The 19th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo

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The 19th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo

August 10, 2016

Nashville, TN 

Some might believe that all cowboys do is rope cattle and ride horses, but those living the Western lifestyle know that cattlemen are famous for their poignant cowboy poetry.  

The 19th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo took place last week at the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo and Central Kansas Free Fair in Abilene, Kansas. 51 cowboys and cowgirls entered the two-day competition for a chance to win over $7,000 in prize money and awards. 

This is the second year that the rodeo has been hosted in Abilene. Geff Dawson and his wife, Dawn, bought the copyrights to the event in 2014 and moved it to Geff's Kansas hometown. Dawson won the event in 2006 and 2009 when it was hosted out West in Utah and Montrose, Colorado. The Kansas cattleman just couldn't stand to see the event come to a close. 

"It changed my life because after I won the event in Utah in 2006, I started performing all over the country," Dawson said. "When I saw the contest was going to stop, I felt like I owed it something. I took it upon myself to produce it so it could change other people's lives as well."

The “rodeo” is considered the World’s Only Cowboy Poetry Rodeo and is fashioned after a stock rodeo. Instead of pitting the athletic skills of horses and cowboys against each other, the five high-profile judges compare the stage presence and writing styles of cowboy poets. All contestants must pay an entry fee to compete for prize money, trophy buckles and awards.

Contestants traveled from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, California, and Utah to compete. The competition genuinely works as a rodeo would. The poets receive an average score based off two go-rounds and that score determines the champions. 

The event is split into Rising Star poets and a more experienced division of Silver Buckle poets. Once a competitor has won a Silver Buckle, they may no longer enter into Rising Star events. From there, contestants enter their own authored humorous and serious poems or they can choose to perform other famous cowboy poetry in the recited serious and humorous categories. 

This year’s winners include Tim Keane from Manhattan, Kansas, who won both the Rising Star Reciter Serious and Rising Star Reciter Humorous. Ron Ratliff of Gilman City, Missouri won the  Rising Star Poet Humorous division and Danny McCurry of Ash Grove, Missouri, was the Rising Star Poet Serious winner. 

McCurry took home the largest sum of money that weekend, earning him the Best of the West Trophy and Buckle. Paul Bliss of Salem, Utah, won the Silver Buckle Poet Serious Division. Floyd Beard of Kim, Colorado, won the Silver Buckle Reciter Humorous Division and Ron McDaniel of Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, won the Silver Buckle Reciter Serious and the Silver Buckle Poet Humorous Divisions. You can find more of the poetry rodeo results here.

Most of the spoken word at last week's event telling tails of the Western lifestyle came from real experience. Almost all of the contestants were trail-riders, cattlemen, or involved in some type of cow operation. Dawson sees Cowboy poetry as a gift, more than anything else. 

"I feel like when I'm writing poetry, all I'm doing is holding onto the pen," Dawson said. "The ability to experience the ranching life and rural like in poetry form is a gift that a lot of people here have."

Not all the cowboy poet winners are still riding in the saddle. Rising Star champion Tim Keane is currently the professor of landscape architecture at the Kansas State University. A contestant from Drexel, Missouri, Eric Borden, tends to engines rather than cattle. Borden has been a diesel mechanic, truck driver, and for the past decade a heavy machinery operator. While Borden has high respect for the cowboy lifestyle, he considers himself more of a "pasture poet" rather than a cowboy poet.

"If I can make folks feel good about their life, smile about a situation, or cry tears over a memory...well... I do not care what kind of poet they call me," Borden said. "I am just sharing a gift I was given. All that being said, the Cowboy poets I have met make me feel like this is where I fit."

RFD-TV celebrates Cowboy poetry every week with shows like Cattlemen to Cattlemen which features famous Cowboy poet, Baxter Black. Check out some of Baxter's poetry below!



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