Let’em Be Cowboys

Linda Burton posting from Carson City, Nevada –Mama, it’s okay if they grow up to be cowboys, I say; it’s a very poetic way of life. That was in evidence at the 3rd Annual Genoa Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival this weekend. “I eat my peas with honey. I’ve done it all my life. I know that might sound funny, but it keeps them on my knife.” Ken Gardner went for the ticklebone recitations, all deadpan of course, with a poem about his diapered pet chicken, and quips such as “We thought we had a problem when our town streaker told us he was quitting, but we persuaded him to stick it out for another year.” Tony Argento, pictured above, does humor too, but includes patriotic and serious performances in his repertoire, such as the Gettysburg Address. I heard him do The Silver Bells and The Golden Spurs, a tale of dueling gunslingers, with appropriate sound effects. There was quite a lineup in the big white tent labeled Mormon Station Main Stage. 

Cowboy poetry was a new experience for me, but I was lucky enough to have a Festival Volunteer sit beside me in the tent who filled me in on Waddie Mitchell, Dave Stamey, Juni Fisher and Paul Zarzyski, major stars on the circuit. I thumbed through the program to read about Cowboy Celtic, Mike Beck, David Bourne, Jim King, Mary Kaye, Cindy White. And the funny guy, Ken Gardner, a local resident who has been a poet for 15 years and has published three books. What is his experience for being a cowboy poet? In his words, “I’ve fallen off a horse, wrangled dudes, been in a western movie, milked cows, drunk milk with flies in it, and slept with wet dogs.” 

It was absolute fun in a beautiful setting; Genoa (Juh-NO-ah) claims to be Nevada’s first settlement, back when it was still Utah Territory. It was a stop for the Pony Express and a stopover on the Emigrant Trail to California. About 225 people live there today; it is prime real estate and deservedly so. A State Park, historic buildings, green pastures, and mountains just out the back door. The Sierra Nevada mountains.

I walked the town from end to end, lunched at the Genoa Country Store, owned and operated by the Ericssons, a young couple recently migrated from San Francisco who wanted the country life for raising kids; I sat in on Open Mike, and I met the artist Stephanie Rose Long at the gallery in the Pink House (1855), which is next door to the White House, a B&B.

These lines from the program well describe the festival: Take a perfect setting in a small Nevada town, add a backdrop of towering peaks and a brilliant blue sky and bring in talented cowboy poets, gifted musicians and craftsmen, horsemen, cooks and folks who love and appreciate the western lifestyle, and you have the makings for a pretty good four-day party.

I wish I could have stayed the weekend. I’d have tried some honey in my peas.

Genoa, Nevada is about 15 miles south of Carson City. Town of Genoa http://www.genoanevada.org/index.htm

Genoa Country Store, 2299 Main Street, Genoa, Nevada, 775-782-5974 http://www.genoanv.com/genoacountrystore.html

The White House Inn http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/nv-genoa-thewhitehouseinngenoa.html