Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rod McQueary at the Will Roger's Memorial in Oklahoma in the Summer of 2012.
Read the rock above Will Roger's name, it says "When you live Life right, Death is a joke, as far as Fear is Concerned."

Tribal Horses – published in Range Magazine

There are 530 American Indian tribes in the 48 contiguous states. Tribes control about  20% of the land mass in reservations. Most of the western reservations are overflowing with abandoned and feral horses. Left unchecked, excess horses will eat the white sage in Nevada, prairie grasses in Wyoming, high desert forage in Arizona . They will starve out the deer, elk, antelope, and sage grouse in Washington. They will destroy the salmon habitat, sacred ceremonial plants, all before they destroy themselves. When they do, and the feral horses are gone, what will be left?
For as well known as the horse market heartbreak is to RANGE readers, much less is known about the horse overpopulation devastating American Indian reservations. These are horses not reported in any national census, they are not included on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) counts, no horse industry organizations even attempt to keep track. If they aren’t BLM horses, or privately owned horses, they are basically ignored.
Though no one is keeping any sort of scientific accounting of excess horses on tribal lands, there are startling numbers out there. Here are a few horse counts as reported to me:  

  • Yakama Tribe, northern Washington, 16,000 head of feral horses
  • Warm Springs Tribe, central Oregon, 6,000 head;
  • Navajo Nation, Arizona, 60,000 -75,000 head.
  • Shoshone-Bannock, Idaho, 500-600 head

There are dozens more reservations, how many feral or abandoned horses on them is anybodies guess.
Inside and outside of Indian country, the U.S. horse market as we knew it is in the tank. No part of the industry, or its satellites, have been spared. Horse ranchers, livestock auction owners, veterinarians, horse rescue missions, trainers, rodeo contractors, and horse enthusiasts throughout America are well aware of the dismal market for horses.  Tragic stories include 7,000 horses abandoned on the Appalachian Trail, 350 in the hills east of Los Angeles, some eastern states posting guards on state parks to ensure no horses are left within. The numbers of abandoned and abused horses increases yearly as financially strapped families lose their homes and corrals.
Since 2007, when the last horse processing plant closed, horse owners have faced a perfect storm of the market crash and depressed economy, and no legal way to dispose of valueless horses.  This downturn results in  460,000 direct horse industry jobs lost, and over a million jobs in manufacturing, sales, and service at feed stores, saddle shops, and horse-related services, nationwide. At a time when record unemployment is a national concern, these are jobs America cannot afford to lose.
“All our models of dealing with abandoned, feral, or estray (undetermined ownership) horses, were based on the horses having a value,” says Chuck Jacobs, a Sioux from South Dakota. “Without that value, we have a huge problem, and no tools.”
This national man-made disaster has hit tribes hard. This past January, at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, the United Horsemen (a 501c3 non profit educational and charitable organization devoted to the well being of horses and horse people)  hosted an international forum to address these problems. At least a dozen tribes were represented, and many members were invited to speak. It was a lively and spirited discussion, but not a debate. Every attendee agreed that something needs to be done to alleviate the damage that equine overpopulation has done to America.
At the Summit we heard from Jason Smith, Warm Springs Tribes, who talked about their efforts to utilize local feral horses, and create local jobs. Warm Springs has petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs for funds to study the creation of a horse processing plant--perhaps a module type that could be disassembled and moved from tribe to tribe.
Dr. Glenda Davis,Program Director, Navajo Nation Veterinary and Livestock Program, had to tell us twice--60,000 to 75,000 feral horses? That is a hard number to imagine. A thousand corrals full, a thousand truckloads. During long, cold winters, hot dry summers, these starving, defenceless animals draw predators like a magnet. Once the die-off is over, the next thing on the menu will be Navajo chickens, sheep, goats, calves, and colts. “Navajos, beware.”
Jim Stephenson, Big Game Biologist and Wild Horse Project Leader for the Yakama Nation Wildlife Program describes for us a traditional system of horse management that has been abruptly eliminated by the loss of a market for slaughter horses. What he describes in reference to the Yakama Nation can probably be overlaid on just about any other land-based tribe in the country...especially in the semi-arid grasslands of the West. 

