This is a past event.

Pints, Pinot and Poetry with Cowboy Poet Wally McRae 

When: Wed., March 19, 7 p.m. 2014

If you’re ever in need of an antidote to highfalutin’ literary stuff, might I suggest cowboy poetry? I remember once listening to a scratchy AM country radio station play Baxter Black’s reading of “A Vegetarian’s Nightmare, or A Dissertation on Plant’s Rights,” where he confesses to harvesting his garden. “I butchered the onions and parsley./ My hoe was all covered with gore./ I chopped and I whacked without looking back,” he says. “I grated and ground ’til they made not a sound/ Then I boiled the tater alive!”

Cowboy poetry often presents a cheeky and clever affront to the face of a rough, sometimes bleak Western life, and it’s a hard thing to write unless you’ve really lived it. Montana author Wally McRae wears a lot of 10-gallon hats, as a cattle rancher in the Forsyth area, poet who’s served on the National Council of the Arts, and a crusader against coal mining. His 1989 poem “Things of Intrinsic Worth” commemorates places lost to the Colstrip mine. “The old Egan Homestead’s an ash pond/ That they say is eighty feet deep./ The branding corral at the Douglas Camp is underneath a spoil heap.”

McRae performs at the Pints, Pinot and Poetry evening March 19 at the Roxy, as a benefit for the Rosebud Protective Association. The group advocates for Colstrip-area ranchers, who complain of contaminated groundwater and leaking coal ash ponds from one of the biggest coal-powered electricity plants in the country. The RPA is working with other groups, like the Northern Plains Resource Council, to fight against what they say is the state’s lax enforcement. See, you have to watch out for cowboy poets: they get ornery.

—Kate Whittle

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