Poet’s interest in Cowboys has roots in childhood

By Don McAlavy: Local historian

Don McAlavy has written poetry since he was a farm boy at his family’s home 16 miles north of Clovis. He fell off the first horse he rode, herding “woolies” with his father.

As a gangling long-legged youth he worked on the Joe Bailey ranch in the Frio Draw and learned the truth about cowboys.

They didn’t all sing and play the guitar and chase outlaws. Most of them could be found building corrals and fences, and least here in Curry County.

For the past 44 years he has earned a living as a printer in Clovis and spent his extra time pursuing motorcycles, chess, painting, politics, civic, cultural and historical activities. (He onetime tried a wife, found one, lost one, but finally found one and kept one!)

Since the early 1970s he has spent a lot of time writing melodramas, and in 1981 graduated into serious drama with the writing of a Billy the Kid play for Fort Sumner celebration of the centennial of the Kid’s death.

In 1978 he joined the New Mexico Outdoor Drama Association as an historical consultant in their effort to build an amphitheater along the caprock north of Clovis. He became the playwright for the historical outdoor drama “Billy the Kid”.

As an actor in the play he made the role of the mean deputy sheriff Olinger memorable. As general manager of the production he oversaw getting six to eight horses each year for the show and hiring a savvy horse wrangler.

His riding has improved as he didn’t fall off. But he scared the audience one night when his left spur got tangled up in the saddle strings as he stepped off while bringing BTK to the courthouse jail.

When he stepped off his left foot hung in the stirrup and the horse got excited and started backing up. Lucky for Don he still had the reins in his hand and was able to pull his foot out of the tight boot. Finished the scene without losing the “Kid” or his composure.

Don was invited to three cowboy poetry gatherings (that was in 1991): The National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration in Lubbock, the ENMU-Roswell Cowboy Symposium and the Lea County Cowboy Hall of fame Poetry, Ballads, and Stories gathering in Hobbs.

Don became serious about cowboy poetry in 1991 performing his poems and material at pre-show entertainment at the Caprock Amphitheatre and other events.

(Of course Don is 77 years old now, and about 78 this coming December. He still likes rattling the keyboard on a computer once a week, doing a column from here in Florida for the CNJ, but some times he get lazy. Just check my wife!)