He & I
Cow Country Code
 
There’s always been a code of honor among cow people, helping neighbors, doing the right thing, even if it is done begrudgingly.

I listened carefully, listened to directions

All based on recollections

Of cattle last seen, water and grass green.

 

His face was lined, lined from a lifetime

Of counting every nickel and dime

Worries and cares, hopes and prayers.

 

He’d outlived his child, outlived his wife

Seemed to have tired of life

After the stroke, spirit and body broke.

 

Drought had fallen, fallen heavy on the land

Grass replaced by piles of sand

Tanks lay long dry, under a blazing sky.

 

We prowled around, prowled for his cows

Swore to ourselves renewed vows

Of helping neighbors, and our free labor.

 

But, we faced mortality, faced our own years

And sought to appease our fears

Of growing old, and outfits sold.

 

Cattle were gathered, gathered and sorted

Numbers tallied and reported

We figured the amount, he was given the count.

 

It would be enough, would buy a place in town

To watch the sun go down

On a quiet street, with memories bittersweet.

 

His old hand shook, shook as the paper curled

That gave a dollar amount to his world

He took our word, couldn’t really see the herd.

 

That tally he held, held with quiet pride

Was one time we all lied

We’d padded the count, added to the amount.

 

His cattle were thin, were rough and open

Hadn’t calved like we were hopin’

We added a few, ours, and he never knew.

 

It was our raising, raised to do right

In the old days of black and white

No question of gray, only one right way.

 

We rode hard, hard and long all day

For something more valued than pay

A time honored code, for this we rode.

 

DDMc

We rode thru brush laden with thorn and berry

Under showers of green needles and cones

On narrow ridges we rode carefully and wary

Circling boulders and over loose stone.

 

We rode through the gilded world of Fall

Where squirrels scampered with foodstuff

While bull elk bugled their chilling call

Our breath in cool air a smoky puff.

 

We rode for the first gather, he and I

Watching for cattle hiding in brush

Silent ones that let you ride by

Others exploding like quail we flushed.

 

We rode on a golden day of early Autumn

When the snakes stretch out and sleep

Trailing Corriente cows to the bottom

Thru mountains high and canyons deep.

 

We rode in silence while nature spoke

In tongues of breeze, wing and cry

And the snap of twigs critters broke

Spoke of silent watchers nearby.

 

We rode for the first gather of the Fall, he and I

In apple­crisp air heady as red wine

Trailing cattle while the earth released her sigh

At cows and riders in golden sunshine.

 

DDMc 2013

 

A sample of Deanna's new work

 

 

All poems copyrighted by Deanna Dickinson McCall.  Please do not share without permission.