Cowboy poetry is a simple narrative: two lines of rhymed verse. But these poems, when read together, tell a part of the Peace Garden state’s tale.
KX News is proud of North Dakota. That’s why we’re introducing you to one of our natives, born to work one of the oldest professions in the world: storytelling.
Fran Armstrong grew up on the Fort Berthold reservation riding bareback, but Beulah is where she considers home. She raised her three kids here, after all, not to mention her five grandkids, 11 great-grandkids and her beloved horses.
“You know, there should be hub-bub and noise, and kids around, and all of that,” she explained.
She was a school teacher for 34 years, 31 in Beulah.
She shared, “I think I was meant to be a teacher because as a child being the youngest, I learned to read before I went to school. We were a reading family. My mother would read to us. At night in those long winter months, when it’s cold and the nights are long, she’d read and read, and she’d get hoarse from reading. And we would say ‘Lies noch mehr!’ That means ‘Read some more!'” Armstrong laughed.
She’s been a ‘scribbler’, as she calls writing since she was in grade school. But in the late ’80s, she published her first book of cowboy poetry, a true calling for Armstrong.
“The cowboy movement started with Bill Lowman out in Medora. I went out there that first year, 1987, and on the way home, I wrote a poem that I think was always in my heart. By the next year when we had the poetry gathering, I had my first book published, The Hills of Home.”
Her second book quickly followed.
“It’s little anecdotes and poems, I was just looking through and thinking, ‘Gee this is really cute’,” she giggled.
“Nothing like feeling good about what you do, right? Anyway, that’s called, Shhhh! The Teacher’s Coming. And the picture on the front cover, the editor of the Beulah Beacon at the time was a friend of mine, and her son was in my room so I staged this thing. And I’m telling you this so you know I didn’t just let children run around across their desks.”
And just a couple of weeks ago, she was recognized for all of her work. The Montana silver around her neck is a Western Woman of the Year Award.
Fran also owns a cabin, made into a bed and breakfast in Medora. She and her late husband Dean re-built it from scratch years back.
Now she spends her summers making pancakes for her many guests.