“Wild horses are an integral part of Yakama tradition and culture.  In the early days horses were used for transportation and packing.  In this modern age horses are still used by Yakama cattlemen, as well as for hunting, rodeos and parades.

In the earlier period horses herds were managed by individual families and their numbers were generally kept in balance with the available forage.  Historic evidence indicates that Yakama people were capturing horses for the slaughter market at least as far back as the first part of the last century.  For many years the slaughter market as well as the market for saddle stock was what kept horse numbers at more or less a sustainable level.

For the past few years fewer and fewer horses were being captured and sold and for the last 4-5 years almost no horses have been gathered due to loss of viable markets.  During the last four years horse numbers have doubled from approximately 6000 to over 12,000 head.  This is at least 10-12 times the carrying capacity of the land and most of the forage is completely gone on the majority of the 400,000 acre range area.  On a condition scale of one to ten most of the horses fall at or below a three.

This situation has created an ecosystem breakdown that has impacted game animals including deer, elk and bighorn sheep, game birds including the recently re-introduced sage grouse, cultural food and medicine plants, and fish and other aquatic resources including endangered salmonids.   There is already a considerable loss of native plants and if the situation isn’t resolved soon recovery will take decades and in many areas the landscape won’t recover without a substantial effort at restoration.”

“It has created what I call a broken spoke within the wheel and the wheel is beginning to wobble within the ecosystem.  Which in fact is on the verge of collapsing!” says Arlen Washines, Yakama, “A resource going unchecked is the sound of death to other resources that rely on the same or identical food sources, not to include the damage to the soil and water.  The loss of traditional ceremonial foods and medicines is and would be devastating to tribal members when all of our ceremonies rely on them for subsistence.  The question is, do we sacrifice all of our sacred foods and medicines to protect the very source that is damaging them?”
Washines speaks for the tribes, and for the rest of us impacted by too many feral horses without a slaughter market to sell to when he says, “unless a management control method is created, including humane slaughter, within the next five years, our Yakama Herd will grow to enormous size uncontrollably.  At some point in time, all will be lost! Remember, it is a human problem, not a horse problem.  And we as humans can change our ways--but, the horse cannot!”
The day is not far away when the tribes who care about their land, their sacred plants, their  wildlife, and their livelihoods will have to not only contemplate, but have to implement drastic measures to eliminate thousands and thousands of feral horses to protect the ecological balance of native lands. How much better that would be if it were not a total waste, if that good meat could be used to feed starving children? If the tribes could receive good value for their excess horses? Re-employ their traditional horse catchers, and provide new jobs in modern state-of-the-art processing facilities?
What HSUS/PETA did when they closed the horse slaughter plants was to take one fairly responsible and workable solution, and turn it into a plethora of nasty, unsolvable, expensive problems. For the sake of the tribes, their horses, their homelands, and their long-term futures we need to restore the markets for horse meat, and allow them to return to their traditional methods of management. We need to help fix the broken spoke in Arlen Washines’ wobbly wheel.
For more information, or to view the entire proceedings of the Summit of the Horse, visit

A Pair-odee in Play-jerism (written for, and like, JB and JD)




(for JB)

Hollow Men
You-forrick Acid
Pored in long dry reservoirs
make us check our head-gates
to precious for ruralites
They make us let it go . . . a peculiar new-age dyslexia
That says urban toilets are
More important than row-cros. 
On Finite Introspection, 
Divorce and suicide are in Vogue again
Viet vets give lessons to poetential
Old-Crow-magnons in places where you 
Bring two jugs,
                                   and stay all week. 
The History of Rural Sub-City is a popular
College Class, everybody gets an A
Nobody gets a credit

The chanting crowds scream for ice cream, 
Dolly Dairy Juice, lactation biorymes.
                                    Hunger makes them harder
...then a call girls heart on a pay-day weekend,
They scowl in hateful lines,
But the food truck drivers
all have families, and do not come back. 

