiddler in Bob Wills' Band ( as told to John R. Erickson) includes the stories of his ranching and of his music career. From the book's description:

Frankie McWhorter grew up in Bob Wills Country—the Texas Panhandle—and bought his first fiddle with his cowboy wages in 1950. "I told Daddy I’d bought me a fiddle. He said, ‘The heck you did. I thought we either needed to grease that windmill or there was a hog hung under the gate.’" McWhorter later played with Clyde Chesser and the Texas Village Boys and the Miller Brothers Band before being asked to join Bob Wills and become the 463rd Texas Playboy—a band that had a tremendous impact on the country-western music field. McWhorter tells stories of touring with these bands and of his hours spent listening to Wills tell his stories.

Frankie McWhorter wrote two other books, Horse Fixin': Forty Years of Working with Problem Horses, as told to John R. Erickson, and Play It Lazy: The Bob Wills Fiddle Legacy, with Lanny Fiel.

Frankie McWhorter worked as a foreman for the Cooper Ranch in Lipscomb from 1984 until retiring in 2002. He earned many honors for his music and was inducted in Western Swing Music Society of Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the Western Swing Society, and the Nebraska Swing Hall of Fame. He received the Western Music and all around Cowboy Culture Award, the Will Rogers Range Riders Award. and many other awards.
Frankie McWhorter was the father of the late, beloved Larry McWhorter.

The family suggests memorials be to a favorite charity.

There is a guest book at

Read the Amarillo Globe-News obituary here.

Frankie McWhorter's friend R. J. Vandygriff shared his comments on the services, held Tuesday, February 5, 2008:

Over four hundred folks ignored the freezing 24 degrees in the Texas panhandle to pay their respects and say goodbye to Mr. Frankie McWhorter. The service was held in the High School Auditorium in Higgins, Texas. I must say I think Frankie is more than pleased the way the service was handled.

Rev. David Jenkins, who had grown up with Larry McWhorter and a former fiddle student of Frankie's, conducted the service. The stories were wonderful. Everyone in the audience had their own Frankie story but I heard a few new ones today.

I didn't know until today that John Erickson's Frankie the Fox character in the HankThe Cowdog series is based on Frankie McWhorter nor did I know that Frankie had been featured not once but twice on CBS Evening News. If you Google Frankie McWhorter you will find over 10,000 references. Not bad for an old cowboy fiddler.

In the audience were several former students but most were cowboys and friends who had rode the pastures with Frankie and certainly danced a many a step to his music.

I couldn't help but notice the old timers as they entered the auditorium, hat in hand and that common cowboy gimp walk, their faces lined with character from years of cowboying, their heads slightly bowed in reverent respect for their friend and comrade. They are a hardy breed and it is a honor to know them.

Not long ago, Frankie and I played another old cowboy's funeral and we were talking about cowboying. He said, "Son, cowboy is the most overused word in the world. A feller told me one time, when you can drive two yearlings through a herd and come out the other side with the same two and another one on the end of your rope then you can call yourself a cowboy." I reckon I've still got a ways to go. RJ Vandygriff

R. J. Vandygriff's popular CD, The Cowboy Ain't Dead Yet, includes a song about Frankie McWhorter:

Mister Frankie McWhorter

Out near the Texas Oklahoma border
There’s a cowboy fiddle man by the name of Frankie McWhorter
Now he’s a cowboy from his hat down to his boots
He rides good horses and swings a wide loop

He’s a master and artist with fiddle and bow
I love that Maiden’s Prayer, Faded Love and sweet San Antoin’ Rose
Why people comes from miles and miles around
When they hear that Frankie and the boys are comin’ to town

So, if you’re ever out near that Texas Oklahoma border
And get a hankern’ for some good cowboy fiddle music
Drop in on my friend
Mister Frankie McWhorter

© R. J. Vandygriff, All rights reserved


Updated 2/6

Fred Ortiz 1943-2008

Lubbock poet, writer, and youth advocate Fred Ortiz died Sunday, February 3, 2008.  An article here on the Lubbock Online site announces the sad news.

