Writer lets a big rank bull out of his pen | SierraSun.com

Writer lets a big rank bull out of his pen

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sierra Sun

How wonderful it would be if we were totally free and shared everything.

But freedom, and free spirits, is more Hallmark greeting card, sing-songy sentiment than legal tender and does not guarantee smooth sailing up the enigmatic, systematic, erratic economic, political and social ladder. Free spirits are more likely to be left hanging than ascending.

No matter what rung of the apocalyptic ladder you’re on, there is only one way to do things in this ever-so-formal, pigeon-holed, I’m-never-wrong, dog-eat-dog world if you want to succeed without falling off backwards and getting your bell rung.

Climb the ladder thinking you can speak frankly, as if everyone was one big, happy-go-lucky family full of optimism, laissez’ faire’, honesty and humility only makes you one naïve sucker. The ladder for you will be more like a death gauntlet than an opportunity to reach new heights. Somebody might just shove you off at Christmas time.

But, there are those who succeed in spite of living radically unconventional lives. Of all the aristocrats, fat cats, top hats, juggernauts, hot shots and normal people crawling all over each other to climb the ladder, my heroes are the free spirits, the unconventional drifters who either make their own ladder or soar on mythical wings and do the impossible ” people like cowboys, and cowboy poets, ski instructors, actors and musicians. People like these defy tradition and choose a life everyone else tells them can only lead to misery and failure, and they prove the naysayers wrong.

These are the people I admire most. They are the ones who fully experience life, and embrace equally the mundane and the profound. Although their lives are not without complexity and stress, they remain simple and unruffled. They defy tradition, to fill a need created by tradition. They become tradition, but are not confined or defined by outside forces. They know it’s what’s on the inside that counts. They make history and refuse to take the credit. Without pretense or self absorption they stay true to their own unique way of being. They may not grow wealthy, but they leave behind treasures wherever they go. They are fair dinkum, which is Australian for “the real deal.”

Those who have had the good fortune to sing with them, work with them, drink with them, ride with them, laugh and cry with them, are forever blessed with memories more precious than gold.

Now I’m starting to sound like a Hallmark greeting card. My trip to the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival last week must have inspired me to let a big rank bull out of my pen. Don’t want to paint too pretty a picture of the world. Stick to the truth.

In San Francisco I wined and dined, cafe’d and latte’d with multi-millionaires and financiers, took in a dive on Valencia Street with proper preppies, grungy grease monkeys, flamboyant swishers and retired retreads listening to bluegrass music.

The name of the club was Amnesia, and I forgot where I parked my car.

In Monterey I met the hilarious cowboy poet and former rodeo buckaroo Pat Richardson, and Paul Zarzyski, a polish poet from Montana, both incredible entertainers in their own right. Pat has a great story about being told by his father that coconuts were pony eggs.

I did some volunteer work for the festival and saw most of the shows, including the feature artist, singer and songwriter Ian Tyson. But the big hit was the music of Wiley and the Wild West.

Wiley Gustafson is a superb yodeler. You’ve all heard him. He does the yodel-like background hoot for the Yahoo commercial, and had to sue to get paid for it.

Radical events create tradition. Conform or rebel, your contribution to life, hopefully, will be recognized as valid and taken seriously. If we happen to disagree, or rub each other the wrong way, we can still learn to share. Sure. And coconuts are really pony eggs.