Them whose wealthy stars
got em a Visa Platinum,
Pray the Eco-sanctuary gates don't bust,
and the roving bands of 
Run out of knock-knock jokes,
                                    and self in-jest.
De-vested bunches of us
bow-legged all-so rans
Who wait for bells          in big hotels,
Watch the bureau-hypo-condrycrats
Who got big raises for running us in
(and adopting us out) and 
Smile at last, watching them whine,
And pray for rain, just like we 
used...   to do .
Some ex-Colonel will volunteer
to drop surprise napalm on Yellowstone, 
& make the wolfhunt
Bangs thinned out the Buffalo
and makes the local poachers     undulant.
Eco-conscious LasAngels do the christian
          Green-piece thing,
They scour the old growth, the new growth,
and eat the loggers...last.
Its not an election year, so no help comes
from Washington.                       Besides, after
Five days without food, the nice clean folks 
                                   in Congress
                         are just another mob. 
Scared manureless
by visions 
of discomfort,
The Yupping Legions
yup, and curse the selfish
Generation that dreamed up 
This Damned "World Peace" Idea,
And jammed it down their throats,
and ruined their lives.
Hungry Savages, stalking
each other, abandon language,
re-embrace handsignaling, then telepathy.

Ma Bell stocks plummet. There is much blame,
Many lawyers volunteer unselfishly 
to prosecute, but the villianous ranchers
and farmers are gone, and cannot be made to atone. 
T.S., you may be right. 
We are becoming
hollow men. 

(for JD)

Our Sycamores ... for John and Chuckie

"They cut them all down."
I read his words
          and somehow touch
His aching.

Quiet life of another plateau
Sturdy reminders of the promise-
We can survive here.

I wonder what they felt
          touched by greed and
          spinning links.

Knowing, I suspect,
The end
Was coming, long before
Michael told me,
Doff told him.

Stately white,
Our kind will miss
The dignity.
No one will agree
where is a good place
to replant.
We fail another test.

Part of us all,
I should have
paid my respects,
From across the crooked
Oiled road,
or from across the
Mountain Ranges,

They fell.

Before the civilization
takes another bite,
and locks. 

Comfort Seed

[written for and published in Rod's 20th high school reunion book]

At first, I thought this might be funny
I'd crack some jokes, and take your time
Poke some fun, rough up some feelings
Among this class of '69.

Some sex and whiskey innuendo
I'd laugh loud, and play so free
With some high school jokes
For the high school kids
That we all used -- to be.

But -- it couldn't satisfy me
There is no way we'd be amused
Though we might hide the lie, with laughter
As some friends feelings were abused.
Besides, I feared jokes might cloud the content --

And at the picnic, or the dance
I might miss the opportunity,
And may not get another chance
To bring my friends this message
That I will call a "Comfort Seed."
In your memory, let it blossom
Take comfort -- anytime you need.

If you've been wishing things were different
If part of your life's -- been a mess
Wish that you didn't need a gray toupee
Or maybe -- wear a smaller dress
If some romance has turned -- to ashes
Somehow, you missed your shining star
In this room, your friends --

Still love you.
Just the way -- you are. 

Farmer Near Dai-Lac Pass

I watched him for a while before he committed.  After checking the night smells and satisfied of the quiet, he came, slow and easy across the pasture like a ghost.  He knew every brush in the swale by the banana trees, and it occurred to me this must be his father's field.  His field.  He never knew we were there.  Mega watches for spooks, and I, flat down beside a knee-high bush, behind a Remmington Model 700 sniper rifle, gaze through a starlite scope designed specifically to shoot people from ambush in the dark.

