Something Else To Do: Rodeo Swing

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Saturday, Thursday 2, 2013

imageToday, dancers and would be dancers gathered in the High School gym to learn rodeo swing. The event began with an informative yet simple introduction by Craig Miller and Amy Mills that got people up and moving in no time. Some attendees may have been intimidated by the dancing prospect, but Craig instilled confidence by explaining that there is “no right way to do these steps.”

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A class like this allows smiles, laughs and mistakes that result in a bunch of great dancers. Craig gives the tools needed to move feet in the right direction, and allows you to fill in the rest. If you plan on attending one of these classes be sure to leave all your bashful baggage at home because its time to dance.

Written by Mike Gamm

Water in the West: A Round Table Discussion

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Saturday, February 2, 2013

ws3Water can be a ‘dry’ subject but today’s panelists enlightened the attendees through engaging conversation about watershed development. Each speaker explained that we as a society need to widen the lens as we search for solutions to changes that are fast approaching. Water is simply a big issue in the American desert and we have the ability to engineer successful change if we approach the problems and questions with open minds. We need to recognize that both agricultural water use and drinking water are important, but they develop and sustain different forms of societal growth. There was so much in this discussion that the speakers couldn’t get to, but below is a summary of the ideas and information the panelists provided.

Jack Loeffler, “Thinking Like a Watershed” and “Headed Upstream”
Jack gave a brief, but dense history about how modern water management has been formulated. Over 120 years ago John Powell rode across the American West creating a detailed map of the territorial watershed. Powell proposed that the watersheds should be the driving factor for defining state lines so that each area could derive their own self sustaining plan. However, once the watershed had been made public, entrepreneurs descended upon those watersheds with regulation and control. This money and land grabbing has led to a focus upon money making rather than a focus upon creating regard for the land that we live on. The Law of the River in which different states were afforded fixed amounts of water is controlling water growth today and is an important part of understanding where we have come from, and the limits of where we are going.

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Lisa Hamilton, “Deeply Rooted”
Lisa spoke about how water is being utilized effectively today, and how there are practices that aren’t so well defined.  Instead of wondering why we put a million person city in the middle of the desert (like Las Vegas), we need to ask, what is important for our future and we have to ask how we will use low precipitation land effectively.  As a whole, we need to take into account the importance of regional effects, and create a relationship with water that represents where we want and need to be. “The West begins when annual rainfall falls below 20 inches,” this quote rings true the fact that western states have a distinct climate that should and does directly reflect the way we utilize water.

Alexandra Davis
To start, Lisa stated that ‘We have enough water for the West,’ but included that we need to develop a relationship with water that accurately reflects what is important when sustaining a thriving society. Most of the water comes in the winter as snow pack that will then fill rivers in the warmer months.  However,  this system of ‘water storage’ is quickly changing today.  Annual precipitation is changing from snow to rain, which will challenge our current water storing methods. The Prior Appropriation Doctrine solves many local issues but has difficulty tackling the regional water problems because it creates a winner/loser mentality.  Care for the environment and focused discussion about agricultural growth together is a key to creating a sustained system of water usage.

ws2We are focused upon our personal economic sustainability far more than the landscape in which we live. It is important to avoid growing beyond the sustaining capabilities of the land.

Written by Mike Gamm
Photos by Charlie Eckburg

Mary McCaslin

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Friday, February 1, 2013

DSC_0009Mary McCaslin has honed her style from folk’s deepest roots. Even a short performance at the Flag View Stage didn’t fail to take the audience back to some of songwriting’s best years. Her influence on contemporary Western folk music is evident with songs that explain life’s experiences through the looking glass. Her steady hands worked with the guitar effortlessly, and some could hardly wait to see her unique use of the banjo. Mary stays true to each song without flaunting her skills; allowing the audience to surrender to the music.

Written by Mike Gamm

Italian Buckaroos: Old World and New World

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Friday, February 1, 2013

The international side of this event is so vital to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering coordinators because ranch hands and bronco breakers from around the world have been so important to the culture that the American West has today. Charlie Seemann explains that horse people are horse people, and we are all able to come together in Elko and share stories that cross borders and time. All of this helps create relationships that will last a lifetime. Sharing stories of the corral and landscape reminds us that people working cattle and horses from around the world are not so different than those in the American West.

download1Today was a great showcase as the Italian duo Gianluca Zammarelli and Marco Rufo played casually before a happy audience. People enjoyed food, wine, and great company as Gianluca and Marco played songs from home.  In addition, Gianluca took time to teach the audience about their musical style and instruments.  The anatomy of the bagpipe is much like that of a family, a group of parts put together to make amazing sounds and feelings, and there is a cross hidden within the facets of the pipes to keep the devil away.