His friend Alan Read had sent news about Fred Ortiz' serious illness. A recent article on the Lubbock Online site tells about Fred Ortiz' advocacy for children and senior citizens in Texas. He founded "Up and Coming Scholars," which gives first-generation college students scholarships and guidance. He was the recipient of the Purpose Prize, which you can read about here, where there is more about his life and good works.

Alan Read writes, "Cowboy Fred is so very special to Lubbock and to the children he has helped in his Up and Coming Scholars Program. Please offer prayers for his wonderful wife Kathy. Unfortunately, like so many in the non-profit field, he was without health or life insurance. The community is working on helping as much as we can."

Alan Read shared the following:

Please take a look at the information from Christy Martinez-Garcia regarding a fund raising event for Kathy Ortiz. As many of you know, Cowboy Fred did not have medical or life insurance. The kids from Up and Coming Scholars are putting this event together with the help of Christy and a few others...

This should be a wonderful event and give us all a chance to help the Up and Coming Scholars assist Kathy during this time of need.

If you are unable to attend, consider purchasing a ticket anyway.

Proceeds to assist with “Cowboy Fred” expenses

The Up & Coming Scholars, a program that offers first generation college students scholarships and guidance, will hold a student led fundraiser on February 12th in honor of the late Cowboy Fred Ortiz. Ortiz lost his battle to cancer, January 27, 2008. The proceeds will be used to cover outstanding medical and personal debts incurred by his family.

“This is our way to thank Kathy, Fred’s wife, for her continued support of Cowboy Fred, who advocated for us— the youth,” agreed the Up & Coming Scholars, which includes Jennifer Sanchez, Manuel Ordaz, Amaris Garcia, Marisa Ybarra, Rebecca Rios, Robert Higgins, Joseph Gaytan, Maria Palacios, and Jessica Kaskie.

The event will begin with a short welcome reception at 6 p.m., a light dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m., followed by a program including reflections and poems honoring Cowboy Fred Ortiz, a video presentation, and musical entertainment.


Updated 2/7

Abbi Bott 2004-2008

Our condolences to Smoke Wade and his family on the loss of their grandniece. The family provided the sad announcement, "On January 25, 2008, Abbi Bott, of Price, Utah was 4 years old when she left this world for a better place. She was the grandniece of Smoke and Leslie Wade, daughter of Marcos and Debra Bott, of Price, Utah."

Posted 1/29

Wade A. Unterseher 1959-2007

Jeri Dobrowski sent the news of the death of Wade A. Unterseher of rural Bowdon, North Dakota on December 25, 2007. He was killed in a farm accident. His wife Cathy and their three children perform as “Prairie Rose and the Home Grown Sidekicks,” and are frequently a part of the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering. A funeral was held on December 29th.

There is an obituary in the Minot Daily News.

Posted 12/31

Rod Nichols, 1942-2007

  With deep sadness, we learned from Hal Swift that Texas poet Rod Nichols died December 22, 2007.

Rod was a prolific writer, and in recent years he performed at many events and gatherings, including the recent National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. A friend to all, he hosted a poetry board where he was unfailingly welcoming and encouraging to all who participated. He was the "official poet" of the Live with Jim Thompson show, and had appeared twice at the Heritage of the American West show.

He published three books of his poetry, the recent Old Trees 'n Tumbleweeds, Drover Diaries, and A Little Bit of Texas (recipient of the Will Rogers Medallion Award), and produced several CDs, In God's Hands, Yep, A Little Bit More of Texas, and Cowboy Christmas.

Rod was a part of from its earliest days, and was the first Lariat Laureate. His work is included on the first two editions of The BAR-D Roundup and in The Big Roundup anthology.

Rod's son, Michael, posted a message on Rod's poetry board: "Rod passed away suddenly late Saturday evening. Rod gained a great deal of enjoyment in reading your posts, and this page was very important to him. He was a devoted father, a loving husband, an outstanding teacher, an immensely talented artist and poet, and an extraordinary man. We will all greatly miss him."

A memorial service took place Saturday, December 29, 2007. Scott Hill Bumgardner's account of the service is here.

There is an obituary and guestbook here at the funeral home site.