The 700 is a fairly heavy weapon, and with the bipod supporting the barrel, it was ridiculously easy to keep the cross-hairs on his neck.  "Just above center-mass," our old gunny used to say, "let the bullet drop, and you still get somethin." It's one soft trigger squeeze, and the echo of the sound, wop! or smack! tells you if you hit gut or bone.  He turns, testing the night, and the peculiar cant of a rifle swings out from behind his back, funny gap between barrel and gas tube gives it away.  He's packing an AK-47, an ugly thing with a stock made of pine, or quakie, and a pitchfork.  He's carrying a pitchfork.

"We had a hired man," my Dad would say, "about the strongest I ever saw. He'd get tired and just break his fork handle--we were feeding loose hay then--and he'd be done. You can't work with a broken fork.  This was along in November.  So I told the old man about it, and he got mad and wanted me to can this guy.  I'd bought about a half a dozen handles by then, and that was quite a sum. I told the old man, 'let me keep him for a couple more weeks, I think I can get some work out of him.' I went to town, and got Sam, the blacksmith to make a muscle-proof fork for our muscle-man. Handle, tines, everything was made out of drill steel. That damned fork weighed ten pounds or so. I put it under the wagon to have it ready, but our boy didn't break a fork for a couple of weeks. I guess he wanted to rest at Christmas, so he did his little trick, and got ready to ride home sitting down on the hayrack."

It took Dad a while, the steel fork was froze to the wagon frame--but he finally got it out. "Merry Christmas, Dave," he says, and presented him with that steel son-of-a-gun. Dave strained like a champion to break or bend that fork.  He tried and tried.  Tore big chunks out of the tops of the stacks, moved slabs of ice most men wouldn't even try.  But he never even so much as warped a tine on that fork.  He hurt his back on New Years, and quit on the 3rd of January.

"I had good help for about a week," Dad said.

The fork stood behind the anvil in our old shop for years, until my youngest brother Jimmy cut it up for gate sticks in FFA shop class.

My enemy steps out into the open, where I can see the way he drags his left foot.  An old war wound? Probably.  This man has never known a life without war.  He swings his head in time with that bad leg, a reptilian movement that makes him seem Neanderthal.

"He could climb just like a monkey," Granddad's eyes twinkle at the excuse to tell this, his favorite story. "He would take two pitchforks, one in each fist, and pull himself right up the stack hand over hand.  Good stacker, good man. Except," twinkle, twinkle, "he was afraid of heights. Terribly afraid of heights."

"We finished a stack one afternoon, and somebody moved the Jenkins stacker before he could get on it and climb down. I heard him yelling. He wouldn't even come over to the edge of the stack to look down. "It's going to be alright," I yelled to him, "I'll get a rope."  It took a while, but I finally convinced him to hold onto the rope, and slide down, while I held the other end around my hip. "You ready?" he says. "Ready." "Holding the rope good and tight?" "Good and tight," I said. "And then," Granddad can't hold the chuckles back any longer, "PLOP.  He hit the ground right beside me."

Mega suddenly stiffens beside me, and I know he has finally seen the farmer.  I feel the subtle pressure of his elbow, and push it back. Yeah, I see him.  He is so close, so easy, I could waste him now without even looking through the scope.

"Goddam Zip," his words are as soft as flowers in my ear.  His smells mix with the whispering.  "Shoot him."

"He's a farmer."  The risk we take moving and making noise at this distance grows with his every step.  I wish he would hear us.  If he jerked that rifle down, I would know who he is, I could protect my partner and myself.  I could feel justified.  "He's a damn farmer."

"Bullshit," Mega snarls in my ear, "he's got a rifle.  Shoot him."

I don't want to kill him.  I don't want to feel justified.  I don't want this pitchfork story.

