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A selection of Leon's poetry...


LISTEN TO THE SUN GO DOWN

One evening I walked out on this rim above Plush, just to kind of regroup and relax. It was in the head of the JJ, just where Honey Creek breaks out of the canyon, and into the Warner Valley. An oldtimer had once told me, “Anyone can watch the sun go down, but you have to be able to listen to it to really enjoy it.” I believe he was right.

Upon a warm September’s eve, the sun was dipping low. I sat myself upon a rim, from there to watch the show.

The shadows were their longest now, as darkness soon would be. I closed my eyes and listened, to the sounds I couldn’t see.

The quail chatted nervously, about to go to bed. The hoot-owl screeched a different tune. His whole night lay ahead.

The rock-chuck whistled one last cry, and from his warm rock, he did slide. The deer crept from the willows, No longer there to hide.

The coyote howled from up on top, before his nightly quest. The wasps that had been buzzing were now safe, within their nest.

The magpie and the meadowlark and rooster pheasant too, All said, ”See you in the morning,” and off to roost they flew.

The bobcat didn’t say much as he tested out the air. The porcupine wandered to the creek to get a drink from there.

The nighthawks were coming about to life after hiding all day from the sun. The muskrat and the beaver splashed, either working or having fun.

And I can promise you one thing, you’ll smile instead of frown, If you close your eyes and open your ears, and listen to the sun go down.
 

HAPPY

I’ve spent my whole life livin’, dreamin’ through my pony’s ears. Done a heap of separatin’, sortin’ out the sweat and tears.

Been a first calf heifer’s mid-wife in a blizzard’s howlin’ wind. Shared my wood stove with them babies on a bad night, eight or ten.

I’ve swam that ragin’ current just to save some dyin’ calf. Some tangle-footed, tryin’ colts made me sit and pet and laugh.

The sun-ups and the sun-sets makes you close to Charlie Russell: Swirlin’ blue, the burnin’ hair smoke, spring brandin’s dust and hustle.

Them baby calves a fightin’, or a buckin’ through spring flowers. Settin’ waterlogged and soakin’, watchin’ rainbows ‘tween them showers.

The hide that I’ve left smokin’ on some dally’s never found. There’s a little more that’s scattered ‘round some “homesteads” on the ground.

But I gotta say I’m happy, and here’s the reason why. My wife rides close beside me, and she’ll be there till I die.

 

EAGAN’S WRECK

Now most of the old timers in this area were of Irish decent. My father leased an outfit from one of these ole characters one time, and the neighbor said, “Bye, and yer the first White Man to move into the valley for over a hundred years.”

Most of these old timers were born in Ireland and had never driven anything but a team of horses. When they came here, they were introduced to the car. I have heard lots of stories about their notorious driving, but this one has just come to mind.
The local store was closed on Thursdays, so the owner could go to town and restock his supplies. Now if the store was closed, and Mr. Egan couldn’t go there for a beer, he simply drove the extra forty miles on into Lakeview. On one such day, Mr. Lynch was headed into Lakeview when he sees Mr. Egan on his return trip home. Now Mr. Lynch was aware that Mr. Egan was not the best of drivers, so he pulls off into the barrow-pit and waits for Mr. Egan to pass by. On nearing Mr. Lynch, Mr. Egan begins swerving and ends up hitting Mr. Lynch’s parked pickup, head on.

“Oh, Mr. Lynch, I’m so sorry. It was all my fault,” said Egan.

“No, Mr. Egan, it was not your fault. It was my own,” said Lynch.

“How do you mean, man. You were completely off the road and parked, and still I hit you. It was my fault, and you go into Collin’s Motors there in Lakeview and get yourself a brand new pickup and charge it to me,” offered Egan.

“No, Mr. Egan, it was my fault. I have known that on days that the store is closed you go to Lakeview. You’ve been doing it for years. I had no business on the road.”

 

TIMMY GETS TIRED

Back when a cowboy is young, there isn’t anything that he won’t ride. Every cow or bull that gets roped and doctored always seems to come up with a passenger.

If there was ever any cows in the corral after dinner, they really caught it. Strays or the bosses, it didn’t much matter. We could get them into a chute and get a rope on them there.

That summer, we came in off the desert with a “slick” yearling bull. We’d branded and castrated him earlier that summer, but it hadn’t changed his attitude much. He was still on the fight. After dinner, we went down to ride him.

Timmy had won the coin toss and was going to be the one that got to give him the first test drive. The rest of us would be bull fighters. This ole yearlin’ didn’t buck much, but Timmy was having a good time just sitting their chasin’ us around. We’d run around him, and that steer would take right to us. We had some old tractor tires cut in half that we used to grain the horses in. I was standin’ in the middle of the corral with one of these tires standing upright. By this time, Timmy is sitting on the beast backwards, using his tail for a bronc rein. That ole steer took a run at me and crawled right through that tire. He sure didn’t take into account his extra passenger, and Timmy really got shucked out. Timmy couldn’t figure out what had happened, and we were all laughin’ too hard to tell him.

 

THE TEAM

I was traveling home late one night and turned onto the last thirty miles of gravel road towards Plush. It was snowing hard, and the road was drifting. I was wondering if I should stay on the oil and take the long way home, when the words of Tom Anderson came to me. “Where’s your pioneer spirit? Think they turned back just because they hit a little snow drift?”

As I broke those drifts across that cut-off I got to thinking of my grandparents. How they had followed a team of horses to Colorado and homesteaded. How they had been married and pulling together for 76 years. And of my own parents, how many times when the road of life got a little bit muddly, they made it by pulling together. I stopped and wrote “The Team.”

 


 

 

All my life, with even tugs, 
     they’ve leaned into the collar. 
You always picked up the lines and spoke. 
     You never whipped and hollered. 
You treated them with due respect. 
     They gave it back ten-fold. 
It seems the tougher that things got, 
     the harder that team pulled. 
I’ve seen ‘em bust them chest high drifts 
     and pull high water too. 
And if you cared to watch and learn, 
     they’d teach some things to you. 
I’ve seen ‘em inches off the ground 
     and sway to get one started. 
And I have been responsible 
     for some heavy loads they’ve carted. 
For fifty years—been side by side, 
     one’s never left the other. 
So, please, God, take in open hand, 
my father, and my mother.

 

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