Eldon Housley is relatively new to the world of Cowboy poetry, but is by no means new to being a cowboy. Housley, whose poems tell the adventures of his grandson Jake and his dog Buster, is a frequent performer and is making a name for himself as both a poet and singer of “old time cowboy songs.”
Housley got into cowboy poetry by accident. A friend had a book and soon found himself inspired to write his own poem. That first one would become the template for his future poems, weaving a tale of the adventures he, his grandson and his dog had.
“Every cowboy has to have a really good dog, and I had a great dog named Buster,” Housley said. “Every cowboy has a trusty sidekick, and mine is my grandson Jacob, or Jake as I call him,”
At the time, Housley was spending a lot of time with his grandson and buster, so it was easy to chronicle their adventures. That first poem poured out of him faster than he could write it.
“Eventually I had to just write down rhyming words and go back and fill in the rest later,” said Housley.
While on vacation at a ranch on the New Mexico border, Housley met musician Kip Callahan. The two took turns singing cowboy songs and eventually Housley was encouraged to read one of his poems. Callahan was impressed and told him about a big cowboy poetry gathering Prescott that had open mic opportunities. Housley attended the gathering and made his public debut.
“I did a couple of open mic sessions and this fella says to me that he really liked my poems,” Housley said. That “fella” invited Housley to a reading in Safford and that became his first paying gig.
It was in Safford where headliner Chris Isaacs introduced himself to Housley. Isaacs, the told him he had a niche with his inclusion of his grandson and lessons about the “cowboy way.” Isaacs helped him get started, telling him how to book gigs and traverse the world of readings and gatherings.
Soon Housley was doing readings at cowboy poetry gatherings all over the southwest and booking gigs all over southern Arizona. He had a standing weekly show at the White Stallion Ranch in Marana, which he credits for “really honing my chops.”
He has also performed at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain, Canyon Ranch and the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.
He also performs private parties.
“I’ve landed a bunch of them without really advertising,’ Housley said. “I get a lot of word of mouth, which is great.”
Housley does not just talk the talk, he has walked the walk. He grew up on a farm/ranch in Southwest Nebraska. His older brother preferred the farming aspect of things, so that left Eldon to the ranching part, which suited him just fine. He started riding horses before he was old enough to remember and broke his first bronc when he was twelve years old. He was drawn to horses and became a part of his life.
“I would ride every day,” he explained. “If something bad happened at school, I’d just get on my horse and ride. You could ride for a long time and never find a fence. I would ride for a few hours and by the time I got home my head was clear.”
A love of horses and the cowboy way helped him work his way through the University of Nebraska by shoeing and training horses. By the time he graduated with a degree in Education, he was making more money shoeing horses than he could teaching school.
Shoeing horses is was brought him to Arizona, where he could shoe horses year round, as opposed to just a few months between snowfalls.
He only recently gave up team roping after needing ankle surgery to repair an injury he suffered in his youth.
He got into cowboy music around the same time he started riding. His grandfather bought him his first guitar when he was nine years old. Like a lot of cowboy singers he never really had any formal training, just a love of music and a pretty good ear.
The same goes for his poetry. He never took any classes or had any instruction, he just wrote about his adventures, real or imagined, though all of his poems have a thread of truth in them.
Housley may no longer be roping, his “little buddy” Jake is now 17 and Buster is no longer with them, but their adventures live on through the poems.