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LYNN HARWELL
Seneca, South Carolina
About Mr. Harwell

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

 

BEAR TALE

Me an’ Jim quit camp at dawn,
Hunkered ‘gin the cold.
Our ponies sniffed and spooked along,
Seekin’ a firm foothold.

The snow had started three days past,
Forcin’ us to stop.
We’d planned to cross the ridge real fast,
Campin’ below the top

Where cabin, wood, an’ lots a’chuck
Now lay beyond our reach, 
Cause Mother Nature’d turned our luck
With sermons She would preach.

The need for meat pushed us along
Cravin’ elk – or deer.
We’d gone without for far too long. 
Hunger’d turned to fear.

It was early in a “mild” October,
Bears not yet denned,
Squirrels and rabbits, fat an’ sober,
Waitin’ fer fall to end

Which left some standin’ unprotected,
Caught within our sights.
We bagged two rabbits unexpected,
There would be meat tonight!

But the taste for elk meat pushed us on
Past some columbine
Where we caught a glimpse of cinnamon—
Brown bear in a pine!

I questions Jim, “Would you eat bear?
Ít’s hard to get a shot.”
He says, “I”ll chop him out of there!”
His axe revealed the plot.

He clum’ that pine til he was held
Right below the bruin,
You shoot him when he falls, he yelled,
“I”ll send him to his ruin!”

I was set to make a shot that counts
When ol’ bear hit the snow.
But, he didn’t hit -- he sort of bounced, 
He didn't stay below.

He flew up that tree a’gainin’ speed,
A falcon on the wing!
His destination seemed to be
A cloud from which to cling.

An’ Jim (who’d been lookin’ up before,
Now found the bear astern)
Commenced to swingin’ mighty blows,
His axe—a dasher in a churn!

An’ me, tryin’ to clear myself to shoot
At what?  The devil take us!
To plug bear, or man, was almost moot,
I had to stop the fracas.

The gods were with me, thank the Lord!
I nailed the pesky beast.
Poor Jim, hard-pressed to say a word,
Was sure he was deceased.

The weather broke, we cooked some grub
(Grease of bear on hare),
We got to join the survivor’s club,
An’ beat it out of there.

Well, we got home, an’ we got warm,
An concluded, then an’ there,
We’d settle at the county farm
A’fore we tried more bear!
 

STORM ON ROUTE 66

Whis’lin low an spoutin’ steam,
The freight plowed through the driftin’ snow.
Mother Nature’d hatched a scheme
To shut things down a day or so.

Route 66 ran long’ the rail,
‘Bout two hunnert’ feet away.
Tourists’ cars, head-to-tail
Behind some trucks—a bad, bad day.

Me an’ Smokey’d pushed the cows
Ahead, before the storm got  worse
An’ caught em’ in the open.  Browse
Was scarce, but feedin’ would reverse

An ugly situation.  Stacks
Of hay was near, below the barn.
We penned em’ pretty near the tracks,
Then watched the train bisect the storm.

Ol’ Smokey danced—he smelled the feed
In the shed.  It was invitin’.
He tugged the bit, an eager steed;
When released, we went a ’kitin. 

I peeled the kak an’ grained him good
An’ left him in his stall to wait
For mornin’.  All the neighborhood
Had turned to white.  Ain’t that jes’ great.

The radio talked “great” as well
An’ told of snow an’cold.  “The wind
Will blow your socks away, an’ spell 
Your outdoor work—until this ends.”

The jangle on the wall was Hicks,
The sheriff–makin’ calls.  “I need
Yore help out there on sixty-six. 
There’s trav’lers stuck and cain’t proceed.

I’ve commandeered th’ train—we’ll tote
Em’ cross from cars to the caboose.
It’s nothin fancy, but it’ll promote
Their chances.  They’ll get some quilts and juice.”

I caught the train above our lease,
Swingin up behind the tender;
We choo-chooed down the road apiece—
Made out two dozen fender benders.

