With its annual Cowboy Keeper Award, the National Day of the Cowboy 501(c)3 organization has been recognizing individuals, organizations, and projects that have contributed significantly to the preservation of pioneer heritage and cowboy culture, since its founding in 2005. The four exemplary honorees selected by the NDOC Board of Directors to receive a 2014 Cowboy Keeper Award are Andy Nelson, Barb Richhart, Dodge City Kansas, and Earl W. Bascom. The beautiful image contributed for this year’s award, Sunrise Chill, is the work of world renowned photographer, Charles Phillips of Mariposa, California.
Wyoming’s Andy Nelson is a farrier, poet, award winning entertainer, author, sound engineer, humanitarian, rodeo announcer, humorist, emcee, and Cow Radio show host, who can “ride, rope and work cattle with the best of ‘em.” The weekly syndicated radio show, “Clear Out West (C.O.W.) Radio,” which Andy hosts with his brother Jim, is a leading source for contemporary and vintage cowboy poetry and music and cowboy lore and practices. Through his show, Andy works to promote the talents of others, especially nurturing young poets and musicians. He is aptly described by singer Brenn Hill as “cowboy all the way.” Nelson cares deeply about cowboy culture and is an active participant, living his life the cowboy way; always exhibiting diligence, generosity, integrity, and humility. He is devoted to his wife, children, and siblings, and is actively involved in their interests and lives.
Andy was born and raised in the Idaho town of Oakley, where he and his brother were taught the way of the cowboy by their father, Jim. They followed him all over the great basin learning how to shoe horses, and although they no longer shoe for a living, “they have had the farrier way of life forever branded on their hides.” Andy’s recent award-winning book, Riding with Jim, honors his father’s life, and as a second-generation farrier, he has passed those skills on to his children. Andy’s own poetry captures many of the issues facing today’s working West, often presented in a humorous way to help others understand and appreciate ranching and cowboy life. He does his part to preserve cowboy culture by volunteering his time and talents to help record the voices of cowboy poets who also tell the stories of today’s West. He has worked with many poets, including 93-year old Cowgirl Hall of Fame honoree Georgie Sicking, preserving their poetry in recordings. Andy has co-produced the past nine volumes of The BAR-D Roundup from the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry and has been known to travel at his own expense to collect recordings from poets and help projects come to fruition. Perhaps the most exemplary thing about Andy is he is often–and always quietly–doing something to help others, from taking part in a benefit, to raising money for those in need, supporting a friend, or helping with a project, from branding to building. You will however, rarely hear about those things from Andy himself. As Margo Metegrano, Editor of CowboyPoetry.com observes, “I doubt there is a single person who knows Andy Nelson who doesn’t admire him and consider him a friend. The cowboy code he lives by is an inspiration for all.”
Since 2007, Dodge City Kansas and the Dodge City Convention & Visitors Bureau have encouraged community efforts that focus on celebrating the National Day of the Cowboy. NDOC proclamations have been requested annually from the City Commission, Ford County Commission, and the state legislature. As a direct result of their work, Kansas’ NDOC bill will be signed into law by Governor Brownback July 26th, making Kansas the 8th state in history to pass the bill awarding permanent status to the 4th Saturday in July as the National Day of the Cowboy.
Community-wide activities that recognize the National Day of the Cowboy abound, including Dodge City Days Annual 10 Day Festival which coincides with the date for the National Day of the Cowboy. The festival parade features the Drover’s western welcome wagon displaying an NDOC banner on both sides, while NDOC banners also grace the 3-mile parade route. NDOC flags are flown at the CountyGovernmentCenter, BootHillMuseum, Santa Fe Depot, VisitorInformationCenter, and City Hall, as well as at numerous other prominent community buildings during the 10-day event. A 5-day PRCA rodeo takes place during the festival, showcasing the outstanding riding and roping skills of the cowboys and cowgirls and the NDOC flag is presented and acknowledged during each grand entry, flying over the rodeo arena throughout the performances, with NDOC banners gracing the fences. A country music concert is held on NDOC weekend and the cowboy day is recognized by the performers during the concert. The flag is flown during the concert too. In fact, Dodge City boasts the largest collection and display of NDOC flags of any community in the world.
Dodge City Public Library takes part in the activities with special programming and displays, including flying the National Day of the Cowboy flag, viewed by the over 500 people who stop by each day. Their entryway showcases a display based on a western theme or the theme for Dodge City Days. A highlight of the library’s cowboy presentation is their “Read ‘em Cowboy” Circle for the children, where stories are read, songs are sung and a cowboy related craft is created by all in attendance. A display at the library describing the NDOC program is set up for the festival. On the eve of the National Day of the Cowboy, celebrations are held at the Final Friday events at the Carnegie Center for the Arts and the Second Avenue Art Guild, commemorating the recognition and followed by the Boot Hill Museum Bull Fry and Bash.
From the statue of the cowboy on Boot Hill to longhorn steer watching on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, Dodge City recognizes the importance of the cowboy and promotes its heritage. The cowboy is alive year round there, but especially during the 10 Dodge City Days and on the National Day of the Cowboy. The people of Dodge City live the National Day of the Cowboy mission year-in and year-out
For Colorado cowgirl, Barb “Western Belle” Richhart, life began in the coalfields of Kentucky as the third of eleven children. The daughter of a coalminer, she lived a farm life until age thirteen. Then, in 1964, Barb’s family packed up and moved to Gunnison on the Western Slope of Colorado, where she quickly learned about real cowboys and wholeheartedly claimed the cowgirl lifestyle for own.
