Sunny Hancock/Leon Flick Memorial Cowboy Poetry Show



The annual Sunny Hancock/Leon Flick Memorial Cowboy Poetry Show in Paisley, Oregon, is held in memory of Lake County poets Sunny Hancock and Leon Flick and raises funds for a local cowboy crisis/scholarship fund.

The 2016 show takes place August 13 and features poets Chris Isaccs and Jesse Smith, who were long-time friends of Sunny Hancock and Leon Flick.  They appeared with Sunny Hancock as “The Cardiac Cowboys.”

See a Lake County Examiner video report of the 2015 show here.

Find more about the show on its Facebook page.

IT SORTA MAKES SENSE by Virginia Bennett




by Virginia Bennett

A friend of mine, (I’ll call him Pete)
was watching TV the other day.
He listened to some reporter,
believin’ all he had to say.
It was a “human interest piece”
tho’ some would call it fluff.
And, it showed a lot of fancy folks
with their poodles struttin’ stuff.

And, the reporter said, “It has long been
established as a scientific fact
that dogs look like their owners
and by data this has been backed.”
Well, Pete looked down at his old dog
lyin’ faithfully on the floor:
His tongue lolled out (the dog’s, not Pete’s)
as he laid there in full-snore.

His one good eye was swollen shut
from one of the milk-cow’s kicks.
He’d lost patches of his mangy fur
from diggin’ at his ticks.
A trophy brought home gallantly
from a coyote fight last week,
was one ear torn completely in half
and a new scar on his beak.

He had porky quills stickin’ out of his gums
he only had one dew claw…
And since the stud horse aimed just right
he drinks his toilet water through a straw!
Yes, Pete looked down, then looked at the screen
his cowboy mind in a muddled fog.
And said, “If it’s true that dogs look like their owners…
then, I gotta get a better lookin’ dog!”

©2004, Virginia Bennett, used with permission

Cowboy, horsewoman, poet, musician, writer, and editor Virginia Bennett’s acclaimed body of work is collected in her books and in a number of anthologies. This poem is included in her most recent book, In the Company of Horses. She’s the editor of two important collections, Cowgirl Poetry and Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion.

She was often a featured poet at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and other events until she suffered a serious horse-related injury about ten years ago.

Find some selections of her poetry and more about her and her publications in our feature at and visit, where she and her husband Pete craft unique spurs for working cowboys.

This recent photo is by writer and working cowboy Amy Steiger, who works on Arizona’s Spider ranch. Ranch manager, songwriter, and filmmaker Gail Steiger is shown, with a new puppy and another ranch dog.

Amy Steiger is the author of three acclaimed books, two novels and an essay collection, and another essay collection, Ordinary Skin, is undergoing final editing.

She appears with Trinity Seely this weekend in Bridgeport, California, and is headed this year to the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering (August 11-13) and Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Sept 29-Oct 1). In early 2017 she’s featured at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (January 30-February 4) and the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering (February 23-24). Find more about Amy Steiger at and at

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

Gathering Report: California Rodeo Salinas’ Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering


California Rodeo Salinas Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering
report by Bill Vaughan

On Sunday, July 17th,  2016, the California Rodeo Salinas’ Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering brought together a group of great entertainers to “Wow” the folks in attendance with wonderful cowboy music and verse. This marked the 29th year of the event and was, once again, very successful in doing so.

Sherwood Hall in Salinas was the venue and wine and Swiss Sausage BBQ was the fare. The Committee put together an array of silent auction items that were quite varied and included a live auction of delicious baked goods and a catered Polenta and Stew dinner, as well.

The show started off with the doors opening at 1:00 PM for folks to come on in and have a sampling of nice local wines and some hors d’oeuvres and look over the silent auction tables. The cabaret seating made the auditorium perfect to sit and visit over wine and treats and, for those who wished, a Swiss Sausage meal was also available.

It was the talent present that made the show, though! From open mic amateurs to the seasoned pros. The Salinas Valley’s own Cowboy Poet “Laureate,” Clem Albertoni, was on hand to serve as master of ceremonies and included, of course, his own brand of down-home wit and poetry. Clem has been a local favorite for decades and did not disappoint. Clem’s first duty was to introduce the open mic folks to come up and share their own talent with the crowd. Following open mic, The Youth Orchestra of Salinas, YOSAL, performed the National Anthem and a selection of songs including Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” I spoke briefly with Joanne Taylor Johnson and she informed me that the YOSAL program is continuing to grow and succeed and it shows. What a great group of young musicians!

After YOSAL’s performance, the Monterey County Free Library Foundation introduced the three winners of the annual Cowboy Poetry Contest. First off was 13 year old Broden Murray reciting his winning entry,  “The Golden Valley,”  then 11 year old Katie Mazerik and her winning poem, “Old American Cowboy,”, and then 5 year old June Paul Harbaugh stood by on stage while her winning poem, “Cowboys are Cowboys” was read. All showed great potential and were some of the best winners ever to be on the show.

Chyrle Bacon (photo by Best Shot Video)

Chyrle Bacon followed with six-gun twirling, whip cracking and trick roping. She amazed and amused all when she coerced California 2nd Vice-president, Dave Pedrazzi, on stage for some whip-play…western style. Dave survived, just barely, though. Chyrle had the room laughing with her infectious cackle of a laugh. She was a real western Hoot!

Larry Maurice (Photo by Best Shot Video)

Next up was Larry Maurice. This was not Larry’s first appearance here; he has been in Salinas before. Larry is the recipient of The Academy of Western Artists, Cowboy Poet of the Year award, as well as having received the American Cowboy Culture Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cowboy Poetry. Larry shared his energetic and fast-paced delivery of original stories and poems along with some favorite old classics that he’s known for. His portion of the show had the audience smiling throughout.

c4Los Vaqueros Hunting Club Traveling Band (photo by Best Shot Video)

Los Vaqueros Hunting Club Traveling Band hit the stage next. This local band has been performing for decades, as well, and are local favorites. Brothers, Randy and Terry Handley have been combining their voices for some of the best harmonizing anyone could ever hope to hear. Born and raised in nearby Soledad, they have polished their style all their lives. Randy is the front man of the band with Terry providing the vocal harmonies. Jim Geil was on hand to expertly pick his electric guitar and include some vocals while Roger Hill backed it all up with his bass guitar rhythms. Many in the audience have heard these guys before and all agreed, they’ve never been better. The selection of songs and the clever banter hit the spot!

Intermission was preceded with a live “cake auction” and got quite spirited with Butch Lindley serving as auctioneer.


Dave Stamey took the stage with the lovely and talented Annie Lydon
(photo by Best Shot Video)

Dave Stamey (photo by Best Shot Video)

Following a brief intermission, Dave Stamey took the stage with the lovely and talented Annie Lydon. Never a disappointment, Dave has been a Salinas favorite for many years and has starred at this show several times in the past. Seven times named Entertainer of the Year and five times Songwriter of the Year by the Western Music Association, Dave shared why with the folks in attendance. A great voice, a great guitar picker, original songs and Annie singing along. There’s none better, folks! Dave’s songs are musical stories and that’s what Cowboy Songs are supposed to be. Each song tells a tale and the tune that goes with it is perfect, every time. That’s the “why”. Dave has a way with the audience, too, between songs. His wit is nearly as enjoyable as his songs. Annie Lydon joined Dave on stage and in recordings several years ago and I would never say that Dave’s style lacked for anything, but what she adds makes me wonder…

So, with that, the 29th annual California Rodeo Salinas’ Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering is in the books! It was a fabulous show with great talent, great wine and food, put on by a great committee of volunteers!

Come and see it when it hits 30!

Larry Maurice and Dave Stamey (photo by Best Shot Video)

California Rodeo Salinas Cowboy Music & Poetry Committee 2016
(Photo by Best Shot Video)

c9Co-Chairs Lydia Miranda and Clem Albertoni
(Photo by Best Shot Video)

Find more at

Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering



The Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering takes place in Prescott, August 11-13, 2016.

Prescott artist Marcia Molnar’s painting, titled “Dust ‘n Dogies,” is featured on the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering 2016 poster.

