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Poet Rusty Calhoun hangs her hat in the shadows of the San Tan Mountains in rural Arizona.  Nearby, in Eloy, Arizona, in an area where some have been left behind by economic boom times, Rusty and her pards sensed the young peoples' need to learn about and celebrate their heritage.

With the help of local government, schools, and local citizens and poets, they created Write 'em Cowboy, a program that teaches kids about their history through cowboy poetry and encourages them to write their own.  An associated part of the program is the creation of a cowboy poetry repository at the local library, an effort they aim to grow into a cowboy hall of fame and museum.

We're proud to publish the winning poems (see below) and to tell you more about this project, which we hope will inspire folks all over to create similar programs.  The 2001 winner, "I Seen John Wayne" by Jesus Cervantes, is included in The Big Roundup, an anthology of the best Classic and Contemporary Cowboy Poetry from CowboyPoetry.com.

The Write 'em Cowboy project was described in a January 10, 2001 article (reprinted below) by Cindy Tracy in the Eloy Enterprise: "Encouraging children to value and recognize the role of their own ethnic heritage in building the frontier was a desired goal. Included in the hall of fame would be vaqueros, black cowboys, Native Americans and even the Buffalo Soldiers, the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalries created by the federal government after the Civil War. The Buffalo Soldiers served not only as a fighting unit that protected and helped build western outposts, but also as explorers helping to map out large areas of the southwest."

Rusty and her pards created C. O. W. S. (Council or Western Spirit) to work to establish the cowboy hall of fame and museum.  Many in the group were brought together first by annual Picacho Peak Trail Ride and Cowboy Poetry Gathering sponsored by the Eloy Chamber of Commerce and Arizona State Parks.

Here at CowboyPoetry.com we were proud to be a part of it all when Rusty told us she used examples from Omar West's Writin' and Readin' saga to help explain rhyme and meter to these students.. And we'd like to help further by encouraging you to donate books and tapes of cowboy poetry (your own are more than welcome) to the repository.  You can send funds or books or tapes to:

The Eloy Public Library, Cowboy Poetry Repository
c/o Rus Ketchum, Librarian
624 N. Main St.
Eloy , AZ 85231

Rusty and her cowboy friends use their own funds to print the winning poems in a booklet that is now distributed by the Eloy, Arizona Chamber of Commerce.   You can help the project by purchasing the student poetry books.  Every penny of your purchase goes to the project fund.fund. To purchase booklets from the Chamber:

Eloy Chamber of Commerce
305 N. Stuart Blvd
Eloy, AZ 85231-2551

You can enjoy some of Rusty Calhoun's own poetry here at the BAR-D.

We look forward to keeping you informed about the continued work of these dedicated folks, and we welcome hearing about similar programs in your own community.

Following we hope you'll enjoy:


Write 'em Cowboy

Write ‘em Cowboy is a special project dedicated to teaching students living in “cowboy country” to read the poetry of the West and learn about the cowboy way of life, as it was, and as it is now.

By keeping  western history alive in the minds of the young we remember the cowboys who have gone before.  They left us their words in rhyme so we could know about  their lives.  Cowboy Poetry is an old west tradition that   nearly disappeared, and is currently being revived.

In teaching the history of cowboy poetry we also teach students to write in the cowboy style.  In this way the trusty,  sing song, quatrain - that amused cowboys around the campfire and quieted the cattle in the night -  will live on.

To all of the fine Cowboy Poets of Arizona that have and inspired and supported this project, we tip our hats.  Special warm western thanks go to: Omar West, Lyle Suttill, Niles Jones, Allan Wagenheim, and Miss Rusty Calhoun who shared their material, resources and  time to help little buckeroos of Eloy, Arizona learn about real cowboys and their poetry.

May you always ride a good horse, and write a good verse!

