10 things that you must do at the Gathering

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1. Go to a show at the Elko Convention Center Auditorium. The convention center has been a key component to the NCPG and its success. The auditorium is a perfect setting for enjoying your favorite artists. Beautiful lighting, great sound and a fun atmosphere make the convention center a must for all visitors to Elko.

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2. Take a walk through the Wiegand Gallery. Each year the gallery showcases horsemen, ranchers, artists, musicians, crafters and historians from another part of the world. This year, Baja vaqueros from a little-known corner of Mexico, Baja California Sur have come to Elko. Expand your understanding of foreign horsemanship, ranching and music by visiting the gallery or catching a vaquero show.

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3. Visit a museum. Check out the Northeastern Nevada Museum and California Trail Center to learn more about the West through the stories and history that made Western life and tradition a reality.

4. Eat at the Star. Great food, huge portions, strong drinks and everyone is family. Enough said. Just remember that 3 Pecans will be plenty.

5. Sit in on a youth poetry reading. Watching the next generation of cowboys (and cowgirls) develop their skills and talent as poets, writers and musicians can be as inspiring as watching the longtime veterans. It also means so much to them to have your support and encouragement. If you love the NCPG and want to see the event continue through the years, then take some time to see one of these performances.

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6. Go to a Deep West video screening. Deep West videos are an important part of how we bring the hidden cultures of rural areas to the forefront of conversation. This year’s videos are a look into the Owyhee Reservation through the eyes and storytelling vision of its children. Deep West videos are an inspiring view of native culture, western culture and current events happening here in Nevada and across the West. Don’t miss an opportunity to see these films and expand your knowledge.

7. Find your favorite artist at the Pioneer Saloon. Many of you know that the Pioneer is the place to grab a strong drink and relax between shows. It turns out that the Pioneer is also the place where the artists go to get a strong drink and relax between shows. This provides an opportunity for you to thank your favorite performers at a personal level. Rarely can you approach your favorite performers at such an enormous event, so if you see an artist that you enjoy don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and thank them for their performance, we are all here to have fun.

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8. Find an “after hours” party and jam session. You typically need to know someone to find the late night party, but in Elko jam sessions and parties pop up all over. Just keep your ears open and your eyes peeled. Hint: The Pioneer is a great place to find these unofficial events, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and meet new people. You never know where that might take you.

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9. Go to a dance. With most of the great western musicians scouring the streets of Elko this week there will plenty of opportunities to shake your hips and move your feet. So don’t pass it up. Hone your skills at one of the dance classes taking place throughout the week, and show off your moves at one of the dances taking place Friday and Saturday night.

10. Write about your experience and share it with the Western Folklife Center. This event relies on the care and support of the community. Your input could help sustain and grow Western Folklife for years to come. The NCPG’s new director, David Roche, welcomes you to send emails and write letters that describe what you enjoy, what you want more of, and what aspects of the event that could use a touch up.

A Must See: Cowboy Celtic

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This is Cowboy Celtic’s 20th year at the Poetry Gathering, and they have always been one of my favorites. Elko’s intimate venues are a great way to enjoy their beautiful melodies and unique instrumental features. If you are in Elko this week, Cowboy Celtic is a must see. You will have a great time hearing a plethora of influences that came to shape #westernfolklife.

Written by Mike Gamm

2015 Keynote Speaker: Gary Nabhan

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Gary Nabhan is an ethnobotanist and a proponent of the collaborative conservation movement. Through a reflection upon the past 20 years, Nabhan seeks to further develop an open dialogue between the various cultures, generations and organizations that represent American agriculture. Collectively, ranchers and range scientists have made enormous contributions to current and future generations by restoring natural processes and understanding how to maintain successful ranching practices. However, the movement is not without its ups and downs, and we must all do our part to make collective conservation a sustainable reality.

To learn more about collaborative conservation or join in on the conversation join Nabhan tonight at the Great Basin College High Tech Center, Room 121 at 5:30pm.

The 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Good morning poets, artists and revelers! Welcome to the 31st annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in beautiful Elko, Nevada! People from across the country and around the world have come here to share Western culture and tradition. From the Vaqueros of Baja California Sur to the best minds of American cowboy poetry, 2015 is poised to be a brilliant experience for both new comers and longtime veterans. Having people share stories and culture outside of the events is just as important as sitting in the jam packed auditorium of the convention center. So please visit with someone new at every opportunity, and help make The Gathering a powerful source for expanding our minds and our love for the West. We are all family this week so have fun! You’re in Elko!

