FEATURING: Owen Barton, Hal Cannon, Bob Schild, Bill Simpson, Steve Siporin.
A soulful taste of the experience of the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering, in the reflections and poetry of Bill Simpson, Bob Schild, Owen Barton, and others.
First to the mic is natural storyteller Bill Simpson who chooses poetry to commemorate characters, events, good horses and bad rides of daily life in southern Idaho’s Snake River Valley. His verse is rich with cowboy lingo and creative rhymes. (Ever wonder what rhymes with “shit”?)
Next, bronc rider and saddlemaker Bob Schild, hailing from southeastern Idaho, ponders whether his creative work could be considered “art.” Real-life experiences on the rodeo road provide inspiration for much of Bob’s work as reflected in this clear-voiced account of the fate of bronc Alley Cat and rider. Is it art?
Owen Barton was wrangled/lured to Elko from his remote Diamond A desert ranch home to nervously take the stage to share poems mainly heard by family and brush-popping friends. His “Red Ant Hill” poem, and other verses, are based on true life experiences, with a little fiction added in. Owen and his family band topped off the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering, playing western dance music until the early morning Amtrak train rolled into town and poets and audience poured/stumbled/crawled on board.
To wrap up this segment, Idaho folklorist Steve Siporin and Cowboy Poetry Gathering founder Hal Cannon bring home the importance of recognizing the arts of grassroots communities, and of this event’s joyously successful focus on the verbal arts, still vital to western ranching communities.
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).
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Owen Barton was originally from Rogerson, Idaho, but grew up near Carey, Idaho. His father was a horse trader. In 1948, Owen traded the family business for the Diamond A Ranch which straddles the Idaho-Nevada border.He was a prolific poet who wrote about the amusing twists of life on the ranch. His wife Irene said sometimes Owen would write shopping lists which would all be set in rhyme! It should also be noted that Owen's family band played the dance for the first Gathering, playing into the wee hours. Owen and Irene retired from ranch life in 1989 and moved to Twin Falls, Idaho. Owen died in 1995.
Hal Cannon was the very first Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center and one of the creative and daring brains behind the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985. Hal also performs with musical group 3hattrio (vocals, banjo, guitar) and is a scholar of cowboy music and poetry.
Steve Siporin is a folklorist who holds a joint appointment teaching both English and History. He is the author of American FolkMasters: The National Heritage Fellows (1992) and co-editor of Worldviews and the American West: The Life of the Place Itself (2000).
Bob Schild was born in Idaho at the height of the Great Depression and was raised on a farm and ranch on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. He worked as a professional rodeo cowboy for many years, and then in 1961 opened a saddle shop in Blackfoot, Idaho. Though he began reciting poetry on the long drives between rodeos, he shared that between March 1961 and the fall of 1984 he wrote only a single poem, “The Old Dunn Mare.” His poems were drawn from his experiences with ranch, livestock, spoiled horses, rodeo and saddlery. He wrote two books of poetry and released one CD, “Lazy SB Poetry.”
Grand View, ID
Bill Simpson writes poems as narratives about people and events he and other buckaroos have encountered in the Snake River Valley of southern Idaho.
Filmed on location at the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 1985.
Made possible by 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.