Highlights from Elko | TheFencePost.com

Highlights from Elko

Candy Moulton
Encampment, Wyo.

Candy MoultonMontana poet Paul Zarzyski takes the stage with Cowboy Celtic.

Truth is we could have made the drive from Encampment to Elko in a single day, but it was a lot easier to take it in two chunks … first hop halfway there one evening, and then another hop through Salt Lake, across the Salt Flats, past Wendover and Wells and in to Elko early the following day. I could describe the trip, but most of the first hop was made in the dark, and most of the second was through fog and low hanging clouds so it was impossible to see much (and besides, I wasn’t driving, so had my computer on my lap in the pickup and wrote most of the way there).

Our first event in Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was Punny Poets (which is a weird spelling for Funny, apparently). On the stage: Andy Nelson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Pat Richardson, all of whom I’d heard and laughed at before. Joining them, just barely, was Rodney Nelson from North Dakota. I say just barely, because he almost didn’t arrive in time for the show. I saw Yvonne about an hour prior to show time and she said he was driving somewhere between North Dakota and Elko, having been delayed in leaving home because of bad storms that had closed roads, and caused power outages and other problems for him and his neighbors.

But Rodney had managed to make it for the show … driving 23 hours – sleeping for just under 4 hours as he pulled over on the long drive. I wasn’t close enough to see him, but I’ll bet he was bleary-eyed. It didn’t affect the humor of his presentation – nor that of the other “punny” poets, either, who had more than one laugh at his expense. I have a feeling he’ll get even on down the trail one day as all these guys are good practical jokers.

It was a good start to a four-day visit in Elko. Since this was the first time we’d ever been there, it took a while just to figure out where the events took place since they are in several different venues. Fortunately for Steve and I, and Montie and Cheryl, we had advice from other folks who’d been going to Elko for many years. And we also know quite a few of the performers since they’ve been at the cowboy gathering in Encampment. They gave us tips (like the location of the after hours jam session and recommendations for places to eat).

We saw concerts in various venues all of which were open for the price of our day pass – that involved Red Steagall, Sons of the San Joaquin, Don Edwards and Cora Wood (our little friend from Encampment who was the youngest performer on the program this year), Brenn Hill, and R.W. Hampton. We paid for tickets to see those Punny Poets plus another show involving Cowboy Celtic, Dave Stamey and Paul Zarzyski. And we heard other poets and musicians all of whom captured our attention and made us appreciate the talent they have.

But there is much, much more to the Gathering in Elko than music and poetry. Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird, a member of the Crow tribe, set up the wonderful programming at Elko with an inspiring keynote address.

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This year’s program involved several sessions related to Florida cowboys known as crackers, and I found them funny, fascinating and informative. I’d heard about cracker cattle and crackers before, but never really understood the type of work they did. I mean, when you come from the wide open spaces of Wyoming, it’s hard to imagine that a cowboy would have only 25 yards in which to chase and catch a calf or cow before being swallowed by a swamp! I thought a hammock was something to take a nap in (not a hill of sorts with trees on it).

Iris Wall, 80-years-young, I’m sure can still run circles around her younger panelist counterparts: Willie Johns and Billy Davis, both of whom are sure enough cowboys even if they do live in Florida. They called her Miss Iris and it was easy to see why. She was feisty, funny and fearless as she talked about hunting alligators, working cattle and life in Indian Town.

Willie, a cultural leader among the Florida Seminole tribe (you know, the ones who own Seminole Hardrock), is also co-owner with his nephew of Five Star Rodeo Stock company and a former Indian Cowboy National Champion Team roper. Billy Davis, whose family has been ranching in Florida for several generations, had enough stories of wrecks and tough rides to rival the best of the Western cowboy storytellers.

An exhibit related to Florida ranching and the crackers, is in place at the Western Folklife Center in Elko for the next several months, so if you happen to be in the area, be sure to stop and learn for yourself about these cowboys and their Florida industry.

Another great presentation involved stories by Indian cowboys and let me tell you, these guys – Henry Real Bird, Leonard Jackson, Willie Johns, Mike Thomas, Ted Howard and Reggie Sope – have done it all. They are from the Crow, Paiute, Western Shoshone and Seminole tribes.

Particularly intriguing were the stories of Reggie Sope, who talked about finding his first ranch job as a 12-year-old youngster. He insisted to his boss that he would have to leave when summer was over so he could return to school, but admitted that the life and the work kept him on ranches so he never did finish a formal education. Yet, his stories of working on isolated ranches in Nevada and Idaho, handling tens of thousands of head of cattle with the help of just a half dozen other full-time cowboys, make it very clear that he has the education of a lifetime of demanding work.

