© National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo 2015
2018 Judges
Jim Gray
The Cowboy, Jim Gray is a 6th generation Kansan with roots in Kansas Territory. Great-grandfather, George Gray, set up Gray’s Ranch in central Kansas in 1883. Gray raises cattle on a portion of the old ranch. Gray published The Kansas Cowboy from 1996- 2008. The publication served the mission of the C.O.W.B.O.Y. (Cockeyed Old West Band Of Yahoos) Society, organized to promote and preserve the Cowboy heritage of Kansas. The articles researched and written by Gray examined the frontier history of Kansas from Gray’s own unique perspective on history.  “I’ve always had an interest in things that have gone before. These Kansas plains have been witness to untold stories of joy and desperation. Many have been told over and over. Others have lapsed beyond recognition.”  Gray authored Desperate Seed: Ellsworth Kansas on the Violent Frontier in 2009. The Way West, a weekly newspaper column about Old West Kansas is carried in several newspapers across the state. The 2011 150th Anniversary Cattle Drive from Caldwell to Ellsworth, Kansas, revisited the old-time cattle drive with cattle on the trail for two hundred miles over a three-week period of life under the open sky and long days in the saddle. Gray has been a speaker for Humanities Kansas since 2011. Rest assured Gray can put flesh and blood onto the bones of stories that have been buried but not forgotten.
Michael Hook
Jay was born into a ranching and rodeo family in southwest Oklahoma. Today, he makes his home in Cyril with his wife, Sandi. His dad was a top roper and rodeo cowboy; his granddad was a brand inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.  Jay competed in rodeos during his early years.  He now stays busy raising cattle and ranch horses and team roping.   Writing and reciting cowboy stories in verse since 1996, Jay says he's not sure his English teacher would consider it poetry. Explaining the reason behind the pursuit, he says: "I've been researching the cowboy way for life for nearly 60 years. I felt a need to preserve some of the stories I heard from the old timers, and I wanted to try to relive some of my own experiences. Fortunately, cowboy poetry seems to appeal to most people. I thank God for the greatest super-hero of all times: the American Cowboy."  Jay has appeared  at many of the major cowboy gatherings:  the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine; Cal Farley's Youth Poetry Gathering near Amarillo, Texas; National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas; Arizona Cowboy Poets' Gathering in Prescott; Kamloops Cowboy Festival in Kamloops, British Columbia; and four appearances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Elko, Nevada. He also appeared on Country Music Television’s  Christmas in Cowboy Country, hosted by Clint Black.  Visit his web site at www.jaysnider.net.    2005 Best of the Best at National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, Kanab, Utah    Jay Snider, 2017 Judge Foreman
Del is a Western Music Singer, Song Writer, Entertainer and Nashville Recording Artist, as well as an award winning Cowboy Poet. Along with being the Cowboy Singer on the top rated Television Show, Best Of America By Horseback, Del is also the Co-Host of the show which has been airing now into its Eleventh year. He was Trail Boss on a trail ride that lead 46 riders from Mexico to Canada in 2009. There are 5 Cruises to His credit on which he entertained both on and off the ships in locations such as Alaska, the Yukon, Belize, on the steps of the Mayan Temples  and Caribbean Islands.  Del has recorded five CDs of which he has had a song stay number 2 on the charts for three quarters of a year and two other of the albums in the top ten. His poetry skills have landed him Runner up at he Echoes of the trail Competition and People's choice award, and Humor Award at the Kansas Cowboy Symposium in Dodge City Ks. Del is regularly featured in numerous Magazines and on Radio shows across the country.  He still loves spending time training and shoeing horses at his home, The High Trail Ranch near Humboldt Ks where he and his Wife Shevawn spend time nurturing the surroundings to make them Grandchild friendly. They are the parents of five children who have in turn given them seven grandchildren to keep up with. Along with the many avenues pursued, Del also has a background in Ministry and preaches as a fill in for the Church of Christ in Iola Ks where he and his family attend. Co-Host of Best of America By Horseback on RFDtv
In Memory of Jack “Trey” Allen,
Excellence through Competition
Director Dickinson County Heritage Center Michael Hook was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but spent his early years immersed in the cowboy culture.  His father, Larry, attended School of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, and then they moved to Galveston, Texas where Michael was able to see first-hand the ranchers and cowboys that kept the Texas cattle drives alive.  As the family moved back to Kansas City, Michael started playing baseball, and was able to pitch in college for Longview College and Missouri Western State University.  His first job that he took was unloading trucks at Wal-Mart, but he was able to work his way up to Store Manager near Des Moines, Iowa.  There was always a missing void in Michael’s life, and he went on searching for it as he completed his degree in History from Arizona State University.  He ended up in Abilene, Kansas where he was once again immersed in the cowboy culture.  He is the Event Coordinator for the 150th Anniversary of the Chisholm Trail; he is the president of the Seelye Foundation; the Director of the Dickinson County Heritage Center; and the Treasurer of the Kansas Cattletown Coalition. 
Rittel’s Western Wear Abilene, Kansas