23rd annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 20-22 | TheFencePost.com

23rd annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 20-22

John Schaffner
Wray, Colo.

For nearly a quarter of a century the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering has been carrying on a tradition that actually started almost a century and a half ago. There is probably no way to verify when the very first “Cowboy Poem” was written, but we can be fairly certain of the approximate time the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering took place. The nightly poetry gatherings took place on the cattle drives at the Chuckwagons as cowboys recited poems and sang songs around the campfires to relax before crawling into their bedrolls for the night.

There were occasional herds of cattle trailed both east and west out of Texas as early as 1850, but with the beginning of the Civil War those cattle drives ground to a halt. By the end of the war there were thousands of longhorn cattle running wild on the vast Texas ranges. In the mean time, the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 had brought upwards of 100,000 people to the Colorado Territory. Small herds of Texas longhorns began to trickle into the Colorado Territory to feed the hungry miners. Then in the spring of 1866 Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving joined forces to trail a herd of 2,000 cattle on what became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail whose destination was the mining supply town of Denver, Colo.

It was in preparation for that trail drive that Charles Goodnight built the first Chuckwagon by adding a simple chuck box to the back of a common farm wagon. That herd left camp 25 miles southwest of Belknap, Texas, on June 6, 1866. So it could be easily surmised that the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering could have taken place that first night on the trail to Denver.

It is fitting, therefore, that almost 150 years later the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering carries on that tradition in the Denver area. This year the Cowcamp will be moved just a little farther west to the aptly named town of Golden to hold the 23rd annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering on January 20-22. The gathering will take place in the historic American Mountaineering Center located at 710 10th Street in Golden, Colo.

The early day cattle drives with the best trail bosses and the best cooks could attract the top notch hands. In the same way the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering attracts some of the best Cowboy Poets and Musicians of our time. The Friday night show will feature “the nation’s most successful living poet,” Baxter Black. Other top notch performers for the weekend include: Dave Stamey of Orange Cove, Calif., Carol Heuchanof Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Gary McMahan of Bellvue, Colo., Eli Barsi of Moosomin Saskatchewan, Canada, Jon Chandler of Commerce City, Colo., Mark Gardner of Cascade, Colo., Rex Rideout of Conifer, Colo., Sid Hausman of Tesuque, N.M., Mike Hurwitz of Alta, Wyo., Liz Masterson of Denver, Co., Al “Doc” Mehl of Westminster, Colo., Andy Nelson of Pinedale, Wyo., John Schaffner of Wray, Colo., Pop Wagner of St. Paul, M.N., Barry Ward of Elbert, Colo., Dick Warwick of Oakesdale, Wash., and others.

In addition to enjoying all the outstanding western entertainment, those attending the gathering will have the opportunity to join in the excitement of feasting on authentic Chuckwagon cooking. The S&S Chuckwagon of Wray, Colo., will be set up in camp over the weekend. All the cooking will be done on site, over a fire just as the coosies (chuckwagon cooks) did on the cattle drives.

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Cowboys on those cattle drives used all resources available to them to do their work. As a resource now available, more information about schedules and ticket purchases can be found at http://www.ColoradoCowboyGathering.com.