Cowboy Poetry, like any other group, has founders, icons, legends, and heroes. Honouring the history of the west includes recognizing the contributions of those who laid the ground work for what is today, an extremely popular venue with a solid core of fans, supporters and sponsors.

Since 2016 all Empty Saddles are covered in the Barbwire Dispatch.


Dianne Brandson
Dianne passed away suddenly on March 4, 2010 while at the pool aqua sizing. She left this world while doing something she enjoyed very much; I guess we all should be that fortunate.Dianne was a great example for us all to follow, in addition to her debilitating disease of spinal scoliosis; she suffered from diabetes and sleep apnea, but she never let it get her down – she had a huge zest for life. She never had much, but was always the first to give, be it her time, her baking or what ever financial resources she had. Dianne never expected or waited for a hand for herself, she made do with what she had and did it all on her own. She did everything from house sitting and babysitting, to farm animal and pet sitting to augment her finances.
Dianne was adopted and raised on a farm in Manitoba. She lost her adopted mother at the age of seven and was raised alone by her adoptive father on the farm. As a teenager she would often make a little money mucking out stalls at the neighboring horse farms. She left home in her early teens and moved to Alberta in the early 1970’s.

After living in Alberta for a decade or more, health issues that troubled her from birth, made work physically demanding, so she returned to Manitoba where she obtained her teaching degree. Once again she returned to Alberta where she did substitute teaching in several schools and also did volunteer work as a classroom aide. She was a volunteer for victim services in Breton for many years, as well as a volunteer for many other organizations, including Global Star Search, where she encouraged and gave moral support to many new rising stars. Dianne was a huge supporter of the up and coming young stars, such as Jesse Fowler, Brett Kissell and Katie Mission as well as many others too numerous to mention and so very proud of their accomplishments.

Dianne was a member of the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association who not only loved to recite her poetry on the stage, but also was always there to help at the CD and product tables for everyone. If you could not see Dianne, you could always find her by hearing her little laugh. Dianne loved her cowboy poetry family and traveled from Manitoba to BC to be among her friends. Whenever there was a special event, Dianne came to help celebrate and lend a helping hand, no matter the distance, everything from birthdays, to CD release parties. She would always be found helping in the kitchen, chopping or peeling something.

Dianne organized many cowboy poetry and music festivals but will always be remembered as the sole creator, organizer/manager of the Alberta Women of Country and then the Alberta Men of Country events. For 10 years she promoted Alberta talent at this huge event and honored many deserving Alberta entertainers with Life Time Achievement awards.

Dianne was a good friend. She may not have had money, but she had something much more valuable – a huge heart. She is probably in heaven’s kitchen right now laughing and helping the angels prepare dinner.

Dianne will be sadly missed by all who knew her – she taught us no matter what your adversity – enjoy life and laugh lots.

“This is such distressing news… I have met up with Dianne a number of times in Stony Plain, and she was a special person indeed. It’s hard to believe that such a beautiful spirit could be taken from us so suddenly.” Sue Harris

“We are so sorry to hear of the passing of Dianne Brandson. We knew her as a very caring, compassionate and charitable woman. Her contributions to promoting and preserving our western heritage will always be remembered by those on the western festival circuit and she will be greatly missed, not only by performers but by the fans as well.” Mag & Vern Mawhinney

A memorial service was held Saturday, March 13th at the Recreation Centre/Community Hall in Winfield, with Bryn Thiessen officiating, followed by an open mic for anyone wishing to perform poetry or music or to say a few words about Dianne, with the emphasis on celebrating who Dianne was – the more music, the better!

