Issue 377 Sept. 29, 2018 An Occasional Blog
Time Changes Pert Near Everything
The great western crooner, Tommy Duncan, sang a song during the 1940s titled “Time Changes Everything.” It is a ballad about lost love, that he thought she would always love him. But over time, that changed. Then he thought he would never get over, but . . . shazam . . . time changed that. Finally, he wishes her well as he rides off in the sunset with his new love. Change, change, change.
Well, there’s a lot of truth in that ol’ Bob Wills western swing ballad. But to state it a little more accurately and in the words of my unhousebroken cousin Bubba, “Time changes pert near everything.”
For example, you graduate from high school and your class fractures into minute pieces. Some kids go off to college or off to the military or off elsewhere for a job . . . and a few just, well, go off. One day you realize not even Humpty Dumpty can’t put those pieces back together.
Or you reach that mid-life crisis point where you must face up to the fact that you’re never going to be President of the United States. Heck, you’re not even going to be a leader in your Lions Club or your church. Last week you got a letter confirming your rich uncle left you his favorite poodle, but nothing else. And chances are high you aren’t going to see your own children reach any high level of success. And you’ve just about concluded you just ain’t very good lookin’ no mo.
Shoot-fire, y’all, it gets worse. You become a senior citizen somewhere about 60 or 65. That’s when you notice the wheels starting to fall off your wagon, and you never were very mechanically inclined. You sorta think you’re a cut above most old folks, . . . until you count the number of prescription pills you take each day. And you tally up the aches and pains and dysfunctional parts of your anatomy and realize that if a part of you doesn’t hurt, it is probably not working.
Yep, time changes . . . pert near every aspect of our lives.
That’s what I’m talking about, friends, the changes that will not be ignored. They trip us on our way to the bathroom and slap us up side of the head to get our attention.
Okay, fellow travelers, I freely confess I kinda feel like I have the Elephant-of-Change sitting on my chest. Maybe if I scratch its back that Dumbo will go squat somewhere else, but he is probably like my nutty brother-in-law, Alex. He will be back much more often than I’d like.
Well, here is the first of several changes I am making: I will no longer give public performances of my storytelling (i.e., cowboy poetry, stories, songs and guitar playing). That tough decision comes after having had a heap of fun doing those things since about 1991 — about 27 years worth. In that regard, here is a poem I performed on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 during my very last session at the National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration in Lubbock, Texas. I call this poem, my 488th, “On Hitting a Wall at 77.”
My second change is this: I’m am saying adios and farewell to all my social media.
Yes, Virginia, ’tis true. I shut down — i.e., deleted — my Facebook account just last week. Oh, yeah, I’ll miss seeing some photos of our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids that somehow never get seen to us in any other way. And I’ll miss that good clean joke which crossed my screen every once in a while, but life goes on. And so do I.
Oh, I guess I should mention those somewhere over 300 folks who friended me on Facebook. Some of those folks are really good friends, with a few of them dating back from six or more decades ago. Those I’ll miss a bunch, but . . . I still have a telephone (yes, a smarter-than-me phone and a land-line) and the U.S. Post Office still delivers to my mailbox (though 90 % of which I get is non-personal) . . . so I can be reached. Now I admit to being blissfully unaware of just how 40 or so of my “Friends” on Facebook had any real connection with me. Too much drama. Too much trivia. Just . . . way too much.
CHANGES THAT REALLY HURT
Part of the big changes I’m seeing in my life have to do with the passing of close friends and relatives . . . and the demise of so many people who, though not close friends, were folks I knew at one time or have corresponded with for a while or people for whom I had a long-distance and long-standing admiration.
In this blog I just want to mention some of our friends we always saw at the National Cowboy Symposium and elsewhere, but who have crossed over that Big Divide. Here is just part of that list:
********** DUSTY & PAT RICHARDS
The first time I met Ronald Lee (“Dusty”) Richards was in 1984 in Branson, Missouri. A few weeks earlier I had met Jory Sherman at a writers convention in Oklahoma City. It was Jory who told me all about the great folks in the Western Writers of America and about that year’s convention in a short time in Branson. At his urging, I traveled there alone and walked into the host hotel’s lobby. There an elderly man looked at my cowboy hat, walked over to me and introduced himself to me. It was none other than Thomas (“Tommy”) Thompson, the author of numerous Western articles and novels and movie and TV scripts.
