NO BETTER LIFE
by Valerie Beard
The old faucet drips, as slowly she sips
Her coffee in morning’s dull glow.
Storm’s ragin’ a battle, she’s home with the cattle.
The temperature reads five below.
The wind was a blowin’, and it was still snowin’
She stepped out to do morning chores.
The snow was a driftin’, with icy snakes siftin’;
A solid sheen sealed the barn doors.
Wet flakes stung her face, she steadied her pace;
Her scarf danced an icy staccato.
Wires thrummed out a wail, trees bent to the gale;
Barn eaves moaned a mournful vibrato.
Inside it was still, she forked them their fill;
They nickered from stalls safe and warm.
She calmed down their fears, scratched soft neck and ears,
Then plunged right back into the storm.
The truck started rough, but it was enough.
She’d loaded the bales night before.
Then drove from the haystack, with two dogs in the back
And one settled down on the floor.
A drift to the knee, she broke the gate free
Plowed into the sheltered corral.
With no cows in there yet, but a fella could bet
That horned rip would soon be her pal.
Was it worth the chance to play the gate dance,
In case the old jessies came in?
She rolled bales to the ground, and glanced round at the sound
Of old Horn just sporting a grin.
Horn sallied right up, and started to sup
On hay that she’d jerked to the ground.
But ignoring that cow, the wife furrowed her brow
Spread bales with a vigor newfound.
Confronting the cow, she knew that somehow
She’d wrestle that bale on again.
With a wave and a yell, that cow could just tell
T’was time to move on in the pen.
Now with the cow gone, she tossed the bale on;
The dogs hunkered down by the spare.
She crawled back in the truck, and spun out of the muck,
Back into the rime-frosted air.
Her cowboy’s away, thoughts with her today;
He worries for her with the chores.
They warned of the squall, arrived at nightfall;
He wished she could just stay indoors.
Back home in the gale, she knew without fail
Ice on the tank would be frozen.
A lick of the ax, and several hard whacks;
She thinks of the life that they’ve chosen.
Shards fly here and there, spray froze in the air;
Ice chunks were soon scattered about.
Cattle filtered in slow, and they all seemed to know
She’d be there for them there’s no doubt.
Cows walked to their hay, a bovine buffet.
She’s glad they’d come in from the range.
Now two years in a drought, but they’d never sell out.
She knew others might think it strange.
Stood watching them eat, the wild wind beat
At her clothes caked and frozen with snow.
Then after awhile, walked off with a smile,
Thought no better life she could know.
© 2015, Valerie Beard, used with permission
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission
Colorado native Valerie Beard ranches with her husband, Floyd (also a cowboy poet), in the canyons of Southeastern Colorado.
Valerie Beard is one of the featured performers at New Mexico’s Cimarron Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering, August 24-26, 2018. Also performing are Broken Chair Band, Floyd Beard, Dale Burson, Janice Deardorff, Doug Figgs, Purly Gates, Danner Hampton, Randy Huston, Washtub Jerry, Jill Jones, Jim Jones, Susie Knight, Jessica Hedges, Peggy Malone, Deanna McCall, Terry Nash, Claudia Nygaard, Dale Page, Ramblin’ Rangers, Dennis Russell, JJ Steele, Rocky Sullivan, and Rod Taylor.
Valerie says of this photo, “That’s my special friend Duke sporting that lovely set of ears.”
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any other uses.)