Poets & Storytellers
poets and storytellerS
January 30 - February 4, 2017
Amy Hale Auker - Prescott, AZ
Amy Hale Auker cowboys for Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona, with her husband, Gail Steiger. Work on the ranch provides ample material for her writing: prose, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of Rightful Place, a collection of essays, and two novels, Winter of Beauty and The Story Is the Thing. A new collection of creative non-fiction will be released in 2017. Amy’s presentations on the stage and on the page are deeply rooted in the natural world where the bats fly, lizards do pushups on the rocks, bears leave barefoot prints in the dirt. Where hummingbirds do rain dances in August, spiders weave for their food, and poetry is in the chrysalis and the cocoon. She tells stories about the real world where things grow up out of the ground, where the miracle of life happens over and over again, where people can and do survive without malls or Arby's. Amy believes that what you put out there is what you get back, and that growing food is an honorable profession. http://www.amyhaleauker.com/
Jerry Brooks - Sevier, UT
Jerry Brooks, known simply to friends as "Brooksie," recites poetry - a lot of it being cowboy poetry. She grew up in a time and place where the power of spoken word and storytelling was important and appreciated. When language was used for communicating, instead of confusing, and our stories were shared - both the telling and the living. When our words meant something to each other, and folks listened to one another. Our stories are our history, and their preservation and presence are more important than ever. Remembering well-crafted verse, a few good lines, and well told stories may only be a hobby, but it is a meaningful one. Brooksie strives to stay true to the voices of the poets. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/brooksie.htm
Doris Daley - Black Diamond, Alberta, Canada
Doris Daley is an Alberta-born, ranch-raised, hale and hearty, happy-trailed, spangled and wrangled western poet, emcee and road warrior. She comes from a gene pool that includes Mounties, ranchers, team ropers, intrepid homesteaders, petticoated bushwhackers, good dancers, grain elevator operators and Irish stowaways: the perfect pedigree for a cowboy poet. Doris has spouted her poetry around campfires and in concert halls from West Texas to Northern Alberta and all points in between. She grew up near a town of 300 people, she now lives in a "big" town (pop: 2,000) in the Alberta foothills with a bakery, two banks, a bar on the corner, one great library and no traffic lights.
Doris is the recipient of the 2017 Della Johns Scholarship.
John Dofflemyer - Lemon Cove, CA
Fifth-generation California cattleman John Dofflemyer, and his wife Robbin, run a cow/calf operation in the Kaweah River watershed of the southern Sierra Nevada. For the past ten years they have documented ranch life with photographic and poetic perspectives at www.drycrikjournal.com to augment their own records, as well as acquaint others with the basics of harvesting grass with cattle. After his invitation to Elko in 1989, John began publishing Dry Crik Review to encourage and celebrate contemporary cowboy poetry on the page. He also edited the anthology Maverick Western Verse for Gibbs Smith Publishers in 1994. Examples of John’s poetry can be found in many anthologies; he has published 17 collections of poetry, two of which have received Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Carolyn Dufurrena - Winnemucca, NV
Carolyn Dufurrena came West several decades ago to live life in the Nevada desert. She is a regular contributor to Range Magazine and is lead writer for C.J Hadley’s Cowboys and Critters: Symbiosis in the American West (in press). She has contributed to several other publications by the Range Conservation Foundation, including Brushstrokes and Balladeers: Painters and Poets of the American West, which received a 2014 Wrangler Award. She collaborated with photographer Linda Dufurrena on Fifty Miles from Home: Riding the Long Circle on a Nevada Family Ranch, and with Linda Hussa and Sophie Sheppard on Sharing Fencelines: Three Friends Write from Nevada’s Sagebrush Corner. She lives and works on the Quinn River Ranch south of Denio, Nevada with her husband Tim.
Maria Lisa Eastman - Hyattville, WY – NEW!