A short time later I met a fledgling writer from Springdale named Dusty Richards, and we hit it off right away. Between the WWA, other writer conventions and the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Peggy and I saw Dusty and Pat many, many times over the years. He was a “late bloomer” who did not have his first book published until 1992, when he was 55 years old. But, golly Bill, he caught on fire there. He wrote some 150 western novels, many under various publishing “house names.” One of those novels, The Mustanger & the Lady, was made into a movie with the title, “Painted Woman.”
Paul Patterson was the high school literature teacher who became a mentor out in West Texas to none other than the late, great Western novelist Elmer Kelton.
Those times are now behind us, wonderful memories we will cherish. Dusty and Pat Richards were in a horrific car accident in December of 2017. They were hospitalized in critical condition. Pat died from her injuries on Jan. 11, 2018 and Dusty left this life one week later on Jan. 18, 2018. He was 80 years old.
Dusty and Pat loved their adopted home state of Arkansas, as well as Arizona and the great Southwest. A writer for the family posted this on Dusty’s Facebook page:
“What can we say about Dusty? The real question is what can’t we say about him? To say that he was larger than life is the grandest of understatements. He was an irresistible force and an unmovable object all rolled into one, a personality wider than the western skies he wrote about. He was an eternal optimist, a man who woke up each and every day renewed and ready for the next job, the next challenge, the next good fight. He was a father, a patriarch, a mentor of the first order.
“He toured the country teaching and encouraging new and experienced writers alike, challenging them to follow his lead, tell the next inspiring story, pen the next Great American Novel. He was a fighter, a lover, a joker, an entrepreneur, a canny businessman, a television and radio personality, a famous rodeo announcer, a cowboy, and, perhaps above all else, a master storyteller. Dusty was everything that fit under his trademark ten-gallon hat and so much more, and we could keep writing for a year and not do him justice.”
********** HENRY TORRES
** Henry Torres, a rancher and historian and cowboy poet, died on April 6, 2018 at the age of 80. He was born to Hispanic parents on Nov. 7, 1937. He grew up in that farming and ranching family, with most of his time spent on ranches in New Mexico — from Deming to Las Cruces and up to Silver City. He had two beloved sisters, Beatrice and Elsie, where were some older than he. Henry joined the U.S. Navy right after graduating from high school, but came back in 1960 to again work for and with his father.
This cowpoke went above his learnin’ and married Carolyn Shores in 1971. Henry spent much of his adult career ranching on the side and working as a Brand Inspector for the New Mexico Livestock Board. He retired as the Supervisor in Silver City in 1996. A few years before his retirement, he got interested in writing and publically performing cowboy poetry. He was of the founders and supporters of the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum in Las Cruces, NM. And he was the primary force behind the creation of their annual “Cowboy Days” celebration.
In 2002, Henry Torres felt very blessed when he received an “American Cowboy Culture” award at the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas. In 2016, he was recognized in a ceremony at the Las Cruces New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum for his many years of service to the industry and to the museum. In 2011, Carolyn Torres was seriously sick and wanted to move to Nevada to spend her last days close to their children and grandchildren, and they left their beloved New Mexico. She died in 2014, so Henry moved back to Silver City. He lived and died as a man of his word, a cowboy to the bone.
********** GUY W. LOGSDON
Peggy and I first met Guy Logsdon in about 1990 at the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas. He had a both at the convention center where he sold new and used and collectable books. When he went back to Tulsa and started “The Oklahoma Cowboy Poetry Gathering” at the National Western Museum & Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. He was kind enough to invite me to perform there several times. Now he is gone.
Guy William Logsdon was born on May 31, 1934 in Ada, Okla. He grew up there, played bass fiddle and then the guitar, in the Logsdon family band. Then added singing and storytelling to his skills. He graduated from Ada High School and then attended and graduated from East Central State University there is Ada. While getting educated, he also got married to Phyllis Landers from up the road in Okemah (hometown of the legendary singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie).
Later, Guy received M.S. degree in Library Science and his Doctorate of Education from the University of Oklahoma. His first job was as Director of Libraries at prestigious University of Tulsa. Over time he became a recognized expert in three very different fields: (1) the life and music of Woody Guthrie; (2) Western swing music and the lives of Bob & Johnnie Lee Wills; and (3) old-time authentic cowboy music.
