CowboyPoetry.com    Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

JANICE MITICH
Tucson, Arizona
About Janice Mitich

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

 

One of

Lariat Laureate Runner Up
Recognized for her poem, Queen of the West


 

 

About Janice Mitich


Janice Mitich followed her twin sister, Joyce, into this world in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Both girls were 8 weeks premature as their mother had slipped on the ice while walking to the outhouse at their home in Newcastle, Wyoming. At age five, they moved to Sheridan, Wyoming where the family ranched on various small spreads, and Janice developed her love for ranching and horses . "Money was so tight, us four kids never ate beef at home until we were twelve. We ate only antelope, deer, elk, and rabbit, often taken out of season. We couldn't afford to eat our own cows. Our 'hamburger meat' was scrap game run through a meat grinder."

For several years they attended a one room country school with about ten other ranching kids in grades 1-8. While in junior high, the family came to Tucson because of Joyce's asthma. Their dad, George Prell ranched in Pima and Pinal Counties for two years before returning to Wyoming to eventually buy his parents' ranch 40 miles northwest of Lusk, Wyoming, raising cattle and top-notch horses until his death in 1979.

Janice taught in Tucson in the winters, and trailered her horse up to the ranch for the summer to help out and to rodeo some. "It was the best of both worlds. I didn't have to shovel snow or sweat out the monsoons, and I got to a lot more rodeos that way" Janice started writing cowboy poetry in 1991. "My students were always interested in how I grew up. I taught a month long unit on the history of cattle ranching and rodeo. I would bring my barrel horse to school, teach the kids to ride a bucking barrel and to rope, and then take the class to slack at the Tucson rodeo. So I decided to write down my personal history in the form of cowboy poetry."

Janice has been invited to numerous cowboy poet gatherings across Arizona, in New Mexico, California, and Utah for the last eight years. After 30 years of teaching, Jan has retired but keeps her hand in Education as a Marana School Board Member. Along with her cowboy poetry, she also writes children's literature, school curriculum, is an award-winning member of the Society of Southwestern Authors, and a talented western artist. She was recently featured in and on the cover of the March,1999, issue of the NEA Retired Magazine which goes to retired members of the National Education Association.

Janice is a former member of the Women's Professional Rodeo Association, a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, the NRA, and was, for twenty-seven years a Hunter Safety Instructor and later a Chief Instructor for the Arizona Game and Fish Dept.

We asked Janice why she writes Cowboy Poetry and she said:

My late stepdad, use to write poetry as a young man while growing up on his folks' homestead on Dogie Creek, out of Lance Creek, Wyoming, until he went into the Navy in WWII.  From what my aunts tell me, he had notebooks full of poems and drawings of horses--all of which have been lost.  Since he "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket" he would recite poetry, like "Little Joe the Wrangler," and "The Strawberry Roan" to entertain us kids on long drives back and forth to town or while trout fishin' in the Big Horn Mountains west of Sheridan, Wyoming.  I guess that's when I first fell in love with cowboy poetry. 

My late mother also wrote poems which were tributes to people who had passed on.

I wrote my first rhyming poem as an assignment in high school English class, but didn't write anymore until 1991, when I started writing cowboy poetry and was invited to the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, the next year. Cowboy Poetry is the only way I know how to pass down my family's history.     

Having taught fifth and sixth grades for 30 years, I have seen, with great sadness, how our children are growing away from the land and from God, taking nature's gifts for granted, and being brainwashed that having more "stuff" will fill that emptiness within.  I started reading my poetry to my classes, during my rodeo unit, which I taught every February, and found that the kids were fascinated with the way I grew up---much like I was fascinated, listening to my Dad and his seven brothers and sisters talk about all the stunts they pulled as kids.  I would have my students write poems about their lives, as that too, will become family history to be passed down.  To me, Cowboy Poetry, gets to peoples' heart of hearts and strikes a cord that makes all of us sisters and brothers.  We are all creatures of the earth, and when we separate ourselves in our concrete world, we are less human.  Cowboy Poetry helps us to re-connect to that which made us, and that's why it is so important to me.

You can emailJanice Mitich.

 

 

Queen of the West

Our favorite treat when we were kids was the Saturday matinee,
     In times that seemed so innocent, those days of yesterday,
Where our comic book heroes would come to life on that silver screen.
     There was Hopalong, Randolph Scott, the Lone Ranger, Roy, and Gene.

Being the oldest, Joyce and I helped Dad with all the chores.
     Milkin' cows, breakin' colts, stackin' hay 'til our arms were sore.
We did all the jobs that our ranchin' neighbors gave to their boys
     And rarely had time for tea parties, dolls, or other girlish toys.

We knew our lives were different from the rest of the girls at school,
     'Cause, in town, they all wore dresses while we broke their cardinal rules
By wearing jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and high heeled, cowboy boots.
     All their teasin' and finger pointing just made us more resolute.

'Cause, you see, we had our hero, too, up on that movie screen.
     In all those Saturday serials, she was the only Queen.
In fringed skirt and rhinestone shirt, on Buttermilk she'd ride,
     To do right by all with Roy Rogers by her side.

She was the voice of wisdom and showed us girls we had a right
     To fight wrong and injustice, to be fair, good, and forthright,
To find within ourselves the courage to always do our best.
     She became our hero, Dale Evans, the Queen of the West.

The world seemed a little colder, today, when I heard the news,
     That my hero, Dale, had headed for that heavenly rendezvous.
I can hear Buttermilk's nicker as he lopes up to Dale's side,
     And see Trigger prancing up in welcome with Roy's smile a mile wide.

Upon a ridge rears Silver, and the Lone Ranger waves his hat "hello."
     While Champion slides to a perfect stop as Gene Autry hollers, "Whoa."
Bullet's barkin' up a storm, while he weaves among the horses' feet.
     Seems like all of the legends have gathered here to honor and to greet.

Hollywood's much dimmer now, as in a blaze of glory Dale will ride
     Into the fading sunset, with those cowboy heroes at her side.
You know His campfire's waiting, beyond the rise and 'round the bend
     Happy Trails to you, Dale, until we meet again.

© February 8, 2001 by Janice E. Mitich


This poem was written in honor of Dale Evans. See other poems dedicated to her here.

 

 

A Cowboy's Opus

"Tho Dad couldn't read a note, sing a melody, or write a song,
 I'll play for you, his masterpiece, if you'll quietly listen along.
Put your daily cares away, relax and close your eyes.
 The overture begins with the sound of a breeze's soft sigh.

