photo by Linda Merrill, from a gathering report here
American Falls, Idaho
About Wayne Nelson
SnowvilleSnowville was an albino bull, a legend in his time,
His pink eyes glowed like cinders and his horns spread sharp and wide,
Had this hide of pure white satin that shined like Texas hail,
All except for the brand on his left hip,
And a green patch under the tail,
Snowville made his livin' on the circuit rodeo,
He sent those riders flyin', and the clowns runnin' to and fro,
If a rider drew old Snowville, you could bet your Wrangler shirt,
You either got a high point ride or a face full of blood and dirt,
Now, Rufus had rode his share of bulls before he became a clown,
And underneath all that makeup, that cowboy"s face was brown,
The riders paid him tribute, none o' them would put him down,
They knew their lives were in his hands, once they hit the ground.
Now, Rufus and ol' Snowville had done many a rodeo,
The crowds watched Snowville send that clown on many a barrel roll,
They respected onea nother, It was more like play than fight,
And Snowville got some extra grain behind the chutes at night,
But it was in a place down south of here, once, when Rufus was all alone,
His mouth just dry as cotton one hot old afternoon,
He walked into the nearest bar, all he wanted was one cold beer,
But the bouncer looked him up and down, said " Y'all cain't drink in here,"
Well Rufus got steamed up all right, he thought he'd paid his dues,
And he left that place rememberin' why his people sang the blues,
Bein' just a tad outnumbered, he left without a fight,
He headed back to the rodeo grounds and borrowed a truck that night,
Well, that honky tonk was really jumpin" with that "Hooraw! Heehhaw!" sound,
The band was on its second break, sluggin' that bourbon down,
There was cards and dice and dancin', Wild Turkey, beer and gin,
When the back door busted open...And Snowville wandered in!
History got made that night as Snowville changed the rules,
Sent the bouncer to the ladies room and the barmaid wet her stool,
Sent the pool table flyin', wedged it up against the door,
And knocked the lights out with his horns, when he jumped behind the bar,
Snowville stomped and snorted, rakin' bottles off the shelves,
With his foot stuck in a spittoon, keepin' time with his brass bell,
With the barkeep's apron snagged across the horns above his eyes,
He spun and chased a pool shark halfway across that dive,
Well, the bass player tried to reach the door, but dodged behind an amp,
As Snowville hooked the pedal steel and wore it for a hat,
The piano made a mournful honk as his tail struck a chord,
He whirled and charged that baby grand and turned it into boards,
Then Snowville stopped abruptly, and made to paw the ground,
He squared off with the jukebox, it was Earnest Tubbs turn, now!
And the colored lights exploded as him and Nashville did collide,
And filled the air like fallin' rain with "Top Forty Forty-Fives"
Well, the bouncer, he was prayin'...in the second toilet stall,
As Snowville charged the mirror outside and his head broke through the wall,
And the last thing he remembered, so he told the boys in blue:
Was this Black man's face askin' him: "IS HE WHITE ENOUGH FOR YOU ?
P.S: Well, they tell me that old Rufus spent his nest egg on a ranch,
He's raisin' up some buckin' stock, he's got an outside chance,
They claim them Brahma calves are white, they shine like Texas hail,
All except for the brand on their left hip, and a green patch under the tail!
© 1990, Wayne Nelson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
(Wayne adds: When I recite the poem at gatherings I leave off the P.S. because folks are laughing so hard it seems insignificant, but it is part of the poem.)
Wayne comments: "Snowville" is a poem I wrote in 1990, or thereabouts, remembering a rodeo I watched as a kid in Blackfoot, Idaho, where I grew up. A white Brahma bull named Bluebell exploded out of chute two and into my memory as the most beautiful example of bovine grace, power and majesty my 11-year-old eyes had ever seen.
A decade or so later, after studying Western History and finding such sparse information on Black cowboys, I began to feel a nagging sense of the injustice that African Americans have endured for centuries. The idea hit me one night while working graveyard shift in a fertilizer plant in Pocatello as I pondered all the good Black friends I had in the Air Force who would have loved to be cowboys but were discouraged by racial prejudice from setting foot in "Cow Country." I couldn't help but feel that I owed them something, so I resurrected my memories of old Bluebell, changed his name to "Snowville"—after a little cowtown in Northern Utah—to emphasize his whiteness, and combined it with the comical situation of turning a buzzed-up ton of bull into a bar full of rednecks.
"Snowville" was first published in John Dofflemyer's Dry Crik Review in 1991. Since then it has appeared in several magazines and is also available on my CD, DadBurned Guitar.
You can hear Wayne Nelson recite "Snowville" here at CowboyEntertainer.com, where there is also more information about Wayne Nelson and there are additional audio tracks.
"Snowville" has been set to music by Bodie Dominguez, and you can listen to it here.
Thatch Elmer, Bear River Buckaroo
At a time when family ranches are fadin' to the past,© 2014, Wayne Nelson
As the kids move to the city and are taught to not look back,
With their faces stuck in cell phone screens and hubcaps in their ears,
And vegans sayin' what to eat and teachers filled with fear,
Of a child learnin' how to shoot or taught to throw a calf,
It's such a breath of fresh air—Just to hear a kid like Thatch!
