Peace On Earth
Snow blows through the little crack in the line shack window
Like a snake
It hisses, spits and slips
Grains of cold diamond sand on the shelf
It piles, melts, puddles and drips
Mostly it's warm and dry inside
You've chinked the holes, patched the rugged door
The stove draws good and there's dry pinion wood
Both dogs are curled up on the floor
There's coffee simmering and the smell fills the room
Along with hot sourdough biskets and "Dinty Moore" stew
It's Christmas Eve and you still believe
This is what "Peace on Earth " means to you
Lamplight and firelight and Owen Wister's "The Virginian"
For the ninth (and you swear the last) time
No one to talk to but memories and shadows
But somehow, you like it just fine
You're not anti-social but at times like these
Conversation can sure get in the way
There's a big difference between alone and lonely
Maybe that's why most who try it, don't stay
The boss will be down at the end of the week
Maybe sooner, if his wife gets to fussin'
He's let you work it out for the last nine seasons
(For all your own reasons)
'til it's not hardly worth the discussin'
He knows you like spending Christmas alone
He never would press you for the why?
But it makes it easier on the married guys
So he just leaves you here to get by
You suspect (just maybe) he's figured it out
You're here because that's the way you want it to be
That you just might know how to keep a couple of cows
from freezing to death
And it's your way of thinking you're free
The cows are on the hay piles built from fall's hard work
The creek's runnin' strong and hard, like a plow
They'll hide in the quakes 'til this blizzard breaks
You've done all you can do, for now
The horses are safe in the lee canyon corral
Good hay and grain in the box, plenty of dry straw
You know that this small time of the peace is the off-side of the beast
that you fight again and again
to a win a lose or a draw
Been on your own since you were a pup
Never askin' never takin' more than you're rightful due
In all that has passed and in the questions you've asked
something else became part of you
You could always feel it
In the bite of the winter wind
In the sweet sweat of a hot desert day
In the blood pounding heart of a good working horse
It would touch you and never go to far away
You see it in the fold of the mountains
Where the shadows give up to granite gray
In the flash of light on a summer storm's night
In a Buckskin a Roan or a Bay
You smell it in the campfire smoke
In prairie grass after a rain
In the wild roses' blush, the yellow rabbit brush
In comes and rides off again
It moves with the seasons, it comes and it goes
It lives in every saddle, old or new
It haunts feed lot lanes and star lit plains
It's always there and it comforts you
You hear it in an old coyote's wail
In the bawlin' of a new born calf
In the meter of the pines and the cedars' soft rhymes
In the cry of a mother's laugh
You taste it in the sweet milk of spring
In the dust of memories that don't last
In the nothing times of empty rhymes
And in all of this
The past is only the past
In all these things you find your
They comfort you and ease your mind
They let you know that wherever you go
Peace is never that hard to find
In this there is no lonely
It's all just part of the show
And the more that you see, the more you agree
There's less that you need to know
So here it is Christmas Eve
And you're once again glad of the trail that you took
By choice, not chance, you have this special time
To check your personal "Tally Book"
Tomorrow you'll be back to the life, hard at it in the drifts and blow
Tonight it's time to respect and remember
All the good things that this time of peace brings
They warm you and calm you, like a slow burning ember
You'll give a little thanks for the special gifts
That have kept you tied to this life and to this land
Allow yourself this precious gift of peace
(Try not to forget)
how that was the original plan
Here in this quiet line shack
With that darn little drip
But with all that you have come to understand
is what you carry in your heart
"Peace on Earth"
was the real plan
That peace has to come from you
It is here that the seed must be sown
"Peace on Earth"
"Good will to men"
starts with one man
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
From Larry and Lonnie, Tagger, Charlie, Wish and Pardon
© December 2002, Larry Maurice
Christmas on the North Fork
On the day before Christmas the sky looked like lead
filled with snow that was ready to fall
And I shouldn't have pressed it, I know in hindsight,
but back then when the kids were still small
I wanted things perfect, and I had my own view
of the way that Christmas should be,
from baking and holly to tinsel and trim
and presents for under the tree.
So in spite of Wood's eyebrows and mutters and scowls,
or expressions of his point of view
We packed into the pickup, took both of the kids
and did what I wanted to do.
Twenty miles down the river, then over the saddle
to what passed around there for a town
To pick up some do-dads and knick-knacks and stuff
from a list I'd stopped to write down.
But Wood, you could tell he was nervous.