Henry Dinnsen
Henry Dinnsen – A loving tribute in verse by his widow, Margaret Dinnsen. (Henry passed away in June, 2007)“Henry”You can talk all you like of Roy Rogers and Dale,
Gene Autry, Matt Dillon, Bat Masterson’s tale
When digesting the news and the views on “Old West”
But it’s cowboys like Henry who outshine the rest.He was born in the winter of Nineteen Two Six
In a little log cabin, by candle-lit wicks.
His Pa came from Denmark, his Ma from the Isles.
Well grounding this cowpoke in cattle type wiles.He did his chores daily and rode off to school
On a number of horses, not one was a mule.
“Don’t race!” called his mother, to her children three;
They didn’t …’til out of sight where she’d not see!He hitched up the team then to plow, plant, or hay;
Winter or summer, young calves on the way.
He feeds, herds and waters, he carefully guides
His own herd of critters as onward he rides.

He brands and he castrates, he butchers or breeds
The cows of his choosing, attending their needs.
All the dash and the daring we cheer at the show,
This cowboy does daily as needed, we know.

He’s been good to his neighbors, his kith and his kin;
And kind to the strangers who often drop in.
He asks ought of no one, just does it himself;
And in work and sunshine finds peace, hope and wealth.

His friends are now passing. We bid them farewell.
His hands are rheumatic; limbs painful as well,
But he’s still outside daily, in sleet, snow or rain,
To check on his cattle, his fences, his grain.

There’s still a few like him, good neighbours we know,
But they’re fading away like the grass in the snow.
You can’t civilize them, or keep them inside.
They’re as much part of nature as the Great Divide.

We honor, we love them, we watch them ride fast
As we canonize, ledgendize, unfold their past
But they slip through our fingers like sand in a glass
For they’re really an endangered species or class.

And what we have left is an image – idea –
The bronco, the riding the roping of steer.
Let us also hold fast to the daily devotion
These cowboys require to fulfill their notion.

So to Henry T. Dinnsen and others we say …
“Thank You!” for spending your lives in this way,
Building strength in our country while running the ranch.
We know these exist through hard work, and not chance.

Cheers for the movies who idolize all
The ranchers, the cowboys, the horses they call
“Champion”, “Trigger”, or “Get ’em up Scout”
They enter the silver screen prancing about.

But the heart of the hero is loving the land,
Embracing all nature, and lending a hand
To friend, foe or stranger, whatever they be.
In all God’s creations, His likeness they see.

Lloyd Dolen 1917 – 2004
Lloyd Dolen, considered by many to be the “Grandfather” of Alberta Cowboy Poetry, wrote and recited cowboy poetry throughout most of his adult life. Lloyd was one of the few who kept the tradition and art form alive in Canada before it became popular with the general public over the last twenty years.A cowboy through and through who loved horses, Lloyd was a cowboy poet with a difference. No one doubted he was the “real deal”, but much of his poetry was based not only exclusively on cowboy themes, but on his faith, his great love for nature and the need for understanding and helping others. His sense of humour was never suppressed for long, as anyone can attest who ever heard his poem about the Panty Hose.
Lloyd published two books of cowboy poetry and had just finished a CD of poetry shortly before his death. The following is from the introduction to his second book, written by one of Lloyd’s grandchildren,
“Lloyd Dolen possesses a unique and peaceful outlook of life: cherishing each day with the gifts and beauty it brings; taking the time to express his love and thanks to the land and everything that breathes and grows from it. Lloyd has a magic of touching people through his words and prayers; having no time to judge, he accepts things the way they are. Never thinking before giving to those in need, be this his family, friends, neighbors or a complete stranger. He is mentor to many and a teacher to those who will listen. Lloyd Dolen is indeed a living legend and, I’m proud to say, my grandfather.”I can’t say it any better. From personal experience, Lloyd was all those things and more. As a newcomer to cowboy poetry, he inspired and instructed me, sometimes with words, always by example. Many others in the cowboy poetry fraternity had similar experiences. Somehow, Lloyd, Norma, his wife of 59 years, and the whole family made each person who came into their lives feel they were very special.While Lloyd has crossed the Great Divide, his legend and spirit will live on in his family, his poetry and the many lives he touched. He was a rancher, horseman, stock contractor, poet, performer and so much more, but most of all, he was a family man and a wonderful friend. I, like so many, am proud to have called Lloyd a friend and mentor. Regarding writing and performing cowboy poetry, Lloyd always told me that I should “leave them crying or laughing.” Lloyd, my friend, you have left us doing both.Iven Bryant
Past President
Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association

Lloyd Dolen’s life was jammed full with humour, generosity and love. He was a revered cowboy poet and a legendary horse-trader.

