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Cookhouse Capers CD

Rollicking, rhythmic poetry
featuring original musical interludes by Ben Christenson

The inspiration for these poems and the love of the lifestyle they reflect all originated in a remote cowcamp on Douglas Lake Ranch, where the author worked in the mid-seventies.

CDN $15.00
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CD Synopsis:

A Fuelish Mistake
"There were things that happened in cowcamp that defied the imagination . . . ." This opening line appropriately introduces not only the poem but the whole album. Fact truly is stranger than fiction. The recipe for the very unusual confection described herein is available upon request, but not recommended.

Celery Soup
When you live in rustic conditions, you never know what might show up in the soup. Like "Freddie" and "Fuelish Mistake," this is a favourite story that appears in my book in prose form and was converted to poetry later on for the added dimension that rhythm and rhyme bring to storytelling.

Freddie Got a Fright
In cowboy poetry circles, it is common to assume that the poet resorts to everything from slight exaggeration to outright lying in the interest of telling an entertaining tale. But my experience is that real life (especially in cowcamp) can be so bizarre, there is no need to make anything up. Such is the story of how Freddie Got a Fright.

Profanity Poem
This is the only poem in the collection that was actually written in cowcamp. I was a brand-new Christian with, suddenly, an amazingly clean mouth. The profanity at the dinner table, which a short time before had been water off a duck's back, was now a source of genuine embarrassment. Finally one night, after the crew was a-bed, I wrote this verse on a big piece of butcher's wrap and tacked it on the back of the cookhouse door, bringing the issue to their attention in a light and humorous way.

The Coffee Question
This story may become a poem sometime, but for now it is a reading from the book that remains a favourite — both with me and with audiences everywhere. Caution: For a short while, this story may spoil your enjoyment of a perfectly good cup of coffee.

God Help Them!
Ben leads into this poem with a rather twisted arrangement of "Amazing Grace." Here's why. For years, I've been irritated by this pious misquote: "God helps them that helps themselves." Fact is, it isn't scriptural, and I would go so far as to say that it exhibits a warped perception of God's grace. I used to ponder this, even back in cowcamp, and really did intend to make a sign to hang on the wall — containing this little play on words.

Thinking Back
One day I was reading over the synopsis on the back of my book. It gave me a different kind of perspective on my life: Here I was in the present, and suddenly the past, including my coming to know the Lord, seemed way back in time. I had a desire to tell the story from this vantage point, looking back, and this is the way it came out. It was written as a song, but sometimes it's nice just recited as a poem. It needed some colour though, so I got out my guitar and painted a backdrop. Last line quotes phrases from Phil.3:8, Amplified Bible.

East Meets West
In May of '98, coincidence and circumstance found me onstage at Canada's Tulip Festival in Ottawa. This poem is the story of my experience in front of an Eastern, cosmopolitan audience. However, it was actually written a year later in anticipation of a very different crowd: the Gospel Jamboree at the Chilcotin Log Church. These rancher-types, I reasoned, would not be impressed by any of my usual roping stories, but I had a good chance of upstaging them with this one. I was willing to bet that none of them had ever roped a man before.

Not a Cowgirl Anymore
On a sunny morning in April '98, an adventure unfolded that left a rich story to tell. The poem was written just a week or so later and came a few verses at a time at sporadic intervals with such sudden bursts of inspiration that several times I found myself swerving down the highway, scrawling barely legible words on a scrap of paper laid across my steering wheel. This story continues to remind me of how God can sear a powerful lesson deep into our heart as we simply walk — or ride — through a day with Him.

From a young age, Ben has had the ability to set a mood with a tune that comes spontaneously to his fingertips with no premeditation or rehearsal. I recall that even when he was seven or eight years old, he would sit down and start banging out some boogie-woogie, often just when I was trying to cook supper. I'd be exhausted, my three younger "babies" would have the place in an uproar, and I would say, "Pleeeease, Ben, could you play me something peaceful!" And he would weave a melody that transported me to grassy, sun-lit meadows where gentle breezes blew. Approaching this project with me, he looked at each poem, considered the subject and the mood, rattled something through once or twice, and then turned on the recorder. With the exception of his version of Amazing Grace, all these tunes are spontaneous and original — and but for the technology of recording, might never have been heard even a second time.

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