October- Week 2

October 10, 2012


Sister Elizabeth, I am sure

Your telling me the truth like the real lyrics

To dead Duane Allman’s song “Sweet Melissa”

Was most well intentioned.

But I want you to know how deeply it has changed

My feelings back here at the ranch.

I still get up at three in the morning most winter days

To be sure that the water troughs ain’t iced over

And the cows and yearlings have enough fresh hay to make it

Through the raspy days

And when the sky shades into the blue of my dead wife’s eyes

I can still see the peaks of the Cascades some hundred miles or so to the west

Capped with snow and concealing

Old Ben Ingalls lost ledge of gold.

I would lie there whole in the hot July night

Next to my lost wife in the year before my oldest boy was born

Listening to poor dead Duane’s slide guitar

Convinced he was singing of finding the dead man’s gold

And now with your fancy internet and irresistible force for truth

You proved to me that he was singing about the cross roads concealing the dead man’s ghost.

Do live men have ghosts?

I’ve talked to old Ben Ingalls ghost in my dreams

His blue woolen uniform gold oak leaf on his shoulder strap

And he showed me the three small lakes

And the angle of the ledge of solid gold

Wrapped in the alpine firs and western hemlock

In the canyon up in that Cascade valley

More than once as I slept

He tells me I have been chosen to claim the yellow dream of easy living

And spread its goodness around my world.

But sister you know as well as I, having chased dreams of your own

That the cutting and the roping and binding the calf ends the race

And the race is what we live for.

That song gallops around and around in my head

As I load steers to the stockyards

And trot through my chores each day

Some day I’m going to climb that mountain

Old Ben Ingalls by my side

And I’m going to find our ledge of gold

Before Ben and I posse up and we ain’t gonna let the crossroads hide us

We’ll find some other young buck to haunt

But we ain’t going to tell him the real lyrics

To our song.

He can hear what he needs to hear.

Tyson West is a is a traditional western poet whose aesthetic continually shape shifts. He watches the Northwest with veiled and hooded lynx eyes, broods among the conifers and quarrels with Coyote. He has a degree in history, but writes a variety of poetry styles, and has written a series of poems around Spokane Garry who is our local magical Indian. One of Tyson’s Western poems was published in Spoke Magazine called “Floorshow”, which is based on a picture of a 1922 floorshow in the Davenport Hotel which photo you can find on line. He lives in the middle of Eastern Washington, which is definitely cowboy country. There are two Washingtons, Eastern and Western, and they are as different as a Mocah Mint Latte with organic goats milk and black boiled coffee at a chuck wagon fire.


The Guardian

It was a lonely hilltop
where the prairie grasses played,
tossed by the winds of summer
and barren of any shade.

From that grand promontory
one could see a distant home
rising from the prairie sod
and the land where cattle roam.

To the west the land stretched on…
waves of grass, a moving sea,
splashing on a sandy shore
too distant for man to see.

The river, off to the south,
shrunken from the springtime flood
with waters now running blue,
and no longer filled with mud.

But that view was overcome
by a mound of new-turned soil
and a wee fist of daisies
that marked a poor digger’s toil.

Guarding that lonely hilltop
a small home-made cross now stands,
marking one more sacrifice
to hardship on prairie lands.

The sod home seemed empty then
but the rancher toiled on
glancing very frequently
t’ward the place his love’d gone.

From: Sun, Sand & Soapweed, ©2005

Clark Crouch is a self-proclaimed Poet Lariat and a prize-winning western and cowboy poet, author, lyricist, and performing artist. He admits to a bias toward traditional cowboy poetic forms. The author of eight books poetry, six of which are devoted to western and cowboy verse, he is a two-time winner of the prestigious Will Rogers Medallion Award for Cowboy Poetry and a five-time finalist in the annual Western Music Associations book award competitions. He wrote his first prize-winning poem at age eleven but never got around to writing more until 2001 when he was 73. Shortly thereafter he started writing and performing professionally.