A December 30, 2007 article by Mike Tolson in the Houston Chronicle, "Admiration for the West Heard in His Words," tells about Rod Nichols' life and quotes several poets and others.

See a page of tributes to Rod Nichols here.  There are contributions from Catherine Lilbit Devine, Merv Webster, Glen Enloe, Rocky Georg Rutherford, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Mag Mawhinney, Alf Bilton, Gene O'Quinn, Dick Morton, Hal Swift, Diane Tribitt, Jan Price, Jim Hawkins, Bette Wolf Duncan, Slim McNaught,  and Lloyd Shelby.

Your remembrances are welcome. Email us.


Jared Paul Nesset, 1923-2007

Jean Mathisen Haugen sent the news of the death of Jared Paul Nesset, on November 24, 2007. She wrote:

We have lost one of our favorite cowboy poets around mid-Wyoming and New Mexico. I saw in today's Lander Journal that Jared Nesset had died at the age of 84 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Jared and wife Margie came to the Lander area in the late 1970's and owned the old Rossi Ranch out of town. Jared worked as a real estate agent for several years, but became one of the mainstays of the Cowboy Poetry Roundup when it began at Riverton,Wyoming in 1987 and he continued to work in the Roundup for several years.

PBS filmed the Roundup in 1993 and the resulting program, "Open Range" was hosted by Jared—by that time he and Margie had moved north a'ways to Dubois, Wyoming and lived up on the edge of the Wind River Mountain range for several years. Later they moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico. The last time I saw Jared and Margy was at the Dubois Cowboy Poetry Gathering in May, 2002—they had come up from New Mexico to see all their old friends. Jared was a fine poet, a good roper and a good friend. We're all going to miss him.

There is an obituary in the Alamogordo Daily News, where Jared Paul Nesset wrote a weekly humor column. His last column is posted here  and there is more about him in an item in the paper here.

The obituary notes, "Jared practiced optometry in Forest City and Marshalltown, Iowa, from 1949 to 1969 and was a cattle rancher in Lander, Wyo. from 1969 to 1990. His volunteer interests covered the spectrum from working with the mentally handicapped, to auctioneering, to senior pro rodeoing, to writing and presenting cowboy poetry, to writing a weekly humor column for the Alamogordo Daily News...He is survived by his wife of 65 years, one daughter, one granddaughter and two great-granddaughters."  A memorial service was held December 1, 2007.

Posted 12/3

Hank Thompson, 1925-2007

Country music great Hank Thompson, "the King of Western Swing," died November 7, 2007. The web site comments, "Few performers in any era of the music have known and appreciated its history as well, and Thompson, elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989, was a big part of that history. His warm and rich baritone graced hits from the 1940s to the 1970s, as his award-winning Brazos Valley Boys band gave those honky-tonk hits a distinctive flavor of Western swing, much in the pattern followed later by fellow Texan George Strait."

A celebration of Hank Thompson's life will take place November 14, 2007, at Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth.

Read more at and at the Hank Thompson web site.

Posted 11/8

Robert "Bobby" Giles

Condolences to Janet Whiting Giles of Sisters of the Silver Sage, whose husband Robert "Bobby" Giles died November 2, 2007. Janet's sister Donna Whiting Guffey wrote on November 2nd:

We're in sadness this Janet's husband, Bobby (Robert) passed on into his sleep sometime during the wee hours of the morning. Please keep Janet and her daughter Tabitha in your thoughts and prayers during this most difficult time.

Posted 11/5

Edna Francis Jessop  1926-2007

Australia's Jack Sammon shared the sad news of the passing of the legendary drover, Edna Francis Jessop on September 15, 2007. Jack told Edna's story in his 2002 poem, Edna Zigenbine, which has this preface:

In nineteen fifty a drover called Harry Zigenbine had a contract to take fifteen hundred steers from a cattle station called Bedford Downs that was situated in the Kimberley's of Western Australia, walking them to the railhead town of Dajarra in Western Queensland, a trip of around a thousand miles.

In the process of taking charge of the cattle Harry became very ill and could not carry on so he handed the responsibility of getting the cattle to Dajarra over to his twenty one year old daughter called Edna.

