Cowboy poet conduit to realm of down-to-earth

Published 10:27 pm Saturday, August 15, 2009

SOUTH POINT — It’s a new look at multi-tasking, the way Dean Armstrong creates his special brand of poetry.

Or at least using his time in a way that would make an efficiency expert turn nile green with begrudging admiration.

But it’s a method that has turned the Jackson native into a kind of Renaissance man. Farmer, businessman, published poet.

And it’s the latter that will bring Armstrong to the Briggs Library South Point branch for a special reading of his writings and conversation at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Armstrong bills himself as a cowboy poet, a moniker he picked up from his compulsion to write whenever the mood and/or opportunity beckons.

“It kind of evolved,” he said in a phone interview from his 120-acre farm in Jackson County. “I had written some poetry for my own accomplishment. It wasn’t going to go any farther, but a few people enjoyed it.”

So much so that he was encouraged to team up with lifelong friend, Paul Brown, to start performing a show of poetry, stories and skits.

“We performed the fried chicken and mashed potato circuit, the dinner banquets,” Armstrong said. “We have been all over the state and enjoyed it.”

From that encouragement came the inspiration to publish a collection of Armstrong’s favorites.

“Cowboy poetry, my definition is it is usually entertaining, usually funny or extremely sad,” he said. “It has a moral story behind the humor. The vulgarity of the humorists today is something that amazes me if we have to stoop to that to get a laugh.”

Creating word pictures is an activity Armstrong squeezes in between running a beef cattle farm, managing an agriculture supply store and commuting as a distributor for an Indiana firm.

“It is hard, but I know a little bit of insomnia is involved with it,” he said. “Your windshield time is probably the most productive. I take a lot of Indiana trips. That’s about a four-hour drive each way. There will be a line that comes to me. It will nag at me until I get it down.”

The inspiration for all his poems, he says, comes from an experience or a story told to him.

“The poems are a composite of old memories,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t start out to write a book. I didn’t even start out to share these with anyone.”

Words may charm Armstrong but it is the land he calls home that is his lifeline and his sanctuary. That devotion to the realm of land and farming is the main motivation for Armstrong to share his poetry.

“The dirt we walk on has always been in the Armstrong name. It was deeded by the government of the United States. The roots go deep,” he said. “I think being close to the earth, it is important for me. I think people have to reach that through someone else. I don’t mind being the avenue.”