In a Sow’s Ear
If you have never been to Cowboy Songs & Range Ballads held annually each April at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody Wyoming, you are missing a golden experience, an event to treasure in your book of favorite memories. Both poetry and music focus on the cowboy life. You’ll hear music that thrills and poetry that brings you to tears or laughter. I was privileged to offer a poem in one of the sessions titled Trails to Glory. The following was written many years ago as a tribute to a friend.
Woman of the Land
Her name won’t be in history books,
This woman of the land,
Her heart is where it wants to be,
Content with Heaven’s plan.
And in the corridors of time,
Her way is counted true;
Enduring hardships, strong as rock,
She does what she must do.
Born when wire had begun
To stitch up prairie seams;
When homesteads patched
the Western Land “
Quilts of hope-filled dreams.
A herder’s wagon was her home
In sun or rain or wind;
She and Pa did outside work,
While Sis and Ma stayed in.
Her Pa hired out his greyhound dogs
To track the coyotes down,
With hounds in cages, he would drive
From ranch to farm to town.
Pa never settled down for long,
For when the bounty slowed,
They packed the wagons, hitched the teams,
And traveled down the road.
Sometimes Pa would trade for goods
Like shoes for her or Sis;
And once he got a violin,
Its song was like a kiss.
But Pa resold the fiddle for
Another purebred hound.
She watched it go without a word,
And cried without a sound.
They lived awhile at Charlo’s house,
The Flathead tribal Chief;
A gentle man and kind, she said,
Who never showed his grief.
In hand-me-downs she walked for miles
To learn to read and write;
For school was just a sometimes thing,
Wherever Pa would light.
But when she reached her 16th year,
She caught a cowboy’s eye;
He asked her, would she marry him “
And bake him apple pie.
As partner, double-harnessed now,
She worked beside her man;
They saved and bought a modest spread,
And settled on their land.
She toiled in cold and snow and wet,
Or heat that scorched her bones;
No ‘lectric lights to chase the dark,
No plumbing in their home.
She saw the land was good and strong,
And planned to run some sheep;
And when he called her fool, she said,
“Those woolies, I will keep.
They cared for cattle side by side,
Though sheep were hers alone;
But in the fall, the lamb checks paid
The Interest on the loan.
Then Nature dealt another hand “
A child was due in May;
And though it didn’t slow her much,
She did take off one day.
The baby boy was strong until
Pneumonia won the fight;
The child was buried on their land,
She battled grief at night.
Then, trailing cows, her pony fell
In crashing, crushing pile;
Her belly took the saddlehorn,
And town was thirty miles.
Her cowboy found her, took her in;
To God he made a plea.
They patched her up, her scars grew dim,
But children weren’t to be.
She poured her spirit into work
On land that gave ” and took;
She held no grudge and never cast
A single backward look.
As years slipped by in River Time,
Her cowboy lost his sight;
They sold the ranch and bought a place
More suited to his plight.
One day he started ‘cross the road,
She shouted ” caught her breath!
Her cowboy never saw the car
That dashed him to his death.
And now she ran the ranch alone,
And with her partner gone;
The only thing remaining true “
The land was there each dawn.
As time and strength began to wane,
She took another chance;
And leased a tiny piece of earth “
A widow-woman’s ranch.
There’s sheep and rabbits, goats for milk,
And hens for eggs or stew;
She doesn’t wait for other folks
To tell her what to do.
She’s planted trees to shade the house,
And sowed some grass for hay;
She irrigates her rocky patch,
Stays busy through the day.
Her hands are gnarled, her step is slow,
Yet when she’s asked to town
By kindly Senior Center folks,
She always turns them down.
“I haven’t time, I’ve chores,” she says,
“They’re what I aim to do.
My heart is where it wants to be,
My land will see me through.”
Though her name won’t be in history books,
And her range is less than grand;
Her heart is where it wants to be “
This Woman of the Land.
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