2015 October Issue- Week 5

October 29, 2015

“Longhorn Grazing” by Merle Grabhorn

Mending

by Karla K. Morton

The world is tethered,

strung too tight for too long,

coiling the only way it knows –

wild riot, chaos, mob;

looting neighbour’s stores

for vodka and cell phones;

knots like this bobbin,

spinning wrong;

winding worse with each half hour;

God straining to hear

through screaming, torched police cars,

spewing cans of tear gas.

I stop for a moment

to listen to the night,

the soft nicker of the horses;

the pull and munch of grass.

Somewhere in Ferguson, Missouri,

New York, LA and Dallas,

grass grows just like this,

offering up its gentle hands.

Slowly I unwind

and wind again the bobbin,

ease the grey thread

into the slim steel eyes.

All the colours of the world combined

make grey.

I like the way such tiny stitches

move into two fabrics;

the way they bind through tug and storm;

the way the sewing machine hums as it works,

though no one else but the horses can hear;

the way mothers and grandmothers

reach for needle and thread;

the slow mending of the ravel.

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THE BUTTEFIELD OVERLAND MAIL

by Max Sparber

There’s a town I know in Arizone

And a stagecoach hauling scrip

There’s a bandit waiting up for it

And she’ll rob that brother whip

She’s a pistol with a .38

And a thatch of well-shorn hair

And Pearl she is on the shoot

As she rides her crowbait mare

She’ll relieve whatever is in the boot

And the bullwhacker his gun

She’ll lighten the load of each passenger

But give a dollar to every one

O will you stop her

On the Butterfield Overland Mail

O when Pearl Hart comes for you

On the Globe to Florence trail

There’s a town I know in Arizone

Where a girl bandit can be found

And there’s a posse headed there for her

She’s the grave or prison bound

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PING

by Mark F. Geatches

Ping

The man watched the red-brown glob ooze down the pitted face of the spittoon. His expression held a twisted smirk like a man trying to drop a stubborn ordure. The saloon was aphonic except for a couple of whores weeping and such. Wiping his forehead with a checkered handkerchief the man propped himself against the tired bar. He counted eight, mostly men, sprawled dead in odd comfortable positions.

Ping

“Damned if I ain’t still got it,” he croaked.

Walking toward the doors the man tipped his hat and wheezed, “Ladies.”

The mahogany doors continued to beat the air as he crumbled onto the parched road.

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BREAKING TRAIL

By Seth Ehret

From far down the valley the two riders struggled through the ever deepening snow. The heavy flakes plummeted down, blurring the image of the approaching riders. Had there been anyone to watch from the top of the valley, their straining eyes would have become confused by the dark spots that dashed and disappeared and reformed into shapes that tricked the mind and blinded the eyes.

The two riders were returning from a hunt. The burlap sacks tied to their saddles were empty and their rifles sat frozen in the scabbards. They were named George and Bill, and the horses were a reflection of the men they carried. In the lead, George rode a tall, dark, young gelding, whose strong legs propelled him forward in lunges that shook the snow from George’s shoulders and cleared a trail behind him. Following was Bill, atop a tired grey gelding whose best days lay behind him. It had a shrunken appearance as it shambled along through the late October storm. Its head hung low collecting ice and snow. Both men had their hats pulled down and their bandannas tied tightly around their faces to protect from the driving snow that began to sting as the wind increased and the temperatures dipped.

The sky was a leaden veil, heavy and foreboding, a couple hours till daylights fail. Every once in a while, George had to stop and look back to make sure that Bill still followed behind. The visibility was now so poor that if they were to become separated by more than fifty feet they would be lost to each other. As George and his horse blazed on ahead the gap between them would increase. The farther behind Bill fell the more George’s trail would get filled in and the harder it became for Bill to follow. Each time George stopped to wait it would be a little longer until Bill and his old grey horse caught up and they could start out again.

One of these times, when George stopped, it was in front of an especially deep drift of snow. He twisted his body in the saddle to look back and saw no sign of Bill. Instead of waiting hunched over letting the cold grab hold of him, he decided to jump off and do some of the work to break trail himself, giving the horse a rest and warming himself up in the process. He slid off the saddle and sunk down to his knees, and he wasn’t a short man. Leading the horse behind him, he began fighting his way into the drift, shoveling snow out of the way with his arms and stomping down to force a path. The snow on either side of him was level with his waist by the time he stopped to take a rest. He glanced back to see that Bill had caught up and was leaning down close to his horse’s neck. To curse it to hell or lift its spirits George couldn’t tell. George threw himself back at the snowdrift, forcing his way through the last ten feet and coming out of it with a pretty good sweat worked up beneath his coat. Bill and the horses followed close on his heels into the slightly shallower snow on the other side.

