Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just a Thought Series ~ June 29, 1976

Sailor, Sailor wed to the sea
Moods forever changing
Unpredictable as a stormy sky
A warm breeze caresses her cheek
A cold north wind turns her away
Sometimes soft, sometimes sharp
The ambiguity of a coastal summer day
A Hole in the Sky

Sailor, Sailor
What's the fear in your heart
That makes it so easy to run
Life so difficult to chart
She doesn't ask for changes
Only the chance to be herself
Not some image of your mind
You have no right to redesign

Mermaid Behind Her Mask

All hearts are not the same
Experience makes each unique
Just know 
She will always be true to herself
Strength will overcome weak

Monday, February 27, 2012

Just a Thought Series ~ Nov 6, 1974

Living in the mountains
Or flowing with the changing tide

Acadia, Maine

Its only when to stop your searching
That you find the key to whats inside
We all need room to grow in
A place in the morning sun

Maroon Bells Sunrise

And what this love has shown me
Is there's no more need to run

Escape ~ Bald Eagle

To know love without possession
Is to find an eagle on the wing
It frees your childlike heart
And brings you a soul song to sing

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just a Thought Series ~ May 15, 1970


Time has slowed
To an almost
Imperceptible pace
Perhaps non-existent
Only the visual distinction
Of light and dark
Very hot and dry
To let my physical presence
Remain still

Ducks Allowed

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just a Thought Series ~ March 24, 1970

Move inside yourself
live within your heart and
follow those feelings
but be conscious
of the fact
you interact with others

Attachment to an idea
or a person
can be dangerous
for you may lose your freedom
and take the chance
of restricting
someone else's
Where you are is where you exist
not in past thought
or future expectation

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Road from Elko ~ Homeward Bound ~ Feb 5th-6th

Our friends Ken and Betty have been on a different track most of the Gathering so we've hardly crossed paths except for a couple of meals. We get a chance to catch up at Sunday morning breakfast before we all head in different directions: the Idaho Five to the north and us to the west. Our first timers are hooked so Leland, Trisha and Linda will be returning to the scene of the crime next year to join us.

On the way to Elko you just want to get there so Interstate 80 is the obvious choice from northern California. Coming home we choose the roads less travelled. We head west on I80 for about 35 miles and then turned left at Carlin and start the 88 mile climb up Hwy 278 to reach Hwy 50 and Eureka (elevation 6,500 feet) nestled at the southern end of Diamond Valley in the Diamond Mountains. It is the largest settlement in Eureka County. The population for the town and surrounding areas is about 1,100. The nearest centers to the west are Austin (71 miles) and Ely (77 miles) so when you make your shopping list here, you really do check it twice!

Storefront Fixer Upper

It's around noon when we get to Eureka so we decide to stop for lunch. The streets are quiet except for the Owl Club Cafe, so that's our option. We walk up to the front door just as it opens. The man standing in the doorway and I do a double take and then suddenly realize we sat next to each other at Baxter Black's show. His sister was in Baxter's HS graduating class. I'm no stranger to these types of serendipitous moments, but they never cease to amaze me.

In July 1986, Life magazine published an article that gave US 50 in Nevada the name "The Loneliest Road in America". The article portrayed the highway, and rural Nevada, as a place devoid of civilization. Officials decided to make the best of the publicity and convinced state authorities to do the same. Jointly, they began to use the article as a platform to market the area for visitors interested in desert scenery, history, and solitude. It is rich on all accounts.

The highway roughly parallels the Pony Express Trail, remnants of which are still visible for much of the way. Many ghost towns and historical cemeteries dot the area. There are other unusual sites such as the Charcoal Ovens State Park or Hickison Summit Petroglyphs to visit. Fishing abounds at Iliapah Reservoir, Cave Lake State Park, and Comins Lake.  There is truly something for everyone.

The desert is a place of wonder: light and dark, soft and hard, a fickle mistress who can be a lover or a spiteful vixen. You take your chances here, and you love it or leave it. This amazing road travels through snow-mantled mountains reaching 11,000 feet, across 17 mountain passes and miles of high desert. The crest of each pass reveals yet another breathtaking vista.

