Colorado cowboy poet Al "Doc" Mehl recites a poem during the 2014 Colorado Cowboy Gathering in Golden.

(Photo: Courtesy of Reggie Ruth Barrett)
The 25th annual Colorado Cowboy Gathering kicked off in Golden on January 16. The four-day event features poetry and other performances by artists from around the country.

Professional entertainer Liz Masterson says the event aims to celebrate the heritage of the West, while also addressing how it’s changed.

“It’s mostly a chance for people, both ranch people and urban people, to sit together, rub elbows and exchange thoughts,” says Masterson, who also sits on the board of directors for the Cowboy Gathering.  

Colorado cowboy poet Al "Doc" Mehl performed at the 2014 Colorado Cowboy Gathering. The Westminster resident's 2013 collection of poetry, titled "The Great Divide," was named cowboy poetry CD of the year by the Western Music Association. Here's a poem from that CD. 

Old Boots 

by Al "Doc" Mehl
 
If you come lookin’ for our gate here at the “2 Bar Lazy J,”
Just look for cowboy boots atop the fence that lines the long driveway.
I can’t explain why it got started, or who practiced it the most, 
But seems the wife and I have placed a boot ’top ev’ry cedar post.
Those boots are upside down and wedged on tight, each toe aimed like the lead,
As if the wind’s unroofed a solemn grave: a mile-long centipede.
See, on a ranch, the family’s feet, in work or play, they never stop;
Each harvest time, the worn out boots become our most resilient crop.
One fall we’d saved up ’bout a dozen pair, stored ’neath the basement sill,
That we were maybe just too lazy to deliver to Goodwill.
Oh, our intentions, they were good, our motivations far from greedy,
As we packed those used boots in the truck to donate to the needy.
Headin’ out the drive toward town that day, the weather wasn’t great,
And with a waning motivation, we just stopped there at our gate.
It seems those boots were never destined to complete their trip to town,
We stuck each boot up ’top a fencepost, and we turned the truck around. 
That silly morning misadventure, though it lacked all common sense,
Gave us a laugh about the ornaments that now adorned our fence.
It might have ended there, but seein’s we’re a family of eight, 
Discarded boots soon topped each fence post stretchin’ to the second gate.
In time, the neighbors all joined in, it seemed that now there was no stoppin’,
As they placed old boots on every post that didn’t have a toppin’.
Most would bring their boots in daylight, stay for coffee or a snack,
But some would donate boots at midnight when the moonless sky was black.
Each worn out boot has its own story that deserves a public showin’,
’Bout a journey, or a job, or ’bout a foot that’s busy growin’.
And at dusk, that fence has now become a sight to lay your eyes on,
As the silhouetted boots stretch out and over the horizon.
Oh, I s’ppose I have my favorites, like that turquoise Tony Lama,
Or the toddler’s boot that still retains the leg of a pajama, 
Or that Justin boot with twin pierced holes, the fangs of rattlesnake,
Or that disgusting steel-toed Acme someone fished out of the lake. 
But seems the pair that always catch my eye belonged to Uncle Chris;
We hadn’t seen the man in years when he dropped in to reminisce.
He told wild stories ’bout adventures, and we listened to him boast,
And then he weighed in ’bout the cowboy boots inverted on each post.
He claimed if old boots have a heaven, this was prob’bly where they went, 
And he opined the boots he wore that day were prob’bly purt near spent,
He said the soles were thin as cardboard, and one heel had grown a crack,
And that the stitchin’ lines were shredded ’long the sides and in the back.
He thought that maybe those two boots had met their final resting place,
And that he had a mind to take ’em off, and find each one a space. 
Now, I’ve been prone to skepticism when my crazy uncle talks, 
But then he wedged each boot up ‘top a post… and rode off in his socks!