An authentic way
Here’s a piece of history: Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada, is more or less next door to Montana’s northern border. Canada, too, has a distinctive tradition of hosting Cowboy Poetry Gatherings. Often, a posse of Canadian cowboys will sign up to participate in the annual Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering held in Lewistown, Mont. And vice-versa. This year, in Lewistown, some of our Canadian friends will appear on the night stage at the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
A whole bunch of years back, I was one of a passel of poets who went to the Pincher Creek Gathering. We had a great time. Canadians outdo themselves to be hospitable. That year, they even brought in cameras and filmed an outdoor get-together. They set up a campfire scene and circled the fire with logs where we poets sat. I hasten to mention that as part of the “scene,” there were horses ground-tied at different spots behind the seated poets. Taking turns, we recited our best stuff as the cameras whirred.
I might also mention that it was mid-summer, the very time bees go buzzing about pollinating like crazy and nests of hornets send out hornets bent on stinging.
In honor of Canadian poets and pickers, the following poem is the story of a way-back-when Pincher Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering. It can be warbled to the tune: The Strawberry Roan.
AN AUTHENTIC WAY
Now a cowboy named Schattle from Medicine Hat
Made rhymes in his head and then one day he sat
Just a thinkin’ and scratchin’ and said, “I suppose
There’s fellers like me with manure on their clothes.”
Their heads are a ringin’ with poems and song
But there ain’t any place where our verses belong.”
So, he rode the long circle and put out the word;
And cowboys and cowgirls saddled up when they heard.
Ride the Pincher Creek Trail
Ride the Pincher Creek Trail
Where the cowboys and cowgirls stand up and they say
Verses and songs every possible way
At the Cowboy Poetry Show
Well, they hung around town just a mumblin’ their poems,
Then followed the trail where the Pincher Creek roams;
They stumbled on stage and they spoke out their rhymes,
Though knee-knockin’ bashful, they had them a time.
There were fellers who warbled without any notes
In voices wind-roughened and raspy as ropes;
They told of the time when the boss caught ‘em out,
How horses can dump you plumb flat on you snout.
And the music from guitars it twanged in the air
And artists and saddlers showed off their wares;
The action went on through the evening and then,
They danced until dawn with a boot-stompin’ din.
And then in the morning a film-making crew
Said, “Make things authentic, real western and true,
Go bring on some horses to linger awhile,
And we’ll film while you’re rhyming; be sure that you smile.”
It was right after breakfast they bunched us like sheep,
Made us sit round a campfire right close to the creek;
Then wired us for sound and said, “Now relax!”
We poets looked natural as overstuffed sacks.
We started reciting, each poem we said — twice
So, the camera could capture an “authentic slice”
Of the life in the West were cowboys still roam,
Where doggies and dallies are still part of home.
Now, one of the boys held a snorty bay horse,
Its eyes showed plumb white as the poets discoursed;
And the snuffy cayuse thought of pastures afar
As a puncher in chaps started playin’ guitar.
While poets recited and made a good show,
A hornet flew up from a nest down below;
It buzzed ‘cross the rump of that eye-rolling bay
And stung that old hoss in a venomous way.
What happened next was an outstanding sight
Cuz the horse went to buckin’ with all of its might;
He jumped to the sky, then he dived for the ground,
He threw up his head and then backed around.
He stomped in a circle around that campfire,
A scatterin cowpoets both left, right and higher
And one of the waddies in curly white chaps
Went heels over head in a fuzzy white flap.
Now the horse got away, but a poet can’t quit,
And a cowboy don’t stop cuz a horse has a fit;
We hunkered back down but when we looked around,
The fellers with cameras had gone underground.
But Pincher Creek cowpoets will come back again
And when they recite, you can bet now and then,
They’ll set ‘round a campfire and chin ‘bout the day
When a horse threw a fit in an “authentic way.”