She Saddles Her Own Horse

It’s forty miles from nowhere as the night wind sighs and sings.
It teases the thermometer that wavers, wilts, then wrings
all heat from sky and land that shivers, though it’s springtime’s start.
Now twenty-two below, the moon shines with just half a heart.

Cold Levis on the chair slip over long-johns warm from bed.
Kate staggers as she stumbles to get dressed and clear her head.
It’s 3:00 A.M. and time to check the calving shed’s penned herd.
She fights the wind through darkness.  She’s the only thing that’s stirred.

Tonight she is the mid-wife with a flashlight’s extra eye.
It flicks across the red backs in the stalls they occupy.
Kate hears the heavy panting of a heifer hard at work.
She’s lying in the straw.  Each quiver has become a jerk.

Kate’s witnessed birth a hundred times, a ranching genesis.
She cherishes the part she plays and doesn’t think of this
as business, but a way of life.  She thrives on the demands,
the rhythm of the seasons, and hard work done with her hands.

The heifer bellows.  Eyes are pools of panic, angst, and pain.
She thrashes with her head, casts spools of drool out to complain.
Two tiny cloven hooves appear and then a little nose.
A wet slick body slips out in the afterbirth that flows.

The heifer looks behind her with eyes wide in great surprise.
Kate grabs a gunny sack to briskly rub and scrutinize
this wet, dependent critter that begins to breathe and move.
Kate places it near mother’s nose and hopes she will approve.

The cow lows softly, gives a lick, then rises to her feet.
With hind legs first, the recent mother slowly stands to greet
and nuzzle, lick and nudge, all part of life’s age-old routine.
A wash-rag tongue caresses, laps, until the newborn’s clean.

As sturdy as a worn-out shoe, four fickle feet aspire
to get a grip then stand up stiff and firm, just like barbed-wire.
The jelly-legs give out and rest a minute on the ground.
He tries again and takes some steps to mother where he’s found

an udder filled with what he needs, an in-house drink buffet.
He gives a nose-bump, starts to suck, and lunch is on its way.
The sky is growing light and pushes darkness to the west.
Fatigue is etched around Kate’s eyes and shows that she needs rest.

She’s wearing blobs of cow-crud, splattered with mysterious spots,
decides to take a breather in the cow-shed where she squats.
Her eyes are closed.  Her head leans forward with Mixmaster hair.
She’s dirty, rank, and smelly, but she’s sure her horse won’t care.

This ranch has been her life and she knows how to make it run.
A ride across the hills is gold, like dancing in the sun.
Kate shuns the busyness of town; just give her life that’s plain.
She’ll take this young calf’s romping and a summer’s inch of rain.

Market Day
Hope didn’t leave.  It just wore out, ground down by restless wind
that polishes men’s broken dreams, their spirits bruised and skinned.
Young blades of grass look brown, long past their expiration date.
The land has dropped down to its knees to pray for rain and wait.
Cole puts his truck in neutral after pulling up in line.
His metal wreck-on-wheels coughs, spits, and struggles with a whine.
He hoped this year would turn out kind and give him room to breathe.
Instead, he sees disastrous, looming setbacks that bequeath
a pile of debts to add to last year’s sinking bottom line.
Tough times and disappointments have put iron in his spine.
The winter, like an uninvited guest, had over stayed
and left behind its remnants.  Weakened cattle dearly paid.
The snow was like a weapon as it battered and abused.
It crusted over cattle faces ’til their nostrils fused.
The cows were calving in unseasoned cold day after day.
Some newborns didn’t make it, one more loss to mull and weigh.
Harsh, tiring cold arrested, booked, and jailed all ranching life.
Bleak hard work barely paid off and demoralized Cole’s wife.
Those bitter, brutal days locked up in mem’ry and defeat
now move aside to make room for the blazing, blistering heat.
The spring had started well with water from the melting snow,
but rain clouds hold a grudge and move on, like the rodeo.
The sun and wind suck moisture like a calf that’s late for lunch.
The dust hangs like a curtain for a final sucker punch.
Range stock ponds now are craters gaping open for a drink.
All wells, some close to failing, feel the water table sink.
Dry stubborn grass that stuck around is stunted, runty feed.
If rain should come it can’t make up for all the hungry need.
The road into the sales barn crawls with trailers full of stock.
Trucks nestle with their bumpers like LA at four o’clock.
Cole sees his neighbors, like himself, in line to save a dream.
They gamble, selling off cow-calf pairs hoping to redeem
their livelihood next year if nature deals a kinder hand.
They live exposed and vulner’ble to hang on to their land.
It takes a bit of gambler to survive this ranching life.
He’s thankful that he has a partner in his loving wife.
Cole puts his truck in gear and nears the choice he’s made to sell.
He blocks his mind from second guesses. Worries want to swell.
Hope hasn’t left.  It lies in wait, perchance to grow and sprout.
A new truck might be in the future if his plans work out.



