BRAWLEY – Brawley always puts on an eventful week leading up to the Cattle Call Rodeo, but perhaps nothing shouts â€œsmall town charmâ€ as much as the Cowboy Poetry and Art Show held at the Stockmenâ€™s Club Tuesday night.
And small town charm, at least here, does not equate to talentless. In fact, quite the opposite, as the young and old entertained the packed room who came to enjoy the softer side of the gritty sport of rodeo.
History of the quaint event began back when the Brawley Rodeo started, and in almost the same fashion, according to veteran cowboy poet Leonard Vasquez. Instead of the four Cattle Call founders sitting in the Planters Hotel Bar dreaming of ways to put their town on the map, it was Vazquez, Planters Hotel Manager Martha Willingham, and an olâ€™ cowboy named Tex standing together at the Planters Bar. Willingham and Vasquez were listening to Tex, who had arrived in town to paint windows depicting cowboys and bucking broncs, to help advertise for the newly formed rodeo. In that historic conversation, Tex was talking about his participation in a â€œcowboy poetryâ€ night at a previous rodeo heâ€™d just visited.
Vazquez said, â€œWell, I think our rodeo should have a Cowboy Poetry night too,â€ giving birth then and there to Cattle Callâ€™s own Cowboy Poetry.
Tex has been coming to Brawley for 57 years straight, painting western windows and reciting poetry, Vasquez said. This year, he showed up and promised he would participate, â€œbut he left and heâ€™s not here,â€ said Vasquez, chairman of the Cowboy Poetry & Art Show . â€œHe never came back. This is the first year he has missed,â€ and sadness covered his face as he spoke of his elderly cowboy friend.
Nevertheless, the evening performances delighted the audience as the performers read poetry, both original, and famous, sang of the olâ€™ west, and heard yarns from a simpler time.
Alex Baran, newly crowned Cattle Call Queen, started off the evening with a speech on Old Glory, creating a lump in every throat as she reminded the room of its prominence and importance. Teen Queen Sarah Grizzle followed with her clever and entertaining patriotic speech.
The sole musical performance was Danny Walker and his three young daughters, Emma, 9, Clara, 8, and Grace, 6. Walker strummed his guitar while Emma astonished the room, nailing LeAnn Rimesâ€™ song, Cattle Call, complete with yodeling. For the next song, Emmaâ€™s two younger sisters joined her singing â€œIn the Highways and Hedges.â€
Brawley resident Barbara Cox recited a poem she penned in 2004 when her good friend, Ann Smith, lost her cowboy husband, one of the original four founders of the Brawley Cattle Call. Everyone present smiled through the touching tribute, remembering Dick and thinking of Ann.
Then rough stock cowboy Jack Kirby had the polite ladies stifling laughter as he lit up the room with his outdoor humor and salty recollections. He recited one recollection that occurred after hanging up his spurs to run the Broken Spoke Mobile Park in El Centro. At Christmas, Kirby said he enjoyed taking the parkâ€™s residents around the area singing carols in his open air wagon, pulled by Tom and Jerry, his Clydesdales.
â€œJerry was on the right. And that night, he lifted his tail and passed gas that was truly awful. I turned to see the ladies closest, saw them holding their noses and fanning their faces. I felt terrible, and leaned back from the drivers seat and apologized. â€˜Iâ€™m sorry, ladies.â€™ They turned to me in shock and said, â€˜Oh we thought it was the horse!â€™â€™â€™ Kirby laughed.
Leonard Vasquez was no amateur either as he easily amused the room between performances, keeping the evening flowing.
Meanwhile, outside on the back patio, local artisans displayed their western paintings and their handcrafted western jewelry and accessories.
If you missed this yearâ€™s Cowboy Poetry & Art Show, remember to pencil it in for next year. It is an evening well spent.