Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Late last fall we heard about a cowboy poetry gathering in Utah. We've always enjoyed cowboy poetry because it's humorous, pretty down to earth and the kind of thing that most country folk can relate to. . . and we are country folk after all! And besides, we love doing something a little unusual and a cowboy poetry gathering in a rural Utah community seemed like the perfect makings for a fun weekend.

Heber City's Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair just celebrated it's 14th year. It all started with a conversation between some local ranchers and cowboys who admitted they knew a few good stories and poems. They decided to pool their talents, invite a few local musicians and poets and have a "Cowboy Poetry Gathering." So the first weekend in November--after most of the ranch work was done--they reserved the town hall, cooked up some dutch oven chili and stuck up some posters around town advertising the event. They didn't know whether 15 or 50 would show up, but when 250 people came they knew they were on to something good. From those humble beginnings, Heber's Cowboy Poetry Gathering is now attracting people from all across the country who come to enjoy a weekend of great western music, stories and good clean fun. This year nearly 10,000 people came to enjoy the three day event.

We arrived Friday morning at the train depot of the "Heber Creeper"--Heber City's famous old train. It was a cool, crisp autumn morning and while we were waiting to board the train we were served an assortment of bagels, muffins and hot chocolate. And as we ate, we were entertained by some local musicians and poets who were standing in front of the depot. What a fun way to start the day!

Once we boarded the train, a group of two or three musicians came to each of the cars on the train and entertained us. It was like going back in time to sit there on those old bench seats and listen to the sounds of the train as it rolled down the track.
The train cars really did sway alot. The musicians had to do a good balancing act just to stay upright because there was so much motion. But all that just added to the atmosphere and the fun of the event.

After each group played a few songs, then they followed by a cowboy poet. The poets and many of the musicians were real working cowboys. . .not just cowboy wanabes. You could tell by their hands (as well as their hats and boots) that they were "The Real Deal". This cowboy poet, Stan Tixier, from Eden Utah was a real character.

Not only was he a great entertainer, he has written a western novel, writes his own poems, raises and trains horses and has pretty much made a life long career on all things western. His trademark "hip flask" (a tabasco bottle) gives you a little insight into his general attitude towards life. He believes in adding a little spice to everything in his life and there's the evidence!

Throughout the train ride every half hour or so, another group of entertainers would come to our car and sing some good ole western songs. Each group had it's own style--and all of them were very entertaining. The poets were so funny. Their poems were about the things they knew like working with horses and cattle, raising families, ranch life--just whatever their view of life or where their experiences took them. They were all so good. The great western music, poetry and the old train ride made for a great combination. We were making some great memories!

This is a view from the window as the train made its way back to Heber. We were in the first car next to the engine going out of Heber, and on the way back, we were the last car because the engine switched places on the train. On the return trip our car really swayed because we were now in the last car. One of the poets said," It's so rough because we were riding in the big ruts we'd made on the way out! "

Throughout the year, the Heber Creeper does several fun sounding events. They do a Christmas train ride, a murder mystery-who done it type ride, and lots of other fun sounding events. It would be a fun family event for anyone looking for a little different experience to do with your families.

After our train ride, we went to Wasatch High School in Heber where the rest of the weekends events were being held. We had tickets to see Wylie and the Wild West in the afternoon and then just catch as many of the other entertainers as we could throughout the rest of the day. We had seen Wylie before so we knew what a good performer he was. He has some great songs and we loved his show again. Before Wylie performed, we watched an act called "Sourdough Slim". He was kind of a goofy looking guy, but boy was he funny!
With a line up of performers like Michael Martin Murphey, Wylie and the Wild West, The Bar J Wranglers, Poet Waddie Mitchell, and groups with names like Prickly Pair, Saddle Strings, Red Dessert Ramblers, Open Range, Root Beer Reunion, and Stampede, if you weren't into cowboy songs and stories you were in the wrong place.
Besides all the poets and musicians the Gathering also featured a Mountain Man Traders Camp. All the traders were dressed in period correct clothing and showing things like pottery, frontier clothing, blacksmithing, dutch oven cooking, and other interesting things connected with mountain men and their way of life. Tents were arranged like they would have been for a mountain men rendezvous. It was like going back in time. . .and having someone who could give you a little history about that period of time. Seeing those things reminded me how hard life would have been on the frontier--it required tough people. I'm sure glad I don't have to work that hard now.
We closed out a great day by dancing to the music of Wylie and the Wild West. We danced until midnight to some great music and then drove back to Lani's. We had such a wonderful time spending the day together seeing interesting things, enjoying good music and being entertained by some great poets. I'm sure it won't be the last time we attend the Cowboy Poetry Gathering!

No comments: