Gathering Hangover- Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering 2018

I arrive home from most Gatherings with a hangover. It has nothing to do with alcohol consumption but an over indulgence in friendship, art, loud environments and once-in-a-lifetime memories. This last weekend, I attended the Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Sierra Vista, AZ for the first time. I’m on day 3 of Gathering hangover, so I’d say I definitely enjoyed it!

My adventure started at 12am Thursday. I rolled out of bed, made a pot of coffee and hit the road for Boise, Idaho. That drive is about three hours, plus the hour lost for the Pacific to Mountain time change. I caught my flight without incident and headed to Denver.

While in Denver, a friend of mine was in one terminal over heading to Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, happening the same weekend. I sure wish we had had time to catch up but that’s the game of life on the road. I’m grateful we at least snagged a phone call out of it!

Next, I flew Denver to Tuscon and was so happy to transition from snow to sunny desert. After a wait for my rental car, I boogied over to Sierra Vista. It is here the real story of the weekend begins.

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Cactus!

Not something we have in Oregon...

Cochise Cowboy Poetry Gathering puts many of their performers up with host families. I drove straight to the home of first time gathering host, Mila. She welcomed me into her beautiful home, even having a late lunch ready when I arrived. I changed and touched up makeup for our welcome party. The other performer that Mila was hosting, Peggy Godfrey of Colorado, had also shown up. Together, the three of us headed towards The Horned Toad.

Rocky Sullivan

Rocky Sullivan

Once there, the family reunion began! Gene Raymond, our artist liaison, was right at the door to greet us. Mark Munzert and I finally met face to face. I sat with poet Tom Swearingen and his wife Carla, hearing the news about fellow tribe member Floyd Beard. I hugged the Carter family, also known as the Rocking Chair Band, met Rocky Sullivan and his wife Karen. I harassed one of my favorites, Randy Huston, and was able to hug Trinity Seely again. I did a short poem as the last poet of the evening, listened to Trinity finish the show up, then headed home with Mila and Peggy.

George Wheat, co-chair, introduces Trinity Seely at the Horned Toad.

George Wheat, co-chair, introduces Trinity Seely at the Horned Toad.

Ron Hinkle at Joyce Clark Middle School

Ron Hinkle at Joyce Clark Middle School

The next morning brought a great breakfast and coffee by the pool with Mila and Peggy. I headed to a local Junior High. Banjo player, Ron Hinkle, and I shared history and motivation. The Cochise Gathering has worked really hard to integrate student participation into the gathering and it shows. School sessions have become one of my favorite parts of these events!

 

The performers were hosted to a wonderful meal at Outback Steak House after school sessions were complete. Here, I caught up with Jennifer Epps and Judy Coder (Noteable Exceptions), Jim Jones and Mariam Funke (2 of the 3 members of The Cowboy Way), as well as Trinity Seely. Meals are often the only time to catch up during busy, conflicting schedules, so I always cherish these opportunities!

Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona with the Dragoon Peaks in the background.

Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona with the Dragoon Peaks in the background.

That afternoon included nail time and discovering that my cd’s had not made it to the gathering. Those puppies will go on the plane from now on! The evening got better though with a journey to Tombstone and carne asada tacos for dinner. It’s the little things, really. After a quick trip to the Friday night show and a few great conversations with people there, I called it a night.

Left to right: Randy Huston, Jessica Hedges, Wash Tub Jerry, and Joel Eliot

Left to right: Randy Huston, Jessica Hedges, Wash Tub Jerry, and Joel Eliot

Saturday morning and the day shows were here! The day started strong with a session with Randy Huston, Joel Eliot and Wash Tub Jerry. We had a great audience, and even got to meet Facebook friend, Leslie Keltner! Next, I hustled to a student stage and where I filled in between award winners. Talk about a great generation of kids coming up! After that, I shared the stage in a round robin style show with Steve Jones and Almeda Bradshaw. At this session, I also met social media friends from Virginia as well as Tombstone! After three back-to-back sessions, it was break time! I was privileged to share lunch and hugs with not only Trinity, but Ross and Lynne Knox, Steve and Naomi Lindsey, and others. What a treat! After an hour off, it was time for the last session of the day. I could think of no better people to present with than Barry Ward and Rocky Sullivan.

 

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A few more stories, a little down time, and finally dinner with Trinity. Never underestimate the value of soup, salad and breadsticks when you’re on a tight schedule! Saturday night had another stellar line up of performers and more conversations with great people. I was wiped out but not ready for the party to end, so I headed to the jam session. Most gatherings have open jam sessions, just ask around!

 

Sunday was a hustle of good byes, a great breakfast, a quick poem and a boogie back to the airport. I spent most of the flight from Tuscon to San Fransisco wishing I was on the desert below. I caught up on a little work waiting for my connection, flew to Boise, and made the several hours drive back home.

Now I am home again, hung over from friendship, art, loud environments and once-in-a-lifetime memories. Sierra Vista, I hope we can do this again real soon.

 

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Ross Knox and Trinity Seely