Maria Lisa Eastman has always had a fascination for horses, so growing up in a horseless household wasn’t always easy. As soon as she could talk, she began to pester her parents for riding lessons, and by age five was astride a horse named Thunder, with a man in a big hat named Red calling out moves. From then on, riding in the rainy countryside outside of London, England, scrimmaging polo ponies in Santa Fe, and working cows and riding fences on ranches in New Mexico and Wyoming, she’s always made sure horses were near. While riding colts out and collecting native grasses in the foothills of New Mexico, she earned a master’s degree in range and watershed management. These days, she ranches with her husband in northwestern Wyoming and runs a non-profit therapeutic horsemanship program, called Rainhorse. Her love for the people, places and animals of the Western landscape continue to inspire her poetry. http://new.rainhorse.org/
Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Marshall, CA
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott chose the cowboy way at the age of 14, trading life at home for one on the rodeo circuit. By age 20, Elliott’s rough-edged enthusiasm and musical instinct drew the attention of his avowed idol, Woody Guthrie, initiating a close, invaluable and lifelong association. He was also a good friend of Johnny Cash. Ramblin’ Jack became a latter-day troubadour, whose love for a good song is equaled only by an abiding respect for his fellow man and a profound contempt for injustice. Along the way, he inspired several generations including a young Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. This National Medal of Arts recipient and two-time GRAMMY winner is a truly unique American treasure.
Patricia Frolander - Sundance, WY
Patricia Frolander has been blessed with miles in the saddle in magnificent country; her partner of 54 years beside her. Although aged, memories of fine horses, sleek cattle, devoted cow dogs, and the ups and downs of raising all of them, cause ink to spill on paper. Patricia is a past Poet Laureate of Wyoming. She gives thanks to all who share their stories of the cowboy way.
DW Groethe - Bainville, MT
DW Groethe is the son of pioneers. He was born and raised in the west of Dakota and has lived the past twenty five plus years across the border in Montana. It is the same land...same folks...same weather...same heartbeat. The lyrics may change but the rhythm stays true. He is a ranch hand, he is a poet, he is a songster. His songs and his poems sing of who he is and where he comes from. When you’re in Elko, feel free to stop DW any old time and ask him whatever needs asking. Coffee's on him. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm
Andy Hedges - Lubbock, TX
Andy Hedges is a songster, reciter and guitarist. His varied repertoire includes classic cowboy recitations, obscure cowboy songs, dust bowl ballads, and blues. Andy taught himself to play the guitar when he was 14 and began collecting classic cowboy poems and traditional cowboy songs. He has released nine albums including four joint projects with songwriter Andy Wilkinson. His latest album Cowboy Songster Vol. 2 is a recording of Andy performing old-time songs in the solo tradition with only guitar accompaniment. Andy lives in Lubbock, Texas with his wife and children. Don Edwards said that Andy “makes no claim to being a cowboy but he has the cowboy spirit, integrity, and the heart that makes his music so undeniably real. Andy could very well carry on the traditions when all us old guys are gone. I'd feel assured in knowing the music of our great American West was in good hands." http://www.andyhedges.com/
Teresa Jordan - Virgin, UT
Teresa Jordan is an artist and author who grew up as part of the fourth generation on an isolated ranch in Wyoming. Her books include the ranch memoir, Riding the White Horse Home and Cowgirls: Women of the American West, one of the earliest books to give voice to contemporary women working on the land. With her husband–folklorist, public radio producer and WFC founding director Hal Cannon–she created the series The Open Road for public radio’s The Savvy Traveler. Her newest book, The Year of Living Virtuously, Weekends Off, is a collection of essays and illustrations inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s thirteen virtues and the seven deadly sins. She and Hal live in southern Utah where they raise a small band of Navajo Churro sheep. http://www.teresajordan.com
Ross Knox - Midpines, CA
Ross Knox first aspired to be a cowboy as a little boy, when he watched his father work their ranch in central Oregon. At 16, he quit school and moved to Nevada to buckaroo, where he also began writing poetry to occupy his time alone. He has worked at both the Grand Canyon and Saguaro National Parks in Arizona, packing in supplies and tools for trail and fire crews. Ross now leads pack trips in Yosemite and lives in Midpines, California. Known for reciting the classics, Ross also writes original poetry from his life experiences and has more than 100 poems committed to memory. He recently released a CD collaboration with musician Trinity Seely. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/rossknox.htm
Jarle Kvale - Dunseith, ND - NEW!