“The first time I saw him,” Norma Dolen recalled, “I was with some friends in the cafi, and this good looking cowboy jumped up on the pop machine and recited a Robert Service poem. I turned to my friends and said, he’s not so much.”

Within the year they were married. Lloyd and Norma ranched north of Cochrane where they raised not only their own kids, but a passel of others as well. “You never knew how many to set the table for,” Norma once told me. “Children got off the school bus with our kids that just never went home, and we loved them just as much.”

Along with cattle, Lloyd was in the horse business, achieving legendary status as a savvy horse trader.

Lloyd and Norma had only been married for a few years, and at the Cochrane Fair Norma entered a raffle and won first prize: seven roan yearling colts.

Lloyd really wanted these colts but times were hard and cash was scarce. While sharing lunch in the hayfield one day, he proposed a trade to Norma, a quiet horse for the kids – in exchange for the colts. Norma was wary, and asked him every question she could think of: age, size and breeding. When she asked if the horse was easy to catch, Lloyd replied that she could walk right up to that horse and put her hand on him. All the kids could ride him at the same time, and it was the quietest horse he’d ever owned.

Satisfied that she was making a good trade, they shook hands and Norma went to see the kids’ new horse.

Stretched out behind the barn with a magpie on its head was the horse she had traded for, and he’d been dead a while. Lloyd’s words returned to her; it certainly was the quietest horse he’d ever owned.

A featured performer at every major gathering, it was his heartfelt poetry delivered in his weathered voice that swept up audiences, enveloping them in cool mountain meadows or the shimmering dust of a cattle drive. His simple honesty was an invitation to ride alongside him, and his crowds did in droves. And they delighted in his humour; the poem of Norma trying to fit into her first pair of pantyhose (“and that’s when the damn things blew”) was always greeted with explosive laughter and a standing ovation.

As big of a success as he was on stage and in the corral, it was action, not talk that made the man. My husband, Rusty, and I sat with Lloyd and Norma at Bryn Thiessen’s wedding. Their reception was a potluck dinner, and we all returned from the buffet table with loaded plates. Every once in a while Lloyd would slowly make his way up to the constantly replenished buffet, look it over and then return to his seat empty handed. On about his third trip, he carefully chose two devilled eggs. When my husband asked why he didn’t get the eggs on his first trip Lloyd quietly replied, “Norma made these.”

That simple phrase defined a life of love.

In the wee hours of January 10, 2004, legendary cowboy poet, Lloyd Dolen, peacefully slipped away.

Terri Mason
2004 Feb

Lloyd Dolen
A True Cowboy Legend
by Frank Gleeson

I got up this morning, the sun shining bright
and I thought, what a beautiful day!
And the phone rang and on the end of the line
a voice said, “Your old friend has just passed away.”
But he had a good life, good family and wife,
now he’s up in that land where it’s free.
He’ll be riding that horse like he did here on earth
and he’ll say, don’t you feel sorry for me.
He was one of a kind, there’s no doubt about that
as he proved there in Banff one time.
He said he was nervous, didn’t want to get up,
that’s until he has a drink of wine.
See, he asked me if I’d get up and do one of his poems.
I explained to him that’s not for me
For no one could do his poems quite like him
for he was a legend you see.
Then he took the floor and the crowd just roared
cause that’s when it showed his true flair
and we all laughed so hard at his new found courage
that I damned near fell off my chair.
He’s gone, but he’s never forgotten,
he’s up there, but we know he’s OK.
But, we know without fail that he blazed the trail
that the rest of us follow today.
So let us all pray for it’s a sad day
when an old friend has been laid to rest.
But let’s shout it out loud, cause we’re really proud
that we shared a stage with the best.
So, as you count your blessings and as life carries on
think of him at a show late at night
I’ll bet you the world is a lot better place
cause Lloyd Dolen’s been part of our life.


