Rapping about the Old West
You won’t hear any Garth Brooks covers at the Cowboy Poetry and Music event at McIver Area on Tuesday. But you will hear just about everything else, from yodeling to songs about the Old West to goofy poetry about the ranch.
“It preserves an historical tradition,” said Pete Charles, a Truckee resident who will play at Tuesday’s event with his daughter, Jenni. “The way to keep these traditions alive is to sing it. I do it strictly in the interest of preserving the tradition of the Old West.”
Cowboy poetry dates back to the times after the Civil War era. The form of oral tradition was a way for cowboys to keep stories from their adventures alive through poetry and song. Today it’s a means of keeping the culture of the Old West alive.
Modern day cowboy poetry styles range from the silly ” like Sourdough Slim, who gets a rise out of the audience by yodeling and playing the accordion ” to the serious, like former Truckee resident Larry Maurice, who recites classic poems through song.
“I have a tendency to be more on the traditional side, probably because I grew up with classical poetry,” said Maurice, who now lives in Nevada’s Palomino Valley.
Others who will perform Tuesday night include Pat Richardson ” who Maurice describes as the “George Carlin of cowboy poetry” ” and Sourdough Slim ” who Maurice calls “everybody’s favorite sidekick.”
Dan Seaborg, who lives in the Russell Valley just outside of Truckee, starting performing cowboy poetry after a campout with Maurice 15 years ago.
“I fell in love with the stuff,” Seaborg said. “It’s relaxing to me. Some people sail or go out jogging. If something is bugging me, I memorize poetry.”
Even though Truckee’s cowboy presence is diminishing, Maurice said it’s “non-cowboy people” who really get a kick out of the poetry gatherings.
“It’s always fun to preach to the choir,” Maurice said, “but the idea is that if I can go to people who’ve never heard (cowboy poetry) ” and they enjoy it ” it’s a lot of fun.”
As part of Western Week and Truckee Rodeo this year, the Truckee Donner Horsemen are sponsoring a youth essay contest. The contest is open to all young people in the Truckee area.
Children can submit either a cowboy poem or an essay on any aspect of the West. The entry should not be more than 1,000 words and will be judged by a select group of educators. The age groups are: under 10 years old, 11-14, 15-18.
The winners will get to read their work (or have it read) to the public at the Cowboy Poetry and Music gathering on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Prizes will be awarded for the various categories. The event will be held at the McIver Rodeo Arena.
Essays need to be mailed to Truckee Donner Horsemen, PO Box 133, Truckee, CA 96160. Entries must be post marked by Aug. 5. For information, call 587-5555 or truckeerodeo.com.