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Community reflects on cowboy poet

Leon Overbay
Leon Overbay


Staff Writer

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The community was forced to say goodbye to a man of many talents when Leon Overbay passed away on March 27.

Many people knew Overbay as the “Boones Creek Bard”, but everyone knew him as a cowboy poet.

“He loved being outside and he was such a cowboy lover,” said Rebecca Alexander, who is also a cousin of Overbay. “He was a cowboy at heart.”

Alexander, who is also a member of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild, last told stories with Overbay on Dec. 8 at the Barter Theater. She said wouldn’t be in the guild if it wasn’t for his encouragement, as he would always push her to come and tell her stories.

“What I remember most is that he wanted the best of everybody and for everybody,” Alexander said. “He was always such an encourager to other storytellers.”

Storytelling was one of the things that Overbay was passionate about, but Linda Poland, another founding member of the guild, said that wasn’t the only thing the he was passionate about.

“He was passionate and he had great empathy, he could tell when someone was down and just needed to be lifted up,” Poland said. “When I think of Leon, I always think of a person that if storytelling was involved in it, than he was up for it. If the Lord was involved in it, than he was up for it and if they were together, than he was on fire.”

Overbay was raised at a time that there wasn’t a lot of television and other technology, so kids were forced to roam the outdoors looking for adventures. Some of those tales with his twin brother Lynn were the material that he used during his time as a storyteller.

Poland first met Overbay in 1992 while telling stories and two years later the Storytellers Guild was founded.

That is when David Joe Miller first met Overbay.

After a misprint on the date of the founding meeting of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild by the local newspaper, Miller and Overbay were the only two to show up to the meeting.

“It was pretty clear that after the first 15 minutes of the meeting that no one was going to show up, that it was just the two of us,” he said. “So we just decided to share a few stories and have a good time.”

Those stories included many that people would become to love Overbay for, that took his listeners back to the country landscape of a dairy farm in Boones Creek.

“He was as close to a cowboy that you would find in Boones Creek,” Miller said through a smile. “His stories and his poems were reflective of him growing up in Boones Creek, which made his material extremely popular in the area, because so many people could relate to that.

“He was rootsy and down home. He was the kind of guy that you would want to have over for a beer and a cookout and the guy you would want to call if you needed help in the yard. When he got on stage he was still the guy that grew up in Boones Creek.”

But it wasn’t only the stories that helped bring attention to him, it was also the way that he told his stories.

Alexander said that his abilities were even more impressive because he would tell stories in rhyme.

“His ability to do poetry always amazed me,” Alexander said. “Because when you are a storyteller, to do something in rhyme, it’s 10 times harder than to do a regular story.”

That is just one of the many traits that Overbay will be mourned for.

“He will really be missed,” Poland said. It’s a big hole to fill.”