Bud McKague 1935 – 2002
On June 15, 2002 Bud McKague was featured on the Pincher Creek Saturday night show, gave an inspired performance, and then walked off stage and into history. About half an hour later, friends took him to the Pincher Creek Hospital and sadly, Bud passed away Sunday June 16 after emergency surgery.Known far and wide for his remarkable memory, the crowd marvelled at what would be Bud’s last performance as he recited two eight minute poems from one of his favourites, Australian poet, Banjo Paterson. The crowd gave him a standing ovation; the only one he had ever received during a lifetime of poetry performances. When he realized what was happening, a look of priceless astonishment crept over Buddy’s face and is something I will remember forever. He did an encore, and then left the stage with tears of joy in his eyes. Sometimes real cowboys do cry and many a cowboy tear is being shed with his passing.
I knew Bud to be a gracious, giving person. Generously, he often gave poems to others, whom he felt would do them justice. Bud was inducted into the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2001 in the Artistic Category. He was the first Canadian to perform at Elko and was considered by his peers to be one of the finest reciters of cowboy poetry anywhere, not to mention the fact that he was a champion rodeo bronc rider. We will all miss him.

Iven Bryant
Past President
Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association

On The Passing of a Poet
In Memory of Bud McKague, March 30, 1935 – June 16, 2002
Cowboy Poet and member of The BC Cowboys Hall of Fame

The passing of a mighty king,
leaves no greater hole.
For poets craft each song we sing,
and shape the nations soul.
A brave ballad of a bygone time,
or the beauty of her face,
He sculpts his masterpiece in rhyme,
sets each polished gem in place.
His was an ancient call,
and this gift he did not choose,
For Bards are driven
one and all,
by a most relentless muse!
To carry forth the tale of man,
such is the minstrels lot,
that great stories and emotions
should never be forgot.
Troy and Athens lie in ruin,
Phoebes and Rome are gone,
we may have forgotten the minstrels tune
But the poets words live on!
The passing of a mighty king,
Leaves no greater hole,
For poets craft each song we sing,
and shape the nations Soul!

Bud McKague was a great poet I will remember all my life.
Mike Puhallo
Cowboy Poet

Bud’s Last Ride

Now getting up each morning is a simple sort of task.
We never doubt the day ahead, and few questions we ever ask
I suppose it’s good we never know what’s in store round the next bend.
But I think there’s something let’s us know when we are near the end.
I think there’s something stored in us, could be a higher power.
They say things to close friends, you see, when they reach that final hour.
I lost a real good friend today as I stood closely by.
He asked for this final wish before he said good-bye.
Yes, he’d been a good old cowboy, no-one had doubted that.
His last request he asked of me: “Don’t let me die without my hat.”
I placed his hat upon his head, then laid it by his bed.
I closed the door and left the room, that’s the final words we said.
Yes, he’ll have that hat close by his side, yes, always have it near.
He’ll be all set to ride up there, just like he did down here.
He stood up on the stage that night; the crowd would stand and cheer.
Unbeknown to all of us, his time was drawing near.
It was in his finest hour, a perfect ending to a day.
Then in just a short time his life had slipped away.
Yes as I left the hospital and I knew old Bud was gone,
I thought how fast the years go by, a lifetime’s not that long.
They say that cowboys shed no tears, it’s not the cowboy way.
I’ll have to admit I bent the code when we lost old Bud that day.
He once told me to write a poem before this long sad day
He said, “Tell the folks just how it was the day I passed away.”
So now I’ve filled my last request, it’s coming to an end.
So just you rest and do your best until we meet again.

