Ten-year-old cowboy poet Thatch Elmer poses with famed cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell at the Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering earlier this month in Heber City. (COURTESY PHOTO)
EVANSTON — The first thing you might notice about cowboy poet Thatch Elmer is his stature. Although he’s only four feet tall, that’s about average for a cowboy who’s just ten years old.
Not only is Thatch a cowboy poet, he’s also an award winning bull rider, and a cowboy at heart.
At a recent city council meeting, Thatch was there, along with other Boy Scouts, to present the flags. Following their presentation of the colors, Mayor Joy Bell announced that Thatch had recently performed at the Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry and Western Music Gathering.
She asked the youngster if he would share a poem with the council.
Nodding confidently, Elmer responded, “Yes Ma’am,” as he strode to the podium.
Thatch yanked the microphone down to his own level and in a strong voice began reciting a poem about cowboys.
According to his mom, Kim Elmer, Thatch has been reciting poetry since he was old enough to talk.
“My husband Brad wrote a poem, “Gold Buckle Dreams,” and he used to recite it to Thatch all the time. He memorized it by the time he was about four.”
Thatch said, “I’ve been a cowboy poet since I was four years old. My dad taught me all the words.”
Thatch has been performing as a bull rider since he was old enough to climb onto the miniature bulls. This year he qualified to ride in the national miniature bull riding finals in Helena, Mont. While he has worked hard to get where he is on the bull riding circuit, the national finals fell on the same date as the Heber Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
“We let him make the decision, ultimately. We told him there’d be lots more bulls to ride, but he might only have one opportunity to perform his cowboy poetry and meet some famous poets,” Kim Elmer said. “It was a hard decision for him to make, but he had so much fun in Heber it was worth it.”
While in Heber, Thatch met one of his idols, Andy Nelson. After his first set at the mic, Thatch introduced himself to Andy and invited him to listen to his next set. As the two talked, they discovered a mutual admiration for the poetry of legendary cowboy poet Bruce Kiskadon. Coincidentally, both Nelson and Elmer chose the poem “The Forgotten” as one of their favorites.
During his set on the stage, Nelson invited Elmer onto the stage to perform. It was a highlight for the youngster.
“One of my favorite parts was when I got to perform with Andy Nelson. I did our favorite poem, ‘The Forgotten,’” Thatch said.
His mom said she was impressed with the respect and sincerity shown by the seasoned poets. “Andy Nelson recognized that there aren’t a lot of youth who perform cowboy poetry. He went out of his way to bring Thatch up and perform with him.”
On Saturday morning of the gathering, Thatch and his family were perusing vendor booths when Thatch met another idol, Waddie Mitchell.
“Thatch introduced himself as a cowboy poet and Waddie said, ‘Are you the one they call Thatch?’” Kim Elmer shared. “After hearing him perform, Waddie said, ‘You, my friend, are amazing.’ He then told everyone at his own reading that it’s not often that you get to meet the person who will move forward where you leave off, and he said Thatch is that person.”
Thatch also had an opportunity to meet famous cowboy poet and author Baxter Black. When they met, Thatch asked for permission to perform some of Black’s work.
“Baxter said he could use whatever poems he wanted,” Kim Elmer said. “
Thatch said the hardest part of cowboy poetry is getting on the stage. “I stand up on the stage, and I don’t get nervous, but I do worry that people will judge me.”
He seems to have overcome that fear with a healthy dose of confidence, a humble attitude, and a winning smile.
“He performed with the Saddle Strings Band, between sets, and everyone loved him,” Kim Elmer said. “I’ve been blown away by the sincerity of the performers at the Heber gathering. They could have just blown him off, but they all encouraged him.”
While Thatch does plan to continue bull riding, he’s also got plans to move ahead with his cowboy poetry. He is scheduled to perform at the Elko Cowboy Poetry festival, as well as in Durango early next year.
More information about Thatch can be found on his website http://cowboythatch.com and on his Facebook page, Cowboy Thatch The Bear River Buckaroo.