Work Songs of the Cowboy Poets

Ranchers and seekers of the “mythic West” travel each year to a small Nevada city to practice a tradition born of labor and regional identity. … The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, now in its 35th year, draws thousands of ranch workers and Western enthusiasts to this small city. Their home base is the Pioneer Saloon, on the ground floor of the old Pioneer Hotel, which today stands as the Western Folklife Center. The bar is full of Wranglers, Stetsons, handlebar mustaches, wool, silver-work and leather. Some cowboys wear the weather on their faces. Everyone has silk wild rags tied around their necks. A few younger men and women wearing new boots and clean ponchos wander in with guitars and cases in hand, smiling, looking a bit tentative. Most of the people here appear to be in their 60s and 70s. Most are white. Everybody’s drinking something; a few are drinking water.