Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cowboy Poetry Gathering ~ Day 1

Good Morning Elko, Six hours of sleep and 22 degrees: okay I can run with that. At least there's no snow, a rarity this time of year. 

Task #1: Carol and I sit down to look at the schedule of events (mind you this is a 15" x 18" ~ 8 column affair for each day of the Gathering). Our strategy is to circle events we have tickets for and then check out all the free events we want to see. Too many incredible options, but some how we make decisions for Thursday.

Task #2: Dressing for the occasion. This is an art form unto itself. Boots, Wranglers, belt, cowboy shirt, vest, jewelry, jacket, and a scarf properly tied. Yes, no, yes, no, perfect - we are finally ready to head out for breakfast with the girls. Most of us cross paths occasionally but rarely have the opportunity to gather in one place since we come from Idaho, Nevada and California.  


Now fed, we dive into Thursdays menu for the mind: The keynote speaker is Judy Blunt - a gifted writer and eloquent speaker who captivated the audience with her story of growing up in a rural Montana ranching community and leaving ranch life to follow her dreams of becoming a professor. I look forward to reading her memoir Breaking Clean.

We attend a number of Cowboy Poetry sessions throughout the day. The audiences are supportive of poets young and old, first timers and seasoned professionals. There are reciters who bring historical poems to life with mesmerizing voices. We are taken on journeys that teach some and remind others of the dedication and tenacity of ranchers not only here, but around the world, who cling to a lifestyle that is often thought of in historical terms but in fact remains a vibrant way of life for those willing to take a stand. These small ranchers feed nations and survive against all odds, be it the weather, predators, or government.  


One of our favorites is Montana poet Paul Zarzyski. We got a chance to attend several of his workshops. He's a former bronc rider, now a poet and entertainer. His work runs the gamut from historical to hysterical, sublime to ridiculous, sensual to lyrical. There is indeed something for everyone.  

"Bronc Rider"

On the Western Folklife Center website there are pod casts from some of the performances and on the list of entertainers you can listen to a selection from each. Well worth a little of your time. The link is

Elko footnote: Drivers actually stop for pedestrians, something nearly unknown in these parts!