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.

wildflowerswildflowerswildflowers

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

wildflowerswildflowerswildflowers

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.

 wildflowerswildflowerswildflowers

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.

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