2014 Echoes of the Trail in Fort Scott, Kansas

Another excellent Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering has come and gone! Next year will be our 19th event! Those who attended clapped and hooted loudly as Judy Coder and Jennifer Epps yodeled in harmony and crooned western swing songs, with Jennifer playing Indian flute and harmonica as well.

Judy was such a good sport; she helped judge the cowboy poet/singer contest, and even volunteered to show off the pies during our pie auction! After Saturday night’s performance, the audience bought all of she and Jennifer’s CDs! Judy is joining the Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band, and soon she and Jennifer will have a CD of their own as well.

Echoes of the Trail is grateful for these two Western Music Association members, who came to Echoes of the Trail for the second year, expecting to ride horseback on the Tucker Ranch! Well, we didn’t have enough riders signed up, so we canceled the ride, and with the humidity and mud, Judy and Jennifer declined the offer to ride with the Tucker men. Instead, thanks to Miss Pat and her “over the top” hospitality at the Lyons Twin Mansions on S. National in Fort Scott, the pair spent their free time exploring our historic fort, checking out our unique shops, and enjoying the luxury and excellent dining at the Twin Mansions.


Stenen Spalding

Friday evening, June 13th, after Steven Spalding entertained with his original music, eleven cowboy poets and singers competed to be included in Saturday night’s finals. This was the second annual Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Poet and Singer Contest, and this year there were five Montana Silversmith buckles to be won!

As founder Arnold Schofield said to the audience during the event, we are so sorry that Gail Burton was unable to attend as an invited performer and contestant this year due to his undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are with this well-known and loved cowboy poet.

The finalists selected by judges Judy Coder and Steven Spalding, with help from Jennifer Epps, were singers Gerry Allen of Parkville, Mo., Buzz Keiper of Columbia, Mo., and Royce Smithey of Bonham, Tx., plus cowboy poets C.W. Harris of Hepler, Kan., Poppa Mac of Winnipeg, MB, Canada, and Ron Ratliff of Gilman City, Mo.


Ron Ratliff

On Saturday night, the finalists again gave their heartfelt renditions of songs and poetry about the old west, and the winners were: Grand Champion, Ron Ratliff, First Place Poet, Francine Robison, Second Place Poet, C. W. Harris, First Place Singer, Royce Smithey, and Second Place Singer, Gerry Allen.

Brad Tucker of Montana Silversmiths donated the championship buckle, and provided the other buckles to Echoes of the Trail at a discount. We are grateful for the beautiful custom made buckles.

The Grand Champion, Ron Ratliff, is guaranteed a spot on the program in 2015.

Another second annual contest involved the 4-H and area bakers. After all the pies were turned in and sampled by the judges, the three winning pies were placed on the stage to be auctioned Saturday evening, June 14th. The First Place and Third Place trophies went to Shirley Palmer, a long time 4-H participant, and a past Kansas State Representative! Second Place went to Kathleen Gilliland, also a long time 4-H participant.

The remaining pies were sliced and sold to the public for $2 a slice. Then, during a break Saturday night, C.W. Harris auctioned the three pies for us, and they brought $150! We thank generous donors Dale and Betty Johnson and Rosie Kincaide. Proceeds of the auction and the pie slice sale will go to the Bourbon County 4-H organization. In addition, Arnold Schofield donated dozens of farm fresh eggs to be sold, with those proceeds going to 4-H as well. A check for $243 will be presented to the 4-H leaders.

Besides the featured performers and the contestants, Saturday’s daytime program was filled with a talented group of cowboy poets and singers, some of whom were in the contest as well. Always a favorite, Harold Carpenter told his humorous stories in rhyme, throwing in unexpected endings as usual. Others on the bill were Gerry Allen, Richard Dunlap, D. J. Fry, Ron Ratliff, Abe Reddekopp, Cliff Sexton, Royce Smithey, and Steven Spalding. Cliff Sexton, Arnold Schofield, and Jerry Schleicher shared master of ceremony duties, and Judy Johnston emceed the kids’ cowboy poetry readings.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Judy Johnston introduced the Gary Wimmer Memorial Kids’ Cowboy Poetry Contest, and award presenter Sheridan Wimmer. For many years, Gary Wimmer chaired the contest in addition to being our solo master of ceremonies. After his untimely passing, we decided to name the kids’ contest after him, and to have a family member present the certificates and checks to the winners.