Country Melody

The lightning hammers edges of the mountains dim and dark.
It splits the clouds with searing fingers burning bright and stark.
Loud thunder rides along as sidekick while it detonates
its drumming, deep, ear-splitting roar.  The sky now merely waits.

It hovers heavy with expected rain that pastures seek.
Clouds boil to the thunder’s tempo and the lightning’s streak.
They cast an eerie shade of green while blocking out the sun
and threaten there’ll be violence before the day is done.

The ground is chopped and chewed by horses’ hooves that stomp and tramp,
when dancing to the weather’s raucous music in the camp.
The herd is tense and edgy as they push on the corral
that’s temporary, made of rope to suit the brief locale.

Quick footsteps of a cowboy fast approach the high-strung herd.
His duster flares like bat wings as he croons a gentle word
to soothe the agitation that rides bareback in the pen
and tries to earn a higher score than that of mortal men.

Soft-spoken words and soothing hands dissolve the herd’s unease.
The cowboy strokes a buckskin as its mane lifts in the breeze.
He’s back in camp to find a rested horse to search for strays.
His fav’rite ride’s the mustang that he’s used for several days.

He checks out the remuda, finally settles on a bay
who turns his head, pricks up his ears and moves out of the way.
The cowboy calmly vocalizes near the horse’s side
and slips the bit between the teeth, soon ready for a ride.

The thunder sounds more distant as the storm clouds hesitate
to wreak their havoc on the camp that’s meekly lain in wait.
The cowboy tightens up the cinch beneath the skies of gray.
He’ll take this outdoor office over Wall Street any day.

Where are the horses from days left behind?
Flicka and Fury come first to my mind.
Trustworthy, loyal, a friend to a boy,
they showed us values we all could enjoy.
Buttermilk, Trigger, and Topper excelled.
They helped catch hoodlums where lawlessness dwelled.
Silver and Scout carried fighters of crime
vanquishing evil that grew over time.
Gossipy, garrulous, gabby, and glib,
that describes one horse who sure could ad-lib.
His verbal antics filled Wilbur with dread.
We were enthralled with TV’s Mr. Ed.
Airwaves now vacuous, vacant of wit
numb like a lecture unwilling to quit.
Horse barns are empty, removed from the scene.
Modern-day crime drama lives on the screen.
Cowboys today would need new sleuthing skills
coping with crime and society’s ills.
Smart phones with apps now a must in their packs
tracking down hackers in cyber-attacks.
Combing through Facebook for selfies by thieves,
just one example of trending pet peeves.
Wide open spaces caused little distress.
Now cramped and crowded we need GPS.
Driving distracted back then no big deal.
Every horse had his own steering wheel.
Horses could end up with strange glowing coats
eating genetically modified oats.
Let’s find the cowboys and bring back the west,
white hats on horses who’ll make the arrest.
Simple seems better for watching TV.
We’d reminisce on how things used to be.
We’ll work together to bring back the past,
raking the ranges to find a new cast.
You round up cowboys who strut, ride and walk.
I’ll see if I can get my horse to talk.