It’s not easy to be a champion cowboy.
While there’s always been a romantic sense about the cowboy way of life, there’s nothing that’s ever been easy about the profession.
Likewise, it’s plenty hard becoming a champion cowboy poet.
Proof is readily verified as tough competition in three qualifying rounds brought the best from three states to the 2014 Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest Friday evening at Alma.
According to Ron Wilson, contest chairman, “Tim Keane of Manhattan topped the humorous category with his rendition of ‘Virtual Cowboy 3.0,’ and all the way from Brashear, Texas, Frank Schweighart was named champion in the serious division for his poetic presentation of ‘Life Less Lived.’”
“They were each presented prestigious Governor’s Buckles, and two tickets to The Symphony in the Flint Hills. Governor Sam Brownback also recognized them during the Symphony in Butler County Saturday, June 14, where the champions had the opportunity to recite their winning cowboy poetry,” Wilson said.
Main sponsor for the competition was the Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation at Manhattan which also gave a Phil Epp print titled “The American Prairie – Storm on the Plains” to each contestant in the finals as well as pen and notebook sets for the judges.
Wabaunsee County Economic Development, which Abby Amick serves as director, hosted the competition that attracted a Lutheran Church room-filled audience with often-smiling listeners.
Schweighart was also second in the humorous category with “Here’s The Bill,” and Eric Borden, Drexel, Missouri, placed third in that division for his rendition of “First Step.”
Ranking second and third respectively in the serious category were Kathryn Gardner, Topeka, “Roy and the Real Cowboy,” and Borden, “View From A Bale.”
Other contestants who qualified by scoring in the top three of the qualifying contests in Wichita, Dodge City or Strong City included Betty Burlingham, Manhattan; Russell Graves, Arkansas City; Leonard Hitz, Garden City; Jim John, Wichita; and Don Welborn, Meriden.
Top three places in each category received a SaddleJack Bradrick Award signed by Governor Brownback. Additionally, winners were presented gift certificates or discounts for purchases at Roberts Cowboy Outfitters of Salina, Vanderbilts of Wamego, and Sheplers of Wichita.
“Congratulations to these outstanding cowboy poets, and many thanks to our sponsors and judges,” Wilson acknowledged.
Judges were Chief Justice Lawton Nuss of the Kansas Supreme Court, Kyle Bauer of KFRM Radio, Frank Buchman of WIBW FM, and Marie Martin of the Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation.
Other contest committee members included: Jeff Davidson, president, Kansas Chapter of Western Music Association, Eureka; Brad Hamilton, Western entertainer from Hoyt; Geff Dawson, accomplished cowboy poet and entertainer from Alma, and Trey Allen, winner of the 2011 Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest, Junction City.
Initial contest introductions were made by Wilson, as he recited his own original poetry, with Dawson serving as the competition’s master of ceremonies and also presenting cowboy rhymes. Davidson accompanied himself on the guitar and with assistance from Hamilton sang two original cowboy songs.
Jack D. Bradrick, who passed away in 2008, was known as Saddlejack Bradrick for his saddle and leather work, and also as The Judge, having served as District Magistrate for Jewell County more than 30 years. Bradrick was a cowboy poet with two books of his works in print, and a third one to be available next year.
Believing in the power of family and laughter, Bradrick was often quoted: “Live each day like it’s your last, because someday you’ll be right.” Several Bradrick family members were in attendance and introduced during this year’s Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest.
Information about the 2014 Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest and participation in future competitions is available at www.cowboypoetrycontest.com, or by contacting Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Amick at email@example.com.