The poster is the theme for poets and musicians, and some create poems and songs inspired by the art (and that practice was the inspiration for Art Spur here at

Marcia Molnar’s web site notes, “Marcia lives in Prescott, Arizona with her artist husband George Molnar. Together, they explore and paint Arizona ranch life as well as the Grand Canyon.” Find more about Marcia Molnar at her web site,

More than 50 performers include headliners Jim Jones, Mary Kaye, and R.W. Hampton along with Jay Snider, Gail Steiger, Amy Auker, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Dale Burson, Kevin Davis, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Audrey Hankins, Vess Quinlan, Doug Figgs, Mike Dunn, Curt Brummett, Dean Cook, Rolf Flake, Bimbo Cheney, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Terry Nash, Dale Page, Randy Huston, Kay Nowell, Nika Nordbrock, Tom Weathers, Mary Matli, Mary Abbott, and many others.

Find more about the event at

BOOMER JOHNSON by Henry Herbert Knibbs




by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

Now Mr. Boomer Johnson was a gettin’ old in spots,
But you don’t expect a bad man to go wrastlin’ pans and pots;
But he’d done his share of killin’ and his draw was gettin’ slow,
So he quits a-punchin’ cattle and he takes to punchin’ dough.

Our foreman up and hires him, figurin’ age had rode him tame,
But a snake don’t get no sweeter just by changin’ of its name.
Well, Old Boomer knowed his business – he could cook to make you smile,
But say, he wrangled fodder in a most peculiar style.

He never used no matches – left em layin’ on the shelf,
Just some kerosene and cussin’ and the kindlin’ lit itself.
And, pardner, I’m allowin’ it would give a man a jolt
To see him stir frijoles with the barrel of his Colt.

Now killin’ folks and cookin’ ain’t so awful far apart,
That musta been why Boomer kept a-practicin’ his art;
With the front sight of his pistol he would cut a pie-lid slick,
And he’d crimp her with the muzzle for to make the edges stick.

He built his doughnuts solid, and it sure would curl your hair
To see him plug a doughnut as he tossed it in the air.
He bored the holes plum center every time his pistol spoke,
Till the can was full of doughnuts and the shack was full of smoke.

We-all was gettin’ jumpy, but he couldn’t understand
Why his shootin’ made us nervous when his cookin’ was so grand.
He kept right on performin’, and it weren’t no big surprise
When he took to markin’ tombstones on the covers of his pies.

They didn’t taste no better and they didn’t taste no worse,
But a-settin’ at the table was like ridin’ in a hearse;
You didn’t do no talkin’ and you took just what you got,
So we et till we was foundered just to keep from gettin’ shot.

When at breakfast one bright mornin’, I was feelin’ kind of low,
Old Boomer passed the doughnuts and I tells him plenty:
“No, All I takes this trip is coffee, for my stomach is a wreck.”
I could see the itch for killin’ swell the wattle on his neck.

Scorn his grub? He strings some doughnuts on the muzzle of his gun,
And he shoves her in my gizzard and he says, “You’re takin’ one!”
He was set to start a graveyard, but for once he was mistook;
Me not wantin’ any doughnuts, I just up and salts the cook.

Did they fire him? Listen, pardner, there was nothin’ left to fire,
Just a row of smilin’ faces and another cook to hire.
If he joined some other outfit and is cookin’, what I mean,
It’s where they ain’t no matches and they don’t need kerosene.

…by Henry Herbert Knibbs, public domain

Henry Herbert Knibbs never worked as a cowboy, but he was a student of the West and his friendships, including one with cowboy, rancher, and writer Eugene Manlove Rhodes informed his work. His poems are still often recited today, including “Boomer Johnson,” “Where the Ponies Come to Drink,” “The Walking Man,” “Shallows of the Ford,” and “So Long, Chinook!”

Find more about Knibbs and more of his poetry at

This 1939 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cook of SMS Ranch making bread in front of chuck wagon. Ranch near Spur, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

Find a feature about noted photographer and teacher Russell Lee with a gallery of photographs from the University of Texas at Austin here.

(This poem and photo are in the public domain.)

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering


From the Western Folklife Center:

The 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering poster features the painting, “Moving the Corrientes” (2010), by award-winning Tucson artist Howard Post. An excerpt from Linda M. Hasselstrom’s poem, “Where the Stories Come From” (Bitter Creek Junction, 2000), borders the painting, in honor of the storytelling theme of the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.


