2018 Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering
Cimarron Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering
It’s been ten years since I started performing at Gatherings. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that each performer, show promoter and audience member are there for a reason. Their presence plays a part in the experience that can never be replicated. It forces us to live in that very moment, enjoy each memory, because the same combination of people will never happen again.
Months before attending the Cimarron Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering for the first time, I knew it would be special. A group of fellow performers, as well as audience members that attended the Cochise Gathering last February, made it possible for this Oregon gal to make her New Mexico debut. From the time I was met at the airport, I understood how powerful and blessing this opportunity was. As the weekend progressed, that understanding only grew.
Before I reached the glass doors separating airline passengers from guests, I spotted Jim Jones (singer/songwriter and author extraordinaire) waiting for me with Susan Buescher. These two people were instrumental in this gathering invite and I will forever be grateful. We quickly loaded my traveling circus and immediately headed off on an adventure.
Some of you may remember my brief trip to Albuquerque in November 2016. Sam and I had driven 15+ hours from northern Nevada to find out the results of the Western Music Association’s Georgie Sicking Award. This coveted title is to recognize a poem that represents traditional ranching values and to honor an amazing poet and cowboy. Sam and I arrived in Albuquerque at 2pm, ate Mexican food, walked the main block down town, and got ready for the awards show. We watched many friends pass across the stage to accept their hard-earned titles. I joined that same group as I was given the custom spurs with Georgie’s initials, signifying that “One Last Branding” was the winner! Randy Huston “guilted” us into attending the jam session, Sam and I grabbed some Denny’s at 2am, and started back towards home. This was as much of Albuquerque as I had seen until Jim and Susan got ahold of me!
Sadina Peak Tramway
They took me to the Sadina Peak Tramway which boasts the longest span in the western hemisphere! Located in the Cibola National Forest, you can see for 11,000 square miles and the 2.7 mile trip takes you from 6,500 to 10,300 feet. Our tour guide did a great job of explaining the history, pointing out landmarks and answering questions. Once we reached the top, we started to hike around. Several ski routes traverse the other side of the mountain, making way to breathtaking views below. After a day on the plane, it was great to beat the heat and enjoy some sunshine on the mountain named for the Spanish word used for watermelon. Susan and I also had to partake in a few touristy photos- it’s a requirement, right? Also, make sure you visit hungry, their on-site restaurant, Sandiago's, was amazing!
A few hours later we returned to the airport to pick up Nashville recording artist, Claudia Nygaard. Then our group headed towards Cimarron, driving by some of the most amazing cattle country I have been privileged to pass through!
A new event can feel awkward, even to a seasoned performer but not Cimarron! I followed the sound of guitars to the outdoor patio of the St. James Hotel. Before I could even get to its archway, I ran into Rocky Sullivan and the greetings began! Once within the festive adobe walls, I snuck up on Randy Huston. Then Deanna McCall snuck up on me. There was never a lull to the evening as I reunited with friends from 6 months ago to as much as 6 years ago. We all say it, but these Gatherings are the family reunions you actually want to attend. And these performers, show promoters, and audiences are my family of the heart.
I had been on the road since 1am and finally made it to the Philmont Scout Ranch at 11pm, the beautiful facility that housed the performers as well as our performances and chuckwagon! It was time for bed because my breakfast ride was leaving at 8am the next morning.
One of the special things about these events are the entirely random conversations and experiences you find yourself in. At 6am, I decided I should pry myself out of the room to experience a proper New Mexico sunrise. Our rooms sat on the edge of a pivot with a clear view of the mountain range beyond. Clad in flannel pj pants, t-shirt, slippers and ball cap, I wandered around outside, armed with my camera to document the experience. A while later, I come to learn this must be the unofficial uniform of off-duty cowboy poets as Rocky came wandering out of his room in similar attire, coffee in hand. We are all incredibly thankful that the man travels with a coffee pot for occasions such as Cimarron when coffee is miles away!
Breakfast was my first opportunity to embrace New Mexican cuisine- GREEN CHILE! My dining companions began as Randy, Todd, Melinda, and Dani Carter (The Broken Chair Band), the McCalls and their guests, finally including the Bursons. Just like our Western Music family, there was always room for one more, so we just kept adding tables. There were intense discussions on Keto, cattle rustling, faith, as well as how chile differs based on location throughout the state of New Mexico.