There wuz three score or more of folks
In cars—ice boxes in the cold;
We fought the snow—just dumb cowpokes—
An carried em, both young and old,

Into the warm caboose.  An’ some,
Though strong and willin’, needed pointin’
Toward the train.  The wind wuz plumb
Near sixty (tween the gusts), anointin’

Us with snow, an sleet, an tears.
Once inside, we called the search
Complete—an quieted people’s fears.
The trip to town was quick.  The church

Was near the depot—soup and beans
Was waitin, cocoa for the crowd
Of kids, an’ games an’ books an’ schemes.
A hit!  (our womenfolk done proud),

Cept’ for one ol’ grunt.  He bawled,
“You do not  have a warm hotel;
Your food is all cholesterol;
Your weather is nothing short of hell!

I doubt that I have ever seen
Such rowdies—crude and out of hand—
The law should come and intervene
And bring some order to this land!”

The weather cleared, the road got scraped,
An folks got on their way.  We watched
Ole Grunt  go by, his mouth mis-shaped;
Both bumpers bent, an’ paint-job blotched.

Me’an Smokey wuz gatherin’ strays
An’ tryin’ to glue things back together.
“Smoke” I sez, “I’m glad we stays
Upright in spite of changin’ weather.” 


THE DRY SIDE

The blazin’ sun wuz sinkin’ west,
But still retained its heat.
Two punchers, beat from lack of rest,
On ponies, just as beat,

Sought  water an a little shade.
They knowed that they wuz lost,
But figgered, with a little aid,
They could recoup the cost

Of takin shortcuts unbeknown—
Jes tryin’ to save some time.
The profit gained might well be shown
To not be worth a dime.

But lady luck was on their side.
Tucked beneath a bluff—
A pool, a’ tryin’ its best to hide,
With water just enough

For both the men an jaded mounts,
To stop an drink their fill.
The horses wasted not an ounce
Of effort—plunged downhill,

An sloshed the water to a roil,
Formin’ a commotion!
The taller cowboy said, “This boy’ll
Drink here, this muddy potion

Is gonna save my life.”  His sidekick
Wasn’t quite so sure.
He looked at Slim and said, “But I’d pick
A spot more clear and pure.”

He tippy-toed hisself around
To the other side—
Commenced to drink from there.  An found
Ol’ Slim a grinnin’ wide.

“You’d better slurp it up,” he said,
Chewin’ thru his drawl,
“Cuz me, I’m dry an underfed,
I’m gonna drink it all!

 

About Lynn Harwell:

Born in 1929, on Herbert Hoover’s Inauguration Day (a portentous omen?), and grew up in a small town on the Texas High Plains, in  the middle of the Depression and the heart of the Dust Bowl.  Route 66, all dirt then, was within 50 feet of our front porch (we were on the downwind side).  My grandfather had been Division Manager of the fabled XIT ranch in the 1870’s (Ojo Bravo Division, in Oldham and Hartley Counties).  While most of my family were ranchers, my father farmed also, and I spent far too much time on a tractor and far too little on horseback.

After undergraduate work, I farmed and ranched for twenty years, and then chose to return to graduate school.  I earned two additional degrees, in agricultural economics, and was on the faculty at Clemson University in South Carolina for twenty years. 

My practical experience has added far more to my productivity than the formal training.  Most of the university work was in agricultural finance, grazing systems, agri-forestry, and beef cattle management.

Since retirement in 1993, we have run a 200-acre beef cattle and meat goat farm in South Carolina, being fortunate enough to get in on the ground floor of meat goat expansion in the Southeast.  We do a limited amount of educational work on grazing and meat goat management (mostly public speaking and newsletter-type bulletins),  and have hosted numerous groups on the farm, including producer groups, college classes, senior citizens, and pre-schoolers.

I feel a need to get back to my roots.  Although I have recited poetry many times in the past, and have clowned around writing limericks for friends, this is my first attempt at serious poetry.

 

 

 

 

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