Poets & Storytellers
poets & Storytellers
January 28 - February 2, 2019
Amy Hale Auker - Prescott, AZ
Amy Hale Auker is the author of two novels and two books of creative nonfiction. She finally released her first collection of poetry, Livestock Man, in 2018. Amy cowboys for the Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona, with the love of her life, Gail Steiger. 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/
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.
Joshua Dugat - Tuscaloosa, AL
Josh Dugat is a poet who was born and raised in Austin, Texas, but “grew up” in Lavaca County, where the Kessler Ranch has been in the family for six generations. He spent his twenties teaching high school science in New Orleans, fighting fire for the Forest Service in Montana, and serving as a ranger for Louisiana’s State Parks and the Army Corps of Engineers. He is now pursuing an MFA in Poetry and an MS in Geography at the University of Alabama, where he is a Prison Arts Teaching Fellow. He lives in Tuscaloosa where he keeps bees, two-steps, and canoes with his wife, Nicole. A fan of cowboy poetry since high school, Josh first attended the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2016 for his bachelor party and will be presenting poetry at the Gathering for the first time this year.
Josh is the Buck Ramsey Scholarship recipient.
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. https://www.rainhorse.org
Mary Flitner - Greybull, WY
Mary Flitner is a writer who lives in Shell, Wyoming. A lifelong Wyoming resident, Mary grew up on a ranch, and uses her family’s ranching history in her writing. She has written for the High Country News and other newspapers around the west, and has published a memoir titled My Ranch, Too. She and her husband Stan have run the Diamond Tail Ranch for over 45 years.
Dick Gibford - New Cuyama, CA
Dick Gibford was raised on a small cow outfit on the central coast and, at age 13, began starting two-year-old colts for his dad. Upon graduation from high school in 1968, Dick left for Tuscarora, Nevada, where he rode for Willis Packer as a “rep” on the 25 wagon. He has been influenced in every facet of his life by that first experience as a “sagebrush buckaroo.” These days, he cowboys out of an isolated cow camp for the Walking R Ranch in Maricopa, California. He also makes slickfork saddles, braids rawhide, paints and starts an occasional colt. In 2013, he released Trail Dust, a limited-edition, hand-bound book of poetry and real life stories about Dick’s packing experiences.
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 beautiful and 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,” is an avid quilter and her program "Patchwork on the Prairie" is becoming one of the most popular programs, not only with Humanities Rosters, but throughout a large area. Most of her writing is done or quilts made by hand in what she calls her "found time"... while waiting on meals for her husband and hired hands, waiting for a cow to safely birth a new calf, or in the evenings when the ranch day's work is done. (An example of her beautiful quilt and applique work is on display in the Western Folklife Center's Pioneer Saloon.) http://www.yvonnehollenbeck.com/
Yvonne is the Della Johns Scholarship recipient.
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, The Horse in the Middle.
Sid Marty - Lundbreck, AB, Canada
Sid Marty and his wife live on a small holding in southwestern Alberta, south of Tyson and north of Zarzyski. He last performed at Elko in 2011. Sid began composing poems and song lyrics in the saddle while patrolling the mountains of Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks as a park ranger. There were no cows in the backcountry except cow elk, so he used his lariat mainly for pulling packhorses out of bogs and skidding firewood. Since 1988, Sid has worked as a singer-songwriter and freelance writer. He has published five nonfiction best-sellers and five books of poetry on western themes. He leavens his words with plenty of humor. Sid plays guitar and describes himself as a western bard and storyteller, sometimes alternating songs, poems and a story or two in the same set. He calls that program "Leaning on the Wind and Falling Off the Mountain." http://www.sidmarty.com
Deanna McCall - Timberon, NM
Deanna Dickinson McCall has cows, horses and a love of the land bred into her, coming from a family that began ranching in Texas in the 1840s. She has ranched in several western states, including 22 years raising her family on a remote Nevada ranch without phones or electricity. She now ranches with her husband in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. Her book Mustang Spring: Stories & Poems, her poetry CD Riding, and her other works and performances have won numerous awards such as the Will Rogers Medallion Award, the Georgie Sicking Award, NM/AZ Book Awards, Women Writing the West, Western Music Association, The Academy of Western Artists, and the Heritage Award from the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine. http://www.deannadickinsonmccall.com/
Gary McMahan - Bellvue, CO
Gary McMahan has made his living during the last 40 years on a horse, with a guitar, or both. He has ridden, wrangled and roped all over the West, all the while collecting reflections on cowboy ways. Those reflections are the backbone of all his songs, stories and poems. Gary is known for his award-winning songs, captivating stories, uproarious humor and national championship yodeling. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Riders In The Sky and Dave Stamey. He will be joined by Ron and Julie Lynam, with Ron on the guitar, mandolin and dobro while Julie plays the upright bass. Gary has played with Jon Chandler, Patty Clayton, Dakota Blonde, Tom Paxton and Reckless Abandon, as was featured in the 2016 documentary Everything in the Song is True. http://www.singingcowboy.com
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.
