FAMOUS—ALMOST by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

Colen 3-Lphoto © 2005, Jeri Dobrowski

FAMOUS—ALMOST
by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

We’d spent the weekend down in Elko
With cowboy poets—what a sight!
There came a call from the Tonight Show,
They invited me for Friday night!
My eyebrows were twitching with excitement
As I put the receiver down.
Then the word spread like a brushfire
To a thousand people in our town.

Each friend had a friend who had a friend,
Our town is a friendly place.
Word made the rounds in leaps and bounds
To what seemed half the human race.
The show had made all arrangements.
I flew with Delta to L. A.
Where a limo waited at the airport
To take me to a fancy place to stay.

The studio had my name printed
On a dressing-room for just one night.
They finally got to where they could spell it
But they never did pronounce it right.
Rod came in at the last minute.
He said his horse had come up lame.
We spruced up some and put our hats on,
We were on our way to fame!

We got close enough to see the spotlight
But we didn’t say one cowboy rhyme
We got the V.I.P. treatment
But they just flat-out ran out of time.
So I’ve come to a conclusion,
It’s like a boyhood I once knew,
When I got far too much attention
Over something that I didn’t do.

© 1992, Colen H. Sweeten, Jr., used with permission
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Beloved poet Colen Sweeten was a humble man, as reflected in this poem.

He was one of the cowboy poets to appear on Johnny Carson’s NBC Tonight Show in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They came to show’s attention after performing at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Gathering in Elko, Nevada, which began in 1985. Other poets included Baxter Black, Waddie Mitchell, Lloyd Gerber, Rodney Nelson, Carlos Ashley, Martin Bergin, Kay Kelley Nowell, Gwen Petersen, Nyle Henderson, and Rod McQueary.

Colen Sweeten and Rod McQueary were scheduled for February 8, 1991, the day he writes about in the poem. They were rescheduled and appeared on February 21, 1991.

Colen Sweeten recited “Feelin’ My Oats,” which poked fun of the Quaker Oats commercials starring Wilford Brimley. He had to explain a few lines that would have gone over the heads of non-ag viewers: “… I’m eating oats three times a day/If I ate that much wheat the soles of my feet / Would look like runners on a sleigh.”

Find a bit more about the Tonight Show poets at CowboyPoetry.com.

During his lifetime, Colen Sweeten was a part of every Elko gathering, except one. He had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he “wasn’t even using them all.”

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 2005 photo of Colen Sweeten was taken by Jeri Dobrowski in Kanab, Utah, at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo. Find more of her work at jeridobrowski.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but for other uses, seek permission.)

ELKO, by Colen Sweeten

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ELKO
by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

They came to the mid-winter gath’ring,
Leaving haystacks and dehorning chutes.
Dressed true to old west tradition,
Levis, Stetsons, and high heeled boots.

A few were in casts or on crutches,
Some looked like I’d seen them before.
Each wore the hat no one touches
And had high polished boots on the floor.

The faces were brown as a saddle.
Some mustaches wide as a door.
And they walked with a half-cocked straddle,
Like the part that they sit on was sore.

Their poetry, sprinkled with sagebrush,
Was not meant for the city galoots.
And there each one sat in his ten gallon hat,
And a cow and a half worth of boots.

© 1987, Colen Sweeten, used with permission of the Sweeten family
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

The Western Folklife Center’s 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, often referred to simply as “Elko,” is getting underway in Elko, Nevada. We like to share the late Colen Sweeten’s poem every year, when it’s “Elko time.”

During his lifetime, Colen Sweeten was a part of every Elko gathering, except one. He had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he “wasn’t even using them all.”

Colen Sweeten appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1991, along with the late Rod McQueary. (Unfortunately, the video has become unavailable.)

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com,  where there are also tributes to him.

Find some other poems about Elko in our feature here.

This 2014 photo by Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “Fancy cowboy boots for sale at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo in San Antonio, Texas,” is from The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Find the collection here, where it notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but please request permission for any other uses. The photo is in the public domain.)

ELKO, by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

wallyboot

photo © 2015, Betty K. Rodgers

ELKO
by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

They came to the mid-winter gath’ring,
Leaving haystacks and dehorning chutes.
Dressed true to old west tradition,
Levis, Stetsons, and high heeled boots.

A few were in casts or on crutches,
Some looked like I’d seen them before.
Each wore the hat no one touches
And had high polished boots on the floor.

The faces were brown as a saddle.
Some mustaches wide as a door.
And they walked with a half-cocked straddle,
Like the part that they sit on was sore.

Their poetry, sprinkled with sagebrush,
Was not meant for the city galoots.
And there each one sat in his ten gallon hat,
And a cow and a half worth of boots.

© 1987, Colen Sweeten, used with permission of the Sweeten family
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

The Western Folklife Center’s 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, often referred to simply as “Elko,” takes place this week in Elko, Nevada.

During his lifetime, Colen Sweeten was a part of every Elko gathering, except one. He had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he “wasn’t even using them all.”

Colen Sweeten appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1991, and you can watch a video of the performance, which also includes the late Rod McQueary.

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com, and also see tributes to him.

Find some other poems about Elko in our feature here.

This year the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering has a stellar lineup, including poets, musicians, and dancers: Ardi Baltza, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Ryan Bell, Muzzie & Willy & Cody Braun, Adrian Buckaroogirl, Caleb Klauder Country Band, Cowboy Celtic, John Dofflemyer, Carolyn Dufurrena, Maria Lisa Eastman, Elko Ariñak, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dom Flemons & Brian Farrow, Jean Flesher & Amerikanuak, Patricia Frolander, Pipp Gillette, Martin Goicoechea, Jesus Goñi, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rita Hosking & Sean Feder, Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran, Ross Knox, Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti, Betty Lynne McCarthy, Carlton McCord Lewis, Wally McRae, Waddie Mitchell, Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa, Michael Martin Murphey, Terry Nash, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Riders in the Sky, Randy Rieman, The Rifters, Matt Robertson, David Romtvedt & Caitlin Belem Romtvedt, Jack Sammon, Sean Sexton, Sand Sheff, Andy Wilkinson, Wylie & the Wild West, and Paul Zarzyski.

The 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering also includes workshops, films, exhibits, dances, and more. Find more at nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

Idaho photographer and filmmaker Betty K. Rodgers caught this image of Montana rancher and poet Wallace McRae’s boot in 2012 at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Betty K. Rodgers is co-producer (with Ken Rodgers) of I Married the War, a documentary-in-progress about the wives of combat veterans. They also created the award-winning film Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, about Ken Rodgers’ company of Marines during the siege of Khe Sanh in the Vietnam War. Find more about Betty K. Rodgers in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com. Find more about I Married the War at imarriedthewar.com and on Facebook,  more on “Bravo!” at bravotheproject.com and on Facebook.

ELKO by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

wallyboot

photo © 2012, Betty K. Rodgers; request permission for use

ELKO
by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

They came to the mid-winter gath’ring,
Leaving haystacks and dehorning chutes.
Dressed true to old west tradition,
Levis, Stetsons, and high heeled boots.

A few were in casts or on crutches,
Some looked like I’d seen them before.
Each wore the hat no one touches
And had high polished boots on the floor.

The faces were brown as a saddle.
Some mustaches wide as a door.
And they walked with a half-cocked straddle,
Like the part that they sit on was sore.

Their poetry, sprinkled with sagebrush,
Was not meant for the city galoots.
And there each one sat in his ten gallon hat,
And a cow and a half worth of boots.

© 1987, Colen Sweeten, used with permission of the Sweeten family

The Western Folklife Center’s 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, often referred to simply as “Elko,” is taking place this week (January 30- February 2, 2017) in Elko, Nevada.

During his lifetime, Colen Sweeten was a part of every Elko gathering, except one. He had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he “wasn’t even using them all.”

Colen Sweeten appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1991, and you can watch a video of the performance, which also includes the late Rod McQueary.

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com
and also see tributes to him..

Find some other poems about Elko at CowboyPoetry.com.

Idaho photographer and filmmaker Betty K. Rodgers caught this image of Montana rancher and poet Wallace McRae’s boot in 2012 at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Betty K. Rodgers is co-producer (with Ken Rodgers) of I Married the War, a documentary-in-progress about the wives of combat veterans. They also created the award-winning film Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, about Ken Rodgers’ company of Marines during the siege of Khe Sanh in the Vietnam War. Find more about Betty K. Rodgers in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com. Find more about I Married the War at imarriedthewar.com and on Facebook, and more on Bravo! bravotheproject.com and on Facebook.

CHRISTMAS BENEATH THE STARS by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

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CHRISTMAS BENEATH THE STARS
by Colen Sweeten (1919-2007)

The cattle were bedded down on the hill,
It was a peaceful sight that I saw.
The winter moon hung high in the sky
Casting shadows on the side of the draw.

The Christmas lights on the ranch house below
Sparked a thought of a night gone by.
When shepherds, watching over their flocks
Heard the message from the sky.

I stopped and looked at the stars above
And listened where all was quiet,
Then into my heart came the message
The angels delivered that night.

I stepped from the saddle, whispering aloud,
“Shepherds watching over their flocks.”
My mount rubbed his head on my shoulder
As he shifted his feet on the rocks.

The horse held his breath while we listened,
I could almost hear the heavenly choir.
Then the spirit bore witness once again
And burned in my heart like a fire.

Yes, the ranchers, herders and cowboys
Who work beneath the wide open sky,
Can understand how the shepherds felt
When they heard the voice from on high.

Let the rich and the powerful pity me,
Let the city folk think I am strange;
My silent prayer shall continue to be,
“Lord, thanks for my home on the range.”

© 1996 Colen H. Sweeten Jr., used with permission

Colen Sweeten had an enormous repertoire of poems, stories, wisdom, and humor. He always had a kind and cheerful word for all, and as he often said, so many friends that he “wasn’t even using them all.”

He appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1991, and you can watch a video of the performance, which also includes the late Rod McQueary, in a video here.

During his lifetime, Colen Sweeten was a part of every Western Folklife Center National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, except one.

Find more about Colen Sweeten and more of his poetry here at CowboyPoetry.com,  and also see tributes to him here.

This illustration is by popular poet, writer, musician, and songwriter Dee Strickland Johnson, known to all as “Buckshot Dot.” She illustrated her own poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Eve,” with this drawing. Her son Tim was the model. She comments, “Tim posed for that scratch board picture of the campfire cowboy. I had him standing there with his back to me for quite some time—took a while to get those rivets on the Levi’s.”

As the Johnsons’ many friends know, Tim was seriously injured in an accident on August 5, 2002. He is being cared for in Payson, Arizona. The family welcomes visits, cards, or emails.

The picture was the subject of an Art Spur at CowboyPoetry.com, and you see the resulting poems here.

Buckshot Dot has recordings, books of her poetry, books about Arizona history, books for children, and more. Find more about her at CowboyPoetry.com  and visit her web site, buckshotdot.com.