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Bill Chiles from Idaho Falls introduces the next performer during an open mic session at the Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering.

SHOSHONE • When cowboys gather in the west, it’s not that different than a family reunion.

Well, except for one minor detail, said Sam DeLeeuw, one of the cowgal poets who traveled to Shoshone for the Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering in Shoshone this week.

“Well, it’s everything like a family reunion except we all like each other,” DeLeeuw said with a sly smile. “We actually look forward to hanging out together.”

After spending most of the week on a trail ride, cowboy poets, musicians and singers mingled on the Lincoln County Fairgrounds to take turns in the open mic session on Saturday.

DeLeeuw recites poetry written mainly from the perspective of a rancher’s wife. However, she has a passion for sharing women’s stories in a male-dominated era.

“Men alone didn’t open the West, but women in lace or in suede,” DeLeeuw recited from her poem, “Women and the West.” “In a time when women were women, they came west, they settled, they stayed.”

Performers mingled around the fairgrounds in western hats and worn-in boots but these items weren’t costume attire. To the performers, the cowboy lifestyle is a culture they fully embrace and live out every day.

“It’s not country, it’s cowboy music,” said Steve Harrington, member of the Utah-based Mountain Saddle Band.

“The difference is that we’re not whining, crying because of a lost love,” Harrington said. “Cowboy music is about the west. It’s western music, it has a distinct sound.”

Influenced by classic bluegrass bands and cowboy legends, the band performs songs that reflect the cowboy lifestyle and values, said band member Steve Taylor.

“I’ll tell you what, if your foot isn’t tapping when we play Cowboy Anthem, then something is wrong,” Taylor said, looking to the rest of his bandmates to back him up.

“He’s right, the song has a great tune, it’s a swing song,” Harrington said, nodding his head in agreement while humming parts of the melody. “And honestly, what we do is more like a calling instead of a job. We’re here to promote the cowboy.”

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