Written by Mike Gamm

Healing the Warrior’s Heart: The Magic of Plan B, Part 2

Submitted by Taki Telonidis

As I explained in last week’s blog post, we experienced a lot of snafus while filming Healing the Warrior’s Heart. Yet, almost every snafu was counterbalanced with an unexpected positive development.

Medicine Man Leo Pard

Medicine Man Leo Pard

My second example involves the Medicine Man who’d been working with Martin Connelly, the returning veteran we follow in our show. After interviewing Martin during the July shoot, I stayed in touch with him over the coming months. Every two or three weeks I’d give him a call, and often speak with his mother as well. We built a relationship, and in early fall I asked if we could visit him again and he agreed. Since returning from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Martin had been working with an elder named Leo Pard who conducts sweat lodge ceremonies for returning veterans on the reservation. I was interested in interviewing Leo and perhaps filming him working with Martin. Martin was willing to do this for us, but his permission wasn’t enough; we also needed the okay from the Medicine Man.

Martin gave me Leo’s phone number up in Canada and I called him one afternoon. Leo was pleasant and polite, and I could tell he had a sense of humor…but he would not talk about his ceremonial work with veterans over the telephone. I remember him saying something like, “I’m old fashioned, and our ceremonies are not something I can discuss over the telephone with someone I don’t know. I need to meet you in person, look into your eyes, and feel what’s in your heart.” I explained that I lived more than 800 miles away, and that it wouldn’t be possible for me to make an extra trip up to Canada just to discuss the possibility of interviewing him. He insisted that those were the conditions, however; and I ended up scheduling our second trip to the reservation not knowing if he’d even agree to an interview.

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Pre-sweat prayer

In early November, I drove up to the reservation two days before our Director of Photography Doug Monroe was due to fly in. This was so I could pay my visit to Leo up in Canada and hopefully close the deal. On the day after my arrival, Martin and I drove several hours to one of the most remote locations I’d ever seen, and I’ve been to some pretty isolated places. Our visit with Leo and his wife lasted three hours, and in the end he agreed to allow us to attend the upcoming ceremony he was going to do with Martin, as long as we followed his rules about what we could and could not shoot. Basically, we could record the preparation for the ceremony, but once he and Martin entered the lodge, we had to turn the camera off. We were set…

…until a freak storm that dropped 18 inches of snow forced Leo to postpone his trip by a day. Thankfully, the next day arrived and it was perfect, and true to his word Leo came down from Canada and met us at Martin’s house. We all got goose bumps when we realized the date was November 11th…Veterans Day. The heavy snow had inundated the lodge, and there was quite a bit of work to do to prepare the structure. Martin was behind schedule, so at first, there was a fair amount of tension in the air as Doug recorded the preparations, and he and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. As we got closer to the ceremony, though, Leo and Martin loosened up and we were able to collect great footage, and also do an interview with Leo next to the lodge. When it came time for the ceremony, Leo allowed Doug to record a prayer he says before entering the lodge, and then the plan was for Doug to leave the immediate area and collect some landscape shots. I was asked to join Leo, Martin, and Martin’s uncle Humphrey inside the lodge for the sweat. So Doug left, and I entered the lodge and sat between Martin and Leo. I soon realized that Leo was gazing at me intently, and I began to feel quite uncomfortable. Our eyes met, and after a few moments, Leo’s stare turned into a smile. “So, Geronimo (he could never remember my name), where’s your cameraman?” I explained that I’d sent him away as per our agreement. “Well,” said Leo, “there’s a few things I’d like to say before the ceremony actually starts, and he is welcome to enter the lodge and record them.” Given the sensitivity that normally accompanies Native ceremonies, such an invitation is extremely rare, if not unheard of.

Leo Pard in the Sweat Lodge

Leo Pard in the Sweat Lodge

It was an unexpected gift that I could never have imagined, even as a Plan A.

Being Cowboy in a Digital World

As we all know times have changed and few things are as they were.

Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad. Mostly though, it’s just life.

