Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews by Jeri L. Dobrowski: Leaning into the Harness
Penning this monthly column is a privilege. It provides me the opportunity to review projects produced by people from across North America. I understand the commitment that goes into researching, writing, editing, and designing, and the financial resources necessary for production and distribution. I don’t take it lightly when a parcel arrives for my consideration.
There’s not enough space to mention every book, CD, or DVD that crosses my desk, so I sort through the submissions, evaluating them for quality and gauging which will appeal most to my readers. I set them aside until I find a common theme with which to group two or three in a column. This month it’s leaning into the harness, as in a horse pulling a wagon.
Having just finished Wolf Teeth, poems by Henry Real Bird (Lost Horse Press, 2013, 84 pages, illustrations, ISBN: 978-0-0883166-4-5), I was struck by the effort that went into the poems, which look so deceivingly perfect on paper. Preparing a book for printing is a marathon of selecting material, editing, layout, and proofing. That’s not taking into account the hours spent writing.
Real Bird’s astute observations span a life lived on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation, following the rodeo circuit, teaching, and raising bucking horses. I could hear the sound of his voice as clearly as if he were standing next to me while I read, the text vividly capturing his tone and philosophy. He honors and examines his culture and the history of his people, longing for bygone days and aspiring to better times ahead. I was touched by a number of deeply romantic pieces, written to a love that is never clearly defined, and warmed by this from “A Blessing,” “So may you be covered with love for many winters to come.”
Wolf Teeth is available for $16.95 plus postage from Lost Horse Press, 105 Lost Horse Lane, Sandpoint, ID 83864; (208) 255-4410; losthorsepress.org.
Award-winning singer, songwriter, and entertainer Juni Fisher is also an accomplished horsewoman. She nurtured the vision of Listen … to the horse for several years before heading into the studio to record the album. Long before she made arrangements with the producer and musicians, she wrote nine of the 11 tracks–collaborating on three. (Hear the title track at http://www.junifisher.com/.) Fisher selected “Stewball” and Mike Beck’s “Patrick” to round out the collection that speaks of her love and respect for horses.
In a revealing narrative, Fisher traces her equine journey from Western saddle horses to point-to-point racing and fox hunting and back to reined cow horses and the cutting pen. There were some bumps and bruises along the way. Fisher shares that she found the writing process cathartic.
Fans are cheering the results, among them farriers given their five minutes of fame in the bluesy “For Want of a Nail.” Master of the ballad, Fisher’s “Fillinic” tells the story of a wild-eyed filly trained by the late Greg Ward that became the foundation of the National Reined Cow Horse Association. Have a box of tissues at hand for this sentimental favorite.
Listen sells for $17.50 from http://www.junifisher.com. Downloads are available at iTunes. Contact Fisher c/o Red Geetar Records, 2105 Granville Rd., Franklin, TN 37064; (615) 289-1292; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cowboying for a living, Daron Little’s third album, 307, reflects his life spent in the saddle. Although the title refers to Wyoming’s area code, these original songs are about ranches and cowboys from across the modern American West. With lyrics that include brindle-hided ladies and half-top trailers, you know he’s writing from experience. Those who appreciate authenticity in their cowboy music will find that Daron Little delivers, and those who like it with a dash of rock n’ roll are going to enjoy “Long Days.” (Listen to “Bell Song,” “The Branding Song,” and “307” at ranchcowboymusic.com.)
In “Bell Song,” Little makes mention of the spring wagon rolling out at the 290,000-acre Bell Ranch north of Tucumcari, N.M. Little works for the Silver Spur Ranch, headquartered at Encampment, WY, which purchased the historic Bell in 2010. Ranch managers there brought back the century-old cowboy tradition of sending a chuck wagon out for spring works. (This video captures the inaugural outing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIpSxRxnS3Q.)
The 12-track 307 sells for $18. Send checks to Daron Little, P.O. Box 314, Encampment, WY 82325. For credit card orders and downloads, go to ranchcowboymusic.com. F
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News