The life of a Will Rogers Award winner |

The life of a Will Rogers Award winner

I’m proud to report on a special honor awarded to one of Montana’s own. Sandy Seaton Sallee has been chosen to receive the award as top female cowboy poet of 2016 by the Academy of Western Artists in their 21st annual Will Rogers Awards ceremony.

The academy honors the whole amalgamation of the artistic western world in acknowledgment of fine craft. It recognizes western saddle makers, bit and spur makers, boot makers, engravers, braiders, painters, cartoonists, fine artists, hitchers, master leather artisans, chuckwagon skills, western swing, pure country and western music musicians. Plus, both male and female cowboy poets.

Interviewer: “Congratulations. To be singled out as cowgirl poet of the year … that’s quite an honor!”

Sandy: “I am over-the-moon excited!”

Interviewer: “How does the Academy choose top people?”

Sandy: “From blind nominations given by peers, I don’t know who nominated me. The academy has actually chosen artists from Canada and Argentina and other countries in the past, so it is a worldwide recognition.”

Interviewer: “What guidelines or procedures are used in picking a top artist?”

Sandy: “The awards are based on the quality of individuals’ work, our lifetime body of work and our standing in the community with a lifestyle keeping western traditions and values alive.”

Interviewer: “How do you receive your award and what is it — a plaque, a certificate, cash …?”

Sandy: We will receive the Will Rogers Award and a statue called the Willy!

Interviewer: “When and where do you receive this award?”

Sandy: “March 16! At the 21st annual awards banquet and ceremony in the Brown Lupton Ballroom on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas!”

Interviewer: “You mentioned ‘lifetime body of work.’ Tell a little about your work in keeping alive the western traditions, lifestyles and values.”

Sandy: “I grew up in Yellowstone National Park in a historical cabin built for the mail carriers in the late 1800s. I always loved the outdoors, I rode horseback among the elk in the Park, I’ve driven four-up stagecoaches and I loved every minute. Then I cowboyed awhile in New Mexico, but I had to come back to Montana. I went to work for an outfitter in a wilderness hunting camp and that’s where I met my future husband, Scott Sallee. Today we own and operate Black Mountain Outfitters, a wilderness and ranch outfitting business where we train and sell horses and riding and pack mules in our off season.”

Interviewer: “What about your writing? You’ve done articles and stories as well as poetry, haven’t you?”

Sandy: “Yes, I’ve been featured in magazines, gatherings and shows across America and Canada. I was inducted into the Montana Poet Hall of Fame. I’ve been an invited performer at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering a number of times since my first appearance there in 1990. I participated in and emceed the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering several times since its birth in 1986 along with emceeing three Salute to Service Men & Women shows held in Big Timber, Mont. I was a poet on John Denver’s TV Christmas Special, ‘Blue Montana Skies’ and I was a featured poet on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks award-winning centennial documentary video. I have been published in several anthologies, and have published a few books of my own. My latest book, ‘Magic Montana,’ is a compilation of my poetry and Scott’s photography. I’ve also recorded a CD of my poetry titled, Montana Legacy.”

Interviewer: Aren’t you a part of the Horse Drive held Memorial Day weekend in Gardiner, Mont.?

Sandy: Yep. On the last Saturday of each May, cowboys herd a couple hundred head of horses and mules up the 9 miles from Gardiner to Hell’s A-Roarin’ camp. Scott and I help with the drive every year. It’s quite an experience, people come from all over to watch. Both Scott and I usually ride saddle mules, as they are so sure-footed and sensible in all the commotion.”

Interviewer: “Yours sounds like a wonderful lifestyle.”

Sandy: “Thanks, I love the wilderness. I love mules and dogs and poetry. I am a lucky woman! My mom and Grandma would have been so happy to have lived to see me get this award! I am completely honored and humbled. Scott and I are flying to Fort Worth, and several of our friends and family will be converging on the town!

YAHOO!! Texas, here we come!”❖

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