Here's an obscure tidbit: In 1991, Stephen King was on this road as part of a cross country trip. He stopped at Ruth, a ghost town near Ely. He wondered about the fate of the last residents. He had heard a local legend about how the ghosts of Chinese miners, who died while trapped in a cave-in, can be seen crossing US 50 to haunt the city of Ruth. He merged these details into a story, including references to The Loneliest Road in America, that became the novel Desperation. I may have to check it out of the library.

We make it back to the Silver Legacy in Reno, threw our stuff in the room and head down to the Casino to watch the second half of the Superbowl. They had flatscreens everywhere, so you'd hear a cheer or a groan and look up in time to catch the replay. Our friends at home enjoyed our 25th annual Superbowl Party without us. The house was cleaner than we left it and there was even dessert in the refrigerator when we got home. Guess it will be the same next year as the Gathering is Jan 26th~Feb 2 and the Superbowl is Feb 3. 

Monday morning after breakfast we head west on I80 to Immigrant Gap and turn right onto Hwy 20. This drops us down out of the mountains through Grass Valley, Colusa, and Clearlake, then Hwy 29 to Calistoga and home the back way: little civilization, beautiful country, no traffic, my kind of blue highway. It was a week well spent, but it was sure nice to get back home and into our own beds.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Road to Elko ~ Saturday Day 5

It's hard to believe this is the last day of the Gathering. Three of the usual suspects (Leland, Trisha and Linda) join Rod and me for breakfast at JR's. We've all been going in different directions each day so it's fun to catch up and compare notes.

The morning is unscheduled for us so Rod and I decide to take in several of the trade shows. We find some stunning work: from saddles and tack to custom made hats and boots, from paintings, photos and bronzes to jewelry and clothing. A friend suggested we check out the 8th Annual Great Basin Native Market at the historic Girl Scout House. We did and I was totally taken by the paintings and prints of a young woman named Micqaela Jones. Her work speaks for itself. Take a minute to check out her website.

Innocent One

We came home with a vest for Rod and some small treasures and gifts. As independent artists we understand the love, commitment and time that go into the creative process. Though we cannot always support artists financially by purchasing work, we'll always let them know how much we enjoy what they do. We know from experience how a positive comment can make your day.

Just before we left for Elko we received a postcard from the Western Folklife Center that let us know we'd won tickets to see Baxter Black. He is a former large animal vet and a cowboy poet "known for his humor and sharp observations that focus on the day-to-day ups and downs of everyday people who live with livestock and work the land". He is a very physical entertainer so his entire being becomes part of the story. We laughed so hard our cheeks were cramping. You need to check out the cybercast: under "Special Show" on Saturday's events at:

Next we head over to the G Three Bar for another of the free events entitled Far Out West with Stephanie Davis, Ramblin' Jack Elloitt and Ronstadt Generations. Our friend Michael staked out front row seats for 12 of us so this was a real treat. Before the show I started chatting with the woman sitting next to me. Andi is from Gardnerville and told us about the Genoa Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival April 26-29 with Waddie Mitchell, Dave Stamey, Juni Fisher, Paul Zarzyski, Cowboy Celtic. Sounds like another road trip to me!

Stephanie and Jack regaled us with story and song, but I'd never heard of Ronstadt Generations so didn't know what to expect. Michael J. Ronstadt is Linda's younger brother and plays with his sons Michael and Petie: original material and traditional Southwestern and Mexican music. They gave a wonderful performance, but Michael stole the show with his unconventional cello work. Check out his original song Bridging the Gap at

Old Ranch Wagon

Truthfully I don't remember what we did for dinner (we ain't forgetful we just get our mature on now and then ~ thank you Carla) but we're back at the Convention Center to meet up with friends, dressed to the nines for the evening events.

Tonight is Classic Poetry: recitations of historic poems by 14 of the week's premier poets. The show made for an incredible and entertaining evening, a grand finale to the day and the Gathering for us. The cybercast is under Saturday at  

Rain at the Ranch ~ Luna, NM

The Gathering is truly something that needs to be experienced. It's all about preserving and sharing the threads of a universal history of cowboying and ranching around the world and a love of the Amercian West. Where you come from and what you do to make a living have no bearing here. There are new friends to meet at every event, programs to make you think, open your mind, shed a tear, delight your ears, laugh out loud, or perhaps try your chops at one of the open sessions. We heard some amazing young performers who will no doubt carry the torch for the next generations. Take the time, make the time, to take this journey back into history.

