near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
About Hilma Volk
It was raining the morning of the cattle drive.
I forced myself out of bed at five --
Looking out at the black and damp and cold,
Cursing the weather that couldn't be controlled.
I trudged to the barn, glad Smokey was in,
Threw on the tack, got feed from the bin.
Then loaded him up for a 30 mile truck.
Left light's burned out -- just my luck.
I promised Sam I'd be there by eight
At the Big Bear Creek loadin' gate.
We'd chase cows down from the summer range.
With the big rigs hired, the date couldn't change.
Sam handed me coffee that flowed like mud,
Thanked me for showin' up in this crud.
Told me it'd teach me to volunteer.
Oh I'd get even -- he needn't fear.
We rode up the valley, water poured off my brim,
Glad my duster was oil skin.
The herd was gathered a half mile away.
Looked like it'd be a nice short day.
Six of us herdin' in the driving storm
Thinkin' soon we would be dry and warm.
Sam counted as they were pushed through the gate.
The pairs (cows and calves) numbered sixty eight.
Five short! We all tried counting the squirmin' beef.
Still five short, much to our grief.
Four guys would stay to load up the trucks.
But I would head back out with the ducks.
Sam and I headed up the first draw,
Crossed creeks, then through thick willow slaw.
Checkin' pines under which cows might huddle,
Splashing through flats that now were a puddle.
On and on, the trail turned steep
It was all that Smokey could do to keep
His footing -- slipping as he made the climb
On mud that was like greasy slime.
No cattle up here, back down we'd ride,
Through a rock spewed devil slide.
Smokey slipped, banged his rump on a rock,
And blood came oozing from his hock.
I breathed relief to reach flatter ground,
But the rain really began to pound
Like God had opened another cork.
Sam said, "Now we'll check the main fork."
Mile upon miserable miles we'd come.
Til every part of my body was numb.
About findin' cows -- I no longer cared.
But to tell Sam that I wouldn't have dared.
The valley grew narrow, woods all around.
Sam finally motioned to head back down.
That me happy despite all the pain
And the miserable chill of the drivin' rain.
Forever we rode, Lord we must be close
I swore I smelled coffee, sure could use a dose.
Sam called, one more coulee to check.
My body sagged - oh what the heck.
When we got back, it was mighty late.
No humans, no cattle were there at the gate.
A note on the dash said that they got the strays.
Came down by themselves .....after we went away.
© 2002, Hilma (Volcano) Volk
About Hilma Volk:
Hilma has owned a riding stable, worked with troubled youth on a wagon train, and been a wrangler at a Montana guest ranch. The cow experience has been from helping neighbors. She's a professional massage therapist, part time performer, and currently lives near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Hilma is an animated entertainer and maintains the "Manure Happens" web site with poems and humor by Hilma (Volcano) Volk and others: http://www.ManureHappens.com
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