Georgia Cowboy Poetry Gathering – “Southern Cowboys” introduce Chapel Hill School Drama Club – Cowboy Poets!

A Backpack Journalist, Program Manager

March 2, 2013

Douglasville, Georgia

A little background first:  Jerry Warren is Georgia’s Cowboy Poet.  He is also A Backpack Journalist Instructor and we have him on film explaining to a group of Ft. Campbell youth just what Cowboy Poetry is all about.  Not just learning how to rhyme with words, but in Jerry’s words:  “It’s about the history of our nation!.”

And, certainly from this image taken right from the stage where this tonight’s event is being held says it all:

Our Flag stands by…a Cowboy is near!

Check out Jerry at work on our Ft. Campbell video by clicking on the YOUTUBE  – link at the top of our website.

Chapel High School auditorium was filling up and standing in the back of the room one could see lots of wide brim hats often referred to as “Cowboy Hats”.  Soon to start was the 17th Annual “Georgia Cowboy Poetry Gathering – Southern Cowboys”.   Presented by the Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville/Douglas County, a host of “real” Cowboys were on the program ready to share their poetic stories, some serious and filled with history, and often with lots of fun.

The air was filled with sounds of sweet, string music coming from an Appalachian  Mountain Dulcimer played by Tom Stavran.

Tom Stavran, Dulcimer Player

We learned that the dulcimer is actually the first true instrument made in the United States.  And, his music continued right up until Frank B. Wood (Cow Camp Cook) opened the show with Empty Saddles.

Let’s say that the Cowboys do it right when honoring one of their own that has passed.  Doc Stovall and John Linville passed away during 2012.  Doc was the Georgia Balladeer (and also had worked with Backpack Journalist), and John Linville a performer of song.  Throughout the evening, short comments and memories were shared about each of these men.   From funnies whereby we learned that each morning Doc would be up writing lyrics, driving and calling others on the phone, to the most serious when Jerry Warren spoke of Doc’s experience embracing his faith in Colorado two years ago!

Frank opens up the evening!

Frank introduced a new addition to the “Gathering”.   Chapel Hill High School Drama Club was participating in the evening.  He explained that they had met with their teacher, Larry Boon about perhaps “if a few of the youth could participate in the evening?”   Well, after meeting a second time and viewing a presentation by all the youth shown in the photo below, Frank and his team decided – “NO, they all have to come and be apart of the Gathering!”.

Frank and the Cowboy Committee named this group of young people:  Cowboy Poet Kids. They were to perform and would be reciting Cowboy Poetry and song.

Cowboy Poets one after the other spoke, reciting without a teleprompter or paper notes.  Often it would last minutes upon minutes, and one would enjoy in such amazement of how each never missed a word, or expression!  Stories were shared about settling the west, the first woman Cowgirl and a funny about how to make your marriage work (as a Cowboy). These recited stories, many of them were written by each Cowboy Poet!.  Many have their own CD’s.

Steve Poster, SC Cowboy Poet

Performing along with Jerry, was Bill Turnipseed, Tom Kerlin,

Steve Porter (SC Cowboy Poet), Wayne Corley, Justin Hicks

David Fillingim, Charlie Holloway, and Joel Hayes.

Jerry Warren always seems to make sure we learn a history lesson.

Jerry Warren speaks of the Georgia Regiment that fought at the Alamo!

For example:  Doc Holliday! Yes, from the OK Corral!

Doc was a dentist from Griffin, Georgia and his office still stands!

Plus, the Texas – one star flag was actually designed and hand-made by a Georgia woman who sent it with the Georgia Regiment that went out to Texas to stand side by side with the Texans defending the Alamo during Santa Ana’s attack.

Jerry’s poem closed with a comment “Georgia providing the seed to Texas for freedom!”