"Shoot." Mega's whispered screaming pressures my head, trembles my right index finger.  "Shoot."

For Peace

peace has always been
some sunny sky between
never the rain
the warm evenings in summer
the silent falling snow
that lets the seasons
that keeps our boys
down on the farm,
and out of

defence contracts
do not bloom
in peace

i must say
the thought of
chained to a turret
on an allied tank
top speed
heading west
delights me still.

there must be a formula
for the number of
children who must
suffer and starve
weaken and perish
for every hard-hearted
war criminal
made to atone.

i wonder at the
cost, turning
innocent babies into
hollow eyed amputees
loverless, careless
wretches without hope,
martyrs before puberty.

they will get no parade.

but the least of us
still know
a hasty
addled hate-ocratic
button push
could turn some
squat olive-drab
cylinder into fire
that could vaporize
us all.

cold harbor
the alamo
firebase julie
will be sacrifices
for nothing.

sky falling,
klaxons sounding
the better angels
of our nature
will be led


For Woody

From the snowdrifts in the canyons,
behind the granite and the pinion
Past the trout and beaver,
where young quakies crowd to share;
From the icy plaster caked
across the mountain goat's dominion
Comes the lifeblood of our valley,
as it tumbles down from there.

How it gurgles, almost chuckles
past the boulders and the gravel.
Cheerfully, it detours
through the ditches man might make.
With only gravity, it's master,
it always knows which way to travel;
Warm and foamy, ever downward,
through the sloughs toward the lake.

There the bullrush stops the ripples,
where sheets of ice are dying.
The waxing sun shows promise
that the winter's lost its sting.
Overhead, the floating regiments
of geese formations, flying,
Driven northward to their nesting grounds,
by instinct, every spring.

In one pasture by the water,
tired pension horses wander.
They wait for my alfalfa,
and the sun to conquer cold.
In the middle ground, 'tween
active duty, and the promised yonder,
They don't think about the scenery.
They are thin, and tired, and old.

Last among these pensioners,
one sorrel gelding stumbles,
With swollen joints and seedy toe,
you see why he's so lame.
He's lost his youth, but not his dignity.
He would die before he humbles.
He was my Dad's top saddle horse,
and Woody is his name.

I never cared for Woody,
he's not the kind of horse I cling to,
He was hard to catch and fussy,
And he never made a pet,
But he would jump at cattle,
And that is one thing he would do.
And he had the heart of giants,
I can still recall it--yet.

We were bringing calvy heifers
from a close and handy pasture,
Bus rode bronco Woody,
'cause he had a lot to learn.
One heifer broke, they ran to head her,
Held their ground, and stopped disaster.
With dewclaws cutting circles,
they beat that cow at every turn...

So she ran blind for the willows;
Bus and Wood had to race her,
Nose to nose, and pushing shoulders,
As she made this frantic try,
And they pushed her in a circle,
till she quit, and they could face her.
Because Buster wouldn't weaken,
and Woody  -- did not let her by.

And now, I watch him strain to shuffle.
I touch my rifle, 'neath the seat.
A friend to suffering horses.
At this range, I could not miss.
He'd find green pastures in an instant.
For my Dad, I'd do it neat,
He'd never hear the whisper.
Never feel the Nosler's kiss.

But the cranes have come. They're dancing,
as the spring sun melts the snow.
Oh, I know I'll need that rifle,
on some cold, November day.
But for a sorrel colt, who beat
a wringy heifer, long ago,
I'll just go about my business,
Unitl this feeling -- goes away.

White Wall

There ought to be another wall
White, bright, pretty
In a grove of trees
with picnic tables,
dance floor, and a
Viet Vet ragtime band.
A happy place where
Folks could go to laugh
and dance and argue
Football teams and candidates.
On the White Wall, there would be
A tremendous list of those
Who didn't die.
Behind each name,
a little heart...for a fulfilling marriage
a little happy face...for a
well-adjusted child,
a little diploma...for a valuable education,
a rewarding life.

