Habitat

by J.B. Allen

read poem
Habitat

We swaller our breakfast and saddle our mounts
By the light of the Milky Way’s glow,
Exuberance drawn from unquenchable founts
In the wake of the season’s first snow.

Cold wind fiercely tugs at my hat’s weathered brim
As we head where the blizzards are birthed,
Faint stars givin’ ground to the east’s glowin’ rim
As we ride saddles now loosely-girthed.

The hooraw subsides as the boss eases up
And we wait the words known from our youth,
Though protocol deems that we’ll not interrupt
Homage earned by those long in the tooth.

We start the day’s drive for the nine jillionth time,
Newly born as them calves ever’ spring,
A delicate dance to the spur rowel’s chime
And the drum of the sage chicken’s wing.

That grouchy ol’ cook is a plumb-welcome sight
As dusk draws its cloak ‘round the camp,
While the boss sets the guard for the crisp autumn night
By the light of that battered old lamp.

The night’s mighty short when you pull second guard,
Seems you barely git forty-odd winks
Till the wrangler’s a-bringin’ the hosses in hard
Any you’re stretchin’ to work out the kinks.

The cycle continues as years slip away
Till we fin’lly let age take a hold,
Content with rememberin’ some near perfect day
And the horses that never git old.

It wasn’t a question of money to burn
Or livin’ a silk-stockin’ row,
Fer choices that’s made in yore heart won’t discern
What the bankers and businessmen know.

The hot summer days and the cold winter nights
Weave a web few attempt to explain,
Fer though some’ll stray t’wards the bright city lights,
Still the code and the feelin’ remain.

J.B. ALLEN came from cowboy stock on both sides of his family tree. He worked cattle from the Great Divide to Fort Worth, then settled down near Whiteface, Texas, where he and his wife, Margaret, tended their own herd of crossbred cows. Allen’s poetry reflects the early-day experiences he heard about while growing up as well as his own experiences as a working cowboy. His book, The Medicine Keepers, received the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Wrangler Award for Poetry. Allen died in 2005.