January 29 - February 3, 2018
Amy Hale Auker - Prescott, AZ
Amy Hale Auker is the author of Rightful Place, Winter of Beauty, and The Story is the Thing. Her new book, Ordinary Skin, was released in May 2017 by Texas Tech University Press. Amy cowboys for the Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona, and performs poetry and speaks to groups all over the country. She presents her original work and also enjoys reciting the poems of other women who have “been there and done that,” who speak with a strong voice of authenticity and a deep connection to the land. Amy endeavors to produce something of value from a place where the bats fly, the lizards do push-ups on the rocks, the bears leave barefoot prints in the dirt, the hummingbirds do rain dances in August, spiders weave for their food, and poetry is in the chrysalis and the cocoon. http://www.amyhaleauker.com/
Ryan Bell - Mazama, WA
Ryan began working in ranching when he moved to Argentina in 2001. There he spent six years working on Estancia Ranquilco, a 110,000-acre ranch in the Andes Mountains. Upon returning to the United States, he worked as a backcountry guide, as a wrangler on ranches in Colorado and Montana, and as an expedition guide in Mongolia. During all of this, he launched a career as a cowboy journalist, writing about the wide world of cowboys for Western Horseman and other publications. In 2015, Ryan served as a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow where he explored the rural countrysides of Russia and Kazakhstan to learn how American cowboys have been helping farmers rebuild cattle industries. Ryan writes about the role livestock producers play in feeding a hungry world and as stewards of natural landscapes. Ryan also recites classic gaucho poetry and song. www.ryantbell.com/about
John Dofflemyer - Lemon Cove, CA
A 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 makes her home in rural northwestern Nevada. She is the author of Quiet, Except for the Wind, a collection of poems and stories (2016) and the award-winning Fifty Miles from Home: Riding the Long Circle on a Nevada Family Ranch. She has also contributed to nationally-recognized anthology compilations. She conducts school and community workshops in writing and film-making, has been Nevada Press Association’s Outstanding Journalist for Magazines and is a regular contributor to Range magazine. Carolyn and her husband Tim are part of a large Basque sheep and cattle ranching family, which has been in Humboldt County since around 1908. They live on the Quinn River Ranch with a typical assortment of critters. http://arts4nevada.org/artists/carolyndufurrena
Maria Lisa Eastman - Hyattville, WY
First-generation Wyoming rancher Maria Lisa Eastman hails from the suburbs of Hyattville, pop. 100. She and her husband Skip operate the Oxbow Ranch, a sometimes-for-profit hay and cattle outfit, and Rainhorse Equine Assisted Services, a verifiable non-profit, where unfortunate horses are rehabilitated to help people who have had troubles themselves. She's been convinced from an early age that horses are her next-of-kin, and they have long been her guides. While riding colts out in the foothills of New Mexico, she began to collect and study the native grasses, and was inspired to earn a degree in range and watershed. Maria likes to think the good life she lives now was given to her by horses. Her poetry arises from the vast landscapes of northwest Wyoming, from its plants, animals and people. http://new.rainhorse.org/
Patricia Frolander - Sundance, WY
Patricia Frolander, Wyoming's fifth Poet Laureate, lives in the Black Hills on her husband’s fifth- generation ranch. Family, lifestyle and stunning vistas provide wonderful subjects for her poetry. In addition to contributing to numerous anthologies, she has authored two books, Grassland Genealogy (2009) and Married Into It (2012). Patricia nurtures young authors, presents her work in a four-state area, and is currently at work on her third collection of poems. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/patfrolander.htm
Andy Hedges - Lubbock, TX
Andy Hedges is a songster, reciter and guitarist. His varied repertoire includes classic cowboy poetry 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 10 albums including four joint projects with songwriter Andy Wilkinson. Don Edwards said of Hedges, “Andy could very well carry on the traditions when all of us old guys are gone. I'd feel assured in knowing the music of our great American West was in good hands." Andy also hosts a podcast, Cowboy Crossroads, which features interviews with poets, musicians, songwriters and historians. He lives in Lubbock, Texas with his wife and children. http://www.andyhedges.com/
Yvonne Hollenbeck - Clearfield, SD
Yvonne Hollenbeck is a South Dakota cattleman’s wife, who writes poetry about her life on a remote ranch where she helps with everyday duties, such as putting up hay, feeding a crew, doing bookwork, or working cattle. Although her poetry is often humorous about situations that were not humorous when they happened, her writing also takes a serious side when she reflects upon the hardships experienced by her parents and ancestral family members. Yvonne also is a free-lance author, penning a weekly column in “The Farmer & Rancher Exchange”, and is an avid quilter. An example of her beautiful quilt and applique work is on display in the Western Folklife Center's Pioneer Saloon. http://www.yvonnehollenbeck.com/
Ross Knox - Sasabe, AZ
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 has also led pack trips in Yosemite. He now works on the historic Rancho de la Osa in Sasabe, Arizona. 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. Unfortunately, Ross is unable to attend. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/rossknox.htm
Calton McCord Lewis - Spring Creek, NV
