In the fall of 1994, Tom Whitaker was driving in his pickup truck across Midway Lane when he stopped to chat with friends Ben Quinters and Kim Cutler, who were working some colts in the field alongside the country road. As conversation commenced, all three cowboys admitted to having a few Cowboy Poems up their sleeve. Tom suggested that they pool their talent, invite a few other local musicians and poets and have a “Cowboy Poetry Gathering.” The three men started making preparations; renting the town hall for an evening in November, curating a myriad of local talent, and planning a chuck wagon menu for attendees. Some posters were stuck around town, poems were brushed up, and they all waited for the night to arrive.
Tom, Ben, and Kim didn’t know what to expect. Will 15 or 50 people show up? To their great surprise, 250 locals gathered with them for a night of food, fun, and entertainment. Right then and there, these men knew they had provided something the quaint little town of Heber, Utah was looking for! Now in its 16th year, the Heber Valley Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering attracts people from all across the country and has become a premier event in the state of Utah.
But why does a Cowboy Poetry Gathering draw such an audience? Some would say it is the poets focus on the historic cowboy lifestyle; ranch work and those who perform it, landscape of the American and Canadian West, cowboy values and practices, and memories of times and people long gone. Others may argue it’s the humorous anecdotes and sarcastic rhetoric regarding modern contraptions and/or ways. However, most will agree that cowboy poetry is meant to be recited aloud in bunkhouses or rodeo arenas, on the trail or around a campfire, and of course, at the many Cowboy Poetry Gatherings held across the United States.
Since the Heber Valley Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering is held in our backyard, you can bet that we will be there celebrating the cowboy way. Because like we always say, “The Cowboy Way, Then, Now, and Forever”.
Enjoy Baxter Black’s “The Uterine Prolapse” at his Heber City performance in November, 2009.
Portions of this post came from “History of Cowboy Poetry.” “Heber Valley Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering” 2016.