Tag Archives: Elko

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.

 

Ramblin’ Jack

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I’ll be thinking of my friend Jack this coming week in Elko, Nevada, one of the first hands I shook at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1989, as we waited to get our schedule of sessions, poetry and song. I had to introduce myself, having watched him perform at the Ashgrove many times in the late 60s. Our direct link to Woody Guthrie and the pure heart of the working man, he’s been magically expressing himself on stage for over 60 years.

 

 

WPC — “Express Yourself”

 

AT THE HEART OF THINGS

                                A rattlesnake coils among cold stones,
                                full of mice, waits for evening
                                when he will hunt again.

                                               – Linda M. Hasselstrom (“Morning News
                                                                    on Windbreak Road”)

No feast on Dry Creek, no dance among the trees –
no amount of words rhymed with earth will change
the arrogance of men primping in the light.

We do not breathe by their generosity, nor believe
they may, someday, be gods – saviors of a nation
always at war with what it can’t comprehend.

We have forgotten, perhaps we never heard
the silent mantra of the harvest strum in our heads –
hands busy, bodies bent, genuflecting in the dirt.

Or been of a tribe of men, women and communities
that still rise to raise a glass to that great expanse
that feeds us all we need, sparingly. Riding out

alone, do you remember conversations with living
and dead? Did you mark the granite outcrop,
hang words in an oak tree, or just let them loose

on a hawk’s wing? If only Jeffers’ perch-mates,
power and desire – not greed – might roost in
Washington, we’d dedicate his fountain to humanity.

*               *               *               *               *               *               *               *

As the dust settles, I am reminded of Andy Warhol’s famous ’15 minutes of fame’ quote in 1968 after the hullabaloo of the recent NY Times’ piece,
‘For Cowboy Poets, Unwelcome Spotlight in Battle Over Spending’
Dry Crik Journal received nearly 4,000 visits and 14 assorted comments in the 3 days following. Not unwelcome because that’s what we’ve been about here, sharing, trying to offer glimpses of a grounded way of life that we think consists of a bit more than what’s assumed by the majority. The referenced Robinson Jeffer’s poem: ‘THE EXCESSES OF GOD’ is worth a read, wonderfully applicable. Linda Hasselstrom’s poem is forthcoming from Dry Crik Review.