photo © 2005, Jeri Dobrowski
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.)