Soon you hear the melody of tall, prairie grass ruffled by the wind.
 A meadowlark's trill announces sunrise in the place of violins.
Cottonwood leaves rustle harmony from the grove in the creek bend.
 You hold your breath and still your heart, never wanting the song to end.

As the sun's first golden rays light up the windmill's whirring blades,
 Ol' Rooster announces the new day while clucking hens join his serenade.
Hear the hissing' streams of milk, as cats twine 'round the milk cow's legs,
 And children laughin' at their antics when Dad squirts kittens as they beg.

Boots clumpin' in the back porch, as we all wash up to eat.
 A quiet blessing is said once everyone takes their seat.
"Pass the pancakes."  "More syrup, please," accent the breakfast table sounds
 While coffee perks, bacon sizzles, and the farm report plays in the background.

The singular sound of sweet feed shaken in a dented, old coffee can,
 Have all the horses' eyes and ears on you as you lure them with the pan.
Curry combs run through manes and tails, brushes sliding' o'er horse hair.
 Saddles heaved on high, strong backs. Leather cinches tightened with care.

No need for words as you ride with Dad up the trail and into the Breaks.
 Both horses shy from a jumble of boulders as you hear the buzz of a rattlesnake.
You calm your horses with low, soothing words and gentle pats on their necks.
 Dad snorts and laughs about how the both of you avoided one heck of a wreck.

The wind comes up and makes the fence wire hum while Dad opens up a gate.
 We drop off the rise and onto the flats.  The sound of the wind soon dissipates.
Snaps rattle and clink against bits as reins swing and sway like pendulums.
 Hooves, keep time, hitting' the sod with the sounds of muffled drums.

The saddle creaks, stirrup leathers squeak as your bodies rock to and fro.
 Buckles and spur rowels add the tinklin' and plinklin' of minstrel banjos.
While stopped in the bend of a coulee, a red-tailed hawk scolds from high overhead.
 She follows us down the creek as through the trees and brush we thread.

Prairie dogs bark, "DANGER!" when we pass their homes dug in the sod.
 A rabbit thumps a warning while hidden in a patch of tall goldenrod.
At times it grows so quiet, you hear the measured beating of your heart,
 And you realize that the Divine Composer has given you both a part.

Very few words are spoken as we ride the circle home side by side.
 We're both lost in the Music that this way of life provides.
"Don't take this song for granted, 'cause it's the Lord's gift to just us few."
 Dad warns, "It's our job to protect this land and all that we purview.

"Each critter does its share and adds the music of its way of life.
 This is God's way of showin' us a glimpse of Redemption's Afterlife."
No philharmonic orchestra can hold a candle to the music of ranch work.
 Dad's Cowboy Opus taught us kids the reverence of God's handiwork.

Dedicated to my Dad, George B. Prell, (1922-1979) Wyoming rancher and great horseman well-known for his honest horses.  As a youth, he trailed one of the last great herds out of southern Wyoming and into eastern Montana.  They never had to open a gate.

©August 21, 1997 by Janice E. Mitich

 


Dad, with Little Star (bay) and Red Head (pinto), our two ponies hitched to the buggy in Nana's backyard. (Newcastle, Wyoming in 1949 or 1950.  Joyce and I could often be seen driving around Newcastle.  We thought we were really "hot" to be driving at the age of 5.

This poem is also included in our special collection of 
poems about Cowboy Dads and Granddads

 

A Rancher's Wife

When our Mother met Dad, in the forties, and said, "Yes, I'll take your hand,"
 She knew it wouldn't be easy wedded to a man in love with the land.
You see, this Wyoming lassie fell in love with a Wyoming cowboy.
 Yearnin' for all the comforts of life, would surely, their love destroy.

The sight of a line of fat cows headin' into a windmill tank,
 Meant more to him then sacks of gold safely locked in a bank.
The picture of horses runnin' and buckin' through gray sage and belly-high grass,
 Was priceless compared to drinkin' champagne or eatin' pheasant under glass.

She raised four kids in lonely, ranch houses while Dad headed up different brands.
 Pumped well water, washed dozens of diapers which chapped and reddened her hands.
Sledge-hammered lumps of black coal and chopped wood for cast-iron stoves.
 A trip to buy groceries or take a child to the doc, fifty miles she often drove.

She traveled country, dirt roads through the hail, the rain, and the snow.
 And if the signal came through clear,  she'd whistle and sing to the radio.
Up north, the winter sun sets early.  It's near dark by four o'clock.
 She'd get home after supper time for us kids and the livestock.

She did all the chores one spring, when a bronc broke Dad's leg in a fall
 With the river lappin' at the back door, from spring melt of a record snowfall.
She waded through manure and river water to milk the cows twice every day,
 And us kids probably drove her crazy 'cause we couldn't go outside to play.

She butchered deer, elk, and chickens, rabbits, ducks, and antelope.
 'Cause eatin' beef or that veal parmesan wasn't in our horoscopes.
If the place had enough water, she'd plant corn, 'taters, and rhubarb.
 Can apples and peaches bought from peddlers who drove into the yard.

Our vacations were campin' in the Big Horns, up in that cool mountain air.
 Boy, Mom could catch those big rainbows like a kid who hadn't a care.
We had our secret patch of wild raspberries and would fill up our coffee cans,
 And eat 'em on homemade ice cream, 'long with fresh trout fried in a pan.

With a tarp draped over the stock rack, Dad built a tent for them on the truck.
 While underneath a canvas, groundsheet, us three, little girls she would tuck.
We'd make our last trip up the mountains, in August, before school would start,
 To spend the day pickin' chokecherries to make jelly and syrup so tart.

In first grade, Joyce and I were thought old enough to be left home all alone.
 Mom got a job as a Bell operator, would check on us by using the phone.
It seems all the time we were growin', she held some kind of job in town,
 So Dad could have all his horses and to help keep the bills paid down.

Us kids sure got treated poorly whenever Mom and Dad wintered in town.
 We wore boots and Levis® to school which would make the principals frown.
Back then girls had to wear dresses with ski pants to keep their legs warm.
 Like a cow on the prod, she protected us,  sayin' girls in pants weren't any harm.

By the time Joyce and I were in high school, we'd moved nearly fifteentimes.
 That's more than most city folks ever  move, even in their entire lifetime.
But Dad had to rope and tie his dreams.  Livin' in town made him feel dead.
 You know we thought nothin' of it, 'cause that was the life that we led.