Announcing the Artist Line-Up for the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering 

The 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is January 30 to February 4, 2017, in Elko, Nevada. Tickets are on sale to Western Folklife Center members starting Tuesday, September 6, and to non-members starting Thursday, October 6. We are pleased to welcome the following poets, musicians and storytellers to the Elko stage in 2017!

Amy Hale Auker – Prescott, AZ
Mike Beck – Monterey, CA
Luke Bell – Cody, WY — NEW!
Jerry Brooks
– Sevier, UT
Cowboy Celtic -Turner Valley, Alberta, Canada
Doris Daley – Black Diamond, Alberta, Canada
John Dofflemyer – Lemon Cove, CA
Carolyn Dufurrena – Winnemucca, NV
Maria Lisa Eastman – Hyattville, WY – NEW!
Don Edwards – Hico, TX
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – Northern California
Dom Flemons & Brian Farrow – Hillsborough, NC
Patricia Frolander – Sundance, WY
DW Groethe – Bainville, MT
Kristyn Harris – McKinney, TX
Andy Hedges – Lubbock, TX
Brenn Hill – Hooper, UT
Teresa Jordan – Virgin, UT
Ross Knox – Midpines, CA
Jarle Kvale – Dunseith, ND – NEW!
Daron Little – Encampment, WY – NEW!
Corb Lund – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Waddie Mitchell – Twin Bridges, NV
Doug Moreland & the Flying Armadillos – Manchaca, TX – NEW!
Joel Nelson
– Alpine, TX
Rodney Nelson
– Almont, ND
Shadd Piehl – Mandan, ND
Vess Quinlan – Florence, CO
Henry Real Bird – Garryowen, MT
Brigid Reedy – Boulder, MT
Randy Rieman – Dillon, MT
Kent Rollins – Hollis, OK
Jack Sammon – Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia – NEW!
Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld – Birney, MT
Trinity Seely – Cascade, MT
Sean Sexton – Vero Beach, FL
Sourdough Slim & Robert Armstrong – Paradise, CA
R.P. Smith – Broken Bow, NE
Dave Stamey – Orange Cove, CA
Gail Steiger – Prescott, AZ
Rod Taylor – Cimarron, NM
Ian Tyson – Longview, Alberta, Canada
Keith Ward – Vilas, NC
Andy Wilkinson – Lubbock, TX
Paul Zarzyski – Great Falls, MT

Find the Western Folklife Center on Facebook and at



National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo

This photo of Geff Dawson was taken by Dawn Dawson in 2009 at the National Cowboy Poery Rodeo in Montrose, Colorado.


Horsewoman, photographer, and Better Horses Radio co-host Dawn Dawson and poet, musician, ranch manager, and Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee Geff Dawson run the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo (NCPR) and have great plans for this year’s event, August 4-6, 2016 in Abilene, Kansas.

From their July 22, 2016 announcement:

It’s not too late to put the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo on your calendar. Join us August 4th after the parade at the Shockey and Landes Building, Abilene, Kansas, for our annual get-together and open mic event.

Then Friday and Saturday mornings until we are done, we start in with the cowboy poetry rodeo competition with free admission. On Saturday afternoon, August 6, 2016, at 4:00 p.m., get your tickets to the Matinee show where the winners will be crowned and perform their winning poetry followed by the Chisholm Trail Western Music Show with Geff Dawson and Cowboy Friends. For more information, visit our web site at Tickets available online.

Take time to see all the sights in Abilene and the area while you are in Kansas. You can see one of the biggest free fairs and rodeo in the Midwest, the Central Kansas Free Fair and Wild Bill Hickok PRCA Rodeo while you are there, plus many, many more attractions. Some of our contestants and judges will be performing during the rodeo each night so don’t miss it!

Don’t miss eating at the Brookeville Hotel where they serve family-style fried chicken dinners. If you would like to come as a contestant or a spectator, contact Geff Dawson, or call 785-456-4494 and we will get you hooked up. You’re not going to want to miss this event. We have several special guests coming to judge and entertain, and contestants can win thousands of dollars and prizes. Entries are open now.

Many poets who have participated in the NCPR have had high praise for the experience, including Pat Richardson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Doris Daley, Linda Kirkpatrick, DW Groethe, Andy Nelson, and others. A celebration of “excellence through competition,” many lasting friendships get made.

Find more about the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo on Facebook,  at, and at the NCPR web site.