Steamboat Springs Long before there were rappers and hip-hop artists, there were cowboy poets.
Telling yarns (and lies) around the campfire is part of the cowboy mystique. Think of Pecos Bill, who was mythically raised by coyotes after his parents “misplaced” him by the Pecos River.
As the legend goes, Pecos Bill rode a mountain lion and used a rattler as his lariat. That mythical character was created by a journalist, but it honors the tradition of telling tall tales by the campfire during roundup.
If you go:
What: Western Music and Poetry Showcase featuring cowboy and cowgirl poets and singers
When: Doors/bar open at 6:15 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m., July 9
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
A Steamboat audience will have an opportunity to experience the elocution of a small herd of cowboy poets, or as rancher and performer Dennis Russell describes himself — “Poet lariat” — with a large splash of Western music July 9 during the Western Music and Poetry Showcase hosted by Steamboat’s own Yampa Valley Boys at the Chief Theater.
Steve Jones, one half of the award-winning Yampa Valley Boys with John Fisher, said the group along with singer-songwriter Sandy Reay will provide musical interludes in the midst of the poetry. Poet and storyteller J.J. Steele can also be counted on to play some cowboy songs.
Dave Stanley, a professor of English Literature at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and researcher of the development of cowboy poetry in American culture, told a speaking audience, “Cowboy poetry was and is today alive to political and cultural changes; to the shift from the open range to the fenced pasture, from the mobile trail-driving cowboy to the settled ranch hand who often spend more time putting up hay than riding the range.”
Most cowboy poetry gatherings are held in winter because a good portion of the poets are busy on their own ranches in summer, Jones said. And every cowboy poet brings their own spin to their craft, he added. Most deliver a good hook at the end of the verse, much like a punchline in a joke.
“They have their own insight into things that happen on a ranch or in Western life,” Jones said. “They have unique views about what can and will go wrong.”
The audience at the Chief may recognize cowgirl poet Susie Knight, who used to work with Denny Stamp at High Meadows Ranch in South Routt as a horse wrangler.
“She had a clown act she used to do, then got into telling stories and writing poetry,” Jones said. “She was named Poet of the Year by the Western Music Association (WMA) in 2104.”
Also coming to Steamboat is storyteller Floyd Beard, who has an impressive handlebar mustache. The poets include Dale Page, who received the Poetry CD of the Year from the WMA in 2015, Valerie Beard and Terry Nash.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1