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JOHN G. RUSSELL, III
Granite, Utah
About John G. Russell, III

 

 

Sagebrush Serenade

Mornin' John - You've made good progress since yesterday.
Got some news - My son in the Guard came home today.

Got to move - An old folks' home, I'm sorry to say.
Naw, it's true - Says I'm too old; no way I can stay.

     Gonna miss this ol' place, been my ground for many a decade.
     Gonna miss the sage fields and the small pond in which I once wade.

Ah, old man - You know you'll be fine, not far away.
Down the street - You know, I can see you any day.



For six weeks - I've been dismantling his old shed.
Nineteen twenties - Sunburnt, weathered wood that's long since dead.

Douglas fir -Twenty-foot long boards, harder than lead.
Tongue 'n groove - Three-inches wide with half-an-inch head.

     Gonna miss the cowboy; I'll go visit, no need to persuade.
     Gonna miss his great tales; in each barn room a story was made.

John, see here - A hundred-foot coupe where chickens bed.
Note the wall - That's where the horses and mules were fed.



Looky there - A four-foot diameter iron band.
Believe it - A wheel of a cart once pushed by hand.

Over here - Iron tills pulled by mules to furrow land.
In this chest - Chaps and spurs; now, these were in demand.

     Gonna miss these ol' things; never again will you see these made.
     Gonna miss this old barn; John, take as much as you want to raid.

Yonder there - Railcars from Alta, gold mined and panned.
Tracks passed near - Gone years ago, nothing left but sand.



Now, these here - Ropes, brushes, and saddles in each stall.
And up there - We'd smoke hams and birds most every Fall.

Follow me - Guess what that was, behind the wood wall.
Come on now - Don't you know pig sties; this ain't no mall.

     Gonna miss those rafters, upon which the old tin roof was laid.
     Gonna miss the fruit trees, resting beneath them, cooled by their shade.

And what's this - Sharp pointed thing; we called it an awl.
Those were days - Old-fashioned words like younguns' and ya'll.



Did I note - Riding and ropin'; my pard was a Ute.
Appeared slow - Never met a man as sharp and astute.

First met him - San Rafael Swell near ol' Robbers' Roost.
Them boards there - We'd run mustangs through that old wood chute.

     Gonna miss the hard work - Pat on the back was our accolade.
     Gonna miss the Injun - sittin' 'round a fire, quiet and staid.

Broomie snorts - The sound'a their calls down from a butte.
Dust-covered - Hat, scarf, gloves, boots'n dirt comprised my suit.



John, know what - My siblings and I worked dark to dark.
Yep, it's true - both coyote and fox outside would bark.

Son tells me - Best sell now, this could become a park.
Listen there - Won't hear that no more, call of a lark.

     Gonna miss these acres; but got to let go, bills to be paid.
     Gonna miss the smell'a sage; you keep on working, I better fade.

          We shook hands - He walked away, though I wished he'd stayed.
          Last'a the cowboys - Whistling a sagebrush serenade.

2005, John G. Russell, III 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

About this poem, John told us: It's truly the way of the world....how things get recycled over time. I wrote the poem after having spent a bunch of time tearing-down a 90-plus year old neighbor's old barn that dated to the 1920s. I've planed the 20-ft. long boards and intend to place them (over 400 boards - a ton of sweat!) on my interior living room ceiling this Fall. The style of the poem is a recycled product of sorts, since the stanzas favor the 1630s style of ol' John Milton (used to enjoy his stuff 25 years ago).

This summer, I finally asked a neighbor of mine if I could dismantle his old barn and recover the Douglas Fir lumber that had been exposed to the elements for decades but was thick enough to look great if planed and sanded, etc...he'd pay me occasional visits and provide colorful stories of each room of the barn and the grounds surrounded the former homestead. His and my house are located near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County, Utah.


About John G. Russell, III:

Born 'n raised in Nashville, Tennessee; spent most summers riding horses on my grandparent's horse farm in Kentucky; started an environmental engineering firm 21 years ago in Nashville with 4 others; renovated a clapboard house whose original portions dated to the late 1700s with Victorian 1800 additions.

My wife, two kids , and I moved to Granite, Utah to live the Rocky Mountain lifestyle in 1997; and for over two decades, I've been a hydrogeologist helping remediate contaminated ground water and soils, designing potable water wells for rural and urban communities, and contemplating writing some poems. I also just completed my first western novel.

 

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