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When Poetry Matters: Cattleman, Artist & Poet Sean Sexton Invites Us Onto His Ranch

Tania Ortega-Cowan

On Sunday – April 7 – three nationally-known Cowboy Poets ride into town for the Laura Riding Jackson Foundation’s 9th Annual Poetry and Barbeque.

How did these stars ever align? They all know one person.

SS: I’m Sean Sexton – and I live here on Treasure Hammock Ranch where I have been my whole life.

We pay him a visit at the ranch, where he takes us out for an ATV ride into the cow pasture.

Soon we are surrounded by at least 100 cows, calves and a couple of proud bulls.

His grandfather Waldo Sexton was an area pioneer. Now a grandfather himself, he continues his life-long work breeding cattle, painting and drawing in the landscape, and writing poetry.

SS: You know I’m a cattleman… I have always been a steward I guess you could say.

He has just published his second full book of poetry, and in January performed six shows at the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. 15,000 people attended.

So, he asked some cowboy poet friends to perform here, and they said YES!

Andy Hedges, Joel Nelson and Randy Reiman will perform at the Heritage Center in Vero Beach, Sunday April 7 from 3 to 7 pm. Find tickets through the Laura Riding Jackson Foundation. Meanwhile, Sexton’s poetry has recently earned him a new responsibility.

SS:  I became the Poet Laureate in 2016 for Indian River County.

In the role, he read poetry by Iraqi war vet Brian Turner to the Vero Beach City Council in support of a memorial for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And, he has paid the County Commissioners a visit…

SS:  I read a poem by a mentally ill person and it meant a lot to them… there are times when poetry is kind of important. You have heard that quote, haven’t you? –  it’s hard to get the news from poems, but men perish daily for lack of the things they contain.

Sexton began working the ranch at age 5 alongside his father Ralph, Waldo’s son. The entire family and the community encouraged him to be an artist. In first grade, he was assigned an art project.

SS: They marched all of the Rosewood Elementary classes by to see my picture on the door – and everybody around me told me I was an artist, and, um, I believed them!

Since then…

SS: I have always in some fashion had a drawing tool or a writing tool in my hand.

AND, a journal.

SS: You need to have these books with you all the time. There is a place right here under your arm where they fit.

This is so you are prepared when inspiration hits. For Sexton, it is usually in the pasture.

SS: I was just out driving the cows, and I came out of there with 4 rough drafts! It was just like this magic light and moment and the meadowlarks were on their grassy podiums, you know, singing this melody that’s hundreds of years old.

He reads a poem from his second book MAY DARKNESS RESTORE.

SS: “Things Found Caught in the Fence: A late April inventory. Innumerable wisps of cow’s tails. Silken, black. Tawny and brown. Tiny spiderwebs, tent-fashioned and occasional, on wire barbs. A single white tuft of down. Remains of the butcher birds’ quarry. Two frogs, desiccated. A locust. Baby red rat snake draped. Three small beetles. Dark. Shiny. Impaled and hollowed out. Dew. A buckthorn bush, privet, and several thistles grown up and through. Four equal sized ongoing spaces. Light.”  

Learn more at www.lauraridingjackson.com.