Tomorrow we head for home on some roads less travelled.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Road to Elko ~ Friday Day 4

Sorry for the few days between posts, but it's been about 68 degrees and the garden sent out an irresistable call to come play in the dirt. We got started on prepping the garden, planting bulbs, laying out the drip system design, and building a work table to hold a vintage sink we've had for years. Now we'll be able to rinse vegies and compost containers before we bring them back up to the house.

The artist at work

We flat foot shuffle over to JR's Restaurant about 8:30am and get in line to be seated. We make it to the head of the line and this cowboy gets up from his table and says "we just had three more friends show up, go ahead and take our table, your coffee's on the way". You gotta love it! Next thing we know three of our friends show up so the hostess patiently reseats us.

Rod, Linda, Trisha, Shelley & Leland

First event of the day is "National Treasures" that introduced 3 National Heritage Fellowship recipients including Wally McRae and National Medal of Arts recipient Ramblin Jack Elliott. Singing, poetry and stories to make you think, bring a tear to your eye or laugh you silly. The podcast link is:

Our next event isn't until evening so we decide to take a drive down to Lamoille Canyon and the Ruby Mountains to do a little exploring. We didn't get too far up either road due to snow and ice, but the drive was gorgeous. We're making plans to return in the fall so we can explore the area in detail.

The Road to LaMoille Canyon

Part way up Lamoille Canyon
The Ruby Mountains

The Ruby Mountains just after sunset

We get back to Elko in time to change clothes and get a bite to eat before the evening show, a celebration of Charlie Goodnight: His Life in Poetry and Song.

Born in 1836 he moved to Texas with his family in 1846. He was a quintessential frontiersman and one time Texas Ranger. In 1866 he and his partner George Loving drove their first herd of gathered feral Texas Longhorn cattle northward to New Mexico and the railroads, along what would become the Goodnight-Loving Trail. He invented the chuckwagon, first used on the initial cattle drive. Upon arriving in New Mexico they formed a partnership with New Mexico cattleman John Chisum for future contracts to supply the US Army with cattle. Goodnight and Chisum extended the trail from New Mexico to Colorado and Wyoming. A bakers dozen of poets, reciters, singers and story tellers told his story to an entranced audience (link to this podcast is the same as the one cited above).

Charlie Goodnight (ca. 1880)

When you attend Gathering events you get to know the folks sitting next to you, it just happens, part of the magic. The next day, at the Classic Poetry performance I started up a conversation with my "neighbors" and find out we're sitting next to Charlie's great grand nephew. What are the odds?

Two full days into the Gathering and it's already becoming a blur so I'm constantly taking notes on pieces of scratch paper and the yellow pad on my Iphone. It's going to be fun sorting it out when I get home. Another amazing day draws to a close. Some of our friends are off to gather at a local pub for the evening, but we decide to head back to home base for a little slot play with backup from Ernie Sites and his band. It's easier to walk across the driveway than to drive back from town, granted it's less than two miles, but we're kind of light weights in this party crowd.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Road to Elko Day 3 ~ Saddle Up!

There are still patches of snow and ice on the ground so you need to watch your step (temperatures range from 9-35 degrees during our stay). I perfect the "flat foot shuffle" to avoid a cartoon pratfall. None of us bounce like we used to and at 66 (say what?) one needs to be conscious of such things. It ain't pretty but it's effective.

Where to start? Oh, how about a small intimate breakfast for 15-20 at Stockman's. It used to be called the "Ladie's Breakfast" but this year it was changed to the "People's Breakfast" ~ menfolk allowed. We took over an entire corner of the restaurant and sort of rotated between bites to catch up with friends we haven't seen since the last Gathering and to meet the newcomers.

Ken, Leland, Trisha, Linda and Betty
The Idaho Contingent
First event of the day is the Keynote Address at the Convention Center by actor Barry Corbin - you may remember him from Lonesome Dove, Conagher, or Northern Exposure.

