by Amy Hale Auker

I am riding to camp in the evening,
The sun resting low in the day
The date marks the start of the season
When the wind gets cool, starts to play.

These horses are shiny and soft
With bellies full of monsoon grass
I wish they’d save their energy
But these fool notions will soon pass.

We don’t ride with a big crew on this outfit
Just me and you most of the time
But we’re lovers so it suits us
And the work’s getting done just fine.

You’re coming behind in the old brown truck
With food and our camp and our gear,
Pulling that rattle-y green trailer
full of alfalfa so rich and so dear.

This little bay mare is full of herself,
Kicking at the horse trailing behind,
There’s a big job ahead, little sister,
Better settle into a pace you like.

We’ve reached the creek and the clover is high.
These ponies are winding a bear.
Maybe the one whose tracks we’ve been seeing.
I wonder if he’ll winter ‘round here.

I’m sure looking forward to cow works this fall
To moving these girls down the way.
To long slow drives with gentle cows,
And a toddy at the end of the day.

I’m climbing the hill, almost to camp
A place of water and work and real.
I’ll hobble these mares and wait for you
To build a fire, pour a drink, make a meal.

For a few days we’ll gather into this trap,
Drink coffee from that old blue pot,
Strip saddles from the backs of sweating mounts
And talk about each cow we got.

I’m not sure which stars burn above
But I bet I’ll know by dawn.
I’ll lie in our bed with their swing overhead
And me held snug in your arms.

Tomorrow we start this cow and bull hunt
It’s catch and release every year,
But you couldn’t pay me to stay at home
When most of what I love is out here.

© 2016, Amy Hale Auker, used with permission
Writer, poet, and working cowboy Amy Steiger (who writes under the name “Amy Hale Auker”) works on Arizona’s Spider ranch. She told us, “…I usually only write a poem that rhymes when I am horseback, so I can remember it when I unsaddle. I wrote this one last fall between headquarters and camp.”

Amy Steiger is the author of three acclaimed books, two novels and an essay collection. Another essay collection, Ordinary Skin, is pending publication.

Find Amy Steiger at the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Sept 29-Oct 1). In early 2017 she’s featured at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (January 30-February 4) and the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering (February 23-24). Find more about Amy Steiger on Facebook; at CowboyPoetry.com; and at AmyHaleAuker.com, where you’ll find more about her books and see more of her writing.

This photograph of Amy and Gail Steiger is by impressive photojournalist Jessica Brandi Lifland and used with her permission.

It is from a series of photographs in her “Cowboy Poets” project. See a blog post and more of the photos here.

Don’t miss the additional series of photographs, of poets Rodney Nelson, Wally McRae, Henry Real Bird, Jack Walther, Bimbo Cheney, Waddie Mitchell, Doris Daley, Jerry Brooks, Elizabeth Ebert, D.W. Groethe, and Bill Lowman posted here.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any other uses.)