This young man's years are only ten but his eyes are fifty-five,
He handles pen and paper as well as he can twirl twine,
He knows the value of the land and how to keep it green,
That the freedom of the cowboy life is what the world needs,
He's every bit as much at home on stage or on the range,
For when he starts recitin' you plumb forget his age,
He raises up that microphone and speaks straight to your heart,
His words come through with images that never will depart,
Of clean and honest livin' and a closeness to the land,
Are what the world needs right now and it's slippin' from our hands,
I can't help thinkin' that the Lord felt the cowboy's plight,
And sent an angel down this way to lead us to His Light,
With Thatch the West is filled with hope, a nugget in a stream:
That the future of the family ranch is more than just a dream.
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.
Wayne told us: I was inspired to write this poem after hearing Thatch Elmer perform at the Cowboy Legacy Gathering on Antelope Island in May of 2014. I also watched him doing complicated rope tricks in between stage slots, bringing back memories of the hard old days when boys, out of necessity, grew up fast doing the work of a full-grown cowhand. I've seen several kids his age, boys and girls, developing their ranching skills early, but Thatch has equally honed his stage presence and writing ability to a level that folks many times his young years would give anything for. Youngsters like this are truly the hope of the West!
About Wayne Nelson:
Reprinted with permission from a 2007 article at Power County Press
When Wayne Nelson found his heels snagged by the Cowboy Poetry revival, he began writing feverishly for an audience that was every bit as hungry for new songs and poems as he was to create them. For him it was a dream come true. Like most ranch raised people, he’d always felt a lack of authenticity in the way the West and the cowboy were portrayed by the mass media. He never dreamed that his writing would eventually result in the kind of recognition he has received.
Raised on his family’s cow-calf operation in the Blackfoot River country in Southeast Idaho, Wayne learned most aspects of the cattle industry at an early age: Calving in late winter, doctoring and branding, irrigating, fertilizing, and harvesting three crops of hay year after year, trailing cattle forty miles to and from their grazing lease in the rugged Blackfoot Mountains each spring and fall, and helping his brother, Val, and neighbors to break and train rope horses and cow dogs.
In 1991, his work attracted the attention of Gibbs Smith and John Dofflemyer, who featured him in Humorous Cowboy Poetry, A Knee Slappin’ Gatherin’ and Maverick Western Verse, both Peregrine Smith publications, as well as Dry Creek Revue, From Texas To Montana, Barbwire Bards, Boots Magazine and many other well known publishers of contemporary Cowboy Poetry. This brought about the most significant turning point in his life because this “late bloomer,” has since had his poem "Snowville" and others published in over 20 different books and magazines, and has granted permission to numerous performers to recite them. The list includes Hollywood actor and producer, Lee Debroux, in a television program where his poems were presented by actor Bruce Boxleitner. In 1992 he was encouraged by Colen Sweeten to join Cowboy Poets of Idaho, inc. and has been a member ever since.
Cowboy Poetry’s sidekick genre, Cowboy Music, has earned additional recognition for this bard of the Snake River Plains. His penning of such songs as "Springtime In Idaho," "Dry Valley Waltz," "Dadburned Guitar," "Rustler’s Blues," and "Old Timer," along with his pleasant voice and skillful guitar playing, earned him the 1996 Golden Note Award from Cowboy Poets of Idaho. In 2000 he was again honored by Cowboy Poets of Idaho with the Silver Quill Award for outstanding poetry, and in 2005, inducted into Cowboy Poets of Idaho’s Hall of Fame. In April of 2007 he gratefully accepted the “Most Requested” award from disc jockey Ed Daley’s Legends of Country radio program for his poem, Snowville. Over the years, Wayne has been invited to perform at gatherings from Kamloops, BC to Santa Clarita, California and many gatherings in between.
Wayne attributes much of his success to his lovely wife, Becky, without whose encouragement he claims he’d still be daydreaming on a ditch bank instead of getting anything put down on paper. They have made their home in the Sunbeam Creek area of American Falls since 1985.
© 2007, Power County Press, May 2007, Brett Crompton, Publisher
Additional information provided in 2010:
In 2009, Wayne’s song, "Scatter My Ashes," attracted the attention of Rick Ardenger of the Idaho Humanities Council and was included in their CD The Idaho Songbag: A sampler of songs about Idaho people, places, and Historical events.
Currently, Wayne has two self-produced CDs available at www.cowboyentertainer.com, Idaho Buckaroos and Badmen, and Dadburned Guitar, two albums of music and poetry from the unique perspective of this multi-talented man.
Springtime in Idaho
Scatter My Ashes
Two Sides of Lonesome
Hundred Years Ago
Ropes and Sixguns
Ticket to the Sky
Available for $15.00 from Wayne Nelson, email, 208-226-5929
and from CowboyEntertainer.com, where there are some audio tracks
and there is information about his CD, Idaho Buckaroos and Badmen.
Thanks to Smoke Wade for his assistance with some of the information on this page.
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