Poem on the Range

Old cowboy boots
Cowboy Boots by Chauncey Davis via Flickr (Creative Commons)

She doesn’t write on command, can’t write your friend a birthday poem or an ode for the centennial celebration. She writes when the words strike her, making sure to keep stacks of paper scattered around the house. And she writes with pen and paper, never a computer, though she does email and knows enough about Facebook to know she hates it, the way people share every detail of their lives.

American Cowboy profiles Elizabeth Ebert, the “Grand Dame of Cowboy Poetry”  — and takes the required detour to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Baxter Black — maybe he’s the Prime Minister of Cowboy Poetry?  — had a segment on our public radio station. His short weekly bit is how I learned about the festival; this piece reminded me that I’ve long wanted to go. I added it to my calendar for 2018.

“Above my basement stairwell is a little cubby hole in which I put junk I don’t know what to do with,” she begins, “and I take the box out every once in a while and I ruffle through it, and one day I found a little notebook that said ‘21st Anniversary.’  The poem went like this:

We have reached a majority.

Twenty-one conglomerate years of marriage.

Good times and bad, sickness and health,

Joy and sorrow.

Sometimes I’d like to try for twenty-two

(Winchester, bolt action right between his eyes.)

Ebert sounds like, well, a pistol.

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