Jarle Kvale turns his experiences with horses, rodeo, and North Dakota rural living into humorous verse. He's been writing cowboy poetry for over 20 years, sharing his stories with friends and family members over trail ride campfires, at various community events, and at cowboy poetry gatherings. Jarle is Program Director at KEYA Public Radio, located on the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation in north central North Dakota. He is also host and producer of "Back at the Ranch," a weekly half-hour radio show featuring a mix of Western music and cowboy poetry. The program is available as a podcast at http://keyaranch.podomatic.com. Jarle and his wife, along with an ever-changing number of horses, live north of Dunseith, North Dakota, near the Canadian border.
Waddie Mitchell - Twin Bridges, NV
Waddie Mitchell was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining as a boy on the Nevada ranches where his father worked. The art of spinning tales in rhyme and meter about a rich lifestyle of pushing cows and living off the land came to be called cowboy poetry. Waddie recites the older classics as well as his own, eloquently expressing moments grand and common, humorous and tragic. In 1985, Waddie helped organize Elko’s first Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Since then, he has kept busy writing, publishing and recording. Waddie was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame in 2011, and was honored in 2012 with the Nevada Heritage Award from the Nevada Arts Council.
UNFORTUNATELY, WADDIE IS UNABLE TO PARTICIPATE THIS YEAR.
Joel Nelson - Alpine, TX
Joel Nelson has been a cowboy since age six when he helped on a cattle drive to the railroad. For more than 30 years, Joel made his living working on cow outfits in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Hawaii, specializing in breaking colts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Range Management, has built custom saddles, and served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. He is a founder of the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas, and a 2009 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship. Joel’s poem “Equus Caballus” was selected to be a part of the national Poetry Out Loud program for high school students. He and his wife Sylvia run corriente cattle in the beautiful West Texas ranch country.
Rodney Nelson - Almont, ND
Rodney Nelson and his wife Teri live in Sims, North Dakota, population 2, a suburb of Almont. Despite advancing age and declining health, Rodney continues to make his living rodeoing which has caused him to enjoy a low standard of living. His rodeo career has been in a steady decline for most of his life, going from riding saddle broncs to now competing in Senior Breakaway roping which his daughter says is a girl's event for old men. He finds it necessary to supplement his rodeo income by raising a few cattle, breaking a few horses, working as a brand inspector, writing a column for the Farm and Ranch Guide, freeze branding cattle around North Dakota in the coldest winter months, and entertaining banquet crowds with his brand of rural humor.
Shadd Piehl - Mandan, ND
A fourth-generation North Dakotan and third-generation rodeo cowboy, Shadd Piehl grew up near the Mouse River south of Minot, North Dakota. He has attended Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering as a featured poet five or six times over the last 20-odd years and has also appeared at the annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Medora, North Dakota. In 2004 he was named an associate poet laureate by North Dakota State Poet Laureate Larry Woiwode. His poems have appeared in the anthologies, Between Earth and Sky: Contemporary Cowboy Poets, Maverick Western Verse, Brushstrokes and Balladeers, and the magazines Aluminum Canoe, Pemmican, Red Weather, and Dry Crik Review, among others. Shadd has published a chapbook of poetry Towards Horses with Aluminum Canoe. Currently an Academic Dean for Rasmussen College, Shadd lives in Mandan, North Dakota, with his wife Marnie and sons Owen, Wyatt and Ryder.
Vess Quinlan - Florence, CO
Vess Quinlan began writing poetry and prose when he was confined with polio in 1951. His grandma brought him shoe boxes of J.R. Williams cartoons and cowboy poems cut from years of livestock papers. Uncles brought him Will James books to read. Vess survived with one leg shorter than the other, but never recovered from the effect of these poems, cartoons and stories. His grandpa said, “Now he’s ruined. You can make a cowboy out of pretty near anything but you can’t make hardly nothing out of a cowboy.” The fourth generation to raise livestock and feed, Vess became a working partner on a “rundown outfit” in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where he raised alfalfa, cattle, kids, dogs and sheep. Vess is a new member of the Western Folklife Center’s Board of Trustees. https://www.facebook.com/vess.quinlan
Henry Real Bird - Garryowen, MT
Henry Real Bird, a native Crow Indian, grew up ranching on the battlegrounds of the Little Big Horn on the Crow Reservation in Montana. A former rodeo cowboy, now a renowned poet, Henry still lives in and draws inspiration from the land of the Little Big Horn Valley. Horses picture large in Henry’s creative work, and he still rides eight to nine hours a day. In January 2012, this former Montana Poet Laureate was named Cowboy Poet of the Year at the 16th annual Academy of Western Artist’s Will Roger Awards. His latest book is Wolf Teeth, published in 2013.
