Cowboy Poetry recently lost one of its guiding lights with the death of Don Kennington. Don was a fine writer, a fine reciter, and a fine cowboy. And a fine human being by any measure.
Don and his brother Phil were sources of inspiration and information when I first thought to write poems, and were unfailing in the kindness and assistance they offered me. I suspect others feel the same.
While Don penned a passel of outstanding poems, I would venture to guess his most popular is “Shoeing Old Rivet.” I saw Don recite it many, many times—usually at the request of the audience—and it never failed to bring tears to the eyes of most in attendance, because the poem is so darn funny you laugh till you cry.
Unlike the rhyming punch-line jokes so many reciters try to pass off as poetry, “Shoeing Old Rivet” is an ongoing stream of humor, wit, wordplay, and clever turns of phrase embedded in a story with real depth and meaning hiding behind all the funny.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing “Shoeing Old Rivet” recited by others in days and years to come. But as far as I’m concerned, Old Rivet will go barefoot from now on, as no one else will be able to tack shoes on that horse the way Don did.