Damn, she could never shoot that gun
February 1, 2002
........I was tomahawked in the winter woods of the
Blue Mountain in Idaho during the 1877 Indian War.
........Autumn colors touched the windows where we staked
out back at the ranch. I read dime novels and thumbed through well-worn picture magazines.
........The sacrifice went on. The hunting knife gleamed
in the sun. A blistering star.
........I lost the battle pasting pictures on the bunkhouse
walls. A lookout was posted at the door but he didn't see the Indians coming.
........A sanctuary for mountain cuckoo by the old barn.
........Where the rustle of leaves could be heard I
went hunting for deer by the frozen creek. Battling sleet. Antelope falling down
the slope dripping blood on the tree trunks.
........I saddled up to look for stray cattle after
a snowstorm. All bunk.
........The town, the churchyard and the setting sun
I leaned out of the saddle at full gallop to pick up coins from the ground.
........The rodeos took place at Deer Trail on the Fourth
of July working the herd over the pass.
........Twenty miles under starry skies though the men
out numbered the ladies by ten to one holding on half shadow half sun.
........I rumpled Nellie in the meadow. I danced 'till
morning with her dressed in my white buckskin vest. A bright yellow silk bandanna
around my neck. My silver spurs polished and shinned. My hair slicked down with pomade
........The fiddler played fast and furious. I shot
my gun. The caller shouted "Ladies in the center, Gents round 'em run, Swing
her rope cowboy, and get 'yo one."
........No light in the dusk, no torch in the gloom
but my Nellie's eyes and her lips 'pulp'd with bloom.
........Wild when the herd stampeded on dark moonless
nights into swollen stream. I ran my horse at full speed trying to stop them. Eighteen
hours in the saddle. Sleep on the ground by the star-spangled campfire. In my old
bedroll near the longhorns.
........Pale clouds swiftly dying.
........I kissed Nellie oft and gave her whitepeas.
........Dust, heat, blisters, boredom on the trail.
Wichita, Weiser, Abilene, Dodge city. Grimy and bearded ready to take off steam ready
for real whiskey.
........I went to the bar like a flea off a dog.
........Pines and lime-trees in full bloom at the end
of the trail. Soak lazy in a bathtub. Get a haircut, shave. Rigged out in high heeled
boots and striped breeches.
........Sunrise I was a greenhorn no more. Up with the
rooster. Stoked up on bacon, biscuits washed down with buckets of black coffee. Lucky
Irish to be an Idaho cowboy.
........Nellie knew the way to a man's heart.
........Night fall the mountains washed in pale purple.
........I saw some Kikapoo Indians by Shashone falls
but most fierce were the Nez Perce Indians of Idaho. Led by a thunder and lightening
brave, eagle-feathered Chief Joseph. Their buffalo-skin teepees were by the snake
river weeping Indian arrows and bows wakened the cry of the wolf.
........Just out of jail
in the rain. The blossoms were but gone from the apple trees. Deep silence where
the shadows caught my fall like the beat of war drums.
........I fell with a tomahawk in my skull, pooped in
my pants for the last time near my old Idaho home full of snow hurling my black horse
to the ground covered with dark blood and horse shit .
........My fingers clenched and cold. Clouds over silent
stars wrapped in a veil of gauze. No moon. Waiting crows. Dead as a door nail in
........Nellie in a blue cardigan crying by the kitchen
door, looking for the lost.
........Damn, she could never shoot that gun.