Cowboy poetry, western truth | Doris Daley | TEDxCalgary



I'll start off with a total goofball nonsense fun piece you can look for deep dark truths in it but why would you there are none one about Calgary and then one to close I want to send my first poem out to anyone in this room who had a birthday last year it's called old age and my oh my how life changes as the birthdays roll around especially the ones with the zero on the end my heroes are riding along on the path they're on the same trail the ride is identical but one of my Cowboys is about 80 years old and the other is 18 or 19 watch for my signal I'm gonna send you a cue and that's exactly when I need a gasp of amazement it'll be very very thrilling home we get to that part too carefree cowboys meander down the trail as happiest two ticks on a Blue Heelers tale no pesky horse flies no brusher burs is the kind of day to put an extra jingle in your Spurs now slick was young and frisky but Jake oh who are we fooling he was punching cows back when the Earth's crust was cooling he'd done a lot of living and the years were catching up a buckaroo who'd been around since lassie was a pup they rode along in silence each one dreaming cowboy dreams when suddenly you know I wasn't really looking for quality just quantity just a little bonding moment they rode along in silence each one dreaming cowboy dreams when suddenly they saw a sight of startling extremes a frog sat on the trail a whistle and turkey in the straw' when the riders do up close it ceased his tune and took a chaw well I can see you're both astonished croaked the Frog in tones reptilian what boys you ain't seen nothing yet I'm one frog in a million today's your lucky day gents here let me explain if you just pick me up and kiss me why I turn into Shania Twain well silic got so excited he could barely spit and sputter why this would be as easy as running a hot knife through butter his blood began to circulate his heart became a rocket and Jake well he reached down and put that froggy in his pocket slick too stared in disbelief and rubbed his googly eyes just kiss the Frog he said and let us claim our shapely prize well Jake pondered for a moment then rode off at a jog kid he said at my age I'd rather have the talk and frog I grew up at the edge of the prairies where the prairies meet the foothills in southern Alberta just north of Fort Macleod and my family has been there for a long time my great-grandfather was number 266 that was his enlistment number of the 300 men who came West in the 1870s with the Northwest Mounted Police and my family has been ranching in the Hills ever since so I am someone who grew up in the shadow of the Calgary Stampede and I knew that 2012 was coming the 100th anniversary of the greatest outdoor show on earth and I wanted to write something for that and if I wrote books I would have 300 pages at my disposal but what do I have I have 28 lines or 32 lines so my thinking and my words have to be very distilled and I knew I wanted to write something about partners partnerships I love that word I love the values it implies you think of a cowgirl and her barrel racing horse you think of two Cowboys who will compete for $100,000 and the very next day get in the same truck and go down the road together think of all the partnerships that in exist in our beautiful city with the corporate world and the nonprofit world because of the Calgary Stampede I also wanted to pay tribute to the man who started it all guy weed ik and his beautiful wife trick Roper Flores Lydia they are buried in the HAI River Cemetery and I went to visit their graves before I sat down to write my piece she died first and I saw what guy we dick had written on his wife's headstone it's three words three very simple they aren't fancy schmancy words but when I saw what he said about his wife I went home and wrote my poem about the Calgary Stampede my name is guy we dick how do you do a pleasure to meet you miss Flores LeDoux the horses are saddled with two fancier oh I'd love to step out with you by my side I'll tell you my dreams about a big Wild West Show I'm throwing a big loop by the banks of the Bo well mr. weed ik I'm told you talk big and bald and that's fine with me for ordinary leaves me cold oh I'd love to go riding as it happens I'm free any horse that has hair is just dandy with me I've had my eye on you from the start when you're throwing your loop you might aim for my heart she had her trick rope and he had a dream they aim for the stars and they pulled as a team with sparkle and spunk they could conquer the world a gamble a promise a plan was unfurled they rode side by side and they wrote to succeed and they did it they started the Calgary Stampede a daring new husband a plucky young wife hell-bent for leather lived larger than life they were partners at work and partners at play and they rode by a standard that lives on today a world full of try a heart full of yes a legacy branded the sea lazy-s 1951 her last Setting Sun her saddle is empty her last race is run a cowboy heads west a grave stands alone and three little words are carved on a stone three little words but they ring true and tall a real partner and that in the West says it all thank you so much well I have truths and many of them are very simple you probably won't hear anything profound from me they are old-fashioned they are the kind of truths your grandmother taught you butter is better send thank-you notes words matter I'm speaking as a writer now if everything is awesome nothing is awesome you can't be very unique or quite unique it is important to be right and it is also important to be kind and maybe sometimes when you have the choice to be right or to be kind maybe the better choice is to