The Round Table
Our Round Table Discussion, as it became dubbed a few years ago, started at 10am. Our lengthy breakfast and coffee socializing transitioned seamlessly to the antique table which named the event. Since there is a lull in performances, this gave the performers a structured time to discuss creativity, inspiration, performance style, and so many other related topics. I shudder to think at the years of stage experience stacked up in that room, but you could not walk away without having learned something. For example, I learned how Floyd Beard could write an entire poem about the experience, as it was happening, while continuing to add more direct quotes as the meeting progressed. I’m sure the poem wouldn’t make much sense unless you were there, but it had us in stitches!
My ride was engaged in a song writing session on the patio so I took the opportunity to check out a few antique stores. I also grabbed my camera to capture the fine details of the St. James Hotel. They have managed to combine western, southwestern, and Victorian styles in a way that provides a late 1800’s feel with modern touches thrown in. I am also wondering if the Russian Sage they used to landscape with would survive here in Oregon because I absolutely love it!
After lunch I went back to the room and crashed. Six hours of sleep in the last 50 some hours was not cutting it for me. Luckily, I was up and moving around in time to catch a ride back to the St. James for a green chile’ enchilada dinner. This time I had the privilege of sitting with Claudia, Purly Gates, and Kevin and Janice Deardorff. It is such a treat to always have a place to sit at these events, even if you’re only recognized as a fellow performer, not having met before!
Deanna and her group were kind enough to take me back and we all headed for the night show. It was great line up, including some people I had not seen in years! Peggy Malone, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Ramblin Rangers, Susie Knight, Dale Burson, Dale Page and Randy Huston. Ironically, sitting next to Deanna and Doug Figgs in the back row, a co-write idea I had been mulling on for months finally broke through my hard head during Dale B’s set. I’m not sure what sparked this, but when inspiration strikes, you start scribbling!
Barb and Susan ferried me over to the St. James. It was so great to catch up with Texas poet, Kay Nowell, whom I had not seen since my first time featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering years before. Thursday night was a kick-off dance but tonight was a jam session. I have always enjoyed this New Mexico group at any other jam session I have attended because they include poets! It is a refreshing experience when many jams are considered “musicians only.” This same crowd usually closes down the jam sessions, being the last to leave. It was 1:30 am before I finally went to sleep, but the memories were worth it!
Oh, Saturday, the grand finale! We were treated to a chuck wagon breakfast there at the Philmont Scout Ranch. There isomething about coffee boiled over an open flame that just makes the world right. Other than a brief trek back to the room, my day was spent watching the other performers, something I do not often get to do! My set was at 4pm and included Janice, myself and the Ramblin’ Rangers. It went off without a hitch, thanks to the Emceeing talents of fellow poet, Terry Nash.
A quick survey was done and we determined it was time to eat! Jim, Susan, the Carters, Claudia, Randy and myself jumped into a few rigs to head downtown. The destination was The Blu Dragonfly Brewery and it did not disappoint! I had the Brisket Mac and Cheese smothered in green chile with a hard cider (yes, poor health choice but this was a mini-vacation!) and the taste was so worth it. We all had a laugh when a group of road-worn bicyclist warned us the place was full of them and they didn’t smell very good. I just told them this was a group of cowboys, we’ve smelled worse.
The second monsoon of the weekend raged on as I was dropped at the room and the musicians headed for sound check. Deanna was so kind to offer me a short spot on her night show set. I changed my now-stained white button down and tamed my hair that would have resembled that of a drowned rat. I walked to the auditorium, thankful I was not horseback in the moisture, coat and hat dripping puddles across the shiny floor. Dave, Deanna’s husband, quickly stowed my sopping wet coat and stored my other junk behind the table where our product was displayed. I sat down in the on-deck chairs just as Randy, that nights Emcee, opened the show. The line-up included: Rocky Sullivan, Jill Jones, Deanna McCall, Jim Jones, Claudia Nygaard, Terry Nash, Doug Figgs and the Broken Chair Band.
Although there was another jam session that night, I finally cried “uncle.” I still had two more days before I was home and needed some rest. The next morning, I chatted with Rocky, shared breakfast with Floyd and Valerie, and said goodbye to as many friends as possible. As Floyd pointed out, I was a little high strung from coffee (sorry to my Albuquerque travel pards!) but the caffeine kept me upright!
After several flights, a Wal-Mart grocery run, and a late-night drive through the Owyhee Desert country, I arrived home, barely stumbling to bed at 12:30am. My head is held high, my eyes are bright, and my heart is full as I come home with photos, memories, and inspiration, awaiting the next time I can visit the southwest. This group will never be together in the exact same way, with the exact same experience, ever again. The 2018 Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering did lay the ground work, or continue to build upon sturdy foundations, for the relationships required to build our cowboy poetry and music legacy. For what good is a story without the relationship of at least two people, one to share and one to listen?