The Cowboy

"Saddle up Old Paint, I’m a leavin’ Cheyenne…"

Like the gold leaf on the page edges of a Bible, in certain light it’ll flash like quiet lightning across the parlor when the great book breaks open and the firelight hits it just right.

And so too take a turn off the main road a little north of Missoula, or the highway running west along the Wind River Range of Wyoming until it turns north, blocked out by the Grande Teton’s like God’s great fence… so named for the female breast… and she’s nursed both man and beast for a million years, so the Shoshone named it so. And Idaho along the Bitterroot Mountains, follow a little creek there that flows down from Salmon, and ends up someplace only God knows of…and you might find him.

You have to look hard anymore as he’s rare as buffalo, but squint hard against the sun for that thin silhouette of horse and rider, and if your lucky you might find him in the middle of a dancing mirage like a ghost, still toiling for his wages which aren’t much still, nor ever have they been, but better payment is hard to find…

You’ll not get close, as he abides where there are no roads… and what he’s protecting is worth far more than the price of beef.

If by chance you come upon him while your hidden in a summer wind, carried unseen in that "dust devil’s" spinning funnel… or could listen like an antelope, or circle like an eagle, or stalk from a distance like a coyote, then you might catch him unaware. But if you take the human form he’ll always see you coming and skirt away like the buck the hunter never sees.

Look hard though, he’s out there still, ranging over the eternal fields like an ancient cavalier, slapping his thin legs with the stiff lariat rope and singsong talking, not to anyone, but to them in his care, like a soldier shepherd…the likes of which you may never see again.

July 2, 2003