While visiting a friend, I saw a painting in his study. A trail herd heading North thru the Cimarron River. Now, picture yourself, looking down on this painting as if you're horseback on a rise just beyond the river crossing.
Cresting the rise, a glare in his eyes.
Squinting as sharp shards of sun
reflect off the river.
His gloved hand instinctively shadows his face.
Dust in the wind, talcum powder thin
coating, caressing, coloring
grass, leaves, cowboys and cattle
all shades of sepia and cocoa brown.
The river is low, the current slow.
A turtle shell mound of mud, mid-stream,
rutted by thousands of hooves.
Punchers pause, stirrup deep,
the Cimarron soaking up through their souls.
Memories flood without warning
just like this river,
Swollen and swift, it sends cattle
crashing, thrashing, slashing.
The kid, that’s all anyone knew him as,
just “The Kid”,
hung up under his longhorn-punctured pony,
was buried amidst those sycamores.
He never did see the Kansas plains.
Shifting in his saddle,
blinking away the vision,
the rider’s breath catches in his chest.
Or shadows of the past, lingering,
they crossed the Cimarron on the Chisholm Trail?
Mopping the dust from his forehead,
he rides on,
leaving the past to itself.
Jeff Hildebrandt © 2005