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Linking Art & Tradition

Published: 7/3/2014
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Editor's Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and a horse gal since age six. She teaches at Bay Harbor Equestrian Center in Michigan, riding English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, and several others.

In this new contribution, Skinner explains how one man can meld horsemanship with poetry, with beautiful results.

Read more about Amy here.

Read more Journals & Journeys here

By Amy Skinner

It'd been a long, stressful week at work, full of mentally and physically demanding appointments with little rest in between. My summer schedule was jam-packed; I was busy, spread thin, and feeling disorganized. Tempers at the barn were running hot, like the humid, hazy weather. But at the end of my work week, Randy Reiman offered some much needed respite.

After a long day's work, I cleaned up (somewhat) and headed to the community center in Alanson, Michigan. My farrier and friend, Bob Schiel, and his family were hosting Randy at their farm for a clinic. Saturday night we all gathered for dinner and a cowboy poetry reading.

I pulled up just outside a quaint church with a red roof, and filed in with my friends to find a table. We all stuffed in a small community room and sat sweaty, smooshed up against each other in the hazy summer afternoon air.

Small fans hummed behind us. Outside, crickets chirped lazily. Gentle chatter rose up from the tables and the smell of good food wafted through the room; grilled chicken, a beautiful leafy salad, grilled corn, pulled pork, and berry cobbler. It couldn't have been more perfect.
While we chatted and ate a delicious, home-cooked meal, musician Chip Frick played old time cowboy music.

We caught up with old friends and made some new ones with folks across the table. There was talk of sitting outside where it was cooler, when suddenly thunder boomed and the sky darkened, threatening angry rain. So instead we headed over to the church next door to sit in air-conditioned pews to hear Randy's poetry recitations.

[Photo at right: Poet Henry Herbert Knibbs, circa 1910]

He recited a vast repertoire of poetry, sporting quite an impressive memory, with a great feel for rhythm and melody. In short order, I was lost in his words as he painted a picture for us to be part of. I forgot myself and laughed during his recitation of “Reincarnation,” and teared up, reflecting on my own life and future during the touching poem, “The Men Who Ride No More.”

For the night, I felt I was part of something bigger than myself, part of some old world of cowboys and their love of horses, cattle, and land. I almost caught the scent of oiled leather, and heard the soft rustle of the wind in the grass and the hoof beats of horses.

I could feel the quiet peace of the lone vaquero and his horse moving together, his horsemanship a work of art witnessed by the landscape alone. In my air-conditioned seat, I longed to be with him out on the range, smelling the mingling of my and my horse's sweat, the fresh air, and the lowing of cattle.

Randy's voice painted a picture like a soft-rolling stream through a quiet landscape, and as I drove home in the muggy evening air, I felt a little more still and grateful for those who strive to preserve art and tradition together.

Here is one of my favorite stanzas from the poem “Where the Ponies Come to Drink” by Henry Herbert Knibbs

Some folks wouldn't understand it,—
writing lines about a pony,—
For a cow-horse is a cow-horse,—
nothing else, most people think,—
But for eighteen years your partner,
wise and faithful, such a crony
Seems worth watching for, a spell,
down where the ponies come to drink.

Below, a Will James illustration from 1919, titled "Where Ponies Come to Drink." It may have been inspired by Henry Herbert Knibbs 1914 poem of the same name.

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7/18/2014 Kathy O
I happened to be at this very same gathering, fairly new to our area. Each year a few more people "gather" to listen to Randy and appreciate his ability to put you at the branding or out on the range for just a short while. He is great at what he does, and I hope more people will come to listen and learn about the old west.

"There are no problem horses, only problem riders" - Mary Twelveponies