Defining Moments

Lance Miller, keynote speaker at the 2017 District 42 Toastmasters Fall Conference, spoke about defining moments: little actions that can completely change the trajectory of our lives or result in outcomes we could have never imagined.

Let me tell you about the amazing consequences of a small act of kindness:

Last spring a Cowboy Poetry colleague, Jenn, whom I barely knew, lost her husband. When I saw her at the next festival, she was quite distraught. She and Harry had sung together. She was determined that his passing would not inhibit her playing and singing but she found it extremely difficult to be a solo act.

I suggested we sing together. We did, had tons of fun and it helped Jenn get through the weekend.

When we met up at the next festival two weeks later, my guitar player couldn’t come so I taught Jenn my song in the morning and we performed it in the evening to favourable reviews. We had so much fun we agreed to meet again to sing.

The Toastmasters conference was in her city, Medicine Hat, a month later. I invited her to come to part of it and take in the banquet with me.

She did. My fellow Toastmasters welcomed her. One helped her with glam make-up for the banquet. She even won a door prize. And here’s what she sent me today:

Shelley: I had a such a good time Saturday. And again on Sunday when I went to a jam that lasted all afternoon and evening. Last night I felt like I could explode with happiness!

Thanks again for inviting me. I truly felt privileged and honoured to be with someone as accomplished as you and to meet some of your colleagues.

And what a ripple effect one ‘small’ gesture can make! (Your invite was not small, thus the marking.)

When a cousin’s son texted me on Saturday, I said we’d converse later: I was at the Toastmaster’s convention.

That led to lots of questions on his part and an opportunity to promote the benefits Toastmasters would have for him as a young man.

This made me smile.

One small gesture of friendship resulted in a non-Toastmaster spreading the good news about the benefits of the program.

Who knows? These two may end up helping the Medicine Hat Toastmasters clubs grow and touch more lives!

And I had a small part in healing Jenn’s broken heart.

My advice?

If you get the chance to say a kind word, give someone a hug or invite someone to your meeting, do it.

You never know what a difference you will make and whose lives will be touched.

Merry Christmas 2016

Where have the days flown?
It’s already Christmastime.
Sit to write my seasonal message.
This Christmas it MUST rhyme.







Cowboy Poetry’s my new passion.
But, you ask, what does THAT mean?
It’s horses and cows and country life
And even ranchers’ washing machines!

Folks gather to hear the music
And cowboy campfire poetry.
Through song and country rhymes,
We keep alive, our western history.

Shelley at Kamloops

Shelley at Kamloops








In March I was in Kamloops
At their Rising Star poetry contest.
I placed and I’m invited back
As a professional performer and guest!

I attended poetry gatherings
Last year, in Canada and the USA,
With my retired sister/friend, Loree,
In our fifth-wheel, down the highways.

I learned to haul that fifth wheel
With a three-quarter-ton pickup truck.
But the one thing that I’m most proud of
Is I learned how to back it up!

Sacred Reading Space

Sacred Reading Space








I moved eleven trucks of soil and rock
Into Harmoni’s beautiful backyard.
Built a sacred space for reading.
Don’t need a gym for muscles hard!

I came close to committing suicide:
Accidentally slashed my own wrist.
Only had to drive to three walk-in clinics
To find a doctor who would stitch!

In June I became a Funeral Celebrant
To tell the stories of the dead,
Who have their own ideas about
The funeral service and what is said.

I’ll have read my thousandth book,
Since 2007, to the last day of this year.
It’s been the adventure of a lifetime.
To my education, I’ve added years.

I think I’ll go back to only two books a week.
It is time I finished writing a few.
If you’ve read any good books lately, though,
I’d still love to hear from you.

Dove's 16th Birthday

Divot’s 16th Birthday








Divot, the golden Wonder dog
Is on Christmas seventeen!
The vet says she’s sure Divot’s
The oldest Golden Retriever she’s seen!

Divot still goes for daily walks,
Not more these days, than ’round the block.
Still likes to sniff out luscious smells
But sometimes her hind legs simply balk.

All my girls are doing fine.
In January, daughter, Harmoni
Begins a course online
For a degree in psychology.

Jasmine and Rhythm

Jasmine and Rhythm










Grandtoy, Rhythm continues dancing:
Performed in the Moscow ballet
Calgary Nutcracker performance.
Hopes to be choreographer one day.

Grandtoy, Jasmine took up the ukulele.
In only two weeks she was playing some tunes!
She seems to excel at whatever she tries.
Who knows: maybe first woman on the moon?

Daughter, Rachel has a new book soon,
Added yoga instructor to her CV.
Seems that girl is always on the run.
Some people say she’s a bit like me!

As usual, my plans for 2017
Are ambitious, to say the least.
I’ve had enough of famine;
I’m ready for a feast!

Between poetry and publishing,
Presenting and pontificating,
I plan to perform more, professionally,
Plow into next year’s posterior, celebrating!

Everyday, we all have plenty to eat,
More clothes than we can ever wear.
We have no wars plaguing our streets.
In our world, these privileges are rare.

Let’s be thankful for the many blessings
We all enjoy each and everyday.
My hope for you in the New Year
Is that Gratitude’s here to stay.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas,
Creating friends and family memories.
May your tears, next year, be tears of joy,
And your days overflow with “tee-hee-hees”!



Barbwire Dispatch March Issue

ACPA logo blackLast summer I became acquainted with Cowboy Poetry and the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association. One thing led to another and poof! I’m a member of the Board and I’m the Editor of the ACPA newsletter, the Barbwire Dispatch.

It has been great fun getting to know the people involved in the ACPA, which has the mandate of preserving our western history through music and spoken word. Themes are generally around country living, horses and growing food, especially beef.