Dr. Logsdon wrote the liner notes for both Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger compilation CDs which were produced by Smithsonian Folkways. His books include “The University of Tulsa: A History, 1882-1972;” “The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing and Other Songs Cowboys Sing;” “Ada, Oklahoma, Queen City of the Chickasaw Nation: A Pictorial History;” “Saddle Serenaders;” “The Flip of the Coin; the Story of Tommy Allsup;” and “Woody’s Road; Woody Guthrie’s Letters Home, Drawings, Photos, and Other Unburied Treasures” co-authored with Mary Jo Guthrie Edgmon (Woody’s youngest sister). Guy Logsdon himself was the subject of Stan Paregien’s eBook, “Guy W. Logsdon: Award-winning Folklorist,” and a main source of first-hand information for Stan’s book, “Woody Guthrie: The Man, His Music & His Myth.”
Guy Logsdon died Feb. 5, 2018 after a short illness. He and Phyllis had been married for 64 years. One of their daughters, Cindy Logsdon Black, is married to and performs with noted cowboy poet and storyteller Baxter Black.
********** GAIL T. BURTON
Peggy and I first met Gail T. Burton (Benton, AR) at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City in about 1991. That was when Dr. Guy W. Logsdon of Tulsa organized the very first “Oklahoma Cowboy Poetry Gathering.” He and I each performed there, and we would perform together at many other events over the years. Burton began writing and performing his own cowboy poetry and before he stopped he had created more than 500 poems. He also wrote a book titled, “Cow Pies and Candle Lights” (1999).
Gail Travis Burton died on Feb. 22, 2017 at his home in Benton, Arkansas at the age of 88. He had been born Jan. 4, 1929 in Temple, OK. Ten months after his birth the United States and much of the world would be floundering the economic disaster we now call “The Great Depression.” Well, Gail grew up and served Uncle Sam as a soldier in the Army and was stationed in Korean from 1946 to 1948. Later, he took specialized training at Oklahoma State University and spent the rest of his life as a Fire Protection Specialist in California and in Arkansas.
Peggy Paregien took this photo at the 1st Annual Oklahoma Poetry Gathering at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. LEFT TO RIGHT: Okay, here’s where my memory has slipped a cinch. I cannot remember the fellah at the left, seems maybe he was a professor at Oklahoma Panhandle State University way out at Goodwell, Okla. Anybody know his name? That bare-faced gent 2nd from left is , . . . uh . . . give me a second . . . oh, yeah. Me. Stan Paregien. And the lady is Francine Robison, the pride of Tecumseh, OK. And on the far right is Gail T. Burton.
Burton was a deacon at First Baptist Church of Benton. He was also a Master Mason and a member of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. In addition, he was a member of the Missouri Cowboy Poet’s Association, and a charter member of the Academy of Western Artists. He was survived by his wife of 65 years, Barbara Burton and their five children, 15 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
How Far Is It to Bethlehem?
by Gail T. Burton of Benton, AR
“How far is it to Bethlehem,”
a young cowboy asked his pard’
while riding ‘cross the open range
as the snow was falling hard.
It was coming on to Christmas,
and the two were out alone,
pushing cows to lower pasture
where the blizzard hadn’t blown.
“I know it’s past Chicago,
crosst’ the ocean anyhow;
I still don’t know just where it’s at,
but a far piece I’d allow.”
His partner rode a while in thought,
like he hadn’t even heard.
“It’s a right far piece from Heaven,
you can take me at my word.”
That’s all he said for ‘most an hour,
while they hazed the cattle slow,
but his thoughts were on the Christ child
as they trudged on through the snow.
On the thought of that first Christmas,
and the gift God sent to earth,
of the truth of Jesus’ coming,
and the blessing of His birth.
While riding on he understood
Where these thoughts of Christmas lead,
And bringing words up from his heart
The old cowboy softly said:
“I’ve no clue to mark the distance,
of the mile, ….. I’m at a loss.
How far is it to Bethlehem?
It’s just half way to the cross.”
© 2004, Gail T. Burton
I reckon that’s more’n enough rambling for one session. Thank you, sincerely, for stopping by. Adios for now.