February 12, 2020 103 PM
ALPINE — In 1989, country singer Jean Prescott was visiting the Big Bend region when she stopped for lunch in Alpine. There were a lot of cowboys at the restaurant, and Prescott noticed they were dressed up. When the cowboys left, she followed them out of curiosity.
The trail took her to Sul Ross State University, which was packed with cars and people. She followed a crowd into a lecture room, where Joel Nelson and other cowboy poets were performing. “I was just blown away,” she recalled. “I had never seen anything like it.” She stuck around, listening to other cowboy poets and musicians before deciding that “these are my people, and this is my music.” She started fashioning herself as a cowboy — not a country — musician.
The Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering has its inaugural event in Alpine this month, with performances over the weekend of February 21 and 22 at Sul Ross. The group is carrying on a tradition started by the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which ended last year after 33 years. More information on the event and schedule are available at lonestarcowboypoetry.com.
Just as the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering did, this new event pays homage to the traditions of cowboy poets and western songwriters from across Texas and the Southwest. And among the performers this year will be Jean Prescott, a native Texan.
Prescott has been a musician all her life. “I started singing to the radio with my granddad when I was about two,” she said. As a teenager growing up in Glasscock County near Midland, she taught herself guitar by playing along to country songs she heard on the radio. (Her family only got one station.)
Prescott didn’t return to the Alpine poetry gathering until 1993. That year, she met a mustachioed cowboy named Gary.
Over campfire songs one night, Prescott started strumming and yodeling to the Baxter Black song “Last of the Singing Cowboys” — and the pair fell in love.
The next year, the couple got engaged in Alpine. They started writing and performing western music together.
This year, they’ll be performing together at the Spicewood Restaurant on Alpine’s west side — a new venue for the Gathering. Prescott says she’s “thrilled” a gathering is still going 30-plus years later. And she says she can’t imagine a better town than Alpine for preserving these traditions.
“People come out there from all over the world to hear this cowboy poetry and cowboy music,” she said. In Alpine, “they are in the zone of the cowboy world.”