Cowboy Poet Ernie Sites brought his energy, humor, and talent to Boise over the weekend,
and Mill Park Publishing sponsored his workshop titled “Writing the Songs of the West.” Participants were entertained and enlightened as he discussed the various ways to write and recite
poetry. He added some lively guitar playing to demonstrate how he turns his stories into songs.
For one exercise, he showed the group various western paintings: agitated horses in a corral, a medicine woman, a Conestoga wagon crossing a river. Then he allowed 15 minutes for the attendees to write a poem. We all were amazed as each one stood to recite her or his poetry. Clearly, the assignment sparked some creative writing within the group.
Ernie instructed us to use free verse or rhyme, and I chose to write a poem about the
river crossing. I wrote in iambic tetrameter, a style I have used since my high
schools days (which happened about the same time as the wagon trains coming
west on the Oregon Trail.) Here’s my poem:
The raging river shoved the wagon.
Pa yelled at us to hang on tight
but Samuel fell into the water.
He screamed and then slipped out of sight.
My mama held the baby close
and glared at Pa to save their child
but he was struggling with the horses
to get across the river wild.
We reached the bank, he jumped back in
but all he found was Samuel’s shirt.
My mama didn’t smile for years
‘cause life was hard, and she was hurt.