|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
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.
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.