Brigid Reedy - Boulder, MT
Brigid Reedy first entertained the Elko crowds by yodeling at the Pioneer Saloon at the age of two. She has attended every Gathering since (this is her fourth as an invited performer) and her appreciation of Western music, poetry and culture has only deepened along with her love of the performers and friends who have inspired her. An accomplished singer and fiddler, Brigid's musical repertoire runs the full gamut of the American West, from the most traditional cowboy tunes to new and original songs. Brigid also recites and writes poetry that reflects her life and experience as a young woman growing up in the contemporary rural West and her beloved Montana.
Randy Rieman - Dillon, MT
Randy Rieman has had a love affair with the spoken word for over 40 years. For 32 consecutive years, he has shared his passion for poetry with audiences at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where he is considered one of the foremost reciters of both classic cowboy poetry and traditional Australian bush poetry. Randy has been known, on occasion, to pick up his guitar and share a song or a story from his life with horses and stockmen. His most recent creative work is an audiovisual presentation of C.M. Russell's illustrated letters, which has quickly become an audience favorite. Randy is currently headquartered on a ranch at the base of the Big Belt Mountains, near Cascade, Montana. He continues to start and train young horses, and spends a fair bit of time on the road conducting horsemanship, ranch roping and cattle-handling clinics around the U.S. and Europe. When the snow flies, you'll likely find him in his rawhide shop braiding fine reatas and hondos. Randy has two cowboy poetry CDs available, as well as the DVD Four Strands Of Rawhide featuring legendary horseman and braider Bill Dorrance. You can learn more on his website: http:/www.randyrieman.com
Kent Rollins - Hollis, OK
Kent Rollins is the Official Chuck Wagon Cook of Oklahoma. He and his wife Shannon, travel the country catering and cooking for traditional working ranches during spring and fall works with their 1876 Studebaker chuck wagon. Rollins has appeared on Food Network's Chopped Grill Masters, Chopped Redemption, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, NBC Food Fighters and CBS Sunday Morning among others.Their recipes can be enjoyed each month in Western Horseman magazine and their recently released cookbook, A Taste of Cowboy, is a national bestseller. http://www.kentrollins.com/
Jack Sammon - Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia - NEW!
Jack Sammon was born and raised on large cattle stations (ranches) in the state of Queensland, Australia, spending school vacations working in stock camps and going on droving trips. Leaving school at an early age, he worked as a ringer (cowboy), horse breaker, headstockman and boss drover on stations throughout the north of Australia. With the advent of motorbikes and helicopters taking the place of horses and the large cattle trucks called road trains replacing the old time drover-- bringing an end to an era-- Jack left the outback and worked for the next twenty five years as a coal miner until retiring in 2005. He now spends his time braiding Australian stock whips, writing and performing poetry and occasionally working on cattle stations. He has regularly performed at the Alpine Cowboy Poetry Gathering, headlining in 2003 and 2011.
Sean Sexton - Vero Beach, FL
Sean Sexton was born in Indian River County and grew up on his family's Treasure Hammock Ranch. He divides his time between taking care of a 600 acre cow-calf operation, painting, and writing. He is married to artist, Sharon Sexton, and they live on the ranch in a house they built with their hands. Sean has kept daily journal-sketch and writing books since 1973. He received an Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the State of Florida in 2000. He is author of Blood Writing, Poems, Anhinga Press, 2009, The Empty Tomb, University of Alabama Slash Pine Press, 2014, and Waldo's Mountain, Waterview Press, 2001. He has performed and presented at past gatherings, the Miami Book Fair International, and Other Words Literary Conference in St. Augustine, FL. He is represented in art collections throughout the US and will be featured in a one-man show of paintings, drawings and ceramics at Seminole State College Gallery in Sanford, FL, entitled "The Art of Living," February, 2017.
