Tag Archives: Elko

Elko – My Favorite Kids

 

 

Always a joy to see Brigid & Johnny “Guitar” Reedy at the Gathering, to see how they’ve matured both on and off stage. Performing at the Gathering since she was two, Brigid made the cover of Alta Magazine on January 1, 2020. Now 19, she and Johnny (14) have been writing their own songs and Brigid has been writing a little poetry as well. A great show Monday night! We also caught a set with them on stage with Ernie Sites and the Sagebrush Ramblers at the the Stockman’s.

All recent history, we’re branding calves this morning.

 

Elko 2020

 

 

On our way home from the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Robbin and I replay a collage of meaningful moments, fragments of conversations, poetry and music as we cross the Great Basin. Avoiding I-80 and Donner, taking the longer, southern route over Tehachapi instead, it has become like Groundhog Day, both coming and going over the years as we cross the pastel sagebrush expanse of the high desert.

Since 1989, I’ve watched the Gathering evolve from strictly traditional recitations to more contemporary expression rooted in a hands-on, rural ethic of the livestock culture where a man’s word is still his bond, where neighbors trade labor and the land offers a living for those tough enough to endure the whims of the weather. With more hugs than handshakes, it has become a reunion where respect remains high, but we’ve lost a few of the best along the way.

With many new faces, an obvious effort to inject some youth into the offering, it was invigorating and inspirational. Included in a great session with poets Forest VonTuyl from Oregon, Jonathon Odermann from North Dakota and singer-songwriter Tracy Morrison from Idaho, I was assured that the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will survive with renewed energy and originality. My kudos to the staff for locating so much young talent residing in the West.

I always look forward to visiting and reading with one of my favorites, Patricia Frolander, past-Poet Laureate of Wyoming, pictured above. Robbin and I will continue to replay the moments as we get down to the business of branding calves. It’s good to be home.

 

AT MACHI’S

 

 

The Elko undercurrents
often missed by journalists,
the thoughtful streams
of love and long respect
retained for old friends—
those profound associations
not secreted away,
but obvious.

My right hand offered
held in his both
as he contemplates
my eyes, and I his.
We breathe deeply.

Two gray old men
standing silent,
face to face
stretching time
within a loud crowd,
we block the aisle
beside a tableful of friends,
warm food and wine.

We know we are rare
birds in these fast times,
reading, writing poetry—
reaching for what we know
exists: like the language
of horses, cattle and people
who live on the land
it takes a lifetime to learn
and understand.

                                  for Joel Nelson

 

Ramblin Jack Elliott

 

 

One of a kind! By my reckoning, it was over fifty years ago when I first heard Jack at the Ashgrove. Amazing!

 

I Found Myself in Elko


As we were leaving Cowboy Joe’s with coffee, Bob spotted me this morning in downtown Elko, on Cedar Creek’s store window—an aged portrait by Kevin Martini-Fuller with my poem “Our Time”, dedicated to our neighbors at home, Virginia and Kenny McKee.

By scanning the bar code in lower left hand corner, you can hear my recitation of the poem or see ‘Audio Poems’ in the menu above.

WELCOME WINTER

 

 

How I welcome winter now
as the sun slides south
towards Arizona,
towards old friends
that graze red rockpiles
we will meet in Nevada—
too far away to worry,
livestock on its own.

I can hear the harmonies
reverberate, cat gut
atop thin slices of spruce
from Canada—I feel
my heart lift away
from the maladies
our fears and guilt have made
insurmountable.

How I welcome winter’s
gathering, branding smoke
on weather-slick roads,
bull-stretched fences
and dear neighbors
gearing up-for one last holler
to all the gods
that have sustained us.

 

From Benton, CA

 

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Heading into Bishop on our way home from Elko, Monday afternoon, the east side of the Great Western Divide shimmered with luxurious snow while it was storming on the other side, against the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills. By the time we made it home on Tuesday, the rain was finishing up, 1.22″ in the gauge as the creek was gaining momentum from the four-plus inches upstream, from its low-elevation headwaters less than 20 miles away. The foothills are saturated, every crease and crevice now collecting every drop of rain to send downstream. Roads are closed, creeks and streams flooding, dams failing.

Fast-forward to Thursday night, another warm, pineapple express will arrive here, forecast to bring another 1.5″ of rain, and who knows how much precipitation at the higher elevations that may also reduce our existing snowpack. This is not a part of our historic 4-year drought; the pendulum has swung to the other extreme.

“Story” was the story, the theme at Elko this year, kicked off by Andy Wilkinson’s spellbinding, poetic keynote address last Thursday morning entitled “Storyline”. With offerings more diverse than ever before, audio, video and all forms of visual art blended well with the poetry and music. I’ve maintained for years that the keynote address sets the tone for the Gathering, but never more true than this year. Currently sequestered inside with current weather conditions and the near-term wet forecast, Dry Crik Press is working with Andy Wilkinson to reprint “Storyline” in chapbook form.

Meanwhile back at the ranch it’s a warm 72 degrees as we batten down the hatches in preparation for Thursday.

 

Great Basin Revisited

 

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Robbin and I have been crossing the Great Basin from Tonopah to Carlin in January for twenty years, choosing the longer route to Elko instead of I-99 towards Sacramento congestion and Donner Pass. Once known as the World’s Loneliest Highway, going home we met only a couple of vehicles on Highway 278 towards Eureka, Monday morning February 1st, after Sunday’s storm.

Twenty years ago, everyone waved a passing hello when meeting a vehicle on these back roads, but the habit seems to have waned in the past few years. I never fail to wonder about the first wagon crossings, the weeks it took to overcome this high desert expanse, the people, their courage and endurance, as they made the trek. How many of us today would have done as well, invested the patience and dedication to get to a place, presumably California, that they’d never seen?

 

GROUNDHOG’S DAY: LAST BREAKFAST

 

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Robbin and I have made the trek to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, where we were married twenty years ago, so many times that it seems like Groundhog’s Day. We split the 720 mile trip into two days, laying over in Bishop, stopping at the same places for gas and a snack or a meal, the same motel, right down to virtually the same heavy coats and winter shoes. One almost instant replay after another.

Yet always something new, some detail or happenstance to change the course of events, to make every Gathering a little different, a little richer. This year the weather was a player.

 

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LEAVING ELKO 2015

 

Like scattered birds, they circle back
hovering, fragments of faces, bits
of song fluttering and floating before me,

moments searching for a place to roost
within memory. Some high and bold
on bare branches singing yet, singing

always, while others light behind
a rustling wall of leaves to build nests,
mate and incubate quietly within me.