Frank Gleeson
Cowboy Poet

Bob Marple March 20th, 1939 – May 17th, 2013
Bob Marple “Ol Cowpoke” resided in Fox Creek for the last thirty odd years and only recently relocated to Spruce Grove, Alberta. He passed away on May 17th in Stony Plain, after a courageous battle with cancer. Bob and wife Marlene have been married over forty years, and have three children and’ seven grandchildren.Born in Calgary, AB, Bob later served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1956 – 1961. After leaving the Navy, Bob worked in the Oil Patch in Fort McMurray and Fox Creek until he retired in 2010. He enjoyed writing and publishing cowboy poetry, leatherwork, golfing, watching his grandkids in all activities and just living life to the fullest.
Prior to retiring, beginning about 2005, Bob began to do some cowboy poetry writing. Then he did a little cowboying, including guiding and outfitting and cooking on the trail in Alberta’s foothills, west of Caroline out of the Bar L7 Guest Ranch (better known as “The Frontier”).

His writing of cowboy poetry and short stories is based on past life experiences and involvements and a few spur of the moment ideas that just came to his mind. Bob published a book of his work, titled “Cowboy Poetry an’ Short Stories”.

Bob joined the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association in 2009 and served two years as a Director on the ACPA Executive Board driving long distances to attend meetings and to eagerly pitch in wherever needed. His great spirit and sense of humour made him popular among our membership and audiences who appreciated his writing and performing talents.

Fred Miller May 24th, 1955 – Nov 3rd, 2012
Fred Miller was a highly regarded cowboy poet and was a Lifetime Member of the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association. He was born and raised near Condor, Alberta and was taught by his friend, Elmer Peterson, how to tie the diamond hitch and how to run a packstring in the mountains. It was on these many trips to high alpine lakes and peaceful valleys that Fred received the inspirations for his many poems.Fred had written poetry for as long as anyone can remember, but it is his poems about horses, mountains, packing and the many people that he met, for which he is best known.Fred was a very private person and it took a lot of persuasion to get him to perform at the Pincher Creek Gathering in 1991. He was such a success that he was asked to perform at many events throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan during the ensuing years.
A prolific poetry writer, once inspired, Fred usually completed a poem in a matter of minutes. They were often written on the backs of cigarette packages. His poetry is often humorous and occasionally leads his audience down the garden path as he ends his poem with an unexpected twist.

Fred’s poetry was first published in the Leslieville “Western Star” paper and was a feature for many months. He was also published in the “Western Producer”, Idaho’s “Boots” magazine and Cowboy Country Magazine. Fred’s book “Latigoes, Leftovers and Lies” was published in 1992 and went to all provinces in Canada as well as the U.S., Switzerland, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.

Besides being a popular cowboy poet, Fred was a well-liked outfitter, and was also well known as a mule man. Fred is survived by his wife and three children and his many friends.

Fred’s tribute is best completed by one of his own poems:


I ask no special privilege, Lord
You’ll find me easy to please.
Just give me a high mountain meadow
An’ put a good horse between my knees.

Some men enjoy their drinking
Or other forms of sin.
I’ll take a high mountain meadow
With air that’s crisp and thin.

I ask no money, no riches,
Just warmth, an’ plenty to eat
Up in a high mountain meadow
With a stream to cool my feet.

And when my time is finished, friend
Just lay me ‘neath the sod
Up in a high mountain meadow
At the foot of the throne of God.

