Lariat Laureate

Jane Morton

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

This is page three.

Page one has Jane Morton's poetry.
Page two is a tribute to Jane Morton's mother.

 


Colorado poet and writer Jane Morton often writes about her family's ranch history, which began with her great great grandfather, Joshua Eaton Ambrose, a circuit-riding Baptist minister who left Illinois and headed to Colorado in 1872.

Jane Morton's award-winning collection of poetry and stories, Turning to Face the Wind, collects many stories, poems, and photos. In the book's introduction, she tells of the generations' ties to the land and her own attachments. The introduction ends with these words:

When my grandfather died in 1958, my father became the rancher, and I the rancher's daughter. At the time I don't think I realized how the ranch affected my outlook and my life. It was so much a part of our lives that we believed it would go on forever. As it turned out, it didn't.

Some of my ranch memories are bittersweet. I am aware of the sacrifices that went into making it what it became and of the lives that changed because of it. The ranch history and the family history are intertwined. These stories have been inside me for a long time, and finally they came out as poems. Someone asked me how long it took me to write a poem. I thought a moment, and then I knew. All my life.

Jane has commented that she really began to "know" her father when she stared writing about him. We invited her to share some of her writing in a tribute to her father, William Earnest Ambrose, for Father's Day in 2009.

(Earlier in 2009, Jane shared a tribute to her mother for Mother's Day. See that tribute here, which includes photos, stories, and poetry.)


Jane Morton shared the following for this feature:

My Father, William Ernest Ambrose


My dad was born in Denver, Colorado, June 23, 1904. His father was working in Denver as a plumber besides working a farm in Englewood, Colorado, a suburb south of Denver. Dad didn’t remember exactly where the farm was, but it must have been close to the Cherrylyn horsecar, because he remembered how as a child he loved to ride down the hill on it. The rest of the story is told in his own words:

A horse pulled the car up from the foot of the hill on South Broadway to the top at Cherrelyn Village, which must have been at least a mile. Then the horse got on the platform on the back of the car and rode back downhill.

From Englewood, we moved to Arvada, another Denver suburb, only this one was North of Denver. My folks bought twelve acres there and started a truck farm. I was five year old at the time. I went to Denver with my dad when he went to sell our strawberries at the Denargo Market. We drove a horse pulling a spring buggy. After we sold the berries Dad went to work at the plumbing shop, and it was up to me to drive the horse home.

The horse always stopped at the people’s fountain of “F” Street by the Masonic Temple. He’d put his mouth over the fountain and drink. One time a policeman came by and told me to get the horse out of there. I told him I couldn’t. The policeman took hold of the reins and tried to lead him away. As soon as he let go the horse wheeled the buggy around an went back to the fountain. He tried again, and the same thing happened. After the third attempt, he gave up. ‘Let him drink his fill,’ he said. “Then maybe he’ll leave.” When he’d had enough to drink, that’s exactly what he did. He wheeled around and headed home to Arvada.

I remember the snowstorm of 1913, which was one of the worst Denver ever had. Sis and I didn’t go to school that morning, because it was snowing too hard. Our mother had gone to downtown Denver with Dad earlier that morning to do her Christmas shopping. Then later it was snowing so hard they couldn’t come home and had to spend the night at the plumbing shop. Sis and I were home by ourselves in Arvada. I was nine, and she was eleven. The folks called us on the phone to tell us where they were.

The second day it was still snowing, and we were out of milk. We had cows, but they were dry. I decided to get the horse out and ride to the dairy. It was only three blocks away. The horse started out, but the snow was up to his chest, so he turned around.

When the folks called, I told them I tried to get milk, and Dad said, ‘Don’t get the horse out again.’ We were alone for five days. I don’t remember what we ate, other than potatoes and canned food. Finally, Dad caught the streetcar to Lakeside. The Arvada one wasn’t running, so he walked on home from there.

A couple of years after that, my dad began to have stomach problems. The doctor told him he had lead poisoning, and it would kill him if he didn’t get out of the plumbing business. Joints then were joined with melted lead, and over the years Dad had wiped too many joints and breathed too much vapor.

Dad had his own business, and he’d contracted some work with Swift and Armour in Denver. When his finished that job he got a contract to remodel the plumbing at Eben Ezer hospital at Brush.

He left the family in Arvada and went to work there. He stayed in Brush during the week, but every Saturday he caught a freight to the Bijou sidetrack and walked south two miles to where his brother, Jim, had a farm. Sunday he caught the freight back to Brush.

