Cow Camp in the Big Horn Mountains – An Ultimate Western Experience

By Teresa Jordan

When Jesselie and Scott Anderson and Bob and Katharine Garth, longtime supporters of the Western Folklife Center, saw the Ultimate Western Experience packages offered in the silent auction during the last National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, they knew they wanted to go on at least one of them. They started bidding and in the end won two out of the four offerings. This past week they enjoyed their first adventure, at Stan and Mary Flitner’s White Creek cow camp in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. They invited my husband, WFC Founding Director Hal Cannon, and me to join them, and the six of us were treated to three days of stunning scenery and Wyoming’s best outback hospitality.

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The adventure started at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West with a personal tour from the illustrious Alan Simpson, the former Wyoming U. S. Senator and Buffalo Bill Center Board Chairman who is known for his colorful turns of phrase and wide-ranging areas of expertise and enthusiasm. Although the Senator, now 86, carries a walking stick, it is not for support so much as to propel him at his characteristic long-legged gallop. Don’t tarry, don’t tarry, he constantly reminded us as he squired us through the five separate museums that make up the center—the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, and the Cody Firearms Museum. Left to right: Bob and Katharine Garff, Jesselie and Scott Anderson, Senator Alan Simpson.

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From Cody we headed up into the Big Horn Mountains and arrived at Stan and Mary Flitner’s White Creek cow camp just in time for dinner.

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Stan was stirring the coals under the Dutch oven, well on his way to making the best fried
chicken any of us had ever eaten.

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He also treated us to his Dutch oven sourdough bread followed the next morning with sour dough pancakes.

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After breakfast, Stan and Mary showed us the lay of the land. From here, we could look down at Shell Creek and the Big Horn River to Cody and across to Red Lodge and the Bear Tooth Mountains.

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Later, Mary read to us from her forthcoming memoir, a story of family ranching and the many generations of experience that have shaped Stan’s and her lives, and which they have in turn passed down to their children.

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The title of Mary’s book is A Detailed Map of the Trail. Perhaps she should use this map on the cover!

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Hal sang Texas Traveler, a song popular with African American cowboys in the 19th century as they herded cows north from Texas.

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Laura Bell came to Wyoming in 1977 from Kentucky and herded sheep before she started night calving for Flitners. What she thought was a six-week stint turned into six years, an experience we got a taste of as she read to us from her acclaimed memoir, Claiming Ground.

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Everyone pitched in to make this an extraordinary experience. We discovered that Scott has a talent for pot scrubbing.

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Girls just want to have fun! Right to left: Jesselie, Mary, Laura, Katharine, and Teresa.

Mary always has fun. Here, she shares a joke that only someone with a life of experience with cows can tell properly.

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The last morning we woke to snow – as if it wasn’t already hard to leave this beautiful place!

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New friends in an old West … Mary, Bob, Stan and Katharine

Our heartfelt thanks to Stan and Mary Flitner, Laura Bell, and Senator Alan Simpson for giving us what was truly an Ultimate Western Experience. As Jesselie said over breakfast our last morning, “This adventure was so much richer than I could ever have envisioned that now I can’t imagine going through life without having experienced it.”

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Thank you, Mary and Stan. And the dogs were welcoming, too!

Teresa Jordan is a member of the Western Folklife Center’s National Advisory Council and a former member of the Board of Trustees. She is a well-known writer and artist and is married to Hal Cannon, founder of the Western Folklife Center and a member of the Utah band 3hattrio.

Storytelling and Telling Your Story

 

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Mark Paris and Mary Jean Paris talked about life in America in their StoryCorps interview.

From Basque sheepherder tales, to ingenuous escapades of small-town business-owners, to the working lingo of gold mines, to adrenaline-pumping perils fighting wildfires, the Western Folklife Center knows there’s a wealth of lived experience around Elko. And beyond. We want to hear your story! Share the everyday stories of your loved ones (and maybe even your not-so-loved ones), through our collaborative project between the Western Folklife Center, StoryCorps.me, and… you!

You may know StoryCorps—the innovative, nationwide, oral history project—from their National Public Radio show or their trademark airstream trailer recording booths that travel the country giving people a chance to sit down together to record a conversation. Couples explain the turning points in their relationships. Enemies reconcile with new friends. Mentees recognize mentors. Elders invoke oral history on their own terms. Neighbors share remembrances about helping each other out. In short, people honor the wisdom of their friends and loved ones, and, sometimes, even strangers, by recording a self-guided conversation in small groups of two or three.

Did you ever wish you’d recorded your grandmother telling you how she’d perfected her meatball recipe by happenstance? Or your father explaining how he harvests edible cactus? Do you want to ask your child what it felt like to learn a major life lesson? Or hear how that stranger at the nursing home won that ballroom dancing medal? Think it would be easier from the comfort of your kitchen table or a hospital room? Well, now there’s an app for that!

The goal is to archive the knowledge of humanity, one story at a time, through stories of the people by the people. With more than 50,000 interviews recorded so far, StoryCorps is gradually amassing a time capsule of humanity, in the form of 40-minute recorded conversations. These stories are stored in the Library of Congress, and, if you choose, published on the internet. Let’s make sure some of these 50,000+ stories reflect life the way you know it!