George stepped into the saddle and let Bill ride up close beside him. “You ever seen anything like it?” he shouted, leaning over to the older man.

“Plenty of times, sure, much worse than this.” Bill boomed back.

“Oh? Well in that case why don’t you lead the way?”

“Because this horse is too tired and lazy. You’d have been home a long time ago already if you didn’t have to wait for us all the time.”

“To tell you the truth I don’t know if I could even find my way home right now.” George admitted. “You’ll have to tell me if I’m still heading the right direction.”

“You know as well as I do to just stick to this incline till the top of the valley, and besides, the horses would probably find their way home without our help anyway.” Bill said with a sharp edge to his voice. “Just stop wasting time already.”

At that George spurred his horse ahead, once again taking the lead. Bill was right, George did know the way home, and he wasn’t worried, he had just wanted Bill to feel like he was contributing something. With Bill having such a hard time, George tried to look appropriately miserable, but he was weathering the storm with relative ease. All George had to do to forget the biting cold and stinging snow was to think of his wife and baby waiting for him at home by the fire, probably with some hot food prepared. Bill had no one waiting for him at his nearby cabin. George would have to invite him to stop so that he could warm up and wait out the storm. Besides, it had been quite a while since Bill had come over for supper.
They pushed on through the snow, George holding his horse back so that he didn’t get too far ahead, and Bill pushing his harder in an effort to keep up. At that pace, their progress was steady, but it was taking a hard toll on Bill’s horse. They could tell that they were nearing the top of the valley because the slope was getting gradually steeper. The last stretch before they reached the flat plain would be difficult, even for George’s horse, who was doing a lot of work to forge a trail through the deep snow. Behind them the bottom of the valley was swallowed in a grey, swirling abyss that grasped after the fleeing men to pull them down into its darkness and despair.

George stopped when he heard a yell from Bill and turned around to look. They were on the steepest part, Bill’s horse had stopped and wouldn’t move forward. Its sides were heaving and even through the snow the hot air shooting from its nostrils was easily visible, shaking the built up frost and ice around the horse’s mouth as it stood and trembled. From the horse’s back Bill was feverishly kicking his boots into the horse’s sides and whipping the reins against its rump. All of this effort exhausted Bill, he dropped his arms to his side and slumped his shoulders, his own chest heaved trying to catch his breath.

George called back to Bill. “Should we use my rope to try to pull it the rest of the way?”

Bill took a while to answer. “What’s the use? I should just leave the damn thing here. It wouldn’t make any difference.” He looked down at the horse. “What good are you anyway?”

Looking back at his old friend, George could think of nothing to say. There was nothing he could do to help Bill if he didn’t want to help himself. “It’s not very far to the top now, we’re almost there.” George said to him before he turned and let his horse plunge ahead the rest of the way. From up on the plain the sky looked clearer towards home and the wind had blown some of the snow away so that it wasn’t as deep. Back down the trail, it was still hard to see, but through squinted eyes he was sure he could make out Bill’s figure standing in front of his old horse, and it looked like he was leading the way out of the valley.

Seth Ehret is a a young rancher from south-eastern Alberta. He attended the University of Alberta where he took creative writing courses instructed by Thomas Wharton. Seth Ehret enjoys writing about animals and nature and draw much inspiration from my horses.

2015 October Issue- Week 4

October 26, 2015

“Windmill 2” by Leroy Trussell

Bill

by Richard Manly Heiman

Bill hunkered down in his four bit room. He shrank
Inside his own legend. He cursed
His treacherous eyes, without no tears.

I’ll tell you, once the man saw keen!
Quick as a bobcat he picked up the infinitesimal move, the slight shift of a finger
Before a hand jerked and the tranquil exploded and somebody died.

Bill wiped with his sleeve, once snowy, now
All stained with road grit. Bill stared bat-like through the window grime and curtains
Film before his eyes, he dimly made out Jane.
Disheveled girl, that Jane. Tumbledown, all drunk on whiskey
Lurching along in the hell-flea-bit town. Hell, Jane.

Sister of mercy, Jane/ Scout of the Black Hills, Jane
Swam the Platte /Wrote her legend
Lied about Custer she /Freak talked old Sitting Bull/Jane.

