The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a whirlwind entertainment experience with talented performers singing, reciting, even gyrating. This year’s installment was no exception, with scores of standing-room-only, sold out performances and the state’s only non-mechanized parade (itself a wonderful display of horses and horsemanship.) Next year, it’s right before next year’s BestHorsePractices Summit.
Here are some highlights:
Wylie Gustafson & the Wild West
Wylie is a fifth generation Montanan who’s no stranger to hefting hay bales, tending to cattle, and raising horses. He wove stories and songs seamlessly during two energetic evening shows (complete with Wylie’s hilarious hip gyrations) with his talented four-man band.
Gustafson said his father was a veterinarian and a rancher who called long days of haying his “Character Development Program” and who sang and played guitar for the family in the evenings, after the Lawrence Welk show. Wylie’s childhood influences were, he said, Myron Floren (accordianist for Lawrence Welk) and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. No wonder he excels at cowboy and rockin’ country music.
Gustafson instills love and respect for equines in nearly every song. “Our heroes were the horses,” the performer recalled as he displayed a custom guitar with 18 horses crafted into it.
I was privileged to host a new storytelling session featuring four Colorado horsemen in one of many venues of the historic Strater Hotel. The session followed a poetry recitation gig hosted by Mike Dunn and featuring Gary McMahan. McMahan, from Bellvue, Colorado, gave us this brilliant response to Ralph Lauren’s marketing of the cologne called “Chaps.”
Reprinted here with permission.
A poem made from a letter Dick Spencer wrote to Ralph Lauren on how to pronounce the word chaps. Dick Spencer was the publisher at Western Horseman Magazine for 40 years and is also my father in law.
chaps (chàps, shàps) plural noun
Heavy leather trousers without a seat, worn over ordinary trousers by ranch hands to protect their legs.
[Short for American Spanish chaparreras, from Spanish chaparro, chaparral. See chaparral.
chap·ar·ral (shàp˝e-ràl´) noun
- A dense thicket of shrubs and small trees.
(This begins the actual poem.)
To: Mr Ralph Lauren
505 5th Ave
New York City
I seen on the TV Mr. Lauren
That you have a men’s cologne you call “chaps”
And it’s probably a manly scent
Or you wouldn’t have called it that.
I confess I’ve never used the stuff
And this may sound a little harsh
But I suspect men use cologne to hide
The fact that they didn’t warsh
So I can’t really comment on the product
Though I’m sure it smells just fine
It’s the way you say the name “chaps”
That chaps my cowboy behind
You see the name is derived
From the Spanish word chaparro well
It in turn got its name
from the word chaparral
Which again in Spanish means
A dense thicket of thorny brush and trees
Which all manner of cowboys
have ridden through for centuries
Thus needing protection for their legs
These chaparro’s were fashioned from cowhide
and are the leather leggin’s cowboys wear
That comes without a backside
Then us gringos got hold of the word
And shortened chaparro to chaps
Kinda like when we took the word
Tappaderos and condensed it to “Taps”
So that’s why “ch” is really pronounced
With an “sh” sound you see
And to an ol’ cowboy that’s worn chaps all his life
It seems a travesty
That you would use the cowboy’s manly image
To sell you fancy smell to the herd
And never even take the time
To learn how to say the word
‘Cause fact is Mr. Lauren
Even though I’d like to console-ya
anyone who says “chaps” for chaps
Don’t know chit from chineola
The Durango Gathering is the kind of event where one finds treasures (of the people and moment varieties) in every corner.
Check out this quick video of an impromptu lesson on tying a Buckaroo Knot, by Linda O’Dell: