Several years ago, or quite a few, depending just how one judges time, I took an afternoon trip to a quaint town bordering between Amish country and rolling hills that offers great enthusiasm for hikers and canoeists alike as the tranquil rivers gently roll through the gentle countryside. As I walked the streets of this historic Ohio town, I happened upon a privately owned bookstore. Not expecting as much excitement as, let us say Borders, I rapidly scanned the shelves. My mind sadly took second place to my stomach which sensed the corner bakery where the cinnamon rolls are worth giving up your life for.
After scanning the shelves of somewhat dull books the time allotted for hunger pains to climax into death ran its course so an exit for the bakery had to be now or never. Charging for the door, my eyes caught the cover of a book by an author I had met more than a few times. The old cowboy bard, Baxter Black it seems had published a new book so I laid down a pocketful of shillings and decided his cowboy philosophy along with a hot cup of coffee and that darn warm cinnamon roll were foreordained to share my table at the corner bakery.
As some of my reading audience may recall, I dabbled in the cowboy poet circles for a few years as both a beginning versifier/storyteller and journalist. I sauntered along side of all the big fellers who could shoot off a cowpoke tale, or verse of prose faster than John Wayne could swagger in a hula hoop contest. Baxter Black, as luck would have it, was one of my first interviewees and after a few minutes of listening to him I had no choice but to fall in line with the other men and women who told tales of better places far away from the big city bravado.
It is often said, and likely is the truth, my adult years were mainly spent in the vast upper regions of Minnesota, just a stone throw from that odd river that flows the wrong direction, The Red River Valley of the North, where my travels often took me through a municipality where a large sign read, "The West Starts Here." Far as I can see that pertnear made me a cowgirl.
Now it is only forthright to admit a lapse of common sense overcame me when I failed to live out certain ethnic duties and traveled from Minnesota to Kansas, then off to California. Like a female version of Will Rogers, I hung tight to straight-shootin' midwest wisdom. In other words, I was a rube, a square peg in a very oblong society--so in the circle of Cowboy Poets I found a group of people that had nearly as much sense as myself.
It did not take long for a fire to start smoldering in my solar plexus, not lethal chuck wagon-chilli-fire, but the very flames of life itself. The troop of word weavers spoke smoother than fine whiskey, a substance never having the opportunity to touch my sacred lips. Listening to such lyrics made me want to grab a chance to get on stage and wax eloquent.
The First Annual Newhall (California) Cowboy Poetry Festival presented the opportunity. With a pen and reporter's notebook in hand I interviewed many of the legends of western poetry and music. I absorbed the rhyme and rhythm of their parlance and went home to create my own epic. Two days hence forth, with wobbly legs, I walked up to the stage. The glare of stage lights nearly mesmerized me as I chanted poetry of my days along the backward flowing Red River where, according to the sign on Highway 10, the West began.
Sadly my stab at cowgirl poetry did not quite reflect the romantic wild west image Remington painted on canvases. I finished my 30 minutes of fame with a yarn, not the rhythmic canter of the popular cowboys. I started out proper, but my tale of serenity and closeness to God got lost in the uppity-urban setting I lived which in turn set off cowboy alarms. It was a greenhorn's mistake. Flat out storytellin' broke the firm tradition planted by the gun totten', lasso swingin', rodeo ridin' cowboy poets. My finish was salsa from New York City.
In a moment of crazed thinking caused by grabbing a branding iron and engraving "loser," across my forehead, a savior from out the crowd came to my rescue. A gentleman from Poland informed me my stage presence was the first thing he understood all weekend. "You my friend," he said in a Eastern European inflection, "are a storyteller, not a poet."
I smiled and finally figured out my life's calling. I ran around hither and yon for numerous months with the likes of poets like Baxter but I warned all listeners before hand I come under a separate calling, that is I am a tall-tale-storyteller not a poet laureate.
I sort of yearn for the days of cowboy poet festivals. Baxter's publication caused a cloud of loneliness to fall over me. There is a shortage of cowboy ways in these parts. To even discuss my feelings about the serenity of territories such as Montana causes my Ohio friends to break out in a scalp rash since they sit about and scratch their heads. Yup, cowboy poetry makes our locals a bit confused so I attempted to start a replacement. There has to be some place here bouts for regional rural poetry.
Having roots in the great corn state of Iowa and being of Midwest stock, the thought of a Pig Farmer Poetry Festival came to mind. One could rhapsodize the melodic words of riding a John Deere tractor across the endless rolling black soil hills, or the heartbreak of a failed corn harvest. And if one was so inclined, you can speak poems of moving northward to North Dakota to plant taters.
But friends I moved a little too far east. Just about as fer east as anyone should move, I dare say. Sure we have agriculture here, but it is different and what there is, is quickly being turned into housing–houses way too big for families to live in. The fields don't fall off into the horizon and the cattle are well, diary cows. Never are cowpokes seen ridin' the fence line being the fences here are electrified wires.
I need your input. Could Ohio accept a Dairy Farmers Poet Festival? What would rhyme with barn cleaner? Does our muddy Tuscarawas River have the same illusion as the mighty Rio Grande. Does seeing a ground hog hold one spell bound as happening upon a 700-pound grizzly bear? I just cannot close my eyes and envision this.
If you, my dear readers, know a little about cowboy poetry and have a yearnin' to create something new, scrawl me a few lines of Dairy Farmer Poetry and I will ponder this event for a moment or two. Who knows, maybe you have poets blood flowing through your veins?
Ol' Bess and me
sure know the way.
Wake up every mornin'
and work for little pay
Our jobs are bout the same
she gives the milk
I clean the barn
even tho my bod is lame
If'n any of us had a lick of sense
we'd both start walkin
lock the gate on the fence
and git paid jus fer talkin'
Settle in, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy your stay here at Shelly's. The pie is great, the coffee pot is always on and soon you will find this to be the best place in town. SOON TO BE AMERICA'S MOST READ BLOG