Monthly Archives: March 1996

OLD WIVES LAKE MASSACRE

OLD WIVES LAKE MASSACRE – THE LEGEND

About a hundred and fifty or two hundred years ago, in what is now south west Saskatchewan, a band of Cree camping on the shore of a prairie lake were surrounded by a much larger band of Blackfoot warriors.

In order to save the lives of the young and the strong, they slipped out under cover of darkness while the old and infirm stayed behind to keep the fires burning and keep up the appearance of an occupied camp.

When the Blackfoot attacked the next morning they were furious at having been tricked in this way and massacred all of the remaining inhabitants of the camp including all the old wives.

This unusual and powerful occurrence is remembered to this day in the name of the lake

I grew up and ranched along its shores.

OLD WIVES LAKE MASSACRE – THE POEM

I have eaten the beef
that ate the grass
that grew on your unmarked graves

And the sadness I sing, I sing for you
for all sadness is one sadness
all pain one pain
and all treachery one treachery

Many have eaten of the buffalo and the beef
They wake in the night
and do not know why they are sad

The Legend

The Poem

GROWING STONES

GROWING STONES

Each spring on our farm
the old father sun turned up his warmth and
charm
melting the frost deep in the heart of the mother
earth

The
egg babies
thereby created
rose to the surface
to play in the open air
mischievous miscreants all
waiting to jamb diskers and drills
and if they get a little grain to hide in
ambush swathers, combines, and oil pans of
grain trucks

so we had to gather them into
school bus stone boats and wagons and haul
them off to places where they could be with their
older brothers and sisters on the reform school
rock pile

there is still some hope
that someday they can learn to be pillars of the
community

PREMONITION

PREMONITION

Carl Walenda used to say

He only felt alive
when walking the high wire
everything else was just waiting

Some rodeo cowboys feel the same way
for eight seconds on a good day

One day in South America
Carl Walenda checked his tie downs
something he never did

He went up on the wire anyway
and he fell

After all those years of butterflies
it’s hard to tell

which is the black one

TRAIN DAY

TRAIN DAY

Once a week, once a week
they came from all around, all around
and swelled, and swelled, the size of our young
town

And the chugging grew, and the chugging grew
and the chugging grew, and the whistle blew
and all was new, and the children knew

But now the lines are down, all down
old folks and old dogs in the town
not a child nor a pup, nor a pup
and not one elevator up

DANCES WITH HORSES

DANCES WITH HORSES

And what is the poem of Rusty
who slips at full gallop and picks up all
four feet and sets them down sure on the next
dry spot

Of Lady still so afraid of wire she can buck
fourteen hours tired
if a four inch chunk should strike a hoof

And the dance of the wild mare in the corral
who kicks and one foot goes by on each side of
your head

And of the colt separated from mother’s flank
by a gunny sack in the face and a quick gate,
who turns a tight arc and comes back at you, and
you see it in the eyes and duck and he sails over
taking out the top rail

And you hear that your father gave you the first
compliment you’ve
ever heard of by turning to the man beside him
and saying

“The damned fool will get himself killed someday”

TURTLE BOOTS

TURTLE BOOTS

I bought a pair of boots one time
made from an old sea turtle’s hide
The prettiest boots you ever saw
but a little bit tight along the side

I figured it would only take a while
to break these babies in just right
and in the meantime at least I’d have
the pleasure of taking them off at night

Now a hundred years don’t seem long
to an old sea turtle, or his next of kin
but it appeared it was gonna take that long
to break those miserable damn boots in

I tried everything to ease that constant pain
I soaked ‘em, I oiled ‘em, I bent ‘em, I boiled ‘em
If anyone had suggestions, no matter how wild
I got out those boots and sure enough tried ‘em

But those son of a guns just continued to pinch
I couldn’t get them to move 1/16th of an inch
wild thoughts of destruction started filling my day
but the boots were too pretty I’d just give them away

I gave them to my younger brother first
by logic his feet should be smaller you see
but after a month or so he gave them back said
he just couldn’t accept all that charity

So I gave them away to friend after friend
but I guess gratitude ain’t what it used to be
and the results were always the same in the end
I got those turtle boots back, but I mostly lost
the friend

and every time I got them back
I’d put them of and wear them a while
and never could figure how one pair of boots
could cause so much pain and still have so much
style

But I gave them at last to a chiropractor down in
Texas
and I didn’t get ‘em back, so I expect he’s got ‘em
beat

because if he can’t adjust those boots
he can always adjust his feet

BUFFALO CHIPS

BUFFALO CHIPS

Lily pads floating
on the sea of prairie grass

Heat for the tepees
or the homesteaders cabin

Nothing wasted in the West

And every boy knew
that a good sharp stick or a pointy toed shoe
would let you know
if one was just right, or still a little too new

And I’m here to tell you, that compared to a
good dry chip
meeting a West wind’s invitation

A Frisbee is a weak and poor, plastic imitation