Originally Published: August 10, 2007 8:38 a.m.
PRESCOTT - They offer a glimpse into a way of life disappearing in the rear view mirror of modern society.
This year, "Gathered Up," the theme of the 20th Annual Arizona Cowboy Poets gathering, brings more poets together from previous years than any other local Cowboy Poets event to date, said festival coordinator Barbara Cook.
Area poets join other artists from around the country for a variety of events including recitation of original poetry and verse from the old days, storytelling detailing life on the Arizona range, Western harmony bands and cowboy singer-songwriters.
Cook said she expects 100 entertainers for the weekend.
"There's something for everybody," Cook said.
"There are some traditional, famous cowboy poems that other people still recite at these gatherings, but a lot of them recite their own poetry. Most of them come from a true ranching background, that's one of our criteria for selecting poets," she added.
Among poets attending is National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, Georgie Sicking, 86, who has attended all but one Cowboy Gatherings in Prescott.
"I always look forward to Prescott. It's kind of like going home, it brings back old memories," Sicking said.
"It's one of the best. And one of the reasons is they don't let the wannabes in. See, there are a lot of people that think they are cowboys because they've watched Roy Rogers gallop across the screen. Prescott pretty much sifts those types out. I mean, they pretty well try to stay with the ranch people who pretty much know what they're talking about," she added.
Sicking said she began composing poetry when she was 17 years old, living on the Night Creek Ranch outside Kingman with no telephone or electricity.
"A lot of times I wouldn't have anything to read, and I started writing poetry as a way to pass time. I kind of wanted to be an artist, and I couldn't afford the lessons or the paints, and things required for artists. But I could always find a pencil and a piece of paper. So I thought I'd try to paint pictures with words," she said.
Sicking went on to participate in the first Cowboy Poet gathering in Elko, Nev.
Local cowboy poet Gail Steiger a dedication to his grandfather, Gail Gardner, at the Elko gathering brought him into the fold of passing on tradition.
Steiger said Warren Miller, organizer of Prescott's first Cowboy Poet gathering, asked him to make a video of his grandfather and bring it to Elko because Gardner was too old to attend.
"The cool thing was, here was a whole bunch of other people who are living the same kind of lifestyle that I had been. It wasn't like it was a real social thing. I hadn't run into that many other people who were doing it, and certainly not that many other people who were writing poems about it, or singing songs about it. Everybody I ran into was doing country music. My grandfather - he had done it a bunch. I grew up hearing that stuff all the time. I heard it every holiday, every Christmas, 'there he goes again, telling those poems again.' We just kind of took them for granted," Steiger recalled about the first Cowboy Poet gatherings.
"I guess the poems that my granddad had written had gotten around to a much greater degree than the family had ever realized. It was fun to go out and see people who not only knew those poems, but knew what it was like to live on a ranch, rattle around in the country. And for me, it was a real revelation. It was like finding a community that I never knew existed," he said.