By the time Dad was working at Eben Ezer, Jim had gotten out of the plumbing business and into farming. Thinking of a way to get himself out before too late, Dad talked to Jim and his father, Harrison about farming at Fort Morgan. He decided to take over his father’s mortgage which his father was more than willing to have him do, sell the truck farm, and move to Fort Morgan.

The beans we planted the first year had done so well that the next year we planted eighty acres of beans and forty acres of barley. The barley got hailed out, and the beans got the blight. The crop brought about one hundred dollars.

That year we shot jackrabbits for food, and we nearly starved to death.

Then we raised beets for five or six years, but the seeds and labor took all the money, and we never made much profit. Then we began to raise cattle instead of beets, and that was the best move we ever made.

Dad was never anxious to lease his land for oil. He loved the land too much. One day I was talking to him about the oil leases. He pushed his DeKalb cap back on his head and looked out toward the prairie. “They ruin the grass. Once this grass is torn up, it takes a hundred years for it to grow back. Look at the land the homesteaders plowed. It hasn’t come back. I keep reseeding, but it isn’t the same."

He loved his land, and he loved his work. His satisfaction with his life was reflected in his face. Perhaps that was why, when many his age had retired to rocking chairs, he was still going strong. Occasionally someone suggested that he retire and take it easy. Usually, he didn’t bother to reply. He’d said it once, and once was enough. “Someday,” he said, “they’ll probably find me wrapped around one of these fence posts, but I’ll never quit.”
 


Jane writes, "His satisfaction was reflected in his face."


Following are some of the poems and stories Jane has written about her father. The stories "Rattlesnake," and "More Public Service" were contributed by her brother, Bill Ambrose, Jr. Three additional poems about their father, "Bringing In The Cows," "Working Cows With Dad," and "Long Distance" are included in Jane Morton's forthcoming book (Summer, 2009), In This Land of Little Rain.

The following stories and poems (except the last poem) are from Jane's award-winning collection, Turning to Face the Wind. "His Tractor" and "Teddy" are also included on her Turning to Face the Wind CD. The final poem, "Childhoods," was written in June, 2009.
 

A Real Cowman

My dad was not the cowman
The western films portray
Instead he simply lived the life,
And worked it day by day.

The only time he looked the part
Was at the cattle sale.
Around the ranch the rest the time,
It was another tale.

At sale Dad wore his western hat,
The Stetson with a brim,
Instead of faded DeKalb cap,
So much a part of him.

At sale Dad wore his snap-front shirt,
The one he saved for good,
And looked the way most people thought
A Real Cowman should.

The shirts he wore most everyday
Were practically threadbare
Neat patches covered elbow holes,
And hid a barbed wire tear.

At sale he wore his "rancher" pants,
Taupe-colored gabardine.
They came from J.C. Penney's store,
And not from L.L. Bean

He worked in his bib overalls,
So out of fashion now.
The grease stains, dirt, and cow manure
Lent character somehow.

At sale he wore his bolo tie
With polished agate stone,
One half of all the jewelry
My dad would ever own.

He usually wore no ornament.
"Too dangerous," he said.
It could get caught in some machine,
Then he'd be maimed or dead.

Dad was a cowman through and through,
Not eager to impress.
His herd of cows spoke for themselves,
No need for fancy dress.

The reason he dressed up at all
Was 'cause Mom would insist.
He had to bend some now and then
So they could co-exist.

© 2002, Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 

In her book, Jane adds: The Fort Morgan Times or Livestock Digest occasionally sent a reporter and a photographer out to the ranch to do a feature on Dad. The fact that he was in his seventies or eighties and still doctored his cattle, rode his horse, and fixed his fences seemed to be of interest to them.

When Mother found out, usually when she saw the pictures in the paper, she'd be upset because she didn't know about it beforehand, and the photographer had caught him wearing his everyday work clothes. Dad probably knew they were coming but never told her. She'd wanted them to photograph him looking like the cowman he was. Actually, they had, but she didn't realize it.

 

 

Rattlesnake

Whenever Dad and I moved cattle, he always took the lead and left me in the rear to herd the slow ones. Once when we were moving the cattle along, I saw him on a hill waving his hat. I knew that meant rattlesnake and his horse was deathly afraid of snakes.

