Remember that controversy a year ago when Harry Reid made a speech about the budget bill, and decried Republican cuts against the National Endowment of the Humanities and the National Endowment of the Arts? And all people talked about was…cowboy poetry?

Yes, Reid had mentioned a yearly festival in his native Nevada made possible by the National Endowment of the Humanities. Unfortunately for him, the festival was a gathering of cowboy poets. Unfortunately for the cowboy poets, they were suddenly the butt of every joke on Fox News for the next several days.

I mean, c’mon, what’s up with tough cowboy dudes doing something lame like writing poetry? Surely there’s no way to legitimize a century-old American tradition. I’d like to see you try, Western Folklife Center!

  • Our work is a touchstone for the past, yet grounded in the present with a vision for the future of the West.
  • We provide a sense of belonging and connection for both a local and a far-flung audience, and we bring together people with a similar sense of personal meaning and interests.
  • Our efforts to research, document, present and preserve the expressive culture of the people of the West are vital to the region and the nation.
Oh, I see. You do have a purpose. So let’s pour one out for the good ol’ days when cowboys could ride around and write as much poetry as they pleased without provoking any patriotic ire. What do you say to that, anonymous cowboy poet?

When I think of those good old days, my eyes with tears do fill;
When I think of the tin can by the fire and coyote on the hill.
I’ll tell you boys, in those days old-timers stood a show,–
Our pockets full of money, not a sorrow did we know.
But things have changed now; we are poorly clothed and fed.
Our wagons are all broken and our ponies ‘most all dead.
Soon we will leave this country; you’ll hear the angels shout,
“Oh, here they come to Heaven, the camp-fire has gone out.”

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