Poets & Storytellers
poets & Storytellers
January 27 - February 1, 2020
Doris Daley - Black Diamond, AB, 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. https://www.dorisdaley.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 https://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.
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
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.
DW Groethe - Bainville, MT
DW Groethe is the son of a son of pioneers. He was born and raised in the west of Dakota and has lived the past 25-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.
Andy Hedges - Lubbock, TX
Andy Hedges is a songster, reciter, storyteller, guitarist, and collector of cowboy songs and poems. The son of an Italian schoolteacher and a rodeo cowboy turned preacher, Andy was born in Lubbock, Texas, in the spring of 1980. He grew up in the small community of Tokio, Texas, where his family paid rent on an old farmhouse by looking after a few head of cattle. It was there that Andy fell in love with traditional music by listening to his father’s cassettes of cowboy songs. Andy’s vast and varied repertoire includes classic cowboy poetry recitations, obscure cowboy songs, dust bowl ballads, and blues. He also hosts a podcast, Cowboy Crossroads, which features in-depth interviews with fellow musicians and poets. Andy has performed many times with folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and the duo’s performance at the 60th Newport Folk Festival was named one of the “10 Best Things We Saw” by Rolling Stone. http://www.andyhedges.com
Carol Heuchan - Cooranbong, NSW, Australia
Carol Heuchan has lived ‘on the land’ in rural Australia most of her life—previously on a sheep and cattle property in “The Man from Snowy River” country and now in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. She trained horses, taught riding and competed intensively. She is an international horse judge and commentator. Poetry kinda ‘took over’ about sixteen years ago and, after being Australian Champion Bush Poet twice and winning hundreds of awards, the horses retired and poetry became Carol’s full time profession. (“It’s a heck of a lot easier to just talk about ‘em!”) She has published five books and six CDs and has been named Australian Bush Laureate a record nine times. This is Carol’s fifteenth tour of US and Canada and she brings a broad repertoire that goes from heart wrenching to utterly hilarious! She is also bringing her brand new double album, Both Sides of Carol Heuchan. https:/www.carolpoet.com.au/
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. (An example of her beautiful quilt and applique work is on display in the Western Folklife Center's Pioneer Saloon.) https://www.yvonnehollenbeck.com/
Chris Isaacs - Eagar, AZ
Chris Isaacs is an award-winning poet and storyteller who has lived the life that he tells about. He has been a full-time cowboy, rodeoed and worked as a packer. In between jobs, you could usually find him making a living as a horseshoer. He has recorded several albums, has published four books, and is at work on a new one. Semi-retired now, Chris currently works part-time for Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures in Red River, New Mexico and travels the country sharing his poems and stories. http://www.chrisisaacs.com/
Randi Johnson - Hines, OR
Randi Johnson grew up on ranches in Nevada, California, and Oregon. Inspired by the stories and buckaroo traditions passed down to her by her father and old cowboys she looked up to, she began writing cowboy poetry in high school. A voracious reader, Randi combines her love of all things history, ranch life, and rodeo with her love of storytelling to preserve cowboy poetry's oral traditions. She is currently teaching second grade in Burns, Oregon, and working on her Master's Degree in elementary education.
Jarle Kvale - Dunseith, ND
Jarle Kvale turns his experiences with horses, rodeo, and North Dakota rural living into humorous verse. He's been writing cowboy poetry for over 25 years, sharing his stories with friends and family members over trail ride campfires, at various community events, and at cowboy poetry gatherings throughout the country. 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, not far from the Canadian border. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/jarlekvale.htm
Annie Mackenzie - Jordan Valley, OR
While known as the family rambler, Annie Mackenzie has her roots planted firmly at the fourth-generation 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. She has also had the opportunity to work with Sun J Livestock, contractors who gather wild horses across the Western states. Annie competed in college rodeo, and taught Agriculture and served as the FFA Advisor at the local high school, but found herself continually returning home to help out. She is now back where she feels she belongs—out on the range with her brothers. 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.
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 was 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.html
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.
