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‘What is a cowboy poet’: Longtime Douglas County Western enthusiasts provide answers at annual event
by Liz Marino
lmarino@neighbornewspapers.com
March 13, 2013 12:43 PM | 2488 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Self-proclaimed ‘Mayor of Fairplay’ Bill Turnipseed performed cowboy and Western music during the 17th annual Cowboy Poet Gathering.
Self-proclaimed ‘Mayor of Fairplay’ Bill Turnipseed performed cowboy and Western music during the 17th annual Cowboy Poet Gathering.
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Douglasville residents Tom Stavran, on an Appalachian Mountain dulcimer, and Ellen Downing, on guitar, performed pre-show and intermission selections during the Cowboy Poet Gathering. Stavran teaches dulcimer lessons at the Cultural Arts Center.
Douglasville residents Tom Stavran, on an Appalachian Mountain dulcimer, and Ellen Downing, on guitar, performed pre-show and intermission selections during the Cowboy Poet Gathering. Stavran teaches dulcimer lessons at the Cultural Arts Center.
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Cowboy poets Charlie Holloway, author, poet and cowboy historian, best known for his chuck wagon cooking, and Joel Hayes, cowboy poet deemed 'father of cowboy poetry in Georgia.' The two Douglas County natives have organized the Cowboy Poetry gatherings for the past 17 years in Douglas County.
Cowboy poets Charlie Holloway, author, poet and cowboy historian, best known for his chuck wagon cooking, and Joel Hayes, cowboy poet deemed 'father of cowboy poetry in Georgia.' The two Douglas County natives have organized the Cowboy Poetry gatherings for the past 17 years in Douglas County.
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From left, Sierra Gunter, Lanese Love, Ciarra Henderson and Ivan Washington, drama students at Chapel Hill High School, auditioned and were selected to perform with four other students to be ‘Cowboy Poet Kids’ at the Georgia Cowboy Poet Gathering held March 2 in the high school’s auditorium.
From left, Sierra Gunter, Lanese Love, Ciarra Henderson and Ivan Washington, drama students at Chapel Hill High School, auditioned and were selected to perform with four other students to be ‘Cowboy Poet Kids’ at the Georgia Cowboy Poet Gathering held March 2 in the high school’s auditorium.
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Bria Belton, selected as one of the ‘Cowboy Poet Kids,’ from Chapel Hill High School, performed before the audience March 2 at the 17th annual Cowboy Poet Gathering in Douglasville.
Bria Belton, selected as one of the ‘Cowboy Poet Kids,’ from Chapel Hill High School, performed before the audience March 2 at the 17th annual Cowboy Poet Gathering in Douglasville.
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Drew Boon of Whiteburg, son of Chapel Hill High School drama director Larry Boon and Sherri Boon, performed songs, including an orginal song composed for the Poet Cowboy Gathering.
Drew Boon of Whiteburg, son of Chapel Hill High School drama director Larry Boon and Sherri Boon, performed songs, including an orginal song composed for the Poet Cowboy Gathering.
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An evening of contemplative ballads and poems that reflect a way of life known to those few of the horse and cattle culture was held in the auditorium of Chapel Hill High School recently at the 17th annual Georgia Cowboy Poets Gathering.

Presented by the Douglasville / Douglas County Cultural Arts Center, the annual event has been organized by Douglas County Cowboy Poets founders Joel Hayes and Charlie Holloway since it was first held at Hudson’s By the Lake in 1997.

For the cowboy poet neophyte, the performance answered the age-old question: “What is a cowboy poet?”

Holloway, known for his chuck wagon cooking and cowboy poetry, writes from personal experience working with cattle and as a former rodeo bull rider.

In a poem, he explained, “…It’s stories about cowboys and it seldom ever ends.”

He explained, “It’s a verbal art form, born on the range long ago” and “stories about tough horses” and “blue skies and open ranges.”

Holloway, a cowboy historian, said that people often have a misconception of cowboys existing anywhere except for Texas and out West. He pointed out that Horace Greely wrote in 1870, “Go west, young man.”

“Your migration was by [Civil War] Gen. William T. Sherman,” he explained. “He burned everything, so people loaded up and went to Texas. Black and white young men started walking west and driving cattle.”

Actually, he noted, the first cattle drive began in Florida and went to market in the Caribbean Islands, Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico and they were paid with Spanish gold.

Holloway said cowboy poems and songs were created “out of sheer boredom.”

“The average age of a cowboy was 16 years old,” he said. “The old man of the outfit was maybe 25 and too old to ride.”

Cattle drives started in 1870 and ended around 1890, lasting usually 90 days and stopping because they began to fence the ranges.

Hayes, known as “the father of Georgia cowboy poetry” and his family have been in the cattle business in west Georgia for several generations. He said the Cowboy Poet Gatherings started out of friendship.

“I just started writing in the 1980s,” said Hayes, “then contacted Charlie (Holloway) and Jerry Warren (Georgia’s official cowboy poet.) It just started to evolve. Friendships were there before the poetry started.”

“I was born a cowboy and you write about what you know,” he explained. “This stuff is a reflection of life. Relationships are the core of the whole thing — whether it is a relationship with a cow or a horse.”

He echoed Holloway’s statement, “The contributing factor to this is boredom.”

Cowboy poetry also lends itself to humor.

“Things happen and you start telling about it,” said Hayes, “and you can only tell it so many times. If you give it meter and make it rhyme, you can tell it over and over again.”

One of his poems, “Gathering Cattle on Sweetwater,” describes his experience cowboying in Douglas County.

In it, he said, “…My cattle work has all been done, right here close to home. Guess I just never had a real big urge to roam.”
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