FEATURING: Baxter Black, Gwen Petersen, Horse Sense.
A few poetic and musical highlights from mainstage shows at the very first Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Kicking things off is musical duo, Horse Sense, who traveled to northeastern Nevada to bring their old-time cowboy song repertoire to Elko County schools and the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Elko County is the fourth largest county in the continental U.S. at 17,181 square miles, so Horse Sense covered a lot of territory to entertain students! Next up is a classic Baxter Black performance weaving humor, theatrics, and lingo to bring laughter to the rafters. Although this was Baxter’s first performance on stage in Elko, unlike many of the poets that nervously gripped the microphone at the 1985 Gathering, Baxter was not a stranger to the stage and stagecraft, having retired from a successful career as a large animal veterinarian to pursue his love of entertaining and writing for ranch and ranch-leaning folks. And, to round out this episode, Gwen Petersen selects from her saddlebag of humorous limericks to the delight of the audience (and Gwen). This jam-packed three minute set, plus an encore, just hints at Gwen's extensive repertoire of poetry and stories written from a ranch woman's perspective.
Hosted by Hal Cannon.
From the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985 (in 2000, the event was renamed the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering by an official act of Congress).
"Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" - Horse Sense (traditional)
"The Vegetarian's Nightmare (or A Dissertation on Plants' Rights)" - Baxter Black
Various limericks - Gwen Petersen
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet and former large-animal veterinarian whose poetry and stories focus on the day-to-day ups and downs of people who live with livestock and work the land. For years, he traveled the USA and Canada, scattering his wit and cowboy mentality to folks looking for a bright spot in their day. With nearly three dozen books of poetry and fiction selling over 2 million copies, a widely published newspaper column, weekly commentaries on radio including National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” show, and a weekly television program, Baxter reached an audience larger than most cowboy poets. He was also a repeat guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and in 1986, rode a horse onto the auditorium stage at the Gathering. Baxter died in 2022.
Horse Sense was the collective name of musical duo Justin Bishop and John Nielson of Colorado. Together they performed the traditional music and songs of the American West, with John on fiddle and mandolin and Justin on guitar and banjo. Horse Sense shared classic performances of time-honored cowboy songs, such as the favorite, “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” with their exquisite harmony vocals and instrumentals. With John's passing, Justin has brought new partners into the mix to continue Horse Sense's musical legacy.
Big Timber, MT
Gwen Petersen of Big Timber, Montana, is retired from being a working rancher for over 50 years. She’s written 16 books, published CDs and anthologies, and was even on the Johnny Carson Show. Her humorous style brings levity to real life subjects, and she was a natural writing a weekly humor column and articles for several western publications. Her latest gig was as a member of our Ask A Cowboy Poet crew, giving sage advice about pretty much anything on our blog. She would submit her handwritten answers by postal mail. Gwen died in 2022.
Filmed in front of a live audience at the Elko Convention Center’s Laurena Moren Theater on Jan. 31, 1985 and Feb. 1, 1985.
Made possible by First Interstate Bank of Nevada, J.M. Capriola Co., Nevada State Council on the Arts (now Nevada Arts Council), Rangen, Inc., the Nevada Cattlemen's Association, and the multitude of staff, artists, volunteers, and community members working behind the scenes to make this show happen.
Brought to you by the Western Folklife Center, using story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world.