At times Dad had to build saddles and tack, or tool push in Wyoming's oil fields,
 Or hire out to work winter line camp to keep finances on an even keel.
But,  they worked as a team of strong horses.  Oh, the fine coursers they flew.
 "Cause, you see, this Wyoming-bred Lassie loved fat cows and good horses, too.

coursers the path or course of a well-trained team of horses, or reindeer working together


Dedicated to my Mother, Elizabeth Francis Luce,(1921-1986)  who, with her
parents, homesteaded southwest of Newcastle in Claraton, Wyoming. Thank you for giving up so much and making it possible for us to grow up on ranches and not in town.

© August 17, 1998 by Janice E. Mitich

 

  Mom (2nd from left) and the Glasby children, taken in 1928 at the school in Clareton, Wyoming (a small oil town about 30 miles southwest of Newcastle.  "The Glasbys were the family Daddy hired to help on the farm.  They lived in Nana's homestead house which had been moved to Daddy's place," Mom wrote on the back of the photo.

  Mom, age 18, taken in August 1940 in Newcastle, Wyoming,and printed in the "Dogie" (Newcastle High) annual.  She is wearing a divided denim skirt, satin blouse and neckerchief, black broad-brimmed hat, and black flat-heeled boots like today's motorcycle boots.  "Women didn't have ladies cowboy boots much then."  She's riding Euna Holst's horse.

  Mom (Elizabeth Frances Luce Prell) and Dad (George Burton Prell) taken on March 29, 1953 at Nana's (Mom's mother) house in Newcastle,  Wyoming.  We had been living in Sheridan for three years and had gone to Newcastle for a visit over Easter. 

 

(This poem is posted also in the collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms)



Mason Coggin  1938-2000

 

In memory of Mason Coggin, who joined the Lord's wagon on November 7, 2000. He was an expert on placer gold mining having evaluated more than 100 properties around the world that produced millions of dollars in gold and
wrote two books on mining history.   In the past ten years Mason turned his
talents to western poetry, becoming and accomplished poet, raconteur,
author, editor, and publisher.  But foremost he became a dear friend.
Mason,  your wide smile, sense of humor, and magnificent recitations are
deeply missed.

The Coggin's Test

I was camped out in the desert underneath a velvet sky
     Listenin' to the lonesome songs of coyotes as they cry
Starin' at  windblown, fiery embers rivaling the stars
     When I thought I heard a voice of someone callin' from afar.

I walked out from the campfire's glow and looked into the night,
     My horse raised his head and nickered pullin' the picket line up tight.
Then I heard the sound of hooves pickin' their way over rocky ground
     When a shadow of a man and beast broke free from the background.

"Hello the camp," a voice called out. "Yer fire looks mighty welcome.
     I've been prospectin' for six months and am gettin' kinda lonesome."
I poured him some hot coffee to help wash down the trail dirt.
     Seemed he'd been all over Arizona, from the rim country to the desert.

Mason Coggin was his name, and we talked while the moon topped the rise.
     I played my mouth harp, while he recited poems he'd memorized.,
About tyin' a knot in the devil's tail,  ridin' horses that couldn't be rode,
     Tales of  men dyin' in stampedes or searchin' for the mother lode.

He knew  the works of all the great, of Prescott's own Gale Gardner,
     Kiskaddon, Curly Fletcher, and New Mexico's Omar Barker.
He took me back to a time when men lived by their word alone,
     And were judged by the cattle, horses, and the grass that they owned.

Time passed unnoticed as shimmering stars pirouetted through the sky
     The rhythm of his words seemed like a mother's lullaby.
I finally banked the fire, checked the stock, and rolled on into bed.
     Mason wished me a good night and pulled his hat down o'er his head.

At daybreak I awoke alone with no trace of my evening's guest.
     Yet, I know he was no phantom, but flesh and blood I will attest.
These many years I've pondered the reasons why he picked my fire,
     And heard tales of other visits by this rhymin' desert squire.

So, if yer camped out in the desert underneath a velvet sky
     Listenin' to the lonesome songs of coyotes as they cry
Starin' at  windblown, fiery embers rivaling the stars
     When ya think ya hear a voice of someone callin' from afar.

Then ya hear the sound of hooves pickin' their way over rocky ground
     And a shadow of a man and beast break free from the background.
Welcome him to your camp, for by Mason you've been blest
     And thank the Lord above, 'cause you've passed the Coggin's test.*

* A Coggin's test is a blood test for horses to see if they have equine
encephalitis.  I employed it as a play on words.

© June 7, 2001 by Janice E. Mitich

Read all tributes to Mason Coggin here.

Mason Coggin  1938-2000

 

Cat Fishin' 


Paleontologists say that horses buck because of a primal instinct
Coded in their genes, which kept Eohippus from becoming extinct.
In the Ice Age, this helped Equus survive the saber-tooth's assault.
You can't blame Modern Horse for buckin', cause it's not his fault.

That may be gospel or scientific fact for ninety-eight percent.
But for the other two, it's strictly belligerent temperament.
Match this with bull-headed Homo sapien intelligence,
And nothin' short of Armageddon is the imminent consequence.

Dad was workin' with Glen Sorenson that summer and into fall,
Wranglin' dudes and packin' huntin' trips until the first snowfall.
They'd combined their horse herds and drove 'em up from Buffalo
O're the Powder River Pass to Meadowlark Lake in the valley below.

Glen had a young, buckskin pack horse that he was startin' out.
Figured a summer in the Big Horns would educate him, no doubt.
By late fall he hoped this horse would be strong, savvy, and sound.
Nothin' wrong with high, mountain education in a hoss's background.

Glen named him 'Cat' 'cause he was so quick and handy on his feet.
Bragged, "On a shale slide, Cat could carry two hindquarters of elk meat,
Pick his way among the shards, as quiet as a snake,
Climb over dead falls, through dense timber, and ne'er make a mistake."

Towards the end of July, Glen figured Cat was about ready to ride.
That's when genetic instinct and horsemanship started to collide.
Glen swung aboard, settled down, thinkin' he was clearly in command
'Fore he could gather his reins or touch his spur, he was eatin' corral sand.

Dustin' off his shirt and hat, he looked at us with a sheepish grin,
Then slowly walked towards this errant, cool-eyed buckskin.
He took hold of the cheek strap, pulled Cat's head back to the cinch,
Stepped up, gave the horse his head, but Cat didn't budge an inch.

Glen clucked and slapped his thigh, touched Cat's ribs with his spurs.
Cat froze for a second, dropped his head, then turned into a buckskin blur.
Lungin' and swirlin' like a cyclone, Cat tore up that round corral
Buckin' and squealin' with ol'Glen fightin' hard to stay in one locale.

