Would it be fair to call Yakima “cowboy country”?
West Valley, Wiley City, the Wenas and Moxee are all home to horses…lots and lots of horses.
Northwest rodeos are some of the best
In fact, Yakima sits right in the middle of two of America’s top ten rodeos.
With its beginnings dating back to 1923, this historic rodeo has grown from a local competition between ranches to a professional event that sees more than 600 cowboys and cowgirls compete for prizes of up to $400,000. The arena is considered by many to be the best in the United States and is one of the many reasons so many people attend this fun Labor Day weekend event.
And south of Yakima is Pendelton, Oregon, home to America’s Number 9 Rodeo. It’s two hours and 9 minutes by car, a little more in a beaten-up pick-up truck pulling a horse trailer!
The Pendleton Round-Up rodeo attracts over 50,000 visitors to the center of Oregon’s rodeo country… Its roots date back to 1910. The list of events includes competitions like wild cow milking, Indian relay races and all traditional rodeo events.
What’s special about this week
I bring up the Yakima – Cowboy connection today because today is a special day in the telling of western history. Not for a deadly western shootout, bank robbery, or cattle drive, but for a quick draw with words and a direct storytelling purpose. Today marks the start of National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Week, held annually around this time in Elko, Nevada.
From a very young memory, I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy…and I love writing quick little rhymes like this one that wrapped up our radio show today:
I once again have a Cowboy named Joe. We went to the rodeo. He threw a calf and we shared a laugh and went to the saloon.
Granted, that’s not exactly Poet Laureate material, but that’s not what cowboy poetry is all about. The national calendar people describe it that way. “During National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Week, those with a rhyme, tune, story or skill to share, join thousands to discover the art that lives on in the American West where generations many ranch families experience the pleasure of hearing a well-told story with a new twist or two.”
For example, here is part of a poem about Wyatt Earp from American Cowboy
It is one of the most enduring tales of the West,
long after the man himself is gone.
The story has a way of mixing truth and myth so our heroes will live forever.
Wyatt Earp was glorified,
a legend from America’s past.
But trying to find the real man in the myth
could finally reveal the truth.
Ok, not bad… but we tie it all up with this one from the great plains of my imagination…
Is Yakima Cowboy Country? It’s a simple question at best. In Washington State where we gather, the Eastside is more like the Old West. We have cattle and horses, and we love and care for the land. We fly the flag of our ranches and we will always take a stand. We love our freedom and our wide open spaces and mean no harm to anyone. But play with one of us, you’ll meet the rest of us, and three times won’t be a charm. Cowboy life is a simple life because there are not so many needs for a man. A good dog and a good horse, and a pickup of course and it’s red, white and blue when you bleed.
National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Week began in 1985 with the U.S. Senate’s recognition of Elko, Nevada as the origin of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and the gathering’s contributions to the history and traditions of this form of ‘art..
To learn more about the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, visit www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.
A few of the Cowboy Poets appeared on the Johnny Carson show back in the day, and you can share a laugh or two with them at the end of this article.