Calton (Cal) Lewis was born on his family’s homestead cattle ranch near Syracuse, Kansas, which they lost in the dustbowl, Cal’s father spent 44 months as a Prisoner of War, before returning to cattle ranching in Arkansas. In honor of his father, Cal joined the Marine Corps and then worked as a civilian firefighter at California’s Camp Pendleton Marine Base. He earned his MD in 1964, going on to practice and teach for decades in Elko and Owyhee. Cal owns and runs a ranch in the western hills south of Elko. He has published multiple books, including Magpies and Calves’ Eyes, featuring his original poem, “Buckethead,” about his first Nevada cowhorse. After an injury horseback at the age of 77, Cal no longer rides, but still feeds his cows and mows his neighbors’ hay every year. Cal will be 89 in 2019.
Betty Lynne McCarthy - Buffalo, MO
Betty Lynne McCarthy returns to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for the sixth time after a decade hiatus. Her true passion is the cattle operation she and her husband Sean have developed based on the cows they left Montana with over 20 years ago. Genomic testing rates their present herd in the top 9% of the Angus breed worldwide. Betty Lynne spent her childhood in the prairie dust stirred by her Dad's band of a thousand ewes. The lanolin has never left her blood—a flock of fifty Shropshire also graze just beyond her back door. This livestock-based lifestyle offers endless inspiration. Her poems and stories have been published throughout the Western United States and Canada. From Eastern Montana coulees, across New Mexico sand dunes, to their present ranch in the verdant hills of Missouri, Betty Lynne has ridden and written her way through what she humbly describes as "interesting times.”
Wally McRae - Colstrip, MT
Wally McRae’s family began raising livestock on the Rosebud Creek in Southeastern Montana just ten years after General Custer’s one-way trip through the neighborhood. Except for time spent in college at Montana State University and serving as a Naval officer, he has been following a cow around and writing poems. Wally’s poems and prose reflect the humor, pathos and individual characters in his community and culture. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded him with the first National Heritage Fellowship for a cowboy poet and later he was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the NEA’s National Council on the Arts. He has produced four books of poetry, an award-winning nonfiction book of prose, Stick Horses and Other Stories of Ranch Life, and a video of his poems from the syndicated TV show, The West. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/mcrae.htm
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. In 2017, he released Cohorts & Collaborators, an album featuring nine top Western artists who have co-written songs with Waddie.
Terry Nash - Loma, CO
Terry Nash owns and operates a ranch in Western Colorado, which provides him with inspirations for poems about modern day cowboying. He recites classics and writes and recites his own poems about his upbringing on the High Plains and experiences working cattle and baling feed in the Colorado mountains. Terry believes that folks need to be exposed to the classics. His own poems are authentic and performed with feeling. His most recent CD, December Stragglers, has won acclaim in the Western Music Association. He's been a top five nominee in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 for the Western Music Association's Male Poet of the Year and is currently working on a new CD. www.terrynashcowboypoet.com/Terry_Nash/Home.html
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. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/joelnelson.htm
Rodney Nelson - Almont, ND
Rodney Nelson and his wife Teri live at 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 girls’ 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 “Up Sims Creek” for 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. 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. He 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. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/shaddpiehl.htm
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 now drives an over-the-road truck and is a 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 Artists Will Roger Awards. His latest book is Wolf Teeth, published in 2013. He also mentors youth, recently teaching poetry reading and writing at the Wind River Reservation Arapaho Ranch Safari summer field program. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/henryrealbird.htm
Brigid Reedy - Whitehall, 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 fifth 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 - Cascade, MT
Randy Rieman has had a love affair with the spoken word for over 40 years. For 33 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. He has also been known, on occasion, to pick up his guitar and share a song from his life with horses and stockmen. Randy is currently headquartered on a ranch at the base of the Big Belt Mountains, near Cascade, Montana. He spends a fair bit of time conducting horsemanship, ranch roping and cattle-handling clinics around the United States and Europe. When the snow flies, you'll likely find him inside braiding fine rawhide reatas and hondos. Randy has released two CDs as well as the DVD Four Strands Of Rawhide featuring legendary horseman and braider Bill Dorrance. http:/www.randyrieman.com
Jack Sammon - Condong, New South Wales, Australia
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, head stockman and boss drover on stations and stock routes throughout the north of Australia. With motorbikes, helicopters, and the large cattle trucks called road trains replacing horses and the old time drover, Jack left the outback and worked for the next 25 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.