Edna took charge of the cattle and with three aboriginal stockmen carried on, finally delivering the cattle to the railhead six months later with out any losses, in the process making a name for herself as a first class boss drover and becoming a living legend.

Jack shared his comments from the funeral:

Edna was born in Thargominda ( a small town in far west Queensland. population about 200) on the 10th Oct 1926, fifth 5th child to Harry and Ruby Zigenbine. As Harry was a drover, Edna, along with her 7 siblings, was raised on the stock routes ( cattle trails) of North Australia.

It was a hard life, but Edna often spoke with fondness of her childhood days. She liked the freedom of the bush, her only regret was that she never attended a school and had to teach herself to read and write in later life. During the war years she worked with her father, droving cattle down from the north of Australia at a time when the north was under threat of invasion from the Japanese. Quite a few places in the north were bombed regularly,

In 1950, Edna captured the imagination of Australians when she took charge of 1500 Bedford Downs bullocks (steers) and walked them to the rail head at Dajarra a trip of around 1000 miles She made history as the first woman to become a BOSS DROVER.

Edna was wooed by many but it was drover Johnny Jessop who captured her heart, they were married in 1954 and carried on droving until 1960.

In 1960 Edna and John parted ways and she moved to the town of Mt. Isa where she spent the rest of her life and continued to work with stock as the pound keeper for the Mt. Isa city council as well as working for the Mt. Isa Rodeo mustering stock from the arena and collecting kicking straps. Edna was also a familiar face at the Camooweal drovers festival each year.

Edna's door was always open and anyone who was down on their luck and stony broke could always get a feed and have somewhere to throw down there swage (bed roll).

Edna was a beautiful person who everyone loved. She was very open and straight talking she called a spade a spade. But, always ready with a cuppa tea and a warm welcome.

This was the poem that she asked to be read at her gravesite:

When I come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me
  I want no rites in a gloom-filled room
     Why cry for a soul set free

Miss me a little, but not too long and not with your head bowed low
   Remember the love that we once shared
      Miss me but let me go

For this is the journey that we must all take and each must go it alone
   It's all part of the Masters plan
    A step on the road to home

When you're lonely and sick at heart
   Go to the friends we know
Laugh at the things we use to do
  Miss me but let me go.

Author unknown

See photos and find more poetry and information at Bette Wolf Duncan's web site.

Updated 9/26

Lowell E. "Butch" Burkholder  1924-2007

 Nevada poet and event organizer Lowell E. "Butch" Burkholder died Thursday, September 20, 2007. A memorial service will be held the Methodist Church in Mesquite, Nevada on Thursday, September 27, 2007, at 11 AM, and a celebration of his life will take place at his home sometime early October, with the date to be announced later. The family asks, "In lieu of flowers please donate to the Mesquite Cancer Society at P.O. Box  1416, Mesquite, NV. 89024 or to the Virgin Valley Hospice.

The Mesquite Local News includes an obituary here.

Butch Burkholder was a judge at the 2006 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, and also had organized many poetry events in Mesquite, including workshops and the recent Cowboy Poetry Hootenanny (see a report by Smoke Wade here).

His long-time friend Sam Jackson has commented, "Although he had only been associated with the cowboy poets for a short time, he was well respected and had made many friends."

Sam Jackson sent these words:

I first met Butch in 1973 when about 30 of us Celesco Inc. "yahoos" were transferred from the Green River Test Complex, White Sands Missile Range, to Wake Island to construct a facility, then launch 7 Athena H test missiles over the Kwajalein test range.  Butch was the Wake Island operations manager for Kentron Hawaii, Inc.. and a key to the success of our operation over the next 18 months. Butch and his lovely wife Tiny, made our life away from home much more tolerable with an occasional dinners at their home and deep sea fishing trips in his company boat. 