Everyone is welcome here,
To cool drinks, rummy games,
To meet interesting people who
Talk, laugh, have fun, wander off.
To celebrate our survivorhood.
Not mourn our stolen martyrdom.

There are some who will
Have to be shown
The White Wall.
Taken to their own name
and told
"There, by God, is proof."

Dwarf Birches in Elko

Reading from the big book
fat from bookmarks and folded pages
Paul lifts his face to the horizon
           the English words sail
from the Russian mind
past the Polish Cowboy's black mustache,
and Moonshine-busted ivory,
Blossoming ranch-raised hearts
to near bursting, near breaking
with joy and pain
we almost fear but can't resist

Reciting from the big book,
    Yevgeny claws his hands,
flits and snarls,
codetalking freedom
           no government censor could ignore,
Coliseums full of cheering fans tearfully applaud,
           No dignity-starved citizen
                                   would ever misunderstand.

Celt exranchers watch the buckaroo backdrop blur
The Siberian
music and message
of downtrodden, enslaved humanity escaping
like our universal dreams of freedom,
into the neon-lit casino-town January night
so easy, so damned easy...
              We wonder why the Russian government
wasted sixteen years pretending
This truth might fade away.

                  Cousins now, the Polish ex-bareback riggen hand
trembling, holds the big book
          the words of "Babi Yar," unread, record
His unknown great-uncles
          murdered and pit buried
score by score,
for a Boone and Crockett
          contemptible cowardice
few top hand grief riders can mark,
           both sides.

Arms floating,
Yevgeny twists like a gumby gnome,
feminine arcs of wrist and chin,
ground-even teeth flashing,
guttural half-shouting
"Dwarf Birches!"

                                  -dwarf birches.

When they both are done,
                we stand together, and by God,
no paltry governments can stem our truth,
                deflower our one, divine humanity,
                warp our spines-
                twist our limbs- and leaves--

Inventions of Note

Reports of my sizable personal fortune have been modestly exaggerated. No, my precious wife and I do not live in a castle on snob hill. We rent a modest place in Starr Valley, Nevada, and raise kids. Sue has three, I have four, seven- (count 'em again) seven, between us. We always have some, and sometimes a lot...of kids. So I am always on the lookout for ways to make our existence easier, especially about making them all chip in on the chores. Here are a couple of innovations that might help.

Oogla, our Neanderthal sixteen year old, recently broke his mother's favorite bread-mixing bowl. Oogla grunted and pointed excitedly, apparently meaning he washed it successfully, but the heap of dishes and chunks of food already in the drainer prevented a basketball style slam-dunk, so he broke it dribbling back for a three-pointer.

We tried to glue it all back together, but a couple pieces must have fallen in my stew-of-the-week, (jerky and rice) and got lost. It was Humpty-Dumpty deja vu. Oogla was done with his dish washing chores by then, so we went back to killing bugs with a hammer.

Those few of you who are not yet aware of my prowess as an inventor may be surprised to learn that I am not just another pretty face. It is my visionary skill behind those highly successful combination vasectomy clinic-tuxedo rental shops..(Be Impotent, Look Impotent!) -So I know you'll be as excited as I am about my latest invention, "Oogla-ware" ...teenage-dishwasher safe table tools for proper ladies and gentlemen.

The plates will be high tinsel graphite, same as the Lear Jet bodies. I personally tested twenty five Oogla dishes by dropping them eighty stories from a high-rise building recently. None broke, but the sidewalk was chipped severely, and a parking meter was sheared off by a ricochet. Several dishes got kind of messy, but only because those stupid pedestrians wouldn't stay back. For the Viking in the family, the matching bowls will be hand for use as helmets and battering ram tips.

