National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

As I sit and watch the snow fly here in Eastern Washington all snug in my office my thoughts turn to the cowboy’s of the old west out on the range tending the herds and I’m glad I’m here. But the stories of the cowboys are living on through the music and poetry of the west. Charlie Seeman is the Executive Director of the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada...home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

SEEMAN: Cowboy poetry was something that sort of developed in the late 1800’s during those days of the trail drives. It had sort of antecedents in things like sailor poetry. Any time you had all-male occupations where guys were off by themselves for long extended periods of time they tended to entertain themselves and poetry and making up songs and telling stories were just natural.

Seeman says that an unusual event kind of brought an end to the practice.

SEEMAN: The tradition continued up through the 30’s and 40’s - some interesting stuff being written in that time period but when the movie cowboy thing really came on it didn’t die out but it definitely went under cover. And there hadn’t been much attention paid to it until 1979.

A group of people got together and through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts the first Elko gathering was held in 1985.

SEEMAN: They brought these guys together, a handle full of them, 25 or 30 and a few hundred people showed up. Everybody had so much fun that they thought well, maybe we should do it a second time. As they say the rest is history...this is the 28th year.

The Elko Cowboy Gathering is the grand pappy of all gatherings and it has become a veritable who’s who of the genre with this years’ performers including our friend Baxter Black, actor Barry Corbin, Wylie and the Wild West, Waddie Mitchell and many others. One of the most exciting things is seeing a new, younger generation getting involved.

SEEMAN: It’s something we’ve been talking about a lot in terms of both the audience aging and the artists aging and unfortunately us too. 28 years is a long time and so over the last several years we’re really been making an effort to engage younger artists to bring in a younger audience. There’s some really great young songwriters and poets and all of this is to continue both the lifestyle and the traditions and it’s really imperative that we get a lot of young people involved.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network. 

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