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Cowboy poets answer the call at Old Cowtown contest

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, May 18, 2014, at 7 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 12, 2014, at 2:06 p.m.

There were but four contestants Sunday after high noon when it came time for the showdown at the Cowboy Poetry Contest.

Graduations and fair weather may have kept folks away.

The four contestants spoke highly of the Cowboy Way.

They wore black hats.

And white hats.

Frank Schweighart, a Texan, said he was nervous but spoke kindly about the love between a cowboy and “pardner” – his horse. He received the humorous tip of the hat.

Ed LaValley of Wellington entered his poem talking about the Real McCoy – Joseph McCoy, the man who dreamed up cattle drives from Texas into Kansas.

Russell Graves of Arkansas City talked about his grandma’s apron.

And Jim John of Wichita won the serious portion of the contest by giving a country blessing.

Ron Wilson, the man who organized and was emcee at the event Sunday at Old Cowtown Museum’s Empire House, could have once been considered the cowboy poet laureate of Kansas. But he’d have none of it. He’s the Poet Lariat and has a governor’s proclamation.

The contest Sunday was the first of three qualifying contests to be held in various parts of the state. The next will be May 31 in Dodge City, and the third will be June 7 at the Flint Hills Rodeo in Strong City. The winners from each event will talk it out in the state finals June 13, the night before the Symphony in the Flint Hills concert. The top two winners will then be recognized during the concert and will receive the Governor’s Belt Buckle, tickets to the symphony and gift certificates for western wear.

They will also be given a chance to recite their poetry.

So what does it take to be a cowboy poet?

Rhyme and verse, a white-hatted Wilson said, and original work only:

“Cowboy poetry is a way to honor our quest,

for the history and heritage of the American West.

The legend of the Great American Cowboy comes alive

here in Kansas at a time of the great cattle drives.”

So you see, it’s not too late to be a poetry great.

Just enter www.cowboypoetrycontest.com.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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