Petersen: Alternative facts or how do ya like it out west? |

Petersen: Alternative facts or how do ya like it out west?

Everywhere folks are on the move. Whole herds of homo sapiens are moving “Out West.” Sometimes, the reality of establishing roots, especially in rural Out West, gives newcomers pause.

The following is a free-verse “poetic essay.” You might say free verse is an “alternative fact” to actually rhyming.


They’d heard about Montana and they yearned to be Westerners as fast as possible.

He was a lawyer by trade and a cowboy by yearning.

So they came to Montana up from Alabama

And bought a hardly lived in, new, California-style, cedar-sided dwelling

In the country 3 miles out of town.

And she, too, went to work to support their dream in their lovely home

In the country where the view is terrific and you can see the mountains against the postcard-blue sky.

But, if you live “Out West,” you must have critters, so they thought they’d start with a kitten

Although, they’d never owned even so much as a goldfish, ever.

And their furniture was antique and expensive with upholstery of very fine fabric

So maybe a kitty wasn’t the best choice.

Well, they thought they ought to have a horse of course to ride the range Out West

So, they decided to get a mustang from the wild bunch the government preserved.

For folks like them to take pity on and save.

They contracted to buy a 4-year-old broomtail mare of that gorgeous buckskin color

That looks good under Gene Autry or Roy Rogers or John Wayne.

But they didn’t know about horse training or feeding or worming or trimming or shoeing or …

So, they gave the buckskin to a neighbor who sold it at auction.

Then, they thought about geese — those pretty, big white ones they thought would look lovely swimming

In the irrigation ditch that runs past the lawn just south of the house.

Except they forgot that “faster than poop through a goose” is not just an expression

And that geese love to linger on doorsteps better than anywhere else in the world.

Well, goats were cute, they thought, and smart and followed one around just like a dog.

But they didn’t know that a Billy goat is not the best choice.

Then, they planted peas and beans and corn and other veggies in their very own garden

And watered it. In Alabama, you watered and waited a week for the mud to settle.

But in their Out West garden, the moisture just disappeared into thin air

So, they lost all their produce, but, well, she didn’t know how to can anyway.

Then, in late summer, the ditch froze up in one of those nasty spells that occurs in Montana

Just to confuse people who think that because the landscape is green, it ought to be summer and warm.

The water in the ditch rose up like a biblical sea and spilled across the lawn

And right into the house through the California sliding-glass doors

That open onto the patio where the view is terrific

And you can see the mountains against a postcard-blue sky.

Then, their well water got contaminated and they had to send it off to the soil sample folks

To have it tested for weird bacteria.

Then, winter came, one where the temperature dropped to 40 below for 2 weeks

And the power went out and the electric heat in their California-style house went out too

So, they hired a carpenter to tear out the living room electric fireplace

And put in a wood-stove insert.

For a week, there was nothing but a hole in the side of the house

Because the carpenter went home to wrap his pipes.

But finally, spring came and so did chinooks and the wind blew hard but that was okay

At least it wasn’t so cold and the power came back on.

Then, just a week ago, a small “local blow” whipped in from the west

And peeled off two walls and the roof from the garage that used to be attached to the house.

The car that was parked inside and the boxes stacked by it were left in peace, but the wind

Sent the walls and bits of the roof scattered like buckshot all over the neighbor’s meadow.

There’ something I’d sure like to ask sometime, when the subject arises

And that is: “So far, folks, as a matter of Alternative Facts, how d’ya like it Out West?”❖


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