Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 4-25-11
Songs of the Cowboys: That’s the moniker for the best little pickin’ ‘n poetry gathering in the west. Held annually in April in the cowboy state of Wyoming in the cowboy town of Cody, it’s the real deal. You won’t find “Hollywood” there. You won’t find “stars” so big, you have to climb a ladder to kiss their hems.
What you will find is a gathering together of cowboys and cowgirls who share their stories in song and poetry.
As one who was privileged to be a part of the weekend, I can say that the experience felt like being a part of a big, friendly family. The laughter bubbled, the tall tales and the short tales rolled off wry tongues; tunes floated and danced off guitars accompanying singin’ and dancin’.
This year’s Songs of the Cowboys hosted 30 assorted pickers and poets from eight states: Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho. Why did they come? Because Trail Boss, Leslie Keltner (Runumuck Cowgirl Productions), knows how to put together a rip-roarin’ gathering.
If you’re fortunate enough to be one of the invited performers, your lodging is donated. You start the weekend on Thursday evening with a spaghetti feed at Leslie and Ross Keltner’s place. Friday begins with registration in the historic Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel where you pick up your name tag and scheduling. After you register, don’t go away. Stick around for the free feed in the hotel’s Governor’s room.
Then mosey on down to the Holiday Inn Bandana Room at 7:00 where if you’re scheduled as a concert performer you’ll be part of the two hour presentation of down-home honest entertainment. While the public pays to attend, your poet or picker name tag is a pass to all sessions and concerts.
Wait! It’s not over yet! Following the concert, there’s some boot-stompin’ jam sessions at the Irma. In the Governor’s room, songs are kept strictly “cowboy.” Another jam lifts the rafters in the Irma’s lounge area.
Purt-near half the population of Cody crowds into the rooms. Do people dance? You bet. Is there a dance floor? Naaa. Folks just partner up and shake a leg amongst the tables.
Not only can you bask in the excitement in the Irma, you can also lope on down to Cassie’s nightclub where Norine Linderman, the Outlaw Queen and her band hold sway.
Saturday morning for performers starts with breakfast – a huge pancake and eggs feed at the Jim and Lynda Covert residence. They’ll keep flippin’ flapjacks and crackin’ eggs till all are fed.
After that waddle on down to the Holiday Inn for a full day of 45 minute sessions starting at 9 a.m. in Holiday Inn’s Bandana Room and in the Pitchfork Room. As a performer you’ll have 15 minutes to belt out songs or say poems or both.
The day sessions are open to the public at no charge. Traditional Tunes kicks off the first go-round followed by a session of Open Mic (non-scheduled performers can sign up). Cowboy Humor, The Old Time Cowhand, and Women of the West round out the programs in the Bandana Room. The Pitchfork Room and Two Dot room hosts Saddle Up!, Roads to Colorado, Ranch Romance and another Open Mic. The afternoon finishes with Good Horses, Bad Rides and Montana Range.
Things keep on getting better. As a performer you get to partake of a another delectable feed at the Coverts followed by the splendid Saturday night concert in the Bandana Room. And of course, the Saturday night jammin’ – oh, my. The Irma Governor’s room, the Lounge, the dining room. Music floods the building and reverberates off its walls.
Sunday morning means The Glory Trail Cowboy Gospel session begins at 9:00 a.m. in the Holiday Bandana Room. Open to the public at no charge; this session is always popular.
As one of the 30 performers, are you done? Nope. There’s another free chili feed at Bill and Dale Delph’s B & B, The Mayor’s Inn. Bill’s chili is awesome!
At times during the weekend, some Songs of the Cowboys singers entertain the elderly in nursing homes and senior centers as well as singing-for-supper at a local cafe. Performers’ products (CD’s, books, etc) are on display and for sale all weekend. The table is clerked, but you get entire proceeds of any sales.
This year, a professional photographer, Don Lindeberg, took pictures all weekend. So it’s possible you’ll see yourself on http://www.CowboyPoetry.com or in Rope Burns. And frosting on the cake: the Saturday night concert was filmed. Anyone interested in an outstanding keepsake DVD can order one from Runumuck Cowgirl Productions, Box 2652, Cody, Wyo., 82414 or call (307) 250-5241. Cost: $20 (includes shipping).
Want information about next year’s Songs of the Cowboys? Contact Runumuck Productions.