The Lingo of our Calling: The Legacy of Cowboy Poetry
January 19 to June 30, 2004
Writer Wallace Stegner once wrote, “a place is just a place until a poet’s been there.” The American West, with its vast and varied landscape, has been graced with an abundance of poets, a number from its horseback culture, who have given us a lasting legacy of story, song, and verse of language.
The Lingo of Our Calling, the title of a poem written by Montana poet Wallace McRae, speaks to the unique language cowboys use to communicate about their way of life.
This exhibit explores cowboy poetry’s history, from the classics to the contemporary, and examines its role in reflecting sense of place and culture as it has evolved over time in the West. Poetry, illustrated books, manuscripts, photographs, vintage sheet music, postcards and memorabilia; artwork, hand crafted horse gear and other artifacts - as well as audio and video recordings - have been gathered from collections all over the West to illustrate the creative inspirations and enduring spirit of cowboy poetry. Artwork includes paintings and illustrations by William Matthews, Gary Morton, Buckeye Blake, C.M. Russell, Walter Piehl, Edward Borein, Harold Von Schmidt, Larry Pirnie and more.
The horse gear on display comes from the Western Folklife Center’s collection of contemporary gear, featuring work of some of the West’s master makers including saddlemakers Dale Harwood and Scott Brown; bit and spur makers Al Tietjen, Mark Dahl, Dan Price, Frank Schultz and Ernie Marsh; horsehair artists Alfredo Campos, Kelly Kinkade, Larry and Toni Schutte, Frankie Dougal, Doug Krause and Helen Hammond; and rawhide braiders Jim McKinney, Bob Stone, Frank Hansen, Nate Wald, Randy Rieman, Doug Groves, Bill Budd and Ed Pass.
Produced by the Western Folklife Center with guest curator Liz Dear of Montana.
Presented with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Anne Pattee, the Nevada Arts Council, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Wells Fargo, R. Harold Burton Foundation and the Dick Burton Foundation.