not have to be right all the time but to show a little kindness I have some truths about what I do Western poetry cowboy poetry what it's not is some trumped-up 21st century kooky novel way of telling stories that belong in the barnyard it has a long very respected history going back to the 1860s and the trail rides trail drives coming up from Texas and those young teenage Cowboys learn to entertain themselves around the campfire with poems that they made up on the trail 30 years later big big deal in my world cowboy poetry it was the coming of the barbed wire and I know what you're thinking what the heck does barbed wire have to do with rhymed and metered verse when the barbed wire fences came it changed everything in this country from Alberta down to Texas and the Cowboys of the day could see that the open range was disappearing and they wanted to capture it for us twenty and fifty and a hundred and a hundred and fifty years later so we could get a glimpse of how they lived Charlie Russell drew it painted it on canvas and many working Cowboys or men and women who observed the cowboy life they captured it in a very populair e popular literary reform of the day which was rhymed and metered verse those Cowboys loved where they lived and that is my truth I hope you all love where you live I hope you love the hurly-burly grand commotion of your professional lives of your volunteer lives I hope you love your home life I hope you love the hustle and bustle and energizing vibe of the city if you're like me and choose to live in a small town I hope you love rural Alberta because if you love where you live you will invest in where you live and that's my second truth several years ago I'd asked an old-timer he just turned 83 or 84 and I said Lloyd give me some wisdom you must have lots of wisdom to share now and he gave me two words and I thought he was joking but the older I get the more I realized he was serious and those words were show up show up for life show up for the weddings in the birthdays that's easy anybody can do that but he was also saying show up for the funerals and float show up when there's a fire and I don't care how many Facebook friends you have it's not going to matter the day you bury your dad or the day you lose your job when you hear about someone who's been struggling in a unsuccessful marriage we need to show up for each other I have a wonderful friend he lives in North Dakota he's a great writer and a poet storyteller he lives in a very small town it is so small that two or three years ago when it take came time for the Christmas pageant the role of baby Jesus in the manger was played by a yellow lab pup because there weren't enough kids to go around and when Rodney meets someone who he admires someone who exemplifies Western values he has a great way of paying a compliment to that person he'll say I wish you were my neighbor you're the kind of person I'd want for a neighbor that is my truth I to be a person so somebody says about me I wish Doris was my neighbor I want all of you to be that kind of person to show up and love where you live there is no one poem that is ever going to capture this moment in time about the West there's no one movie or book or documentary but a hundred years from now people are gonna look back on all of us and wonder who were we and if you gather up a whole bunch of cowboy poems you will get snapshots of what the contemporary West was like and I hope when people look back on this time they will say about all of us we were people who went to TED talks we shared our ideas we challenged one another we had provocative ideas on how to make the world a better place and that's what this last poem is about a hundred years from now if the world still in the game may the earth recall our footprints may the wind sing out our name may someone turn a page and harken back upon this time may someone sing a cowboy tune and someone's spin a rhyme history buffs will study us and time will tell its tales our lives will be a brittle pile of cold and quaint details though a scrap of faded photograph a news headline or two but life was so much more my friends when the century was new so a hundred years from now don't look back and think me quaint don't judge and call me sinner and don't judge and call me saint we live beneath the arch with a mix of grit and grace just ordinary folk in an extraordinary place so a hundred years from now here are ancient voices call and know that life was good and the cowboy still wrote tall while flowers filled our valleys and the Coyotes were our choir we knew some wild places that had never known the wire we're a stout-hearted ponies we'd ride and let her rip we burn beneath the Summer Sun and we railed at winters grip we took a little courage when the crocus bloomed each spring we loved beneath the Stars and we heard the night wind sing we married and we buried we danced and laughed and cried oh and there were times we failed but that's the record show we tried the Sun rose up each day would make it through another year we'd watch the skies and count our calves and hoist a cup of cheer we knew flood and fire and heartache we knew fat and we knew bone but we were silver lining people and we never wrote alone so friend if you are reading this a hundred years from now understand that we were pilgrims who just made it through somehow we've crossed that River home now and we left but one request a hundred years from now think back kindly on the West an ordinary folk no special fate no special claims but a hundred years from now may the wind sing out our names and know that life was good we wrote the best we know we kept the faith we loved the West 100 years ago you

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