Barb married a cowboy/outfitter and happily transformed herself into a full-fledged, bonafide cowgirl, including riding, animal doctoring, camp cookie, and nurturing and mothering all the young cowboys and cowgirls that came her way. Due to her partner’s ill health, retirement from the outfitter’s life came early, leaving an opening for her to volunteer, so she joined the Colorado Cattle Women and Cowbelles, where she promoted interest in the issues of raising beef, the wise use of water, and good stewardship of the land, at every opportunity. She served as a Cowbelle officer and became more deeply involved as a recognized presence at fairs, schools, libraries, stock shows, conventions and meeting one-on-one with senators and congressmen, to raise awareness for numerous ranching industry challenges. In 2003, Richhart volunteered to DJ at KSJD Dry Land Community Radio in Cortez. When asked what type of music she wanted to play, “Cowboy Western” was her immediate reply. Her weekly 2-hour Sunday show, Cow Trails, was born and the Western Belle was on the air, stepping up to preserve the music, poetry and culture of the cowboy way. Monthly house concerts, including an annual National Day of the Cowboy fundraising concert, were soon added to her repertoire as one more avenue to share her love of the people, places, and heritage of the West. Barb Richhart now dedicates her life fulltime, (including volunteering for special projects with the National Day of the Cowboy organization), to preserving and protecting the rich culture of the West she loves.
The name and fame of the late rodeo champion, rancher, Hollywood actor, inventor, western painter, school teacher, sculptor, father, cowpuncher, trail driver, printmaker, wrangler, and blacksmith, Earl W. Bascom, continues to be recognized throughout the United States and Canada, as well as other international communities, for his unparalleled number of talents and accomplishments.
Earl Bascom (1906-1995) was born in a sod-roofed cabin on the Bascom 101 Ranch in Vernal, Utah. In 1913, his father, John, who had cowboyed in Utah and Colorado, went to Alberta, Canada, securing a job as a foreman on the Knight Ranch. In 1914, the Bascom family loaded their belongings into a covered wagon, traveled a week to the nearest railroad and rode the train to Canada. After working for the Knight Ranches in Alberta, John Bascom, with the help of his sons, began ranching on his own using the Bar-B-3 brand. Raised in the ranching world in Canada, Earl portrayed his real life’s work cowboying and rodeoing across the American and Canadian West in his art. He has been dubbed the Cowboy of Cowboy Artists due to the vast range of those experiences, and the “Father of Modern Rodeo” for his numerous rodeo equipment inventions, including rodeo’s first one-hand bareback rigging (1924), its first reverse-opening side delivery bucking chute (1919), and its first hornless bronc saddle (1922). Earl and his brother, Weldon, also produced the first rodeo in Columbia, Mississippi – history’s first outdoor night rodeo under electric lights, and are known as the “Fathers of Mississippi Rodeo.”
As a rodeo pioneer, an all-around champion, an internationally known artist and a cowboy, Earl W. Bascom has been inducted into more halls of fame than any cowboy in the world – halls that include the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and recently, the UtahCowboy & WesternHeritageMuseum. He rodeoed from 1916 to 1940 in the rough stock events of saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and bull riding, and in timed events of steer decorating and steer wrestling. He was a rodeo announcer, a trick rider, and competed in the rodeo events of wild cow milking and wild horse racing. Bascom held memberships in the Cowboys Turtle Association, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Canadian Rodeo Cowboys Association, National Police Rodeo Association, and the National Old Timers Rodeo Association and is included in “Who’s Who in the World.” Although he dropped out of school at a young age, he attended college during the depression, financed by his rodeo earnings. His artistic gift for painting was recognized during those years and he soon moved into sculpturing.
Bascom was the first cowboy artist to be honored as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of London, since its beginning in 1754. In the summer of 2005, the week-long Earl W. Bascom Memorial Rodeo was held in Berlin, Germany, where his cowboy art was exhibited by the European Rodeo Cowboys Association in recognition of his worldwide influence upon the sport of rodeo. It’s no wonder Judy Anderson, Co-Chair of the Utah Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, “Can’t think of anyone more worthy to be honored on the National Day of the Cowboy than the “Cowboy of Cowboy Artists” Earl W. Bascom.” Known as a humble man throughout his life, he passed away at 89, having lived in the days of the old west before the end of free-range ranching. The astonishing breadth of contributions, talents, skills, commitments, and participation in the preservation of cowboy culture by these four recipients of the 2014 Cowboy Keeper Award, is both encouraging and inspiring. Knowing that people and organizations of this quality, continue to this day, to work to preserve and promote this heritage, confirms that it has not, nor will it ever die.
We at the National Day of the Cowboy organization know we are privileged to recognize these four distinguished honorees, all of whom have demonstrated a heartfelt and effective commitment to the preservation of pioneer heritage and cowboy culture, and not just in America, but around the world as well. The National Day of the Cowboy is proud to take its hat off to each of these highly deserving recipients.