Howard Norskog
One of the great Cowboy Poets of our time passed away on the morning of January 18, 2013. Howard was also known as the High Country Balladeer and was well known to Canadian audiences, especially those attending Pincher Creek and Maple Creek Gatherings. Howard had a stroke about 18 months ago and in June, 2012 had kidney failure and was in a care center since October, 2012.Howard started the Christian Cowboy Balladeers about 15 years ago, and after consulting with Bryn Thiessen for guidance while at Pincher Creek one year, got Cowboy Church started at St. Anthony, Idaho, where Howard and family lived at the time. Since then, he helped in setting up a total of 7 Cowboy Christian Churches reaching from Idaho to Montana and Wyoming.Howard was much loved and his poems greatly appreciated here in Canada.Messages of condolences can be sent to Howard’s wife, Darlene Norskog, Box 953, 832 Warner Avenue, Lewiston, Idaho, USA 83501, or Darlene would love to hear from you by phone at 208-746-7762. Darlene expressly wished their Canadian friends to know of Howard’s passing, and how much they enjoyed coming to Canada to perform and maintain their friendships up here.
The following biography have been used with permission from where some of his poems are also published.With a mixed ancestry of American Indian and Scandinavian immigrants, a youth spent punching cows in the wilds of Wyoming, more than a decade of riding bulls and broncs on the rodeo trail and a stretch in the military during the most bitter fighting of the Korean War influenced this brilliant writer in his career as a Cowboy Poet. He took his inspiration from the likes of Robert Service, Bruce Kiskaddon and Stuart Hamblin, and in, the opinions of many, outdoes them all! “When I hear Howard Norskog, I can hear the wind in the pine needles and feel the warmth of a pony between my knees. He’s one of those performers that take you someplace and you don’t want to come back!” says one reporter. The Cowboy Poets of Idaho Inc. agree, having presented him with the coveted 1997 SILVER QUILL AWARD and also induction into their 1999 HALL OF FAME … In Cedar City, Utah for the 1998 Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, he took FIRST PRIZE for SERIOUS POETRY. Howard has appeared in commercials for the Idaho Potato Growers Association and is actively involved in several Canadian Cowboy Poetry shows. Howard is also Director for Christian Cowboy Balladeers; they do the finest non-denominational COWBOY CHURCH programs. No sermons, just spiritual music and poetry that leaves you with a joyful feeling for having experienced it.(biography by Becky Nelson of Cowboy Poets of Idaho)
Rob Osberg August 19th, 1939 – April 12th, 2013
Recently we lost a good friend and long time member of the ACPA. The sudden passing of Rob came as a shock to his wide spectrum of friends and the community in general.Rob was president of the ACPA for several years and during his tenure made some important changes to ensure our association moved forward as a professional organization. Any project that Rob took on you could be sure that it was managed in a responsible and dedicated manner; a man who always finished what he started.
We will always appreciate the opportunities Rob provided for creating venues where our performing members could strut their stuff. Many will remember the Gatherings Rob and Diane hosted at their home. The great potluck dinners and fire pit parties were always a fun time to share music poetry and friendship.

Rob was a serious purveyor of our western heritage that is so obvious in his books on cowboy poetry. His work is a reflection of pure research and respect for the culture.

Rob touched so many people from so many walks of life. The huge attendance at his memorial is a testimony of his dedication to friends and community. Although Rob retired from the Education system several years ago, he never stopped being a teacher. A man of many talents, he taught courses in outdoor survival, astrology, cowboy poetry, wood carving, two stepping, line dancing plus numerous other aspects. He was most generous in sharing his vast knowledge and will be remembered for his kind efforts.

Rob was one of those special people one will never forget; he certainly will be missed.


Raleigh Perry
The last time I saw Raleigh Perry perform was at the 2008 or 2009 Trail’s End in Cochrane. He always wanted to do his own introduction, giving his background and then recite by memory many poems, some of the real old ones, always a long one about roping a bear. The audience loved Raleigh and so did fellow members of the ACPA. What a remarkable individual. The following is in Raleigh’s own words from his promotional material: (Judy Dalgliesh, Editor) Perry was a member of the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association and performed at the Calgary Stampede and gatherings in Western Canada well into his nineties. He was the oldest performing cowboy poet in North America until his death.To whom it may concern.This is my accomplishments. – I am Raleigh Perry, born at Olds in 1912, the seventh child in the family and eventually the middle one of 13 children.When I was 4 yrs old we moved to Crossfield. My father hunted coyotes for their pelts that winter. When I was seven we moved to High Prairie to farm and ranch.I quit school at 14 to help out. In the hungry thirties I boxed, competed in rodeos and worked as a lumberjack in the winter. I am likely one of a very few men alive that has hewed railway ties in the bush with a broad axe.I am a past Exulted Ruler of the Elks Lodge in High Prairie and was instrumental in the organizing and putting on the first High Prairie Elks Stampede that has been an annual event for nearly sixty years. I am also a camp cook and spent seven years in the camp catering for oil rigs in Alberta, BC and Alaska.

