Cowboy lifestyle inspires League City writer’s collection of poems and stories
Charles “Smokey” Culver writes poems and songs about cowboy life, ranching, horses, trains, law enforcement, the outdoors and the Old West. His words have been heard on stages across Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and various places cowboy poets and fans of the genre gather.
Last year, a book of Culver’s poems titled “A Wrap And A Hooey” was published and has since been nominated by the Western Music Association as the “Cowboy Poetry Book of the Year.” Culver is working on a follow-up that also will include Western photography, he said.
Culver, who was born in Pasadena in 1949, was raised on a cattle ranch. He’s a great-grandfather now, but his love of the cowboy lifestyle never left him, and he still hopes to one day have a ranch of his own. Until then, he’s a regular volunteer at Habitat for Horses in Hitchcock. The Hitchcock ranch is one of four locations in Texas that rescues abused and neglected horses.
As a part-time competition rodeo steer roper and former train engineer for Union Pacific Railroad — a job that had him running sugar and grain from Houston to Galveston and other Gulf Coast cities in the 1970s and ’80s — Culver has had plenty of inspiration for his more than 350 poems. He also has written more than 100 songs and has performed in and around Galveston County at various open mics.
Culver began writing poetry and playing guitar around age 14. But most of his poems have been written in the past few years, he said.
His writing is disciplined, adhering to a strict meter and rhyme.
“I’m somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to my poetry,” he said. “It has to be a good rhyme — not just close to the right rhyming word but really the perfect word.”
A common conception is that cowboys are stoic and strong, with little to say and not much interest in sharing their feelings, much less their heartfelt poetry. Culver has seen different.
“A lot of these old boys are tough guys — bullfighters, rodeo clowns,” he said. “But they can write a poem that will make you cry. They don’t hold emotion back just because they’re cowboys. They just let it roll.”
Despite the gender specific name of the art form, there are many outstanding female cowboy poets, but very few in Texas, Culver said.
Culver’s appreciation for a simpler time and a slower pace is evident in his poetry and even in the vehicle he drives — a 1950 Chevrolet farm truck with a Texas flag painted on the wood bed rails. He named the truck Jitterbug and has driven it every day for the past 14 years and, of course, wrote a poem about it called “My Old Truck.”
Smokey Culver’s “A Wrap And A Hooey” is available on amazon.com.