Originally Published: August 3, 2008 10:55 p.m.
On a busy workday morning as you wait in line for a fresh cup of coffee, have you ever wished you knew a ranch woman of the Old West? She could transport you to another world with her life stories - horseback among wide landscapes, cattle and cowboys.Meet Marge Tucker of Chino Valley. This female cowboy - authentic ranch folk say there is no such thing as a cowgirl - shares the dynamics of moving cattle out of the cedar trees, nudging the herd on to the branding corrals. She's roped and doctored cattle and fed a doggie - a newborn, motherless calf - its first milk from a Coke bottle. "I love everything about the western life; the outdoors, horses, cattle, dogs and ranching," Tucker insists. And she has lived a full 87 years of rich experiences in her cherished lifestyle.This red-headed whippersnapper won the Gail Gardner Award for a Working Cowboy Poet at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering this past year. Tucker will share her poetry renditions at the 21st annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Aug. 16-17, at Yavapai College. The Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering was formerly at the Sharlot Hall Museum.Tucker's poems provide an escape and an education for folks hungry for the Old West. She is a Prescott High School graduate, who worked the ranches of Yavapai County from the 1940s to the new millennium. "We rode all over Prescott as a teenagers and I married local cowboy, Bud Tucker, a few years after graduation," Tucker fondly recalls. "We met outside the roller-skating rink in Miller Valley, where our horses were tied outside, serving as a fun mode of transportation at the time."The "town" of Prescott was filled more with the aroma of livestock and hayfields than car exhaust in the '40s. Whiskey Row was a place where rain, native grasses and cattle genetics were a common stream of conversation. "I have always loved everything to do with horses and cattle," Tucker said. "Bud and I raised top-quality Quarter Horses and our two sons; Tom and Jerry, and a foster son, Brian. I also enjoyed competing in reigning and barrel racing. Cap was a favorite big brown horse of ours, who was great at cutting, roping and running barrels." Bud passed away several years ago, but true to the western slang, "Cowboy up," Marge did just that. Or according to her Christian faith, one could say she decided to "God girl up." "I dearly missed my husband," Tucker said, "but I pulled up my bootstraps and went right on riding and doing day work for the ranches around Prescott." Tucker wrote and self published a booklet of her poetry called "Ranch Widow." "Lucky Man" is one of the poems that she dedicates to Bud in an upbeat confident rendition one can feel even in an excerpt."They say a man should have three things in the course of his active lifeA good 'cow dog,' a handling horse, and finally a faithful wife.One man lucked out and had all three, a man out of the past.I'll tell you 'bout his dog and horse and save the best for last."Skipping down to the last stanza:"Last but not least, here comes the wife, a gal with good looks and vigor.She gave the man two handsome sons, and still she kept her figure.She worked hard 'long side her man, broke colts and worked the steers.Fed calves, milked cows, raised chickens and eggs, she kept it up for years.She was the midwife when Jake was born, and she nurtured him a lotShe ran barrels for years on Cap, and usually won a pot.An attractive house she always kept, even when she fed a crewShe could cook real good, bake bread and pie, and make a real mean stew She loved her man and told him so, in ways that he could seeIf you haven't guessed who she is by now, I have to tell you, it's me. My man has gone to heaven now; Jake and Cap have gone there too.I'll keep my one last saddle and horse, and join them when this life is through." Tucker began attending the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in 1989 and then performed at it, in addition to many other Cowboy Poetry gatherings across the western states. The Arizona members have kept the unique title of Cowboy Poets Gathering, rather than Cowboy Poetry Gathering. "Being at a poetry gathering is like being at a family reunion," Tucker shares. "I love being with 'my kind of people' and that's the best part of any gathering." The life of ranch work was rugged, yet there existed quaint times of feminine virtue; the love a woman has of planting and growing shines through her poem called "The Little Seed." Many a ranch lady moved to new outfits, where her husband was hired on for a few years, yet sometimes he may be a "cow boss" just for a season. Sewing seeds in a garden is a luxury for many a cowboy's wife. In Tucker's poem, she planted a "mystery seed" with a prayer. After a season of watering, it produced a "lowly milkweed." Others, such as "The Spotted Steer," "It's a Dusty Trail," "Ode to the Outhouse," or "Hanging at Camp Wood," bring you into a rough and dusty time in Arizona, yet authentic, simplistic and scenic. Tucker did day work for local Yavapai County ranchers including the Savoini and Wells families of Prescott.Tucker has also recited poetry and performed as a singer at cowboy poet gatherings in Nevada, and she is a current choir member at the Chino Valley First Southern Baptist Church. "I've loved my life from start to finish, and I thank God that He formed this special life for me," she said.People will come from all over Arizona and out of state to hear the cowboy poets. Children also love the story telling aspect of cowboy poetry. It's a live education that can inspire them to dig deeper into their history lessons, learning about the heritage of their Yavapai County roots and honing their own poetry writing skills. After another generation it will be hearsay - with only CD's and DVD's to tell the story of the people who worked on the land, and raising beef and crops for our sustenance. The 21st Gathering will feature the Desert Sons, Gary and Gene Prescott, Sally Harper Bates, and 50 more poets and musicians who will host sessions throughout the Yavapai College campus. This year's theme is "Headin' For New Range." The rugged Arizona mountains are the backdrop for the evening performance, from a painting by artist Bill Anton, called "Packing the Superstitions." Laura Flood is a freelance writer and photographer. Contact her at floodphoto firstname.lastname@example.org.