Fast forward to 1975,  I had hired on as a mechanical foreman with N.L. Magnesium at their Rowley Utah plant on the West side of the Great Salt Lake. Receiving a “How’s things going?” phone call from Butch, he informed me that the Kentron Hawaii contract had expired and he was looking around for something to "keep him off the streets."  “Well”, says I, “The company I work for is looking for upper echelon managers, let me see if I can arrange an interview for you.”  Butch was hired on the spot—turned out to be my boss, and they must have liked his work for within a year he was promoted into the corporate office back east then took over as plant manager of one of their facilities near Houston,Texas, where he finally retired.


I sort of lost track of him until one day at a cowboy poetry gathering in Kanab, Utah, I heard someone shout, “Hey Tiny, it is the Sam Jackson we know!!” Well, to make a long story short, we kept in touch from then on,  Rene’e and I visited them at their Panquitch Lake cabin to fish a bit, then when I found out Butch had written some pretty darned good poetry, I invited him to become involved in our Cowboy Poetry group and a couple of years later hired him as one of the judges at our National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Kanab, Utah.  He was to judge again, this year, at the rodeo in Hot Springs South Dakota, but his health failed before it happened and incidentally, Butch died just three days before his eighty third birthday. The world is now short one more good man!


A Real Cowboy

     (To my friend Butch Burkholder)

No, he wasn’t a genuine cowboy,

            in the literal sense of the word,

He seldom, if ever rode horses

            or wrangled a Texas cow herd.


His ranch didn’t have many acres;

            his home, not a wagon nor tent;

and never did wear a six shooter

            slung low on his hip as he went.


But taking the true definition

            of "Cowboy", as seen in this day,

a “Genuine, Straight Shootin’ Hero”

            He lived life the true cowboy way.


Honest and rugged, and spunky,

            No trail to rough or too long

He’d tackle a wild coyote

            to wrangle a right from a wrong.


Though humble, and modest and witty

            a mentor to all who would learn.

A leader by setting example,

            his orders soft spoken, but stern!


What more can I say of this pillar,

            This “Cowboy” that I now defend

“Damned proud to have made his acquaintance,

            and honored to be called “his friend”

                                                  Sam Jackson 9/21/2007

You can write to Butch Burkholder's family at: 625 Lake Ridge Court, Mesquite NV 89027.

[photo by Smoke Wade)

Updated 9/24

Colen Sweeten, 1919-2007

  Colen Sweeten, a friend and a favorite to all who knew him, died August 15, 2007, in his 89th year. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Ruth, and a loving family.

Tributes to Colen Sweeten, memorial information, and photos are posted here.

Virginia Bennett first shared the sad news, adding, "We have been blessed to have known him and his poetry will help to keep him alive in our hearts forever."

Colen Sweeten had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he "wasn't even using them all."  He will be missed terribly, leaving a hole in the hearts of many.

See Jeri Dobrowski's photographic tribute to Colen Sweeten in her on-line photo galleries here.

photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Kanab, Utah 2005

Colen participated in every National Cowboy Poetry Gathering except one. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was the recipient of the American West Heritage Pioneer Skill Preservation award, presented to him by Michael Martin Murphey at the Festival of the American West in 2004. He was honored with the Esto Perpetua Award from the Idaho Historical Society in 2005. In April, 2006, the Cowboy Poets of Utah honored Colen Sweeten at a special event and presented him with their Pioneer Heritage Award (read about the event and see photos here).

Read more about Colen and some of his poetry in our feature here.

An engaging profile of Colen appeared in Range magazine in 2006, and can be read in a pdf file here.

Photos and remembrances will be posted in coming days. Your remembrances are welcome. Email us.


photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
Kanab, Utah 2006

You can write to Colen's family at: 286 S. 1700 E., Springville, UT 84663.


Tributes to Colen Sweeten, memorial information, and photos are posted here.

[Photos by Jeri L. Dobrowski]

Updated 8/19


Don King 1923-2007

Don King, master craftsman, saddlemaker, and founder of Sheridan, Wyoming's King's Saddlery and King Ropes, died July 21, 2007. 

A May, 2007 article in the Casper Tribune states, "He and his father lived a nomadic life, cowboying on various ranches from Wyoming to California.
'I grew up in bunkhouses,' Don said. 'And hung out in saddle shops.'" At age 14, Don King started supporting himself by working as a cowboy.