As I drew near he handed me his horse's rein and proceeded to pull a large weed from the prairie. He hit the snake, and it went down a hole. He promptly grabbed the snake by the tail, pulled him out, and jumped on him with his work books until the snake was dead. Then without saying a word he got back on his horse and rode off.

I told this story to Phil Pankoff, my lawyer, and his comment was that the snake finally met someone tougher than he was.

© 2002, Bill Ambrose Jr. with Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This story may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Ground-tying Stormy

 


No Bull

My father, quite a frugal man,
     to say the very least,
Helped treat a neighbor's Hereford bull,
     a big, ill-tempered beast.

He'd started shooting boluses
     into the critter's throat
When suddenly he said some words
     I wouldn't care to quote.

The gun dad held slipped from his hand.
     the bull began to choke,
And for one awful moment there,
     we though that bull might croak.

All that my dad could think of
     was how much that bull had cost,
And what we'd have to pay the man
     if his prize bull was lost.

He shoved his arm clear down the throat
     and grabbed ahold that gun
Then pulled it up the passageway
     out into the morning sun.

All those who stood around and watched
     were stunned by what they'd seen.
That bull was known far and wide
     as being tough and mean.

Instead of having two good arms,
     Dad might have had just one,
But he went on to finish up
     the job that he'd begun.

The bull was none the worse for wear,
     and Dad came out okay.
He hadn't had to buy the bull,
     and that sure made his day.

© 2002, Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


 

His Tractor

My father's Massey-Ferguson went back to Adam's time.
At any rate it had been years since it had seen its prime.

The neighbors always joked about the bailing wire and gum
That held the thing together and that really made it hum.

Though Dad had fixed it many times, replaced it part by part,
He couldn't get it working right.  In fact, it wouldn't start.

We said, "Why don't you give it up?  It's time to let it go.
You can buy a new one Dad, we know you've got the dough."

He took off his old DeKalb cap and scratched his balding head.
He squinted in the noonday sun.  "Well, I heard what you said."

"But if I bought a new one, then I'd have to fix that too,
Which when the thing broke down someday, I wouldn't know how to do."

He took no break despite the heat--'twas ninety in the shade.
The sweat was dripping from his brow by time repairs were made.

And so he went on driving the tractor he knew best.
He used it for the smaller jobs and farmed out all the rest.

For all I know it might have been a valuable antique,
Except for all the different parts that made it too unique.

And when he died they hauled it to the ranch dump where it lies,
Half hidden by the sage and sand behind a little rise.

Now no one else can make it work.  No one will even try.
Times have changed, and as they did, they passed that tractor by.

It is a monument of sorts to those who could make do.
They used it up and wore it out instead of buying new.

© 2002, Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Cows and Kids

I knew my father knew his cows,
     but I didn't know how well
Until that day at cattle sale,
     the day of which I tell.

He'd come to town to sell his cows,
     which were his joy and pride.
You couldn't tell it by his face.
     He kept it hid inside.

We'd waited there since early morn,
     so hoped they'd come up soon.
By the now the day was wearing on
     toward late afternoon.

Some Hereford cows ran through the gate
     and circled round the ring.
Those cows were churning up the dust
     my eyes began to sting.

Because of dust and distance both,
     I couldn't see the brand.
From where I thought they looked like his,
     a fat and healthy band.

Their coats were shiny reddish-brown.
     Their size was uniform.
If they were my dad's cattle, well,
     that would have been the norm.

"Are those your cows?" I questioned him,
     expecting a reply.
But when he didn't answer me,
     I made another try.

He shook his head from side to side,
     his way of saying no.
"How can you tell?" I asked him then.
     "The brand sure doesn't show."

He seemed amazed that I should ask.
     I saw it in his eyes.
"You know your own kids, don'tcha, Sis?"
     That took me by surprise.

It made me raise my eyebrows high,
     as well as my eyelids.
I knew he knew his cattle,
     but as well's I knew my kids?

I didn't have eight hundred kids,
     but even if I had
I doubt I could I.D. them all,
     unlike my rancher dad.

'Course cows and kids are not the same.
     It wasn't relevant.
But he could recognize his cows,
     and that is what he meant.

© 2002, Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 

 

 

Branding 

The time for branding calves rolled 'round, and Dad was short a crew.
My brother said, "Don't worry Dad, I'll find some help for you."

Bill went around the neighborhood recruiting here and there.
His neighborhood was Country Club, and they said, "Do what? Where?"

"I know that you'll have lots of fun," he told those city folks.
"The ranch is like Bonanza where you all can be cowpokes."

