Monday, February 10, 2014

The Road to Elko ~ Jan 30, 2013

I knew if I didn't take some notes at the events I was going to regret it. Much to my bemusement I'm now sorting through eighteen pages of scratchpad scribbles written in near darkness during the shows. Gonna have to rethink this next time. What would Margo do?

One of the fun parts of the Gathering is bringing all our western gear, the stuff we don't wear in our everyday lives: boots, vests, hats, scarves, special shirts, fringed jackets and jewelry. It's a chance to step into our favorite culture. 

Western Decor-Painting Old West Cowgirl
This year seemed to favor a change: perhaps due to below freezing temperatures and the copious number of layers we all wore or carried around, perhaps out of respect for the real cowboys and their families. It wasn't anything conscious, we just noticed a subtle shift from dressing the part to comfortable layers. I kept the hat and jewelry but traded the fancy gear for a favorite turtleneck and fleece jacket.

The wondrous part of the Gathering is that there are free shows and workshops every day. They're in small venues and often more entertaining than the large ticketed shows. The hard part is making a choice, as there are usually 4-6 events going on at any one time at several venues. 

The morning starts off with "A Couple of Rebels" featuring Vess Quinlan and Paul Zarzyski; both accomplished poets, reciters and storytellers. Whether free verse or rhyme their work will get you to thinking and haul out your emotions, running the gamut from tears to hysterical laughter. 

Our second show was "Verses for Nature's Adversities" with Doris Daley, Carolyn Dufurrena and Gail Steiger. A couple of lines in Doris Daley's poem "100 Years From Now" really stuck with me. 

We lived beneath the arch with a mix of grit and grace,
Just ordinary folk in an extraordinary place. 

These words still hold true. We may live in different places and times, but challenges remain for every one of us. The grit and gumption of our ranchers and cowboys make us realize we can dare to be brave and face whatever is thrown in our path. 

The first Members' Show at the Convention Center Auditorium was a round robin featuring Don Edwards, Joel Nelson and Randy Rieman ~ one and all credentialed and steeped in living the American West. Rather than try to put words to the experience, I'll send you to the link for the Western Folklife Center Members' Show #1 on Thursday, January 30th.

http://www.westernfolklife.org/2014-National-Cowboy-Poetry-Gathering-Live-Broadcast.html 

The theme of the Gathering was "Expressing the Rural West ~ into the Future". Planners worked hard to attract younger generations by taking advantage of social media and creating youth programs like the Teen Poetry Slam and Young Buckaroo Open Mic. We took notice, there were more young people attending, participating and performing at the Gathering that we'd seen in previous events. A new generation, old souls at heart, has stepped up to carry on the traditions of the West. 


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Performance from Teen Poetry Slam
Photo credit Jessica Brandi Lifland

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Glenn Ohrlin and Bridget Reedy 
Photo credit Jessica Brandi Lifland at

We need to remember across generations 
That there is as much to learn as there is to teach. 
 Gloria Steinem

Look up any of the performers cited above on YouTube and you'll find some great examples of their work. If you go to Cowboy Poetry.com you'll find an incredible resource for research, poetry and all things cowboy. The link is http://www.cowboypoetry.com

We checked out a few of the trade shows in the afternoon, had an early dinner and called it a day. Time for a little dose of Louis L'Amour and dreamland.