A&E » Arts

A Cowboy’s Life

Mike Puhallo sounds a bit weary this morning as we chat over the phone.



Who: Mike Puhallo

What: 4 th Annual Pemberton Country Jamboree

When: Friday, July 23- Sunday, July 25

One imagines his trademark Lanny MacDonald-style moustache to be a bit droopier than normal, his gait a little bit laboured.

That’s what cross-continental travel will do to an old cowhand, I suppose.

Puhallo has just come back from a trip down south that took him to the Red River Festival in Shreveport, Louisiana and to this year’s Academy awards.

That’s the other Academy – the Academy of Western Artists awards held this year in Fort Worth, Texas where Puhallo, one of North America’s premier cowboy poets, was a featured entertainer.

He’s a familiar face to the Academy, who awarded him their Will Rogers medallion for excellence in cowboy poetry in 2002, making him the first Canadian in the organization’s history to receive the honour.

It’s not just the Academy that knows Puhallo, who counts five books to his name and a sixth recently sent to the publisher. His works have been read in the Canadian House of Commons, the B.C. Legislature and, he’s proud to mention, into the official record at a NASA launch in 1994.

But Puhallo’s still as much about the hand-held sparklers as he is the bombs bursting in air. Small, grassroots venues suit his unassuming style and honest words just fine.

Pemberton’s 4 th Annual Country Jamboree, which launches tonight, is one such occasion. Puhallo has been a part of our neighbour to the north’s celebration of country living since the beginning – as a consultant, based on his experience as an organizer for the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, and of course, as a performer.

He’ll keep the tradition going this year, performing throughout the weekend at the Jamboree’s new site on the grounds of the Pemberton Heritage Museum alongside musicians Misty Rivers, Jim Reader, Kraig Jodrey, Tammy Gislason, and Bud Webb, and fellow cowboy poet David Longworth.

The Jamboree is attempting to stay true to its country roots, going as far as to separate itself from the more mainstream Copperdome Barn Dance event, which takes place the following weekend on July 31, and replacing it with the Saturday night Jamboree hoedown.

If it’s authenticity they’re after then they’re doing right by bringing back Puhallo and keeping poetry on the bill. Authenticity is the cornerstone of true cowboy poetry, its defining characteristic.

"It’s written by working ranch people and people with a background in agriculture," Puhallo explains. "It’s grassroots poetry. The real folk stories of the West put to rhyme."