Talent abounds at Sagebrush Cowboyography Gathering
by Penny Zeller
Poets donned their wide-brimmed hats and acquired southern accents while reading poetry written about their lives on the ranch. Some poems were serious, some humorous, and some historical. Talented musicians also joined in and sang country and inspirational tunes. Altogether, they made the 10th annual Sagebrush Cowboyography Poetry and Music Gathering a huge success.
The gathering, held Feb. 8-10 at the Historic Sheridan Inn in Sheridan, Wyo., drew a large crowd. The theme this year was “Stick Horses to Cow Ponies.” Poets from all over assembled to share their wonderful poetry and musical talent. The public was treated to performances by well-known performers from Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and Canada.
One of the event organizers, Pat Trembley (a poet and the executive director and secretary of the Sagebrush Cowboyography Association), who hails from Buffalo, Wyo., said, “This Friday afternoon session has been very well attended. There’s a lot more music this year and more out-of-town performers have heard about it.” Pat estimated that 100 people had attended the various programs throughout the day. “It’s a lot of organizing,” Pat added, of the event which is held in Sheridan each year.
Joining Pat in organizing this year’s event were Gina Stevens, president of the association and Kirby, Mont., poet; Bill Sustrich, vice president; and Deb Sustrich, treasurer.
The day was filled with performances held each hour until 9 p.m. Poets had to create on-the-spot poems which consisted of 24 lines, which had to be of Western flavor, and had to use the line “I couldn’t sleep from the racket they made.” Eleven poets stepped forward to join in the fun, and three judges judged poems with a wide variety of topics. Poets then recited their poems for the judges and the audience. Each poet was awarded a cash prize and a certificate. Their autographed original poems were then auctioned off to raise money for the Sagebrush Cowboyography Association.
The award-winning poets were announced in an awards ceremony.
The winner of the 2001 Cowboyography gathering was Lewistown, Montana’s gifted poet Lloyd McKenna, with his outstanding poem, “Mountain Terror.”
The first place winner of the Shoot Out was Shepherd, Mont., poet, Bud Comly with his humorous poem, “Maids and No Shade.” He was excited, saying, “I’m in awe because of out of 11 poems, some great ones came out of it. I was very surprised and quite pleased to win the award. It’ll be something I’ll always remember.”
Second place was awarded to Ann Secrest Hanson for her hilarious poem, “The Skunks.” Ann, a poet from Bowman, N.D., was recently nominated for the 2001 Cowgirl Hall of Fame award in Fort Worth, Texas.
The third place winner was Deb Sustrich with her touching poem, “A Night Herder’s Lullaby.” Deb, a poet from Sheridan, Wyo., also helped to assemble a manual of “Cowboy Kidz Poetry” for elementary school students.
Also during the ceremony, a special award, the Scott Redington Memorial Award, was presented by Sheridan poet, Charlie Cook. The award was first presented in 1995 and is awarded each year. The members nominate a member of the association to win this award, which is named in memory of Scott Redington, a published cowboy poet and Sheridan College ag teacher.
The winner for 2002 was Nicky Legerski, a poet and author of “One Fence Post Short, An Off Her Rocker Look at Ranch Life.” Nicky was awarded a beautiful leather handcrafted notebook crafted by Steve Dabbs. Nicky, an elementary school teacher from Sheridan, was honored to accept the award.
The day before, Nicky had humored the audience with her account of a cowboy leaving the toilet seat up and his petite wife falling in one night in her poem titled, “An Angry Woman.”
Her mother, Jean Ellenwood, said, “We’re terribly proud of Nicky. She’s been writing poetry since she was a little girl. She’s always had a great imagination and her poems just keep us laughing all the time. Now that she’s a published author, we know she’s going to do a lot of great things in the future. I’m so proud to be her mother.”
The children’s Cowboy Kidz awards were presented on Saturday. There were three categories for the three different age groups. Following are the winners and their poems:
Kindergarten-First Grade Division
First Place: “Spot the Chicken” by Rachel Wood
Second Place: “Cowboy Mason” by Keely Rochafellow
Third Place: “The Snakes and the Cowboy” by Bailey Roebling.
Second-third Grade Division
First Place: “It’s Hard to Be a Cowboy” by Heidi Edwards
Second Place: “The Stampede” by Ashley Stout
Third Place: “White Fish Will” by Ian Munsick.
fourth-fifth Grade Division
First Place: “My Wyoming” by Heather Prosenick
Second Place (tie): “The Great Cattle Drive” by John Hannahs and “Cowboys and Indians” by Randi Prosenick
Third Place (tie): “Blessings” by Makayla Porter and “Eight Seconds” by Damon R. Eastman.
Sixth Grade Division
First Place: “The Lightin'” by Rebecca Irwin
Second Place: “One Great Day” by Cheyenne Lopez
Third Place: “Chili” by Sara Zehntner.
In addition to these awards, two other awards were announced. The Best Overall Performance was given to Rachel Wood for the comical performance of her poem, “Spot the Chicken.” The Grand Champion Award trophy was awarded to Heather Prosenick for her poem “My Wyoming.”
“I was really excited and very honored about how they thought my poem was good,” said Heather, a fifth grader at Cottonwood Elementary in Wright, Wyo. Following is Heather’s winning poem:
In the spring flowers start to blossom and bloom,
Whispering tenderly, summer will be here soon.
I marvel and stare at all the splendid new flowers,
And realize that April will bring us tender showers.
Early in the morning dew, the meadowlark sings,
I cherish the excitement that Wyoming brings.
The first Indian Paintbrush delicately unfolds,
As the sun comes with glorious rays of gold.
Spring retires and summer sneaks quietly in,
Horses out grazing in the Western fields again.
Fireflies dancing at a nearby pond,
Cautiously, a mother deer feeds her fawn.
The first yellow leaf elegantly falls to the ground,
Autumn is very quiet with barely any sound.
Then the frost of winter slowly sneaks by,
Creating a frigid, blue-gray sky.
Snowflakes falling everywhere you see,
Wyoming means a lot to me.
I love Wyoming, it ll always be my home,
Where the wind blows hard and the buffalo roam.
The adult poets have encouraged the children to continue the heritage of cowboy poetry.
Shelley Baumgartner, a first and second grade teacher at Clearmont Elementary was commended for her part in helping the young poets. Four students won from her district. “It’s a wonderful experience for kids to get up and perform,” said Shelley. “They should just enter!”
After the children’s awards, featured performer and legend, Don Edwards entertained the crowd. The Sheridan community also welcomed him Saturday night at the Wyoming Theater as he put on a wonderful show for all attendees. Ann Secrest Hanson provided the pre-program entertainment and Lloyd McKenna was master of ceremonies.
As another successful year begins for the gifted cowboy poets and singers, one must agree that they are among the most hospitable and accommodating group of people. They are sure to succeed on whatever path their talents take them.