Don King created ornamental trophy saddles with a distinctive style of wild rose tooling, developing the "Sheridan Style" saddle.

In 1991, Don King received a National Heritage Fellowship, Lifetime Honors, from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Read more about his accomplishments at the NEA web site.

The Sheridan Press has an in-depth story about Don King's life, published July 30, 2007, parts of which are included in Associated Press reports in the Billings Gazette and other news stories.

Memorial services will be 10 a.m. Friday, August 3, 2007, at the Big Horn Events Center. Arrangements are with Kane Funeral Home. Memorials may be made to the Sheridan College Rodeo Team, 3059 Coffeen Ave., Sheridan, Wyoming 82801 or to the Sheridan High School Rodeo Team, 1056 Long Drive, Sheridan, Wyoming 82801.

Posted 7/31

Bill Farr 1937-2007

Bill Farr, well loved co-founder of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, died June 18, 2007.

A horseman all his life, he worked on ranches in Arizona and California. At Laguna Seca Ranch in Monterey, he was the stallion manager, and oversaw Kentucky Derby winner "Determined."

He will be missed by his many, many friends and by his family, which includes nine grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Services are were Friday, June 22, 2007 at the Carmel Valley Trail and Saddle Club.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, 1120 Forest Ave., No. 319, Pacific Grove, Calif. 93950; and/or The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 675 N. 1st St., Ste. 1100, San Jose, Calif. 95112.

Read an obituary in the Salinas Californian here and in the Monterey Herald here.

Posted 6/22

Jim Shoulders 1928-2007

Rodeo legend Jim Shoulders died June 20, 2007 at age 79. Jim Shoulders won seven bull riding titles, five all-around titles and four bareback riding titles. He won 16 world championships, the most of any rodeo cowboy, and was a charter member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

There are many news articles about Jim Shoulders, including:

a Fort Worth Star Telegram article by Brett Hoffman, "With Shoulders' death, rodeo world loses its Babe Ruth";

an Associated Press article at the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and in other publications;

a Washington Post article by Patricia Sullivan;

a Tulsa World article;

and many others.

A funeral was held Sunday, June 24, 2007 at the Jim Shoulders Living Legends Arena at Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma.

Our thanks to Karla in Oregon for sending the first notice. See her web site for additional information and her message about the need for a book and more to honor the life of Jim Shoulders.

Updated 6/22

  Josiah Hollopeter

Our deep condolences to the family of Josiah Hollopeter, 27, grandson of poet, writer, and gathering organizer Willard Hollopeter, who was killed in Iraq on June 14, 2007. Willard is one of the founders and organizers of Valentine, Nebraska's Old West Days.

Josiah, an Army specialist, and his sniper team were ambushed in Al Muqdidiyah. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division,  based in Fort Hood, Texas.

A Sioux City Journal article reports he was "the third soldier with Nebraska ties to be killed in Iraq in less than a week...the 50th service member with Nebraska connections killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001."

Josiah's brother Tyler, an Army helicopter pilot, was serving near his brother's unit, and returned home with his brother's body as a military escort.

On June 10, 2007, Josiah was quoted in an article, The new face of the the war in Iraq," in the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Willard Hollopeter writes:

My grandson Josiah was a fine young man who should have had a lot more years left.

Along with great sadness, I am struggling with the nonsensical situation that took his life, but I am trying real hard to keep my feelings about that under control.

I will probably do plenty of venting about that later, but right now I can't be negative and still honor Joe, his short life, his dedication to what he was doing and...his death.

I am feeling plenty guilty now because I prayed for Joe, but not as much as I should have. I e-mailed him, but not as much as I should have.

I did receive an e-mail from him several months ago in which he said he didn't mind it over there "He was getting used to people shooting at him and trying to blow him up."

He said they adopted a donkey that had belonged to an Iraqi family, that came to love American Soldiers. "Das Mule" would go on patrol with them, following their Humvee's and refused to stay at camp. One day they went on a long patrol, the donkey got tired and dropped back. When they come back the donkey was missing and a family told them the insurgents had cut his throat because he was an infidel.
How can we ever hope to have a meaningful dialog with such fanatical people?