Bill slept a lot, threw cards
Stroked his mustachios, aimed at targets
Missed, had visions, saw dark spots on a tall sun he
Dreamed of gold and endless buffaloed plains.

Bill heard shadows wailing out of Abilene
From Hays and nameless places, pushing him to some foregone
Conclusion, facing the wall
Staring down black aces, turning to stone.

Richard Manly (Rick) Heiman lives in the Northern California “Gold
Country” where there is currently little gold left and no water from which
to pan it. He works as a substitute teacher and writes mornings, evenings,
weekends and when the kids are at recess. He is in his fourth quarter of
the Lindenwood U. MFA Writing program. Rick rides horses whenever he can
find one slow and low enough to mount up!

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Pine Creek Clocks c. 1982 *

By Denis Robillard

In a far off place I hear duelling clocks
In a room on a ranch.
The burdens of the day lie deep and heavy
Inside the entrails of clocks.
Breathing expanding
Exhorting themselves in slingshot time.
Above the scene a gun totting Brautigan
Takes pot shots at these dueling clocks,
His poem bullets splitting the targets
Like rotten logs,
Mind dangling metaphors
Splitting through amnesiac veil of booze
Trying to find another blackberry motorboat.
Another watermelon waterfall trapped
Underneath.

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Summer in Del Rio

by Suzanne Bailie

Two years since a drop of rain whispered through town,

Even tress withered right out of the ground.

Folk clung to the shade afraid of day light hours,

Their petrified souls cried for cool water.

Under the dark of a new moon a lone

Silhouette appeared on the outskirts of Del Rio.

A rider, an angel of sorts, with icy blue eyes darting with fire.

God’s eternal foe in black hat and buckskin.

Whispered thoughts led him to the saloon.

Where he flowed on a motionless breeze.

All drinking ceased.  Even the flies held their breath.

The place became as still as a cathedral.

Glancing round the room with predator knowing.

He strode right by their hollow desperate souls.

Wisps of smoke curled from his dark skin boots.

“Large whiskey,” the simple order.

“I’m powerful thirsty and I’ve a fiendish ride.

Pour me your best golden fire.”

With shaking hands, the barkeep filled an empty glass.

Whiskey downed through pale thin lips.

On the wooden counter, he tossed a gold coin.

It burned forever all who tried to claim it.

With a Sulphur sigh, he left the bar

and people still claim to this day.

When Lucifer, himself, needs a shot.

It must be summer in Del Rio.

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2015 October Issue- Week 3

October 15, 2015

“Just About Lost” by Leroy Trussell

JUST ABOUT LOST

by Leroy Trussell

Shucks just got ’em

maybe two hours ago

can’t say where from

tried to buy American, but these

came from Mexico.

I just had them in my hand,

must uh’ laid them down somewhere.

sure nuff messes up my working plans,

been uh lookin’, but can’t find em anywhere.

Looked out in the old barn

wudn’t in the pickup seat

dat-burn, wish they’d transform

thank gudness I always keep that store receipt.

Not long ago in town I got ’em

at Crownover Feed, Marble Falls, Texas

boy this is such a cowboy mayhem,

for blisters I don’t want ’em, but for sure ’nuff I need ’em.

Guess I could borrow my Sons’,

but they seem a bit small.

and by their looks, they are far gone

an pert near be a bad judgment call.

Well guess I’ll drive back to Town, buy another pair

gonna get ’em in rawhide leather

back Home, well shoot, there the others sittin’ in my lazyboy chair

you bet it’s good to have a spare, when hard work comes ta’ gather.

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In The Hay Loft

by Scott Lennox

Boys of ten or eleven, we sat in the shadows,
avoiding the sunlight that spilled across the dusty wooden floor.
Looking down at the horses and riders circling in the corral,
I tried to imagine the years and the comings and goings
in the old barn with its smells of horses, manure and hay.
I pictured Texas cowboys, saddled up and riding out,
proud and alone, heading west across open prairie.

When I pushed back against a half-strewn bale,
I struck something hard and reached behind me to find
a sawed-off shotgun, its double barrels aged but clean,
the pistol-grip handle rubbed smooth.
Our chatter stopped as, trembling, heart racing,
I thumbed the latch and slowly opened the breech,
relieved to find no shells inside.

“He could still be here!” one boy whispered,
sure that we were being watched. “If he finds out…”
“Shhhht,” I hushed, sliding the weapon back where I found it,
but hand and mind reluctant to let go.
For a moment, each of us studied the others,
then scattered like cat-spied mice from a feed bin.
For no reason I can tell, we never spoke of it again.

