SALEM, Ohio — As best as Dean Armstrong can figure, he was at least 18 months old before he started writing.
OK, maybe he wasn’t that young, but the cowboy poet has been filling up pages with his thoughts ever since he learned to spell.
Anyone who writes knows words can be personal, but last year Armstrong decided it was time to share his work. He self published 32 cowboy poems in a book called I’d Buy Your Book.
Armstrong, of Jackson County, Ohio, partnered with friend Paul Brown for the book’s illustrations. Inspired by the likes of Baxter Black and Waddie Mitchell, the two regularly perform at meetings and banquets.
The poems in I’d Buy Your Book cover everything from toilet paper to Cupid.
“I’ve always had a bent sense of humor and a warped sense of reality,” Armstrong said.
And while many of the poems are good for a laugh, there are also larger lessons built into the meter.
“It takes you half an hour or so to read the book and a lifetime to understand it,” Armstrong said.
The cowboy poet finds inspiration in his family, the weather, jokes — there’s a poem in just about everything he sees. “Windshield time” also plays a part in bringing poems to life, Armstrong said. Those hours behind the wheel of a vehicle give you a lot of time to ponder the important stuff.
“I’ve written more for me than I’ve written for anyone else,” he said.
Often, it’s the final line of the poem that develops first. There’s no formula for Armstrong’s writing and he mostly jots down thoughts as they come to him.
“The biggest mistake I can make is sitting down and trying to write a poem,” said Armstrong, who added that he’s still waiting to be a “serious writer.”
Armstrong had toyed with the idea of publishing a book for ages, but the idea picked up steam about three years ago. Created with the help of the Lillian Jones Museum and the Southern Hills Arts Council, I’d Buy Your Book is Armstrong’s first publication, although he hopes to send another book of cowboy poems to the press this fall.
Armstrong’s life has always been tied closely to agriculture. He grew up on a sheep farm and now raises cattle. The poet also runs Armstrong Ag and Supply as a distributor for Townsend Sales.
So far, the book hasn’t led to any life-changing moments, but that’s not what Armstrong was looking for anyway.
“It’s not anything I plan to make a living at, but I’m certainly enjoying everything that’s happening with the book,” he said.