Winning Poems

Winners of the Eloy, Arizona
Sixth Grade Round Up

Junior Buckeroo
Cowboy Poetry
Contest 2000

Eloy Elementary School:
1. Jesus Cervantes I Seen John Wayne
2. Aaron Rodriguez  Randy The Redheaded Cowboy
3. Jerry Montijo  I Want To Be A Cowboy

Picacho Elementary School:
1. Amanda Valenzuela My Life
2. Orlando Gomez  Desert Survival
3. Regina Mitchell  When I Got On A Horse

Toltec Elementary School:
1. Tess Ferguson Limp Along Joe
2. Callie Miller Races and Girls Don't Mix
3. Bobby Cosillo Night Ridin'

Honorable Mention:
Chelsea Meinen, Toltec Cattle Battle
Ashley Rosales, Toltec Old Cowboy
Rosalie Conway, Toltec Cattle Rustler

First Prize

I Seen John Wayne

I seen John Wayne
Working in the rain
Having a battle
Trying to rope cattle

I grabbed a rope
From off the post
To help John Wayne
Working in the rain

Roping the cattle
Is a very hard battle

Jesus Cervantes
Eloy Elementary

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

Second Prize

Randy The Redheaded Cowboy
A parody of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

Randy the redheaded cowboy
Had two very shiny guns
And if you ever saw them
You could see they glow in the sun.

All of the other cowboys
Used to laugh and call him names
(like cowgirl!).
They never let  poor Randy
Join in any cowboy games
(like shootout).

Then one crazy, foggy night
The sheriff came to say,
“Randy with your guns so bright
Won’t you kill the robber tonight?”

Then how the cowboys loved him
And they shouted out Whoopee!
Randy the red headed cowboy,
You’re in cowboy history.

Aaron Rodriguez
Eloy Elementary

Third Prize

I Want To Be A Cowboy

I want to be  cowboy
But then I’ll have to ride
And when they try to shoot me,
Then I’ll have to hide.

Jerry Montoya
Eloy Elementary

First Prize

Limp Along Joe

A bridle, a saddle
a rope and some cattle
It’s all a big battle
When you’re small in the saddle.

Don’t worry you’ll grow
Then you’ll ride old Speed-O
Go ask them fellers, of course
They know about that horse.

My advice to you
Is put the reins in your hand
And don’t let go or you’ll soon know
Why that feller over there
is named
Limp Along Joe.

Tess Ferguson
Toltec Elementary

Second Prize

Races and Girls Don’t Mix

I was ridin’ my horse in a race
When I saw a pretty ol’ dame,
She was ridin’ a horse that looked
Like it belonged in the Hall of Fame.

She went and passed me by,
An’ then she was in First
But she wasn’t the prettiest
I ever did see
So losin’ wasn’t the worst

I could have passed her
I know that I could’ve.
The trouble is now
I wish that I would’ve.

Callie Miller
Toltec Elementary

Third Prize

Night Ridin’

I ride my horse in the night
I see the cows go astray
I’ll ride my horse from dusk to dawn
Until the light of the day

In the distance I see cows
The ones who went astray
Now they’re all out there
And they are grazing away

Bobby Cosillos
Toltec Elementary

First Place

My Life

One day when I was five years old
I went to a parade.
When I saw a cowgirl on her horse
I said I wasn’t afraid.

Then I saw her little freckles
And her hat so beige,
I thought she was so pretty that
She could be on a stage.

Then I saw the cowboy
On his big white horse.
My mom asked if I wanted one
And I said, “Of course.”

When I went back home that day
And I went to sleep,
I dreamed I was a cowgirl
And I didn’t make a peep.

Amanda Valenzuela
Picacho Elementary

Second Prize

Desert Survival

The weather was hot
And I was dry.
I broke the cactus open,
I was about to cry.

I was dying for water
And passed an old canteen
I wondered how it got there.
Oh, what a scene.

I shot a rabbit in the heart,
He was hiding in the scrub.
The rabbit said,”Why’d you
Shoot me, Bub?”

Orlando Gomez
Picacho Elementary

Third Prize

When I Got On A Horse

I was walking through a ranch
Not knowing what to do.
I saw a little cow
And a little horse too.

When I got on the horse,
He made me hit my head.
They took me to the doctor,
And then I went to bed.

I thought in my head
That the horse was too wild.
I said I would never ride that horse,
But I was just a child.