He promised them a beer or two and food fit for a king
If they'd agree to go along and do the branding thing.

Bill could have earned a living selling ice to Eskimos,
So when he took a final count, the yeses beat the nos.

The Greyhound stage that Bill engaged left town at 5
A.M.
Though some did grouse this mid-night roust came much too soon for them.

They reached their destination in an hour and a half,
And those on board were ready to go out and brand a calf.

Dad met them at the pasture gate, and he laid down the rules.
He clearly didn't trust his cows to all these city fools.

"We'll start by walking cattle from the pasture to the pen."
He emphasized the "walking" part, repeating it again.

"Don't get the cows excited now," he warned the eager group.
"This isn't any John Wayne show. We will not shout or whoop."

They fin'lly got the bunch corralled and cows and calves apart.
The calling and the bawling meant the time had come to start.

Les Hoff, a neighbor, branded while the greenhorns held 'em still.
But when they got both hot and tired, they cursed my brother Bill.

Les quickly burned the CU brand onto the calves left side,
While hands inhaled the dust and smoke that smelled of hair and hide.

They struggled with the calves they held, and some of them were tough.
No matter how they did it though, Dad thought they were too rough.

"Now take it easy with those calves," he told them with a frown.
"I don't want you to stress 'em none.  Watch how you take 'em down."

"Hey, get your butt down in the dirt."  He came on pretty strong.
I figured, whew, his new cow crew just might not last that long.

These bankers, brokers, businessmen weren't used to such abuse,
But Dad went right on yelling if they gave him an excuse.

Bill fin'lly couldn't stand it, so he took our Dad aside.
"You cannot talk to folks like this.  These people have their pride."

"I think you should remember, Dad, they came as volunteers.
You'll never get them back again, not in a hundred years."

So dad kept quiet 'till he saw a fellow on his knees.
"Hey, get your butt down in the dirt!" Then he remembered..."Please."

Now in this world of haves and nots, these people were the haves.
Dad didn't think it mattered when it came to branding calves.

They broke for lunch and feasted on baked beans and bar-b-que,
On apple pie and chocolate cake and bowls of chili stew.

'Course balls and shots and horns and ears were also done that day.
By time hands held 300 head, no calves hurt worse than they.

It was a quiet bunch that rode the bus toward home that night,
And those bone-weary cowpokes were a sad depressing sight.

The calves had kicked and stepped on them.  Their every muscle ached.
New jeans were smeared with mud and blood, new boots manure-caked.

As they departed for their homes when that long day was through,
They told Bill, "Pardner, don't call us.  The next time we'll call you."

And every time that whole year long they needed something done,
Guess who they called.  You're right, my friend.  My brother was the one.

But next year when the days warmed up, Bill did receive some calls.
"We'd like to help on branding day.  Please tell us when it falls."

And when the crowd became so large that things got out of hand,
You had to be invited if you wanted to help brand.

That worked as in the story of Tom Sawyer and the fence.
Folks vied for invitations to the branding day events.

From Canada and Cayman Isles they came by car and plane.
Some came by bus from Littleton.  Some came to entertain.

They even came to like our Dad.  They said that he was real.
I guess that being tactless was a part of his appeal.

All those who helped year after year had gotten pretty good,
Although in the beginning nobody thought they would.

It doesn't happen anymore. Dad's gone.  The ranch is leased.
But this is how it used to be before the brandings ceased.

© 2001, Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

More Public Service

One hot summer day, Dad and I were checking the cows along the Public Service right-of-way, which is marked with steel towers and high-tension lines.

Meanwhile Public Service was checking their lines as they regularly did with a helicopter when a booming voice came over the loud speaker, "Cowboy, how are you doing down there?"

Dad's horse promptly bucked him off. Dad picked himself out of the dirt and said, "That's no cowboy. He doesn't understand anything about horses out here." A number of cusswords followed that. The rest of the day, Dad never took his eyes off the sky.

© 2002, Bill Ambrose, Jr. with Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This story may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


Dad at the old Mellen place on Stormy



 

Prairie Fire—August 1986

"Dry lightning sparked a fire, and your pasture is ablaze!"
The call came from a neighbor who lived down the road a ways.

"The fire department has been called, the neighbors notified.
Flames leaping high's a pick-up truck are burning one-mile wide.

Fire's movin' fast across the grass, it just now topped the hill.
I've no idea what  you can do, but you'd best get here, Bill."