As Roscoe Brown in Lonesome Dove

His feet are in both worlds, that of a cowboy and that of the mythological cowboy on screen. As a consummate character actor he strives for authenticity in his roles. He regaled the audience with behind scene stories like learning how to drive a six horse stagecoach team just prior to filming a shot.

Our next two events are also at the Convention Center so we decide to grab a bite to eat. So much for the vegetarian, low fat, small portioned California cuisine we're used to. Rod and I split a BBQ beef sandwich on a french roll that has enough meat on it for another meal. Oh well, when in Rome....

Many of the shows and workshops at the Gathering are free and well worth squeezing into the day. These poets do what they love and perform to keep their love of history and the west alive. Check out their websites to find out more.

Rib Ticklers: the lighter side of ranch life
  • Yvonne Hollenbeck is a South Dakota cattle rancher's wife, cowgirl poet and quilter ~
  • RP Smith is a 4th generation cattle rancher from Nebraska who hosts his own radio show "Home Grown" from his ranch.
  • Jay Snider rodeoed in his younger years and now raises horses and cattle in Cyril, OK. He's the 2008 Academy of Western Artists top male poet.
Western Tails (or Tales as it turns out):
  • DW Groethe is an award winning poet, picker and cowboy who writes what he lives and breathes. 
  • Amy Hale Auker is a talented poet and writer from Arizona. Her book Rightful Place is rooted in "ranching, family, and a lifestyle hidden at the end of dirt roads".
  • Paul Zarzyski is a former bronc rider and award winning poet from Montana, the self proclaimed "One-n-Only-Polish-Mafioso-Rodeo-Poet". I've seen him a number of times and always look forward to the next.

News Flash: Paul will be performing here in Sonoma County at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts on February 24th as part of a program of songs, music and poetry of the American West called Don't Fence Me In with Wylie and the Wild West, North Bear, The Quebe Sisters Band, and Los Texmaniacs. Don't miss it!

Afternoon Fare: We recover from lunch, take a little walk and come back for the Western Folklife Center Members Show #1 with Jay Snider, Randy Reiman and the Gillette Brothers.
  • Randy Rieman is a master horseman, poet and reciter living in Dillon, Montana. His voice will hook you at first word and you find yourself traveling down a trail in the footsteps of his story.
  • The Gillette Brothers are singers, guitar and banjo pickers from Crockett, TX who won Best Traditional Western Album of 2010 for their CD "Cowboys, Minstrels and Medicine Shows"

Early evening a bunch of us gather at a the Star restaurant for dinner. As is tradition in a Basque restaurant large bowls of soup, salad, bread and then a myriad of side dishes from green beans to french fries are brought to the table for everyone to share. You can order "dinner" too, but from experience we knew the first round would be more than enough.

Sated and exhausted from a day full of entertainment and making new friends we call it a night and return to the Gold Country Inn. We head over to the little casino in the lobby and play for a bit. The Ernie Sites band is in the bar each night and has the place hooting and hollering. We're rocking on our stools and singing along with everyone else. Friday will come soon so we flat foot it back across the driveway and turn in about 11pm. There is little down time at the Gathering so you have to get some shut eye when you can.

If you go to the Western Folklife Center website you'll be able to enjoy cybercasts of main events. For February 2nd the Keynote, Members Show #1 and Wordsmiths are available at

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Road to Elko 2012 ~ Day 2

We awaken to find a dusting of fresh snow on the foothills that surround Reno. Cumulus ships of white, black and grey dot the horizon to the East. It's about 300 miles to Elko through the high desert of the Silver State. The posted speed limit is 75 mph, and being a California girl I feel like I'm getting away with something.

It's a wide open sage brush sea, broken only by waves that are a series of mountain ranges. There are surprises in store as you crest each summit. To my great grand elders coming across this openness by horseback and wagon to Genoa it must have seemed an endless journey. I have such unbridled respect for all who came and took on the challenges of settling this land. It isn't an easy existence now, but imagine what it would have been like in the 19th and early 20th centuries?

Sage or Artemisia tridentata is the Nevada state flower. In Greek mythology Artemis is the goddess of the wilderness. Her main vocation was to roam mountain forests and uncultivated lands to help protect the well-being, safety and reproduction of the wild animals. She was, however, a contradictory and vindictive lass, and much like the whims of the desert, always unpredictable.