This year, all the winners were students at Fort Scott’s Eugene Ware Elementary School, and their teachers were Gayla Croan and Brenda Hill. First place and a check for $50 went to Sadie Marchino of Ms. Hill’s 5th grade class. Second place and a check for $30 went to Draven King of Ms. Croan’s 5th grade class. Third place and a check for $20 went to Makenzie McDonald. We are so proud of these kids, who studied about the old west and put their thoughts into rhymes that fit the theme of Echoes of the Trail. We are grateful to all the teachers who wove our contest into their history and English lessons. We must teach our children about the hard work and ethics of the American Cowboy to preserve that important part of our history. Through these tales, we learn that the old west wasn’t all romantic singing to the cattle or shoot ‘em up gun fights as portrayed by Hollywood. Cowboy Poetry tells of life as it really was, herding, sorting, branding, and wrangling horses and cattle on the dusty trail.

And this year, adults and kids alike got a sample of that history with draft horses pulling wagons, and good ol’ chuck wagon cooking on Saturday. We are thankful to George Parsons of Asbury, Mo. for heading up the wagon train. Dennis and Donna Williams and their helpers Louise and her son Jimmy Campbell cooked up a delicious meal on their metal, wood burning stoves out by the wagons. Unfortunately, it rained Sunday morning, so the chuck wagon breakfast was canceled. Cowboy Church, however, went on as planned. It was just moved inside the Fine Arts Center instead of outdoors by the wagons as in past years.

Rev. Steven Spalding gave a moving sermon and sang many of his original gospel songs. He called up many of our cowboy poets and singers also, who gave inspirational recitations and sang moving hymns. A local resident got up and played guitar while Steven recited the Lord’s Prayer, and the final patriotic hymns brought tears to many eyes.

We also mourned the loss of a fine man and generous donor named Harold Palmer, who came to Echoes of the Trail for ten years and always had his boots shined by Judy Johnston. We miss him and all the others we have lost over the years, such as silversmith Shirley Willis, whose son still attends every year, craftsman David Yates, who always donated a beautiful silver buckle or money clip to the silent auction, MCPA founder Leroy Watts, who performed many years at Echoes of the Trail, our committee member Keitha Bohlander, and of course our long time MC and kids’ contest chairman, Gary Wimmer. We pray that the Lord holds them all in his loving hands.

We thank Rev. Spalding so much for his faithfulness to Echoes of the Trail. He provides sound systems, brings his great paintings and other western things to sell, entertains during the day and evening, AND conducts Cowboy Church for Echoes of the Trail each year.


Judy Renard

This year, Rev. Spalding also conducted an evening gospel concert down the road from Fort Scott Community College, at the Faith Christian Center and Cowboy Church on Hwy 69. Several of our contestants and regular performers joined in for an inspirational evening.

Of course, another highlight of Echoes of the Trail is the Silent Auction, which finds friends and neighbors having bidding wars for the great things donated by the vendors, the Tucker family, fans, and local businesses. A complete list of thanks will be published soon. We are grateful to the donors of the auction items, the bidders, and the buyers each year. The proceeds go toward expenses of this year’s event.

And speaking of giving, we are so grateful to the many volunteers who gave their time at the ticket booth or theater door, at the performer CD/book sales table, and at the pie contest area. Some of our volunteers stayed for more than one two hour shift, and some of our donors volunteered as well! We appreciate all of you, and we will include your names on a thank you list in the local newspaper.

And last but certainly not least, we owe many thanks to the wonderful purveyors of fine western goods who set up booths in the lobby of the Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center and displayed baskets and crosses made of rope by the Sanborns, metal decorative signs and useful items made of metal by Mustang Metals, original oils by Jim Clements, great hand-made leather items and tack by Leanin’ H Leatherworks and Lawrences’s Saddle & Tack, all sorts of art and home décor from Country Cupboard in Fort Scott, jewelry, clever aprons, and tote bags by Karole Emmett and her granddaughter, old time spinning wheel demonstrations and home made goat’s milk soaps by Lisa Johnson, towels and other goodies by Betty Austin, original novels by Fort Scott’s own Troy Peterson, and as previously mentioned, art, antiques, and more by Steven Spalding. And Echoes of the Trail wouldn’t be complete without Judy Johnston shining those cowboy boots!

So, watch this web page for next year’s plans for the 19th annual Echoes of the Trail Cowboy Gathering June 19-20th! Bring your friends and neighbors next year, and keep in touch with us on Facebook, where we have a group you can join and a page you can “like.” We would be glad to hear your comments on Facebook.