12 Questions is proud to be able to include today’s respondent in our celebration of Cowboy Poetry Week. Poet and editor John Dofflemyer has been a champion of cowboy poetry for more than two decades. A fifth-generation California rancher, John began writing poetry while still in high school, finding inspiration in his hands-on experiences in the High Sierra, and discovering influences in Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, and the burgeoning folk scene of the 1960s. Attending the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada in the late 1980s, John found himself in “cowboy Disneyland.”
In 1990, John began publishing The Dry Crik Review of Contemporary Cowboy Poetry to help connect the community of isolated ranchers and cowboys who met up annually at the Gathering. Dry Crik Review was eclectic, bringing together the writing of cowboy poets, Vietnam poets, and other Western writers.* The Review appeared quarterly until 1997. John recently resurrected The Dry Crik Review online and will begin soliciting contributions in the months ahead.
John continues to write, maintaining with his wife, Robbin, a blog Dry Crik Journal, Perspectives from the Ranch, which includes the “Lost Issue” of theDry Crik Review, as well as a rain gauge log, and fantastic photographs of Sierra Nevada wildflowers. His most recent book, Uneven Green, is available now from Dry Crik Press.
1. What is your hometown?
For the past 30 years, my mailing address has been Lemon Cove, California – population less than 300, about five miles downcanyon – but my home has always been here on the ranch on Dry Creek. I generally avoid town(s) as much as possible.
2. With what fictional character do you most identify?
Walter Mitty, Martin Eden, Granddaddy in Jim Dodge’s ‘Fup’ – I don’t read much fiction.
3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.
Nobody sees us quite like we see ourselves, but Gary Busey could get my young years done, Wilford Brimley from here on out.
4. What work of art speaks to your soul?
Alexander Litovchenko (1835-1890) ‘Charon carries souls across the river Styx’
5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?
I just started John Daniel’s ‘Rogue River Journal – a winter alone’, but Jim Harrison’s ‘In Search of Small Gods’, Simone Weil’s ‘Gravity and Grace’, and Wendell Berry’s ‘Leavings’ are on top of the stacks on my desk.
6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?
In the pickup, it’s Sirius ‘Outlaw Country’, but when I’m listening for lyrics, Steve Earle, Robert Earle Keen, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Tom Russell, Townes Van Zandt and Greg Brown keep me pretty happy.
7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?
We don’t go to movies much, it’s HBO or nothing, but I’ve gotten to be more of sap as I’ve gotten older.
8. Cat person or dog person?
Both serve functions here, cats to herd the rattlesnakes out of the yard and dogs to keep the bobcats and coyotes from eating the cats. I don’t love on either one, much.
9. What is more important, truth or kindness?
Kindness for animals, truth and honesty for people.
10. How do you define sin?
Sin hurts on every level, especially and ultimately yourself. I like to keep The Golden Rule in mind.
11. How do you define virtue?
I think to practice virtue is to have humanity and integrity in equal portions to one another. I grew up with ‘a man’s only as good as his word’, and today, that’s virtuous.
12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?
I’m still looking for the right granite rock to scatter my ashes around, in a secluded flat somewhere cattle feel comfortable and native spirits like to visit.
Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?
* Including a young poet at the University of Wyoming who would much later start a questionnaire-based interview blog.