As we head east it appears that storms are brewing in our path, but as we approach the leaden clouds, the road gently angles away and the squals pass harmlessly to the left or right of where we're headed. A mystical clearing of our trail.

Winnemucca is a little past half way so we stop for lunch. Interstate 80 runs through town and population wise it's about the size of our home town of Sebastopol. We discover a little hole in the wall called "The Griddle". The food and service were excellent, so if you're ever passing through Winnemucca forget the casinos and head there.

Refueled and rehydrated we hit the road for the remaining drive to Elko. We run into a little hail and a sprinkling of snow but no harm, no foul. People out here understand driving in these conditions, unlike our home territory where drivers seem "put their stupid on" at the first rain.

We arrive at the Gold Country Inn about 4pm and commence to unpack ~ everything. We'll be here for 4 nights and want to get the wrinkles out of us and our wearables. The hotel is close to the venues and has comfortable rooms, a good restaurant, a small casino, and bar with live music. About 6:30 we meet up with about a dozen old and new friends downtown at Machi's for dinner and then call it a night.

We head back to the Inn and start planning our first full day. Last years list of activities was in chronological order, regardless of venue, easy to underline shows you had tickets for and then fill in with free shows and workshops as time permitted. For some reason this year's schedule was printed by venue so you had to keep flipping back and forth to check for time conflicts, a total pain the tuckus, but we tackled Thursday's events and took our best shot with a handwritten list.

I got hooked on the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (henceforth called the Gathering in my posts) because it's a celebration of the west. Through poetry, music, storytelling, film, art and workshops history is kept alive and each year brings new awareness. Cowboy culture and family ranching survives around the world in spite of politics, global warming and governments. These dedicated souls grow our food, raise our meat and respect the land they caretake for future generations.

A full day and we just got here ~ sleep comes quickly and as softly as a fox in the night. Tomorrow the Gathering unfolds.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Road to Elko 2012 ~ Day 1

January 31st ~ We've been spoiled by travelling in "Gone" our little motorhome. All you add is food, water and a ditty bag and you're ready to go. Not wanting tempt the Fates, we decide against it since there's always a chance of snow this time of year. A motorhome is a flying brick to begin with and they don't wear chains. We haven't packed a car for a road trip in six years so we found ourselves rather amused by the amount of stuff we're bringing along: cowboy clothes, hats, foul weather gear, boots and shoes, camera, binoculars, walking sticks, cooler, emergency pack, rolling backpacks, books on tape, etc. How did we ever find room for our two big dogs before? The entire back end of the Jeep is full to seat back level, neatly buried under the waves of a colorful Pendleton blanket.

We finished packing the car about 9:30, did a last check of the house and I started, no let me rephrase that, tried to start the Jeep: a slow groan and then clickita, clickita, clickita. I call Jeff, my mechanic, who said it sounded like the starter. He advises banging on it a few times with hammer and try it again. Nada, so he orders a starter and waits for us to get towed.

Called CSAA and Sebastopol Tow shows up in about 15 minutes. Brian, the owner, asks us what's up, then says "let me try something". He brings out his portable jump starter and badabing, she turns right over. Hero #1 of the day. We call Jeff back and tell him we'll get there under our own power. All systems check out. Have we stumped the mechanic? Not likely, but he's at a momentary loss. I ask him if it's possible to check the electrical system (I've got a few motorhead genes thanks to my dad).

He chased down and tested every fuse, connection and wiring harness. It took 2 hours but he finally found frayed wire in the harness under the dash. It was shorting the system and drained the battery. He fixed in a few minutes. We asked what we owed him for his time and he says "Just get your asses on the road and have a good time". Hero #2 of the day. Jeff's been working on our cars for years and you can understand why!

All things happen for a reason, though we haven't quite figured this one out yet our thought is that it's better to have it happen in the driveway than somewhere in the middle of Nevada. We finally leave Sonoma County around noon, arrive in Reno about 4:30 and check into the Silver Legacy.

Digital Painting, Reno, NV

Perfect ending to the day is a fabulous dinner, visit and lots of laughter with our friends Steve and Barb. The road to Elko lays ahead. Weather is clear and cold ~ a good sign.