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.
Diane Peavey - Hailey, ID
Diane Josephy Peavey writes stories about her life on a sheep and cattle ranch in southcentral Idaho - its people, history and the changing landscape of the American West. These pieces aired weekly on Idaho Public Radio for 18 years and many of them are collected in her book Bitterbrush Country: Living on the Edge of the Land (Fulcrum Publishing, 2001). Her writings also have appeared in numerous magazines, journals and in anthologies. Diane has been an invited poet at the Gathering and a panelist in discussions on Women in Ranching at our event. She was the first director of the Idaho Rural Council, the Literature Director for the Idaho Commission on the Arts and is the co-founder with her husband John of the October Trailing of the Sheep Festival in the Wood River Valley.
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
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. https://theotherjakeriley.com/about
Olivia Romo - Santa Fe, NM
Olivia Romo is a farmer, poet and water rights activist from Taos, New Mexico. She earned her dual Bachelor’s degrees in English and Chicana/o Studies from the University of New Mexico in 2015. Currently, she is the Communications and Outreach Coordinator at the New Mexico Acequia Association, a grassroots, statewide organization that defends water rights and cultivates an inter-generational movement to protect water resources and educate people about the various aspects of acequia systems. Olivia is also a recognized spoken word artist. In 2011, she was titled the New Mexico State Slam Poetry Champion. Olivia is a bilingual poet whose language is immersed in the regional Manito dialect and culture of Northern New Mexico. Olivia intentionally focuses her activism and poetry to educate and mobilize New Mexicans around the risks and uncertainties of their natural resources. She was featured in the Western Folklife Center’s poem-film series Moving Rural Verse.
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 with his son, Michael, now 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 and seed stock 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 artwork is in art collections nationwide and will be featured December 11, 2018-April 14, 2019 in "Lay of the Land: The Art of Florida's Cattle Culture," at the Albin Polsasek Museum in Winter Park, Florida (Sean co-curated the exhibition for the Florida Cattlemen's Foundation). He is the author of Blood Writing, Poems (2009), and two chapbooks, The Empty Tomb and Descent. His second full poetry volume, May Darkness Restore, will be out in January from Press 53. He received a Florida Individual Artist's Fellowship in 2001 and became inaugural Poet Laureate of Indian River County in 2016.
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 Gail Steiger. 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.” https://www.paulzarzyski.com/
Colton Blankman - Paradise, UT
Colt Blankman started performing cowboy poetry at the age of 8 at the Cache Valley Cowboy Rendezvous kids’ poetry contest. The next year he won that contest with an original poem and was hooked. He has performed at schools, community events, 4H, talent shows, cowboy poetry gatherings and at the Ag Agents National Convention in Salt Lake City. Now 12, Colt has released a CD titled Pullin’ That Trigger. Colt comes from a long line of horsemen and ranchers and is active in the ranch horse 4H back in Utah. He has been raised to appreciate the Cowboy way of life and tells folks that he was born 150 years too late. https://cbcowboypoet.blogspot.com/
Colt is a Rod McQueary & Sue Wallis Scholarship recipient for 2019.
Sareena Murnane - Choteau, MT
Sareena Murnane has been on a horse since before she could walk. She is a 4th generation horseman on her mother's side and a 4th generation poet on her father’s. She has been performing cowboy poetry since she was 6 years old; including performing at the Open Mic session at the Elko National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2016 with her own original material. She has performed 6+ times at the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering, including as a featured performer in 2017 and 2018 at the opening ceremony. She has performed/been requested at the Trails End Cowboy Poetry Gathering in High River, Alberta in 2018, for audiences at school, local outfitters/guest ranch and for the annual meeting of the Montana Quarter Horse Association. Sareena is also a 4-H member and has shown horses, helped the Blackfeet Nation move Bison from winter to summer range, as well as ridden in the wilderness areas of Montana and Yellowstone National Park.
Sareena is a Rod McQueary/Sue Wallis Scholarship recipient for 2019.
Forrest VanTuyl - Enterprise, OR
Forrest VanTuyl paid for his songwriting and wandering addiction with all sorts of jobs, from tugboat deckhand in Seattle, to sheep dairyman in the Alps, lawn mower in New Mexico, to potato harvester operator in Nebraska, but when he got on a horse in Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains, he never left. Forrest has been packing, starting colts, and riding there for the last 4 years. His most recent album, Ol’ Yonder, is a collection of original and traditional songs inspired by riding down a mountain in the dark, the camp cook’s jokes, and the joys of riding a good horse in good country. When he’s not horseback, Forrest is playing shows on the west coast and trying to explain where Wallowa County is without explaining how to get there. www.americanforrest.com
Forrest is the Reno Rodeo 100 Year Celebration Scholarship recipient.