The Barbwire Dispatch recently opened its pages to all audiences, no longer exclusive to members. In its pages, we’ve attempted to communicate with members, performers and fans, by sharing stories, news and tips.

If you’re interested in learning more about western entertainers, I invite you to follow this link to the March 2016 issue of Barbwire Dispatch. If you’d like to receive it every other month, let me know and I’ll get you on the mailing list.



Horse Sense Now Available Online

Horse Sense cover
My regular readers may recall that I have recently taken up a new interest: writing and performing Cowboy Poetry.

I am delighted to announce that my first book of Cowboy Poetry, (so far), Horse Sense is now available online at Amazon: 

Horse Sense is a collection of the poetry I wrote in 2015. It’s based on my experiences, growing up with horses on a farm, and the experiences of my friends who live and make a living in the country.

I am so pleased that my mother, Ilene Goldbeck contributed her private horse sketches for the book. The tribute poem I wrote for her 75th birthday is included in the book.

In Horse Sense, you’ll find stories that will resonate with you, especially if you grew up in the country. I chose to print the book in large font so my audience and I might not need our reading glasses! It’s a short book, but the point of poetry is to be succinct!

I invite you to read Horse Sense. Hopefully it will inspire you to attend a Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

The Cowboy Poetry community is full of interesting characters, some of whom remember farming and ranching before its domination by corporate conglomerates. Some still practice the old ways, growing our food and collecting and telling stories along the way.

Music is a major part of the Gatherings, mostly the real, old western, story-telling songs. Some performers bridge the gap between the classic oldies and newer music that has the same integrity. Not generally stuff you hear on the radio anymore.

Visit to learn more about a gathering near you.

I’m off to Elko Nevada for the largest Cowboy Poetry Gathering in the USA. I will report on the activities in the next issue of the ACPA Barbwire Dispatch. December’s edition is linked here for your viewing pleasure. Happy Trails!


Ode to Willow Creek

Shelley Goldbeck at Stavely

At Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering

I attended my first cowboy poetry event on July 10 and 11 at the Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering at Stavely, Alberta. I participated in their open mic on Saturday with this poem I wrote that day.





Ode to Willow Creek

Come to Cowboy Poetry, it’s lots of fun to go
Sit in rows of chairs and just enjoy the show.
Talk of cows and ponies and land and farmin’.
You’re a farm girl so I know you’ll fit right in.
Life got in the way, almost got there last year
But something else came along and I missed again, I fear.
This is my year for change, something new to do
So when my sister said Lewistown, Montana I knew
I had to grab the proverbial bull by the horns
And take a chance and share some of my poems.
That’s right. Not only am I going, I decided to commit
To sharing some poems and see what comes of it.
My poetry gushed like waterfalls, spilling from the pen.
Growing up on a farm, I have herds of stories to spin.
Like Dogface, an old plug pulling kid-laden toboggans on frozen fields.
In ’67 there was the wagon train trek, ’75’s barley yields.
There was my 12 hour concussion, got thrown and kicked by a horse.
There were parades and gymkhanas and rodeos of course.
So I’ve got some poems but I haven’t seen it done,
This cowboy poetry thing, so I decide I need to come
To Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering to get me some smarts.
Knowing nothing would be such a greenhorn move to start!
Let me say I was wowed sitting in the crowd on the edge of my seat
Feeling the singers sing, the players play and the poets speak.
Sagas about cows and horses and big skies,
Opining about their problems and making up lies.
Listen to Jim Hamilton’s poem about the cow man
Contemplating suicide, cancer doctors reveal his life span.
All words carefully chosen, each one has its weight.
Letting them out judiciously, one by one, through the gate.
There’s Phyllis Rathwell and her homespun yarns
Of grandkids and Hutterites and functions in barns.
The customs agent searching her truck for contraband
Struck a chord. I’ve driven farm trucks so I understand.
I think her scheme is brilliant and I plan to do the same
When I head to Montana for Cowboy Poetry games.
I’ve been surprised by all the music; I grew up on cowboy songs
And with a story put to guitar you simply can’t go wrong.
If you close your eyes Charlie Ewing can pass for a young Tyson.
Through the voice of Jim Beaudoin, we heard even more of Ian.
Who has more fun onstage with strings than Noel Burles?
I bet when he was younger that he got all the girls.
Sitting, watching and listening to the cowboy poetry stars
Almost makes me think I should take up the guitar.
I wish that I could memorize like Mag or Jim or Morley.
But I can’t remember last night’s supper so I need my notes, I’m sorry.
I can’t decide if it’s his guitar picking I prefer
Or the masterful way Ed Brown talks of wrestling bear.
Or his song about NOT preaching at the wedding of Tim.
Like the rest of the cowboy poets, couldn’t get enough of him.
I never dreamed I’d see a show that makes audience eyes shine
Which is udderly what happens when you see Divine Bovines.
I’ve met some fabulous people, for example Ruth and Kay,
They’ll be at Lewistown, a name they taught me to say.
They pointed out to me it’s pronounced LewisTOWN
Not LewisTON like EdmonTON, not TON but TOWN.
All the poets and all the singers filled me up with awe
At their talents and deep thinking they shared with us all.
I left last night, inspired to write poetry for you.
Thanks for allowing me to show what I can do.
I’d rather be here than with the crowds at Stampede
I like that I can hear every story, laugh and deed.
I like that the songs are honest, not artificially produced.
Hearing thoughts I’ve not heard before gives me quite a boost.
I like that I can see the stage without binoculars on my eyes.
I get to corral real people and learn about their lives.
I feel like this is my place, so thank you Willow Creek
For all your hospitality. What a way to end the week!

Stavely Alberta

Shelley Goldbeck at Willow Creek Cowboy Gathering