Regina Mitchell
Picacho Elementary

Honorable Mention

Cattle Rustler

The cattle I rustle are all red.
I ride on my horse til I’m dead.
I ride over the river,
I ride over the draw,
I ride far away,
I ride from the law.

Rosalie Conway
Toltec Elementary

Honorable Mention

Cattle Battle

The cattle was a great battle
I sat on my saddle.
The bull was so mean that
I flew the scene.
He chased me all over the town
And beat me to the ground.
He chased me by the lake
And I got bit by a snake.
When the day was over I was done.
The bull had whipped me, he had won.

Chelsea Meinon
Toltec Elementary

Honorable Mention

Old Cowboy

I am an old cowboy,
I ride an old Paint
I go to church on Sunday
I’m an old Cowboy Saint.

Ashley Rosales
Toltec Elementary




Declaration To Establish
Annual Cowboy Poetry Day
The City of Eloy, Arizona

On this date December 19, 2000, we, the members of the governing board of the
city of Eloy, do hereby declare that:

WHEREAS,  the city of Eloy, Arizona acknowledges the contributions of working
cowboys who helped settle the west, and assist in developing and maintaining
herds of cattle that became the mainstay of the American diet and:

WHEREAS, these cowboys developed a unique, and never before known method of
sharing  stories of their lives through rhyme and meter and:

WHEREAS, the history of the cattle industry and the valiant lives of these
men and women were passed down verbally to forever tell the tales of our
great western cattle drives and:

WHEREAS,  to this very day the classic poems are recited by cowboys who have
diligently preserved that history through memorization of verbal and musical
tale and:

WHEREAS, the cowboy tradition of writing and memorizing everyday poems of
western life remains a protected folk art of the American West and:

WHEREAS,  the city of Eloy wishes to encourage the preservation of its cowboy
traditions and the thoughts and words of these heroes of the west both living
and deceased,


The honorable fathers of the City of Eloy , Arizona, do proudly, on this date
declare that, in the year 2000 A.D.,  they set their hands to this document,
and named the third Saturday in February to henceforward be celebrated
annually  as :



Reprinted with Permission from The Eloy Enterprise


COWS sets sights on cultural attractions

By CINDY TRACY, Staff writer, Eloy Enterprise January 10, 2001

There's a new group in Eloy whose members don't mind being called "COWS."
In fact, COWS love the bovine nature of their fledgling organization's
initials, which stand for "Council of Western Spirit." They hope the fun
acronym will remind folks of COWS' mission-establishing a cowboy hall of
fame and museum in Eloy.

The group's genesis is rooted in the annual Picacho Peak Trail Ride and
Cowboy Poetry gathering sponsored by the Eloy Chamber of Commerce and
Arizona State Parks, said Martha Wilson, the Eloy chamber's executive
director. This year's event takes place Feb. 17 and features a four-hour
desert trek on horseback, a hayride and entertainment. Rusty Calhoun, Dean
Cook, Shirley Greenwood, Lessa Greenwood, Suzi Killman, Janice Mitich, Jane
Morton, Dick Morton, Jerry Murphy, Niles Jones, Lou Stebner, Lyle Suttill,
Carole Jarvis, Joette Conley, Lou Austin and Mark Berryman provide the
poetry, starting at 10 a.m. For details, contact Wilson at the chamber,

While planning the trail ride last year, Wilson sent letters to cowboy poets
asking them to participate in the poetry gathering. She received a large
response, so large it led Wilson and Scottsdale poet Rusty Calhoun to chat
on the topic of creating a museum home for the poetry, music and gear of the
west's vanishing cowboy breed.

In these talks, the idea of a cowboy hall of fame and repository or museum
took shape to honor the men and women who contributed to the culture of the
American frontier. Calhoun's interest in a repository had already been
sparked by a conversation she once had with a "pard" she'd known for 50

"He told me he regretted having no one to leave his saddle and gear to when
he passed on, for it's all he has. He couldn't bear the thought of it ending
up in a second-hand store somewhere," she said. "From those comments, we
brainstormed some ideas that could lead to preserving his and other Arizona
cowboys' tack in a museum where their stories about 'riding for the brands'
could be told and the words of their poems and songs collected, catalogued
and enjoyed by the next generation."

