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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
ABOUT the MUSIC
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.