Kept checkin' the sky like a clock.
So I rushed through my shopping and kept the kids shushed,
then Wood, his face like a rock
says "We got to be goin', Jo. It's gettin' late.
And that road weren't too good when we come.
What ever you got has to be all you need.
Drivin' home ain't like to be fun."
Well, 'fore long the flakes were a blanket
of snow that was heavy and wet
and the truck started slidin' in the slush and the ice.
Woods face was worried and set.
We were creeping along like a fog bank,
the engine kept under full load
and the whole world was silent except for the whine
of gears workin' to stay on the road.
But the bridge on the road up by North Fork
was iced over. Wood started to skid,
then went off the road. And he said a word
he don't usually use 'round the kids.
We went down the embankment about twenty feet
and came to a halt in some brush,
and in less that a minute Wood was out of the truck
and over his boot tops in slush.
He cussed one more time and kicked at the wheel
then opened the door and got in.
"We ain't goin' nowhere too far tonight
he said, with a feeblish grin
that he aimed at the kids, so they wouldn't be scared,
but they was. They were both 'bout to bawl.
"There's a cabin just over the hill there," Wood said.
It's a line camp Durf uses in Fall.
Ain't likely stocked, but you bought groceries in town,
It'll be warmer at least than this truck.
We'll hear when the snowplow comes by in the morning,
pull us out if we've got any luck."
Christmas eve come, and we hadn't no presents,
not even a tree for the kids,
so Wood took an ax from the wall at the back
and did like dads must have did
long ago. Chopped down a tree from there on the hill
Not far from the old cabin door
And we stood that tree up by the window,
made decorations there on the floor.
There were bells cut out of egg cartons
and a big tinfoil star for the top,
and that tree come part furnished with piñon pine cones
the squirrels must of somehow forgot.
But there were candy canes, paper-wrapped Santas,
and some tinsel from the five and dime,
and time we got through with the trinkets and glitter
That tree was decked out mighty fine.
We ate soup from a can instead of a turkey
and I hadn't no way to make pie,
But we sang all the songs, and we kept safe and warm
and Christmas day come, by and by.
Wood and the kids made snow angels
and a castle with turret and tower
Then at about two the road crew came through
and we were back on the road in an hour.
Garth from the county told Woody
"Usually we'd not come this way,
but folks back in town watched you leave and got worried,
so we come out to search Christmas Day."
Me and Wood were mighty glad for our neighbors
and for Garth that cold day in December,
And years since when the kids tell their stories
that's the Christmas they always remember.
© 2002, Jo Lynne Kirkwood
You can read more of past Lariat Laureate Jo Lynne Kirkwood's poetry here.
Four days before Christmas out on the BAR U
A case of the lonesomes had hit the whole crew.
Though mostly young fellers who'd drifted out West
Plumb off from their homefolks, it must be confessed
That comin' on Christmas, them lonesomes took hold.
As the dadblasted weather turned stormy and cold.
With the trail snowed too deep for a town gallyhoot.
Their chances for Christmas cheer weren't worth a hoot.
There's be stock to tend to -- some strays like as not --
And not much for Christmas but beans in a pot.
Now family homes in them days long ago
Was scattered plum thin as old-timer's know
The feelin's 'twixt nesters and range-ridin' men
Was often plumb hostile. So here it had been
Till just before Christmas homesteader O'Toole
Took a notion that he'd put a boy on a mule
To spread the good word that on Christmas Eve night
His house would be warm, and with candles alight,
His missus and him would both welcome that crew
Of snowbounded cowhands out on the BAR U.
They said there'd be fixin's and maybe a chance
There might be some music and maybe some dance.
So the cowboys rode over in spite of the snow,
With the mercury hangin' about ten below.
Another farm family from off up the draw
Showed up in a wagon, not just pa and ma
But also three daughters. Believe it or not,
On that Christmas Eve all feuds was forgot!
And in that snug house on the drylander's claim
Five frostbitten cowhands were sure glad they came.
For the best Merry Christmas, them buckaroos found,
Is always the one where there's women around;
And if you ain't guessed it, 'twas Missus O'Toole
Who'd made the old man put that boy on a mule!
S. Omar Barker; reprinted with permission from Cowboy Miner Productions
This and other S. Omar Barker poems at the BAR-D are reprinted with the kind permission of Cowboy Miner Productions, publishers of the finest in classic and modern Cowboy Poetry. This poem is from their book Classic Rhymes by S. Omar Barker
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