KSU professor rustles up winning cowboy poetry

By Brady Bauman

Tim Keane, a professor of landscape architecture at Kansas State University, didn’t grow up riding horses or running cattle.

Still, the KSU professor of 30 years is now the funniest cowboy poet in the state.

Keane, 56, won the humor division in the Kansas Cowboy Poetry contest last week in Alma.

“I started messing around with cowboy poetry 20 years ago just for fun,” he said. “I’ve always admired it. I’d just share my work with friends around the campfire.”

Keane grew up with a rural background in north central Iowa, but he mostly worked in construction.

“Nobody’s running cattle out there,” he said. “But there’s a lot of corn.”

Keane made it to the state level by winning his qualifying contest in Strong City on June 7 during the Flint Hills Rodeo there. He said there are nine qualifying contests for “humorous” and “serious” poets across the state, and the top three poets from each qualifier advance to the state competition.

Keane first competed four years ago, but he didn’t make the cut.

“I got a feel for the competition,” he said. “I’d been a a professor for nearly 30 years lecturing, but it’s a different situation putting yourself out there, rather than sharing a body of knowledge.”

While he’s not the traditional cowboy poet, Keane said he’s been surrounded by farmers and ranchers all his life and helps them out in the summer when school’s out.

He also felt confident in Alma last Friday.

“I felt pretty good,” he said.

“The crowd was reacting, and you could see it in their eyes and you start rolling along.

“But, you never know. It was Friday the 13th and there was a full moon.”

Next year, Keane said, Abilene will host the national competition.

“I might look into that one,” he said.

He said the area is full of prominent cowboy poets, including Alma native Geff Dawson, who is a two-time national winner.

Keane shared his winning poem, titled “The Virtual Cowboy 3.0” (at right). He said he got the inspiration for it in a 2008 article from the Kansas State Collegian, which reported on a GPS ear tag for cattle called an “Ear-A-Round.”

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