July 26, 2019

The Learning Part of the Writing Life: National Day of the Cowboy and the Cowboy (Cowgirl) Code of Conduct

When I visit schools, libraries, and professional development conferences, one of the things I like to mention is that book writing always leads me on new paths of learning.

Some of these paths are somewhat logical and to be expected. For example, in writing my forthcoming books, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, it isn't too surprising that while researching these books I found myself watching YouTube videos about western and coastal animals' potty behaviors, or that I'd eventually curate some of these videos into playlists such as "Humorous Animal/Potty-Related Videos," and "Fascinating Toilet/Potty/Animal/Poop Science." 

It's also not particularly surprising that I'd research "cowgirl lingo" and "pirate lingo" and curate my cowgirlpirate, (and even potty-humor-related) discoveries on a Pinterest page.

It was while I was doing this book-related research that I met a singer, songwriter and performing musician by the name of Marshall Mitchell, (who wrote an amazing song for my Cowgirl book that I can't wait to share with you ... soon!) and with whom I've now become friends. This research and subsequent friendship has put me on many new paths of learning.

It all began with internet searches on terms such as, "cowgirl music for kids" and "cowboy music for kids." I was trying to curate some music that would tie into my Cowgirl book that I could incorporate into my author visits and other book events and that I could share with my readers. One of those searches led me to Marshall's website. Based on the info I could glean from Marshall's site and related links, it looked as if I had found just the right resource. I wanted to purchase the music via download, but I couldn't find a way to do that, so I reached out to Marshall using the contact feature on his site.

Soon after, I received a response from Jennifer Michaels, Marshall's booking agent, and thus began the beginning of a friendship--first with Jennifer, then with Marshall.

Through this friendship, I learned that Marshall has spent his lifetime creating music (for adults and children), and I learned about the Clean Water Rangers, a music-infused science program that teaches children about the importance of taking care of the environment, particularly, the watershed.

I also learned about the Cowboy Code of Conduct. Marshall incorporates the elements of this code of conduct, which is about human decency, into his concerts for kids. Elements of the code include honesty, respect, integrity, responsibility, courage, perserverence (something MY cowgirl knows a little something about), and wisdom.

It is also through this friendship that I learned about the longtime efforts of cowboys and cowgirls like Marshall and Jennifer to draw attention to cowboy/cowgirl culture and the pioneer heritage through a national observance called National Day of the Cowboy. The goal is to hold this as an annual observance on the fourth Saturday of every July, which happens to be Saturday, July 27th this year. There have been efforts to bring this observance forward at a national level, but now the focus is on working at the state level, state by state. Oregon, my home state, was the 6th state to pass legislation acknowledging National Day of the Cowboy, (back in 2013), and this past year, Arkansas became the 13th state to pass this legislation. Marshall and Jennifer were both active volunteers on this project in Arkansas.

Just last week I learned that Marshall Mitchell was recognized as a recipient of the 2019 Cowboy Keeper Award, which is a very high honor. He will be celebrating with his family and many of his friends, including Jennifer, at the "music house" on his property in Arkansas. According to Jennifer, the music house is "set up with a small recording studio in one room and storage for equipment and props in another room. The rest of the house is used for having folks over, usually for his song circles the 2nd Friday of every month." He also uses the space for hosting house concerts for traveling musicians. Jennifer says it is a space filled with "music, fellowship, storytelling, and food."

It is in this space that my friend Marshall recorded a most wonderful gift to me and to young readers: the song that will accompany the book trailer for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? I can't wait to share it with you! Stay tuned, folks, it's coming SOON!

I encourage you to get to know Marshall Mitchell and the beautiful music and life lessons he brings to our world. Happy National Day of the Cowboy, Marshall, and congratulations on your recent recognition as a Cowboy Keeper. Yee-Haw!

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