Sope also shared a bit of the culture of his tribe (Western Shoshone), when he spoke of how his older sister gave him a nephew to raise. The boy came to live with Sope when an infant; by the time he was little more than a toddler the child was riding his own horse helping move cattle, no doubt following the footsteps of his uncle.

There were other programs I did not have an opportunity to attend on such subjects as working ranch dogs, women running ranches, conservation and much more, making this a well-rounded event. Most of the other cowboy gatherings and festivals I’ve attended do not have this level of educational programming, and that makes Elko a really good choice if you want to be entertained and also learn something new. Based on the fact that every presentation I went to was standing room only, it is a good draw for the crowds.

While in Elko, we also visited the Northeastern Nevada Museum (which I wrote about in an earlier On the Trail) where we saw some good (and pricey) examples of Great Basin gear plus the outstanding collection of Will James artwork and books. We visited the trade shows where I dropped more than a month’s worth of Fence Post wages on a new hat, we quickly lost our limit at the slot machines and most of all we visited with good people who either know and understand ranching and cowboy life, or sincerely want to learn more about it.

Here are some other things I learned (you can consider them insider tips): There were lots of motel rooms available. Only the biggest name night shows sold out but you could see most of the people who performed at those shows on one of the stages throughout the day if you just studied the schedule and were willing to move between the three main venues. There is a free shuttle that helps you get from place-to-place. Don’t go to bed at midnight because the jam session doesn’t really get going until after Cinderella has already lost her slipper.

Truth is we could have made the drive from Encampment to Elko in a single day, but it was a lot easier to take it in two chunks … first hop halfway there one evening, and then another hop through Salt Lake, across the Salt Flats, past Wendover and Wells and in to Elko early the following day. I could describe the trip, but most of the first hop was made in the dark, and most of the second was through fog and low hanging clouds so it was impossible to see much (and besides, I wasn’t driving, so had my computer on my lap in the pickup and wrote most of the way there).

Our first event in Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was Punny Poets (which is a weird spelling for Funny, apparently). On the stage: Andy Nelson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Pat Richardson, all of whom I’d heard and laughed at before. Joining them, just barely, was Rodney Nelson from North Dakota. I say just barely, because he almost didn’t arrive in time for the show. I saw Yvonne about an hour prior to show time and she said he was driving somewhere between North Dakota and Elko, having been delayed in leaving home because of bad storms that had closed roads, and caused power outages and other problems for him and his neighbors.

But Rodney had managed to make it for the show … driving 23 hours – sleeping for just under 4 hours as he pulled over on the long drive. I wasn’t close enough to see him, but I’ll bet he was bleary-eyed. It didn’t affect the humor of his presentation – nor that of the other “punny” poets, either, who had more than one laugh at his expense. I have a feeling he’ll get even on down the trail one day as all these guys are good practical jokers.

It was a good start to a four-day visit in Elko. Since this was the first time we’d ever been there, it took a while just to figure out where the events took place since they are in several different venues. Fortunately for Steve and I, and Montie and Cheryl, we had advice from other folks who’d been going to Elko for many years. And we also know quite a few of the performers since they’ve been at the cowboy gathering in Encampment. They gave us tips (like the location of the after hours jam session and recommendations for places to eat).

We saw concerts in various venues all of which were open for the price of our day pass – that involved Red Steagall, Sons of the San Joaquin, Don Edwards and Cora Wood (our little friend from Encampment who was the youngest performer on the program this year), Brenn Hill, and R.W. Hampton. We paid for tickets to see those Punny Poets plus another show involving Cowboy Celtic, Dave Stamey and Paul Zarzyski. And we heard other poets and musicians all of whom captured our attention and made us appreciate the talent they have.

But there is much, much more to the Gathering in Elko than music and poetry. Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird, a member of the Crow tribe, set up the wonderful programming at Elko with an inspiring keynote address.

This year’s program involved several sessions related to Florida cowboys known as crackers, and I found them funny, fascinating and informative. I’d heard about cracker cattle and crackers before, but never really understood the type of work they did. I mean, when you come from the wide open spaces of Wyoming, it’s hard to imagine that a cowboy would have only 25 yards in which to chase and catch a calf or cow before being swallowed by a swamp! I thought a hammock was something to take a nap in (not a hill of sorts with trees on it).

