Cowboy Jam Session by Jeri Dobrowski: Inspired by the Southern Great Plains |

Cowboy Jam Session by Jeri Dobrowski: Inspired by the Southern Great Plains

A friend once summed up his affinity for North Dakota saying he was “a child of the Plains.” I’ve pondered his statement many times over the years, concluding that the description fits me as well.

Searching for a definition of the Plains, I found this on The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, a project of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln devoted to what is vital and interesting about the Great Plains:

“The Great Plains is a vast expanse of grasslands stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri River and from the Rio Grande to the coniferous forests of Canada—an area more than eighteen hundred miles from north to south and more than five hundred miles from east to west. The Great Plains region includes all or parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The region, once labeled “the Great American Desert,” is now more often called the “heartland,” or, sometimes, “the breadbasket of the world.” Its immense distances, flowing grasslands, sparse population, enveloping horizons, and dominating sky convey a sense of expansiveness, even emptiness or loneliness, a reaction to too much space and one’s own meager presence in it.”

R. J. Vandygriff hails from Lipscomb, Texas, in the northeastern corner of the Texas Panhandle. In 2010, census takers identified 37 people living there. They counted 3,302 in the whole of Lipscomb County. I can only imagine how excited townsfolk were to see R. J. on the CBS series, Walker, Texas Ranger, where he appeared with Chuck Norris. He played Ranger Mike. (For more on R. J. go to

Vandygriff has a new album out entitled Cowboy to the Bone. The 14 tracks are a mix of contemporary and classic cowboy and country/western songs. The album opens with Randy Huston’s “Hurricane Deck,” a roughstock cowboy anthem that will surely appeal to rodeo contestants and fans. Working cowboys will find a lot to like in “Mr. Jimmy Bussard,” recounting the respected cattleman’s funeral. R. J.’s renditions of “The Auctioneer,” made popular by Leroy VanDyke, and “Big Blue Diamonds” are both dandies.

Cowboy to the Bone sells for $20. Send check or money order to Centerstage Productions, PO Box 85, Lipscomb, TX 79056;

Jack “Trey” Allen hung his hat in the Oklahoma Panhandle town of Hooker for a time before hiring on as manager of the Rod Moyer ranch near Manhattan, Kansas. The ranch lies within the Flint Hills, a rocky region that escaped the settler’s plow. Today, the region boasts the densest coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. It’s cattle country.

Kansas watercolorist Don Dane captured Trey’s likeness in a painting that was selected for the 2015 Cowboy Poetry Week poster. (See the poster at Western Horseman.)

A detail from the painting graces the cover of Trey’s latest album, A Remnant Gather, containing 16 poems. They’re a mix of his own original works, a couple by friends and “The Quitter” by Robert Service. It’s an impressive collection of smartly written pieces delivered with flair. Trey is as proficient with words as he is with a lariat. (For more, see or his Honored Guest page at

A Remnant Gather is available for $20 from Trey Allen, 15601 Hannagan Rd., Manhattan, KS 66502; (785) 477-3514;

Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee Barry Ward tips his hat to America’s farmers and ranchers in Distant Furrows: Pluckin’, Plowin’ & Playin’, an album containing 17 original songs. It opens with “Wheatfields” and includes “Harvest in the Fall,” which is featured in the documentary, The Great American Wheat Harvest. “How Great Thou Art” is included as a bonus track. (Listen to song clips on the Mercantile page at

Barry’s affinity for the Plains is evident in these moving songs of faith, family and farming written while he lived near the small town of Copeland, Kansas, about 40 miles west of Dodge City. His great-grandparents settled in the area in the late 1880s; Barry worked alongside his father and grandfather on the farm.

Distant Furrows sells for $18 postpaid from Flying W Productions, 2782 CR 98, Elbert, CO 80106; (303) 648-3547;