There are two ways to do this. Let us help or do-it-yourself:

2016 National Cowboy Poetry GatheringNeed some assistance with the process? Schedule an appointment and join us at the Western Folklife Center, under the glow of the neon granding irons, in our very own recording booth, Elko-style! Facilitators, volunteers and folklorists are on hand to help. But, ultimately, you choose the questions, you guide the conversation and you bring out the stories in each other.

Simply download the mobile app at StoryCorps.me, plan and record your interview. When finished, join us by affiliating your story with the Western Folklife Center initiative: at the end of the interview, when prompted, enter the keyword: westernfolklife. And listen to your neighbors’ stories by following our account at https://storycorps.me/user/wfcstorycorps/.

The premise is simple: as StoryCorps founder Dave Isay says, “Listening is an act of love.” Ask someone else-a loved one or a stranger-what they know about life. Let them leave a trace of themselves. And listen to what they have to tell you. And to tell us. It’s a legacy for humanity. But it’s also an exercise in humanity. Let’s listen to the stories of those who share the rural West with us.

It’s nearly time to get your tickets to the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

WFC_8495 33rd NCPG Poster_smallestReal Stories. Straight Up.
If you are planning to attend the 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we suggest you come prepared…with your favorite story! The event, January 30 to February 4, 2017, will be an extravaganza of stories, first-hand accounts told in verse, song, film, visual art, new media, and just plain ol’ prose. All around Elko you’ll experience today’s renaissance of storytelling–tales rich with lessons learned, risk-taking, humor, heroes, neighbors and family. We are especially excited to be hosting The Moth Mainstage at the Gathering. The Moth is a leader in the national resurgence of storytelling performance and can be heard on National Public Radio.

Sit back and listen or join in with your own stories. Interested in documenting stories from your life? Sign up for a digital storytelling or oral history workshop or recording session at our StoryCorps booth. Curious about new and old avenues of sharing experience? Attend a roundtable conversation with bloggers, radio and video producers, journalists, cowboy sages and visual artists. From the keynote address to the last show of the Gathering, we’ll honor the tradition of storytelling, as told to the best audiences for the performed word in the rural West.

Ticket Sales Begin September 6 for Western Folklife Center Members
If you want the best seats in the house and want to be sure you get to see your favorite performers in an evening show, you best be a member of the Western Folklife Center. Members get to buy their tickets a full month before the general public, starting at 9:00 am PST on Tuesday, September 6. Membership starts at $40 for an individual, and since you get a free ticket to one of two members’-only shows with that (value $40), your membership is FREE. So, visit our membership page and join online, or contact Carolyn Trainor, our membership guru, at 775-738-7508/888-880-5885 ext 222 or membership@westernfolklife.org, and she will hook you up with the membership level that is right for you.

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American Songster Dom Flemons by Charlie Ekburg

Ticketed Shows and Workshops
Have you visited our new Gathering website? All of the ticketed shows and workshops are detailed there at www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org. The 33rd Gathering will feature Doug Moreland and the Flying Armadillos from Texas and rising star Luke Bell Kicking up Dust on the big stage to open the main event. Corb Lund is back as is American Songster Dom Flemons, a huge favorite from last year. Ian Tyson has fully recovered and will be gracing our stages once more as will so many other Gathering favorites! If you’ve never tried a workshop during the Gathering, this could be your year. We’ve got digital storytelling and oral history workshops, cooking with celebrity chef Kent Rollins, horsehair hitching, songwriting, rawhide braiding, and dancing, dancing and more dancing. We will be sharing much more Gathering news between now and January 30 on this blog and website, so check back often! And get your tickets early!

 

Visit Our New Website!

WFC-bannerWe invite you to visit our newly renovated website at www.westernfolklife.org. Thanks to everyone who worked on its construction and to the funders who supported the work, we are better able to serve you, our members and supporters. We hope you like the results!

You’ll find the site more intuitive –  everything within a click or two away. One of the goals of this renovation is to make communication easier and more concise. You should be able to find what you’re looking for within a pull-down menu if not directly with a button on the cover page. A work in progress, we welcome your comments and recommendations for ongoing improvement.

One facet of our mission is to provide opportunities to tell the real stories of the contemporary rural West. Our National Cowboy Poetry Gathering delivers that opportunity in a big way in real time every winter (January 30 – February 4, 2017). We hope that our website becomes the digital home for continuing the storytelling and poetry and ranch land culture-sharing that happens at the Gathering through conversations on our blog. Our large inventory of YouTube videos and Deep West media projects, both audio and video, carry on the storytelling tradition. You can access these stories and performances with links here.

The Western Folklife Center has been “gathering” these stories, songs, poems and topical panel discussions from its beginning. Since 1985 and the first Gathering in Elko, Nevada, showcasing ranch culture in the present tense–as told by the cowboys, ranchers, and diverse ethnic agrarian communities of the West (and the world)–has become the driving vision and modus operandus for the organization. A community was launched back then, first by cowboy poets once unaware of others like themselves with rhymes in their hip pockets, ranchers and townsfolk, and then tourists arriving along el Camino I-80. And that community continues to grow and diversify to this day just as the West grows and diversifies. We’ve become a bridge for those steeped in deep Western traditions and those drawn to the West for a thousand different reasons. With our knowledge of traditional folkways, we beam a light and lend an ear to the sights and sounds of the changing landscape of ranch culture. We become creative place keepers.

We hope this website helps spread the word and keeps the faith in rural values that we share in common. Thank you.

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David Roche
Executive Director

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.