San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

COBACH was lit up like a national monument and the logjam of cars that surrounded the college was a sure sign that the 2nd Annual Folk Festival and Cowboy Poetry Reading Event was gaining in popularity. This year (2006) the attendance topped 150 people, more than twice the expected number.

Michael Falk and his wife Darcy, along with brother Tony and friends Aaron Norris and Bill Vernieu, entertained the crowd at COBACH's nearly-completed theatre.

Four of the five entertainers echoed the theme of the evening's festivities by sporting western-style clothing. The exception was Michael Falk, who sang bare-headed and looked very much like the kind of man his profession recuits. Michael is a Professor of Mathematics at Northern Arizona University. His brother Tony contritely carried the extra burden of Michael's neglect by wearing nearly every scrap of garment that appeared in the movies Wild Bill and Billy Jack. When he stepped onto the stage, the man looked as if he'd just finished wrestling a buffalo. And won. His grey half-sunburst beard and tall hillbilly hat spoke of midnight corn stills and blue porcelain coffee pots over open campfires.

The evening's tunes were much as you'd expect from a Western venue --songs about bank robbers, gambling, ranch work, trail riding, stampeding ruminants, faithful dogs and unfaithful wives. The odd addition to the stock sound of the ballads was the 8- string mandolin, which often gave the impression someone's guitar had paused to inhale helium.

Strangely, there was no fiddle among the instruments. Still, the group's banjos, mandolins and guitars didn't appear to harbor any resentment over that deficiency. The music was lively and often contagious, very likely implanting in many of the audience the secret urge to jump up and square dance. Or play the spoons.

After some cowboy poetry and a few stories by Tony Falk, the group invited San Felipe's Steve Lord, the evening's emcee, to join them onstage for a song. Then an ensemble piece was performed that included everyone. The evening finished with a rendition of Roy Rogers' Happy Trails. As the audience filed out, some of them formed a small tibutary to a table that displayed CDs for sale by Tony Falk.