Western Folklife Center: Elko, Nevada

Located in Elko, Nevada, a gold mining & railroad town located off of Interstate-80, is the Western Folk-life Center is designed to promote the cowboy heritage and way of life through their songs, storytelling, poetry (for those who don’t know, Cowboy Poetry is THING) and artwork. It is also the location for the yearly (approaching its 35th anniversary) National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and competition…. six days of poetry, music, dancing, workshops, and exhibits all of which are based in tradition but focused on the modern/rural West.IMG_4677

IMG_2765You first enter into the gift shop, which constitutes almost a quarter of the space, and actually has quite an impressive collection of items. IMG_0078Around the outer edges of the store you’ll find areas devoted to Cowboy poetry, music, and art, as you expect….IMG_0077Plus some handicrafts, including beauty products and other ranch produced handicrafts…. but the entire center of the shop???IMG_0076Jewelry! Lots and lots of jewelry — cause well… profit margins…. alongside the gift store is the art gallery. The guy in charge told me that they always have visiting exhibitions in this space… which switch out every few months. While I was here they had an exhibit about the art of Basque sheep herders (a different sort of cowboy) — and their art forms, including carvings, some of which date back to 1900, that are carved into local Aspen treesIMG_4720because these tree will ultimately die, a married couple had gone around collecting rubbings of all the ones they could find. IMG_0080

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This was followed up by a small display about Basque improvised Poetry. Here they give them a topic and they have to come up with a poem on the subject … which was won by a woman for the first time last year

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Then there was a permenent display, of the movie why the Cowboy sings…. only its the 16 minute version

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Looking online I found the PREVIEW of “Why the Cowboy sings” (1.24 min)

As well as the Full 56 min movie — but no 16 minute version

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After this the docent showed me their western bar… it was not specially made, they found it in a mining camp in a tent and brought it here

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Some examples of Cowboy poetry:

This website shows last year’s “Best of the West” show, which is a yearly performance at the Poetry Gathering, which exhibits some of the best of modern Cowboy music. While this video on the event, gives you an idea of the full breath and depth of it:

Cemetery in a roundabout: West Des Moines, Iowa

Currently situated in the middle of the intersection at South 88th Street and Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines, Iowa (not far from I-80), lies the Huston Family Cemetery. It was named for James B. Huston, the patriarch of one of the first families to settle in Dallas County (in the 1840’s) and the LAST person buried at the plot (in 1889). The cemetery is unusual in that it now sits in the center of a roundabout in what was once a rural area, but that is no only about a mile away from a Costco, and as there’s already been one instance of a drunk driver driving through the site, it might end up being moved — although there is some talk of moving the roads instead.

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The area which I’m fairly sure was completely rural a few years ago (like the other grave in a middle of the road I visited in Indiana) is to the graveyards detriment being developed REALLY quickly, according to the locals I spoke to … so much so that — like I already said–  there’s a Costco about a mile directly down the road (with a gas station, which I filled up at).

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The Huston Cemetery consists of 19 graves that date back to the late 1880’s, and are located near to The family’s original home — which is still standing nearby. The home is HIGHLY historical, as it was once a stage-coach station, a tavern, the local post office AND a stop on the Underground Railroad. The family patriarch, James B. Huston, was the first attorney in Dallas County (where the graves are situated)

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According the city’s website, the first two former slave girls, both named Harper, who apparently had “died on their way to freedom” were the first individuals buried there — although this is conflicted by a report from another site, which claims the two girls were part of family that was on its way to Kansas to become part of John Brown’s raiders. They were followed by James Huston’s wife, Nancy Hill Huston, and six of their children, all of whom died young — so there’s a sad story to be told from these stones.