SHE SADDLES HER OWN HORSE
by Marleen Bussma
It’s forty miles from nowhere as the night wind sighs and sings.
It teases the thermometer that wavers, wilts, then wrings
all heat from sky and land that shivers, though it’s springtime’s start.
Now twenty-two below, the moon shines with just half a heart.
Cold Levis on the chair slip over long-johns warm from bed.
Kate staggers as she stumbles to get dressed and clear her head.
It’s 3:00 A.M. and time to check the calving shed’s penned herd.
She fights the wind through darkness. She’s the only thing that’s stirred.
Tonight she is the mid-wife with a flashlight’s extra eye.
It flicks across the red backs in the stalls they occupy.
Kate hears the heavy panting of a heifer hard at work.
She’s lying in the straw. Each quiver has become a jerk.
Kate’s witnessed birth a hundred times, a ranching genesis.
She cherishes the part she plays and doesn’t think of this
as business, but a way of life. She thrives on the demands,
the rhythm of the seasons, and hard work done with her hands.
The heifer bellows. Eyes are pools of panic, angst, and pain.
She thrashes with her head, casts spools of drool out to complain.
Two tiny cloven hooves appear and then a little nose.
A wet slick body slips out in the afterbirth that flows.
The heifer looks behind her with eyes wide in great surprise.
Kate grabs a gunny sack to briskly rub and scrutinize
this wet, dependent critter that begins to breathe and move.
Kate places it near mother’s nose and hopes she will approve.
The cow lows softly, gives a lick, then rises to her feet.
With hind legs first, the recent mother slowly stands to greet
and nuzzle, lick and nudge, all part of life’s age-old routine.
A wash-rag tongue caresses, laps, until the newborn’s clean.
As sturdy as a worn-out shoe, four fickle feet aspire
to get a grip then stand up stiff and firm, just like barbed-wire.
The jelly-legs give out and rest a minute on the ground.
He tries again and takes some steps to mother where he’s found
an udder filled with what he needs, an in-house drink buffet.
He gives a nose-bump, starts to suck, and lunch is on its way.
The sky is growing light and pushes darkness to the west.
Fatigue is etched around Kate’s eyes and shows that she needs rest.
She’s wearing blobs of cow-crud, splattered with mysterious spots,
decides to take a breather in the cow-shed where she squats.
Her eyes are closed. Her head leans forward with Mixmaster hair.
She’s dirty, rank, and smelly, but she’s sure her horse won’t care.
This ranch has been her life and she knows how to make it run.
A ride across the hills is gold, like dancing in the sun.
Kate shuns the busyness of town; just give her life that’s plain.
She’ll take this young calf’s romping and a summer’s inch of rain.
© 2017, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission
Marleen Bussma has a new CD, Saddle Up for Cowboy Poetry, which includes this poem.
Marleen comments, “Much has been written about men on the ranch. Since the days of homesteading, women in the west have rolled up their sleeves to carve out a life on the land. Some have worked beside their husbands, while others have been on their own. The subject of this poem is a composite of all the women who have ridden a horse while doing their daily chores.”
Marleen grew up on a farm in North Dakota. Her adult life has taken her away from those daily chores, but her heart still lies in the land of the meadowlark. She has put together many verses on the plight of the women of the west from frontier days to modern farm and ranch times. She wants to be that cowboy coming into camp for a fresh horse. She understands the struggle to deal with Mother Nature. She feels at home where her stories take place.
You can find out more about Marleen, her new CD, Saddle Up for Cowboy Poetry, and her award winning book, Is She Country?, on her website marleenbussma.com.
Marleen will be joining the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering October 5th – 8th, 2017.