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Cattle man turns wisdom into rhymes

CHESAPEAKE — The cowboy poet decked out in a Stetson and boots brought a dollop of his homespun wit to the Chesapeake Branch of the Briggs Library, reading from his published works and telling the odd story.

The reading by Dean Armstrong Tuesday afternoon is part of a continuing series of authors and special lecturers sponsored by the library who appear at its various branches.

“I’ve been blessed in being raised and having the family farm,” Armstrong told the audience. “It’s the family farm first; the cattle farm second. There is not place better than rural life.”

A lifelong resident of Jackson County Armstrong tends a 120-acre hoof to plate cattle farm when he’s not creating his special brand of rhymes.

“Cowboy poetry is something that may mean different things to different people, not all cowboy poetry is humorous,” he said. “It plays on the emotions from humor to tender-hearted stories.”

Its inspiration comes from the good, bad and offbeat of everyday life, from the challenges of marriage to the quirky and atavistic nature of an old-fashioned neighbor to the death of a spouse. All carry within them a moral.

“Cowboy poets are a lot like a preacher, but you can cuss,” he joked. “We have a little advantage on the preacher.”

Armstrong isn’t quite sure when he first was drawn to writing down his thoughts in verse, whether humorous or poignant. Writing seems to have been always a part of the fabric of his world. But the realm of the mind is as strong in his life as his love of the earth he farms.

“You have to listen to that voice,” he said.

He often appears in lighthearted poetry recitals at Farm Bureau events, and community banquets, which can prove its own challenge, he told his audience.

“You are going to entertain people who have eaten too much and have sat for too long,” he said.

He collected his poetry, that is often written on the spur of the moment, into a book published by Rio Grande College, entitled, “I’d Buy Your Book,” an endeavor he admits he put together for his own enjoyment. Positive press not only delights him, but stuns as well, he said.

“Any good comments I feel in awe,” he said.

And like any good humorist, Armstrong left his audience with a bit of his wit and wisdom.

“When arguing with a total idiot, be very sure he isn’t doing the same.”