Sunday, February 10, 2013

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.

1 comment:

  1. What a sweet night to sit here and find For Woody by surprise! To read it again and in my mind's eye, see again the first recital of it I heard, maybe in Durango, maybe in Grand Junction, maybe in a dozen or two other places in the west. to me, this was iconic Rod. This is perhaps, arguably (but not by me) the number one contemporary cowboy poem ever penned. I mean that. Maybe Woody would tie with "Grass" by Buck Ramsey, but he sure would not take second. It's a blessing and a benediction. What a damn fine writer. Thanks Sue!