R.P. Smith - Broken Bow, NE
R.P. Smith is a fourth-generation rancher from Custer County, Nebraska, part of the home place; the Pine Crest Ranch has been in his family since 1906. Over 30 years ago, after seeing two of the world’s most noted cowboy poets on the Johnny Carson Show, R.P. was inspired to write his first piece of cowboy poetry. A few years later he was given the opportunity to share some of his work at the first Old West Days Celebration, Nebraska’s Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and the ball really started rolling from there. R.P. enthuses, “The Lord has given me more opportunities to speak with folks than I ever could have imagined, it has been a great ride.” He is still excited enough about ranching that it pulls him out of bed pretty early every day; he enjoys the challenges that running a ranch offers, and is a lifelong student of the relationships between water, grass, sunshine and livestock. http://www.rpsmith.us/
Gail Steiger - Prescott, AZ
Gail Steiger is a songwriter, filmmaker, cowboy and foreman of the remote Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona, since 1995. He has been playing guitar and writing songs for over 30 years, and often recites works by his grandparents, Delia Gist Gardner and Gail I. Gardner. Gail also collaborates with his brother Lew on various film and multimedia projects, including the acclaimed documentary, Ranch Album. He’s released two CDs, The Romance of Western Life in 1999, and A Matter of Believin’ in 2015. Gail is a member of the Western Folklife Center’s Board of Trustees.
Keith Ward - Vilas, NC
Keith Ward grew up on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina near Boone. His family raised beef, hay, tobacco, pepper and various other vegetable crops. They also saw milled. Horses have always been a part of Keith’s life although they didn’t have much time for “pleasure horses” as his Daddy called them. Just about everybody around had work horses or mules used for working the crops. After he was grown and had married that pretty little red head, he quit farming and went to work in law enforcement. Keith kept cattle and horses as a supplement to his income (policemen don’t get paid much around there) but mostly because he loves them (cattle and horses don’t pay much around there either.) He quit police work after twenty years and now makes his living as a “dude wrangler.” Keith owns and operates a guided trail ride business called Dutch Creek Trails. Keith has been writing poetry since his childhood. His background has given him lots of inspiration for his poems. Some are purely fictional and some are based on true events that have happened to him. He thinks he likes the fictional ones best because he is always surprised by the ending. Like his poem “Drifty,” he didn’t know why he was crying until he was writing the last four or five verses. http://www.dutchcreektrails.com/cowboy-poet/
Andy Wilkinson - Lubbock, TX
A poet, songwriter, singer and playwright whose particular interest is the history and peoples of the Great Plains, Andy Wilkinson has recorded 12 albums of original music and has written eight plays: among them Charlie Goodnight’s Last Night, a one-man show performed by Mr. Barry Corbin; the musical drama “My Cowboy’s Gift;” and “The Soul of the West” (written with Red Steagall). His work has received several awards, including the Texas Historical Foundation’s John Ben Shepperd Jr. Craftsmanship Award, six National Western Heritage “Wrangler” Awards in four different categories, and the Will Rogers Medallion Award. He is Artist in Residence at the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University, where he is also visiting assistant professor in the School of Music. In addition to his writing and teaching, he continues to perform.
Paul Zarzyski - Great Falls, MT
Paul Zarzyski, veteran of 31 consecutive Gatherings and recipient of the 2005 Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature, has written poetry for two-thirds of his lifetime, so far, on this planet alone. Even before his short 15 year stint as a rodeo bareback bronc rider, he wrote, unbeknownst to him at the time, Rodeo Poetry, as his approach to the page has always been to “take that tuck and let the lingo buck.” Along with his 10 books and 6 spoken-word CDs, Paul, thanks to Ian Tyson’s encouragement in the early Elko years, has co-written numerous songs, most recently with David Wilkie of Cowboy Celtic. His latest collection and companion double-CD-with- digibook recording both sport what Paul deems “thee definitive metaphorical title to living a wild-west life as a wild writer writing/riding wildly into the wilds of the mind.” Yup, you guessed it, Steering With My Knees. http://www.paulzarzyski.com/
Duke Vance - Emerging Artist
Duke Vance is the recipient of the Rod McQueary & Sue Wallis Scholarship at the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He is foreman on a cow outfit in Northern Arizona, where he and his wife are raising their three kids to be good stewards of a piece of country and animals. Duke finds that writing is an outlet in which he can share his uncommon profession. His writings are inspired by the life he lives, the way he was raised and the cowboys he has worked with. He has performed in Cimmaron and Capulin New Mexico and is a returning performer to the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering.
Banner image: Charlie Ekburg