Jonathan Odermann - Medora, ND
Jonathan Odermann is a third-generation rancher who raises cattle in the badlands of western North Dakota. His cow calf operation is located along the Little Missouri River about half way between the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, and Theodore Roosevelt’s original Elk Horn ranch site. He was inspired to start sharing his verse after attending the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Medora. Jonathan’s original work runs the gamut from short, funny pieces to longer, epic sagas, and he likes to amuse and delight his audience with a blend of humorous and thought provoking poems inspired by his real life experiences. Jonathan really enjoys cowboy poetry and encouraging others to share their stories through written and visual art. https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.odermann
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
Featured at the Gathering for her 7th year, Brigid Reedy has become a singular young voice representing her beloved home state of Montana. Brigid is an important singer, songwriter, fiddler and poet carrying forward classic cowboy music, poetry, and rich Montana fiddle traditions with exceptional musicianship, a distinctive approach to repertoire, and her strong sense of place. A charismatic performer since the age of two when she first yodeled at the Pioneer Saloon, Brigid (now nineteen) has traveled widely, carrying with her boundless enthusiasm, grace, passion, and soul. Brigid will be joined by her little brother, Johnny “Guitar,” who at only fourteen has transcended the role of sideman, becoming a full-fledged collaborator, possessing a phenomenal gift for rhythm and extraordinary musical sensibilities. Brigid and Johnny are thrilled to be returning to Elko to share their love of Montana, Western culture, and a voracious appetite for good music. http://www.brigidreedy.com/
Randy Rieman - Cascade, MT
Randy Rieman has had a love affair with the spoken word for over 40 years. He has shared his passion for poetry with audiences as a regular performer 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
R.P. Smith - Broken Bow, NE
R.P. Smith is a fourth-generation rancher from Custer County, Nebraska; 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. 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.
Jay Snider - Cyril, OK
Jay Snider was born and raised in the southwest Oklahoma and calls Cyril, Oklahoma home. Born to a ranching and rodeo family, his dad was a top roper and rodeo cowboy and his granddad was a brand inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He rodeoed throughout most of his early years and now stays busy raising ranch horses, cattle, and team roping. Jay has appeared at many of the major poetry gatherings around the country including Elko, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering and the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering. Jay’s latest CD, The Old Tried and True, is a compilation of many of his favorite classic poems written by many of the great cowboy poets of the past. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/js.htm
Gail Steiger - Prescott, AZ
is a songwriter, filmmaker and cowboy, and since 1995, foreman of the remote Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona. 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. https://www.gailsteigermusic.com/bio
Michael Stevens - Alpine, TX
Michael Stevens grew up on a farm near the little town of Newcowerstown, Ohio. His father cowboyed for the Scharbauer Ranch in Midland, Texas from 1934 to WWII. Later, Michael, his father, and his brother—a farrier and major Ring Steward in the Ohio AQHA—roped, trained, contested, and traded horses till college and the service. Since then he’s been in the horse business as a trainer as well as a guitar builder and player. He was hired in 1986 to start the Fender Custom Shop in California, and in 1991 moved to Alpine, Texas with his wife and ran into the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He was on their Steering committee for 16 years, including about 10 years as president. In 2013 he was the recipient of the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering’s Heritage Award, and considers himself lucky to have had Buck Ramsey, J.B. Allen, and Joel Nelson as tutors. https://www.stevensguitars.com/
Tom Swearingen - Tualatin, OR
Tom Swearingen is an Oregon horseman whose poetry is often inspired by his own experiences and observations from the saddle. A two-time winner of the National Finals Rodeo Cowboy Poetry Contest, and four-time finalist for International Western Music Association Male Poet of the Year, Tom brings his stories to life with rhythm and rhyme and a style that makes him a popular performer not only at cowboy gatherings, but wherever else you find folks who appreciate the West. Tom’s CDs of original cowboy poetry have been recognized five times as finalists for IWMA Cowboy Poetry CD of the Year. His 2019 release Language of the Land debuted as the number one played poetry CD on Western Radio Charts. His recitations of S. Omar Barker and Bruce Kiskaddon poems were included on the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry’s Masters: Vol. 2 and 3. For more on Tom, visit https://www.oregoncowboypoet.com/
Forrest VanTuyl - Enterprise, OR
Forrest VanTuyl is a packer, poet, cowboy, and songwriter who currently resides in Wallowa County, Oregon. His poetry is free verse musing lifted from journals kept while working horseback in the Eagle Cap and Hells Canyon wilderness and inspired heavily by Chinese hermit poets and the voices of the place he calls home. http://www.americanforrest.com/
Paul Zarzyski - Great Falls, MT
Paul Zarzyski, veteran of 34 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.” http://www.paulzarzyski.com/
Banner image: Charlie Ekburg