I am a poet and have written my 90 year autobiography, “My Life and Poems”, a 400 page book. I entertain with my mouth organ and recite cowboy poetry

Signed, Raleigh Perry

Gordon Peterson
We are saddened to hear of the passing of a great poet, gentleman and friend, Gordon Peterson, who passed away October 26th from a heart attack. Gordon was a lifetime member of ACPA and served as secretary/treasurer of Cowboy Poets of Idaho at the time of his passing. He was inducted into the Cowboy Poets Hall of Fame in 2008 and was a recipient of the Silver Quill Award. He is survived by his loving wife, Marilyn, five sons, one daughter, 14 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. For many years, Gordon performed his hauntingly beautiful poetry in both Canada and the USA. His full obituary and the opportunity for you to post your personal messages of condolence to his family is on-line at The family mailing address is: 4064 So. 2000 W., Rexburg, Idaho, USA 83440 for those who wish to send a card or note of sympathy.
Gordon was a long time member of the ACPA: a great gentleman and a great poet. He certainly will be missed. Perry Jacobson

I guess “Thank you” isn’t quite right to say for sending this news but as terrible as it was to hear I’m glad to know. Gordon was on my “once in a while phone call list” – I’d check in occasionally to see how they were doing and trade news. (Heather (Mountain Mumma) de Jong)

I am so shocked to hear this sad news. Gordon and I performed together in Shoshone ID this September. He was the MC for the event as well. He remembered me from years ago when we were both performing at Pincher Creek. The cowboy poetry world now has one empty space which will be hard to fill. RIP Gordon. (Mag Mawhinney)

At Maple Creek Gathering, I came as close to a standing ovation as I ever will, after reciting (and crediting authorship to Gord) two of his signature poems, “Ghost of the Owyhees” and “Hoofbeats of the Ponies” Gord was always generous in allowing me to recite these great poems and the public loved them. (Dave Dance)

Mike Puhallo 1953 – 2011

Mike was born on April 6th, 1953 and passed away June 24th, 2011. There was a celebration of live on June 30th, 2011 at the Calvary Comunity Church with Bryn Thiessen officiating along with Pastor Don Maione.

Mike Puhallo was instrumental in starting the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame and spent many years as president of the BC Cowboy Heritage Society. He pushed to keep the society focused on preserving the memories of the true working cowboy and not just the Kamloops Cowboy Festival.

One of his first jobs out of high school was cowboying for Douglas Lake. For many years he rode out at Big Creek where he was partners in Twilight Ranch, with his brother Gord. In recent years he spent many an hour in the saddle riding for a couple of different ranchers in the range above his own home place in West Syde.

Mike was not only a cowboy and a rancher, but an artist, a horse trainer, a historian, and of course we all know him as a cowboy poet. He performed far and wide attending gatherings and festivals all over North America and performing in numerous other venues … always spreading the word and educating people on the cowboy way of life, the culture and history of the real west.

Mike was Canada’s most published Cowboy Poet with six books and three CDs to his name. In 1998 he was nominated for Best Western Song (Cinnamon sung by Butch Falk) as well as Best Cowboy Poetry Book of the Year.

In 2001 Mike was voted in for the third year in a row as one of the finalists for Cowboy Poet of the Year at the Will Rogers Awards and was also nominated for Best Cowboy Poetry Book and Best Cowboy Poetry Album.

