Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

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January 7, 2013
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Gwen Petersen: In a Sow's Ear 1-7-13


I don’t have a website. I don’t have TV. I don’t have a cell phone. I don’t do Facebook, Tweet on Twitter, Skype or “social networking.” I’m hopelessly dated.

All is not totally lost. I’m actually having a website created by a young college woman who has taken courses in how to do techie wizardry. I’m to tell her what I want to have on the site.

She suggested I start with my biography which usually means one’s life history. I pondered. Should I start with my birth? It’s pretty obvious I was born or I wouldn’t be sitting here typing.

My writing interest started young, only I didn’t know it. I still have the dictionary I got for Christmas when I was 10-years-old. In Girl Scout Camp, I wrote a free-range jungle skit parodying Tarzan and Jane. I played Tarzan’s orangutan friend, “Cheetah” as I owned a chocolate-brown fuzzy-nap sweater and could hop about from a squatting position.

My adult writing included scribbling skits and programs during my employment as an Occupational Therapist in the Montana State Home for the Bothered and Bewildered. The patients were the actors and musicians and we wrote the scripts together. Making fun of the hospital staff — doctors, nurses, aides — turned out to be a favorite story line.

Then I married a long-legged cowboy-rancher and my view of the world did a 180. Tending cattle, horses, sheep, dogs, pigs, chickens, cats, milk cows, planting and harvesting a garden — all fit me like a comfortable shoe.

So, I wrote about my activities starting with a booklet titled: “Instant Hired Hand,” which was published in the Denver Post Sunday Supplement newspaper. A publisher in North Dakota apparently read it because I received a request to expand the material into a full length book. “Well, sure,” I said. And that turned into “The Ranch Woman’s Manual” — a humorous look at ranching life from a woman’s perspective. Next came “The Greenhorn’s Guide to the Woolly West” — humorous advice to newcomers about how to understand us hicks. I’d always written jingles and one-liner witticisms such as: “I Plan My Chaos” or “Hello God, You Can Start The Day — I’m Up.” (Well, I thought they were funny). I hand-lettered cow rib bones (after the cow was deceased) with these brilliant quips, labeled the results: “Montana Backscratchers” and sold them at craft shows. Somewhere in those years I started writing a weekly column and scripts for community entertainments. I wrote an audio-book novel published by Books in Motion, titled: “The Whole Shebang,” which tells a western adventure story with women protagonists, handsome heroes and nasty bad guys.

In the mid 1980s I began writing cowboy poetry and was chosen to be one of four poets to represent Montana at the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. Then, I’ll be danged if the phone didn’t ring one day and a rep from the Johnny Carson Tonight Show asked if I’d care to go to Los Angeles and recite one of my poems on the show. At first I thought the phone call was a joke. It wasn’t. I went. I recited. I sat next to Johnny Carson and breathed in the aroma of his tweed sport jacket.

After the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, I came home to Big Timber and established the first Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering. In 2000, I launched Wintercamp Cowboy Poetry Gathering. In 2003, I created the first Chili Contest and Toot, Snoot, ’n Hoot Whippin’ and Spurrin’ Comedy Show. (The 11th! Toot show, Wild and Woolly and Full of Fleas, is scheduled for February 2013).

Last year I formed Git Along Little Doggies WHOOP UP Production Company. In April 2013, Whoop Up is bringing Baxter Black, cowboy humorist, to Big Timber. Proceeds from the Whoop Up to benefit Sweet Grass Co. Crazy Mountain Museum and Big Hearts Under the Big Sky (BHUBS). Through Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, BHUBS arranges outdoor adventure trips for wounded veterans and/or children facing life-threatening illness.

Future stuff I’m planning: I have registered the name Montana Cowboy Poetry and Cowboy Music Hall of Fame with the State of Montana. My plans are to research and induct Montana poets and pickers of the past as well as current outstanding talent. Books in process are “How To Be Elderly, A User’s Guide,” and a collection, “Outrageous Cowgirl Poems, Columns and Songs.” In the works: Loping the Limerick Trail, a contest open to all (with $$ prizes).

I am pleased to invite you to eyeball www.OutrageousOldCowgirl.com. Why not ... ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 03:55PM Published Jan 7, 2013 09:49AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.