That Arvada, Wyoming cowboy sure put up a darn good fight.
By sundown, he pulled off his saddle to start again at daylight.
T'weren't much conversation after supper in our bunkhouse on the lake.
Glen hit the sack early, but most the night he just laid there awake,

Runnin' various schemes to outfox that horse over and over in this mind.
Next day was much the same as victory belonged to that yeller equine.
The battle continued to rage through the next couple of weeks.
The chance of him toppin' that hoss was beginning' to look pretty bleak.

Four-way hobbles, or snubbin' him to Dad's big stud was to no avail.
Sorenson was on a divine quest like a knight searchin' for the Holy Grail.
One August morning Glen arose with a smile and odd sparkle in his eye.
He'd remembered an Indian horsebreakin' trick guaranteed to pacify.

He coaxed Cat into a knee-deep pool with a base of deep, white sand.
Hopin' this would tire Cat out, leavin' Glen holdin' the upper hand.
Well, it did slow Cat down a bit.  Glen rode for a minute or two
'Til Cat adjusted his tactics and soon bid Glen another 'adieu'.

That just 'bout broke Glen's resolve as he poured water outta his boots,
This method was good, but the water too shallow for that buckin' brute.
He told me to hold onto the reins as he limped over to the saddle shed,
Came out with his leather saddle bags, and over to the barn he did head.

He filled both 'til they bulged, with sixty pounds of new horseshoes,
Said, "I'll be needed a wee bit more ballast to even the keel on this cruise."
With a half-crazed smile on his lips, Glen squished down to the lake's edge,
Sayin', " I think a little more depth will give me a bit of a hedge."

The Indian theory that water and sand would wear an outlaw down
Had convinced Glen he'd win this battle or Cat would certainly drown.
He slowly led Cat in the shallows and along side of the wooden boat dock,
Stepped aboard while Cat stood still with only his rovin' ears takin' stock.

Then Cat whirled to the right with a snort, lunged for gloomy, black water
With Glen pullin' leather 'n' stuck to his back like an immigrant, sheep-herdin' squatter.
When Cat stepped off a shelf and into a hole, they both sank clear outta sight.
Only a trail of glistening bubbles allowed us to follow the fight.

Soon Cat's flared nostrils broke the dark surface as he took in a deep breath,
Sunfished and dove agin, determined to fight this one to the death.
A moment later Cat rocketed outta the lake with Glen still sittin' astride
Fightin' Cat's head, lookin' blue 'round the gills and a little pop-eyed.

Glen was sportin' a rainbow trout tie, with slimy, green moss for a hat,
One boot and spur was gone, but the other raked the ribs of ol' Cat.
Glen gave a watery war whoop as they both vanished once again,
Only comin' up now and then for a quick whiff of some oxygen.

By now the lake had turned cloudy as years of silt was disturbed.
Seemed like Meadowlark Lake was the kinda arena this ol' pack horse preferred.
That pony ducked, jerked Glen from the saddle, and shifted into high gear,
Towed Glen, by the reins, through his wake like a water skiing 'buccaneer'.

At the top of each dive, Glen worked his way up the length of those buckin' reins,
Looped an arm through a stirrup and hung on tight while his breath he tried to regain.
They made a couple of spins 'round the lake 'fore Glen finally climbed back aboard.
Wind chill had Glen's teeth a chatterin' like an outta tune harpsichord.

It was hard to tell who was winnin' as we watched that long, summer day.
It looked like the Battle of Midway with Cat 'n' Glen snortin' "Anchors Aweigh."
By dusk, the white caps were gone, as the lake calmed down in the twilight.
They emerged worn to a frazzle, both lookin' wrinkled and fish-belly white.

Glen pulled off his saddle and bridle, with his free hand he slapped Cat on the butt.
Cat trotted off to join the remuda in the meadow where some timber'd been cut.
With his trout limit strung on his strings, Glen gave Dad and us kids a big wink.
"You can shure 'nuf lead a hoss to water, but you darn shure can't make him sink!"


© June 26, 1997 by Janice E. Mitich
Picture Rocks, Arizona 85743

This one is for Glen Sorenson, with much love.  Thanks for all the good memories.

* strings are leather strings fastened, on a saddle, in front and in back, and are used for tying on equipment like a canteen, scabbard, bedroll, slicker, etc.

 

The Last of the Cowboys

I see him there in the firelight.
   He was old and wrinkled and gray;
Borne on the soft breeze of night
   This is what I heard him say.

He told of the life of the cowboy
   He was the last of that carefree race.
He told of their sorrows and joys
   With a smile on his wrinkled face.

He spoke of riding in the moonlight,
   The summer and blazing heat-
Wild stampede on a stormy night,
   The wind and the snow and the sleet.

I heard his whisper fade away
   I heard his last long sigh,
A coyote howled at the breaking day
   And I saw the last of the cowboys die.

He heard the Range Boss calling
   He smiled as his soul rode away
When the shades of night are falling
   He'll ride herd on the Milky Way.

The above poem is by George Prell, father of Janice E. Mitich, and Joyce Mitich Taylor.  Janice wrote: "We are eternally grateful to Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns and Bill Stearns for giving us a copy of Dad's poem.  They were at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, in 2001.  We had always been told that his numerous notebooks of poetry, which he had written in the late 1930s and early 1940s had all been lost.  Bill idolized our dad and had seen this, in cross stitch, on the wall of one of Dad's nieces, and obtained the copy." 

© by Janice E. Mitich, and Joyce Mitich Taylor, Wyzona Productions, Tucson, Az 85743

Thanks for the Poem 


I'm waitin' for the tank to fill before shuttin' off the windmill.
Guess I'll read my mail while I have some time to kill.
It's not often I meet the mailman as he makes his weekly trip.
Can't believe there's just one letter...no junk or coupons to clip.

"Dear Mr. George Prell, Yes, your letter arrived on time
Business is as usual.  Everybody's doing fine.
As per your request, I gave your letter to the boss,
Who was quite concerned that your account still shows a loss.

It's true this past winner was hard and the worst we've seen in years,
And the end to this three-month drought is not looking very near.
Copies of your bills prove the price of feed's gone sky high.
This drought has hurt the farmers too.  This we can't deny.

There's a glut on the market as everyone's trying to sell their beef.
Prices have hit rock bottom.  Analysts don't forecast much relief.
The story's the same all over.  All your neighbors are in the same boat.
They're barely keeping their heads above water, trying to stay afloat.

