Cowboy Poetry: An Interview With Jessica Hedges
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering dates back to January 1985. Annually in Elko, Nevada the National Cowboy Poetry gathering is held. This draws quite the crowd and has become an important aspect of cowboy life. I was lucky enough to catch up with a modern-day cowboy poet, and get some perspective on the event and why cowboy poetry is such an important piece of our cowboy culture. I had the remarkable experience to speak with a cowboy poet by the name of Jessica Hedges out of Lovelock, Nevada. Jessica is truly a jack of all trades and a self-proclaimed “day working cowboy, cowboy poet, cowboy's wife and mama to two little buckaroos’ in training”; truly a lady who does it all.
Personally, I was introduced to cowboy poetry gatherings in my early years of college when I was surrounded by those who had lived the Buckaroo life for the entirety of their lives. Being a small-town girl, who grew up riding on a rodeo circuit, I was fascinated by the Nevada Cowboy way of life. Jessica was one of the lucky ones, she grew up listening to it and most importantly, living it. She was introduced to cowboy poetry by listening to the likes of Waddie Mitchell and Red Steagall. Cowboy culture, like most cultures use stories and music to pass down their history. I asked Jessica why she felt that poetry, specifically these gatherings are so important to maintain the culture. She had this to say “originally it was a way for cowboys to entertain themselves or others. Through it, they could pass on their stories, their traditions. Contact between people was less and books were harder to come by. With the availability of technology, it's not as practiced as it once was, but that is why it is important, so it's history lives on”.
Jessica grew up an hour from the gathering, with a family tradition of attendance. Jessica began writing her own poetry when she was attending the gathering and realized that “I live on a ranch, I have stories, I can do that!" She eventually was invited to be a guest at the event and shared the stage with those she had grown up listening to. I think this speaks to the culture, and its simplicity. Those with the stories and a voice can share their history and stories around them.
I will leave you this week with an encouragement to attend the gathering in Elko, or perhaps another gathering that might be closer to your home. I will also leave you with Jessica’s advice for those of you attending the gathering for the first time “Elko is alive for an entire week with an incredible energy; if you get bored, it's your own fault!
Interested in attending the event? Be sure to check out the links below for tickets and more information on cowboy poetry gatherings that may be near you.
To learn more about The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering please feel free to check out their website: http://www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org/our-history/
To follow Jessica’s adventures, or her works check out the following links: