Bette Ramsey, wife of the late cowboy poet and 1995 NEA National Heritage Fellow Buck Ramsey, says of Joel Nelson, "Now days, I believe if one were to ask almost any working cowboy about Joel Nelson, they'd likely respond saying, 'He'd do to ride the river with.' In cowboy lingo, that means he's the 'best of the best' and you could trust him with your life." After working for the U.S. Forest Service and serving in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, Nelson pursued cowboy work on Texas ranches. He spent 13 years at the 06 Ranch near Alpine, Texas, and as a horse breaker for the King Ranch in Texas and the Parker Ranch in Hawaii. An attendee at the second Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Nelson was instrumental in founding the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the second-oldest of such events. As a reciter, he is known throughout the West for his delivery of the classic cowboy repertoire; and as a writer of poems, he has penned works that are rapidly assuming the status of standards. His The Breaker in the Pen is the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy. He and his wife Sylvia work side-by-side horseback operating the 24,000 acre Anchor Ranch near Alpine where they raise Corriente cattle. As Charlie Seemann, Director of the Western Folklife Center, says, "Whether he is 'telling' his poems in an auditorium or a bunkhouse, his audiences are transfixed by the power of his delivery, knowing that here is a man who truly knows whereof he speaks."
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