Mr. Baines, the Vice President, spent over an hour on your case.
When he came out of his office, he had tears running down his face.
He was quite touched by your poetry and the anguish in your pleas.
It's times like these he hates his job as final say on loan guarantees.

He knows you're two months overdue.  Foreclosure is a last resort.
He will extend your loan another thirty days, because he's such a sport.
He said you're quite the artist, and you can sure put things down in rhyme.
'Tell him, Thanks for the poems, but his next payment best be on time.'"

© August 2, 1995, by Janice E. Mitich Picture Rocks, AZ 85743

Janice tells us: This one was written for the 8th Annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in Prescott, AZ, August 17-19, 1995, and is dedicated to all those ranching and farming families who have and haven't been able to 'beat the banks'. 

She says that year's poster "showed a cowboy, wearing glasses and a red shirt, lyin' against his bedroll, reading a letter.  

 

The following poem was posted December 11, 2001, with this message from Janice Mitich:  Today's the 3-month anniversary of Sept. 11 and here is my small tribute.  God Bless America and what it stands for.  It's going to be a sad holiday for so many families

Cowboy Up

"Cowboy Up." is a phrase ya hear out here in the west.
It's used in time of need and never as a jest.
Ranch kids learn it young, whenever they get hurt.
Dads say, "Cowboy Up. Things could be a lot worse."

When thrown from a bronc, it's yer job to mount back up.
It's the only way to fight yer fear. That's how ya cowboy up.
It's heard behind the chutes as a cowboy takes his wraps
On a snortin' one ton, brindle, cross-bred Brahmer deathtrap.

Whenever a job gets tough or money's gettin' tight
That's when ya hunker down and try with all yer might.
"Cause quittin' ain't no option if ya want yer self respect.
Ya do the best with what ya got, and hold yer head erect.

We think city folk are soft. We take pride in bein' tough.
But on September 11th, they really called our bluff.
We watched in shock and horror from our ranches and farm towns
As the Pentagon and Twin Towers burned, then came crashing down.

Firemen, Police, and Port Authority personnel
Paid the highest price as they climbed up into Hell.
Military and civilians pulled victims from the fires.
Little did the terrorists know they'd inflamed a nation's ire.

Passengers in a hijacked plane looked Death right in the eyes
Cowboyed up and saved our Capitol after saying last goodbyes.
All Americans cowboyed up, even through our tears,
Teachers in their classrooms tried to calm the children's fears.

Rescue dogs worked the Pile until their paws were red
Finding only a handful alive among the thousands dead.
Steelworkers worked the rubble breathing toxic ash and fumes
Stopping in respectful silence when another victim is exhumed.

Those too far away gave money or their precious blood
And stood patiently in line while scarlet pints turned into floods.
What took seven years to build came down in one short hour,
Three months later, the fires still burn within that concrete bower.

Sixty years ago, another land misjudged this Nation's mettle
While men and women fought and died as the score was settled.
Freedom's enemies don't understand the cost that has been paid
By Americans of all creeds and colors who were unafraid.

Our sons and daughters are fighting in a land across the sea
Until freedom and human dignity for all are guaranteed.
This is the time for ALL our neighbors living far and near
To heed the call, cowboy up, and to persevere.

© 2001, Janice E. Mitich

 

Omachalakwa

Omachalakwa, the name of mystery.
How many have carried you down through history?
Was she a Persian Princess with eyes of emerald green
And auburn hair cascading down a gown of velveteen?

Astride her dappled hunter with courtiers at her side
Through ancient stands of trees, the royal party rides
To the edge of a sunlit meadow where flowers nod their heads.
She loosed her faithful falcon to soar on wings outspread.

Was she a Mohawk matron gliding through stands of rush and reeds
Reaping heavy heads of rice piled 'round her feet and knees?
The dip and rise of her paddle spread ripples 'cross the lake.
Ducks and loons feast on fallen grains floating in her wake.

Honored in her long house, matriarch of her clan
Tells ancient stories to the young ones of how the earth began,
And how the People fell to earth, streaking stars across the night.
Her words hold them captive, dark eyes flash in the firelight.

Perhaps a Cherokee maiden with head held high against her fears
Giving strength to young and old on the tragic Trail of Tears?
With back straight and tall, no tears upon her face
She rides her sorrel pinto with courage, hope, and grace.

Or a Sioux racing 'cross the plains of sweet sage and waving grass
Towards a herd of running bison bunched into a moving mass
Of shaggy humps, bobbing heads, uplifted tails and shining horns
With skinning knife at her belt, her flying braids with beads adorned?

Her trusted mustang, neck outstretched, moves to the pressure of her knees.
Nostrils flared, buckskin muscles bunch, he leaps a wash with ease.
Hearts pound in time together to the rhythm of his feet,
Prayers of thanks to the Mystery for the gift of winter meat.

A century later a cowgirl stops her pony 'mong the pines
As a red-tailed hawk circles and dives.  Towards thunderheads he climbs.
His keening, shrieking cries spark memories of lives lived long ago.
One-by-one they rise again, rainbow colors, in a tableau.

My friend and spirit sister, you need not ponder more
On the meaning of this name or who she was in yesteryore.
For all of them are part of you as you walk your Spirit Trail.
Omachalakwa, the Mystery, is your Holy Grail.

Dedicated to Rusty with centuries of sisterhood and love. Rusty's great,
great paternal grandmother, Etta Ellen Gray Horse, an educated Cherokee and
teacher, walked the northern Trail of Tears.  Army, Capt.James Emerson,
fell in love and married her.
© March 17, 2002 by Janice E. Mitich
Written at Rusty Calhoun's home in Chandler, AZ

 

Nana's Rollin' Pin

Here I’m bakin’ Christmas pies on a warm, December desert day
Rollin’ out fresh pie dough, my mind lost in times so far away.
I look down at this old, rollin’ pin with pegged handles of bright red
And wish the wooden sounds you make were really words instead.

Perhaps you were a wedding gift carried in a new bride’s hopeful hand,
Sent on an eight-day train trip across American’s wide land,
Far from her Pennsylvania home to Wyoming’s prairie to homestead.
No two-story house awaited, just a one-room shack instead.

Their families had arranged it. Married to a stranger she barely knew.
She was the dutiful, youngest daughter. For him the honorable thing to do.
Did she ever wish things were different as she rolled out Sunday pies?
Did her dreams, once hopeful, fade in this wild ‘n’ lonely land and die?

Did she sing to her baby girl, playin’ games to fill the day
And the long weeks on the plains while her husband was away?
Did her eyes make orchards from the sage, green lawns from pasture grass?
Did she gossip with the cows and pigs? Did dogs dance with this Scottish lass?

Or did you bring back memories of lace curtains and oak-paneled halls,
Of satin gowns, long, white gloves worn at Pittsburgh’s social balls?
Did she miss her only sister, ‘Lizbeth, her three beloved brothers?
Were there things she could share with no one but her mother?

Her marriage was not happy. Financial failure turned her husband cruel.
He left for California the day my mother graduated from high school.
Nana never remarried. She took pride in being on her own
‘Til diabetes made her so ill, Mom had to sell her mother’s home.

I remember my folks throwin’ out things from the upstairs window,
Nana’s upturned face, tear-streaked, as she stood watching from below.
We moved her from Newcastle to the Big Horn Valley wide and green.
Two pick-ups held her memories of the fifty years she’d seen.

Once a week, Nana would pick one of us four kids for a special time,
And spend the afternoon teachin’ us to cook and bake real fine.
I can hear her patient voice tellin’ us youngin’s how to bake
In our big, yellow kitchen, Christmas cookies we must make.

Dozens of decorated delights to hang on the tree or eat.
Plus plenty more for neighbors on their Christmas plates of treats.
We must save some for the mailman on his cold, country deliveries,
And, for Teacher, wrapped in a flowered handkerchief, from Joyce and me.

Apple dumplings, hot cinnamon rolls, sour-cream chocolate cake,
Baking powder biscuits, golden brown, and sourdough bread to bake.
Churnin’ cream to golden butter, drainin’ cottage cheese in a pillow case,
Cannin’ chokecherry and wild plum jam, delicious smells filled the place.

For ten years she lived with us, tellin’ stories, crochetin’ doilies of fine lace.
In sixty-one she crossed over in her sleep. This desert is her resting place.
Few of her things were left to me, two photo albums, a Black Hills gold pin,
And one keepsake I’ll always treasure, this old, wooden, rollin’ pin.

© January 3, 1992, by Janice E. Mitich All rights reserved Picture Rocks, AZ 85743 

Dedicated to the memory of my Nana, Eleanor McFarrin Kramer Luce, 1899-1961, a true Lady and Heroine of the West. She got back to Pittsburg only once, over 30 years later, for the funeral of her beloved sister, Elizabeth, my namesake. My twin sister, Joyce, and I have diamond rings made from one of Aunt Elizabeth’s cocktail rings, which Nana inherited.

 

Nana (Eleanor M. Kramer Luce) Mom's mother with Joyce and me taken on the steps of the Methodist Church, Newcastle, WY on Easter morning (4/17/49) when Joyce and I were 4 years old.  Nana would turn 50 years old that September.

At Nana's house on our Easter trip in 1953. From the left, is Joyce (8), Mom, Janette (5) Dad, Jerry (4) and me.  We were getting ready to drive back to Sheridan.


(This poem is posted also in the collection of poems about
Cowboy Moms and Grandmoms)

Big Trouble


Brother Jerry and sister Janette are layin' on their bunk beds.
            Joyce is helpin' Dad clean tack out in the saddle shed.
And here I'm on the back porch sittin' on the floor,
            Underneath the smelly coat rack, on a butt that's pretty sore.

Boy, was Mom angry!  Fire and sparks were shootin' from her eyes
            As she grabbed and dragged us in the house that first week in July.
"What do you think you're doing?" she asked with a voice tight and grim.
            We were in BIG trouble.  Gettin' by without a spankin' was lookin' pretty slim.

We told her about our game, but it didn't do us any good.
            She lined us up, bent us over, and paddled us where we stood.
She said it was a good thing that she'd caught us just in time,
            Before somebody saw us and reported our awful crime.

She told us to think about what we'd done for at least an hour or two,
            So we could give good reasons on how our game had gone askew.
I've been sittin' here most half my life, playin' back the scenes,
            And tryin' like heck, to figure out just what was so obscene.

The summer after second grade, we'd moved just north of town
            On Little Goose Creek, in this four-room house painted white and brown.
It had a large front yard of tall, cool, Kentucky blue grass
            Which ran right up to the bar ditch where the highway to Billings passed.

We didn't play there often, 'cause Mom feared a car would miss the curve.
            We usually played out in the horse pasture, where we couldn't cause concern.
But, somehow we broke that rule, this fine, summer vacation day,
            And us three youngin's went out in that forbidden yard to play.

We never played nurse or doctor.  Guess 'cause we didn't see them much.
            We made up games 'bout what we knew.  With reality we were in touch.
We'd sneaked out Mom's rubber cleaning gloves from underneath the sink.
            Filled them to the brim with water.  They sure were a pretty pink.

We tied them shut with balin' twine.  Us girls fastened them to our belts.
            When we got down on all fours, we knew just how milk cows felt.
Tryin' to walk around with our udders floppin' sure was quite a chore.
            I don't know how big Holsteins do it without gettin' awful sore.

Janette and I were grazin' on the tall grass of that forbidden lawn.
            Jerry herded us in the 'barn', locked the stanchions, tied pretend kickers on.
He grabbed a toy, sand bucket, hunkered down, tossed back his hair,
            Tucked his head into Janette's flank, and commenced to milkin' her right there.

When he had filled his bucket and had stripped out every teat,
            He slapped Janette on the rump as he got back to his feet.
He poured the 'milk' into a can, carefully rinsed the bucket out,
            And was startin' to milk me when we heard Mom's angry shout.

She had seen the whole scene and was simply mortified.
            She was only a couple inches shy of committin' infanticide.
I still can't figure out what we did wrong.  It seemed so innocent.
            We were only doin' what Dad did twice a day.  Did we deserve this punishment?



© August 17, 1993 by Janice E. Mitich, Picture Rocks, Arizona 85743

Highway 25 runs through Sheridan to Billings, Montana.  When they widened
the highway, and put in an interchange, this house and buildings were
destroyed.

Stanchions are restraining devices that fit closely around the neck of a
cow, to help confine her in a stall for milking.  The cow is usually fed
grain to reward and keep her occupied.

Kickers are hobbles put on the hocks of cows hind legs to prevent them from kicking.

Joyce is on Little Star and I'm on Red Head, taken in Newcastle in 1949.  We were 4 years old.  Dad has lead ropes on Little Star because he was a little spooky.




Takin' the Tally


Sister Janette was born just two years after us twins.
     Mom's labor lasted three days much to her chagrin.
Dr. Booth said, "There'd be no more."  So her tubes were tied.
     Ten months later Jerry was born.  Boy, were we surprised!