"I'm pulling on my pants right now," he told the gal who phoned.
He worried 'bout the horses and  the cattle that he owned.

Where was the fire burning in relation to the stock?
He wished that he had asked her, but there was no time to talk.

He sped toward the orangey glow.  His heart lodged in his throat.
He couldn't breathe.  He couldn't think.  He functioned on remote.

When he caught sight of fire truck lights, he settled down a bit.
His horses, cows one pasture north of where the lightning hit.

The firemen and the neighbors were working at the scene.
The firemen had their tanker trucks, the neighbors their machines.

The neighbors on their tractors knew exactly what to do.
They'd started plowing fire guards so's the fire could not break through.

The firemen hosed the ditches down while sparks flew overhead.
What if the fire should jump the road?...The thought filled Bill with dread.

It wasn't grass that burned like this but yucca plants and sage.
They fed the flames that leapt so high and made the wildfire rage.

Bill felt near helpless as he stood and watched his pasture burn,
But there was nothing he could do.  It made his stomach churn.

He hoped his cows would be all right.  No way to get them out.
It wasn't safe to use the road.  There was no other route.

Thick smoke and ashes in the air brought tears to watcher's eyes,
As lightning in the distance flashed and pierced the nighttime skies.

In spite of many lightning strikes, no rain felt on the land
The storm was all electrical, air dry as desert sand.

Flames raced toward the barriers like antelope in flight...
Once there the fire ran out of fuel and died around midnight.

Next morning Bill returned 'fore dawn and waited for the sun.
As soon as rays first hit the earth, he saw the damage done.

What looked to be a shadow cast by huge clouds overhead,
In truth was his scorched pastureland and all too real instead.

He noted barbed-wire fencing down where big machines went through.
He'd need reseed the firebreaks soon, replace burned posts with new.

About four-thousand acres burned, and that was no small thing.
"We'll have to buy some feed," he said, "to see us through 'til spring.

We need some moisture bad," he said looking at the sky.
Eventually the rains will come, but Lord this land is dry.

I'd like to see a gentle rain that soaks down through the roots.
If we get rain it won't be long 'fore grass puts out new shoots.

Meantime we'll make the best of it.  We've seen hard times before.
I thank the Lord our livestock's safe, and that's what matters more."

© 2002, Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


In her book, Jane introduces this poem:

Dad began to tell this story over and over when he was in his eighties. We all tried to listen, but after a time it was hard to pay attention because we'd heard it so many times. Trying to get him to tell us other stories, I asked if his grandfather, Harry, had told him stories when he was a boy. Harry had been a freighter, a prospector, and an early cattleman, so I knew he'd had some interesting experiences.

Dad said, "Yes, he told stories, but I'd heard them all so many times that when he started, I'd get up and leave the room." Now, of course, he didn't remember them.

 

Teddy

"I ever tell you 'bout my dog?" And that's how he'd begin.
We all had heard that story, heard it time and time again.

"Yes, Dad, you've told it many times.  We know it all by heart."
Course nothing would have stopped him, but we knew that from the start.

"I must have been 'bout four years old.  I had this dog you see.
I called her Teddy, don't know why, cause Teddy was a she.

"We lived out on a country road.  No kids lived close to me.
My Teddy was my only friend.  She kept me company.

"I loved my Teddy.  She loved me.  I loved her pups as well.
I played with Teddy all the time.  That dog was something swell.

"One morning we were in the yard, and it was hot that day.
Another dog came down the road--a mangy looking stray.

"We were near the woodpile then, so Mother grabbed an axe,
And as that dog came closer said, "In case that dog attacks."

"But Teddy jumped in front of us, and Teddy fought our fight.
While going for the stranger's throat, my Teddy got a bite.

"Well, Teddy hurt the other dog and drove him from the place,
But Teddy had been bitten, and the bite was on her face.

"A neighbor came to tell us that the the other dog was mad.
I wasn't sure just what he meant, but knew that mad was bad.

"When Dad came home, he shot my dog, because she had been bit,
And then he had to shoot her pups.  I hurt like I'd been hit.

"I went right out and found a rope and started from the yard.
I said, 'I'll find another dog.' I didn't. That was hard.

"I've thought about that dog of mine for all these many years."
He said it very quietly, as he blinked back his tears.

I can't help think he hurt so much, the day that Teddy died,
He never fully loved again, his children or his bride.