Iris Wall, 80-years-young, I’m sure can still run circles around her younger panelist counterparts: Willie Johns and Billy Davis, both of whom are sure enough cowboys even if they do live in Florida. They called her Miss Iris and it was easy to see why. She was feisty, funny and fearless as she talked about hunting alligators, working cattle and life in Indian Town.

Willie, a cultural leader among the Florida Seminole tribe (you know, the ones who own Seminole Hardrock), is also co-owner with his nephew of Five Star Rodeo Stock company and a former Indian Cowboy National Champion Team roper. Billy Davis, whose family has been ranching in Florida for several generations, had enough stories of wrecks and tough rides to rival the best of the Western cowboy storytellers.

An exhibit related to Florida ranching and the crackers, is in place at the Western Folklife Center in Elko for the next several months, so if you happen to be in the area, be sure to stop and learn for yourself about these cowboys and their Florida industry.

Another great presentation involved stories by Indian cowboys and let me tell you, these guys – Henry Real Bird, Leonard Jackson, Willie Johns, Mike Thomas, Ted Howard and Reggie Sope – have done it all. They are from the Crow, Paiute, Western Shoshone and Seminole tribes.

Particularly intriguing were the stories of Reggie Sope, who talked about finding his first ranch job as a 12-year-old youngster. He insisted to his boss that he would have to leave when summer was over so he could return to school, but admitted that the life and the work kept him on ranches so he never did finish a formal education. Yet, his stories of working on isolated ranches in Nevada and Idaho, handling tens of thousands of head of cattle with the help of just a half dozen other full-time cowboys, make it very clear that he has the education of a lifetime of demanding work.

Sope also shared a bit of the culture of his tribe (Western Shoshone), when he spoke of how his older sister gave him a nephew to raise. The boy came to live with Sope when an infant; by the time he was little more than a toddler the child was riding his own horse helping move cattle, no doubt following the footsteps of his uncle.

There were other programs I did not have an opportunity to attend on such subjects as working ranch dogs, women running ranches, conservation and much more, making this a well-rounded event. Most of the other cowboy gatherings and festivals I’ve attended do not have this level of educational programming, and that makes Elko a really good choice if you want to be entertained and also learn something new. Based on the fact that every presentation I went to was standing room only, it is a good draw for the crowds.

While in Elko, we also visited the Northeastern Nevada Museum (which I wrote about in an earlier On the Trail) where we saw some good (and pricey) examples of Great Basin gear plus the outstanding collection of Will James artwork and books. We visited the trade shows where I dropped more than a month’s worth of Fence Post wages on a new hat, we quickly lost our limit at the slot machines and most of all we visited with good people who either know and understand ranching and cowboy life, or sincerely want to learn more about it.

Here are some other things I learned (you can consider them insider tips): There were lots of motel rooms available. Only the biggest name night shows sold out but you could see most of the people who performed at those shows on one of the stages throughout the day if you just studied the schedule and were willing to move between the three main venues. There is a free shuttle that helps you get from place-to-place. Don’t go to bed at midnight because the jam session doesn’t really get going until after Cinderella has already lost her slipper.

Truth is we could have made the drive from Encampment to Elko in a single day, but it was a lot easier to take it in two chunks … first hop halfway there one evening, and then another hop through Salt Lake, across the Salt Flats, past Wendover and Wells and in to Elko early the following day. I could describe the trip, but most of the first hop was made in the dark, and most of the second was through fog and low hanging clouds so it was impossible to see much (and besides, I wasn’t driving, so had my computer on my lap in the pickup and wrote most of the way there).

Our first event in Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was Punny Poets (which is a weird spelling for Funny, apparently). On the stage: Andy Nelson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Pat Richardson, all of whom I’d heard and laughed at before. Joining them, just barely, was Rodney Nelson from North Dakota. I say just barely, because he almost didn’t arrive in time for the show. I saw Yvonne about an hour prior to show time and she said he was driving somewhere between North Dakota and Elko, having been delayed in leaving home because of bad storms that had closed roads, and caused power outages and other problems for him and his neighbors.

But Rodney had managed to make it for the show … driving 23 hours – sleeping for just under 4 hours as he pulled over on the long drive. I wasn’t close enough to see him, but I’ll bet he was bleary-eyed. It didn’t affect the humor of his presentation – nor that of the other “punny” poets, either, who had more than one laugh at his expense. I have a feeling he’ll get even on down the trail one day as all these guys are good practical jokers.

