It was 6:30 in the morning. There was a light mist. His coworker already had a horse in the barn ready to saddle.
Trey Allen pulled his pickup into the headquarters yard at the Moyer Ranch he manages south of Junction City in Geary County.
Seeming a bit shy initially, Allen had the day’s schedule on his mind as there were cattle to check, horses to get miles across the state and a crew to line-up for gathering double-stocked yearlings.
That’s just the way life is for Allen, everyday. And that’s what he talks about that makes his poetry so appealing.
Allen recites poetry about his life as a cowboy. It’s cowboy poetry, and he’s one of the best “cowboy poets” around.
Verification comes with Allen’s selection as overall winner at the first Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest in conjunction with the recent Symphony in the Flint Hills in Wabaunsee County.
The competition wasn’t scant either, as the real life cowboy vied against 17 others reciting original works of poetry.
“There were two categories, and Trey was the winner in both the serious and humorous poetry divisions,” according to one of the judges, Kelly Lenz, farm director at WIBW radio in Topeka.
“Trey has lived the life, and it showed through in his presentations. There wasn’t any doubt about that,” Lenz added.
Placing second behind Allen in both categories was Rose Bacon of Council Grove. Tim Keane of Manhattan was third in the serious poetry division, and Paul Schmitt of St. Marys ranked third in the humorous category.
Senator Laura Kelly, Topeka, and Lawton Nuss, chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, were also judges.
“I was very pleased,” said Ron Wilson, chairman of the contest committee.
“We had high quality performances and an outstanding turnout. About 150 people came out to view the contest in Alma,” Wilson noted.
Still a bit reserved, Allen soon loosened up his conversation during the early morning visit as the sky started to turn blue, and he caught his own gray Quarter Horse in the nearby corral.
“This horse is going to make a good one. He keeps getting better the more I use him,” Allen credited.. “He’ll see lots of cattle in the next few weeks as we gather the yearlings we’re grazing, and I trade work with other cowboys on Humboldt Creek and over a wide area.”
It’s the life that makes his poetry. “In my life, I’ve had lots of experiences,” Allen insisted. “Something might not seem memorable at the time, but it’ll often come back to me years later, and I’ll write a poem.”
Many of his works, totaling “upwards of a 100,” are in notebooks, scattered around his office and even in unknown places. However, the two poems he recited at the recent state contest are just in his head.
“What it is” is Allen’s definition of cowboy poetry, and it’s his poem that won in the serious division. “The Pits” was recited to top the humorous category.
The only way to find out what they’re really about is to have Allen recite them.
“I guess I don’t have any copies of those poems. Several people have asked me for them, but I can’t find any,” Allen admitted. “I have lots of poems memorized that aren’t on paper. I probably should do that, but it’s one of those things I never get done.
“I’m always thinking and coming up with something new,” verified Allen, who can recite more than 40 poems from memory.
While he wasn’t all that interested in English classes during his school days, Allen admitted, “I was attracted to different forms of literature. Writing and reciting poetry appealed to me and came naturally .”
Growing up in the Southwest, Allen has always been close to cowboy life, competing in rodeos as a bull rider for 15 years.
“I worked in the welding supply business for 13 years at Amarillo, Texas. I got a good taste of the corporate life, and that wasn’t for me. I decided I’d stick to being a cowboy.
“I’ve team roped, done about everything a cowboy does. What I like best is the chase, catching renegade cattle that nobody else can trap. Generally, a poem will come from that,” Allen recognized..
He’s labored as a cowboy in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado where he was also named champion in cowboy poetry competition.
Now in Kansas, Allen explained, “I’ve worked for Rod Moyer here in the Flint Hills for six years this fall.”
Reciting his poetry throughout the Midwest for about 20 years, Allen has performed close to a dozen shows some years. He’s never been to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, but anticipates being there someday
One of his three daughters, now living in Oklahoma, plays guitar and sings original cowboy songs. “Shandee just picked it up on her own, and we’ve done several shows together,” Allen informed.
Although his original works come straight from his heart, Allen clarified that a number of the poems he recites are the works of other poets.
“I always recognize the authors, and I’m happy for them to use my poems, too” Allen stated. “I don’t have any of my poems copyrighted, but it’s kind of an unwritten courtesy among cowboy poets to give credit to the originator.”
When Allen decided to enter the recent state event, he didn’t realize how tough the competition and how much interest there would be.
“It was really a great contest, but what excites me most is that we decided to have a Flint Hills Gathering during the first week of November. We’ll have poetry, cowboy music, storytelling, trappings and art.
“This is really a neat idea, and I think it’ll be well received. I’ll let you know more as things all come together,” Allen promised.