Pasadena names hometown cowboy as poet laureate

Pasadena poet laureate Charles "Smokey" Culver stands beside his vintage Chevrolet Apache pickup truck at a stable in Hitchcock where he helps rehabilitate rescued horses.
Pasadena poet laureate Charles "Smokey" Culver stands beside his vintage Chevrolet Apache pickup truck at a stable in Hitchcock where he helps rehabilitate rescued horses.

Pasadena poet laureate Charles “Smokey” Culver stands beside his vintage Chevrolet Apache pickup truck at a stable in Hitchcock where he helps rehabilitate rescued horses.

From our friends at the Houston Chronicle (article written by Jaimy Jones)

Not every city can claim to have its own poet laureate. But for about a month, the city of Pasadena has had one in a 68-year-old cowboy named Charles “Smokey” Culver.

Culver, who has lived mostly in Pasadena from when it was farmland, says he’s prepared for the duties that go with the honor.

“One of the functions of a poet laureate is to be able to write poetry for specific functions,” said Culver, who has always been known as Smokey. “I travel all over the country to represent and certainly spread the goodwill of Pasadena.”

But the Pasadena depicted in his poems generally belongs in the rural past “before the concrete took over.”

“The poems I write are about things and places that are gone,” Culver said. “If I don’t preserve those memories, they’re gone. But they will live on in the writings that I’ve done.”

Mayor Jeff Wagner and City Council named Culver as the community’s official poet on May 1 and presented him with a plaque.

Homage to a picture show

Culver is often called upon to recite at memorial services and funerals.

“I do a lot of this per request for people who have lost a loved one or a pet,” he said. “All my obituary poems are a spiritual basis. I try to stress this is not the end, there is more to come, and I try to put that in my poetry and give them some comfort. It makes me feel good to know that I’ve been able to comfort someone in a time like that.”

In one of his poems, “Picture Show — In Memory of the Capitan Theater, Pasadena, Texas,” he wrote about childhood pleasures of a $1 Saturdayshow in 1964 at a movie palace that has long been abandoned in the city’s downtown:

There’s something ’bout the Silver Screen and that old Capitan

a special place where we all loved to go

Today I’d give a million for a dollar’s worth of fun

to travel back and see a picture show…”

Culver is married to Susan Dittman Culver and has four children, five grandchildren and a great-grandson.

He reads his poems at senior living homes and rodeos like the Pasadena Livestock Show and Rodeo and travels to poetry competitions in Las Vegas, Nev., and an annual meet in Kansas. Being around other poets helps him improve his work and make connections with people who share his passion.

“We need to get the poetry out there,” he said. “It’s a good form of art and entertainment.”

Culver is a member of the Academy of Western Artists, the Western Music Association and the San Jacinto Chapter of the Poet Society of Texas, which meets on second Saturdays of each month at Sunset United Methodist Church, 709 Allendale Road, Pasadena. Visitors are welcome the events, which run from 1-3:30 p.m..

Culver was a railroad engineer for Union Pacific Railroad from 1970 through 1995. He now serves as a railroad expert in trials and negotiations.

But even while he was operating trains and roping horses, Culver was writing poetry. He always liked to string words together and would often include a short poem he wrote inside a card to grandmother and other family members.

Recently, he started writing and publishing more poems.

Memories of the Deer Park rodeo

“Over the past six years, I’ve had two books published,” he said. “Most of poetry is about rural things and country folks, things I like that about Pasadena.”

He likes to stay close to his farmland roots. He volunteers at the nonprofit Habitat for Horses in Hitchcock, which rescues and rehabilitates horses.

In the early 1960s through the mid-’70s, Culver competed in a family owned rodeo in Deer Park that was on Center Street.

“I grew up in the world of horses and livestock and hung out with the cowboy crew,” he said.

Culver grew up on Linwood Circle in Pasadena, near Southmore Avenue and Richey Street.

“We were kinda out in the country back then,” he said of the area. “I grew up with horses, I kept horses.”

He attended Williams Elementary School and Jackson Junior High School and was headed toward graduated from Pasadena High School in 1967 when he moved overseas with his father.

Culver now lives in League City, but his mother still lives in Pasadena and he considers it to be his only real home.

“The Lord has blessed me with an ability to put thoughts into words that generally make sense and even stir up emotions sometimes. My poems are both happy and sad. If I make you laugh, I have done my job. If I make you cry, I have done my job” he said.

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
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