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We had always lived on remote ranches and moved around a lot. I had little opportunity for answers about other people and human facts of life, so I often came up with my own answers as in this poem--much to the embarrassment and sometimes amusement of my middle aged grandparents with whom I lived.

The Pillow

Now, I knew all about calves--
The whole story, not just halves.
But, no one had told me
How babies came to be.

I knew there were a bull and a cow,
Although I wasn't exactly sure how
The cow became so fat and round
Then dropped a calf right on the ground.

Now back in those good old days
Of modest, behind-the-hand ways,
Certain subjects were not talked about
Except in whispers, never, ever right out.

So, when I heard Grandmother say,
"Miz Brown is in the family way,"
I asked her what she meant,
But she wouldn't give me a hint.

The next Sunday I couldn't believe my eyes,
For Miz Brown looked twice her size
With a big pillow stuffed in her dress,
Right there at her waist, more or less.

No one told me why, not Grandmother, not Grandad,
Who said I mustn't ask--that was really bad.
Well, they didn't know how bad it was,
For I never settled for "just because."

Finally, I saw only one person knew the answer,
And my curiosity had grown to a mental cancer.
Miz Brown held the key to the cure
For only she could tell me for sure.

The next Sunday I was ready to ask my question.
Right after church would be my best selection.
I'd run right up and ask her real quick.
Then, someone said, "Miz Brown just took sick."

Well, I sure knew better by now--
There was no asking why or how
Miz Brown had to do all of that
Just to get rid of a pillow plump and fat.

Two weeks later she was in her regular place
With Mr. Brown grinning all over his red face,
While she held a blue bundle in her arms.
In my head clanged a bell of four alarms.

Right after the last Amen would be my chance.
Before Grandmother could stop me, I would advance
Right down the middle aisle to Miz Brown's side.
I'd find out about that pillow! I had no pride!

The preacher slowly drew out his Amen
Giving me a chance that was wide open.
I scooted right down the aisle to Miz Brown.
Dodging Grandmother's reach and sudden frown.

"Hi, there, honey!" Miz Brown beamed at me,
And held the  blue bundle down for me to see.
One look at that wrinkled red face was all I needed.
My goal was right now as I loudly proceeded.

Why I was so rude I can't even guess!
"Why did you wear that pillow in your dress?"
I heard Grandmother gasp as Miz Brown smiled,
"Why, it wasn't a pillow! It was this child!"

Poor Grandmother! Miz Brown laughed and got pink.
Grandmother said, "What will people think?!"
I vowed I wouldn't go to church next Sunday,
But Grandmother changed that plan right away.

I learned this lesson then and there.
The world forgets and doesn't really care
Beyond today and laughing loudly at you.
Tomorrow there'll be something else to do!

1989, Barbara Bockelman from ON KIOWA CREEK 1991
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



She was my grandmother,
And I called her Doe.
She was the finest lady
Anyone could ever know.

I was only two and a half
The day my mother said,
"Take her and raise her.
Please be her mother instead."

All through my growing years
She was my loving guide
Until I married and went
To my home as a bride.

Doe was a rancher's wife,
A strong, important man
Who often, lovingly said,
"If Doe thinks I can, I can."

She worked beside Grandad
Through years of thick and thin.
She knew how to make do
Using what she had again and again.

Growing old with love and respect,
They lived in east and quietness
Remembering all their years of work
As a time of real blessedness.

Doe died one sunny day in June,
Leaving us with sweet remembrance
Of the years together on Kiowa Creek--
Grandad, Doe and I on our ranch.

I think of Doe quite often
And seem to hear once again
Her voice saying, "Don't look back!
If you think you can, you can!"

1989, Barbara Bockelman from ON KIOWA CREEK 1991
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Barbara Bockelman adds:  Doe gave me love and helped give me a secure home when I needed both the most.  She and Grandad left me and my family a philosophy that has carried us through the "thick and thin" times in all our lives. I believe they represented the spirit that helped mold the strength of the West.  

Illustration by Barbara Bockleman

Illustration by Barbara Bockelman


Read more of  Barbara Bockelman's poetry here.

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



What Grandma Told Me

"There's a big old pine on yonder hill,
That stands out black when the moon is yeller,
And there, long ago, when nights was still,
I'd go for to meet my blue-eyed feller.
Me, ridin up on my small bay mare,
Feelin the pine-breeze blow through my hair,
Countin' the stars that was twinklin' bright,
...Just like a queen ridin' through the night.
More like than not I would get there first;
Happy inside, 'cause my heart was dancin',
Bangin' away like it shore would burst...
Til 'long came my love, with his white horse prancin'.
Lord, what a horse!  Though he'd travelled far,
Bearin' my man and his big guitar,
Snortin' and prancin'  he'd top the hill.
Nothin' on earth ever held him still.
They was alike in a lot of ways ...
Big and bold, and proud of bearin',
Nothin' beat them in all their days.
The horse was wild, and the man was darin';
But gentle too, when it came to love,
That I know, sure as God's above!
The horse loved Keith, that we all  could see,
And Keith, he loved someone ... and that was me!
We heard lots of sounds in the quiet air,
With, down below us, the cattle bawlin',
And Keith's stud whickerin' to my mare,
And off on the ridge some coyotes callin',
And the soft wind-whisper in the pine ...
Well, you have your mem'ries, and I have mine,
And mine are a pine and a darkened hill,
A starry sky, and a world all still.
Sometimes he'd strum on his ole guitar,
And I'd be listenin' and sort of dreamin',
Or maybe I'd wish on the evenin' star,
For the marryin' thoughts that my mind was schemin',
And he'd hold my hand, or he'd sing a song
While we sat on the hill 'neath this pine so strong,
And we'd plan ahead how our life would be
When we' d be together, just him and me.
Now, maybe you think 'cause we met alone
That there was some secret we two was hidin',
But the reason's simple, and not high-blown
That led to all this here evenin' ridin',
"Cause down at the ranch there was always noise,
With the gigglin' girls and the teasin' boys,
And Ma always told him to "set a spell".
And Pa always had one more tale to tell.
Well, that's how it was in them early days,
It was awful hard when a man came courtin' -
The whole dang family was there always;
Each one must say what he thought importan',
And if ever they wanted just each other,
Without Pa and Granny, the kids and Mother,
They'd head for a hill and an old pine tree ...
'Least that's how it was with my love and me ...
My land, when I think how the years have passed!
With its fun and laughter and sometimes sorrow,
And I'm here on the hill with the stars at last,
And our Golden Weddin' due tomorrow.
I can still hear coyotes and cattle call,
And time doesn't seem to have passed at all.
...Now you run along, an' be very still,
"Cause your Gran'pa's near to the top of the hill..."
LaVonne Houlton
This poem was first published in Piggin' String Magazine
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Read more of LaVonne Houlton's poetry here.




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