There are moments at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering that one never forgets. I had such a moment last night.
I was backstage in the Convention Center Auditorium in the show called "This is My Home," featuring Waddie Mitchell, Andy Hedges and Andy Wilkinson, and Corb Lund & The Hurtin' Albertans. Waddie had finished his set and Andy and Andy had played a few songs when Andy Wilkinson left the stage so the younger Andy could recite a poem. I listened, wholly transfixed, as Andy recited "Mining the Mother Lode," a poem written by Andy Wilkinson lamenting the degradation of the aquifer in the Llano Estacado in the southern panhandle of Texas.
Reminiscent of arguably the most important cowboy poem ever written—"Anthem," by the late Texas poet Buck Ramsey—"Mining the Mother Lode" is a plea to anyone who will listen to protect the mother-lode aquifer. It is a poem of anger and loss, with an urgent message for us to pay attention while we still have a chance to save the aquifer and its life-giving water. Andy Hedges' recitation is beautiful and heartfelt. Here's the last stanza:
"What will we do with this gift of the mother-lode? Pray that the poets and the dreamers remember it, pray that the guardians hold it in stewardship, pray that we honor it, pray that we husband it, pray for the tribe of the mother-lode aquifer, pray for the water, the sweet Ogallala lake, nourishing all who tread lightly and carefully, lightly and carefully, lightly and carefully."
Andy and Andy tell me that they have recorded the poem on their next album, which comes out in a couple of months. You simply MUST listen to this poem. Bring some tissue. Stay tuned.