Sean Sexton - Vero Beach, FL
Sean Sexton was born in Indian River County, Florida, and grew up on his family's Treasure Hammock Ranch. He works every day on the family cattle ranch with his son, following in his footsteps as he followed in his father's. He divides his time between taking care of the family's 600-acre cow-calf operation, painting and writing on the ranch where he lives with his wife, artist Sharon Sexton. Sean has kept sketch and writing journals for over 40 years, drawn upon his life, the land, and Florida's cattle industry. Sean’s work is in art collections nationwide and was included in a 2017 Summer group show of Paint-out Artists at the Dana Gallery in Missoula, Montana. Sean is the author of Blood Writing, Poems (2009), Anhinga Press, and The Empty Tomb (2014), University of Alabama Slash Pine Press. He received a Florida Individual Artist's Fellowship in 2001 and became inaugural Poet Laureate of Indian River County in 2016.
Andy Wilkinson - Lubbock, TX
A writer and performer 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 and My Cowboy’s Gift. He is the author of three books: A Family of the Land, Storyline (put out by Dry Crik Press), and Surprise, Texas. A New Folk Winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival and an inductee into the West Texas Walk of Fame, his work has also been recognized with the Texas Historical Foundation’s John Ben Shepperd Jr. Craftsmanship Award, seven National Western Heritage Wrangler Awards in five different categories, and the Will Rogers Medallion Award. He is Artist-in-Residence at the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University, where he also teaches songwriting in the School of Music, and creative process in the Honors College. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/andywilkinson.htm
Paul Zarzyski - Great Falls, MT
Paul Zarzyski, veteran of 32 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 extra tuck and let the lingo buck.” Along with his ten 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 Hal Cannon of 3hattrio and music producer Jim Rooney. His latest book and companion double-CD are both titled Steering With My Knees—which Paul deems“thee definitive metaphorical image of living a wild-West life as a wild writer writing/riding wildly into the far-out wilds of the Cowpoke Cosmos mind.” http://www.paulzarzyski.com/
Annie MacKenzie - Jordan Valley, OR
While known as the family rambler, Annie Mackenzie has her roots planted firmly at the family ranch in Southeast Oregon. Thirty miles north of the small town of Jordan Valley, she spends her days assisting her two brothers and father tend cattle, start horses, and manage the unruly pack of border collies that inhabit the place. Additionally, Annie enjoys day working for extended family members and surrounding ranches. She also has had the opportunity to work with Sun J Livestock; contractors who gather wild horses across the western states. Her love of the land and way of life has inspired many a poem and song about the animals and people that live in her beloved High Desert.
Jake Riley, Riverdale, NE
Jake Riley grew up, for the most part, in the Upper Arkansas Valley of the Colorado mountains and graduated from high school in Buena Vista. He began roping and rodeoing as a kid, and was introduced to cowboy poetry as a young teenager. Jake has always loved rhyming, publishing some of his first cowboy poetry for a high school project. Ever since, poetry has been one of his passions, but only recently has he resumed finishing poems and sharing them with others. Much of Jake’s work involves first-hand ranch and rodeo experiences, often chronicling the contemporary "cowboy" who may not cowboy for a living but has ties to cowboy culture. He recently released an album of original poetry entitled "Western Errors,” which runs the gamut from cowboy wrecks to humor to philosophical observations and reflections on life.