Cowboy Heritage Comes Alive

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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It doesn't matter if you've never ridden a horse. Or worn a pair of cowboy boots. Or if you prefer your coffee with the grounds filtered out.

It doesn't even matter if the only hat you own says Payson Concrete & Materials on it.

This is cowboy country, and it is incumbent upon each of us who live here to preserve that heritage. Without a past, there can be no present or future not to mention all those tourist dollars.

For many Rim country residents, it's the rodeos that recapture the spirit of the Wild West. For others it's the Old-Time Fiddlers' Contest.

Another entertaining option the Rim Country Western Heritage Festival is this weekend. Now in its third year, the festival takes place in and around the Rim Country Museum and historic Julia Randall Elementary School.

In addition to free admission to the museum, the festival features candle making and other fun activities for children, and lots of great food and drink. But the soul of the Rim Country Western Heritage Festival is a hardy blend of western art, theater and live cowboy poetry readings by some of Arizona's finest western wordsmiths.

All three mediums seek to recapture a vanished way of life, a simpler time when right was right and wrong was wrong, when the rules of the road were as obvious as a walk in the woods.

My ceiling the sky, my carpet the grass,

My music the lowing of herds as they pass;

My books are the brooks, my sermons the stones,

My parson's a wolf on a pulpit of bones.

My books teach me constancy ever to prize,

My sermon's that small things I should not despise;

And my parson's remarks from his pulpit of bone,

Is that "the Lord favors those who look out for their own."

(from "The Cowboy's Soliloquy" by Allen McCanless)

If the brief era when cowboys roamed the Rim seems irrelevant to these fast-paced times, consider the universality of the human condition captured by this cowboy poet:

An old man sat on a sack of corn

And stared with a vacant gaze;

He had lost his hopes in the Gypsum Hills,

And he thought of the olden days.

The tears fell fast when the strange refrain

Came forth in a minor key:

"No matter how long the river,

The river will reach the sea!"

(from "The Blizzard" by Eugene Ware)

And in this age of digital diversions our very own Dee Strickland Johnson (aka Buckshot Dot) reminds us that it is still the simple things in life that bring the most pleasure ...

Among the white-barked aspen trees,

I touch the reins and press my knees

Against her side. Fredonia halts

and turns to know if she's at fault.

I dismount to lie among

the fallen leaves, once green and young,

now crisp and curling, old and brown;

they cushion me

as I lie down.

Fredonia flicks her tail to say,

"Get up! We must be on the way!"

Refreshing dampness holds me; still,

Fredonia's eyes are on the hill.

Reluctantly I rise and straddle

the smooth cool leather of my saddle,

then reach to stroke the little mare

who really thinks

we're bound somewhere.

(from "Fredonia" by Dee Strickland Johnson)

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