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BILL TOTI
About Bill Toti

 

 

 

 

Rounding Them Up

The only sound is the chirping

And the swish of Buck’s hooves
On the dew-wet grass
As we approach the remuda.
 
A mare looks up as we approach
Curious, but not bothered enough to stop chewing
Before she goes back down for another tug
On that sweet spring alfalfa.
 
I shift my boots in the stirrups to ready my balance
And hear the reassuring rub of leather-on-leather
A tilt of the head and a gentle cluck
And Buck picks up a lazy lope.
 
The change in energy explodes their passivity.
Heads pop up, startled,
Figuring it must be time to panic
But not quite knowing why.
 
We round the back end of the herd and I lean inward
Buck understands, and crafts a gentle turn,
Hooves slipping slightly on the wet morning tears,
He seems content that I got my balance right.
 
The horses run for the gate as I squint into the sun,
And I realize that nowhere on God’s good earth
Could I possibly find
Anything better than this.

© 2008, W. J. Toti
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Bill comments:

After retiring from the Navy, I moved to Texas, and needing a new adventure to replace my submarine experiences, immersed myself in cowboy culture and began riding in earnest. But more than simple adventure, after twenty-six years on active duty in the military, escaping into the cowboy lifestyle (even if only on weekends) allowed me to return to a simpler, less complicated life where nothing much matters except for the purity of your cause and the good temperament of your horse.

"Rounding Them Up" was an attempt to communicate this simple pleasure. It was written one Sunday morning, while I was serving as a volunteer wrangler at Frisco Horse Park in Frisco, Texas.

 


Fenceposts

These fenceposts bear a thousand signs
Of ranch work come and gone.
Each barb becomes a tie that binds
Each nail a battle won.
The lines all cross at pasture’s end
And merge to form a point
That frames my life in summer’s rain
So eager to anoint.
The fenceposts measure many miles
Of land and my life past
The tragedy of love and smiles
That never seem to last.
The wires stretch out parallel together
Converge, but never touch
Like cowboy folk who strive to measure
Our fortitude and such.
They reach out there beyond the hills
To places out of sight
Daring us to sneak out where?
To trace the moonlit night?
The lines draw out a great green field,
Whose span cannot be seen
So raging things are calmly shown
A spectacle serene.
The fenceposts hold by other means
Unintended though it be
Restraining more than grassy greens
Their new bound stock is me.

© 2009, W. J. Toti
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Bill comments:

I can best be characterized as a part-time cowboy. Although I've done ranch work in the past, a career in the military and then industry has been my real livelihood.

When I could, I would get my cowboy fix by volunteering to help out on a friend's ranch, mostly sorting, weaning, spring and fall doctoring, branding, pushing the cattle to the new season's pasture, and the like.

After one of these particularly hard working sessions, I commented on how much I loved it. I said I looked forward to the day when I could afford to do this full time.

My friend Delton, the ranch owner, said "Boy! What's wrong with you? You travel all over the world and come here when you want to! I wish I had that kind of freedom! But I'm tied to this place as much as these cows!"

Although I could have predicted his response, the notion of him being fenced in the same as his cattle got me thinking. "Fenceposts" is the result.
 


 

I Ride the High United

I ride the high United
I drive the lonesome planes
We push the herds to Abilene
From various domains.

We herd the human cattle,
Use rope and prod at will
If “Boarding first class only”
Don’t keep the restless still.
 
Our brand is Lazy Gate 8
Where we round ‘em up in pairs
To pass ‘em through detectors
Then drive ‘em down the stairs.
 
We gather ‘em in clusters
Then herd ‘em down the chute
We brand ‘em if we want to,
We just don’t give a hoot.
 
We stuff’em into box pens
That are so freakin’ small
That pressure would be bendin’
Another kind of stall.
 
The wranglers pushin’ rear drag
Wear plain blue skirts and ties
They keep the herd a-settled
Ignorin’ mournful cries.
 
We bull-dog ‘em then tie-down,
An' leave ‘em bound for hours
Until they’re cryin’ uncle
Beseechin’ higher powers.
 
We leave ‘em to find forage
On barren fields of blue
While simmerin' for hours
In steaming humid stew.
 
No need to water this livestock
They are self-waterin’ kind
Like camels they can run dry
If properly confined.
 
And since I’ve become trail boss,
Don’t need to greet the stock
I’m shielded by this steel door
And heavy metal lock.
 
I have no tender feelings
For the occasional lone stray
I figure it’s his duty
To fly another day.
 
Now Pa’s a simple ranch hand
Who don’t mean to malign
But says he’d rather cut steers
Than do a heartless job like mine.
 
So if you’re a' needin’ herdin’
Come wander this a-way.
I reckon' I'll get you out there,
But not necessarily today.

© 2010, W. J. Toti
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Bill comments:

I do a lot of flying in my job (see the intro to "Fenceposts"), mostly in cattle class. During one particularly agonizing flight, with one particularly hostile crew, I got the notion to get even in the only way I could: by writing about it. So I wrote this poem in the air. I dedicate it to all the other human cattle out there.

I'm just glad it was a United flight. If it had been American, it would have screwed up my meter something awful.





About Bill Toti:

After retiring from the Navy, I moved to Texas, and needing a new adventure to replace my submarine experiences, immersed myself in cowboy culture and began riding in earnest. But more than simple adventure, after twenty-six years on active duty in the military, escaping into the cowboy lifestyle (even if only on weekends) allowed me to return to a simpler, less complicated life where nothing much matters except for the purity of your cause and the good temperament of your horse.

Although I am new to cowboy poetry, I have published a great deal of prose over the past twenty years. I am a recently-retired submarine captain and a survivor of the September 11th 2001 attack on the Pentagon. My narrative of 9/11, titled "Antoinette," was published in Operation Homecoming, a Random House book that compiled several stories of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan written by military authors.

Read Bill Toti's "Antoinette" here at the Random House web site.

 

 

 

 

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