Cowboy Poetry | Celebrating Western lifestyle

Richard Elloyan and Steve Wade performing.

Cowboy culture isn’t something that necessarily comes to mind when you think about the Tahoe Sierra, but it is alive and well in the Sierra Valley. On March 15 and 16 the Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival will offer a glimpse into life of the cowboy.

“My granny knew every cowboy song. I grew up listing to that stuff. They didn’t call it cowboy poetry back then.”

Most of us can only imagine waking up at dawn to the sound of the pounding hooves of cattle being driven across the range, making lassos, bucking broncos and sitting around a campfire under the full moon with a tin of beans and a guitar. The festival in its 34th year is held in Vinton at Sierra Valley Grange Hall. It illuminates the Western and pioneer lifestyle in an area rich in history.

Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival
March 15-16
Sierra Valley Grange | Vinton

Rich Moore and his wife, Pam, have been organizing the festival for the last eight years.

“We offer a unique show in an intimate setting,” says Rich of the 200-seat show. The festival offers three shows that present Western music, poetry and dinner.

I ask him if there was a difference between Western music and country music.

Cowboy poet Chris Isaacs on his horse Double.

“Western music is not country music. Western music is focused around cowboy life. It’s all about the experience of cowboys and the frontier people on the range. It’s a part of history that is slowly being lost. The festival is a way to keep it alive,” he says.

Chris Isaacs has been writing cowboy poetry for more than 25 years. His mother’s family were ranchers; Isaacs spent a lot of time at his grandparent’s ranch growing up.

“My granny knew every cowboy song. I grew up listing to that stuff. They didn’t call it cowboy poetry back then,” says Isaacs, who started writing poetry in high school. “I didn’t want anyone to know I was a poet. ”

The 74-year-old poet and storyteller received encouragement from other cowboy poets to start performing.

“People seem to like what I do, and I’ve been writing the last 25 years,” says Isaacs, who gets inspiration from his life experiences. “I try to see the funny side of things when I can. Gotta laugh or you’ll crazy.”

Isaacs says that he best expresses himself through his art form. He mentions much of his stuff is pretty “punchy,” meaning it refers to a cowpuncher (a cowboy).

Isaacs is a fan of masterful storytelling and notes two people he admires: Curt Brummett and Waddie Mitchell. His all-time favorite storyteller, however, is Mark Twain.

“Mark Twain understood and had such a grasp of human nature,” says Isaacs.

Cowboy entertainer Dave Stamey is performing at this year’s festival along with local Western musicians Richard Elloyan and Steve Wade from Dayton, Nev. There’s a show at 7:30 p.m. on March 15 and 16 and a matinee on March 16 at 2 p.m. The festival is a benefit for Sierra Valley Grange #466. |

Ol’ Double
By Chris Isaacs

It’s funny how memories can ambush you some,
Just come at you from out of the blue.
For no reason at all they just seem to appear,
And why? I just don’t have a clue.

But sometimes it happens and today it sure did,
And for some reason this memory decided to stay
Of a little paint horse that I wish I still had,
And I’m missing ol’ Double today.

I’ve had two or three that was better than him,
So it wasn’t because he was the best.
He wasn’t too pretty if that was your thing
And with size he sure wasn’t blessed.

He had a split ear and one cloudy eye
And he’d buck when the mornings were cold.
But he’d try anything that I asked him to try,
‘Cause he had a heart of pure gold.

No, he wasn’t the best by any stretch of the mind
But I’d take a whole herd like him any day.
‘Cause I don’t need a world beater, just a good honest horse,
And I’m missing ol’ Double today.