*The Guardian*
/This poem was one of twenty “living documents” selected by a Fifth Grade Teacher in Page, Arizona to help her students understand the Westward Movement in the U.S.  She received a “best classroom practices award” for her innovative approach./

October Issue- Week 1

October 4, 2012

About photo- “In addition to getting up at 2 AM, we have huge ranches in Az and NM. The ranch we were working cows is 206 section ranch. The border splits the ranch in half and has to run different brands. We get up at 2 to feed the cow horses and we are all up, dressed, most of us anyway, saddled and mounted by 4:30 AM. It takes us about 45-one hour to get the herd where we gathered them (10 section trap) and we wait for sun up. At sun rise they want water and we drive them about 10 miles to the corrals and water. Then we sort off the mother cows. We rope and drag the yearling to the fire for shots, ear tags, brands and if it’s a bull calf I cut them. We then let the calves mother up and we push them all back to good pasture, then ride back to headquarters. It is usually a 2Am – 8PM day.”

M. C. Hudson was born in Tombstone, Arizona and has lived and loved the life of a cowboy for most of his life. He is an ex-bull rider, who has lived to tell about his experiences, and has helped train youth to ride bulls. As a pastor of a rural church and setting in SE. AZ Mike has worked many of the larger ranches in Arizona and New Mexico, gathering cows, doctoring, sorting, branding (cutting-seems to be the job for a pastor) and roping. He is also embarking on a journey into writing poetry and prose, and was chosen for the October 2012- week 3.


Dragging Me Down

Our raft was sinking thirty yards off Wild Horse Island.  That bastard Rollie had been dragging me to the Island for six months, and this is how it ended.  We had busted ass over sixteen square miles nearly every night and everything we had to show for it was sinking.

The shadow of Wild Horse Island loomed over us, even in the dead of night.  She was laughing at our private disaster because she knew we had stolen from her.

“Damnit Warren, help me bail.”  Rollie was trying to scoop water with his hands.

“It’s gone.  We gotta start swimming.  Sun’ll be up in an hour and I ain’t getting caught by Tribal Police.”  Trespassing on Indian land came with stiff retribution, but Rollie didn’t care.  And Rollie did enough not caring for the both of us.  He kept scooping.

“Rollie, it’s not gonna’ work.  The damn thing weighs four hundred pounds.  We can’t swim with that.  Hell, it sank the raft.”  I took him by the shoulders and stared him straight in the eye.  “I’m going.”

I slung my pack and hit the water.  The shock of cold sent my testicles into the furthest recesses of my gut and I struggled for my next breath.  I used it to holler at Rollie to swim before I started myself.  The mainland shore was a quarter mile off and my clothes were already heavy.
“Warren, come back.  We can’t let it go.”  I know Rollie would have gladly sunk along with the cargo.  As it was, he was fighting to stay up, still clinging to the crudely constructed raft.  But it was going, and there would be no stopping it.  Our treasure was just too heavy.

I paddled over to Rollie who had just managed to grab his bow off the raft in its last seconds above water.  He was treading water now, still staring down into the water after his prize.

“Wish we hadn’t killed it,” I said.  “I had more fun chasing the thing every night.  It was huge.”  Now it was dead and headed to a resting spot two hundred feet below the surface, but I didn’t bother saying that.

“It was either me or that ram.  It used to see it in my dreams, Warren.”

“I’m just glad it wasn’t you and the ram.”

I peered down into the depths, wondering if I’d be able to see the one-and-a-quarter curl on its way to the bottom.  But it was four-thirty in the morning and that would have been impossible.  I grabbed his arm and started for shore.

Nate Wilkerson currently  is a resident of Portland, Oregon, has attend school at Marylhurst University, and now works for the YMCA child care division.  I have had poetry published in A Plains Paradox Literary Journal in 2011.

August Issue- Week 4

August 20, 2012


Alice Humphrys resides in Florence, Texas on the family ranch helping brand and manage their horses along with dogs, sheep, and many other livestock.


Way Back

Snow in an empty field hovers like a thick layer of fog
over dull green and brown grass in need
of the sun’s restoration. Rivers of snow
collect, the rest of the field brown, bare.
Another field is white, the snow’s covering
sporadic, choosing the places it touches.
Tomorrow it might be gone. For now it lingers
with months of refuse—plastic bags hooked
on corn stubble, boxes that were buried by snow.
Water, high in ditches, currents strong,
sounds like rustling bags. She removes
her white hood, frees
her long brown hair, unzips her jacket,
lets it flap when her horse gallops.
Hoof prints indent the malleable ground, leave
a new trail beside the old.
She is a torn bag left in an abandoned
field, miles from home,
trusting a weary horse to help her
find her way back.

