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5:18 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Cowboy Poets conjure Old West with words

Ray Fitzgerald gives a poem as Trinty Seely watches during the 2014 Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering Friday at the Yavapai College Performance Hall. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

Ray Fitzgerald gives a poem as Trinty Seely watches during the 2014 Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering Friday at the Yavapai College Performance Hall. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

"Don't call a cowboy a 'sodbuster' or a 'sheepherder' amongst the crew. Cowboys, as you might suspect, has got their limits too."

But, says cowboy poet Mike Dunn - in verse - "Where they's from, something they'd done or just how you'd say their name, most anything at all that stood out, was considered to be fair game."

And with that, Dunn rattled off line after line of monikers that are acceptable in a cowboy's eyes - Nosey for the meddler, Slick for the for the way a certain cowboy dresses, Stretch for the braggart and Pew for the one who refrained from bathing - all special names that are part of the cowboy tradition.

"So, if a cowboy gives you a name, or places you in a rhyme, he must think something of you or he wouldn't've taken the time."

What it boils down to is a simple cowboy creed: Most won't joke with those they don't like. They just let them go their way, Dunn's poetry affirms.

Dunn is one of many cowboys-turned-poets at the 27th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering that is in full swing through today at Yavapai College.

On Friday, after opening ceremonies, the cowboys took their verses to different venues on campus to entertain smaller crowds.

Paul Bliss joined Dunn, Chris Isaacs and Jay Snider in the "Let the Words Do the Work" session Friday afternoon.

Bliss told of a cowboy who had gotten stuck in a mineshaft he'd fallen down and thought for sure he was a goner until "he remembered he'd voted Democrat and crawled right outside."

Isaacs told the audience that he's more of a "rhymer" than a poet. "If you can evoke an emotion - laughter or tears - you've done your job," he added.

Today's fest of cowboy verse begins with sessions at 9 a.m. and continues until 4:45 p.m. Each session is 45 minutes and begins on the hour, with 15-minute breaks in between.

Cowboy poet Sally Harper Bates, who has been a pillar of the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, won the organization's Legacy Award for her years of service.

Tonight's performance in the college's Performing Arts Center starts at 7 p.m. and features singer and songwriter Kristin Harris and cowboy poets Gail Steiger, Bill Boswick, Mike Dunn, Janet Moore and Darron Little. Hosts for the evening are musicians Randy Huston and his daughter, Hannah.

Tickets for the evening show are $18 to $30 and are available at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center box office by calling 928-776-2000 or logging onto www.ycpac.com.

For a complete schedule of cowboy poets' recitals, visit www.azcowboypoets.org.

Admission to the sessions is free.