You Should Be in Elko

Cartoon by Marek Bennett

It’s Day One of my annual attendance of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. So excited!

Before the multitude of concerts, dances, and poetry recitations, the Gathering hosts several educational workshops, intimate one-, two-, or three-day classes led by experts. You can learn to braid rawhide, cook like a ranch cook (with a Dutch oven), make a mohair cinch, and, yes, craft poetry and prose. This year, I’ve enrolled in a Cowboy Comics workshop with the cartoonist Marek Bennett. I’m charged with bringing ideas and making a fun, yet serious, investment in getting creative. Let’s see if I can bring WiseAssWallace to life in cartoon form or bring life to a poem through illustration.

Last year, I enrolled in a workshop, too. I did the outstanding, perenially sold-out Hat Making workshop with Ben McNeven, Roy Jackson of Jaxonbilt Hat Company and Chaz Mitchell. It was challenging, engaging, and resulted in a beautiful dark grey beaver felt hat that I’ll wear and cherish for years.

Poet Paul Zarzyski

As the week rolls on, I’ll look forward to seeing NCPG’s fabulous performers, including Randy Rieman, Joel Nelson, John Dofflemyer, and, most adamantly, Paul Zarzyski.

Zarzyski rode bucking horses on the rodeo circuit and studied under poet Richard Hugo at the University of Montana. Who does a crazy, dynamic, double like that?

There is a family feel to the Gathering. Poets often perform side-by-side, taking turns at recitations and weighing in on each other’s deliveries. As at the Best Horse Practices Summit, presenters mingle easily with attendees and hallways are full of mini-reunions with warm and extended conversations that often segue into barroom stints for veritable catching up and get-to-know-you-betters.

If you haven’t placed the NCPG on your bucket list, please do. Then get ready to become part of the eccentric, fun and welcoming family that is Elko in midwinter. (Better yet, venture to take the train here. Amtrak stops in Elko on its transcontinental route.) You’ll be glad you did.

Early stages of my cartooning

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