Monthly Archives: March 1996


No one will be surprised by the report
that farming is a very dangerous sport

What flapping empty fingered gloves
point back to momentary lapses

What limbs with what power
have been taken off by
power take offs

What tendons snapped like glass
and bones cut clean as grass
by unthinking mowers

And what of those neighbours dead and true
who for a minute forgetting what they knew
through red machines combined
with their grain

All these have earned his dusty tear
and many a “who’s next” fear

Year after year, after year, after year

And yet deep in the soils of time
the seeds of his goodness are growing
while the world turns in slow seasons
and he will be ready
when at last they declare
a true war on poverty
and are willing to bomb with wheat



The story was told by my old friend Bill
about a time when he was four
well maybe a little less, maybe a little more

Seems he’d been rubbin’ up against some boys in town
and learned some language that made his momma frown

His folks tried about everything from soap on down
but the lessons they were pouring in just wouldn’t stay down

Finally they said, now Billy my boy
the decision we’re makin’ gives us no joy

Because generally we like you , and you’re pretty good
with your chores
but there’s no room on this ranch for language like yours

So, though it’s sure to make us grieve
we’ve packed your bag, and you’ll have to leave

They peeked through the curtains as he walked down the lane
with Dad remindin’ Mom that some lessons have pain

Billy stood at the road for 20 minutes or more
then slowly trudged back and knocked on the door

They slipped from the window and opened it slow
he said
“where in the hell am I supposed to go?”



I didn’t kill a b’ar when I was only three
but I did start to chew before I was two

They say Copenhagen cowboys have a tendency to lie a bit
usually it’s how young they started and how far they can spit

Now I ain’t got many silver buckles to brag about
but this is for sure and without a doubt
I’ve got the record when it comes to snuff
for the earliest, and shortest, addiction to the stuff

Now my memory’s a little foggy but the legend’s quite clear
that somewhere between my first and second year
My daddy leaned over the crib to kiss me goodnight
with the can in his pocket not sittin’ too tight

It seems from the beginning that I sure liked the stuff
and, in no time at all, ate that whole box of snuff
Legend doesn’t tell my exact shades of green
but I hear there were some that had never been seen

Though out behind barns and sometimes in bars
I’ve tried cigarettes and pipes and a few good cigars
Still when folks pull out that old round can of thar’s
all my colour comes back and they think I’m from Mars



There were seven students and eight grades
With the inkwells covered to save the braids

The first day of school
the boys all rushed through the door
to fight for their seats
with their father’s initials carved thirty years before

At recess there were garter snakes, and gophers, and mice
which girls who were being chased, and teachers
who had just opened desk drawers didn’t think
were so nice.

At recess you could get on the big teeter totter
on the North side. If you could get high enough,
long enough, you could get a bobbing glimpse of
one of the big boys, hand outstretched for the
well deserved strap.

In winter the pot bellied stove was set up in the
back center of the room. How warm you were
depended on how close you were to the back. The
teacher didn’t always teach from the front of the

There was a big tin shield five feet high around
the stove to keep us from burning ourselves
although it got hot enough itself to do a pretty
good job

Any lapse in supervision added to its décor as
we melted our wax crayons into modern art on
its silver sides

It was always great to hear the lessons
meant for other ears than these
and to sting the older kids in spelling bees

In those days outdoor toilets were cricket

and so was the game we played
with firewood for posts
and baseball bats
for bats.


(a song still waiting for the music)

Alberta air, Alberta air
You’ve gotta breathe
that good Alberta air

It rolls in over the mountains
it rolls out over the plains
it smells of age old glaciers
and brand new gentle rains

It’ll cleanse your heart of worries
and wash your soul of pains

for there’s a world of love and kindness there
feel it blowing through your hair
Alberta air, Alberta air



When Wayne was thirteen
he had the finest blondest hair
the finest features and the finest mind
of all the cousins round

A city boy and cooler about everything than all of us
until we took him hunting

When his first shot hit the rabbit
he ran and cried and held it till it died

At eighteen he quit school with A grades
a month before grad to get a jump on a job
met a girl and bragged of achievement on first date

Over achievement it turned out to be
quick marriage, quick, two children three

Army for security, liquor for the pain
it was twenty years before I saw him again

He was in a downstairs bar
sitting there as coarse and thick as adobe brick

I wanted to roll it all back
reach in for the lost fineness and yank it all inside out

And hold him like the rabbit when he cried
still innocent when it died



The armadillo lies
in the center of the road
with his feet in the air

The shell on his back
for centuries over used
caused the spine in his neck
to become somewhat fused

So that when he hears
that danger is near
he has to leap and turn
to cover his rear

And if that sound is the front of a car
he leaps into a sudden marriage
of armadillo and undercarriage

So he lays on his back and he waves his feet
a warning to travellers from far and near
about the many dangers of old fear

and old ways of dealing with it



Henry Moore was a smart old cowboy
a smart old cowboy was he

Just as sly as a fox
be bought twenty-foot salt blocks
and set them out in West Texas in winter

Where a thousand strong tongues
changed those basic hard foods
into a bunch of reclining nudes

There are times when it bothers my conscience
to see
them hangin’ around London,
New York, and D.C.

Then I remember old Hank is one of the boys
just suckerin’ some dudes with these toys

So I decide not to chip off the bronze



I was sailing into waves of memory
as I drove to my boyhood home

To find that some heavy breakers
had turned to light light foam

Here I walked for miles in freedom
and my home was warm and real

And here my good dog saved me
from a coyote’s tender meal

Here all my innocence was known
And most of it shattered too

As I remembered what people said
and then what they might do

I thought that I could face those waves
with the things that I now know

But I was more than a little surprised
by the strength of the undertow