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.
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.
A sample of Deanna's new work
All poems copyrighted by Deanna Dickinson McCall. Please do not share without permission.