Would it be fair to call Yakima "cowboy country"?

West Valley, Wiley City, the Wenas, and Moxee are all home to horses...lots and lots of horses.

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Northwest Rodeos Are Among The Best

In fact, Yakima sits smack-dab in the middle of two of the top ten rodeos in America.


With its beginnings dating back to 1923, this historic rodeo has gone from a local competition among ranch hands to a professional event that sees over 600 cowboys and cowgirls take part for prize money that can reach up to $400,000. The arena is considered by many to be the best in the US and is one of the many reasons why so many people attend this fun-filled Labor Day weekend event.

And to the south of Yakima is Pendelton, Oregon, home to America's number #9 rodeo. It's two hours and 9 minutes by car, slightly longer in a beat-up pickup pulling a horse trailer!

The Pendleton Round-Up rodeo draws over 50,000 visitors to the center of Oregon’s rodeo country... Its roots date back as far as 1910. The event list includes competitions like wild cow milking, Indian relay races, and all the traditional rodeo events.

What's Special About This Week

I raise the Yakima - Cowboy connection question today because today is a special day in the telling of the history of the west.  Not for some deadly western shoot-out, bank robbery, or cattle drive, but for a fast draw with words and a straight aim at storytelling.  Today marks the beginning of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Week, held each year at this time in Elko, Nevada.

From earliest remembrance, I always wanted to be a cowboy ...and I do enjoy writing quick little rhymes like this one that wrapped up our radio show today:

I once new a Cowboy named Joe. We went to the rodeo. He threw a calf and we shared a laugh and off to the saloon we did go.

Okay, it's not exactly poet laureate material but that's not the point of cowboy poetry. The National Calendar folks describe it this way.  "During National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Week, those who have a rhyme, tune, story, or skill to share, join thousands to experience the art that lives on in the American West where generations of ranch families experience the enjoyment of hearing a well-told story with a new twist or two." 

For example, here's part of a poem about Wyatt Earp from American Cowboy

His is one of the West’s most enduring tales,
long after the man himself is gone.
History has a way of blending truth and myth                          so our heroes will always live on.

Wyatt Earp has been glorified,
a legend of America’s past.
But trying to find the real man in the myth
might reveal the truth at last.

Ok, not bad...but let's tie it all off with this one from the great plains of my imagination...

Is Yakima Cowboy Country? It's a simple question at best. In Washington State where we congregate, the eastside is more like the old West. We've got the cattle and horses, and we love and care for the land. We fly the flag at our ranches, and we'll always take us a stand.  We love our freedom and wide-open spaces and don't mean nobody no harm. But mess with one of us, you'll meet the rest of us and three times won't be no charm. The Cowboy life is a simple life cuz there's not so much a man needs. A good dog and horse, and a pickup of course and it's red, white, and blue when we bleed.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Week began in 1985  with the U.S. Senate recognizing Elko, Nevada as the original home of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and the contributions of the gathering to the history and traditions of the art form.

Find out more about the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering by visiting www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

A couple of the Cowboy Poets appeared on the Johnny Carson show back in the day and you can share a chuckle or two with them at the end of this post.

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