Overseas Tour 2012

The Colorado Gathering, now based at Golden, embraces our Aussie Bush Poet and additional concerts are added to the tour.

Me and Baxter Black

Thirty hours of travelling and on stage four hours later. But wow, was it worth it! Seems every year, it just gets better. A hectic tour with twenty shows in twenty four days - and plenty of partying in between. The fact that at the major gatherings, all the entertainers stay in the one hotel makes for some serious camaraderie.

First was "America's Soul Live" a live-to-air radio program in Denver, Colorado and a reunion with lots of my cowboy friends.

Managed a night off and what an opportunity. We went to "Dancing with Horses" at the National Stock Show which just happens to coincide with when I'm there. Highlight was a Reining Quadrille - four of the best Reining Horses in the world did a quadrille to lights and music. You've never seen spins and sliding stops till you see the best. They were amazing. Also heaps of trade stands there so indulged in some retail therapy.

In the lead up to the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we went, in teams of three, to schools (Elementary, Middle and High) as part of their 'Outreach Program.' The kids are great and very responsive, forever asking me to 'talk some more Australian'!

The Colorado Gathering itself was in Golden this year, a very historical western city - terrific atmosphere - and we all moved into the big hotel nearby. It started with a V.I.P. reception (sounds posh but really the first of the parties). The major concert was televised this year and it was exciting to be part of that. 'Theme' concerts were held through the day in the Auditorium, with another headliner show for Saturday night and even more on Sunday (including 'Cowboy Church!') And it was 'packed house' for the lot.

There was a genuine Chuck Wagon out in the car park, cooking up a storm for the whole time.

Everyone, poets, musicians, sponsors and supporters and large audience, is passionate about the gathering. Not just the type of entertainment but preserving the heritage it represents as well. With stage sets and western décor, a makeshift corral in the 'grub and red-eye' room and lots of folk dressed in fair dinkum, over-the-top, unbelievable cowboy gear, and the excitement is in the air right from the start. And when each night finishes, well, it doesn't finish. The hotel lets the entertainers take over the dining room for literally an all night jam session. And believe it or not, the poetry is revered along with the music.
Writers are held in awe. And there is no one-up-man-ship. Everyone enjoys and supports each other.

No time to nurse a hangover, schools again then adventure time. My friend Rex Rideout (he was the fiddle player in the movie Cowboys and Aliens and also my co-adventurer on the Moose Hunt last year) took me on a VIP tour of Buffalo Bill's museum and grave, and then to the Mining centre in Golden and to Denver to the famous Buckhorn Exchange (where all the stuffed animal heads are - eek again) and had Buffalo Fillet (yum) for dinner. Last night in Colorado was Girls Night Out and thirteen of us made a lot of noise at Ye Olde Spaghetti Factory, a revamped saloon where the tables are four poster beds and we took over a trolley car in the middle of the Restaurant.

Next off to spectacular Utah to another school and then a concert with Dick Warwick (Milton Taylor's friend) organised by Sam Jackson of Cowboy Poetry Rodeo fame.
We were taken to his ranch and went looking for Indian arrow heads and pottery up in the mesas and then out to the old movie set of 'Gunsmoke'. Next day was the highlight adventure of a lifetime. Flying in a tiny little Cessna for a couple of hours - over the Grand Canyon!

On to St George, Utah and, unbeknown to me, there was a professor from the University (Dixie College) in the audience of my show and he has booked me to do a writing workshop in the college next year. Whoopee!

Flew in to Elko Nevada with Doris Daley, Canada's No. 1 poet and my dear friend. She and I planned this 'chance encounter' to catch up before we hit the Western Folklife Centre and all the performing (and social) demands of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Awesome!

As in previous years, I just love the Gathering's 'Ranch Tours' and jump at the chance to go on the bus tour out to a real working ranch. All I have to do is be the resident entertainer (do a poem or two at the homestead lunch) and I get to be part of the whole ranching bit - I'm in heaven.

The heart of the National Gathering is the Western Folklife Centre. Shuttle buses take us to various venues and to the fabulous Convention Centre for the main shows. The Folklife Centre has a sizeable Gift Shop (our merchandise is also on sale there - very professionally done), a gallery of western art and sculpture and a long bar and socialising area as well as performance/dance hall. Casinos, Stockman's Bar and Restaurant, cafes, shops and eateries all nearby. Very civilised. Err, the pick-up trucks with the guns in the racks are right there too, as are the brothels - advertised in neon lights!

But step inside that Folklife centre and you're back in the Wild West! Yet the music and poetry is ironically conservative compared to some of what happens back here.

To be invited to perform at the National Gathering, you have to be the Real McCoy. Not just sing or talk about 'the bush' but really know what you're on about and prove a rural background as well as performance and entertainment skills. And you need a pretty big repertoire as, besides my set in the main night time show, I was also in four specific 'themed' shows which required four poems for each. All in all, seven shows there (plus compering another) and you are expected not to repeat poems and they are all to be part of the 'cowboy' genre. Nothing risqué and certainly no 'toilet' humour. Tall order but the most fabulous thing any poet could be part of. Great facilities, terrific camaraderie, extremely well organised, professional stage crews, huge and amazingly receptive and appreciative audiences and financially rewarding to boot. And a not-to-be-forgotten Survivors Party.

As well as the college in St. George, Utah, I have been booked for a return concert in Kanab and possibly more in Arizona and Texas - can't wait.

Thankyou Bush Poetry, for starting me on this amazing journey.