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GAIL DUDLEY
Maricopa County, Arizona
About Gail Dudley

 

 

 

A Cowgirl's Dream

She had a good eye - or that's what they say,
and she picked him from quite a long distance away
running proud and alone, apart from the herd.
Yes, he was a fine one, I give you my word.

She knew above all that he had a good heart,
and he seemed to take to her right from the start.
He was eager to please, honest and kind,
but he made it quite clear that he had his own mind.

She made no demands that he couldn't meet.
Her hands were gentle; her voice was sweet.
Day in and day out in the heat and the dust,
she did all she could to earn his trust.

Sometimes it seemed they were right on the verge
of two rebel souls beginning to merge,
but just when she felt he was coming around,
he'd spit the bit and head for high ground.

Then all she could do was pitch him some rein
and start the whole process all over again.
Not once did she show him abuse or neglect;
she chose to back off out of love and respect.

It was best to turn loose, let things run their full course.
She was certain that she could gain nothing by force.
But as the days passed, she cared more and more,
because he was genuine right to the core.

In her dreams he came openly seeking her touch
with the trust and the love that she craved so much.
She caressed him and held him and gave him her heart
without taking the freedom he'd prized from the start.

And together they had the strength and the will
to ford every stream and climb every hill.
They could spin and roll back and stop on a dime,
and they scored close to perfect every time.

Then she awoke as the bright sun peeked through,
and she knew that he stood somewhere watching it too.
Peculiar to some, strange though it may seem,
she was grateful to him for the gift of a dream.

© 2006, Gail Dudley 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

The Last Bull in Rio Verde

He was born out in the desert
in the heat of summertime,
and how that scrawny calf survived
your guess is good as mine.

The son of a handsome longhorn bull
and a tough old Brahma cow,
he came to drink at our corrals
whenever we’d allow.

Those range cows had a real rough life
as the mercury climbed higher,
but that old cow thrived on hard times
with her spindly calf beside her.

In the blazing heat of the desert sun,
that herd lived day-to-day.
They foraged grass till there was none
and often stole our hay.

When I went out to run them off,
I’d throw them a flake or two,
and that little calf would walk right up
as if to say, “How do you do?”

In what seemed like only the wink of an eye,
he stood a lot taller than me.
He was big and brawny and tough as nails,
and he was wild and free.

The span of his horns was at least five feet,
and he snorted and pawed the ground.
Yet he would eat right out of my hand,
and his eyes were soft and brown.

The years went by, and the old bull died,
and the herd thinned down to a few.
There weren’t many left but that young bull
and an ornery old cow or two.

Then the bulldozers came and graded the land
and scraped away trees and brush.
The wide open desert they used to roam
was filled with new houses and such.

The new folks claimed that the free-range cows
caused harm and aggravation.
They ate the homeowners’ flowers and shrubs
and dug up their irrigation.

So the county said, “Remove them all.
Get rid of that cattle herd.”
The rustlers came from all around
as soon as they got the word.

Stiff, long ropes were in their hands,
and greed was in their eyes,
and if you asked there was no doubt
that the young bull was the prize.

They flushed him out of the mesquite scrub
and double-looped his head.
They heeled and threw him to the ground,
and he froze like he was dead.

First, they stretched him like a rack,
then tied his legs together.
Next, they dragged him by the neck
into an old stock trailer.

I don’t know how he made the ride,
but somehow, by God, he did.
Those rustlers were all mighty proud
and sure they would get a high bid.

But once they were able to pull him out
and put him in a pen,
that young bull took one look around
and decided, “Never again.”

He climbed those rails with one strong push,
and he bellered and started to run.
“Wild bull,” they yelled. “Get outa the way!”
Then the wrangler pulled his gun.

It took three shots to bring him down
and another one to the head
before that Rio Verde bull
lay still and pronounced dead.

He never made it through the sale;
not a penny was ever made,
but I believe what those men deserved
was exactly what they got paid.

Sometimes, as the sun begins to set
at the end of a busy day,
I wish I would find that wild young bull
still trying to steal my hay.

© 2015, Gail Dudley 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Gail told us:

I moved to the Rio Verde foothills in Arizona to enjoy wide open spaces and a ranching way of life while being close enough to metropolitan Phoenix to work at a day job to support my horsey habits. One of the things I loved about this area was that it was still open range. George Williams, former editor of the Rodeo Sports News for the Rodeo Cowboys Association (now the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) ran a herd of cattle in the area. The cattle would often roam through my property and help themselves to water and hay. My partner and I loved to see them, and we even gave them names. We called the bull I wrote about Junior, because he was the son of the first bull who ran free in Rio Verde.

Junior meant no harm to anyone. He was a handsome young bull of mixed Longhorn heritage, and he was proud of his little herd. He was born free, never penned up, and had never had a hand laid on him. Thanks to his gentle nature, he and I gradually became friends. When he saw me, he would walk right up to me and eat hay out of my hand.

As north Scottsdale residential communities began to spread into the Rio Verde foothills, people began to complain about the free ranging herd. The cattle were trampling the lushly landscaped yards, standing in the middle of the roads, and scaring the new residents. It was determined by the county that the cattle had to go.

The event I described in this poem actually happened. One morning, I went out to feed my horses, and I saw a pickup truck and horse trailer parked on property adjacent to mine. Two wranglers already had roped Junior and had thrown him to the ground. They hogtied him and dragged him struggling and bellowing into the trailer. I heard about what happened after they reached the livestock yard from a man who was there that day.

A little Angus heifer and an old Corriente cow who were part of Junior’s herd hung out on my land for a couple of days after that. Then they were rounded up, and there were no more free range cattle in Rio Verde. I miss them.




 


About Gail Dudley:

I live in the Rio Verde foothills in Maricopa County, Arizona (just outside Cave Creek). I am a Kentuckian by birth, but a cowgirl at heart. I have lived in Arizona for 28 years, and plan to stay here for a while longer. My poems and articles have been published in Artemis, Arizona Highways, Phoenix Home & Garden, The Washington Post, The Roanoke Times, The Martinsville Bulletin, The Tribune, and Sonoran News. I earned my M.A. in English Writing from Hollins College in Hollins, Virginia  Now, I own and operate a small shop in Cave Creek and raise American Saddlebred horses at my place, Sweetwater Farms.

 

 

 

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