Dawn Schout’s poetry has appeared in more than two dozen publications, including *Fogged Clarity*, *Glass: A Journal of Poetry*, *Muscle & Blood Literary Journal*, *Pemmican*, *Poetry Quarterly*, *Red River Review*, and *Tipton Poetry Journal*. She won the B.J. Rolfzen Memorial Dylan Days Writing Contest, the Lucidity Poetry Journal Contest, and the Academy of American Poets’ Free Verse Project. She lives near Lake Michigan.



Driftwood is a sane representation of the human condition.
Its withered flow speaks to us of the ‘ragged glory of time’.
We’re dull, grey, and smoothed out, as the driftwood, made
to solemnly wash up on anonymous shores;
a sage artifact of the ‘general passage’
that delivered us.

Dan Hedges
teaches English in the Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board of Quebec. He has also taught at Sedbergh School, and the Celtic International School. He has lived in international locales, including Spain and Mexico. His writing has appears or is forthcoming in The Monarch Review: Seattle’s Literary and Arts Magazine, Ditch Poetry, The Maynard, The Camel Saloon, Wildflower Magazine, Rigormortus, Fortunates, Inertia, Crack the Spine, Short-Fast-and-Deadly, Coatlism Press, Whole Beast Rag, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Kenning Journal, The Rusty Nail, Wilderness House Literary Journal, Retort Magazine, Certain Circuits, Touch Poetry, Poetic Diversity, Haggard and Halloo Publications, Jones Avenue Quarterly, Blink Ink, Greensilk Journal, Literary Chaos, Subtopian Magazine, The Euonia Review, Undertow Magazine, The View from Here, Nazar Look, The Apeiron Review, and Mad Swirl. Dan is the editor of a literary collective called Humanimalz.

June 2012- Week 4

June 25, 2012

Steve Cartwright “It’s well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so I’m typing this with one hand while pummeling my head with a frozen mackerel with the other. I’ve done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling – but mostly drooling – on tavern napkins.” He has also created art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. I was awarded the 2004 James Award for my cover art for Champagne Shivers. I recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: _www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright_



your father had given you the blood and last name of
Thomas More and your mother what had taken a breast
from you and hidden with it but you were not remiss
trying meditation and catholicism and
sweat lodge anything to wash you rid of it that you
not have to have a next appointment
             you were only
coming a bit weakened out of the last when we met
and I from a night of my own we both emergent
into entire day on the plateau
             I wanting
fire time in the high desert had taken to trails
had joined and begun to love a shadowy woman
friend of yours there who invited me to hike with you
and another in Abineau Canyon and Bear Jaw
on the north flank of the peaks
             June heat and drought
did not reach where we went dancing up with you
a quick and intent slight woman of laughter that knew
which boots to wear and the way to achieve a mountain
did psychotherapy for a living knew how to
talk and would talk of it too
             we got to quakenasp
every other leaf on them in direct sun and
you called
                          thank you god
             in joy it had to have been
you and I would revisit on our own later to
hold colloquy about metempsychosis and young
Everett Reuss who had fused with the nature he loved
and you thought of the holied ones saying goodbye to
vivid earth in the knowledge they would not come round
again and we did not mention Edward Abbey’s or
any name
            when I was looking you had and did not
rent a room to me which sort of educated my
liking and you had had reconstruction and worried
what a man would think but we took hikes together in
the hardpan country often on the Weatherford road
to Doyle Saddle
             keeping up with you I would write was
like chasing fritillaries you were that good on the
vivid earth we inhabited at our one time
and could see from such height 
             you had me to dinner on
Thanksgiving and the two children you had left in New
Mexico on running away with your profession
             two other
men at the table to rival me I 
thought but you gave me the head of it refilling my
glass with wine you did not drink anymore letting the
children know how you wanted them to vote
             nothing would
come of you and me however beyond a hug and
a long impromptu monsoon-evening talk when I
worked on the Navajo Nation every thirteen-
hour day a lifetime I needed of red dirt of
Indian chatter anglo country on kay-tee-en-
             maybe like the holied ones on their goodbye round
we had a knowledge we did not have to say only
act on and I might even have been fearing night as 
I got in with a redhead saltimbanque whom you
had seen and warned me of whom I enjoyed and suffered
in the only more time on earth that would have remained
to you and me
              might have been cathexis not fear when
I heard it had come to you again I wanted day
so much that kept me not with you
              we did meet in a 
hospital waiting room and one afternoon you had
a turban on were puffy I took you to the mesa
walking rather than hiking but we hiked on the south
Wilson Mountain trail with a group
              you and your nurse
not making it to first bench the autumn under way in
Verde Valley and later you in the restaurant
drove to the agency every day
to talk with clientele
              I ran into you out on
the avenue and said we ought to get together
                       averted nod
                       at the car door
                       no talking or look
              but on another
street in February a honk
a wave a smile from the same car moving and in a 
week the word you had had to go in had said you were
tired of this
              they were not letting nonfamily
visit I tried to get to you one evening the
next morning and another day could not
              late night a
ting-ringing in my ear might have prepared me for the
news to come Marilyn but I have not been knowing
of such am not 
              your children and brother were taking
your ashes to the mountain
                       we would have known where to
                       find her anyway
I wrote to our circle
we got out of your memorial meeting it hailed

