There was a time when I lived in the cornfields of Ohio, that’s really no secret, I talk about that all of the time. Yesterday took me right back to that farm house in Ohio and some memories from those days. I can’t put my finger on a year or a date, but I can remember the first time I heard cowboy poetry. I’m pretty sure it was pre-YouTube days, because I remember ordering a CD through Amazon. Heaven knows I’d be hard pressed to find a CD in the stores in my corner of the world.
I can remember putting the CD into the stereo (pre-iPod days as well) and listening. There were tracks on the CD that made me laugh, some that made me cry. It was a great art form and I really appreciated the beauty of the words. If some of you are wondering just what the heck I am talking about, this is the definition from Wikipedia: “Cowboy poetry is a form of poetry which grew out of a tradition of extemporaneous composition carried on by workers on cattle drives and ranches. After a day of work, cowboys would gather around a campfire and entertain one another with tall tales and folk songs. Illiteracy was common, so poetic forms were employed to aid memory.”
Yesterday morning I woke up to a day of “scattered showers” in the forecast, yet I was still determined to attend the Red Steagall Festival in The Stockyards of Fort Worth. It was overcast as I headed that direction and the closer I got to my destination, the harder it rained. I was dressed like a tourist. Jeans, a t-shirt about loving Texas and a pair of flip flops. I had grabbed an umbrella and a jacket and my little back pack heading out the door, and all three became necessary accessories for the day.
I sat in the car for 10 minutes when I arrived. I closed my eyes, and was just in the moment, listening to the rain and just quieting my mind. I’ve had a week, I received a new job offer, and had to tell my current employer that I was resigning. Most people who were in the short timer situation would probably coast through those final days on the job. You know I’m not a normal person, so I’ve been stressing myself all week about how I would ever get it all done, how would I document what I do. It was all self-imposed pressure, but pressure none the less and I was in serious need of a soul charging attitude adjustment.
There was a small break in the torrential rain so I hopped out into the rain, umbrella up, and instantly stepped into a puddle up to my ankles. I convinced myself that had I worn tennis shoes I would be walking around in wet shoes and socks all day. I looked down at my feet, and my jeans and laughed. On with the adventure.
I went to the box office and purchased my ticket for the day. The entertainment tent was not far, a dozen more puddles or so away. When I got inside of the tent it was dark, and partially flooded. I made my way and found a seat that was dry, away from the puddles and settled in to enjoy the day. When I walked in The Quebe Sisters Band was playing. Wow, I was speechless at their first song, and a little teary eyed at so much talent. Three sisters who played the fiddle and sang with the voices of angels. I didn’t know until I got home that they were from Fort Worth.
They finally fixed the lights so you could the see the performers, but the speaker system was still a bit water logged. The performance became acoustical and I think that made it even better. There was a break in the action before the Kids Fiddle Playing Contest. The tent was filled with kids and fiddles and parents and grandparents. The first group on stage to play were two 5 year olds. FIVE years old? There were no music stands with music propped up to follow, every one of the contestants stood up and played the song from memory. All of the young fiddle players were accompanied by a group of 4 or 5 adults. My favorite of the day was a 7 year old boy that started out his song by looking at the group of adults and starting them with 1, 2, 3 and 4. He was clearly in control and the crowd loved it.
By that point in time I was really hungry and decided to make my way to the Star Cafe for my favorite bacon cheeseburger and fries..of course I had sweet tea. I wound my way through the crowds trying to keep dry. It’s an interesting combination at The Stockyards of tourists, bikers and cowboys. Oh my were there cowboys there yesterday. One sat down next to me during the fiddle playing competition and had me giggling with his comments and his enthusiasm during the event.
The cowboy poetry was being held in the Auction Building and I finally found the place after wandering behind the exchange building–I did get to see the famous longhorns that make the cattle drive on the streets of cowtown. There were two poets *on stage* when I got there. The stage was the selling ring of the auction building. I’ve been to a few livestock sales in my time. This building had much more character than a tent. The seats were old and many of them were broken. I found a place to sit and settled in to enjoy the end of my day.
I was in awe as the two poets stood up and recited poem after poem. There were no notes, no PowerPoint presentations, they just stood up and the words flowed. Some of the poems made me laugh, some of them left me a little teary eyed. At one point, the younger poet totally went blank on the story he was reading. He stopped, apologized, admitted it, and the crowd applauded. It really didn’t matter that he forgot the end of the poem.
At 5 Red Steagall was to perform. I decided that this was something worth waiting for so I waited the 30 minutes or so as the building filled up with an eager audience. Red appeared with 4 other guitar players, I wasn’t expecting that, this was going to be an event to be sure. They performed for close to an hour and a half. I was spellbound by the whole thing, and taken back to the memories of the first time hearing this kind of poetry. Wow, I never would have pictured myself sitting in Texas spending a day listening to fiddle players, cowboy poetry and walking among the cowboys.
But here I am, smack dab in the middle of my real life, not a dream, not a once upon a time story, but my real life. As my shirt proclaimed yesterday, “It’s a Texas Thing…life is good.” I guess my shirt said less about being a tourist and more about the state of who I am and the life that I lead. Yee haw…bring on the next adventure.
…recorded with my Droid X yesterday, a bit shaky, but a memory that I get to keep from the day.
JD…this one’s for you, and I did enjoy the day enough for both of us yesterday. Thank you for introducing me to this art form so many years ago, and for just listening.