SHOSHONE • If you want to hear the future of cowboy poets, just listen to the words of 10-year-old Thatch Elmer.
Thatch walked to the stage Friday afternoon at the 5th annual Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering and reached for the microphone up on the stand. He tipped his head up toward the stage lights so that his cowboy hat wouldn’t shade his face. Then he took a few steps forward.
“I’d like to share a couple of poems with ya, well, a few poems with ya. This first one that I will do is one that I wrote and it’s kind of, little about me,” Thatch said. “It’s called ‘Born to be a Cowboy’— I was born to be a cowboy, to rope and ride and rhythm. Roping calves and riding bulls, this is how I spend my time. Now I was raised with values and that’s something to be told. There’s 10 principles to live by and it’s called the cowboy code. Being a cowboy, it ain’t always easy. There’s chores that need be done. Working hard is just expected, but some chores just ain’t fun. ...”
The Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering kicked off Friday morning with seasoned cowboy poets such as Bryan Dilworth and Ted Hoffman, but the afternoon belonged to the youth as they showcased their talents in a segment called Future of the West. The special program was led by Colt Angell, 34, of St. Anthony. Angell has been a cowboy musician for the past 27 years and was recently inducted into the Cowboy Poets of Idaho Hall of Fame. He started his music career playing the accordion when he was 7 years old.
“My great-grandmother had an accordion and I asked her if I could have it. She told me, ‘Yeah, if you learn to play it,’” Angell recalled.
He is now skilled on the guitar, fiddle, mandolin and piano.
Angell said inviting young cowboy musicians and poets to play at events like Lost N Lava is a good idea, especially in an industry that isn’t well known in mainstream music circles. He said young poets such as Thatch and musicians like Jenny Lynn Anderson and Kristyn Harris, who are also performing at Lost N Lava, are the future of cowboy music and cowboy poets.
Harris, 20, of Collin County, Texas, was named 2014 Western Female Performer of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. She also incorporates yodeling in her songs.
Harris said very few people her age know about the cowboy music scene. She said the music is more than just entertainment, it’s also about lifestyle.
“It’s not mainstream and if kids didn’t grow up on a ranch, they don’t know about it,” she said. “A lot of cowboy songs are about real life and a lot of people can relate to it.”
Harris said cowboy music is different than country music on the radio.
“A lot of it is historical and preserves the western traditions. ...I got a lot of songs about horses, about riding on the trails.”
Thatch said he became interested in cowboy poetry after he hearing his father recite a poem he wrote. Thatch then started writing his own poetry and memorizing the work of poets such as Bruce Kiskaddon, S.Omar Barker, and Larry McWhorter.
“I write about things I see and hear. You also have to be careful around cowboy poets. What you say around them. Well, they’ll put it in their poems,” Thatch said.
When he first started traveling to perform at cowboy poetry gatherings, Thatch said he was often nervous.
But nowadays, since being adopted in the cowboy poetry family, he can’t wait to get in front of an audience.