Rodney Nelson work began appearing in mainstream journals long ago; but he turned to fiction and did not write a poem for twenty-two years, restarting in the 2000s. So he is both older and “new.” See his page in the Poets & Writers directory
for a notion of the publishing  history. He has worked as a copy editor in the Southwest and now lives in the northern Great Plains. Recently, his poem “One Winter” won a Poetry Kit Award for 2011 (U.K.); it had appeared in Symmetry Pebbles. His “Upstream in Idaho” received a Best of Issue Award at the late Neon Beam (also England). The chapbook Metacowboy was published in 2011, and another title, In Wait, is due this year.



He called himself THE INLAW. Rolled from town to town in either a beat-up Buick or a crippled brown mare, depending on which version of the legend you believed. Road up and down the streets, pilfering possessions and identities out of mailboxes.

He was Bigfoot. Never fully captured on film, little variations in all the descriptions. A man of such infamy should’ve been apprehended. We were talking millions of federal offenses.

One day I heard the clomp clomp clomp down my street. There he was, on a crippled brown mare, tattered white sack overflowing from his shoulder. The horse moved slowly, but THE INLAW was practically a flash. Hand in and out of each mailbox before you could even recognize he’d taken anything.

He was on the other side of the street, but I knew he’d make his way over to my house. I figured I had plenty of time to plan my action since he probably did a big loop, but I didn’t think it was as simple as running and grabbing the mail before he got there. Sure, that would prevent him from grabbing my bills or the nude mags that usually came on that day, but didn’t I also have a duty to my fellow citizens?

I shuddered on the porch as I watched him slink from box to box. Even though there was nothing singularly terrifying about the man, the whole situation creeped me out. No matter how many boxes he visited, the sack never grew, but I watched him put countless items in it.

I stepped off the porch and marched past rows of daisies to my own mailbox. Just as I was planning my big intervention, my citizen’s arrest, THE INLAW pulled a quick U-turn and called out, “Hold on there, partner.” I tried to avoid eye contact, hoping he was talking to the horse, but curiosity eventually got the best of me. It always does. THE INLAW was staring straight at me, surprising warmth on his smiling face.

“Just stay right where you are,” he said with a policeman’s “stop” gesture.

I bolted for the mailbox. It was the boldest move I’d ever made, and I hoped it wouldn’t be my last. Somehow THE INLAW and his sloth of a horse beat me there, almost like they teleported. The horse bit at my reaching hand.

“I told you to hold on,” THE INLAW said, smile still covering his face.

I pissed myself right in front of them. There was nothing else I could’ve done. They had me and I knew I was a goner. I deserved that final moment of relief.

While I was soaking my lower half, THE INLAW reached in his hand and dropped a handful in the sack.

“The rest is yours,” he said. “And if you ever tell anyone about this…” he warned before riding the mare to the next mailbox. When I looked to my left, sure enough, they were riding off into the sunset.

Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His story “The Oaten Hands” was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth’s Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, is was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing, and his first novella, Hallways and Handguns, is due out this spring. Visit him at http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm.



A lariat, some lines and rope kinda frayed,
Was discussin’ their uses, how they was played,
When out of collection of some tack in a bin
Another voice piped up, “I don’t mean to butt in,
But fellas , don’t forget the handy piggin.
For ropin’ to tie down, say at brandin’ time,
Aint nothing better you could ever find
Than seven short feet of good piggin string
Tossed round them hooves for a mighty tight sling.
Straighten’ a post that’s been set in soft sand?
Piggin’s as good as another cowhand.
Five miles out and your bridle reign snaps?
Just reach for that piggin tied to your chaps.
He aint long like a lariat, nor strong like a bull,
But the piggin’s always good for a short quick pull.
And a quick mend on the range for plenty of things
Like chokers and chinches, breechins and reigns.
So when dishin’ out praises to long braided things
Remember those handy sweet piggin strings.

Gary Ives is a retired Navy chief- lives in the Ozarks with his wife and two big dogs where he writes and grows apples. His short stories have recently appeared in Frontier Tales, Tales of Old, Hisstories, The Rusty Nail, Efiction, and Freedom Fiction.

June 2012- Week 2

June 11, 2012


   GARY ELDER                                                                                                                
   BILL HOTCHKISS                                                                                                          

I rode with one of the men to meet
another on the Sacramento
and the trailers of winter rain cloud
were smoke to me 
        and up the valley
into the foothills to see a third
at a compound of wood smoke and in
a week I would think to kill myself
                      and among
big metacowboy men
of the West were Elder and Hotchkiss
and Fulton and easy toward one
another and with me
        if not the
America behind the rains of
nineteen seventy-nine and I saw
the two that only time
                      the winter
I rode a truck with one and watched and
listened to who were men of the pen
and older than I and had done more
        and in a week I
would think to go to Coronado
and kill myself and did not and of
the winter three
                      no one’s on the bay
or the river or in the foothills
and I the living am elsewhere but
the California part of me
is wondering what they will write next
        not thinking
of Coronado Bridge

Rodney Nelson work began appearing in mainstream journals long ago; but he turned to fiction and did not write a poem for twenty-two years, restarting in the 2000s. So he is both older and “new.” See his page in the Poets & Writers directory
for a notion of the publishing  history. He has worked as a copy editor in the Southwest and now lives in the northern Great Plains. Recently, his poem “One Winter” won a Poetry Kit Award for 2011 (U.K.); it had appeared in Symmetry Pebbles. His “Upstream in Idaho” received a Best of Issue Award at the late Neon Beam (also England). The chapbook Metacowboy was published in 2011, and another title, In Wait, is due this year.

Dead Bolt

Purple thunderheads climb the horizon.
Maria sits alone in the kitchen, the house dark,
muggy as the front room at Taylor’s mortuary.
Randy starts to the refrigerator, but reconsiders,

easing into the chair opposite the wall.
She lets her thoughts rumble in her chest, distant,
building in the west, driven by the heat.
When finally she opens her mouth, sentences

slam against the windows. Her verbs
are wind, her proper nouns lightning.
He feigns indifference to storm. Her hair, matted
to her forehead, is splayed like rain beaten wheat.

You need to brush your hair, he interrupts.
She throws a salt shaker at him. It clatters
against the chili pot on the stove. He shoves
the table and grabs the pepper shaker.

She runs for the bathroom and slams the door.
He kicks her chair. It clatters across the kitchen floor,
and spins to a stop against the dog’s bed.
She dead bolts her heart; steel clicks against steel.

Al Ortolani is a teacher from Kansas. His writing has appeared in a number of periodicals, across the United States: *New Letters, New York Quarterly, The English Journal, The Midwest Quarterly *and others. He has three books of poetry, *The Last Hippie of Camp 50* and *Finding the Edge,*published by Woodley Press at Washburn University, and *Wren’s House*, recently released from Coal City Review Press in Lawrence, Kansas. He is active with the Kansas City Writer’s Place and an editor with *The Little Balkans Review*.

Dine With Pat

Food & Dining in the Garden State


Western short stories, heritage and trail recipes.