November 11, 2007

Along the Pony Express Trail

The Heber City Cowboy Poetry Gathering was in full swing last week. This event gains in popularity year after year and attracts most of the big name acts in the cowboy world. Names like Riders in the Sky, Michael Martin Murphy, Sons of the San Joaquin, Bar J Wranglers – and the list goes on and on. It may be rivaling even the Elko gathering in popularity and crowd appeal. In years past, the event has been mostly music despite its name. Thanks to the efforts of Mike Kirkwood, the organizers have made a little more room for cowboy poets on the program. And thanks to Mike, I was able to do a short set Friday evening at 6:00PM – back in the area where two stages were set up for local and regional performers. The audiences were good and seemed to grow as the evening wore on. Poems in my set included “The Trap Corral of Stone,” “A Trajectory off Course” and “Sunday Drivers.” These are all true stories, but I don’t think anyone really believed them.

After a while we migrated over to the other stage and listened to fine performances by Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail. Dave Stamey then took the stage and was just a delight to listen to. Around 8:00PM a few of us gathered at the Inn by the Creek where Mike and Jolynne Kirkwood were staying in a Swiss style condo, compliments of the event organizers. They invited guests for the evening from among performers from Nevada, Montana and Utah. We had a warm and friendly evening of lively conversation together with a meal of venison, elk and all the fixings – really more than we could all eat. It was good to see Kenny Hall, Curly Syndergaard and Gordon Thomas again, to meet new friends – and to regale anyone that would listen with my deer roping story (see last post).

Kathie and I were the first ones to leave since we needed to be on the Pony Express Trail near Lookout Pass at 9:30AM meaning a very early morning for us. For the second year in a row, a group of good friends met on the trail to spend a day in the vast expanse of Utah’s west desert in the vicinity of the old Pony Express Trail. This area is remote, uninhabited and enchanting. Bands of mustangs roam large areas, huge herds of antelope seem to appear out of nowhere. Deer are easily found. There are few if any visible signs of civilization for as far as the eye can see. Yesterday the weather was perfect and the horses were in fine form as we took out through the trackless cedars, sage and prairie grass.

During the lunch break, I was asked to do a little poetry, as usually happens on our rides. Some of the riders were sorry that they were missing out on the Heber event because of the ride, but still wanted to do it anyway – and if they could get a little poetry under their belts, the day would be complete and there would be no regrets. So, I got up and recited Arthur Chapman’s “The Meeting,” Kathryn Fall Petty’s “Mornin’ on the Desert” my “Trap Corral of Stone” and ended up with that infamous but hilarious poem of Robert Service – “The Three Bares.” Beverly Heggerman took pictures of the mid-day poetry session. The afternoon portion of the ride took us through some wild country – no trails and plenty rocky. We got back to the trucks in time to hit the road home a little before dark. What a wonderful day - sore bodies because of the tough riding, but the endless vistas, the pleasant friendships both human and equine, and the perfect natural setting for a little cowboy poetry – all combined to make a day well worth living. I made a video of this poem some time ago - you can view it in the Cowboy Poetry TV section to the left.

The Meeting
By Arthur Chapman

When walkin’ down a city street,
Two thousand miles from home,
The pavestones hurtin’ of the feet
That never ought to roam,
A pony jest reached to one side
And grabbed me by the clothes;
He smelled the sagebrush, durn his hide —
You bet a pony knows!

I stopped and petted him, and seen
A brand upon his side;
I’ll bet across the prairie green
He useter hit his stride;
Some puncher of the gentle cow
Had owned him — that I knows;
Which same is why he jest says: "How!
There’s sagebrush in your clothes."

He knowed the smell — no doubt it waked
Him out of some bright dream;
In some far stream his thirst is slaked—
He sees the mountains gleam;
He bears his rider far and fast,
And real the hull thing grows
When I come sorter driftin’ past
With sagebrush in my clothes.

Poor little hoss! It’s tough to be
Away from that fair land —
Away from that wide prairie sea
With all its vistas grand;
I feel for you, old hoss, I do —
It’s hard the way life goes;
I’d like to travel back with you —
Back where that sagebrush grows!

Out where the West Begins, 1917

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