Photo courtesy of Joelle MacKay
From left, Brody, Jayden, Allee, Ash, Frank, Henry, Scarlett, Oliver 4-H members wrote poems during a workshop and presented at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko.

By Joelle Mackay, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

Cowboy poetry is an image painted through words describing and showing a way of life. When cowboys had some relaxation time on the range, they would often pass the time by telling stories and poems and singing songs about cattle, horses and riding the range.

With help and funding from the Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Poetry Out Loud and NV Energy, seven youth were provided the opportunity to learn about and try their hand at cowboy poetry and expand their public speaking skills, as a project with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Program. The funding supported a workshop on Jan. 19 and 20 with Carolynn Dufferena.

Dufferena is a rancher located in Winnemucca, Nevada. She is also a writer, filmmaker and award-winning journalist, writing for “Range Magazine.” Dufferena participates in the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held in Elko, Nevada, sharing her poems and stories. The 4-H members who participated in the January workshop were Oliver, 10; Scarlett, 9; Henry,8; Jayden, 8; Frank, 6; Allee, 8; and Ash, 5.

Though the children sat with uncertainty on the first day, they became engaged within minutes of Dufferena speaking. By the middle of the first day, they were inspired and intrigued with this new world of words. In the beginning workshop, the students discovered the originations of cowboy poetry and the artistry within the culture. They worked hard, almost nonstop, for two days. With Dufferena’s guidance, they were determined to meet their end goal and recite their poems at Cowboy Poetry’s Youth Open Mic Night.

On Feb. 1 in Elko, the 4-H members stood on a stage before a packed room. With their newly gained skills from the workshop, they stood with confidence and were able to recite their poems from memory. They left the stage with heads held high, beaming smiles, a new sense of accomplishment, ability to communicate, and enthusiasm for language and communication. This is truly an example of empowerment of our youth learning by doing. 4-H is an opportunity to enjoy hobbies and new experiences for youth and adults through independent projects, clubs, volunteering and community projects.

For more information or to register for 4-H, contact the Eureka County Cooperative Extension office at 775-237-5326 or 701 S. Main St. in Eureka.