Cowboys and chestnuts on a cold winter’s night |

Cowboys and chestnuts on a cold winter’s night

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Cowboy poet Rob Holley, far left, celebrates Christmas by reciting poetry at Washoe Lake State Park during the Western Cowboy Christmas on Saturday evening.

There were chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and Jack Frost was doing more than nipping during the Country Christmas celebration Saturday night at Washoe Lake State Park.

Despite frigid temperatures, almost two dozen people turned out for carriage rides, roasted chestnuts, hot cider, Santa Claus and cowboy poetry by the fire.

“We try to hold a lot of events at the park, at least once a month to help people realize there are things to do here year round,” said Domenic Bravo, park supervisor.

While some took advantage of the carriage rides, Park Ranger Jim Black was stationed by the fire watching the chestnuts pop.

“I don’t know the best way to do them, I only know what I’ve been told. You put them in a Dutch oven and let them set on the coals for 20 to 25 minutes and you have to score them first,” said Black.

Dick and Marilyn Hand were among those who feasted on the festive treat.

“They taste like vanilla cake batter,” said Mrs. Hand, reassuring more timid participants.

Ed Mather brought his 5-year-old daughter Summer to see Santa and partake in the festivities.

“I live in Washoe Valley and thought it would be fun. I tried to get my wife out but it’s just me and the kid, but she loves it,” said Mather.

While they thawed themselves by the fire, patrons took in the sounds of cowboy poet Rob Holley from Weeks.

Holley spent his whole life around cattle and ranching but only began composing poetry about 10 years ago.

“I was at a cowboy poetry gathering in Elko about 10 years ago and I found it inspiring, so I started writing my own,” said Holley. “It’s a lively verse about stuff that cowboys know and things that inspire them.”

Holley shared two poems by cowboy poet S. Omar Barker and one original composition with the group.

Yet the most popular attraction was the food table, offering spiced cider, hot cocoa and an array of tantalizing treats all designed to help fend off the cold and ring in the holidays, Old West style.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.