© 2002, Jane Morton, from Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 


University of Denver graduate—1927

 

Childhoods

I asked my dad what games he played
            when he was just a kid.
He thought a moment, then replied,
             I played what others did.

I tried to pin him down on that,
            but nothing came to mind.
I sensed his childhood memories
             were hard for him to find.

He had no childhood to recall.
             he worked while others played.
He worked as if he were a man
             by time he reached sixth grade.

He plowed, he harrowed, planted crops,
             oh, he could do it all.
He helped out with beet harvests on
             the family farm in fall.

When he had hitched the horses
             to a V-shaped pulling tool.
He had to pull six rows of beets
             before he left for school.

He never learned to ride a bike
             play ball, or swim, or skate,
but he could harness up a team
             and plow a furrow straight.

He took no part in high school sports,
             although he wanted to.
  For chores awaited him at home,
              and daylight hours were few.

My father didn’t tell me this,
             but Mom made sure I knew—
Because he had no time to  play
             he never knew how to.


However, Dad did play with us
     when Bill and I were small.
He’d be the horse who gave us rides.
     We loved it I recall.

He got down on his hands and knees,
     and we climbed on his back.
Mom probably couldn’t stand the noise,
     but she cut us some slack.

Then he reared up and bucked us off.
     He whinnied and he neighed,
and grabbed us by our ankles as
     we both called out for aid.

We yelled and screamed, but we had fun
     a’ wrassling on the floor.
We had all his attention in
     this nightly tug-of-war.

As soon as he let go of us,
     we scurried back for more.
We played till it was time for bed,
     and we had fun galore.

At that time Dad taught high school kids,
     coached basketball and track.
He hadn’t played, but he could teach,
     he somehow had the knack.

I don’t know how he learned enough,
     but teams he coached did well.
It seems he found the right techniques
     to help his boys excel.

Then government offered him a job
     with Farm Security,
an agency which made farm loans
     to aid recovery.

We moved into a bigger town
     where Bill joined Little League.
Dad practiced with him evenings
     till they felt some fatigue.

Dad had no childhood of his own,
     but did fulfill his dreams,
vicariously, through his son, Bill,
     who made the high school teams.

© 2009, Jane Morton 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 


Dad's Dream

Dad was disappointed when I was born, because even though he didn't own any land, he knew he'd have a ranch someday and he'd planned on a son who would carry on his name and brand. Mother saved letters of congratulations from friends and relatives that expressed their feelings such as, "We know Billy wanted a son, but we're sure he'll love his little girl."

He did in a way, but only a son could take over and run his ranch after he was gone. I was the one who loved the land, but women weren't as capable as men. After Bill was born and Dad finally had his ranch, he set his mind and his heart on Bill being a rancher. Never mind that was never part of Bill's plans. I think deep inside he may have realized that Bill wasn't cut out for the ranching life, but Dad never discussed it with him. He just kept trying to fool himself into believing if he left Bill the ranch, Bill would run it.

As he got up in years, he would look over his herd, or across the prairie and, as if he could foresee what would happen, he would quote Charles Kingsley's "So fleet the work of men, back to their earth again; Ancient and holy things fade like a dream."

Before he died, he became obsessed with worry about what would become of the ranch and how Bill and I would spend the money we'd inherit. As it turned out, the herd has been sold; the ranch is leased; fire has destroyed the corrals, barn, and outbuildings, and only time will tell what the future holds.

© 2002, Jane Morton
This story may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission. 


In 2009, Jane adds that the ranch has been sold and is no longer in the family.

 

William Earnest Ambrose
1904-1994


 

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The 2007 Deep West Video DVD from the Western Folklife Center's Deep West Videos project includes Jane Morton's film, "Turning to Face the Wind," about her family's ranch and the effects of "progress." A photo from Jane's ranch adorns the cover of the DVD, and you can see that photo and read more about it here in our Picture the West feature.

The 2008 Old West, New West: Grabbing the Future by the Horns DVD from the Deep West Video project includes Jane Morton's film, "Branding," made with Bob Luttrell, who also created and performs the music. Jane recites her "Branding" poem while rich, well-selected vintage photos bring the story to life. 

The 2009 Deep West Video DVD includes Jane Morton and Bob Luttrell's "At the Edge of the Aquifer," about a cowboy living on the Ambrose ranch in Colorado and the water issues he faces.

The films are all available for viewing at the Western Folklife Center web site area for the Deep West Video project.

 

Read more about Jane Morton and more of her poetry on page one.

 

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