I think we shall start with this one:
Sing Us a Song, Cowboy!
By Catherine Lilbit Devine © August 18, 2006
Whispers of the West has made our second journey to the Emerald Isle to perform our Music and Poetry which vividly brings to life the culture and heritage of the American West. From Chicago to Monasterevin, it would seem that we drew attention no matter what we were doing. I sometimes wonder what it is that makes the Cowboy so vibrant to so many different cultures.
In Chicago, as we waited for our flight to Shannon, most conversations started with "I thought there were no more Cowboys." or "Nice hat, can I try it on?" Boarding the Queen of the Arans ferry that would take us to Inis Mor, the Captain and crew all announced, in booming voice, "COWBOYS! They've come back!" Somewhere in Japan, there is a group of people telling their family and friends about the Cowboys who sang for them while they ate lunch, in a small cottage on Inis Mor. No matter the town or village, a stroll down the sidewalk would guarantee us numerous drive-by Yee-haws and Yahoos, as well as queries of "are you from Texas?" and "where did you park your horse?" Any time we ventured into a pub, all conversation would stop for a moment, as the other patrons stopped to size us up. Inevitably, it would be the man with the most pints down who would loudly exclaim "John Wayne!" or "J.R. Ewing!" It would seem that the mythic west is alive and well in celluloid and reruns.
There was the deep connection of music to be celebrated, as well. As we performed and lectured across Ireland, we took notice of the powerful draw that our music and poetry had on people from all nationalities, Irish, Japanese, Polish, Korean, Czech, French, British, Sicilian and a myriad of others that would be impossible to list here. The first of course was the Japanese tour group on Inis Mor, who were quite surprised to find Cowboys sitting in the parlor of Man of Aran Cottage playing a guitar and singing, "Please, to play for us" came the polite request. Fifteen minutes of Cowboy songs and Casey's signature "Hooty" brought delight not only to the Japanese tourists but to us, as we noticed their enthusiasm for the songs and smiled as they all walked out to board the bus "yodeling" the Casey way, "Hooty, Hooty, Hooty, Hooooo." Then there was the small, impromptu session at our rented cottage, Abbeyview, in Ballybrittas, to which we invited our hosts and a "few" of their friends. At ten o'clock on a Wednesday evening, people began arriving and the influx never truly stopped. We had a Bass player, Banjo player, guitarist, key board player and a delightful man who brought bongos and a penny whistle, but christened my as yet played Bodhran. Did they come to play traditional music? Most assuredly they had and did. However, they were also unabashed in their rendition of such American songs as Kansas City, City of New Orleans and a medley of silver screen era western songs.
Our last night in Monasterevin found us saying our good-byes to the other Gerard Manley Hopkins Summers Session attendees. There were moments to treasure as Casey patiently taught one of the Korean participants to sing Streets of Laredo. The director, Desmond Egan, sang Bard of Armagh in traditional A Cappella style and Jeff's solo of Green Grow the Rushes became an impromptu harmony of international voices on the final chorus.
However, it was the children and their reactions, which stuck with us as we traveled. From the small girl, who almost fell down the stairs as she was backing up to stare at Jeff & Debra at a coffee shop in Galway, to the small boy, in Roundstone, who walked off a curb while gawking at the cowboys, it was their words and the looks on their faces we quoted and described most often. "Hello Cowboy Man!" the small girl said to Jeff as she noticed him sitting just inside the door. Then, more incredulous, "Oh! Hello Cowboy Woman!" as she realized Debra was sitting there, as well. A tip of the hat to the quick wit of the mother in Roundstone who, as we rushed to assist her child, set him on his feet; dusted him off and said, with a wink, "There now, you're alright! I told you to keep that whiskey bottle out from under your pillow!" God Bless the small four-year old boy, blissfully unaware of the rules of etiquette, in Roscommon, who, weary of hearing poetry, said in a stage whisper "Sing us a song, Cowboy! Please, just sing!"
Young or old, Cowboy or Sailor, Irish born or simply Irish raised, or a visitor from far distant lands, it was the common thread found in music and poem that bound us to one another. No matter the language in which it was sung or spoken, Irish, Sicilian, Japanese, French, English, a picture was painted so vivid and real that you needed no translation. That is what we do with our Music and our Poems, we paint a picture of tradition, honor and life as a Cowboy. We carry them from the campfires and hard trails to the Rodeos, Honky Tonks and travails of the modern Cowboy. In doing so, we forge another bond of friendship and familiarity that transcends cultures and makes strangers into a room full of family so diverse that the heart sings.
So we shall take to heart the advice of a small Roscommon boy and continue to paint pictures with our songs, "Sing us a song, Cowboy! Please, just sing!"