Monthly Archives: March 2003



If prairie wheels again had I
I’d chew the gravel and the air
with prairie roads to fly

I’d plume the earth into sky
to show them I was there
If prairie wheels again had I

Past placed where dead neighbours lie
I’d not linger, who would dare
with prairie roads to fly

Dust to dust gets in your eye
I’d look for other things to share
if prairie wheels again had I

Then greener farmyards I’d pass by
in mem-mirages free of care
with prairie roads to fly

I’d roll past all that makes you cry
afloat I sunsets clear and fair
in prairie wheels again had I
with prairie roads to fly



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

We’re branding and cutting and vaccinating
in a lean-to off the barn in shit 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 bolt 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

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 it’s sixty miles round trip

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

And I’ve been traveling ever since



There is no longer
a wild wild West to tame
or outlaws or Red Indians
to join in the old macho game

Of the testing of his manhood
and the building of his fame

And yet he retains the rugged look
of a steel-eyed firebrand
that can only be seen in the fearless few
who daily face death at every hand

Though now his risks are reduced
to trippin on the scenery
where he rides for a phony brand

And that cigarette in his hand



When the natives of this land
suffered a death such as this
they knew how to grieve

They felt it to the depths of their being
and cut deep into their arms and legs
that they might reach deeper

Today my great friends
I reach and bleed with you

Written for my cousin Kenny and his wife Betty on the tragic loss of their eighteen year old daughter



Mid June and Cowboy Poets back in town
voices hoarse from long winters 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



You can’t take it with you
they all say
And I believed it
till today

But that was gold
and crowns and
worldly glories

Bud beat those odds
he took his stories

(Bud, who knew and could tell more stories than anyone collapsed and died last year shortly after getting a standing ovation at Pincher Creek)



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

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

sees in morning
mirages of cutbanks 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

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



Oh we would circle
rattling tin wheeled trucks and trikes
and drive her crying to her bed

Gather soot enough from here and there
to keep her forever scrubbing
at our souls and skins

And worry her near to death
while she stayed up to worry us alive
from many a snow and beer filled drive

I know she does it to this day
and I’m afraid anything else I’d say
would all be mush and love
and angels watching from above
and yet still, I think I will