Jerry and Janette were the same age for two months every year.
     Which led to sibling rivalry so intense and quite severe.
While tots, sharin' toys was the farthest thing from their minds.
     The older they grew, things progressed to actions less benign.

Jerry cut open Janette's head with a well-thrown wooden toy.
     Aunt Lot dismissed his actions, "He's only a little boy."
Janette pushed him off an oil drum when he was only six
     Which snapped both bones in his right arm just like kindling sticks.

She fixed him a road-kill horn toad snack as a special treat.
     He roped and dragged her doll to death while ridin' old Indian Pete.
She locked him in the outhouse.  He put rotten duck eggs in her boots.
     One day he trapped her behind the barn inside the brandin' chute.

She'd tore all the wheels off his toy cars, let loose his pet bull snake.
     He'd dab his face with war paint and burn her paper dolls at the stake.
He kicked her under the table.  She sneaked her peas onto his plate.
     Morning started out real calm, but in time things would escalate.

As the oldest, Joyce and I had to keep them both alive.
     After several years of this, we didn't care it either one survived.
Joyce was left in charge whenever Mom and Dad were away,
     'Til they came home just in time to see us end a wild melee.

The house was strangely quiet as they carried the groceries in.
     We didn't answer when they called, which was a mortal sin.
Dad heard a cowbell ring every three minutes or so.
     No cows weren't in; he followed the sound with Mom in tow.

Jerry and Janette were wearin' nothin' but pairs of Dad's boxer shorts.
     Mike our dog, was jumpin' around and barkin' at their sport.
We'd wrapped their hands to look like gloves with black, electric tape.
     Joyce gave up bein' referee 'cause she was blockin' any escape.

Janette was sportin' a shiner. 'Wisdom knots' were on Jerry's head.
     Catchin' a breath, sittin' on milk stools, wishin' each other was dead.
We'd made a boxing ring from ropes, across the loadin' pen alley.
     I sat on the fence with Dad's black book, busy takin' the tally.


©August 12, 1998 by Janice E. Mitich, Picture Rocks, Arizona 85743

This was the poster theme poem for the 11th Annual Arizona Cowboy Poets
Gathering in Prescott, AZ, August 13-16, 1998


Taken Christmas Day, 1951, in the first house we lived in when we moved to Sheridan.  Jerry (3) Joyce (6), Janice (6), Janette (4) and Dad on the porch.  Aunt Lot can be seen in the window.


 

Tears for Mt. Lemmon

A place of respite from desert heat
For bear and bird and doe.
Where children, young and old,
Shared a playground in the snow.

Restful haven in pines and fir
Away from city strife,
Where families built fond memories
That would last throughout their life.

Malicious act or negligence? 
That's how it will begin.
Now there's fire on the mountain,
Glowing embers in the wind.

One hundred years of forest.
A pillar of gray smoke!
A thousand years of history
Destroyed by the Dragon's stroke.

The Bullock Fire in two thousand two,
Roared up the eastern side.
Summerhaven, then, was spared.
Firefighters turned the tide.

But little rain fell this spring.
Years of drought took its toll.
Homes and lodges turned to ash.
Flames raged uncontrolled.

We watch the smoke in silent dread,
Feel tears course down our face.
Well-knowing we'll not live to see
Moonscape by trees replaced.

Our children will tell stories
Of how Mt. Lemmon used to be
'Til the Aspen Fire charred it all
In the year, two thousand three.

A hundred years of time shall pass
'Fore Nature heals this sin
Of fire on the mountain,
Glowing embers in the wind.

© June 20, 2003 by Janice E. Mitich,
Picture Rocks, Arizona 85743

Janice wrote this poem about the wildfires near Tucson in June, 2003.  She says " "I don't think there are many Tucsonians who don't have an attachment to the mountain in some way, from scout camps, skiing, to family cabins passed down from generation to generation."  The poem was recorded for broadcast by KOLD TV, Tucson.

 

 

The Windmill Women


Across Nebraska's rolling hills and the treeless Texas plains,
         Rising above Wyoming sage, Arizona's desert domains,
Stand wooden towers with blades of steel to tame the restless winds.
         Windmills pulling up life-giving water. Mighty prairie paladins!

Symbol of Manifest Destiny, crushing the People's last stand.
         Beacon of hope for the dreamers who came to settle the land.
Steadfast on the Kansas flatlands, 'twas the tallest thing around.
         Lonely landmark in the distance, drawing lightning to the ground.

A companion to the women while their men worked on the land,
         A place to wash and hang laundry in the shade cast by the fan.
Lantern-lit towers led midwives at midnight though blinding storms.
         Draped with black crepe, Death's calling card, leaving the loved ones to mourn.

A red quilt warned that plague was here, both man and beast quarantined.
         To celebrate at Christmas time, 'twas trimmed with evergreens.
The clanging of the sucker rod brought new music to this land
         And comfort to courageous women who vowed to make a stand.

The windmill, eternal symbol, of their hopes and all their dreams.
         Each drop of precious water placed like jewels before a queen.
Some dared to climb the towers to be closer to the stars,
         Or to catch a glimpse of husband working in the fields afar.

Too often the isolation and the creaking, turning fan
         Broke the spirit of weak women, driving them completely mad.
They would slowly climb the towers in bewildered agony,
         Tie a lead rope to the braces, leap into eternity.

I am seated by this windmill waiting for the jugs to fill
         Eating bitter-sweet, fresh rhubarb growing in the stock tank's spill.
I ponder on each woman who stood firm, and said, "I can!
         "I'll stand steadfast like this windmill. I will settle this great land!"

© April 21, 2003 by Janice E. Mitich, Picture Rocks, Arizona

Janice adds: The water at house on Dad's ranch north of Lance Creek, Wyoming, was too alkaline to drink.  We had to fill 5-gallon jugs with water from the "fresh water well" that was over 3 miles northwest of the house.  It was often my job to fill all those jugs, a job that could take over an hour if the winds weren't cooperating.  There was a tumbled down house marking an old homestead.  Rhubarb grew wild around the stock tank and provided a tasty snack as I sat there daydreaming to the music of the mill.



About this photo, Janice says "The windmill photo is taken at the base of Mt. Graham, near present day Safford, Arizona.  I went to Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, just 6 miles north of Safford.  We use to go up in the mountains there for fun in the snow.  Mt. Graham is a sacred mountain to the Apache Nation, and they protested the placement of telescopes on the mountain.  They lost. The telescopes are there.