His book “Piled Higher and Deeper” received the 2002 Will Rogers Medallion Award. In 2003 The Queens Golden Jubilee Medal was presented to Mike in recognition of outstanding community service. He was selected for the Artscan 2004 Showcase and was nominated for Parliamentary Poet Laureate in 2006. In 2007 his book “Rhymes & Damn Lies” was awarded the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Cowboy Poetry Books.

This is just an inkling of the many accomplishments in Mike’s life when it comes to promoting and preserving cowboy heritage … just one of the reasons he was inducted into the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame.

by Mark McMillan


Glen Rafuse aka Starchild 1936 – 2006
Glen Rafuse was a remarkable man in many ways but it was his knowledge, dedication, appreciation and presentation of the western lifestyle that set the bar just a little bit higher for the rest of us to follow. His poetry reached a little deeper into the world of the western stockman, cowboy, farmer and the environment where they plied their trade. Glen’s poetry could either make you laugh, cry or pull you in to a deeper plane of thought plus it also was exceptionally well researched and educational. He could paint a vivid picture with his skill at selecting the right words and arranging them to depict a scene or a mood to a point where you felt you were actually experiencing the event. Glen had a deep appreciation for the audience and always gave his best when he stepped out on the stage. His delivery was always smooth and sincere; a real crowd pleaser.Other than his gift of poetry or spinning a tale, he was a gentleman and
lived by a specific code of ethics that some may say was the “Cowboy Way”. Many felt it was a privilege to be called a friend by Glen.Many of Glens poems have been put to music by various artists plus the words of his poems were published in his book called the “Life of a Stockman”, in 1999. Glen has left a rich legacy in his words and his actions. His memory will live on for generations to come.

Perry Jacobson
Past President
Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association


Glenn Wikstrom Dec 13, 1953 – Nov 17, 2008, Written by Buddy Gale

Glenn Wikstrom, a long-time friend passed on in November 2008 from cancer. Glenn and his wife, Eva Marie, built a successful trucking business in the oil patch. Eva became the manager and rock while Glen fought to stay with us the last two years.

Glenn was a cowboy at heart. I’m not sure he realized where that came from – but it was one of the reasons Glenn and Eva were happy to be sponsors of the ACPA. Glenn’s family came from the Lac St. Anne and Lake Isle country, which is on the North side of Highway 16, Edmonton to Jasper.

My connection goes back to a railroad tie camp, South of Wildwood and Chip lake in 1942, also on highway 16. I was in there to skid ties. Glenn’s grandfather and his two sons, Floyd and Adlore came there to work in the sawmill. I was 14 years old; Adlore was also 14 years. In 1943, I was on a ranch West of Nanton and Stavely. In late 1944, Adlore arrived and got a job. We became very good at wrestling calves at branding time, plus we were the ones invited to ride “tryout broncs” at the Streeters when they were selecting their bucking string.

Adlore was killed after a branding in a light truck accident west of Nanton, in June, 1946. Another cowboy, Red Esson, and myself had a 3-ton Ford truck and were looking for work – hauling lumber from small mills. Glenn’s uncle Floyd and Stan, and I think his father, Milton were three of the first hands I was to shake that winter. The one sister, Joan, has been busy keeping track of the family through the years.

Somewhere in the 1980’s – ’86 or ’88, I was working for Pe Ben pipe stringers out of Edmonton. A young guy in a cowboy hat walked into the shop. I asked Cliff, the foreman, “Who is that?” He said, “Glenn Wikstrom”, and I thought, “I wonder if he is related?” So I walked over and asked him if his granddad’s name was Oscar. It was. So we went back over his family tree. Through the following years, he was very interested in Cowboy Poetry Gatherings. After Pe Ben transferred him to Calgary, he went with me to Banff to a Gathering somewhere in the mid-1990’s.

Glenn left Pe Ben and went on his own and became very successful with his own trucking business called Puff-Wik Trucking but always kept in touch. The result was Glenn and Eva became sponsors for the ACPA Trail’s End.

Glenn’s never-give-up attitude was an inspiration to everyone. He will be missed, but not forgotten.