World famous cowboy poet to help Carson celebrate National Library Week |

World famous cowboy poet to help Carson celebrate National Library Week

Karl Horeis, Appeal Staff Writer

When the “Tonight Show” called buckaroo poet and Nevada ranch hand Waddie Mitchell with an invitation to perform, they reached a neighbor who drove 40 miles to give him the news.

It may sound like the stuff of legend, but Mitchell turned them down because it was calving season and he’d never heard of the host at the time, Johnny Carson.E

Mitchell, who was described as “America’s best-known cowboy poet” by People Magazine, will be performing Tuesday at the Carson City Library. The event is part of the celebration for National Library Week.

While tickets are required for admission, they are being offered for free at Friday’s book sale.

This year’s theme is “Discover Poetry at Your Library.” Friends of the Carson City Library are funding the capital city’s celebration. Mitchell is the highlight of the week.

He says it was 25 years working as cowboy on some of the most desolate lands of the Silver State that made him a poet — though he doesn’t like to think of it as “poetry.”

“When you live in the close proximity like that with the same folks month after month, one of your duties is to entertain each other,” he said. “And I suppose that’s where the whole tradition of cowboy poetry started.”E

By the age of 10, he was reciting poetry; at 16, he quit school to follow his heart and went to making his living as a cowboy.

“I’d never done anything else, never made money without horses or cows until I started telling cowboy poetry,” he said. He plans to continue with ranching and the life of a cowboy. One day he hopes to buy his own ranch.

“I’m hoping for the opportunity to go broke on a ranch by myself instead of helping somebody else do it.”

He is the father of five children.

“They’re all girls, except four of them,” he jokes.

Mitchell used to manage a 36,000-acre ranch in Lee-Jiggs, southeast of Elko. In 1984, he helped organize the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering and gave his first public performance. The rest, as they say, is history. He has performed around the world from Elko to Zurich and had a poem included in program for the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake. The Wall Street Journal wrote a story on him in 2001 about having to clean up his poems for political correctness.


Who: Waddie Mitchell performs for National Library Week

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Carson City Library, 900 N. Roop St.

Cost: Free, get tickets at Friday’s book sale at the library


Waddie Mitchell’s biography at: