NEWTON COUNTY — The weather was as hot as a west Texas cattle drive in July, but that didn’t stop cowboy poets from gathering Saturday in Newton County.

NEWTON COUNTY — The weather was as hot as a west Texas cattle drive in July, but that didn’t stop cowboy poets from gathering Saturday in Newton County.

Members of the Missouri Cowboy Poets Association were on hand to perform as part of the Poetry Gathering and Chuck Wagon Supper at the Dave Arwood farm between Neosho and Seneca. Several poets, along with local musician Dewayne Bowman, took the stage to entertain the crowd, which sought refuge under shade trees and tents.

Among the poets, most of whom cite self-written verse, was Butch Carlin of Aurora. He kept the crowd’s attention with a piece about an old frontier doctor who died a poor man, but was rich in friendship from those who knew him.

Resting in the shade with a bottle of ice water, Jerry “Jake” White of Brookline talked about his life as a cowboy poet. After his service in Vietnam, he came back to the Ozarks and spent a lot of time with his dad.

“My dad had a way with words, and he was always making up stories and poems about everyday things,” White said. “Then one year I went on a trip to Utah, and I wrote a few poems about staying in a cabin in the woods.”

That was just the beginning.

White also learned about cowboy poetry associations and joined the Missouri branch, where he has been a member ever since. Once he joined, he started writing more.

A nephew read some of his work in Texas and won a blue ribbon, so White started performing himself. His first public appearance as a cowboy poet was at Fort Scott, Kan., where he learned a lot about stage performance.

His best work, White said, is poems that are inspired. “If I just try to write one, it isn’t very good, but when I’m out hunting in the woods or riding my horse, I get inspired. When I start writing one of those poems, it just rolls out. I don’t actually write them, God does.”

Being an Ozark poet makes him a little different than some cowboy poets. “I grew up on a farm with chickens, hogs and goats, so my everyday life was different than a real cowboy’s.”

White quoted one of his father’s poems about a three-legged dog that died. When a small group of boys came to the graveside, White’s father offered to “say a few words for Old Three Leg.”

"Here lays Old Three-Leg
“We are laying him to rest.
“He never caught a rabbit
“But he always did his best.”

Also at Saturday’s event, local chuck wagon chef Dennis Williams led a crew who turned out beef stew, cole slaw, homemade biscuits and cobbler. The smell of supper was strong, so when they rang the supper bell, everyone came.

The poetry, music, food and fun lasted into the late evening. When the campfires were extinguished, hot, but happy, cowboys and cowgirls found their way back to the 21st century after several hours of living life on the trail.