Tag Archives: Ranch Life

Poems and stories describing life working, living and growing up on a farm or ranch

CHILDREN HAVE

CHILDREN HAVE

Children have a great sense of smell

Maybe that’s why
their diapers make them cry

their first
breast sends them
on a lifelong quest
and a cinnamon bun
can stop us all in the mall

On a farm there’s hay
before it goes into the cow
and hay when it comes out

The pungency of pig, the foul of fowl

Rain before the first drop falls
and the whip of lightning after it cracks

Smoke on dad’s clothes from the prairie fire
snuff from the round box cutting his shirt

The dog, even wet, not diminished in love

If lost in a blizzard, or in the dark
it is always best to let go of the reins
so the horse’s nose can point you home

Lost in the world at four a.m.
twice blessed if yours can do the same

A STONEBOAT STORY

A STONEBOAT STORY

Rough planks across two wood-beam runners
low and tough enough to tip a heavy rock on
or haul the cleanings of the stalls in winter

Learning to stand in loose-kneed balance
full speed behind fast homing horse
across the frozen tracks and turds
on the way back to the barn

Buff off of Oahu teaching me to surf
I think “Just like this”
until the big wave comes and says “Not quite”

THE FARM, THE RANCH AND THE NEED FOR GOD

THE FARM, THE RANCH
AND THE NEED FOR GOD

Who pray to when the rains don’t come
who forget to thank when they do

Who curse when the John Deere breaks
and the cow jumps over the moon
(by the moon of course I mean
the fence to the alfalfa field)

Who in the long nights pondering
under the stars too cold to be suns
a word big enough for big

SEASONS

SEASONS

My grandfather came to Canada
trailing the civilities of Europe

Planted ten thousand trees
on the bald-assed prairie

Plenty of produce for a family
and acres and acres and acres
of flowers as well

On the other side of a depression
and the rationings of war
every plant like every animal
on my parents’ ranch
had to pay its way

At our house in Austin
we have only flowers

DON’T WORRY MATE

DON’T WORRY MATE

Up North working the neighbour’s calves

One of those mixed farm forty cow
no corral kind of operations
good folks though and they help us out

Were branding and cutting and vaccinating
in a lean-to off the barn eight inches deep

No room for a horse or a rope
so you just have to grab those calves
and throw them down right side up
so they’re dry enough to brand

The farmer’s son loses his grip on a catch
and the calf tries to bold past me

I turn quick, grab the head and come ‘round
fast to where the farmer stands flat footed
with that big syringe in his hand
needle pointed forward

Into my shoulder, skin, flesh and the bone
dumping the whole shot of multi-task
vaccine

The next day the arm hurts bad
and it doesn’t look too good

So we drive down to Mossbank
to see the old Aussie flying doctor
who must have gotten off course
to land in Saskatchewan

He gives me some medicine
and says come back in three days

I say I’ll probably be fine by then
and its sixty miles round trip

He says “don’t worry mate
you’re vaccinated for shipping fever”

And I’ve been traveling ever since

PINCHER CREEK ALBERTA

PINCHER CREEK ALBERTA

Mid June and Cowboy Poets back in town
voices hoarse from long winter’s silence

And a thousand and more are here to hear
for the poets have been listening all year

Listening to the cattle and the coyotes
and the Northern Lights at nights

And they have been reminded
and being reminded they remember
and remembering they come here to remind

And just listening we remember
and unwind

MOTHER’S POEM

MOTHER’S POEM

The kitchen has always been the center
of the universe of any farm or ranch

She feeds their sleepy forms in morning
clothes them for the cold or warm
and prays them safe from harm

Looks out her window to the East
where barn shadows and rolling hills
greet them as they start their day

Men in firm direction to their work
children scattering to play

The South across the lake to catch
the water’s mood foretelling wind or calm

Sometimes
sees in morning
mirages of cut banks rising
like mountains along the Eastern shore

Or more directly to the South
forms of her old neighbour’s homes
rising and shimmering
like memories of her youth

Seasons spiral out and in from this center
crocus and buttercups in the greening grass
cactus flowers and the joy of newborn calves

The growing season of the grain
and golden glory of a well stooked field

The shortening of days into winter
and the ever present stars
joined by the dance
of Northern
lights

Within each season she has watched
the play of seasons of each day
men return from roundup
children from their play

While she waits always at the center
to warm and love and feed

and safely tuck away

HOME MADE ICE CREAM

HOME MADE ICE CREAM

When I was five we lived on a ranch
still forty miles and forty years
away from electric power

We only got to eat ice cream
when hail lay deep enough on the ground
to be scooped in the old hand mixer

Many a hot evening in August and July
five of us sat on those hard ranch steps
looking out at the Western sky

Watching the black clouds and the grey
building and rolling our way

Silently praying our protestant hail Marys
four for and Dad against