I personally designed and offer gorgeous titanium wine glasses, able to withstand our homemade washing and drying accidents without showing a scratch or a dent. When you give a stirring toast and throw one of these babies across your hearth, it's "Goodby Mr. Fireplace." On the morning after one of these toast-giving parties, just dig your Oogla-glasses out of the ashes and broken chunks of brick, and you'll find they'll be as good as new.

The flatware is not only very, very pretty, but a new design I worked out myself. Each lovely piece is a combination fork and spoon on one end, knife on the other. This greatly simplifies the silverware drawer, eliminating the stupid and confusing divider where your teen dish-doer had to suffer that time consuming job of identifying all those forks, knives, and spoons individually. Grab a couple of these new "knifoons," and you are ready for everything from a crisp tossed salad to large animal surgery. To set merely put one on each side of your Oogla-plate, blades turned in. I tested these by prying up man-hole covers, and they work just dandy.

Oogla bent one, but I still don't know how. I think he was chewing it and fell down.

Have you watched your teen slog through knee-deep dirty clothes and not see them? Suffered the heartbreak and embarrassment of learning the missing airline with 300 doomed passengers...crashed in his bedroom...and he didn't notice?

Let me introduce my cruddy-teen bedroom final solution...Mess-seeing glasses. You and your partner get a pair for each teen and revel in ecstasy as they recoil in horror from all that crap on the floor and walls that they have ignored so well, so long. I suggest the optional lockable full-face motorcycle helmet with the mess-seeing visor. Oogla couldn't get it off, and it was a particular pleasure to watch him notice the fresh-broken brush and damaged fence when he finally gave up trying. You'll also find the built-in scream-dampening muzzle a nice touch when company comes.

For the truly cleaning impaired, I offer parents the last, best hope for a kinder, cleaner household...a seeing-mess dog.

Getting Stuck Again

The dirt road short-cut into my little rural community gets a little muddy after a rainstorm. The base of the roadbed is mostly clay, so after it gets soaked up it becomes the kind of stuff that looks like cake mix moistened with motor oil. This stuff is so slick that my pickup doesn't care which end goes first down our old rutted road, which adds lots of driving excitement to an otherwise simple commute.

I sneaked over a few times during some post-rain greasy mud-days last week, and thought my superior dirt-road driving skill would get me safely home one more time, but I was wrong, and before long, boy-oh-boy, was I stuck. I slipped right off the road and got in the glop along the barrowpit.

I didn't want to walk the five miles home very bad, so I dug the wheels out several times to get ready. When I was finally ready, I walked home.

My neighbor and buddy, Hal [that would be Hal Cannon], offered to help me, and we pulled it out the next morning while the mud was frozen solid. Getting it on the road and going again wasn't such a big deal, except that about three hundred yards of the road still clung to my old pickup.

To tell you the truth, I could hardly recognize it. The front wheels had thrown mud all over the hood and cab, and the underside looked like something from a low budget swamp-monster movie. I am an immaculate guy at heart, and I vowed to wash it sometime soon.

It probably wasn't even a week later that I had my crud-mobile in town, and took it down to the washer-place. I was getting less compliments on my pickup than usual, plus I was sick of the little chunks of adobe hitting me in the face, driving along with my head out the side window like an engineer so I could see.

Down at the car wash, I decided to use that little wand-sprayer to wet the whole mess down first, then get the details perfect on a second pass. Well, I was out of quarters before the mud quit absorbing the water from the sprayer. Nothing dripped, but the tires got fatter and fatter. I decided not to use the foaming brush.

Ten dollars in quarters later, I gave up. Little odd-shaped things underneath kept reflecting flying mud and spray back in my face, and I couldn't see enough to know what I was washing. I had hydro-carved big globs out of the insides of the wheels, off the brakes and frame, scrubbed clear down to the glass on the windshield. It looked pretty good, I thought. My face, hat, coat and glasses were so dirty, I couldn't see to tell.

