The Grande Dame of Cowboy Poetry
It’s Saturday morning at the 32nd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., and the Ruby Mountain Ballroom is packed. The introductory applause has faded, but 91-year-old Elizabeth Ebert, “the Grand Dame of Cowboy Poetry,” in gold earrings and a navy blue pantsuit, is still pushing her way across the stage, two wrinkled hands on the walker, slightly stooped, a lariat of oxygen tubes peaking out from a small tank affixed to the side. Seated behind her, fellow poets R.P. Smith and Yvonne Hollenbeck, soon to perform themselves, smile as though clued in to some inside joke.
For a moment, the room is still. A wet cough. A camera shutter. The pfsh of a turning page. Ebert’s short, white hair catches light as she pulls out her marker and unsteadily flattens her book on the lectern.
“I’m kind of shaky in the morning,” she says. “Kind of shaky at night, too.”