CAN’T SEE IT FROM THE ROAD by Marleen Bussma


by Marleen Bussma

Hills are rolling to the valley
as they’ve done since time stood still.
Sky has softened from ink black to darkest blue.
From a ranch house aged and weathered
there are kitchen lights that spill
man-made sunshine onto prairie kissed by dew.

There’s a rutted road that runs off
’til it’s thirty miles away
then it fades into a blacktop street in town.
City folks see dusty gravel
driven thin to showing clay,
an exhausted route that’s old and beaten down.

They don’t see the life that’s thriving
where the road twists through and bends
’round the vital work that fills their dinner plate.
They are unaware a rancher’s
roots dig deep here where he spends
every day in grateful thanks, a family trait.

His herd streams across the green hills
like a ribbon in the breeze
grazing belly-deep, content, and gaining weight.
This sight settles like a blessing,
puts his cluttered mind at ease
as his livelihood spools out clear to the gate.

As a rancher he’s a gambler.
He depends on rain that falls
while he bets that cattle prices will not drop.
Grazing leases are not certain.
If the spring dries up he hauls
water to the thirsty herd each day, non-stop.

With his risk comes compensation
for his life out in the hills.
Nature gives a built-in bonus he can’t buy.
Star-lit skies are filled with light points.
Calls of screeching hawks give thrills
as they wing their way to thermals in the sky.

New-mown hay is summer’s perfume.
He inhales the smell of rains.
He can watch the young calves frolic in the spring.
Branded by the land he lives on,
like the livestock it contains,
he’s his own man and for him that’s everything.

© 2018, Marleen Bussma
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Award-winning poet Marleen Bussma comments:

I grew up on a small farm in North Dakota. We always had cattle, milk cows and stock cows. The cream checks kept us afloat until we could sell grain during the summer and then a load of cattle in the fall. I have a soft spot in my heart for the critters.

I wrote this piece as a response to the city folks who have no idea where the cellophane-wrapped meat comes from that they buy at the grocery store. With the political climate what it is today, some urbanites appear to want cattle to disappear off the face of the earth because of methane issues and climate change. They believe they can live without leather clothing or eating steak. How about insulation material used to heat and cool their house, industrial oils and lubricants, biodegradable detergents, automobile tires, and more than 100 drugs that make our lives safer and more comfortable, including insulin? This list doesn’t scratch the surface.

A cow and the person who raises it give back in so many ways–you just can’t see it from the road.

She includes “Can’t See it From the Road” on her latest cd, Snow on the Sage.

Rick Huff, in his Best of the West Reviews, writes, in part:

Utah’s award-winning poet Marleen Bussma strikes again with a well-rounded tour of the Western scene (a bit of hoss, a bit of lore, a bit of land, a bit of gore).

Bussma is noted for artful views of elements that some might overlook as being commonplace [for example] … of a cowboy prepping for a wild ride, Bussma writes: ‘He climbs into the saddle and shimmies for a grip / His backside hugs the seat just like the ocean hugs a ship.’ ….


Marleen Bussma is just back from the Will Rogers Medallion Awards, where her book, Tales of the Trails, received the top poetry Gold Medallion. She has appeared at many gatherings and events, and was a featured performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Find her poetry, videos, reviews, books and cds, and more at

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