Wish I could have been at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine last weekend. The Houston Chronicle did a feature last Sunday on the genre and some of its poets.
I'm a sucker for Cowboy Poetry. I guess because I grew up reading old Zane Grey western novels. By the time I was fourteen, I think I'd read about fifty of them. Some, like West of the Pecos and Riders of the Purple Sage, I remember distinctly, but most have kind of blurred together.
If you don't know much about Cowboy Poetry, let me clue you in. There are about 200 gatherings in the U. S. each year, and they're well attended. As noted in the Chronicle's article, Cowboy Poetry includes traditional elements like rhyme, meter and narrative, that aren't seen much any more. Most of the long-time practitioners of the genre have actually worked as cowboys, or they have strong links to that culture, for instance, wives of ranchers.
No rhinestone cowboys need apply. Yes, there are some poets who've never had to deal with throwing a saddle over Old Paint, but somewhere along the line they had ancestors who knew how to cinch a saddle and ride the line.
Johnny Carson used to have cowboy poets on The Tonight Show. That's where I saw the first one. It was as if I were listening to one of the heroes from a Zane Grey novel lyrically tell about facing the bitter cold and loneliness often much a part of the job of being a cowboy.
Cowboy Poetry has been around a long time and doesn't seem to be fading. Maybe in this frantic rat race we call life, listening to someone recite simple yet powerful words about living with honor and integrity has greater appeal now than ever.
The Chronicle article quoted from Forgotten (about an old abandoned horse that nobody wants to put down) by one of the greatest of the Cowboy Poets Bruce Kiskaddon:
He stands still. He ain't none worried,
fer he knows he[s played the game.
He's got nothin' to back up from.
He's been square and ain't ashamed.
Fer no matter where they put him
he was game to do his share.
Well, I think more of the pony
than of those that left him there.
Google Cowboy Poetry or Kiskaddon's name, and you'll find plenty of sites such as Cowboy Poetry if you want to discover more about it. Amazon, of course, has several books from reasonably priced to expensive dealing with the subject.
Happy trails, pardner!