Each year at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, two scholarships are awarded to students to help pay their college tuition fees.
The scholarships, supported by the B.C. Cowboy Heritage Society and Canadian Cowboy Country magazine, was founded to honour the late Kamloops poet Mike Puhallo.
Congratulations to Kirsten McAllister, who won the Mike Puhallo Memorial Scholarship, for her poem entitled The Last Gentleman. The prize is supported by the B.C. Cowboy Heritage Society and CCC magazine, and is awarded to the best cowboy poem received from a U.S. or Canadian student. Here’s an excerpt from McAllister’s winning poem:
The Last Gentleman
“I know who you are,” said I with a swallow,
“Well not exactly, but I heard, you’re the one that they followed
Before the factories and transit, when we tamed horses and trains,
When cowboys were wild and brave like John Wayne.”
I heard a chuckle and he murmured, “Is that what they’re sayin’?”
The door swung out and he told me I’d better come on in.
The shadows turned amber as the fire was stoked
And I found myself with an old crooked horse who was coloured like smoke.
“But sir,” I protested, “nowadays, so much is confused,
They say the west rests with heroes—and I thought that was you
And maybe, I thought, if I could find one whose fight doesn’t lack
They could tell me a way to bring the west back.”
“Bring the west back?” mused the horse, “So where did it go?”
“Not sure, sir, I guess I thought you might know.”
“Well I’ll tell you one thing, the west ain’t a direction.”
“Then what is it then?” “Ah, now that is the question!”
Silver shook his mane and got to his feet for importance,
“What makes up the west deep down at its provenance?
Is it made out of time, and legends that we can’t touch again?
Preserved by silver screens but always a ‘what was’ or a ‘back then’?
The west can’t be touched, tamed or put to rest
Because the west is a spirit, it’s a man at his best.”
“So you’re saying I can be in the west in all the hullabaloo?”
“Son you can’t be in the west at all—the west is in you.”
Silver’s ears swivelled back, he said “Hold on,” and turned.
Three drawers were searched before his treasure was discerned.
“Open your hand,” he said while snorting off dust
And into my palm dropped one silver bullet without rust.
“It’s the last one and I can tell that you need it
Not for shootin’ or fightin’, no I’m talking ‘bout real grit.
The best way to use it is not to at all.
Instead, remember life is precious for one and for all.”