Jerry also shared with us his special tribute to a horse that he had owned as he started out young as a Cowboy.  Words here can’t possibly share the effect that this poem had over the audience.  Throughout not a sound was made as we all waited for the next word to come out of Jerry’s mouth.  We were there with him as he was told about the death of his beloved horse, and we grieved with him as he shared his closing….”what-if I had not”.

Now, the Cowboy Poet Kids.  Let’s see, we learned just what Cowboy Poetry was.  How it started and why?  First, it was the Cowboy at night by the campfire with time on their hands, spinning the day’s event into rhyme and continued from there as they memorialized the events in the west!  (We learned that the actual first Cowboy Poem recorded was by an Englishman in the 1800’s!)

Cowboy Poet Kid

Each came forward with such confidence to share their rhyme or sing a song that honored the Cowboy and their lifestyle.

Cowboy Poets perform. Guitar and Song!
Ivan and the “cat” that kept coming back!




There was this “cat” on the range, who kept coming back and the young man stood before us smiling, loving every minute sharing this whimsical story in rhyme.

Then, it got serious – with Burial.  Derrion recited a story of a Cowpoke who had passed on to a greater life on the range.  With his words in rhyme, he brought us to an imaginary campfire where the Cowboys were speaking of  the passed-away Cowpoke as they were preparing to bury him.

Burial performed by Derrion.

From there, we followed Derrion as they buried the Cowpoke, and we watched as the Cowpoke’s hat was gently laid to rest.

Not only did they present the rhyme, the stories, but several formed a group with a guitar in hand.  Songs were shared many times and one especially about a young girl learning that her true love had decided to become a Cowboy.

And, how could she compete with that?


As the evening progressed, often we heard the Cowboy Poets gently complaining that they  -meaning the Cowboy Poet Kids came to a “Gathering” and performed…well, they – the Cowboy Poets wanted to go first and NOT follow.  WHAT A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW!  And geez, have not we all as youngsters dreamed of becoming a Cowboy or Cowgirl?

It should be noted that the reason the Cowboy Committee went to the Chapel Hill High School was their concern that they were getting “old” and needed to encourage young people of today to learn about Cowboy Poetry!  The outcome went beyond their expectations.  (And we at Backpack Journalist have always loved Cowboy Poetry as an addition to our list of Creative Expression modules!  Combining history and rhyme – what a way to learn!)

Before they disbanded, quickly in hall outside of the auditorium, we found the Chapman High School Cowboy Poets waiting to help close the show.  Each shared a bit about themselves, and we hope to have it posted on the Backpack Journalist Radio Show in April, honoring the Month of  Cowboy Poetry! and the Month of the Military Child.

Members of the Drama Club, Chapman Hill High School – all Cowboy Poets with Linda Dennis, Program Manager

Cowboy Poet Kids:  Brian Belton, Derrion Burse, Brooke Gray, Sierra Gunter, Ciarra Henderson, Lanese Love, Chelsea Reese and Ivan Washington.

To sum it up – Derrion perhaps said it simply.  “I have watched many westerns and seen Cowboys in the movies and television.  This allowed me to really experience and learn about the history and traditions of American west, the Cowboy and to feel it and experience it!”

Their teacher, Larry Boon, was busy behind the scenes working to make sure all the lighting, audio was working.  However, he did step out for a minute and only confirmed to us what we could tell by watching the Cowboy Poet Kids on stage:  “All of these kids are so talented and great to work with!  They really got engaged and worked hard on the poems, creating special dramatic presentations for each”.

When the evening came to a close, all the Cowboy Poets came together on stage and we all joined in singing – Happy Trails to you!.    It was one of those moments that “chill bumps” appear and a swelling in the throat, and in the mind, a vision of Roy and Dale Evans riding off in the distance!

Cowboy Poets gather as we all say goodbye – singing Happy Trails to You!

Seeing the special group of Southern Cowboys standing in front of us, made it seem all the more real!

Flickr – has a group of photos of the performances,and on our Radio Show in April, we will be broadcasting a selection of the interviews with the Cowboy Poet Kids.

Happy Trails!