A stellar student is glowing following a reward she received at Red Stegall’s 19th annual Cowboy Gathering & Western Swing Festival, held at the Fort Worth Stockyards Oct. 23-25.
While she has a number of rewards and recognitions under her belt, she said being named the No. 1 cowboy (or cowgirl) poet in the senior division of the event’s Young Writers Cowboy Poetry Contest takes the cake.
“To be able to attend the event as a finalist was an honor, but to walk away the winner was the neatest thing,” Lingleville ISD senior Laura Procter said. “This tops it off.”
The winning poem, entitled “My Daddy the Farmer” paid homage not only to her father Jay, it also spoke to her upbringing in Erath County, where many locals make their living off the fruits of the land and at the mercy of Mother Nature - see poem inside.
“My dad is really a farmer and has been for most of my life,” Procter said. “And my grandparents too. Our family has always run cattle.”
As far as performing before the Cowtown crowd, Procter said reciting the poem, which was written from the heart, came easy. She wrote the poem when she was 15, and has mulled over the words many times.
Procter said the event was a “truly amazing experience” and was made even more memorable since a couple of special friends and family members went along for the ride, including her father and mother Shayne, grandparents, Dannah Procter and Larry Bays, and teacher Marilyn Pack. Also present was Pack’s husband, Jim, who has performed with Stegall’s band for more than a decade.
Entries were submitted from students across several North Texas counties.
Ten finalists were chosen and required to attend the cowboy celebration and present their writings to the assembled crowd, which included three professional cowboy poets who judged the entries.
To be considered a finalist, submissions had to reflect an understanding and creative use of cowboy language; reflect an understanding and appreciation of the cowboy heritage; had to be authentic and original; had to be well crafted, flow smoothly, and be easily read and listened to; be entertaining and may be written from serious, inspirational or humorous points of view; and the poets were required to present the material in a convincing and enthusiastic manner.
For meeting the mark, Procter walked away with a $3,500 scholarship, which she will take to Tarleton State University, where she plans to begin a post-secondary education in communication and journalism. She hopes while she is still in high school, she will continue to be rewarded for her efforts. Within the next few weeks, she will hear how a recent submission to a county contest ranks.
She also said she has learned that rewards come in many forms, and as soon as her name was announced, she received a precious prize.
“We were walking down the street (in the Stockyards) and passed a couple with their two younger daughters. They had brought the girls to the poetry contest. When they walked by, they stopped me and said they saw me as inspiration for their daughters,” Procter said. “That was truly touching and meant so much.”
Among Procter’s prior accomplishments are three winning entries into the Erath County Writers Contest, which is sponsored annually by Friends of Stephenville Public Library, the library itself and the 20th Century Club and also had her poems advance to state and national competitions.
In addition, Procter is a member of Future Farmers of America and her school’s Wildlife Judging Team, which placed third in the state last year.
“She is a self-starter,” Pack said. “You don’t have to tell Laura Procter what to do.”
My Daddy the Farmer
By LAURA PROCTER
He rises before morning’s light
Packs a lunch and drives out of sight
It’s another day in the Texas heat,
The humidity’s got him beat.
But he just keeps pushing on,
Because it won’t be long before the day’s gone.
It’s the cheapest job he’s ever done
And the price of diesel has nearly got him overrun.
He takes the chopper another pass,
Cuts the feed and fights the grass.
I know he’d rather be here with my brother and me,
But he’s providing for our family.
Beneath this barren Texas Sky,
His love for farming will never die.
There was a bad drought back in ‘06
That put our family in a fix.
But he fought back with all he had,
And the season didn’t turn out too bad.
Things haven’t gone that great over the years,
And I know he’s holding back the tears.
But he’s hanging on to a dream,
Giving it all for the team.
He pushes on every day,
Praying things will go his way.
He is part of a dying breed,
That one day the whole world will need.
He’ll be a legend when he goes,
Even though no one knows.
He’s not covered in a layer of armor,
He’s just my daddy, the farmer.