It's not hard to figure out Ross Knox's occupation: His boots, hat, and familiar way with horses all earmark him as a bona fide cowboy. However, there's a unexpected side to his rugged job that Road Trip Marc Istook was able to discover during a recent trip to Mariposa, California.
Here, Istook explored the conversely creative world of Knox, who along with being an accomplished buckaroo is also a seasoned poet. The lifelong cowboy, who's spent his career working throughout the Western U.S., is part of a larger group of other cowboy poets who gather annually every year to celebrate their work.
Knox has written and memorized over 100 poems by heart; he explains that it's an effective method for battling the boredom and lonesomeness of his profession, where he can be working for days on end on the range with just horses, dogs, and pack mules for company.
Although Knox loves the unique sense of freedom that comes with working the back country, he quickly discovered that sometimes being a cowboy can be wearying on the soul. So he found poetry early on as an antitdote, using the beauty of the landscape around him and the stories of his chosen field to inspire his art.
"I'd be stuck at a cow camp somewhere," Knox explains of his initial foray into writing. "And I did it for my own amusement, and then I'd shove it under my pillow and nobody saw it."
Until he found a group of like-minded peers who enjoyed gathering annually to share their own verses, music, and thoughts. Knox eventually worked up to his current volume of material, and has even released a spoken-word CD.
Knox can't imagine life outside of the range; currently working in Yosemite National Park these days, he says that his go-to activity during his free time is more horseback riding than writing. However, along the way, his poems tell a fascinating story about the life he leads; one that city dwellers can only dream of.