But my mind, for more than fifty years, has climbed that ladder,
over and over, inventing stories about the loft,
about the one with dreadful secrets to be kept,
his murderous plans, his treachery carried out.
Strange, the way the past hangs on, retelling itself,
when we would just as soon be done, but fascinated,
ask to hear the story one more time.

Scott Lennox is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with more than 20 years of clinical experience in mental health working in hospital and private practice setting He has developed his own training program, Compassion In Action, teaching professionals and others the measurable actions of compassion toward more effective relationships.

Scott’s friends know him to be a true renaissance man. As an accomplished artist, poet, photographer, musician, gourmet cook, horseman, and public speaker, Lennox demonstrates his passion for being fully alive and helping others to do the same.

His background includes radio and television, commercial photography, and more than three decades of facilitating personal excellence with individuals and groups in educational, clinical, and corporate settings.

Lennox’s drawings and paintings are held in public and private collections and two of his drybrush watercolor landscapes hung in the United States Embassy residence in Geneva, Switzerland and later, in the United States Embassy in Moscow.  Scott self-published In Brazos River Country, a limited edition volume of twenty-four poems.  He is currently in production of a recorded version and is collaborating to develop a bilingual printed version in English and Spanish.

After serving as a medic in combat in Southeast Asia, where he was decorated for valor, Scott earned his Bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University and his Master’s from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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ALMOST

by Larry Bradfield

He was just a boy when he rode out-
Long legs and knobby knees
Rode drag to Denver from Santa Fe
An’ grew by twos and threes

He learned the trade of punchin’ cows
An’ silence of the men
He was alone but so were they –
Not like it was back then

Not like the days of sweepin’ floors
In brothels and the bars
An orphan lookin’ for a meal
An’ washin’ whiskey jars

Now he crossed the plains wide and free
And saw the mountains rise
It was almost, almost enough
‘Til he recalled her eyes

She’d been sixteen an’ so had he
They didn’t know ’bout love
So they held hands and talked all night
An’ counted stars above

Then she was gone, just slipped away –
An’ he was punchin’ cows
He had the world to call his own
With all the heres an’ nows

And so he looked at all the world
An’ marveled at its size
It was almost, almost enough
‘Til he recalled her eyes

Larry Bradfield is a retired physicist / aerospace executive who was born and raised in the midst of sand, oil and cattle in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. After living and working on both coasts and the borders of Mexico and Canada, he has retired to  Texas and still feels his roots in the cattle country. He is the author of two books of cowboy poetry – One Foot in the Stirrup and Out Where the Blacktop Ends – and has publshed a number of poems in the on-line world.
His wife, Joyce, is a proud Pennsylvania native who has taken easily to the Texas soil.

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Cowboys We Are

by Karla K. Morton

Into the night, the steer fear the dawning
Skittish of the dark, they low and they bray
So we, before bed, hum through our yawning
These heavenly moments under star spray.

Come sing the night song, come stoke the old fires
Drink makes us young and drink makes us liars.
Girls make us bold, old dogs make us criers
But cowboys we are at the end of day.

A little more padding under our bed,
Coffee we drink now with sugar and cream.
Callouses softened, our belly’s, well fed
But time can’t erase our open range dream.

Come sing the night song, come stoke the old fires
Drink makes us young and drink makes us liars
Girls make us bold, old dogs make us criers
Cowboys we are at the end of the day.

We might work in banks or a bar in town
Be plumbers or lawyers — cleaning what sours
Watching the clock as it makes its countdown,
For long weekends here – these rich, sacred hours.

Cities are charging each pasture and tree,
The world is changing from trail to highway
But as long as man needs sky to be free
Horses we’ll saddle to round up each stray

Come sing the night song, come stoke the old fires
Drink makes us young and drink makes us liars
Girls make us bold, old dogs make us criers
Cowboys we are at the end of the day.

Karla K. Morton, the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters, member of the Western Writers of America, and graduate of Texas A&M University. Described as “one of the most adventurous voices in American poetry,” she is a Betsy Colquitt Award Winner, twice an Indie National Book Award Winner and a North Texas Book Award Festival Winner. Morton is the recipient of the Writer-in-Residency E2C Grant, and has ten collections of poetry. She is widely published, is a nominee for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and established an ekphrastic collaborative touring exhibit titled: No End of Vision: Texas as Seen By Two Laureates, pairing photography with poetry.