You can email Willard, or write to him at HC 68 Box 13, Wood Lake, NE 69221.

Posted 6/18


United States Senator Craig Thomas  1933-2007

Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas died June 4, 2007. Senator Thomas, who sponsored the United States Senate resolution (S. Res.130) declaring July 28, 2007 the National Day of the American Cowboy, was born in Cody and raised on a ranch. He earned a degree in agriculture  from the University of Wyoming and served four years in the U.S. Marines.

Senator Thomas was a popular three-term Senator who received more than seventy percent of the vote in both of his re-election campaigns. He was diagnosed with leukemia two days after the 2006 election.

Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi commented on the Senate Floor, "Craig died as he lived, with his spurs on, fighting for Wyoming until the very end."

Read more about Senator Craig Thomas and a statement from his family at his Senate web site.

[Photo Courtesy U.S. Senator Craig Thomas; U.S. Senator Craig Thomas waves to the crowd during the Cody Stampede parade in 2006.]

Posted 6/6


Vince Pedroia 1946-2007

  The family and many friends of Vince Pedroia mourn his passing. The family sent the sad news:

Pedroia, Vincent Gerard (Vince the Hat) crossed the finish line of an extraordinary life on May 29, 2007. Born in Sonoma County in 1946, Vince grew up on the family ranch in Occidental. A veterinary neurosurgeon by trade; his passions were varied: awesome ultrarunner, horseback rider, collector of antique tractors, grape grower and extraordinary poet and storyteller, Vince was well loved and greatly admired.

Vince is survived by his wife and best friend Trisha; his children Joelle Prather (Richard) and Jason Pedroia, grandson Victor; his sisters Jocelyn Gardner (Jack) and Yvonne Thompson (Ken), as well as numerous other beloved family members and friends.

At his request there will be no memorial service. Friends can email Trisha Pedroia for more information about a June 10 celebration of his life. Donations may be made in memory of Vince to Memorial Hospice, 821 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa 95401 or Animal Care Center Foundation, c/o Community Foundation Sonoma County, 250 D Street, Suite 205, Santa Rosa, 95404.

Vince recently released a book and companion CD, both titled A Mano (read more here).  Paul Zarzyski wrote:

"From the free verse romp of his 'Prince Valiant Of The West' paying crude, rude tribute to brutal truth; from his empathetic celebration of sweat-'n'-callus white-collar migrant worker lives in the title piece; from the fanciful narrative of 'Black Magic,' a metered and rhymed genuine-article Cowboy Poem complete with a saddlebag full of clamorous shenanigans building toward its bunkhouse-bard punchline; from these varied sensibilities to the demonstratively personal, poignant, and courageous ponderings in his poem so precisely titled 'Pause,' Vince Pedroia exhibits a multi-faceted finesse in most every tapestry of verse he weaves from the finest fleece. Moreover (and you bet, he DOES merit mixed metaphors), Vince is a master at distilling the short story—hell, sometimes the veritable novella!—down into the 200 proof elixir-of-the-grappa-gods we call poetry. A Mano is a book built by both heart and hand—the fine guitar bowed to in the poem 'Partnership.'  Read this work aloud.  Enunciate each syllable. Assimilate every nuance. Sip from Vince Pedroia's pool and stroll away healthier, more soulful, and far more human."


Posted 6/4

Laura Ellen Hopper 1950-2007

Laura Ellen Hopper, popular host of the Cowboy Cultural Society, died Monday, May 28 from complications of lung cancer. She was 57.

The Cowboy Cultural Society has continuous Western and cowboy music and cowboy poetry broadcasting. Many performers have been interviewed on the show, many in connection with the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival. The site also hosts reviews of current releases.

Laura Ellen Hopper was was the co-founder of KPIG radio in Watsonville, California, one of the first stations to play Americana music on the radio.

There's more information at the KPIG web site, where you can also leave condolences and remembrances. The station links to an article by John Schoenberger.

Posted 5/31


See more recent postings on page one here.

Additional postings previous to those above are here.

See more previous postings on our page of Respects.






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