The idea was to locate the cowboy museum in a small Arizona town that could
take pride in promoting respect for the old cowboy ways and cultural
heritage of the west, she said. "And through the interest the Eloy Chamber
of Commerce showed in establishing an annual cowboy poetry gathering, it was
evident we had a good place to start."

Encouraging children to value and recognize the role of their own ethnic
heritage in building the frontier was a desired goal. Included in the hall
of fame would be vaqueros, black cowboys, Native Americans and even the
Buffalo Soldiers-the all-black 9th and 10th Calvaries created by the federal
government after the Civil War. The Buffalo Soldiers served not only as a
fighting unit that protected and helped build western outposts, but also as
explorers helping to map out large areas of the southwest.

From these discussions, the idea snowballed. COWS organized. The membership
roster now lists the temporary officers as Jose Garcia as president, Rus
Ketcham as vice president, and Gene Wilson as secretary treasurer. Members
are Martha Wilson, Kathy Fredley, Byron Jackson, Rusty Calhoun, Allan
Wagenheim and Joanne Hall. Aiming at bringing awareness to the Picacho Peak
event and building a local platform from which to apply for funding, COWS
asked the City of Eloy to declare an official day honoring cowboy poetry. At
a Dec. 18 meeting, the Eloy Council duly proclaimed the third Saturday in
February as Eloy Cowboy Poetry Day.

Though COWS came into being through an Eloy chamber event, the group is
separate from the chamber now. But COWS is looking for ways to involve Eloy
in its mission. "We want to make this a community thing," Garcia said.

Through the Council of Western Spirits' first project, Eloy students got
involved and had a chance to show some cowpoke spirit of their own. The
COWS-sponsored Write 'Em Cowboy project featured a 6th-grade poetry
competition in conjunction with a poster contest through the high school art

"The city council's proclamation establishing Eloy Cowboy Poetry Day and the
enthusiasm shown by the community, the educators, and the students who
participated in the Write 'Em Cowboy poetry contest made several of us
cowboy poets feel we should commit time, energy and resources to help Eloy
realize a dream we all share," Calhoun said. Write 'Em Cowboy is a program
that teaches students living in "cowboy country" to read western poetry and
learn about the cowboy way of life, she said.

It was a way of life that definitely included poetry, which cowboys used to
entertain themselves during long nights around a roaring fire. These rough
and ready bards also made up poems as a means of remembering and passing
along information and news. Many a well-known western song began as a poem
recited around the campfire. Passed from cowboy to cowboy, these ballads
were later set to music.

"By keeping western history alive in the minds of the young, we remember the
cowboys who have gone before. They left us their words in rhyme so we could
know about their lives. Cowboy poetry is an old west tradition that nearly
disappeared and is currently being revived," she said. "In teaching the
history of cowboy poetry, we also teach students to write in the cowboy
style. In this way, the trusty sing-song quatrain that amused cowboys around
the campfire and quieted the cattle in the night will live on."

Write 'Em Cowboy winners were announced at the Dec. 18 council meeting.
These young poets of the west now have their work in a publication that can
be ordered through the Eloy Chamber. The students' poems may soon appear on
the "Bar D Ranch" website of cowboy poet Omar West, (www.cowboypoetry.com).
Calhoun recently spent an hour on National Public Radio with West, talking
about the importance of this literary art form from the old west.

Support for the Eloy poetry contest also came from the Cowboy Poets of
Arizona. Those who shared material, resources and time to help include Omar
West, Bucky Ogram, Lyle Suttill, Niles Jones, Allan Wagenheim and Rusty

As for the future of the museum in Eloy, the Council of Western Spirit is
moving ahead to make it happen. A possible first site for the facility might
be a portion of the current Eloy Library building when the library moves to
new quarters. At their Jan. 4 COWS meeting, members discussed likely sources
of funding. Since they can't apply for federal grants until their
incorporation is complete, they decided to focus on getting that done and on
completing the drafting of bylaws for their group. An attorney has
volunteered to help with the paper work involved in incorporation. They
placed all thoughts of a COWS logo, such as a branding iron, on the back
burner for the time being.

ęCasa Grande Valley Newspaper 2001







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