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2015 October Issue- Week 2

October 7, 2015

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Herding Longhorns  (Authors Collection) – Merle Grabhorn

CAIRN

by Richard Manly Heiman

I blear down from beyond the canyon rim
out there
where shadows still refuse the light
that clearing where you justify the night

The funneled wind up the arroyo breathes
a murmur of your name
stirring the leaves
gaunt cottonwoods on fire with the dawn

And on the thermal, rising with the day
kee-eeeee-ar
a red-tail takes flight
screaming forth her elemental life

My palomino paws the chalky earth
tosses his head
he strains against the girth
impatient with my hesitation now

But I will linger still
and set it down
to memory
where I laid you in the ground

Richard Manly (Rick) Heiman lives in the Northern California “Gold Country” where there is currently little gold left and no water from which to pan it. He works as a substitute teacher and writes mornings, evenings, weekends and when the kids are at recess. He is in his fourth quarter of the Lindenwood U. MFA Writing program. Rick rides horses whenever he can find one slow and low enough to mount up!

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The Tenderfoot And Nasty

by Larry Bradfield

“Well, lookey here !” Bob said with glee
“We’ve got a tenderfoot !
He’s got all this brand new gear , you see
He don’t know where to put ”

“He says he comes from way Back East
Teach him a thing or two
Let’s put him on that unbroke beast
And see what he can do”

The hoss they gave him don’t look mean
Though Nasty was his name
He did seem sometimes really keen
On makin’ riders lame

It seemed so like an awful match
New guy on this terror
This plot somehow just didn’t hatch
We all judged in error

The greenhorn climbed upon that hoss
A move as slick as rain
He spurred to show him who was boss
And let him have the rein

Now Nasty gave him all he had
He bucked and whirled and screamed
The rider smiled, said “This ain’t bad !
It’s nothin’ like I dreamed.”

That hoss gave up, plum’ tuckered out
The rider just stepped down.
Bob said “The East you lied about!
You’ve rode before this town !”

The new guy said, “Not in the least.
This here’s New Mexico.
The whole of Texas lies Back East
I do believe it’s so !”

They called him tenderfoot no more
He made a real smart hand
He came from Texas that’s for shore
And that ole boy’s got sand

Larry Bradfield is a retired physicist / aerospace executive who was born and raised in the midst of sand, oil and cattle in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. After living and working on both coasts and the borders of Mexico and Canada, he has retired to  Texas and still feels his roots in the cattle country. He is the author of two books of cowboy poetry – One Foot in the Stirrup and Out Where the Blacktop Ends – and has publshed a number of poems in the on-line world.
His wife, Joyce, is a proud Pennsylvania native who has taken easily to the Texas soil.

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Chimney Rock Cemetary

Melbita, Nebraska

by Andrew Hubbard

This speck of land

On the Oregon Trail

Is a tiny cemetery.

In the high plains vastness

In the cold, cold wind

Below the tumbled gray sky

Untended for fifty years,

Maybe a hundred.

The picket fence is missing slats,

The hand-hewn, wooden markers

Are bleached, askew,

Some fallen over.

Each marker has a full name

And dates of birth and death.

Some have a few words of a Bible verse.

But it’s the dates that tear at me:

This one lived four years…

This one seven.

I try to imagine

Being seven, sick, fevered,

So far from home

And so afraid.

This is the high plains:

There was no wood for a box,

The parents would have wrapped her

In a blanket—if they could spare one.

Digging a hole in the tough sod

Was a day’s work for the man

And the brothers.  The sisters

And mother sat back in the wagon

And didn’t look.

Father came back stone-faced

Wiping his hands on his pants.

The horses needed tending,

And then it was westward,

Westward toward the great ocean.

It was a shame:

His wife died before the house was finished,

And on a farm

The work is never done.

Thirty years went by

Before he could sit back

And finally cry for his baby girl

Dead and buried

On the Oregon Trail.

In the high plains vastness

In the cold, cold wind

Below the tumbled gray sky.

Andrew Hubbard holds degrees in English and Creative Writing, from Dartmouth College and Columbia University respectively. He is the author of three business-related books, one book on gemology, and one book of poetry, “Things That Get You,” produced by Interactive Press. He lives in rural Indiana with his wife, intermittent children, two Siberian huskies and a demon cat. When not writing poetry, he is a passable outdoor and wildlife photographer, a licensed handgun instructor, a former competitive weightlifter and martial arts instructor, and a collector of edged weapons.

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