Three young women talked about this on a discussion panel during the 30th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering last week, tackling the issue of Being Cowboy in a Digital World. One might think that the panelists, Jolyn Young, Jessica Hedges, and Jessie Veeder have their heads down over cell phones or Ipads most of the time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

All three women have diverse yet similar backgrounds in ranching and how they use the internet. Jolyn is a 26 year old cowboy’s wife and mother of one who lives on a remote ranch on the edge of the Jarbridge Wilderness in Nevada. She writes for the Nevada Rancher and uses her blog and Facebook to keep up with friends and family. The internet also allows her to research and submit her stories in a way she would not have access to otherwise.

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Jessica is a 25 year old cowboy’s wife and mother of two who lives on the ZX Ranch in Paisley, Oregon. She began using social media and blogging as a way to promote her cowboy poetry, but was also able to create an accessories line, The Buckarette Collection, that she markets via Facebook.  Jessica has found a better connection with her audience and customers because they have a relationship when they finally meet at a show or in her booth.

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Jessie is 30 years old and owns a ranch with her husband on the edge of the Badlands in western North Dakota while traveling extensively as a singer/songwriter and speaker. She began blogging as a way to tell her personal story and it has blossomed into a photography passion and a way to promote her brand. When Jessie also has a regular column in the Fargo Forum and uses the internet to contribute regularly to other publications.

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Yes, these ladies discussed the opportunities technology and social media have given them as wives and mothers in ranching communities but also how things are just the same.  Jolyn recently posted in her blog, “there still is no app for doctoring calves or how to shape your hat.”

The Western Folklife Center is hoping to initiate things kinds of conversations and more in the gatherings to come. What topics would you like to see discussed?

 

By Jessica Hedges

http://www.jessicahedgescowboypoetry.com

Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show

By Robin Wignall

NCPG14 Trail's End Ranch Radio by Gib Meyers

Fred Newman, Jerry Brooks and DW Groethe rehearsing the Trails End Ranch Radio Show.

The Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show is produced in the style of Prairie Home Companion and other radio shows of the old-style ilk. It is approachable for folks who are new to the cowboy poetry scene but has enough tooth to keep the veteran attendee interested as well. The show is highly entertaining to watch. I experienced the gambit of emotions—from laughing, to stomping my feet along to a great tune, to tearing up in sadness. It is worth the price of a ticket! And, there are still tickets available for the Friday 8:30 “airing” of the show at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, according to my inside source.

Written by singer-songwriter Stephanie Davis, the Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show features several vignettes, recitations from various famous cowboy poets, humorous faux ads and music played by the Trail’s End Ranch Hand Band. Fred Newman of Prairie Home Companion fame features prominently in the show. His table of sound-effects “instruments” includes a balloon to make alien sounds, glasses, beer bottles, a box of what sounded like aluminum recycling, a pair of old shoes and a roasting pan. I found myself wondering how he gets through TSA at the airport!

Poets DW Groethe, Henry Real Bird and Jerry Brooks are featured in the show. Groethe and Brooks even play characters in some of the skits. Groethe plays an alien with the assistance of a coffee can (you have to see it to believe it—its quite cool). Brooks plays a chuck-wagon gourmet well-versed in the preparation of roadkill. While Real Bird doesn’t participate in any of the skits. he recites several of his poems, interlaced with his native Crow Indian language.

The opening act is a paean to bailing twine. As any ranch kid knows, bailing twine holds the world together, and according to the show’s song, “is more useful than a ginzu knife at a Donner Party reunion.” Among other uses noted in the song are a leash for your pet lizard and a belt to hold your pants up. No matter what the problem, “the solution may be sitting on the dash of your truck…always carry bailing twine.”

There are multiple ads for made-up companies including Levitation Coffee for when you need to cowboy up, Western Brew Sarsaparilla with its natural mood enhancing agents, and a shady realty company that could take your ranch from cows to condos in 90 days or less.

Not all of the recitations are light-hearted. Brooks and Real Bird both recite  poems that are emotionally and intellectually stimulating. All three of the poems are about love, but not in that sickening romantic comedy way. I think Henry Real Bird said it best: “love is there like a robin in the winter sky.”

The show is sponsored by the Interculture Foundation. Tickets available at westernfolklife.org.