It was a good start to a four-day visit in Elko. Since this was the first time we’d ever been there, it took a while just to figure out where the events took place since they are in several different venues. Fortunately for Steve and I, and Montie and Cheryl, we had advice from other folks who’d been going to Elko for many years. And we also know quite a few of the performers since they’ve been at the cowboy gathering in Encampment. They gave us tips (like the location of the after hours jam session and recommendations for places to eat).

We saw concerts in various venues all of which were open for the price of our day pass – that involved Red Steagall, Sons of the San Joaquin, Don Edwards and Cora Wood (our little friend from Encampment who was the youngest performer on the program this year), Brenn Hill, and R.W. Hampton. We paid for tickets to see those Punny Poets plus another show involving Cowboy Celtic, Dave Stamey and Paul Zarzyski. And we heard other poets and musicians all of whom captured our attention and made us appreciate the talent they have.

But there is much, much more to the Gathering in Elko than music and poetry. Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird, a member of the Crow tribe, set up the wonderful programming at Elko with an inspiring keynote address.

This year’s program involved several sessions related to Florida cowboys known as crackers, and I found them funny, fascinating and informative. I’d heard about cracker cattle and crackers before, but never really understood the type of work they did. I mean, when you come from the wide open spaces of Wyoming, it’s hard to imagine that a cowboy would have only 25 yards in which to chase and catch a calf or cow before being swallowed by a swamp! I thought a hammock was something to take a nap in (not a hill of sorts with trees on it).

Iris Wall, 80-years-young, I’m sure can still run circles around her younger panelist counterparts: Willie Johns and Billy Davis, both of whom are sure enough cowboys even if they do live in Florida. They called her Miss Iris and it was easy to see why. She was feisty, funny and fearless as she talked about hunting alligators, working cattle and life in Indian Town.

Willie, a cultural leader among the Florida Seminole tribe (you know, the ones who own Seminole Hardrock), is also co-owner with his nephew of Five Star Rodeo Stock company and a former Indian Cowboy National Champion Team roper. Billy Davis, whose family has been ranching in Florida for several generations, had enough stories of wrecks and tough rides to rival the best of the Western cowboy storytellers.

An exhibit related to Florida ranching and the crackers, is in place at the Western Folklife Center in Elko for the next several months, so if you happen to be in the area, be sure to stop and learn for yourself about these cowboys and their Florida industry.

Another great presentation involved stories by Indian cowboys and let me tell you, these guys – Henry Real Bird, Leonard Jackson, Willie Johns, Mike Thomas, Ted Howard and Reggie Sope – have done it all. They are from the Crow, Paiute, Western Shoshone and Seminole tribes.

Particularly intriguing were the stories of Reggie Sope, who talked about finding his first ranch job as a 12-year-old youngster. He insisted to his boss that he would have to leave when summer was over so he could return to school, but admitted that the life and the work kept him on ranches so he never did finish a formal education. Yet, his stories of working on isolated ranches in Nevada and Idaho, handling tens of thousands of head of cattle with the help of just a half dozen other full-time cowboys, make it very clear that he has the education of a lifetime of demanding work.

Sope also shared a bit of the culture of his tribe (Western Shoshone), when he spoke of how his older sister gave him a nephew to raise. The boy came to live with Sope when an infant; by the time he was little more than a toddler the child was riding his own horse helping move cattle, no doubt following the footsteps of his uncle.

There were other programs I did not have an opportunity to attend on such subjects as working ranch dogs, women running ranches, conservation and much more, making this a well-rounded event. Most of the other cowboy gatherings and festivals I’ve attended do not have this level of educational programming, and that makes Elko a really good choice if you want to be entertained and also learn something new. Based on the fact that every presentation I went to was standing room only, it is a good draw for the crowds.

While in Elko, we also visited the Northeastern Nevada Museum (which I wrote about in an earlier On the Trail) where we saw some good (and pricey) examples of Great Basin gear plus the outstanding collection of Will James artwork and books. We visited the trade shows where I dropped more than a month’s worth of Fence Post wages on a new hat, we quickly lost our limit at the slot machines and most of all we visited with good people who either know and understand ranching and cowboy life, or sincerely want to learn more about it.

Here are some other things I learned (you can consider them insider tips): There were lots of motel rooms available. Only the biggest name night shows sold out but you could see most of the people who performed at those shows on one of the stages throughout the day if you just studied the schedule and were willing to move between the three main venues. There is a free shuttle that helps you get from place-to-place. Don’t go to bed at midnight because the jam session doesn’t really get going until after Cinderella has already lost her slipper.