Five blocks later at twenty miles an hour, my pickup nearly wobbled itself to pieces. The tires were still out of balance from chunks of overlooked mud inside the brakes and wheels. I couldn't keep it in the road the way it was, so I went straight back to the washer-place to try again.

I had to use a different stall, someone was stuck in the one I had just left. I swear, if you want to get around in this country in the spring, you should have a four-wheel drive.

This time, with clean glasses and a joyful heart, I determined to get my pickup perfectly spotless. I sprayed the heck out of the wheels, the driveline, the trim, the headlights. I just wouldn't take "dirty" for an answer. "Mr. Impeccable" was on a roll. It might have been the last ten minutes of a Rambo movie. All the bad dirt just had to go down.

Somewhere right about then, I noticed a couple of things about my old Dodge pickup for the very first time. Like the bumper sticker for a candidate I had never heard of. Or the little "F250" sign on the fender. The Montana license plates.

If, dear reader, by chance you might have gotten stuck on the dirt road into Starr Valley, Nevada, a couple of weeks ago, walked off and left a blue Ford with Montana plates and a "Stuben for Clerk" bumper sticker, and got a white Dodge with a flat bed and squeaky brakes in exchange for it, I am willing and able to trade you back. But the Dodge had better be clean.

For Life

If life were just one April day
And I should wake, mid-afternoon
To feel the sunshine on my shirt,
Warm scattered raindrops wet my cheek,
I'd marvel with my newborn eyes
At the beauty I had never seen.

If life should be one April day,
I'll not pine for a morning lost
Nor mourn some teenage innocence.

But hand in hand, my love and I
Will lift one cup for fallen friends
Then, our business done,
We'll laugh till wrinkles frame our eyes.

And in these final precious hours
We'll celebrate the eveningtime.

Rod McQueary Memorial

For Souls

Perhaps, he said, it’s not a man’s heart or mind
That drives him down to surging sea,
To straining mast.
Not mind, he said, that makes him fill
Some quivering stirrup . . . eagerly,
To float across the grunting, pounding range,
Hat fanning reckless, loose and fast,
Not mind that sends him high,
Beyond the tether of wind, or cloud;
Spear through the air to ride the sky,
Ascend the stairs, forsake the sod,
To loose the reins and challenge, proud;
Or taste the salty tears of God.

Perhaps it’s not the heart, or mind,
That spurs us on from thrill to thrill,
But fluttering soul, stretching, straining,
Caged by ribs and blood, but still,
Impatiently, but uncomplaining,
It waits for some escape to find,
Beneath some struggling bronco’s death,
In some tortured metal fuselage,
Or sinking calm ‘neath raging wave,
Past the pain, and fear, and breath
We learn how new-freed souls behave.
Released now by this mortal’s death,
Unconfined by time and space,
Brighter, lighter, upward cast,
Newborn, it wakes in some chromed tunnel
Just beyond Medusa’s face
And wonders why—It’s free, at last.
Great God almighty, free

. . . at last.


Please say over my ashes, “Rider” 
A code the cadre of my heroes can’t misunderstand.

Include, please, mention the names of my favorite horses.
The good, not so good, and the ones who taught me most.

“Cowman” might be too much the compliment,
“Cowboy” not enough.
“Rider” fits.  

I have known that precious, weightless fight
Above the grunting, pounding range,
I have conceived heroes, who, daily,
Bring honor to the first American bearer of my name.
Sold in chains, he brought the minimum bid.

I know the sharp, hard collision with my Mother Earth.
If you can’t get up, you know you’re hurt. 
Old, I can’t regret the loves and wrecks
That keep me poor and hurt my hips.

Do it all again?  For one word, one description
Dig the snow and mud, swallow all that amniotic fluid,
Watch those beautiful calves, and colts, and friends, and enemies

For “Rider” I’d punch that ticket again. 

This time, I might take a pass on the bronco
Who knocked my Dad and Woodie down,

      Trying to get

                      To me.