 

 

The Fluteway

Among the monuments carved by wind-worked sand,
She sits upon a mesa overlooking Sacred Lands.
The climb is hers alone, this pathway to the sky,
To a holy place of solitude where eagles learn to fly.

The Wheel of Life moves slowly. Each turn does its part.
The loss of many loved ones has left scars upon her heart.
The bloom of Youth now faded from her body and her soul.
With age comes wisdom: freedom by giving God control.

Her face brushed with pollen, hair unbound and unadorned,
She offers feathered prayer sticks and a basket of white corn.
Turquoise and silver band her arm, a gift of sisterhood.
Her instrument, as old as time, is carved from native wood.

Too long her muse lay dormant and buried by the pain.
She surrenders the memories that only hid the chains
That bound her heart to the "might-have-beens,"
 "What ifs,"...
                  "should haves," ...
                                          the "remember whens?"

The melody begins softly like a maiden's first kiss,
Then builds to a crescendo cascading from the cliffs.
It echoes in the canyon lands of Hopi and Diné.
Coyote cocks his ears to listen as the music fades away.

Each heartache finds release as it travels from her throat,
Transformed by her flute into pure and holy notes,
That rise like a paho* on puffs of desert wind,
Carried to the Great Spirit by eagle seraphim.

© August 7, 2003 by Janice E. Mitich
Picture Rocks, Arizona 85743


_________________________________________________________
This one's for Becki who started me on my Poetry way.  Thank you for the Navajo bracelet.  I know what all it symbolizes and will treasure it as I
treasure you.


Diné - (dee-neh or deh-neh are Navajo pronunciations while Anglos say deh-nay) the word Navajos call themselves.  It means The People. The name "Navajo (nav-a-ho) is probably a Spanish corruption (navahu) which has been traced to the Tewa words "nava" for cultivated field and "hu" for the mouths
of canyon(s).  The Tewas apparently identified the Diné to the Spanish as the people farming the canyons to the west.


Coyote - (Ma 'll  Navajo for coyotes, foxes, and wolves and considered Coyote People) is a key figure in Diné mythology, represents good and evil, human and gods, and animals.  He
is unpredictable and ambivalent, always testing and pushing the limits of behavior.  He demonstrates and reinforces the concept of harmony and order called Coyoteway.

paho - (pa-hoe) is a Navajo prayer stick made of eagle down tied to a wooden stick.  It carries prayers up to the Great Spirit.

Janice told us:  I wrote this poem for a friend, a Native American flute player, after she had gifted me with a gorgeous turquoise bracelet.  A Navajo woman, from Kayenta (in northern Arizona) had given it to her husband, telling him to give it to his wife (my friend). They were the ones that encouraged me to start writing cowboy poetry and have since been divorced for several years. My friend decided that it was time to pass the bracelet on, letting go of the last of the heartaches.  I was so touched by the gift, and knew how much pain the divorce had cost her, that I was inspired to write this poem in just an hour's time to thank and honor her.  I think anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to this

Devils in the Dust

Drought stalks this desert. Ten years have come and gone
Since monsoons spilled their treasures like bathing mastodons,
And July through August eyes fed on shades of green.
Beasts and men wonder was monsoon but just a dream?

O’er a decade, Devil Drought has held a tight rein
So to burn and parch the land by holding back the rains.
Candles, prayers, and dances have fallen on deaf ears.
Satan’s eyes each soul, recruiting Hell’s own privateers.

When you least expect it. When your guard is down
Satan steps from shadows, to follow you around
Waiting for the moment to stirs up desert soils
To twist air and sand together into a snaky coil

Rising like a phantom rattler, fangs readied for the sting
Weaving like a cobra to the flute’s hypnotic sing.
Blowing sands twirl together. Satan sets the pace.
Sandy minions leave burning streaks across your face.

Droughts increase his powers. Devils dance across the land.
Newcomers flee in all directions for they do not understand
The folklore of the Old Ones, a mere sleight of hand
A cross from thumb and finger,* God’s earthly reprimand.

Dusty serpents must change direction, then quickly dissipate.
Believers are rewarded. Monsoon clouds accumulate.
Satan’s shrieks mark his frustration. No tornados can he make,
Just dust devils in this desert. Mere toys are his namesake

© 2013, Janice Mitich Brill, All Rights Reserved
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's  permission.


* I never saw a dust devil in Wyoming. The only tornados I’d ever seen were broncs that bucked in a spinning motion. The first time I saw a dust devil was when we came to Tucson. They are fascinating to watch and a little scary, especially when they are headed in your direction. If large enough, they can damage property or spook your horse. A classmate, at Pueblo High, showed me how to turn a Dust Devil away or even make it fall apart. Apparently it is part of Mexican folklore. One makes a cross using the thumb and index finger. You first make a fist, then straighten the index finger like you are pointing at something. Hold your thumb upright. Then bend your index finger towards your thumb so you can lay your thumb across the side of your index finger between the tip and first joint. You now have made a cross. Hold up the cross between you and the dust devil. If you believe, it will turn away from you or fall apart. It’s always worked for me.

 

Janice told us about the poem's inspiration: I was driving home from Tucson, one afternoon this past July. The road climbs up to go through a pass in the Tucson Mountains. I looked east over the Tucson valley and saw, what I thought was white smoke. As I watched it, the white column climbed up to over 1000 feet in the air. I then, realized it was a dust devil. I watched it until I went over the pass and lost sight of it. I’d never seen one so tall, and snaky looking.

When I got out to my place, drove through the gate, then got out to shut the gate, a small dust devil started up on the dirt road and headed right at me. I held up my hand and made a cross from thumb and index finger. Within 30 seconds, the dust devil changed directions, passed through the fence just 60 feet away from me and fell apart. That got me thinking about devils in the dust, and how a religious sign could turn the devil away.

 

Read Janice Mitich's poem, A Prairie Rose, written in remembrance of her friend

 

Read Janice Mitich's poem, Buck Ramsey, in remembrance of him.

 

Read Janice Mitich's poem, Line Camp, in our Western Memories collection.

 

Read about Janice Mitich's favorite poetry (and that of her sister Joyce Taylor Mitich) in our Best Western and Cowboy Poems project.

 

See Janice Mitich's The Christmas Ox posted with other Holiday 2001 poems and A New Year's Goose posted with the Countdown to 2002 New Year poems.

 

Read Janice Mitich's two poems based on the poster art from the 2000 and 2001 Prescott, Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering in our report on the 2001 gathering:

Where Do We Go From Here?
Leadin' the Way

 

 

 

 

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