Over the course of four b-e-a-utiful October days in southwest Colorado, the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering entertained several thousand visitors with myriad offerings.
There were poetry readings, music, and art showcased around town, during the day and at nightly, sold out performances at the historic Strater Hotel and elsewhere. Suffice to say: around these parts, the odd man out was the one without cowboy boots and hat.
My favorite elements were the Cowboy Poetry Ride,
the parade (the largest motor-less parade in the state), and the exhibit of William Matthews’ watercolors at the Durango Arts Center. Matthews, who was in attendance, has a well-earned reputation for exquisitely capturing the modern-day working cowboy. Over the course of several decades, his subjects have included horseman and saddle maker Scott Brown, saddle maker and silversmith Jeremiah Watt, and horseman and poetry reciter Randy Rieman.
The Gathering’s ride got its start over 20 years ago, said Anne Rapp, who runs Rapp Corral and supervised about 40 guests and several wranglers on the splendid, six-mile trek. After an hour through the San Juan National Forest, riders were treated to a catered lunch (chili, salad, wine, coffee, and more), campfire, poetry recitation by Jerry Brooks with music by Mike Beck.
Horses. Fall colors. Mountains. Good company. What’s not to love?
The event annually sells out in June or July, according to Rapp.
“It’s a good day on horseback,” she added.
Linda Mannix, the gathering’s coordinator, said the ride added authenticity to the event. “This is how cowboy poetry started, around the campfire. They talked with each other. There was no social media,” said Mannix.
At the next day’s parade, spectators were a mix of locals and tourists. All seemed to have a keen appreciation of western U.S. culture. Pairs or foursomes of draft horses pulled impressively restored carriages. Drivers and riders dressed in costumes straight out of the 1880’s.
Planning a trip to these parts? Mark your calendar for next year: the Gathering runs September 29-October 2.