There is much to be learned about the butteri down at the Folklife Center exhibit. Here’s just a few things:

Today Italian tradition lives on in America spurred by Italian immigration West over 150 years ago. In fact, many of the cowboys and ranchers today have roots in Italy.

Blue jeans were invented in Genoa, Italy to give a strong pair of pants to sailors. It wasn’t until Levi patented the pocket’s copper rivet that the blue jean became marketed and popular in the American West.

Buffalo Bill and his troupe visited Italy eight times, and was once issued a challenge as to who may be the better bronc rider: the American cowboy or the Italian butteri.  Although the results of this challenge may vary between America and Italy today, there remains a legend that a butteri by the name of Agusto Imperiali conquered the American horse.

Written by Mike Gamm

Photos by Charlie Eckburg

Tuneful Troublemakers

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Friday, February 1, 2013

download2Glenn Ohrlin has certainly been at this for many years, and as he stepped onto the stage a 12 year old Brigid Reedy followed close. The theatrical arguments between the pair and the passing of folk tradition was magical to watch. 75 years between them certainly didn’t let on as they played great music today, and it is great knowing that the next 30 years of cowboy poetry and music will be carried on by talented young performers like Brigid.

download3First time National Cowboy Poetry Gathering visitor, Ed Peekeekoot, took the auditorium today after a standing ovation finish at the Flag View Stage yesterday. And like an old friend to the NCPG, Ed talks smooth and shows massive amounts of confidence and class. His stories about growing up on a reservation listening to friends play popular rock and roll cords is a great dimension of growing up. During those years he found his own music with influence form Chet Atkins and Merle Travis, all leading to an amazing ability to layer chords into musical melody. Ed is a fresh and fantastic way to fall in love with Western folk traditions. With the help of his wife, Gail, Ed provides a good time for everyone in attendance and comes across as the kind of person that you could stand up and party with.

Ed is fast making the list of favorite artist this year and certainly one that you shouldn’t miss out on.

Written by Mike Gamm

Photos by Charlie Eckburg

Roughstock Cocktail

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paul Zarzyski and Wally McRae by Jessica Brandi Lifland_smLast night the Roughstock Cocktail proved to be a great mix of music, poetry, and comments regarding Paul’s sagging derriere. The show’s name did not fail to provide as the amazing cast mixed equal parts of flavor and zest with music and story.

The performance opened to an audience nearly bursting at the seams, and a rousing introduction to LSD by Paul Zarzyski got the crowd’s energy pumping. The stage was not short on talent as Cowboy Celtic lulled the audience with sweet melodies, and Paul Zarzyski and Wallace McRae provided all the in- between with word and poem. Even the silent duo, Nathan and Joe, impressed the audience using their instruments to create strong stage presence. Quips and jokes by the rest of the group kept cheers and laughter pouring. Simply put, it was a great time watching this motley crew up on stage doing what they love. Giving way to good old fashion fun.

After the show an impromptu musical bash between Cowboy Celtic and the Italian duo Marco Rufo and Gianluca Zammarelli broke out in the G Three Bar Theater. And with a bit of trial and error at the beginning, the bands soon melded together keeping the those in the Pioneer Saloon entertained for hours. If you hang out at the Folklife Center long enough you’re sure to see the Italian musicians walking about playing bagpipes and accordion. It’s quite fun to see Marco and Gianluca banter back and forth about rhythm and song choice, even if you don’t understand Italian.

Written by Mike Gamm

Photo Courtesy Western Folklife Center

Young Guns

29th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Thursday, January 31, 2013

download5Last night’s “young” guns came to the G Three Bar Stage with guns blazing, each entertaining the crowd with sharp lyrics and an array of stories. Andy Hedges and Brenn Hill had the crowd moved with poetry and song, each weaving life and music together seamlessly.

download4Its great to have performers step onto the stage and immediately captivate the audience with smiles and fun. If you were looking to find spunk and heaps of heart on a National Cowboy Poetry Gathering stage then you had better seek out another show with Adrian. She certainly brought the lady fire last night and let us know that buckerettes are a tough group of gals.

Written by Mike Gamm

Photos by Charlie Eckburg